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Title: Joffre and His Army
Author: Dawbarn, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         *JOFFRE AND HIS ARMY*


                           *CHARLES DAWBARN*

                    AUTHOR OF "FRANCE AT BAY," ETC.

                         MILLS & BOON, LIMITED
                            49 RUPERT STREET
                               LONDON, W.

                            _Published_ 1916

                              IN MEMORY OF
                            GENERAL GALLIÉNI
                           TO WHOM THIS BOOK
                             WAS DEDICATED
                            (BY PERMISSION)


This book is intended as a presentation card to the French army.  It is
a plain story for plain people, and there has been a deliberate
avoidance of any technicalities.  In it you will find references to the
leading figures in the fighting organisation of France—Joffre and his
most brilliant collaborators; and I have tried to render just homage to
the "poilu," who is the French common soldier.  Perhaps the most
touching thought about that man, whose deeds of glory and pure heroism
will inspire the poets for many a long year, is that he represents not
the soldier of profession, but the soldier drawn from the most peaceful
occupations.  Practically the first great encounter of the French with
the Germans in the battle of Charleroi, and the subsequent retreat,
accounted for a large part of the regular army, and more or less placed
_hors de combat_ the greater number of its officers.  That professional
force was replaced by the Reserve and later supplemented by the youngest
classes—men culled from the very heart of pacific France.  They came to
the trenches with all their civilian instincts—it was a peasant and
bourgeois army—but in an amazingly short space of time they were vying
with the old soldier in the brilliance of their exploits, in their
ability to endure supreme hardship with the greatest gallantry, and
without complaint: an extraordinary story of adaptability. And it came
to pass in the process of time that there was the army at the front and
the army in the rear: the army of the field and the army of the munition
factory, recruited from different elements, for the men in the trenches
were the peasants, the sons of agricultural France; and the army of the
factories—the munition workers—was composed of the artisan and typical
town dweller.  And it is as well to remember, when the question of the
future of France, after the war, arises, that the peasant supported to a
great extent the physical sufferings of the war, the danger of death and
mutilation, the exposure in the trenches, the cold and damp, whilst the
townsman was harnessed to the intensive labour of producing shot and
shell for infantry and guns.  I do not insinuate that the townsman
shirked the more bitter task.  Each time a demand was made upon him,
involving sacrifice of life, he also was ready to rise to any height of
abnegation.  And in the more mechanical branches of the war, such, for
instance, as artillery and aviation, it was often a townsman who was the
hero, and who gained, by some glowing deed, the precious symbol of the
war cross and even, perhaps, the Legion of Honour.  A pure Parisian was
Guynemer, the sergeant pilot, who, on a monoplane where he was pilot and
combatant, bore down six German machines in as many months, and won thus
his stripes as sergeant, the military medal—the highest military award
in France—the Legion of Honour and the War Cross with seven palms; and
all this at the age of twenty-one.  Indeed, in every enterprise that
demanded skill and daring the townsman was to the fore.  But it is not
possible to differentiate in the heroism displayed by the French. The
historian will never point to the bravery of one class and the timidity
of another, for there has been bravery everywhere—bravery and heroism of
the most sublime sort poured out with lavish hand to the eternal glory
of France.

In these pages I have sought to give a glimpse of the "poilu" at work in
the trenches, that one may peep a little through the shutters of his
soul.  For the mind of the "poilu" is strangely barred and curtained,
more strictly than the windows in any English east-coast town.  The
outsider is not permitted to see the light within.  Question him and he
will proudly boast his vices; concerning his virtues he is silent, and
quaintly ashamed; and to understand the mentality of the "poilu," to
discover what manner of man he is, one must rub shoulders with him in
everyday life.  Upon some of these familiar visits I hope my readers
will accompany me, at least in imagination, and will gather some insight
into the character of the Soldier of France.  I shall, indeed, have ill
performed my task if I have failed to show how valiant he is in facing
mortal danger, how uncomplaining in the midst of monotonous peril, and
in the worst discomforts—waiting the order to attack without the least
murmuring, with soldier-like acquiescence in the bitter cold of a
winter’s night or in the chill of early spring.  He has forged in a
surprisingly short time the _âme militaire_; he has exhibited an amazing
adaptability.  Some had supposed him ill-disciplined, incapable of the
highest military virtues.  "Is this a school treat?" exclaimed an
outraged Britisher as a detachment of French soldiers slouched, singing
and whistling down the road.  Yes, a sloppy and disorderly lot they
looked, their clothes dirty and ill-fitting, and hung around with their
kit like travelling caravans.  Surely such men were no soldiers!  There
was a large section of English opinion convinced that the Frenchmen
would not fight; that, probably, was the German idea also.  What, then,
has effected the transformation? How has the "poilu" become inspired by
the highest military courage, and for weeks and weeks, as at Verdun,
sustained the most devastating bombardment?  Ah! that is the secret of
this war, that is the secret of the French temperament, that secluded
soul, which is not always what it seems to be.  It ever carries in it
the seeds and possibilities of greatness: seeds that lay dormant until
this war germinated them and they developed into the glorious flower of
achievement.  In an instant this quick and imaginative people awoke to
the necessities of the war; they had every reason to realise its
meaning; it was only too plain.  There it was, written in blood and
carnage in the invaded departments.  England, of course, lacked that
object-lesson.  Merely the Zeppelins reminded her of the "reality" of
the war, with their pitiable toll of innocent lives; and moreover, the
attitude of the authorities, far from insisting upon the realisation of
the war and its horror, tended to starve the imaginative side of the
campaign.  There were, of course, the scenes at the recruiting meetings,
the posters and the rest: but that, after all, was undignified, a little
pathetic, and sometimes even rang false; the great diapason of the
Country’s Call was but rarely sounded.  "Your country needs you," said a
theatrical-looking poster; but did it really need one?  One had to be
sure of that.  And yet, in spite of these disadvantages, in spite of a
despairing and exasperating silence about the achievements and daily
heroisms of the army in the field—until one began to think that the only
records other than the meagre _communiqué_, were the casualties—in
spite, I say, of these drawbacks, in spite of the paucity of the appeal,
the response of the young men to this voluntary call was stupefying in
its splendour and spontaneity, so that the French were able to
say—though they did not always say it with satisfying eloquence—again
the fault of those who did not trouble to let them know precisely what
the splendid English army and English organisation were doing—that never
had the world given such a picture of sacrifice, of absolute, undiluted
courage. The men of England were splendid, and only the Government, so
ill-adapted to the exceptional, limped painfully, slowly and awkwardly,
behind public opinion, instead of springing in front to direct it.

I have said that people at home were not always sure that the French
would be equal to the enormous strain put upon them by the tragic events
of the invasion, by the systematised savagery of a relentless foe.
Perhaps they had dipped into history and become inspired by that
wonderful picture that Alfred de Musset draws in _La Confession d’un
Enfant du Siècle_.  A generation pale, nervous and feverish was born
during the wars of the Empire.  "Conceived between two battles, raised
in the colleges to the roll of drums, thousands of children looked about
them with sombre eyes and shrinking, quivering muscles.  From time to
time their fathers, stained with blood, appeared, raised them on their
chests shining with decorations, and then, placing them on the ground,
remounted their horses.

"There was only one man living then in Europe: the rest filled their
lungs with the air that he had breathed.  Each year France gave three
hundred thousand young men to this man; it was the tax paid to Cæsar,
and if he had not had that mob behind him, he would not have been able
to carry out his plans.  Never were there so many nights without sleep
as in the time of this man; never has one seen so many desolated
mothers, never such silence, the hush around the shadow of death.  And
yet there was never so much joy, so much life, so much war-like music in
hearts.  Never was there such pure sunlight as that which dried up all
this blood.  It was the air of this sky without a cloud, where shone so
much glory, where so much steel glittered, that the children were then
breathing.  They knew well that they were destined to the hecatombs, but
they believed Murat to be invulnerable, and one had seen the Emperor
pass immune through such a hail of bullets that one doubted whether he
could die. Death was so fine then, so great, so magnificent in its smoky
purple....  The cradles of France were shields and coffins also.  There
were no longer any old men, but corpses and demi-gods.  Nevertheless,
France, widow of Cæsar, felt suddenly her wound. She began to fail and
slept with so heavy a sleep that her old kings, believing her dead,
wrapped her in a white shroud.  The old, grey-haired army returned, worn
out with fatigue, and the fires on the hearths of deserted châteaux
sadly rekindled."

The war is over; the children no longer see sabres and cuirasses; Cæsar
is dead, the portraits of Wellington and Blücher hang in the Consulates.
Anxious children sit on the ruins of the world, the children that were
born at the breast of war, for the war. They had dreamed during fifteen
years of the snows of Moscow and of the sun of the Pyramids.  Every one
was tired, used up, exhausted.  The light of life had gone out.  The
children, when they spoke of glory, were urged to become priests,
priests when one spoke of ambition, love and hope; and, whilst life
outside was so pale and shabby, the internal life of society took on an
aspect silent and sombre.  The habits of students and artists were
affected; they became addicted to wine and women.  And then De Musset
speaks of the influence that Goethe and Byron—the two finest geniuses of
the century according to Napoleon—exercised over Europe. "Can’t you put
a little honey in the fine vases you make?" he asks of Goethe; and of
Byron he questions, "Have you no well-beloved near your dear Adriatic?"
and adds that though perhaps he, personally, has suffered more than the
English poet, he believes yet in hope and blesses God.  It is the reign
of despair.  "The ills of the century come from two causes," he says:
"the people who have experienced the Revolution and Waterloo carry two
wounds in their hearts.  All that was, is no more; all that will be, is
not yet.  Do not look elsewhere for the secret of our ills."

Could he have foreseen the terrific experience through which France was
to pass a hundred years from Waterloo, how his tone would have altered
into deep commiseration.  And yet it is interesting to compare this
picture of the years following the Napoleonic wars and the exhaustion
which then revealed itself—the utter hopelessness of every one—with the
condition to-day when, with the first pale beams of the sun of peace,
France is thinking of the future, already discounting the profit that
will be obtained by her victorious and long-suffering arms. What great
repose has she not merited?  What great reward of peace and plenty?
This generation has fought, has given its life with unheard-of
prodigality that the new generation may not have to fight.  It has
purchased freedom at the terrible price of blood—freedom from the
slavery of Germany.  No.  De Musset’s picture is no longer true, but it
is doubtless this portrait of a puny, bloodless, spiritless France which
impressed itself, all the more vividly because of the splendour of the
word-painting, upon the foreign observer, and it was perhaps these
students of French history who moulded English opinion.  De Musset’s
powerful description was photographed upon the brain, and few realised
that the conditions of which he spoke were transitory, and that France
had emerged triumphant from her darkest hour when the pulse of her being
was but a thread.  The France of to-day is not bowed down with despair,
but is buoyed with invincible hope.  Hope in the morrow, hope in the
recreative genius of her people—of their marvellous powers of
recuperation.  It is pleasant, it is comforting, to note the contrast,
to observe the salutary change the century has brought; the France of De
Musset shuddered, demoralised, over the cold embers of conflict—a
conflict gigantic as it then seemed, but small in face of the sacrifices
of the Great War.  Even the agonies of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia
cannot compare with the hecatomb, the awful onslaught that Joffre had to
meet and defeat. Glory to the "poilu," to his courage and constancy. He
has saved France; he has gained for her the sweet and fruitful repose of
a century wherein her inventive industry and creative genius may be
revived; wherein she may excel in the arts, in the most splendid works
of peace; wherein she may prove to be the torch-bearer of advanced
civilisation, the pioneer—only a prudent and alert pioneer—no longer the
dupe to illusions, of that beatific time when there shall be no more

Nor in this picture of fighting France must one forget the wife and
daughter of the "poilu"; their work has been splendid.  In no direction
has the national spirit been more finely emphasised.  I recall a visit
to a typical factory in the east of France, some twenty miles behind the
lines, where the workers were women.  I was struck by their positive
fanaticism.  Upon the walls hung mottoes, just as in pious English homes
one sees texts of Scripture.  One in particular caught the eye by its
terse and vivid eloquence: "Bad work may kill your brother!"  And I can
well believe that there was no bad work in that factory.  There was no
question of wages; they were never discussed; no one thought of them;
they were of no importance.  Wages, disputes, strikes! when the men were
fighting a life and death struggle a few miles away, and when you could
hear plainly the hoarse rattle of the guns when the wind lay in the
right direction?  Impossible!  Instead of striking, women worked
themselves to death and often were carried fainting from their tasks
after a twelve and fifteen hours’ day.  And what an example the masters
set of untiring devotion.  Addressing the Creusot workers in the
twenty-first month of the war, M. Albert Thomas, head of the Ministry of
Munitions, spoke of chiefs who had kept to their duties for eighteen
hours at a stretch.  For them, at least, there were no restorative
week-ends and pleasant breaks in public fetes—nothing but a continuous,
back-aching and brain-wearying round.  First to realise the shortage of
the shells, some six months before the English, the French displayed
astounding energy in remedying the defect.  Their ant-like industry and
powers of organisation, rivalling even the vast enterprises of America,
attracted a world-wide admiration as great as for their heroism in the
field.  And if it awakened an equal homage, its presence was even less
suspected than those martial qualities for which, after all, history
gives credit and the brilliant proof though we had forgotten it in this
talk of perpetual peace, in an atmosphere of material prosperity and a
super-civilisation bordering on decadence.

These things are faintly reflected in my pages together with some
appreciation of the English. Sometimes it is a little pale, that praise
for the gallant ally: the cause of it I have shown already in a
rudderless Governmental policy and a Press starved into undue reticence
by the Censor.  The harm of it was seen in querulous articles from
Boulevard pens.  "France has borne the brunt, France has bled, let
others now do their share."  That was during Verdun, when the trumpets
had blown the fame of France over the wide earth and there was no note
resonating for England—in spite of her casualty list.  Had the
chroniclers, then, forgotten the glorious stand of the English in the
Great Retreat, how they had saved the French army from being crumpled up
by Von Kluck’s furious attacks on the left wing, and how they had shown
unparalleled resistance against overwhelming odds?  No; the French have
not forgotten, it is engraved eternally in their hearts.  Those who seem
to forget adopt a political pose; yet it is necessary to reassert the
facts, not to diminish the "poilu," but rather that we may "realise" him
the more, that we may regard him as a brother for whom we have laboured
and fought, for whom we have shed our blood. England, by her early
heroism in the war, contributed to the full development and glory of the
French soldier.  It is not the least of our satisfactions that we have
helped to build the proud monument whereon is emblazoned the
imperishable record of his victories. Thus may we cry with greater
fervour, "Vive la France! vive son armée!"  If we know that army and
know its chiefs, we shall be the readier to protest our faith.





                         *JOFFRE AND HIS ARMY*

                              *CHAPTER I*

                            *THE AWAKENING*

"Rather than submit to the slavery of the Germans, the whole French
nation would perish."  These words of General de Castelnau are no idle
boast—the coloured eloquence of a General who wishes to hearten his
troops: they are a simple statement of fact.  France has left behind
eloquence and embroidered phrases: her commerce, her agriculture, her
arts are gone.  She has only one business, that of fighting: her men are
all mobilised.  And behind them stand the old, the young, the women and
children, waiting their turn, should that turn come. And if France ever
lies under the German heel, at least of the French people there will be
none left to weep.  That is the spirit animating the army of Joffre,
that army whose exploits must have impressed even the most
unimpressionable by their continued splendour.  Never was finer heroism
displayed than theirs.  And they recognised from the very first the
desperate character of the enterprise.  It was not a war of chivalry.
There has been no incident as at Fontenoy when Lord Hay, addressing the
French guards, invited them to fire first.  The Germans carried no
sentiment of any kind into the battlefield, where their sole endeavour
was to overcome the adversary, and any means were considered legitimate.
To them the doubtful honour of the most diabolical inventions for
destroying life.  This is not the atmosphere—the atmosphere of
asphyxiating gas—where chivalry thrives, and the French character,
legends, and traditions of fighting, are utterly opposed to such
scientific barbarities.  "These civilised savages inspire me with more
horror than cannibals," said Flaubert.  But far from being overcome and
dismayed by German barbarism, the French showed an instant spirit of
adaptation; the hideous conceptions of the Hun brain were hurled back to
them across the trenches.  And horror begets horror. Officers, from the
most accomplished generals down to the subalterns, learned with
astounding speed the new art of war—this terrible, unscrupulous, brutal
combat which, after fearful carnage in the open, as at Verdun,
constantly ran itself to earth, settling down into trench war of the
most monstrous description.

Protracted trench warfare, it has been said a thousand times, is quite
contrary to the French disposition, which is all dash and go and
impulse. But to-day we shall have to revise our views, no doubt, and
find that the French have mixed with their audacity, with their natural
quickness of thought and action and their high receptivity, some of that
resistance and tenacity which are characteristically British.  Confirmed
Anglophiles in France attribute this phenomenon to the moral influence
of ourselves—a flattering and satisfying doctrine to our own
self-esteem.  But the appearance of this "new" virtue extended to all
parts of the population, and was so universal that we cannot credit this
grand attribute of the French in the hour of their great adversity to
anything but their own innate qualities. It was exhibited by mayors of
communes, even the most remote, who have been exposed to the brutalities
of the invaders; by the clergy to a conspicuous degree—nothing was more
touching and remarkable than their absolute devotion in the most
nerve-racking conditions.  It was shown, indeed, by the whole of the
civil population, young and old, and especially by women.  How splendid
they were!  They did their work with extreme quietude, with a positive
genius for adaptability, and no illustrated paper published photographs
of their uniforms—for they had none. On the first day of the
mobilisation the French women turned into the fields to gather the
harvest the men had left on the ground.  They had no time to choose a
suitable costume; no need of exhortations from the Board of Agriculture.
They were left to do the work, and they did it without fuss and without
parade. Such examples of determination, tenacity, sheer self-sacrifice,
courage and abnegation existed in all directions, diffusing a golden
light over the country, just as the coloured windows at the Invalides
bathe the tomb of Napoleon in a splendid effulgence.

In the army itself the adaptability of its leaders is a thousand times
exemplified by the manner in which erudite soldiers who have taught
tactics and strategy in the War School, along certain lines, suddenly
confronted with the problems of actual war, have seen that they were
quite other than those laid down in the text-books, and thereafter have
speedily adapted themselves to the new conditions.  Some failed, and
there arose the rumour of many enforced retirements from active command.
But the inference to be drawn from this was not always correctly stated.
The generals in most cases were not incompetent; they correctly applied
the old war rules to the situations as they arose; but they were not
sufficiently supple; they did not adapt themselves to the new
conditions. The officers who proved the most successful were, for the
most part, the colonels and majors, who in a few months obtained
important commands.

The classic instance of this is General Pétain, who, when the war broke
out, was a colonel, and rose with breathless rapidity to take supreme
command of the armies at Verdun during that terrific fight which
occupied many weeks of the Spring of 1916.  Romantic as such a rise may
seem to be, it is as well to remember that the new commander was
eminently qualified by reason of his long preparation to occupy such a
position.  He possesses one of the finest brains in the army—which in
France for long has been an intellectual profession—and had so trained
it that he was able at once to take advantage of the new conditions of
warfare which have so materially changed since the area of war was
charted for the guidance of commanders.

When the war broke out, France was not ready. We in England have been
often accused of our lack of foresight; but the fact that France, living
under the shadow of war, at least since the Agadir incident, was
unprepared seems to have been incredible folly.  How is it to be
explained?  The explanation is politics, and the pleasant, but alas!
entirely false, atmosphere created by the dreams of pacifists.  Whilst
Germany planned war and prepared for it in the most cold-blooded manner,
France was dreaming of peace and behaving as if war were a thing of the
past.  All her preoccupations were pacific; to her purblind politicians,
the real danger was either a struggle between Capital and Labour—and
there were not wanting signs that this was probable—or else a largely
imaginary conflict between the dispossessed Church and the State.  And,
again, there was a large party in the nation led by the persuasive
eloquence of Jaurès which urged that universal peace was a practical
reality.  France herself did not want to fight, England showed no
bellicosity; Germany, it was true, through her governing classes,
displayed a disquieting tendency to bully, but the heart of the
people—was not that pacific?  Had not Socialism, and the doctrine of the
brotherhood of man, taken firm root?  The French Socialists were
convinced that it had.  And so they argued war was a practical
impossibility; for, certainly, this great mass of German opinion,
penetrated with Socialism and with the ultra-pacific doctrines which go
with it, would never permit the nation to be drawn into war for the
benefit of the fire-eaters and directors of the great war machine.  The
wish was father to the thought, and these misguided but well-meaning
people were always seeing across the Vosges evidence of the same
beneficent principles that manifested themselves at home.  The French
Socialists were, indeed, to a great extent anti-militarist: did it not
take two to make a quarrel?  Was it likely that they would be wantonly
attacked when they had not the least intention of attacking anybody?
Very naturally, I think, they argued in that strain—and the great fault
was that the directors of opinion in France, as in England, made no
effort to explore the dark waters of political probability.  It was
pleasant to walk ruminatingly along the banks and to dream that the good
time would always continue.  The bomb-shell of the invasion brought the
awakening.  In a certain sense English politicians were more to blame
than the French, chiefly because no one of them with their hard
practical Anglo-Saxon sense really believed in universal
brotherhood—there was no Jaurès to capture the public imagination by the
witchery of words. England realised clearly enough that war between
France and Germany was, sooner or later, inevitable, and the high
failure of these self-same politicians was that they did not bring home
to the public conscience the no less inevitable intervention by England.
"But we are not scaremongers!  There was too much talk already about the
sword and keeping one’s powder dry," say the apologists.  But it is
precisely in a pacific interest that the so-called leaders of the nation
ought to have spoken.  Mathematics is the base of war—and of its
prevention; and in this case the sum was easy: merely two and two make
four. If England had displayed the precaution that she adopts in other
affairs—the caution of the typical citizen safe-guarding his own
personal interests—then Germany would have thought a long while before
crossing the frontier and would still have been thinking about it.
Knowing what we do of the Teuton temperament, revealed more particularly
in the report of the camp at Wittenberg, we are convinced that Germany
would have hesitated long had she not had the quasi conviction of an
easy victory.  Everything points to that: the rapid defeat of France,
and then a swift turning upon Russia, whose mobilisation is proverbially
slow and whose armament was known to be ludicrously inadequate.
Undoubtedly a little plain speaking as well as definite and resolute
preparations for eventualities would have done much to prevent war.
Forces are blind and superior to man, but war was made by man, and man
sets the current that renders it inevitable; then, the same human energy
directed at the right time and right place could have prevented it.

Nor was there in England the same anti-militarism which prevailed in
France amongst a large section hypnotised by the engaging doctrine of
high-minded theorists.  There was no anti-militarism, for the reason
that there was no militarism; England was not a military power.  And
thoughtful Frenchmen have been immensely impressed by the speed with
which she became one.  The unchanging England had become changed out of
all recognition.  I remember that when Rodin went first to England, he
was struck by the eighteenth-century aspect of the people and their
institutions.  In the houses and in the streets he met types such as
Gainsborough and Lawrence painted.  Their clothes even had not changed,
for though English women nominally wear French fashions, they
individualise them and adapt them to their own tastes.  And this
friendly observer was constantly meeting in the unchanging women
evidences of the eternal England in their classic features and fresh
complexions, their dignified carriage, splendid shoulders and fine open
countenances.  Even the clothes—the broad hat and the use of scarfs and
trinkets for the adornment of the person—signified the same thing.

And in military matters this faithfulness to the past was every whit as
pronounced.  The English Army was unchanging in its traditions, habits
and customs, in its equipment and even in its names.  As M. Germain
Bapst, the French battle historian, has pointed out, the names of
commanders remained unaltered from the Peninsular War and Waterloo to
the Crimea.  Men purchased commissions in the British Army until after
the Franco-German War, and only a quarter of a century has elapsed since
soldiers were whipped.  In 1894 there were forty-six sentences of this
sort carried out.  There was little or no change in the army from the
Crimea to the Boer War.  Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener were the two
magicians who awakened England from her lethargy.

And then consider the continuity of tradition in the English regiments:
they bear on their standards the names of the old victories, and their
history and achievements can be traced for hundreds of years. Not so
with the French regiments.  Their identity has been lost in the shifting
sands of the Revolution. To quote one instance: the Regiment of
Piedmont, which existed in the time of Henry VIII, became a departmental
regiment, then the Third of the Line, and then the Seventh—it is
impossible to keep pace with its changes.  Practically the history of
regiments in France stops at the Revolution.  That was the moment of
great changes when everything was swept away and new principles
established.  England the immutable, France the fluid, enthusiastic,
passionate, artistic, wildly given over to new ideas what singular
destiny has brought the two together as comrades and allies on the field
of battle in a union much closer than in the Crimea, where, however,
Canrobert came to the same conclusion as Foch, who repeated the
eulogium, at an interval of sixty years, to General Delannes, a former
chief of staff: "Once the British Army has agreed to do something, the
thing is done."  The unchanging spirit, then, the bull-dog tenacity,
that tremendous grip that never lets go—these British qualities blend
and render powerful the Latin temperament, with its quickness of
comprehension and adaptability.  Slow to see a new fact, still slower to
excite himself, John Bull is the ideal character to play the waiting
game, that game of exhaustion of the war.  The more wonderful, then, in
the eyes of the French that he should have made so prodigious a military

Eminent French military critics have dealt with all the phases of the
movement for raising men, first by the old traditional system of
voluntaryism, then by graduated processes of compulsion.  The result was
an army whose peer the world had never seen, either for the high
training of the men or the quality of the equipment.  Already in the
Spring of 1916 the English artillery was more numerous than the French,
especially in heavy guns.  It is true that the shooting of those pieces
was not as good as that of our Allies, and that the French sent
instructors to coach the English in their own methods; but one need not
be surprised that we had not immediately acquired the full science of
artillery usage upon which the French have specialised for many years.
In the strict co-operation of two armies of differing nationalities
working together in the field there must be necessarily certain
difficulties and differences, and it is certain that the French did not
always comprehend our methods of fighting.  The English "stick it out"
is often opposed to their own notion of a judicious retreat.  For
instance, the "marmites" are falling fast upon the front-line trench;
there is a danger of the trench caving in and burying its occupants.
Realising the situation, the French withdraw their men to the second
line—perhaps three hundred yards behind the other.  The British,
however, will not countenance this strategic move; they remain; their
own flank is exposed.  Two rival principles are here in play.  Say the
British: "Better remain in the trench, because, on the morrow, you must
win it back again by a counter-attack which is a wasteful process."
"No," say the French, "retreat in time and save your men; you can get it
back at a less cost than if you stayed and ran the risk of being
decimated by the big shells."

You may see, no doubt, much of the same spirit in the question of
guarding or abandoning sections of the line which are difficult to keep.
For instance, the French probably would have given up long ago the
salient at Ypres, which the English maintained at a considerable cost,
mainly for sentimental, at least, for moral reasons, whereas the French
would have urged that there was a line behind that would have given a
better and easier frontier to defend.  None, however, can estimate the
moral value to the French of the mere presence at their side of their
old rivals and antagonists; and the effect of contingents arriving in
France from far-off Canada and Australia, New Zealand and the Cape, has
been quite extraordinary.  Almost inconceivable, also, has been the
material help that Britain has extended to her Allies.  To France alone
we have advanced £500,000,000, a wonderful achievement in itself, and we
have also supplied unending stores of coals, steel, boots,
clothing—material of all sorts.

Of the "poilu," too, I shall often speak, but you will never realise how
big he is—this sometimes unlikely-looking man, hung about with pots and
pans and cumbered with all sorts of strange impedimenta.  And he is
often a poet as well as a hero. I wish you could read the letters from
him I have been privileged to see, written under the hail of bullets and
in the thunder of the big guns.  His courage and undying spirit shine
through these tender communications which lose so much in the
translation, which are untranslatable, in fact—for one cannot translate
a perfume or a colour, nor can you put upon cold paper the complexion of
a kiss.  The "poilu" is peculiarly French in the mood and manner of his
life, in his apparent slackness, in the speed with which he braces up at
the proper moment, his disgust and objection to mere unintelligent
parade, his amused disdain of the "panache," his admiration for and
whole-hearted devotion to a man capable of understanding and drawing him
out, able to appeal to the particular form of his patriotism, and to
fire him with a holy zeal for a holy cause—to a man, in fact, who
combines a species of apostolic fervour, a winsomeness and appeal, with
the sterling qualities of a real leader of men.  Of such men I shall
presently speak—men who inspire devotion like Mahomet over his
followers, men who bring out the spirituality of war—if so be that one
is allowed to speak of its spiritual side.  For amidst the awful wreck
of war—the sufferings it entails, its thousand miseries, the break-up of
the home, the desolation of hearths, and the abominations practised upon
civilians by the drunken or cynical soldiers of the Kaiser—there are
incidents, as great and as sublime as ever immortalised the saints and
martyrs dying for their religion, suffering nameless tortures that, in
their quivering flesh, they might represent, for ever, the sustaining
power of God.  Of such heroism, of such priceless sacrifice this war is
full—so full, that one knows not where to begin, and certainly would not
know where to end, in a recital of deeds of valour and of splendour,
irradiating poor human nature with a glow of glory whose beams will
reach Eternity.  Yet this war, despite its horror, despite the fact that
it has filled the streets of every big town in France with a melancholy
line of cripples, of men hopelessly maimed, who must go through the
remainder of their existence on this earth with diminished vigour, has
taught lessons and inculcated warnings which must continue through the
years to bear their fruit and point the way to the right road as well as
constituting a danger-signal to national shortcomings.

"Quit yourselves like men."  The war will not have been in vain if this
lesson is laid to heart.  Let us have no more cant; no more false
sentiment; no more idle dreams and castles built upon the foundations of
a civilisation that does not exist.  If, after nearly 2000 years of
Christianity, we have not learnt to love one another, let us not, at
least, pretend we do—until we are awakened by a Hymn of Hate.  The Peace
of the future is to the strong, to the country that is alive to the
menace of war, to the nation constantly vigilant, to a people standing
to arms. France, with her woman’s soul, clung to a belief in
civilisation that should make war unthinkable.  But the nations that
emerge from this war will have lost their illusions; they will have
grown old and wise, and perhaps a little hard.  Yet, at least, they will
have learnt to face facts; they will not cry Peace when there is no
peace.  No, the policy of the nations will be directed by hard facts;
the horrors of the camp of Wittenberg are seared into our souls.  Dreams
and idealism must have no place in our national affairs; such pleasant
pastimes bring too rude an awakening.

                              *CHAPTER II*

                         *THE THREE-YEARS LAW*

During the Summer of 1913, it became evident that France had to change
her military law to enable her to cope with the new forces Germany had
arrayed against her.  The growth of the Imperial effectives was quite
remarkable.  They had been increased by new legislation to 876,000; the
cover troops, that is, those placed along the frontier in readiness for
immediate service, were reinforced by 60,000 men and 500 pieces of
artillery.  To these numbers must be added the enormous total of the
reserve: 4,370,000. Such masses were quite unknown to Europe and
inspired legitimate alarm, not only in France, but amongst the other
nations.  The French Army numbered 567,000 of the active, and 3,980,000
of the reserve, namely, 700,000 fewer than the Germans. Again, of this
number, 50,000 were employed in Northern Africa, and the infantry mass
was further depleted by the creation of artillery regiments, machine-gun
sections and aerial squadrons.  It was time, therefore, to act.

When the German Emperor went to Tangiers in 1905, few French people
ignored the significance of the step.  And when, in 1911, the _Panther_
anchored off Agadir, each one realised that it was a new menace, a new
challenge to the right of France to Morocco, notwithstanding that "scrap
of paper," the Algeciras Conference.  The presence of the cruiser was a
protest against the settlement by France of the Moroccan Railway
question and against the march of French columns on Fez, which was the
symbol of French possession.  On both occasions, Parliament went
hurriedly to work to vote extra credits, realising the state of
unpreparedness, and then sank into its habitual indifference to these
matters.  But now it was no longer possible to postpone the question of
effectives. The German advance was so real that France was forced to
take note of it on pain of being relegated, definitely, to an inferior
position.  It was soon apparent that if the discussion revealed some of
the vices of the French Parliamentary system, it also demonstrated that
Parliament could rise, on occasion, above party and give an example of
enlightened patriotism.  The Government of the Republic, indeed, was
more alive to its duty than the Imperial Government, which, forty-five
years before, had not had the courage to support Marshal Niel’s motion
for universal service.  It was on the eve of the elections and it had
its own policy to pursue.  It was again the eve of the elections in
1913, but the spirit of the country had changed; temporisation was no
longer possible. "Let the Chamber tell me the sum it will place at my
disposal and I will say in what measure I can organise the National
Mobile Guard," cried Marshal Leboeuf, in the discussion under the Second
Empire. It was a preposterous attitude to adopt, quite in consonance,
however, with the lack of seriousness of the period.  On the very brink
of the war, the Government actually proposed to reduce the annual

The discussion in 1913 was remarkable for several things.  One was its
great length: it lasted three months; another was the prolixity and
poverty of the speeches; hardly one contained the germ of a great idea.
The striking contributions in this mad welter of talk could be counted
on the fingers of one hand.  The majority of deputies, until convinced
of the error of their ways, persisted in treating the question as if it
were political rather than patriotic.  Day by day they mounted to the
tribune and delivered orations as empty as air.  An exception was the
great speech of M. André Lefèvre, who had been Under Secretary of State
for Finance, some years before, and had resigned "because he had not
enough to do."  This novel reason proved his originality; nor was it
belied by his methods in the rostrum.  He was not eloquent in an
ordinary sense; there was no attempt at phrase-making; his facts spoke
for themselves. His rather homely appearance gave instinctive force to
his unadorned style, but his manifestly deep concern for his subject
obviated all need of rhetoric.  Thus his sentences were sharp and
telling, and free from all pose or attempts at persuasion; and, perhaps,
because of that, they carried a double conviction. Facts and figures
were so downright in their character that none could dispute them.

He showed that Germany had spent a colossal sum upon her military
preparations, and had been indefatigable in their continuance.  He
showed that, during the preceding thirty years, France had spent
£110,000,000 as against £188,000,000 on the part of Germany.  Who was
responsible for this disparity of such danger to the country?  M.
Lefèvre showed that no party in the State could escape from censure. In
1868, each section of the body politic was united—to do nothing: the
Republicans, because they would not "turn France into a barracks"; the
Bonapartists, because they feared the effect of any action upon their
popularity at the elections; and the Government, because it had not the
energy to stand against a cry of "reaction."

But if M. Lefèvre’s speech represented the sound view of the situation,
the contribution of M. Jean Jaurès presented features of brilliant
generalisation, expressed in lofty language, which always appeals to
Frenchmen.  His counter proposition had but one defect: it would not
have worked.  None the less, it was attractive in the abstract and had
much to recommend it.  Its weaknesses were in the details, which were
too fantastic and shadowy for a people who knew what war was and had
drunk deep of the bitter cup of defeat.  The Socialist leader based his
argumentation on the principle of: "la nation armée."  The only way to
meet the situation was to utilise, fully, the reserve, he insisted.  And
in this he was right, as the Great War has shown.  Germany’s initial
advantage, apart from heavy cannon, machine-guns and a more intensive
training of her troops, was due to her rapid mobilisation of reserves.

But the Socialist leader failed, notwithstanding his talents, when it
came to working out his scheme. And yet the House, fascinated and
half-convinced, cheered him repeatedly—but it voted the other way. This
is a common attitude in assemblies which distinguish between personal
success and political expediency.  The deputies, indeed, could not
withhold their support from General Pau, who, with General Joffre, was
the special commissioner of the Government.  Yet so much was admirable
in the scheme of M. Jaurès that, had he not been known for his
anti-militarism—and therefore suspect—he would have fared much better.

What was the matter with France in a military sense?  It was a question,
was it not, of effectives? But the birth-rate must be arraigned for
that. Whatever was done, declared Jaurès, that primary fact could not be
disavowed.  The Germans were more prolific than the French and,
consequently, had more soldiers.  "The Three-Years Law is mere
plagiarism of the Germans," he said, with an impassioned gesture such as
Jean Weber has so happily caricatured.  "You are beaten in advance!" he
shouted.  "Notwithstanding the Three-Years Law you will have an
inferiority, at the outset, of 200,000. Thus the sacrifice demanded will
aggravate the malaise.  The equilibrium, already disturbed, will be
further accentuated to the extent of 20,000 a year."  The population of
France was only 43,000,000 and that of Germany 70,000,000.  In face of
this inequality it was essential that every citizen should be trained to
arms.  But when he came to this part of the subject, the Socialist
orator fell short of his first flights.  He was pathetically inadequate.
He proposed a military service of eighteen months, then of a year, and
finally, from 1918, onwards, of six months.  Before their embodiment,
the young men were to train for one day a month, and, after their
liberation as reservists, one day every quarter.

The war has shown the possibility of training the young soldier in less
than six months; but when M. Jaurès presented his scheme none foresaw
the fantastic character that the fighting would assume. If it had
presented its habitual physiognomy of massed movements in the open,
soldiers of six months’ training would have been inadequate to the first
shock of battle.  Though, as we have shown, there were points in the
speech that revealed acute observation and an accurate reading of the
times, the treatment of details was deplorable.  Here and there his
inspiration failed him, as if his mentor, who was known to be Captain
Girard, a writer on military topics, had ceased to jog his elbow.  One
of the least happy of his inventions was his proposal in regard to the
"cover."  He considered that it was quite adequate with the protection
of the Eastern Forts.  Again, the frontier departments, being rich and
highly industrialised, could organise their own defence.  "If you have
confidence in the people, if you organise them in unities constituted
locally and ready to march at the first sound of the war tocsin, if you
launch all these living forces towards the frontier, this, indeed, is
the real cover."  From this passage you may judge the character of his
pleading: the appeal to national sentiment and spontaneous enthusiasm,
as opposed to the laboured and essentially mechanical preparation of the
Germans.  He went to military history to prove that, in 1813, Germany
was saved not by her generals formed in the school of Frederick the
Great, but by her _landwehr_, which constituted 60 per cent. of the
army—peasants hastily armed to defend the soil.  Evidently he thought
that the old revolutionary spirit would flame forth again in France and
suffice against any wanton attack.

