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Title: With Cavalry in 1915 - The British Trooper in the Trench Line Through the Second - Battle of Ypres
Author: Coleman, Frederic
Language: English
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WITH CAVALRY IN 1915

[Illustration: THE AUTHOR

  _Frontispiece_]



  WITH CAVALRY

  IN 1915

  THE BRITISH TROOPER
  IN THE TRENCH LINE

  _Through the Second Battle of Ypres_


  BY

  FREDERIC COLEMAN, F.R.G.S.

  (_Author of "From Mons to Ypres with French"_)


  _ILLUSTRATED_


  LONDON
  SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO., LIMITED
  1916



  LONDON:
  PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
  DUKE STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E., AND GREAT WINDMILL STREET, W.



  Dedicated
  TO
  MY WIFE

  Whose bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of trying
  circumstances made it possible for me so long
  to continue to do the little that lay
  in my power to help the
  Cause we both
  thought
  JUST AND RIGHT.



AUTHOR'S PREFACE.


The more than kind reception that Press and Public accorded my first
book on the War, "From Mons to Ypres with French," has encouraged me
to put together a chronicle of further events.

"With Cavalry in 1915" takes up the thread of its narrative where its
predecessor left it--with the closing days of 1914.

If some notes of frank criticism have been included in this volume,
it has been with no unkindly feeling, or with any other object than
to try to give a fair picture of things at the Front as I saw them.

My unbounded admiration for the splendid soldiers of the British
Army, gained in the darker days of the Great Retreat from Mons, has
never wavered in its allegiance to them.

Never have I had occasion to change my opinion, formed in the first
few weeks of the War, that the British Tommy is worth five or six of
any German soldiers with whom he has yet come into contact.

In the machinery and organisation of war, the small British Army was
at a disadvantage, particularly when faced with the necessity of
great and rapid expansion. That mistakes should have been made was
more than natural--it was inevitable.

I would not be so presumptuous as to criticise so freely, but
that "the old order changeth": to write of the past is, I hope,
permissible, and likely to lead to no misconstruction. I mean no more
than that which the plain interpretation of my simple phraseology
will convey. I have no axes to grind.

The right men are in the British Army, and the right men are at the
head of it.

For its work to be crowned with complete and lasting victory, it has
but to have the undivided Empire behind it, and that, thank God, it
has.

The man who cannot see that the Allies will win this war, and win
it conclusively, is indeed blind to what the future holds for
civilisation.

  FREDERIC COLEMAN.

  MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA,
  _June, 1916_.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.

  JANUARY.

                                                                   PAGES

  General De Lisle and the 1st Cavalry Division Staff--Resting--Wet
  winter campaigning--Echoes of the Christmas truce--A would-be
  Hun prisoner--A visit to Furnes--A Belgian Officer's
  standpoint--Luncheon with Colonel Tom Bridges--The Belgian
  Army--Nieuport-les-Bains--The trenches along the Yser Canal--The
  ruined lighthouse in the sand dunes--Snow's 27th Division in the
  line in Flanders--Bad feet--Wrecked Vermelles--The devastation
  of "75" shells--"Le Sport"--General Robertson appointed Chief of
  Staff                                                             1-36


  CHAPTER II.

  FEBRUARY.

  Army Service Corps vagaries--Motor cars at the
  Front--Poperinghe--French Chasseurs--The equipment of the French
  foot-soldier--Belgian peasants--Flemish fatalism--The selection
  of trench positions--A cavalry counter-attack--French Staff
  work--British Staff officers--A run to Ypres--Scenes in the
  old Flemish city--On duty in the Salient--The Menin Road--A
  humble shop in the shell area--Ypres shelled--Belgian funerals
  under fire--The trench-line--General De Lisle has a narrow
  escape--The ruined Cloth Hall and Ypres Cathedral--Disappearing
  mural paintings--An Irish giant-powder experience--Wonderful
  marksmanship of the French "75's"--The way to the firing
  line--Past "Cavan's House"--Under fire--Brigade Headquarters in
  a dug-out                                                        37-73


  CHAPTER III.

  MARCH.

  Through the mud to the trenches--French reserves in the
  woods--Hidden batteries--Unwise photography--Shrapnel
  too close for comfort--Chased by shell-fire--In Hooge
  dug-outs--Reminiscences of the first Battle of Ypres--A tour
  of the first-line trenches in the rain--Loopholes--Views by
  periscope--Sharpshooting--A mouthful of glass--Photographs in
  Zillebeke Churchyard--Calling down shrapnel fire--A scamper
  out of Zillebeke--Hooge at night--A mine explosion--Mixed
  plans--Storming the mine-crater--Amusing German prisoners--The
  London "'bus" abroad--A timely evacuation of a house in
  Ypres--General Haig's order before Neuve Chapelle--Heavy British
  gunning--The taking of the town of Neuve Chapelle--The failure to
  go on--The reasons--The blame--German attack on St. Eloi--Fine
  work by the Rifle Brigade--Territorials--Ploegsteert and the
  Ploegsteert Wood--A run from Kemmel to Dickebusch--A shell in
  La Clytte                                                       74-120


  CHAPTER IV.

  APRIL.

  Rumours--Lord Kitchener's visit--A horticultural joke--German
  hate manufactured in Lille--Red Cross assistance--The peculiar
  exploit of Mapplebeck of the Flying Corps--A joy-ride through
  Ypres and up the Menin Road--The commencement of the fight for
  Hill 60--The first coming of the German gas--The plight of
  the French Reservists--The magnificent work of the Canadian
  Division--In support of the French line--Tangled traffic on
  the road to Ypres--Shelled in Elverdinghe--Deadly howitzer
  shells--Poperinghe bombarded--Belgian refugees--The aviation
  park evacuated--The want of traffic organisation--The 200
  Canadian heroes in St. Julian--Conflicting reports about the
  capture of Lizerne--International failure to coincide as to the
  results of battle--British infantry attacks to win back the lost
  ground--Children at play near a battle-field--Artillery work in
  modern warfare--An attack on Lizerne by British field guns and
  French Zouaves--The ethics of gun-fire--Lizerne proves a hard
  nut to crack--British counter-attacks along the salient line
  abortive--17-inch Hun shells--A big shell lights in a château
  garden--Shell plus chandelier--A car in a Belgian ditch--Billets
  in Wormhoudt--Welcome rest                                     121-177


  CHAPTER V.

  MAY.

  The shortening of the Ypres Salient--More Hun gas--Strange
  equipment for fighting the gas--The eve of Rawlinson's attack
  along the Fromelles road--Great hopes of winning through to
  Lille--The 1st Cavalry Division sent to Ypres--The French
  attack at Arras--The British horseshoe around Ypres--Through
  the ruined town of Potijze--Scenes of devastation--Under the
  shells--Awful smells--Streams of wounded--Shell-splinters--The
  G.H.Q. line--The St. Jean dug-outs--The hell of constant enemy
  howitzer fire--Preponderance of numbers of German heavy guns
  over British--The Auber ridge attack fails--Splendid examples
  of heroism among the wounded--The French attack fails to
  break through--Holding on at Ypres--Discovery of a dug-out at
  Potijze--The solitary old woman in wrecked Ypres--Wonderful
  pyrotechnic displays at night in the trenches--Blocked by
  shell and conflagration in Ypres--Unable to get through--An
  abandoned attempt at photography under bursting shells--A
  scared collie--The last inhabitants to escape from the ruins
  of Ypres--The "Princess Pat's"--A "Mother" gun and aeroplane
  artillery observations--General De Lisle given command of
  the eastern portion of the Salient--The remnants of the
  Northumberland Brigade--To bed by the light of the fires in
  Ypres--The composition of the Salient line on the night of
  May 12th                                                       178-222


  CHAPTER VI.

  MAY (_continued_).

  The great German attack on May 13th--Twelve hours of Hun
  howitzer fire--Terrible and awe-inspiring spectacle--The niagara
  of shell-sound--Around impassable Ypres to Potijze--Close
  work by a coal-box--Through a black shell-cloud--The York
  and Durham "Terriers"--Bombarded in a Potijze dug-out--The
  shell-swept line--Colonel Budworth's wisdom and the German
  General's lost opportunity--The super-human work of the
  Queen's Bays saves the line--The Life Guards shelled from
  their trenches--Bits of position lost wholesale--Good work by
  an armoured car--Accurate and invaluable gunning by British
  Artillery--German attacks dispersed--Heavy casualties among the
  18th Hussars--The splendid charge of the Blues, 10th Hussars and
  Essex Yeomanry--David Campbell's 6th Brigade holds a line of
  obliterated trenches--Reports of heavy losses--The remnants form
  a new line--A talk with two of the Blues on the battle-field--A
  plucky Essex Yeoman--Over 1,600 casualties in the two cavalry
  divisions engaged--A lost despatch case--In the "huts" near
  Vlamertinghe--An unnecessary run up the Menin Road at night--The
  flotsam and jetsam of a divisional relief in the dark--A cellar
  headquarters on the Menin Road--The position at Hooge--Cheery
  K.R.R. cyclists--A gunner's curious story--The composition of
  the Salient line on the morning of May 24th--In the thick of
  a Hun gas attack--The 28th Division lose their line--The 18th
  Hussars outflanked--A "Gas Diary"--The 9th Lancers hold the
  trench-line--Fine work by the York and Durham Territorials--The
  15th Hussars win laurels--Gas everywhere--A shell demolishes an
  ammunition limber--A brave Cheshire sergeant--A wounded Tommy
  and his yarn--Huns refuse to take prisoners--A counter-attack by
  the Royal Fusiliers--D.S.O.'s and Military Crosses--18th Hussars
  casualties--Captain Grenfell and Captain Court of the 9th Lancers
  buried at Vlamertinghe--General De Lisle given command of the
  29th Division and leaves France for the Dardanelles            223-296



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


  THE AUTHOR                                          _Frontispiece_

                                                        FACING PAGE

  Members of the Staff outside the headquarters of the
  1st Cavalry Division                                            8

  Between Philosophe and Vermelles; on the left, the
  château wall                                                    9

  A bird's-eye view of shattered Vermelles, January, 1915        28

  Major Desmond Fitzgerald of the Lancers and a gas-pipe
  trench-mortar                                                  29

  A Winter Cavalry shelter in France                             32

  Construction of Cavalry shelter in France                      33

  The Rue de Menin in March 1915, looking west over the
  Menin Bridge across the canal moat                             54

  Officers under the stone lion on the Menin Bridge at
  Ypres                                                          55

  The Grande Place at Ypres and the Cloth Hall, March,
  1915                                                           66

  The Choir of the ruined Ypres Cathedral                        67

  Scenes of battle of olden time in colours on the shattered
  walls of Ypres Cloth Hall                                      70

  A communication trench leading to the front line position
  in the Sanctuary Wood                                          71

  Officers of Lancers in their dug-outs in the front line
  trenches                                                       86

  A dug-out in front of Zillebeke                                87

  The Zillebeke Church, March 1915                               92

  German prisoners in Ypres, captured after the explosion
  of a British mine near Hooge                                   93

  Damage caused by a 17-inch shell in Poperinghe, April,
  1915                                                          150

  Red Cross ambulances on the coast                             151

  A French "75" in the mud of a Flanders beet-field             172

  An ambulance which was struck by a shell while carrying
  wounded from east of Ypres                                    172

  View showing depth of 17-inch shell-hole in the garden of
  a château between Poperinghe and Elverdinghe.                 173

  Staff Officers at lunch                                       176

  Looking east over the Menin Bridge at the edge of Ypres       177

  Dragoon Guards resting in the huts at Vlamertinghe            212

  Graves of Capt. Annesley, Lieut. Drake, and Capt. Peto,
  all of the 10th Hussars, in a graveyard on the Menin
  Road                                                          213

  Officers of the Cavalry Corps                                 218

  A typical farm in Flanders, in which British soldiers were
  billeted                                                      219

  Hussars' cook-house, Vlamertinghe huts, Vlamertinghe.         248

  Group of Cavalry Officers at the huts at Vlamertinghe.        249

  View of the 13th century château at Esquelbecque              260

  "Jeff" Phipps-Hornby and Frederic Coleman comparing
  underpinning outside Ypres, May, 1915: the thinnest
  and thickest "supports" in the 1st Cavalry Division           261

  Map                                                           296



WITH CAVALRY IN 1915.



CHAPTER I.


January 1st, 1915, found me in damp, sodden Flanders. I was one of
the dozen remaining members of the original Royal Automobile Club
Corps, which had joined the British Expeditionary Force in France
before Mons and the great retreat on Paris.

I was attached, with my car, to the Headquarters Staff of the 1st
Cavalry Division, Major-General H. de B. de Lisle, C.B., D.S.O.,
commanding. The Echelon A Divisional Staff Mess consisted of General
de Lisle; Colonel "Sally" Home, 11th Hussars, G.S.O. 1; Major Percy
Hambro, 15th Hussars, G.S.O. 2; Captain Cecil Howard, 16th Lancers,
G.S.O. 3; Major Wilfred Jelf, R.H.A., Divisional Artillery Commander;
Captain "Mouse" Tomkinson, "Royals," A.P.M.; Captain Hardress Lloyd,
4th Dragoon Guards, A.D.C.; Lieutenant "Pat" Armstrong, 10th Hussars,
A.D.C., and myself.

We were housed in a château between Cassel and St. Omer. In the
latter town General French and General Headquarters (G.H.Q.) were
located.

The 1st Cavalry Division contained the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades.
The 1st Brigade, under Major-General Briggs, was composed of the
2nd Dragoons (Queen's Bays), 5th Dragoon Guards and 11th Hussars.
Brigadier-General Mullens commanded the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, in which
were the 4th Dragoon Guards, 9th Lancers and 18th Hussars.

These troops were billeted in Flemish farms and villages north of the
road that led from Cassel to Bailleul.

Sir John French's army in the field at that time was composed of
the 1st Army under General Sir Douglas Haig, and the 2nd Army
under General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. The corps units were as
follows:--1st Corps, General C. C. Monro; 2nd Corps, General Sir
Charles Fergusson; 3rd Corps, General Pulteney; 4th Corps, General
Sir Henry Rawlinson; Cavalry Corps, General Allenby; Indian Corps,
General Sir James Willcocks; Indian Cavalry Corps, General Rimington;
and the Flying Corps under General Henderson. Of the new 5th Corps,
which was to be under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer, only
the 27th Division was as yet "out," though the 28th Division was
ready to embark.

Most of the news parcelled out to those who were "resting" in billets
back of the line came from the London newspapers.

Typed sheets, dubbed "summaries of information," and issued by
G.H.Q., were distributed daily, but were never valuable and rarely
really informative.

The G.H.Q. information sheet of January 1st, 1915, read: "The Germans
made an attack on the right of our line, south of Givenchy, yesterday
evening, and captured an observation post. This post was retaken by a
counter-attack early this morning, but later on was again captured by
the enemy. The line has now been reorganized."

A friend in the 1st Army, which was covering the part of the line
thus attacked, showed me the 1st Army summary of 7 p.m., January
1st, which added the following to the news on the situation: "All
is quiet in front. Fighting on right of 1st Corps last night was
not as serious as at first reported. Casualties in Scots Guards
believed to be about five officers and fifty other ranks. Most of
these casualties occurred owing to the regiment pushing on beyond
the original trench, and attacking the enemy's position. This wet
weather is entailing great hardship on the men, who are fully engaged
repairing trenches, some of which have had to be abandoned owing to
water. The Germans are reported to be no better off."

Such brief, dry, official summaries applied to most of the wet days
of January, 1915. Trench warfare in winter has a very stoggy sameness
about it.

A 3rd Corps advance in front of the Ploegsteert Wood resulted in
several of our men being drowned while attacking, so deep was the
water in the submerged shell-holes in the flooded area.

Discipline, the capacity to go forward in pursuance of an order, in
spite of the fact that doing so seems utterly futile, is possessed
by the British troops to a remarkable degree. Small operations,
comparatively unimportant in scope and result, served to demonstrate
daily the splendid spirit of the men under inconceivably trying
conditions.

One trench at Givenchy was taken and retaken time after time, and the
men ordered to capture the trench were ever found ready to "go up"
in the same dashing way, though they knew to a man that the assault
meant inevitable loss, and would more than likely be followed by a
further enforced evacuation, by their own comrades, of the untenable
position.

The Huns were well supplied with trench-mortars, bombs and
hand-grenades, and used them with great effect. Our men had
practically none of these indispensable attributes to trench warfare,
or at least had so few of them that their use produced comparatively
negligible results.

The Christmas truce between British and German units confronting
each other in the trenches produced echoes for weeks. The order from
General French stating clearly that "the Commander-in-Chief views
with the greatest displeasure" such fraternizing with the enemy had
produced a partial effect, but instances still occurred where the
Huns took the initiative in the matter of peace overtures for short
periods.

A visit to one part of our front line unearthed the following story:
The opposing trenches were separated by a highway, across which, one
morning, a German soldier shouted, "Let's have a truce for to-day. We
don't want to kill you fellows. Why should we kill each other? We are
to be relieved by the Prussians to-morrow night. You can kill them if
you like. We don't care. We are Saxons."

The extraordinary proposal was taken in good part, and the truce kept
for thirty-six hours. No men of either army left their trenches, but
not a shot was fired from German or English trench at that point.

A few miles from the scene of this incident the men of the opposing
armies became quite accustomed to calling across the intervening
ground to their enemies. Each side, one day, boasted of the
excellence of its food supply. A British Tommy declared his lunch
ration included an incomparable tin of sardines. A German soldier
shouted his disbelief that Tommy possessed any such delicacy.
Thereupon an empty sardine tin on the point of a bayonet was raised
above the British trench parapet in proof of Tommy's statement.

"That's a sardine _tin_," yelled a Hun derisively, "but there is no
sardine in it, mein friend."

A few minutes passed, then a tin of sardines, unopened and temptingly
whole and sound was thrown from the English trench towards the trench
of the enemy. It fell short. Over his parapet vaulted a big German,
who dashed at the tin with outstretched hand. As his fingers were
closing over it, it jumped from his grasp. Again he stooped and
reached for it. Again it leaped away. Tommy had attached a thin but
stout line to his sardine tin, willing to prove his assertion, but
with no idea of losing his luncheon.

Two or three times the big Hun grabbed wildly at the elusive prize,
amid the shouts and laughter of the men of both armies, who cheered
in unison as Hans was at last convinced of the futility of further
effort and retired in confusion to his trench.

In the early hours of the New Year a trench full of Westphalians
and a party from a section of our line held by the 4th Corps,
fraternised to such an extent that visits were paid by each
contingent to the "no-man's land" between the trenches. When the
British soldiers returned to their trench, they found a man curled up
in the bottom of it. Investigation showed him to be a German soldier.

"'Ere, git out o' this," said Tommy indignantly. "You're bloomin'
well in the wrong 'ouse."

"No," said the Hun decidedly, "me prisoner, prisoner!"

"Not you," was the indignant reply. "Play the gime, you silly old
'Un, an' 'ook it."

But such was not the intention of the Saxon lad. With hands in air
to indicate his abject surrender, he insisted he was a prisoner and
refused to budge.

Nonplussed, the Tommies shouted over to the Germans: "'Ere's one o'
your chaps 'ere as won't go 'ome, the silly beggar. 'E's lorst 'is
way, poor chap, an' don't know where 'e are."

"Send him back to us, please," was the prompt request from the
Deutschers.

[Illustration: Members of the Staff outside the headquarters of the
1st Cavalry Division]

[Illustration: Between Philosophe and Vermelles; on the left, the
château wall]

But not a move would the Hun make, until at last half a dozen stout
Tommies hoisted him over the parapet with the butts of their rifles.
Still he tarried. With an oath a burly British corporal called two of
his comrades. They leaped out of the trench, grabbed the hesitating
Hun, and marched him at quick time to his own lines. There they
turned him over to his officer, presented arms in salute, wheeled and
marched gravely back to their own trench.

"What did the German bloke say when you chucked the chap to him?" was
asked the corporal.

"Thynks," laconically replied that worthy, "an' no more, except
to sye, 'We'll fix the rotter.' An' so they bloomin' well
should--desertin' durin' a bally troose that wye--the dirty dog."

As the 1st Cavalry Division was "resting," visits to points of
interest were the order of the day. On Monday, January 4th, General
de Lisle, Captain Hardress Lloyd, and I ran, _viâ_ quaint old Bergues
and Dunkirk, to Furnes, where King Albert of the Belgians had his
Headquarters.

Belgian sentries were plentiful after Dunkirk. They frequently
stopped us, but generally the word "Anglais" was a sufficient
passport. Now and again Lloyd produced a British pass, at which the
Belgians would invariably look blandly, if uncomprehendingly, then
salute and urbanely wave us on our way. Any sort of pass would have
served with ninety-nine out of a hundred such sentries.

The coast district in Belgium was not interesting in itself. Roadways
ran between sluggish, morbid-looking canals and flat, dispirited
fields--a sad, soggy, flabby land, in very truth.

Furnes was a picturesque relief. The architectural beauties of the
Hotel de Ville and one or two other buildings in its fine old square
were undeniable. Not long after our visit Furnes was viciously
shelled by the Huns. Later it was practically devastated by big
howitzer shells. Three or four days before our visit to the town a
Black Maria had landed in a busy spot near the square one noontide,
killing ten people and wounding a dozen others.

Nieuport, not far away, was under a heavy bombardment when we arrived
in Furnes. Three days before sixty French soldiers had been killed
in one day in Nieuport, which had proved so great a death-trap that
all troops had been moved to dug-outs outside the town.

I had a chat with one of King Albert's Staff whom I had previously
met in London. He was a very outspoken critic of the Belgian
officers, and of the policy that had resulted in the Belgian
evacuation of Antwerp before such a _débâcle_ was absolutely
necessary.

We had lunch in Furnes with Colonel Tom Bridges. I had seen much of
Bridges during the first months of the War, when he was attached to
the 4th Dragoon Guards as a major. He led a charge at Tour de Paissy,
on the Aisne, which saved the British line. Promoted to the rank of
Colonel, he was given command of the 4th Hussars. A very few days
afterwards, while on a night march, he was sent for by General Sir
John French. Arriving at G.H.Q., Bridges, who had been the British
Military Attaché in Belgium prior to the War and knew the Belgian
Army well, was given certain instructions, placed in a Rolls-Royce
car, and at once started for Antwerp. He arrived late at night, after
a continuous run of over 600 kilometres, and saw King Albert, who at
once convened a Council of War. Bridges then jumped into the work at
hand without a moment's delay.

Tom Bridges arrived in Antwerp on November 3rd. The city was
evacuated by the Belgians on November 8th.

Having heard so much of the prominent part Bridges had played in
the affairs of the Belgians, I looked forward with all the more
anticipation to again meeting him.

Major Prince Alexander of Teck, attached to Colonel Bridges' mission,
and Mrs. Bridges, who had recently been at work in the Duchess of
Sutherland's hospital at Dunkirk, were at luncheon.

Colonel Bridges talked of King Albert. "The King gives to a stranger
the impression that he comes to a decision slowly. I have heard men,
who have met him, say they thought him extremely deliberate, but all
recognise his solid foundation of determination. But for that rock
on which the King's stern determination is set, there would be but
little Belgian Army left to-day. To King Albert personally much more
is due than is likely ever to be known."

The more I saw of the Belgian Army along the Yser, the more I
appreciated what Bridges had said of the King.

After luncheon, I drove General de Lisle, Colonel Bridges and
Hardress Lloyd to Nieuport-les-Bains, once a sea-coast summer resort
at the mouth of the Yser. The Allied trench line was roughly the line
of the canal. On the coast in the sandy dunes, the Allies' trenches
had been pushed a bit to the Ostend side, but Dixmude was still in
German hands.

Not a single inhabitant of Nieuport-les-Bains was in the town--not
a man, woman or child. The French Tirailleurs d'Afrique, part of
a splendid division of French Colonials that had been sent by
Foch to "stiffen" that part of the line, occupied the ruins of
the summer resort that was. The typical French summer hotels in
Nieuport-les-Bains were, for the most part, shapeless piles of
_débris_.

The Huns never succeeded in actually penetrating the town, though Von
Beseler's troops tried hard to take it. The Germans reached the river
bank which formed the town's boundary on the north.

The main thoroughfare was blocked at frequent intervals by great
barricades made from bathing machines, hauled in a row and filled
with sand and paving stones. Asphalt tennis courts were scarred
with shell-holes. No open space had been spared during the weeks of
itinerant bombardment.

As we approached the town French batteries of "75's" were firing hard
from positions in the dunes by the roadway.

The French General Officer Commanding arrived as we alighted from our
car. But one house was standing in the northern edge of the town.
Into it we filed on the heels of the French General, up its stair
to the garret, and still up a rickety ladder to a point of vantage
under the very eaves. Through shell-holes in the tile roofing, French
observers directed the fire of the batteries below. Across the Yser,
in front of us, we would see the French and German trenches among the
low sand hills. For long spaces they ran but fifteen to twenty yards
apart and in one sector a German sap was but five yards from the
French escarpment.

For a time we watched the shells from the "75's" bursting over the
German trenches. Descending, we crossed the Yser practically at
its mouth. A pontoon bridge, vaunting a placard showing it had been
christened the "Pont Gal Joffre," led between twin piers. The bridge
swayed and tossed like the deck of a channel steamer as we picked our
way gingerly across it. Some months later a Jack Johnson, luckily
placed by the enemy, entirely smashed that pontoon bridge.

Gaining the northern bank we zig-zagged through deep trenches in
the sand, reinforced here and there with timbers and stone. An open
crater and a pile of _débris_ marked what had once been a lighthouse.
Dug-outs, shelters in miniature, lined the sides of the crater
nearest the Huns. The open bowl of sand was about forty feet in
diameter. Near its centre gaped a shell-hole in the soft sand made by
an unwelcome visitor which had come less than a half hour previously.
Digging for a few moments, I unearthed the still warm timing-fuse of
the 105-millimetre shell that had made the hole.

The lighthouse position was, the sergeant of Tirailleurs said, a
_mauvais place_. From morning until night of the day before the Huns
had shelled it. Many shells had fallen in the hours just preceding
our arrival. General de Lisle and Colonel Bridges left Hardress Lloyd
and me there, "for safety," while they walked through the front line
positions, which were from a hundred to a hundred and sixty yards
further forward.

I investigated the interiors of the tiny dug-outs during the
General's absence. No shell fell near, however, and soon we were all
retracing our steps to Nieuport-les-Bains. Once a sniper spied one of
the party, and a bullet from his rifle kicked up a spurt of sand a
few feet from my head. We acknowledged the attention by an additional
foot or so of "stoop" thenceforth.

Over a cup of tea at Colonel Bridges' headquarters, I met an old
acquaintance in Lady Ross, who had that day handed to the Queen of
the Belgians a cheque for £1,000 for Belgian sufferers. Lady Ross
told me of an interesting conversation with King Albert at luncheon.
After discussing at length the general subject of the difficulty of
realisation of war's hardships and atrocities by those whose homes
have been far from the actual scenes of war, the conversation
drifted to the refugee question. King Albert agreed that all
able-bodied Belgians of military age should be with the Army, and
declared emphatically his intention to press for steps that would
lead to such a consummation.

The result of my visit to Furnes and Nieuport-les-Bains was to
confirm my impression that the Germans had fortified their positions
along the coast, and so entrenched themselves that to take Ostend by
direct land attack was impossible, except at very great cost indeed.

The assistance that could be given by the Admiralty to such a project
was greatly discounted by the fact that the ships available were out
of range when outside the sandbanks that lay near the coast, and
outclassed by the enemy's land batteries when inside the banks.

Many folk visited the Belgian Army in the trenches during those
January days. Less than a week after we had visited Furnes, a couple
of us ran to Dunkirk on Sunday to buy some fresh fish, a delicacy as
rare as it was wholesome. While in Dunkirk I saw Lord Northcliffe
and my old friend Max Pemberton, who had come over for a "weekend at
the Front" with the Belgians. The next day eighteen German aeroplanes
flew over Dunkirk and dropped several bombs, doing some material
damage and killing one civilian.

On Tuesday, January 12th, General de Lisle ran to Boeschoeppe,
south-west of the St. Eloi area, to see General T. O'D. Snow and his
27th Division. While waiting for the General I had good opportunity
to see and talk to some of the newly arrived men. They had been
marched about fourteen miles before being put into the trench-line,
then marched back to billets when relieved. Some had come back from
eight to eleven miles on foot. As they were not supplied with changes
of socks or any sort of patent solution for their feet, and as the
trenches were at places knee-deep in water, a general epidemic of
frost-bitten feet could but be expected.

Limping along the frozen road, with socks wound about their poor
feet, I felt great sympathy for the Tommies. Before three days had
passed I heard that the 27th Division sick-list had been augmented
by over two thousand cases of "bad feet." One Brigade Major in the
Division told of over one thousand cases in his Brigade alone. A bad
business, entailing great suffering and more permanent disablement
than a little, all for want of proper foresight.

Small engagements with the enemy all along the line were constantly
taking place. Official reports teemed with briefly and baldly told
stories such as the following:--

  "The following are details of the capture of a German trench to
  the north of La Bassée on the night of the 3rd-4th January.

  "Time--8 p.m. January 3rd, 1915.

  "Artillery--Nil.

  "Strength of attack--One officer, twenty-five men.

  "Distance between opposing trenches--150 to 200 yards.

  "Enemy's trench consisted of a short length of trench which had
  been dug outwards from a saphead, and which was occupied by one
  officer and twenty-five to thirty men. (Two sentries.)

  "Attack--The attack crept forward noiselessly to the trench A A,
  two German sentries were awake and were bayoneted, the occupants
  were asleep and were all bayoneted; the officer's head was broken
  in with the butt end of a rifle--not a shot was fired--some men
  set to work at once and cut the ground A B, thus flooding the
  trench A A.

  [Illustration]

  "The attackers were only fifteen minutes in the German trench and
  left the bayoneted Germans in the water, which was then running
  in from the water ditch. A A was only a short length of trench
  without wire.

  "British casualties--One wounded and two missing. The latter may
  have since returned."

Quiet days found many a British soldier hard at work over a
French-English "conversation-book." Some of these were hurriedly
prepared and of a character truly extraordinary. One such book, made
up for the benefit of an industrious young man, contained a question
that, translated, ran thus:--

"Q. Where is the cat of my mother's aunt?"

"A. No, but the kittens are drowned."

In Vermelles, on January 15th, I took a dozen photographs showing the
devastation that can be worked by French high explosive shells.

Vermelles was an object lesson. Held by the Germans as strongly as
any town was held in front of the French position south of the La
Bassée canal, trenched and barricaded with wonderful skill, and well
supported by a mass of guns, its capture was only effected after
weeks of sapping and an artillery bombardment that had up to that
time been without parallel. Its ruins held texts for innumerable
sermons on the newer strategy of present-day warfare.

A French officer of standing had told me that he considered the
taking of Vermelles from the Germans a most hopeful sign that the
French could take any and all German positions in like manner, if
they cared to pay the price in men and ammunition.

Geographically, Vermelles was in what was bound to prove a "warm
corner." The German thrust westward from La Bassée, with Bethune as
an objective, had cost the British Expeditionary Force some of the
hardest fighting it had seen.

In that area our Second Corps, then the Indian Corps, and lastly our
First Corps, with the French troops at times in action with us, had
withstood a battering that no other point in the long line from the
sea to the Vosges, save possibly the Ypres Salient, had been called
upon to stand.

The German advance to the westward had reached Vermelles, and there
been held. Their farthermost line was in front of the western edge of
the town, and close to the main road that led through it. The enemy
was in possession of Vermelles for a couple of months.

As no English troops had participated in the taking of Vermelles from
the Huns, except for the assistance rendered by some of our heavier
batteries, we knew little of what had happened in that theatre
save that six weeks of sapping, a mad rush after an unprecedented
bombardment, and terrific hand-to-hand bayonet fighting in the
streets, had resulted in the French occupation of the town on
December 7th.

Our visit had been arranged for us by Captain Fresson, the French
liaison officer attached to 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters.
General de Lisle, Colonel Home, Major Hambro, Fresson and I were in
the party.

Coming out of Bethune, on the Lens road, we passed through Beuvry,
then through Shilly-Labourse.

In the fields by the roadside were trenches, increasing in frequency
along the road from Sailly to Noyelles-lez-Vermelles.

When Noyelles was passed, and we could glance across the slightly
rolling fields that led eastwards to Vermelles, a mile distant, a
little world of trenches met the eye. Some giant, prehistoric mole,
crazed with pain and bent on expending his agony on the surface of
Mother Earth, might have so ripped the fields.

Not rows of trenches, but curved and twisting galleries upon
galleries of them. For the first time I began to get an inkling of
what real trench warfare--the battles of the pick and shovel--meant.

At the headquarters of the French General who was in command of that
section of the line a most elaborate _déjeuner_ had been prepared
for the party, with the result that it was well into the afternoon
before we left the hospitable Frenchman and, in tow of a member of
his staff, commenced our tour of sight-seeing.

Most buildings thereabouts were shell-scarred; some were burned. No
inhabitants were to be seen. The boom of distant shells was ever
present, and now and then one burst in sight of us. Detachments of
French infantry marched past frequently.

We ran to Noyelles, which was full of hard-as-nails-looking French
soldiers.

There the party alighted, and guided by a young French infantry
officer, who had seen the fighting over that ground, walked across
the trench-scarred battle-field eastward to Vermelles.

I followed sufficiently far to gain an idea of the lie of the land,
then returned to Noyelles and took my car to Vermelles by road,
arriving in advance of the others. This allowed me a long stroll of
inspection, to be augmented later by a second tour in the company of
the General, with a French Staff officer as escort.

The German first line trenches to the west of the town were well
constructed. Though they had been considerably damaged by the rain
of shells that had been poured on them, they were not as badly
demolished as one might expect. Back of this first line of defence
was a second line, weaving in and out--here in front, now behind, now
through, the string of houses on the west of Vermelles' main street.

In the southern portion of the town were the ruins of the Château
Watteble. The grounds of the once imposing château allowed a
sufficiently clear space for still another formidable trench-line.
Behind that the enemy had placed other lines, burrowing here and
there at points of vantage through the town. Adjacent to the château
were piles of bricks that once had been a fine farm, the Ferme Brion,
and in front of it, completely demolished, and bearing no semblance
of shape or form that would indicate its original outlines, was
a chapel, where a German gun had been placed. This gun, a French
officer told me, had been served gallantly until the French were but
fifty yards distant, when a battery of the famous "75's" found the
range and totally annihilated the gun, the chapel, and any of the
enemy who were so unfortunate as to be in its vicinity.

The church, its square tower battered out of shape, was still the
most conspicuous landmark of the country round. Another sample
of devastation was the brewery, and attached to it an elaborate
dwelling, one portion of which was built over a metal frame. All
the covering had been torn from the iron girders, leaving the mere
skeleton of the framework practically intact, a weird sight.

The German trenches and communications burrowed so consistently
everywhere from the western edge of the town, and on through to the
eastward, that every foot of ground afforded opportunity for study.
These lines of defence, all connected and fed by approach trenches,
cleverly constructed, with their traverses and reserve off-shoots,
led away for hundreds of yards to the rear of the front line.

That, then, was the town the French had to face, defended by
machine-guns in splendid emplacements, every position well manned.
The first line commanded an open front of slightly rising ground,
clear of all obstacles and capable of being swept for 800 to 1,000
yards. Military science in trench construction had been aided by
ingenuity of a high order, and hours of wandering over and through
the rabbit warrens made for men, as cleverly as ever rodent designed
his burrow, found one discovering new wonders at every step.

The trenches proper were for the most part deep and narrow, stout of
wall, reinforced with every manner of material likely to strengthen
the defensive ramparts and bastions. Here the thickness of a piece of
house wall had been doubled by sandbags. There the face of a trench
had been reinforced by huge stones, interspersed with all sorts of
receptacles, such as water-buckets, cooking utensils, wheel-barrows,
and all manner of tins, filled with brick, small stones or cement.

A woman's bodice neatly tied about a few pounds of stone, the wooden
cover of a household sewing-machine, loaded with brick, and even
a stout brown-paper cardboard box full of mortar, caught my eye
as I searched the stoutly-built wall curved round and back and
round again through what had once been a house-yard. Traverses that
demanded admiration from the most apathetic student of engineering,
loops of trenches that commanded every front, approach trenches that
wriggled like some great yellow-brown snake off toward the rear, were
perfect each one in its own way.

Practically every point in the town could be reached by a German on
tour of inspection of its defences, without the necessity of his
leaving cover, save to cross the roadway of the main thoroughfare.
Beside all this under-the-surface protection, the shelter of the
buildings, all constructed of brick or stone and strongly built, was
by no means to be despised.

Truly, when the French officer said no place could be made more
secure, there was some reason for his words. But strong as it was,
and in spite of its splendid artillery support, the position was
one that the French had to take, whether or no. Six long weeks of
constant work was represented by those torn and wounded fields that
stretched away westward to Noyelles. Sapping their way, entrenching
and consolidating every forward step, the little men in red and
blue crept up to a line varying by from one to two hundred yards, and
even nearer at one point, to the German front.

[Illustration: A bird's-eye view of shattered Vermelles, January, 1915]

[Illustration: Major Desmond Fitzgerald of the Lancers and a gas-pipe
trench-mortar]

But sapping and mining, and entrenching and consolidating, so
valuable in themselves, responsible for the finely fortified position
of the Germans in Vermelles, and the splendid mole-advance against
them by the French, was not the chief factor that was to play the
decisive part in the war-game that culminated in the capture of the
town on December 7th.

Gun-fire was the decisive element. To the beloved "soixante-quinze"
was to go the chief honour. Only a careful personal inspection of
the town could tell one the real story of Vermelles as I saw it on
January 15th. The camera might assist, and, in spite of the dull
weather, I obtained a few pictures with that end in view, but the
camera could give one the story only haltingly and in part.

Not one building in all the town was unwrecked. The French "75's,"
with some aid from the British howitzers, reduced Vermelles to ruins
in the most literal and complete sense. Every edifice, from the
piles of brick around the few tottering walls that was once a proud
château to the humblest barn or outbuilding, was in itself a study.
The evidence left by such shell-fire of its power for evil is of
fascinating interest owing to its infinite variety. One wall had
withstood half-a-dozen punctures of varying diameter, holes four or
five feet in width, some of them, while its fellow beside it had
crumbled into a formless mass of _débris_. Side by side were two
houses, one with front practically intact, its roof gone and its
interior and back portion blown to bits, the other minus front wall,
but still standing, its roof at a crazy angle, resting insecurely on
the remainder of the building, which, save for a scar here and there,
escaped comparatively untouched.

It is this caprice of shell-fire that makes such a veritable hell of
it.

Trenches with sides blown in; here a hole like a good-sized cellar;
there a traverse filled to the level of the ground around it; a
gap in the defence wall in front; iron-work twisted into grotesque
shapes; stone-work pulverised; _débris_ in piles; with clothing,
bedding, household implements, farm machinery and gear, child's
toys, religious emblems, personal effects, and bundles of every
description, all jumbled together in such an odd, unnatural way, that
a laugh and a catch in the throat often came together.

Vermelles on that sodden day in January was full of French soldiers
in reserve--men of the 131st and 262nd Infantry Brigades, some from
16th and some from 18th Corps units. The firing line proper was from
three to four kilometres to the eastward. On the west side of the
town a French battery was firing regularly, the shells singing over
our heads. The German shells were falling frequently half a mile in
front of us.

It was my good fortune to discover a French soldier who had seen the
actual final bayonet attack which won the position. His story was
graphic, but told in few words. The creeping up to the forward French
trenches, the fierce bombardment, the wild charge, the discovery
that in spite of the fact that the place had been literally blown to
bits, and German dead strewn everywhere, some defenders still held
on and manned the murderous machine-guns, until they felt the cold
steel--it all seemed so matter-of-fact, and such a matter-of-course
sort of story in such surroundings.

In each of the yards of the better-class dwellings and farms,
including the grounds of the château and brewery, were graves of
German soldiers. Many of these were marked with rude crosses bearing
touching inscriptions. One such epitaph that caught my eye described
the dead soldier as a good comrade; another as a brave man who had
died for the Fatherland. Many of them bore a simple religious touch.
One grave covered a German officer, buried by the French after the
capture of the town. The French soldiers had marked his name and a
respectful word or two on the rude cross above it, in obvious keeping
with the inscriptions the Germans had written on adjacent crosses
raised while they were in occupation.

In an effort to tell me how full the redoubts were of German dead,
when Vermelles was at last taken, my soldier guide found that words
failed him. They were everywhere, he said.

[Illustration: A winter Cavalry shelter in France]

[Illustration: Construction of Cavalry shelter in France]

Many of the graves, particularly those of the French soldiers buried
thereabouts, were headed by black or white metal wreaths.

"It cost dear," said my soldier, "and we paid. But a Boche who lived
through the last few days of the fighting here, and escaped from that
last charge, will be able to tell a story."

The deep cellar of a ruined house--a mere brick arched cell of a
place without a ray of daylight--had been quite habitably fitted up
as a cave-dwelling by the Germans, who had saved a piano from one of
the wrecked rooms above and cosily stowed it away in a corner.

One or two underground caves just back of the German front line of
trenches, bomb-proofs for the officers apparently, were ingeniously
secure.

Though Vermelles at the time of our visit had been in French hands
for more than a month, one could find many such souvenirs as
shell-heads and timing-fuses without troubling to stir the piles of
wreckage.

I could, I thought, sit in Vermelles and write reams of detail in
description of the terrible havoc of war, but I found that mere
generality as to the scenes of desolation wrought in the town soon
used up my vocabulary. The place was no less a graveyard of brave men
than of strenuous human effort, none the less to be admired because
it proved abortive. Over all brooded the horror of war and the more
specific and tangible horror of gun-fire. "Low trajectory and high
explosive are twin demons, and this is their devil's work," the
shattered town seemed to say.

Knots of French soldiers or visiting British officers walked about
sombrely and spoke in low tones, as if in the actual presence of the
dead, in spite of the weeks that had flown by since Vermelles had
echoed to the crash of a bursting shell.

The French soldiers were a tough-looking lot of customers. A bit
nondescript as to uniform, and universally campaign worn, unshaven,
and mud-plastered, they looked stout and fit for anything. A friendly
class of men, respectful to British officers to a degree, a fact that
spoke not only of good discipline, but of fine French traditions of
politeness. They impressed me as splendid war material, and more, as
men of fine character and indomitable determination.

Sport behind the lines began to assume quite a healthy state in
January. Packs of beagles and hounds and pairs of greyhounds were
brought "out" by enthusiasts, and cross-country courses with rare
jumps were carefully mapped out.

Alas! for "Le Sport." An order came along one day from G.H.Q. which
stated that "the Commander-in-Chief regrets that it is necessary to
prohibit any more hunting, coursing, shooting, or paper-chasing. This
order comes into effect at once."

The 2nd Cavalry Brigade drew up a splendid steeplechase programme,
which the state of the ground would not have allowed, had no order
from G.H.Q. been promulgated.

A card of "beagle-meets" was issued, and formed the following
somewhat pretentious propaganda:--


"THE 2ND CAVALRY BRIGADE BEAGLES WILL MEET--

  SUNDAY     Jan.  3rd, C Squadron 4th Dragoon Guards.
  TUESDAY    Jan.  5th, St-Jans-Cappel, Berthen, Cross Roads.
  THURSDAY   Jan.  7th, Headquarters 9th Lancers.
  SATURDAY   Jan.  9th, Berthen.
  MONDAY     Jan. 11th, H Battery.
  WEDNESDAY  Jan. 13th, Headquarters 18th Hussars.
  FRIDAY     Jan. 15th, St-Jans-Cappel Church.
  SUNDAY     Jan. 17th, Headquarters 4th Dragoon Guards.

  Each day at One o'clock."

The Prince of Wales ran more than once with that pack of beagles, and
ran well.

Football matches were allowed, and were daily fought out between the
various regimental teams.

General Robertson succeeded General Murray as Chief of the Staff
at G.H.Q., a change generally welcomed, as Robertson was held in
very high esteem throughout the Army. Many of us considered him the
greatest man the British Army had produced throughout the campaign.
That is certainly how I should describe him.



CHAPTER II.


Broken car springs on February 1st took me to Poperinghe, where a
Belgian carriage-maker made a villainous repair for a considerable
charge.

Motor car repairs were fearfully and wonderfully executed at the
front in the earlier stages of the war. The G.H.Q. shops were not
bad, and once in a while I found clever, conscientious young chaps
in charge of a road-side repair shop attached to a division, an
ammunition supply column, or some such unit, who had managed to
organise a very creditable "first-aid and emergency hospital" for the
ills a car was heir to.

All too often some A.S.C. officer in charge, however, knew as little
of the mechanism of an automobile and how to put it in order as one
could well imagine. I remember one youth, possessed of a wonderful
opinion of his own efficiency, whose mechanical experience had been
gained in a railway workshop. He ordered repairs to be done in
weird fashion at times. As soon as he had delivered his dictum and
departed, his chief non-commissioned officer would put the men right,
generally by a complete reversal of the youngster's orders, and all
would go happily until he might again put in an appearance, when
the work would suffer proportionately to the time he spent in its
vicinity.

Stories of the excellence of the performance of individual cars were
often marvellous. One big limousine, which had been "out since the
first of the show," was ever the boast of the Major to whom it was
assigned and of his faithful chauffeur. At tea one day it transpired
that the car, which the Major was always ready to declare had run
_sans repaire et sans reproche_ during the whole campaign, was
in the repair park for its "initial derangement." Calling at the
repair lorry early next morning, I was astounded to hear the A.S.C.
sergeant-major in charge say to the major's chauffeur: "So you have
done in the old girl again, have you? Let's see, that's the third
time this month, ain't it? Why the Major hasn't sent the bally old
wreck in months ago to get her put in decent shape, I don't know.
Not a bit of use tinkering at her all the time. She's given us more
bother than any car in the division."

How we did chip the Major! Motorists' yarns bear some odd
relationship to fishermen's stories, so I have heard.

Taken generally, the British cars at the Front ran most creditably.
The conditions could not have been more trying, and the Daimlers and
Rolls-Royces lived up to their reputations in fine style. Cars of
half a score of makes were attached to the 1st Cavalry Division while
I was with it, and I studied their performances with close attention.
For reliability and lack of trouble a large Daimler easily bore away
the honours.

Cold forges and a disinclination on the part of the smith to light
them on an afternoon necessitated my spending a night in Poperinghe.
The town was crowded with Belgian inhabitants and refugees, and
with French troops of the 16th Corps, which was at that time being
relieved from the trench work by British soldiers, and was mobilising
in Poperinghe to be sent south and east, detachment after detachment,
to its own dear France.

A winter in Flanders, particularly in Flemish trenches, is not a
happy experience. The French were therefore openly delighted at the
prospect of departure to more pleasant and congenial climes.

I should have had to sleep in my car but for the kindly offices of a
French Staff officer, who procured for me a clean, soft bed in the
Hotel La Bourse.

An evening among French soldiers, though they might be tired,
trench-stained and campaign worn, was sure to be a pleasurable
one. Songs from _chansons d'amour_ to grand opera, from poor Harry
Fragson's "Marguerita," to swinging marching airs of older wars, were
sung with a vim.

The French troopers possessed a suspicion of the grand air when
drinking a toast, carolling a love-ditty, or roaring out a rousing
chorus. One or two veterans I met in Poperinghe might have stepped
from a volume of Dumas. An elder one was a bachelor of arts and
science, a man of studious and thoughtful mien. His comrade was a
true Gascon, and a third of the group was blessed with powers of
mimicry that made us laugh long and loud before the night was over.

Every man of them was proud and fond of his British allies.

French soldiers did not pay the same attention to cleanliness of
uniform and kit that was given to such details by the British Tommy.
An English battalion, relieved from muddy trenches, at once smartened
its external appearance to a degree that had to be seen to be
believed. Tommy worked wonders in a day.

The long-tailed blue coats of the French infantry were difficult to
clean, once they became mud-caked.

The amount of equipment, and its variety, that the average French
foot-soldier strapped upon his back, was wonderful. I saw one
black-bearded "poilu," with a typical load, start off with his
company for a long, long march, with literally as much as he could
pack about him, fastened securely by ingenious means. Over either
shoulder was a strap supporting two good-sized canvas haversacks, one
on each hip, both bulging with food. To his belt were attached two
ample cartridge-pouches, one in front and one behind. A water-bottle
dangled against a haversack. His principal pack, hung at the
shoulder, was, he told me, full of spare clothing. A blanket, rolled
in a sheepskin jacket, surmounted this and towered above his cap. A
cooking-pot adorned the back of his pack, while to one side of it
was strapped a tin cup of ample dimensions, and to the other a loaf
of bread, already become soggy in the steady drizzle. A bundle of
firewood at his side, and a roll of clothing, holding an extra shirt
or two, at the other, flanked him.

My examination of his equipment concluded, he said he must be off,
and picked up his rifle with a cheery smile. A comrade rushed up and
handed him a sort of leather portmanteau. He grabbed it without a
word, threw the strap over his head, settled his various pieces of
baggage into place with a strenuous shake, and stamped away sturdily,
with a firm step and head held high.

He left me wondering that this sort of soldier should make marching
records of which any army in the world might be proud, yet such was
undeniably the case.

In billets, the British cavalry were having a thorough course of
instruction in the work of the foot soldier. Dismounted attack,
trench digging, musketry instruction, bomb-throwing classes, and all
manner of miscellaneous tutelage progressed steadily.

I had a look at Ypres one morning. It was again peopled with a
sufficient number of civilians to give me a sense of forgetfulness as
to its proximity to the German gun positions.

Of all the attributes of the Belgian people, their persistence in
making back to their homes in a shelled area, as soon as the shells
ceased falling, was the most prominent.

Many of the peasants pursued their daily round of labour under
shell-fire. Many others left the bombarded fields or villages, albeit
reluctantly, only to return as soon as the shell splinters had ceased
to spatter about.

What feeling actuated them was a psychological study. They were
phlegmatic as a people. I have seen Russian soldiers perform feats
that were described by different observers of the same episode as
bravery or stupidity, according to the reading of the onlooker. Was
the Belgian who drifted back to his own or some other man's home in
shell-ruined Ypres brave or thick-headed? I left one opinion for
another, only to abandon it in turn. A study of various types in
Flanders helped me but little.

Hard-worked toilers, whose lives have been one continual round of
labour, are, more often than not, fatalists. Such lives produce
men and women who accept conditions blindly and uncomplainingly. A
peculiar love of the soil which they have tilled, and from which they
have sprung, seemed to take the place in many Flemish peasants of the
more definite and definable Anglo-Saxon or Gallic spirit of intense
patriotism. Many poor folk seemed possessed of a blind instinct
that "home" was safest, and once "home" was lost, nothing worthy
of preservation remained. Their attitude toward death bordered on
indifference.

Motor-buses were bringing the 28th Division to the Ypres Salient as I
passed on my homeward journey.

Rumours of an attack on the German line flew from lip to lip. That
night I read from an eminent French military authority that "to
attack, unless with a definite object in view, with a very reasonable
chance of success, and with the surety that you can hold what you
gain if the attack succeeds, is a crime."

In the second week in February, at a dinner in St. Omer, a member of
the French Mission at British Headquarters told me that eighty-seven
French general officers had been "relieved of their command" since
the commencement of the war. These generals were "sent down" for
incompetency, evidenced in various ways, to command the troops under
them. The extremely small number of British generals who had been
"replaced" stood out in very sharp contrast to this total, with which
fact should be remembered the complete difference as to policy with
reference to such replacements between the French and British War
Office methods.

Early in February, the 1st Cavalry Division staff was blessed with
the arrival of Major Desmond Fitzgerald (11th Hussars), who took
Major Hambro's place as G.S.O. 2.

The total tally of British casualties was announced during the first
week in the month as 104,000, having exceeded, in less than six
months of warfare, the numerical strength of the original British
Expeditionary Force.

A day "in front," with the engineers, mapping out new trenches and
reserve positions, showed to how great an extent modern gun-fire had
changed military theory.

Before the War, a trench line was sought in a position that commanded
a good "field of fire," _i.e._, that had in front of it as much open
ground as possible.

This war had taught that the most important item in the selection of
a trench position was the extent to which the line could be hidden
from the enemy gunners. The space commanded by the occupants of the
trench and the nature of the terrain were secondary to the cardinal
point of keeping the trenches well out of sight of enemy observers.

Thus engineers might, years ago, select a hilltop as a trench
position, the line commanding the receding slope to the valley
below. After the experience of the greatest of all wars, they would
preferably place it fifty yards behind the summit. More than fifty
yards of "field of fire" was desirable, but not absolutely necessary.
A fifty-yard space could be so covered with wire entanglements as
sufficiently to delay an attacking enemy. Deep, narrow trenches with
traverses to restrict the area of damage from shells bursting in
the actual trench, and to protect from enfilade fire, were demanded
by the newer conditions, but great care had to be taken that they
should not be constructed in ground of so soft a nature that howitzer
fire could too easily cave in the trench sides.

We found it possible to select a trench line that could be well
concealed, which, if taken by the enemy, would be under perfect
observation from our own gunners and by them easily rendered
untenable for the Huns.

That the British were clever in this work of placing trenches
in invisible positions was proven by the following report of an
interview in Courtrai with a wounded German officer, whose regiment
had been badly handled when attacking an English position in the
Ypres Salient:--

  "Our artillery cannonaded incessantly the enemy trench which our
  company was to storm--we could see it in the distance. Towards
  evening we were ordered to advance. We marched forward without
  taking cover, confident enough, because not a shot came from the
  British trench. We thought it had been abandoned after the terrible
  bombardment to which it had been subjected all day long. To make
  things quite safe, when we were 200 metres from the trench our
  mitrailleuses were brought into action and we gave the silent enemy
  another good peppering. Still there is no reply. The place must
  certainly be empty. Shouting 'Hurrah,' we rush forward to seize it,
  but we have not gone more than 100 metres before our whole front rank
  is stricken down by a volley from a point much nearer than the trench
  we had been shelling, and in addition to this terrible infantry fire
  the British quick-firing guns are brought into play, and simply
  mow our men down. Six times we reform to continue our assault; six
  times we are knocked to pieces before we can get going. At last such
  officers as are left realise that there is nothing to be done, and we
  retreat to our original position.

  "This is how the English work it. The entrenchment, visible from
  afar, which we had bombarded, was not the spot where their troops
  were to be found. They were stationed in small subsidiary trenches
  in front of the principal trench, with which they were connected by
  means of narrow passages. The little advance trenches were concealed
  to perfection, and the troops sheltered beneath sheets of metal
  on which our German bullets ricocheted. So we had been shelling an
  unoccupied trench and had done no damage to the place where the enemy
  actually was hidden. Hence it is not surprising that our 'assault'
  should have proved to be--for us--a veritable massacre."

Careful study of German methods of counter-attack were productive of
many an idea.

The Hun counter-attacks were delivered immediately after the loss of
a position--as successful counter-attacks must be.

A trench which was thought a good defensive one by its occupants was
sometimes attacked by the Germans, taken, and immediately transformed
into a good defensive trench from the other point of view. The way in
which the German first line of attack was followed by a second line,
bearing shovels, barbed wire, bombs, and grenades, and the manner
in which this second line was put to work, showed that the brain
conducting operations was close at hand, if not actually on the spot.

The planning and carrying out of some of these small attacks were
worthy of great praise. Our troops soon caught the idea and put it
into practice with increasingly beneficial results.

On Sunday, February 21st, the 2nd Cavalry Division were in the
trenches in the Ypres Salient. The Huns exploded a mine in front
of Zillebeke and took sixty yards of trenches that were occupied
by the 16th Lancers. A counter-attack, delayed a bit, was launched
unsuccessfully, and cost the cavalry four officers killed, one
died of wounds, one missing (thought sure to be killed), and four
wounded--ten officers in all, and about fifty per cent. of the men
engaged.

The Canadian Division arrived in France in mid-February--a splendid
lot of men.

Trench-mortars and bombs of various sorts put in an appearance
and classes were held daily to accustom the men to the new types
of trench weapons. A 3·7 affair of gas-pipe, throwing a 4½-pound
projectile, was the most prevalent mortar. Prematures and accidents
of all kinds accompanied its introduction, and more than one good man
was killed before the troops learned the intricacies of the bombs.

General Foch was at Cassel with his Headquarters. Dinner in Cassel
was always productive of a talk on instructive and entertaining
subjects. The average French Staff officer was wonderfully "keen on
his job."

The French system of espionage was by no means to be despised. The
reports from their "agents" were astonishingly accurate.

That Staff work should be the subject of many an after-dinner chat
was but natural. The French view of the difference between French and
British Staff work, compiled from many a conversation with officers
of all ranks, I understood to be generally as follows:--

British Staff work could not fairly be compared to French Staff work,
because of the lack of opportunity accorded the British Army, before
the War, to handle large bodies of troops. Furthermore, the English
Army contained many officers who entered the Army as something in
the nature of a pastime rather than a serious profession. Some of
these officers even went through the Staff School, though lacking
that devoted concentration on their profession as a life-work, which
characterised their French prototypes. Very few officers entered the
French Army and qualified for staff positions who did not look upon
a military career in a very serious light. French Staff officers
gained their steps by force of sheer merit and close application to
their work.

Nothing else counted, they said. Not a big staff, but one that was
efficient beyond all question, was the French aim.

The British soldier, I found, was in most instances frankly conceded
to be the best war material in the field--friend or foe. That the
British leaders often bungled was openly alleged, but by no means
always proven in argument, at least, to my satisfaction.

A failure to arrange support, a badly planned attack, bad Staff work
here and there, were quoted in more than one instance.

"It is the soldier who suffers," said one of the most brilliant
Frenchmen with whom I met. "He suffers in silence. Perhaps he what
you call 'grouses,' but he stands it. The French soldier would _not_
do so in anything like the same spirit. The waste of men and the bad
handling of them that once or twice I have seen on the British front,
would ruin a French commander for ever."

Universally the French officers praised General Sir Douglas Haig. He
had completely won their admiration at Ypres.

"But the best of the British Staff work," said another French
officer, "is that it is improving. The English are not afraid to
admit they don't know, and are quick to absorb new ideas. Give them
time."

I have quoted the more trenchant criticisms that came to my ears,
for they fell from the lips of the keenest and most brilliant French
Staff officers, invariably those who held the British Tommy in the
highest possible esteem.

These officers were from the class of man one would choose to put
in charge of a dry dock, a line of railway, a huge business or a
gigantic manufactory. They impressed me as good "business men." More
than a few British Staff officers I met, particularly in the Cavalry
arm of the Service, were equally clever, and every whit as keen on
their work, but no one who wished to be impartial could fail to
note the inclusion now and then, on the Staff, of men to whom one
would never dream of entrusting the management of a large commercial
organisation or the conduct of an important factory plant.

The 3rd and 2nd Cavalry Divisions having each done ten days of
trench occupation in the Ypres Salient, on February 23rd, the 1st
Cavalry Division moved to Ypres to take its ten days of duty in the
firing line.

The run to Ypres, _viâ_ Steenvoorde and Poperinghe, was a trying one.
The road surface was inconceivably damaged and very slippery. All
manner of French and British transport and general traffic filled the
highway.

[Illustration: The Rue de Menin in March, 1915, looking west over the
Menin Bridge across the canal moat]

[Illustration: Officers under the stone lion on the Menin Bridge at
Ypres]

In the western edge of Ypres, in front of the first cluster
of houses--buildings shell-marked and war-scarred from long
bombardment--three grimy mites were playing in the dirt at the
street-side. Further on, a trio of little girls in soiled black
frocklets were enjoying a game of tag. Across the street they darted,
under the wheels of cars and lorries, missing the hoofs of the
passing horses by inches. One bright-eyed little girl, out of breath
from dodging a fast-drawn artillery limber, took momentary refuge
in a ragged gap in a shell-shattered dwelling. As we approached the
Grand Place more children were to be seen, then a number of adult
townsfolk. Round the gaping ruins of the once beautiful Cloth Hall,
in the main square, the number of people in evidence might well
have led one to believe that the bombardment of Ypres was past and
done with. Ruins, the work of shells and conflagrations, were on all
sides, but no one noticed them. French and English soldiers and their
officers, with a liberal smattering of civilian Belgians, filled
the pavements. Down the Rue de Menin, at the approach of the Menin
Bridge, we found the headquarters of General Hubert Gough, of the 2nd
Cavalry Division, located in a brewery standing in the shadow of the
high moat wall. The trenches lay, roughly, three miles beyond the
city walls to the eastward. The junction of the British left with the
French right was south of the Menin Road, in front of Zillebeke. The
trenches we were to occupy ran east and west and faced south.

Detachments of sturdy French infantry marched past, their uniforms
faded to a pale blue. With swinging step, each individual marched to
his own time. I admired their fit and willing appearance. They were
campaign-worn as to kit and clothing, but campaign-hardened, rather
than worn, as to themselves.

A constant stream of people came and went. How long would the
civilian population of Ypres remain to pay its toll of dead whenever
the Germans decided further to shell the town?

Three women passed, two of them bearing month-old babies in their
arms. Noting my interested glance they smiled and waved as they
trudged on. What a place for a baby!

An old bent crone, crowned with a richly beaded bonnet of ancient
type, in odd incongruity to the ragged condition and mean original
state of the remainder of her apparel, hobbled along, pausing now and
again to pick up and store safely in her apron small pieces of coal
that had been dropped from a passing wagon.

More French soldiers passed. Then a couple of British officers rode
by in the picturesque uniform of some Scotch regiment of the line.
A transport wagon rumbled by, and behind it came a young girl, with
a bucket of water on her head, smilingly exchanging banter with a
soldier of the British military police, at the corner of the street.

It was a quiet Spring afternoon, a bit overcast. Hardly to be called
lowering, and yet of a stillness that seemed ominous. A day to fit
all the mixture of folk going stolidly, carelessly, gaily, or how
they would, about their daily tasks.

No one seemed to realise that they were in Ypres--the Ypres which
had so often been shattered by shell that the poor old town could
hardly be surprised by any sort of new shell-caprice. No one saw the
rent walls and gaping holes in every other building. I wondered if
they could hear the guns! I could do so. They were hard at it every
moment, all the time, from two to three miles distant. It was the old
story of familiarity breeding contempt; or perhaps they were true
philosophers, these Ypres folk.

General de Lisle ran to Potijze, to the headquarters of General
Lefebvre, who commanded the French 18th Division. It seemed ages
since I had been in Potijze. Our headquarters were not far beyond it
in November, 1914, during the great first battle of Ypres.

On the way from Ypres along the Zonnebeke road we passed bunches of
odd little French horse transport wagons. The road was very bad. We
progressed in crawfish fashion, most of the way. The _pavé_ was torn
terribly by shell-fire, and there was sufficient mud and slime on it
to make it extremely slippery. French soldiers were billeted in the
dwellings along the road. At the edge of Potijze a dozen young boys
and girls stood outside a house.

Returning to General Gough's headquarters we "took them over," as
that night we were to relieve the 2nd Cavalry Division troopers in
the trench line.

General de Lisle and Colonel Home ran up the Menin Road a kilometre
or so, and, leaving the car, walked across the fields past the ruins
that will always bear the name of "Cavan's House."

The General told me to put the car in the shelter of a house on the
south side of the road, as shell-fire and the Menin Road were never
strangers for long. I settled down to wait until the General had
concluded his rounds of the prospective positions.

The Ypres-Menin Road will be remembered oh! so long, and oh! so well.
It saw rough times.

Field guns near by started to work, and now and then German shells
dropped in a field beyond.

The house behind which I was sheltered, in case of a stray shell,
was a one-storey affair of modest mien.

Those of its windows which were not shattered were shuttered. Half
of the roof had been shorn of its tiles. A shell had wrecked the
interior of one end of the building. A glance out of a rear door-way
showed a whole collection of shell-holes in the yard a few feet
distant.

A door that still remained in position bore four lines of legend:

  "Vin a vingt
  Sous la Bouteille.
  Confiture, allumettes.
  Bougies, chocolate."

Glancing through one of the remaining panes of a window by the
door, I saw a glass jar containing a couple of sticks of chocolate,
beside it three jars of jelly, a box of French matches, a blue paper
packet of half a dozen candles, a score of small oranges in one
box, and in another, alongside it, seven or eight very dry-looking
kippers. Peering through the partly-obscured glass one could see a
stolid-looking, red-faced, albino-haired woman.

"Business as usual," with a vengeance! Such an odd curiosity shop
as this was not to be passed without examination, so I entered and
talked to the woman.

Her whole stock-in-trade was what I had seen through the window. She
was cheerful enough, though she huddled for warmth over a fire by
which sat a despondent-looking brother. She chatted laconically about
the situation, and told me she had been there continuously throughout
the fighting. The shell that hit the building was a shrapnel and came
a month before. Shells still came near, now and again, but that fact
seemed to be accepted by her as inevitable and not to be worried
about. These people had no means of existence except the sale of
their pitiable bits of provisions. They were in daily danger of their
lives. Yet they stayed on--odd folk. Typical Belgians.

The gun-fire dropped, then began again spasmodically. I could hear
the snipers at work. In the gathering twilight the rattle of rifle
fire and the storm of the rapid-fire guns sounded clearly on the
left. A fusillade on the right reminded me that the Ypres position
was a salient. Directly in front, down that Menin Road, which had
seen the taking of so many tens of thousands of lives during the
past months, a roll of rifle fire made waves of sound.

Night fell, cold and damp. The making of a light was not permitted;
so I waited in the dark, watching the night lights rise and fall over
the trenches, until the General and Colonel Home returned, when we
ran back to Ypres for dinner.

My first four days in Ypres were uneventful. On the fifth, I went up
into the trenches, and saw more of actual trench conditions than I
had seen for some time.

Our daily round led me out on the Menin Road, well towards Hooge,
or to Potijze on the Zonnebeke Road, several times each day. Shells
went over us now and again. Rarely did a day pass when the Huns did
not bombard the railway station in Ypres. As we were quartered in the
eastern edge of the town the shells aimed at the station bothered us
but little. Sometimes a Black Maria lit on the moat wall, where we
walked at times, but we timed our exercise so that our promenade and
the arrival of the big shells never coincided. Once or twice bits of
shell fell over the Headquarters buildings, or rattled down on our
paved courtyard, but rarely.

Every morning saw Ypres wrapped in a snow mantle, which was turned
before noontide, to a coverlet of black mud. No fires were allowed,
except small wood blazes in the open, as smoke from a chimney would
have invited a shell.

One day I was searching for a shop where bolts could, once upon a
time, be purchased. As I was going down the Rue de Lille, half a
dozen shells fell near. One demolished a house but fifty yards ahead.
I took shelter in a doorway, and as I did so a Belgian of woebegone
appearance, his most characteristic feature a pair of sad, drooping,
yellow moustachios, ambled past me down the roadway, pushing a
wheelbarrow. On it were three tiny tots, all under four years old.
They cuddled together for warmth. One, round-eyed, at the crash of
the howitzer shells, was hard at work with a nursing bottle. I warned
the Belgian of impending danger, but he stolidly trudged on. Luckily,
no more shells came for a time.

The Menin Road proper was never healthy. I spent as little time on
it as consistent with the proper performance of my work. I never sat
for an hour in its vicinity, waiting for the General, that some shell
did not fall near it.

One afternoon shrapnel fell for an hour near a fork on the Menin
Road, which all sensible men gave a wide berth to when convenient.
Fifteen minutes after the bombardment died down, a procession filed
by the fork, headed for a graveyard in the direction of Hooge. A
white-robed boy, with red-tasselled black cap, led the way, bearing a
cross. Behind him came a robed priest, then an ancient, dilapidated,
one-horse hearse containing a rude, black coffin. A score of
mourners, one or two of them men, the rest women and children,
dressed in their poor best, brought up the rear.

I wondered that they ventured down that shell-swept highway. Yet many
such pathetic little processions passed along that road in those days.

I saw one _cortège_ wait for a cessation of the shelling, then
proceed slowly over the ground that had but a few minutes before been
peppered with bits of shell. It was an odd sight. A tiny lad trotted
in front under a large wooden cross painted purple. A quartette of
little boys behind him bore a rude unpainted sort of stretcher,
apparently improvised from the nearest bits of shattered timber to
hand. The coffin, resting upon this frame, was covered with a dingy
white sheet. A mother, bowed and feeble, followed the coffin. A few
youths and a handful of little girls formed the straggling _cortège_,
tramping over the snow-covered cobbles, their eyes downcast and red.

Death was no stranger in Ypres in those days, but still the Belgians
stayed on.

The wall of a ruined building, across the road from the Cloth Hall,
fell one morning with a loud crash. A column of dust arose. That many
were not injured was surprising. One woman was killed and a couple of
passing French soldiers hurt, but post-card vendors were exhibiting
their wares under an adjacent wall, equally dangerous, an hour later.

General de Lisle went personally over the whole of the line held by
his Division. The 1st Cavalry Brigade was in the front trenches for
the first five days, the 2nd Brigade in reserve. Then the 2nd Brigade
took over the trenches and the 1st Brigade came back, for the second
five days, to the dug-outs.

At points in the line the trenches were knee-deep and sometimes even
waist-deep with cold mud and water. The amount of manual labour
required to get them into better shape was enormous. New trenches had
to be dug, the old parapets strengthened, the trenches drained, and
all the while certain mining work must be pushed on at a rapid rate.
In some parts of the line the parapets of sandbags had become so thin
that a Mauser bullet could plough through them easily. The German
snipers were at one place only thirty yards distant.

The drainage of the worst bits of trench, and the laying of a sort of
corduroy road from point to point, soon made the trenches much more
habitable.

De Lisle was most thorough. Only a couple of casualties occurred
when the 1st Brigade "took over," in spite of the constant sniping.
Careful preparations of foot baths and relays of dry socks saved the
Division from the epidemic of "foot-casualties," from which some
other divisions had suffered heavily. A dozen casualties per day
were inevitable from shells and snipers. Those who had to "go up"
with food and ammunition had to cross a dangerous zone, a certain
toll being taken day and night, in some localities.

Inspecting the trench-line, when the Division had occupied it but the
night before, was a precarious business. De Lisle and General Briggs
were going over the ground when a German sniper but fifteen to twenty
yards distant opened fire. Lieutenant Bell-Irving, General Briggs'
A.D.C., received a nasty wound in the hip. He fell in the deep mud.
Colonel "Tommy" Pitman, of the 11th Hussars, jumped out into the
centre of the trench, and strove to lift Bell-Irving clear, and get
him behind the protection of a transept. The bullets flew about the
Colonel, two cutting clean through his clothing, one on either side
of his body, but he escaped unhurt, and pulled Bell-Irving into
safety.

[Illustration: The Grande Place at Ypres and the Cloth Hall, March,
1915]

[Illustration: The choir of the ruined Ypres Cathedral]

But the trouble was by no means over. A sharp fire was kept up by
the Hun snipers, which prevented the removal of Bell-Irving to
the dressing station. Captain Moriarty of the R.A.M.C. came up at
considerable risk, and advised that the wounded officer be brought
back at the earliest possible moment.

There were no means of doing this save to construct a traverse of
sandbags, behind which Bell-Irving could be carried. The work must be
done under the heavy sniping fire. The troopers of the 11th Hussars
at once set about the work with a will, and soon accomplished it, but
not before a private had been killed and a sergeant wounded by the
German marksmen.

That night a bombing party "cleared out" the district near that
transept, and made the snipers' point of vantage untenable.

Each night a splendid pyrotechnic display showed the curved outlines
of the Salient. The German trench lights were far superior to ours.
Each night, too, Ypres was full of French or British lines of
soldiers marching on in the dark to relieve some of their fellows in
the trenches outside the town.

The ruins of the Cloth Hall, and of the St. Martin Cathedral by it,
formed interesting studies for my camera. The fine mural paintings
on the walls of the roofless Grand Gallery in the Cloth Hall were
crumbling to bits. My photographs were the last records made of
them, for they fell piece by piece not long afterward.

I watched operations at a French Divisional Headquarters one evening.
It was not more than a mile back of the line. Wagons were loading,
preparatory to being taken trenchwards at dusk. Timber, thousands on
thousands of empty bags, rolls of barbed wire, odd shaped completed
wire entanglements, metal shields varying from curved sheet-steel
bastions a dozen feet in length to small V-shaped iron castings,
all manner of wooden troughs, boxes, stands, supports, periscopes,
braziers, rolls of fine wire, boxes of trench bombs and grenades,
shovels, picks, and many peculiar tools were among the collection of
material that was to find its way to the firing line. I learnt much
of the business side of trench warfare that night.

The supply of ammunition and food and its distribution are most
methodically managed by the French.

Taking up giant powder for mining operation was an item of the day's
work. A story was told by one of our sappers, of a couple of Irish
troopers who had started across the fields in front of Zillebeke as
night was falling, with a good sized load of powder in a box. Shortly
after they left Cavan's House shells fell in profusion over the route
that they had chosen. Another group started trenchward, carrying
various types of grenades. Howitzer shells were falling, front and
rear, and shrapnel bursting a few hundred yards away.

A flash and a crash came from in front.

"Them fellers with the joynt powder was like to be in that shindy,"
said a member of the second party. "Close to 'em, it was, sure."

A moment later they came upon a strange sight. There in the field,
just visible in the gathering darkness, sat the box. Behind it
reclined the two troopers, snuggling close for cover.

"What are you doin' in this 'ere peaceful spot, Dan?" questioned one
of the second party as they reached the box.

"Takin' cover the whiles we do a bit of a rest-like," was the reply.
"The divils sent wan so clost, it shure jarred the wind out av us, it
did."

And they snuggled closer to the giant powder as he spoke.

Hour by hour I watched the "75's." Their marksmanship was wonderful.
The rapidity with which the guns were served was an eye-opener. The
French gunners burst shrapnel practically over the heads of our men
in the front trenches, to cover the area twenty-five yards beyond
them. One trooper swore a French shell, aimed to worry sapping
operations by the Huns a short distance in front of our trenches,
came so close that it knocked the top sandbag off our parapet.
Certain it was that the word was frequently passed to "lie low while
the '75's' fire just above us."

My day to go up to the trenches came at last. My guide was Captain
Bretherton, the Staff Captain of the 1st Cavalry Brigade.

[Illustration: Scenes of battle of olden time in colours on the
shattered walls of Ypres Cloth Hall]

[Illustration: A communication trench leading to the front-line
position in the Sanctuary Wood]

Leaving my car at the "Halte," a point where the railway crosses the
Menin Road, and the Zillebeke Road branches off to the south, we
were soon slipping, sliding and ploughing along through the muddy
fields. We followed no particular pathway, avoiding where possible
fields where enemy shells were falling. The rotting mangel-wurzels
dotted the ground all about us. Shell-holes in thousands, positions
where French or British batteries had made a stand, trenches in
lines and circles, and barbed wire entanglements, caught my attention
at every step. Sprinkled everywhere were all manner of pieces of
projectile--from complete 6-inch German shells, unexploded, to blue
shrapnel cartridges, bright-nosed timing fuses, and jagged bits of
all shapes and sizes.

Cavan's House was but a wall, a pile of shapeless bricks and mortar
beside it. Cavan's Dug-out, a series of holes in the road bank,
roofed with sandbags, held a signal party. Every day a storm of shell
visited the spot, and Hun snipers made one wary thereabouts.

We walked on, up the roadway, our objective the Sanctuary Wood. The
bullets sang over us, and shells burst in front with a continuous
din. A path led through the scrub. Entering the wood, we passed
innumerable little individual funk holes. The trees were in splinters
and tatters. Here I saw an abandoned shirt, there a khaki cap. My
foot hit against a regulation mess tin, and as it turned I saw a
rifle-hole drilled in its bottom. Now we were ankle, now knee, deep
in sticky mud. Bullets became more plentiful overhead.

A turn down a muddy path led us through a last piece of woods,
across sloughs of slime, over a creek, up a slight slope, and there
we were at General Briggs's Brigade Headquarters. These were a line
of dug-outs in the hillside, a corduroy road winding from entrance
to entrance. A deep approach trench, looking like a drain, led one
hundred and fifty yards further to the front trenches.

Shells fell all the afternoon on our right and behind us, and the
song of the Mauser bullets never ceased. At dusk, I was "safe" back
in Ypres.

On my way back through the woods, shell-smashed, that covered the
gentle hills through which the front line trenches ran, I saw a
burial party.

I stopped a moment, and watched the laying to rest of all that was
mortal of three troopers who had paid the great price.

Their comrades placed them reverently in the shallow graves in the
soft earth of the hillside, marking each grave with a white wooden
cross bearing each hero's name, his rank, and regiment.

Oh, those rows of rude wooden crosses! What thoughts their memory
brings to mind! Gone now, many of them, ploughed under by long
months of shell-fire, or trampled under foot by the ebb and flow of
battle, as the lines have swept back and forth with the tide of war.
Gone, perhaps, from the scarred and mangled hill-sides of Flanders;
but never to go altogether from the hearts of those who knew them,
and who realised their worth.



CHAPTER III.


On March 1st Captain "Babe" Nicholson, of the 15th Hussars, who had
joined General de Lisle's staff in place of Captain Cecil Howard,
16th Lancers, promoted to General Allenby's staff at Cavalry Corps
Headquarters, had to make a careful map of our trench position.

Captain Bennie Wheeler, 15th Hussars, in temporary charge of
Divisional Signals, also had duties that took him to the trench line.

As neither Captain Nicholson nor Captain Wheeler had made the
two-mile tramp across the fields and through the woods, I was
instructed to act as guide. To skirt one edge of a field was safety
of a comparative sort. To walk along its opposite edge meant dodging
snipers' bullets in plenty. To turn from the road to a path through
the scrub kept one out of sight of the Huns, while to proceed a dozen
yards beyond the turning would expose one to a fair chance of being
shot, at good range, by crack German marksmen.

Leaving our car at the Halte on the Menin Road, we essayed the route
past Cavan's House that I had travelled a couple of days before with
Bretherton.

Bang! bang! bang! bang! went a quartette of shrapnel just ahead.

"I don't think much of your route," said Nicholson.

"I'll change it with alacrity," said I. "Which way shall we go?"

"I know an old route that we followed in the days of the fighting
last autumn," Wheeler volunteered. "If we push down the Menin Road to
a point near Hooge, and then turn off, we can't get _far_ wrong."

"Lot of French were hit in Hooge yesterday," I reminded him. "The
Huns shell it two or three times every day, so best not go too close
to it."

We tramped down to the foot of the hill that led up to the ruins of
what was once Hooge, then passed through a demolished farm. For a
hundred yards, at every step, we sank knee-deep in the foul, slimy
mud.

Then we wound over trenches which were nearly inundated, and through
barbed wire entanglements that seemed to become more impassable
as they lost their original form, until at last, covered in
perspiration, we reached a dense wood.

A tiny creek ran deep through a sharp cutting, in the sheer banks
of which the French gunners had burrowed like rabbits. Battery on
battery of "75's" were hidden in the forest. Each gun was surrounded
by a little hut of mud and leaves, an aperture left for each slim,
blue-grey muzzle. We passed the first of these batteries without
seeing it. Close behind us it opened fire, causing me to jump as
if I had been shot. Before we left the wood, three other batteries
went into action about us. The din was terrific, but the sound of
the shells racing overhead was most fascinating. Each gun crew had
cleared a neat line of fire in the tree-tops in front of its position.

Over further fields and through another wood we came upon a most
picturesque cantonment. A French Infantry Brigade in reserve had
built hundreds of mud huts and dug-outs with charming ingenuity.
Dozens of veteran architects, past masters of rude shelter
construction, vied with each other in improving on previous designs.
As I took a snapshot in the dull light under the trees, the French
soldiers crowded forward in twos and threes, and smilingly invited me
to photograph their _maisons de luxe_.

Cavan's House, our landmark, we left well on our right, edging from
it the more as we saw it a very storm centre of fours and eights of
shrapnel that morning.

Snipers' bullets sang merrily above as we reached the reserve line
and Brigade Headquarters. My work as guide finished, I started back
with General de Lisle, who, having come up early in the morning, had
left his horse in the wood which sheltered the French reserves.

Mounting, the General pointed out a new route for my return, shorter
than the one by which I had come.

"Keep that rise of ground between you and the line of high ground
beyond," said de Lisle. "If you don't, the Germans will see you and
pot at you."

Crossing my first field, I seemed to be well in the line of
spent bullets, as several kicked up the dirt in the front of me
sufficiently close to make me imagine myself the target. I lost
little time for the first few hundred yards.

A maze of reserve trenches and wire pulled me up short. The only path
through was a quagmire. Safe beyond at last, I started collecting
German timing fuses, which lay thick on the surface of the muddy
field.

Not far on my left was a ruined farm. The sun came out amid the
swiftly-moving clouds. "A splendid example of what shells can do to a
group of buildings," I thought. "I must get a picture of the piles of
_débris_."

I circled the smashed houses, took my picture, replaced my camera in
its case, and turned to look sunward, as the clouds had cast a dull
shadow all about me. An open bit of blue was racing toward the spot
where the sun was hidden. Should I wait for it and essay a further
snapshot?

As my eyes sought the sun, a bright flash in front of me, in my very
line of sight, almost blinded me. A deafening explosion and the whirr
of scores of shrapnel bullets was followed by another flash. Crash!
The second shell seemed nearer than the first.

The pluck! pluck! pluck! flop! of bits of projectile striking in
the soft mud all about me came from every side. Little spurts of mud
and water were thrown up close around me. I imagined I could feel
the breath of passing shrapnel bullets. A bit of stick hit me in the
face, and a gob of black mud landed squarely over my mouth.

So many mud-spurts threw up in front of me, on my right, and on my
left, it seemed to me impossible I had escaped being hit.

I must have been in the very vortex of the shell's storm-centre.

Turning, thanking God I had so miraculously escaped when death had
seemed so near, I dashed off as fast as I could run, heading blindly
for the general direction of the Menin Road.

Fear lent wings to my feet as I realised I had, in my interest in
my photography, advanced into plain sight of the line of heights of
which General de Lisle had warned me.

I had not run a dozen steps when I thought of my heavy load, in
pockets and hands, of shell heads. I tossed them away as I leaped on,
tempted for a moment to hurl my camera after them.

Bang! Crash! Behind me came a second pair of shells, whose coming I
had dreaded every second. To my delight, but one or two bullets came
my way.

"I am gaining," I thought.

Bang! bang! another two burst overhead, throwing their deadly
contents beyond me in the direction in which I was running.

I ducked to the right and ran diagonally to the Hun line of fire.
Panting, I struck a deep bog. In I went before I realised it lay in
my path. In a twinkling I was in a pretty mess. My feet sank deep in
the slime and ooze. It took great effort to raise them. Well over my
knees in mud, I felt trapped, but struggled on.

At last I trod on firmer bottom, and soon was racing away at much
better speed.

Crash! Bang! I could see over my shoulder that the last two arrivals
had burst over the muck through which I had just floundered, throwing
spurts of liquid mud high in the air.

The Hun gunners were gradually increasing their range, though I was
well out of sight of them.

My breath came in great sobs, but I dared not slacken.

Bang! Bang! Two fell behind me again, but not so near. That
encouraged my flagging footsteps, and I jog-trotted on, until at
last the Menin Road was before me. Reaching it, I laid down, utterly
exhausted. The shells continued to burst nearer and nearer the road,
and came in fours after the first half-dozen couples, twenty-four
shrapnel having been fired in all.

Two British gunners, attached to a siege battery near by, hurried
past me as I lay recuperating.

"Bad place to be, this," said one of them. "They shell this bit
of road every day about this time. Those two holes were made
yesterday"--pointing to two cavities not ten feet from me.

So I pulled myself to my feet and pushed on for "home," arriving
safely enough, though completely tired out and literally plastered
with mud.

As I was resting at Headquarters, one of the Staff told me I had
"missed some fun" while "out front." Six Black Marias had landed
on the earthen wall of the moat, not many yards from our brewery
quarters, "shaking things up a bit," but fortunately hitting no one.

Examining my camera, I discovered, to my great chagrin, that the
shutter had been inadvertently set at "time" when I took the snapshot
of the ruined farm, away from which I retired in such a hurry. So
I missed getting the picture which cost me such a strenuous race
against the shells. As a solace, my photographs of the French
reserves in the wood, and of our Brigade Headquarters, came out quite
satisfactorily.

Shells fell not far from our Divisional Headquarters next day. More
than once the signals-men brought in pieces of shrapnel, quite hot,
that fell in the courtyard, which from that time began to lose its
popularity as a lounging-place for waiting orderlies.

A run to Hooge, and a wait there in a dug-out while the Huns threw
a dozen shells about it, was made memorable to me by Nicholson's
reconstruction of a bit of the fighting over that ground in November,
1914.

Nicholson had been with the 1st Infantry Division--a Division that
had Haig for a leader. At the beginning of the War it had come out
14,000 odd strong. In six months its total list of casualties had
reached 34,000.

In the first battle of Ypres its battalions had suffered cruelly. The
1st Coldstreams had been annihilated. The Queen's (West Surreys) came
out of the line with but fifteen men and no officers, the Black Watch
with but sixty men and one officer, and the Loyal North Lancashires
with but 150 men and two officers. When the Division came back to
billets, it was commanded by a brigadier-general. Every colonel
in the division had been killed or wounded, and the brigades were
commanded by officers of all ranks. A captain was in command of one
brigade.

It was in front of Hooge, between that town and Gheluvelt, that most
of the heaviest losses of the 1st Division were suffered.

Nicholson had seen some of it. One night the Prussian Guard broke
through the line on the Menin Road. Nicholson's squadron of the 15th
Hussars, acting as Divisional Cavalry, were sent to stop the gap.
Forty troopers and forty cyclists, eighty rifles all told, went up.
They had no trenches, as the Prussians held our original position.
So they lay in a sunken road near the Herenthage Château. The Germans
occupied a wood sixty yards away, though neither force knew of the
whereabouts of the other until dawn.

Nicholson sought out General Fitzclarence, commanding the 1st
Brigade, in the dark. Most of Fitzclarence's Brigade had been
killed. Efforts to clear up the situation had borne little result.
Every messenger he had sent out for information had been killed.
Fitzclarence said five brigades were to be sent to him, with which
he was to counter-attack. The five brigades came, and were found
to total 1,000 men all told. Yet with the remnants of his force
Fitzclarence counter-attacked at dawn. Though he himself was killed,
his wonderful men won through. The position was recaptured, and Ypres
saved.

A glorious page in the annals of the British Army, though it cost
England men who were indeed hard to replace.

Our 1st Cavalry Division had come into the line that night, and
supplied the reinforcements without which the exhausted troops could
not have held on much longer.

Consequently the ground over which those heroic battles had been
fought was of fascinating interest to those of us who had seen the
most strenuous struggle of the War.

"As to the losses of the enemy," Nicholson told me, "I once scouted
the wood in front of us. It was a terrible sight. In many places
among the trees I could not set my foot without stepping on a dead
German."

But the work of Haig and his super-men had been crowned with success.
We had held the Ypres Salient, and were still holding it--a glorious
record.

On the morning of March 3rd Nicholson found it necessary to go once
more over the line of our front trenches to verify his map. I was to
go with him.

Rain fell all morning, and we splashed over the cross-country route
to Brigade Headquarters and the reserve line without incident, bar
snipers and itinerant shells, most of which sang over our heads on
their way toward Ypres.

One portion of the approach trench leading to the firing-line was
so narrow that "Jeff" Hornby, of the 9th Lancers, A.D.C. to General
Mullens, waded through it at my heels, "to see the President (my
sobriquet) get stuck fast"

In spite of the rain, I procured a sufficient number of photographs
to show trench life as no written description could picture it.

The top of the hill was cut and seamed with trenches at all angles,
some narrow, some wide. The trench walls had been in a few places
reinforced with tree trunks, though, for the most part, from two to
half a dozen rows of sandbags served as protection. The line was
rarely straight for more than a few yards.

The troopers in the front trenches were either standing about, near
machine-gun or rifle, engaged in cleaning kit or accoutrement, or
sleeping in one of the tiny shelters that lined the trench sides at
the rear.

The fact that there was no uniformity to the trenches as to height,
width, or direction made caution necessary as we wound along them.
Expediency was the law that governed their original construction, and
experience the guide as to their alteration and development.

[Illustration: Officers of Lancers in their dug-outs in the
front-line trenches]

[Illustration: A dug-out in front of Zillebeke]

Loop-holes covered with bits of sacking were marked by pieces of
paper pinned above, warning occupants not to tarry in the line of
German fire.

By periscope we could see the Hun trenches, not many yards distant,
and dozens of dead Germans lying between the two lines. The smoke
from the enemy's cooking fires rose slowly in the damp atmosphere.
At corners, cautions to "keep down" were posted. Snipers' bullets,
heralded by a sharp bark and twanging musically, kept me down without
much warning.

A German sniper's position was pointed out to me, and I had some good
rifle practice endeavouring to dislodge him, but with questionable
success. The Hun riflemen had learned to lie very low in front of our
troopers.

We passed one of the 4th Dragoon Guards' marksmen, his eye along the
barrel of his rifle as it lay in a loop-hole. As we came up he fired.

"Got him?" asked Nicholson.

"No," laconically answered the sharpshooter. "Got one this morning,
though, sir. And I hope we are not shifted out of this for a day or
so, as there are a couple more of the beggars I'll get if I'm given a
bit of time."

Seeing a trooper of the 9th Lancers whom I had known since the Great
Retreat, I asked him how much longer his squadron was booked to be in
the front trench.

"Only twenty-four hours or so," was the reply. "But we could stick
this sort of thing for a week and not kick. They're behavin'
themselves much better as they go on," and he grinned as he nodded
his head at the German trench. "They're learnin'."

Now and then an enemy marksman sent a bullet through a loophole in
front of us or behind us as we proceeded down the line, until we
learned to pass these danger spots without loitering.

Once we found it necessary to double back along a shallow trench a
few yards behind the main parapet. The ditch we traversed was deep
with cold water, which ran over the tops of my high boots.

The damage to the trees was so extensive that shells might be said to
have literally cleared away the forest in some localities.

In spite of water in the trenches, the men were cheerily comfortable,
many of them gathering around glowing brasiers or cuddling close to
the wall of a cosy dug-out.

An enforced detour nearly landed us in an impasse. We had taken the
wrong turning. The trench parapet became lower, the trench narrower,
and the cold water deeper. Pressed for time, we pushed on. At last
Nicholson, who was leading, saw an angle of front line trench ahead,
and ran for it. I followed. Bullets sang overhead as the Huns got a
glimpse of us, but we ducked low and splashed through for dear life
in record time.

Nicholson became so interested in a view through a periscope that
I took a picture of him while thus engaged. A genial acquaintance
in the line offered to get a similar photograph of me. So I took
the periscope, waving it slightly back and forth, and carefully
inspecting the German trench forty yards distant. I detected a
movement on the enemy side of the line. Steadying my periscope, I
focussed my attention on the moving object.

As I did so, "Ping! smash!" came a bullet right through the top of my
periscope.

"A clean bull," said Nicholson, beside me. "Are you hit?"

I had been about to call his attention, when the sniper scored, with
the result that a shower of broken glass fell into my open mouth.

I was in great fear of swallowing some of it. Nicholson, seeing me
dance about and spying a fleck of blood on my lip, thought I had been
hit in the mouth by a glancing bullet.

He proffered help, I prancing about, gesticulating that I was all
right, spitting out glass, but afraid to speak until I had cleared
the last piece of broken mirror. The Captain entirely misunderstood
my dumb show, and we caused some merriment among the troopers near by
until I managed to eject the final bit and could explain that I was
not in the least hurt.

When I learned that one officer had suffered a badly cut eyeball,
threatening the loss of his sight, and another had been seriously
wounded in the jaw and neck by just such an incident as the one I had
experienced, I was thankful to have escaped injury.

The "trench stoop" was astonishingly fatiguing. Covered from head
to foot with yellow sticky mud, and very tired, we started to walk
to the Menin Road. The snipers were more alert than usual, and more
than one close call kept me from thinking of my weariness. Before we
reached our car the German batteries shelled madly at the very point
we were to pass, but considerately stopped firing by the time we
approached the spot where the shells were falling.

One morning "Mouse" Tomkinson and Hardress Lloyd had walked down
to Zillebeke, where folk rarely went in the daytime, to inspect
some of the graves in the Zillebeke churchyard. Hardress Lloyd's
brother-in-law, Colonel Wilson, of the Blues, was buried there.

I promised Captain Lloyd that if I could get off to do so, I would go
down to Zillebeke and take a photograph of Colonel Wilson's grave.

Hearing of my projected trip, Lord Loch, who was at that time
G.S.O. 1, on the staff of General Bulfin, commanding 28th Division,
asked "Babe" Nicholson to obtain for him, if possible, a picture of
the grave of Lieutenant Gordon-Lennox, which is also in Zillebeke.

Hardress Lloyd and Tomkinson told us they had been seen in the
churchyard by the German artillery observers, who had commenced
shelling. I was warned, therefore, that any photography I wished to
do in that locality must needs be done quickly.

On March 4th Nicholson and I set out to obtain the desired
pictures. I stopped on the way, at a cemetery on the Menin Road,
and took a photograph of the graves of three officers of the 10th
Hussars--Captain Annesley, Lieutenant Drake, and Captain Peto--who
had fallen in the first battle of Ypres.

Zillebeke was lonely. On one edge of it a couple of signal corps
men were laying a wire. Otherwise the town, which was in ruins, was
deserted.

We kept under cover of the houses as much as possible. I obtained a
good snapshot of the damaged church, and then took some pictures in
the graveyard, which was torn with great shell-holes.

"Remember what Hardress said about the Huns being able to see us
here," I said to Nicholson. "Let's get out of it."

We started. No sooner were we under cover of the first cluster of
smashed houses than four shrapnel shells burst right over the _pavé_
roadway, not fifty yards ahead of us.

[Illustration: The Zillebeke Church, March, 1915]

[Illustration: German prisoners in Ypres, captured after the
explosion of a British mine near Hooge]

I dodged into a house, the walls of which, minus roof, were still
standing at drunken angles. Doorless and windowless, the house seemed
to offer little protection.

"I don't like going up that road over the hill," said I. "We will be
in sight of the Huns for some distance. I wonder if this house boasts
a cellar?"

Examination showed a cellar existed, but it was nearly full of water.

"I guess the cellar steps provide the best roosting-place," was my
conclusion. "Me for the lowest one for a bit. Won't you share it with
me?"

"I don't like it," replied Nicholson. "We will be much better out of
it. Let's go."

We argued the various possibilities, but Nicholson was so strongly in
favour of departure that I acquiesced, and we started away.

We had gone about one hundred feet when a series of crashes close
behind us quickened my pace. Nicholson turned and looked. I called to
him, and he again came on.

As he came up he said: "Did you see where that lot landed?" "No," I
answered. "Too close to suit me, but just where I didn't notice."

"It interested me," said he, as we pushed on, "because all four of
those shells exploded in that rickety old house in which you were so
keen on taking cover. But little would be left of us by now had we
stayed, for the poor building collapsed like a house of cards."

The Germans shelled the road vigorously as we kept on, but luckily
the shrapnel fell behind us, and we were soon back in Ypres.

That day saw the German gunners increase their shelling all along the
Ypres front. The trenches occupied by our division were vigorously
bombarded, and several casualties reported. Ypres itself came in for
a heavy share of the Hun "hate." The windows rattled and our house
shivered as the howitzer shells smashed into all quarters of the town.

De Lisle visited the trench line, and both there and on his way back
across the fields the shells fell very close to him. As he entered
the headquarters house on his return, he said: "From what I can see,
most of the big ones are falling at least four or five hundred yards
from us thus far, but they may shell us out of this at any time."

The General suggested I should take a stroll with him along the
moat wall and watch the trend of the bombardment. As we walked along
the ramparts, the projectiles screamed overhead in dozens, seemingly
coming continually closer. The rumph! r-r-r-rumph! as they exploded
shook the high wall and made the whole city rock with the concussion.
The Rue de Lille was rendered impassable that day.

General Plumer called, and after his departure I again started for a
stroll on the ramparts. The shells searching for our batteries just
across the moat were a fascinating sight. As I ran up the steep path,
however, a crash came just ahead, and bits of metal showered about,
striking sharply against the trees beside the path. My curiosity
evaporated instantly, and I came down faster than I had gone up.

As dusk came, I took Major Fitzgerald to Hooge, from whence he went
through a wood to the trenches to make the final arrangements for the
explosion of a mine--the construction of which had been worked upon
feverishly for some days--that all might be completed and the mine
fired on that night, our last one in the trenches. The French, who
were to relieve us, had also constructed a mine on our left, and the
two were to be discharged at an interval of five minutes.

First the French mine was to be fired at 7·45 p.m., and 7·50 to the
tick of the watch was to be the time for the explosion of our mine,
less than a hundred yards away from the French one.

I was seldom in Hooge when it was not shelled, and that evening was
no exception. The French had built safe dug-outs under the buildings
still left standing. The château was completely ruined, as were most
of the houses in the village.

As I was being entertained by a French officer, who produced a glass
of splendid red wine, some thirty shells burst over us, most of them
of the 210-millimetre type. One of them knocked off a corner of the
building behind which I had sheltered my car.

Never was a locality more offensive to one's olfactory nerves than
Hooge. It fairly reeked with all manner of various noxious smells.
The English language contains words of too mild a character to allow
a description of that feature of Hooge.

The front line was less than a kilometre distant. Rifle fire swelled
and died away in long, rattling breaths. I became so accustomed to
the punctuation of my conversation with shell-smashes and periods
of heightened din from small arms and machine-guns that, when all
would die down suddenly for an instant, the stillness felt ominously
oppressive. The next spasm of sound came as a relief to the uncanny
moments of twilight silence.

A French engineer officer joined us. He told us General Lefebvre, the
French General in command of that section of the Salient, had issued
most elaborate written instructions for the joint explosion of the
two mines. The French mine, he said, had been ready for two or three
days, its charge lying at the end of a tunnel but two metres from the
German trench.

The hour for the discharge of the French mine came, but no sound or
shock of explosion came with it. The hands of the Allied watches,
carefully synchronised, crept round to 7·50, then to 7·55.

Just before eight o'clock a huge bang was heard by the British sapper
who was waiting in his tunnel, ready to fire his mine.

"At last," he murmured. "Now I must count off the five minutes to the
second."

A squadron of the Queen's Bays was ready to rush into the enemy's
trench. Ten of them, the forward storming party, were waiting in a
saphead.

One, two, three, four, and at last, _five_.

Boom!

The whole earth seemed thrown skyward. The shock was terrific. Nearly
one thousand pounds of blasting powder had tossed fifty yards of
German trench, not two hundred feet in front of our line, high in air.

The great smash came as a complete surprise to the Huns, but, alas!
an equal surprise to French and British.

The explosion which the British sapper, in his tunnel dug-out, had
mistaken for the discharge of the French mine, had been a huge German
_minenwerfer_, or trench-bomb, thrown by a trench-howitzer.

The French mine, inexplicably delayed, had not been fired.

For a moment confusion reigned. Three men of the half-score Queen's
Bays in the storming party were hurt. One suffered a broken arm, and
the others, hurled aside by the unexpected explosion of our own mine,
were badly bruised and strained.

In an instant, however, every man in the line realised what had
occurred, and the Bays went forward with a yell, occupying about
fifty yards of German first-line trench and the gaping crater left by
the mine.

Fortifying the captured position and installing therein a couple of
machine-guns, they met the enemy's counter-attacks staunchly.

For three hours and a half they kept the ground won, but at last were
bombed out. The Huns threw hundreds of grenades among them, while our
poor supply of trench-bombs ran out in but a few minutes.

I chatted with the remnants of the storming party when they came
back. Many gruesome tales they told. One German soldier was blown
high in the air, over a fringe of trees, and found some distance back
of our front line, quite 150 yards from his own trench.

A trooper noticed a movement near a pile of timber, earth, and
sandbags. Peering through the dim light, he saw a hand waving about
aimlessly. Grasping it, he pulled with a will. A comrade assisted,
and soon they unearthed a buried German.

The prisoner was a funny little fellow--a stocky Wurtemburger in
green corduroys and a knitted helmet. When rescued, he lapsed into
unconsciousness for an hour. He had been through the first battle of
Ypres, he said later, in which he was the only one of his regiment
to escape death or a wound. Blown high in air, very, very high, it
seemed to him, he felt a great mass of _débris_ fall upon him.

He told us, in a spirit of resignation to his fate, that to have
lived through the October and November fighting on the Menin Road,
and be thrown skyward by a mine, then buried, and still live,
entitled him, he thought, to spend the rest of the War, without
disgrace, in an enemy prison.

The French exploded their mine at one o'clock in the morning, and by
daybreak the 1st Cavalry Division had "turned over" to them, and was
on its way back from Ypres to billets in a more quiet locality.

Motor 'buses moved the men back, as they had brought the dismounted
troopers up. The long lines of London 'buses, with khaki-painted
windows, rendering their interior lighting barely visible, looked odd
in the black Ypres streets. No outside lights were permitted.

To hear one bell, see the dark shape of the clumsy vehicle slow down,
then hear the two bells that signalled departure, next the grinding
crunch of gears, and finally, to see the ghostly 'bus slide forward
in the night, brought strange parodies of London memories.

General de Lisle had planned to leave Ypres at twelve noon on March
5th. We left half an hour earlier, by chance. Next day we learned
that ten minutes after our departure a Black Maria struck the very
building we had occupied during our ten days' stay in Ypres, blowing
the back of it through its front, and generally demolishing the
premises.

One day, subsequently, I visited the house to learn if so strange
a coincidence of timely evacuation was true, and found that the
story was correct in every detail. The interior of the place was one
mass of smashed walls and partitions, the _débris_ bulging from the
doors and windows of the front of the building, which still remained
practically intact.

The handling of the Division during its occupation of the Ypres
trenches reflected great credit on General de Lisle.

We left our trenches in much better shape than that in which we had
found them. Some casualties were inevitable, but the total number of
men killed was only eleven during the ten days, a low percentage when
the strength of the Division, not far short of 2,500 rifles in the
line, was considered.

At daybreak on the morning of March 10th the British attack was
launched which was to become known to history as the battle of Neuve
Chapelle.

For several days the weather had been cold, raw and damp. On some
days it rained and blustered, while at night snow fell, and the wind
howled unceasingly. The morning of the 9th dawned clear and cold, the
stormy weather having been driven away by a hard frost. The Tommies
in the trench line were treated to every vagary of the treacherous
climate of Flanders in March.

My car indulged in periodical attacks of the dumps and finally
became a nuisance. Accordingly I ran to Sailly, where the Canadian
Divisional Headquarters were located, and sought the Divisional
Repair Park, which proved to be at Merville. On the 8th I left the
car in the hands of the Canadian boys for a few days' repair. On the
Canadian front I learned from an acquaintance of a projected attack
of considerable magnitude, spurring me on toward getting my car in
runnable shape at the earliest possible moment.

On March 9th, in Merville, I saw Sir Douglas Haig's Special Order to
the First Army, issued that day, which read as follows:--

  "We are about to engage the enemy under very favourable
  conditions. Until now in the present campaign, the British Army
  has, by its pluck and determination, gained victories against
  an enemy greatly superior both in men and guns. Reinforcements
  have made us stronger than the enemy in our front. Our guns are
  now both more numerous than the enemy's are and also larger than
  any hitherto used by any army in the field. Our Flying Corps has
  driven the Germans from the air.

  "On the Eastern Front, and to the South of us, our Allies have
  made marked progress and caused enormous losses to the Germans,
  who are, moreover, harassed by internal troubles and shortage
  of supplies, so that there is little prospect at present of big
  reinforcements being sent against us here.

  "In front of us we have only one German Corps, spread out on a
  front as large as that occupied by the whole of our Army (the
  First).

  "We are now about to attack with about forty-eight battalions
  a locality in that front which is held by some three German
  battalions. It seems probable, also, that for the first day
  of the operations the Germans will not have more than four
  battalions available as reinforcements for the counter-attack.
  Quickness of movement is therefore of first importance to enable
  us to forestall the enemy and thereby gain success without severe
  loss.

  "At no time in this war has there been a more favourable moment
  for us, and I feel confident of success. The extent of that
  success must depend on the rapidity and determination with which
  we advance.

  "Although fighting in France, let us remember that we are
  fighting to preserve the British Empire and to protect our homes
  against the organised savagery of the Germany Army. To ensure
  success, each one of us must play his part, and fight like men
  for the honour of Old England."

In the evening when I returned to 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters
I found the servants packing. My servant said on my arrival, "Your
kit is ready, sir. We are to shift out of this at six o'clock in the
morning. A big push is on."

The Cavalry was to "stand by," in case the infantry attack succeeded
and a hole was made in the German line.

The guns began before daylight, and hundreds of them, with an
amplitude of ammunition, made a pandemonium.

I begged a ride in a G.H.Q. car and found myself during the forenoon
near the headquarters of General Davies of the 8th Division.

Not many days before, General de Lisle had called at Estaires, and
we had been hospitably given lunch by General Davies, when we had
learned something of the general topography of the line on the 8th
Division front. The ground in that sector was so water-logged and
soft that it did not admit of the construction of a trench line such
as we had held in the Ypres Salient. Each small point of vantage to
the east of Laventie--a house here, or a rise of ground there--had
been made into miniature forts by the British or the Germans. A
trench line proper existed, but consisted, from the nature of the
terrain, of trench-works and parapets of sandbags, all above ground.
These were less impregnable than a trench line in solid ground, and
could much more easily be demolished by shell-fire.

The road from Estaires to La Bassée, on the morning of March 10th,
was full of advancing troops and returning wounded. General Davies'
headquarters were said to be at Rouge Croix, not far west of the town
of Neuve Chapelle.

I did not go as far as the cross roads at Rouge Croix, as that point
was under heavy German shell-fire.

Little could I see except the enemy's shells, and still less could I
learn. That the 8th Division had taken the front line German trenches
was common rumour.

Finally a wounded subaltern, a mere boy, came back, hysterically
cheerful in spite of a nasty wound in his arm. He belonged to the
25th Brigade--Lincolns, Dorsets, Rifle Brigade and Wiltshires.

"We took Neuve Chapelle," he said. "Many casualties? Yes, plenty. You
see, we had orders to take the bally town at all costs, and we did
it!"

He was sure his fellows had the ridge that commanded Aubers, and had
heard that our men on the right had reached a point a couple of miles
beyond La Bassée. Cheerful lad, that. Neither the Auber Ridge nor
La Bassée was to be ours, but it was not for lack of his sort. He
and his kind, with the men behind them that fought that day at Neuve
Chapelle, could have taken Aubers and Lille beyond it had someone not
blundered that 10th of March.

Weeks passed before the occurrences of that fateful day were
made clear to me. Every sort of rumour was afloat. On the 10th
and the 11th I was between Merville (where General Haig had his
headquarters), Estaires and Laventie, but no one seemed to know in
those days as to just why things had gone so badly when the promise
of success had been so great.

Later I knew.

General Haig had been quite reasonably correct in his estimate of the
enemy's strength. Our chance to break through the German line was the
finest opportunity of the whole war.

That, with such odds in our favour, with a preponderance of guns and
shells as well, we should have so signally failed, and lost over
18,000 men into the bargain, required some explanation.

The tragedy of Neuve Chapelle was a failure to take advantage of an
initial success. The 25th Brigade, with the 23rd Brigade on its left,
nobly did the work assigned to it. It took Neuve Chapelle itself, and
reached the position it had hoped to reach. The 24th Brigade was to
come up, through the 23rd and 25th Brigades, and as it advanced, the
20th Brigade, on its left, was to move forward. Still to the left of
the 20th Brigade the 21st Brigade was in readiness, and on its left
the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, which had been put into the trenches
previously occupied by the 20th Brigade, to free that command for the
attack.

Thus, once the preliminary ground-clearing was done by the 23rd and
25th Brigades on the right, and the town of Neuve Chapelle was taken,
the 24th Brigade was to come on and form the right of a line composed
of itself, the 20th and 21st Brigades, which were to pivot on the
Northamptonshire Yeomanry and sweep over the Auber Ridge.

On the left of the Yeomanry waited the 22nd Brigade, ready to jump
forward the moment this swinging movement had developed.

The initial success won, the whole line waited, eyes on the right,
for the signal to go on. Before nine o'clock in the morning all was
ready, and the road cleared.

All day the watchers waited in vain.

It was after four o'clock in the afternoon before the word came.

It was then too late.

The great opportunity had been lost, and lost for ever.

The Germans had rallied, filled farms with machine-guns, and mowed
down the gallant 23rd and 25th Brigades men who had so dearly won
such splendidly advanced positions.

The 24th Brigade had come on part way, then concentrated, and was
sadly cut up. That the line on the right had "dug-in," instead of
moving forward, had resulted in a defeat when a great victory was
within grasp.

And who was to blame?

A Brigade commander and the General in command of the artillery of
a certain division were promptly "Stellenbosched." A divisional
commander was reported sent home; his case reopened when he declared
the fault was not his, as could be proven by certain hitherto
unproduced papers from corps headquarters. A further inquiry resulted
in his being reinstated. His corps commander went to England.
"Sent home," said many. Shortly afterwards, back he came, to the
discomfiture of the prophets, and took up his old command.

Who was to blame?

It is too early to tell. Let the writers of the future dig the story
out of the tangled orders of the day, as between corps and division,
division and brigade.

No battle of such magnitude could be won without fine Staff work, and
the work of more than one staff on that 10th of March left much to be
desired.

One thing cannot be gainsaid. The men in the ranks fought like
heroes. Nothing that men could do was left undone by them.

One officer who saw as much of Neuve Chapelle, and knew as much
of the tragedy as any one man said to me: "The word 'concentrate'
caused all the trouble. The troops that might so easily have come on
had orders to concentrate along a certain road. That was the root
of the mix-up. They concentrated, dug-in, and waited for orders, in
accordance with their instructions. Those instructions did not come
until half past four in the afternoon. The whole day had been wasted.
The time had flown, and the great opportunity with it."

The cavalry would have had a fine part to play had all gone well.

The 2nd Cavalry Division was drawn up back of Estaires, the 3rd
Cavalry Division in the Forest of Nieppe, and the 1st Cavalry
Division was ready at its billets. A hole in the German line meant a
strong push through by the three cavalry divisions.

On the right of the 7th and 8th Divisions the Indian Corps had hard
fighting, the day of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. The Gurkhas, one
of their officers told me, took a wood, lost it, took it a second
time, lost it again, and a third time took it, only to be driven out
at last owing to the fact that no support was available.

On a visit to Bethune one day I heard dozens of stories of the fierce
fighting on March 10th, on the 2nd Division front, where one Brigade
lost twenty-five officers and seven hundred men in an abortive attack.

But the interest centred around the 8th Division fighting, that
began so well, then hung fire until the Germans recovered from the
demoralization of the smashing blow.

How utter was that demoralization we learned later from "agents"
near Lille and Tournai. The Germans were actually "on the run" that
morning, and pressing forward would have indubitably borne results
that would have loomed large in the trend of events.

On March 15th, the 1st Cavalry Division was called out at dawn, and
placed in support of the 27th Division at St. Eloi. Just before six
o'clock on the evening of the 14th, the Huns had fired a mine at
St. Eloi, and then poured a rain of high explosive shells over our
trenches for half an hour. The howitzer shells exploded so rapidly,
that one continuous roar ensued, the separate detonations being with
difficulty distinguished.

The moment the German guns stopped their fusilade, the German
infantry rushed forward, the attack developing all along the 5th
Corps front. St. Eloi itself, the southern re-entrant of the Ypres
Salient, was soon in enemy hands.

By two o'clock on the morning of the 15th, a British counter-attack
was launched. By daybreak each force held some part of St. Eloi, and
the fighting grew fierce and fiercer. By night all the town was in
British hands save one point, a mound which had been transformed into
a kind of fort by the enemy.

During that fighting, the 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade was sent up
to take a section of trench out of which one of the other 27th
Division Battalions had been shelled. Once before, within the hour,
another battalion had essayed to recapture the lost position, and had
"retired" in considerable confusion.

The Rifle Brigade set its teeth and started for the hottest part of
the fray.

"You must cross that road," its commander was told, "though Heaven
only knows how anyone can get across it alive."

Sixteen Hun machine-guns were playing on the open space over which
the battalion must pass.

Over it they went. In less than sixty seconds eleven officers and two
hundred and fifty men were down, but the rest pushed on.

They reached the trench, some of them, cleared out the Huns with the
cold steel, and consolidated the position--a splendid performance.

The 5th Corps made good the ground the Germans had won without
calling on the 1st Cavalry Division troops for assistance, and thus
ended the last chance of our Division for active fighting during the
month of March.

Inspections in the Flemish mud, bright sunshine and spring zephyrs
one day, and snow the next, and more than once snow and sunshine
alternating throughout the span of a day, marked the passing of the
month.

Paris, Calais, St. Omer, Estaires, Lillers, Merville and Hazebrouck
were visited by enemy airmen as the days went by, and bombs dropped,
but without much damage to lives or property.

"The Huns don't care whether or not they hit anything," said one sage
"sub." "They only want to show Sir Douglas Haig they have a copy of
that March 10th Order of his wherein he said 'Our Flying Corps has
driven the Germans from the air.'"

On March 25th I spent the morning in Bailleul at 2nd Corps and 3rd
Corps Headquarters.

The Staffordshire Brigade of the North Midland Territorial Division
marched past to the music of their fine brass band, drawn up in the
square--the first band I had seen or heard since leaving England
seven months before. Crowds of soldiers and officers flocked to hear
it and see the sturdy Terriers march by with swinging step. They
created a splendid impression.

The next day my work was to take General Lowe and General Lumley
over the path of the early fighting in Flanders--from Meteren through
Bailleul to Armentières, thence to the line on the Ploegsteert Hill
and through the Ploegsteert Wood.

We stopped in the town of Ploegsteert, where, in the churchyard,
General Lumley's son, a gallant young officer in the 11th Hussars,
was buried.

The boy had been killed on October 17th, when our Division was trying
to force a way across the River Lys. At Le Touquet Lieutenant Lumley
was reconnoitring a position preparatory to an advance when a German
sniper's bullet struck him.

As the General visited his son's grave I learned from townsfolk how
things had fared with them.

Months before the 1st Cavalry Division had been the first British
contingent to enter Ploegsteert. The people told me of the severe
shelling the town had suffered, though the shattered church and a
black hole where the principal _estaminet_ once stood were surrounded
by many other evidences of the damage of the Hun gun-fire.

"We have been here through it all," said an old lady whose French had
a heavy Flemish accent. "We go into the cellars when the bombardment
begins, and when it ends we come out and go about our work. What else
could we do?"

Some townsfolk had been hit, but none killed, they said. The merry
baker, whose brown bread had been so greatly enjoyed by our mess, had
been hit by shrapnel bullet a few weeks before and killed. His wife
was running the bakery still, though in but a small way, she said,
sadly.

The Bois de Ploegsteert and the line in its vicinity was much the
same as when our Division had left it months before. The wood was
perhaps a little more smashed, the château a bit more flattened.

Our batteries fired regularly as we walked about, their shells
whirring over our heads without eliciting a single reply shot from
the Huns.

Down the corduroy roads through the Ploegsteert Wood and to its
trench-line, where the men were far from uncomfortable, the path
seemed sufficiently familiar to have been there for years instead of
months.

Next day, the 27th, my work took me still further afield. General de
Lisle, with General Briggs and General Mullens and one or two members
of their staffs, were to walk over the reserve line of trenches from
in front of Kemmel to Dickebusch. One of General Smith-Dorrien's
Staff officers was to accompany them.

Dismounting from the cars at the Station Inn, on the Neuve
Eglise-Kemmel Road, the party headed for the reserve trenches. I was
instructed to convoy the other cars in the party to a spot on the
Ypres side of Dickebusch.

"Don't stop at the cross-roads," said Captain Walker of the 2nd Army
Staff. "The Germans shell the cross-roads two or three times every
day. It's best to run up the Vlamertinghe Road a couple of hundred
yards and wait there. You are not so likely to be hit."

Past Dranoutre and Locre, and thence through La Clytte and Dickebusch
my route led. Familiar ground of months past, every inch of it. Here
and there fields had been ploughed well by shell-fire, and many once
familiar buildings along the way had been shattered or destroyed. It
was uncanny to find that more than one spot which I had in former
days selected as a daily stand for the car had become a great gaping
hole dug by a huge howitzer shell.

Huts beside the road teemed with Tommies.

As I entered La Clytte I well remembered my last day there, in
November, 1914. Major Steele, of the R.A.M.C., and Captain Baron Le
Jeune, a French liaison officer, both of them popular members of the
1st Cavalry Division Headquarters Staff, had been killed in La Clytte
by the same shell. Another shell had that day gone close over General
de Lisle and me as we were leaving the town.

Picking my way past a clumsy farm wagon, I thought of those days of
"close calls." I was thankful no shells had fallen near me _that_
morning.

As I drew past the cross-road in La Clytte, however, a scream sounded
over my head, and a shell burst in the field not one hundred feet
beyond me.

I was off like a flash, abandoning all thought of saving my car from
the rough bumping over the broken _pavé_. It seemed weird, that lone
shell, so close to me in La Clytte. No more came, or at least, if
they did so, I did not hear them, and I soon passed Dickebusch.

A two hours' wait in snow and sun and snow again saw the arrival of
General de Lisle, and we were promptly off for "home."

Such days were fair samples of my work until March winds had ceased
to blow, and April, with its promise of an early spring, had come.



CHAPTER IV.


On April 1st, I heard at G.H.Q. that within a few days the French 9th
and 16th Corps, which were in the Ypres area, were to be moved south.
The British were to take over the line from the Belgian left near
Bixschoote, and make a continuous British line from that point to the
left of the main French front near the La Bassée Canal. Events were
to happen which prevented the completion of this plan--events due to
a German initiative.

The days grew warmer, though rain fell with sufficient frequency to
keep the fields deep with mud.

Rumours of a "push" could be heard everywhere. It was timed by most
prophets for April 24th or 25th, though some declared it would
develop by the 20th.

Many there were who scoffed at the idea of an advance. One story
current at G.H.Q. told of a subaltern of an infantry battalion, which
had long occupied the Ploegsteert trenches, who paid a visit to a
brother officer in another division, which had been marooned in the
Kemmel trenches for what had seemed an interminable period.

"You will notice," said the Kemmel man, "my men are planting
daffodils on the parapets to hide 'em. We hope to have the line quite
invisible in the course of time."

"Humph," replied he of Ploegsteert, "you _are_ a lot of blooming
optimists. _My_ men have planted acorns in front of _our_ ditch."

On April 3rd, Lord Kitchener came to Boulogne by torpedo-boat. On
the next morning, Sunday, he landed, came through St. Omer, where
he was joined by General French, and proceeded to Chantilly, where
a conference with General Joffre was held. On the following day,
Lord Kitchener and General French met General Foch at Amiens. A dash
to St. Omer, where Sir John remained, then a rush to Boulogne, and
England's War Minister was again aboard his torpedo-boat and speeding
back toward Whitehall.

As news of this visit spread over the Army, rumour piled on rumour of
the new "push" that was to accomplish such great results.

True, sinister minds attributed Kitchener's visits to the large loss
in men and the small gain in ground of Neuve Chapelle, but they were
greatly in the minority.

We obtained a copy of the _Lille War Gazette_, a newspaper published
by the German Army in Lille, which contained many items of
interest. Chief among them was an article by a Hun named Kaden, a
lieutenant-colonel of a line regiment. The following is a translation
of this article, which caused much comment:--


  FIRE.

  BY LIEUTENANT-COLONEL KADEN.

  As children, many of us have played with it; some of us have seen
  an outbreak of fire. First a small tongue-like flame appears; it
  grows into a devastating fury of heat. We out here in the field
  have seen more than enough of it.

  But there is also the fire of joy--of sacred enthusiasm. It arose
  from sacrificial altars, from mountain heights of Germany, and
  lit up the heavens at the time of solstice and whenever the home
  countries were in danger. This year fires of joy shall flare
  from the Bismarck columns throughout the length and breadth
  of Germany, for on April 1st, just one hundred years ago, our
  country's greatest son was born. Let us celebrate this event in a
  manner deep, far-reaching, and mighty!

  Blood and Iron!

  Let every German, man or woman, young or old, find in his heart
  a Bismarck column, a pillar of fire, now in these days of storm
  and stress. Let this fire, enkindled in every German breast, be
  a fire of joy, of holiest enthusiasm. But let it be terrible,
  unfettered; let it carry horror and destruction! Call it hate!
  Let no one come to you with "Love thine enemy!" We all have but
  one enemy--ENGLAND!

  How long have we wooed her almost to the point of our own
  self-abasement? She would none of us, so leave to her the
  apostles of peace, the "No War" disciples. The time has passed
  when we would do homage to everything English--our cousins that
  were!

  "God punish England!"--"May He punish her!" This is the greeting
  that now passes when Germans meet. The fire of this righteous
  hate is all aglow!

  You men of Germany from East and West, forced to shed your blood
  in the defence of your homeland, through England's infamous envy
  and hatred of Germany's progress, feed the flame that burns in
  your souls. We have but one War Cry: "God punish England!" Hiss
  this one to another in the trenches, in the charge; hiss as it
  were the sound of licking flames. Behold in every dead comrade a
  sacrifice forced from you by this accursed people. Take tenfold
  vengeance for each hero's death!

  You German people at home, feed this fire of hate!

  You mothers, engrave this in the heart of the babe at your breast!

  You thousands of teachers to whom millions of German children
  look up with eyes and hearts, teach Hate, unquenchable Hate! You
  homes of German learning, pile up the fuel on this fire.

  Tell the nation that this hate is not un-German, that it is not
  poison for our people. Write in letters of fire the name of our
  bitterest enemy. You guardians of the truth, feed this sacred
  hate!

  You German fathers, lead your children up to the high hills
  of our homeland, at the feet of our dear country bathed in
  sunshine. Your women and children shall starve: bestial, devilish
  conception. England wills it! Surely all that is in you rises
  against such infamy!

  Listen to the ceaseless song of the German forest, behold the
  fruitful fields like rolling seas, then will your love for this
  wondrous land find the right words, "Hate, unquenchable Hate!
  Germany, Germany above all!"

  Let it be inculcated in your children, and it will grow like a
  landslide, irresistible, from generation to generation.

  You fathers, proclaim it aloud over the billowing fields, that
  the toiling peasant below may hear you, that the birds of the
  forest may fly away with the message: into the land that echoes
  from German cliffs send it reverberating like the clanging of
  bells from tower to tower throughout the country side:

  "Hate, Hate, the accursed English, Hate!"

  You masters, carry the flame to your workshops. Axe and hammer
  will fall the heavier when arms are nerved by this Hate.

  You peasants, guard this flame, fan it anew in the hearts of your
  toilers that the hand may rest heavy on the plough that throws up
  the soil of our homeland.

  What CARTHAGE was to ROME, ENGLAND is to GERMANY.

  For ROME as for us it is a question of "to be or not to be."

  May our people find a faithful mentor like Cato.

  HIS CETERUM CENSEO, CARTHAGINEM ESSE DELENDAM for us means

  "GOD PUNISH ENGLAND."

Some people laud the "thoroughness" of the German Army.

I wonder if they laud the "thoroughness" of its hate.

The Army under Sir John French was assuming considerable proportions
early in April. In addition to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th,
7th, and 8th Divisions, the 27th and 28th, the Canadian Division
and the Divisions of the Indian Corps, as well as the 1st, 2nd and
3rd Cavalry Divisions and the Indian Cavalry Division, were well
seasoned. The North Midland, 2nd London and South Midland Territorial
Divisions were "out," and fast gaining experience and a good
reputation with it, while the Northumberland Territorial Division was
on the way.

G.H.Q. information summaries in the early days of April said
laconically, "Nothing to report on the British front," and were
generally fairly correct.

On the 8th and 9th the roads leading from the Ypres district were
filled with French troops moving southward. The veterans of the 9th
Corps limped past, frost-bite having visited most of them during
their long sojourn in the trenches of the Salient.

Lines of French guns ambled by, "75's," with their graceful light
grey lines, were eminently business-like, their gunners clad in dark
blue cape-overcoats that looked warm and comfortable.

The 1st Cavalry Division was given a new brigade, the 9th, which
consisted of the 15th Hussars, 19th Lancers and the Warwickshire
Territorial Battery.

Bumping over the bad roads at good speed meant frequent car trouble.
I was fortunate to find Harold Smith, the Royal Automobile Club
Engineer, one day at Boulogne, where he was superintending the
installation of a first-class motor repair plant for the Red Cross
Ambulances. Mieville, of the Red Cross, in whose hands were all
matters pertaining to Red Cross motor vehicles, proved a good
Samaritan. Between Mieville and Smith my decrepit car was given a new
lease of life.

The Army Service Corps would have done well to have "co-opted" Smith
and one or two more like him. His repair shop at Boulogne, when
completed, was so far ahead of any repair park possessed by the Army
in France that comparison made the Army shops look very bad indeed.
Yet Smith's work was done in three weeks or less and a building of
quite a temporary character utilised.

While I was in Boulogne an Army Service Corps captain came to
Harold Smith and said: "I have been told to lay down a foundry, and
unfortunately know nothing whatever about the bally thing. Do you
happen to know anything about a foundry?"

"Well," replied Smith, "have a fairly good idea of what you will
need. Suppose I draw up a specification of a foundry installation
to-night and let you have it to-morrow?"

"Delighted," said the captain. "It would be good of you."

So Smith set to work, duly completed the specification, and turned it
over to the A.S.C. man, who went away, quite happy, at once to put
in the specification as it was handed to him. He admittedly had no
knowledge as to its correctness and was quite satisfied to seek none.

I met Moore-Brabazon, of the Flying Corps, on the quay. With a few
days' leave in his pocket, he was as happy as a sandboy.

"We had a chap rejoin us a day or so ago," said "Brab," "who had a
remarkable story to tell. His name is Mapplebeck. He is an officer in
the Liverpool Regiment, attached to the R.F.C.

"Not long ago, Mapplebeck was up alone on a scout near Lille, when
his engine went wrong, and he had to make a descent. He knew he was
well inside the German lines, but was shocked to see a couple of
Huns, apparently doing sentry duty, not far from where he had planned
to land.

"The two Germans ran toward the machine as it came down, each
grabbing hold of the left wing. The biplane tossed and rolled and
pitched about as it came to rest. Mapplebeck tumbled out on the right
side, dived head first through a thick hedge a few feet distant, and
ran hot-foot down a deep ditch that led to a cross-hedge not far away.

"He lost no time in dodging through the further hedge, and was off
like a hare down another ditch. The Huns must have taken the wrong
turning when pursuing him, as he got clear away and hid in a dwelling
till night.

"Obtaining some peasant clothing, Mapplebeck made his way into
Lille. Though the town was full of Germans, his disguise was so good
he was not bothered in any way. Finding a loyal French business
man, Mapplebeck cashed a London cheque, for which he received
French notes bearing a German stamp. With these he bought a suit of
clothing, and started to tramp the road to Belgium.

"He reached Belgium safely, kept on, and eventually crossed the Dutch
border. Obtaining passage to London, he at once went to Farnborough
and reported. There he was given a new machine which was ready to
come to France. He lost no time in bringing it across the channel and
reporting for duty, just as though nothing unusual had happened.

"One by one we obtained from him the details of his experiences. He
was mightily modest about it all, and laughed at the idea that he had
done anything that was the least bit out of the ordinary."

On April 17th the 2nd Cavalry Division held a horse show at Vieux
Berquin. The horses and the riding were worthy of the best that
Dublin or Olympia could produce.

Sunday, the 18th, I had set aside for a joy-ride. Running to St.
Omer, I picked up Major St. Leger, of the Irish Guards, Assistant
Camp Commandant, and then called at a farm near Meteren, where the
9th Lancers' Headquarters were billeted.

Beale-Browne, "Bimbo" Reynolds, Rex Benson and Alex Graham, were out
enjoying the perfect morning, but we luckily found Captain "Algy"
Court, of the 9th, who had been in the hospital when the Brigade was
at Ypres, and thus missed seeing the Salient. This made him the more
keen to have a look at the famous Menin Road. Calling at General
Mullens's headquarters at Godawaersvelde, in the hope of annexing
"Rattle" Barrett, "Jeff" Hornby or Romer Williams, but finding the
Brigade Staff absent to a man, we pushed on to Poperinghe, where we
procured a very passable luncheon in a crowded hotel.

Finally we reached Ypres, ran through it, and out on the Menin
Road toward Hooge. Court was very anxious to run on to Hooge, but
I had been told a car could be seen by the Huns as it approached
that delectable spot, and I therefore counselled discretion. "Algy"
pressed hard for a visit to Hooge itself, saying he was most eager to
inspect the "trenches to the south of the road." St. Leger wavered,
but finally agreed with me that to "run into one" when joy-riding
would look bad, so we satisfied ourselves with watching the bursting
shells from a safe distance.

Only a few weeks later, "Algy" Court was killed in those very
trenches to the south of the Menin Road at Hooge, when the 9th
Lancers, badly gassed and heavily attacked on front and left
flank--all but outflanked, in fact--held on gallantly during a day of
the fiercest of fighting, and saved the line.

While we were on Menin Road little groups of wounded Tommies came
past. A Canadian Staff officer told us the K.O.S.B.'s, and the West
Kents had rushed a German position on a hill in front of Zillebeke,
after our engineers had exploded a mine under it. About 200 yards of
enemy trench had been taken, and fifteen prisoners, including two
officers, captured. From them it was learned that at least 150 Huns,
most of whom must have been killed, were in the destroyed trench.

"The K.O.S.B.'s and the West Kents," said the Canadian, "are hanging
on to the captured area, in spite of continual heavy counter-attacks
by the Germans. We had just had a message from our chaps asking for
help to hold on."

As he spoke a roar burst forth on the line not far away, seeming
to me to come from a point just south of Cavan's House. For fifteen
minutes Hun howitzer shells fell in scores on the luckless area of
the successful advance. The air reverberated with the crashes of the
huge shells, which fell in such rapid succession one could not count
them.

After we left Ypres, we heard still another fierce deluge of
shell-fire fall on that spot late in the afternoon.

Such was the commencement of the fight for Hill 60, near Verbranden
Molen, which was to be contested bitterly for many a day, costing
thousands of casualties to friend and foe. The next day, the 19th,
the Germans tried to win back the position at the point of the
bayonet, and succeeded in gaining a foot-hold on the southern
slope of the hill, only to lose it after a hand to hand fight that
afternoon.

The Huns also gave Ypres and the Menin Road a heavy shelling for an
hour on the 19th, just twenty-four hours too late to catch our "joy
party." The day of our visit was the last one that found the Menin
Road a safe place, for daily thereafter the 17-inch shells were busy
with the terrible work that was to end in the utter devastation of
Ypres--work which was to continue for the rest of April, through May,
and well into June, with but little respite.

A couple of days later the West Surreys had a fight for Hill 60 that
nearly swept away the battalion. The Germans brought up some field
guns and hammered away at our parapets at close range. When the
West Surreys came out, after gallantly holding the position until
relieved, a subaltern was the senior officer left in command. The
"Princess Pat's," too, were to leave the majority of their officers
there. Hill 60 took toll of all but a remnant of that regiment.

We dropped "Algy" Court at his billets, then hastened to St. Omer,
where a good dinner was awaiting us. St. Leger's mess was always
a cheery one, having among its members Surgeon-General O'Donnell,
Colonel Cummings, of the R.A.M.C., Colonel Warren, of the Army Post
Office, and Colonel Thresher, the Camp Commandant. That night Colonel
Father Keating and Captain Father Rawlinson were fellow-guests, two
greatly beloved "Padres," in either of whom was sufficient subtle
merriment and quiet humour to cheer up a whole corps of pessimists.

A captured German order gave rather gruesome details of a liquid-fire
thrower of sorts, intended, so the order said, for fighting in
streets and houses.

The German official report accused the British at Hill 60 of using
shells containing poisonous fumes.

Odd forerunners, these, in the light of subsequent events, for on
Friday, April 23rd, came the first German gas attack.

The 23rd dawned bright and clear, a perfect spring morning. Soon
after daybreak word came that the Germans had broken the French line
between Bixschoote and Langemarck. The 1st Cavalry Division was
ordered to concentrate between Ecke and Godawaersvelde, preparatory
to being sent up in support.

The Germans had sprung their first gas attack in the grey of dawn,
launching the asphyxiating fumes at a portion of the allied line held
by the 78th French Reservist Division.

The success of the new manœuvre had been extraordinary. That it far
exceeded the most sanguine hopes of the Germans was clear from the
fact that very few troops were available to take advantage of so
great a hole in the allied line. No German cavalry was sufficiently
near at hand to be utilised. That this point was brought well home to
the Huns was made clear to us within very few hours afterward, for
before the second gas attack the Germans had moved up a couple of
corps of cavalry to a point within call.

But the opportunity had passed. Gas, when its use was unexpected,
its effect multiplied by ignorance as to what it really was, and
vague conjecture as to what it might be, and gas when our troops were
expecting it and had been warned as to its objects and dangers, were
very different propositions.

That the German gas attacks were for some time most demoralising,
and often locally successful, was not to be denied; but some part
of the line invariably held, and made the local enemy gain of less
importance. Respirators assisted men to stay in their trenches
in spite of the coming of the noxious fumes. Of far more value
was the gradual realisation on the part of the men that gas could
be withstood, and might or might not envelope them in sufficient
quantity to produce a deadly effect.

Those French reservists who first were wrapped in the strange
greenish-yellow mist that left them gasping for air and dying of
strangulation, were not to be too greatly condemned for the general
scamper that ensued. Under the circumstances, the indefinable and
inexplicable horror would very likely have torn the line from the
grasp of the most seasoned troops of either the French or British
armies. Later I saw battalions of English veterans in utter
demoralization by the coming of the gas, and it was many a day before
the sight of a gas cloud failed to bring great terror to many a
soldier who had to face it.

By ten o'clock on the morning of the 23rd the situation seemed most
serious. Back from the Bixschoote-Langemarck line the French had come
to the line of the canal that leads south from Steenstraate to Ypres.
At a point not far from Boesinghe the Huns had actually crossed to
the west bank of the canal, were at the very doors of Boesinghe, and
had taken Het-Sas and Lizerne to the north. Lizerne was well to the
west of the canal, and on the main Dixmude-Ypres road.

Messages that reached the 1st Cavalry Division, explaining the
situation, were addressed to the Cavalry Corps, Indian Cavalry, 2nd
Army, and the new Northumbrian Territorial Division. All these units
were to be engaged on that front before many days had passed.

General De Lisle ran to 5th Corps Headquarters in Poperinghe before
eleven o'clock. We passed battalion after battalion of the North
Country Terriers along the road, trudging sturdily Ypreswards, or
lying in the fields for a breather.

Ambulances were continually arriving in Poperinghe, full of wounded
and gassed Tommies.

I met Major Moore, of the Canadian Division, who told me the
Canadians had been "at it hard." Another Canadian acquaintance, a
wounded officer, came past, and told me something of the situation.

The Canadians had won laurels that morning by an action which showed
clearly the great military value of individual initiative in the
private soldier. That is the quality that made British generals
think the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were lost at the
Dardanelles the finest men that had yet been produced in the great
world-war.

In dug-outs in front of Wieltje and west of St. Julien, some of the
Canadians were unaware of the gas attack until the Germans had driven
the French well back and come on after them to such close quarters
that the grey lines were clearly visible to the surprised Canadian
eyes.

Grabbing rifles and ammunition pouches, with no time for company or
battalion formation, officers and men rushed toward the advancing
lines of Huns, and seeking such cover as could be found, opened a
fierce fire at short range. The natural, inborn individual fighting
spirit of men raised in the open--men to whose hands a rifle was no
stranger--met the situation with such instinctive cohesion of action
that the Huns were driven back and the line saved.

A 5th Corps Staff officer told us the Canadians had actually saved
the day and had established, during the early hours of the morning,
a crescent-shaped line from the Canal south-east of Boesinghe to a
point just north of St. Julien, the crescent bending southward as
the line crossed the Ypres-Langemarck road. From this line they were
gradually being forced south by heavy German attacks.

From one to two o'clock our Divisional Headquarters waited by the
roadside in the western edge of Poperinghe while our three brigades
came up, preparatory to a move toward the scene of battle.

That hour of inaction was crammed with scenes that told of the heavy
fighting ahead of us. Lyne-Stephens, convoying a couple of dozen of
the splendid Du Cros ambulances, full to overflowing with shattered
men, hurried past _en route_ for Hazebrouck. As a hospital train of
twelve coaches, every available corner containing a wounded Tommy,
steamed west, scores of motor omnibuses hurried eastward toward the
sound of the guns, every khaki-coloured 'bus with its complement of
the Lancashire and Yorkshire Terriers of the North Midland Division.
Refugees laden with cardboard boxes, pushing loaded bicycles or
pulling-carts groaning under tall piles of household effects, added
to the road's congestion. Detachments of infantry marching on,
guns rattling up, ammunition trains urging their claims to special
facilities for a clear road, added to the _mêlée_.

Over this highway, jammed with two lines of traffic bound in each
direction, the 1st Cavalry Division and its transport pushed its
way, through Poperinghe, where railway trains were debouching long
lines of blue-clad French regulars, and then on along the road toward
Elverdinghe, to the eastward.

General de Lisle went first to Woesten, which we found full of French
territorial troops. Shells had fallen in the village during the
morning, but none were bursting near when we arrived.

We started down the road toward Elverdinghe but had not gone far when
Bang! bang! just in front, then the whirr of shrapnel bullets, the
sharp crack as they struck the _pavé_ a few yards ahead, and spurts
of dirt and dust, told us that the roadway was receiving attention at
the hands of the Boche gunners.

I pulled the car up sharply, and as I did so two more shrapnel
burst a few feet above the road in front of us, the missiles from
the exploding shells singing past and striking all about with nasty
smacks, as if in boasting evidence of a creditable amount of velocity
and precision.

One regiment of our Division was assigned duty as a reserve for the
Belgian left, which was not far north of us. Another regiment was to
act as reserve for the French in front of us. The remainder of the
Division was a sort of general reserve, to be utilised wherever and
whenever necessity arose.

A run to Elverdinghe showed that it had been heavily shelled, the
church being riddled with great holes. Our line was pushed to
the east of the town. An ambulance driver who had been left in
Elverdinghe told me he was sure "someone will get it in this hole
soon," and he proved to be no bad prophet.

As dark closed we learned that the Canadians' line had been forced
back, but the support line had held firm as a rock, and our men were
counter-attacking most gallantly as the day ended. The rumph! rumph!
of the howitzer shells increased in frequency, the cannonade swelling
in volume as the night came.

A good sized château between Poperinghe and Elverdinghe housed our
Headquarters Staff for the night.

A run to Cassel at daybreak was a maddening experience, the road from
Steenvoorde to Poperinghe being packed and jammed with all manner
of horse and motor transport. A big five-ton lorry belonging to
the Canadians had broken down as it was being turned in the narrow
roadway. Result, an immovable barrier across the _pavé_.

If ever in my life I longed to tamper with a job that was "none of
my business," I did so on that 24th of April. Organisation of the
traffic on that congested road could have been so easily done with a
dozen assistants, and hours saved to all users of the road.

Thousands of light French _camions_ were waiting at Cassel for
train-load after train-load of French troops from Arras. The 9th
Corps, which had so few days previously left Ypres, after a sojourn
of there of many months, was being hurried back as fast as steam and
petrol could bring it.

That morning I was given a message for General de Lisle from the
French Corps Commander, to the effect that the British Cavalry was
required in the front line.

Temporary divisional headquarters had been established at the fourth
kilometre stone on the Elverdinghe road, to allow messages from
regiments or brigades easily to find it.

When I arrived with the message I transmitted it to Major Fitzgerald,
then set off to seek de Lisle, who, "Fitz" said, was making a tour of
the line, and could be found either in Woesten or Elverdinghe.

I chose the latter objective. The way was lined by great black French
Spahis, clad in variegated garb and wondrous head gear, for the first
couple of kilometres. As we approached Elverdinghe, all signs of life
vanished. An odd stillness brooded over the immediate vicinity, a
sort of local lull in the maelstrom of sound the shell-bursts were
making and had made throughout the night, a couple of miles to the
eastward.

A half instinctive pause in the edge of the village, and a moment
spent in tense listening, gave me an uncanny feeling of solitude. As
I stood, undecided whether to push on into the town or circle back
for Woesten, the silence was mashed to reverberating atoms by an
8-in. howitzer shell, which fell not far from the town.

Bang! rumph! r-r-r-rumph! Bang! Shrapnel and high explosive seemed to
come together.

Another and another shell followed, then a blinding crash as I
was turning my car and a shell burst in the square not far away,
showering bits of shell and _débris_ over me.

The pieces slap-slapped resoundingly against the metal panels of the
car, and one good-sized stone was hurled against my back.

As I raced away to safety towards Poperinghe, the shells still came
into the village and around it, and followed the road at my back,
urging me on.

Shortly afterwards I saw Captain Bertram Neame, the Adjutant of the
18th Hussars, who had been wounded in the right hand and arm by one
of the shells.

"An aeroplane marked with red, white and blue rings, but evidently a
German flying false colours, circled round over the battery near us,"
said Neame, "and half a dozen German shrapnel fell there at once.
Then the 'plane circled over the farm containing 18th Headquarters,
and another farm which was sheltering most of A Squadron. Immediately
afterwards shells poured into the two farms, and several of the men
were hit."

Months after I read the diary of Captain T. O. Thompson, of the
R.A.M.C., who was attached to the 18th Hussars.

  His graphic account of the shelling in Elverdinghe that morning read
  as follows: "A Squadron were in the next farm, and all their men
  sleeping peacefully in the sunshine against the wall of a barn, when,
  without warning, a 'coalbox' arrived and landed full on one man. They
  found only an arm and a leg and his head. The next arrived later and
  wounded two men. The inhabitants of the farm cleared at a run, and
  some French territorials, who had been in that farm for seven months,
  went like greased lightning.

  "The Colonel (Burnett), and Adjutant (Neame), and Captain H.
  (Holdsworth), walked about thirty yards up the road, when a shell
  arrived and wounded the Adjutant in the hand and H. in the back. It
  hit the Colonel on the back, fortunately on the belt, and slightly
  wounded him in the thigh. It bruised the Major, who was twenty yards
  away, on the shin.

  "The Germans kept on putting shells along the road, and then started
  on the village. They were the beastly 8·2 high explosives, and were
  going just over us on to the Poperinghe road. Six horses were going
  up this road when a shell landed about fifteen yards short of it.
  One of the grooms was badly wounded, one killed, being lifted into
  and left hanging in one of the trees by the roadside.

  "Then the 4th Dragoon Guards came down the road on foot and passed
  into the village, but came out again as a shell greeted them in the
  square. They came off the road, and came along a hollow near the
  stream toward us. The rear squadron was marching along a ditch behind
  a hedge-row in two-deep formation when a beastly shell landed right
  in the ditch and hurled four of them sixty feet into the air. Two
  others were killed as well. Brown, a 4th D.G. Lieutenant, was one
  of the four; his hand was found in the stream one hundred and fifty
  yards away."

All things considered, I was lucky to get out of Elverdinghe unhurt
that morning.

I found General de Lisle as he was returning from Woesten with
Captain Nicholson; I then ran to Woesten with a message for General
Briggs.

General de Lisle was faced with the fact that he was acting as
reserve to the British left, and therefore suggested to the French
commander that the French reserves should first be used, and the
British cavalry only called upon to occupy the front French line when
no further French reserves were available, a suggestion of which the
French General at once saw the wisdom.

Returning from Woesten, Nicholson and I found we must make a
_détour_, as the narrow country road was completely blocked by French
horse transport.

Dashing into Poperinghe at high speed we were surprised to see the
townsfolk running hither and thither in great fright and confusion.
Six great shells had been thrown the long distance from the enemy
line and landed in the town. They had come but a couple of minutes
before, a scared Belgian told us.

I lost no time, swinging through the square and out on the
Elverdinghe road at high speed. No sooner were we clear of the centre
of the town than Hun shells screamed wickedly over us on their
way toward the railway station, exploding not far behind us with
tremendous concussion. Guns of large calibre were being used by the
Germans.

[Illustration: Damage caused by a 17-inch shell in Poperinghe, April,
1915]

[Illustration: Red Cross ambulances on the coast]

First Cavalry Division Headquarters was moved from the kilometre
stone to an _estaminet_ near by, as the inhabitants had brought up
two great wagons and decamped therein with bag and baggage.

Tales of Canadian prowess and fine work by the 13th Infantry Brigade,
which was sent to their support, were mingled with conflicting
reports of the number of guns captured by the Germans. First, the
loss of a couple of dozen was admitted by the French. Before a week
had passed we knew the number actually taken by the Germans was much
greater.

Ypres, we heard, had been so heavily shelled the day before that the
entire town had been evacuated.

All the morning I watched ambulances full of wounded French soldiers
_en route_ for Poperinghe, file past war-worn batteries of "75's,"
pushing toward the front. The begrimed French gunners, with their
cheery faces, seemed to know the esteem in which we held them and
their splendid guns, and to be keen to get into action and stem the
advance of the Germans, which was slowly but steadily surging towards
us though our men were fighting hard every inch of the way.

The Belgian refugees poured back, forced off the road by the
lorries, ambulances and guns. Slight mothers with numerous progeny,
one, or sometimes two, of the lesser units in arms, toiled by.
Each person, young or old, capable of carrying a load, bore heavy
burdens. Bicycles with huge bundles balanced on the saddle, were
pushed westward haltingly, as road-space permitted. One lad passed on
crutches, flanked by two grand-dames carrying blue buckets crammed
tight with portions of the family wardrobe.

Most of the faces of the refugees bore a stolid, matter-of-fact
expression. Some were quite cheerful. Many seemed stoically numbed
to all feeling. The strong wind tossed their unwieldy bundles,
and they stumbled awkwardly out of the path of hurrying traffic,
their feet bruised against the loose stones that edged the _pavé_.
Tired, dirty, buffeted by the gale, with strained and aching muscles
and broken feet, fleeing from death or worse, and in their flight
abandoning their worldly all, I wondered there were not more signs of
heart-sickness and despair on their thin faces.

Shells screamed over us and ploughed great holes in the British
aviation park east of Poperinghe. After the first half dozen of such
visitors, the Flying Corps packed up and took its departure for safer
quarters.

A wounded Canadian said the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Brigades in front of
us were wiped out as a fighting force. Their trenches, he told us had
been literally blown to bits. A counter-attack by the Canadians, the
13th Brigade and the French 45th Division on their left, had started
well, but failed to achieve much. German batteries and machine guns
greatly outnumbered ours and were taking heavy toll as the battle
surged backwards and forwards.

Before the day was over the French reported that they had recaptured
Lizerne.

Night closed with an increasing din from the arms of all sorts and
calibres on our front, never to cease for the whole night through.

I was sent after dark to G.H.Q. at St. Omer, a journey that meant
many a long hour of tedious waiting in the midst of the tangled skein
of traffic along the way.

Returning at daybreak on Sunday, the 25th, I planned a round-about
route from Steenvoorde to Poperinghe, circling well north of the
main road. I had travelled but a few kilometres when I found the
narrow, muddy road in front of me completely blocked by a train of
French lorries, laden with troops. Some of the vehicles were mired,
and the block bid fair to be immovable for hours. By sheer luck I
stopped opposite a farmyard, in which I turned the car, and not
far back gained a cross-road. A mile beyond the route was rendered
absolutely impassable by two detachments of British transport, which
had met face to face on a road barely wide enough for one.

"We have been here a divil of a toime," said a cheery Irish driver at
the rear of the column, "and from the look of it beyant there, we'll
be slapin' here in the mud this night."

Nothing daunted, I turned, pushed by willing hands when deep mud
made assistance necessary, and headed the other way. But fate was
unkind. Again I found the road barricaded, this time by two signal
lorries that had, like me, tried a _détour_. One had skidded sideways
and stuck fast. The other was trying to pull his fellow back on to
the roadway. Disheartened, I soon tired of what threatened to be a
long wait, and returned toward Steenvoorde. A new convoy of French
troop-lorries closed this avenue of escape, but after an hour of
floundering through almost impassable lanes, I reached Abele, on the
main road, and was soon thereafter in Poperinghe.

Truly an ounce of prevention in the way of road organisation and
route selection by some competent authority would have been worth
many pounds of the condemnation poured forth with volubility by all
road users in those days of tiresome traffic tangles.

Our headquarters moved to an _estaminet_ just outside Woesten.

I learned, on arrival, that at midnight word had come from the French
Commander, General Putz, whose headquarters were but a few hundred
yards distant, to the effect that a mistake had been made in a
previous report, and Lizerne was still in the hands of the enemy.

The roads were filled with French troops moving up, and relieved
reservists coming back, while battery on battery of grey "75's"
wheeled past.

"I don't know where they are going to put any _more_ guns," said
Budworth, our Divisional C.R.A., "the whole country round is stiff
with 'em now."

Fresson, the French liaison officer attached to the 1st Cavalry
Division, sought at French headquarters an explanation of the
situation on the extreme French left, where the Belgian right joined
it.

"Lizerne was attacked by French and Belgians, and Pilkem by French
only," said Fresson, on his return. "The mix-up in the report was
due to the Belgians. The story of Lizerne is indefinite, except
that the Germans were not driven out, as reported. As to the Pilkem
attack, this failed utterly, due to wire, machine-guns, and general
concentration by the enemy of the position they had captured.

"A further attack," continued Fresson, "is to be made this morning at
10.30., when the Pilkem ridge is to be again stormed."

The Pilkem ridge was east of our part of the front, not far distant
from the canal itself. The sounds of battle from the line facing it
were continually in our ears.

General Smith-Dorrien drove by. One of his Staff told me that at ten
o'clock on the night before (Saturday night) 200 Canadians were
still in St. Julien, though the line had been pressed back, leaving
the little band cut off and surrounded by Germans. All night they had
fought on, and were still fighting.

Some of our men had gotten up sufficiently close to hear the
Huns call out to the gallant Canadians in a lull in the firing:
"Surrender, Canadians! We are around you! You have no chance!"

"See you damned first! Come and get us," was the answer sent back in
the night by a clear young Canadian voice, and Bedlam was again let
loose.

That was the spirit of the men that Canada sent to France to fight
for the Empire.

On the Sunday morning, said the Staff officer, a determined effort
was being made to relieve what remained of the gallant 200.

All our attacks that day and those of the French as well failed.
Lizerne remained in enemy hands, and the last of the heroic two
hundred Canadians had evidently fallen in St. Julien before night,
for all sounds of firing from that direction ceased. Strive as they
would, our troops had been unable to reach and succour them, though
costly efforts were not wanting. Weeks and months afterwards anxious
ones waited for word from some of that noble little band in St.
Julien, but no word ever came from German hospital or prison camp.
They had fought on to the last man, to the bitter end!

At night the Germans attacked Broodseinde, east of Zonnebeke, with
great ferocity, but were driven back by our 5th Corps troops.

What was left of the Canadian 2nd Brigade was holding Gravenstafel,
just north of Zonnebeke, and not far to the south-west of
Passchendaele. The Huns poured mass on mass against the depleted
ranks of the Canadians, who were compelled to fall back, evacuating
Gravenstafel, but stubbornly disputing every foot of ground lost.

The night of Sunday, the 25th, closed in, with little in the
situation to cheer us, except the knowledge that the entire vicinity
of the Ypres Salient and the line to the north of it was crowded with
fresh French and British troops and battery on battery of guns.

By Monday night the London Sunday papers had reached us.

What was our surprise to see that the London press was greatly
cheered by the meagre French and British official reports, and
united in condemning the German official reports, which were flatly
characterised as lying inventions.

The German official reports were, as a matter of fact, in that
particular instance, more correct than either the French or British
official reports.

The French report declared Lizerne and Het-Sas to have been taken
from the Huns. The Huns had never been driven out of either town.

The British report was vaguely optimistic, evidently bent on
minimising the German gains. It was so worded that 999 men out of
1,000 would understand from it that most of the ground lost on the
23rd and the days immediately following had been won back from the
enemy. Certain it was that no one would gain the idea from the
British official report that the Huns had been steadily forcing our
line back, that our counter-attacks had failed, and that the Ypres
Salient was then so threatened that no one but a madman would deny
that further reconstruction of our line around Ypres, involving the
giving up of a large section of our front line had become a military
necessity, to be performed at the earliest moment such a manœuvre
could be carried out. Indeed, the section of our line to be abandoned
must needs be far greater than that the enemy had won by his surprise
gas attack against the French.

I do not wish to give the impression from the foregoing that the
German reports were, as a rule, more correct than French or British
official _pronunciamientos_. I think they were by no means so to be
described. In matters of fact, as to captures of men or guns, or
details as to bits of line lost or won, the Hun official reports
were less often incorrect than some might think. Now and then, when
dealing with some matter of conjecture, such as an estimate of our
casualties, they were absurdly wide of the mark. The average French
official report might err slightly as regarded detail, but was
in the main most dependable. Our chief quarrel with the official
reports as issued by the War Office to the British Press was that
they were at times subject to more than one interpretation. Escaping
actual inaccuracy, they did not always convey the impression at Home
warranted by the facts at the Front.

On the morning of the 26th I ran toward Wieltje, and obtained details
of the exact position of the lines.

The French left touched the Belgian right along the Yser-Ypres Canal
north of Lizerne, where the German line was pushed to its further
western point. The French line ran close to Het-Sas and crossed to
the east of the canal a few hundred yards south of Boesinghe.

At a point a couple of thousand yards east of the canal the British
left joined the extreme French right.

From that junction our line ran eastward through Fortuin, a village
half a mile south of St. Julien, then north-east toward Gravenstafel,
then south-east to Broodseinde.

At two o'clock that afternoon a grand attack was planned, all along
that east-and-west line.

The 13th Brigade was on the left; two companies of the Rifle Brigade
and the East Kents came next; five battalions of the 10th Brigade
and a battalion in reserve were near Fortuin; on their right was
the 11th Brigade; east of them were the York and Durham Territorial
Brigades. The Northumbrian Territorial Division was in the Wieltje
area in reserve, and the Lahore Division was coming up to the north
of Verlorenhoek, on the right of the Northumberland Terriers.

Our forces, to be sent forward in attack, numbered over two score
battalions, say, 40,000 men.

The Canadians had been withdrawn from the Salient to take stock of
their battered remnants and fill their ranks with reserves from
England. They had been tried in the fire and could be proud of having
gained the name of one of the most brilliant fighting contingents
that had been seen on the British front since the commencement of the
War.

The French were again to attack the Pilkem ridge at two o'clock,
when the British line, between four and five miles long, was to push
vigorously northward in a desperate attempt to drive the Huns from
the ground gained by gas attack three days before.

Our share in the show was small. The following order was issued to
the brigades:

"At two p.m. to-day the French will attack Lizerne and Het-Sas. The
1st Cavalry Division are ordered to support the left flank of the
French, acting in reserve. The Division will be saddled up by two
p.m. and the horses of the 1st Cavalry Brigade collected in the area
south-west of Woesten. By two p.m. the 1st Cavalry Brigade will
assemble, dismounted, north of the Woesten-Oostoleteren road, about
the nineteenth kilometre stone, ready to support in the direction
of Pypegaale, if required. The 2nd and 9th Brigades will remain in
their present positions, ready to support the 1st Cavalry Brigade
dismounted."

This gave vague promise of a bit of fun, as Pypegaale was only a mile
from the coveted Lizerne, to which the Huns were holding so doggedly.

But our participation in the mill was only to take place in the
event of the French attack ending in disaster or resulting in such
extraordinary success that the Germans would be put to absolute rout.

The shells fell all about in those days, and rarely did I visit the
support positions--which I did scores of times each day--when the
air was not full of the droning shells of our own and the French
batteries, pounding the enemy's positions on the canal.

Shell-fire; aeroplanes, British, French and German; anti-aircraft
shells, both ours and those of the enemy, and passing troops and
batteries became such common sights as the hours went by that one
hardly bestowed on them a passing glance.

A Belgian woman was caught, near a battery position, flashing signals
with a piece of bright tin to a Hun airman high overhead. The French
took her away, one stout soldier to each arm, to summary execution.

Children were at play at the roadside. A dozen boys were engaged in
a mock bombardment. A bottle served as the hostile town. Stones made
good shells. All waited for the order, "Fire!" and then rained shots
at the target with a will. Now and then one of the children would
say, "Rumph! rumph!" mockingly, as a Black Maria fell near enough
to jar them, but for the most part they paid scant attention to the
fierce cannonade in progress all about.

In a field by the road a man was ploughing stolidly. A woman was
hanging her washing on the line, singing as she worked. A 13-pounder
anti-aircraft shell buried itself a few yards away, but she evinced
no interest in it, and did not even allow its coming to interrupt her
song.

Artillery work in modern warfare is carefully organised. It was
difficult to realise in the midst of such an inferno of shell-fire
that every gunner, who was so hard at work in those April days, had
some definite objective when launching shells enemy-ward.

Major Budworth was directed to conduct the artillery attack on
Lizerne. In other words, the guns of H and I Batteries of the Royal
Horse Artillery were to pave the way for the French infantry attack.

General Putz was anxious to retake Lizerne and Steenstraate as
well. The latter town was on the canal, a few hundred yards east of
Lizerne, and astride the Dixmude-Ypres highway, along which German
reserves, to meet the attack on Lizerne, must be brought.

Budworth placed the batteries near Woesten, about 3,000 yards from
Lizerne, which was surrounded by country so flat and so dotted with
groups of trees that artillery observation was difficult.

A couple of gunners were sent into the French front trenches at
11.30 a.m. to observe the range-finding shots.

The Lizerne attack had been timed for 2.30 p.m. All watches had been
most carefully synchronized. At 12.15 p.m., to the very second, H
Battery fired three shots, then, after an interval, three shots more.
Five minutes after the second trio had been sent Hun-ward, I Battery
also fired six shots in groups of three. The observation officers on
reconnaissance 'phoned back to the batteries from the French line,
and gave minute details as to errors in range of the dozen shells,
adding such information as would allow a more correct setting of the
timing-fuses.

Errors in direction at such range--3,000 to 4,000 yards make an ideal
range for the British 13-pounder and 18-pounder field-guns--were
rare, in view of the fact that our gunners were provided with
accurate large scale maps from which the range could be splendidly
laid.

To get the guns closer to the enemy than 3,000 yards made it possible
that the gunners might be subjected to hostile rifle fire, if the
line should be forced back slightly. At such close range as 2,000
yards so low a trajectory was necessary that cover was rarely
possible. Further, the supplying of ammunition to the guns was,
under such circumstances, a most difficult problem. If an artillery
commander could place his field-guns within 3,000 yards of the enemy
position he considered himself fortunate.

Budworth was compelled to use shrapnel, as the 13-pounders at the
Front at that time had not been provided with high explosive shell,
although it had been repeatedly promised. Had high explosive shell
been available, one battery would have sent it hurtling against the
walls and houses in the little village of Lizerne and the Germans
hiding behind them. The other battery would have simultaneously swept
the streets and open spaces with shrapnel. With no high explosive,
the only alternative was to use long fuses in the shrapnel, which
then burst on percussion against the buildings behind which the Huns
were sheltering.

The observation from the front line was chiefly valuable as a guide
to the timing of the shrapnel that was to be used to scatter the
hundreds of bullets over the open spaces. A 13-pounder shrapnel
contained about 285 bullets, an 18-pounder, 365. The timing fuses
burst none too accurately, at best. Atmospheric conditions frequently
affected the burning of the fuses, and even the heating of the gun as
it went into action sometimes did so.

H and I Batteries, having obtained the desired information from their
observers as to the range and timing of their twelve shells, waited
patiently until half past two o'clock.

At that hour, 400 shells were fired into Lizerne. For the first
five minutes each battery fired four rounds per minute, then came
a two-minute interval. For the next five minutes every one of the
twelve guns in the two batteries fired five shots per minute. A
second lull of two minutes was followed by still more rapid fire for
another five minutes, six rounds per sixty seconds blazing forth
from each of the dozen field-pieces, seventy-two shells per minute
falling in the village. Thus they continued, the spasm of firing and
the brief interval of stillness alternating, until the 400 shells had
been fired.

That the work of the Horse Artillery was well done was apparent from
the result. Its efficiency was confirmed later by captured Germans
wounded in Lizerne, who termed the place "Hell itself" while the
initial bombardment was in progress.

But the work of the guns was by no means ended. The salvo died down
at the appointed time. The French Colonial Zouaves rushed forward,
bayonets in hand, with wild cries, and then the gunners were set to
their task.

They fired another 400 rounds at the road from Steenstraate to
Lizerne, a second road leading to Lizerne from the south-east, and
a third road connecting the two. These three roads were the avenues
most likely to be utilized by the Huns for bringing up reinforcements
to meet the attack. "Searching" the roads and a couple of special
points, one just back of a rise of ground, where it seemed possible
reinforcements might be gathered, kept the gunners hard at work.

Shrapnel rained over such spots, bursting from twenty to thirty feet
above ground, and spreading death all about.

Watching the two batteries in action gave me a high opinion of their
abilities. Nothing in modern warfare was so fascinating a study as
that of guns in action.

France, with her faith pinned to low trajectory and high muzzle
velocity as exemplified in her wonderful "75's," and Germany's
gun-religion, centring on weight of shell, made a formidable contrast.

The making of a field-piece was ever a compromise between those two
schools--a gun firing a light shell straight and fast, or a gun
in which speed and direct line were sacrificed to gain weight of
projectile.

A 35-pound howitzer shell and an 18-pounder shrapnel, such as that
fired by the British field artillery, were sent on their mission of
death from guns of practically the same weight. Thus greatly did
an increase in muzzle velocity mean a corresponding increase in
avoirdupois.

Thirty-eight hundredweight was generally agreed by gun-experts the
world over to be the weight permissible for field pieces; this limit
being imposed by questions of mobility and transport.

It was to gain those assets so great to the French military mind,
low trajectory and high muzzle velocity, that the weight of the "75"
shell was dropped to 15 pounds.

Howitzer against field-gun, with high explosive shell for both, was
German practice against French practice. As one who became very
tired of the continuous rain of big German howitzer shells, I must
confess a wholesome respect for Hun theory in relation to questions
of modern artillery. But no German gun, light or heavy, could, to my
mind, compare with the wonderful "75."

A return to General Putz's headquarters found the French staff
in possession of a report from the Front, to the effect that the
Algerian Brigade had taken Lizerne, held all the trenches on the west
side of the canal, and were preparing to cross the canal at Lizerne
and Het-Sas.

Later developments showed the French officers in the fighting line
had again been optimistic to a point of inaccuracy in reporting
Lizerne captured. The next day it was discovered that the Germans
still held two houses on the western edge of canal, and had "dug
themselves in" in an entrenched bridge-head on the canal bank.
The French troops were in a semicircle, 300 yards distant, and
were bringing up, under cover of the night, "75's" on either side
of the miniature German fort, and preparing to batter it down by
high-explosive shells fired at point-blank range.

The 1st Cavalry Division left the reserve line before Lizerne was
finally wholly clear of Germans.

All day the din of battle on the long front had been maddening.
Ear-drums became tuned to it for a time. But periods of acute
sensitiveness would recur, in which the sound seemed to beat against
one's brain with a dull ache, punctuated with sharp pain from the
constant concussion.

An evening message from 5th Corps Headquarters told of the
failure of the great attack at 2 p.m., owing to gas fumes from
the German trenches. A later attack had been organised, in which
the Northumbrian Territorial Division had won from the enemy some
trenches south-west of St. Julien, and then pushed on and captured
St. Julien itself. The Manchesters, too, had taken some German
trenches east of St. Julien.

But the good work was to be undone. That night the Huns won back St.
Julien, and by daybreak on the 27th the line was practically where it
had been twenty-four hours earlier, in spite of sad losses.

[Illustration: A French "75" in the mud of a Flanders beet-field]

[Illustration: An ambulance which was struck by a shell while
carrying wounded from east of Ypres]

[Illustration: View showing depth of 17-inch shell-hole in the garden
of a château between Poperinghe and Elverdinghe]

April 27th saw another strenuous effort by our gallant troops on that
front. The southern edge of a wood, situated less than a mile west
of St. Julien, was penetrated, but later the men returned to our
original line.

The German official report said that the Huns fairly mowed down
British troops when they advanced near St. Julien, and their
artillery caught our men as they were retiring and inflicted
frightful losses. Unfortunately, there was no exaggeration in that
report.

Arriving at our headquarters château, east of Poperinghe, we found
that half an hour earlier a dozen or more 17-inch shells had fallen
in and about the town.

Poperinghe was being shelled daily, eleven townsfolk having been
killed on the afternoon before. Most of the population had sought a
more salubrious locality.

Of great interest to us was a huge shell-hole that had just been made
in the château garden, fifty yards from our sleeping quarters. It was
over thirty feet in diameter and ten or twelve feet deep.

The big shell had shattered every window in that district, and the
concussion had ruined most of the tiled roofs within sight. Great
shell splinters, weighing from five to thirty pounds, still warm,
were lying about.

That night, after eleven o'clock, when all were asleep, four more
17-inch visitors arrived in that edge of Poperinghe. All four shook
the château to its foundations, one falling within 100 yards of
it and smashing three dwelling houses into one mass of splinters,
plaster and _débris_.

General de Lisle was sleeping on the floor of the château dining
room. The first of the mammoth quartette so shook the building that a
lustre chandelier, housed in a dust-covering and therefore unnoticed,
became detached and fell to the polished floor below. Its myriad tiny
pieces of glass jangled musically as they showered over the General,
who was sleeping peacefully beneath. Fortunately, de Lisle was not
hit by any of the heavier portions of the costly ornament, but his
emotions on being awakened from deep slumber by the resounding smash
of the shell, followed by the crash of the falling chandelier and
the attendant rain of tuneful prisms, can better be imagined than
described.

For the rest of the night, the headquarters staff--with the exception
of de Lisle himself--repaired to the cellar in search of less
interrupted repose. The General, having ascertained that no other
lustre chandelier was suspended from the ceiling, stuck to his
original pitch.

The next morning at daybreak, 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters moved
from that château, in spite of its many desirable attributes as a
habitation.

On the 27th, General de Lisle sent me to the headquarters of Major
Pilkington, of the 15th Hussars, on an errand. The reserve Belgian
line was hard by. In backing my car, to turn it in the narrow lane,
a bank of a reserve trench or ditch caved, and the poor car stood on
its tail, at an uncomfortable and astonishing angle. Colonel Burnett
and one of his 18th Hussar officers passed, and with their help and
that of a dozen obliging 15th Hussar troopers, we attempted to move
the brute. It resisted our combined efforts. Then the Belgians near
by saw what had transpired and came at a run. In a jiffy the car
was out, but having been lifted with more zeal than discretion was
strained in so many places that it ran more like a crawfish than a
car, until a week later, when time and opportunity allowed me to
substitute an ample and expensive list of new parts.

Plodding through Poperinghe late that afternoon, the first of seven
or eight 17-inch Boche "big 'uns" fell close behind me. I felt,
rather than heard, a crash, the wave of sound deafening me. Missiles
rained down sharply on roofs, walls and paved roadway. Lame duck
though it was, the car lifted itself and sped at a touch of the
accelerator pedal. I heard some of the other shells explode, but was
well out of harm's way by the time they arrived.

On the 28th of April the Division was moved back to a bivouac in the
woods that lined the Poperinghe--Proven road, the main highway to
Dunkirk.

Late in the afternoon, after a splendid day of lying in the sun,
which was greatly appreciated by the whole Division, billets to the
westward were assigned to us, and we trekked off without delay.

[Illustration: Staff officers at lunch]

[Illustration: Looking east over the Menin Bridge at the edge of Ypres]

Wormhoudt, a French-Flemish town on the main road from Dunkirk to
Cassel, was selected for headquarters, and there we rested for four
days before returning to our old home, the La Nieppe château, on
the road from Cassel to St. Omer.

_En route_ to Wormhoudt we passed the Indian Cavalry, coming up
to relieve us as reserve. The Poona Horse, Sind Lancers, and
Inniskilling Dragoons presented a fine appearance as they rode by.

Rest was welcome to the Division. The troops had not been in the
actual firing-line, but had been in continual occupation of reserve
trenches for days, frequently under heavy shell-fire, and rarely with
an opportunity for taking off their boots or sleeping elsewhere than
in the open.

The villages and farms around Wormhoudt provided excellent billets
for the troopers. Barns filled with straw and flax were warm and
comfortable resting-places after the days and nights in cold, damp
trenches.

So April ended peacefully for us, the Germans holding what they had
won on the 23rd and closing the month with a vigorous bombardment of
Dunkirk, a few miles north of us, which served no useful military
purpose, but gave the Huns the satisfaction of killing a fair number
of civilians, including a good bag of women and children.



CHAPTER V.


The first days of May found me with but little work to do.

I spent some of my time running up into the Salient and hearing talk
of preparations for a withdrawal of our line to a smaller horseshoe
around Ypres. This was to be done as soon as all was ready for the
move, and the utmost secrecy enveloped the operations.

I saw Rex Benson, of the 9th Lancers, who was acting temporarily
as liaison officer with the French troops along the canal north of
Ypres. Rex said the French had made but little progress towards the
Pilkem ridge and General Putz had apparently decided to concentrate
his position and give up open assault for the present.

The Hun howitzer fire was so fierce along the roads when I skirted
Ypres on May 1st that I decided to desist visiting the Salient. In
short, I got "cold feet" about the Ypres roads, and decided to do my
joy-riding in other directions.

Romer Williams, of the 4th D.G.'s, and I went to St. Omer on the 2nd
and brought out a couple of Romer's Red Cross friends, one a San
Franciscan, named Sherman, at whose billet we had found marvellous
cocktails. We all dined at General Mullens' headquarters, a gay party.

As we were feasting, the Huns in front of Ypres were up to more
devilment. They let loose a heavy gas attack on the evening of the
2nd and made the British trenches south of St. Julien untenable.
Our men retired, but the gas hung stationary for a few moments, and
prevented an immediate German advance. This fortunate pause gave time
for a concentration of all our guns on the spot. When the gas had
dispersed sufficiently to allow an advance by the enemy, our gunners
threw a _barrage de feu_ across the German front as it emerged from
St. Julien and the little wood to the west of it, and effectually
stopped the way. Meantime, our men had regained their trenches.

The 2nd Cavalry Division, dismounted, was called up as support during
this attack. To reach the trenches into which they were ordered they
found it necessary to advance across an enemy _barrage de feu_. The
4th Hussars and 5th Lancers were the regiments engaged. For a time it
seemed they would be badly cut up, but luckily they got through the
curtain of shells with only forty killed.

So _some_ cavalry units had been thrown into the actual line, after
all.

On the 3rd the 1st Cavalry Division moved back to its previous winter
billets, the Headquarters Staff again repairing to the La Nieppe
château.

The Huns attacked our Ypres line all day on the 4th, but with no
success. That night the evacuation of the extreme eastern section of
the Salient was carried out without serious casualty.

The enemy patrols that poked through the Polygon Wood at daybreak
on the 4th, and discovered the British retirement to a line further
west, must indeed have been surprised.

The fighting of the previous ten days had cost the Allies over
thirty square miles of ground and more than 20,000 casualties, but
the British Army had undoubtedly gained in morale, nevertheless.
Colonials and Territorials, as well as old line regiments filled
with new reserve men, had fought shoulder to shoulder with the
veterans of Le Cateau and the Aisne, every unit gaining strength
unconsciously as each contingent rose in the other's estimation.
Mutual admiration and mutual confidence had welded the Army all the
more closely together.

On a call at 5th Corps Headquarters at Abele, west of Poperinghe,
I saw a couple of what appeared to be divers' helmets. These were
loaded into a car, with a good-sized roll of rubber tubing and a
homely pair of bellows attached to each of the grotesque pieces of
headgear.

Curious, I asked a "Q" officer, standing near by, just how this
paraphernalia was to be used.

"People get strange ideas about fighting gas," he said. "These
outfits were designed and forwarded to us to be sent up front, so up
front I am sending them. They are provided to allow some of our men,
say about 3 in every 10,000, so far as present supply goes, to stay
in the gas-filled trenches while some pals with the bellows pump good
air to them through a few hundred feet of hose.

"If the gas area should be of considerable extent the chap with the
bellows would soon be pumping chlorine into his fellow-Tommy, and die
pumping at that, or else take to the woods and let the diver himself
get what air he could find.

"Many accidents might befall the tube. A Hun might sit on it. I hate
to think of myself, squatting in a trench with one of those things
over my head, praying for air, with the bellows man pumping his heart
out trying to get ozone through a rubber tube on top of which some
fat Boche had plumped, while he potted away at one or the other of us.

"A shell, too, would have an interesting time with such a tube.
Imagine the chap in the helmet hollering, 'Pump away, you lazy
beggar, I'm not getting enough air to keep a flea alive,' and all
the good old oxygen pouring out of a jagged hole in the bally pipe,
hundreds of feet from him.

"Then, suppose a man, coming up before daylight, got his foot caught
in that length of tube," he continued enthusiastically--but I
realised I had started something I couldn't stop, and fled.

On May 5th I found E. F. Lumsden, of the A.S.C., an old friend with
a passion for car repair of all sorts, who had charge of the lorries
and motor workshops attached to the 7th Brigade Royal Garrison
Artillery Ammunition Park. His lot were in Estaires. I turned my
car over to them for rejuvenation while I hied myself to London to
purchase an alarmingly large collection of parts with which to assist
the somewhat extensive rebuilding Lumsden had gleefully planned.

I was back with a heavy load of hardware and empty purse by the night
of May 7th, and by midnight on the 8th left Estaires with my chariot,
which was in a greatly chastened mood.

While I was on leave in England the troopers of the 1st Cavalry
Division had spent their nights in the Ypres Salient digging reserve
line trenches and making barbed wire entanglements. Ypres on fire,
the trench line alight with flares and the flash of constant
shell-bursts, made this work more spectacular than pleasant. Once or
twice a shell fell sufficiently near the troopers to wound one or
two. One Black Maria unfortunately dropped among a squadron of the
18th Hussars, killing two of them and wounding a couple of dozen more.

Lunching on the 8th with a gunners' mess on the Laventie front, I
learned of a big "push" ordered at dawn on the 9th. The Auber ridge
was to be attacked from the south-west by two Indian Divisions, and
from the north-west by the 8th Division and the 7th Division, with
the Northumbrian Territorial Division and the newly arrived West
Riding Territorial Division somewhere about. Something like 120,000
men were thus to be engaged. The Canadian Division was in reserve, in
addition, and the 9th Division, the first of the "K" troops to reach
the Front, was expected by rail that night.

The 6th Division, in the Bois Grenier area, was ready and eager to
push forward toward Lille if the Auber ridge attack proved successful.

Instructions had been given, in anticipation of any misunderstandings
which might tend to lead to another fiasco like the battle of Neuve
Chapelle. Orders were issued that troops in certain areas were to
push on and not delay, because telephonic communication had not
been established. The order of the day asked the troops to "break a
hole in the enemy's line," and assured the attacking Divisions that
the whole Army was behind, ready to deal sledge-hammer blows on the
broken German front.

My gunner friends confidently expected to sleep in Lille on the night
of the 9th, and proceeded jocosely to mark on a map of that city the
houses each one chose as his billet. Roads to Lille had been selected
for the ammunition columns, and orders given which would ensure a
supply of shells that far forward, in case the attack "got through."

All was excitement when I left that front in the small hours of the
morning of the 9th, and greatly would I have loved to stay and see
the Auber Ridge attack at daybreak. But at early morning light on
Sunday, May 9th, the 1st Cavalry Division, placed under the orders of
General Plumer, who had taken General Smith-Dorrien's place as the
General Officer commanding the 2nd Army, was once more to be sent to
Ypres.

Things had not gone well in the Salient on the 8th. The 5th Corps,
then under General Allenby, who had been promoted from Cavalry
Corps, was composed of the 4th, 27th and 28th Divisions. These troops
had been driven from their first-line trenches by a strenuous German
attack, and had fallen back to the next line with heavy casualties.

The 2nd Cavalry Brigade had been rushed early on the 9th into the
reserve trenches east of Ypres, and were in readiness from Potijze
south to the Menin Road. The 1st Cavalry Brigade and the 9th Cavalry
Brigade were near Vlamertinghe, west of Ypres, waiting orders.

The Huns had begun a ferocious onslaught on that perfect Sunday
morning, and the roar of battle around Ypres drowned, in our ears,
the noise of the 1st Army attack towards Aubers.

That 9th of May was to see bitter fighting on many fronts. The enemy
attack on the Ypres Salient, and our "push" against the Auber ridge,
were pregnant with bloody work, but away to the south, in front of
Arras, the French Army was commencing the second day of the biggest
attack it had yet planned since the winter mud had limited the
fighting to trench warfare.

Five hundred thousand men and 2,000 guns were hammering at the German
front, in an effort to break through to Douai, and though it was too
early to expect a detailed report of the onslaught, word had come
that the soldiers of France had won through in three places.

On the Russian front the German arms were crowned with success on
that day, in a gigantic conflict, and the day before saw the sinking
of the Lusitania and the sacrifice of its load of women and children.

One seemed to live many hours in a few minutes in those May days.
All-engrossed with the work in hand, we were none the less anxious to
hear of the great movements about us, in which our interests were not
less keen than in the fighting in our own immediate area.

The new British line around Ypres ran from the French right, 2,000
yards east of the Yser-Ypres Canal, and about the same distance north
of St. Jean, east for a mile or so to a homestead dubbed the Canadian
Farm, then south-east across the Ypres-St. Julien road, and across
another road that previously had served as a secondary route to
Passchendaele.

From that point the trenches led south, passing to the west of
Verlorenhoek, a town on the Ypres-Zonnebeke road. South again, and
a little east, they crossed the Ypres-Roulers railway, skirted the
western and the southern shores of the Bellewaarde Lake, took in the
grounds of the ruined Hooge château and the eastern fringe of the
woods that surrounded it, passed east of Hooge, and thus reached the
famous Ypres-Menin road.

On went the line, winding snakelike through the eastern edge of the
Sanctuary Wood, south of the Menin Road. Here the Salient reached its
furthermost eastern extremity.

Then began a south-westerly trend, less than a mile in front of
Zillebeke, reaching Zaartsteen before crossing the Ypres-Comines
railway and later the Ypres-Comines canal.

From the canal the trenches ran more west than south to St. Eloi,
then still on to the westward, until they circled south, away from
Ypres, in front of Vierstraat, Kemmel and Wolverghem successively.
There they faced, then passed Messines, reached the Ploegsteert
Wood, crossed the River Lys and bent round Armentières, on their way
through the Auber and Neuve Chapelle area, to the Festubert and La
Bassée fronts.

Early morning on that eventful Sunday found me driving General de
Lisle and Hardress Lloyd to Ypres, straight through the devastated
old city, out of the Menin gate, over the Menin bridge and on up the
Zonnebeke Road as far as Potijze.

From the railway crossing at the western edge of Ypres, past the
smashed cathedral of St. Martin, round the ruins of the Cloth Hall,
through the Grande Place, and down the Rue de Menin, dead horses and
men lined the way.

Ypres, which I had seen shelled so heavily time after time without
its semblance of a city being destroyed, was at last indescribably
in ruins. The slender pinnacles at the ends of the Cloth Hall still
stood, and the tower itself had not fallen, though it had been so
riddled it seemed in imminent danger of collapse. The tall torn tower
of St. Martin's, near by, was also standing.

I found great difficulty in picking my way through the square, past
shell-holes, piles of paving blocks, and heaps of dead horses. At
one end of the Grande Place a howitzer shell had burst directly on
an artillery limber, the horses and men being piled indiscriminately
together, every one instantly killed. They lay in a heap on the
broken stones of the square.

Our previous brewery headquarters was levelled to the ground, and the
house where we had slept when last in Ypres was smashed out of all
recognition.

Shells were falling in Ypres as we went through it. Across the Menin
bridge the road, once a broad highway, had been narrowed to a mere
path by pile on pile of shell-strewn bricks and stones. The houses
were one by one completely disappearing, as though the space they
occupied was required for other purposes, and the demolition of each
one of them was a preconceived part of a plan of extinction of all
signs of habitation.

Dead horses in dozens along the way lay close to the wheel track. We
passed an ambulance, its front portion torn away by a shell, and then
the remnants of a supply wagon, smashed to matchwood.

As we sped on, as fast as the continual obstructions and deep
shell-holes would allow, shells fell behind us, screeching overhead
every few seconds with strange, weird, discordant notes, culminating
in a reverberating bang! that seemed thrown back at us by the high
walls across the moat.

The dozens of dead horses became scores as we pushed on. Some fields
by the road were literally covered with them.

A signals corps man told me that at one point his orders for dark
night journeys across those fields were as follows: "Go down the
hedge till you reach the ditch, turn right, and go toward the big
pile of dead horses until you come to the gap in the next hedge."
Those instructions could be easily followed on the blackest night, if
one's olfactory nerves were in working order.

Every breath of air seemed to our unaccustomed nostrils to be charged
with noisome smells.

As we approached Potijze the infantry fire grew less in volume. The
Hun onslaught, the first of five distinct attacks to be pushed home
by the Germans that day, had failed, and the breathing space was the
more heavily punctuated by the howitzer shells for half an hour, as
if in a special spleen of disappointment.

Most of the British guns had been withdrawn from the Salient and
to the west of the canal. Two batteries of 18-pounders left near
Potijze were firing with the valour of one hundred as we came up.
But field-guns of light calibre, firing shrapnel, have less voice
in an argument than the heavy howitzers with their 6-inch, 8-inch,
or 14-inch high explosive shells. The Huns' howitzers on that Ypres
front must have outnumbered our heavy ordnance by at least twenty to
one that Sunday morning.

Long straggling strings of wounded soldiers trickled past on the
Potijze road, making their way painfully around Ypres to the
north-west, for to linger long on the Menin road, over which we had
come, was to court sure death.

General de Lisle stopped the car not far from the Potijze château,
and he and Hardress Lloyd walked through a field to the dug-out
in which General Mullens had established 2nd Cavalry Brigade
Headquarters.

I turned the car and backed it between two walls of what once were
dwelling-houses. Sitting close to the bottom of the wall, beside
the car, I counted shell intervals while waiting. From two to three
shells burst near the Potijze cross-roads every minute, but by far
the greater number of Hun projectiles went on, over my head, to the
Menin bridge and Ypres.

A good-sized bough from a tree above dropped on my head, and a piece
of shell casing, quite hot, struck my foot as it fell, spent, beside
me.

For ten minutes splinters swept the roadway continuously, and the
stream of wounded ceased to pour by until the fury of the sudden
bombardment had spent itself. The constant shock of concussion was
nerve-racking.

After a quarter of an hour the shells fell less frequently, though
odd ones struck the road at intervals.

Behind the Verlorenhoek-Hooge line was a smaller Salient, called the
G.H.Q. line. It served as a support position, and between it and the
canal were whole colonies of dug-outs.

Much of the G.H.Q. line was so situated that a parapet of sandbags,
in full sight of the German observers, made it a frequent target.
On some days during the fighting that followed the casualties
in the G.H.Q. line rivalled those in the front trenches. It was
never a popular resting place, and was often the subject of much
vituperation.

General de Lisle and Lloyd returned to the car, and nearer Ypres made
another halt to visit the reserve dug-outs in the fields toward the
St. Jean road.

"Take good cover, President," said the General, as he started across
a shell-torn meadow.

Easier said than done, I thought.

The lee of a house wall sheltered an empty biscuit-tin, on which I
perched, under a lean-to of rough boards. The sky showed a fairy
blue through hundreds of holes in the sheet-iron roof of the
rudely constructed shed, evidence that a bursting shell above had
"scattered" splendidly.

In spite of shell interludes I had one or two interesting chats with
passers-by. A hospital corps sergeant told me the Huns shelled the
Zonnebeke road, beside which we were chatting, every time they saw a
transport on it.

"They give it hell when something moves over it," he said
impressively. "Just let us bring an ambulance up here in the daytime,
and see them get busy, the devils."

"That's nice," said I. "Do you think they could see my car when it
went up to Potijze?"

"Sure," he replied with conviction. "Sure. If they haven't shelled
you yet they _will_, all right, don't _you_ worry."

He left me cogitating, as he strode off whistling, evidently unaware
he had put anything but comforting ideas in my head.

All those who came from "up there" agreed as to one thing--the storm
of howitzer-shells made one's chance of living through a "turn in the
trenches" extremely slim. Many men were undeniably demoralised by it.

"The few of my poor chaps that are left," a 28th Division subaltern
told me, "seem to have the idea their number is up. They keep saying
that if they don't get it to-day they'll sure get it to-morrow.
Hardly any of them have much hope of getting out alive. I keep trying
to hearten 'em, but it's rotten work. Every time I rip out something
intended to be cheerful along comes a Jack Johnson and blows up a
whole bally section of trench, burying alive those it don't kill.
Then the poor beggars alongside just nod at each other and say: 'You
and me next, Bill,' and what in hell _can_ I tell 'em?

"Why in the deuce we don't have more guns up here _I'd_ like to know.
It does get sickening to be shelled, and shelled, and shelled, day
and night, and hear so little of the same sort of stuff going over
_their_ way. Damn the German guns, anyway."

I sympathised with him, and told him so.

"I would like to see what de Lisle would do if _he_ was running the
guns," I told him. "He would send some hell of his own making over to
those Huns if _he_ was doing it, from what I have heard him say."

Odd prophetic fragment of comfort, that. Three days thereafter de
Lisle was given command of the whole Verlorenhoek-Hooge front and all
the artillery east of the canal, a territory which he soon had "stiff
with guns." In spite of the preponderance of the Germans in heavy
ordnance our gunners gave the enemy good packages of the medicine
with which our hammered troops had been dosed for so many weary days.

The run back over the Menin Bridge and through Ypres safely
accomplished, we visited the headquarters of General Snow,
commanding 28th Division. While waiting there a Hun howitzer shell
ambled lazily over my head and exploded a couple of hundred yards
beyond, throwing up a great cloud of black smoke.

"Enemy airmen spotted this little lot," said a passing "red-hat."
"Warm time coming for Snow."

His anxiety was unnecessary, however, for the next shell went much
further over us, and another two further still, as if searching for
moving troops far behind the line.

The 3rd Cavalry Division troopers, loaded in motor-buses, went
Ypres-ward during the afternoon. General Sir Julian Byng had taken
Allenby's place at Cavalry Corps, and General Briggs had been given
command of the 3rd Cavalry Division in Byng's place. The British Army
contained no finer soldier than Briggs. This left the 1st Cavalry
Brigade without a G.O.C., as General Meakin, who had been appointed
to that command, was in England on sick leave. Consequently Colonel
"Tommy" Pitman, of the 11th Hussars, was placed in temporary command
of the 1st Brigade. Pitman, like Briggs, was a born leader of men--a
tower of strength in himself.

Once during the afternoon my work took me to Ypres, but not beyond
it. A fresh attack was on, and the Boches were sweeping the Menin
Bridge and the road beyond with shrapnel.

Even Macfarlane's intrepid motor-cyclists could no longer go over it
with their signal corps messages; but were compelled to dismount,
leave their motor-bikes in Ypres, and proceed on foot to Potijze by a
roundabout route through the fields. Those cyclists generally used a
road long after it had been given up as impassable by everyone else,
and when they at last abandoned it as too dangerous for use it was
indeed time, in their parlance, "to give it a miss."

Our 2nd Brigade troops were under intermittent shell-fire all that
day, but came through with unusual good fortune. One shell lit in a
group of 18th Hussars, killed five and wounded eight, but the other
units escaped with extraordinarily few casualties.

At the headquarters of General Bulfin, Commanding 28th Division, Lord
Loch, who was G.S.O. 1, on General Bulfin's Staff, gave us a very
welcome tea.

From one of the 28th Division Staff I learned that the 4th, 27th and
28th Divisions had been through a more terrible time in the Salient
than we had known. Snow's Division, the 27th, were terribly depleted
in numbers. "Not many men left, and very few officers indeed," was
the sober way Snow had spoken of his lot that day.

The five heavy attacks of the 9th, in spite of the battered condition
of the heroic men who faced them, resulted in no real gains and the
Germans suffered severe losses.

We sought eagerly for news of the British attack along the Auber
ridge. Early in the morning word had come that the 8th Division had
made a splendid beginning by taking the German first line trenches in
front of them. In the afternoon we heard that the 4th Corps "got on"
well, but the Indian Corps and 1st Corps were held up by machine-gun
fire and had made no progress. A further attack was to be made at
4 p.m. on the 10th. On the 11th, the G.H.Q. information summary
remarked, laconically, that there was "nothing to report from the
1st Army Front." So the big attack, of which my gunner friends along
the Fromelle Road had such hopes, had fizzled out.

Weeks afterwards I heard the full story from the lips of men who
were in the front of the fighting, but our task in Ypres was growing
hourly sufficiently absorbing, so that the whys and wherefores of
Rawlinson's failure to break through were of less interest than the
question of repelling the German attack on the Salient.

As dusk drew on the conflagrations in Ypres lit up the eastern
sky. Our night headquarters were in a château not far west of the
unfortunate town.

Wounded still straggled back in small groups, and ambulances arrived
every few minutes at a dressing station hard by the gates of our
château.

Watching those ambulances unload made me proud to be an Anglo-Saxon.
The men were magnificent in their incomparable morale. Many a smiling
face hid teeth set hard in pain. Many a Tommy knows not only the
inestimable value of keeping a stout heart to help himself through,
but the immeasurably greater treasure of an ample store of cheery
words and light-hearted jokes wherewith to lift a comrade from
pain-racked despondency.

Broken bodies, broken limbs, and many a broken head were there in
plenty, but one looked far to find a broken spirit.

Before we went to sleep, good news came from the French. All the way
from Loos south to Lens, it said, and on through Thelus to Arras, the
German first-line trenches had been captured, save in two places. On
the 10th, the French reported having taken 2,000 prisoners and ten
guns. In spite of all, the succeeding days' reports whittled down
the final result to a tactical success, not a strategical one. The
break in the German line was made good by the enemy in short order,
and soon Gaul and Teuton were facing each other much as they had
done, previously, and the inch-by-inch battles of the Labyrinth were
soaking the ground of France's black country with French and German
blood.

The big French attack and the British "push" had equally failed to
smash the German line.

On our front British soldiers were to continue to show that their
line could hold as solidly as the Hun line had held to the south, in
spite of the hell of howitzer-fire that was daily to be let loose in
the Salient.

Rocked to sleep by the earth-tremble of bursting tons of high
explosive, day-dawn on May 10th seemed to come the next moment after
my head had hit the floor which served me as a pillow.

Before seven o'clock in the morning I was again in the Salient and
once more under shell-fire.

Taking Colonel Home through Ypres and over the Menin bridge, we were
not long in reaching Potijze.

The weather was perfect, hundreds of small birds hopping about the
roadways and twittering excitedly, as if protesting to each other
against the continual coming of the shells.

Behind a ruined house near the Potijze crossroads, I made a lucky
discovery. Someone had built a comfy little dug-out, six feet by
four and nearly three feet deep, into which I at once repaired.
Its earthen walls were reinforced by heavy planks, and a roof of
earth-covered timbers was edged with barrels and sacks of bricks and
mortar. Ponchos lined the inside of the walls, and the floor was deep
with straw. On a shelf stood the remains of a ham bone and a tin half
full of marmalade.

With thirty to forty jarring explosions in the vicinity every minute,
this habitation was little short of ideal, save for the smell, which
was fierce in its intensity and persistence.

The earth of the open spaces near by was thrown into yellow and brown
heaps by the hundreds of howitzer shells that had rained on them for
days. Dozens of dead horses, scattered about, offended the eye and
polluted the air.

A detachment of troopers, bent on rendering the trenches of the
near by G.H.Q. line a more safe shelter, had been spied by the Hun
gunners, who for hours sent a continual shower of shells over them.

I had not waited long before I found I was not the only occupant
of my shelter. My companions bit me surreptitiously, leaving red
blotches which burned irritatingly.

I sat in the open air for a few moments, deciding there was not
sufficient room in the dug-out for my small but persistent comrades
and myself, but a big shell landed near and sent such a spattering
horde of splinters all around that I ducked back underground and took
my chance with the less serious wounds of the busy little dug-out
folk, who seemed half starved, in spite of the ham bone and marmalade
that had been left to them.

A couple of worried, hungry mongrel dogs came nosing about fearfully,
heads cocked inquisitively when they caught sight of me. I gave them
the bone and was thanked by a series of tailwags from each.

A Hun shell set fire to a building not far distant, and soon immense
clouds of black and saffron smoke were rolling heavenwards.

Many shells came close to where I was tucked away, one throwing a
cart load of _débris_ over my car, but none of them in the least
disturbing the tranquillity of my snug quarters.

Returning through Ypres, we found the Menin Road and bridge had been
further hammered since we had come over it. At one or two points it
was almost impassable for a car. The carcass of a dead horse had been
blown right across the path, so that I was compelled to pass over
part of it.

Houses were smoking on all sides, and red flames rose skyward in
several quarters of the town.

A solitary old woman in black was picking her way tortuously past
the dead and over the tumbled piles of brick and stone. She was, we
thought, the last survivor of the civil population.

General Adeney, of the 12th Brigade, called at 1st Cavalry Division
Headquarters and told me of the heavy shelling on the front that his
brigade had held. The signal wire from his headquarters to that of
his Division was cut by shell-fire fifty-five times in one day. His
men had gone through a terrible time, but had stood it magnificently.
General Adeney had wide experience with the Hun gas, and assured us
its effects could be greatly nullified if care was taken to follow
out the instructions as to the use of the respirators and face-masks,
which had been issued to each man whose duty took him into the
Salient.

The 2nd Cavalry Brigade went from the G.H.Q. line to the front
position during the evening, but were relieved by the 1st Cavalry
Brigade before the next morning. The 1st Brigade spent the day in
dug-outs in a little wood near the Ypres-Roulers Railway, close to
the trenches. Shell-fire had cost the 2nd Brigade thirteen killed and
fifty-four wounded during its occupancy of the G.H.Q. line.

The 9th Cavalry Brigade reported itself "quite comfortable" in
splendid dug-outs near Wieltje, but the shells wounded four of its
officers and eighteen of its men, nevertheless.

From the windows of our headquarters château the fires of Ypres
could be seen burning brightly all night, a red splash on the
inky black of the horizon. Bursting shells and the flash of our
guns never ceased. Bright stars dotted the dark canopy overhead,
and brilliant trench-flares rose and fell in graceful arcs. The
wonderful, ever-changing sight and the continual diapason of the
heavy explosives was awe-inspiring.

Early morning usually came with a lull in the gun-fire on both sides,
unless an attack was in progress. We hurried through breakfast on the
11th, and lost no time in getting away for Potijze.

General de Lisle, Major "Bertie" Fisher, of the 17th Lancers, who had
joined de Lisle's Staff as G.S.O. 2 (in place of Major Fitzgerald,
promoted to G.S.O. 1 of the 2nd Cavalry Division), and Captain
Hardress Lloyd were my passengers.

The rumph! r-r-rumph! of itinerant Black Marias told us that German
hate still held against shattered Ypres. As we approached the town
one or two heavy explosions were followed by a cloud of dust and
smoke where the shells had fallen on a building already a heap of
_débris_ and scattered its remains high in the air.

At the railway crossing west of Ypres several newly made shell-chasms
made me pick my path warily. All the way to the Grande Place
shell-holes and gathering piles of rubbish and timbers made progress
difficult.

The space in front of the cathedral was knee-deep in loose paving
blocks and stones.

As we turned the corner of the Cloth Hall, and could see the battered
square, our sight was arrested by brilliant sheets of scarlet flame
edged black, that shot across the Rue de Menin ahead of us.

The bright morning sun and blue, cloudless sky above, the grey and
white ruins on every hand, and the blood-red, leaping, straining,
struggling patch of angry flame that roared in our faces as we drew
near to it, made a picture that would have delighted the heart of an
artist.

I stopped the car.

The General at first counselled rushing through the fire, but I
dreaded the result. Even should we have dashed past unscathed, the
thought of the petrol in the car made me hesitate.

Then, beyond the conflagration, we saw that a house at the western
approach to the Menin bridge had been knocked over by a shell, and so
fallen that it completely blocked the road. Half a hundred men must
work for hours before the Menin bridge would once more be open for
traffic, though fortunately the bridge itself was undamaged.

Reversing the car and regaining the Grande Place, I threaded my way
past deep holes in the _pavé_, and cautiously clambered over piles of
_débris_ as we sought another route eastward. Along a street where
desolation reigned supreme we went, until we reached the eastern moat
wall. Turning north, we sought an outlet on the St. Jean road.

Pushing over great fallen timbers, nail-studded and threatening a
puncture at every revolution of the wheels, over, by and into holes
in the paved road, it seemed impossible the car could surmount and
pass the mounds of wreckage and paving-blocks that filled the way.

Over the railway we crawled, and to the very northern edge of
Ypres. Just as we were congratulating ourselves on having won
through, in spite of apparently insurmountable difficulties, a
monster shell-cavity, thirty feet in diameter, and so deep as to be
absolutely impassable for the car, opened in front of us.

The road was wide, but the shell had fallen in its centre, heaping
the earth and stone at the edges of the gaping crater until it
blocked the street from side to side.

General de Lisle and his two companions dismounted and proceeded on
foot, instructing me to "be careful and get home safely."

Heading the way I had come was a task of some magnitude. Pneumatic
tyres were not made to traverse shell-torn roads covered with glass,
nails, and sharp bits of iron and stone, but my trusty Dunlops did
not fail me.

In the square I stopped to get a photograph of a fire that was
enveloping the houses at the back of the cathedral. Every building in
the district was burning, some smouldering and smoking threateningly,
while the flames raged fiercely from top to bottom of others standing
near.

As I pulled up, a fearful crash came from the Menin bridge not far
behind me, the shock of the concussion almost throwing me down.
Giving up all idea of procuring pictures under such circumstances, I
ignominiously fled as fast as it was safe to go.

Passing the cathedral, I saw a fine collie dog, his tail between his
legs, slinking along furtively. I called him, dismounting from the
car and trying to induce him to come to me, but he was scared so
badly he only ran the faster at my approach.

In the western edge of Ypres a worn, drawn-faced Belgian, with
a hunted look in his eyes, was slowly and carefully shoving a
wheelbarrow, on which was a rude pallet. Stretched upon it lay the
wasted form of a frail woman, close-swathed in as much bedding as the
method of conveyance would allow. Her skin was wax-white, her wide
eyes large and lustrous. She had not sufficient strength to prevent
her feet from trailing the ground. An aged crone shuffled beside the
sick woman, on her face a picture of agonised fear painful to see.

Big Hun guns were searching for little British ones not far away, and
at every detonation the poor old woman jumped nervously.

An offer of assistance met with no response, as if they were past all
capability of communication. The horrors they must have gone through
for weeks in some cellar in that stricken town baffle imagination.

They were undoubtedly the last of the residents of Ypres to leave the
town alive. If others remained, it was but to be buried under the
falling walls of their hiding places, or to meet a worse fate in the
flames that were raging from one end of the city to the other.

Vlamertinghe received a sharp shelling that forenoon, and a few
minutes afterward I took General de Lisle through the town to the
headquarters of General Wilson of the 4th Division. As we ran through
Vlamertinghe, Tommies were busy sweeping the roadway clear of
_débris_ thrown about by the shells five minutes before.

When at General Bulfin's Headquarters _estaminet_ a quarter of an
hour later, I saw Hun shrapnel again begin bursting in twos over
Vlamertinghe, which was gradually becoming an unhealthy locality.

The clear air brought out dozens of aeroplanes, which kept the
anti-aircraft guns busy. The Germans sent up a couple of weird
"sausages"--anchored observation balloons of peculiar shape.

The amount of ammunition used in the continuous shelling of the
trench line was stupendous.

[Illustration: Dragoon Guards resting in the huts near Vlamertinghe]

[Illustration: Graves of Captain Annesley, Lieutenant Drake and
Captain Peto, all of the 10th Hussars, in a graveyard on the Menin
Road]

On one run toward Ypres I passed the "Princess Pat's" (Princess
Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry), fresh from the 27th Division
trenches, and on their way to a rest in billets. They were indeed a
sturdy lot. All forenoon the Huns shelled our front line from the
Menin Road to the north as it passed the Hooge Château and circled
the Bellewaarde Lake. Wounded men poured back through Ypres from the
Front, marvelling that they had escaped death in the trenches, and
wondering still more that they had not been blown to atoms as they
trudged back along the deadly Menin Road.

A wounded trooper of the 11th Hussars reported his regiment
unpleasantly situated in bad dug-outs in a wood, between the
Ypres-Roulers Railway and the Bellewaarde Lake. The dug-outs were not
of sufficient size to accommodate the whole of the 11th, and when
a detachment of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders claimed shelter
therein as well, the congestion became dangerous. The Hun shells
burst immediately over the dug-outs, and some casualties had occurred
before morning dawned. So little accommodation seemed available that
one squadron of the 11th had been sent back to the G.H.Q. line, where
it had been badly hammered by howitzer fire for hour after hour as
the morning passed.

Romer Williams and I walked from our château to a "Mother" gun,
concealed under a screen of dry branches in a near-by farmyard. The
big 9·2 howitzer was throwing its 290-pound projectiles, filled with
lyddite, into the Hun trenches in front of Hooge, nearly 9,000 yards
distant. The five-mile journey was accomplished by each shell in
35 seconds, a rate of more than 500 miles per hour. Dodging a shell
which was coming at such speed would be something of a feat.

Yet, standing directly behind the breech, we could distinctly see the
9·2 shell as it left the muzzle and started on its sinister errand.

For so huge an engine of war its paraphernalia was simple. The
howitzer stood on a platform built into the farmyard. Rows of shells,
each a load for four men, lay in a ditch behind it. On a log, under
a tall tree, sat the captain gunner, by his side a non-com. busy
figuring out mathematical equations, and another poring over a
large-scale map. With his back to the tree crouched a Royal Flying
Corps man, his receiver to his ear, and an elaborate box of wireless
telegraphic tricks beside him. Across the road a slender pole, a
score of feet in height, completed his wireless installation.

"Fire!" said the captain, sharply.

Flash! bang! "Mother" recoiled with a shock and returned leisurely.
Not a big noise or a very trying one on the ears of those near by,
unless in front of the "business end." The crew stood close at hand
as each round was fired.

Before an unsophisticated onlooker would imagine the great shell had
reached its destination, the wireless man, listening attentively to
the message from an aeroplane observer high over the Huns, and out of
our sight, sang out "150 yards over."

A cabalistic sequence of numbers was shouted in staccato tones by one
of the non-coms, repeated by a man at the breech, and flash! bang!
went "Mother" again.

"Well placed. Right into them," said the wireless operator, as the
approving message was ticked from his fellow in the 'plane.

Flash! bang! the work went on, comforting the battered men in our own
trenches, and harrying the Germans in theirs.

"Had nine direct hits on their trenches yesterday," said the captain
gunner, "and have got the range pretty well to-day. Managed to get a
couple into one of the German batteries this morning, too." And he
grinned.

If the men who made the shells could have known how much heart every
9·2 projectile put into the brave boys that faced the Hun trenches,
weary to distraction of everlasting German shelling, and little
return thereto, they would have been justly proud of their handiwork.

A "Mother" shell was a fine tonic for those who were behind it, "when
it popped."

On the night of the 11th the 1st and 9th Brigades "took over" the
parts of the line held by the 27th Division and most of that held by
the 28th. Up to that time the troopers had been only in reserve or
support, yet so heavy was the Hun gun-fire in the Salient that our
Division had lost one officer killed and seventeen wounded, and the
casualty list among the men was but few short of one hundred.

De Lisle was given command of a stretch of line reaching from near
the Bellewaarde Lake to the Wieltje-St. Julien road, and 2,500 28th
Division men and all the guns east of the Yser-Ypres Canal were
placed under him. He at once planned to throw several additional
batteries into the Salient, and gave orders which would result in a
shell-surprise for the Huns. Every time the German gunners started
to shell our trenches, the German trenches were to be deluged with a
half an hour of concentrated shell-fire from all de Lisle's field
batteries, his 6-inch howitzer battery, and the single 60-pounder gun
that had been allotted to him.

The day closed with the repulse of the last of three sanguine enemy
attacks that had been launched since morning, two of which had gained
a foothold in the British line, only to have it, in each case, torn
from their grasp by costly counter-attacks.

The Ypres-Poperinghe road was filled with troops marching westward.
"To what lot do these men belong?" I asked General Mullens, as we
stood watching the passing columns.

"They are of the Northumberland Brigade," said Mullens. "I am told
that but 900 of them are left out of more than 5,000. Another Brigade
went into the Salient 5,500 strong a fortnight ago, and has come out
to-day numbering but 950."

I went to bed by the bright light of burning Ypres, which made every
tree cast flickering shadows to try the nerves of the men who tramped
up in the cold darkness to share the morrow's battle, or trudged back
to billets to sink into the torpor of extreme exhaustion, until in
their turn they should again face the shattering shell blasts.

May 12th was comparatively a quiet day. The wind had changed, and Hun
gas attacks were impossible until it again swung round to the east.

I told Captain Francis Grenfell, of the 9th Lancers, about the
"Mother" gun not far away, and we strolled down where it was
quartered just in time to watch it fire a score of rounds at a German
battery which was in action at the bend of the Ypres-Comines Canal
near Hollebeke.

A second 9·2 gun had arrived in the night and taken up quarters in
an adjoining farm. It had been doing good work near Brielen, but was
"spotted" by a German air-scout and "found" by the enemy's guns. One
man killed and several wounded by a German shell decided the gunner
in command to "make a get-away" from the discovered position.

The 3rd Cavalry Division troops were put under de Lisle's command in
addition to those of his own Division and the odd brigades of the
28th Division.

[Illustration: Officers of the Cavalry Corps]

[Illustration: A typical farm in Flanders, in which British soldiers
were billeted]

A slice of trench taken by the Huns on the 11th, and retaken by
a British counter-attack that night, was rushed by the enemy on
the morning of the 12th and captured, only to have another British
counter-attack prepared for the evening. Thus the line of battle
surged forward and backward day after day, each section of trench
being fought over time and again with heavy losses to both sides.

Slowly the German circle was drawing closer to the stricken town. The
second battle of Ypres was in full swing.

At lunch time General Allenby and his Chief of Staff were guests of
our mess. It was a source of great satisfaction that the cavalry,
on the threshold of one of the hardest struggles it had been called
upon to face, should be under a Corps Commander who had so long been
at its head as the G.O.C. of the Cavalry Corps. No man that I saw in
the months I was with the British Expeditionary Force inspired more
confidence in his leadership than Allenby.

General Meakin arrived from England, but decided that the command
of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, to which he had been assigned, had best
be left in the hands of "Tommy" Pitman until its turn in the front
trenches was done. Pitman knew the ground and had a wonderful grasp
of the situation, and to no other one man was due more of the credit
for the holding of the line during the ensuing forty-eight hours.

On the night of the 12th, the tired infantry of the 28th Division
was given relief from the firing-line, and before dawn the two and a
half miles of front trenches, from the Canadian Farm, north of the
Ypres-St. Julien Road, south to the western shore of the Bellewaard
Lake, a few yards from the Ypres-Menin Road at Hooge, was manned by
the dismounted troopers of the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions.

The 2nd Cavalry Brigade held the extreme left of this stretch of
cavalry line. The 18th Hussars were furthest north, the 4th Dragoon
Guards in the centre, and the 9th Lancers on right. South of them
were the three regiments of the 1st Cavalry Brigade--5th Dragoon
Guards, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays), and 11th Hussars. The 5th
Dragoon Guards were on the left of the Queen's Bays, whose right
rested on the Ypres-Zonnebeke Road near Verlorenhoek, a thousand
yards from Potijze, where de Lisle so often took me each day. The
11th Hussars were in some trenches near the grounds of the Potijze
Château, The 9th Cavalry Brigade was in dug-outs near Wieltje.

South of the Ypres-Zonnebeke Road came the 3rd Cavalry Division
front; the 7th Brigade first, then the 6th Brigade, the 8th Brigade
being in reserve.

Of the 7th Brigade, the 1st Life Guards formed the left, their
trenches leading south from the Zonnebeke Road. One of their
squadrons was in a reserve trench at the back of the line. Next on
the right came the 2nd Life Guards, then the Leicestershire Yeomanry,
whose right rested on the Ypres-Roulers Railway.

The 6th Brigade held the line from the railway to the Bellewarde
Lake, the 3rd Dragoons on the left, the North Somerset Yeomanry on
the right, and the 1st Royal Dragoons (Royals) in reserve a bit to
the rear, and but a few yards north of the Menin road.

The 8th Brigade, in reserve, was composed of the Royal Horse Guards
(Blues), the 10th Hussars, and the Essex Yeomanry.

Each cavalry regiment had a fighting strength of about 300 men.
The 1st Division numbered some 2,400 rifles, and the 3rd Division
roughly 2,700, say, just over 5,000 men for the two Divisions. An
extra number of machine-guns made up for their comparatively small
numerical strength.

The trench-line into which the troopers were thrown that night was
in poor condition for defence. A foot of mud was the average bottom,
and further attempts at digging only resulted in more water and mud.
Parapets of sandbags and wire entanglements were sadly needed all
along the line, and, at that, sandbag parapets were all too easily
demolished by Hun shell-fire, which made short work of them.

A careful reconnaissance of the 3rd Cavalry Division trenches failed
to reveal a stretch of 100 yards where more sandbags and more wire
were not urgently required.



CHAPTER VI.


Dawn on the 13th of May was the signal for a howitzer bombardment
of the cavalry front which surpassed in intensity and duration any
previous gun-fire during the whole War.

From four o'clock in the morning until five o'clock in the afternoon
it drifted from one section to another, without respite. During the
entire forenoon the trench line north and south of the Zonnebeke
Road, viewed from Potijze, a thousand yards to the rear, was
covered continuously with a heavy pall of smoke, as if a well-fed
conflagration was raging beneath. The flashes of bursting shells in
that smoke-cloud were so numerous that no human eye could follow or
count them, even in a most restricted range of vision.

The sound was one grand, incessant roar. All the thunderstorms
of time, crashing in splendid unison, would not have made a more
magnificent din. The ear could not intelligibly record so tempestuous
a maelstrom of sound-waves, and the brains of those in the midst of
its wildest fury became numb and indifferent to the saturnalia of
explosion, save for one here and there which lost its mental balance,
perhaps never to be regained.

Early in the morning General de Lisle sent me to Potijze with Captain
Hardress Lloyd. General Meakin rode up with us on his first visit to
the Salient since his return from sick leave.

Ypres was impassable. We took a round-about course to the north, now
dashing down a muddy lane, now over a turnip field where constantly
passing traffic had worn a sort of path, over an improvised bridge
across the canal, at last reaching the Ypres-St. Jean Road that led
away to Wieltje and St. Julien. By a cross road of sorts we found our
way to Potijze, thankful to have arrived safely.

Before we had traversed much of the way from our headquarters, west
of Ypres, we were in a bad shell-zone. On the narrow road, ammunition
limbers went up at a trot and returned at full gallop. The route was
lined with red-bandaged wounded struggling rearward as best they
could, and ambulances were always in evidence. As we turned a corner
a Black Maria exploded with a fearful bang fifty yards ahead, right
beside the roadway. A small piece of the shell hit General Meakin in
the head, but luckily was so spent it did not cause a wound.

As we neared the canal blue ruin was spread everywhere. Battery on
battery of our artillery, firing like mad, barked and roared from the
fields at our sides, while Hun shells fell close and fast around them.

A car dashed towards us, the chauffeur holding up his hand to stop
us. It was "Babe" Nicholson's car, empty except for the driver,
whom Nicholson had told to "look out for himself," while "Babe" was
showing the way trenchwards to a depleted battalion of York and
Durham Territorials sent forward as reserve. Only 380 of their 1,000
remained from the fortnight's fighting and sixteen of their officers
had been killed or wounded, but they trudged up as if arriving fresh
from home.

"Stop, sir," said the scared chauffeur. "They are shelling the road
beyond so heavily no one can get through."

"Did you just come through?" asked Hardress Lloyd.

"Yes," replied the boy; "but a couple almost lit on me. One of them
blew the car into the hedge."

"Go ahead, President," said Lloyd grimly. "We have got to get there
somehow."

We got there, somehow.

Once we ran through the ill-smelling shell-cloud of a coal-box that
burst a few yards in front of us, and twigs from the trees fell
over the car as the shells screamed above, but we dodged on, past
shell-holes and around barricades, untouched.

Pulling up, I saw Nicholson's car behind us, the driver grinning.

"I thought if it was good enough for you it was good enough for me,"
he said. "But I'm hanged if I thought _anyone_ could get over that
road and not be hit. It's the first time I've been up here."

I introduced him to my tiny Potijze dug-out, which he thought
"smelled horrid." He was inclined to a preference for the open air
until a great howitzer-shell lit fifty feet away, pieces from it
knocking over some of the wall of the ruined house behind which the
dug-out had been made. As he joined me in the cramped space below
ground another Black Maria burst across the road from us, making the
earth tremble and showering splinters on the roof of our shelter.

Fortunately for those whose work took them over the roads that
morning the sky was leaden and rain fell at intervals, rendering
German aeroplane observation impossible. Had a Hun airman caught
sight of the traffic-filled road over which we had come the enemy
gunners might have effectually closed it to traffic.

As we waited at Potijze the shells from the British guns behind us
seemed to fill the air. Gradually the fire of the German howitzers
concentrated on the trench-line in front of us, and the Boche gunners
burst shrapnel all about the fields, searching erratically for the
English batteries.

Budworth, of the artillery, was very much upset that morning by the
target selected by one of the British howitzers.

Our divisional batteries H, I, and the Warwickshire Territorial
Battery, were doing fine work and splendid execution.

Budworth's observers sent back word that some of our heavy guns were
shelling a farm that he had instructed should not be shelled by his
batteries.

Instantly he sent to the howitzer commander and asked him to "Please
get off that farm."

"What's wrong with it?" asked the howitzer man. "It's in German
hands, right enough."

"Of course it is," said Budworth. "But I've figured out that the Hun
Artillery Commander would have his headquarters about there; very
probably in that very farm. The old chap is peppering my batteries
with shrapnel, which don't bother us, for we just get in our
funk-holes and wait until it's all over, then run out and bang away.
For that matter we don't even go in for it, if we are busy. If the
old Boche chap who is running their guns should be killed by one of
your big shells, and another German beggar, who decided to use high
explosives on us, should take his place, we couldn't stay here long.
Whatever you do, don't bother the old German gunner-chap. He is quite
all right, from our standpoint, where he is at present."

Budworth's theory was proven sound by the fact that out of his three
batteries of field guns he only lost eleven men and ten horses in a
fortnight of fighting.

Standing in the Zonnebeke Road and looking toward Verlorenhoek, the
shell-swept front line was plainly visible, a little more than half
a mile away.

To reconstruct a fight on a two-and-a-half mile front such as the
battle of May 13th, with official regimental reports to which to
refer, would be sufficiently difficult. To piece it out while it was
actually in progress was increasingly so.

I ran back and forth from our headquarters west of Ypres to the town
of Potijze many times that day. By evening, when I left the Salient
for the night, I had met with scores who had terrible tales to tell.
The wounded made an unending stream westwards, and numbered many a
familiar face.

Officers and men all declared the shell-fire was the heaviest they
had seen. At no point in the line was the German shelling more fierce
than on either side the Zonnebeke Road, near Verlorenhoek. The
Queen's Bays were to the north of it, the 5th D.G.'s on their left.
On the south of the road were the 1st Life Guards, and on their right
the 2nd Life Guards, then the Leicestershire Yeomanry.

The Bays, under Lieutenant-Colonel "Algy" Lawson, formerly of the
Greys, held on like grim death in spite of the storm of shell that
burst over them at four o'clock in the morning and continued hour
after hour throughout the day.

The Life Guards were driven back from their trenches with heavy
losses, and the Leicestershire Yeomanry had to fall back as well.

This exposed the right flank of the Bays, but still they stuck to
their position.

At about half past ten o'clock the commanding officer of the 5th
D.G.'s ordered the retirement of his regiment, the men trickling back
in two thin lines, one at either end of their section of front.

This resulted in the left of the Bays being uncovered as well as
their right, but they put their teeth in and held on. The 11th
Hussars came up magnificently on the left shortly after, and shared
the glory, with the Bays, of saving the line.

Twice during the day the Huns formed for an infantry attack in
front of the Bays, and each time our splendid guns were told of
the concentration, and poured shell into the massing Germans with
terrible execution, scattering the enemy detachments like chaff
before the wind, and thus nipping the attack in the bud.

A strong enemy detachment came down the Zonnebeke Road and deployed
to the north of it, immediately in front of the Bays. The Boches were
lying in the open, but were protected from our rifle and machine-gun
fire by a swell of ground.

A fat German observation officer obtained a place of vantage in a
shattered farmhouse just south of the road. No amount of sniping
could dislodge him, though the bullets chipped off bits of brick from
the slender stack behind which he was sheltered. Up came a Naval
Division armoured Rolls-Royce. Opposite the end of the Bays' trenches
it stopped and opened fire.

The Hun officer in the farm noted the approach of the car, and fled
up the road as fast as he could run.

"I had to laugh so much at the funny figure the little fat chap cut,
with the tails of his long grey coat flapping straight out behind him
as he ran," said one of the Bays to me that night. "I swear it did in
any chance I had of hitting him. He got back to his own lot safe, I
think, but he did made a holy show of himself doing it."

A large number of the enemy were seen concentrating in a wood in
front of the Bays toward evening, and again word to our gunners was
followed by a bombardment of the group of trees that made immediate
evacuation of it the only alternative to sure death.

On the extreme left of the cavalry line, the 18th Hussars suffered
more heavily than the other regiments of the 2nd Brigade, though the
9th Lancers had many casualties.

The trenches occupied by the 18th Hussars were blown to bits. Some of
the regiment retired to the left into the adjacent trenches of the
East Lancashire, and some went back over the open ground in search of
the reserve trenches. Failing to find them, the troopers advanced to
the ruins of their own line and dug themselves in as best they could,
only to be blown out of some parts of the trenches a second time.

The Hospital Corps men could not reach the 18th wounded, as the Huns
had a machine-gun trained on the only approach to the trenches.
Consequently many men, unable to be moved to a place of safety, were
killed as they lay wounded in trench or dug-out.

The right of the cavalry line, from the Ypres-Roulers Railway toward
the Menin Road, was in very soft ground.

The 3rd Dragoon Guards, North Somerset Yeomanry, and Royals, of
General David Campbell's 6th Brigade, were literally picked up and
thrown back by the howitzer shells, while the line was simply blotted
out of existence.

The Royals, in reserve, made a charge at 7.30 in the morning that
took them to the place where the original trenches had been, but all
that remained of them, even at that early hour, were great tumbled
piles of earth and mud without semblance of form.

Cecil Howard, Campbell's Brigade Major, was the only officer on the
6th Brigade Staff who was not hit, Campbell himself being slightly
wounded.

The most spectacular manœuvre of the day fell to the lot of Bulkeley
Johnson's 8th Brigade, who were taken from reserve to counter-attack
at 2.30 p.m. and win back the part of the line out of which Kennedy's
7th Brigade, the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, and the Leicestershire
Yeomanry had been shelled.

The area to be won back reached from the Ypres-Zonnebeke Road to the
Ypres-Roulers Railway. On the left of it the gallant Bays had stuck
to their trenches. On the right of it, David Campbell's men were
holding on, though frightfully decimated; their left, resting on the
railway, bent back slightly by the retirement of the 7th Brigade.

The British artillery opened the 2.30 attack in splendid style. Then
up went the 8th Brigade, Blues, 10th Hussars, and Essex Yeomanry.

It made the pulses beat high to hear the story of that charge from
the Bays, who had reserved seats for the show.

The lines swept forward with a cheer that was drowned in the crashing
of the shells. The Blues reached the line of shell-holes that marked
the position of the Life Guards' trenches. No cover was to be found.
So on they went, a few of them actually penetrating the German
trenches 400 yards beyond, but soon realizing that their numbers were
insufficient to maintain their position, and slowly coming back with
what was left of their regiment. The 10th Hussars went up invincibly,
men dropping at every step. One big trooper was seen advancing some
distance ahead of his comrades, those who had been in line with him
at the start all down. He stalked along coolly, without waiting for
the others. The big trooper made a gallant showing, standing for
a moment and firing steadily, then tramping on, to stop and fire
again. No one dreamed he would reach the Hun trenches alive, but he
did so, and was the first of the 10th Hussars to disappear over the
enemy's parapet.

Had the Germans stuck to their trenches the few of the 10th to reach
them might easily have been wiped out. But the Teuton soldiers fled
before that stern advance.

Like the Blues, the 10th Hussars were too few to be able to
consolidate the small portion of enemy trench which they had won, so
nothing remained but a retirement.

Back they came, the Hun supports quickly taking advantage of their
withdrawal. Two armoured cars pushed beyond the Bays' trench, up the
Zonnebeke Road, and poured a heavy machine-gun fire across the rear
of the retreating 10th Hussars' line. Few of that regiment would have
returned had this covering fire not protected their retirement.

Once a group of troopers took a few dozen German prisoners, but the
captured Huns were nearly all killed by German shell-fire before they
could be taken to a place of safety. No trenches existed in that
area into which to put them, and English and German, captors and
prisoners alike, were mowed down by Hun shrapnel as they crossed the
fields towards Potijze.

Months after that memorable battle, I had sent to me by a friend, a
distinguished officer in the 11th Hussars, some leaves from his War
diary. His account of the operations of his regiment that day read as
follows:--

  "Thursday, May 13th.--At about four a.m. a terrific bombardment
  began against our front line trenches. The fire was most intense,
  and heavier even than at Messines. At 7.30 a.m. Brigade Headquarters
  received a message from the 5th D.G.'s, saying that a great deal
  of their trenches had been blown in, and that their position was
  critical. The troops of C Squadron, 11th Hussars, under Norrie, were
  ordered up to support them. There was no communication trench to the
  front line, but by clever use of the ground they reached the 5th
  D.G.'s with very few casualties. The bombardment still increased.
  The Bays were holding on as well, but asked for more ammunition.
  A party from Renton's troop succeeded in getting some up, but had
  several killed in doing so. About 12 o'clock a regiment of the 3rd
  Cavalry Division, on the right of the Bays, were shelled out of
  their trenches, and the Germans succeeded in getting a footing in
  them. General Briggs ordered a counter-attack, which was launched
  at 2.30 p.m. Renton, who had been twice up to the front line to get
  information for the Brigadier, volunteered to lead the 10th Hussars
  up to the Bays' right, where they were to commence their attack. The
  whole affair was carried out like an Aldershot parade movement. The
  men screamed at the top of their voices, the officers making hunting
  noises, as they all charged across the open. It was a glorious sight.
  The Germans ran as if the devil himself was after them, our guns
  pouring shrapnel into them. The trenches were retaken, but in the
  excitement the attackers rushed on another half a mile.

  "The Germans then turned on all their artillery, killing their own
  men as well as ours. Confusion followed, and the attacking line,
  being broken up, withdrew about half a mile. It was a pity they ever
  went beyond their original line, as the casualties were heavy.

  "To return to our own section of the line. The 5th D.G.'s reported
  that they had put Norrie's troop into their front line, keeping the
  other troop (Sergeant Lemon) in a support trench. Their casualties
  had been heavy, and the situation extremely critical. During the
  afternoon information came in that the whole of the 5th D.G.'s had
  been shelled out of their trenches, and were retiring. Shortly after
  this Lance-Corporal Watts came back from the front line with a
  message from Norrie, explaining the situation. He had held on with
  his troop when the 5th D.G.'s retired, and besides his own men had
  a troop of the 5th and one of their machine-guns, and was covering
  the left flank of the Bays--a grand piece of work. The line had to
  be held at all cost, so the 11th Hussars were ordered to advance and
  retake the lost trenches. Lawson's Squadron (A) was sent in advance,
  with instructions to work up behind the Bays, and push in on their
  left. Later, another message came in to say that a squadron of the
  19th Hussars, under Tremayne, had pushed up to Norrie and had been
  put on his left; however, there still existed a considerable gap of
  unoccupied trench. Divine Providence must have come to our aid, as
  the shelling practically stopped as the regiment advanced. Soon after
  6 p.m. Brigade Headquarters heard that Lawson had successfully got
  his squadron up to the front line. B Squadron, Stewart Richardson,
  followed on, and by dusk the line was re-established.

  "Our casualties for the day were about fifty, the Bays had the same,
  and the 5th D.G.'s had over one hundred, a large number of which,
  however, occurred during the retirement. As the sun was setting the
  battle died down. It had been a nerve-straining day, full of gallant
  episodes."

Wires cut, messengers killed, and the inevitable and exaggerated and
mistaken reports of the wounded, made the long day of fighting an
anxious one at de Lisle's headquarters.

The day's casualties in the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions were
thought, until well into the following day, to exceed fifty per cent.
of the men engaged.

Early in the forenoon came word that "Hardly any of the 3rd D.G.'s
and the North Somerset Yeomanry are left." At midday Colonel Burnett
and Major Corbett, of the 18th Hussars, were reported killed, but two
or three hours later we learned the news, while unfortunately true
as to Major Corbett, was incorrect as to Burnett, who was sound and
well.

At 4 p.m. General de Lisle sent me to Colonel Browne, the Chief
Medical Officer of the 1st Cavalry Division, to ascertain what was
actually known as to officer casualties in the Division.

Colonel Browne said: "We cannot get the ambulances up yet to evacuate
the wounded, the shell-fire so covers the roads. Thus far but eight
of our wounded officers have been brought back."

Among the eight was Major Sewell, of the 4th D.G.'s. The 9th Lancers,
Sewell thought, had suffered from the shell-fire even more heavily
than the 18th Hussars.

As I was about to leave Potijze, at seven o'clock that night, a staff
officer reported that General Kennedy had just told him but ninety
men were left to him out of his fine 7th Brigade, and he greatly
feared that a large proportion, if not all, of the missing were
killed or wounded.

General Briggs, at Potijze, received report after report of heavy
losses from the various 3rd Cavalry Division units, as dark drew
on, until it seemed that the Division had been practically wiped
out. But 200 men were reported to be left to Campbell of the 6th
Brigade. Kennedy's 7th Brigade mustered 120 at the close of the day,
and Bulkeley Johnson's 8th Brigade was so shattered that to obtain an
estimate of its numbers was most difficult.

In spite of the fact that the 6th, 7th, and 8th Brigades had,
according to all military theory, ceased to exist as fighting forces,
their remnants were gathered together as best the darkness of the
night allowed, and put hard at work "digging themselves in," in
preparation for the fight that the morning light would be sure to
bring them.

The Northumberland Territorial Brigade, its numbers raised to 1,200,
was sent up to help the tired troopers dig. Their General, Fielding,
an old Aisne acquaintance, lunched with us that day. He had just
taken over their command, as their former Brigadier had been killed
a fortnight before in the Salient. The transformation of that lot of
Terriers from raw, untried troops to veterans of shell-warfare had
not taken many days.

Captain Johnson, a French liaison officer who had been attached
to General Briggs' staff since Mons, and who had won the respect
and deep affection of all with whom he came into contact, was
shot through the head and instantly killed that night as he was
accompanying General Briggs on a tour of the trenches in front of
Potijze.

Wilson's 4th Division, on the left of the 1st Cavalry Division, which
had also suffered heavily on the 13th, had sent a message asking the
cavalry to take over some of its line, but that night it found it
possible to occupy a few hundred yards of the line held by the 18th
Hussars. This proved a most welcome assistance. The right of the 3rd
Cavalry Division front, from the Ypres-Roulers Railway to the Menin
Road, was given into the hands of the Irish Fusiliers, of the 27th
Division.

The line, thus shortened slightly, was the scene of feverish work all
night long, that the importance of the small German gain might be
minimised, and a further Hun advance blocked.

The actual ground gained by the Germans on May 13th was but 300 to
400 yards on a front of 1,000 yards. Our new line from the Zonnebeke
Road across the Ypres-Roulers railway was in better terrain than the
old position, and offered superior natural advantages for defence to
the deplorable original line.

So we were far from disheartened when day broke on May 14th.

The German heavy guns had seemed at times during the 13th to number
scores on scores. Though fire came from every direction into the
badly placed and rottenly made British trenches, blowing our thin
line sky-high all along the front, the net result of advantage to the
enemy was extremely small.

On the morning of the 14th de Lisle said to me: "Bad as our losses
have been, I have the situation in hand. The men have held the line,
and will continue to do so. Every hour sees things get better."

The shattered, depleted, almost anihilated regiments of the day
before were found by the grey light of that cold, rainy May morning
to be fighting forces still, their moral undamaged, and their spirits
undimmed.

By half past six o'clock I was off for Potijze with de Lisle, a heavy
rain during the night having covered the road with slimy mud and made
it terribly slippery. We found Hun gunners so docile that I could
with impunity run the general to the G.H.Q. line on the Potijze road.

As I waited in the roadway two of the Blues came past. Mud-covered
and battle-stained, they slouched along as if completely tired out.

"Good morning," I called out, cheerily.

"Good morning, sir," they answered, straightening, instinctively, as
they spoke. Fine chaps they were, and soldierly from head to foot, in
spite of the mantle of dirt in which they were wrapped.

Nerves and muscles relaxed, almost at the limit of endurance, steeped
in physical fatigue, like a flash they could pull up, eyes clear,
heads erect, voices firm, the look on their faces showing that they
were just as good fighting men at that moment as they were thirty-six
hours previously.

Over the smoke of welcome cigarettes we chatted of the charge of
the day before. The rushing of the German trenches, the capture of
a section of them, and then being overpowered and turned out by
overwhelming numbers of Huns, was gone over, spiritedly, by the
troopers.

"Only seventy of the Blues are left, though," said one of them.
"That's the hard part of it."

"You are sure to find more when things get straightened out," I
replied. "Casualty lists always grow smaller when the returns are
all in."

They trudged on soberly, "Hoping so." Splendid men.

I was sent to search the houses in Potijze, or what was left of them,
for a couple of wounded officers who were reported to be waiting to
be evacuated by an ambulance that had not yet arrived.

An Essex Yeomanry trooper limped slowly passed as I started, and I
gave him a "lift" for a few hundred yards. He had badly sprained his
knee during the charge the day before. By morning it had become so
swollen and painful he could only hobble along with great difficulty.
No thought of coming back to have it attended to, after the charge,
had entered his mind.

"We were told to hang on till dark," he explained, "and it took all
of us that were left to hang on. I couldn't have come back very well,
could I?"

Before the day was over some of the official casualty lists of the
brigades were compiled, and we were greatly cheered to find the
losses were less heavy than had at first been reported.

The 1st Cavalry Division casualties for May 13th numbered 523. In
the 1st Cavalry Brigade two officers were killed and five wounded,
and 164 troopers killed or wounded. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade had a
casualty list of 249. Three officers in the brigade were killed and
eleven wounded. Among the killed was Lieutenant Lunan, a very brave
medical officer attached to the 9th Lancers. The 18th Hussars lost
160, the 9th Lancers 140, and the 4th D.G.'s thirty-five.

The 3rd Cavalry Division suffered more heavily. David Campbell's
6th Brigade had eleven officers killed and twenty-two
wounded--thirty-three out of a total of forty-nine. In the ranks, the
Royals lost 117, the North Somerset Yeomanry 105, and the 3rd Dragoon
Guards sixty-nine. The total for the brigade was 330 casualties. The
7th Brigade lost over 450 officers and men. Seven Leicestershire
Yeomanry officers were killed and five were wounded. In the ranks,
the Leicestershires had 180 casualties, making a total of over 190,
all told, out of a strength of 300. The 8th Brigade's list of over
300 brought the total of killed and wounded for the 3rd Division to
more than 1,100.

A patrol of 15th Hussars, under Lieutenant Kenneth Maclane,
while the regiment was holding a part of the line to the north of
Verlorenhoek, went up to the German first line trenches during the
afternoon and found a section of them deserted, which showed the Huns
were little better satisfied with the strategical location of their
line than we had been with parts of ours.

Visits to Potijze from time to time meant coming close to big
shell-bursts, but the fury of the 13th had made the itinerant
shell-fire of the 14th so insignificant in contrast that we paid
little attention to even the biggest of the Black Marias.

That night the 2nd Cavalry Division, General Kavanaugh commanding,
relieved the 1st and 3rd Divisions on a narrowed front, the infantry
closing in on the sides. Before morning of the 15th our tired men
were on their way back to billets for a well-earned rest.

_En route_ from Potijze to our headquarters at dusk on the 14th,
my despatch case fell from the car. I went over the road carefully
at daylight the following morning, and only desisted in my futile
search when the "morning hate" made it foolish to tarry longer in the
vicinity.

Great was my delight during the afternoon to learn that a wire had
been received at Divisional headquarters, saying that, "amongst the
_débris_ on the battlefield had been found a despatch case belonging
to Frederic Coleman." A gunner of H Battery, R.H.A., had spied it in
a roadside ditch in the Salient, and thoughtfully taken it to Major
Skinner, commanding the battery, who had at once advised us of its
recovery.

On the night of May 15th and morning of May 16th, General Hubert
Gough's 7th Infantry Division made a splendid "push" to La Quinque
Rue, in front of Festubert, the report of which made cheery reading.

The men of the 1st Cavalry Division were housed in "huts" near
Vlamertinghe. On the 16th General de Lisle addressed the contingents,
one after another. He asked me to verify one or two details that had
been reported, and this work gave me a most pleasant couple of hours
chatting about the battle of May 13th with men of half a dozen of the
different regiments that took part in it.

The evening of the 17th found the 1st Cavalry Division, after
seventy-two hours' rest, again marching through Ypres to take a
further turn in the trenches.

[Illustration: Hussars' cook-house, Vlamertinghe huts, Vlamertinghe]

[Illustration: Group of Cavalry officers at the huts at Vlamertinghe]

The Salient had been comparatively quiet since the last German
onslaught on the 13th, but howitzer shells were daily falling over
the lines with tiresome regularity.

I was sent by General de Lisle to a house near Ypres, where we had
planned to have a "basket dinner" before leaving for night quarters
on the Menin Road. A very young staff-officer, instructed to guide
me, misunderstood that such duty was required of him, and went off
about some business of his own before I had been able to learn the
location of the house.

Meeting "Rattle" Barrett, I asked him if he could give me the desired
information.

"I don't know about the dinner part of it," said "Rattle"; but your
headquarters for the night are well east of Ypres, on the Menin Road.
Go to the house nearest the château that stands by the Halte, where
the railway crosses the road, and you can't miss it if you try.

The General had disappeared on foot, the juvenile staff-officer was
nowhere to be found, so off I went, in accordance with Barrett's
instructions.

Darkness was coming on. I passed along lines of 2nd Cavalry Brigade
troopers, marching toward Ypres and through it.

No lights were allowed, though my car was secure from liability
of offence in that particular, for the electric installation had
gone wrong, a not infrequent occurrence, and no one but a master
electrician could coax a glimmer out of the headlamps.

Bump! Bump! I jolted from hole to hole in the smashed roadway. The
streets were crowded with the machinery of the divisional relief
in full swing. Ypres seemed more smashed, if possible, than when
we had last passed through six days before. From the Grande Place
down the Rue de Menin, to the bridge and Menin Road beyond, and
well out past the fork, where the roads branched to Zonnebeke and
Menin respectively, the path was narrow and tortuous. Piled high on
either hand were heaps of _débris_, alternated with chasms, some
sufficiently deep so that a fall to the bottom would put a car
promptly _hors de combat_.

An unpleasant smell of burning flesh came from the smouldering mounds
lining the way.

Star-shells and trench lights from the firing line made it possible
to see the road. Save for their assistance I could not have made the
journey without accident.

The house where we were to spend the next few days was easily found.
The officers of the 80th Infantry Brigade were busy in it arranging
reliefs when I arrived.

A house of stout brick, badly scarred and knocked about, covered a
cellar, low roofed and filled with foul air, but reasonably safe from
shell-fire.

In this underground sanctuary the flickering light of a dozen candles
fell on crowded tables for signallers, around which the men not busy
with 'phone or ticker were asleep, heads resting on their crossed
arms. Officers pored over maps spread on other tables, or were
engaged in close attention to the receipt or despatch of innumerable
orders. Against one wall were three or four bedsteads, covered with
mattresses that had borne the wearied forms of a long succession of
British fighting men, from general officers to privates, and bore
ample evidences of having done so.

A battery of British guns were firing from a position near by, and
German shells were bursting close enough to cause an interruption of
a conversation by their constant crashes.

No news could I find of General de Lisle until Captain Webb, of the
Signal Corps, arrived.

"The General?" he said in reply to my query. "I think the General is
in a house on the right of the road as you leave Ypres on the west."

I lost no time in getting under way. The return journey was like a
bad dream. Shells fell in the vicinity of the road, but not so near
as to damage the steadily flowing river of troops, ammunition and
food transport, horse and mechanical; ambulances, motor-cycles, and
once, another car.

A fatiguing house-to-house search landed me at the spot where
dinner had been. Orders left for me instructed me to bring various
impedimenta to the Menin Road; so, for the third time, I ploughed
through Ypres and toward the Halte, where at last I found de Lisle.
Nor was that by any means the last trip over that route that I was to
make that night. But enough of motoring troubles.

On the 18th it rained with dour persistency.

The 1st Cavalry Division line ran south from the Ypres-Roulers
railway, past the west shore of the Bellewaarde Lake. It dipped
south-east around the ruins of the Hooge Château and to the east of
where Hooge once stood. Crossing the Menin Road, the front threaded
the Sanctuary Wood, on the eastern edge of which the enemy were
entrenched.

The position in the Sanctuary Wood was the extreme easterly
promontory of the Ypres Salient, and not many yards west of the line
which the 1st Cavalry Division held in February and March.

General de Lisle's cellar headquarters were less than 2,000 yards
from the nearest front-line trench, and Hooge itself was not much
further distant.

In an adjacent farm, which had been abandoned for many days, dead
cattle and chickens lay about the yard. The table in the living room
showed the family had decamped at meal time, evidently hurried by a
shell which shaved a corner off the house. They left without waiting
to gather up any of their simple belongings.

The lonely cows ambled inquisitively toward me, and were evidently
greatly appreciative of a thorough milking, though few cared to drink
milk from cows pastured in that poisoned zone, where every inch of
ground was septic.

On a dash through Ypres at daybreak I again saw the poor hunted
collie. Many mongrels thereabouts were frankly glad of a kind word
and a pat on the head, but the high-bred, beautiful collie, his
splendid coat matted and bedraggled, was so thoroughly frightened
that all my efforts to get close to him were fruitless. It was wicked
to leave him to death by a chance shell, and more than one of us
risked carrying away a shell-souvenir in a vain attempt to save him.

At an early hour de Lisle said: "Find a shelter of some sort for your
car, President. Don't forget that the Germans turn their shells down
this road a bit at times."

A search resulted in the discovery of a maltster's, where some
push-cyclists attached to a battalion of King's Royal Rifles
cordially offered to make room for my battered conveyance. A passing
ammunition train the night before had ripped off a front mud-guard,
and a horse ambulance had crumpled one of the rear guards, while a
transport mule had endeavoured to climb into the tonneau, to the sad
detriment of my folded cape hood.

I never met a more cheery lot than those K.R.R. cyclists, who
generously insisted on my sharing a tin of steaming hot tea and
warming myself at their comfortable fire. They showed me a pump in
the ruins of a house adjoining, enabling me to get a rare wash, and
a still rarer shave, giving me a quite respectable appearance in
comparison with my comrades of the 1st Cavalry Division Staff.

During the morning the General sent me to a riddled château not
far distant, where General Mullens had placed 2nd Cavalry Brigade
headquarters. An attempt to use the remains of the drawing-room as a
more comfortable habitation than the cellar, was abandoned during the
day, as coal-boxes fell with annoying regularity in the château yard.

A call at the headquarters of General Arbuthnot, C.R.A. of the 28th
Division, in a house west of Ypres, found my lost despatch case had
been sent there by Skinner of H Battery, to whom General Arbuthnot
had kindly wired offering to keep it until I could call and reclaim
it.

At Arbuthnot's headquarters I met a captain of his staff, who had
been a military attaché in China before the Boxer troubles in 1900,
and who knew many of the acquaintances I had made when campaigning
with General Gaselee in the war with China.

In the course of conversation, I mentioned the prevailing belief
in many quarters that unwritten truces existed between British and
German gunners with regard to shelling certain areas. I instanced
Dickebusch, a continual home of one of our divisional headquarters,
which had been unshelled until our guns hammered a town in the German
lines where Hun headquarters were thought to have been located, and
thereafter was inundated with a steady rain of shell-fire for many
days.

  "Some peculiar things of that sort have happened," said the Captain.
  "The Divisional headquarters to which I was recently attached,
  occupied, near the line, a château which for months had not been
  visited by a German shell. I became possessed with the idea, without
  any real evidence to which to attribute it, that so long as our lot
  did not shell the Hollebeke Château, our house would be free from
  a Hun shelling. The Hollebeke Château was in the German lines, and
  while I did not, of course, know positively, I felt sure it contained
  some German brigade or divisional headquarters. Many a time our
  batteries fired at enemy batteries on all sides of the Hollebeke
  Château, but not once was it made a target by our gunners.

  "For week after week this condition of affairs continued, and was
  often the subject of comment among us. Naturally, in the absence of
  communication of any sort between the opposing forces, all this may
  have been mere coincidence.

  "One day, returning from a walk, I entered the drive to our château
  just as Hun shells began to rain upon us. The shrapnel came thick
  and fast for several minutes, and the Divisional Commander and some
  of his staff officers had very narrow escapes. One shrapnel bullet
  passed through a wall only ten or twelve inches from the General's
  head.

  "None of our divisional guns had been firing for some hours, but
  another battery in the vicinity had been doing quite a bit of
  shelling that morning. Curious, I asked the aeroplane observer who
  had been directing the fire of that battery what target he had given
  them.

  "'I went up to direct their fire on some German guns reported to be
  near the Hollebeke Château,' the observer told me. 'I couldn't locate
  the described spot, so directed our battery to throw a few shells
  into the château itself. Our gunners at once registered one lyddite
  through the roof and four shells right through the face of the
  building. I'll bet we made it hot for any Boches that were inside.'

  "Comparing times," continued the Captain, "I learned that the
  Hollebeke Château received its shelling exactly ten minutes before
  our headquarters château was shelled by the Huns. What made the
  incident more curious was the fact that for weeks our batteries did
  no more damage to the Hollebeke Château and never again, at least
  until I left it, did our château have a German shell near it."

The rain softened the earth about the dug-outs in front of Ypres, and
soon an epidemic of caved-in sides and roofs was raging all along
the line, assisted by Black Marias, which shook the moist ground
until dug-out supports fell and walls collapsed wholesale. A captain
of the 18th Hussars was in a dug-out roofed by an iron bedstead. A
small landslide brought down the beams above and the bedstead fell,
so striking the Hussar officer that his neck was broken and he was
instantly killed.

The 19th, 20th, and 21st of May passed quickly, the three brigades of
the Division changing from front line to support dug-outs and back
again in relays as the days succeeded each other.

On the 21st the sun came out, bright and strong, and justified a few
minutes' delay _en route_ through Ypres to obtain some photographs.
The town was sadly depressing. Earthquake and conflagration might
produce as much ruin, but could hardly arrange it so fantastically.

In Ypres Madame Caprice came hand in hand with Devastation and Death.
In diabolical mood she flung the shattered buildings of the staid old
town hither and thither with an eye to the spectacular. The grotesque
met one's glance on every side. Only a James Pryde could have done
justice on canvas to such a scene.

After a thunderstorm of almost tropical intensity on the night of the
21st, the 1st Cavalry Division troopers were relieved, and soon after
daylight were sleeping soundly in the huts and the adjacent farms
near Vlamertinghe. The 22nd and 23rd of May they spent in resting,
and on the evening of the 23rd again went back into the trench line.

General de Lisle returned for his rest to new quarters at Esquelbecq,
in a thirteenth century château which boasted the honour of having
once been stormed by Marlborough.

The 14th Division of the "K" Army was billeted near Esquelbecq,
and had been placed in the newly formed 6th Corps. Allenby's 5th
Corps then consisted of the 28th Division, 9th Division (the first
of the "K" Divisions to arrive in France), and the Northumberland
Territorial Division. The 6th Corps, containing the 4th Division, the
27th Division, and the new 14th Division was placed under the command
of General Keir.

On the evening of May 23rd, while the troopers of the 1st, 2nd and
9th Cavalry Brigades tramped through Ypres once more, and took over
part of the sodden trench-line of the Salient, General de Lisle
again took up headquarters in the big château not far west of the
demolished town.

The Salient front trenches led over the line that was taken up after
the reconstruction following the hard fighting on May 13th. Wilson's
4th Division reached from the French right, near the Ypres-Yser Canal
on the north, to the Canadian Farm, then past the Ypres-Passchendaele
Road to the Ypres-Zonnebeke Road near Verlorenhoek.

[Illustration: View of the 13th century château at Esquelbecque]

[Illustration: "Jeff" Phipps-Hornby and Frederic Coleman comparing
underpinning outside Ypres, May, 1915; the thinnest and thickest
"supports" in the 1st Cavalry Division]

From the Zonnebeke Road south, across the Ypres-Roulers Railway, as
far as the Bellewaarde Lake, troops of the 28th Division composed the
firing line.

They joined the left flank of the 18th Hussars, who occupied a
position on the south side of the Bellewaarde Lake and in front of
the Hooge Château, the trenches at that point being about thirty
yards to the east of the château ruins. The right of the 18th Hussars
rested on the Menin Road, and close behind them in reserve were three
score odd York and Durham Tommies who had been sent up to dig.

South of the Menin Road, in the Sanctuary Wood, came the 9th Lancers,
11th Hussars, Queen's Bays, and 5th Dragoon Guards, respectively.

The 4th Dragoon Guards, 15th Hussars, and 19th Hussars were in
reserve in the G.H.Q. line.

The night was less disturbed by gun-fire than usual, and even the
rifle fire and itinerant sniping were of less volume than for weeks
past.

General de Lisle, noticing the strong westerly breeze die away, and
the wind shift to the east during the course of the afternoon, sent
a warning to the troops in the trenches to be on the look out for a
German gas attack next morning.

At earliest light on Whit Monday, the 24th of May, the Hun gas came.

Before three o'clock in the morning, the yellow-green haze was
drifting slowly on the light breezes that heralded the coming of the
dawn.

Over the eastern front of the Salient the smoke-cloud came from near
Wieltje to the Zonnebeke road, and on to the south over the Menin
Road.

The 28th Division troops, from the Ypres-Roulers railway to the
Bellewaarde Lake, were in the thick of it, and were driven back _en
masse_.

The trenches of the 18th Hussars and 9th Lancers were also in the
path of the noxious fumes; but the 1st Cavalry Brigade troops further
south escaped them.

For an hour the gas rolled westward, accompanied by a cyclone of
shell-fire, and followed by a determined infantry attack.

No part of the cavalry line felt the gas more than the left of the
18th Hussars, which was held by a squadron under command of Captain
MacLachlan, who arrived at Vlamertinghe from England at seven o'clock
the night before. MacLachlan, with some of the half dozen other
officers and 130 men sent out to replace the casualties suffered by
the 18th Hussars on May 13th, was tramping through Ypres within half
an hour after he joined the regiment. New to Flanders and the Ypres
Salient, his experience of a gas attack before he had been in the
firing line twelve hours was a trying one.

MacLachlan was impressed by the warning to be on the watch for gas,
and was in his forward trenches, awake and alert. His respirator was
ready, and he repeatedly told his troopers to see that theirs were
ready also.

The gas was actually upon the men before they could distinguish the
poison-clouds from the early morning haze that frequently hung over
the lake.

The first thick mantle of gas scattered the 18th Hussars somewhat,
but enough of them remained in the trenches to hold on until a
German machine-gun opened on them from their left rear. Seizing the
advantage offered by the retirement of the 28th Division troops, the
Huns came on as swiftly as the dispersing gas would allow, and soon
were well behind the 18th line.

MacLachlan, later in the day, tried to write a diary of what
happened to him during the early morning hours, but it contained
little detail. To piece together a coherent story of such events was
difficult.

"3.15 a.m., gassed out. 3.30, in again. 4.30, some York and Durham
Light Infantry officers showed up. 5.15, twelve men left out of my
sixty-one. 5.30, six men left. 6.30, 15th Hussars coming up." So ran
the diary.

The Germans poured around the Bellewaarde Lake on either side of
it, and drove the few remaining 18th Hussars out of the trenches by
an outflanking movement with sheer weight of numbers. The troopers
retired across the Menin Road and trailed over the shell-swept fields
toward Zillebeke, and then on to the southern edge of Ypres.

While the trenches on the lakeside and around the Hooge Château were
being torn from the grasp of the 18th Hussars, the 9th Lancers on the
right, across the Menin Road, were fighting like mad.

The gas so filled their trenches that at some points the troopers
leaped on the parapets into the clearer air above, in full view of
the advancing Huns, and poured a fire into the German ranks that
dropped dozens of the enemy like shot rabbits.

Captain Rex Benson, howling like a dervish to make his instructions
audible above the din of battle, mounted a high bastion and so
directed the stream of fire of his squadron that the oncoming rush in
front of that trench was stemmed.

A rifle-bullet smashed through Benson's arm and badly shattered the
bone, but he held on in spite of his wounds until the first fierce
Hun attack was repulsed.

Major Beale-Browne, commanding the 9th Lancers, at once realised the
danger to his left flank as the German bullets began to pour into
it across the Menin Road. Down the south bank of the highway ran
a communication trench, which Beale-Browne at once ordered to be
transformed into a defence against a Hun attack from the position
that had been won by the enemy from the 18th Hussars.

A small infantry counter-attack to recover the lost ground at Hooge
failed, though two companies of the Buffs got a foothold in some
trenches north of the Menin Road, and not far from Hooge Château.

Beale-Browne's headquarters were in the Louave Wood, behind the
Sanctuary Wood, and not far distant from the Menin Road. He and
Captain "Bimbo" Reynolds, the Adjutant of the 9th, who had been twice
wounded that morning, constituted the bulk of the garrison of the
Louave Wood, when they saw three or four hundred Germans advancing
from the north towards the Menin Road, preparatory to attacking the
wood, and thus gaining the rear of the 9th Lancers' trenches.

At that moment some York and Lancaster Territorials, who had
been sent up from reserve in a wood south of the 9th, arrived.
Beale-Browne at once sent to the Infantry Brigade for more of them.
Lining the northern edge of the little wood with the Terriers he
waited until the Huns began to stream across the roadway, then swept
them back with volley after volley at close range.

This move and the gallant stand made by the 9th Lancers in their
front line trenches, ably aided by the York and Lancaster lads, saved
the day. A couple of squadrons of the 15th Hussars also played a
gallant part in saving our important position south of the Menin
Road.

The cost to the 9th Lancers was heavy, Captain Francis Grenfell,
Captain "Algy" Court, and Captain Noel Edwards were killed, the
latter dying from the effects of gas poisoning after he had been
taken to the hospital at Bailleul.

Four other officers of the 9th were wounded, several men were killed
by the gas, and forty-eight hours later the number of casualties,
including those gassed and missing, was still over 100.

While the strenuous struggle was proceeding in the front line
trenches, little was known of the actual results of the German
attack. Every man attached to Beale-Browne's headquarters, except
"Bimbo" Reynolds, was out of commission, save the telegraphists, who
hung on in the poisoned air of the signals dug-out until all the
wires were swept away by the German shells, and all communication
with the rear rendered impossible.

General Meakin took over the field command of the Division, and
Colonel "Tommy" Pitman again took the 1st Cavalry Brigade.

The 4th D.G.'s, 15th Hussars, and 19th Hussars in reserve in the
G.H.Q. line, were as badly gassed as though they had been in the
front trenches.

In spite of this, they pushed their depleted ranks forward in support
over ground where shells were bursting in scores and hundreds, and
formed a new line along a road that ran north from and at right
angles to the Menin Road, about 1,000 yards west of Hooge.

Here they held the enemy from making further inroads into our
territory, fighting fiercely every hour of the long day.

The 15th Hussars and 19th Hussars suffered heavy casualties, and the
9th Cavalry Brigade lost one of its most popular officers in Captain
Griffiths, its Brigade Major, who was killed by a shell.

The 4th Division front line held well, in spite of the gas. The only
4th Division trenches lost were along a front of 800 yards from the
Canadian Farm to the Ypres-Passchendaele Road. The East Lancashires
south of that road hung on with a bull-dog grip until help came and
counter-attacks could be formed and launched to retake the ground
that had been lost.

My friend in the 11th Hussars, from whose diary I quoted a few
paragraphs with reference to the part the gallant 11th played in the
battle of May 13th, kept a most vivid series of notes as to what
happened in front of the 1st Cavalry Brigade on that memorable 24th
of May.

While the 11th Hussars were on the right of the 9th Lancers, and
therefore on the fringe of the attack, a perusal of the following
will give an idea of what it meant to be in the front line of the
Ypres Salient on a bank holiday in 1915:--

  "3 a.m.--Heavy firing, guns, rifles, Maxims, on our left; faint
  smell of gas; just as dawn breaks.

  3.15.--All quiet on our immediate front, heavy shelling going
  on all round. Every wire cut between Brigade headquarters and
  ourselves, and with the artillery.

  3.45.--Still no touch with Brigade headquarters, so messenger
  despatched. The headquarters of the 11th, Bays, and 5th D.G.'s
  are all close together in a wood behind the trench line. The Bays
  and 5th Dragoon Guards each have one squadron in hand; there
  are also three companies of the 4th East Yorks Territorials in
  brigade reserve in the same wood.

  4.--The Bays send an officers' patrol to the left.

  4.20.--Heavy firing still continues on our left. Telephone
  message sent to O.C. A Squadron: "Try and get information of
  situation on your left."

  4.35.--Answer received: "Adjutant 9th Lancers just passed here.
  Reports their centre and left gassed. No attack so far."

  4.45.--Lieutenant Milne's patrol of the Bays returned. Report 9th
  Lancers have been badly gassed, and retired from their trenches
  in places, leaving big gaps. Reinforcements have gone up, and
  line has, he thinks, been re-established.

  5.--Captain Osborne, Brigade-Major, arrives from Brigade
  headquarters. They have all suffered severely from gas; the
  regiments in G.H.Q. line have caught it very badly. The
  shelling has been very heavy, great number of casualties, men
  streaming back from all parts of the line. When he left Brigade
  headquarters they were in ignorance of the situation in any part
  of the line. The only thing which kept their hopes up was that
  not a single man of the 1st Brigade had returned.

  6.30.--Lieutenant Milne reports that he went to Officer
  Commanding 9th Lancers, who told him that his line was complete
  to fifty yards north of the Menin Road. He has had many men
  gassed, and has used up all his supports to fill up gaps in the
  front line. He is pushing reconnaissance to his left. Heard
  that the Officer Commanding York and Lancaster Regiment had his
  battalion in a wood about 600 yards east of us, so went over and
  saw him. He has 1,000 men, and is reserve to the section of the
  line from our right to Hill 60. Got him to send two companies to
  the Officer Commanding 9th Lancers.

  7.30.--Lieutenant Hartman, 11th Hussars, returned with his
  patrol. He had worked up to the Menin Road, where he had found
  Captain F. O. Grenfell, 9th Lancers, holding on with a very
  few men, and asking urgently for reinforcements of 200 men to
  strengthen his line. As Lieutenant Hartman was leaving, three
  platoons of infantry arrived.

  9.--Heavy attack on Hooge. All our glasses are fixed on that
  point. The village (now only a few ruined houses) is on a piece
  of rising ground which commands, at close range, the rear of our
  position. Withdrew one of the 11th Hussars' Maxims and laid it
  on the village. Can see our troops falling back. If Hooge goes,
  we are in the soup. 9th Lancers headquarters are in Louave Wood.
  Beale-Browne is in command. He has still got one company in hand.

  10.--Still holding on at Hooge. Can see more of our infantry
  moving up from Louave Wood.

  11.--Patrol reports "enemy have broken through 18th Hussars' line
  north of Menin Road, and are working down on the road in rear
  of Hooge." Hear heavy firing in that direction. Send Osborne to
  officer commanding Y. and L. to get him to send three companies
  to hold northern edge of Louave Wood, with machine-gun and
  detachment at farm west of it.

  12 noon.--Message sent by runner to Brigade Headquarters: "Still
  holding on to Hooge, but Germans are astride the Menin Road.
  Could you push up counter-attack in that direction? My line of
  retreat is covered by German machine-guns in that direction.
  Several orderlies have been wounded going backwards and forwards."

  12 noon.--First messenger returned from Brigade headquarters.
  Counter-attack is being organised. Messenger states that on
  his way up he saw about 100 infantry straggling back from the
  lines on our right, stating that their "'ole battalion had been
  coot oop." If there is any truth in their statement, we are in
  a nasty position, so send off at once an officer's patrol in
  that direction to clear up the situation, and a squadron of the
  5th D.G.'s to support the patrol and form a flank protection in
  direction of Maple Copse. No firing has been heard at all on our
  right.

  12.5 p.m.--Learn that there is a company of Royal Engineers
  in the wood near the York and Lancaster headquarters, so send
  them following order: "Proceed with Y. and L. guide to O.C. 9th
  Lancers in Louave Wood, and ask him if he can find work for your
  fifty men in consolidating the position on northern edge of wood."

  12.15.--Germans attacking right of 9th Lancers' line and left of
  A Squadron, 11th Hussars, with bombs. They are reported to have
  broken the 9th Lancers' line at one point, but been driven out
  again.

  12.30.--Captain Lawson reports that section of trench held by
  Territorials between his left and 9th Lancers has been captured
  by Germans. They are working down his trench with bombs. The
  captured section slopes up from the stream, and looks down on the
  A Squadron trench.

  12.35.--Interview the officer commanding 4th Yorks, explain the
  situation, and tell him to take another company up, and with the
  one already in the second line form a barrier behind the captured
  portion, getting touch with the 9th Lancers on his left and the
  11th Hussars on his right.

  1.--Message sent to officer commanding 9th Lancers: "Have pushed
  up a support to form a barrier behind the captured trench.
  Endeavour to get touch with them from the switch trench. A
  counter attack is now taking place from Potitjze towards Hooge."

  1.30.--The pressure on the Menin Road seems to be relieved. The
  Germans are still bombing down Lawson's trench, but A Squadron
  are putting up a good fight with bombs. Lieut. Gunter has been
  killed.

  2.25.--Message sent by runner to Brigade headquarters. "At about
  12.15 Germans captured portion of 9th Lancers' trench close to
  11th Hussars' left. Company of East Yorks sent up to form barrier
  behind broken line. Switch on 9th Lancers' right is now held
  instead of advanced trench. Western edge of Hooge still held
  by mixed force of men. Send me information of counter attack,
  for if Germans establish themselves on Menin Road during the
  night, position of brigade becomes untenable. If it is proposed
  to retire from here it would have to be done at night. Please
  inform Officer Commanding 83rd Brigade that I have had to call
  on all the York and Lancasters except 250 men. Following is
  disposition of line at present as known to me:--1st Brigade line
  as taken over last night. 2nd Brigade--9th Lancers, weakened by
  losses, with left on Menin Road; right broken but being secured.
  Remainder of 9th Lancers, with York and Lancasters, have formed a
  line right along north edge of wood facing north. They have two
  machine-guns on their outer flank and patrols to the Menin Road."

  2.45.--Message sent to Brigade headquarters: "Please arrange
  to send up to-night two dozen hand grenades per regiment, and
  detonators, most important; also two dozen rifle grenades per
  regiment and two dozen extra detonators per regiment, as the
  bombs here are without detonators; also as many gas-sprayers as
  possible. Ask 1st Cavalry Division to send up trench mortars with
  Royal Horse Artillerymen or Royal Engineers to man them, as our
  men don't understand them. They are urgently required."

  3 p.m.--No further developments. Situation well in hand, but
  hope that counter-attack is developing on north side Menin Road.
  Lawson is holding on to the line of stream, but position is
  untenable unless 2nd Brigade can re-establish original line on
  their right. Make dispositions for holding new line from left
  of B Squadron down communication trench to the support trench;
  thence along to where it joins up with front line. The situation
  on the right down as far as Hill 60 reported all right. The
  trenches near Hill 60 visited by our patrol did not even know
  that there was a fight going on. They thought all the firing was
  a long way to their left.

  4 p.m.--Situation unchanged. Have got majority of A Squadron
  back into communicating trench, moved up squadron of the Bays to
  complete the line and join up with 9th Lancers. Send following
  message to Lawson, who is still holding on at the stream:--

  "Most of your squadron are now back in communicating trench.
  Squadron of the Bays and infantry are holding the second line. I
  cannot send you up any more support; doubt your doing any good
  by holding on to present line. If you cannot get away now, wait
  until dark."

  4.--Message sent to Officer Commanding 9th Lancers:--"Portion of
  front line marked with crosses on accompanying sketch, has gone;
  suggest your falling back and holding line marked with red dots."
  Operations carried on without any further alarms till dusk. We
  saw the right flank of the counter-attack coming up towards
  Hooge. The Y. and L. co-operated in this movement.

  5.--Following received from Officer Commanding York and
  Lancasters:--

  "Our attack on the Menin Road has been successful. All the enemy
  have been driven back off the road as far as our left flank
  rests. The companies have withdrawn to Louave Wood after leaving
  a post on Menin Road, facing north. Patrols have been pushed on
  to the north to try and get touch with the counter-attack, but
  these patrols will now be withdrawn, and the Oxford Hussars will
  be asked to send similar patrols. Some of the enemy have been
  killed. Have collected their papers and identity discs, and will
  send them to Brigade headquarters."

  Soon after dark we received orders that the Brigade would be
  relieved to-night, but it was not till past midnight that the
  relieving regiments arrived. During the hours between dusk and
  midnight the enemy attacked vigorously with bombs both B Squadron
  and A Squadron trenches. At midnight the 16th Lancers arrived to
  take over. It was obvious that it was going to be a tight fit to
  defeat daylight. Not a moment was lost, but it was nearly two
  o'clock before the last squadron was relieved. The squadrons
  moved off independently, keeping as far as possible on the low
  ground. A violent fusilade commenced on both flanks of the
  Salient, and "Spares" were fairly flying about over our heads.
  The Germans were making another gas attack, and C Squadron, which
  took a more northerly route, caught it slightly. Our casualties
  were slight during the withdrawal, and it was quite light by the
  time we reached Ypres. We raced on through the town, as shells
  were falling about in a most unpleasant manner. We got back to
  Vlamertinghe at 4.30 a.m., the men absolutely dead beat, having
  walked seven miles across country at top speed. We dossed down
  to sleep, most of the men preferring the open to the wooden
  huts. Forty-eight hours without a check has been a bit more than
  tiring. The casualties for the 24th of May were two officers
  killed, twelve men killed, twelve wounded, and four died of
  wounds. Lieutenant Poole, who was only slightly wounded on the
  way back to Ypres, unfortunately succumbed to tetanus a few days
  later at Boulogne.

After sweeping over the firing-line and drifting past the G.H.Q.
reserve line, on that Whit Monday morning, the gas still moved
westward.

H and I Battery men, caught in their dug-outs, had a liberal share,
and still more of the poisonous fumes gathered in ruined Ypres, or
floated on to our divisional headquarters further to the west. Some
of the gas was carried as far back as Vlamertinghe, between four and
five miles from the German trenches.

"Willie" Du Cros, running with his ambulance convoy from Vlamertinghe
to a dressing station well west of Ypres, was sufficiently overcome
by gas to be for some hours dangerously ill.

Hardly a member of the 1st Cavalry Division Staff, including General
de Lisle himself, escaped the gas fumes. Red and watery eyes, a pale
bluish tinge to the complexion, violent headaches, and continual
coughing were universal for the greater part of the forenoon.

Gas shells continually burst over Ypres and the roads near it. More
than once I ran through pockets of gas, apparently caused by these
gas shells. Every one of us wore respirators or masks when near
Ypres, though "Babe" Nicholson inhaled sufficient gas through his
respirator to render him unconscious for five minutes after a "dash
up front."

General Mullens, of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, and Captain Paget,
his Brigade Major, were brought in a dangerous condition to our
headquarters. By night they were able to walk about, but for a time
it seemed quite possible neither would recover.

That evening I asked General Mullens, who was looking very ill, if he
thought he was free from the effects of the poisoning. "Somewhat,"
he answered. "No one could imagine what the experience is like. The
helplessness and mental suffering of it are beyond description."

Ypres came in for another terrific bombardment that day. The Menin
Bridge and the Menin Road proved such death-traps that they were
"closed to traffic" before the day was over.

Romer Williams, of General Mullens's staff, came through Ypres with a
message just as I was going up.

"You have a fine bruise on your forehead," said I, pointing to a raw
bump the size of a goose-egg. "How did you get it?"

"I haven't an idea," he answered; "unless a shell bounced off it.
Some of 'em have come close enough, so I thought they _might_ have
done so. As I was coming back down the Menin Road, an ammunition
limber passed me, the horses at full gallop. I watched them cross
the railway metals at the halt. The limber jumped up into the air
when it hit the crossing and the horses seemed to be skimming the
ground, they were going at such a pace. Just as the limber bumped up,
a flash came, right over it, and when the smoke rolled away the road
led clean on eastward, absolutely empty. Not a sign of horse, man or
limber remained. A big howitzer shell must have hit it squarely on
the outfit, and swept it into the ditch like the wind would sweep
away a leaf. It was a terrible thing to see."

Colonel Browne of the R.A.M.C. and his staff worked like Trojans.
Browne had not slept since 7 o'clock on the previous morning, and
had a bad touch of gas, like everyone else near headquarters.

At break of day the roads were full of panting, coughing stragglers
from the front. Scores on scores staggered into the big front gates
of the château, and sank exhausted and suffering on the deep grass
that lined the drive-way. The medical officers hastily gave such
relief as they could and packed the ambulances full of the wounded
and the worst of the gas cases.

By 9 o'clock in the morning 600 gassed men and 160 wounded had passed
through Colonel Browne's hands, more than four-fifths of them members
of the 28th or 4th Division units.

The number of men who were wounded by shell fire when coming back
toward Ypres from the gas-filled trenches was legion.

Five signal-corps men, attached to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, were
badly poisoned, but managed to get back as far as the big square at
Ypres. They were in such a sorry state that a passing officer advised
them to lie down on the broken cobbles of the Grande Place until an
ambulance could be sent for them. They stretched out in a pathetic
row, and had not lain there long when a Black Maria lit at their
feet, shoving them half a dozen yards over the stones still in line,
every man of the five dead, killed before he knew of the coming of
the shell.

All day shattered men were brought to the divisional dressing station
near the château gates. The wounds from the shells were terrible.

A wounded sergeant of the Cheshires refused a ride from east of Ypres
in an ambulance, cheerily saying that those who _could_ walk should
do so, and not occupy space required for those more severely hurt. He
carried back his full kit, tramping sturdily along with a grim smile
on his fine face. At the dressing station a nasty bullet hole in his
shoulder was disclosed, which would have laid many a man flat on his
back.

"Good man, of the old school. New ones can't touch 'em," commented a
grizzled hospital orderly, as the Cheshire sergeant passed out of the
room.

A Tommy, with bright eyes peeping from a purple bit of face all but
hidden by a mass of white bandages, insisted on telling his story to
anyone who would listen.

"He has told his bally yarn half a dozen times, sir," complained a
hospital orderly to the doctor. "I told him he was not to talk, but
he just can't keep his bloomin' mouth shut, he says."

"Nasty wound, too," remarked the doctor, as we watched the talkative
individual. "Bullet went clean through his face, in one cheek and out
the other, and carried away every one of his upper teeth."

But his injury had apparently increased his volubility. We could hear
his tale as he poured it into the ear of a gunner, wounded in both
legs and unable to escape.

"You see the ol' gas stuff got us bad, some on us," he explained.
"But I got this 'ere bloomin' smash in the jawr, and that took up
so much o' me bally time I didn't pay no attention to no gas, you
believe _me_! I warsn't the only bloke lyin' there. They was a fair
lot o' our chaps near me.

"The snipin' was cruel. Some o' the poor blokes that was bloomin'
well shot already got 'it agin. I was jest thinkin' mine was comin'
when wot oh! 'ere comes three big Prooshuns, tall as 'ouses.
Good-day, Bill, says I to meself. You next! It'll be the butt for
_your_ nut from these 'ere lobsters.

"But not a bit. They ups with me and carts me over to a 'ouse.
Leastwys it _wor_ a 'ouse, wonct. An' wot do _you_ think! Them
Prooshuns give me a bloomin' fill o' cold coffee, like Christians!

"'Bout this time the Buffs was comin' on an' my Prooshuns had to skin
out, rapid. They didn't do nothin' to me only say, 'Ta-ta!' in Dutch.
The fire got so 'ot I crawled off down a crick-thing full of the
stinkinest stuff that ever got called water. I rounded around, after
a while, an' come up back o' them Buffs a little. They saw me and
bloomin' near shot my 'ead off, so I lay still.

"Then I crawled more. I 'ad got in front of some more o' our chaps
by then. Big 'uns was goin' orf right there, an' 'eads was down,
you bet. I was gettin' closer, when a fat-'ead sees me an' starts
shootin'. I 'ollered, an' the more I 'ollered the more 'e let off 'is
silly gun. 'E 'it my pore ol' cap, 'e did. Then some cuss shuts 'im
orf, an' they come out and gets me.

"'Who are you?' says a orficer chap. 'I'm damned if I know,' says I.
'I've been shot at by everybody I've seen all mornin', except three
big 'Uns.'

"'Mad,' says a cove, short-like. 'Send 'im in.'

"'An' 'ere I am, with no jawr much left.'

"'Humph,' commented the doctor as he walked away. 'Guess he could
stand the loss of some more jaw and not kill him. He seems to have
plenty left.'"

A more sinister story was told by a trooper shot through the thigh.
He said the Germans got into one of our trenches, in which they found
him and nine of his comrades. Five of the ten had been hit. The Huns
told the wounded to crawl away to as safe a place as they could find,
and they straightway wriggled off down the trench, as directed.

With a scowl on his face a big German said to the five unwounded men,
"We don't want _you_. Go!" He pointed his finger to the shell-swept
field that led toward the British reserve line. The five started on
a run, but had not gone far when the rat-tat-tat of a machine-gun
behind them commenced. In an instant the air was full of bullets.
Four of the five men fell dead. The fifth was the man who told the
story. He fell, he said, at the first sound of the quick-firer, and
thus escaped with a bullet through his leg.

Counter-attack followed counter-attack as the day wore on. We
launched a small one at 2.30 p.m., a larger one an hour later, and
a still larger one was planned for 6 o'clock. This last was to win
back the lost trenches around the Hooge Château, past the Bellewaarde
Lake, and on to the north.

The British guns cleared the way splendidly for the 6 o'clock
attack. "Mother" shells fell into a line of ruined houses near
Hooge. The Germans had placed several machine-guns there, and as the
9·2 projectiles knocked the bricks about their ears they scampered
out like chickens. A machine-gun not far away in the 9th Lancers'
trenches poured a hail of bullets into the Huns as they left cover,
and numbers were seen to fall.

The Royal Fusiliers were attacking, but when their line "got up,"
the advantage was lost, other enemy machine-guns had been brought
into the German trenches, and the attack "fizzled out," no real gain
having been made.

So night closed in. By 2 o'clock in the morning of the next day the
fresh 2nd Cavalry Division troopers had relieved the tired men of
the 1st Cavalry Division, who were once more brought back to the
Vlamertinghe huts.

The Cavalry had lost heavily, and was still to lose before the second
battle of Ypres was finished, though the ground won by the Huns on
the 24th of May marked their furthermost westerly advance.

The part played by the infantry in the second Ypres struggle was
greater, numerically, than that of the cavalry, but the work done by
the troopers was of inestimable value. Their resistance broke the
back of the enemy's onslaught at its most tense moments.

The work of the Queen's Bays on May 13th, and the 9th Lancers and
15th Hussars on May 24th, will long live in the annals of the British
Army.

The following officers were awarded the Distinguished Service
Order, the task of selection for the awards from so great a number
of instances of gallant conduct during these May days being a most
difficult one:--

Major George Harold Abseil Ing, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays). At
Ypres on May 13th, 1915, when the line was broken beyond the right
flank of his regiment, he came out of his trench in the front line,
stood on the road in the open under heavy shell-fire, stopped the
retirement of forty men of another unit, and turned them into his
section of the defence. The good results of his gallant action were
far-reaching.

Major Charles William Henry Crichton, 10th (Prince of Wales Own
Royal) Hussars. Near Ypres, on May 13th, 1915, showed conspicuous
gallantry and ability in collecting and rallying men who were
retiring under heavy shell-fire through the 10th Hussars' position.
In our counter-attack he continued to direct operations, giving
great encouragement to his men whilst he lay in the open under heavy
shell-fire with his leg shattered.

Captain John Grey Porter, 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers. On May 10th,
1915, when a very heavy attack was made on the front line near Hooge,
Captain Porter went up to the infantry line there and brought back
very valuable information regarding the situation. On May 13th he
rendered the greatest possible assistance in taking messages under
terrific shell-fire to various parts of the line, and reporting on
various local situations. He set an example of coolness and total
disregard of danger that was beyond all praise. He has been twice
wounded previously in this campaign.

The following eight cavalry officers were awarded the Military Cross
for their work in the Salient:--

Captain Stewart Graham Menzies, D.S.O., 2nd Life Guards. Near Ypres,
on May 13th, 1915, after his Commanding Officer had been wounded,
displayed conspicuous ability, coolness and resource in controlling
the action of his regiment and rallying the men.

Captain Edward Archibald Ruggles-Brise, Essex Yeomanry, T.F. For
conspicuous gallantry and ability, near Ypres, on May 13th, 1915,
when he held a position gained in a counter-attack, although entirely
isolated, until ordered to withdraw at night. He had only fifty men
under his command.

Captain Guy Franklin Reynolds, 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers. For
splendid work on May 24th, 1915, near Hooge. When the headquarters of
the 9th Lancers were gassed, he constantly brought reports from the
trenches under very heavy fire, and helped to reorganise the defence
of the left section. Also when the enemy attempted to enter Louave
Wood, he was invaluable in helping to reorganise the defence. He
set the finest possible example of calmness, coolness, and courage
although suffering from gas and twice slightly wounded.

Captain Charles Joseph Leicester Stanhope, 15th (The King's) Hussars.
For gallant and skillful handling of his squadron, near Hooge, on May
24th, 1915, with most valuable results. His squadron, having been
badly gassed, he took forward the remnants, together with stragglers
he collected, and on his own initiative, under very heavy shell-fire,
reinforced the front line. He remained in action all day, and when
the line on his left gave way he doubled back his flank with great
skill, and continued with the utmost gallantry to hold the position.

Lieutenant Kenneth Douglas Lorne Maclaine of Lochbuie, 15th (The
King's) Hussars (S.R.). Near Ypres, for good work in command of his
squadron under trying circumstances, on May 13th, 1915. For gallant
and skilful leading of a patrol on May 14th, by which he gained
information of great value. He volunteered to lead this patrol, and
pushed forward by day, a mile in front of our line, and returned
with a good report as to the actual line then held by the enemy.
For coolness, determination and skill in handling his squadron
under difficult circumstances near Hooge on May 24th, 1915. He had
been ordered up with his squadron to reinforce the left of another
cavalry regiment, when the line north of the Menin Road gave way,
and the situation became critical. Lieutenant Maclaine showed great
skill in taking up a new position, facing north and west to meet
the new situation, and maintained his position under most critical
circumstances until relieved at 2.15 the next morning. His action
contributed greatly towards maintaining intact the line south of the
road.

Lieutenant William Spurrett Fielding Johnson, Leicestershire
Yeomanry, T.F. For conspicuous gallantry near Ypres on May 13th,
1915. Was with Major Martin, and continued the action until the
squadron was reduced to thirteen men. Afterwards displayed great
coolness in withdrawing to a flank and joining a cavalry brigade.

Lieutenant James Archibald Garton, North Somerset Yeomanry, T.F. Near
Ypres on May 13th, 1915, showed great coolness and daring. Held his
position throughout the day, notwithstanding that the trenches had
been blown in, and inspired all ranks by his behaviour. After all
senior officers were killed or wounded, he assumed command of the
regiment, displaying great judgment and initiative throughout.

Lieutenant Nigel Kennedy Worthington, 3rd Dragoon Guards (S.R.). Near
Ypres on May 12th, 1915, showed great coolness and daring. He took
over a new line of trenches just before dark, and to get round the
line in daylight, he had to cross several open and fire-swept zones.
On May 13th, at great risk, he came back several times to report.

From the foregoing list of honours it would be unfair to omit the
Distinguished Service Order given for magnificent work a week after
the fight on May 24th, to Major Philip Granville Mason, of the 3rd
(Prince of Wales') Dragoon Guards. "Whilst in command of Hooge Fort
and the adjoining trenches," the official report read, "he showed
conspicuous gallantry and ability in holding the village and defence
line allotted to him, notwithstanding a terrific bombardment for
several hours every day from May 30th to June 2nd, 1915, in which
practically all his trenches and dug-outs were blown in."

On the 25th the regiments took stock of their losses and began the
work of refitting. I called at the headquarters of Colonel Burnett
of the 18th Hussars, hearing he was in a dangerous condition from gas
poisoning. No one was allowed to see him, and fears for his recovery
were expressed by those who attended him. Burnett was soon afterwards
sent home, where he was compelled to spend many long months of
convalescence before he was able to rejoin his regiment.

Acting Adjutant Hill, of the 18th Hussars, had not been able to make
out any accurate list of casualties. Two officers of the regiment
were known to have been killed by gas, and five others were wounded.
The killed, wounded and missing totalled nearly 190 out of less than
300. Many of the missing, it was hoped, would prove to have been
gassed but slightly, and be able soon to resume their duties.

As the sun went down that evening their comrades of the 9th Lancers
buried the bodies of Francis Grenfell and "Algy" Court.

Court's face wore a smile, as though he was quietly sleeping.
Grenfell, shot through the heart at the height of the battle, bore,
too, a look of deep peace, as if at last he had cheerfully gone to a
better country, to join his beloved brother "Rivy," from the shock of
whose death, on the Aisne, Francis had never recovered.

Staunch friends and fine men, both Grenfell and Court.

Whatever Peace may bring us, it can never replace the ones War has
taken.

But they have left behind them their example, and the memory of the
clean, young manhood that England gave, without stint, to fight for
the right. With that memory enshrined in the hearts of those they
have left behind, victory lies not with the grave, for such lives are
deathless.

At an early hour on the 26th of May, General de Lisle was apprised of
his appointment to the command of the 29th Division, which had won
splendid laurels under General Hunter Weston in the Dardanelles.

My long and pleasant association with de Lisle bade fair to close,
much to my regret.

In the course of conversation I told the General how sorry I was that
I was not to accompany him.

"I much wish that you were," said he. "I doubt if I can take you
to the Dardanelles; but if you care to come with me to London and
the War Office, I will do what I can to have you attached to my new
Division."

After a morning of racing back and forth between the front and St.
Omer, we sped to Boulogne, arriving in time to catch the afternoon
boat.

No one could have been kinder than General Long, the Director of
Supplies and Transport at the War Office. In his office, next
morning, I met General de Lisle; but General Long could only tell us
that "it will very likely be a long, long time before motor cars will
be required in the Dardanelles; and, as you know, Americans are not
eligible for commissions in the British Army, even should you apply
for one."

So back I went to General Headquarters in France, deeply sorry to
say "Good-bye" to General de Lisle and his magnificent 1st Cavalry
Division.

[Illustration: COPYRIGHT "GEOGRAPHIA" L^{TD}. _55 FLEET STREET LONDON
E C_]



INDEX.


  Abele, 155, 181

  Adeney, Gen., 205

  Albert, King of the Belgians, 9, 11-12, 16-17

  Alexander of Teck, Major Prince, 12

  Algerian Brigade, 171

  Allenby, Gen., 3, 185, 197, 219

  Amiens, 122

  Annesley, Capt. (10th Hussars), 92

  Antwerp, 11

  Arbuthnot, Gen. (C.R.A.), 255

  Armentières, 188

  Armstrong, Lieut. "Pat" (10th Hussars), 2

  Arras, 186, 201

  Auber Ridge, 184, 186, 199

  Aubers, 107


  Bailleul, 115

  Barrett, "Rattle," 133, 249

  Beale-Browne, Major (9th Lancers), 133, 265-6-7

  Bellewaarde Lake, 188

  Bell-Irving, Lieut., 66

  Benson, Rex, 133, 178, 265

  Bethune, 22

  Bixschoote, 121, 137, 139

  Black Watch, 83

  Boeschoeppe, 18

  Boesinghe, 139

  Boulogne, 122

  Bretherton, Capt. (Staff), 70

  Bridges, Col. "Tom" (4th Hussars), 11, 12, 13, 16

  Bridges, Mrs., 12

  Brielen, 218

  Briggs, Gen., 2, 66, 118, 149, 197, 237, 240-1

  Broodseinde, 158

  Brown, Lieut. (4th D.G.), 149

  Browne, Col. (R.A.M.C.), 240, 281-2

  Budworth, --, (R.A.), 155, 165, 167, 227-8

  Buffs, The, 265

  Bulfin, Gen., 91, 198

  Burnett, Col. (18th Hussars), 148, 175, 239, 293-4

  Byng, Gen. Sir Julian, 197


  Calais, 115

  Campbell, Gen. David, 233-4, 240

  "Canadian Farm," The, 187, 220

  Canadians, 50, 128, 140-1, 144, 151, 153, 156-7-8, 184

  Cassel, 144

  "Cavan's House," 58, 71, 77, 134

  Chantilly, 122

  Cheshires, 283

  Coldstream Guards, 1st Bn., 83

  Corbett, Major (18th Hussars), 239

  Court, Capt. "Algy," (9th Lancers), 133-4, 136, 267, 294

  Court, "Rivy," 294

  Crichton, Major C. W. H. (10th Hussars), 289

  Cummings, Col. (R.A.M.C.), 136


  Davies, Gen., 105-6

  De Lisle, Major-Gen. H. de B., 1, 9, 13, 16, 18 _et passim_

  Dickebush, 118, 256

  Dixmude, 13

  Dorsets, 107

  Douai, 187

  Dragoons, 1st Royal, 221

  Dragoons, Inniskilling, 177

  Dragoons, 3rd, 221

  Dragoon Guards, 2nd (Queen's Bays), 2, 98, 220, 229, 230,
        233-4 _et seq._, 269 _et seq._, 288

  Dragoon Guards, 3rd, 233, 246

  Dragoon Guards, 4th, 2, 35, 149, 220, 261, 267

  Dragoon Guards, 5th, 2, 220, 229, 230, 236 _et seq._, 261,
        269 _et seq._

  Drake, Lieut. (10th Hussars), 92

  Dranoutre, 118

  Du Cros, "Willie," 279

  Dunkirk, 9, 17, 177


  East Kents, 161

  Ecke, 137

  Edwards, Capt. Noel (9th Lancers), 267

  Elverdinghe, 143-4, 146

  Esquelbecq, 259

  Estaires, 106, 115


  Fergusson, Gen. Sir Chas., 2

  Festubert, 189, 248

  Fielding, Gen., 241

  Fisher, Major "Bertie" (17th Lancers), 206

  Fitzclarence, Gen., 84

  Fitzgerald, Major Desmond (11th Hussars), 45, 95, 146, 207

  Flying Corps, Royal, 214

  Foch, Gen., 50, 122

  French, Gen. Sir John, 2, 5, 11, 122, 128

  Fresson, Capt., 23, 156

  Fromelle-road, 200

  Furnes, 10, 11

  Fusiliers, Irish, 242

  Fusiliers, Royal, 287


  Garton, Lieut. J. A. (North Somerset Yeomanry), 292

  Gaselee, Gen., 256

  Gheluvelt, 83

  Givenchy, 5

  Godawaersvelde, 137

  Gordon-Lennox, Lieut., 91

  Gough, Gen. Hubert, 248

  Graham, Alex., 133

  Gravenstafel, 158

  Grenfell, Capt. Francis (9th Lancers), 218, 267, 271, 294

  Griffiths, Capt. (Brigade Major), 268

  Gunter, Lieut., 274


  Haig, General Sir Douglas, 2, 53, 85, 103, 108

  Halte, The, 249, 252

  Hambro, Major Percy (15th Hussars), 1, 23, 45

  Hartman, Lieut. (11th Hussars), 271

  Hazebrouck, 115, 142

  Henderson, Gen., 3

  Het-Sas, 139, 159, 162, 171

  Highlanders, Argyll and Sutherland, 213

  Hill, Actg. Adjt. (18th Hussars), 294

  "Hill 60," 135-6-7, 276

  Holdsworth, Capt. (18th Hussars), 148

  Hollebeke Château, 256

  Home, Col. "Sally" (11th Hussars), 1, 23, 58, 202

  Hooge, 61, 75, 83, 95-6, 133, 271-2, 287

  Hooge Château, 253, 264, 287

  Hornby, "Jeff" (9th Lancers), 85, 133

  Howard, Capt. Cecil (16th Lancers), 1, 74, 233

  Hussars, 4th, 180

  Hussars, 10th, 221, 234-5

  Hussars, 11th, 2, 67, 213, 220, 230, 236, 238, 261, 269 _et seq._

  Hussars, 15th, 129, 246, 261, 266-7-8, 288

  Hussars, 18th, 2, 35, 184, 198, 220, 232, 240, 246, 258, 261 _et seq._

  Hussars, 19th, 238, 261, 267-8

  Hussars, Oxford, 277


  Indian Cavalry, 128-140

  Indian Corps, 128

  Ing, Major H. A. (Bays), 288


  Jelf, Major Wilfred (R.H.A.), 1

  Joffre, Gen., 122

  Johnson, Bulkeley, 233, 241

  Johnson, Capt., 241

  Johnson, Lieut. W. F. (Leicestershire Yeomanry), 292


  Kaden, Lieut.-Col. (Hun), 123

  Kavanagh, Gen., 247

  Keating, Col. Father, 136

  Keir, Gen., 260

  Kemmel, 118, 122

  Kennedy, Gen., 233, 240-1

  Kitchener, Lord, 122-3

  K.O.S.B.'s, 134

  K.R.R. Cyclists, 254


  La Bassée, 106-7, 121

  Labyrinth, The, 201

  La Clytte, 118-9

  Lancashires, East, 232, 268

  Lancashires, Loyal North, 83

  Lancers, 5th, 180

  Lancers, 9th, 2, 35, 134, 220, 232, 240, 246, 261-2, 264, 266-7,
        269 _et seq._, 287-8

  Lancers, 16th, 50, 278

  Lancers, 19th, 129

  Lancers, Sind, 177

  Langemarck, 137, 139

  La Quinque Rue, 248

  Laventie, 106

  Lawson, Col. "Algy" (Bays), 229

  Lawson, Capt. (11th Hussars), 238, 273, 276

  Lefebvre, Gen., 57, 97

  Le Jeune, Capt. Baron, 119

  Lemon, Sergt. (5th D.G.), 238

  Lens, 201

  Le Touquet, 116

  Life Guards, 1st, 221, 229, 230, 233

  Life Guards, 2nd, 221, 229, 230, 233

  Lille, 107, 184-5

  Lillers, 115

  Lincolns, 107

  Lizerne, 139, 153, 155-6-7, 159, 162, 168, 171

  Lloyd, Capt. Hardress (4th D.G.), 1, 9, 10, 13, 16, 91, 189, 192, 194,
        207, 224-5-6

  Loch, Lord (Staff), 91, 198

  Locre, 118, 198

  Long, Gen. (W.O.), 296

  Loos, 201

  Louave Wood, 266, 272

  Lowe, Gen., 116

  Lumley, Gen., 116

  Lumley, Lieut. (11th Hussars), 116

  Lumsden, G. F. (A.S.C.), 183

  Lunan, Lieut., 246

  Lyne-Stephens, 142

  Lys, River, 116, 188


  Macfarlane, 198

  MacLachlan, Capt. (18th Hussars), 263-4

  Maclaine, Lieut. Kenneth (15th Hussars), 247, 291-2

  Manchesters, The, 172

  Mapplebeck, -- (R.F.C.), 130-1-2

  Martin, Major, 292

  Mason, Major P. G. (3rd D.G.), 293

  Meakin, Gen., 197, 219, 224, 267

  Menin Road and Bridge, The, 55, 58, _et passim_

  Menzies, Capt. S. G. (2nd Life Guards), 290

  Merville, 103, 115

  Messines, 188

  Meteren, 132

  Mieville, -- (R.C.A.), 129

  Milne, Lieut. (Bays), 270

  Monro, Gen. C. C., 2

  Moore, Major (Canadians), 140

  Moore-Brabazon, -- (R.F.C.), 130

  Moriarty, Capt. (R.A.M.C.), 66

  Mullens, Brig.-Gen., 2, 85, 118, 179, 192, 217, 255, 280

  Murray, Gen., 36


  Neame, Capt. Bertram (18th Hussars), 147-8

  Neuve Chapelle, 102, 107-8, _et seq._, 123, 184

  Nicholson, Capt. "Babe" (15th Hussars), 74, 82-3-4-5, 83, _et seq._,
        87, 89, 91-2-3, 149, 150, 225, 280

  Nieppe, Forest of, 112

  Nieuport-les-Bains, 10, 11, 13

  Norrie, Capt. (5th D.G.), 236

  Northcliffe, Lord, 18

  Noyelles, 23, 24


  O'Donnell, Surg.-Gen., 136

  Osborne, Capt. (Brigade Major), 270


  Paget, Capt. (Brigade Major), 280

  Paris, 115

  Passchendaele, 187

  Pemberton, Max, 18

  Peto, Capt. (10th Hussars), 92

  Pilkem, 156, 162

  Pilkington, Major (15th Hussars), 175

  Pitman, Col. "Tommy" (11th Hussars), 66, 197, 219, 220, 267

  Ploegsteert, 116, 122

  Ploegsteert, Bois de, 117

  Plumer, Gen. Sir Herbert, 3, 95, 185

  Polygon Wood, 180

  Pont Gal Joffre, 15

  Poperinghe, 37, 133, 140, 143-4, 150-1, 173

  Poole, Lieut., 279

  Poona Horse, The, 177

  Porter, Capt. J. G. (9th Lancers), 289

  Potijze, 57, 189, 191-2, 202, 206, 227

  "Princess Pat's," The, 136, 212

  Pulteney, Gen., 2

  Putz, Gen. (French Commander), 155, 178

  Pypegaale, 163


  R.A.M.C., 232

  Rawlinson, Capt. Father, 136

  Rawlinson, Gen. Sir Henry, 3, 200

  Renton, -- (10th Hussars), 237

  Reynolds, Capt. "Bimbo" (9th Lancers), 133, 266-7

  Reynolds, Capt. G. F. (9th Lancers), 290

  R.H.A. (H and I batteries), 165, 168

  Richardson, Stewart, 239

  Rifle Brigade, 107, 113, 114, 161

  Rimington, Gen., 3

  Royal Horse Guards (Blues), 221, 234-5, 244

  Royals, 233, 246

  Robertson, Gen., 36

  Ross, Lady, 16

  Rouge Croix, 107

  Roulers, 188

  Royal Engineers, 273

  Ruggles-Brise, Capt. E. (Essex Yeomanry), 290


  Sailly, 102

  St. Eloi, 113

  St. Julien, 141, 157, 172, 179

  St. Leger, Major (Irish Guards) 132-3

  St. Omer, 115, 122

  Sanctuary Wood, 71, 188 _et passim_

  Scots Guards, 4

  Sewell, Major (4th D.G.), 240

  Sherman, --, 179, 240

  Skinner, Major (R.H.A.), 248, 255

  Smith-Dorrien, Gen. Sir Horace, 2, 156, 185

  Smith, Harold (R.A.C.), 129, 130

  Snow, Gen. T. O'D., 18, 197, 199

  Staffordshire Brigade, 115

  Stanhope, Capt. C. J. L. (15th Hussars), 291

  Steele, Major (R.A.M.C.), 119

  Steenstraate, 139

  Steenvoorde, 54, 144, 153


  Territorials, Durham, 161

  Territorials, London, 128

  Territorials, Midlands, 128

  Territorials, Northumberland, 128, 140, 161, 172, 184, 217, 241

  Territorials, Warwickshire, 129, 227

  Territorials, West Riding, 184

  Territorials, East Yorkshire, 269

  Territorials, York and Durham, 225

  Territorials, York and Lancaster, 142, 266, 271

  Territorials, York, 161

  Thelus, 201

  Thompson, Capt. T. O. (R.A.M.C.), 147

  Thresher, Col., 136

  Tirailleurs d'Afrique, 13

  Tomkinson, Capt. "Mouse" ("Royals"), 1, 91

  Tremayne, -- (19th Hussars), 238


  Verbranden Molen, 135

  Verlorenhoek, 188

  Vermelles, 21-22, 29, 31, _et seq._

  Vieux Berquin, 132

  Vlamertinghe, 118, 211


  Wales, Prince of, 36

  Walker, Capt. (Staff), 118

  Warren, Col. (A.P.O.), 136

  Watts, Lce-Corporal, 238

  Webb, Capt. (Signal Corps), 252

  West Kents, 134

  Weston, Gen. Hunter, 295

  West Surreys, 83, 136

  Wheeler, Capt. Bennie (15th Hussars), 74

  Wieltje, 141

  Willcocks, Gen. Sir Jas., 3

  Williams, Romer, 133, 179, 213, 281

  Wilson, Col. ("Blues"), 91

  Wilson, Gen., 211

  Wiltshires, 107

  Woesten, 143, 146, 150

  Wormhoudt, 176-7

  Worthington, Lieut. N. K. (3rd D.G.), 293


  Yeomanry, Essex, 221, 234, 245

  Yeomanry, Leicestershire, 229, 230, 233, 246

  Yeomanry, Northamptonshire, 108

  Yeomanry, North Somerset, 233, 239, 246

  Ypres, 43, 61, 189 _et passim_

  Ypres Salient, 50, 133, 188 _et passim_


  Zillebeke, 50, 69, 92, 134

  Zonnebeke, 61

  Zouaves, French Colonial, 169


LONDON: PRINTED BY WM. CLOWES AND SONS, LTD., DUKE ST., STAMFORD ST.,
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++With Generals French, Smith-Dorrien, and De Lisle in the Firing
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"From Mons to Ypres with French."

By FREDERIC COLEMAN,

A Member of the R.A.C. Contingent at the Front.

  _50 Illustrations taken there.   Sixth Large Printing now selling._
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_A FEW SELECTED PRESS OPINIONS._

  =The Times=:--"There have been many books written about the war,
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  =Daily Telegraph= (First Notice):--"Mr. Coleman's Book, intensely
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  much careful description of military events and at times sound
  criticism."

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  in explaining military events, that while it will be read with
  interest now, it should not be overlooked when the time comes
  for writing an authoritative history of the British campaign in
  Flanders and France."

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  in language without literary frills of any kind, and is the
  liveliest chronicle which has yet been published of our glorious
  soldiers.... The book is full of authentic humour and high
  spirits, and everybody should read it."

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++With Generals French, Smith-Dorrien, and De Lisle in the Firing
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By FREDERIC COLEMAN,

A Member of the R.A.C. Contingent at the Front.

  _50 Illustrations taken there.   Sixth Large Printing in hand._
  _Crown 8vo., cloth, gilt, =6=/- net._

Mr. Coleman gives his actual experiences in the thick of the fighting
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A REVIEW BY LORD CROMER.

_Reprinted with permission from "The Spectator," May 20th, 1916._

English politicians and journalists deserve some credit for the
manner in which they have dealt with the attitude assumed by the
United States of America during the present war. The policy pursued
by President Wilson has unquestionably caused some surprise and
disappointment on this side of the Atlantic. But the discussion has
always been characterized by great restraint. Language calculated to
wound the national susceptibilities of Americans has been studiously
avoided. By far the most severe of President Wilson's critics
have been his own countrymen. Several causes have contributed to
bring about this result. Of these, the most important has been the
fact that the genuine friendship entertained by most Englishmen
for their Transatlantic kinsmen has made them very reluctant to
criticize. Then, again, incipient criticism has been checked by
a feeling that we owe some atonement for the harsh judgment most
unfortunately passed by some sections of English society on American
policy during the great struggle of half-a-century ago; by a just
appreciation of the fact that, whatever we might think, Americans
are not only the sole, but also the best judges of the conduct of
their own Government; and by the reflection that the difficulties
which beset President Wilson cannot be fully realized on this side
of the Atlantic. But, in addition to these causes, there has been
another which has largely contributed to prevent any estrangement
between the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race. Englishmen,
although they have been somewhat astonished at the equanimity with
which the frequent German outrages against American life and property
have been endured, have never resented the neutral attitude adopted
by the United States Government; but they have felt that President
Wilson failed to rise to the situation, that he did not adequately
appreciate the extent to which the greatest democracy of the world
was interested in the struggle against absolutism, and that, without
any departure from an attitude of strict neutrality, a greater amount
of sympathy might have been displayed for those who are the champions
of progress and civilization against retrogression and an abhorrent
State morality. At the same time, they felt that the attitude of
official America did not accurately represent the real feelings and
sentiments of the American public, or at all events of that portion
of the public whose views were most entitled to respect. Hence, it
has resulted that the opinions expressed by individual Americans,
who were untrammelled by official responsibilities, have served as
a healthy antidote to the acts and language of their Government.
Amongst this class Mr. Frederic Coleman is entitled to occupy a
distinguished place. In the very spirited and graphic account
which he has written of his personal experiences with the British
Expeditionary Force in France, he speaks with no uncertain voice.
"Friends and readers," he says, "do not forget that most Americans
feel much the same as I feel about the war. An overwhelming majority
of those of my countrymen who know the truth would do what lies in
their power to further the success of the Allies and their righteous
cause." Moreover, he arraigns the criminal monarch who has been
instrumental in bringing about the greatest catastrophe the world has
ever witnessed before the bar of human and Divine justice. Speaking
of the gallant Grenfell twin brothers, both of whom were sacrificed
on the altar of German ambition, he uses words which should find a
responsive echo in many a sorely-stricken French and English home.
"Fine men of noble character, the Grenfells. Surely the monarch
responsible for a war that mows down the flower of the world's
manhood in the fulness of its youth must one day answer for his
crime, in this world or the next."

Mr. Coleman was not, as is usually the case with civilians who
are attached to an army in the field, constrained to keep out of
the fighting line. On the contrary, it is clear from his stirring
personal narrative that most of his time was passed within the
region in which a hail of "Black Marias," shrapnell shells, and
Mauser bullets has been asserting Germany's right to occupy "a place
in the sun" by slaughtering the youth of England, by devastating
the fair homesteads of France, and by reducing to ruins the sacred
buildings and historic monuments of which French soil is so prolific.
Mr. Coleman does not profess to write a history of the operations
of which he was a witness. He frequently dwells on a point which
is too often forgotten by those who read the accounts given by the
actors in the great struggle. It is that each individual can only
bear testimony to what passes before his own eyes. Very few are in
possession of information which would enable them to judge of the
relative importance of events. "No one," Mr. Coleman says, "would
imagine how little regimental officers, or Brigade commanders for
that matter, know of the broad plan of operations." But Mr. Coleman
provides us with a very vivid picture of what he himself saw, and
thus enables us to realize the general character which the war must
have assumed elsewhere.

Mr. Coleman joined the Expeditionary Force in August, 1914, about
the time when the retirement from Mons and its neighbourhood began.
His account of this operation is deeply interesting. It would be
altogether premature to discuss, and still more to criticize, the
strategy of which this movement was the outcome. Moreover, the
British commanders were in no way responsible for the early strategy
of the campaign. They merely had to make their military dispositions
conform to the requirements of the plan which had been already
elaborated and partially executed by the French General Staff, and
that plan necessitated a withdrawal from the advanced position
originally occupied by the British troops in Flanders. A retreat
does not necessarily connote permanent defeat or irretrievable
disaster. When the Duke of Wellington withdrew within the lines of
Torres Vedras, he did so deliberately in order to prepare for the
advance which eventually drove the invaders from Spanish territory.
It is greatly to be hoped that the history of Torres Vedras will
be repeated at Salonika. Nevertheless, retreat generally involves
at least a temporary check. It disheartens the rank-and-file of an
army, more especially if it is the sequel of some local success in
one portion of the field of operations. Describing the situation at
St. Quentin on August 27th, 1914, Mr. Coleman says: "An orderly,
well-disciplined army had been through a great fight. Its infantry,
unbeaten by the infantry that opposed it, had been ordered to retire.
'Gawd knows why,' hundreds of Tommies were saying.... Everything
tended to discouragement." Retreat, in the presence of an advancing
enemy, flushed with the full confidence of victory, is one of the
most delicate and difficult of military operations, and one also that
affords a crucial test of the discipline and morale of the retreating
force. To such an extent has this been recognized that the successful
retreats recorded in history have shed a very special degree of
lustre on those in command and on the troops whom they conducted.
After a lapse of twenty-three centuries, the account of the retreat
of the famous Ten Thousand after the battle of Cunaxa is still read
with undiminished interest and admiration. The operations of Jovian
after the crushing defeat inflicted on the Emperor Julian in Persia
are still cited as an instance of what can be accomplished by a
highly trained and well-disciplined army. Sir John Moore's retreat
to Corunna is another case in point, and the heroic action of Ney's
rearguard during the retreat from Moscow, although it could not avert
disaster, nobly redeemed the honour of the French Army. The retreat
of the British force from Mons should find an honoured place side by
side with these celebrated episodes.

Good leadership was not wanting. Smith-Dorrien, Haig, and others
deserved well of their country. But the honours of the day lay mainly
with the regimental officers and men. "The very air," Mr. Coleman
says, "was full of unostentatious heroism." He was told to "cheer
the men up" as they straggled, ragged, muddy, and footsore, past
him. He soon found that "many of us had been labouring under a great
delusion. It was not that some one was needed to cheer up the Tommy;
it was that most of us needed the Tommies to cheer _us_ up." An
Irishman came by with a hole drilled through the lobe of his ear by
a Mauser bullet. "Close that, I'm thinkin'," said the proud owner of
the damaged member, "and I niver knew how close me ear was to me head
till that thing come along." The following story also illustrates
the spirit of the men, and shows what a capable officer with an
innate genius for leadership can do in very difficult circumstances.
Major Bridges, of the 4th Dragoon Guards, found a couple of hundred
men of various detachments seated on the pavement in the square at
St. Quentin in a state of complete exhaustion. They had been for
thirty-six hours without food or sleep. He at once recognized that
"no peremptory order, no gentle request, no clever cajolery would
suffice." He therefore went into a toy-shop and bought a toy drum
and a penny whistle. Then he asked the trumpeter whether he could
play "The British Grenadiers." "Sure, Sir," was the reply. So the
trumpeter whistled, and the gallant Major drummed vigorously. "The
spark caught! Some with tears in their eyes, some with a roar of
laughter, jumped to their feet and fell in. The weary feet, sore
and bruised, tramped the hard cobbles unconscious of their pain.
Stiffened limbs answered to the call of newly awakened wills.... 'Go
on, Colonel! we'll follow you to hell,' sings out a brawny Irishman
behind, who can just hobble along on his torn feet."

Instances of this sort, showing "the indomitable will and the
unconquerable power of the Anglo-Saxon," abound in Mr. Coleman's
pages. A wounded officer with a shot through his shoulder murmurs
"'Only a scratch,' with an attempt at a smile as he passes on." Major
Budworth, of the Royal Horse Artillery, visits his wounded men.
"'Promise, Sir, that I can come back to H Battery when I am right,'
was the one thing they had to ask, the one desire of their hearts."
"The General [Lawford]," a young officer said, "plugged on ahead
of all of us, waving a big white stick over his head and shouting
like a banshee. There was no stopping him. He fairly walked into the
Germans, and we after him on the run.... How Lawford escaped being
hit is more than any one can tell. I can see him now, his big stick
waving in the air, and he shouting and yelling away like mad, though
you couldn't hear a word of what he said above the sinful noise. My
Sam, he did yell at us! Wonder what he said?" Lord Cavan, Mr. Coleman
tells us, "was almost a demi-god in the eyes of his devoted men."
He also speaks of the bravery of young Chance, of the 4th Dragoon
Guards, and adds: "Truly an army containing a multitude of youths of
that mould may well be termed invincible." "Ah!" said one "grizzled
Brigadier," with the tears rolling down his cheeks, "they may be able
to _kill_ such men, but they will never be able to _beat_ them."

Experience has proved that in time of war, to whatever height
passions may be aroused amongst non-combatants, national animosity
amongst the actual combatants is to some extent tempered by the
admiration and respect which all brave men feel for foemen worthy of
their steel. Mr. Coleman quotes a letter written by a German officer
to a friend in Zürich, in which he said: "If we Germans were given to
understand formerly that the English soldiers were not to be feared,
then that idea may now be banished from our minds, for the general
opinion of those who have fought against them in these districts is
that one Englishman is more dangerous than any two of the Allies."
On the other hand, an English trooper, speaking to Mr. Coleman of
the fight at Messines, said: "They was plucky beggars, if they _was_
Germans. _I_ don't want to see no pluckier. They've been killed off
like pigs up there, in that town, and they keep on comin'. They fight
stiff, that lot--they fight damn stiff!"

When the day of peace returns, and we again relapse into the state
when possibly "God will be forgotten and the soldier slighted," let
us endeavour to remember that, if the world is not dominated by the
mail-fisted Kaiser, who has converted the half of Europe into a
shambles, the delivery is due to the French _poilus_, to the British
"Tommies," and to their officers, whose countless graves studded
over the bloodstained fields of Flanders bear ample testimony to
their heroism. And let it also be remembered that the hordes of poor
German peasants and artisans who were driven to the slaughter by the
politicians of Berlin also possessed some virtues. They fought in a
bad cause, which was not that of progressive civilization and which
was never truly explained to them, but they fought "damn stiff."


LONDON

SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO., LIMITED

OVERY HOUSE. 100, SOUTHWARK STREET



  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Bold text is denoted by =equal signs=.

  Text that is both underlined and italic is denoted
  by ++double plus signs++.

  The right-pointing finger symbol is denoted by ==>.
  The left-pointing finger symbol is denoted by <==.

  A superscript is denoted by ^{x}; for example, L^{TD}.

  Page references in the Illustration captions, eg "_face p. 8_", have
  been removed.

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example,
  crossroad, cross-road, cross road; battlefield, battle-field;
  debouching; enkindled.

  Pg 272, 'Beale-Brown is in' replaced by 'Beale-Browne is in'.
  Index: 'Menin-road and Bridge' replaced by 'Menin Road and Bridge'.





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