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Title: Verdun to The Vosges - Impressions of the War on the Fortress Frontier of France
Author: Campbell, Gerald
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

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                          VERDUN TO THE VOSGES



[Illustration:

                              Pierre Petit phot.
  GENERAL DE CASTELNAU.
]

                             VERDUN TO THE
                                 VOSGES

                     _IMPRESSIONS OF THE WAR ON THE
                      FORTRESS FRONTIER OF FRANCE_



                                   BY

                            GERALD CAMPBELL

       SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF _THE TIMES_ IN THE EAST OF FRANCE

                AUTHOR OF “EDWARD AND PAMELA FITZGERALD”



                           SECOND IMPRESSION



                                 LONDON

                             EDWARD ARNOLD

                                  1916


                        [_All rights reserved_]



                                PREFACE


At the beginning of September, 1914, I was commissioned by _The Times_
to go to France as its representative on the eastern frontier, and it so
happens that, during the war, no other English newspaper correspondent
has been stationed for any length of time on the long section of the
front between Verdun and Belfort. One or two paid flying visits to
Lorraine after I was settled there, but they were birds of passage, and
were off again almost as soon as they arrived. In collecting the
material for my despatches and letters I was helped more than I can say
by my colleague, Monsieur Fleury Lamure, a French journalist who had
already worked for _The Times_ in Belgium, where he spent some exciting
days in August dodging about in front of the armies of von Kluck, von
Bulow, and von Hausen as they advanced on Charleroi and Namur. Before
the war he had served two years as an engineer officer in the French and
Russian navies, and had also worked in Manchuria and the Near East,
first as interpreter to General Silvestre, the French military _attaché_
at Kuropatkin’s headquarters, and then as correspondent of the _Novoe
Vremya_, with the Servians, in the second Balkan war. In the course of
our wanderings together we found that the French military and civil
authorities highly appreciated the fact that the newspaper which most of
them consider the greatest of English journals had associated a
Frenchman with me in the work of writing about the operations of their
frontier force. From the first our path was smoothed by what they looked
upon as a graceful and sensible act on the part of the Editor. At a
later stage in the war my French colleague, who has been twice _réformé_
as unfit for the active exercise of his profession, offered himself at
the Admiralty in Paris for one of the auxiliary forces, but was told
that the best thing he could do for his country was to go on working for
_The Times_.

From September, 1914, to January, 1915, after which no correspondents
were allowed in the zone of the armies, we made our headquarters at
Nancy. Between us, at various times, we visited a large part of the
front from Verdun to Ferette, close to the Swiss frontier, and only
fifteen or twenty miles from the Rhine. Sometimes we were in the
trenches, _â bout portant_ of the enemy’s rifles, and for four months
hardly a day or a night passed when we did not hear the sound of the
guns. From what we saw and from what we heard from those who took an
active part in it, we were able to get what is, I believe, a fairly
correct idea of the general run of the fighting on both sides of the
frontier. We were well placed, not only for judging the temper of the
civil population of the invaded provinces, but also the spirit and
fighting qualities of their defenders.

Before we came to Lorraine we had both seen a little of the early
fighting in Belgium—at Namur and Mons, and Charleroi and Dinant. But it
was at Nancy that I really got to know something of French soldiers and
learnt to admire the wonderful cheerfulness and courage of the XXth Army
Corps and the other splendid troops who talked with the enemy in the
gate of France, and blocked the passage with their dead bodies.

All that is long ago, though not so long as it seems after the weary
waiting of more than a year’s work in the trenches. But the end is not
yet. Those army corps, or their successors—for nearly all of the
original officers and men are dead or wounded—are still steadily
pressing the enemy back, almost on the same ground as when we were
there, and, though the full story cannot be told even now, it is neither
too late nor too soon for an Englishman to try and give some idea of the
debt which England owes to the French armies of the east.

But I should like to say a word about England too. It is always
difficult to see ourselves as others see us. Till long after I had gone
abroad for this war—to be quite frank, till the end of 1915—I had no
real idea of the view which other nations held at the beginning of the
chances of our taking a hand in it. I knew, of course, that many Germans
had declared since it began that they for their part had never believed
that we would draw the sword. I knew from Englishmen who were in Berlin
two days, and even I believe one day, before we did declare war, that
Englishmen at that time were received in the streets with cries of “Vive
l’Angleterre,” or rather “Hoch! England!” and that the bitter revulsion
of feeling against us only began when we had thrown down the glove. But
that—as I then thought—extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding
of our national temper, the infuriated reaction from which found vent in
the “Gott strafe England” campaign and the “Song of Hate,” I put down to
an inexplicable blindness peculiar to the German nation, and to the sort
of fury to which we are all liable when other people on important
occasions do not act as we wish and expect that they will. Since
then—but only lately—I have learnt better, from the vantage ground of a
neutral nation.

It is a fact that not only the Germanophil but the Francophil Swiss were
genuinely and deeply astonished when they learnt—from the official
_communiqués_—that we intended to intervene in the war because the soil
of Belgium had been invaded. When the thing was done they accepted it as
a fact. They were bound to. But they did not anticipate it. They found
it hard to believe that with an army, as they thought—and they were not
so far wrong—of only 150,000 men, with nothing to gain and everything to
lose, we would be so quixotic as to throw ourselves into a contest in
which we were not directly concerned, and to send our “contemptible
little army” (even smaller than their own) to fight in a foreign country
the battles of another state against the overpowering military might of
Germany.

It is also a fact—and to me a still more astounding revelation—that a
month after the war had begun there were people in France, and among
them soldiers of high standing, who were honestly surprised at what we
had already done in the war, as well as profoundly grateful, and who
even then honestly doubted whether we really meant to put our backs into
it to any purpose.

One can understand their astonishment at what we have done since. Even
an Englishman may say, without excessive national conceit, that the work
of our Navy, the huge volunteer armies raised in a year from the
Mother-country and our Dominions and Colonies and India, and our
subsequent if only partial acceptance of the principle of National
Service, are not everyday affairs. But the initial Swiss doubt or
scepticism as to our possible action, once the neutrality of Belgium had
been violated, and the fears of our friends in France at the beginning,
that having set our hand to the plough we might turn back before the
furrow was finished, are not so easy for us Englishmen to comprehend. We
had thought that they knew us better. No matter what Government had been
in power, once the Germans had declared their intention of passing
through the country of the Belgians, we must inevitably have drawn the
sword to defend or avenge them; more than that, even if Belgium had not
been invaded, we must no less have put our sword at the disposal of
invaded France, for the one wrong was in reality as great as the other.
And, no matter what Government may be in power to-morrow or the day
after, the spirit of England will not change. We stand by the side of
France and our other Allies to the end. And by now, I fancy, the French
have found that out.

But do we, even now, realize fully what the war means, and what, as a
nation, we have got to do before we can expect to win it? I have just
come back to England after an absence of a year and a half. I find that
though Parliament and the great mass of the people in all ranks have
accepted the principle of National Service, there are still in some
quarters powerful organizations which are vehemently opposed to it. I
find that in spite of all the warnings that have been issued in the
Press and by other means as to the imperative necessity of thrift, and
in spite of all the efforts made by countless individuals and large
sections of the community to model their lives in accordance with those
warnings, other individuals and other sections of the community pay no
attention to them at all. Money is being earned in unexampled and
hitherto undreamt-of profusion, and is being spent with reckless
prodigality. Thrift there is on all sides, but cheek by jowl and
hand-in-hand with it there is appalling waste.

We have got to get rid of that word thrift altogether. At the best it is
an affair of calculation, and can never inspire us to great deeds or
counteract the personal and ignoble motives by which human nature, even
in the greatest crises, is too often swayed. There is nothing lofty or
idealistic or spiritual about it. We must get into an altogether higher
region than that of economics. We must learn the lesson not of thrift
but of self-sacrifice. Only that can save us. Without it, even though we
have the dreaded ships and the splendid men and the all-necessary money
too, we shall be in this war as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
With it, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things,
enduring all things, we shall move mountains and overcome the world—the
world of the powers of darkness. It is the lack of it, and nothing but
the lack of it, which is at present preventing us from winning the war
and putting an end to its intolerable misery and evil.

                                                               G. C.

      LONDON,
    March, 1916.



                                CONTENTS

                                CHAPTER I

                             LONDON TO DIJON

                                                                    PAGE

 Departure from London, September 8th, 1914—A German                   1
   officer’s analysis of the invaders’ plan of
   campaign—Paris—General condition of doubt and
   uncertainty—Travelling during the Battle of the
   Marne—Effect in France of the news of the victory


                               CHAPTER II

                            DIJON TO BELFORT

 Arrival in Dijon—The laisser-passer difficulty—Besançon—An           11
   anxious moment—Arrival at Belfort—Doubtful reception—A
   Socialist private—Manifesto “Aux Camerades
   Socialistes”—National Service—A Capitalists’ War—The
   Strike of Strikes—The struggle for freedom—État de siège—A
   city of darkness—Welcome by the Governor


                               CHAPTER III

                                IN ALSACE

 On German soil—Montreux Vieux—The first ruined                       21
   village—Towards the Rhine—A night reconnaissance in
   Alsace—Ferette—Covert drawn blank—Cheerfulness of the
   French soldier—His longing for home—His home at the
   front—Taube “over”—A Colonel’s hobby—An army in earnest


                               CHAPTER IV

                           ROBBERY UNDER ARMS

 Eve of the War—French neutral zone along the frontier—German         33
   raids in time of peace—Sunday, August 2nd—The affair at
   Joncherey—First blood—A German epic—The Suarce
   raid—Robbery under arms—Political importance of the
   incident—Prisoners of war where no war was

                                CHAPTER V

                            BELFORT TO NANCY

 News of Nancy—German lies—Security of Belfort—After twelve           39
   months—Breakdown of German plans—Visit to the Préfet of
   Belfort—A Prefect’s duties and position—Check on
   militarism—Special duties during the war—The Préfets and
   Sous-Préfets of the frontier Departments—Posts of
   danger—Example and precept—Return to
   Dijon—Chalindrey—British Tommies—Wounded French
   officers—Toul—Arrival in Nancy


                               CHAPTER VI

                         ÉTAT-DE-SIÈGE IN NANCY

 Discouraging start in Nancy—General de la Massellière—Visits         48
   to the Prefect and Mayor—Their appointment—Madame
   Mirman—Their example—The Lorraine stock—Nancy by night—The
   sound of the guns—A united people—The French
   renaissance—Nancy newspapers—Nancy hospitals—Nursing
   sisters


                               CHAPTER VII

                          THE FRENCH OFFENSIVE

 The German territorial gains—Bearing on peace proposals—The          61
   French offensive—General moral effect—Uncertainty as to
   direction of German attack—Sources from which eastern
   armies were drawn—Their offensive—General account—In the
   Woevre—Verdun and Longwy—From the Moselle to Mulhouse—The
   frontier force—Justification of the offensive—Description
   of frontier—Of Alsace—Importance of the Vosges—The
   Sundgau—First French advance on August 7th—Altkirch
   retaken


                              CHAPTER VIII

                         OCCUPATIONS OF MULHOUSE

 Advance on Mulhouse—Unopposed entry—Popular                          77
   rejoicings—German counter-attack—Smallness of French
   force—Their repulse—Terrorism—Harsh treatment of
   foreigners—Reorganization of French under General
   Pau—Second advance on Mulhouse—Battle round the
   town—Victory of the French—Second occupation began


                               CHAPTER IX

                                MORHANGE

 Description of the Vosges—French advance—Triumphs in                 88
   Lorraine—The check at Morhange—Why the French fell into
   the trap—The disaster—New birth of the army—Bad news—The
   offensive abandoned


                                CHAPTER X

                         GENERAL DUBAIL’S STAND

 Combination of reverses for France—Soldiers’ ignorance of           100
   contemporary events—Reliance on barrier of
   fortresses—Determination to fight in the open—Different
   conditions—Position after Morhange—German advance—Trouée
   de Charmes—Epinal—Vesouze, Mortagne, and Meurthe—Brave
   resistance of Dubail’s army—The reverse of the picture—The
   terrorists’ _Credo_—Condemnation of frightfulness—An
   example—The German excuse


                               CHAPTER XI

                            THE MARTYRED TOWN

 Gerbéviller—Visit with M. Mirman—The ruins—Murder of old            114
   men—How the town was taken—Incendiarism—Sœur Julie—An
   act of “sacrilege”—Other martyred towns—Badonviller—The
   first occupation—The second—Fight in the streets—St.
   Benoit—Col de la Chipotte


                               CHAPTER XII

                     BATTLE OF THE GRAND COURONNÉ. I

 The battle of the Grand Couronné—Two parts—The position             125
   south of the Meurthe—Transport of Dragoon regiment from
   Alsace—Arrival at Charmes—Towards Lunéville—Procession of
   fugitives—Description of field of battle—South and north
   of Meurthe up to Nancy-Lunéville road—General Bigot’s
   divisions—Retreat of the XVth and XVIth Army Corps—General
   retreat—Lunéville abandoned—Position of XXth Army
   Corps—The troops from the south reformed—A miracle—The
   battle begins—Germans cross Mortagne and Meurthe—A battle
   symphony—Across the field of battle—Scenes of
   desolation—The battle continued—German attack
   checked—Retreat turned into advance—The XVth Army Corps
   leaves for the Argonne—Their regeneration


                              CHAPTER XIII

                    BATTLE OF THE GRAND COURONNÉ. II

 Nancy, the woman-town—Absence of fortifications—Attitude of         141
   her defenders—The pivot of the line—Kaiser’s dreams of
   conquest—Description of four German lines of attack—Of the
   country—General de Castelnau’s line—Champenoux
   villages—Réméréville—Farms and cottages—Loopholed
   blockhouses—The wounded—The refugees—Account of
   Nomeny—German brutality—Rottenness of German
   civilization—Germany’s future—Inspiration of soldiers of
   Lorraine—The part of the women—A woman’s letter


                               CHAPTER XIV

                    BATTLE OF THE GRAND COURONNÉ. III

 The attack on Nancy from the north—St. Généviève—The                155
   assault—How it was repulsed—The attack from the
   east—Dombasle—Courbesseau—Réméréville—Soldiers’ disregard
   of fire—In Champagne—French disadvantages in
   Lorraine—Their gallantry—Individualism—Main attack from
   north-east—Attack on plateau of Amance—September
   8th—Importance of the date—What it meant to the
   Kaiser—Final assault on Amance—Relations between Battle of
   the Marne and Battle of the Grand Couronné—Bombardment of
   Nancy—The German retreat—Last struggle in
   Champenoux—Losses of the victors—Their graves—The horror
   of the horizon—The reassurance of the front


                               CHAPTER XV

                                LUNÉVILLE

 Effect of Battle of the Grand Couronné on Lunéville—Extent          178
   of damage in the town—Entry of Germans—Familiar faces—M.
   Minier, M. Mequillet, M. Keller—Faubourg d’Einville
   burnt—German Governor’s proclamation—Hostages—Plight of
   inhabitants—Outside the town—The turn of the tide—France
   and Germany—A duel to the death—Last fights before the
   town—German bestiality—General Joffre’s message—The last
   advance—French enter the town—Restored to France


                               CHAPTER XVI

                        NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENTS

 After the storm—A Prefect’s duties—Newspaper                        193
   correspondents—War a serious matter—Enemy’s means of
   information—On the battlefield—“Behind the front”—German
   dread of newspapers—Their own—French and British—The truth
   concealed—In Belgium—Effect in neutral Switzerland—Change
   of opinion due to knowledge of state of
   _internés_—Confidence of M. Mirman—_The Times_ an agent
   for good—Expulsion from Nancy—Hopes of return


                              CHAPTER XVII

                          A DAY WITH A PREFECT

 A Conseil de Révision—Comparison with English                       205
   recruiting—French boys’ enthusiasm—Their experience of
   terrorism—A greybeard—The Mayors of Lorraine—A war to kill
   war—Lunch at the Préfecture—Through the French army—At the
   front—A deserted village—Towards Nomeny—A check—Retreat—M.
   Puech—A souvenir—French sang-froid

                              CHAPTER XVIII

                      THE ATTACK ON THE RIVER FORTS

 Position after Battle of the Grand Couronné—German failures         218
   reviewed—Mystery of Manonviller—Position of Toul—Of the
   barrier of fortresses—Description of the Woevre—Troyon—The
   first bombardment—German demand for surrender—The
   attacking force—Relief from Toul—The attack
   abandoned—Renewed bombardment of the river forts—Formation
   of the St. Mihiel triangle


                               CHAPTER XIX

                          THE “SOIXANTE-QUINZE”

 The Emperor William—His advisers—The modern Huns—The barrier        244
   of the trenches—The Soixante-Quinze—Its superiority to its
   German rival—The French gunner—Pride of the nation in its
   artillery—Determination in the workshops—The struggle of
   the trenches—A German description


                               CHAPTER XX

                              SIEGE WARFARE

 Second period of the war—Germany besieged—The pressure on           263
   the west—Partial offensives—The lack of shells—Its effect
   on the war—“Craters of Death”—Monotony of the trenches—A
   National Army—Soldier-priests—Their contempt of
   death—Their self-sacrifice—Their spiritual work—Influence
   on the troops—The realities of life—Church and State—The
   example of the State—Spirit of unity—Points of
   attack—Hammer and tongs—The St. Mihiel
   salient—Chauvoncourt—Les Eparges—Bois d’Ailly—Bois
   Brulé—Bois le Prêtre—The Vosges and Alsace—The soldiers of
   France—France and England—The Boche standards of right and
   wrong—The German cancer and the end of the war


                            CHAPTER THE LAST

                         GERMANY AND THE ALLIES

 Pride and prejudice—English pride before the war—Pride of           282
   France—Pride of race—_Noblesse Oblige_—Pride of
   Germany—Pride of the _parvenu_—Peaceful pre-war invasion
   of German commerce and kultur—Neutral views of Germany’s
   guilt—French views of England—Redemption by hate—What is
   “the right”?—Greater Germany?—Tannenberg’s views—The
   Kaiser’s conversion—Germany’s designs on neutral
   countries—The new year—The dead

 EPILOGUE                                                            301

                            By M. LÉON MIRMAN



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             FACING PAGE

 General de Castelnau                                     _Frontispiece_

 Les Halles, Raon l’Etape                                             22

 French Advance in Village Street of Magnières                        36

 M. Léon Mirman                                                       44

 M. Simon                                                             50

 French Advance at Sainte-Barbe                                       92

 General Dubail                                                      104

 Gerbéviller                                                         116

 Farm of Léomont                                                     134

 General Foch                                                        156

 Infantry Attack on Farm of Saint Epvre, on the Heights              190
   above Lunéville

 Outside the Préfecture, Nancy                                       202

 Nomeny                                                              214

 Réméréville                                                         222

 Château de Haraucourt                                               222

 French Attack from Cemetery of Rehainviller near                    258
   Lunéville

 Church at Drouville                                                 286



                              LIST OF MAPS


                                                                    PAGE

 Eastern Frontier                                                     59

 Alsace and the Vosges                                                71

 Lorraine Frontier                                     _Facing page_ 126

 La Woevre                                                 ”     ”   272

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          VERDUN TO THE VOSGES



                               CHAPTER I
                            LONDON TO DIJON


We left London on the evening of September the 8th with passports viséd
for Dijon, and a faint hope that, if we were lucky, we might succeed
some day in getting to Belfort, the immediate object of our journey. In
ordinary times, and even now, after more than a year of the war, that is
not a very difficult undertaking. In the second week of September, 1914,
it was in its way quite a little adventure. Everything was obscure,
everybody was in the dark. For all that most of us knew the retreat that
had begun at Mons three weeks before was still going on. The possibility
of the enemy pressing on to Paris was by no means at an end, and even in
the eyes of those who had some inside knowledge of what was happening on
the different fields of battle the risk was still so great that the
French Government had left that capital for Bordeaux some days before.

Nowadays we rattle gaily along in the trains between Paris and Boulogne
or Dieppe, safe in the assurance that though the Germans are not so very
much further off there is between them and us a great gulf of
entrenchments fixed, as well as two huge French and English armies, to
say nothing of King Albert and the Belgians. There were practically no
trenches in those days, and the enemy were in almost overpowering force.
General French’s army, though not so contemptible as the German Emperor
believed, was certainly little. There was still good reason for anxiety
about the possible fate of Paris. After I left Belgium in the middle of
August I had spent some time in Holland, where I saw a good deal of a
young Prussian engineer, who had offices in London, and was also an
officer in the Imperial Flying Corps. He had to report himself at
headquarters in Germany, but had been given short leave to go to
Flushing, and there wait for his English wife, who was to follow him
from London. That was the story he told me, and I believe it was true,
as far as it went, though it is possible that he may also have been
connected with the Intelligence Department of the German army, or what
is commonly termed a spy. In any case there was no doubt about his own
intelligence, which was remarkable, or his fund of information, which
was extensive. Day after day, at the time when the retreat from Mons had
begun and afterwards, he predicted to me (with many apparently genuine
expressions of sympathy for the evil fate that was in store for the
British army and for England) what the next step in the victorious
German advance would be, and day after day he proved to be right. It was
not till I had left Holland and was well on my way to Belfort that I had
the satisfaction of knowing that some of his prophecies were beginning
to go wrong.

I find it interesting to recall now what they were, because they
undoubtedly represented at the time the German plan of campaign, as it
was mapped out by the General Staff, and confidently anticipated by most
of the thinking rank and file of the German army. The great drama, as
everyone knows now, was to be preceded by the violation of Belgium as
the _lever de rideau_. But the plot of the front piece was felt to be
weak, and it had to be strengthened. So the fiction was invented that
French soldiers were already in Belgium before the war began, and that
evidence had been discovered in Brussels of a promise by the Belgian
Government to allow the Allies free passage into Germany through their
territory. The proofs of this conspiracy (the alleged story of which was
not so widely known then as it is now) would, my young Prussian assured
me, be produced at the end of the war. Without that _pièce
justificative_ there could be, he admitted, no excuse for Germany’s
preliminary step. He knew other things that were not at the end of
August common property—outside Germany and the Germans—about Zeppelins
and guns and submarines and other not-to-be-divulged surprises which
were to be sprung on us during the course of the war. He was able, for
instance, to tell me all about the mammoth 42-centimetre guns, served
not by ordinary artillerymen but by specially and secretly trained
artificers from Krupp’s works, which were to batter down the vaunted
French fortresses as they had smashed the forts of Liége. They looked,
he said, less like cannons than huge unwieldy antediluvian animals
compounded of wheels and levers. They had been assigned an important
part in the final act of the drama to be played in front of Paris, which
was timed to finish by the end of the year. More in sorrow than in anger
he explained how Paris would be reached. The armies of the German right
wing which had poured through Belgium (von Kluck’s and the rest) would
be rushed forward in irresistible masses and by incredibly rapid stages
so as to envelop the French and English left wing from the north. At the
same time a corresponding hook (he was continually talking of this
“hook” as the be all and end all of German strategy) would take place
from the south. Under the command of von Haeseler, the idol of the
German troops (a man of iron will with ribs of silver which he wore in
the place of those he lost in the Franco-Prussian War), the left wing
were to advance through the Vosges, Lorraine, and La Woevre, crushing
the cupolas of Belfort and Epinal and Toul and Verdun on their way like
so many egg-shells, and, with the Crown Prince’s army as the connecting
link between them and the northern hook, to round up the whole of the
French and British armies, on or near the plain of Châlons. Meanwhile a
specially detached army was to march on Paris and inform the Government
and its inhabitants that unless the terms of peace proposed by Germany
were immediately signed the city would be bombarded, and the French, he
assured me, sooner than see their beloved Paris reduced to ruins by the
42-centimetre mammoths, would certainly comply, and leave Germany free
to turn her attentions and the super-mammoths which she was preparing
for their especial benefit to London and England.

To-day all this sounds very fantastic and foolish—the idle vapourings of
an irresponsible young man of no importance. But that it was in outline
the German plan there is no doubt, and, but for the heroic resistance of
de Castlenau and Foch and Dubail on the eastern frontier and the
taxi-cab march of Gallieni’s Paris army and the other circumstances
which caused that curious flank march of von Kluck’s on the north at the
moment when his part in the programme was on the eve of completion, it
might have gone near to succeeding. We know that if it had it would not
have ended the war, for the French would undoubtedly have sacrificed
Paris and fought to the bitter end, rather than agree to the proffered
peace. But up to the end of the Battle of the Marne no one could say
with any approach to certainty that they would not be put to the test.

That was the position when we started for Paris. The whole ordered
course of modern civilized life had been upset, and anxiety and
uncertainty had taken its place. Telephones and telegraphs were only
used by the official world, who were nearly as much in the dark as the
rest of us. Channel boats were few and far between. Long-distance trains
were either not running at all or were restricted to not more than two
journeys in the twenty-four hours, and they felt their way like
skirmishers advancing over open country, stopping and making a prolonged
halt at every single station. The journey from Havre in a carriage dimly
lit by a single candle seemed as if it would never end, and I had plenty
of time to reflect with mixed feelings on certain articles which had
recently been published in _The Times_ pointing out the crying necessity
of reducing the time of the whole journey between the two capitals to
something under seven hours. This time it took rather over thirty. I was
beginning to learn the first lesson of the war, the sovereign virtue of
patience.

In Paris we had to put up with another day’s delay. There was, of
course, no question of taking the _ceinture_ or driving straight across
to the Gare de Lyon. Instead we had to dawdle about from five in the
morning till ten at night, getting passports viséd and buying tickets (a
two hours’ job), and then sitting in the train for another two hours
before it started so as to keep the places which by good luck and the
help of a friendly police official, after a series of humiliating
rebuffs from about half a dozen other commissaires and commandants, all
of them harassed and suspicious, we had had the luck to secure. That was
the second lesson, afterwards many times repeated—never to expect to get
a _laisser passer_ or a _permis de voyage_ or _séjour_ or any other
necessity of a journalist’s existence, until you had approached at least
three of the powers that be.

When at last we started, at midnight, the atmosphere of the crowded
carriage was so suffocating that I migrated to the corridor and tried to
sleep, with a suit case for a pillow, on the floor, while other restless
passengers walked about on various parts of my body. Once more we
stopped at every station with a violent bumping and jolting, repeated at
each fresh start, and due to the combined facts that the train was about
a quarter of a mile long, that it was made up of a job lot of carriages,
and that the understudies of the regular drivers and stokers mobilized
for active service were not very well up in their parts. Still, all
things considered, we were uncommonly lucky to reach Dijon in thirteen
hours instead of in five; and, all things considered, we knew quite well
that we had nothing to complain of. As the Battle of the Marne was being
fought at an average distance of about seventy miles from the line on
which we were travelling, the wonder was that passenger trains were
running at all. When the real history of the war is written a good deal
will have to be said of the splendid way in which the railwaymen of
France have done their important but trying and dreary share of the
country’s work in the country’s hour of need.

We were not, as I wrote at the time, a cheerful crowd. Many of us had
come long distances, some even from America. The compelling hand of the
war was on everyone in the train. Except in the deserted streets of
Paris during the few hours that I spent there the day before, I had
never seen such uniform sadness on so many faces at once. The women
especially, bravely as they tried to face their grief and their
anxieties, kind and helpful as they were to one another and the tiny
babies that some of them had with them, were indescribably pathetic.

These people were not refugees, like the trainloads one had seen lately
in Belgium and Holland. They were going to the scene of the war instead
of away from it. Most of them were reservists or the wives and children
of reservists, bound for their old homes near the various headquarters
to which the men had been called up. Some of them were nurses of the
Croix Rouge, middle-aged women and quite young girls; some were on their
way to visit wounded relations. Each and all carried the same heavy
burden. Not one but many of those near and dear to them were at the
front. They knew in some cases that they were already among the dead or
wounded or missing. But generally they knew nothing at all except that,
if they were still alive, they were there somewhere on one of the many
battlefields on the long line of the Allies’ front, face to face with
the enemy and death.

We made many friends of different conditions in life during the slow
hours between dawn and midday, and all had the same story to tell. But
there was no need to ask. It was written in their faces. The natural
vivacity of these sorrowing women of France was gone. They talked, when
they did talk, quietly and sadly, and of only one subject. More often
they sat with unseeing eyes, looking far off into the darkness of the
unknown future, fearful of the fate that waited for the men by their
side, and appalled by the thought of the ruin and suffering that
threatened their homes and their children. The tragedy that has brought
sorrow to the women of half the world had come upon them with the
suddenness of a bomb from a Taube, and some of them were wounded and all
were stunned by its effect. That was when we were still in the dark
about the result of the great battle that had begun to rage on the left
wing near Paris, before the German retreat began. On the second day of
our stay in Dijon there was a sudden change in the emotional atmosphere.
Directly I left the hotel in the evening I felt that good news had come.
Relief and happiness were in the air. In the railway station, in the
streets, in the cafés, on the pavements outside the newspaper offices
where the daily news of the war was posted up, the look of the people
was absolutely different. For the moment personal griefs and losses were
hidden and forgotten. General Joffre’s general order of September 11th
had been published to the troops, and from them the news had spread so
quickly that in half an hour everyone seemed to know what had happened.

It was the first real success of the war, the first time since its very
early days that the French had begun to lose the feeling of apprehension
produced in their minds by the steady retreat of the allied troops from
the Belgian frontier, after the battles of Charleroi and Mons. Even the
officers at Dijon were affected by it. Up till then, though they spoke
confidently enough of eventual success, the subject uppermost in their
minds and their conversation was always the wonderful perfection of the
German organization. That was a nightmare which they had not so far been
able to shake off. Now suddenly it was gone. In a day it had become
evident that France and England had their organization too, as well as
the common enemy, and that the strategy of the allied forces was
beginning at last to tell. And the really hopeful sign of it all was, if
I may venture to say so, the English way in which Dijon and France
received the good news. They behaved, in fact, much better than some
English had done in similar circumstances in past days. There was no
mafficking and no hysterical excitement, but only a more determined
resolution than ever to see the thing through to the end, a
strengthening of the national spirit of unity, and a fuller realization
of the value and sincerity of the alliance with England and of the fine
fighting qualities of our troops.



                               CHAPTER II
                            DIJON TO BELFORT


In Paris, when we passed through it, it was still possible for
inoffensive travellers to feel themselves free men. At Dijon we had
our first real taste of the restrictions on personal liberty imposed
by the war in the zone of the armies. Each time that we came to a new
place we had to get at least three separate signed and stamped permits
(from three or more officials) empowering us to leave the station, to
stay, even for an hour, in the town, and to go into the station again,
or anywhere outside the town, when our business was done. To all such
applications the attitude of officialdom, entrenched behind barriers
and supported by bayonets, and vindictive or regretful according to
the temperament of the individual representative of the law and the
degree of exasperation to which he had been brought by previous
encounters with the public, was, as a rule, one of uncompromising
refusal. At first that kind of thing, even when it has become a
commonplace of one’s existence, is rather trying. The shock to one’s
self-esteem and the sense of confinement are both extremely galling.
It is not pleasant day after day to put yourself in a position in
which you are liable to be treated like a naughty schoolboy, nor to
feel that you are as restricted in your walks abroad as a Dartmoor
convict. From the abominable feeling of being shut up in a cage there
was, with rare exceptions, no escape, any more than there is for the
lions at the Zoo. But we soon found that the chase after permits, if
we treated it as a kind of game, was tolerable and even exciting,
because each time we played it, though with _The Times_ as our trump
card we almost invariably won, we stood a good chance of losing. The
real skill consisted in knowing when it was wise and safe to play it.
Our opponents, destined in time to become our friends, were generals,
staff officers, gendarmes, station guards and their commandants,
military police commissaires, civil police “_agents_,” and other
officials of all sorts and sizes. Most of them started by being
suspicious of us and our mission, and generally speaking the more
humble their post the more they wanted humouring before they could be
brought to see that the rules of the game might perhaps be slightly
relaxed in our favour. But once they had reached that point, as soon,
that is to say, as they got to know us for what we said we were, they
were ready to do anything in their power, because we were allies and
representatives of _The Times_—which has not yet been burnt, and never
will be, on any Bourse in the east of France. With the exception of a
fierce-moustachioed warrior who had a holy horror of German spies (and
therefore, if you see the connexion, of English journalists) the only
French officials, high or low, who persistently refused anything
important for which we asked them, were a distinguished General
Officer and his Chief of Staff, who always dealt with us through their
subordinates. If only we could have seen and known the General himself
I firmly believe that he would have been as kind as all the rest. But
he had other things to do, or else he never got our cards and letters.

Having got into Dijon, and having received reluctant permission to stay
there, first for a night, and then for as much longer as we liked, the
next thing was to get out of it, using it, if it would allow itself so
to be used, as a stepping stone to higher things. It was occupied at
that time by the 20th (Reserve) Army Corps, which had its staff
headquarters at the hotel where we put up. Both before and after we
received the news of the Battle of the Marne all the officers whom we
met there were chafing to be at the front, and openly envious of our
poor little chance of getting there before them. They little knew how
slender it was. However, in General Brissaud, the Governor of the town,
we found after a time a real friend, and from him we got a personal
_visa_ as far as Besançon, which was the limit of his jurisdiction,
together with a verbal recommendation that we should be passed on to
Belfort. At Besançon we had a bad quarter of an hour, as the
station-commandant hesitated a long time before he agreed to let us go
on, and we only just escaped being sent back to Paris. Something,
however, turned the scale in our favour, and at last, though with rather
a wry face, he sent us on our way rejoicing, greatly relieved at our
escape, but careful not to show it till we were safe in our carriage.

It was long after dark when we got to Belfort. There was nowhere for us
to sleep in the station, and no return train. Otherwise I think the
little knot of officers who shook their heads doubtfully over our
passports on the dimly lit platform would certainly have packed us into
it straight away. There were some grounds for their hesitation. We had
reached one of the chief of the gates of France, and were getting near
the enemy. The Trouée de Belfort, the wide flat opening between the
foothills of the Vosges and the Jura mountains, had to be defended from
possible foes within as well as without. War, as the warrior with the
fierce moustachios remarked to me a month or two later, is a serious
matter, and nowhere were the French taking it more seriously than in the
war-worn outpost fortress that stands sentinel in front of the Belfort
gap, linked to the heart of the Republic by the long chain of lonely
sentries that guarded the railway night and day all the way to Paris.
Outside it very little was known at that time—in England nothing at
all—of its then condition. Even the Germans knew nothing, so they, or
their newspapers, invented lies about it, and said that it was closely
invested. But though no German soldier, except in an aeroplane, ever got
within miles of it, the state of siege proclaimed by the Governor was
enforced with rigid strictness, and the whole of the civil population,
except those who catered for the needs of the garrison, had been
evacuated some days before we got there. At the best, therefore, however
genuine our passports and however innocent our appearance, we were two
_bouches inutiles_ who would have to be fed; at the worst, as
journalists, the chances were that we should be indiscreet (that is the
normal view); and anyhow it was very doubtful if we had any right to be
there at all. But there, undeniably, we were, and so—well, perhaps after
all the best way out of the difficulty was to send us to the Governor’s
headquarters and leave him to deal with our case. So to the General’s
quarters, the heart of the fortress, which we were as anxious as any
German to reach, we set out, under the escort of Private Jouanard,
election agent and newspaper correspondent, a convinced socialist and
anti-militarist, but, like his idol Jaurès, a Frenchman first of all,
and therefore an ardent soldier of France, a warm admirer of England,
and a bitter enemy of the Boche and all his works.

I suppose that long before this book is published England will have at
last realized the truth of the creed of French soldiers like Private
Jouanard, and will have demanded as one man to be put, like France, on
the footing of national service. But I may be too sanguine; we may have
to grapple with the industrial revolution threatened by Mr. J. H.
Thomas, M.P. In any case I should like to quote once more a proclamation
written by Private Jouanard for _l’Humanité_, which, before our
acquaintance was twelve hours old, he gave me for publication in _The
Times_. It was addressed “Aux Camarades Socialistes,” and signed “L. J.
A mobilized comrade.”

“We are now at the parting of the ways. After having fought stubbornly
against that human scourge—war, the insatiable ambition of a despot
forces us to take up arms. Despite the immense sorrow that grips us at
the thought of being the involuntary murderers of those Germans and
Austrians who have the same communion of ideas, in their name and in our
own, for humanity, socialism, right against the arbitrary, civilization
against barbarism, in the name of all these sacred principles, our
brothers of England, of Belgium, of Russia, and ourselves have answered
‘Present’ with one voice to the call of our native land. Each one filled
with emotion and confident in the justice of our cause, we have flown to
arms at the cry of Liberty, like the great revolutionaries of ’93.

“Socialists of the allied armies, we have not to weep, but to avenge the
death of the martyr of the Idea, our great friend Jaurès, our guide and
our light in difficult moments. Humanity loses in him a great defender,
the indirect victim of the unmitigated Teuton aggression.

“The most competent among us are giving a manly example by entering the
Governments of the Allies, thus taking, in the eyes of their countries,
a position of responsibility for the Party which they represent. More
than others we socialists must prove the error of this monstrous
accusation of anti-patriotism. Let us prove, in defending ourselves,
that we are firmly resolved to fight to the end for our national
independence.

“Forward, comrades! Take heart, take courage, and the bar of red, which
mingles with the two other colours, forming a trinity symbolic of
liberty, peace, and labour, will not be defiled by the bloody hands of
the bandits who would make us slaves! May the furrows, sprinkled with
our blood, bring forth the ear of corn beneath the branch of olive,
symbolizing fruitful labour in eternal peace.”

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength,
because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the
avenger.” Out of the mouth of a French _simple soldat_ the Englishmen
who are still holding back as I write from the supreme sacrifice or
privilege of national service, the Britons who never, never, never will
be slaves, are condemned. A year of the war has passed, and hundreds of
thousands of their fellow subjects of all classes have given up their
professions and their positions, their pleasures and their ease, their
wives and their families, and have freely offered themselves on the
field of battle as part of the strength by which the enemy can be
stilled. But they themselves have done none of the things for which
their French socialist comrade unhesitatingly gave them credit. They
have not—up to October, 1915—realized that we are at the parting of the
ways, they have not with one voice answered “Present” to the call of
their native land, they have not flown to arms at the cry of liberty,
they have not proved by defending themselves that they mean to fight to
the end for their national independence. Instead, they sit at home and
strike—not for freedom, but for higher wages and less work—and prate of
Conscripts and a Capitalists’ War and a Capitalists’ Press, and all the
other labour shibboleths which have lost whatever sense they had before
the war and become mere nonsense, because the war is different from all
other wars and has changed everything in the world. It is a Capitalists’
War, of course. It was made by the Prussian Junkers and the business men
of Germany with no other object than that of increasing their capital
and destroying that of the Allies and particularly of England. It is a
war fought by “conscripts” (though I should like to hear Mr. J. H.
Thomas, M.P., use that term to Private Jouanard) in the case of every
country engaged in it except England. And it is also, because of these
two undeniable premises, the greatest strike against selfishness in high
places that has ever taken place, and the conscript brothers who are
fighting or working for it are the champions of freedom, and the men who
refuse to stand by their side are, without knowing it, the blackest
blacklegs in the history of the world. And no one knows better than they
and the newspapers and politicians who support them what blacklegs are.
They are the men who in the wars of labour refuse to submit to the
Compulsory Service of trade-unionism, which is sometimes the most
servile service and the most autocratic and deadening compulsion that
ever was enforced in a free country, and the badge and livery and alpha
and omega of the god with the feet of clay before which they bow down
and worship.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Though it was a clear starlight night when we walked up to General
Thévenet’s quarters, the moon had not risen and the town was wrapped in
silence and dense darkness. Not a lamp was lit in the streets, not a
chink of light escaped through the closely shuttered windows, not a
sound was to be heard but the steady tramp of a distant patrol and the
clatter of our feet on the cobbles. Afterwards, in Toul, and Epinal, and
Commercy, and Nancy, and Lunéville, and other towns near the front, we
got used to the conditions of a state of siege after _couvre feu_, when
people go to bed at eight or nine o’clock—the deathly night stillness,
broken only by the barking of dogs, the shrill despairing shrieks
peculiar to French engine whistles, and the dull boom of cannon, and, in
the empty streets, walled in by tall houses teeming with unseen human
life, the solid blackness of the grave. In time you get used to it and
forget to wonder whether the Germans too can hear the howling of that
far-off dog that is baying the moon. You even crack jokes with the
heavy-footed sentries and stealthy police “_agents_” who loom up
uncannily out of the darkness and may or may not request you to follow
them to the “_poste_.” But that first night in Belfort, before I had
seen the miles and miles of solid entrenchments that lie between it and
the frontier, the effect of it all, and the thought of the long line of
millions of men, stretching almost from our feet far away for five
hundred miles across France and Belgium to the Channel, thousands of
them watching and waiting and fighting and suffering under the wide
canopy of the quiet night, was curiously eerie. You seemed to hear
Europe sighing and groaning in her sleep.

Suddenly, out of the unseen came a sharp challenge—“Qui vive? Halte là!
Avancez à l’ordre! Le mot!”—and we stopped dead, as it is wise to do
when you meet a night patrol in a town in _état de siège_ if you are
anxious to go on living. Then, one by one, we walked forward, gave the
word, handed our papers to the corporal to be examined by the light of
his lantern, and finally, after a few more challenges, half blinded by
the dazzling glare of the lamps of a motor-car standing in the courtyard
in front, were ushered into General Thévenet’s business-like office. Our
reception was as different from what had gone before as the abrupt
change from darkness to light. At last we had struck a man of real
authority and decision. After a word or two of explanation—who we were
and what we had come for—we were welcomed as warmly as if we had been
the whole British army, horse, foot, guns, and aeroplanes, instead of
two troublesome journalists. We had come at a happy moment. England and
_The Times_ would in any case have been passports enough for the General
and his staff. But we shone also with the reflected glory of the common
endurance of the retreat from Mons and the common triumph of the Battle
of the Marne, which had brought our two countries closer together than
they had been since Balaclava and Inkermann. And when we had explained
the immediate purpose of our mission—to publish the truth and to
contradict the lying reports spread by the enemy about Belfort and
Verdun and Nancy—the General at once promised us all the help in his
power.



                              CHAPTER III
                               IN ALSACE


Next morning the General was as good as his word. A note was brought to
our hotel by an orderly to say that if we would be round at his quarters
after lunch we should be able to see _des choses intéressantes_, and by
half-past one, in a motor-car driven by an Alsatian sergeant (who, like
many others in the same position, had preferred service in the French
army to his pre-war occupation as a German private), we were driving
between the outlying forts on our way to the frontier, with Captain de
Borieux of the Headquarters Staff as our guide and friend. Lie number
one was soon disposed of. It was quite evident that the German claim
that they were investing Belfort, and had even taken two of its forts,
was false. Till we reached the frontier, after passing for eight miles
over a wide, rolling plain, which even then was scarred in all
directions with line upon line of French entrenchments and other
formidable defences, there was not a sign of them, and even then it was
only the negative sign that the boundary post erected by the Germans
after 1870 was now rebaptized with the colours of France. A yard
further, and I was in Alsace, the first of the very few Englishmen who
since the beginning of the war have crossed into the part of the annexed
provinces which had been won back from the enemy.

[Illustration:

                              Photograph by Libert-Fernand, Nancy.
  LES HALLES, RAON L’ETAPE—VOSGES.
]

We stopped first at Montreux Vieux, the German name for which was Alt
Munster—a little town a mile or so beyond the frontier on the
Rhine-Rhone Canal, just before it takes a turn to Dannemarie and
Altkirch—in which a month before there had been some brisk fighting. In
their attack on the town, which suffered pretty severely from their
guns, the Germans pushed forward their infantry as far as the canal,
about two hundred yards across the fields from the French sandbag
defences in front of the station. That was the nearest point to Belfort
which they reached. Before they got to the movable bridge over the canal
a sergeant who was on guard in the bridge-house, ran out under heavy
fire and turned the wheel by which it is raised and lowered till it
stood erect on the French side. “_Il était temps que j’y aille, mon
Colonel_,” he said afterwards to his commanding-officer, when the enemy
had been finally driven back from the canal banks to the woods round
Romagny, a scattered village a mile or two off which we visited later in
the afternoon. The Germans visited it too, on the same day that they
failed to get into Montreux Vieux, and vented their spite on its feeble
inhabitants (their own fellow-subjects) in the now familiar way,
bombarding church and houses from a distance of a few hundred yards, and
then setting fire to a quarter of its cottages and homesteads, in none
of which were there any French soldiers. I have often thought since of
the two pictures—the quiet sergeant by the canal bridge and those
smoking piles of rubbish that once were peasants’ homes—though the
destruction in Romagny was nothing at all compared with the wholesale
ruin and desolation which we saw afterwards in Meurthe et Moselle and
other departments further north. They seem to me typical illustrations
of the difference between the French and German conceptions of making
war. For we know now that one of the normal features of the much-vaunted
German organization (till the deadlock of the trenches made it
impossible) was the organized burning by squads of disciplined men of
defenceless villages, peopled, as a rule, only by old men and women and
children. Even for the malign fits of bad temper which found vent in
these wanton acts of incendiarism, the mailed fist of the drill sergeant
gave the signal, and the men, acting under his orders and those of his
superiors, carried them out, working shoulder to shoulder, as part of
the regular system. There was nothing systematic about the act of the
French sergeant at the bridge-house. He just did his duty, as he saw it
himself, and on his own initiative, when he felt that it had to be done.
The German soldier, for all his courage, is part of a mass, a cog or a
nut in an unthinking machine. The Frenchman, for all his discipline,
remains an individual, and the French army is made up not of men burning
with the spirit of _la revanche_, but of patriots who have gone to the
defence of their country because they thought it time.

That night, five weeks after the war had begun, we penetrated a good
deal further into Alsace, to within about twenty miles of the Rhine. It
was before the hard-and-fast line of the trenches had been drawn, and
between the outposts on either side there was a wide stretch of No-Man’s
land in the Sundgau (the corner of the Rhine plain in the angle between
the ranges of the Vosges and the Bernese Jura) which was constantly
traversed by both French and Germans. Colonel Quais, the officer
commanding the brigade stationed at Montreux Vieux, had arranged for the
following day a reconnaissance in force as far as Ferette, which lies
close to the Swiss frontier a little way west of Basle. Part of his
object was to round up the German troops by which it was tenanted, as
they had been making themselves a nuisance to his cavalry patrols. His
force consisted of two regiments of infantry and two batteries of 75’s,
with detachments of dragoons and bicyclists. From Montreux Vieux to
Pfetterhausen, to which they had marched that evening, was only eleven
miles, and from Pfetterhausen to Ferette another seven or eight. But
night marches are leisurely affairs, and to be on the ground in good
time in the morning, we had to start before midnight. So after a very
early dinner with the Colonel and his staff we turned in at eight
o’clock on the shake-downs which he provided for us, and, after three
hours’ sleep and a hasty snack, five of us packed into a smallish car
and set off for what he called his little _fête_, with high hopes of
what the morrow might bring forth. Unfortunately, for all of us—our kind
host as well as ourselves—the promised fight did not come off, but for
all that the trip was well worth making. It is not every night in the
war that English journalists get a chance of a forty-mile march into
German territory with an escort of between two and three thousand French
troops.

On the way to Pfetterhausen we were challenged several times by sentries
posted at different barriers on the road. At each stop the car slowed
down and was pulled up, the officer sitting next the driver got down and
opened the slide of his lantern—the night was pitch dark, with only a
thin crescent moon high up in the cloudy sky—gave the word, advanced to
the barrier, showed our papers, and finally turned the lantern in our
direction to show that we might come on. Once or twice he must have
found the pauses before the sentries would let him walk up to the
muzzles of their loaded and levelled rifles uncomfortably long. We were
cutting across the narrow strip of French territory which lies between
Montreux Vieux and Pfetterhausen, and their lonely posts were quite
close enough to the frontier to make the question of dealing with an
unknown motor, arriving suddenly in the dead of night, rather a nervous
problem. They could not know for certain, till they had examined the
permits—even the Acting-Brigadier had to have one—whether we were
friends or foes, and to fire first and inquire afterwards might have
seemed to them the better part of discretion if not of valour. That did
happen more than once to harmless travellers like ourselves while we
were driving about Belgium, where the sturdy patriots of the _troisième
ban_, who guarded the barriers with ancient weapons that looked as if
they had been dug up on the field of Waterloo, were a real terror by
night. But these sentries were disciplined French soldiers, not ignorant
Wallachian peasants, and gave one quite a pleasant feeling of
security—once we had passed them. No German scouts were likely to be
prowling about within, at any rate, a mile or two of their posts.

When we had left the last of them behind and had turned into Alsace
again we seemed to be alone in the quiet night, when, all of a sudden,
startlingly close beside us, there was the clink of a chain and the
stamp of a horse’s hoof, and we could just see that we were abreast of a
long line of horses and guns and men drawn up along the side of a narrow
lane, barely leaving room for us to pass on to the cross-roads of the
village. Here there was a long wait while the officers of the different
units got their orders from the Brigadier. The men, who were drawn up
along the roads leading to the village, were curiously quiet. They spoke
very little and only in whispers, and even the tramp of their feet when
the column began to get on the move soon after two o’clock had struck,
with the Colonel marching with the infantry at its head and the dragoons
darkly silhouetted against the grey walls of the houses, made hardly a
sound. We gave them a long start and then followed on in the car,
continually overtaking and passing different bodies of the long column,
horse and foot. At one time, at a moment when we happened to be out of
touch with any part of it and were rather afraid that we might have lost
our way, we roused a scared German villager out of his bed and took him
on board to show us the road. We were not anxious to come upon the enemy
unawares, and when we sighted and caught up another body of troops, it
was distinctly comforting to see in the dawning light that the colour of
their trousers was red and not grey. Just after that, in the middle of a
thick wood, the car stuck for a time in some boggy ground as we were
trying to get past a couple of trees which the Germans had felled the
day before and dragged across the road—a likely enough place for an
ambush. Nothing, however, happened, and a mile or two further on, as the
sun rose in front of us beyond the Rhine, a quickly-fading picture of
gorgeous rose and crimson and deep blue, we overtook the head of the
column, picked up the Colonel, as fresh and eager as a boy for all his
sixty-two years, and five minutes later were eating bread and cheese and
other good things in the orchard which was to be his headquarters in the
battle of Ferette. And after all, there was no battle. The batteries
took up their position in our rear, the infantry deployed in open order
over the fields, the cyclists and dragoons exchanged snap-shots with the
enemy’s vanishing scouts and skirmishers far away on the left flank, and
gradually the town, which nestles among the wooded hills of the Bernese
Jura, was surrounded. But not a German soldier was left in it, and the
only result of the reconnaissance was to prove that in that part of
Alsace there was no body of enemy troops strong enough to risk an attack
on our half-brigade.

If the Colonel had been a German officer he would probably have treated
Ferette as the enemy had Romagny, by way of revenge and as an
object-lesson in terrorism to the Alsatian villagers. There was nothing
and no one to prevent him. He had the men and the guns and at a pinch
could have improvised the fire-lighters which the Frenchman does not
carry ready-made in his haversack, like the Boche. But that is not the
French way. They fight like soldiers, not with women and children, and
they do not wantonly destroy property. At the same time I am bound to
say that just to show what the 75’s, though served by territorials,
could do, they were allowed to fire one shot at the ruined castle which
stands on one of the wooded heights above the town. The range was about
three miles, the target was invisible to the gunners, the observation
officer was perched in a tree three or four hundred yards from the
battery, and yet the shell struck the wall exactly in the middle of the
panel above the central window, making a neat little extra window,
absolutely round, which was even an improvement on the original
architect’s design.

It was a trifling little incident, but it was very characteristic of the
light-hearted boyish way in which the French set about the business of
war. The nearer you get to the front the more that fact strikes you.
Behind the armies, far away from the trenches, war is a dreary affair.
The office-clerks, the road-menders, the men who guard canals and
bridges and lines of communication, or are scattered about in little
_postes_ of twenty or thirty, in ugly suburbs and out-of-the-way
villages, and all the other hosts of soldiers (including most of the
_embusqués_), who have never come face to face with an enemy, except,
perhaps, a disarmed prisoner—these are the real unfortunates of the war.
They only see its unpicturesque side, where if there is little danger
there is also no glory and no excitement, and are apt to lose heart and
take a gloomy view of its prospects. The optimists and the real
light-hearted children of the nation are the fighting men who suffer its
horrors and its hardships day and night, summer and winter, at the
front. Their life, as was said shortly before his death by an Eton boy
and gallant English soldier, is a glorified picnic—a picnic with an
object. They live the open-air existence, which is the proper
environment of the natural man. It is better fun to ride and march
through the night to Ferette, with a chance of a scrap with the Boches
at the end of it, than to put on a stiff collar and hard hat to crawl to
a stuffy office day after day in a crowded suburban train. It is better
fun, as well as a more dignified calling, to be a soldier fighting your
country’s battles than a waiter or a flunkey or a billiard-marker or a
rich idler with no real work to do. That is how the French soldier at
the front takes the war, in spite of its hardships and sufferings and
its deadly home-sickness, the aching separation from those he loves,
which is the worst thing that the soldier has to bear. For a long year
now in the east of France his home for the most part has been in the big
woods that, in the Vosges and Lorraine and La Woevre, lie almost
everywhere behind the lines, and it is because he is a boy at heart that
when he has built his leafy wigwam or his wooden or stone hut, or
hollowed out and roofed his cave in the ground—just the things that boys
love to do—he is able to keep lively and cheerful. He surrounds his new
home with little paths and garden-beds—generally with coloured stones
arranged in patterns instead of borders and flowers—he decorates it with
war trophies, and, if he is an artist, with war pictures and even
frescoes, he collects round it young boars and owls and other live
mascots (which boys would call pets), he builds his own fires and has
picnic meals in the open, he is constantly doing things with his hands,
he goes to bed early and sleeps like a top (when he is not in the
trenches), his relaxations, which he has to invent for himself, are
simple and clean, and, officer or man, although he is living constantly
face to face with death, he manages somehow, but chiefly because he is a
Frenchman, to be nearly always gay and young-hearted.

