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Title: The Challenge of the Dead - A vision of the war and the life of the common soldier in - France, seen two years afterwards between August and - November, 1920
Author: Graham, Stephen, 1884-1975
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE CHALLENGE OF THE DEAD



  _BOOKS BY STEPHEN GRAHAM_

  A Vagabond in the Caucasus.
  Undiscovered Russia.
  A Tramp's Sketches.
  Changing Russia.
  With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem.
  With Poor Emigrants to America.
  Russia and the World.
  The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary.
  Through Russian Central Asia.
  Priest of the Ideal.
  Russia in 1916.
  The Quest of the Face.
  A Private in the Guards.
  Children of the Slaves.
  The Challenge of the Dead.



  The Challenge of the Dead

  A vision of the war and the life
  of the common soldier in France,
  seen two years afterwards between
  August and November, 1920



  By
  Stephen Graham



  Cassell and Company, Ltd
  London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
  1921



The Challenge of the Dead


The suns shines and a strong wind lifts the waves toward the land; the
blue sea, in happy commotion, throws armfuls of white spray across the
long stone breakwater which is called Zeebruges Mole. The white stone
way goes two miles out to sea, and is swept by a marine healthiness.
Upon it at intervals stand the German guns with the ends of their
barrels burst out like thistle-heads. They point o'er the sea; they have
their armoured shelter on the inner side of which on the level with the
gunner's eye stand inscribed in neat German _schrift_ the distances to
all places of importance within gunshot--greenish-yellow camouflaged
German guns with something of the tiger in their expression. On the lee
side of the Mole cling the giant sheds of hydroplanes--as it were,
hooked to the side of the great stone wall. In the quieter water on this
side of the Mole one sees jutting out of the fairway the tops of vessels
sunk there in 1918, and near by is a tablet marking the spot where the
landing-party of the _Vindictive_ made its daring raid upon the foe.

Zeebruges! A party of school-children in "croc" are being escorted along
the way by nuns; the Smiths of Surbiton have scrawled their names on the
guns. There is a half-way house on the Mole now where one drinks beer
and buys a picture postcard, or at the base of the Mole and looking
outward toward England, one may dine alfresco at a Grand Palace Hotel.
But what of that! The whole is sun-drowned and wind-swept and bare and
open with a spaciousness and grandeur which are ample for the soul. The
breeze which blows from England slackens nothing ere it reaches those
fields where the wild flowers and the rushes bloom.

The mind goes back to 1914 and that great October when Antwerp fell but
Ypres was held--when the last transports rolled alongside this glorious
Mole bearing the Seventh Division, soon to be called, in faith,
immortal, because half its number was destroyed before the war was very
old.

  October fifth they sailed away
  Upon the salt sea's raging spray
  And landed safe in Bruges bay
      Upon their way to Ypres.

They stepped up from the boats, new, ruddy, well equipped, intact--they
rolled forward, with drums beating, o'er the Belgian land. Now all who
ever will arrive in Zeebruges from o'er the sea will arrive after the
Seventh Division. The war-pilgrim, paying his due of honour to those
who came that day, cannot follow very far on their road unless he die
also. If he chooses to follow any one soldier, will he not very likely
come soon to the road's end and a grey wooden cross where his soldier's
destiny dipped into eternity?

Follow, then, the many who ran in the great torch race of the war, where
the spent runner handed the torch from his hand to another, who in turn
ran with it blazing till he fell, thus from Zeebruges to Ypres; from
Ypres, flaming, to Neuve Chapelle; from Neuve Chapelle, flaming, to
Loos; then aflame to the defence of the Salient; then a long blaze to
the sevenfold altar of the Somme ... man to man, unit to unit, period to
period, till the November when the race was won.

Was it not characteristic of the old war that the "Contemptibles" of the
Seventh, landing at Zeebruges, should at once be marched thirty miles in
the wrong direction and then brought back by train. Antwerp was the
beacon; Antwerp was not yet taken; the Naval Brigade was trying to save
it. It was to fall, Zeebruges was to fall, Ostende itself was to
fall--all very rapidly. When the boys got to Bruges it was rumoured that
the Germans had had a set-back; when they got to Ostende they heard that
Antwerp had been taken. When they got back to Bruges terror had seized
the city. When they got to Ghent they took the Antwerp road--and then
they came back, to Ypres.

The cobbled way to Bruges is not marked by destruction. The trees give
shade, the houses stand, the fields are ploughed. Alice in an estaminet
says she learned French from the French prisoners kept there--her bar
used to be crowded with them. The Belfry of Bruges stands against the
sky ahead--as if lifted out of the plain up to heaven itself.

You cross a canal which looks like a moat, and are in Bruges itself, a
perfectly whole, undamaged, serene and peaceful city. Trams, shops,
carts pulled by dogs, rows of estaminets, old gateways, old churches,
and then the Grande Place. The broad market-place is empty, but one sits
facing the great tower and listens to the ever-repeating chimes of the
bells--silver in the evening hour. It is--no, it is impossible--yes, it
is "The Rosary" which is being played by the bells. "_I ... strive ...
to kiss the Cross_," yells the steeple, and then goes plaintive and
trickles tunefully away.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, here I am and here I remain," says an old man sitting behind me
with a coffee-glass which he has long since drained. "Till England
becomes sane, I stay here."

"The cost of living is just as high in Peebles as in London," says a
woman sitting opposite him.

"Mad everywhere," says the man. "What I'd like is a flat somewhere near
Lancaster Gate, so as I could go out into Kensington Gardens and sit
under the trees and smoke."

There was a pause.

Then the woman from Peebles ventured in a thin, small voice:

"I think that Peter Pan statue in Kensington is so sweet. It was put up
in the night, wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was; and isn't Kensington a delightful place?" says the old
man.

They gloated in silence over Kensington. The bells of the Belfry began
selections from _Faust_. _Is there a war on?_ men used to ask
facetiously. "There never was any war," says Bruges. The sound of the
boots has long since died away, the _boots, boots, boots, boots,
marching up and down again_, away, away--this city was not delivered
unto the Angel of Death.

It's a shady highway that goes eastward to Ostende. At the village of
St. Andrews there is a first war memorial to Belgian soldiers who gave
their lives in the war; and then you come to the open ground at
Varssenaere where the 20th Brigade did outpost duty, the first
resting-ground for many a man, if rest he could, on his first night on
the terrain of war--Varssenaere, a mean red-brick village with
estaminets and small shops. Next day 'twas Steine and then Ostende.

October 9, 1914, they marched into Ostende station, crowded with wounded
men who had been rushed down from the stricken front. Antwerp had
fallen. The trains which brought the wounded down took the new army
back--back to Bruges, on to Ghent, and tumbled it out into that great
old city. The streets were full of refugees, but the khaki tide rolled
forward through the crowds, past the cathedral, out by the Lokeren road,
to meet the foe.

Ghent also is an undamaged city. Our airmen spared her; our cannon could
not reach her. She was not taken by assault, but fell into the enemy's
hands. It is prosperous, all its factory chimneys are a-smoke. Cheap
plenitude fills its shop windows. Its people are at work--or, rather,
they are at work when there is not a _groodefeest_.

It is calm on the Lokeren road. You cannot hear the battle-thunder of
that October now, the ominous and insistent and encroaching roaring of
the monster who was just spitting and flashing fire at Ghent in those
days. You can see with the mind's eye the new army with its new boots
and its sore feet and its loads of equipment. It did not carry bombs and
it did not carry gas-masks, but it carried everything else. One can see
the perplexed and anxious Staff looking at the _intelligence_ brought
in--the Germans held nowhere, the Germans in vast numbers, truly ready
and capable of sweeping the contemptibly little army into the sea, the
Germans advancing everywhere. The order comes to retire.
Retire--retreat--might not the retreat from Antwerp resemble the retreat
from Mons? It is retreat in any case. Back into Ghent; back, perhaps, to
Bruges and to Ostende. No one talks of Ypres. The army does not yet know
where Ypres is. However, they filed through Ghent, and it was once more
boots, boots, boots, boots over the cobbled roads. It was midnight, and
they traversed the whole broad metropolis--singing a song which has not
been forgotten in all the intervening years.

But now it is midnight again, the night of the 1920 National Fête, and
the whole population has got singing drunk and then screaming drunk on
beer. Tens of thousands of men and women flock the streets. There are
fireworks, there is music, there is dancing. The fronts of the
estaminets have been taken out, and seats go from the bar to the middle
of the street; long tables on trestles, and plank seats, have been put
out; piles of shrimps litter the tables from end to end, and the yellow
beer gleams as it streams. Tired children are massed on the cathedral
steps waiting for the fireworks to begin, and past those who sit surges
a tireless crowd.

In the Groensel Maarkt a truly Dostoieffskian scene. A soldier with one
arm, a diminutive woman with dislocated hips, and two children are
singing Flemish songs to a ring of people of varying ages. The old
soldier has a sheaf of leaflets with the words of the songs and sells
them a penny a time, a small boy plays the concertina, "mother" sings
all the while a murmuring sing-song which never rises or falls, and
keeps time with her wasp-like waist, which seems to hang from the black
hump of her hips and sways uncannily back and forth. Father with the one
arm also sings all the while he sells, the little girl sings, and the
boy playing the concertina sings also. To the tune of "Way Down in
Tennessee" they sing:

  Ik noem haar mijn everzwijn
  Mijn voddenmagazijn

They sing too, over and over again, a Flemish song about the war:

  Nog niet genoeg dat hij
  Binst d'oorlog was in 't lij
  Tot overmaat huns laffe daad
  Der duitschers vol van haat...

and a haunting chorus which begins:

  Hoe ... kan het bestaan
  Dat men een man, die gansch zijn plicht
  toch heeft gekweten

and glasses of beer pass over the heads of the audience to the singing
family. All in a dark, empty market-place, with somebody's statue
looking down on the scene and many a tear softening human eyes.

The rockets shoot up to the height of the cathedral spire and break in
coloured lights, the large catherine-wheels are lit, the children clap
and chase one another for firework cases.

At two in the morning strings of men and women holding on to one another
parade the streets and kick out with their legs, attempting to dance
whilst they sing "Tipperary," "Marguerite," "Mademoiselle from
Armentières," "Hoe kan het bestaan," the new girls in knee-skirts with
spindly legs, the old wives in longer heavier ones, exposing when they
dance white baggy drawers like Canterbury bells. At four in the morning
there are still ten thousand in the streets; men and women have made
circles round trees and lamp-posts, and kick out as they try to roll
round; knots of men and girls go staggering past with howls and yells;
young Flemish fellows are squeezing girls of twenty and pressing down
their cheeks with large-mouthed kisses. At six, in the heavenly radiance
of a pure morning, pandemonium still rolls on.

Yes, it is good beer. The first glass of it on a hot day is
refreshing--a flagon at lunch does not come amiss. But these men and
women sat for hours pouring it in with floating shrimps--glasses,
quarts, sitting on low seats with their legs apart, and visibly filling.
And this plenitude did not make them weary. _Au contraire_, beer got
into their toes and their knees and their thighs and their fat arms and
necks, and expressed itself at all points of the body. I suppose one
good reason for running in queues was that all holding on to one another
none could fall down. One of the reasons why the bacchanalia continued
long after morning-life had supervened was that many had forgotten they
had any homes and mostly did not know where they were.

What a night! Six years ago on that other night it was different.
Anxiety and foreboding throbbed in these streets. Belgian manhood in
arms marched away. The British marched away, and by midnight the last
soldier had gone. Suspense ... and then at two in the morning the first
German, a motor-cyclist, armed, goggled, covered with dust, vigilant....
And from the dawn German order reigned in Ghent--no bacchanalias.

The army went out by night by many roads, making, however, for Bruges.
It fell back for the defence, perhaps, of Bruges and of Ostende.
Brussels had fallen, and Ghent--there was not much of Belgium left. The
first morning out of Ghent saw the army at Somerghem, and the second at
Thielt. So tired were the troops that at each halt in the night both
officers and men, lying down by the roadside, fell asleep. At the halts
the men bumped into one another mechanically, like the trucks of a
freight train coming to a sudden stop, and then they just tumbled down
and snored.

Newly tarred barges loll slowly along the Bruges-Ghent canal, and there
is a vista along the straight water to the belfry of Ghent and the
cathedral. The sides of the canal are lush with verdure; health and
happiness spread out from its banks. One would say also the war never
was here. But in Somerghem the old church on the hill crowning the town
has been blown up. Its tower gave a view for leagues around, and the
Devil made good use of it when he had a chance and when he had done his
task blew it up lest others should follow his example. The Germans
evacuated the town just before the end of the war; the Belgian army
bombarded it and placed a gas concentration there. It was retaken, but
at the price of a most beautiful church. The inhabitants are all back.
They remember the Tommies and, of course, the Scots. The Gordons in
their kilts made a lasting impression. Somerghem saw much war life
before the enemy marched away, and German soldier life, with its
violently repressive military discipline and its correspondingly lax
morality, was rife. The more perfect their military obedience the less
heed there was of God.

One sees in these parts not a few war-babies, and worse than these, for
they are innocent enough, one sees war-children in adolescence. The
numbers of depraved young girls is appalling. Perhaps there were many
before the war, but they look rather like war products. How many of them
there are in the beer-houses and backyards of the small towns! It is
difficult to avoid adventures with them. Bertha and Martha, depraved
little rascals, come running along the canal bank, one in clogs, one in
stocking soles. They talk scraps of German and scraps of French, and
make disgusting gestures and throw themselves about in hard, coarse
laughter. Martha is a strong and brazen little hussy with red face and
fat little arms. Bertha is a soft-witted, pallid slip of a girl with
full throat and weak lips. Both have long black finger-nails, both are
in cotton rags; but Bertha has a large yellow festering wound on her
ankle which she says was caused by a bit of shrapnel. Bertha is the
younger. Martha may be sixteen; Bertha would be two years younger. And
Martha would get Bertha into trouble. "Take Bertha!" she says
continually, suggestively making signs. Poor war-children! When the war
began Martha was ten and Bertha was eight. Martha was corrupted in it;
pale, sickly, weak-lipped Bertha, with the shrapnel wound, perhaps not
actually corrupted. When the wound had been examined and their nails cut
they concluded they had met a doctor.

They scamper away at last. The dark water of the canal flows peacefully
between banks of untarnished green. Nature is unqualified loveliness.
At Somerghem, however, behind this veil there has been war, there has
been something of the curse. One begins to notice in old walls patches
of new brick where shell-holes in human habitations have been cobbled.
Re-pointing is going on. The splash where the splinters of iron rived a
whole house has been sought to be gently erased. The most virtuous work
in the world! But it splashed on to the children too, and who can
re-point the Berthas and the Marthas?

Enfin, the fair-sized town of Thielt, would-be picturesque but
surprisingly shabby, not clean, not cleaned up, not quite like Belgium.
The dirtiest of all possible hotels, more like a billet than a hotel,
unswept floors, smashed china, supper in a kitchen which does not gleam
like housewife's honour. It is a town unlike Ghent, unlike Bruges. It
has not, however, been much shelled. British and Belgian gunners seem to
have had orders to spare friendly cities. But there is no doubt that
Thielt was in the war. Half its present inhabitants are _revenants_, as
the French call those pitiful spirits who return to the places where
they used to live. Mine host fled to Paris in 1914, and did not make a
fortune there; he talks bitterly of _Bosches_ and compensation. He is
forty-six and set. Six years ago he felt a young man, he says, but
to-day he is not ready to start anything new.

On then towards Roulers! 'Tis in gloomier country and with poor people.
All high roads are under repair. If shells spared Thielt, they did not
spare the roads. Where British army leather beat the cobbles in that
long march back from Ghent, whistling shells touched later and blew up
the ground that had been beneath their feet. The patient Flemish farmers
hung on to their farms on each side of the shell-pitted road, and their
cattle grazed in the fields with an equanimity that was sublime. For
four years the cannon-thunder never ceased, and every night war flamed
around the heavens, but the men on the soil remained true to the soil
and drove straightly their ploughs.

Not a few farmers were killed; they also were heroes, for they died at
their posts. But no patriotic cockade marks their humble graves.
Plentiful now are the crosses ornamented with flowers and the red, white
and blue, for those _morts pour la patrie_. Above Ardoye the
first-noticed wayside cemetery of German soldiers appears, and there
lies Franz Delmann, of Chemnitz, and many others who died in November,
1917. It is high up on a ridge beside the position of an old German
battery. How the shells used to howl from this eminence over Roulers,
over Passchendaele and leagues of destruction right into Ypres itself!
Here in old days the grubby war-worn Germans plied the guns, and here
the British guns found their prey also, and our enemies were put to
sleep in this acre of death. Now most of the crosses are down, the
cross-pieces of others have been taken away, part of the field has been
dug up with a spade. For after all the ground is appropriated Belgian
property. It was never paid for and it reverts to its owner, dead and
all. What a pathetic tragedy is that of the dead the Germans left
behind! Each cross, each dead one, refers back to some living family,
some home, some set of human circumstances. What thoughts, what
questions do not go out on the air from obscure homes to the dead who
have been left behind! The reins which go from the living to the dead!

But enemies take little stock of one another's dead. Roulers, which is
vis-à-vis to Ypres, lay partially destroyed and now it is being builded
up again. If the dead could be made to pay for it the dead would. The
living for the living! Roulers was a fine city once. The creative eye
sees that it can be so again. The British gunners could have laid it
flat as Ypres but they did not. Ypres can never be raised. But Roulers
will be Roulers once again. As one approaches it, behold, what activity.
New houses have sprung up overnight. There are thousands of piles of
bricks. Every Belgian has learned bricklaying. Clerks, shopkeepers,
salesmen, porters, in shirt sleeves and plaster-sprinkled hats, are at
work--_without trade union rules_. Hundreds of thousands of whitish
vermilion flesh-coloured old bricks are being made fit to use again,
new bricks in tiers are apparent in improvised kilns, and all day and
every day sounds the chipping and slapping of real reconstruction. Iron
girders are being fitted into the gutted depths of old shop-fronts, and
with foundations and framework it is marvellous how speedily old houses
are built up. The city is poor. Its many factory chimneys are innocent
of smoke. Roulers for flax! It was famous for its linen industry. Two
Scotch engineers, met at a hotel, are fitting in new machinery in the
factories. Typical uncommunicative Britons, they volunteer no
information, but sit face to face over their meals, lean over their food
and chuckle to one another in private monosyllables. When asked how they
are getting on, one of them replies:

"Och slowly, man, slowly. They Chairmans didna leave muckle when they
went awa!"

       *       *       *       *       *

And six years ago the Army continued to fall back. Zeebruges whence it
had started, Bruges and Ostende, and Ghent which it had marched through,
became enemy country without much shedding of blood. No one stood long
for their defence. After Roulers the name of a much less famous place
than Bruges or Ghent came on to men's lips. Did they know that they were
going to stand for the defence of it? No, it is all unlikely. And as
they marched to Ypres they providentially did not know the four years'
hell of which they trod the stage. War all over by Christmas was their
thought if they thought at all as they marched o'er the ridge of
Passchendaele in October, 1914.

The soldier, it is said, has an elementary mind which does not imagine,
does not think--a regimental mind. Others therefore must think about him
and do the thinking for him. See, the dusty khaki-clad regulars as yet
unbaptised by fire, but unknowingly on the brink of annihilation,
treading the ground where

  Few shall part where many meet...
  And every turf beneath their feet
  Shall be a soldier's sepulchre.

Thus they marched into Ypres--"as pretty a town as you'd care to see
after a day's march." Oh, it's highly romantic to look back to it now.

  Banners yellow, glorious golden,
  On its roof did float and flow.
  This, all this, was in the olden time
  Long ago.

The business centre of Ypres was invested with a dignity which was not
merely commercial in those old days when the silver chimes rolled
regularly the quarter-hours from the Cloth Hall tower. And the Army
arrived, the army for the defence of Ypres. They will dig trenches and
throw out wire south of Ypres, looking at Kemmel without knowing its
name, walking on Hill 60 before it was numbered and named.

A quiet and little marked country south of Roulers now gives way first
to trees not quite dead but sprouting green from black trunks, and then
to blasted trees dead to the core. After a mile or so farm-houses and
cultivation cease and one enters the terrible battle area of
Passchendaele, all pits, all tangled with corroded wire--but now as it
were in tumultuous conflict with Nature. Chiefly remarkable are the
magnificent rushes with their black tops rising from almost every
shell-hole. The stagnancy has not dried up, but festers still in black
rot below the rushes. Double shell-holes, treble shell-holes, charred
ground, great pits, bashed-in dug-outs, all overgrown with the highest
of wild flowers--pink willow-herb, burly St. John's wort in a yellow
glare, starry blue of outbreaking chicory, hundred-headed blossoming
sweet thistles growing from the hollows where fell, I doubt not,
Caledonia's sons, foxgloves flowering upward attempting to take crimson
to heaven. Ypres by the compass lies south-west. No, there is nothing on
the horizon, not a wall, not a wood, only the bare eminence of Kemmel
Hill. Before you is a vast fen. Some Flemings are at work on it in shirt
sleeves, but not a soul is traversing it. You constantly change your
direction: there is no going directly. It is impassable. You make for
what once was a wood; it afforded cover. What is it now--thrice
thrashed and riven, the abode of rats, lizards, weasels, a calamitous
and precipitous abyss covered with wreckage. Unexploded stick-bombs,
rusty grog-bottles, helmets, lie there still in plenty. Weather-beaten
ammunition baskets with shells intact lie where they fell off the
ammunition waggons or where men dropped them. There are broken rifles,
there are graves. There is all but the blood. But from the blood has
risen flowers.

On the vast waste you come upon houses built of salvage. Duck-boards
have been gathered in, old bits of rusty corrugated iron which sheltered
trenches and kept out rain have been collected by the returned
Flemish--what a return!--and they have made shacks of shreds and
patches. Fierce dogs on chains bark from them; no children venture
forth--there are no children there. Heaps of the jetsam of the
battlefields are in the yards. The uncouth workers are not too pleased
to see any stranger, and look suspiciously at you. They have pistols
ready at need. For these oases in the wilderness are not unvisited by
robbers, and thieves lurk in old holes in the ground. It has needed
courage to come back to your old ten acres. Few of these Flemish are
owners; they are only tenants. Their landlords allow them now three
years rent free. From the hut made of salvage starts the regeneracy of
the land. In an irregular patch round its gates lies the first reclaimed
ground, a mere kail yard, a bean plot. There are wonderful crops of
beans, higher than beans are wont to grow, bean-stalks to climb up.
Tobacco also has been growing, for the leaves hang wilting from green to
yellow on the outside of the unpainted wooden walls. But beyond the
oasis the tall black-topped reeds, like Guardsmen of the vegetable
world, go rank beyond rank to the eyes' end. One comes to a road, and
there is what was Zonnebeke resurrected in a tail of diminutive cabins
each roofed with corrugated iron, each numbered as a claim for
reparation. Not a few of the houses are named thus:--"In den Niewen
wereld." Half of them seem to be estaminets.

It is the same at Becelaere. The people earn a living drinking beer in
one another's estaminets.

"I wouldn't never have come back had I known it was like this," says a
Belgian woman. "I had good job at Rouen all the war, make plenty money,
not like this."

"How was that?"

"Me cook in sergeants' mess, huh, plenty food, plenty money."

"That's where you learned English?"

"Yes."

There were two British Tommies drinking beer at the estaminet, one an
R.E. the other an R.F. both talking knowingly about the old war. They
had a motor-lorry which was waiting outside.

"Take a lift?" said they.

"Where to?"

"Polygon Wood."

To be on one of those old blundering kindly quixotic lorries again,
pounding along a war-stricken highway! One might have thought the old
lorry had now ceased its devils' dance. But no, it still has a duty to
perform. Presently we pass a red-cross ambulance.

"Got any to-day?" cries the R.E. to the driver of the ambulance.

He puts up two fingers.

"Two ..." says the soldier with an air of satisfaction. "We found a
brigadier-general yesterday," he adds.

"How do you mean?"

"Ex-umed 'im. He'd bin missin' since 1916. All this no-man's land bein'
dug up now," said he with a wide sweep of his hand.

"That your job? It's pretty interesting."

"It's jolly hard work. But it 'as its better side. Some fellers the
other day came on a dug-out with three officers in it, and they picked
up five thousand francs between 'em."

The motor-lorry blundered forward toward a stone obelisk planted on a
man-made hillock. On one side was a swamp of green stagnant water; on
the other was a planting out of many hundred crosses of unvarnished
wood. The lorry is full of crosses each named and numbered, roped up in
scores, and these must be dumped inside the enclosure.

The view from the Polygon monument is desolation on all sides. One
living man standing there is as it were monarch of all the dead. It is a
remarkable eminence, a pillar at Thermopylæ, one thing standing where
all else is lying flat. As it stands to-day it has no inscription.
Polygon--myriad-sided--it is one of the strangest standing places and
shrines of the war. Pause thou who livest: salute the dead!

