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Title: Hacking Through Belgium
Author: Dane, Edmund (Military historian)
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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Transcriber’s Notes


Table of Contents added by Transcriber. The text of the original book
begins after the Contents.

Boldface is indicated with =equals signs=, italics with _underscores_,
superscripts with carets and braces ^{me}.


CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I

    The “Scrap of Paper”                    7


  CHAPTER II

    Liége                                  23


  CHAPTER III

    The Moral and Military Effect          38


  CHAPTER IV

    The Belgian Army and Its Work          51


  CHAPTER V

    The German Tidal Wave                  69


  CHAPTER VI

    The Germans in Brussels                87


  CHAPTER VII

    The Final Hack                        105


  CHAPTER VIII

    The Crime of Louvain                  120


  CHAPTER IX

    The Politics of Rapine                142


  CHAPTER X

    The Agony of Antwerp                  154


  Chronology of Chief Events              172



The Daily Telegraph

WAR BOOKS


HACKING THROUGH BELGIUM



The Daily Telegraph

WAR BOOKS


  =HOW THE WAR BEGAN=
    By W. L. COURTNEY, LL.D., and J. M. KENNEDY.

  =THE FLEETS AT WAR=
    By ARCHIBALD HURD.

  =THE CAMPAIGN OF SEDAN=
    By GEORGE HOOPER.

  =THE CAMPAIGN ROUND LIEGE=
    By J. M. KENNEDY.

  =IN THE FIRING LINE=: Stories of Actual Fighting by the Men
    who Fought. By A. ST. JOHN ADCOCK.

  =GREAT BATTLES OF THE WORLD=
    By STEPHEN CRANE, Author of “The Red Badge of Courage.”

  =THE RED CROSS IN WAR=
    By Miss M. F. BILLINGTON.

  =FORTY YEARS AFTER=: The Story of the Franco-German War.
    By H. C. BAILEY, with Introduction by W. L. COURTNEY, LL.D.

  =A SCRAP OF PAPER=: The Inner History of German Diplomacy.
    By Dr. E. J. DILLON.

  =HOW THE NATIONS WAGED WAR=
    By J. M. KENNEDY.

  =BRITISH REGIMENTS AT THE FRONT=
    The Glorious Story of their Battle Honours.

  =HACKING THROUGH BELGIUM=
    By EDMUND DANE.

  =AIRCRAFT IN WAR=
    By ERIC S. BRUCE.

  =FAMOUS FIGHTS OF INDIAN NATIVE REGIMENTS=
    By REGINALD HODDER.

  =THE RETREAT TO PARIS=
    By ROGER INGPEN.

  =MOTOR TRANSPORT IN WAR=
    By HORACE WYATT.

  =THE RUSSIAN ADVANCE=
    By MARR MURRAY.

HODDER AND STOUGHTON



  HACKING THROUGH
  BELGIUM

  BY
  EDMUND DANE


  HODDER AND STOUGHTON
  LONDON      NEW YORK      TORONTO
  MCMXIV



PREFATORY NOTE


It is the purpose of this book to show the great part played at a
crisis in European history by a little People; the signal bravery of
their decision; the vital importance, from a military standpoint, of
their valiant defence of their Fatherland; and the moral effect in the
struggle of that love of liberty which in the face of a devastation
unparalleled in western Europe since the seventeenth century, has
left their spirit unsubdued. Incomplete though at this juncture the
record must be, the British people may be helped by it the more fully
to appreciate the sacrifices made by the Belgians for those ideals of
ordered independence and freedom on which the greatness of our own
Empire has been reared; ideals whose reality has been tested and not
found wanting in the fiery trial of war.

[Illustration: COPYRIGHT, SPECIALLY PREPARED FOR The Daily Telegraph BY
GEOGRAPHIA, LTD.]



Hacking Through Belgium



CHAPTER I

THE “SCRAP OF PAPER”


At seven o’clock on the evening of Sunday, August 2, the German
Minister at Brussels presented to the Belgian Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs the Note from his Government demanding as an Act of
“friendly neutrality” a free passage through Belgium for the German
armies forming the main part of the expeditionary forces against France.

The Note promised to respect the independence and integrity of Belgium
at the conclusion of peace. It asked for the temporary surrender, on
military grounds, of the fortress of Namur. In the event of refusal,
the Note added, Germany would be compelled to treat Belgium as an
enemy. Twelve hours were given to the Belgian Government to reply.

The Belgian Cabinet were called together. During those fateful hours
the whole future of their country hung in the balance. Compliance with
the demand meant that Belgium must sink to a dependency of the German
Empire. If in the great War, already opened by Germany’s declaration
on July 31 of hostilities against Russia, Germany prevailed, as the
passive help of Belgium would assist her most materially to prevail,
Belgium, in effect an ally of Germany, would be forced to look to
Germany for protection, and to accept the conditions, whatever they
might be, on which that protection would be given. In any event, that
protection would afford an excuse for a continued, perhaps indefinite,
occupation by German troops. That implied, forms apart, the annexation
of Belgium. Forms apart, it implied the introduction of Prussian
methods and Prussian rule. The native genius of Belgium read, in the
brief and peremptory demand from Berlin, a destiny which would reduce
600 years’ struggle for freedom to naught.

Not easy is it to measure the anxiety of that Sunday night during which
King Albert and his Ministers weighed their decision. Few meetings
of statesmen have been more memorable or more momentous. Of the aims
of Germany there could be no doubt. On April 18, 1832, Prussia with
Austria had attached her signature to that Guarantee of the neutrality
and independence of Belgium which France and Great Britain had already
signed, and which Russia signed sixteen days after the acquiescence
of the Germanic Powers. By the Treaty of London in 1839, after the
settlement of the Luxemburg question between Belgium and Holland the
Guarantee was solemnly ratified. In the meantime Germany had come to
believe in what Count von Moltke the elder called “the oldest of all
rights, the right of the strongest.” Almost coincidently with the
presentation of the Note at Brussels the German Chancellor at Berlin
was, in conversation with the British Ambassador, describing the
Guarantee as “a scrap of paper.” Treaties and engagements are certainly
scraps of paper, just as promises are no more than breaths. But upon
such scraps of paper and breaths the fabric of civilisation has been
built, and without them its everyday activity would come to an end.

Of what value then was the promise embodied in the Ultimatum?

The promise had no value. Glance at the map of Belgium. It will be seen
that the fortress of Namur is as nearly as possible the geographical
centre of the country. What would be the substance of Belgian
independence if, by “the oldest of all rights,” that strong place was
kept by Germany presumably as a barrier against France; actually as the
central base of an occupation? Belgian independence would be a shadow.

In their extremity King Albert and his Ministers turned to Great
Britain. They had good reason. The independence of modern Belgium
is the work of British statesmanship. Great Britain had, in 1831,
initiated the Guarantee although France was the first Power to sign
it, and Great Britain had always looked upon the Guarantee as a solemn
obligation. “We are bound to defend Belgium,” Lord John (then Earl)
Russell said in the House of Lords in explaining the policy of the
Government in 1870. “I am told that may lead us into danger. I deny
that any great danger would exist if the country manfully declared
her intention to stand by her treaties, and not to shrink from the
performance of her engagements. When the choice is between infamy and
honour, I cannot doubt that her Majesty’s Government will pursue the
course of honour; the only one worthy of the British people. The main
thing is how we can assure Belgium, assure Europe, and assure the world
that the great name we have acquired by the constant observation of
truth and justice shall not be departed from, and that we shall be in
the future what we have been in the past.”

Without distinction of party that embodies the consistent attitude
British Ministers have taken up since the Guarantee was signed. It
proved, without distinction of party, to be the resolve of British
statesmen and the British people still. In the exchange of despatches
which took place between Brussels and London during this critical
sitting of the Belgian Cabinet, one thing at any rate was clear. The
undivided might and authority of Great Britain and her Empire was, come
what may, to be cast on the side of international right and on the side
of freedom. When the early light of that summer morning broke upon
their deliberations the Belgian Ministry had made up their mind. The
dawn after such a night symbolised the colours of their flag--through
darkness and trial to liberty. They would face the worst. At 4 a.m.
their answer was in the hands of the German Minister waiting to receive
it. It was: “No.”

The attack on the neutrality of Belgium, the reply declared, would be a
flagrant violation of the rights of nations. To agree to the proposal
of Germany meant a sacrifice of national honour. By every possible
means Belgium was resolved to resist aggression.[A]

Any other answer was impossible. That fact, however, does not detract
from the splendid bravery of the refusal. The Belgians have paid a high
price for freedom. Ever since commerce and the arts found there their
first foothold in Northern Europe, the flourishing cities and fertile
fields of Belgium have been the lodestar of political adventurers and
needy despoilers. They have been the sport of intrigues and royal
marriages. They have been fought for by Burgundian, Spaniard, Austrian,
Frenchman, Dutchman, and German. But throughout their chequered history
the spirit of freedom, and the hope of shaping their own destinies was
never crushed out.

In 1832 a new era began. This land, a marvel of human industry, where
beautiful cities rich in monuments of art and devotion had sprung up
amid ancient swamps; a land turned by patient labour from a desolation
into a garden, was at length assured of peace. It was happy in the
choice of public-spirited rulers. With unsparing energy and devotion
to the common good, Leopold the First threw himself into the work of
repairing the heavy ravages of war. He promoted the first railway on
the Continent of Europe. He encouraged industry and education. He
fostered commerce. Under his wise government the roads of Belgium
became the best in Europe. The navigable waterways and canals were
improved until they reached a total of over 1,000 miles. The rich
mineral resources of the country were opened up. The work thus begun by
the first King of the Belgians has been continued by his successors.
No record of public spirit and public service has added greater lustre
to a Royal House. “The people of Belgium,” said an English statesman,
“have been governed with wisdom, with fairness, and with due regard to
their national character, and they reward such treatment by devoted
loyalty to their king and firm attachment to their constitution.”

The decision now taken still to put freedom first meant undoing
all the results laboriously won during nearly eighty years of
tranquillity. Yet neither King Albert nor his Ministers wavered. And
the Belgian people were as firm as they. With Englishmen the love of
liberty is commonly passive. They feel their freedom to be secure.
Only when challenged does their love of freedom flame into passion.
But the Belgians know that their freedom lives under challenge. The
shadow of Prussian conscription lay athwart their door. That iron
and materialistic system which takes its steady toll of a country’s
manhood, and crushes national spirit like a Chinese boot, has been the
dread of Belgium, as it has been the dread of Holland for a generation.
It was not forgotten that the designs of Prussia upon Belgium were no
idea of yesterday. More than five months elapsed before diplomatic
pressure brought Prussia in 1832 to put her name to the “scrap of
paper” she has now repudiated. Count von Moltke made a special study
of Belgium and Holland as of Poland. The inference is obvious. Had it
not been for the firm front shown by Great Britain in 1870, the German
occupation of Belgium would long ago have been an accomplished fact.

In 1870 Prussia did not feel herself strong enough to face France
and Great Britain alone. Elated by the unexpected results of the war
of 1870, and attributing them wholly to her own prowess instead of
largely to the unpreparedness of France, her designs against the
Netherlands were revived. Not France was the obstacle feared, but Great
Britain. If we are to seek for the true reason of the anti-British
spirit fostered in Germany, and certainly not discountenanced by
official influence, it will be found in Great Britain standing in the
way of this design. Colonies and _welt-politik_ were the open talk of
Pan-Germanism, but expansion east and west on the Continent of Europe
was the definite objective of the plans so minutely prepared at Berlin;
and of the costly and extensive apparatus of espionage spread like
a network over Europe. This was the dream of riches before the eyes
of the German subaltern as he ate the meal of a few pence which his
“Spartan poverty” compelled him to take in a cheap café, and puzzled
how to live without falling into debt.

We need not search far for evidence. If the reader looks at the map
of western Germany he will see that a bunch of railway-lines stretch
to half a dozen points of the compass east of Aix-la-Chapelle like
the extended fingers of a hand. They link Aix with eastern, northern,
and southern Germany. Now Aix is not a great commercial centre. It
is merely a watering-place. There is no more reason why Aix should
be a huge railway-centre with vast sidings, and miles of platforms
than, say, Wiesbaden. But these are not commercial railways. So far as
ordinary traffic goes their construction represents almost a dead loss.

The railways are military and strategical. Regarding their construction
one or two interesting facts have to be noted. The first is that their
construction began just after the Boer War broke out; was almost
coincident indeed with the famous telegram of the Kaiser on British
reverses. The second fact is that the surveys, plans, and estimates for
these railways must have been made long before, and been waiting in a
pigeon-hole for a convenient opportunity.

Now ever since the days of the Great Elector Frederick William the
affairs of Prussia have been administered with an economy which might
almost be called parsimony. It is utterly foreign to Prussian spirit
and tradition to spend millions of money without very good reason for
it. Remarkably enough, another bunch of these railways, equally without
ordinary traffic, converge upon the frontier of Holland.

Just, as Scharnhorst was the inventor of the German universal service
system, and von Hindersin the organiser of their artillery, so von
Moltke was perhaps the first military man who appreciated thoroughly
the importance of railways in war, and their value in that rapid
hurling of masses of troops into a hostile country before its defence
can be put upon a war-footing, which is the corner-stone of German
strategy.

No doubt, then, can be entertained as to the true object of these
railway enterprises. That they were not undertaken until it was
believed Great Britain had ceased to be a serious obstacle, at all
events in a land campaign, is confirmed by the nearly coincident change
in naval policy which led Germany into heavy ship-building programmes.
Great Britain was still a serious obstacle at sea. Therefore a navy
had to be built big enough to render her acquiescent. Great Britain
acquiescent, and Austria compliant, France and Russia, the remaining
signatories to the Guarantee, might be dealt with, it was thought,
without fear of the result.

The outlay was heavy, but the hoped-for return was great. The
Netherlands are a rich prize. Not merely their industrious and
ingenious population, but their taxable capacity would make the German
Empire easily the head State of Europe. If Holland has not the valuable
coal and iron mines of Belgium, she has an important mercantile
marine, and most valuable colonies, including a possession in India.
The economic importance of the Netherlands to Germany, and possession
of the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, is manifest. A vast
expansion of over-sea trade; a host of new and lucrative employments
for German bureaucrats, made this sacrifice by a parsimonious people
seem well worth while.

But there are other considerations. Belgium has been the cockpit of
Europe, because Belgium, as a military base, has almost unrivalled
advantages. Possession or occupation of Belgium--they are much the same
thing--means command of its wealth of resources, and of its 3,400 or
more miles of excellent main roads. Seizure of these is a great weight
in the scale. A powerful army based on Belgium dominates France and
more especially Paris. France could be reduced by it to a state of
tutelage. Conversely, of course, a great French army based on Belgium
would have the Lower Rhine at its mercy, and could “bottle up” Germany
more effectively even than a blockade of her coast. That was, in part,
how Napoleon held down Prussia. Plainly the neutrality and independence
of Belgium is the one common-sense solution; and not less plainly the
interests of Great Britain are vitally involved.

Doubt as to the aims of Germany had long before been cleared up in
responsible quarters informed of the facts. “The cynical violation
of the neutrality of Belgium,” Mr. Asquith said in his speech at
the Guildhall, “was after all but a step--the first step--in a
deliberate policy of what, if not the _immediate_, the ultimate,
and the not far distant aim was to crush the independence and the
autonomy of the Free States of Europe. First Belgium, then Holland and
Switzerland--countries, like our own, imbued with and sustained by the
spirit of liberty--were one after another to be bent to the yoke.”

It was hardly necessary for General von Bernhardi, in his book “The
Next War,” to declare that the plan of the German General Staff was
to march upon France through Belgium. In truth, he disclosed a secret
that was as open as anything could be. The fortification by France of
her eastern frontier, threatening to convert a campaign against France
into a war of obstacles, at all events at the outset, defeated what has
already been alluded to as the corner-stone of German strategy. A war
of obstacles would not only allow France to gather her strength and to
dispose of it where it would be most effective, but it would enable her
to meet in the field a foe already shaken by the effort, and by the
inevitably heavy losses incurred in breaking the barrier. In a word,
the odds in such a campaign would be so much against the invader that
for Germany an attack made upon those lines was as good as hopeless.

That, of course, was as well-known in Paris as in Berlin. It was no
surprise, therefore, when von Bernhardi published his “disclosure.” The
real object of the disclosure was to prevent the statesmen concerned
from taking it seriously. So long as such a plan was with good reason
suspected of being entertained secretly at Berlin, it was to be
reckoned with. When it was given to the world in a frothy and bombastic
book, it would probably be felt to have lost its weight. The device
apparently succeeded. France, relying upon the neutrality of Belgium,
left her north-eastern frontier practically open. Of the barrier
fortresses, Maubeuge alone was adapted to resist a siege with modern
artillery. As a fact, we know now that the device of giving away the
secret did not succeed. On the contrary, it inspired the counter-plan
which led the German armies to disaster.

Nevertheless, until the ultimatum was presented to the Government of
Belgium few responsible men believed that Germany would go to the
length of tearing up her own pledge.

In the face of that ultimatum, a country not more than one-eighth the
area of Great Britain, and with a population less than that of Greater
London, had to face a mighty military Empire which had sedulously
spread the tradition that its armies were invincible. No wonder Germany
reckoned on compliance, and all that compliance implied. It was much
as if we ourselves had been suddenly challenged for national life and
liberty by the world at large, with the certainty added of an immediate
invasion. All the same, the Belgians did not flinch. They proved
themselves worthy of the spirit of their fathers.

All this was involved in that “Scrap of Paper.”



CHAPTER II

LIÉGE


Germany’s rejoinder to Belgium was a declaration of war.

On August 3, German troops crossed the frontier at Dolhain,
Francochamps, and Stavelot. Already on the previous day a German
army, waiting at Treves, had crossed the Moselle at Wasserbillig,
Besselbrieck, and Remich, and in defiance of protests occupied
Luxemburg. These were the first military movements in the war.

Driving in the Belgian cavalry outposts along the frontier, the troops
from Aix, three army corps under the command of General von Emmich,
pushed forward to secure on the one hand a passage over the Meuse
before effective opposition could be offered, and on the other to
surprise Liége. The 9th corps was detached to seize Visé and the bridge
at that place; the 10th marched by way of Verviers with the object of
occupying the country to the south and approaching Liége along the
level ground between the Vesdre and the Ourthe; the 7th corps followed
the direct road from Aix to Liége.

On crossing the frontier, General von Emmich, in command of these
troops, distributed to the civilian population a proclamation declaring
the pacific intention of the invaders and promising protection for
person and property if no hostility was shown. This proclamation, it
is evident, had been drawn up and printed in anticipation of Belgian
compliance, and no time had been afforded for amending it.

Since the Belgian Government had only on July 31 ordered a partial
mobilisation, no considerable force, it was supposed, would be met
with south of the Meuse, nor was Liége likely in so short a time to
have been made ready for defence. The invading forces consequently
brought forward no heavy siege guns. Their equipment in siege artillery
was apparently limited to the twelve 5·9 howitzers, four to each army
corps, which represented their ordinary field outfit. During the
greater part of their advance, the 7th corps met with nothing more
formidable than a weak screen of cavalry.

But the Belgian Government had taken prompt and energetic measures. The
German troops sent to occupy Visé found on arrival there that, though
the Belgians had evacuated the main part of the town lying on the south
bank of the river, they had already blown up the bridge, and were
prepared from the suburb on the opposite bank seriously to dispute the
passage.

The Meuse at this point is fully 300 yards wide. Some sixty yards of
the bridge had been destroyed. It was necessary, therefore, for the
Germans to construct pontoon bridges, and to cover this operation by
shelling the Belgians out of their positions.

From well-covered entrenchments and loop-holed houses on the north
bank, however, the Belgians kept up a galling fire, and, although
out-weighted in the artillery duel, used their guns to good effect
in hampering the German engineers. Repeatedly, when on the point of
completion, the pontoon bridges were smashed by Belgian shells. The
Belgians successfully contested the passage of the river for three days.

It was when this combat was at its hottest, on August 5, that a
detachment of German cavalry was fired upon from the windows of some
houses on the south bank. Exasperated by the difficulties met with,
and their heavy casualties, the invaders forthwith drove out the
inhabitants and fired the town. Many of the men, as they came out of
the houses, were indiscriminately shot. The women and children were
driven before the German troops with marked barbarity. Visé was reduced
to ruins.

On the same day, the village of Argenteau, two miles up the river on
the same bank, was similarly destroyed and its population decimated.
There can be little doubt that this was an act of terrorism intended at
once to conceal the attempt to bridge the river at that point, and to
dispirit any defence of Liége.

To the Belgians the three days’ struggle for the passage of the Meuse
was of the utmost consequence. It gave General Leman the time necessary
to prepare Liége for that resistance which has become, and will remain,
one of the most famous episodes in European history.

