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Title: Germany's Dishonoured Army - Additional records of German atrocities in France
Author: Morgan, Prof. J.H.
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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                           DISHONOURED ARMY.

                         ATROCITIES IN FRANCE.

                        PROFESSOR J. H. MORGAN.

            (Late Home Office Commissioner with the British
                         Expeditionary Force.)


                       12, DOWNING STREET, S.W.

               (M 3942) Wt. w. 8147-565 500M 8/15 H & S


 _In November, 1914, Professor Morgan was commissioned by the Secretary
 of State for Home Affairs to undertake the investigation in France
 into the alleged breaches of the laws of war by the German troops.
 His investigations extended over a period of four or five months.
 The first six weeks were spent in visiting the base hospitals and
 convalescent camps at Boulogne and Rouen, and the hospitals at
 Paris; during the remaining three months he was attached to the
 General Headquarters Staff of the British Expeditionary Force.
 Professor Morgan orally interrogated some two or three thousand
 officers and soldiers, representing almost every regiment in the
 British armies and all of whom had recently been engaged on active
 service in the field. The whole of these inquiries were conducted by
 Professor Morgan personally, but his inquiries at headquarters were
 of a much more systematic character. There, owing to the courtesy
 of Lieutenant-General Sir Archibald Murray, the late Chief of the
 General Staff, he had the assistance of the various services--in
 particular the Adjutant-General, the Provost-Marshal, the Director
 of Military Intelligence, the Director of Medical Services and their
 respective staffs--and also of the civil authorities, within the area
 at present occupied by the British armies, such as the sous-prefets,
 the procureurs de la République, the commissaires de police, and the
 maires of the communes. In this way he was enabled not only to obtain
 corroboration of the statements taken down at the base in the earlier
 stages, but also to make a close local study of the behaviour of the
 German troops towards the civil population during their occupation of
 the districts recently evacuated by them. The following is extracted
 (by permission of the Editor) from statements by Professor Morgan
 which appeared in the "Nineteenth Century" for June, 1915_:--


 A German military writer (von der Goltz) of great authority predicted
 some years ago that the next war would be one of inconceivable
 violence. The prophecy appears only too true as regards the conduct of
 German troops in the field; it has rarely been distinguished by that
 chivalry which is supposed to characterise the freemasonry of arms.
 One of our most distinguished Staff officers remarked to me that the
 Germans have no sense of honour in the field, and the almost uniform
 testimony of our officers and men induces me to believe that the
 remark is only too true.

 Abuse of the white flag has been very frequent, especially in the
 earlier stages of the campaign on the Aisne, when our officers,
 not having been disillusioned by bitter experience, acted on the
 assumption that they had to deal with an honourable opponent. Again
 and again the white flag was put up, and when a company of ours
 advanced unsuspectingly and without supports to take prisoners,
 the Germans who had exhibited the token of surrender parted their
 ranks to make room for a murderous fire from machine-guns concealed
 behind them. Or, again, the flag was exhibited in order to give
 time for supports to come up. It not infrequently happened that
 our company officers, advancing unarmed to confer with the German
 company commander in such cases, were shot down as they approached.
 The Camerons, the West Yorks, the Coldstreams, the East Lancs, the
 Wiltshires, the South Wales Borderers, in particular, suffered heavily
 in these ways. In all these cases they were the victims of organised
 German units, _i.e._, companies or battalions, acting under the orders
 of responsible officers.

 There can, moreover, be no doubt that the respect of the German troops
 for the Geneva Convention is but intermittent. Cases of deliberate
 firing on stretcher-bearers are, according to the universal testimony
 of our officers and men, of frequent occurrence. It is almost certain
 death to attempt to convey wounded men from the trenches over open
 ground except under cover of night.