       *       *       *       *       *

Back thunders the empty lorry--on to the Menin road--and faces Ypres.
You see the grey contour of the tower afar, but doubt whether you are
approaching a city, so flat has all become. Yet certainly it is Ypres.
You enter by a series of new-painted wooden taverns and hotels. You walk
up a wide main street and there is Ypres----

A great dust storm is raging here whilst the sun shines out of a perfect
sky. Here are no rushes, no wild flowers, no moisture, but only infinite
debris and the shatterings of old masonry. There is a suggestion of the
desert. A notice says "THIS IS HOLY GROUND" and a barbed wire fence runs
round the whole centre of old Ypres. Within that enclosure lies a ruined
city. Thousands of years ago such a thing happened; all the people were
slain or taken into bondage. No one came back, the victors went away,
and the ruins remained glaring in the sands--centuries, millenniums.
That is the impression of Ypres to-day. It is grim and moving. It is
like the Pyramids. At least a hundred thousand dead lie round it--an
inner circle of the dead and an outer circle of decay. Looking on those
spacious sun-steeped, sand-blown ruins one's mind is inevitably taken to
the East, and a sense of Shelley's poem comes to one--

  My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
  Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

Yet six years ago the Cloth Hall tower chimed the quarter-hours! The
road out from the Menin gate was shady. Polygon Wood was a wood, not a
monument. There was seemingly a château near a wood called Hooge.
Zandwoorde Church had a spire. Behold the army however digging itself
in. There are rudimentary lines of defence making a spider's web across
the Menin road. The Twentieth Brigade flounders from Zandwoorde to
Gheluvelt in newly upturned earth. The Germans who followed so rapidly
to Ghent and Thielt and Roulers are hot on the trail, expecting Ypres
also to be left to them without a blow. But they have not arrived. Our
men are sitting on the parapets of their trenches, singing. There have
been no casualties to mention, a few men lost sight of; three sentries
in fact left unrelieved at Ghent. There is a battalion of Guards in the
line at Klein Zillebeke, and not one has yet been killed or wounded. A
battle is coming, however, for the retirement has ceased.

You turn out of Ypres by the left hand on a road which faces Kemmel
Hill--the Wytschaete road, and you come to a flattened-out village at
cross-roads, called Kruistraat. Where were once ploughed fields is now a
land-ocean of humps and hollows with a foam of wild flowers. Plunging
toward Voormezeele one is intoxicated by a perfume and looking to the
right you see the cause in a field of thistles as thick and close as
wheat. At what was Voormezeele there is now nothing more remarkable than
the crosses of the P.P.C.L.I. the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light
Infantry, who evidently went down in the most terrible way in 1915. Were
not these the Canadians who first tasted the devilry of gas?

Cemeteries soon become all too frequent and unremarkable. At Klein
Zillebeke there is an Englishwoman going from grave to grave diligently
examining the aluminium ribbons on which the names are fixed to the
wooden crosses--looking perhaps for her husband's grave but with an
expression in her face and form of "They have taken away my Lord, and I
know not where they have laid Him."

Virbranden Molen, where many encamped, is but a name now, and eastward
the wire-covered duck-boards climb across the rushes and thistles to
what was once a front line, past derelict limbers with rusty broken
wheels, past unexploded five-nines--the wildest way. Reeds have filled
the trenches, grass long and withered swarms o'er the parapets. There
are heaps of rusty Mills bombs which no one has ever come to take away
and no one will; there are ration-tins; there is all manner of army
rubbish everywhere. Pilgrims and tourists evidently collect few
souvenirs on the old Ypres front, and few Americans as yet arrive at
Ypres, which has for them a lesser fame than Château Thierry and Verdun.

In October, 1914, the line was far in advance of what became such a
carnage-strewn battlefield. Here is the railway cutting, then in supreme
peace, and beyond it is a pale British monument inscribed with many
names, though already defaced--to the memory of a lost mining and
tunnelling company that took a sudden way to heaven before the war was
won. Beyond it is a first German grave, where lie Fleully, Beck,
Dechert, Mehlhorn, and an unknown, and helmets and old bombs strew the
place where they lie. Klein Zillebeke is now marked by a huge concrete
fort. Zandwoorde and Kruisseecke, which were scenes of hand-to-hand
fighting in 1914, soon fell into German hands and remained within the
enemy's lines throughout the war. The old church at Zandwoorde cannot
now be identified by any ruins--one has to ask where it was. Even the
bricks and the stones seem to have been swept away, but there are three
graves there, Captain Rose and Lieutenant Turnor, of the Tenth Hussars,
and a private soldier nameless and unknown, a sort of batman in death.
An estaminet has jumped up like a weed beside the ruins but it has
little trade. Zandwoorde was once a substantial little place but now
perhaps it will not grow again so readily--it is off the main road and
not served by rail. Kruisseecke will be bigger. On October 21st the
Gordons drove the Germans back from Zandwoorde at the point of the
bayonet. On that day the church tower was twice struck by shells. That
was about the beginning of the history.

The old trenches 'twixt Zandwoorde and Gheluvelt are worn down and
perhaps were never very deep. The shell-holes are much deeper. The land
is desolate and all o'ergrown but it affords a scene of lesser
desolation. The exhumers are patiently seeking for the dead who were
left behind--the old dead of that first battle. It is ghoulish work, but
they have become as matter of fact as can be.

"No, we don't find many Gordons. But we're picking up a lot o' Borders
just now. Yes, and some Grenadiers. Brought in about thirty Borders
yesterday. It isn't a bad job if they'd pay us more. We gets used to it.
They say as how the Americans won't have the British touch their dead
and have given the job over to the French. Fifteen thousand of them to
be boxed and stuffed--there's a lot of work in that."

"You must dig up a fair number of Germans. What do you do with them?"

"Leave them where they are. We notifies the authorities, that's all. Of
course Jerry buried most of his own, and I'll give him credit for that,
he gave every man his eight feet. You don't so easy come across a man
the Germans buried, but some of ours----"

The weather-beaten Tommy, in old flannel shirt and sagging breeches,
waved his hand and grinned with mirth at our British ways.

"'S a funny thing though--the British dead keep much longer than the
Germans. If I put a spade through something and it's soft, I know it's a
Jerry."

"They say the body of a drunkard keeps fresh longest of all because of
the spirit in it."

"Yes, that's true. And if buried in an oilskin it makes a heap of
difference. But it's queer what you find. We came on a fellow the other
day with a bayonet through his jaw. He'd been buried that way. No one
could get the bayonet out----"

"Aren't the Germans doing anything to keep their dead? The Belgians
would look after them if they got a hint from Berlin that it would be
worth while."

"Oh, we'd bury them like Christians if they'd give us another
half-crown on our wages. We ain't got nothing agin 'em--specially the
dead."

"Do you sleep out here on this battlefield?"

"We bin 'ere six months now."

"No ghosts?"

The man smiled. He saw none. He felt the presence of none. Imagination
did not pull his heart-strings. If it did, he would go mad.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lying in an old trench behold a skull! It is clean and polished--a
soldier's head, low and broad at the brows, high at the back. There is a
frayed hole in an otherwise perfect cranium. The simplest way to pick it
up would be to put a finger in an eye-hole and lift it. You must put
both hands together and raise it fearfully if it be the first skull you
have ever found.... Friend or foe? Hm--there are no identification marks
on this. Thinking anything about it all? No, nothing--long since ceased
to think. Friends living? Probably, somewhere. The more you look at the
skull the more angry does it seem--it has an intense eternal grievance.
This one does not grin, for the mouth has been destroyed. It is just
blind and senseless for ever and ever.

Such is the Golgotha of Zandwoorde. Gheluvelt, the other end of the
line, has now a diminutive yellow tower of new wood from an improvised
church. Kruisseecke is a rusty-roofed, ramshackle, salvage-built
settlement on the site of complete ruin. You see the yellow tower of
Gheluvelt from all around, and like a livid finger the monument at
Polygon Wood is seen far o'er the battlefields pointing to heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the whole complex story of the battle of Ypres, where so many
regiments were engaged in such diverse parts of the field, with all
their varying calamities and triumphs, it is only possible to realise
the story in glimpses and aperçus. A thousand dramas were being enacted
simultaneously in a clamour so great that no neighbour understood what
was happening to his neighbour. Tragedy was accomplished, swiftly and as
it were privately. A dreadful way of speaking was begotten afterwards,
and men said "He got _his_ at Polygon Wood," or "he got _his_ at the
Château," or "_his_ at Kruisseecke."

Our gallant marchers, with the confetti as it were still sticking to
them, have seen a great deal of Belgium, have been greatly excited, have
reached Ypres with numbers intact, have taken their stand four feet deep
in the clay of the fields of Zandwoorde and have taken a look round.
They have been shelled. The shells have been falling irrelevantly--far
from them. The first man to perish is a colour-sergeant, who, taking a
stroll, gets shot by accident by an over-hasty sentry. The
colour-sergeant did not quite realise the war till then. Others also did
not realise the silent symbol of the fact that in fighting others you
start by killing yourselves. Next to die is a drummer-boy, killed by a
shell on the way to a hamlet called America, a kilometre beyond
Kruisseecke. With what pathos was that dead boy considered! For he was a
child of the Army. Drummer-boys are nearly always orphans, or boys
without homes, brought up in barracks, taught in the Army school, with
the Army for father and mother, the Army for God, the Army for nurse.
Little drummer-boy dead on the way to America--the first to go West! It
is a matter for pause, for a sad thought. If, however, the dead meet one
another in the other world, as so many now believe, the boy will soon be
comforted, for within the week scores of friends, hundreds of
acquaintances, will join him. See a reconnaissance at Polygon Wood and
Eskernest! Out of a whole company, only twenty-five come back. Its
commander killed. Another company half destroyed--its commander killed
also. Two captains buried side by side near a much-shelled
house--rudimentary wooden crosses put o'er their resting-place. They
were eager impetuous captains who had chafed to wait in England all
August and September. Their minds were full of what the war really
meant. But so soon are they sped! For four years the agony of Ypres
beginning in these days will roll impotently on whilst they lie there,
and the war with its gossip, its articles and speeches, its new
inventions and new bitternesses will go on. God loved them and removed
them betimes from the scene.

Yet if they see, if they can hear and know from other realms, what a
spectacle, what an intense interest is theirs. To see the remains of
their own poor companies of soldiers march back to Zandwoorde--the "not
the six hundred," to see the ever-encroaching German and the more and
more intimate and terrible strife proceed. The grand emotions of pity
and fear thrill the air as the tumultuous battle goes on....

The shell-fire ceases to be irrelevant and finds its mark, turns whole
brigades out of their trenches; reinforcements move with the
acceleration of a moving ant-heap which has been kicked over. False news
comes and confounds true news. The Borders are said to have given way.
Guards and Gordons go to their support. Weak points change to strong
points, strong to weak. Columns of assault are launched by the enemy,
first on one point, then on another. A column breaks through at
Kruisseecke at nightfall. The madness of the murder-excitement enters
the trenches, and it is bayonet to bayonet; the rain streams down to
mingle with blood, it is intensely dark, many have lost their clearness
of mind and balance of nerve. But there is a counter-attack. Gallant
Major F----, leading, is shot down; there is a dreadful mêlée and then
silence. The enemy is winning his way. Nevertheless patrols in
Kruisseecke round up a large number and take them prisoner. There is a
dispute as to who is to have the merit of having taken the prisoners.
But what does that matter? Round about this village is confusion worse
confounded. Germans appear dressed up as Gordon Highlanders, then
Gordons are thought to be Germans in disguise. Strange masses roll up
through the rain looking not at all like Germans and crying "We are
French."--"We are Allies"--"Don't shoot"--"Where is Captain P----?" "We
surrender," and things of that kind. The survivors of a Staffordshire
regiment devoid of officers, officers all down and out, come pelting
through the lines having thrown their rifles away. German yells of
victory break out.... It is a terrible night, one night, one little
corner of the ground outside the city. Dawn comes, and Kruisseecke is
with the enemy. It remains with the enemy. And there for many the march
from Zeebruges ends and a personal war history is concluded. The torch
of war has been carried thus far, to the battle of Ypres. The spent
runner gives it to another who carries it in turn--

       *       *       *       *       *

Back then to Ypres! It is an exposed moorland way. No woods, no houses
stop the even progress of the wind. The trees are stumps no higher than
Venetian masts. Instead of crops in the fields--crosses, an enormous
harvest. Along the Menin road a steam tram rolls. At the entrance to
Ypres is the communal cemetery of the city. Here, around the pre-war
Belgian dead, lie Hussars, Lancers, Dragoon Guards, Scots Guards, all
officers, all of the 1914 fighting. There they were lowered into graves
with the flag about them--there they remain. In this acre of death the
high wooden crucifix still stands, with its riven agonised Lord looking
down. Of the hundreds of thousands of shells which fell in Ypres all
spared Him--all but one which came direct and actually hit the Cross.
That one did not explode but instead, half-buried itself in the wood and
remains stuck in the upright to this day--an accidental symbol of the
power of the Cross.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ypres is terribly empty. Hundreds of thousands of eyes would look on it
but there are few people who come to look at it--just ones and twos who
stand diminutively in front of the great ruins and peer at them like the
conventional figures in an old print. This absence of the living
intensifies the strange atmosphere. It is said that the city will build
itself up again, but it is possible to feel some doubt on that point.
Perhaps Ypres will never be built again. At present it has some hundred
and fifty places where they sell beer to two where they sell anything
else. Its string of wooden hotels with cubicle bedrooms do not pay. The
curious come for an hour or so from Ostende but do not spend the night.
There is a sense of emptiness and tragedy which cannot be dispelled.
Some sort of unit of British troops does duty instead of police and is
posted to various guards, the sentries being however without rifles. The
soldiers in their "sixth year" impart a certain liveliness. A party of
them at night coming down the middle of the street singing

      One word of thine,
  Tell the world you are mine,
  And the world will be dearer to me,

in a full-throated chorus wakens echoes from dark corners of the ruins.
There is music and dancing in favoured taverns. The returned Belgians do
not perhaps belong naturally to the atmosphere of the sublime. They love
beer and sociality. They will make their money by some means--they are
not too particular how. Civilised ethics do not rule in these places
where war has worked its will.

Strolling along at dusk past the Cloth Hall tower a bright-eyed Belgian
wolf asks you who you are. "_C'est triste, n'est ce pas?_" says he,
pointing to the ruins. _Triste_ is what they are not. The Belgian is
from Poperinghe. It is very dull there now. _Tous les soldats sont
partis._ Also the mamzelles. Pas de jig-a-jig.

"Like a glass of beer?" asks the Belgian.

A spare woman of thirty serves two glasses of ale at a table outside a
hotel. She seems to speak English for preference.

"You want someone to sleep with?" asks the man from Poperinghe.

"No, I sleep with no man."

"Not married?"

"No, and plenty time yet, and I shan't marry an English when I do. The
English are all false."

The man from Poperinghe seems taken aback. At a further table a curious
scene is being enacted. Here are sitting a pioneer corporal and a
sergeant, both wearing the 1914 ribbon. They have their beer, and
between them is an effervescent loose-mouthed Alsatian. The latter, like
the man from Poperinghe, stands treat.

"I vill take you, one minit, I vill take you," says the Alsatian,
kissing the tips of his fingers, "just vait, not ten minits from 'ere."

"Oh you go on, you bloomin' well shut up. I b'lieve you're agent for the
girl or something," says the sergeant.

"No, listen, I'll tell you vot it is.... C'est de gateau, got that,
gateau; naw need to drink any coffee, just ten minits, you see for
yourself."

The sergeant makes a mocking show of biffing him in the eye, and grins
all over his weak sun-burnt face. The shoeing corporal sips at his beer
and smirks. The Alsatian on the tips of his toes, leaning forward on
his chair which is tilted toward the table, gesticulates and slobbers--

"You wait till you see her, you'll felicitation yourself...."

And the sergeant is persuaded against his will and goes with him.
Meanwhile dusk has grown to dark, and the ruined Cloth Hall tower on the
other side of the way seems more gloomy, more moody and threatening, as
if the war were not yet over.

This Ypres is a terrible place still. There is no life when night comes
on but tavern life. Those who live and work here have lost their sense
of proportion. They are out of focus somehow. "You lookin' for dead
soldiers," says a Flemish woman to you with a glaring stare, wondering
if you are one of the exhumers. Death and the ruins completely outweigh
the living. One is tilted out of time by the huge weight on the other
end of the plank, and it would be easy to imagine someone who had no
insoluble ties killing himself here, drawn by the lodestone of death.
There is a pull from the other world, a drag on the heart and spirit.
One is ashamed to be alive. You try to sleep in a little bed in a
cubicle with tiny doll's house window. You listen to a drunken company
down below singing, "Mademoiselle, have you got any rum?" A French
couple enter the room next door, smacking one another's hips and
confounding one another with coarse violent laughter--that is the light
end of the plank. Then night ensues, the real night, breathless and
sepulchral, the night which belongs to all lost hopes and ended lives
and wearinesses.

You lie listless, sleepless, with Ypres on the heart, and then suddenly
a grand tumult of explosion, a sound as of the tumbling of heavy
masonry. You go to the little window, behold, the whole sky is crimson
once more, and living streamers of flame ascend to the stars. An old
dump has gone up at Langhemarcq. Everyone in Ypres looks out and then
returns to sleep--without excitement. The lurid glare dies down;
stertorous night resumes her sway o'er the living and the dead. For a
moment it was as if the old war had started again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Day dawns in a mist. A veil hides the inner reality of Ypres, and as a
visitor says--"It looks more picturesque in the mist." Ypres however is
an altar to which the nation must return.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the great battle most of the survivors marched away. New men took
their places. Glorious captains received their D.S.O.'s, battalions
their first honours. A mere thirty thousand of the old army had stemmed
the onrush of a quarter of a million of the enemy. Ypres remained in
British hands--though badly battered, and the Germans were kept back
from the vital ground of Calais.

At Chateau Wood near Hooge where a placard now says "THIS PLACE WAS
HOOGE" were the remains of many battalions--Grenadiers, Duke of
Wellingtons, Scots Fusiliers; along the Menin road lay Scots Guards,
Borders, Gordons; but all were withdrawn. The Scots marched then to
Dickebusch and Locre and Bailleul, and then to Sailly sur la Lys, and
were out of the battle line ten murky days at least.

Now as you walk out from Ypres along the blighted Dickebusch road midst
the iron thorn bushes of rusty barbed wire and sheaves of old spiral
stakes you still see large notices that WASTE LENGTHENS THE WAR--what
stronger appeal could one make! Does it not still prolong it and ever
will!

A south wind blows volumes of rain out of the clouds on Kemmel Hill, the
old mud is restored on the road, and long plashy pools of water guide
the steps. Dickebusch is getting itself dug out of the mud, and making
fair progress. Of its church amid broken monuments only two needles of
up-jutting wall remain--at altar and entrance. New La Clytte is
soldering itself to the foundations of old La Clytte. Kemmel grows
nearer to the view and all the detail of its hillside can be picked out
by the eye--the wheat field, the pasture, the farm-house. It is one's
eye-neighbour on the left as you march into Locre. Now the Locre
church, unscathed in 1914, unthreatened, is but a heap of red rubble
surmounted by eight beams pointing skyward. Men are digging among the
bricks, uncovering soiled images, figures of the Virgin, altar cloths,
banners, stools. Near by stands a rusty cast-iron church built of
salvage, a straight Protestant meeting house but for some brand-new
coloured effigies of saints set among the seats. One aspect of Locre is
of a diminutive forest of stinging nettles and low stumps of dead trees,
and beyond lie some hundreds of British dead, flanked by a disused
medical shed where the bodies used to be brought out and a burying padre
with clayey hands went through the painfully mechanical service of
throwing "dust to dust." The graves are nicely kept, and the young
Belgium of Locre grows up with this heritage of sacrifice. As you sit on
the ruins of the church looking down to the wet highway muddy
velocipedists come pelting past in a race round their native land. Their
bare thighs are caked with brown mud, and their cotton chemises are
stuck to their bare round-shouldered backs, their intent faces are
dirt-covered--on they dash, a complete and happy irrelevance beside the
old war.

Here is the frontier 'twixt Belgium and France. A rope is drawn across
the road; there was none in the days of the war. The customs gendarmes
will examine you if you are coming into Belgium, though they will pay
little attention if you are going out.

The landscape is one of black dead trees hanging dead arms. Old blown-up
trees lie, root and all, along the roadside. There are great numbers of
sockets of old gas-shells relating to the taking of Locre by the Germans
in April 1918, heaps also of rusty rifle grenades which seem to have
been collected and put by the side of the road. Remarkable ever are the
promiscuously piled mountains of domestic old iron which one passes. It
would be an interesting exercise for a young detective to decide what
each piece of wreckage had been before the war. Certain things you can
be sure about however--oil-drums, coal-scuttles, wash-bowls, chamber
conveniences, armchair and sofa springs, metal guts of mattresses,
perforated bowls for straining greens, coffee-pots, mangling and washing
machines, scales, canisters, salvers--a clean sweep for every farm-house
and every village. And in the new houses there is scarcely one saved
utensil carried forward. Among the new articles introduced one may
remark china casts of Charlie Chaplin in gala attire.

The frontier land is hilly. One skirts the upland of which Mount Kemmel
on the left is the most prominent feature. It is three or four
kilometres from the rope of the frontier to the French line of douane
and its customs-gendarmes. One looks down to the first town in France,
Bailleul, and it looks like a picture which someone has drawn and then
crossed out with black lines and smudged. As one approaches, this is
found to be the residential suburb or park called L'asile, with
grandiose buildings, now an appalling wreck with not one redeeming new
patch upon it. Heaps of debris stand higher than houses, and houses
which have not fallen have as it were been pushed forward upon one
another. The frontier gendarmes examine your passport and you are free
in France. You see the first diminutive huts of the French returned
refugees, and then in the mud of the street, urchins playing bat and
ball with a slowly-expiring frog which they hold by one dangling leg,
and toss to the boy with the bat. A few steps further and it is
Bailleul.

Bailleul too is a great wreck as remarkable as Ypres, and its progress
of recuperation is much slower. It does not cater for war pilgrims or
take the money of tourists, and so there are no prominent hotels and few
estaminets. Most of its houses are down, its ways are choked with ruin,
and in the evening nondescript squads of workmen shuffle through the
streets to their homes in barracks and cellar.

       *       *       *       *       *

Still the old Army of 1914 marches on. When it entered Bailleul all was
calm. Its great red-brick houses stood fairly and uncracked. The people
had had a fright, but they held on. They held on through years of the
war, and though the guns kept pounding away at them they did not wholly
abandon it till 1918 when the Germans seized the town as part fruit of
their second great Spring attempt to end the war. Then it was "fort
abimée." The owners all fled, and what they left an enemy army
ransacked.

Thousands of officers and men were snugly billeted in November 1914 at
Locre and Bailleul and Meteren. Sir John French came and chatted with
men in the billets--about the battle of Ypres. New drafts came out from
England. There had been a clearance of reservists and first volunteers.
Each stricken battalion received its half a thousand to make up.
Practically new units were organised for the winter defence of the new
lines, and when the time was come they marched three leagues nearer to
their enemy--to Sailly sur la Lys and Laventie and Neuf Berquin,
Estaires--such names of destiny! When the King came to Sailly sur la Lys
at the end of November he could not see his guardsmen because they were
already in the fighting line and it was thought it would be unsoldierly
to call them back for the King to see, to which the King agreed.

The flowers are withered, the thistles which gave their fragrance to the
air at Ypres are white with down. Peasants everywhere are scything weeds
and burning them in smoking heaps. But the trenches beyond Sailly are
still shaggy-topped with teazle crowns and woolly nettle heads. One
wonders how many different units at what different times occupied those
1914 trenches. Here still, one picks up old blue water-bottles and faded
green straps and pouches of British uniforms. They are poor
trenches--the mere staves that lined them to keep up the mud are all
warped and good dug-outs are few.

The Germans of course swept o'er all this in 1918. Witness the "busted"
concrete telegraph posts growing dozens of rusty iron wires from their
stumps, witness the lumpy solid cement-bags by the side of the road. But
between 1914 and 1918 what a history! A little way beyond the British
line is a cemetery called "V.C. corner." There are two hundred and
thirty crosses and on every cross is exactly the same legend--"G.R.U.
Unknown Australian soldier." There is no name in the whole of the
cemetery. Some time some band of Australians charged here and did not
come back and were not taken prisoner. Old rifles with broken rusty
bayonets have been placed against the white-washed cross-surmounted
entrance. Not many paces on one comes to the German line wrought in
impregnable concrete, a line of snug beds in which it seems one might
comfortably await the Last Day. But one concrete structure has been
mined and looks as if it had been thrown bodily into the air without
flying into bits. Now it stands poised upside down on a heap of dirt
beside a profound pit. The Germans who were there when that happened are
nearer now to the unknown Australian soldiers than we are.