I remember once coming to a nearly roofless village near Thiaucourt,
which was held as part of the front line of trenches by an infantry
battalion of territorials. An enemy aeroplane was whirring overhead, and
occasional shells were dropping not very far off. It was an off-time,
and the men were mostly in the street, playing with their baby
_sanglier_ and posing for a snap-shotting photographer. When the Taube
came “over” they all bolted for cover like a lot of cheerful rabbits,
and in half a minute came running out again, laughing and joking like
schoolchildren, and crowding together in front of the camera to be taken
in a regimental group. The spirit of the officers was just the same.
Four young lieutenants were just starting to play tennis on a vilely bad
mud court, and, Taube or no Taube, they went on with their game. But the
Colonel, portly and middle-aged, was the real joy. He had just invented
and rigged up an ingenious system of taps and pulleys and cisterns and
boilers, thanks to which his men could enjoy the luxury of hot as well
as cold shower-baths. As he was showing it off he stopped for a moment
to listen to the scream of an approaching shell, then said, “Ce n’est
pas pour nous,” and went on enthusing over the merits of his new toy.
Apparently he had not a thought of war in his head.

That is one side of the character of French soldiers as I have seen it
in this war. But there is another, which almost seems to have been born
during the war, some little time after it had begun. I only speak from a
very slight experience, but some of the French as well as the Belgian
officers whom we met right at the beginning gave me the idea of being
nervous and rattled of knowing nothing about their own plans or the
enemy’s whereabouts, and of being generally in a state of mental
confusion and irritable uncertainty, which looked extremely likely to
lead to disaster. When I came to France later on I saw an extraordinary
change, or perhaps my original diagnosis was entirely wrong. Bad
mistakes were certainly made at the beginning, and probably the greatest
service rendered by General Joffre to France was the way in which,
quietly and without unnecessary publicity, but with perfect firmness, he
weeded out the men, whatever their rank, whom he held to be at fault.
But these, perhaps, were exceptions. The spirit and training of the
great bulk of the army may have been as admirable from the first as it
is now, and that spirit may have been in existence before the war, and
not produced by it and by the example and warning of the preliminary
failures. At all events, there is no doubt about it now. The confusion
and uncertainty and nervous apprehension, if they ever existed to an
extent greater than what was naturally caused by the suddenness of
Germany’s unprovoked attack, are gone—were already gone when we arrived
in Belfort. Even in those anxious times, when we had only just begun to
throw back the impetuous rush of the enemy, there was everywhere order,
and method, and quiet confidence, and a fixed determination to go on,
neither unduly elated by success nor troubled by failure, to the
absolutely certain end. No one was in a hurry, but every one was quick
and alert. The army, officers and men, seemed to be an army of real
soldiers, masters of their profession, and not a collection of bunglers.
If mistakes had been made, or should be made, they would have to be
rectified. But no mistakes and no defeats, and no possible combination
of circumstances, would alter the final issue, because France and her
Allies were fighting for the cause of the liberty of the world, the
triumph of which was absolutely certain. That was the spirit of the
French a year ago, and it is so now more than ever. For all their
light-heartedness they are taking the war as seriously as a religion,
and out of the travail of it a new France has been born.



                               CHAPTER IV
                           ROBBERY UNDER ARMS


Between Montreux Vieux and Pfetterhausen there is a little French
village called Suarce, which, on the very eve of the war, was the scene
of an incident almost as dramatic from a historical point of view as the
violation of Belgium two days later. At the end of July, for some days
before the war began, the French had withdrawn their troops to a
distance of six miles from the frontier all along the line from
Luxembourg to the point, a mile from Pfetterhausen, which is the
meeting-place of the boundaries of France, Switzerland, and Alsace. They
were acting, I believe, partly at the suggestion of the English
Government, and certainly with their warm approval. A few frontier
posts, consisting chiefly of douaniers and gendarmes, had to be left,
but, short of their recall, everything possible was done to remove
temptation from the path of swashbuckling Uhlan patrols, and so to
diminish the risk of incidents likely to precipitate the declaration of
war.

Unfortunately, these precautions were thrown away, and were even turned
to France’s disadvantage. Before war had begun, Germany had sent a
number of small patrols across the frontier with roving commissions, to
promote the very incidents which France had tried to avoid. After it was
declared, in part of the border district between Metz and Luxembourg,
she gained valuable time by the ease with which her troops advanced in
the neutral zone which France had created. France, hoping against hope
for peace, had played the game: Germany, bent on war, had broken the
rules before it began.

There were nineteen of these deliberate acts of trespass by armed men on
the soil of a friendly power between Longwy and Belfort, twelve of them,
on Sunday, August 2nd, in the Belfort district, the rest, either on the
Sunday or the Monday, at Cirey and other places further north. The
number of them and the wide extent of ground which they covered, were in
themselves enough to prove that they were part of a premeditated scheme,
and not merely the casual acts of a few irresponsible and excitable
individuals. But there were facts about the affair at Suarce which made
it different from the others and established beyond question that the
German soldiers concerned in it (and therefore in the other eighteen
cases) were acting under the orders of their superior officers.

The affray in which the first lives were lost on each side took place at
Joncherey, close to Delle on the Swiss frontier, five miles nearer to
Belfort than Suarce. A glowing account of it was given in the _Elsasser
Kurier_, a paper published at Colmar, which not only acknowledged the
raid and the date (August 2, 1914), but deliberately gloried in the
achievement of its leader, Lieutenant Mayer, of the 5th Chasseurs. He
was, it says, when he received his orders from the general officer
commanding the brigade to reconnoitre in the direction of Belfort, “full
of joy and the lust of fighting, and proud to be the first to teach the
enemy the might of the German trooper.” When he and his patrol of six or
seven crossed the frontier into France they found, according to the same
authority, that the numerous French cavalry and infantry detachments
which had patrolled the district for some days before had disappeared—in
obedience, of course, to the orders of their Government. On the way to
Delle they saw, however, two sentinels posted on the road. “Like a flash
of lightning,” wrote the Colmar enthusiast, “Lieutenant Mayer overtook
them, and with the first stroke of his German sabre cleft to the breast
the head of a French _pioupiou_, who was almost paralyzed by terror. At
the same time, just as quickly, first-class trooper Heize thrust his
lance with such fury into the breast of the other private that he could
not withdraw his weapon from the body which he had pierced (“overtaken”
is the word used), and was obliged to continue his ride with his sabre
(and not his lance) in his hand.” The German story then goes on to tell
how the little troop proceeded to gallop through a company of fifty
French infantry without losing a man, how Lieutenant Mayer was shot down
after they had passed them, and how first-class trooper Heize then took
command and finally reached the German lines with a further loss of
three men. As a matter of fact, the feats of arms of the gallant
lieutenant and first-class trooper Heize were not quite so charmingly
mediæval as the story makes out. What really happened was that when they
came upon the French post, consisting of a corporal and four men,
Lieutenant Mayer, by way of answer to Corporal Peugeot’s challenge,
fired three shots at him with his revolver, one of which wounded him
mortally, and was himself hit and killed by three bullets fired by the
guard. (He was afterwards buried at Joncherey with full military
honours, and a wreath was placed on his grave by the French.) The rest
of the German account, except the appearance on the scene of the fifty
worst shots in the French army, is fairly correct. In any case it is
near enough to the truth to prove without need of further witness that
the raid was not a mere youthful indiscretion on the part of the
unfortunate Lieutenant Mayer.

[Illustration:

  FRENCH ADVANCE IN VILLAGE STREET OF MAGNIÈRES, MEURTHE ET MOSELLE.
  _From “En Plein Feu.” By kind permission of M. Vermot, Rue
    Duguay-Trouin, Paris._
]

But the affair at Suarce is the most really damning piece of evidence
supplied by any of these pre-war violations of French territory. It is
not necessary to depend on the testimony of a Colmar newspaper, which
might possibly be still further mistaken in its statements, to make the
complicity of the German _haut commandement_ historically certain. Early
in the morning of the same fateful date (August 2, 1914), two cyclists
and seven troopers of the German 22nd regiment of Dragoons rode into the
village and informed the inhabitants that it was conquered territory.
Later in the day an officer, a non-commissioned officer, and twelve
troopers of the same regiment appeared, and after breaking up the
telephone apparatus, forced a provision convoy, consisting of nine men,
two waggons, and twenty-two horses, on its way to Belfort, to turn round
and accompany them to Germany. The waggons and horses were taken as
loot; the men were presumably the first specimens of the new kind of
civil prisoner which, during the war, the Germans have been pleased to
label as “hostages.” But in time of peace it is not the custom of
civilized nations to take either loot or hostages from their neighbours,
and, since there were no soldiers engaged in the affair on the French
side, and therefore no fighting, the act could not be defended as an act
of retaliation. Nor is there any question of the officer having done
what he did merely on his own responsibility. You cannot take a troop of
French horses and waggons and men into Germany and hide them under a
bushel. The officer would not, in fact, have dared to commit the crime
of international robbery and kidnapping, and then carried off his spoil
with him to barracks, unless he had known that it would be condoned by
his superior officers. In other words, like the Roman centurion, he was
a man set under authority, and only did what he was told to do. The
facts of the incident, as I have given them, are indisputable. If, at
the time when the British cabinet was weighing the reasons for and
against joining in the war, there were any of its members who doubted
the extent of Germany’s guilt, the story of Suarce may well have played
(as I have heard it did) an important part in helping them to make up
their minds. For it was possibly the earliest positive evidence which
proved beyond a shadow of doubt Germany’s deliberate intention of going
to war. As far as I know, the story has not previously been published,
at all events in any detail, and therefore it may be of a certain amount
of historical interest to give the names of the nine Frenchmen who were
made prisoners of war before war was declared. They were: Edouard Voelin
(58 years of age), Eugène Mattin (52), François Verthe (66), Isidore
Skup (57), Céléstin Fleury (55), Henri Féga (53), J. Pierre Marchal
(51), Charles Martin (29), and Emile Mouhay (29). The last two had been
passed as “bons pour l’armée” in the class of 1914. The rest were
obviously far beyond the military age. Two of the nine have died during
their indefensible imprisonment in Germany.



                               CHAPTER V
                            BELFORT TO NANCY


Our first direct news of Nancy was given us by an army-surgeon whom we
met in Dijon. He had just been invalided home suffering from septic
poisoning as the result of an operation which he had performed in one of
its many hospitals. In these days very little information was getting
through from the Lorraine front. The general situation was so obscure
that at one time some of the map-drawers of the English newspapers,
probably owing to a too naïf confidence in the accuracy of the
statements published by the Wolff bureau, actually placed the line
showing the position of the German front on the west side of Nancy, as
though it had been occupied by the enemy. Fortunately they were
mistaken. Though the capital of Lorraine had been lightly bombarded on
the night of September 9, two days before the médecin-major left it, it
was then, as it has since remained, in spite of the enemy’s persistent
efforts to reach it, _Nancy l’Inviolée_. But though the Germans, after
three weeks of incessant fighting, during which they suffered very heavy
losses, had been driven back, they were still only a few miles away, and
when we got back to Belfort from Alsace, we had already decided that, if
it could be managed, Lorraine was the place for us to go to.

Even if we could have got leave to stay in Belfort the outlook there,
from our point of view, was not promising. The field defences between it
and the frontier, without taking into account the troops stationed at
Montreux Vieux and in other parts of Alsace, were enough to convince us
that there was little chance of the enemy getting anywhere near it. The
lessons of Liége and Namur had not been thrown away. It was pathetic now
to remember how when we were in Belgium everyone had gone about
repeating the parrot cry, “Namur est imprenable” (just as they had said
“Les forts de Liége tiennent, et ils tiendront toujours”), when, except
inside the girdle of the forts, it was not protected by a single
earthwork of any value. The confidence of the French in Belfort was
better founded. The commanders of the garrison had learnt very early in
the war that forts, to be of any use in modern warfare, must themselves
be flanked, as golf-architects guard their greens, with an interminable
network of bunkers. Acting on that principle they had constructed a
position of such formidable strength that not even the German generals,
who had shown such a complete disregard of losses in their advance after
Charleroi, would be likely to face the huge waste of life which a
frontal attack on the Vosges fortress would have entailed.

A year has passed since then, and instead of getting nearer to it they
are miles further back than the place where Lieutenant Mayer met his
death. Pfetterhausen and Montreux Vieux and Dannemarie and a good slice
of Alsace are still in the hands of the French, and the siege of Belfort
(unless the enemy try the desperate expedient of a flanking movement
through Switzerland) is more unlikely than ever. So confident are the
authorities of their security that most of the civil inhabitants who had
been evacuated at the time of our first visit have now been allowed to
return, and the life of the town is becoming almost normal again. That
is a healthy sign. It is one of the numerous proofs that the apparent
deadlock at the front is really a signal victory for the Allies. For it
means that for all their carefully prepared organization and their calm
disregard of the conventions of war by which the other nations consider
themselves bound, the original plans of the enemy have broken down. The
cupolas of the forts of Belfort, which were to have been so easily
crushed, are still intact; their guns have not yet fired a shot, except
at aeroplanes. As in 1870, no German soldier has set foot within its
walls. Its famous lion is still a lion _couchant_.

Just before starting on our way back to Dijon we paid a visit to M.
Goublet, the Civil Governor and Préfet of the Territoire de Belfort (who
has rejoined his old service, the Navy, and is now in command of a small
cruiser), another warm friend and admirer of England and _The Times_.
During the war M. Goublet and all his fellow-préfets of the border
provinces have been most valuable servants of the State. No men in
France, except perhaps the ministers and the great chiefs of the army,
have had heavier responsibilities on their shoulders or more anxious
duties to perform, and no account of the way in which France has faced
the invader can be anything like complete which does not give some idea
of their share in the common work.

We have nothing in England that corresponds to the office of the French
prefect, who, as the direct representative of the Government in his
Department, plays a very important part in the civil administration of
the country. The eighty-six Departments, each governed by its Prefect,
are divided into sub-districts under the sous-préfets, and the
sub-districts into Communes or Mayoralties. The Mayor, as with us, is a
municipal officer, and looks after only what concerns his own commune,
which is called, in the case of the big towns, an Arrondissement. In his
Department the Prefect is supreme. Every civilian official in it—the
Sous-Préfets, the Mayors and their subordinates, and all the minor
officers of the State, such as the gendarmerie and the special police
commissaires whom he controls himself—is under his orders. He is saluted
not only by all these civilian officials and employés, but by the
officers and soldiers of the army. He ranks with the Generals commanding
army-corps, and in time of peace even takes precedence of them. When a
new General comes into a Department he calls on the Prefect, and by him
is introduced to the civil authorities, and in the same way all the
official calls on New Year’s Day are paid first to the Préfecture. Even
in time of war, because the State is greater than its army, it is only
in strictly military matters that the Generals in his Department are his
superiors. Thus a proclamation by a General to the people can only be
issued through the Prefect and over his signature, and he has the power,
subject of course to the General’s right of appeal to the Généralissime
and the Minister of War, to refuse to sanction any decree affecting the
civil population which the military authority might wish to enforce.
There has been one striking instance of the exercise of this power
during the present war. By an agreement between the Prefect and the
Military Governor the population of an important town near the frontier
were evacuated in the early days when it appeared very probable that it
would be besieged by the Germans. After a time, as nothing happened and
all fear of an investment seemed to be at an end, the inhabitants began
gradually to come back, and no notice was taken of their return till
suddenly the Military Governor issued a second proclamation, without
consulting the Prefect, ordering them once more to leave the town. To
this the Prefect objected, on the ground that his sanction had not been
asked. He announced that they might stay, and the action which he had
taken was upheld by the Minister of the Interior.

The Prefect, therefore, acts either as the channel, or (if he thinks it
necessary), as the barrier between the military authorities and the
people of his Department, and is therefore a standing safeguard against
the militarism, which, according to some English critics, is bound to
arise in a country which has a “conscript” army. The mere fact of the
existence of the office, with its extraordinary powers, is a sufficient
guarantee that in France the militarism of which these people make a
bugbear can never make any real headway.

Amongst his other duties the Prefect is responsible for the care of the
main roads and State monuments (such as cathedrals) in his Department;
for the holding of _Conseils de Révision_ (the periodical assemblies of
the young men of the nation, at which they are finally examined, in
classes dependent on the year of their birth, to see if they are
physically and mentally fit for service in the army); for the
provisioning and lighting of the towns and villages in his district; and
for the control of the Press, or what is commonly termed the censorship,
which, in time of war, he exercises jointly with the military
authorities. In the invaded districts the importance of each of these
several duties is obvious, and no praise can be too high for the way in
which they have been carried out, all along the battle-line from Belfort
to Briey, by M. Goublet (Territoire de Belfort), M. Linarès (Vosges), M.
Léon Mirman (Meurthe et Moselle), M. Aubert (Bar le Duc) and the
sous-préfets of Lunéville, Toul, and Briey, M. Minier, M. Mage, and M.
Magre. To the sorely tried people under their charge these men have set
a fine example of unity, hard work, self-sacrifice, confidence, and
courage, with a leaven of the less ornamental virtue of common-sense.
They have unflinchingly carried out the often risky work of visiting, as
soon as the enemy was driven back from one position after another, the
burnt and ruined villages which he left behind him. They have been the
stand-by of the brave mayors who have stuck to their posts in the hour
of danger, they have cheered the wounded in the hospitals, they have
cared for the homeless and destitute refugees, and they have stimulated
and encouraged the whole population by giving them a true and lofty
ideal of what the war means for France and the world, and of the way in
which Frenchmen and French women and children should face its perils and
its inevitable sufferings and distress. And—_si parva licet componere
magnis_—those of them whom we have been fortunate enough to know have
been exceedingly kind and helpful to two grateful journalists from
London.

[Illustration:

                              Woelflin, Nancy, phot.
  M. LEON MIRMAN, PREFECT OF MEURTHE ET MOSELLE.
]

At this particular moment, however, it was the military, rather than the
civil authorities, who were able to help us on our way. By the _service
de renseignements_, or military intelligence department, at Belfort, we
were given a special pass to go to Nancy by way of Dijon and Chalindrey
(the direct route by Epinal being impossible), and when we got back to
Dijon General Brissaud himself _viséd_ our passports for the same
destination.

Armed with these double credentials we started from Dijon on what in
ordinary times is a journey of six hours, instead of which it took us
from three o’clock in the afternoon till half-past eight next morning.
The first big check was at Chalindrey, close to Langres, where we had a
three hours’ wait during which we saw two interesting little sidelights
on the war. In those days all station-restaurants had been taken over
for the use of the army, and as we were not allowed to stay on the
platform or to sit in the train, we thought at first that we should have
to kick our heels till midnight in the station yard. It was a dark and
chilly prospect. However, by the help of a friendly private and
persistent knocking at a back door, we did at last force our way into
the refreshment room, and on the strength of being English were allowed
to order some supper. While we were eating it a taciturn sergeant
demanded our papers and carried them off into the outer darkness. Then
there was a long pause. We waited and waited, each moment getting more
and more afraid that they were not going to get us through after all,
when the door opened and out of the _ewigkeit_, nearly two hundred miles
from the nearest English troops, two Red Cross Tommies, an Australian
and a Lanarkshire miner, walked into the room. They were under the
escort, not to say the arrest, of the Station Commandant, who wanted to
confront them with us to see if the story they told was true. It was, as
a matter of fact, rather lame. They said that after the Battle of the
Marne they had lost the rest of their detachment somewhere near
Compiègne, and being tired of hospital work were trying to reach the
front, in the hope of being allowed to do some fighting. Whether they
were deserters or not they certainly had their full share of Scotch and
Australian mother-wit, or they could never have got so far without being
arrested. Three months later, by some miracle, for they spoke no French
and had only their ordinary soldiers’ passes, they turned up in Nancy,
still on their own, and were taken to Toul, this time, I believe, under
close arrest. As they were the unconscious means of doing us a good
turn, I rather hope that they were not impostors, and that they were not
too hardly dealt with. Hearing me talking to them, a French officer,
Commandant Chesnot of the 360th Regiment of the Reserve, introduced
himself as an ardent admirer of England, and invited us to make the rest
of the journey in the reserved carriage which he shared with another
officer. They were old schoolfellows belonging to the same regiment, who
had been knocked over by the same shell three weeks before at
Réméréville, and were now returning to duty, still limping from the
effect of their wounds. Like every wounded French officer and soldier
whom we met, their one idea was to get out of the surgeon’s hands and
back again to the front as soon as possible. It was lucky for us that
they were so keen.

At Toul, where we had to wait for another three hours, we sat with them
in the waiting-room reserved for soldiers, instead of being herded with
the civilian crowd next door, and from Champigneul, beyond which no
passenger trains had been running for some time, we travelled as their
friends in one of the familiar trucks built to accommodate forty men or
eight horses, sitting on bundles of sacking filled with the disinfected
uniforms of dead soldiers. Since the service had been suspended at the
beginning of the war, we were, I believe, the first civilians who made
their entry into Nancy by train.



                               CHAPTER VI
                         ÉTAT-DE-SIÈGE IN NANCY


Our start in Nancy was not encouraging. We reported ourselves first at
the Place, the military headquarters of the town, and were ushered by
mistake into the room of an officer (we never knew his name), who was
not the Military Governor, and was just packing up to go elsewhere.
Therefore he said he could do nothing for us himself, though he had had
friendly relations with Printing House Square, and he much doubted
whether any one would give us leave to stay in the town for more than a
night. The only General who possibly might was, according to him, a
strong stern man who had a rooted objection to journalistic enterprise,
and he earnestly advised us to keep out of his way. So we went off to
lunch, in rather low spirits—and sat down at the next table to a third
General, who looked particularly human and friendly. He was, the waiter
informed us in a whisper, General de la Massellière, the Commandant
d’Armes, and in about two minutes M. Lamure had introduced himself and
me and explained our business, and we had received a polite invitation
to present ourselves and our credentials at the _Place_ at two o’clock.
By a quarter-past we had a _permis de séjour_ for one night, next day it
was extended to four nights (with the understanding that we must go at
once if the enemy resumed their abortive bombardment of the 9th), a day
or two afterwards it was prolonged “till further notice,” and eventually
we stayed for four months.

Our second visit was to the Préfet, M. Mirman, and our third to the
Mayor, M. Simon, and, thanks to the warm welcome which they gave us, we
went to bed that first night hoping for the best and feeling that we had
already made three very good friends.

Both M. Mirman and M. Simon were appointed to their posts _ad hoc_ on
the outbreak of hostilities, and Meurthe et Moselle and Nancy very soon
found out that they had got the right men in the right places. M. Mirman
had served his time in the ranks of the army as a Chasseur-à-pied, while
he was the Député for Reims and still a very young man, and was known in
his constituency and Paris as the _député soldat_. Before the war he was
_Directeur de l’Assistance Publique_ in Paris, at the Ministry of the
Interior, but resigned that post when fighting began in order to get as
near to the front as possible. At Nancy he had his wish even without
leaving the Préfecture. During part of August and September it was only
five miles from the German lines, and just near enough to the Cathedral,
supposing that the bombs of the enemy airmen missed one of their
favourite targets by a short hundred yards, to be one of the
danger-spots of the town. Madame Mirman came with him to Lorraine, and
was followed soon afterwards by her daughters, all under twenty, and her
young son. Their presence in Nancy greatly helped M. Mirman in a very
important part of his work as Prefect. Apart from the compassionate
services which they rendered to the wounded and the refugees, the mere
fact of their being there was a constant encouragement to the
townspeople in the dark and critical days at the beginning of the war.
It meant, presumably, that the Prefect thought that the apparently
imminent danger would be averted, or at least that he expected them not
to run away from it. As a matter of fact, except the Post Office
employés, who bolted in a body (I believe in obedience to orders),
surprisingly few of the Nanceïens did run away, either after the Germans
had rained shells on the town for an hour at the end of the fierce
battle which poured streams of wounded into its hospitals day and night
for three weeks, or later on when they had come to look upon Taubes and
Aviatiks as a sort of gratuitous cinema show, and had further been
roused from their sleep on Christmas Eve by the first Zeppelin that ever
dropped bombs on an open town.

[Illustration:

                              Dufey, Nancy, phot.
  M. SIMON, MAYOR OF NANCY.
]

The people of Nancy, like all Lorrainers and all border-races, are by
nature a hard-plucked breed. Their fathers and their fathers’ fathers
before them for many generations have stood in the great gap of western
Europe and fought for their liberty against Huns and Romans and Germans
and half a dozen other tribes and nations, till war and all its ghastly
consequences have been burnt into their bones. They come, therefore, of
a fighting stock, and it was to be expected that they would show a brave
front to the enemy. But for all that it was largely owing to the example
of M. Mirman and M. Simon (a true Nanceïen, who looks like a fighter all
over, and was unanimously chosen by his municipal colleagues as the
right man to be Mayor of Nancy in time of war) that the town kept its
head and its _bonne humeur_ through the anxious weeks when the enemy was
pounding at its gates.

When we arrived there were still gaping holes in the houses that had
been struck by the German shells, and every here and there heaps of
broken glass and timber and masonry piled up on the pavement. All
through the day convoys of prisoners and long columns of marching
troops, horse, foot, and guns, and strings of carts and ambulances,
carrying provisions, ammunition and wounded men, were constantly passing
through the streets. At night, like Belfort, Epinal, Commercy, Toul, and
Verdun, the town was in complete darkness, and hardly a soul was
stirring. And all day and all night there was the sound of the guns,
rumbling and roaring with monotonous regularity. Every few seconds the
thunder of them kept breaking out, dull, angry, and continuous, pressing
with leaden weight on one’s ears and head, like the banging of a furious
wind roaring down a gaping chimney. You heard it as you went to sleep,
you heard it whenever you woke up in the night and the first thing in
the morning, and you heard it all day long. And after a time you took no
notice of it. You heard it less than the rattle of the tramcars, except
when it burst into particularly furious claps, and then you turned to
your neighbour and said, “Ça tape,” and went on with what you were
doing. But in spite of it all—the noise of battle and the sad and
stirring sights of the wounded and the soldiers, the shattered roofs,
the war proclamations on the walls and the war-pictures and
war-accoutrements (even to a suit of chain armour) in the shop
windows—it was difficult to believe that the enemy were so close and
that actually as well as technically Nancy might at any moment be in a
state of siege. For apparently the life of the place, except for the
wounded and the number of women who were dressed in black, was very
little different from the normal life of an ordinary garrison town. The
streets were crowded and lively, the tramcars were running, and
motor-cars dashing about in all directions; the shops and cafés were
open, and though most people looked thoughtful, no one was gloomy. Every
one had his share of the common work to do, and did it cheerfully and
unselfishly. Come what might, they would not despair of the Republic.
Come what might, they felt that they were going to win, because their
cause was just and God would defend the right. Above all, they were a
united people. Soldiers and citizens, governors and governed, were all
one. At the Préfecture, at the Place, at the Mairie, in the Press, there
was only one spirit and only one aim—to sink all differences and
jealousies and work shoulder to shoulder for France and for freedom.
There was no question of one authority setting himself up against
another; the times were too serious. Party feeling was dead—or
peradventure it slumbered. State and Church had buried the hatchet. No
one talked or thought of politics except to hope and believe that the
politicians in Paris would continue to preserve the peace.

All the time we were in Lorraine I never once heard a soldier or a
Churchman or a freethinker or an editor or a politician of any
complexion say a word about his personal political views. For all I knew
from the men themselves they might have had none; except by inference it
was impossible to tell what they were. The war and the common danger had
wrought a miracle. France had been born again, and the watchwords of
Liberté, Egalité, and above all Fraternité, were become lifegiving
spiritual facts.

We did not grasp all this the first day we were in Nancy, though we felt
it, for it was in the air. But little by little we began to know the
people, largely owing to the kind offices of M. Mirman, M. Slingsby, the
President of his council, and other members of his staff. The Press we
met in a body twice at the Préfecture, once at a dinner given in honour
of our own newspaper and England, and once when we were all formally
presented to M. Viviani. For each of us the then Prime Minister had a
ready and graceful remark. “_Le Times_,” he said to me, “est toujours si
bien renseigné”—possibly, I think, with a little touch of
self-consciousness. For no one knew better than he the restrictions
under which the Press had suffered, in its quest of information, during
the war. The five excellent newspapers which supply the needs of Nancy’s
100,000 inhabitants—_L’Est Republicain_, _l’Eclair de l’Est_, _l’Etoile
de l’Est_, _l’Impartiale_, and the _Journal de la Meurthe_—have been
particularly severely treated. There have been times when their editors
have not been allowed to announce even the fact of some local incident
(such as the visit of the Zeppelin, which was naturally known at once to
every one in the town) till the news had been published in the Paris
newspapers and telegraphed back to Nancy. Often they have suffered the
mortification of being forbidden to say things which could not possibly
have given information to the enemy and would certainly have been of
real service to the community. But their loyalty has never wavered. Like
the rest of the Lorraine world they have put their country and the need
for unity before everything else, and have done excellent service to the
State, not only in keeping before their readers the sufferings and
necessities of the wounded, the refugees, and other victims of the war
in the town, but in holding up to every one a lofty ideal of patience
and courage.

More obvious in the streets than the work of the Nancy press, because
nothing is more conspicuous than the Red Cross flag, was the work of the
Nancy hospitals. In the early days of the war the arrangements for
picking up and bringing in the wounded were to a large extent inadequate
and primitive. We talked with many French soldiers who, during the great
battle in front of Nancy, lay on the field for two, three, and even four
days without food or water, suffering from their wounds, before the
ambulance men could come to their assistance. That was largely the
fault—or the crime—of the Germans, who often lay hid in the woods
commanding the scene of a recent fight and fired on every man lying
there who stirred a limb as well as on the stretcher-bearers who tried
to carry the wounded away. When at last those who were still alive could
be got at, large numbers of them had to be carried to the hospitals in
clumsy rickety country waggons, the jolting of which, to men in their
condition, was almost past endurance. A large proportion of the deaths
which took place in the hospitals were due to one or both of these
causes—the days and nights of exposure on the battlefield, and the
long-drawn-out torture of the slow journey to the rear—and some of the
men who survived them both told me that for sheer agony of suffering the
second was the harder to bear. Nowadays that has been altered. In the
summer of 1915 I saw near Commercy some English motor-ambulances sent to
supplement the French Red Cross service at the front, which, for
arrangement and comfort and swiftness, were as good as anything to be
found. But in the early days there is no question that the provision for
the transport of the wounded from the field was painfully deficient.

In Nancy itself full preparations had been made from the beginning.
Besides the regular hospitals a large number of supplementary
establishments were organized by the Union des Femmes de France, the
Commission Municipale des Hospices, the Société des Secours aux Blessés,
and other more or less temporary agencies of the Red Cross. The Union
des Femmes de France in particular showed praiseworthy forethought. Soon
after the fighting began they had twenty or more temporary hospitals in
working order in Nancy and the surrounding towns, and also provided a
motor convoy for collecting the wounded, which was quickly taken off
their hands by the Army Medical Service. All of these hospitals were
arranged in buildings temporarily converted from other uses. The most
important of them, wonderfully well supplied with everything needed by
the wounded, were those administered by M. Lespines, in the Lycée
Poincaré, and by General Schneider and his wife and some of their
friends from Paris, in a training-school for teachers.

In the two big permanent hospitals, the Military and the Civil, the
arrangements, at all events to my nonprofessional eye, appeared to be
perfect. The first is probably one of the best equipped hospitals in
Europe. There is plenty of cubic space and plenty of air in its long,
well-lighted corridors and roomy wards. Storerooms of all kinds,
pharmaceutical, bacteriological, and chemical laboratories, radiograph
rooms, operating rooms, baths, laundries, kitchens, disinfecting
chambers—everything that is necessary for the care and the cure of the
wounded and the sick—have their appointed place, and are furnished with
the best appliances that surgical and scientific skill can devise. When
I visited the hospital the members of the regular military staff who
work there in time of peace had gone to the front. Among the men who had
taken their places were some of the foremost physicians and surgeons of
the city. Some of them belonged to Nancy’s own famous school of
medicine, some came from Paris and other headquarters of science in
different parts of the country, and all of them, whether they were
mobilized or had volunteered their services, had become part of the
military organization of the State, and were freely giving for the
benefit of the wounded and of generations yet unborn the fruits of their
life experience as civilian doctors. In the Civil Hospital, since the
war began a civil hospital in name only, another wonderfully
well-equipped and well-officered institution, there was everywhere the
same spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice for the good of the nation
and the same high level of surgical and scientific attainment among the
members of the staff.

Of the sisters of mercy and the nurses in all these hospitals, also in
very many cases volunteers, it would be difficult to speak too highly.
The loving care with which they tend and mother the wounded—“mes
garçons” they call them—and the grateful affection with which they are
rewarded by their patients, are unspeakably touching. I was never in one
of the Nancy hospitals during the trying time—far more exacting for the
nurses than any operation—when the men’s wounds are being dressed and
the agonized cry of some sufferer will sometimes spread its infecting
example from bed to bed through almost a whole ward. But no one who has
seen at ordinary times the fortitude and cheerfulness with which the
French bear their sufferings and talk of their wounds and of the day
when they will be able to get up and go to fight again for their beloved
country could ever forget the sight of those rows of quiet beds, so
different from the wards in an ordinary hospital. There were no horrible
diseases, nothing repulsive or unclean, nothing that is the result of
decay and sin. A few hours or days or weeks before these weak and
helpless sufferers had been young and strong and vigorous, the physical
pick of the manhood of France. Now, when they were not talking or
reading or smoking, they lay with closed eyes and uncomplaining wistful
faces or looked at one like dumb animals with a marvellous inarticulate
patience that seemed to ask what it all meant, and why, when
diplomatists differ and nations go to war, it is their poor bodies that
have to pay the price.

War and wounds certainly have the effect of putting the human body in
its right place and of doing away with all the false shame and prudery
with which we are so apt to surround it. When these thousands of men are
well and strong again—or as well and strong as they can ever be—it
hardly seems possible that they can ever forget the frank purity of
their sweet-faced, tender-handed nurses and sisters of mercy, or the
lessons of the dignity of the body and of life which they have
unconsciously learnt from them.

One day I saw some of the sisters kneeling in the little chapel in the
grounds of the Civil Hospital. The choir was singing some kind of a
litany, the burden of which was the words “Sauvez la France,” repeated
over and over again. It was one of those days when the sound of the
guns, from some trick of the wind, as well as from their actual
nearness, was more than usually loud, and each time that the three words
of the prayer rang out through the open door of the chapel they were
followed without a moment’s pause by the booming roar of the heavy
shells. And of the two, the cannon that had shattered their limbs or the
kneeling women who had soothed and tended them, there was not, I think,
much doubt in the minds of the wounded men who were well enough to sit
about in the sunny courtyard outside the chapel as to which was the
finer force—and the stronger.

[Illustration:

  THE
  FRENCH FRONTIER
  FROM
  VERDUN TO THE VOSGES.
]



                              CHAPTER VII
                          THE FRENCH OFFENSIVE


There is no denying the importance of the German territorial gains in
Belgium and France, even with the smaller acquisitions of the French in
Haut Alsace as a set-off. But the effect which they will have on the
final results of the war has been much exaggerated, not only by the
Germans, but by the States which call themselves neutral, the wavering
small Powers in the Balkans, and our own faint-hearted pessimists at
home. All of these people habitually forget or ignore that practically
the whole of this advantage was gained in the first month of the war,
and that since then the tide has hardly ever stopped flowing, however
slowly, the other way. Once the immediate effects of the first surprise
shock had spent themselves and the war had settled down into its
long-distance stride, it was the Allies who, army for army, proved
themselves the better men. Other things being equal—and what inequality
is likely to arise in the future is in our favour—the conclusion is that
little by little the enemy will inevitably be driven to his own side of
the frontier which he has violated and invaded. If before that time
comes there is any serious talk of peace proposals and neutral
intervention, based on the relative positions of the combatants on the
western front, it will be difficult for the would-be peacemakers to go
on ignoring all that has happened since the first month of the war.

Looked at from this point of view, the offensive in Alsace and Lorraine,
with which the campaign on the eastern frontier opened, was not the
mistake which it was considered at the time by many of General Joffre’s
French and English and German critics. France could not in honour invade
her great neighbour to the north of Longwy, because of the neutral
barriers of Luxembourg and Belgium. But to the south of that point, or
at least south of the obstacle of Metz and its defences, she could and
did. Along the line where the frontiers of France and Germany march
there were no considerations of loyalty to treaty obligations to deter
her from attacking instead of waiting to be attacked. And that was the
course on which General Joffre decided. His offensive was twofold. The
advance north of the barrier of the Vosges failed. But south of them, in
front of the Trouée de Belfort, intersected by the Rhine-Rhone canal and
the tributaries of the Doubs and the Ill, it so far succeeded that the
scene of action has remained ever since in the enemy’s country. The
consequent moral and strategical gains to France are enormous. The
position of the Germans would have been infinitely better than it was
(even without taking into account the possibility of a consequent
further advance) if they had been able to dig the almost stationary line
of trenches which they have occupied since the middle of September,
1914, in the soil of France instead of in the Sundgau.

After the French had mobilized their armies, their great difficulty was
that they could not be sure where to expect the main attack. For many
years the military experts and prophets of both countries had asserted
confidently that it would come by way of Belgium; on the other hand, it
was a traditional belief of the great mass of the French public that it
would be made through Lorraine. Both routes were possible, both had to
be taken into account, but to a certain extent, from a lingering belief
in Germany’s honour as well as out of deference to the popular
expectation (which, on sentimental and political grounds the French
Government could hardly afford to ignore), greater provision was made
for resisting the possible invasion on the eastern frontier than further
north.

It came, as a matter of fact, by both routes at once, but of the two
main assaults, which culminated at Charleroi and Nancy on the same day,
the more important and dangerous was that delivered in Flanders, where
the French had relatively the smaller defensive force.

In the north the first meeting between the French and German armies did
not take place till August 15th at Dinant. In the east they were in
continual contact from the first day of the war. At first, in this
sector of the front, things went well for our allies. In front of the
three great fortresses of Belfort, Epinal, and Toul, the vanguards of
three armies began at once to strike towards the frontier, the first
into Alsace, by the plain of the Sundgau, the second through the passes
of the Vosges, and the third across the boundary river, the Seille, into
the flat country between the Vosges and Metz.

On the exposed part of the frontier guarded by these armies the opening
period of the war lasted for three weeks. At the end of that time, on
August 24th, the French were in apparently desperate straits. Their
extreme left was driven back at Charleroi, in the centre they were just
beginning, with a defeated army, the defence of Nancy, and on the right
they had been obliged by the imminent danger on the left, to withdraw
their forces from Mulhouse for the second time. But up till then, or at
least till the disaster at Morhange on August 20th, they had on the
Eastern sector done much better than they probably expected. The Verdun
army, though not strong enough to adopt an effectively vigorous
offensive, had been able to keep the enemy from attacking its forts, and
south of Metz the commands of de Castelnau and Dubail had advanced well
into German territory.

In the Metz, Verdun, Longwy triangle, bisected by the valley of the Orne
running directly east from Verdun to the Moselle, the fighting was at
first not very important. Conflans, Maugiennes, Spincourt, and several
other towns and villages were early victims of German savagery, both
sides scored moderate local successes, and the net result was that the
enemy secured no advantage except what was due to their surprise
invasion of the strip of territory from which the French withdrew their
troops on the eve of the war. They would have advanced further and more
quickly (as they confidently expected to do) but for two unforeseen
obstacles. In the first place, there was the Verdun field-force, which,
instead of falling back under the protection of its forts, persisted in
coming out into the open; in the second, there was Longwy. Its defender,
Colonel Darche, had only one battalion under his command, and
consequently was not strong enough to follow the example of the Verdun
field-army. But with his slender force he could and did hold up a whole
German army till August 27th, three weeks after the Crown Prince had
arrogantly summoned him to surrender. That officer’s failure to take the
town at the first time of asking was a bitter disappointment to the
Germans, as his army was intended to form the connecting-link between
the two great offensives through Belgium and Lorraine, and orders had
actually been given to German reservists to report themselves at Verdun
in the second week of August. It was the first of the many misfortunes
which have since dogged his footsteps, and it is not surprising that it
brought him into disfavour with his Imperial father. For the heroic
resistance of Longwy, like the defence of Liége and of Nancy, was one of
the determining incidents of the early part of the war.

In the meantime, while Verdun and Longwy were proving that “its dogged
as does it,” to the south of them the characteristic _élan_ of the
French troops was having its fling from the Moselle to Mulhouse, along a
front of over a hundred miles. The strengthening of the forces in this
region and the consequent weakening of the armies on the Belgian
frontier was partly, as I have said, due to political considerations.
But there were also sound military reasons for this distribution of the
available forces, and for the subsequent French offensive in Alsace and
Lorraine. For forty-four years the garrison and field armies of the
rival pairs of fortresses—Verdun and Metz, Toul and Saarburg, Epinal and
Strassburg—had been waiting like kennelled watchdogs, ready, once they
were let loose, to fly at one another’s throats. Primarily the French
troops were intended not for attack—which was the German _métier_—but
for defence. Both by training and tradition they were the frontier force
of the Republic. In time of peace they held the post of honour on the
vulnerable border-line between Luxembourg and the Swiss frontier, always
ready for war, as their ancestors before them had been for generations.
Most of the best generals of France had served their apprenticeship in
one of these famous frontier army corps, and ever since 1870 officers
and men, nearly all of them children of the soil, had been bound more
and more closely together, at first by the war-cry of _la revanche_, and
later by the nobler feeling that, when the threatened and expected
invasion came, the task and the glory of repelling it would be theirs.
They were the flower of the French army, and they looked upon the post
of honour as their birthright.

When the blow fell at last there were several reasons which justified
General Joffre in using them for purposes of offence instead of in the
_rôle_ which French and Germans alike expected of them. Being a soldier
and not a politician, he realized that he could not afford to wait and
see. It was a clear gain that his action should be the exact opposite of
what the Germans looked for. They were so overwhelmingly sure of their
military superiority that they practically counted on a walk-over.
Besides Verdun, other towns far behind the line of the frontier
fortresses, such as Besançon and Dijon, were the appointed rendezvous at
an early date in August of the German soldiers who could not be ready to
join the colours at the outset, and even the officials who were to have
governed these towns after their expected conquest had received their
commissions well in advance of the declaration of war. The Kaiser and
his advisers had made the common mistake of despising the enemy they
were sent to attack. Both in _morale_ and in men the armies of the east
proved far stronger than they had expected.

The consequent upsetting of their original plan of campaign was in
itself a strong vindication of General Joffre’s policy. But he had
another object in view. The first point was to have enough troops on the
eastern frontier to prevent the Germans from breaking through the line
of fortresses. The second—no less important, once the march through
Belgium had begun—was to keep a large part of the enemy’s forces busily
employed at a distance from the northern theatre of operations. That was
the reason and the justification of the offensive in Alsace and
Lorraine.

Up to a point this forward movement of the French was successful. From
Metz the frontier runs south-east for about sixty miles, up the valley
of the river Seille, to the Donon, a mountain just over 3000 feet high
at the north end of the Basses Vosges, and from there, a trifle west of
south along the crests of the range and across the Trouée of Belfort for
about the same distance to Pfetterhausen on the Swiss frontier. The
Vosges half of this line, practically parallel with the course of the
Rhine, is divided into three sections, from the Donon to the Climont (12
miles), from the Climont to the Col de Schlucht (20 miles), and from the
Col de Schlucht to the Ballon d’Alsace (18 miles).

In the northern section the range is broken by the valley of the Bruche,
commanded from the north by the Donon, which runs from south-west to
north-east past Saales and Schirmeck towards Strassburg.

In the central section, steep on the French side, but on the east
sloping gently down to the valley of the Ill, the chief passes are Ste.
Marie aux Mines and the Col du Bonhomme, with a narrow wooded crest
seven miles long at an average altitude of 3000 feet between them.

In the southern section the slope is easier on the French side and more
abrupt on the east, and besides the Col de Schlucht the chief pass is
the Col de Bussang. The summit and eastern slopes of the range command,
of course, an uninterrupted view across the plain to the Rhine, about
fifteen miles from the foothills. Strassburg is a little lower down the
Rhine than the level of the Donon. Colmar lies about the centre of the
plain, midway between the level of the Col du Bonhomme and the Col de
Schlucht, and nearly all the towns which have so far played a part in
the war are in or on a level with the third section—Munster, Guebweiler,
Soulty, St. Amarin, and Thann in the Vosges valleys between the Schlucht
and the Ballon d’Alsace, and the rest—Cernay, Dannemarie, Altkirch,
Mulhouse, and Pfetterhausen—south of the Ballon in the plain opposite to
the Trouée of Belfort, which is called the Sundgau.

It was intended that the French offensive should be carried out along
the whole of this frontier line south of Metz, but especially in the
plains north and east of the Vosges. The Belfort army was to advance
into Alsace, occupy Mulhouse, cut the bridges of the Rhine below Basle
(at Huningue, Neuenburg, and Vieux Brisach) and flank the main advance
of the first and second armies in Lorraine.

In spite of their various acts of trespass on French territory before
the declaration of war, the Germans at first showed little activity.
Beyond the abortive attempt to recapture Montreux-Vieux, in the Belfort
district, practically all they did was to shell and occupy Blamont,
Cirey, Badonviller, and Baccarat, four small towns close to the frontier
and almost midway between the Donon and Lunéville, on August 5th, 6th,
and 8th, and to bombard Pont-à-Mousson, an unfortunate town on the
Moselle fifteen miles below Nancy and the same distance above Metz,
which since then has been shelled more than two hundred times, but,
except for one short period, has always remained in the hands of the
French.

Our Allies were much more energetic, and the advance in Lorraine, the
Vosges, and Alsace was begun with wonderfully little delay. Of these
three theatres of war in the east the third, the country between
Strassburg and the Swiss frontier, cut off from the rest of Germany by
the Rhine and the Black Forest, is strategically of great importance.
Its western boundary, the chain of the Vosges, is the pivot of the long
line of the French defence stretching from Dunkerque to Belfort, and on
its stability depends the security of the whole of the rest of the
front. In order to make that stability absolutely sure the French had to
hold, besides the chain itself, at least a part of the plain of Alsace,
including especially its natural bastion, the Sundgau.

[Illustration:

  ALSACE AND THE VOSGES.
  (By kind permission of _The Times_.)
]

The Sundgau, which is the part of Alsace to the south of Cernay, is
divided by the Rhone-Rhine canal into two regions, the physical aspects,
geological structure, and tactical value of which are essentially
different. The country to the south of the canal, known as the Alsatian
Jura, is thickly studded with rounded mammelons, like a nest of giant
molehills, intersected by a series of irrigation canals, some of which
are two or three yards wide and useful as lines of defence. The country,
as a rule, is thinly populated, there are few isolated houses, and the
villages are some distance apart. It is watered by three rivers, the
Thalbach, the Ill, which flows northward from the Swiss frontier past
Altkirch, Mulhouse, Colmar, and Strassburg to the Rhine, and the Largue.
On the right bank of the Ill there is a light railway, constructed
shortly before the war, running from Ferette to Altkirch, and on the
left bank of the Largue an ordinary-gauge line, running from Porrentruy,
just across the Swiss frontier, to Dannemarie. There would be a
formidable risk of a German flanking movement by this approach on the
fort of Lomont, to the south of Belfort, if it were not for the careful
watch kept by the Swiss army on their frontier. The general character of
the country is suitable for guerilla warfare, but not for operations on
an extended scale. It has two main defensive positions against a French
attack based on Belfort along the line Petit-Croix, Dannemarie,
Altkirch, at Altkirch itself, and at Britzy-Berg. The first of these
consists of a series of heights on the south of the spur of the
Schweighof (Hill 381), and on the north of a ridge running in the
direction of Heidwiller and the junction of the Ill and the Largue. The
value of this position is especially great on the south-west side where
it commands the important point at which the lines of communication
converging on Altkirch meet and the defile in which lie the railway, the
river Ill, and the main roads from Mulhouse and Basle. The Britzy-Berg
position, three or four miles further north, near Illfurth, commands the
whole of the surrounding country to a considerable distance nearly as
far as Mulhouse, and also sweeps with its fire all the roads that meet
at Altkirch. Both these positions had been strongly fortified by the
Germans.

The part of the Sundgau north of the Rhine-Rhone canal is quite
different from the Alsatian Jura. It is a rolling tableland, with
gentler slopes and wider valleys, and the crests of the rises less
wooded than to the south of the canal. The open country is more thickly
populated and better suited for the movements of large bodies of troops.
The main road from Belfort to Cernay and thence to Colmar runs across
the middle of it, and at right angles to the road, west of Mulhouse,
runs the Doller, a quick-flowing tributary of the Ill. Between this
river and the Rhine-Rhone canal there is a wide, moderately-wooded
plateau, in which the chief military position is at Galfingen,
commanding the approach to Aspach, Mulhouse, and Altkirch on the Colmar
road, to the south of the bridge of Aspach, where on some heights round
the twin villages of Burnhaupt, the Germans had prepared a strong
position overlooking the wide bare plain called the Ochsenfeld, between
them and Cernay. East of the Ochsenfeld they had a second line of
defence in the valley of the Thur (another tributary of the Ill, rising
in the Vosges on the Rheinkopf and flowing down the valley of St.
Amarin, past Thann and Cernay, a deep river with marshy banks, from
fifteen to twenty yards wide). This line extended from the heights of
Steinbach to the forest of Nonenbruck. It was in this country, on both
sides of the Rhine-Rhone canal, that the French began their main advance
into Alsace.

On Friday, August 7th, a French brigade arrived about eight o’clock in
the evening in front of Altkirch, ten miles from the frontier, coming by
Petit-Croix and Dannemarie. On the same day another detachment of French
troops came down the valley of the Thur as far as Thann. The smallness
of the combined force was perhaps accounted for (though it was not
excused) by the fact that the French airmen had reported that the bulk
of the German troops were on the other side of the Rhine, and that
little opposition was to be expected between Mulhouse and the French
frontier. Altkirch was at the time occupied by a German brigade of about
equal strength, with their chief entrenchments south of the town, on the
precipitous spurs of the Schweighof. A little higher up, towards the top
of the hill, they had a battery of eight 77’s and a number of
mitrailleuses. These were quickly silenced by the French 75’s, and the
trenches were then carried by a surprise infantry attack which drove the
Germans at the point of the bayonet off the Schweighof in disorderly
flight. They were chased well past their second line of entrenchments on
the Britzy-Berg, five miles further north in the direction of Illfurth
and Mulhouse, by a dragoon regiment supporting the infantry, and a
number of prisoners were taken before night put an end to the pursuit.
Thus, three days after the declaration of war, at a total loss in killed
and wounded of less than 150, Altkirch, after forty years in the
wilderness of German domination, was once more in the hands of the
French. The inhabitants received their long-hoped-for deliverance with
every sign of frantic delight. The uprooted frontier-posts were carried
in triumph through the flag-decked streets, flowers were rained on the
heads of the triumphant troops, every one was cheering or in tears, and
in the general tumult of joy and excitement no one apparently stopped to
consider the remarkable ease with which the victory had been won or the
extent of the guile which the retreat might possibly conceal.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                        OCCUPATIONS OF MULHOUSE


Encouraged by their success at Altkirch, the French set out early next
morning for Mulhouse, ten miles further down the valley of the Ill. The
troops which had descended the previous day on Thann also advanced by
way of Cernay, and along the twelve-mile front between Thann and
Altkirch the whole way to Mulhouse no trace of the Germans was seen
except their deserted entrenchments. At one o’clock a small patrol of
dragoons trotted up to the Hotel de Ville, and after a momentary halt
clattered away again to report that not a single German soldier was left
in the town. As a matter of fact, they were not, however, very far off,
and the dragoons had hardly disappeared when a squad of Bavarian
infantry marched into the principal square, seized a tramway car which
was standing in front of the town-hall, and forced the driver to follow
the dragoons, breaking the windows of the car as they went to make
convenient rests for their rifles. By chance, however, they took the
Brunstatt or south road out of the town, whereas the dragoons had gone
west along the Dornach road, so that after a short and fruitless
journey, they thought it wiser to turn back and join the main body on
the further side of the town, once more leaving it empty of all but the
civilian inhabitants, who by this time were in a state of the wildest
excitement. After that there was another long wait till after six
o’clock, and then, at last, a couple of platoons of dragoons and
Chasseurs-à-cheval came riding in along the Dornach road, and the whole
population turned out to greet them and the main body, which followed a
quarter of an hour behind them, with the same extravagant manifestations
of delight and enthusiasm as at Altkirch on the previous day.

