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Full text of "Vive la France [microform]"

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VIVE LA FRANCE 




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Vi\ i-, LA I-RANCI- 






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M»A.J tLi.ANi). U.K/iAHh,D AM) 
SiEWAR I It.) 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



BY 



E. ALEXANDER POWELL 

Author oi ■' /'i^hliti; m HivUr;," d. 



ILLUSTkATKU 



TORONTO 

McClelland, goodchild and 
stewart ltd. 



rrinltd in Ent^land 



TO 

FRANCE 



W Hi'SK COIK.\i;K, sEKKMTV, ASl' 
^ACRIllCE^, IN A CONFLICT WHICH 
SHE I)II> NOTHING TO IKOVOKR, HA\ K 
WON HRK THE SYMPATHY. RESIECT 
AMI ADMIRATION OKTHK \VOKI.l> 



I 



I 



i^'i»>«"f -iM^^eefeftiiMPSfiJmP^ 



^N ACKNOWLEDGMENT 



F^OR the assistance they have given me, 
and for the innumerable kindnesses 
they have shown me, I welcome this 
opportunity of expressing my thanks and ap- 
preciation to his Excellency Jean Adricn 
Antoine Jules Jusserand, French Ambassador to 
the United States ; to Lord Northchffe, owner 
of the Jinti's and the Daily Mail ; to Ralph 
Pulitzer, Esq., president, and C. M. Lincoln, 
Esq., managing editor, of the New York I'Vorld ; 
to Major-Gcneral Ryerson, of the Canadian 
Overseas Contingent ; to Captain Count 
Gerard de Ganay, who was my companion from 
end to end of the Western battle-line ; to Messrs. 
Ponsot, Alexis Leger, and Henri Hoppenot, of 
the Bureau de la Presse ; to Licutcnant-'^?olonel 
Spencer Cosby, military attache of the American 
l",mbassy in Paris; to Captain John VV. Barker, 
of the American 



litary 



Bsion 



vu 



viu 



AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT 
to Honourable Walter V. R. Berry ; to 
Charles Prince, Esq., Herbert Corey, Esq., 
Lincoln Eyre, Esq., and William Philip Simms, 
tsq., who on a score of occasions have proved 
themselves my friends ; and finally to fame. 
Ha.en Hyde, Esq., whose kindness I can never 
fully repay. To each of these gentlemen I owe 
a debt of gratitude which I shall not forget 



K. ALEXANDER POWKLL 



H('rEL HE Crillon, Paris 



to 

1- 

IS, 

id 
es 

7C 



CONTENTS 

CHAF I I : 

AN ACKNOWLliDGMF.NT 
I. IN THK FIELD WITH THE FRKNCI 
II. ON THK BRITISH BA'rrLF.-LINE 

III. THK RKTAKING OF ALSACK 

IV. CAMPAIGNING IN THE \OSGES 
V. THE FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 

\I. THE CONFLICT IN THK CLOUDS 
\II. THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 



HA(.B 

vii 



56 

97 

120 

•S3 
189 

214 



IX 



» *7lil*i"^.? 



jOm 






LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

... . ftjm.< f 

" High-cxplosivc : " /n'd/i !/«>4<- 

Fremh trcnchci in the sand-dunes ot the Belgian 

littjral A 

The watcii on the Aisne 5 

The takini' (if N'cuvillc St, V'a.i^t. Frcmh infantry 

ciig.i-t\i 11 iiou^c-to-iiou c ligliting 12 

h'rciu li infantry ,i;oing into attiun 

Frcnt h 1 ; vniiiUnutrc gun hc'ling the (jcrman 
irciu li!.s on ttic Ai^ne 

Frcntii artillery oii-cers in an observatory on the 
Ai lie, waKiiiH'^' the cficLl of shell lire on the 
(jcrman trenches 

'I'hc I aves .t. ! ir-.ttn;-. in the (:'"- along the Ai^nc 

arc uiili/.cd Icr iir t aid are ng stations 30 

Zouaves carr} :ne a (jcrnmn pobi:i(jn in th.c Belgian 

sand diinc^ by -torm ^ I 

In the Argonnc 38 

An observing officer directing the fire of a French 

battery three miles behind him 39 

German dead lying in front of the French trenches 

on the shores of the North Sea 46 

xi 



18 
«9 



xii LIbT OK ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Cathedral, Soi\son5 

Th- Mass before the battle 

^V'!:.u a rs'.cntimctrc .hcll, fired from a gun 
tweMty.thrcc„ulesavvay,d,di„I).„k,rk ^ 

motor-buses ui war-coats of el-rhant ,.r,., 

;,;""■"■■' "■■!-"--"-i ™o .1'; • 

'"K toward the trcnJic " ' 

Bnii-h fidj-kitchcn, on the march i„ Flanders 

titrmans precede their attack, 
A linti.h hatiery in action 

"''t;i^^;s„:;;;:^H"^'--'.-i^thew.re 

•' Imagine what it mu.t be like to sleep in a hole in 
he earth ,nto which you have to crawl on a 
'"urs.hkc an animal into lu lair" 

'""reni.t:''^'"'"'''' '""''"^ - ^^^ German 

"" "tTctfe'; ''°'° °' ^ ^'^"P"'^' ^'^^"- P--h 

French trenches on the Somme 

In the French trenches on :nc Yscr 

Campaigning in the Vosges 

What the Germans did to the church at Ribecourt 

On the summit of the V'osges 



47 
>4 



(>; 



86 

86 

87 

98 

99 

100 
101 
106 
10- 



^'4 



5 3 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Zouave creeping out to a listening-post in front of 
the trenches near Nicuport 

The "traggling columns of unkempt unshaven men 
were in striking contrast to the hclmcted giants 
on gigantic horses who guarded them 

In the trenches in Alsace 

1, Convoy of German prisoners guarded by Moroccan 

Spa his 

M German communication trench captured by the 

* French 

"In this war the hand-grenade is King. Reside it 
the high-power rifle is a 'oke " 

"Movable entanglement? arc constructed in the 
shelter of the trenches and pushed over the 
parapet with p )les so that the men do not have 
to expose themselves " 

"When the poison-gas comes rolling down upon the 
trenches the soldiers fasten over the mouth 
and nostrils a pad of gauze saturated in a hypo- 
sulphate solution " 

The battlefield of Champagne 

Bringing in the wounded during the battle of Cham- 
pagne 

German officers captured during the battle of Cham- 
pagne 

Tne effect of shrapnel from a Frem h " 5i.vcnt/-!ivc '' 
on a German battery 

Battle of Champagne. The German trenchc; a'ter 
the firing ot the French artillery 



Xlll 



136 

'37 
140 

141 

150 

15' 

•5+ 

'55 
'55 

158 

'59 



xiv LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Tlie battio <,.' C(ijin|u«nc 

Ifowtlul-nn,!. nK!:,,.rsf.,u:ul,hc(;crm..n,rc>,.lc> 
''"r.i,;^ the battle in Ciumpagiic 

■riu.. rater, cvcnty kct <!r-p and t«uc ti.r „, 
d...,„.,:t.,r. „..s .,u,,.J l-v tf'.t .xpi.Mun .„•., 
>"'ru. In the t-rr.(ic b;.,-t live i.unJrcJ licr- 
man, prpi hd 

Thcp-r- Mpo r,n- :r. ti, • trcnclic, 
All iron, I.id !>,:•, !i uirrct 

Awo,KJvvl,cic,(...nn.,ntrfn,l, vv.u -heh.rcJ and 
r.i/.cd by the French "7^ " 

French s„kl,,.r. cutmg ..fK trnu-cr. b.tt-m. ,. 
e.c-rm,u, pr; ..ner. tu prevent them c...,p n^ 

The thou..„J, upon thou aiui, of- cmpiv bra,, ,heli. 

cases w.thvvh.ch the hattIct,e!J, arc .rc.n are 
colcc.cd and .cr,t ba. k to the Uaory fo' 
reloading •' 

Mounted on the (icrman trench-wai:s were rcv.Iv- 
mg ^teel turrets containing quuk-Mring ^un, 

"Bronn-faced men from North Africa in turban > 
and burnouses 

Motor.buses with wire-netting tops filled with 
carrier pigeoni 

German prisoner, came by, carrvin^ on their 
snoulders stretcher, on which lay the .t,ff. stark 
form, of dead men 

"Men were at u.^k rolling up the barbed wire in 

the ., ipturcd German entanglement- '' 
Fighting in a auarrel that i. not his own 



166 



16- 



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192 



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LIST OK ILLUSTRATIONS 



XV 



The hr I iiiic- (lenn.m trctul\c> cipturcJ by the 

hrLii>^h iti Cham[UKnc ii/< 

A jcctiuii ut machine fc;un> pa-iinj; through the 

booty taken from the Gcrm.in- lo 

French .i-v i r rult ^ .n in action a^.tnut a German 

acropianc 201 

When the iliiikeni conic home f ■ roci-t 20^ 

Antij:ri.r.i:i ^uni, piMtcJ i)utoi.lc the town-, arc 
re.ijy to give a warm reception lo an aerial 
intruder 107 

ArtoM. The uiulerjjround beJroom of the French 

hc.ivy artillery otfii cr :?6 

"Two s()l,!u:ri lifted him tm to ,i -.trctcher and 
carried him between interminable wall> ot 
brown e^rth to the drc:i>ing->tation *' z^6 

Unloading wounded at a hospital in Northern France 2^7 

Red Cro'is men getting wounded out ot a bombarded 

town in Flander:> 244 

Bringing in the harvest ot the guns 245 

•' Every hou-c and farmyard tor miles around was 
filled with wounded, and still they came 
streaming in " 2>o 



" The paths of glory lead — " 



2;i 



9^mm 



;^: 1 

,v 'J 



I. IN THE FIELD WITH 
THE FRENCH 

BEFORE going to France I was told 
that the French were very stingy 
with their war. I was told that the 
(nily fighting I would be permitted to see 
^ would be on moving-picture screens. I was 
assured that war correspondents were about as 
welcome as the small-pox. But I found that 
I had been misinformed. So far as I am con- 
cerned they have been as generous with their 
war a-^ a Kentucky colonel is with mint-juleps. 
Tluy have, in fact, been so willing to let me 
get close up to where things were happening 
that, on one or two occasions, it looked as 
though I would never sje the Statue of 
Liberty again. I do not wish to give the im- 
pression, however, that these facilities for 
flirting with sudden death are handed out 
promiscuously to all who apply for them. To 
obtain me permission to see the French fight- 
ing-machine in action required the united 
influence of three Cabinet Ministers, a British 

I A 



2 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

peer, two ambassadors, a score of newspapers 
— and the patience of Job. 

Unless you have attempted to pierce it, it 
is impossible to comprehend the marvellous 
veil of secrecy which the Allied Governments 
have cast over their military operations. I 
wonder if you, who will read this, realize that, 
though the German trenches can be reached 
by motor-car in ninety minutes from the Rue 
de la Paix, it is as impossible for an unauthor- 
ized person to get within sound, much less 
within sight, of them as it would be for a 
tourist to stroll into Buckingham Palace and 
have a friendly chat with King George. The 
good old days in Belgium, when the corre- 
spondents went flitting light-heartedly about 
the zone of operations on bicycles and in taxi- 
cabs and motor-cars, have passed, never to 
return. Imagine a battle in which more men 
were engaged and the results of which were 
more momentous than Waterloo, Gettysburg, 
and Sedan combined — a battle in which Europe 
lost more men than the North lost in the 
whole of the Civil War — being fought at, let 
us say, Manchester, in December, rind the 
people of London and Edinburgh not knowing 



IN THE FIELD 3 

the details of that battle, the names of the 
regiments engaged, the losses, or, indeed, the 
actual result, until the following March. It 
is, in fact, not the slightest exaggeration to 
say that the people of Europe knew more about 
the wars that were fought on the South African 
veldt and on the Manchurian steppes than they 
do about this, the greatest of all wars, which is 
being fought literally at their front doors. So 
that when a correspondent does succeed in 
pcner aiing the veil of mystery, when he 
obtains permission to see with his own eyes 
something of what is happening on that five- 
hundred-mile-long slaughter-house and cess- 
pool combined which is called " the front," he 
has every excuse for self-congratulation. 

When the Ministry of War had reluctantly 
issued me the little yellow card, with my 
photograph pasted on it, which, so far as this 
war is concerned, is the equivalent of Aladdin's 
lamp and the magic carpet put together, and I 
had become for the time being the guest of the 
nation, my path was everywhere made smooth 
before me. I was ciceroncd by a staff-officer 
in a beautiful sky-blue uniform, and other 
officers were waiting to explain things to me 



4 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

in the various divisions through which wc 
passed. Wc travelled by motor-car, with a 
pilot-car ahead and a luggage-car behind, 
and we went so fast that it took two people to 
tell about it, one to shout " Here they come ! " 
and another, " There they fo ! " 

Leaving Paris, white and beautiful in the 
spring sunshine, behind us, we tore down the 
historic highway which sti.l bears the title 
of the Route de Flandre, down which count- 
less thousands of other men had hastened, in 
bygone centuries, to the fighting in the north. 
The houses of the city thinned and disappeared, 
and we came to open fields across which writhed, 
like monstrous yellow serpents, the zigzag lines 
of trenches. The whole countryside from the 
Aisne straight away to the walls of Paris is 
one vast network of trenches and barbed-wire 
entanglements, and, even in the improbable 
event of the enemy breaking through the 
present line, he would be little better off than 
he was before. The fields between the trenches 
were being ploughed by women, driving sleek 
white oxen, but the furrows were scarcely 
ever straight, for every few yards they would 
turn aside to avoid a turf-covered mound 




Frciich trciiche- in the s.uiJ-diim;-^ i)t the H.-lui <ti Iittor.il 

■ ■■ !■.;• - tl it f.lir-ll : :,.I|..i-|lll't -'rll^ liill' .,f t!r-Ul lll-^ will. !l ^!lt-| . 

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te^i 



IN THE FIKLD 



5 



:-urmounted by a rudL- cross and a scarlet kepi. 
I-"wr lialf a hundred miles this portion of France 
i> one vast cemetery, for it was here that von 
Kluek made his desperate attempt to break 
through to Paris, and it was here that JofFre, 
ill the greatest battle of all tmic, drove the 
(icrman legions back across the Marne and 
ended their dream of entering the French 
capital. We whirled through villages whose 
main streets are lined with the broken, black- 
ened shells of what had once been shops and 
dvyellings. At once I felt at home, for with 
this sort of thing I had grown only too familiar 
in Belgium during the earlier days of the war. 
But here the Germans were either careless 
or in a hurry, for they had left many buildings 
standing. In Belgium they made a more 
finished job of it. Nothing better illustrates 
the implicit confidence which the French 
people have in their army, and in its ultimate 
success, than the fact that in all these towns 
through which we passed the people were 
hard at work rebuilding their shattered homes, 
though the strokes of their hammers were 
echoed by the sullen boom of German cannon. 
To me there was something approaching the 



jr 



6 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

sublime in these impoverished peasants turn- 
ing with stout hearts and smiling faces to the 
rebuilding of their homes and the refilling 
of their fields. To these patient, toilvvorn 
men and women I lift my hat in respect and 
admiration. They, no less than their sons 
and husbands and brothers in the trenches, 
arc fighting the battles of France. 

As we approached the front the traditional 
brick-red trousers and kepis still worn by the 
second-line men gave way to the new uniform 
of silvery blue— the colour of early morning. 
There were soldiers everywhere. Every town 
and hamlet through which we passed was alive 
with them. The highways were choked with 
troops of all arms ; cuirassiers, with their 
mediaeval steel helmets and breastplates liucn- 
covercd ; dragoons, riding under thickets 
of gleaming lances ; zouaves in short blue 
jackets and baggy red breeches ; spahis in 
turbans and Senegalese in tarbooshes and 
AToroccans in burnouses ; chasseurs d'Afrique 
in sky-blue and scarlet ; infantry of the line 
in all the shades of blue that can be pro- 
duced by dyes and by the weather ; mile-long 
strings of motor transports ; field batteries ; pon- 



\V 



IN THE FIELD 7 

toon trains ; balloon corps ; ambulances with 
staring scarlet crosses painted on their canvas 
covers— all the nuts and bolts and springs 
and screws which go to compose what has 
become, after months of testing and improve- 
ments, as efficient a killing machine as the 
world has ever seen. And it is, I am convinced, 
eventually going to do the business. It struck 
me as having all, or nearly all, of the merits 
of the German organization with the human 
element added. 

When only a short distance in the rear of the 
firing-line we left the car and proceeded on foot 
down a winding country road which debouched 
quite suddenly into a great, saucer-shaped 
valley. Its gentle slopes were chequered with 
the brown squares of fresh-ploughed fields 
and the green ones of sprouting grain. From 
beyond a near-by bridge came the mutter of 
artillery, and every now and then there ap- 
peared against the turquoise sky what looked 
like a patch of cotton-wool but was in reality 
bursting shrapnel. The far end of the valley 
was filled with what appeared at first glance 
to be a low-hanging cloud of grey-blue mist, 
but which, as we drew nearer, resolvea itself 




8 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



into dense masses of troops drawn up in review 
formation— infantry at the left, cavalry at the 
right, and guns in the centre. I had heard 
much of the invisible qualities of the new field 
uniform of the French Army, but I had licre- 
t(;fore believed it to be greatly inferi(jr to the 
(German greenish grey. But I liave changed 
my mind. At three hundred yards twenty 
thousand men could scarcely be distinguishable 
fr(jm the landscape. The only colourful note 
was struck by the dragoons, who still retain 
their suicidal uniform of scarlet breeches, 
blue tunic, and the helmet with its horse-tail 
plume, though a concession has been made to 
practicality by covering the latter with tan 
linen. The majority of the French woollen 
mills being in the region held by the Germans, 
It has been possible to provide only a portion 
of the army with the new uniform. As a 
result of this shortage of cloth, thousands of 
soldiers have had recourse to the loose corduroy 
trousers common among the peasantry, while 
for the territorials almost any sort of a jacket 
will pass muster provided it is of a neutral 
colour and has the regimental numerals on the 
collar. Those soldiers who can afford to 



I'-^S^^^^^^T 



-^■.'^ I riA'-'c.-r'\'!>,.'^- •••)», 



^OtMO^SBl 



&".,,♦ '*f,r 



IN THE FIELD 9 

provide their own uniforms almost invariably 
have them made of khaki, cut after the more 
practical British pattern, with cap-covers of 
the same material. Owing to this latitude in 
the matter of clothing, the French army during 
the fir^t yiar ui the war presented an extra- 
ordinarily variegated and nondescript appear- 
ance, though this lack of uniformity is gradually 
h<-ing remedied. 

At three o'clock a rolling cloud of dust 
>udde Illy appeared on the road from Com piegne, 
and out of it tore a long line of mUitary cars, 
travelling at express-train speed. All save one 
were in war coats of elephant grey. The ex- 
ception was a low-slung racer painted a canary- 
yellow. Tearing at top speed up the valley, 
It came to a sudden stop before the centre of 
the mile-long line of soldiery. A mile of 
fighting men stiffened to attention; a mile 
of rifle barrels formed a hedge of burnished 
steel ; the drums gave the long roll and the 
thirteen ruffles ; the colours swept the ground ; 
the massed bands burst into the splendid 
strains of the Marseillaise, and a little man, 
grcy-moustached, grey-bearded, inclined to 
stoutness, but with the unmistakable carriage 



10 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

of a soldier, descended from the yellow car 
and, followed by a staff in uniforms of light 
blue, of dark blue, of tan, of green, of scarlet, 
walked briskly down the motionless lines. I 
was having tlie unique privilege of seeing a 
President of France reviewing a French army 
almost within sight of the invader and actu- 
ally within sound of his guns. It was under 
almost parallel circumstances that, upward of 
half a century ago, on the banks of the Rappa- 
hannock, another President of another mighty 
republic reviewed another army, which was 
likewise fighting the battles of civilization. 

Raymond Poincare is by no means an easy 
man to describe. He is the only French 
President within my memory who hjcjks the 
part of ruler. In his person arc centred, as it 
were, the aspirations of France, for he is a 
native of Lorraine. He was a capiain of 
Alpine Chasseurs in his younger days and shows 
the result of his military training in his erect 
and vigorous bearing. Were you to sec him 
apart from his official surroundings you might 
well take him, with his air of energy and 
authority, iox a great employer or a captain 
of industry. Take twenty years from the age 



i- 



o 



IN THE FIELD n 

f AnJrcw Carnegie, trim his beard to a point, 
throw his shoulders back and his chest out, and 
you will have as good an idea as I can give you 
of the war-time President of France. 

At the President's right walked a thick-set, 
black-moustached man whose rather shabby 
blue serge suit and broad-brimmed black slouch 
hat were in strange contrast to the brilliant 
uniforms about him. Yet this man in the 
wrinkled suit, with the unmilitary bearing, 
exercised more power than the President and 
all the officers who followed him ; a word 
irom him could make or break generals, could 
move armies ; he was Millerand, War Minister 
of France. 

After passing down the lines and making a 
minute inspection of the soldiers and their 
equipment, the President took his stand in 
iront of the grouped standards, an.^ the 
officers and men who were to be decorated 
fur gallantry ranged themselves before liim, 
some with bandaged heads, some with their 
arms in slings, one hobbling painfully along 
on crutches. Stepping forward, as the Minister 
of War read off their names from a list, the 
Prsidcnt pinned to the tunic of each man 




imBS^iPir'..,xi:4.WL*^i ' ' .s,-uMSZJS-siPS£ii 



12 VIVE LA FRANCE! 

the coveted bit of ribbon and enamel and 
kissed him on cither cheek, wliile the troops 
presented arms and the massed bands played 
the anthem. On general principles I should 
think that the President would rebel at having 
to kiss so many men, even though they are 
heroes and have been freshly shaved {(^r the 
occasion. 

1 migJit mention in passing that the decora- 
lion mo^t highly prized by t]ie French soldier 
i- not, as is popularly supposed, the Legion 
of Honour, which, like the Iron Cross, has 
greatlv depreciated because of its wholesale 
distribution (it is the policy of the (lerman 
military authorities, I believe, to give the 
Iron Cross to one in every twenty men), but 
the Medaille Militaire, which, like the Victori;. 
Cross and the Prussian decoration. Pour le 
Merite. is awarded only for deeds of the most 
conspicuous bravery. The Medaillc Militaire, 
moreover, can be won only by privates and 
non-commissioned officers or by generals, 
though the Croix de Guerre, the little bronze 
cross which signifies that the wearer has been 
mentioned in despatches, is awarded to all 
ranks and occasionally to women, among the 



,i, 



'^iLOrifr^'y^Si:' ..'i^^\4.-.'' 



■ I ',r'-± ' ^fy^^' 



■:/'.s,-,h: • ■^i^-X^- 'i' 




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KiciK li int.mtry ^oin^ into action 

" I lie- "■ic ill- Ian; 11 /,.... 111.; l.-iiilcii ■n. ■-, ih. in.ii "ill. Ii.iir mii 

ilieii ■ hesl , m ivri^'. I ui ..I 4''\ i-li ''!"t^ U'^i'i ''"'"'"•; ^I'immt ■ um, 

slar.tiiiL I.'..- ..f -I'-c!. 



\S 



LN THE FIELD 



13 



dicoTces being Madame Alexis Carrel, the wife 
of the famous Si rgeon. 

The picturesque business of recognizing the 
brave being concluded, the review of the troops 
began. Topping a rise, they swept down upon 
us in line of column — a moving cloud of greyish 
blue under shifting, shimmering, slanting lines 
of steel. Company after company, regiment 
after regiment, brigade after brigade, swept 
past, businesslike as a locomotive, implacable 
as a trip-hammer, irresistible as a steam-roller, 
moving with mechanical precision to the 
exultant strains of the march of the Sambre 
ct Meusc. These were the famous foilus, the 
bearded ones, the men with hair on their 
chests. Their uniforms were not immaculate. 
They were faded by wind and rain and some- 
times stained with blood. On their boots was 
the mud of the battle-fields along the Aisne. 
Fresh from the tt'^.nches though they were, 
they were as pink-cheeked as athletes, and 
they marched with the buoyancy of men in 
high spirits and in perfect health. Here 
before me was a section of that wall of steel 
which stands unbroken between Western 
Europe and the Teutonic hordes. Hard on 



J 



14 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

the heels of the infantry came the guns — 
the famous " 75's "—a dozen batteries, well 
horsed and well equipped, at a spanking trot. 
A little space to let the foot and guns get out 
of the way, and then we heard the wild, shrill 
clangour of the cavalry trumpets pealing the 
charge. Over the rise they came, hclractcd 
giants on gigantic horses. The earth shook 
beneath their gallop. The scarlet breeches 
of the riders gleamed fiery in the sunlight ; the 
horsehair plumes of the helmets floated out 
behind ; the upraised sword-blades formed a 
forest of glistening steel. As they went 
thundering past us in a whirlwind of dust and 
colour they rose in their stirrups, and high above 
the clank of steel and the trample of hoofs 
came the deep-mouthed Gallic battle-cry : 
" Vive la France ! Five la France ! " 

To have had a battery of French artillery 
go into action and pour a torrent of steel-cased 
death upon the enemy's trenches for one's 
special benefit is, so far as I am aware, a cour- 
tesy which the General Staff has seen fit to 
extend to no other correspondent. That the 
guns were of the new 105-millimetre model, 
which are claimed to be as much superior to 



-■». i^ -iHKIM "iw»l^rj?»iffi 



IN THE FIELD 



15 



the " 75's " as the latter are to all other field 
artillery, made the exhibition all the more 
interesting. The road which we had to take 
in order to reach this particular battery leads 
for several miles across an open plateau within 
full view of the German positions. As we 
approached this danger zone the staflF-officer 
who accompanied me spoke to our driver, 
who opened up the throttle, and we took that 
stretch of exposed highway as a frightened cat 
takes the top of a backyard fence. " Merely a 
matter of precaution," explained my com- 
panion. " Sometimes when the Germans see 
a car travelling along this road they send a few 
shells across in the hope of getting a general, 
there's no use in taking unnecessary chances." 
Though I didn't say so, it struck me that I was 
in c(msiderably more danger from the driving 
than I was from a German shell. 

Leaving the car in the shelter of the ridge 
on which the battery was posted, we ascended 
the steep hillside on foot. I noticed that the 
slope we were traversing was pitted with 
miniature craters, any one of which was large 
enough to hold a barrel. " It might be as 
well to hurry across here," the artillery officer 




'^M9^jtrmV'^'s^':4jis^i»SM:.'^st: 



,6 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

who was acting as our guide casually remark, d 
"Last evening the Germans dropped eight 
hundred shells on this field that we are cross- 
ing, and one never knows, of course, when they 

will do it again." i , ,„ 

Part way up the slope we entered what ap- 
peared to be a considerable grove of young 
Irees. Upon closer inspection, however I 
discovered that it was not a natural grove but 
an artificial one, hundreds of saplmgs having 
been brought from elsewhere and set upright 
in the ground. Soon I saw the reason, for m 
a little cleared space in the heart of this imita- 
tion wood, mounted on what looked not unl.ke 
gigantic step-ladders, were two field-gun 
with their muzzles pointing skyward. VU^c 
guns are for use against aircraft," explained the 
officer in charge. " The German airmen are 
constantly trying to locate our batteries, and 
Torder' to'discourage their inquisit.veness 
w-'ve put these guns in position." The guns 
were of the regulation ,oi..»Ujinz> pattern 
but so elevated that the wheds were at the 
height of a man's head from the ground, the 
barrels thus being inclined at such an acute 
angle that, by means of a sort of turntable oa 



IN THE FIELD 17 

which the platforms were mounted, the gunners 
were able to sweep the sky. " This," said the 
artillery officer, calling my attention to a 
curious-looking instrument, " is the telemeter. 
By means of it v/e arc able to obtain the exact 
altitude oi the aircraft at which we are firing, 
and thus know at what elevation to set our 
guns. It is as simple as it is ingenious. There 
are two apertures, one for each eye. In one 
the aircraft is seen right side up ; in the other 
it is inverted. By turning this thumbscrew 
the images are brought together. When one 
IS superimposed exactly over the other the 
altitude is shown in metres on this dial below. 
Then we open on the airman with shrapnel." 
Since these guns were placed in position the 
German air-scouts have found it extremely 
hazardous to play peep-a-boo from the clouds. 
A few minutes walk along the ridge brought 
us to the battery of 105's, which was the real 
object of our visit. The guns were not posted 
on the summit of the ridge, as a layman might 
suppose, but a quarter of a mile behmd it, 
so that the ridge itself, a dense forest, and the 
river Aisne intervened between the battery 
and the German position. The guns were 

B 



m 



III' i|l'i|i I I" ilil IIP Iijili'l WlihiPMIiMNI iimiiiMlf ^1 A 



,« VIVE LA FRANCE! 

.1,. matlrd with shrubs 
unk in ri:s so ingeniously mafkcawi^ 

.unk 1 ' ^ Wrenest-cycd airman, 

ind branches that the Keenest tj 

' . ,, 1 „„uld have seen nothing 

living <>w overhead, wouia nay 
to !r<.use his suspicions. Fifty feet away one 
Jd detect nclhing about that apparent y 
Cocent clump of tangled vegetation o 
rggest that it concealed an amazing quant y 
^potential death. This battery had be n 
Ire through the winter, and the gunner, had 
'Led tht time, which hung heavy on .l^r 
,„d, i„ making themselves comfort^bh . d 
• U .uuhm^ their surroundings. V\iUi t k 
m bcauutv n^ mc ,u.,,.,,tcr\n\c d the 

taste and ingenuity so char.acru 
.•>cncl . they had -ns^mc^ he .^^ry 

,,„,,, ,v..n «7"',/t^,bv deftly 
,he gun-pits we, c kept in r ^^ 

„.„ven wattles and tht patns ^ 

,Hem had borders of « ^^Xt-d pe ^le . 
were ratri.aic mottoes in coiourca i 
were jaiti ^ ,„;on<:1v constructed 

Scattered about were ingeniousU con 
bcattcrcu ^^.^^^.^ ^^^ j^.^., ^.^ 

rustic scats and table.. j.vacinths 

one of the great grey guns a bed ot ^ 

J ^Un nr heavy w th their fragrance, 
■"/t-ptvs' banked about «th ye low 

" „ Han ino from the arbour which shielded 
crocub. liangiu,>,i „.o KT^Vets niade 

another of the steel monsters were baskets 



■ i CV.M-:f,|lE'^v'-' ' ./l:\^..^J- 




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Msmmm^iu3mM.3i^ 



c<|gii^l>^3:?^Bf* -T^v'L'cy.- 




^is:^ 



'■^^ssTMVEH^^BarsiiBSsrtiimEitiii 



IN THE MlXl) 



•9 



of mos. and b;irk, in wluch were Krowing 
violet.. At a rustic table, under a sort of 
per-ola, a soldier was pointing a picture m 
wat'^er-colours. It was a Kood picture I saw 
it afterward on exhibition in the Salon de. 
Humoristes in Paris. A few yards bc-hind 
each Run-emplaccmcnt were cave-like shelters, 
dug in the hillside, in which the men ^leep, 
and in which they take refuge dunng the 
periodic shell-storms which visit thein. I hose 
into which I went were warm and dry and not 
■a all uncomfortable. Over the entrance to 
one of these troglodyte dwellings wa< a sign 
announcing that it was the Villa des Roses. 

- Do the Germans know the position ot 
t>>esc guns ? " I asked the battery com- 
mander. 

" Not exactly, though they have, of course, 

a pretty general idea." 

"Then you are not troubled by German 

shells," 1 remarked. 

- Indeed we arc," was the answer. Thougli 
ihcy have not been able to locate us exactly, 
they know that we are somewhere at the back 
o^- this ridge, so every now and then they 
attempt to clear us out by means of progressive 



^ii^B^UKpg^jns^s^m^-^mMPirj^xsLvxmn f^r.ivnssc-v^^ 







20 VIVF. l.A FRANCE ! 

ftrc. That is. they start in at the summit, 
and by Kfadually increasing tlie elevation of 
their Runs, systematically sweep the entire 
reverse .lope of the ridge, so that some of their 
shells are almost certain to drop in on us. Do 
vou appreciate, however, that, though we have 
now been in this .ame position for nearly six 
months, though not a day goes by that we are 
not under fire, and though a number ot my 
men have been killed and wounded, wc have 
never seen the target at which wc are firing 
and we have never seen a German soldier ? 

\ ten-minute walk across the open table- 
land which lay in front of the battery, and 
which forms the summit of the ridgc, then 
through a dense bit of forest, and wc found 
ourselves at the entrance to one of those secret 
obsffvatotres from which the French observers 
keep an unceasing watch on the movements of 
the enemy, and by means of telephones, con- 
trol the fire of their own batteries with in- 
credible accuracy. This particular observatotu 
occupied the mouth of a cave on the precipi- 
tous hillside above the Aisne, being rendered 
invisible by a cleverly arranged screen of 
bushes. Pinned to the earthen walls were 



IN THE FIELD 



21 



contour maps and fire-control charts ; power- 
ful telescopes mounted on tripods brought the 
German trenches across the river so close to us 
that, had a German soldier being incautious 
enough to show himself, we could almost have 
seen the spike upon his helmet ; and a military 
telephonist with receivers clamped to his cars 
sat at a switchboard and pushed buttons or 
pulled out pegs just as the telephone girls do 
in London hotels. The chief diflercnce was 
that this operator, instead of ordering a bell- 
hop to take ice-water and writing-paper to 
Room 511, would tell the commander of a 
battery, four or five or six miles away, to send 
over to a Cicrman trench, which he would 
designate by number, a few rounds of shrapnel 
or high explosive. 

An officer in a smart uniform of dark 
blue with the scarlet facings of the artillery 
beckoned to me to come forward, and indicated 
a small opening in the screen of branches. 

" Look through there," he said, " but please 
be extremely careful not to show yourself or 
to shake the branches. That hillside opposite 
us is dotted with the enemy's observatoires. 
just as this hillside is dotted with ours, and 



^2 VIVE LA FRANCE! 

they arc constantly sweeping this ridge with 
powerful glasses in the hope of spotting us 
and shelling us out. Thus far they've not 
been able to locate us. We've had better luck, 
however. We've located two of their fire- 
conirol stations, and put them out of business." 
As 1 was by no means anxious to have a 
storm of shrapnel bursting about my head, 
1 was careful not tr- do anything whicli might 
attract the attention of a German with a 
telescope glued to his eye. Peering cautiously 
through the opening in the screen of bushes, 
1 l^nd myself looking down upon the winding 
course of the Aisne ; to the south-west 
I could catch a glimpse of the pottery 
roofs of Soissons, while from the farther bank 
of the river rose the gentle slopes which 
formed the opposite side of the river valley. 
These slopes were everywhere slashed and 
scarred by zigzag lines of yellow which 1 knew 
to be the German trenches. But, though I 
knew that those trenches sheltered an invadhig 
army, -ot a sign of life was to be seen. Barring 
a few black-and-white cows grazing contentedly 
in a pasture, the landscape was absolutely de- 
serted. There was something strangely oppres- 



IN THE FIELD 



23 



sivc and uncanny about this great stretch of 
fertile Countryside, dotted here and there 
with wbite-walled cottages and clumps of 
farm buildings, but with not a single human 
being to be seen. On the other side of the 
opposit • ridge I knew that the German 
batteries were posted, just as tlie French guns 
were stationed out of sight at the back of the 
ridge on which I stood. This artillery war- 
fare It, after all, only a gigantic edition of the 
old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek ; the 
chief difference being iliat when you catch 
jight of your opponent, instead of saying 
politely, " I see you ! " you try to kill him 
with a three-inch shell. 