He was admirable in his description of the German plan to invade France
abruptly and to bring her to her knees by forced marches, by a rapid
succession of blows, and the occupation of her capital, and then to turn
swiftly towards Russia.  Jaurès found consolation—alas! unwarranted—in
the thought that Germany under Prussian domination would never make full
use of her reserves.  She was afraid, he said, of a democratic army,
afraid of that spirit which had enabled France, amidst all her
difficulties and lack of preparation, to resist for seven months, in
’70, and had given Bismarck and Von Moltke a certain anxiety even after
Sedan.  Better build strategic railways than barracks, he said, so that
an avalanche of men might be poured on the frontier to meet the German
mass—a conclusion which was wise enough.

Then there was M. Clementel, a former Minister of Colonies, with some
experience of army affairs, who had likewise his little plan to propose.
He wished to divide the reserve into eleven classes which would train
alternately, for a month at a time, during the year.  Parliament
rejected it, not because it was fanciful, but because the transportation
of 200,000 men a month to their training camps would disarrange the
railway systems.  M. Messimy—who was Minister of War, during the early
days of the Great Invasion, and, like Mr. Winston Churchill, resigned
his Cabinet functions to join the army—devised a method whereby the
youth of the country would be trained for twenty-six months.  How he
proposed to bridge the gap between the departure of the time-expired men
and the arrival of the new recruits was never made clear.  In the light
of his subsequent experience as a Colonel of troops, and wounded in
action, he probably thought better of his own plan.

General Pau clinched the matter by a series of irrefutable figures.  His
style differed utterly from that of any other speaker.  He showed the
quick temperament of a leader of the old school, who believed in a brisk
offensive.  Taking umbrage, one day, at the remarks of a deputy, he
gathered up his papers and walked out of the House, to the consternation
of the Government.  Wounded in the 1870 conflict and bearing the token
of it in an amputated arm, he looked and spoke with the abruptness of
the traditional soldier.  As a leader of men he was impetuous and
brusque in his methods, rather than a cool calculator like the
Generalissimo.  He told the House, with a certain impetuousness, that
the troops available for national defence were scarcely more than half
the German effectives.  For, abstraction made of the number serving
overseas, France had only 480,000 in her active army, whilst Germany had
830,000.  First-class reserve, territorials, and the reserve of the
territorials amounted to 3,978.000, of which a part had performed only
twelve months’ service in accordance with the terms of the 1889 law. In
Germany, the reserve amounted to 4,370,000, giving an advantage to that
country of 400,000 men. The effectives were constantly growing in the
one country, with the advance in population, but remained stationary in
the other.  Whilst France called up every available man for service,
Germany was in the happier position of being able to dispense with a
certain portion of her resources.  Thus, automatically, an increase in
her peace establishment meant an increase in the reserve.

The German law of 1913 gave 63,000 more men to the active army and
increased the effectives to 5,400,000.  The speaker was even more
impressive when, looking forward to 1937—in twenty-four years from that
date—he anticipated that the adverse balance in the reserve would amount
to one million and a half.  "Since our numerical weakness is undeniable,
we must increase the value of our troops," declared the veteran in the
thunder of the House. And he added, that military value was dependent
upon cohesion and training.  Those two advantages could be obtained by
increasing the effectives and prolonging the period under arms.  What
had the law of 1913 given to Germany?  It had given to her a better
quality of troops and permitted greater rapidity of mobilisation.  The
cover troops represented, henceforth, about half the total effective of
the German Army.  In a few hours, then, half the German Army could enter
the field.  Out of twenty-three German army corps, eleven were up to war
strength and ready for instant service.  Finally, this unconsciously
eloquent advocate of the momentous change in French armament said that
by incorporating a class and a half of their youngest reserve, the
German troops of the interior would reach their full strength whilst the
French had to receive four or five classes of reserves—a fact which
retarded, notably, the mobilisation.

I have given the discussion at length because it supplies the underlying
causes of Germany’s military superiority.  It explains why the "attaque
brusquée" succeeded up to a certain point; it explains, also, why the
Chamber, after listening to the most authoritative champion of
Three-Years, gave M. Barthou, whose courage throughout the tremendous
debate was proof against all assaults, an overwhelming majority, and
France an additional 180,000 men, whose presence with the colours was of
immense value in the Great Retreat a year later.  It is acknowledged by
military experts that, had not thoroughly trained troops formed the base
of the army, the Generalissimo would not have found to his hand the
instrument needed to make the stand on the Marne. The fact is
undisputed, and to M. Barthou is due the honour of having refused to
disregard the logic of events, for which, alas! he had every precedent.

                             *CHAPTER III*


The national army arose suddenly out of the blood and turmoil of the
Revolution.  The country was aflame with enthusiasm and informed with
the spirit of sacrifice.  The urgency of the times was well represented
by the law of March 4, 1791, which declared in all the ardour of the
First Republic: "The service of the country is a civic and general
duty."  That fine definition was born of the need of the nation to
defend itself against overwhelming odds; and thus, every citizen was
called to a place in the army.  The King’s forces, which existed before
the nation in arms, was composed, on the other hand, of French and
foreign mercenaries and a militia raised by royal authority.  Though,
sometimes, these professionals espoused the popular cause and fought for
patriotic purposes, they were primarily engaged to defend the King’s
interest, and the two were not necessarily identical.  Not infrequently
it happened that the army was on one side of the barricade and the
people on the other.  The recruiting sergeant had much to do with the
presence of men under the King’s banner, and certain vigorous methods
reinforced his arts of persuasion.  To the regular pay of the soldier
was added the prospect of unlimited pillage in foreign war.  Generally
he fought because he was paid for it, and his royal master had no
particular need to enlist his sentimental interest in the enterprise.

But another change came when the Republic emerged from the glowing
brazier of Revolutionary France.  The country was beset with numerous
enemies anxious to champion the lost cause of monarchy, though the
people of these nations, as the official text-books in France tell us,
had no quarrel with the people of France.  And then, just as one hundred
and twenty years later, the German princes led the hosts against France
and the response was the uprising of the nation.  Since the Revolution,
the nations of Europe have adopted national service in acceptance of the
principle laid down on March 4, 1791, that it was a "civic and general
duty."  The Convention ordered levies _en masse_, and this principle was
embodied definitely in the enactment of March 23, 1793, which said that
from this moment until the territories of the Republic were free from
enemies, all Frenchmen were liable to serve; the 2nd Article decreed
that young men should fight, that the married men should forge arms and
transport material, the women to make tents and clothing and serve in
the hospitals, the children to convert old linen into surgeons’ lint,
and the old men to be carried to the public squares to encourage the
warriors, to excite their hatred against the Kings, and promote unity in
the Republic.  The annual drafts were fixed by the law of Fructidor 19
An VI, and they were recruited by drawing lots and by enrolment.  A
later law of the Year VII allowed those drawn to purchase substitutes,
and it was under this law that Napoleon raised his armies.  The system
lasted until 1814, when the fortunes of France were at a low ebb.  The
country had become tired of a military Imperialism, which had
devitalised it and left it with monstrous debts.  There was no further
taste for arms; voluntary engagements had practically ceased.  Thus the
abrogation of conscription was tantamount to abolishing the army.  The
wars of the First Empire had worked out the vein of militarism.

Compulsion, however, had to be re-established, in principle at least, on
March 18, 1818, by the Gouvion St. Cyr law.  A certain number of men was
called up annually and the system existed side by side with voluntary
engagements.  The annual contingent was fixed at 40,000.  There was
further legislation on March 21, 1832, due to Marshal Soult.  This
established that conscription was the normal method and engagements the
subsidiary one, but the principle of paying substitutes was admitted.
The service was for seven years.  The army was divided into two classes:
the one performed the full term; the other was _en congé_, and
constituted the reserve.  The business of finding substitutes rose to
such a pitch that agencies were founded to deal with it.  It became a
crying scandal.  Reform was necessary, and it was embodied in a law
dated April 26, 1855.  By its provisions a fund was formed.  Those who
wished to buy themselves out were obliged to contribute a certain sum
fixed each year by the Minister of War. This money was allocated to
bonuses paid to time-expired men to re-engage.  The system was not as
brilliant as it looked and in practice it worked badly. It lowered the
status of the soldier in his own eyes and in those of public opinion,
for it gave to national service the character of a punishment or a
commercial transaction.  Only those remained in the ranks who could not
find a substitute or because of a monetary inducement.  Again, it was
bad because it created a permanent class of under-officer who regarded
the army as his perquisite and shut the door of promotion to the common
soldier.  The plan, none the less, prevailed until 1868, when, like a
trumpet blast, startling Europe out of her sleep, came Prussia’s
victories over Southern Germany.

The meaning was clear.  It meant that, since Napoleon’s amazing
successes, Prussia had adopted a military _régime_ which gave her
superiority over her neighbours.  It was based on universal service. If
France realised how great were her own military shortcomings, she had
not the strength of mind necessary to institute a system involving
serious sacrifice. Even Marshal Niel, who presented a project to the
Imperial Legislature, did not prevail against a conspiracy of optimism
based on a total disregard of the facts.  The Marshal, indeed, played
the ungrateful part of a Lord Roberts in warning his nation against an
illusory peace.  His was the _vox clamantis in deserto_ calling in vain
for a real national service. His prophetic eyes had seen the storm,
which others preferred not to see.  However, the law was altered in a
half-hearted effort to obtain reform, but the old facilities for
substitution remained.  It was then decided to create a national Garde
Mobile composed of men excused from active service.  Unfortunately,
there was no time to organise it before war with Germany broke out.
Though it lacked training and experience and was comparatively
ill-disciplined, it was not wanting in courage, and proved of utility in
the campaign.  Lord Kitchener joined it as a young volunteer.

When the _débâcle_ came, the whole of Europe was able to read the lesson
in the lurid light it flung to heaven.  German dominance had been built
up on a conscripted army, against which a volunteer and partially
conscripted army struggled in vain.  It was overborne by sheer weight of
numbers.  England felt herself guarded by the inviolate sea, but the
other Powers of the Continent adopted the principle of national service.
In France itself, the law of 1872 was the logical outcome of the dread
experience of the _année terrible_.  The subsequent legislation, which
is dated 1889, 1905, and 1913 aimed at rendering military service more
complete and more in accord with Republican equality.  The last law,
just before the war, imposed the same burden upon each citizen. But an
immense amount of discussion was necessary before reaching this simple
result, for alas! political interests in various specious guises had
interfered with the pure working out of national defence.  As a
consequence, exemptions were always considerable. The broadest
interpretation was given to "higher education," and examinations,
useless from a national point of view or as a test of learning, existed
for the sole purpose of allowing the son of the bourgeois to curtail his
military service.  It was obvious that a knowledge of some
out-of-the-way tongue could not be held to compensate, in a national
sense, for the loss of a man’s service in the army.

A large number of exemptions arose through the laudable desire to
lighten the burden for widows and families dependent upon an only son.
But, as a result of it, two different categories of reservists were
created, those whom the _baccalauréat_ had excused after a year’s
service, and that much larger class of comparatively unlettered lads who
escaped with the minimum term because of being only sons.  In their case
the year’s service was not as efficacious as in the other, where
education had made possible a more intensive process of training.  And
two theories, affecting the use of reserves, see-sawed through the
Parliamentary debates for many years.  One school held that it was
sufficient to season the mass of reservists with long-service soldiers,
whose influence and training would be strong enough to lead them to
victory on the day of battle; the other side maintained that salvation
lay in giving training to as large a proportion as possible, so that
units could act independently, and this theory eventually prevailed.
The Three-Years Law was the outcome of it.

The law of July 27, 1872, had reaffirmed the old Revolutionary principle
that every Frenchman was liable to serve.  The military period was fixed
at twenty years—from twenty to forty.  Thus considerable advance had
been made over the earlier legislation. There was no longer any question
of a limited contingent or of substitution by money payment, yet, as is
clear from my earlier paragraphs, the law did not establish equality.
The yearly contingent was divided into two parts; the one served for
five years, the other for one year or six months only.  The drawing of
lots decided to which category a man belonged.  Only sons, who supported
widowed mothers, the clergy, and members of the teaching profession were
excused; also, there existed a one-year service for young men who
volunteered before the yearly drawings, who had passed their
matriculation and had paid sixty pounds.  I have touched already upon
the defects of this system and its doubtful advantage to education.

Then came the law of July 15, 1889, which established a Three-Years
service on a basis of absolute equality.  It represented the principle
of training for everybody, whereas the earlier enactments had created a
nucleus of professionals to act as motor to the military machine.  No
one served for five years under this new system, but then no one served
only for six months.  The weakness of the measure resided in the wide
facilities given for "dispenses."  After a year’s effective service,
exemption could be obtained either for bread-winners or for the
theological and general student.  Thus the real advantage of the Act was
whittled down to a partial instead of a total exemption.  The old
_voluntariat d’un an_ was superseded by a special dispensation for
students, but there was no money payment.  Yet the law of 1889 caused
heartburnings because of its invidious character.  Examinations designed
to fulfil the letter but not the spirit of the enactment sprang up with
the express object of shortening military service.  Even art workers and
students in commercial colleges were included in the dispensation.

And now comes the statute of March 21, 1905, which purported to promote
homogeneity of the reserves and to suppress exemptions so favourable to
the _fils à papa_.  But its primary object was to reduce the period of
service to two years.  It was a Revolutionary measure, daring and
insensate in its contempt for the danger involved by an obvious
reduction in the effectives.  This danger was to be conjured in various
ways: by employing "auxiliaries" (or the medically unfit) in clerical
work; by suppressing exemptions, and limiting furloughs, and by giving
special advantages to re-engaged men.

One of the main objections to the change was that it prejudicially
affected the staff of army instructors, who were exposed to a dangerous
fluctuation.  Just when greater intensity in the training was needed,
the quality and quantity of the instructors declined. It was the exact
opposite of the condition created by earlier legislation, which rendered
the corps of drill sergeants practically inaccessible to new blood. The
Bill offered special inducements to _sous-officiers_ to remain with the
colours, and gave to likely young men in the ranks an opportunity to
rise—the class, who, under the earlier laws, would have benefited by the
voluntariat.  These previous efforts at army-making had created masses
of imperfectly trained reserves.  The _soutiens de famille_ (supports of
widows and poor families) represented, for instance, 60,000, which made
600,000 in a decade.  Each man in this vast army had had only a year’s
training, which, though adequate in some cases, was inadequate in the
mass.  The two-years law sought to remedy this by requiring a minimum of
two years from every one.  Another important provision allowed grants to
be paid to poor families deprived of their sons, which shows that
Parliament was solicitous for the weakest in the community, even in such
a matter as the national defence.

Finally, there was the law of 1913, passed by M. Barthou, the then
Premier, in the teeth of great opposition, and as a reply to the
formidable preparations of Germany.  This we must leave to the next
chapter.  Suffice it to say here that the Act provided for a three-years
service in the Active Army, eleven years in the First Class Reserve,
seven years in the Territorial Army, and seven in the Reserve of the
Territorial.  Thus the citizen could be mobilised up to the age of
forty-eight.  After that, he was no longer liable to be called up.

                              *CHAPTER IV*

                    *JOFFRE, HIS ORIGIN AND RECORD*

There is this satisfactory about a Frenchman—that rarely he disdains his
origin.  He is not the sort of man who spurns the ladder by which he
mounted; rather does he contemplate with pleasure every rung of the way.
Joffre, in that sense, is typically French.  He rejoices in the modest
origin which has given him the privilege of building his own fortune.
But his pride and his independence come, I think, from his racial
attributes.  They are indigenous to the soil, to that fruitful soil of
the Roussillon, the old province of France which came under the French
crown in the reign of Louis XIV, in the middle of the seventeenth
century, and as a result of the Treaty of the Pyrenees.  Known to-day as
the Eastern Pyrenees, and become one of the regular departments of
France, it has preserved much of its old Spanish character.  It has
maintained a particular flavour, like the wine which grows in its
smiling vineyards and the peaches that stretch for twenty kilometres, a
vast and fertile garden, round Perpignan.  The local capital is
peculiarly Southern: sunny, wide-spaced, prosperous, embowered in
handsome planes.  The inhabitants wear the easy grace and captivating
manner of people who, under a blue sky, do not find life too hard.
Joffre’s town of Rivesaltes is close by, connected by tram and rail. It
is less agreeable of aspect than Perpignan, there is less pride in
appearances; indeed, it is thoroughly Spanish in style, even if French
in the temper of its politics.  The inhabitants speak Catalan like their
brethren on the further side of the Pyrenees, where newspapers are
produced in the tongue, but their sympathies are as wholly French as
those of their famous townsman.  And what a cult of him there is!  Every
café and most of the shops have a portrait of him on the large scale, as
if a small reproduction would not suffice for his reputation.  The album
of a local tobacconist is a gallery of the great man in various stages
of his development.  Old inhabitants contribute anecdotes more or less
authentic of his studious yet sturdy youth, of his kindness and modesty,
of his astonishing simplicity.

"Yes, he came here years ago and played _manille_ with his father and
his father’s friends, and he would not allow his old acquaintances to
change their manner of speaking to him; they were to say ’thee’ and
’thou’ as in the old days.  His father’s bit of land had become flooded.
’You must cut trenches to drain off the water,’ he said to Joffre père,
’I know something about that; it is my métier.’..."  When war broke out,
the inhabitants had no doubt about anything.  The country was safe.
What was an invasion when Joffre was in command?

The future Generalissimo was a flaxen-haired boy, with a light
complexion and a firm, straightforward and kindly expression.  There was
certainly little of the Southerner either in his face or in the
square-cut vigorous figure, but he had the independence of the Catalan
in his character.  Though an excellent comrade and full of fun, he did
not like to be interfered with in his work, and was ready to fight his
tormentors to secure quiet.  Later, the kind blue eyes, wide set beneath
the bushy eyebrows, grew steel-like in their expression when an
acquaintance tried to take advantage of his amiability to advance a
protégé. Joffre has a horror of the recommendation.  "Let the young man
make his own way as I have made mine," he would say; "that is the only
sound method."  All his life he has been opposed to patronage; it annoys
him, he feels it to be unfair—a mean advantage. When he was appointed
Chief-of-Staff, and eventually Commander-in-Chief, in 1911, he received
visitors only once a fortnight at his office in the Invalides, because
he wished to avoid, as much as possible, bores and protectors of
interesting young men.  Merit is the only channel which he recognises
for advancement. The knowledge of his utter impartiality has robbed his
decisions, often sternly disciplinary, of all personal sting.  The army
felt that in him they had a final court of appeal, pure and fearless.

Boyhood’s days at Rivesaltes were unaccompanied by a luxury, which might
have dulled the edge of fine ambitions.  The little house in the narrow
Rue des Grangers where he was born, remains the symbol of his
simplicity.  The humble bedroom, flanked by dining-room and kitchen,
where he first saw the light, the store-room above served by an outside
pulley for the raising of winter’s stores—all this speaks of a laborious
and thrifty life such as the peasantry live hereabouts.  The future
General was one of eleven children of a working cooper.  According to
Joffre’s sister, the family, of Spanish origin and called Gouffre, is of
noble descent; but its fortune had dwindled when Grandfather Joffre,
leaving his native country for political reasons, started as a tradesman
at Rivesaltes.  He left no particular heritage to his son Joseph, the
offspring of middle age, whom he seems utterly to have neglected.
Joseph was little more than a working man with a patch of vineyard close
to the town.  But for a friendly uncle, struck by his intelligence,
Joseph Jacques César Joffre—our Joffre—would not have enjoyed the
education which was his at the _lycée_ at Perpignan and at the
Polytechnique in Paris.

It was to his stay in that admirable school for civil and military
engineers that he owes the groundwork upon which he has so successfully
built.  It gave him an immense advantage at the start. Though he passed
into the school with the high number of fourteen and became, because of
it, a sergeant in his dormitory, charged with keeping order amongst
older lads—rather trying to his silent and unassertive character—he did
not consistently show the brilliancy that was expected of him.  On
leaving, his number had fallen to thirty-five, which did not entitle him
to high civil employment under Government. Whether as a consequence of
it, or because of a pronounced vocation, he joined the Corps of
Engineers as lieutenant.  Already he had had a taste of the life,
sufficiently discouraging, one would think, in the War of 1870, which
broke in upon his school career. He served for some months as a junior
subaltern in a fort round Paris.  Even at that age, he was known for his
silent seriousness, and the memory of the national defeat seemed to have
sunk deeply into his soul.  It made him a patriot, eager to work for
France and for her re-establishment.  That, more than anything else,
fired his ambition, for he was not one to crouch at the feet of chance,
waiting, as an _arriviste_ waits, for his own advancement.  Not until
the moment of his Soudan expedition, in early middle life, did he expand
to the full limit of his capacity, and then the call of country and the
consciousness of duty done for France were responsible.  Before that, he
had not shown, I think, any great desire to progress beyond the common
mark.  But when he saw that he could be useful to his time and
generation, a holy zeal possessed him to press on to the great
achievement.  And his tranquil courage and perseverance were rewarded to
an extent that seemed incredible in his early years.  But, even so, he
would not regard his position as head of the army with complacency or
self-satisfaction.  "The war found me," he said to a lifelong friend; "I
did not seek it."  That is the note of the man.

His Soudan campaign, which came when he was a Commandant at the age of
forty-three, gave him deserved renown, for it was a masterpiece of
organisation. Before that, he had done more or less humdrum work on
defences, gaining his captaincy that way, when working on the forts
round Paris; he continued in the provinces and in Upper Tonking, where
his constructions were aimed at the predatory Chinese.  He fought them
from Formosa, whither he had gone as a change from spade and trowel
work, but partly, I suspect, to forget in change of scene the loss of a
beloved young wife.  Admiral Courbet, most famous of pioneers in the
French Colonial domain, was then concluding the Tonking campaign, and
employed him to the general satisfaction.  The future Generalissimo was
in fighting and fort building showing an equal talent.  Finally, he
exhibited a new side to his character by organising an artistic and
industrial exhibition at Hanoi.  Though wrapped up in his profession and
seeming, daily, to take a greater pleasure in it, he showed adaptability
and could turn his hand to anything.

His celebrated march to Timbuctoo again showed him as the all-round man,
for there he had to think of everything.  He had gone out into the wilds
for a pacific object, for the building of the Soudan railway, destined
to link the Senegal to the Niger river.  His new post did not, strictly
speaking, appeal to him. It interrupted his course of lectures on
fortifications at the School at Fontainebleau, which succeeded to his
command of the Railway Battalion of Engineers.  It seemed to him like
his own first-class interment. Surely there was no glory in building a
railway in the desert; yet he was to find it there.  At that moment
France had become conscious of her colonial possessions, and with it had
become the desire for development. A haphazard policy had been amended
into a settled plan of pacific penetration by means of the Niger.  The
railway was to be the great instrument of civilisation, linking the two
great waterways and making the desert blossom as a rose.  It had begun
at Kayes, the capital, under Colonel Galliéni, then commanding in Upper
Senegal, and had been pushed to the hundred and sixteenth kilometre.
Then yellow fever and a lack of credits from home brought it to an
abrupt stop.  Commandant Joffre, with his habitual vigour, added
kilometre to kilometre until the hundred and fifty-ninth mark was

Thereafter came orders to undertake an expedition to Timbuctoo.  The
mysterious city had been entered, just before, by Commandant Boiteaux,
who had gone up the river Niger in a flotilla of boats as far as Cabara
and there gained the city on foot.  It was resolved to extend the French
dominion over it and over the loop of the river as it sweeps downward to
its ocean outlet.  Joffre’s duty was to support his superior, Colonel
Bonnier, who had given him a rendezvous outside the city’s walls.  The
Colonel was to go by river; Joffre followed the left bank with a force
of one thousand, three parts of which were bearers and servants.  He
started from Segou, two days after Christmas 1893.  The rendezvous never
took place.  The Colonel having made quicker progress, turned back to
meet the Commandant, but failed to arrive; the column was assassinated.
Only one white officer, Captain Nigotte, escaped to tell the tale in
Timbuctoo, where fears were expressed for Joffre’s safety.  But the
latter had acted with great vigour and yet caution in his dealings with
the natives.  He went quickly to the rescue of the few survivors of the
column, chastised the murderers, and then, on February 12, entered the
city without further fighting, carrying with him the bodies of the white
officers.  At the moment when the news reached him, he was engaged in
crossing the river, in face of a hostile band of Tuaregs, who had burned
his boats at the habitual crossing-place.

More than 500 miles separated Segou from Timbuctoo, and the journey had
been beset with peril and difficulty, how difficult and how perilous is
admirably told in Joffre’s own report of the expedition.  He showed good
generalship by keeping his men in close order and by throwing out scouts
to protect his flanks and rear.  At night a careful watch was set over
the camp, and the young Commander went the rounds to see that his black
sentinels did not sleep at their posts.  Water was a great difficulty,
for there was either too much of it or not enough.  Great flooded areas,
where the river had overflowed, left swamps which could only be passed
by circuitous marches in an unknown country.  By contrast there was a
stark and staring need of wells in a burning desert, where bearers
dropped by the way for want of the precious liquid, and communications
were endangered because posts left in the rear could not obtain the
necessary water.  In consequence, the young Commander had to scatter his
column through the villages, where existed a species of boycott, for the
natives had fled before the advance and had carried off all foodstuffs.
Joffre kept a stout heart and a cool head in these trying circumstances.
There was a good deal of fighting, especially in the later stages, but
Joffre took the offensive, as the safer way, and did not allow himself
to be attacked by the enemy.  He fought to clear a path for his column.

His initiative and sense of responsibility shone in this crisis.  When
he entered the city the engineer in him reappeared, and he planned and
plotted for the safety of the citizens.  Strategic positions were seized
and upon them were placed forts and blockhouses. Then, in his turn, he
acted as political officer and received the submission of the tribesmen.
In the midst of these high occupations he received orders from the
Governor of the region to rejoin his railway at Kayes.  For once in his
life he disobeyed and sent his reasons, which, of course, were accepted.
When, finally, he left Timbuctoo, he had made an excellent job of it.
He had established his reputation as an organiser and soldier-colonist,
and his reward was the red rosette which decorated his tunic of
Lieutenant-Colonel.  His first grade in the Order had been gained in
Formosa.  Timbuctoo closed the second colonial phase in Joffre’s career.

The third was to open two years later when, as full Colonel, he was
given fortification work to do in Madagascar.  It was at the moment of
British reverses in the Boer War.  Certain memories, connected with
Fashoda and Dreyfus, rankled in French breasts.  The Paris Government
felt it was as well to be prepared against possible enterprise on the
part of the British fleet in the Indian Ocean; and so the defences of
the big island were set hastily on foot.  Diego Suarez, the naval base
to the north, was fortified by Joffre under the eye of the Governor,
General Galliéni, who was then gaining renown for his administration of
the island.  It was there that the two met and fraternised, as
expatriated Frenchmen will, and learned to respect each other’s

Therewith closed the final chapter in Joffre’s colonial life.
Henceforth he was to work in France, in the immediate path of the great
office to which destiny was hastening him.  Successively he commanded
the 19th brigade of Artillery at Vincennes, and the 6th division of
Infantry at Lille, of which town he was the military governor; at
Amiens, he was head of the Second Army Corps.  Between the stages of
Brigadier and General of Division, he was director of Artillery at the
Ministry of War.  And so he performed the whole cycle of the military
art, before arriving at the Superior Council of War where he was to
receive the crown of the chief command.  He had served in just the
capacities, colonial and metropolitan, which equipped him for his great
responsibility.  No point in his experience could be considered useless
from the building of forts to the construction of railways; from the
organisation of a self-contained force on the Niger, to the command of
troops in France; from his lectures to military students, to his
direction of the artillery.

The supreme honour came to him on July 29, 1911. The _Panther_ had
dropped a noisy and menacing anchor in the quiet waters of Agadir.  In
spite of assurances of peace from Germany and the fixity of the pacifist
idea in France, clear-sighted people saw the cloud of danger in the sky.
Joffre had no misgivings on the subject.  One of the earliest questions
to occupy him was that of effectives.  None but he and his charming
wife, whom he had married on returning to France, will ever realise how
hard he worked during the three years that intervened before the
outbreak of the war.  Sundays and weekdays—it was an incessant round.
He was deeply convinced that the hour was approaching for the trial of
the French military institutions, to which he was called to supply not
merely the finishing touch, but, alas! a great deal of the foundation
work.  That was the tragedy of it, the tragedy of an optimism, which had
ignored all German preparations.  It had ignored the vast accumulations
of engines of war on the frontiers of Lorraine and Belgium, it had
ignored the meaning of the caves and subterranean passages prepared in
advance in the Champagne and the Soissons district, just as it ignored
the other phases of German activity, the systematic corruption, the
spying, and the rest.

Thus Joffre came to the post which his persistent work had made a just,
if onerous, reward.  He was Generalissimo in new conditions.  The old
duality, which allowed one man to lead in war and another to prepare for
it, was swept away.  Parliament at last had awakened to its dangers, and
MM. Caillaux and Messimy, Premier and Minister of War, had submitted to
President Fallières a new decree designating Joffre the Supreme
Commander in time of war and the Chief-of-Staff in peace.

It was an admirable choice.  If it meant little to the public which had
forgotten all about the march on the Niger, it meant a great deal to the
army which felt comforted and relieved at the appointment of a sound and
thorough administrator.  For Joffre, by long contact, knew every cog in
the military machine, which he was now called upon to direct.  As
_divisionnaires_ went, he was the youngest of his rank in the army and
had still some years before him which he could count his own.  Thus he
joined experience to a comparative youth, which was all in his favour.
Probably the defects rather than the qualities of the organisation
engaged his attention and stimulated his amazing energy to even greater
efforts.  At the age of fifty-nine he was faced with a task to try the
strongest head, the steadiest nerves, the most robust health.  Happily
he possessed all three and placed them unreservedly at the service of
the State.  France was fortunate in her General-in-Chief.  How he
succeeded in the colossal burden of the Great War may be left for
consideration to a future chapter.

                              *CHAPTER V*


We have seen Joffre in the various stages of his career acquiring that
many-sided experience, which was to serve him in excellent stead when,
finally, he came to supreme power.  Sometimes the engineer officer was
uppermost, sometimes the combatant. Though in the latter years, when
qualifying for the Council of War, he commanded troops over the very
ground where French and English were to oppose the invaders in
incredible battles, it is yet true that his experience, with the
exception of operations against the Chinese and the Tuaregs on the Niger
in his march to Timbuctoo, consisted in the main of engineering exploits
with a military aim.  Thus he coaxed the desert into a railway track,
and thus he cast up mounds of earth and built defensive masonry around
Paris and in the provinces and at various strategic points in France
overseas.  This contact with a larger _patrie_ and with the wider
aspects of his profession proved of immense service when, in the process
of time, he came to his great estate.  It was in reviewing the work of
his early years, the period of his maturity and then of his later life
that he fully comprehended the character of his task.  He realised all
the elements that make up France, all the elements that must be flung
into the crucible of a national army.  "Vive la France" had a new
meaning for him, for it meant the France of Asia and Africa as well as
the France of metropolitan frontiers.

None the less, for all the pleasure of the prospect, he was sensible of
the weaknesses that lay underneath. None better.  Had he not himself
said in his now famous speech to the Polytechnicians, that you could
improvise nothing in war?  As a soldier, tried in the service of his
country, he was penetrated with that truth.  There must be preparation
in war—that was the implacable verity.  He was emphatic on the point in
a speech which must be regarded as one of the documents of the war.  For
he was speaking to officers, past members of the famous school of which
he is a distinguished _alumnus_, and declared with that sense of reality
joined to idealism, which is as pleasing to the plain man as to those in
search of lofty generalisation, that preparation implied many things.
His auditors, at this Old Boys’ gathering, strained their ears in the
expectation of hearing something removed from the banalities of the
usual chairman’s utterance.  And they were not disappointed.  The speech
fitted the occasion like a glove; it was no common one, for the Balkan
War had broken out. The eventual Commander-in-Chief could not ignore a
subject fraught with such consequence to himself and to his hearers (for
the most part officers) and quietly aware, no doubt, of the curiosity he
had excited, dealt broadly, yet sufficiently, with the situation.

He began by arraying the forces one against the other in the theatre of
war.  On the one side he said were numbers and on the other preparation.
You could tell by the way in which he insisted on the latter word how
much it meant to him.  And yet the subject must have been painful, for
none realised better than this impressive-looking man, with brow rimmed
with white hair and the white of massive eyebrows, that France was not
prepared.  In elaborating his theme, he told what preparation meant.
The whole of national life must co-operate in it.  And what were the
factors of success?  They were of three kinds: material, intellectual,
and moral.  Under the first came the number and equipment of the troops,
under the second and third the capacity of leaders and the patriotism of
the people.  It was clear that he felt the deep significance of the last
quality. Numbers and equipment were certainly important, but patriotism
was the soul of the army.  "To be ready in our epoch," he insisted,
"implies a significance of which those who prepared and conducted war in
the past can realise only with difficulty.  It would be illusory to
count upon the popular _élan_ though it exceeded that of the volunteers
of the Revolution, if it were not supported by a previous organisation.
’To be ready’ to-day, one must have directed, in advance, all the
resources of the country and all its moral energy towards the unique
end, ’Victory.’"  And then he proceeded to utter the phrases which have
become classical.  They are a synthesis of Joffre’s system, the
exposition of his inward faith.  "One must have organised everything,
foreseen everything.  Once hostilities are commenced, no improvisation
will be valid.  What lacks then, will be definitely lacking.  The least
omission may cause a disaster."

And he proceeds to particularise.  The call to arms must reach those for
whom it is intended. Each man must know where to go and how to get there
and he must meet there his officers, his arms, and his effects.  And
over this army which has been organised, equipped, and assembled must be
chiefs, military and administrative, imbued with the national theory of
the war.  "But neither the material organisation of this army nor its
training would suffice to assure victory if to this intelligent and
strong body a soul were lacking.  This soul is Patriotism."  That he
should lay stress upon the word showed how deeply he had realised how
even elaborate schemes of mobilisation could come to naught without this
saving grace, without the faith which moves mountains.  He seemed to
say: "We can save France, even if there are flaws in our preparations,
provided we possess Patriotism—the sacred flame."  By this alone could
soldier and civilian summon the courage to resist reverses.

That Joffre himself accepted the heavy burden of office, showed that he,
too, was inspired by a strong love of country and faith in the unlimited
powers of French adaptability.  He knew that his countrymen were capable
of heroic resistance and a persistent and yet strenuous effort, which
would astonish the world, because he had read in the heart of the
_piou-piou_ undying love for country, and because he had watched
silently the growth of that national spirit evoked by the brutal
provocation of Germany.  He knew, also, the delicacy of fitting
discipline to democracy and a fierce national spirit of independence and
justice to the exigencies of a European War. Intuition and experience
told him that only by the finer emotions could the mass be moved, that
it would rebel against mechanical methods and harsh domination and yield
only to the influence of enlightened chiefs.  Thus he was the man
destined to lead and to become the interpreter of the racial spirit of

Joffre had established between himself and the soldier in the trenches
an irresistible current of sympathy.  How, nobody knows, but, at the
very commencement, his benevolent activity for the common welfare was a
common saying endearing him to the legions under his control, and many
were the incidents quoted of his tenderness of heart.  He had found a
swift way to the understanding and implicit obedience of his troops.  By
his acts of kindness and consideration he had accumulated a stock of
allegiance from which to draw in the supreme hour, when he should say,
as on the eve of the battle of the Marne: "Now is the time to conquer or
to die."  Had he learned these secret arts of sympathy in the wilds of
Africa or in the cloistered life he led, like the Pope in the Vatican,
when harnessed to his work of preparation at the Ministry of War?  I do
not know, but I suspect that this trait, like the others, was inborn and
developed by urgent circumstance.  However we explain it, he became the
most popular man in France, a god and a hero, a name to conjure with.
"Notre Joffre" was a symbol of success, and of popular confidence.  The
"magnificent rumour" which had preceded him on the day of mobilisation
was crystallised into a solid renown when the public saw with what calm
and celerity he assembled troops and with what mastery he played upon
the railway keyboard. Napoleon had won his battles with the legs of his
soldiers, Joffre was going to win them with his railways.

It is not possible, of course, to repair defects of forty years in two
or three years even of unremitting labour; but knowing, as he did, the
tone and temper of the men he had to command and the miraculous
capacities of their nervous energy he did not doubt for a moment the
final triumph, and a species of sublime confidence radiated from him
whether at the Ministry or in the field.  It was with his friend and
companion-in-arms, General Pau, that he began to work at the problems
belonging to his position, and the first of them was the effectives.
When the intentions of Germany could be no longer disguised, Joffre
resolved upon the only course compatible with his responsibilities.  He
urged the Government to augment the army _pari passu_ with the increased
numbers on the other side of the Vosges, and, happily, he found in M.
Barthou, the Premier, a political leader as strongly impressed as he
with the high necessity of action.  This admirable statesman became,
therefore, one of his collaborators in the national defence. A Deputy at
twenty-seven and a Minister at thirty-three, this lawyer and journalist
found full scope for his activities only in the wide region of national
politics.  His quickness of comprehension astonished the experts, and
perhaps confirmed their uneasy suspicions that a lawyer knows
everything; but M. Barthou’s enthusiasm and deep conviction were beyond
all question.  Some reproached him for being a man of letters, guilty of
writing an excellent history of Mirabeau, but he sacrificed ruthlessly
his intellectual leisure and his love of reading on the altar of duty.
It would seem as if the figure of the Revolutionary aristocrat, which
glows from the pages of his book, had communicated his fire to his
accomplished and versatile biographer.  So M. Barthou rose grandly to
the situation and became, with Generals Joffre and Pau, organiser of the
new military plan to save France from her disparity with the German

Joffre occupied himself with his accustomed method to the work of
preparing the Government victory. Some one has recalled a conversation
which he had with Joffre at this time.  The General sits in an armchair
looking steadily into space.  His visitor insists on the impossibility
of increasing the annual contingents to the French Army.  But, he says
persuasively, you can supplement the number by enrolling the black man.
"The black man," repeats Joffre, and his mind goes back, no doubt, to
his colonial days. He is again building the railway from Kayes to
Bafoulabé, he is again on the Niger at Goundam, where they brought him
news of Bonnier’s massacre with his eleven officers and sixty-four
_tirailleurs_.  And he asks suddenly: "But what sacred fire will animate
them?  Will they ever equal our own soldiers defending, field by field,
their own soil?"  Joffre, indeed, had realised the impotency of numbers
unless animated by the spirit of a great cause.  He would not hear of
reinforcing the French regiments by those newly acquired citizens of
France in Central Africa.  "No, no," he said; "the Three-Years Law is a
vital question; do not give the enemies of the measure the pretext they

The Generalissimo went to the Chamber, to act, with General Pau, as
Government Commissioner during the progress of the great debate.  I
imagine that the experience was more painful to him than first facing
fire in a Paris fort in 1870.  For the Socialist opponents of the Bill
heckled the Commissioners, challenging not merely their arguments but
also their figures.  The temptation was strong upon Joffre at times to
retort angrily upon the obstructionists, but he kept his temper and a
cold, even tone of courtesy. In his rare interventions he spoke briefly
and directly to the point, figures in hand.  He maintained throughout an
impassive attitude, and looked a formidable figure as he stood
resolutely to his guns dominating the wilderness of talk.  Even in the
lobbies of the Chamber, in the _entr’actes_ of the debate, he did not
unbend from his attitude of reserve, which, though it angered the
obstructionists, impressed them in spite of themselves.  Here was the
man who could keep his head—the _tête froide_ demanded by Napoleon as
the first essential of a battle-chief.  Pau, on the other hand, was much
less calm and was visibly vexed at the shameless opposition.  The
fingers of his whole arm (for he had lost the other in the War of ’70)
clinched and unclinched as if anxious to meet the foe at close quarters.