In 1914 there was none of this concrete. Both sides were equal in the
mud, and the same no-man's land lay between. Even the wire had not been
thrown out--or was of a most rudimentary kind. Friend and foe heard one
another talking from across the wet fields--even called to one another
and were without especial bitterness. On the right and towards Laventie
a nervous Indian division kept up a heavy rifle fire all night long, but
otherwise the war was mild. Frost-bite harmed more than iron. The first
night raids were planned--sporting expeditions in which the thrills were
sufficiently novel. Pleasantries were often exchanged with the enemy who
was found to be possessed of plenty of English slang, and occasionally
an English soldier who knew some German risked being thought a spy by
his comrades and replied.

Someone however planned a sharp attack on Lille. It was really the
predecessor of the battle of Neuve Chapelle and should be called perhaps
the battle of Fromelles. But it was completely abortive and the details
were removed from public news--the first and last night attack of its
kind. The date was exactly one week before Christmas, and looking at
that narrow strip of no-man's land in which the attack spent itself one
realises afresh how ineffectual were all these little battles of the
war. Men died: that was all their effect.

The attack was timed to start at six in the evening. Men were hoisted to
the parapets and lay flat awaiting a signal, the blowing of a whistle.
At the sound of the whistle they stood up and walked slowly and
cautiously forward not to disturb the Germans. The moment the enemy
discerned them and fired they were to rush forward as one man and enter
the German trenches. Some men walked hand in hand; some unfortunately
lost their heads and ran forward at once. The night was black as pitch
and full of the unknown. It was not long before the enemy began to fire,
and men dropped rapidly, leaving the inevitable gaps and disconnections
in the line. It is incredible to realise it: the affair lasted all night
long, and scarcely anyone knew where anyone else was. But back and forth
they ranged in that fatal width of eighty yards of no-man's land, and in
one battalion alone a hundred and eighty men were lost. As was to be
expected, the troops were highly complimented and medals were
plentifully awarded to the heroes who survived. Lille was safe as ever.
Little Fromelles, just behind the enemy lines, was safe as Lille. The
dead lay in front of the German trenches, and the foe carried some of
them to the graveyard at Fromelles and buried them. But seven days
later, on the Christmas Day armistice, many still lay green on the
green earth where they had fallen.

A curious day in the war--that first twenty-fifth of December. It was
surely a moment of hope after great suffering and in the midst of the
great anxiety. Probably all the nations engaged felt horrified by what
they had done, and a sort of penitence ranged in men's minds, a belated
regret that a better way than war had not been found to solve Europe's
problems. By most of the private soldiers and young officers it was
fervently believed that all would be over soon. And away at home there
was such idealistic hope as that the soldiers on both sides might
unanimously refuse to fight and that thus war might die of old age and
prove that it had truly been an anachronism. Immense new armies were
drilling in England, France, Germany, Russia, but they would never be
needed. Germany would speedily be forced back to the Rhine and would
capitulate, indemnifying France and Belgium handsomely and owning
herself in the wrong. Our armies held the Germans on the West and the
enemy was short of shells. The Russian "steamroller" was at work on the
other side of Europe, and men were betting one another that Przemysl
would fall before the New Year. Germany also was short of food, and our
sea power would cause her to starve. In Germany on the other hand, a
sense of great military superiority prompted the thought that soon all
the enemies of the Fatherland would be crushed.

Despite the details of atrocities on both sides there was not the extent
of international bitterness that existed later. There was much talk of
an armistice, and there would have been official sanction for a general
temporary peace if Germany had not been so deeply distrusted. As it was,
there was a cessation of hostilities in many parts of the line and
meetings of enemies which amounted to fraternisation. This first
Christmas was the only one on which there was innocent and bloodless
armistice. Next year men were killed; and in 1916 despite the hopes of
rank and file there were few handshakes, few interchanges of civility
and greeting.

But the first Christmas Day was a holiday. A party of Germans came over
from Fromelles and a party of ours went over to the German trenches.
Here in this narrow no-man's land where but a week ago had been that
"clash by night," foes met as friends. The Germans agreed to bring over
those of the dead which had not been buried. This was a matter of great
solemnity. The grey German soldiers put the bodies on stretchers and
brought them to the midst of no-man's land. Graves were dug there and
then. Detachments of British and German troops formed up in line, and a
German and an English chaplain read prayers alternately in the two
languages. It must have been heart-rending for our fellows to look on
the faces of the dead they knew so well, some of whom had set out for
the attack in such high spirits. And they lay with their terrible
wounds, the silent and ghastly fruits of the war, and it seemed they had
nothing in common with Christmas and the festival of peace and goodwill.

The arrangements for the armistice had been made in this way. On the
night of Christmas Eve the German trenches were lit up with lanterns and
there was much singing of carols and popular German music. Now and then
there would be shouting across at the British lines, Christmas wishes
and attempts to enter into conversation. Early on Christmas morning one
of our scouts went out accordingly and met a German patrol. The latter
gave him a glass of whisky and some cigars with a message that if we
didn't fire at them they wouldn't fire at us. There had been no firing
since nightfall and an armistice was agreed to. At about dawn a party of
Germans came over to our wire fence and a party of our men went out to
meet them. The meeting was most friendly, and there was a general
exchange of small souvenirs and much mirth. Out of their abundance our
men gave the Germans of their Christmas puddings which were received
with great appreciation. Cigarettes were smoked, and there was much
conversation in which Tommy made himself understood and the German
mustered all his English. They all said they were tired of the war but
were convinced Germany would soon win. One or two had lived in England,
one even had an English wife, another had had an English sweetheart in
Suffolk, and these were very eager to get back, so they said. The German
opinion about the war was that France was on her last legs; Russia had
had a tremendous defeat in Poland and would soon be ready to make peace.
England remained to be broken, but with France and Russia out of the way
it would not be difficult to come to terms. They thought the war might
come to an end in January, 1915, in the following month. They professed
to hate their officers but were evidently afraid of them. It was clear
that discipline was carried further in the German army than in ours and
that it was very much harsher.

The German officers, without tokens of rank, seemed much less at ease
than their men and were inclined to observe a sort of official silence.
One pointed to the dead and said in French "Les braves!" indicating a
reverence for fallen foes. Another volunteered the information that the
officers who had died a week ago had been buried in the graveyard at
Fromelles. There were dignified exchanges of tokens of remembrance among
officers--not very convincing perhaps as evidence of brotherly love, but
there was no mistaking the good-humour and camaraderie of rank and file
which continued all the while.

What a sad moment when officers saluted and the men marched back to
continue the bitterness and folly of Europe's suicide. And _feu de joie_
at midnight and massed choruses of carol singing! Christmas 1914 how far
away wert thou from happiness and peace!

And Fromelles church on the hill has been rased to the ground. The
English dead have been taken away--only French remain, and amidst the
great smash-up of tombstones are seven or eight wooden crosses for
Chasseurs Alpins and French dragoons.

So 1914 passed and the new year opened with a long war penitence when in
two months a battalion in the line lost but four or five men. Both sides
were short of shells and were saving themselves for the Spring. We shall
march soon to Neuve Chapelle. Meanwhile men are practising in the use of
the jam-tin and the hair-brush bombs--for the British army went to war
without a bomb, despised bombs. It went also without helmets, without
metal hats. Men went to war in service hats. It will take some
maniac-(sic) patriot to jump from the gallery of the House of Commons
into the midst of dreaming politicians, yelling "Give them metal
helmets" ere something of the kind be furnished. There are now
proceeding rehearsals of a battle behind the lines. Neuve Chapelle is
being thoroughly rehearsed against a dummy foe. The power of shrapnel to
destroy barbed wire is being tried--the verdict being that the narrower
the front attacked the more chance of completely destroying the wire. As
the war was eventually decided on the broadest of fronts, so the new
phase of the war which started with Neuve Chapelle was begun on the
narrowest of fronts. Be it noted, a continuation of the grand strategic
movements of 1914 has already been rendered impracticable by the
organisation of trench defences.

On March 10th was the first concentration on the enemy's line, the first
attempt to pierce it. Behold the once crowded breastworks on the road to
Aubers and Neuve Chapelle. The great shaggy earthwork is covered with
dense thistle now. There are mounds of filled sand-bags all hanging in
clots like shirt-tails of innumerable men. This was the jumping-off
point for the attack. It was bristling with tense excited soldiers that
wild March morning, but no one lives there now--only swarms of
whispering grasshoppers. The earth-wave goes on across the flat country;
it is uncontrollably wild, and the peasants who work on the fields
before and in front of it have left it alone as a work of despair to
clear. It looks like an old Roman line.

It is pitiful and pathetic now to walk to Neuve Chapelle and
Aubers--where officers clutched their revolvers, and men with bayonets
fixed thought their last thoughts of home whilst they plunged perchance
to death. All the German defences are in concrete--the wonderful 1916
concrete, massive, impregnable. At Aubers there are six hundred and
eighty block-houses of concrete, with walls three feet thick. There are
impudent watch-towers of it.

The roadway, still littered with shrapnel and fragments of rifles and
bombs, crawls across disintegrated Nature to ramshackle Neuve Chapelle,
and then there is that beautiful wood beyond, so often sketched, not
dead, leafing from all its trunks. As one looks on its lacework of
loveliness set against the sky one thinks of a martyr whose faith has
been proved--rescued from fire in time to avert destruction.

Neuve Chapelle however was no victory as also it was no defeat. =GOOD
NEWS TO-NIGHT= said the placards of the London papers, but what had
happened was merely a rehearsal with many accidents. The fighting lasted
three days. The enemy gave as much as he took. Men spent the night in
trenches waist-deep in water, and were shelled mercilessly. They got up
prematurely to attack; to face fires of execution--the serried array of
the enemy's machine gunnery. Did not a battalion of Guards lose three
officers and a hundred men whilst speeding over a mere hundred and fifty
yards? On the other hand certainly German positions were isolated and
hundreds of foemen walked demurely into captivity behind the British
lines.

You will look in vain for the graves of thousands of heroes. The bodies
have been taken far away, but Neuve Chapelle has its cemetery of exhumés
covered with brown level-raked earth behind a fertile beanfield. Captain
Sir Edward Hulse, hero of a night raid at Fromelles, lies buried by the
wayside, and he died at Neuve Chapelle. As for German dead, there is a
strange absence of graves, but beyond Neuve Chapelle is a field of
outrageous thistles and broad-bladed rotting crosses, some down, some
standing, all with faded inscriptions, but the thistles are so thick and
high one might easily pass by without observing an old graveyard of our
dread enemy. It would be interesting to read a German account, oh, not
an official one, of this battle of Neuve Chapelle, an account by one of
the common soldiers who fraternised with his enemy on Christmas Day and
had to kill him ere Easter had arrived.

A long black touring-car has drawn up at the side of the road at Neuve
Chapelle, and a handsome grey-haired English gentleman looks on the
ruins. Says a small boy to him, "Daddy, what did the Germans do here?"

"I don't know, my boy," says he. "But there was a great battle here
early in the war, and we tried to win it. I don't think anybody won."

       *       *       *       *       *

So the Army went back to its football leagues and boxing competitions
which afforded a happy subsidiary interest. True, some of the athletes
and bright particular sporting stars had fallen, but others constantly
arrived from inexhaustible old England. As regards the war a rigorous
optimism set in. Complete victory was postponed for two months. There
must be more and better rehearsals, that was all. A passion for
discipline and the shooting of cowards set in. Poor R---- was shot beside
Laventie. Sergeant-majors "came into their own."

Now however a new peace has settled upon Laventie. Even the workmen seem
working quietly. Most of the old billets of 1914-15 lie in tumultuous
heaps of brick dust and beams, though here and there are houses with the
number of the billet marked and the number of men it would hold. Many a
tap-room where our fellows gave voice to beer and _vin blanc_ has passed
into nothingness--the heavy boots clattering under the tables, the red
faces above, the bottles and glasses, the gambling-boards, the
pale-faced non-committal French women unashamed by the filth of the
talk--where are they all? The old owners have gone, dead perhaps, or
they found better business elsewhere. Often those who served in those
taverns behind the line were not the real owners but a sort of
adventurer who came in when the real people fled in panic. Tommy was the
source of their profit, they plied him with beer and girls, and gave
shelter to gambling sharps and got France a bad name. Anyhow, the
people you see now are a sober quiet-faced folk with a real unending
gratitude and affection for the British soldier. They preserve nothing
but good memories of him, and no calculations enter into their love.

The old tavern of the Blue Horse seems to be down, but the Grand Cheval
Blanc still stands and other taverns of the horse--Laventie was a
horse-breeding place in days gone by. To-day it has only a tiny
population--and is nothing. It perhaps will not be a notable place
again.

The mind goes on to the rest-billets of Hinges and Busnes and to the
march to Festubert across a country less scarred by war than there, less
gassed perhaps, for gas killed more than shells. There are new plans of
battle, more auguries of complete victory. Brigadiers themselves come to
lesser commanders to explain in person the secrets of the Festubert
attack. It amounts to little more than an intensification of the
bombardment rehearsed at Neuve Chapelle, and the pouring of a greater
number of men through the neck of devastation thus made, a pitiful
suicide trap as it turned out, but a natural experiment.

Hinges, though in 1915 far enough from shell fire to be a place of
rest-billets and the drilling of new drafts and the bringing of musketry
practice up to high regimental standards, is now a wreck, its church as
completely ruined as our Wenlock Abbey and looking not unlike it.
Hinges has a commanding position with a view far o'er the stricken _Nord
du France_. Behind its ridge of high land Bethune remained comparatively
immune, its centre alone being utterly destroyed. No doubt parts of
Bethune would have fallen into German hands in 1918 had Hinges not held.
The neighbouring village of Locon fell--a mile or so to the North-east.
Merville which is due North fell also, and shells from three sides
screamed against this little village and the Canadians defending it.

Hinges now is quietly rebuilding itself and is a little-visited war
hamlet. A memory and shrine of the Festubert fight is the wayside
cemetery with its Gordons and Black Watch and Lancs men. Here lie two
unknown British soldiers of Lancashire regiments and on their temporary
wooden crosses have been nailed metal discs of the Lancastrians with
bright red roses and the words:--"They win or die who wear the rose of
Lancashire." Some devotee of his county has placed this disc on
thousands of the graves of the Lancastrians.

On the evening of the 15th May 1915, 2nd and 6th Gordons, 1st
Grenadiers, 2nd Scots and Borders marched out to the junction of the
roads rue de Bois and rue de l'Epinette, then filed through trenches
held by Indian troops, and reached an allotted storming position west of
"Princes Road." An elaborate time-table had been arranged, and each
unit knew its angle relative to the "gap in the wire" which the
artillery were going to make. At midnight all the troops were in
position. At a quarter past three in the morning Scots Guards and
Borders started up to lead the assault. What a narrow-fronted
concentrated effort it was may be judged by the battalion formation,
which was in eight lines of two platoons each.

One cannot be sure now what trenches each unit filled, but the trenches
are there and it is not difficult to imagine the crush of khaki in the
warm May night, the shrieking and thundering of the bombardment. Three
o'clock in the morning and the rum being doled out and the men poised
and ready for the race of death.

Near the corner of rue de l'Epinette and just before the village of
Richebourg l'Avoué lie three Colonels and a Major side by side--they are
the commanders of the Grenadiers and of the 2nd Border regiment, Major
Kennet the second in command of the 1st Grenadiers, and Colonel
Alexander of a Yorkshire regiment--all four perished at Festubert. The
corner of rue de l'Epinette has now a cottage of wood and bricks with a
cast-iron roof, a bright garden of flowers and beans. Opposite stands a
new estaminet. There is a jolly field of gathered haricots hanging to
dry on ten-foot poles. Once more, iron thorn-bushes of barbed wire each
side of the way, and where the men dug themselves in by the side of the
road--water and reeds. The Indian section has become the Indian
cemetery, and the brave dusky boys of Asian hills have passed away.
Festubert is a little place where the pile of old white stone and cement
which was the village church is higher than the huts which have sprung
up around it. But where are those blossoming orchards through which our
boys charged in the dawn twilight, where are the dead who lay so long
unrecovered in that pitiful no-man's land beyond? Unrecovered then and
irrecoverable now.

On the 27th May 1915, ten days after the battle, General Joffre
inspected the whole Seventh Division, which was drawn up in three great
columns, a brigade in each, and with the 20th Brigade and its pipers
leading, all marched past to the salute. Another day came the Divisional
Commander General Gough, and perched high up on the central pile of
straw and midden in a large farm-yard he thanked the men for
Festubert--they had done what was asked and more--"as always," he added.

Yet the Seventh Division had been destroyed at the First battle of
Ypres, only its framework had remained; its large reinforcements had
been worked off in the night-raids and at Neuve Chapelle, and its second
reinforcements had been almost exhausted at this Festubert. The speeches
were made, not so much to the heroes as to new drafts. Kitchener's army
was however flooding into France, and despite enormous casualties we
were beginning in a way to have a national army. What was left of the
old army became the instructors of the new. The regular army gave way to
the volunteers.

It was a time of heart-searching in England. Optimism and pessimism
began to be sharply defined. Russia had been routed. Lord Northcliffe
made his sensational effort to make an easy-going London face bitter
reality. Mr. Lloyd George at the Ministry of Munitions began to take a
larger broader view of the military aspect of the war than did most of
his colleagues. Preparations were made for the manufacture of shells for
the terrific onslaught of the Somme next year. Whilst many poor fools
still thought that 1915 would see us through the strife, plans on the
basis of a three or four years struggle were being definitely made. Then
we were beginning to manufacture poison gas and had at last invented a
handy bomb--the Mills grenade, our answer to the stick-bombs which
dangled from the belts of German soldiers. It was a time of far-reaching
military plans and dreams. All grown-up children who were not themselves
tin soldiers were playing soldiers. Flying men carried terror across the
skies, and sailors of submarines carried it under the sea. No prophet
knew the number of men who would have to be killed before the
politicians would be ready to come to Versailles to discuss the matter.
From England, France and Germany three or four million must actually
die--that fact was unknown. In the summer of 1915 the number who had
died was far from that figure. It is curious however to think of the
many who had laid themselves down in earth's earthy bed in the full
faith that their sacrifice would not be in vain--to think of the proud
Germans, the fine ones, not the base ones, who believed in their Kaiser
and that wonderful German Fatherland to which they owed their life
before they owed their death, and to think of what was to come. Germany
and her Kaiser not only defeated but humiliated and cast lower than all
nations in old Europe; to think of the loyal Russian soldiers who
perished in the first enthusiasm of the war with a bright starry faith
in Russia, her Church and her Tsar, of the Grand Duke Oleg for instance,
that young hero whose warm blood grew cold whilst the street-bred people
of Berlin knocked nails in great Hindenburg's wooden statue--to think of
these first Russians who lay dead with their weapons beside them in
1914-15, and then to think of the hideous revolution and those murders
in Ekaterinburg when all Russia fell; to think of the fine youth of
England and Scotland, of France, of Serbia, who died in the faith not
only of national victory but of a victory for humanity, the boys whose
fragment of iron destiny clove their brains or rived their hearts at the
outset of the fray, and then to think of that sordid clash of
selfishness at Versailles and of the untamed menagerie of Europe let
loose in 1920. The spiritualists quickly claimed to get special messages
from the dead. But did the dead only speak to the spiritualists? Did
they say nothing more than was said to them? Most of us alas, hear
nothing or only a "Dinna ye hear it?" a wailing of the pipes at an
infinite number of poor soldiers' funerals.

Well, the war enters a new phase in the summer of 1915. It will be
fought in a larger more terrible way, the number of millions of deaths
will begin after a while to seem not so far off. Killing becomes the
religion of the hour.

The first hundreds of thousands of the volunteers roll up. The old
Seventh Division which we have been following is broken up and
reconstructed. The Guards Division was formed. So Scots Guards and
Grenadiers marched away to join new comrades, to leave behind brave
Borders and Gordons and Devons and Duke of Wellingtons. The 92nd feted
the Scots, the Devons the Grenadiers; the Gordon pipers played all the
laments of the clans and "_Will ye no come back again!_"

And they went to Wizernes to prepare for the battle of Loos--a conflict
which the gallant Highland lads were destined to enter first and the
bright polished Guards but second, yet both to shine and die.

In June General Foch's Tenth Army launched its Artois attack against the
great ridge of "Notre Dame de Lorette" which commands the Lens country
from the South as the high ground of Loos does from the North. A hundred
thousand Frenchmen perished for Notre Dame and it is henceforth a place
of pilgrimage for France. The battle was the prelude to our battle of
Loos and whilst the great new British army in reserve drilled and
marched away to the North, it heard each night the drum-fire of the 75's
rolling from the South. Later in the war when the British took over all
the line 'twixt Lens and Arras the Canadians took Foch's victory a step
further and captured Vimy Ridge. What Foch did in the summer of '15 was
however to be eclipsed by what the combined armies should do in the
autumn. Reliance was placed chiefly on the new man-power. The earlier
battles of Neuve Chapelle and Festubert had been tests of the
relationship of gun-power and man-power. Opinion inclined to support the
theory that a superiority in numbers was the most telling factor in a
battle. This seemingly was disproved, and the next theory was that in
order to obtain victory there must be overwhelming superiority both in
guns and in men. The Somme battle proved that even these were not
enough.

In the battle of Loos however all the interest was centred on men, men
personally. The new base was St. Omer, the picturesque ecclesiastical
town with its castellated church towers in relief against the sky--all
so thronged with khaki--henceforth till the war ends to be a great war
centre. France lies in a bower beyond, and there are squads of poplar
trees on hills, and green and happy meadows never scarred by shells or
wilted by gas. On the left on the road out to Wizernes is now a large
cemetery, and here lie French dead with the tricolour upon them, British
with an infinity of flowers and wreaths, Americans with grim and tall
white crosses--American dead who will not be exhumed perhaps. Behind the
American graves stand wedges of unpainted wood--a Chinese plot where lie
what was mortal of many unknown coolies. On the right lie Germans, on
the left _soldados_ of Portugal. This is called playfully the souvenir
cemetery--there are so many of the dead they can be thus arranged, as
children might arrange their toys. St. Omer was known as a great base
hospital to which alas, so many were called to look their last upon
their dying children, dying sons of England breathing out their last
words before their bodies were laid away. There are those who are fond
of saying that everything began at St. Omer. But for many also it was
the place where it all--_ended_.

The cemetery past, (How it rains on it now!) you come to aerodromes all
tortured and torn, indications of Handley Page but no indications of
those who fly, the cages are all empty and there stands not a sentry. In
plain blunt English the passer-by is told that "_Trespassers will be
shot_" but in the heavy rain of a Saturday afternoon a muddy crowd of
French boys are playing a football match. Chinamen evidently worked
beside these aerodromes, for you see their scrawls on the sheds and
shelters.

Wizernes, where the Guards Division was formed, lies in a hollow below a
long green ridge. Most of it is painted white--including _Au bon Diable_
a tavern of some name. The people know a passing Englishman, not by the
cut of his clothes alone but by his walk and his complexion and style.
Standing at their doorways old men give military salutes to any
Englishman who happens to go by. All know bits of our tongue, of which
they are as proud as if they had wounds to show. A poor woman in a
little beer-house has eight daughters, five of whom are married and a
sixth has a child by a Canadian. Little Renée, flaxen-haired,
ruddy-cheeked, is getting on very well and the mother adores her, though
a father in the New World his progeny has forgotten. This sixth daughter
of substantial mother was in service at Havre and met the soldier
there; she is now in service at St. Omer and not at all "ruined." There
are thousands of baby tokens of the war in France. Some died no doubt,
through lack of care; lightly they came and lightly they go, but a
widespread sentimental feeling about departed Tommy shields those who
now, live from any feeling of disgrace.

Of course the men at the base begot more infants than the men in the
line, the latter were too much used up for "love" or "lust," saw fewer
girls and had less time on their hands. But all had their opportunities.
As we know, a great number of marriages were effected, and not a few
overseas men are now living with French wives.

That has little however to do with Wizernes, whence behold Lord Cavan's
men marching away one dull September morn. The music of the bands is
refracted from that long parallel ridge of hill which goes with the road
toward Arques--the drums, the fifes, the brilliant array; each company
compact, glittering--the new Division. Some of it is utterly new, such
as 4th Grenadiers and 1st Welsh straight from Little Sparta, others
trail already a great war history from other divisions of the old army.
But the numbers are good. Sergeants are yelling at men who will be dead
in a few weeks' time. Men are silently reviling those on whom destiny
itself will quickly take revenge. All looks very authentic and lasting.
Unchecked optimism moreover reigns supreme. These compact units in their
unhurried and ever regular quick march believe that they will win the
war. Lens will be taken by others. They will come into action at the
critical moment, somewhere near Douai. They will pierce the German belt
of defence, split the enemy army, "roll up their line," and Germany
realising that she is beaten will at once sue for peace. There may be
some delay in formalities--then home for Christmas!