That was on the Saturday evening, during which the French took up their
position on the heights at Rixheim, about two miles east of the town,
their front protected by the road and railway which curve down
southwards to Basle, the Germans being a few miles north of them along
the Rhone-Rhine canal towards Neu-Brisach and also in the Hardt (a big
forest about twenty miles long between Mulhouse and the Rhine) on their
right.

Next day, though some of the wiser of the townspeople were shaking their
heads over the smallness of the French force, the rejoicings continued
until the middle of the afternoon, when suddenly, between three and four
o’clock, the guns on each side began firing, covering and resisting the
advance of the XIVth German Army Corps, which was directed on Mulhouse
through the Hardt Forest by the road from Mulheim and two other roads
further north. The battle continued through the evening and all night
till six o’clock on Monday morning. The artillery duel was at its height
at about two a.m., and before that time a number of shells had fallen in
the town, across which the batteries posted on the left flank of the
French were firing. For the Germans the disadvantage of the position was
that after leaving the shelter of the forest they had to advance for
about two miles over an open plain, where they were exposed to the fire
not only of the 75’s on the heights of Rixheim, but of the French
infantry on the slopes below them, and here they lost heavily. Their
numbers were, however, so superior that they were able to press on
without paying any attention to their losses, whereas the French, for
the opposite reason, ran a great chance of being surrounded and cut off
from their line of retreat on Belfort. They fought on, however, with
much determination (at one time only the embankment of the railway to
Basle separated the front lines of the two forces) till six o’clock in
the morning, when, after a series of skirmishes in the streets of
Mulhouse, they were finally withdrawn in good order and most fortunately
were able to fall back on Belfort. They probably owed their escape to
the fact that the German plans had not been carried out exactly as had
been intended. Besides the XIVth Army Corps, the XVth were also to have
joined in the attack, coming by train from Strassburg to Colmar, and
from there down to Cernay, where they hoped to catch the French after
they had been driven westwards by the XIVth. The only flaw in the
execution of this scheme was that the XIVth started too soon and had
finished their part of the work before the XVth arrived on the scene. At
seven o’clock on the morning of Monday, August 10th, they marched into
the town, and the French occupation—a dream the realization of which
lasted for just thirty-six hours—was over.

Exactly what the intention of the French _haut-commandement_ was I do
not pretend to know, though it is improbable that they could have
seriously contemplated the permanent occupation of an open town like
Mulhouse, and any attempt at a further advance through the Hardt Forest
on the strongly entrenched positions on each side of the Rhine with the
inadequate forces at their disposal would have been madness. The
probability is that the enemy, fully informed by some of the German-born
Alsatians with whom the district swarmed of the pitiful smallness of the
French army, deliberately fell back in the hopes of luring it on to
destruction, while the French, on the other hand, intoxicated by the
welcome which they had received and the ease with which they had marched
twenty-five miles into the enemy’s country in two days, thought of
nothing but the moral triumph of the recapture of Mulhouse. They made
their advance with far too small a force and much too quickly, and they
neglected the vital precaution, all the more necessary because they were
so few, of entrenching step by step the ground which they had won. At
all events, we have it on the authority of the French Commander-in-Chief
that the Alsace part of the offensive was badly carried out by the
General Officer in charge of it, and that he was at once relieved of his
command.

For the French, therefore, the net result of the first occupation of the
town, beyond the temporary moral effect which it produced in France, was
nil. For the loyalist inhabitants of Alsace it was the beginning of an
organized system of terrorism by which the Germans, after burning the
food and forage storehouses of Mulhouse when they left it on August 8th,
endeavoured to create through the length and breadth of the country a
paralyzing dread of the cruel weight of the mailed fist.

In Mulhouse itself the time that followed was also one of great hardship
for many of the inhabitants. The enemy were furious at the welcome given
to the French troops by the Alsatians (after forty-four years of the
beneficent sway of the Fatherland), and they punished what they chose to
consider their base and inexplicable ingratitude by treating all whom
they suspected of French leanings in the true Savernian manner. To
discover them was an easy matter. The two elements of the true Alsatians
and the German colonists (whom the natives of the old French stock still
persist in calling _immigrés_) have never really amalgamated, and the
town was therefore thickly peopled with German sympathisers, only too
eager to act as informers against their fellow-citizens.

But it was the foreigners resident in Mulhouse who at that time suffered
the worst treatment at the hands of the enemy. Directly after the
retreat of the French, several scores of them, men of all ages (from
boys of fourteen to old men of over eighty) were peremptorily rounded up
in the town barracks, and carried off to Germany as prisoners, leaving
behind them practically all their possessions except the clothes in
which they stood up. Before their departure, after they had been left
for many anxious hours herded together without any food, they were
suddenly told to form themselves into ranks, and the first batch were
lined up, in front of some soldiers with loaded rifles, with their backs
to the wall. Not unnaturally they concluded that they were to be shot,
and some of them even gripped the hands of those standing near them in a
last farewell. But it was only the torture of the anticipation of death,
not death itself, that they were to suffer, though I suppose none of
them will ever forget the time of agonized suspense that they went
through before they were brusquely ordered by the officer in command to
fall out, with the explanation that he had meant to show them exactly
what would happen to them if they gave any trouble, and that now they
knew. Afterwards, when they were on their way to their first
prison-camp, one young fellow who had just married a girl-wife, who was
forcibly torn away from his side, driven half crazy by his sufferings,
made a feeble attempt at an assault on the guard, and was at once shot.
The rest of them, after a long journey in cattle trucks, were kept in
prison-camps in the interior of Germany for periods of varying length up
to about six months, in many cases insufficiently fed and clothed, and
as a rule it was the Englishmen among them who were the most harshly
treated and set to do the most ignominious and disagreeable tasks. All
of them during their journey east and on their arrival at Rastadt were
constantly jeered at and insulted, not only by the populace, but by
their guards.

Five days were enough to effect the reorganization of the force which
had been forced to retire from Mulhouse, and on August 14th, this time
under the command of General Pau, and strongly supported by the field
army of the territory of Belfort, the French resumed the offensive. On
that day Thann was taken for the second time, and with this place and
Dannemarie and Guebwiller, a few miles further north, as his base,
General Pau once more drove the enemy back on Mulhouse. But whereas on
the previous occasion the main attack had been made from the south, by
Altkirch, this time the advance was rather from west to east, with the
left flank gradually swinging round from the north, with the object of
cutting the Germans off from their line of retreat on the bridges of the
Rhine and forcing them southwards towards the Swiss frontier. The French
left was directed on Colmar (about twenty miles due north of Mulhouse)
and Neu-Brisach, and the right wing on Altkirch, and advancing from west
to east they quickly swept the enemy back on Mulhouse for the second
time.

On the morning of August 19th the town was once more in a seething state
of unrest and suppressed excitement. The loyalist inhabitants knew
nothing of what was happening, except that the German soldiery were
obviously ill at ease. Most of the crowd were collected in front of the
chief hotel, where the soldiers kept pushing them back with their rifles
in order to keep a clear passage for the strings of throbbing motor-cars
which were ready waiting for the swarm of military and civil officials
who kept hurrying backwards and forwards carrying the papers and
valuables which were to accompany them in their flight to the Rhine. No
policemen were to be seen. They were changing from their uniforms into
mufti. Transformed into innocent-looking civilians, their service to the
Fatherland was to stay behind in Mulhouse and keep their eyes open for
such information as might be useful to the military chiefs, supposing
that during the coming occupation the French succeeded in making good
their footing in the town. An hour after the procession of cars had at
last started, with intervals of a few yards between them, the barracks
were clear and not a soldier was left in the town. Then there was a
further long wait. The German agents and spies kept quiet and bided
their time. The real Alsatians, the overwhelming majority of the
townsfolk, were so wrought up with the feeling that they were rid of the
Germans—this time as they hoped for ever—and so rapturously looking
forward to the entry of the French troops, that nearly all of them went
on standing about in the streets for hour after hour right through the
day. They did not even go into their houses to eat their lunch, but
bought what they could from enterprising street-merchants who went about
with baskets of food, and ate it where they stood.

At last, at five o’clock, the first Frenchmen appeared, a handful of
Chasseurs-à-cheval, who rode in not from the west, from which quarter
they were expected, but by the Basle road at the other side of the town,
where they must have passed dangerously close to the enemy. Like the
patrol which had been the heralds of the first occupation, they were
merely a scouting party, and, having established the fact that the
Germans had retired, quickly rode off again to make their report to the
Staff. The people, who had followed them in a body, then split up into
two main detachments, and streamed out to Dornach and Brunstatt, on the
Thann and Altkirch roads, the Germans having meanwhile massed their
forces two or three miles to the east and south-east of the town, from
which they were in full view, at Rixheim, Habsheim, and Zimmersheim
close to the Basle railway, just about where the French had taken up
their position after the first occupation.

This time, however, there was to be no triumphant entry—at least not as
yet. The enemy meant to make a fight for it, and so far as that day,
August 18th, was concerned, the faithful population of Mulhouse had had
their long wait for nothing.

During the night a big change was made in the disposition of the German
troops. From their lines on the Basle railway they advanced above and
below the town till they occupied a position of considerably more than a
semicircle round it from Pfastatt and Lutterbach on the north to
Brubach, Brunstatt, and Hochstatt on the south, and some of them were
even at Dornach, to the west of the town. The French line, which was
much straighter, extended from Illfurth on the south, by Zillisheim and
Morschweiler to Reichweiler on the north, where it slightly outflanked
the German right at Pfastatt.

Early on the morning of the 19th the greater part of the German force in
Dornach advanced to Lutterbach, and there was a general flight of the
villagers, carrying their household goods and driving in front of them
as much as they could of their cattle and even poultry. At ten o’clock
the French batteries on the rising ground at Morschweiler opened fire,
and the battle soon became general all along the line. All day long the
artillery duel continued, and after a time the French gunners became so
confident of their own superiority, and so indifferent to the bad
shooting of the enemy, that they advanced into the open and worked their
guns as calmly and with as little regard for cover as if they were
engaged in ordinary training manœuvres in time of peace. All day
long, too—for the fighting was at very close quarters—one hand-to-hand
infantry engagement after another between two sets of men who fought
with desperate dash and tenacity, resolved on the one hand to advance,
on the other to stand firm, for the honour of their respective
countries, caused a vast amount of bloodshed. On the left, near the big
engineering works, commonly known as “The Red Sea,” a body of French
skirmishers advanced early in the engagement to within forty yards of a
German company which was posted on the road in front, and killed and
wounded half of them almost before they could reply. The rest fled to
the shelter of the neighbouring houses, and there was a helter-skelter
fight along the street, and in and out of doors and windows and gates
and outhouses. Half of a battalion which was sent to support the routed
men was wiped out by the artillery, and the other half refused to
advance. A little further south, at Hochstatt, the 35th and 42nd French
regiments suffered severely in the same way at the hands of the German
gunners. In the afternoon, however, the 75’s altogether dominated the
guns opposed to them, their fire ceased, and except for stray rifle
shots here and there, the battle seemed to be over, large numbers of the
enemy having been driven to take refuge in Mulhouse.

One more effort was made, but it was their last. A strong body of
reinforcements were sent out of the town, and, by using a large building
which till then had been sacred to the Red Cross as a redoubt, managed
to keep the fighting going on for some time longer. But driven out of
this refuge by infantry and artillery fire, they were once more
compelled to retire to Mulhouse. Soon afterwards Dornach, where the bulk
of the fighting took place, was captured, and by five o’clock the
French, having surrounded and captured twenty-four guns and a large
number of prisoners in the outlying suburbs, entered the town for the
second time in less than a fortnight. This time there was no question of
the enemy having retired of their own free will in order to entice them
to advance further than was prudent. They had been beaten fairly and
squarely in one of the few pitched battles of the war, and were flying
in confusion to the shelter of the Hardt Forest and the Rhine. It was a
great moment for General Pau’s army and for France, even though the
engagement, compared with the events which were to take place in
Lorraine and Belgium, was a comparatively small one. But unfortunately
it was a moment that did not last. Twenty-four hours after France knew
that the tricolour was once more floating in Mulhouse, it learnt also of
the defeat at Morhange, and although there was no immediate connexion
between Morhange and the evacuation of Mulhouse (only five days after
its recapture), the gravity of the crisis on the more important fields
further north completely out-shadowed the really considerable triumph in
Alsace.



                               CHAPTER IX
                                MORHANGE


On the map the main ridge of the Hautes and Basses Vosges (and the
boundary line of that part of the frontier) follows almost exactly the
shape and position of a small manuscript “q.” At the head of the curl of
the “q” is the Donon, and at its lower curve the Col de Saales, with the
town of St. Dié a trifle to the west of it.

Through the valley represented by the curl the river Bruche flows
north-east past St. Blaise and Schirmeck, and then turns nearly due east
past the fort of Mutzig, to Strassburg.

Following down the stroke of the “q,” the principal passes, from north
to south, crossed by roads which even the snows of winter do not often
make impassable, are the Col de Sainte Marie aux Mines, the Col de
Bonhomme, the Col de Schlucht (from near which the north branch of the
river Fecht flows past Stossweiler to Munster), the Col de Bramont (from
which the valley of the Thur descends past Wesserling and St. Amarin to
Thann and Cernay), and the Col de Bussang, and at the southern extremity
of the stroke is the Ballon d’Alsace.

Since the beginning of the war there has been a continuous series of
violent struggles for the possession of nearly the whole of this string
of important positions on the crests of the range. Some of them the
French have gained and kept; some they have taken and lost, and then
regained; some they have taken and lost, and not succeeded in recovering
up to the present moment. They have always kept their footing secure on
the summits of the southern part of the range from the Ballon d’Alsace
to the Col de Schlucht. From the Col de Bonhomme and the Col de Sainte
Marie aux Mines, which they captured at the beginning of the campaign,
they were compelled to retire in the fourth week of August, 1914, but
they recaptured these passes after the Battle of the Marne. The whole of
the curl of the “q,” from the Donon to the Col de Saales, and also the
valley of the Bruche, which the French won and held for the first
fortnight of the offensive, were then evacuated and have remained ever
since in the hands of the enemy. All efforts to dislodge them from that
sixteen-mile stretch of the frontier have failed, and their continued
presence there has been and is a distinct nuisance to our Allies.

For the present, however, we are concerned only with the events which
took place in this region during the successful opening of the French
offensive, up to the Battle of Morhange, and the second retirement from
Mulhouse. By August 7th, largely thanks to the effective fire of the
Fort of Servance, on the north-west of the Ballon d’Alsace, our Allies
were complete masters of the Ballon itself and of the Col de Bussang,
five miles further north, and, as we have already seen, had sent a force
down the valley of the Thur to Thann. By the evening of the 8th, they
were astride the Bonhomme and Sainte Marie aux Mines passes, and by
twelve o’clock next day, after a violent struggle which lasted all
night, the town of Sainte Marie aux Mines was commanded by the fire of
their guns. Almost at the same time another French column began a
resolute attack on the Col de Saales. On August 12th, supported by a
well-directed artillery fire which swept the rear of the German
position, the infantry advanced impetuously to the attack, and the enemy
retired from Saales in disorder, leaving behind them in the hands of the
French four guns, a large amount of equipment, and eight hundred
prisoners, most of them belonging to the 99th regiment of the line,
which formed part of the garrison of Saverne and was brought into public
notice shortly before the war by the exploits of the notorious
Lieutenant Forstner.

Early the next morning the French followed up their attack by advancing
in the valley of the Bruche in the direction of St. Blaise, where they
were opposed by a strong German force consisting of the 99th and its
sister corps the 132nd, two batteries of 77’s, and one of
field-howitzers, and a company of machine-guns. The engagement began
with a brisk artillery combat, which resulted in the complete silencing
of the enemy batteries by the shrapnel of the 75’s. Most of the horses
of the gun-teams and a large proportion of the artillerymen were killed,
and the guns, deserted by the survivors, were taken by the French,
practically undamaged. During the early part of the action some German
machine-guns placed in the tower of the St. Blaise Church did a
considerable amount of damage, but as soon as their position was
discovered the 75’s made short work of the tower and all it contained.
Just before nightfall a battalion of French chasseurs—the 1st, I
believe—charged the German positions with fixed bayonets and in half an
hour had driven the enemy out and settled themselves down for the night
in the captured trenches. Besides eight guns, four mortars, six
mitrailleuses, ninety horses, and over five hundred men, the spoil
included the colours of the 132nd Regiment, which were taken by a
private of the 5th company of the Chasseurs battalion—the first trophy
of the kind that was secured during the war. Among the many Germans
killed was a general of division.

So far, with the exception of this last engagement, the fighting in the
Vosges had mainly consisted of affairs of outposts, though the
occupation of the passes was obviously a strategical gain of great
importance. From August 15th onwards, though only for a few days, the
offensive was pushed steadily forward in stronger force and a good slice
of German territory was occupied. The possession of the Donon and the
Col de Saales, commanding the valley of the Bruche, enabled the French
to occupy Schirmeck, seven or eight miles north of Saales, while another
column branched off to the right and took Villé on the road to
Schlestadt. There was, in fact, a general advance along the valley of
Bruche and the other valleys running down into the plain of Alsace.
Prisoners and war material were captured in considerable numbers, in
some places the plain itself was reached, and the chief difficulty of
the officers was in restraining their men, who were quite unaffected by
the losses which they had suffered, from going too far ahead.

I have already spoken of the voluntary evacuation by the French of the
neutral zone along the frontier before the declaration of war. If it had
not been for that political and pacific act of military self-abnegation,
which, once hostilities began, carried with it the disadvantage that the
enemy had to be dislodged from the passes before any advance was
possible, the progress made would have been much greater. As it was,
General Dubail’s forces had got far enough forward (coupled with the
second occupation of Mulhouse by General Pau) to become a possible
menace to Strassburg, and the Germans, seriously alarmed by the
prospect, hurriedly began to push forward reinforcements for their
armies in Alsace. The first of these reinforcements advanced in the
direction of Sainte Marie aux Mines, and the French advanced posts in
Villé, confronted by greatly superior numbers, were obliged to fall back
on the main body. Otherwise the positions remained practically
unchanged—till after Morhange—though in face of the arrival of these
fresh troops the situation was not as promising for the French as it had
been.

[Illustration:

  FRENCH ADVANCE AT SAINTE-BARBE, VOSGES.
  _From “En Plein Feu.” By kind permission of M. Vermot, Rue
    Duguay-Trouin, Paris._
]

Meanwhile, to the north of the Basses Vosges, in Lorraine, on the level
ground between the Donon and Metz, de Castelnau’s army during this same
fortnight had been even more successful. Beginning with the occupation
by the French cavalry on August 6th of Vic and Moyen Vic, two small
towns on the German side of the frontier, close to Château Salins and
sixteen miles slightly north of east of Nancy, they had gone on from
triumph to triumph. Except for the temporary occupation of Domèvre,
Cirey, and Badonviller, between the Donon and Lunéville, and a quickly
suppressed attempt at a German counter-offensive on August 10th and
11th, all the gains were on the French side. Their most considerable
success was on August 15th, in the Blamont-Cirey-Avricourt district,
where they routed a Bavarian Army Corps and part of the Strassburg
garrison army, under the command of the Crown Prince of Bavaria. Four
German field batteries were destroyed before they had time to open fire,
and the enemy finally retired in confusion, leaving behind them eight
mitrailleuses, twelve ammunition waggons, and a large number of guns
badly damaged by the French shells.

The remaining triumphs were not, as a matter of fact, of great
importance. Still there is no denying that they were triumphs, and, as a
result of them, they pressed steadily forward, day after day, from one
victory to another, till finally, on August 20th, they found themselves
in front of Morhange, about fifteen miles on the further side of the
frontier, with a line extending from the Seille well past Dieuse across
the Marne-Rhine canal to a point south of Saarburg.

But that was the end. In front of Morhange and Saarburg a formidable
series of entrenchments had been prepared, largely by the genius of the
veteran general, von Haeseler, and behind them and in them the coming of
the French was eagerly awaited by a greatly superior force of the enemy.
The result was inevitable. It fell to the army of Lorraine, first of all
the armies of France, to learn by bitter experience the great
strategical lesson of the war—that no troops can stand up against modern
weapons in the hands of soldiers properly disciplined and properly
entrenched. The French were fighting in the open. They were taken
unawares. They were unsupported by their artillery. In the splendid
offensive movement in Champagne, on September 25, 1915, it is true that
the Second and Fourth Armies advanced across the open exposed to the
full fire of the German trenches for distances varying from one hundred
to eight hundred yards, and then drove them back over a belt of country
averaging a mile and a half in depth. But then they started from their
own trenches, which, except in one or two places, were not more than two
hundred yards from those of the enemy, they were supported by a very
heavy artillery fire from their rear, and for three days and nights
before they made their heroic dash the enemy’s trenches and wire
entanglements had been heavily pounded and destroyed by an incessant
deluge of explosive shells. The army that was defeated at Morhange had
none of these advantages. They attempted the impossible. Their attack
was extraordinarily brave, but it was foredoomed to failure, and their
losses, considering the number of men engaged, were very severe. It is
not surprising that after a time some of the troops exposed to the
hottest fire flinched. They would have been superhuman if they had not.
Possibly even some of their sternest critics would have done the same.

At all events, there the thing was, and I see no reason for slurring it
over. On the contrary, the Battle of Morhange, which the Germans and Mr.
Hilaire Belloc prefer to call the Battle of Metz, is, because of what
came after it, as worthy of our attention as the retreat to the Marne,
though it is not, as a rule, a popular subject of conversation with the
French. They are, as it seems to me, unduly susceptible about it. The
actual result of the engagement and the want of forethought which was
its primary cause were certainly not subjects for congratulation. During
the previous fortnight the army had been led on by one success after
another, gained without very much difficulty, till they had come to
imagine that their _élan_ was irresistible and the opposition in front
of them as unimportant as it seemed. Both the spirit of their advance
and the cause of its abrupt and decided check were typically
characteristic of the French and German methods of making war—as they
were, or as most people thought they were, before the great war began.
The French were like Mr. Gladstone. They were intoxicated with the
exuberance of their own pugnacity. They were engaged in a holy cause,
the recovery of the beloved province ravished from them in 1870. At each
forward step they found themselves amongst their own people, and were
_fêted_ as deliverers, until they completely forgot the dangerous leaven
of German-born Lorrainers among them, and the value of the information
which they were able to carry back to the enemy’s lines. Without doubt
the composition of their force was fully known to the Germans long
before they suddenly found themselves confronted by the far superior
numbers based on the carefully prepared positions at Morhange and
Saarburg. The trap had been set and the path up to it baited with true
German thoroughness, and the French romped into it with their eyes
dazzled by the glare of their previous successes, exactly as they had
been meant to do. When the fatal moment came the XVth Army Corps in the
centre were too far in advance of the XXth on their left and the XVIth
on their right. They had plenty of dash, these men of the south, too
much, in fact, for in the ardour of their advance they had outrun the
artillery which should have supported them. But when they came up
against the solid barrier of the Bavarian Army Corps from Strassburg and
Saarburg their bolt was shot. Even if they had been strong enough to
break through the impossible odds and positions before them, they had
not, in any case, the same compelling sentimental interest in the
reconquest of Lorraine as the mass of men forming the armies of the
east. They were far from their homes on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Comparatively speaking, they were strangers in a strange land, and on
some of them the feeling may have had a depressing effect. At first they
fought as bravely as could be wished, but the odds and the slaughter
(far heavier than any that had so far been seen in the war) and the
general impossibility of the situation were too much for them, and at
last they broke and fled. The French estimate of their total losses was
something less than 10,000: the Germans (who certainly exaggerated)
claimed to have taken that number of prisoners alone, besides over fifty
guns.

That, as far as I can gather from men who took part in the battle and
the subsequent retreat, is a fair general account of what happened at
Morhange. If that is so, then shame is certainly not the feeling with
which the disaster should be regarded. Both it and its causes belong
essentially to the pre-war period. At some moment during the war the
French army, as well as the French people, was born again. For the XVth
Army Corps, and perhaps for other units in the armies of the east, the
blood-drenched battlefield of Morhange was the agony-chamber of that new
birth. On August 20th they were flying in confusion towards Lunéville
and Nancy. But even while they fell back, almost as soon as they found
themselves under the steadying influence of the 75’s of the XXth Corps
and General Dubail’s left wing, the change began. Two or three days
later, when they had been rested and reformed behind the curtain of the
divisions with which they afterwards shared the defence of Nancy, they
were different men. They were no longer the happy-go-lucky children of
the south, brilliant in deed but deficient in the power of resistance.
One battle had made them seasoned, stern, resolute men of war, ready to
take their place by the side of the finest soldiers of France, because
they were themselves, as they afterwards proved over and over again, in
front of Nancy, and in the Argonne, an army of heroes. And that is why
France should think of Morhange with pride.

The triumph of the armies that defended Nancy was preceded, like the
victory of the Marne, by an overwhelming defeat and a painful retreat.
Before the war every one was prepared to find the French brilliant in
attack. But the whole world, themselves included, was almost equally
sure that once their attack had been stemmed, the effect of enforced
retreat would be to dash their spirits to the ground, and impair,
perhaps irretrievably, their _morale_ as fighters. As for the Germans,
they had apparently calculated on a whole series of Morhange victories,
leading right up to the gates of Nancy and of Paris. Like the rest of
the world, they were wrong. Out of the fiery whirlwind of the two
retreats came a still small voice, the voice of the New France, or
rather the reincarnation of the undying spirit of the Old France,
cleaner and saner and more vigorous than ever it had been in all its
glorious history, because the nation knew that the task before it was
the highest and most vital that it had ever been given to France to
perform.

For the moment, however, whatever the future might have in store, the
position of affairs could hardly have been more serious and alarming. In
the north, Charleroi and the retreat to the Marne were still to come.
But in the east of France the effect of Morhange was felt at once. Along
the Château-Salins route, by Vic and Moyen Vic, by Avricourt and Cirey,
by the Donon, the Saales and all the northern passes of the Vosges, past
the scenes of their late successes, the beaten troops and the troops
which had not been beaten came pouring back into France, closely
followed by the pursuing Germans. And then, four days later, to fill the
cup of disappointment to the brim, came the order from General Joffre
that Mulhouse was to be evacuated. The crisis in Belgium and in France
had become too acute. It was no longer possible to spare enough men to
continue the occupation of Alsace on a line so far removed from the base
at Belfort. They were wanted elsewhere. There seemed to be every chance
that the enemy might even strike at Paris. It was necessary to shield
the heart of the nation, and beyond a covering force large enough to
screen Belfort all the troops in Alsace had to be withdrawn. For the
time being all hopes of the offensive for the recovery of the two
ravished provinces, which had begun with such fair promise, had to be
given up, and, three weeks after the war had begun, France, on French
soil, had to fight for her very existence.



                               CHAPTER X
                         GENERAL DUBAIL’S STAND


The days that followed—I may be more precise and say the three weeks
that followed—were the most critical that France had ever known. Crowded
together between August 20th and September 2nd came the capitulation of
Namur, the defeats at Morhange, Charleroi, and Mons, the evacuation of
Mulhouse, the retreats on Nancy and the Marne, the menace of von Kluck’s
advance on Paris, and the migration of the President and Government of
the Republic to Bordeaux. The war had begun in earnest. All along the
line the soldiers of France were either making a desperate stand against
superior numbers or, worse still, were retiring as fast as they could
go. It was the hour of the supreme test. Except along the twenty miles
between Thann and the Swiss frontier the whole line of the front had
been drawn in a position chosen, not by the French, but by the Germans.
Every day it was being pushed further on, and no one could say where the
limit would be reached. Even the arrival of the English Expeditionary
Force had made very little apparent difference. We know now how great
was the part that they played in the work of saving Paris, in spite of
their small numbers. But at the time all that they could do was to share
in the general retreat, and make the pursuit as costly as possible for
the triumphant Germans.

That was how the position in the north presented itself to the armies in
the east, when they had time to look beyond their own share in the
common defence, though as a matter of fact they were much too fully
occupied to take the calm and dispassionate view of the situation which
is now possible.

A soldier during a modern battle can see and understand nothing of what
is going on except on his own immediate front. He is in a state of
complete ignorance as to what may be happening to the other half of his
own battalion in the next village. But these men were hundreds of miles
from the events in Flanders. Even their chiefs can have known very
little of what was going on. Only one thing was certain. All the news
there was was bad news. Everywhere France and her armies were getting
the worst of it, and all that the individual soldier could do was to
obey his orders and do his own bit of fighting with all the courage and
endurance he could command.

I suppose that if we could see into the minds of the rank and file of
the first and second armies in those black days of disaster and doubt,
we should find that the one thing that sustained them, next to their
proud love of France, was the thought that they had Belfort and Epinal
and Toul and Verdun behind them. They had been brought up in the belief
that the four famous fortresses were to be the main defence against the
invading Germans, they knew nothing of the crushing effects of mammoth
siege guns, and believed that the forts of Liége were still holding out,
and possibly, if they had been left to their own devices, they would
have fallen back at once, as soon as they realized that the offensive
was over, on the solid protection of these bulwarks of the frontier.
Fortunately their generals knew better, and the series of battles that
saved the entire line, and therefore France, was fought in the open
country, well in advance of the fortresses. But the fine strategy and
inspiring leadership of de Castelnau and Dubail and Pau and Foch,
magnificent as they were, could have done nothing without the marvellous
spirit of the officers and men under their command. And that spirit,
after nearly a year and a half of the war, is more alive and vigorous
than ever. The point is worth dwelling upon, because of its bearing on
the future. The French in all probability have had their worst time and
the Germans their best. But even if that is not the case, even if our
Allies and we have to go through deeper waters still, we have this to
depend upon, that those armies of the east, like their brother soldiers
who fought at Charleroi and on the Marne, never once despaired, even
when they might well have thought that their cause was hopelessly lost.
Instead they first set their backs to the wall, and organized victory
out of defeat, and then contentedly settled down to a method of fighting
entirely foreign to the genius of their race. The fourth stage is yet to
come, but as to the results of it we need have no fears.

Exactly, as it happens, a year ago, from the day on which this chapter
is being written, I ended an article on a visit to the front trenches at
Celles in the Vosges with these words: “The best of it all was just the
one thing that it is most difficult to describe—the wonderful temper of
the French troops that we passed, and sometimes talked to, on the road.
In spite of cold and hardships and wounds and the constant nearness of
death, these men at the front had a spirit of cheerful endurance and
fearlessness that I believe nothing can conquer. If it comes to sitting
in the trenches for a year looking at the German trenches fifty yards
away they will sit the Germans out.” The year I spoke of has gone, and
they have not sat the Germans out—yet. But they are still sitting, and
before November 21st comes again—well, we shall see.

Three months before that visit to the Vosges, on August 21st, 1914,
there were no trenches to sit in, except the pathetic kind of enlarged
rabbit-scrapes that the men used to scoop out how and when they could.
But they had not much time for digging. The enemy were hard on their
heels. As soon as they knew that the French troops which had fought at
Morhange were retreating, followed inevitably by those which lined the
frontier of the Vosges, from the Donon down to the Ballon d’Alsace, they
hurried additional regiments across the Rhine as quickly as they could,
and very soon the force available for the attack amounted, it is
believed, to seven army corps, or something over 300,000 men. General
Dubail’s army, already reduced in size by the numerous levies made on it
for the commands in the north, had also been obliged to extend its left
wing in the direction of Nancy, and its centre, doubly weakened by these
two causes, gave way to a certain extent, under the heavy pressure
brought to bear upon it, and allowed the Germans to pour into France by
Saales, Sainte Marie aux Mines, and the Bonhomme. Those who crossed the
Col de Saales drove the French back as far as Ramberviller, twenty-five
miles due west of the pass, and occupied Provenchères, Senones, Raon
l’Etape, and St. Dié, while those who advanced by the two southern
passes occupied St. Léonard, a few miles south of St. Dié, and
threatened an attack on Epinal by the valley of Rouges-Eaux and the Col
de la Chipotte.

That was the position—the very alarming position—a day or two after the
battle of Morhange. The Col de Donon had been abandoned on the 21st, and
other German troops had advanced by Badonviller and Baccarat as far as
Gerbéviller and Lunéville, while a still larger army had crossed the
Seille and the frontier by the Château-Salins road, and arrived nearly
within striking distance of Nancy. The German front extended almost in a
straight line north-west and south-east from Etain past Pont-à-Mousson,
Champenoux, Lunéville, Gerbéviller, St. Benoit, (close to Ramberviller)
and the valley of the Rouges-Eaux (just west of St. Dié) to the Col de
Bonhomme.

The best way to arrive at a fairly clear idea of the operations that
followed is, I think, to leave for the present everything that happened
north of the Bayon-Lunéville road, culminating in the Battle of the
Grand Couronné of Nancy, and to follow first the German advance south of
the line between Lunéville and the Donon, in the department of the
Vosges.

[Illustration:

                              Record Press phot.
  GENERAL DUBAIL.
]

Nothing had happened so far to cause any alteration in the grand plan of
campaign conceived by the general staff at Berlin before the war. Its
execution had only been delayed (for about a fortnight) first by the
unexpected resistance of Liége and the Belgian army, and secondly by the
Alsace-Lorraine offensive. Now that these two obstacles had been
disposed of the German armies were able to set themselves once again to
the task of rounding up the French and English in the neighbourhood of
Châlons-sur-Marne, to be operated by a simultaneous “hook” or encircling
movement from the north and from the south, and so to leave open the way
to Paris. From the beginning Metz was meant to be the pivot of the
double advance through Belgium and through Lorraine. It was, so to
speak, to represent the hinge of a pair of compasses. The left or lower
leg of the compasses was composed of the armies of von Strantz, von
Heeringen, and the Crown Prince of Bavaria, those which acted against
Alsace and Lorraine. The right or upper leg consisted of the remaining
armies, from the Crown Prince of Prussia’s to von Kluck’s. The two legs
were to be gradually squeezed together till they crushed the French and
English armies between them, and then—and not till then, in my
opinion—Paris was to be invested. As the war went on the left leg of the
compasses, which was at first meant to stretch as far as Belfort, was
gradually shortened, bit by bit, under stress of circumstances. At the
date at which we have arrived it only reached as far as Epinal, a little
later still as far as Nancy, and when it was found that here too the
resistance to the squeezing in process could not be overcome, the
original left leg was discarded, or at least left where it was, and a
fresh and still shorter one forged in Metz, and thrust out to St.
Mihiel. But that was not till later. In the fourth week of August the
original plan had not yet been modified. The part allotted to the armies
commanded by the Crown Prince of Bavaria in the east was still to break
through the line of frontier fortresses, and join hands with the other
Crown Prince’s army somewhere near Bar le Duc, in order to carry out the
encircling movement from the south.

In front of the left wing of his forces, which was now established to
the west of the Vosges south of the Lunéville-Donon line, there was
nothing but the open and unfortified Trouée de Charmes (the wide plain
south of Nancy between Epinal and Toul), and the attenuated army of
General Dubail. If they had succeeded in breaking through that human
barrier, and if their companion Army Corps north of Lunéville had been
equally successful in disposing of General de Castelnau’s army (two
rather large suppositions) it is possible that they may have intended to
bring up fresh forces and heavier siege guns for the investment of
Epinal and Toul, and that the main army, without waiting for their
reduction, would have been pressed forward to effect the contemplated
junction with the armies operating from the north, just as von Kluck and
von Hausen advanced to Namur and Charleroi while at least one of the
forts of Liége was still holding out. But at any rate General Dubail’s
army had to be dealt with first, and to this work they turned their
immediate attention. As for Epinal, which was directly in front of their
left flank, they found that it, like Belfort, was protected for some
miles in front of its forts by a formidable network of trenches and wire
entanglements, against which they decided not to run their heads, though
the salient just north of Bruyères in the line of their furthest advance
on this sector seems to show that they meant to make the attempt at
first. That was the second stage in the process of shortening the lower
leg of the compasses.

The position defended by Dubail’s army after the retreat from the Vosges
extended from a point a few miles south of Lunéville to the Bonhomme,
along the line forming the diagonal of an approximate square, (with a
side twenty miles long) of which Lunéville, the Donon, the Col de
Bonhomme and Epinal (nearly due south of Lunéville) were the four
angles. This tract of land is watered by three smallish rivers, the
Vesouze, the Meurthe, and the Mortagne, all rising in the Vosges, and
flowing through shallow valleys towards Lunéville. Along the banks of
each of them there is a good road and a railway. The Vesouze follows
very nearly the north side of the square, and the chief towns on it are
Cirey and Blamont. The Meurthe and the Mortagne flow close together,
from south-east to north-west, one on each side of the diagonal. On the
Meurthe the chief towns are St. Dié, Raon l’Etape, and Baccarat, and on
the Mortagne, to the west of it, Rambervillers and Gerbéviller. The
three rivers, after meeting in Lunéville or just below it, continue
their joint course through Nancy to Frouard, five miles further north,
where they join the Moselle, which rises near Belfort and flows to the
west of the three other rivers through Epinal, Charmes, and Bayon, to
Toul, from which it makes a steep bend to the east to Frouard, where it
is joined by the Meurthe, and then flows nearly due north past
Pont-à-Mousson to Metz.

It stands to reason that the position and direction of each of these
rivers has had a most important bearing on the course of the campaign in
this sector. Along the valleys of the Vesouze, the Meurthe, and the
Mortagne, and over every yard of the Lunéville-Donon-Bonhomme triangle
which they traverse, the fighting from August 21st onwards was of the
most furious description, and in the top right hand corner of the
triangle, towards the Donon, it still continues in the less murderous
form of trench warfare. To follow it in detail through all its ups and
downs and advances and retreats in that first period before the battle
of the Marne is as yet practically impossible. But the general tendency
of the engagements is, I think, fairly clear, though as yet very little
has been written about them. The main point is that the enemy, though in
some of the fights they outnumbered the French by ten to one, never
succeeded in getting within twenty miles of Epinal, or (except near
Gerbéviller) to the west of the line of the Mortagne, and were obliged
to give up any hopes they may have had at the beginning of marching
straight across the Trouée de Charmes and so getting round behind Toul.
Instead of advancing due west in this way they were forced (or possibly
they may have chosen) to incline north-west along the course of the
Mortagne and the Meurthe towards Lunéville. Both before and after St.
Dié was occupied on the 25th, after an attack that lasted for four days,
there were fierce engagements at practically every town and village on
and between the two rivers. Besides the bigger places which I have
already mentioned there were many others, starting from the Col de
Bonhomme and working up towards Lunéville, which one by one, and
sometimes more than once, were the scene of furious and bloody
encounters.

At la Croix aux Mines, Mandray, Entre-Deux-Eaux, Sauley-sur-Meurthe,
Taintrux, Le Bois de Champ, Brouvelieures, Mortagne, la Vallée des
Rouges-Eaux, le Haut Jacques, Autrey, La Bourgonce, La Salle,
Nompatelize, St. Rémy, Etivalle, St. Michel, Col de la Chipotte, St.
Benoit, Bru, Menille, Doncières, Xaffévillers, St. Piermont and Le
Plateau de Moyen thousands of French and Germans fought and died in
those few August and September days. The fighting was particularly
violent at La Bourgonce, La Salle, Nompatelize, St. Rémy, Etivalle, the
Col de la Chipotte and St. Dié. At the two last the number of the German
dead alone was probably over 20,000. There was no question then of
off-times in leafy cantonments between the spells of duty in the
trenches. The men ate and slept where they could on the ground where
they had fought. Day after day and hour after hour the fighting went on.
Brilliant bayonet charges and desperate struggles hand-to-hand and
body-to-body followed each other with hardly a moment’s break. The same
positions were lost and taken over and over again, and the firing of the
guns and the explosions of the shells kept up a ceaseless hurricane of
noise, as the storm of shells ploughed up the green fields along those
valley roads and mangled the bodies of the two armies that had been set
to butcher each other to suit the purposes of the Prussian Junkers and
the Kaiser’s militarist advisers. But the French soldiers never
flinched, outnumbered and outweighed as they were. Above all the
Chasseurs-à-pied and Chasseurs Alpins, whom the Germans feared and
respected more than any other troops in General Dubail’s army, covered
themselves with glory—glory that is none the less immortal, though very
few individual acts of bravery will ever be recorded because most of the
officers who saw them are silent in their graves. But that hardly
matters. They were fighting not for glory and for recognition but for
France and the freedom of the world. And they did their work. If they
had failed, if the Teuton hordes had broken through between Epinal and
Toul and the grand German plan had been carried out in all its
completeness, then the whole defence of France would have broken down.
But they did not fail. They gave their lives and France was saved.

Unhappily there was another side of all this fighting in the Vosges
which was not so splendid. It is obvious that if the French soldiers
quitted themselves like heroes in all this horrible strife the men they
fought against were brave too. But not gallant, but not gentlemen, which
the French are to a man. They had as a body imbibed too deeply the
teaching of certain of their own philosophers. They had learnt or been
drilled to substitute in time of war the religion of force for every
other. Their _Credo_ was the antithesis of all the recognized beliefs
which civilized men must inevitably hold or pretend to hold in time of
peace. “I believe in the God of Battles, Maker of the rulers of the
earth, who giveth the victory to those who shrink from nothing and no
means in order to attain it. I believe in terrorism and pillage and
destruction and death. I believe in stifling all my softer feelings, and
in making the life of the people in whose country I fight a hell.”

Is that too severe a judgment? I am afraid not. No creed is consistently
held or acted upon by all those who are supposedly its adherents. There
are of course thousands and thousands of gallant gentlemen among the
officers and the rank and file of the German armies. Innumerable letters
found on their dead bodies show how the frightfulness of their
fellow-soldiers shamed and angered them, and how they abominated German
“Kultur” as deeply as Nietsche himself. But unhappily for Belgium and
France, and more unhappily still for Germany, their opinions and
example, even if they were in the majority, were powerless to control
the acts of the thorough-going believers in the German war-creed. When
the war is over, if not before, their voice will prevail. They will tear
that creed, and perhaps the men who made it, to pieces as their
Government did the treaty by which they bound themselves to respect the
rights of Belgium. No nation can possibly consent to go on living under
the shadow of such a disgrace as these men have brought on Germany. But
for the present they must be judged by their present deeds, and it is
impossible to write about the war in Alsace and Lorraine and the Vosges
and the Woevre without saying something about the crimes which have been
committed in the name of Germany by German soldiers. I will not weaken
the case against them by repeating second-hand fairy-tales of
“atrocities” which have not come under my own notice. There is enough
material in the more carefully attested official reports, in what my
colleague and I have been told by the victims and reputable eyewitnesses
of these cruelties, and in what we have ourselves seen and heard, to
prove beyond doubt that a very large number of soldiers in the German
army have for some reason or other behaved during the war as
brute-beasts. In this chapter I will quote only one case of
“frightfulness” taken from a volume published officially by the French
Foreign Office. The Foreign Office report, properly attested by the
military authorities, is that at the end of August, 1914, thirty
soldiers of the French 99th Regiment, having exhausted all their
ammunition, were surrounded in a suburb of St. Dié by a company of
Bavarian soldiers, and were shot down at close range at the moment when
they were surrendering as prisoners. There is, I believe, no doubt that
the butchery was deliberate, though possibly a special pleader might
argue that the executioners did not know that their victims had no
ammunition left and killed them either from motives of precaution or in
self-defence. That line of defence cannot be adopted with regard to the
numbers of instances of wilful incendiarism which cry for justice all
over the invaded provinces. Many of the ruined villages which we saw in
the Vosges were destroyed by shot and shell in fair fight. They are the
eggs without which the omelette of war cannot be made. But that is not
the case with Gerbéviller, Baccarat, Badonviller, a whole group of
villages south of Raon l’Etape, and several other towns and villages in
the same district, all of which have been wholly or partially destroyed
by fire wantonly applied to them without a shadow of excuse on military
grounds. I will reserve for another chapter the case of Gerbéviller,
which, although it was perhaps the most cruel and wholesale of them all,
may be fairly taken as typical of the rest. In every instance it is
practically certain and generally proven that these acts of incendiarism
(more common in the smaller villages where public opinion had not the
same restrictive weight as in more important places) were accompanied by
the murder of innocent and unoffending civilians. For the only excuse
ever urged in their defence was that they were a painful necessity
forced upon the Germans by the people themselves because they had fired
upon them as franc-tireurs. And in practically every instance the more
responsible of the inhabitants declare that that statement was a pretext
and a lie.



                               CHAPTER XI
                           THE MARTYRED TOWN


It was certainly a lie with regard to Gerbéviller. That unhappy place
was twice bombarded, first by the Germans and afterwards by the French,
and at the first time of asking there was also a running fight through
its streets. But it was not the shells of the 75’s and the 77’s that
left roofless all but about six of its 463 houses. They were burnt by
fire deliberately applied by the Bavarian soldiery by means chiefly of
sulphur sticks and gunpowder pastilles, little black discs about the
size of a florin, which apparently all the German soldiers carried with
them. I have specimens of both taken from their cow-skin haversacks. The
first time that we saw the town, about ten days after they had been
driven out, we drove there with M. Mirman, the Prefect of Meurthe et
Moselle, who had paid it his first official visit about a week earlier,
and had at once carefully examined all the available evidence as to what
had happened on the spot. That is a way M. Mirman has. He is not a
collector of second-hand rumours. He deals with facts, and the mass of
duly authenticated details about the doings of the Germans in his
Department which he is putting together will form a damning indictment
against them at the end of the war.

We drove to Gerbéviller by the road which, after crossing the Meurthe at
Dombasle, skirts the river and the lower edge of the forest of Vitrimont
for some miles and then cuts through the southern part of the
battlefield on which for three weeks the defenders of Nancy made their
memorable stand. We had therefore many chances of seeing the ruin caused
by the battle at Blainville, Mont, and other villages on the way. But in
none of them was there anything comparable to the wanton and wholesale
destruction at Gerbéviller. In Lorraine they speak of it as
Gerbéviller-la-Martyre. That is just what one feels about it. The town
is like the dead body of a woman whom some inhuman monster has violated
and kicked to death and then thrown into a bonfire.

When we got there some of the ruins were still smoking. We did not go
inside what was left of the walls of the church. They were not in a very
safe condition. In many places in the fields on the edge of the road
just outside the town, and behind some of the tottering fragments of
masonry that had once been the walls of houses, were lying the twisted
carcases of horses; every here and there there was a horrible smell of
burnt and putrefying flesh. There were also some pigs, routing about
among the ruins for what they might devour. At first they were the only
living things we saw. Everything else was dead, everything was burnt and
smashed except the stone figure of the dead Christ on the Cross that
stands at the corner where the principal street branches in two
directions, fully exposed to the shattering volleys that were poured
along it. By some miracle it had escaped destruction. Neither fire nor
shells had touched it. From the church the street winds down the slope
past the Christ on the Cross across the bridges that span the three
streams into which the Mortagne divides as it flows through the town,
then past what was once the private chapel of the family that owns the
old chateau on the opposite side of the road, up the hill on the other
side of the valley where there are half a dozen houses—at last—with
roofs and walls and even windows, from one of which a Red Cross flag is
floating, and then on to the wreck of the railway station. Some people
have likened the remains of the town to the ruins of Pompeii. There is
no need for that. They are the ruins of Gerbéviller. That will be
description enough as long as the stones that are left hang together.
The ruin is monstrous and unholy, especially in the part of the town on
the right bank of the river, where it is, like Jerusalem of old, a city
laid on an heap. We climbed at one place over the piles of stones and
rubbish that had formed the front walls of one of the houses, and in a
sort of ruined vault open to the air, which had been the cellar, saw
lying on its back the blackened skeleton of a woman. She was one of
several of the inhabitants who were burnt in the cellars in which they
took refuge from the German shells and the German brutality. They could
hardly be called hiding-places, because in some cases they were shot if
they tried to come out of them. Others were shot in the streets like
rabbits, as spies, or _franc-tireurs_ or what not. Any pretext or none
was good enough. I have seen a photograph which is in the possession of
the French Government, taken by a responsible official, of fifteen
white-haired old men whose dead bodies were found after the German
withdrawal lying in a field near the town. Their hands were bound
together, their trousers had been unbuttoned and were clinging round
their knees, either as a brutal insult, or else—the irony of it—to
prevent them from running away. They were shot in batches of five. The
signal for their “execution” was given by the senior officer of the
troops which had occupied the town. He sat at a table placed close to
the scene of their murder drinking with some other officers. Three times
he lifted his glass to his lips, and each time that he did so a volley
was fired and five old men fell dead on the ground.

[Illustration:

                              Photograph by Libert-Fernand, Nancy.
  GERBEVILLER—MEURTHE ET MOSELLE.
]

By fire and by bullet probably a hundred and certainly not less than
forty people were assassinated and the whole population rendered
homeless, because, as the Germans said—the usual lying excuse—some of
them had fired on their troops. The truth of what happened is apparently
this. When they attacked the town it was defended only by a body of
Chasseurs, sixty or seventy strong. These men held out all day against
the Bavarian regiments engaged in the attack, that is to say about 4000
men. Till the enemy entered the town in the afternoon the defenders were
subjected to a bombardment as well as to the fire of rifle bullets.
After they entered it the fight was continued along the street till late
in the evening, when the men were driven back to their last stand behind
a barrier which they constructed on one of the bridges. From here during
the night they escaped—they had fought like heroes and nothing was to be
gained by staying any longer—all except two or three who had got
separated from the rest and had hidden in a cellar. Before morning these
others also got away safely, but in order to do so they had first to
kill a sentinel who was posted at the fork of the roads, near the stone
Cross. When his dead body was discovered by the Germans, who were
furious at the resistance they had met with, they decided that he had
been killed by one of the inhabitants, and by way of punishment the acts
of incendiarism were begun and were continued at intervals till the
final general bonfire was lit on the day when they were driven out by
the French soldiers.

Through the two bombardments, and the fight in the streets, and the
burnings and the executions, the horrible story of human blood-lust and
brutality was redeemed by the womanly courage and pity and devotion to
duty which was shown by a little band of Sisters of Mercy, who, with the
now famous Sœur Julie at their head, nursed the wounded all through
those dreadful three weeks, with no thought of their own danger. The
cross of the Legion of Honour was pinned on Sœur Julie’s serge robe
by the President of the Republic, in front of the house where the Red
Cross flag is still floating from the window, and where she and her
fellow-Sisters gave such a splendid proof of the faith that was in them.
Of the many deeds of heroism which they performed there is one little
story which belonged entirely to herself. When the German soldiery were
first let loose in the town, sacking and pillaging, they sacked and
pillaged amongst other places the church (or perhaps it was the chapel,
which is much nearer her house), and tried in vain to break open the
sanctuary above the altar, by firing bullets at the lock. After they had
gone Sœur Julie came to the place and with a bayonet which they had
left on the stones wrenched open the door of the sanctuary, for fear
that the sacred elements might fall into their sacrilegious hand if they
came again. Though no one but a priest had the right to touch the wafers
which were scattered on the floor of the sanctuary, she took them and
the chalice, pierced by the Bavarian bullets, to her own house, and
then, still with the same fear, herself consumed them, as David did the
Shewbread, though with a rather higher object. And then, I am told, she
felt rather uncomfortable in her mind—till she had made her confession
to an ambulancier priest and received absolution for her “sin.”

Gerbéviller differed only in degree from what happened in scores of
other towns and villages all over Lorraine and the Woevre and Alsace and
the Vosges. It was not an isolated case. At Baccarat, at St. Benoit, at
Badonviller, and many other places south of the Meurthe, as at Nomeny,
Réméréville and many other places north of it, there were the same
burnings, and the same shootings of innocent civilians. At Badonviller,
where, besides eleven other victims, the wife of the singularly brave
mayor, Monsieur Benoit, was shot in the street before his eyes, much
more damage was done by incendiarism than by the fights that went on for
the possession of the town. On the French side of the town there are few
signs that it has often, since the beginning of the war, been the centre
of furious fighting. A few French and German graves, distinguished by
_képis_, or spiked helmets, one or two houses damaged by shells—and that
is all. Then, as the road drops down into the town you see on the crest
of the opposite ridge the ruins of the church, which, with the cemetery
behind it was the part of the town that suffered most from the
bombardment. Dome and roof have both been entirely shot away; shattered
fragments of the pillars in front of the church and the shapeless
remains of the four walls are all that is left, except for one thing—a
statue of Joan of Arc, with one arm broken off short at the shoulder,
standing erect and serene on its pedestal, surrounded by the piles of
stone and mortar and timber and glass that litter the floor of the
roofless nave. Outside in the cemetery, at the time of our first visit,
coffins stripped of their covering of earth, broken tombstones, and
shattered crosses completed the dreary scene of desolation, another
proof that the church was the chief target of the German artillery. But
of that there is no doubt. In the rest of the town, away from the
church, comparatively little damage had been done by the shells, and
there is this further curious fact to note, that the bombardment which
did the mischief took place while the place was actually occupied by
German troops. They were simply ordered to keep out of the range of the
fire—which meant away from the actual neighbourhood of the church.

These troops—they were Bavarians—completed the work of destruction by
burning the quarter of the town nearest to the German frontier, some
thirty houses in all, besides pillaging many others. They also shot
twelve of the inhabitants, including a woman and the child she was
holding in her arms, and an old man of seventy-eight, who was sitting
peacefully by his window.