Intrepid and resourceful, General Leman had thrown himself into Liége
with the 3rd division of the Belgian army, and a mixed brigade of
such troops as could be hastily got together. This force, of not more
than 25,000 men, was reinforced by the civic guard, of the city and
district, but it was still far short of the 50,000 troops needed to
make up a complete garrison.

Thousands of the civilian inhabitants were willingly employed along the
south and south-eastern suburbs in hastily digging trenches, across
the sectors between the forts. The troops blew up buildings likely to
afford cover for an attack; tore up and blocked the roads; laid wire
entanglements; mined the bridges across the Meuse, the Vesdre, and
the Ourthe; prepared landmines; placed quick-firing guns at points of
vantage, and installed searchlights and field telephones.

All this had to be done with the greatest possible expedition. The
completeness and rapidity with which the work was carried out formed a
surprising feat of skilful organisation.

When the advanced posts of the 7th German army corps came into touch
with the outworks of the defence they found that nothing short of an
assault in force would suffice. The prompt and effective fire of the
forts within range proved that Liége was ready and on the alert.

The German plan provided for a simultaneous attack from the north, the
south-east and the south-west, and if it had been carried out it is
difficult to see how the fortress could have resisted even the first
onset. The plan, however, miscarried.

In view of the time lost by the 9th corps in forcing a way across
the Meuse General von Emmich was obliged to hold off the intended
attack by the 7th corps. These troops unsupported were too weak to
risk such an operation. The advance, besides, of the 10th corps by way
of Verviers had not been so rapid as had been intended. Their march
through a stretch of country, hilly and for the most part well wooded,
had been actively harassed by a mobile force of Belgians intimately
acquainted with the defensive possibilities of the region.

In the meantime, the preparations for resistance were pushed forward
night and day, and General von Emmich knew that his task became tougher
with every hour that was lost.

He was well aware of the weak spots of the fortress. Of its
surrounding ring of twelve forts, six only were large and powerfully
armed; the remainder were smaller works. The latter, however, were
not regularly alternated with the larger forts. Two of the smaller
works, Chaudfontaine and Embourg, were placed close together on the
south-west; two others, Lantin and Liers, filled a gap of more than 10
miles across on the north-east; a fifth, Evegnée, was midway between
the larger forts of Barchon and Fleron on the south-east. These were
the three points selected for the assault. Fort Evegnée covered by the
fire of both Barchon and Fleron was the most difficult point of the
three.

Needless to say, General Leman, equally well aware of the strong and
weak points, had taken his measures accordingly.

Evidently feeling that he could not afford delay, the German commander
on August 5 launched the 7th army corps against Fort Evegnée with the
object of taking it by storm. The bombardment had begun the day before,
following a demand for surrender which had been refused, but the German
howitzers were outranged by the heavy ordnance of the larger forts.
The fire of the latter, skilfully directed, had proved unexpectedly
destructive.

Taking advantage of such cover as had been left by partly demolished
buildings, walls, and felled trees, the German infantry at the distance
for the final rush closed up into columns of attack and, with the
support of their artillery, endeavoured to carry the trenches on
both sides of Evegnée with the bayonet. Not only, however, were they
enfiladed by the guns of Barchon and Fleron, but they suffered huge
losses from land mines.

The tactics adopted by the Belgians were well advised. The troops in
the trenches held their fire until the attack fell into difficulties
with the entanglements, and then withered the assault by well-aimed
volleys.

The onset, nevertheless, was too determined to be shaken. Despite their
heavy losses, the Germans negotiated the ditches, and though they were
mowed down in hundreds by the machine guns now turned upon them, some
gained the crest of the trenches. The earthworks were filled with dying
and dead, but the storming parties still advanced over the bodies of
their fallen comrades.

It was at this juncture that the Belgian troops received the order for
a counter-assault. Rushing from the trenches _en masse_ and in good
order, they drove back the storming columns by an irresistible onset.
In the pursuit, the German losses were enormous. The first attack had
failed. Eight hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the victors, and
were sent to Brussels as the first evidence of the national valour.

While that night the 7th army corps, withdrawn beyond the range of the
forts, was licking its wounds, the 9th corps, having won the passage of
the river below Visé, had advanced to the positions before the forts on
the north-east, and on August 6 a second attempt was made to carry the
fortress by storm.

The attack was, of course, made from the south-east and from the
north-east simultaneously. The sectors between the forts on the
north-east had been not less carefully entrenched, and although the
attack against fort Evegnée was again repulsed with losses to the
storming columns equal to, if not greater than, those inflicted on
the preceding day, some troops, apparently of the 9th corps, managed,
despite a fierce resistance, to break through the north-east defences.
Furious street fighting, however, forced them to retire. It was while
covering this perilous retreat that Prince William of Lippe fell at the
head of his regiment. The assault from the north-east, though carried
out with the greatest determination, broke before an appalling rifle
and machine-gun fire, and was turned into defeat by a counter-attack
made at the decisive moment.

A critical period in the fighting on this day was when a body of German
troops had penetrated as far as the bridge at Wandre. The bridge had
been mined, and before the invaders could obtain possession of it, it
was blown up. A superior force of Belgians regained the position.

The defence remained intact, and the terrible scenes in the trenches
bore testimony at once to its intrepidity and to the resolution of the
assault. German dead and wounded lay thick upon the ground up to the
very glacis of the forts. An evidence of the boldness of the enemy is
that exploit of eight uhlans, two officers, and six privates, who,
mistaken for Englishmen, rode during the fighting to the headquarters
of General Leman with the object of taking him prisoner. They were
killed or captured after a hand to hand struggle in the headquarters’
building with members of the Belgian staff aided by gendarmes.

But though two assaults had failed with heavy loss of life, a third,
even more desperate, was made the same night. This time it was
delivered from the south-east against fort Evegnée, and from the
south-west against forts Chaudfontaine and Embourg. The attack from
the latter quarter was carried out by the 10th corps, which had at
length come into position. The third assault against fort Evegnée was
open and supported by a heavy bombardment. That against Chaudfontaine
and Embourg was intended as a surprise. The troops of the 10th corps
advanced as silently as possible, hoping to steal up to the trenches
under cover of darkness. They waited until the attack upon Evegnée had
been going on for more than three hours.

The events of this anxious night in Liége have been admirably
described in the vivid narrative of Mr. Gerald Fortescue, the special
correspondent of the _Daily Telegraph_, who was an eye-witness of them.

There was a bright moonlight, and the Belgians took advantage of it to
strengthen still further their defensive preparations, more especially
to the south of the city. They were relieved from the necessity of
using lights which would have exposed them to the guns of the enemy.
Liége is undoubtedly most open to attack on the south-east and south,
and most of all by the flat approach between the Vesdre and the Ourthe.
This forms the industrial suburb. The great ironworks, the small-arms
and gun factory, the electric lighting works, and the railway depôts
in this quarter would make the seizure of it particularly valuable. On
the other hand the difficulties of preparing an effective defence were
serious. Forts Embourg and Chaudfontaine are here placed close together
in view of that fact. A practically complete line of entrenchments,
however, closed the enceinte between Forts Fleron and Boncelles. It
was, for the defenders, all to the good that these entrenchments and
the obstacles in advance of them had been so recently completed that
the Germans could have no reliable knowledge of their details.

The city lay without a light, its ancient citadel rising from amid
the sombrely moonlit forest of buildings like a great shadow. Only
the searchlights playing from the forts gave signs of life and
watchfulness. They travelled across the positions where the enemy had
placed his artillery; and swept fitfully over the intervals of trampled
country, where round ruined buildings and broken walls, in ditches, and
amid entanglements multitudes of dead remained unburied.

Of course, the German commander knew that great activity must be going
on in the fortress. That activity, if continued, meant ruin to the
chance of taking the place by storm.

Half-an-hour before midnight, a furious bombardment against the
south-east forts opened. High explosive shells burst with brilliant
flashes and sharp uproar on the very glacis of the forts; a storm of
shrapnel broke upon the trenches. The forts replied with energy. The
city shook under the thunder of the combat.

With little delay, heavy forces of German infantry advanced. The night
was favourable to such an attack. It was light enough for the troops
to see their way, and yet dark enough to give such cover as greatly to
diminish the risk. This was intended to be a bayonet fight. Though the
grey-green of the German uniforms was barely distinguishable in such a
light, the masses betrayed themselves by their movement. They could be
seen from the trenches creeping up for the last rush.

When it was made their columns flung themselves across the intervening
ground, and into the ditches with reckless resolution. But the fire of
the defenders was as steady as it was destructive. Notwithstanding that
the deadly lightning of the machine guns swept away whole ranks, men
fought their way to the parapet of the entrenchments. It was brave, but
it was vain.

Repeatedly the onslaught was renewed and repulsed. This, however, was
not the main attack. At 3 a.m., just before daybreak and when the night
was darkest, the assault suddenly opened, against forts Chaudfontaine
and Embourg. No artillery announced it. So far as they could, the
columns of the 10th army corps crept up silently, feeling their way.
They found the defence on the alert. In spite of the rifle fire from
the trenches supported by the guns of the forts, they rushed on in
close formation. Searchlights of the forts picked them out. They fell
by hundreds, but time and again scaled the slope of the entrenchments.
There were intervals of furious bayonet fighting. The brunt of the
struggle was borne by the 9th and 14th Belgian regiments. The 9th, says
Mr. Fortescue, fought like demons. Gun fire alone could not stop such
rushes. Only the unshakable bravery of the defending infantry saved the
situation, and not until the ditches were filled with their dead and
wounded did the Germans break and run.

The fury of the assault may be judged from the fact that the rushes
were continued for five successive hours. More than once, as assailants
and defenders mingled in fierce hand to hand combats and the trenches
at intervals became covered with masses of struggling men, the attack
seemed on the point of success. But as daylight broadened the weight
of the onset had spent itself. As the beaten foe sullenly withdrew, a
vigorous counter-attack from Wandre threw their shaken columns into
confusion. The pursuit was energetically pressed. Numbers of fugitives
sought safety over the Dutch border.

On the same day, General von Emmich asked for an armistice of
twenty-four hours to bury the German dead. It was refused. Liége had
won a brief respite.

Refusal of the armistice may seem a harsh measure, but the Belgians
doubtless remembered that it was by breach of the conditions of such
an armistice that the Prussians in 1866 had overpowered Hanover. Such
enemies were beyond the pale of confidence.



CHAPTER III

THE MORAL AND MILITARY EFFECT


When, on August 4, King Albert read his speech to the joint meeting of
the Belgian Chamber and Senate, it might well have been thought that
the darkest hour had come in Belgium’s long and troubled history. But
the King spoke with unfaltering resolve. Come what might, the Belgian
people would maintain the freedom which was their birthright. In the
moment for action they would not shrink from sacrifices. “I have faith
in our destinies,” King Albert concluded. “A country which defends
itself wins respect, and cannot perish.”

The speech echoed the feelings of a united nation. In the face of
peril, party was no longer known. M. Emile Vandervelde, leader of the
Socialists, accepted a post in the Ministry. Without hesitation, the
two Houses voted the measures of emergency proposed by the Government.
The announcement by M. de Broqueville, the Prime Minister, that German
troops were already on Belgian soil caused deep emotion, but the
emotion was not born of fear. It was the realisation of how priceless
is the heritage of liberty.

On that stirring day in Brussels, which witnessed the departure of the
King to join his troops at the front, the sentiment uppermost was in
truth “faith in the nation’s destinies.” Great Britain had sent her
ultimatum to Berlin in defence of Belgian rights. Not merely reservists
called to the colours, but volunteers in multitudes were anxious to
take up arms. Crowds besieged the recruiting offices. The public
feeling in the Belgian capital reflected the public feeling everywhere.

The mobilisation of the defensive forces of the country had proceeded
smoothly and swiftly. Though it was common knowledge that in no part
of Europe had the espionage system worked from Berlin become more
elaborate, the national spirit was but intensified. Then came news of
the fighting, and of the dauntless resistance offered by the garrison
at Liége. Later came the first of many German prisoners of war.

Mistakes and miscalculations undoubtedly entered into the
German disaster at Liége, and above all the mistake of grossly
underestimating the quality and efficiency of the Belgian forces. That
mistake was persisted in during all the attempts to storm the fortress.
It cost thousands of German lives. Not certainly until this war is over
will the extent of the disaster be really known. But that it was a
disaster of the greatest magnitude is beyond any question.

From the merely military standpoint, the shattering of three army corps
is a huge price to pay even for victory. But the shattering of General
von Emmich’s army accomplished nothing. It had merely proved that to
hurl men in massed formation against positions defended by modern guns
and rifles is folly. Elementary common sense, however, would enforce
the same conclusion. As the assaults upon Liége showed, elementary
common sense is not a strong point of Prussian militarism. Because
massed formations were used with effect by Frederick the Great, massed
formations were the one idea of some of his would-be venerators.

The moral effect was greater than the military. It brought down in
three days all that edifice of prestige which Prussian diplomacy,
Prussian espionage, and Prussianised philosophy had been labouring for
a generation to build up. To say that Europe gasped with surprise is to
state the effect mildly. The peoples opposed to German ambitions woke
as from a spell. The aspect of the war had changed.

Here was an army, part of the great Fighting Machine in which war was
presumed to be practically embodied as an exact science, beginning
a campaign with the blunder of assuming that men fighting for their
country were no better than half-trained mercenaries. The resistance to
the passage of the Meuse; the resistance offered to the troops sent to
seize the country south of Liége was treated as negligible. A general
of resource and experience would have reckoned on that resistance as a
certainty.

Neither Prussian strategy then, nor Prussian tactics, were the
perfection they had been taken to be. Both had broken at the first
test. Nowhere was the gravity of the moral effect better appreciated
than at Berlin. Henceforward the effort of Berlin was to efface it. In
that fact will be found the key to all the succeeding “severities” in
Belgium.

That in Berlin, at all events in official and informed quarters, the
surprise was as profound as elsewhere is proved by the fact that on
August 9, through the neutral channel of the Dutch Minister of Foreign
Affairs, the German Government made a second offer. The offer was in
these terms:--

    The fortress of Liége has been taken by assault after a
    courageous defence. The German Government regrets that as
    a consequence of the attitude of the Belgian Government
    against Germany such bloody encounters should have occurred.
    Germany does not want an enemy in Belgium. It is only by the
    force of events that she has been forced, by reason of the
    military measures of France, to take the grave determination
    of entering Belgium and occupying Liége as a base for her
    further military operations. Now that the Belgian army has, in
    a heroic resistance against a great superiority, maintained
    the honour of its arms in the most brilliant fashion, the
    German Government prays his Majesty the King and the Belgian
    Government to avert from Belgium the further horrors of war.
    The German Government is ready for any agreement with Belgium
    which could be reconciled in any conceivable way with its
    conflict with France. Once more Germany offers her solemn
    assurance that she has not been actuated by any intention to
    appropriate Belgian territory, and that that intention is far
    from her. Germany is always ready to evacuate Belgium as soon
    as the state of war will permit her.

Of course, the fortress of Liége had not been taken by assault,
though perhaps the Government of Berlin had been led to believe it
had. Coming from such a quarter the tribute to Belgian valour is
significant. Germany had fallen into a pit, and her “solemn assurance”
was not good enough to lift her out of it. The reply of the Belgian
Government was, a second time, an unhesitating refusal. Berlin must
take the consequences, and those consequences were serious.

The first necessity was to clear up the mess, and if possible to
conceal it; above all to conceal it from the troops who had to pass
over this same route. They must hear of nothing but victories.
Necessity for clearing up and concealment had a greater result in
delaying the German advance than even the successful resistance of the
Liége garrison.

Why, it may be asked, was the garrison withdrawn from Liége, leaving
only a force sufficient to man the fortifications? For that step there
were imperative reasons. To begin with, the defence of the city,
as distinct from the defence of the forts, had served its purpose.
It had not only delayed the German advance; it had inflicted grave
disorganisation. It was certain, however, that at the earliest moment
heavy German reinforcements would be brought up, and the defence
outside the forts overpowered by sheer weight of numbers. In the
violent fighting the garrison holding the trenches had suffered severe
losses, though these were light in comparison with the crushing
punishment they had inflicted. They formed, nevertheless, a body of
excellent troops still more than 20,000 strong. To have risked the loss
of these troops meant a reduction of the Belgian army in the field
which must seriously cripple its effective. The need of the moment was
a concentration of forces. Though the defence of Liége to the last was
important, still more important was the purpose which the Belgian army
was intended to serve throughout the campaign, and most important of
all the successful defence of Antwerp. Upon the defence of Antwerp hung
the nation’s independence.

While, therefore, the way was still open for retreat, Generals Bertrand
and Vermeulen, who had rendered conspicuous services and had proved,
like General Leman, that the Military School at Brussels is a nursery
of able and distinguished men, withdrew their forces and rejoined the
main army.

This measure was carried out with so much promptitude and secrecy that
the enemy, well-served as he was by spies, and in close observation
of the movements of the garrison, was not able to interfere. General
Leman remained to continue the defence of the permanent works. These
had been provisioned for a siege of at least two months.

Before evacuating the city the troops blew up all save two of the many
bridges which within the circle of fortifications cross the Meuse, the
Ourthe, and the Vesdre. At Liége, the Meuse divides. A considerable
district of the city is built on the island between the branches of the
river. The bridges left intact were a concession to public necessity,
but were those least likely to be of service to the enemy.

Destruction of the bridges greatly reduced the value of a hostile
occupation. The importance of Liége to the Germans as part of their
line of communications lay in command of the railways. These, however,
were dominated by the forts. So long, then, as the latter held out,
Liége, in any real military sense, was to the Germans valueless. In
view of the position of the Belgians it was therefore a well-advised
step to concentrate the strength of the defence on the works.

On August 8 and 9, the Germans before Liége were apparently quiescent.
But this seeming respite covered an unceasing activity. Masses of
wreckage mingled with dead bodies floating down stream bore testimony
to the severity of the struggle for the passage of the Meuse. As
rapidly as possible German engineers threw across the waterway beyond
the range of the Liége forts five floating bridges. The passage
secured, the enemy covered the country to the north with a screen of
cavalry, obstructing observation by the Belgian outposts and guarding
their bridge works against a surprise in force.

Evidently they were not certain that the departure of troops from Liége
might not be a ruse. Their severe handling had taught them caution.
Small bodies of uhlans stole into the city from the east on August
9. These, as usual, were men who had specially volunteered for the
service. Though they might never return, the ambition for the Iron
Cross is strong. They found the city and the entrenchments evidently
evacuated. No hostilities were offered.

Reports to the German headquarters of this state of things led to a
second demand for surrender. To secure protection for the defenceless
population a deputation of seventeen leading citizens sought an
interview with the German general. The deputation were seized as
hostages.

On August 10, German troops marched in without resistance. The city was
put under martial law and a “fine” of £2,000,000 imposed upon it. But
the occupation was a hollow triumph. Liége, as a military possession,
was a husk from which the kernel had been carefully withdrawn.

The defence, followed by the continued resistance of the forts, had
created a formidable tangle of difficulties. As the forts, by the use
of reinforced concrete, had been adapted to resist modern artillery
the shells, even of the 5·9 howitzers, made no impression upon them.
It was necessary to bring up from Essen the 28 centimetre howitzers,
and even the still heavier guns, 42 centimetre, specially made for the
prospective siege of Paris.

Needless to say, with the strategical railways to Aix already working
at full pressure, the transport of these heavy pieces played havoc
with the cut and dried time-table. There was the necessity, too, not
calculated for at this stage, of sending wounded to the rear, and
of replacing by fresh troops the battalions broken in the attempted
assault. To hurry troops to the front, lest the Belgians should move in
force upon the Meuse, was urgent. The sending forward of supplies was,
in consequence, badly hung up. The commissariat became for the time
almost a chaos.

If we sum up their situation at the end of the first fortnight of
the war we find that the Germans had accomplished little or nothing.
They had expected by that time to be close upon Paris. All they had,
in fact, gained was a passage across the Meuse. It is impossible to
overrate the military importance of this delay. During that fortnight
the mobilisation of the French had been completed without interruption.
At the end of it the British Expeditionary Force had been landed at
Boulogne. The calculated advantages of secret preparation which had
inspired the ultimata launched from Berlin were nullified. The first
principle of German strategy had failed.

Important as a subsidiary means of communication, the floating bridges
across the Meuse were in no sense adequate for the supply of such a
force as it was intended to send through Belgium to defeat the armies
of France and Great Britain and to seize Paris. Command of the railways
was indispensable. But without a reduction of the forts at Liége that
was out of the question.

The forts at Liége held out until August 19. The larger works were each
triangular in formation, armed with both heavy and quick-firing guns
mounted in steel revolving turrets. Three of these turrets were of the
disappearing type. On the discharge of the guns a turret of this type
falls out of sight automatically. By means of telescopic and reflector
sights, the guns can be “laid” for the next shot while the turret is
hidden from outside view.