Behold in the Grand Place at Arques immaculate General Heywood
inspecting his Third Brigade with its new units. Arques has a tall
obelisk there now--_a ses cent cinquante heroiques et glorieux enfants,
mort pour la France et la liberté_.

These inspections were as great an ordeal as the going into battle
itself. In the line at least there were no drill-sergeants and
regimental sergeant-majors. However, inspections cease and the long
march in the rain begins, and new leather beats cobbled highways for
many a long fifty minutes, and weary backs and feet find ten minutes in
the hour all too little for recuperation. A little-touched happy
agricultural country, with Calvaries here and there erected and blessed
in 1919 in token of thanks that the land was spared from invasion. By
Aire to Fontaine St. Hilaire, to the sight of the first coal pyramids
of the Lens country and to the hearing of the first mighty thunders of
the opening great battle. The Guards were told that they were intended
for a sort of anchor to the cavalry. The Division would press on, and
somewhere beyond Loos the cavalry would come up from behind, pass
through the ranks, and press on to Douai. The Division would perhaps
come into action at the Canal at Douai. So when the cavalry overtook the
Guards whilst yet on the road to Loos it was assumed that the whole
British army was in advance of its program, Douai taken, and the enemy
in disorderly retreat. But on the day when optimism reached its height a
Colonel in a motor coming back from the front gave the duller tidings
that the attack had been held up. However, the sight of the cavalry
regiments going past in all their splendour was a sort of lasting
encouragement in the simple soldier's mind.

It is a gloomy sordid country with dirty mining villages placarded with
yellow appeals to the proletariat and "Vive la Russie!" "Vive la
revolution sociale!" and dirty homes and black-faced men in sooty coaly
shirts--miserable Sailly, miserable Vermelles. Then the road debouches
upon wide open country, the terrain and the landscape of the battle. It
is a chalky heath interlaced and inter-run with trenches and barbed
wire. The trenches were mostly dug by Scottish miners and were said to
be the admiration of the troops in 1915. But standards in trench digging
were low in the first year of the war, and one does not admire them now.
The landmarks of the horizon are peaked coal-heaps. The road which goes
to Lens is bare and hard. Loos and Hulluch are on the left, and also the
German line. Close in to the suburbs of Lens the line crosses the road.
Shells must have come thick and fast on these September days. It is not
a covetable country to march over under fire. One wonders what exactly
the first divisions accomplished here on the days before the Guards came
up. Special correspondents were given facilities at the time and one
remembers among other things Mr. Buchan's despatch with its native pride
in Highland regiments, and a sort of belief that they themselves had won
the day. One had the impression of a sort of trial charge of kilted lads
which showed what they would do later on. Indeed some of the Highlanders
must have actually got into Lens. Nothing could stop them but death.
Were the lines between Vermelles and Loos German? These were supposed to
have been captured during the first days of the attack. The Guards in
artillery formation swept across leftward to Loos, past the spent
legions--to the line, to Hill 70, the barrier to Lens city.

It is memorable to be in Loos on the anniversary of the opening of the
battle, to walk up Hill 70 by the sharp-dug clumsy communication-trench,
to reach the lateral lines on the brow of the hill and look down toward
the shattered town. And Loos lies in disruption and dejection. It lost
every roof, now it has perhaps a score of new ones visible to the eye.
The machinery of the pit-head is all down, likewise the clangorous iron
tower which shells seemed unable to destroy. Rusty wreckage runs along
the base of the coal heap, the length of a long train. Heavy green shrub
almost covers the coal embankment. On Hill 70 itself the old rusty wire
remains, though so scanty as if much had corroded away. Shell-holes seem
to afford more cover than the pitiful scrapings in the chalk of the old
trenches. There is a burnt-out wood on the left; on the right is the
insurgent industrialism of unruined fosses; ahead are chalk-pits,
chalk-mounds, thistles, dry grass, poppies, all dazzling in a bright
September noon. Innumerable grasshoppers are whispering in the breeze,
and from all horizons one hears also the softened clatter of building.
You can even hear what is going on in Lens.

There is little of the debris of the fight--a rotten butt-end of a
rifle, a few shreds of German bombs, an old-fashioned gas bag. One
recalls that the British first used gas at Loos. The air on Hill 70 on
that September day was pregnant with gas. Many of our fellows died of
it. The Germans on their side made much use of stick-bombs. The hill
was strewn with "buckshee" bombs. Did not a young soldier valiantly
digging drive a pick through one, and send himself and Lord Petre of the
Grenadiers to better country? The enemy manufactured vast quantities of
this bomb--it was a pet toy of his, curiously exemplifying his mind. Its
stated object was to terrify rather than to kill, and Englishmen
believing more in iron and "good shrapnel effects" always despised it.
But it was responsible for an enormous number of accidents.

On the brow of the hill and beyond there are increasing signs of German
habitation. Near a vast white wallowing mine-crater there is a barricade
of sand-bags and wire, the point of difference 'twixt friend and foe.
After that one soon comes upon those wooden framed cellarways which
plunge from the side of the trench into the bowels of the earth. They go
down and down and are seldom explored by soldier or civilian. Some of
these have their gruesome secrets in their dark depths. Many Germans
were killed in them. Fear and industry conceived them. They were safe
enough at ordinary times, but death-traps in an attack; a man at the
bottom of a steep pit stood little chance against an enemy at the door
with a bomb. The British and French in this case understood the war
better than the Germans. A slighter cover or shelter whilst giving less
sense of security did give vigilance and alertness. Germany dug the
grave of her cause far from the ends she had in view and settled down to
a war of concrete and defence when she should have understood her lines
as the merest temporary abiding places on the way to victory. It
prolonged the settlement for years.

How the cornflowers blossom on the German side! Did not they sow the
seeds here for their Kaiser. They sowed the seed--and now it blossoms on
the wilderness. Bright blue flowers shine in the midst of withered
nature, otherwise in September 1920 the crest of Hill 70 is so covered
with brittle yellow weeds that a match would set it aflame from end to
end. It is like a dried inland beach of the old war. The waves no longer
roll up with thunder and expire as once they did. But you can see in
imagination the young Guards officer in his Burberry, cane in hand
leading his flower of manhood--forward, forward, toward the shore of
Lens--see the expiring first line and the second line that follows
passing through and over it, the third that goes again---- They were the
waves which at last crumbled all defences.

Not that Loos was a triumph of attack. Little justice will no doubt be
done on our side to the German defence of Lens, but it was a defence
which rivalled ours of Ypres. The enemy was driven back on both sides of
it during the later campaigns of the war (chiefly in 1917). Technically
and theoretically the Germans could be forced to yield it at any
moment. But in practice it could not be taken from them. We'd take it
were it of iron; they'd hold it were it of butter. Artillery laid the
town flat, but artillery could not destroy the cellars, and of every
cellar the German, with the reinforcement of iron and concrete, made a
machine-gun nest or post for riflemen. For the rest, we held nearly all
the Vermelles--Lens road, and the greater part of that from La Bassee to
Lens. From Hill 70 one sees geographically a wide landscape of the war.
It was a remarkable vantage-ground for beholding the doings of one's own
side.

One aspect of the fighting on Hill 70 ought not to be forgotten, and
that was the work of the stretcher-bearers who for the sake of each
wounded comrade they brought in exposed themselves constantly to death.
The heavy bodies, the uneven and entangled way down an exposed hillside,
the shells howling and bursting, the sniper's bullet whipping through
the air--these made up the stretcher-bearers' Calvary-walk. They did
their duty and ceased to think of whether they themselves would live or
die. And Loos was nothing to the Somme--as those will tell you who came
through both.

But the battle of Loos was not ended at Loos. All the worst of the
fighting was away to the left by Bois de Hugo and Chalk-pit wood where
Scots and Coldstream strove again and again to establish a continuous
line. The German system of trenches was entered, and Hulluch-ward, La
Bassee-ward, a strife more bloody than Loos itself continued. On the
night of the 29th September there is a relief on Hill 70--the 22nd
Londons come in. The survivors of the Guards march off to billets in
Sailly and about. But the fight continues for halves of trenches, for
corners, for turnings. German and British are living in the same
madhouse together and fighting for complete possession room by room.

Now the new British bomb appears--the Mills grenade, the trench-clearer.
Germans are fought in the white alleys with bombs, bombs only and bombs
ever. October 1915 was the great month of bomb-mania. Its emblem should
be the man and the bomb ready to throw. The Guards were soon back in the
fray, and on the night when the bombs came up so great was the
fascination that "Jocks" and "Bill Browns" were bombing one
another--each thinking the other was the enemy.

It is all indescribably wild now--Gun trench, Grab Alley, Big Willie,
Hohenzollern and the rest, cement-coloured, or yellow with a withered
prairie of weeds. Notices at various points indicate _chasse reservée_:
the shooting rights are now reserved. Frenchmen with shot-guns and dogs
prowl along the parapets, peppering the noisy partridges which they
rouse up in scores. Decaying rifles lie in the trenches, rusty
bayonets, and muddy shreds of belts and pouches. On the German side the
inevitable litter of unexploded but sodden bombs; undo the metal
protectors and you find the very string which caused them to explode has
rotted in its case. No tourists turn up on these wild wastes. It is too
terrible for them--and you cannot motor over innumerable pits.

On Sunday October 3rd you can picture the survivors of Loos at "Divine
Service" at Sailly la Bourse. On the evening of the Sunday they marched
to Gun trench. The trench was so called because the enemy had a gun on
it. Fifty yards of the centre the Germans held, and the British were in
the trench both on the left and on the right of the enemy, and strove to
bomb him out of it entirely.

The gun was worked heavily, and shell after shell landed on parapet or
parados scattering solid slag, ravaging chalk, burying men. The unburied
were engaged all night digging out lost comrades and trench-repairing.
It seems mere matter-of-fact when set down in dull print--but oh, the
physical agonies of apprehension, the shuddering, the shattering of
nerves physically under such conditions. It is easily understood how men
were glad to be hit to get away and find peace. Death must at times have
been eagerly desired and sought. It was called hell: it was hell. The
new Kitchener divisions were thus not long in getting to the reality of
war.

In the diaries of the time you find much reference to gas fatigue.
British gas was used whenever the wind seemed favourable. Gas did not
seem however to have power to stifle many enemy defenders. Gas fatigue
was the carrying of the cylinders to the line. Emplacements were dug for
cylinders below the parapet of the trench and "riveted" with sand-bags.
Twenty or thirty cylinders would be thus ranged together at intervals of
twenty-five yards. The cylinders contained the gas in liquid form, and
ejection was worked on the syphon principle. This use of gas was seldom
justified by results, and added an infernal torture and ugliness. It was
a true diabolism. Almost always it afflicted the side which operated it
as much as it did the enemy. Protection against gas was clumsy and
inadequate. We started with the "stokers' pad" which was proved useless.
Then we had a cotton pad soaked in hypo and tied on by veiling which was
supposed to protect the eyes. And then followed cloth helmets soaked in
hypo, helmets with mica eyes, very smelly, clammy, and unreliable.
Mustard gas at a later date brought the respirator. But the protection
at Loos and Hulluch was the old hypo bag of which not a few still lie
about.

The war was becoming quite complicated and new. A Lewis gun was first
used in the battle for Hohenzollern Redoubt, and in time each battalion,
nay, each company, will have its Lewis gunners. Steel helmets were also
issued at Hohenzollern and were considered curiosities. One battalion
received five helmets! They were supposed to be for the special use of
the bombers. But then everyone became a bomber in that battle.

It is with awe that one looks on the silent empty Hohenzollern system
now, where trenches for many days were choked with dead. Some commanders
in those days thought double rum-rations put the necessary devil into
men to carry them through the ordeal of a fray, and it is common talk in
the Army that some of the units that went into the storming of
Hohenzollern Redoubt knew very little of what they were doing. One thing
is certain: alcohol has power to banish fear from men's minds, if fear
there happen to be. It dulls the brain to danger. But then alas, it
often dulls it to much else. Cool heads were needed to meet the German.
And the night-attack at Hohenzollern failed. The dead lay as if emptied
out of sacks into the pits, into the trenches, some head downward, some
with legs alone visible. Whilst it rained in London, and the evening
crowds glided along Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly talking of
anything and everything, happily, snugly,--away out there in the
darkness lay such a scene. It was most near, but an impenetrable black
curtain hid it from the eyes.

War in 1915 failed. We failed; the Germans failed. The German failure
was the greater because it was not their rôle to stand and be attacked.
Germans and Allies were not unequally matched. The result was a
deadlock. Both sides came to the conclusion that no one in his wildest
dreams of preparation for war had foreseen the number of shells and guns
necessary to obtain victory. Fighting therefore slackened off in the
trenches, and the real centre of war-activity was transferred to what we
called "the home front," to the factories and war-industries of England,
France, and Germany and Austria. All the wet and gloomy winter saw the
ammunition heaping up for the myriad-fold destruction of men in 1916.
Germany prepared a mountain of death to hurl at Verdun; Britain a
mountain of death to hurl from the Somme. No serious discussion of the
campaigns of 1915 was allowed to the peoples of the countries. Gallipoli
however was evacuated and Serbia over-run, and Bulgaria came into the
war on the other side. With the military power of the Tsar lying low
Germany had fair hopes of victory. Neither Britain nor France had much
to cheer them, but they knew that their resources were mighty, and they
knew that their enemy on the Western front did not seem to want to fight
and was continually on the defensive.

It did not stir the mind of the soldier much. The autumn leaves fell for
the Germans, and Christmas came for the British Tommy, and unfulfilled
promises in plenty. A winter of rain and mist above, and water and mud
below, and a sense of "a long long way to Tipperary and to everywhere
else" were the lot of the British soldier. The war lost its tension
after the Hulluch fighting was over. Unofficial fraternisation set in on
many fronts. This was a mutual understanding by the rank and file of
both sides. The Germans were quickest in arranging it--indeed their
alacrity in this direction suggested the belief that it was organised
from above and was intended as a way of winning the war, by undermining
discipline and worming out secrets and spying. This however was not so.
For if it undermined one side it undermined the other as much also, and
if one side learned secrets so could the other. Moreover officers on
both sides disliked it, and they for their part could not fraternise
with enemy officers. Their quarrel was more serious. Officers understood
more about the war and had more of the collective guilt of the war upon
their minds than had the rank and file. Not that a winter lull was not
to their liking. They were glad enough of the effects of these _petites
armistices_. On the French fronts more was arranged than on that held by
the British. Parties came over into one another's trenches. In Russia
unfortunately fraternisation resulted in a constant loss of Muscovite
rifles and material in exchange for _Schnapps_. Probably the British
fraternised least of all, and though one has heard of Tommy's concert
party in which "Brother 'Ans was arst ter sing the 'im of 'ate" it did
not amount to more than tacit agreements not to shoot.

The crack regiments on both sides were however indisposed for any kind
of truce. They set the tone in discipline and were far from that Charlie
Chaplin attitude towards the war which characterised some others. What
was the astonishment of some of the Guardsmen when "taking over" at
Laventie, after Loos and Hohenzollern, to see the easy-going way of
warfare which had developed. "I saw a Jerry on top of the enemy parapet
working away in broad daylight as cool as could be," said a sergeant.
"Of course I at once got a bead on him."

"What're you going to do? You're surely not going to fire on him?" asked
one of the men of the outgoing regiment. "You'll spoil the game."

"How's that?"

"Why, they'll begin shooting at you."

"What d'you think of that?" said the sergeant. "I fired just to let them
know the Guards had come."

Nevertheless even the Guards were mollified. Warfare dwindled to
nothing. "Jerry" was very confiding. Christmas was coming. The war
after all was not so serious and perhaps would not be renewed in the
Spring. Inactivity always seems to soften opposing rank and file toward
one another. It tends to bring them back to the natural human
relationship. By Christmas there was a widespread popular sense for a
thoroughgoing reconciliation in no-man's land. What had happened at
Christmas in 1914 was the needful precedent. It was a sort of playful
legend in the army. On Christmas Day there would be a going over and a
shaking of hands and exchange of souvenirs and drinks. Both sides looked
forward to it.

But the authorities evidently thought it dangerous. Orders to the effect
that there should be no fraternisation were sent out, and a
staff-officer here and there spent Christmas Eve in the trenches to see
that the orders were carried out. He could not however effect very much.
At ten o'clock that night the men in all the trenches both German and
English were talking without restraint, and the dark muddy lines of
Laventie had a voice as of some great club at night when all the members
are discussing at once. Germans were shouting invitations across,
British were shouting invitations; and promises were made for next day.
At dawn therefore parties went over, and whole battalions might have
followed them had not the artillery at once set up a barrage. It was
found also that sentries on both sides had been ordered to fire. Some
obeyed, some did not. One Guards sentry was proud of having fired
fifteen rounds. But he did not hit anyone. Meanwhile the troops about
Neuve Chapelle and Aubers got across in large bodies. Even on the
Guards' front men risked their lives to shake hands. Did not one thus
lose his life that morning!

There is a little old cemetery by the side of the road a mile or so from
Laventie, and there lie prominently side by side two corporals of the
Sixth Black Watch (Newell and Willis) and behind their graves is that of
a certain Sergeant Oliver who perished on Christmas Day. A tall rose
tree with crimson roses blooming even in the autumn is growing from the
earth where he lies. Beside him lies one who was both captain and
knight, with only a dock rising from his feet. On all graves are weeds
except on that of the man who gave his life to shake hands on Christmas
Day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The winter life of 1915-16 was one of mud and frostbite in the line, and
taverns and songs when out. The whole corner of Northern France about
Armentières begot a sort of British character. Not that it was like any
district at home. Or that the way of life resembled anything anywhere
else at any time. Tommy in the _estaminet_, Tommy with his sing-song in
billets, Tommy on the march slogging through the mud--began as it were
to belong to France and to the war. He ceased to look like an imported
article. He was disposed to be at home, and like Mark Tapley, that most
characteristic of English types of men, to be happy even under the most
melancholy circumstances. The soldier, whatever his inward sorrows,
often so deep, so poignant, always kept a cheery face and had a
devil-may-care smile for whatever came along. Of course he had his
grousing fits. But they passed. He was most himself when singing. To
France he sang all the old songs he ever knew and more besides which he
invented. How vulgar, in London how banal were the songs--"vulgar songs
which make you cough and blow your nose" as Kipling put it, the
seemingly maudlin _Hullo my dearie I want you to-night_ sort of song.
But in France how real, how passionate! A group of men stand in the
partial shelter of a shattered building crooning together whilst it
rains, whilst it pours on the mud outside! In England the words which
they sing are sentimental drivel, they are the barrel-organ and its
handle turning, but in France they are the voice of a suppressed
yearning and suffering--

  I ... shall meet you ... to-night, dear--
  In my beautee ... ful dream ... land.
  And your eyes will be bright, dear,
  With ... the love light ... that shines for me.


The only place where the soldier could meet her, till there came one of
those madly-coveted greedily-snatched moments of leave, when a man
dashed, with the mud of the trenches still on him, straight to
"Blighty."

There was a curious note of self-pity in many of the sentimental songs,
and men gloated over the love of home. The love of mother became warmer
in imagination (_Lordy, lordy lordy, how I love her!_); the tenderness
of wife and sweetheart became desired in a way which could only be
expressed in songs--and in letters, those most precious of all tokens of
the war, the letters which men sent from the front to those who loved
them. The little English soldier sang his very heart out asking his
Lizzie to "keep the kettle boiling," asking anyone and everyone to

  Keep the home fires burning
  Till the boys come home!

Even so, he would not allow himself to get down-hearted or to remain for
long in a sentimental mood. The humorous inventive vein came to his
assistance. He did not possess ready-made chansonettes of the French
type. The music-hall had not provided them, but he straightway began to
invent them to satisfy the need. So sprang into being _Mademoiselle from
Armenteers_ which was reputed to have fifty thousand verses--anyone
could invent a verse at any moment. So was born _Roll on, my Three_,
that soldiers' litany and chorus, _The one-eyed Riley_, and many another
burlesque. Then every well-known hymn and popular song had its war
parody expressing the soldier's mind in lighter vein---- Some of the
parodies of popular songs improved on the originals. Thus--

  I wore a tunic, an old khaki tunic,
  But you wore civilian clothes.
  Whilst we were in the trenches
  You were mashing all the wenches,
      What a blessing no one knows!
  We fought at Loos whilst you scoffed the booze.

on the basis of--

  I wore a tulip, a bright yellow tulip,
  But you wore a red red rose.

was extremely diverting, as was

  I've lost my oil-bottle and pull-through,
  I've lost my four by two.

on the basis of "Love's beautiful garden."

Endless were these songs and parodies now fast receding into limbo.
Where so much was ugly and of the burlesque there was also much that was
true and simple and direct, from the heart. Perhaps the most popular
song in some regiments was, after all, "Mary." There was no parody of
"Mary," and one was always hearing or singing--

  The sweetest blossom on the tree
  Cannot compare with Ma ... ry!


The men lifted the roofs of the taverns with their songs. The war which
increased life's suffering tenfold, increased life's music tenfold also.

So the winter was sung through, a winter of rain and snow, with low
skies, with mists, mist on land and sea and in the eyes and in the mind,
the melancholy interim of 1915-16, where no one understood anything
except that there was suffering. Meanwhile however the munition-makers
on the home fronts went on manufacturing the stuff of death in
ever-increasing appalling vast quantities.

The Germans were the first to resume the struggle. 1916 presented itself
as a year of destiny for Mittel-Europa and world-power. Russia lay low.
Serbia was ravaged even to the shores of Greece. A galvanised Turkey had
been raised from death and had driven France and Britain from the gates
of the Hellespont. There remained but one vital enemy--France. Britain
would soon compose the war if France were worsted. So now all the might
of Prussia was forged into a weapon of assault, and the weapon was
hurled in the centre.

There commenced the terrible manslaughter of Verdun. Irresistible
Germany met immovable France, and men by the myriad were sent post-haste
to heaven. Between the petty forts of a French city Europe heaped a
great pyramid of skulls to the sky. As in Verestchagin's picture, one
saw an emblem of war without compromise and without cowardice.

The French stubbornness before Verdun shone out like a miracle. It was
an unexpected revelation of French tenacity and corporate strength. A
Bismarckian contempt for the Frenchman had almost been the accepted
measure of the French in Europe. They were considered degenerate,
corrupt, lacking in spirit, loud to boast but quick to run away. The
rapidity with which Germany overran France in 1914 had confirmed this
opinion, despite the battle of the Marne. But Verdun revealed to Germany
a new and terrible France. The whole of the rest of the war, as it were,
paused to look on in wonder. France has raised now her memorials at
Verdun, but it needs no monument. Verdun is written in iron upon
Europe's heart. Dead called to the living there to join them. Verdun was
never taken, but it always lured the enemy on--the lodestone of the
charnel house.

Rightly understood, the battle of the Somme was not a greater battle
than that of Verdun. It was similar; it was our Verdun battle. It also
was a "blood-bath" for both sides. It also was a spending of the
ammunition which the winter, spring, and summer preparations had brought
forth. Tens of thousands of those who sang so light-heartedly through
the winter found eternal peace, stretched like lost star-fishes in the
Somme mud. From Albert with the Virgin leaning from the church-tower,
to within sight of the miserable, hitherto uncoveted, town of Bapaume
what a progress! One of the heaviest epics in history, the slowest, most
heavy footed of charges! As if each man bore a hundredweight of lead on
his feet to keep him back when he would have rushed to gain the day!
Hundreds met their death, not through shot or shell, but by actual
drowning in mud. Hundreds were sent back to the rear partially
distraught before they got the signal to leap forth to personal attack.
The massing of the Somme artillery out-Heroded Herod--the greatest
concentration of noise and destruction that the world had known. The
greatest strain of the Somme battle was mental, and its greatest effect
was no doubt moral. The extent of territory gained was no indication of
the true result of the battle. The actual numbers of the dead might have
been a greater indication had they not generally been hidden at the
time. For the peace-quorum of death was being approached--there was a
large advance towards hate's _desirabilia_, the three and a half
millions who had to be slain. Men might have taken some comfort from
that dreadful thought had they known. But it was theirs to fight and
labour on in blindness.

The Somme country was an extension of the British line. As our army
doubled, trebled, quadrupled, so it multiplied the extent of France
which it defended. From the flats of Flanders and Northern France we
gradually progressed to a more diversified country of long ridges and
downs, pleasanter in peace but equally terrible in war. As you approach
it now by train the cemeteries roll into view on every hand. The dead
are as it were drawn up in solid columns to greet you as you pass, as it
were one live man were monarch o'er all the dead. The Army that went to
guard the line is still there, still on duty--in Plot A, Plot B, Plot C,
Plot Z, of multitudinous war-cemeteries marked now by map-references.
The dead challenge the living in choruses of silence from broad fields
of burial. The hills remain like great mounds in the mist, the same bare
ridges of Cæsar's wars two thousand years ago, the same o'er which
perchance mankind will climb to death as many centuries hence,
antediluvian hummocks of old earth, somnolent, green, indifferent. Earth
suggests itself constantly as something mightier than man. It is not the
prostrate earth of Ypres Salient, but one which war has much less power
to sear. Man's habitations and cities topple down, forests are fired
away, but the elemental lines and contours of the hills remain unbroken
and as it were indifferent both to time and history. These rivers too,
by which men name their battles, flow on, flow away without a conscious
memory even of a yesterday. The innocence of the Somme, the virginity
of the Ancre, these have overcome all hate and blood, and lightly
forgotten them.

