By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Ypres to Verdun - A Collection of Photographs of the War areas in France & Flanders
Author: Kennedy, Alexander B. W.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ypres to Verdun - A Collection of Photographs of the War areas in France & Flanders" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                            YPRES TO VERDUN




                      _First published in 1921._

                            YPRES TO VERDUN

                    A Collection of Photographs of

                           THE WAR AREAS IN
                           FRANCE & FLANDERS

                          Specially taken by

                      SIR ALEXANDER B. W. KENNEDY

                             LL.D., F.R.S.

         Past President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
           Associate Member of the Ordnance Committee, etc.

  Published at the Offices of "Country Life," Ltd., Tavistock Street,
Covent Garden, W.C. 2, and by George Newnes, Ltd., Southampton Street,
           Strand, W.C. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons

  "Quand pensez-vous que la guerre sera finie?" dit le Docteur.
  "Quand nous serons vainqueurs," coupa le Général.

                     "_Les Silences du Col. Bramble._"--MAUROIS.


An official visit to the Front during the great days of October,
1918, when our chief difficulty and our great object was to keep up
with the retreating Germans, gave me some first-hand knowledge of the
devastation of the country which had been the result of four years
of war. Familiar--too familiar--as this was to our soldiers, we at
home--if I may take myself as a fair example of the average man--could
really form no idea, even from the most vivid of the correspondents'
descriptions, of what the ruined country was actually like. Roads,
fields, orchards, were a featureless waste of shell-holes, often
already covered with rank herbage altogether disguising their original
nature. Villages were only recognisable by painted notices, "This is
Givenchy," or sometimes "This _was_ Givenchy"; not a house, not a wall,
not a gate-post to show where they had been. Large towns like Ypres
or Lens or Albert were little more than piles of brick, stone, and
timber rubbish, through which roads were being cleared between immense
piles of débris. In Rheims nearly as many houses were destroyed as the
13,000 said to have been burnt in the Great Fire of London, and smaller
places like Soissons or Cambrai or Arras had suffered terribly. It
was forbidden in our Army Areas at that time, no doubt for excellent
reasons, to use a camera, but I made up my mind that when permission
could be obtained I would do my best to secure some permanent record of
what had happened.

It was only in September of 1919 that I was able, with my friend,
Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas Gill, D.S.O., R.A., to make a first
photographic visit to the War Areas, and to get over a hundred
views from Ypres to Verdun. At this time Major-General P. G. Grant
was in charge of affairs at Headquarters at Wimereux. It was not
without pardonable professional pride that I remembered that it was
General Grant, a Royal Engineer Officer, who had on the 25th-26th
of March, 1918, been chosen to organise the wonderfully constituted
Company which General Haig's despatch euphemistically called, in
enumerating the elements of which it consisted, a "mixed force." The
days were critical, the French reserves had far to come and had not
reached us, and the "mixed force," brought together in a few hours,
proved sufficient addition to enable us to hold on, until the enemy,
exhausted, could get no farther. General Grant was kind enough to give
a brother Engineer every help, especially through his Area Commanders,
Colonel Falcon, Colonel Carey, and Colonel Russell Brown, to all of
whom we were much indebted. The result of this visit, and a second a
few months later, has been that I have been able to take nearly 250
negatives of the places which were so much in our news and in our minds
during the terrible four years of the war. I have thought that it might
be interesting, both to the soldiers who fought for us all over France
and Flanders and to their friends at home who heard from day to day
of the places where they were fighting, to have something which would
show what these places were really like, to turn the too familiar
names into recognisable pictures, and this is my reason for publishing
these photographs. In 1919 very little had as yet been done by way of
reconstruction. In the spring of 1920, happily, a great deal had been
done. But the photographs which follow indicate really--as well as the
imperfections of a photograph allow--the condition of the places and
of the country previous to reconstruction, and I am glad to be able to
show my countrymen something of the condition to which our neighbour's
country was brought by the war. Some realisation of this may enable us
to understand better how keenly and overpoweringly the French desire
that the terms of Peace with our common enemies should be such as will
definitely prevent for ever the recurrence of these horrors.

In addition to my own photographs I have to acknowledge, with many
thanks, permission from Sir Martin Conway to use Plates 43, 64, 68,
and 73, which were taken officially at a time when outsiders were not
allowed to photograph. I have also to thank Mr. Basil Mott for the use
of his two picturesque views (Plates 49 and 69) of Lens and Albert
under snow, Colonel Douglas Gill for the view on Kemmel Hill (Plate
32), and Mr. R. Godai for the photograph (Plate 18) of a destroyed

                                          ALEXANDER B. W. KENNEDY.

    _August, 1921_.


                                      PAGE      PLATES

  I. INTRODUCTORY                        1        1-4
  II. THE YPRES SALIENT                  5       5-18
  III. ZEEBRUGGE                        18      19-23
  IV. THE LYS SALIENT                   20      24-34
  V. BETHUNE, LA BASSÉE, AND LOOS       25      35-42
  VI. ARRAS, VIMY, AND LENS             31      43-50
  VII. THE SOMME                        38      51-66
  VIII. ALBERT AND THE ANCRE            49      67-73
  IX. THE OISE AND THE AVRE             52      74-78
  X. CAMBRAI TO ST. QUENTIN             55      79-87
  XI. RHEIMS, THE AISNE, SOISSONS      61       88-97
  XIII. THE MARNE TO MONS              76     107-124



    Innsbruck: the Declaration
    of War                                            1

    École Militaire, Montreuil                        2

    Hôtel de Ville, Doullens                          3

    In the Compiègne Forest                           4


    The Menin Gate, Ypres                             5

    Dugouts in the Ypres Walls                        6

    Ypres from the Lille Gate                         7

    The Belfry Tower, Ypres                           8

    The "Tank Cemetery," Hooge                        9

    At Gheluvelt                                     10

    "Stirling Castle"                                11

    "Clapham Junction"                               12

    The Becelaere Road                               13

    "Hill 60"                                    14, 15

    At St. Julien                                    16

    The Passchendaele Ridge                          17

    A "Pillbox"                                      18


    The Bruges Canal                                 19

    Lock Gate at Zeebrugge                           20

    The Guns on the Mole                             21

    The Mole at Zeebrugge                            22

    "C 3"                                            23


    Neuve Chapelle                                   24

    On the Aubers Ridge
    (Schultze Turm)                                  25

    A Double O.P.                                    26

    Merville                                         27

    Estaires                                         28

    Bailleul                                         29

    Armentières                                      30

    Kemmel Hill                                      31

    Kemmel Hill                                      32

    "Plug Street" Wood                               33

    A Cemetery in "Plug
    Street" Wood                                     34


    Bethune                                          35

    Givenchy                                         36

    La Bassée                                        37

    The Canal at La Bassée                           38

    A Pithead                                        39

    The Double Crassier                              40

    A Communication Trench
    near Loos                                        41

    "No Man's Land"                                  42


    Arras                                            43

    Arras Cathedral                                  44

    On the Vimy Ridge                                45

    A Mine Crater on  the
    Ridge                                            46

    German Gun Emplacement
    at Thelus                                        47

    The Road to Lens                                 48

    Lens under Snow                                  49

    Lens                                             50


    The Somme Road                                   51

    Foucaucourt                                      52

    Mametz                                           53

    Trones Wood                                      54

    Delville Wood                                    55

    Combles                                          56

    The Bapaume Road (Butte
    de Warlencourt)                                  57

    Mont St. Quentin                                 58

    Péronne                                          59

    Warfusée (Lamotte)                               60

    Villers Bretonneux                               61

    The Chipilly Spur                                62

    Cappy                                            63

    Villers Carbonnel                                64

    The Somme at Cléry                               65

    Brie Château                                     66


    On the Amiens-Albert Road                        67

    Albert on Evacuation                             68

    Albert in Winter                                 69

    Albert Cathedral                                 70

    In the Ancre Valley                              71

    Aveluy                                           72

    Beaumont-Hamel                                   73


    The "Big Bertha" Emplacement                     74

    The St. Gobain Forest                            75

    Noyon                                            76

    Montdidier                                       77

    The Avre Valley                                  78


    Cambrai (Place d'Armes)                          79

    Cambrai Cathedral                                80

    Bourlon Wood                                     81

    Bellicourt                                       82

    The St. Quentin Canal                            83

    The Riqueval Bridge                              84

    Bellenglise                                      85

    St. Quentin Cathedral                            86

    Ribécourt                                        87


    Rheims                                           88

    Rheims Cathedral (West
    End)                                             89

    Rheims Cathedral (East
    End)                                             90

    The Chemin des Dames                             91

    Cerny                                            92

    Caves above Soissons                             93

    The Oise and Aisne Canal                         94

    Fismes                                           95

    Soissons--St. Jean des
    Vignes                                           96

    Soissons Cathedral                               97


    St. Mihiel                                       98

    Verdun                                           99

    Vaux Fort--North Fosse                          100

    Vaux Village                                    101

    Douaumont Fort                                  102

    The Mort Homme                                  103

    The Mort Homme--French
    Front Lines                                     104

    The Argonne Forest                              105

    Varennes                                        106


    The Mons-Condé Canal                            107

    Slag Heaps at Mons                              108

    The Mormal Forest                               109

    Landrecies                                      110

    Le Cateau                                       111

    The Marne (near La Ferté)                       112

    Dormans                                         113

    Epernay                                         114

    The Vesle at Sillery                            115

    Buzancy Château                                 116

    Monument at Buzancy                             117

    Le Quesnoy                                      118

    In the German Retreat,
    1917                                            119

    Hirson                                          120

    A Pile Bridge                                   121

    Sedan                                           122

    Maubeuge                                        123

    Mons                                            124



(PLATES 1 TO 4.)

On the 26th of July, 1914, on my return from a pleasant motor
excursion through the Dolomites, I arrived at Innsbruck, and found the
picturesquely situated old city in a state of unsuppressed excitement
owing to the proclamation of war made on that day between Austria and
Serbia. The crowds in the Maria Theresien Strasse were reading and
discussing the proclamation (Plate 1), and were obviously in excellent
spirits, with no premonition of what would be the unhappy fate of
their country when at length the fire which they had kindled should be
finally extinguished. Among the mountains we had seen no newspapers
for weeks, so that the news of the outbreak of war came as a complete
surprise, but still as something not at all affecting ourselves. It was
not until some days later (on the 30th of July) that we found ourselves
in the thick of German mobilisation at the Kehl bridge, and were told
that we must find our way home either by Belgium or by Switzerland, for
all roads into France were closed. After some exciting days, and many
interviews with high German authorities, civil, military and police, we
happily succeeded in getting safely into Switzerland, and so eventually
back to England by way of Genoa, Gibraltar, and the Bay of Biscay.

       *       *       *       *       *

The École Militaire at Montreuil (Plate 2), a sufficiently
uninteresting building in appearance, is notable for us as
constituting, after the removal from St. Omer in March, 1916, the
offices of our G.H.Q. in France. Here the schemes were prepared,
and from here the orders were issued, which--after so long a time
of suspense and anxiety--resulted finally in the Allied victory of
1918. It is interesting, and perhaps not uninstructive, to compare
the account of the manner of life at Montreuil, as described by the
author of "G.H.Q. (Montreuil)," with that which prevailed at the German
headquarters in Charleville, of which Mr. Domelier (an eyewitness
throughout the occupation) gives very interesting, if sometimes
scandalous, particulars.[1]

[1] Domelier, "Behind the Scenes at German Headquarters."

Life at Montreuil is described as "serious enough ... monkish in its
denial of some pleasures, rigid in discipline, exacting in work....
Like a college where everyone was a 'swotter.'" The precautions for
safety taken at Charleville differed as much from ours as its manner of
life. We hear of cellars reinforced with concrete in walls and roof,
of bombproof casemates with several exits and underground passages, of
netted elastic buffer mattresses overhead to intercept bombs, of felted
door joints to keep out gas. And yet the two places were about the same
distance from the enemy's lines and were equally exposed to the enemy's
air raids. The differences seem to be due to the same difference in
mentality as that which showed itself in so many other matters.

And farther north the King--and the Queen--of the Belgians "occupied
a little villa within range of the German guns, and in a district
incessantly attacked by the enemy's bombing aeroplanes."[2]

[2] Maurice, "The Last Four Months," p. 158.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was at 3.30 a.m. on the 21st of March, 1918, that the great German
attack westwards over the old Somme battlefields commenced. The events
of the four following days--the days of the greatest anxiety to most
of us since the commencement of the war--are remembered only too well
and too painfully. Our armies, unavoidably thinned and for days out of
reach of reserves, were, with the French beside them, continuously
driven back, until the Germans were close to Villers Bretonneux (ten
miles from Amiens), had crossed the Avre to the south, and had taken
Albert and crossed the Ancre on the north, wiping out in a few days all
our gains of 1917. At least one benefit, the greatest of all possible
benefits, resulted from the extreme urgency of the situation. On the
26th of March a special conference was held at Doullens, which in 1914
had been General Foch's H.Q. The Hôtel de Ville of that town (Plate
3), otherwise a commonplace and uninteresting building--in which the
conference met--became at once a building notable for ever in history.
Lord Milner and General Sir Henry Wilson, who were fortunately in
France, attended, with President Poincaré, M. Clemenceau, and M.
Loucheur, as well as Sir Douglas Haig, with our four Army Commanders,
and General Pétain and General Foch. As an immediate result, arrived
at unanimously by the conference,[3] General Foch was made _de
facto_--and a few days later _de jure_--Generalissimo of the Allied
Armies in France. It was immediately after this decision (on the 28th
of March) that General Pershing nobly offered to General Foch, for
serving under his authority in any way which he thought most useful,
every man whom he had available of the Americans who had arrived.
From the moment when, under such conditions, unity of command was at
length achieved, and in spite of the further set-backs in Flanders in
April--Ludendorff's last despairing efforts--the ultimate issue of the
war was no longer in doubt.

[3] See Lord Milner's account in the _New Statesman_ of the 23rd of
April, 1921.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just within the forest of Compiègne, about four miles from the town,
is a certain little knot of railway tracks (Plate 4), close to the
main Compiègne-Soissons road, on which took place, on the 8th of
November, 1918, surely the most memorable conference since 1870. There
were present General Foch and his Chief of Staff, General Weygand,
Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, and Admiral Sims in their saloon on the
rails to the left, the German representatives being brought up on the
farther track and crossing over to General Foch's carriage. An account
of the interview which has been published states that Herr Erzberger
said in the first instance that he had come to receive proposals for
an armistice, and that General Foch refused altogether to discuss
matters on any such basis, and until Erzberger had admitted that he had
come "to beg for an armistice."[4] The now well-known terms by which
an armistice would be granted, on conditions equivalent to absolute
surrender, were then given to the Germans under the obligation of their
acceptance within three days. With their final acceptance hostilities
ended at 11 o'clock on the forenoon of the 11th of November.

[4] Buchan, "History of the War," vol. xxiv., p. 78.

[Illustration: _PLATE I._


_The principal street in Innsbruck, the capital of Southern Austria, on
the 30th of July, 1914, when crowds were reading the Declaration of War
between Austria and Serbia._]

[Illustration: _PLATE II._


_The École Militaire at Montreuil, which was used as the offices of our
G.H.Q. during the greater part of the war._]

[Illustration: _PLATE III._


_The Hôtel de Ville at Doullens, where, on the 26th of March, 1918,
General Foch was appointed as de facto Generalissimo of the Allied
Armies in France._]

[Illustration: _PLATE IV._


_The sidings in the Forest of Compiègne where General Foch and Sir
Rosslyn Wemyss, on behalf of the Allies, met Herr Erzberger and his
colleagues on the 8th of November, 1918, and dictated to them the terms
on which an armistice would be granted._]


(PLATES 5 TO 18.)

The Ypres Salient was fought over during practically the whole of the
war. The first battle of Ypres, during the "race to the sea," was in
October-November, 1914, when the Kaiser stayed at Thielt (twenty-five
miles north-east of Ypres) for five days at the beginning of November
to be ready to enter the city, only to suffer one of his many
disappointments when the "old Contemptibles" kept him out. The Germans,
however, got as far as Hooge, only two and a half miles away from the
city, and were there for more than two years. An extremely interesting
account, which is very pleasant reading, of the close co-operation of
the British and French Armies in this first Ypres battle is given by
General Dubois in a book just published.[5] It was presumably when
French and Foch met on the 31st of October, the most critical day,
that the reported conversation occurred (if it ever occurred), in
which French's view that there was nothing left but to die was met by
Foch with the characteristic rejoinder that they had better stand fast
first--they could die afterwards.

[5] Dubois, "Deux Ans de Commandement."

The second battle of Ypres lasted from April to June, 1915, and during
this battle the first use of poison gas was made, at St. Julien. Except
in the St. Julien region the lines remained practically where they were
after the three months' fighting. In spite of this a captured order
issued to the German Army in August, 1915, said that "peace in October
is certain"!

Mr. Buchan tells a story characteristic of our Tommies, that during
a retirement ordered in May one man "solemnly cleaned and swept out
his dugout before going."[6] But this was equalled by the tidiness of
the old body in Ypres (mentioned in Sister Marguerite's Journal), who
came out and swept away the débris of the last shell which had burst in
front of her house, quite regardless of the continuous bombardment.

[6] Buchan, vol. vii., p. 37.

The third battle of Ypres began with our capture of the Messines Ridge
on the 7th of June, 1917, and lasted till November of the same year,
by which time Ypres was so far "cleared" that our lines were close to
Gheluvelt (five miles from the city), and extended from Passchendaele
and Houthulst on the north to Messines and Hollebeke on the south.

Then in April, 1918, came the great German break-through, when the
Allies lost Armentières and Bailleul, Kemmel and Messines, and the
enemy was in Merville and Estaires, and was inside Zillebeke and Hooge,
and less than a couple of miles from Ypres along the Menin Road.

But the city itself still and always held out.

Finally our turn came. The Merville area was retaken in August,
1918 (the 8th of August was Ludendorff's "black day"), while on the
memorable day on which we crossed the Hindenburg Line on the St.
Quentin Canal (28th to 29th of September) the Germans were driven for
the first time back past Gheluvelt by the Belgians, the French, and
ourselves, and two days afterwards they were in full retreat.

The official despatches and many war books have told about the salient,
about the terrible hardships and the brave doings of our soldiers
there, and those of our Allies who were with us. But they do not,
because they cannot, tell us what was going on within the walls of
the city itself, during those first months of the siege, while the
unfortunate inhabitants were still trying to live there, hoping--one
supposes--from each day to the next that the bombardment would finally
come to an end. Something, however, we know of this from the account
of men who were there, either as soldiers or in the Red Cross service,
on equally dangerous duty. But among the civilians who were neither
one nor the other the names especially of two out of many will always
live in the war history of Ypres, remembered for their devotion and
heroism--Sister Marguerite and Father Charles Delaere. Father Delaere
was the Curé of Ypres in 1914, later on he became Doyen, and not long
ago a letter from him told me that he had been made a Canon. Sister
Marguerite is a native of Ypres, and was, as a nun, attached to the
Convent of St. Marie, engaged largely in teaching at the outbreak
of the war. Her simple duties were suddenly changed; she became not
only nurse and even doctor, but carpenter, fireman, baker, barber,
shoemaker--all trades! Above all, she was the universal friend and
helper of the poor creatures who were incapable of helping themselves,
for whom she found shelter while herself without any, and whose
children she mothered when their parents lay buried under the ruins of
their homes, or dying in whatever buildings served at the time for a

The Journal[7] kept by Sister Marguerite, and published in 1918 by
her permission for Red Cross benefit, gives a picture of life--or
existence--in Ypres during the first eight months of its siege. It is
so vivid, and at the same time so simply told, that (as I fear that
copies of the Journal may no longer be obtainable) I make no apology
for quoting from it. It is the poignant story of war as it appeared
to a woman suddenly called out of a life of peaceful work to face its
realities in their grimmest form, to do so without the excitement of
fighting and without the comradeship of the regiment, or even the use
of the soldierly mask of humour, to cover up the unrecordable reality.

[7] "Journal d'une Sœur d'Ypres, October, 1914, to May, 1915."

The Germans actually entered Ypres on the 7th of October, the first
day on which any shells fell on the town, and one civilian was killed
in his own room. But the children on that day amused themselves
afterwards by picking up the shrapnel bullets! After the Germans were
turned out a week later, one of their companies was found to have left
behind a characteristic notice: "Les Allemands craignent Dieu et hors
Lui nulle chose au monde." They had succeeded in doing a fair amount of
pillaging, as well as making heavy requisitions, during their few days
of occupation.

It is pleasant to find that Sister Marguerite has nowhere anything but
praise for the behaviour of the British soldiers who occupied the city
for so long. She tells of British wounded coming into Ypres, and with
them a German wounded prisoner. A woman ran up to offer milk to the
men, but, with the recollection that her husband had been killed by a
German shell, would not give any to the German. A soldier, however, who
had been wounded by this particular German, drank only half his milk,
and passed the rest on to his prisoner. She adds: "Ce n'est pas la
première fois que nous pouvons admirer pareils actes de générosité."

On the 6th of November an operation was being carried on involving
the amputation of a man's hand; the Sister who had tried to act as
nurse had fainted, and Sister Marguerite (herself not long out of the
surgeon's hands) took her place:

 "Nous commençâmes donc: la main de M. Notevaert était démise; quand,
 vers 2 h. 1/2, un obus tomba sur notre couvent et détruisit deux
 classes à 10 métres de l'École menagère ou nous étions. Les éclats
 de verre et les pierres arrivèrent jusqu'a nous et un grand trou fut
 fait dans le mur. Le docteur venait de faire la dernière entaille;
 nous étions là tous les deux, pâles de frayeur, comme dans un nuage
 de fumée et blancs de poussière, lui tenant encore dans sa main le
 bistouri et moi la main démise dans la mienne. Quelques instants nous
 restâmes indécis. Les blessés criaient, et en un moment tout fut sens
 dessus-dessous. 'Ta, ta, ta,' dit M. le docteur, 'ce n'est rien.
 Continuons notre besogne, car nous n'avons pas de temps à perdre.' ..."

Among the wounded at this time were three Germans, of whom one (a
Prussian) refused either to eat or drink, alleging that he would be
poisoned!--presumably an idea encouraged by his officers to prevent
surrender. Eventually he took what the sisters gave him.

A few days later came a real baptism of fire:

 "Vers 11 heures, M. le Curé me dit d'aller chercher rue du Canon deux
 vieilles femmes.... Comme on bombardait justement ce quartier, je le
 priai de me laisser attendre le moment d'une accalmie. 'Allez-y tout
 de suite,' me repondit-il, 'on pourrait oublier ces pauvres gens plus
 tard et leur vie en dépend peut-être.' 'Au nom de Dieu,' me dis-je, et
 je partis. Mais à peine avais-je fait quelques pas dans la rue que ...
 'sss ... sss ... pon!' La tête d'un shrapnel roula dans la rue, tout
 près de moi. Je retournai en courant. Mais M. le Curé avait entendu
 le son de ma voix et de la cuisine il me cria: 'Eh bien! n'êtes vous
 pas encore parti?' A trois reprises je retournai pour revenir presque
 aussi vite. Enfins je m'enhardis et je revins cette fois avec les
 petites vieilles, que je conduisis au couvent. Pas moins de cinq
 shrapnels passèrent au-dessus de nos têtes, et vous pouvez penser si
 le cœur me battait.... Cependant c'est à partir de ce jour que je
 devins plus courageuse pour affronter les bombardements."

The "Menin Gate" of Ypres (Plate 5) is nothing now but a broad gap
in the old fortifications, where the long, straight road from Menin
through Gheluvelt bends round to enter the city. During the whole
of the siege of Ypres--that is, in fact, during the whole of the
war--this spot was continuously exposed to German shell-fire, one
of the "hottest" points over the whole war area. On the left of the
"Gate" Canada has purchased a certain amount of ground for a Canadian
memorial. The old walls, however, have remained, and the "casemates"
(Plate 6) on their inner sides were for many weeks or even months the
sole refuge of the poorer inhabitants who possessed no cellars of their
own. The story of how these poor folk had to be removed, perforce,
both for safety and for sanitary reasons, is best told in Sister
Marguerite's words:

 _5 Decr._--"Chaque famille y choisit son petit coin, y installe deux
 ou trois matelas, deux ou trois chaises, une petite lampe, parfois une
 petite table et un réchaud à pétrole. La lourde porte d'entrée[8]
 était entr'ouverte. Il n'est pas étonnant des lors qu'après peu de
 temps, des maladies contagieuses s'y déclarèrent. Des habitants
 restèrent six semaines dans ce réduit sans voir la lumière du jour.
 J'y trouvai un jour un enfant de deux mois qui y était né et n'avait
 pas encore respiré l'air pur du dehors."

 [8] Probably thick wet blankets intended to be dropped when there was
 danger of gas.

 _7 Jan._--"Ma mission principale est de servir de guide et
 d'interprète et aussi de décider les malades à se laisser conduire à
 l'hôpital, ce qui n'était pas toujours facile! Quand les malades y
 consentent, l'opposition de la famille soulève de nouveaux obstacles
 et les protestations injurieuses souvent ne manquent pas, ces pauvres
 gens ne comprenant pas qu'on ne veut que leur faire du bien. Une fois
 même, une vieille femme empoigna la pelle à charbon et le tisonnier
 pour me frapper. Heureusement les messieurs anglais, ignorant la
 langue flamande, ne comprennent pas les termes délicats par lesquels
 on paye leur dévouement."

The city was left entirely in ruins (Plate 7 is a view from the wall at
the South Gate), not a single building standing with walls and roof,
or in any condition that could be called habitable. The ruined tower
(Plate 8), of which the foundation dates from 1201, is all that remains
of the once beautiful Cloth Hall, and the Cathedral of St. Martin
behind it is just as completely destroyed. It is to be hoped that after
the celebrations of July, 1920, the miserable restaurants with their
flaunting advertisements, which seemed to smother the tragic ruins with
their commonplace banalities in 1919, may be done away with. It cannot
be impossible to find means by which the natural interest of visitors,
for too many of whom the salient is the grave of friends and relatives,
can be gratified without vulgarising ground which for generations to
come will be sacred in memory to the Allies whose soldiers fought
there, and whose sons it was who formed the "thin red line" which was
for so long the chief barrier to hold back the German hordes from the
north of France, and, in effect, from our own country.

It must be remembered, in looking at such views as Plates 7 and 8,
that the clear spaces in the foreground are only clear because all the
buildings upon them have been destroyed, wiped out. Before the war
these spaces were closely built upon, covered all over with houses.
In Plate 7 are seen two or three "reconstructions" started after the
ground had been cleared of the mass of brick and stone rubbish with
which it was thickly covered until the end of the fighting. It is
hardly necessary to say that the general tidiness of the ground in the
Grande Place (Plate 8) belongs to a time months after the Germans had
been driven finally out of range. During the war there was neither
time nor opportunity to clear away the débris, which covered road and
building sites alike.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Ypres Salient, as we came to know it, is essentially the ground
north and south of the twelve miles of road running from Ypres to
Menin. Ypres itself is about 65 feet above sea-level, and Menin (on
the Lys) about 35 feet. But the ground between them rises to over
200 feet at "Clapham Junction" (three miles from Ypres) and remains
approximately at the same level for the two miles farther to Gheluvelt.
This higher ground circles round to the south-west (through Hill 60)
until it joins Wytschaete (eight miles south of Ypres) and the Messines
Ridge. To the north it continues from Gheluvelt by Broodseinde, between
Becelaere and Zonnebeke, to the Passchendaele Ridge (180 feet), some
seven miles north-east of Ypres. The unfortunate city was therefore not
only at the centre of a very narrow salient, but one in which it was
encircled by higher ground on three sides within easy observation and
shelling range. For a long time, until our advance in 1917, the German
lines were only distant two and a half miles north, east, and south
from the city, and everywhere were on levels sufficiently above that of
the city to keep it always under observation.

It would have been cold comfort to our poor fellows who had to
face the horrors of the Flanders mud to know that three centuries
ago a traveller wrote: "Near Ypres they found the road often
indistinguishable from the fields, and the mud came up to their horses'

[9] Bates, "Touring in 1600," p. 287.

But in fact the physical difficulties due to the nature of the soil,
churned up by shells on every square yard, were so horrible that Lord
Haig (who is certainly not given to exaggeration in his despatches)
says of the 1917 advance:[10]

[10] Haig's Despatches, vol. i., p. 133.

 "Our men advanced every time with absolute confidence in their power
 to overcome the enemy, even though they had sometimes to struggle
 through mud up to their waists to reach him. So long as they could
 reach him they did overcome him, but physical exhaustion placed
 narrow limits on the depth to which each advance could be pushed, and
 compelled long pauses between the advances.... Time after time the
 practically beaten enemy was enabled to reorganise and relieve his men
 and to bring up reinforcements behind the sea of mud which constituted
 his main protection."

The statement made that "nine-tenths of the time our men were fighting
Nature, and the remainder fighting Germans," cannot be much exaggerated.

It is, of course, impossible in photographs taken long after fighting
has ceased, and, indeed, in any photographs except those taken from
aeroplanes,[11] to give an adequate idea of what the surface of the
salient was during the war. Plate 9 gives some idea of the ground
beside the road, near Hooge, _after a dry summer_,[12] and Plate 10
gives a similar view, after rain, near Gheluvelt. The bit of "Tank
Cemetery" at "Stirling Castle" (Plate 11) on the high ground close to
"Clapham Junction," and the illustrations of Hill 60, serve also to
give some rough idea, but only a very imperfect one, of the conditions.
Even now one has to walk in serpentine fashion along the ridges between
the shell-holes in order to make any progress. But in the war winters
each shell-hole was filled with liquid, sticky mud, and over such
ground our men had to advance time and again, oftener by night than by
day, slithering down the slimy banks into slimier mud, scrambling up
the other side somehow or other, carrying full kit all the time, and
continuously exposed to murderous shell-fire from commanding positions.
There can have been no condition in the whole campaign which brought
out better the indomitable pluck and spirit of our infantry.

[11] See the photograph on p. 30 of the "Michelin Guide to Ypres."

[12] Figures in the distance are German prisoners, of whom there were a
great many at the time, occupied in "clearing" operations.

Plate 12 is taken at the cross-roads ("Clapham Junction") between
"Dumbarton Wood" and "Stirling Castle" on one side and "Glen Corse
Wood" on the other. It is at the highest point of the slope which
falls down through Hooge to Ypres. Of the woods which our men named so
picturesquely nothing whatever remains--in fact, the skeleton avenue on
the Becelaere Road (Plate 13) contained more trees than were to be seen
anywhere else in the neighbourhood, and even these I found to have been
cut down later on. Their only use would be as firewood.

On my last visit to the salient, a year ago, reconstruction in the
shape of what may be called hutments, or something a little more
substantial, had commenced at the eastern end and extended as far as
Gheluwe, while even up to Gheluvelt there were beginnings of attempts
at cultivation. If one had not seen elsewhere what has actually
been done, it would seem physically impossible that soil so utterly
destroyed could be brought again into cultivation for a generation. But
the Belgian and French peasants are capable of wonders.

"Hill 60" (Plates 14 and 15) is to all appearance little more than a
heap of spoil from the cutting for the railway running south-eastwards
from Ypres to Lille. But it forms an observation ridge some 150 feet
above the level of Ypres and only two and a half miles distant from
the city. It was captured by the Germans early in the war, and in
April, 1915, retaken by the British after very heavy fighting, in which
3,000 bodies were said to have been left on its slopes. A month later,
however, it was lost again under heavy gas attacks, and remained in
German possession substantially until the great attack on the Messines
Ridge in June, 1917 (the third battle of Ypres), when we once more
regained it, after ten months of underground fighting and tunnelling.
It was lost again during the German attack in April, 1918, and only
finally recovered in the final advance in September. Long before the
end this historical hummock had been riddled below ground by mines, and
above ground torn up by their explosions and by incessant shell-fire,
so that it is now merely a mass of craters and shell-holes, with the
remains of dugouts in the soft clay.

The two illustrations give some idea of the state of the ground and
a suggestion of the wide horizon commanded by this insignificant

It was on the 22nd of April, 1915, that the Germans startled and
horrified the world by the use of "poison gas" at St. Julien (about
three miles north-east of Ypres), making a "scrap of paper" of Hague
agreements, as of everything else. Before the end of the war they must
have bitterly regretted their action, but on the first appearance
of the yellow death-bearing cloud it answered its purpose only too
well--the Turcos were not to be blamed for flying incontinently
before this devilish terror. The Allies, naturally, had no means of
defence--even the wet handkerchief was not thought of, but somehow or
other a couple of Canadian brigades held on magnificently--fighting
poison gas unprotected must have required even more pluck than facing
machine-guns--and for a time appear to have been all that stood between
Ypres and the enemy. Under the date of the 22nd of April Sister
Marguerite writes in her Journal:

 "... Au retour de nos visites aux malades, vers 5 heures, des soldats
 français [Turcos] fuyant les tranchées, nous rencontrèrent, criant et
 hurlant que les Boches les avaient empoisonnés! Beaucoup moururent
 sur la route; d'autres en prie à l'asphyxie demandaient à grands cris
 un peu de lait. Je revins à la maison tandis que le docteur, obligé
 de continuer, retourna porter ses soins à une femme. Mais celle-ci,
 effrayée par le bombardement, s'était enfuie dans les champs où le
 docteur Fox la retrouva après une heure de recherches. Au couvent je
 trouvai d'autre soldats encore, victimes des gaz empoisonnés; on leur
 servait du lait chaud condensé."

 "37 nouveaux empoisonnés dans la matinée du 23. Impossible de les
 mener plus loin que l'hôpital civil où ils sont logés dans les
 caves.... Nous aussi, nous reçûmes notre part: un sur le couvent, et
 deux, trois, aux alentours. Voilà qui est terrible! L'eau me coula des
 yeux, mes lèvres bleuirent, j'étais prête à suffoquer."

But the brave lady never suggests for a moment that she should leave
the place, and did in fact remain in the city until the military
insisted on everyone leaving on the 9th of May, when there seems to
have been imminent fear of the Germans reaching the city, and when,
at any rate, the Kaiser was again waiting at Thielt in expectation of
entering it.

St. Julien was taken at the time, and the German line advanced to the
canal some miles in front of it; but the ruined village was afterwards
recaptured and gas drenched by us--a strange Nemesis--in July, 1917,
and remained in our hands until the German advance in 1918. Plate 16
certainly does not suggest the tragedy which we must always connect
with the name of St. Julien; it is a screen at the entrance to a
Chinese camp which stood there in 1919. It illustrates, oddly enough,
an ancient Chinese superstition that "spirits"--and of course spirits
are always malevolent--can only go straight forward, so that if any
kind of screen is placed in front of the house entrance the spirit will
be unable to get in, not, apparently, having the sense to go round the
barrier. The gentleman standing in front of the screen (which is in
effect a huge triptych) gave us to understand that he was the artist,
but our knowledge of Chinese and his of English were too limited to be
very certain. The screen was certainly quite a satisfactory piece of

In 1917 we were preparing for the long-drawn attack which eventually
gave us the Passchendaele Ridge (Plate 17), fighting for months over
such ground as the foreground of the photograph shows. Defence by such
means as the construction of a "Hindenburg Line" was quite impossible
in the mud and slime of the salient, and Von Armin devised the scheme
of what we came to call "pillboxes." Each pillbox was a structure
(Plate 18) of reinforced concrete, often large enough to hold thirty
or forty men with machine-guns, and strong enough to give protection
from everything short of a direct hit by a large shell. They were only
raised above ground-level sufficiently to allow the guns to be worked,
their entrances being, of course, at the back. They were echeloned
along behind the front line, and connected and protected by barbed-wire
entanglements. They proved a serious difficulty when we first had to
deal with them in July-August, 1917. General Haig says:

 "Many were reduced as our troops advanced, but others held out during
 the day, and delayed the arrival of our supports."[13]

[13] Despatches, p. 118.

But a few months later General Plumer had devised tactics which
countered the pillboxes very successfully, and eventually the German
machine-gunners found that it was better to come out and fight in the
open, and even to surrender, rather than be cooped up and grenaded
when our men got round to the entrance. Already in October captured
documents showed that the German High Command were inclined to prefer
their old methods to the new ones.[14]

[14] Buchan, vol. x., p. 106.

The fight to reach the Passchendaele Ridge (the distant rising ground
shown in Plate 17) lasted in effect from July to November of 1917. The
Germans fought hard and well, but our chief enemy, as always in the
salient, was the weather, and its effect in covering the whole ground
with muddy slime.

The much-coveted Passchendaele Ridge is only about 120 feet higher than
the level of Ypres; it is the continuation northwards of the rising
ground which crosses the Menin Road at Gheluvelt and passes through
Becelaere and Broodseinde. But, once attained, it affords a clear view
over the flat Belgian country towards Roulers for many miles, just as
in the hands of the enemy it afforded a clear view over Zonnebeke and
St. Julien to Ypres.

The fight for the ridge was a long, tedious, and costly affair of
many months, and although we gained it, and incidentally gained the
knowledge of how to circumvent the pillboxes, the delays which had been
caused by the weather conditions prevented us from attaining the full
advantages that had been--quite reasonably--hoped for and expected.

[Illustration: _PLATE V._


_This gap in the old walls of Ypres is the entrance of the road from
Menin, which runs for some eleven miles straight across the middle of
the Salient by Hooge, Gheluvelt and Gheluwe, known throughout the war
as the "Menin Road."_]

[Illustration: _PLATE VI._


_The Casemates and Dugouts on the inner side of the old fortifications
of Ypres were the refuge of hundreds of the inhabitants of
Ypres--especially those who had no cellars of their own--in 1914-15._]

[Illustration: _PLATE VII._


_This view is taken from the City Wall above the South or Lille Gate of
the City. The church of which some white ruins are seen is St. Pierre.
The whole of the bare ground in the foreground was once covered closely
with buildings, but of these hardly a trace remains. Some beginnings of
reconstruction are already to be seen._]

[Illustration: _PLATE VIII._


_The Belfry Tower of the beautiful Cloth Hall of Ypres was the oldest
part of the building. The upper part of the tower itself has gone
entirely, and of course also the beautiful spire. The foundation of the
Tower was laid in 1201._

_The Cathedral of St. Martin, of which a few ruins are seen, stood
behind and to the west of the Cloth Hall. It is entirely in ruins._]

[Illustration: _PLATE IX._


_In the Salient south of the Menin Road, at Hooge, about three miles
from Ypres. With so much water lying after a hot summer, it can be
imagined what the shell-holes were like after continuous rain. The
country was hopeless for tanks, and horrible beyond description for our
poor fellows who had to fight in it._]

[Illustration: _PLATE X._


_The Village of Gheluvelt, on the Menin Road in the Salient, no longer
exists. But some parts of it stood on and round about this wet piece of

[Illustration: _PLATE XI._


_Why this little shell-holed hummock received its name is unknown. It
is on the south side of the Menin Road between Gheluvelt and Hooge, and
is obviously a portion of the "Tank Cemetery."_]

[Illustration: _PLATE XII._


_At the cross-roads on the highest point of the Menin Road, some 130
feet higher than Ypres itself. The half-derelict Tank was one of the
many such wrecks which strewed the Salient._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XIII._


_Most of the Road Avenues in the Salient east of Ypres have disappeared
entirely, by shell-fire and poison gas in the first instance, and then
by cutting down. This particular Avenue, a branch from the Menin Road,
still remained at the end of the war showing at least what it might
once have been. The dead trunks have now been cut down._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XIV._

"HILL 60."

_Many elevations in Flanders and France are known by their heights, in
metres, over sea-level. On so flat a country the importance of "Hill
60," and many another such point, as a position for observation, is
of course out of all proportion to its absolute height. This Hill,
so bitterly fought over, is only some 60 or 70 feet higher than the
surrounding country._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XV._

"HILL 60."

_What is left of a mine crater on "Hill 60," with a suggestion of the
wide horizon over the Salient obtained from this horrible heap of
churned-up clay._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XVI._


_On the site of the German first gas attack, on the 22nd of April,
1915, stood in 1919 a large camp of Chinese, employed in clearing and
levelling the shell-struck ground and preparing it to some extent for
agricultural operations. The painted screen guarded the entrance to the

[Illustration: _PLATE XVII._


_A photograph taken in the north of the Salient with the long low
line of the Passchendaele Ridge in the distance. It gives some idea
of the way in which the whole land surface is covered with weeds and

[Illustration: _PLATE XVIII._


_The wreck of one of the German Pillboxes, of very heavily reinforced
concrete, such as were brought into use with some flourish of trumpets
in July, 1917, but very successfully countered by General Plumer's
methods later on._]


(PLATES 19 TO 23.)

There would be no object in recapitulating here the story of the
attack on Zeebrugge on St. George's Day of 1918. Every schoolboy for
generations will, it is to be hoped, know it by heart.

Plate 19 shows the magnificent proportions of the canal which covers
the eight miles from Bruges to Zeebrugge. It was used continuously
during the war for the passage of submarines from their enormous
concrete shelters at Bruges--which had resisted all the attacks of
our bombers--to the sea. Bruges, in fact, is really the port; there
is no port at Zeebrugge except a small dock and the open water under
the shelter of the great curved mole. The gates of the lock at the
seaward end of the canal are huge caissons (Plate 20) which slide into
place from recesses on the western side of the lock, one of which can
be seen in the photograph, in which the seaward gate is shown in its
closed position. Between the two gates the lock is crossed by a girder
bridge which can be swung to one side in the usual way to allow the
passage of vessels. It is a matter of history that the lock gates of
1798 were blown up by a British naval party, but our bombers had not
been successful in hitting the gates of 1915, so that they were intact
at the time of our attack, and remained so till the end. By way of
preparation for any possibilities, however, the Germans had got a spare
caisson standing beside the canal ready to be put in place if either of
the others should be destroyed.

It will be remembered that the great curved mole at Zeebrugge is a
mile long, and about 175 feet in breadth over much of its length,
carrying several lines of railway and huge warehouses. Many of the
latter are at present destroyed, and a postcard purchased on the spot
gives an illustration of some of these, with the quaint superscription:
"Magazins des Allemands incendiés par les Tommies pour détruire les
innombrables puces!" which may or may not be a true statement. Towards
the landward end of the mole a considerable length of it becomes
a viaduct, and was carried on open steel piling, so as to leave a
clear waterway for tidal purposes. The mole was defended by artillery
(Plate 21) as well as by machine-guns, and the execution which these,
especially the latter, did on our brave fellows in the attack is still
fresh in our minds.

[Illustration: _PLATE XIX._


 _The Canal which runs from Bruges to the sea at Zeebrugge, and which
 formed a chief access for the German submarines to the Channel. The
 concrete submarine shelters at Bruges remained undestroyed until the
 end of the war._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XX._


 _One of the sliding caissons which formed the lock gates of the Canal
 at its Zeebrugge end. The dock into which the caisson slides to open
 the lock can be seen beyond the little footbridge._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXI._


 _Two of the guns still standing on the Mole at Zeebrugge near its
 outer end._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXII._


 _The inner side of the Mole at Zeebrugge, showing the part of the
 structure which was a viaduct carried on steel piles. The two heavy
 concrete piers were erected by the Germans to make the Mole again
 usable after the destruction caused by the exploded submarine._]

It was, of course, against the open part of the structure, the steel
viaduct, that Lieutenant Sandford steered his old submarine, full
of explosives, with the object of blowing up the viaduct, and so
preventing any help from the landward side getting to the men who were
resisting our landing farther on. The viaduct is said to have been
covered with soldiers watching the approach of C 3, and unsuspecting
their fate. The boat was rammed into the structure, the Lieutenant
and his crew got away safely, the fuse did its duty, the viaduct
disappeared with everyone on it, and communication with the land was
cut off. Plate 22 shows the viaduct, seen from the bend of the mole on
the inner side, looking shorewards. The two concrete blocks supporting
the landward end of the viaduct were, of course, built by the Germans
after the attack--they show exactly the place where C 3 did its work.
Plate 23 was taken from the outer side of the mole, and shows the
present temporary viaduct on its concrete piers, and in deep water
beside it a flagstaff carrying a white ensign which has been placed on
the spot, very charmingly, by the Belgians, as a memorial of the pluck
of the men who, under that flag, carried out the great exploit.


(PLATES 24 TO 34.)

The region between the Ypres Salient and the La Bassée Canal, extending
from the high ground by Wytschaete and Messines to Kemmel and then
south-westwards by Bailleul and Meteren to Merville, and finally
sharply eastwards to Festubert and Givenchy, forms the ground which the
German advance in April, 1918, made into the "Lys Salient," which was
to have opened the way for them to the Channel ports, and to have cut
the Allied Armies in two.

Neuve Chapelle lies on the main road four miles north of La Bassée,
near the southern end of what became the Lys Salient later on, and was
the scene of the first great action in March, 1915, after the hold-up
by the mud of the winter. It had been lost very early in the war, and
was regained after heavy fighting and great losses on both sides. The
German papers complained characteristically that our artillery firing
"was not war--it was murder"! All counter-attacks failed to recover
it for the Germans, but, on the other hand, our own troops were not
able to make any further advance towards the higher ground, known to
us as the Aubers Ridge, which lay between them and Lille. After the
attack the reports told us that two crucifixes still remained standing.
One was at the cross-roads, and has since fallen or been removed. The
other (Plate 24) was in the churchyard, and is still standing, with
a dud shell embedded in its shaft. The village itself, like all the
others, has disappeared; my photograph was taken from a heap of stones
which represented what was left of the church. An attack in May made
a valiant attempt to carry the Aubers Ridge, and some detachments
succeeded in getting close to the Lille suburbs, but the ground
could not be held. It was on this ground, at Escobecques, about six
miles from Lille, that I found the late German Divisional H.Q. in
farm-buildings fortified with something like 2,000 tons of reinforced
concrete. "Bauern Gefecht Stelle" seems to have been the name of the
buildings when in German occupation--"Fin de la Guerre" has come from
the French. The "ridge" is by no means visible as a ridge, but is shown
by the contours as a stretch of country from 30 to 50 feet higher than
its surroundings. The deserted and blown-up pillboxes (Plate 18) of
reinforced concrete are very much in evidence here, as they are farther
north in the Passchendaele region, and the villages are often quite
destroyed. But where the land has not been keenly fought over the shell
and trench damage is not considerable, and cultivation is being carried
on actively. At La Fresnoy, on the higher part of the ridge, a farm
known to our people as "Somerset Farm" was utilised by the Germans
as an O.P. (Plate 25) and a light signal station. An engraved stone
tablet on the wall (barely visible on the right of the photograph)
records that it is the "Schultze Turm," and that it was built in six
weeks--certainly an excellent record. The O.P. tower still stands, a
fine piece of solid construction, although the barn within which it
was built, and which must have effectually concealed it, is a good
deal damaged. Plate 26 shows, for comparison, a British double O.P.
which I found standing (and which probably still stands) not far from
La Bassée. The concrete and brick towers have resisted all attempts at
their entire destruction, but the buildings which must originally have
enclosed and concealed the towers appear only as heaps of brick rubbish.

In April, 1918, the German advance on the Lys--which, like its
predecessors, succeeded all too nearly, but just not quite enough--and
which proved to be Ludendorff's final despairing effort, started at
Neuve Chapelle, then held by the Portuguese, who were to have been
withdrawn the next day. The troops were hopelessly outnumbered, and
gave way at once under the attack, and the British divisions right and
left of them were uncovered. Givenchy and Festubert held firm[15] and
Bethune was saved, but farther north everything gave way.

[15] See p. 25.

It was at this critical time that Haig issued the famous order which
indicated at once the serious nature of the situation and the General's
confidence in his troops:

 "There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every
 position must be held to the last man; there must be no retirement.
 With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause,
 each one of us must fight to the end. The safety of our homes and the
 freedom of mankind depend alike upon the conduct of each one of us at
 this critical moment."

It must have been the greatest of trials to the General to be compelled
to order retirements a few days later on, but he had not deceived
himself as to the quality of his men: they did fight to the end--fought
the enemy to a standstill first, and later on drove him back over all
the country he had overrun.

Estaires was taken on the next day and Merville two days later, this
town forming the farthest progress westward in the April advance. An
interesting note in Haig's Despatch[16] says:

[16] Despatches, p. 225.

 "There is evidence that the German troops that had entered Merville
 had got out of hand, and instead of pressing their advantage wasted
 valuable time in plundering the town. On the 12th the 5th Division
 arrived and secured this front."

[Illustration: _PLATE XXIII._

"C 3."

 _The outer side of the Zeebrugge Mole at the place where "C 3" was
 driven against it and blown up on St. George's Day, in 1918. The white
 ensign forms a graceful remembrance, on the part of the Belgians, of
 Lieutenant Sandford's great exploit._]

Finally the Ypres Salient was almost wiped out (the enemy was within a
mile and a half of the city), Armentières and Bailleul, Wytschaete and
Messines, had to be evacuated, and the Lys Salient came into existence.
Mount Kemmel was taken on the 25th, the French, overwhelmed, dying
without surrendering. An advance of about ten miles had been made by
the Germans over a very considerable distance, and over country which
was of enormous importance to the Allies. North of Ypres, happily,
the Belgians had been able to stand firm, and recovered at once, by
counter-attacks, a small area on which they had had to give way. But
once more sheer exhaustion, probably hastened by rashness after what
must have been the unexpected success of the first onslaught, helped to
bring the enemy to a stand, while the splendid stand of the Belgians
to the north and our Territorials at Festubert and on the canal at
Givenchy indicated clearly enough that no further advance could be
gained. The fighting died down for two or three days, and then at last
came the crucial attack, directed north-westwards across a line from
Meteren to Voormezeele, where French and British were fighting side
by side "with their backs to the wall." The attack failed, and on the
next morning the German lines were considerably farther back than they
had been at the start. This proved to be the real end of the fighting,
and only minor changes in the lines due to our advances and those of
the French occurred until our final advance. Towards the end of July,
when the great attack of Foch from the Marne to the Aisne had declared
itself, the Germans commenced a withdrawal of their stores from the Lys
Salient. Merville and Estaires had both been knocked about very much by
our artillery during the German occupation. Merville was retaken on the
19th of August, and after that date our advance, and the retreat of the
Germans, went on continuously. Kemmel Hill was again in the hands of
the Allies by the 5th of September, and by the 6th the Lys Salient had
disappeared. "Plug Street" Wood and Messines were cleared of the German
rearguards on the 29th of September, at the time when Belgian and
British troops together were finally annihilating the Ypres Salient,
and succeeding in forty-eight hours in covering ground which had
required four months in 1917. Armentières was again in our possession
early in October.

Plates 27 to 32 are photographs of places which became of special
interest--and anxiety--while the Germans were succeeding in creating
the "Lys Salient." Merville (Plate 27) and Estaires (Plate 28) were
totally wrecked by us while they were in German occupation, but with
them, as with Bailleul (Plate 29), reconstruction is going on rapidly.
Agricultural operations in this area are going on vigorously, and the
damage was chiefly confined to the villages and little towns. The
western half of Armentières had been pretty thoroughly rebuilt between
my visits of 1919 and 1920, but the eastern half (Plate 30) was still
largely ruinous.

The top of Kemmel Hill is about 350 feet higher than Ypres, and looks
from the salient--even at a distance of seven to eight miles--as quite
a little mountain. Plate 31 is a view taken from north of "Plug Street"
Wood, about three miles from the hill, and Plate 32[17] was taken on
the hill itself near the top. The hill was originally largely covered
with woods, but only groups of bare stems are now remaining.

[17] This photograph is from a negative taken by Colonel Gill.

On the way from Armentières to Plug Street we found the ruins of a
little estaminet, within which an O.P. of 1914 had been constructed
by Colonel Gill. Towers with walls 3 feet thick had not been thought
of in those days, and the light steel framework of the O.P. stood up,
spidery, above the brick rubbish. At a farmhouse still standing across
the road it was interesting to find a kindly French peasant woman who
had now been able to return to her house, where she had stayed with
her family for six months during the earlier fighting, living in the
cellar. Her children seemed to cherish affectionate recollections of a
certain kindly English "Capitaine Frederic," who was "rouge" and who
gave them chocolates, and whom by these particulars I was afterwards
able to identify. I suppose we are likely always to call Ploegsteert
"Plug Street." The village is, of course, in ruins, but the wood, of
which Plate 33 shows only a corner, is too large to have been totally
destroyed like the woods north of the Somme. At "Hyde Park Corner"
(there were several "Hyde Park Corners" in Flanders) one came across
the sight, only too familiar in many parts of the war area, of a
British cemetery (Plate 34). It had been carefully tended and looked
after, as we found to be always the case.

[Illustration: _PLATE XXIV._


 _Two crucifixes remained standing at Neuve Chapelle after the Action
 of March, 1915. One of them has disappeared; the one photographed
 stands in what must have been the churchyard. A dud shell has split
 the shaft without bringing it down._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXV._


 _The Schultze Turm, a very substantial German O.P. enclosed in
 "Somerset Farm." An inscription states that it was built in six

[Illustration: _PLATE XXVI._


 _A British double O.P. between Bethune and La Bassée. The buildings
 which once concealed it lie round it in a heap, but the towers have
 still some substance._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXVII._


 _The farthest west point reached in the Lys Salient during the German
 advance in April, 1918. The town was practically destroyed by our
 shell-fire during the German occupation._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXVIII._


 _Like Merville, which lies four miles west of it, Estaires was
 terribly damaged by our shelling during its occupation by the Germans
 from April to August, 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXIX._


 _Not to be confused with the village of the same name north of Arras,
 close to the Vimy Ridge. It was thoroughly ruined by the fighting in
 both directions during 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXX._


 _In 1919 very little had been done by way of reconstruction in
 Armentières, but a year later the western half of the town had been
 largely rebuilt, although the other half was still in the condition
 shown in the photograph._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXI._


 _This photograph was taken from a distance of three miles, from which,
 however, the hill looks hardly as bold as it does from the higher part
 of the Menin Road. Its summit is about 350 feet higher than Ypres,
 which it entirely commands._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXII._


 _The upper part of the hill itself, which was once largely covered
 with trees of which only the stems remain. It was captured, after
 an heroic French defence, in April, 1918, and held until the final
 retreat of the Germans began four months afterwards._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXIII._


 _Ploegsteert will probably be "Plug Street" for all time in this
 country. Many trees are still standing in the wood. The turning to the
 left is the road to Messines._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXIV._


 _A Royal Berks Military Cemetery at the north-east corner of "Plug
 Street" Wood._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXV._


 _The lighter-coloured masonry halfway up the fine old tower shows
 where houses were standing built closely round it. Their debris has
 been entirely cleared away and the Grande Place is as tidy as it is,
 unhappily, empty._]


(PLATES 35 TO 42.)

The pleasant little town of Bethune, with its friendly, Scotch-like
name, lies just beyond the coal district, a dozen miles north-west
of Lens and seven miles west of La Bassée. Our front lines during
most of the war crossed the Bethune-La Bassée road about the line
of Festubert and Givenchy, two and a half miles short of La Bassée.
Although so near the German lines, it was not seriously shelled until
the attempted German advance in March and April, 1918, when in two
months the whole centre of the town was reduced to ruins. Colonel Gill,
taking me through it a few months later, had some difficulty even in
recognising "Bond Street," which for years had been a tolerably safe
place for buying tobacco, or visiting a barber, or taking lunch, or
meeting friends. We walked over 2 feet of brick débris along what must
have been the roadway. The outlying parts of the town are comparatively
little damaged. The fourteenth-century belfry tower (Plate 35) was
closely encircled by houses, built up against it, which have altogether
disappeared, and the tower itself shows hideous cracks over practically
its whole height. The Church of St. Vaast is so completely destroyed
that one can only tell one end from the other by the orientation of its

In the great German attack of April, 1918, the town was saved by the
Lancashires when the Portuguese had failed us near Neuve Chapelle,
and when we were compelled to give way from Armentières to Merville,
a few miles farther north. The same troops ("second-rate troops" the
Germans called them) held Givenchy, on the La Bassée Canal. The village
has entirely disappeared. Plate 36 was taken from a mound on which
I believe that the church once stood (but there were not even stones
visible on the surface to mark the place), looking back over the
British lines. Lord Haig[18] tells how two batteries each left a gun
within 500 yards of the draw-bridge at Givenchy, and, assisted by a
party of gunners who held the bridge with rifles, succeeded in stopping
the German advance at this most critical time.

[18] Despatches, p. 226.

The country between Bethune and La Bassée and northwards and southwards
for miles from that line, was in 1919 a desert, bare of trees, of
houses, of crops, of people, growing nothing but shell craters and
barbed wire, with thousands of tons of buried broken shells likely to
be very offensive to agricultural implements! The seven miles of road
between the two towns runs eastward through the desolation, never very
far south of the canal, and at Cuinchy close to the brickfields and the
"railway triangle," the scene of specially hard fighting in 1915. The
triangle again defeated our attack in September, 1916.

The little town of La Bassée (Plate 37), the name of which was for
long so familiar to us, is, of course, a heap of ruins. I remember a
statement in a German paper in 1914 to the effect that, La Bassée and
the canal (Plate 38, which shows a reconstructed bridge) being in their
hands, their final success was quite assured! The eight miles of road
from La Bassée to Lens passes Hulloch and Loos and Hill 70, and enters
Lens by the Cité St. Laurent, a suburb which was in our hands long
before we were in the town itself. The road from Bethune to Lens passes
between Loos and the "Double Crassier." The ruined pithead (Plate 39)
near Hulloch is only an example of the condition to which the Germans
reduced all the colliery workings in the district on which they could
lay hands.

The story of the great fights at Loos is full of splendid episodes,
although the results of the fighting were very much less than had been
hoped for. In April, 1915, the German front lay from a point west of
Loos and Lens southward nearly as far as Arras, covering the colliery
villages and the Lorette and Vimy Ridges. It was first broken by the
great attack in 1915, which gave the French all the Lorette Ridge
except its extreme east end. Opposite Loos, across the Lens-Béthune
road, lay the twin slag heaps known as the Double Crassier (Plate 40),
where for many months the opposing front trenches were literally within
a few yards of each other, the Germans holding the slag heaps. There
are stories of mutual courtesies and jocularity between Saxons and our
own men under these conditions, which came to an end (from the German
side) when Prussians replaced Saxons. But if the trenches had been in
our Midlands, with Yorkshire laid waste beyond them, instead of in a
foreign country, probably our boys would have felt differently. We did
not hear of, or expect to hear of, any similar friendliness where the
French poilus were concerned. Farther north came the strongly fortified
"Fosse No. 8" and the Hohenzollern Redoubt close to Haisnes, and just
short of the canal at Givenchy. What we got to know as the Loos battle
began on the 25th of September, 1915. The Double Crassier was taken at
once. A man in the London Irish is said to have kicked off a football
from the parapet in this attack and dribbled it across No Man's Land to
the German first lines.[19] The Hohenzollern Redoubt was penetrated,
the Highlanders got to the northern suburbs of Lens, and the front line
passed to the east of the Lens-La Bassée road. But further progress
became impossible, and early in October our front line was for the
time "stabilised" west of the road. The great redoubt still remained
practically in German hands. In this fighting the 47th Division London
Territorials took part, the first complete Cockney division to take the

[19] Buchan, vol. x., p. 174.

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXVI._


 _The British positions at Givenchy, north of the La Bassée Canal,
 looking back from the site of the village. The holding of these
 positions in April, 1918, prevented Ludendorff's final attack from
 reaching Bethune._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXVII._


 _The ruined village as it was left, when the roadways were cleared,
 after the evacuation by the Germans in their retreat in 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXVIII._


 _The temporary lifting bridge over the canal at La Bassée. The
 buildings are, of course, reconstruction. The German newspapers
 proclaimed that the capture of the canal here, in 1915, made the
 result of the war quite certain!_]

[Illustration: _PLATE XXXIX._


 _Pithead work near Hulloch--a fair example of the state to which all
 pit works in the district were reduced before the Germans left._]

Of the Loos episodes there will not be forgotten that which got Piper
Laidlaw, of the 7th K.O.S.B., his V.C., for marching up and down on
the parapet (close to the Cité St. Laurent, a suburb of Lens) with his
pipes until all the men were out of the trenches, and carrying on until
he was himself wounded. Nor will it be easily forgotten how Mdlle.
Moreau, the daughter of a miner, devoted herself, during the first
German occupation, to saving and nursing British wounded soldiers, or
how later on, when we arrived there, she met our entering troops and,
obtaining a rifle, was able to shoot sundry German soldiers who were
attacking wounded men. She lost father and brother during the war. One
is glad to know that she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, and that some
of the soldiers, to whose welfare she was so devoted, regardless of
her own safety, have bought land at Bethune and built a little house
on it where she can carry on business, which one hopes will be most

The zigzag communication trench, which will be familiar to many of
our soldiers (Plate 41), forms a bit of roadside scenery typical of
the country here over which the fighting went on in 1915 and for long
afterwards. Loos itself was afterwards handed over to the French, who
were not, unfortunately, able to retain it. Just beyond Loos, after it
had been regained in 1918, I was stumbling over a bit of ground covered
with all sorts of débris beside what had been lately German trenches,
and which was even then being occasionally enviously shelled, when I
saw growing in a crevice below the brick rubbish a garden pansy. I was,
no doubt, walking over some cottager's garden, but garden and cottage
were all now the same and all equally unrecognisable. The bright little
flower, blowing uninjured at the bottom of its rubbish heap, seemed a
pleasant emblem of the freeing and recovery of France which was just
then coming so near.

Near to my discovery of the heartsease I found some of Colonel Gill's
men in charge of a height-finder. They had comfortable enough quarters
in a German dugout in which I found, and secured as a prize, a little
booklet left behind by its late occupants. It is entitled "Wer da?"
("Who goes there?"), and contains a dozen chapters of a very pious and
didactic kind on the duties of a soldier, his oath, his honour, his
religion, and so on. The chapter on "Der Kriegsherr und der Eid" is
rather pathetic in view of subsequent events. Here is a paragraph from

 "It is thoroughly _altergermanisch_ and entirely in correspondence
 with the character of the German people to follow a King, who
 represents the might of God in earthly things ... who is a father to
 his country and a guide and war-lord to his soldiers. Between this
 prince and the soldiers there exists the most special and intimate
 relationship. He is the head and the heart of the Army; it is his
 shield and his sword. It protects his rights and his sacred person. He
 cares for it and shares its troubles and dangers."

What a cynical comment on this sort of stuff that the precious
Kriegsherr ran away from his country and his beloved army a few weeks
later! Then, again:

 "We speak of '_deutscher Treue_.' It is a national heirloom handed
 down to us from our ancestors.... It shows itself through unbreakable
 adherence to the oath the soldier has made to his Fürsten und

Presumably this particular oath did not belong to the category of
scraps of paper. Ninety-eight pages out of the hundred of which the
book consists are devoted to this sort of statement and exhortation.
But it is only fair to the reverend author to mention that, on the last
two pages, under the heading "_Im Krieg_," he enjoins consideration,
as a matter of "_Christliche Liebe_," for the people of the conquered
countries, ending by an emphatic warning that the soldiers should think
what would happen to their homes if the enemy were not imbued with the
same Christian spirit! Unfortunately, this not very exalted motive for
decent behaviour did not prove itself sufficiently vigorous to have any
effect on the people whose parsons had gloried in the "merriness of
war" four years earlier, when they thought that the fighting would be
over and their own side victorious in a couple of months.

When one passes beside or over miles of No Man's Land, such as looks
picturesque enough in Plate 42, one has to remember that one is not
seeing a miniature landscape of chalk hills, such as would delight any
youngster on Hampstead Heath, but seeing, perhaps, a garden, perhaps a
cottage home, an orchard, a piece of green meadow, turned into ruin by
the Huns. Surely the ghosts of these inanimate things must haunt, with
the ghosts of thousands of innocent men, the people who turned their
neighbour's country, animate and inanimate, from a joyful and living
reality into wilderness and a graveyard!

[Illustration: _PLATE XL._


 _In front of the two long spoil heaps which went by this name the
 opposing trenches were for a long time within a few yards of each
 other. The Double Crassier was taken by us in the Loos battle of
 September, 1915._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLI._


 _A British Communication Trench near Loos. The rising ground in the
 distance is a part of the Lorette Ridge._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLII._


 _Between Hulloch and Lens, a fair example of the destroyed pasture
 land where the churned-up chalk was too near the surface for the
 growth of the weedy vegetation such as appears in Plates XVII and

[Illustration: _PLATE XLIII._


 _The central part of Arras seen from a height. The photograph shows
 what a town looks like even when it is, compared to others, not very
 badly destroyed!_]


(PLATES 43 TO 50.)

Arras was in the possession of the Germans for three days in September,
1914, but they evacuated it in their retreat after the first battle
of the Marne. It was only by very plucky fighting, however, that the
French were able to keep them even a mile or two away, and for a long
time they remained at St. Laurent-Blangy, which is practically in
the north-eastern suburbs of the town. In October, 1914, therefore,
they were only a couple of miles away, and from this short distance
the centre of the city was bombarded severely by heavy artillery. The
beautiful Hôtel de Ville and the belfry were destroyed, and the centre
of the city generally much injured, as the view from above (Plate 43,
an official photograph) shows very painfully. In April, 1916, the
British being then in this zone, Arras was practically "cleared," the
enemy being forced backwards for six miles. In the offensive of March,
1918, the Germans succeeded in getting two miles closer in on the
south, but to the north the 1916 positions were held, and the enemy
was finally driven twelve miles away towards Cambrai in our August
offensive in 1918.

Outside the centre of the city the damage did not appear--when I
first visited it while it was still under occasional long-range
shell-fire--to be nearly so great as in the centre. Many houses were
standing and at least more or less habitable, if windowless, and a
few poor shops in the outskirts had started business. But published
statistics indicate that more than half the houses are damaged beyond
possibility of reconstruction. The cathedral, which is altogether in
ruins (Plate 44), is an eighteenth-century basilica, and is happily not
one of the glories of France. Some of the columns of the main arcade,
standing by themselves with a piece of architrave still remaining in
place, reminded one a little of the two beautiful Roman columns still
standing on the stage of the theatre at Arles. A notice stood beside
the ruins in 1918--I think it is still there--to the effect that it was
intended to leave them unrestored to form an enduring reminder of the
Huns. I hope it is not disrespectful for a great lover of French Gothic
architecture to say that probably this particular building may really
be more impressive in its ruined condition than it can ever have been
when it was standing.

It was really remarkable to find in 1919 that the half-ruined town was
already full of people going to and from the station, and obviously
doing their best to carry on in spite of the surrounding conditions.
We lunched at an hotel showing very many signs of dilapidation, but
obviously serving a very considerable number of customers--quite a
cheering sight.

I am not likely soon to forget a drive from Cambrai to Arras, on a
very dark night, by by-roads which our Engineers had not yet visited,
and while traffic regulations still prohibited even the very feeble
illumination which could be obtained from an official headlamp. But
the discomfort was much mitigated by the pleasure of watching a fine
display of miscellaneous coloured fires to the south of our line, due
to the discovery by our Tommies that the Germans had left large stores
of signal lights behind in their retreat!

On from Arras to Cambrai runs the road which is the continuation of
the Cambrai-Le Cateau road. It goes straight and level over fine
rolling uplands like a Scotch moor, but with grass and herbage
instead of heather, and (in 1918) with endless craters, trenches, and
entanglements, and no hills in sight except the ridges away to the
north left far behind.

The Vimy Ridge (Plate 45) rises at Bailleul, five miles north-east of
Arras, and continues in a north-westerly direction for about the same
distance to Givenchy.[20] It is steep on its eastern side and gently
sloping on the western, and the highest part of the ridge is about 200
feet above the lower land to the east. The height is not great, but is
amply sufficient to give the forces occupying it complete observation
over the surrounding country in all directions. I was on it first on a
brilliant afternoon in 1918, when the Germans were still trying to make
a stand a little east of Lens. Away somewhere in the direction of Douai
a great explosion was followed by a column of white smoke, brilliant
in the sunshine, and spreading out into a huge white flower 3,000 feet
above the ground--clearly a huge German "dump" blown up to prevent it
falling into our hands. Below us a battery of field-guns was pounding
away at the German lines, still only two or three miles beyond them. A
German 'plane came in sight, engaged in the singularly futile business
of dropping "propaganda" literature from a height which kept it out of
the reach of 13-pounders. From away over Lens, where under a dark cloud
the Germans were still trying, in despair, to avoid their Nemesis, came
the dull noise of the fighting. Behind the ridge lay the shell-marked
slopes up which the Canadians rushed in April, 1917, and from which
afterwards even the wild German push of a year later failed to move us.
In the distance behind the ridge towards the west stood the tower of
Mont St. Eloi, battered about in fighting from the fifteenth century to
the nineteenth; and having now again seen the Prussians on the soil of
its country, and surely rejoicing--even as inanimate masonry--when at
last "der Tag" had arrived, and the land had become once more its own,
with peace and victory not far away.

[20] Not to be confused with the Bailleul near Armentières, or the
Givenchy north of the La Bassée Canal, which were much more notable
places in the war.

The capture of the somewhat higher Lorette Ridge (a continuation of the
Vimy Ridge across the gap at Souchez) in 1915 was one of the finest
achievements of the French Army; the position was enormously strong and
most stiffly defended. The ridge, with its commanding observation to
the north, was held against all counter-attacks until the war was over.
The northern portion of the Vimy Ridge, however, which was taken at the
same time, could not be held. It was eventually taken by the Canadians
in April, 1917, under General Byng (now Lord Byng "of Vimy"), after
great preparations, for its possession by the Germans had put us under
much disadvantage. Mining operations on a very great scale formed part
of the scheme of attack. Plate 46 is a view of one of the largest
of the mine craters on the ridge above Neuville St. Vaast, near the
elaborate defences known as the "Labyrinth." The well-concealed German
gun-emplacements below the ridge (of which Plate 47 shows one of a
number at Thelus) had given us great trouble and caused much loss. They
were all taken with the ridge, and henceforth the guns from Vimy fired
in the opposite direction.

Over the country, _très accidentée_, west of the ridge one might
have thought oneself, in 1918, as in some queerly altered part of
England. At all the principal road-crossings men in khaki regulated
the traffic, everywhere were conspicuous public notices in English,
and in the villages the shops exhibited signs such as "Tommy's
House," "Entrée libre," or--very frequently--"Eggs and Chips." But
driving eastwards through this green and pleasant country and the
busy villages one came with startling suddenness and with a drawing
of one's breath upon the wilderness. Here, just as north and east of
Amiens, villages ceased to be; only disconnected bits of brickwork
and general ruin were left, very often not even so much, and nothing
but a large painted signboard with a name on it gave any indication
whatever of the site of a village. Gardens and fields were all one mass
of ragged, chalky shell-holes overgrown with hateful-looking weeds.
Trees had disappeared. Only the roads themselves had been engineered
into something like decent condition by the levelling up of shell-holes
and the clearing away to the sides of brick and timber débris. At a
later time the timber had been utilised either for construction or for
firing, and the bricks were being systematically cleaned and trimmed
and stacked for use in the reconstruction that has been continued since
with ever-increasing rapidity.

The villages--Gavrelle and others--on the Valenciennes road east
of Arras are practically blotted out, but the towns farther east,
which were out of the fighting area, are not much, if at all, damaged
structurally. But no doubt the Germans either destroyed or stole all
the machinery and industrial appliances they could lay their hands on,
in the benevolent desire to ruin French industry for the benefit of
their own, for which Lille and Tournai and Roubaix have had to pay so

From Arras to Lens runs northward the ten miles of straight road,
crossing the Vimy Ridge on the way (Plate 48), down which our people
must have so often looked on the little town which, until the very end
of the war, resisted all attempts of our Allies or of ourselves to
enter it. The photograph was taken from outside Lens, looking towards
the ridge, which forms the higher ground in the distance.

Lens itself, a prosperous little town having in 1914 some 28,000
inhabitants, in the centre of the French coal-mining district, is one
of the many places which, unimportant even within its own country and
quite unknown beyond it, has now become a name familiar over the whole
world. It was occupied by the Germans in October, 1914, and was almost
continually fought for until the British finally entered it four years
later. It became eventually the centre of a very narrow salient which
covered even its suburbs, but the town itself, drenched with gas and
horrible to stay in, held out bravely to the end.

The town is destroyed as thoroughly as Ypres, and more completely than
any other place in France. Some idea of the state of Lens early in 1919
is given by Mr. Basil Mott's photograph (Plate 49), taken when it was
under snow.

The town is too large to be entirely wiped out, as the villages are,
and converted into chalk-pits and shell-holes. But standing on the
mound which once was the Church of St. Léger, or on any other point of
vantage, one saw in 1919 nothing but a waste of bricks and stones and
timber (Plate 50), with no semblance of standing buildings beyond the
sheds which had been put up in some space sufficiently cleared to allow
of their erection. If one had not seen so much appalling destruction
in so many places it would have been unbelievable that a town larger
than Bedford or Doncaster should be as entirely turned into small
fragments as if some gigantic harrow had been drawn across it.

In 1920 I found that a considerable amount of rebuilding had taken
place, although still by far the greater part of the town remained in

To the west of Lens, northwards and southwards, the whole country is
given up to coal-mining. The mines, as everyone knows, were destroyed
wantonly, and with great thoroughness, by the Germans. It must be years
before they can be working fully again, but the French have not lost
much time in taking steps to reinstate them. Even while fighting was
still going on a few miles away, I found that in a large colliery near
Givenchy (Liévin), where an "Archy" section was at work, and where
the whole of the buildings and the pithead work were a mass of ruins,
pumping machinery was already at work, and the water pumped up was
being utilised in the neighbourhood.

In 1920 a good many of the pits were actually at work, and on the roads
one welcomed the familiar sight of miners going to and from their
work. The colliery villages (Liévin is nearly as large as Lens) had at
first sight a very deceptive appearance of substantiality, but closer
inspection showed that what seemed to be uninjured terraces of cottages
were nothing much more than bare and roofless walls. Later on one found
these ruins being blown up in order to clear the ground, as well as to
provide bricks for rebuilding.

General Haig adopted in this neighbourhood, in 1917, a system of
feint attacks which he describes as quite successful in their object,
although they had the disadvantage that they frequently prevented him
from denying German accounts of the bloody repulse of British attacks
which in fact had never occurred at all! The most noteworthy of these
feint attacks took place near Liévin, as to which he says:--

 "On this occasion large numbers of dummy men and some dummy tanks were
 employed, being raised up at zero hour by pulling ropes. These dummies
 drew a heavy fire and were shot to pieces. The Germans duly reported
 that an attack had been annihilated, and that rows of British dead
 could be seen lying before our lines."[21]

[21] Despatches, p. 101.

From Lens eastwards towards Lille the surface destruction diminishes
rapidly. Trees have been cut down (probably in 1918), but cultivation
seems to have gone on uninterruptedly--for the benefit of the invader,
of course--during the war.

[Illustration: _PLATE XLIV._


 _Ruins which it has been proposed to leave in their present condition,
 if they will stand, as a memorial of the once too near neighbourhood
 of the Germans._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLV._


 _This Ridge, between Arras and Lens, is several miles in length,
 and over 200 feet above the surrounding country. Its possession
 was therefore of extraordinary value for observation and artillery
 purposes. We captured it in April, 1917, and the Germans were never
 able to recover it. The very similar Lorette Ridge, taken earlier by
 the French, forms a continuation of it some six miles long, towards
 the north-west._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLVI._


 _One of the mine craters blown on the Vimy Ridge as a first step in
 the attack which captured the Ridge in 1917._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLVII._


 _One of the German gun emplacements on the north of the Vimy Ridge
 which, being outside our direct observation, made it so important that
 the Ridge should be taken._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLVIII._


 _From the Vimy Ridge (seen in the distance in the photograph) our men
 could look straight along the four miles of road to Lens; but it was
 eighteen months after the capture of the Ridge that they actually got
 possession of what was left of the town._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XLIX._


 _The wilderness that was once Lens, as it appeared early in 1919._]

[Illustration: _PLATE L._


 _Later on in 1919 some sheds and temporary buildings were to be seen
 wherever space had been cleared for their erection. Another visit some
 months later showed that very much progress had been made in the way
 of reconstruction, but of course, as a whole, the town is still a mass
 of ruins._]


(PLATES 51 TO 66.)

I have been able to traverse several times since the war the great
stretch of country in Picardy which is generally spoken of at home as
"the Somme"--country over which much of our hardest fighting took place
in 1916 and 1918, and where thousands of our brave men are now lying.
We became only too familiar with the names of places within it, which
might have peacefully remained for centuries more in the happy oblivion
in which they had rested for centuries past, had not the war waves
broken upon them and destroyed them while making them immortal. Much of
the country had been so completely devastated that there was nothing in
it or on it to show in a picture--nothing beyond an irregular expanse
of ground broken everywhere into shell-holes and covered over with an
untidy wild herbage of rank weeds. But the interest of this country to
all of us at home--and "at home" in this case more than ever includes
the homes overseas--is so close and so poignant that it is probably
worth while to add here some little description of the characteristics
of the great area which we call "the Somme," and the positions of the
places which we fought over.

In the thirty miles from Amiens to Péronne the Somme runs from east to
west in a narrow valley, with eight immense double bends round spurs
which project alternately from the higher country (some 200 feet above
the river-level) on the north and south. The main road eastwards from
Amiens lies south of the river, and rises gradually to the higher
level at Villers Bretonneux, about ten miles from the city, and then
continues dead straight and nearly level, till it drops again at Brie
(twenty-nine miles from Amiens), to the Somme valley, after the river
has taken its sharp bend to the south at Péronne, which is four miles
north of Brie. As one goes eastwards from Amiens the route becomes more
and more war-worn. At first the ordinary avenues of trees still stand,
farther on the trees become fewer and fewer, and finally disappear
entirely (Plate 51), and a region of total destruction is reached,
where only rough indications remain of the sites of the villages.

But in 1919 I found German prisoners at work filling up shell-holes
(the French and ourselves did not make prisoners dig front-line
trenches), levelling the ground, and clearing up generally, and some
reoccupation of land had already started, peasants and "store"-keepers
living in such temporary bungalows as they could construct. Somehow or
other the owners of different strips of land along the road seemed to
have discovered which particular strip belonged to each one, ploughing
was already going on, and cultivation had been started in quite a
number of places.

The river itself lies always too low down in its valley to be visible
from the road, from which the view to the north looks right over to
the high ground between the Somme and the Ancre. The Avre, coming from
Montdidier and Moreuil in the south, falls into the Somme close to
Amiens, and the Ancre, coming from Albert in the north, joins the main
river at Corbie, four miles north of Villers Bretonneux.

Albert is about eighteen miles north-east of Amiens by a straight
road through Pont Noyelles, which continues to Bapaume, eleven miles
farther. On the high ground between the Ancre and the Albert-Bapaume
road stood Thiepval and the German redoubts, and on the Bapaume road
itself Pozières, Courcelette, and Warlencourt.

In the angle between the Albert-Bapaume road and the northern bank
of the Somme every village and every wood became part of a tragic
history--Mametz, Contalmaison, Longueval, Guillemont, Combles, with
Trones Wood, Delville Wood, and the others. South of the Somme and
between the river and the road lie Hamel and Chuignes, while on the
main road itself, east of Villers Bretonneux, once stood the villages
of Warfusée (Lamotte), Estrées, Villers Carbonnel, and others, while
the town of Péronne--protected by Mont St. Quentin on the north and by
the Somme and a tributary on the other three sides--lies just at the
bend. South of the road and in the triangle between it and the Avre
lie the uplands on which, very generally, the French were fighting to
the right (south) of the British, and in which the village names are
therefore less familiar to us than those farther north.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first battle of the Somme commenced on the 1st of July, 1916,
and lasted, with more or less quiescent intervals, until the late
autumn. British and French were fighting side by side--the British on
the northern half, from the Upper Ancre to the Albert-Péronne road;
the French to their right, facing Péronne, crossing the Somme, and
extending southward as far as Chaulnes.

The German defences in the north, which had been under construction for
more than a year, were enormously strong, the "first line" alone being
a maze of trenches half a mile wide.

Their position stretched southward from below Arras to Gommécourt,
and covered Beaumont-Hamel and the heights east of the Ancre valley,
crossed the Albert-Bapaume road two miles north of Albert, passed
eastwards through Fricourt, crossed the Somme some miles short of
Péronne, and then ran southwards west of Chaulnes. The story of the
fighting, both French and British, as it can be read even in Lord
Haig's official despatches, and still more in the unofficial accounts,
is a continuous record of episodes every one of which would have been
called Homeric in any other war, but which in this gigantic struggle
seem to have become ordinary events. The ordinary civilian of common
life from workshop or warehouse or office or studio turned out to be
in essence exactly the same being as the noble and adventurous heroes
of the stories and histories of our youth. And while he would grumble
seriously about his baths or his meat or his shaving facilities, he
would yet go into action cheerfully without hesitation, although he
knew well enough the horror of his own work and the great chance that
he might never return.

The village of Mametz (Plate 53), like nearly all the villages in "the
Somme," has disappeared; it was among those taken by the British on the
first day of the battle. It was in this attack that East Surrey men
are said to have gone forward dribbling footballs, some of which they
recovered in German trenches, in front of them.[22]

[22] O'Neill, "History of the War," p. 604.

The French on our right got within a mile or two of Péronne, but its
defences were too strong and it was not actually captured until 1918.

Trones Wood (Plate 54) was cleared early in July. Here a small body
of 170 men of the Royal West Kents and Queens[23] held out all night,
completely surrounded, until relieved the next morning. Delville Wood
(Plate 55) was captured the next day. The fighting in these woods
has left nothing of them but churned-up ground and a few bare stems,
although the rank undergrowth makes some of them appear quite green
from a distance. Combles (Plate 56) was not taken until the 26th of
September, when the British and French entered the town simultaneously
(from the north and the south respectively), and captured a company
which had not been able to get clear away in time. The little town is
not so entirely wrecked as many other places, but the house which is
shown under reconstruction in the photograph is perhaps one of the
least damaged.

[23] Haig's Despatches, p. 29.

Thiepval and the redoubts on the Thiepval plateau were not finally
secured until November. The Germans had said beforehand that we "would
bite granite" in trying to take them. We did bite granite, but our
teeth proved the harder.

Along the Albert-Bapaume road the villages of Pozières and Courcelette
have disappeared altogether. Sometimes a big iron gate, or half a gate,
or a stone gatepost, shows where an entrance once existed to some
more or less pretentious mansion, but the building itself has gone
entirely, and its site is grown over with rank herbage, which hides
every indication even of where the house once stood. The whole Thiepval
plateau is now a wilderness of weedy vegetation, and the weeds seem to
have swallowed up the redoubts altogether, as well as Thiepval itself.

The defences on the Upper Ancre still barred the way to Bapaume along
the road by Le Sars and the Butte de Warlencourt (Plate 57).[24] The
Butte was the centre of the German position, as strongly protected by
trenches and wire as even the Thiepval plateau itself. Fierce attacks
in October and November, 1916, failed to secure it, and the chalky
hillock was only finally taken in February, 1917. It now carries five
crosses erected in memory of the units which fought there.

[24] This view is taken looking eastwards towards Bapaume, with the
Butte on the south side of the road.

The mud, our chief enemy, made active operations impossible for a time.
It was an even worse enemy than the Germans. General Haig says[25] that
the trenches were channels of deep mud and the roads almost impassable,
making all problems of supply most serious. General Maurice calls
it, later on, a "morass of stinking mud." We were, in fact, at that
time--and at other times as well--fighting the elements as well as the
Germans. On the 17th of March, 1917, however (after the Warlencourt
Ridge had been carried), Bapaume itself, which had been systematically
destroyed by the Germans before they evacuated it, was at last entered.

[25] Despatches, p. 47.

Bapaume in 1919 was, like Albert, being rapidly reinhabited, and the
new buildings (perhaps due to their being closer to the main road) were
more in evidence than in most other places.

The villages north of Bapaume on the Arras road (Behagnies, Ervillers,
and others) are, like those nearer the Somme, practically wiped out.
But here, also, peasants and small shopkeepers were returning "home,"
and sheltering themselves as best they could in some sort of hutments.

On the 17th of March, 1917, also, the Germans having just commenced
their great retirement, Mont St. Quentin was taken, and the next day
Péronne itself. Plate 58 shows the dry bed of the Nord Canal where
the road crosses it just at the rise on the back (north) of Mont St.
Quentin. Plate 59 shows the ruin of the Church of St. Jean at Péronne.
The little town itself, originally of about 5,000 inhabitants, was
in parts systematically burnt and destroyed by mines by the Germans
before they evacuated it in 1917, and further damaged by Franco-British
shell-fire in 1918. On the spot I was told that the great church had
been among the buildings deliberately burnt by the Germans; in any
case it is now, like the rest of the town, a mere ruin. The outrages
perpetrated by the Germans in their masterly retreat in 1917 extended
across the whole area of the retirement (see Plate 119), and have been
sufficiently described, so far as it has been possible in any decent
paper to describe them. But the burnt and shattered houses were not the
matters, bad as they were, which caused the intense feeling of loathing
in addition to anger among the French, when they were at last able to
return to their desecrated homes.

For a year after March, 1917, the Somme area ceased to be fought
over, as the German retirement in 1917 had removed them far to the
east. A year later the tables were turned, when on the 21st of March
Ludendorff's great attack, cleverly directed against our weakest spot,
began to drive us back from St. Quentin towards Amiens, and succeeded
so rapidly that on the 23rd the Germans were at Péronne and on the 25th
near Estrées, three miles east of the Somme on the Amiens road. On the
25th our Allies, on our right, had been compelled to fall back as far
as Noyon. At this critical moment there was got together surely the
most remarkable auxiliary force that a British General has ever had
under his command. General Haig says:

 "As the result of a conference on the 25th of March, a mixed force,
 including details, stragglers, schools personnel, tunnelling
 companies, army troops companies, field survey companies, and
 Canadian and American Engineers, had been got together and organised
 by General Grant, the Chief Engineer to the Fifth Army."[26]

[26] Haig's Despatches, p. 205.

The line on which this "mixed force" was placed passed through Warfusée
(Plate 60). Some of the men collected were Engineer civilians with no
previous training, and no knowledge of rifle-shooting. I have been told
that they were pronounced most plucky, "but somewhat dangerous"! In
the result, however, they did yeoman service in helping to hold back
the onslaught until the distant reserves could arrive and until the
attackers had eventually exhausted themselves.

On the next day came the historic conference at Doullens, which
resulted in the appointment of General Foch in supreme control of the
united forces (p. 3). But General Haig found it necessary to withdraw
his troops still farther, and the German advance was finally checked
only at Warfusée-Ablancourt, some ruins of which appear in Plate 60.
The enemy never succeeded in reaching the crest of the high ground from
which he could so completely have commanded Amiens (p. 38), although
he was able to hold Villers Bretonneux, after a new attack on the 24th
of April, for a few hours, after which he was turned out by the Anzacs
and never got back. It was in this attack that British tanks met German
tanks and beat them.

It was not until the 8th of August, 1918, after Foch had carried on
his successful attacks on the Marne Salient for three weeks, that the
great counter-attack on the Somme was fully started, although before
that day there had been some important gains. Especially had a notable
combination of Australians, Americans, and Tanks had a great success on
the 4th of July, after a heavy barrage, in capturing Hamel, a village
on the Somme just north of Warfusée. Both the Australians and the Tank
Corps have given picturesque accounts of this fighting, with a somewhat
amusing preference, in each case, for the service with which the
writer is connected. It was here that the Australians are credited with
having pronounced their new colleagues from across the Atlantic to be
"good lads, but too rough"!

Most elaborate (and successful) precautions[27] had been taken to make
sure that the attack of the 8th of August (Ludendorff's "black day")
should be a surprise. In spite of all these precautions, some anxiety
may have been felt by those who knew that a sergeant, who was well
acquainted with everything that was on foot, had been taken prisoner
by the Germans a few days before. Oddly enough, the minutes of the
cross-examination of this N.C.O. were afterwards captured, and it was
found that, like a plucky Englishman, he had given nothing whatever

[27] See Haig's Despatches, p. 259.

[28] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, vol. vi., p. 30.

Villers Bretonneux had been throughout in our possession, but only
its ruins were standing, the one "hotel" which I found there in 1919
being a tarpaulin-covered shed (Plate 61) calling itself the "Hôtel des
Trois Moineaux," and bearing a cryptic message from "Toto" which I am
unable to explain. The first day's advance swept far beyond Warfusée,
just south of which the village of Marcelcave was captured by a tank
whose Lieutenant demanded--and obtained--a receipt from the Australians
before he would hand over his spoils to them. Abreast of Foucaucourt
(Plate 52) and between it and the Somme lies Chuignes, where the
Australian advance captured a 380-mm. gun on an elaborate emplacement,
which had been put in position, but I believe too late to be used,
for the purpose of a long-range bombardment of Amiens. The gun was
dismantled before we reached it, and lies on the ground shorn of some
10 feet of its muzzle end, which had been cut off by its captors to
send home as a "souvenir."

The Chipilly spur (Plate 62), north of Warfusée on the north side of
the river, caused some heavy fighting, but was taken by the Londoners
on the second day of the advance, with the help of two companies of
Americans who are said to have lost touch with their own division and
to have been quite ready to lend a hand in any fighting that was going
on. The photograph gives some idea of the river itself at a place where
it is navigable over a great breadth. Cappy (Plate 63) is a little
farther upstream, where the river has divided itself into various
channels, the particular one seen being the navigable canal, the rest
of the river spreading over a quarter of a mile of marsh land to the
north bank.

The land beside the Amiens-Péronne road becomes more and more ruined
as one goes eastwards. Plate 51 shows something of what the actual
road looks like, but no picture can indicate the state of the land
itself, the country that was once fertile fields and farms. On my last
visit (early in 1920) it was pleasant, but pathetic, to see that many
peasants had somehow been able to find out which strip had been theirs
before the war, and had built themselves hutments--they could hardly
be called houses--in which they could at any rate live beside the land
which they loved and which they are trying once more to cultivate.
Towards Villers Carbonnel the countryside shows itself as more and
more destroyed. Plate 64 (an officially taken photograph) indicates
the appearance of that village immediately after we passed through it
in 1918 and before the clearing-up work had commenced. A little later
the broken woodwork would be collected for firing and the bricks from
the fallen walls (if enough were left) would be trimmed and stacked
ready for use again in making such dwellings as will anyhow make it
possible for the peasants to get back again. In France they do not wait
for trade union permissions, or "skilled" labour, or the sanitary (and
other) regulations of County Councils, but go straight ahead and build.
It seems certainly the best way of getting houses.

General Haig tells us how in March, 1917, when we were trying to keep
up with the retreating Germans along this road, the part of it between
Villers Carbonnel and the Somme at Brie was almost knee-deep in mud,
so that it took the troops sixteen hours to cover the last four and a
half miles. The difficulty of this crossing can be well understood
by everyone who has seen the breadth and character of the flat marshy
ground which, over a great part of the distance from Amiens, represents
the bottom of the Somme valley. Some indication of the difficulty of
troops crossing the river can be gathered from Plate 65, which is taken
from below Cléry, close to the point at which the Australians crossed
the river on the 31st of August, 1918, and made the magnificent attack
on Mont St. Quentin, which resulted in the capture of Péronne the next
day, and earned such warm praise from the Commander-in-Chief.[29]

[29] Haig's Despatches, p. 270.

The Château of Brie (Plate 66) lies on the Somme only half a mile
south of the crossing of the main road from Amiens to St. Quentin,
and therefore some four miles south of the great bend of the river
at Péronne. On the 27th of September, 1918, it was the scene of a
wonderful dress rehearsal for the crossing of the Hindenburg Line at
the St. Quentin Canal two days later (see p. 58). Rafts, collapsible
boats and life-lines, and some of the 3,000 life-belts which had been
hurried up from the coast, were all tested, to make sure that there
should be neither hesitation nor failure in their use in the attack on
the "absolutely impregnable" section. And, as everyone knows, there
_was_ neither hesitation nor failure; the St. Quentin Canal was carried
by the Terriers on the appointed day, and with this success, and the
crossing of the "Kriemhilde" Line by the Americans in the middle of
October, the last standing places for the retreating German armies

On the road east of the Somme from Brie to Péronne one saw a curious
phenomenon which I seldom saw elsewhere, and cannot explain. In
some way the trees in the felled avenue had been able to reassert
their life, and for a considerable distance the road was lined in an
unsightly fashion with what looked like gigantic bushes growing out of
the stumps of the once tall and beautiful trees.

I have said nothing in this section as to Amiens itself; it had serious
enough troubles, although it was never in the fighting zone, having
been evacuated by the Germans after only ten days' occupation in
September, 1914. That time, however, was sufficient for a requisition
of half a million francs to be enforced, and for a number of civilians
to be deported.

Some parts of the city, including the railway-station, were seriously
damaged by bombing and by heavy shells, and the city suffered much from
April to June in 1918. The civilian inhabitants left it early in April.
Several shells hit the cathedral, and houses within a few yards of it
are entirely wrecked, but happily very little damage was done to the
structure itself, from which the stained glass had been safely removed.

[Illustration: _PLATE LI._


 _A stretch, close to Villers Carbonnel, of the main road from Amiens
 towards Brie and Péronne, which lies on the high country above the
 Somme. What was once the avenue of trees is even here not so entirely
 destroyed as in many other places._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LII._


 _The remains of a church beside the Somme road._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LIII._


 _The village of Mametz has practically disappeared; the immediate
 foreground covers what had once been cottages; the cottages on the
 other side have equally disappeared. (The cross is a war memorial.)_]

[Illustration: _PLATE LIV._


 _Shell-holes, chalk trenches and bare trunks are all that remain of
 the wood, the trunks much more numerous than in the Ypres Salient._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LV._


 _There is here less than in Trones Wood of chalky holes, everything
 is thickly covered with rank weeds, but along the roadsides even the
 stumps of the trees disappear after a short distance._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LVI._


 _Remembering the amount of fighting which went on round Combles before
 the French and the British entered the village simultaneously from
 opposite sides, there are possibly more buildings left than might
 have been expected. They are mostly, however, even more damaged than
 the one which is here being examined by its owner with a view to

[Illustration: _PLATE LVII._


 _The road from Albert to Bapaume by Le Sars. The chalky mound on the
 right is the Butte de Warlencourt, the end of the Warlencourt Ridges,
 which was the scene of some notably plucky fighting in November,

[Illustration: _PLATE LVIII._


 _A bridge, not entirely destroyed by the Germans, over the dry bed of
 the Canal du Nord, where its course circles round the rising ground
 known as Mont St. Quentin, which formed so important a defence for
 Péronne on the north._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LIX._


 _The Church of St. Jean at Péronne, according to people on the spot,
 was deliberately destroyed by the Germans before they were compelled
 finally to evacuate the town._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LX._


 _This little village church, on the Somme road, was just at the
 cross-roads leading to Hamel in one direction and Marcelcave in the
 other, both villages having some special interest both for Australians
 and Americans and for the Tank Corps, in the advance of August, 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXI._


 _The village had a notable history as the vantage-point over Amiens
 which was the special objective of the Germans in March and April,
 1918, but which they only succeeded once in holding for twenty-four
 hours. The Hotel of the Three Sparrows was the only one which I found
 in 1919._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXII._


 _A little salient of rising ground on the north of the Somme, filling
 up a bend in the river, taken by the Londoners after very hard
 fighting in August, 1918, with the friendly aid of a few Americans
 who are said to have lost their bearings, but were ready for a fight
 wherever they found themselves._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXIII._


 _One of the many destroyed villages along the Somme. The water here is
 only the canalised branch of the river, the rest of the stream spreads
 itself out to the north on the flat valley bottom._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXIV._


 _An official photograph of the village just after we had passed it
 and before the débris was tidied up. The aspect of solidity about the
 cottages is much more apparent than real. In 1919 scarcely anything
 was visible which could be called a building._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXV._


 _Cléry lies a little north of Péronne and below the great bend of the
 Somme. The photograph gives some idea of the difficulties which we had
 to encounter in getting an army across the river at Brie, and which
 the Australians had to meet, close to Cléry, in the memorable crossing
 on the 31st of August, 1918, after which they were able the next day
 to take Mont St. Quentin and enter Péronne._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXVI._


 _At Brie the road from Amiens crosses the Somme, continuing on to the
 east for St. Quentin, and turning north to Péronne._

 _It was here that the trials were made--on the Somme--in September,
 1918, of the various appliances used two days later in the audacious
 crossing of the deep water forming a part of the Hindenburg Line at
 the St. Quentin Canal, which proved so splendidly successful._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXVII._


 _At a little village (Lahoussoye), beyond Pont Noyelles on the road to
 Albert, stands, or stood, this dilapidated barn, carrying the scrawl
 written by some cheerful "Tommy"--"Pessimists shot on sight."_]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXVIII._


 _An official photograph of one of the main entries to the town just
 after we had regained it in August, 1918. This photograph, and also
 Plate LXIX, may well be compared with Plates LXXIX and LXXXVIII, as
 showing the original naked devastation by contrast with the state of
 places after the sappers had been at work, and the inhabitants had
 begun to return._]


(PLATES 67 TO 73.)

Half a dozen miles from Amiens on the road to Albert one crosses the
valley of a little stream at Pont Noyelles--an untouched valley,
beautiful with tall trees and green meadows like a bit of Middlesex.
The road climbs the combe on the eastern bank, and a little farther on
crosses the narrow space "that just divides the desert from the sown."
Onwards on the high ground from this point all greenness and beauty
have disappeared, every tree has gone, and at one bound is reached the
"desert" which covers thousands of square miles to east and north and
south. Close to the point of change it was cheering to come across the
inscription (Plate 67), doubtless scrawled by some plucky "Tommy" in
the bad spring days of 1918, "Pessimists shot on sight." One hopes that
the cheerful artist got through safely; it was just his spirit that
gave the army that final victory which they believed in as strongly in
our worst hours as at any other time.

The French had compelled the Germans to leave Albert in December, 1914,
and it remained in the hands of the Allies until the German advance in
1918, when it was captured on the 27th of March. It was finally retaken
by us on the 22nd of August. The little industrial town, originally
containing some 7,000 inhabitants, was severely shelled during years
by the Germans, and then for four months by ourselves, and reduced
absolutely to ruins. Plate 68 is one of those officially taken, and
gives a vivid idea of the condition of one of the principal streets of
approach just after we had retaken it.

In April of 1919 (Plate 69)[30] it remained a ruin, and even a year
later it could hardly be otherwise described. (I believe that Plates
68 and 69 correspond to nearly the same places.) But motoring through
it some nine months after the Armistice, while it was still to all
appearance very much in the condition indicated by the photographs, we
were practically held up about 10 o'clock in the forenoon by a stream
of some hundreds of people, carrying bags and all sorts of receptacles,
making their way towards the railway-station. They must no doubt have
found, somewhere, shelter enough to live and sleep in in cellars or
otherwise, in spite of the destruction, and were on their way to Amiens
to lay in supplies.

[30] From a negative taken by Mr. Basil Mott.

It was on the tower of the pilgrimage Church of Notre Dame de Brebières
that there stood for so long a statue of the Madonna in a position
which appeared to defy gravity, and which provoked the prophecy that
its fall would indicate the end of the war. The prophecy was not
exactly fulfilled, but the great heap of rubbish in front of the church
(Plate 70) is all that was left of the tower after our shelling of the
town in 1918.

The road northwards from Albert to Miraumont (Plate 71) runs in the
broad marshy valley of the River Ancre. The valley was originally
thickly wooded, but was in 1918 covered with fallen tree-trunks, and
Plate 72, which was taken close to Aveluy, gives some idea of its
appearance. The ground on each side of the valley rises somewhat
steeply for some 300 feet. The high ground on the east of the valley
is that on which Thiepval and the German redoubts lay. On the west,
farther north, lie Beaucourt, Beaumont-Hamel, and Miraumont, all of
which were repeatedly the scenes of very heavy fighting. Beaucourt and
Beaumont-Hamel were taken only at the very end of the 1916 campaign, in
a short spell of possible weather.[31] Haig describes the defences here
as of special and enormous strength.

[31] Haig's Despatches, p. 50.

At Beaumont-Hamel there was literally hand-to-hand fighting of the most
severe kind. Mr. O'Neill describes the action graphically:

 "On many occasions sandwiches of Scots and Germans wrestled and strove
 in the constricted space.... Bodies of men were prisoners and captors
 many times over before the struggle approached a decision.... In the
 midst of the fighting vast stores were tapped, and the men began to
 smoke as they went about their business. Some of them found time to
 change their underclothing when a large supply of spare shirts was

[32] O'Neill, "History of the War," p. 664.

And these men were not even the "Contemptibles," but only "mercenaries"
who had been civilians till a year or so before! Truly the German
preconceived notions as to the British must have suffered rude shocks.

Plate 73 (again from an official photograph) was taken after the 1918
fighting, which covered episodes as noteworthy as those of four years
earlier. The photograph is taken from a point near the "cross-roads" at
Beaumont-Hamel, looking across the Ancre valley to the northern (lower)
end of the Thiepval Ridge, and beyond it to the higher ground on which
Bapaume stands.

The final attack across the Ancre began under Thiepval, when troops
of the 14th Welsh crossed the river, wading breast deep through the
flooded stream under heavy fire, holding their rifles and pouches
above their heads, and formed up in the actual process of a German
counter-attack, along the line held by the two companies who had
crossed the previous morning.[33] A day later a part of the 64th
Brigade (New Zealanders) started at 11.30 p.m. on a pitch-dark night,
crossed the valley, and gained and held positions, half surrounded,
until the covering troops arrived. This was on the slope near Miraumont
seen across the valley in Plate 73.

[33] Haig's Despatches, p. 268.

[Illustration: _PLATE LXIX._


 _The ruins of Albert under snow in the early spring of 1919._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXX._


 _The great heap of stone and brick rubbish was once the tower on
 which stood for a long time a statue of the Madonna at an angle which
 appeared to defy gravity. I am afraid that it was our shelling in 1918
 which eventually brought it down._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXI._


 _The road along the Ancre Valley, entering Albert from the north._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXII._


 _The swampy, but once well wooded, valley of the Ancre, with the
 Thiepval Ridge as its farther bank._]


(PLATES 74 TO 78.)

In the northern outskirts of the Forest of St. Gobain, a couple of
miles from the village of Crépy, and about seven miles east of La Fère
and the Oise, are to be found the remains of the emplacement (Plate 74)
of the "Grosse Bertha," the gun which bombarded Paris from a distance
of about seventy-four miles. On the spot we were told that there had
been three guns, or at any rate three emplacements, but that the other
emplacements were still more completely destroyed than the one which I
have photographed. The guns and gun-carriages were, of course, removed
by the Germans before we could reach them. We know, however, that the
shell was about 8 inches in diameter and was fired from a large naval
gun, probably similar to the gun captured at Chuignes (p. 45), lined up
for the small shell. The stories that some mysterious new ballistics
were involved in the matter were, of course, entirely "buncombe." But
naturally the trajectory of a shell travelling more than seventy miles
was a matter of interest to all artillerymen. It must have reached
a height of something like five-and-twenty miles, and our knowledge
of atmospheric conditions at that height is somewhat limited. The
alignment of the gun, with the allowances for wind and drift, must have
been very accurately calculated and carried out, for even the whole of
Paris is not a large target under such exceptional circumstances.

It will not be forgotten, as a characteristic piece of German
mentality--or brutality--that this gun was used on Good Friday (the
29th of March, 1918), and a shell burst in a Paris church during
service and killed many of the congregation. But the Parisians, after
the first shock, were to be as little scared by Bertha as the Londoners
by the Zepps.

Crossing the Forest of St. Gobain--which had been continuously within
the German lines--by the very worst stretches of road which I found
anywhere, even in Flanders--I came across a German O.P. (Plate 75)
in a tall tree. The forest itself is very fine, quite untouched by
shell-fire, but the group of large, pleasant-looking country houses at
St. Gobain itself have been much injured. Farther south reconstruction
was in rapid progress. At the little manufacturing town of Chauny
(half-way to Noyon) we found the odd condition of affairs that half the
town had been entirely destroyed and the other half--the division was
quite a sharp one--almost untouched.

In the early part of the war--September, 1914--when the French
occupied Péronne, there was hard fighting about Noyon; at that time
the Germans were too strong and the French had to fall back, but they
both recovered and relost it later on. In 1917 they took Noyon once
more during the great German retirement, but again it passed into
German hands during the March advance in 1918, to be abandoned finally
by the enemy on the 29th of August. After changing hands so often it
is not to be wondered at that the town is a good deal damaged. It is
not, however, totally destroyed. The cathedral (Plate 76) is a building
dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with very interesting
architectural features. It has been greatly injured by shell-fire, roof
and vaulting having mostly gone and the towers being much damaged.

Toward the end of their great advance in 1918 the Germans succeeded
(on the 28th of March) in crossing the little River Doms (a southern
tributary of the Avre), on which Montdidier (Plate 77) stands, and this
little town, which was entirely ruined (but by this time is largely
rebuilt), formed the south-western apex of their advance. Farther
north, on the Avre itself, they took Moreuil and Morisel on the 29th of
March, and within the next few days crossed the river and reached--from
there southwards to Montdidier--the higher ground on the west of the
valley, which forms the background in Plate 78. They were here, for
the time, about ten miles south-east of Amiens, just as beyond Villers
Bretonneux they were the same distance west. The photograph shows how
exceedingly thin the coating of soil over the chalk in this district
is, all the shell-holes (they are quite small) showing up like patches
of snow. The little Avre River runs under the line of trees in the
distance at the foot of the higher ground which the Germans had reached.

The main road southwards in the Avre valley lies here for a long
distance between banks which are still riddled with German dugouts and
French defences dating from the fighting of 1918.

Five days after Foch had started the great counter-offensive in July
the German lines here were attacked by French troops, with some British
tanks in aid, and were driven back to the Avre. The attack was in many
ways a notable one, perhaps especially for the tanks, but was only a
preliminary before the great advance of the 8th of August (p. 44),
when at one bound the Avre was passed and the Germans pushed six miles

Montdidier was surrounded by the French three days later, its garrison
surrendered, and the great advance continued its inexorable progress.

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXIII._


 _An official photograph taken from near the cross-roads at
 Beaumont-Hamel looking across the Ancre Valley to the northern part of
 the Thiepval Ridge, towards Miraumont._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXIV._


 _All that is left of an emplacement of the "Grosse Bertha," one of the
 guns in the St. Gobain Forest between La Fère and Laon, which shelled
 Paris from a distance of about seventy-four miles._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXV._


 _The St. Gobain Forest was in German hands throughout the war; the
 photograph shows a German O.P. in a tall tree on high ground which
 would command the Oise valley in the direction of Chauny._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXVI._


 _The fine twelfth-century Cathedral of Noyon is even more entirely
 ruined, throughout much of its length, than the Cathedral of Soissons,
 and very much more than Rheims._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXVII._


 _This little town was the farthest south point reached by the Germans
 in their Somme advance of 1918. It lies on the Doms, which is
 practically a continuation of the Avre._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXVIII._


 _The chalk here, just below Moreuil, is so near the surface that the
 shell-holes still looked like snow patches more than a year after they
 had been formed. The ground shown is that of the French counter-attack
 (with English tanks) a few days before the advance on the Somme in
 August, 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXIX._


 _A portion of the Place d'Armes in Cambrai, burnt deliberately by the
 Germans in their final evacuation, after there had been time to clear
 away the débris with which it had been covered._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXX._


 _The tower of the modern Cathedral of Notre Dame at Cambrai appears
 to stand, in its upper part, in defiance of all theories of stable
 construction in masonry._]


(PLATES 79 TO 87.)

West of Cambrai and south to St. Quentin lay over thirty miles of the
strongest part of the Hindenburg Line, that "granite wall of 24,000
square kilometres." The southern end of the much-talked-of "Switch
Line" at Quéant, ten miles west of Cambrai, had been forced by the
First and Third Armies on the 2nd of September, 1918, but the defence
was still strong, and it was only on the 10th of October that I was
greeted, on arriving at Colonel Gill's quarters, with the welcome
news that Cambrai had just fallen. Two days later I was able to visit
the city. The central part (Plate 79) was still burning, having been
fired by the Germans on their evacuation, but it was possible to get
round by the suburbs; only an occasional shell still reached the
town. (It is hardly necessary to say that the photograph, taken many
months later, shows the Place d'Armes only after it had been cleared
up, and not in the state in which it was when the city was entered.)
The railway-station was destroyed, the windows of most houses had
disappeared, and walls were cracked everywhere. But on the whole the
destruction (obviously largely due to bombing as well as shell-fire)
was not nearly so complete or so irreparable as at Rheims or Ypres or
Lens. The tower of the cathedral (Plate 80), a church rebuilt about
sixty years ago, looks as if it could hardly stand permanently. There
were many houses in the suburbs which, although much damaged, could
be made habitable without very serious difficulty. But it is to be
remembered that the wanton destruction of household property, down
to the very toys of the children, must have caused the returning
inhabitants here and in many other places even more intense feeling
about the invaders than the mere destruction of the houses themselves,
which had come to be recognised as an inevitable consequence of the
state of war, and might, in fact, have been caused by combatants on
either side.

I have before me an airplane plan of Cambrai, which I obtained from the
First Army in 1918 and which is an excellent example of the great skill
and success we had obtained in aerial surveys. As it is printed it is
very nearly a map on a scale of 6 inches to the mile, although it is a
mosaic of prints from eight or nine different negatives, taken, as the
direction of the shadows shows, at at least four different times. But
the joins between the different prints are in many cases invisible,
and the map as a whole only wants the names of the streets to make it

West of Cambrai, about four miles on the road to Bapaume, and on a
little rising ground, stands the Bourlon Wood, which has for us a
history perhaps even more tragic than that of the woods north of the
Somme. The full story of our attempt to take Cambrai in November,
1917, the first accounts of which induced foolish authorities to
have "joybells" rung (a proceeding which they must have bitterly
regretted afterwards), is given in Haig's Despatches (pp. 153-171).
The large-scale map by which it is accompanied shows how we gained
the wood, and were, in fact, close to Cambrai for a week, but a week
later had lost nearly the whole of our gains. The photograph (Plate
81) is taken from the village at the north-west corner of the wood,
the farthest point which we reached on the 23rd-24th November. It was
in this fighting that a small party of East Surreys were rescued after
having held out, surrounded, for forty-eight hours, while later on a
company of the 13th Essex, entirely surrounded and without hope of
relief, fought to the last man rather than surrender. Bourlon Wood was
only recovered, in our final great advance, on the 27th of September,

The road from Cambrai to Le Cateau, the scene of so much fighting both
in August, 1914, and in October, 1918 (see p. 78), runs eastwards
from Cambrai. I was able to visit a number of the villages south of
the road in October, 1918 (finding in some houses the hastily left
meals of their late German occupants), while fighting still continued
a few miles farther north, and was surprised to find that they were
very little injured in spite of the indications of heavy barrage over
the face of the ground. The fighting here had gone over the ground too
rapidly to leave behind it the fearful trail of destruction which is
everywhere visible on the land where fighting was continuous for many
weeks, or even months, together.

The south-eastern suburbs of Cambrai and the villages on that side
of the town show no very extensive signs of destruction, but on
the south-west and farther to the south, where the fighting across
the Hindenburg Line was so severe, everything is destroyed. West
of Cambrai, and for many miles to the south, lay the part of the
Hindenburg defences known as the Siegfried Line, the strongest section
of which, and that part deemed by the Germans to be practically
impregnable, included the deep cutting of the canal between Bellicourt
(Riqueval) and Bellenglise. For 6,000 yards before reaching Bellicourt
the canal runs in a tunnel, the southern end of which, and the high
ground above it, as well as the village of Bellicourt, is seen in Plate
82. The Americans had been told off to deal with the country over the
tunnel, and did so quite successfully, but they unfortunately neglected
to clear up behind them, so that the Germans, getting up from the
tunnel by shafts which they had provided for the purpose, attacked them
from the rear with serious consequences, and the Australians, following
on, had a somewhat hard time. We had some talk with a good lady and
her family who lived in a house just above the mouth of the tunnel, in
which a number of German officers had been quartered. It was curious
to notice how, after beginning to speak quite quietly, she and her
daughter became more and more excited as their recital continued, under
the recollection of the nightmare of the German occupation, although in
this case there had happily been no special brutality to bring to mind.

Southwards for a couple of miles from Bellicourt towards Bellenglise
the canal runs in the deep cutting seen in Plate 83, which was taken
from above the tunnel mouth. The banks of the cutting are 60 or 70 feet
high, very steep, and covered with thick vegetation--covered also, in
1918, with barbed wire. On the east side the bank carried, in addition,
many concrete machine-gun emplacements. The water in the canal was
very deep near the tunnel, and did not shallow until it nearly reached
Bellenglise. The attack was carried out by Midland Territorials
(Stafford and Lancashire), and had immediate success. It is specially
mentioned by General Haig, and well described by General Maurice, and
with natural enthusiasm and much detail by Major Priestley.[34] It was
preceded by a barrage, lasting forty-eight hours, from about 1,600
guns of various calibres, and then--for once--the weather favoured
us, for at zero hour, 5.50, on the morning of the attack (the 29th
of September)[35] the whole country was covered with a thick fog,
under which our men advanced, invisible to their enemies, although
with some difficulty to themselves. The 46th Division scrambled down
the cutting (where it will be seen that there was no jumping-off
place on that side), and got across by swimming (with life-belts), by
improvised rafts and collapsible boats, and all the devices which had
been tested on the Somme at Brie (see Plate 66) a few days earlier. It
seems uncertain whether any of the German foot-bridges had been left
undestroyed, but the Riqueval Bridge (Plate 84) had not been knocked
down by our shelling, and still stood as it was when I last saw it,
carrying a notice that it was safe "for infantry in file only." Major
Priestley tells the story of how Captain Charlton, with a small party
of nine men, found his way by compass to the bridge, charged down on
the sentries (one N.C.O. getting four of them just in time), cut the
wires, and threw the blasting charges into the canal. The bridge was
saved and held by 8.30, and naturally proved most useful.

[34] Haig's Despatches, p. 282, "The Last Four Months," p. 161, and
"Crossing the Hindenburg Line," p. 48.

[35] We now know that it was on the 28th of September that Ludendorff
met the Kaiser and insisted on the necessity for an armistice.

Among Major Priestley's stories of this adventure he tells how two
R.A.M.C. privates (Moseley and George) collected prisoners, dressed
the wounded and made the prisoners carry them, and finally arrived at
quarters as the sole escort of twenty stretcher cases and seventy-five
unwounded prisoners.[36]

[36] Priestley, _op. cit._, p. 63.

At Bellenglise (at the bend of the canal two miles south of Bellicourt)
the Germans had made for themselves an extraordinary underground tunnel
shelter, of which Plate 85 shows one of the entrances. We were told by
the villagers that it was a kilometre and a half in length, but did
not verify this. In any case it was certainly fitted up as barracks
and quarters of the most extensive nature, for a thousand prisoners
were taken in it with no resistance. It was also provided with electric
light, and we are told that the captured electricians who were
instructed to start the dynamo for us had to confess the existence of a
booby-trap to blow up the whole affair when the switch was closed, and,
of course, to remove it.

St. Quentin is five miles south of Bellenglise, but the crossing of
the Hindenburg Line at the canal tunnel at St. Tronquoy, a necessary
preliminary to taking the city, proved a task almost as difficult, but
quite as successfully carried out, as the Bellicourt crossing. It was
effected on the 30th of September. St. Quentin itself, which had been
within the German lines ever since 1914, was entered by the French
First Army on the next day. When it became clear to the Germans that
they would have to give up the town, which was but little damaged,
they prepared a characteristic piece of devilment, one which could
not by any exercise of imagination be supposed to have the slightest
military consequence. They cut out large recesses (each of about a
couple of cubic feet) in the walls and columns of the cathedral, with
the intention of using the cavities so made for blasting charges to
wreck the whole building (Plate 86). I did not count the number of
these holes, but it was officially stated to be ninety! Happily the
French got into the town twenty-four hours before their entry had been
expected, so that the church still stands (not, of course, without some
other damage), with the holes and the blocks cut out from them visible
as damning evidence of what otherwise would be no doubt denied. But
very much the same seems to have been done by the same savages at other
places, as far apart even as Péronne and Beersheba.

The region between the Arras-Péronne and the Cambrai-St. Quentin roads
has been fought over both by French and British. Going eastwards from
the crossing of the Somme at Brie the country already showed signs of
renewed cultivation, but some villages, like Mons and Bernes, were
totally destroyed, and others, like Estrées, Vraignes, and Hancourt,
and the little town of Vermand, had been very badly strafed. Near
Cambrai, villages such as Bony and Vendhuille, Gouzeaucourt and
Ribécourt (Plate 87), and of course Bourlon, were quite in ruins. At
Gouzeaucourt very active reconstruction was, however, going on, and
rows of neat brick cottages had already appeared. To mention all the
ruined villages would be to give almost a complete list of them, but
over the whole region active and obviously successful attempts were
being made to carry on cultivation, the surface having been by no means
so badly damaged as farther north.

Southwards from St. Quentin, also, much cultivation is being actively
carried on, although many of the villages, such as Liez and Essigny,
are badly injured; but after La Fère is reached, and beyond the Oise,
cultivation is complete, and the conditions are more or less normal
as far as the Ailette and the Aisne. North of Cambrai also, on the
east of the Cambrai-Douai road, where the country was always in German
occupation, and behind the Hindenburg defence lines, its condition is
also normal.

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXI._


 _The remains of Bourlon village, in the north-west corner of the wood,
 which was fought for, and taken, and lost again in the Cambrai battle
 of November, 1917._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXII._


 _The south end of the 6,000-yard tunnel on the St. Quentin Canal, seen
 from the western bank of the canal cutting. The village of Bellicourt
 lies over the tunnel mouth, and the higher ground beyond is that
 covered by the Americans in the advance of the 29th of September,

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXIII._


 _The canal cutting looking down from above the tunnel mouth--an
 "absolutely impregnable" portion of the Hindenburg Line defences._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXIV._


 _The only bridge over the St. Quentin Canal which was not destroyed
 by the Germans before our attack on their "impregnable" position in
 September, 1918. A small party of the Midland Territorials, under
 Captain Charlton, reached it in the fog just in time to deal with the
 sentries, throw the charges into the water, and so save the bridge._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXV._


 _One of the entrances to the immense underground workings constructed
 by the Germans as a part of the Hindenburg defences at the St. Quentin
 Canal. The elaborate workings were finally only a trap for the
 thousand Germans who were secured there as prisoners._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXVI._


 _The Germans cut ninety recesses in the columns and walls of the
 Cathedral (two are seen in the photograph) for the purpose of placing
 mine charges in them and destroying the whole building when they
 evacuated the town. The unexpected arrival of the French frustrated
 this diabolical plan, but the holes and the blocks cut from them
 remain as witnesses._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXVII._


 _This was one of the villages which were taken in the Cambrai battle,
 and retained in the possession of the Allies. They are all equally
 destroyed, but some are already half rebuilt._]

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXVIII._


 _This bit of Rheims--tidied up--is a fair example of the condition to
 which perhaps 10,000 out of its 14,000 houses have been reduced._]


(PLATES 88 TO 97.)

Rheims shares with Ypres and Verdun the glory of having successfully
withstood a continuous four years' siege, and with Ypres the additional
distinction of having been for a long time the central point in an
extraordinarily narrow salient, surrounded by the enemy practically
on three sides. It is truly an ancient storm centre, unsuccessfully
besieged by the English in the fourteenth century, taken by them in
the fifteenth (perhaps more by intrigue than by fighting), and held
until Joan of Arc turned us out after nine years' occupation. It was
entered by the Germans on the 4th of September, 1870, and again on the
forty-fourth anniversary of that day in 1914. But while after 1870 they
held the city for two years, in 1914 they had to evacuate it after nine
days only. They commenced immediately to shell it, and, according to
the universal opinion in France, to shell particularly the cathedral,
in spite of official assurances that it was not used for observation
purposes, which anyone but a Prussian would have believed. The north
tower, unfortunately, was under repair in 1914, and covered with timber
scaffolding. An incendiary shell set fire to this a week after the
Germans had left the city, and the whole of the roof of the cathedral
was burnt. Later on the vaulting over the transept and the choir was
badly but not irreparably damaged (the statement is made that a number
of Germans--the church being used as a hospital--were killed by a shell
which penetrated the vaulting), and the chevet at the east end is
very badly knocked about. The west end, happily, has not suffered so
much, the direction of firing being generally from Brimont and Nogent
l'Abesse, respectively north and east of the city. One is glad to know
that it was found possible to save a certain amount of the fine stained

In thinking of the fate of Rheims from the point of view of the French,
it is to be remembered that to them the cathedral stands in much the
same relation as does Westminster Abbey to us. It is not perhaps
the finest, nor the most beautiful, nor the largest of the glorious
churches of France, but it is the one which, more than any other,
represents in itself and its associations the faith and the history and
the life of the country over many centuries and through endless changes
and vicissitudes. Considering the mentality of the Germans--as judged
by the sentiments of their newspapers at the time--it may probably have
been the very consciousness of the special affection of the French for
the cathedral that induced them to make it their special target.

The figures which are given as to the number of shells fired, and
specially the number fired at the cathedral in 1914, and on certain
days in 1917, are almost unbelievable.[37]

[37] Buchan's "History of the War," vol. iii., p. 71, and the "Michelin
Guide to Rheims," p. 20, etc.

The city has, or had before the war, about 115,000 inhabitants and
some 14,000 houses. Of the latter an English visitor in 1918 informed
me that about 2,000 had escaped with little damage and were more or
less habitable, 2,000 more might be said to be still standing, while
the remaining 10,000 were entirely destroyed. (As a comparison it may
be remembered that in the Great Fire of London about 13,000 houses are
said to have been burnt, or destroyed to limit the flames.)

Plate 88 is simply an example of the state of the greater part of the
city, after, of course, the wreckage had been cleared off the roadways
and things in general "tidied up." Plates 89 and 90 show respectively
the west end of the cathedral, with its towers, and the chevet at
the east end seen across a mass of ruined houses. I am afraid that
the glass of the great rose windows was destroyed very early, before
it could be removed, and at the east end much of the tracery of the
windows has been smashed. It is in no way to the credit of the Germans,
either in their intentions or in their shooting, that the damage has
not been immensely greater. One may be permitted to hope that in the
reconstruction of the city, which is proceeding apace, advantage will
be taken of the clearance which has become unavoidable to leave such
space round the building as will allow its magnificence to be more
fully seen than has hitherto been possible.

After having to evacuate the city in 1914, the Germans made a very
determined stand to the north at the Fort of Brimont, six miles
away, as well as on the east at about the same distance, and even
the desperate fighting of April, 1917, failed to move them. For the
greater part of the war the French and Germans were facing each other
on a north and south line a little to the east of the road from Rheims
to Laon. But on their side the enemy succeeded in getting closer to
the city, and the shelling must often have been at very close range,
a condition of affairs more like that at Ypres than at Verdun. At one
time in 1917 the Germans actually got for a day into the northern
cemetery, just outside the city and only a couple of miles from the

The remains of the French front line to the east of the Laon road were
still not cleared away on my visit, the barbed-wire entanglements
hardly visible above the thick growth of rank herbage. The road itself,
running on a slight embankment, in places covers numerous dugouts,
their entrances facing westward.

The end of September, 1918, saw the city freed at last, the Germans
hastily evacuating the forts in their great retreat.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the great retreat of the Germans in 1914 the Aisne was reached on
the 12th of September, after Soissons had been in enemy occupation
for ten days, during which heavy requisitions were made, although no
pillage is said to have occurred. The first battle of the Aisne, the
end of the German retreat in 1914, continued well into September,
British artillery aiding the French north of Soissons, and Haig's
troops, being farther east, attempting to reach the Chemin des Dames
plateau above Troyon. But the Germans had had time to entrench
themselves in the enormously strong positions afforded by the upper
ground, and all the efforts of the Allies failed to dislodge them.
They remained substantially unmoved until 1917, by which time they
also held a sharp salient between Missy and Chavonne which had carried
them across to the southern bank of the Aisne. By the beginning of
1915 the French held the valleys of Cuffies and Crouy, with the ridge
between them and the western end of the high ground to the east. On the
12th-13th of January they were attacked by greatly superior numbers by
Von Kluck, and, by the misfortune that floods on the Aisne had carried
away their bridges higher up the stream, were cut off from their
supplies, and had to retire south of the river, losing the bridge-head
on the north bank. Soissons itself, however, was not captured, although
the Germans remained within very easy shelling distance of it.

The Aisne winds along a flat valley bottom in great bends, always
bounded on the north by high ground, which rises some 400 to 450 feet
above the river, and is traversed by steep and narrow wooded ravines
very much like Surrey combes, which were occupied and fully utilised
by the enemy. Along the top of the plateau runs from west to east
the road which became so familiar to us as the "Chemin des Dames,"
although this picturesque name did not appear on the maps. The main
road from Soissons to Laon crosses the western end of the plateau close
to the Malmaison Fort; its eastern end passes through Craonne, and
the ground falls quickly down to the level of the Rheims-Laon road at
Corbeny. Every foot of the "Ladies' Road" has been fought over; the
whole plateau is shell-pocked almost as badly as ground beside the
Amiens-Péronne road on the Somme, and the road itself is in many places
no longer distinguishable, the whole area being thickly overgrown with
rank herbage. Plate 91 gives some idea of what the once well-marked
road now looks like where it crosses the Troyon road, the route by
which Haig's troops tried in vain to reach and hold the high ground.
The village of Cerny, close to the crossing, is wiped out, some hint
only of its former position being indicated by the remains of what has
probably been a sugar factory (Plate 92).

In many places on the slopes above the Aisne there are quarries and
natural caves, greatly enlarged and very fully utilised in the German
defence. Plate 93 shows one of these caves at Crouy, a now ruined
village a couple of miles above Soissons on the side of the valley in
which runs the little stream that descends from Laffaux on the north to
the Aisne at Soissons. Beside and across this stream our artillery had
hard fighting in 1914, in the vain attempt to dislodge the enemy from
the high ground above and to the west, at a time when the Germans could
fire twenty shells to one of ours.

The Aisne valley remained in general fairly quiescent from 1914 until
April, 1917, when General Nivelle, after his great success at Verdun,
planned the gigantic blow at the German front from Soissons to the
Argonne, which, in spite of its ultimate success in carrying nearly the
whole of the Chemin des Dames, failed to relieve Rheims,[38] and by
falling so far short of the hoped-for and too optimistically predicted
success helped to cause considerable, although happily only temporary,
discontent in parts of the French Army, which was only cleared away by
the magnificent way in which Pétain showed his men a few months later,
both on the Aisne and at Verdun, that they still remained more than a
match for their opponents.

[38] Captain Tuohy in "The Secret Corps" says that the trial of a spy
known as "Suzette" showed that her machinations played no small part
in preventing Nivelle's success. She is alleged especially to have
given the enemy full details as to the new French tanks, and also full
information where and how it was intended to use them.

The last battle of the Aisne formed the third of the series of great
advances which Ludendorff had made in March and April, 1918. In
each of the first two the Allies had been driven back so far and so
definitely as to enable the Germans to claim overwhelming victory. But
each of them, all the same, had finally found the victorious troops
face to face with undefeated and immovable armies, and found them
also too exhausted to press forward to gain those objectives which had
constituted the real intention of each advance. The third Aisne battle
was destined to have a similar conclusion. The German intentions had
been well concealed, and their enormous concentration of troops had not
been discovered, so that the attack which started suddenly on the 27th
of May swept everybody off the ridge and down to the Aisne at once. The
British 9th Corps (four divisions) were on the French right, brought
there to rest after their hard fighting farther north! They held on at
Craonne for a while, but were hopelessly outnumbered, and had to fall
back with the rest of the troops. The Aisne and the Vesle were lost,
and in three days the Germans had reached the Marne, and held ten miles
of the river between Château Thierry and Dormans. Soissons fell on the
28th and Château Thierry a few days later, but the right, on which was
still our 9th Corps, beside the French Fifth Army and some fine Italian
troops, held back the invaders and succeeded in keeping them at a
distance from Rheims and Epernay. Then followed counter-attacks, which
were sometimes successful, and a month's quiescence, until on the 15th
of July Ludendorff started the _Friedensturm_ which was to have brought
him peace--a German peace--but which ended in his utter ruin.

The Oise and Aisne Canal reaches (and crosses) the Aisne close to the
foot of the road up to Troyon. The canal was no doubt dry during the
war, as it was when I saw it afterwards (Plate 94), the bridge on the
main road, destroyed during the German retreat, having been replaced by

North of the Aisne, from Soissons to Berry-au-Bac, all the villages
except one appeared to be in ruins.

The whole of the country south of the Aisne to the Vesle, and again
south to the Marne, was fought over in 1914, and again in the German
advance in May, 1918, as well as in their final retreat in July and
August. The villages, so far as I saw them, were in ruins--such, for
example, as Fismes (Plate 95)--but were still recognisable as villages
without the necessity, as on the Somme, of a notice-board on the
roadside saying "This was ..."

Soissons itself was never far enough from the German lines to be free
from shell-fire until October, 1917; it has not been, however, nearly
so completely destroyed as Rheims, a reasonable number of houses
remaining habitable in the end of 1918. The Germans entered it again
in May, 1918, and remained in possession for two months, and during
this occupation they had apparently repented of their moderation four
years before, for they pillaged and stole systematically, and destroyed
wantonly what they did not wish to steal.

The beautiful towers and spires of the west front of St. Jean des
Vignes (Plate 96), which were all that remained of the once noble
church, are a good deal damaged. It is stated that this church was
pulled down in 1805 on the demand of the Bishop of Soissons in order
to provide material for the repair of the cathedral, but that the two
towers and spires were spared on the entreaty of the inhabitants.[39]
Certainly only the skeleton of the west end with the towers has been
in existence for a very long time. Apparently there have been other
Huns than the Germans! The cathedral itself (Plate 97) has actually
been cut in half and its one tower (the northern tower had never been
built) knocked to pieces. The cathedral, although a small one, was a
very beautiful structure, and was more or less unique in being arranged
as two churches, one lying east and west, and the other across the
transepts at right angles. The view in Plate 97 was taken in 1920
across what is now a fine open space, but which was, on my pre-war
visits to the city, covered closely with houses and shops, and in 1919
was still a mass of broken walls and stone rubbish. It can be said, at
any rate, that the view of the cathedral--or what is left of it--is
certainly much more complete and effective than it ever had been before.

[39] "Michelin Guide to Soissons," p. 44.

West of Soissons the destruction of villages continues for seven or
eight miles along the valley, as far as Pontarchet, but still farther
west, and to the south in the Compiègne forest, there are very few
signs of fighting.

[Illustration: _PLATE LXXXIX._


 _The west front of the Westminster Abbey of France is happily not
 irreparably damaged, but the glass of the rose window has gone, and
 some of the statues and the carvings are injured. The roof of the
 building has gone entirely, and the vaulting is broken through in

[Illustration: _PLATE XC._


 _The east end of the Cathedral is very much more injured than the
 west, having been more exposed to the fire from the forts which were
 shelling the city._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XCI._


 _The road crossing the photograph from right to left is the Troyon
 road up from the Aisne valley. It is still practicable for motors.
 What is left of the Chemin des Dames itself, at this place (near
 Cerny), starts from the right-hand corner of the view, crosses the
 Troyon road, and practically disappears in the wilderness._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XCII._


 _All that seemed to be left of the village of Cerny--the remains,
 apparently, of a sugar factory--with some water-logged shell-holes._]


(PLATES 98 TO 106.)

After the first battle of the Marne, in 1914, the Germans were driven
back to positions encircling Verdun on three sides (north-west,
north-east, and south-east) at a distance of ten to twelve miles. They
succeeded, however, in holding a little salient at St. Mihiel, on the
eastern bank of the Meuse, about twenty miles south of Verdun, and with
it the village of Chauvoncourt, on the west side of the river. This
village was entered by the French in November, 1914, but immediately
blown up (it had been already mined) by the Germans, and regained by
them in a counter-attack. It remained in their hands until 1918, but
they were so tightly held all round by the French that they could make
no use of it as a bridge-head.

The possession of the St. Mihiel Salient, however, gave the Germans
command of a stretch of the main road in the Meuse valley, and enabled
them to cut the only full-gauge railway which still connected Verdun
with the rest of France. This road and railway were therefore, until
the successful American attack of September, 1918, entirely useless
to the city, and its only railway was the narrow-gauge line leading
southwards to the main line at Bar-le-Duc, and the one main road to the
same place _via_ Souilly. The latter came to be known as the "Sacred
Way" (_La Voie Sacrée_), and became the principal line of communication
for men, munitions, and stores. It is stated that thirteen battalions
of infantry were occupied in keeping it in such repair as was possible,
and that 1,700 lorries passed over it daily. In 1919 the northern part
of the Voie Sacrée was still as bumpy for motoring as many of the worst
roads in Flanders.

[Illustration: _PLATE XCIII._


 _Beside the Laon road, going northwards from Soissons, are a number of
 old limestone caves, partly natural and largely artificial, which were
 made useful by the Germans in their long occupation of this region._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XCIV._


 _The dry bed of the Oise and Aisne Canal, with the original bridge
 blown up in the German retreat, and the French girder bridge replacing

[Illustration: _PLATE XCV._


 _The townlet of Fismes, on the Vesle, like many other places between
 the Aisne and the Marne, has been shelled in turn by French and
 Germans. It is practically destroyed, but without being levelled to
 the ground and swallowed up by weeds like villages farther north._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XCVI._


 _Only these two towers, with their beautiful spires, have remained of
 this church for more than a century. One of the towers has been so
 damaged as to present strange problems to an engineer in the strength
 of materials._]

The great attack on Verdun was intended to capture the city in four
days and to clear the way to Paris at one swoop, and the Emperor
(whose presence never seemed to bring good fortune to his troops) was
waiting at Ornes, some eight or ten miles north, to make his triumphal
entry. The attack began with enormous impetuosity on the 21st of
February, 1916, but in four days--with enormous losses on both sides,
but chiefly to the attackers--the Germans were still held some four or
five miles away from their objective on the east side of the river, and
double as far on the west. But nearer the Argonne their positions had
allowed them already to cut the full-gauge railway to St. Menehould by

A book written by General von Zwehl[40] gives the number of guns used
in this attack as being about 230 in each of three corps. He also
speaks of the "dejection and pessimism" induced in his troops by the
failure of the artillery to make the clear way to the city which had
been predicted and promised.

[40] Reviewed in _The Times_ Literary Supplement of the 7th of April,

The Douaumont Fort was entered on the 25th, and the Emperor had sent
to Berlin the news that the "key of the last defences of Verdun" was
in German hands. But on the next day Pétain began counter-attacks, and
although during several months the Germans made progress from time
to time, eventually gaining the Vaux Fort and most of the Mort Homme
Ridge, the great attack had, in reality, miscarried from the start.

The city itself, from which all civilians had been evacuated by the
25th of February, was heavily shelled, especially at the commencement
of the attack, but as a city it has not suffered to anything like
the same extent as Rheims, to say nothing of Albert, Lens, or Ypres.
The fighting and the tremendous shelling were always in a zone lying
roughly between four and eight miles from the city; within this zone
the ground is as completely shell-marked, the villages and woods as
completely destroyed, as even on the Somme.

The greatest German advance was reached in June, 1916, Thiaumont Fort
being taken on the 30th of June, when at one point the Germans were
only three miles from the city. Thiaumont was retaken when the French
offensive started in the following October, and on the 2nd of November
Vaux Fort was recovered and the Germans had been driven back nearly to
the lines they had succeeded in occupying on the 24th of February. But
the Mort Homme Ridge was entirely regained only in August, 1917, and it
was still another year before it could be said that Verdun was entirely
"cleared." The final success of the French in driving back the enemy
is attributed by General von Zwehl to the overwhelming superiority of
their artillery, the German heavy guns having been sent elsewhere.

Plate 98, taken from the left bank of the Meuse, shows the broken
bridge at St. Mihiel and the ridge above; the little town lies chiefly
beyond the picture in a hollow on the right. It has been very little
damaged; even the great clock in the church tower is uninjured. It is
easily seen how entirely the ridge, some 300 feet above the river and
filling up an acute bend, enabled the Germans to dominate the road and
railway on the left bank for a long distance. In April, 1915, a French
attack on the north side of the salient took Les Éparges after severe
fighting, but made no further progress. The neighbouring country to the
west of the Meuse is quite unharmed until one comes within a few miles
of the river. The St. Mihiel Salient was attacked from the south by the
Americans and by the French from the north on the 11th of September,
1918, just as the Germans had determined to evacuate it, and it was
finally cleared within a week.

The view from the Pont Ste. Croix at Verdun over the Meuse (Plate 99)
shows a portion of the most destroyed area of the city, in which some
sort of reconstruction had already started. On the opposite side of
the river, however, tall buildings were standing quite uninjured, and
entering the city from the south by the Porte St. Victor one traverses
a long length of street without seeing any serious destruction. The
cathedral (not a very interesting building after many reconstructions)
has been badly damaged as to its vaulting and roof, but the towers
still stand; the Church of St. Saviour has been less fortunate.

[Illustration: _PLATE XCVII._


 _The Cathedral of Soissons, which is so badly damaged that its
 reconstruction appears almost hopeless, is one of the oldest, and
 architecturally one of the most interesting, of the French Gothic

[Illustration: _PLATE XCVIII._


 _The little salient of St. Mihiel, on the Meuse, twenty miles above
 Verdun, was secured by the Germans very early in the war, and gave
 them command of the principal road and railway from Verdun. It was
 held by them until the very end, when Americans and French together
 squeezed them out._]

[Illustration: _PLATE XCIX._


 _A part of the centre of Verdun, on the Meuse. Oddly enough, buildings
 just opposite these, on the other side of the river, are almost
 untouched. But the fighting at Verdun--with which only the fighting
 on the Somme and in Flanders are comparable--was concentrated on the
 hilly ground some miles north of the city._]

[Illustration: _PLATE C._


 _The holding of the fort at Vaux, one of those nearest Verdun, by
 Major Raynal and his men, was one of the finest episodes of the war.
 The Germans were held at bay for three months, but eventually the
 defenders were driven down to the underground passages connected to
 the North Fosse, and were overpowered after seven days' continuous

Vaux Fort--although we did not hear so much of it in England as of
Douaumont--was the scene of one of the most gallant episodes of the
war. The fort is somewhat less than five miles north-east of the
city; it was completed only in 1911, and is a huge mass of masonry
and reinforced concrete, with many underground works, on an eminence
which dominates the country on the side away from the city and faces
the Douaumont Ridge across a valley in which lies the village of Vaux.
The tops of both Vaux and Douaumont Forts look like a wilderness
of shell-holes in a gravel bed; apparently the concrete has been
covered over with many feet of something in the nature of gravel as
an additional protection. Vaux Fort was held against three months of
incessant attacks by Major Raynal and his men, the last of whom were
finally completely imprisoned within it, but held out and fought hand
to hand in the steep underground passages leading to the northern fosse
(Plate 100), the only outlet remaining to them. Great efforts were
made to relieve them, but without success, and after a final week of
continuous fighting, during the last two days of which they had only
water enough for the wounded men, the little garrison was overpowered
on the 8th of June, 1916. The Germans had the courtesy, in recognition
of his splendid defence, to allow Major Raynal to retain his sword. The
fort was finally regained on the 2nd of November of the same year.

The village of Vaux, which lies in the valley north of the fort, was
fought for strenuously and eventually taken long before the fort
itself. I tried to find some sign of its existence; its site is
certainly somewhere in the centre of Plate 101, but such remains as may
exist are entirely blotted out by the growth of the rank herbage which
fills the whole valley from side to side.

The fort of Douaumont (Plate 102) was that of which the name was most
familiar in this country, owing to its partial capture in the early
attack and also to the absurd boasting of the Emperor, already alluded
to, in connection with it. It lies to the north-west of Vaux, upon
a parallel ridge. The fort was taken on the 25th of February, the
fifth day of the great attack in which the French troops had been
fighting continuously against "five times their strength in men and
ten times their strength in guns." The Kaiser was at Ornes, waiting
for its fall; men's lives were to form no hindrance to the attack;
the Brandenburgers[41] succeeded in getting into it, and a few of
them held on in the ruins, with the French on both sides of them. But
Pétain had arrived, and the Germans were beaten, although at that time
neither side knew it, and although thousands of lives had still to be
sacrificed before the end arrived.

[41] They are said to have worn French Zouave uniforms.

In the following May the French retook the fort, but were driven
out after two days by an overwhelming attack. In October, 1916, it
passed finally to the French under General Mangin, after a heavy
bombardment. The troops for this attack had been trained on a complete
model, constructed behind the lines, of the ground and of the fort, to
familiarise them exactly with the position to be dealt with.

The earlier Verdun attacks were made upon the east side of the river,
but after these were fought to a standstill fighting shifted to the
western side, where it eventually reached an even greater intensity
than before. The Mort Homme Ridge (Plate 103), about eight miles
north-west of Verdun, lies about two miles in front of the original
German positions of the 21st of February, and its possession was
essential to the Germans if they were to be any more successful in
reaching Verdun from the north-west than they had been from the
north-east. Its highest point is about 300 feet above the city. The
artillery attack commenced on the 2nd of March, and the advance four
days later, but the progress made was very slow, and although the
slaughter was absolutely terrific, when the fighting died down on the
9th of April--forty-eight days after it had started--the Mort Homme was
still untaken. Onwards from this date the fighting at Verdun was--at
least, in comparison with what had gone before--only desultory. In May
the highest point ("304") on the ridge had to be abandoned, and by the
21st of May the Germans had gained the north-east slopes of the Mort
Homme. But the battle as a whole had been lost long before this, and no
local gains could change its result. Plate 103 shows the monument put
up by the French on the southern slope of the Mort Homme to which they
had been driven, a little below point 295. It is very difficult in a
photograph taken from ground-level to give any idea of the surface of
shell-holed ground, but something of it can be seen in this view and
something also in Plate 104, which shows the last French front-line
positions near the top of the southern slope of the ridge, where the
final attack occurred on the 28th of May, 1916. But the French front
still remained unbroken; they had never even been pushed back to their
main positions of defence. The great counter-attack on the left of the
Meuse came in August, 1917, when the Mort Homme and Cumières Wood were
retaken on the first day, and the whole original front restored in a

       *       *       *       *       *

The Argonne Forest, in which the Americans had such stiff fighting
in pushing back the Germans in 1918, lies about twenty miles west of
Verdun and covers an area of some 150 square miles up to the line
where the Aire River cuts across it on its way to the Aisne. Its huge
dimensions, and the fact that only a portion of it was the scene
of actual fighting for any considerable time, have saved it from
undergoing the total destruction of so many of the smaller woods.
Plate 105 shows some of the southern portion between St. Menehould and
Clermont, which is practically uninjured, although the village of Les
Islettes (faintly seen in the valley, which here separates the forest
into two sections) is in ruins. Along the road from St. Menehould to
Verdun through the forest (from which the view was taken) there were in
1919 long lines of fruit-trees quite uninjured, an unusually cheerful
sight. In September, 1914, after the first battle of the Marne, the
Germans in their retreat held the northern part of the forest,
practically on the cross-road from Varennes to Vienne-le-Château. From
that time until the end of 1915 there was continuous and very severe
fighting in the section of the forest between that road and the St.
Menehould road. Fighting in the depths of the forest among thick trees,
on wet and slippery ground traversed by endless ravines, was incessant
by day and night, often hand to hand, and below ground as well as on
the surface. The French did not succeed in dislodging the enemy, but
they were successful in defeating two powerful attacks by the Crown
Prince, in June and July, 1915, directed at the St. Menehould-Verdun
road. The enemy got within five or six miles of Les Islettes, and the
little town was destroyed, but they never got to the road, and were
promptly driven back to their old lines. The town of Clermont, farther
east on this road, had been sacked and then burnt by the Germans in
their retreat in 1914.

Varennes (Plate 106) is on the eastern edge of the forest, where it
is crossed by the River Aire, which up to that point had been flowing
northwards east of the Argonne, as the Aisne does on the west. It was
the headquarters of the Crown Prince's army in 1915, and his attacks in
that year started from it. It is only a few miles west of Avocourt and
Malancourt, from which started the March attack on the Mort Homme Ridge
from the west in 1916.

After the end of 1915 the Argonne quieted down, but trench fighting
and mining was always going on until the commencement of the
Franco-American offensive on the 26th of September, 1918, following
the American success at St. Mihiel. Among other forms of defence the
Germans here used steel-wire net-screens, 3 metres high, fixed to the
tree-trunks. The Americans had very hard work in getting through the
forest--how severe may be judged from the fact that there are over
25,000 graves in the great American cemetery near Montfaucon; but
eventually the Germans were compelled to retreat, and on the 9th of
October the French from the west and the Americans from the east met at
Grandpré, at the northern extremity of the forest.

[Illustration: _PLATE CI._


 _The village lies in a hollow below the fort; its site is somewhere
 close to the place from which the photograph was taken. But all
 signs of the buildings--which were reduced to fragments early in the
 siege--have absolutely disappeared._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CII._


 _The fort of Douaumont was entered, but not held, very early in the
 Verdun battle, and the Kaiser telegraphed to Berlin the capture of
 the "key to Verdun." But the lock would not open, Verdun was not
 taken, and the Kaiser left it to prophesy elsewhere with equal want of

[Illustration: _PLATE CIII._


 _The photograph gives only a faint idea of the shell-marked ridge
 whose name became so familiar to us in the Verdun campaign. Eventually
 a considerable part of it was taken, but the gain was useless--Verdun
 was as far off as ever._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CIV._


 _The French front lines on the southern slope of the Mort Homme Ridge.
 From these ridges the view in all directions seems to cover nothing
 but shell-pocked wastes, the grave of 400,000 Frenchmen and probably
 of very many more Germans._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CV._


 _This southern part of the forest, on the road from St. Menehould to
 Verdun, has not been fought over, so that the trees are still in their
 natural condition. In the central valley, seen over the trees, lies
 Les Islettes in ruins. It was the farthest point of one of the Crown
 Prince's fruitless attempts to get south in 1915._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CVI._


 _Vavenues, on the margin of the Argonne Forest, and now in ruins, was
 the Crown Prince's headquarters during a considerable period, when
 there was every day fierce fighting with the French, of which at the
 time we heard very little in this country._]

Varennes itself (the little town where Louis XVI. was arrested in
1791 on his attempted flight from France) is very nearly destroyed.
The Americans took it on the first day of their advance, when it was
defended by a division of Prussian Guards, and on the next day they
captured Montfaucon, the headquarters of the Crown Prince for his
Verdun attack. The ground here is high, and the Germans had built
themselves an excellent O.P. from the materials of the church. Here
also, according to General Maurice, the Crown Prince had directed
operations from a "palatial dugout."

Traces of the American occupation of this district were still visible
months afterwards in the shape of road notices, "Do your bit! Obey the
traffic regulations!" and it was in the familiar accent of a young
American officer that we received instructions as to getting our car
through the narrow streets of Verdun.


(PLATES 107 TO 124.)

On a bright and quiet Sunday morning, the 23rd of August, 1914,
General Smith-Dorrien's men were aligned along the Mons-Condé Canal
(Plate 107), west of the town, on the northern edge of a thickly
populated industrial district, with the great spoil heaps of the mines
(Plate 108) like a range of miniature extinct volcanoes lying behind
them. They had only just arrived from home, and with the failure of
"Intelligence," of which they knew nothing, they were entirely ignorant
of the strength and movements of their opponents. The Sabbatic quietude
was broken with startling suddenness soon after noon, and very shortly
the unexpected action became general along the whole front. The Germans
outnumbered us by two to one both in guns and men; they were fresh from
their successful outrages in overrunning Belgium, and they were full of
contempt for the British "mercenaries." Their advance was excellently
well covered by the terrain until they were within fairly short range,
and they advanced wave on wave in close formation. They were decimated
again and again by our rifle-fire, but again and again advanced in
spite of it. Our men were sick of the slaughter, and their fire was
so deadly that the German writers have afterwards attributed it to
the enormous number of machine-guns which we were using, although we
were in fact all too short, at that time, of this particular arm. The
defence held out for six hours in face of the overwhelming odds, but
at night we were compelled to retire, Mons itself having been entered
by the enemy. So commenced the Mons retreat, so far as our men were
concerned. The French retreat, unfortunately, their men being equally
outnumbered, had commenced twelve hours before. On the next two days
the retreat continued, Smith-Dorrien's army on the west of the Mormal
Forest towards Le Cateau, and Haig's on the east of the forest towards
Landrecies. The great Mormal Forest itself (some ten miles long and
from three to five miles wide) has been very much thinned during the
war by the Germans for the sake of its timber (Plate 109). Even now,
although traversed by many woodland roads, it would be an impossible
undertaking to take through it a great army in retreat, and this made
the separation of the two armies unavoidable. On the 25th of August
Haig's men had reached the old fortified town of Landrecies, on the
Sambre. Fifty years or so before this, R. L. Stevenson--boating down
the river on his "Inland Voyage"--had passed through the old-world
fortifications, and wrote of the town, singularly enough:

 "It was just the place to hear the round going by at night in the
 darkness, with the solid troop of men marching, and the startling
 reverberation of the drum. It reminded you that even this place was
 a point in the great warfaring system of Europe, and might on some
 future day be ringed about with cannon smoke and thunder, and make
 itself a name among strong towns."[42]

[42] "Inland Voyage," p. 69.

Hardly a "strong town" in these days, but certainly it made itself a
name both at the beginning and the end of the war. At 10 o'clock on the
night of the 25th of August an alarm was given; the Germans had made
their way through wood roads, and tried to rush us in the camouflage
of French uniforms and French words of command. Happily the 4th Guards
Brigade was on the spot, although only just arrived, and received
the enemy in unexpected fashion, so that by midnight the attack had
collapsed, and a little more much-needed breathing-time was gained. A
Landrecien told us, in 1919, how he had seen the Germans coming down
"in their thousands," and how the Guards had stood up to them at the
railway and road corner at which my photograph (Plate 110) was taken.
In 1918 the tables were turned, and it was the German Guards who were
trying to hold up our infantry, who captured the town on the 10th of
October, after crossing the Sambre on rafts. It is of this attack that
the story[43] is told of three _tractor_ tanks, which made a bluff at a
moment when the infantry were held up, and of which two got through and
successfully made a way for the rifles.

[43] Major Williams Ellis, "The Tank Corps," p. 268.

South-west of the forest lies Le Cateau (Plate 111), at one end of the
straight fifteen-mile road to Cambrai, south of which lie the villages
of Caudry, Esnes, Ligny, and many others whose names we heard first
in August, 1914, and again four years later. It was here that General
Smith-Dorrien made the great stand of the 26th of August, which has
been the subject of so much discussion, but which certainly gave the
opportunity for most gallant fighting, both of infantry and artillery,
while it held back--and, better still, greatly exhausted--the enemy.
By the afternoon the position became untenable, and then followed the
all-night march of the tired men towards St. Quentin. Le Cateau itself
appears to be very little damaged.

On the "Roman road," running south from Le Cateau to the Cambrai-St.
Quentin road, the villages are now much damaged, probably rather in
1918 than in 1914, and notices were still standing--"Do not halt on
this road"--at places towards the south. Another souvenir of 1918 was
a notice near Maurois, "Pip Squeaks 6.30 to-night!" A less agreeable
reminiscence was a sugar factory, thoroughly gutted by the Germans in
characteristic fashion, beside the road near Estrées, a village itself
in ruins. Along this road, as in many places on the Somme, the route,
now destitute of trees, is marked by short wooden posts on each side
placed at short distances apart, their object being, of course, to keep
lorries on the track in the dark, or at least to give them notice if
they strayed from it. Here and there many of the posts on one side of
the road seemed to be sloping in one direction, and those on the other
side in the opposite direction. The obvious inference was that the
slope of the posts was due to the frequency with which the lorries had
run into them!

The Le Cateau battlefield was so quickly crossed both in 1914 and 1918
that many of its villages, some of which I had the opportunity of
visiting while fighting was going on only a few miles farther north,
are very little damaged, and the land surface generally is almost
uninjured in comparison with its condition both farther north and
farther south.

The 1st of September was the anniversary of Sedan, and the Germans had
apparently hoped to celebrate the day in Paris. But on or about that
day, perhaps the day before, Von Kluck had made the great turn to the
south-east, which (whatever its original motive) eventually allowed the
French to get on his flank across the Ourcq, and paved the way for the
great victory on the Marne.

The Germans had progressed so far as to cross the Marne by the 4th of
September, and had reached their farthest south position on the Petit
Morin, which joins the Marne at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. On the next day
Joffre gave his orders for the commencement of the advance on the 6th,
which at one blow turned the much-vaunted advance into a retreat, and
postponed for ever the triumphal march of the Emperor through the Arc
de Triomphe which was found to have been so elaborately arranged for.
The bridge over the Marne at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre--close to which
the photograph in Plate 112 was taken--was blown up, and we failed to
cross the river until two days later, after which came the great and
complex battle which ended with the Germans back to the Aisne. But they
still succeeded in holding, and were still to hold for four more years,
all the hilly country between Rheims and Verdun, as well as Laon, St.
Quentin, Péronne, and Cambrai, and also, for much of that time, the
whole Somme region.

And so the war went on, until in May of 1918 Ludendorff played his last
shot and swept down across the Aisne and the Vesle and the Tardenois
country to the Marne once more,[44] and finally, in the _Friedensturm_
(for the opening of which the Emperor came down specially on the
15th of July), crossed the river between Château Thierry (which is
badly damaged), Dormans (Plate 113), and Montvoisin, and for a few
days held a precarious and unhappy[45] footing on the south bank, his
pontoon bridges being exposed to continual enfilade firing, and his
communications only kept up very imperfectly in consequence. The ruin
of the villages along the river here shows how hard the shelling had
been at this time.

[44] See p. 66.

[45] An intercepted pigeon message from a German officer is said to
have described the situation south of the river as "worse than hell."

At length came the day when Foch could let his armies off the leash.
No one can forget the thrill of that 18th of July, when the news came
through in the early afternoon in the clubs and the newspapers that the
advance for which we had hoped so long--and which we somehow knew with
a singular certainty that Foch would make in his own time--had actually
commenced. Some of us, whether more sanguine or more wise than others
I cannot say, seemed to understand at once that the end had really
begun, and the horrible black clouds of four years were broken up as
suddenly and finally as when the sun bursts out after a thunderstorm,
and the storm which was overhead a moment before is suddenly seen to
be rolling away to the horizon. And when the late news at night and
the early news the next morning allowed us to see something of Foch's
intention, and how well things were progressing, we might well have
ordered "joybells" if it had not been for our painful recollection of
too early rejoicing over the Cambrai battle of 1917. But the joybells
were within everyone, all the same. No doubt there is justification
for the special celebration every year of Armistice Day. But to many
of us the real day of relief, the day when the sun once more broke out
on France and Britain and all the Allied lands, was the day on which
Mangin astonished the Germans by suddenly walking through the western
boundary of the salient which they had captured with so much effort and
so much boastfulness.

The scheme of the _Friedensturm_ was to encircle Rheims by simultaneous
advances east and west of the impassable Montagne de Reims, the
advances to meet at Epernay (Plate 114), and thereafter the valley of
the Marne to provide the long-deferred route to Paris. On the east
the advance was held up on the Vesle from the very start by General
Gouraud's skilful "false front" tactics. Prunay was taken and retaken,
and attempts made to secure a bridge-head at Sillery (Plate 115), six
miles from the city, and due south of the Nogent de l'Abesse fort,
while slight gains were made farther east; but practically no progress
at all was effected.

South of Rheims and away to the south and east from Epernay towards
Bar-le-Duc, the war-struck ground ceases. Pleasant avenues and
undamaged villages are delightful to the eye after days of wandering in
the desert of the north-west. In places we even passed through avenues
of fruit-trees in full blossom.

Having failed in the east, Ludendorff redoubled his pressure on the
west of the Montagne, but British troops and Italian Alpini joined the
French in holding up the critical points; and although the salient
round Rheims itself was narrowed, the Marne was not reached and Epernay
could only be shelled from a distance of seven or eight miles. Near
Château Thierry, at the western end of the great salient, American
troops aided the French in preventing advance. Already on the 18th
of July, the first day of the advance, the French reached positions
commanding the road and railway at Soissons, on the 21st Château
Thierry was recaptured, and the next day saw the Germans back, for
the last time, north of the river which had been the turning-point in
1914. The 26th of July saw an engagement which earned very special
appreciation from Haig,[46] the taking of the Buzancy Château (Plate
116) and the little plateau on which it stands, about 300 feet above
the River Crise, some four miles south of Soissons. Buzancy had been
the object of an attack by the French and another by the Americans
within a week from the commencement of the advance, but had been
pertinaciously held by the Germans. It is in effect a narrow promontory
between two deep valleys, and an almost unassailable position. On the
28th of July the 15th Scottish Division were told off for the attack,
and the Highlanders succeeded after a fight so notable that, although
the position was not permanently held until a day or two later, the
17th French Division erected a memorial (Plate 117) in commemoration of
it on the spot where the body of the foremost Highlander was found. The
monument, simple and dignified, bears the inscription: "Ici fleurira
toujours le glorieux Chardon d'Écosse parmi les Roses de France."
Five days later the French entered Soissons once more, and on the 5th
of August the Aisne was again crossed, and Fismes (Plate 95), on the
Vesle, was taken by the Americans on the same day. But Foch's plan led
him to leave this district for a time while equally important advances
were made elsewhere.

[46] Haig's Despatches, vol. ii., p. 256.

On the 10th of October the troops were back again on the old Le Cateau
battlefield, and Le Cateau was retaken, and on the next day the whole
length of the Chemin des Dames plateau was again in the Allies'

On the 4th of November we were again at Landrecies,[47] and right
through the Mormal Forest, while on the next day the ancient
fortifications of Le Quesnoy (Plate 118) were taken by assault and the
garrison surrendered.

[47] See p. 77, _ante_.

Meantime French and Americans were advancing farther to the east,
outside the lines of the 1914 retreat, through extremely difficult
country, and meeting with strenuous opposition. Near Varennes one saw
still in 1920 the American notice, "Road under control; split your
convoy" (see p. 75).

The Germans, retreating, naturally cut down all the trees on the
roadsides in order to lay them across the roads to hinder our advance;
there now remain only stumps a few feet above the ground. It must be
long before the old avenues can reappear, but cultivation seemed to
be going on normally everywhere. The destruction of fruit-trees in
the German retreat of 1917 was a different matter, the justification
of which on military grounds seems somewhat strained. Plate 119
is copied from a photograph in a captured German Report from the
Hirson district. It was intended specially to show the blowing up of
a railway-bridge at Mennessis, but serves also to show exactly the
thorough and deliberate way in which the orchards were destroyed.

At cross-roads mine craters formed a serious delay to traffic, and
the sappers (after careful investigation for, and destruction of, the
numerous booby-traps) had to bridge or to circumvent them, or both.
Bridges, of course, were all blown up. Hirson, entered on the 8th of
November (Plate 120), is an example of many others, where there has
not been time to erect a girder bridge. Plate 121 shows one of the
pile bridges over the Condé Canal--bridges which were often erected
in an incredibly short time. The Americans reached the Meuse at Sedan
(Plate 122) on the 5th of November, and took the western half of
the town on the 7th, and the British under Byng retook the ancient
fortress of Maubeuge (Plate 123 shows the girder bridge over the Meuse
here put across after the German retreat), which had been compelled
to surrender, after a fortnight's siege, on the 9th of November in
1914. Finally British troops (Canadians) reached Mons (Plate 124),
and entered the city at dawn on the 11th of November, a few hours
before the Armistice came into effect. So ended the campaign where it
had been commenced more than four years earlier. A story told by Mr.
Buchan[48] is well worth repeating: The 8th Division in Horne's First
Army had spent the winter of 1917-18 in the Ypres Salient; it had done
gloriously in March in the retreat from St. Quentin; it had fought in
May in the third battle of the Aisne, and from the beginning of August
had been hotly engaged in the British advance:

[48] "History of the War," xxiv., p. 73.

 "Yet now it had the vigour of the first month of war. On the 10th of
 November one of its battalions, the 2nd Middlesex, travelled for seven
 hours in 'buses, and then marched twenty-seven miles pushing the enemy
 before them. They wanted to reach the spot near Mons where some of
 them (then in the 4th Middlesex) fired almost the first British shots
 in the war, and it is pleasant to record that they succeeded."

With the recollection of this exploit and the story of Cambrai and
Bourlon (and many others) before them, will anyone in future be daring
enough to try to convince us of the physical and moral decadence of the
Cockney--a doctrine which some offensively superior people tried to
preach not so many years ago?

[Illustration: _PLATE CVII._


 _General Smith-Dorrien's men were in position along the canal when
 they first received the German attack on Sunday, the 23rd of August,

[Illustration: _PLATE CVIII._


 _The colliery slag heaps close to Mons, among which fighting took
 place on the first day of the retreat from Mons in 1914._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CIX._


 _The western end of the road across the Mormal Forest to Jolimetz. The
 wood has been much thinned by the Germans during their four years of

[Illustration: _PLATE CX._


 _Here the Guards first came into action in August, 1914, and here in
 1918 the German Guards failed to stand in their retreat against our

[Illustration: _PLATE CXI._


 _The town is very little, if at all, damaged. It stands close to the
 "Roman Road" at the eastern end of the road to Cambrai, across and to
 the south of which we fought heavy rear-guard actions in 1914, and
 across which, in the opposite direction, the Germans retreated four
 years later._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXII._


 _This view gives some idea of the size of the river. It was taken near
 La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, which was in the British lines in the first
 battle of the Marne in September, 1914._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXIII._


 _On the Marne, a few miles east of Château Thierry. It is one of the
 places covered in Ludendorff's_ Friedensturm _advance, and therefore
 one of those first to be recovered by Foch in 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXIV._


 _Ludendorff's great attempt at encircling Rheims involved that two
 advances, one east and one west of the Montagne de Reims, should meet
 at Epernay, and thence advance on Paris by the Marne Valley. But
 Epernay was never reached from either side, although it was shelled
 from a distance of seven or eight miles._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXV._


 _About six miles from Rheims, where General Gouraud held up the
 eastern arm of Ludendorff's "pincers."_]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXVI._


 _At the top of a little ridge above the Crise, south of Soissons.
 It was stormed by the Highlanders in very notable fashion in July,
 1918. The plateau beyond it gave General Mangin command of the German
 communications farther east._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXVII._


 _This memorial was erected by the 17th French Division, who took over
 from the Camerons, with the inscription "Ici fleurira toujours le
 glorieux Chardon d'Écosse parmi les Roses de France."_]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXVIII._


 _An old town with Vauban fortifications, of which the photograph shows
 the moat, which was taken by storm in November, 1918._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXIX._


 _A copy from a captured German photograph of a blown-up railway
 bridge, incidentally showing the deliberate destruction of the
 fruit-trees in the German retreat of 1917._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXX._


 _Everywhere in their retreat of 1918 the Germans naturally blew up
 bridges in order to hinder our progress behind them. At Hirson the old
 bridge was still only replaced by a timber structure._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXXI._


 _One of the very rapidly constructed pile bridges (in this case over
 the Condé Canal), which the Engineers threw up in place of those
 destroyed in the German retreat._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXXII._


 _The River Meuse at Sedan,--where the entrance of Americans and French
 in 1918 avenged the catastrophe of half a century earlier._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXXIII._


 _The fortifications of Maubeuge, although of an old type, held a
 considerable force of Germans back in the advance of 1914. The bridge
 was, of course, destroyed by the retreating Germans in 1918, and the
 girder bridge has temporarily replaced it._]

[Illustration: _PLATE CXXIV._


 _For us the war began here on the 23rd of August, 1914, and ended on
 the 11th of November, 1918._]

                      PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

Obvious printer's errors corrected.

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including obsolete and variant spellings, inconsistently
hyphenated words, inconsistent accent marks, and other inconsistencies.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ypres to Verdun - A Collection of Photographs of the War areas in France & Flanders" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.