A soldier set a tripod in position and on it 
carefully adjusted a powerful telesctjpe. The 
colonel motioned me to look through it, and 
suddenly the things that had looked like 
sinuous yellow lines became recognizable as 
marvellously constructed earthworks. 

" Now," said the colonel, '' focus your glass 
on that trench just above the ruined farm- 
house and I will show you what our gunners 
can do." After consulting a chart with 
innumerable radiating blue and scarlet lines 



24 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



which was pinned to a drafting-table, and 
making seme hasty calculations with a pencil, 
he gave a few curt orders to a junior officer who 
sat at a telephone switchboard with receivers 
clamped to his ears. The young officer spoke 
some cabalistic figures into the transmitter 
and concluded with the order : " Ti> rapide."" 

" Now, Monsieur Powell," called the colonel, 
" watch the trenches." A moment later, 
from somewhere behind the ridge at the back 
of us, came in rapid succession six splitting 
crashes — bang! bang! bang! bang! bang! bang! 
A fraction of a second later I saw six puflFs of 
black smoke suddenly appear against one of 
the yellow lines on the distant hillside ; six 
fountains of earth shot high into the air. 

" Right into the trenches ! " exclaimed the 
colonel, who was kneeling beside -ne with his 
glasses glued to his eyes. " Watch once more." 
Again six splitting crashes, six distant puffs of 
smoke, and, floating back to us a moment later, 
six muffled detonations. 

" The battery that has just fired is four miles 
from those trenches," remarked the colonel 
casually. " Not so bad, eh ? " 

" It's marvellous," I answered, but all the 



IN THE FIELD 



i 

i 
I 

I 

i 



time I was wondering how many lives had been 
snuffed out for my benefit that morning on 
the distant hillside, how many men with 
whom I have no quarrel had been maimed for 
life, how many women had been left husband- 
less, how many children fatherless. 

" I do not wish to hasten your departure, 
Monsieur Powell," apologized the colonel, 
" but if you wish to get back to your car 
without annoyance, I think that you had better 
be starting. We've stirred up the Boches, and 
at any moment now their guns may begin 
to answer." 

He knew what he was talking about, did that 
colonel. In fact, we had delayed our depar- 
ture too long, for just as we reached the edge 
of the wood, and started across the open 
plateau which crowns the summit, something 
hurtled through the air above the tree-tops 
with a sound between a moan and a snarl and 
exploded with a crash like a thousand cannon 
crackers set off together a few yards in front 
of us. Before the echoes of the first had time 
to die away came another and yet another. 
They burst to the right of us, to the left of us, 
seemingly all around us. We certainly had 



^ 

T 



26 



VIVE LA FRANCE 1 



stirred up the (Germans. For a few minutes 
we were in a very warm corner, and I am no 
stranucr to ,-holl-firc, citlier. At first we de- 
cided to make a d.isli fur it across tlie plateau, 
but a slicll whieh hurst in the undergrowth 
not tliirty feet ahead induced us to chaiii^e our 
minds, and we precipitately retreated to the 
nearest bomb-proof. 'Fhc next half-hour we 
spent snugly and securely several feet below 
the surface of the earth, while shrapnel 
whined overhead like bloodliounds seeking 
their prey. Have you ever heard shrapnel by 
an)- chance ? No ? Well, it sounds as much 
as anything else like a winter gale howling 
through the branches of a pine-tree. It is a 
moan, a groan, a shriek, and a wail rolled into 
one, and when the explosion comes it sounds 
as though some one had touched off a stick of 
dynamite under a grand piano. And it is not 
particularly cheering to Inow that the ones 
you hear do not harm you, and that it is the 
ones you do not have time to hear that send 
you to the cemetery. The French ^artillery 
officers tell me that the German ammunition 
has noticeably deteriorated of late. Well, 
perhaps. Still, I hadn't noticcvlHt. It was 



IN THE FIELD 



27 



thirty minutes before the storm of shrapnel 
slackened and it was safe to start for the car. 
Wc had a mile of open field to cross with shells 
still (jccasionally falling. I felt like a man 
wearing a silk hat who has just passed a gang 
of boys engaged in making snowballs. In a life- 
timclargely made up of interesting experiences 
that exlxibition of French gunnery will always 
stand out as one of the most interesting things 
I have ever se-^n. But all the way back to 
headquarters I kept wondering about those 
men in the trenches where the shells had 
fallen, and about the women and children who 
are waiting and watching and praying for them 
over there across the Rhine. 

I had expressed a wish to visit Soissons, 
and, upon communicating with division head- 
quarters, permission was granted and the 
necessary orders issued. Before we started, 
however, I was told quite frankly that the 
military authorities accepted no responsi- 
bility for the consequences of the proposed 
excursion, for, though the town was in the 
possession of the French, it was under almost 
constant bombardment by the Germans. In 
order to get the setting of the picture clearly 



% 

1 



28 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



/! 



in your mind, you must picture two parallel 
ranges of hills, separated by a wonderfully 
fertile valley, perhaps three miles in width, 
down which meanders, with many twists and 
hairpin turns, the silver ribbon which is the 
Aisne. On its north bank, at a gentle bend in 
the river, stands the quaint old town of Sois- 
sons, so hoary with antiquity that its earlier 
history is lost in the mists of tradition. Of 
its normal population of fifteen thousand, 
when I was there only a few score remained, 
and those only because they had no other 
place to go. 

A sandstone ridge which rises abruptly 
from the south bank of the river directly op- 
posite Soissons was held by the French, and 
from its shelter their batteries spat unceasing 
defiance at the Germans, under General von 
Heeringen, whose trenches lined the heights 
on the other side of the river and immediately 
behind the town. From dawn to dark and 
often throughout the night, the screaming 
messengers of death crisscrossed above the 
red-tiled roofs of Soissons and served to make 
things interesting for the handful of inhabi- 
tants who remained. Every now and then the 



IN THE FIELD 



29 









German gunners, apparently for no reason 
save pure deviltry, would drop a few shells 
into the middle of the town. They argued, no 
doubt, that it would keep the townsfolk from 
becoming ennuied and give them something to 
occupv their minds. 

The ridge on the French side of the river is 
literally honeycombed with quarries, tunnels, 
and caverns, many of these subterranean cham- 
bers being as large and as curiously formed 
as the grottoes in the Mammoth Cave. Being 
weatherproof as well as shell-proof, the French 
had turned them to excellent account, utilizing 
them for barracks, ammumtion stores, fire- 
control stations, hospitals, and even stables. 
In fact, I can recall few stranger sights than 
that of a long Une of helmeted horsemen, com- 
prising a whole squadron of dragoons, disap- 
pearing into the mouth of one of these caverns 
like a gigantic snake crawling into its lair. 

Leaving the car three miles from the out- 
skirts of Soissons, we made our way through 
dense undergrowth up a hillside until we came 
quite unexpectedly upon the yawning mouth 
of a tunnel, which, I surmised, passed com- 
pletely under the backbone of the ridge. 



?■ wr^^ 



30 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



Groping our way for perhaps an eighth of 
a mile through inky blackness, we suddenly 
emerged, amid a blinding glare of sunlight, 
into just such another observing station as we 
had visited that morning farther up the Aisne. 
This nhserz'atoire, being in the mouth of the 
tunnel, could not be seen from above, while a 
screen of branches and foliage concealed it 
from the Gtrnian observers acro.-^s the river. 
The officer in command at this point was 
anxious to give us a demonstration of the ac- 
curacy with which his gunners could land f)n the 
German solar plexus, but when he learned that 
wo were going into the town he changed his 
mind. 

" 'i'hey've been quiet all day," he explained, 
" and if you are going across the river it's just 
as well not to stir them up. You'll probably 
get a little excitement in any event, for the 
Boches usually shell the town for an hour or so 
at sunset before knocking off for supper. We 
call it ' The Evening Prayer.' " 

S^ijping through an opening in the screen 
of foliage which masked the observatnire, wc 
found ourselves at the beginning of a boyau. or 
communication trench, which led diagonally 












''s .:. i^'t:?*!.- r. .■'\ ;.* i 



n 



f 





I, 






S 



«■-: :.*... fi 






IN THE FIELD 



31 



si 



1 

£- 



cjjvn the face of the hillside to the river. 
Down this we went, sometimes on hands and 
knees and always stooping, for as long as wc 
were on the side of the hill we were within sight 
of the German positions, and to have shown 
our heads above the trench would have at- 
tracted the bullets of the German sharpshoot- 
ers. And a second is long enough for a bullet 
to do its business. Fimerging from the boyau 
at the foot of the hill, we crossed the river by 
an ancient stone bridge and for a mile or mf)rc 
followed a cobble-paved high road which ran 
between rows of workmen's cottages which 
had been wrecked by shell-fire. Some had 
blattered roofs and the plastered walls of 
others were pockmarked with bullets, for here 
the fi<,'hting had been desperate and bloody. 
But over th • garden walls strayed blossom- 
laden branches of cherry, peach, and apple 
trees. The air was heavy with their fragrance. 
Black-and-white cattle grazed contentedly 
knee-deep in lush green grass. Pigeons cooed 
and chattered on the housetops. By an open 
window an old woman with a large whi e cat 
in her lap sat knitting. As she knitted she 
looked out across the blossoming hillsides to 



il 



U VIVE LA FRANCE! 

the vkv-linc where the invaders lay i ntrcnchcd 
and waiting. I wondered what she was think- 
ing about. She must have remembered quite 
distinctly when the Germans came to Soissons 
tor the first time, five and forty years before, 
and how they shot the townsmen in the public 
square. A few years ago the people of Sois- 
sons unveiled a monument to those murdered 
citizens. When this war is over they will have 
more names to add to those already carded on 
its base. 

It is not a cheerful business strolling through 
a shell-shattered and deserted town. You 
feel depressed and speak in hushed tones, as 
though you were in a house that had been 
visited by death as, indeed, you are. In the 
Place de la Republique we found a score or so 
of infantrymen on duty, these being the only 
soldiers that we saw ill the town. Along the 
main thoroughfares nearly every shop was 
closed and its windows shuttered. Some tobac- 
conists and two or three cafes remained bravely 
open, but Httle business was being done. I do 
not think that I am exaggerating when I say 
that every fourth or fifth house we passed 
showed evidences of the German bombard- 



1 



IN TIIK FIELD 



33 



nicnt. One shell, I remember, had exploded 
in the show-window of a furniture store and 
had ilemolished a ^It-and-red plush parlour 
Hiit The only thing unharmed was a sign 
uhieh read " Cheap and a bargain." 

In tiie very lieart of Soissons stands the huge 
bulk ».f the Miagnifiient twelfth century cathe- 
dral, it.- in.i>-ive tower rising -kyward like a 
finger pointing toward heav.n. 'I lure arc 
tew iiobK r piK s in France. Repeated r.ippings 
at a door in ilie churchyard wall brought the 
'.vr. a white-haired, kindly faced giant of a 
man. I iider his uidance we entered the 
caihedr.d, or r.itlur what remains of it, for its 
tainous (iothic windows are now but heaps of 
-nattered gl.isj, the splendid nave is open to 
tile Ay, luih t'le roof ii.i> been torn awav, the 
pul}>it with it., excjuisite carvings has been 
splintered by a slu 11. and the massive columns 
have been chipp. d and scarred. Carvings 
which were the pride of master craftsmen long 
centuries dead have been damaged past repair. 
In the fl(^or of the nave yawns a hole large 
enough to hold a horse. Around the statues 
which flank the altar, and which are too large 
to move, have been raised barricades of sand- 

c 



f * 



34 



VI\'E LA FRA^ 



I 



bags. And this, mind you, in tlic house of Him 
who was the Apostle of Peace ! 

\\ hilc the curr was pointing out to us the 
ruined beauties of his celebrated windows, 
something passed overhead wth a wail like a 
lost soul. A moment later came an explosion 
which made the walls of the cathedral trem- 
ble. " Ah," remarked the curr unconcernedly, 
" they've begun again. I thought it must be 
nearly time. They bombard the cathedral 
every evening between five and seven." 

As he finished speaking, another shell came 
whining over the housetops and burst with a 
prodigious racket in the street outside. 

'' 1 low far away was that one ? " I asked one 
of the officers. 

" Only about a hundred metres," was the 
careless reply. 

As unmoved as though at a church supper, 
the luri' placidly continued his recital of the 
cathedral's departed glories, reeling off the 
names oi the saints and martyrs who lie buried 
beneath th*' floor of its nave, his recital being 
punctuated at thirty-second Intervals by ex- 
plosions, each a little louder than the one pre- 
ceding. Finally a shell came so low that I 



*'% 



IN THE FIELD 



35 



thought it was going through the roof. It 
came so near, in fact, that I suggested it 
was getting on toward dinner time and that 
we really ought to be on our way. But the 
curr was not to be hurried. He had had no 
visitors for nearly a year and he was deter- 
mined to make the most of us. He insisted on 
showing us that cathedral from sacristy to 
belfry, and if he thought that we were missing 
anything he carefully explained it all over 
again. 

" W hy do you stay on here, father ? " I asked 
him. " A shell is likely to drop in on you at 
any moment." 

1 hat is as Jod wills, monsieur," was the 
quiet answer. " A capt in does not leave his 
siiip in a storm. I have my people to look 
after, for they are as helpless as children and 
look to me for advice. And the wounded also. 
We have turned the sacristy, as you saw, into 
a dressing-station. Yes, there is much to do. 
If a shell comes it will find me at my post of 
duty doing what I may to serve God and 
France." 

So we went away and left him standing 
there alone in the doorway of his shattered 



i 



36 



\'IVE LA FRANCE ! 



cathedral, a picturesque and gallant figure, 
with his vvhi:^ hair coming down upon his 
shoulders and hif tall figure wrapped in the 
black soutane. To such men as these the peo- 
ple f)f France owe a debt that they can never 
repay, 'i'hough they wear cassocks instead of 
cuirasses, though they carry Bibles instead of 
bayonets, they are none the less real soldiers 
— soldiers of the Lord. 

It nlu^t be borne in mind that the task 
ot the artiller} is far easier in hilly or moun 
tainous country, such as is found along the 
Aisne and in the Vosges and Alsace, where 
tiu' movements of the enemy can be observed 
with comparative facility and where both 
observers and gunners can usually find a 
certain degree of shelter, than in Artois and 
Flanders, where the country is as flat as the 
top of a table, with notliing even remotelv 
resembling a hill on which the observers can 
bo stationed or behind which the guns can be 
CMicealed. In the flat country the guns, 
which in all cases arc carefully masked bv 
means of branches from detection by hostile 
aircraft, take position at distances varying from 
two thousand to five thousand yards from the 



IN THE FIELD 



11 



3 



t 



"» 
s 



enemy's trenches. Immediately in lie rear of 
each gun is a subterranean shelter, in which the 
gunners can take refuge in case a German battery 
locates thcni and attempts to .hell them out. 
An artilkry subaltern, known in the British 
service as the " forward observing officer," 
goes up to the infantry trenches and chooses a 
position, sometimes in a tree, sometimes in a 
shattered church-tower, sometimes in a i r . 
of dug-out, from which he can obtain an un- 
obstructed view of his battery's zone of fire. 
He IS to his battery very much what a coach is 
to a football team, giving his men directions 
by telephone instead of through a megaphone, 
but, unlike the coach, he is stationed not on 
tile side-line but on the firing-line. Laid on 
the surface of the ground, connecting him 
witli the battery, is the field-telephone. As 
wires are e,.,ily cut by bursting shells, thev are 
now being laid in a sort of ladder formati<.n 
?o that a dozen wires may be cut witJiout 
mterrupting communication. When the noise 
i^ so deafening that the voice of the observing 
officer cannot be heard on the field-telephone 
communication is carried on in the Morse code 
by means of a giant buzzer. Amid all the 



38 



\ I\ i; LA FRANCE ! 



uproar of battle the observing officer has to 
keep careful track, through his glasses, of 
every shell his battery fires, and to inform his 
battery commander by telephone ot the effect 
of h\< fire. He mu.t make no mistakes, for on 
those j^nriions <<{ the battle-line where the 
trenches are frequently less than a hundred 
y.i\U ;ir.ut the -^liLrhtest miscalculation in 
t^^iviiig till- range might land the shells among 
Iii- own men. 'I'he critical moment for the 
ob-erving otFicer is, however, when the enemy 
makes a sudden rush and swarms of helmetcd. 
grey-clad figures, climbing out of their trenches, 
come rolling forward in a steel-tipped wave, 
tripping in the barbed wire and falling in ones 
and twos and dozens. Instantly the French 
trenches crackle and roar into the full blast 
of magazine fire. The rattle of the machine 
guns sounds like a boy drawing a stick along 
the palings of a picket fence. The air quivers 
to the incessant crash of bursting shrapnel. 
'"Infantry attack!" calls the observation 
ofiicer into the telephone receiver which is 
clamped to his head. " Commence firing ! " 
and his battery, two or three miles in 
the rear, begins pouring shrapnel on the 







■VfiJBf:t 



IN THE FIELD 



39 



- •( 



advancing Germans. But still the grey 
figure? come on, hoarsely cheering. " Drop 
twenty-five ! " lie orders. " Careful with your 
fuse-setting . . . very close to our trenches." 
The French shrapnel sprays the ground imme- 
diately in front of the French trenches as a 
street cleaner sprays the pavement with a hose. 
'I'he grey line checks, falters, sways uncertainly 
before the blast of steel. Men begin to fall 
by dozens and scores, others turn and run for 
their lives. With a shrill cheer the French 
infantry spring from their trenches in a 
counter-attack. " Raise twenty-five ! . . . 
raise fifty ! " telephones the observing officer 
as the blue figures of his countrymen sweep 
forward in the charge. And so it goes, the 
guns backing up the French attacks and break- 
ing the German ones, shelling a house or a 
haystack for snipers, putting a machine gun 
out of business, dropping death into the 
enemy's trenches or sending its steel calling- 
cards across to a German battery whose posi- 
tion has been discovered and reported by 
wireless by a scouting French aeroplane. And 
all the time the youngster out in front, 
flattened to the ground, with glasses at his eyes 



40 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



ff 



and a telephone at his lips, acts the part of 
prompter and tells the guns when to speak 
their parts. 

In reading accounts of artillery fire it should 
be remembered that there are' two types of 
shell in common use to-day— shrapnel and 
high explosive— and that they arc used for 
entirely different purposes and produce en- 
tirely different results. Shrapnel, which is 
intended only for use against infantry in the 
open, or when lightly entrenched, is a shell 
with a very thin steel body and a small burst- 
ing charge, generally of low-power explosive, 
in the base. By means of a time-fuse the' 
projectile is made to burst at any given moment 
after leaving the gun, the explosion of the 
weak charge breaking the thin steel case and 
liberating the bullets, which fly forward v\ith 
the velocity of the shrapnel, scattering much 
as do tJie pellets from a shot-gun. At a range 
of 3500 yards the bullets of a British 1 8-pound 
shrapnel, 375 in number, cover a space of 250 
yards long and 30 yards wide— an area of more 
than one and a half acres. Though terribly 
effective against infantry attacks v.r unprotected 
batteries, shrapnel are wholly useless against 



IN THE FIELD 



41 



fortified positions, strongly built houses, or 
deep and well-planned entrenchments. The 
difference between shrapnel and liigh ex- 
plosive is the difference between a shot-gun 
and an elephant rifle. The liigh-explosive 
shell, which is considerably stronger than the 
shrapnel, contains no bullets but a charge of 
high explosive — in the French service melinite, 
in the British usually lyddite, and in the 
CJerman army trinitrotoluene. The effect of 
tliL ]ii<,']i explosive is far more concentrated 
than that of shrapnel, covering only one- 
fifteenth of the area affected by the latter. 
Tliough shrapnel has practically no effect on 
barbcd-vvire entanglements (jr on concrete, 
and very little on earthworks, high-explosive 
shells of the same calibre destroy everything 
in the vicinity, concrete, wire entanglements, 
steel shields, guns, and even the trencher them- 
selves disappearing like a dynamited stump be- 
fore tlie terrific blast. 'I'he men holding the 
trenches are driven into their dug-outs, and 
may be reached even there by higli-explosive 
shells fired from high-angle howitzers. 

The commanding importance of the high- 
explosive shell in tliis war is due m the peculiar 



42 



\IVF LA FRANCE ! 



nature of tlic contlict. Instead of fi^'hting in 
tlie open fuld, the struggle has developed 
!ito what i-, to all intents and purposes, a 
fortress warfare on the most gigantic scale. 
In this warfare all strategic manfruvres are 
absent, because mancEuvrcs are impossible on 
;.'round wlure every square yard is marked and 
swipt by artillery fire. The opposing armies 
are not simply entrenched. They liave pro- 
teercd them elves with masses of concrete and 
•^teel armour, so that the so-called trenches 
are in reality concicte forts, shielded and 
caHinated with armour plate, flanked with 
rapiJ-fircrs and mortars, linked to one another 
by marvellously concealed communicating 
trenche- which are protected in turn by the 
tire of heavy batteries, guarded by the most 
ingenious entanglements, pitfalls and other 
obstructions that the mind of man has been 
able to devise, and defended by machine guns, 
in the enormous proportion of one to every 
fifty men, mounted behind steel plates and 
capable of firing six hundred shots a minute. 
In these subterranean works dwell the infantry, 
abundantly provided with hand grenades and 
appliances for throwing bombs and flaming 



IN THE FIELD 



43 



oil, tlicir rifles trained, day and night, on the 
-p.ici' ovtr uhicli an entinv must ailvanct. 
Tlidt i» tlic sort of wall which one side or the 
(.thtr ull! have to break through in order to 
win ill this war. The only way tw take such a 
position i^ i\v frontal attack, and the only way 
to jnakc .1 frontal attack possil is by paving 
the WMV with such a torrent of liigh explosive 
that h ith entanglements and earthworks are 
literally torn to pieces ana the infantry defend- 
ing them demoralized or annihilated. Xo one 
before the war could have imagined the vast 
quantity (.f shells re |uired tor such an opera- 
tion. In order to prepare tlie way for an 
infantry attack on a German position near 
Arras, the French fired two hundred thousand 
rounds of high explosive in a single day — and 
the <-cout« came back to report that not a 
barbed-wire entanglement, a trench, or a 
living human being remained. During the 
same battle the British, owing to a shortage 
of high-explosive ammunition, were able to 
precede their attack by only forty minutes 
of shell fire. This was wholly insufficient to 
clear away the entanglements and other ob- 
structions, and, as a result, the men were 



? i 



44 MVF LA FRANCE ! 

literally mowed down by tlic (krman machine 
Kuns. r.vcn vviicn the stormin^'-partics suc- 
ceed in rcachin- tlic first line of the emmy's 
trenches and bayonet or drive <nit the de- 
fenders, the ..pp,.sin^' artillery, witii a literal 
VN..I1 ni fire, effectively prevents anv reinf-.rce- 
nients from advancin^i,' t.. their support. 
Shattered and exliausted tliougli iluy are, 
the attackers must instantly set to wurk to' 
fortify and consolidate the captured trenches, 
bemg subjected, meanwhile, to a much more- 
accurate bombardment, as the enemy knows, 
of course, the exact range of his former p<...itions 
^ind IS able to drop },is shells into them wilh 
unerrin- accuracy. It is (,bvious tliat such 
offensive movements cannot be multiplied or 
prolonged indefinitely, both on account of the 
severe mental and physical strain on the men 
and the appalling losses which they involve. 
Neither can such offensives be improvised. A 
commanding officer cannot smash home a 
frontal attack on an enemy's position at any 
moment that he deems auspicious anv more 
than a surgeon can perform a major ..p.ration 
without fir.st preparing his patient plu>icallv. 
Before laumhing an attack the ground must be 



IN THK FIKLI) 



45 



minutely studied ; tlic position to be attacked 
must be reconnoitred and pliotogrjphed by 
aviators ; advanced trenches must he dug ; 
reserve troops must be moved forward and 
batteries brought into petition witliout arous- 
ing the suspicions of the enemy ; and, most 
important of all, enormous quantities of pro- 
jectile- and other material must be gathered 
in one place designated by the officer in charge 
of tlie operations. The greatest problem pre- 
entid by an offensive movement is that of 
JeHvering to the artillery the vast supplies of 
?he]l> necessary to pave the way for a successful 
attack. To give some idea ol what this means, 
1 nui,'ht inciiiion that the (jermans. durin" the 
cro-ing of the Si\n, Jired seven hundred thousand 
shells in jour hours. 

There are no words between the covers of the 
dictionary which can convey any adequate idea 
of vslut one of these great ariillery actions is 
like. One has to see — and hear — it. Buildings 
of brick and stone ci>llapse as though they were 
built of cards. Whole towns are razed to the 
ground as a city of tents would be levelled by 
a cyclone. Trees arc snapped off like carrots. 
Gaping holes as large as cottage cellars sud- 



46 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



h 



I 



dcnly appear in the fields and in the stone- 
paved roads. Geysers of smoke and earth 
shoot hi^'h into tlie air. The fields are strewr 
with the sh(;cking remains of what had once 
been men: bodies without heads or with- 
out legs ; legs and arms and heads without 
bodies. Dead horses, broken waggons, be.it 
and shattered equipment arc everywhere. 
The noise is beyond all description— yes, 
beyond all conception. It is like a close-by 
clap of tliunder which, instead of lasting tor a 
fraction of a second, lasts for hours. There is 
no break, no pause in the hell of sound, not 
even a momentary diminution. The ground 
heavr> and shudders beneath your feet. You 
find it difficult to breathe. Your head throb< 
until y.m think that it is about to burst. Your 
cyeb.ill-, ache and burn. Giant fingers seem 
to be >tcadily pressing your car-drums inward. 
I he very atmosphere palpitates to the tre- 
mend..us detonations. The howl of the shell- 
storm passing overhead gives you the feeling 
that til- skies are falling. Compared with it 
the n.ar ,,f the cannon at Waterloo or even 
at (Gettysburg must have sounded like the 
popping of fire-crackers. 

Inconceivably awe-inspiring and terrifying 








v4 
■5* 




<n!in.in vie.ui Uiiii; in Irtmt nt the Fri lu h trciuhc^ 
I'll ihr -liorc- lit iltc Nortli Sea 



• Mii.il -\ ~l. n. I iTc-.. t.> V » i.i. h If. I. Ii.-- Ill" 
> t I; a. it .■ N II . ~. , I i!,. \;j,. 




"'■ CtUvin!. ,s.„-,,„ 



IN THE FIELD 



47 



() 



as is a modern artillery action, one eventually 
becomes accustomed to it, but I have yet to 
meet the person who could say with perfect 
truthfulne-s that he was indifferent to the fire 
f the great German siege cannon. I have 
three times been under the fire of the German 
Mege-guns — during the bombardments of 
Antwerp, of Soissons, and of Dunkirk — and I 
hope with all my heart that I shall never have 
the experience again. Let me put it to you, 
mv friends. How would you feel if you were 
>lctping quite peacefully in — let us say — the 
Hotel Metropole, and at six o'clock in the morn- 
ing something dropped from the clouds, and in 
the pavement of Northumberland .Avenue blew 
a Imle large enough to bury a horse in ? And 
u hat would be your sensations if, still bewildered 
bv the suddenness of your awakening, you ran 
to the window to see what had happened, and 
something that sounded like an exprets-train 
came hurtling through the air from somewhere 
over in Lambeth, and with the crash of an ex- 
ploding powder-m.ill transformed Whitelcy's 
into a heap of pulverized stone and concrete .•' 
Well, that is precisely what happened to me 
one beautiful spring morning in Dunkirk. 
To be quite frank, I didn't like Dunlirk from 



48 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



1' 



the first. Its empty streets, the shuttered win- 
dows of its shops, and the inky blackness into 
which the city was plunged at night from fear 
of aeroplanes, combined to give me a feeling 
of uneasmess and depression. The place was 
about as cheerful as a country cemetery on a 
rainy evening. From the time I set foot in it 
1 J.ad the feeling that something was going to 
happen. I found that a room had been re- 
served for me on the upper floor of the local 
hostelry, known as the Hotel des Arcades- 
prcsumably because there are none. I did not 
particularly relish the idea of sleeping on the 
upper floor, with nothing save the roof to ward 
off a bomb from a marauding aeroplane for 
ever .nice I was under the fire of Zeppelins in 
Antwerp, I have made it a point tJ put as 
many floors as possible between me and the 
skv. 

It must have been about six o'clock in the 
morning when I was awakened by a splitting 
crash which made my bedroom windows rattle 
A moment later came another and then another, 
each louder and therefore nearer than the one 
preceding. All down the corridor doors began 
to open, and I heard voices excitedly inquiring 



IN THE FIELD 



49 



what was happening. I didn't have to inquire. 
I knew from previous experience. A German 
Taube was raining death upon the city. 
'I'hrowing open my shutters 1 could see the 
machine quite plainly, its armour-plated body 
ulcamin.i: in the morning sun like polished 
>ilvcr .IS it »wept in ever-widening circles across 
the skv. Somewhere to the east a pom-pom 
began its infernal trip-hammerlike clatter. An 
armoured-car, evidently British from the 
" K.N." painted on its turret, tore into the 
Hiuare in front of the hotel, the lean barrel of 
it^ quick-firing gun sweeping the sky, and began 
to ^end shell after shell at the aerial intruder. 
Fr.nn down near the water front came the 
raucous wail of a ste.m-siren warning the 
people to get under cover. A church bell 
be-an to clang hastily, insistently, imperatively. 
h .cemed to say, "To your cellars ! To your 
cellars! Hurry! . . . Hurry ^ . . . Hurry!" 
From the belfry ot the church of St. Floi a 
flag with blue and white stripes was run up 
a, a warning to the townspeople that death 
was abroad. Suddenly, above the tumult of 
the bells and horns and hurrpng footsteps, 
eaine a new and inconceivably terrifying 

I) 



50 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



sound: a l„w. dccp-.oncd roar rapidly risi„„ 

no a ,hund.r.,us crescendo lite 'an 'x'e"! 

"am approadnng from far down ,he subLv. 

,? "J"'''^ '^"""^ our heads it sounded as 

housh a g,an, in the sky were .earing migh.v 

een,ed to ruck and sway. The hotel shook ,,, 
ts foundafons. The pictures on the wall 
threatened to come down. The g ss 
the window, rattled until I thought , ha, it 
wotdd break Fron, beyond the' ho:! to; 
n the d,rect,on of the receiving hospital and 
he radway nat.on a mushroom-shaped cloud 
of green-brown smoke shot suddenly^-,,, J. 
th<- »r. Out ,n the corridor a woman screamed 
h>stcru,dly: •• My God ! My God ! ThoAe 

the clatter of footsteps on the stairs a, the 
guests rushed for the cellar. , began to dr s ' 
No fireman responding to a third alarm ever 
dressed quicker. Ju„ as I „as struggling Jth 
my boots there came another whSi g' To ' 
and another terrific detonation. High f„ the 

Ger" ' "'^'^---"« ^ity still circled h 
German aeroplane, informing by wireies, the 



1 



IN THE FIELD 



51 



( itrman gunners, more than a score of mUes 
away acro>s the Belgian border, where their 
shells were hitting. Think of it ! Think of 
bombarding a city at a tan^e oj twenty-three 
miles and every shot a hit ! That is the marvel 
(,l this modern warfare. Imagine the Great 
Western Station, the Albert Hall, the Crystal 
Palace and the London Hospital being blown 
to MTiithcreens by shells fired from Windsor. 
And it was not a 42-centimetre siege-gun 
either, but a 15-inch naval gun which the 
Germans had brought from Kiel and mounted 
behind ihcir lines in Flanders. Though 
French and British aviators made repeated 
tligin^ over the German lines for the purpose 
of locating the gun and putting it out of 
business, their efforts met with no success, as 
the ingenious Teutons, it seems, had dug a 
sort of tunnel into which the gun was run back 
after each shot and there it stayed, in perfect 
security, until it was fired again. Is it any 
wonder that the Germans are so desperately 
anxious to reach Calais, with the fort-crowned 
cliffs of Dover rising across the channel less 
than twenty miles away ? 

Descending to the cellars of the hotel, I 



JUjt 



S2 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



lound that there was standing-room only. 
Guests, porters fooks, waiters, chambermaids, 
English Red Cross nurses, and a French colonel 
wearing the Legion of Honour were shivering 
in the dampness amid the cobwebs and the 
wine-bottles. Every time a shell exploded 
the wine-bottles in their bins shook and 
quivered as though they, too, were alive and 
frightened. I l.iy no claim to bravery, hut in 
other bombarded cities I have seen what 
happens to the people in the cellar when a shell 
strikes that particular building, and I had no 
desire to end my career like a rat in a trap. 
Should you ever, by any chance, find yourself 
in a city which is being bombarded, take my 
advice, I beg of you, and go out into the middle 
of the nearest open square and stay there until 
the bombardment is over. I believe that far 
more people are killed during bombardment 
by falling masonry and timbers than by the 
shells themselves. As I went upstairs I heard 
a Frenchwoman angrily demanding of the 
chambermaid why she had not brought her 
hot water. " But, madame," plea led the 
terrified giri, - tlic city is being bombarded." 
" Is that any reason why I sliould not wash .' " 



w.'ta^r J 



IN THK FIKLl) 



53 



,uvd the irate laJy. " Bring my hot water 

I in>iantlv." 

At cil'ht (.'cK.ck thf officer commanding the 
f ^arriMm hurried in. He had invited me to 
Umch uith him. "l am desolated that I 
i taiii'Mt have the pleasure ol your company at 
[ ufjr'umr. Mon>ieur Powell," said he, "but it 
j i^ n< t wi^e for you to remain in the city. 1 am 
I responsible to the Government for your safety, 
1 and it would make things easier for me if you 
1 would K"- 1 li*»ve taken the liberty of sending 
I iMf y..ur car." You can call it cowardice or 
I tiini'dity <.r anything you please, but 1 am not 
I at .ill ashamed to admit that I was never so 
i glad U) have an invitation cancelled. I have 
• had a v.inewhat extensive acquaintance with 
bombardmen-=, and I have always found that 
iho^e who speak lightly of them arc those who 
have never seen "i.e. 

In order to get -ut of range of the German 
^lK•lls mv driver, .ictins under the orders of 
the commandant, turned the bonnet of the 
I car toward Bergues, t^ve miles to the south- 
u..ru. But we tound that Berguc< had not 
iHcn ..verlooked by the German gunners, 
haviiig. indeed, ^utiered more severely than 



54 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

Dunkirk. When we arrived the bombard- 
ment was just over and the dust was still 
rising from the shattered houses. Twelve 
38-centimetre shells had landed in the rery 
heart of the little town, sending a score or 
more of its inhabitants, men, women, and 
children, to the hospital and a like number to 

the cemetery. 

A few hours before Bergues had been as 
quaint and peaceful and contented a town of 
five thousand people as you could have found 
in France. Because of its quaint and simple 
charm touring motorists u^cd to go out of 
their way to see it. It is fortified in theory 
but not in fact, for its moss-grown ramparts, 
which dale from the Crusaders, have about as 
much military significance as the 'lower of 
London. But the guide-boob describe it as 
a fortified town, and that was all the excuse 
the Germans needed to turn loose upon it 
sudden death. To-day that little town is an 
empty, broken shell, its streets piled high with 
the brick and plaster of its ruined homes. 
One has to see the ruin produced by a 38-centi- 
mctre shell to believe it. If one hits a build- 
ing that building simply ceases tu exist. It 



fe-i.^' 




t9is^.. 