The Judas trees have leafed afresh upon the banks of Ancre, and every
individual leaf is chattering and shivering--because, they say, two
thousand years ago the betrayer hanged himself upon an aspen bough. The
aspens give voice to the wind, and beside them the little willows are
all silent. Tangled wild flowers cling to the river banks, and limpid
water passes in bright armfuls over green sedgy tresses. On either hand
the giant reeds lift their pompous heads. Shell-pits are pits of
greenery. Deep brown of sagging rusty wire seems to be the complementary
colour of an intense and shadowy green. In the road where the sentry
stood guarding the crossing of the rail all is empty now. No
dust-covered mud-splashed lorries come blundering and tearing along the
high-road any more. There is a silence which is unearthly, as if the
composed deep sleep of the dead had conquered the ways of the living.
The little white towns and villages lie splashed in wreckage--without
the power to lift themselves again. Your Ville sur Corbie, your Meault
with its dirt-choked green strewn with pontoon boats, your Fricourt and
Carnoy--all prostrate, inert--they lie on the ground as if sewn to it.
On the left comes into view the triple blackness of the silhouette of
Notre Dame at Albert. Trees with the horror of the martyrs on their
receding withered hands seem fixed for years in the momentary awfulness
of death, menacing, aghast, uprearing. Narrow crooked trenches in
disorderly array seem to be hurrying forward, carrying their old wire
with them--as if they too had to follow the men they once held. But they
pause on the shores of dreadful pools and ponds, dead-horse and dead-men
stagnancies that ponder and are still and reflect indifferently the grey
sky above and the grey, blasted, shattered timber-bits on either hand.

Oh Albert, what a place of death thou art now, with thy returned
children playing hide and seek around the heaps of thy homes. How is it
possible to _return_ to this place. It is not a return: no one can ever
return to the Albert of 1914. These that we see are revenants come to
look at spectral homes. For Albert is dead. There you can realise that a
human home is a living being like the woman who made it. It can prosper
or decay. It can go shabby and suffer. It can be wounded or maimed--it
can be killed. We mercifully hide our dead in Earth's great bosom--but
we leave our dead homes long when they lie, in all their horror and
terror. There stands a shrunken little house where the tiles have been
swept away, the plaster also, and the bare laths of the ceiling are all
exposed, but they look like a cap bashed down on the head of a dead man.
Yonder lies a recumbent habitation with a welter of grey laths and
beams on its burst-out side, like the sun-dried ribs of a dead
dromedary. Beyond it stands a wall that is left, and then an outraged
home with madness fixed in its visage in the moment of death-agony. Here
is a house with gutted entrails half congealed and terrible to behold.
There is a house that died simply of shock. But its neighbour
_vis-à-vis_ was hit by some striding giant with iron fist. Rows of
houses are seen cowering, as if they had had their hands up trying to
ward off the dreadful fate which stalked above them. Houses lie killed
as it were in the action of flight, veritably in the act of treading on
one another's heels in a frenzy to get away. There are houses which are
abased, houses which have fallen foremost on their faces, houses which
have fallen backwards, bottom over top into confusion and debris behind,
houses with their sides torn off as men's sides were torn off in the
war, exposing for one instant beating hearts. There are houses where
simply the life-breath has gone out--dead, blind, empty and desolate.

One can hardly think of the existence once of rooms, the
marriage-bedrooms of sweet human honeymoons, the room where the baby
slept a baby's untroubled sleep, the children's room where one thinks of
a child's cry in the night or a child's lisped prayer before its mother
or the crucifix, the room where the home met, the table round which went
food and talk and laughter in a common innocence and ignorance of
destiny--all gone now in shapeless ruin.

All the houses were the children of Notre Dame--the leaning Virgin who
hung out from the stricken tower of the mighty masonry of the
Cathedral-church, and yearned o'er the city. The miracle of her suspense
in air over Albert was a never-ceasing wonder, and the soldiers said the
city would never be taken as long as she remained un-shot down from the
eminence of the great church.

Alas, Albert had its day of fate and of complete sacrifice ere the war
should end--when all should go, yea, Virgin and all, and only Golgotha
remain, Golgotha and the Roman soldiers who smote the Master with their
spears as He hung from the Cross.

Twilight settles down upon the dead, the twilight of time and misery.
The dreadful reality of destruction becomes more intense and real. After
all, sunlight and the noonday do not always show us truth. They are in
themselves so full of life and happiness that they divert attention from
ruins and death unto themselves. Only in the grey light of afternoon and
evening, and looking with the empty eye-socket of night-darkness can one
easily apprehend what is spread out here--the last landscape of tens of
thousands who lie dead. Hamlet must go to the battlements at the time
when the ghost walks. The light of day hides the unseen world, or
cannot quite hide it. But there is one moment when the ghost of Albert
grows into vision majestically before the eyes. You go out through the
primeval jungle of dead weeds, the tripartite crowned heads of brown
teasles looking like low-lying spectral regalia of the death-kingdom,
past dug-outs and deeps and quagmire, past the prostrate ribaldry and
obscenity of war's doings with the earth--to the dark-flowing water
which nurses its forgotten secrets, flowing on, flowing on. You wait,
and whilst mist chills the marrow the ghostly moment of Albert comes
once more. Night has more than heralded itself; it is here in a
vast-fronted army and comes onward. Demon-eyes look over the ridges,
flash angrily, greedily; the roar of battle thunder bursts up; the
gas-shells cat-calling across the sky fall in showers on the mud;
field-guns are advanced to point-blank range--there comes the tide of
the war-worn German soldiery of March 1918, war-worn and yet exultant;
the English are driven out, the leaning Virgin falls, and the city is
given over to the enemy. Albert is dead; even its soul has died. English
soldiers will come back in August, recapture it, but not the city they
defended so long, not the city of the little Notre Dame leaning
passionately o'er its life and its defence.

       *       *       *       *       *

From Albert to Bapaume, from Fricourt by Carnoy and Maricourt to
Longueval and Ginchy and Le Transloy, a pleasant day's walk now. There
is the incomparable Somme silence, a silence achieved by the tremendous
thunderous contrast in history, a silence from the stilled hearts of the
dead, a deafness and a muteness. Then when the mist disperses, and the
sun lifts his awful radiance o'er the scene, there are audible the lowly
orchestras of flies and bees. The rags of horses' skeletons lie on the
roadway, and beside a ruined direction-post a clean-picked horse's skull
has been placed on the stump of a tree. Lifting one's eyes to the view
there rolls forth to the horizon vast moors empurpled here and there and
with gashes of white on wan green wastes. An organised tour by car
whirls past upon the road raising phantom hosts of white dust. It will
do the whole Somme campaign in an hour and bring up safely at some
French hotel where hot lunch and foaming beer persuade the living that
life is still worth while. There was once a picture in _Simplicissimus_
of a Cook's guide showing a human skull to some tourists--

"This, sir," said he, "was a young man."

It was meant for irony. But surely it is good for everyone who talks of
war to go and get that thought--_this was a young man_. It does not
matter that tourists whirl past without pause in a car. Let each and
everyone come and dip a corner of a handkerchief in the blood of the
war--for remembrance. Come to the sacrament of the young man's blood
which was shed instead of yours.

The road you traverse to the Somme altar is the road which hundreds of
thousands of young men trod, marching to moments of destiny, moments of
victory; the Manchesters to Montauban, South Africans to Delville, Royal
Scots to Guillemont, the Guards to Les Boeufs, the Durham Light Infantry
to the Butte of Warlencourt, the 47th Londons to Eaucourt l'Abbaye--and
many others; they marched from the quiet places of the homeland and the
empire, from Loos, from Laventie, from Flanders; defenders of Ypres and
defenders of Arras, marching with their drums, marching with their
bayonets, to Britain's quarrel and her mightiest enemy. Behind them were
ranged the guns, and in front of them was Prussia. Now the desolation of
Nature alone suggests what a desolation there was of men. The terrible
woods are impressionist pictures of the ruined vitals of great
regiments, and you can hold a forest in your mind as you would a skull
in your hands and say--_This was a forest._ _This was an army._

The generality of men and women however will not do that. The new-born
generations mask their grief, and you will see if you walk into Bernafay
Wood that a young Bernafay Wood is rising midst the dead masts of the
old--self-sown. It will grow higher every year till the old is hidden.
The masts will fall, will rot, will recede from this bright sunlight,
and relapse into the shade which the new trees will give them, and then
soon all will be forgotten. Near Bernafay too the crosses of the dead
lie spread out like rows of pins, memorial crosses where there is no
body, crosses for the unknown, more surely for the unknown British
soldier than for the known. So also it will be with them. The babies are
rising, the younger men are growing, growing to hide all and everything.
The nakedness of reality which we see to-day will be hidden in the shade
by and by. These brand-new cemeteries, looking often so fresh and rich
in their masses of brown-stained wood, will pass. They will first be
re-set-up in stone. 1921 will see them rolling out in new stone crosses,
at first startlingly pallid and virginal, but as the months go on,
getting gradually greyened and darkened, rain-washed, wind-blown, then
falling a little from the straight. Flowers will bloom as new summers
shine o'er the dead. Visitors will come. There will be a greater time of
visiting the cemeteries and the battlefields than there yet has been.
Gardeners will be conscientious, and then some less conscientious as the
years roll by and visitors become less. Most of the cemeteries in the
more obscure places will be half-forgotten and gone desolate. There must
come a time when no more visit the burial-places of the great war than
visit now the cemeteries of the Crimea. In 1914 the great cemetery
above Sevastopol, kept by a German gardener, had become from a national
point of view utterly unvisited and forgotten. A roll used to be kept
there of the visitors who came in their hundreds after the Crimean war
was over, dwindling to a score a year and then to less than ten, and
then to twos and threes and ones. The living who survived the Crimea do
not need to go to Russia now, for they have joined the dead long since.
So it will be with us; we shall join the authentic dead, and the young
ones will have forgotten whilst chattering of some other war.

Meanwhile look reverently at the graves of the men of the 32nd A.I.F.,
with little rising suns adorning the centre-posts of their crosses! See
where lies Capt. Claude with his high memorial, or Private Harry who
carried out an equal sacrifice with him.

Rusty old cans on ten-foot poles mark the limits of the burial-ground,
and a notice says "Cemetery closed" as one might read outside a theatre
at night--"Pit full" "Gallery full" "Stalls full." On the hillside
above, sounds the laughter of men and the clatter of spades where a new
acre of God is being dug, the foundations of a new theatre being laid.
Here French Negroes, Flemings, and French peasants are at work under the
guidance of British soldiers. Occasionally a car rushes up through the
dust and a couple of British officers come forward to see how things
are going on.

Passing on to Longueval you see the masts of Longueval Wood, but before
you come to it there stands now at the cross-roads a "café-restaurant,"
an unpainted wooden hut. Here with the sun streaming full on their faces
sit two Falstaffian wights with bottles labelled Malaga between them and
glasses full. On their dewy red chins and necks there are three or four
folds of flesh; red veins run down their necks like gutters at the side
of a house. They hold hands and sing and make everyone in the tavern
laugh--then swallow--swallow--swallow, the wine rolls down their
exuberant gullets.

Suddenly there is a note of warning in the restaurant, whisperings about
_l'officier_, to make it appear as if the men were drinking beer, the
woman comes and takes the wine-bottles and pours their contents into
metal tankards, sweeps the table clean of wine driblets, and reprimands
the topers.

They pull themselves together and take on a sobered gait. One of them
opens a sand-bag in his possession and brings out two enormous doorsteps
of bread and butter. Silence reigns. There is a suspense. Someone
evidently is expected. Will it be a dapper, constrained, politely
inquisitive British officer? Hardly! Ah, here he is! Enter fiery British
sergeant-major with bristling moustache and bright crown on his sleeve,
stout, smart, and red.

"Na then," says he, darting upon the Falstaffs, "play the game, play the
bloomin' game. Come on, travai in the cemetery. Officeer come, no bon
pour moy, bon pour vous, no bon pour moy. Com' on now or I'll jolly well
have to shift yer. The Belgiques and the Algerians know all about yer.
It's all over the place."

"Ca ne fait rien."

"Ca-ne-fait-rien pour vous but not pour moy. Officeer bocu faché avec
moy. You no catch it, I catch it, compris?"

One of the grave-diggers offers his red wrist to be felt.

"Yers I know," says the sergeant-major indignantly. "Moy zig-zag las'
night. But n-no zig-zag to-day."

They offer him their glasses--apparently of beer. He sips one and then
drains it, and then drains the other one too.

"Now com' on, com' on into cemetery and work with the others," he
continues, wiping his moustache. The Falstaffs try to rise, but fall
back into their seats laughing. Finally the sergeant-major hits one a
heavy crack on the head with his stick and pulls his red right ear out
like india-rubber to double length, tweaks the other Falstaff by the
nose, and pulls them both up, and shakes them.

"Na then," says he. "Quick March to the cemetery!" And they go.

How the dead would have laughed to see this scene! How living are the
living!

       *       *       *       *       *

The way is toward Flers and toward Ginchy. In a grey haze of autumn
sunshine the battlefields stretch like a sea; green waves to the limit
of eyes' view. And there are bits of worn-down woods like those
mysterious wrecks of forest which come into view upon some shores when a
neap-tide leaves them bare.

Ten years ago the whole land was a fair pleasaunce. Ten years hence it
will doubtless be tamed again if not so fair. The _sinistrés_ of the
Somme are doing a marvellous work already, filling in the pits,
levelling with their spades, and ploughing up the whole with their
little petrol-ploughs. The shell-splashed approaches to the line can
with industry be recovered. And the Frenchman when working for himself
has what seems a slavish love of toil. He does his real worship bending
over _la France_ and he will work on to the end. He has to do a hundred
times what he has already done--and he will do it. A hundredth part of
the battle area of the Somme has been recovered, and on the ninety-nine
parts grow all that naturally would arise if man died out upon this
fertile world. The stinging-nettles are higher than a man's head and
rise on full fleshy stalks, and they are thick like a wall. They grow
from the caked black mud, from sunken equipment and horses and men and
all the jetsam of war. They can make no-man's land strange and terrible
yet, though not so terrible if still impassable. You see gleaming above
the green main-flood of nettle a white Ionic cross shining afar and make
it your landmark. You reach it as a swimmer coming from some ship to a
white buoy on the sea, and find it to be the monument to the 47th
Londons in memory of the taking of Eaucourt. And yonder is a
conventional scribble on the moor--the ruins of Eaucourt. You come out
on to a limy plank road, listening to distant explosions from the
returned peasants making _sauter les abris_ with dynamite, and then the
eye rests on an ugly hump of weed-grown rock, a strange uprising from
the centre of a large tableland. It is the Butte of Warlencourt, for the
possession and retention of which what quantities of blood were shed,
the famous Butte which you can walk up now as you would walk upstairs.
Here stand wooden monuments to the 6th, 8th and 9th Durham Light
Infantry--to the 2nd South African Infantry, and also to Sachs Inf.
Regt. 159 who held the Butte against all comers in 1916 and recaptured
it on the 25th March 1918, and the thoughtful Germans have given their
monument a concrete base. From the top of the Butte there is a complete
circle of view, and one sees a light railway going from it towards
Eaucourt lined with dead desperate trees, one sees once more as it were
waves of the sea on leagues of no-man's land, black ruins of woods,
wrecks of villages--a wonderful standing point and vantage ground in the
great Somme scene.

[Illustration]

It is two miles to the entrance to Bapaume. The route nationale from
Albert runs smooth and level below the Butte, a track for
space-devouring motors. On the right of the road the luscious brownness
of the massed timber of an infinite array of new wooden crosses; on the
left, swarthy and scraggy, thistle-swallowed, the decaying memorials of
the German dead--Hier ruht Friedrich Blohm, Paul Vogel, August Dill and
the rest, till Germany comes and takes them back again or in time they
are forgotten and lost. Bapaume is just ahead, but the Army stops short
of it--like flies dragging their limbs across a little fly-paper they
tire and can go no further. There they stick for the dreadful winter of
1916-17 in the most loathsome trenches of the war, in foul and deepening
liquescence, living and dead and rats in a fiendish domesticity. Leagues
of destruction behind them; an enemy wall of flesh and bayonet in front;
rain or cloud or mist, and only occasionally a mocking sun above. A
fresh-faced new officer from the Caithness coast joined in the late
autumn of '16. He arrived at the line at night. His first duty was to
superintend a burying party--some three hundred sodden green bundles to
be disposed of--three hundred gleaned from the mud and the pits and the
verges of no-man's land. He came to the front imbued with the faith of
Donald Hankey, and the belief that under him he would find "the
everlasting arms." He could not endure the ribaldry of the mess and the
war-bred cynicism of those who believed in letting _others_ be heroic.
He brought a Kingsley-Carlylean fervour with him, and believed in
"putting his back into it," and doing even the meanest duty as if it
were infinitely worth while. He tried to know his sergeants and his men.
He was so energetic in the football field playing officers versus
sergeants that the onlookers laughed. He tried to stop bad language and
gambling, and he routed out people to go to the padre's voluntary Sunday
evening services at the back of the lines. He came in 1916; he lasted
till 1918. What was the effect on this man? This, that by 1918 he used
such bad language himself that even the N.C.O.'s were surprised. He
exhausted the conventional execrations of the mess-room, and used
expressions which would never be heard there. We carried him to his
grave at C---- and his sergeants remarked how commonly he had come to
use expressions which no officer would ordinarily employ. Withal he had
his drink and his bet, and became what is called by males, _entre eux_,
a "man's man." Poor hero--from that night of burying green bundles to
that morning when we buried him--he marched through the valley of the
shadow of death, tormented as Pilgrim was by hobgoblins and satyrs. But
when he died he shed his war body, he shed that lurid phraseology, and
became once more, no doubt, the Kingsley-Carlylean hero that he was,
with some sort of knowledge of human sorrow which those who lived in
peace knew not. So it must have been also with those who once breathed
within the sodden green bundles. They shook off something evil when they
died, but in passing through it they must somehow have understood more.
Sorrow dimmed the eyes even of the hardest swearer of the Army. And the
dead now constrain us to a new human tenderness, they empower us to
touch more delicately and to understand more deeply--to love more. Pity
for us if we do not now live differently because of the dead!

Thus as one walks through Bapaume and sees the children of new Bapaume
playing in their innocence in the streets and the ruins, one can look
down on them more tenderly, more caressingly, for the sake of the dead,
passing on, as it were, man's forgiveness to man. And in our
relationships with the grown-ups, our neighbours, ourselves dressed
differently, we can have more patience, more compassion, more readiness
to help and to be kind. It comes from the dead, it comes from the living
who were dead.

What that winter was before the Germans retreated! What the hours on the
Cross were before the Saviour died! In our loathing of pain we shudder
to think of it. Others bore it; we must bear it. And when the time is
passed Golgotha remains, that Golgotha which was in fact so near to the
gate of the Temple itself. In Bapaume, where all houses have been made
vaults, stand the white ruins of a church, greyish-white and spectral as
if of the material of another world. But for its pointing walls it is
one white ruin, loveliness in a heap and the baleful shadow of the hand
of the malefactor. In the ruins of the church of the leaning Virgin at
Albert the first words one reads are JESUS NATUS EST, as if the ruins
had been given tongue to say in the moment of death the supreme
Christian paradox, and at Bapaume as you reverently approach this
strange new _Pieta_ you see still unshattered the Church's Latin carved
on stone--AD MEUM SANCTUARIUM--to My sanctuary. If, like Thomas, you do
not believe, you must go forth and touch with your hands and feel with
your eyes--to My sanctuary!

Bapaume lies more abased even than Albert. It is as if its stones had
had a soul and been afraid, vibrant with the horror of humanity. The
consternation of inanimate matter is expressed in its ruins. The Hotel
de Ville, its seat of power, was evidently built of large granite blocks
which the rising German mine of March 1917 must have scattered like hail
over the town. And amidst these mighty stones flew the tender bodies and
the spirits of the French deputés, Albert Taillandier and Raoul Briquet,
who had just said in their hearts--_The enemy hath departed_, when the
enemy was suddenly at their doors.

The _sinistrés_ are living in cellars and wooden huts. The
railway-station is two "baby elephants" of rusty iron. Where were large
shops and as one can imagine, in the old days, shop-fronts full of
ladies' costumes and hats, windows displaying bedroom suites of
furniture, windows full of stationery and books, are now diminutive
piles of rubbish pathetically ticketed with the name of the old
establishment--Maison Betrancourt, Maison this, Maison that--_transferée
à un autre lieu_. In the Grande Place stands the much-shrapnelled base
of a monument where the stone hero has gone to join the hero he
commemorated, and the spite of a new era has even endeavoured to erase
his name.

Where thousands lived and loved and pushed their trade and died, now but
a few hundred hold together in the midst of the wilderness. They have
assembled from all points of the compass. War whirled some to Germany,
some to Paris, some to the Pyrenees. The hopeful came back and the
faithful decided to stay. It is a picture of human triumph over
destruction, but only a pathetic triumph, not a glorious one. In the
summer, with long days and warm nights it is less unnatural to live in
this waste. Warmth and light join the _sinistrés_ to all France and
Europe, but winter with its short days and cold and great darkness folds
away the vision of a resurrection. A poky train, without lights, creeps
at night from Achiet to Bapaume through villages of fearful name.
Bapaume becomes conscious of all the dreadful places which surround it,
places whose names are full of the awe of death and of the
war--Riencourt, Bullecourt, Ervillers, Mory, Vaulx-Vraucourt, and a
hundred others, nothing in themselves but held in the cerements of the
dead.

It is a strange walk now, to the Hindenburg line. You are traversing
ground which was four times overtrodden and overfought. The Germans took
it in 1914. We shelled it in 1916 and drove the enemy out in 1917. The
enemy swept over it in March 1918 and then let it go as he retired in
September. German, French, and British lie buried beside one another.
The Germans lost their dead and then recaptured them. It is an appalling
country, still as it were sulphurous with the war, stinking vaguely of
cordite. The dead have got a grip on it, and hold with their hands the
lap of earth which the peasants are ploughing. The air which is apt to
sparkle in autumn frost is full of the light of the eyes of the men who
once lived. And that light rests about the broken barns and billets and
churches and halls. There is an influence which is pulling one way all
the time, and that is not towards this world.

The graveyards are many, and they have their history. It always seems a
pity that it was not allowed during the war to make mention on the cross
how and where each soldier met his death. The military mind imagined
that such details might give information to the enemy or to the Press,
and forbade anything beyond name, number, and regiment. Texts also were
prohibited, the chaplains being over-ruled. Not that texts could
entirely be kept out. In one of the cemeteries near Bapaume there stands
for the time being a large wooden cross inscribed "He is not here; he
is risen," which has an astonishing effect amidst a thousand crosses
which are dumb.

There are many many rows of human bodies planted out near
Vaulx-Vraucourt, first a German cemetery with its old crosses torn to
bits, partly no doubt by shells; and then side by side a regular British
cemetery where lie many Australians, one of whom, Lieut. Pidgeon (aged
23) has a little figure of Christ riven from a crucifix stuck in the
earth beside his wooden cross. Here lie also many of the Leeds Rifles,
seven even in one grave, killed evidently in the terrible encounter with
the German machine-gunners in September '18. The German memorials go
more into decay each day, but a man is paid to keep the British bright
and clean and in repair, and his dog bites at the heels of the pilgrim
as he walks from the dead to the dead. Facing both are the gaunt white
ruins of the village church and the hideous smashage of the French
communal cemetery, and there the people have put artificial roses in old
rusty shell-cases in front of their stricken memorials.

Further on, beside the light railway which runs north to Ecoust, there
are tiny cemeteries. In one of these Germans and British are mingled,
thus--Gefreiter Luckenmeyer of the German Field artillery betwixt a man
of the Londons and a man of the Devons, and a German unknown and a
British Tommy lie in a little plot together by themselves. In some
cemeteries the bodies of our foes were buried just outside those of our
own kindred, but as exhumed bodies were brought in, ever increasingly,
it has come about that we have surrounded German graves with our own,
and as it were accidentally forgiven our enemies and received them into
the midst of the family.

Over the way at Vraucourt Copse, perched high in a sun-kissed wheatfield
lies Lieut. A. S. Robinson of the Royal Scots, with 22 private soldiers'
names inscribed on his cross. One wondered if it would be true to
say--"Here he lies where he longed to be" and did he love Stevenson and
often quote

  Under the wide and starry sky
  Dig my grave and let me lie.

These Royal Scots have the widest of all starry skies above them and the
unbarred gate of heaven in its midst.