Heartily glad to be allowed to return to his labours, Joffre gave
himself more thoroughly than ever to the task of preparation.  He
occupied himself more particularly with the question of transports, and
the perfection of the system that he worked out was revealed at the
outbreak of the war, when the Commissariat proved an instant success.
The trenches were well furnished with food.  But alas! the medical
service, which depended not upon the General Staff but upon the Ministry
of War, proved in those early days a lamentable failure, for the war had
caught it in a state of transition.  The mobilisation, itself, impressed
every observer by its order and regularity; Joffre revealed himself a
master organiser.  He was as prepared as man could be with the time and
"material" to his hand.  He had trained his body as well as his mind by
a just balance between work and rest and physical exercise.  He had the
true soldier’s horror of growing soft.  As a captain he was out riding
one day when he fell, owing to his horse stumbling, and was carried to
bed with injuries to his head.  He spent a few weeks of his
convalescence at Rivesaltes.  Fearing that his mental powers were
affected by his accident, he set himself a hard problem in mathematics
to test his brain.  At the end of three days’ silent work, he cried
suddenly in broad Catalan from his bed to his brother, who was sharing
the room with him, _Soun geuri_ ("I am cured"). The anecdote shows his
strenuous character and detestation of self-indulgence, and also that he
is not quite as reserved by nature as his proud title of _Le Taciturne_
would imply.  Joffre’s taciturnity, in fact, is self-imposed—part of his
vigorous system of preparation.  It comes, also, from the fact that he
is not, naturally, an orator and knows it.  Serious and meditative, his
temper is not as severe as some suppose; his sternness in all questions
of discipline has been forced upon him by duty.  On the contrary, it
pains him considerably to punish any one, and he suffers as much as his
victims when he has to pass judgment upon serious faults and incapacity.

His daily habits made him physically hard, just as his studies equipped
him for continuous intellectual labour.  The morning gallop in the Bois
on a strong horse, such as would have carried Du Guesclin in his wars
against the English in the moving Middle Ages, and his walk to the
Invalides or the Ministry of War from his distant home in Auteuil gave
him the training he needed.  On campaign, the motor-car replaced the
healthier exercise, but even then he managed to take long solitary walks
which reposed his mind and recreated his body.  Even the most pressing
matters are not allowed to interfere with his regular rest.  To bed at
nine and up at six is a rule maintained even in the heat of battle.  He
feels it to be necessary for the equipoise of his constitution. Joffre
has the great Corsican’s faculty of suspending his intellectual powers
by a mere effort of the will and thus obtains complete repose of the
cerebral system. His slumbers were childlike even after Charleroi; on
his motor journeys, to points along the Front, he slept profoundly.
This recuperative power is inestimable in a commander upon whom is cast
a vast responsibility.  He was often to be seen in his car behind the
lines sunk in restorative sleep, his head inclined to an angle like some
tired Atlas, worn with supporting the world upon his broad shoulders.

This man, eminently French in heart and mind, has consistently trained
for his great position.  Nothing has been too great a sacrifice to
secure the victory. To railwaymen, who came to thank him for his praise
of them in the mobilisation, he said: "I work for the salvation of
France and then I shall disappear."  Just as he knows the character of
the men under him, he knows the value of his own services to France and
throws both into the balance at moments when every gramme of weight is
of consequence.  He seems able to communicate his own confidence and
calm to others—he, so uncommunicative with his low voice, his gentle and
pensive manner.  Evidently, in this preparation of the soul for combat
he must shut out the distressing sights and sounds of battle.  He must
not think of devastated homesteads and ruined villages, he must not
think of widowed women and weeping children, nor, as he goes along the
line of yesterday’s battle, must he think of what lies there, of the
ghostly army that is still presenting arms to him.  All these things he
must banish from his mind, in the hardening processes of a great
decision—this man who has never given a contrary order.  And yet _Joffre
l’humain_ is as just a title as any which honour him, for it expresses
his natural kindness and desire to save life.  And a Socialist professor
wrote, in an organ of his political faith, that if, after the war, a
monument was erected to the great General, no mother need turn her head
away from it. Joffre was touched when he read the phrase, for he is as
proud of his humanity as of those purely military virtues, which have
gone to his preparation.

                              *CHAPTER VI*

                           *JOFFRE IN ACTION*

Fléchier’s panegyric of Turenne might have been written for Joffre, for
it expresses his traits with a curious exactitude.  Said the eloquent
Bishop of Nîmes of the Marshal: "He was accustomed to fight without
anger, to conquer without ambition, to triumph without vanity....
Bolder to act than speak, resolute and determined within when apparently
embarrassed, there was never a man wiser or more prudent, who conducted
war with greater order and judgment, who had more precautions and more
resources, who was more active and more reserved, who better managed
things for his ends and who showed more patience in allowing his
enterprises to mature. He took measures that were almost infallible,
divining not only what the enemy had done, but what he planned to do; he
could be unsuccessful but he was never surprised.  And, finally, this
system was the source of many successful gains.  It kept alive that
union of the soldiers with their chief which renders an army invincible;
and it spread amongst the troops a spirit of energy, of courage and
confidence, which enables them to suffer everything."

There is no feature of this admirable portrait which does not fit the
man.  Joffre belongs to the same noble line and recommences, it has been
said, the same victory on the same theatre with new forms. The history
of Alsace will enshrine the two names, for both captains fought there
with skill and courage. Turenne’s defence of the province occurred
almost two hundred years before its cession to Germany as part of the
spoils of the victors.  If, like other men, Joffre has faults he has
also the qualities of greatness. He possesses strength of soul and
knowledge formed by study and reflection, and is yet without pedantry.
He does not allow himself to be guided by sudden flashes of inspiration,
nor does he invent new methods; he prefers a solid system, founded on
poise of mind and body and reinforced by calm and consistent attention.
Thus he brings to his task a clear and even temperament and a profound
and searching judgment.  Possessing, perhaps, more character than
personality, he has less imagination than clairvoyance and mental
vigour, and the fact is an assurance to those he commands.  He has the
temper to succeed, and is a constant traveller by that road.  Slowly his
career has unfolded itself, and, at each stage, his nature has deepened
and his love of country assumed a warmer tone.

Not a gay and debonair officer, born with title and fortune, he is the
son of a working man, who has planned his own career and risen by merit
to the top. I do not propose to catalogue Joffre’s virtues, or to offer
an estimate of his strategy—that must be left to other pens, equipped
with the knowledge that staff histories bring, but his career possesses
contours that, in their flowing curves, express the beauty and harmony
of his life.  A "masterpiece of will power and equilibrium," he has
known how to inspire the devotion of his soldiers, and this is not the
least of his claims.  His ability to extract to the utmost the
allegiance of those who serve and to make appeal to their secret
sympathies is one of his most precious talents.  His character,
laborious and unobtrusive, free from ambition, solicitous for the common
welfare, has given him an irresistible hold upon hearts, so that men’s
hands stretch out at the moment of action and he is surrounded and
enveloped by an atmosphere of good-will incalculably precious for
concerted action.  And the women, who Joffre says, are sublime, give him
stoically their husbands and sons, rivalling in courage those who lay
down their lives. And Joffre, by a mysterious predestination, became the
instrument of that sacrifice, limitless during the war.  And he never
called in vain, for, at his first demand, up rose valiant youth ready
and joyous to die for the sweet sake of France.  He seems to have the
art of communicating that secret vibration of the soul, which moves
crowds, without so much as opening his lips.  It is a southern gift,
belonging to the sunny lands where life runs richly and deeply.  And for
this reason, perhaps, the south has become the region of great generals.
By their inventions and manoeuvres they express that species of brimming
talent which turns some into poets and plastic workers, others into men
of action, statesmen, or charmers of the public ear upon stage and
platform.  His even temper that takes no umbrage at rival reputations,
that seeks in everything only the good of the cause and its strict
utility, is the right armour for the martial figure.  His silence, like
his calm, has its positive and its negative side.  It does not spring
from lack of thought, but from seriousness and contemplation, just as
the other is a proof not of insensibility, but of a considered system of
control. Nor is his unshakable determination the sign of obstinacy or a
purblind view, but a bright weapon forged in the recesses of the heart
as a defence against adversity and as the ready instrument of
achievement. Rarely has a man by such simple means, with no eloquence or
artifice, with no advertisement, pose, or pretension, reached such a
pinnacle of authority at once subtle and conceded and giving confidence
to every one.

When President Poincaré presented the Generalissimo with the highest
military reward—the Military Medal—he drew a living portrait of the man:
"You have shown in the conduct of your armies qualities which were not
for an instant belied, a spirit of organisation and order and method, of
which the beneficent effects were extended from strategy to tactics; a
cold and prudent wisdom, which knows how to guard against the
unexpected; strength of mind that nothing can shake; a serenity of which
the salutary example spreads abroad confidence and hope."

His popularity is as great a factor in his success as his science and
military skill.  It is born of acts of consideration which, in the
opening phases of the war, came to the common knowledge and gave him an
immense hold over his men.  This or that journal recorded incidents
which showed his kindness and humanity.  He stayed awhile on his way to
the Front to talk to a wounded "poilu," to ask him about his services,
his health, and his family; and a poor woman, who had written to him
begging that her son might be placed in a less exposed position, for she
had lost three since the war began and this one was her sole support,
received from Joffre the reply that she had done enough for the country
and could have back the lad.  A dozen instances of the sort, repeated
here and there, created such an atmosphere of good-will that allegiance
was created in advance, and Joffre swayed his army by sheer affection.

The soldier, in the light of Joffre’s humanity, understood delay; he
became reconciled to the monotony of trench life, for a forward move, he
knew, would cost limitless lives.  No, it was better for the war to drag
on at this slow game of "nibbling" the enemy than to allow a generation
of young lives to be offered to the insatiable god.  France could not
afford to be lavish with the blood of her children, since the future of
the race was as paramount as the fortune of the war.

There were some who said that Joffre’s cautiousness was overdone; that
the war would have been quickened had he shown greater initiative and
greater energy in seizing more sharply the occasions for an offensive.
The elements for such a judgment are wanting to us all, but at least
this parsimony of life earned him the sublime confidence and esteem of
his troops, as completely as his fearlessness in disciplining those who
failed in the higher command.  The fact that he was impartial, that he
was ready, if need be, to chastise his friends, produced a feeling of
security invaluable in such a case.  The whole country felt that here
was a man for whom France had been looking, imbued with a sense of
justice, who stood fast to principles, and feared not to apply them.
And in valour, as Emerson has said, is always safety. When the army
heard that a hundred and fifty Generals had been placed _en
disponibilité_, because of failure in the field, then it realised that
Joffre would brook no obstacle to his success.

In a famous interview which he gave to the editor of a provincial
newspaper—a lifelong friend—Joffre declared that Charleroi was lost
largely owing to the failure of the Generals engaged in it.  It was not
so much a question of effectives, he insisted, as inferiority in the
higher command.  "Long before the war, I saw that a great number of our
Generals were fatigued; certain seemed unfitted for their duty and below
its requirements.  I had the intention to rejuvenate the higher command,
but the war came too soon.  And there were others in whom I had
confidence who justified it, but imperfectly."  Energy must go with
knowledge and experience, he insisted. "Some were my best friends; but
if I am fond of my friends, I am still fonder of France."  The words
have become linked with Joffre, and so closely represent him that they
deserve to be graven on the monument that must one day be his when he
has laid aside his sword.

It was this implacable search for efficiency that gave Joffre such
pre-eminence in the army.  Yet he is scarcely the type to appeal to the
romantic side of popularity.  He is rarely represented on horseback, he
waves no sword, in figure he looks like a comfortable farmer rather than
the traditional soldier; he spends long hours at an office table, and is
suspected of moving armies through a telephone.  But his
appearance—sound, robust, suggestive of common sense—accords with his
manner and his methods on campaign.  His life in the midst of the terror
and tumult of war is as simple as his routine at the Ministry in times
of peace.  There was no fuss or parade about Headquarters, even in the
most acute phases of the conflict.  Everything passed as calmly as if a
simple game were being played with counters engaged, instead of
thousands of human lives.  Joffre directed the huge machine from a bare
room furnished with a common deal table, a map or two, a black board,
and three cane-bottomed chairs.  The privileged visitor who saw him for
a few moments found himself faced by a man with the dark undress uniform
of the Engineers, with no decorations upon the jacket save the three
stars on the sleeve which marked his rank. His conversation, unless the
moment warranted expansion, was scarcely more than monosyllabic.  A
simple "yes," or "no," sufficed; why waste time, when moments were
precious?  And you went from the room conscious of having met a great
personage, impressive by silence, masterful by the flash of keen but
kindly blue eyes, from beneath protruding eyebrows. In a neighbouring
room was a low murmur of voices on the telephone—officers talking to the
Front or receiving news therefrom—and above their heads a mast carrying
wires stretched into space tingling perpetually with live whispers of
battles, and armies in movement.

This was the nerve centre of the army: a plain building, commodious,
simple, effective, strictly utilitarian.  Here a large force of officers
and assistants did the bidding of the chief; here every morning, and
again in the late afternoon, conferences were held between the
Generalissimo and his staff.  The inner council consisted of three
brilliant specialists in strategy, gunnery, and transport.  With these
he concerted the common measures of the day, the preparation to deliver
or parry attacks.  When large and general problems were afoot others of
the Etat-Major were called in; or, it may be that a meeting of
representatives of the Allies, over which he presided with great
authority, called for his wisdom and perspicacity.  But each day passed
with great regularity. Joffre lived in an unpretentious villa near his
Headquarters, which changed according to the exigencies of his work.
After his breakfast, over which he wasted no time, he went afoot to his
office, saluted on the way by soldiers and civilians.  To the former he
would say: "Bon jour, mon brave!" to the latter, he would vary the
address to: "Bon jour, mon ami!"  Children are attracted by him, and
raise their caps or curtsey to gain a smile.  Sometimes a little boy
preceded him shouting, to Joffre’s infinite amusement: "Vive notre
Général!"  Thus greeted as a symbol of united France, as the redeemer of
the country, Joffre passed into his Headquarters and was soon plunged in
the problem that absorbed him every hour.  Whilst he slept that calm
sleep of his, wires had flashed with news of victory or defeat or with
the common incidents of the Front.  "If it is good news, it will keep
until the morning," said Joffre when recommending his officers to
respect his rest; "if the news is bad, you know what to do; everything
has been prepared."  In this way he gained a full night’s repose,
whatever the happenings between the parallel lines of combatants, or in
the savage thrust of midnight raids and assaults.  And he slept on
calmly keeping fresh his energies for the morrow.

And now, when he enters his office, his first duty is to call for the
reports of the night.  These he studies closely, and they are then
classified according to the armies to which they belong, in cardboard
covers of different colours.  Thereupon takes place the conference to
which I have alluded; and then Joffre, having finished his morning’s
work at a time when most men are beginning it, goes out upon a long and
solitary tramp through the countryside.  He gives himself freely to his
meditations, knowing that none of the inhabitants, whom he crosses on
his path, will dare to disturb him.  Either he thinks of a knotty
question presented by some new move of the enemy, or his mind fashions
one of those electrifying Orders of the Day which have become
world-famous.  "The time for looking back has ceased ... die rather than
yield ground."  That order, given on the eve of the battle of the Marne,
has become as celebrated as Nelson’s signal.  Like most men who keep
their thoughts rigidly to themselves, his occasional utterances are full
of a strange force.  And Joffre’s Orders of the Day have reached a high
order of eloquence and exalted passion.

The events of the day may call Joffre to the Front, whither he goes in a
fast motor-car.  On the way he will lunch at a village _auberge_ and
scandalises the proprietor, who has prepared, perhaps, a royal feast—if
he knew in advance the honour to be done him—by the plainness of his
fare.  A simple omelette, a little fruit and cheese for a Generalissimo!
Boniface is _bouleversé_!  It is incredible!  With pious industry a
journalist compiled Joffre’s menus during the battle of the Marne.  They
were the simple meals of any bourgeois; a plate of roast meat, preceded
by soup or _hors d’oeuvre_ and followed by vegetables and fruit,
constituted the repast.  Notwithstanding this sobriety, the General does
not disdain the pleasures of the table; like every good Southerner, he
is something of a _gourmet_, but on campaign he exercises a rigid

The same disregard for personal discomfort pervades all his
arrangements.  When the battle of the Marne raged, the proprietor of a
château at Bar-le-Duc, whence Joffre directed operations, placed his
house at the Commander-in-Chief’s disposal.  Joffre gave the finest
rooms of the house, overlooking a calm and beautiful garden, to the
officers of his suite; he himself, took a front room facing the
Boulevard, and subject, of course, to the street noises; he thinks
nothing of these things.  His dinner at eight o’clock, after the day’s
work—for he resumes touch with the details of Headquarters towards the
end of the afternoon—is just as simple as the lunch, and Joffre never
varies from this strict _régime_.  Thanks to its regularity, he is able
to sustain, without physical change or faltering, the heavy burden of
his rôle.

Joffre belongs to the African school of soldier, against whom is
reproached an impetuous bravery without science or system, and only
possible against an enemy untrained, ill-equipped, and ignorant of
tactics.  It was thought that men were unfitted to fight against a
civilised enemy after their contact with the rude warriors of the desert
and jungle; but by a curious coincidence, Joffre, Galliéni, Marchand,
Gouraud, and Bailloud (Sarrail’s lieutenant in his retreat through
Macedonia), all learned their business of soldiering in the waste places
of the earth, in overcoming the obstacles of rebellious Nature or the
treachery of tribes.  But Joffre has shown, as others have shown, that
this contact with difficulties brings out the man and educates,
strengthens, and vitalises him.  Often the faults of others have been
placed on the broad back of the Generalissimo.  He has been accused of
ignoring the German intentions to invade France through Belgium.  What
was his Intelligence Department doing that they did not know?  But
Joffre and his staff were well aware of the plan, and they knew also the
different stages of the march.  But what they had not reckoned upon was
the rapid fall of the forts of Liège and Namur before the heavy guns of
the invaders.  That the Germans possessed siege artillery was a matter
of common knowledge in France; but alas! to meet it was involved a large
expenditure which Parliament would not sanction.  That is the reason of
it.  "Cherchez la politique" is the answer to the shortage in heavy
ordnance and in armoured aeroplanes.

It would take too long to tabulate the various attempts to extort money
from Deputies for the national defence.  But though the attenuated
credits cannot be laid to the charge of the General Staff, it is true
that experts were divided on the use that could be made of the heavy
siege-pieces which the Germans thrust into battle.  Such cumbersome
weapons would prove white elephants said some in authority, and
protested that they could not "hold" the infantry. However that may be,
Joffre was faced with the difficulty that the Germans, instead of
entering France by the eastern gate, where forts and "cover" combined to
make the task supremely difficult, chose the easier road by Belgium and
through the Luxembourg.  Yet it was obviously impossible to tell by
which route the enemy would enter.  Joffre was forced to watch them all,
to secure contact at each point, to feel the enemy, and then retreat
towards his reserves.  This, indeed, was the plan more or less
successfully carried out.  But the fact that Belgium was the main path
of the invasion caused a rapid transposition of forces at the last
moment, for the bulk of the army had to swing from the east to the
north, and the process took time.  Here, again, the Germans were at an
advantage, for they had systematically built railways to the edge of the
Luxembourg and in Alsace-Lorraine, so that their mobilisation was
startlingly rapid.

Joffre was certainly unprepared for the speed with which the enemy
brought into play his reserves. This was due to the cunning use which he
made of his strategic railways, but also to a perfidious advance in the
date of mobilisation.  The army was already on a war footing when France
had begun her work of assembling troops.  And so Joffre was handicapped
by many things, by lack of rapid railway transit, of heavy cannon and of
the minute preparation and prevision which extended to the years
preceding his appointment.  Germany had prepared for war whilst France
was thinking of peace and dreaming of progress in art and letters and
general culture, anticipating a universal brotherhood, pathetically
chimerical in the face of the armaments across the Rhine. Politics were
greatly responsible for the inferiority of France in the opening weeks
of the war.  The troops assembled on the Franco-Belgian frontier had not
at once the value of the invading force.  They were wanting in numbers,
in the perfection of their equipment and in the intensity of their
training. Though Joffre had justly condemned incompetence in high
places, it is also true that France was overweighted by the masses of a
highly trained enemy which placed all its reliance upon the strength and
rapidity of the first blow.

The Socialist doctrine would have substituted popular _élan_ and the
fierce revolutionary spirit for what it held to be the sterile stupidity
of a long and intensive military preparation.  And again, the Socialist
movement in Germany proved a snare and delusion to many of the faith in
France.  Was it possible that war could come when millions of the masses
in each nation were vowed to peace?  The nation was deceived—perhaps it
wanted to be deceived.  In any case, it was much more interesting to
concentrate upon human progress, to let the mind dwell upon the
delightful prospect of the millennium, when there will be no more war,
and when an era of peace and tranquillity and of mutual co-operation
will have been ushered in, than to linger upon a picture of militarism
bound up with cannon and its human food.

The French General Staff apparently thought that the German attack would
come from the two frontiers and would seek to envelop the French Army in
its tentacles, and thus conclude with one swift, tremendous blow a
campaign more disastrous than that of 1870.  It seems clear, also, that
M. Barthou’s success in carrying the Three-Years Law was an important
factor in the resolution of Germany to invade France by Belgium rather
than by the East.  The new legislation had given great strength to the
"cover," and thus there was little chance of passing that way. Probably
had Germany attacked France by the East, England would never have been
brought in and her rôle would have been confined to protecting the
French coasts by her fleet.  Thus, M. Barthou might properly contend
that the mere fact that the Three-Years Law was voted determined the
action of Germany and enlisted the support of England.

We have shown that Joffre by his system of making war and his qualities
of heart and head is the ideal democratic chief.  Obviously, there is
little of the Napoleonic temper in his strategy, which is made up of
prudent vigour and discernment rather than of brilliancy or spontaneity.
Some urge that Joffre should have made his stand upon the Aisne rather
than upon the Marne, since the latter line was better defended by
Nature, but his reserves were not sufficiently accessible.  In any case,
conditions have altered since Napoleon’s day, and even the Corsican’s
great faculty of improvisation scarcely would have found scope in
twentieth-century conditions.  None the less, Joffre’s dispositions at
the battle of the Marne, when he drew the enemy to his own battle-ground
and supported his line at each end with the forts of Paris and of the
East were strictly in the style of the Master. And by his very victory
he proved the martial qualities of the French, since with the aid of the
English they administered a sharp repulse to an enemy flushed with
success and organised and equipped in a manner superior to the Home
forces.  Until the story is disproved, I shall continue to think that
the battle of the Marne would have been definitive and the enemy driven
from the soil of France had Joffre possessed an adequate supply of

We have taken the Generalissimo to the edge of the great battle: let us
now give a few particulars of his chief collaborator.

                             *CHAPTER VII*

                        *THE SECOND IN COMMAND*

If ever Nancy is minded to raise a statue in its beautiful Place
Stanislas to a battle-hero it will be surely to Noel-Marie Edouard
Curières de Castelnau, for to him is due the existence of the city.
During three tremendous weeks its fate hung in the balance—weeks in
which Joffre was developing the final phases of his retreat and then
delivering battle on the Marne. With flank and rear defended from the
immense army that de Castelnau and Dubail prevented from passing the gap
of Nancy, the master strategist was enabled to win.  Nancy lies in the
plain; it can be never defended, people said, and, therefore, it was to
be left an open town.  Did not the Treaty of Frankfort forbid the
placing of cannon which would command German soil?  Be that as it may,
the doubters had forgotten le Grand Couronné, a series of wooded heights
and steep plateaux, which marked the junction of Meurthe with Moselle
and interposed a rugged barrier between the old Lorraine capital and the
frontier.  Here, with a forethought unusual in a country where so little
had been prepared, trenches had been dug; and when de Castelnau was
forced to retreat from the annexed province before an impassable barrier
of artillery, he raised earthworks, installed barbed wire entanglements
and brought heavy guns from Toul.  It was the turn of the Germans to be
surprised.  With three attenuated army corps and four or five divisions
of reserve, de Castelnau kept at bay an immense force of the enemy which
battered savagely at the gates.

How gaily the army marched out to the reconquest of annexed Lorraine and
to occupy the Germans whilst the English landed in Belgium.  It was a
force thoroughly representative of France, for it was recruited from all
parts.  There were reservists from Bordeaux, from Marseilles, from
Montpellier and from the West, but the heart of the crusade was the
famous 20th Army Corps from Nancy—Lorrainers to a man—who had inherited
the memory of the _année terrible_.  With a gesture that expressed
eloquently their spirit, they knocked over the frontier posts as they
sang the _Marseillaise_ with the strenuous accent of the soldier
engaging in a holy war.  Great was their first enthusiasm, but great,
also, their disappointment, for none met them in the streets; no hand
flung flowers to them; no voice cried in gladness: "Vive l’Armée!  Vive
la France!"  The silence was sinister, scarcely broken by the dull
reverberation of distant cannon bombarding Pont-à-Mousson.  It took them
a little time to realise that the masters of the soil, fearing a
demonstration, had threatened the inhabitants with its consequences. The
silence and the gloom were fully explained.

For two days the army marched into the old land of France without
meeting serious opposition.  Then the presence of strong outposts
betokened the enemy. Dubail’s army operating to the south strove to
enter more deeply into German territory through Sarreburg; de Castelnau
took the northern route through Delme and Morhange.  Both were met by a
tremendous opposition.  The battle line stretched in rough crescent form
through the three places I have named, Dubail’s left wing being in
contact with de Castelnau’s right.  The Germans had secretly organised a
vast system of defence in which gun positions were established and
distances marked.  The trenches existed for miles and had been furnished
with innumerable machine-guns and heavy mortars, the possession of which
was now revealed for the first time.  The battle was joined, therefore,
in disadvantageous conditions for the French.  Every ruse known in
warfare was employed by the foe.  It decked the trenches with dummies
and led on the assailants to their doom, for mitrailleuses were posted
behind the lay figures. Regiments lost more than half their effectives.
An early victim was Lieutenant Xavier de Castelnau, one of the General’s
sons, who fell whilst leading his men of the 4th Battalion of Chasseurs
to a counter-attack.  He was mentioned for gallantry in the Orders of
the Day.

The French soon discovered that the forces opposing them were no mere
"cover" troops, but the Bavarian Army under its Crown Prince, an army
under Von Heeringen and a strong detachment from Von Deimling’s command.
Forced to retreat, de Castelnau fell back ten miles to the Grand
Couronné, which he fortified in the way I have described.  Dubail, who
had begun well with successes in the Vosges, was unable to maintain his
position on the Sarre and fell back, also.  His troops, especially the
21st Corps, behaved with great gallantry and only left Sarreburg under
express orders, and then with colours flying and the band playing the
_Marche Lorraine_.  Though he delivered many attacks upon the enemy, he
was forced to reform behind the Meurthe, and finally took up a position
at Lunéville and in the fork between the stream just mentioned and the

The attack on the Grand Couronné was particularly severe.  Wave after
wave of the enemy threw itself against the works held by de Castelnau’s
troops, who, though exhausted by a week’s continuous marching and
fighting, showed an unbreakable spirit.  And there were brought to the
attack, besides the armies I have mentioned, four new Corps composed of
seventeen brigades of Ersatz, so that the hostile forces numbered nearly
half-a-million men.  The assailants were encouraged not merely by their
numerical superiority—Dubail’s army was about 150,000—but by their
success in Lorraine, which had been hailed by their countrymen as a
great victory. Furthermore, they were under the eye of the Emperor and a
brilliant staff, who were watching them from the hill of Eply, to the
north of the Couronné.  The Kaiser’s dramatic sense had been awakened by
the thought of a triumphal entry into Nancy, the ancient capital of
Lorraine.  He realised what it would mean in the Fatherland, and that,
from a military point, it would signify that a breach had been made in
the defences of France.  Alas, for human hopes!  The walls of Jericho
refused to fall to the trumpet’s brazen call; and the Kaiser, after
waiting in vain for a victory, departed sombre and silent for other

The Germans tried every imaginable means to break through, and bloody
were the struggles on hill-tops and in the woods of the region.  A
regiment, suddenly debouching from a forest, was mown down within a few
yards of the French trenches, and a division, marching to the attack
with drums and fifes playing, met with a similar fate.  The Forest of
Vitremont, near Lunéville, was filled with the bodies of Germans,
computed to number 4500.  Vigorous counter-attacks by de Castelnau from
north to south, and by Dubail from west to east, finally held the enemy
in check, and this uneasy equilibrium lasted for a fortnight—the
tremendous fortnight in which Joffre saved Paris and sent the Germans
flying to the north. At that moment, the eastern frontier from Nancy to
the Vosges was free of the enemy; but at what a cost!  Thousands had
been lost on either side and villages had been burned and civilians
assassinated by the Germans in pursuance of their studied policy of

De Castelnau’s brilliant tactics brought him renown and the direction of
the 2nd Army on the Compiègne-Arras line.  Along this Front rising
rectangularly from the Aisne to the north, occurred those terrific
battles, which marked the historic "race to the sea."  Smarting from
their defeat on the Marne, the Germans sought to turn the Allies’ left;
Joffre had a similar idea in wishing to envelop the enemy’s right.  The
resultant contest was the _course à la mer_.  But the forces given to de
Castelnau were inadequate for the purpose, and de Maud’huy’s army was
added to the line now creeping forward like a gigantic snake to the sea.
But before the Germans tried to pierce at Lens and Arras, they assailed
the lower line held by de Castelnau, and the angle formed by Aisne and
Oise proved a particularly warm corner.  In that late September and
early October, de Castelnau lost as many men as in Lorraine, and the
battles, if less renowned, were as fiercely fought as those to the north
of Arras on the Yser and at Ypres.

The Germans in extending their lines realised that if they could reach
Dunkirk and Calais they would not only cut England’s communications, but
point a pistol at her heart.  And so they brought up army after army
until the line stretched in a solid trunk of trenches with branches
towards the sea, and 800,000 Germans (eighteen Army Corps and four
Cavalry Corps) made persistent efforts to break through the Allies or
envelop them.  To defeat this plan, Joffre formed three new armies, of
which de Castelnau’s was one, and brought up the English from the Aisne,
and the Belgians from Antwerp.  The situation was often critical, for de
Castelnau, like the other commanders, lacked ammunition.  But his gift
of prevision and his infinite resource saved the day.  Eventually, the
chief fighting was transferred to the northern part of the line, but de
Castelnau’s early resistance had rendered the greatest service.  And so
Joffre thought, for de Castelnau was given dominion over four armies
from Soissons to Verdun, the longest front in the possession of a single
commander, though Foch and Dubail were also given groups of armies.  His
tenure of the line was distinguished for the great offensive in
Champagne, whereby 23,000 prisoners and 120 guns were captured by the
French, and 3,000 prisoners and 25 guns by the English in Artois.  That
latter feat will be ever remembered for the house-to-house fighting in
Loos and for the brilliant capture of Hill 70.

The General’s vigour of body is as remarkable as his vigour of mind.  He
seems never to tire.  In the Great War he took no particular care of his
health, going to bed late and rising early with apparent impunity.  Nor
did he follow any system of diet, eating heartily with a Southerner’s
appreciation of a good table.  An excellent horseman, the Great War left
him little time for equestrian exercise.  When commanding on the Somme
he had horses at headquarters at Amiens, but he rode only once in seven
or eight months.  Like his chief he walked a good deal, not merely for
exercise, but to get into direct touch with the troops.  He believes in
the closest relations between the leader and the led.  He likes to
recall the names and records of his officers and to ascertain the
thoughts and sentiments of the men.  His inspections behind the lines
were no perfunctory affairs, but real examinations into moral and
_matériel_. No detail of the kits escaped him, and he questioned
soldiers as if searching consciences.  Officers in his command have told
me that his parades lasted a couple of hours or more.  He never lost an
opportunity of becoming acquainted with the elements of his armies.  As
he journeyed to the Front he would spring from his car to compliment a
colonel on the appearance of his regiment, or turn aside to visit a
hospital and comfort the inmates with cheery words.  He is a believer in
moral suasion and the uplift of words. Men going into battle look to him
for encouragement, and never in vain.  Officers in charge of them
interrogate his personal staff: "What does the General say?  Does he
think we can win?"  And upon the answer, which is certain to be positive
and stimulating, depends their demeanour in the fight.  There is
something in the look of this soldier of the old school, courteous and
chivalrous, with character, resolution, and intelligence, written in the
high-coloured features, framed by the white hair that bespeak courage,
health and confidence, and instil in others the bravery and sacrifice
that are dominant in himself.  This influence is heightened by the
knowledge that he has himself suffered in his intimate affections.  When
the death of Gerald, his second son, occurred on the Marne—he was buried
at Vitry-le-François—de Castelnau was engaged in a Council of War on the
Eastern Front. The news was brought to him as he deliberated with his
commanders on the plan of battle.  After a painful moment he said with
stoic calm, "Gentlemen, let us continue."  And he bore with equal
fortitude the news that another son had been wounded and taken prisoner
at Arras.

Such calmness and composure spring from the deep conviction that all is
for the best.  Doubtless, there was something of predestination in the
fact that he was baptized Noel-Marie, in allusion to the date of his
birth, Christmas Eve.  To his Catholic parents it was a sign and a
symbol.  His early training at a Jesuit College, before he entered St.
Cyr, confirmed him in his principles, and he is of those who have
practised always their faith.  He attends Mass everyday, and when going
to the Front at night he arouses a priest to take the Sacrament.  He was
the first to insist upon the attendance of chaplains with the forces.
To his credit he has never concealed his faith, though there were times
in the history of the Third Republic when it might have been politic to
do so.  Perhaps this sturdiness in his profession accounts for the
slowness of his promotion.  It began, however, with a rush—Captain at
nineteen, in charge of a company in the Loire Army under General Davout,
a grandson of Napoleon’s famous Marshal; but he stayed long years
working steadily but inconspicuously on the staff.  The tide turned
rapidly when he again commanded troops, and his quality was seen at
once.  For six years he was Colonel of the 37th Regiment of Infantry at
Nancy (Turenne’s old command), and here he obtained that deep knowledge
of the country which stood him in such stead ten years later.  He did
not get his General’s stars until 1906, and then commanded troops at
Soissons, Sédan, and Chambrun. He distinguished himself in grand
manoeuvres in the Bourbonnais, under the eye of General Tremeau,
president of the War Council and the designated Commander-in-Chief under
the old system.  The new system, inaugurated by Joffre, brought him into
close contact with the Generalissimo, whose Chief-of-Staff he became and
collaborator in framing the Three-Years Law, then being passed by the
Legislature. The same year he went to England to attend the Manoeuvres
and afterwards conferred with the military chiefs; and a mission took
him to Russia, where he discussed the lines of eventual co-operation.

Of an old Southern family, the General was born (in 1851) at St.
Affrique in the Aveyron, the old Rouergue which came to the French Crown
under Henri IV.  He likes to speak the _patois_ with soldiers from the
district, but he is not democratic in the French sense of the word,
though familiar in his dealings with the ranks and solicitous for their
welfare. But he is exacting where discipline is concerned, and not only
gives orders but sees that they are executed. His staff as well as his
regimental officers respect his strenuous temper.  His family is noted
for intellectual distinction.  Some of his brothers, as well as his
sons, were at the Polytechnique, the famous mathematical school.  He,
himself, is both classical and mathematical.  If he has little English
and less German, and his pronunciation of English place-names amuses his
Anglo-Saxon friends, he is a brilliant classic, and jokes in Latin, when
the mood takes, with his staff. Nevertheless he is thoroughly modern in
his appreciation of science and gives a chance to any likely inventor.
Manufacturers are numbered amongst his family, and the largest coal-mine
in the south belongs to it.  His father, however, was a jurist and a
friend of the economist, Le Play.

The General’s vigour comes from the natural energy of his mind.  In his
boyhood there were few sports in France, but he likes to tell his
intimates that he played a sort of football, with an inflated ball, in
his _lycée_ in the mountains.  His youngest son is a well-known champion
of the Rugby game.  Of his six sons, each went to the war.  Three were
already in the Army, one was at school, another in the Navy, and a third
an engineer.  The record is a tribute to the patriotism—no uncommon
trait—of provincial France.  And there are those who, ignorant of the
austerity of her Catholic families, declared that France was decadent!
Of the General’s six daughters—for Providence has blessed him with a
full quiver—one has had her arm amputated, having been infected with
gangrene whilst nursing in a hospital.  Such courage and devotion are
well exemplified in the mother, who heard of her son’s death whilst
attending the little church where it is her habit to go daily.  "Which
one?" she asked, almost inaudibly of the _curé_, as she saw by his look
of tenderness, that he had bad news to communicate.  She thought of her
husband, and of her sons at the Front, and when the name was pronounced,
with a soft sigh of resignation she bowed her silvery head a little
lower over the breviary, and proceeded with outward tranquillity, though
with a torn heart, to receive the consolation of her religion.

The man whom I have summarily sketched was invested by Joffre with the
dignity of his Chief-of-Staff and the title of Major-General.  The
life-long friend became the chief aid in his deliberations, and the
virtual leader on the Western Front, leaving to the highest in command
the larger issues of a world-wide campaign.  Even in Republican France
there is thus place for the _croyant_ and the aristocrat, as the names
of Delangle de Gary, de Maud’huy, and D’Urbal show.