MICROCOPY RESOIUTION TEST CHART 

ANSI a"d ISO TEST CHART No 2 



1.0 



I.I 



1.25 



lii 2.8 


2.5 


1- 1^ 2.2 


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IN THE FIELD 



55 



crumbles, disintegrates, disappears. I do not 
mean to say that its roof is ripped of! or that 
one of its walls is blown away. I mean to say 
that the whole building crashes to the ground 
as though flattened by the hand of God. The 
Germans sent only twelve of their shells into 
Bergues, but the central part of the town looked 
like Market Street in San Francisco after the 
earthquake. One of the shells struck a hospital 
and exploded in a ward filled with wounded 
soldiers. They are not wounded any longer. 
Another shell completely demolished a three- 
story brick house. In the cellar of that house 
a man, his wife, and their three children had 
taken refuge. There was no need to dig graves 
for them in the local cemetery. Throughout 
the bombardment a Taube hung over the 
doomed town to observe the effect of the shots, 
and to direct by wireless the distant gunners. 
I wonder what the German observer, peering 
down through his glasses upon the wrecked 
hospital and the shell-torn houses and the 
mangled bodies of the women and children, 
thought about it all. It would be interesting 
to know, wouldn't it ? 



II. OxN THE BRITISH 
BATTLE-LINE 

ALONG a road in the outskirts of that 
i'Vcnch town which is the British 
^ Headquarters a youth was running. 
He was of considerably less than medium 
height, and fair-haired and very slender. One 
would have described him as a nice-looking 
boy. He wore a jersey and white running- 
shorts which left his knees bare, and he was 
bare-headed. Shoulders, back and chest well 
out, he jogged along at the steady dog-trot 
adopted by athletes and prize-fighters who are 
in training. Now, in ordinary times there is 
not anything particularly remarkable in seeing 
a scantily clad youth dog-trotting along a 
country road. You assume that he is training 
for a cross-country event, or for a seat in a 
'varsity shell, or for the feather-weight cham- 
pionship, and you let it go at that. But these 
are not ordinary times in France, and ordinary 
voung men in running-shorts are not per- 
mitted to trot along the roads as they list m 

;6 



ON THE BRITISH BA'ITLE-LINE 57 

the immediate vicinity of British Headquarters. 
Even if you travel, as I did, in a large grey car, 
with an oflficcr of the Erench General Staff 
for companion, you arc halted every few 
minutes by a sentry who turns the business 
end of a ritle in your direction and demands 
to see your papers. But no one challenged 
the young man in the running-shorts or asked 
to see hi:' papers. Instead, whenever a soldier 
caught sight of him that soldier clicked his 
heels together and stood rigidly at attention. 
After you had observed the curious effect 
which the appearance of this young man pro- 
duced on the military of all ranks it suddenly 
struck you that his face was strangely f miliar. 
Then you all at once remembeied 
had seen it hundreds of times in the 
and the illustrated papers. Under ii 
caption, " His Royal Highness th.- ' 
Wales." That young man will .^ ■ 
he lives, sit in an ancient chair in • , ciuninster 
Abbey, and the Archbishop of Canterbury 
will place a crown upon his head, and his 
picture will appear on coins and postage-stamps 
in use over half the globe. 

Now, the future King of England— 



:i'ic 
di the 
'ace of 
.lay, if 



58 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



Edward VIII they will doubtless call him— is 
not getting up at daybreak and reeling off 
half a dozen miles or so because he particularly 
enjoys it. He is doing it with an end in view. 
He is doing it for precisely the same reason that 
the prize-fighter does it— he is training for a 
battle. To me there was something wonder- 
fully suggestive and characteristic in the sight 
of that young man plugging doggedly along 
the country road. He seemed to epitomize 
the spirit which I found to exist along the 
whole length of the British battle-line. Every 
British soldier in France has come to appreciate 
that he is engaged in a struggle without 
parallel in history— a struggle in which he is 
confronted by formidable, ferocious, resource- 
ful, and utterly unscrupulous opponents, and 
from which he is by no means certain to 
emerge a victor — and he is, therefore, methodi- 
cally and systematically preparing to win that 
struggle just as a pugilist prepares himself for 
a battle in a prize-ring. 

The British soldier has at last come to a 
realization of the terrible gravity of the situa- 
tion which faces him. You don't hear him 
singing " Tipperary " any more or boasting 



h 1 



■m-^^'3fmtKv^9tF^r^!kiak^w..- r- ".■'^L)pr.?.'^G-.»^-->v;.T~',tJ" ^^- 



.«i^ 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 59 



to 



about what he is going to do when he jrcts t( 
Berlin. He has co ne to have a most profound 
respect for the fig/ ting qualities of the men 
in the spiked helmets. He knows that he, an 
amateur boxer as it were, is up against the 
world's heavy-weight professional champion, 
and he perfectly appreciates that he has, to 
use his own expression, *' a hell of a job " in 
front of him. He has already foui. ' out, to 
his cost and to his very great disgust, that his 
opponent has no intention of being hampered 
by the rules laid down by the late Marquis 
of Queensberry, having missed no opportunity 
to gouge or kick or hit below the belt. But the 
British soldier has now become familiar with 
his opponent's tactics, and one of these days, 
when he gets quite ready, he is going to give 
that opponent the surprise of his life by land- 
ing on him with both feet, spikes on his shoes, 
and brass knuckles on his fingers. Meanwhile 
like the young Prince in the running-shorts, 
he has buckled down with grim determination 
to the task of getting himself into condition. 

1 suppose that if I were really politic and 
far-sighted I would cuddle up to the War 
OfBce and make myself solid with the General 



6o 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



Staff by confidently assorting that the Briti>h 
Army is the nv)>t efficient killing-machine in 
existence, and that it^ complete and early 
triumph is as certain as that the sparks fly 
upward ; neither (jf which assertions would be 
true. It should be kept in mind, however, 
that the British did not begin the building ot 
their war-machine until after the outbreak of 
hostilities, while the German organization is 
the result of upward of half a century of un- 
ceasing tliought, experiment, and endeavour. 
But what he British have accomplished since 
the war began is one of the marvels of military 
history. Lord Kitchener came to a War 
Office which had long been in the hands of 
lawyers and politicians. Not only was he 
expected to remodel an institution which had 
become a national joke, but at the same time 
to raise a huge volunteer army. In order to 
raise this army he had to have recourse to 
American business methods. He employed a 
clever advertising specialist to cover the walls 
and newspapers of the United Kingdom with 
all manner of striking advertisements, some 
pleading, some bullying, some caustic in tone, 
by which he has proved that, given patriotic 



■^^-liviF^Iv^rr?^; 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINF 6i 

impulse, advertising tor people to go to war 
is just like advertising for pec.plc to buy auto- 
mobiles or shaving soap or smoking tobacco. 
It was not soothing to British pride— but it 
got the men. Late in the spring of 191 5» 
after half a year or more of training, during 
which they were worked as a negro teamster 
works a mule, those men were marched abroad 
transports and sent acro.>s the Channel. So 
admirably executed were the plans of the War 
Office and so complete the precautions taken 
by the .\dmir.ihy, that this great fc^rcc was 
landed on the Continent without the loss of 
a single life from German mines or submarines. 
That'', in itself, is one of the greatest accom- 
plishments of the war. England now (November 
1915) has in France an army of appro.ximately a 
million men. But it is a new army. The bulk of it 
is without experience and without experienced 
re-iments to stiflfen it and give it confidence, 
tor the army of British regulars which landed 
in France at the outbreak of the war has ceased 
to exist. The old regimental names remain, 
but the officers and men who composed those 
reeiments are, to-day, in the hospital or the 
cemeteries. The losses suffered by the British 



^^^.--^A^m 



62 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

Army in Flanders arc appalling. The West 
Kent Regiment, for example, has been three 
limes wiped out and three times reconstituted. 
Of the Black Watch, the Rifle Brigade, the 
Infantry of the Household, scarcely a vestige 
of the original establishments remains. Hardly 
less terrible are the losses which have been 
suflFcred by the Canadian Contingent. The 
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry 
landed in France 1400 strong. To-day only 
140 remain. The present colonel was a private 
in the ranks when the regiment sailed from 

Quebec. 

The machine that the British have knocked 
together, though still a trifle wobbly and some- 
what creaky in its joints, is, I am convinced, 
eventuallv going to succeed. But you cannot 
appreciate what it is like or what it b accom- 
plishing by reading about it ; you have to sec it 
for yourself as I did. That corner of France 
lying between the forty miles of British front 
and the sea is, to-day, I suppose, the busiest 
region in the world. It reminded mc of the 
Panama Canal Zone during the rush period of 
the Canal's construction. It is as busy as the lot 
where the Greatest Show on Earth is getting 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 63 

ready for the afternoon performance. Down 
the roads, far as the eye can sec, stretch long 
lines of London motor-buses, sombre war- 
coats of elephant grey replacing the staring 
advertisements of teas, tobaccos, whiskeys, 
and theatrical attractions, crowded no longer 
with pale-faced clerks hurrying toward the 
City, but with sun-tanned men in kliaki hurry- 
ing toward the trenches. Interminable pro- 
cessions of motor-lorries go lumbering past, 
piled high with the supplies required to feed 
and clothe the army, practically all of which 
are moved from the coast to the front by road, 
the railways being reserved for the transport of 
men and ammunition ; and the ambulances, 
hundreds and hundreds of them, hurrying 
their blood-soaked cargoes to the hospitals so 
that they may go back to the front for more. 
So crowded are the highways behind the 
British front that at the cross-roads in the 
country and at the street crossings in the towns 
are posted mUitary policemen as if they were 
Bobbies at the Bank or at Piccadilly Circus. 
The roads are never permitted to fall mto 
disrepair, for on their condition depends the 
rapidity with which the army can be supplied 



ft VIVK l.A FR \N<. K '. 

., , , ,„a ammunition. "'■•«'-' '•''•^ 

^,,n,., and -t.am r i ^^ .^ ^^^.^.^_ 

,rc a. w..rk constantly. VV hen . ^^^ 

r-rancc will ^a... W..c.r r,. - -a ^^^^ ^^^ 

„K,n .l.an .l>c ever 'f J^ ;,„(,„, p,,,e,i- 
,p...d-limi.aKn,cvcr>«laR-Kc 

,^„,m,Vnownin.-ranc>..a >^^^.^^^,^. 

„a, car.k.s cnoui;!. to «^' " ,-,^, \, ,rc- 

.lu.nt .ntc-rvaU al..n, th . _^^ ^^^ ^^, 

,h.,p- and m..tor-ca '^^ '"^ ,,,^. ^„,,,,, 

I- ..( the rcrair cars, vaitanit . 
..n wlKcU, «..icb. vvlK-n new- f ■- 
,. breakdown is rcccvcd, ,.„ uar. 
,h,.sccn...<tr,.ubU-asafir-™.n s^r ^^^^^^ 

„alarm,.ffirc A n> ■.'^^^.,,,^, „„,,, 
„itln,ut l.gl.ts, as a r.sul ^^ ^.^^^ 

..„,.„. and '-r^-^f^ ^2 in tl-e dark- 
disaster by runmng "« the a .^^^^^^^ 

-" ^"^'.z^;'::].:;;. ui'a'; fotni,. .nishap 

■'" ^r" S . Vic Co rs has dcsi5n.d a most 
the Army Service v,ori . 

in,..nious c<-"iv^ncc «h ch a k^^^^^^ ^_^ ^^^ 

machines nnt of the d.td, ana 

road again as easily as though thn J „^,^^ 

born mules, k^™ '^e dc.r 




iMr.i- tlic t-yc '.in ■■-;c :rct. Ii Inig Imcs nt l.oiuioii 
,; f^ 111 \*.ir-OUt^ <>t cupll.Ult ^;riv. >rn'.\.kii Ul'.il -1111- 
nu-ii m Ui.iKi 1 urrviiiL.' t..u,ir.l iK'-' irciulic ' 



in.'t'>r 
taiiiiCvl 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 65 

\vc passed, whether chateau or cottage, was 
marked the number of men who could be 
billeted upon it. There are signs indicating 
where water can be obtained and fodder and 
pasturage and petrol. In every town and 
village are to be found military interpreters, 
known by a distinctive cap and brassard, who 
are always ready to straighten out a misunder- 
standing between a Highlander from the north 
' <if the Tweed and a tirailleur from Tunisia, 
wlio will assist a Ghurka from the Indian hill 
cmntry in bargaining for poultry with a 
Flemish-speaking peasant, or instruct a lost 
Senegalese how to get back to his command. 
An officers' training-school has been established 
at St. Omcr, which is the British Headquarters, 
where those men in the ranks who possess the 
necessary education arc fitted to receive com- 
missions. After this war is over the British 
Army will no longer be officered by the British 
aristocracy. The whulesalc promotions of en- 
listed men made necessary by the appalling 
losses among the officers will resiUt in com- 
pletely changing the complexion of the British 
military establishment. Provided he has the 
necessary educational qualifications, the son of 



M 

.m 



66 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

a day labourer will hcrcalter stand as much 
chance as the son of a duke. Did you know 
by the way, that the present Ch.ef ot the 
General Staff entered the army as a private 

in the ranks ! , , .i,„ RrJtUh 

The wonderful thoroughness of the British 

is exemplified by the bulletins which are issue.? 
every morning by the Intelligence Department 
for the inf<.rmation of the brigade and regi- 
mental commanders. They r-mble ordinary 
handbills and contain a summary of all the 
information which the Intelligence Depart- 
ment has been able to collect during the pre- 
ceding twenty-four hours as to what ,s gmng 
on behind the German lines-movements o 
troops, construction of new trenches, chang s 
in the ocation ot batteries, shortage of ammum- 
.ion, condition of the roads ; everything in 
.hort, which might be of any conceivable v a^u. 
to the British to know. For examp e, the 
report might contain a sentence something hke 
tWs " At five o'clock to-morrow mornmg 
the Prussian Guard, which has been holding 
position No. -, to the south of Ypres, w-ill be 
elieved by the 47th Bavarian Landsturm - 
which, by the way, would probably result in 



n 






ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 67 

the British attacking the position mentioned. 
The information contained in these bulletins 
comes from many sources — from spies in the 
pay of the Intelligence Department, from 
aviators who make reconnaissance flights over 
the German lines, and particularly from the 
inhabitants of the invaded regions, who, by 
various ingenious expedients, succeed in com- 
municating to the Allies much important 
information — often at the cost of their lives. 

The great base camps which the British 
have established at Calais and Havre and 
Boulogne and Rouen are marvels of organiza- 
tion, efficiency, and cleanliness. Cities whose 
macadamized streets are lined with portable 
houses of wood or metal which have been 
brought to the Continent in sections, and which 
have sewers and telephone systems and electric 
lights, and accommodation for a hundred thou- 
sand men apiece, have sprung up on the sand 
dunes of the French coast as though by the 
wave of a magician's wand. Here, where the 
fresh, healing wind blows in from the sea, have 
been established hospitals, each with a thousand 
beds. Huge warehouses have been built of 
concrete to hold the vast quantity of stores 



V 



: I 



68 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



which arc being rushed across the Channel 
by an endless procession of transports and 
cargo steamers. So efficient is the British 
field- post system, which is operated by the 
Army Post Office Division of the Royal Engi- 
neers, that within forty-eight hours after a 
wife or mother or sweetheart drops a letter 
into a post-box in England that letter has been 
delivered in the trenches to the man to whom 
it was addressed. 

In order to prevent military information 
leaking out through the letters which are 
written by the soldiers to the folks at home, 
one in every five is opened by the regimental 
censor, it being obviously out of the question 
to peruse them all. If, however, the writer is 
able to get hold of one of the precious green 
envelopes, whose colour is a guarantee of 
private and family matters only, he is reason- 
ably certain that his letter will not be read by 
other eyes than those for which it is intended. 
Nor does the field-post confine itself to the 
transmission of letters, but transmits delicacies 
and comforts of every sort to the boys in the 
trenches, and the boys in the trenches use the 
same medium to send shell fragments, German 



■^ 

-? 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 69 

helmets, and other souvenirs to their friends 
at home. I kn<jvv a lady who sent her son in 
Flanders a box of fresh asparagus from their 
Devonshire garden on a Friday, and he had it 
for his Sunday dinner. And this reminds me 
of an interesting little incident which is worth 
the telling and might as well be told here as 
elsewhere. A well-known American business 
maii, the president of one of New York's street 
railway systems, has a son who is a second 
lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. The father 
was called back to America at a time when 
his son's battery was stationed in a par- 
ticularly hot corner to the south of Ypres. 
The father was desperately anxious to see his 
son before he sailed, but he knew that the 
chances of his being permitted to do so were 
almost infinitesimal. Nevertheless, he wrote 
a note to Lord Kitchener explaining the cir- 
cumstances and adding that he realized that 
It was probably quite impossible to grant such 
a request. He left the note himself at York 
House. Before he had been back in his hotel 
an hour he was called to the telephone. " This 
is the secretary of Lord Kitchener speaking," 
said the voice. "He desires me to say that 



70 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



you shall certainly see your son before return- 
ing to America, and that you are to hold your- 
self in readiness to go to the Continent at a 
moment's notice." A few days later he re- 
ceived another message from the War Office : 
" Take t(j-mf)rr(AV morning's boat from Folke- 
stone to lioulogne. Your son will be waiting 
for you on the quay." The long arm of the 
great War Minister had reached out across the 
Fnglish Channel and had picked that obscure 
second lieutenant out from that little Flemish 
village, and had brought him by motor-car to 
the coast, with a twenty-four hours leave of 
absence in his pocket, that he might say good- 
bye to his father. 

The maxim that " an army marches on its 
belly " is as true to-day as when Napoleon 
uttered it, and the Army Service Corps is 
seeing to it that the belly of the British soldier 
is never empty. Of all the fighting men in 
the field, the British soldier is far and away 
the best fed. He is, indeed, almost over- 
fed, particularly as regards jams, marmalades, 
puddings, and other articles containing large 
quantitii^s of sugar, which, so the army surgeons 
assert, is the greatest restorer of the muscular 



^vnr-^ 






ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 71 

tissues. Though the sale of spirits is strictly 
prohibited in the military zone, a ration of 
rum is served out at daybreak each morning 
to the men in the trenches. 

To Miss Jane Addams has been attributed 

the following assertion : " VVe heard in all 

countries similar statements in regard to the 

necessity for the use of stimulants before men 

would engage in bayonet charges, that they 

have a regular formula in Germany, that they 

give them rum in England and absinthe in 

France ; that they all have to give them the 

' dope ' before the bayonet charge is possible." 

Now, Miss Addams, or whoever is responsible 

tor this statement, has never, so far as I am 

aware, been in the trenches. Of the conditions 

which exist there she knows only by hearsay. 

Miss Addams says that rum is given to the 

British soldier. That is perfectly true. In 

pursuance of orders issued by the Army Medical 

Corps, every man who has spent the night in 

the trenches is given a ration (about a giU) of 

rum at daybreak, not to render him reckless, as 

Miss Addams would have us believe, but to 

counteract the effects of the mud and water in 

which he has been standing for many hours 



72 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



But when the author of the paragraph 
asserts that the French soldiers are given 
abfinthe she cr he makes an assertion that 
is without foundation of fact. Not only 
have I never seen a glass of absinthe served 
in France since the law was passed which 
made its sale illegal, but I have never seen 
spirits of any kind in use in the zone of opera- 
tions. More than once, coming back, chilled 
and weary, from the trenches, I have attempted 
to obtain either whiskey oi brandy only to 
be told that its sale is rigidly prohibited in 
the zone of the armies. The regular ration 
of the French soldier includes now, just as 
in time of peace, a pint of vin ordinaire — the 
cheap wine of the country— this being, I might 
add, considerably less than the man would 
drink with his meals were he in civil life. As 
regards the conditions which exist in the 
German armies I cannot speak with the same 
assurance, because I have not been with them 
since the autumn of 1914. During the march 
across Belgium there was, I am perfectly wiUing 
to admit, considerable drunkenness among the 
German soldiers, but this was due to the men 
looting the wine-cellars in the towns through 



ON THE BRITISH BATFLE-LINE 73 

which they passed and not, as we are asked to 
believe, to their officers having systematically 
" doped " them. I have heard it stated, 
on various occasions, that German troops are 
given a mixture of rum and ether before 
going into action. V\hether this is true 
I cannot say. Personally, I doubt it. If a 
man's life ever depends upon a clear brain 
and a cool head it is when he is going into 
battle. Everything considered, therefore, I am 
convinced that intemperance virtually docs not 
exist among the armies in the field. I feel that 
tin- accusation dues grave injustice to brave 
and i^ober men and that its author owes them 
an apology. 

The British troops are not permitted to drink 
unboiled or mfiltercd water, each regiment 
having two steel water-carts fitted with Birken- 
feldt filters from which the men fill their water- 
bottles. As a result of this precaution, dysen- 
tery and diarrhoea, the curse of armies in 
previous wars, have practically disappeared, 
while, thanks to compulsory inoculation, typhoid 
is unknown. Perhaps the most important of 
all the sanitary devices which have been brought 
into existence by this war, and without which 



'/w.V''^;Tiy^!LD 



^jaa>i 



74 



VIVK LA FRANCE ! 



it would not be possible for the men to remain 
in the trenches at all, is the great force-pump 
that is operated at night and which throws 
lime and carbolic acid on the unburied dead. 
It is, Indeed, impossible to overpraise the work 
being done by the Royal Army Medical Corps, 
which has, among its many other activities, 
so improved and speeded up the system 
of getting the wounded from the firing- 
line to the hospitals that, as one Tommy 
remarked, " You 'ears a 'ell of a noise, and 
then the nurse says : ' Sit hup and tike this 
broth.' " 

Though in this war the work of the cavalry 
is almost negligible : though cartridges and 
marmalade are hurried to the front on motor- 
trucks and the wounded are hurried from the 
front back to the hospital in motor-ambulances ; 
though dispatch riders bestride panting motor- 
cycles instead of panting steeds ; though 
scouting is done by airmen instead of horse- 
men, the day of the horse in warfare has by 
no means passed. Without the horse, indeed, 
the guns could not go into action, for no form 
of tractor has yet been devised for hauling 
batteries over broken country. In fact, all of 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 75 

the belligerent nations are experiencing great 
difficulty in providing a sufficient supply of 
iiorscs, for the average life of a war-horse is 
very >lu>rt ; ten days assert some authorities, 
sixteen say others. For the first time in the 
history of warfare, therefore, the horse is 
treated a- a creature which must be cared for 
when -ick or wounded as well as when in health, 
and tliis not merely from motives of sentiment 
or humanity but as a detail of military effici- 
ency. " For want of a nail," runs the old ditty, 
" the shoe was lost ; for want of a shoe the 
hor.-e was lost ; for want of a horse the rider 
was lost ; for want of a rider the baf'le was 
lost " — and the Royal Army Veterina. Jorps 
is seeing' to it that no battles are lost lor lack 
of either horses or horseshoes. The Army 
\^ctcrinary Corps now has on the British sector 
700 officers and 8000 men, whose business it is 
to conserve the lives of the horses. The last 
report that I have seen places the total number 
of horses treated in the various hospital units 
(each of which accommodates 1000 animals) 
as approximately 81,000, of which some 
47,000 had been returned to the Remount 
Department as again fit for active service ; 



ff^ 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



30,000 were still under treatment ; the balance 
having died, been destroyed, or sold. 

The h..r>es in use by the British Army in 
France are the very pick of England, the 
Colonies, and foreign countries; thorough- 
bred and thrce-iuarter bred hunters from the 
hunting counties and from Ireland ; hackneys, 
draught and farm animals; VValers from' 
Australia ; wire-jumpers from \ew Zealand ; 
hardy stock from Alberta and Saskatchewan ; 
sturdy ponies from the hill country of India ; 
th..usands upon thousands of animals from the* 
American South-West, and from the Argentine; 
to say nothing of the great sixtecn-hand mules 
from Missouri and Spain. 

Animals suffering from wounds or sickness 
are shipped back to the hospital bases on the 
coast in herds, each being provided with a 
separate covered stall, or, in case of pneumonia, 
with a box-stall. The spotless buildings, with 
their exercise tracks and acres of green pad- 
docks, suggest a racecourse rather than a hos- 
pital for horses injured in war. Each hospital 
has its i.perating-sheds, its X-rav department. 
Its wards for special ailments, its laboratories 
for preventive research work, a pharmacy, a 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE tj 

museum which affords opportunity for the 
study of the effect? of sabre, shell, and bullet 
wounds, and a staflP of three hundred trained 
veterinarians. Schools have also been es- 
tablished in connexion with the hospitals in 
which the grooms and attendants are taught 
the elements kA anatomy, dentistry, farriery, sta- 
bling, feeding, sanitation, and, most important 
of all, the care of hoofs. All the methods and 
equipment employed arc the best that science 
can suggest and money can obtain, everything 
having passed the inspection of the Duke of 
Portland and the Earl of Lonsdale, the two 
greatest horse-breeders in England. Attaciicd 
to each division of troops in the field is a mobile 
veterinary section, consisting of an officer and 
twenty-two men, who are equipped to render 
first-aid service to wounded horses and whose 
duty it is to decide which animals shall be sent 
to the hospitals for treatment, which arc fit to 
return to the front for further service, and 
which cases are hopeless and must be destroyed. 
The enormous economic value of this system 
is conclusively proved by the fact that it has 
reduced sickness among horses in the British 
.\rmy 50 per cent., and mortality 47 per cent. 



I 



78 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



The question that has been asked me more 
frequently than any other is why the British, 
with upwards of a million men in the field, are 
holding only fifty miles of battle-front, as 
compared with seventeen miles held by the 
Belgians and nearly four hundred by the French. 
There are several reasons for this. It should 
be remembered, in the first place, that the 
British Army is composed of green troops, 
while the French ranks, thanks to the universal 
service law, are filled with men all of whom have 
spent at least three years with the colours. In 
the second place, the British sector is by far 
the most diflicult portion of the Western battle- 
front to hold, not only because of the configura- 
tion of the country, which ofl^ers little natural 
protection, but because it lies squarely athwart 
tne road to the Channel ports— and it Is to 
the Channel ports that the Germans are going 
if men and shells can get them there. The 
fighting along the British sector is, moreover, 
of a more desperate and relentless nature than' 
elsewhere on the Mied line, because the 
Germans nourish a deeper hatred for the 
English than for all their other enemies put 
together. 



-1 

i 



1 

1 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 79 

It was against the British, remember, that 
the Germans first used their poison-gas. The 
first engagement of importance in which 
gas played a part was the second battle of 
Ypres,, lasting from April 22 until May 13, 
which will probably take rank in history as one 
of the greatest battles of all time. In it the 
Germans, owing to the surprise and confusion 
created by their introduction of poison-gas, 
came within a hair's breadth of breaking 
through the Allied line, and would certainly 
have done so had it not been for the gallantry 
and self-sacrifice of the Canadian Division, 
wliich, at the cost of appalling losses, won im- 
perishable fame. The (jcrman bombardment 
of Ypres began on April 20 and in forty-eight 
hours, so terrible was the rain of heavy pro- 
jectiles which pc ured down upon it, the quaint 
old city, with its exquisite Cloth Hall, was but 
a heap of blackened, smoking ruins. That 
portion of the Mlicd line to the north of the 
city was held, along a front of some four miles, 
by a French division composed of Colonials, 
Algerians, and Senegalese, stiffened by several 
line regiments. Late in the afternoon of the 
22nd, peering above their trenches, they saw, 



« 1 



I 



■1 



((/ 



8o 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



rolling toward them across the Flemish plain, 
an impalpable cloud of yellowish- green, which, 
fanned by a brisk wind, moved forward at the 
speed of a trotting horse. It came on with 
the reinorselessness of Fate. It blotted out 
what was happening behind it as the smoke 
screen from a destroyer masks the manoeuvres 
of a Dreadnought. The spring vegetation 
shrivelled up before it as papers shrivel when 
thrown into a fire. It blasted everything it 
t-.'ched as with a hand of death. No one 
knew what it was or whence it came. Nearer 
it surged and nearer. It was within a hundred 
metres of the French position . . . fifty 
thirty . . . ten . . . and then the silent 
horror was upon them. Men began to cough 
and hack and strangle. Tl -ir eyes smarted 
and burned with the pungent, acrid fumes. 
SolJietb staggered and fell before it in twos 
and fours and dozens as miners succumb to 
fire-damp. PJen, strained and twisted into 
grotesque, horrid attitudes, were sobbing their 
lives out on the floors of the trenches. The fire 
of rifles and machine guns weakened, died down, 
ceased. The whole line swayed, wavered] 
trembled on the verge of panic. Just then a 






i 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 8i 

giant Algerian shouted,"The Boches have turned 
loose evil spirits upon us ! We can fight men, 
but we cannot fight afrits! Run, brothers! 
Run for your lives ! " That was all that was 
needed to precipitate the disaster. The super- 
stitious Africans, men from the West Coast 
where voodooism still holds sway, men of the 
desert steeped in the traditions and mysteries 
of islam, broke and ran. The French white 
troops, carried off their feet by the sudden rush, 
vvcri.- swept along in the mad debacle. And 
as they ran the yellow cloud pursued them 
remorselessly, like a great hand reaching out 
for their throats. 

An eye-witness of the rout that followed 
told me that he never expects to see its like 
this side of the ^ates of hell. I'he fields were 
dotted with blue-clad figures wearing kepis, 
and brown-clad ones wearing turbans and 
tarbooshes, who stumbled and fell and rose 
again and staggered along a few paces and fell 
to rise no more. The highways leading from 
the trenches were choked with maddened, 
fear-crazed white and black and brown men 
who had thrown away their rifles, their cart- 
ridge pouches their knapsacks, in some cases 

F 



i 



w-.,^^rttfs<^^t'-; -i^t M^ ■■;* 



82 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



even their coats and shirts. Some were calling 
on Christ and some on Allah and some on their 
strange pagan gods. Their eyes were starting 
from their sockets, on their foreheads stood 
glistening beads of sweat, they slavered at the 
mouth like dogs, their cheeks and breasts were 
flecked with f')am. " We're not afraid of the 
Bochcs ! " screamed a giant sergeant of Zouaves 
on whose breast were the ribbons of a dozen 
wars. " We can fight them until hell turns cold. 
But this we cannot fight. Le Bon Dieu docs 
not expect us tostay and die like rats ir ' sewer." 
Guns and gun-caissons passed at a gallop, 
Turcos and tirailleurs clinging to them, the 
fear-crazed gunners flogging their reeking horses 
frantically. The ditches bordering the roads 
were filled with overturned waggons and 
abandoned equipment. Giant negroes, naked 
to the waist, tore by shrieking that the spirits 
had been loosed upon them and slashing with 
their bayonets at all who got in their path. 
Mounted officers, frantic with anger and morti- 
fication, using their swords and pistols indis- 
criminately, vainly tried to check the human 
stream. And through the four-mile breach 
which the poison-gas had made the Germans 






::m,f:z.^'fc^:. ^i^ii^ >"■«.-:. 



jm~T7IVt 






ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 83 

were pouring in their thousands. The roar 
of their artillery sounded likeunceasingthunder. 
The scarlet rays of the setting sun lighted up 
such a scene as Flanders had never before 
beheld in all its bloody history. Then dark- 
ness came . nd the sky was streaked across with 
the fiery trails of rockets and the sudden 
splotches of bursting shrapnel. The tumult 
was beyond all imagination — the crackle of 
musketry, the rattle of machine guns, the 
crash of high explosive, the thunder of falling 
walls, the clank of harness and the rumble of 
wheels, the screams of the wounded and the 
groans of the dying, the harsh commands of the 
officers, the murmur of many voices, and the 
shutHc, shuffle, shuffle of countless hurrying 
feet. 

And through the breach still poured the 
helmeted legions like water bursting through 
a broken dam. Into that breach were thrown 
the Canadians. The story of how, over- 
whelmed by superior numbers of both men and 
guns, choked by poison-fumes, reeling from 
exliaustion, sometimes without food, for it was 
impossible to get it to them, under such a rain 
of shells as the world had never before seen. 



feMI 



84 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



the brawny men from the oversea Dominion 
fought on for a solid week, and thereby saved 
the army from annihilation, needs no re-telling 
here. Brigade after brigade of fresh troops, 
division after division, was hurled against them 
but still they battled on. So closely were 
they pressed at times that they fought in little 
groups ; men from Ontario and Quebec 
shoulder to shoulder with blood-stained heroes 
from Alberta and Saskatchewan. At last, 
when it seemed as though human endurance 
could stand the strain no longer, up went the 
cry, " Here come the guns ! " and the 
Canadian batteries, splashed with sweat and 
mud, tore into action on the run. " Action 
front ! " screamed the officers, and the 
guns whirled like polo ponies so that their 
muzzles faced the oncoming wave of gr^y- 
" With shrapnel ! . . . Load ! " The lean and 
polished projectiles slipped in and the breech- 
blocks snapped home. " Fire at will ! " and 
the blast of steel tore bloody avenues in the 
German ranks. But fresh battalions filled 
the gaps — the German reserves seemed 
inexhaustible — and they still came on. At 
one period of the battle the Germans were so 




M 



■■':■^..^^ I 




%^ 



ON THE BRiriSll HATTLE-LINE 85 

cl'sc to the guns that tlic order was given, 
'• Set your fuses at zero ! *' which means that 
a shell bursts almost the moment it leaves the 
muzzle of the gun. It was not until early on 
Friday mcjrningthat reinforcements reached the 
shattJred Canadians and enabled them to hold 
their ground. Later the Northumbrian Divi- 
sion—Territorials arrived only three days 
before from the English training-camps— 
were sent to aid them and proved themselves 
as good soldiers as the veterans beside whom 
they fought. For days the fate of the army 
hung in the balance, Ijx there seemed no end 
to the German reserves, who were wiped out 
by whole divisions only to be replaced by more, 
but against the stone wall of the Canadian 
resistance the men in the spiked helmets 
threw themselves in vain. On May 13, 191 5, 
after three weeks of continuous fighting, ended 
the Second Battle of Ypres, not in a terrific 
and decisive climax, but slowly, sullenly, like 
two prize-fighters who have fought to the very 
limit of their strength. 

According to the present British system, the 
soldiers spend three v.ceks at the front and one 
week in the rear— if possible, out of sound of the 



h 



86 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

guns. The entire three weeks at the front is, 
to all intents and purposes, spent in the 
trenches, though every third day the men are 
given a breathing spell. Thuf weeks in the 
trenches! I wonder if you of the sheltered 
life have any but the haziest notion of what 
that means. I wonder if you, Mr. Lawyer ; 
you, Mr. Doctor ; you, Mr. Business Man, can 
conceive of spending your summer vacation in 
a ditch 4 feet wide and 8 feet deep, sometimes 
with mud and water to your knees, sometimes 
faint from heat and lack of air, in your nostrils 
the stench of bodies long months dead, rotting 
amid the wire entanglements a few yards in 
front of you, and over your head steel death 
whining angrily, ceaselessly. I wonder if ycu 
can imagine what it must be like to sleep- 
when the roar of the guns dies down sufficiently 
to make sleep pos?iblc-^n foul straw in a hole 
hollowed in the earth, into which you have to 
crawl on all fours, like an animal into its lair. 
I wonder if you can picture yourself as wearing 
a uniform so stiff with sweat and dirt that it 
would stand alone, and underclothes so rotten 
with filth that they would fall apart were you 
to take them otT, your body ^.. crawling with 




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ent.un;li.nK-ni- ' 




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4 



ON THE BRITISH BATrLE-LlNE 87 

vermin and so long unwashed that you are an 
offence 10 all whom you approach— yet with 
no chance to bathe or to change your clothes 
or sometimes even to wash your hands and 
face lor weeks on end. I wonder how your 
nerves would stand the strain if you knew that 
at any moment a favourable wind might bring 
a gas cloud rolling down upon you to kill you 
by slow strangulation, or that a shell might 
drop into the trench in which you were stand- 
ing in water to your knees and leave you float- 
ing about in a bloody mess which turned that 
water red, or that a Taubc might let loose 
upon you a shower of steel arrows which would 
pass through you as a needle passes through a 
piece of cloth, or that a mine might be exploded 
beneath your feet and distribute you over the 
landscape in fragments too small to be worth 
burying, or, worse still, to leave you alive amid 
a lit:er of heads and arms and legs which a 
moment before had belonged to your comrades, 
the horror of it all turning you into a maniac 
who alternately shrieks and gibbers and rocks 
with insane mirth at the horror of it all. I am 
perfectly aware that this makes anything but 
pleasant reading, my friends, but if men ot 






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88 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



gen lie birth, men with university educations, 
men who are accustomed to the same refine- 
ments and luxuries that y<m are, can endure 
thc^e thing-, why, it seems to mc that you 
ought to be able to endure reading about 

them. 