A little further still and you have the Australian cemetery at Noreuil
at the corner of the road, rectilinear, handsome, clean and cared-for,
neatly fenced in with wire and having a little white gate by which to
enter. But outside the cemetery and as it were falling back in every
attitude of banishment and despair, the old faded wood and broken
crosses of the Germans, overgrown with weeds, crazy-roofed crosses,
aslant, tumbled. In 1916 the enemy began to bury here. In 1917 he left
his dead behind. In 1918 he recaptured them and repaired the
crosses--and added to them. In 1918 it was a decent graveyard; one could
read the names of all the dead. But their kindred went away and forgot.
Their crosses are the monuments of the forgotten and the vague memorial
of a useless sacrifice.

Doubtless the drama of the penultimate year 1917 did not centre in the
supra-Somme country. Its scenes of action were at Lens and Vimy, at
Pilkelm Ridge and Passchendaele. The year which ran on from the German
retirement was the strangest of the war, promising everything,
fulfilling nothing, beginning with Haig's victory interview and ending
with the failures in Flanders and the German break-through from Cambrai.
It was the year of American self-announcement, of the Russian
revolution, of the pros and contras of peace at Stockholm, of the
victory of the Bolsheviks, of the Italian debacle. Germany seemed to
grow stronger all the year, and the morale of the Allies waned. Men no
longer betted one another that it would be all over by Christmas. Lord
Grey's supposed prediction was forgotten. The whisper went abroad that
"it might last a lifetime," and then in mock cynicism, _They say the
first seven years will be the worst_. New units hitherto untried in the
war still made their appearance, whole battalions whose war-history
commences with the conflicts about Lens or the battles for
Passchendaele Ridge. The Derby drafts were reputed to come marching to
the strains of "The Church's One Foundation" singing their own
confession--

  We are Lord Derby's Army
  Just come across the sea.
  We cannot march, we cannot shoot,
  What bloomin' good are we?

And the old army said "Where have you been this long while?" The
conscripts however were to follow in even more desperate case, and when
they first reached France and their tender feet struck the cobbled
roadways they sang--not a hymn, but a new version of "Auld Lang Syne"--

  We're here because we're here,
    Because we're here, because we're here,
  We're here because we're here,
    Because we're here, because we're here.

"Take me back to dear old Blighty!" was the song of the whole army and
had completely displaced Tipperary.

No doubt owing to the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line the
Allied plan of attack for the summer had been foiled. All the machinery
of assault had been arranged for a stubborn and dreadful prolongation of
the Somme battle between the horizons where winter had halted it. The
greatest concentration of guns which the war had seen had to be
liquidated. New gun-positions had to be dug and a new concentration
achieved. Telephone and telegraph had to be brought up to a new line.
Organisation work which would ordinarily have been accomplished in the
quiet winter months had to be done through the campaigning season of
Spring and Summer. Men looked less seriously on the war, though the war
was not less serious for them. Witness the sinister stare of the Lens
country which knew the 1917 army and has looked on terrible things. We
made Lens in 1917 into a narrow deep pocket full of Germans. The taking
of it was confidently anticipated. Fleet Street wanted it to serve on a
platter to Herod. But it could not be had though thousands died for it.
The enemy held it by miracle. It was impossible to hold such a position
but the impossible held.

Grey and terrible is Vimy Ridge with its line of block-houses and the
masts of Farbus Wood. Looking outward from Vimy o'er the vast Arras
war-scape the eye is sick and returns in vision to itself as the dove
returned to the Ark when it found no other mercy of the Lord above
misery's tide.

Praise God the enemy could not do to Arras what we did to Lens! Arras
still lives, surmounting the grandeur of her ruins. The Cathedral with
the top of its massive tower gnawn off by Fate is to be preserved for
ever as a memorial of these days. You can climb from the grass-grown
rubble below to mountains of lime and broken stone and reach a high
eminence against the pinky-grey fissured wall of the tower. It is
sunset, and you look down upon widespread recuperative Arras standing in
pink haze into which smoky air or fog is pouring. The houses are grey or
splotchy with their shrapnel marks still on them, but there are others
which are red and white, and these stand gaping with empty glassless
windows. You look on spangling new red roofs, you look on Noah's Arks,
you look on half-consumed unsupported walls, you look on shadows which
are pits where houses were. On the one hand is the lofty massiveness of
the Episcopal Palace--on the other the irrecoverable smash of poor men's
homes. From all this great city below, pious men and women used to come
to the Cathedral--but now no more shall they come.

You step down from the height, and cross the cobbled immensity of the
Cathedral Square. Every shop all the four sides has the same façade
above, the same porticos below, and from grimy and broken windows four
hundred ruined wizened houses stare. Then night has come. God has called
away the redness and left the murk. You turn and see the mountain of
God's house. There is no tint of rose in the grey walls now, no petty
detail of ruin, but one general effect. The Cathedral tower is a great
black mass. It is suffering made supreme and dominant, the shadow of a
mediæval Christ on the Cross. It is a romantic but dreadful pointer full
of terror and power. Men creep diminutively across the vast and shoppy
square, and the great feudal shadow above them makes them smaller yet.

All night the shadow reigns, becoming even mightier in the moonlight,
and crowning itself with starry diadem. But there come the mists of the
morning and then morn itself, and you may stand where now no longer Mass
is heard--on the East side of the Cathedral, and see the white light of
heaven streaming through gossamer and driving out pale silhouettes of
the shadows of all the bleared houses of the Square. There are pale
peaked shadows of all the façades which face the Cathedral. Over your
head sounds the rush of dove's wings. Men and women everywhere are
moving; men with their tools and women with their baskets. The life of
the city goes on, but the dream of the ruin has fallen back into the
night and limbo, and will not be recovered till the stars come again.

The city of Arras was the pilot city of the British in 1917. All
Flanders looked to her from the left, all France from the right. And in
'18 when the tide of Fortune changed she was our bulwark of defence and
was right in the fighting line like a Coeur de Lion with battle-axe at
Acre. Our mighty city of coal and steel in England has chosen specially
to identify itself with Arras--Newcastle-on-Tyne--and Arras has many
English sons. It is no doubt natural to say that Newcastle has adopted
Arras, as we might say of a converted man that he had taken Christ to
himself, but the deeper truth is that Arras has adopted Newcastle--"Ye
have not chosen me but I have chosen you."

The British victories at Arras and the French victories above Verdun
were of happy augury. But no victory is a victory unless followed by a
victory, and Time itself wilts laurels. Haig's dream of striking the
enemy hard and often, leaving no time to recover from a blow at one
point before calamity fell upon him at another, proved only a dream. The
German invention of mustard gas and the appearance of many hostile tanks
upon the scene were examples of the unforeseen. Very efficient tank-guns
and studied methods of attack upon tanks reduced the usefulness of our
new war-engine to comparatively low terms. In the late summer we
embarked on a new campaign in Flanders, and our best weapon was a still
boundless belief in our ability to "beat the Hun" whom, mentally, in
every possible way, the army under-rated. The Hun, so-called, suffered
nothing like so much as our fellows. He would not have stood so much.
And of all war-struggles, that which sank at last to rest in the
wilderness of Poelcapelle and Passchendaele in the November of the year
seemed the most hopeless.

Much of the main interest of humanity was transferred from the strife at
the front to other scenes of action. 1917 was an air and water year, a
submarine year, a Gotha year. London was terrified by day by wonderful
almost invisible planes which ravaged East-end schools and caused the
exodus from Whitechapel to Brighton. Daylight raids were followed by
starlight raids, and although the papers of the time laughed at such
affairs and said we liked them, there is no need to keep up that
deception now. London suffered in mind excruciatingly.

With the persistent bombing of London came a more systematic bombing of
the lines at night. It is more unpleasant, though really safer, to await
bombs in open fields than it is in London, but the soldier loathed the
bomb from air far more than he did the shell. The transverse movement of
the shell no doubt gives the mind more scope for judgment and calm than
does the missile falling vertically.

The Germans were so impressed by this fear of bombs that they
endeavoured to give shelter underground to each and every one of their
soldiers when threatened from above. There must have been a regular
routine like fire-drill when our bombing planes went over, and Fritz was
marched into his enormous subterranean shelters. British and French
troops had no such organised way of escape, and they had to find what
cover they could where they were. It was always surprising what a number
of miscellaneous casualties were caused by the night-bombers.

Expectation of the German planes' approach was intense, and men could
distinguish readily the sound of the engines of our own planes and those
of the enemy. There seemed to be something peculiarly sinister in the
sound of a "Jerry" and men were fond of imitating it in screeds of words
in the style of "Hush hush hush, here comes the bogey man!"

A characteristic imitation given sometimes at regimental concerts used
to run in this way:--

    _I-see-ye, I-see-ye, I-see-ye,
      I-see-ye.
  I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm coming.
  Biv-eee, biv-eee, biv-eee.
  Sh, sh........sh.
  HAH!
  I'm off, I'm off, I'm off,
      I'm off!_

And a current French marching-song of the time imitated the promiscuous
crump of bomb-explosions thus:--

    _Il pleut, il pleut des bombes
  (Et boum! et bon! badaboum et bon!)
    Il s'ecriera Guillaume
    Rentrons, rentrons--
    Zon, zon._

But no rhyme in any language ever expressed that lurid splash on the
night-sky when a bomber was destroyed, that effusion of crimson which
caused men's eyes to dilate looking up at it, that sense of dreadfulness
and awe and satisfaction, that banishment of pity through fear's
reaction which steeped men's minds, as if on the floor of their souls an
answering red glow appeared. It was tragical to be bombed, but how much
more so to see the bomber die. They died most dreadful deaths, those
Zeppelin crews and aero-bus teams, and yet of course they merely died.
They met the common soldier's destiny---- Nevertheless you could not
lessen the sensation of watching an airman's death by reasonableness. In
the lurid spectacle in the heavens men saw not death but a
hieroglyphic--a sign.

Men did not liken them to Lucifer cast from heaven, but their fall was
like the rebel angels' fall--

  With hideous ruin and combustion, down
  To bottomless perdition.

Day-flying was different and affected the mind in an entirely different
way. Even the stricken night-bomber, when his charred remains were seen
by daylight, became in enemies' eyes nothing but honourable. The triumph
over him was forgotten in a sort of triumph in him. There was a
naturally chivalrous attitude towards dead airmen. That chivalry was
sometimes spoiled by human jackals--but the majority nevertheless
instinctively preserved it.

Many of the graves of our airmen were marked by crosses which are
adorned with carven wings, and in this speaks, not only a military but a
human pride. Foot-soldiers did not see in the aeroplane a mere
mechanical contrivance but a new human victory over matter. The feats of
airmen flattered pedestrian souls, who knew thereby that they could fly
if they would, flattered us all. Because men had to enter some section
of the fighting services thousands chose to fly and fight who otherwise
would not have been tempted off the firmer elements of land and sea.
They conquered the first nausea of fear, and learned to live with danger
as with a wife. They tumbled above us and we marvelled, not taking
anywise into account the war-sting which started them, bidding neither
sit nor stand but go. One is not sorry that the guns speak no more. One
is not sorry that the night-bombers and Zeppelins have ceased to menace
us. But the emptiness of the heavens by day has its sadness now in
France, its human wanness and melancholy. One realises that the war
brought out the flier--as it were before his time, and we must wait long
ere we see in peace the state of air society which he prefigured.

Down below the airmen trudged heavy-footed men. The airmen were
literally supermen; those below were a sort of undermen. In heavily
weighted boots, with backs bent and not straightened by war's routine,
with clumsily encumbered bodies, trudged under-humanity, through mud,
along gulleys, into holes and pits, down into subterranean chambers. The
underman enjoyed no human exaltation except occasionally at the prospect
of getting free; he had no mercurial lightness on his heels, no rapid
quicksilver of mounting imagination; instead, he was gripped downward
and held till he died or there was peace. It used to be a common saying
that from the moment you stepped off at Havre you were a slave. You
walked in the chains of the war. Men's hearts hardened. They told
themselves they wanted nothing and cared nothing. Their minds fell
victims to a dull passivity or false boisterousness. They banished the
bright ego and took up with a Cerberus, yowled the dog-language of the
army, and got selfishly irate over biscuits and slops and bully-beef.
They grew more and more dirty and came out in boils. Coarse hair grew
apace, brows grew lower, hands that had any cunning in them grew to mere
claws and clutches, eyes dullened, and the ear-gate stood ajar for the
sound of animal noises and animal confessions. The war was a Bacchanalia
for the animal in man.

It was in 1917 that Paris leave as a supplement to the usual home leave
was common. This was understood as for the soldier's health. It would
stop the boils and ease the system. Men could draw a handsome arrear of
pay on the strength of Paris leave, and once in Paris they went deeper
than in the dug-outs of the war. Or units were withdrawn to places where
the women thronged. Men were robbed by the war of their respect unto
their living selves. And 1917 saw the entry of puritan America into the
war, the nation of vice-hunting and prohibition, and the rest. But it
did not raise the morality of rank and file. The Yanks were shipped with
a thirst. The men brought up in sheltered Western communities proved to
have no more power than we had to resist the temptations of European
vice. The virus of the army seems to have been the same in United States
training grounds as in those of England. Material conditions imposed
some restraint, but imagination fed the starved side of men's souls with
lurid pictures of what obtained in France. Uncle Sam's common soldiers,
handsome and clean as they were, and brave, yet brought with them an
expectancy which caused them to take no moral lead but on the contrary
to plunge headlong into that war-mire which we had all been making. And
disease ravaged the American ranks. Some few thousands fell dead on the
field of battle and some tens of thousands were wounded, but disease
casualties filled the hospitals. It was fortunate for America's manhood
that the war was not protracted. Their war enthusiasm was pushing them
on. They did not realise that what they called "the shooting gallery"
was a myriad-fold death-trap. Death in many shapes was ready to raven on
America. As her men were inexperienced in war's alarms, so also were
they unfitted to face the moral ordeal. Humanitarianism, materialism,
and a superimposed morality do not produce men more capable of
withstanding temptation. Purity depends too often on keeping temptation
away. The Yanks brought their own brand of bad language with them--a
language beside which lurid English was but pale. Where they had learned
such verbal frightfulness seemed puzzling. But curiously enough it
caused the American soldier to be hail-fellow well-met. He brought no
airs of moral superiority or prudishness. It became a pastime in the
British army to imitate admiringly the American type of swearing. It is
all beyond the power of the pen. But those who heard it know. If the
Yanks had kept to this extreme they would have remained enduringly
popular--but they vaunted their prowess and exaggerated their feats and
ignored the reality of the hell through which others had been, and they
started the talk of their winning the war, and so lost ground. The
Americans in France were on the whole perplexing to the average
European. Their exaggerated thirst for war's relaxations on the one
hand tended to make them one with the other armies in the field, but
their idea of superiority kept them separate.

At Calais now the boxes are stacked on the quays with the embalmed
American dead. At great cost of time and labour the dead soldiers are
being removed from the places where they fell and packed in crates for
transport to America. In this way America's sacrifice is lessened. For
while in America this is considered to be America's own concern, it is
certain that it is deplored in Europe. The taking away of the American
dead has given the impression of a slur on the honour of lying in
France. America removes her dead because of a sweet sentiment towards
her own. She takes them from a more honourable resting-place to a less
honourable one. It is said to be due in part to the commercial
enterprise of the American undertakers, but it is more due to the
sentiment of mothers and wives and provincial pastors in America. That
the transference of the dead across the Atlantic is out of keeping with
European sentiment she ignores, or fails to understand. America feels
that she is morally superior to Europe. American soil is God's own
country and the rest is comparatively unhallowed. To be one in death
with Frenchmen, Italians, Negroes, Chinamen, Portuguese, does not suit
her frame of mind. Of course, lack of imagination, lack of knowledge of
the war and of the great mix-up of the dead is natural enough at a
distance of three thousand miles--the vain thought that the identity of
dead bodies with human beings can be retained. As it is, the inscription
on every hundredth cross in France is probably a misnomer. There never
was time for meticulous care, and the dead were not always buried by
full daylight or identified by other than the slightest of clues. Is it
remarkable if someone receives instead of soldier son the body of a
coolie from China, or if a citizen should receive what portends to be
his own corpse? By risking such accidents the majesty of the dead is
offended. If love desired its dead again, love should come and lift its
dead with its own hands and carry it home.

Politically understood, there should be no property in the dead bodies
of this great war. There is only one totality of death and suffering.
The dead of the war are a blend. One high stone might stand at the head
of each cemetery, and on it all the names be inscribed. The little
crosses with name and numbers on each are but desperate human reminders
of individuality. But for a dreadful peace, worse than the war, America
would have been convinced, as was her war-commander Pershing, that it
was nobler to leave her sacrifices on the altar with the others.

Had America's ideal won all had been different, but only the side she
joined won and not the ideal. France and England broke the spirit of
America's great President and ruined him as the Kaiser was ruined,
relegated him to another Amerongen, drove him to his Ekaterinburg too,
the third great monarch and leader of men to lose his crown in the war.
The American masses were left leaderless, bereft of their ideal. In
contempt for a vain France and distrust of a lip-serving inimical
England they plunged for "_America first and always and one hundred per
cent_." But had Wilson carried his great program there had been no
estrangement, no exhuming of the American dead. America would have
gloried in her European shrines. Therefore in looking upon the collapsed
heaps of coffins in the harbour and the dead glowering through riven
wood, one is really looking upon an aspect of the Treaty of Versailles.
In the second year after the war you see terrible things. Who could have
foreseen thousands of dead stacked in the holds of Atlantic vessels,
making their unmurmurous return across the ocean!

It is night again in human history, deep night, when we dream things of
evil and look upon sights of horror which we have no power to dispel. In
the gathering gloom of the autumn of 1920 see a whole succession of
phantoms stalking. Ireland goes wailing and clanking her chains.
Exultant France struts and threatens. Ghosts of Tsar and Tsarina are
crying pitifully from Siberian dust. Red demons, mirthless and terrible,
stare at us from Russia. Italia stabs nightly fair Fiume. And all the
while maledictory shouts and cries are heard on all hands.

Spectres and ghosts and things of evil stalk around and terrify us, and
there is only one way to lay them low, and that is by the token of the
Cross--by the token of the crosses, the hundreds of thousands of them
that run out like rows of pins in France. It is only coming from France
that the right approach can be made to new life. Let each new man faring
forth into this beset enchanted world dip his soul in the blood of the
Altar of France--or if not his very soul, let him at least dip a
kerchief or a flag there--for remembrance. With that charm he can
uncurse curses and disenchant enchantment and break through the chimeras
and fogs which cling to the base of the mountain of the world, and he
will reach the singing-bird and the water of life at the top of the
mountain, and then restore, as in the Arabian tale, the dead to life.

Doubtless every man who was in the Army and took a chance of death and
yet escaped, must have reflected on his good fortune, the strange light
of Providence which fell upon his destiny and spared him whilst on all
hands his friends and neighbours and fellow-countrymen had fallen. As
the soldier left the Army and became civilian again he inevitably
thought to himself--"Whereas I might have been dead I am alive; whereas
I might be bond I am free." And some indeed could add "Whereas I might
have been a cripple, or blind, or lamed, or a neurasthenic or a
shell-shocked broken man I am sound and fit and have a whole life and
freedom to give to the new time which comes with the blessing of peace."

The Frenchman came back to a glorified and magnified France; to a proved
capacity to defeat and hold in check a deadly and historical enemy. The
Englishman came back to a free England, to a nation who was queen of the
nations, to a larger and more untrammelled world-empire; the Belgian to
a justified and safeguarded Belgium; the American to an America which
had achieved for the first time in history a complete sense of
nationhood and unity. The Serbian returned to a resurrected Serbia and a
prospective future of Southern Slav greatness. Of the Italian, who
joined in the war as a bargain with the others and did not fight
primarily for our ideals, we will say nothing. But how near we all were
to being beaten, and to realising the very opposite of the present happy
potentialities. But a turn in the wheel or a hair in the scale, and the
French would have been slaves, the Englishman beaten on land if not on
sea would have returned cowering to his little island, empire falling
from his grasp and almost the whole bill of the war to defray by the
efforts of his restive working-class population; the Belgian a German
subject; the American flouted and anxious with the shadow of a terrible
new war to fight all by himself in the years to come; the Serbian a peon
of Bulgaria or shackled in the heavy rusty Austrian irons. When we are
in despair in 1920, 1921, 1922 we should all say to ourselves--"Whereas
we might have been slaves we are free; whereas we might have been dead
we are alive----" It is what the graveyards of France tell those who
look at them. The dead are all pointing mutely to themselves. Their
crosses are the direction-posts of new life.

Our enemy came nearer to overthrowing us by the result of the Russian
Revolution than by anything else. The defection of Russia, the
liberation of the German and Austrian Eastern armies, nearly took
victory away from us, and we have God and our cause to thank for
salvation. In the late summer and autumn of 1917 the tide of victory
turned and began to roll the other way. At the battle for Passchendaele
commenced the last year of the war. In that year we experienced every
emotion of victory and defeat. The year opened inauspiciously at
Passchendaele where so many fell trying to traverse an infernal area of
wire and pits and mud, facing the reinforced machine-gunners, facing the
new gas, facing the fire of a vastly increased artillery. Many a cheery
boy with muddy uniform and bright morning face stood up for the last
time at Passchendaele, and unexpectedly--died for England. You may seek
their bodies in the Flemish earth to-day. Perhaps one of them is the
unknown soldier in the Abbey. But their spirits are far away from here.
They are watchful and radiant and celestial now--not so lovable perhaps
in their immortality, for how can mortals feel for the immortals, but
enormously more lovable in our mortal conception of them than ever they
were when alive--the dead of the last year of the war.

Passchendaele was followed by the sudden triumph of the Austrian armies
in the Italian Alps, and the surrender of a hundred thousand Italians
and a thousand guns. Revolutionary propaganda was said to have been
ravaging the Italian soldier's mind. Others said the Italians sold the
day to the enemy. But the prime cause of Austrian victory was to be
sought in the great accession of strength due to the Russian lapse from
war. No more offensives of Brusilof; no Grand Duke Nicholas any more to
terrify Vienna; not even a Kornilof! Austria naturally rounded upon her
Southern foe with double might. Vienna bells rang forth and Berlin
floated in military joy. Wilhelmstrasse, the street of the Kaiser,
reflected deeply and sucked in the significance of the new victory.
After a desperate summer of peace-seeking suddenly a last hope of
triumph dawned like a fiery star late in the night and nigh unto
morning. The thought of coming with a white flag to the Council of
Europe was banished. Instead the stern decree of war to the uttermost
bound the German mind to the old choice of "complete victory or
downfall." Despite our opinion of the enemy conveyed in sneers at
concrete dug-outs and funk-holes and the "Kamerad" cry, the Germans
decided to come all out and win or lose on a gambler's throw. It was
perhaps more calculated and more calculable than the cast of the dice,
but if the Allies won, Germany had no second chance and would know that
she had lost.

Teutonic preparations went ahead. The Allies took little stock of these
preparations, not believing that the enemy had much kick left in him.
Instead of organising our defence we planned a new attack upon the
Germans, and to the astonishment and chagrin of the latter the Byng Boys
carried off the laurels of the Battle of Cambrai. Fritz was taken by
surprise in late November, and we nearly went all the way to Cambrai.
Fleet Street wished to have joy-bells rung in London, but the Church
wisely bade us wait, while wrathful Germany averred that we had gone
into a trap in which we should presently be terribly caught. Then in the
break-through of Gouzeaucourt we learned the lesson that a new and more
dangerous enemy was in front of us.

As you walk now along the Byng Boys way on a November afternoon and the
sun goes down in greyness and gloom you can feel the mystery of the
battle as if it had occurred hundreds of years ago. Reality has become
remote, remote as the last songs and shouts of the men who went through.
Sadness has covered the earth. It is all incredibly empty and desolate.
On a post on the road you discern through the evening mist ICI BOURSIES
and then after much plodding you pass the grey empty Canal du Nord with
its crumpled rusty bridges, and skirt the naked bones of Bourlon Wood.
Then by the side of the road all the dead of Anneux are lined up to see
you pass. You go on, but _they_ remain. It seems as if when you have
passed some spectral sergeant must say to all those pallid ranks "Fall
out!" and the order is broken up, and the dead mingle and commingle till
another comes past upon the broad highway. Night settles like a curtain
shutting off Cambrai from the view, and no light on any hand tells of a
return to home or of happiness restored. Suddenly the silence is broken
by three blundering lorries--old lorries of the war tearing past you
back on the road to Bapaume--ghostly lorries laden with doors, doors
only, to be dumped at some wilderness somewhere which was once a town.
They pass, and the night-silence resumes its sway, and there are no
stars but it is utter peace. Again a spectral post--ICI FONTAINE, ICI
FONTAINE NOTRE DAME, and you have reached the end of the fight, and the
bridge where life met death and both stood at last immobile, unyielding.

A happier-looking place is the wood of Havrincourt where a Brigade of
Guards was sleeping, waiting and resting after the ordeal of Bourlon and
Fontaine. They had been relieved on the 26th November and marched back
in snow to this wood where in the umbrage of the forest and on the
carpet of withered leaves and snow they set up many tents. And whiles
they rested the enemy put into action a bold plan of encirclement which
might have caused the complete loss of Sir Julian Byng's army and guns
and of everything else in the pocket of Cambrai. One of the most
remarkable moments of the whole war occurred. Of many impressions of
what took place the story which one of the Guards' quartermasters tells
is most pictorial. He had set off early in the morning of the 30th
November for Villers au Flos to get money to pay his men. They had just
come out of action. He rode through Metz and Bertingcourt, where the
other Brigades were billeted, and no one was stirring. There was no hint
of coming trouble when he passed through Ruyaulcourt, where lay the
Divisional Headquarters Staff. On all roads were the usual road-carts,
plodding along in humdrum style. But by the time he reached Villers au
Flos, however, an alarm of some kind had evidently come, for the cashier
was busy packing up his cash and his papers, and flatly refused to pay
out any money whatever. Though not wishing to confess fright, he was
evidently extremely perturbed.

"But I must have money for the men," cried the visiting officer. "The
coffee-bars and canteens will soon be arriving up there and opening; the
men are tired after the fighting. They have won a great victory and must
have some relaxation now, so you'll have to give me some money."

"It isn't a victory, it's a retreat," said the cashier. "They say the
Germans have broken through."

"Rot," said the Guardsman. "I have just come from the line and all is
quiet. You get wind up easily, you folk."

He gained his point, and was happy to turn about his horse with a full
16,000 francs to pay out. On his return, however, the German
break-through became apparent and he realised that the cashier had been
right. He sampled all the adventures of the situation. First he saw
soldiers without rifle or equipment running intently, and he, not
suspecting the significance of their flight, thought there was a
paper-chase on, arranged by some regiment that was resting in the
neighbourhood. But at Bertingcourt, to his great astonishment, he met a
battalion of Guards in fighting order marching to action in the opposite
direction from that in which he understood the enemy to be. It was
incredible that it could have happened, but he realised that the enemy
had somehow shifted his ground. This regiment had been fighting at
Bourlon and Fontaine in the north--and now they were marching south to
fight again. South and not north--what could have happened! He "passed
the time of day" to the commander and learned that the worst was true,
the enemy had broken through at Gouzeaucourt. The further he rode along
the way to Havrincourt Wood the stranger became the sights which
confronted his eyes. The roads, which had now been cleared by order,
began to have troops going up to stem the German advance, and every now
and then a car plunging the other way. Out of Bertingcourt he met the
2nd Brigade Machine-Gun transport, saddled up and under orders. The
water in the jackets of the machine-guns was frozen and they wondered
how they'd thaw them. There were still many fugitives on the road, and
at cross-roads he overheard two of them who were contradicting one
another in the most violent language as to which was the way. He could
tell that their nerves had got the better of them by their high falsetto
tones. They were as unlike characteristic British soldiers as it is
possible to imagine. At Metz-en-Couture there was a complete jam of
traffic, which lasted all the way along the high-road towards
Gouzeaucourt. The retiring masses were greatly in excess of those going
up. They were mostly the transport of those who belonged to the
rear--railway-men, A.S.C., ambulance, canteen, Y.M.C.A. and what-not. A
pained expression was on the chauffeurs' faces, every one of whom
seemed to desire to say what a terrific speed he would make if he could
only get clear of the deadlock. He saw the ranks of the Guards broken
and made uneven by the struggle to get through. Outside Metz was a
Colonel of Grenadiers on horseback, enraged past belief at the
obstruction of his Guardsmen, and addressing the chauffeurs and
wagon-men in every imaginable blend of language. His aspect so terrified
our officer with the cash that he decided to make a detour and get to
his quarters at Havrincourt Wood by a cross-country route. But the
Germans had a high-velocity gun on Metz and shelled it methodically, and
he had not taken many steps when an exploding shell wounded his horse in
the head. He did not want anything to happen to him with 16,000 francs
on his person, so he decided to brave the presence of the justifiably
enraged Grenadier and proceed along the roadway as best he could. This
he did, but when at last he got to Havrincourt Wood his battalion was
gone and he was not able to get abreast of his men and pay them till
they came out of action some days afterwards and the Germans had been
stopped.

The alarm had come about breakfast-time. Nothing was doing in camp; no
parades. Both officers and men were taking things easy in order to shake
off the Bourlon Wood exhaustion. Some were sleeping, some were shaving,
one Brigadier was in his bath, when the order came for the Guards to
stand-to and be in readiness, as the position east of Gouzeaucourt was
considered "obscure."

The Headquarters of the 1st Brigade was at Metz, and a great deal was
due, no doubt, to the Brigadier who discovered that the Germans had
broken through and promptly decided to push on and occupy the high
ground east of Gouzeaucourt. The General of the 1st Brigade of Guards
was a fine figure of a soldier, with bold eyes, massive shoulders and
brows, and finely-curved smiling lips. Mounted on his white horse at the
cross-roads of Metz he was in charge of the situation. It was he who saw
the first fugitives come in, green, trembling, speechless with panic,
and as others followed breathless the same way, he deflected their
course into a great courtyard, lately the courtyard of the Army Corps
Headquarters. With that the Brigadier rode out along the Gouzeaucourt
road, and presently beyond Gouzeaucourt Wood he came into contact with
German patrols, and he rode back to Metz and called out the Guards.
Meanwhile the extraordinary stampede continued--Labour men, gunners with
breech-blocks in their hands, riflemen with or without rifles and
equipment, transport, some men half-dressed. And those who could speak
called out to those whom they met that the Germans were coming. There
were officers as well as men, and even chaplains, in the throng, and a
German aeroplane hovered overhead and followed with machine-gun fire,
methodically stirring up the panic to a higher and higher pitch. The
Guards debouched from Metz in close column and deployed in artillery
formation under cover of Gouzeaucourt Wood. As they hurried up the road
they passed the fugitive streams going the other way. The look on the
Guards' faces as they encountered the others was one of astonishment and
bewilderment. It would have been difficult to agree that the two streams
of troops belonged to the same nation. Two different conditions of
soldiery. With one there was discipline, with the others discipline had
gone.

The road from Gouzeaucourt to Metz is a sort of gully, a deep-dug way
between high banks, and along the sides one still sees shards of old
rifles, rusty helmets, bits of equipment, and mess-tins. The peasants in
farming the ditches have unearthed not a few Mills' bombs which now
repose in piles by the side of the road. Here also reposes a dug-up
Lewis gun and various parts and bits of war's attire thrown away
possibly in the stampede, perhaps however, despite an inevitable
association of ideas, belonging to another moment of the war. For
although the Guards re-established the line once more it broke again in
the succeeding March, when once more the Germans pursued their foes
through the jetsam-covered streets of Gouzeaucourt.

Gouzeaucourt was evidently greatly smitten by the war. It is a very
extensive village raked by the devil from end to end. It swarms now on
housetop and in yard with builders and joiners. A widespread clatter
ascends from every road so that the very sparrows cannot hear themselves
chirp. Hundreds of white barrack-like shelters have sprung into being.
But as if the villagers had not had time for small amenities, every
street and alley is strewn with brickbats. The scenery of the war still
holds, and November 30th could be played over again without loss of
reality from the scene.

The road out to Metz is quiet enough now with carts of turnips jolting
along where three Novembers ago the lorries were fleeing. On the top of
the bank stretches the view of a war moorland becoming once more
grain-productive. To the north lies a pleasant boscage, the verdure of
Havrincourt. Along the south goes the straight line and the tree-stumps
which mark the Cambrai-Peronne road.

Metz-en-Couture looks like a great rubbish-heap from which masses of
decaying brickwork are projecting. It is much less alive than
Gouzeaucourt. Its returned French peasants are however at work. Like all
desolated places which are off the railway it has to depend on motor
transport for the materials of reconstruction, and it is
characteristically behindhand compared with towns on the railway. And
Gouzeaucourt is well served by a railway from Cambrai.

At Metz-en-Couture is a roadside cemetery. How good that most of the
cemeteries are actually close to the highways, and even automobilists
speeding past will see them, though it be only a blur on the
consciousness. All the crosses will fade into one another as a car
passes them. Here at Metz the Chinese and the Germans are put together
as outcasts from the pens of decency if not from God's grace. But it
will be all one to the man who passes by and does not pause to see. The
pilgrim however will find the graves of the stalwart Guardsmen, and
remember that they met their end saving the day and marching the right
way when the foe had broken through. The whole winter of 1917-18 might
have been very terrible had the Germans gained a great victory here, and
bad as it was the rout of March 1918 might have been complete. As you
walk back from Metz to Gouzeaucourt you figure again the way the enemy
was stopped and his grand potential victory robbed of its crown. In
Gouzeaucourt the Guards took back a hundred and fifty guns. Beyond
Gouzeaucourt Wood they cleared out the machine-gunners. Next day at dawn
the Grenadiers made good the line and together with the Indian cavalry
closed the gap and dug in. The Indians were most happy in their
association with the Guards in victory, and averred that henceforth
December First would always be known as Grenadiers' Day.

Back at Metz the low-flying German airman who with his machine-gun had
been whipping up the panic of the men who had fled was shot down. He was
a young officer of the fearless angry type, terribly mortified at being
taken prisoner. He was put in a cage by himself till one of our runaways
came into the courtyard and began to strike a Charlie Chaplin pose, and
the officer in charge lost his patience and thrust him in with the
German. The German was striding up and down like a lion or tiger, and
the sudden depression of the erstwhile Charlie Chaplin gave to the
latter the gait of an Androcles thrown to a wild beast to be destroyed.

Later in the day German prisoners began to flow along the road from
Gouzeaucourt to Metz in considerable numbers. What was the astonishment
of the "Jerries" to find when they were put into the barbed-wire
enclosures that their neighbours, also enclosed, were British and not
German, and to see the mixed crowd of Old Bills, Labour-men,
artillerymen, infantry, engineers, and even padres and officers mixed
with men. Presently however these were marched out of the cages and
lined up in miscellaneous squads derived from varying units with no
distinction of rank. Rifles were put into their hands and an attempt was
made to use them as a reserve defence in the trenches outside Metz. This
however proved impossible. The disease of panic had gripped their minds,
and at the idea of being sent to fight once more many threw their rifles
down.

Up in the lines there were many comical scenes and disputes. The men
made themselves at home in the abandoned dug-outs which they found, and
where the dinner had been left cooking they finished it and ate it.
Drummers and pipers found superb quarters, and such original owners as
turned up were much annoyed. Disputes were settled by neutral soldiers
as a rule and went in favour of those who had not lost guns or abandoned
their posts.

Where the railway intersects the Gouzeaucourt-Cambrai road was a
wonderful supply train, better than any golden wreck in desert-island
story. This was stacked with every imaginable kind of food. The Germans
had been through it, but had devoted their attention almost exclusively
to the letters and the despatch-bags. They had taken away a few tit-bits
but what was left sufficed the Guards for days. The transport was warned
not to send up their rations for three days but to send up limbers
instead to cart the food. At the disposal of the victors were also a
number of abandoned motor-cars. There is a lively impression of a
Sergeant-major going to and fro in a Ford car to this wonderful train.
Authorities asked afterwards who had pillaged the train--the culprits
ought to be brought to justice. But those in charge of that section of
the line felt that the action was possibly excusable under the
circumstances. Had they condemned it they had condemned themselves. The
following lines by an unknown author appeared some months after the
incident at Gouzeaucourt and men in the ranks copied it into their
notebooks and diaries.

        The Guards' Division were out to rest
          They wanted it;
        They'd "popped it"--"as on parade."
          (What a jest!)
        Then they'd held the line and had done their best
          And were out.

        Twenty-four hours had scarcely passed;
          They were resting.
        When an orderly--bearing a message fast--
        "The Germans have broken through at last,
          You're wanted."

        And wanted they were--without a doubt--
          At Gouzeaucourt.
        The Huns had turned a lot of us out--
        (A lot of us, mind you--supposed to be stout)
          "Help wanted!"

        Weary and footsore and stiff with cold--
          Weren't shirking,
        The Guards' Division, demeanour bold,
        With drummers playing (so I'm told)
          Went at 'em.

        Said an A.P.M. as they marched along--
          "Stand back there!"
        Get out of the way, you funking throng,
        They'll put to rights what you've done wrong,
          THE GUARDS DIVISION.
            (And they did.)

After Gouzeaucourt it was slowly borne in upon the military mind that
the "initiative," as it is called, had passed to the enemy, and that the
role of attack would not be ours for a while. There was a great
disparity between the forward mind and the rear mind. The forward mind
registering all the buffets and "sticking it" was getting very sick of
the war. The rear mind, making plenty of profit, playing men across the
map like chess pieces, preserved all its zest. The rear mind had great
patience and little imagination. It dreamed of a year, be it 1919 or
1920 or 1921, when America would be affording her maximum strength.
America had to be played into the war. She had started late, and it
would take years to commit her fully and make her spend according to her
means. The Tommy and the poilu would hold on till then. The Hun, as the
red hats loved to call the foe, would also play the game. 1918 was never
intended as the final year of the war--as far as the rear mind was
concerned, even though the men of fifty be called up and drilled with
youths of eighteen. Fortunately for us all, the Germans had decided to
win or lose and put all things to the test that year. Theirs had been
the supreme crime of starting the war, but let us acknowledge that they
at least had the grace at last to "hands up" when they saw their game
was lost and did not keep us at it for five years more. Germany at least
saved us at last from what may be called the blood lust of the rear.

March 21st came with its never-to-be-forgotten bid for all or nothing,
with the Kaiser in command and all Germany on the march. The largest
numbers of men involved and the broadest front of action in the war.
"_Nach Paris_" was the cry--"Paris, Paris," the exultant yell of the
Goth bearing down upon the new Rome.

On the 19th and 20th there were suspicions that something new was in
preparation on the German side. "From Headquarters to Headquarters," as
one officer puts it, "throbbed the order to man the battle-stations."
The night of the 20th was of intense darkness, and the watchful sentries
at their posts stared into a deep and silent curtain of fog. The vague
light that comes before dawn revealed only the mist.

Then suddenly on a mighty breadth of line spoke the guns, came the swift
chasing shells through the sky, and the chorus of their sighs and their
cat-calls and yells and the hubbub of disruption in their explosion.
Trench mortars of all calibres and field-guns had been brought up to
closest range under cover of mist and darkness, and pounded into all
our trenches thick and warm with khaki and live flesh and blood, and
from behind the field-guns, but not far behind, in serried ranks spoke
the heavy guns, the Russian heavies, the Italian heavies, the grand
Austrian heavies, heaving death and destruction in the paths of retreat.
Accommodated with the heavies in fiendish fraternal task were the light
guns in vast numbers which flung the gas-bombs in tens of thousands to
the spots where of a certainty there must be congestion of traffic in
the British rear. It was ten minutes to five in the morning of the 21st
March--_der Tag_ had come, the hour of German fate had struck.

Our guns replied at once in mighty salvos from accustomed points on the
horizon, but also many hitherto silent guns and batteries spoke for the
first time. A steady and perhaps unimaginative confidence was expressed
by our artillery, but it was quickly realised that we were out-gunned
and out-manned. Our battery positions were soon drenched with mustard
gas. The enemy firing was remarkably accurate and scored direct hits on
many headquarters, billets, and ammunition dumps which had never been
assailed before. The roads all received a great deal of attention and at
many vital points deep craters threatened to hold up traffic for hours.

Daylight streamed through the mist. The guardians of the line with
strained nerves and brain stood on the alert expecting grey Fritz
momentarily to emerge from the mist with lowering brows and bayonet at
the port. Our machine-guns chattered at the unknown, and meanwhile the
enemy wire-cutters were at work clearing the way. It was not until
half-past nine that the anonymous artillery gave way to the deadly
personality of the foe. On the same lavish scale as that in which the
guns were firing, stick-bombs showered into the front lines, exploding
with their deafening and would-be-terrifying concussion of high
explosive. The enemy soldiers got rid of all the bombs they had right
away, and then very soon they were themselves to be seen. Tommy faced
forward. But Fritz, though he came steadily across no-man's land
offering an easy target, came also from the flanks and was soon to be
seen in the rear. British troops were massed here and there and posted
in clusters of defence, but the enemy with his vastly extended waves
broke through at the thin places and the empty places. The alarm went to
the flanks and the rear, but the runners found their various
headquarters and destinations full of the men in grey. Surrenders were
rapid on all hands. It was a puzzle what had happened. Brave units
fought it out against fearful odds. Some reserve battalions led by their
Colonels rushed in to counter-attack, and the Colonels fell and the
battalions fell. Other reserve battalions received orders to retire and
they retired. Others received no orders of any kind and remained where
they were and were overtaken. All day of the 21st and all night long our
lines were confusion worse confounded. On the 22nd there were Generals
in the fray encouraging the defence in person and trying to re-establish
lost contact right and left. But towards nightfall the last lines were
over-run and the enemy was through.

The British menace was lifted from St. Quentin and Cambrai, from La Fere
and Laon. The enemy plunged for Arras, Peronne and Ham, and for the
far-flung hope of Albert, Doullens, Amiens, Compiègne. They rolled our
legions back, they set Divisions marching, fleeing; they captured
front-line men in tens of thousands, captured second-line men in tens of
thousands, captured artillerymen, captured their guns, captured the Old
Bills and Charlie Chaplins a-mending the roads, captured Red-cross men,
captured Chinamen, captured the Y.M.C.A., captured an infinite array of
stores and shells. If they were doubtful of themselves at first, their
faith soon lit up, as how could it fail to light. The banner of a
victorious end of the war and a crown of all German privations and
sufferings was raised. "I heard nothing more dreadful in the war," said
an English captain, "than the yell of the German cheers as their first
men entered Ham and they knew they had broken the line and had us
running. _Paris_, _Paris_ was the watchword, and many a Teutonic
soldier mortally wounded in the moment of victory, sank joyfully to the
rest of death in the belief that the Vaterland and the Kaiser were
winning through at last."

And the embattled hosts swept onward toward Amiens, where at last the
onrush was stabilised. A greater victory had been won than the German
dreamed of when he planned. The offensive paused at last as it must, but
a staggering blow had been dealt at the forces of George the Fifth. The
King was down, and even if he were not counted out this time it was
doubtful if he could survive many such rounds if the German could repeat
such blows.

What a time that was for England! The war staff tried to keep the
consternation to themselves but it could hardly be done. The whole
nation trembled with anxiety and apprehension. In France, as we now
know, screened from public view, the leaders of France and England met
in a grave mood. There was Milner and Haig and Foch and Clemenceau.
Haig, with a terribly pallid and drawn face looked as if he had not
slept for three nights. Foch was nervous and excitable, and carried in
his hand a small wooden wand on the knob of which was carved a poilu's
head.

"I will do my best," said Haig pathetically, "to stop them before
Amiens," and it seemed he doubted whether it could be done.

"We can always stop the Boche," said Foch, "we must stop him where he
is, not at Amiens."

"But how?"

"Well, I could do it," said Foch. "Seal up the centre. The Boche has
broken through the British and the French armies. His forces are pushing
against the wings of folding-doors; each door gives a little, making a
gap between, and through the gap the enemy is pouring. Seal up the gap,
seal it up!"

There was only one way of sealing it up, and that was by uniting French
and British forces under one single commander. Lord Milner saw it. He
started up and pointed dramatically with his finger to Foch standing
there with his wooden wand, and he cried out:

"There is the man."

Haig, endowed by God and nature with a fine character, at once came
forward and agreed. No littleness stood in his way at that moment of
destiny. Foch was the man, let Foch take the supreme command. Foch took
it and poured French troops to our aid and stopped the tide and saved
the great city, the railway-key of Calais and of Paris.

The great German effort had resulted first in German victory, then in a
dramatic change in the leadership of the war. Doubtless the German took
little stock of Foch. It seemed of good augury to our foe that the enemy
should have been forced to make a change in command. Changes of the
kind are seldom good in the midst of a strenuous campaign. But the sway
of Foch nevertheless gave a new faith to the whole army of the Allies.
The famous S.O.S. was sent to Wilson: _We have our backs to the wall but
send your army quickly or we perish_. And Wilson speeded up the
transport of his army in a marvellous way. He also saved us.

Amiens, whose fate was in the balance for so many days, became baptised
as a shrine of the war as the enemy long-range guns sent to it fire and
death unintermittently.

What new fields and cities the enemy had opened for destruction! Had the
Germans stayed before the city, the Cathedral of St. Firmin might have
become as remarkable a ruin as the shrine of St. Vaast. St. Firmin is
the patron saint of Amiens and is supposed to hold the city in his
protection, and the pious of Amiens prayed to St. Firmin and to God in
March 1918 as never before. That their prayers availed whereas other
cities had fallen despite all prayer is not a fact on which to lay much
stress. But it was just six months to the festival of St. Firmin, and
ere that happy day came round the dreadful menacing demon had fled far
from their walls.

Two years later behold the procession of the relics of St. Firmin at
Amiens. The Church parades in praise and mediæval glory--cherubic boys
in crimson and white lace, young tonsured monks with health and life
throbbing from their close-cropped skulls, aged ecclesiastics with
Latinised faces, beautiful youths carrying emblems and banners, and then
supported on either hand by wise and reverend fathers comes the Bishop,
crowned with a gilded mitre crimson within and golden without, and
streaming with two golden streamers hanging behind. He bears his golden
crook, and before his arrested step and hand held up in blessing the
people sway like reeds when the wind which bloweth where it listeth
passes over them. From his uplifted hand and his arrested pose there
flung out mysterious power. You felt it; it was the blessing of the
Church imparted with all the consciousness of true succession even from
Peter and from Christ.

So they bear what is left of the memory and the dust of St. Firmin,
nodding as they go, looking like an ecclesiastical picture on a vast
canvas, and singing to their measured steps--_Salve, Salve_.

The second round of 1918 was fought on the Lys when the Germans 'twixt
Ypres on the north and Bethune in the south plunged towards Hazebrouck
and St. Omer. Bailleul and Merville fell, the eminence of Kemmel was
taken and Locre, and it seemed likely that the enemy would do with the
sanctuary of Ypres what he had done with that of Albert.

The smashed centre of Bethune and the wilderness of its Grande Place
testifies to the violence of the onset, and Hazebrouck still bears the
marks of a great trembling and nervous shock. Hazebrouck had its three
days of anguish when all its people fled, and the town, like a victim in
a dungeon, awaited the coming of the persecutor. The cross-roads at
Vieux Berquin are almost as sinister in the after-the-war light as they
were then, and in all the waste fields which ran with destiny and khaki
that April the rusty wire still lies in tangles. Rain streams on the
choked cemeteries once but sparse with graves, now full and overflowing
with the dead and their crosses. But you seek in vain for hundreds and
thousands of defenders, names of V.C.'s, names of the brave
undecorated--all lost now in the unknown, the plenitude of unknown
soldiers.

The German won his second round, though not too well, not shaping very
well. There were hammer-blows, but not the dreadful death-dealing weight
of the March fighting. French troops had been hurried to Belgium by
Foch, and once more they stopped the rot and possibly saved our now
rather nervy army. Certainly the enemy was now having matters his own
way. But Arras fortunately held, and that was our centre of defence. All
expected that the next attack would be upon the city, an attempt at
encirclement from the north and from the south. A wet spring wore on to
early summer and all the army waited.

The third attack was of an entirely unexpected kind, being an almost
overwhelming blow at France and France alone--an attempt to put her
entirely out of gear and make it impossible for Foch to send more troops
to help the British army, an attempt to destroy the spirit and the
mobility of the army of France. The enemy advanced on a front broader
even than that of March 21st, and found an even thinner, weaker line of
defenders. Once more Germany was able to do even more than she dreamed,
and plunged towards Paris, making the sky drone and tremble with the
ominous thunder of her approaching guns.

As we all know now the enemy went too far, and had not the men to man
his greatly extended lines or the labour to reorganise the new rear. He
had spent his energy too lavishly, and Foch had all that was necessary,
the one extra punch which sent the German reeling even in the moment
which should have held his greatest pride. The fourth round was won by
Foch and the Americans. The fifth by the British when they rolled the
foe back from Amiens. After that Fritz was a lost man and floundered
backward homeward, playing only for time, and only on his defensive,
with all the triumph gone, hope gone, faith gone, and only punishment
and humiliation ahead of him. In but a short while after the most
terrible defeats it could be said that the Allies had won the war.

The land o'er which the great advance was made is quiet enough now. To
the towns and cities of the back areas the circus is coming for the
first time since the war. After the leaping from trapeze to trapeze in
mid-air, after the walking the tight rope, and the facing wild beasts in
their cages, and other feats of daring, the clowns come tumbling into
the arena. So it is also in life. There is one all in Turkey-red riding
backward on an ass, telling all and sundry how much more clever he is
than the genuine heroes they have been clapping. He gains in the long
run more applause than the tight-rope dancer. Then two funny Columbines
with air-blown bladders pretend to fight and whack at one another with
resounding boshes, clumps and raps, laying one another out, panting for
breath, exhausting themselves, almost expiring, and yet weakly hitting
out with their quaint weapons. And the populace forgets the thrill of
the spectacle of the man in the lions' cage making wild beasts jump
through hoops of fire. The clowns are to its taste. The scene-shifters
are quietly preparing the arena for the next heroic item--"A Roman
spectacle when the gladiators meet"--and the clowns divert public
attention from the carpentering of such a show until all is ready for
the heroes to come out. A fourth clown all the while strikes heroic
attitudes and mimics the after-the-war celebrities with apt
buffoonery--now he is Wilson with the fourteen points, now he is
D'Annunzio in mock heroic pose saying "J'y suis, j'y reste," now Lloyd
George making the Germans pay by letting the Germans off paying. The
malice of the buffoons provokes great mirth and takes the attention of
the crowd so well that the heroes are almost forgotten, Tom Wildwest
glowering from one of the exits and handling his rope and running noose
as if he'd like to lasso the whole bunch of clowns and pull them out of
the arena and the public gaze.

In the summer of 1918 there was a waiting time. The enemy was held and
his utter defeat was manifest, but Time paused and the denouement
paused. The French and Americans carried on. The British reorganised.
The Germans began the knight's tour of the board with the right move
first. The British army was bored with the war and looked homeward.
Special wires conveyed the Derby result and the verdict of the
Pemberton-Billing case. Pemberton-Billing became a great hero of the
rank and file. The book of the 47,000 names of people who could be
blackmailed was a popular idea--such is the readiness to believe evil.

At a battalion Sports near Saulty the Duke of Connaught watched the
battalion clowns arrange a race for the tiniest tots of the French
village. One clown had printed on his back "Breezy Bacchus" and the
other "One of the 47,000," which was thought a most amusing and
up-to-date cognomen. "One of the 47,000" won the obstacle race by and
by. He had won the obstacle race each annual Sports of his battalion, an
unwounded Tipperary man who had come right through, not only the hazards
of so many races, but of the great race itself. Fate however claimed him
at last when the war was nearly over, and a lone cringing gas shell
sneaking through the air came and took his leg off. The French
villagers, whose children he had guided in the baby race, shrugged their
shoulders and had nothing to say.

The war-sun which was now setting did not sink in a grey haze or in mere
cloud, but in blood. To take the final victory-march of even one
Division, from Arras to Maubeuge--is it not marked by fresh graves all
the way? The old and the new laid down their lives prodigally.

There is an extra sorrow for their death now because the pathos of being
so near to deliverance and yet missing it was not known then. Though the
German was beaten the war might last for years. A common gag used to
be--

"Heard the news?"

"What's that? The war over?"

"All over bar the shouting."

But it was ironical, and there were few who saw the faint gleam of the
new hope which came with the German retreat.

The Army did not know when it began its advance that the familiar ruins
of old villages were being left behind for good, that Berles au Bois
with its growing graveyard and ruined church was placed finally behind,
Monchy, Blairville, Hamelincourt, St. Leger, Bullecourt, Ecoust, behind
for ever, that Albert, Maricourt, Bapaume, re-conquered Peronne, were
all permanently held and soon to be left far in obscurity in the rear.
It is strange to come back over this track again and see the site of
hideous and monstrous latrines now overgrown with rankest weeds, to see
the ruined barns all re-roofed, to see the dank acre into which, wrapped
in the flag, your comrades were lowered down, to see what was left of
the village church of Berles now brought flat because as it stood it was
a menace, to see the place where but for the grace of God you might
yourself be lying with a cross above your head, to see Monchy lifting
itself with great difficulty from its sunken blocks of stone, to listen
to the stillness and deadness of old lifeless ruins, to cross the
stubble fields to Adinfer and hear the petrol plough methodically
scouring the old lines, to approach once more the dreadfulness of
Ayette.

The villagers have come back to the craters of death. There is an
estaminet where was nothing before; there are salvage-made huts with
"baby-elephant" roofs built o'er spots where for days lay the dead in a
torture of wire. A family is in the estaminet, it was divided into five
parts by the war--five members of the family each in a different place
and none of them in touch with any other, each believing the other four
dead, two in different parts of Germany, one in Paris, one in Belgium,
one in the Pyrenees. They are poor people, touched by their suffering to
tenderness and generosity, and when there comes to them one who served
as a soldier in the war they spread their best before him and do not
want to take money for it--wonderful for France. But the people who have
suffered are the best people there as elsewhere.

At Ablainzville the new brick cabins grow into being amid the high
seared masts of her dead trees. At sunset the hard-working peasants are
still in the fields. They have heaped old iron and wire on to the roads,
and filled up the shell-holes and burned the weeds and broken the
intractable hard moorland with tractor-drawn ploughs. They have riven
the sturdy roots of the docks and the reeds, they have driven St. John's
wort and rocket and willow-herb from the grain-field, turning up the
tramped-down battered earth in huge slabs and chunks. The league of
death which goes over the brow of the hill, that old no-man's land which
the machine-guns swept is now a great black upturned drive of ploughing
in which alight thousands of crows, all extruding from the earth and
discussing what they find, talking and grabbing, fluttering and flying.
Sodden green equipment has been ploughed into the earth and still lies
half exposed, and helmets like little coal-buckets disturb here and
there the even surface of the land. It is heavy going, and your boots
want to lift tons of mother earth, but you struggle on with eyes
furtively engaged in "spotting" here a shell and there a bomb. Next year
the corn will cover up all our sins.

The peasants complain that the Government gives them nothing. The
Germans replaced some of the cattle they stole, but how about the French
who commandeered their horses at the beginning of the war and in
exchange gave them a merely nominal sum. In the stricken areas how few
are the horses now! The conservative peasant who does not like changing
his agricultural habits has been forced to the use of the petrol engine.
His chief motive force is the old lorry engine. But of course he does
more with that than he did with the horse, and when one has walked right
across the zone of desolation and come to the little-touched farms on
the other side one cannot but feel that the peasants working their
horses there are not getting on so quickly as the deprived ones with
their motors.

Many of the refugees when they came back started at an absolute zero.
Their plight would have driven a less stubborn people to despair, but
they set-to and worked, and can already show a dumbfounding progress.
Theirs is a hard life without luxury and with little food, but with the
capital of their toiling hands they are making wealth for themselves and
France once more. The people of the war-lands will recover quicker than
their Governments, and whilst with every year the plight of the national
exchequer gets worse the plight of the domestic exchequer will improve.
There are too many parasites feeding on the Governments, and the latter
have too many obligations in the matter of paying interest on loan. All
France is placarded with appeals to French people to take up
State-loans--the object of such loans being to get money to pay the
interest on past loans. French people cannot be persuaded to pay onerous
taxes. The Germans, without great commercial activity, cannot make the
French deficit good, and we see the State sliding slowly but steadily
downward like a loosened avalanche toward a precipice. But in the light
of the French peasants' steady unremitting toil one need have little
fear for the nation itself. It will get rid of this type of Government
and the mountains of debt when the time comes. Long after sunset, in the
after-murk of night, sound the droning of the petrol-ploughs on the old
battlefields, and the clatter of hammer and plane in the stricken
villages.--Vive la France!

       *       *       *       *       *

It is twenty miles to Cambrai by the seemingly Druidical remains of
Lagnicourt and the life-clusters of Queant, Pronville, Moeuvres,
Fontaine. Cambrai is resurgent. No one is in mourning except those
widows whom black suits. The merry-go-rounds and the razzle-dazzle with
all manner of toy-booths and gipsy-shows occupy the market-place on
which grandiose buildings with broken windows stare. In the town gardens
is a statue without a head, and on its base is engraved--"_Son invention
fut un bienfait pour son pays_."

He probably made some improvement in the manufacture of silk, but an
ironical British soldier has written in English beneath--_He invented
the gun stock_.

On the way out from Cambrai the towns of Boussieres and St. Hilaire look
as if no war had been, and the trains are all running on the road to
Solesmes. Where men stalked their foes along the railway embankment,
where men won military medals and D.C.M.s and one the V.C. all is
perfect prose. Where so many died and risked their lives a
life-insurance office has reopened. All slumbers on the road to Le
Quesnoy and Bavai. You have passed through the war area and come to the
unscarred green of innocent fields and the undesolated symmetry of
unscathed woods. Peasants lead the horses in the plough, and cows in
plenty graze in sun-steeped pastures.

It is November 10th and the same strong highway on which two years ago
the army marched to the end of the war. At the end of a fair fine
afternoon the sun is sinking slowly but must be in eclipse ere it set.
Peasants are sitting on heaps of stones at La Longueville looking
westward. In the smoky capitals of Europe nothing will be seen, but
something is due to happen if the sky keeps clear and will be visible at
the last outposts of the war.

From the grandeur of the setting sun pale shadows are cast of posts and
cows and houses and railings and heaps of stones. Unexpectedly they
faint away as something steals upon the splendour of the radiant disc
and stops the brightness of the rays. Myriads of wisps of cloud, like
tiny hands, assist at the eclipse, laying the sun to rest in a dreadful
bloody bath, agonising and bleeding and growing less and going down,
with evil triumphing over good. Out, brief candle! Yes, it is out--it is
night. The last day of the war is done--tomorrow Armistice. The reaper
has put up his scythe--the angel of death has gone by. A bitter wind
passes swiftly along the high-road, just touching you, just making you
aware that something invisible and unkind has passed you, having a going
and a coming which is not yours.

So in a mood which has changed you walk the last miles of the war--to
the fortress of Maubeuge. Here is gloomy smoky Douzies, and there, yes
at that very spot, is the place where the Brigade messenger was accosted
and you read his message--_Hostilities will cease as from eleven
o'clock_. Yonder the factory sheds where you heard the first lecture on
demobilisation, where you sang "Take me back to dear old Blighty!" with
such a will, and a free issue of rum punch was made to all. There the
erstwhile deserted steel works which men said would be years before they
worked again. The great stacks smoke, belying the prophecy, and on the
night wind comes the clangour of tireless machinery working for France,
working for Peace. On the railway all the twisted rails are gone, the
lines gleam with the brightness of train-wheels and go straight to
Maubeuge. Upon the roadway lie the disjecta membra of an armoured train
marked Lot 1 and Lot 2 and likely to remain till time itself remove
them.

You descend into the trough where the moat goes round the fortress, and
by a wooden bridge enter Maubeuge, the city of the end of the war, one
of the cities where the war ended. At Maubeuge then let us be silent
with those who are silent whilst at Westminster the Unknown is buried
and the Cenotaph unveiled and at Paris the Arc de Triomphe receives its
guest.

November the eleventh in the morning--there is Mass in the Cathedral for
the _poilu inconnu_, the anonymous soldier of France, and about an empty
coffin swathed with the tricolour are ten high candles. The sacrifice is
sanctified with holy water and incense. The divine elements are raised
from the Altar. The throngs of the pious all cross themselves. Comes the
alarm crash of the Sanctus thrice repeated, the mumbo-jumbo of
fast-gabbled Latin, the exultant organ. You stand wedged in by a pillar,
the only Englishman there now, and as your eye ranges o'er the scene it
reads on the Cathedral wall the inscription which is nearest. _N'oublie
pas pecheur endurci que c'est pour la troisième fois que Jesus est
tombé!_ "Forget not, hardened sinner, that it is now for the third time
that Jesus has fallen," suggestive and unforgettable monition given in
the half-light of the Cathedral.

A Te Deum which does not rend the sky nor the Cathedral roof passes
sweetly o'er our heads, and the congregation with its wreaths and flags
files out to march with bands to the cemeteries of Maubeuge. It is still
not eleven by the clock. But it will be eleven in the Place des Casernes
where the Guards were drawn up on parade that November morning. The
barrack square then!

Behold it dirty and drab. A squad in sabots is being detailed by a
corporal for fatigue duty. They answer their names, their old tunics are
all undone, they shuffle across the square. But it is eleven. Silence
then. Let us be silent with all who are silent.



_EPILOGUE_


The afternoon train speeds from Maubeuge to Paris. "Am I right for
Paris?" you ask, and a Frenchman replies facetiously "Nach Paris, nach
Paris." In a few hours you roll up the whole Western front. You traverse
infinite graveyards and scenes of desolation like an arrow of thought,
and alight where the German soldiers wished to be. The train has come
from Berlin: it has passed through Cologne and the zone held by the
occupying army. It roars forward to St. Quentin, Noyon, Compiègne, like
the symbol of the March offensive. But in all the little shattered towns
and villages joy-flags are flying and the bands are playing. It is
to-day a fête of French victory and French peace. Besides being
Armistice Day it is the Cinquantenaire of the Republic, the day of the
celebration of the first fifty years of the present Republic of France,
and Paris will be alight from end to end to-night with fairy lights.
Paris and France will render homage to the Republic which brought
victory. In 1870 under the fatal Government of Napoleon the Third the
hated German conquered France. Then the Napoleons fell and Gambetta made
possible "la revanche du Droit." It could hardly have been predicted
that within fifty years the stricken unstable France of 1870 would lay
the Prussian low. The victory over the Germans has been an enormous
confirmation of the success of the "Third Republic" and has shed a glory
on the line of Presidents from Thiers to Millerand which is perhaps not
entirely appreciated in other countries. The Republic celebrating its
fiftieth birthday on November 11th sunned itself in as much glory as the
Army or the Nation. It is true that "un soldat sans nom, representant la
foule heroique des poilus, repose dans l'Arc de Triomphe"--a nameless
soldier representing the heroic crowd who fought is buried now in the
Arc de Triomphe--but it is also true that the heart of Gambetta carried
in a chariot accompanied the hearse of the unknown soldier, and whilst
the soldier was buried in the first storey of the triumphal arch the
heart of Gambetta was placed in the Pantheon itself. All must redound to
the greatness of France and of the Republic.

As you step from the train at Paris you realise that everyone is out for
gaiety even before the gaiety has commenced. The Parisians are holding
on to one another, humming and singing baby-song, making believe to
stumble as they walk. Gone are the care and solemnity of the weekday
Paris crowd. A heaviness has been shed, everyone feels light as if there
was quicksilver in his heels. Evening is just turning to night and all
houses are giving forth their people, and they stream to the centre in
ever increasing crowds--all gay, all light-hearted, all without a
thought of ever coming home. The city is cleverly decorated with massed
flags, arcades of flags, but without those strings of bunting which so
often look like coloured washing hanging out to dry. The illuminations
are to be most elaborate. Hundreds of thousands of francs are being
spent in coloured light effects. There will be a torchlight procession,
massed bands, and street dancing till morning. Long lines of men and
women holding on to one another plunge through the crowds, and scream,
and break, and join again. Everyone is wearing a little flag of the
Republic. Men and women are to be seen carrying little red paper
lanterns on bamboo sticks. Every restaurant and café is crammed and
jammed with people with flushed faces. The waiters, having lost control,
bring you dishes you have not ordered, but you graciously accept them
faute de mieux. Hawkers keep bellowing the last editions of the papers,
especially of _L'intransigeant_, which says that the meaning of the
festivity is that the Allies are agreed to force Germany to fulfil the
treaty to the letter. Night meanwhile has become night with no stars
above and all the stars below.

The crowds have become immense. If you are at the Place de la Concorde
where part of the torchlight procession is forming up and men are
playing on the crowd with ghastly searchlights, then you are likely to
remain at the Place de la Concorde. It will take you two hours to
struggle to the Place de l'Opera. On the Underground railway some
stations are blocked, and no one can get either in or out--notably Hotel
de Ville. Out at the Arc de Triomphe there is a cavalry guard with drawn
sabres. The Arc very fittingly has no illumination, but its dark mass
catches the light beams from the buildings around. No one knows what is
going to happen here, all the little folk stand on tip-toe and strain
their eyes and yet see nought. Lots of girls are mounted on men's
shoulders with legs round men's necks and their ankles grasped in male
hands, and they certainly see the nothing which is to be seen. All are
laughing, all are ready to sing and to roll in gaiety. Presently some
statesmen in carriages pass out between lines of cavalrymen; big Bertha,
the great gun, follows them and then an empty Roman chariot and the
hearse on which the _poilu inconnu_ was carried. But even when these
pass the crowd remains riveted to the place where the unknown soldier
reposes--constantly expecting some marvel of the night to start from
there.

Similar crowds hold the Place Vendome where Napoleon stands on his
column of stone, the St. Simon of Paris. This statue also commemorates a
national victory over Germany, though it elevates one soldier so high.
The design of the frieze at the foot of the column is one of
accoutrements and weapons and adornments and uniforms and guns, but
without a limb or a face anywhere, the meaning being that one man wore
all the glory. Here is exhibited not much joy in the Republic but a
whole series of advertisement for French State loans. On the whole, the
Cinquantenaire of the Republic may be a good advertisement for
Government Stock. All manner of provincials have come to Paris for this
day, and there is no doubt they are dazzled by the grandeur of France.

At the Palais Royal there is one of the most radiant designs in coloured
lights. The whole front of the place is covered with a picture of light
which reminds one of the advertisements of the great white way between
40th and 50th Street, New York. Crimson and emerald and gold tell the
glory of the fifty years of the Republic, the numbers 1870 and 1920
being festooned with dazzling light, and the names of all the Presidents
in one great row--Thiers, MacMahon ... to Deschanel and Millerand--given
the prominence of a dynasty. On all the sidewalks down below are trees
of naked flames, gas-pipes with branches coming up out of the pavement
and instead of leaves little jets of twinkling flame at which the crowd
lights its cigarettes. The entrances to the grand avenues are surmounted
by fantastic arches of most gorgeous illuminated colouring. In front of
all this stand men and women thoroughly epaté, hypnotised by it, with
mouths open and eyes dilated.

"Oh but it's wonderful!" "I cannot take my eyes off it, can you?" "Look,
neighbour, just look at that, eh!" "Ah but look!" "What splendour!"
"What an effect!" And there is audible all the while a continuous
collective low murmur of approbation and satisfaction.

You walk slowly along the Avenue de l'Opera. There are uninterrupted
rows of footlights along the bases of first and second storeys throwing
a lurid glamour on solemn and stately tricolours. So it is all the way
to the Opera House, and happy crowds, fluttering and chattering, now
breaking into an infection of expectancy when all push forward to see
some imagined interest somewhere, and then lurching back in gay
disillusion and laughter. The lofty buildings like monuments to the
goddess of Trade look down on diminutive people with bright faces and
round heads, and the stone itself of Paris seems indulgent.

Away however in those strange fields covered with darkness at this
midnight hour, unilluminated, lie the silent ones, crosses without
end--the signs of life laid down. France will not forget them and we
shall not forget.

So let us leave this gaiety behind and take the midnight train for
Calais, for Dover, for London, for the Cenotaph, the Abbey, for new
life. It is a full train and pulls out soberly from the gay city, and
bears onward, onward to the little channel and the waiting boat which
ere the dawn shall face the wonderful white cliffs of Albion and home.

The most enduring moment of Armistice Day will be the silence at eleven,
the moment of communion. In America in many cities work ceased at eleven
but every one was instructed to make the utmost noise possible. Thus a
year ago at New Orleans the writer of these lines listened to an
infernal din of train whistles, factory syrens, steam horns and hooters,
clashing church-bells, roaring Klaxon-horns, hammering of anvils,
squeaking of trumpets, and shouts of people. And the thought inevitably
came--the West does not understand. It did not suffer as we did and came
into a share in it all too late. Only the end of a small war can express
itself in noise; the end of such an one as this in Europe was silence.

And a fitting monument of silence is the Cenotaph, the empty tomb.
England is very happy in the Cenotaph, much more happy than in the Edith
Cavell statue, which leaves out the last words of the kind nurse, does
not say "_Patriotism is not enough_," but writes "Brussels Dawn"
instead, making her a kindler of anger against a foe rather than a
salver of wounds. The impersonal cenotaph, without any Cross or weeping
Christ, or rampant lions, without even the pronoun "our" which some
wished to see upon it--"Our glorious dead," instead of "The glorious
dead," can stand for all who laid down their lives baptised or
unbaptised, white or coloured, friend or foe. For even Germans had to
die that Europe might be free.

So in leaving the fields of the dead and the beginning and the end of
the war and Paris itself, you come naturally to the Cenotaph, the stone
which gathers to itself all the experience and all that was sacred in
the war--the altar at the summit of a thousand weary steps. It stands in
the midst of England's great street of Government, 'twixt Nelson and the
Abbey, and says to all who pass--"Go and do thou likewise." To all the
selfish, "_We were not selfish_;" to the clamorous, "_We are silent, yet
we speak_;" to the strident and ambitious, to the self-seekers and the
cynical, to those who live as though there had been no sacrifice, to
those who sneer at the ideal, "_We suffered and died that you might have
your life, that all might have more life; we suffered and died for the
good of the whole!_"

When Millerand was elected President of France his supporters insisted
always that they had found a man whose public life would be worthy of
France _and of her dead_. France's ideal is that through the sacrifice
of her sons France should become "greater yet." Our men did not die that
England might become greater, but that Europe might be saved from
tyranny and greed, and it is for us and our public men to see that their
sacrifice shall never seem to grow barren.

It will grow barren unless we who now live are ready to continue the
sacrifice. No good comes into the world but after struggle and pain. No
new life comes but through death, no common weal is gained without
giving and serving. Our common life must have a foundation of human
hearts, ready to give, ready to live, for England and for us all.

     It hath been said: "He liveth best who is always ready to die."

     It can be put in a new way: "He liveth best who is always ready
     to put all upon the Altar."

     Humanity is well served when nations are ready to sacrifice
     themselves for her good.

     She is worst served by the nations who still preserve the
     tribal instinct to fight and destroy their neighbours.

     She is worst served by the nations who are enslaving other
     nations.

     And that nation is most alive which has most people ready to
     sacrifice themselves and their estate.

     That nation liveth worst which contains the most selfish.

     Of Christ it was written: He saved others; Himself he could not
     save. But the selfish man saves himself first and then thinks
     of others.

     The selfish man is quarrelsome and runs easily to law; he
     exacts guarantees; he counts his costs; he heavily insures; he
     holds what he does not want and is afraid of another getting
     it.

     That nation liveth best whose men and women are freest for an
     adventure.

     But worst whose men and women are most cautious.

     He is most happy who has run to the Altar and surrendered his
     _all_ there to God and then found a will and a way in which to
     live.

     For most, alas! there is no altar visible, no way to an altar.
     They do not know what the Altar is nor what it is for.

     Business and war and hate and selfish desire have hidden it
     from men's eyes.

     Only when the cloud lifts the Altar is disclosed, and men
     commonly when they see it leave all that they have and run to
     it and fling themselves before it in tears.

     It is the grand altar of humanity. The altar of _all_ on which
     the _one_ sacrifices himself.

     It is the altar of the sacrifice of Christ.

     The Cross.

     The quartering of humanity--an altar in the midst of the
     people.

     All education and literature and religious mission should be to
     one end--that the way to the Altar may be kept clear.

     It is work to clear away all the obstructions and the fogs and
     mists.

     Sweet singing, pious exhortation, the reading of books, love of
     the dim religious light of churches--these should not be ends
     in themselves.

     Humanity has its pious part which goes to church; but it does
     not need the organisation of the pious.

     Humanity has its charitable part but it does not need the
     organisation of the charitable.

     Humanity has its cultures but it does not stand in need of
     "schools of thought" and "cults" and "intelligentsia,"

     But humanity does need sacrifice upon the one great Altar,
     every day and all days.

The Cenotaph rising in our midst may be our altar. We may leave our
flowers there, the incense-smoke of burning hearts, but the flowers
should be our lives. The Cenotaph after all is only the visible sign of
the great invisible Cenotaph of humanity which stands in the midst of
the ages, an empty tomb in memory of all those who have gone before--of
those whose sacrifice _without ours_ is not perfect.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Westminster Abbey they have buried the dead soldier among poets and
statesmen. They have dug up from France Tom, Dick, or Harry, one of us,
unnamed, unknown, who laughed and talked and marched and fired and
suffered in the war, one of the many who are always unknown. He did
guard duty no doubt in France. He is put on sentry again. Touching as it
is to have a soldier in the dim light of the Abbey where so many can
shed invisible tears, it had been better perhaps in a stern era to have
posted him at St. Stephen's, at the entry to Parliament, that he might
challenge in his silence all who enter there to stand for England--

"Who goes there?"

"Friend."

"Advance and be recognised!"

"Pass, friend!"

Proceed at your peril if you cannot meet the challenge of the dead!



PRINTED BY CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, LA BELLE SAUVAGE, LONDON, E.C.4
F.100.121



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    |             Transcriber's Note:               |
    |                                               |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the  |
    | original document have been preserved.        |
    |                                               |
    | = sign denotes bold type                      |
    |                                               |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page 99 Algeerians changed to Algerians       |
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