                             *CHAPTER VIII*


One of the many surprises of the war was the vast place given to
munitions.  Not even the most careful calculator had foreseen the
enormous consumption of war _matériel_ that would result from a long
continuance of trench warfare.  The Germans had reckoned on an
expenditure of 35,000 shells a day, and the French on about half that;
the actual consumption was often 100,000 shells on each side.

Both French and German had based their figures on a rapid war, and, had
the invaders’ plans been realised, Paris would have been occupied and
the French opposition paralysed in a fortnight.  But this was reckoning
without Joffre, without England, and without "General Chance," one of
the most important factors in any war.  Ammunition, by reason of its
vast rôle, became as engrossing and as vitally important as the actual
fighting.  For it soon became apparent that in this war of _matériel_ he
would win who could most quickly assemble the largest quantity of guns
and shot and shell.  The Germans began with an immense advantage, for
they had accumulated secretly a mass of machine-guns estimated at
50,000, leaving the Allies hopelessly in the rear in this respect. But
even their perverse intelligence did not fully grasp the logical outcome
of their own preparations, or foresee that, their first plan having
failed, they would be caught inevitably in their own toils.

To the eternal credit of the French, they realised with great rapidity
the character of the war, and set themselves with methodical speed to
adapt themselves to its unexpected features.  Factories sprang up all
over the country, some created out of boards and bricks; others
existing, but "controlled" in the English sense, with Army officers
assisting the civilian directors; and a vast business of production was
ordered and marshalled as if the French had never done anything else in
their lives.  At one bound, they developed into a manufacturing nation,
though the term would have been refused them, in the long yesterday of
the war, by England, the United States, and Germany.  Their faculty for
seeing clearly and acting quickly, so apparent in their history, again
came to their aid.  It was their distinguishing mark during the Great
Revolution.  Having seized the essentials of the problem, they acted
upon their insight with startling rapidity and resolution.  Of course
they committed excesses of a dreadful kind, but their excuse was the
gigantic character of the evil which they sought to remedy.  Much the
same spirit of swift determination, happily without its fearful
manifestations, came upon the French people, and with all the old
Republican ardour they set themselves, with a sort of grim alacrity, to
face the crisis. The old stern common sense, which has always lain at
the bottom of apparent volatility, again came to their rescue; and in no
way did the French show a greater grasp of the situation than in their
handling of munitions.

It had been supposed that they were wanting in order and method, and
that their dramatic achievements were due to the impulse of the moment.
But, even if this were ever wholly true, it was certainly not true of
the second great struggle with Germany. The magnificent effort of France
was the outcome, not of improvisation, but of the will to conquer and to
adopt the proper means to secure that end.  Nor was a Press campaign
necessary, as in England, to bring home to the people the peculiar
importance of war-work in the factories.  It is true that M. Albert
Thomas, who took charge of Munitions in the circumstances which I shall
describe, made speeches to factory workers in his visits of inspection,
but it was never necessary to wrestle with labour and cause it to
abrogate its proud pretensions, months after the war had broken out.
Conscription would have settled that question even if a vivid sense of
realities had not rendered unnecessary any exhortation from Ministerial
lips.  The vital character of the war had penetrated to every
intelligence; it had not stopped half-way through the social strata, as
appeared to be the case in England.  And the disposition of the working
man in England towards conscription was only intelligible on the
assumption that he did not understand.  In France, the war was too
deadly real, too close at hand for any to affect an attitude of
light-hearted detachment.

The fact that men in the factories like those on the railways, were
mobilised, simplified matters a great deal.  A man could not desist from
his labour on the pretext of claiming higher pay without running the
risk of being treated as a deserter—a thing unthinkable in time of war.
His duty, then was the soldier’s—to remain where he was until relieved
by order.  "We have had no strike since the war began."  How well I
recall the pride with which those words were uttered by a functionary at
the Ministry of Munitions.  If it spoke well for the patriotism of the
working-class, it spoke equally well for conscription as a scientific
basis for waging war. For it had cast its net over the whole nation, and
by its means the munitions worker took his place in the factory as did
the combatant in the trench. But there were certain complications which
arose, none the less, in practice.  If there was no disturbance of the
labour market to exercise the conciliatory powers of the Minister,
production did not yet reach its maximum until long after the war had
broken out. This was due to the unexampled demand made on munitions and
to the logical completeness of conscription.  It required many months to
adjust a plan whereby the skilled worker was placed in his rightful
position in the factory, whilst those who had wrongly usurped his name
and functions were sent to the trenches.  The most unlikely people had
described themselves as mechanics; and one found lawyers, sculptors,
school-teachers, painters, writers and a host of semi-professional
people masquerading as munition-workers.  On the other hand, numbers of
highly trained specialists, some distinguished chemists and engineers,
had to be extricated from the trenches to take up their natural
positions in the factories, in the interests of national defence.  This
_chassé-croissé_, inevitable in such a country as France, where
Government must be based upon equality, took some time to effect.
Indeed, the chief duty of the publicist during the second year of the
war seemed to be to urge an equitable and intelligent application of the
Dalbiez law, which was aimed expressly at the shirker.

Nor did private patronage and political "pull" wholly disappear, even in
the stringent atmosphere of a national crisis.  This was, perhaps, to
expect too much of human nature.  And so the Minister of Munitions
constantly received recommendations for factory employment from persons
whose intervention it was hard to resist.  On the one hand, the Minister
was asked by important deputies to bring back this or that worker from
the Front; on the other, he was warned by groups of Republican zealots
of the danger to democracy of showing partiality and conniving at the
existence of the shirker.  In a laudable effort to strike the happy
medium, M. Thomas decided to receive no more nominations to the factory,
and decreed that only the indispensable man was to be kept in the rear.
Even the good workman, if of military age, must become a combatant; his
place in the factory would be taken by an older man. But there remained,
naturally, a certain rivalry between the trench and the workshop, not
unconnected with the fact that assiduous munition-workers also received
their _Croix de Guerre_—a decoration that, assuredly, should have been
reserved for deeds of gallantry on the battle-field.  But these various
difficulties, which M. Thomas settled with habitual celerity and _savoir
faire_, were, after all, only questions of detail, and in no way
affected the broad principle of conscription or the working of the new
Act against the _embusqués_.  There was no quarrel with compulsion, for
each worker recognised the right of the nation to ask him to suspend his
individual rights at such a moment.  "We are at war; the vital interests
of the country are at stake."  This was a sufficient argument.  And so
all energies were directed to increasing the output.  In connection with
the establishment of factories, the "white coal" or water-falls of the
mountains were harnessed to the work, and engineer shops were set up
under the falls themselves to employ the power directly.  Inventors were
given _carte blanche_ to work out their ideas and valuable improvements
resulted in the opportunity given to scientific brains to simplify
processes, and thus effect economies in manufacture.  For the first time
France had begun to explore and develop her own scientific estate, which
she had left, hitherto, largely to the Germans.  For, if the latter were
foremost in chemistry, they had learned not a little from the researches
of Berthelot and Pasteur.  The great bacteriologist’s study of ferments
contributed sensibly to the growth of the German brewing industry.
Under the direction of scientific soldiers and officials, production
rose to immense heights, and it soon reached more than 100,000 shells a
day, at a time when, according to Mr. Lloyd George, the English output
was scarcely more than 15,000 a day.  M. Charles Humbert, Senator for
the Meuse and editor of the _Journal_, preached in his columns the need
of more guns and shells, and his gospel was enforced by other writers;
but the root argument laid in the comprehension of the people themselves
and in their instinctive realisation of what there was to be done and
how to do it. Latin brains and Latin culture triumphed in an absolutely
new field.

The genius of Munitions was M. Albert Thomas, who sprang into prominence
from the unlikely beginnings of a schoolmaster and parliamentarian with
Socialistic leanings.  His assets were youth and vigour and a large
stock of learning.  He had graduated from the "Higher Normal School,"
the training ground for secondary teachers, with an _agrégation_ in
history—equivalent to a Fellowship Examination in England—and then
became tutor to a grandson of Victor Hugo.  In the family were
steelworks situated in the Loire, and the tutor’s active mind became
interested in the fascinating processes which turned the unwrought metal
into shining implements of labour. This knowledge, strengthened by many
visits, stood him in good stead when he became a deputy, and thereafter
Reporter to the State Railways Committee.  His constituency was Sceaux,
on the outskirts of the capital, and therein was his native commune,
Champigny, where he was born of humble shopkeepers and continued to
reside.  In the Chamber his connection with the railways brought him
into contact with M. Claveille, then coming into fame as administrator
of the Ouest-Etat line.  M. Thomas must be impressed by the catenation
of events, for, on arriving at the Ministry of Munitions, he bethought
him of the railway manager and installed him first as his master of
contracts and, then, at the head of manufacture. So that the guns began
to arrive at their appointed place with the same punctuality with which
the trains on the State Railway, under the reforming zeal of M.
Claveille, began to steam into the Gare St. Lazare.

At the outbreak of the war, M. Thomas, torn from peaceful Socialistic
propaganda in _L’Humanité_, where he supported M. Jean Jaurès in his
opposition to Three-Years, went to the Front as a lieutenant of reserve.
After a few weeks in the trenches, he joined his General’s Staff and
then was summoned to Bordeaux, whither the Government had retired from
threatened Paris.  "Will you organise Munitions?" he was asked.  The
battle of the Marne had revealed not only their primordial necessity,
but the grievous shortage of France, and it was said that had she been
better provided, the Germans would have had no chance of re-establishing
themselves on the line of the Aisne.  So M. Thomas, faced with the crude
need of the hour, undertook the post and flung himself into it with his
accustomed energy.  His acquaintance with steel, both in the works he
had studied and the railway he had controlled, fortified his resolution
to undertake the responsibility.  Day and night he passed rapidly, from
point to point, in his motor-car, organising munition work and exhorting
and advising the engineers of the country engaged in it, until,
gradually, the production was screwed up to a point where, with the
shells made in England, it equalled the output of the German factories.
Here was a strange destiny for a man whose reading and reflection had
induced him to believe that the tide of humanity was set towards
universal brotherhood.  Looking as little like a professor of war as
could be possibly imagined—a little plethoric, a little heavy in face
and figure, and glancing out upon the world through kindly
spectacles—this new embodiment of Mars accepted his position with a
frank and systematised zeal that led directly to success.  In a short
time, the tree brought forth prodigious fruit.  He worked ceaselessly,
turning Sundays into days of labour; his only relaxation from exhausting
office was to undertake further journeys of inspection.

There was advantage in the fact that he was a man of wide general views
and not an expert.  Had he been a gunner, he would have thought
exclusively of the pointing of his piece; as an engineer he would have
reflected on the life-history of the gun from its early inception to its
appearance as a finished article of destruction.  But being the
intelligent amateur, he was able, like an airman, to soar over
intercepted space, and think of the problem in its wider aspects: how to
obtain the ore and transport it from the other ends of the earth; how to
procure the quickest output from the arsenals; how to adjust factory
labour to the new law against the shirker; how to provide a sufficiency
of food for the monsters he was evolving; how to cultivate the
scientific _terrain_ of the war; and finally, how he could deliver his
deadly wares into the hands of those who would use them against the
enemy. There were a hundred different problems arising out of the great
military post which the war had given him, and he managed them all with
the ease and optimism that belong to rapid assimilation combined with
poise, with _sang-froid_, and decision of character. All these virtues
contributed to the success of M. Thomas.  He was rewarded by official
appointment to the post of Under Secretary of State for Munitions,
specially created for him by M. Millerand, the then Minister of War.
The honour was unique in the history of the Third Republic, which does
not always advantage those who serve it best.

All the departments connected with guns had to be concentrated at the
Ministry of Munitions in the Champs Elysées.  At the outbreak of war the
building was a cosmopolitan hotel on the verge of opening; the
Government, needing quarters for its new department of State, acquired
it, and there amidst Louis XVI chairs and Empire cabinets were installed
M. Thomas and his coadjutors.  The Socialist pacifist had become the
Grand Armourer of France, the licensed provider of artillery, in a house
of luxury built for the wealthy classes....  In his chain of duties,
however, was a broken link.  He was not given charge of the powder,
though it was essential to his full usefulness; and officials in that
department corresponded directly with the Minister of War.  But
Galliéni, when he came to the Rue St. Dominique, saw the faults of the
system and immediately invested his titular subordinate with the
necessary powers.  It was at this moment, when work was piling high upon
his willing shoulders, that M. Thomas gave M. Claveille authority over
the construction of the guns.  And the railway manager’s experience
proved invaluable in his new post.

France had every reason to be proud of her organisation of Munitions,
and for the spirit which the crisis prompted amongst her functionaries
and workers. As a University man of distinction, M. Thomas placed his
faith in higher education and was surrounded by men who had achieved
distinction in science and letters.  A Sorbonne professor of Romance
languages, M. Roques, acted as his chief secretary; and a scholar of
European reputation occupied unremunerated leisure in conducting the
correspondence of the Department. Thus the Ministry provided another
example of public spirit in France and of Gallic accessibility to new

Quite apart from the attitude of labour, admirably attuned to the
circumstances, there arose the material difficulty of finding men.  The
Loi Dalbiez was rigorous in its application, and there was a dearth of
young and vigorous men, both skilled and unskilled, in the factories.  I
have spoken of some of the methods adopted by M. Thomas to meet the
case: now he went to the colonies and employed Arabs and Kabyles,
Annamites, and other friendly nationals from France overseas.  This
exotic labour worked harmoniously with the dominant race.  Wages were on
a far less generous scale than in England, and no worker, however
skilled, obtained £8 a week or even half that amount.  Such prices were
unthought of. The common wage for unskilled labour was five francs for a
ten-hour day for men and women.  Where the operations were perfectly
simple and required only adroitness, the wages for female labour were
sometimes only 3 frs. a day.  Even the trained mechanic earned no more
than 15 frs., the highest price being generally 13 frs. 50.  Thus, you
see, there was a vast difference between the English and the French
positions, and it is clear that the cost to the country of shell
production was infinitely less in France, even at a moment when the
output was infinitely greater. There were no lady workers in the
factories—"heureusement non"—said the official, with an expressive
shrug, when I asked the question, and the whole scheme of production was
worked on carefully considered, economical, and patriotic lines.
Certainly, the worker made very little profit out of his labour, and the
intensity of it in France, as in England, put a considerable strain upon
his health.

A veritable scientific mobilisation was necessary in the Champs Elysées.
Highly trained brains were needed for the delicate calculations
essential to the manufacture of explosives and to the creation of new
types of guns.  It meant the installation of eminent specialists at the
Ministry and the carrying out of elaborate experiments in laboratories
and open-air trial grounds.  The syndicates, I repeat, made no
difficulty for the Minister by adherence to rules framed for peace; but,
of course, the power of these bodies in France over their fellow-workers
is less pronounced than across the Straits.  But, though it has its
stringent rules, it raised no finger of protest against the speeding-up
of production, the continuous shifts, the employment of women and
children and of coloured labour.  The difficulty that existed was
entirely due to the fear of creating any suspicion of favouritism
amongst those who were fighting the country’s battles by any arbitrary
selection of men for employment in the factories.  None the less, the
munitions worker had to be recruited on a large scale, for the
consumption of shot and shell exceeded all belief and emphasised the
fantastic character of the conflict.

No doubt the physical existence of the Channel was answerable for the
difference in attitude of French and English labour.  It was difficult
for our workers to visualise the situation in France with its invaded
departments, its devastated villages, its ruined industries, its
strangulated commerce and those other disabilities which weigh upon a
nation that has suffered defilement from the foe.  But the French soon
came to see that the loyalty of the British working man was not in
question because of his reluctance to accept a system which, however,
both Abraham Lincoln and Cromwell found necessary in the raising of
armed forces for the carrying out of national purposes.  And yet neither
could be accused of being indifferent to the claims of democracy.

                              *CHAPTER IX*


A certain number of political students had come to the discouraging
conclusion that discipline could not exist side by side with a pure
democracy.  The two things, they said, were incompatible.  Trade Union
leaders in England were for a long time apparently under the same
illusion.  Joffre, whom I have tried to show as the perfect democrat,
will not accept any such view.  In a frank and engaging mood of
communicability, he explained to an American writer, Mr. Owen Johnson,
who visited him at Headquarters, that democracy was by no means the
uneasy bedfellow of discipline; the two could exist in the most perfect
harmony.  "Where a nation is truly Republican, I do not think there is
any danger to the spirit of democracy in military preparation," said
Joffre, in reply to the suggestions that the existence of a large army
was a constant incitement to war, and opposed, therefore, to those
pacific principles upon which a modern republic must be founded.
Military discipline does not undermine democracy: that is his argument.
"In a republic where the need of individual liberty is always strong,
military service gives the citizen a quality of self-discipline which he
needs, perhaps, to respect the rights of others, as well as to act in
organised bodies."  And then he added that if America—and the remark
applies, of course, to England—dreaded military service, it was because
the citizen had his eyes fixed on the German ideal rather than on the
French.  The distinction between the French Army and the German was a
difference in the conception of the rôle of the soldier.  The German
system made a man into a machine.  It was based on fear, and robbed him
of his initiative.  It explained the attack in close formation, the
stupendous throwing away of life, and an officer class, a veritable
Brahmin caste, that did not transmit orders directly, but through
sergeants and corporals. The French spirit, on the other hand, implied
fraternity. The officer was interested in the welfare of his men and
regarded them as his children.  Nothing was indifferent to him which
affected them morally or materially.  The German system was the revolver
at the head, the French the word of encouragement, the smile, the _bonne

General Joffre’s distinction happily expresses the fundamental character
of the two systems; it goes to the root of army psychology.  The French
method requires a knowledge of the temperament of the men; for, though
you may drive the dull and high-spirited in much the same way, provided
you are brutal enough, to lead successfully requires knowledge of mental
characteristics and a certain power of appeal which elicits the best
efforts in your men.  French officers, therefore, have to be
psychologists, understanding the character of those they lead and the
subtle differences that divide the townsman from the peasant.  They must
vary indefinably the address when they talk to one or the other.  These
two broad classes are moved by different springs of action, and the
commander has to find out the best way of firing the lethargic and
attracting the fiery nature.

A French friend, who commanded a battalion of engineers, gave me some
explanation of the methods he employed in dealing with a difficult
class, the town-bred mechanic.  His battalion was composed of men from
provincial centres, with a sprinkling of skilled workmen from Paris.  He
played off one against the other.  When the Parisian was inclined to
show slackness or insubordination he remonstrated with him in a tone of
raillery and mock commiseration. It was certainly regrettable that he
could not attain to the same level of conduct or efficiency as those
excellent fellows from the provinces, who, after all, had not enjoyed
the same advantages. Rarely had he to speak twice to the same
delinquent; the man’s _amour propre_ was aroused; from that moment, he
commenced to mend his ways.  To the provincial he said that he was
surprised that a man of his energy and parts should allow himself to
take second place to the Parisian.  Then it was true that the countryman
could not hold his own with workers from the capital?  This, again,
proved admirably adapted to the particular mentality of his hearer; his
pride was piqued; he gave no more trouble. Thus, to command under the
French system requires considerable adroitness and intelligence.

The secret, my friend said, of keeping order and discipline in a
regiment without getting oneself disliked was to refrain from exerting
more authority than was strictly necessary.  One must not be always on
the look-out for faults.  Officers made a mistake in seeing everything
at all times; there are moments when, as Nelson found, the blind eye was
convenient.  A Frenchman is not naturally inclined towards discipline;
the quicker his intelligence, the more likely he is to feel resentment
at clumsy authority.  The peasant, slower to think and to take offence,
is more amenable.  He gives up his will and individuality with greater
readiness to the leader, and even courts direction.  But in the veins of
every Frenchman is some trace of the _frondeur_ and revolutionary.  His
mind is impatient of restraint and leaps readily to conclusions and,
sometimes, to tragic resolutions.  Mere authority, as authority, chafes
him; he dislikes it in the abstract.  To render it acceptable, there
must be an idea behind it.  If you want to lead him, you must be
prepared to undertake gladly the same risks as he, to go out and meet
them with a gay insouciance.  You must show him that you do not count
your life more valuable than his, or shelter yourself behind your
position.  You must lead him by going in front, not by driving him from
behind.  It is an age of miracles; astounding things may happen;
notwithstanding his nonchalance and objection to play the hero, at the
moment of action he becomes transformed.  You have only to know how to
draw him out, to find the formula which unlocks his heart, to discover
the hidden springs of his emotion.  For an idea, it has been said, he is
ever ready to shoulder a rifle behind a barricade.  And when that idea
is the country, with patriotism leaping high, his _frondeur_ spirit is
capable of all.  Centuries have not dimmed its ardent inflammability,
and each successive phase in history renews his high susceptibility,
until one feels that the Great War, instead of exhausting the fruitful
soil of France, has enriched it with new virtues and a new potentiality.
Rifles have spoken again from the barricades, but this time the nation
is ranged on one side of it and the invader on the other.  Patriotism
and ideality flow perennially from the mountains of Latin youth, ready
to be diverted to any holy cause.

The spirit is manifest even in the midst of the battle.  At the critical
moment, when officers have fallen in the hurricane of iron, a man
emerges from the ranks to lead on his comrades to the attack. From his
knapsack, the legendary baton has slipped into his strong, tenacious
hand.  He has shown qualities of leadership in the supreme hour.
General Sir Robert Baden-Powell recognised this genius of the race for
instant adaptation when he visited the French Front and heard stories of
improvisation; the native initiative of the soldier comes ever to his
aid in the tightest corners, where German mechanism inevitably fails.
Years ago, De Vigny, in a celebrated phrase, proclaimed the inherent
power of a Frenchman to become a man of war.  Time and again he has
proved his martial qualities—a sheer instance of atavism.  A sergeant
leads a battalion into the jaws of death with such fire and courage that
each man is electrified, loses his constitutional timidity and becomes a
lion in the fight.  Under this magic influence he is irresistible, like
Cromwell’s Ironsides, whom, strange to say, he physically resembles.
The low steel bonnet crowns the same sort of ruddy visage and brown
beard which marked the East Anglian in the seventeenth century.  There
is something of the Englishman in him, something of the Berserker
employing his "irresistible fury" in a national cause.  His spirit of
adventure has been translated into terms of patriotic achievement.

And the officers themselves know how to acquire rapidly the science of
the trench.  Many in the regular army fell in the early days of the war;
the professional leader trained and set apart for the career scarcely
existed any more.  Then up sprang the officer of reserve, until then
engaged in civilian pursuits; nine-tenths were in that condition.  But,
taught in the hard school of war, they developed into the most
accomplished chiefs.

Though the French _pioupiou_ is readily accessible to daring, and
glories in a passionate achievement, he is not hypnotised by names, but
demands a real aristocracy.  It is an error to suppose that he resents
superiority.  On the contrary, he is constantly looking for it and is
eager to recognise it when found. He is equally impressed by it, whether
he finds it in the plain, plebeian features of Dupont or in the
aristocratic mien of a De Rochefoucauld.  The name matters nothing; the
qualities are everything.  But if he disregards family, he is insistent
on a real distinction.  Dupont must not shelter his mediocrity under
democracy, or can the patrician hope to win devotion by a mere show of
elegance.  The accent is not of much account in the trenches; there, as
elsewhere, must be a real superiority.  If it is wanting, if the officer
is mediocre and vulgar in his taste and habits, shows the same
deficiencies and the same lack of control as the lower ranks, then his
supremacy will be short-lived, whatever his grade.  And it does happen
that old soldiers, promoted from the ranks, sometimes fail to inspire
the respect that should be theirs, because they cling to the old habits,
the old _laisser-aller_, and know not how to assume the new virtues that
should go with the new position.  For commissioned rank in the French as
in the other armies of the world must mark a real ascendancy, moral,
mental, and even physical, to be effective in the best sense.  It is
part of the panoply of power.

None the less, the adaptability of the nation is never better shown than
in the speed with which the officer, newly risen from the ranks, for
bravery and coolness on the field, puts on the whole armour of
leadership.  Yet his speech, probably, will remain homely, and he will
adopt no airs which jar with his humble origin and native simplicity.
Perhaps the least successful of these leaders are those who have longest
served in some capacity, such as _adjudant_ (a rank above sergeant),
because they are rooted fast in their old associations and have not
those natural qualities of authority which should be inseparable from
commissioned rank.  The essential is that a man shall show the temper of
a chief, and for this reason the sportsman often proves more successful
in handling his men than the more intellectual type of soldier, who is
better able, no doubt, to perceive the purpose of a movement.  Yet the
rank and file will certainly expect high attainments from their ultimate
leaders, and are intelligent enough to know that no amount of practical
experience is a real substitute for sound military culture.  Obviously,
a knowledge of military history and of the principles of strategy are
not required of the subaltern who leads an attack on a village; but it
is equally true that only to the student are accessible those solutions
of the past which are of such importance in understanding the present.
The sportsman, then, rather than the office soldier, inspires the
affection of his men.  The type is more often found, no doubt, amongst
the aristocracy and the higher _bourgeoisie_ than amongst the artisan
class, for in France at least the last-named has rarely the chance of
playing games and of acquiring dexterity in manly sports. Again, the men
know that those who have risen from the ranks are harder to serve than
the "gentleman" class, just as the works’ foreman is a severer
taskmaster than the employer; thus of all the officers the type that
best succeeds in drawing out the qualities of his men is he who has had
the broadest education and is the best example of finished manhood.  The
birth and social advantage are merely the make-weight, not the
ground-work, for his command; the contrary is alien to the Republican
instinct and would be resented.  But if the men are touched with the
feeling that Jack is as good as his master, they like that master to be
a fine, upstanding fellow, recommending himself as much by his handsome
physical appearance as by his urbanity and _savoir-faire_. If to this
can be added a lively temperament, disdain of danger and an evident
liking for bodily exercise, his dominion will be complete.  But these
things do not come from books, or are they handed down from generation
to generation like a Roman nose or a Bourbon chin.  And thus is exposed,
no doubt, the weakness of the hereditary principle. Alas! man cannot
transmit, like a letter in the post, his courage and adroitness to his
descendants. Meeting cross currents by the way, the atavic message
becomes hopelessly confused.

Yet the French system in its elasticity is admirably adapted to the
genius of the race, for it gives free play to improvisation.  No account
is taken of social status, but I have shown that social rank, coupled
with mental and moral attributes, do aid a man even in Republican
France.  Valour is no respecter of persons—the poor man may be as brave
as the most favoured of the gods.  Thus there is ever in the breast of
the soldier the splendid hope that to-morrow he may begin his ascent to
the temple of Fame.  Cases of promotion are so numerous that they have
ceased to be exceptional, and represented, at least during the Great
War, half the number of commissioned officers.  The _garçon de bureau_,
earning his five francs a day at the Hôtel de Ville, is a lieutenant of
reserve.  In time of war he rejoins his regiment and becomes a captain.
He is mentioned for bravery and is rewarded by the red ribbon of the
Legion.  No one finds it strange that this young man, son of a roadmaker
in municipal employ, should be on the high road to honours whilst his
father works on the low road of obscurity.

And the man—an amiable functionary of the Ville de Paris—from whom I had
this instance of Republican grandeur and simplicity recalled his own
military service and the _adjudant_ studying to be an officer, who on
wet days instructed young conscripts in the elementary lessons of the
great battles. He remembers particularly his description of Fontenoy and
his vivid presentation of the forces in contact and the different
dispositions of the generals, which ended in our undoing and the victory
of the French. The lecturer had kept the rugged speech of his class, but
his obvious enthusiasm and knowledge of his subject found a quick road
to the hearts and comprehension of his young hearers.  That simple,
rough fellow with a taste for study is a Brigadier-General to-day.  The
Great War gave him his chance to show his mettle.  It is a common enough
story in the French Army, particularly in the first eighteen months of
the war, when the Great Retreat and several sharp offensives had
inflicted immense loss on the corps of officers.

The material of the French Army, then, is pretty fine stuff, but it has
to be treated with a delicate discrimination and with that peculiar
French quality known as _doigté_.  We have seen that town and country,
side by side in the same unit, must be dealt with perspicaciously by the
officer.  Anything that looks like mere routine and a mere waste of time
and energy is particularly obnoxious to the sharp fellow from the large
centres of population. "A quoi bon tout ça?" he asks, with a scarcely
concealed irritation.  He is difficult to lead unless he comprehends the
military utility of the order.  Once his sympathetic intelligence has
been gained, he puts his soul into the work.  The peasant farmer, on the
other hand, accepts everything with the stolid passivity of those who
work upon the land.  He does not suffer moral torture from the feeling
that he is wasting his time.  Is he not out in the open?  And the food
is good.  His intelligence does not rebel against red tape, which is so
distasteful to his lively contemporary from the town workshops.  And so
the commander has to show discretion in his manner of utilising the
human material to his hand.  The mechanic probably will prove an
excellent scout and give a vivid account of the country through which he
passes and the enemy whom he has sighted.  His interest has been
excited, and all his qualities of resourcefulness and ready adaptability
come to the surface.  He feels that he is being worthily employed, and
is happy in the knowledge that he has been of service to his superior.
But put him to guard a haystack and he is much less happy.  That is a
peasant’s job, he feels.  And the peasant, indeed, is perfectly at home
in front of the hay; his nostrils dilate with pleasure at the sweet
scent of it; it makes him think of his own bit of grass growing there in
Brittany on one of those shining slopes where the gorse flames.

As a general rule, mechanical drill is irksome to the Latin mind; it
fetters his individuality.  The idea of turning perpetually in a barrack
square to attain perfection in movements in mass is by no means to his
liking.  He has never been attracted to it, nor to the cult of buttons
and straps and military tailoring.  He cares little for such things.  On
the march, he considers only the question of covering the ground in the
quickest manner with the least expenditure of force.  He is largely
indifferent to his appearance.  Perhaps his artistic instinct tells him
that sweat-covered, with the dust of the road upon him, he is vastly
more picturesque, more like the real, traditional "poilu," than
immaculate in a new uniform of celestial blue.  He is proud of the
general’s praise of his fitness and stamina after his march of fifty
kilometres with a heavy pack on his back; he would consider it
intolerable if he were reproached for some slackness in his dress, for
buttons that had been displaced, for a belt that had slipped. These
things are of no consequence, he says, impatiently.  He does not
understand that attention to minutiæ which is the bee in the bonnet of
the old-style disciplinarian.  And yet tradition counts in this nation
of soldiers in a manner surprising to those who associate indifference
with an outward air of insouciance.  It is as if each man were a Fregoli
capable of a dozen rôles.  Certainly, at the end of a long march he will
pull himself together with a brave air if he has to pass before the eyes
of foreign officers or through a village street with the inhabitants
lined up to receive him.  There is pride at the bottom of his character
as readily aroused as those instinctive martial qualities which he
inherits from the great-grandfather of the Napoleonic Wars.

                              *CHAPTER X*

                     *GALLIÉNI AND HIS POPULARITY*

General Galliéni[1] came to his task of defending Paris with a
reputation gained in Madagascar.  Nine years of successful government
had transformed the island, torn with conflict, into a peaceful
possession. Already credited with great organising powers, he was
suspected of being a good strategist, and he was soon to prove it.  His
very appearance, energetic, thin, with large, osseous face looking like
an eagle in spite of the _pince-nez_, gave Paris a wonderful impression
of youth and energy.  He was a man who would make things happen,
conjectured the citizens—and, certainly, he looked like it.  His stride
was masterly, and his orderly officers grew thin in his service; there
was a story of a plump private secretary who visibly dwindled in an
effort to keep pace with the "patron’s" energetic gait.

[1] General Galliéni died May 28, 1916, while this book was in the

Paris had never faltered in its attitude of pure valour even when news
lacked and rumour stalked, gaunt-eyed, and unfettered by the least fact,
along the Boulevards.  Galliéni’s appointment to the governorship of the
city put fire into hesitating pulses and new courage into hearts.  To
see him crossing the street in his uniform of cerulean blue, that
attractive colour of the French Army, was to receive a lesson in youth
and virility.  He had the look of the fighter grateful to Parisians,
who, recalling their past, did not like the notion of being handed over
tamely to the enemy as an "open" city.  An open city, forsooth!  What
ignominy for the capital of all the talents!  When the Governor was
formally invested on August 26, 1914, the muscles of his _administrés_
grew tense with resolution.  Then there would be resistance, resistance
to the point of street fighting.  Inch by inch the town would be
disputed. The Eiffel Tower would be blown up, so that the enemy could
not use its apparatus and antennæ to transmit or receive messages;
bridges would be destroyed and the Underground would be rendered
useless.  The two million inhabitants who remained faithful to the city
would be evacuated to the communes south and west of the metropolitan
area. This was the plan as revealed later, and was apparently authentic.
That the Governor thought the measures would be necessary I do not
believe; but it was well to be prepared.

In his military eye the enemy could not enter the city until the home
army had been destroyed; that was an elementary principle of warfare.
But how much did the Germans know, definitely, of the condition of the
Allies?  One had to be quite sure of that before one could forecast with
accuracy their line of action.  Did they consider the Allies were
definitely crushed?  It seems almost certain that they did.  Such a
state of mind is revealed in the despatches they sent from the front,
each more affirmative than the other.  They told of the utter rout of
the French, of their inability to withstand the advance.  Thus, as
Colonel Feyler points out, the Germans were in much the frame of mind of
Napoleon at Waterloo.  History was repeating itself in new conditions.
Napoleon disdained Wellington, whom he considered a mediocre general,
and Blücher, a brave but blundering hussar, and so, without sufficient
preparation, sent his legions against the British lines.  If the German
commanders had not the sublime arithmetic of Napoleon: "One hundred and
twenty thousand men _and I_ make two hundred thousand," that was the
spirit of their calculations. They were impressed with their own
invincibility. And there was some excuse for their belief that the
English had been annihilated and the French demoralised.  The British
Army was only saved by bull-dog tenacity and a constitutional inability
to accept defeat; the French showed a new quality of resistance because
of the presence of their Three-Year soldiers—the three "Regular" classes
with the colours—wherewith the reserves were stiffened into homogeneity.
In any case, the Germans exaggerated the effect of their successes.  The
wish was father to the thought.  The apparent direction of the retreat
induced them to believe that the fruit was ripe and ready to fall into
their expectant mouths.  Surely, they argued, Joffre is going to repeat
the mistake of Bazaine in 1870 and shut himself up in Paris as his
predecessor did in Metz.  He is anxious, certainly, they said, to seek
the protection of the Paris forts, and yet he must know their
shortcomings, for, forty years before, he had helped to build them.

But the cold fact remained that Joffre did not enter Paris, but flung
down the gage of battle on the Marne, leaving Paris on his left as a
protection to that flank and the eastern forts on his right to prevent
his line from being turned in that direction.  Galliéni was quick to
realise the situation, to see its possibilities and its dangers and the
necessity for swift decision.  If Paris had to be fought, the best
defence was a forward move outside the city, an offensive-defensive.
But a bare week remained before the Germans approached within striking
distance.  In those feverish days, the Governor of the city mobilised
thousands of labourers and set them to work digging trenches.  It was
obviously impossible to do more than erect a temporary barrier against
the tide, but the Parisians were caught and fascinated by the energy of
their chief, who instilled into them his own confidence and his own
combativeness.  Galliéni knew his public with the divination of a
psychologist, and he built barriers at the narrow city entrances with
felled trees and stones torn from the roads. Obviously such
fortifications could not stand a moment against artillery, but their
purpose was as much moral as military.  If they prevented Uhlans from
capturing the gates by a forward rush, they were equally operative in
inspiring Parisians with the reality of war, which some were in danger
of forgetting, and at the same time gave them the assurance that they
were being protected.  The temperament of _la ville lumière_ has
something of the child in it: a curiosity and interest in everything, a
thoughtless courage, and the need of constant assurance that it is being
cared for.

And when the hosts advanced, sweeping from the north of Paris to the
east, it was Galliéni who saw the fault and determined to profit by it.
Von Kluck had disregarded the Paris army either through ignorance or
temerity, and he was to pay the price.  The Governor collected an army
from here, there and everywhere, placed it under a superb tactician,
General Maunoury, and at the critical moment carried it to the field of
battle.  Our "intellectual general," as Gabriele d’Annunzio calls him,
combined activity with perception.  There was something Napoleonic and
something Parisian, too, in his notion of utilising taximeters to carry
soldiers to the German right wing, which, threatened, had reinforced
itself with a _corps d’armée_ and now seemed likely to envelop the
French left.  Up aloft Von Kluck’s airmen decided that the Parisians
were leaving their city by the thousand in taxicabs.  It was Galliéni’s
army of Zouaves and Territorials hurrying out to strike a rapid and
decisive blow at the invaders.

When Von Kluck marched straight upon Paris as if to devour it and turned
aside to the south-east, he gave Galliéni, as we have said, the
opportunity he sought.  It is, of course, wrong to assume that the
Germans suddenly changed their plan; this was not so, unless they wished
to fly in the face of all accepted rules of war.  It is highly dangerous
to neglect one’s main objective, the crushing of an enemy, for a
subsidiary one.  And if the Germans had entered Paris without defeating
the Allies, they would have committed a heavy blunder.  Heaven-born
commanders like Napoleon could afford to take the risks and by their
genius escape; lesser men have to abide by the rules of the game.  Yet
the Germans, proud in their superiority of numbers and equipment, might
have supposed that they could detach part of their forces to finish off
the Allies and with the remainder occupy the city.  After all, strategy
is a matter of common sense, and the plain man can see the danger to a
general of entering a city whilst his enemy is at large, powerful enough
to imprison him within the walls and to cut his communications.  To a
strategist of Galliéni’s calibre the problem was perfectly clear.

What he could not know, however, was the exact intentions of the
Germans: whether they were going to attack the Home Army and
simultaneously enter the city, or whether they would relinquish
occupation until they had made certain of the destruction of the Allies.
To meet the alternative he employed his habitual energy and resource; he
was prepared for the two events.  Even after the battle he took
unlimited precautions, accumulating vast stocks of fodder and cattle in
the Bois de Boulogne, until the famous playing-ground looked like a
western cattle-ranch; he took, also, a careful census of the city, so
that food might be apportioned to the population. As a military
precaution he continued to construct trenches and defences of all sorts.
Why did he pursue this mole-like activity of throwing up earth, since
the danger was past?  Galliéni had a double purpose: to reassure
Parisians against the return of the Germans and to train the young
soldier in the art of modern war.  And so he built endless lines of
trenches, until the country round Paris from Beauvais in the north to
Fontainebleau in the south was scored and ribbed with excavations.  In
their depths he hid monstrous black cannon, ready to belch flame and
disappear again into their pits.  He left nothing to chance.

A year after his appointment to the Governorship, he rose to the higher
plane of Minister of War.  The Viviani Cabinet had quietly given way to
the Briand Administration, and, with that thoroughness of which the
French are capable in great crises, they began to reconstruct their
military organisation. His new post gave Galliéni a vast rôle, in which
his lively temper and insatiable capacity for work found full
employment.  His part in the battle of the Marne had become known, and
enhanced his reputation. It was realised that he had acted with immense
decision.  Thus he became newly popular with the Parisians, and his
singular features—the eyes gleaming behind the glasses as if they were
unsleeping in vigilance—were reproduced everywhere.  His popularity
threatened to rival that of Joffre, except that Joffre appealed more
subtly and invariably to the army. The new Minister, however, was more
Parisian than the Generalissimo, more distinctly Latin—Parisian, also,
in a certain truculence more affected than real, for Galliéni is a
tender-hearted man, a little diffident outside the strict orbit of his
duty.  He was particularly strenuous in his dealings with the
_embusqué_. That furtive creature, who shelters behind the flag, was
brought forth from his snug post in the rear. Several hundreds found
employment at the Ministry of War; thousands more were scattered up and
down the country in dépôts, in stores and factories, in headquarters of
commanders.  Galliéni routed them out mercilessly, and sent one hundred
and fifty thousand of them to their regiments.  From his own ministry in
the Rue St. Dominique, one chilly November morning, there emerged a
melancholy column of five hundred military clerks, who wended their way
to the grey lines of the trenches, abominably wet and dismal, in
contrast with those comfortable Ministerial quarters.  The Minister’s
implacability pleased both Paris and the country. Both were ready to do
their duty, but needed to be told that there was perfect equality in
everything and no preferential treatment.  Galliéni struck pitilessly at
abuses.  A Territorial officer who drove his superior’s car was punished
as firmly as a _médecin major_ who showed undue favour to certain of his
patients and retarded their return to the Front.  At times, no doubt,
the Minister was guilty of exaggeration; but even this was typically
French and was better than inactivity.  In calling up auxiliaries (men
exempted from military service because of physical defects) he
overlooked the economic needs of the country; but these matters were
soon put right.

He proved the foe of red tape and routine.  He opened windows in his
Ministry, which had been closed for years, and let in fresh air.  He
broke down the methods of the Circumlocution Office, doing away with
useless labour, installing typewriters and feminine secretaries, the
wives and daughters of those who had fallen in the field, and thus
relieving many men for purely military duties.  "Simpler methods," he
cried to all who would hear; "I want results"; and, of course, he
obtained them.  Then he suppressed recommendations.  To Parliament, a
little dubious and jealous of its privileges, he explained that, whilst
open to proper representations from every soldier, he could not listen
to interested recommendations.  He re-established the sovereign power of
discipline, but at the same time constituted himself a court for the
correction of abuse of authority. In the Chamber he conquered
sympathies, though obviously uncomfortable in the atmosphere.  I saw him
the day after his maiden speech as Minister and congratulated him on his
success.  "Ah, if you only knew how much this sort of thing costs me,"
he said, "you would not talk of my success," and he shrugged his
shoulders with a gesture half-humorous, half-ironical.  The soldier
pleased in the tribune because of his directness and vibrant patriotism;
but when Socialists interrupted him it was plain that he chafed at the
restrictions of time and place which prevented him from making suitable
reply! On one occasion he was about to leave the House because of the
behaviour of the Socialists, and was induced with difficulty by M.
Viviani to return to his place on the Front Bench.  Unconsciously he had
repeated the protest of General Pau a few years before. It was
unfortunate that it was not more effective, for the opposition of the
Socialists arose over a question of regulating the hours of cafés in
Marseilles—palpitating subject in time of a national war!  The Minister
was happiest when dealing with the incorporation of the 1917 class—lads
of eighteen who were going to the Front.  The Senate before whom he
spoke appreciated his patriotic quality, and the fact that, though a
disciplinarian and an energetic commander, he yet kept in his heart the
sense of sacrifice of young lives given to the country.

In every department Galliéni laboured to promote efficiency and to
perfect the great machine in his hands.  By some he was reproached for
living voluntarily in the great white light of publicity, but Galliéni
knew that unless he had the public emphatically on his side his reforms
could be crushed by politics.  When once he had established his right to
freedom of action, then no political cabal, thinking of its influence at
the polls, could pull him down.  It was for this reason that he took the
public into his confidence, so that it might know that the best was
being done that could be done. If Galliéni showed no mercy to the
shirker, it was because he wished to encourage the peasant in the
trenches and the mechanic in the factory by the thought that there was
justice for all and favouritism for none.  Much of his work was
accomplished without the least blare of trumpets or the smallest
paragraph in the Press.  He reorganised the medical service of the army
in the sense of bringing hospitals into line with authority, and
suppressed the _laisser-aller_ of the amateur and philanthropic

Though not in the ordinary sense a social figure—indeed, he is the
despair of hostesses—Galliéni has social graces and an artistic side to
his character wanting from the more burly figure of General Joffre.
Though he keeps his counsel in all professional matters, he is not
naturally silent; he has a dozen interests, not exclusively military,
and touches life at all points.  As a young man, following his studies
in the military school, he consorted with a literary set in the Latin
Quarter, and the friends of his youth were Ernest Daudet and Jean
Richepin.  He reads and speaks several languages, believing that one
should go direct to one’s authorities, and his conversation is informed
with study, reflection and travel.  He is the type of the modern
soldier: savant, philosopher and metaphysician.  A wide experience and
intellectual tastes have given him toleration, but he has none for
incapacity and dereliction of duty.  Though accused of overweening
ambition, he is ambitious only to serve the country. "For an old man
like myself, death on the battlefield would be a recompense," he said on
a recent occasion.  "I should die in defending Paris with the enthusiasm
of a young lieutenant."  This is the spirit which flamed from the
historic poster on the walls of Paris at the moment when the Government
departed to Bordeaux: "I have received a mandate to defend Paris, and I
intend to fulfil it to the end...."

It was patriotism which induced him to accept the heavy succession of
the Ministry of War from M. Millerand.  Years before he had been offered
the post, but declined it "because it meant presence in the Chamber."
But the war changed everything; it was impossible to urge personal
reasons when the country was at stake.  But he knows so little of
political labels that he makes his friends laugh in confusing one kind
of Republican with another.  To him they are all the same, provided they
have the national interests at heart.  For this reason he was equally
friendly with men of such divergent tendencies as Gambetta, Jules Simon,
Waldeck-Rousseau and Albert de Mun.  It is because of his many-sided
appeal that he inspires collaborators with peculiar devotion.  Two
qualities outstand: his perennial youth, represented by a figure which
might be that of a young cavalry officer, though he has passed the age
limit, and a scientific precision of thought which means that in
everything he is clear, precise, and piercing, like a sword-blade.

Illness caused him, unfortunately, to relinquish his post at the
Ministry of War in the spring of 1916, after a few months of strenuous
work, but his influence remains as that of a good patriot inexorable in
his country’s service.

                              *CHAPTER XI*


If General Galliéni allowed his mind to take a retrospective turn in the
intervals of his intensive work at the Ministry of War, there must have
opened to him a dazzling prospect of colonial enterprise and adventure.
And in the picture would appear a gallery of celebrities, brown, black
and yellow, as well as white.  The man who made the profoundest
impression on his character was certainly Faidherbe, type of the serious
Frenchman, whose spectacles added to the natural gravity of his face.
His work as pioneer had ceased before Galliéni’s had commenced, but his
influence remained, powerful for good, and vitalising in its effect on
the young mind. He realised that when you beat back barbarism you must
attach the native to the flag and give him new objects for devotion.
Before the War of 1870, he was engaged in conquering the Niger Basin.
Galliéni was destined to complete that work.  Like his master, as he
called Faidherbe, he was inspired by the great English explorers, Mungo
Park and Livingstone.  The latter was discovering Lake Ngami when
Galliéni was born.

Faidherbe fought in the War of 1870 as commander of the Northern Army,
and won two rare successes against the Germans at Bapaume and Pont
Noyelles. Then he retired to senatorial and academic honours, and Briere
de L’Isle reigned in his stead as Governor of Senegal.  Galliéni joined
him from his peaceful garrison of the Île Reunion.  There he could have
lazed and luxuriated to his heart’s content, for there was nothing to
do, but that was not his nature.  He preferred to give himself to
professional studies and to fit himself for the colonial career, for
which he felt already a vocation, if not a positive predestination. In
Senegal the opportunity came early to display his talents both as
soldier and organiser. Ahmadou, son of El Hadj Oumar, founder of a
Mussulman empire in Central Africa, was endeavouring to maintain his
position by terrorism.  An English expedition from Gambia looked like
barring the way to French expansion in the Hinterland, and the Senegal
Government felt there was no time to be lost.  Galliéni, now a captain,
fitted out his expedition, which started from Bakel in 1880.  He took
with him presents to placate Ahmadou, for the object of the mission was
more political than military.  We have a picturesque account of it, with
geographical and ethnological details and amusing sketches of negro
chieftains from the pen of Galliéni himself.  He showed as much
erudition as enthusiasm for his work, and did credit to La Flèche, the
military school where he passed his boyhood, and St. Cyr, whence he
graduated, as sub-lieutenant, on the very day—July 15, 1870—when war
broke out with Germany. He was a real "son of a cartridge pouch," as the
phrase is, for his father, of an old Italian family, was the last
commandant of a French garrison on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.

The Captain underwent many perils in his search for Ahmadou.  His column
was ambushed and half its effectives killed.  The remainder took refuge
in a valley, and the exultant enemy crowned the heights. Captain
Galliéni, with the decision that always has distinguished him, advanced
with a single interpreter to parley with the foe.  The latter was so
impressed with his valour that it let him continue his journey. But
Ahmadou was coy, and hid himself in his capital of Segou, which he did
not allow the mission to approach.  For seven or eight months Galliéni
and his companions were practically prisoners of the irascible Sultan,
who sent each morning to tell them that they would be executed that
day—news that affected them less than the deprivation of salt, to which
they were subjected.  Finally, by much patience, Galliéni wrung a treaty
from his captor, giving France access to and commercial rights over the
river from its source to Timbuctoo.  It was a great stroke, and bore
witness to the soldier-diplomat’s courage and persistence.

Whilst waiting for the good pleasure of the negro Sultan, Galliéni was
not wasting time.  He was taking stock of the country, of its resources
and its inhabitants, particularly in view of the extension of the
railway from Kayes (the capital of Senegal), which was at the basis of
French policy in the Soudan.  The young officer’s account of his travels
brought him fame in France, the Gold Medal of the Geographical Society,
the red ribbon of the Legion, and the rank of Major in the army.  Though
Ahmadou’s trickery had somewhat compromised the success of the mission,
important results had been attained, notably in knowledge of the
country, and in providing facilities for the line.  He was to see
Ahmadou again.

He had returned to Paris for a few months’ repose, and then had gone to
the Antilles.  Yet the Soudan called him irresistibly.  His work there
was not complete.  He was now Lieutenant-Colonel and Governor of French
Soudan.  Ahmadou was at his old tricks; he menaced the colony from the
north, whilst new adversaries arose in Mahmadou-Lamine, who had excited
the fanaticism of his followers, and had put a small community in
Senegal to fire and sword; in his son Soybou, who operated on the right
bank of the Senegal; and Samory, a rather famous chief, who was
suspiciously active in the south.  It took Colonel Galliéni two
campaigns to settle the agitation.  The first campaign was both military
and diplomatic.  In its former character it had Mahmadou and his
depredations as its punitive purpose; in its latter capacity it carried
proposals to Samory to grant access to the Niger over his territory.
Against Mahmadou, Galliéni proceeded with great vigour.  On Christmas
Day, 1880, two columns converged under the walls of his stronghold
Diamou, about 125 miles from Bakel.  The town was taken, but the chief
had flown.  However, the expedition was a fine piece of organisation,
and no French column had ventured hitherto as far from its base;
Galliéni had sown his rear with a succession of posts.

He parleyed more than he fought.  It was his principle to conciliate
rather than arouse opposition by strong measures.  He founded a school
for hostages, and sent the sons of the chiefs there as an excellent way
of extending French influence, and established "villages of liberty,"
where freed slaves could live in peace and till the soil, thus promoting
economic development and the repopulation of devastated areas.

The second campaign, undertaken in 1887-8, was just as active as the
first and just as fruitful in results. In the interval, numerous
missions of a politico-geographical character were organised.  Swamps
were drained, bridges thrown over streams, roads traced, and posts
founded.  Negotiations were resumed with Ahmadou.  Soybou, who had
continued his violence, was captured and given a soldier’s death, out of
respect for his youth and personal courage, and thus, like a good
Mussulman, he entered into the Paradise of Mahomet, with the
indispensable tuft of hair.  It was a chivalrous concession that gained
for the Governor new suffrages amongst the tribesmen.  Nor did the young
chieftain long precede his father to the bourne of defeated rebels, for
Mahmadou-Lamine, was presently trapped to his last hiding-place and
killed. Galliéni completed his military measures by building a large
fort to dominate the district, and then pushed the railway up to
Bafoulabé, a considerable performance in a bare, desert country.
Remarkable changes took place in the character of the people in a very
few years.  The Colonel gained more territory by persuasion and
negotiation than with the sword. He added 900,000 square kilometres to
the French colonial domain, and 2,600,000 to its inhabitants. He was the
real creator of the French Soudanese Empire, and laid the foundations of
its political and administrative organisation.  The results of his
experience were embodied in a brilliant book: _Two Campaigns in the
French Soudan_.

Now he was again in France, a full Colonel, commanding a regiment in the
colonial army which he joined on leaving St. Cyr in the War of 1870.
With that gallant force, popularly known as the "Porpoises," he was
present at the heroic defence of Bazeilles, a hamlet near Sédan, by the
famous Blue Division.  The Division burnt its last cartridges before
yielding to the overwhelming numbers of the Germans, who made prisoners
of the survivors. Amongst them was Galliéni.  He was interned in
Germany, just long enough to enable him to learn the language of the
conquerors.  It was an early proof of his intellectual alertness.

The black faces of the Senegalese must now give way, in his colonial
recollections, to the Mongolian type of Indo-China.  The Black Flags
over-ran Tonking.  They were evidently encouraged by Chinese gold.
Every day the list of their crimes lengthened: posts attacked, villages
laid waste.  No part of the colony, even the most settled, was free from
them. Galliéni received orders from the Home Government to restore order
and tranquillity.  The officer, now with an established colonial
reputation, began a systematic study of the problem.  He found that his
predecessor, Colonel Pennequin, had written a work from which it
appeared that the French were putting their money on the wrong horse in
giving dominance to a race which was merely one of the three principal
ethnical elements of the country.  Injustice was created by this
illogical preference, and tyranny had grown up.  Colonel Galliéni
re-established the balance by placing the races on a footing of
equality.  Then he attacked the question of the pirates.  He discovered
that economic conditions were partly responsible, and that brigandage
flourished in particular soils.  He set to work to change the temper of
the people, to reorganise resources and to group and satisfy local
demands for labour and self-development.

To his policy was given the name of "Spots of Oil."  It happily
expressed the system, which consisted in planting small posts in a
region and advancing them gradually towards the interior, so that the
radius was continually extended.  He made instructors, agriculturists
and mechanics of his white non-commissioned officers in these military
posts.  Both teachers and taught delighted in the arrangement, and the
work proceeded rapidly.  He was repeating in Asia the methods he had
carried out so successfully in the Soudan.  Against the pirates he acted
with great energy, rounding them up with mobile columns until they were
forced to yield.  Upon the northern frontier leading into China he
planted a triple line of block-houses linked by telephone, heliograph
and pigeon post.  To this day the installation remains, attesting the
soundness of the defence against Chinese bands.  And his friendship and
understanding with Marshal Sou, the mandarin who represented the Son of
Heaven as governor of Kang Tsei, was largely instrumental in stamping
out piracy.  The wily Oriental learned to esteem the high intelligence
and energy of his white neighbour. With the capture of De Tham, the most
formidable pirate, the activity of these hordes ceased, and in four
years Galliéni had established peace.  His doctrine had again prevailed:
Draw the sword as little as possible; fight energetically when you have
to fight, but whenever the occasion offers, discuss, negotiate, inspire
sympathy; and, above all, civilise.

But Galliéni’s chief work was done in Madagascar; it was the
coping-stone of his colonial edifice.  Civil administration had broken
down in the island. Notwithstanding a costly expedition, French
influence was practically confined to the capital, Antananarivo, and
revolt had broken out behind the advancing columns.  The island, indeed,
was seething with insurrection, and the new Resident, or Governor as he
was soon to be, discovered that the Hovas were partially responsible for
this state of things.  Though they were given special privileges by the
French—again in defiance of ethnology—they were unworthy of them.
Galliéni, acting as he had done in Tonking, treated them as he did the
other sections of the population.  Fearing to alarm local sentiment, he
called a halt in some reforms inaugurated by his predecessor and
retarded the liberation of slaves, for which both masters and servants
were unprepared. He began gradually to institute reforms, and to carry
out the pacification of the island.  He colonised with brains, in fact.
Occasionally, he had to use force and show that he intended that French
suzerainty should be a reality and not a mere shadow, such as Queen
Ranavalona apparently regarded it.  Two Ministers paid the penalty of
their conspiracy before the Queen was invited to depart and take up her
residence in Algeria as the permanent guest of the Republic. These
measures received the belated approval of Parliament, though it had
hesitated to take the initiative.

Having got the government of the island into his hands, Galliéni
proceeded to apply his system in all its completeness.  His most
successful experiment was the division of the island into districts,
each in charge of a commandant.  To these commandants he sent
recommendations worthy to rank with the best efforts of Roman
Proconsuls.  They were penetrated with good sense, enlightenment and
precision.  "When you root out a nest of pirates, think of the market
you must plant on the morrow," was one of his instructions.  Another
was: "Every advance made must be with a view to the permanent occupation
of the country."  Both admirably expressed his policy.  He believed in
markets and schools, in roads and bridges, as instruments of domination.

His fashion of securing collaboration was also crowned with success.
With great care he selected his lieutenants, and then allowed them a
free hand. He refused to burden his mind with details, and left himself
free to reflect upon and discuss the larger issues.  Thus, he summoned
an authority on horse-breeding, and gave him _carte blanche_, within
certain financial limits, to establish a stud-farm and provide the
island with cavalry.  "Give me your report in two years’ time," he said;
"meantime, do the best you can."  At the appointed hour the report was
forthcoming, and the Governor proceeded to act upon it.  It was typical
of his _modus operandi_.  This faith in his _entourage_, after having
tested capacity and fidelity, was justified by its results.

His governorship of the island lasted nine years, and its effects were
so satisfactory that it seemed as if a miracle had happened.  Then, at
his own request, he was nominated inspector of troops in Western and
Eastern Africa, in the Antilles and Pacific.  Thus his colonial career
was rounded out, and his title confirmed of "the great French
coloniser."  In each of his posts, whether in the Soudan, in Tonking, or
Madagascar, he had shown capacity and resourcefulness, an earnest and
intelligent enthusiasm which had triumphed over obstacles, because
science was joined to energy and knowledge to practical principles.
Thus the empire he founded was not built upon sand, but upon the
bed-rock of native welfare and material advancement.  His success in
dealing with natives arose as much from his sympathy as from his
determination to study the character and antecedents of his
_administrés_ with the care with which the physician studies the details
of the case upon which he is engaged.  Thus success came not as
something due to fortune or caprice, but as a definite and calculated

Home again after more than thirty years of distinguished colonial
service, Galliéni, now a General of Division, was given the 13th Army
Corps at Clermont Ferrand, and later the 14th Army Corps at Lyons,
carrying with it the eventual command of the army in the Alps.  In 1908
he was called to the Superior Council of War.  A year or two before the
Great War, which was to give him his crowning position of responsibility
at the Ministry in the Rue St. Dominique, he took part in the grand
manoeuvres in Touraine, and succeeded not only in out-manoeuvring "the
enemy," but positively in capturing the General-in-Chief and his staff.
Paris laughed long over the episode; the victorious General was
anticipating his laurels in actual war.

                             *CHAPTER XII*

                        *THE HERO OF THE OURCQ*

Four-and-forty years he had waited for that tragic moment: the crossing
of the frontier by the Germans for the second time.  Through long years
of monotonous preparation he had been buoyed up by the thought of
serving his country in his country’s greatest need. And now the
opportunity had come—almost too late, for his normal career had finished
two years before. But the old soldier in him arose and refused to be
comforted by a country gentleman’s occupations, which had filled his
retirement.  There was great work afoot; he must offer his sword to
France.  To his friends it did not seem that Michel Joseph Maunoury had
greatly changed since the time when he was a spruce artillery captain,
and student of the Staff College. Hair, moustache, and goatee beard had
changed to white, of course, but the figure remained as slim and alert
as in the old days when he galloped each morning in the Bois.  Whatever
the weather, he appeared in the _allées_, sitting his horse like a
Centaur, and getting himself fit for the great day which he saw by his
prophetic vision could not be very far off. He was haunted by the idea
of _la revanche_, and was too honest to conceal it.  The word was not
popular with politicians.  No public man dared utter it, save Deroulede
and his League of Patriots thundering against national apathy and
supineness in their orations of July 14.  General Bailloud, who
afterwards distinguished himself in Sarrail’s retreat through Macedonia,
was punished for saying to his Army Corps at Nancy that the time would
come when they would win back the Lost Provinces.

That Maunoury continually thought of these things is clear from the
General Order that he issued to the Sixth Army on September 10 after the
battle of the Marne.  It is dated from his Headquarters at Claye, near
Meaux: "The Sixth Army has just sustained, during five entire days,
without any intermission or slackening, a struggle against a numerous
adversary whose moral has been exalted by success. The struggle has been
severe; the losses under fire, the fatigue due to want of sleep and,
sometimes, want of food, have surpassed imagination.  You have supported
all with a valour, a firmness and endurance that words are powerless to
glorify as they deserve. Comrades, the General-in-Chief asked you in the
name of the _patrie_ to do more than your duty; you have responded
beyond what seemed to be possible. Thanks to you, victory has crowned
our standards. Now that you know its glorious satisfaction, you will
allow it no longer to escape you.  As for myself if I have done anything
worthy, I have been recompensed by the greatest honour which could have
befallen me in my long career, that of commanding men like you.  It is
with a lively emotion that I thank you for what you have done, for the
revenge for 1870, towards which all my energies and all my efforts have
been directed for forty-four years, is due to your efforts."

The document is a real profession of faith.  It bespeaks the man and his
mission, his courage, his modesty, his patriotism, his long-suffering in
the Cause.  The Order was wrongly attributed to Joffre, because he had
added some phrases at the end to express appreciation of the part played
by the Sixth Army in keeping engaged a notable portion of the German
forces on the Ourcq Front; but none who knew Maunoury and his intimate
opinions could question its authenticity.  When he signed the Order he
wore for the first time (though he had possessed it since 1911) the
modest little bronze medal, with its green and black ribbon, which
commemorates 1870.  Thus were linked in his mind the two dates—1870 and
1914—the one disaster and the other its vindication.  Maunoury had every
reason to remember 1870.  He was an officer-cadet at the time, studying
at the engineering and artillery school at Metz, the forerunner of
Fontainebleau.  When war broke out he was appointed to a battery, and
arrived in Paris with it on the very day, September 14, when the
Republic was proclaimed.  He had no idea, as he marched through the
streets with his men, that the Empire had fallen to a new form of
government. But he was to see the popular temper even more sharply
represented than that.  At the gates of Paris was fought the battle of
Champigny, and there Maunoury lost his fellow-officers and remained
alone with a remnant of his battery.  Then the rising tide of the
Commune caught him in Paris, unwarned of the retirement of the Regular
Army to Versailles. He and his men only escaped from the mob by
disguising themselves in _mufti_ and walking singly through the gates.

Happily, he was spared the horrors of a second siege—that of Paris in
the hands of the Commune. The first had left poignant memories never to
be effaced.  Yet his vocation was so firmly fixed that he was not to be
turned from it even by this discouraging commencement.  The possibility
of avenging national humiliation braced his energies and kept him
continually at work preparing for the inevitable day through more than
two score years.  He became one of the most authoritative teachers of
the army.  At St. Cyr, which he had attended as student, he became
professor, and when Fontainebleau started its artillery course, it was
he who directed it for the benefit of subalterns.  Whilst he was
professing artillery at St. Cyr, a great controversy raged on the
subject.  It was clear that France had been out-classed by Germany in
field-guns; it was one of the causes of her defeat.  The guns were more
powerful, more accurately aimed, and more quickly served.  The Germans
had learnt the art of shooting, which the French had neglected.  Though
the De Reffye cannon was much better than its predecessor—a
muzzle-loader, firing an eight-pound shell, which broke only at two
distances—it was still far behind the German arm.  The young war
professor pronounced strongly in favour of power.  The field-gun, above
all, must be all-powerful, he said; mobility could come afterwards.  The
rival camp protested that mobility should come first; you could mass
your light and handy guns and obtain the power required.  But Maunoury
unveiled what he considered to be the sophistry of this argument.  The
result of all this heat was the 75 mm., a model field-gun, which wrought
wonders for France in the Great War.  But its efficiency was not
unconnected with an excellent shell.

Though he had studied deeply the lessons of 1870, Maunoury was not cast
down by them, but rather stimulated to greater effort.  Immediately
after the war he wrote to his family a letter which shows his faith in
his country’s renaissance.  "The frightful catastrophe leaves France
mutilated, but she is not stricken to death.  All can be repaired if she
really wishes it."  That was the language of a soldier and optimist, but
it interpreted exactly the spirit of his countrymen and, above all, the
capacity of their eventual leaders.  He was well placed to form such an
opinion, for, as General of Division, he became Director of the War
School, and upon its benches sat the future commanders of French armies.
Napoleon in his time made use of the material to his hand, often
untrained scientifically—the soldier of fortune, of practical
experience—but he held always that the best officer came from the
Schools.  And this generalisation is true to-day, truer than ever,
because of the new character of war.  Maunoury set himself against mere
specialisation, and, though he became an expert, as we have seen, he
enlarged his scope by studying tactics and then applied them in the
field, by commanding first the Fourteenth Army Corps at Marseilles, and
secondly the famous Twentieth Corps at Nancy, which looked directly in
the face of the foe.  As colonel he had commanded artillery at

He seemed to have written "finis" to the more active part of his career
when he became Governor of Paris, but even in this post of pure routine
in peace time, he invented methods of reform.  He objected to the
slackness that prevailed, and circularised against the slovenliness of
soldiers’ dress in the streets, and even on the parade-ground.  He tried
to revive officers’ interest in the morning ride in the Bois.  Paris was
amused and at the same time satisfied with a circular issued during the
winter of 1911-12, which expressed surprise that the Governor met so few
officers on wet and cold mornings in the Bois.  Between the lines you
could read his contempt for softness.  Even in his most strenuous
student days he had always kept himself fit by constant physical
exercise.  At the Cavalry School at Saumur, he was noted for his good
riding; in the Bois his elegant, upright figure was a reproach against
the carelessness of some officers.

He objected to _laissez-aller_ in any branch of the army.  Discipline
was as important as guns and ammunition, he thought.  Nor did he mean
mere respect for established things or strict obedience to superiors.
He meant that discipline of the mind which accepted principles and
policies—the unity of military doctrine; he meant a constant training of
officers in grand manoeuvres, that each might be accustomed to
responsibility in the common scheme. Only by incessant practice could
one attain perfection.  And behind the discipline there must be
patriotism.  His example and enthusiasm infected the Paris garrison; in
two years he had achieved marvels.  And then the night parades,
inaugurated by M. Millerand in concert with the Governor, aroused
civilian enthusiasm for the army.  Once more the streets of Paris
resounded with the cry: "Vive l’armée."  Under the old _régime_ it had
become almost seditious as a sentiment, but now the whole street hummed
and sang the _Sambre et Meuse_, and marched in rhythm with the beating
drums and shrieking fifes.  Even _blasés_ Parisians in the cafés and
restaurants stood on their feet as the tattoo passed and the red-coated
orchestras broke into a rapturous _Marseillaise_, with accompanying
cheers. The _fond_ of Paris is always patriotic whatever the surface

When war fell out of a blue sky, Maunoury was tending his roses in his
garden in the quiet village of Mer, near Blois.  A few months before,
his neighbours had asked him to stand for Parliament in the interest of
the Three-Years Law; but he declined. Perhaps his near view of politics,
as Commandant of the Guard of the Senate, had not conduced to a respect
for them.  In any case, he preferred his open-air life and his country
pursuits to the feverish atmosphere of political Paris.  When he went to
the Luxembourg, where is situated the Senate, it was to attend a course
on arboriculture—not to pay court to politicians.  These he has kept
always at a distance. It needed a war to wrest him from his gardening
and agriculture, tastes the stronger for being hereditary. His family
was long settled in the Loir-et-Cher, and one of his uncles had allowed
Pasteur to experiment upon his flocks when investigating

The old ardour returned at the call of duty.  First came dépot work,
important even if lacking glory, and then the command of an army at
Verdun for the eastern offensive.  Alas! it was unsuccessful, and
Maunoury’s, with the other French Armies, was soon in retreat towards
the south.  But the watchful eye of Joffre remarked an attempt on the
part of Von Kluck, commanding the First German Army, to envelop the left
wing (the English Army) of the Allies. He sent Maunoury to support the
wing.  The troops detrained at Montdidier, to the south of Amiens. They
arrived by divisions, and were flung, one after the other, into the
battle-line—a difficult and dangerous process under fire.  Von Kluck
disregarded the army forming in front of his right, as if it did not
exist, and concentrated his attention on the English force, which he
wished to crush.  Maunoury’s orders were to fall back on Paris to form
the siege garrison. When the order reached him, he ejaculated, "Heaven
forbid!  Anything but that."  His memory went back to 1870, and there
was revived the old anguish at the misfortunes of his country.  None the
less, he refused to lose heart, and kept a bold front to the enemy,
retiring in splendid order after holding each line as long as possible.

Galliéni had seen the enemy’s move from north to east and noted its
strategic consequences.  He communicated his impressions to the
Commander-in-Chief, and Maunoury’s army, hastily reconstituted and now
composed of 100,000 men, was thrust again into an offensive against the
flank-guard of Reservists which was protecting Von Kluck’s columns as
they glided past Paris.  The assemblage of that army and its rapid
transport to the strategic points constitutes one of the romances of the

The Sixth Army was composed of divers elements, most of which had
suffered greatly from the fighting in the east and north.  The cavalry,
too, was fatigued by its long march from Charleroi.  One of its
important bodies was General Lamaize’s corps, formed of two divisions of
reserves, which had lost heavily in Lorraine.  They had fought also at
Amiens, whither they had been transported by train, and then they
marched on foot to Dammartin, to the north of Meaux, which was one of
the points of concentration. To these divisions was added a brigade of
Moroccan infantry.  The second considerable element was the Seventh Army
Corps, which had battled, also, in the east before reaching the Amiens
district.  One of its divisions was commanded by General de Villaret,
who later was to be wounded with Maunoury at Soissons.  Two divisions,
which had fought at Cambrai in French Flanders, and had been much cut
up; a division from Algeria which had just arrived in Paris; the Fourth
Army Corps from Lorraine where it had lost many men; a cavalry brigade
and the First Corps of Cavalry, consisting of three divisions; a brigade
of Marine Fusiliers, two-and-a-half battalions of Zouaves and a brigade
of Spahis (native cavalry from Algeria) were also joined to the force
under Maunoury.  The fixed garrison of Paris consisted of four divisions
of Territorials, who were also employed in outpost work along the line
of contact.

The army was ordered to act in co-operation with the English, who had
assembled in the Coulommiers district; but, unfortunately, there seems
not to have been quite the co-operation needed between the two forces,
though Maunoury detached a division to the help of the ally.  The Sixth
Army began the attack on the afternoon of September 5.  In moving to
their positions, the troops found the enemy’s reserves strongly
occupying villages to the left of Meaux. The General-in-chief’s
dispositions were not entirely realized, and some critics blame what
they call the hesitancy of the English in assuming a vigorous offensive.
In any case the Operations, after severe fighting, were generally
crowned with success, and a great part of the credit of the battle of
the Marne is due to the resourcefulness and skill of Maunoury. An
incident in the battle was the arrival of reinforcements in 1,100
taxicabs, mobilised by General Galliéni, in order to transport the
Seventh Infantry Division to the left wing of the Sixth Army.  The
infantry arrived with great promptitude by this means, and was able at
dawn on the morrow to enter into action. Having distinguished himself in
the defence of Paris, Maunoury was given the command of an army at
Soissons.  There he was wounded during the Spring of 1915, whilst making
an inspection of the trenches with General de Villaret, who was also
injured by the same bullet.  General Maunoury’s right eye was lost and
the left affected.  It meant that he could no longer hold his command at
the Front, and this fine old soldier, who had done so much for the
French Army, again became Governor of Paris, after an interval of three
years.  Some have blamed him for exposing himself in the first-line
trenches only thirty metres from the enemy, but his principle always had
been that the Commander-in-Chief should share danger with his troops.
It is characteristic of him that he did not shrink from all the
consequences of such a theory.  There was something a little touching in
the circumstances that in the twilight of his own life, after a
brilliant day, he came to watch over Paris—_la ville lumière_—plunged
into the deep shadows of a precautionary darkness. And then when his own
light faded into a perpetual obscurity, he retired once again into the
peace—alas! the disabled peace—of private life, a sad but glorious end
for an old soldier.

                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                    *THE MILITARY POWER OF ENGLAND*

To convert an army of a few hundred thousands into a mighty machine of
millions—what achievement! And this, in a few months.  To clothe, equip,
and supply these men with munitions—an even greater task!  Yet this
England did; and French military critics were amazed at an exploit
unequalled in the world’s history.  The little band of men who fought so
gallantly at Mons, and whose opportune arrival helped to turn the first
tide of invasion, have grown and increased to the gigantic British Army
of to-day.  Nothing delighted the French as much as the establishment of
Conscription in England.  It seemed to them like the gauge of England’s
seriousness. With their clear minds they had long realised that the
voluntary system was inadequate to furnish the necessary resources to
the army in time of war. True, the French, in their impatience to see
England scientifically increase her army, forgot how slowly was evolved
their own system of national service. Although, as we have seen, the
Convention, in a moment of revolutionary fervour, decreed that it was
the duty of every one to serve the State, a national system of
compulsion, applicable to everybody, was not resorted to until more than
fifty years after the Napoleonic Wars, and France had suffered defeat
from conscripted armies.  Then, in its form, compulsion became a drastic
measure from which none escaped; but, even here, nearly another fifty
years was necessary to implant and make good the system of absolute
equality.  Thus the French opinion which carped at England for her
slowness in taking up an equal burden in the field was not quite mindful
of French military history.  These critics had not realised that the
completeness of the French national military service had been the growth
of many years, and that a vast national army could not spring into being
at the mere waving of a wand; and hence it was impossible for England,
even with the resources of her vast Empire, to have taken, _from the
start_, an equal share in the war.  Even had England adopted compulsion
at the beginning of the war, there were corps of instructors to form,
barracks to build, training-grounds to be found.  These difficulties
were quite apart from equipment, which hinged largely upon the supply of
labour for the making of rifles.  Lastly, there was the supreme
difficulty of the higher command.  Generals and staff-officers cannot be
turned out with the speed of drill-sergeants.  Happily the Press,
instead of inflaming the spirit of criticism, set to work to explain the
difficulties under which England laboured by reason, even, of the
character of her institutions slowly evolved by the centuries.  Both M.
Cruppi and M. Henry Davray emphasised England’s marvellous achievement
in raising and equipping so vast an army, even before she adopted the
principle of Conscription, and appreciated the difficulty of
accommodating compulsory service to the notion of that individual
liberty which is the corner-stone of English national life.  It was
clear that a certain section of the British public confounded a national
army, formed for a definite national purpose, with militarism of the
Prussian type, and, therefore, had created a bogey which it was
necessary to knock down before the principle of obligation could be
accepted by a free and enlightened people.  And it is typical of the
conduct of the present war in England that it was the voice of the
people themselves, the clamour of the man-in-the-street, which forced
the Government to a decision.  When the war broke out many thousands of
Englishmen voluntarily sacrificed their careers to join the army.  But
in so doing they insisted that the manhood remaining in the country
should be forced to do likewise.  And the man who stayed at home?  Was
he averse from Conscription? Almost without exception the men who stayed
turned to Westminster and said, "Fetch me if you really want me.  Fetch
me if the need is honestly great."  No, the great British public—the men
in the trenches, the men at home, and the women (above all, the women)
insisted upon Conscription.  It was Westminster that slept; Westminster
that hesitated, Westminster (slow as ever in learning to "trust the
people") that mumbled about votes when, even in those first days of the
war, they could have insured probably speedy victory!  Only when forced
by the man-in-the-street did the Government act.  Throughout the first
stages of the war, the British Government, instead of leading public
opinion, was driven by it. But in the eyes of a foreign nation, a
country, unfortunately, has only the prestige of its Government, and the
French, chafing against our slowness to adopt compulsion, little knew
that John Bull himself was fighting, through a maze of lawyers’
arguments, for that very principle.  The farm labourer who, at the
beginning of things, asked, "Why can’t they treat us all alike?" had his
finger upon the pulse of the nation while the politicians hesitated and
gambled with time.  Their fatal lethargy contrasted ill with the
patriotism of France, who, twelve months before, imposed upon herself a
system of national service of the most complete character.  No partial
exemptions were allowed either in the interests of education or any of
the liberal careers or even of poor widows’ sons. The terms of service,
too, were equally long for infantry as for cavalry.  In Germany a larger
and superabundant population allowed a fairly wide system of exemptions.
Until before the Great War, certain categories of men were not called
up; the infantry served only two years, and students benefited by a
one-year system.  French people do not always realise, I think, the
immense price they have paid to escape from a repetition of the events
of 1870.  They have not realised how seriously has been impeded their
own progress, thanks to the heavy strain placed upon their resources in
men.  It has meant the withdrawal of practically all the valid young men
of the country from industry and commerce for the preparation of war.
It has meant the retardation of marriages and a limited birth-rate,
because young people could not marry until comparatively late; it has
meant, also, that the smallest proportion of the country was in a
condition to emigrate, for emigration takes place in the years of one’s
youth.  Thus the French social and industrial system was under the
domination of military exigencies, and France has made heavy sacrifices
to escape from what she most dreads: the Prussian yoke.