The etiect of some of the newer types of 
high-cxplo>ive shells is almost beyond beliet. 
For sheer horror and destructi(m those from 
the Austrian-made Skoda howitzer, known as 
"Pilseners," make the famous 42-centimetre 
shells seem almost kind. The Skoda shells weigh 
2800 lb., and their usual curve is 4! miles high. 
In soft ground they penetrate 20 feet before 
cxph;ding. The exploMcm, which occurs two 
seconds after impact, kills every hving thing 
within 150 yards, while scores of men who 
escape the tiying metal are killed, lacerated, 
or Winded by the mere pressure of the gas. 
This gas pressure is so terrific that it breaks in 
the roofs and partitions of bombproof shelters. 
Of men close by not a fragment remains. The 
gas gets into the body cavities and expands, 
hterally tearing them to pieces. Occasionally 
the clothes are stripped off leaving only the 
boots. Ritle-barrcls near by are melted as 



,1 I 



,,r.-. ^-i/iii.r/v'-^tH^r t«=^;r^. i^a; 



ON TOE BRITISH B.VITLE-LINE 89 

though struck by lightning. These mammoth 
shells travel comparatively slowly, however, 
Uji ".lly giving enough warning of their approach 
,0 ihai iho men have time to dodge them. 
Tlicir prngrjssissoslow, indeed, that sometimes 
Jicy can be seen. Far more terrifying is the 
smaller shell which, because of its shrill, 
plaintive whine, has been nicknamed " W cary 
Wilhe," or those from the new " noiseless " 
tield-gun recently introduced by the Germans, 
which gives no intimation of its approach until 
it explodes with a shattering crash above the 
trenches. Is it any wonder that hundreds of 
otBcers and men are going insane from the 
strain that they are under, and that hundreds 
more are in the hospitals suffering from neuritis 
and nervous breakdown ? Is it any wonder 
that, when their terra in the trenches is over, 
they have to be taken out of sight and sound 
of battle and their shattered nerves restored 
by means of a carefully planned routine of sports 
and games, as though they were children in a 
kindergarten ? 

The breweries, rrills, and factories immedi- 
ately behind the British hnes have, wherever 
practicable, been converted into bath-houses 



90 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



to which the men are marched as soon as they 
leave the trenches. The soldiers strip and, 
retaining nothing but their boots, which they 
deposit beside the bath-tub, they go in, soap 
in one hand and scrubbirg-brush in the other, 
the hot bath being followed by a cold shower. 
The underclothes which they have taken off 
arc promptly burned and fresh sets given to 
them, as are also clean uniforms, the discarded 
ones, after passing through a fumigating 
machine, being washed, pressed, and repaired 
bv the numerous Frenchwomen who are em- 
ployed for the purpose, so as to be ready for 
their owners the next tim.e they return from 
the trenches. At one of these improvised 
lath-houses thirteen hundred men pass through 

each da/. 

" What do the French think of the 

English ? " 

To every one I put that question. Summing 
up all opinions, I should say that the French 
thoroughly appreciate the value of Britain's 
sea-power and what it has meant to them for 
her to have control of the seas, but they regard 
her -ack of military preparedness and the de- 
ficiency of technique among the British officers 



^M&^^m^ 



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l#IK^;i«-%f.r .<S^i -kjtl^^^Tmk 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 91 

as inexcusable ; they consider the deep-seated 
opposition to conscription in England as in- 
comprehensible ; they view the bickerings 
between British capital and labour as little short 
of criminal ; they regard the British officers who 
needlessly expose themselves as being not heroic 
but insane. The attitude of the British 
Press was, in the earlier days of the war at 
least, calculated to put sUght strain on the 
entente cordiale. Anxious, naturally enough, 
to throw into high relief the exploits of the 
British troops in France, the British newspapers 
vastly exaggerated the imports e of the 
British expedition, thus throwing :he whole 
picture of the war out of perspective. The 
behaviour of the British officers, moreover, 
though punctiliously correct, was not such as 
to mend matters, for they assumed an attitude 
of haughty condescension which, as I happen 
to know, was extremely galling to their French 
colleagues, most of whom had forgotten more 
about the science of war than the patronizing 
youngsters who officered the new armies had 
ever known. " To Hsten to you English and 
to read your newspapers," I heard a French- 
man say to an EngUshman in the Travellers' 



#'^^^^ 






92 



MVE LA F • NCE ! 



Club in I'ari.. not loi,- au'o, ''one would 
think that there was no one in France except 
the Britisli Army and a few Germans." 

I have never heard anyone in France suggest 
that the British officer is lacking in bravery, 
but I have often heard it intimated that he is 
lacking in brains. The view i. held that he 
regards the war as a sporting affair, much as 
he"" would regard polo or a big-game hunting, 
rather than as a deadly serious business. W hen 
the British oflficers in Flanders brought over 
several packs of hounds and thus attempted to 
combine war and hunting, it created a^ more 
unfavourable impression among the French 
than if the British had lost a battle. " The 
British Armv," a distinguished ItaUan general 
remarked to me shortly before Italy pmed 
the Allies, "is composed of magnificent 
material ; it is well fed and admirably equipped 
—but the men lock on war as sport and go into 
battle as they would into a game of football." 
To the Frenchman, whose soil is under the 
heel of the invader, whose women have been 
violated bv a ruthless and brutal soldiery, 
whose historic monuments have been destroyed, 
and whose towns have been sacked and burned, 






ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 93 

this attitude of mind is absolutely incompre- 
hensible, and in his heart he resents it. The 
above, mind you, is written in no spirit 
of criticism ; I am merely attempting to 
show you the Englishman through French 

eyes. 

I have heard it said, in criticism, that the new 
British Army is composed of youngsters. So 
it is, but for the life of mc 1 fail to sec why 
this should be any objection. The ranks of 
both armies during our Civil War were filled 
with boys still in their teens. It was one of 
Wellington's generals, if I remember rightly, 
who used to say that, for really desperate work, 
he would always take lads in preference to 
seasoned veterans because the latter were apt 
to be " too cunning." " These children," ex- 
claimed Marshal Ney, reviewing the beard- 
less conscripts of 1 81 3, "are wonderful! I 
can do anything with them ; they will go any- 
where ! " 

But the thing that really counts, when all is 
said and done, is the spirit of the men. The 
British soldier of this new army has none of 
the rollicking, devil-may-care recklessness of the 
traditional Tommy Atkins. He has not joined 



^1 









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'#»^>r\k xtrv^-"^ 



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'mmmMmmsi^miM^mimmjQm 



94 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

tiic army from any spirit of adventure or 
because he wanted to see the world. He is not 
an adventurer ; he is a crusader. With him it 
is a deadly serious business. He has not en- 
listed because he wanted to, or because he had 
to, but because he felt he ought to. In ninety- 
nine cases out of a hundred he has left a family, 
a comfortable home, and a good job behind 
him. And, unhke the stay-at-homes in Eng- 
land, he doesn't make the mistake of under- 
rating his enemy. He knows that the head- 
lines which appear regularly in the English 
papers exultantly announcing " another British 
advance " are generally buncombe. He knows 
that it isn't a question of advancing but of 
hanging on. He knows that he will have to 
fight with every ounce of fight there is in him 
if he is to remain where he is now. He knows 
that before the Germans can be driven out of 
France and Belgium, much less across the 
Rhine, all England will be wearing crape. He 
knows that there is no truth in the reports that 
the enemy is weakening. He knows it because 
hasn't he vainly thrown himself in successive 
waves against that unyielding wall of steel ? 
He knows that it is going to be a long war— 



t i 



z-^Siiil^^mw^' .1^-^- 



ON THE BRITISH BATTLE-LINE 95 

probably a very long war indeed. Every 
British officer or soldier with whom I have 
talked has said that he expects that the spring 
of 1916 will find them in virtually the same 
positions that they have occupied for the past 
year. They will gain ground in some places, 
of course, and lose ground in others, but the 
winter, to the men in the trenches beheve, 
will see no radical alteration in the present 
Western battle-Hnc. All this, of course, will not 
make pleasant reading in England, where the 
Government and certain sections of the Press 
have given the people the impression that 
Germany is already beaten to her knees and 
that it is all over bar the shouting. Out along 
the battle-front, however, in the trenches, and 
around the camp-fires, you do not hear the 
men discussing " the terms of peace we will 
grant Germany," or " What shall we do with 
the Kaiser ? " They are not talking much, 
they are not sing:! g much, they are not boasting 
at all, but they have settled down to the hercu- 
lean task that lies before them with a grim 
determination, a bull-dog tenacity of purpose, 
which is eventually, I believe, going to prove 
the deciding factor in the war. Nothing better 






;i5-' 



96 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



illustrates this spirit than the inscription which 
I saw on a cross over a newly made grave in 
Flanders : 

TELL ENGLAND, YE THAT PASS THIS MONUMENT, 
THAT WE WHO REST HERE DIED CONTENT. 



ismmMME 






III. CAMPAIGNING IN THE 
VOSGES 

THE sergeant in charge of the machine 
gun, taking advantage of a lull in the 
rifle-fire which had crackled and roared 
along the trenches since dawn, was sprawled 
on his back in the gun-pit, reading a magazine. 
\\ hat attracted my attention was i».s being an 
American magazine. 

" Where did you learn to read Enghsh ? " I 
asked him curiously. 
" In America," said he. 
" What part ? " said I. 
" Schenectady," he answered. " Was with 
the General Electric until the war began." 

" I'm from up-State myself," I remarked. 
" My people live in Syracuse." 

" The hell you say ! " he exclaimed, scramb- 
ling to his feet and grasping my hand cordially. 
" I took you for an Enghshman. From 
Syracuse, eh ? Why, that makes us sort of 
neighbours, doesn't it ? We ought to have 
a drink on it. I suppose the Boches have plenty 

97 c 



' ^iiT- ilCMr^ jk JTfc— — "^ -v ti . j^.„<fc.- 



9S 



VIVK LA FRANCK! 



of beer over there," waving his hand in the 
direction of the German trenches, of which I 
could catch a glimpse through a loophole, 
" but we haven't anything here but water. 
I've got an idea, though ! Back in the States, 
when they have those Old Home Week re- 
unions, they always fire off an anvil or the town 
cannon. So what's the matter with celebrating 
this reunion by letting the Roches have a few 
rounds from the machine gun ? " 

Seating himself astride the bicycle saddle on 
the trail of the machine gun. he swung the lean 
barrel of the wicked little weapon until it 
rested on the German trenches a hundred 
yards away. Then he slipped tlie end of 1 
cartridge-carrier into the breech. 

"Three rousing cheers for the U.S.A.!" 
he shouted, and pressed a button. Rrr-r-r-r- 
f-r-r-T-r-r-T-r-r-r-r-r-T-r-r-r-rrrip went the mi- 
trailleuse, with the noise of a million mowing 
machines. Flame spurted from its muzzle as 
water spurts from the nozzle of a fire-hose. 
The racket in the log-roofed gun-pit was ear- 
shattering. The blast of bullets spattered the 
German trenches, they pinged metallically 
against the steel plates set in the embrasures, 



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CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 99 

thc-y kicked up countless spurts of yellow 
earth The sergeant stood up, grinning, and 
with a grimy handkerchief wiped from his face 
the powder stains and pcr-piration. 

" If you should happen to be in Schenectady 
you might drop in at the General Electric plant 
and tell the boys-" he began, but the sentence 
was never finished, for just then a shell whined 
low above our heads and burst somewhere be- 
hind the trenches with the roar of an exploding 
powder-mill. We had disturbed the Germans 
afternoon siesta, and their batteries were show- 
ing their resentment. 

" I think that perhaps I'd better be moving 
along," said I hastily. '' It's getting on toward 
dinner-time." u \ a 

" Well, s'long," said he regretfully. And 
say " he called after me, " when you get back 
lo little old New York would you mind dropping 
into the Knickerbocker and having a drink 
for me ? And be sure and give my regards to 

Broadway." 

" I certainly will," said I. 

And that is how a Franco-American whose 
name I do not know, sergeant in a French hne 
regiment whose number I may not mention, 



' *'. L.I ."/i^ . ■ ■ *_ r ' •_ . „._ 



yTTTi^TZr^ 



uVf VKawTTA i ^mf/t-i:im^ii*'k^:w^^ 



lOO 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



and I held an Old Home Week celebration of 
our own In the French trenches in Alsace. 
For all I know there may have been some other 
residents of central New York over in the 
German trenches. If so, they made no at- 
tempt to join out Httle reunion. Had they 
done so they would have received a very warm 
reception. 

There were several reasons why I welcomed 
the opportunity offered me by the French 
General Staff to see the fighting in Alsace. In 
the first place a veil of secrecy had been thrown 
over the operations in that region, and the 
mysterious is always alluring. Secondly, most 
of the fighting that I have seen has been cither 
in flat or only moderately hilly countries, and 
I was curious to see how warfare is conducted 
in a region as mountainous and as heavily 
forested as the Adirondacks or Oregon. Again, 
the Alsace sector is at the extreme southern 
end of that great battle-line, more than four 
hundred miles long, which stretches its unlovely 
length across Europe from the North Sea to 
the Alps, like some monstrous and deadly snake. 
And lastly, I wanted to see the retaking of 




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CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES loi 



that narrow strip of territory lying between 
the summit of the Vosges and the Rhine 
which for more than forty years has been 
mourned by France as one of her " lost pro- 
vinces." 

This land of Alsace is, in many respects 
the most beautiful that I have ever seen. 
Strung along the horizon, Hke sentinels wrapped 
in mantles of green, the peaks of the V^osgcs 
loom against the sky. On the slopes of the 
ridges, massed in their black battalions, stand 
forests of spruce and pine. Through peaceful 
valleys silver streams meander leisurely, and in 
the meadows which border them cattle stand 
knve-deep amid the lush green grass. The 
villages, their tortuous, cobble-paved streets 
lined on either side by dim arcades, and the old, 
old houses, with their turrets and balconies and 
steep-pitched pottery roofs, give you the feel- 
ing that they are not real, but that they are 
scenery on a stage, and this illusion is height- 
ened by the men in their jaunty berets and 
wooden sabots, and the women, whose huge 
black silk head-dresses accentuate the freshness 
of their complexions. It is at once a region 
of ruggedness and majesty and grandeur, of 



,o2 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

quaintness and simplicity and charm. As I 
motored through it, it was hard to make my- 
self believe that death was abroad in so fair 
a land, and that over there, on the other side 
of those near-by hills, men were engaged in 
the business of wholesale slaughter. I was 
brought to an abrupt reahzation of it, however, 
as we were passing through the old grey town 
of Gcrardner. I heard a sudden outcry, and 
the streets, which a moment before had been 
a-bustle with the usual market-day crowd, 
were all at once deserted. The people dived 
into their houses as a woodchuck dives into 
its hole. The sentries on duty in front of the 
Etat-Major were staring upward. High in the 
sky, approaching with the speed of an express 
train, was what looked like a great white sea- 
gull, but which, from the silver sheen of its 
armour-pined body, I knew to be a German 
Taube. " We're in for another bombardment," 
remarked an officer. "The German airmen 
have been visiting us every day of late." As 
the aircraft swooped lower and nearer, a field- 
gun concealed on the wooded hillside above the 
town spoke sharply, and a moment later there 
appeared just below the Taube a sudden splotch 



■t-'^r- 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGFS 103 

of white, like one of those powder-puffs that 
women carry. From the opposite side of the 
town another anti-aircraft gun began to bar^ 
defiance, until soon the aerial intruder was 
ringed about by wisps of fleecy smoke. At one 
tine I counted as many as forty of them, look- 
ing like white tufts on a coverlet of turquoise 
blue. Things were getting too hot for the 
German, and with a beautiful sweep he swung 
about, and went sailing down the wind, con- 
tent to wait until a more favourable oppor- 
tunity should offer. 

The inhabitants of these Alsatian towns 
hive become so accustomed to visits from 
German airmen that they pay scarcely more 
a-tention to them than they do to thunder- 
storms, going indoors to avoid the bombs 
^ust as they go indoors to avoid the rain. 
I remarked, indeed, as I motored through the 
country, that nearly every town through which 
we passed showed evidences, either by scat- 
tered roofs or shrapnel-spattered walls, of 
aeroplane bombardment. Thus is the war 
brought home to those who, dwelUng many 
miles from the line of battle, might naturally 
suppose themselves safe from harm. In thooc 



104 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



towns which arc within range of the German 
guns the inhabitants arc in double danger, 
yet the shops and schools are open, and the 
townspeople go about their business appar- 
ently wholly unmindful of the possibility that 
a shell may drop in on them at any moment. 
In St. Die we stopped for lunch at the Hotel 
Terminus, which is just opposite the railway 
station. St. Die is within easy range of ;he 
German guns — or was when I was there — and 
when the Germans had nothing better to co 
they shelled it, centring their fire, as is their 
custom, upon the railway station, so as to in- 
terfere as much as possible with traffic and the 
movement of troops. The station and the 
adjacent buildings looked like cardboard boxes 
in which with a lead-pencil somebody had 
jabbed many ragged holes. The hotel, despite 
its upper floor having been wrecked by shell- 
{i'"e only a few days pre\Tously, was open and 
doing business. Ranged upon the mantel ot 
the dining-room was a row of German 77-milli- 
UKtre shells, polished until you could see your 
face in them. " VVTiere did you get those ? " 
I asked the woman who kept the hotel. " Those 
are some German shells that fell in the garden 



r--?5?'«f»cg;.£ ^s^Sfc-aBPiK-- 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 105 

during the last bombardment, and didn't 
explode," she answered carelessly. " I had 
them unloaded — the man who did it made 
an awful fuss about it, too — and I use them 
for hot-water bottles. Sometimes it gets pretty 
cold here at night, and it's very comforting 
to have a nice hot shell in your bed." 

From St. Die to Le Rudlin, where the road 
ends, is in the neighbourhood of thirty miles, 
and we did it in not much over thirty minutes. 
We went so fast that the telegraph-poles looked 
like the palings in a picket fence, and we took 
the corners on two wheels — doubtless to save 
rubber. Of one thing I am quite certain : if I 
am killed in this war, it is not going to be by 
a shell or a bullet ; it is going to be in a mili- 
tary motor-car. No cars save military ones 
are permitted on the roads in the zone of 
operations, and for the military cars no speed 
Umits exist. As a result, the drivers tear 
through the country as though they were 
running speed-trials at Brooklands. Sometimes, 
of course, a wheel comes off, or they meet 
another vehicle when going round a corner at 
full speed — and the next morning there is a 
mihtary funeral. To be the driver of a military 



io6 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



car in the zone of operations is the joy-rider^s 
dream come true. The soldier who drove my 
car steered with one hand because he had to 
use the other to illustrate the stories of his ex- 
ploits in the trenches. Despite the fact that 
wc were on a mountain road, one side of which 
dropped away into nothingness, when he re- 
lated the story of how he captured six Germans 
single-handed he took both hands oflF the wheel 
to tell about it. It would have made Barney 
Oldfield's hair permanently pompadour. 

At Le Rudlin, where there is an outpost of 
Alpine chasseurs, we left the car, and mounted 
mules for the ascent of the Hautes Chaumes, or 
High M< ors, which crown the summit of the 
Vosges. Along this ridge ran the imaginary 
line which Bismarck made the boundary be- 
tween Germany and France. Each mule was 
led by a soldier, whose short blue tunic, scarlet 
breeches, blue puttees, rakish blue brret, and 
rifle slung hunter-fashion across his back, made 
him look uncommonly like a Spanish brigand, 
while another soldier hung to the mule's tail to 
keep him on the path, which is as narrow and 
slippery as the path of virtue. Have you ever 
ridden the trail which leads from the rim of the 



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W'h.ii tlic Cicrm-m. JiJ to ihc Jiur>.h .u Rilicvourt 



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CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 107 

Grand Canyon down to the Colorado ? Yes ? 
Well, the trail which we took up to the HauUs 
Chaumes was in places like that, only more so. 
Yet over that and similar trails has passed an 
army of invasion, carrying with it, either on 
the bacb of mules or on the backs of men, its 
guns, food, and ammunition, and sending back 
in like fashion its wounded. Reaching the 
summit, the trail debouched from the dense 
pine forest on to an open, v^^nd-swept moor. 
Dotting the backbone of the ridge, far as the 
eye could see, ran a line of low stone boundary 
posts. On one side of each post was carved 
the letter F. On the other, the eastern face, 
was the letter D. Is it necessary to say that 
F stood for France and D for Deutschland .* 
Squatting beside one of the posts was a French 
soldier busily engaged with hammer and chisel 
in cutting away the I). " It will not be needed 
again," he explained, grinning. 

Leaving the mules in the shelter of the wood, 
we proceeded across the open tableland which 
crowns the summit of thj ridge on foot, for, 
being now within botli sight and range of the 
German batteries, there seemed no object in 
attracting more attention to ourselves than was 



loS 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



absolutely necessary. Half a mile or so beyond 
the boundary posts the plateau suddenly fell 
away in a sheer precipice, a thin screen of bushes 
bordering its brink. The topo^-raphical officer 
who had assumed the direction of the expedi- 
tion at Le Rudlin motioned me to come for- 
ward. '* Have a look," said he, " but be careful 
not to show yourself or to .'hake the bushes, 
or the Bodies may send us a shell." Cau- 
tiousi;- 1 peered through an opening in the 
branches. The mountain slope below me, 
almost at the foot of the cliff on which I stood, 
was scarred across by two great undulating 
yellow ridges. In places they were as much as a 
thousand yards apart, in others barely ten. I 
did not need to be told what they were. I 
knew. The ridge higher up the slope marked 
the line of the FrenJi trenches; the lower that 
of the German. From them came an incessant 
crackle and splutter which sounded Uke a forest 
fire. Sometimes it would die down until only 
an occasional shot would punctuate the moun- 
tain silence, and then, apparently without 
cause, it would rise into a clatter which sounded 
like an army of carpenters shingUng a roof. In 
the forests on either side of us batteries were 



rr^l.. 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 109 

at work steadily, methodically, and, though wc 
could not sec the guns, the frequent fountains 
of earth thrown up along both lines of trenchc? 
by bursting shells showed how heavy was the 
bombardment that was in progress, and how 
accurate was both the French and German fire. 
We were watching what the official communiqui' 
described the next day as the fighting on the 
Fecht very much as one would watch a 
football game from the upper row of seats at 
the Oval. Above the forest at our right 
swayed a French observation balloon, tugging 
impatiently at its rope, while the observer, 
glasses glued to his eyes, telephoned to the 
commander of the battery in the wood below 
him where his shells were hitting. Suddenly, 
from the French position just below me, there 
rose, high above the duotonc of rifle and 
artillery fire, the shrill clatter of a quick-firer. 
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat it went, for all the world 
hke one of those machines which they use for 
riveting steel girders. And, when you come to 
think about it, that is what it was doing : rivet- 
ing the bonds which bind Alsace to France. 

I have heard it said that the French army 
has been opposed, and in many instances be- 




■:^:J2?'-^.' 



I lO 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



trayed, by the people whom they thought they 
were Hberating from the German yoke, and that 
consequently the feeling of the French soldiers 
for the Alsatians is very bitter. This assertion 
is not true. I talked with a great many people 
during my stay ia Alsace — with the maires of 
towns, with shopkeepers, with peasant farmers, 
and with village priests — and I found that they 
welcomed the French as whole-heartedly as a 
citizen who hears a burglar in his house wel- 
comes a policeman. I saw old men and women 
who had dwelt in Alsace before the Germans 
came, and who had given up all hope of seeing 
the beloved tricolour flying again above Alsatian 
soil, standing at the doors of their cottages, 
with tears coursing down their cheeks, while the 
endless columns of soldiery in the familiar 
uniform tramped by. In the schoolhouses of 
Alsace I saw French soldiers patiently teaching 
children of French blood, who have been born 
under German rule and educated under 
German schoolmasters, the meaning of " Liberti', 
EgaliU\ Fraternitt',** and that p-a-t-r-i-e spells 
France. 

The change from Teutonic to Gallic rule is, 
however, by no means welcomed by all 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES in 

Alsatians. The Alsatians of to-day, remember, 
are not the Alsatians of 1870. It has been the 
consistent policy of the German Government 
to encourage, and where necessary, to assist 
German farmers to settle in Alsace, and as the 
years passed and the old hatred died down, 
these newcomers intermarried with the old 
French stock, so that to-day there are thousands 
of the younger generation in whose veins 
flow both French and German blood, and who 
scarcely know themselves to whom their 
allegiance belongs. As a result of this peculiar 
condition, both the French and German 
mihtary authorities have to be constantly on 
their guard against treachery, for a woman 
bearing a French name may well be of German 
birth, while a man who speaks nothing but 
German may, neverthelesss, be of pure French 
extraction. Hence spies, both French and 
German, abound. If the French Intelligence 
Department is well served, so is that of 
Germany. Peasants working in the fields, petty 
tradesmen in the towns, women of social 
position, and other women whose virtue is as 
easy as an old shoe, Germans dressed as priests, 
as hospital attendants, as Red Cross nurses. 



112 



\'I\ E LA FRANCE ! 



sometimes in French uniforms and travelling 

in motor-cars with all the necessary papers 

all help to keep the German mihtary authori- 
ties informed of what is going on behind the 
French lines. Sometimes they signal by means 
of lamps, or by raising and lowering the shade 
of a hghted room of some lonely farmhouse ; 
sometimes by means of cunningly concealed 
telephone wires ; occasionally by the fashion 
in which the family washing is arranged upon 
a line within range of German telescopes, 
innocent-looking red-flan:ed petticoats, blue- 
linen blouses, and white undergarments being 
used instead of signal-flags to spell out messages 
in code. A plough with a white or grey horse 
has more than once indicated the position of 
a French battery to the German airmen. The 
movements of a flock of sheep, driven by a spy 
disguised as a peasant, has sometimes given 
similar information. On one occasion three 
German officers in a motor-car managed to get 
right through the Brirish lines in Flanders. 
Two of them were disguised as French officers, 
who were supposed to be bringing back the 
third as a prisoner, he being, of course, in 
German uniform. So clever and daring was 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 113 

their scheme that they succeeded in getting 
close to British Headquarters before they were 
detected and captured. They are no cowards 
who do this sort of work. They know perfectly 
well what it means if they are caught : sun- 
rise, a wall, and a firing-party. 

From the Hautes Chaumes we descended by 
a very steep and perilous psth to the Lac Noir, 
where a battalion of Alpine cnasseurs had built 
a cantonment at which we spent the night. 
The Lac Noir, or Black Lake, occupies the 
crater of an extinct volcano, whose rocky sides 
are so smooth and steep that it looks like a 
gigantic washtub, in which a weary Hercules 
might wash the clot' *ng of the world. There 
were in the neighbourhood of a thousand 
chasseurs in camp on the shores of the Lac Noir 
when I was there, the chef de brigade having 
been, until the beginning of the war, military 
adviser to the President of China. The 
amazing democracy of the French army was 
illustrated by the fact that his second in com- 
mand, Lieutenant-Colonel Messimy, was, until 
the change of Cabinet which took place after the 
battle of the Marne, Minister of War. The 
cantonment — ''*' Black Lake City " Colonel 



114 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



Messimy jokingly called it — looked far more 
like a summer camp in the Adirondack than 
a soldiers' camp in Alsace. All the buildings 
were of logs, their roofs being covered with 
masses of green boughs to conceal their rom 
inquisitive aeroplanes, and at the back ot each 
hut, hollowed from the mountainside, was an 
underground shelter in which the men could 
take refuge in case of bombardment. Gravelled 
paths, sometimes bordered with flowers, wound 
amid the pine-trees ; the officers' quarters 
had broad verandas, with ingeniously made 
rustic furniture upon them ; the mess-tables 
were set under leafy arbours ; there was a 
swimming-raft and a diving-board, and a sort 
of rustic pavilion known as the " Casino," 
where the men passed their spare hours in play- 
ing cards or danced to the music of a really 
excellent band. Over the doorway was a sign 
which read : " The music of the tambourine 
has been replaced by the music of the cannon.'* 
Though the Lac Noir was, when I was there, 
within the French lines, it was within range of 
the German batteries, which shelled it almost 
daily. The slopes of the crater on which the 
cantonment was built are so steep, however. 



fi". n 



^Jt'^^.-rr. 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 115 

that the shells would miss the barracks alto- 
gether, dropping harmlessly in the middle of 
the little lake. The ensuing explosion would 
stun hundreds of fish, which would float upon 
the surface of the water, whereupon the 
soldiers would paddle out in a rickety flatboat 
and gather them in. In fact, a German bom- 
bardment came to mean that the chasseurs 
would have fish for dinner. This daily bom- 
bardment, which usually began just before 
sunset, the French called the " Evening 
Prayer." The first shot was the signal for the 
band to take position on that shore of the lake 
which could not be reached by the German 
shells, and play the MarseillaUe, a bit of irony 
which afforded huge amusement to the French 
and excessive irritation to the Germans. 

When the history of the campaign in the 
Vosges comes to be written, a gtreat many 
pages will have to be devoted to recounting 
the exploits of the chasseurs alpins. The 
" Blue Devils," as the Germans have dubbed 
them, are the Highlanders of the French army, 
being recruited from the French slopes of the 
Alps and he Pyrenees. Tough as rawhide, 
keen as razors, hard as nails, they are the ideal 



r^ , •■ mxr- ^&'. 'Z-' 



ii6 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



troops for mountain warfare. They wear a 
distinctive dark-blue uniform, and the beret, or 
cap, of the French Alps, a flat-topped, jaunty 
head-dress which is brother to the tam-o'- 
shanter. The frontier of Alsace, from a point 
opposite Strasburg to a point opposite Miil- 
hausen, follows the summit of the Vosges, 
and over this range, which in places is upward 
of four thousand feet in height, have poured 
the French armies of invasion. In the van of 
those armies have marched the chasseurs alpins, 
dragged their guns by hand up the almost 
sheer precipices, and dragging the gun-mules 
after them ; advancing through forests so dense 
that they had to chop paths for the line regi- 
ments which followed them ; carrying by storm 
the apparently impregnable positions held by 
the Germans ; sleeping often without blankets 
and with the mercury hovering near zero 
on the heights which they had captured ; taking 
their batteries into positions where it was be- 
lieved no batteries could go ; raining shells 
from those batteries upon the wooded slopes 
ahead, and, under cover of that fire, advancing, 
always advancing. Think of what it meant 
to get a great army over such a mountain 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 117 

range in the face of desperate opposition ; 
think of the labour involved in transporting the 
enormous supplies of food, clothing, and am* 
munition required by that army ; think of 
the suflFerings of the wounded who had to be 
taken back across those mountains, many of 
them in the depths of winter, sometimes in 
litters, sometimes lashed to the backs of mules. 
The mule, whether from the Alps, the Pyrenees, 
or from Missouri, is playing a brave part in 
this mountain warfare, and whenever I saw 
one I felt like the motorist who, after his 
automobile had been hauled out of an appar- 
ently bottomless Southern bog by a negro 
who happened to be passing with a mule team, 
said to his son : " My boy, from now on always 
raise your hat to a mule." 

Just as the crimson disk of the sun peered 
cautiously over the crater's rim, we bade 
good-bye to our friends the chasseurs alpins, 
and turned the noses of our mules up the 
mountains. As we reached the summit of 
the range, the little French captain who was 
acting as our guide halted us with a gesture. 
" Look over there," he said, pointing to 
where, far beyond the trench-scarred hillsides, 



ilS 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



a great, broad valley was swimming in the 
morning mists. There were green squares 
which I knew for meadow-lands, and yellow 
squares which were fields of ripening grain ; 
here and there were clusters of white-walled, 
red-roofed houses, with ancient church-spires 
rising above them ; and winding down the 
middle of the plain was a broad grey ribbon 
which turned to silver when the sun struck 
upon it. 

" Look," said the little captain again, and 
there was a break in his voice. *' That is what 
we are fighting for. That is Alsace." 

Then I knew that I was looking upon what 
is, to every man of Gallic birth, the Promised 
Land ; I knew that the great, dim bulk which 
loomed against the distant skyline was the 
Black Forest ; I knew that somewhere up that 
mysterious, alluring valley, Strasburg sat, like 
an Andromeda waiting to be freed ; and that 
the broad, si lent -flowing river which I saw 
below me was none other than the Rhine. 

And as I looked I recalled another scene, on 
another continent and beside another river, 
two years before. I was standing with a 
coloured cavalry sergeant of the border patrol 



CAMPAIGNING IN THE VOSGES 119 

on the banks of the Rio Grande, and we were 
looking southward to where the mountains of 
Chihualiua rose, purple, mysterious, forbidding, 
grim, against the evening sky. On the Mexican 
side of the river a battle was in progress. 

" I suppose," I remarked to my compamon, 
" that you'll be mighty glad when orders come 
to cross the border and clean things up over 
there in Mexico." 

" Mistah," he answered earnestly, " we ain't 
ncvah gwine tuh cross dat bodah, but one of 
these yere days wese a gwine tuh pick dat 
bodah up an' carry it right down to Panama." 
And that is what the French are doing in 
Alsace. They have not crossed the border, but 
they have picked the border up, and are 
carrying it right down to the banks of the 
Rhine. 



IV. THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 

WHEN I asked the general commanding 
the armies operating in Alsace for 
permission to visit the fire-trenches, 
I did it merely as a matter of form. I was quite 
prepared to be met with a polite but firm re- 
fusal, for it is as difficult to get into the French 
trenches as it is to get behind the scenes of a 
West Knd theatre on the first night of a big 
production. This, understand, is not from any 
sohcitude for your safety, but because a fire- 
trench is usually a very busy place indeed, and 
a visitor is apt to get in the way and make him- 
self a nuisance generally. Imagine my as- 
tonishment, then, when the general said, 
" Certainly, if you wish," just as though he 
were giving me permission to visit his stables 
or his gardens. I might add that almost every 
correspondent who has succeeded in getting to 
the French front has been taken, with a vast 
deal of ceremony and precaution, into a trench 
of some sort, thus giving him an experience to 
tell about all the rest of his life, but tho^e who 



IZO 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 121 

have been permitted to visit the actual fire- 
trenches might almost be numbered on one's 
fingers. In this respect the French have been 
much less accommodating than the Belgians or 
the Germans. The fire, or first-line, trench, is 
the one nearest the enemy, and both from it 
and again * it there is almost constant firing. 
The difference between a second-Une, or reserve 
trench, and a fire-trench is the difference be- 
tn-ien siiitng in a comfortable orchestra stall and 
in being on the stage and a part of the show. 

Before they took me out to the trenches 
we lunched in Dannemarie, or, as it used to 
be known under German rule, Dammerkirch. 
Though the town was within easy range of the 
German guns, and was shelled by them on oc- 
casion, the motto of the townsfolk seemed to 
be " business as usual," for the shops were busy 
and the schools were open. We had lunch at 
the local inn : it began with fresh lobster, 
followed by omeUtU au Jromage, spring lamb, 
and asparagus, and ended with strawberries, 
and it cost me half a crown, wine included. 
From which you will gather that the people 
behind the French lines are not suffering for 
food. 



It ! 



122 



VI\ F LA FkANCE ! 