To storm the forts, as had been proved, was not practicable. They had
to be broken up by the shells of the huge ordnance brought along for
the purpose, and mounted on massive concrete beds.

One by one the forts were broken up. They offered, however, an
unyielding resistance. Their garrisons knew that they were called
upon to sell their lives for the Belgian fatherland. None deserted
their posts of duty. There have been many acts of heroism in this war.
The defenders of the forts at Liége deserve an honoured place in the
memories of an emancipated Europe.

General Leman, who had taken up his quarters in Fort Loncin, was in
the fort when it was blown up by a German shell, which had found its
way into the magazine. He was saved by a signal act of bravery. “That
I did not lose my life,” he wrote in that affecting letter sent later
from his place of confinement in Germany to the King of the Belgians,
“is due to my escort, who drew me from a stronghold while I was being
suffocated with gas from exploded powder. I was carried to a trench,
where I fell.”

Most of the garrison were buried under the ruins, but the few survivors
risked themselves in this act of devotion. No better evidence could be
offered of the spirit of Belgian defence.

A German captain found the intrepid commander helpless and after giving
him liquid refreshment carried him as a prisoner into the city. The
defence of Liége, however, had fulfilled its purpose.



CHAPTER IV

THE BELGIAN ARMY AND ITS WORK


Independently of delay, there was yet another reason for the defence
of the forts at Liége which compelled the enemy to break them up.
Their destruction meant that Liége _as a fortress_ had ceased for the
time to exist. For Belgium this was a heavy sacrifice. Its possible
bearing, however, in the later stages of the war on a German defence of
the Lower Rhine is manifest. As time goes by the trend of events makes
it clear that the strategy of the Allied Powers was from the outset
inspired by long views.

In consonance with those views the plan of the Belgian campaign was
consistently carried out. From the first it was never part of that plan
that the German inroad should be opposed in Belgium, where, close upon
its base, its strength would have been greatest, and that of the Allies
least. The purpose was to draw the German forces as far from their base
and to lengthen out their line of communications as much as possible,
and then, when they were at their weakest, and the Allies, in point of
position, at their strongest, to face and defeat them.

But manifestly that purpose had by every device to be concealed. It
was concealed. On the face of things all appearances lent colour to
the conclusion that the Belgian army meant to stand or to fall in an
endeavour to cover Brussels. There were announcements of the arrival
of strong French forces. In view of the sufferings entailed by the
invasion the French were indeed ready to send forward five army corps.
Those added to the six divisions of the Belgian army would have offered
a powerful opposition. But it would have been inferior strategy. In the
event of defeat, which has always to be reckoned with, the effective
and designed part of the Belgian army in the campaign must have been
seriously crippled. The situation of the country would have been
worsened.

Remembering that the object of the Belgians was to safeguard their
independence, there was wisdom in the view, which weighed against
present sufferings the vision of a long and peaceful future, and
elected to act in co-operation with the larger scheme. It helps
to appreciate the depth of the love of freedom and the steadfast
fortitude which have justly won the admiration of liberal Europe.

Taking up his headquarters in Louvain, King Albert disposed his forces
along a line from Diest to Wavre. Between Wavre and Namur, with
headquarters at Gembloux, the country was watched by a division of
French cavalry. This line, it will be noted, describes an arc some 45
miles in extent, covering both Brussels and Antwerp. At this stage of
the hostilities the necessity was for a strong force of cavalry. That
of the Belgian army was in numbers inadequate. The French reinforcement
was consequently of the greatest value.

It has commonly been supposed that the Belgian army was somewhat
indifferent alike in discipline and in material. Such was the view then
entertained at Berlin. Apparently it was not there realised that the
time had long gone by when the Belgian as a soldier could justly be
described as a bad copy of the Frenchman. Certainly the Belgian army
was not trained upon the Prussian model. That, however, has proved to
be all to its advantage.

Military efficiency is a relative term, but in every essential the
Belgians were a highly efficient force. One of the best features of
their system is that every regiment has its military school, where
the men learn the elements of soldiering as an intelligent art. The
essence of the Prussian system has been that the rank and file are
taught to obey as machines. The Belgian recruit, on the other hand, had
his interest enlisted in his work. He was taught the reason for things.

In Germany, the conscript spent much of his time learning to march in
exact line at the parade step, every man with his rifle at the same
angle. Even the length of the parade step was measured to an inch. Woe
betide the _bursch_ who fell short, or shouldered his rifle out of the
correct slope. Points lost by officers at the inspection were passed
on with interest. There is a value in this instruction, but in the
Prussian system it was put before other things more valuable still.

The difference in essence between the Belgian army and the German lay
in the fact that the Belgian recruit was not politically suspect of his
superiors. He was a freeman serving his country, not an inferior in
training to support a dominant caste. He could without danger be made
something more than mechanically efficient.

Again his military education in actual field work was distinctly
practical. Belgium is a densely populated country, full of buildings,
hedgerows, and plantations affording excellent cover. Its army anyhow
would be called upon to face forces greatly superior in numbers.
The practical work kept those points in view. It was addressed to
successful ambuscades; to fighting in open order; to rapid changes of
position akin to guerilla tactics; to the defence of trenches, canals,
and bridges. The Belgian soldier was asked to be resourceful and alert.
If on manœuvres the army made none of the imposing show associated with
mimic warfare in Germany, for the purposes it was designed to serve
it was excellent. There could be no comparison, perhaps, between the
parade smartness of a German and a Belgian regiment of infantry, but in
essentials and for fighting on his own ground the Belgian was an easy
first.

No better evidence of the business-like training of the Belgian army
need be offered than its making use of the admirable roads of the
country by organising those corps of cyclist scouts whose co-operation
with the cavalry proved invaluable.

These, then, were the forces the King had at his disposal. As to the
artillery its only fault was that there was not enough of it. It
was strong, however, in light field guns capable of being briskly
manœuvred, and forming a very serviceable and handy weapon of a recent
type.

Hardly an expert is needed to reflect that with an army such as this
the very last thing a capable general would do would be to offer a
pitched battle against the ponderous legions of Germany, supported by
an overwhelming mass of heavy guns. To do that would be asking for
annihilation. The object of the Belgians was to harass, and wear down,
and entrap.

It was a warfare in which instances of individual bravery and prowess
and swift initiative established the value of the Belgian military
training, and indicated that the Germans had no easier work before them
than had Alva’s Spaniards.

The country south of the Meuse the Belgians advisedly made no effort
to defend. It is a country of deep valleys with rugged and precipitous
sides; of ravines and streams falling between steep and rocky banks.
The main mass of the Ardennes runs nearly south to north from Arlon
to Namur. For the most part the hills are covered with dense forests
alternating with marshy and wild plateaux and stretches of pastoral
uplands. Little subsistence could be found by an invader in such a
region.

Into Belgian Luxemburg the Germans poured the army of Saxons commanded
by General von Hausen and the army commanded by Duke Albert of
Wurtemburg. The former fixed his headquarters at Marche, and the
latter at Neufchatel. At the same time the army of the Crown Prince of
Prussia established an advanced base in the city of Luxemburg.

The first purpose of these movements was to seize the railways--the
line from Verviers to Luxemburg, the line from Liége to Jemelle, and in
particular the main line from Namur through Arlon.

In possession of the line from Verviers the invaders at Luxemburg were
linked up with Aix, but until they were in command of Liége and the
junctions there the rest of the railways were of no value to them.
They were obliged to transport supplies at great labour and expense
over roads with heavy gradients. A further forward movement across
the French frontier was in such circumstances impossible. The defence
of Liége consequently held up the advance both north and south of the
Meuse, and imposed a huge and to all intents useless consumption of
resources. It also caused a severe congestion at Aix, where no fewer
than eight army corps were at that time massing for the advance north
of the Meuse across the Belgian plain.

Meanwhile north of the Meuse the Belgians were not idle. They destroyed
bridges, and tore up roads. The railway bridges over the Geer at
Warenne and Tongres were blown up; the railway junction at Landen
rendered useless. All the rolling stock was moved to behind their lines.

Partly to check these defensive measures, partly also to commandeer
much needed supplies as well as to gather information of the Belgian
dispositions and incidentally to overawe the population, the Germans
covered the country immediately to the north-east of Liége with
numerous parties of uhlans. These raiders speedily came into contact
with Belgian cavalry and scouts supported by light artillery and mobile
bodies of infantry expert as skirmishers.

The tactics adopted by the Belgians were skilful. Before a hostile
squadron or flying column they fell back, until what the Germans
thought to be a successful pursuit had been pushed far enough. Then
when the enemy turned to retreat he realised that he had been led into
a _cul-de-sac_, and was attacked in turn from both flanks and from
the rear. From every bit of cover along roads and from plantations
the retreating forces were shelled and sniped at. Their losses in
these running fights were in the aggregate gruelling. Frequently a
last remnant put up a desperate resistance to extermination from the
nearest barn or other building into which they could fling themselves
for refuge.

This unlooked-for experience was put down to the bitter hostility of
the population whom the Belgian Government were assumed to have armed
for the purposes of a guerilla warfare _à outrance_. It seems never
to have entered the German mind that there could be military tactics
different from their own. They still persisted in the belief that the
Belgians as a military force were contemptible. When the heavy losses
were realised, when numbers of their uhlans never returned, or were
found lying dead in woods and along roadsides; above all when, owing
to the danger of it, the requisitioning failed to give the supplies
expected, “reprisals” were resolved upon. The columns sent out were
strengthened, and reinforced by guns and infantry, with orders to lay
waste the villages and farms which had been the scenes of annihilations
and defeats. The “beasts” of Belgium were to be taught a severe lesson.
Very soon the country within sight of Liége was a blaze of devastation.
Without distinction of age or sex, those of the population who could
not escape were butchered. In this rapine, apparently, the German
troops were allowed a free hand.

From now the fighting presented many characteristics of a warfare of
savagery. On the one side, the Belgians were dealt with as “rebels,”
to be slain without mercy. On the other side, revenge inspired a
resistance still more daring. No doubt the reports brought in to the
German headquarters by survivors of the raids asserted that the losses
were mostly due to civilians. Very naturally they would be reluctant to
admit defeat by Belgian soldiery. Men flying for their lives are not
usually exact observers. Evidently on the part of those responsible
the belief prevailed that their men had not been lost in military
operations but had been waylaid and murdered. A policy of systematic
terrorism was entered upon.

At the back of this policy evidently was exasperation at the Belgian
resistance, and its grave results. The policy, however, only aggravated
matters. On the same day (August 10) on which they entered into
occupation of Liége, the invaders began their operations north of the
Meuse on a larger scale. They dispatched a flying column of 6,000
cavalry with artillery and infantry supports towards Limburg by way of
Tongres and Hasselt. At the same time, they attacked the passage over
the Meuse at Huy.

Tongres, held only by some Belgian outposts, was seized by the Limburg
column with little difficulty, but at Hasselt they were opposed by
a nearly equal force of Belgians. They were allowed to advance in
apparent security. Suddenly barricades of stones and carts thrown up
across the roads proved to be cleverly contrived concealments for
machine guns. An unexpected attack developed. The column hastily
deployed through woods and across fields. A strong body attempted to
push on through the town in order to secure the bridge. The attempt
was not successful. The supporting infantry were forced to retreat. In
covering that movement the cavalry lost heavily. A number were made
prisoners. Others dashed across the Dutch frontier into Maastricht. The
retreat was harassed on both flanks and rear as far as Tongres.

At Huy, where there were some fortifications of an unimportant
character, the Belgians held a bridge-head across the river giving
access to the country between Liége and Dinant. The Germans attacked
the works with heavy howitzers. The fort, however, held out until
August 12. Before evacuating the place the Belgians blew up the bridge.
The rearguard of the defenders rushed across under a rain of hostile
shells, closely pursued. A squadron of German cavalry heading the chase
were on the bridge when the part of the structure already mined crashed
skyward in a mass of dust and flame.

Next day (August 11) a reconnaissance in force was undertaken as far
as Tirlemont and Jodoigne by a flying German column some 2,000 strong.
These troops, advancing through Orsnaael and Landen, laid the country
waste in a methodical manner. Civilians arrested on charges of sniping
were shot on the wayside without ceremony. The population fled in
terror. The wake of the invasion was marked by the pall of smoke rising
from burning ricks, and homesteads, and ruined villages. What had been
a fruitful countryside was turned into a desolation. Even priests
administering the last unction to dying victims were cut down or
speared.[B]

At Dormael the incursion was opposed by a body of Belgian lancers, who
fell back before it. The column pushed on as far as Bost, in sight of
Tirlemont. There the Belgian infantry closed in. Fearing an ambuscade
the Germans beat a retreat. They were chased through St. Trond and
Warenne to their lines near Liége. In this pursuit of over twenty miles
they lost a large proportion of their total force.

One effect of these checks was that in succeeding operations the enemy
made a confession of the efficiency of the Belgians by employing their
crack troops. In no modern army is the difference, and it may be added
the distinction, between crack regiments and the rest more marked than
in that of Germany. Out of the mass of the infantry the best shots
and the smartest men are picked to form the regiments of _jaegers_
(hunters) who are trained to fight in open as well as in close order.
This is a coveted promotion, but it leaves the ordinary line regiments
at a standard below modern ideas of real fighting efficiency. The
total strength of the _jaegers_ was, at the beginning of the war,
about 70,000. They form the only element in the Germany infantry which
can seriously compare with, say, British infantry. Taking the Belgian
infantry as a whole they were well up to the same level, and still
mustered close upon 90,000 men.

Admission to the German cavalry rests on a basis of class, but some of
the regiments are close corporations of the Prussian and Hanoverian
aristocracy. One of the most famous, and most exclusive, the Death’s
Head Hussars, a corps which gained its reputation during the Seven
Years’ War, boasted that it had never yet retreated save under orders.
Stories of its daring form part of the pabulum of every German
schoolbook.

On August 12 began the biggest attempt so far made to find out the
disposition and strength of the Belgian main force. The energetic
measures taken by the Belgian Government to deal with the spy system
had evidently disorganised the practice. Nothing was known for certain
either of the Belgian main army’s movements or of its intentions, a
proof of the prudent ability of its command.

It was essential that the enemy should if possible obtain that
information. The importance to the Germans of manœuvring the Belgian
main army into a position which would uncover Antwerp, and, by forcing
it upon Brussels, exposing it to defeat in a situation which would
either compel it to retire across the French frontier or to surrender,
need not be insisted upon. If that could have been accomplished it
would not only affect the whole campaign in the western theatre of war,
but would restore the prestige already so badly damaged.

These considerations explain the attack made upon the Belgian lines on
August 12 and 13. The attack was directed to two points--Eghezée, to
the north of Namur, and Diest. The main German column was directed
against Diest in an attempted turning movement. The attack at Eghezée
was designed to assist that movement by compelling the Belgians to
carry out a general retirement westward.

The troops sent against Diest were a division of cavalry; a brigade
made up of _jaeger_ regiments, and a strong force of artillery. The
total strength was probably some 26,000 men, more than half of them
mounted. Of the cavalry one of the corps was the Death’s Head Hussars.
The force thrown forward to Eghezée was apparently a division, with
strong cavalry support, and a fleet of motor-cars carrying machine guns.

Neither attack accomplished its purpose. That directed against Diest
proved disastrous. With every inhabitant a scout for the defending
troops, it was impossible that, swift as its movement was, the
column could take the Belgians by surprise. Most of the country the
enemy passed through had been wasted, and was apparently deserted.
Appearances, however, are in that respect not to be relied upon. Timely
intimation was received in spite of all the precautions of German
scouts, and when the column reached the village of Zelck both its
strength was known and its objective accurately surmised.

The force divided for a simultaneous attack upon Diest and upon the
village of Haelen three miles to the south-east. The Belgians had
hastily got Haelen ready for a stout defence. They had loop-holed the
houses, and had masked a battery of guns in an ancient fort commanding
the main street. Seven hundred men held the position.

German cavalry tried to rush it. Mr. Wm. Maxwell, the special
correspondent of the _Daily Telegraph_, in a graphic account of the
affair, speaks of the headlong dash made by the German 17th Dragoons
along the main street, and up the glacis of the fort, which they tried
to mount on horseback. They were shot down from the houses, and from
the fort at the same time, and left the street encumbered with dead
and dying men and horses. As they retired they found their retreat cut
off and 300 of the survivors remained in the hands of the victors as
prisoners of war.

At Diest the like headlong tactics met with a similar fate. Evidently
the Germans thought they had worked a surprise, and that impression was
strengthened by their finding the bridge over the deep and sluggish
Dyle still intact. The bridge had been left standing as a ruse. It was
covered by well-hidden machine guns. When German horsemen tried to
race across they were shot down in masses.

In this attack upon Diest the Death’s Head Hussars maintained their
tradition, but at an appalling cost. Only a comparative remnant of the
corps returned alive. They lost the colours of the regiment, which were
afterwards for a time hung in the ancient church as a trophy.

Despite the disaster to the cavalry the attack was fiercely pressed. At
the height of the bombardment Lieut. van Donon, heading the men of the
town fire brigade, crept round to a ditch from which they were enabled
to enfilade a German battery, and shoot down the gunners.

As usual, the heaviest losses were sustained by the invaders during
their retreat. Along the roads and across the fields south of Diest
Belgian peasants found and buried some 2,800 German dead.

In this battle the Belgian force engaged was a cavalry division
reinforced by a brigade of all arms. It was mainly on both sides a
cavalry action, with the Belgian skill and resource in skirmishing
pitted against that of the enemy.

At Eghezée the German attack was intended to break through the French
cavalry. There, too, timely information had been received. At the
critical moment the Germans found themselves suddenly assailed on flank
by Belgian troops from Namur. The result was a severe repulse. Many of
the motor-cars, held up on the roads by troops in retreat, defending
themselves against dashing charges of the French horse, had to be
abandoned.



CHAPTER V

THE GERMAN TIDAL WAVE


Whether or not the operations just described had in the estimation of
the German commanders fulfilled their purpose cannot be decided, but
is at least open to doubt. Not only in the more serious fighting but
in the numerous smaller skirmishes and unceasing affairs of outposts
the losses to the invaders, were it really known, would probably
appear surprising. The losses fell mainly upon their cavalry, and
most of all upon their uhlans. A perfect cloud of these raiders had
swarmed over the country, and had made themselves hated by acts of
cruelty and pillage. They were most of all the agents of the Terror.
Of the nineteen regiments of them in the German army, some fourteen
seem to have been employed in Belgium. At the end of ten or twelve
days the larger part of this force were either killed, wounded, or
prisoners. No doubt can be entertained that they were turned out to
live upon the country. They lived badly; were entrapped right and left;
revenged themselves by acts of outrage; but waged against an enraged
and unjustly ruined people what was in fact an impossible contest. The
policy of sending out roving bands in a country as populous as northern
Belgium was an absurdity.

Up to the point now reached the German campaign in Belgium had been
one consistency of gross mistakes. Almost incalculable damage had
been done; murder and rapine were rampant; but anything like a firm
conquest, or the first steps towards it, was as far off as ever. It is
notable that after his exploits in Belgium the uhlan fills a very minor
part. Eastern Belgium had to no small extent become his grave.

So far the operations had enabled the Belgian army to inflict
heavy losses while remaining itself intact. And now appeared a new
factor--the advance of the French into Belgian Luxemburg. The Belgians
still held Namur and the two bridges over the Meuse at that point. It
was possible, since the Germans had seized Huy, that they would move in
force upon Dinant, and, crossing the river above that place, attempt a
diversion in the rear of the Belgian positions, in conjunction with a
second effort to cut the Belgian army off from its base at Antwerp.

To prevent this the French crossed the Meuse and occupied Dinant. By
the time they arrived the anticipated German movement had already
begun. In part the French advance was directed to feeling the strength
and disposition of the enemy in the Ardennes with a view to their own
plans, but it was also directed to assist the Belgians in holding up
the hostile march westward.

The result of these opposing movements was, on August 15, a sharp
collision. An effort on the part of the Germans to cross the river
above Dinant was thrown back by the French. With a greatly superior
force the Germans advanced against the town prepared to carry it by
assault.

In describing the assault Mr. Granville Fortescue states that the
Germans moved up a strong body of light infantry supported by mountain
batteries. The French had established themselves on the outlying hills
and in the ancient citadel, a rocky mass on the south bank of the
Meuse, commanding from its summit a view of the river for many miles in
either direction. The attack was determined and some of the outlying
positions were carried by assault. French reinforcements, however,
were brought up and the positions retaken.

In the town, defended by a French regiment of the line, barricades
had been thrown across the streets. The bridge was fortified by wire
entanglements, and held by an infantry detachment with a mitrailleuse.