The enthusiasm in France was, then, immense, when England finally
decided to become an ally in the only true sense of the word: to impose
upon herself a burden equal to that borne by her friends.  But France
breathed a sigh of bitter disappointment (disappointment which, it is
fair to say, was shared by the majority of Englishmen), at the large
number of exemptions at first granted; and the excuses offered by
English statesmen by no means assuaged the irritation felt both at home
and abroad.  For instance, "the maintenance of essential trade" had a
sort of ironic ring to the French whose trade, either essential or
inessential, was hardly maintained at all.  They listened with a little
smile of mockery whilst the British Minister spoke rather glibly, as it
seemed to them, concerning the necessity of England being in a position
to lend money to the Allies.  There was a feeling, perhaps, that if they
had suffered more, they would have been more anxious to end the war, and
would have talked with less assurance of the necessity of possessing
money whereby they could lend it to other combatants.  The large
proportion of conscientious objectors, also, presented a strange and
sinister spectacle to the French, and assuredly so curious an attitude
would not have been tolerated in France in the stress of a national war.
It seemed a monstrous proposition that a class of society should have
been allowed to accumulate wealth and a vast prosperity under the
protection of the flag, and yet decline in the hour of need to bear arms
from religious scruples.  To the alert intelligence of the French, this
was a grotesque and illogic situation, though they themselves remembered
that they had had in the past their strict religious sects, including
the Calvinists and the Camarists.  The good-will of the English people
as a whole, however, was shown by the zeal with which this question of
national service was taken up and adopted by a country naturally hostile
to any interference with the old principle of voluntary enlistment; and
the position would have been clearer to the French had they realised
that the driving power in England was being supplied by the individual
and not by the Government.  The principle of Conscription was not
advocated by Ministers; it was forced upon them.  In small matters, as
in great, the individual took upon himself responsibility.  Frail,
delicate women went without butter on their bread and little children
denied themselves sweets.  In France there was no evidence of any such
personal sacrifice.  People lived as well as they could afford. Why?
Because they relied upon their Government to _enforce_ any necessary
sacrifices, and the individual, having confidence in its Government,
felt no personal responsibility.

It is refreshing to turn from the question of Conscription, befogged as
it was by the stifling atmosphere of Westminster, to our army, working
under the stars, rubbing shoulders with our Allies in the trenches, and,
amid the bursting shells, establishing friendships and understandings
that are not couched in lawyers’ language.  There in Northern France a
brotherhood has sprung into being which laughs at the arm-chair critics
and takes no count of the blunders of politicians.  But the arm-chair
critic exists in France (as in England), and his garrulity in clubs and
public places is by no means restrained by his lack of a real
understanding of military affairs.  Let us admit at once that the
British Army has suffered from over prestige in the popular imagination
of France; the French people thought that England’s help would be
sumptuous, colossal, spontaneous and irresistible; and disappointment
inevitably followed this exaggerated idea of the military assistance we
should be able to give at the beginning of the war.  One heard much
criticism in France—indeed, one heard much the same in England: "Why did
the English, for so long a time, take so small a share of the
battle-line?"  "Where were Kitchener’s great armies that were to join
with the French to drive the Germans back to Berlin?"  "Why did not the
English create a diversion while the French were fighting at Verdun?"
Such murmurings and complaints followed the relief and joy which
welcomed the arrival of the British armies in France, and, among the
uninformed portion of the population, resulted in a certain cooling off
in the sentiment of friendliness.  It was useless to urge that the
British Expeditionary Force could not achieve the impossible; that an
army cannot be built in a night; that General Joffre was responsible for
the general direction of operations, and that the British could make no
offensive that he did not decree.  French popular opinion persisted in
believing in the god their imagination had created, and bitterly
proclaimed its feet to be of clay.  But such is the work of the
arm-chair critic all the world over.  It is his business to destroy
confidence, to find fault, to shake friendships; and of far more real
value is the opinion of the French military command of our army in the
field.  Here, again, we must be prepared to hear some criticism—but
considered criticism that weighs difficulties and estimates conditions.
The French military observer notes an absence of good staff work on the
English side, and he begins to account for it by saying that, to form a
staff is a long and expensive process involving extensive scientific
studies.  Now it is apparent that, up to the time of the Great War, the
profession of arms attracted rather the high-spirited and sporting type
of man than the scientific student.  In consequence, these excellent
sportsmen were at a disadvantage, perfectly easy to comprehend, with the
continental soldier.  They had not had the same training.  It was
impossible for them to enter at once into the conception of men who had
been making war scientifically—at least on paper—for many years.
Excellent spade-work was done at Aldershot, but the General Manoeuvres
could not be compared in military utility with those conducted in
Germany and France.  Moreover, a long course is necessary in military
history, for without this one glances at the map and finds nothing;
there is no spirit of comparison available, such as history brings
forth.  On the other hand, if one has the sense of comparison developed
by long and varied reading, the result is of the utmost value.  One is
able to say, "Napoleon did so and so in certain circumstances; what is
there to prevent the modern commander from imitating him?"  But without
the knowledge such comparison is impossible.

It is alleged against our leaders that they were not sufficiently
elastic and did not always allow themselves to be guided by
circumstances.  They formed a rigid rule and would not depart from it.
They did not change their plans with the required promptitude when the
necessity arose for such a change.  They were not supple enough, not
adaptable in their minds. Of the immense and epic bravery of the English
there was no question.  "They know how to die," said a General to me,
and the commendation expresses a universal opinion.  There is something
particularly Anglo-Saxon in the quality of this bravery.  They stood
resolutely to the guns, when perhaps it would have been better to temper
valour with a little prudence.  It seems to be part of our steadfastness
never to draw back that we may leap the better; it is part of our
magnificent quality to hold fast that we may be faithful to the end.
Sometimes there is a pathetic side to this characteristic, as when a
sentry posted outside British Headquarters was left standing in the road
after the retreat of the officers, because he had not received his
marching orders.  That is typical of the British temperament with all
its sublime self-abnegation; it is characteristic of the British leader,
and it is certain that, in the eyes of the French observer, some element
of suppleness might with advantage replace a little of our British

Of the new armies sent out by England I have heard nothing but praise.
General Bonnal, the former director of the War School, writes: "Our dear
Allies are as brave, if not braver, than we; and the athletic sports
which they cultivate enable them to surmount material obstacles.  Their
moral has never ceased to be splendid and is always accompanied by
unchanging good humour and gaiety."  He, too, finds fault with some of
the staff work, but universal is the commendation of the smartness and
efficiency of English company officers, and particularly of the new
class of officer, the student type—young men from the Universities who
exhibit great facility with maps and show an immediate comprehension of
the exigencies of modern scientific warfare.

But when we have left behind the arm-chair critic and the military
critic we shall find that the British Army, small or great, has made a
vast impression upon our neighbours, and the lilt of our pipes and the
echo of _Tipperary_ will linger in the lanes when the boom of the cannon
has died away.  Long will the "poilu" recall such exploits as those of
the teams of grenade-throwers in the British trenches, who were much
praised by Foch for their amazing work and the speed they showed in it,
reminiscent of the dash and energy of a crack football team; and long
will the French Army covet the equipment and smartness of the British
soldier.  It has been the _grand chic_ to imitate the English officer as
much as possible by the arrangement of straps and buttons and the rest;
and some French Generals, particularly Gouraud (who was
Commander-in-Chief in the Dardanelles and saw much of the British Army
at work), have expressed to me their admiration for British smartness.
"The British soldier looks smart even in his shirt-sleeves!" observed

In the matter of uniform, the war has provided a remarkable instance of
the French ability to adapt oneself to new circumstances.  When
hostilities began, the French were still wearing their red and blue
uniforms, and some of the dashing young officers went into battle at
Charleroi with white gloves and plumes.  Against them the Germans sent
wave after wave of men in the invisible grey-green uniform. From the
point of view of equipment the French were much behind us, and their red
and blue uniforms were ludicrously inadequate for modern warfare, and
contrasted unfavourably with the German grey-green and our own khaki.
But this the French quickly realised, and in the middle of the battle
adopted horizon blue, which, though it soiled quickly, was, at least, an
excellent uniform from the point of view of not being too conspicuous.

As to the services rendered by the Navy, the French, like the English,
have not been permitted to lift the veil of secrecy which has cloaked
the operations.  The newspapers, particularly the _Temps_, have extolled
its efficiency and have assured the French public that the seas were
being swept.  But they did not see the sweeper, and, therefore, were not
always aware how excellently the job was done. Nor is the question of
imports of such urgency in France as in England, as the amount of wheat
brought into the country is infinitely less, and, without difficulty,
could be supplied at home.

To sum up one’s impression of French sentiment towards England during
the first eighteen months of war one is bound to admit a certain element
of disappointment, due, undoubtedly, to ignorance and misconception.
The French public expected—as did we—a dramatic naval action to begin
with.  This Germany’s cautious tactics denied.  Furthermore, our Allies
did us the compliment of imagining we could achieve the impossible; and
when it was found that our small Expeditionary Force could take but a
slight share in the operations, attention in France was concentrated
upon our National Service system, and exasperation grew as our
politicians played with the issues of life and death.  But this
irritation is merely superficial, and is evidence of the strain felt by
a highly strung, nervous people, forced to stand still, for long months,
while part of their beloved country lay under the heel of the invader.
Nothing can ever change the deep and lasting friendship between two
peoples who have borne the same burden, shared the same horror, nursed
the same hopes and fears.  The understanding between England and France
is no longer simply an _entente_; it is a brotherhood of tears.

                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                       *SOME TYPES OF COMMANDERS*

The Generalissimo was, in a certain sense, less known than any of his
Generals, for though much had been written of him, but little was really
apprehended of his silent and uncommunicative nature.  As the head of a
powerful and almost anonymous organisation, he lived in a
semi-seclusion.  No politician could boast that he had his ear, for he
kept himself rigidly from such influences.  His popularity with the
masses was remarkable, and his name became a symbol for economy in
lives.  None the less he dwelt apart in an atmosphere removed from all
clamour and excitation, apparently unconscious of the intrigues about
him.  This segregation carried with it the disability of its advantage,
for it involved a certain inaccessibility to political necessities,
which even the strongest commander has to consult at times.  "Moral
effect" had infinitely less weight with him than military utility;
indeed, it seemed hardly to exist in his vocabulary, and probably he
bracketed this species of popularity and concession to the crowd with
that private and subterranean influence of which he was perpetually
afraid.  Rigid in his solitariness he watched the conflagration from a
lonely hill, silhouetted against the glowing sky, and none could say
that he had pierced to his inmost thoughts.  Nor in the greater part of
his career had he been in close touch with army life, for his
occupations took him to distant climes where he engaged in road and
railway, bridge and even town construction, thus removing him from
military routine and strengthening those powers of reflection and cold,
dispassionate survey which are his chief claims to a grateful
consideration. And, doubtless, the desert and the jungle taught him
nervelessness and that calmness which no vibration of calamitous events
could shake.

De Castelnau, the second in command, presented a complete contrast with
his chief.  His character is open, his oratory at once humorous and
compelling. Though a strict Catholic and attending Mass every day, his
tolerance enabled him to employ as aides-de-camp two officers of the
Alsatian Lutheran Church. His military science is so sure that he seems
to divine in advance the plans of the enemy, and his experience of camps
and courts, following on his missions to foreign countries, has given
him the widest grasp of political affairs which in reality lie in the
region of strategy.  Probably the most accomplished General in the
French Army, to him is attributed the plan of the great offensive
designed for the Autumn of 1916.

The events of Verdun gave prominence to the personality of Pétain.
Before the great attack by the Germans on the fortress, he was unknown
except to those in close touch with the army.  In a few weeks, he had
become world-famous.  His rapid promotion was due to the perspicacity of
de Castelnau, who had the general direction of the line from Soissons to
Verdun.  The second in command observed the vast German preparations,
the accumulation of guns and the massing of infantry, and with the
assent of the Generalissimo, set Pétain to work to stem the tide of the
enemy advance.  With characteristic energy the new-comer flung himself
into the task.  Urgency was necessary, for it was a question of days.
Divisions were hurried up to reinforce the thin line of 12,000 men,
garrisoning the twenty miles chiefly threatened by the Germans; heavy
artillery was got together, sometimes improvised from forts and
warships, and an immense accumulation was made of machine and field
guns.  Fortunately, the German attack was delayed by bad weather, giving
the French greater time to increase their fortifications, and when the
battle opened, a week later, the defenders were in a good position to
resist the first awful thrust of the German battalions.  None the less,
the big guns of the enemy were superior in range and were more mobile
than the French.  This defect was partially compensated by moving back
the French line, by employing the 75’s as if they were machine-guns, and
yet, in other directions, so cunningly concealing them that their fire
could not be silenced.

The new commander of armies has the gift of inspiring the enthusiasm of
his men.  They are ready to die for him; to go anywhere at his bidding.
His magnetism was as strongly exercised upon the students of the Ecole
de Guerre, where, in a memorable series, he lectured on infantry action.
There is something in his manner, in his appearance, which excites the
respectful attention of his listeners, who soon learn to regard him as a
master.  And the frank, clear, piercing eyes, the serene forehead, the
handsome face barred by the moustache, wheat-coloured like the hair,
until two score years and the Great War turned it to trey, seem the
outward expression of the character.  He has the personality of great
leaders, and those tense and tragic weeks at Verdun served to emphasise
it.  Personal influence counted for more, perhaps, than actual matter in
his discourse.  Clarity was its strong point, and an unerring touch
which dissipated difficulties and revealed as by inspiration, in the
classic battles of the world, the causes of victory and of defeat.
Pétain sought the personal factor in all these great contests.  He gave
no mere record of facts, but studied the psychology of commanders, his
conclusions representing original research and an untiring quest for
truth.  Character meant achievement, and the absence of it disaster.
There could be no more pointed lesson to give to students of the art of

He was known as a man of exceptional talent by those with whom he came
into close personal contact. His criticism of manoeuvres in which he
engaged with his regiment was suggestive and stimulating, and pointed to
rare gifts of discernment.  But if his reputation became strong in
technical quarters, it did not involve promotion.  He was still Colonel,
mature and a little disappointed and even contemplating retirement, when
war broke out.  But contact with realities revealed his worth, and his
ascension from the Great Retreat to the prodigious battle of Verdun was
a record in rapidity.  Placed in charge of the Fourth Brigade of
Infantry, he received three days later the command of the Fifth
Division. On October 25, 1914, he was given the 33rd Army Corps, which
covered itself with glory at Carency, Notre Dame de Lorette, and Ablain.
Officially a _divisionnaire_, on April 30, 1915, Pétain became Chief of
the Second Army, with which he led the great offensive in Champagne.  He
pierced the German lines with such speed and thoroughness that the plan
of attack was somewhat compromised, for the General Staff had counted on
a slower development.  Thus the movement was stopped, though attended
with great success.

Courteous in speech, he has yet a soldier’s dislike for subtle and
tortuous phraseology, and his whole tendency is to speak his mind.  The
result, however justly phrased, was not always palatable to authority,
and, indeed, a plain statement of the truth is rarely a passport to
official favour.  His energy is legendary, and the effect of this is
heightened by the appearance of youth conveyed by the pink-and-white
complexion and the slim figure.  As a young man, he is said to have
danced all night at a military ball at Marseilles, until tired stewards
came to him in the morning to ask him to desist out of pity for the
musicians!  Again at Arras, when in command of the 33rd Regiment of
Infantry, he is said to have been requested by his landlord to depart,
because his skipping in the morning annoyed the occupant of a flat below
him! Thereupon, says the chronicler, he removed to a house set in a
garden, where, presumably, there were no neighbours to annoy.  The story
is probably apocryphal, but it represents the energy of the man. Though
he does not skip, he keeps himself fit by physical exercises.  He
considers that a General’s vigour and power of resistance are as
important as his mental equipment.  To assure this nice balance of mind
and body, a system must be resorted to.  If one weighs food for the war
charger, why not for the warrior?  That is his argument, and he acts
upon it. No leader in the French Army has more persistently trained
himself to support the rigour of a campaign, and none shows a greater
activity.  In the Champagne offensive, he ran three miles over rough
ground at the head of his troops.

His principle is to leave nothing to chance, but to oversee and control
everything.  Thus, at the height of the bombardment of Verdun, he
surprised his officers by visiting them in the most exposed positions.
During the battle, he used an armoured machine-gun car as his moving
Headquarters, sleeping there and conducting his business from it.  At
another stage in the gigantic battle he sat for five days and nights at
his desk regulating details—proof of his powers of endurance.  He drives
like the wind over any road, leaving even racing motorists aghast at his
speed. He is reputed to have used up a dozen chauffeurs in as many
weeks.  One said, pathetically, that he did not mind taking his chance
of being killed in the trenches, but to drive for the General was like
courting death.  Pétain believes in sharing danger as he shares
discomfort with his troops.  As a Colonel he was often to be seen on the
parade ground in bad weather without an overcoat—as an example to his
men. If he has a deep and clear sense of his responsibilities, he is
neither sad nor taciturn in private life.  He enjoys social intercourse
and is a charming conversationalist.  Though unmarried, he adores
children, and a friend tells me that he saw him when Colonel of a
regiment romping joyously with children on his back.

His superiority as a soldier comes from his instant vision.  He sees a
problem with such sureness, that his words bear the look of prophecy.
Long before the war, he told a young lieutenant of cavalry that he would
regret his arm, for upon the infantry, he said, would fall the brunt as
well as the glory of the next war.  His prevision showed that his
thoughts were directed towards war when others probably were thinking
only of their own affairs.

Calmness and equality of temper are the characteristics of General
Roques, who succeeded General Galliéni as Minister of War.  Possessing
as great will power as his predecessor, he has a quiet and attractive
way of gaining his ends without compromising their essential character.
He finds the formula suitable to the occasion, and possesses the ideal
temperament for a Minister of the Republic. Like Joffre, he has passed
the greater part of his career in the colonies, where he learned the
same lessons of self-reliance and of organisation.  Like Joffre, too, he
worked as an engineer in Madagascar, helping the future Generalissimo to
build Diego Suarez, and afterwards linking by railway Antananarivo with
the sea.  Seven fruitful years in Madagascar were prefaced by similar
periods in Algeria and Tonking and an expedition with General Dodds to
Dahomey, which he undertook soon after leaving the Polytechnique.

Succeeding Joffre as Director of Engineers at the Ministry of War, he
became Director of Aeronautics at the moment when France began to
realise the military possibilities of the aeroplane.  General Roques’s
spirit of organisation was as potent at the Rue Saint-Dominique as in
command of troops. Mounting by the usual stages of Division, Army Corps,
and Army, he distinguished himself in the two latter situations on
active service, and in the former at manoeuvres one year before the
Great War.  For his personal bravery and skill in the field he received
the War Cross and the Grand Cross of the Legion. With the dust of Verdun
still upon him he took charge of Galliéni’s portfolio and soon showed a
vivid sense of the realities of modern war.  His conciliation and tact
and his quiet mastery of details earned for him the good-will and
confidence of the army and of his subordinates.  To that perfect mastery
over himself which is necessary to mastery over others, he added a
decision of character invaluable in high responsibility.  He is of the
school of Generals formed overseas.  Of such are Joffre and Galliéni,
Gouraud and Marchand.

Gouraud resembles Pétain in his judgment and charm as well as in his
power over men.  He inspires devotion, and carries the secret of command
in a splendid face and figure.  The empty right sleeve is a touching
testimony to his valour, and for months he walked limping with a stick,
for his right thigh and left leg had been injured also at the
Dardanelles—the place of his dismemberment.  It was after a day’s
bombardment and the Commander-in-Chief was watching the embarkation of
wounded on a hospital ship, for there was no place to put them on that
rocky shore, searched minutely by the enemy shells.  One breaking from a
Turkish naval gun threw the General over a wall and inflicted the
injuries I have described.  On the way home by ship to Marseilles,
gangrene supervened in the arm, demanding its amputation.

I saw him just after his recovery when, with a glad note in his voice,
he announced his approaching return to the Front.  In conversation with
him one realised why he was called the "lion of the Argonne."  There is
something king-like in his looks—the brown beard, and the manly,
well-formed features—and you are certain that the khaki tunic covers a
lion’s heart. His whole career has been of the noble sort: whether
tracking Samory, the negro chieftain, into the recesses of his virgin
forest, where he captured him after he had waged fitful war with France
for seventeen years; or whether he was leading a sortie from Fez and
clearing a savage horde from its walls.  For this latter feat he gained
the three stars at a time of life when most French officers have not
reached a colonelcy. When the Great War broke out Gouraud hastened from
Morocco to the east of France, where he led Colonial troops in
unexampled feats of bravery. He was shot in the shoulder, but bullets
cannot stop such a man; he seems to bear a charmed life as he passes
heedlessly amidst a storm of flying, shrieking metal.  His heroic soul
is unmoved by the Inferno of the battle.  Even the worst inventions of
the devil are powerless against this perfect knight, dressed in the
invincible and shining armour of his faith and patriotism.

It was good to hear him speak of his career as simply as if he were
relating the banal life of some village attorney.  Perhaps an ancestor
who served in Napoleon’s artillery, or a great-uncle who helped the Duc
d’Aumale to conquer Algeria, were in measure responsible for his
military tastes.  Certainly he did not get them from his father
following the pacific profession of a doctor in a Paris hospital.  At
sixteen or seventeen years of age the Tonking campaign attracted him
with its promise of adventure, but his youthful imagination was mainly
fired by reading the travels and explorations of Livingstone, of
Cameron, Stanley, Brazza and Galliéni.  And the Colonies, whatever their
bad old reputation in France for forming soldiers who were theatrical
and had no notion of modern warfare, since they fought against savages,
has proved in this war the nursery of manly virtues.  Therein a man
learns courage and endurance, self-reliance and a faculty for
improvising everything.  It has produced men of the type of Marchand,
one of the most romantic figures that ever donned the uniform of the
Republic.  His hold over his men is quite extraordinary; they are ready
to follow him into the jaws of death.  His exploits in the Soudan recall
a time when there was no smile on the face of John Bull as he looked
across to France. A poet in his ideality and lyric quality, he has the
sublime courage of the Early Christian, the personal sway of the born
leader, the heart and tenderness of a woman.

No French general has come into closer contact with the English than
Foch, for his army neighboured theirs for long months together, and none
has a higher opinion of their qualities or was more sensible of the vast
improvement effected in their fighting methods during the progress of
the war.  Foch is one of the most learned of the chiefs of the army; he
directed the War School during a period of his career, and his lectures
on the art of leading troops in battle are models of their kind.  When
war broke out, he was commanding at Nancy the 20th Army Corps, which
includes the famous Iron Division.  As disciplinarian he offers no
excuses for himself or for others for any failure in duty; and there is
no soldier, if it is not Pétain, who has adapted his science more
successfully to the problems of a twentieth-century war.  Looking
forty-five, though twenty years older, he is of those who prepared
assiduously for the great day of the battle.  Alas! his own family were
early victims of it, for at Charleroi fell his son and his son-in-law.
Amongst his officers at Nancy was General Balfourier in charge of a
brigade.  Tall and slim and dark until active service had whitened his
hair, Balfourier has the perfect manners of a man of the world.  You
would take him for a courtier if you did not know that he was a soldier
and a particularly brave one.  The Tsar’s congratulations reached him in
the midst of the gigantic battle of Verdun, where he had handled the
20th Corps with such skill and daring as to attract universal attention.
There was always a perfect union between his infantry and artillery.  He
and his wife kept open house at Nancy to the officers under his command,
and their handsome fortune enabled them to entertain lavishly both here
and at their residence at Chantilly.  The General’s father was as far
removed from Gouraud’s from the trade of arms, for he followed the
unlikely profession of a notary; but both obeyed the call to a soldier’s
life and achieved an equal distinction.

These, then, are the men who have led France to victory.  To-morrow
others will spring from her fruitful soil and represent her courage, her
hope, and her resourcefulness.  The Great War has demonstrated the
adaptability of the race.  It is perennial in its freshness and

                              *CHAPTER XV*


When the German horde surged upon Verdun, and was hurled back; when,
again and again, they swept to the attack and left their dead piled high
before the might and heroism of France—then was it most clearly
demonstrated that the days of old-fashioned forts were no more.  The
fortress of stone crumbles before the mighty guns of to-day, and the
hideous machines of war, belching forth tons of metal, grind steel and
concrete into dust.  Before Verdun it was proved that the fortress of
France was the soul of her soldiers: a fortress that the mightiest guns
could not shake nor all the horrors of modern warfare humble.  To the
armed barbarity of science the French soldier opposed his chest, and
barbarism was swept back.  That is the first lesson of the war of
millions.  In spite of all the fearful war machines—the huge guns, the
gas, the liquid fire, engines of destruction before which man is as puny
as a fly—in spite, too, of the impersonal strategy that moves regiments
as pieces in a game of chess and seems to take no stock of the little
soul of a man, yet, after all, it is the man that counts.  Both
combatants can pour out money, both can heap up _matériel_, but the side
that can expend the richest store of heroism is the side that will win.
This personal element in the battle of to-day was the only factor
overlooked by the war expert.  Bloch, the great Russian writer on
military science, foresaw only one end to fighting, and that was
immobilisation, for each side would sit down in trenches and wait for
the other; but the strange thing was that this new game of sap and mine,
by a curious détour, conducted to the old hand-to-hand encounters, in
which the right arm played the determining part and even the bowie-knife
was resuscitated as a deadly weapon, so that we seemed to live again in
the days of Fenimore Cooper and the Indian fights; and though the
Germans sent at our trenches liquid fire, asphyxiating gases, flying
torpedoes and all manner of explosives, all this science was accompanied
by ambuscades, by acts of treachery and _ruses de guerre_ not unworthy
of the Redskin in the most romantic pages of the novelist.  Thus modern
civilisation and savagery met and shook hands as men of the same family,
unconscious of any difference in their mental equipment, unembarrassed
certainly by any divergence in _Kultur_.  And perhaps because of this
personal factor in the fighting, which it was thought would be blotted
out and suppressed in modern warfare, there was developed an individual
courage so remarkable and romantic as to be unbelievable in its
splendour, its intensity, and its quality of rich lavishness.  Never
since the world began has there been such an _étalage_ of personal
valour, such outpouring of splendid deeds of indomitable and deathless
daring.  Seemingly in the sombre monotony of modern warfare there could
arise no glorious exploit, and yet the trenches were frequently the
unlikely frame of the most palpitating and stupendous defiance of man’s
nervous system.  For the weak envelope triumphed by the grace of the
soul; and man, though his teeth chattered by the mere brutal concussion
of monstrous weapons, yet showed in his moral resistance a wealth and
splendour of achievement unknown to the old and picturesque days.  Thus,
though the nations warred in such incredible masses that there seemed no
room for personal bravery, yet never before had it been so richly poured
out, so that even the spies were brave and went to their doom with hands
untied and eyes unbandaged in utter calmness.  Never in the history of
warfare has there been a more splendid show of every human quality,
whether fighting this desperate affair of the trenches or out in the
open, under the pitiless rain of unheard-of bombardments, as at Verdun,
where, in one single day, were fired 3,000,000 shells.  And if there had
never been a greater squandering of metal than in this Titanic conflict
of the arsenals, there had never been a greater expenditure of those
splendid treasures of sacrifice, or such a vast extravagance of youth
and manhood, gold and precious stones from the treasury of all the manly

But if Bloch had discounted the personal element of modern warfare, his
theories otherwise were justified by events.  The Germans knew their
Bloch and heartily believed his doctrine, but in the opening stages of
the battle they made a desperate effort to escape from his conclusions.
They began in what Mr. Wells in a famous chapter called the "1900
spirit," that is to say, they were convinced that neither England nor
France was alive to the latest trench warfare.  Their first methods, the
precipitate attack, massed movements and enveloping tactics, were
dictated by the thought that their adversaries were old-fashioned
fighters who had not learned this doctrine of the squatting war, who had
not, in fact, read their Bloch or drawn from him the lessons the Germans
had.  And so they fought in the open in these first phases of the
campaign, trusting by their force and speed, superior leadership and
brutal shock tactics to bear down the Allies before they were prepared
to meet them.  And, of course, they were greatly aided in this
traditional method of fighting by the fact that they had been allowed to
build unchallenged strategic railways to their frontiers, which enabled
them to pour a million men into the country, instead of the 300,000 that
the French General Staff expected by the northern route.

The ready adaptation of the Allies to the new exigencies of war forced
the Germans to rush to earth.  There came a change so sudden that it
seemed as if one had jumped literally from one century to another.  "We
have driven them underground," said M. Paul Deschanel, the eloquent
President of the Chamber.  But after they sank into the earth the
Germans still made desperate efforts to escape Bloch’s conclusion: that
immobility which he predicted as being the inevitable result of the
conflict of armed nations.  They endeavoured by their inventive genius
to break that immobility.  By asphyxiating gas, by liquid fire, by
aerial warfare (especially against England), did they seek, as Mr. Wells
points out, to create, such diversion as would avoid so barren a
conclusion to armed effort.

With the second phase of the battle the pulsing, stirring features of
the old warfare largely disappeared.  There was no longer the crowded
rustle of the ranks, except when men crept in the semi-darkness from
their trenches and attacked in the open against barbed wire and
murderous missiles. The long, sinuous line of red, with its sheen and
shimmer of weapons glancing back the sun, gay plumes to give a nodding
note of youth, almost of feminine finery, had passed to the limbo of
military museums and the pages of the historians of past battles.  None
of these things; instead, men in musty garments, covered with dust in
summer or the mud of winter rains, and, in place of the cavalry charge
in the open, the terrible twilight war began. Those who waged it shirked
the daylight, dwelt in pits and crouched in dark ramparts as if the
sight of God’s good sun shamed them.  Gone was the brave display riotous
in colour and glory, glittering from ten thousand points.  In its place
was a lone and dismal landscape, a drab expanse of trenches interminably
long; of furrows deeply drawn through the earth hiding living grain in
their depths.  Singular country, like some vast cemetery, stretching
indefinitely towards a dull horizon dead in its outer aspects, and yet
hiding in its bowels the quick and the dead, the living happily
outnumbering those who live no more.  Of course, the great novelty of
the war was its vast length of front.  In France it stretched from the
North Sea to the rocky ramparts of Switzerland, 700 kilometres across
the fair land of France; and if one counted all the ramifications and
convolutions, then 10,000 kilometres represented the sum of this amazing
and ceaseless industry which turned soldiers into navvies; moreover,
this trench warfare was universal where fighting occurred, and was not
special merely to Belgium and France, for it existed in Russia, in
Mesopotamia, and the Balkans. A French Army Corps numbers 35,000 men,
and, taking the general character of the ground, the parts that can be
naturally defended with those that require barricades of barbed wire and
other obstacles to reinforce their strength, this Army Corps can hold a
line of ten kilometres.  Thus 2,000,000 men is about the normal garrison
of a line of 500 kilometres. But it must not be supposed that the lines
are uniform; they vary considerably.  For instance, where the ground is
steep and rocky, the defence is rendered easier and the guards of the
first trench may be less numerous than in cases where the conditions are
more favourable to attack.  But such matters are settled by the local
commandant, who takes into consideration all the conditions and makes
his dispositions accordingly.  There are parts of the line where it is
not necessary to place men because the parts are enfiladed by cannon,
and other places where every mechanical means has been resorted to for
strengthening the trenches.  The telephone is largely used, and is
linked with advanced posts, called _postes d’écoute_, where the observer
can note the least activity in the enemy’s trenches.  Thus the men
guarding the first-line trenches can be sensibly reduced, leaving a
greater proportion to remain in the second-line trenches and in rest
chambers dug out of the earth at the ends of the lines.  Of course, the
trenches vary considerably, and the commander takes note of the
character of the soil.  He makes use of a hill-side, even of the ditches
with embankments on the side of the road, of every natural conformation
of the soil, and the number of men necessary to defend the line varies
according to these circumstances.

It is true, certainly, that trench warfare has inflicted a great loss of
the picturesque, of glittering movements, of kaleidoscopic effects which
turned and twisted into wonderful pictures; the picture to-day is
replaced by a melancholy waste of earth scored and humped into mounds.

Within was life, and no end to labour, for there were trenches, always
more trenches to be dug as the line swayed or curved in new forms,
yielding to pressure or being broken by it.  And in the trenches
themselves there was a perpetual search for improvement, and the longer
the troops stayed there, the more highly organised became their abodes.
If there was not an abundance of hot water there was generally enough of
cold, and gas on every floor; alas! too much of it.  There were wooden
floors and wooden walls and pictures, and even sculpture adorned them.
In these subterranean passages dwelt our men in a kind of heroic
enjoyment Of a battle without issue, of a sort of deadly ding-dong, only
varied by the blackening of the sky with the monstrous smoke of
projectiles that count a man a mere atom in their whirlwind path—fearful
engines that lay waste the country, that reduce villages to a hopeless
jumble of stones and bent iron and splintered wood, with
derisive-looking chimneys floating in a troubled sea, like derelicts in
the track of a tornado.

It was clear that in this squatting war all traditions had crumbled
hopelessly and wilted away. The monstrous engines belched fire and
destruction. From the caverns themselves, deeply cut in the once fertile
fields, issued a storm of shot and shell from machine-guns, from mortars
of an old-fashioned type, from cannon of the newest type—every
imaginable engine of destruction, down to the old hand-grenade, again in
usage from a distant past—a past so ancient that Scott reminds us in
_Rob Roy_ that "in those days this description of soldiers" (_i.e._ the
Grenadiers) "actually carried that destructive species of firework from
which they derive their name."  Thus every device known to man’s
inventive and destructive brain was directed into a new and diabolical
channel, and from time to time the vast engines employed emitted a
rending noise as if the earth were spitting flame and its rocky ribs had
shattered into quivering fragments—a volcano in its most fearful mood,
sending forth a mad jumble of rocks and a living stream of lava
devastating and devouring.

A gaunt and desolate country haunted by the melancholy crows, resounding
with clacking detonations of fusillades and a hoarse bass of heavy
cannon, is the place of invisible war.  One rubs shoulders with it
without being aware of it.  One comes suddenly upon it in all innocence.
A journalistic friend, at the beginning of the war, dashed into its area
all unknowing that he had come on top of it.  To his unpractised eye the
lines were no more clearly marked than the Equator or the North Pole.
And, of course, every effort is made to conceal the battle-field.
Beet-root grows riotously on battlements, guns hide behind trees and are
covered with branches, so that the airman, peering from his height, sees
nothing but the flicker of leaves.  The line hides itself as soon as it
fights, and without loss of time prepares against a possible retreat.
That is the method of it.  Should it be driven back, there are strong
positions in the rear for the rallying, for the defence _à outrance_,
and for the counter-attack.  Fronts have two or three lines of shelter
trenches, deep enough to cover a man and generally a yard in width.
These trenches are proportioned to the effectives employed.  They
contain redoubts and blockhouses where guns are placed; they are linked
by zigzag paths, and, as a last resort, with a trench of cement, a
veritable fortress where are cannon as well as machine-guns.  These
covered over and fortified trenches nearly always contain rest chambers
and magazines for rifles and the different sorts of ammunition required.

The lesson of this trench warfare, therefore, is that if a combatant
retires before it is too late he has every chance to survive to fight
another day; and he has all the more chance of a new offensive, or at
least of maintaining a strong defensive, if he retires in the direction
of his resources, or what is called his line of operation, whence he
receives his munitions, food and material of war. He retires from the
battle, therefore, at the psychological moment when he sees he is likely
to be overwhelmed, and reconstitutes himself in the rear. The opening
phases of 1914 gave us two parallel retreats: from the Belgian frontier
to the Seine by the Allies, and from the Marne to the Aisne by the
Germans.  The campaign in Poland also showed a similar disposition, and
the Russians reformed their line and beat the Germans after they
retreated before them.  Therefore a mere retreat may be, literally,
little more than a strategic movement in the rear. It does not mean,
certainly, that all is lost or that the position of the retreating force
is one of utter hopelessness.

After the opening phases of the war, the subterranean character of the
fighting was maintained, until such big offensives as Verdun re-evoked
the old-time battle, when the Kaiser watched the operations from an
eminence, and on a front of twenty miles scenes of the old onslaught
were re-enacted.  But in this case the initiative was left to the
Germans.  To them also the greater part of the losses, for whilst they
manoeuvred in the open and hurled masses of their grey-green warriors
upon the French trenches, the defenders enfiladed the masses and mowed
them down with the gigantic scythes that their science had forged since
the war began.

A curious feature of the fighting in the Great War was the element of
fatigue.  We have met with it everywhere.  It follows closely the course
of the war; it is seen in every phase.  At Charleroi and Mons and those
terrific fights that marked the beginning of the war, the retreating
armies of England and France escaped because of the exhaustion of the
Germans. If cavalry had harried their rearguards and mobile cannon had
cannonaded their flanks the retreat might have been turned into a rout.
For the French, largely composed of reservists, were within an ace of
demoralisation.  And again the Allies, as conquerors, showed extreme
fatigue in the battle of the Marne, when the victory might have been
more decisive had it been followed up by unwearied troops, or, again, by
masses of cavalry.

The cavalry, indeed, of both combatants proved singularly ineffectual,
and, as I have just pointed out, failed as a means of attack or to
pursue retreating armies; and an interesting feature was the dismounting
of the cavalry and its employment as infantry in the trenches.
Cavalrymen were divorced from their horses and given infantry guns; and
their equipment and appearance approached very nearly that of the
foot-soldier.  The Cuirassiers, for instance, took off their picturesque
manes and removed the top pieces of their helmets, and thus very nearly
imitated the _bourguinet_, or low, mediaeval-looking helmet of the
French infantry.  Even reconnaissance, the old duty of the cavalry, has
been undertaken by the aeroplane; and the horse-soldier, indeed, has
little place in modern warfare.  Some experts, however, hold that a new
rôle has emerged from the war which the cavalry is qualified to fill.
It consists in their employment in large forces flanked by mobile cannon
and cyclists, whereby their offensive radius is greatly extended.

In these few pages I have endeavoured to sketch the varied phases of a
war that opened with the glittering pageant of the time of Napoleon and
merged into the dreary and sombre monotony of trench warfare.  The
"heroic" days of battle were over, but a new heroism arose.  Men fought
no longer to triumph as men among men; they were content to go forward,
nameless and unrecognised: "to march heroically" (in the words of the
French writer), to become, not men among men, but—

                      "des morts parmi les morts."

                             *CHAPTER XVI*


"On nous fait une guerre ennuyeuse!"  How often was the plaint heard in
France, where this war of "wait and see," this terrible game of
patience, racked the nerves not only of the soldiers in the trenches,
but of the multitudes who scanned the morning news in the hope of some
startling manoeuvre and stunning victory which should end the hideous
nightmare of trench warfare.  Had Napoleon and his like passed, then,
for ever?  Could France never produce his peer?  A man who would rise
above all difficulties; who would drag guns over the snows in
hollowed-out tree-trunks; who would arrive where no man had arrived; who
would achieve the impossible?  Times, it is true, had changed, but sound
opinion urged the recognised fact that there is only one kind of
strategy, just as there is only one geometry.  The geometric truth of
to-day is the geometric truth of a thousand years ago; it never changes.
Thus, strategy is always strategy though the circumstances may change,
and the café critic was a little inclined to blame the military command
for the dreary monotony of the conduct of the war.

Historians such as Dupuis and Aulard, the eminent professor at the
Sorbonne recalled Convention days, when youthful Generals were selected
through the intervention of commissioners from the Government, who
visited the armies, interrogated everybody and discovered talent.
Sometimes they did not discover it, but only thought they did.  The
unhappy man, perhaps only just promoted from non-commissioned ranks, was
dragged from his obscurity and placed, often against his own will, in
command of an army and told to get victories or take the consequences.
Good patriots were not allowed to refuse such signal honour as serving
the country in a position of responsibility; and, placed between the
devil of their own incompetence and the deep sea of the guillotine (for
if they failed they would be hailed, certainly, before the tribunal and
treated as traitors), they occasionally managed in sheer desperation to
win; but more often they miserably failed, and joined the number of the
suspected in the Conventional prisons.

Not only were these unfortunate people appointed, willy-nilly, to the
command of armies whenever they attracted the eye of the
representatives, but, once arrived at the perilous summit of their
power, they were watched and their conduct noted as if they were the
most disreputable of mortals.  And their judges were not only the
Convention, but the secret committees and clubs which flourished at that
moment. Nevertheless, the results of this terrible system were
astonishing.  The most celebrated of the representatives was Carnot, who
was in every way an exceptional man.  On the eve of the battle of
Wattignies, in October 1793, he obliged Jourdan, the General-in-Chief,
to effect a frontal attack, which failed.  Thereupon a council was held,
and the two men were seen to differ materially in their views.  Carnot,
with characteristic impetuosity, offered to assume responsibility for
his opinion and even to see to the execution of his plan.  On the
morrow, Carnot, who kept Jourdan under close observation, noted a column
falling back before the pressure of the enemy. Instantly he seized a
rifle, placed himself at the head of the retreating force and led them
back into action.  Thanks largely to his energy, the battle was won.

Saint Just was a man of similar type.  In the operations on the Sambre,
which were unfortunate, for a time, for the Revolutionaries, Saint Just
and Le Bas pushed the armies to combat, it has been said, like a pack of
dogs, without observing any rule of war.  There is a memorable scene
related by Dupuis.  Saint Just convoked the Generals to a midnight
council.  "You are convoked," he said, "to do something great—worthy of
the Republic. To-morrow there must be a siege or a battle; decide!"  On
Kleber smiling satirically, Saint Just rushed out into the darkness of
the garden and remained there, hatless, for two hours, though the rain
was falling in torrents.  However, from all this confusion and tyrannous
intervention and diversity of counsel emerged the victory of Fleurus, in
the neighbourhood of Mons and Charleroi, which speaks so closely
nowadays to our hearts.  The Revolutionaries crossed and recrossed the
river many times before they succeeded finally in overcoming the
Austrians.  And this victory marked the end of the peril of invasion,
which was the excuse of the presence of the representatives with the
armies. Washington said that an army must be led with absolute despotism
to ensure victory; the armies of the Revolution certainly merited
success from that point of view rather than by the talent of terrorised
chiefs—men whose previous career was often that of a sous officier, and
totally unfitted them for positions of authority.  Balland, who
commanded a division at Wattignies, was a drummer in a company of
grenadiers, and, according to a contemporary historian, "cleaned our
boots and ran our errands."

Yet some of outstanding character and talents profited by this system,
which advanced a man like Napoleon to dazzling heights.  The terror and
confusion of the time gave him the chance he needed to soar.  Whilst
weaker men drowned in the storm, he rose triumphantly above it.  And his
first chance came through his connection with Saliceti, one of the
representatives, who was a fellow Corsican and had taken part with
Napoleon in struggles in the island against the dictatorship of Paoli.
They met on the Riviera, where Napoleon, a simple captain, was
transporting war stores.  Toulon was being besieged; Napoleon, in the
ardour of his temperament, proposed a plan to Saliceti and his
colleague, Augustin Robespierre, the brother of the dictator, who
happened to be there, insisted on conferring on him the rank of
Brigadier-General, with command over the artillery in the army of Italy.
Without these influences, Napoleon would have had to wait long for his
preferment.  Robespierre was particularly struck by Napoleon, whom he
regarded as of transcending merit and, moreover, a sound and perfervid

Though Napoleon was accompanied, as the others had been, by the
commissioners of the Convention in his campaign in Italy, they were men
of an ordinary type, and he knew how to get the better of them.
Moreover, he was extremely astute in his dealings with his possible
accusers, and played a definite political rôle.  He became, then, the
favourite of Barras, the most influential of the Directorate, and
finally, thanks to Barras and Carnot, obtained command of the Italian
Army, which was the height of his ambition.  Here he was able to give
the measure of his military genius.  His ardour and audacity were equal
to every situation, and his popularity rose to such heights with the
masses dazzled by his victories, and he inspired such confidence amongst
the Convention itself, that he conquered his independence of action.
Under the former tyrannous rule of the Convention the strategist was a
mere puppet in the hands of the Government; Napoleon was not long in
restoring all the old power to the General and giving to strategy its
full amplitude, for he was able, as he rose to be Consul Life Consul,
and finally Emperor—all in four years—to control the political destinies
of France, and thus add to the military arm the civil power, and make
the former serve the ends of his foreign and internal policy.

It is well to remember that Napoleon owed much of his advancement—his
promotion at the age of twenty-seven to the rank of
Commander-in-Chief—to his clever utilisation of the social disorder
which followed the Revolution, and he obtained that liberty of which he
had need to beat the enemy, as Colonel Dupuis points out, by his adroit
relations with the Government.  His personal prestige soon placed him
above those who had given him the power.  Finally, strong in his immense
successes he threw off the remaining shackles and conquered the right to
act as he thought best.  He himself became the Executive. He was in the
enviable situation of a man who gives orders to himself.

This page of the past is sufficient answer to the clamour for the heroic
methods of the Revolution. French people have only to look back to
recognise the danger of allowing ambition to realise itself either in
the army or in politics—still worse when the two are united.  A later
instance, and one even more terrifying than that of Napoleon I, was that
of Napoleon III; for, though his Empire similarly ended in disaster,
brought about by foreign intervention, in the one case it represented
the paling of a star of surpassing effulgence, whereas in the other it
was the mere pricking of a bubble, if "historic," reputation. But in
each event it brought humiliation and the foot of the invader on the
soil.  Joffre, therefore, a democratic and constitutional commander—the
antithesis of Napoleon—is the only type of general really acceptable to
the French Republic; and though the thoughtless individual may sigh for
the breathless succession of events of Napoleonic days, there is hardly
a Frenchman who would be prepared to accept the consequences of a return
of the Napoleonic system; and Joffre, working for war that he may
accomplish peace, eschewing inspiration and "strokes of genius,"
steadily developing in quietude and reflection the details of a
preconceived plan, is an ideal figure in a country as profoundly
democratic as France, where a chief modelled on the Prussian type or
given to vain display and the "panache" would inevitably cause a
reaction unfortunate in the interests of national defence.  Never again
will the French, having learned in the bitter school of experience,
place power in the hands of a man who, by his masterly temperament,
raises in their minds the fears of a dictator.  _Non bis in idem_.

But not until the second year of the war was Joffre given that supreme
command and that independence of action so essential to success.  Only
in 1916 was it recognised that there must be a co-ordination of effort
in the different fields; that the Allies could not act separately
without relation to each other and hope thereby to advance the common
cause; they must carry out a certain preconceived plan and carry it out
with a common energy, subserving all questions of persons and national
prestige to the unique end of winning the war.  The English Army, after
the retirement of Marshal French, was placed directly under the orders
of Joffre; thereafter it had its exact place in the common movement and
represented a certain intimate part of the general machine.  England
thereby showed her loyalty and her conception of the necessities of the
hour in bending to the principle of French dominance.  It was
inevitable, for the French were the chief combatants on the Western
Front; their army was necessarily the more numerous and they were
defending their own hearths and homes; the war to them was in reality a
war of liberation.  After, then, the general objects of the Allies were
defined, it was seen that there must be unity of command.  I remember
how urgently a celebrated French General spoke to me on this subject
after the war had lasted a year.  "For the sake of our common action,"
he said, "do insist in England on the necessity of oneness in the
command.  Otherwise, the problem is impossible."  And when that
principle was at last acknowledged, and England merged her military
fortunes more deeply with those of France, sacrificing also some of her
independence in the field, the Allies were approaching the German
homogeneity, where the Kaiser conducted the mixed orchestra and called
the tune.  Whatever the music was like, the general effect was certainly
better than if there had been two or more chiefs and as many tunes.

But although Revolutionary times were no more, when generals of
twenty-three gained such triumphs as when Rocroi was won by Condé, yet
the fierce spirit of the Revolution remained.  In that sombre hour
France triumphed because she had the fierce determination to win;
because she was ruthless with old-established reputations unless they
responded to the exigencies of the hour; and also because, having her
back against the wall, she realised that it was literally a case of
"conquer or die."  So in the war of to-day, the military command was
aided by the popular clamour which speeded up the machine. When Charles
Humbert, Senator of the Meuse, and certainly one of the organisers of
victory, claimed almost daily in _Le Journal_, which he directs with
such vigour, "more cannon and more munitions," he was but repeating, at
a distance of one hundred and twenty years, the cry of Carnot and
Lindet, who were rather disdainfully called "the Workers" by their
colleagues of the Convention.  But the harvest of the Revolution that
the Generalissimo reaps most richly is that extraordinary and
unsuspected virtue which our Allies have shown, that bull-dog tenacity
and resistance which, blending with the natural _allégresse_ of the
French, made them irresistible in battle where the conditions were at
all equal.  In the last resort, the quality of the fighter prevails;
every observer has recognised that fact.  The guns may thunder and deal
out death and destruction, but the machine which finally counts is the
white arm, "Rosalie," as the bayonet is named in the familiar speech of
the "poilu."  This fact accounts for the superiority of the French on
the field of battle; for the final word is to the common soldier, to
that astonishing peasant and tiller of the land, who constitutes the
greater part of the armies of the Republic. He fights, as I have said
earlier in this book, not because he must, but because he feels he is
privileged to defend his fields against the invader.  Ever present to
his mind, as he meets the Hun, are the depredations and deeds of horror
of this civilised savage, and his arm is nerved by the determination to
save his own village and his own kith and kin, if possible, from his
devastations.  The personal feeling enforces the personal element in
battle; and, after all, a Holy Cause is the best sort of armour in which
to engage in battle and the deadliest weapon to wield against those who
have sinned against all the laws of humanity.

                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                      *THE SPIRIT OF THE TRENCHES*

The spirit of the trenches is the spirit of France. Never did mirror
more faithfully reflect the personal traits than those endless trenches
across France the splendid valour of the race.  In no preceding war in
history has courage been so abounding.  Trench warfare created a spirit
of intimacy as well as a spirit of adventure.  Men of differing
stations, of utterly opposed traditions, of antagonistic education, were
thrown together in a narrow, self-contained comradeship, and the result
was a firm and singular fusion. They partook of the same risks, they
experienced the same emotions, whether standing shoulder to shoulder in
the trenches, or racing, side by side, in some rush attack, storming
villages, or retiring, it might be, beneath the pressure of an
overwhelming cannonade. And out of this comradeship grew a conventual
feeling. Though isolated from the ordinary world, they were yet of it,
for family ties triumphed over even so radical a difference in
experience and mode of life. The rigours and segregation of the
camp-life could not separate from kith and kin.

Some have compared their existence with the cloistered life.  True, they
took no vows of celibacy, nor was continence the necessary attribute of
their association, but they had sworn to serve in a deathless constancy.
They slept and lived hard, exposed to inclemency; passed days in a
narrow semi-darkness, and at night slept in the roughest shelters or in
grottoes deep in the ground.  Yet there was an essential difference in
their state and that of those bound to the Church, for their thoughts
were of earth rather than of Heaven—of some distant spot whereon stood a
little white house surrounded with trees, with green fields beyond,
where cattle grazed, children played, and geese cackled.  Tender
memories accompanied their vigils, and such human sentiments removed
them from the category of the saints, who are not supposed to listen to
the heart, and from the old professional class of soldier, the
_grognards_ of Napoleon’s day.  For between waiting France and fighting
France there passed hourly a warm current of correspondence, ascending
and descending, informed with honest passion, homely and kindly virtues,
which softened and humanised the soldier’s solitude and heartened the
civilian.  It was the "poilu" who, going to the war, comforted those who
remained behind, and the strange thing was that pessimism more readily
took root in security, far from the lines, than at the Front itself.
And the soldier’s courage was as much seen in his letters as in his
conduct in the field—wonderful tribute to its depth and sincerity. For
there were moments in the interminable war to try the nerves of the
hardened campaigner, much more those of the young man but lately broken
to its severities.

Yet there was never a tremor in the living wall encircling _la patrie_,
no touch of despair in the letters that Dupont pencilled home in the
intervals of bombardment.  His natural gaiety found an expression there,
as well as his courage and his calm.  Letters from only sons, out of
reach for the first time of maternal solicitude, manifested an almost
disconcerting enjoyment of danger and the independent life.  And those
women who had feared hitherto for the health of their darlings now
seemed to rejoice in new proofs of their courage and contempt of death.
Lads, apparently the most deeply wedded to the soft and unheroic
existence of towns, found an unexpected satisfaction in the strenuous
routine of camps.  The influence of the _milieu_, the daily contact with
the hard practices and risks of the _métier_, riveted armour about the
soul and bound the brows with brass.  Men, whose habit in civil life led
none to suspect the martial temperament, proved lions in the fight.  And
I knew a timid soul, a little delicate, much given to study and
reflection who, after a few months’ actual experience of the trenches,
became utterly changed.  No longer apologising for existence as in the
old days, he bore himself proudly in the field, and performed acts of
exceptional bravery. Of his civilian friends he asked with strange calm:
"Do you know how many Boches I’ve killed since the war began?"  And in
the surprised silence which followed, he gave a tally, which was
staggeringly significant.

Apart from the professional pride which dictated an air of gaiety, when
a visitor arrived, the occupant of the trench did not in his off moments
assume the mien of the troubadour.  On the contrary, he looked grave and
serious, and often austere.  It was remarkable that when he went to
Paris for a few days’ relief from the monotony of danger, he found
little enjoyment in the old-time pleasures.  And those who had been
distinguished for a high thoughtlessness, for an abandonment to the Red
Gods, proved hardy and virile warriors in the new life, with a speed
that astonished all who had not realised the French adaptability.
Frivolous in the days before the war, they now adopted an attitude of
disapproval and even of positive disgust towards some outward symptoms
of the "light heart."

There was not necessarily opposition between "poilu" and "pekin" (as the
civilian is amusingly called by the army), but there was, nevertheless,
a gulf fixed between the two: the one had seen visions and experienced
realities which were denied the other in his peaceful civilian path.  It
made all the difference in the world.  Whatever his sympathy, the
civilian brother had not suffered as had the "poilu"; he had been immune
from the hourly risk, he had not endured cold and hunger; he had not
lain out in the frosty moonlight, in the No Man’s Land of the trenches,
terribly wounded by one of the murderous engines of war; he had not
known the anguish of mind in hospital, the doubt whether the limb could
be saved or not, or whether he must go through life halt and maimed.
No, for all his sympathy and moral suffering, the civilian had not
reached the experiences of the other.

Reflections of this sort no doubt obtruded on the mind of the soldier in
his hours of lonely watch. Sometimes, when echoes of the old life were
wafted back to him in the trenches, or when he saw the report in
newspapers of some futile discussion in the Chamber, a smile of disdain
crossed his lips.  Frankly, he was a little tired of this sort of thing.
"If the Deputies were here, they would not talk quite so loudly," he
reflected with bitterness.  And then the headings of another column
caught his eye: "Great scandal, a contractor charged with fraud!  Huge
and hidden profits."  "Ah!" he exclaims, and his lips purse again.  This
time his comments are far severer than against the Parliamentarians.
"After all," he says, "those Deputies are paid to talk; it is their
business; but the blackguards who make money out of us, out of our lives
and limbs——"  The phrase is never finished, but the intonation leaves
you in no doubt as to the fate of the offenders if they had fallen into
his hands.  On the following day, perhaps, he sees another scandal of
the sort, and now his anger knows no bounds.  "What—again?  Then they
are all at it!" he exclaims.  In his excited imagination a considerable
part of civilian France is engaged in plundering military France.
Happily, there was great exaggeration in his sweeping assumptions.
Certainly there were scandals in France during the Great War, as there
were scandals elsewhere; but they were few and far between—so few that
their rarity magnified their importance.

The soldier’s sufferings in the trenches had warped a little his
judgment.  He was rather hard on others, disregarding their sacrifices
and their griefs, none the less real because they had not been exposed
to sudden death.  The hard work of munition workers turning out shot and
shell with ceaseless activity often escaped him, and if, as might
happen, he was deceived in his most intimate affections, and a moral
catastrophe awaited him at home, then his cup of bitterness was filled,
and in his wrath he declared that all women were faithless and all men
perjurers and conspirators against his honour or security.  And these
were the people for whom he was risking his life and sacrificing his
professional prospects!

The close union of every day with men engaged in the strong-hearted and
ruthless profession of war was bound to have a reaction upon thoughts
and ways of life.  In the rude existence of camps, something of the
veneer of drawing-rooms disappeared and man returned to primitive
directness and simplicity of thought and speech.  He became impatient of
subtlety and complicated ways, which seemed to him duplicity and the
enemy of plain-dealing.  A thing must be frank and clear to appeal to
him.  He had the soldier’s disgust of those who whispered in secret in
the warmth and shelter whilst he was exposed to the blast.  A new
temperament was forged in the out-of-doors born of the sun and wind and
rain.  And the thoughts of those who struggle with the elements and the
incredible difficulties of a man-made warfare often take on the rugged
character of their surroundings.

Directness of manner and speech are hardly looked for in the traditional
French, but war as it is to-day, is no school of politeness, but of
vigour and energy. A new _naïveté_ accompanied the new strength of soul,
and one of its manifestations was an art, which at other moments would
have astonished by its crudity and garishness.  It was visible in the
shop-windows, where cards showed the soldier in the trench.  Above him,
in a luminous break in filmy clouds, appeared the vision of the wife and
children gathered about the evening lamp.  They were thinking obviously
of the absent "papa."  Maudlin and mawkish though it was, it appealed to
the simple soul.  Exile from the social round, from the life of affairs,
from the frequentation of cafés and theatres in the small country towns,
had affected the mentality of the countryman.  This incredible existence
of the trenches, with its hairbreadth escapes and daily incidents in
which life and death played a tragic game of hide-and-seek, developed
such essential manliness and such rough and hearty heroism that the
mechanism of the mind reverted to the simplest expression.  Before the
great and serious question of to be or not to be, the minor aspects of
life ceased to have importance.  A man dying of hunger does not discuss
ortolans or peacocks’ tongues, nor do the subtleties of sauce appeal to
the meatless.  And the soldier of France, divorced from his usual
pleasures, and being in no mind to complicate existence, turns to the
readiest and simplest forms of literary or pictorial expression to
satisfy his emotions: it might be the cinematograph behind the lines, it
might be the _feuilleton_ in the halfpenny paper.

No doubt the mass became infected with the peasant spirit, for peasants
formed the bulk of the army, especially when the townsman became the
munition-worker. The peasant’s mind is both childlike and suspicious,
slow to anger, secretive, inclined to deep reflection.  He attaches
himself slowly, and only after long proof, to those who win his
reluctant confidence, and deeply tenacious are his purposes.  He will
defend his land to the death; he loves it as he loves liberty.  He
insists on his independence as he insists upon equality, and only upon
that principle will he submit to discipline.  Injustice arouses his
intense resentment, and General Galliéni’s crusade against the shirker
found its deepest roots and efficacy in his tacit recognition.

The fact that it was a war to resist invasion made it a holy war,
differing intrinsically from a war of aggression, which would never have
gained his whole-hearted support.  The Great War awakened the old
vehemence of the race, which first revealed its astounding power at the
battle of Valmy, where the shoeless hosts of the Revolution shook the
proudest might of Prussia.  That was the birth of the National Army,
which, a century and a quarter later, was to come to such extraordinary
development.  The nation coalesced in 1792 against the foreign tyrant,
but that union lacked the complete union of 1914, though it made up in
intensity of spirit what it needed in numbers.  The Revolution fought
for liberty against a caste system; then, as now, the peasant recognised
that he was defending his own ground—not the privileges of feudal
Europe—and the knowledge made him strong. A man is always formidable in
defending his own. In the same way, the French patriot realised that
militarism had forced the German to make war upon his peaceful
neighbour.  In the hospitals I have seen the soldier share with the sick
German prisoner dainties that had been brought to him.  "Poor devil, he
was forced to fight against us," he would say, showing his realisation
of the intimate differences of the two.  In _his_ case it was a
privilege to fight; he was defending his own fields against the hordes;
in the other, a blind obedience to the State compelled him to take arm.
One was a virtual volunteer in a sacred cause, the other the victim of
German Imperialism. It was well to know what one was fighting for, and
when one had realised the grandeur of the cause, then heat and cold, mud
and rats, and even occasional shortness of rations became of small
account.  The issue was paramount.

The French soldier was actuated by a deep love of country.  In his
mortal breast beat the immortal heart of France.  When the bugle
sounded, as M. Charles Humbert, the Senator Editor has told us, there
was a magnificent hastening to the frontier. The fighting souls of the
people reappeared, the old memory of struggles was reawakened.  "We
dreamed of heroic encounters, of brilliant actions, of sublime gestures,
of flags conquered in the sun.  The reality, alas, was quite otherwise!
Rapidly the war became a sad and protracted affair."  It became an
invisible, scientific, subterranean war of tenacity and endurance,
though sometimes blazing into manoeuvre battles as at Verdun.

Life, none the less, was not altogether disagreeable behind the lines.
There were compensations during the rest moments.  Concerts and
theatrical representations in which all the stars of the army appeared,
men who had been renowned artists "in the civil," made the audience
forget the dangers and discomforts of their actual life.  And in these
_entr’actes_ in the villages, the subject of the war was taboo by a sort
of coquetry; one talked of anything else, and occupied one’s leisure in
acquiring relics from the ruined houses in the devastated villages, or
sought, in other ways, to import some variety into the monotony of
danger.  The concerts revealed the singular talent of the French for
improvisation and gave occasion to a latent gaiety, which flickered and
flamed into pure joyousness.  From the mind in those moments was
banished dull care, and badinage became the current coin.  Whilst the
younger and more vigorous played games, the studious and literary
engaged in intellectual exercises.  Impressive in their reality are some
of the books that have been written at the Front.  There is a suggestion
of actual experience about them, of _chases vécues_, which one does not
feel in second-hand impressions.

Poems, too, flowed from the trenches—not poems, in general, concerned
with war, but love and the softer passions.  Where war was treated, it
was as a mistress, stern and hard to woo.  The Great War inspired
something of the lyricism that succeeded the Napoleonic era, when de
Musset, Hugo, Lamartine, and a pleiades of poets existed.  Talent
certainly flourished in the trenches.  An opera was a proof of it—words
and music of such startling excellence that the critics, before whom the
work was played, expressed a deep enthusiasm for it.  It was reserved
for production at the Paris Opera House until the music of the trenches
should have given place to the music of peace.  Like many a hero in the
fight, the author will remain anonymous until the war has ceased to be
anything but an ugly remembrance, and then we shall taste the quality of
the composition.

Heroism belongs to no class; it is present in the simple as in the
learned, in the rude as in the polished. One of the comforting
reflections of the war is that civilisation, in whose name it was waged,
is often justified by her children.  Civilised man proved his
superiority over the savage, and the untutored child of desert and
jungle was less master of himself in the dread hour than the finished
product of the study and laboratory.  That, at least, contains a certain
solace more satisfying to human pride than the diabolical inventions of
the Germans.  Brains triumphed in the direction of battles, and they
triumphed in the trenches, where the most cultivated showed the
ascendancy of mind over matter.  Though the savant and the peasant might
be on equal terms of courage, yet it is true that character is the basis
of it.  And where there were defections from the common bravery, the
explanation was in moral failure.  A division which broke in the early
days of the campaign and retreated some kilometres from the fight, was
composed of southern regiments containing, it was said, a large
percentage of the flotsam and jetsam of society.  And this, it seems,
proved that only those can wear the crown of heroism who have borne
themselves uprightly.

The schoolmaster has contributed to the spirit of the trenches by his
glorious example on the battlefield, if not by his teaching, which was
often in a sense opposed to what we term Patriotism.  Was he not the
arch-antimilitarist?  But his intelligence was awakened; he realised
what was at stake, and so he strove to make good that civilisation in
the name of which he had taught his beautiful but impracticable
theories.  All honour to his rapid realisation; all honour to his pupils
in the trenches.

                            *CHAPTER XVIII*


There is no better indication of the gaiety and good humour prevailing
at the Front than the journals that are circulating in the trenches.  I
know one charming periodical which was printed within a hundred yards of
the German lines, deep down in the earth, in one of those subterranean
forts that one imagined impregnable until it was discovered that the
Germans, by employing their great guns, could force their way through
the soil and attain these defences.  The best of the journals that the
war has produced on the French side is probably _Rigolboche_, an
extremely clever little paper, and yet unpretentious withal, being
hand-written and reproduced by a duplicating machine.  The letterpress
and sketches are really charming, and convey in the most eloquent manner
the good temper and high spirits maintained during this protracted war.
Even the deadly monotony of the fighting did not damp the artistic
ardour of its contributors.  Indeed, the pages of many of these jovial
little publications prove how indigenous to the soil of France are wit
and talent.  The wide mobilisation gathers every one into the
fold—artist and _littérateur_, artisan and peasant; but the last named,
notwithstanding his lack of letters, has qualities of his own, qualities
of soul, and even if he is unable to contribute directly to the trench
journal, the little newspaper sparkles with wit which he inspires.

_Rigolboche_ has a characteristic sketch.  The Kaiser and François
Joseph are discovered talking.  "My dear François Joseph," remarks the
Kaiser, "I think the moment has come to kill the Gallic cock; it is fat
and in good condition."  He draws his knife, but the cock flies full at
his face; at the same time, the British bull-dog gets his teeth into his
leg, and the Russian bull, charging up, bears him away on his back.

The "poilu" has given his name to many publications. There is, for
instance, the "Poilu et Marie-Louise," a title a little obscure, no
doubt, to the British reader; but the adjunction of "Marie-Louise"
signifies that it is associated with officers who left the famous school
of St. Cyr in a year when the anniversary of Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s
Imperial wife, gave its name to the academic year.  This organ appears
in all the glory of print; but the majority cannot afford this luxury.
The _Argonaut_ explains its origin, of course, distinctly enough.  It is
produced in the Argonne.  It contains illustrations and letter-press
copied by the duplicator. Another has the suggestive name of _La
Saucisse_—the popular name of the observation balloon, which directs the
fire of the guns.  The _Souvenir_, especially to French ears, has a
serious sound.  Before the war it had a definite military meaning.
To-day, as applied to this particular journal, it means an effort to
keep green the memory of those who have fallen in the field.  Whereas
the majority of trench publications give an amusing view of life at the
Front, the _Souvenir_ strikes the grave note.  Its articles are devoted
to cherishing the memory of brave deeds, and of the heroes who performed
them—lest we forget.  The editor, in an article of considerable charm,
quotes the remark of a mutilated soldier to a sympathetic civilian.
"Yes, I am the hero to-day," says the victim of the war, "but a hopeless
cripple to-morrow."  A glorious deed may be the work of a moment, but
crutches have no apparent glory and endure for a lifetime.  There is no
halo round the head with sightless eyes; no monument over the little
green grave, and society, on the morrow of victory, forgets.  And so the
poetic and heroic pages of the _Souvenir_ are full of the recital of
deeds of valour either actual in their happenings or symbolical.

_Le Ver luisant_ ("The Glow-worm ") represents quite a different
conception of the duty of a trench journal, as does _La Voix du 75_
("The Voice of the 75").  The _Bellica_, the _Boum Voila_, the _Boyau_,
the _Canard Poilu_, the _Clarion Territorial_, the _Cri de Guerre_, the
_Diable au Cor_ (the organ of the 3rd Brigade of the Chasseurs Alpins),
the _Écho des Marmites_, the _Écho du grand Couronné_, and the _Écho du
75_ are other titles.  Cheery productions they are, full of light
touches—humour that is not always very refined perhaps, but still
humour, among the bursting shells and the agony of death.  "Bocheries"
is the title of an amusing column in the picturesquely named _Marmite_
(the name given to heavy shells), and there is sometimes a light
fantastic column of fashions—such, for instance, as the correct way of
wearing the respirator, or the chic angle to tilt the steel helmet.

The British trench newspapers have also their particular
charm—intermingling Tommy’s robust cheerfulness with the shy pathos of
homesick islanders, but printed on fine paper, in good type, they lack a
little the winsome appeal of those tiny hand-written sheets, sometimes
no bigger than a sheet of foolscap, that are produced in the very
atmosphere of war, and which are nearly always dainty, and represent in
some subtle way the aroma of France: the wit and tenderness, the
heroism, the grand virtues of the fighting man, and yet his simplicity
of soul.  Obviously, they have been born in war, and yet unaffected by
the crash of metal, the horrid jar and thud of falling earth, the ruin
of defences, the crashing, crazy effects of heavy fire.

Here is another paper bearing the title of _La Félix Potinière_.  Every
one who has kept house in Paris knows that "Félix Potin" is the name of
a large provision stores; but the word _potin_ is the slang term for a
piece of gossip, and gossipy indeed are the contents of this amusing
little sheet.  What tranquillity of mind is revealed by these jokes and
_jeux d’esprit_; one would imagine the Boches were many miles off
instead of just round the corner! and, moreover, these stimulators to
gaiety have the professional touch: the cuisine is perfect; the man of
the _métier_ has been at work, and "news," with its accompanying
comment, is served up with _sauce piquante_. _La Guerre Joviale_ does
not belie its excellent title; it shows us war under its most agreeable
aspect; at least it is heartening if not strictly true.  And
_L’Indiscret des Poilus_, the _Lapin à plume_ ("The Feathered Rabbit")
and _Notre Rire_ (the organ of the artillery) are brimful of laughter
and the joy of living, even though sometimes, in their surroundings,
there is little laughter, a festival of Death rather than of Life.

Another "poilu," a very curious sort of fellow, comes from the Champagne
district, and yet another from Verdun, smoking hot with battle.  One can
imagine the editor inditing his poems and dishing up his article—one can
almost see him doing it—with an aerial torpedo sailing overhead and all
sorts of death-dealing engines threatening his plant down in the
deep-sunk chamber where the joyous little herald blows his blast of good
hope and perseverance to the soldiers of its circulation.  These are
real examples of the indomitable will of France in the most tremendous
episode of her existence, hardly excepting the Revolution—for the War of
’70 sinks into utter insignificance before this vast and world-wide
upheaval. There is no mistaking the gay insouciant character, though
sometimes the effort to cheer may go a little beyond the strict
requirements.  Nevertheless, these little papers are barometers of the
fighting spirit of France.  It is not strange to find this fighting
spirit so keenly developed in the first-line trenches, for here it was
tuned to the highest pitch by reason of the stress of circumstances, by
reason of the close proximity of danger, by the very intoxication of
that danger, and by the common spirit of heroism that comes from close
comradeship; but it is significant that the same spirit existed at the
rear where men were awaiting their turn for battle—the sort of waiting
that is the severest test for nerves; and it is as symbols of this
splendid and invincible spirit that these charming little documents have
their greatest psychological importance.

In glancing through the collection of M. de la Roncière, Keeper of the
Printed Books at the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris, one is
particularly impressed by the spirit of fraternity that pervades the
trench newspaper, evidence of the thoroughly democratic army of France.
No journal prides itself as being the organ of a "crack" regiment.
There are, in fact, no _corps d’élite_—corps that are specially
recruited.  In the Republican model army each regiment is placed on a
footing of equality, and the tendency in all records of achievements is
to keep a strict balance and to give no more glory to one unit than
another. None the less, certain regiments have perforce distinguished
themselves in spite of this arrangement. They have distinguished
themselves because they have been in the forefront of the fighting,
because they have borne the brunt of dangerous enterprises, because they
have persisted in keeping alive the old traditions of the corps,
traditions which arose from the fact that the men forming it came from a
certain district renowned for its hardy types, and capable of an endless
energy of resistance.  Such a regiment is the "Chasseurs à Pied," the
most famous corps of the Home Army, and popularly known as the
"Chasseurs Alpins."  For although the Chasseurs were used all along the
eastern frontier from Belfort to Lunéville, the popular mind constantly
associates them with the mountains—the little thick-set men in dark blue
tunics and blue Tam-o’-Shanters, skimming over the snow upon skis.
These are men of the Alps and the Vosges, sturdy of limb and sound of
wind, real mountaineers, courageous, resourceful and capable of endless
fatigue.  No unit of the French Army has suffered as much as they in
proportion to their numbers.  They have been everywhere where the
fighting was most severe, and at Verdun they took a foremost part in
resisting the colossal attack of the Germans. Although there was a
Chasseur regiment under the Empire, dressed very much as were the
Grenadiers, with a high fur bonnet, in their present form the corps is
of comparatively recent date, and has existed only three-quarters of a
century; the regimental records, however, hold some well-known names.
President Poincaré performed his military service in this famous corps,
Bar-le-Duc being his recruiting centre, and among its officers were both
Canrobert and MacMahon, the one commanding the fifth and the other the
eighth battalion.

The Great War effected changes in the traditional uniform of the
Chasseurs.  Though they kept their dark clothes out of pride of family
whilst the rest of the army—except the Moroccans, who were in
khaki—adopted the horizon blue, the famous blue _béret_ (Tam-o’-Shanter)
embroidered with a golden bugle was sacrificed for the steel helmet, at
least for service in the trenches—that valuable head-gear which has
saved probably fifty per cent. of head wounds.

One of the most picturesque elements of the French army are the Zouaves,
with their blue embroidered tunic and vest and the baggy red trousers
reaching to the knee, the whole surmounted by the fez.  Of this gorgeous
uniform the only survival of the war, alas, was the fez.  The blue tunic
was changed to a khaki coat, the voluminous trousers copied from the old
Turkish garb became merely baggy khaki breeches.  _Sic transit gloria
mundi_!  But if the Zouaves were deprived of their brilliant plumage,
they made up for it in glory of achievement.  Largely employed in
storming-parties, the Germans learnt to fear the Zouaves more than any
other troops, so reckless were they in their bravery and their utter
disregard of desperate odds.  The corps dates from the early days of
Algeria, and was created in 1831, when two battalions were formed,
receiving the name of "Zouaves" from the Arab _Zouaoua_, a fierce and
intractable tribe of Kabyle, the best fighters of Northern Africa.  The
Zouaves were recruited originally from the Kabyles and Arabs of Algeria
and also, a curious feature, from the hot bloods of the Paris
population—an element that was introduced, because it was thought
advisable to dilute the number of natives by Europeans.  The blend was
admirable, and the new troops performed marvels of dash and daring in
those days, just after the July Revolution of 1830, when France was not
sure whether she wanted her new colonies or not, and left to the
Algerian administration the onus of consolidating the nominal conquest
and pacifying and developing the country.  One of the early commanders
of the corps was de Lamorcière, a bold and dashing officer, with more
than a touch of eccentricity in his composition.  He spoke all the
Arabian dialects perfectly, and indeed was an ideal leader for such a
corps of dare-devils.

The Zouaves hold many distinguished records in French history.  Under
Marshal MacMahon they fought at Malakoff and Sebastopol, and the Third
Zouaves went into action under the eyes of Victor Emmanuel, taking a
prominent part in the capture of the bridge at Palestro, marking the
victory of the French and Piedmontese over the Austrians.

The formation of the Zouaves led to the establishment of other native or
semi-native corps, notably the Tirailleurs Algériens.  Since that day
the conquest of Morocco has added other elements to the native army;
and, particularly in the early days of the war, the French populations
in the region of the Front were interested to see the picturesque
figures of the Spahis, or native Moroccan cavalry, in their robes and
turbans, sitting superbly their swift and strong little horses.

Later, however, the native element (which could not overcome its fear
and repugnance to cannon) was largely eliminated, and the Zouaves,
greatly increased from their original numbers, were mainly composed of
colonials of French parentage.

But perhaps the most interesting regiment from the psychological point
of view—the regiment that teems with romance and holds thousands of
secrets in its ranks—is the famous Foreign Legion.  Under Napoleon I the
Foreign Legion existed side by side with distinctly national regiments,
such as the Portuguese, the Dutch, and even the German regiments. But
under Louis Philippe the two regiments that were the original force
became definitely formed into a Foreign Legion.  The sphere of the
Foreign Legion was mainly Africa, for owing to its mixed nationality,
resulting in a large diversity of sympathy, it was deemed unsuitable for
European warfare.  True, it was actively employed in the Crimea, and
also earlier against the Carlists in Spain; but during the Crimean War
there was a certain amount of desertion by elements of the corps that
had Slav sympathies. Hence the Foreign Legion was mainly employed in
tribal warfare, and Africa was its recognised home. Strangely diverse
were its ranks—the Paris hooligan, the swindling banker, unfrocked
bishops, aristocrats who had dragged their names into the dust, the
discredited politician.  Of the Legionaries no questions are asked, and
the pseudonyms they adopt often cover the once famous names of men who
have "disappeared."  Rumour credits the corps with many strange tales,
but it is undoubtedly true that an authentic German princeling fought
with the Legion until the opening of the war, when he crossed over to
Germany and used his local knowledge to great effect against his quondam

At the beginning of the war the ranks of the Foreign Legion were swelled
to a vast extent by the stream of volunteers of all nationalities who
loved France and rushed to her succour.  There were Italians, Belgians,
Greeks, English, Americans, who were anxious to take up arms for the
invaded country. Poles, Russians, Croates, Slovanes, Serbs, Finns,
Montenegrins, and Tcheques joined.  Some came to France from the
uttermost ends of the earth to offer their services: Peruvians, Swiss,
Argentines, Norwegians.  There were German Poles and Danes from
Sleswig-Holstein, Spaniards, Galicians, and Italians from the Trentino,
and ten thousand Alsatians, German subjects, who had escaped.  There
were thus available 35,000 men, a veritable army corps.  This was the
figure, in spite of the rejection of a great number by the recruiting
board at the Invalides. They all left for their dépôts four days later.
These volunteers were of all ages and of all nationalities—boys of
eighteen, and mature men of fifty and even more; Polish miners from the
north of France; Kabyle workmen from factories in the Seine et Oise;
Russian artists, international boxers (including a negro champion),
famous trick cyclists, and jockeys, who had often worn winning colours
at Longchamp and Auteuil.  Alec Carter the well-known jockey was killed.
There were also young artists from various nations at the École des
Beaux Arts.  Prominent writers and artists, a son of Maxime Gorki, and
several quite well-known poets from Central America; the son of the
Russian ambassador, M. Iswolsky, and a famous pelota player, Pablo

The regiment has fought splendidly at the Front, partaking all the
sufferings of the soldiers, all their danger and their glory too.  The
force has been employed in all the grand _coups de chien_.  There was
the spirited address of a Captain who read out the order of the General,
and then said, "Mes Enfants, we have the honour of attacking the first.
Pay no heed to those who fall.  If I go down, leave me; push on without
thinking of anything else."  Some sang the _Marseillaise_ and others
their national hymns.  Their conduct on that great day was sublime.
They rushed fearlessly forward under the storm of shell, bayonets
glittering in the sunshine of an early May morning.  Nothing stops the
formidable advance. They swarm over the parapet; the course commences.
Their orders were to carry Hill 140, and they fulfilled their
instructions.  The Polish Legion was extraordinarily brave, and it saw
fall at its head, brandishing the colours, Ladislas de Szuynski, son of
the celebrated Polish historian.  Concerning the Polish Legion there is
the pretty story of a Pole who, wishing to discover whether there were
Poles among the enemy, crawled on his stomach in the night to the German
trenches.  Once arrived there, he sang, very quietly, an old Polish
song.  Surprised, the German Poles lifted their heads, observed the bold
singer, and allowed themselves to forget the horrors of war. When he had
finished the listeners began to talk about Poland, that the Prussian
kept underfoot.  A Pole surely should not fight against France, who
fights for Poland, insinuated the emissary.  There was another song, and
then, under the enchantment of the old memories, the Poles allowed
themselves to be persuaded and carried over to the French trenches.

One of the principal elements of the new Foreign Legion were the
Garibaldians, who showed immense fervour.  They formed a part of the
10th Division under General Gouraud in the Argonne, and with them were
the six grandsons of Garibaldi.  Their tactics were extraordinarily
impetuous, and in a three-days’ fight they lost 800 men.  The special
corps into which they were formed was disbanded on Italy’s declaration
against Austria, but their valour had been such that Joffre expressed
his sense of honour in commanding them.

Wherever it has fought, whether to-day or yesterday, the Foreign Legion
has always left a record of valour, daring and devilry.  An amusing
story is recalled from Crimean days, when Canrobert stopped in front of
a Legionary and asked him what sort of shoes he was wearing?  Strange
shoes indeed! for he had blackened his feet, having sold his boots for
_eau de vie_.  But episodes such as this are ever typical of a corps
that sells its shoes for a little brandy, and its life for a spice of

The colonial troops of the French Army were called, until a few years
ago, Marine Infantry, and were attached directly to the Navy.  Nowadays
the system adopted is that of some regiments in the British Army; that
is to say, one battalion remains at home whilst the other battalions
serve in the colonies. They wear a dark blue uniform with yellow
epaulettes. During the course of the war their composition became very
mixed, and negroes and tribesmen from the Soudan were embodied with
them.  In this case also the colonial troops are perhaps less adapted to
European warfare than they are to their own special field of action in
the colonies against insurrectionary tribes.

A very fine corps, which covered itself with glory at Dixmude, is the
Marine Fusiliers.  The force retreated to Dixmude when their original
mission, which was to defend Antwerp, failed, owing to the collapse of
the Belgian defence.  Here they held their ground with the greatest
heroism for over a month, though the original plan was that they should
be relieved in a few hours, and at this spot a peculiarly tragic
incident took place.  A second in command, a naval captain, Janiaud,
went up to take the surrender of two German companies of infantry, which
were surrounded by the Marines.  The Germans seized the captain and kept
him prisoner.  The Fusiliers then opened fire, which was briskly
returned by the Germans, but during the short engagement which ended in
the capitulation of the enemy force, the captain was shot dead by two
German officers with their revolvers.  After this act of treachery,
which took place in November 1914, the Marine Fusiliers swore to take no
further prisoners, a resolution to which they have rigorously held in
their various engagements ever since.

                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                          *THE AIRMAN IN WAR*

"Ah, monsieur, you fly like a bird!" said an admirer one day to Pégoud.

"A bird!" was the famous reply, "Les oiseaux ne savent pas voler!"
("The birds don’t know how to fly!")  And indeed the bird-man, soaring
at immense height and incredible speed, has left the little denizen of
the air far behind.  The wings of the machine are rigid, it is true, but
also they are tireless; and the skill of the inventor and science of the
mathematician have excelled the pulsing wings of flesh and feather.  A
few years back—ten years ago to be exact—the birds must have tittered as
they watched at Bagatelle the fearsome efforts of the ugly ducklings of
the early days of aviation.  On November 13, 1906, a famous date in the
history of flying, Santos Dumont flew 220 metres in twenty-one seconds,
that is, at the rate of nearly thirty-eight kilometers an hour.  He had
won the prize of the Aero Club for a hundred meters in a straight line.
The experiments began at ten in the morning, but the test was not
accomplished until late in the afternoon.  Two enormous birds spreading
their white wings of canvas—the one belonging to Santos Dumont and the
other to Blériot—lay upon the green carpet of the ground.  A crowd of
enthusiasts, amongst whom were some of the great names in aeronautics,
such as M. Archdeacon, the Marquis de Dion, Surcouf, Louis Renault and
M. Besançon, were upon the ground surrounding the two pioneers and
eagerly discussing the theories of lighter than air and heavier than
air—that is, the bag filled with hydrogen that floated in air, or the
aeroplane which flew by its own means of engine and wings.  The machine
of Santos Dumont was a weird-looking thing.  Some compared it with an
ibis or heron as it rose into the air with its long neck outstretched
and its wings spread—a strange thing like an antediluvian bird.  Its
planes were formed of canvas frames divided into cubes, so that at one
angle it looked like a flying cupboard.  The square box-like head in
front was the steering apparatus.  The tail of the beast was represented
by the screw continually lashing its way through the air.  The pioneer
sat in a little cage arrangement between the planes, so that his head
and body emerged and he had the appearance of riding astride. The first
starts were a little unpromising.  The machine rose a few inches, and
then a few yards, and came to earth abruptly in each case.  In three
separate attempts it flew one hundred and fifty yards in all, achieving,
in the third attempt, eighty yards in seven seconds.  But it was not
until the light was failing that the machine really rose to any height.
It then flew at six metres from the ground at a tremendous rate.  The
airman, however, was forced to descend for fear of an accident to the
crowd, which was following his movements with impassioned interest.  He
had won the prize of the Aero Club for sustained flight, an advance, at
any rate, upon the series of leaps in the air which had passed for
flight before that.  It was said that the Wright brothers had flown
twenty-five miles; but that was in America, and, besides, the Parisians
were not very sure about it; but here in France it was the first time
that mortal man had flown over the heads of humanity by mechanical
means.  The Blériot-Voisin machine, though very ingenious in its
construction, did not succeed that day; Santos Dumont, the little plucky
Brazilian, was the real conqueror: future laurels were being reserved
for M. Blériot.  The French, indeed, have pioneered in the air.  The
brothers Montgolfier were the first to make ascents in their balloon;
and the balloon originally appeared as a military engine for observation
above the battle-field of Fleurus, where the Revolutionary General
Jourdan vanquished the Austrians in 1794. The dirigible is also largely
the product of French invention.

One of the amazing features of the war was the rapid development of
aviation after the outbreak of hostilities.  In a few months only the
aeroplane emerged from its experimental stage and appeared as a highly
finished and accurate instrument of war.  An immense stride was attained
when the machine was first adapted by the French to carry cannon, which
enabled the attack upon another aeroplane to be made in the horizontal
plane instead of vertically, as was necessary when one machine had to
mount above another in order to drop bombs or _flèchettes_—one of those
refinements of cruelty which the present war has produced.
Incidentally, there are some who say that the German _flèchettes_,
launched from the skies, were of such inferior steel that they buckled
up when they touched a hard object.  However that may be (and we have no
reason to complain of such an arrangement), weight, whether in the form
of cannon or other armaments, was constantly added to the aeroplane, and
the problem then arose as to the maintenance of speed. In the aerial
machine, speed is the first requisite, especially nowadays when it is
necessary to mount and mount, perhaps, to six thousand yards to overfly
the enemy craft, be he Zeppelin or fellow airman. And a few minutes make
all the difference—the difference of kilometers—in the pursuit; thus
speed must always be combined with those offensive properties that are
being gradually added to the battle-plane.

And a third difficulty was that of starting the machine quickly in
pursuit of an enemy travelling at the great heights that are now
customary—and indeed obligatory—with the development of anti-aircraft
artillery.  Naturally the machine even of the speedier sort loses time
as it mounts spirally or in a series of inclined planes to give battles
to the Zeppelin or Fokker.  Would it be possible to turn the observation
balloon into a sort of perch for the airman, so that he would be
suspended always midway between earth and sky ready instantly (if one
may suppose him able to detach himself) to fly away in pursuit of the
stranger?  Yet in the present stage of development such a desideratum is
difficult of realisation.  The airman must start from the ground or
return to it every time he wants to overhaul his engine or replenish his
reservoirs.  That is his touch with solid realities: otherwise one might
suppose him flying for days, never setting foot to earth, the modern
Guardian Angel, hovering eternally in the heavens.

The aeroplane has completely revolutionised warfare, inasmuch as it has
deprived strategy of its chief weapon—surprise.  As the eyes of the army
the aeroplane played its most important rôle.  A light and very speedy
machine is the scout, and it is his duty to make reconnaissances, report
upon gun emplacements, the numbers of the opposing troops, the movements
of the enemy, and the disposition of his trenches.  But the aeroplanes
used in warfare are not all alike.  The tendency is towards
differentiation, and while the scout is swift and light, the
battle-plane is extremely powerful and heavily armed with cannon or
machine-guns, sometimes also carrying a spur for ramming enemy craft;
and again there is a third type of machine armed also for defence, but
adapted principally to range-finding, and fitted with signalling and
photographic apparatus; it hovers continually over the enemy lines
directing artillery fire.  None of the offices of the aeroplane proved
more valuable than that of giving the range of enemy positions to one’s
own artillery, and then registering the shots, marking where they fell
too short, or overpassed the mark.  This is one of the most dangerous as
well as the most useful of the services rendered by the man-bird.  It
requires great nerve, judgment, and coolness on the part of the aviator,
for he must hang over the enemy trenches and expose himself to the fire
of their anti-aircraft guns, the efficacity of which made rapid strides
as the war progressed.  The German method of signalling to the opposing
batteries by means of smoke bombs with different-coloured fuses was soon
improved upon by the French, who used wireless telegraphy and the
heliograph by day.  But the rôle of the aeroplane is not confined even
to these important services.  It becomes at times the instrument of
aerial bombardment for the destruction of fortified places, military
stores, railway junctions, dirigible sheds, encampments, bridges, and
roads used by the military.  When war broke out, the French airmen
received explicit instructions not to bombard any town for fear of
inflicting harm upon civilians, but the Germans were not so scrupulous,
and their defiance of the dictates of humanity forced a change in the
policy of their Allies, if only in self-defence.

The aeroplane could be used also as a link for communicating with armies
and their staffs, particularly in the case of a besieged army or town.
And, finally, the man-bird is admirable in the capacity of aerial
policeman; he can watch the clouds and he can prevent the passage of the
enemy pilots.  Not that it is possible to suppose that one force of
aeroplanes, however numerous, can completely occupy the heavens, for the
skies are broad; but bold aviators ever on the watch, patrolling the sky
in constant relays (as was the case in the aerial defence of Paris
against the Zeppelins), will generally succeed, whatever measures are
taken against them, in overtopping the adversary; and the French aviator
is remarkably good in that sort of warfare where native audacity and
resource are in demand—that is why the Frenchman is so superb a
performer in the air.  None the less it is impossible quite to bar out
the enemy.  The clouds may always hide a foe; the fog is ever the
possible lurking ground of the hostile airship.  But although the
barrage system (so successfully applied on solid earth in the _tir de
barrage_) cannot absolutely prevent a Zeppelin attack upon a
wide-spreading town, yet the aerial dam has given good results in the
war of the air.  The procedure is to institute a barrage of aeroplanes
over against a certain locality—a certain restricted space.  The enemy
is marked down and prevented from passing.  Undesirable visitors are
invited to "move on," and they do not wait for a repetition of the
request!  I have heard of one hardy airman who, charged to watch the
heavens against the passage of the adversary, so manoeuvred that the
thick heavy clouds which hung in the sky were positively useful to him
as a screen. Noting that at one point there was a clear space in the
dense curtain of fog, he placed himself there and watched as a look-out
might in the embrasure of a fort.  None came to challenge his vigilance.

Again the barrage tactics are extremely useful in the prevention of
secrets being divulged to the enemy.  Certain important movements, such
as the moving up of reinforcements, are taking place in a certain part
of the line, and to keep the enemy from knowledge of the fact
_squadrillas_ of battle-planes are sent up to bar the way to the enemy
scouts, and nothing can penetrate the screen of the _avions_. Thus it
has so happened that, thanks to the barrage system, the enemy has been
without definite news of the Allies’ movements during twenty-four hours.
But let it be remembered that the aerial dam implies the mastery of the
air, as important to the Allies as the mastery of the seas: indeed, one
could establish a very close analogy between the two.  The mastery of
the air—the complete mastery—would have meant the finish of the war, the
absolute victory for that side which possessed it.  And the aerial fleet
must consist of aeroplanes, not Zeppelins.  For after all the Zeppelins
failed miserably either in their bombardment of England or their assault
upon French towns.  True they have taken toll of a certain number of
innocent lives in England, but an infinitesimal number in comparison
with the holocaust caused by a terrestrial bombardment.  Cumbersome,
unwieldy, unable to operate except in a fog, the Zeppelin was
comparatively ineffectual as an engine of war, and would not have been
employed by the Germans except to prevent the public exposure of a
mistaken policy.  Six aeroplanes could effect more damage than one
Zeppelin, whose radius of action is circumscribed by the fact that it
has to carry vast weight for a long journey, that it is expensive to
build, and consumes immense quantities of fuel _en route_; that it is
almost as dangerous to itself as to the enemy on account of its
vulnerability from cannon and from high winds, and moreover it is
constantly exposed to attack from the upper strata of air by the
aeroplane which swoops down upon it with the speed of the eagle, and
against which the Zeppelin has no defence.  No, it is the aeroplane that
has come to stay, and a very prominent airman—a man who bears a
household name in aeronautics—declared to me that the side which could
furnish ten thousand aeroplanes with the airmen to mount them would win
the war.  For if aerial bombardment had, up to that moment, taken very
little place in the hostilities it was because it was on so small a
scale.  Very little effect was to be obtained by sending half a dozen
apparati over a town—it is true that in some of the French raids over
German towns there were as many as thirty machines employed, but this
was the great exception.  It is easy to conjure up the effect of a
gigantic bombardment—a shower of metal from the sky—rained everywhere
upon the enemy troops on the march, upon the enemy convoys in the rear,
upon his stores and magazines, upon his bridges and railways.  Such a
bombardment, if it could be continued systematically for long enough,
would mean his forced surrender, for retreat would not save him.  His
aerial foes would be always quicker than he, even his quickest motor
transport, and would bombard him from the skies. So that the mastery of
the sky would ensure the victory for any army.

The development of the aeroplane is full of the most startling
possibilities.  Already it has far outflown the vision of its inventors,
for, a very short time ago it seems, one of the Voisin _frères_ declared
to me that the aeroplane would never be other than a rich man’s hobby,
of little use in war-time other than the dropping of a few explosives.
My informant has since trodden the path of so many brave pilots, but had
he lived he would have admitted to-day that the possibilities of the
aeroplane seem limitless.  The appearance of the Sikorski machine in
Russia carrying five or six men in its cabin encourages the belief that
the aerobus will soon be a practical reality, and the imagination is
fired by the prospect of the air humming with giant aeroplanes, which,
by the way, the Germans also attempted to use during the war.  There is
more than a possibility—so many surprising things have happened—that, in
the future, commanders will have aerial motor lorries at their disposal
for the rapid transport of their troops.  Thus strategy and the
physiognomy of the fight would be completely changed. It would effect a
complete metamorphosis.  The commander who possessed this aerial fleet
would be able to carry the whole of his army with the speed and ease of
the magic carpet of the _Arabian Nights_ to some distant point and
descend even into the enemy country.  Nevertheless, as M. Blanchon in
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ suggests, the General who resorted to these
aerial methods could not carry out normal military operations for the
reason that his _matériel_ must go by road.  But when the science of
air-transport is sufficiently advanced to allow armies to pass in the
sky, presumedly that army will know how to take care of its lines of

These are dreams of the future, however, and their realisation is
problematical.  But the vision which is in no wise uncertain—the vision
which will be realised in the near future, is that of vast armies of
wings gathered in the sky.  Nations will no longer possess fleets of
hundreds of aeroplanes, but tens of thousands will lie in readiness to
skim into enemy country and scatter terror and death over vast areas.
The nations that plunge into war will no longer pledge only their
fighting men; they will enter into battle knowing that their women and
children must also endure the worst agony of horror, for modern science
has destroyed civilised warfare, and modern man has joined hands with
primitive man and wars upon the innocent and helpless.

But it must be conceded that superiority in the machines should be
accompanied by superiority in pilots.  In a conversation which I had at
the time of writing this chapter with M. Louis Blériot (who knows as
much as any man living of the practical side of aviation and even its
scientific side), the famous winner of the cross-Channel prize confessed
that France had not sufficiently developed her rich treasure in expert
and adventurous men—the very pick of the pilots of the world—though the
English, too, were extraordinary for their _sang-froid_ and were
remarkable airmen.  For in the air as on the land, in the last resort,
it is the personal element which tells.  A school, urged Blériot, was
necessary to form such super-pilots as Garros and Pégoud, men renowned
for ever for their prowess in the air.

For the conquest of the air is to the swift and strong and fearless.
Prudence and sagacity, and the slow measured wisdom that comes with the
years, play no part in so breathless a pursuit.  It is a game for young
gods, not for the pale _savant_; a sport for young eagles, for a man
must be sharp of eye, strong of claw and sinews to cleave his way
through the clouds, right into the face of day.  These super-men who
ride fearlessly amongst the stars must be the very pick of humanity,
revelling in the sensations of supreme danger, glorying in the knowledge
that in a few seconds an assailant may emerge from yonder cloud with
whom he must come into death grapples, and well aware that the
vanquished will crash down thousands of feet to earth.  Youth: youth has
been poured out with a lavish hand on the smoking, bloody altar of the
war.  Youth: there is no incense more precious to the gods.  Alas! a
monstrous sort of selection is exercised.  The young are mowed down by
Death with the scythe, leaving the least adventurous, the timid and
calculating—those who are sure eventually to die of a cold in the
head—to live on.

Very curious is the psychology of the airman.  He is billeted so often
in the midst of the world in some pleasant little town away behind the
lines—it may be even Paris; sometimes also Fate sends him to a château
where he lives like a prince amid ancestral halls and a sweeping
park—until the day when duty calls him to mount the perilous stairway of
the skies to give mortal combat to the enemy.  In the trenches men
welcome an attack as a relief from the deadly monotony of life in pits,
but the airman leaves an easeful, agreeable, social life for the cold,
austere atmosphere of the skies under the pure radiant dome of heaven.
It requires a man of special temperament to withstand so lively a
contrast—not to be softened or unnerved by it.  Think of the solitude of
the upper air, careering absolutely alone, perhaps. And there is no
turning back.  There is no such word as "funk" in the bright lexicon of
the airman.  He is up there because he is fearless, because he does not
dread being solus in the wide heavens, because he is a man and no
craven, because he has nerves of steel and whipcord.  And he must be
ready to fight with any weapons.  Garros was equally expert in attacking
and bringing down his man with machine-gun, carbine, rifle, or even
revolver, and in ten days before he was captured he had "grassed" three
German aeroplanes.  One of the men who fell into his hands having asked
him to announce his capture to the German lines, Garros started off in
that spirit of chivalry common amongst airmen.  There is this delightful
about the new arm, it has given a touch of romance to the drab horror of
the war.  Whenever a man was captured or killed, airmen from the
opposite camp dropped a letter informing the comrades of the victim,
often with an added word of praise.  "Even the Germans are gentlemen in
the air," remarked a young pilot the other day.  There is chivalry in
the air.  The man with his head near the stars, flying in immeasurable
space, has no room for littlenesses.  His heart is large and splendid
like the splendour of his deeds—deeds that make the exploits of the old
heroes pale into insignificance. They are the phenomenal fruit of a
limitless audacity, of a glorious and spring-like youth, of the heyday
of existence, when danger is the mad intoxicant, the heady draught that
puts brightness into the eye, that gives a riotous pleasure to life,
that is like song and wine to the hero clad in the shining and
invincible armour of his own superlative freshness and illusions.

The bodies that crash down from the heavens and the souls that soar into
the white radiance of Eternity have known no petty thought, have
perpetrated no mean deed.  Yes, there is chivalry in the Air.

                              *CHAPTER XX*

                         *THE POILU’S HOSPITAL*

There is this wonderful and alluring in France, that, recognising the
faults in an administration or department of the public service, she
sets to work immediately to effect reform.  And it was clear enough that
the _service de santé_, or hospital service, was grievously defective at
the outbreak of the war. It was a question that had never been properly
worked out.  Those who had thought about the subject at all, never
supposed that the demands upon the department would be so terrific.
Probably they thought, as did most Frenchmen, that the war would be of
quick duration and that—well—the inconveniences of the system would be
but temporary, and one would do the best one could in so short a time.
But the actual facts were to give the lie to this prevision as to many
others.  The war lasted long, the demands upon the hospital were not
only terrific but protracted.  But with the spirit of adaptability, of
which the French have given so many proofs during the war, they set to
work with the resolution to do the best possible.  Little by little the
gross defects of the earlier days were remedied; the number of doctors,
which at the beginning had been hopelessly inadequate, was augmented,
and immense improvements were made in the organisation of the hospital
trains.  Thereupon the evacuation of the wounded developed on
scientifically humane lines, in spite of the difficulties of an
unexpected kind, mainly brought about by the colossal character of the
war.  Thus the wounded rapidly received attention in the ambulances and
were quickly sent away in trains and motor-cars, and reached the most
distant parts of France not later than the morrow of the combat.  I was
at Biarritz when the Champagne offensive was taking place, and saw
arrive at the station wounded men, still powdered with the dust of the
trenches, who had been in the fight twenty-four hours before.

The hospitals, however, even the most modern in their equipment, did not
equal the English, still less the American, but the reason was not far
to seek: a lack of money.  A great many "sanitary formations" (as they
are called in France) suffered also from a want of motors; in fact the
French, by the very nature of the circumstances, had not the immense
resources that the English possess.  English newspapers raised immense
sums for the care of the sick. But if the French had not the money to
devote to the niceties of hospital installation they did the best they
could with the time and means at their disposal. And although, perhaps,
the hospitals were not as clean as would satisfy English tastes, they
served their purpose, which was to restore as many men as possible to
the firing-line and alleviate suffering.

Eternally to their credit is the manner in which the French resolutely
set their house in order after the failure of the system was revealed on
the field of battle.  It must be remembered that the long duration of
battles nowadays prevents the wounded from being removed at once, and
often they have to remain the whole of the day where they have fallen
until the night comes and they can be transported. Naturally it is of
high importance in the saving of life that the wounded should be got
away as quickly as possible to avoid the setting in of gangrene.

The Committee, which was formed by M. Millerand at the Ministry of War
in the early days of hostilities, to effect reforms in the army medical
service, fixed the number of sixty motor-cars per army corps. This
number was in direct relation with the accommodation of the hospital
trains.  But when the war took on the character of a war of manoeuvres
it became necessary to employ trains used for ammunition and even for
food supply—returning empty to their base—for the evacuation of the
wounded.  In a general fashion it may be said that the great
preoccupation of the military command is to transport the wounded away
from the scene of action as rapidly as possible in order to remain
unhampered.  One could draw a melancholy picture of the first victims of
the war and its shambles being sent right across France in crawling
trains—the word is applicable in a double sense, a long-drawn-out
agony—before the arrival at the base hospital.  Never shall I forget the
first trainful of British wounded I encountered coming from Mons.  The
goods train, without seats, benches or beds, crawled and jolted by,
passing my train going in the opposite direction.  We shouted words of
cheer, to which many of the Tommies replied, gaily enough.  Some even
jumped off the creeping train to pick up the fruit we threw (one fellow,
I remember, with a bandaged leg, hopped on one foot in the permanent
way, determined not to lose a pear that had fallen there).  But others,
again, made no reply, and we hushed our voices and bowed our heads as we
saw recumbent figures, stretched in cattle trucks on bundles of straw,
figures that gave no sign.  Would they ever speak again, these men lying
alone, untended, in the creaking, jarring train?  But these terrible
conditions were quickly changed.  At the beginning of the war there were
only five regular hospital trains provided with beds for the wounded,
and a hundred improvised trains, formed to a large extent of the rolling
stock of goods trains.  The wounded could not be properly attended in
such trains, because there was a lack of communication between the
different parts, but afterwards, corridor trains were adopted almost
exclusively. Nevertheless the number of the wounded was so great, after
some of the battles, that every sort of train possible and imaginable
had to be pressed into the service.  But the Committee, by its wise and
careful dispositions, rendered a great service in providing train
accommodation for sixty thousand wounded to which the Minister of War
added twenty thousand; and which again, I believe, was considerably
increased by General Galliéni during his brief but strenuous period at
the Ministry of War.

As originally conceived the ambulance of the Front was equipped for
major operations as well as the hospital in the rear, but afterwards it
was found inadvisable to perform operations in these conditions where
the surgeon had not the time or the tranquillity of mind necessary for
the purpose; and so by a later arrangement the hospitals for the major
operations were placed fifteen or twenty miles to the rear. And so it
happened that the first mistakes were rectified.  Instead of great and
important operations being conducted on the field of battle, subject to
the dangers and interruptions from such a propinquity, the more gravely
wounded, whose state required amputation, were rapidly transported to
these hospitals in the rear after their wounds had been attended to in
the first place, and an examination made in the field hospital, or
ambulances as they are called in France.  This system gave much better
results than that adopted in the beginning, whereby the _ambulances de
l’avant_ (or advanced ambulances) and the reserve ambulances, the
divisional ambulances, and the army ambulances, were interchangeable.
They were intended to serve for all the purposes of attending to the
wounded.  They were used either as a place of temporary relief for the
wounded or took on a _quasi_ permanent character according to the
necessities of the case.  When the advanced ambulances in certain
circumstances became stationary, the reserve ambulances followed the
army on the march.  It seemed in many respects an excellent system, and
certainly was very supple and ingenious, for these ambulances became
interchangeable; but they possessed the inconvenience, to which I have
already alluded—that is to say, the proper sort of attention could not
be given to the important cases.  Hence the change that the Committee
brought about, whereby the _grands blessés_ were transported to the
hospital at the rear, where the necessary skill and the instruments
required were at their disposal.  The present system works in this
manner. The battle takes place.  The chief medical officer fixes the
spot in the rear where the formation ought to be established.  The
formation establishes itself there in a couple of hours with its
motor-cars.  An hour after, it has pitched its first tent and is ready
to shelter the first wounded which come to it from the ambulances,
perhaps in the space of three or four hours.  Instruments sterilised in
advance permit the surgeons to commence to operate three hours after
having received their orders to establish the hospital tent.  Other
tents can be established to the number of five.  A hundred wounded
persons can thus be taken care of and treated in the open country.
Reserve ambulances can be called upon in case of need.  As soon as
operated upon, and out of immediate danger, the wounded, in the majority
of cases, can be evacuated to permanent hospitals further back in the

In case of retreat, the formation, if warned in time, falls back
carrying with it if possible all the wounded and follows the troops.
These tent hospitals carry with them the wherewithal to instal an
operating theatre and a _section d’hospitalisation_, composed of a
hundred beds, five double-walled tents, and the necessary doctors and
male attendants.  Of course the problem of removing the wounded from
these tent hospitals at the Front is always a grave one. When the war
took on the character of a siege war, a train acted as a sort of shuttle
from the field ambulances to the station where the "army zone" finished
and the "interior zone" began.  The two were generally seventy or eighty
miles apart.  Here the wounded were carried to the other train, where
the cases were sorted out and sent to the distant base hospitals.  But,
as I have said, the tendency was to keep the slight cases as near as
possible to the lines, and send only to distant parts either medical
cases—infectious diseases, and convalescents—or the more serious
surgical cases, which were entering upon a secondary phase.

One of the most interesting aspects of the question of the treatment and
recovery of the wounded was the utilisation of the mineral waters which
exist in such abundance in France, particularly in the Pyrenees; and all
the well-known stations of this delightful region were filled with
soldiers recovering from their wounds or illnesses incurred in the
service of the country.  Magnificent results were obtained also by the
same means in ’70.  Strongly impregnated sulphur waters gave then, as
they have given during this second war, most admirable results,
particularly in combating the infection of wounds caused by fire-arms.
It is not necessary to insist upon the dreadful error of the theory that
bullet wounds were clean wounds.  Before it was discovered that the
bullet infected the surrounding tissue much harm had been done.  The
mineral waters were also invaluable in the treatment of nervous
affections arising from wounds and rheumatism contracted in the
trenches.  Some really remarkable recoveries have been made in this
glorious region irradiated by the sun and full of pure air charged with
the balsamic odours of a pine-clad district.

Whilst, as I have said, there was rapid improvement made in the various
services, the defect inherent in all administrations, English as well as
French, but perhaps more particularly French, subsisted.  For instance,
M. Joseph Reinach, the well-known Deputy, has inveighed especially
against the abuse of red tape in the hospitals.  All sorts of dreadful
formalities were necessary to be fulfilled to obtain a lemon or a bottle
of the simplest medicine.  There had to be a proper requisition made
with several signatures attached, and this entailed visits to different
offices situated in different parts of the building—a formidable waste
of time.  Some string and nails, value 1 fr. 25, appeared in somebody’s
report.  Immediately there was an imperious demand for details, which
were supplied, of course—though purely imaginary. The precious document
travelled during several weeks from the bottom to the top of the
administrative ladder.  Papers even pursue the unhappy doctor or
stretcher-bearer right into the trenches—though, of course, every
reasonable person would admit that records must be kept.  M. Reinach,
who, furnished with special powers of investigation, has carried his
inquiries into every part, points out that even if the high
administration decrees simplicity and the different sub-departments
apparently incline, they continue their complicated practices just the
same. Says M. Reinach, and his words will serve to depict the unhappy
state of the public in this country as well as in any other: "We believe
we are governed at one time by this party, at another by that.  In
reality, we are governed by the departments in the interests of a
mysterious syndicate of paper merchants. It will require a revolution
more profound than that of ’89 to rid us of administrative routine."
And it must be remembered also—one feels authorised to mention it since
it is admitted by M. Reinach, as well as by other thoughtful
Frenchmen—-that favouritism and nepotism have made terrible ravages in
this direction as in so many others; but these abuses have been
corrected, we must hope, by the touchstone of war.

One of the most pleasing, and at the same time touching, sides of the
war is the heroism in the hospitals. The majority of the patients belong
to the class of manual labourer, but they were as dignified, as calmly
Stoical, in their way as those who had larger opportunities for
education.  Though they had never read Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, and
were often just simple labourers, they showed invariably a greatness of
soul.  Women working in the hospitals have given me pathetic instances
of soldiers’ gentleness and resignation.  They calmly watch the surgeon
going about his work probing in their own flesh.  They look on
apparently unmoved, idly smoking a cigarette. Heroic simple souls of
France.  They are always joking, even before a most serious operation;
one cannot overcome their invincible courage and good humour.  Often it
is touching enough.  In the Metropolitain of Paris I travelled with a
man who had lost his leg—one of the numerous army of the mutilated.  In
conversation he had forgotten to alight at a certain station.  The train
had already begun to move from the platform, and, to the alarm of those
next to him, the poor fellow tried to jump out. He was pulled back just
in time.  "_J’ai oublié_," he said simply, looking reflectively at the
empty trouser leg.  In the hospital it is easier, perhaps, to be
uncomplaining, to support with appearance of equanimity the pain and
suffering of the wounds; it is more difficult in the evacuation
stations, where sometimes the wounded have to stay a night exposed to
all the discomfort of a provisional arrangement.

There are, too, pathetic instances of self-sacrifice. The "poilu" (as I
have said elsewhere in this book) is a generous-hearted soul, very
forgiving to his enemies, even when they have done him unspeakable hurt;
he will share food with the wounded Boche in the next bed.  He will send
him his comforts.  "Here," he says to the nurse, "take this woollen
waistcoat and give it to that chap over there; I have clothes enough."
The humanity of the French and their intrinsic civilisation are revealed
in the intimacy of the hospitals which are tended by those admirable
women whose quiet and unadvertised devotion have inspired the admiration
of every beholder.

Another very charming feature is the care taken of the permanently
crippled.  At Lyons, M. Herriot, the mayor, worked hard in this
direction, and established schools where the mutilated could be taught
useful trades.  M. Maurice Barrès in Paris, chiefly by making use of
columns in the _Écho de Paris_, worked for the same holy cause.  One of
the prettiest things is to go into a French hospital and see the
semi-convalescents at work upon ingenious and charming little objects
wherein they show their taste and inexhaustible ingenuity.  They are
never at a loss, these sons of France: a cunningly carved flower, an
amusing caricature, a doll with articulated limbs, dainty little
baskets—all these bear witness to the inherent culture and good taste
that are theirs by right of birth, in virtue of having been born on the
fruitful soil of France.

I have spoken of the bravery of the soldier as he lies under the
surgeon’s knife; but let us not forget the signal heroism of the
surgeons themselves, and their staffs.  They have given proof of a
super-human courage and self-forgetfulness, and surgeons and doctors,
stretcher-bearers and nurses, have frequently figured in the Army Orders
for their absolute devotion to duty.  In many cases the enemy granted no
truce for the recovery of the wounded, and it was necessary to seek them
under a hail of bullets and shell fire.  Wounds were dressed on the
field of battle during the fight or in ambulances, which the Red Cross
flag did not always protect from the bombardment of the Huns.  In many
cases it was perfectly evident that the building was the positive target
of the enemy.  The trained nurse, as we understand her in England,
hardly existed at the outbreak of the war, but the women of the Red
Cross worked in the hospitals and made up for a lack of professional
training by a devotion without limits, and a whole-hearted willingness
to learn and adapt themselves to the new conditions.  It is true that no
amount of good-will can supply the want of professional knowledge, but I
have the testimony of many doctors that the better-educated Frenchwoman
speedily acquired the essential part of hospital practice.  The ladies
who belonged to the various societies under the Red Cross were unpaid,
and had gained their certificates after six-months’ service in a
hospital.  Three societies form the Red Cross organisation in France:
the Sociètè de la Croix Rouge, the Sociètè de Secours aux Blessès, and
Union des Femmes de France.  There is a religious basis to the French
Red Cross, and before the war, before every woman who had leisure,
rushed to offer her services to her beloved country, nursing in France
was almost entirely in the hands of the Sisters of Mercy.  True, in late
years, in the course of the terrible struggle between Church and State,
many of these splendid women had been driven from France, banished to
carry their beneficence and charity to foreign climes.  But when the
German hordes swept over the frontier, France was invaded by another
silent army, an army of white-capped, calm-browed women, who with
exquisite serenity moved to the beds of sickness and suffering.  The
nursing sisters returned to their kingdom, and the Head of the State
bowed to receive them, for their heroism is matchless; they blench at no
risks, they falter at no fear of infection; with placid brow they look,
undismayed, at the most fearful sights, and the agonised patient, gazing
into their steadfast eyes, gains strength and courage from the light of
hope and faith that shines there.  Never again will the Orders be
banished from France.

And the priests on the battle-field showed equal devotion.  Those who
were of military age fought in the trenches side by side with the
"poilu," and prejudice rolled away with the smoke of gunfire.  Some
again were stretcher-bearers, while those above fifty became chaplains
and celebrated Mass in little improvised churches behind the lines.  The
soldier-priest gave a singular example of Christian courage, an absolute
fearlessness which electrified the soldiers who were fighting by his
side.  I was at Perpignan a few weeks after a priest, who had lost an
eye in the trenches, was decorated with the Legion of Honour by the
General commanding the district.  Truly the blood of these servants of
Christ, spilt on the battle-field (and many have been killed), is the
seed of the Church, and from their self-sacrifice and heroism will
spring a harvest of love and charity, if not actually a revival of
religion in France.  It is, perhaps, too much to expect a general return
to the paths of practising Catholicism, but at least France, having
passed through the agony of blood and tears, will have forged a spirit
of splendid tolerance; for, as the greatest Healer and Physician came
not to bring peace but a sword, the lasting peace that dwells in the
heart of a nation is learnt from that supreme teacher, that incomparable
healer, the sword.

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                          *BY CHARLES DAWBARN*

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_Morning Post_.—"A triumphant book which ought to be read by everybody
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_Daily Telegraph_.—"Mr. Dawbarn knows his France as few Englishmen
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present day who have moulded the mind of modern France."


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_Daily News_.—"Deeply interesting."

_Times_.—"A brilliant book—just what is wanted."

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