Just outside Danncmaric the railway crosses 
the Kivcr 111 by three tremendous viaducts 
eighty feet in height. \\ hen, early in the war, 
the Germans fell back before the impetuous 
French advance, they effectually stopped rail- 
way traffic by blowing up one of these viaducts 
behind them. Urged by the railway company, 
whicli preferred to have the (iovernmcnt foot 
the bill, the viaduct was rebuilt by the French 
military authorities, and a picture of the cere- 
mony which marked its inauguration by the 
Minister of War was pubHshed in one of the 
Paris illustrated papers. The jubilation of the 
French was a trifle premature, however, for a 
few days later the Germans moved one of their 
monster siege-guns into position and, at a range 
of eighteen miles, sent over a shell which again 
put the viaduct out of commission. That 
explains, perhaps, why the censorship is so strict 
on pictures taken in the zone of operations. 

Dannemarie is barely ten miles from that 
point where the French and German trenches, 
after zigzagging across more than four hundred 
miles of European soil, come to an abrupt end 
against the frontier of Switzerland. The Swiss, 
who are taking no chances of having the viola- 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 123 

tion of Belgium repeated with their own 
country for the victim, have at this point massed 
a heavy force of cxtrcmly businesslike-looldng 
troops, the frontier is marked by a line of wire 
entanglements, and a military zone has been 
established, civilians not being permitted to 
approach witliin a mile or more oi the border. 
\\ hen I was in that region the French officers 
gave a dinner to the officers in command of the 
Swiss frontier force opposite them. That there 
might be no embarrassing breaches of neu- 
trality the table was set exactly on the inter- 
national boundary, so that the Swiss officers sat 
in Switzerland, and the French officers sat in 
France. One of the amusing incidents of the 
war was when the French " put one over " on 
the Germans at the beginning of hostilities in 
this region. Taking advantage of a sharp angle 
in the contour of the Swiss frontier, the French 
posted one of their batteries in such a posi- 
tion, that though it could sweep the German 
trenches, it was so close to the border that 
whenever the German guns replied their shells 
fell on Swiss soil, and an international incident 
was created. 

The trenches in front of Altkirch, and indeed 



tl 



124 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



throughout Alsace, are flanked by patches of 
dense woods, and it is in these woods that the 
cantonments for the men are bailt, and amid 
their leafy recesses that the soldiers spend their 
time when off duty in sleeping, smoking, and 
card-playing. Though the German batteries 
periodically rake the woods with shell-fire, it is 
an almost total waste of ammunition, for the 
men simply retreat to the remarkable under- 
ground cities which they have constructed, and 
stay there until the shell-storm is over. The 
troglodyte habitations which have come into 
existence along the entire length of the western 
battle-front are perhaps the most curious pro- 
ducts of this siege warfare. In these dwellings 
burrowed out of the earth the soldiers of trance 
live as the cavemen lived before the dawn of 
civihzaiion. A dozen to twenty feet below the 
surface of the ground, and so stronglv roofed 
over with logs and eartii as to render their oc- 
cupants safe from the most torrential rain of 
high explosive, I was shown rooms with sleep- 
ing-quarters for a hundred men apiece, black- 
^nlith^' and carpenter-' shops, a recreation-room 
where the men lounged and smoked and read 
the papers and wrote to the folks at home, a 



^«&i<wf^-^^ 




i)t ti (.• irrn- Iks iicir Nifiiport 




i»-TBH?s^^i£Siriv- il-i 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 125 

telegraph station, a telephone exchange from 
which one could talk with any section of the 
trenches, witli division headquarters, or with 
Paris ; a bathing establishment with hot and 
cold water and shov/er-baths ; a barber's shop — 
all with bijard floors, free from dampness, and 
surprisingly clean. The trenches and passage- 
ways connecting these underground dwellings 
were named and marked like city streets — the 
Avenue JofTre, the Avenue Foch, the Rue des 
Victoires — and many of them were lighted by 
electricity. The bedroom of an artillery officer, 
twenty feet underground, had its walls and ceil- 
ing covered with flowered cretonne — heaven 
knows where he got it ! — and the tiny windows 
of the division commander's headquarters, 
though they gave only on a wall of yeiiow mud, 
were himg with dainty muslin curtains — 
evidently the work of a woman's loving fingers. 
In one place a score of steps led down to a 
passage-way whose mud walls were so close 
toirethcr that I brushed one with either elbow 
as I passed. On this subterranean corridcjr 
doors — real doors — opened. One of these doors 
led into an officer's sitting-room. The floor 
and walls were covered with planed wood and 



126 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



A 



there was even an attempt at polish. The 
rustic furniture was excellently made. Beside 
the bed was a telephone and an electric-light, 
and on a rude table was a brass shell-case filled 
with wild flowers. On the walls the occupant 
had tacked pictures of his wife and children 
in a pitiful attempt to make this hole in the 
ground look "homeHke." 

But don't get the idea, from anything that I 
have said, that life in the trenches is anything 
more than endurable, 'i wo words describe it : 
misery and muck. War is not only fighting, as 
many people seem to think. Bronchitis is more 
deadly than bullets. Pneumonia does more 
harm than poison-gas. Shells are less dangerous 
than lack of sanitation. To be attacked by 
strange and terrible diseases ; to stand day after 
day, week after week, between walls of oozy 
mud and amid seas of slime ; to be eaten aUvc 
by vermin ; to suffer the intolerable irritation 
of the itch ; to be caked with mud and filth ; 
to go for weeks and perhaps for months with no 
opportunity to bathe ; to be so foul of person 
that you are an offence to all who come near- 
such are the real horrors of the trench. 

^ et, when the circumstances are taken into 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 127 



consideration, the French soldier is admirably 
cared for. His health is carefully looked after. 
He is well fed, well clothed, and, following 
the policy of conserving by every possible 
means the lives of the men, he is afforded 
every protection that human ingenuity can 
devise. The kepi has been replaced by the 
trench-helmet, a light casque of blued steel, 
which will protect a man's brain-pan from 
shell-splinter, shrapnel, or grenade, and which 
has saved many a man's life. Rather a re- 
markable thing, is it not, that the French 
soldier of to-day should adopt a head-dress 
almost identical with the casque worn by his 
ancestor, the French man-at-arms of the Middle 
Ages ? I am convinced that it is this policy of 
conserving the lives of her fighting-men which 
is going to win the war for France. If necessity 
demands that a position be taken with the 
bayonet, no soldiers in the world sacrifice them- 
selves more freely than the French, but the 
military authorities have realized that men, 
unlike shells, cannot be replaced. " The dura- 
tion and the outcome of the vsar," General de 
Maud'huy remarked to me, " depend upon 
how fast we can kill off the Germans. Their 



128 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



army has reached its maximum strength, anc 
every day sees it slowly but surely weakening 
Our game, therefore, is to kill as many as pos- 
sible of the enemy while at the same time 
saving our own men. It is, after all, a pureiv 
mathematical proposition," 

I believe that the losses incidental to trench 
warfare, as it is being conducted in Alsace, 
have been considerably exaggerated. The 
officer in command of the French positions in 
front of Altkirch told me that, during the 
construction of some of the trenches, the 
Germans rained twelve thousand shells upon 
the working parties, yet not a man wa? killed 
and only ten were wounded. The modern 
trench is so ingeniously constructed that, even 
in the comparatively rare event of a shell 
dropping squarely into it, only the soldiers in 
the immediate vicinity, seldom more than 
half a dozen at the most, are injured, the others 
being protected from the flying steel by the 
traverses, earthen wails which partially inter- 
sect the trench at intervals of a few yards. 
In the trench one has only to keep one's head 
down, and he is nearly as safe as though he 
were at home. To crouch, to move bowed. 



.-•i:i.'e«A:)-S?» ."js» 



mmmm^imm^mmm 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 129 

always to keep the parapet between your head 
and the German riflemen, becomes an instinct, 
hkc the lock-step which used to be the rule for 
the convicts at Sing Sing. 

So cleverly have the French engineers taken 
advantage of the configuration of the country 
in front of Altkirch, that we were able to enter 
the boyaux, or communication trenches, without 
Icavin^^ the shelter of the wood. I lalf an hour's 
brisk walking through what would, in times of 
peace, be called a ditch, perhaps three feet 
wide and seven deep, its earthen walls kept 
in place by wattles of woven willows, and with 
a? many twists and turns as the maze at 
1 lampton Court, brought us at last into the fire- 
trenches. These were considerably roomier 
than the boyaux, being in places six feet wide 
and having a sort of raised step or platform of 
earth, on which the men stood to fire, running 
along the side nearest the enemy. Each soldier 
was protected by a steel shield about the size 
f a newspaper, and painted a lead-grey, set 
in the earth of the parapet. In the centre of 
the shield is cut an opening sHghtly larger than 
a playing-card, through which the soldier 
pokes his rifle when he wishes to fire, and which, 



o 



»3o 



\'I\'E LA FRANCE ! 



when not in use, is screened by a steel shutter 
or a cloth curtain, so that the riflemen in the 
German trench cannot sec anyone who may 
happen to pass behind it. At intervals of five 
or six yards men were on watch, with their 
rifles laid. Their instructions arc never to 
take their eyes off the enemy's trenches, a 
shout from them bringing their comrades 
tumbhng out of their dug-outs just as firemen 
respond to the clang of the fire-bell. W hen 
the men come rushing out of the shelters they 
have, in the earth platform, a good steady 
footing which vill bring their heads level with 
the parapet, where their rifles, leaning against 
the steel shields, await them. It is planned 
always to keep a sufficient force in the fire- 
trenches, so that, roughly speaking, there will 
be a man to every yard, which is about as dose 
as they can fight to advantage. Every thirty 
yards or so, in a log-roofed shelter known as 
a gun-pit, is a machine gun, though in the 
German trenches it is not at all uncommon to 
find a machine gun to every fifteen men. 

As we passed through thr trenches I noticed 
at intervals of a hundred yards or so men, 
standing motionless as statues, who seemed to 



THF RETAKING OF ALSACF. ,3, 

be intently listening. And that, I found, was 
precisely what they were doing. In this trench 
warfare men are specially told of! to listen, both 
above and beneath the ground, for any sapping 
or mining operations on the part of the enemy. 
Without this precaution there would be the 
constant danger of the Germans driving a 
tunnel under the French trenches (or vice 
ver .i) and, by means of a mine, blowing those 
trenches and the men in them into the air. 
Indeed, scarcely a night passes that soldiers, 
armed with knives and pistols, do not crawl 
out on hands and knees between the trenches 
in order to find out, by holding the ear to the 
ground, whether tlie enemy is sapping. Should 
the listener hear the muffled sounds which 
would suggest that the enemy was driving a 
mine, he tells it in a wlu'sper to his companion, 
who crawls back to his own trenches ^vith the 
mt-ssage. whereupon the engineers immediately 
take >teps to start a counter-mine. 

" Look through here," said the intelligence 
officer who wa> acting as my guide, indicating 
the porthole in one of the steel shields, " but 
don't stay too long or a German sharpshooter 
may spot you. A second is long enough to 



^11 



•32 



MVK l.\ FkANCK! 



ir 



get a bullet through the brain." Cautiously 
applying my eye to the opening, I saw, per- 
haps a hundred yards away, a long, low 
mound of earth, such as would be thrown up 
from a sewer excavation, and dotting it at 
three-foot intervals darker patches which I 
knew to be just such steel shields as the one 
behind which I was sheltered. And I knew 
that behind each one of those steel shields 
was standing a keen-eyed rifleman searching 
for something suspicious at which to fire. Im- 
mediately in front of the German trench, just 
as in frtmt of the trench in which I stood, a 
forest of stout stakes had been driven deep 
into the ground, and draped between these 
stakes were countless strands of barbed wire, 
so snarled and tangled, and interlaced and 
woven that a cat could not have got through 
unscratched. Between the two lines of entan- 
glements stretched a field of ripening wheat, 
streaked here and there with patches of scarlet 
poppies. There were doubtless other things 
besides poppies amid that wheat, but, thank 
Clod it waslii^h enough to hide them. Rising 
from the wheatfield, almost midway between 
the French and German lines, was a solitary 



niK RKTAKINC; OF Al.SACi: 133 

applc-trcc. " Behind that tree," whispered the 
officer standing beside me — for some reason 
they always speak in hushed tones in the 
trenches — "is a German outpost. He crawls 
out every morning before sunrise and is re- 
heved at dark. Though some of our men keep 
tlieir rifies constantly laid on the tree, we've 
never been able to get him. Still, he's not a 
very good life-insurance risk, eh ? " And I 
agreed that he certainly was not. 

I must have remained at my loophole a Httlc 
too long or possibly some movement of mine 
attracted the attention of a German sniper, for 
pdn.1 came a bullet against the shield behind 
which I was standing, with the same ringing, 
metallic sound which a bullet makes when it 
hits the iron target in a shooting-gallery. In 
this case, however, / was the bull's eye. Had 
that bullet been two inches nearer ♦he centre 
there would have been, in the words of the poet, 
" more work for the undertaker, another little 
job for the casket-maker." 

" Lucky for you that wasn't one of the new 
armour-piercing bullets," remarked the officer 
a>, I hastily stepped down. " After the Ger- 
mans introduced the steel shields we went them 




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\ I\E LA FRANCE ! 



one better by introducing a jacketed bullet 
which will go through a sheet of armour-plate 
as though it were made of cheese. We get 
lots of amusement from them. Sometimes one 
of our men will fire a dozen rounds of ordinary 
ammunition at a shield behind which he hears 
some Bodies talking, and as the bullets glance 
off harmlessly they laugh and jeer at him. 
Then he shps in one of the jacketed bullets and 
-^cfhang / ! /—we hear a wounded Boche yelp- 
ing like a dog that has been run over by a 
motor-car. Funny thing about the Germans. 
They're brave enough— no one questions that 
—but they scream like animals when they're 
wounded." 

; From all that I could gather, the French did 
not have a particularly high opinion of the 
quality of the troops opposed to them in 
Alsace, most of whom, at the time I was there, 
were Bavarians and Saxons. An officer in the 
trenches on the Hartmannswillerkopf, where 
the French and German positions were in places 
very close together, told me that whenever the 
Germans attempted an attack the French 
trenches burst into so fierce a blast of rifle and 
macliine-gun fire that the men in the spiked 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 135 

helmets r used to face it. " Vorwarts ! Vor- 
warts ! " the German officers would scream, 
exposing themselves recklessly. "Nein ! N'ein !" 
the fear-maddened men would answer as they 
broke and ran for the shelter of their trenches. 
Then the French would hear the angry bark 
of automatics as the officers pistolled their 
men. 

When tlie French, in one of the bloodiest 
and most desperate assaults of the war, carried 
the summit of the Hartmannswillcrkopf by 
storm, they claim to have found the German 
machine-gun crews chained to their guns as 
galley-slaves were chained to their oars. French 
artillery officers have repeatedly told me that 
when German infantry advance to take a 
position by assault, the men are frequently 
urged forward by their own batteries raking 
them from the rear. As the German gunners 
gradually advance their fire as the infantry 
moves forward, it is as dangerous for the 
men to retreat as to go on. Hence it 
is by no means uncommon, so the French 
officers assert, for the German troops to 
arrive pell-mell at the French trenches, 
breathless, terrified, hands above their heads, 



:Ji 



136 



VIVE LA FRAxNCE ! 



seeking not a fight but a chance to sur- 
render. 

One of the assertions that you hear repeated 
everywhere along the French Hnes, by officers 
and men ahke, is that the German does not 
fight fair, that you cannot trust liim, that he is 
not bound by any of the recognized rules of the 
game. Innumerable instances have been re- 
lated to me of wounded Germans attempting 
to shoot or stab the French surgeons and nurses 
who were caring for them. An American 
serving in the Foreign Legion told me that on 
one occasion, when his regiment carried a 
German position by assault, the wounded 
Germans lying on the ground waited until the 
legionaries had passed, and then shot them in 
the back. Now, when the Foreign Legion goes 
into action, each company is followed by men 
with axes, whose business it is to see that such 
incidents do not happen again. 

The reason for the French soldier's deep- 
seated distrust of the German is illustrated 
by a grim comedy of which I heard when I was 
in Alsace. 

A company of German infantry was defend- 
ing a stone-walled farmstead on the Fecht. 



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THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 137 

So murderous was the fire of the French bat- 
teries that soon a white sheet was seen waving 
from one of the farmhouse windows. The 
French fire ceased, and through the gateway 
came a group of Germans, holding their hands 
above their heads and shouting : " Kamerad ! 
Kamerad ! " which has become the euphemism 
for " I surrender." But when a detachment of 
chasseurs went forward to take them prisoners 
the Germans suddenly dropped to the ground, 
while from an upper window in the farm- 
house a hidden machine gun poured a stream 
of lead into the unsuspecting Frenchmen. 
Thereupon the French batteries proceeded to 
transform that farmhouse into a sieve. In a 
quarter of an hour the tablecloth was again 
seen waving, the French guns again ceased 
firing, and again the Germans came crowding 
out, with their hands above their heads. But 
this time they were stark naked ! To prove 
that they had no concealed weapons they had 
stripped to the skin. It is scarcely necessary 
to add that those Germans were not taken 

prisoners. 

Though the incidents I have above related 
were told me by officers who claimed to have 






138 



\IVE LA FRANCE! 



witnessed them, and whose reliability I have 
no reason to doubt, I do not vouch for them, 
mind you ; I merely repeat them for what they 
are worth. 

I ha J, of course, heard many stories of the 
German ranks being filled with boys and old 
men, but the large convoys of prisoners which 
I saw in Alsace and in Champagne convinced 
me that there is but little truth in the assertion. 
Some of the prisoners, it is true, looked as 
though they should have been in high school, 
and others as though they had been calle.. from 
old soldiers' homes, but these formed only a 
sprinkling of the whole. By far the greater 
part of the prisoners that I saw were men 
between eighteen and forty, and they all im- 
pressed me as being in the very pink of physical 
condition and this despite the fact that they 
were dirty and hungry and very, very tired. 
But they struck me as being not at all averse to 
being captured. They seemed exhausted and 
dispirited and crushed, as though all the fight 
had gone out of them. In those long columns 
of weary, dirty men were represented all 
the Teutonic types : arrogant, supercilious 
Prussians ; strapping young peasants from the 



THE RKTAKING OF ALSACE 139 

Silesian farm-lands ; tradesmen and mechanics 
from the great industrial centres ; men from 
the mines of \\ urtemberg and the forests of 
Baden ; scowhng Bavarians and smiHng Saxons. 
Among them were some brutish faces, accen- 
tuated, no doubt, by the close-cropped hair 
which makes any man look Hke a convict, but 
the countenances of most of them were frank 
and honest and open. Two things aroused my 
curiosity. The first was that I did not see a 
helmet — a pickelhaube — among them. When I 
asked the reason they explained that they had 
been captured in the fire-trenches, and that 
they seldom wear their helmets there, as the 
little round grey caps with the scarlet band are 
less conspicuous and more comfortable. The 
other thing that aroused my curiosity was when 
I saw French soldiers, each with a pair of 
scissors, going from prisoner to prisoner. 

" U hat on earth are you doing ? " I asked. 

" We are cutting the braces of the Boches," 
was the answer. "Their trousers are made 
very large around the waist so that if their 
bracks are cut they have to hold them up 
with their hands, thus making it difficult for 
them to run away." 



rii 



140 



\1\K LA FRANCE! 



As 1 looked at these unshaven, unkempt 
men in their soiled and tattered uniforms, it 
was hard to make myself believe that they 
had been a part of that immaculate, confident, 
and triumphant army which I had seen roll 
across Belgium like a tidal wave in the late 
summer of 1914. 

Though the French and German positions 
in Alsace are rarely less than a hundred yards 
apart and usually considerably more, there is 
one point on the line, known as La Fontcncllc, 
where, owing to a peculiar rocky formation, 
the French and German trenches are within six 
yards of each other. The only reason one side 
doL. not blow up the other by means of mines 
is because the vein of rock which separates 
them is too hard to tunnel through. In cases 
when the trenches are exceptionally close 
together, the men have the comfort of knowing 
that they are at least safe from shell-fire, 
for, as the battery commanders are perfectly 
awaie that the sHghtest error in calculating the 
range, or the least detcrioriation in the rifling of 
the guns, would r( ^ult in their shells landing 
among their own men, they generally play 



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THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 141 

sale and concentrate their fire on the enemy's 
second-line trenches instead of on the first- 
line. The fighting in these close-up positions 
has consequently degenerated into a warfare 
of bombs, hand-grenades, poison-gas, burning 
oil, and other methods reminiscent of the 
Middle Ages. As a protection against bombs 
and hand-grenades, some of the trenches which 
I visited had erected along their parapets 
ten- foot-high screens of wire netting, hke the 
back nets of tennis-courts. 

In ♦his war the hand-grenade is king. Com- 
pared with it the high-power rifle is a joke. 
The grenadier regiments again deserve the 
name. For cleaning out a trench or stopping 
a massed charge there is nothing like a well- 
aimed volley of hand-greandes. I beheve that 
the total failure of the repeated German 
attempts to break through on the western front 
is due to three causes : the overwhelming 
superiority of the French artillery ; the French 
addiction to the use of the bayonet — for the 
Germans do not like cold steel ; and to the 
remarkable proficiency of the French in the 
use of hand-gren*des. The grenade commonly 
used by the French is of the " bracelet " type, 



< -' - I«5^>r-:. 



142 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



consisting of a cast-iron ball filled with ex- 
plosive. The thrower wears on his wrist a 
leather loop or bracelet which is prolonged by 
a piece of cord about a foot in length with an 
iron hook at the end. Just before the grenade 
is thrown, the hook is passed through the ring 
of a friction-pin inside the firing-plug which 
closes the iron ball. By a sharp backward 
turn of the wrist when the grenade is thrown, 
the ring, with the friction-pin held back by 
the hook, is torn off, the grenade itself con- 
tinuing on its brief journey of destruction. 
The French also use a primed grenade attached 
to a sort of wooden racket, which can be 
quickly improvised on the spot, and which, 
fiom its form, is popularly known as the 
" hair-brush." To acquire proficiency in the 
use of grenades requires considerable practice 
for the novice who attempts to throw one of 
these waspish-tempered missiles is as hkely to 
blow up his comrades as he is the enemy. So 
at various points along the front the French 
have established bomb-throwing schools, under 
competent instructors, where the soldiers are 
taught the proper method of throwing grenades, 
just as, at the winter training camps in America, 



If i 



I 

! 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 143 

candidates for the big leagues are taught the 
proper method of throwing a baseball. 

Some of the grenades are too large to be 
thrown by hand and so they are hurled into 
the enemy's trenches by various ingenious 
machines designed for the purpose. There is, 
for example, the sauterelU, a modern adapta- 
tion of the ancient arbaHst, which can toss a 
bomb the size of a nail-keg into a trench ninety 
feet away. Mortars which did good service in 
the days of Bertrand du Guesclin have been 
unearthed from ancient citadels, and in the 
trenches are again barking defiance at the 
enemies of France. Because of their frog- 
liKc appearance, the soldiers have dubbed them 
crapouillots, and they are used for throwing 
bombs of the horned variety, which look more 
than anything else like snails pushing their 
heads out of their shells. Still another type, 
known as the taupia, consists merely of a 
German 77-millimetre shell-case with a touch- 
hole bored in the base so that it can be fired by 
a match. This httle improvised mortar, whose 
name was no doubt coined from the French 
word for " mole " (taupe) as appropriate to 
underground warfare throws a tin containing 



» ,- 



144 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



If 



two and a quarter pounds of high explosive for 
a short distance with considerable accuracy. 
Still another type of bomb is hurled from a 
catapult, which does not diflFer materially from 
those which were used at the siege of Troy. 
Doubtless the most accurate and effective of 
all the bombs used in this trench warfare is 
the so-called air-torpedo, a cigar-shaped shell 
about thirty inches long and weighing thirty- 
three pounds, which is fitted with steel fins, 
hke the feathers on an arrow and for the same 
purpose. This projectile, which is fired from 
a specially designed mortar, has an effective 
range of five hundred yards and carries a 
charge of high explosive sufficient to demohsh 
everything within a radius of twenty feet. 
Tens of thousands of these torpedoes of the air 
were used during the French offensive in 
Champagne and created terrible havoc in the 
German trenches. But by far the most im- 
posing of these trench projectiles is the great 
air-mine, weighing two hundred and thirty-six 
pounds and as large as a barrel, which is fired 
from an 80-millimetre mountain gun with the 
wheels removed and mounted on an oak plat- 
form. In the case of both the air-torpedo and 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE ,45 

the air-mine the projectile does not enter the 
barrel of the gun from which it is fired, but is 
attached to a tube which alone receives the 
propulsive force. At first the various forms of 
trench mortaTs—minenwerfer, the Germans call 
them— were unsatisfactory because they were 
not accurate ard could not be depended upon, 
no one being quite sure whether the resulting 
explosion was going to occur in the French 
trenches or in the German. They have been 
greatly improved, however, and though no 
attempt has been made to give them velocity, 
they drop their bombs with reasonable ac- 
curacy. You can see them plainly as they end- 
over-end toward you, like beer-bottles or beer- 
br.rrils coming through the air. 

Nor does this by any means exhaust the list 
of killing devices which have been produced 
by this war. There is, for example, the Httle, 
insignificant-looking bomb with wire triggers 
sticking out from it in aU directions, hke the 
prickers on a horse-chestnut burr. These 
bombs are thickly strewn over the ground be- 
tween the trenches. If the enemy attempts to 
charge across that ground some soldier is 
almost certain to step on one of those little 



•'T^KIi.^ 



146 



VaVE LA FRANCE ! 



trigger-wires. To collect that soldier's re- 
mains it would be necessary to use a pail and 
shovel. The Germans are said to dig shallow 
pools outside their trenches and cement the 
bottoms of those pools and fill them with acid, 
whicli is masked by boughs or straw. Any 
soldiers who stumbled into those pools of acid 
would have their feet burned off. This I 
have not seen, but I have been assured that it 
is so. Along certain portions of the front the 
orthodox barbed-wire entanglements are giving 
way to great spirals of heavy telegraph wire. 
which, lying loose upon the ground, envelop 
and hamper an advancing force like the 
tentacles of a giant cuttlefish. This wire comes 
in coils about three feet in diameter, but 
instead of unwinding it the coils are opened out 
into a sort of spiral cage, which can be rolled 
over the tops of the trenches without exposing 
a man. A bombardment which would wipe 
the ordinary barbed-wire entanglement out of 
existence, does this new form of obstruction 
comparatively little harm, while the wire is so 
tough and heavy that the soldiers vidth nippers 
who precede a storming-party cannot cut it. 
Another novel contrivance is the hinged 



1 



">7'ff'k1?i6^i 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE ,47 

entanglement, a sort of barbed-wire fence which 
when not in use, lies flat upon the ground, 
where it is but little exposed to shell-fire, but 
which, by means of wires running back to the 
trenches, can be p^.-d upright in case of an 
attack, so that the advancing troops suddenly 
find themselves confronted by a formidable 
and unexpected barrier. In cases where the 
lines are so close togecher that for men to 
expose themselves would mean almost certain 
death, chevaux-de-frise of steel and wire are 
constructed in the shelter of the trenches and 
pushed over the parapet with poles. The 
French troops now frequently advance to the 
assault, carrying huge rolls of thick linoleum, 
which is unrolled and thrown across the 
entanglements, thus forming a sort of bridge, 
by means of which the attacking force is enabled 
to cross the river of barbed wire in front of 
the German trenches. 

It is not safe to assert that anything relating 
to this war is untrue merely because it is 
incredible. I have with my own eyes seen 
things which, had I been told about them before 
the war began, I would have set down as the 
imaginings of a disordered mind. Some one 



•^mFmsiPswmm^ 



■i i 

Ml 



148 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



asked me if I knew that the scene-painters of 
the French theatres had been mobilized and 
formed into a battalion for the purpose of 
painting scenery to mask gun-positions— and I 
laughed at the story. Since then I have seen 
gun-positions so hidden. Suppose that it is 
found necessary to post a battery in the open, 
where no cover is available. In the ordinary 
course of events the German airmen would dis- 
cover those guns before they had fired a dozen 
rounds, and the German batteries would 
promptly proceed to put them out of action. 
So they erect over them a sort of tent, and the 
scene-painters are set to work so to paint that 
tent, that from a httle distance, it cannot be 
distinguished from the surrounding scenery. If 
it is on the Belgian Httoral they will paint it to 
look hke a sand-dune. If it is in the wooded 
country of Alsace or the Argonne they will so 
paint it that, seen from an aeroplane, it will 
look hke a clump of trees. I have seen a whole 
row of aeroplane hangars, each of them the size 
of a church, so cleverly ^ ainted that, from a 
thousand feet above, they could not be seen at 
all. A road over which there is heavy traffic 
lies within both range and sight of the enemy's 



THE RFTAKING OF ALSACE 



guns. 



'49 
Anything seen moving along that road 
instantly becomes the target for a rain of shells. 
So along the side of the road nearest the 
enemy is raised a screen of canvas, like those 
which surround the side-shovi^s at the circus, 
but, instead of being decorated with lurid 
representations of the Living Skeleton and the 
Uild Man from Borneo and the Fattest 
Woman on Earth, and the Siamese Twins, it is 
painted to represent a row of trees such as 
commonly border French highways. Behind 
that canvas screen horse, foot, and guns can 
then be moved in safety, though the road must 
be kept constantly sprinkled so that the sus- 
picions of the German observers shall not be 
aroused by a teU-tale cloud of dust. The stalk- 
ing-screen is a device used for approaching big 
game by sportsmen the world over. Now the 
idea has been applied by the French to warfare, 
the big game being in this case Germans. The 
screens are of steel plates covered with canvas 
so painted that it looks like a length of trench, 
the deception being heightened by sticking to 
the canvas tufts of grass. Thus screened from 
the enemy, two or three men may secretly keep 
watch at points considerably in advance of the 



If; 



HI 



150 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



real trenches, creeping forward as opportunity 
oflFers, pushing their scenery before them. 
Both sides have long been daubing field-guns 
and caissons and other bulky equipment with 
all the colours of the rainbow, like a futurist 
landscape, so that they assume the properties 
of a chameleon and become indistinguishable 
from the landscape. Now they are painting 
the faces of the snipers, and splashing their 
uniforms and rifle barrels with many colours and 
tying to their heads wisps of grass and foUage. 
But the crowning touch was when the French 
began systematically to paint their white horses 
with permanganate so as to turn them into less 
obtrusive browns and sorrels. 

Hollowed at frequent intervals from the 
earthen back walls of the trenches are niches, 
in each of which is kept a bottle of liyposulphate 
of soda and a pail of water. When the yellow 
cloud which denotes that the Germans have 
turned loose their poison-gas comes rolling 
dovm upon them, the soldiers hastily empty 
the hyposulphate into the water, saturate in 
the solution thus formed a pad of gauze which 
thry always carry with them, fasten it over 
the mouth and nostrils by iMean^ of an elastic, 
and, as an additional precaution, draw over the 



't^'«irv2«w.* 



fp 




•• .M'n.,Nc cntanglcmau- arc „„. true tc.i i„ the ,hdtcr of 
til... .he men tiu not ha^e t.. exp,.,e them.clve. " 



,| ! 



PI 




" \\ lii-n uiL- i'n:-i)ii-i.M- i.iniv> ruiliii^ ilduii upon tiic trctuiic^ 

ilic MiKiiiT- t.i-tcii i)\cr the iiiiiutli ;iiul iin-triK .i p.iJ ot'^'.ui/c 

.ituiitcJ m .1 i!\ p(i-ulpli.uc -oliitliMi '■ 



I ! 



THE RETAKING OF ALSACE 151 

head a bag of blue linen with a piece of mica 
set in the front and a draw-string to pull it tight 
about the neck. Thus protected and looking 
strangely like the hooded familiars of the 
Inquisition, they are able to remain at their 
posts without fear of asphyxiation. But no 
protection has as yet been devised against the 
terrible flame projector which has been intro- 
duced on several portions of the western front 
by the Germans. It is a living sheet of flame, 
caused by a gas believed to be oxyacetylene, and 
is probably directed through a powerful air-jet. 
The pressure of the air must be enormous, for 
the flame, which springs from the ground level 
and expands into a roaring wave of fire, chars 
and burns everything within thirty yards. The 
flame is, indeed, very like that of the common 
blowpipe used by plumbers, but instead of 
being used upon lead pipe it is used upon 
human flesh and bone. 

But poison-gas and flame projectors are by 
no means the most devilish of the devices 
introduced by the Germans. The soldiers of 
the Kaiser have now adopted the weapon of the 
jealous prostitute and are throwing vitriol. 
The acid is contained in fragile globes or phials 
which break upon contact, scattering the liquid 



'I! 



ni 



ir 



h 



152 



M\ E LA FRANCE ! 



fire upon everything in the immediate vicinity. 
I might add that I do not make this assertion 
except after tlie fullest investigation and con- 
firmaiion. I have not only talked with officers 
and men who were in the trenches into which 
these vitriol bombs were thrrvn, but American 
ambulance drivers both in the Vosges and 
the Argonne told me that they had carried 
to the hospitals French soldier's whose faces 
had been burned almost beyond recognition. 

"But we captured one of the vitriol- 
throwers," said an otT^cer who was telling me 
about the helhsh business. " He was pretty 
badly burned himself." 

" I suppose you shot him then and there," 
said I. 

"Oh, no," was the answer, "we sent him 
along with the other prisoners." 

"You don't mean to say," I exclaimed, 
indignation in my voice, " that you captured a 
man who had been throwing vitriol at your 
soldiers and let him live ? " 

" Naturally," said the officer quietly. "There- 
was nothing else to do. Vou see, monsieur, 
we French are civilized." 



:]f i 



V. TUK FIGHTING IN CHAM- 

pac;nk 

W\\E\ the history of this war comes 
to be written, the great French 
offensive which began on Sep- 
tember 25, 1915, midway between Rheims 
and Verdun, will doubtless be known as the 
Battle of Champagne. Hell holds no horrors 
for one who has seen that battlefield. Could 
Dante have walked beside me across that 
dreadful place, which had been transformed by 
human agency from a peaceful countryside 
to a garbage heap, a cesspool, and a charnel- 
house combined, he would never have written 
his " Inferno," because the hell of his imagina- 
tion would have seemed colourless and tame. 
The difficulty in writing about it is that people 
will not believe me. I shall be accused of 
imagination and exaggeration, whereas the 
truth is that no one could imagine, much less 
exaggerate, the horrors that I saw upon those 
rolling, chalky plains. 

In order that you may get clearly in your 

153 



,^,j .^:\ ,• 



"l! 



154 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



mind thesetting of this titanic conflict, in which 
nearly a milhon and a half Frenchmen and 
Germans were engaged and in which Europe 
lost more men in killed and wounded than 
fought at Gettysburg, get out your atlas, and 
on the map of eastern France draw a more or 
less irregular line from Rheims to Verdun. This 
line roughly corresponds to the battle-front in 
Champagne. On the south side of it were the 
French, on the north the Germans. About 
midway between Rheim.s and Verdun mark off 
on that Une ^ sector of some fifteen miles. 
If you have a sufficiently large-scale map, the 
hamlet of Aubcrive may be taken as one end 
of the sector and Massigcs as the other. This, 
then, was the spot chosen by the French for 
their sledge-hammer blow against the German 
wall of steel. 