The picturesque old place, sheltering under the high limestone cliffs
on one side of the river, and struggling up the wooded hillside on the
other, was subjected to a hot bombardment. As the shells tore through
roofs and walls the inhabitants sought refuge in their cellars.

Following an obstinate fight, the Germans had won the crest of the
cliffs above the old town, and under cover of a heavy artillery fire
had stormed the citadel. The town and bridge, however, were still held.
Further French reinforcements, with guns, cleared the Germans off the
cliffs. From that position the French gunners in turn bombarded the
citadel. One of their first shots cut through the flagstaff and brought
down the German colour hoisted upon it.

Thus the first assault upon Dinant was beaten off, though not without
serious casualties to the defending force. Renewing the attack next day
with larger forces the Germans succeeded in gaining the town on the
east bank of the river which here runs nearly north and south. The part
of Dinant on the opposite bank remained in the hands of the defenders,
who commanded the passage across the waterway.

In possession of the old town a resolute attempt was made by the
enemy to force the passage. Two divisions of cavalry, one of them the
cavalry of the Prussian Guard, 8,000 strong, with several battalions
of _jaegers_, and maxim companies engaged in this operation. While
infantry lined the positions on the east bank, and artillery opened
a bombardment from the citadel and cliffs, the cavalry dashed across
the bridge _en masse_, opening a way for the _jaegers_. In the steep
streets and from behind garden walls in the new town an obstinate
battle raged. It was determined by the onset of a division of French
chasseurs, who drove the Germans in flight down to the margin of the
river. The bridge became a mass of struggling fugitives, stumbling
over fallen horses and men. To save themselves, those cut off threw
themselves into the water. Many in the confusion were drowned.

From Namur the French remained masters of the west bank, and at Namur
the Belgians still possessed an important bridge-head. The Allied
forces too held their positions from Namur across the country through
Gembloux and Louvain to beyond Diest. But behind this dyke opposed by
the Allies the grey-green flood of invasion was steadily rising making
ready to burst through, and with apparently irresistible mass and
momentum to cover with its devastation the rich fields of Belgium and
the fair land of France.

On the face of things it looked as though the enemy had been taught
caution. In front of the Allied lines stretched a No-man’s Land 10 to
15 miles in breadth. No Germans were met with nearer than Ramillies. In
the intervening desolation, amid the hideous squalor of war, occasional
terrified peasants, old men or widowed women, fled into hiding places
at the distant approach of strangers, friend or foe.

Brussels had begun to regain breath. Though theatres, picture-houses,
and other places of public entertainment were closed, and the busy
traffic of the boulevards had shrunk to a rare and occasional vehicle,
the shops, closely shuttered during the first days of the Terror, had
reopened, and _cafés_ were thronged with crowds eagerly debating the
latest news.

When, on Monday, August 17, the Government removed from Brussels to
Antwerp, it was realised that grave events were impending. All had
been in readiness for removal for some days. At the Palais de Justice
the courts and registries were closed and seals placed on the doors.
Measures had been taken for the protection of the nation’s priceless
art treasures, and to meet all emergencies. The Government issued
a reassuring proclamation, exhorting the public to confidence, and
expressing the resolve at all costs to safeguard the country’s freedom.
Despite the deep anxiety of the moment, the public spirit remained
firm. There was no trace either of disorder or of panic.

It was known that so long as the forts at Liége continued to fight the
German advance could not begin. Notwithstanding the efforts of the
Germans to cover their preparations with the closest veil of secrecy,
the Belgian Government was kept well informed. Liége had become for
its remaining inhabitants a prison. As a precaution the invaders had
divided up the city by street barricades. Every approach to the place
was closely patrolled. At night the only sounds were the heavy footfall
of Prussian patrols, along streets where ruined houses showed the gaps
made by shell fire, or over quays past bridges whose _débris_ was
heaped in the rivers. Many houses were doorless, but all were dark and
silent. Nevertheless, news leaked through the German lines, and when on
August 18, having silenced all but two of the forts, the German advance
began, neither the Belgian Government nor the Belgian commanders were
left in any uncertainty. The spirit and resource which had baffled
all the energy of Spain, still baffled all the power of Prussianised
Germany.

A strange spectacle was presented by that seemingly countless and
endless host as it defiled along every main road leading to the
north-west. No words can adequately picture the movement of an army,
or rather a combination of armies, totalling nearly three-quarters
of a million of men. The effect is too vast, and it might well be
asked what human power could withstand such a multitude welded by an
enormous labour of organisation into a machine of destruction and
death. Onward it flowed, like the tide sweeping through the channels of
a shore, ready to burst upon obstacles in angry breakers, but breakers
of fire. Lines of lances moved among its forest of bayonets. Endless
trains of guns and automobiles, field kitchens, field bakeries, huge
wagons bearing pontoons and drawn by long teams of horses, ponderous
caissons, camp equipment, portable smithies, rumbled successively past.
The dust rose from the hot roads and floated over the deserted and
trampled fields. Sabres and bayonets flashed back the August sunlight.
And for hour after hour the mass rolled on, seemingly without end.

Not since the days of Attila has Western Europe been offered such
a spectacle; nor has it been paralleled since the Gothic hordes
rolled through the Alps on to the plain of northern Italy. The Goths
were barbarians. These, their descendants, had the resources of
civilisation, but applied to the same hopes and aspirations--dominion
and the vision of material riches; inspired by the same belief in their
own unconquerable prowess; impelled by the same conviction of their
inborn right as the earth’s most valiant to possess and to rule the
sunny lands held by cowards and degenerates. It is a profound mistake
to assume that the philosophy of a Treitschke is anything new. It is as
ancient as Germany. Ever since the wild swamps, and sandy plains and
gloomy forests of central Europe became the home of a prolific people,
who win from them a hard and penurious livelihood, that people have
dreamed of the countries to the west and south where the beauties of
art speak of the resources of the soil, and where no dark and frozen
winter binds the year.

Twelve army corps traversed the Belgian plain. A corps of the German
army is made up on a war footing to 63,000 men. The total of this vast
host could not therefore have been far short of 700,000 even allowing
for losses. Commonly, an army corps is spoken of as though it were
inconsiderable. An army corps, however, is a complete army, and a huge
body of men.

Though it might look complex, and was indeed a triumph of machinery,
the plan of the advance was simple. The right flank was covered by an
overwhelming mass of cavalry. It was estimated that there were 65,000
out of the 83,000 sabres of the German army in that truly formidable
column. The rest advanced in three main columns heading for the roads
between Brussels and Namur. It was the intention to push right on
to the French frontier before the French could assemble there in
sufficient strength to stem the onset. A host of this magnitude would
take two days and a night to pass any given point. The distance between
the van and the rear was half the breadth of Belgium.

One reason, it is now evident, for the German incursion into Limburg
was a clearing of the country between Liége and Maastricht in order
unobserved to muster their troops and transport for the great trek.
The military situation immediately following the general advance was
interesting. Probably it has given rise to more misunderstanding than
any other phase of the war.

In the declaration, already alluded to, issued by the Belgian
Government on its removal to Antwerp the statement was made that
“pursuit of the aim assigned to the Belgian troops in the general plan
of campaign predominates over everything.... What is going on at our
gates is not the only thing to be thought of. A strategic movement
conceived with a well-defined object is not of necessity a retreat....
There is at the present time no necessity for letting ourselves be hung
up. To do so would be to play into the hands of the Germans.”

Why pursuit of the aim assigned to the Belgian troops predominated has
been pointed out. What was the strategic movement with a well-defined
object?

In their dispositions for the advance the Germans had placed their
main force of cavalry, and a great strength of mobile guns on their
right in order that that wing might execute a rapid flank attack on
the Belgian army, and if possible envelop it. So far as was known the
Belgian lines still extended from Diest through Aerschot and Louvain to
Wavre. They certainly did until the night of August 17. But during that
night they were rapidly and secretly changed. The left was extended
eastward beyond Diest, and the right withdrawn so that the army in its
new situation occupied entrenched positions along and behind the Dyle.
In these positions it was well prepared successfully to resist a force
vastly superior in numbers, and in any event was within easy distance
of the outer forts of Antwerp.

To mask this change of front, a slight covering force was left
at Louvain, and some cavalry was thrown forward for purposes of
observation as far as Tirlemont.

On August 18, this cavalry came into contact with the uhlans forming
the advanced front of the German columns. They promptly fell back
towards Louvain, and after a show of opposition before that place
retired upon Malines.

The Germans believed that Louvain was still held in force, and opened
a bombardment. After their experience of Belgian ruses, they did not
venture to enter the city until some hours later.

To the Belgians this gain in time was essential. Since it had been
necessary to occupy the old lines until the last possible moment,
the change of front had not been altogether completed when the
rapidly moving right wing of the vast invading host threatened in
part to frustrate it. An army with its impedimenta and guns cannot be
transferred from place to place in a moment and one part of the Belgian
force had a distance to cover of nearly 20 miles.

At all costs, therefore, it was necessary to hold up the German
movement. That was not easy because the uhlans and armed motors spread
themselves out along all the roads and by-roads in a broad fan-shaped
formation covering many miles of country. Nevertheless, the stratagem
at Louvain proved successful. Three regiments of infantry, a corps
of guides and the 3rd and 9th, with a cavalry division deceived the
enemy into the belief that they were the covering troops of a much
larger force, and he drew up to deploy for battle. As was inevitable,
the Belgian force employed suffered somewhat severe losses. It was
indeed a devoted piece of service, but it served its purpose. When the
Germans advanced in battle order against the assumed Belgian lines they
found them deserted, and must have experienced some of the feeling of
treading on a missing stair.

Beginning with outpost operations on August 18, the battle of Louvain,
as it has been called, was continued during August 19 and 20. On the
one hand, there was the fighting between the Belgian troops already
referred to, detailed to hold up the right of the German advance;
on the other, there was an attempt by the Germans along the front
from Diest to Aerschot to turn the left of the new Belgian position.
Along the centre, to aid the attempted turning movement, a formidable
artillery duel developed.

The troops before Louvain, some 20,000 strong, carried out with
brilliant gallantry the tactics most effective in such a situation.
Retiring under all the cover available whenever the pressure of
numbers became too threatening, they seized every opening afforded
for a counter-attack, and by these alternative advances and retreats
reduced the forward progress of the enemy to a minimum. The Germans
found themselves obliged to search every position with their artillery,
before throwing forward their skirmishers, and finally advancing masses
of infantry. With an intimate knowledge of the country the Belgians
enticed them into the most difficult places, and then suddenly swept
back and dislodged them. By the time reinforcements had been brought
up, the enemy found the position evacuated.

So from hour to hour the struggle went on, along roads, through woods,
behind hedges and ditches, with furious rushes and counter-rushes
of infantry, and dashes of cavalry; the air filled with the puffs
and smoke of bursting shrapnel, the boom of battle travelling slowly
over the countryside like a laggard thunderstorm with its lightnings
chained to earth. To what an extent skilful troops may arrest the
advance of a hostile force enormously greater in numbers has been many
times exemplified in warfare. The Germans employed their overwhelming
superiority in cavalry and machine guns with the greatest energy. They
had to deal, however, with elusive yet bold and persistent enemies.
In this part of Belgium, the country is perfectly flat. There are no
hillocks to assist observation. Information by airmen was rendered
unreliable by the rapid movements of the Belgian forces. Literally the
invaders had to grope their way, imagining that the main army was in
front of them. Beyond the narrow horizon the danger lurked, but exactly
where, it was hard to say.

The most serious effort on the part of the invaders was to throw a
large force towards Antwerp. Against the strong position held by the
Belgians and their change of front the effort failed. The assumed
Belgian left wing had become its centre. Strongly posted as that now
was with a deep river in front and a great fortress in the rear the
position made an attack too costly to be pressed. Half at least of the
whole mighty German host would have been necessary to force it. That,
however, would have thrown the programme into confusion. The artillery
duel went on from daylight to darkness, but the Belgians showed
themselves unshakable. All the efforts of the invaders to throw troops
over the Dyle were beaten off with heavy loss. Finally, the Germans
were compelled to pass on, leaving the Belgian main army a still
unbeaten menace.

The military considerations which dictated the Belgian strategy may be
readily made clear. Since the base of the army was Antwerp, where it
had all its supplies and munitions, the first essential was not to be
cut off from that base. An army defending its native country, and among
its own people may, so far as foodstuffs are concerned, be said to be
at home anywhere, but it cannot in modern warfare fight without shells
and bullets, and when those it brings with it are exhausted its power
as a present-day fighting force is at an end. No army can encumber
itself in the field with more than the munitions it immediately needs.
It has consequently to keep in touch with its reserve stocks, or, in
military phrase, to keep its line of communications open.

That to a general in command is as important as victory. Indeed, a
victory gained if it left the communications cut would be illusory.

A second consideration, not less essential, is that of not fighting in
such a position that, in the event of being compelled to retire, the
army, in order to save its communications, must pass across the front
of the victorious force. Irreparable defeat would almost certainly be
the result. Fighting in a situation of that kind is known as fighting
with the front of the army turned to what should be its flank, or in
military phraseology is a “front to a flank” position. It is one of the
purposes of strategy to manœuvre a hostile force into such a position
whenever possible.

As the Belgian army was disposed up to August 17, it stood “front to a
flank,” and if it had fought in that situation it must, owing to its
inferior numbers, have been surrounded, or been compelled to fall back
upon or beyond Brussels, so that its communications with Antwerp would
have been cut off. It must consequently, whatever the bravery of its
officers and men, have been compelled in a few days either to lay down
its arms or to be annihilated.

Possibly the Germans thought that it meant to remain where it was for
the purpose of covering Brussels, and that sentimental rather than
military reasons influenced its movements. As a fact, this seeming
incompetence was a ruse, designed to induce the Germans to throw
their main force forward in the direction of Brussels rather than in
the direction of Antwerp. The latter place, if they had been ably
commanded, would have been made their first objective. Seizure of
Antwerp would have settled the business. They fell, however, blindly
into the trap laid for them, and blundered on towards Brussels only to
discover, too late, that they had been left with the shadow, but had
lost the substance.

In any event, for the Belgians, save in a position of complete security
to have offered battle to an army more than six times as numerous,
with a crushing superiority of some 2,000 guns would simply have been
throwing the lives of brave men away to no purpose. Decidedly the
King of the Belgians was not the man to “play into the hands of the
Germans.”



CHAPTER VI

THE GERMANS IN BRUSSELS


From August 17 to August 21 were days of intense suspense in Brussels.
Dr. E. J. Dillon has drawn a picture of them sober yet arresting and
faithful. Naturally, after the removal of the Government, there was a
feeling that the city was on the eve of grave events. Amid the public
anxiety the Burgomaster, M. Adolphe Max, showed the evidences of that
civic spirit and unfaltering firmness, worthy of the greatest years
in the old struggle for freedom, which later made him the hero of his
fellow-citizens.

Emotions changed from hour to hour, but when the Civic Guard left for
the front, amid demonstrations of patriotic fervour, it was the common
belief that the forces of Belgium might successfully keep off the
enemy, at any rate until aid arrived. Barricades were built across the
streets, and lines of trenches thrown up. Brussels resigned itself to
the prospect of a siege.

Little did the crowds who discussed these events know of the real
purpose of them. Under present-day conditions of warfare Brussels is
wholly indefensible. It lies for the most part in a hollow commanded
by hills from which long-range guns could destroy it without the
possibility of effective reply.

The object of the apparent preparations for a siege was to mislead,
not the citizens of Brussels, but the foe who had trampled on the
nation’s rights. The Government and the authorities in Brussels were
well aware of the enemy’s swarm of spies in their midst. They were not
ignorant that their every movement was forthwith betrayed. A wireless
installation discovered on the building lately occupied by the German
Ministry had been unearthed and dismantled, but there were still,
doubtless, secret channels of communication open. Rightly concluding
that German plans would be adjusted to this information, they met ruse
with ruse. The enemy was to be led on to an empty and merely theatrical
triumph.

Of course, the ordinary citizen, not in the secret, took the siege
preparations at their face value. The German advance was evidenced,
apart from reports and rumours, by the crowds of homeless fugitives,
who like flotsam driven before a storm, tramped into the city
footsore, weary, and miserable, their few belongings, hastily snatched
together, carried on their backs, or piled on the light carts drawn
by dogs. At first in bands, the inflow swelled until these pitiful
processions filled every eastern and south-eastern road; and soon the
railway stations were crowded by people struggling for trains to the
coast.

Then came ambulances and trains of wounded. On the night of Thursday,
August 20, Brussels did not go to bed. News arrived in the early
hours that the Germans were close upon the city. From their posts in
the Forest of Soignies, the Civic Guard marched in. It became known
that they had been ordered to Ghent, and that the capital was to be
surrendered without firing a shot.

The public at large were stunned, and their astonishment was without
doubt shared, not in Belgium only, but abroad. Undaunted by the turn of
events, the 20,000 men of the Civic Guard passed through the streets
_en route_ for Ghent intoning the “Marseillaise” in a thunderous
chorus. Meanwhile those responsible wisely kept their counsel. The
proclamation that the military evacuation was a measure necessary
for the well-being of Brussels itself and of the country was, with
judicious suppression as to reasons, the truth.

The public, of course, did not realise the military situation. All
they for the moment grasped was the peril of an occupation by troops
whose atrocities had been marked by a trail of burned-out villages
and slaughtered peasantry. The crowds of fugitives from the country
into Brussels were speedily swelled by yet even greater crowds out of
the city. The roads to Ghent became thronged with refugees. Afoot and
in every sort of vehicle, they fled from the on-coming Terror, the
darkness relieved only by distant glares which told of villages in
flames, and the fear sharpened by the sullen boom of far-off guns.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the effort of the large non-resident population
to get out while the way was yet open assumed the aspect of a panic.
The first care of the authorities was, of necessity to remove the
wounded, who had been placed, not only in hospitals, but in large
stores turned for the time being into hospitals. This, of course, taxed
the railway accommodation. It was necessary, too, that no rolling stock
should fall into the hands of the invaders. Trains available were
therefore limited. Would-be passengers fought their way with cries and
curses into the compartments until these were choked with people all
in a state of excitement or dread. Every train, even the last, left
hundreds of the terror-stricken behind.

It would be untrue, however, to assume that these refugees represented
the spirit or feeling of the population of Brussels as a whole. The
first shock passed, the population awaited developments without any
marked signs of dismay.

German cavalry reached Teuveren, a suburb of Brussels, about six
o’clock that morning. The street barricades were hastily removed by the
city authorities. Those had served their turn and were no longer wanted.

The invaders’ formal entry took place at two in the afternoon. The
clatter and jingle of heavy dragoons through deserted suburban streets,
where the houses had been closely shuttered, announced that Brussels
was in the power of the Prussians. The dragoons were the head of a
column of infantry. These dauntless warriors had waited nearly eight
hours in order to make sure that the “contemptible” Belgian military
had in fact withdrawn.

Very soon the fact became evident that the entry had been carefully
stage-managed in order to render it as “impressive” as possible.
Some 50,000 of the smartest and freshest troops were paraded across
the city. This display, which occupied some hours, was intended to
convince the Bruxellois of the utter futility of Belgian resistance.
With many of the population curiosity prevailed over repugnance, and
they stood in throngs along the boulevards while the show went by.
Seeing this impassive but orderly multitude, and doubtless convinced
that the conquest of Belgium had already been accomplished as the first
fruits of the war, the troops, by permission, struck up “Deutschland
über Alles.” In the fighting during the earlier days of the campaign
the German troops, despite the plundering of the territory they had
overrun, were in a half-famished state, and the horses of their
cavalry, in particular, perishing of hunger and fatigue. Many prisoners
were picked up in the last state of exhaustion. They might readily have
been murdered by the enraged peasantry, but it is doubtful if there is
even one clearly proved instance of a German having been assassinated
under such circumstances.

The forces, however, now paraded bore few of the traces of warfare,
a proof to the spectators that the Belgian operations were on paper!
An incident recorded is that of several officers who rode in a
motor-car. The group, apparently part of a divisional staff, called
for a newspaper, and on reading the news broke out into ostentatious
laughter. At selected points the troops, on a whistle being sounded,
fell into the parade or “goose” step. Decidedly, the Bruxellois ought
to be impressed. What resistance could avail against such instantaneous
discipline?

In truth, the discipline was rather on the side of the spectators than
of the performers. A proclamation by M. Max had enjoined a scrupulous
avoidance of acts of insult or violence. The injunction was implicitly
obeyed. Though, like every great city, Brussels had its irresponsible
elements, such was the influence and authority of its burgomaster, and
the esteem in which he was justly held, that his requisition was taken
by every inhabitant as a personal obligation. The Germans imagined that
this remarkable effect arose from their show of mechanical and material
power. It was, on the contrary, a marvel of moral force.