These were the chief events of the first occupation, which took place
early in August. The second—there have been three in all—began on August
23rd. At eight in the morning the French hurriedly evacuated Badonviller
and took up a position at Pexonnes, about two miles to the rear, and the
Germans, after a desultory bombardment, which went on all day, marched
in at six in the evening. For the next few hours there was furious
fighting in and around the town between the Chasseurs Alpins and the
Chasseurs d’Afrique on the one side and the Landwehr, the 162nd Regiment
of Strassburg, and the regiment of Lieutenant von Forstner (since
reported killed), the 99th of Saverne, on the other. During the night a
stronger German force approached the town, and as soon as they entered
it, began ordering the terrified inhabitants to come out of the cellars
in which they had taken refuge, when suddenly they were interrupted by a
furious counter-attack of the Chasseurs, and driven out of the town at
the point of the bayonet. Once more the natives shut themselves up in
the cellars and listened panic-stricken to the noise and confusion of
the struggle overhead. One comfort they had in their alarm. All the
time, above the din of the fighting, they heard the stirring notes of
the French bugles sounding the charge, and all the time the voices of
the French soldiers singing, as they charged, the famous Sidi-’Brahim
bugle-march:—

                   “Pan! Pan! L’Arbi!
                   Les chacals sont par ici!
                   Mais plus haut c’est les Turcos!”

Little by little the Germans retreated, and the sounds died away in the
distance, and then suddenly they began again, as the Chasseurs, still
chanting the Sidi-’Brahim, marched back through the town and retired to
their position at Pexonnes. Then once more the Germans, and at last the
silence of the night.

St. Benoit, near Raon l’Etape, is another of these murdered towns. It
has been destroyed, that is to say, burnt by the Germans, about as
effectually as Gerbéviller. The church has only its four walls left. The
Germans, during their occupation, placed mitrailleuses in the tower,
which stands high up and commands the main road. A body of French troops
passing along this road, which skirts the village to the north, came
under the fire of the mitrailleuses and suffered severely, without being
able to see where the attack came from. A second detachment was more
fortunate in finding out the position of the machine guns. A battery of
75’s was trained on the church. Shortly afterwards the French retired on
Rambervillers, and when the Germans reached St. Benoit they set fire to
the village to avenge the death of their comrades who belonged to the
same corps. They did not, however, the Mayor told us, kill any of the
inhabitants, of whom only 12 out of about 250 were missing.

In the little schoolhouse there are no doors, the blackboards are
riddled with bullets, and there is not a pane of glass in the windows.
But in this skeleton of a house we found the schoolmaster teaching a
class of twelve little boys who had their fathers’ coats and old sacks
hung on their shoulders to keep out the cold, and when we came in they
stood up like one man and sang a verse of the “Marseillaise.”

A little further on, in the Col de la Chipotte, which both sides called
the “Hole of Hell,” we came to the place where for several days was
fought the bloodiest battle of all this border warfare. Three or four
hundred feet below the road on the left, as it rises to the top of the
pass, there is a beautiful valley, with a quick little burn running at
the bottom of it with fir trees growing thickly on each side. On the
right the ground falls away in a more gradual slope. For some miles
along each side of this road there is not a space of ten yards in which
there are not the graves of French and German soldiers, marked by
crosses made of branches of trees, and here and there by a battered
_képi_. On the crosses are carved little flat slabs. If you read the
rough inscriptions on them—“Thirteen Germans,” or “Seventeen French
Soldiers”—you will see that those on the German graves are written
sometimes in German (in which case the number of the regiment is given),
and sometimes in French, but those of the French in French only. In
other words, the enemy buried only their own dead, and only some of
them, and it was left to the French to finish the work for both sides,
or to finish it partly. For up from the valley and the woods came the
sickening smell of still unburied bodies, the last remains of this
butchery of a battle.

There was fighting for about twelve or thirteen days round that stretch
of valley and mountain road, German attacks from both sides that drove
the French back by weight of superior numbers, and later a
counter-attack of the French in stronger force which pushed the enemy
back over the crest. It was a battle of rifle fire and hand-to-hand
fighting with bayonets and knives and rifle-butts and fists, a battle on
one side of the road of short breathless bursts and long painful
scrambles up and up to the deadly trenches cut on the bare slopes, on
the other of slow aimless groping through the low branches of the
dripping fir trees, so thickly planted that where they grew neither
aeroplanes nor artillery could do their work, a bewildering,
nerve-shaking game of blindman’s-buff under a hail of whistling bullets
that came from all sides at once, a hideous battue in an impenetrable
covert with men for ground-game.

But, after all, it was a fair stand-up fight between gallant soldiers,
with no quarter given or asked, in which each side could respect the
other, not a shameful massacre of unarmed innocents among the flaming
wrecks of their ruined homes, like those which in other parts of the
Vosges and Lorraine covered the Bavarian butchers with undying disgrace.
Gerbéviller and Nomeny were far more hellish “Holes of Hell” than the
Col de la Chipotte.



                              CHAPTER XII
                    BATTLE OF THE GRAND COURONNÉ. I


By this brilliant series of hand-to-hand, town-to-town struggles,
Dubail’s army, operating in the Bonhomme-Donon-Gerbéviller triangle, had
prevented the enemy from penetrating westwards between Epinal and Toul.
At the same time, on their left, de Castelnau’s men were fighting the
desperate battle of the Grand Couronné of Nancy. Their line, continuing
in the same direction as the valley of the Mortagne, ran from
Gerbéviller across the Meurthe west of Lunéville to Crévic, and on to
Amance, north of the Nancy-Château-Salins road, and some distance beyond
it. It was a real pitched battle which lasted for nearly three weeks,
and was one of the most important of the whole war. For on its result
depended not only the fate of Nancy and of Toul but of all the other
armies further north. In order to get an idea of one part of it we can
hardly do better than to take our stand at the point which we have
reached with the Second Army, to the west of Gerbéviller, on the
Bayon-Lunéville road. From there, through the eyes of a French officer
of dragoons who found time after he was wounded at Héraménil to publish
an excellent little book on _La Victoire de Lorraine_ (Berger-Levrault:
Nancy), we shall be able to follow in some detail the part of the battle
which was fought to the west of Lunéville south of the Nancy-Lunéville
road. That was where the battle was fiercest in its early stages. The
section on the other side of the Nancy road we will leave till later. It
was there that the XXth Army Corps held the line northwards up to
Amance, and that the victory was finally won.

At one o’clock on the morning of August 19th our dragoon officer’s
regiment started from near Altkirch, where they had formed part of
General Pau’s army, for some uncertain destination further west. The
Colonel, of course, knew where they were bound, but he kept his own
counsel, and the junior officers could only speculate. Clearly, however,
since they were being withdrawn from one successful offensive, they were
wanted to smash the Germans somewhere else, either in Lorraine over the
border, which was over-run (they believed) by French cavalry, or in
Belgium, where report said that the enemy had been pulled up short in
front of Liége.

[Illustration:

  THE LORRAINE
  FRONTIER.
]

After an interminable train journey by Belfort, Lure and Epinal, they
reached Charmes in the middle of the night, rested for a few hours, and
then started towards Lunéville. This time they felt there could be no
doubt. They were making for the frontier, and next day would certainly
see them in the annexed province. It was a long march, but the sun was
shining brightly on the forest of Charmes, the valley of the Moselle on
their left, and the hills of Lorraine in front of them, and everyone was
in the best of spirits. Then suddenly there came an unexpected check. An
orderly rode up to the Colonel with despatches, the regiment was halted
at a little village on the road half way between Bayon and Lunéville,
and there they spent the rest of the afternoon and the night of the 21st
in ignorant inaction. Next morning everything was changed. The sunshine
had gone out of the air, a steady drizzle was falling, and when the
Colonel informed his officers that they were to be attached to an
infantry division which was to organize a line of defence behind
Lunéville they could hardly believe their ears and began to wonder
anxiously why, instead of continuing the march to the frontier, they
were ordered to fall back on Einvaux, on the south side of the
Bayon-Lunéville road.

It was still raining when they reached the road, and they were obliged
to halt to let a long convoy, which was passing along it across their
front from east to west, go by. They waited five minutes, ten minutes,
half an hour, and still the stream of men and horses poured on and on,
an odd jumble of peasants’ carts, farm-carts, tradesmen’s carts, and
every imaginable kind of country vehicle, plodding along drearily
through the rain, the soldiers who were driving them huddled under the
awnings, and all the ammunition and provision carts piled high with
wounded. It must at least, they thought, be the convoy of a whole Army
Corps. But why was all this mass of men and vehicles hurrying along in
the mud, away from Lunéville, towards Bayon? Their hearts began to
misgive them. They asked some of the drivers what it all meant, but no
one seemed to understand and no one answered, until at last they stopped
a non-commissioned officer and from him learnt part of the incredible
truth—that the triumphant army which had invaded Lorraine was in full
retreat.

After that they waited no longer. The melancholy string of carts which
stretched along the road in both directions as far as they could see was
halted to let them through, and they continued their march to their
cantonments at Einvaux, five or six miles south of the road. There the
young dragoon officer was at once given his marching orders. He was to
take with him half a dozen troopers, cross the Meurthe and the forest of
Vitrimont as far as the Lunéville-Nancy road, and try and get in touch
with the enemy, who were pressing hard on the heels of the retreating
troops.

When he reached the Bayon-Lunéville road again he had on each side of
him two railways running nearly due north and south and cutting the road
(which to the east crosses the Mortagne at Lamath, and then turns
northward past Xermaménil, Rehanviller, and Hériménil to Lunéville) at a
distance of about three miles apart. The one on the right curves away
behind to Gerbéviller, the one on the left to Bayon, eventually to meet
some distance to the south at Epinal. In front, to the north, both of
them join the railway which runs from Lunéville to St. Nicolas-du-Port
round the lower edge of the forest of Vitrimont, following closely the
course of the Meurthe. On the further side of the forest the road from
Lunéville to Dombasle, St. Nicolas-du-Port, and Nancy stretches across
from right to left, and, as you see it on the map, the whole area
composed of the forest and the ground beyond, as far as the
Lunéville-Nancy road, is shaped like a feeding-cup, with Lunéville for
the handle and Dombasle for the spout. North-west of Lunéville, along
the Dombasle road, comes first the Faubourg de Nancy, and then two miles
and four miles further on the villages of Vitrimont and Hudiviller, with
the farm of Léomont midway between them, standing up on much higher
ground just to the north of the road. In the parallelogram between the
two railways south of the forest (which is about five miles long by two
and a half deep) there are two villages, first Mont (with a bridge over
the Mortagne), and then a little further west Blainville, both of them
on a road which runs parallel to the Meurthe and quite close to it. At
the point where this road crosses the Dombasle-Bayon railway there is
another small village called Damelevières, and, also on this railway and
a mile south of it, the village of Charmois. Taking a wider view of the
whole terrain, the Lunéville-Dombasle road and the railway running round
the forest with the two railways south of it and the stretch of the
Bayon-Lunéville road between them form a rough figure of eight. To the
west of the lower half of it trenches had been dug that morning on the
plateau south of the Meurthe by the troops under the command of General
Bigot, one of General Dubail’s brigadiers. The plateau of Saffais,
midway between the Meurthe and the Moselle, was occupied by the 64th
division, and on their right another division, the 74th, guarded the gap
between Saffais and the Mortagne. Between them they formed a curtain of
troops which was to play a very important part in the coming battle,
which was fought chiefly over the ground covered by the figure of eight,
but partly also further south, below the Bayon-Lunéville road, as far as
the line between Bayon and Gerbéviller.

When the little party of dragoons once more reached the road, at the
level crossing where it cuts the line from Epinal to Nancy, it was still
covered with a dense mass of fugitives. This time it was not merely a
procession of carts but of the army itself, the soldiers of the XVth and
XVIth Army Corps. It was the final stage of the retreat which had begun
after their defeat in front of Morhange and Saarburg by the armies of
Metz, of the Crown Prince of Bavaria, and of General von Heeringen. For
two days, by all the roads that cross the frontier between Vic and
Réchicourt and meet on the south-east side of Lunéville, they had come
crowding along to this harbour of refuge, the angle between the Mortagne
and the Meurthe, where they were to find sanctuary behind the curtain of
troops prepared by General Dubail and General Bigot. Infantry of the
line, chasseurs, artillery, young men of the active army, territorials,
troops of peasants, women and children and old men, some in carts and
some on foot, all mixed up in inextricable confusion with the soldiers
and regimental wagons, the drivers flogging their worn-out horses in the
vain effort to make them move faster, the men on foot, almost as many of
them wounded as not, too tired or too weak to get out of the way,
marching anyhow without any formation or any attempt to keep to their
own companies, splashing along in a slough of mud, wet to the bone by
the ceaseless rain, without discipline, without courage, almost without
thought, the tragic procession filed slowly by, away from the enemy,
away from the frontier that they had been sent to defend.

But only for the time being, and only for two days. That was the marvel
of it. By their failure—in face of the impossible task by which they
were confronted—they had thrown the whole scheme of the eastern campaign
out of gear. The XXth Army Corps under General Foch, which had the
position on their left at Morhange, was forced to retire with them, and
worse still would have befallen the corps from the Midi and the Pyrenees
if it had not been for the steadying influence of the men of Lorraine
and the magnificent rearguard action which they fought as they retreated
steadily and in perfect order to their position in front of Nancy,
marching by the roads to the north of Lunéville and the Meurthe. Much
the same thing had happened on the right, as we have already seen. The
advanced regiments of Dubail’s army, finding their left uncovered, were
also obliged to give up their successful offensive and fall back on
Baccarat, Raon l’Etape, and St. Dié, leaving to the enemy the
strategical advantage of the positions on the crests of the Vosges, and
at the same time prolonging their line westwards to the angle between
the Mortagne and the Meurthe, so as to stand between the fugitives and
the pursuing Germans and join in the one object that now mattered—the
defence of Nancy.

That, then, was how the scene was staged for the first act of the Battle
of the Grand Couronné on August 23rd. There was no question of the
defence of Lunéville. It might possibly have been attempted, and
successfully attempted, by the men whom we have just seen straggling
along the road to Bayon. But they were not ready for so great a task
yet. So the town was abandoned. The enemy marched into it without any
resistance on the 23rd, and the line was drawn further back, behind
Lunéville and behind the Mortagne instead of in front of them. On the
left, from the Meurthe to Amance, were Foch and his men, the XXth Army
Corps with its heart of gold—the famous 11th Division de Fer. Of them we
need have no fear. What man can do they will do. But those others, who
have retired in confusion behind Bigot’s covering troops, prolonging,
between the Meurthe and the Mortagne, the line occupied by the XXth—what
of them? This of them, not in my own words, but as they were seen by the
young lieutenant of dragoons whom we left on his way to the Meurthe to
look for the enemy—

“Ils se sont reformés avec une souplesse meridionale étonnante. Et ce
fut un sujet d’admiration sans pareil, que de voir ces soldats hier
encore battus, découragés, revenir ardents à la bataille deux jours
après, leurs regiments reformés, les brigades dans la main du
chef—lutter en héros—et vaincre!” And again: “Ce sont ces mêmes troupes
qui, dans trois jours, reformées, vont contribuer à l’héroïque défense
de la trouée, et ne laisseront pas un seul instant branler la muraille
vivante dressée contre l’envahisseur: chaque soldat deviendra un rampart
infranchissable. _Miles murus erit._”

On the right, too, then, as well as on the left, France had an army of
heroes, all the more invincible because they were thirsting to blot out
the memory of Morhange. They were to have the chance they wanted. From
all directions through the forest of Vitrimont and along the roads south
of Lunéville the enemy’s vanguard was converging on the angle between
the two rivers. The rain of heavy shells which all day long had been
speeding up the French retreat was continued now to cover the German
advance. Far off across the forest, from the plateau where the farm of
Léomont crowns the ridge that runs along the north side of the Nancy
road, the 75’s of the XXth corps were firing at the big German batteries
behind Lunéville. Suddenly, as the dragoons advanced towards the
Meurthe, the farm burst into flames, which shot up like a huge bonfire
into the crimson evening sky, streaked with the screaming shells and
specked with the white puffs of the shrapnel which littered farm and
road and plateau with wounded and dying men. At Mont, the little village
where the two rivers meet, a battalion of Chasseurs Alpins, who had just
come through the forest, were engaged in blowing up the bridge over the
Meurthe. They told them that not a Frenchman was left on the other side,
and warned them not to go on, as the forest was full of German scouts.
The lieutenant’s orders, however, were to see, and not only to hear,
where the enemy were, so, as his men were ready for anything, they
crossed the river by a ford five hundred yards lower down, and advanced
along one of the numerous rides through the forest till a brisk
fusillade put the matter beyond a doubt. Then they rode back, without a
scratch, to make their report, first to the Colonel, and then to the
General at Bayon. The night and the next day passed without any vigorous
action on the part of the enemy, though some of their patrols crossed
the Meurthe. They were probably themselves not too fresh after their
long forced march from beyond the frontier, and wanted to collect their
strength and their forces for the grand attack.

On August 24th the storm burst at last. From Damelevières and Mont on
the near side of the forest of Vitrimont, from Lunéville along the Bayon
road, and out of the two smaller forests of Vacquenat and Clairlieu,
which, from Lamath on the Mortagne, stretch along each side of it up to
the most western of the two railways, the enemy came pouring on,
battalion after battalion, regiment after regiment, till they had nearly
got up to the concave sweep of the French defensive position, extending
from the Sappais plateau eastwards across the road and railway in the
direction of Gerbéviller. At the same time the German guns began to
speak, and along the whole French front a hurricane of explosive shells
and shrapnel ploughed and tore up a belt of ground over a mile deep. An
hour after midday, in brilliant sunshine this time, no longer under the
depressing rain, the French batteries opened fire and went on firing all
through the afternoon and night, after a time without any sustained
reply from the enemy except for one general cannonade before sundown.

[Illustration:

                              Photograph by Libert-Fernand, Nancy.
  FARM OF LEOMONT—MEURTHE ET MOSELLE
]

If you are standing on the outskirts of a modern battle—say at a
distance of a mile from the nearest battery, for a civilian is not
likely to get much closer in these days—you hear what I may call the
symphony of it far better than those who are actually taking part in the
fighting, who are deafened to all other sounds but the guns that fire
and the shells that burst near them, and the rifles of their own
company. To the spectator, when heavy guns, field guns, rifles, and
machine guns are all booming and banging and rattling at the same time,
the noise is so tremendous that it seems that it must be beyond the
limits of human endurance to face the storm of steel and fire. At the
hottest moments it keeps changing curiously and horribly in character,
volume, and tempo, rising and falling with alternating diminuendo and
crescendo and hurrying and slackening pace. It is all extraordinarily
relentless. Sometimes the deafening volleys of reports sound like the
clattering of a clumsy, lumbering wagon, jolting heavily over the frozen
ruts of a rough country lane; sometimes like the brisk hammering of
thousands of carpenters and rivetters at work on thousands of wooden
joists and steel plates; sometimes like the rumbling of hundreds of
heavy goods-trains thundering and bumping over uneven points and meeting
every now and then in hideous collision. Against the changing
undercurrent and background of sound and confusion the different kinds
of reports are always distinguishable—the heavy slow boom of the big
guns, the sharp vicious bang of the field pieces, with their
lightning-like velocity and shattering irresistible force, the shrieks
of the shells, the whistle of the bullets, the crackling and spitting
and spluttering snap of the lebels and mannlichers, the rapid pitiless
tapping and rattling of the machine guns, and most awful of all, I
think, the sudden unexpected silences, which make you hold your breath
and wait—like a condemned murderer with the noose round his neck must
wait on the scaffold—for the dreadful moment which you know will come
when the storm will all begin over again _da capo_, and in the twinkling
of an eye hundreds and hundreds of living vigorous men will be struck
down dead. Mercifully few things are so false as the saying that every
bullet has its billet. Otherwise not a man of the armies that fought in
front of Nancy would be left.

Soon after the great battle, long before nature had begun to heal the
gaping wounds that French and German had made in the bosom of the brown
old earth, I or my French colleague or both of us visited most of the
roads north and south of the Meurthe and north and west of the Mortagne
which cross the ground on which it was fought. The whole country—the
once happy villages, the wooded hills and wide rolling plains of grass
and stubble fields with never a hedge and hardly a ditch—is one vast
field of battle and one huge cemetery. From part of it the German flood
of invasion was just beginning to recede. What was left of the towns and
villages and farms, which had first withstood its advance like massive
breakwaters and then been submerged as the tide of battle ebbed and
flowed, looked much more like piles of rugged and weather-beaten rocks
than human habitations. Everywhere the fields had been drenched with the
blood of French and Germans. Everywhere they were scarred with deep
shell-holes surrounded by great clods of brown earth scattered in all
directions. It is a characteristic feature of the Lorraine country that
in many places the roads, when they run between two belts of woodland,
are bordered on each side by level stretches of grass, fifty or sixty
yards wide. In these roadside glades—because roads lead to towns and
villages, and because armies move more easily along them than over the
soft fields—the shell-holes were so close together that often they were
almost touching. In other places, where only a single line of trees
marked the two sides of the road, trunk after trunk had been cut
straight through by the shells, or whole rows of them ruthlessly felled
to open up the line of fire. And everywhere there were blown-up bridges,
broken telegraph poles, hanging wires, hop-gardens scorched and withered
by sheets of fire, blackened corn-stooks rotting where they stood,
ploughs and farm-carts twisted and smashed, festering bodies of dead
horses in hideously ungainly attitudes, rifles, bayonets, caps, helmets,
coats, saddles, haversacks, socks, shirts, boots, water-bottles, all
kinds of things that men have made and used and worn, all manner of
rubbish that once had form and beauty—a horrible unsightly jumble and
litter of wreckage and decay, a tragedy of untellable noise and fury and
suffering and death. And then there were the dead themselves—the
pitiable little heaps of clothes, red or blue or grey, that once were
men, that helped to make this tragedy and fell its victims. Most of them
had been buried and hidden away in the shelter of the earth. But here
and there they were still lying, sometimes prone on their faces as they
fell, more often carefully laid on their backs, staring up at the sky
with unseeing eyes. Some looked peaceful and at rest. Others had
suffered horribly before they died, and their coal-black faces were
twisted and drawn, and their outstretched arms and hands clutched at
emptiness in an agony of intolerable pain.

The three weeks’ battle was now well under way. On the first day the
opening rush of the German attack had spent itself in vain against the
French right wing south of the Meurthe. The fire of Morhange had done
its work. It had forged a tough line of Ironsides, which the Bavarian
corps could neither bend nor break, and during the night they began to
fall back toward the Mortagne leaving masses of dead behind them. A
French cavalry patrol, sent out early on the morning of the 15th along
the Bayon-Lunéville road to reconnoitre, got as far as Lamath, on the
left bank of the river, before they found the enemy. During the day the
village was gallantly carried by a battalion of Chasseurs-Alpins.
Further south, in the triangle beyond the road and the forest of
Vacquenat, the enemy held on more persistently to the ground which they
had gained, and on the 25th and 26th at Einvaux, Clayeures, Réménoville,
Rozelieures and other villages between the two rivers they were only
driven back step by step as the result of most determined and gallant
efforts on the part of the French. The loss of life on both sides was
very great. A little stream which flows through Réménoville into the
Mortagne was so choked with dead that the cavalry found it impossible to
water their horses in it. All over the field of battle, especially in
the woods, the air was tainted with the smell of putrefying bodies. But
death and wounds had no effect on the morale of the two French Army
Corps. Now that they had made their stand they were irresistible. They
were constantly attacking instead of being attacked, and retreat was
everywhere turned into advance. At the same time the chief weight of the
German counter-attack—for though they were retiring they were always
trying to make ground—was gradually shifted southwards away from the
Bayon road towards Gerbéviller and Moyen, higher up the river, probably
in the hope of breaking through between the XVth corps and the First
Army on their right. But no breach was made. On the 27th a Colonial
Regiment was fighting a little to the west of the martyred town. They
had suffered severely and had lost two colonels since the 24th. A third
came to join them, reported himself to the brigadier, rode forward
towards his men and was knocked over and killed by a shell before he had
been ten minutes in command. But still his men and all the other
regiments fought on, the batteries continually shifted their positions
from one place to another with wonderful mobility, some of the villages
where the fighting was hottest were taken and retaken two or three times
over, and step by step the long line of French bayonets forced the enemy
back towards and at some points beyond the two rivers.

At last, on September 4th, though the battle was still far from won, the
great attack had been so effectively checked that it was found possible
to move the XVth corps across to the Argonne, to help General Sarrail
and the Third Army in their struggle against the Crown Prince. From the
moment when they had assumed the offensive on August 25th, they had
fought with extraordinary courage. In two days one regiment alone, the
112th of the line, had forty-eight officers killed and wounded out of
sixty-one. But losses had no effect on them now. The past was wiped out,
and both during the defence of Nancy, and later on in the Heights of the
Meuse and the Argonne, especially at Vassincourt, they took a prominent
share in the victories by which General Sarrail relieved the pressure on
Verdun. From every point of view the story of what they did and suffered
and the way in which—like a ship on her maiden voyage—they found
themselves after their first defeat, was and is one of the most
significant features of the war. For it means that France cannot and
will not be beaten. The steadying support and fellowship which they
received in the hour of crisis from the sorely pressed corps on either
side of them, their own heroic recovery, and the confident and
confidence-inspiring leadership of the generals under whose command they
redeemed themselves from the reproach of their momentary failure, all
point to the same conclusion—the invincible solidarity of the whole of
the French armies. On August 20th the chain of the eastern armies
snapped at its weakest point. By the 25th the jagged ends of the broken
link had been welded together and it was firmly joined up, stronger than
it had ever been, with those on each side of it. Morhange might have
been the beginning of another Sedan. Instead it was the prelude to the
glorious triumph of the Battle of the Grand Couronné of Nancy.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                    BATTLE OF THE GRAND COURONNÉ. II


All towns are feminine by rights, but Nancy, I think, more than any that
I have ever known. In its municipal arms the chief feature is a Scotch
thistle. The emblem should belong rather to the gallant armies of the
east, and especially to the famous XXth Army Corps, which was the
backbone of General de Castelnau’s army. During all that long three
weeks, while the XVth and XVIth with part of General Dubail’s army were
checking the attack south of the Meurthe, along a front of about fifteen
miles, the XXth held a still longer line on the north side of the river,
from Dombasle nearly as far as Pont-à-Mousson. To all of them, but
particularly to the men of the 26th, or Nancy Regiment, and the 11th
Division, long and proudly known as the Division de Fer, the town
appealed as a beloved and graceful and beautiful woman. She was their
mother and their sister and their bride. She was in deadly danger from
the covetous assaults of the Germans and the German Emperor, and they
alone stood between her and ruin. For, woman-like, she had no defences
of her own—fortunately for her and for France. When Bismarck interfered
in 1874 to prevent the construction of fortifications round the town by
threatening to renew the war of 1870, he was unconsciously working
against the interest of his country instead of for it. If Nancy had been
encircled by a ring of stereotyped forts, like Toul and Verdun, it is
highly probable that after the rapid retreat from Morhange the French
would have fallen back on the protection of their guns, and that Nancy
would have been overtaken by the same fate as Liége. It was because her
defenders did not, because they could not, put their trust in forts,
that the town was saved. For the success of the Allies, for their
delivery in the hour of their deadliest peril from almost certain
disaster, that meant everything. To the south, as we have seen, the
enemy had swept across the difficult barrier of the Vosges and continued
their triumphant advance right up to the moment when the battle for the
defence of the town began. To the north the whole of the rest of their
line swung across Belgium and part of France as far as Compiègne, and
even far south of Verdun on each side of it, like a bar (though never a
straight nor a rigid bar) hinged to a fixed point. And, with the not
quite parallel exception of Verdun, the only part of the line that
remained firm, the immovable pivot which those three weeks of persistent
and frenzied sapping on three sides was powerless to undermine, was the
open and unprotected town of Nancy. Its defenders, or, at all events,
the rank and file of them, knew almost nothing of what was happening
elsewhere. They were fighting in the dark with their backs to the wall.
But they knew what their own job was, and they did it, always, it seems
to me, from the way they talk about it, with that feeling that they were
standing in front of a helpless woman, whose honour they must defend at
any and every cost. And when finally they had saved the town, when the
fear of a barbarous assault like those which had wrecked and ravished
one after the other of the towns and villages of Lorraine was at an end,
they called it—still from that personal objective point of view—_Nancy
l’Inviolée_.

The German conception of its importance was more strictly military. The
Kaiser himself appears to have cherished some imperially sentimental
notions on the subject of its capture. No doubt if he could have ridden
in triumph into the beautiful Place Stanislas at the head of the White
Cuirassiers of the Guard (who were on the spot in readiness), like a
Cæsar or a Roman general swaggering along the Via Sacra, he would have
felt extremely pleased with himself, and the moral effect on the people
of both countries would have been immense. But it was also obvious that
through Nancy lay the way to the barrier of the frontier fortresses.
Until General de Castelnau’s army had been disposed of the project of
smashing the forts of Toul was only an idle dream. To that end the whole
force of the German left wing, except the troops (chiefly Landwehr)
which were held up in Alsace, was concentrated on this one point. The
march of von Heeringen’s men from the south-west along the valleys of
the Mortagne, the Meurthe, and the Vesouze, we have already followed, up
to the time of their check by de Castelnau’s right. At the same time an
even fiercer attack was made on his left, from the east, north-east, and
north by the Crown Prince of Bavaria’s army and some additional troops
of the Metz garrison army.

Before the Germans spread out into battle formation the four main lines
of the whole of their advance on Nancy were from Pont-à-Mousson,
Château-Salins, Cirey, and St. Dié. If we substitute London for Nancy,
the relative positions and distances of these places will be
approximately represented by Waltham Cross, Brentford, Sittingbourne,
and the village of Sandhurst (half-way between Tunbridge Wells and Rye).
Or, to put the matter still more simply, the enemy advanced in
directions which coincide almost exactly with those of the Great
Northern, the Great Eastern, the London, Chatham, and Dover, and the
South-Eastern Railways; and they were not finally checked till they had
reached a point nearer to Nancy than Walthamstow is to Charing Cross.

For the people of Nancy the prospect was sufficiently alarming. It is
not surprising that at that time some of them, though not many, migrated
to what they thought were safer quarters. But they need have had no
fears. To the north-east and east of the town, in the quadrant of the
circle between Pont-à-Mousson and Lunéville, the legionaries of the XXth
corps were to prove an impenetrable barrier. Once they had crossed the
boundary river, the Seille, in the general retreat, there was no
favourable position in which to make a stand until they came to the
ring-fence of wooded heights which long before the war was christened by
some French strategist the Grand Couronné of Nancy. The term is, as a
matter of fact, rather a stretch of the imagination. If you stand at the
top of any high building in the town and look eastwards towards the
frontier (which is as near to Nancy as Wimbledon to Hyde Park Corner)
you see, with one or two unimportant exceptions, no hills at all. The
ground for the most part is flat and unbroken, rising in a gentle slope
to the horizon five miles away. (Once and once only a body of German
cavalry came over the rise, and, till they were driven back, were
visible for a short time from the town.) On that side the Couronné
consists only of the Forests of Champenoux and St. Paul, about seven
miles north-east of the town, north and south of the Château-Salins
road, the woods of Crévic and Einville north of the Marne-Rhone canal, a
low ridge beyond Léomont on the north side of the last two or three
miles of the road to Lunéville, and the Forest of Vitrimont south of the
road. To the west of the town, and to the north in the direction of
Metz, the Couronné is, however, well marked, and a semicircle of hills,
about one thousand feet high, broken only by the valley of the Meurthe,
stands high up above it, and sweeps round to the north-east, where the
wooded Plateau of Amance carries on the curve almost as far as the
forest of Champenoux.

The position defended by the left wing of General de Castelnau’s army
extended from Ste. Généviève, a few miles south-east of Pont-à-Mousson,
past the heights of Mont St. Jean, La Rochette, and Amance (the rock on
which the attack broke), and then by Laneuvelotte and Cerceuil across
the plain to Dombasle, just east of St. Nicholas-du-Port and west of the
forest of Vitrimont, in a line which is almost parallel to the course of
the Meurthe below Nancy, and about five miles in front of it. From
Dombasle, south of the river, it was continued in a slightly concave
curve, as we saw in the last chapter, through Saffais, across the
Bayon-Lunéville road, to Gerbéviller on the Mortagne.

In the prolonged battle which was fought along that front—of course very
many times as large as the field of Waterloo—the losses of the enemy in
killed alone probably amounted to nearly 50,000. Every scrap of the
ground between it and the frontier, that is to say, a length of about
thirty miles and a depth varying from five or six to well over twenty,
was fought over at least twice and in many places still oftener.
Everywhere there are long wide stretches of ground so torn and ploughed
by shells that it seems impossible that any single soul could have gone
through that awful fire and come out alive. On the heights of Frescati
above the Lunéville road as far west as the farm of Léomont (in the last
chapter we saw it flaming against the evening sky from the other side of
the forest of Vitrimont), all round the forest itself, particularly near
the now ruined building called the Faisanderie, and from there right
away up the line past Crévic and Maixe and Courbesseau and Réméréville,
the ghastly ruin of the battlefield south of the river was repeated over
and over again. In some places it was not so bad as in others. But that
is all you can say. In the worst it is beyond belief. Trenches in the
modern sense of the word hardly existed; what there were were
comparatively rare and shallow. The slaughter was therefore much greater
than it ever is in these later times, except when an offensive movement
is being carried out. The villages and churches and scattered cottages
and farms were battered and pounded by the shells of both sides till
nothing of them was left but heaped-up ruins. Here, as elsewhere, many
of them were burnt, and always for the same miserable and lying excuse.
At Réméréville, near the forest of Champenoux, the epitaph of the
murdered village, composed and signed by “Un Allemand,” was still
chalked up on the blackboard in the little schoolhouse when we first saw
it: “_Réméréville n’existe plus, parce qu’on a tiré sur les troupes
Allemandes. Ainsi soit il fait sur toutes les endroits pareilles._” His
French was not, perhaps, of the best, but his conclusion was correct
enough. _Réméréville n’existe plus._ In some of the villages, where
incendiarism had not done its destructive work, there is hardly a square
inch of house-wall, except where gaping holes were torn by the shells,
that is not pitted with bullet marks. There is hardly a wall enclosing a
yard or a compound or a farm that was not loopholed for purposes of
defence, and when the wall ran all round an enclosure it was loopholed
on all four sides. That shows exactly what the fighting in a large
number of cases was like. Both French and Germans held the farms and the
other isolated buildings like block-houses, and resisted attack
sometimes from all four quarters at once. There was no getting away from
them. Death, surrender, or victory were the only alternatives. Both
sides showed extraordinary bravery, but it was the French, because of
what depended on their success, and because they were being attacked,
who put most fire into their fighting. They knew that they could not
afford to give way. They were fighting in their own country, in the
homes of their own kith and kin. Day after day and night after night
long convoys of wounded jolted slowly and painfully past them, back to
the hospitals of Nancy, where for all the preparations that had been
made there was sometimes not room for them all to be admitted at once,
and for a long time they lay on their stretchers in the corridors, and
once or twice even in streets and squares of the town under the open
sky, before they could be cared for. Almost more melancholy still were
the troops of homeless refugees who were forced to turn their faces in
the same direction, carrying with them in their hands, or piled in
confusion on their ricketty carts, the poor little household gods that
they wanted to save from the clutch of the marauding German or his cruel
fires. But not all of them escaped. Some were too dazed by the
suddenness of the invasion, or too old, or too young, or too feeble. Of
these many were remorselessly butchered by the German soldiery, drunk or
sober. Yet their deaths were not in vain. Wretched, uncounted,
unconsidered victims of the war, they, too, had a hand in the victory.
For if any one thing had still been needed to nerve the armies of
Lorraine to do all that armed men can do for the defence of their
country, it was the sight of the blighted homes and murdered bodies of
these unfortunates. That was why France, and especially France’s
soldiers in the field, realized long before England the deadly
importance of putting every ounce of their strength into the war. They
had no need of newspaper reports and blue books and recruiting appeals
to awake them. They saw with their own eyes. “In Nomeny,” one of them
wrote in a letter home, “the dead bodies of the inhabitants are more or
less everywhere; on the staircases, in the cellars, on the piles of
rubbish, in the open street. In one heap there were five corpses, two of
which were children, and a little farther on were lying three young
girls. Our impression was that these unfortunates had been shot down,
and not killed by shells. In what were once the streets there are pigs
wandering about and feeding on human flesh. Whenever we catch one we
shoot it and bury it at once. Nothing is left of this charming little
town but dangerous panels of walls, which every now and then tumble
down. You can still make out the lines of the streets. The few houses
that are left have been stripped and pillaged. You walk about on linen
undergarments. The furniture has been disembowelled”—the word exactly
describes what one sees in one house after another—“the doors torn off
their hinges. On the floors there is a litter of clothes, letters, burst
mattresses and eiderdowns, fragments of furniture, shattered pottery,
broken food, dung, and other rubbish, so that you cannot set foot on the
boards of the floor.”

In letters, by word of mouth, with our own eyes, M. Lamure and I heard
and saw over and over again similar stories and similar sights. I did
not see the scene which was described to a French officer by an old
maidservant in a house near Lunéville, where a party of German officers,
some of them stark-naked except for their helmets, some of them dressed
in the nightgowns and undergarments of the ladies of the house, danced
with one another in a drunken carouse, and defiled the beds and the
other linen which they left in the drawers of the clothes-chests; I
quote it because the French officer who had it from the heart-broken old
family servant who saw it happen seems to me to be an absolutely
reliable witness. But there is a deeper reason than that for repeating
it. It is typical of the extraordinary vein of bestiality which even
before the war was known to run through certain strata—and certain of
the higher strata—of German society. We are always asking and wondering
who is going to win the war—even, in some of our darker hours, the most
optimistic of us. The answer is written in these ravaged villages and
towns of Lorraine and other parts of France. When to the mere wanton
destructiveness of war is added the particular form of bestiality of
which disgusting traces have been found by the French in many houses
which had escaped the flames, it is practically certain that the roots
of it must lie deep down in a bed of rottenness digged and prepared long
before the war began. A nation, the cultivated circles of which are to
any serious extent tainted with the unnatural vice of which this
filthiness is a sure sign—even if its existence and its toleration had
not already been notorious in Germany—is intrinsically corrupt and has
in its organization the seeds of death, no matter how highly it may have
developed its Kultur and commerce and physical and military science.
Germany has grown with extraordinary rapidity and to extraordinary
proportions in an extraordinarily short period of time, like a rank
weed, forced in an ultra-scientific hothouse. Outwardly her structure is
in many respects a marvel and even a thing of beauty. But with this
canker at the core she cannot be a healthy organization. You cannot
gather figs of thistles. The war has brought the canker (which is in the
whole body, though it does not poison the whole of it) to the surface.
Perhaps the war, which Germany has brought on herself, is the surgeon’s
knife that will finally eradicate it, as it must without doubt excise
other tumours from the bodies of all the nations engaged in it. But the
difference between Germany and the others is that they have entered upon
the war with cleaner hands and cleaner minds, and that cleanness,
because the world is continually being purified, is going to win in the
long run. For even if it were the other way, if Germany were going to
win this particular war, which is, after all, only a moment in the
history of time, that could make no difference in the final result.
Right must triumph and the world must progress, and the Allies, since
they have right on their side, are fighting not only in its defence and
the defence of their countries, but to give Germany a chance after the
war of redeeming herself. For it is as certain that only her own people
can purify her and make her what she is meant to be as it is that not
the united powers of the whole world can wipe her as a nation off the
map of Europe. Of course, individual soldiers and individual politicians
think and speak differently. There are many people in France and England
with whom the last sentence of the following paragraph, which was
written by a French soldier in the armies of the east on August 26th,
1914, is a fixed creed. “We will make these barbarians pay dear,” he
wrote, “for their robberies and their proud folly. In front of us there
is nothing but miles of ruins, burnt villages, and corpses of old men
and children. Truly this race is not worthy to have produced Goethe,
Schiller, and Wagner. _This time she must disappear from the map of the
civilized world._”

That she should disappear from the map of the civilized world is
obviously a wild impossibility. You cannot, even if you wished, wipe out
a nation of 65,000,000 people, nor even reduce them to a state of
unarmed defencelessness. Inevitably they would again become in course of
time a powerful menace to the peace and freedom of the rest of the
world. What we can do, and what, please God, we will do, is to beat them
thoroughly now, and then to believe that the German people themselves
will rise up and insist that in their own country an end shall be made
of the mad folly and the mad fools whose pride and selfishness and moral
uncleanness have brought this vile war on Germany and the suffering
world.

But that is to look far ahead, much further than was possible or
desirable for the defenders of Nancy. All that they had to think of was
the town and the country and the cause for which they were fighting. All
that they had to inspire them was the love of Lorraine and France, and
the detestation of what they saw in front of them in the track of the
Huns, which filled their hearts with rage and the burning desire for
vengeance. In that they were united with the whole people of Lorraine,
and because they were united they won. They had their mothers and their
wives and their sisters and their sweethearts at their backs. A great
deal has been said—but not nearly enough—of the part which the women of
France have played in the war. I will not try now to add my personal
tribute to the marvellous courage and unremitting self-sacrifice of the
section of the French people upon whom the war has borne most cruelly. I
will, instead, let one of them speak for herself, and for all the rest.
She was writing at the beginning of September, 1914, from Moyen Vic, on
the German side of the Lorraine frontier, to her brother at the front,
and this is what she said for herself and for another sister:—

  “MY DEAR EDOUARD,—

        “I hear the news that Charles and Lucien died on the 28th of
  August. Eugène is dead too. Rose has disappeared.

  “Mamma is crying. She says that you must be strong, and wishes you to
  go and avenge them.

  “I hope that your officers will not refuse you that. Jean has won the
  Legion of Honour: you must follow his example.

  “They have taken everything from us. Out of eleven who were fighting
  eight are dead. My dear brother, do your duty, that is all we ask.

  “God gave you your life: He has the right to take it back from you. It
  is Mamma who says so.

  “We embrace you with all our heart, though we should long to see you
  first. The Prussians are here. The young Jandon is dead. They have
  pillaged everything. I have just come back from Gerbéviller, which is
  destroyed. The cowards!

  “Go, my dear brother, make the sacrifice of your life. We have the
  hope that we shall see you again, for some kind of a presentiment
  makes us hope.

  “We embrace you with all our heart. Adieu, and au revoir, if God
  allows it.

                                                      “YOUR SISTERS.

  “It is for us and for France. Think of your brothers and of grandpapa
  in 1870.”

With women like that to encourage and inspire them, with those other
women, outraged and murdered, to avenge, with their woman-city of Nancy
and their mother-country France to defend, is it any wonder that the men
of Lorraine fought as they did, and won? “Thy love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.” Yes, but the courage of women—is there
anything in the world that passes that, or even equals it? I wonder.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                   BATTLE OF THE GRAND COURONNÉ. III


The attempt to reach Nancy from the north was to be carried out by a
detachment of the Metz army. In the earlier stages of the campaign, that
army, or a part of it, had marched westwards towards Verdun, probably
with the idea of joining up with the Crown Prince of Prussia’s
command—that fatal illusory missing-link on which hinged so much of the
German plan—or else of filling up the gap which at that time broke the
continuity of the lines across what has since become the base of the St.
Mihiel triangle, from Pont-à-Mousson to Fresnes in the direction of
Verdun. After General de Castelnau’s army had retired to its position on
the Grand Couronné, a considerable portion of the Metz force wheeled
round facing south, with Pont-à-Mousson as their base. The opportunity
certainly seemed a good one. Whatever was the precise object which the
troops from Metz originally had in view, it was well worth while to
sacrifice it for the moment, in order to take the extreme left of the
French force from the flank and in the rear almost before they had taken
up their new position after their exhausting retreat. Instead of being
able to strengthen the main line of General de Castelnau’s defence
against the Crown Prince of Bavaria, the French on their exposed flank
had to turn their attention to a new enemy coming up behind them from
the north. Fortunately, that part of the line was under the command of
General Foch, a leader whose reputation has gone on steadily increasing
since the war began. The Germans were full of confidence. To them, no
doubt, and perhaps also to the much smaller body of French troops whose
business it was to check them, there seemed to be excellent grounds for
the boastful cries of “Sainte Généviève to-night: to-morrow Nancy,” with
which, on the morning of the 22nd, they set off on their march up the
valley of the Moselle.

Ste. Généviève is a village that lies about five miles south-east of
Pont-à-Mousson, and rather less south-west of Nomeny, on the line of
hills that runs from Nancy along the valley down to Metz, rising a
little way back from the right bank of the river. As soon as the Germans
turned off the road to their left to climb up to the French outpost at
Ste. Généviève, which they were obliged to reduce before they could
march further south, they began to find trouble. A thick belt of wire
entanglements which the French had prepared to the left of their
trenches and about half a mile in front of them obliged the attacking
force to make the final advance from their own left front up a steep and
exposed pitch. They did not, however, move forward at once. There was no
need to take unnecessary risks, or they thought there was not, and for
two whole days, with field artillery and a few heavier guns, which fired
in all some four thousand shells on the village, they prepared the way
with the now fashionable preliminary bombardment. The French had only
one infantry regiment in Ste. Généviève, but they were well sheltered in
their trenches, and in the two days they lost no more than three men
killed and about twenty wounded. The batteries in support were also
well-concealed—too well for the German aeroplanes, which failed to
locate them—and they allowed the enemy to waste their ammunition without
firing a shot in return. That must have been a severe test of their
powers of self-restraint, but they knew that the crisis was extremely
serious, and that in all probability the fate of Nancy depended on their
standing firm.

[Illustration:

                              Pierre Petit phot.
  GENERAL FOCH.
]

On the evening of the 24th the German commander, possibly deceived by
their silence and imagining that the infantry had been crushed by the
bombardment, gave the order for the attack. In massed columns his
formidable little army of 12,000 men, four German soldiers for every
Frenchman in front of them, advanced up the hill, still supported by the
fire of their artillery. Then at last, when they had come to a
convenient range, the 75’s opened on their closely formed ranks. Most of
the work fell on one particular battery from Toul, as the others were so
placed that they could not fire effectively without endangering their
own infantry. For three hours they pounded the Germans, cutting them up
badly, and then, when he had fired the last shell, the commandant of the
battery ordered his men to join the infantry in a last resolute effort
to check the assault.

Crouching low as they came up the slope, the Germans now advanced in
earnest. The infantry had been ordered to let them get within three
hundred yards. When they reached that distance the French officers
shouted at the top of their voices the command which, at that period of
the war, always seemed to inspire the Germans with terror, “_En avant à
la baïonette!_” But the command was a ruse. The regiment had been warned
that, when it was given, they were not to charge but to fire a
succession of volleys from the trenches. As soon as the Germans heard
the order snapping along the ranks and the bugles sounding the charge,
the front ranks hurriedly rose from their crouching positions and with
fixed bayonets advanced to meet the attack. That was their undoing. The
first volley caught them just as they reached the wire entanglements two
hundred yards in front of the trenches and mowed them down in hundreds.
They fell in such dense masses that the men coming on from behind
climbed and jumped over their bodies and the first line of entanglements
at the same time. But they could get no further. Four separate times
they came on to the assault over the open with fine courage, and each
time they were checked by the withering fire from the Lebels, till at
last, almost at nightfall, they gave up the attempt, and fell back on
Pont-à-Mousson, leaving four thousand dead in front of those murderous
trenches. For the moment their demoralization was complete. In the
darkness some of them lost their way, and stumbling over the wire
entanglements in front of Loisy-sur-Moselle, fell into the river and
were drowned. This time, when the survivors reached Atton, the village
south of Pont-à-Mousson, which they had passed through so confidently
two days before, there were no longer shouts of “_Nancy demain!_” They
had made their attack in overwhelming force and they had failed, and for
Ste. Généviève they had coined a new and more expressive name. They
called it, in bitter memory of the losses which they had suffered there,
“The Hole of Death.”

On the same day that the force from Metz started on their disastrous
expedition, the battle was raging fiercely all along the line which was
being attacked by the German Sixth Army under the Crown Prince of
Bavaria, from Mont St. Jean, a little south and east of Ste. Généviève,
to Dombasle on the Meurthe. In that twenty-mile stretch there were many
Holes of Death, many desperate encounters, and many uncounted acts of
corporate and individual gallantry on both sides. But for coolness and
forethought and disciplined restraint as well as for mere courage in
what might have seemed to officers and men an almost hopeless position,
the defence of Ste. Généviève must rank with the very first achievements
of the army of heroes that fought and won in front of Nancy.

At first on this section of the line the most furious fighting was on
the right, along the Marne-Rhine canal, round Haraucourt and Dombasle,
which, on the 22nd, was actually occupied for a time by the enemy,
though they were quickly driven out and forced to retire on the heights
and woods of Crévic. The next day there was the same kind of
give-and-take struggle along the ridge north of the Dombasle-Lunéville
road, round the farm of Léomont, and along a front north and south of
it, from Crévic to the forest of Vitrimont. On the 25th, still a little
further north, between Drouville and Courbesseau, a strong German
position was attacked by five French regiments. For some reason,
however, they were not properly supported by their artillery, and
suffered severely, one regiment losing sixty-five per cent. in killed
and wounded. But, although for the time being that particular attack
failed and had to be given up, the general run of the battle, all
through the last week of August and the first few days of September, was
slightly but surely in favour of the French. That, always bearing in
mind the disastrous retreat which it followed, was the amazing wonder of
it. It is true that the final retreat of the Germans to the frontier did
not take place till September 12th, when the Battle of the Marne had
been won, and that the movement to their rear of the Crown Prince of
Bavaria’s and von Heeringen’s armies was therefore in a sense part of
the general retirement of the whole German line with which it coincided.
But it is also true that on the day when the Battle of the Marne began,
at the end of that first fortnight of fierce charge and counter-charge,
in the forests and hedgeless fields and ruined and smoking villages of
Lorraine, the enemy, though they were still there, had been beaten
almost to a standstill. That, at least, was the case on September 5th
along the whole right half of the front, north and south of the Meurthe,
from Gerbéviller through the forest of Vitrimont, past Crévic as far as
Haraucourt. Further north it was a few days later before the attack was
finally rolled back. The batteries of Amance drew the German battalions
like a magnet, and it was here and in the forest of Champenoux that the
final fury of the assault spent itself.

Before that, at Drouville, Courbesseau, Cerceuil, Réméréville, Hoéville,
Erbéviller, Champenoux (into which the guns on Amance poured shells at
the rate of between 2500 and 3000 rounds a day for a fortnight), and
other small hamlets round the forest, most of which, like Réméréville,
_n’existent plus_, there had been a long series of hand-to-hand
struggles and trench warfare, during which day and night the roar of the
guns and the rattle of the mitrailleuses and rifles, was almost
continuous. In the trenches the men got so used to the turmoil that
though they slept through it peacefully in their off-moments, they
missed it when it stopped. It was the sudden lulls and not the noise
that they found startling. As a young officer who was wounded at
Réméréville said to me one day when he was talking of the night on which
he was knocked over, “The silence woke me.” “The shells,” wrote another,
“keep falling all round, but there are so many that one takes no notice
of them. Even the horses don’t move, which pretty well proves that there
is nothing heroic in keeping cool.” In a way, of course, that is true
enough. It is all, as he said, a matter of luck, and the less one thinks
about getting hit the better, though the fact remains that men have
imagination and horses have not, which does make a difference. But,
imagination or no imagination, men who are used to fire certainly do
become extraordinarily fearless and even contemptuous about its effect.
I was talking one day—not in Lorraine, but on the Champagne front—to the
commandant of a battery of 75’s, which were trying to put out of action
a German machine gun about three miles off which was worrying the
infantry in a particular trench in front. He pointed to the corner of a
wood two or three hundred yards behind us round which were coming about
twenty men, mounted and on foot. “They don’t seem to mind a bit,” he
said, “about getting hit. They all know that the German gunners can see
the rise at that corner and that they have got the range of it to a
yard, and yet—now look,” he added quickly. A shell, three shells
together, whistled over our heads. There was a roar, a column of brown
smoke thirty feet high shot up into the air at the exposed corner,
apparently right in the middle of the group. The horses bucked a little,
and one of them screamed, but a second or two later the men on foot, who
had thrown themselves flat on their faces when they heard the shells
coming, got up and came slowly sauntering past us quietly smoking their
pipes, and the commandant went on with his conversation—which was
interrupted twice again in the next few minutes by exactly the same
abrupt interlude. “Nothing can teach them,” he said. “They know that
these big German shells have a way of bursting straight up and down
instead of laterally, the corner is a short cut, and they prefer to take
the risk. After all, the Boches may not shoot—and they don’t care.”

In Lorraine, at the moment of which I was talking, the men were not so
used to fire as they are by this time; they were exposed, not to
occasional shells like those nine which between them only wounded one
horse and spoilt one helmet, but to a constant rain of them, and they
were fighting a great and all-important battle, without the sense of
security conveyed by an elaborate system of deep trenches and
shell-proof _abris_. Also they were wearing the old _képis_ and the
conspicuous dark blue coats and red trousers in which France has won or
lost all her battles since the days of Napoleon. The famous new cloth of
_tricolor_ blue was still on the looms of England, and steel helmets
were undreamt of, or many lives that were lost in front of Nancy would
have been saved. Compared with the German corps in their uniforms of
invisible grey, the French soldiers were in those days at a distinct
disadvantage.

But neither did they care. Death had no terrors for them, and as for
their wounds, there would be time enough to think about them afterwards,
and then only because they fretted and fretted until they were healed so
that they might go out and meet the hated Boche again. Now they had
their work cut out for them. Very largely it was individual work, for in
these scattered fights in the woods and village streets and the shallow
concealing hollows which in many places furrow the rolling plain small
bodies of infantry as well as cavalry patrols were often thrown on their
own resources. Young lieutenants and sergeants and corporals and even
privates constantly had to assume responsibility and think and act for
themselves in sudden emergencies—a style of fighting which, when it
came, was much better suited to the temper and genius of the French
soldier than that of the more strictly disciplined German—and no one
will ever know the number of unrecorded acts of gallantry and
quick-witted coolness which helped to swell the general tide of the
French success.

But one more combined effort was wanted before the victory was complete.
There was still that one part of the line round Champenoux where the
French were acting purely on the defensive. Erbéviller, Réméréviller,
and most of the villages round the forest where so much blood had been
spilt, are on the east and south of it, and Amance, in front of which
the final struggle took place, on the west. Here, where the main and
probably the most seasoned body of the German troops were concentrated,
our Allies had been slowly driven back. But they had behind them the
plateau of Amance—barely six miles, remember, from the outskirts of
Nancy. It was the key to the position. The whole of the battle was in
reality and in the end directed to the defending or the gaining of this
particular point. At all costs it had to be taken. At all hazards it had
to be held. The violent struggles in the villages on the other side of
the forest had been only a preliminary to the grand general attack which
was to come, first from the south and then from the north and east. Up
till then the splendid batteries from Toul, by which it was manned, had
taken only a comparatively distant part in the battle, in support of the
infantry in front of them. Now they were to defend the hill itself at
close quarters. The last two days of August were a time of trying
suspense for them. The hill and the men on it were surrounded by a thick
mist. Instinctively they felt that the enemy were drawing nearer, that
the attack was coming. But they could see nothing. All the practical
work they could do was to put the finishing touches to the entrenchments
which they had been constructing since their arrival, and occasionally
to shell at a venture the roads along which the enemy might be
approaching. The Germans, meanwhile, had been getting their heavy guns
into position, and on September 1st the bombardment, which lasted for a
week, began. On the 4th enemy airmen flew over the plateau, and though
they kept very high they were able more or less to make out the
positions of the batteries. The fire then became more severe than ever,
and at one time most of the men serving the French guns were ordered to
take cover in the village behind the hill. But there as well they were
quickly detected by the enemy airplanes and captive balloons, and were
followed by a volley of shells which sent the villagers scuttling to
their cellars or flying over the plains towards Nancy. As for the
troops, they made a dash back to the plateau, through a very hot fire,
and once more got into their trenches, managing to take their wounded
with them. Fortunately the guns had been well concealed, and were
undamaged, so that when at last there was a lull in the storm,
presumably because the Germans concluded that they were silenced for
good, they were able to come out into the open again and soon had them
once more in full action.

The rest of the engagement was very much a repetition of the affair at
Ste. Généviève on a larger scale. But there was one big difference. In
spite of the gravity of the situation on the Marne the Kaiser had
journeyed to the eastern front to give to his armies there the
encouragement of his presence and authority—or for another reason.
Exactly when he arrived no one seems to know, but he was certainly in
Lorraine on September 8th, that is to say, the day before his first five
armies began their retreat from the Marne. That seems to me to be a fact
of some significance. On the 8th and even on the 9th the line of the
first five German armies still stretched from near Paris south of
Compiègne across the Marne, well south of Epernay and Châlons, to a
point not so very far north of Bar le Duc, before it curved north of
Verdun on its left and came down again on the other side of the Meuse
almost to the Rupt de Mad, which flows north-east from near Commercy, to
fall into the Moselle at Metz. Then there was a gap of some miles where
neither French nor Germans had any considerable force, and after the
gap, on the east side of Rupt de Mad, the German line began again with
the Sixth and Seventh Armies.

On September 8th it was still possible that the first five German armies
might hold their ground against the French and English attack. On
September 8th it was still possible that the Sixth Army under the Crown
Prince of Bavaria might break through the opposition of General de
Castelnau’s army, and open up the way to Nancy and Toul. Nothing could
have been better timed. The Germans were a little late (say about three
weeks) in carrying out their original programme, but the correspondence
between the two parts of it was exact, almost to a minute. Only two
things were necessary to carry out the famous “hook” and begin the
encirclement of the main armies of the Allies: the first five armies
from von Kluck to the Crown Prince had to stand firm; the other two,
under von Heeringen and the Crown Prince of Bavaria (and the Kaiser) to
advance. It is not surprising that the Great War Lord chose to place
himself with the two armies which were to advance. It was (or it should
have been) even leaving out of account the possible triumphant entry
into Nancy, incomparably the more interesting and picturesque position.
Any soldier, let alone any War Lord, would have given all that he most
prized to lead the armies that were to carry out the actual work of
completing the circle by taking the French and English armies from Bar
le Duc to Paris in the rear. It is at least highly probable that that
was what was in the Kaiser’s mind. He went to Lorraine, not to encourage
the Bavarian armies in a forlorn hope, but to secure the front seat for
the display of the final tableau.

How nearly exact his calculations were will probably never be known. It
was certainly a case of touch and go whether they came off or not. In my
opinion what upset them more than almost anything else was the final
stand at Amance, in which guns and infantry both bore their full share.
For consider what they did, and above all when they did it. They were
put to the supreme test on September 8th, the day, let me recall, before
the retreat from the Marne began. The Kaiser himself gave the order for
the final assault. From the woods a mile away, headed by their fifes and
drums, wave upon wave of Germans advanced as steadily and as pompously
as if they were on parade, to the attack of the French infantry
positions on the side of the hill. The French guns were silent. There
was nothing to show whether they had been put out of action by the
preliminary bombardment or were only biding their time. Except the music
of the bands there was not a sound, for the infantry also reserved their
fire till the enemy were within two hundred yards. Then their time had
come. With their bayonets fixed and with shouts of “_Vive la France!_”
they sprang suddenly from the trenches and charged. The two lines met
with a desperate shock, and after a violent hand-to-hand struggle it was
the German ranks which broke. As they fled to the shelter of the forest
the 75’s came into action, and firing at short range mowed them down
rank by rank. But they were splendidly gallant. They fought like
knights, not like the savages who had sacked and burnt the villages of
Lorraine and the Vosges. There were always others ready to take the
places of the men who fell. Six times they advanced towards that deadly
hill, and six times they were driven back to the sheltering woods. At
some places at its base the bodies were piled up five or six feet high,
and when the survivors took cover behind the heaps of dead and wounded
the 75’s still raked them through and through, smothering dead and
living in a horrible mire of flesh and blood, while the 155’s, firing
over the heads of the front ranks, finished off the work further back.
The losses were enormous. Thousands of German dead were left lying on
the plain, and in the evening they asked and were granted a few hours’
truce to bury them. The victory was complete. There was no longer any
risk of a German advance. Nancy was inviolate. The Grand Plan had broken
down.

But supposing the defeat had been a victory? Then, I think, after the
preliminary walk-over into Nancy, an army could have been sent forward
to Bar-le-Duc, large enough, even if it could not bring about the
rounding up of the Allies, to form a serious menace to Sarrail and
Langle de Cary, and perhaps even to have altered the whole course of the
Battle of the Marne. It is true that Toul and the Meuse stood in the
way. But the garrison of Toul had been seriously weakened by the
withdrawal of the guns and troops that had taken part in the defence of
Nancy, and in any case the Germans might have walked round it, as they
did round Verdun, supposing that they had not the guns to blow it to
pieces as they had the forts of Liége.

But after all these are unprofitable speculations. What has been has
been, and the operations in front of Nancy, though comparatively little
attention has been drawn to them, were obviously of such vital
importance in the huge general battle which saved France that there is
no need of “if’s” and “an’s” to prove it. At the same time it is well
worth while to notice how the two great victories of the Marne and the
Grand Couronné reacted on each other. Each was an indispensable part of
the homogeneous plans of German invasion and French defence. If the
armies of the east, by their stand in front of Nancy, helped to make the
victory of the Marne possible, the victory of the Marne certainly helped
them to finish off the work they had begun so well. Even after their
repulse at Amance, when a sadder if not a wiser Kaiser had motored back
to Germany, the enemy were still uncomfortably close to Nancy. The
French believe that they took advantage of the four hours’ truce which
was granted them on the evening of the 8th to place two heavy guns in
position at Cerceuil. At all events, the next day, there the guns were,
and between eleven and twelve that night seventy of their shells crashed
into the streets of Nancy, damaging a few houses and killing six or
seven harmless civilians. People went to bed very early in those days,
and most of the inhabitants had been in bed and asleep for an hour or
two before the shelling began. A violent thunderstorm was raging at the
time, and it was not till the 75’s began to reply that the town woke up
and realized what was happening, and then, almost before there was time
to wonder seriously whether the bombardment was to be the prelude to a
German entry, the whole thing was over. The smart little 75’s had done
their work and silenced the heavier pieces from Essen, or the men who
were serving them, in less than an hour. The town heaved a sigh of
relief, not unmixed with indignation and contempt—and went to sleep
again.

The whole affair was singularly futile and pettish. It was like a little
boy throwing stones from a safe distance at an opponent whom he has
failed to beat in a fair stand-up fight, before he runs away. Possibly
the object was to damage the Cathedral, which was exactly in the line in
which most of the shells fell, as a parting message to the Nanceiens of
what they might expect another time. Or they may have hoped to start a
conflagration or an explosion by hitting the gasworks or the huge
boilers of some big works close beside them. That was a thought which
occurred to the young Yorkshire engineer in charge of the works (about
the only Englishman in the town at the moment), who at once went down
through the streets where the shells were falling and emptied the
boilers himself. But anyhow there was no military object in the
pyrotechnic display, since there were no soldiers sleeping in the town,
and the chief inconvenience it caused—a very real one—was that in some
of the hospitals the wounded had to be carried down from the upper wards
to the ground-floor or the basement.

Whatever the meaning or no-meaning of the bombardment, it was the
beginning of the end, and a sign that the Germans were going. It was a
habit of theirs always to destroy before they retired. Many of the acts
of incendiarism were, so to speak, parting shots, or exhibitions of
temper on a large scale. But they fought, too, with desperate if sullen
courage. The retirement had now become almost general and once more the
unfortunate villages in the path of the receding Army Corps were deluged
by the double baptism of fire. Before the enemy were finally driven out
of the forest of Champenoux the French had to charge them again and
again, and whole regiments were decimated on both sides. But step by
step, all along the line from Pont-à-Mousson, which was evacuated on
September 10th, to the Vosges, they were forced steadily eastwards—from
Champenoux along the Château-Salins road, and through the group of
villages on the edge of the forest past Arracourt; from Velaine and
Creceuil past Courbesseau and Serres; from Harraucourt and Dombasle
along the canal, past Crévic and Maixe and Einville, from which some of
them went north along the road to Vic and others kept along the banks of
the canal to the forest of Parroy; and south of the canal and south of
the Meurthe, through Lunéville and on each side of it, past Gerbéviller
and Baccarat and Raon l’Etape and St. Dié—in all cases back towards the
frontier which they had crossed in triumph three long weeks before.
Except for a narrow strip on the edge of Lorraine and a rather larger
tract in the Department of the Vosges west of the Donon, the occupation
was at an end. The attack on the Epinal-Verdun line by way of Nancy had
completely failed. The Kaiser and his men had looked at the promised
land and turned their backs on it, leaving misery and disaster—and
perhaps 50,000 dead—behind them, but carrying with them in their hearts
the greatest disappointment of the first part of the war. The Germans
are rather fond of mixing metaphors; for once let me imitate them. They
had nibbled greedily at the Thistle of Nancy, but the Mailed Fist was
not quite long enough to reach it.

But the French troops, the men who had turned defeat into victory, had
suffered horribly. In one division, 22,000 strong on August 23rd, only
8000 men capable of fighting were left on September 10th. Still, dead
and living, they had done their work: de Castelnau and Pau, Foch and the
XXth Army Corps, Dubail and Bigot, the men and guns of the Toul garrison
and the whole of the armies that stood in that deadly breach, had
covered themselves with undying glory and had written in letters of
blood on the plains of Lorraine and in the spurs of the Vosges one of
the most splendid chapters in the history of France and the world.

The whole of the country over which they fought is now one vast
cemetery. There are graves everywhere, by the roadside, in the woods, in
the middle of exposed plateaux, in remote corners of fields, in the
steep passes of the Vosges, in the trenches and village gardens where
the dead men fought each other and died—long green mounds, carefully
fenced and tended, where hundreds of broken bodies lie side by side in
the last sleep of life, lonely little neglected heaps of earth, marked
only by a rough cross of sticks and a tattered and weather-beaten
_képi_. You cannot get away from them and their silence.

While the battle was still raging the life of the countryside never
seemed to come to an end altogether. Somewhere near, sometimes in the
very places over which the shells were screaming, there were always—when
they were not hiding in the cellars—old men and boys at work in the
fields, children playing on the doorsteps, and dazed and anxious women
occupied in household tasks. On the day of judgment, up to the very
moment when the last trump sounds, I believe there will still be women
washing clothes in the Meuse and the Moselle and the Mortagne and the
Meurthe and all the other rivers of Lorraine and France which through
all these terrible months have run red with the blood of France and
Germany and their Allies—British and Belgians, Australians and
Canadians, Sikhs and Ghurkas, Algerians and Moroccans.

Now, where the battle has rolled back, it is the turn of the dead. They
lie in the midst of life, and the living can never forget them. The last
time that I stood by one of these resting-places, covered already with
green grass, it was an autumn evening, cold and dreary. We were on
ground from which the enemy had been driven back with huge slaughter on
both sides. Almost as far as one could see the face of nature was
hideously scarred with an intricate network of saps and trenches. What
had once been happy homes were piles of brown rubble and gaping walls
and spires. What had once been green woods were stiff rows of shattered
leafless stumps. It was a flat country, but in front, a little further
on, there was a ragged man-made dune, thirty or forty feet high and ten
times as long, enclosing a deep crater in which were lying hundreds of
mangled bodies, some of them with their limbs sticking through the
surface, killed and buried or half buried by the same appalling
explosion in one dreadful moment of eternity. Far beyond, but not so far
that it was out of range of the guns, the horizon, where the enemy lay
concealed, loomed up grim and threatening against the evening sky. To me
the horizon on the Lorraine frontier, seen from far off, always had that
dark and ominous look. The vague and dreamlike mystery of what lay
beyond that silent line of low dark hills, the thought of the
preparations that might be going on behind it, the feeling that no
Frenchman or Englishman could go up to it and live, and most of all, I
think, the knowledge that across the road on which one stood, and all
the other roads and railways that once were thoroughfares between the
two countries for all the world to use, a line was now drawn which no
man might pass, always seemed to make of the frontier a dreadful symbol
of the war and its menace of evil to come. Close at hand it is
different. When you reach the impassable line of the furthest trench or
the tall barrier of sandbags on the other side of which the enemy, in
the same trench, is lying behind a similar barrier twenty yards away,
the sense of mystery and foreboding melts away. There is no cure for a
fit of the blues like a visit to the front. For after all, the line is
not impassable. It has been crossed and pushed back before, and it will
be crossed and pushed back again. All along it, where you had let
yourself think there was only the foe, there is an underground world
swarming with French soldiers, watching and fighting, or ready to fight,
day and night, up to any move that the enemy may attempt to make, and
sworn and resolved for France and freedom to push on to the end. And
that is the view that all of us have got to take when the horror of the
war and its limitless and frowning horizon is upon us. We must get right
up to our difficulties and meet them face to face. We must work and
watch and pray, like the men in the trenches—for they do pray in the
trenches—and leave the rest to God.

But that day I was four or five miles back from the front, and the
weight of that horror of the horizon was heavy upon me. Man goeth forth
to his work and to his labour until the evening. It was evening now, and
getting dark, yet still the cruel unending work went on. Behind me quick
red flashes of flame showed the position of the nearer French batteries,
which till then one could only guess at from the sound of the guns. Far
off in front brilliant flares shot up into the darkness over the
trenches, that the men on both sides might be able to go on watching and
killing all through the night. After all, was God in His heaven? Was all
right with the world? I thought of General de Castelnau, the winner of
that great victory in Lorraine, and his three dead sons. I thought of
all those French and German lying there dead behind me, and the
husbandless wives, and fatherless children, and brotherless sisters, and
friendless friends, and sonless mothers, whose agonized prayers for
their young lives had been answered by those silent graves. I thought of
the killing that was going on through the night, and the killing that
was still to come for weary months and perhaps for weary years. And then
I thought of something else, of the splendid heroism and self-sacrifice
of the women who prayed and suffered and the men who fought and fell,
and of some words that I had seen before the light faded, written over
one of the graves that I had passed—it makes no difference that the man
buried there was a German, for surely German soldiers as well as French
believe that they are fighting for the right—“Be thou faithful unto
death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” And that, it seems to me,
when you get right up face to face with death, instead of standing and
looking at it afar off, is the only possible meaning of the Battle of
the Grand Couronné, and all the battles and all the horrors and all the
suffering of the whole war. For all of us, even for the enemy, even for
those who do not fight, it is a war of redemption, and the greatest and
most hopeful war of redemption that the world has ever seen, and it will
be won by those whose faith in what is right lasts up to death and
beyond it.



                               CHAPTER XV
                               LUNÉVILLE


One of the immediate and most satisfactory results of the victory in
front of Nancy was the hasty withdrawal of the Germans from Lunéville,
after an occupation which lasted for just three weeks. For four or five
days before the evacuation the Bavarian troops in front of the town had
been gradually falling back on the protection of the batteries in and
beyond it. Only one of these batteries, I believe, was in Lunéville
itself. It was placed, in obedience to the maxim that war and what the
Professors call sentimentality are poles asunder, close to one of the
hospitals, under the shadow and protection of the Red Cross. During the
bombardment one of the French nurses, a girl of eighteen, was
unfortunately killed by a chance shell. But the battery was perfectly
safe. For naturally, seeing where it was, the French gunners did not
choose to fire on it. They could not play the game except as gentlemen,
and the other side consequently scored, as has been known to happen in
our own country in the kindred game of football, also rather apt to
suffer from the disease of “Professoritis.” In any case, when the French
got near enough to bring an effective fire to bear upon the town, their
bombardment was bound to be half-hearted. They knew that there were
German soldiers quartered in the barracks and in many of the houses. But
they knew also that a large proportion of its inhabitants were still
there and they naturally shrank from the chance of spilling French blood
and the certainty of destroying French property, beyond what was
absolutely necessary. As a matter of fact, the amount of damage done by
shells was surprisingly small. The chief monument to the power of the
75’s was the melancholy wreck of the official residence of M. Minier,
the Sous-Préfet, which a couple of shells completely gutted. Not far
off, near the station, one or two other houses were about as badly
wrecked, but except for a certain kind of destruction which was due, not
to French shells, but to German fire-lighters a short-sighted man might
have walked through nearly all the streets a day or two after the
evacuation without once noticing that there had been a bombardment.
Inside some of the houses there was more to be seen. One of the
inhabitants, for instance, showed me with quaint pride the mess which a
75 shrapnel shell had made of his comfortable home. It had first drilled
a neat little round hole through the wall of his dressing-room, and then
burst and sent bullets and jagged fragments of the case flying through
the walls into his study and the kitchen and every room on the first
floor. Amongst other things, it had riddled his bath-tub like a sieve.
Fortunately, he was not in it at the time. He was out on one of the
heights west of Lunéville talking to the commander of the very battery
which broke up his happy home, and actually saw the shot fired. Like
every one else who suffered at all from the bombardment (including M.
Minier, who lost practically everything he had), he took it quite
cheerfully because the shell which did the mischief and the cause in
which it was fired were both French.

But the bombardment, which was mainly cautionary, was not yet. It came
at a later stage in the occupation, when there began to be a chance of
turning the enemy out. The first Germans entered the town on the evening
of August 22nd, after a stiff fight which had lasted all day and
resulted in the orderly retreat of the garrison, too few in numbers to
hold them back indefinitely, in the direction of Gerbéviller. They
marched in slowly, with marked caution, as if, the inhabitants said,
they were afraid of a surprise attack. However, there was no further
opposition, and on the 23rd, with drums beating and bands playing
triumphal music, a much larger body of troops made a parade entry into
the town and spread over it like a flock of locusts. Here, as elsewhere,
they seem to have had a particularly keen appetite for wine and women’s
underclothing and anything in the shape of a clock. They were not all
strangers to Lunéville. As commercial travellers, and in other
capacities connected with the peaceful pursuit of trade, several of them
had been well known to the inhabitants for years before their arrival in
the guise of warriors, and, for their own purposes, made good use of
their local knowledge. But on the whole, the behaviour of the Germans,
considering that they were Germans, was not particularly outrageous. A
military governor was appointed and some effort was made to preserve
order and even justice. The pillage was not wholesale, the incendiarism
only extended to one part of the town, the Faubourg d’Einville, and one
or two single buildings in other quarters, including the Jewish
synagogue, and the cases of cold-blooded murder of civilians were not
very numerous. Lunéville is not an obscure village, and it is not unfair
to say that, as a general rule, the larger the place which the fortune
of war had placed at the mercy of the German troops, the more careful
they were in the way in which they treated it. Still, even in Lunéville,
in spite of the restraining influence on their actions of such important
witnesses as M. Minier, the Sous-Préfet, M. Mequillet, the local Député,
and M. Keller, the Mayor, all of whom behaved in very trying
circumstances with great judgment and courage, the German record was
pretty bad. Most of the cases of shooting at sight seem to have been due
not so much to wanton lust for blood as to the nervous haste of
sentinels in the streets who imagined when they heard a window suddenly
opened that their own lives were in danger. But the burning of the
Faubourg d’Einville, a row of about forty houses which were set on fire
two or three at a time for days till the whole street was destroyed, was
an unwarrantable and unpardonable crime. For the Military Governor, from
the moment of his entry into the town, had taken every precaution to
prevent the acts of franctireurism which were usually made the excuse
for this kind of outrage. In the first place rules of extraordinary
severity were made and published and rigorously enforced as to what the
civilian inhabitants must or must not do while the Germans were in the
town. One of these _affiches_ is, I think, worth quoting as a historical
document:—

                          “AVIS À LA POPULATION

  “Le 25 Aout 1914, des habitants de Lunéville ont fait une attaque par
  embuscade contre des colonnes et trains allemands. Le même jour, des
  habitants ont tiré sur des formations sanitaires marquées pas la Croix
  Rouge. De plus on a tiré sur des blessés allemands et sur l’hôpital
  militaire contenant une ambulance allemande.

  “A cause de ces actes d’hostilité, une contribution de guerre de
  650.000 francs est imposée à la commune de Lunéville. Ordre est donné
  à M. le Maire de verser cette somme en or et en argent jusqu’ à 50.000
  francs, le 6 septembre 1914, à 9 heures du matin, entre les mains du
  représentant de l’autorité allemande. Toute réclamation sera
  considerée comme nulle et non arrivée. On n’accordera pas de délai.

  “Si la commune n’exécute pas ponctuellement l’ordre de payer la somme
  de 650.000 francs, on saisira tous les biens exigibles.

  “En cas de non paiement, des perquisitions domiciliaires auront lieu
  et tous les habitants seront fouillés. Quiconque aura dissimulé
  sciemment de l’argent ou essayé de soustraire des biens à la saisie de
  l’autorité militaire, ou qui cherche a quitter la ville, sera fusillé.

  “Le Maire et les otages, pris par l’autorité militaire, seront rendus
  responsables d’exécuter exactement les ordres sus-indiqés.

  “Ordre est donné à M. le Maire de publier tout de suite ces
  dispositions à la commune.

  “HERAMENIL le 3 septembre 1914.

                                                “Le Général en chef,
                                                “VON FASBENDER.”

In addition to the stringent regulations and threats contained in this
and other proclamations of the same kind (the statements in which were
unproved and false) the German authorities in command of Lunéville took
a further precaution to guard themselves against any kind of reprisal on
the part of the French population. Every day six prominent residents of
the town had to present themselves before the Governor and remain at his
disposal for twenty-four hours as hostages responsible for the orderly
behaviour of their fellow-citizens. Their position was not enviable.
Exposed, like every one else in Lunéville, to the danger of being killed
by the shells of their friends outside the town, they were guarded day
and night by sentries with loaded rifles, knowing (because they had been
warned) that at any moment they were liable to be shot if one of the
inhabitants in a fit of desperation lifted a finger against the sacred
body of a German soldier. The fact that they were not shot is proof
positive that no acts of the kind were attempted, and that therefore
there was no sort of excuse for the burning of the Faubourg d’Einville.

As the occupation continued, as the fortune of the battle between
Lunéville and Nancy turned more and more against the Germans, and the
French troops and the French shells came nearer and nearer, the Germans
in the town day by day became more nervous and irritable and their
attitude to the hostages and the rest of the townsfolk more and more
harsh and capricious, and it was with something more than a sigh of
relief that at last, on September 12th, M. Minier, M. Mequillet, and M.
Keller realized that for the town and themselves the time of trial was
at an end. M. Keller I only knew slightly; the other two I met often
while I was in Lorraine. All three make light of the difficult part
which they played when the Germans were in the town and while they were
waiting at their posts for their coming. But I know from others that the
courage and quiet dignity and practical wisdom with which they stood
between their fellow-citizens and the invader were beyond all praise.
They were all three fine types of the scores of Frenchmen in official
positions all over the occupied provinces who stuck to their posts in
the hour of danger. During those three weeks, when it was cut off from
the rest of the world, life in Lunéville, under its twofold tribulation
of occupation and siege, was not exactly gay for any one. The stern
application of martial law, the regulations about open doors and lights,
the growing shortness of food, the restrictions on personal liberty, the
noise and risks of the bombardment, the glare of the burning houses, the
fear for every one of possible death by a bullet fired by some drunken
soldier, and, for the women, of something worse than death, and the
constant presence of the hated and domineering invader, all combined to
keep the inhabitants in a continual state of anxiety and alarm and
general wretchedness. But it was on the shoulders of those three men
that the burden of it pressed most heavily, and the debt which Lunéville
owes them is real and great.

While they were doing their best inside the town to save it for France,
or, at all events, to save it from being sacked and burnt, they were in
a state of complete ignorance as to what was happening outside it.
Rumours, of course, there were, but nothing was certain. They were
surrounded on every side, left stranded on a lonely island in a German
ocean of invasion. They could only guess vaguely from the nearing or
receding sound of the guns and the temper of the German men and officers
round them how the battle was going. Yet all the time they kept up their
spirits and the spirits of all the French within the reach of their
influence. At the worst they never allowed themselves to doubt—think
what that meant—that the turn of the tide would come and Lunéville be
joined to the mainland of France again. And they were right. Their
splendid confidence in their own men and the destinies of France was
justified. All the time the rush of the tide was slackening and the hour
of their deliverance coming nearer.

The ebb began in earnest on September 8th. On that day the young dragoon
officer in whose company we began the great battle, crossed the Mortagne
at Mont by a temporary bridge erected by the engineers, and after a
brush with half a dozen Uhlans on the Lunéville side of it, rode with
his men along the Meurthe to Rehainviller, a village only two miles from
the south-west corner of the town, and found that not a German was left
in it. That news he sent back by one of his men to the general, and then
walked on alone, as the sun was rising, along the wall of the cemetery
on the right of the road just beyond the village. “I reached,” he says,
“the corner, where I stopped dead. I found myself face to face with a
German captain, like me alone and on foot. He was as thunderstruck to
see me as I was to meet him. Like me he had his map-case in his hand. He
had been examining the country.... We looked at each other, with our
eyes wide open. He felt for his revolver. Feverishly I tried to open my
case. Both of us knew that this contest of speed would decide our fate,
and we looked straight into each other’s eyes. Then I smiled, my
revolver came out of its case, the butt tight in my hand. My arm
stretched out. Then the officer no longer felt for his weapon: he knew
that he was beaten. My revolver flashed. He fell, with one bullet full
in his heart. The whole thing only lasted a second. It hurt me to see
him lying there; he had large blue eyes, open in death.”

To me that young French dragoon is only a name, or not even that, since
he has none, but a type of all the gallant soldiers of France who fought
in the gap between those blood-stained rivers. Still more, after that
contest of speed, that duel to the death at sunrise by the corner of the
cemetery wall, he becomes for me a symbol of France—France facing
Germany, both knowing that one or the other must fall, both clutching at
their weapons and staring into each others’ faces with wide open eyes. I
think we will not leave him now till he in his turn rides in triumph
into the streets of Lunéville.

The sound of the shot brought his men running up to him, and also drew
the fire of the company of the dead German officer, who were hidden in a
ravine a quarter of a mile further on. Luckily for the handful of
dragoons, whom presumably they took for the advance-guard of a larger
body of men, they did not, however, advance, but retired to the corner
of the buildings of a big manufactory, almost in Lunéville itself.

The German position was now on the road just in front of the town, the
first houses of which were within easy range of the rifles of the
French, who had by this time occupied Rehainviller and were gradually
closing in all round. But they still had three days of stiff fighting in
front of them before the end was reached, during which they were heavily
handicapped, as they had been all through the early part of the war, by
the fact that even their 155’s were outranged by a large number of the
German pieces, whose average effective range was at that time about six
miles, while the French could barely reach four. Supported by these
heavier guns from behind Lunéville the enemy advanced again in force to
within a mile of Rehainviller, up to a line between Hériménil and the
wood of Fréhaut, and it was not till the evening of the 11th that they
were finally driven back and that the French were able to look forward
with confidence to the prospect of being able to enter Lunéville on the
next day.

On one of the three days our lieutenant with some of his men was riding
through a village which had been occupied by the enemy a few hours
before. Not a single inhabitant was left in it. All the houses were
sacked. The flight of the Bavarians had been so hurried that they had
not had time to burn them. The rest of his story, which it seems to me
ought to be told to English readers, I give—because English readers have
English ways of looking at life and talking about it—in the original
French:—

  “Par la fenêtre brisée, je voyais la salle à manger d’une demeure
  confortable. Le buffet eventré, renversé, écrasant la table. La
  vaisselle s’amoncelait sur le parquet, avec les bouteilles vides et
  cassées, jusqu’à la hauteur des chaises. Une suspension, tombée du
  plafond, s’était abîmée sur le buffet, et son globe vert, sans une
  félure, par un prodige d’équilibre, se maintenait sur ce meuble
  penché, comme allongé sur la table.

  “Une voix m’appela par mon nom.

  “C’était un officier du bataillon de chasseurs qui avait pris le
  village. Il était à la fenêtre, au premier étage de la maison
  dévastée.

  “Monte un peu, me dit-il.

  “Je repondis: ‘Je suis fatigué et pressé de rentrer cantonner.’

  “Il reprit. ‘Cela en vaut la peine. C’est un de ces cochons qui est
  crevé au sein de son fumier.’

  “Je descends de cheval. Sur la porte de la maison une plaque de cuivre
  brillante: ‘Etude de M. X. Notaire’. Je monte. Mon camarade rit aux
  éclats, entouré d’un groupe d’officiers. Il y a de quoi.

  “La chambre est saccagée, comme le reste de la maison; le linge sorti
  des armoires, piétiné, les meubles démolis. Le lit est défait et sale.
  Un lieutenant allemand a passé là la nuit précédente, et s’est couché
  dans les draps sans retirer ses bottes. Une odeur écoeurante règne
  dans la piece. Mais pourquoi S ... m’ a-t-il fait monter?

  “Regarde, dit-il.

  “Je n’avais pas vu! Un lieutenant bavarois est assis, mort, entouré
  d’ordures, d’excréments humains, dans le tiroir ouvert d’une commode
  ancienne. Ses culottes sont abaissées sur ses bottes. Sa tête et ses
  épaules penchées tombent sur la poitrine vers les jambes. Il est dans
  une posture ignoble, grotesque, malgré la mort.

  “‘Nous sommes entrés brusquement dans le village,—me fit S..., sans
  crier gare. De cette maison on nous tire un coup de feu. Je monte.
  C’était un soldat qui nous visait de cette fenêtre. Je l’abats. Je me
  retourne; et je vois ce cochon de gaillard en train de faire ses
  insanités dans le tiroir de ce beau meuble, sur les dentelles de
  famille! Il était si ahuri de me voir qu’il ne s’est même pas levé,
  restant dans sa position ignoble et relevant sa chemise à deux mains.
  Je lui ai tiré un coup de revolver. Il s’est abattu sur son
  fumier....’

  “Et je pense à la fiancée allemande, dans ce village de Bavière, qui
  apprendra la mort de ce lieutenant et se représentera cette mort
  héroique et chevaleresque ...”

It is not a very pleasant story, as we say in England, but then the
seamy side of the war is not pleasant, especially war as it is made in
France by some Germans. And the more people in England realize that fact
the better for the cause and hopes of us and our Allies.

On the night of the 11th, or rather at two o’clock in the morning of the
12th, the lieutenant assisted at a rather different scene, as dramatic
and glorious for all the sons of France as the other was vile and
ignoble for all Germans. He was roused from his sleep by an orderly with
the news that the General wished to see all the officers at once. With
all the others he hurried to the General’s quarters, and there—it was in
the police station—the brigadier handed them the famous telegram of
General Joffre, announcing that the Germans were retreating, the Battle
of the Marne won, Paris freed from the menace of the enemy, and France
saved.

There was no more sleep for those men that night. They embraced each
other, as Frenchmen do, they cried, as all men may sometimes in hours of
great joy after times of exhausting strain and anxiety, they
congratulated each other as though each man was the victorious
Commander-in-Chief himself, and at four o’clock the order was given “To
horse! To Lunéville!” On the Marne the enemy were beaten and in full
retreat. From the Grand Couronné they had been driven back to the
Seille. Only one thing remained to be done here, on de Castelnau’s
right—to hunt them out of Lunéville and chase them back to the frontier
without a moment’s delay.

[Illustration:

  INFANTRY ATTACK ON FARM OF SAINT EPVRE, ON THE HEIGHTS ABOVE
    LUNÉVILLE.
  _From “En Plein Feu.” By kind permission of M. Vermot, Rue
    Duguay-Trouin, Paris._
]

The way was across the Meurthe, through the forest of Vitrimont, out
past the ruined Faisanderie with its loop-holed crumbling walls, over
the shell-pitted slope below it and the shell-pitted dip beyond, and up
the slope again and down to the Nancy road to the right of the ruins of
the farm of Léomont, ragged and blackened against the sky, always past
rows of deserted German trenches, littered with rifles and ammunition
and haversacks and empty bottles—especially bottles—and then
right-handed along the broad road to the Faubourg of Nancy, the
north-west entrance to the town. Till they reached the road not a sign
of the enemy. Only near the ruined farm-buildings of St. Epvre on the
ridge of Frescati beyond it, covering the retreat, a company of Bavarian
Chasseurs, dislodged with some difficulty, for they fought bravely, and
then the road to Lunéville, clear at last. They entered it, these
dragoons of the advance-guard, at a gallop, galloping over the cobbles
and pavements of the streets in an ecstasy of triumph, dashing across
the river somehow (for the Germans had blown up the bridges), active
little Chasseurs-à-pied running beside them and easily keeping up with
their thundering chargers, women scattering flowers on them, waving
handkerchiefs from the doors and windows, and cheering and crying, and
every one shouting “La France! Vive la France! La France!” up to the
wide square in front of the grave old Palace of Stanislas, up to the
line of sweating horses of another squadron of dragoons which had
galloped into the town just as madly by the shorter road from the south.
It was Mulhouse over again, without the Mulhouse mistakes. It was
utterly different from the measured entry of the Germans three weeks
before, with their massed bands and formal triumph. If the men were a
trifle excited they had excuse enough. For that frenzied headlong entry
into Lunéville put the finishing touch to the victory of the Grand
Couronné, and set the seal on all the sacrifice and all the heroism of
those splendid three weeks. That night Lunéville was free and French
once more; not a German was left within some miles of it. That night,
for the first time for more than a month, our lieutenant of dragoons was
able to take a bath and sleep between sheets. And on that night,
September 12th, 1914, thousands and thousands of French men and women
all over France slept more soundly and more calmly than on any night
since the war began because from Paris and Nancy and little Lunéville
the abominable menace of German occupation was gone, never to return
again.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                        NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENTS


As soon as not only the menace but the cruel reality of the occupation
was lifted from the smaller towns and villages, some of which had
suffered so far more terribly than Lunéville, M. Mirman and M. Linarés,
the Prefects of Meurthe et Moselle and Vosges, and M. Minier, the
Sous-Préfet of Lunéville, were engaged almost every day in visiting
different parts of their Departments in the track of the ruthless
invader, partly to take stock of the crimes and destruction of which he
had been guilty, but chiefly with the object of doing what could be done
to relieve the bitter distress of what was left of the population. It
was principally owing to the courtesy, and, if I may say so, the wise
tolerance of these gentlemen and of M. Simon, the Mayor of Nancy, that
M. Lamure and I were able to see with our own eyes some of the handiwork
of the Teuton Kulturists in that part of France. I say wise tolerance
because, although I know from personal experience that newspaper
correspondents are as a rule a despised race, I still believe that they
have their uses. The newspapers which they help to supply with news and
comments on news are read by every one, and not only, as is commonly
supposed in some quarters, by the enemy. They are even read by the high
authorities who to all appearances are minded to thwart them and
throttle their vitality, partly, perhaps, because they think that they
may catch them tripping (in spite of the watchful supervision of the
censorship), but partly and still more because they have the natural and
human craving for news and like to be interested and well-informed.
When, therefore, ministers and other high officials try to suppress and
do suppress as effectually as they have in this war the liberty of
newspaper correspondents, they inevitably put themselves in a false
position and even do harm to their country. No sensible man in such
serious times as those in which we are now living objects to a thorough
supervision of news published in the newspapers by men who are supposed
to know more of the wider issues of the war than the editors who control
them. That is what the censorship on the despatch and receipt of
telegrams and all the calculated delay of the postal service exists for.
But these well-meaning but autocratic gentlemen are not satisfied with
that. They go a long step further and not only say to the newspapers
(and their readers), “Everything in the shape of news about the war
shall be censored”—which is right—but “As far as is possible we will
prevent you from getting any real news about the war at all”—which is
wrong. For truth, unfortunately for their theory, will out, and if it is
violently suppressed it has a way of finding its way out like lava from
a volcano, which will certainly do a great deal of harm before, as it
must, because it is truth, it does good in the end. My own belief is
that nations, like men and women, practically never gain anything by
concealing the truth, because its place is certain to be taken by
mistakes and doubts and lies—as has been proved over and over again
during this war. It is partly because diplomacy is, perhaps necessarily,
founded and built up on concealment that it is so often, as it has been
more than once in the last eighteen months, a complete and dismal
failure. And as for war—as my warrior friend said to me earlier in this
book—“War is a serious matter: let us make it seriously.” By all means
let us make it and take it with the utmost seriousness possible. But
also let us be sensible about it. His own complaint against the
journalists whom he implicitly accused of taking it lightly was that he
could not move out of his quarters without the enemy knowing it. Yet
till he met me, not a journalist, French or English, had been within
miles of his quarters, as he knew perfectly well. What he did not appear
to know, like many other people in authority, is that the Germans have
no need to go to French or English newspapers for information about the
movements of generals or of troops. They know in any case that to do so
would be futile, since they are already checkmated in advance by the
censor. Most of the information that matters they gain in open fight in
the field. They knew long before even _The Times_ knew it that the
English army was short of shells and especially of the right kind of
shells. A soldier does not take much time to learn whether he is being
fired at with shrapnel or with high explosives. They knew long before
any newspaper correspondent could have informed them of the fact
(supposing there had been any at the front, which, of course, there were
not) that the French and English were going to attempt a strong
offensive movement in Champagne and at Loos on September 25th, 1915.
Their informant was a preliminary bombardment along that particular part
of the front which lasted for seventy-two hours. As for other kinds of
useful military information, which cannot be gathered on the field of
battle, but only from behind the enemy’s lines, for that they depend
once again not on newspapers but on aeroplanes and spies (including,
thanks to the scanty patriotism and common-sense of some soldiers, women
belonging to the profession of Rahab). From each of these sources alone
they probably get as much news in a week as all the correspondents of
all the newspapers “behind the front” could gather in a year.

But there is another side to the question. Under an enlightened
censorship there is practically no fear of newspapers and newspaper
correspondents doing harm. Under enlightened editors there is every
chance of their doing a great amount of good for the cause of their
country and its navy and its armies in the field. Every body knows that,
even the enlightened censorship itself, whose members have had precisely
the same training at the same schools and universities as the purblind
editorial staffs. But most of all the enemy know it, and, because they
know it, they fear the newspapers and rejoice when their freedom of
speech is curtailed. They fear first of all their own newspapers; and
because of that fear they forbid them not only to tell the truth, but
urge them, if they do not command them, to tell lies. That is the sort
of thing, I suppose, which is meant when one is asked to take war
seriously: as in most things, even in their follies, the Germans are
more thorough than England and France. But even more than their own
newspapers they fear those of London and Paris, for two reasons. They
dread them first of all for the effect which they have on public opinion
in the neutral countries, and secondly because they know that to them
and their pressure are due practically all the political and military
changes, useful to the Allies and detrimental to Germany, which have
been brought about during the course of the war.

The second of these two points I will not labour to support by
instances. They are written large in the leading articles and military
articles of _The Times_ and other newspapers. All the world knows what
they are, though all the world does not as yet acknowledge them.

About the other point, the question of the effect which English and
French newspapers have and might have (and might have had) on the
opinions of neutrals, I have a word or two to say. I said just now that
nations practically never gain anything by concealing the truth. There
is an important exception to that rule. They gain, or at least they seem
to gain, and do gain for the time being, when they conceal their own
misdoings. That is exactly what happened in Belgium and in the invaded
provinces of France. For a considerable time the horrible wrong-doings
of Germany in those two countries were concealed from the world, and are
even now not fully believed by those who do not wish to believe them,
because they were not seen and recorded at the time by credible
eye-witnesses, that is to say, by competent newspaper correspondents. A
few days before those atrocities began to be committed in Belgium all
the foreign newspaper correspondents were ordered by their own
governments to leave the country. As a consequence practically every
account of them which we have is second-hand, taken, that is to say,
from the lips of the victims who escaped death some little time after
they occurred, and therefore not made known to the public of the allied
countries and to the rest of the world, except in general terms, till a
further time still had elapsed. What England and France gained by this
suppression of newspaper correspondents, and therefore of the truth, it
is difficult to see. What Germany gained is obvious. I will take only
one instance the evolution of which I happen to have watched on the
spot.

At the beginning of the war most of the public opinion in Switzerland
was strongly in favour of Germany. That this was only partly due to
natural racial tendencies (for seven out of every ten Swiss are of
German origin and speak or read the German language) is obvious from the
way in which, after about six months of the war, a large proportion of
the German-Swiss majority began to lose their pro-German proclivities
and to come round to the side of the Allies. Naturally we all wish to
have the neutral nations on our side, not only because it is our side,
but for the higher reason that we believe it to be the side of right.
But besides this there were and are particularly strong economic
military reasons which made it desirable for us to secure the support,
or at least the really benevolent neutrality, of the Swiss. While any
considerable part of them, especially before Italy joined the alliance,
were for the Germans and against us, secret contraband was bound to run
riot, with disastrous consequences for our projected blockade of German
war-material. And that is exactly what happened, chiefly owing to our
policy with regard to the Press. At the beginning of the war,
Switzerland, like America, could only form her views of the rights and
wrongs of the conflict and the course which it was pursuing, from the
newspapers. In German-Switzerland numbers of the newspapers are financed
by German money and even written by German writers. Quite naturally the
readers of these papers believed what they told them. In other words,
they were convinced that the atrocities in Belgium were either imaginary
or grossly exaggerated, that Germany would at the end of the war make
good her promise to make up to Belgium for the violation of her
neutrality, and that meanwhile she was winning all along the line.

That was the positive side of the newspaper evil in Switzerland, over
which France and England had, of course, no control. The negative side,
which they might have controlled, which was indeed of their own making,
was that the true news, which should have acted as a corrective to the
false, hardly existed at all on the question of the atrocities in
Belgium, because there were no correspondents in Belgium to give it. If
the Swiss had known then, as they know now, though many of them still do
not choose to believe it, the real truth about Belgium, there is no
doubt at all that the greater part of the old pro-German feeling would
have perished at the beginning. It throve only on lies and the
concealment and ignorance of the truth. That is a fact which can be very
simply proved. As soon as the Swiss knew, because they saw it for
themselves with their own eyes, something of the way in which Germany
has made war, the revulsion against her and therefore in our favour
began. It happened in this way. From the ruined villages of Lorraine and
the other occupied provinces the Germans carried away to Germany at the
beginning of the war a large number of what they called “hostages” and
the French “_internés_,” old men and women and children, mainly of the
poorest classes. They had committed no military or political crime, they
had only lost their homes and their possessions and most of their
relatives, and they could under no conceivable circumstances affect one
way or the other Germany’s chances of winning or losing the war. For
months, wretchedly clad and fed, they were kept in prison-camps in the
fatherland. Then by the good offices of the compassionate Swiss and
partly probably because the Germans were beginning to find them a
nuisance and to wonder why they had ever taken them away from France,
they were sent back in relays of three or four hundred at a time to
their own country by way of Switzerland. At the same time the far
smaller number of _internés_ whom the French had detained in France or
taken from Alsace in retaliation were sent back in exchange. I never
myself saw any of the _internés_ from France on their way back to
Germany. But the Swiss, who worked untiringly day after day and month
after month to show practical sympathy to all these unfortunates on
their way through their country, constantly saw both the French and the
Germans, and the effect on their judgment of the German nation, even
against their own natural inclinations, showed very decidedly which
nation had treated worst these innocent victims of the war. I never met
a Swiss man or woman, German-Swiss, or French-Swiss, who had seen the
French _internés_ on their way back to France—not to their homes, for
their homes in most cases no longer exist—who was not intensely shocked
and indignant at the state in which they were and the sufferings which
they had undergone, and from the date at which they first began to see
them and act the good Samaritan to them, at Schaffhausen, at Basle, at
Zurich, at Berne, at Lausanne, and at Geneva, from that moment the
marked revulsion of a large part of the Swiss people against Germany and
Prussian militarism took its rise. It is my firm opinion that it would
have begun long before if only the correspondents of French and English
newspapers had been allowed from the beginning to see for themselves, as
nearly as they could, what happened in Belgium, and to publish it to
Switzerland and the world.

All this is only a parenthesis—I am afraid rather a long one—to what I
was saying some pages back about the large-minded tolerance as well as
the great personal kindness which the Prefects and Sous-Préfets of the
eastern provinces of France, from Belfort to Commercy, showed to M.
Lamure and myself as representatives of the English Press. All of them,
like every Frenchman who has talked to me on the subject, and,
unfortunately, unlike some Englishmen, believed in _The Times_ as a
great power for good. With that feeling in their minds they took us with
them, as they had, of course, an official right to do, on some of their
official visits to the ravished districts, because they believed that
the publication of the truth about them in _The Times_ would be of
service to the common cause. M. Mirman in particular held that view. He
believed that the articles we sent to London, which, but for him and his
fellow-Prefects and Sous-Préfets, could never have been written, were of
real positive use for France and against the common enemy.

I seem, perhaps, to be getting a long way from the main purpose of this
book, which is to state, as strongly as I can, the debt which I believe
France and England owe to the generals and armies that have fought for
the common cause in the east of France. But while I am on the subject I
mean to go a little further, and to illustrate what I have said on the
subject of newspaper correspondents (if the Censor will let me say it)
by a reference to a personal matter, because as I see it, it is not a
personal matter at all, but of real importance to the country. After we
had been in Nancy for four months, during all which time we were in
constant and friendly relations with many of the civil and military
authorities, we were one morning politely but peremptorily ordered to
leave the town within twenty-four hours. Otherwise we were told that we
should be arrested and tried before a court-martial on a charge of
espionage—not, of course, because we were spies, but because we were
journalists exercising our _métier_ within the zone of the armies (in
which, up to a few days before that time, Paris was also included!). No
complaint was made against us personally, because none could be. In a
letter which M. Mirman wrote to me at the time, most of which is too
personal to quote, though he gave me full liberty to show it to any
French authorities whom I might meet, he expressly said that I had been
guilty of no indiscretion during my stay, that my papers and my comings
and goings had always been perfectly in order, and that he would be
happy to see me come back to Nancy.

[Illustration:

                              Photograph by Libert-Fernana, Nancy.
  OUTSIDE THE PREFECTURE, NANCY.

  M. Mirman, Mme. Mirman, M. Puech, who acted as M. Mirman’s chauffeur,
    and some members of the staff of the Prefecture.
  Seated in front, the author and M. Jean Rogier of the _Petit
    Parisien_.
]

Now, a Prefect of France, and above all, one of M. Mirman’s standing and
record and experience and ardent patriotism, does not take upon himself
the responsibility and trouble of making a direct appeal to the highest
authorities on behalf of the correspondent of a foreign newspaper
without very good reason. In this particular case I believe that what
chiefly affected him was the conviction that in the present critical
times one of the most important functions which an allied newspaper can
fulfil is the promotion of a fuller understanding and still more cordial
relations between England and France, and that few things could serve
that purpose so well as the permanent presence of an English
correspondent near the French fighting-line.

Since then, in my efforts to return to the place where I believe
honestly I can be of most use to my country in this war, I have shown
that letter to some of the highest authorities in France, but without
practical effect. Sometimes it has nearly melted their hearts, but not
quite. But I mean to go on trying. That is why I am writing this
chapter. I not only believe, but I am certain, not because I am I, but
because I am a responsible correspondent of _The Times_, that “somewhere
in France”—somewhere in the east of France for me—I can in my small way
(but _The Times_ is not a small paper) help to win this war, and, with a
little encouragement and help from the military authorities, do much
more useful work than was possible under the restricted conditions by
which M. Lamure and I were handicapped during our stay in Lorraine in
1914. And I believe firmly that that is true of the great mass of
correspondents of the big English and French newspapers, and that a
grave mistake is being made in not using us, and giving us real and not
little snippets of pretended liberty. We are not out for scalps and
“scoops,” as we might be in ordinary journalism and an ordinary war. We
are ready to take the war as seriously as any general or any minister.
What we want to do is to tell the truth, or as much of it as the Censor
and our own discretion will let us, because we know that only the truth
will prevail.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                          A DAY WITH A PREFECT


Having said so much of what our friends of the various Préfectures did
or tried to do for two humble newspaper correspondents, I should like,
before going on to consider the next phase of the war, to try and give
an idea of the work which they did for the people in their districts,
and the risks which they often ran in doing it. I will begin with a
description of a _Conseil de Révision_ at St. Nicholas-du-Port, to which
I went with M. Mirman and one of the Generals of the district. While we
were in Lorraine there were a large number of special sittings of these
courts, at which the young men of the nation go through their final
medical inspection before entering upon their statutory term of military
service. Sometimes they were presided over by the Préfet himself,
sometimes by M. Slingsby, the President of the Prefectorial Council, a
direct descendant of the old Yorkshire family but a Frenchman to the
bone. In ordinary times the regular annual inspections take place in
March, and the normal age of enlistment is twenty. Soon after the war
began boys of nineteen were called up to undergo training for service
with the colours, and it was to judge of their fitness to bear arms and
also to revise cases that had previously been turned down or put back
that these extraordinary _Conseils de Révision_ were held.

There was, of course, an obvious difference between the case of these
boys and the armies of volunteers which Lord Kitchener was at that time
recruiting in England. This was compulsory service in being, the
so-called conscription which then and for many a long day after so
seriously agitated the tender bosoms of English agitators and champions
of personal liberty. These young Frenchmen had got to be soldiers
whether they liked it or not. But compulsory service, whatever its
uninformed opponents may say, is service and not slavery. That is
precisely why in France, in peace as well as in war-time, the
inspections are presided over by the civil and not the military
authorities. The Prefect, or his deputy, in conducting them, is
fulfilling one of his chief functions, which is to represent the people
as their official champion, and check any tendency to the possible evils
of militarism. It is his bounden duty to see that no man is taken for
service in the army who on account of physical incapacity or for any
other reason ought and has the right to remain a civilian.

There was, however, little need for this kind of paternal _surveillance_
in the extra _Conseils de Révision_ which were held during the war,
except possibly in the way of restraining some whose capacity to bear
arms was not so certain as their enthusiasm. There was not a suspicion
of reluctance. One and all they were itching to be up and at them. When
we arrived at the Hotel de Ville a crowd of between three and four
hundred of them were waiting outside in the street, talking to their
friends and relations, who looked just as proud as the boys themselves
that they had been called up, and just as eager that they should be
passed as fit—if not _bons pour service_ in the Army, at all events for
some kind of auxiliary service. It was impossible to look at them and
not to think of the hundreds of thousands of boys in England who, in
spite of all that could be done to coax and wheedle and bribe them into
the army, in spite of every kind of ignoble coercion short of
compulsion, were at that time still hanging back from the honour and
glory of serving their country in arms. Not even the thought of those
other still more numerous hundreds of thousands who had gladly
volunteered and given up everything else at the one supreme call could
quite take the taste of the contrast out of my mouth.

In ordinary times I dare say some of those French boys would have been
frankly annoyed at the prospect of giving up their civil employment and
their personal freedom for a period of enforced military service. But
now as they came pouring up the stairs after us into the big bare
room—decorated only by a tricolor flag and a white bust of the
République Française, crowned with a wreath of oak leaves—there was no
mistaking their extraordinary enthusiasm or the reason for it. The
soldiers of the Kaiser when they went to the war, believed firmly that
they were going to fight because the Fatherland was in danger, because
otherwise it would inevitably be crushed by the ring of jealous nations
by which it was surrounded. That was the idea which had been carefully
drilled into them. That was what they had been told by the ignoble and
servile army of professors and sergeants. But these boys of Lorraine
needed no telling. They knew. If they did not all actually come from the
blackened and ruined villages and towns which marked the track of the
retreating incendiaries, they lived without exception within a few miles
of them. Saint Nicholas-du-Port had only just escaped occupation by the
enemy. Dombasle was only two miles off. For weeks the Germans’ guns had
been thundering in their ears, for weeks they had heard—and known—of the
murder of innocent women and children and old men; for weeks they had
been familiar with the effects of pillage and incendiarism and rape. No
wonder they were willing to die for _la patrie_. If the things that were
done in Lorraine and the Vosges had been done in Kent and Norfolk the
shirkers of England would long ago have repented in khaki and ashes.
There would have been no need of lurid posters and cinematograph films
and compulsion to bring them in. They would have fought because they
would have known—as these French boys knew—that otherwise their country
and all that they loved must die. And if they had been rejected because,
though the spirit was willing, the flesh was too weak to make a fighting
soldier, they would have been as bitterly disappointed as these boys of
Lorraine were whenever they failed to pass the doctor’s tests.

Among the boys, in one of the batches that came in a dozen at a time to
be examined, there was, I remember, a man of well over fifty, long past
the military age but still perfectly fit and strong, who had been called
up owing to some mistake made by a clerk. It was curious and it was
exhilarating to see this greybeard standing up stripped to the skin,
quietly and with proud dignity explaining to the uniformed full-dressed
committee in front of him that he had already served his terms as active
soldier, reservist, and territorial, but that he was still able to fight
and asked nothing better than to be reckoned _bon pour service_ if the
country had need of him.

There were other grey beards in the room besides this willing veteran’s.
Ranged at the upper end of it by the daïs on which M. Mirman sat with
the committee, were the mayors of the various towns and cantons from
which the boys came, about twenty in all, ready to answer questions on
doubtful cases. Before the actual inspection began, the whole thing
reminded me oddly of a Public School function at home, except that the
headmaster wore the uniform of a Prefect of France, the boys were all of
the same age and practically of the same height, and the assistant
masters, many of them humble peasants, looked like hard-bitten farmers
from the Yorkshire moors or the lowlands of Scotland. There was a great
contrast between them and the boys. Mayors, as a rule, are men of peace,
associated in the mind with gold chains and heavy dinners. But the
mayors of Lorraine are different. They live very close to the frontier,
and, as M. Mirman said in an earnest and spirited speech to the young
recruits, they had lately had need not only of much patience and good
humour, but of unusual physical and moral courage. All of them whose
cantons lay between St. Nicholas-du-Port and the frontier had a few
weeks before at least run the risk of being carried off as “hostages,”
to say nothing of graver perils. Still, after all, the men by the daïs,
bravely as they had stuck to their posts, had escaped with their lives.
But the boys—I was looking at them, and thinking of the pity and
wickedness of it all, when M. Mirman began to talk to them. The war that
they were going away from their homes to fight in was, he told them, a
war to kill war. When he put to them the question, “Do you want not to
serve?” they thundered out the kind of “No” with which in England
political audiences are in the habit of declaring to the world and to
each other that they are not down-hearted. Sometimes these political
negatives are not as confident as they seem, and are rather efforts at
self-encouragement than statements of fact. But the “No” of the boys of
St. Nicholas-du-Port was absolutely genuine. There was no question of
that. Their only wish was to join the ranks and fight, and fight, and
fight—till the wrongs of France were avenged and the victory won.

Another day that we spent with M. Mirman almost directly after our
arrival in Nancy was rather more _mouvementé_. It was a week after the
Germans had finally been driven back from Amance and Champenoux, and the
news had been brought in that Nomeny, a town between St. Généviève and
the frontier, had just been evacuated by the enemy. So M. Mirman was
going to visit it, and he offered to take us with him. Before we started
we lunched at the Préfecture with a fairly large party which included,
besides M. Mirman and his eldest daughter, M. Abeille, his sécrétaire
général (who has since been killed fighting for France), M. Mage, the
Sous-Préfet of Toul, M. Guiran Scevola and M. Royer, two well-known
French artists, painters in ordinary to the Ministry of War, temporarily
attached as artillery privates to the Toul garrison, M. Dominique
Bonnaud, the Parisian chansonnier, attached to the staff of the
Préfecture, M. Jean Rogier, of the _Petit Parisien_, the only special
correspondent of a London or Paris newspaper besides ourselves who
stayed more than a few days in Nancy, and M. Puech, a big ironmaster of
Frouard, five miles down the Moselle, who for the first part of the war
acted as M. Mirman’s chauffeur, and went with him through some rather
exciting scenes during his prefectorial visits. After lunch—it is a
pleasant way the French have—there were a few speeches, one of which
fell to the lot of the English correspondent of _The Times_, and was
delivered haltingly and slowly in Public School French. As events proved
afterwards, it was fortunate for us that there were speeches and that
one of them took some time, for if we had started ten minutes sooner we
should probably not have come back—at all events for some months.

We set off at half-past one, M. Rogier and I in the Préfet’s car, an
open one, with him and M. Puech, the rest in a larger and slower
Limousine behind. At that time there were a large number of troops in
and round Nancy—most of them the men who had fought in the Battle of the
Grand Couronné—and for the first five or six miles we were constantly
passing them, in the town and the villages and along the roads,
marching, driving long processions of hooded country-carts, hauling down
a captive balloon, lighting fires against the walls of the houses,
cooking their meals, grooming their horses, furbishing up their arms and
accoutrements, foraging, laughing, singing, shaving, washing, tailoring,
eating, drinking, smoking, and chatting as busily and light-heartedly as
if the enemy were a hundred miles away instead of only a little way
beyond the horizon on the frontier.

After we had gone some way along the Château-Salins road we turned
northwards, leaving Amance on the right, and began to get away from the
many soldiers who were off duty to the smaller number who were fighting.
The road we were now on ran parallel to the frontier at about three
miles from it. On our left was the range of hills which stretches
northwards to Ste. Généviève and Pont-à-Mousson, on our right an almost
flat plain sloping down to the frontier and the Seille. By the side of
the road a battery of 75’s was banging away into the distance, and in
one or two places clouds of white smoke were rising up from burning
villages. We stopped to speak to the gunner commandant, who looked
rather suspiciously at a car-ful of _civils_. But there is no mistaking
the silver lace on the _képi_ of a Préfet, and eventually he said that
as far as he knew there was no reason why we should not go on to Nomeny,
though he advised us not to dawdle for the next few miles, as we were
rather close to the frontier and the enemy. M. Puech, who can drive as
well and as fast as any one I know, consequently let her rip, and we
covered the next seven or eight miles in almost as few minutes.
Batteries on the hills on our left were firing over our heads at the
enemy positions across the Seille, and once or twice we passed trenches
manned by companies of _fantassins_, but the return fire did not come
our way, and some minutes later we passed into a quieter region, by
contrast curiously still and peaceful. As we drove up to a small village
about a mile from Nomeny, the day, which had been beautifully sunny,
suddenly clouded over, the sky in front of us became inky black, and the
German horizon looked darker and more threatening than I ever saw it. In
the village, not very badly damaged considering its position, we saw not
a soul except one old woman who was standing at her door looking out
with dazed eyes, but quickly turned in and disappeared as we dashed
past. That might have warned us. We ought to have been struck by the
death-like emptiness of the village street. But we were thinking of
other things, of the pace we were going at, the gathering storm, of what
Nomeny would be like, and especially of the slower car behind, and why
we had not seen it for so long. I was just looking round for it again
when suddenly the car slowed and stopped dead. Then “Cachez-vous,” said
M. Puech quietly, and though it did not feel very glorious, we did,
without losing very much time. As I crouched down on the seat (the
Préfet was in front with M. Puech) I looked ahead and on the brow of the
slight slope up which we had been running, not more than a full iron
shot from where we were, saw four grey figures in spiked helmets, with
levelled rifles pointing straight at us, kneeling by the side of the
road. It was a tight place, and it was lucky for us all that we had M.
Puech to drive. Instead of trying to turn the car, as he might have
done, on a convenient bit of level ground by the side of the road, he
made up his mind what to do, and did it, in the same second, jamming his
lever into the reverse speed directly we stopped, and the car began
moving steadily backwards, though not quite as fast as we should have
liked. He was sitting bolt upright in front of me, with one hand on the
steering-wheel and the other on the back of his seat, looking away from
the Germans along the road behind us. As soon as they saw that we were
not coming on they began to fire. Still perfectly cool and French, he
backed down the slope of the hill, which was as straight as a two-foot
rule, counting the shots out loud as we went: “One, two, three,
four....” They made a flick just like the crack of a small hunting-crop.
“Another thousand yards and we’re all right ... five, six—that touched
us” (it had grazed the right front lamp and glanced on to the trumpet)
“seven ...” and so on up to “nine, ten ... eleven,” and with that we
reached a side lane into which, with the same quick decision, he backed
the car to turn her. And then, just when it seemed as if we had got off
safely, things began to go wrong. The engine stopped dead, and the
off-wheels stuck in the ditch. So out we jumped. M. Puech to the front
to start the engine if he could, M. Mirman and M. Rogier and I to push
behind—our very hardest, but without the slightest effect, M. Puech
grinding away just as hard and just as vainly at the engine crank—and
then suddenly the engine started, and we flung ourselves into the car,
this time with our backs to the foe but our heads erect, and in a moment
were flying back to the village as fast as our excellent M. Puech could
push her along.

[Illustration:

  NOMENY.
  _By permission of M. Martin, Secrétaire Général, the Prefecture,
    Nancy._
]

In the village street we found M. Lamure and the others and the second
car, standing in the middle of a group of excited villagers. When they
had come along, a minute or two behind us, the whole population, instead
of only our old woman, rushed out and barred the road in front of them,
and when they had pulled up told them they could not possibly go on as
sixty Uhlans had just left the village, only ten minutes before our car
went through. While they were talking to them, wondering what to do, the
shots fired at us, or rather at M. Puech, began to sing into the
village, but over their heads, chipping the plaister off the upper
walls. And that, no doubt, was the explanation of our escape. The
Germans had been firing from the village, most probably at a long range,
before we came into it, and when they retired towards Nomeny the four
men whom they had left on the road as a rearguard had forgotten to lower
their sights, till one of them saw what he was doing, corrected his
mistake, and fired the shot which hit the lamp of the car.

I expect when our four friends got back to the other fifty-six, or at
all events when they learnt that they had missed bagging a Prefect of
France, they had a poorish time of it. But that was not our affair.
Thanks to the courage and nerve of M. Puech we had got safely out of a
rather awkward fix, for at the best, if they had crippled our chauffeur
or the car, we should have paid a prolonged visit to Germany. And thanks
to the speeches at lunch, including, I am proud to think, the one in
Public School French, we had escaped by ten minutes running our head
into a much larger nest of hornets in the village.

So we decided to put off our visit to Nomeny till another day. We had
had enough of Germans for the present. Also we thought it more prudent
to go home by a different road, at the back of the hills where the
French batteries were stationed, round by Ste. Généviève and up the
valley of the Moselle, especially as, before M. Lamure and the other
party reached the village, when their car was panting after ours, one
particular shell had fallen rather too near them to be pleasant, and
there was no urgent need to repeat the experience.

When we got back to Nancy, after getting stuck in the middle of a large
field flooded by the Moselle, from which the car had to be dragged out
by a passing team of artillery horses, M. Mirman wrote for me a _petit
mot_ on one of his cards. It was dated Nancy, Dimanche 20 Septembre,
1914, and ran as follows:—

“Léon Mirman, Préfet de Meurthe et Moselle, s’excuse très humblement de
n’avoir pu montrer à M. Richard Campbell”—he always would call me
Richard—“la pauvre ville de Nomeny, assassinée par les Allemands, et qui
garde les traces des meutres commis sur des civils et de l’incendie
systématiquement et scientifiquement organisée comme il en verra un
exemple demain à Gerbéviller—et il lui remet cette carte en souvenir
très amicale d’une promenade ... un peu mouvementée où le ‘feu’ et l’eau
n’ont pu altérer leur commune bonne humeur.

“Et vive l’Entente Cordiale d’hier qui a préparé l’action commun de deux
grands nations pour assurer le triomphe de la civilization contre la
Barbarie Teutonne!”

So “now you know,” as M. Rogier wrote in the vivid account of our trip
which he sent to the _Petit Parisien_, “why I didn’t go to Nomeny.” But
at least I am glad that we tried to go. For it showed me first of all
the sort of chances that a Prefect in the occupied provinces had to take
in carrying out his duty, and secondly what our Allies mean by
_sang-froid_. It seems to me that is rather a fine quality, in a motor
or outside it, and that it will yet help us to win the war.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                     THE ATTACK ON THE RIVER FORTS


In following the course of the war in the eastern provinces up to this
point we have seen first of all how the tide of it ebbed and flowed for
five weeks along the line of the frontier, that is to say, the river
Seille and the range of the Vosges. Broadly speaking, the net result of
this five weeks of fighting was that on the left or northern section of
the line, from a point a little east of Nomeny nearly as far as the
Donon, the French had pushed the enemy back to the frontier; that in the
centre from near the Donon to about Ste. Marie aux Mines, half way along
the Vosges, the Germans still held a footing in France in the Department
of the Vosges; but that on the right of the line the French were a
little way across the frontier in Southern Alsace.

We have seen, secondly, that behind this first line there was another,
roughly parallel to it, running from Pont-à-Mousson past Dombasle and
Gerbéviller and then on to St. Dié in the direction of the channels of
the Moselle, the Meurthe, and the Mortagne, along which the Battle of
the Grand Couronné was fought.

Beyond this second line there was, and is, a third, which stretches from
Verdun along the valley of the Meuse to Toul, from which it is continued
to Epinal and Belfort—the line or barrier of the great frontier
fortresses. The whole of the war so far on the part of the invaders has
been a sustained and desperate attempt to get near enough to this
wall—against which the French had their backs—to batter it down. On
their left, on the Belfort-Epinal section, they had failed, in a
military sense, to get anywhere near it. In the centre, from Epinal to
Toul, they had equally failed, thanks to the resistance of Dubail and de
Castelnau, to come within striking distance. On the right, from Toul to
Verdun, they had for the third time failed, in so far that neither Toul,
which was protected by the armies in front of Nancy, nor Verdun, which
was defended twelve miles in advance by the Third Army under General
Sarrail, had ever fired more than an occasional shot at the enemy even
from any of their outlying forts.

On the other hand, as the result of the advance of the main German right
before the Battle of the Marne, the armies commanded by the Crown Prince
of Prussia and the Duke of Wurtemburg had succeeded in turning Verdun,
so that although the Germans had never got up to the wall of the
fortresses, much less broken through it, they had, on the Verdun-Toul
section, got to the farther side of it and the Meuse. There was a time,
before the point which we have now reached, and before the Battle of the
Marne, when, east and west of this stretch of the Meuse, two French
armies, part of General Sarrail’s force and part of the left wing of the
Second Army, with the Toul garrison force to help them, were actually
fighting back to back, on opposite sides of the river. But the more
important part of this double engagement—Sarrail against the Crown
Prince of Prussia—was on the west side of the Meuse, and does not
therefore belong, strictly speaking, to the scope of this book; the
fighting on the right bank, except that extending a few miles south of
Verdun on its east side, between part of its garrison army and part of
the garrison army of Metz, was not at first very serious. There was, as
I have said, at that time a gap of some miles, across the base of what
afterwards became the St. Mihiel triangle, in the otherwise continuous
line of the two opposing forces.

But in the period immediately following their defeat at the Grand
Couronné the enemy began to attack this part of the barrier of
fortresses with extraordinary vigour; on the rest of the line, the part
with which we have already dealt, they confined themselves on the whole
to the task of maintaining the positions to which, after their first
advance, they had been driven back, and it was the fighting which
resulted in the formation of the St. Mihiel wedge that became the really
interesting part of the eastern campaign.

Before, however, going on to talk about the St. Mihiel business, and the
attack on the northern half of the fortress line, something, I think,
ought to be said about another fortified position, the only one between
the great Verdun-Belfort fine and the frontier, the solitary fort of
Manonviller, a few miles east of Lunéville, which stood alone between it
and the enemy. The mystery of Manonviller also stands alone, or almost
alone, in the history of the war. I know very little about it; no one, I
fancy, knows much, except, perhaps, the high authorities and some
members of the garrison, and these last are prisoners in Germany. It was
supposed to be immensely strong and considerably feared by the Germans.
There are many stories about its fall which may or may not be true. Some
people say that the garrison only lost four or five killed and wounded,
that right at the beginning of the attack it was found that the
telephone communication with Toul had been cut off, and even that its
guns were never fired at all. But in any case it is certain that the
garrison of nine hundred men surrendered on August 28th after a two
days’ bombardment, probably carried out by two Austrian 305’s stationed
on the frontier at Avricourt, and that it was loudly whispered and
widely believed that there was something queer about the matter. Since
Longwy was able to hold out for three weeks there cannot, I am afraid,
be much doubt that there was something curious about the surrender of
its stronger sister-fort, which was swept out of the way of the German
advance like a sand-castle by the waves of the sea.

After the Battle of the Grand Couronné the army of the Crown Prince of
Bavaria occupied a front extending to the north-west from the frontier
opposite Lunéville, past Pont-à-Mousson and Thiaucourt in the direction
of Verdun, stopping some distance short of the point at which the left
of the Crown Prince of Prussia’s army began. The left wing, as far as
Thiaucourt, was kept busy in preventing the French from advancing on
Saarburg and Metz; the right, reinforced by part of the Metz army, began
at this time a determined forward movement across the plain of the
Woevre to the wooded Hauts de Meuse. They had two objects in view: to
break through the line of the fortresses between Verdun and Toul, and to
cross the river and join hands with the right wing of the Crown Prince’s
army so as to encircle Verdun.

The fortress of Toul is almost exactly half-way between Epinal and
Verdun, about forty miles from each. In the lower stretch of country,
the Trouée de Charmes, which had been so gallantly defended by the 75’s
and Chasseurs-à-pied of the First Army, there are no forts. Between Toul
and Verdun the French position was much stronger. East of the Meuse the
Hauts de Meuse slope gradually down to the river, broken at intervals by
a series of deep and precipitous ravines, guarded by numerous forts,
ancient and modern. On the north the district is bounded by the
Verdun-Metz railway, below which is the plain of the Woevre, and on the
south by the quick-flowing Rupt de Mad, which runs from near Commercy on
the Meuse north-east past Thiaucourt to Arnaville, where it falls into
the Moselle close to Metz. The chain of forts extends all along the
Meuse, on both sides of the stream. South of the Rupt de Mad, between
Commercy and the Moselle (which here takes a sharp bend north-east from
Toul, almost parallel to the Rupt de Mad, till it is joined at Frouard
by the Meurthe) the forts of Liouville, Gironville, Jouy, Lucey, Bruley,
and St. Michel, point their guns to the east and north, towards the
German frontier. Lower down, on the right bank of the river, the guns of
the Camp des Romains, a little south of St. Mihiel, like those of Forts
Genicourt and Troyon to the north of the town, command much of the
surrounding country and are ready to dispute (or rather were ready to
dispute) the passage of the river, and still further north are the
southern defences of Verdun, facing up the channel of the stream, on the
further or left bank of which the Fort des Paroches, close to St.
Mihiel, looks across the river to the east.

[Illustration:

                              Libert-Fernand, Nancy, phot.
  REMEREVILLE—MEURTHE ET MOSELLE.
]

[Illustration:

                              Libert-Fernand, Nancy, phot.
  CHÂTEAU DE HARAUCOURT—MEURTHE ET MOSELLE.
]

The real grand attack on this formidable position began about September
19th, I suppose when there were enough forces available. But before that
there was a determined assault on Fort Troyon—once again on September
8th, the date which was to have been pregnant with such glorious
possibilities for the Kaiser, the day of the most furious attack in
front of Nancy, the last day before the Germans began their retreat from
the Marne. It is worth going back to, for the defence of Troyon during
both of the two bombardments which it suffered was one of the most
gallant stands of the campaign. Earlier still the Crown Prince had tried
to bombard it in a feeble sort of way, but apparently without much
effect, for on September 8th, after the attack from the east had begun,
an officer of the garrison wrote to his wife, “Nous avons été
tranquilles pendant trente-sept jours,” that is to say, from the
beginning of the war.

Even the day before, so peaceful was the tranquillity, this same officer
had been out partridge-shooting. It looks as if it might be a fairly
good partridge country, though to English eyes there is rather a lack of
cover. The fort stands fairly high, and far off to the south, across the
bare sweep of the down-like grass and stubbles, you can see higher still
the jagged outline of the Camp des Romains, silhouetted against the sky
like the sand dunes at Sandwich on a slightly larger scale. (At that
time, of course, the Camp des Romains was still in the hands of the
French.) Troyon itself is not very large. Outside it looks the most
innocent thing in the world—a more or less quadrangular collection of
rounded gravel banks, thickly covered with grass. Inside there are—or
were—deep wide ramparts and ditches and vaults and walls of earth and
solid masonry and iron—and the guns (155’s) and the steel cupolas.

On the evening of the 7th the garrison received news that a strong
column coming from the direction of Metz (through the gap between the
French Second and Third and the German Fifth and Sixth Armies) had
reached Mouilly and St. Remy in the Hauts de Meuse, a little way south
of Les Eparges, and five miles north-east of Troyon, and the next
morning they were at Seuzey, nearly due east of the fort and only three
miles away. At eight o’clock the bombardment began, and by eleven the
German siege-mortars of 150 millimetres, concealed in deep ravines where
the French gunners could not get at them, had dropped one hundred and
eighty shells into the fort, which, though they only killed one man and
wounded four, had knocked out seven of the French guns. The garrison
were clearly in a bad position. All the French troops which had been on
that side of the Meuse had crossed the river to join the final stages of
the Battle of the Marne, so that they could count on no immediate
support, though they knew that a division of cavalry and a regiment of
artillery had left Toul early that morning. But there was no chance of
their arriving till next day. The Governor of Verdun telephoned soon
after the bombardment began to tell them that the success of the big
battle on the other side of the river depended on their holding out for
forty-eight hours; the commandant replied that they would—and prayed
that the gun cupolas might not be smashed. Then Verdun telephoned again
to say that they were sending an aeroplane to spot the enemy’s gun
positions for them, but as they could not show themselves on the
parapets that was cold comfort. At three, by which time four hundred
shells had fallen, there was a short breathing space of comparative
quiet, and they were able to take stock of the extensive damage done by
the shells, of which, fortunately, about one in four failed to burst.
Then came a third message to say that if the worst came to the worst the
men were to take shelter in the ammunition cellars, but that the fall of
the fort would be a grave disaster, and, in fact, that they positively
must hold out for the success of the operations across the Meuse.

From half-past four in the afternoon to half-past seven there was
another storm of shells, and then again a lull, and more stock-taking.
Even though the vaulted shelters in the fort are immensely solid, the
casualties were surprisingly light. Only eight more men had been
wounded, so that the total number of deaths caused by four hundred
shells was only one. There had been many hair-breadth escapes, but
though the defences were crumbling to pieces before their eyes—when they
could see for the blinding clouds of black smoke which hung about for
two or three minutes after each explosion—so far they were not
hopelessly broken in. In the bombardment of modern forts that is the
principal factor—since on their standing depends the lives of the
gunners—that and the resisting powers of the gun embrasures and cupolas,
which cannot, however, last for ever. Their destruction is only a matter
of time.

With that prospect in front of them, and also the practical certainty of
a night attack, perhaps by infantry as well, the garrison were quite
remarkably calm and resolute. Some of them even managed to snatch an
hour or two of sleep, and all were thirsty enough to drink, though only
one or two were able to eat anything.

During the night a brisk fusillade every twenty minutes or half-hour up
to three o’clock was all that they had to put up with, except for
several false alarms raised by the sentries of imaginary enemies trying
to cross the barbed-wire protections, which kept everybody’s nerves on
edge. The besiegers had evidently concluded that the fort was not yet
sufficiently broken up to make an infantry attack feasible. So at about
five, just after the fort of Les Paroches had rung up to say that they
could do nothing to help them, as their guns could not reach the German
positions, the 150’s began again, and one of the first shots hit an
ammunition store and exploded about twenty 90-millimetre shrapnel
shells. Then came another message (they must have found the telephone
rather a comfort in their isolated position), this time from Commercy,
to say that the 2nd Cavalry Division from Toul was well on the way to
relieve them, and had reached Buxerulles on the Commercy-Fresne road,
north-east of St. Mihiel, hardly more than twelve miles off. But it was
not till well on in the night, nearly twenty-four hours later, that the
Toul division at last arrived, and before that time the garrison had
gone through a still more severe bombardment.

The day began with a white flag incident, or rather with the appearance
of two German cavalrymen accompanied by a bugler, and carrying a large
flag of truce. The commandant went forward to speak to them—they had
stopped thirty yards the other side of the wire entanglements—and three
times they summoned him to surrender the fort. To the first summons he
answered simply, “Never”; to the second, “France has given me charge of
the fort and I will blow it up sooner than surrender it”; and to the
last, “F.... moi le camp, je vous ai assez vus ... A bientôt, à Metz!”
So that was the end of them and their mission.

Up to now the guns bombarding them, as far as the garrison could make
out, consisted of a battery of 150’s at the edge of the wood of
Lamorville, about five miles to the east of the fort, and a field
battery of 77’s, posted between one and two miles away on the reverse
side of Hill 259, called La Gouffière. There were also some infantry
engaged in digging trenches on the Signal of Troyon, close by, where the
commandant had shot his partridges on the 7th. (On the 8th, in one of
the lulls in the bombardment, he had two shots himself with 90 shrapnel
at the men on his partridge ground, and rather spoilt their excavating
work, but then the 150’s began again.) On the second day, after the
white flag and its bearers had taken their departure, the bombardment
began again, with greatly increased severity, as the enemy had now
brought up some 280’s and 305’s, but in spite of the extraordinary havoc
which they produced the plucky garrison still continued to serve their
guns as best they could without any thought of surrender. When night
fell there was another alarm of an infantry attack. This time there was
no doubt about it. They could make out a black mass of men advancing
towards the south cupola of the fort, and some of them were already busy
cutting the barbed wire in front of it. The commandant, whose diary of
the siege I have followed in this account, got his men together, ordered
most of them under cover, and then opened fire on the swarm of
assailants with machine-guns. That was too much for the Germans, and
they broke and fled, leaving the ground strewn with their dead and
wounded. Still later in the night he was knocked over and wounded in
several places by fragments of a 305 shell which fell only a yard behind
him. But as soon as his wounds were dressed he was up again, commanding
and encouraging his men, and still the fort held out through the dark
night, continually lit by the explosion of the bursting shells. And
then, at last, the division from Toul arrived (I presume that the
cavalry had had to wait at Buxerulles for the slower troops who were
following them), the enemy were forced to abandon the bombardment not a
moment too soon, and the commandant was carried off to hospital at
Verdun (where he received the Croix de Guerre), but not before he had
left fluttering on the crumbling parapet the flag of France. On the next
day, and the next, and the next, further fierce onslaughts on the fort
by large numbers of Germans were driven back with great slaughter by the
garrison, strongly reinforced by the cavalry division and a Toul battery
of 75’s, and the attack on Troyon was finally abandoned on the 13th. The
German losses in front of the fort, as the result of the five days’
fighting and a second unsuccessful attack which they made on it a week
later, were between seven and ten thousand men.

This splendid defence of Troyon was typical of what happened in several
of the Meuse forts when the enemy, on September 20th, resumed their
efforts, but with many more troops, to force their way across the Hauts
de Meuse to the river. Having reoccupied Thiaucourt, on the Rupt de Mad,
eight miles north-west of Pont-à-Mousson, they took up a position well
to the west of it, with a long front extending north and south in front
of St. Mihiel, through Heudicourt (eight miles north-east of the town)
along the Hauts de Meuse. The gap in the line of the German front
between the Fifth and Sixth Armies was now at last permanently filled
up, for the first time during the war.

From this forward position they began a systematic bombardment of
Troyon, les Paroches, the Camp des Romains, Liouville, and the other
river forts. Their base position behind this line reached from
Thiaucourt to Fresnes, on the edge of the Hauts de Meuse, seventeen
miles across the plain in the direction of Verdun, and ten miles short
of it. This position it is worth while to notice with some care, because
it forms the base of the triangle of which St. Mihiel (of which we shall
hear something) forms the apex. Its strength lay in the fact that it had
Metz, with its big supplies of stores and men, less than twenty miles
behind it, with direct railway communication; its weakness in its
exposure to flank attacks, on its right to the north by the garrison
army of Verdun, on its left by that of Toul and the left wing of de
Castelnau’s army. The driving force of the Metz supplies of men and
ammunition from the rear was strong enough to enable the centre of the
German line to push forward like the point of a wedge to St. Mihiel in
the west. But the lateral pressure of the two French forces on their
right and left flanks was also strong and compelled them, as the point
of the wedge advanced, to extend their forces on each side of it, facing
outwards in two almost opposite directions. And that was how the
original St. Mihiel triangle came to be formed, with a seventeen-mile
base from Thiaucourt to Fresnes, and two equal sides, each fourteen
miles long, from Fresnes to St. Mihiel on the north-west, and from St.
Mihiel to Thiaucourt on the south-east. Nearly parallel to this lower
side of the triangle, and five or six miles to the south of it, most of
the road from Commercy to Pont-à-Mousson, a distance of twenty-five
miles, was in the hands of the French. Their only railway ran along the
valley of the Meuse, from Commercy past St. Mihiel to Troyon, and as a
rule they were not able to use it except at night.

The Germans were better off. They commanded, to begin with, a line from
Metz along the Moselle to Arnaville, from which it turned westwards
along the Rupt de Mad to Thiaucourt. Half-way between these two places
it was joined by another line running due south from Briey, and as their
position was consolidated at least one other light railway was
constructed in the direction of St. Mihiel. There was also another
railway (a section of the Verdun-Commercy line) which runs south from
Fresnes along the east edge of the Hauts de Meuse to Heudicourt,
half-way between St. Mihiel and Thiaucourt, part of which was available
for German traffic, besides a fairly large supply of level roads all
through the district, and of these various facilities for transport they
made excellent use.

In the plain of the Woevre behind the Fresnes-Heudicourt line everything
worked with the precision of a huge machine. During and after the
bombardment of the river forts the scene was more like the surroundings
of an immense centre of industrial activity than the ordinary conception
of a battlefield. From their emplacements between the infantry lines
German and Austrian field-guns and siege artillery pounded away
incessantly at the forts with 8¼-inch, 12-inch, and even 16½-inch
shells. Observation balloons and occasional aeroplanes swayed and
hovered over the lines, and ragged fan-shaped columns of brown or white
smoke shot up into the air here and there as the charges of high
explosives and shrapnel from French or German guns fell and burst. But
apart from these inevitable and unconcealable signs of battle—noise and
pillars of smoke by day, noise and flashes of flame by night—all the
machinery of the fighting was hidden underground, and as far as eye
could see the plain looked unpeopled and deserted. Only in the rear the
supply trains constantly rolling up from the German base and the
methodical work of the men loading and firing the guns and recording the
effect of the shots, like shifts of artisans labouring round the
furnaces of a gigantic mill, spoke of life and energy. But in appearance
it was always the creative energy of a busy manufacturing district
rather than the destructive energy of war.

Inside the forts, the direct object for the time being of all this
system and activity, there were no illusions of this kind, nothing but
grim reality and red ruin. Troyon was hotly bombarded for the second
time till it had only four guns left capable of firing a shot, and still
the plucky garrison refused either to retire or surrender. The storm of
high explosives had only done part of its work. It had reduced Troyon
and Les Paroches and Liouville and some of the other forts to a
shapeless melancholy desolation of crumbling mounds and yawning pits,
littered with tons of rusty steel and shattered blocks of scattered
masonry and concrete, till they looked like discarded gravel-pits half
buried under scrap-heaps of iron waste. But, though their existence as
forts was at an end, the remains of them, with one exception, were still
in the hands of the French, protected no longer by their bastions and
the guns in their dismantled cupolas, but by the rifles of the men in
the trenches, the real flesh and blood rampart of the Republic.

Unfortunately, the one fort in which the enemy did set foot—the Camp des
Romains—was the most important of them all. It lies on a ridge nine
hundred feet high, barely a mile to the south of St. Mihiel, and
therefore at the apex of the triangular position occupied by the
opposing lines of trenches, and commands the whole of the surrounding
country except parts of the loops of the river immediately to the west
and north of it. Its capture, after a heroic resistance on the part of
the garrison, was finally brought about by the occupation of St. Mihiel
by the army of Metz.

Why that occupation—a particularly disastrous blow for our Allies—was
effected as easily as it was, it is not easy to understand. St. Mihiel,
or at least the Camp des Romains, was the crucial point of the Meuse
position. It was by this time quite obvious that the main object of the
Germans was almost at any cost to break through the fortress barrier and
cross the river so as to effect a junction with the Crown Prince’s army,
which now occupied a position in the Argonne between the Aire and the
Aisne, to the west of Verdun, extending eastwards to the north of that
fortress. If this scheme had succeeded it would have had the double
effect of completing the investment of Verdun with a ring instead of
only a horse-shoe of hostile armies, and at the same time of relieving
the pressure brought to bear on the Crown Prince’s army by the French
troops in the Argonne between St. Ménéhould and Clermont. It might even
have compelled these and the armies on their left to retire once more in
the direction of the Marne. Consequently it was of vital importance for
the French to concentrate every man they could spare at the point where
the German thrust was likely to be most vigorous, and to hold on to St.
Mihiel and the Camp des Romains like grim death.

Left to itself, the garrison could do next to nothing. It could account,
and did account, for a large number of the enemy in front of its earthen
ramparts. But sooner or later its doom was certain. Its fall was only a
question of days, or even of hours. Like all fixed forts, ancient or
modern, exposed to the fire of modern siege artillery, it was, in
itself, about as impregnable as an umbrella. It lay on the extreme left
of the French fine from the Meuse to Pont-à-Mousson. To the north it was
protected to a certain extent by St. Mihiel, supposing that St. Mihiel
contained any troops. But its real defences, on which the French had
spent a considerable sum of money before the war, consisted of a large
number of trenches, strengthened with concrete, some miles in advance of
it on the farther side of the Hauts de Meuse, between Les Eparges and
Thiaucourt. They occupied, that is to say, practically the whole of the
space which I have spoken of as the gap in the lines of the armies, and
which was partly accounted for by the fact that as the German Fifth Army
inclined slightly westwards, to keep in touch with the others which had
Paris as their principal objective, the French Third Army was to a
certain extent obliged to follow it, besides which for the time being
the French Second and the German Sixth Army were too much occupied with
their own affairs round Nancy to be able to extend very far in the
direction of Verdun. But the carefully prepared trenches were there all
the time, and, as far as it is possible to judge without knowing all the
circumstances, might and should have been held almost indefinitely,
instead of which the chief purpose they seem to have served was to act
as a shelter for the advancing Germans. By some further mischance or
miscalculation, at this particularly critical moment, two or three days
after the Germans had begun the general bombardment of the river forts,
St. Mihiel was suddenly left almost wholly denuded of troops, with the
result that on August 24th the enemy’s advance-guard walked into it
practically unopposed.

There are two or three possible explanations of the way in which this
regrettable mistake was brought about, in all of which there is probably
a certain amount of truth. The French may have made up their minds that
the enemy had for the moment given up the idea of making a determined
effort to cross the river. Or they may have still clung to the mistaken
belief that the fort on the height, chosen centuries ago by the Romans
as the most commanding strategic position of the district, was strong
enough to defend itself and look after the river as well. Or, thirdly,
they may have concluded that they had no choice in the matter, and that
the pressure nearer Metz, on the right flank of their line forming the
south side of the St. Mihiel triangle, was for the moment more dangerous
than that on their left, and that it was safe to move part of their
force on the Meuse across to the Moselle.

That, at all events, is what they did, on or near September 22nd. The
line in the south of the Woevre had already been considerably thinned by
the despatch of a certain number of troops westwards across the Meuse to
strengthen the right wing of the army in the Argonne during the Battle
of the Marne and the operations which followed it. The effect of the
removal of several additional battalions in the opposite direction, to
the north of Nancy (where they found that their presence was urgently
needed) was that St. Mihiel and the Camp des Romains were left almost
isolated, with practically no soldiers at all to guard the town.

The news was quickly carried to the enemy (not by journalists, since
there were none anywhere near, but by the spies who were particularly
thickly planted in that district of France) and while the French troops
which had moved eastwards were engaged to the north of Nancy, and the
Toul force from the south was pushing back the main body of the XIVth
German Army Corps in the direction of the Rupt de Mad, the extreme right
of the Army of Metz, as the result of a bold flank-march along the left
or north bank of the Mad, were able to advance nearly as far as St.
Mihiel.

The presence of their advance-guard was first observed on the 23rd by a
small patrol of French dragoons, who were attacked by a company of
German infantry lying in ambush in a little wood by the side of the road
about a mile from the town, and fell back on St. Mihiel after a slight
skirmish. The news of the approach of the enemy created a panic in the
town, and a large number of the inhabitants fled in the direction of
Commercy. Next morning a squadron of Uhlans rode in and took possession
of the place, cutting the telegraph and telephone wires, and carrying
off as “hostages” some forty of the inhabitants, who must have bitterly
regretted not having joined in the general exodus of the day before.

(Three months later M. Lamure received a letter on the subject of these
hostages from a sergeant attached to the Bureau de Police of one of the
eastern armies, who was anxious about some relations of his who were
among them, as nothing was known up till then of their fate. He was a
stranger to us, but he had heard of our existence, and had a pathetic
though gratifying belief that the correspondents of _The Times_ might be
able to give him the information which his own intelligence office could
not.)

The Uhlans were followed, some hours later, by the main body of the
German army, which turned off from the Vigneulles-St. Mihiel road
somewhere near Chaillon and made its appearance on the Meuse to the
north of St. Mihiel at a point where by the natural lie of the ground
and the intervening hills it was protected from the fire of the guns
both of Les Paroches and the Camp des Romains, which were in any case
busy fighting their own battles.

The Germans, or at least a part of them, had now penetrated as far as
the line which it had been the object of all their forces operating on
the eastern frontier to reach. Their first appearance on the Meuse,
which the other armies had crossed lower down to the north of Verdun
weeks before, should have been one of the dramatic moments of the war.
It had, however, been brought about so tamely and with so little
opposition at the last moment that it rather lost that character, and it
was not till an attempt to cross the river was made that the position
became really exciting. It was still about as unfavourable as it could
be for the French. Only a single battalion of Territorials, with no guns
and even no mitrailleuses, guarded the river at that point, against a
line of probably ten times their own number. The bridges had been
hastily destroyed as the enemy advanced, and from the left bank the
Territorials did their best to keep them from crossing the river, and
during the night of the 25th, by the light of their one searchlight,
successfully dealt with the persistent efforts of the German engineers
to build a pontoon-bridge. But the next morning the enemy opened fire on
them with some heavy batteries which they had brought up from
Thiaucourt, and, as the heights of the river prevented the guns in the
Camp des Romains from giving them any help, the Territorials were forced
to retire under a hot fire, picking up and carrying with them their
killed and wounded.

By midday the Germans were across the river, marching in the direction
of the valley of the Aire, a tributary of the Aisne, between it and the
Meuse, with the object of crossing it to attack General Sarrail in the
Forest of the Argonne. The position was critical, and for the French
airmen, who could see what was happening and gave due warning in
different directions, must have been intensely interesting. There seemed
a good chance that the Germans might really carry out the complete
investment of Verdun, which their newspapers had already announced as an
accomplished fact, and join hands at last with the army of the Crown
Prince. Driven northwards by General Sarrail after the Battle of the
Marne, past St. Menehould on the Aisne and Clermont on the Aire, left
and right of the Forest of the Argonne, that army, which consisted of
the XVIth, XVIIIth, and XXIst Army Corps, now occupied a position
extending from Varennes (also on the Aire and the east side of the
forest) eastwards in a flattened arc rather less than a semicircle which
passed about ten miles north of Verdun and then curved down to the east
of it in the direction of Fresnes. Opposite to the Crown Prince across
the forest from the Aisne towards the Meuse was General Sarrail with the
VIth and VIIIth Army Corps. Behind him, falling back from the Meuse on
his protection, was the Territorial battalion, which during the night
had prevented the Metz army from crossing the river below St. Mihiel,
and behind them again, hot on their heels, the pursuing Germans, with a
body of cavalry, detached by General Sarrail to head them off, advancing
to meet them, and, though at a considerable distance, another French
force, the XXth Army Corps, hurrying as fast as they could from the
Moselle to overtake them from behind. Meanwhile, the Toul garrison army,
which had advanced from the fortress, was keeping up the lateral
pressure on the stationary German force along the Rupt de Mad.

In contrast with the state of comparative immobility to which the
campaign was shortly afterwards reduced, the manœuvres of the two
forces were for the moment particularly lively. Looked at as a war game
played on a chess-board, the position was more or less as follows: The
French (White) had moved most of their pieces of value up towards the
top left-hand corner of the board, where they had the Germans (Black)
pretty well penned in front of them along the two back rows. Black,
however, was still able to threaten an attack on White’s King (Verdun)
at about the centre of their fourth row, though it was defended by a few
white pawns (its garrison army). Two rows lower down in the centre a
black castle (the Metz army at St. Mihiel) was only prevented from
checking White’s King by some white pawns (the southern forts of Verdun)
and, at the same time, threatened a move across the board to the left in
order to get behind the main mass of White’s pieces. To remove this
danger, and to guard a pawn (the Territorial battalion) to the left of
Black’s castle, White moved back one of his knights (Sarrail’s cavalry)
from the left-hand top corner, moved up one of his castles (the Toul
garrison force) from his back row, and brought across his Queen (the
XXth Army Corps) from the lower right-hand corner of the board, where it
had been trying to check Black’s King (Metz). As the result of these
three moves he was able to force Black’s castle back to its original
position near the centre of the board.

When the news of the occupation of St. Mihiel reached Lorraine the XXth
Army Corps, which had barely finished its work there of checking a
German advance from the direction of Metz, were at once ordered back to
the Meuse, and the advanced guard of their cavalry by a forced night
march managed to cross it at Lérouville just below Commercy, only five
hours behind the German army, and got in touch with them shortly
afterwards in the valley of the Aire. The dragoons at once engaged them
with machine-guns, and held them till first the artillery and then the
infantry of the corps came up and the battle became general. The Metz
force made three separate attacks on the position which the French had
taken up on the heights of the Aire, but were repulsed each time with
heavy losses, and during the night they fell back on the Meuse, still,
however, retaining a footing on the left bank of the river in the
western suburb of St. Mihiel and the barracks of Chauvoncourt. After
their battle of the day before in Lorraine the forced night march of the
XXth Corps and their successful engagement on the Heights of the Aire
were a magnificent performance, which had the satisfactory effect of
putting an end to the bold effort of the right wing of the Metz army to
effect the longed-for junction with the Crown Prince. What it
unfortunately did not do was to relieve St. Mihiel. As soon as the
Germans got back there they proceeded to entrench themselves strongly,
and from a position near the town began to bombard the French forts in
the Camp des Romains with their Austrian mammoths.

Concerning this artillery position M. Lamure was told an instructive
little story on one of the rather adventurous expeditions which he made
to the neighbourhood of St. Mihiel some weeks after the German
occupation had begun. So many stories of the same kind (including one, I
believe, about a tennis-court at Tooting) were published in the first
part of the war that one became rather shy of believing them, but I have
my reasons for thinking that this one is probably true. Anyhow, here it
is.

Two years before the war a German company, formed for the manufacture of
chemical produce, rented a large plot of ground close to St. Mihiel for
a term of thirty years. It was a big company and it had need of big
buildings with solid foundations. So a floor about two hundred and fifty
feet long by thirty wide was laid down in reinforced concrete. Then the
company, after announcing that its money had come to an end, and that it
could not proceed to put up the proposed buildings, was dissolved. But
the plot of ground and the concrete floor, which, before the workmen
left, was tidily covered up with a loose coating of earth, still
belonged to it. When the army of Metz arrived on the scene some one had
the curiosity or the intelligence to inquire what might be hidden under
this covering of earth, which was accordingly removed. And there, by the
greatest good luck in the world, they discovered not only the concrete
floor, but a number of holes in it which proved to be admirably adapted
for emplacements for the Austrian guns.

On the whole, I am inclined to back the story of the St. Mihiel concrete
floor against the Tooting tennis-court, though in any case it would only
add one more to the long list of undoubted cases in which German
settlers were planted in the Woevre district in order to render valuable
services to the Fatherland either before or during the war. The main
point is that from some position near St. Mihiel, whether prepared
beforehand or not, the big Austrian howitzers in a very short time
silenced the guns and smashed up the turrets and bastions of the Camp
des Romains fort, until at last the plucky garrison had no guns left to
shoot with, and were finally smoked out after trenches had been pushed
up close to the fort. When the asphyxiated survivors had recovered
enough to march out the Germans presented arms in recognition of the
fine courage they had shown in the defence, and though they were
naturally made prisoners the officers were allowed to keep their swords.
The destruction of Troyon, les Paroches, and the Camp des Romains was
followed, a day or two later, by that of Liouville, where the damage
done was particularly extensive. The holes ploughed by the big shells
were the largest I have seen, and for acres round the fort almost every
square yard of ground is littered with scraps of shell casing and rusty
iron.

As for the Camp des Romains, it was so badly hammered that the Germans
could not use it, even when they had taken it, and were obliged to
construct a new fort close to it. From that time all the subsequent
efforts of the French to dislodge them have been unavailing. Although
with St. Mihiel it is the only point which they have captured in the
line of the river forts between Toul and Verdun, and although since the
end of September, 1914, they have never advanced one foot beyond it, its
possession has been extremely useful to them, and a nasty thorn in the
side of the French. For though in position the Camp des Romains fort is
only the apex of the St. Mihiel triangle, it is in effect its base and
sides and area, since, without it, the triangle would not exist.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                         THE “SOIXANTE-QUINZE”


The capture of St. Mihiel and the Camp des Romains was the last real
triumph—I had almost said the only real triumph—that the Germans won in
the east of France. For the scene of their other great positive success
was not in France but in the annexed part of Lorraine, even though as
the result of it they still hold one corner of the Department of the
Vosges. But there, as everywhere else, since the end of September, 1914,
they have not only made no progress, but have been on the whole driven
further back. That is an obvious fact, but it is one which no one who
studies the course and the probabilities of the war can afford to
overlook. It is true that the French in all that time have made very
little appreciable advance. Measured by distance the ground they have
recovered is nothing in comparison with the number of lives that it has
cost. But the sacrifice of lives must be made. It is the only way of
deliverance, and every yard of blood-drenched soil that France has won
back from the invader brings one step nearer the victory of freedom over
oppression and of right over wrong.

Also it must never be forgotten that few though the steps have been
every one of them has been away from Paris and towards Berlin. The
Germans began the war. For more than forty years they had been preparing
for it. In spite of all the warnings they gave us of what we had to
expect, England and France and Russia were not prepared. From one point
of view that is a good thing. It throws the onus of the crime against
humanity on to the right shoulders, and at the same time exposes the
grotesque absurdity of the German fiction, intended chiefly for home and
neutral consumption, that it was merely the instinct of
self-preservation which forced them against their will to take up arms,
and that they attacked their neighbours only to secure themselves
against annihilation.

Of all the people whom the annihilation lie was intended to
influence—and did influence—by far the most important was the Emperor
William himself. Englishmen must always remember that he is the son of
an English mother, and that at heart he is a pacifist and a Christian,
even though the God in whom he quite sincerely believes is the God of
the Old Testament. But he is also a hegemonist. He constantly sees (or
saw) himself and his country and his army playing the big _rôle_ on the
world’s stage, and the cunning and unscrupulous advisers by whom he is
surrounded took advantage of that weakness in his nature to make him
believe that Germany’s salvation could only be secured by Germany’s
domination of Europe. Themselves they never made any secret of their
determination to bring about the war, nor of their object in doing so.
Wretched creatures like Bernhardi and Tannenberg frankly proclaimed that
they were out for plunder—the plunder of the world; that they could only
secure it by crushing the rest of Europe in a world’s war; and that in
order to bring about and win that war Germany would deliberately refuse
to fetter her actions by the universally accepted canons of right and
wrong. The whole scheme was so monstrous that in spite of the nakedness
of these threats—and God knows they were numerous enough—very few
Englishmen or Frenchmen could bring themselves to believe that they were
made in earnest, and the result was that, sheltered behind the
prevailing feeling of incredulity excited in other countries by the
utterances of the Pan-Germanist extremists, the rest of the war-party
were able to go on quietly with their preparations for war without
calling into being any corresponding activity on our part. And then,
when at last the moment for which they had all been waiting had
arrived—as soon, that is to say, as the men appointed for the task had
convinced the Kaiser that Germany was in mortal danger—the war was
declared.

After that only one more step was necessary to complete his downfall.
Being a man of humane instincts and not a degraded savage like some of
his advisers, he had to be persuaded—and he has allowed himself to be
persuaded—that the surest means of shortening the war, and therefore of
curtailing as far as was possible its inevitable horrors, was to make it
more horrible still by instituting the Hunnish system of terrorism—of
which the examples given in this book can convey only the very feeblest
impression.

There is nothing immoral in a fight between an elephant and a tiger, or
even in a leopard’s pursuit of goats and other small deer—the neutral
states and the helpless villagers of the jungle. The lions roaring after
their prey do seek their meat from God. Attila and the Huns, whose
methods the Kaiser ordered his soldiers to imitate in the war in
China—even then the poison was working in his mind—were not, like the
Emperor William and the Germans, an enlightened and semi-civilized
state. The cruel ferocity of the modern Huns is infinitely more cruel
and criminal than theirs was, because they call themselves Christians
and have undoubtedly got a kind of Kultur. Every vile thing that they
have done they have done deliberately and with their eyes open, and for
that reason sooner or later their punishment is sure. For nations, like
men and women, cannot for ever continue to sin with impunity against the
light.

Still, at the beginning, because they were ready and also unscrupulous
and we were neither, they scored a great advantage over us, and it was
only because we and the French had the enormous moral stimulus that we
were fighting for the right that we were able to throw them back from
the Marne and the Grand Couronné. For the inequality of men and
material—but especially material—was still great, and I take it that if
the positions had been reversed, if the Allies had been the aggressors
and Germany the object of our iniquitous invasion, we could not have
made nearly as good a showing as they did. The positions being, however,
as they were, we were the better men, and, with the single exception
that they were allowed to push forward the St. Mihiel salient through
the gap between the armies in the Woevre, everywhere in the west we
drove them many miles back from the advanced positions which they had
reached at the end of their first irresistible rush.

Then, along the whole line, including the two sides of the St. Mihiel
triangle, we were brought up short by far the strongest and most
elaborate system of earth entrenchments that the world had ever seen. It
was a perfectly legitimate means of making war, and although, like every
other step in the campaign, it had been devised by the enemy as part of
their grand plan for destroying the French, from a military point of
view they deserved every credit for having thought it out. They were the
first people to see that no soldiers could stand up for any length of
time in the open, or with only the protection of the shallow ditches
which used to be called trenches, against modern weapons. Thanks to
their foresight they had invented or perfected a simple means of defence
infinitely stronger than the strongest and most modern fortress. We all
know now that compared to a properly constructed trench with
well-disposed shell-proof shelters the bastions and casemates and
cupolas of such places as Toul and Verdun, which till the war was well
under way were considered the _dernier cri_ in fortifications, are as
flimsy as a Gladstone bag compared to a fire-proof safe. But it was the
Germans who taught us, and all that we could do—but we did it—was to set
to work resolutely to play them at their own game.

Not, unfortunately, to fight them with their own weapons, or at least
with their own shells. It took us all, especially our own country, which
has always borne a strong family resemblance to its ancient King
Ethelred, a very long time to learn that particular lesson. The French
were quicker and more adaptable. Their main difficulty, thanks to
shortsighted and ignoble political squabbles before the war, was that
when war began they were very short of big guns, as a consequence of
which in the earlier engagements their pieces were constantly outranged,
sometimes by as much as two miles, by those opposed to them. But they
had, and still have, one gun which, for its size, was far superior to
any possessed by Germany, though they had produced a colourable
imitation of it.

To every French civilian, and to every French soldier, no matter to what
arm of the service he belongs, the Soixante-Quinze is the real hero of
the war. And in one sense they are not far wrong. For without it not the
most splendid courage and most dashing exploits of the chasseurs-alpins,
chasseurs-à-pied, and all the splendid French and African regiments of
their armies could have held out against the German advance, much less
have rolled it back.

In the year 1894, in the month of July, the then German Military Attaché
in Paris, Colonel Schwartz Koppen, was for some time considerably
worried and puzzled during his morning rides in the Bois de Boulogne by
the frequency of the reports of artillery fire, which he heard coming
from the direction of Mont Valérien. He would have been still more
worried if he could have looked into the future and seen what those
sounds betokened for his countrymen twenty years ahead. They were due to
the experimental firing of the new gun invented by Colonel Duport (who,
like most inventors, got nothing for his trouble), which was being put
through its paces under the auspices of General Mercier, the Minister of
War, largely owing to the public-spirited action of another Minister,
now President of the Republic. For it was M. Raymond Poincaré, at that
time Minister of Finance, who proposed in the Chamber a vote of credit
for “Repairs to artillery material,” which really meant (as the members
of the Chamber were well aware) the construction of twenty-four guns of
75 millimetres calibre, the first of their race, and the actual
disturbers of Colonel Schwartz Koppen’s morning peace of mind.

How long it was before he found out that his ears, though not his eyes,
had assisted at a first appearance of some military and historical
importance, I do not know, but at all events the Germans were at the
time so much occupied with the subject of their own new 77 mm. field-gun
that the genesis of its slightly smaller rival apparently escaped their
notice.

After that, in spite of the efforts of General Deltoye, nothing further
was done about the Soixante-Quinze for two or three years, when General
Billot, Minister for War in the cabinet of M. Méline, took the matter in
hand, and enough money was voted for their manufacture on a large scale.
But once that was done no time was lost, and in 1897 the first
Soixante-Quinzes, considerably improved by Colonel Sainte-Claire Deville
and Colonel Rimailho, the inventor of the 155, were served out to the
artillery of the army corps of the north-east. Apparently the moment
chosen for their _début_ could not have been more happily timed: the
revival of the Dreyfus case had just suggested to the minds of the
war-party in Germany that the golden opportunity for declaring war,
while France was torn by internal strife, had arrived, and it is said
that it was only the reports of the foreign military attachés on the
great superiority of the 75 mm. to the 77 mm. in stability and rapidity
and precision of fire that caused them to change their minds. Since then
they have been able to introduce certain improvements into their own
gun, modelled on the chief features of the Soixante-Quinze, but it still
remains an inferior weapon.

I need not go into technical details about the French gun, though
naturally all its secrets, including that of the famous liquid substance
in its hydropneumatic brake, are well known to the Germans. For English
readers it is enough to say that its muzzle diameter (75 mm.) is a
trifle more than 3 inches, or one-thirty-third of its length, which is
therefore just under 9 feet, that it fires two kinds of shells, a
shrapnel shell of about 16 pounds, containing 300 balls, with a muzzle
velocity of 1735 feet, and a high explosive shell of 11 pounds,
containing 30 ounces of melinite, with a muzzle velocity of 1915 feet.
These shells can be fired at the rate of thirty a minute, or about twice
the rate possible for the 77 mm.

Its further superiority over the German gun the Soixante-Quinze owes,
partly to the excellence of its _débouchoir_ (the instrument by which
the bursting point of the fuse is automatically regulated before the
shell is put into the breech) and partly to the control of its liquid
brake, which causes the gun to return after the recoil as nearly as
possible to its exact original position. The Germans use a
hand-_débouchoir_, which takes longer to manipulate and gives less
accurate results, and because of its less powerful brake the aim of the
77 mm. has constantly to be readjusted.

The other chief French field guns are the 155 _court_, called the
Rimailho after its inventor; the 120 _long_, a siege gun converted into
a field gun; the 120 _court_; the 105, which is like a larger 75, and
fires a shell of thirty-six pounds; and the 65, a mountain gun, which
can be carried in four pieces on the backs of mules, and has done
excellent work in the fighting in the Vosges. In English measurements
the diameters of the shells fired by these different pieces are
approximately: 65 mm., 2½ inches; 75 mm., 3 inches; 105 mm., 4¼ inches;
120 mm., 4¾ inches; and 155 mm., 6 inches.

Before they knew by actual experience what the Soixante-Quinze could do
the Germans nicknamed it “the cigar-holder.” Now it has become (it was
what they called it in Lorraine when we were there) “a barbarous and
disgusting engine of war,” and the French artillerymen “the black
devils.” Learn a lesson from the German gunner. Whereas he complains of
“barbarous engines” and “black devils,” the French soldier greets his
various projectiles as _la grosse_ or _la petite marmite_, or “the
slow-coach,” or “the whistler,” or “the train,” just as our own men talk
of Black Marias and Jack Johnsons. The contrast is significant. For it
means that the Germans fear the French shells more than the French fear
theirs. If the difference in the mental attitude is well founded, hardly
anything could augur better for our eventual success. And it is. The
ideal of Krupp, as of all Greater-Germanists, is the Kolossal. But the
Frenchman is the better gunner. He not only has in the Soixante-Quinze a
finer weapon, with better-regulated fuses, but he is incomparably
quicker in serving it, and has a disconcerting way in hot actions of
placing his battery in position (in an incredibly short space of time),
firing the appointed number of rounds of spreading or direct fire, and
then limbering up and departing to fresh woods and pastures new before
the Germans have discovered where he is.

It is not a bad thing to have a gun which hits as hard and as quick as
Bombardier Wells, and battery commanders as elusive as the Scarlet
Pimpernel. For the combination means that the Soixante-Quinze and its
sister field guns do the maximum of damage to the enemy with the minimum
risk of destruction for themselves. No wonder the French people are
proud of their artillery and work for it with unbounded enthusiasm. And
no wonder—for a different reason—that the British Mission which went to
France towards the end of 1915 to study the production of ammunition
were greatly impressed by the state of things which they found in the
French workshops. There was, they reported, no loss of time, no
trade-union restrictions, no limitation of profits, no objections raised
by the workpeople, no difficulties created by the introduction, in
practically all cases, of female labour, and no restrictions on the
women working the same hours as the men “with a good-will which is most
impressive,” and, in short, everything done to increase production. “As
the war has proceeded,” says the report of the Mission, “the French
nation has settled down with determination and a feeling of set purpose
to the fulfilment of the task allotted to it. There is no question but
that the nation is at war, and the dominant sentiment, not only of the
men but also of the women, is to carry the war to a successful
termination. Everything else is subordinated to this determination.”

In that spirit the French nation and the armies of the east settled down
to the second period of the war—the struggle of the trenches. It was not
so picturesque as what had gone before, not so pregnant with
possibilities of thrilling victories or saddening but stimulating
defeats, not so anxious, not so inspiring. It was utterly foreign to the
genius of the French soldier. Morning after morning the official
communiqués hardly ever varied. _Rien de nouveau sur le front
occidental._

And yet, though there was nothing new there was always the same
thing—always suffering and exposure and wounds and death, and always
fresh names added to the roll of honour. And sometimes, though one never
knew any of the glorious details till even the men who had taken part in
them had almost forgotten about them, there were more decided efforts to
make headway and bloodier encounters than the minor struggles to gain a
hundred yards of trench, wasting and deadly as that daily routine was
bound to be. When the historians get to work they will give us, I
suppose, a real record of all this trench warfare. They will tell us how
the different battalions and regiments fared on different parts of the
line, how one charged brilliantly across fifty yards of open ground and
barbed wire and drove the enemy out of the opposite trench, only to be
enfiladed by a murderous fire of mitrailleuses and forced to retire to
their old trench, leaving half their men behind them, and all for
nothing. They will tell of how another repelled a night attack with such
gallantry and vigour that they drove the enemy helter-skelter before
them and occupied after half an hour’s work a position which they had
been sitting in front of for months, harassed all the time by the daily
wastage caused by snipers, gas attacks, hand-grenades, bombs of all
kinds, trench mortars, Minenwerfers, and all the other improved
prehistoric death-dealing devices which have sprung into being from the
mud and chalk and solid rock of the trenches. Then we shall know the
names of the gallant living and the gallant dead, and many other details
of intense interest which at present it is impossible to know and still
more to realize.

But for a general description I doubt if any of them will give us
anything much better than the following account, written by a German
journalist, of the wearing monotony of the life of the men at the front.
I give it partly for that reason, but chiefly because I think it is
useful for all of us to realize that French and English soldiers are not
the only ones who, however brave and however cheerful they are, must
sometimes be appalled by the unendingness of the struggle. There are two
sides to the nightmare of the trenches, just as there are to the moral
effect of shell-fire and the horror of the horizon. And sometimes
non-combatants—I do not say the soldiers—are apt to forget the way in
which it may be and must be affecting the enemy. Let them listen to this
German, writing from the other side of the line:—

               *       *       *       *       *       *

“And the siege goes on.

“Along the whole front, hundreds of miles long, from the North Sea to
Switzerland, the faithful soldiers are posted in the trenches.

“In Flanders the water reaches to their knees. The pumps are working,
but without much success. In spite of cement and joists and props, the
trenches fall in every day, and the sandbags have to be renewed with
infinite trouble every minute. When they leave the trenches the soldiers
march through water for miles. In Champagne they are white with chalk,
in the Argonne and the Vosges they are coated with mud up to their
forage-caps. There, too, the pumps are working to get the mastery over
the water.

“It pours with rain, it snows, the wind blows. When our soldiers go to
their quarters to rest, many of them support themselves with sticks; for
the water and the cold have stiffened their legs. No army of ancient
days could have shown such energy as this. Even Napoleon would never
have dared to ask of his armies, though they were used to hardship, such
prodigious efforts. At the present time the willingness of the men is
tenfold. The soldier marches in blood up to his ankles, the blood of the
enemy, and the blood of the comrade he loved; but his brow is crowned
with laurels.

“The soldier stands there, in the mud and the water, among the wet
sandbags pierced with bullets, in the narrow labyrinths of the trenches,
behind crumbling walls and among shattered tree-trunks. And that is seen
from the seashore where the waves break on the beach to the Swiss
frontier where the mountains rise. A hundred thousand men, at this
moment, are there, every ten paces, searching the horizon. Behind the
sandbags machine-guns are on the watch day and night. In these damp
shelters their comrades are sleeping curled up, but ready to dash out
and risk their lives at the sentinel’s first alarm, as they have done
for seventeen months. Water oozes from the walls. They are silent; their
eyes are looking for the Fatherland. They are lying down in their dirty
overcoats, they are asleep or thinking of nothing. When the sentinel
calls them, they start. They eat their soup while the water trickles
down between the sacks, and they are wet through with rain.

“Rusting iron covered with mud, shell-holes filled with slimy water,
scattered bundles of clothes, half buried in the earth, dead bodies
which have lain there for weeks, and which it has been impossible to
bury, and just over there, thirty or forty or a hundred yards away, the
enemy.... That is all that the soldiers see, that is their horizon, that
is their world. Hundreds of thousands of vigorous men are perishing
there, though their destiny was to perpetuate the human race. Death has
done good business this year. Already the rats are coming from the
destroyed villages and hunting about in the ground. Near Souchez, a
prisoner tells me, they are arriving in formidable swarms. The crows are
croaking greedily. But there is no fear and no giving way. No soldier
who is at the front, right at this point, has not the right to tremble.
The war is pitiless. For, by God, it is not demanding too much to ask
people who are in safety to look death in the face! A dead man is a dead
man, and at this moment there are much more horrible things than death.
Many French and English, whose nerves have given way, have jumped on the
sandbags and asked death to set them free.

“And death is everywhere. It is everywhere, the whole length of the
front, from the sea to the snow-mountains. Bullets whistle, mines and
hand-grenades fly about, shells fired a long distance off plough into
the ground with terrific explosions, a bit of trench trembles and flies
into the air. Death takes officer and man without distinction. It is in
the destroyed villages where the soldier is trying to rest, in the
forests, in the thickets, and in the shelters where the cannons thunder,
above in the air, below under the earth, everywhere.

“Honour to the brave men who fall in these days.

“Death, which stalks across Belgium, France, Alsace, has its special
quarters, its craters which are always boiling over, to burst out every
now and then and vomit blood and fire. The Yser canal, Souchez and Vimy,
Berry-au-Bac, Tahure, the hills of Champagne, the Argonne, the heights
of Vauquois, which have swallowed up thousands and thousands of men,
Bois le Prêtre and Hartmannsweilerkopf—all these places and others still
are the craters which boil without ceasing. All of a sudden the air
shrieks and shells arrive in swarms. Like heavy hammers in a smithy for
hours at a time they hammer violently on the trenches and reduce
everything to fire and blood.

[Illustration:

  FRENCH ATTACK FROM CEMETERY OF REHAINVILLER NEAR LUNÉVILLE.
  _From “En Plein Feu.” By kind permission of M. Vermot, Rue
    Duguay-Trouin, Paris._
]

“An attack. The trench is turned inside out and left defenceless. The
enemy comes. The air shrieks again as our shells soar off towards the
enemy, leaving behind them a curtain of smoke, gases, and scraps of iron
which cover the lost trench. No one can cross that zone.

“It is impossible for the enemy to bring up reinforcements. A
counter-attack. The reserves advance, the enemy falls exhausted, and the
trench is ours again. It is always the same thing, always as savage and
always as heroic. France is besieged, and she keeps trying and trying to
burst the girdle that surrounds her. The insignificant breach that her
shells have made is closed again at once. It was like this in the month
of May and in June on the heights of Lorette. This is just what
happened, too, in September near Loos and Vimy and in Champagne. The
French launched asphyxiating gases and bombs and millions and millions
of shells against the ramparts of their besiegers, but it was in vain.
Her regiments, though they were heroic and daring, broke themselves up
without gaining any success. Our rampart resisted. Joffre and French,
who had tried everything, recognized the impossibility of destroying
this rampart, and retired despairing and worn out from the theatre of
the war. Will Castelnau be able to discover the secret which Joffre and
French have not been able to discover?...

“Telephones, automobiles, railways, long-range guns, and incalculable
supplies of munitions have completely changed the methods of attack and
defence. This war is less a war of men against men and courage against
courage than a war between two industries. It is iron-mines, coal,
chemical factories, huge furnaces, that conduct the war, and also the
brains of inventors and manufacturers. The soldier of to-day is a
courageous and intelligent machine who, with the life that he risks,
works for this giant industry of the nations. Newer and more ingenious
methods would be needed to destroy these dreadful engines. The enemy
have not discovered them so far....

“A trench is taken and lost again, and that is all. Nothing important in
the west. And the siege goes on. The rifles crack in the trenches, the
revealing Bengal lights soar up into the thick night, the search-lights
explore the darkness. The sentinels are crouching in the saps and
look-outs. The aeroplanes fly and the batteries destroy each other. The
pioneers work underground and the mines explode.

“The German soldier will stay at his post in spite of it all, faithful
and magnificent. He will stay there as long as his country has need of
him, or till he falls for her. Never, at any hour of the day or night,
must we forget our valiant and wonderful soldiers.”

I think we most of us have an idea by now of what trench-life is like,
even though we may not have seen it. Even if we have seen it we should
find it difficult to better that description of the sameness and the
horrors of it. There are points in it which are naturally coloured by
the imagination and predisposition of the writer. Joffre and French have
not retired, despairing and worn out, from the theatre of the war. Nor
is France besieged. That is the grand mistake that he makes. By rights
it should be, since Germany was the attacking party. But with the one
exception of the abortive attempt to attack Calais, which was foiled by
French’s contemptible little army, ever since the Germans were driven
back to their trenches from the Marne to the Aisne, and from Nancy to
the Seille, it is the Allies who have been the assailants. They have
been met by a marvellous defence. There have been countless desperate
sallies. But gradually, steadily, little by little, line upon line,
trench by trench, they are sapping their way up to the earthen walls
defended by the beleaguered garrison.

And the end is sure. The German garrison, for all their brave deeds and
all the brave words of their Xenophon, are obviously getting
downhearted. When you have spent a few hours in the trenches, with your
head always below the level of the ground, with nothing above you but
the sky and nothing in front of you or behind you but endless lines of
mud or chalk, like the earth thrown up by the side of a newly-made
grave, you can understand the wonderful descriptive truth of those four
words, “That is their horizon.” To live for days and nights at a time—to
live for long months with scanty intervals of cave-dwelling in holes
scooped out in the sides of hills—down there in the newly made grave, on
a floor of mud between walls of mud, with tiny loopholes for your only
windows, through which you see a narrow segment of the landscape (always
with another mud-bank in front of you) between the stalks of the
grasses, with your eye on a level with their roots—that, quite apart
from the question of shells and fighting, has been the life and the
outlook of our men and the French soldiers at the front, ever since they
began fifteen weary months ago to be a besieging force. But, as I have
tried to show earlier in this book, the French do not think about their
life as this German and his compatriots in the trenches obviously do—for
the simple but all-sufficient reason that they are the besiegers and not
the besieged.

For the French and the English, though for them, too, “that is their
horizon,” can see beyond it, not perhaps the Angles of Mons, but
decidedly the Angel of Victory.



                               CHAPTER XX
                             SIEGE WARFARE


The kind of modern siege in which the Allies are engaged, unlike the
bombardment of a modern fortress, but like the sieges of old times, is
bound to be a protracted affair. Still it is not likely that Germany
will hold out as long as Troy did. From her geographical position,
nearly surrounded by the host of enemies that her arrogance and
self-seeking have arrayed against her, she was bound sooner or later to
be the besieged party, unless she succeeded in crushing one or more of
them by her first impetuous rush. It was not enough to drive them back.
She had to annihilate them or at least to bring them to terms at the
outset, and that she failed to do. Now, for the time being, she has
created troublesome diversions in the Balkans and other parts of the
world outside the main field of action, and has even opened a sally-port
in the direction of Constantinople. But everywhere else her exits, and
to a certain extent her entrances, are barred, north and south by the
fleets of the Allies and the hitherto no-man’s land of two neutral
states, on the east by the armies of Russia, and on the west by lines of
trenches every bit as strong as her own.

It is on this side that the pressure of the siege bears most heavily
upon her, and that in all probability the breach in her defences will be
made. But, as has been ably pointed out in _The Times_ by Colonel
Repington, whose military judgment carries more weight in France than
that of any other English writer on the war, that breach will only be
made by an even and continuous distribution of the pressure exerted
along the whole of the western line, simultaneously with a sustained
attack on the eastern front. It will not be effected by local
offensives, however carefully prepared and however gallantly carried
out. The day of brilliant cavalry charges on a grand scale is over. Even
combined advances of infantry are a form of tactics that must be used as
sparingly as possible, because of the enormous waste of life which under
present conditions they necessarily entail. The slight advantage gained
by the English last September at Loos and the French in Champagne was
far too dearly earned. It was magnificent, but it was not siege tactics,
and it is only by acting on the principle that the war, more
particularly in the west, is not a series of battles but a siege, that
it can be won. The time has come when it must be realized that partial
offensives of this kind, carried on over a minute section of the front,
are not worth the cost. The advance must be made by continuous sapping,
that is to say by hammering away with artillery, and, so far as is
possible, with nothing but artillery, along the whole line of the
enemy’s trenches at the same time, without giving them any rest or any
chance of shifting reinforcements from one part of the line or from one
front to another.

During the months of comparative stagnation which are now, it may be
hoped, drawing to a close, this policy has not been adopted, partly, no
doubt, because it could not be. There were not enough guns and not
enough high explosive shells. Once or twice they have been massed in
huge quantities at some given point, as on those twenty-five miles
between Auberives and Massiges in the Champagne country, and they have
shown what can be done—provided that too much is not attempted. Our one
object is to drive the enemy back. We have to oust them from the ground
which they now occupy. That is what is going finally to break the
_morale_ of Germany and the German army. We shall never do it, except at
a prohibitive cost, as long as in our attacks we sacrifice length to
depth. It is far more valuable to us, and far surer and less costly, to
gain say one hundred square miles of ground by advancing a quarter of a
mile along a front of four hundred miles than to win back the same
acreage by pushing the enemy back five miles along a front of twenty.

But all this is in the future, and is the business of strategists and
generals, and not of a newspaper correspondent, who may, after all, be
completely wrong in his ideas. All that he can usefully do is to try to
give his personal impressions of the way in which the present (or the
old) plan has worked. Up till now it has in all probability been the
only method that could be adopted, because of the lack of the guns and
munitions necessary for a more comprehensive plan of action. It is
commonly supposed that in this respect the French have been better off
than the English. But in any case they, too, have been hampered in their
general scheme of attack by a similar necessity for a sparing use of
artillery ammunition, and it is this shortage which has principally
dictated their conduct of the war of the trenches ever since it began.

At certain points all along the line, from the Channel to Verdun and
from Verdun to the Vosges, there are what the German journalist quoted
in the last chapter called “Craters of Death,” where, as the siege has
progressed, both French and English have, so to speak, brought their
battering-rams to bear on the defences. These points have not been
chosen because they are the weakest, for there are no weakest points in
continuous lines of trenches. One part of the system is as strong as
another. But there are, though it sounds paradoxical to say so,
strongest points, where the enemy, either because he is particularly
well served by lines of communication behind, or because he is
particularly anxious for strategical reasons to break through in front,
has for months past concentrated greater numbers of guns and men. And
since these strongest points have no “weakest” points on either side of
them by which they might be turned, it is precisely there that the
besiegers have been obliged to concentrate their attack. At the same
time any attempt to rush the less thickly manned lines of trenches in
between them has been rendered practically impossible by the fact that
owing to aeroplanes and telephones and motor-traction any given part of
the line can be very quickly strengthened, even to the extent of
bringing fresh bodies of troops halfway across Europe for the purpose.
Under these conditions the position of stalemate to which both besiegers
and besieged have very nearly been reduced was practically unavoidable.

This second stage of the war, that is to say the whole wearisome period
of the fighting in the trenches, I do not propose to follow at all
closely. Even in the struggles round the “craters of death” there was,
except on rare occasions, a sameness and a lack of dramatic incident
which would be bound to depress the spirits of the general reader. As
regards its bearing on the final issue, by far its most important
feature is that it has not depressed the spirits of the French soldiers.
Even more remarkable than the heroism which from time to time they have
shown in making or repelling attacks on a more or less extended scale is
the extraordinary cheerfulness with which they have accepted the dreary
monotony as well as the wearing daily attrition imposed upon them by the
stagnant immobility of the trenches. I have spoken already of this
remarkable buoyancy of spirits, which so far as I have seen is
characteristic of the whole of the French armies, and need not enlarge
upon it again, except to remark that it is one of the most valuable
assets upon which the Allies are able to count.

But there is one special aspect of it about which I should like to say a
word or two, though it deserves a whole volume to itself. Because the
Army of the Republic is a national army, there is no trade or calling or
profession which is not represented in its ranks. France not only
expects but requires that every able-bodied man of military age shall do
his duty in the defence of his country, unless she has other work to put
into his hands. Amongst the rest she calls upon the clergy, and with one
consent these men of peace, instead of beginning to make excuse, have
answered to the call with a fervour of patriotism which is excelled by
no single class of their fellow-countrymen. Before the divorce between
Church and State, garrison chaplains, bearing duly specified military
grades, were part of the regular equipment of the army. When the State
refused to recognize them any longer as functionaries, all priests
became at once liable along with the laymen of their own year to
ordinary military service. Consequently in the present war, either as
men on the active list or as reservists or territorials, thousands of
_abbés_ and _curés_, besides monks, novices, choristers, lay brothers,
and other servants of the Church, are now serving with the colours.

As far as possible they are employed in the non-combatant ranks, but
large numbers of them, both as officers and privates, serve shoulder to
shoulder in the trenches and on the field of battle with the other
fighting-men. As a body they seem to be inspired, even more than most
soldiers, by the courage which springs from contempt of death. In nearly
all the countless stories that are told of their heroism the dominant
note is the same. Having once, in the pronouncement of their clerical
vows, laid down their lives in the service of God, they are always ready
to lay them down again in the service of their fellow-soldiers, whenever
and wherever the need arises, without for one moment counting the cost.
Time after time, like the many humble village _curés_, too old or too
weak to serve their country in arms, who have nevertheless gone to meet
the barbarians and death without flinching, they have shown to the enemy
and to all the world that France has no more gallant sons and soldiers
than her priests.

But they have done something more than that. Though they have become the
soldiers of France they have remained the soldiers of Christ. Here is
one of many instances that come crowding into my mind. A private
soldier, badly wounded, was lying in one of the military hospitals, and,
believing that he was on the point of death, asked anxiously for the
services of a priest. At the moment none was to be found. The man in the
next bed, with his thigh hideously shattered by a shell, was lying
almost unconscious in a state of partial coma. Gradually, however, he
realized what the doctor and the nurses of the ward were talking about.
Weak and exhausted as he was, he managed to make one of them understand
that he was himself a priest, and would pronounce the absolution of his
fellow-soldier if she would hold up his hand; and then, as he whispered
the words that brought to the other the comfort that he wanted, his own
soul passed away.

That story is typical of the kind of lives which numbers of these men in
their double capacity have led and are leading at the present moment. In
out-of-the-way corners of the field, far from any church or chaplain, it
is an everyday occurrence for some private soldier, with his clerical
robes hastily thrown over his uniform, to celebrate mass for the men and
officers of his regiment before the battle begins; or, when it is over,
with the grime and the blood of it still thick upon him, to hear the
confessions of the dying and give them the last consolations of their
faith. Undoubtedly the influence of these soldier-priests and the
influence of the religion for which they stand have had a large share in
maintaining the wonderful _morale_ of the French troops. Even the _franc
maçons_, consciously or unconsciously, are affected by it. The war has
brought the whole nation as well as the armies face to face with the
realities of life and death. They have this enormous advantage over the
Germans, that for them the war they are engaged in is a holy war. They
are not fighting for what they can get. They are fighting to defend and
to free their homes, and therefore they feel and know that they are on
the side of freedom and justice and right. In their trouble and peril
they have turned instinctively to the consolations and the sustaining
strength of what through long ages was their national as well as their
personal religion. They have returned to the faith of their fathers. Not
only individual soldiers and civilians but the authorities of the State
themselves have awakened to the fact that in the great crises of life
men and women have a natural craving for something spiritual, something
outside of and higher than themselves.

Right at the beginning of the war the official rulers of the State and
the Army did a wonderful thing. They took the step of reappointing
regular _aumoniers_, or military chaplains, to the troops of the
Republic; that is to say, they had the courage to undo their own work by
deliberately revoking part of the anti-clerical legislation which, some
years before, the Government had imposed on the country. In the autumn
of 1914 I saw in a town near the eastern frontier a remarkable example
of this same disposition on the part of the officials of the State to
close, at all events to some extent, the breach between State and
Church. In the cathedral of the town (a favourite target for the bombs
of German aeroplanes), a solemn service was being celebrated in memory
of the soldiers who had fallen during the war. And inside the rails of
the chancel, on a chair placed opposite to the throne of the Archbishop
and by the side of the General commanding the district, was seated the
Prefect of the Department. It was the first time for fifteen years that
a Prefect of France, acting in his official capacity and wearing his
official uniform, had attended any form of public religious service. To
the congregation, therefore, his presence at that solemn moment, while
the thunder of Beethoven’s funeral march on the cathedral organ was
almost drowned by the thunder of the guns on the heights outside the
town, was a fact of the deepest significance. It was the outward and
visible sign of the spirit of national unity and brotherly love which
sprang into life all over France at the moment when war was declared. It
was one of many proofs that for France and her highest interests the war
has not been fought and the dead have not died in vain.

               *       *       *       *       *       *

Before I was carried away into this digression by the admiration which
every one must feel for these brave soldier-priests of France, I was
talking of the way in which, on the eastern half of the front, the chief
energy of the war of the trenches has been concentrated at certain
definite points or “craters of death.” West of the Vosges these points
are all in the plain of the Woevre and the Hauts de Meuse, that is to
say, along the sides of the St. Mihiel salient. The chief of them are at
Les Eparges, on the north side of the angle, in the Forest of Apremont
at the angle itself, and near Pont-à-Mousson at the eastern extremity of
its southern side. At, and to a lesser extent between, these points the
French and the Germans have now been at it, hammer and tongs, for more
than a year. I use the expression “hammer and tongs” designedly, because
I can think of no other that so well expresses the position. St. Mihiel
and the Camp des Romains are situated at the hinge of the tongs, Les
Eparges and Pont-à-Mousson towards the extremities of the two legs. With
the object of squeezing the legs closer and closer together, so as to
crush the German forces between them or at least to force them to retire
on Metz, the French have been hammering away at these places for months
past, in accordance with sound dynamic principles. At the same time from
the Forest of Apremont they have pounded even more vigorously at the
Camp des Romains. Dynamically the process of applying the force of the
hammer at the St. Mihiel end of the tongs is not so advantageous, but it
is, as I have tried to show, necessary. Force must be met by an
equivalent force if it is desired to prevent motion in a particular
direction, and they have at least so far succeeded in their object as to
produce a state of equilibrium.

[Illustration: LA WOEVRE.]

The position is one of great interest. What the Germans were trying to
do at the end of September, 1914, they were still aiming at a year
later, and, for all that one can foresee, the situation may be unchanged
up to the time when this book is published, or even later. They wanted,
and they still want, to cross the Meuse at St. Mihiel and in a sense
complete the investment of Verdun. At any time since their first attempt
at this manœuvre failed they might have repeated it, or would have
repeated it if they could. If they had succeeded the consequences for
the French and the whole of the Allies’ line would have been just as
serious as at the beginning. Never was there a clearer case of “As you
were,” and the fact that the point of danger for the French and the
point of opportunity for the Germans was at the angle of the salient has
made the situation there more pregnant with possibilities than at almost
any other part of the front. The unsatisfactory side of it for our
Allies is that because of their failure to turn the enemy out of the
Camp des Romains they have not been able to put an end to the occupation
of the Woevre, and that to a certain extent the menace of a forward
movement still exists. On the other hand, the menace has always been
held well in check, and the legs of the tongs are sensibly nearer to
each other than they were fifteen months ago.

Through the closing months of 1914 and the whole of the following year a
steady pressure was kept up on both sides of the salient by part of the
Verdun garrison force and of the Third Army on the north side, that is
to say, from the Meuse eastwards, and by part of the Toul garrison and
of the Second Army operating from the south towards the Rupt de Mad. As
the result of this general pressure, supplemented by occasional
offensive movements in greater force, the enemy were driven back
slightly on both their fronts.

The first of these offensive movements was made directly on St. Mihiel
from the west. An attack was made on the German troops occupying the
left bank of the river, and at first it had every appearance of being
successful. The enemy were driven out of the suburb and barracks of
Chauvoncourt and retired across the Meuse. Following in hot pursuit, the
leading French troops took possession of the barracks—and fell into a
trap. The ground had been mined by the Germans before their retreat, and
the French paid the consequences of their impetuous advance. Practically
the whole of the force that had entered the barracks was destroyed, and
in the confusion the enemy successfully counter-attacked and remained
masters of Chauvoncourt, which they still hold.

The next attack, a much bigger and brilliantly successful affair, was
made at Les Eparges, twelve or thirteen miles north of St. Mihiel and
the same distance south-east of Verdun. One of its objects was to defeat
the enemy’s project of investing Verdun by driving him further back in
the direction of Vigneulles, which lies about mid-way between the two
fronts of the salient, and at the same time to threaten his position in
the Forest of La Mortagne, to the west of the road from Vigneulles to
Les Eparges. The operations, which began on February 17th and lasted
till April 10th, were carried out with great determination by the
French, and in the end they not only pushed their trenches forward a
considerable distance, but were able to occupy a much safer and more
commanding position. Before the advance was made the Germans had
constructed a very strong redoubt, to the east of the village of Les
Eparges, which was the main objective of the attack. After a careful
preparation first by saps and mines, and then by sustained artillery
fire, it was gallantly stormed and then evacuated and finally retaken,
after a fierce hand-to-hand struggle, on February 19th. For the next six
or seven weeks there was continual fighting on more or less the same
ground till, at the beginning of April, the Crown Prince, who had
returned from one of his prolonged and mysterious absences to the
command of the Fifth Army, had the mortification of adding yet another
to the list of his failures, and the French finally and conclusively
gained the upper hand. They had fought with extraordinary dash and
courage, and had suffered severely. But the result was well worth the
cost. The position which they now hold commands a wide view northwards
and eastwards over the plain of the Woevre. From the east side of the
Forest of Amblonville, in which they have their main cantonments, the
ground falls with a fairly steep descent till it rises again to the long
bare spur of Les Eparges, over a thousand feet high, looking out over
the plain. They are no longer exposed to the risk of an unexpected
attack, as it is impossible for the enemy to concentrate troops in the
ravines and behind the slopes which separate the forest from Les Eparges
without being seen. The other main advantages which the French have
gained on this side of the wedge are that they have made some advance on
the two main roads, six or seven miles apart, which run between Verdun
and Metz, one along the valley of the Orne past Etain, the other from
Fresnes in the direction of Mars-la-Tour. They have also made a slight
move forward on the centre of the German line at Lamorville, a few miles
to the north of St. Mihiel.

On the southern side of the wedge the chief French efforts have been
made at the two extremities of the line, at the Bois d’Ailly and the
Bois Brulé, in the Forest of Apremont, and, fourteen and twenty-one
miles further east, at the Bois de Mort-Mare, directly south of
Thiaucourt, and the Bois le Prêtre, a little to the west of
Pont-à-Mousson. The approach to the Forest of Apremont from the Meuse is
one of the many places on this part of the front where the French side
of the low hills behind the trenches are for miles honeycombed with
cave-dwellings. They have been there so long now that they have become
part of the landscape and look as if they had always belonged to it. I
suppose when the war is over they will still be left for the edification
of the cheap trippers and tourists of the world. What will not be left
for them to see, for it is gone already, is the Bois Brulé. In the
height of summer you can walk for hours along the trenches, through
acres of what was once a green forest, and see never a leaf. Nothing is
left of the trees but shattered stumps, cut clean off by the shells
close to the ground. That gives one some idea of the severity of the
endless duel of the guns. At the east end of the wood the hill on which
it stands drops down sharply into the plain, and through the loopholes
in the front trenches (where you do not linger for more than a few
seconds at a time) you look down on the brown roofs of the village of
Apremont, three or four hundred feet below you. It is full of Germans,
though they never show themselves. But their advanced trenches are much
closer than that, on the top of the reverse slope of the hill, in some
places at the regulation nearest distance of about fifteen yards. Behind
the hill, that is to say, on the south or French side of it, and as far
as one can see to the east, the plain stretches out flat and unbroken
(except by the lines of French and German trenches cut across it),
backed on the south by a series of long, straight, level-topped hills,
écheloned one behind the other, and ending far away to the right in the
blue haze where the heights of the Moselle begin. That is where
Pont-à-Mousson lies, and Bois le Prêtre, the greater part of it another
dreary forest of stumps, through which the battle raged backwards and
forwards again and again for months—or is it centuries?—till at last the
whole of it was won and kept for France by her splendid soldiers.

And that is what they are doing all along the line. The progress is
slow, but what changes there are in the position of the trenches are in
favour of the French. Foot by foot they are winning back the land which
was ravished from them at the beginning, and the longer the struggle for
the possession of the Woevre goes on the surer it becomes that the
occasional offensive movements of the French are assaults and those of
the German attempts at sallies. The St. Mihiel salient is still a
nuisance, but it has almost, if not quite, ceased to be a danger, and
sooner or later it is practically certain that the prolonged attempt to
cross the Meuse will have to be abandoned, and that not a single German
will be left in France from Verdun to the Vosges.

In the Vosges themselves and in the Sundgau, ever since the retirement
from Mulhouse, there has been continual fighting, sometimes of the most
violent description, in which the Chasseurs Alpins and the
Chasseurs-à-pied, splendidly supported by the French field artillery
(supplemented during the latter part of last year with guns of heavier
calibre), have done wonderfully fine work. They have not only
successfully carried out their main task, which was to prevent the enemy
from setting foot on the western slopes of the Vosges, but in the
valleys of the Thur and the Doller and at other points along the line
have gained a considerable amount of valuable ground. Further north, in
the district of Senones, though they have not succeeded in penetrating
again into the valley of the Bruche, they have kept the enemy well in
check, and at the extreme right of the line, towards the Swiss frontier,
have established themselves in a very strong position from which they
are able to keep a watchful eye on Altkirch and Mulhouse, and at the
same time to guard effectively against any attempt at either a
straightforward or a roundabout attack on Belfort.

The main fighting has centred round Thann, Hartmannsweilerkopf, Cernay,
Steinbach, the Ballon of Guebweiler, the valley of the Fecht,
Reichackerkopf, and the valley of Münster, but from the Donon to
Pfetterhausen on the Swiss frontier, especially on the southern section
of this front, there is hardly any ground that has not been the scene of
repeated combats, the net result of which is that the French have almost
everywhere made slight advances. The summit of Hartmannsweilerkopf in
particular, because it guards the entrance to the valley of St. Amarin,
has been bathed in blood over and over again. Four or five times it has
been taken and retaken, with dogged perseverance and extraordinary
heroism, first by the French and then by the Germans, and the struggle
for its possession still continues, though at present it is in the hands
of the French. For both sides this famous mountain-top has been one of
the most deadly of all those terrible “craters of death.”

Beyond this short general statement I shall not for the present attempt
to follow the ins and outs of the campaign on this part of the line. Its
strategical importance has been far greater than has appeared, and, once
the weather conditions permit, there is always a chance of its
developing into an attempt at a big offensive movement by one side or
the other. But as regards the story of those heroic struggles we have
had, I think, our fill of fighting. In the daily engagements on the
plain of Alsace and among the fir-clad mountains of the Vosges the men
of the armies of the east have shown the same enthusiastic devotion to
their country, the same quiet disregard of danger and death, and the
same cheerful endurance and unfailing confidence in the final triumph of
right as their brother-soldiers who fought and died for the safety of
Epinal and Nancy and Verdun and Toul. Higher praise than that they
cannot have. The soldiers of France are the fearless sons of a
great-hearted nation.

As I draw near to the end of this imperfect attempt to show the
greatness of the debt which England owes to France, one other thought
about them comes to me with increasing force. The French have played the
game: they have fought the good fight like knights and gentlemen. That,
more than almost anything else, is the reason why Englishmen have come
to look upon them as something much more than Allies. Because of it they
have forged a bond with us and our children’s children which Time itself
will hardly be able to weaken. They are our brothers, not only in arms,
but in all that civilization stands for. The Germans are—different. They
are our enemies, not only because they are fighting against us, but much
more because of the way in which they have fought. As a state, and, in
cases that cannot be numbered, as individuals they have turned their
backs upon principles and ideals by which all honourable nations and men
must strive to rule their lives. Their scutcheon is blackened with arson
and murder and pillage and rape. Their hands are red with the blood of
the innocent. To the ends of the earth and of time they have made their
name a byword and a reproach. But—worse than all this—they glory in
their shame. They claim that their dishonour is honour and their wrong
the right. Their eyes are holden that they cannot see. Some day they
will be opened and they will see themselves and their crimes in all
their revolting ugliness. For it is unbelievable that a whole nation of
ordinary men and women can continue to allow themselves to be blinded by
the false and cruel and iniquitous standards of a few devils in human
form. But for the present all their sense of right and wrong is being
eaten away by a foul and malignant cancer. Till that cancer has been cut
out of their being by the sword they are a deadly danger to the whole
world, for their success would infallibly spread its poison into every
country on which, in their present condition, they were able to lay
their hand. Till the sword has done its work, as firmly and as
thoroughly as the surgeon’s scalpel, there is not one of the allied
nations which can or will think of peace. Then and then only will come
the end of the war.

CHAPTER THE LAST

GERMANY AND THE ALLIES

Once upon a time, in the careless, happy days before the war, a Royal
Scotch Princess was married one fine morning to a Royal Irish Prince in
a Royal English chapel. The chapel was ancient and small, and the young
pair had so many friends that though not nearly all of them could be
invited to the ceremony, they filled it to overflowing. Besides the
Sovereign Head of both their houses and the State, there were present
two Queens (I had almost said two fairy Godmothers) who walked down the
chapel hand-in-hand looking as sweet and almost as young as the bride
herself, I forget how many other princes and princesses, and scores and
scores of the great lights of the land and especially of the legal
profession (for where the country-to-be-ruled is there will the lawyers
be gathered together). There were not many young people—the occasion was
too important and the seats too few—and, except for the brothers and
sisters and cousins of the two principals nearly all the guests were
married and arrived in couples (like the animals coming into the ark out
of the rain) dressed in their finest and full of their own or their
ancestors’ importance. For to be there at all, you understand, you had
to be SOMEBODY, or at least to the third and fourth generation
SOMEBODY’S offspring, unless you belonged to that mischievous but
necessary profession the British Press, the representatives of which,
the only blot on this brilliant assembly, were crowded together in a
narrow position of vantage so close to the highest and furthest back row
of the seats of the mighty that the shadows of the aigrettes in front
quivered and danced upon their note-books.

To the strains of the organ, appropriately tender and jubilant by turns,
the chapel gradually filled with its distinguished audience, and almost
the last to arrive before the Royal party were an old old servant of the
State and his matronly spouse, who took their places on two of the
gilded chairs immediately below the Press box. Before she shook out the
folds of her dress for the last time the lady turned round and, staring
straight into the face of the newspaper man behind her, at a range of
about two feet, said to her husband in a loud, clear voice (he is rather
deaf), “Oh, it’s only reporters.”

Until you have tried it you have no idea of the degree of polite
contempt which can be put into that last word. And even when you have
tried, and tried your hardest, you will still, if you are only an
amateur at the game, fall far short of the dizzy height of scorn reached
by this professional expert without any conscious effort at all. For
pride of rank and contempt of her inferiors had become to her second
nature.

Once upon a time the same great lady (or perhaps it was another) was on
her way to the gilded chamber to which her husband had been raised,
chiefly by his own forensic skill, but partly by the nimble pencils of
the men who recorded his eloquent speeches for the public press. In the
square outside there was a large and excited crowd, some sympathetic,
some jeering and hostile, and for a moment her carriage was stopped
while the police arrested a pale-faced, elderly woman who had been
trying to exercise what she believed to be her legal right of asking for
an audience with the representatives of her sovereign. Once more in the
same high-pitched voice and with an even deeper tinge of scorn, she
explained the situation to her companion: “It’s only one of those
wretched suffragettes.”

This book is not a suffragist or anti-suffragist pamphlet. It is an
attempt to describe a single phase of the war, and at the same time to
consider some of its actual and possible effects. Still, it seems to me
worth saying that in England before the war there was in all classes far
too much of the spirit expressed in the thoughtless and belittling
“only” of these simple little true stories, and that is why I have told
them. We were much too fond of using such phrases as “only a woman” or
“only a parson.” There were cases before the war when the keepers of
public restaurants refused to serve a fellow-subject with food and drink
because he was only a soldier—wearing the King’s uniform. That sounds
odd to-day. There have been times in our history, and not so very long
ago either, when “only a Frenchman” (with or without a qualifying
adjective) was the regulation way of speaking of our present Allies and
tried and trusty friends, not only because they wore the wrong collars
and hats, but because we were generally inclined to believe that an
Englishman could tackle at least three of them with his left hand.

The unwholesome part of this particular form of national pride has, we
may hope, left us for good. (It has now, incidentally, infected the
Bulgarians, who say to-day that the Western nations can only fight in
the trenches, and that in the open field one Bulgar is equal to five
French or English.) We began to learn the folly of it even before the
war. Sous-lieutenant Carpentier, of the French air-service, taught us a
few lessons. So did Jack Johnson—though he was only a nigger. So did the
football teams from Africa and New Zealand, though they were only
Colonials, and so did our competitors in the Olympic Games, though they
were only foreigners. But more than anything else, it is the war that
has been and must be still our tutor. It is teaching us the lesson which
cock-sure St. Peter (who must surely have had English blood in his
veins) learnt long ago at Joppa—that nothing is common or unclean. It is
teaching us that we must get rid of the kind of Lucifer pride that goes
before a fall. It is teaching us to respect not only our Allies and our
foes, but each other. We have found out that the whole of Europe can
fight. As a body of soldiers, General French’s contemptible little army,
which was sent to fill the gap at Mons, was probably the finest fighting
force, regimental officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, that
ever stepped on to a field of battle. But it was we non-combatants who
wore most of their laurels. At the beginning of this war and in all
previous wars, in our complacent English way, we have always thought and
talked of our regular army (when any part of it was at war) as though it
were actually the nation, instead of only a minute fraction of it, as
though it was we ourselves who were doing the fighting. We have a better
right to our national pride now that the Government of the nation has
decided and the nation (or most of it) has willingly agreed that at
least all its unmarried men of military age shall be trained not only to
defend their country but to take their stand beside the other allied
nations in their battle for something that is far greater and more
sacred and more important than the very greatest of them.

[Illustration:

                              Photograph by Libert-Fernand, Nancy.
  CHURCH AT DROUVILLE—MEURTHE ET MOSELLE
]

I take back nothing of what I have written earlier in this book about
our refusal as a nation to bring ourselves in this respect in a line
with our Allies. Our consent is not even now completely whole-hearted.
For seventeen months we did so refuse, and during that time not all the
magnificence of our unparalleled voluntary effort was magnificent enough
to banish from the minds of our Allies the consciousness, however
politely they might conceal it, that we were lagging behind in the
struggle for the freedom of the world. But while we lagged behind—great
as our contribution was even then to the common cause—we were learning.
Outside our own country we have seen the splendid courage of tiny states
like Belgium and Serbia, as well as the wonderful soldier-like qualities
of the huge national armies of France and Russia and Italy and Germany.
From our own people (and from those others as well) we have learnt that
priests and parsons and men of every profession and trade and class and
condition, however insignificant we used to think them, can endure
hardness as good soldiers, and that women, if they cannot fight, can
(besides knitting socks, which was all that they were supposed to be
good for before the war began) do almost everything else connected with
the war which is commonly regarded as men’s work. Now that we have
mastered these elementary principles we shall, if we let the war teach
us all that it can, go on to the obvious corollary that no nation and no
man and no woman has the right to despise another, and that pride and
prejudice are the root of nearly all evil.

The war itself is the strongest possible evidence of that truth. For it
was the pride of Germany that made the war—not her fear of being
strangled by the surrounding nations, not her need of finding colonies
for her surplus population, not her desire for a place under the sun,
not her passionate longing to ensure for the world the liberty of the
seas, not even her jealousy of England, but her overweening pride.

Between the pride of England and the pride of France there are certain
well-marked differences. But both, because of their ancient histories,
have pride of race, wholesomely tempered by the consciousness that
_noblesse oblige_. Germany has the much more aggressive pride of the
successful _parvenu_. Having made herself, within the memory of people
now living, she looked upon her work with all the pride of the self-made
man, and saw that it was good—after its kind—and straightway aspired to
re-make the whole world after her own image and according to her own
material conceptions. To do that she thought, quite wrongly, that it was
necessary first to subdue it by the sword. She would have been wiser to
keep it in its sheath. Her peaceful invasion was far more penetrating
and far more likely to compass the end she had in view of making her the
dominating nation of the earth. All the world takes her Kultur now at
its proper value. But long before the war, up to the very eve of its
declaration, German influence, and above all German finance and
commerce, had been permeating all the nations now at war with her, as
well as all the neutral states, like bindweed and Virginia Creeper
running riot in a suburban garden. If the war had not come the
independent existence of some of them—Switzerland, for example—would
certainly have been choked. Even the larger countries were beginning to
suffer. In England the phrase, “Made in Germany,” first an economic
measure of self-protection, then a rather feeble joke, and then a
byword, was fast becoming a serious menace—if one accepts as just the
principle of England for the English—to the real interests of the
country. In France, in England, and in other countries there were too
many commercial houses and too many people and too many opinions made in
Germany, if those countries were to retain their national
characteristics and national liberty of thought and action. The
seriousness of the mischief in its gravest form all the world has seen
lately in the United States, where the Government have had to struggle
hard, and not always with success, against the crippling influence of
the fear of the German vote, even though, happier than the neutral
states of Europe, they were entirely free from the parallel
influence—the fear of the German sword.

The process of Germanization was, in fact, as events move in history,
rapid and almost universal. But, fortunately for the world, it was not
rapid enough for German pride. So the war was made by the rulers of
Germany to hurry forward the spread of German Kultur and all that the
word implies, or—was permitted by the higher forces or Powers that rule
the evolution of the world, in order to check it. To the Allies, who did
not begin the war, but did everything in their power to prevent it, the
only possible view is that the Powers or rather the Power that rules the
evolution not of Germany alone nor of France nor of England, but of the
whole world, is a greater and higher power than the rulers of Germany.
That is the confidence in which we are fighting. We do not look upon
ourselves as the Chosen People, with a special claim on the mercy of
God. We have no special form of culture which we think or pretend it is
our duty to impose on the rest of the world. We have no need and no
right because our cause is a holy one to invent a special unholy code of
the rules of war, and of might and right, in order to secure its
triumph. These are forged credentials and counterfeit excuses, and not
all the ingenuity of the false prophets who plunged deluded Germany into
this war can make them pass as genuine. The prophets and the professors
prophesied falsely, and the people, whether they loved to have it so or
not, must suffer the consequences.

As for ourselves, we believe, rulers and people, that we went into this
war with clean hands and clear consciences. But that is no proof that we
are right. The Germans, or the majority of them, no doubt think the same
of themselves and their country. At the bar of the nations we must be
judged, when the war is over. But meanwhile, while it is still in
progress, we can get some idea of the way in which the other nations
regard us from the opinion of the neutral states and even of our Allies.
_Fas est et ab amicis doceri._

Since the war began I have watched it and England’s share in it from
Belgium, Holland, France, Italy, and German and French Switzerland, and
have talked about it with the inhabitants of various other countries,
including Serbs, Greeks, Russians, Swedes, Montenegrins, and Americans.
Never once have I heard it said, though I have seen it hinted in
print—in German print—that we came into the war from anything but
disinterested motives. And that is the one thing that matters. I was
once called upon, when the war was less than a year old, to speak about
it at a large meeting of French and German Swiss, specially arranged as
a meeting of neutrals. Strictly speaking, it was neutral only in name
and on the surface, in the sense that the men composing it were
persuaded that their highest duty was to stand together for a United
Switzerland, and to sink their differences and individual opinions for
the sake of their common country. But the differences and individual
opinions were there. Every man in the room, whatever his politics (they
were mostly Socialists), consciously and strongly wanted one side or the
other, France or Germany, to win. But the very fact that as individual
jurymen they were not impartial made their verdict, provided that it was
unanimous, all the more convincing. It was in the days when every one in
Switzerland was still discussing the rights and wrongs of the war—and
before a German airman had dropped bombs on that particular Swiss town.
Having explained that I personally was not a neutral (an obvious remark
which was greeted with loud laughter, as a characteristic specimen of
English humour), I went on to the further statement, not necessarily
quite so obvious to the whole of that particular audience, that England
had come into the war because Germany had been guilty of the violation
of Belgium’s neutrality, and that if we had not done so we could never
have looked the other nations in the face again. Before the words were
out of my mouth they had given their verdict in a unanimous burst of
applause. Every man of them, and not only those who naturally
sympathized with the Allies, showed as clearly as possible that on that
point they needed no persuasion. Germany was guilty, and England had
done the one thing possible. And that, as far as my observation goes, is
the general opinion abroad, not only in Switzerland (in spite of the
natural predisposition of many of the inhabitants to think well of
Germany as well as to fear her) but in Holland, the Americas, Sweden,
and practically the whole of the neutral world.

As for our Allies the French, we have fought side by side for a year and
a half, and each of us knows by now of what mettle the other is made.
They started the war with two fixed ideas about us—that we were not a
military nation (which, if you compare the relative size of our two
armies at the beginning, was, from their point of view, perfectly true),
and that, conscious of the might of our fleet and lulled to a state of
careless repose by the sense of our island security, it would take us a
long time to wake up to the real seriousness of the war. Looking back on
what has passed, it is not easy to say that they were wrong. Some of
us—millions of us—realized it from the first. But very many did not.
Long after the war had begun there were people in England who held that
we were doing more than our share and more than enough, because, as was
true, we were doing far more than we had promised. There were even some
so foolish and so selfish as to say that our soldiers in Flanders were
fighting the battles of France, and not the battles of England, since
England had not been and never could be attacked. The French were more
generous than these narrow-minded myoptics (who, after all, were only a
small minority), and at the same time more clear-sighted. Frankly and
with deep gratitude they owned that but for the help of England France
must have been crushed. But they also believed that when that had
happened our turn would inevitably have come next, and that the only
hope for England and the world was that France and England should face
the foe together with every ounce of their united strength. Small blame
to them, then, if they were seriously concerned when they saw that in
England alone of all the combatant nations—Germany excepted—the
enervating evil of strikes and labour threats could still exist. Small
blame to them if they sometimes wondered how long it would be before,
for our own security, we overcame our timid objections to the principle
of national service.

But they always felt sure, I think, that the time would come—as it has
come, in the last days of 1915—when England would face the necessity of
putting her whole strength into the field in order to bring the war to a
triumphant conclusion, and to complete what a friend of mine, a high
official of France, spoke of in a letter which he wrote to me last May,
as “le grand œuvre de la guerre, c’est à dire la Rédemption.”

“C’est bien en effet de rédemption qu’il s’agit,” he went on, “la
rédemption du monde. L’humanité voit aujourd’hui, elle voit de ses yeux,
ce qu’elle serait devenue si les Boches avaient triomphé, imposant au
monde leur loi morale. Pour moi je suis tenté parfois de remercier les
Boches d’avoir complété ma vie morale: ils m’ont appris la Haine, la
haine forte comme l’Amour, qui emplit le cœur, le réchauffe, le brûle
parfois, qui décuple les forces, qui tranforme la vie. C’est le rôle que
les Boches joueront désormais dans le monde civilisé; ils auront pour
fonction d’être un objet de haine. A cette idée l’Angleterre vient peu à
peu. Elle n’est pas encore au point, puisque les ouvriers de tramways de
Londres ont fait grève: j’ai vu à l’hôpital un petit chasseur-à-pied,
amputé du bras droit, qui en lisant cette nouvelle dans le journal s’est
mis à pleurer. Mais le Boche commetra bien encore quelques infamies
nouvelles, et l’Angleterre tout entière ‘haïra’ d’une haine active et
féconde.”

I doubt myself whether we shall ever quite reach that point. The very
sound of the phrase, “Redemption by Hate,” is rather strong meat for
English minds. We have not got that Latin fervour of expression, and we
have not seen a tithe or anything like a tithe of what the French have
seen of the abominable works of the Boche, especially in the eastern
provinces. I have heard it rumoured that the British soldier—the British
Tommy, that is to say—is by way of thinking and saying that brother
Boche is not such a bad fellow after all, and that he would not mind
making friends with him. At the present moment and until the war is won
anything approaching that frame of mind, if it were at all widespread,
would be a calamitous and fatal mistake. The British soldier, especially
the British soldier of the new armies, has seen, or at least has fought
against, the Germans on the fields of battle and in the trenches, where
they are at their best. For no one can deny their fighting qualities. He
has not seen “with his eyes” what they did behind the present lines of
trenches, when they had to deal not with soldiers, but with defenceless
civilians. He is a light-hearted and forgiving individual, and does not
realize that what they did then they will do again in this war if ever
they get the chance. He cannot be expected in the trenches to grasp the
far graver general danger of the poisonous influence which was being
exercised on the world and on Germany before the war by the whole rotten
system of German Militarism and German Kultur, bolstered up by German
pride. He has no time while he is fighting our battles to reflect that
that influence will infallibly begin its corrupting and deadening work
again after the war, and will spread with far greater rapidity, unless
the Militarist party is beaten to its knees.

But, even admitting that here and there in the ranks there may be some
of this quasi-friendly feeling towards “brother Boche,” the fact, if it
is a fact, need disturb no one. We may not have in England the Latin
quickness and fervour of the French, but what we have got is the bulldog
grip. Once we have taken hold, though we may be slow in starting, we do
not let go. Now that our teeth are set we will hold on to the end—and
God defend the right!

But what is the right? The proud German dream of a Greater Germany? I
think not. I doubt if even the Germans themselves can think so, if they
look at it dispassionately as it was presented—three years before the
war began—by the Pan-Germanist prophet, Otto Richard Tannenberg. We
certainly cannot complain that they did not give us fair warning.

The gist of his country’s dream can be given quite shortly in his own
words. “Greater Germany,” he wrote, “can only be made possible by a
struggle with Europe. Russia, France, and England will oppose the
establishment of Greater Germany. Austria, feeble as she is, will not
weigh heavily in the balance. The Germans will not march against
Germany. The basis of our enterprise must be the Pan-Germanist
principle.

“Some one must make room, either the Slavs of the West or of the South,
or else we ourselves! As we are the strongest the choice will not be
difficult. We must give up our attitude of modest expectation. There can
be no question of remaining without stirring at the point where we stand
to-day.... Since 1871 our neighbours have often enough given us chances
of appealing to the decision of the sword. Only the wish has been
lacking to us. After all, every war can be avoided. But it is also easy
to find motives, when one wants to.... As for us, there is no need to
hunt for one in the vicissitudes of the relations between the various
Courts; one fact is enough for us, that since the foundation, the
consolidation, and the expansion of our empire the Germans are being
harassed and oppressed in all countries. In Russia, in Austria, in
England, in America we have seen a feeling of hatred against Germany
develop which we cannot tolerate much longer without losing our standing
in those countries.”

That was written, remember, not during the war, nor on the eve of it,
but in 1911. We have seen since then how the Pan-Germanist principle
that “after all, every war can be avoided, but it is also easy to find
motives, if one wants to” was carried out. What we will not see and will
not tolerate is the establishment of Greater Germany. For it means
amongst other things, according to the prophet Tannenberg, not only that
Ireland will become independent of England, and that Austria-Hungary
will be incorporated in the German Empire, but that the neutral states
of Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Belgium, neutral no longer,
will disappear completely from the map of Europe and lose their identity
and their freedom in the maw of the same all-embracing and all-devouring
organization.

What need have we of further witness? Out of their own mouths the
Germans are condemned, for the thousandth time. The war was deliberately
provoked, though “like any war,” it might have been avoided. The excuse
for it, invented long beforehand, that it was to put an end to the
alleged oppression of Germans in Russia, Austria, England, America, and
all other countries, was as false as the pretence that any such
oppression existed. The real object, the aggrandizement of Germany, not
only by the oppression but by the suppression of all the weaker Latin
and German races of Europe, was exhibited naked and unashamed, for all
the world to see, long before the would-be oppressor drew the sword. It
remains to-day more than ever the real object of the war, now that it is
unsheathed. No possible special pleading can maintain, much less prove,
that the suppression of Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and Switzerland
(to say nothing of the partial suppression of France, England, Russia,
Italy, and Servia), is right. The mere suggestion of such an idea is an
abominable wrong, which God will not defend, and because of it Great
Britain will not tolerate, in any shape or form, the establishment of a
Greater Germany. We are going to win this war. But let every man of the
Allies and above all every Englishman, reflect on this undoubted fact.
Because it is a war between right and wrong, between the powers of light
and the powers of darkness, we shall not win it until we have learnt its
great lesson, until we know as a nation—and we do not know it yet—that
its particular message to our own country is the duty of self-sacrifice.

               *       *       *       *       *       *

It is the first day of the New Year. Last night the Old Year, the
saddest and most terrible that the world has ever seen, came to its
appointed end.

Five or six miles from where I am writing French and Germans were facing
each other in unwonted silence under the dark night in the unending
vigil of the trenches. A few days and nights ago the roar of the guns at
Hartmannsweilerkopf, at Thann, at Altkirch, at Pfetterhausen, at Moos,
was more violent and more continuous than anything that has been heard
here since the war began. Now there was not a sound. Only in the last
few minutes of 1915 a sudden squall of wind and rain swooped down from a
cloudless sky. Moaning and weeping like a suffering child that cannot
sleep, like a broken-hearted old man worn out by the anguish of life,
the Old Year passed away to make room for the New. To-day in a glorious
burst of sunshine, the New has come—and every second the air quivers to
the shock of the heavy guns. For the weary fight has begun again. The
end is not yet. Perhaps even here, through this peaceful valley, so
little removed from the actual field of battle, the German hosts may
make their last despairing unavailing effort to reach the heart of
France. But they will never reach it. The way is barred by the dead, the
uncounted glorious dead whose graves stretch from here to the English
Channel in an unbroken line. For their sakes, and the sake of all they
fought and died for, France and England can never put up the sword till
the victory is won. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is
written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the
strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

DELÉMONT,
    January 1st, 1916.



                                EPILOGUE

                        BY MONSIEUR LÉON MIRMAN,

            PREFECT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF MEURTHE ET MOSELLE.

[M. L. Mirman, who is a Fellow of the University of Paris and was a
Mathematical Lecturer at the Lycée of Reims, was elected Deputy for
Reims in 1893. He represented the city in Parliament till 1905, when he
resigned his post as Deputy to become _Directeur de l’Assistance et de
l’Hygiène Publiques_. Interesting as this office was in time of peace,
it did not agree in time of war with his ideas of active work, and at
the beginning of the month of August, 1914, he was appointed, at his own
request, to the frontier post of Prefect of Nancy.—G. F. C.]

                                          Nancy, February 2nd, 1916.

MY DEAR CAMPBELL,

      You wrote the last words of your book on the 1st of January, 1916,
at Delémont. I am very sorry that you did not open the year 1916 where
you began the year 1915, among your friends at Nancy. You would have
witnessed there a fresh crime, bearing the unmistakable hall-mark of
“Kultur.”

Nancy—as you proved for yourself _de visu_, and as you state in the
course of your book—is a _ville ouverte_, without any fortifications. It
does not contain a single military establishment. The barracks, which
are full of soldiers in time of peace, were emptied on the first day of
the war, and were all converted either into hospitals or else into homes
of refuge for women and children, refugees whom I gathered in from the
destroyed communes. Not one cannon, not one shell, not one soldier is
housed in the town. And yet, by means of a long-range gun, mounted at a
distance of about 33 kilometres, the Boches are sending us shells of 800
kilos., which fall from a height of 8000 metres and crush a house like a
walnut. They have no military objective. What, then, is their purpose?
Their intention is twofold. In the first place they wish to “terrorize”;
these people are fools, they will never understand that they inspire not
fear but horror, and that by acts of this kind they are sowing not
terror but hatred. In the second place, they hope to kill, in this great
industrial town, a few women and children. This object they can
obviously attain more easily than the other; it lies within the reach of
every artilleryman, however poor a gunner he may be, who takes a large
town as his target.

So far this statement tells you nothing that you did not know before. It
is a long time since the Boches gave us their first samples. Every one
is acquainted with their methods. To-day it is only of set purpose that
it is possible to ignore them. The bombardment, without any military
reason, of open towns with no garrison, has become, on the part of the
Germans, an everyday affair. But these last bombardments of Nancy show a
particularly studied nicety, full of the most delicate refinement.

These heavy guns began to fire on our beloved city of Lorraine in the
dawn of the new year, on the sunny morning of the 1st of January, 1916.
Picture to yourself, _cher ami_, on the evening of that 1st of January,
the family hearth of a German intellectual, a chemist, a philosopher, a
historian, or an artist. Herr Doktor is surrounded by his children, they
are celebrating the feast of the New Year by eating sausages and jam, or
black puddings and sugar. The evening paper arrives. The family stop
talking. Herr Doktor unfolds the sheet, and reads aloud the stop-press
news: “To-day, January 1, twelve shells of 800 kilos, were fired on
Nancy. Several houses were reduced to dust. Two old men were buried
under the ruins of one of them. The explosion of a shell killed a child
of fifteen months in the arms of its grandmother....” Herr Doktor
exclaims: “Wife, children, stand up! We must celebrate this victory on
our feet. Hoch! Hoch! Hoch! The children of Nancy have received some New
Year’s presents, some kolossal presents, explosive sugar-plums weighing
800 kilos. The year 1916 has opened magnificently. This victory of Nancy
will fill with pride and enthusiasm all the sons of Great Germany. Let
us thank our old German God for having granted it to us. Let us praise
our mighty Emperor. Hoch! Hoch! Hoch!”

As for us we buried our dead, poor innocent victims, in silence. We
washed the pavement red with blood. We put down this new crime in the
list of accounts that has to be settled. And we set ourselves again to
our work, with our spirits not cast down but invigorated by the ordeal.

German crimes! You have seen some of them, my dear Campbell, in
Lorraine. A day will come when we shall have to make a complete list of
them, for the instruction of future generations. There will be some of
us, I hope, who will devote ourselves to this task. It would be too
monstrous that the veil of oblivion should be drawn over all these
crimes.

It is imperative that we should know, that the whole world shall
recognize, that our school-children shall learn all the evil that the
German has done to mankind. At the head of these plain statements—all
the more terrible indictments for the dryness of the official reports—we
will place the following declarations, the authors of which are classed
amongst the most notorious German writers:

“There is nothing in common between them (Kultur and Civilization). The
war which is being waged is that of Kultur against Civilization. Kultur,
the spiritual (!) organization of the world, which does not exclude
bloody savagery—Kultur which is above morals, reason, science; Kultur,
die Sublimerung des Dämonischen.” This unforgettable profession of faith
appeared under the signature of Thomas Mann in the _Neue Rundschau_, in
the number of November, 1914.[A]

-----

Footnote A:

  This quotation is second-hand; I have taken it from the _Au-dessus de
  la Mélée_ of Romain Rolland. We know that he belongs to the small
  number of those men, if I may dare call them so, who at the moment
  when their family is massacred, their house set on fire, their old
  father shot, their sister violated, isolate themselves in a tower of
  ivory, from the top of which, looking on at these crimes, and striving
  to hold an even balance between the assassins and the victims, they
  proclaim themselves “Above the conflict.”... This state of mind is at
  least a guarantee to us of the accuracy of the expressions which he
  quotes from the profession of faith of his “brother” Thomas Mann.

-----

And this criticism, addressed by Maximilian Harden to the German
Government, after having treated as lies their distracted efforts to
excuse the violation of Belgium neutrality:—

“What is the use of all this fuss?... Might creates right for us. Does a
strong man ever submit to the foolish pretensions or the sentimentality
of a band of weaklings?”

You know, my dear Campbell, the spirit in which we began this war—the
same spirit as that of our English friends. For our part we were
governed by respect for treaties, for international agreements, for the
laws of war, for the rights of nations, for everything by which men, in
their bloody struggles one against the other, had tried to raise
themselves little by little above the level of wild beasts. Since the
war had come, since it had been forced upon us by the enemy—who, after
an elaborate preparation, had chosen his own time—we wished, while
engaging in it and carrying it through, to minimize its calamities as
much as possible, by strictly observing the articles of agreement by
which the nations had mutually bound themselves to consider the wounded
as _res sacra_, not to maltreat civilians, not to bombard open towns,
and so on. We have paid dearly for the chivalrous illusions which we had
at the outset.

Let me give you two examples of the state of mind which prevailed in
France at that moment.

The Boches—I say it not to justify but to explain their acts of
murder—pretended, as you remind us in the course of your book, that
civilians had fired upon them. It is a cynical falsehood. Since the
beginning of August, 1914, I have administered the Department of Meurthe
et Moselle, and I have made a searching investigation in all my
communes. I affirm that no non-combatant, no man not regularly classed
in the ranks of the army, has ever fired on the enemy. Never? I
exaggerate. There has been one case. One day, in 1914, a German
aeroplane flew over the plains of Lorraine; it dropped murderous bombs
at random on the peaceable population of certain rural communes. On
seeing this, the Mayor of one of these communes, close to Nancy, lost
his sangfroid, armed himself with an old fowling-piece, and began to
fire at the aeroplane. There was certainly some excuse for him, was
there not? But I considered that he was at fault. Assassins must not be
killed by passers-by; it is the business of the gendarmes to arrest
them. In war it is the army’s business—it is strong enough for the
job—to punish the enemy. Consequently the action of this mayor called
for censure. I did not hesitate to make an order against this honest but
over-strung magistrate; in virtue of the powers conferred upon me by the
law, I suspended him from his functions. This order was universally
approved; it interpreted the unanimous wish of all civilians not to
provide any pretext for German brutality.

I take another example of our standard of behaviour from the story of
Badonviller. This Lorraine commune was one of the first that suffered
the horrors of Kultur. It was entered by the Germans at the beginning of
the month of August. Because our troops had met them with a stubborn
resistance which cost them dear, they were mad with fury when they
entered the little town; it was there that they first used the special
implements with which their soldiers had been supplied for methodical
and “scientific” house-burnings; they destroyed, with fire applied by
hand, half the commune. That was not enough for them; they shot down the
people in the streets like rabbits, they killed women and children on
the threshold of their doors. The mayor, M. Benoit, a much-respected
business man, saw his young wife assassinated before his eyes; he saw
his house burnt, and was himself the object of the worst forms of
violence. These scenes of outrage only lasted for a short time. On the
next day the French troops retook Badonviller by a vigorous effort, and,
after a hot pursuit, made a number of prisoners. These prisoners were
brought to the square in front of the Mairie. They were some of the
brute-beasts with human faces, who, a few hours before, had burnt the
commune and bathed it in blood. The houses to which they had set fire
were still smoking. The bodies of their innocent victims were not yet
buried. A crowd of infuriated peasants gathered round them, shaking
their fists at them, and abusing them with angry cries. The situation
was becoming awkward, when the mayor arrived. M. Benoit had just seen
his poor wife placed in her coffin. He had no longer a home. His house
was a mass of smoking ashes. He was ruined. His heart was broken. He
drew near the scene. The prisoners thought that their last hour had
come, and turned livid with terror.

But M. Benoit is a Mayor of France. He knows the traditions of our
country. He respects the law. He forced a way through the crowd. With a
single gesture he called for silence. He reminded them that these men
were prisoners, that prisoners were protected by international
agreements, and that no one had a right to lay a finger on them—no, not
even on them. He put himself in front of them. He made a rampart for
them with his body. He declared that while he lived not a hair of the
head of one of these prisoners of war should be touched. And the
peasants, mastered by their sense of duty, stifled their cries of anger,
unclenched their fists, and respectfully moved away and went into their
houses.

The Bavarian assassins were decorated by the Kaiser, for their crimes,
with the Iron Cross. The French Government at my request granted to M.
Benoit the Cross of the Legion of Honour, and a few days later I
presented it to him with my own hands.

Those are the principles with which, on one side and the other, we began
the war, and these two incidents, taken at random from a hundred of the
same kind, seem to me to show accurately the difference between the two
methods, the difference between the Civilization on which Thomas Mann
heaps his contempt, jeering at its “reason, its gentleness, and its
emancipation,” and the Kultur which, according to him, is “above
morality, reason, and science,” the Kultur which he hails as “die
Subliemerung des Dämonischen.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Have these principles been modified? Those of the Germans, no; our own,
yes. The Germans have systematically continued the practical application
of their gentlemanly instincts. After the crimes of Lorraine and Belgium
came the unpardonable outrage of the _Lusitania_, followed by others so
numerous and so varied that I must give up the idea of finding room for
them in this letter; a whole volume would not be long enough to give a
full list of them.

If the principles of the Boches have remained the same and have incited
them every day to the commission of fresh outrages, ours—I say it
frankly—have changed.

We want three things—to-day reprisals of defence—to-morrow
compensations—finally, to save the future, punishment.

Reprisals? Most certainly. There are two kinds of reprisals, those of
vengeance and those of defence. The first I reject; the second I demand.
I should be proud if French soldiers and their brothers-in-arms kept
their hands clean when they penetrate into Germany. I swear that no
violence could have stained them if the Boches had not been piling up
provocations for months and months. In any case I am quite sure that if,
contrary to my hopes, they were to give way to these provocations, our
dear soldiers would never commit a tenth part of the acts of violence
which have been suffered by our unhappy populations; they would dismiss
with horror the idea of setting fire to ambulances, or of massacring old
men and women and children.

But there are reprisals of defence. These I hope for, and our Nations
demand them. We have got to defend our soldiers and our civilians. To
reply, in the trenches, to grenades with oranges, to gases which kill
with gases which make the eyes smart, to liquid fire with cold water,
would not only be idiotic, it would be criminal. In battle, an eye for
an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Abel must fight with the same weapons as
Cain. However varied the forms of human folly may be, I imagine that no
one will dispute this necessity. If, however, any soft-hearted
philanthropists raise a protest and entreat us not to answer gas by gas
and fire by fire, it would be easy to form a few gangs of them and place
them in the front-line trenches, with instructions, when asphyxiating
gases of the enemy arrive, to disperse the clouds by blowing upon them,
and to put out the flames of the liquid fire with their gentle tears.

We have also got to defend civilians. Intoxicated by their philosophers
the Boches can only understand the arguments of force. They laugh
ponderously at our protests in the name of right. Blows are the only
things that they can feel. We ought thoroughly to convince them that
every time that one of our open towns is bombarded by cannon, by
Zeppelin, or by aeroplanes, one of our aeroplanes, while we are waiting
for something better, will bombard one of theirs. An excellent effect
was produced by the operations at Carlsruhe and Stuttgart. Let us equip
hundreds of aeroplanes for purposes of bombardment, and let each outrage
of the Boches on our towns be followed by an immediate riposte, frankly
announced in the newspapers to the whole world. Is that cruelty? I would
accept that reproach from no one. I have immense pity in my heart—pity
for our children and our women who are the victims of German assassins,
pity for our children and our women whom it is our duty to protect, and
whom we can protect in this way only! That, I repeat, is not a reprisal
of vengeance, but a reprisal of defence. The people who protest against
the use of such means ought not to remain far from the danger zone. Let
them go—not alone, that would be too easy, but with their family, their
old mothers, their wives, their children—let them go and take up their
abode in the open towns which serve most often as targets, to Reims, to
Pont-à-Mousson, to Nancy, to Dunkerque; let them go and live there in
the houses of the poor, which are crushed like walnuts by big shells and
split from top to bottom by Zeppelin bombs, or else let them take a
berth for a few months on a transatlantic steamer; when they have been
there long enough, when they have observed at close quarters the acts of
the Boches, when they have seen some loved one fall by their side, when
they have felt on their own brow the wind of a Camarde, then, if they
still demand that the Allies should not engage in reprisals of defence,
their advice, though it may not be wise, will at least be worthy of
respect. In the meantime, in the name of the women and children already
assassinated, and that the list of these pitiable victims may not be
lengthened, those people had better be silent who, from the asylum of
their safe and comfortable homes, invite us to reply to crime by
diplomatic notes or by prayers, and to counter actions that kill with
words that lull to sleep!

I said that from to-day our wish is for reprisals of defence, and that
to-morrow we shall want compensation and punishment.

One word only about _compensations_. It is not enough that everything
which has been destroyed and can be paid for shall be paid for. Those
who have wilfully set our villages on fire must be compelled to rebuild
them; we shall, I hope, requisition in “Boche”-land enough manual labour
to repair all that can be repaired of their crimes. When they have not
destroyed our manufactories they have pillaged them, stealing raw
material, manufactured articles, and machines; I sincerely hope that
they will be compelled to restore our plant to us in good condition,
that in case of need, while we wait for better, we shall not hesitate to
take theirs in place of our own, which they have no doubt broken up, and
that we shall have the sense to impose upon them a whole category of
economic measures calculated to restore those of our industries which
they have deliberately ruined.

And I imagine also that in the domain of art, compensations will be put
down in settling up the accounts. We will leave them all their own
public monuments, in the clumsy bad taste of which they take such pride.
But there are in the German and Austrian museums masterpieces of art—not
of German art, but of Flemish or Italian, Dutch or French, Russian or
English. The Boches will entertain profound respect for us if we collect
all these works, which in any case they do not understand, and form with
them in beautiful maltreated towns such as Louvain, Ypres, Reims, and
Arras, museums of the Great War. If we do not act in this way they would
feel no gratitude towards us, but would treat us simply as imbeciles,
and for once I should be of their opinion.

But to come to a graver question: the necessity for punishment. It will
not be enough that the material and economic damage which they have done
shall be repaired, it will not be enough that the Monster which has
steeped the whole world in blood shall be struck down and rent limb from
limb, and placed for ever in a condition in which it can do no harm. The
outraged conscience of humanity demands personal decrees against the
assassins.

Ah! If the sponge were to be passed over all the crimes that have been
committed, over all the outrages and all the violations of the rights of
nations, if this war were to be ended by an ordinary treaty modifying
the frontiers, and stipulating for financial and economic conditions and
nothing more, and if, after this treaty, wearied of hating and giving in
to a great craving for moral peace, the hostile Nations were to blot
from their memories the recollection of the Evil accomplished, and were
to throw themselves into each other’s arms and exchange a mighty kiss of
concord and of love—let us take every precaution against such a
possibility! A misfortune would overtake humanity far more serious for
it than all the catastrophes which it has suffered in the course of its
sorrowful history. I say that if we do not strike at the head of the
most exalted, the most powerful among the responsible authors of these
crimes—those who let loose the war, those who gloried in tearing up
treaties like “scraps of paper,” those who ordered the sinking of the
_Lusitania_ and the _Persia_ and their thousands of passengers, those
who first bombarded open towns, those who for the first time launched
aeroplanes and Zeppelins over our industrial cities on both sides of the
Channel (to speak only of our own front) those who burnt Louvain, who
murdered the Cathedral of Reims, those who gave the order for the first
acts of incendiarism and pillage and assassination, those who splashed
the statue of Charity with the noble blood of Miss Cavell, those who
started the _régime_ of asphyxiating gases and liquid fire, and all who
have placed themselves beyond the pale of the law, and of humanity—if
the sword of the law does not fall on all these men personally, this is
what will happen: man will no longer believe in honour, he will no
longer believe in right, he will no longer believe in justice, he will
no longer believe in anything. His faith in a better future will vanish
and be dispelled for ever, along with the beautiful dreams which—whether
they were realizable or not—were our joy, our hope, and our pride, in
which we were constructing, on the foundation of Law and of Right,
better national and international organizations than those by which man
up to our day had protected himself. If the criminals do not bear the
punishment of their crimes the principle of responsibility gives way,
carrying with it all our codes and laws. It will remain a settled
principle that only Force counts. The force of Germany will not have
triumphed this time, but its hateful doctrine will remain all-powerful,
and that would be for humanity a terrible moral relapse.

The Germans have taught us to hate—and perhaps that is their greatest
moral crime. To this new passion, but lately still unknown to us, we had
for long ages closed our hearts. We should not have allowed it to enter
them, if, whether as conquerors or conquered, we had been challenged by
our enemies to an honourable combat. Under the repeated blows of their
outrages our hearts ended by giving it admittance; hatred has entered
into them, it has settled itself there, and taken up its abode. It will
stay there till justice has been done. Our soul will not be freed from
hatred till the day when the expiation of the chief culprits has been
carried out. Then, and then only, humanity will be able to resume its
enthusiastic and yet halting march in the direction of Progress.

These are not the extravagant visions of a solitary dreamer. You
recognize these sentiments, friend Campbell. You have felt how strongly
they were imposed upon upright consciences, however enamoured of the
ideal, by the stern contact with realities. No one can remain a stranger
to that fact who has made the melancholy pilgrimages which you have in
the murdered lands,—for example, in the wasted fields of Lorraine or
Champagne—if, in the cities of Reims or of Pont-à-Mousson, in Sermaize
or Clermont en Argonne, in Nomeny or Gerbéviller—and all the other
places, alas! where innocent blood has flowed—he can hear and remember
with a brotherly heart the cries of the martyrs, as he passes through
the midst of the ruins.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Is it impossible to realize these projects? Is it an idle fancy to talk
of such conditions and to demand such punishments, while the enemy is
still burrowing in trenches dug in our soil? No! No! Whatever trials we
may still have to submit to, whatever long sufferings we may still have
to endure, in France, as in England, in Russia, in Italy, in Belgium,
and in Servia, we all know perfectly well—as the rest of the world is
beginning to know—that absolute victory, with the conditions dictated by
us, will without any doubt be the prize of our efforts, if we pursue
those efforts with enough resolution and method, that is to say if we
are determined to have it, if our determination and our actions are in
proportion to the importance of the object we have to attain. And you,
friend Campbell, will have the honour of being of the number of those
who, from the first hour, have had a clear vision of the future, of
those who have taught your noble Nation to _understand_ and to be
_determined_. And so with all my heart I give you my hand.

                                                  Yours truly,
                                                        LÉON MIRMAN.



------------------------------------------------------------------------

    PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND DECCLES.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

         Telegrams:                           41 and 43 Maddox Street,
  “Scholarly, Reg. London.”                    Bond Street, London, W.
         Telephone:                               _October, 1916._
      No. 1883 Mayfair.

                          Mr. Edward Arnold’s

                                 AUTUMN
                          ANNOUNCEMENTS, 1916.

                             --------------

                       CHAPTERS FROM MY OFFICIAL
                                 LIFE.

                   By SIR C. RIVERS WILSON, G.C.M.G.

                        Edited by E. MACALISTER.

     _One Volume. With Portraits. Demy 8vo. Cloth._ =12s. 6d. net.=

The autobiography of Sir C. Rivers Wilson covers a long period and
touches on many interesting historical events. Sir Rivers, who was born
in 1831 and died in 1916, passed the greater part of his life in the
service of his country. While still a young man at the Treasury, he was
for some time private secretary to Mr. Disraeli, of whom he has some
good stories to tell, and he has much to say about the celebrated “Bob
Lowe,” whose notorious “match tax” has lately been passed by Mr.
McKenna. For over twenty years Sir Rivers Wilson was the head of the
National Debt Office, but his most interesting work during that time was
when he was specially detached for financial diplomacy in Egypt, and his
account of his difficult dealings with the Khedive Ismail Pasha brings
much that is new to light. It is particularly relevant at the present
time, when Prince Hussein, the son of Ismail Pasha, has been established
as independent Sultan of Egypt under the British Protectorate. Sir
Rivers gives us most entertaining chapters on Ferdinand de Lesseps, le
Grand Français, whom he knew intimately, and on many other Parisian
celebrities of later days. At the age of sixty-four Sir Rivers became
connected with America, first through C. P. Huntington and the Central
Pacific Railway, then as President of the Grand Trunk Railway, which he
raised to a position of great prosperity. All this he tells in a modest
and unassuming way, with many touches of humour. His style is “chatty”
and genial, and it is obvious that Sir Rivers Wilson was a man of few
enemies and many friends.

                  ------------------------------------

LONDON: EDWARD ARNOLD, 41 & 43 MADDOX STREET, W.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          FROM SAIL TO STEAM.

                    NAVAL RECOLLECTIONS, 1878-1905.

                  By ADMIRAL C. C. PENROSE FITZGERALD,

                    AUTHOR OF “MEMORIES OF THE SEA.”

   _With numerous full-page Illustrations. Demy 8vo._ =12s. 6d. net.=

Admiral Fitzgerald’s life has been an exceptionally full and varied one,
and whether he was afloat or ashore, engaged in his professional duties,
or enjoying a strenuous sporting holiday, he is always interesting,
because whatever he turned his hand to—work or play—he did it with all
his might. Of the active work at sea which is comprised in the present
volume, perhaps the most remarkable portion is the cruise with the
squadron which accompanied the _Bacchante_ when King George and his
brother made their memorable voyage—not round the world. If any tour was
likely to be carried out according to prearranged plans, one would have
said it was this one, and the story of the vicissitudes in its progress
and programme is curious and highly instructive.

On shore, Admiral Fitzgerald was at one time in charge of the Royal
Naval College, and for two years Superintendent of the Pembroke
Dockyard, entertaining in the latter capacity a number of distinguished
visitors, among them the ill-fated Admiral Rosjesvenski. He was more
than once stationed in the Mediterranean in circumstances which enabled
him to take ample advantage of the wonderful sporting opportunities then
available. Among his most attractive chapters are those which describe
the shooting—woodcock, duck, wild-boar, etc.—in Albania, Syria, and
Turkey; and he has a rare knack of conveying much of his own
whole-hearted enjoyment to the reader.

He is almost apologetic with regard to his passion for sport, and,
indeed, admits that in the eighties the navy suffered somewhat from a
tendency to rest on its laurels and take things easily. Much more did
this tendency affect those in charge of affairs at home, the
politicians—a class whom the Admiral, quite irrespective of party, holds
in very low esteem. The remaining principal section of the book
describes the stages in the struggle against this tendency, initiated by
Admiral Fitzgerald and a few other far-seeing men, fortunately not too
late.


                        THE REMINISCENCES OF THE
                         RT. HON. LORD O’BRIEN,

                     LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF IRELAND.

             Edited by his Daughter, Hon. GEORGINA O’BRIEN.

         _One Volume. With Portrait. Demy 8vo._ =10s. 6d. net.=

Not many bodies of men have a more distinguished tradition than the
Irish Bench and Bar, and among the legal luminaries of Ireland in recent
years there was no more representative and characteristic figure than
Lord Chief Justice O’Brien. After his retirement he occupied his leisure
in putting together his reminiscences. They were unfortunately left
unfinished at his death, but have been edited and completed with the
fullest knowledge and sympathy by his daughter, the Hon. Georgina
O’Brien.

He has much to say of sport, of youthful frolics, and of prominent
figures in the social life of Dublin, but the main interest of the book
lies, as was to be expected, in his professional recollections. These
include the trials arising out of the Phœnix Park murders, and those
which followed another no less sombre tragedy—the Maamstrasna massacre;
but for the most part they are of a more cheerful character. The impress
of a vigorous and intensely independent personality is stamped on every
page, and few people could attain to the detached serenity with which he
records the bestowal of the once well-known sobriquet of “Peter the
Packer.”


                      A NEW NOVEL BY FORREST REID.

                            THE SPRING SONG,

                            By FORREST REID.

     AUTHOR OF “AT THE DOOR OF THE GATE,” “THE GENTLE LOVER,” ETC.

                     _One Volume. Crown 8vo._ =6s.=

Griffith Weston is a child with a temperament. With his rather ordinary
but quite nice relations he lives in the ordinary world on the usual
footing. On his own account he lives another life in a world of his own.
Hence minor escapades which alarm and exasperate his governess and his
kind but conventional aunt, and which are told with an insight and
sympathy that invest their details with indefinable charm. Into this
happy young life enters the sinister figure of the Parish Organist. In
him, too, ordinary folk see nothing but a queer-tempered old musician,
but he, like Grif, lives in a world of his own, though a very different
one, it would seem, from that of the gentle, dreamy boy. The tragedy
which ensues may be baldly summarized as follows: The Organist, a
homicidal maniac, supposed to be cured, gives form and substance to
Grif’s other world, and instils into his mind, enfeebled by illness, the
suggestion that in it there is another boy, summoning him with a call
which is not to be resisted. The maniac’s lurid death fails to break the
spell which grips the child, and the relief of telling his story to an
understanding listener comes too late. To the real nature of the tragedy
Grif’s own people remain blind to the end. The doctor knows more, but he
only sees when he has been enlightened by the third of the outstanding
figures in the story, a friend of Grif’s elder brother, and a delightful
study of the school-boy turned Sherlock Holmes. These two are helplessly
aware that the sensitive child has been scared into his grave. Does this
exhaust the matter, or is there still more behind? Throughout the story
the reader is haunted by a feeling that there is another, more
elemental, world, peopled by powers both kindly and malign, with which
both the dreamy boy and the mad musician have kinship, and by virtue of
which the currents of their lives are intermingled. It is this sense of
mystery and doom which gives the book its glamour and distinction, and
provides scope for Mr. Forrest Reid’s elusive and delicate art.


                             ARBOREAL MAN.

                     By F. WOOD JONES, M.B., D.Sc.,

   PROFESSOR OF ANATOMY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON (LONDON SCHOOL OF
                          MEDICINE FOR WOMEN).

      _With 81 Illustrations and Diagrams. One Volume. Demy 8vo._
                             =8s. 6d. net.=

Put as concisely as possible, the theme of Dr. Wood Jones’s book is a
demonstration of the fact that Man, the supreme product of Evolution,
could only have been developed from animals which had their homes and
spent much of their lives in trees; the main point in the argument being
that the descendants of primitive animals living on the ground were
inevitably doomed to become quadrupeds, and so missed the chance of
acquiring the upright posture which is one of Man’s distinctive
attributes, at the same time paying for more immediate advantages by
losing for ever that invaluable organ, the hand.

Stated in these crude terms, the matter might at first sight seem to be
only a chapter, though an important one, in the story of Human
Evolution; but before the reader has progressed very far, he will begin
to realize that the arboreal habitat is not merely one of the
conditions, but the central and dominating factor in the whole process.
Not that living in trees was in itself sufficient to determine the line
of progress in an upward direction. Many classes of animals lived, as
many still live, mainly in trees. Mr. Wood Jones, reasoning on lines
which would delight the heart of M. Henri Bergson, shows how and why
only one of these classes continuously achieved “the successful minimum
of specialization,” and moved slowly but surely in a direction which
ended in Man, and not in a Lemur or a Sloth.

There is much more in the matter than this, but the whole argument of
the book does not admit of being summarized briefly. Much of it is based
on data supplied by Comparative Anatomy, of a character which only
experts can appreciate, but the author has skilfully and considerately
marshalled his material in such a way that the successive steps in the
development which he proves to have taken place can be followed and
understood by any intelligent layman.


                       LOVE, WORSHIP, AND DEATH.

               SOME RENDERINGS FROM THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY.

                     By SIR RENNELL RODD, G.C.M.G.,

                      BRITISH AMBASSADOR AT ROME.

       AUTHOR OF “BALLADS OF THE FLEET,” “THE VIOLET CROWN,” ETC.

                   _Small Crown 8vo._ =2s. 6d. net.=

The poems of which some renderings are here offered to those who cannot
read the originals cover a period of about a thousand years. The poets
of the _elegy_ and the _melos_ appear in due succession after those of
the _epic_. A little gem from Mimnermus (seventh century B.C.) is the
first in the collection, and some lines from Macedonius (sixth century
A.D.) mark the close. The interpretation of these lyrics has been the
author’s sole and grateful distraction during a period of ceaseless work
and intense anxiety in the tragic years of 1914 and 1915—“yet another
proof,” says a review in the _Morning Post_, “of the worth of true
poetry as manna for the soul in these dread and inexorable days.... The
little book is like a vase of rose-leaves, faded yet fragrant, which, as
you pour them out, whisper sympathy from the dead to the living.”


                          BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

                         BALLADS OF THE FLEET.

                          By SIR RENNELL RODD.

           _A New Popular Edition. Crown 8vo._ =2s. 6d. net.=

In this edition a new poem, entitled “Inter Arma Silent,” is printed as
an introduction, and all matter has been eliminated which has not
strictly to do with the sea. The volume appears during a struggle even
more stern and momentous than that recorded in the Ballads. But the
chivalries of the sea and the test of high endurance are the same as in
the days of our fathers, and while the Island race endures the spirit of
Drake, who sleeps “’neath some great wave,” will never call to them in
vain.


                        THE SOUL AND ITS STORY.

                           By NORMAN PEARSON,

              AUTHOR OF “SOME PROBLEMS OF EXISTENCE,” ETC.

             _One Volume. Demy 8vo. Cloth._ =10s. 6d. net.=

The underlying principle of this book is that the Soul, no less than the
body, is a product of evolution, though, unlike the body which perishes,
it has a destiny which will endure. The Soul, which has its origin in
the dim sentience which accompanies even the lowest forms of life, is
identified with the human Self-consciousness. It is carefully
distinguished, however, from the Self, which is only one of its partial
manifestations. The theory of Materialism is examined and found wanting,
and the nature of Matter itself investigated. Following upon this, the
book deals with the conditions necessary for the appearance of life and
the mode of its appearance. A chapter is devoted to the controversy of
the Spontaneous Generation of Life, and the curious process of
Heterogenesis. The relations of physical to mental structure are dwelt
upon, and the intimate connections of the two orders of development. The
difficulties which beset the transition from a subhuman to a human
consciousness, and the activities of consciousnesses in a subhuman
condition, are discussed at some length. Speech is the distinctive mark
of man, but it is shown to be connected with anatomical development and
motor activity. Considerable attention is given to Weismann’s theory of
the non-transmission by heredity of acquired characters, and the theory
in its extreme form is rejected as improbable and unproved. This
disposes of one of the chief obstacles raised by the Weismann school to
the permanent value of education and the independent evolution of the
Soul. There are chapters dealing with Personal Identity, the Relation of
the Soul to the Self, the Unity of the Soul—in spite of the marvellous
phenomena of multiple personality, and a very interesting discussion on
the possible permanency of sex, even in the more spiritual stages of the
Soul’s future development. The book concludes with some philosophical
disquisitions on the nature and method of creation, and the place of the
Soul in, and in relation to, the Universe of which it forms part. The
author, regarding evolution as a process whose operation extends both to
body and mind, repeatedly turns to the facts of physical evolution for
hints towards elucidating the obscure course of mental evolution.


                        THE DAYS OF ALKIBIADES.

                        By C. E. ROBINSON, M.A.

      With a foreword by Professor C. W. OMAN, Oxford University.

     _With 16 full-page Illustrations from the Author’s Sketches._

                  _One Volume. Crown 8vo._ =5s. net.=

This book gives a series of sketches, in narrative form, illustrating
the life of an Athenian citizen during the Peloponnesian War. Nearly all
the incidents of both public and private life are covered. Besides
witnessing a wedding, a funeral, a dinner-party, and the usual scenes of
domestic life in town and country, the reader is introduced to a
“Parliament” on the Pnyx, a dramatic festival in the Theatre, a trial in
the Law Courts; he may visit a Gymnasium with Sokrates, journey with a
pilgrim to Delphi, make the Mystery March to Eleusis, witness a
sea-fight with Phormio, and take a hand in the Battle of Delion. A
sojourn at Sparta, a celebration of the Olympic Games, and a scene at
the Port of Athens, complete the picture.

The thread of the story is woven upon a more or less historical
foundation; but the main purpose of the book is rather to give an
insight into Athenian manners and customs, and to introduce among the
characters types of every sort—the conservative farmer, the smart young
aristocrat, the rich merchant, the Spartan, the slave and the
philosopher. Local colour is imparted not merely by detail gathered from
the Classics and archæological research, but also by descriptions taken
from Greek scenery as it is to-day.

In short, the book is intended to give to general readers and to all who
are interested in Greece and its history a clear and vivid picture of
Hellenic life and culture in the Great Age of Pericles.


                        LIGHT AND SHADE IN WAR.

                         By CAPT. MALCOLM ROSS,

             WAR CORRESPONDENT WITH THE NEW ZEALAND FORCES.
               AUTHOR OF “A CLIMBER IN NEW ZEALAND,” ETC.

                                  AND

                               NOEL ROSS

                     OF “THE TIMES” LITERARY STAFF
     (LATELY LANCE-CORPORAL WITH THE ANZACS, AND LIEUT. TERRITORIAL
                              ARTILLERY).

                     _Crown 8vo. Cloth._ =5s. net.=

The Authors of this book have seen, during the past two years, a great
deal of the light and shade of war, the one as a War Correspondent, the
other as a soldier, and, latterly, a Correspondent of _The Times_. Some
of the war pictures which they give are classics in their way, and such
articles as “The Men from the Glen” and “The Last Load” are real
literature, and as such worthy of being preserved in the records of the
Great War.

Captain Malcolm Ross is well known, not only in his own country, but
also in the United Kingdom, as a writer of note, as a keen student of
Nature, and as a daring explorer and climber in the Alps of his native
land. As a War Correspondent on Gallipoli, in Egypt, and in France, he
has earned further distinction by his graphic accounts of events from
the battle-fields. His articles have attained a wide popularity in the
English and Colonial Press and have in some instances been translated
and republished in the French journals.

Mr. Noel Ross was wounded in the historic landing on Gallipoli after
having taken part in the fight against the Turks on the Suez Canal.
Discharged as unfit for further service, he again enlisted in England,
passed a course at Shoeburyness, and received a commission in the
Artillery. As a result of continued trouble from shell shock he had to
relinquish his commission. After a few weeks he was taken on the staff
of _The Times_, for which journal he has done, and is still doing,
brilliant work. He is also a contributor to _Punch_.


                           A FRENCH MOTHER IN
                               WAR TIME.

                         By MADAME E. DRUMONT.

                      Translated by MISS G. BEVIR.

               _Crown 8vo._    _Cloth._    =3s. 6d. net.=

The writer of this frank and simple narrative is the wife of the famous
anti-Semite, but the young airman son, to whom she is devotedly
attached, is the child of a first marriage. The volume consists of her
diary from July, 1914, to August, 1915. This anxious French mother makes
no attempt to represent herself as more heroic than she was or is, and
her honesty gives a special value to her picture of the central and
really fine figure in the book—that of her son Paul, many of whose
letters to her during the war are here given. Among other interesting
passages in the book is a description of the scene at the Paris Cabinet
Council, when General Gallieni was asked by the Ministry if he would
defend Paris.


                              A YEAR AGO.

               BEING “EYE-WITNESS’S” NARRATIVE OF THE WAR
                  FROM MARCH 30TH TO JULY 18TH, 1915.

              By LIEUT.-COL. E. D. SWINTON, D.S.O., R.E.,
                       and CAPT. THE EARL PERCY.

        _Paper Covers_, =2s. net.=      _Cloth_, =2s. 6d. net.=

This volume contains the conclusion of the famous “Eye-Witness’s”
Narrative from the front, which has now been discontinued. It is
reprinted in full from the reports issued by the Press Bureau, and has
not hitherto been accessible in a consecutive and complete form. Taken
in conjunction with the previous volume published last year by Mr.
Edward Arnold, this instalment of “Eye-Witness’s” Narrative provides the
most valuable current commentary on the events of the war in Flanders
which has yet appeared. As time goes on, its accurate and graphic story
of the fighting will inevitably be appealed to as the most reliable
evidence of what actually occurred whenever diverse theories are at
issue.


                             THE MOTOR-CAR.

                    WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO DRIVE IT.

           By T. O. A. LAWTON and PROF. R. J. HARVEY GIBSON.

                        _Limp cloth_, =1s. net.=

This book is written by an expert and a novice, and designed for readers
who approach the subject in a condition of complete ignorance;
accordingly, nothing is taken for granted. Only rudimentary instruction
is imparted, but this is given with absolute simplicity and clearness.


                        THE MIGRATIONS OF FISH.

                       By ALEXANDER MEEK, M.Sc.,

 PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, ARMSTRONG COLLEGE, IN THE UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM,
        AND DIRECTOR OF THE DOVE MARINE LABORATORY, CULLERCOATS.

     _With 12 Plates and 128 Diagrams and Maps.   xvi + 416 pages._

                        _Demy 8vo._ =16s. net.=

This work deals with a very interesting and important subject, which
appeals no less to the layman than to the scientific student. The habits
of sea-fish have only recently begun to be investigated seriously, but
their importance in connection with our great fishing industries can
hardly be overestimated. A great deal of information relating to the
migrations of fish has already been accumulated, but it is scattered in
books and periodicals frequently difficult to obtain. The author has
aimed at giving a systematic account of the knowledge acquired,
developing at the same time a theory of migrations based upon the
various stages in the growth of fish in connection with currents. The
book contains descriptions of the spawning habits, the eggs and the
young, the passive drift to the feeding grounds, and the distribution of
the species due to migrations. Practically all families of fish have
been considered, but the important food fishes of the Northern
Hemisphere have received specially detailed treatment.


                      THE PRINCIPLES OF ELECTRICAL
                         ENGINEERING AND THEIR
                              APPLICATION.

                          By DR. GISBERT KAPP.

  PROFESSOR OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING IN THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM;
       PAST PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTION OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS.

                  _In Two Volumes, fully illustrated._

        _Volume I.: Principles. Demy 8vo._ =15s. net.= [_Ready._

     ⁂ _Volume II. is almost completed, and will be ready shortly._


                   =Recent Books on the War.=

                     _Second Impression now ready._

                         VERDUN TO THE VOSGES.

                 IMPRESSIONS OF THE WAR ON THE FORTRESS
                          FRONTIER OF FRANCE.

                          By GERALD CAMPBELL.

      SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF “THE TIMES” IN THE EAST OF FRANCE.

     _With Illustrations and Maps.    Demy 8vo._   =10s. 6d. net.=

“If Mr. Gerald Campbell had only written about such experiences as other
visitors to the front have had, his remarkably readable book would have
deserved high praise on its merits. But he has done much more than that;
he has written of experiences which no other English Correspondent has
had, and his book must be placed among the few which are really
informing, even to those who are familiar with the facts of the
war.”—_Spectator._

“A deeply impressive, well-informed book. Mr. Campbell’s book will well
repay careful and patient study. It penetrates beneath the surface of
the fighting.”—_Daily Telegraph._

“This book contains, so far as we know, the only careful and trustworthy
account of those months of intense fighting which has yet been
published. Historians will have to turn to these pages for information
in regard to many details of the confused events of the early days in
this theatre.”—_The Times._


                          A SURGEON IN KHAKI.

                  By A. A. MARTIN, M.D., F.R.C.S. ENG.

      _Sixth Impression.   With Illustrations._   =10s. 6d. net.=

“A superlatively interesting book.”—_Graphic._

“A book full of life and human feeling. ‘A Surgeon in Khaki’ will
certainly live as a first-class description of a portion of the great
war.”—_Field._

“A book of extraordinary interest. There are many stories, grave and
gay, in this book, which should be widely read. It is quite a remarkable
book and gives a wonderful vision of what war is.”—_Birmingham Daily
Post._


                       WITH OUR ARMY IN FLANDERS.

                       By G. VALENTINE WILLIAMS.

          _Second Impression.  Illustrated._  =12s. 6d. net.=

“Mr. Williams has written an excellent book, one of the most vivid and
informing accounts that have yet been produced of our men in the field.
Like all good correspondents, he has an eye for significant detail. His
knowledge of Germany helps him to many instructive comparisons. He is
the master of an easy, vigorous style, which occasionally reaches real
eloquence. Above all, he has a great gift of enthusiasm. The book is
written in a fine spirit, not captious, or egotistical, or flamboyant,
but honest and understanding.”—_Spectator._

“This book is no mere compilation of the day-to-day dispatches from Mr.
Williams, but a complete study of the army at work and at play, touched
by many a scene of pathos, enlivened by many a page of vivacious
anecdote, and marked throughout by keen study of all the phases and
problems of the war.”—_Daily Mail._


                         A SURGEON IN BELGIUM.

                      By H. S. SOUTTAR, F.R.C.S.,

          LATE SURGEON-IN-CHIEF OF THE BELGIAN FIELD HOSPITAL.

   _Popular Edition, Paper Cover_, =2s. net=. _Cloth_, =2s. 6d. net=.

“In place of the average piece of journalistic hack-work, we have here a
live book, a book with a character and a soul, a book whose literary
skill and deep human feeling justify the prediction that it will be
found among the few elect records which survive their hour, and are
still remembered and consulted in years to come.”—_Daily Telegraph._

“Admirably written and readable from beginning to end.”—_Morning Post._

“Mr. Souttar is a surgeon with a gift for vivid writing. His book is a
quite fascinating record of his experience.”—_Daily News._


                       EYE-WITNESS’S NARRATIVE OF
                                THE WAR.

                   FROM THE MARNE TO NEUVE CHAPELLE,
                    SEPTEMBER, 1914, TO MARCH, 1915.

              By LIEUT.-COL. E. D. SWINTON, D.S.O., R.E.,
                       and CAPT. THE EARL PERCY.

     _312 pages. Crown 8vo. Paper_, =1s. net=. _Cloth_, =2s. net=.

      (_Particulars of the later volume will be found on page 9._)

“Pending the time when a full history of the European conflict will
be possible, there can be nothing better in the way of a brief
general survey of the British operations than ‘Eye-Witness’s
Narrative.’”—_Illustrated London News._


                A RUSSIAN CLASSIC OF ENTRANCING INTEREST
                      AND GREAT HISTORICAL VALUE.

                          YEARS OF CHILDHOOD.

                           By SERGE AKSAKOFF.

    Translated, for the first time, from the Russian by J. D. DUFF,
                 Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

                     _Demy 8vo._    =10s. 6d. net.=

“‘Years of Childhood’ becomes the more fascinating the more one reads
and thinks about it. Aksakoff read a new and ecstatic meaning into
things which are banal and tame to most men and women, and the eager eye
of his mind scanned deep into the lives and loves of the people round
about him.”—_Morning Post._

“A charming Russian book. At this time when so many translations from
the Russian are appearing, well advised and ill advised, it is good to
be able to put the hand on one superlatively good book. Here is a
refreshment for tired eyes and tired souls. It is put into beautiful
English.”—_Country Life._

“English readers may well be grateful to Mr. J. D. Duff for his
translation of a very unusual book. He promises us a translation of ‘A
Family History,’ which carries on the narrative of Aksakoff’s life and
gives some account of his family. In the original the two make one book,
and all who read this first instalment will welcome the completion of
it.”—_Spectator._

------------------------------------------------------------------------

            LONDON: EDWARD ARNOLD, 41 & 43 MADDOX STREET, W.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           Transcriber’s Note

Hyphens occuring at a line break are either retained or removed based on
other occurences in the text. Midline inconsistencies Errors deemed most
likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and are noted here. The
references are to the page and line in the original.

  21.10    on our way to the frontier[./,]                Replaced.

  66.30    instead of in the _r[ó/ô]le_ which French      Replaced.

  84.8     not a soldier was left in the town[.]          Added.

  132.24   vont contribuer à l’héro[i/ï]que défen[c/s]e   Replaced.
           de la trouée

  181.13   the Sous-Préf[é/e]t, M. Mequillet              Replaced.

  188.15   comme al[l]ongé> sur la table.                 Inserted.

  188.28   ‘Etude de M. X. Notaire[’].                    Added.

  189.16   un coup de fe[n/u]                             Replaced.

  238.11   to build a pontoon-bridge[.]                   Added.

  284.5    the main objective of the attack[,/.]          Replaced.

  304.28   I have taken it from the _Au[-]dessus de la    Inserted.
           Mélée_





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