There is scarcely a region in all France where 
a bat.le could have been fought with less 
injury to property. Imagine, if you please, an 
immense undulating plain, its surface broken 
by occasional low hills and ridges, none of them 
much over six hundred feet in height, and 
wandering in and out between those ridges the 
narrow stream whicli is the Marne. The 




ill 




Hrmgin^ in tlu- wounded ....v]u^ tl,,- battle of L'h. -^.pj^ne 

' '■"- '■■'"' I I-.ui. :|M- Hi.,,. Ill, ., i,, ;,ii;,,i ,.,,1 „,.,^, .,!,., I ,i^^. f ,. ,, . ^j , ^^ ,,^ , ^^ 




(Jcrman olticer, ..ipturcd duriiii^ tlic b.utic of Champ.iyiie 

|;..f':.t;;;.™:^:;:,.';;/:/:,:.r^;;:,;,:;:;,"v-:;::r;;rr;:;v:":: ;••■ 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 155 

country hereabouts is very sparsely settled ; the 
few villages that dot the plain are wretchedly 
poor ; the trees on the slopes of the ridges are 
stunted and scraggly ; the soil is of chalky 
marl, which you have only to scratch to leave 
a staring scar, and the grass which tries to 
grow upon it seems to wither and die of a 
broken heart. This was the great manoeuvre 
ground of Chalons, and it was good for httle 
else, yet only a few miles to the westwaid 
begin the vineyards which are France's chief 
source of wealth, and an hour's journey to the 
eastward is the beautiful forest of the Argonne. 
Virtually, the entire summer of 19 15 was 
spent by the French in making their prepara- 
tions for the great offensive. These prepara- 
tions wer- assisted by the extension of the 
British front as far as the Somme, thus releasing 
a large number of French troops for the opera- 
tions in Champagne ; by the formation of new 
French units ; and by the extraordinary 
quantity of ammunition made available by hard 
and continuous work in the factories. The 
volume of preparatory work was stupendous. 
Artillery of every pattern and caHbre, from the 
light mountain guns to the monster weapons 



i|i 



156 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



?» 



which the workers of Lc Creusot and Bourges 
and prophetically christened " Les Vainqueurs, 
was gradually assembled until nearly three 
thousand guns had been concentrated on a front 
of only fifteen miles. Had the guns been placed 
side by side they would have extended far 
beyond the fifteen-mile battle-front. There 
were cannon everywhere. Each battery had a 
designated spot to fire at and a score of captive 
balloons with telephonic connections directed 
the fire. One battery was placed just opposite a 
German redoubt which, the Germans boasted, 
could be held against the whole French array 
by two washerwomen with machine guns. 
Behind each of the French guns were stacked 
two thousand shells. A network of light rail- 
ways was built in order to get this enormous 
supply of ammunition up to the guns. From 
the end of the railway they built a macada- 
1 ized highway, forty feet wide and nine miles 
long, straight as a ruler across the rolling plain. 
Underground shelters for the men were dug 
and underground stores for the arms and 
ammunition. The field was dotted with 
subterranean first-aid stations, their locations 
indicated by sign-boards with scarlet arrows 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 157 

and by the Red Cross flags flying over them. 
That the huge masses o£ infantry to be used in 
the attack might reach their stations without 
being annihilated by German shell-fire, the 
French dug forty miles of reserve and com- 
munication trenches, ten miles of which were 
wide enough for four men to walk abr ast. 
Hospitals all over France were emptied and 
put in readiness for the river of wounded which 
would soon come flowing in. In addition to all 
this, moral preparation was also necessary, for 
it was a question whether the preceding months 
of trench varfare and the individual character 
it gives t J actions had not affected the control 
of the officers over their men. Everything was 
foreseen and provided for ; nothing was left to 
chance. The French had undertaken the 
biggest job in the world, and they set about 
accomphshing it as systematically, as methodi- 
cally as though they had taken a contract to 
build a Simplon Tunnel or to dig a Panama 
Canal. 

The Germans had held the line from 
Auberive to the Forest of the Argonne since the 
battle of the Marne. For more than a year 
they had been constructing fortifications and 






i5« VIVE LA FRANCE! 

defences of so formidable a nature that it is 
scarcely to be wondered at that they con- 
sidered their position as being virtually im- 
pregnable. Their trenches, which were topped 
with sand-bags and in many cases had walls 
of concrete, were protected by wire entangle- 
ments, some of which were as much as sixty yards 
deep. The ground in front of the entangle- 
ments was strewn with sharpened stakes and 

fA^f^tt.v-^^-/r:>andlandminesandbombs which 
exploded upon contact. The men manning 
the trenches fought from behind shields of 
armour-plate and every fifteen yards was placed 
a machine gun. Mounted on the trench 
walls were revolving steel turrets, miniature 
editions of those on battleships, all save the top 
of the turret and the muzzle of the quick-firing 
gun within it being embedded in the ground. 
The trenches formed a veritable maze, with 
traps and Wind passageways and cul-de-sacs 
down which attackers would swarm only to be 
wiped out by skilfully concealed machine guns. 
At some points there were five hnes of trenches, 
one behind the other, the ground behind them 
being divided into sections and supphed with 
an extraordinary number of communication 



iit*t^ 



•^:^-- ^j •"■^, *.. 




\) — 
5: 






*it^y^''^' 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 159 

trenches, protected by wir:. entanglements on 
both sides, so that, in case the first line was 
compelled to give way, the assailants would find 
themselves confronted by what were to all 
intents a series of small forts, heavily armed and 
communicating one with the other, thus 
enabling the defenders to rally and organize 
flank attacks without the slightest delay. This 
elaborate system of trenches formed only the 
first German line of defence, remember ; be- 
hind it there was a second line, the artillery 
being stationed betwe'-n the two. There was, 
moreover, an elaborate system of light railways 
some of which came right up to the front line, 
connecting with the line from Challerange to 
Bazancourt, that there might be no delay in 
getting up ammunition and fresh troops from 
the bases in the rear. No wonder that the 
Germans regarded their position as an inland 
Gibraltar and listened with amused com- 
placence to the reports brought in by their 
aviators of the great preparations being made 
behind the French lines. Not yet had they 
heard the roar of France's massed artillery or 
seen the heavens open and rain down death. 
On the morning of September 22 began 



Ili 1 
t 



i6o VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

the great bombardmcnt-the greatest that the 
world had ever known. On that morning the 
French comniander issued his famous general 
order : " I want the artillery so to bend the 
trench parapets, so to plough up the dug-outs 
and subterranean defences of the enemy's line 
as to make it almost possible for my men to 
march to the assault with their rifles at the 
'1-uldcr." It will be seen that the French 
artillerymen had their work laid out for them 
iiut they went about it knowing exactly what 
they were domg. During the long months of 
waiting the French airmen had photographed 
and mapped every turn and twist in the 
enemy s trenches, every entanglement, every 
path, every tree, so that when all was in readi- 
ness the French were almost as familiar with 
the German position as were the Germans 
themselves. The first task of the French 
gunners was to destroy the wire entanglements, 
and when they finished few entanglements 
^mained. The next thing was to bury the 
Germans in their dug-outs, and so terrific was 
the torrent of high explosive that whole com- 
pames which had taken refuge in their under- 
ground shelters were annihilated. The para 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE i6i 

pets and trenches had also to be levelled so that 
the infantry could advance, and so thoroughly 
was this done that the French cavalry actually 
charged over the ground thus cleared. Then, 
while the big guns were shelling the German 
cantonments, the staff headquarters, and the 
railways by which reinforcements might be 
brought up, the ficld-batteries turned their 
attention to the communication trenches, drop- 
ping such a hail of projectiles that all telephone 
communication between the first and second 
hnes was interrupted, so that the second line 
did not know what was happening in the first. 
There are no words between the covers of the 
dictionary to describe what ic must have been 
like within the German Hnes under that rain 
of death. The air was crowded vdth the French 
shells. No wonder that scores of the German 
prisoners were found to be insane. A curtain 
of shell-fire made it impossible for food or 
water to be brought to the men in the bom- 
barded trenches, and made it equally impos- 
sible for these men to retreat. Hundreds of 
them who had taken refuge in their under- 
ground shelters were buried alive when the 
explosion of the great French marmius sent the 



I62 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



earthen waUs crashing in upon them. Whole 
forests of trees were mown down by the blast 
of sted from the French guns as a harvester 
mows down a field of grain. The wire entan- 
glements before the German trenches were 
swept away as though by the hand of God The 
steel chevaux-de-frise and the shields of armour- 
plate were riddled like a sheet of paper into 
whuh has been emptied a charge of buck- 
shot. Irenches which it had taken months of 
painstaking toil to build were uiterlydemolished 
in an hour. The sand-bags which lined the 
parapets were set on fire by the French high 
explosive and the soldiers behind them were 
suflPocated by the fumes. The bursts of the 
big shells were like volcanoes above the German 
lines, vomiting skj^vard huge geysers of earth 
and smoke which hung for a time against the 
horizon and were then gradually dissipated by 
the wind. For three days and two nights the 
bombardment never ceased or slackened The 
French gunners, streaming with sweat and 
grimed with powder, worked like the stokers on 
a record-breaking liner. The metallic tanp of 
the sorxante-quinze " and the deep-mouthed 
roar of the 120's. the 155's, and the ^-joh, and 



'.'W^i^i^m^mm^mm^^^f^m 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 163 

the screech and moan of the sheik passing 
overhead combined to form a hurricane of 
sound. Conversation was impossible. To 
speaic to a man beside him a soldier had to 
shout. Though the ears of the men were stuff*':' 
with cotton they ached and throbbed to the 
unending detonation. An American aviator 
who flew over the lines when the bombardment 
was at its height told me that the German 
trenches could not be seen at all because of 
the shells bursting upon them. " The noise," 
he said, " was hkc a machine gun made of 
cannon." Imagine, then, what must have been 
the terror of the Germans cowering in the 
trenches which they had confidently bcUeved 
were proof against anything and which they 
suddenly found were no protection at all against 
that roin of death which seemed to come from 
no human agency, but to be hellish in the 
frightfulness of its effect. When the bombard- 
ment was at its height the shells burst at the 
rate of twenty a second, forming one wave of 
black smoke, one unbroken line of exploding 
shells, as far as the horizon. 

Graphic glimpses of what it must have been 
like in the German trenches during that three 



II 



i,l 



164 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



days' bombardment are given by the letters 
and diaries found on the bodies of German 
soldiers— written, remember, in the very shadow 
of derth, some of them rendered illegible 
because spattered with the blood of the men 
who wrote them. 

"The railway has been shelled so heavily 
that all trains are stopped. \\c have been in 
the first line for three days, and during that 
tine the French have kept up such a fire that 
ur trenches cannot be seen at all." 
"The artillery are firing almost as fast a? 
the infantry. The whole front is covered with 
smoke and we can see nothing. Men are 
dying like flics." 

" A hail of shells is falling upon us. No food 
can be brought to us. When v%ill the end 
con-;. ? ' Peace ! ' is what every one is saying. 
LitLle is left of the trench. It will soon be on 
a level with the ground." 

" "The noise is awful. It is like a collapse 
of the world. Sixty men out of a company 
of two hundred and fifty were killed last 
night. The force of the French sheUs 
is frightful. A dug-out fifteen feet deep, 
with seven feet of earth and two layers of 



£?:\-^u-'; Vv;.:^:^._-tr%i^iJte^-:r 



I 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 165 

timber on top, was smashed up like so much 
matchwood." 

When the reveille rang out along the French 
lines at five-thirty on the morning ' f Sep- 
tember 25, the whole world see led grty ; 
lead-coloured clouds hung low over! ,:au, and a 
drizzling r-^in was faUing. But the m^n refused 
to be depressed. They drank their morning 
coffee and then, the roar of the artillery making 
conversation out of the question, they sat down 
to smoke and wait. Through the loopholes 
they could watch the effect of the fire of the 
French batteries, could see the fountains of 
earth and smoke thrown up by the bursting 
shells, could even see arms and legs flying in 
the air. Each man wore between his shoulders, 
pinned to his coat, a patch of white calico, in 
order to avoid the possibihty of the French 
gunners firing into their own men. Several 
men in each company carried small, coloured 
signal-flags for the same purpose. The watches 
of the officers had been carefully synchronized, 
and at nine o'clock the order to fall in was given, 
and there formed up in the advance trenches 
long rows of strange fighting figures in their 
'" invisible " pale-blue uniforms, their grim, set 



i 



m 



i66 VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

faces peering from beneath steel helmets 
plastered with chalk and mud. The company 
rolls were called. The drummers and buglers 
took up their positions, for orders had been 
issued that the troops were to be played into 
action. Nine-Jive/ The regimental battle- 
flags were brought from the dug-outs, the 
water-proof covers were shppcd off, and the 
sacred colours, on whose faded silk were 
embroidered " Lcs Pyramides," " \\ agram," 
" Jena," " Austerlitz," " Marengo, "were rever- 
ently unrolled. For the first time in this war 
French troops were to go into action with their 
colours flying. Nine-ten! The officers, en- 
deavouring to make their voices heard above the 
din of cannon, told the men in a few shouted 
sentences what France and the regi'nent ex- 
pected of them. Nine-jour teen! The officers, 
having jerked loose their automatics, stood with 
their watches in their hands, l^he men were 
like sprinters on their marks, waiting with tense 
nerves and muscles for the starter's pinol. 
Nine-ffteen ! Above the roar of the artillery 
the whistles of the officers shrilled loud and 
clear. I'he bugles pealed the charge. " En 
avant, me.' enjants ! '' screamed the officers. 



'%F^Mi- 



!h:h 







m 



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f^aSs3i^'l,'-'^<Lt 



■■r..i..'\i-; ■ ■;'. ,„-;-,--. 'i -".ilk- >.v.Sy. •■ 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 167 

avant ! Vaincre ou mourir / '' and over 
tJ tops of the trenches, with a roar like an 
angry sea breaking on a rock-bound coast, surged 
a iifteen-mile-loni,' human wave tipped with 
ghstening steel. As the blue billows of men 
burst into the open, hoarsely cheering, the 
PVench batteries which had been shelling the 
German first-line trenches ceased firing with an 
abruptness that was starthng. In the compara- 
tive quiet thus suddenly created could be plainly 
heard the orders of the officers and the cheering 
of the men, some of whom shouted " Five la 
France / " while others sang snatches of the 
Marsullaisc and the Carmagiok. Though 
every foot of ground over which they were ad- 
vancing had for three days been systematically 
flooded with shell, though the German trenches 
had been pounded until they were Httle more 
than heaps of dirt and debris, the German ar- 
tillery was still on the job, and the ranks of the 
advancing French were swept by a hurricane of 
fire. General Marchand, the hero of the famous 
incident at Fashoda, who was in command of 
the Colonials, led his men to the assault, but fell 
wounded at the very beginning of the engage- 
ment, as surrounded by his staff, he stood on the 



i i 



! 



hi! 



1 68 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



crest of a trench, cane in hand, smoking his pipe 
and encouraging the succeeding waves of men 
racing forward into battle. Mis two brigade- 
commanders fell close beside him. Three 
minutes after the first of the Colonials had 
scrambled over the top of their trenches they 
had reached the German first line. After them 
came the First and Second Regiments of the 
Foreign Legion and the Moroccan division. As 
they ran they broke out from columns of two 
(advancing in t vos with fifty paces between each 
pair) -nto columns of squad (each man alone, 
twenty-five paces from his neighbour)as prettily 
and perfectly as though on a parade-ground. 

Great as was the destruction wrought bv 
the bombardment, the French infantry had 
no easy task before them, for stretches of wire 
entanglements still remained in front of por- 
tions of the German trenches, while at fre- 
quent intervals the Germans had left behind 
them machine-gun sections, who from their 
sunken positions poured in a deadly fire, until 
the oncoming wave overwhelmed and blotted 
them out. It was these death-traps that 
brought out in the French soldier those same 
heroic quahties which had enabled him, under 



FIGHTING IX CHAMPAGNE 169 

the leadership of Napoleon, to enter as a con- 
queror every capital in Europe. A man who 
was shot while cutting a way for his company 
through the wire entanglements, turned and 
gave the cutters to a comrade before he fell. 
A wounded soldier lying on the ground called 
out to an officer who was stepping aside to 
avoid him : " Go on. Don't mind stepping 
on me. I'm wounded. It's only you who 
are whole who matter now." A man with 
his abodmen ripped open by a shell appealed 
to an officer to be moved to a dressing-station. 
" The first thing to move are the guns to 
advanced positions, my friend," was the 
answer. " That's right," said the man ; " I 
can wait." Said a wounded soldier afterward 
in describing the onslaught : *' When the 
bugle sounded the charge and the trumpets 
played the Marseillaise, we were no longer 
mere men marching to the assault. We were 
a living torrent which drives all before it. The 
colours were flying at our side. It was splendid. 
Ay. my friend, when one has seen that one is 
proud to be alive." 

In many places the attacking columns found 
themselves abruptly halted by steel chevaux- 



Mf' 



•J' 
-4 



1 



'II 



170 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



de-Jrise, with German machine guns spitting 
death from behind them. The men would 
pelt them with hand-grenades until the sappers 
came up and blew the obstructions away. 
Then they would sweep forward again with the 
bayonet, yelling madly. The great craters 
caused by the explosion of the French land 
mines nrre occupied as soon as possible and 
immediately turned into defensible positions, 
thus affording advanced footholds within the 
enemy's line of trenches. At a few points in 
the first line the Germans held out, but at 
others they surrendered in large numbers, 
while many were shot dr)\vn as they were run- 
ning back to the second line. As a matter of 
fact, the Germans had no conception of what 
the French had in store for them, and it was 
not until their trenches began to give way 
under the terrible hammering of the French 
artillery that they realized how desperate was 
their situation. It was then too late to 
strengthen their front, however, as it would 
have been almost certain death to send men for- 
ward through the curtain of shcll-fire which the 
French batteries were dropping between the 
first and second lines. Nor were the Germans 







FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 171 



prepared when the infantry attack began, as 
was shown by the fact that «» number of officers 
were captured in their beds. The number of 
prisoners taj:en — twenty-one thousand was the 
figure announced by the French General Staff 
— showed clearly that they had had enough of 
it. They surrendered by sections and by com- 
panies, hundreds at a time. Most of them 
had had no food for several days, and were 
suffering acutely from thirst, and all of them 
seemed completely unstrung and depressed by 
the terrible nature of the French bombardment. 
Choosing the psychological moment when, 
the retirement of the Germans showed signs of 
turning into panic, the African troops were 
ordered to go in and finish up the business with 
cold steel. Before these dark-skinned, fierce- 
faced men from the desert, who came on 
brandishing their weapons and shouting " Allah 
Allah ! Allah ! " the Germans, already de- 
morahzed, incontinently broke and m. Hard 
on the heels of the Africans trotted the 
dragoons and the chasseurs a cheval — the first 
time since the trench warfare began that 
cavalry have had a chance to fight from the 
saddle — sabring the fleeing Germans or driving 






'7- 



VIVE LA FRANCE 



them out of their dug-outs with their long 
lances. But in the vast maze of communica- 
tion trenches and in the underground shelters 
Germans still swarmed thickly, <o the " trench 
cleaners," as the Algerian and Senegalese 
tirailleurs are called, were ordered to clear 
them out, a task which they performed with 
neatness and despatch, revolver in one hand 
and cutlass in the other. Even five days after 
the trenches were taken occasional Germans 
were found in hiding in the labyrinth of under- 
ground shelters. 

The thing of which the Champagne battle- 
field most reminded me was a garbage-heap. 
It looked and smelled as though all the garbage 
cans in Europe and America had been emptied 
upon it. Ti'is region, as I have remarked 
before, is of '4 chalk formation, and wherever 
a trench hr.d been dug, or a shell had burst, 
or a mino had been exploded, it left on the 
face of the earth a livid scar. The destruction 
wrought by the French artillery fire is almost 
beyond imagining. Over an area as long as from 
Cliaring Cr()<^ to Hanipstead Heatli and as wide 
as from the Bank to the Marble Arch the earth 
is pitted with the craters caused by bursting 






FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 173 

shells as is pitted the face of a man who has 
had the small-pox. Any of these shell-holes 
was large enough to hold a barrel ; many of 
them would have held a horse ; I saw one, 
caused by the explosion of a mine, which we 
estimated to be seventy feet deep and twice 
that in diameter. In the terrific blast that 
caused it five hundred German soldiers 
perished. At another point on what had been 
the German first line I saw a yawning hole as 
large as the cellar of a good-sized apartment 
house. It marked the site of a German block- 
house, but the blockhouse and the men who 
composed its garrison had been blown out of 
existence by a torrent of 370-milUmetre high- 
explosive shells. 

The captured German trenches presented 
the most horrible sight that I have ever seen or 
ever expect to see. This is not rhetoric ; this is 
fact. Along the whole front of fifteen miles 
the earth was littered with torn steel shields 
and tA-isted wire, with broken waggons, bits 
of harness, cartridge-pouches, dented helmets, 
belts, bayonets — some of them bent double — 
broken rifles, field-gun shells and rifle cart- 
ridges, hand-grenades, aerial torpedoes, knap- 



»74 



VI\E LA FRANCE! 



sacks, bottles, splintered planks, sheets of cor- 
rugated iron which had been turned into sieves 
by bursting shrapnel, trench mortars, blood- 
soaked bandages, fatigue-caps, entrenching 
tools, stoves, iron rails, furniture, pots of jam 
and marmalade, note-books, water-bottles 
mattresses, blankets, shreds of clothing, and, 
most horrible of all, portions of what had once 
been human bodies. Passing through an 
abandoned German trench, I stumbled over a 
mass of grty rags, and they dropped apart to 
disclose a headless, armless, legless torso already 
partially devoured by insects. I kicked a hob- 
nailed German boot out of my path and from it 
fell a rotting foot. A hand with awful, out- 
spread lingers thrust itself from the earth as 
thou^'h appealing to the passer-by to give decent 
burial to its dead owner. I peered inquisitively 
into a dug-out only to be driven back by an 
overpowering stench. A French soldier, more 
hardened to the business than I, went in with a 
candle, and found the shell-blackened bodies of 
three Germans. Clasped in the dead fingers of 
one of them was a postcard dated from a little 
town in Bavaria. It began : " My dearest 
Heinrich : You went away from us just a year 



^>.^#«5l5ii",v-.\£i^5 



! ':' 




Tfli J^cll-i i.j'i.- I Ilk III II 



K UcncliL- 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 175 

ago to-day. I miss you terribly, as do the 
children, and we all pray hourly for your safe 
return — " The rest we could not decipher ; 
it had been blotted out by a horrid crimson 
stain. Without the war that man might have 
been returning, after a day's work in field or 
factory, to a neat Bavarian cottage, with 
geraniums growing in the garden, and a wife 
and children waiting for him at the gate. 

Though when I visited the battlefield of 
Champagne the guns were still roaring — for the 
Germans were attempting to retake their lost 
trenches in a desperate series of counter-attacks 
— the field was already dotted with thousands 
upon thousands of little wooden crosses planted 
upon new-made mounds. Above many of the 
jrraves there had been no time to erect crosses or 
headboards, so into the soft soil was thrust, neck 
downward, a bottle, and in the bottle was a 
sHp of paper giving the name and the regiment 
of the soldier who lay beneath. In one place 
the graves had been dug so as to form a vast 
rectangle, and a priest, his cossack tucked up so 
that it showed his military boots and trousers, 
was at work with saw and hammer building in 
the centre of that field of graves a little shrine. 



N^ 



^1^ VIVE LA FRANCE ! 

Scrawled in pencil on one of the pitiful little 

crosses I read- "TTr, u t^ ., "^ """ 

1 rcaa . un brave—Em le Petir— 

Men au. Champ d'Honncur-Priez pou.ll.^ 

bu feet away was another cross which mark 

the W urtcmberg Pioneers, and underneath in 

«!,s «-n ?**" '•"= ^°°^ "^g*"-" Close by 
«a st.Il another little mound under which 
rested so the headboard told me, Mohammed 
ben Hassen Bazazou of the Fourth Algerian 
Ttrameurs. In life those men had never o 
much as heard of one another. Doubtless they 
must often have wondered why they were 
fightmg and what the war was all about. Now 

ma'n aTd r '" ^""'^ ''^' ""^ ''^'' french- 
man and German and African, under the soil 

of Charnpagne, while somewhere in France 

and m U iirtemberg and in Algeria women are 

praymg for the safety of Emile and of Gott- 

heb and of Mohammed. 

h !?,"f ,V^' ''^'"^ ''"J'^ "■" I ^P'^nt upon the 
battlefield of Champagne the roar of the gun! 
never ceased and rarely slackened, yet not a 
sign of any human being could I see as I gazed 
out over that desolate plain on which was being 




■'I 



An ironciad French turret 



i' 




FIGHTING LN CHAMPAGNE 177 

fought one of the greatest battles of all time. 
There were no moving troops, no belching bat- 
teries, no flaunting colours — only a vast slag- 
heap on which moved no living thing. Yet I 
knew that hidden beneath the ground all 
around me, as well as over there where the 
German trenches ran, men were waiting to kill 
or to be killed, and that behind the trench- 
scarred ridges at my back, and behind the low- 
lying crests in front of me, sweating men were 
at work loading and firing the great guns whose 
screaming missiles criss< rossed like invisible 
express trains overhead to biurst miles away, 
perhaps, with the crash which scatters death. 
The French guns seemed to be literally every- 
where. One could not walk a hundred yards 
without stumbling on a skilfully concealed 
battery. In the shelter of a ridge was posted 
a battery of 155-milimetre monsters painted 
with the markings of a giraffe in order to 
escape the searching eyes of the German 
aviators and named respectively Alice, Fer- 
nande, Charlotte, and Maria. From a square 
opening, which yawned Hke a cellar window 
in the earth, there protruded the long, lean 
muzzle of an eight-inch naval gun, the breech 



178 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



of which was twenty feet below the lercl of 
the ground in a gun-pit which was capable of 
resisting any high explosive that might chance 
to fall upon it. This marine monster was in 
charge of a crew of sailors who boasted that 
their pet could drop two hundred pounds of 
melinite on any given object thirteen miles 
away. But the guns to which the French owe 
their success in Champagne, the guns which 
may well prove the deciding factor in this war, 
are not the cumbersome sie>e pieces f)r the 
mammoth naval cannon, bui the mobile, 
quick-firing, never - tiring, hard-hitting, 
" seventy-fives," whose fire, the Germans 
resentfully exclaim, is not deadly but 
murderous. 

The battlefield was almost as thickly strewn 
with unexploded shells, hand-grenades, bombs, 
and aerial torpedoes as the ground under a 
pine-tree is with cones. One was, in fact, com- 
pelled to walk with the utmost care in order 
to avoid stepping upon these tubes filled with 
sudden death and being blown to kingdom 
come. I had picked up and was casually 
examining what looked Hke a piece of broom- 
handle with a tin tomato-can on the end, when 




^Ph 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 179 

the intelligence officer who was accompanying 
me noticed what I was doing. " Don't drop 
that ! " he exclaimed, " put it down gently. 
It's a German hand-grenade that has failed to 
explode and the least jar may set it off. They're 
as dangerous to tamper with as nitroglycerine." 
I put it down as carefully as though it were a 
sleeping baby that I did not wish to waken. 
As the French Government has no desire to 
lose any of its soldiers unnecessarily, men had 
been set to work building around the unexploded 
shells and torpedoes little fences of barbed wire, 
just as a gardener fences in a particularly 
rare shrub or tree. Other men were at work 
carefully rolling up the barbed wire in the 
captured German entanglements, in collect- 
ing and sorting out the arms and equipment 
with which the field was strewn, in stacking 
up the thousands upon thousands of empty 
brass shell-cases to be shipped back to the 
factories for reloading, and even in emptying 
the bags filled with sand which had lined the 
German parapets and tying them in bundles 
ready to be used over again. They are a thrifty 
people, are the French. There was enough 
spoil of one sort and another scattered over the 



ft 



II 



i8o 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



battlefield to have stocked all the curio-shops 
in Europe and America for years to come, but 
as everything on a field of battle is claimed by 
the (jovernment nothing can be carried away. 
This explains why the brass shells that are 
smuggled back to Paris readily sell for ten 
dollars apiece, while for German helmets the 
curio dealers can get almost any price that 
they care to ask. As a maf r of fact, it is 
against the law to offer any war trophies for 
sale or, indeed, to have any in one's possession. 
What the French intend to do with the vast 
quantity of spoil which they have taken from 
the battlefields, heaven only knows. It is 
said that they have great storehouses filled 
with German helmets and similar trophies 
which they are going to sell after the war to 
souvenir collectors, thus adding to the national 
revenues. If this is so there will certainly be 
a glut in the curio market and it will be a poor 
household indeed that will not have on the 
sitting-room mantelshelf a German pickelhaube. 
After the war is over hordes of tourists will 
no doubt make excursions to these battle- 
fields, just as they used to make excursions to 
Waterloo and Gettysburg, and the farmers 
who own the fields will make their fortune 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE i8i 

showing the visitors thro veil the trenches and 
dug-outs at five francs a head. 

The French officers who accompanied me 
over the battlefield particularly called my 
attention to a steel turret, 3ome six feet high 
and eight or nine feet in diameter, which had 
been mounted on one of the German trench 
walls. The turret, which had a revolving 
top, contained a 5G-millimetre gun served by 
three men. The French troops who stormed 
the German position found that the small steel 
door giving access to the interior of the turret 
was fastened on the outside by a chain and 
padlock. When they broke it open they found, 
so they told me, the bedies of three Germans 
who had apparently been locked in by their 
officers, and left there to fight and die with no 
chance of escape. I have no reason in the 
/orld to doubt the good faith of the officers 
who showed me the turret^ and told me the 
story, and yet — ^well, it is one of those things 
which seems too improbable to be true. As 
I have already mentioned (p. 135) when I was 
in Alsace the French officers told me that 
they found in certain of the captured posi- 
tions German soldiers chained to their machine 
guns. There again the inherent improbability 



r If ii^i ««*■'■ *» • -'^-'s-v - 



,jpi«ir«rtl<[ 



i^L,^ 



iS: 



VIVF. LA FRANCE ! 



of the incident leads one to question its truth. 
From what 1 have seen of the German soldier, 
I should say that he was the last man in the 
world who had to be chained to his gun in order 
to make him fight. Yet in this war so many 
wildly improbable, wholly incredible things 
have actually occurred that one is not justified 
in denying the truth of an assertion merely 
because it sounds unlikely. 

One of the things that particularly impressed 
me during my visit to Champagne was the 
feverish activity that prevailed behind the firing- 
line. It was the busiest place that I have ever 
seen ; busier than Wall Street at the noon-hour ; 
busier than the Panama Canal Zone at the rush 
period of the Canal's construction. The roads 
behind the front for twenty miles were filled 
with moving troops and transport-trains ; long 
columns of sturdy infantrymen in mud-stained 
coats of faded blue and wearing steel casques 
which gave them a starthng resemblance to 
their ancestors, the men-at-arms of the Middle 
Ages ; brown-skinned men from North Africa 
in snowy turbans and voluminous burnouses, 
and black-skinned men from West Africa, whose 
khaki uniforms were brightened by broad red 



1 1! 




IiiMU II t.u t\l iiKn trom North Africa in turl<.in- 
;iiui Iniriiou-e^ " 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 183 

sashes and rakish red tarbooshes ; sun-tanned 
Colonial soldiery from Annam and Tonquin, 
from Somaliland and Madagascar, wearing on 
their tunics the ribbons of wars fought in lands 
of which most people have never so much a3 
heard ; Spahis from Morocco and the Sahara, 
mounted on horses as wiry and hardv as them- 
selves ; Zouaves in jaunty fezes and braided 
jackets and enormous trousers ; sailors from 
the fleet, brought to handle the big naval guns, 
swaggering along vdth the roll of the sea in 
their gait ; cuirassiers, their steel breastplates 
and horse-tailed helmets making them look 
astonishingly like Roman horsemen ; dragoons 
so picturesque that they seemed be posing 
for a Detaille or a Meissonier ; field-batteries, 
pale blue hke everything else in the French 
army, rocking and swaying over the stones ; 
cyclists with their rifles slung across their 
backs hunter-fashion ; leather-jacketed des- 
patch riders on panting motor-cycles ; post- 
offices on wheels ; telegraph offices on wheels ; 
butchers' shops on wheels ; bakers' shops on 
wheels ; garages on wheels ; motor-buses, their 
tops covered with wire-netting and filled with 
carrier-pigeons ; giant searchlights ; water- 



E3SE!! 



184 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



carts drawn by patient Moorish donkeys whose 
turbaned drivers cursed them in hrill, harsh 
Arabic ; troop transport cars hke miniature 
railway-coaches, each carrying fifty men ; field- 
kitchens with the smoke pouring from their 
stovepipes and steam rising from the soup 
cauldrons ; longHnes of drinking-water waggons, 
the gift of the Touring Club de France ; great 
herds of cattle and woolly waves of sheep, soon 
to be converted into beef and mutton, for the 
fighting man needs meat, and plenty of it ; 
pontoon-trains ; balloon outfits ; machine 
guns ; pack-trains ; mountain batteries ; ambu- 
lances ; worid without end, amen. Though 
the roads were jammed from ditch to ditch, 
there was no confusion, no congesrion. Every- 
thing was as well regulated as the traflSc is in 
the busiest London streets. If the roads were 
crowded, so were the fields. Here a battalion 
of Zouaves at bayonet practice was being in- 
structed in the " haymaker's hft," that terrible 
upward thrust in which a soldier trained in the 
use of the bayonet can, in a single stroke, rip his 
adversary open from waist to neck, and toss him 
over his shoulder as he would a forkful of hay. 
Over there a brigade of chasseurs d'Afrique was 




Motor hut> with vvirc-ni.ttip.g top- H!IcJ with rarrier pigeon^ 




(ii.riii.iii piiinii- iMiiic In . i.irr\ iiig "ii thcT -IhuiUi-T- 
-:rc;i-licr on wniih l.n the stitl, -taik r<:rin- ot'dcul iiv n 




Mm Win- at work rolling up tin- ImiIhiI wire in tlu 
» .ipuiiivi liirni.iu (.•lit.iii^IciiK-iitb •' 



FIGHTING IN CHAMPAGNE 185 

encamped, the long lines of horses, the hooded 
waggons, and the fires with the cooking-pots 
steaming over them, suggesting a mammoth 
encampment of gypsies. In the next field a 
regiment of Moroccan tirailleurs had halted for 
the night, and t' men, knechng on their 
blankets, were praying with their faces turned 
toward Mecca. Down by the horse-hncs a 
Moorish barber was at work shaving the heads 
of the soldiers, but taking care always to leave 
the little top-knot by means of which the faith- 
ful when they die, may be jerked to Paradise. 
A little farther on the hugf^ yellow bulk of an 
observation balloon—" Us saucisses,*' the French 
call them — ^was slowly filling preparatory to 
taking its place aloft with its fellows, which, at 
intervals of half a mile, hung above the French 
lines, straining at their tethers hke horses that 
were frightened and wished to break away. 
In whichever direction I looked, men were 
driUing or marching. Where all these hordes 
of men had come from, where they were bound, 
what they were going to do, no one seemed 
to know or, indeed, particularly to care. They 
were merely pawns which were being moved 
here and there upon a mighty chessboard by a 



1 86 



\ IV K LA FRANCE ! 



stout old man in a general's uniform, sitting 
at a map-covered tabic in a farmhouse many 
miles away. 