The occupation, or more strictly the seizure, of the city was carried
out methodically, and had manifestly, like the rest of the German
arrangements, long been cut and dried. Detachments of troops took
possession of the post and telephone offices; of the railways stations;
of the public buildings; and of the barracks. At the Palais de Justice
the doors were broken open, and the building turned into a military
quarters. Brussels was cut off from communication with the outside
world, Germany excepted. Guards were placed along the roads leading
from it, and no person was allowed to pass without a military permit.
On the great open space in front of the Palais de Justice heavy guns
were ranged so that they could command the greater part of the lower
town. From this space, as everyone familiar with Brussels knows, the
city, a picture of the multitudinous beauty of roofs and streets and
towers, can be seen stretching away across the broad valley of the
Senne.

One of the first measures taken by General von Arnim, the German
commandant, was to summon the burgomaster and the members of the civic
council, and to inform them that they must consider themselves hostages
for the good behaviour of the citizens. A long list of the wealthiest
citizens proved to be in the possession of the invaders, and opposite
each name the approximate total of the person’s fortune. Such was one
of the effects of the spy system. Opposite each name, too, was the
amount which it was proposed to exact.

The burgomaster was told that the city must pay a war “fine” of
£8,000,000, and that he must see to it that the sum was forthcoming
promptly and in cash. He was also told that he would be looked to for
the German soldiery being treated by Brussels citizens with proper
respect. The police of the city would be left under his direction,
subject, of course, to orders from the new authorities.

M. Max replied that a payment of £8,000,000 as demanded was out of the
question. All the cash from the banks had been removed. In any event,
if the levy was fairly assessed it must take time to collect. Hence at
best it could only be paid by instalments. He added that measures had
already been taken for the maintenance of public order, and that the
occupying troops would meet with no molestation if they on their part
behaved properly to the public. If he and the city council were to be
responsible the civic rights and the persons and property of citizens
must be respected.

The reply was that all this must be dependent on the amount of the fine
being found somehow.

While this interview was in progress at the offices lately evacuated
by the Government where the “conquerors” had installed themselves,
arrangements were being made for billeting some thousands of officers,
who promptly took possession of the hotels, where, with the arrogant
air of superiority which marks off the Prussian military caste, they
proceeded to regale themselves without payment, adding to these acts of
petty brigandage in many cases gross insults if their demands could not
be complied with. Others were quartered on private families. During the
evening of the first day of the occupation they sat at open windows or
outside _cafés_ on the boulevards, and refreshed with food and liquor
beyond the dreams of their own exiguous commissariat, indulged in
mocking observations on the manners and ways of citizens, who in the
qualities of dignity, courtesy, and restraint offered an example which
“kultur” had left the Prussian intruders unable to copy.

As for the troops not needed for garrison duty, they had been marched
to an encampment to the north-west of the city. The delights of
conquest were reserved for the officers. It was enough for the men that
they shared the honour of its fatigues.

Two days later arrived from Berlin General von der Goltz who, it
was announced, had been appointed civil governor of Belgium. This
superannuated worthy brought with him instructions for more “fines,”
including the _modest_ requisition of £18,000,000 from the province of
Brabant.

It may be doubted whether the world, outside Germany, did not receive
the news of the levy upon Brussels with even greater laughter than
indignation. The preposterous character of the demand was only exceeded
by its impudence. But the new viceroy of Belgium, like his employers,
took himself seriously. Having installed himself with due ceremony
in the royal palace, he proceeded to tackle the knotty business of
converting the phantom £10 a head for every man, woman, and child into
solid sinews of war.

There was no sign of the money making its appearance. The burgomaster
was sent for and carpeted for his remissness. He intimated with polite
sarcasm that if the new “government” could discover a better way of
collecting the fine they did not need his assistance. General von der
Goltz agreed to accept payments by instalments. Hints were thrown
out that if the instalments were not paid it would be the worse for
Brussels. The “government” would not stand on ceremony.

Nevertheless, the instalments were not forthcoming. After huge worry
and effort, all that could be extracted was £800,000. The policy of
making Belgium pay for its own subjugation, brilliant in theory,
threatened in practice to become a comedy.

This was not the only light touch. A colleague of von der Goltz,
General von Luttwitz, had been appointed military governor of Belgium.
He signalised his arrival by a pompous proclamation in which, after the
manner of the 4,000 or more police by-laws of Berlin, he forbade the
citizens to do a variety of things, and strictly enjoined them on pain
of instant arrest and trial by court martial to do a variety of others.

The public read the proclamation with ridicule. Since it was
both an interference with the rights of the civic council as the
police authority, and likely to provoke mischief by its blundering
foolishness, the burgomaster, in the interests of public order and
security, issued a counter-proclamation reassuring citizens of the
endeavours for their protection, and enjoining pacific conduct and
restraint. The burgomaster’s announcement, not having been submitted
and passed in the first instance, was considered a defiance. German
soldiers were sent out as billstickers with sheets of blank paper to
cover it over. During the following night the blank paper was found to
have been oiled, and made transparent. This produced a threat that if
such a trick was repeated the police would be disbanded and replaced by
the military.

As lacking in any sense of proportion was the hurry to Germanise the
Press. The Brussels newspapers, laid under a strict censorship, were
forbidden to publish any save Berlin-provided war news, and to publish
it in German. Henceforth the Brussels public were to hear of nothing
save German victories. The newspapers declined to comply and were
suppressed. To supply the lack of news the authorities established
an official organ printed in the now official language. There was no
demand, and the government and garrison alone enjoyed the pleasure
afforded by its cultured and exciting contents. The Brussels public
preferred to remain in unofficial darkness.

Familiarity with the “conquerors” rapidly bred in the population of
the city a general contempt. It was speedily found out that their
political incapacity was only paralleled by their assumption. Despite
the elaborate imported machinery of government their authority remained
a shadow. The passive resistance of the public was “correct,” but
annoying. When processions of street boys, each in an old hat with the
end of a carrot pushed through the crown, played at German soldiers and
gave comic imitations of the goose step and the words of command--a
diversion General von Luttwitz had somehow forgotten to catalogue as
“verboten”--the military government of Belgium felt itself drifting
into a false position.

It was decided that the soul of the opposition was the burgomaster.
Inevitably in the situation there was much distress arising from
unemployment. The commerce of the city was at a standstill. M. Max,
aided by other public-spirited citizens, worked with energy to organise
relief. Brussels was divided into a score or so of districts, so that
the most necessitous could be dealt with. The citizens had realised
that by following the burgomaster’s wise counsels, refraining from
provocation on their own part, ignoring it on the part of their
oppressors, they were serving their country as effectively as if they
were on the battlefield. Indeed Brussels had become a battlefield--a
moral battlefield on which the defeat of the foe was complete. On that
battlefield in the dark days of the past the citizens of Brussels had
won signal victory. Dark days had come again, and they were drawn
together under the man raised up in the hour of need.

Whatever the show of power made by the combined civil and military
governments of Belgium, the real ruler was the burgomaster, and the
civil and military governments knew it. They tolerated him partly
because it assisted public order, but mostly because he was considered
indispensable in collecting the expected war fine. The latter was
dribbling in very slowly. Requisitions of supplies for the German
troops were “paid for” in vouchers to be met out of the tribute--when
received. Citizens shrewdly suspected, however, that, like other
Prussian promises, these were of little value. This system of plunder
of necessity aggravated the distress, and all the more because similar
seizures were going on in the smaller towns. Every day in face of
greater secrecy on the part of the population the collection of
supplies became more difficult. General von Luttwitz was at his wits’
end.

Bold measures were resolved upon. The troops in occupation showed
signs of becoming demoralised. Quarrels broke out in barracks between
contingents of Prussians and Bavarians. As co-religionists of the
Belgians, the latter were suspected of being sympathetic to the
Brussels people. The old standing hatred of the Bavarians towards
Prussia, and the equally old-standing contempt of the Prussians for all
other Germans in general and for Bavarians in particular, led to free
fights in which bayonets were used. Some of the combatants lost their
lives. The military government decidedly had its hands full.

It endeavoured to show its authority by insisting on the presence of
a representative at the meetings of the City Council. There was a
suspicion that these meetings were in fact occupied with proposals to
subvert it, and evade payment of the fine. The indomitable burgomaster
declared that if the new civil or the new military government intruded
no more meetings would be held. The civil and military governments were
obliged to give way.

By way of reprisal, they insisted that the £1,200,000 still owing out
of the first £2,000,000 of the war fine should be paid up by a given
date. The burgomaster and council replied that the demand was an
impossible one. The new “authorities” were peremptory. The council met
them with a flat refusal. On receipt of it the burgomaster was sent
for by the military governor. He did not return, and in fact had been
arrested. The council were informed that payment of the £1,200,000 was
the condition of his release.

Forthwith on the walls and kiosks the public read over the signature of
the military governor the following proclamation:--

“To the people of Brussels!

“I have the honour to make it known that I have found myself obliged
to suspend Burgomaster Max from his office on account of his
unserviceable behaviour. He is now in honourable custody in a fortress.

“The German Government ordered the payment of all military requisition
vouchers in the supposition that the town would pay the war tribute
voluntarily. Only on this condition were special terms conceded to
Brussels, whereas in other towns requisition vouchers will be paid
after the conclusion of peace. As the Brussels municipality refuses to
pay the remainder of the tribute, no further requisition vouchers will
be paid by the German Government.”

The device which had been relied upon to cajole the public into the
belief that the requisitions were being bought and not stolen had
broken down, and the proclamation was nothing more than a confession
of its failure. Henceforth the robbery must be crude and unashamed. As
crude were the threats of outrage which the _competent_ von Luttwitz
indulged in. Summoning the aldermen into his presence and requiring
them to elect another burgomaster, he found that the spirit of M.
Adolphe Max, the ancient spirit of the Netherlands, was not to be
destroyed by arrests. The aldermen firmly refused compliance. They were
threatened with a German burgomaster and German military patrols in
place of the police, and told that if riots broke out Brussels would
be bombarded and burned. Riots, as the aldermen knew, might readily
be provoked for that purpose. Tension in face of the burgomaster’s
arrest was already acute. In these circumstances M. Maurice Lemonnier
undertook with his colleagues the maintenance of public order, but the
fiat for the election of a successor to M. Max remained unfulfilled.

Thus would-be conquerors of Europe in the face of unarmed citizens
offered the world a proof of their inborn incapacity to rule, and
themselves exposed the folly of their aspirations.

M. Max, it was afterwards learned, had been put under confinement in
the fortress of Wesel in Germany.



CHAPTER VII

THE FINAL HACK


From Brussels by road to Mons is less than 40 miles; from Liége to
Charleroi in the valley of the Sambre little more than 50. It is clear
now that while one part of the great invading host took the direct
route from Liége towards the Sambre, the other made a detour by way of
Brussels to meet the Belgian army. The object was to strike towards
the three great international roads running to Paris from Belgium.
The most westerly of these great routes passes from Brussels through
Mons and Valenciennes; the next through Charleroi and the French
frontier fortress of Maubeuge; the third along the valley of the Meuse
through Namur, past Dinant, and away to Laon. These brief facts on the
topography of the country will help to explain the military operations.
Briefly, if we imagine the march by way of Brussels as a bow, and the
march direct from Liége as its string, we shall have a rough but
fairly accurate idea of the movement executed; bearing in mind only
that even the parts of a host of this magnitude, though the rear would
be nearly two days’ march behind the van, would each be pouring at once
along adjacent roads leading in the same direction.

In any event, and quite apart from any opposition offered by the
Belgians, with the delay resulting from it, the detour by way of
Brussels involved an additional two days at least. But the fighting
with the Belgians caused a further three days’ delay. Of those days,
two, certainly, were occupied in the battle, and the third in resting
the troops engaged and in burying the dead. It was not, therefore,
until August 23, five days after the start from Liége, that the forces,
in fact, concentrated at the opposite end of the bow in southern
Belgium.

Only a small part of them, as we have seen, passed through Brussels.
The main body, even of the northern division, marched through Tirlemont
and on to Hal, round the south of the capital. At the same time, the
enormous column of cavalry, acting as a screen, rode round by the north
of the city and then struck south through Enghien.

All the military display at Brussels was relatively but an aside to the
main performance, intended both for moral effect, such as it was, and
to throw dust in the eyes of the enemy.

We have therefore to imagine between August 21 and August 23 these
great, and, from their size, inevitably unwieldy, forces concentrating
towards the southern frontier of Belgium by every road available.

Here another brief note on geography is necessary. Eastern Belgium, or
that part of it between the Meuse and the sea, is nearly all perfectly
flat, and almost purely agricultural, and the invaders had there
marched through a country which, before they laid it waste, was a
habitation of industry and peace rejoicing in the bounties of harvest.

But western Belgium is largely a manufacturing country, though still
marked by rich rural beauty. Even the main Belgian coalfield extending
through the provinces of Hainault and West Flanders presents outwardly
few of those evidences of utilitarian squalor commonly associated with
coal and iron. The centre of the coal and iron industries of Western
Belgium is Mons, a quaint old place built upon a hill rising amid a
country thickly intersected by canals and railways. Looking east from
Mons, we are looking down the valley of the Sambre, on each side low
rolling hills, the sides and crests of which are in part clothed
with woods and plantations. These hills are, so to say, the outworks
of the Ardennes, one of the natural show-places of Europe. Fifteen
miles from Mons, and on the north bank of the Sambre, is the town of
Charleroi. Fifteen miles farther, at the juncture of the Sambre with
the Meuse, rises the rocky mass forming the ancient citadel of Namur.
The Sambre is not a wide stream, but is swift, its course alternating
between rapids and deep pools. It is most passable, in the military
sense, about ten miles west of Namur. Just there the river follows a
succession of sharp bends.

Of the huge land Armada now moving south through this busy and populous
but beautiful country, most people think as being in every sense a
modern European army. But it was not. There were surgeons with it,
but no field hospitals. It had encumbered itself with no tents. There
was all the grim apparatus of modern war, but only the least possible
of modern war’s humane apparatus. It was the intention of those who
could to quarter themselves on the population of the country through
which the host passed; to supplement food supplies by eating up the
country’s resources. The mass of the invaders slept, where other
shelter was not to be had, in the fields. These hardships sharpened
the lust of conquest. At the rear of the host trudged battalions of
gravediggers. But they were to dig the graves of those who would dare
to stand against it. The comparative poverty and the native parsimony
of the Prussians was reflected in these arrangements. Their all had
been invested in artillery and instruments of death because the leaders
of the host were sure of victory. What else they needed when winter
came would be provided from the spoil of the conquered. In appearance
a modern army, it presented essential features in common with the
migrations of Huns and Goths, which form in Europe the history of the
early Middle Ages. Under a modern disguise, it was a similar horde. It
is easy, therefore, to estimate the rage and surprise which thwarted
hopes, wounded pride, and heavy losses had produced in Belgium, and why
there was behind it a land of mourning and blood.

We now come to the military movements. The 5th French army and two
divisions had advanced and had occupied the angle of country between
the Meuse and the Sambre, and held the passages over both rivers; the
British line was taken up behind the canal which runs from Condé on
the west of Mons to Binche on the east. Mons lay somewhat in advance
of the position, and occupied by the British 3rd division commanded by
General Hamilton, formed an outward angle, or, in military terms, a
salient.

The 5th British cavalry division under General Sir Philip Chetwode had
been sent forward to reconnoitre. Part of the force had, on August
22, advanced as far as the forest of Soignies, close to Brussels. In
face of the cavalry covering the German advance they had fallen back.
Similar reconnaissances were made by the French cavalry round Gembloux
to the north of Namur. Hence during the German advance southward from
Brussels and westward of Namur the hostile forces were in touch with
each other.

An interesting episode, characteristic of the scouting tactics of the
Germans, is related by Mr. A. Beaumont, the special correspondent of
the _Daily Telegraph_, who was at the time in Charleroi:--

    On my return to Charleroi I learnt that a detachment of twenty
    Hussars of the Death’s Head, led by an officer, had entered
    the upper town at seven in the morning. They proceeded towards
    the Sambre, and quietly said, “Good-morning” to the people at
    the doors. “Bon jour, bon jour,” they said to the housewives,
    who were looking on in wonder, and who, mistaking their khaki
    uniform, took them for English soldiers.

    People even enthusiastically raised cheers for England. The
    soldiers, also misled, allowed them to pass. An officer finally
    saw them from a window, and rushed down to a detachment on
    guard in the Rue Pont Neuf, and gave the alarm. A number of
    infantry soldiers at once opened fire on them. It was at the
    corner of the Rue De Montigny, where the tramway and railway
    lines pass.

    Three of the intruders were shot down. The rest, with their
    officer, took to flight. It was not believed that such a thing
    would be possible, but it proved that the Germans are capable
    of anything. They did the same thing many a time in 1870.

Apart from cavalry skirmishes, the fighting began on August 22, when
the Germans attacked the passages over the Sambre about 10 miles to the
west of Namur, already alluded to. Here reference may be made to a ruse
on their part which explains the peculiarity of their movement across
Belgium. The southern contingent was hurried into action evidently in
order to lead the Allies to believe that it formed the bulk of the
German force. After the Allies had made their dispositions to resist on
that footing, the northern contingent was unexpectedly to appear, and
to finish and win the battle by the weight of its forces.

While the fighting was going on for the passages of the Sambre,
another part of the southern contingent, which was formed by the army
apparently of General von Bülow, moved on to attack Charleroi, and yet
another part, an army corps and a cavalry division, appeared before
Mons.

The opening attack upon Mons, however, was what, in common parlance,
is called a “blind,” intended to screen the advance behind it of the
northern contingent, the army of General von Kluck, consisting of the
pick of the Prussian troops.

For it is known now that that commander had marched south from Brussels
having in his pocket an Army Order issued by the German Emperor from
headquarters at Aix-la-Chapelle, under date August 19, which contained
the following passage:--

    It is my royal and imperial command that you concentrate your
    energies for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and
    that is that you address all your skill and all the valour of
    my soldiers to exterminate first the treacherous English and to
    walk over General French’s contemptible army.

What happened, therefore, on the arrival of these troops on that
Sunday, August 23, was, briefly told, this. While the British troops
holding Mons were resisting the opening attack on that place, an attack
they readily defeated, the onslaught suddenly developed in great weight
and fury. In face of it, the necessity arose of withdrawing the troops
forming the British salient into line with the rest of the army.

This, in the face of such an attack by overwhelming numbers, was a
most difficult and dangerous operation. It was carried out, however,
with remarkable coolness and courage. Though the British suffered
heavy losses, the masses thrown up against them failed to break their
formations.

The attack thereupon developed all along the British line. Throughout
that day, and far into the succeeding night, the German officers and
men did their utmost faithfully to carry out the royal and imperial
orders, and it is not too much to say that German arrogance met with
the sharpest shock it had until then experienced. In the front of
the British positions German dead lay in masses, and, after their
custom, they left their wounded for the most part to perish. The
unerring marksmanship of the British infantry was as unexpected as
it was deadly; unshaken by the terrific artillery fire, the British
troops met the attacks thrown upon then in mass formation with a
withering hail of lead. Where, with an intensity of contempt and hate
the onslaught succeeded momentarily in getting close in, the British
dashed into it with the bayonet, and “the valour of my soldiers” wilted
under the slaughter. Again and again the German rank and file were
led or driven by their officers upon the British positions, again and
again to be ripped into bloody confusion. They had come up against the
unconquerable.

While these events were in progress, word was received of a formidable
German turning movement in the direction of Tournai, held by a body
of French troops of the second line. This made advisable a retirement
of the British to the rear. Thanks alike to the rock-like steadiness
combined with the inbred tenacity of the infantry, the heavy hitting
power of the artillery, and not least the dauntless devotion of the
cavalry, who faced and broke the heavy odds of the German horse, the
movement was successfully accomplished.

It is not the purpose here to tell the story of the British retreat
from Mons. That feat of arms is related in another volume of this
series. All that comes within present scope is to glance briefly over
the other happenings of these eventful days along that line of battle.

Although in the struggle for the passages of the Sambre the Germans on
the night of August 22 had succeeded in throwing troops across, they
were long and heavily punished by the French artillery, which now, for
the first time, clearly demonstrated the superiority destined to have
so marked an effect during the war. The French field gun was a new
type of weapon, better than the German alike in rapidity and accuracy
of fire. Its more perfect rifling gave a higher muzzle velocity and a
flatter trajectory; the melinite shells used were of intense explosive
force, and the French gunners handled their guns with skill. A larger
proportion of the German artillery consisted of guns of, as it proved,
a relatively out-of-date type, retained and “converted,” apparently,
from motives of economy.

Crossing a river in the face of an enemy so supported is a costly
business, as the Germans soon discovered. With their heavy advantage in
numbers, and with at least four points of simultaneous attack strongly
in their favour, they should have been across in very little time. They
were held at bay for many hours, and repeatedly driven back by French
charges. Only at length under cover of darkness were they able to gain
a footing on the south bank.