 _=Killing the Defenceless Wounded.=_--A much more serious offence,
 however, is the deliberate killing of the wounded as they lie helpless
 and defenceless on the field of battle. This is so grave a charge that
 were it not substantiated by the considered statements of officers,
 non-commissioned officers, and men, one would hesitate to believe
 it. But even after rejecting, as one is bound to do, cases which
 may be explained by accident, mistake, or the excitement of action,
 there remains a large residuum of cases which can only be explained
 by deliberate malice. No other explanation is possible when, as
 has not infrequently happened, men who have been wounded by rifle
 fire in an advance, and have had to be left during a retirement for
 reinforcements, are discovered, in our subsequent advance, with nine
 or ten bayonet wounds or with their heads beaten in by the butt-ends
 of rifles. Such cases could not have occurred, the enemy being present
 in force, without the knowledge of superior officers. Indeed, I have
 before me evidence which goes to show that German officers have
 themselves acted in similar fashion.

 Some of the cases reveal a leisurely barbarity which proves great
 deliberation; cases such as the discovery of bodies of despatch-riders
 burnt with petrol or "pegged out" with lances or of soldiers with
 their faces stamped upon by the heel of a boot, or of a guardsman
 found with numerous bayonet wounds evidently inflicted as he was in
 the act of applying a field dressing to a bullet wound. There also
 seems no reason to doubt the independent statements of men of the
 Loyal North Lancs, whom I interrogated on different occasions, that
 the men of one of their companies were killed on the 20th of December
 after they had surrendered and laid down their arms. To what extent
 prisoners have been treated in this manner it is impossible to
 say--dead men tell no tales--but an exceptionally able Intelligence
 Officer at the headquarters of the Cavalry Corps informed me that it
 is believed that when British prisoners are taken in small parties
 they are put to death in cold blood. Certain it is that our men when
 captured are kicked, robbed of all they possess, threatened with death
 if they will not give information, and in some cases forced to dig


 The question as to how far these outrages are attributable to policy
 and superior orders becomes imperative. It was at first difficult to
 answer. For a long time I did not find, nor did I expect to find, any
 documentary orders to that effect. Such orders, if given at all, were
 much more likely to be verbal, for it is extremely improbable that the
 German authorities would be so unwise as to commit them to writing.
 But the outrages upon combatants were so numerous and so collective in
 character that I began to suspect policy at a very early stage in my

 _=Frenzy against British Troops.=_--On the 3rd of May I visited the
 Ministry of War in Paris at the invitation of the French military
 authorities, and was received by M. le Capitaine René Petit, Chef de
 Service du Contentieux, who conducted me to the department where the
 diaries of German prisoners were kept. I made a brief preliminary
 examination of them, and discovered the following passage (which I
 had photographed) in the diary of a German N.C.O., Göttsche, of the
 85th Infantry Regiment (the IXth Corps), fourth company detached for
 service, under date "Okt. 6, 1914, bei Antwerpen":--

 The Captain called us to him and said: "In the fortress [_i.e._
 Antwerp] which we have to take there are in all probability
 Englishmen. But I do not want to see any Englishmen prisoners in the
 hands of this company." A general "Bravo" of assent was the answer.

This malignant frenzy against British troops, so carefully instilled,
is borne out by a passage in another diary, now in the possession of
the French Ministry of War, which was found on the 22nd of April on
the body of Richard Gerhold, of the 71st Regiment of Infantry of the
Reserve, Fourth Army Corps, who was killed in September at Nouvron:--

 Here also things occur which should not be. Great atrocities are of
 course committed upon Englishmen and Belgians; every one of them is
 now knocked on the head without mercy. But woe to the poor German who
 falls into their hands.

As regards the last sentence in this diary, which is one long chapter
of horrors and betrays a ferocious credulity, it is worthy of remark
that I have seen at the French Ministry of War the diary of a German
N.C.O. named Schulze, who, judging by internal evidence, was a man
of exceptional intelligence, in which the writer refers to tales of
French and Belgian atrocities circulated among the men by his superior
officers. He shrewdly adds that he believes the officers invented these
stories in order to prevent him and his comrades from surrendering.

A less conclusive passage, but a none the less suspicious one, is
to be found in a diary now in my possession. It is the diary of an
Unteroffizier, named Ragge, of the 158th Regiment, and contains (under
date October 21) the following:--

 We pursued the enemy as far as we saw him. We "knocked out" many
 English. The English lay on the ground as if sown there. Those of the
 Englishmen who were still alive in the trenches were stuck or shot.
 Our company made 61 prisoners.

_=Damning Brigade Order.=_--So far I have only dealt with the acts
of small German units--_i.e._, companies of infantry. I now come to
the most damning proofs of a policy of cold-blooded murder of wounded
and prisoners, initiated and carried out by a whole brigade under the
orders of a Brigadier-General. This particular investigation took
me a long time, but the results are, I think, conclusive. It may
be remembered that some months ago the French military authorities
published in the French newspapers what purported to be the text of an
order issued by a German Brigadier-General, named Stenger, commanding
the 58th Brigade, in which he ordered his troops to take no prisoners
and to put to death without mercy every one who fell into their
hands, whether wounded and defenceless or not. The German Government
immediately denounced the alleged order as a forgery. I determined to
see whether I could establish its authenticity, and in February last
I obtained a copy of the original from M. Mollard, of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, who is a member of the Commission appointed by the
French Government to inquire into the alleged German atrocities. The
text of that order was as follows:--

 Army Order of 26 Aug., 1914, about 4 p.m., such as was given to his
 troops as a Brigade or Army Order by the leader of the 7th Company of
 the 112th Regiment of Infantry at Thionville, at the entrance of the
 wood of Saint Barbe.

 To date from this day no prisoners will be made any longer. All the
 prisoners will be executed. The wounded, whether armed or defenceless,
 will be executed. Prisoners, even in large and compact formations,
 will be executed. Not a man will be left alive behind us.

Taking this alleged order as my starting-point, I began to make
inquiries at British Headquarters as to the existence of any
information about the doings of the 112th Regiment. I soon found that
there was good reason to suspect it. Our Intelligence Department placed
in my hands the records of the examination of two men of this regiment
who had been captured by us. One of them volunteered a statement to
one of our Intelligence Officers on the 23rd of November to the effect
that his regiment had orders to treat Indians well, but were allowed to
treat British prisoners as they pleased. This man's testimony appeared
to be reliable, as statements he made on other points, _i.e._, as to
the German formations, were subsequently found to be true, and his
information as to discrimination in the treatment of Indians entirely
bore out the conclusions I had already arrived at on that particular
point. The German witness in question further stated that 65 out of 150
British prisoners were killed in cold blood by their escort on or about
the 23rd of October on the road to Lille, and that the escort were
praised for their conduct. Other German prisoners have, I may add, also
made statements that they had orders to kill all the English who fell
into their hands....

At the end of April--too late, unfortunately, for use by Lord Bryce's
Committee--one of our Intelligence Officers placed before me the
following entry in the field note-book of a German prisoner, Reinhart
Brenneisen[1], reservist, belonging to the 4th Company, 112th Regiment,
and dated in August (the same month as appears on the face of the order
in question):

 Then came a brigade order that all French, whether wounded or not, who
 fell into our hands were to be shot. No prisoners were to be made.

This, I think, may be said to put the reality of the brigade order in
question beyond doubt.

The cumulative effect of this evidence, coupled with the statements of
so many of our men who claim to have been eye-witnesses of wholesale
bayoneting of the wounded, certainly confirms suspicions of the
gravest kind as to such acts having been done by authority. Neither
the temperament of the German soldier nor the character of German
discipline (_furchtbar streng_--"frightfully strict"--as a German
prisoner put it to me) makes it probable that the German soldiers acted
on their own initiative. It would, in any case, be incredible that so
many cases of outrage could be sufficiently explained by any law of
averages, or by the idiosyncrasies of the "bad characters" present in
every large congregation of men....


It is clear that the treatment of civilians is regulated by no more
rational or humane policy than that of intimidation or, even worse, of
sullen vindictiveness. As the German troops passed through the communes
and towns of the arrondissements of Ypres, Hazebrouck, Bethune, and
Lille, they shot indiscriminately at the innocent spectators of their
march; the peasant tilling his fields, the refugee tramping the roads,
and the workman returning to his home. To be seen was often dangerous,
to attempt to escape being seen was invariably fatal. Old men and boys
and even women and young girls were shot like rabbits. The slightest
failure to comply with the peremptory demands of the invader has been
punished with instant death.

The curé of Pradelle, having failed to find the key of the church
tower, was put against the wall and shot; a shepherd at a lonely
farmhouse near Rebais who failed to produce bread for the German troops
had his head blown off by a rifle; a baker at Moorslede who attempted
to escape was suffocated by German soldiers with his own scarf; a
young mother at Bailleul who was unable to produce sufficient coffee
to satisfy the demands of twenty-three German soldiers had her baby
seized by one of the latter and its head dipped in scalding water; an
old man of seventy-seven years of age at La Ferté Gaucher who attempted
to protect two women in his house from outrage was killed with a rifle

=_No Value on Human Life._=--I select these instances from my notes
at random--they could be multiplied many times--as indications of the
temper of the German troops. They might, perhaps, be dismissed as the
unauthorised acts of small patrols were it not that there is only too
much evidence to show that the soldiers are taught by their superiors
to set no value upon human life, and things have been done which could
not have been done without superior orders.

For example, at Bailleul, La Gorgue, and Doulieu, where no resistance
of any kind was offered to the German troops, and where the latter were
present in force under the command of commissioned officers, civilians
were taken in groups, and after being forced to dig their own graves
were shot by firing parties in the presence of an officer. At Doulieu,
which is a small village, eleven civilians were shot in this way; they
were strangers to the place, and it was only by subsequent examination
of the papers found on their bodies that some of them were identified
as inhabitants of neighbouring villages. If these men had been guilty
of any act of hostility it is not clear why they were not shot at once
in their own villages, and inquiries at some of the villages from which
they were taken have revealed no knowledge of any act of the kind.
It is, however, a common practice for the German troops to seize the
male inhabitants (especially those of military age) of the places they
occupy and take them away on their retreat. Twenty-five were so taken
from Bailleul and nothing has been heard of them since. There is only
too much reason to suppose that the same fate has overtaken them as
that which befell the unhappy men executed at Doulieu.

=_A Possible Explanation._=--I believe the explanation of these
sinister proceedings to be that the men were compelled to dig trenches
for the enemy, to give information as to the movement of their own
troops, and to act as guides (all clearly practices which are a
breach of the laws of war and of the Hague Regulations), and then,
their presence being inconvenient and their knowledge of the enemy's
positions and movements compromising, they were put to death. This is
not a mere surmise. The male inhabitants of Warneton were forced to
dig trenches for the enemy, and an inhabitant of Merris was compelled
to go with the German troops and act as a guide; it is notorious
that the official manual of the German General Staff _Kriegsbrauch
im Landskriege_ condones, and indeed indoctrinates, such breaches of
the laws of war. British soldiers who were taken prisoners by the
Germans and subsequently escaped were compelled by their captors to dig
trenches, and in a field note-book found on a soldier of the 100th
Saxon Body Grenadiers (XIIth Corps) occurs the following significant

 My two prisoners worked hard at digging trenches. At midday I got the
 order to rejoin at village with my prisoners. I was very glad, as I
 had been ordered to shoot them both as soon as the French attacked.
 Thank God it was not necessary....


When life is held so cheap, it is not surprising that honour and
property are not held more dear. Outrages upon the honour of women by
German soldiers have been so frequent that it is impossible to escape
the conviction that they have been condoned and indeed encouraged by
German officers. As regards this matter I have made a most minute
study of the German occupation of Bailleul. This place was occupied
by a regiment of German Hussars in October for a period of eight
days. During the whole of that period the town was delivered over
to the excesses of a licentious soldiery and was left in a state of
indescribable filth.

There were at least thirty cases of outrages on girls and young married
women, authenticated by sworn statements of witnesses and generally by
medical certificates of injury. It is extremely probable that, owing to
the natural reluctance of women to give evidence in cases of this kind,
the actual number of outrages largely exceeds this. Indeed, the leading
physician of the town, Dr. Bels, puts the number as high as sixty.
At least five officers were guilty of such offences, and where the
officers set the example the men followed. The circumstances were often
of a peculiarly revolting character; daughters were outraged in the
presence of their mothers, and mothers in the presence or the hearing
of their little children. In one case, the facts of which are proved by
evidence which would satisfy any court of law, a young girl of nineteen
was violated by one officer while the other held her mother by the
throat and pointed a revolver, after which the two officers exchanged
their respective rôles. After the outrage they dragged the girl outside
and asked if she knew of any other young girls ("jeunes filles") in the
neighbourhood, adding that they wanted to do to them what they had done
to her.

=_No use appealing to German Officers._=--The officers and soldiers
usually hunted in couples, either entering the houses under pretence of
seeking billets, or forcing the doors by open violence. Frequently the
victims were beaten and kicked, and invariably threatened with a loaded
revolver, if they resisted. The husband or father of the women and
girls was usually absent on military service; if one was present he was
first ordered away under some pretext; and disobedience of civilians to
German orders, however improper, is always punished with instant death.
In several cases little children heard the cries and struggles of
their mother in the adjoining room to which she had been carried by a
brutal exercise of force. No attempt was made to keep discipline, and
the officers, when appealed to for protection, simply shrugged their
shoulders. Horses were stabled in salons; shops and private houses were
looted (there are nine hundred authenticated cases of pillage)....

The German troops were often drunk and always insolent. But
significantly enough, the bonds of discipline thus relaxed were
tightened at will and hardly a single straggler was left behind.

Inquiries in other places, in the villages of Meteren, Oultersteen,
and Nieppe, for example, establish the occurrence of similar outrages
upon defenceless women, accompanied by every circumstance of disgusting
barbarity. No civilian dare attempt to protect his wife or daughter
from outrage. To be in possession of weapons of defence is to be
condemned to instant execution, and even a village constable found in
possession of a revolver (which he was required to carry in virtue
of his office) was instantly shot at Westoutre. Roving patrols burnt
farmhouses and turned the women and children out into the wintry
and sodden fields with capricious cruelty and in pursuance of no
intelligible military purpose.


As regards private property, respect for it among the German troops
simply does not exist. By the universal testimony of every British
officer and soldier whom I have interrogated the progress of German
troops is like a plague of locusts over the land. What they cannot
carry off they destroy. Furniture is thrown into the street, pictures
are riddled with bullets or pierced by sword cuts, municipal registers
burnt, the contents of shops scattered over the floor, drawers rifled,
live stock slaughtered and the carcases left to rot in the fields.
This was the spectacle which frequently confronted our troops on the
advance to the Aisne and on their clearance of the German troops out of
Northern France. Cases of petty larceny by German soldiers appear to
be innumerable; they take whatever seizes their fancy, and leave the
towns they evacuate laden like pedlars. Empty ammunition waggons were
drawn up in front of private houses and filled with their contents for
despatch to Germany.

=_Robbery--pure and simple._=--I have had the reports of the local
commissaires of police placed before me, and they show that in smaller
villages like those of Caestre and Merris, with a population of about
1,500 souls or less, pillaging to the extent of 4,000_l._ and 6,000_l._
was committed by the German troops. I speak here of robbery which does
not affect to be anything else. But it is no uncommon thing to find
extortion officially practised by the commanding officers under various
more or less flimsy pretexts. One of these consists of holding a town
or village up to ransom under pretence that shots have been fired at
the German troops. Thus at the village of Merris a sum of 2,000_l._
was exacted as a fine from the Mayor at the point of a revolver under
this pretence, this village of 1,159 inhabitants having already been
pillaged to the extent of some 6,000_l._ worth of goods. At La Gorgue,
another small village, 2,000_l._ was extorted under a threat that if
it were not forthcoming the village would be burnt. At Warneton, a
small village, a fine of 400_l._ was levied. These fines were, it must
be remembered, quite independent of the requisitions of supplies. As
regards the latter, one of our Intelligence officers, whose duty it has
been to examine the forms of receipt given by German officers and men
for such requisitions, informs me that, while the receipts for small
sums of 100 francs or less bore a genuine signature, those for large
sums were invariably signed "Herr Hauptmann von Koepenick," the simple
peasants upon whom this fraud was practised being quite unaware that
the signature has a classical fictitiousness in Germany....

=_German Officers' Bestial Ways._=--Before I leave the subject of the
treatment of private property by the German troops, I should like to
draw the attention of the reader to some unpleasant facts which throw
a baneful light on the temper of German officers and men. If one thing
is more clearly established than another by my inquiries among the
officers of our Staff and divisional commands, it is that châteaux
or private houses used as the headquarters of German officers were
frequently found to have been left in a state of bestial pollution,
which can only be explained by gross drunkenness or filthy malice.
Whichever be the explanation, the fact remains that, while to use
the beds and the upholstery of private houses as a latrine is not an
atrocity, it indicates a state of mind sufficiently depraved to commit
one. Many of these incidents, related to me by our own officers from
their own observations, are so disgusting that they are unfit for
publication. They point to deliberate defilement.

=_Methods of Savages._=--The public has been shocked by the evidence,
accepted by Lord Bryce's Committee as genuine, which tells of such
mutilations of women and children as only the Kurds of Asia Minor had
been thought capable of perpetrating. But the Committee were fully
justified in accepting it--they could not do otherwise--and they
have by no means published the whole. Pathologists can best supply
the explanation of these crimes. I have been told by such that it is
not at all uncommon in cases of rape or sexual excess to find that
the criminal, when satiated by lust, attempts to murder or mutilate
his victim. This is presumably the explanation--if one can talk of
explanation--of outrages which would otherwise be incredible. The
Committee hint darkly at perverted sexual instinct. Cases of sodomy
and of the rape of little children did undoubtedly occur on a very
large scale. Some of the worst things have never been published.
This is not the time for mincing one's words but for plain speech.
Disgusting though it is, I therefore do not hesitate to place on record
an incident at Rebais related to me by the Mayor of Coulommiers in the
presence of several of his fellow-townsmen with corroborative detail. A
respectable woman in that town was seized by some Uhlans who intended
to ravish her, but her condition made rape impossible. What followed is
better described in French.

 Mme. H----, cafetière à Rebais, mise nue par une patrouille allemande,
 obligée de parcourir ainsi toute sa maison, chassée dans la rue et
 obligée de regarder les cadavres de soldats anglais. Les allemands lui
 barbouillent la figure avec le sang de ses règles.

It is almost needless to say that the woman went mad. There is very
strong reason to suspect that young girls were carried off to the
trenches by licentious German soldiery, and there abused by hordes of
savage and licentious men. People in hiding in the cellars of houses
have heard the voices of women in the hands of German soldiers crying
all night long until death or stupor ended their agonies.

One of our officers, a subaltern in the sappers, heard a woman's
shrieks in the night coming from behind the German trenches near
Richebourg l'Avoué; when we advanced in the morning and drove the
Germans out a girl was found lying naked on the ground "pegged out" in
the form of a crucifix. I need not go on with this chapter of horrors.
To the end of time it will be remembered, and from one generation to
another, in the plains of Flanders, in the valleys of the Vosges, and
on the rolling fields of the Marne, the oral tradition of men will
perpetuate this story of infamy and wrong....

=_Insolence which Knows no Pity._=--Although I have some claims to
write as a jurist I have here made no attempt to pray in aid the Hague
Regulations in order to frame the counts of an indictment. The Germans
have broken all laws, human and divine, and not even the ancient
freemasonry of arms, whose honourable traditions are almost as old as
war itself, has restrained them in their brutal and licentious fury.
It is useless to attempt to discriminate between the people and their
rulers; an abundance of diaries of soldiers in the ranks shows that all
are infected with a common spirit. That spirit is pride, not the pride
of high and pure endeavour, but that pride for which the Greeks found
a name in the word _ὕβρις_ the insolence which knows no pity and which
feels no love. Long ago Renan warned Strauss of this canker which was
eating into the German character. Pedants indoctrinated it, Generals
instilled it, the Emperor preached it. The whole people were taught
that war was a normal state of civilisation, that the lust of conquest
and the arrogance of race were the most precious of the virtues. On
this Dead Sea fruit the German people have been fed for a generation
until they are rotten to the core.


[1] Brenneisen is now a prisoner in England. The diary was a most
    carefully kept one.

                          TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

-Obvious print and punctuation errors fixed.

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software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.