As we made our way slowly and laboriously 
toward the front across a region so littered 
with scraps of metal and broken iron and 
twisted wire that it looked Hke the ruins of 
a burned hardware store, we began to meet 
the caravans of wounded. Lying with white, 
drawn faces on the dripping stretchers were 
men whose bodies had been ripped open like 
the carcasses that hang in front of butchers' 
shops ; men who had been blinded and will 
spend the rest of their days groping in dark- 
ness ; men smashed out of all resemblance to 
anything human, yet still alive ; and other men 
who, with no wound upon them, raved and 
laughed and cackled in insane mirth at the 
frightful humour of the things that they had 
seen. Every house and farmyard for miles 
around was filled with wounded, and still they 
came streaming in, some hobbling, some on 
stretchers, some assisted by comrades, some 
bareheaded, with the dried blood clotted on 
their heads and faces, other with their gas- 
masks and their mud-plastered helmets still on. 
Two soldiers came by pushing wheeled 



I-IGFITING IN CHAMPAGNE 187 

stretchers, on which lay the stiff, stark forms of 
dead men. The soldiers were whistling and 
singing, like men returning from a day's work 
well done, and occasionally one of them in sheer 
exuberance of spirits would send his helmet 
spinning into the air. Coming to a little de- 
cHvity, they raced down it with their grisly 
burdens, like delivery boys racing with their 
carts. The light vehicles bumped and jounced 
over the uneven ground until one of the corpses 
threatened to fall off, whereupon the soldiers 
stopped and, still laughing, tied the dead thing 
on again. Such is the callousness begot by war. 
Their offensive in Champagne cost the 
French, I have every reason to beHeve, very 
close to 110,000 men. The German casualties, 
so the French General Staff asserts, were 
about 140,000, of whom 21,000 were prisoners. 
In addition the Germans lost 121 guns. Des- 
pite this appalling cost in human lives, the 
distance gained by the French was so small 
that it cannot be seen on the ordinary map. 
Yet to measure the effect of the French effort 
by the ground gained would be a serious mis- 
take. Just as by the Marne victory the French 
stopped the invasion and ruined the original 
German plan, which was first to shatter France 



1 88 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



and then turn against Russia ; and just as by 
the victory of the Yser they effectively pre- 
vented the enemy from reaching the Channel 
ports or getting a foothold in the Pas-dc 
Calais, so the offensive in Champagne, costly as 
it was in human lives, fulfilled its double 
mission of holding large German forces on the 
western front and of demorahzing and wearing 
down the German army. It proved, moreover, 
that the AUies can pierce the Germans provided 
they are willing to pay the cost. 

Darkness was falling rapidly when I turned 
my back on the great battlefield, and the guns 
were roaring with redoubled fury in what is 
known on the British front as " the Evening 
Hate " and on the French hnes as " the 
Evening Prayer." As I emerged from the com- 
munication trench into the high road where my 
car was waiting I met a long column of infantry, 
ghostly figures in the twilight, with huge packs 
on their backs and rifles slanting on their 
shoulders, marching briskly in the direction 
of the thundering guns. It was the niglit-shift 
going on duty at the mills— the mills where 
they turn human beings into carrion. 



VI. THK CONFLICT IN THE 
CLOUDS 

DAWN was breaking over the Lorraine 
hills when the French aircraft were 
wheeled from their canvas hangars 
and ranged in squadrilla formation upon the level 
surface of the plain. In the dim hght of early- 
morning the machines, with their silver bodies 
and ^no\^y wings, bore an amazing resemblance 
to a flock of great white birds which, having 
settled for the night, were about to resume 
their flight. All through the night the 
mechanicians had been busy about them, testing 
the motors, tightening the guy-vnrcs, and 
adjusting the planes, while the pilots had 
directed the loading of the explosives, for a 
whisper had passed along the line of sheds that a 
gigantic air-raid, on a scale not yet attempted, 
was to be made on some German town. At a 
signal from the officer in command of the 
aviation field the pilots and observers, unre- 
cognizable in their goggles and leather helmets 
and muffled to the ears in leather and fur, 

l8y 



190 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



climbed into their seats. In the clips beneath 
each aeroplane reposed three long, lean mes- 
sengers of death, he torpedoes of the sky, ready 
to be sent hurtling downward by the pulling 
of a lever, while smaller projectiles, to be 
dropped by hand, filled every square inch in the 
bodies of the aeroplanes. From somewhere 
out on the aviation field a smoke rocket shot 
suddenly into the air. It was the signal for 
departure. With a deafening roar from their 
propellers the great biplanes, in rapid succession, 
left the ground and, like a flock of wild fowl, 
winged their way straight into the rising sun. 
As they crossed the German lines at a height of 
twelve thousand feet the French observers 
could see, far below, the decoy aeroplanes which 
had preceded them rocking slowly from side to 
side above the German anti-aircraft guns in 
such a manner as to divert their attention from 
the raiders. 

On an occasion like this each man is per- 
mitted the widest latitude of action. He is 
given an itinerary to which he is expected to 
adhere as closely as circumstances will permit, 
and he is given a set point at which to aim his 
bombs, but in all other respects he may use his 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 191 

own discretion. The raider* flew at Hrff 
almost straight toward the rising sun, and it 
was not until they were well within the 
enemy's lines that they altered their course, 
turning southward only when they were op- 
posite the town which was their objective. So 
rapid was the pace at which th« y were travelling 
that it was not yet six o'clock when the com- 
mander of the squadron, peering through his 
glasses, saw, far below him, the ytl^nvf grid- 
iron which he knew to be the streets, the 
splotches of green which he knew to be the 
parks, and the squares of red and grey which 
he knew to be the buildings of Karlsruhe. 
The first warning that the townspeople had 
was when a dynamite shell came plunging out 
of nowhere and exploded with a crash that 
rocked the city to its foundations. The people 
of Karlsruhe were being given a dose of the 
same medicine which the Zeppelins had given 
to Antwerp, to Paris, and to London. As the 
French airmen reached the town they swooped 
down in swift succession out of the grty morn- 
ing sky until they were close enough to the 
ground to distinguish clearly through the fleecy 
mist the various objectives which had been 



ij& 



192 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



given them. For weeks they had studied map 
and bird's-eye photographs of Karlsruhe unt 
they knew the place as well as though they ha 
lived in it all their lives. One took the ol 
grey castle on the hill, another took the Mai 
grave's palace in the valley, others headed fr 
the railway station, the arms factory, and th 
barracks. Then hell broke loose in K^rlsruh. 
For nearly an hour it rained bombs. Not ir 
ccndiary bombs or shrapnel, but huge 4-inc 
and 6-inch shells filled with high explosi\ 
which annihilated everything they hit. Hoi 
as large as cellars suddenly appeared in th 
stone-paved streets and squares ; buildings < 
brick and stone and concrete crashed to t\ 
ground as though flattened by the hand ( 
God ; fires broke out in various quarters of t\ 
city and raged unchecked ; the terrified ii 
habitants cowered in their cellars or ran i 
blind panic for the open country ; the noi 
was terrific, for bombs were falling at the ra 
of a dozen to the minute ; beneath that rain ( 
death Karlsruhe rocked and reeled. Tl 
artillery was called out but it was useless ; r 
guns could hit the great white birds whic 
twisted and turned and swooped and climbed 




KiL'htmt; in a i)uarrcl that i- not hi- (nvn 



A t' ■ i ■ r Ir n. I i,, . \hi- .r. )i 



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CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 193 

mile or more overhead. Each roplane, as 
soon as it had exhausted its cargc explosives, 
frned its nose toward the Frend lines and 
went skimming homeward as fast as its pro- 
pellers could take it there, but to the inhabi- 
tants of the quivering, shell-torn town it must 
have seemed as though the procession of air- 
craft would never cease. The return to the 
French lines was not as free from danger as 
the outward trip had been, for the news of 
the raid had been flashed over the country by 
wire and wireless and anti-aircraft guns were on 
the look out for the raiders everywhere. The 
guarding aeroplanes were on the alert, however, 
and themselves attracted the fire of the German 
batteries or engaged the German T.iubcs while 
the returning raiders sped by high overhead. 
Of the four squadrillas of aeroplanes which set 
out for Karlsruhe only two machines failed to 
return. Th sc lost their bearings and were 
surprised by the sudden rising of hawk-hke 
A\ at lis which cut them of! from home and, 
after fierce struggles in the air, forced them to 
descend into the German lines. But it was not 
a heavy price to pay for the destruction that 
had been wrought and the moral effect that 




194 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



had been produced, for all that day the roads 
leading out of Karlsruhe were choked with 
frantic fugitives and the stories which they 
told spread over all southern Germany a 
cloud of despondency and gloom. Since then 
the news of the Zeppehn raids on London has 
brought a thrill of fear to the people of Karls- 
ruhe. They have learned what it means to 
have death drop out of the sky. 

More progress has been made in the French 
air service, which has been placed under the 
direction of the recently created Subministry 
of Aviation, than in any other branch of the 
Republic's fighting machine. Though definite 
information regarding the French air service is 
extremely difficult to obtain, there is no doubt 
that on December i, 1915, France had more 
than three thousand aeroplanes in commission, 
and this number is being steadily increased. 
The French machines, though of many makes 
and types, are divided into three classes, ac- 
cording to whether they are to be used for 
reconnaissance, for fire control, or for bombard- 
ment. The machines generally used for recon- 
naissance work are the Moranes, the Maurice 
Farmans, and a new type of small machine 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 195 

known as the " Baby " Nieuport, The last- 
named, which are but twenty-five feet wide 
and can be built in eight days at a cost of only 
six thousand francs, might well be termed the 
Fords of the air. They have an eighty horse- 
power motor, carry only the pilot, who operates 
the machine gun mounted over his head, 
2nd can attain the amazing speed of one 
hundred and twenty miles an hour. These tiny 
machines can ascend at a sharper angle than 
any other aeroplane made, it being claimed 
for them, and with truth, that they can do 
things which a large bird, such as an eagle or 
a hawk, could not do. The machines generally 
used for directing artillery fire are either 
V^oisins or Caudron biplanes. The Voisin, 
which carries an observer as well as a pilot, is 
armed with a Hotchkiss quick-firer throwing 
three-pound shells, being the only machine of 
its size having sufficient stability to stand the 
recoil from so heavy a gun. The Caudron, 
which likewise has a crew of two men, has two 
motors, each acting independently '-f the other. 
I was shown one of these machines which, 
during an observation flight over the German 
lines, was struck by a shell which killed the 



196 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



observer and demolished one of the motors ; 
the other motor was not damaged, however, 
and with it the pilot was able to bring the 
machine and his dead companion back to the 
French lines. For making raids and bombard- 
ments the Voisin and Breguct machines have 
generally been used, but they are now being 
replaced by the giant triplanc which has 
fittingly been called " the Dreadnought of the 
skies." This aerial monster, the last word in 
aircraft construction, has a sixty-three foot 
spread of wing ; its four motors generate eight 
hundred horse-power ; its armament consists 
of two Hotchkiss quick-firing cannon and four 
macliinc guns ; it can carry twelve men — 
though on a raid the cnw consists of four — 
and twelve hundred pounds f)f explosive ; its 
cost is six hundred tliousand francs. 

As a result of this extraordinary advance in 
aviation, France has to-day a veritable aerial 
navy, formed in squadrons and divisions, with 
battleplanes, cruisers, scouts, and destrovers, all 
heavily armoured and carrying both machine 
guns and cannon firing tliree-inch shells. Each 
squadron, a? at present formed, consists of one 
battleplane, two battle-cruisers, and six scout- 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 197 

planes, with a complement of upward of fifty 
officers and men. which includes not only 
the pilots and observers but the mechanics 
and the drivers of the lorries and trailers 
which form part of each (^tfit. These raiding 
squadrons are constantly operating over the 
cnenn's lines, bombarding his bases, railway 
lines, and cantonments, hindering the trans- 
portation of trijops and ammunition, and 
creating general demoraUzation behind the 
tiring-line. On such forays it is the mission of 
the smaller and swifter machines, such as the 
Nieuports, to convoy and protect the larger 
and slower craft exactly as destroyers convoy 
and protect a battleship. 

'i'wo types of projectiles are carried on raid- 
ing aeroplanes ; aerial torpedoes, two, three, or 
our in number, fitted with fins, like the 
feaiiiers on an arrow, in order to guide their 
course, which are held by clips under the body 
of the machine and can be released when over 
the point to be bombarded by merely pulhng a 
lever ; and large quantities of smaller bombs, 
filled with high explosive and fitted with per- 
cussion fuses, which are dropped by hand. It 
is extremely difficult to attain any degree of 



'm 






198 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



accuracy in dropping bombs from moving air- 
craft, for it must be borne in mind that the 
projectiles, on being released, do not at once 
fall in a perfectly straight line to the earth, 
like a brick dropped from the top of a sky- 
scraper. When an aeroplane is travelling 
forward at a speed of, let us say, sixty miles 
an hour, the bombs carried on the machine 
are also moving through space at the same rate. 
Owing to this forward movement combining 
with the downward gravitational drop, the path 
of the bomb is really a curve, and for this curve 
the aviator must learn to make allowance. 
Should the aircraft hover over one spot, how- 
ever, the downward flight of the bonih is, of 
course, comparatively vertical. 

The most exciting, a? well as thf most 
dangerous, work allotted to the aviators is that 
of flying over the enemy's lines and, by means 
of huge cameras fitted with telephoto lens and 
fastened beneath the bodies of the machines 
taking photographs of the German positions. 
As soon as the required exposures have been 
inade, the machine speeds back to the French 
lines, usually amid a storm of bursting slirapnel, 
and the plat.^ are quickly developed in the 



I 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOl'DS 199 

dark room, which is a part of every aerodrome. 
From the picture thus obtained an enlargement 
is made, and within two or three hours at the 
most the staff knows every detail of the German 
position, even to the depth of the wire entangle- 
ments and the number and location of the 
machine guns. Should weather conditions or 
the activity of the enemy's anti-aircraft bat- 
teries make it inadvisable to send a machine on 
one of these photographic excursions, the 
camera is attached to a cerf volant, or war-kite. 
The entire equipment is carried on three motor- 
cars built for the purpose, one carrying the dis- 
mounted kite, the second the cameras and 
crew, while the third car is a dark room on 
wheels. I can recall few more interesting sights 
along the battle-front than that of one of these 
war-kites in operation. Taking shelter behind 
a farmhouse or haystack, the staff, in scarcely 
more time than it takes to tell about it, have 
jointed together the bamboo rods which form 
the framework of the kite, the linen which 
forms the planes is stretched into place, a 
camera with its shutter controlled by an 
electric wire is slung underneath, and the great 
kite is sent into the air. \\ hen it is over that 



200 



VIVr: LA FRANCE ! 



section of tlic enemy's trenches of which a 
photograph is wanted, the officer at the end 
of the wire presses a button, the shutter of the 
camera swinging a thousand feet above flashes 
open and shut, the kite is immediately hauled 
down, a photograplier takes the holder con- 
taining the exposed plate and disappears with 
it into the wheeled dark room to appear, five 
minutes later, with a picture of the German 
trenches. 

The change that aeroplanes have produced 
in warfare is strikingly illustrated by the fact 
that in the Russo-Japanese V\'ar the Japanese 
fought for weeks and sacrificed thousands of 
men in order to capture 203-Metre Hill, not, 
mmd you. because of its strategic importance, 
but in order that they might effectively con- 
trol the fire of their siege mortars, which were 
endeavouring to reach the battleships in the 
harbour of Port Arthur. To-day that informa- 
tion would be furnished in an hour by aero- 
plane-;. From dawn to dark aircraft hang 
o\cr the enemy's positions, spotting his bat- 
teries, mapping his trenches, noting the move- 
ments 01 troops and trains, yet with a storm of 
shrapnel bursting about them constantly, I 



e :. 
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• c 
3 •' 

t r 



: ^ * 
1 " — 



IJ 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 201 

remember seeing, in Champagne, a French 
aeroplane rocking lazily over the German 
lines, and of counting sixty shrapnel clouds 
floating about it at one time. So thick were 
the patches of fleecy white that they looked 
like tlic white tufts on a sky-blue coverlet. 
The shooting of the German verticals (anti- 
aircraft guns) has steadily im^^roved as a result 
of the constant practice they have had, so 
that halt the time there are ragged rents in the 
French planes caused by fragments of exploding 
shells. So deafening is the racket of the motor 
and propeller, however, that it is impossible to 
hear a shell unless it bursts at very close range, 
so that the aviators, intent on their work, are 
often utterly unconscious of how near they are 
to death. It is very curious how close shells 
can explode to a machine and yet not cripple 
it enough to bring it down. A pilot flying over 
the German lines in Flanders had his leg 
smashed by a bursting shell, which, strangely 
enough, did no damage to the planes or motor. 
The wounded man fainted from the pain and 
shock and his machine, left uncontrolled, began 
to plunge earthward. Recovering conscious- 
ness, the aviator, despite the excruciating pain 



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VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



which he was suffering, retained sufficient 
strength and presence of mind to get his 
machine under control and head it back for the 
French lines, though shrapnel was bursting all 
about him. He came quietly and gracefully to 
ground at his home aviation field and then fell 
over his steering lever unconscious. 

No nervous man is wanted in the air service 
and the moment that a flier shows signs that 
his nerves are becoming affected he is given a 
furlough and ordered to take a rest. So great 
arc the mental strain, the exposure, and the noise, 
however, that probably twenty-five per cent, of 
the aviators lose their nerve completely and 
have to leave the service altogether. The great 
French aviation school at Buc, near Paris, turns 
out pilots at the rate of one hundred and sixty 
a month. The first lessons are given on a 
machine with clipped wings, known as " the 
penguin," which cannot rise from the ground, 
and from this the men are gradually advanced, 
stage by stage, from machines as safe and steady 
and well-mannered as riding-school horses, 
until they at last become qualified pilots, 
capable of handling the quick-turning, un- 
certain-tempered broncos of the air. Provided 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 203 

he has sound nerves, a strong constitution, and 
average intelligence, a man who has never been 
in a machine before can become a qualified pilot 
in thirty days. Since the war began the French 
air service has attracted the reckless, the daring, 
and the adventurous from the four corners of 
the earth as iron filings are attracted by a 
magnet. Wearing on the collars of their silver- 
blue uniforms the gold wings of the flying corps 
arc cow-punchers, polo-players, prize-fighters, 
professional bicycle riders, big game hunters, 
soldiers of fortune, young men who bear famous 
names, and other young men whose names are 
notorious rather than famous. In one squad- 
rilla on the Champagne front I found a Texan 
cowboy and adventurer named Hall ; Elliott 
Cowdin, the Long Island polo-player ; and 
Charpentier, the heavj-weight champion of 
France. For youngsters who are seeking ex- 
citement and adventure, no sport in the world 
can offer the thrills of the chasse au Taube. To 
drive with one hand a machine that travels 
through space at a speed double that of the 
fastest express train and with the other hand to 
operate a mitrailleuse that spits death at the 
rate of a thousand shots a minute ; to twist and 



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204 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



turn and loop and circle two miles above the 
tjarth in an endeavour to overcome an adversary 
as quick-witted and quick-acting as yourself, 
knowing that if you are victorious the victory 
is due to your skill and courage alone — there 
you have a game which makes all other sports 
appear ladylike and tame. 

\\ hen an aeroplane armed with a mitrailleuse 
attacks an enemy machine the pilot immediately 
manoeuvres so as to permit the gunner observer 
to bring his gun into action. In order to make 
the bullets " spread " and ensure that at least 
some of the many shots get home, the gunner 
swings his weapon up and down, with a kind 
of chopping motion, so that, viewed from the 
front of the machine, the stream of bullets, 
were they visible, would be shaped like a fan. 
At the same time the gunner swings his weapon 
gently around, covering with a stream of lead 
the space through which his enemy will have 
to pass. Sliould the enemy machine be below 
the other, then to get clear he would possibly 
dive under his opponent in a sweeping turn. 
By this manoeuvre the gunner is placed in a 
position where he cannot bring his weapon to 
hear and he will have to turn in pursuit before 



■ 



1- 






CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 205 

his gun can be brought into action again. 
From this it will be seen that an aeroplane 
gunner does not take dehberate aim, as would 
a man armed with a rifle, but instead fills the 
air in the path of his opponent with showers of 
bullets in the hope that some of them will find 
the mark. Should both machines be armed 
with machine guns, as is now nearly always the 
case, victory is often a question of quick 
manoeuvring combined with a considerable 
clement of luck. To win out in this aerial 
warfare, a man has to combine the quickness of 
a fencer with the coolness of a big game shot. 
One of the greatest dangers the military 
aviator has to face is landing after night has 
fallen. Though every machine has a small 
motor, worked by the wind, which generates 
enough power for a small searchlight, the light 
is not sufficiently rowerful to be of much assis- 
tance in gauging the distance from the ground. 
Sunset is, therefore, always an anxious time on 
the aviation fields, nor is the anxiety at an end 
until all the fliers are accounted for. As the 
sun begins to sink into the W est the returning 
aviators one by one appear, black dots against 
ihe crimson sky. One by one they come swoop- 



M 



206 



\ IVE LA FRANCE 



ing down from the heavens and come to rest 
upon the ground. Twilight merges into dusk 
and dusk turns into darkness, but one of the 
flying men has not yet come. The four corners 
of the aviation field are marked with great flares 
of kerosene, that the late comer may be guided 
home, and down the middle of the field lanterns 
are laid out in the form of a huge arrow with 
the head pointing into the wind, while search- 
lights, mounted on motor-cars, alternately 
sweep field and sky with their white beams. 
Anxiety is wTitten plainly on the face of every 
one. Have the Boches brought him down ? 
Has he lost his way ? Or has he been forced 
from engine trouble or lack of petrol to descend 
elsewhere .? " Hark ! " exclaims some one 
suddenly. " He's coming ! " and in the sudden 
hush that ensues you hear, from somewhere in 
the upper darkness, a motor's deep, low throb. 
The vertical beams of the searchhghts fall and 
flood the level plain with yellow radiance. 
The hum of the motor rises into a roar 
and then, when just overhead, abruptly 
stops, and dowTi through the darkness shdes a 
great bird which is darker than the dark- 
ness and settles silently upon the plain. 



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CONFLICT IN THE CLOUDS 207 

The last of the chickens has come home to 

roost. 

In addition to the aeroplanes kept upon the 
front for purposes of bombardment, photo- 
graphy, artillery control, and scouting, several 
squadrillas are kept constantly on duty in the 
vicinity of Paris and certain other French 
cities for the purpose of driving oflF marauding 
Taulxs or ZeppeUns. Just as the streets of Paris 
are patrolled by gendarmes, so the air-planes 
above the city are patrolled, both night and 
day, by guarding aeroplanes. To me there was 
something wonderfully inspiring in the thought 
that all through the hours of darkness these 
aerial watchers were sweeping in great circles 
above the sleeping city, guarding it from the 
death that comes in the night. For tlie benefit 
,.f my American readers 1 may say that the 
people of the United States do not fully under- 
stand the Zeppelin raid problem with which 
those entrusted with the defence of Paris and 
of London are confronted. The ZeppeHns, it 
must be remembered, never come out unless 
it is a very dark night, and then they pass over 
the lines at a height of two miles or more, 
descending only when they are above the city 



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which they intend to attack. They slowly, 
silently settle down until their officers can get 
a view of their target and then the bombs 
begin to drop. This is usually the first warning 
that tlie townspeople have that Zeppelins are 
abroad, though it occasionally happens that 
they have been seen or heard crossing the hnes, 
in which case the city is warned by telephone, 
the anti-aircraft guns prepare for action, and 
the Ughts in the streets and houses are put out. 
Should the ZeppeHns succeed in getting above 
the city, the guarding aeroplanes go up after 
them and as soon as the searchlights spot 
them the t'uns open fire with shrapnel. The 
raiders are rarely fired on by the anti-aircraft 
guns while they are hovering over the city, 
however, as experience has shown that more 
people are killed by falling shell spHnters than 
by the enemy's bombs. Nor do the French 
aeroplanes dare to make serious attacks until 
the Zeppelin is clear of the city, for it is not 
difficult to imagine the destruction that would 
result were one of these monsters, five hundred 
feet long and weighing thirty-six thousand 
pounds, to be destroyed and its flaming debris 
to fall upon the city. The problem that faces 



.*^?%, 



CONFI.ICr IN THK CIXHDS 209 

the French authorities, therefore, is stopping 
the Zeppchns before they reach Paris, and it 
speaks volumes for the efficiency of the French 
air service that there has been no ZeppeUn 
raid on the French capital for nearly a year. 

In order to detect the approach of Zeppelins 
the French mihtary authorities have recently 
adopted the novel expedient of establishing 
microphone stations at several points in and 
about Paris, these dehcately attuned instru- 
ments recording with unfailing accuracy the 
throb of a ZeppeHn's or an aeroplane's pro- 
pellers long before it can be heard by the 
human ear. 

For the protection of London the British 
Government has built an aerial navy ctmsisting 
of two types of aircraft — scouts and battle- 
planes. Practically the only requirement for 
the scouting planes is that they must have a 
>peed of not less than one hundred miles an 
hour and a fuel capacity for at least a six-hour 
flight, thus giving them a cruising radius of 
three hundred miles. That is, they will be 
able to raid many Grerman ports and cities 
and return with ease to their base in England. 
Their small size — they are only thirty feet 



2IO 



\ I\'F. LA FRANCE 



across the wings — and great speed will make 
them almost impossible to hit and it is ex- 
pected that anti-aircraft guns will be practi- 
cally useless against them. 'I'hey will constantly 
circle in the higher levels, as near the Zeppehn 
bases as they can get, and the minute they sec 
the giants emerging from their hangar^ they 
will be of! to England to give the alarm. Their 
speed being double that of a Zeppelin, they 
will have reached England long before the 
raider arrives. Then the new " Canada " type, 
each carrying a ton of bombs, will go out to 
meet the Germans. These giant biplanes, one 
hundred and two feet across the wings, with 
two motors developing three hundred and 
twenty horse-power, have a speed of more 
than ninety miles an hour and can overtake a 
Zeppelin as a motor-cycle policeman can over- 
liaul a limousine. 'I'hey are fitted with the new 
device for ensuring accuracy in bomb-dropping 
and, with their superior speed, will hang 
above the monger dirigibles, as a hawk hangs 
above a hen-roost, plumping shell after shell 
into the great silk sausage quivering below them. 
Both the French and British Governments 
now have a considerable number of hydro- 






CONFLICT IN THF CLOCI^S 211 

aeroplanes in commission. 'I'hcsc amphibious 
craft, which are driven by two motors of one 
hundred and sixty horse-power each and have 
a speed of about seventy-five miles an hour, 
arc designed primarily for the hunting of sub- 
marines. Though a submarine cannot be seen 
from the deck of a vessel, an aviator can see it 
even though it is submerged twenty feet, and a 
bomb dropped near it will cave its sides in by 
the mere force of the explosion, particularly if 
that bomb is loaded with two hundred pf)unds 
of melinite, as are those carried by the French 
hydro-aeroplanes. 

But the most novel of all the uses to which 
the aircraft have been put in this war is that 
of dropping spies in the enemy's territory. On 
numerous occasions French and British aviators 
have flown across the German lines, carrying 
with them an intelligence officer disguised 
as a peasant or a farm-hand, and have landed 
him at some remote spot where the descent 
of an aeroplane is scarcely likely to attract 
the attention of the military authorities. 
As soon as the aviator has landed his paSbcnger 
he ascends again, with the understanding, how- 
ever, that he will return to the same spot a 



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212 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



day, or two days, or a week later, to pick up 
the spy and carry him back to the French lines. 
'Fhe exploits of some of these secret agents thus 
dropped from the sky upon enemy soil would 
make the wildest fiction seem probable and 
tame. One French othcer, thus landed behind 
the German front in Flanders, succeeded in 
slowly working his way right across Belgium, 
gathering information as he went as to the 
resources of the Germans and thf^ disposition of 
their troops, only to be caught just as he was 
crossing the frontier into Holland. 'Fhough 
the Germans expressed unbounded admiration 
for his coolness, courage, and daring, he was 
none the less a spy. He died before the rifles 
of a firing-party. 

It has repeatedly been said that in this war 
the spirit of chivalry does not exist, and, so 
far as the land forces are concerned, this is 
largely true. But chivalry still exists among 
the fighters of the air. If, for example, a French 
aviator is forced to descend in the German 
lines, either because his machine has been 
damaged by gun-fire or from engine trouble, a 
German aviator will fly over the French lines, 
often amid a storm of shrapnel, and drop a 



' *''*■%, 



CONFLICT IN THE CLOIDS 213 

litilc cloth bag which contains a note recording' 
the name of the missing man, or if not his 
name the number of his machine, whether he 
survived, and if so whether he is wounded. 
Attached to the " message bag " are long 
pennants of coloured cloth, which flutter out 
and attract the attention of the men in the 
neighbourhood, who run out and pick up the 
bag when it lands. It is at once taken to the 
nearest officer, who opens it and telephones the 
message it contains to aviation headquarters, 
so that it not infrequently happens that the 
late of a flier is known to his comrades within 
a few hours after he has set out from the 
aviation field. Perhaps the prettiest exhibition 
of chivalry which the war has produced was 
evoked by the death of the famous French 
aviator, Adolphe Pcgoud, who was killed by a 
German aviator whom he attacked during a 
reconnaissance near Petite Croix, in Alsace. 
The next day a German aeroplane, flying at a 
great height, appeared over Chavannes, an 
Alsatian village on the old frontier, where 
Pogoud was buried, and dropped a wreath 
which bore the inscription : " To Pegoud, who 
died like a hero, from his adversary." 






VII. THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 

CORPORAL EMILE DUPONT, hav- 
ing finished a most unappetizing and 
unsatisfying breakfast, consisting of a 
cup of lukewarm chicory and a half-loaf of 
soggy bread, emerged on all fours from the 
hole in the ground which for many months had 
been his home and, standing upright in the 
trench, hghted a cigarette. At that instant some- 
thing came screaming out of nowhere to burst, 
in a cloud of acrid smoke and a shower of 
steel sphnters, directly over the trench in 
which Emile was standing. Immediately the 
sky seemed to fall upon Emile and crush him. 
When he returned to consciousness a few 
seconds later he found himself crumpled up in 
an angle of the trench like an empty kit-bag that 
has been hurled into a corner of a room. He 
felt curiously weak and nauseated ; he ached 
in every bone in his body ; his head throbbed 
and pounded until he thought that the top of 
his skull was coming oflp. Still, he was ahve, 
and that was something. He fumbled for the 

214 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 215 

cigarette that he had been lighting, but there 
was a curious sensation of numbness in his 
right hand. He did not seem to be able to move 
it. Very slowly, very painfully he turned his 
head so that his eyes travelled out along his 
blue-sleeved arm until they reached the point 
where his hand ought to be. But the hand 
wasn't there. It had quite disappeared. His 
WTist lay in a pool of something crimson and 
warm and sticky which widened rapidly as he 
looked at it. His hand was gone, there was no 
doubting that. Still, it didn't interest him 
greatly ; in fact, it might have been some other 
man's hand for all he cared. His head throbbed 
Hke the devil and he was very, very tired. 
Rather dimly he heard voices and, as through a 
haze, saw figures bending over him. He felt 
some one tugging at the little first-aid packet 
which every soldier carries in the breast of his 
tunic, he felt something being tied very tightly 
around his arm above the elbow, and finally 
he had a vague recollection of being dragged 
into a dug-out, where he lay for hours while 
the shell-storm raged and howled outside. 
Toward nightfall when the bombardment had 
died down, two soldiers, wearing on their 



111 



!? 



N! 



2l6 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



arms white brassards with red crosses, Ufted 
him on to a stretcher and carried him between 
interminable walls of brown earth to another 
and a larger dug-out which he recogni'/.ed as a 
poste dc secours. After an hour of waiting, 
because there were other wounded men who 
had to be attended to first, the stretcher on 
which Emile lay was lifted on to a table, over 
which hung a lantern. A bearded man, wear- 
ing the cap of a medical officer, and with a 
white apron up to his neck, briskly unwound 
the bandages which hid the place where Emile's 
right hand should have been. " It'll have to be 
taken oflt a bit further up, moti brave''' said the 
surgeon, in much the same tone that a tailor 
would use in discussing the shortening of a 
coat. " You seem to be in pretty fair shape, 
though, so we'll just give you a new dressing, 
and send you along to the field ambulance, 
where they have more facilities for amputating 
than we have here." Despite the pain, 
which had now become agonizing, Emile 
watch'd with a sort of detached admiration 
the neatness and despatch with which the sur- 
geon wound the white bandages around the 
wound. It reminded him of a British soldier 



«V 



W.'.^' 



--lu jr» ~ A ^Ai^~ 'Wiiip-" 



■' 



\ 



t 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 217 

putting on his puttees. " Just a moment, my 
friend," said the surgeon, when the dressing 
was completed, " we'll give you a jab of this 
before you go. to frighten away the tetanus," 
and in the muscles of his shoulder Emile felt the 
prick of hypodermic needle. An orderly 
tied to a b itlon of his coat a pink tag on which 
something— he could not see what— had been 
scrav^ed by the surgeon, and two hrancardiers 
lifted the stretcher and carried him out into 
the darkness. From the swaying of the 
stretcher and the muffled imprecations of the 
bearers, he gathered that he was being taken 
across the ploughed field which separated the 
trenches from the highway where the ambu- 
lances were waiting. "This cleans 'em up 
for to-night," said one of the bearers, as he 
slipped the handles of the stretcher into the 
grooved supports of the ambulance and pushed 
it smoothly home. "Thank God for that," 
said the ambulance driver, as he viciously 
cranked his car. " I thought I was going to be 
kept here all night. It's time we cleared out 
anyway. The Boches spotted me with a rocket 
they sent up a while back, and they've been 
dropping shells a little too close to be pleasant. 



if 



\ i 



f. 



ill 



2l8 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



Well, s'long. When I get this bunch delivered 
I'm going to turn in and get a night's sleep." 
The road, being paved with cobblestones, 
was not as smooth as it should have been for 
wounded men. Emile, who had been awakened 
to full consciousness by the night air ?nd by 
a drink of brandy one of the orderlies at the 
foste de secours had given him, felt something 
warm and sticky falling . . . drip . . . drip 
. . . drip . . . upon his face. In the dim 
light he was at first unable to disccncr where it 
came from. 'I'hen he saw. It was dripping 
through the brown canvas of the stretcher that 
hung above him. He tried to call to the 
ambulance driver, but his voice was lost in the 
noise of the machine. The field-hospital was 
only three miles behind the trench in which he 
had been wounded, but by the time he arrived 
there, what with the jolting and the pain and 
the terrible thirst which comes from loss of 
blood and that ghastly drip . . . drip . . . drip 
in his face, Emile was in a state of both mental 
and physical collapse. They took him into a 
large tenc, dimly lighted by lanterns which 
showed him many other stretchers with silent 
or groaning forms, all ticketed hke himself. 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 219 

lying upon them. After considerable delay a 
young officer came around with a notebook 
and looked at the tag they had tied on him at 
the dressing-station. On it was scrawled the 
word " urgent." That admonition didn't pre- 
vent Emile's having to wait two hours before 
he was taken into a tent so briUiantly illumi- 
nated by an arc-lamp that the glare hurt his 
eyes. W hen ihey laid him on a narrow white 
cable so that the Hght fell full upon him he felt 
as though he were on the stage of a theatre and 
the spot-hght had been turned upon him. An 
orderly with a sharp knife deftly slashed away 
the sleeve of Emile's coat, leavin'j the arm bare 
to the shoulder, while another orderly clapped 
over his mouth and nose a sort of funnel. 