Meanwhile, the assault was being pressed against Charleroi, and here
was the centre and decisive point. The French held the place against
repeated attacks, until the regiments of the Prussian Guard, always
held in reserve for critical operations, and reputed invincible, were
brought up against it. There are 20 regiments of the guard, each 3,000
strong. The French were driven out. In turn they launched against the
town the infantry of their African Army Corps, the not less famous
Zouaves and Turcos; and that Sunday afternoon witnessed one of the most
terrible bayonet fights in the history of Europe, a fight in which the
little Belgian town and its environs became a hell. Amid a cannonade
too appalling for description men fought through its streets until
the ways were heaped with dying and dead. Charleroi was set on fire
by shells, but the combat, which knew no truce, went on amid blazing
buildings and collapsing walls. It was a combat of men turned devils.

The town was taken and retaken. At the finish it remained in the hands
of the invaders, but thousands of the flower of their army lay amid and
around its ruins.

The battle of Mons and Charleroi was a Pyrrhic victory. One decisive
advantage, however, on that day the invaders had won. They had captured
the fortress of Namur.

After the heroic defence of Liége the rapid fall of Namur formed one
of the surprises of the campaign. The fortress was held by a Belgian
garrison of some 26,000 men, and well provisioned. Though so far as
natural situation goes a strong place, surrounded by a ring of four
larger and five smaller forts, in which the guns were protected by
armoured turrets of a type similar to those at Liége, it had some
serious weak spots.

As secretly as possible and during the night-time the Germans had
transported from Liége batteries of their huge howitzers, and had
planted these on already prepared beds of concrete in positions beyond
the range of the fortress artillery. It had been decided to renew the
ordnance of the forts, and the guns had been ordered, according to
report, though this lacks authority, from Germany. At all events the
newer and heavier ordnance was not there. It may here be explained
that an attack is rarely or never made upon a hostile fortress without
the general in command of the attack and his principal officers being
put into possession of plans of the works. These plans, the result of
espionage, show every detail, and afford every particular; disclose
every trench, entanglement, and obstacle, every building, wireless
instalment, or line of telegraph and telephone wire. The exact range
and power of every gun is stated. Between the field of fire of the guns
there are spaces, known technically as “dead points,” left uncovered,
or at all events, the facts being disclosed, such dispositions for
attack as will create “dead points” are readily made by drawing the
fire of the forts in particular directions.

Now the defence of Liége was successful because the entrenchments and
obstacles in the sectors between the forts were made when their details
could not be disclosed to the enemy. But Namur had been prepared
about the same time, and there was ample opportunity to discover the
particulars.

All the Germans therefore had to do was to wait for the first autumn
mist among the hills to open fire from guns whose position the
defence did not know. To the attack the “laying” of such guns to
hit any desired object in the fortress was, with the plans in their
possession, a mere matter of mathematical calculation. Under cover of
such a mist, the forts being unable to reply, to knock some of them
to pieces by a heavily concentrated fire, and after that to stalk
the place was comparatively easy. The garrison were aware that the
fortress was untenable, or only to be held by meeting the attack by
a counter-attack. Following a terrific two days’ bombardment, during
which two of the forts were demolished, the assault was launched on the
afternoon of August 23. The garrison after a short resistance against
great odds were driven out. The mist which had favoured the attack
equally favoured their escape. They found their way fortunately into
the French lines.[C]



CHAPTER VIII

THE CRIME OF LOUVAIN


On August 20, the day before the formal entry of the German forces into
Brussels, the Belgians had evacuated Malines. It was deemed prudent, as
in fact it was, to withdraw the forces to the line of the outer forts
of Antwerp. Some of the most violent fighting on August 19 and 20 had
taken place 16 miles to the south-east of Antwerp at Aerschot. There
the Germans had made their determined, but unsuccessful, effort to
cross the Dyle.

Once in occupation of Brussels, they turned Malines into the
headquarters of the troops, an army corps some 60,000 strong, told off
to “mask” Antwerp by keeping the Belgian army if possible cooped up
within the fortress. Malines lies exactly halfway between Antwerp and
Brussels, about 12 miles from either city. It is, however, not more
than half a mile from the outer ring of the Antwerp fortifications.
The value of such a watch-tower to the Germans is manifest. No movement
could possibly be made by the Belgians from Antwerp without the
invaders knowing of it.

No sooner, however, had the march of the German main forces southward
from Brussels begun, than the Belgians sallied forth. They were
well-informed of the enemy’s movements, and were fully aware that,
acting in conjunction with the contingent moving from Liége direct to
the Sambre, that moving by way of Brussels could not in any event turn
back.

This sortie, made so soon--it took place on August 23--took the German
troops in Malines by surprise. They were just beginning to make
themselves comfortable after their fatigues, when the Belgian army
burst in upon them. No effectual resistance was possible. The invaders
were driven, a battered rout, as far as Vilvorde, a northern suburb of
Brussels. There most of the 10,000 German troops forming the garrison
of Brussels were drawn up to cover the retreat. Malines remained in the
hands of the Belgians.

Realising from this defeat that they had a tough proposition in front
of them, the Germans hurried additional troops into the country.
Meanwhile the Belgians had again seized Aerschot, Termonde and Alost.
The German force threatening Ghent had to be withdrawn, and the
invaders found themselves in danger of being cooped up in the capital.

This situation throws light on the atrocities which almost immediately
followed, and on the question of whether these atrocities were
accidents of hasty indiscipline or were, in fact, military measures
carried out according to a settled plan.

A glance at the map of Belgium will show that the towns of Jodoigne,
Louvain, Malines, Termonde, and Alost form round Brussels an arc,
rather more than a semi-circle. The middle point of that arc is the
point nearest to Antwerp, that is to say, Malines.

Now these towns as well as Aerschot were destroyed with the exceptions
of Malines and Alost. Though Malines was three times severely bombarded
by the Germans, and in the succeeding struggles changed hands as many
times over, it was, while deplorably damaged, not destroyed. Neither
was Alost. Why? Because Malines was needed as a _point d’appui_ against
Antwerp, and Alost as a half-way position on the road to Ghent. Alost
was also the scene of repeated struggles. It is beyond argument to
suggest that this destruction of some places and not of others can
have been haphazard.

When we look further into the military situation the question passes
beyond all doubt. Entrenched at Antwerp the as yet undefeated Belgian
main army remained a serious menace. In fact, the Germans both at
Berlin and at Brussels were well aware that, so long as that state of
things continued, their hold upon the country was, not only precarious,
but, in the event of a reverse in France, to the last degree dangerous.
For, in possession of Antwerp and the seaboard provinces, the Belgians
might, in conjunction with the Allies, at once close the only door of
escape, and force at Aix-la-Chapelle what is, in effect, the main door
to Germany.

From the invaders’ point of view, therefore, it was essential both to
restrict the operations of the Belgian forces and to affirm their own
grip on Brussels. And this explains why the threats indulged in to
bombard and burn Brussels were merely threats. In a city of 800,000
people, numbers of whom, doubtless, secretly possessed arms, a rising
on the part of the population, with a native army of nearly 100,000 men
only a few miles away, meant a risk of the garrison of Brussels and
even of the occupying troops altogether having to defend themselves
against extermination, for the hatred they had inspired was unspeakable.

The plan resolved upon, it was carried out without mercy. Owing to
its ancient renown, and the world-wide interest of its buildings and
monuments, the destruction of Louvain has most shocked civilised
peoples. The loss is a loss to the world, but as regards its utter
inhumanity, the razing of the other towns, not to speak of the villages
surrounding them, was equally pitiless and savage. In these murders the
German soldiery spared neither age nor sex, and wreaked upon the most
helpless their most indescribable and debased barbarities. It has been
said that for every Belgian soldier killed in action, they slew three
unarmed men, women, or children.

In the devastated districts the bodies of murdered peasants lay
unburied in ditches by the roadside. The corpses of children, stiff in
death, clung in their last attitude of terror to the corpses of their
mutilated mothers. Others lay amid the roofless ruins of their homes.
There were instances in which women were stripped, outraged by brutal
soldiery, hanged from the branches of trees, and disembowelled in
mockery of their final agony. Those who could escaped into the woods,
where they hid without food or shelter. Numbers died of starvation and
exposure. To destroy the last chance of life for these fugitives, and
to avoid the trouble of hunting them out, corpses of murdered people
were thrown into wells in order to poison the water.[D]

As might be expected, troops capable of such enormities were, as
combatants, of little value. Well disciplined soldiers could not be
driven to such excesses. Though their greater numbers, when reinforced,
enabled the invaders to make headway against the native troops, yet in
every encounter between anything like equal forces they were always
decisively defeated, and without exception suffered losses out of all
proportion to those they were able to inflict.

It was after an encounter having these results that, on August 25, a
body of these demoralised ruffians burned Louvain. They sallied out
of that place with the object of driving the Belgians from Aerschot
and beyond the Dyle. They were repulsed, and chased back almost to the
outskirts of Louvain, sustaining on the way, as usual, a galling fire
on both flanks. It has been suggested that the officer in command,[E]
whose competence is sufficiently measured by the adventure, gave
the order to sack and destroy the town in order to disguise the
indiscipline of his troops. The motive assigned is not easy to accept.
According to the statement for which the Belgian Government made itself
responsible--a statement based on evidence which inquiry has not left
open to doubt:--

    The German armed guard at the entrance to the town mistook
    the nature of this incursion, and fired on their routed
    fellow-countrymen, taking them for Belgians. In spite of all
    denials from the authorities, the Germans, in order to cover
    their mistake, pretended that it was the inhabitants who had
    fired on them, whereas the inhabitants, including the police,
    had all been disarmed more than a week before.

    Without inquiry and without listening to any protest, the
    German commander announced that the town would immediately
    be destroyed. The inhabitants were ordered to leave their
    dwellings; part of the men were made prisoners; the women and
    children put into trains of which the destination is unknown.

    Soldiers, furnished with bombs, set fire to all parts of
    the town. The splendid church of St. Pierre, the University
    buildings, the Library, and the scientific establishments were
    delivered to the flames. Several notable citizens were shot.

    The town of 45,000 inhabitants, the intellectual metropolis of
    the Low Countries since the fifteenth century, is now no more
    than a heap of ashes.

Such is the brief official statement. It was, however, but the palest
reflection of the facts. How scrupulously restrained the Belgian
Government were in framing it, is shown from the accounts given by
eye-witnesses of the tragedy.

One of these, a Dutchman who owed his escape to the possession of
papers proving his nationality, and afterwards reached Breda, told his
experiences:--

    On Tuesday, the 25th, many troops left the town. We had a few
    soldiers in our house. At six o’clock, when everything was
    ready for dinner, alarm signals sounded, and the soldiers
    rushed through the streets, shots whistled through the air,
    cries and groans arose on all sides; but we did not dare leave
    our house, and took refuge in the cellar, where we stayed
    through long and fearful hours. Our shelter was lighted up by
    the reflection from the burning houses. The firing continued
    unceasingly, and we feared that at any moment our house would
    be burnt over our heads. At break of day I crawled from the
    cellar to the street door, and saw nothing but a raging sea of
    fire.

    At nine o’clock the shooting diminished, and we resolved to
    make a dash to the station. Abandoning our home and all our
    goods except what we could carry, and taking all the money
    we had, we rushed out. What we saw on our way to the station
    is hardly describable. Everything was burning, the streets
    were covered with bodies shot dead and half-burnt. Everywhere
    proclamations had been posted, summoning every man to assist in
    quenching the flames, and the women and children to stay inside
    the houses. The station was crowded with fugitives, and I was
    just trying to show an officer my legitimation papers when the
    soldiers separated me from my wife and children.

    All protests were useless, and a lot of us were marched off
    to a big shed in the goods yard, from where we could see the
    finest buildings of the city, the most beautiful historical
    monuments, being burned down.

    Shortly afterwards German soldiers drove before them 300 men
    and lads to the corner of the Boulevard van Tienen and the
    Maria Theresa-street, opposite the Café Vermalen. There they
    were shot. The sight filled us with horror. The Burgomaster,
    two magistrates, the Rector of the University, and all police
    officials had been shot already.

    With our hands bound behind our backs we were then marched
    off by the soldiers, still without having seen our wives or
    children. We went through the Juste de Litshstreet, along the
    Diester Boulevard, across the Vaart and up the hill.

    From the Mont Cesar we had a full view of the burning town, St.
    Peter in flames, while the troops incessantly sent shot after
    shot into the unfortunate town. We came through the village
    of Herent--one single heap of ruins--where another troop of
    prisoners, including half-a-dozen priests, joined us. Suddenly,
    about ten o’clock, evidently as the result of some false alarm,
    we were ordered to kneel down, and the soldiers stood behind
    us with their rifles ready to fire, using us as a shield. But
    fortunately for us nothing happened.

    After a delay of half an hour, our march was continued.
    No conversation was allowed, and the soldiers continually
    maltreated us. One soldier struck me with all his might with
    the heavy butt-end of his rifle. I could hardly walk any
    further, but I had to. We were choked with thirst, but the
    Germans wasted their drinking water without offering us a drop.

    At seven o’clock we arrived at Camperhout, _en route_ for
    Malines. We saw many half-burnt bodies--men, women, and
    children. Frightened to death and half-starved, we were locked
    up in the church, and there later joined by another troop of
    prisoners from the surrounding villages.

    At ten o’clock the church was lighted up by burning houses.
    Again shots whistled through the air, followed by cries and
    groans.

    At five o’clock next morning, all the priests were taken
    out by the soldiers and shot, together with eight Belgian
    soldiers, six cyclists, and two gamekeepers. Then the officer
    told us that we could go back to Louvain. This we did, but
    only to be recaptured by other soldiers, who brought us back
    to Camperhout. From there we marched to Malines, not by the
    high road, but along the river. Some of the party fell into
    the water, but all were rescued. After thirty-six hours of
    ceaseless excitement and danger we arrived at Malines, where
    we were able to buy some food, and from there I escaped to
    Holland. I still do not know where my wife and children are.[F]

Another witness was Mr. Gerald Morgan, an American resident at
Brussels. His narrative, given after his eventual arrival in England
by way of Louvain, was published in the _Daily Telegraph_ on September
3. He made a tour over the German line of march, and found their
wounded scattered through every town and village not yet destroyed. In
the absence of any German field hospitals, these men were left in any
buildings available to be removed as far as possible back to Germany
in returning supply wagons, ’buses or motor-cars. To calculate their
number was very difficult. Mr. Morgan goes on to say:--

    After this I returned to Brussels, and we Americans in Brussels
    then decided that it was time we shook the soil of the country
    from our feet. We found that we could return to England on
    a troop-train, viâ Louvain, Liége, and Aix-la-Chapelle, and
    thence over the Dutch border. A question arose as to how long
    the train would stop at Louvain, but on the following morning
    the German staff office at the railway station said, “You won’t
    stop at Louvain, as Louvain was being destroyed.” We left at
    three o’clock, the train stopping with abominable jerks every
    few minutes, like a German soldier saluting. We began to see
    signs of destruction in the outlying villages shortly before we
    reached Louvain. Houses in the villages were in flames.

    An hour before sunset we entered Louvain, and found the city
    a smoking furnace. The railway station was crowded with
    troops, drunk with loot and liquor, and rapine as well. From
    house to house, acting under orders, groups of soldiers were
    carrying lighted straw, placing it in the basement, and then
    passing it on to the next. It was not one’s idea of a general
    conflagration, for each house burnt separately--hundreds of
    individual bonfires--while the sparks shot up like thousands of
    shooting stars into the still night air. It was exactly like
    a display of fireworks or Bengal lights, and set pieces, at a
    grand display in Coney Island.

    Meanwhile, through the station arch we saw German justice being
    administered. In a square outside, where the cabs stand, an
    officer stood, and the soldiers drove the citizens of Louvain
    into his presence, like so many unwilling cattle on a market
    day. Some of the men, after a few words between the officer
    and the escorts, were marched off under fixed bayonets behind
    the railway station. Then we heard volleys, and the soldiers
    returned. Then the train moved out, and the last we saw of the
    doomed city was an immense red glare in the gathering darkness.
    My impressions after Louvain were just as if I had read and
    dreamt of one of Zola’s novels.

Weighing this evidence, it is not possible to resist the conclusion
that the atrocity of Louvain was planned and carried out deliberately
and in cold blood, and it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the
trivial conflict between the German armed guard and their retreating
troops, a conflict which apparently hurt nobody on either side, was
prearranged in order to afford a colourable excuse. It has been alleged
that the troops forming the guard were drunk, and that they had just
turned out on the alarm being sounded, after a debauch following the
sack of a brewery. There is no present proof that the sack of the
brewery had anything to do with the affair, or that the connection was
anything more than an afterthought.

The inference of a plan is strengthened, not only by the method with
which, as Mr. Morgan shows, the destruction and its accompanying
“military executions” were completed, but by the provocation which had
previously been offered to the inhabitants, but offered, as it proved,
without the evidently expected effect.

On the latter point the statement of the escaped Dutch resident already
quoted is circumstantial, and since this is not a Belgian witness, his
relation may be accepted as unbiassed. He says:--

    Before the Germans entered the town the Civic Guard had been
    disarmed, and all weapons in the possession of the population
    had to be given up. Even toy guns and toy pistols and precious
    collections of old weapons, bows and arrows, and other
    antique arms useless for any kind of modern warfare had to be
    surrendered, and all these things--sometimes of great personal
    value to the owner--have since been destroyed by the Germans.
    The value of one single private collection has been estimated
    at about £1,000. From the pulpits the priests urged the people
    to keep calm, as that was the only way to prevent harm being
    done to them.

    A few days after the entry of the German troops the military
    authority agreed to cease quartering their men in private
    houses, in return for a payment of 100,000 francs (£4,000)
    per day. On some houses between forty and fifty men had been
    billeted. After the first payment of the voluntary contribution
    the soldiers camped in the open or in the public buildings. The
    beautiful rooms in the Town Hall, where the civil marriages
    take place, were used as a stable for cavalry horses.

    At first everything the soldiers bought was paid for in cash
    or promissory notes, but later this was altered. Soldiers came
    and asked for change, and when this was handed to them they
    tendered in return for the hard cash a piece of paper--a kind
    of receipt.

    All the houses abandoned by their owners were ransacked,
    notwithstanding the warnings from the military authorities
    forbidding the troops to pillage. The Germans imprisoned as
    hostages of war the Burgomaster, two magistrates, and a number
    of influential citizens.

    On Sunday, the 23rd, I and some other influential people in
    the town were roused from our beds. We were informed that an
    order had been given that 250 mattresses, 200 lb. of coffee,
    250 loaves of bread, and 500 eggs must be on the market-place
    within an hour. On turning out we found the Burgomaster
    standing on the market-place, and crowds of citizens, half
    naked, or in their night attire, carrying everything they could
    lay hands on to the market, that no harm might befall their
    Burgomaster. After this had been done the German officer in
    command told us that his orders had been misinterpreted, and
    that he only wanted the mattresses.

On this, it is clear that the townspeople did everything possible to
avoid giving offence to these brutal enemies. On the other hand, it
is equally clear that the German military “authorities” issued orders
against pillage by the troops, which were taken by the latter, and must
have been well known to be, hypocritical.

[Illustration: COPYRIGHT, SPECIALLY PREPARED FOR The Daily Telegraph BY
GEOGRAPHIA, LTD.]

The proofs as to the real responsibility for this foul deed are
irresistible. The soldiers of Alva at their worst never perpetrated any
horror so utterly cowardly. They were fired by the fury of religious
zeal. Blindly mistaken and politically disastrous as it proved to be,
it was a motive worthy of respect by the side of the stupid hate and
the mean fear born of the grovelling and greedy materialism of these
“conquerors.”

The destroyers saved the incomparable town hall, because they destined
it to be an ornament of a Germanised Belgium. The rest of the town,
however, and more particularly the older part of it, was reduced to
a blackened ruin, from which, as from other burning towns, arose a
mighty cloud of smoke. Doubtless it was hoped that this spectacle,
visible from Antwerp, as well as from Brussels, would strike terror
into the people. What they could not gain by arms the Germans sought to
gain by the devices of barbarity. But a Nemesis waits on this mode of
“warfare.” It is related by Lamartine that after their subjugation of
Servia the Turks collected into a pyramid the skulls of the slain. This
ghastly monument, situated in a desolate valley, the scene of a great
battle, was intended as an everlasting warning. To the Serbs it became
a remembrance of the price their fathers had been willing to pay for
liberty: a revered national memorial which kept alive the spirit which
at last crushed their oppressors.

In the same way, the oppressors of Belgium fanned the fires of
resistance. In the library of the University of Louvain they had
destroyed ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Oriental texts and manuscripts
of priceless value; they had not destroyed the valour of one Belgian
heart. They had laid in ashes a place which had rightly been called by
Lipsius the Belgian Athens, and had earned the praise and admiration
of philosophers from Erasmus to Sir William Hamilton; they had but
enhanced the glory of the town where, while Northern Europe was
still covered by intellectual night, and “kultur” had not yet shed
its radiance on Germany, nor contributed to produce a Prussian army,
a community of mere weavers had, first among the municipalities of
Europe, founded out of their hard earnings, a seat of philosophy,
science, and the arts, and in its twenty-eight colleges, the nurseries
of many famous men, for centuries led the way in their cultivation. Its
university buildings and its library; its art treasures[G]; its Academy
of Painting; its School of Music; its Museum of National History had
been committed to the flames at the hands of rabble soldiery, urged on
by still more degraded officers, but the brand applied was applied to
their own country, whose good name they had burned from among nations.



CHAPTER IX

THE POLITICS OF RAPINE


To follow in detail the operations from now of the Belgian forces from
day to day would be less informing than to sum up their plan and their
effect.

As it stood on August 25 the situation was that the Belgians held all
the country to the north of the Scheldt and the Dyle, and the Germans
all the country to the south of these rivers. From Turcoing on the
French frontier to Antwerp, the Scheldt follows a course roughly
parallel to the coast. At Antwerp its bed describes a sharp bend to
seaward. Some ten miles south of this bend, the main waterway receives
the Rupel, formed by the junction to the eastward of the Dyle and the
Nethe. Taken together, the Scheldt and the Dyle, both deep, sluggish
watercourses, offer a natural defence of the seaboard provinces.

From behind this natural line of defence the Belgians, ceaselessly
on the watch, sallied forth at every chance offered, to harass and
entrap the enemy. Sudden dashes were made upon his communications by
armed motor-cars; attacks were made upon railway lines and bridges; his
convoys were unexpectedly attacked and cut up by superior forces; in a
word, he was kept in perpetual hot water.

The military effect of this was more important than may at first sight
appear. In the first place, it was made necessary for the Germans,
not only to keep heavy forces afoot in Belgium, but to disperse those
forces. Hence though the forces, taken together, were large, the
Belgians concentrated on Antwerp were in a position to deliver in
superior strength a blow at any one of these bodies, and thus to worst
the whole of them in detail.

In the second place, these Parthian tactics made the transport of
munitions and supplies to the German armies in France by the line
through Brussels a business calling for vigilance and caution. That
greatly lessened the value of the line to the enemy. On this supply
line the German right wing in France mainly depended. The Belgians,
therefore, were not merely defending their own country, but indirectly
were aiding the French and British operations on the farther side of
the French frontier.

Now the weakness of the Belgian position was that, while they
could hold the line of the Dyle and that of the Scheldt as far as
Termonde, their force was too small to bar the passage of the Scheldt
farther west. It was open to the Germans, by seizing Ghent, to turn
the defensive position in a manner that would speedily have become
dangerous. Well aware of this, the Germans advanced upon Ghent.
Coincidently, however, the Belgian operations farther east became
more active and threatening. To meet them, the Germans were obliged
to withdraw most of the troops sent to Ghent. Just at that juncture
(August 27) a body of British marines was landed at Ostend. From Ghent
the enemy had hastily to withdraw. British troops advanced to Ghent,
and the whole line of the Scheldt was secured.

The value of that move is clear. From behind the line of the Scheldt,
the Allied forces were within easy striking distance of the main
railways south of Brussels. Later on, and at a critical juncture for
the German armies in France, the Belgians cut those railways. That
these lines were not cut before was a part of the Allies’ strategy.

What in these circumstances were the measures taken by the invaders?
The main measure was, as far as possible, to depopulate the country
between their lines and the Belgian defences. The measure had two
objects--to prevent the Belgians receiving information of German
movements, and more especially of the movement of reinforcements; and
to embarrass the defence by driving into the seaboard districts crowds
of homeless and starving refugees.

The measure, however, was carried out on such a scale as to suggest
that yet another object was to prepare the way for a German immigration
as a support of the contemplated conquest. The expropriation of native
land-owners on the frontier of Prussian Poland, and the granting of
their lands to officers and non-commissioned officers of the German
army reserves, is an example of the policy, accompanied in Prussian
Poland by the prohibition of the native language in elementary schools.

European history affords happily few episodes equal to the depopulation
of part of the valley of the Meuse, which was at this time entered
upon. The towns of Dinant and Ardenne were totally destroyed, their
male populations massacred, and the women and children carried off in
defiance of every usage of civilised warfare. Indeed, to describe this
devastation of Belgium as in any sense civilised warfare would be a
travesty of the term. Its ferocity was possibly no more than a cloak
to hide a calculated purpose.

In an official declaration issued from Berlin on August 27 it was
stated that:--

    The distribution of arms and ammunition among the civil
    population of Belgium had been carried out on systematic lines,
    and the authorities enraged the public against Germany by
    assiduously circulating false reports.

    They were under the impression that with the aid of the French
    they would be able to drive the Germans out of Belgium in two
    days.

    The only means of preventing surprise attacks from the civil
    population has been to interfere with unrelenting severity and
    to create examples which, by their frightfulness, would be a
    warning to the whole country.

On that declaration, one or two observations are necessary. Part of
the defensive force of Belgium was its Civic Guard, having a total
strength of some 400,000. So far from arming the civil population, the
Belgian Government called in the arms of this force. It was decided
that, situated as the country was, the best course was to confide its
defence to its regular troops and reserves, and so remove all excuse
for military severities.

The reports circulated by the Government of Belgium, as anybody
who refers back to them may ascertain, were carefully drawn up and
substantially true.

The statement that the Belgians were under the impression alleged in
this declaration, is, in face of the now known facts of the Allied plan
of the campaign, ludicrous.

Still more remarkable, however, is the calm assumption that neither
Belgium nor its Government had the smallest right to defend themselves,
and that any attempt to exercise that right was, in effect, an act of
rebellion against Germany. In fact, the presumption is that Belgium was
already part of Germany; and this in face of the “solemn assurance”
offered on August 9.

Last, but not least, has been the effort more recently made to suggest,
despite this declaration, that the “unrelenting severity” and “examples
of frightfulness” are hallucinations of Belgian excitement.[H]

These things speak for themselves. Nine towns in Belgium--Louvain,
Aerschot, Tirlemont, Termonde, Jodoigne, Dinant, Ardenne, Visé,
Charleroi, and Mons--had been reduced to ruins. Others, like Malines,
Diest, and Alost, had been in great part wrecked. At Liége a whole
quarter of the city had been surrounded, set on fire, and its terrified
and unarmed inhabitants, as they fled from the burning houses, shot
down wholesale by machine guns until the streets ran with blood.[I] Yet
the world was solemnly assured that it was all no more than a bad dream.

So far from aiding, as intended, the military situation of the German
forces, this policy of rapine tended to defeat itself. After the defeat
of the German armies on the Marne, the Government of Berlin made a
second offer of accommodation to the Belgian Ministry. The reply was a
sortie in full force from the Belgian lines, which obliged the enemy
to employ against them three army corps of reserves they were just
then sending through northern Belgium into France. In France, those
reinforcements were urgently needed. It is evident that this second
offer of accommodation merely had as its primary object the prompt
arrival of those troops. They had to be recalled from the French
frontier, and to join with the forces of occupation in a fiercely
fought four days’ battle.

In putting upon the renewed offer the interpretation here alluded to,
the Belgian Government were well aware that, apart altogether from its
worthlessness as a pledge, the Germans, in the political object which
had plainly from the first dictated their treatment of the population,
had signally failed. The invaders had relied as their chief instrument
on terror. The instrument had broken in their hands. Neither had they
as yet gained one real military success. On the contrary, they had
suffered either heavy reverses, or had fought at great cost actions
yielding no substantial fruits. It was in vain that half the country
had been laid waste. So long as the Belgian army, with a strongly
fortified base, held the seaboard provinces, the situation of the
invaders remained utterly secure.

To understand the true position of the Belgian resistance, it is
advisable to realise the character of the defences of Antwerp. When,
after a prolonged discussion, General Brialmont was, fifty years ago,
authorised to modernise the defences of Antwerp and Namur, and to
re-fortify Liége, he adopted, in the case of Antwerp, the resources
afforded by its situation as a seaport. The older ramparts were
demolished, and replaced, at a distance allowing for natural expansion
of the city within them, by a new inner ring of massive earthworks
between forts, of the form known as a blunted redan. The plan adopted
by Brialmont was on the system described by military engineers as the
polygonal trace, and his work has always been looked upon as one of the
best examples of that system, considered best adapted to meet the range
and accuracy of modern siege artillery.

But undoubtedly the distinctive feature was presented by the wet
ditches, 150 feet broad with some 20 feet depth of water, which
surround not only the inner works, but also the line of detached forts
built on an average two miles in advance of those works. Brialmont was
the first military engineer to carry out this idea, now followed in
all present-day fortification. Each of his forts, with a front of 700
yards, mounted 15 howitzers and 120 guns. There were thus on the 9
forts, including Merxem, 1,080 pieces of ordnance.

Since Brialmont’s time, however, his outer forts had been connected
by an enceinte, now 15 miles or thereabouts in length, strengthened
by 18 redoubts, and the second wet ditch. As a third line of defence,
there were, at the same time, built the 25 large forts and 13 redoubts,
enclosing round the city an area of some 200 square miles. Between the
first and second line of defences, the space formed an entrenched camp
of, roughly, 17,000 acres in extent.

To protect the navigation of the Scheldt, and to prevent the city from
being deprived of supplies, six of these great outer forts were placed
at commanding points along the river. By cutting the dykes on the Rupel
and the Scheldt areas could be flooded which would limit an attack
to the south and south-east, and not only enable a defending army to
concentrate its strength in that direction, but enable it behind the
outer third line of fortifications to dispute in force the passage of
the Nethe.

There were thus on the various defences some 4,000 pieces of ordnance,
and, looking at the rivers and wet ditches to be negotiated, it was
evident that an attempt to take the fortress by storm could only hope
to succeed after a very heavy bombardment followed by an attack with
overwhelmingly superior forces.

Since at Liége, as proved by the identification tallies collected
from the German dead, the attempt to storm that place, a far easier
enterprise, had cost the attackers 16,000 lives, it is no matter for
surprise that they intended to postpone an attack upon Antwerp until
their enterprise against France had proved successful.

So acute, however, was the annoyance they experienced from the Belgian
army, and so manifest the political effects of its continued activity
and being, that they resolved upon an attack with what was evidently
an insufficient though, nevertheless, a large force. This force, more
than twice as numerous as the Belgian army, succeeded in making its way
round to the north of the fortress, where both the outer and the second
line of defence were judged weakest. They had failed, however, to
reckon upon the element of defence afforded by the dykes. These at Fort
Oudendyk, and elsewhere along the Scheldt, the Belgians promptly cut,
though not before they had allowed the besiegers to place their siege
guns in position.

The result was that the Germans found themselves flooded out, and lost
a considerable part of their artillery. Men struggling breast deep
in water, or to save their guns, were shot down from the forts. Some
climbed into trees; not a few were drowned. They were forced to beat a
hasty and disastrous retreat, harassed by a sortie of the whole Belgian
army.

Not until the failure of their great expedition into France had become
manifest, with the prospective loss, in consequence, of the possession
of Belgium, the real and primary object of the war, did they address
themselves, with all the resources available, to the reduction of the
great fortress. Evidently the hope of being able, with Antwerp in their
power, to defy efforts to turn them out, inspired this enterprise.
After a bombardment with their huge 42-centimetre guns lasting some ten
days they succeeded in making a breach in the outer ring of forts, and
at the end of five days of heavy fighting drove the Belgians across the
Nethe. These successes, however, were dearly bought.



CHAPTER X

THE AGONY OF ANTWERP


In this drama of a gallant nation’s sorrows, a spectacle which, the
world over, must endear the name of freedom afresh to every heroic
heart, no act has appealed more strongly than the gallant defence of
Antwerp and its lurid close.

Once the commercial capital of the world, adorned, to quote the words
of Motley, “with some of the most splendid edifices in Christendom,”
Antwerp has the honour which no vicissitudes can dim of being one of
the earliest seats in Europe of public spirit and liberty. Nor is it
easy to accept the belief that such a city is destined to become merely
the gateway of an ignoble Prussia.

As affairs stood at the beginning of October, the Germans were anxious
to gain some decisive success. So far, the war had failed to yield any.
They had met with heavy reverses. They were feeling sharply already the
economic effects of the virtual closing of the Rhine. In the belief
that, Belgium subjugated, no combination of Powers would be able to
tear it from their grasp, and urgent to complete that subjugation while
time yet offered, they pushed the siege with all the energy they could
command.

This hurry, as at Liége, proved prodigal. An attempt to storm fort
Waelhem alone cost nearly 8,000 men killed and wounded. As the
reduction of the outer fortifications threatened to be slow, the 11-
and 12-inch mortars at first employed were reinforced by the new
16-inch mortars throwing shells more than 800 lbs. in weight. These
ponderous engines, transported with immense labour into France, were,
with equal labour, hauled back across Belgium, and on the foundations
of demolished buildings, placed into position against the forts
situated to the south of the Nethe. At the same time, in order to
explode magazines and to fire buildings, shells were used filled with
naphtha, designed to scatter a rain of blazing oil. The besiegers’
loss of life in the attempt to storm Waelhem was avenged by destroying
the city waterworks, situated close to that fort. This reduced the
population of Antwerp to the supply afforded by such wells as were
within the city limits and made it impossible to put out fires should
they occur.

By October 5, forts Waelhem, Wavre, Ste. Catherine, and Konighoyck had
been overpowered, and the fort of Lierre silenced. All these forts lie
south of the Nethe. The villages adjacent were burned to the ground.
At Lierre, a mile to the rear of fort Lierre, a German shell crashed
through the roof of the Belgian military hospital. Some of the wounded
men lost their lives. On October 7, after a furious concentrated
bombardment, fort Broechem was a heap of ruins.

The way was thus open for a final attempt, under the weight of the
German guns, to win the passage of the Nethe. Against great odds the
Belgians offered a stubborn resistance. The action was one of the
most bloody in the Belgian campaign. In it King Albert was wounded,
though happily not seriously. This was the second injury he had met
with. All through the war he had taken an active part with his troops,
encouraging them in the trenches, braving every risk.

At the instance of the Belgian Government, the British sent to Antwerp
on October 3, under the command of General Paris, of the Royal Marine
Artillery, two naval brigades and one brigade of marines, a total
of 8,000 men, with heavy naval guns and quick-firing naval ordnance
mounted on armoured trains.

The Belgian command devolved upon General de Guise, military governor
of Antwerp, one of the youngest, but also one of the ablest of the
generals of the Belgian army. On both sides, the passage of the Nethe
was disputed with desperate determination. The German attack at this
time was directed, not only against the Belgian position north of the
Nethe, through Linth and Waerloos, but with particular energy against
forts Lierre, Kessel, and Broechen. These forts still held out. They
covered the left flank of the defence. The right flank, protected by
the flooded area along the Rupel, was unassailable.

Regardless of losses, the Germans worked day and night to float into
position and complete the parts of seven pontoon bridges they had put
together on the reaches of the river beyond the range of the forts. It
was evident that if they could turn the left of the Belgian defence by
destroying fort Broechen, and so breaching the outer defences at that
point, just to the north of the Nethe, they could, having crossed in
force farther up the stream, launch a formidable flank attack, which
must compel the whole Belgian and British force to withdraw.

It was on the Belgian left, however, that the British naval brigades
and marines had been posted. With the support of the naval guns, forts
Lierre, Kessel, and Broechen defied all the efforts to reduce them.
Very soon the fact became evident that this plan of turning the defence
was impracticable. Hidden in bomb-proof entrenchments, the British
suffered comparatively few losses, despite what seemed an appalling
rain of shells. On the other hand, the naval guns, commanding the
course of the river over a reach of ten miles, speedily made havoc of
every attempt to cross.

In these circumstances, the Germans changed their tactics. They
resolved upon a frontal attack through Duffel. Against the Belgian
lines, a furious bombardment was concentrated. Under cover of this, and
notwithstanding that, for a mile beyond the banks of the river, the
country had been flooded, they advanced in masses to rush the passage.
Simultaneously, and to prevent this attack being enfiladed by the naval
guns, they made a feint of attempting to force their way over at Lierre.

Their losses were immense. Repeatedly their shattered columns were
thrown back. For two days, at appalling sacrifice, they fought for the
passage. On the British position the attack made no impression. But at
daybreak on October 6, following an assault delivered in overwhelming
force, the enemy succeeded at length in gaining a foothold on the north
bank near Duffel, and in holding it despite all the efforts of the
Belgians to dislodge them.

The Belgian army was obliged to fall back, and with them the British
contingent, but it is evidence enough of the character and vigour
of the resistance that, heavily outnumbered though they were, the
Belgians, in retiring upon the inner defences of the fortress, left the
Germans unable immediately to follow up their advantage. The British
force withdrew without the loss of any of its guns. Indeed, the naval
guns and the armoured trains covered the retirement so effectually that
it was impossible for the Germans, until they had transferred their
heavy artillery to the north of the Nethe, to press the retreating
forces.

Beyond the boom of the hostile guns away to the south, and the nearer
crash of the fortress artillery in reply, those within the city had,
during these days of stress, little idea of how affairs were really
going. A picture of the scene on the night of Tuesday, October 6, is
given by the special correspondent of the _Daily Telegraph_:--

    The night was so impelling in its exquisite beauty that I
    found it impossible to sleep, or even to stay indoors.

    On the other side of the river the trees were silhouetted in
    the water, the slight haze giving a delicious mezzotint effect
    to a scene worthy of Venice. As I walked along the stone-paved
    landing piers the contrast between the beauty of the picture
    and the grim prospect of what the death-dealing machinery all
    along my path might make it at any moment was appealingly vivid.

Within a few hours, however, the scene changed with what to most in
the city seemed almost startling suddenness. Following a proclamation
by the authorities warning all who could to leave Antwerp as soon as
possible, began an exodus the like of which has not been witnessed
since the days of “the Spanish Fury.” The same eye-witness proceeds:--

    All day the streets have been clogged and jammed with panicky
    fugitives fleeing from a city which, in their terrified
    imagination, is foredoomed. Every avenue of approach to the
    pontoon bridge across the Scheldt leading to St. Nicolaes has
    been rendered impassable by a heterogeneous mass of vehicles
    of every size and kind, from the millionaire’s motor-car to
    ramshackle gigs loaded up with the Lares and Penates of the
    unfortunate fugitives.

    Half a mile or so further on moored alongside each other were
    two of the Great Eastern Railway steamboats, which ply between
    Antwerp and Harwich, or, as at present, Tilbury. In view of the
    very great pressure of passengers, both were to be despatched.
    I walked through them. Each was filled to its utmost capacity
    with refugees who might have been sardines, so closely were
    they packed. In every chair round the saloon tables was a man
    or a woman asleep. Others were lying on the floors, on the
    deck, in chairs, or as they best could to seek a respite from
    their fatigues, a few, realising that theirs would be but a
    very short night--the boats were to sail at dawn so as to have
    as much daylight as possible with which to navigate safely the
    dangers of the mine-fields--preferred to walk about on the
    jetty discussing the while their hard fate.

    The St. Antoine, the leading hotel of Antwerp, has for some
    weeks past been the temporary home of the various Foreign
    Ministers, but with their departure to-day has closed its
    doors. Last night it was the scene of an affecting leave-taking
    by the Queen of the _personnel_ of the British and Russian
    Legations, her Majesty being visibly moved. I am informed that
    the King sent to the German commander yesterday by the hands
    of a neutral _attaché_ a plan of Antwerp with the sites of the
    Cathedral and other ancient monuments marked upon it, which he
    begged might be spared destruction.

In the meantime, the besiegers had made an attempt to carry the inner
defences by storm. It was disastrous. Describing it, Mr. Granville
Fortescue says:--

    In their advance to the inner line of forts the Germans
    literally filled the dykes with their own dead. Coming on in
    close formation, they were cut down by the machine guns as
    wheat before the scythe.

Realising that it was, to all intents, impossible to carry the inner
defences by storm, and that the garrison must be forced to surrender
by the destruction of the place, the Germans, who had by this brought
their great guns within range of the city, opened from their new
positions along the north side of the Nethe a bombardment which, for
sustained fury, has rarely been equalled.

The bombardment began at midnight on October 7. From that time shells
rained upon the place. The havoc, heightened by bombs thrown down
from Zeppelins, speedily, and especially in the southern quarter,
caused destructive fires. Viewed from afar--the fire was seen from
the frontier of Holland--this great and beautiful seat of commerce,
industry, and art, one of the glories of Europe, looked during those
terrible hours like the crater of a volcano in eruption, with a
shower of shooting stars falling into it. Silhouetted against the
glare, its towers stood luminous amid the fiery light. Highest of all
the incomparable spire of its cathedral pointed, as though a warning
finger, into the dark sky.

[Illustration]

For some time before midnight, the roar of the cannonade had ceased.
The enemy’s guns had for a spell become silent. To the deep bay of the
cannon on the defences there came no answering defiance. At last even
the guns on the defences had suspended speech. Mr. B. J. Hudson, of the
_Central News_, one of the last English correspondents to leave, says:--

    There was, uncannily enough, a grim calm before the midnight
    hour and the darkened city was like a town of the dead. The
    footsteps of a belated wayfarer echoed loudly.

    Then suddenly came the first shell, which brought numbers of
    women into the streets, their anxious object being to discover
    whether the bombardment had really begun. Very closely did
    the roar of the guns and the explosion and crash of the
    striking shells follow each other. All over the southern
    section of the city shells struck mansion, villa, and cottage
    indiscriminately. Then the fortress guns, the field batteries,
    and the armoured trains opened out in one loud chorus, and the
    din became terrific, while the reflection in the heavens was
    seemingly one huge, tossing flame.

    From the roof of my hotel the spectacle was an amazing one.
    The nerve-racking screech of the shells--the roof-tops of the
    city alternately dimmed, then illuminated by some sudden red
    light which left the darkness blacker than before--and then the
    tearing out of roof or wall by the explosion, made a picture
    which fell in no way short of Inferno. The assurance thus
    given to the population that the Germans were fulfilling their
    threat to bombard a helpless people, sent the citizens to their
    cellars, as they had been advised to go by the local papers of
    the day before.

    About nine o’clock in the morning the German fire once more
    became heavier, but the screaming of the projectiles and the
    thunder of falling masonry left the fugitive population quite
    unmoved.

    I noticed in one case a family of father, mother, and three
    small children who absolutely ignored the explosion of a shell
    some sixty yards in their rear, moving stolidly on.

    About ten o’clock one of the petrol storage tanks in the city
    was hit and fired, and one by one the others shared its fate.

    All along the River Scheldt quay barges and small steamers were
    taking on human freight as rapidly as they could, charging the
    wretched people 20 francs a head for the brief trip into Dutch
    territory.

    As soon as the flowing spirit from the petrol tanks began to
    come down the stream something like a panic at last broke out.
    Those on board the steamers yelled to the officers, pointing
    to the danger and crying, “Enough! Enough!” Those on the quay,
    unwilling to be left behind, made wild rushes to obtain a place
    on the boats.

    I saw one woman drowned in one of these rushes, while her
    husband--rather more lucky--fell on the deck of a boat and
    escaped with an injured skull. Women handed down babies, young
    children, perambulators, and all manner of packages, and then
    themselves scrambled on to the decks, using any precarious
    foothold available. It was a wonder that many were not drowned
    or otherwise killed.

    Eventually the captains of the river craft, having gained as
    many fares as could safely be taken, sheered off, leaving many
    thousands still on the quay-side.

    Still the shells were falling all over the town. The smoke from
    the blazing petroleum and the burning houses rose in great
    columns and must have formed an appalling sight for the people
    as far north as the Dutch town of Roosendaal.

    What the position is outside the city walls we do not know.
    We hear our guns crashing out loud defiance to the enemy
    in a persistent roar; we hear the enemy’s reply almost as
    distinctly....

All that night and next day the stream of fugitives poured
out--westward towards Ostend, northward towards Holland. Of the scene
at Flushing, Mr. Fortescue wrote:--

    Hordes of refugees fill this town. Some come by train from
    Roosendaal, others have escaped from the city by boat. All
    sorts of river craft come ploughing through the muddy waters of
    the Scheldt, crowded to the gunwales with their human freight.
    Tugs tow long lines of grain-lighters filled with women,
    children, and old men.

    Their panic is pitiful. Since the first shell shrieked over
    the city a frightened, struggling mob has been pressing onward
    to escape the hail of fire and iron. Imagine the queue that
    shuffles forward at a championship football game increased a
    hundred-fold in length and breadth, and you will see the crowd
    moving to the railway station. Another throng fought their
    way to the quays. All the time German shells sang dismally
    overhead; for the most part they fell into the southern section
    of the city.

    From the refugees I hear the same pitiful tales I have heard so
    often. A mother with two girls, one four and the other three,
    was torn from the arm of her husband and pushed on a departing
    boat. All through the panic of flight it has been “women and
    children first.” Those who are here bear witness to the bravery
    of those who defend the city.

But if the besiegers had imagined that they were about to reap any
solid military advantage, a disappointment was being prepared for them.
For six days they had striven to cross the Scheldt at Termonde, and
striven without success. The objective was to invest Antwerp from both
sides of the Scheldt, and thus either for the remainder of the campaign
to imprison the Belgian army, or to destroy it, amid the ruins of
Antwerp, by their shell fire. That would have been a military success
of an important character. Not only would it have left Belgium for the
time being at their mercy, but it must undoubtedly have a moral effect
not to be ignored.

On October 8, however, the invaders had gained a passage over the
Scheldt at Termonde, and had compelled the Belgian force opposing them,
much inferior in point of numbers, to fall back upon Lokeren. That
place is on the line of communication between Antwerp and Ostend. In
view of this danger, the evacuation of Antwerp became a necessity. The
danger had been foreseen. The Belgian authorities indeed had already
arrived at their decision. It is now known that this had been reached
on October 3, and that the object of the small British reinforcement
was to enable the evacuation to be accomplished. That object they
fulfilled. By the timely warning given to the population, nearly
150,000 had already been enabled to escape. All the available shipping
in the port was used for transport purposes. The rest, including some
36 captured German merchant steamers, which could not be removed owing
to the neutrality of Holland, was blown up and sunk in the docks.
Objects of value were removed, and such stores as could not, and
were likely to be of value to the enemy, were destroyed. The Belgian
Government, on October 7, transferred itself to Ostend.

The Belgian army followed. By the morning of Friday, October 9, the
evacuation had been completed. All the guns on the abandoned defences
were spiked. Under the command of General de Guise, however, the forts
controlling the approaches on the Scheldt continued to hold out.

In the meantime, the Germans had been pressing their attack upon
Lokeren. The main portion of the Belgian army and 2nd British Naval
Brigade, as well as the Marines, retired upon Ostend while the
communications remained open. The first division of the Belgian army,
which had been the last to leave Antwerp, and had been engaged in
rendering the place useless to the besiegers, retreated fighting with
the Germans north of the Scheldt a succession of rearguard actions.

In the face of impossible odds, the 1st British Naval Brigade, now
without the support of their heavy guns, were forced, fighting
tenaciously, across the Dutch frontier at Huist. A division of the
Belgian army were also compelled to cross the boundary into Holland.

Just after noon on October 9, the besiegers entered Antwerp by a breach
they had made near fort No. 3 on the south-east side of the inner line
of works. By then, the burning and ruined city presented the appearance
of a tomb. What remnant of the population remained were in hiding in
their cellars. Every person of authority had fled. Amid this scene
of wreck and desolation, the Germans made their entry and installed
their “government.” But the Belgian army had once more eluded their
grasp, and with the navigation of the Scheldt closed, the possession
of Antwerp, gained at the sacrifice of so much blood had become a
possession presenting no compensating military advantages.

At the time these lines were written, the record, as already said,
remains incomplete. Enough, however, has been outlined in this brief
sketch to prove that the struggle and the sufferings of Belgium form
one of the bravest efforts ever made for a people’s freedom, and a
protest against the policy of rapine that can never fade from the
memory of civilised nations, nor fail to command their admiration and
their respect.



CHRONOLOGY OF CHIEF EVENTS


  _July 31._--Germany declares war against Russia and sends 12
    hours’ ultimatum to France. Belgian Government orders partial
    mobilisation.

  _August 1._--Germany formally announces mobilisation. France orders
    mobilisation.

  _August 2._--German troops invade Luxemburg. German ultimatum
    presented at Brussels, giving 12 hours for reply.

  _August 3._--Belgian Government refuse demand for German occupation
    of Belgium and “assisted passage” to German troops. German armies
    cross Belgian frontier.

  _August 4._--Combat opens at Visé and Argenteau for the passage of
    the Meuse. Bombardment of Liége begun.

  _August 5._--Special meeting of Belgian Parliament. Ministry of all
    parties formed. Emergency measures voted.

    First attempt of Germans to storm Liége defeated.

  _August 6._--Germans win passage of the Meuse. Second attempt to
    storm Liége. King of the Belgians leaves Brussels for the front.

  _August 7._--Third attempt to storm Liége. General von Emmich asks
    for 24 hours’ armistice. It is refused.

  _August 8._--Belgian troops evacuate trenches at Liége; 16,000
    identification tallies collected from German dead.

  _August 9._--Germany offers accommodation with Belgium. Offer
    rejected. Railways and roads cut.

  _August 10._--German troops enter Liége. Forts still hold out.
    Leading citizens of Liége seized as hostages. “Fine” of
    £2,000,000 imposed on city and province of Liége.

    German cavalry advance to Tongres and Ramillies. Attack upon Huy.
    French troops arrive in Belgium.

  _August 11._--German flying columns advance upon Diest and Eghezée.
    Country laid waste.

  _August 12._--Battle at Diest and Haelen. Combat of Eghezée.
    Germans repulsed, but capture Huy.

  _August 13._--Retreat of Germans from Diest. Pursuit by Belgians
    and French through St. Trond to Warenne.

  _August 14._--German expedition against Tirlemont defeated. French
    occupy Dinant.

  _August 15._--First attack upon Dinant.

  _August 16._--Second attack and battle of Dinant.

  _August 17._--Belgian Government removes from Brussels to Antwerp.
    British Expeditionary Force lands at Boulogne.

  _August 18._--General German advance across Belgium begins. Outpost
    fighting round Tirlemont and Gembloux.

  _August 19._--First day of battle of Louvain. Last of Liége forts
    destroyed.

  _August 20._--Second day of battle of Louvain. Germans occupy
    Malines.

  _August 21._--German entry into Brussels. “Fine” of £8,000,000
    demanded.

  _August 22._--Germans advance upon Charleroi. Attack upon the
    passages of the Sambre.

  _August 23._--Battle of Mons and Charleroi. Fall of Namur. Belgians
    recapture Malines. Germans set up a new civil and military
    government for Belgium.

  _August 24._--Battle of Mons and Charleroi continued. Retirement of
    British and French forces. Germans occupy Ghent.

  _August 25._--Sack and destruction of Louvain.

  _August 26._--Destruction of Termonde and Dinant.

  _August 27._--British occupy Ostend. Germans driven out of Ghent.
    Bombardment of Malines.

  _August 28._--Sack and destruction of Aerschot. Belgian Government
    appoints Commission to inquire into atrocities.

  _August 29._--Efforts of German civil and military authorities at
    Brussels to collect the “fine.” Resistance of Burgomaster and
    City Council.

  _August 30–September 6._--Belgian operations against German lines.

  _September 9._--Germany’s second offer of an accommodation
    rejected. Belgian sortie in force from Antwerp.

  _September 10–11._--Heavy fighting. Belgians again recapture
    Malines and Termonde, and occupy Alost.

  _September 12._--German reinforcements recalled from French
    frontier.

  _September 13._--Belgians retire upon Antwerp.

  _September 15._--First German attack upon Antwerp. Belgians cut the
    dykes. Heavy loss of German guns. Invaders defeated in successful
    sortie.

  _September 25._--Opening of second attack upon Antwerp.

  _October 1–4._--Five days’ battle along the Dyle.

  _October 3._--Antwerp garrison reinforced by British Naval Brigade
    and Marines.

  _October 4–6._--Battle on the Nethe. Germans cross the river.

  _October 7._--Belgian Government transferred to Ostend. Bombardment
    of city of Antwerp begun.

  _October 9._--Belgian army evacuates Antwerp. Germans enter the
    city.


R. CLAY AND SONS, LTD., BRUNSWICK ST., S.E., AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.


[Illustration: COPYRIGHT, SPECIALLY PREPARED FOR The Daily Telegraph BY
GEOGRAPHIA LTD 55 FLEET STREET LONDON E. C.]



FOOTNOTES


[A] The text of the Belgian Government’s reply was as follows:--

By its Note of August 2, 1914, the German Government makes it known
that according to its certain information the French forces have had
the intention of marching upon the Meuse by way of Givet and Dinant,
and that Belgium, notwithstanding her good intention, would not be in
a condition to repel without assistance an advance march of the French
troops.

The German Government feels itself under the obligation to prevent that
attack and to violate Belgian territory. Under these circumstances
Germany proposes to the King’s Government to adopt in reference to her
a friendly attitude, and engages at the moment of peace to guarantee
the integrity of the kingdom and its possessions in all their extent.

The Note adds that if Belgium puts difficulties in the way of the
forward movement of the German troops, Germany will be obliged to
consider her as an enemy, and leave the final settlement between the
two States, one with the other, to the decision of arms.

This Note has provoked in the King’s Government a profound and grievous
astonishment.

The intentions it attributes to France are in contradiction with the
formal declarations which have been made to us on August I in the name
of the Government of the Republic.

Moreover, if, contrary to our expectation, a violation of Belgian
neutrality should come to be made by France, Belgium would fulfil all
her international duties and her army would oppose to the invader the
most vigorous resistance.

The Treaties of 1839, confirmed by the Treaties of 1870, consecrate
the independence and neutrality of Belgium under the guarantee of the
Powers, and notably under that of his Majesty the King of Prussia.

Belgium has ever been faithful to her international obligations; she
has accomplished her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality; she has
neglected no effort to maintain her neutrality and to have it respected.

The attempt upon her independence which the German Government threatens
would constitute a flagrant violation f the rights of nations. No
strategic consideration justifies violation of right.

Were it to accept the propositions that have been put to it, the
Belgian Government would sacrifice the honour of the nations and at the
same time go back on its duties towards Europe.

Conscious of the part that Belgium has played for more than eighty
years in the world’s civilisation, it refuses to believe that the
independence of Belgium can be preserved only at the price of violation
of her neutrality.

If that hope is ill-founded, the Belgian Government is firmly resolved
to repel by every means in its power any attempt upon its right.

England agrees to co-operate as guarantor in the defence of our
territory. The English Fleet will assure the free passage of the
Scheldt for the revictualling of Antwerp.


[B] This has been officially denied from Berlin; but the Belgians
declare that priests seemed specially to be marked out for attack. It
is certain that a number lost their lives.


[C] A story published at Berlin gives the account sent in a letter
from Lieut. von der Linde, of the Potsdam Guards, of how he carried
out the capture of Fort Malonne at Namur. The lieutenant states that
he was ordered to advance on the fort with 500 men by a route where
mines were suspected. He advanced with four men on the bridge across
the moat of the fort, and called upon the commander to surrender
immediately, threatening him that otherwise the artillery would at
once begin to bombard the fort. The commander, taken by surprise,
allowed the lieutenant and his four men to enter and surrendered his
sword. Besides the commander, five officers and twenty men were taken
prisoners. The remainder of the garrison, consisting of 400 men, had
escaped. Four heavy guns and considerable war material were captured.
For this exploit Lieut. von der Linde received from the Kaiser the
Order of Merit, and it is recorded that he was the youngest officer in
the German service to receive that distinction. He was only twenty-two.
No reference is made in this account to the mist and rain which alone
could have made such an adventure possible, much less successful. The
story illustrates the difficulty of defending, under the conditions
described, a fortress situated among hills, and also the facilities
offered for escape.


[D] See, among other evidence, the details collected by and given in
the Fifth Report of the Belgian Official Commission of Inquiry.


[E] Alleged to be a Major von Manteuffel. In a German Official Inquiry
afterwards held at Brussels an officer of that name was reported to
have been cashiered for this affair; but it is doubtful if he was more
than an official scapegoat.


[F] The narrative was given to Reuter’s special correspondent at
Rotterdam.


[G] Writing in the _Daily Telegraph_ of the destroyed art treasures of
Louvain, Sir Claude Phillips says: “The chief treasures of the church
of Saint-Pierre de Louvain were two famous paintings by Dierick (or
Thierry) Bouts, who is as closely identified with the now destroyed
university city of Belgium as are the Van Eycks with Ghent and Bruges,
and Roger van der Weyden with Tournay and Brussels. The earlier of
these paintings is (or rather was) the remarkable triptych with the
Martyrdom of St. Erasmus in the central panel, and the figures of
St. Jerome and St. Bernard in the wings. This was seen at the Bruges
retrospective exhibition of 1904. But perhaps the masterpiece of
Dierick Bouts, and certainly one of the finest examples of Flemish
fifteenth-century art, was the polyptych painted by him for the altar
of the Holy Sacrament in the collegiate church of Saint-Pierre.

“The central panel of this work, whereupon was represented the Last
Supper, was, until a few days ago, the chief adornment of that church
and of the ancient city. One of the most accomplished writers on
modern Netherlandish art, M. Fiérens-Gevaert, has written thus of
this ‘Last Supper,’ by Bouts: ‘_La Cène est une des œuvres les plus
profondes, les mieux peintes du XV^{me} siècle, et si l’on dressait une
liste des cinq ou six chefs-d’œuvre de nos primitifs, il faudrait l’y
comprendre._’ And in committing this act of hideous, wanton violence,
this crime for which posterity will refuse to find words of pardon
or excuse, the Prussian commander has also been guilty of an act of
incredible ignorance, of boundless stupidity. For, strange to say, the
splendid wings which once completed this famous altarpiece, and would,
if a reconstruction could have been effected, have caused Bouts’s
polyptych to stand forth one of the most important works of Flemish
fifteenth-century art in existence--these wings are in Germany. In the
_Alte Pinakothek_ of Munich are preserved the ‘Gathering of the Manna’
and the ‘Meeting of Abraham and Melchisedech.’

“In the _Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum_ of Berlin are to be found ‘The
Prophet Elijah in the Desert’ and the ‘Feast of Passover.’ It would
obviously have been far better to steal this ‘Last Supper,’ this
central jewel of the doomed city’s pictorial adornment, to confide
it either to Munich or to Berlin, than thus to blot it out for ever.
It would have been cruel, iniquitous, to despoil heroic Belgium;
it is infamous, and, above all, it is stupid to tear out the heart
of a masterpiece, to rob the world, and in punishing Belgium to
punish Germany, to punish Europe. Napoleon, the ruthless plunderer
of museums and churches, was mild and humane in comparison. If he
stole, whether under forcibly imposed treaty or by sheer brute force,
the accepted masterpieces of painting and sculptur belonging to the
States which he overcame, he stole, with a certain reverence; much as
the believer steals the most sacred treasures from the temple, or the
most precious relics of the Passion and the saints from the church or
the tomb. Robber though he was, he worshipped in awe-struck delight
the masterpieces which he tore from the nations; and his triumphant
fellow-countrymen, during the brief period of his supremacy, worshipped
with him.

“Not less than ourselves must the students, the gallery directors,
the art historians of Germany suffer, compelled as they are to look
on helpless at this incredible act of sacrilege. It is they, indeed,
who have most contributed to place before the world in their right
perspective, to estimate at their true value the greatest examples
of Netherlandish art in its early prime. It is their galleries which
contain the most complete collections of these early Netherlandish
masters. We challenge them to defy in this, if in this only, the
‘mailed fist’--to come forward and register their solemn protest
against the greatest outrage upon civilisation, upon humanity, that the
modern world has been called upon to witness.”


[H] Several German medical men of eminence, among them Dr. Moll,
were alleged to have offered this suggestion. On the other hand,
Dr. Kaufman, of Aix-la-Chapelle, in a letter to the _Kölnische
Volkszeitung_, says that tales of German soldiers mutilated
by Belgians--tales the circulation of which was officially
countenanced--spread like wildfire among the soldiers, and a single
case of a man being mutilated by a shell was magnified into an outrage,
and this was only one of a hundred similar instances. The soldiers,
by auto-suggestion, got to believe their own wild fancies, and by
propagating their stories caused a most dangerous state of anger and
exasperation in the German Army. At Huy, a German non-commissioned
officer and a private had been wounded by shots. On the assertion that
the shots had been fired by inhabitants the German commander, Major von
Baschuitch, ordered a number of houses to be burned. The burgomaster,
however, persuaded him to hold an inquiry. This proved that the shots
had been fired by German soldiers in a drunken panic.

[I] Shortly before this atrocity, a proclamation had been issued at
Liége ordering the citizens to raise their hats to German officers in
the street, and to salute men of the rank and file. It was notified
that if this command was not obeyed, the German soldiery were
authorised to enforce “due respect.”



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

The illustrations are maps.





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