\\ hen he returned to consciousness be found 
himself again in an ambulance rocking and 
swaying over those agonizing pave roads. The 
throbbing of his head and the pain in his arm 
and the pitching of the vehicle made him 
nauseated. There were three other wounded 
men in the ambulance and they had been 
nauseated too. It was not a pleasant journey. 
After what seemed to Emile and his companions 
in misery an interminable time, the ambulance 



220 



\I\K LA IRANCE! 



came to a stop in front of a railway station. 
At least it had once been a railway station, 
but over the door between the drooping Red 
Cross flags, was the sign " H- pital d'Kvacuation 
No. 31." 'I wo brancardirrs lifted out Emile's 
stretcher— the same one, by the way, on which 
he had been carried from the trenches twenty- 
four hours before— and set it down in what 
had been the station waiting-room. It was 
still a waiting-room, but all those who wtre 
so patiently and uncomplainingly waiting in it 
were wounded. 1 wo women, wearing white 
smocks and caps and with the ever-present 
red cross upon their sleeves, came in carrying 
trays loaded with cups of steaming soup. 
While an orderly supported Emile's head one 
of the women held a cup of soup to his hps. 
He drank it greedily. It was the best thing he 
had ever tasted and he said so. Then they 
gave him a glass of harsh, red wine. After that 
he felt much better. After a time a doctor 
came in and glanced at the tags which had 
been tied on him at the poste de secours and 
at the field hospital. " You've a little fever, 
my lad," said he, " but I guess you can stand 
the trip to Paris. You'll be better off there 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 221 

than you would be here." If Emile lives to 
be a hundred he will never forget that journey. 
It was made in a box-car which had been con- 
verted to the use of the wounded by putting 
in racks to hold the stretchers and cutting 
windows in the sides. In the centre was a 
?mall stove on which the orderly in charge 
boiled tea. In the car were fifteen other 
wounded men. On the journey four of them 
died. The car, which was without springs, 
rolled like a ship in a storm. The jolcing was 
far worse than that in the ambulances on the 
;^ave roads had been. Emilc's head reeled from 
weariness and exhaustion ; his arm felt as 
though it were being held in a white-hot flame ; 
he was attacked by the intolerable thirst which 
characterizes amputation cases, and begged for 
water, and when it was given him pleaded 
desperately for more, more, rnore. Most of 
the time he was of! his head and babbled 
incoherently of foolish, inconsequential things. 
It took twenty hours for the hospital train to 
reach Paris, for a great movement of troops 
was in progress, and when well men arc being 
rushed to the front the wounded ones who are 
coming away Crom it must wait. When the 



III 






i I 



II 






222 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



train finally pulled under the sooty glass roof 
of the Paris station, Emile was hovering be- 
tween life and death. He had a hazy, in- 
distinct recollection of being taken from the 
ill-smelling freight-car to an ambulance — the 
third in which he had been in less than forty- 
eight hours ; of skimming pleasantly, silently 
over smooth pavements ; of the ambulance 
entering the porte-cochere of a great white 
building that looked like a hotel or school. 
Here he was not kept waiting. Nurses with 
skilful fingers drew off his clothes — the filthy, 
blood-soaked, mud-stained, vermin-infested, 
foul-smelling garments that he had not had 
oflF for many weeks. He was lowered, ever so 
gently, into a tub filled with warm water. 
Bon Dieu, but it felt good ! It was the first 
warm bath that he had had for more than a year. 
It was worth being wounded for. Then a 
p;r.r of flannel pyjamas, a fresh, soft bed, such 
as he had not known since the war began, and 
pink-checked nurses in crisp, white linen slip- 
ping about noiselessly. While Emile lay back 
on his pillows and puffed a cigarette a doctor 
came in and dressed his wound. " Don't worrv 
about yourself, my man," he said cheerily, 



THE RED liADGE OF MERCY 223 

«♦ you'll get along finely. In a week or so we'll 
be sending you back to your family." Where- 
upon Corporal Emile Dupont turned on his 
pillow with a great sigh of content. He 
wondered dimly, as he fell asleep, if it would be 
hard to find work which a one-armed man 
could do. 

From the imaginary but wholly typical case 
just given, in which we have traced the course 
of a wounded man from the spot where he fell 
to the final hospital, it will be seen that the 
system of the Service dc Sante Militaire, as 
the medical service of the French army is 
known, though cumbersome and complicated 
in certain respects, nevertheless works— and 
works well. In understanding the French 
system it is necessary to bear in mind that the 
wounded man has to be shifted through two 
army zones, front and rear, both of which are 
under the direct control of the commander- 
in-chief, to the interior zone of the country, 
with its countless hospitals, which is under 
the direction of the Ministry of War. 

As soon as a soldier falls he drags himself, 
if he is able, to some sheltered spot, or his 



h 

it 



--4 



\I\K LA FRANCK! 



comrades carry him there, and with the " first- 
aid " packet, carried in the breast pocket of 
the tunic, an endeavour is made to give the 
wound temporary treatment. In the British 
service this " first-aid " kit consists of a small 
tin box, not much larger than a cigarette case, 
containing a bottle of iodine crystals and a 
bottle of alcohol wrapped up in a roll of aseptic 
bandage gauze. Meanwhile word has been 
passed along the line that the services of the 
surgeon are needed, for each regim<nt has 
one and sometiincs two medical oflrtcers on 
duly in the trenches. It may so happen that 
tlie trench section has its own poste de secours, 
or first-aid dressing-station, in which case the 
man is at once taken there. The medical officer 
dresses the man's wound, perhaps gives him 
a hypodermic injrcii. ii to lessen the pain, and 
otherwise makes him as comfortable as possible 
under the circumstances. His wounds tem- 
porarily dressed, if there is a dug-out at hand, 
he is taken into it. If not, he is laid in such 
shelter as the trench affords, and there he 
usually has to lie until night comes and he 
can be removed in comparative safety ; for, 
particularly in the flat country of Artois and 



THE KKI) BADGE OF MERCY 



225 



Flanders, it is out of the question to remove 
the wounded except under the screen of dark- 
ness, and even then it is frequently an ex- 
tremtly hazardous proceeding, for the German 
gunners apparently do their best to drop 
their shells on the ambulances and stretcher 
parties. As soon as night falls a dressing- 
station is established at a point as close as 
possible behind the trenches, the number of 
surgeons, dressers, and stretcher-bearers sent out 
depending upon the number of casualties as 
reported by telephone from the trenches to 
headquarters. The wounded man is trans- 
ported on a stretcher or a wheeled litter to the 
dressing-station, where his wounds are ex- 
amined by the light of electric torches and, if 
necessary, redressed. If he has any fractured 
bones they are made fast in splints or pieces 
of zinc or iron wire — anything that will enable 
him to stand tran.portation. 'i'hough the 
dressing-station is, whertVer possible, estab- 
lished in a farmhouse, in a grove, behind a 
wall, or such other protection as the region may 
afford, it is, nevertheless, often in extreme 
danger. I recall one case, in Flanders, where 
the flashing of the torches attracted the atten- 



I 



^1 . i r'l I > * 



226 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



tion of the German gunners, who dropped a 
shell squarely into a dressing-station, killing all 
the surgeons and stretcher-bearers, and putting 
half a dozen of the wounded out of their 
misery. As soon as the wounded man has 
passed through the dressing-station, he is 
carried, usually over very rough ground, to the 
point on the rosd where the motor-ambulances 
are waiting and is whirled off to the division 
ambulance, which corresponds to the field- 
hospital of the British and American armies. 
These division ambulances (it should be borne 
in mind that the term ambulance in French 
means " military hospital ") do as complete 
work as can be expected so near the front. 
'Fhey are usually set up only four or five miles 
behind the firing-line, and have a regular 
medical and nursing staflF, instruments, and, 
in some cases. X-ray apparatus for operations. 
As a rule, only light emergency operations are 
performed in these ambulances of the front — 
light skull trepanning, removal of splintered 
bones, disinfection, and immobilizing of the 
wounded parts. 

At the beginning of the war it was an ac- 
cepted principle of the French army surgeons 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 227 

not to operate at the front, but simply to dress 
the wounds so as to permit of speedy trans- 
portation to the rear, for the division am- 
bulances, being without heat or light or steri- 
lizing plants of their owj, had no facilities for 
many urgent operations or for night work. 
Hence, though there was no lack of surgical aid 
at the front, major operations were not possible, 
and thousands of men died who, could they 
have been operated or immediately, might have 
been saved. This grave fault in the French 
medical service has now been remedied, how- 
ever, by the automobile surgical formations 
created by Doctor Marcille. Their purpose is 
to bring within a few miles of the spot where 
fighting is in progress and where men are being 
wounded the equivalent of a great city emer- 
gency hospital, with its own sterihzation plant, 
and an operating-room healed and Ughted 
powerfully night and day. This equipment is 
extremely mobile, ready to begin work even in 
the open country within an hour of its arrival, 
and capable of moving on with the same rapidity 
to any point where its services may be required. 
The arrangement of these operating-rooms (m 
wheels is as compact and ingenious as a PuU- 



5| 






■it 
'• i 



■l 



228 VIVE LA FRANCE! 

man sleeping-car. The sterilization plant, 
which works by superheated steam, is on an 
automobile chassis, the surgeons taking their 
instruments, compresses, aprons, and blouses 
immediately from one of the six iron sheets of 
the autoclave as they operate. Six operations 
can be carried on without stopping — and during 
the sixth the iron sheets are resterilized to begin 
again. The same boiler heats a smaller auto- 
clave for sterilizing rubber gloves and water, 
aid also, by mear of a powerful radiator, 
heats the operating-room. 'This is an im- 
permeable tent, with a large glass skylight fur 
day and a 200-candle power electric light for 
night, the motor generating the electricity. 
Another car contains the radiograph plant, 
while the regular ambulances provide pharmacy 
and other supplies and see to the further 
transportation of the wounded who have been 
operated on. Of seventy operations, which 
would have all been impossible without these 
surgical automobile units, fifty-live were suc- 
cessful. In cases of abdominal wounds, which 
have usually been fatal in previous wars, fifty 
per cent, of the operations thus performed 
saved the lives of the wounded. 



M^^ 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 229 

Leaving the zone of actual operations, the 
wounded man now enters the army rear zone, 
where, at the heads of the lines of communi- 
cation, hospital trains or hospital canal-boats 
are waiting for him. The beginning of the 
war found France wholly unprepared as re- 
gards modernly equipped hospital trains, of 
which she possessed only five, while Russia 
had thirty-two, Austria thirty-three, and 
Germany forty. Thanks to the energy of the 
great French railway companies, the number 
has been somewhat increased, but France still 
has mainly to rely on improvised sanitary trains 
for the transport of her wounded. There are 
in operation about one hundred and fifty of 
these improvised trains, made up, when possible, 
of the long luggage vans of what were before 
the war the international express trains. As 
these cars arc well hung, are heated, have soft 
W'estinghouse brakes, and have corridors which 
permit of the doctors going from car to car 
while the train is in motion, they answer the 
purpose to which they have been put tolerably 
well. But when heivy fighting is in progress, 
rolhng stock of every description has to be 
utilized for the transport of the wounded. 



'! M 



it 



■ i 



JJh. 



'^^ 



230 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



Thosf who can sit up without too much dis- 
comfort arc put in ordinary passenger cars. 
But in addition to these the Service de Santi- 
ha? been compelled to use thousands of ^oods 
and cattle trucks glassed up at the sides and with 
a stove in the middle. The stretcb';rs containing 
the most serious cases are, by means of loops 
into which the handles of the stretchers fit, 
laid in two rows, one above the other, at the 
ends of each truck while those who are able to 
sit up are gathered in the centre. Each truck is 
in charge of an orderly who keeps water and 
soups constantly heated on the stove. Any one 
who has travelled for any distance in a -jooJ-sor 
cattle t uck will readily appreciate, however, how 
great must be the sufferings of the wounded 
men thus transported. Taking advantage of 
the network of canals and rivers which covers 
France, the medical authorities of the army 
have also utilized canal-boats for the transport 
of the blesses — a method of transportation 
which, though slow, is very easy. Every few 
hours these hospital trains or boats come to 
" infirmary stations," established by the Red 
Cross, where the wounded arc given food and 
drink, and their dressing is looked after, 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 231 

while at the very end of the army zones there 
are " regular stations," where the " evacua- 
tion hospitals " are placed. Here is where the 
sorting system comes in. There are wounded 
whose condition has become so aggravated that 
it is out of the question for them to stand a 
longer journey, and these remain. There are 
lightly wounded, who, with proper attention, 
will be as well as ever in a few days, and these 
are sent to a depot des eclopes, or, as the soldiers 
term it, a " limper's halt." Then tlierc are the 
others who, if they are to recover, will require 
long and careful treatment and difficult opera- 
tions. These go on to the final hospitals of 
the interior zone : mihtary hospitals, auxiliary 
hospitals, civil hospitals militarized, and " be- 
nevolent hospitals," such as the great American 
Ambulance at Neuilly. 

No account of the work of caring for the 
wounded would be complete without at least 
passing mention of the American Ambulance, 
which, founded by Americans, with an American 
jtaflE and an American equipment, and main- 
tained by American generosity, has come to 
be recognized as the highest type of military 
hospital in existence. At the beginning of the 



232 



V 1\I- LA FRANCE ! 



war, Americans in Paris, inspired by rhe record 
of the American Ambulance in 1870, and lore- 
seeing the needs of the enormous number of 
wounded which would soon come pouring in, 
conceived the idea of establishing a mlHtary 
hospital for the treatment of the wounded, 
irrespective of nationality. The French Govern- 
ment placed at their disposal a large and nearly 
completed school building in the suburb of 
Neuilly, just outside the walls of Paris. Be- 
fore the war had been in progress a month this 
building had been transformed into perhaps 
the most up-to-the-minute mihtary hospital 
in Europe, equipped with X-ray apparatus, 
ultra violet-ray steriHzing plants, a giant 
magnet for removing fragments of shell from 
wounds, a pathological laboratory, and the 
finest department of dental surgery in the 
world. The feats of surgical legerdemain per- 
formed in this latter department are, indeed, 
almost beyond belief. The American dental 
surgeons assert — and they have repeatedly 
made their assertion good — that, even though 
a man's entire face has been blown away, they 
can construct a new and presentable counte- 
nance, provided the hinges of the jaws remain. 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 233 

Beginning with 170 beds, by November 
191 5 the hospital had 600 beds and in addi- 
tion has organized an " advanced hospital," 
with 250 beds, known as Hospital B, at Juilly, 
which is maintained through the generosity of 
Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney ; :^ field hospital, 
of the same pattern as that used by the United 
States Army, with 108 beds ; and two con- 
valescent hospitals at St. Cloud ; the staff 
of this remarkable organization comprising 
doctors, surgeons, graduate and auxiliary nurses, 
orderHes, stretcher-bearers, ambulance drivers, 
cooks, and other employees to the number of 
seven hundred. Perhaps the most picturesque 
feature of the American hospital is its remark- 
able motor-ambulance service, which consists 
of 130 cars and 160 drivers. The ambulances, 
which are for the most part Ford cars with 
specially designed bodies, have proved so ex- 
tremely practical and efficient that the type 
has been widely copied by the Allied armies. 
They serve where they arc most needed, being 
sent out in units (each unit consisting of a 
staff car, a supply car, and five ambulances) 
upon the requisition of the mihtary authorities. 
The young men who drive the ambulances 



234 



VI\ K LA FkANCK ! 



and who, with a very few exceptions, not only 
5erve without pay but even pay their own 
passage from America and provide their own 
uniforms, represent all that is best in American 
life . among them are men from the great uni- 
versities both Kast and West, men from the 
hunt clubs of Long Island and Virginia, lawyers, 
novelists, polo-play<.'rs, big game hunters, cow- 
puncliers. \\hilf the inspector of the ambulance 
service is a former assistant treasurer of the 
I'nited States. American Ambulance units 
are stationed at many points on the western 
battle-line — I have seen them at work in 
I'landers, in the Argonne, and in Alsace — 
the risks taken by tiie drivers in their work 
of bringing in the wounded and their cool- 
ness under fire having won for them among 
the soldiers the admiring title of " bullet 
biters." 

The British system of handling the wounded 
is upon the same general lines as that of the 
French, the chief difference being in the method 
of sorting, which is the basis of all medical corps 
work in this war. 

Sorting, as practised by the British, starts 
at the very first step in the progress of a 



rilK RED BADGE OF MERCY 235 

wounded man, which is the dressing-station in 
or immediately behind the trenches, where 
only those cases absolutely demanding it arc 
dressed and where only the most imperative 
operations arc performed. The second step 
is the field hospital, where all but a few of the 
sHght wounds are dressed, and where opera- 
tions that must be done before the men can be 
passed farther back are performed. The third 
step is the clearing hospital, at the head of rail- 
way communication. Mere the man receives 
the 1 minimum of medical attention before being 
passed on to the hospital train which conveys 
him to one of the great base hospitals on the 
coast, where every one, whether seriously or 
sUghily wounded, can at last receive treat- 
ment. To the wounded Tommy, the base 
hospital is the half-way house to home, where he 
is cared for until he is able to stand the journey 
across the Channel to England. 

The real barometer of battle is the clearing 
hospital, for one can always tell by the number 
of cases coming in whether there is heavy 
fighting in progress. As both field and clear- 
ing hospitals move with the armies, they must 
not onlv alwavs get rid of their wouuded at 



i 



236 



\I\E LA FR.Wd. ! 



tlic earliest possible moment, but they must 
always be prepared for quick movements back- 
ward or forward. Kither a retreat or an offen- 
sive movement necessitates quick action on 
the part of the Army Medical Corps, for 
it is a big job to dismantle a great hospital, 
pack it up. and start the motor-transport 
within an hour after the order to move is 
received. It would be a big job without the 
wounded. 

In the French lines the hdpital d'l'vacuation 
is frequently established in a g. ods station or 
warehouse in the midst of the railway yard-, 
so as to facilitate the loading of the hospital 
trains. This arrangement has its drawbacks, 
however, for the hospital is liable to be bom- 
barded by aeroplanes or artillery without warn- 
ing, as it is a principle recognized— and prac- 
tised — by all the belligerent nations that it is 
perfectly legitimate to shell a station or rail- 
way base in order to interfere with the troops, 
suppHes, and ammunition going forward to 
the armies in the field. That a hospital is 
quartered in the station is unfortunate but 
must be disregarded. At Dunkirk, for ex- 
ample, which is a fortified town and a base 




^ s c 

u it O 



a Z 
— ^ 



u o ^ 




jl 




THK KEI) BADGK OK MKKCY 237 

oi I'lc very tirst iinporuncc, there was nothing 
unethical,' from a military view-point, in the 
Germans shelling the railway yar is, even though 
a number <>t wounded in the hospital there 
lost their live^. The British avoid this danger 
by e>tablishing their clearing hospitals in the 
outskirts 01 the Krminu- towns, and as tar 
from the station as possible, whieli, however, 
necessitates one more transfer for tlie wounded 

man. 

In itii- uar the progress made in the science 
ol healing has kept pace with, if indeed it has 
not outdistanced, the progress made in the 
scieMCe of destruction. There is, for example, 
the -olution of hypochlorite of soda, introduced 
by l»(.ctor Dakin and Doctor .Mexis Carrel, 
whiclu though not a new invention, is being 
u^ed with marvellous results for the irrigati.>n 
of wounds and the prevention of suppuration. 
There i-^ the spinal anaesthesia, used niuiiwy in 
the ditlicult abdominal cases, a minute quantity 
of wliich, injected into the spine of the patient, 
causes all sensation to disappear up to the 
arms, so that, provided he is prevented by 
a screen from seeing what is going on, an 
operation below that level may be performed 



■'::(_ '^^ ! 



'•.I 



238 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



while the patient, wholly unconscious of what 
is happening, is reading a paper or smoking a 
cigarette. Owing to failure to disinfect the 
wounds at the front, many of the cases reach- 
ing the hospitals in the early days of the war 
were found to be badly septic, the infection 
being due, curiously enough, to the nature of 
the soil of the country, the region of the Aisne, 
for example, apparently being saturated with 
the tetanus germ. So the doctors invented an 
antitetanus serum, with which a soldier can 
inoculate himself, and as a resuh, the cases of 
tetanus have been reduced by half. It was 
found that many wounded men failed to re- 
cover because of the minute pieces of shell re- 
maining in their bodies, so there was intro- 
duced the giant magnet which, when conncc ted 
with the probe in the surgeon's hand, unerringly 
attracts and draws out any fragments of metal 
that may remain in the wound. Still another 
ingenious invention produced by the war i- the 
bell, or buzzer, which rings when the surgeon's 
probe approaches a foreign substance. 

Though before the war began European 
army surgeons were thoroughly conversant 
with the best methods of treating shell, sabre, 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 239 

and bullet wounds and the innumerable 
diseases peculiar to armies, the war has produced 
one weapon of which they had never so much 
as heard before, and the effects of which 
they were at first wholly unable to combat. 
I refer to the as hvxiating g^s. If you fail 
to understand wlu.i "gassing" means, just 
listen to this description by a British army 
surgeon : 

" In a typical ' gassed ' case the idea of 
impending suffocation predominates. Every 
muscle of respiration is called upon to do its 
utmost to avert the threatened doom. The 
imperfect aeration of the blood arising from 
obstructed respiration causes oftentimes intense 
blucness and clamminess of the face, while froth 
and expectoration blow from the mouth im- 
pelled by a choking cough. The poor fighting 
man tosses and turns himself into every position 
in search of rehef. But his efforts are unavail- 
ing ; he feels that his power of breathing 
is faihng ; that asphyxiation is gradually 
becoming complete. The slow strangling 
of his respiration, of which he is fully conscious, 
at last enfeebles his strength. No longer is it 
possible for him to expel the profuse cxpcc- 



240 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



toration ; the air tubes of his lungs become 
distended with it, and with a few gasps lie 
dies. 

" If the ' gassed " man survives the first stage 
of his agony, some sleep may follow the gradual 
decline of the urgent symptoms, and after such 
sleep he feels refreshed and better. Hut 
further trouble is in store for him, for the in- 
tense irritation to which the re,-pirai(jry passages 
have been exposed by the inhalaticm of the 
suffocating gas is quickly followed by the super- 
vention of ;;cute broncliitis. In such attacks 
death may come, owing to the severity of the 
intlamniaiion. In mild cases of 'gassing.' on 
the other hand, the rc-ulting bronchitis de- 
velops in a modified lorni with the result that 
rec(ner\- now generally {< llow.s. 'i'ime, how- 
ever, can only show tti ..hat extent permanent 
damage to the lungs is inflicted. Possibly 
chr(jnic bronchitis ma}- be the lot of such 
' gassed ' men in after life or some pulmonary 
trouble equally disturbing. It is difficult to 
believe that they can wholly escape some evil 
effects." 

As soon as it was found that the immediate 
cause of death in the fatal gas cases was acute 



THF RED BADGE OF MERCY 241 

ccngcstion )f the lungs, the surgeons were able 
to treat it u on special and definite lines. 
Means were devised for c nsuring the expulsion 
of the excessive secretion from the lungs, thus 
affording much relief and making it possible 
to avert asphyxiation. In some apparently- 
hopeless cases the lives of the men were saved 
bv artificial respiration. The inhalation of 
oxygen was also tried with favourable results, 
and in cases where the restlessness of the 
patient was more mental than physical, opium 
was successfully used. So that even the poison- 
gas, perhaps the most dreadful death-dcahng 
device which the war has produced, neither 
dismayed nor defeated the men whose task it 
is to save hfe instead of to take it. 

To the surgeons and nurses at the front the 
people of France and England owe a debt of 
gratitude which they can never wholly repay. 
The soldiers in the trenches are waging no 
more desperate or heroic battle than these 
quiet, efficient, energetic men and women wb'> 
wear the red badge of mercy. Their courage 
is shown by the enormous losses they have 
sufiFered under fi^e, the proportion of miHtary 
doctors and hospital attendants killed, wounded, 





242 



VI\K LA i-RANCK ! 



or taken prisoner, equalling the proportion 
of infantry losses. They have no sleep sa 
such as tliey can snatch between the tides 
of wounded or when they drop on the floor 
from sheer exhaustion. They are working 
under as trying conditions as doctors and nurses 
were ever called upon to face. They treat 
daily hundreds of cases, any one of which 
would cause a !, uii physician to call a con- 
sultation. They arc in constant peril from 
marauding Taulv?. lor the German air- 
men S(.-.-m to take delight in choosing build- 
ings Hying the Red Cross flag as targets for 
their bombs. In their ears, both dav and 
night, sounds the din of near-bv battle. Their 
organization is a marvel of efficienc}'. 'I'hat 
of the Germans may be a> good but it can be 
no better. 

In order that I m.ay bring home to you in 
hngland ai.o America the realities of this thine 
called war, I want to tell you what I saw one 
day in a little town called Bailleul. Bailleul is 
only two or three miles on the French side of 
the Franco-Belgian frontier, and it is so close to 
the firing-line that its windows continually 
rattle. The noise along that portion of the 



THE RED BAPGE OE MERCY 243 

battle-front never ceases. It sounds for all the 
world like the clatter of a gigantic harvester. 
And that is precisely what it is— the harvester 

of death. 

As we entered Bailleul they were bringing 
in the harvest. They were bringing it in motor- 
cars, many, many, many of them, stretching 
in endless procession down the yellow roads 
which lead to Lille and Neuvc Chapelle and 
Poperinghe and Ypres. Over the grey bodies 
of the motor-cars were grey canvas hoods, and 
painted on the hoods were staring scarlet 
crosses. The curtain at the- back of each car 
was rolled up, and protruding from the dim 
interior were four pairs of feet. Sometimes 
those feet were wrapped in bandages, and on 
the fresh white hnen were bright-red splotches, 
but more often they were encased in worn and 
muddied boots. I shall never forget those poor, 
b'-oken. mud-encrusted boots, for they spoke 
so eloquently of utter weariness and pain. 
There was something about them that was 
the very essence of pathos. The owners of 
those boots were lying on stretchers which were 
made to slide into the ambulances as drawers 
slide into a bureau, and most of them were 



■:1- 



-A,»- 



'k[^'7'. 



.E;.,,.,. 






i 



l?p:- 



244 



\ I\ K LA FRANCE ! 



suffering agony such as only a woman in diild- 
birth knows. 

This was the reaping of the grim harvester 
which was at its work of mowing down human 
beings not five miles away. Sometimes, as 
tlie ambulances went rocking by, I would catch 
a fleeting glimpse of some poor fellow whose 
wounds would not permit of his lying down. 
I remember one of these in particular — a clean- 
cut, fair-haired youngster who looked .is if lie 
~\ ere still in his teens. He was sitting on the floor 
of the ambulance leaning for support against 
the rail, lie held his arms straight out in front 
of him. Both his hands had been blown away 
at the wrists. The head of another was so 
swathed in bandages that my first impression 
was that he was wearing a huge red-and-white 
turban. The jolting of the car had caused the 
bandages to slip. If that man lives little 
children will run from hin^ in terror, and women 
will turn aside when ihey meet him in the 
street. And still that caravan of agony kept 
rolling by, roHing by. The floors of the cars 
were sieves leaking blood. The dusty road over 
which they had passed no longer needed 
sprinkling. 



H^-^^^^S 







f, . T»i-j:i»'Wr< ."O'P* T >« 







THE ki:i) BADGR OF MKKCV 245 

Tearing over the r(;ugh cobbles of Hailleul, 
the ambulances canie lo a halt before some 
one of the many doorways over which dr. lop 
tlic Red Cross Hags, for every suitable build- 
ing in the httle town has been converted into 
a hospital. The one of which I am going to 
tell you had been a school until the war began. 
It is othcially known as Clearing Hospital 
Number Eight, but I shall always think of it 
as hell's antechamber. In the afternoon that 
I was there eight hundred wounded were 
brought into the building between the hours 
of two and four, and this, mind you, was but 
one of many hospitals in the same little town. 
As I entered the door I had to stand aside to 
let a stretcher carried by two orderlies pass 
out. Through the rough brown blanket which 
covered the stretcher showed the vague out- 
lines of a human form, but the face was covered, 
and it was very still. A week or two weeks or a 
month later, when the casualty Hsts were 
pubhshed, there appeared the name of the still 
form under the brown blanket, and there was 
anguish in some English home. In the hall 
of the hospital a man was sitting upright 
on a bench, and two surgeons were working 



24'^' 



\I\I. LA FRANCE! 



over him. He was silting there because the 
operating-rooms were filled. I hope that that 
man is unmarried, for he no longer has a face. 
What a few hours before had been the honest 
countenance of an English lad was now a horrid 
welter of blood and splintered bone and 
mangled flesh. 

The surgeon in charge took me upstairs to 
the ward which contained the more serious 
cases. On a cot beside the door was stretched 
a young Canadian. His face looked as though 
a giant in spiked shoes had stepped upon it. 
" Eook," said the surgeon, and lifted the 
woollen blanket. That man's body was like 
a field which has been gone over with a disk 
harrow. His feet, his legs, his abdomen, his 
chest, his arms, his face wen- furrowed with 
gaping, angry wounds. " He was shot through 
the hand," explained the surgeon. " He made 
his way back to the dressing-station in the 
reserve trenches, but just as he reached it a 
shell exploded at his feet." I patted him on 
the shoulder and told him that I too knew 
the land of the great forests and the rolling 
prairies, and that before long he was going 
back to it. And, though he could not speak. 



he turned that ]->o(n, torn face of his and 
.smiled at me. He must have been suflFering 
the torments of the damned, but he smiled 
at me, I tell you — he smilrd at me. 

In the next bed, not two feet away— for the 
hospitals in Bailleul are very crowded— a 
great, brawny fellow from a Highland regiment 
was sitting propped against his pillows. He 
could not lie down, the surgeon told me, 
because he had been shot through the lungs. 
He held a tin cup in his hand, and quite 
regularly, about once a minute, he would hold 
it to his lips and spit out blood. Over by the 
window lay a boy with a face as white as the 
pillow-cover. He was quite conscious, and 
s ared at the cciUng with wide, unseeing eyes. 
" Another shrapnel case," remarked a hospital 
attendant. " Both legs amputated, but he'll 
recover." I wonder what he will do for a living 
when he gets back to England. Perhaps he 
will sell pencils or boot -laces on the flags of 
Piccadilly, and hold out his cap for coppers. 
A man with his head all swathed in strips of 
linen lay so motionless that I asked if he was 
living. " A head wound," was the answer. 
" We've tried trepanning, and he'll probably 



Mm.U^X .^^.rr:M>:^JkB^SmAM^ 






24K 



\I\K LA IK Wei-; 



pull tlirMu^'li. hut lii'll m viT recover liis 
FLM^on." C'an'i you sit- him it) ilic years to 
totrif. tiii> -pUndid -jxciiDin of m.'.nhood, his 
iiiiiul a hlank, wamkriii^', hilplc^s a? a little 
tliikl. alnnit ■-nmc li!igli>h villa^- ? 

1 doubt if any four walls in all the uorld 
contain more human suf^L-ring than those of 
Hospital Number Fi^ht at Hailleul, yet of all 
those shatterc d, broken, mangled men 1 heard 
only one utter a complaint or groan. He was 
a fair-haired giant. a'> are so many of these 
Knglish fighting men. A bullet had splintered 
hi- spine, and witii his hours numbered, he 
was suffering the most awful torment that a 
human being can endure. The sweat stood in 
beads upon his forehead. 'I'he muscles of his 
neck and arms were so corded and knotted 
that it seemed as though they were about to 
burst their way through the sun-tanned skin. 
His naked bnast rose and fll in ureat sobs of 
aguny. " Oh God ! Oh God ! " he moaned, 
*' be merciful and take me — it hurts, it hurts 
— it hurts me" so — my wife— the kiddies — for 
the love of Christ, doctor, give me an in- 
jecii.n and stop the pain — say good-bye to 
them for me — tell them — oh, I cant stand it 



11 IK Kl.l) HXDGI, OF Ml Kt \ J49 

any longer — I'm not afraid to die-, doctor out 
I ju^ can't stand thi* pain — <»h God, dear 
God. -u.on't you pUnst' Irt me die ? " 

When I went out of that room the beads of 
sweat wi r standing on my forehead. 

They took me downstairs to show mc what 
they call the "evacuation ward." It is a big, 
barnlikc room, perhaps a hundred feet long 
by fifty wide, and the floor was so thickly 
covered with blanketed forms (m stretchers 
that there was no room to walk about among 
them, 'i'hcse were the men whose wounds 
had been treated, and wht), it was behcved, 
were able to survive the journey by hospital 
train to one of the base hospitals on the coast. 
It is a very grave case indeed that is permitted 
to remain for even a single night in the hospitals 
in Bailleul, for Bailleul is but a clearing- 
house for the mangled, and its hospitals must 
always be ready to receive that unceasing 
scarlet stream which, day and night, night and 
day, comes pouring in, pouring in, pouring 
in. 

Those of the wounded in the evacuation 
ward who were conscious were for the most 
part cheerful — as cheerful, that is, as men can 



).m.^K 



2>0 



VIVE LA FRANCE ! 



be whose bodies have been ripped and drilled 
and torn by shot and shell, who have been 
strangled by poisonous gases, who are aflame 
with fever, who are faint with loss of blood, 
and who have before them a railway journey 
of rany hours. This railway journey to the 
coast is as comfortable as human ingenuity can 
make it, the trains with their white enamelled 
interiors and swinging berths being literally 
hospitals on wheels, bat to these weakened, 
wearied men it is a terribly trying experience, 
even though they know that at the end of it 
clean beds and cool pillows and soft-footed, 
low- voiced nurses await them. 

The men awaiting transfer still wore the 
clothes in which they had been carried from 
the trenches, though in many cases they had 
been slashed open so that the surgeons might 
get at the wounds. They were plastered with 
mud. Many of them had had no opportunity 
to bathe for weeks and were crawling with 
vermin. Their underclothes were in such a 
loathsome condition that when they were re- 
moved they fell apart. The canvas stretchers 
on which they lay so patiently and uncom- 
plainingly were splotched wdth what looked like 




il 



THE RED BADGE OF MERCY 251 

wet brown paint, and on this horrid sticky 
substance were swarms of hungry flies. The 
air was heavy with the mingled smells of anti- 
septics, perspiration, and fresh blood. In that 
room was to be found every form of wound 
which can be inflicted by the most hellish 
weapons the brain of man has been able to 
devise. The wounded were covered with 
coarse woollen blankets, but some of the men 
in their torment had kicked their coverings 
off, and I saw things which I have no words 
to tell about and which I wish with all my 
heart that I could forget. There were men 
whose lejs had been amputated up to the 
thighs ; whose arms had been cut off at the 
shoulder ; there were n.en who had lost their 
eyesight and all their days must grope in dark- 
ness ; and there were other men who had been 
ripped open from waist to neck so that they 
looked Uke the carcasses that hang in front of 
butcher's shops ; while, most horrible of all, 
were those who, without a wound on them, 
raved and cackled with insane mirth at the 
horror of the things they had seen. 

We went cut from that place of unfor- 
gettable horrors into the sunlight and the 



Ill 



252 



\ IV E LA FRANCE ! 



clean fresh air again. It was late afternoon, 
the birds were singing, a gentle breeze was 
whi'^pering in the t/ee-tops ; but from over 
there, on the other side of that green and 
smiling valley, still came the unceasing clatter 
of that grim harvester garnering its crop of 
death. On the ground, in the shade of a spread- 
ing chestnut-tree, had been laid a stretcher, 
and on it was still another of those silent, 
bandaged forms. " He is badly wounded," 
said the surgeon, following the direction of 
my glance, " fairly shot to pieces. But he 
begged us to leave him in the open air. \\ e 
arc sending him on by train to Boulogne to- 
night, and then by hospital ship to England." 
I walked over and looked down at him. He 
could not have been more than eighteen — 
just such a clean-limbed, open-faced lad as any 
girl would have been proud to call sweet- 
heart, any mother son. He was lying very 
still. About his face there was a pecuhar 
greyish pallor, and on his half-parted Hps had 
gathered many flies. I beckoned to the doctor. 
" He's not going to England," I whispered ; 
*' he's going to sleep in France." The surgeon, 
after a quick glance, gave an order, and two 



THE RED BADGE OE MERCY 



^'5 



bearers came and lifted the stretcher and, 
bore it to a ramshackle outhouse which they 
call the mortuary, and gently set it down 
at the end of a long row of other silent forms. 

As I passed out through the gateway in the 
wall which surrounds Hospital Number Eight, 
I saw a group of children playing in the street. 
" Come on," shrilled one of them, " let's play 
soldier ! " 



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THE BALLANTYNE PRESS 
LONDON b- EDINBURGH 




A^^iii: