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TjSpiy yip i^avdova* iKdpiruxre <TTaxvw 
'Att]s 6dfv ndyKXavTov ^^a/xi^ depos. 

/EscHYLUS, Persa, 812-13. 

"There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain 
the spirit ; neither hath he power in the day of death : and 
there is no discharge in that war." — Eccksiastes viii. 8. 

*' Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her 
seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world ; 
all things in heaven and earth do her homage ; the very least as 
feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her 
power ; both Angels and men, and creatures of what condition 
soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with 
uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace 
and joy." — Richard Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity. 

Viscount Grey of Fallodon 
{Sir Edward Grey) 

From a painting by Hugh Cecil 







\-xu (^ 




W^t iRibersitie Preistf 


DNTV. OF MA5!^Ci^^Bppi 
AT BOSTOi^ - LibliAKT 







Heu quanta minus est cum reliquls versari quam 
tut meminisse ! 


This work in its original form appeared in twenty-four volumes 
between February 1915 and July 1919, and was therefore 
written and published for the most part during the progress 
of the campaign. Begun as an experiment to pass the time 
during a period of enforced inaction, its large sales and the 
evidence forthcoming that it met a certain need induced me 
to continue it as a duty, and the bulk of it was written in the 
scanty leisure which I could snatch from service abroad and 
at home. Any narrative produced under such conditions 
must bristle with imperfections. It will contain many errors 
of fact. The writer cannot stage his drama or prepare the 
reader for a sudden change by a gradual revelation of its 
causes. His work must have something of the apparent 
inconsequence of real life. He records one month a sanguine 
mood and a hopeful forecast ; three months later he will 
tell of depression and of expectations belied. He must set 
out interim judgments, and presently recant them. 

After much reflection I decided to revise — and largely 
rewrite — the book in order to give it perspective and a juster 
scale, and I was moved to this decision by my view of the 
value of contemporary history. Sir Walter Raleigh, in the 
preface to his History of the World, excuses himself for not 
writing the story of his own times, which (he says) might have 
been more pleasing to the reader, on the ground that " who- 
soever in writing a moderne Historic shall follow truth 
too neare the heeles, it may happily strike out his teeth." 
To Napoleon, on the contrary, it seemed that contemporary 
history was the surest. " One can say what occurred one 
year after an event as well as a hundred years. It is more 
likely to be true, because the reader can judge by his own 
knowledge." Between two such opinions reason would seem 

viii ' PREFACE. 

to decide for the second. Till a few hundred years ago his- 
torians almost exclusively chronicled events of which they had 
been spectators. The greatest of all wrote what was in the 
strictest sense of the word contemporary history. Thucydides 
played his part in the first stages of the Peloponnesian War 
with the resolution of becoming its chronicler, and he saw the 
ebb and flow of its tides, not as political mutations, but as 
moments in the larger process of Hellenic destiny. With 
such a writer, living in the surge of contemporary passions, 
and yet with an eye abstracted and ranging over a wide ex- 
panse of action and thought, no reconstructor of forgotten 
ages from books and archives can hope to vie. For the scholar 
in such a case competes with the creator, the writer of history 
with one who was also its maker ; and the dullest must thrill 
when in the tale of the struggle for Amphipolis the opponent 
of Brasidas is revealed as Thucydides, son of Olorus, S? rdSe 

There are special and peculiar reasons why the future 
historian who essays to tell the whole tale of the Great War 
will find himself at a disadvantage. The mass of material 
will be so huge that even a new Gibbon or a second Ranke, 
grappling with it in many hbraries, will find himself over- 
burdened. Some principles of interpretation he will need, 
and will no doubt devise, but the odds are that such prin- 
ciples will be academic and artificial. The details of this 
or that battle may be clearer in the future when war diaries 
and personal memoirs have multiplied, but I believe that 
the main features of the war can be more accurately seen 
and more truly judged by those who lived through it than 
by a scholar writing after the lapse of half a century. The 
men of our own day, from the mere fact of having taken part 
in the struggle, are already provided with a perspective — 
a perspective more just, I think, than any which the later 
historian, working only from documents, is likely to discover. 
Again, in a contest of whole peoples psychology must be a 
matter of prime importance ; mutations of opinion and the 
ups and downs of popular moods are themselves weighty 
historical facts, as much as a battle or a state paper ; and 
who is to assess them truly if not those who themselves felt 


the glow of hope and the pain of disillusion ? Lastly, the 
contemporary has, perhaps, a more vivid sense of the great 
drama if he has appeared on the stage, were it only as one 
of a crowd of citizens in the background. I cannot boast 
with Raleigh that I have been " permitted to draw water 
as neare the Weil-Head as another " ; but for much of the 
war I was within a modest distance of the springs. My duties, 
first as a War Correspondent and then as an Intelligence 
officer, gave me some knowledge of the Western Front ; and 
later, in my work as Director of Information, I was compelled 
to follow closely events in every theatre of war, and for the 
purposes of propaganda to make a study of poKtical reactions 
and popular opinion in many countries. 

My aim has been to write a clear narrative of one of the 
greatest epochs in history, showing not only the changing 
tides of battle, but the intricate poUtical, economic, and social 
transformations which were involved in a strife not of armies 
but of peoples. I have tried — with what success it is for 
others to judge — to give my story something of the movement 
and colour which it deserves, and to avoid the formlessness 
of a mere compilation. The book is meant to be history on 
a large scale, printed as it were in capital type, and to keep 
the proportions I have omitted much detail of great interest 
which can be found in works dealing with individual military 
and naval units, Umited battle-grounds, and special spheres 
of national effort. But in one respect I am conscious that 
I have departed from a just proportion. The book is written 
in English, and intended primarily to be read by the writer's 
countrymen. Hence the part played by Britain has been 
described more fully than that of the other belligerents, though 
I trust this prominence deliberately given to British doings 
does not appear in my general criticisms and judgments. 
One point I would emphasize. No confidences have been 
betrayed, no privileges have been claimed or used, no matter 
included which cannot be fairly regarded as public property. 
The book is indeed the opposite of an official history. It 
does not pretend to lay open sealed archives ; it is a personal 
not a professional record, a chronicle of individual observa- 
tion, private study, personal assessments. In a work so full 


of details there must inevitably be mistakes, but I have striven 
earnestly to tell the truth, so far as I could ascertain it, free 
from bias or petulance or passion. The story is too noble a 
one to be marred by any " vileinye of hate." 

With regard to the method followed : The pages are not 
" documented," for to quote authorities would have doubled 
the size of the volumes. References to sources are usually 
given only when some point is still in dispute. In the early 
part, when the British Army was small, brigades and even 
battalions are mentioned ; in the later, the normal unit is 
the division and, in most chapters, the corps. No fixed prin- 
ciple has been followed in spelling foreign names ; I have used 
the forms in which they are most likely to be familiar to the 
general reader. I have had the advantage of the knowledge 
and advice of a very great number of soldiers, sailors, and 
civilians among nearly all the belligerent nations, some of 
whom have been so kind as to read my proofs. To these, 
my friends, I offer my warmest gratitude, and I only refrain 
from the pleasure of writing their names because I have some- 
times had the temerity to differ from their views, and I hesitate 
to involve distinguished professional men in any responsibility 
for a work which in every part represents an independent 
exercise of my own judgment. To one helper, however, I 
must make special acknowledgment. Mr. Milliard Atteridge 
from the late months of 1914 has assisted me in analyzing 
reports, in verifying references, in correcting proofs, and 
especially in the preparation of the maps. But for his most 
capable and unwearying aid the book in its original form 
could not have been written. 

J. B. 

Elsfield Manor, Oxon, 



I. Prologue : At Serajevo 3 

II. The World on the Eve of War 7 

The Maladies of the Pre-war World — Modern Germany — 
The Emperor — German Statesmen — The Soldiers and 
Sailors — The Kings of Trade — Germany's Grandeur — The 
Motive of Fear — Austria-Hungary — France — Britain — 
The Events preceding the Cataclysm — Germany's Turn- 
ing of the Ways. 

III. The Breaking of the Barriers (June 28-August 4, 

1914) 51 

The Immediate Results of the Serajevo Murders — Ger- 
many's Council of War on 5th July — Austria's Ultimatum 
to Serbia — The Russian Mobilization — Germany's Pro- 
posal to Britain — The Work of Sir Edward Grey — Ger- 
many mobilizes — The Ultimatums to France and Bel- 
gium — The Invasion of Belgium — The British Cabinet — 
Britain declares War. 

IV. The Strength of the Combatants , . . .81 

The German Military System — Austria-Hungary — 
France — Russia — Britain — The British and German 
Navies — Economic Strength of the Belhgerents — The 
Strategic Position — The Rally of the British Empire. 

V. The First Shots (4th-i5th August) . . . .114 

The New Factors in War — The German Plan — The 
French Plan — The German Aufmarsch — The Defences of 
Belgium — The Attack on the Liege Forts — The French 
Move into Alsace. 

VI. The Battle joined in the West (i5th-24th August) 137 

The French Mobilization — Joffre — His Change of Plan — 
Failure of the Advance in Lorraine and the Southern 
Ardennes — The First Clash of the Main Armies — Fall of 
Namur — Battle of Charleroi — The British Expeditionary 
Force — Mons — The Retreat begins. 

YII. The Retreat from the French Frontiers (24th- 

August-4th September) 162 

Joffre's Revision of Policy — The Retirement of the 
French Armies — Kluck's Pursuit of the British — Battle of 
Le Cateau — Maunoury's New Army — End of the British 



VIII. The Eastern Theatre of War (5th August-ioth 

September) 180 

Russia's Strategic Position — Rennenkampf s Advance in 
East Prussia — Battle of Tannenberg — The Austrian Of- 
fensive — Battles of Lemberg and Rava Russka — Serbia's 
Stand — The Russian Proclamation to Poland. 

IX. The Week of Sedan (26th August-5th September) 197 

Comparison of Situation with 1870 — The Defence of 
Paris — Kluck changes Direction — His Justification — ^The 
Eve of the Marne — Joffre issues Orders for Battle. 

X. The First Battle of the Marne (5 th-i2th September) 211 

The German and Allied Dispositions — Maunoury moves 
— Advance of British and French Fifth Army — Kluck's 
Tactics — The Crisis of gth September— German Retreat 
ordered — Foch's Stand at Fere-Champenoise — The Fight 
of the French Fourth and Third Armies — Castelnau and 
Dubail in Lorraine — The Causes of Victory. 

XI. The Occupation of Belgium 235 

The Overrunning of Belgium — German Breaches of the 
Laws of War — The " Armed Dogma " — Belgium and her 

XII. The Beginning of the War at Sea (4th August- 

22nd September) 249 

Germany's Naval Policy — Sir John Jellicoe's Problem — 
The Transport of the Armies — Escape of the Goeben and 
the Breslau — Protection of the Trade Routes — Security 
of the British Coasts— The Battle of the Bight of Heli- 
goland — What Control of the Sea implies — The Sub- 
marine Menace — The German Commerce-raiders — The 
Declaration of London. 

XIII. The First Battle of the Aisne (12th September- 

3rd October) 269 

The German Retreat from the Marne — The Aisne Posi- 
tion — The Struggle for the Crossings — The Struggle for 
the Heights — Joffre extends his Left Wing — The Fight- 
ing on the Meuse — The Race to the Sea. 

XIV. The Fall of Antwerp (28th September-ioth 

October 289 

The Antwerp Defences — The Belgian Sortie — The Siege 
opens — Arrival of British Naval Division — Lord Kitch- 
ener's Plan — The Last Hours of the City. 

XV. The Political Situation in the First Months of War 305 

The Position of Parties in Britain — A Nation United but 
not yet Awake — The Situation in France — False Views 
about Russia — Germany — ^Turkey — Italy — The Smaller 
Peoples — The United States. 

XVI. The Beginning of the Flanders Campaign : The 
First Battle of Ypres (8th October-20th No- 
vember) 325 

The Terrain of West Flanders— The Allied Plan— The 
British Army comes into Line — The Fight of the 2nd and 
3rd Corps — The German Objective— The Battle of the 
Yser — The Defence of Arras — The First Battle of Ypres 
—Death of Lord Roberts— End oi the Old British 
Regular Army. 


XVII. Ebb and Flow in the East (7th September-24th 

December) 37^ 

Hindenburg on the Niemen — Battle of Augustovo — The 
Russian Advance on Cracow — Pohcy of the Galician 
Campaign — The First German Advance on Warsaw — 
The Defences of Cracow and the Fighting in the Car- 
pathian Passes — The Second Advance on Warsaw — The 
Battle of Lodz — The Battle of the Serbian Ridges. 

XVIII. The War in the Pacific and in Africa (loth 

August-8th December) 409 

Germany's Loss of her Pacific Colonies — Fall of Tsing- 
tau — Germany in Africa — Togoland — Beginning of the 
Cameroons Campaign — Skirmishing in German South- 
West Africa — Maritz's Revolt — The Situation in German 
East Africa — British Failure at Tanga — ^The South 
African Rebellion. 

XIX. The War at Sea : Coronel and the Falkland 

Islands (14th September-8th December) . 442 

Cradock and von Spec — Battle of Coronel — Sturdee leaves 
England with the Battle Cruisers — Battle of the Falkland 
Islands — Its Results. 



XX. The First Winter in the West . . . .455 

The Winter Stalemate — The " War of Attrition " — 
Nature of Trench Fighting — The French Soldier — The 
British Soldier. 

XXI. Raids and Blockades (November 2, 1914- 

March 31, 1915) 46S 

The Raid on Yarmouth — The Raids on Scarborough and 
the Hartlepools — Battle of the Dogger Bank — Britain's 
Action as to Contraband — Germany declares a Blockade 
of Britain — Britain closes the North Sea — The Blockade 
of Germany. 

XXII. Economics and Law 482 

The Main Economic Problems — British Measures — 
Strikes — Economic Position of France, Russia, and 
Germany — Problems of International Law — Rejection 
of Declaration of Paris — Mr. Balfour's Defence. 

XXIII. Turkey at War (October 29, 1914-February 8, 

1915) 499 

Turkey enters the War — The Turkish Army — The Persian 
Gulf — Britain occupies the Delta — The Campaign in 
Transcaucasia — The Battle of Sarikamish — Egypt — The 
Defeat of the Turkish Attack on the Suez Canal. 


XXIV. The Battles on the Russian Front in the 

Spring of 1915 (3rd January-22nd March) . 518 

The Year opens on the Eastern Front — German Attack 
on the Bzura and the Ravka — The Attack in East Prus- 
sia — Destruction of Russian Tenth Army — Battle of 
Przasnysz — The Fight for the Carpathian Passes — The 
Russians enter Przemysl. 

XXV. Neuve Chapelle (8th-i5th March) .... 540 

The Purpose of Neuve Chapelle — ^The Use of Artillery — 
The Battle — Its Consequences. 



Viscount Grey of Fallodon (Sir Edward Grey) Frontispiece 

Marshal Joseph- J ACotES-CESAiRE Joffre 138 

The Battlefield of Ypres : Winter 362 

From a painting by D. Y. Cameron, R.A. 

Sunset at Scapa Flow 442 

From a drawing by Muirhead Bone 

The British Household Brigade Passing to the Ypres 
Salient, Cassel 466 

From a painting by Sir William Orpen, R.A. 


r. Li^GE 

2. Namur 

3. The Western Theatre of War 

4. Operations in East Prussia (Aug.-Sept. 1914) 

5. Operations in Galicia (Aug.-Sept. 1914) 

6. The First Battle of the Marne . 

7. The Battle in the Bight of Heligoland — I. 

8. „ ,, „ — II. 

9. The First Battle of the Aisne 

10. Antwerp 

11. The Battle-ground of West Flanders (Oct.-Nov. 

12. The First Battle of Ypres 

13. Germany's Pacific Colonies 

14. Germany's African Colonies . 

15. The Battle of the Falkland Islands 
i6. General Map of the Turkish Empire . 

17. General Map of the Russian Front . 

18. Neuve Chapelle 







Whether history is better written by one who has been a 
participant, or at least a contemporary of the great actors 
in the drama he portrays, or by the careful disciple of histor- 
ical research working when time has lent distance and prej- 
udice no longer obscures the vision, must be decided by 
each student for himself. Much that can be said by the 
participator, of great events which he saw and of which he 
was a part, the personal bearing of individuals, the vivid 
impressions that come only to the eye-witness, the psy- 
chology of the times and peoples and the waves of patriotic 
emotion, may be missed by the scholar writing ever so 
carefully after the ultimate survivor has told his tale for the 
last time. Nor can the scholar find his facts if every writer 
with personal knowledge delays his record for time's per- 
spective and the cooling of passion. Some contemporary 
record must constitute the sources from which the future 
historian' must draw his materials. The generations between 
the events and the leisurely written study of the scholar are 
themselves entitled to some well presented statement of the 
history their fathers made. 

That some perspective is necessary is beyond doubt. 
The relation of events to one another, of cause to effect, is 
not at once evident. This is particularly true in a history 
of modern war. The horizon of any one man in a modern 
battle is very limited. Personal leadership by general 
officers no longer has a place on the field, and high com- 
manders cannot see wavering lines or the approach of 
assaulting columns. In the Great War, with the tremendous 
range of its guns and rifles, the length of its battle-lines, 
and the ossified character of its engagements between the 
First Marne and the great Allied Offensive of July, 191 8, 
even division commanders knew little of what happened 
except in their own contracted sectors. The effects of a 


success or reverse on a limited front as related to the whole 
plan they could not know. That a local reverse might yet 
contribute to a general success by containing the enemy at 
a vital point could not be known to the participants at the 
time. Such effects are known only by the commanders-in- 
chief and their confidential staffs. The flood of regimental 
and divisional histories is useful in recording the participa- 
tion of units as seen by themselves, and when checked 
against each other and against other records will constitute 
a valuable source for the future historian. The very con- 
troversies they arouse will serve in time to clear doubtful 

Those who believe that more reliable history is written 
some years after the occurrences point to the period in the 
eighties when the best accounts of our Civil War appeared, 
written by the leaders themselves, and there was an accord 
between historians which would have been impossible in the 
late sixties. Our Civil War chiefs were young men. In the 
recent struggle our country had perhaps half a dozen general 
officers under forty years of age; in the Civil War there 
were scarcely a greater number who were beyond that age. 
Grant, Meade, Thomas and Sherman were in the forties. 
Lee was past fifty. Sheridan was not thirty-five when the 
war ended ; Merritt, Custer, Miles, Wilson, Fitzhugh Lee, and 
Mackenzie were under thirty. Stuart and McPherson died 
at thirty-three. But Joffre, Foch, French, and the Grand 
Duke Nicholas were in the sixties when the Great War 
began, Cadorna was sixty-five, and Hindenburg was sev- 
enty. Petain, Haig, and Pershing were in the late fifties. 

It is important to the American participation in the 
Great War that such contemporaneous accounts as faith- 
fully recite its story be tagged, as it were, by those with 
first-hand knowledge, as reliable sources for the future 
historian. It is no secret that our principal Allies opposed 
the formation of an American Army as such, and pleaded with 
great pertinacity that our soldiers might be amalgamated 
in British and French units, and later, yielding little by 
little, that our battalions should be brigaded under French 


and British commanders. One of the accomplishments for 
which his country owes him most, is the firmness with which 
General Pershing successfully withstood this fallacious mil- 
itary insistence of our Allies, with no doubt some loss of 
popularity with their chiefs, and at no small risk to his own 
fortunes when he took issue with policies to which the great 
Allied Prime Ministers were committed. As late as Sep- 
tember, 1918, just after his success at St. Mihiel, Pershing 
had to resist pressure from General Foch to break up his 
American Army and disperse its divisions to various Allied 
commands. On November 5th, less than a week before the 
Armistice he was asked to distribute six of his victorious 
divisions among the French in Lorraine, though their 
replacement at an early date was promised him. A man 
less steadfast in his convictions and less capable of present- 
ing them in convincing form to his home government, would 
have been more acceptable to the venerable French Premier 
than Pershing, and stormy old Clemenceau behind a French 
Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, was the most 
powerful influence on the Allied side in the autumn of 1918. 
Marshal Foch, great soldier though he is, surrounded him- 
self with only a French staff, and unquestionably obeyed 
Clemenceau as a minister on whose pleasure his tenure of 
command depended. The policies of France, to say the 
least, never suffered by virtue of the chief Allied command 
being exercised by a Frenchman. A recent French writer, 
discussing the reasons why the Armistice was concluded at a 
time when many military men thought it premature, no 
doubt reflects in some measure French opinion of the time 
when he says that the Americans were coming to France at 
the rate of three hundred thousand per month, in such 
numbers "as to threaten the unity of command." Such 
facts may unconsciously color the official reports of the time, 
and they certainly point to the importance of keeping the 
record straight. 

Unhappily the personal statements of the great chiefs 
must be made soon, if at all. Certain ones for better or for 
worse have already been placed in the archives. Others 


will probably never be recorded. Lord Haig has sealed his 
papers to the British Museum for use after his death. The 
Germans von Hindenburg and von Ludendorff have writ- 
ten from the enemy side, but their accounts, however ac- 
curate, are in the nature of self-vindication. The Grand 
Duke Nicholas, an exile from his wretched country, will 
hardly write his memoirs and his activities were remote 
from the Western Front. Diaz and Badoglio will use a 
tongue to which our public is a stranger. Lord French, in 
his book 1914, deals only with the earlier events of the War, 
and in such manner as to throw doubt on the accuracy of 
his memory. Marshal Foch is understood to be compiling 
his notes, but Marshal Joffre in serene old age is probably 
content to trust to his reports of the time. Marshal Petain 
and our own General Pershing, now in their sixties, con- 
fident, apparently, in the expectation of long life, are devot- 
ing themselves to other activities. The lamented General 
James W. McAndrew, Chief of Staff of the American Ex- 
peditionary Forces during our major operations in France, 
died without committing his observations to writing. In 
the field of political relations between the Allied Govern- 
ments, which so powerfully influenced military events, the 
records are still largely confidential and not yet accessible 
to the historical student. With old age now weighing upon 
the great Clemenceau, with former President Wilson an 
invalid, and with Mr. Lloyd George still battling in the 
political arena with the lengthening shadows behind him, 
there seems little prospect that the stories of these men, so 
necessary to the comprehensive history of the Great War, 
will ever be told. 

This History of the Great War by John Buchan is one on 
which in my opinion the future historian, struggling with the 
mass of historical matter yet to be written, may rely. 
Trained at Glasgow University and at Oxford, the author 
was a Barrister of the Middle Temple as early as 1901. To 
his legal training and experience he added two years as 
Private Secretary to Lord Milner when the latter was High 
Commissioner in South Africa after the Boer War. As a 


newspaper correspondent on the Western Front in the early 
days of the War, and later as a Lieutenant-Colonel serving 
in the Intelligence Section of the General Staff of the British 
Expeditionary Forces in France, he had exceptional op- 
portunities for observation. His service as Director of 
Information for his government gave him equal opportunity 
to keep in touch with activities on all Allied fronts during 
the last two years of the War. Colonel Buchan has either 
read very widely from the standpoint of the military student 
or his generous acknowledgement, in his preface, of his 
indebtedness to his friends covers the counsel of some well- 
informed professional soldiers. The literary style of his 
work is charming, its movement and color are satisfying, 
and it is rich, even fascinating, in historical allusion and 

In the passing of the generations it has sometimes hap- 
pened that "a common soldier, a child, a girl at the door 
of an inn, have changed the face of fortune and almost 
of Nature" (Burke). That in the twentieth century the 
murder of a middle-aged mediocre prince inspecting in an 
obscure city of the Balkans, even though he were the heir to 
an empire, could mark one of the fateful moments of all 
history, and precipitate the greatest of wars, throws doubt 
on the pretensions of our age. The dramatic events of that 
June morning at Serajevo brought to a head the antagonism 
between Slav and Teuton, awoke the ambitions and the 
fears of every Power in Europe, and slowed down the prog- 
ress of civilization to a rate which cannot yet be calculated. 
The causes of the struggle into which the murder of the 
Austrian heir now plunged half the world had been sown 
and had fructified through many years. 

In a generally happy and comfortable world, in an age of 
philanthropy, of scientific development entwined with a 
commerce that encircled the globe, mankind had abandoned 
itself to the lure of luxury and a hectic hunt for wealth. 
The luxury of one class is usually developed at the expense 
of others, and the second decade of the twentieth century 
heard much of class-consciousness, of social democracy and 


the proletariat. The ambitions of these new forces, largely 
material, sought to master the world's wealth rather than to 
regenerate its spirit. Such aims, with the increased partic- 
ipation of their advocates in the governments of many 
lands, led to an intense and narrow nationalism, a patriotism 
of the pocket, the self-contained, self-satisfied, and jealous 
state. The nineteenth century had been an age of faith; 
the pre-war twentieth was sceptical of the gods of its pred- 
ecessor, while its own were new and strange and com- 
manded no serious homage. Opportunism reigned in 
politics and philosophy, and Truth was quoted in the 
markets at varying values. Creeds were in solution and 
the clear-cut dogmas of the previous century gave way to a 
waning intellectual vitality, content to be at once sceptical 
and credulous. 

"It was a world self-satisfied without contentment, a world 
in which material prosperity was no index to happiness. Man- 
kind was drifting into jealous cliques, while every day their 
economic bonds became more subtly interlinked; and since this 
situation could not endure, it was certain that some form of 
unity, false or true, would soon be inevitable. Such a unity 
might follow upon a new faith in the brotherhood of man, but, in 
the decadence of the great constructive ideals of politics and 
religion, it was hard to see how this faith would be born. Or it 
might come from the material reconstruction of life, of which the 
communists dreamed, when men would be brigaded not by 
nations but by classes, and an international proletariat would 
call the tune. Or lastly it might arise if a single power should 
establish a world-wide hegemony and impose its rule and culture 
upon the subservient peoples." 

This History is the record of the calamity which shattered 
the world's complacency; the mighty convulsion In which 
much that mankind had accepted as good has disappeared, 
and much for which millions died remains still unrealized 
and intangible. 

A characteristic of Colonel Buchan's work is its chivalric 
fairness even to the enemy, and the absence of that disa- 
greeable tone of wisdom shown by many commentators 


who write in the light of after events. His conceptions of 
the strategy of the various theatres of the war are sound. 
The pictures of the great leaders are presented with fidelity. 
The national characteristics and racial idiosyncracies of 
the various Allies are treated with tolerance and without 
visible bias. One cannot read without renewed apprecia- 
tion of the martyrdom of brave little Belgium which saved 
the honor of the British race by raising the moral issue which 
brought them into the war. And of France, — the gallant 
French, — whose officers had produced some of the best 
military literature of modern times, whose traditions were 
of the Grande Armee with its rapid and cumulative attacks, 
and who for over four years retained all their historic dash 
and elan, while facing national death with noble calm and 
shining fortitude, no History can say too much. The race 
was ready to perish on the battlefield sooner than accept 
German domination. Many would die, but of a surety 
France, in whose eternity they were but a moment, would 
survive. It is the fashion of the hour to permit the un- 
speakable horrors of Bolshevism to obscure the part which 
Imperial Russia took in the war. Russia entered the war 
with her military resources undeveloped, and suffered from 
lack of strategic policy. The empire lacked the machinery 
for a rapid expansion of munitions. Her railways were 
few and poorly distributed for war. In offensive warfare 
where time was of the essence of the problem her defects 
were obvious. Hypothetics is a bastard science which 
should be shunned by the historian, — but had the Dar- 
danelles Expedition had a different ending, giving Russia 
access to the Mediterranean through the Black Sea, the 
history of the world would have been changed. The turn of 
Fortune's wheel took Russia out of the war, but while in it 
her part was gallant and effective. She did not deserve 
that her flag should have had no place on the day of our 
great Allied march through the Arc de Triomphe on July 
14th, 1919. The entrance of Italy into the War was no 
matter of impulse. Her commercial interests were largely 
in German hands. She is a young country, largely de- 


pendent on foreign shipping for food, and without coal or 
iron. For over a quarter of a century the ally of the Central 
Powers, Italy was doubtless reluctant to take up arms 
against them. Her decision to make war followed careful cal- 
culation as to the probable outcome, and was preceded by 
much negotiation for territory as an inducement to take the 
side of the Central Powers. The London Pact of April 26, 
1915, between Italy, Great Britain, France, and Russia 
gave a higher price than the Teutonic League could offer, 
and was conditioned on Italy breaking with her former 
Allies within a month. Once in, Italy bore herself well. 

That Colonel Buchan describes the part played by 
Britain somewhat more in detail than that of her Allies is 
easily forgiven, certainly by those in whose veins flows 
English blood, and by all who, reading the history of the 
last eight centuries, can testify how well the British soldier 
knows how to die. One can well understand the pride with 
which an Englishman calls the roll of races and lands that 
responded to the martial drum-beat of Britain in 1914. To 
the great outpouring from her island homes, with scarcely 
a name missing from those great in her stormy history, her 
absent sons came rallying from many a tropic isle and 
distant strand. Our own gallant neighbor, Canada, with 
the men of the sweeping western plains; the Boers, Basutos, 
and Barotses, children of the African veldt; the brave 
Anzacs from Australia and New Zealand; black men from 
the West Indies; the proud old races of lands from Burma 
to beyond the Khyber Pass, reigning princes of families as 
ancient when Alexander invaded India as are the historic 
houses of Howard and Cecil to-day, all the great names of 
her Indian Empire from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin; 
Mongol and Aryan, Teuton and Celt; the followers of 
Christ, of Buddha, Mahomet, and Brahma and a thousand 
lesser faiths. No such pageant of the legions had ever 
before been mustered under the colors of a reigning sover- 

It is, of course, the portion of this History which deals 
with the American effort which will have the most intense 


interest for our public. Colonel Buchan presents a very 
discriminating and sympathetic analysis of the difficulties 
of America's position as a neutral. His statement of our 
political philosophy, with a keen sense of our inconsisten- 
cies, as well as his estimate of the great abilities and leader- 
ship of President Wilson, unable, sometimes, it seemed, to 
envisage a rough-and-tumble world where decisions were 
won by deed and not by phrases, can be read with profit by 
all Americans. The highest tribute is paid to the Presi- 
dent's statesmanship as revealed in his speeches of Febru- 
ary 26 and April 2, 191 7. The Message asking for a Dec- 
laration of War will rank among the greatest of America's 
famous state documents. Couched in terms of studious 
moderation and dignity, it stated not only the case of 
America against Germany, but of civilization against 
barbarism and popular government against tyranny. 

The American Expeditionary Forces, capable of expan- 
sion, if need be, to fifteen millions of soldiers, are thus 
introduced on the stage of this History: 

"The old American Army had been small, but its officers fol- 
lowed the life for the love of it, and were to a high degree profes- 
sional experts. For its size, the staff was probably equal to any 
in the world. Those who watched the first American soldiers 
on the continent of Europe — grave young men, with lean, 
shaven faces, a quick springy walk and a superb bodily fitness — 
found their memories returning to Gettysburg and the Wilder- 
ness, where the same stock had shown an endurance and heroism 
not surpassed in the history of mankind. And they were disposed 
to agree with the observer who remarked that it had taken a long 
time to get America into the war, but that it would take much 
longer to get her out." 

Thus our friends the Allies, while the German press was 
picturing daily anti-war demonstrations in New York, with 
weeping and desperate conscripts herded on board our 
transports by special police. Whatever the German 
General Staff thought, the press and politicians gave no 
sign that they realized the gravity of this addition to the 
Allied strength. "The financiers told the people that it 


was fortunate that America had entered the war, since she 
was the only Allied country from which a big indemnity 
could be extracted. The great American Army, said the 
press, could not swim or fly, therefore it would never arrive." 

How slowly the Americans seemed to arrive during that 
first year we were in the war, and how desperately their 
coming was longed for in the spring of 191 8, with the enemy 
thundering on the Somme and the Marne, can scarcely be 
appreciated by any one not in Europe during those anxious 
days. In March when General Pershing made his dramatic 
offer of all his resources to Foch, he had but four divisions 
under his command; by the end of May he had nearly a 
dozen ready for the front line, and others were crossing the 
Atlantic at the rate of more than a quarter of a million 
soldiers per month. Their preliminary training at home 
had been so expedited that by midsummer we were landing 
in France every five weeks as many troops as the annual 
compulsory recruitment of Germany. In March but three 
hundred thousand soldiers in France, the American armies 
by November numbered over two millions of men. On 
February ist the French held 520 kilometers of front, the 
British 187, and the Americans 10; November nth, the 
French held 343, the Americans 134, and the British 113 
kilometers, the total front varying by the retirement of the 
German lines. 

On May 28th an event happened which may have given 
the enemy food for thought. A regiment of the 1st Ameri- 
can Division, Major-General Bullard, took the village of 
Cantigny in the Montdidier section, and held it against 
three counter-attacks. It was something neatly and 
efficiently to carry out an offensive, but to consolidate and 
hold its gains was a happy omen for the future. In June 
the 2nd Division, Major-General Bundy, attacking at the 
southwest corner of the German salient, near Chateau 
Thierry, captured Bouresches, Vaux, and Belleau Wood, 
and the 3rd Division, under Major-General Dickman, act- 
ing with the French, took Hill 204, in the same neighbor- 
hood. By the middle of July there were 300,000 Americans 


in the line or in immediate support, serving under the 
French Generals Gouraud, Degoutte, and Mangin. When 
on the 15th the enemy passed the Marne, the 3rd Division, 
with elements of the 28th, checked and rolled them back, 
clearing part of the south bank and taking prisoners. 

The time had now come for the counter-stroke after 
which the enemy never gained ground forward. The Allied 
Commander-in-Chief struck the apex and side of the salient 
which had been made when the enemy broke through be- 
tween Rheims and Soissons on May 28th, and which he was 
still desperately endeavoring to widen. Mangin's Army 
which was to conduct the main operation, was on the west- 
ern side of the salient; Degoutte's in front of its apex on 
the Marne. Mangin's striking force consisted of the 1st 
American Division, Major-General Summerall, the ist 
French Moroccan Division, General Dogan, and the 2nd 
American Division, Major-General Harbord. It was the 
first time American Divisions had been used as such in a 
major operation, and they were proud to attack by the side 
of the best shock troops of France. The three attacking 
divisions were assembled in the great forest of Villers- 
Cotterets on the 17th, and on the morning of the i8th, 
after a night of thunderstorms and furious rain and wind, 
went over the top. The combined attack of Degoutte and 
Mangin extended for thirty-five miles, from Belleau Wood 
near Chateau Thierry to Fontenoy on the Aisne. Many 
thousand prisoners and much artillery were captured by 
Mangin's attack, and the 2nd American Division made an 
advance of nearly eight miles — the longest advance as 
yet made in a single day by the Allies in the West. The 
German salient was narrowed and its western flank crum- 
bled. Foch had wrested the initiative from the enemy and 
the Allies never again lost it. " Moments of high crisis 
slip past unnoticed; it is only the historian in later years 
who can point to a half-hour in a crowded day and say 
that then was decided the fate of a cause or a people. . . . 
When the Allies breasted the Montagne de Paris and the 
Vierzey plateau on that July morning, they had, without 


knowing it, won the Second Battle of the Marne, and with 
it the War. Four months earher Ludendorff had stood as 
the apparent dictator of Europe; four months later he and 
his master were in exile." 

The temptation to linger on the brave days of action that 
came between July and November, 1918, is a ver^^ strong 
one to an American soldier. Events moved swiftly all 
along the Western Front, and the Americans were by 
September fighting under their own Commander-in-Chief. 
It was the month of St. Mihiel, and General Pershing, 
collecting his far-flung divisions into the First American 
Army, half a million strong, to which were added some 
seventy thousand French troops, destroyed the salient 
which had been held by the Germans since 19 14. The 
battle lasted three days, and at its close the heights of the 
Meuse were cleared of the enemy and the Allied line ran 
from the Meurthe below Pont-a-Mousson roughly north- 
west past Thiaucourt, St. Benoit, and Fresnes to the old 
Verdun front at Bezonvaux. Sixteen thousand prisoners 
were taken and over 400 guns, with a mass of every kind 
of stores. It was an achievement of the utmost significance. 
It proved, if proof were needed, the quality of American 
troops organized in the largest units and under their own 
commanders. Strategically it vastly assisted the Allied 
communications, and restored in that area the power of 
attack at any moment and in any direction. No enemy 
salient remained as an advance guard in the West. 

With hardly a pause after St. Mihiel, Pershing's First 
Army extended to the west into the Argonne forest, a 
desperate country where little impression had been made 
on the enemy's defense since the first months of the war. 
He was to strike down the Meuse in the direction of Me- 
zieres. It was the most naturally difficult terrain on the 
Western Front; the measure of its difficulties was the 
measure of the honor in which Foch held the fighting quality 
of his Allies from beyond the sea. In the chill foggy dawn 
of September 26th, the Americans and the French army of 
Gouraud on their left crossed their parapets on a front of 


forty miles. Gouraud's was the containing attack and the 
Americans were the spear-head. For forty-six days, where 
our Wilderness had lasted but seven, the great battle which 
we call the Meuse-Argonne added luster to the American 
arms. Its splendid story is told in the citations of the time 
and on the streamers to the regimental colors in many a gal- 
lant American Division. Malancourt, Epiononville, Cheppy, 
Varennes, Montfaucon, Somme-py, Blanc Mont, Apremont, 
Grand Pr6, Landres-St. George, Bois de Barricourt, Bu- 
zancy, Mezieres, and, shall we say, Sedan, are names en- 
shrined for all time in the traditions of the American Army ! 

And then the Armistice and the march to the Rhine ! By 
the middle of December the tricolor guarded the mouth of 
the Main, the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew flaunted 
over the ancient cathedral city of Cologne, and the stars 
and stripes flew above Coblenz, where the Moselle joins the 
Rhine, and on the silent fortress of Ehrenbreitstein ! 

Colonel Buchan well says: 

" It would be a task both futile and invidious to discuss the 
relative contributions of the different Allies to this achievement. 
All had in it a full and noble share. . . . America, entering late into 
the strife, made ready great armies at a speed unparalleled in 
history, and brought about victory before the wreckage of the 
world was beyond repair. . . . 

"The gains and losses are not yet to be assessed, but there is 
ground for humble confidence that that sowing in unimaginable 
sacrifice and pain will yet quicken and bear fruit to the better- 
ing of the world. The war was a vindication of the essential 
greatness of our common nature, for victory was won less by 
genius in the few than by faithfulness in the many. Every class 
had its share, and the plain man born in these latter days of 
doubt and divided purpose marched to heights of the heroic un- 
surpassed in simpler ages. In this revelation democracy found its 
final justification, and civilization its truest hope. Mankind may 
console itself in its hour of depression and failure, and steel itself 
to new labours, with the knowledge that once it has been great." 

J. G. Harbord 
Major-General, U.S. Army 
Coblenz, Germany 
July 28, 1922 





prologue: at serajevo. 

June 28, 1914. 

ON the morning of Sunday, 28th June, in the year 1914, the 
Bosnian city of Serajevo was astir with the expectation of 
a royal visit. The Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the 
Hapsburg throne and the nephew of the Emperor, had been for 
the past days attending the manoeuvres of the 15th and i6th Army 
Corps, and had suddenly announced his intention of inspecting the 
troops in the capital. He had embarked at Trieste on the Wednes- 
day, in the new battleship Viribus Unitis, and had been joined 
at Ilidje by his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, whose position was 
a source of perpetual strife between himself and his uncle's Court. 
It was a military occasion ; the civic authorities were given short 
notice, and had little time to organize a reception ; and the royal 
party were met at the station only by Count Potiorek, the Governor 
of Bosnia, and his staff. The visitors drove in motor cars through 
the uneven streets of the little city, which, with its circle of barren 
hills and its mosques and minarets, reminds the traveller of Asia 
rather than of Europe. There was a great crowd in the streets — 
Catholic Croats, with whom the Archduke was not unpopular ; 
Orthodox and Mussulman Serbs, who looked askance at all things 
Austrian ; and those strange, wildly clad gipsies that throng every 
Balkan town. But the crowd was not there to greet the Emperor's 
nephew. It was the day of Kossovo, the anniversary of that fatal 
fight when the Sultan Murad I. destroyed the old Serbian kingdom. 
For five centuries it had been kept as a day of mourning, but this 
year for the first time it was celebrated in Serbia as a national fete, 
since the Balkan War had restored the losses of the Field of Black- 


birds. Belgrade kept high hoHday, and the people of the Bosnian 
capital followed the example of their kinsmen beyond the Save 
and the Drina. 

The Southern Slav provinces of Austria-Hungary had been the 
centre of disquiet and of misgovernment ever since the year 1867, 
when the " duahst " system was adopted. In that year the race 
was divided, part going to Austria and part to Hungary ; and in 
1878 a third Slav group was added, when the Hapsburgs acquired 
the miUtary and administrative control of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 
Slowly a common race-consciousness was developed among the 
three groups, and when Serbia passed under the rule of the popular 
Karageorgevitch dynasty, that little kingdom became to the mal- 
content Slavs of Austria-Hungary what the Piedmont of Cavour 
had been to Italy. The peasants and the educated classes every- 
where in the land of the Southern Slavs began to cherish dreams 
of racial unity and independence. The annexation of Bosnia- 
Herzegovina in 1908 by the Hapsburgs increased the discontent, 
and the Government at Budapest entered upon a policy of repression, 
in which, as in the infamous Agram trials, forgery and perjury were 
not infrequent. The result was many crimes of violence against 
alien officials, and a drawing closer of the bonds between the 
Southern Slavs of Austria-Hungary and their kinsmen of Serbia. 
A vigorous propaganda began through public and secret channels, 
and the achievement of Serbia in the Balkan War turned the eyes 
of the oppressed towards her as their future deliverer. The common 
celebration of Kossovo Day was a pledge of an hour of deliverance 
to come. It was an inopportune occasion for the Hapsburg heir 
to visit Serajevo. 

The Archduke Francis Ferdinand was a man in middle life, 
a lonely and saddened figure oppressed by the imminence of a fatal 
disease. In most respects he was a typical Austrian conservative, 
but as compared with the majority of his countrymen he had some^ 
thing of the larger vision in statesmanship. He saw that Austria- 
Hungary was succeeding ill in the government of her strangely 
varied races, more especially the six and a half millions of Southern 
Slavs. He had watched with anxiety the rise of Serbia, and the 
position she was assuming in the eyes of his own Croats and Serbs 
and Slovenes as their future emancipator. As a member of the 
House of Hapsburg he sought to counter the Greater Serbian 
ideal with that of a Greater Austria. He dreamed of a Balkan 
Federation, which should include Rumania, under Austro-German 
auspices, and early in June he had discussed the matter with the 

1914] SERAJEVO. 5 

German Emperor among the rose-gardens of Konopischt, and 
obtained his assent. In his own country his pohcy was the destruc- 
tion of the " duahst " system and the estabhshment in its place of 
a " triahsm," under which the Slav element should be equal in 
power to the Austrian and the Hungarian, and the different races 
should have a real local autonomy and find union in a Federal 
ParUament. For this reason, and also for the sake of his wife who 
was of Slavonic blood, he was not disliked in the Southern prov- 
inces. In Austria he was little loved. His cold manner repelled 
the ordinary citizen, and the military party at Vienna had set 
their faces hke flint against his " triune " poHcy, though they 
worked harmoniously with him in reorganizing the army and the 
fleet. In Hungary the Magyar oligarchy, led by Count Stephen 
Tisza, were his avowed enemies, for their power depended upon 
the suppression of the subject races. In their eyes the existing 
regime must be preserved at any cost, and they had long frankly 
avowed that their attitude meant war. Sooner or later — and 
better soon than late — Serbia must be crushed, and with her the 
Pan-Serbian dream. The Archduke was therefore a voice in the 
wilderness, and his deadliest foes were those of his own household. 
His ideals provided at least a chance of peace, while those of his 
opponents contemplated at some early day the abandonment of 
the arts of statesmanship for the sword. 

The royal party proceeded slowly towards the Town Hall. 
Motoring in Serajevo is a leisurely business, and there was a great 
crowd along the Appel Quay. Just before they reached the Chu- 
muria Bridge over the Miliatzka a black package fell on the open 
hood of the Archduke's car. He pushed it off, and it exploded 
in front of the second car, sHghtly wounding two of his suite and 
six or seven spectators. The would-be assassin was arrested. 
He was a compositor called Gabrinovitch, from Trebinje in Herze- 
govina, who had lived some time in Belgrade. " The fellow will 
get the Cross of Merit for this," was the reported remark of the 
Archduke. He knew his real enemies, and was aware that to 
powerful circles in Vienna and Budapest the news of his death 
would not be unwelcome. 

Arrived at the Town Hall, the Archduke was presented by 
Count Potiorek to the Burgomaster. He was in something of a 
temper. " What is the use of your speeches ? " he asked. " I 
come here to pay you a visit, and I am greeted with bombs." 
The embarrassed city dignitaries read the address of welcome, and 
the Archduke made a formal reply. He then proposed to drive 


to the hospital to visit his wounded aide-de-camp. Some small 
attempt was made to dissuade him, for in the narrow streets among 
the motley population no proper guard could be kept. But Count 
Potiorek was reassuring. He knew his Bosnians, he said, and 
they rarely attempted two murders in one day. The party set 
out accordingly, the Archduke and his wife in the same car with 
the Governor. 

About ten minutes to eleven, as they moved slowly along 
the Appel Quay, in the narrow part where it is joined by the Franz- 
Josefsgasse a young man pushed forward from the crowd on the 
side-walk and fired three pistol shots into the royal car. He was 
a Bosnian student called Prinzip, a friend of Gabrinovitch, who 
like him had been living in Belgrade. The Archduke was hit in 
the jugular vein, and died almost at once. His wife received a 
bullet in her side, and expired a few minutes later in the Govern- 
ment House, after receiving the last sacraments. 

The tumult of the fete-day was suddenly hushed. The police 
were busy in every street, laying hands on suspects, and in an 
impassioned proclamation to the awed and silent city the Burgo- 
master laid the crime at Serbia's door. 



The Maladies of the Pre-war World — Modern Germany — ^The Emperor — German 
Statesmen — The Soldiers and Sailors — The Kings of Trade — Germany's Gran- 
deur — The Motive of Fear — Austria-Hungary — France — Britain — ^The Events 
preceding the Cataclysm — Germany's Turning of the Ways. 

Great events spring only from great causes, but the immediate 
occasion may be small. From the flight of Helen and Paris down 
to the Ems telegram there has commonly been some single incident 
which has acted as the explosive charge to the waiting magazine 
of strife. The throwing of two envoys out of a window pre- 
cipitated the Thirty Years' War ; a sentence spoken from a 
balcony at Versailles began the War of the Spanish Succession ; 
an escapade of hot-blooded youth inaugurated the revolution from 
which sprung the United States. " A common soldier, a child, 
a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune and 
almost of Nature." * The events of that June morning at Serajevo 
were dramatic enough in themselves, but in their sequel they must 
rank among the fateful moments of history. They brought to a 
head the secular antagonism between Slav and Teuton, and awoke 
the dormant ambitions and fears of every Power in Europe. It 
is necessary, for a proper understanding of the issue, to review the 
condition of the chief nations at the time when the crime of a 
printers' devil and a schoolboy stripped off the diplomatic covering 
and laid bare the iron facts to the eyes of the world. 


In our quest for understanding we must go behind the incidents 

of poUtics, which are no more than indices of more secret and potent 

causes. The world in 1914 was nearly half through the second 

decade of the twentieth century, and the preceding age had come 

* Burke : Letters on a Regicide Peace, 



to be lightly esteemed. Its great battles for freedom had been 
fought long ago, and the Victorians had lost their glamour. The 
nineteenth century had begun as an era of hope, and had ended as 
an epoch of confidence ; but in 1914 the hope seemed a lack-lustre 
thing and the confidence premature. Most of its famous creeds, 
once so cogent in their appeal — Comtism, utilitarianism, the de- 
corous hberaHsm of Gladstone, the mystic nationalism of Mazzini, 
the behef in the mastery of man over nature, Darwinism with its 
infinite corollaries, the dreams of empire-builders, the evolutionary 
socialism of the nineties — were shaken in the esteem of man- 
kind. They had either lost their votaries, since they were now 
disconsidered commonplaces, or the spirit of dialectic was question- 
ing their authority. The nineteenth century had been after its 
fashion an age of faith ; the twentieth was sceptical of its prede- 
cessor's gods, and had not yet found those of its own which could 
awake the same serious fervour. The criticism which the Victorians 
had applied to earlier codes of belief was now turned relentlessly 
against their own dogmas. The popular creed both in politics 
and philosophy was opportunist ; the large reconstructions of 
earher thinkers were out of favour ; and Truth was fashionably 
stated in terms of " experiential cash value." Such a mood meant 
tolerance and a certain generosity of sympathy. The iconoclasts 
of the nineteenth century had too intense a rehgious interest to 
tolerate that which they thought to be false ; the twentieth century, 
hesitating before any convictions, was chary of dogmatism or blunt 
denial. The Victorian street-corner atheist now tended to be a 
respectful, if lukewarm, patron of many gods. 

But the new century was still the child of the old. The great 
discoveries of physical science had borne fruit in a wide diffusion 
of wealth and the confidence which prosperity brings. The world 
on the eve of war felt itself secure and comfortable, and was 
inclined to revere its own handiwork. What the Italian historian 
labelled " Americanism " * had become a very general malady. 
There was everywhere on the globe a feverish hunt for wealth and 
a craze for luxury. The huge scientific and social machine which 
the world had created seemed to be beyond the reach of danger, 
and mechanism insensibly ruled the minds of many who thought 
they held a different creed. That manly humility which the 
language of theology calls the " fear of God " was not common 
in the second decade of the twentieth century. If men were shy 
in the face of dogma, they were confident about facts. The assur- 
• Feirero : Ancient Rome and Modern America. 


ance of their fathers had been a higher thing, for it was a belief in 
the existence of an ideal ; that of the sons came perilously near 
to self-satisfaction. 

The increase of luxury meant suffering among the less fortunate, 
and the parade of the rich involved the discontent of the poor. 
The world was in the main good-humoured, being comfortable ; 
and there was much good-will abroad, and many enterprises of 
philanthropic experiment. But throughout Europe there was 
fierce antagonism among the dispossessed towards those in posses- 
sion, and a growing class-consciousness in what was known as the 
" proletariat." The " social democracy " aimed at a revolution 
and a new world, and, following the example of its opponents, its 
aims were essentially material. It sought to master the world's 
wealth rather than to regenerate the world's spirit. This aim, 
combined with the large powers which the people had won in the 
government of most lands, led to an intense nationalism in practice. 
The workers of one country, controlling the administration of that 
country, were prepared to set up any barrier that would secure 
the wealth which they sought to share from being pilfered by 
foreigners. The consequence was that, while men were little dis- 
posed to contend for ideals, they were very willing to struggle for 
material good things. The old romantic nationalism seemed to 
have decayed, and in its place had come a new nationalism of the 
pocket. The world, and most notably Europe, had moved towards 
both materialism and the self-contained and jealous state. The 
Catholic Church, which maintained the spiritual interpretation of 
life and the brotherhood of peoples, had lost much of its power 
over both the learned and the unlearned, and could not counteract 
the forces of disunion. At a time when science and commerce 
had interwoven as never before the life of all humanity, the nations 
were beginning to draw in their skirts and regard each other with 
jealous eyes ; nor to the observer did there appear in any quarter 
an ideal potent enough to restore the unity of Christendom and 
that vision without which the people perish. 

The decline of dogma and assured belief was accompanied by 
a curious development in thought which may be described as 
the cult of " irrationalism." This was less a creed than a very 
general attitude of mind. The scepticism of the nineteenth century, 
which led to strong anti-orthodox faiths, was replaced by a failure 
of intellectual vitality which was content to be at once sceptical 
and credulous. Instinct was glorified at the expense of the reason. 
The phrase of the Church father, which was Newman's favourite 


quotation, had become a watchword even for serious minds : 
" Non in dialedica placuit Deo salvum facer e populum suum." In 
rehgion, in politics, in social science there was everywhere found a 
tendency to exalt emotion and to appeal to the heart rather than 
the head. That a scheme was logically indefensible was no bar 
to its acceptance, and the attempt to think out a policy to its 
conclusions was branded as the mark of a pedantic and illiberal 
mind. When creeds were thus in solution, and there were few bound- 
aries left fixed, the way was opened to those vague and potent 
eruptions of the human spirit which, like the inroads of the Bar- 
barians on the Roman Empire, make a sharp breach with the past, 
and destroy what they could not have created. 

It was a world self-satisfied without contentment, a world in 
which material prosperity was no index to happiness. Mankind 
was drifting into jealous cliques, while every day their economic 
bonds became more subtly interlinked ; and, since this situation 
could not endure, it was certain that some form of unity, false or 
true, would soon be inevitable. Such a unity might follow upon 
a new faith in the brotherhood of man, but, in the decadence of 
the great constructive ideals of politics and religion, it was hard 
to see how this faith could be born. Or it might come from the 
materialist reconstruction of life, of which communists dreamed, 
when men would be universally brigaded not by nations but by 
classes, and an international proletariat would call the tune. Or, 
lastly, it might arise if a single Power should establish a world- 
wide hegemony and impose its rule and its culture upon the sub- 
servient peoples. 

This book is the record of a calamity which shattered the world's 
complacency and enabled men to look into their hearts. From the 
malaise I have described no nation was free, but it was fated that 
one strong Power should exhibit it in so monstrous a form that 
humanity shuddered and drew back from conclusions which all 
peoples had toyed with but only one had dared to accept. Our 
first step must be to examine the mood and condition of the pro- 
tagonists on the eve of the struggle, the causes of which had been 
sown and had fructified through many years. The position of 
other nations will be discussed as they enter the arena ; for the 
present we will deal with the three main antagonists — the Empire 
of Germany, the Commonwealth of Britain, and the Republic of 



The history of the land between the Baltic and the Alps, 
the Rhine and the Oder, was for more than a thousand years one of 
confusion, separation, and incessant strife. The palsied hand of 
the Holy Roman Empire gave neither unity nor peace. Again 
and again Germany was left almost a desert by war, as when after 
the Treaty of Westphaha in 1648 fields relapsed into jungles, 
wolves were the only living thing in vast regions, and the population 
shrank from twenty millions to four. In the wars of Frederick the 
Great, likewise, one tenth of the people perished. From this long, 
bitter record the German race learned two lessons — the misery of 
military weakness, and the folly of disunion. They found the leader 
who was to extricate them from their quagmire in the northern state 
of Prussia, and when five centuries ago Frederick of Hohenzollern, 
the Burgrave of Nuremberg, was given the vice-royalty of the 
Mark of Brandenburg by the Emperor Sigismund, the foundations 
of modem Germany were laid. The majority of the kings of 
that house were trivial folk, but one or two were politically great, 
and they established a tradition which accorded well with the nature 
of the dwellers on the bleak Baltic seaboard and the harsh Pome- 
ranian soil. By violence and subtlety they extended their borders 
in each century and enlarged their importance. In 1701 the 
Elector of Brandenburg became King of Prussia ; Frederick the 
Great added Silesia and parts of Poland ; it was a queen of the 
Hohenzollern house who inspired the resistance to Napoleon which 
made possible Leipzig and Waterloo ; and at long last it was a 
Hohenzollern king who made Germany an Empire. Prussia was 
the new Germany, and to the ordinary man Prussia seemed a 
Hohenzollern creation. The prestige of a dynasty, a dying thing 
in the modem world, was therefore a living reality for the Germans, 

That race, as their neighbours saw them, was divided into the 
bom-to-be-drilled and the natural drill-masters. The ordinary 
Teuton of the south and centre was industrious, dreamy, and 
obedient, the docile prey of the drill-sergeant of Brandenburg ; 
though, let it be remembered, it was this Germany from which 
sprang the great Germans, for Prussia has scarcely produced one 
man of first-rate genius save Bismarck. The Prussians were in 
most respects the precise opposite. Narrow, one-ideaed, unimagin- 
ative, they had the genius of bureaucracy, and did everything by 
rule and plan. That is to say, they were the best machine-makers 


in the world, and after 1870 their machine was all Germany, Not 
the army and navy alone, but German commerce, German educa- 
tion, German literature — the trail of the drill-master was over 
them all. The Prussian outside Prussia was not popular, but we 
shall be wrong if we regard the general submission to him as the 
result only of an inborn servility of soul. In the fibre of every 
German was an hereditary memory of the old bad days of weak 
statelets and endless wars. He was instinctively prepared to 
undergo any discipline for the sake of peace. He would accept 
union not for the love of Prussia but because it promised security ; 
he would submit to be drilled not from any militarist hankerings, 
but because it gave him strength. For one man who welcomed a 
military autocracy for its own sake, a hundred accepted it as a 
guarantee against war. They revered the Hohenzollerns because 
that dynasty seemed to have lifted their world out of anarchy into 

The German Empire was a creation of the victories of 1870, 
and in the last resort of Bismarck. It was a confederation not 
wholly homogeneous, for it included unwilling elements in the 
people of Posen, Schleswig, and Alsace-Lorraine ; but in the main 
it was a union of the German race, as revealed in history, with 
the exception of the twelve millions left under the rule of the Haps- 
burgs. The greatness of Bismarck as a man is beyond the reach of 
criticism. The destruction of his life's work cannot remove him 
from the select group of shaping and controlling minds which have 
determined the future of nations and of the world. For power of 
intellect and character he belongs to that class, strangely varied 
in spirit and achievement, which includes Caesar and Charlemagne, 
Frederick and Napoleon, Washington and Lincoln and Cavour. 
He did not act blindly. He weighed the ideals of Western democ- 
racy and found them wanting. He set himself deliberately to 
oppose what were regarded as the characteristic movements of 
his age, but he did not distinguish between transient fashion and 
eternal verity. He forgot the truth that though you may set 
back the hands of the clock you cannot alter the rising and setting 
of the sun. He led the way in that fatal habit of abstraction by 
which politics are made a rigid science excluding the better part 
of human life. But he was a very great statesman, and not wont to 
allow any dogma to obscure his insight into the heart of a situation. 
He did not pin his faith to formulas. Readers of his memoirs and 
conversations will remember that his acute, far-reaching mind saw 
the weakness in that school of thought which is popularly called Bis- 


marckian. " We must direct our policy in accordance with facts," 
he said in 1891 — " that is, we must do our best to prevent war or 
to Hmit it." " In the future," he wrote in his Memoirs, " not only 
sufficient military equipment, but also a correct political eye will 
be required to guide the German ship of state through the currents 
of coalition, to which in consequence of our geographical position 
and our previous history we are exposed. We ought to do all we 
can to weaken the bad feeling among the nations, which has been 
evoked by our advance to the position of a Great Power, by the 
honourable and peaceful use of our influence. ... In order to 
produce this confidence it is, above everything, necessary that we 
should act honourably and openly." That is not Bismarckianism, as 
it is commonly understood. But, like many great men, he suffered 
from his epigrams. The unhappy phrase, spoken on September 29, 
1862, in the Prussian Diet — " The great question of the day will be 
settled not by speeches and resolutions of majorities, but by blood 
and iron " — rang maleficently in the ears of his people. His 
disciples pinned their faith to blood and iron, and forgot the pru- 
dence which the Chancellor had presupposed. Had he been in 
power in 1914 we may be assured that he would have selected for 
Germany a very different part from that which she chose to play. 
Yet we shall not be wrong in seeing in modern German policy a 
direct inheritance from Bismarck. The spirit which inspired his 
main achievements was the spirit of Germany in 1914. His 
aberrations rather than his wisdom became, as often happens, the 
gospel of his successors. He had bequeathed an over-sharp sword, 
which, when wielded by clumsier men, was certain to cut their 
hands. His giant's robe was too heavy for pigmy wearers ; its 
magnificence inflamed their pride, its amplitude caused them to 
stumble, and in the end it shrank to a shirt of Nessus which drove 
them mad. 

The system of government which Bismarck prepared for 
Germany may be compared with the First Napoleon's reconstruc- 
tion of France, inasmuch as it embraced every side of the national 
hfe. The constitution was absolutist in effect, with a parody 
of certain democratic forms. Election for the Lower House, the 
Reichstag, was by manhood suffrage, every man above twenty-five 
having a vote ; but since there had been no redivision of electoral 
areas since 1872, the increase and shifting of population had made 
the representation grossly unequal. The powers of the Reichstag 
were small, being limited to voting upon the Budget and upon 
legislation for the Empire as a whole, which legislation was first 


framed by the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat or Upper House was 
composed of representatives of the twenty-five component States, 
nominated and not elected ; and of such representatives Prussia 
had seventeen, thereby possessing a permanent majority. The 
Imperial Government was neither representative nor responsible. 
At its head was the Imperial Chancellor, appointed by the Emperor, 
and the other Ministers were appointed by the Chancellor. The 
Reichstag could question Ministers, and for the purposes of the 
Budget it was desirable that the Chancellor should have a majority 
of its members behind him, but beyond that its control ceased. 
Through the medium of the Chancellor all final authority came into 
the Emperor's hands. He was in supreme command of the Army 
and the Navy and dictated their organization ; he was the supreme 
director of foreign affairs ; he sanctioned all new laws ; he was 
responsible for the appointment of every Imperial functionary. 
So far as any deliberative body had real authority, it was the 
Bundesrat — which was Prussia — which was in turn the Emperor ; 
and owing to the antiquated electoral system and the far-reaching 
powers of the executive it was not difficult to find a coalition 
inside the Reichstag which would work smoothly under the Imperial 

* The true nature of a constitution is not to be sought in its legal 
forms, but in the spirit in which it is worked and the nature of the 
men who govern. The temperament of the rulers of Germany 
was the decisive fact. First among them stood the Emperor. 
" The generality of princes," Gibbon wrote, " if they were stripped 
of their purple and cast naked into the world, would immediately 
sink to the lowest rank of society, without a hope of emerging 
from their obscurity." * This harsh saying was not true of William 
II. : in whatever class he had been born he would have been a 
figure of note. It was his misfortune that destiny had placed 
him in a position where his faults were too readily hailed as virtues 
and his virtues were encouraged to degenerate into vices. He came 
to the throne at a difficult moment, an eager, curious youth, with 
a weak, nervous system and a restless energy, profoundly impressed 
by the greatness of his place and full of incoherent and undisci- 
plined ambitions. Such a temperament is fatal to a constitutional 
monarchy, but it may suit moderately well with autocracy, and an 
autocrat William was from the start. Bismarck read him shrewdly. 
" I pity the young man," he said in May i8go. " He is like a 
young hound ; he barks at everything, he touches everything, 

* Decline and, Fall of the Roman Empire, chap, xxiii. 


and he ends by causing complete disorder in the room in which 
he is, no matter how large it may be." That same year the Em- 
peror " dropped the pilot " and became his own adviser, for his 
youth and the crabbed age of the great Chancellor could not live 

The new autocrat was a type of monarch to dazzle the populace 
in his own and other lands. He had great charm of manner 
and knew how to condescend gracefully to all classes of men. 
In his multitudinous uniforms he made a fine spectacular 
figure, and this dignity increased the effect of his frequent 
condescensions. He had much facile kindness of heart, and on 
occasion he had even a sense of humour. His abounding and 
half-neurotic vitality made him amenable to new ideas, his 
ready emotionalism made him translate these ideas into popular 
rhetoric, and the self-confidence which grew with every year of 
his reign convinced him of the profundity of each of his fleeting 
views. He took all knowledge for his province, and suffered the 
fate of such adventurers, for his excursions in scholarship, art, 
theology, and metaphysics produced amusement rather than edifi- 
cation. His mind was incapable of real originality or sustained 
and serious thought ; it was the mind of the journalist or the 
actor, and therefore susceptible to every wave of feeling, to every 
fragment of an idea, that might pass through the brain of the 
people which he ruled. He became the barometer of German 
opinion; he did not direct it, but he registered and was directed 
by it. This susceptibility made him a lover of theatrical parts, 
most of which he played moderately well. They were wrong who 
accused him of insincerity. He was sincere enough while the mood 
lasted ; the trouble was that it was only a mood and did not last 
long. The conception of William II. as an iron-hearted Borgia 
preparing ruthlessly for conquest was as far from the truth as 
that picture of him as a mild angel of peace which was at one time 
foisted upon the world. 

If we look deeper into his mind we shall find a strange compost 
of tastes and aptitudes. He had an acute, if perverted, sense 
of history, and his soul was hag-ridden by his forerunners. From 
the contemplation of the legends of the German races and the 
empire of Otto and Barbarossa he acquired a kind of mystic medias- 
valism. He was the heir of the old Caesars, and he would revive 
the Holy Roman Empire with a Lutheran creed. As early as 
i8go he told the world : " I look upon the people and the nation 
handed on to me as a responsibility conferred upon me by God, 


and I believe, as it is written in the Bible, that it is my duty to 
increase this heritage, for which one day I shall be called upon to 
give an account. Those who try to interfere with my task I shall 
crush." The doctrine of Divine Right had had a new birth, and 
its exponent filled in turn all the parts which his reading of history 
dictated — the heir of Siegfried, the successor of Charlemagne, 
the Crusader who prayed at the Holy Sepulchre, the prophet 
who wore Luther's mantle, the wielder of the sword of Frederick 
the Great. The Imperial mind was like the Siegesallee in the 
Berlin Thiergarten — filled with flamboyant effigies of the illus- 
trious dead. But there was another side to him, for he was also 
the man of his age, a leader in commercial propaganda, very 
sensible of the power of money, and zealous to make his country 
wealthy as well as great. He cultivated the society of the new- 
rich, and the aristocracy which he created was largely a plutoc- 
racy. He laboured to prove that he was not only the vicegerent 
of God and the successor of Barbarossa, but the first of the world's 
bagmen. Mars commis-voyageur — the cruel French phrase is the 
best epitome of the role he had chosen. 

With all his faults he was a ruler admirably suited to the Ger- 
many of his day. His passion for the top-note, his garish person- 
ality, his splendid vitality, his amazing speeches, were in tune 
with the grandiose temper of his people. He was popular as a 
man must always be who puts into words what a nation desires 
to think. He was reverenced by masses of men because his pre- 
tensions seemed to swell their own greatness. His vulgarity did 
not offend, because it was the vulgarity of modern Germany. 
Moreover, his untiring energy was commercially invaluable, for 
an autocrat in a hurry is the most efficient of hustlers. Had 
he been only a figure-head, his quick shallow intelligence would 
have been no danger to the world, for its inconstancy would have 
provided a corrective to its extravagance. Unhappily he was 
also the chief executive power in his land, and had the ordering 
of German policy. Unable to read the hearts of other peoples, 
he had to conduct negotiations with them, and hetises, which would 
have been harmless enough as the pranks of a negligible royalty, 
became dangerous when they appeared in the fragile world of 
diplomacy. He loved the pageantry of war, but had no know- 
ledge of its practical meaning, and rattled his sabre as a rhetorical 
gesture. As a statesman he was without aptitude or judgment, and 
yet with him lay the last word in his country's statecraft. Into 
his capricious hands the Fates had put the issues of life and death. 


The Imperial Crown Prince was in character an exaggerated 
copy of one side of his father. That narrow-chested, sHm-waisted 
young man of thirty-two, with the receding forehead and the 
retreating chin, was to foreign observers a singularly unattractive 
personage, a mixture of the suburban Don Juan and the lightest 
of feather-weight swashbucklers. The verdict scarcely did him 
justice. He had considerable mental quickness, and a shrewd 
gift of assessing popular feeling. This talent, combined with 
his dashing air and his surface bonhomie, gave him a popularity 
which he sedulously cultivated. Wise men might grow nervous 
about his antics, but the mass of the German people applauded 
them. He was a lover of sports and games, and in the army 
had the kind of repute which a crack polo-player had in a British 
cavalry regiment ; his keenness in one form of activity was con- 
strued into a capacity for the serious business of war. He was the 
dazzHng representative of a service which burned to show its 
prowess on the largest stage, and his occasional tiffs with his father 
were due to his beating the war drum louder than prudence per- 
mitted. The Emperor's manifold ambitions were narrowed in 
the son to a single craving — he was determined to be a conqueror, 
to lead his cavalry in a " hussar ride " which should conquer the 
world. Whenever soldiers came into collision with civihans he 
was on the soldiers' side. He made no secret of his purpose. He 
zealously collected relics and souvenirs of the First Napoleon, 
and used to expound to his friends what a new Napoleon could 
accompHsh, who had at his command such a weapon as the Ger- 
man army, and who had learned from his predecessor's mistakes. 
Between him and his father there was no real conflict. He empha- 
sized one aspect of the Imperial creed, and since his was also the 
creed of the bulk of the nation, he won a wide appreciation for his 
rhapsodies and a ready pardon for his excesses. 

The Bismarckian construction had presupposed a succession 
of great Chancellors. The Hohenzollern stock might produce 
weaklings, but surely among the millions of Germany one strong 
hand could always be found to steady the helm. That hand had 
not been forthcoming. The Chancellor on the eve of war, the 
fifth since Bismarck, was Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, a 
fellow student of the Emperor's at Bonn, who had stolidly worked 
his way up through the various grades of the civil service. Less 
independent than Caprivi, infinitely less adroit than Prince Biilow, 
his chief quality was his loyalty to his Imperial master, between 
whom and popular criticism he was always ready to interpose 


his back. His burly frame was no index to his character, for he 
was essentially weak, and in his grave puzzled face could be read 
the obstinacy which is first cousin to fear. Himself inclined to 
be conciliatory and pacific, he was too nondescript in his views 
to attract a following in any political group, too reactionary for 
the Radicals, too stout a Protestant to please the Catholic Centre, 
and not chauvinistic enough for the Conservatives. He managed 
the Reichstag by providing a common denominator of medioc- 
rity, which no party liked but to which none could offer violent 
opposition. Honest, hard-working, and well-meaning, he was no 
more than a docile servant of the Emperor and of those influences 
which moved the Emperor, and independence was wholly foreign 
to his nature. The Foreign Secretary was von Jagow, for- 
merly Ambassador at Rome, a dapper and cultivated personage 
and a deft official, who lacked the occasional flashes of genuine 
insight which had characterized his predecessor, Kiderlen- 
Wachter. The Under-Secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, was a 
more striking figure, for he had risen by sheer merit from the 
humblest place, and had a wide first-hand knowledge of foreign 
peoples. But we shall not find in all the hierarchy of laborious 
officials who made up the German Government any single man who 
had the power to play a leading part in a crisis. They were a mech- 
anism for which the motive force was supplied by others. When 
the Emperor called the tune they played it according to instruc- 
tions. We must look elsewhere for the governing elements in 
German policy. 

» First among these was the squirearchy of Prussia — not the 
great houses whose names were familiar throughout Europe, 
but the mass of obscure, long-descended country gentry, who 
were the backbone both of the army and the HohenzoIIern power. 
They were men of another age than the present, and they had 
many of the antique virtues. Their narrow race-pride had 
made them the laughing stock of the world, and they cut an in- 
different figure when they strayed beyond their ancestral acres, 
so that the name of Junker came to have a half-comic, half-sinister 
connotation. But they were the strongest stock in the German 
Empire. They had the fanatical loyalty of a Jacobite to the 
reigning house, and formed a stalwart body-guard of the throne. 
They provided the best of the officer class and gave the army 
its tone. They were honest, fearless, patriotic ; they toiled labori- 
ously at the cultivation of their estates and the work of local 
administration ; the luxury of modem Germany had not wasted 


their strength, for the majority were poor. They were survivals, 
reactionaries and bigots, and as such may have deserved the con- 
demnation of the world ; but their Spartan virtues assuredly did 
not merit its scorn. 

The Army chiefs were the offspring of the squirearchy, and 
reproduced its temperament, calling in the latest discoveries of 
science to serve their ends. Prussia had always been a military 
state, and in modern Germany the Army counted more than with 
any other Power. In a later chapter we shall consider the nature 
of the wonderful machine which had been constructed during the 
past century : here it is sufficient to note the conspicuous part it 
played in German life. It was accepted by the people as a neces- 
sity, and reverenced as the foremost triumph of patriotism. In a 
true sense it was a national institution, and Prince Biilow was 
justified in claiming that its spirit was equally monarchical, aris- 
tocratic, and democratic* But in its essence, like all such 
armies, it was aristocratic, for, as Freytag-Loringhoven pointed out, 
quoting Napoleon and Treitschke to support him,t it depended 
upon the building up of an expert officers' corps, and this corps 
was the child of the Junkers and was permeated by their creed. 
That creed was " militarism " in the strict sense of a much-abused 
word — that is to say, they desired on the first possible chance to 
use their magnificent fighting weapon for the purposes of war and 
conquest, as a boy is anxious to test a new gun by shooting at 
something. Such a spirit was inevitable in an army which had 
won a prestige out of all proportion to the other elements in 
the State, and drew its strength in the main from one narrow 
and reactionary class. It was not a question of the poHcy of its 
chiefs : Moltke and Falkenhayn and Tirpitz mattered Httle com- 
pared with the powerful and arrogant caste behind them, supremely 
confident, organized to perfection, eager to prove its manhood in 
a world of weaklings. War for it had become an end in itself, a 
thing to be sought for its own sake, and not merely, in Clause- 
witz's phrase, as " a continuation of policy." On such a view the 
decencies of international intercourse meant nothing. " We must 
throw overboard," the younger Moltke said early in 1913, " all 
the stock commonplaces about the responsibihty of the aggressor. 
As soon as there is a ten-to-one chance in favour of war, we must 
forestall our opponent, commence hostilities without more ado, 
and mercilessly crush all resistance." While the world still slept, 

* Deutsche Politik, 1916, p. 164. 

t Deductions from the World War (Eng. tr.), p. 146. 


and sanguine diplomatists were busy devising securities for peace, 
the Great General Staff had selected its maps of the coming battle- 

Next among the governing elements we may place the new 
kings of trade. German " efficiency " had become proverbial in 
the world of business. The ordinary wealth of her citizens had 
largely increased, and huge fortunes were common in a country 
which fifty years before had been noted for its poverty and sim- 
plicity. The nation in every sphere had been keyed up to a high 
pitch of effort, and the results were impressive. It was true that 
this rapid advance had been secured largely by dubious means. 
As the German Government financed itself by frequent loans, so 
German business was constructed on a gigantic basis of credit. 
Progress must be swift and continuous; while the machine was 
kept going at full power no inconvenience appeared, but if a halt 
or a slowing down should be necessary the equilibrium might become 
precarious. A system of rigid protection at home and the tech- 
nical aptitude of her chemists and electricians had built up indus- 
tries which, by means of her growing merchant navy, could pour 
their products into other lands, notably the British Empire, which 
had a more generous tariff system, and with the aid of Government 
subsidies capture not only markets for distribution, but producing 
grounds of raw material throughout the globe. It was a condi- 
tion of things too good to last, and as the fears of other nations 
awoke, the German industrial magnates saw a danger of the whole 
edifice being undermined unless steps were taken to set it on im- 
pregnable foundations. There was another difficulty before them. 
German taxation was already high, and the financial burden due 
to the increase of the Army and Navy votes was yearly growing 
heavier. They foresaw that presently this expenditure would 
react gravely upon industry, unless the pressure of armaments 
were relaxed. The leaders of German finance and trade — the 
armament firms, the heads of the coal, engineering, electrical, 
and chemical industries, and great institutions like the Deutsche 
Bank — were, with some honourable exceptions, drifting insensibly 
into the view that Germany must soon realize the investments 
which she had been amassing for generations, and that such a real- 
ization might be best achieved by war. A short and triumphant 
war would relieve them of their two chief anxieties — it would 
lead to a world-wide prestige and unprecedented commercial ex- 
pansion and the ability to dictate tariffs and trade treaties, and 
it would pennit of a reduction in expenditure on armaments, since 


German power would have been established beyond the possibility 
of challenge. 

The trading community in any land is as a rule pacific, and 
undoubtedly the bulk of the German merchants looked with 
profound anxiety at the prospect of war. But the most pacific 
felt the weight of the armament taxes, and the most far-seeing 
were uneasy about Germany's economic future and predisposed 
to some heroic effort after security. Yet on the whole we may set 
down the rank and file of German industry as an element on the 
side of peace. It was otherwise with many of the merchant princes 
— the host of men who were part industrial magnates and part 
courtiers. This class was a new phenomenon in Germany. For 
the most part humbly born — though under the Emperor's patron- 
age some of the great nobles had taken to dabbling in commerce 
— and often Jewish in blood, it had found itself exalted from social 
ostracism to the confidence of the Court and a large share in the 
national councils. It had been amazingly successful, and its suc- 
cess had turned its head, for the industry of the German people 
exploited by these entrepreneurs had produced results which might 
well leave the promoters dizzy. This megalomania affected to 
some extent the whole commercial class. The standard of living 
had changed, and extravagant expenditure on luxury had become 
the fashion among industrial magnates, a fashion which was repro- 
duced in the bourgeois life of the cities. Being genuine nouveaux 
riches, they had no traditions to conform to, no perspective to order 
their outlook on the world. The kingdoms of the earth had fallen 
to them, and, like Jeshurun, they waxed fat and kicked. 

There were, therefore, on the eve of war three potent elements 
— the Prussian squirearchy, the Army and Navy chiefs, and the 
industrial magnates, whose attitude to the world was inspired by 
the ideals of mediaeval conquest. They were withdrawing from 
the comity of nations and wrapping themselves in truculence and 
vainglory. The counteractive might naturally have been looked 
for in the party of social reform, in the mass of plain citizens, 
and among the "intellectuals;" but, as it happened, these three 
classes were impotent to redress the balance. The Social Demo- 
crats were perpetually quarrelling with the Government, and 
still more zealously fighting among themselves. This was largely 
due to their political powerlessness, for, though the largest ot 
German parties, the German constitution did not permit them to 
make their weight felt in public life. The extreme Left, led by 
Karl Liebknecht, preached the class war, and preferred revolution 


to parliamentary methods ; the Left Centre, under Kautsky, 
Haase and Ledebour, were parliamentarians, but refused co- 
operation with non-socialist parties ; the Right Centre, led by 
Scheidemann, and the Moderate Revisionists under Bernstein 
repudiated revolution and sought gradual reform ; the extreme 
Right, the Imperial Socialists, were indistinguishable from the 
bourgeois parties. Except for Liebknecht's coterie, all were in 
differing degrees nationalist in spirit. They were men uncertain 
of their status and shifting in their creed, and while they did 
homage to certain pacificist doctrines, theory to them was of less 
importance than tactics. It was fairly certain that a little con- 
ciliation by the Government in a crisis would array the bulk of 
the Social Democrats on its side. As for the ordinary German 
he was of an obedient temper, and the Government had drawn him 
so wholly into its net that the thought of opposing its will did 
not enter his head. The intricate system of minor decorations 
with which his good conduct was rewarded, and the surveillance 
by the State over every part of his daily life, had deprived him 
of all pohtical individuahty. Lastly the bulk of the " intellectuals," 
the teachers in the schools, the professors at the universities, the 
clergy, and the men of letters, were in questions of politics little 
more than officials, speaking from a brief. The educational hier- 
archy was as much a branch of the bureaucracy as the manage- 
ment of the post office, and the class which in Germany's dark 
days had roused the people by dwelling upon her ancient strength 
and the hope of the future, now taught the same creed in coarser 
accents to the greater glory of the HohenzoUerns. 

But our picture of Germany is not completed when we have 
analyzed the elements of power in her community and sketched 
the formal nature of her Government. For behind everything 
lay an impulse to a certain view of life, a conscious creed — ex- 
phcitly formulated by the few and present as a temperament 
in the many — to which Germans gave the name of " kultur " or 
civilization. More important than Emperor or General Staff 
or the kings of commerce was this German soul, this Deutschtum, 
the sum of subtle prepossessions, hopes and fears which the world 
only guessed at in 1914, but which in four years of war it came 
to know with bitter precision. 

We have seen that Germany had made steady progress in 
most departments of life. But there was one conspicuous excep- 
tion. In art and literature, in pure thought and in political science 
she had declined since 1870. The simple bourgeois Germany of the 


early nineteenth century produced some of the greatest of the 
world's thinkers, poets, and musicians ; Imperial Germany was 
content with mediocrities. In thought the great constructive epoch 
was over ; philosophy had become applied and pragmatic, the hand- 
maid of the practical world. Thinkers were unfashionable unless 
they could preach a topical gospel. The German equivalent of 
the Wealth of Nations was Clausewitz's classic On War, which 
explored the foundations of statecraft, and showed the intimate 
connection between principles and facts, a manual alike for the 
politician and the soldier. A thousand teachers spread his views, 
taken for the most part at second hand, throughout the nation, 
and among his disciples had been Moltke and Bismarck. The 
passion for deeds took the place of the old passion for truth, and 
history was taught as the text-book of the man of action. The 
preference was always for the scorner of formulas, the iron oppor- 
tunist, the man who had succeeded. We can see the trait in 
Mommsen's Roman History, and in Sybel's History of the French 
Revolution, both the work of professed Liberals — a reaction against 
all idealism which had not its " cash value." The materialism of 
writers such as Mach and Haeckel produced a fruitful ground for 
the political seed sown by Treitschke, the historian of Prussia, 
by Droysen, and by soldiers such as von der Goltz and von Bem- 
hardi, who pointed a contemporary moral. Gradually Deutschtum 
was formulated as a creed, a creed which must conquer because 
of its inherent vitality and which had the right to use any weapons 
for this lofty end. If the world was to advance, the higher must 
crush the lower. War to Treitschke was the " drastic medicine 
of the human race," and the dream of banishing it from the earth 
not only meaningless but immoral. " It has always been the weary, 
spiritless, and exhausted ages which have played with the vision 
of perpetual peace." The megalomania grew like a fungus. 
Swollen with complacency and drunk with success the exponents 
of Germanism came to set themselves above the human family, 
to regard their divine mission as freeing them from all obligations 
of morality and law, to demand that their altar-fires should be 
fed with the rights and ideals of every other people, to claim for 
themselves the only freedom, and to seek to make all nations 
dependent upon their good pleasure. 

This doctrine had its roots far back in German literature and 
deep down in the German temperament. A craze for large syn- 
theses had characterized the great days of German philosophy. 
There had always been a tendency to racial arrogance, which. 


contemplating the stately progress of the Absolute Will, found 
its final expression up to date in modem Germany. The seeds 
of the new Machiavellianism — which in essence was simply an 
abstraction of man as a politician from the rest of his aspects, a 
fallacy on the same plane as the " economic man " of the Ben- 
thamites — had been sown in the earliest days of German culture. 
The intense specialization of German scholarship and science did 
not tend to produce minds with an acute sense of perspective, 
and sedentary folk have at all times been inclined to blow a louder 
trumpet than men of affairs. What Senancour has called " le 
vulgaire des sages " — the narrow absorption to which pedants are 
prone — had long been a characteristic of German " intellectuals." 
Had the thing been confined to the professors and theorists it would 
have undergone a steady disintegration by criticism, 

" Sapping a solemn creed with solemn sneer," 

till it lost its power to hurt. As a literary fashion it was so pre- 
posterous as to be innocent, an essay in provincialism which was 
pardonable because of its absurdity. But exalt this mannerism 
into a faith, base on it a thousand material interests, and give it 
great armies to make it real, and you are confronted with a dan- 
gerous mania. Self-worshippers are harmless till they compel 
the rest of mankind to make the same obeisance. 

The danger came from the alliance of the pedant with the 
practical man. German statesmen from Metternich to Prince 
Billow had praised the German intellect but denied their country- 
men political capacity. But now that Germany was no longer 
content to be a " kultur-staat " only, the politician could join 
hands with the doctrinaire. It was an easy and natural union, 
for in the classic philosophy of Germany there were elements akin 
to the temperament of its new supporters. German idealism, as 
I have said, had always been noted for its love of vast unifications, 
its devotion to a cosmic grandiosity. But the philosopher, beating 
his wings in the void, could never hope to see his dream come true 
till the practical Prussian, himself cast crudely in the same mould, 
offered his aid. Now the ideal could be made the actual, spirit 
and matter were become one, the City of Cecrops could be amalga- 
mated on business lines with the City of God. In both philosopher 
and politician there was that naivete which Renan found in the 
tissue of the German mind, the desire to canalize the free currents 
of life and reduce the stubborn complex of the organic to an arti- 
ficial simplicity. Both sides in the compact gave and received. 


The Prussian had his material ambitions invested with a spiritual 
glamour ; the dreamer saw the enigma of life solved at last and 
the dream about to become the reahty. Plato's vision had come to 
pass, and the philosophers were kings and the kings philosophers, 
but it was a perverse philosophy and a sinister kingship. 

But there was more than a mere marriage of fact and theory. 
To glorify the union came a tempestuous poetry welling from the 
deeps of the Teutonic soul. Behind all the arguments of the 
learned and the calculations of the practical we can discern a kind 
of barbaric imagination, akin to the grandiosity of Wagner's music. 
" Thinking," wro':^^ Madame de Stael, " calms men of other nations ; 
it inflames the Germans." * Something untamed and primeval 
came out of the centuries to invest a prudential pohcy with the 
glamour of a crusade. If a man stands on the left bank of the 
Rhine facing the Taunus hills he is looking away from Roman 
Germany to a land which was never settled by Rome. The 
eagles marched through the forests beyond the river, but they did 
not remain there, and that strong civilization which is the fibre of 
the Western world never took root and flourished. The thickets 
and plains running to the northern seas remained the home of 
aboriginal gods. It is long since the woods were thinned and the 
plains tilled, but the healing and illuminating and formative forces 
of the great Mediterranean culture, though their aspect might be 
simulated, were never reborn in the hearts of the people. The 
North remained a thing incalculable and unreclaimed, and its 
ancient deities might sleep but did not die. Some day, as Heine 
in 1834 told France, they would rise from their graves to the un- 
doing of Europe, f 

The recrudescence of barbarism found its prophet. Fifteen 
years before, there had died in a madhouse a strange genius, Fried- 
rich Nietzsche, who passed as a philosopher, but was in truth a 
mystic and a poet. During his Hfetime this sage was of no account 
in his own land. He ranked Germans with Englishmen as among 
the lowest of created beings ; he prophesied that " the German 
Empire will destroy the German mind ; " and even in 1914 he was 
scarcely idolized by his countrymen. But certain portions of his 
teaching, imperfectly understood and wrenched from their context, 
dominated their thoughts. He taught that for the truly great, 

* Cf. Heine's judgment : " L'Allemand est ne bete ; la civilisation I'a rendu 

t The conception of Germanism as the eternal revolt against Rome, the strife 
of the Gothic against the Renaissance, is eloquently and candidly developed bj 
Thomas Mann in his Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen, Berlin, 1918. 


the Superman, power is the only quest, and to attain it all things 
are permissible. He cast contempt upon what he called " slave 
ethics " — that is, the morality of the Gospels, which enjoined humility 
and self-sacrifice. If the end is big enough everything is justified ; 
such may be taken as the popular version of his principles. The 
inspiration for the national mood did not come from Nietzsche, 
but his writings provided its fashionable watchwords. His " mag- 
nificent blonde beast, avidly rampant for spoil and victory," became 
the avowed ideal of decorous professors, bland financial potentates 
and unimaginative army officers. 

" Ye have heard how in old times it was said, Blessed are the 
meek, for they shall inherit the earth ; but I say unto you, Blessed 
are the valiant, for they shall make the earth their throne. And 
ye have heard men say, Blessed are the poor in spirit ; but I say 
unto you, Blessed are the great in soul and the free in spirit, for they 
shall enter into Valhalla. And ye have heard men say. Blessed are 
the peacemakers ; but I say unto you. Blessed are the war-makers, 
for they shall be called, if not the children of Jahve, the children of 
Odin, who is greater than Jahve." 

This " religion of valour " was not without its magnificence. 
In its essentials it was such a creed as might have been preached 
by some Old Testament warrior or some English Ironside. Like 
all doctrines which have moved the hearts of men, it was based 
not on whole falsehoods but on half truths. To many of its 
devotees it seemed the salt needed to save the world from putre- 
faction. As against the slack-lipped individualism of the West it 
set man's supreme duty to the State ; instead of a barren freedom 
it offered that richer life which comes from service. It demanded 
immense vitality, immense discipline, immense self-sacrifice. The 
poetry in it seemed to some the necessary antidote to the material- 
ism of Germany's success. " Technical science and inward culture, 
or even human happiness, have little connection with each other. 
In the midst of vast technical achievements, it is possible for 
humanity to sink back into complete barbarism." * It embodied 
the longing of a race to express its national exaltation in heroic 
deeds. Its weakness lay in the fact that this expression of national 
self-consciousness was conceived as possible only at the expense of 
other peoples. Sacrifice and discipline were enjoined upon the 
German citizen as duties to his State, but the attitude of the German 
State towards its neighbours was one of brigandage and licence. 
The respect for law, which was laid down as the first virtue of the 

• Werner Sombart : Die Deutsche Volkswirtschaft im 19 Jahrhundert, p. 134. 


individual, was banished from the intercourse of nations. It may 
be true that " la petite morale " is the enemy of "la grande ; " 
but the higher ethics of Germany turned out on inquiry to be 
merely the higher selfishness. Race pride, a noble thing in its way, 
degenerated fast into a kind of mania. The Germans were God's 
chosen people and dare not refuse their destiny. All that was 
good in other lands derived from Teutonic culture.* The nations 
who cavilled at Germany's just pretensions must be made to 
kiss her feet. She was unpopular throughout the globe because 
of her greatness, but that mattered nothing, for she would conquer 
her ill-wishers. Oderint dum metuant. 

There is no sentence in Burke more often quoted than that which 
forbids us to draw an indictment against a nation. But the dictum 
must not be pressed too far. A nation can have national vices ; it 
can blunder as a community ; and it is permitted now and then to 
fasten guilt upon the corporate existence which we call a people. 
Very notably a people may go mad, when its governing elements 
fall into a pathological state and see strange visions. A malign 
spirit broods over the waters. Something which cannot be put 
into exact words flits at the back of men's minds. Perspective 
goes, exultation fires the fancy, the old decencies of common 
sense are repudiated, men speak with tongues not their own. That 
viewless thing which we call national spirit is tainted with insanity. 
The mania which now afflicted Germany can be best described 
by the French phrase, folie de grandeur. As such it must be dis- 
tinguished from that other vice of success, la gloire. The great 
leaders of history — Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Cromwell, 
Gustavus Adolphus, Washington — have as a rule striven for a 
political or religious ideal which made mere fame of no account 
in their eyes. Others, like Alexander, have been possessed by a 
passion for glory, and have blazed like comets athwart the world. 
The perfect example is Charles XII. of Sweden, who in his short 
career of nineteen years followed glory alone, and drew no material 
benefit from his conquests. In his old clothes he shook down 
monarchies and won thrones for other men. Glory may be a futile 
quest, but it has a splendour and a generosity which raise it beyond 
the level of low and earthy things. Its creed is Napoleon's : 
" J'avais le gout de la fondation et non celui de la propriete. Ma 
propriete k moi etait dans la gloire et la celebrite ; " and to the end 

♦ See on this curious point especially the writings of Ludwig Woltmann and 
Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Germany's claim to European expansion on other 
grounds will be found in works of the geographer Daniel, Treitschke, Paul de Lagarde, 
Friedrich Lange, Ernst Hasse, Nippold, etc. 


of time it will be an infirmity of minds which are not ignoble. But 
grandeur is a perversion, an offence against our essential humanity. 
It may be the degeneration of a genius like Napoleon, but more 
often it is the illusion of excited mediocrities. It is of the earth 
earthy, intoxicating itself with flamboyant material dreams. Its 
heroics are mercantile, and the cloud palaces which it builds have 
the vulgarity of a fashionable hotel. It seeks a city made with 
hands and heavily upholstered. Its classic exponents were those 
leaden vulgarians, the early Roman Emperors, of the worst of 
whom Renan wrote : " He resembled what a modern tradesman 
of the middle class would be whose good sense was perverted by 
reading modern poets, and who deemed it necessary to make his 
conduct resemble that of Han of Iceland or the Burgraves." * 
Grandeur has always vulgarity in its fibre, vulgarity and madness. 
It would be an error to regard this obsession as universal among 
the German people. There were millions of plain men to whom 
the word " kultur " was unknown, and to whom Deutschtum stood 
only for homely and honourable things. They had no hankering 
after conquest and would accept no war except one of self-defence. 
Before such it was necessary for any bellicose government to pose 
as the aggrieved and not as the aggressor. There were some, too, 
in all classes who had diagnosed the national madness and suffered 
a disillusion, like Caliban's : 

" What a thrice-double ass 
Was I, to take this drunkard for a god. 
And worship this dull fool ! " 

But the perversion had the governing classes in its grip ; specious 
arguments, consonant to the German temper, could be found to 
rally the waverers ; and even those who would have shrunk from 
a bald statement of the creed had their minds subconsciously 
attuned to it. The thing was in the intellectual air, men absorbed 
it through every pore, and it was certain that once the barques of 
war were launched it would rise like a mighty wind to speed them 
on their way. 

With a flamboyant emperor ambitious of ranking with the 
great makers of history, ar army burning to prove its perfection 
to the world, an aristocracy intolerant of all ideals of democratic 
progress, the rulers of industry at once exultant and nervous, the 
popular teachers preaching a gospel of race arrogance, and through- 
out the nation a vague half-mystical striving towards a new destiny, 

* L' AnUchrist, 


Germany was an unquiet member of the European family. Her 
unrest took shape presently in certain definite policies, but it must 
be remembered that these policies by no means exhausted her 
ambitions. As a great industrial Power she sought producing 
grounds for raw material under her own flag, so the quest for 
tropical colonies began.* She had no desire for free autonomous 
dominions like Canada or New Zealand ; what she sought were 
Crown colonies within a certain zone. As she cast her eyes about 
the world she found that other nations had been before her, and 
that few tropical lands remained for her civilizing mission. Some 
fragments, indeed, she had picked up — territories in East, South- 
west, and West Africa ; Samoa and a few islands in the Pacific ; 
the port of Kiao-chau in China, to balance the acquisitions of 
Britain and Japan. But these were small things, and an ade- 
quate place in the sun could only be won at this late date by the 
dispossession of earlier owners. She undertook a Bagdad railway 
with visions of a German Mesopotamia at the end of it, and a broad 
Germanic sphere of influence across the Middle East. She dreamed 
of organizing all Central Europe from the North Sea to the ^gean 
as a political and economic unit under her direction. A world- 
empire demands a navy, and this the Emperor secured from a not 
too willing country during the fever of Anglophobia which possessed 
Germany at the time of Britain's South African War. In 1900 the 
first Navy Bill was passed, containing in its preamble the signifi- 
cant words : " Germany must have a fleet of such strength that 
even for the mightiest naval Power a war with her would involve 
such risks as to jeopardize its own supremacy." Other Bills were 
launched on recurrent waves of Anglophobia — in 1906, 1908, and 
in 1912 ; and by the last year her navy stood second among 
the fleets of the world. It was a fine achievement, for it was a 
true navy, and not merely a floating army, which had been the 
original German ideal. Men like Tirpitz, Koester, and Ingenohl 
appreciated the meaning of a sea force and wrought assiduously 
till it was created. Above all she brought her army to the full limits 
of strength and the last pitch of preparedness. In those years 
the significant fact was less her diplomatic efforts after expansion, 
which were apt to be experimental and discursive, than her perfect 
ing of the weapons which at the appointed time might bring the 
world to her feet. 

* " Colonies would only be a cause of weakness, because they could only be 
defended by powerful fleets, and Germany's geographical position does not necessitate 
her development into a first-class maritime Power." — Bismarck, 1873. 


One last factor must be noted in German psychology — the factor 
of fear. In all arrogance there is commonly some timidity. 
Germany, as a new-comer among the great Powers, was not sure 
of her position, and inclined to nervous self-assertion. She was 
haunted by the spectre of a world leagued against her to cheat her 
of her rights. In the mild temper of France and the friendly over- 
tures of Britain she saw profound dissimulation and a dark con- 
spiracy. Above all she was afraid of the great Slav Empire in the 
East. In introducing the last Army Bill before the war the Imperial 
Chancellor foreshadowed the day when Slaventiim should fight 
against Deutschtum, and this notion, aided by Slav successes in the 
Balkans and by Russia's increasing prosperity, had gained firm 
hold of the German mind. It had some warrant from history. 
The Mark of Brandenburg was once the bulwark of Christendom 
against barbaric invaders, and Austria — the Eastern Mark — was 
during the whole Middle Ages and up to two centuries ago the out- 
post of civilization against the Hun, the Slav, and the Turk. To 
the German who prided himself on his race the Slav was the enemy, 
always rolled back and always returning, alien in church and 
ideals and habits and in whatever distinguishes man from man. 
" There arises before my eyes another civilization, the civilization 
of the tribe with its patriarchal organization, the civilization of the 
horde that is gathered and kept together by despots — the Mongolian- 
Muscovite civilization. This civilization could not endure the 
light of the eighteenth century, still less the Ught of the nineteenth 
century, and now in the twentieth century it breaks loose and 
threatens us. This inorganic Asiatic mass, hke the desert with its 
sands, wants to gather up our fields of grain." These were the words 
of no less a man than Harnack during the first weeks of war. Fears 
from many sources combined with her pride to goad Germany to 
some desperate act of self-assertion while yet there was time. The 
cooler heads who formed scientifically their plans for conquest 
could summon to their aid this malaise which had fallen upon the 
people, this desire, half-scared, half-angry, to strike out against 
they knew not what. To the ordinary German the alternatives 
of Bernhardi and his school were becoming terribly real. It was 
Weltrekh oder Niedergang — World-Rule or Downfall. 



In modem Europe Austria-Hungary stood over as a relic from 
the Middle Ages, a remnant of the old Germanic Empire left behind 
in the movement towards self-conscious nationality. If Germany 
had alien stuff in her fabric, she was like a solid block of granite 
as compared with the tesselated pavement of the Hapsburg domain. 
Hence it would be an idle task to analyze Austria's policy and the 
Austrian temperament, as if they were coherent and intelligible 
things hke Germany's or France's, The Dual Monarchy was an 
artificial creation held together partly by the strong hand of Germany 
and partly by the uneasy equipoise due to the collision of centri- 
petal and centrifugal forces, as a tree slipping from a hillside by 
a movement of the soil may keep its position if the prevailing winds 
blow against the subsidence. When the Hapsburgs had been the 
bulwark of south-eastern Christendom, they had lived in harmony 
with their Slav subjects ; but when the peril had gone and the spirit 
of nationalism went abroad in the world, the dissolution of the Empire 
was decreed. Concessions of a kind were made to the subject races, 
but with the blind protective instinct of an old regime the Haps- 
burgs clung to the essentials of autocracy ; and for long prevailed 
because they had on their side an armed and organized minority as 
against a scattered and leaderless multitude. 

In Western Europe, though race and language were the main 
determinants of nationality. State and people were bound by a 
thousand moral links forged during a long history. In Eastern 
Europe, where frontiers were younger things, and in comparatively 
modern times populations had frequently changed masters, the 
institutions of the State had not impressed themselves, and nation- 
ality had linguistic and racial rather than political foundations. 
German-speaking subjects of the Hapsburgs were German in 
thought and outlook; Czechs, Slovenes, and Slovaks had 
their special culture and special civic aspirations. The Austro- 
Hungarian Empire was a museum of diverse nationalities. In 
Austria there were some ten millions of Germans as against more 
than eighteen millions of Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Croats, Serbs, 
and Slovenes. In Hungary there were under ten million Magyars 
as against over eleven millions of Rumanians, Croats, Serbs, 
Germans, and Slovaks. In each country a form of parliamentary 
government existed which was so arranged as to put the power into 
the hands of the race which was numerically the weaker. The 


Empire was a union of two states, each ruled b} a minority and in 
the interest of that minority, and it may fairl}^ be said that the 
majority of the population was anti- Austrian and anti-Hungarian. 
The thing was an anomaly unique in Europe, and could only main- 
tain its existence by setting one part of the people against the 
other. Every year it became harder for the statesmen of Vienna 
to keep the inorganic mass from dissolution. 

The constitution of the Dual Monarchy rested upon an arrange- 
ment made in 1867 to meet the wishes of two races, the German 
and the Magyar. It was representative government of a farcical 
type, for representation bore no relation to numerical strength. 
Of the 516 deputies in the Austrian Parliament 233 were Germans, 
which meant that the German minority had to find only 26 votes 
outside their ranks to give them control. Had representation 
been fairly based on population, the Germans would have held no 
more than 160 seats. Again, though universal suffrage existed, it 
was not combined with responsible government ; for the Emperor 
appointed the administration, and if he desired, he could, under 
paragraph 14 of the Constitution, govern without parliamentary 
sanction. In Hungary the farce was more shameless. The Parlia- 
ment, apart from the Croatia-Slavonia delegation, consisted of 
413 deputies, of whom 405 were Magyars and eight represented 
the other races, who should on the population basis have been 
entitled to 198 seats. Further, Hungary was the home of every 
kind of electoral corruption. Public funds were spent brazenly 
on gerrymandering elections ; returns were falsified ; troops 
were turned out to " preserve order" in doubtful districts, which 
meant that a reign of terror kept the Slav and Rumanian voters 
from the polls ; and any politician who ventured to protest was 
likely to find himself in prison on a charge of treason. The 
oligarchy throughout the whole Empire used a form of popular 
government to establish a tyranny as complete as the most naked 
mediaeval absolutism. 

This oligarchy had none of the world-ambition of their German 
neighbours ; they were too weak to desire more than to hold what 
they had. The Austrian German was an agreeable, pleasure- 
loving type, easily swayed from Berlin. The Magyar represented 
one of the toughest race stocks in Europe, proud, courageous, 
a lover of liberty for himself, but a despot towards others. Both 
Vienna and Budapest sought above all things to be maintained 
in their privileges. They suffered from a haunting dread of the 
new Slav states beyond the Danube, of the great Slav power of 

FRANCE SINCE 1870. 33 

Russia, and of their own malcontent Slav peoples. They hated 
the fashionable cant of democracy as much as any Junker, and were 
very ready to accept a helping hand from Germany, whose con- 
stitution was not unlike their own, who likewise scorned democracy, 
and who shared their fear of Slaventum. This alliance was made 
easy in the case of the Magyar, who was in temperament, if not 
in manners, akin to the Prussian. For Germany, too, the Dual 
Monarchy was a sheer necessity. Without the control of Austria- 
Hungary she could not realize her dream of a Drang nach Osten, 
which would provide a continuous block of territory, economically 
self- sufficient and strategically invulnerable, to counterbalance 
the sea-united British Empire. Without her friendship her flank 
would be turned in a European war. Hence for years in policy, 
in economics, and in military preparation the strong gauntlet 
of the Hohenzollem had guided the fumbling hand of the Haps- 
burg. Austria could not in the nature of things be a very docile 
or cordial ally, but there was no doubt about the loyalty of her 
governing classes. Only by the help of Germany could they defend 
their privileges, and it was very certain that they would never 
cast down their glove for war without Germany's instigation and 


The recovery of France since the disaster of 1870 had been one 
of the marvels of history. With her armies broken in the field, 
her wealth plundered or mortgaged for indemnities, her capital city 
in revolt, and her former system of government in ruins, it might 
well have seemed that she was destined to drop for a long season 
from the ranks of the Great Powers. She was saved from such 
a fate by two elements which she possessed of stubborn endurance 
and inexhaustible vitality. One was her soil and the people of 
that soil. The industry and frugality of her peasantry, their 
patient resolution under political earthquakes, and the sober 
good sense of men like Jules Grevy, who were sprung from their 
stock and laboured to develop the riches of their pleasant land, 
brought her speedily to prosperit}^ and provided a solid foundation 
for the young republic. The other was her scholars and men of 
science, who read rightly the lesson of Germany's success. Men like 
Renan and Pasteur, Berthelot and Gaston Paris, Fustel de Cou- 
langes and Duruy and Lavisse, not only upheld her reputation 
before the world in her darkest days, but inaugurated an intellec- 


tual and educational revolution more significant than the change 
from Empire to Republic. The state under Grevy and Gambetta 
took the lead in agricultural development, and under Jules Ferry 
and his colleagues embarked on a vast scheme of popular instruc- 
tion ; and the two movements assured the stability no less than 
the progress of their country. 

But while in France it is the countryside which has always 
provided the force of persistence, it is from the cities that the 
impulse to action has come, and the electric urban population 
has determined the form of her politics. Hence while the peasants 
went about their own business, the town-dwellers Hved in a mael- 
strom of conflicting ideals, and the first twenty years of the new 
state were httered with transient ministries. The " republic of 
ideas " which Gambetta preached was in flat opposition to the 
conservatism of the rural districts, but, since both were indispens- 
able for France, some way of harmony had to be discovered. We 
shall not wonder at the short and uneasy lives of French govern- 
ments when we remember the vast and complex task which they 
had to face. The First Napoleon had given France an adminis- 
trative fabric the main part of which still endured, but the gaudy 
fa9ade had to be replaced by a sober republican design. The 
new State, born in an hour of defeat, had to create its own prestige. 
The first duty before French statesmen was to make strong the 
republic, and for long there was a grave risk that parliamentarism 
would degenerate into a system of venal deputies acting as pro- 
vincial " bosses" and bargaining on behalf of local interests. The 
same danger appeared when the socialist organization claimed 
the right of dictating to the Government. To set the State beyond 
faction as the supreme authority in the land — in the words which 
M. Briand used in 1909, " to make the Republic so pleasant to 
dwell in, to raise it so high above party, that the glories of all 
France may be focussed in it " — was still on the eve of war the chief 
aim and the most urgent duty of French patriots. 

Next came the task of restoring the national self respect, sorely 
tried by the events of 1870. The amour-propre of a proud people 
had been cut to the quick, and the lost Alsace-Lorraine stood as 
a perpetual reminder of their humihation. Young men who had 
fought against Germany went to Africa and Asia, as explorers 
or soldiers, and by a thousand gallant enterprises in the wilds laid 
the foundation of a French colonial policy. Presently the French 
democracy awoke to find itself master of an empire in Indo- 
China, in Madagascar, and in West Africa, and with something of 


hesitation but more of pride it accepted the gift. Her colonies 
brought France into the active worid of international politics, 
and the alHance with Russia, of which Camot laid the foundations 
in 1891, was regarded as " the diplomatic baptism of the Repubhc." 
These successes, combined with the proof which her various great 
Expositions gave of her new prosperity, did much to lift up France's 
heart. But she continued to walk warily in international paths. 
She called a halt when, as at Fashoda, she seemed in danger of 
conflict with other Powers. She showed no sign of arrogance or 
of histrionic ambition : she behaved like an invalid who patiently 
and by discreet stages nurses herself back to strength. 

For during the forty years since 1870 she had not attained to 
full civic health. Perfectly integrated as a nation, she was as 
yet imperfectly consolidated as a state. Her pubhc opinion swung 
between nationalism and extreme internationalism. She was 
subject to crises of nerves — fear of militarism, of cosmopolitan 
finance, of enemy conspiracies, of foreign dictation whether from 
Rome or Berlin. The result was that she was sometimes betrayed 
into panicky and extravagant conduct. The Dreyfus case and 
many incidents of her rupture with the Vatican were the con- 
sequences of an honest instinct perverted by undue excitability. 
She passed through these crises without grave disaster, but their 
recurrence was inevitable until her government became firmly 
rooted in the confidence and affection of the ordinary man. 
France is in many respects the most conservative of nations, and 
she has a great gift of submission to a central government ; but 
the republic, ably as it was conducted, crept but slowly into her 
regard. The average Frenchman tended to be cynical about 
politics, and his distrust of politicians produced a certain apathy 
towards the State. The bourgeois was content to let the nation 
go its own way if there was no interference with his family and 
profession, and among the working classes the growth of syndi- 
calism — which meant the dominance of a class or a trade — re- 
vealed how weak had become the conception of an overruling 
national interest. Nationalists there were in plenty, but theirs 
was a creed of sentiment and tradition, and they were equally 
in revolt against the whole modern business of government. Now 
if a central government is disconsidered it becomes weak, and may 
presently deserve the current contempt. The Republic was in 
the quandary that it had to fight the growth of a doctrinaire inter- 
national socialism without the true prestige of a national Govern- 
ment, and that the work of politics tended more and more to be 


avoided by the flower of French intellect and character, and left 
to arriviste lawyers and journalists, and — worst danger of all — to 
a new type, the sansculotte financier, the speculating demagogue. 

With such serious elements of internal weakness to handicap 
her, France could not but look on the troubled world-stage with 
anxious eyes. She had always lived close to the heart of Europe, 
and had a great talent for candid observation. She was served 
by diplomatists who had probably no living equals, and was awake 
to the perils drawing daily nearer. But France — the France of 
yesterday — had one trait peculiarly her own. At all times she 
was in the fullest sense a nation and a great nation, but she was not 
in the habit of asserting her nationality on every occasion. Being 
old and high-born she took many things for granted. She believed 
religiously in her civilization as the chief heritage of the world, 
but she did not go out of her way to advertise it. She bad no 
missionary zeal, and when confronted with the noisy claims of 
upstarts was inclined to reply with a shrug of the shoulders. Hence 
to Germany she seemed effete, steeped in anti-nationalism, dis- 
tracted by narrow class interests, sunk deep in matter. It was 
a judgment profoundly mistaken, but it had this one thing to 
support it, that on the eve of war a curious apathy seemed to have 
settled upon her. In all the tangled international tale of the 
past decade her sincere desire for peace had been written large. 
To avoid war she had made sacrifices both of right and dignity. 
Party politicians had been allowed to whittle at her army and 
navy. It was not till 1913 that an attempt was made to put her 
military forces on the basis which her General Staff had long 
demanded. She had indeed made open confession of unpre- 
paredness as a guarantee of her honest pacificism. And yet by 
the autumn of 1913, through the medium of her ambassador in 
Berlin, she had certain information about German policy which 
made war probable in the near future— a knowledge not then 
possessed by any other Power. She may have undervalued this 
information, or she may have thought it the best policy to keep 
it to herself in the hope that the situation might change ; at 
any rate, she did not communicate it to her neighbours. Her 
cool, penetrating judgment was the same as before, but the gov- 
erning forces in her commonwealth seemed to have become too 
distracted for prompt action. For the moment a certain nerve- 
lessress had seized her, and it needed the insulting challenge of 
Germany to wake the ancient fire of her resolution. 



In the summer of 1902 the Peace of Vereeniging brought to 
a close the British campaign in South Africa — a costly and ill- 
conducted war in which few reputations were made and many were 
lost. Thereafter a certain satiety with oversea politics fell upon 
the people of the British Islands. The dream of Imperialism — 
the closer union of the British race in one great pacific and organic 
commonwealth — lost something of its glamour. It tended to sink 
on its baser side to a form of race chauvinism or a scheme of com- 
mercial protection ; the ideal, once so glowing, became a conven- 
tional peroration at public banquets ; and the machinery of union 
was narrowed to perfunctory conferences of British and Dominions 
ministers. Imperialism had at its lowest meant a political vision 
extending beyond these shores, and as it faded in popular esteem, 
the British people inclined more and more to be absorbed in domestic 
problems. There had been a time in their history when, under 
Palmerston and Gladstone and Disraeh, foreign affairs had been 
an integral part of their politics and elections had been lost and won 
on diplomatic programmes. But for twenty years the doings of 
Europe had interested them little. The Imperialist who taught 
that Britain was an extra-European Power depending on the 
control of the sea, and the social reformer who regarded foreign 
policy as a lure to distract the nation from more urgent matters, 
alike contributed to this result. In 1914 the people of Britain were 
less alive to the significance to their own interests of what might 
happen beyond their borders than the humblest continental state. 

Early in 1906 a Liberal Government came into office with a 
great majority behind them. Their mandate, so far as it could 
be read, was to remedy certain ancient abuses and inaugurate 
various overdue' reforms, and they set about this task with vigour 
and hope. But too large a majority is a misfortune for a Gov- 
ernment. It is apt to lead rather than to follow, and to keep it 
together means a strict attention to the prejudices of the often 
ignorant rank and file. Again, it demands a highly efficient party 
organization, and the party machine comes to bulk too large in the 
mind of ministers. Hence the new Government were in danger 
of emphasizing certain aspects of national policy to the exclusion 
of others ; and as their power waxed and their party organiza- 
tion became more efficient, they tended to confire their interest 
to immediate problems and had no time to spare for more distant 


views. Th^ir leader, Mr. Asquith, held the House of Commons 
in his hand, and developed a singular adroitness in party manage- 
ment : but his robust philosophy was apt to live in the hour, and 
his inclination was to wait till a difficulty became urgent before 
seeking a solution. It is a temperament most valuable in the head 
of a government in normal times, but it has grave defects in seasons 
of crisis. This spirit set the tone in the Cabinet, and the unwill- 
ingness to look far ahead was strengthened by the temperament 
of one of the strongest personalities in the Government. Mr. 
Lloyd George made domestic reform his special subject, and 
brought to it a unique gift of rhetoric and an energy not always 
scrupulous. By schemes which were rarely more than emotional 
impromptus, he roused intense antagonism and a wild enthusiasm 
among those who saw a Machiavellian purpose of spoliation and 
those who discerned the dawn of a new world. The fact that he 
was the most conspicuous public figure in Britain at the time 
switched the attention of the nation still farther away from such 
unfruitful topics as defence and foreign affairs. For Mr. Lloyd 
George's imagination, vivid and notable as it was, was essentially 
short-range ; his mind was wholly uninstructed in the problems 
of international policy, and though he was chosen in August 191 1 
to convey a warning to Germany after the Agadir affair, he spoke 
only from a brief, for there were few matters about which he knew 
less or cared so little. Finally, the new power of the party caucus 
encouraged this narrowing of view. It is the business of skilful 
whips to know what the people want and to see that programmes 
are shaped accordingly. To an electorate scared or exhilarated 
by the prospect of large social changes the husks of foreign policy 
would not be acceptable. Warnings of the probability of war 
would be regarded as merely a trick to distract. Expenditure on 
defence was a waste of money which might otherwise be spent on 
objects from which there was a sound return. Such matters, 
whether right or wrong, had no electioneering value, and the 
comfortable delusion was fostered that, so long as Britain chose 
to desire peace, peace would follow. There were men in the Govern- 
ment who to their honour refused to prophesy smooth things, 
but the cotton-wool with which the poUtical atmosphere was 
thick deadened their warnings. 

To increase Britain's preoccupation with her insular affairs there 
was the grave business of Ireland. The handling of this problem 
by the Government between the year 1910 and the outbreak 
of war must rank high among the political ineptitudes of history. 


A Home Rule scheme was introduced at a time when it was 
necessary to win support for an unpopular budget, and when, there- 
fore, it must inevitably have been suspected of an origin in party 
exigencies rather than in sober statecraft. The Arms Act had 
been repealed, and the majority of the Ulster population prepared 
to resist the proposals by war. Now if a serious and law-abiding 
people decide that a certain policy is so subversive of their prin- 
ciples and so fatal to their future that it must be met by armed 
revolution, it is usual for a democratic Government to call a halt 
and find some other way. But if the Government in its turn 
concludes that such resistance is factious and unreasonable and 
must be crushed, then it is its business promptly to arrest the 
ringleaders and quell the movement. Mr. Asquith's Government 
did neither. It allowed Ulster to raise and discipline an efficient 
army, and it went on with its Home Rule Bill. The Nationalists 
claimed the same right to arm and drill their people, and the 
National Volunteers came into being. The result was that by 
July 1914 Ireland was split up into two armed camps, and it 
seemed as if not even the dissolution of the Government and 
the disappearance of the Bill could avert civil strife. 

Apart from the Prime Minister, there were two men in the 
Cabinet whose minds were not obsessed by those domestic policies 
which made the only profitable electioneering. These were Sir 
Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, and Lord Haldane, who in 
19 1 2 went to the Woolsack from the War Office. Sir Edward 
Grey represented a very ancient and honourable type in British 
statecraft, a type like the Lord Al thorp of the First Reform Bill— 
a country gentleman with no vulgar ambitions, who would greatly 
have preferred a. private station, and entered pubhc hfe solely 
in order to serve his country. Since his accession to office he had 
laboured patiently and wisely to maintain the peace of Europe, 
and his grave simphcity of character, his moral dignity, and his 
gift of sound judgment and conciliatory statement had done much 
to keep the tottering fabric together. On more than one occasion 
his personal influence had been the determining factor in averting 
war. No man's prestige stood higher among European courts 
and governments. He had brought Britain again into the Euro- 
pean family, and by sheer good sense and fair dealing had made 
her influence felt in its councils. He had nourished the entente 
between Britain and France, and got rid of the few remaining 
causes of friction between Britain and Russia. He had attempted 
— apparently with some success — tc reach an understanding with 


Germany which would regularize and make room for her reason- 
able ambitions. This was a notable work, which as a personal 
achievement it would be hard to overrate. Nevertheless, when 
the rest of British poHcy is considered, it was a hazardous road that 
he trod. He had accustomed Britain to interfere in continental 
affairs when she was not armed on a continental scale, and when 
the whole apparent trend of her interest led away from matters 
of defence. If Germany chose to be arrogant he could not compel 
humihty, for he had no adequate sanction behind him. To an 
ally he could not promise such immediate assistance as would 
enable her to speak with her foes in the gate. His arms were 
historic prestige, wealth, a great navy ; but these were not in 
pari materia with those of the Powers with whom he thought to 
treat. He was a voice, a grave, reasonable, weighty voice, but 
behind it was not the appropriate weapon. 

Lord Haldane had, as we shall see later, done invaluable serv- 
ice to the British army as Secretary for War. But he did not 
regard that army as a thing to be elaborated for its own sake, 
and his mind had always been busy with those questions of foreign 
relations the mismanagement of which brings in the soldier ; 
and especially with the attitude of Germany, a country to whose 
thought and literature he owed, in company with many Britons, 
a great intellectual debt. With the consent of King Edward 
and of his colleagues in the Cabinet he paid a visit to Berlin in 
the summer of 1906, and had conversations with the Emperor and 
various German Ministers, in which he endeavoured to explore the 
possibilities of a friendly understanding. His view at the time 
was that, while there were dangerous forces at work within the 
German polity, the influence of the Emperor and his chief advisers 
was on the side of peace. The following year, when the Emperor 
visited Britain, these conversations were renewed. Then came many 
disturbances in the diplomatic sky, and it was suggested from 
Potsdam that direct intercourse between prominent statesmen of 
Britain and Germany might clear up certain difhculties. At the 
request of Sir Edward Grey, Lord Haldane went to Berlin in Feb- 
ruary igi2 on a private mission,* when he met the Emperor, 
Bethmann-Hollweg, Admiral von Tirpitz and others, and went 
very fully into the whole international situation — the new German 
fleet, the African colonies, the relations of Britain with France 

* The mission was nominally " private ; " but it was undertaken by Lord Haldane 
»t the request of the Cabinet, following on a request from Berlin, and he carried the 
fullest credentials from King Edward and the British Government. 


and other European Powers, the Bagdad railway, and all other 
matters of possible dispute. This visit came to be so grossly mis- 
represented, after the outbreak of war had roused popular suspicion, 
that it is ne:essary to be very clear as to what happened. Lord 
Haldane throughout his difficult task played the part of a concilia- 
tory but most faithful British envoy, jealous alike for his country's 
interests and his country's honour. He stood out stiffly against 
Tirpitz for a modification of the German naval programme as a 
guarantee of good faith. He was scrupulously loyal to Britain's 
unwritten obligations to France. His business was to inquire, 
not to commit his Government, and he kept in close touch with 
M. Jules Cambon, the French Ambassador. A provisional agree- 
ment was reached on many points, but on two subjects there 
could be no settlement. Germany was resolute to proceed with 
her new naval programme, and the magnitude of the increases 
provided for made it impossible for Britain to do otherwise than 
lay down two ships to her one. On that matter the attitude could 
not be agreement but watchful competition. Again, Germany 
insisted as a basis for an understanding upon a formula of Britain's 
unconditional neutrality in the event of a European war ; to which 
Britain could not assent without a betrayal of France. The 
conference therefore ended with many expressions of good-will, 
but without practical result so far as concerned the main topics 
discussed. But it led to an undoubted improvement in Anglo- 
German relations — an improvement which continued up to the 
outbreak of war. 

Lord Haldane returned to England with a divided mind. There 
were many things to disquiet him — the personality of Tirpitz 
and others of the War Party, the character of the new German 
naval law ; above all, the unconditional neutrality suggestion of 
the formula. On the other hand, he believed that the Emperor 
and the civilian ministers sincerely desired peace in their then 
mood, and there is reason to think that in the spring of 1912 this 
was true. Lord Haldane — and the British Government who 
were advised by him — came to a definite conclusion as to their 
immediate policy. A great danger loomed ahead, but the cloud 
might pass ; it was their business to do nothing which might make it 
discharge in a thunderstorm. They must avoid any pin-pricks, any 
blowing of warning trumpets in Britain ; for these would be mis- 
construed in Germany, and would strengthen the hands of those who 
clamoured for war. By judicious quiescence on their part the Im- 
perial Dr. Faustus might be prevented from making a bargain with 


the Devil. Such a decision was acceptable to a Government much 
perplexed with domestic problems and a little weary after six 
strenuous years. It was acceptable to the Prime Minister, in 
whose philosophy of Ufe the doctrine of " a friendly Universe " 
held a conspicuous place, and who considered that most political 
questions, if left alone, would settle themselves. It was acceptable 
to Sir Edward Grey, whose success as a peacemaker had incHned 
him to the belief that patience and good humour would tide over 
the worst times. It was acceptable to Lord Haldane, who had the 
best means of judging, and who was disposed to be optimistic 
about the saner elements in German life. On the information 
then at their disposal, and having regard to the temperament 
of the chief British Ministers and the complexity of the domestic 
situation, the decision was natural and inevitable. 

History will ask searching questions. Did the British Govern- 
ment view the German situation correctly in 1912 ? To this 
the answer Hes in the realm of hypothetics, but it may fairly be 
maintained that on a matter which involved so many imponder- 
ables they judged with reasonable accuracy ; at any rate, they 
judged honestly according to their lights, and mortals can do no 
more. Did the Government appreciate the change in Germany's 
mood which came about beyond doubt the following year ? For if 
they did, their continued supineness was a criminal breach of public 
duty. The answer would seem to be that they did not ; that in 
1914 they still shared the hopes, already baseless, which had had a 
show of reason in 1912. Their minds were monopolized by the 
troubles they had made for themselves at home ; they were badly 
informed, and the whole political atmosphere in which they lived 
was inimical to any close attention to the creeping shadows and 
broken lights of the European situation. It is not seemly to 
suggest that, had they had any inkling of the deadly peril which 
from the autumn of 1913 onward overshadowed the world, they 
would not have revised their views, flung party and prudential 
consideration to the winds, and warned the nation even at the 
cost of their disappearance from power. There were weak knees 
and confused heads in the Ministry, but the leaders were patriots 
and statesmen, who would have scorned to secure a few months' 
longer tenure of office at the cost of flagrant dishonour. 

On one point, however, it is difficult to acquit Mr. Asquith's 
Government. On their own admission a great war was well within 
the bounds of possibility. It might precipitate such a war to 
sound too clamantly the note of defence, but it was certainly 


folly to apply sedatives, and not to endeavour so to guide policy 
that the country should not be caught handicapped and unprepared. 
Yet during 1912, and up to the very eve of war, the latter seemed 
to be the Govemnient's aim. Lord Roberts's scheme for national 
training, faulty as it may have been, was repelled by the ordinary 
Government apologist with arguments which were foolish except 
on the assumption that the age of Saturn had dawned. Domestic 
affairs, notably the Irish business, were suffered to shp into a worse 
confusion. Questions of defence were treated by the Government 
spokesmen with a strange levity and intolerance as if they were 
of purely academic interest. The lax discipline of the Ministry 
permitted members, notably Mr. Lloyd George, to preach reduction 
in the Navy, and the powerful Liberal caucus committed itself to 
a policy of rapid disarmament. In all this can be discerned the 
ugly trail of party spirit. The electorate must be given a programme 
of positive material gain that the Government might keep its affec- 
tions. The Opposition had made a speciaUty of defence questions, 
and for the Government to lend a hand in the matter would have 
been in the eyes of many a betrayal of a mysterious abstraction 
called " Liberal principles," and in the eyes of every one infamously 
bad electioneering. Yet all the time the weightier members of the 
Cabinet had in their hearts the knowledge that behind the cru- 
dities of the Opposition criticism there lay a disquieting truth, 
and that at any moment what they labelled as scare-mongering 
might by the irony of fate be terribly justified as foresight. Mr. 
Asquith and his colleagues erred in being too optimistic about 
Germany and too pessimistic about their own countrymen. A 
Government long in office is rarely a heroic thing, and they had not 
the courage for even the modicum of candour necessary to steady 
the people. The result was that on the eve of war Britain cut 
a figure in the eyes of Europe which, by aggravating German arro- 
gance, materially expedited the catastrophe. To Berlin she seemed 
a land on the verge of revolution, with an army disloyal to the 
civil power ; with demagogues competing to offer doles to the 
proletariat ; with a populace clamorous about its rights but 
refusing the first duty of citizenship ; with Ireland on the verge 
of a civil war which would involve the whole Empire ; a Carthage 
which would go cap in hand to the world seeking for peace, and 
had forgotten its old valour in greed of gain and a passion for 
smooth phrases. It was a ludicrous misreading, but there seemed 
good evidence for it to the clumsy German psychologists. 
And of one fact in the summer of 1914 Germany was assured, 


and rightly assured : of her two great future enemies France was 
awake but unready, and the British people were neither ready 
nor awake. 


It remains to sketch briefly the political events which directly 
prepared the way for the cataclysm. German diplomacy, when 
in the late 'eighties it set itself seriously to assert Germany's 
international position, had two facts to start from — the Triple 
Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy; and a very 
real suspicion and a permanent possibility of friction among the 
three remaining Powers of Europe, France, Russia, and Britain. 
Its first efforts seemed to be directed by no settled plan, and to 
be guided only by the principle that in all international activity 
Germany must have a share.* The co-operation with Russia in 
depriving Japan of the fruits of her victory over China in 1895 ; 
the long intrigue with Turkey over Anatolia ; the Emperor's 
theatrical Syrian tour ; the German leadership of the Allied 
force dispatched to China in the Boxer rising ; the attempt to 
sow dissension between Britain and America during the latter's 
war with Spain in 1898 ; the Emperor's telegram to President 
Kruger after the Jameson Raid — are examples of how earnestly 
and unintelligently Germany went about the task of making her- 
self felt throughout the world. The first Navy Bill of 1900 pro- 
vided the nucleus of an armoury for this forward policy. It natu- 
rally alarmed her neighbours and disposed ancient rivals to make 
protective alliances. Under the influence of King Edward VII. 
the foundations had been laid of a friendship between Britain and 
France. Early in 1904 this resulted in a formal agreement, under 
which all outstanding disputes were settled, France recognized 
British supremacy in Egypt, and Britain withdrew her objections 
to French expansion in Morocco. To Germany this seemed a slight 
to her magnificence, for an international question of the first impor- 
tance had been settled without her being consulted. The view 
was not without reason. The original Convention of 1880, to 
which German}' had been a party, was revised in various important 
points by the 1904 agreement concluded between France and 

• " Nothing could be more strongly opposed to Germany's interest than to enter 
upon more or less daring and adventurous enterprises, guided merely by the desire 
tt) have a finger in every pie, to flatter the vanity of the nation, or to please th* 
ambitions of those who rule it." — Bismarck, 1897. 


Britain alone. She waited her time to vindicate her wounded 

France, as we have seen, had had since 1891 an alHance with 
Russia. In the autumn of 1904 the Russo-Japanese War broke 
out, and in a few months it was plain that Russia was to be 
defeated. In the spring of 1905 Prince Biilow suggested to his 
master that the occasion had come for a dramatic coup to restore 
his country's damaged prestige. As we have seen, Germany had 
a certain case, but she put herself in the wrong by her method of 
vindicating it. On the last day of March the Emperor landed 
with a large retinue at Tangier, proclaimed the integrity of Morocco, 
and promised the Sultan to defend his independence. He demanded 
that the whole Moroccan question should be reopened. A weak 
cabinet in Paris bowed to the storm, and M. Delcasse, the Foreign 
Minister, fell from ofhce. A conference of the Powers was sum- 
moned at Germany's instigation, but the result for her was a bitter 
disappointment. The legend of the " Concert of Europe " was 
shattered, and she was revealed as, except for her faithful Austria- 
Hungary, alone in the world. Britain and Russia stood solidly 
behind France ; Italy deserted her colleagues of the Triple Alliance 
and supported her Latin neighbour. The Algeciras arrangement of 
April 1906 provided no lasting settlement, but it made clear the 
new grouping of the European peoples. Germany had failed to 
drive France from Morocco or to enter that country herself, and 
she had irritated and alarmed the world by showing too nakedly 
her hand. It was certain that she would look forthwith for fresh 
methods to aggrandize her pride, and would have to rely mainly 
upon herself. Italy was drifting from her side, and her rivals were 
coming closer together. The new Liberal Ministry in Britain had 
accepted the foreign policy of their predecessors, and the following 
year they signed with Russia an agreement which completed the 
Triple Entente. 

The next German coup was more adroitly handled. In the 
summer of 1908 the old regime in Turkey was swept away by 
revolution, the Young Turk party came into power, and by their 
liberal professions attracted for a little the sympathy of Western 
Europe. At first the change seemed against Germany's interest, for 
she had sedulously cultivated the Hamidian Government, and would 
have to begin again from the beginning. But she saw a chance 
of fishing profitably in the troubled waters. Austria seized the 
occasion to annex the Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herze- 
govina, of which she had long had the administration. Serbia was 


alarmed, for she saw her hope of union with the Bosnian Serbs 
extinguished. Russia, as Serbia's protector, shared her annoy- 
ance at this annulment of the work of the Congress of Berlin, and 
Italy was disquieted by Austria's advance southward into the 
Balkan peninsula. But Austria had Germany at her back, and 
the protests of the Triple Entente were met with a cool contempt. 
The Emperor William made his famous speech about Germany's 
" shining armour," and the Entente, unprepared for a European 
war in such a cause, had to acquiesce with the best grace it could 
muster. It was a proof of the solid foundations of the friendship 
between France, Britain, and Russia that it survived unimpaired 
this diplomatic humiUation. But the Austro-German success had 
a disastrous effect on the Triple AUiance, and Italy drew farther 
apart from her colleagues. 

The first German move had failed at Algeciras ; the second 
had succeeded ; the third was to end in a fiasco. It came in the 
spring of 191 1. There had been a revolt in Fez, and French troops 
had entered the city. To Germany it seemed that the Shereefian 
Empire was on the point of breaking up, and she was determined 
to share in the spoils. If France was to have the reconstruction 
of the land, Germany must have territorial compensation ; in 
the words of Kiderlen-Wachter, " If one wants to eat peaches 
in January one must pay for them." The gunboat Panther was 
dispatched to Agadir, and the German press claimed West Morocco 
as their country's right. But France in 191 1 was not the France of 
1905. M. Caillaux, who showed signs of temporizing with Germany, 
was swept from power, and the new Ministry, under Raymond 
Poincare, included Delcasse, who was not inclined to truckle to 
Berlin. Britain sent a warship to Agadir to lie alongside the 
Panther, and proclaimed in unmistakable terms her support of 
France. Germany, not yet ready for a world-war, abated her 
pretensions, and the Moroccan dispute was settled by various 
cessions of territory in Central Africa between France and herself. 
No German considered the arrangement as final, and the rebuff 
roused in Germany a fury of resentment against France and not 
less against her ally Britain. From that moment the war party 
dropped all talk of compromise and preached naked aggression. 
With Agadir we may say, looking back from the standpoint of 
accomplished fact, that all hope of peace vanished from Europe, 
though it was given to few to read the omens truly. Close on its 
heels followed the war between Italy and Turkey. Italy was not 
unnaturally anxious lest Germany, foiled in Morocco, might seek 


compensation on the Tripoli coast, and the confusion of the Young 
Turk regime gave her a good excuse for action. Austria and 
Germany ahke viewed her conduct with profound irritation, and 
the Triple Alliance had now become the shadow of a shade. 

In February of the following year, 1912, Lord Haldane, as we 
have seen, paid his visit to Berlin, and found certain features which 
gravely disquieted him. War appeared to be contemplated as an 
early possibility by powerful factions, but the Government and the 
Emperor were not yet committed to their side, and there seemed 
to him to be still a good chance of the fever subsiding. But that 
autumn a new irritant appeared in south-eastern Europe. The 
Balkan War began — a war which Germany expected to issue in a 
decisive victory for Turkey. The result was far different, and dealt 
a final blow to Austria's hopes of a port in the iEgean and to Ger- 
many's dream of a gradual and painless absorption of the Ottoman 
Empire. The most that the Central Powers could do was to muddy 
the waters of diplomacy, and prevent the settlement after the two 
wars from being more than a patched-up truce. But certain conse- 
quences remained. A new and formidable Slav Power now stood 
in the way of Germany's Drang nach Osten, and behind loomed 
Russia, the protector of the Slav peoples. Such a situation drove 
Germany, still sore over Morocco, to reflect most seriously on her 
position. She saw the various avenues to world-power, on which 
she had based her plans, rapidly closing up. The Near East might 
soon be shut by the new Slav renaissance ; the Far East was too 
dangerous with Japan at its door. South America was barred 
to her adventures by the United States, and most of the rest of the 
world by Britain. Her navy had come to maturity, and was eager 
to win laurels. She was already the greatest mihtary Power on 
earth, and ere the Balkan Wars were over had increased her total 
peace strength to 870,000 men. She saw the Triple Entente solidi- 
fying into an alliance — an alliance accompanied by a surprising 
growth of sympathy and good will between the three constituent 
nations. She was afraid of Britain's naval strength and the 
twenty-milhon addition to Britain's naval estimates ; it seemed 
intolerable to her, as a World-Power, that any single nation should 
be so omnipotent at sea. She did not appreciate the necessities of 
an island Power, administering a world-wide Empire, but read 
ambition into schemes based only on administrative needs and 
the desire for a modest security. It was an error, but we may 
admit it to have been a pardonable error, for Britain's naval policy 
has often been misconstrued, by her friends as well as by her foes. 


To Germany it appeared that her neighbours sought to isolate 
her, to ring her round with hostile alliances, and then ovei whelm 
her under the weight of an armed coalition. Her forward policy, 
begun under the impulse of national self-confidence, began now 
to quicken its pace under the influence of baseless but not wholly 
unnatural fears. The inevitable protective measures of Europe 
under the threat of her restless ambition were easy to distort into 
a malign conspiracy against her freedom, and as such, of set purpose, 
they were represented by the leaders of Germany to the German 

The year 1913 marked the turning-point in her destiny. In 
September 1912 Marschall von Bieberstein, the German Ambassador 
to Britain, had died, and his successor was Prince Lichnowsky, 
a Silesian noble, whose views of German policy differed widely 
from those of the ruHng clique in Berlin. He disbelieved utterly, 
as Bismarck disbeheved, in espousing Austria's quarrels and in 
Germany's Balkan and Near East adventures, and would have 
had his country expand overseas in friendship with France and 
Britain. " The policy of the Triple Alliance," he afterwards 
wrote, " is a return to the past, a turning aside from the future, 
from Imperialism and world-policy. ' Middle Europe ' belongs to 
the Middle Ages ; BerUn-Bagdad is a blind alley and not the way 
into the open country, to the unlimited possibihties, to the world- 
mission of the German nation." He made himself popular in 
English society, and he worked assiduously with Sir Edward Grey 
to reach an agreement on certain international questions, the chief 
of which were the Portuguese colonies and the Bagdad railway. 
Treaties were prepared or discussed under which Britain agreed to 
permit Germany to purchase Portugal's African possessions, when 
Portugal was willing to sell, and in the meantime to regard them as 
a legitimate German sphere of influence ; in which she agreed to the 
completion of the Bagdad Hne to Basra, and to the recognition of 
Germany's dominant interest in all the district tapped by the rail- 
way. It was an immense concession, but in spite of Lichnowsky's 
efforts the treaties were not signed in Berlin. The reason was 
simple. Germany could not afford to publish to the world this 
proof of Britain's good will towards her overseas expansion ; for 
in 1913 her rulers had decided to play for higher stakes by the 
game of war. 

That year saw the completion of the first twenty-five years of 
the Emperor's reign, and the Jubilee celebrations, with their 
awakening of historical memories, caused a sudden surge of pride 

THE AUTUMN OF 1913. 49 

to arise in the German people, and inflamed the ambition of the 
Imperial mind. The time seemed to have come to make a settle- 
ment with rivals, not by the humiliating processes of diplomacy, 
but by the summary power of the sword. It was the year of the 
new German Army Law, and every military chief, from the younger 
Moltke downward, was busy with arrogant defiances to the world. 
As early as April the French Government received a secret report 
setting forth the purposes for which the greatly increased army 
of Germany was to be used, and each sentence showed that war was 
contemplated at the first convenient moment. In November the 
Emperor told the King of the Belgians at Potsdam that he looked 
upon war with France as " inevitable and close at hand." About 
the same time M. Jules Cambon warned his Government that 
the balance had now clearly swung to the side of the War party, 
and that the Emperor was with them. No exact date can be fixed 
for this momentous change. It was doubtless a gradual process, 
at first a subtle altering of outlook and perspective which slowly 
drew to a conscious policy. So far as we can judge William's 
mind, he did not then conceive of the coming conflict as a world- 
conflagration : Britain would stand out — on that point Germany, 
plentifully supplied with the reports of her secret agents, was 
positive ; France, if it came to war, would speedily be broken ; 
and after some sullen fighting on the Eastern frontier the Slav 
peril would be checked. Germany would emerge as indisputably 
the greatest of the Powers, heavy indemnities would pay her bills, 
and her mailed diplomacy would not be denied in future conclaves 
of the peoples. The Emperor's decision, granting his character, 
could scarcely have been otherwise. He had raised a genie that 
he could not control. The blunders at Agadir and in the Balkans 
had been credited to him ; for if he claimed Germany's successes 
as personal achievements, he must also take the blame of her 
failures. He saw his position imperilled, and half from fear and 
half from wounded vanity inclined his ear to those who clamoured 
for violence. 

But the right occasion must be found. Austria was straining 
at the leash, for the result of the Balkan campaigns had given her 
good cause to fear for the foundations of her rickety dominion. 
The ink was barely dry on the Treaty of Bucharest when she 
proposed to Italy to attack Serbia. Italy declined, and it is 
certain that Germany would in any case have forbidden this piece 
of brigandage, for she saw that the coming war must be skilfully 
stage-managed, and must be represented to her people and to the 


world as a war of defence. Besides, the widening of the Kiel 
Canal, on which her naval strategy depended, would not be com- 
pleted till the following summer. She did not wish to force the 
struggle by any sudden violence on her part. Her rulers had 
resolved to fight, and to fight before France and Russia were 
ready ; there were therefore limits to their period of waiting, 
but they were confident that at no distant date they would 
find the kind of pretext they required. Meantime, secretly and 
patiently, they prepared the ground. During the first months of 
19 14 there were many discussions among the statesmen of the 
Central Powers, of which only faint echoes have reached the world : 
steps taken by certain financial houses, especially connected with 
German and Austrian state business, as early as May of that 
year, point to a premonition based on some hint from exalted 
quarters. The German mind was excited by a calumnious press 
campaign against Russia and France, while the anxiety of Britain 
was lulled by pacific declarations. 

And then suddenly, on the 28th of June, came the news from 
Serajevo, and the time of waiting was ended. 


June 2^- August 4, 19 14. 

The Immediate Results of the Serajevo Murders — Germany's Council of War on 
5th July — Austria's Ultimatum to Serbia — The Russian Mobilization — Ger- 
many's Proposal to Britain — The Work of Sir Edward Grey — Germany mobi- 
lizes — The Ultimatums to France and Belgium — The Invasion of Belgium — 
The British Cabinet — Britain declares War. 

At first the Serajevo tragedy seemed destined to be only a nine 
days' wonder. The victims were hurried into their graves ; the 
cofQns were borne through Vienna by night, the service in the 
Burg chapel was short and perfunctory, the burial in the rain at 
the castle of Arstetten might have been the funeral of a minor 
noble, and the stately ceremonial which marked the sepulture of 
the Hapsburgs was wholly omitted. The murderers went through 
a lengthy and farcical trial, as a result of which the two principals, 
Prinzip and Gabrinovitch, escaped the death penalty, while several 
obscure accessories were hung. But though the dead Archduke 
and his wife seemed to be speedily forgotten, the press and the 
politicians of Vienna and Budapest exploited the murders to the 
utmost for their own ends. Throughout almost every land they 
found a ready sympathy. The crime had been most shocking 
and barbarous, and left the worst impression upon a world which 
had not forgotten the tragic end of King Milan and Queen Draga. 
The compHcity of the Serbian Government was assumed in many 
quarters, and even the better instructed, who had no special love 
for Austria, were ready to admit that she had here a genuine 
grievance. She might be reactionary and inept, but across the 
Danube was a movement which threatened the integrity of her 
dominions and her very existence as a Great Power. No state 
could be expected to forgo the right of self preservation. The 
public opinion of Western Europe would have been on her side 
had she demanded from Serbia the most stringent guarantees 



for the future ; but the public opinion of Western Europe did 
not prol^e the matter very deep. France and Britain were at the 
moment desperately involved in their own domestic affairs. 

Russia, alone of the Entente, was from the first seriously per- 
turbed. In a later chapter we shall consider her internal condi- 
tion ; here we are concerned only with her foreign policy. That 
policy was, from the nature of her interests, essentially pacific. 
She desired no extension of territory, for her need was intensive 
development. But, as the greatest Slav power, she recognized 
certain obligations to the Slav peoples beyond her borders. She 
could not allow the little Balkan States to be swallowed up in a 
Teutonic advance towards the Bosphorus, and, as the protector 
of the Greek Church, she was obliged to resent any ill treatment 
of Orthodox believers in other lands. She had as a people no 
belUcose aims, and could be drawn into war only in three con- 
tingencies — an assault upon a Slav nationality, the persecution of 
the Greek Church outside her frontiers, or an attack upon her ally 
France. The second had been long a source of uneasiness to her 
statesmen, and the first was suddenly brought into prominence by 
the events of Serajevo. She was gravely shocked by the crime, 
and advised Serbia to accept with a good grace all possible Austrian 
demands. What these might be no man outside Austria-Hungary 
and Germany knew for the better part of a month. The reports 
from the different embassies were conflicting, but there were two 
ominous signs. One was the inspired truculence of the Austrian 
press, which seemed bent on inflaming popular opinion ; the other 
was the cryptic speeches of the German Ambassador in Vienna, Herr 
von Tschirschky, who proclaimed to all whom he met that now 
Austria must settle with Serbia once and for ever. 

On the 5th day of July a meeting was held at Potsdam at which 
the situation was discussed and the outline of the Austrian ulti- 
matum to Serbia decided upon. In spite of denials it is beyond 
question that the meeting took place. We know that the 
Emperor was there, and the Imperial Chancellor and Zimmer- 
mann from the Foreign Office,* and we know that an autograph 

• This much has been admitted by Jagow (Ursachen und Ausbruch des Welt- 
krieges, 1919), who denies that the meeting was a " Crown Council." Technically, 
no doult, it was not, but it was a Council of War. The story was first published in 
September 1914 by the Dutch paper the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, and revived 
in July 191 7 by some of the German Sociahst delegates to the Stockholm Congress, 
when it was officially denied by the German Government. Prince Lichnowsky, who 
had the best moans of knowing, affirms in his memorandum the holding of a Council. 
Baron VVangenheira, the German Ambassador at Constantinople, told Mr. Morgenthau* 
the American Ambassador, of the meeting, at which he said he had been present. 


letter from the Emperor Francis Joseph, presented to the Emperor 
that morning by the Austrian Ambassador, was discussed, and that 
the result of the deliberations was to promise German support to 
Austria in the most peremptory and extreme demands upon 
Serbia. Some suspicion of what was coming was in the mind of 
the Russian Government, for M. Sazonov, the Foreign Minister, 
some time before 6th July, sent for Count Czernin, the Austrian 
Charge d'Affaires, and warned him that any unreasonable attitude 
taken up by his country to Serbia could not leave Russia indifferent. 
On the 6th the German Emperor left for his usual summer yachting 
trip in Norwegian waters — a trip which had the double advantage 
of advertising to the world the remoteness of Germany from a 
Balkan squabble, and of getting a difficult personage off the scene. 
Next day there was a Cabinet Council in Vienna, to consider the 
report of the Austrian Ambassador to Berlin on the interview 
with the Emperor on the 5th. The assurance that Germany was 
behind them in a bellicose policy encouraged the ministers, under 
the guidance of Count Berchtold, to present to Serbia an impossible 
ultimatum, and risk the consequences. Only one voice, that of 
Count Tisza, was raised in opposition. He foresaw that the conflict 
would spread, and deprecated the optimism of his light-hearted 
colleagues. A week later Herr von Weisner, who had been sent by 
Vienna to Serajevo to report on the murders, wired to his Govern- 
ment that the complicity of Serbia was " proved by nothing and 
cannot even be suspected." The views of this honest witness 
were disregarded. On the 19th, as we know from Tisza's ad- 
missions, a joint conference was held of Austrian and Hungarian 
ministers, and the text of the ultimatum was framed. 

At this conference no representative of Germany was present, 

and explained the decisions taken. Bethmann-Hollweg in his book {Beirachtungen 
zum Weltkriege, 1919) hmits those present to himself and Zimmermann. Tirpitz, 
who was not there, adds Falkenhayn, the Minister oi War, and Lyncker, 
the chief of the Mihtary Cabinet {Erinnerungen, 1919). The researches of Herr 
Kautsky among the documents at the Wilhelmstrasse show that Count Hoyos arrived 
with a letter from Francis Joseph early on the morning of the 5th ; that it was pre- 
sented to the Emperor by Count Szogyeny and read by him before luncheon ; that 
the Emperor summoned Bethmann-Hollweg and Zimmermann to Potsdam and 
discussed the Austrian proposals with them during the afternoon ; that later in 
the day he saw Falkenhayn and Lyncker ; that early on the 6th he saw Admiral 
von Capelle and Captain Zenker from the Admiralty, as well as representatives of 
the General Staff and the War Ministry, when it was resolved to take preparatory 
measures for war ; that in the afternoon the Chancellor and Zimmermann saw 
Count Hoyos and informed him that Germany agreed that the time had come 
for drastic action in the Balkans and would support her in any decision she took. 
Count Berchtold announced this message on the 7th to the Council of Ministers at 


but that Germany at this early date was cognizant of the terms 
of the document is clear beyond possibility of doubt. Her Govern- 
ment avoided seeing the final text before presentation, so that 
they might deny previous knowledge, but the denial was a quibble, 
for they were fully informed from the start as to its substance. 
Dr. Miihlon, then a director of Krupps, learned from Dr. Helffe- 
rich, then a director of the Deutsche Bank, the main provisions 
of the ultimatum about the 15th of July, and was told moreover 
the very day on which it was to be presented at Belgrade. There 
seems at the time to have been some nervousness in the circles of 
German high finance about the wisdom of giving carte blanche 
to Austria, lest the fumbling hands of Vienna should bungle the 
business. But the final evidence is in a letter from Count von 
Lerchenfeld, the Bavarian Minister in Berlin, to his chief. Count 
Hertling, at Munich. This document, which was written on i8th 
July, contains the following sentences : 

" The step which the Cabinet in Vienna has resolved to take in 
Belgrade, namely the deUvery of the Note, will take place on the 
25th July. Action has been postponed until this juncture because of 
the desire to await M. Poincare's and M. Viviani's departure from 
St. Petersburg, in order to make it dif&cult for the Entente to arrive 
at an understanding and to counter-act. In Vienna, until then, a 
show of peaceful disposition is to be made. ... It is obvious that 
Serbia cannot accept such conditions, which are inconsistent with 
her dignity as an independent State. The consequence must there- 
fore be war. It is absolutely agreed here that Austria should take 
advantage of this favourable moment, even at the risk of further 
complications. . . . The opinion here is general that it is Austria's 
hour of fate. For this reason, in reply to inquiry from Vienna,* the 
declaration was immediately made here that any action upon which 
Austria may resolve will be agreed to, even at the risk of war with 
Russia. The free hand which was given to Count Berchtold's Chef 
de Cabinet, Count Hoyos, who arrived in Berlin to deliver the detailed 
memorandum, was so extensive that the Austrian Government was 
authorized to negotiate with Bulgaria regarding her joining the Triple 
Alliance. . . . With reference to the Kaiser travelling in a foreign 
country, and the Chief of the General Staff and the Prussian War 
Minister being on furlough, the Imperial Government will declare 
that it was as much surprised as the other Powers by Austrian action." 

Rarely has a conspiracy been more fully exposed. Germany 
at once took secret steps which in any other land would have 
been the equivalent of mobilization. As early as July 21st she 

♦ This can only refer to the meeting at Potsdam on July 5th. 


ordered the recall of certain classes of reservists ; then of German 
officers in Switzerland ; and on the 25th she strengthened the 
Metz garrison. Meantime M. Sazonov, unaware that the thing 
was already beyond argument, directed the Russian representative 
in Vienna on the 22nd to warn Austria against unreasonable 
claims on Serbia. A few days before he had told the German 
Ambassador in Petrograd, Count Pourtales, that while Russia 
earnestly desired peace, she could not admit that Austria had any 
more right to blame Serbia for pan-Slavonic agitation within 
Austrian borders, than she would have to charge Germany or 
Italy with the responsibility for exciting pan-German and pan- 
Italian propaganda. This warning shows that M. Sazonov saw 
where the danger lay. If the Serajevo crime was made the sole 
matter in dispute, Serbia, having clean hands, could go very far 
in compliance. But if the whole southern Slav question were to 
be raised, the difficulties might well be insurmountable. 

On Thursday the 23rd of July — two days before von Lerchen- 
feld's date — the Austro-Hungarian Government presented its 
ultimatum to Belgrade. To all the world, except the Teutonic 
Powers, it came as a veritable thunderbolt. The lengthy document 
contained a number of drastic demands, devised partly as a repara- 
tion for the Serajevo murders and partly as a safeguard for the 
future. A reply was requested within forty-eight hours — that is, 
by six o'clock on the evening of Saturday the 25th. The matter 
in dispute was not the Archduke's death, which was treated as 
only the last of a long chain of grievances. Austria asked not 
for Serbia's co-operation in punishing the assassins, but for her 
degradation to the position of a vassal state. She took credit 
for her moderation, because she did not seek any surrender of 
territory ; in reality she demanded the submission of all Serbia 
to her protectorate. She had chosen her moment cunningly. 
While a reply was pending each capital of the Entente was in the 
throes of a domestic crisis, and had little leisure to grapple with 
the new peril in the East. Petrograd was paralyzed by a huge 
strike, and had barricades in her streets. Paris was in the midst 
of the trial of Madame Caillaux for the murder of M. Calmette, 
and absorbed in what promised to be the worst political scandal 
since the Dreyfus case. To add to the confusion. President, 
Premier, and Foreign Minister were at the moment absent from 
France. In Britain the Buckingham Palace Conference on the 
Ulster question broke down on the 24th, and to many people 
there seemed no way out of the tangle but civil war. 


Faced with this crisis, Serbia appealed to Russia. Meantime 
certain significant events had happened. The German Ambassadors 
at Paris, London, and Petrograd called upon the French, British, 
and Russian Foreign Ministers, and announced that Germany, 
though she had had no previous knowledge of it, approved the 
form and substance of the Austrian note, adding that, if the quarrel 
between Serbia and Austria were not localized, dangerous friction 
might ensue between the Triple Entente and the Triple AUiance. 
What was the meaning of this curious act, in which Germany 
first publicly arrayed herself behind the Dual Monarchy ? M. 
Jules Cambon at the moment thought that the German and 
Austrian Governments believed that a bold bluff would paralyze 
Russia, as in 1908. But M. Sazonov's handhng of the situation 
thus far had given them no ground for such a delusion. Never- 
theless at the time both Jagow and Tschirschky were busy 
assuring their fellow diplomats that the storm would blow past 
and that the peace of Europe was not really endangered. We 
can only set it down as part of the game which had been agreed 
on ; optimism about peace would help to convince the world that 
Germany was honestly in favour of a reasonable settlement, and 
would make it easier to put aside with fair words any later pro- 
posals to avert that war on which she was resolved. The Foreign 
Ministers of Russia and France were not deceived ; and if Sir 
Edward Grey was less clear, he seems to have shared the uncer- 
tainty with Prince Lichnowsky himself. On the latter's suggestion 
he advised Serbia to make such a reply as would prevent Austria 
from taking summary action. He advised M. Sazonov to request 
from Vienna an extension of the forty-eight hours' limit. The 
Russian Minister was anxious that Britain should at once declare 
her union with Russia and France in the event of war, arguing 
logically enough that, if Germany were bluffing, such an action 
would expose the bluff, and that, if she were in earnest, sooner or 
later Britain would be drawn into the struggle. But at the time, 
with Britain profoundly ignorant of the whole question, such a 
course would have been impossible for a British statesman. On 
the morning of the 25th Austria refused to extend the time limit, 
and that evening at a quarter to six Serbia made her reply. 

She had followed exactly Russia's counsel. She had gone to 
the extreme limit of complaisance and accepted substantially 
all the Austrian demands with two reservations, on which she 
asked for a reference to the Hague Tribunal. These concerned 
Articles 5 and 6 of the Note. Article 5 required her " to accept 


the collaboration in Serbia of representatives of the Austro-Hun- 
gan in Government in the suppression of the subversive movement 
directed against the territorial integrity of the Monarchy." Serbia 
replied that she did not clearly understand this request, but would 
admit such collaboration as agreed with the principles of inter- 
national law and her own criminal procedure. Article 6 asked 
for judicial proceedings against the accessories to the Serajevo 
plot, in which poUce officials of the Austro-Hungarian Government 
should take part so far as the preUminary inquiries were concerned. 
Serbia replied that she could not accept this, as it would be a vio- 
lation of her constitution, though she was willing that the details 
of any investigation she conducted should be laid before the Aus- 
trian agents. Obviously in this contention she was right. The 
complete acceptance of the Austrian demands would have meant 
that she surrendered her independent nationality and her privileges 
as a sovereign state, and that Austria extended her authority to 
the Greek and Bulgarian frontiers. 

The Note was in the nature of a rhetorical question ; it did not 
expect an answer. Had Serbia yielded on every point, another 
Note would no doubt have followed in still more exorbitant terms, 
for Austria was determined to pick a quarrel. At a quarter to 
six on the Saturday evening, M. Pasitch, the Serbian Prime 
Minister, delivered the answer in person at the Austrian Legation. 
It may be doubted whether that answer was read. He had scarcely 
returned to his oflice ere he received a message that the reply 
was unsatisfactory, and at 6.30 p.m., or forty-five minutes after 
the receipt of the Serbian answer. Baron Giesl and his staff left 
Belgrade. Two days later the Viennese Government published a 
manifesto explaining why they rejected Serbia's offer, perhaps the 
weakest state paper ever issued to the world. Austria at this 
juncture did not play her cards with skill ; she had written her 
purpose so large that even the dullest could read it. Meantime 
Serbia took thought for the future. She transferred the seat of 
government to Nish, for Belgrade was under the Austrian frontier 
guns, and that evening gave the order for a general mobiliza- 
tion. The Dual Monarchy mobilized at once its corps in Hungary, 
Central Austria, and Bosnia-Dalmatia — eight completely and four 
partially, a total of half a million men — and moved them towards 
the Serbian border. 

Next day, Sunday the 26th, there began that feverish week 
of diplomatic effort which constitutes as dramatic an episode as 
modern annals can show. The chief part was played by the 


British Foreign Secretary, whose labours for peace up till the last 
moment were of incalculable value in establishing the honesty of 
purpose of the Entente in the eyes of neutral peoples. His first step 
was to approach Germany, France, and Italy, with a view to calling 
a conference in London to mediate in the Austro-Serbian quarrel. 
M. Sazonov, too, on that day made another appeal to Vienna. 
Sir Edward Grey met with a cordial response from Paris and 
Rome, but from BerUn he was informed that Germany would 
have nothing to do with any conference. He returned to the 
charge and proposed that, if the principle of mediation was accepted, 
Jagow himself should suggest the Unes on which it should be 
conducted. From Vienna M. Sazonov received on the 28th a 
peremptory refusal to negotiate further with Serbia, and the an- 
nouncement that that day Austria had declared war. Meantime 
on the 26th two incidents had happened, both of them with a 
direct bearing on the future course of events. There had been a riot 
in Dublin attended by loss of hfe, when troops of the King's Own 
Scottish Borderers had come into conflict with gun-runners from the 
Nationalist Volunteers. To the German agents, and notably to 
Kuhlmann, one of the chief officials at the Embassy, it seemed that 
civil war in Britain had begun. That evening, too, the German 
Emperor, his Norwegian trip concluded, returned to Berlin. 

It would appear that the rapid action of Austria, now that it 
was an accomplished fact, compelled the civilian statesmen of 
Germany to reflect. They had determined upon war, but they 
did not wish to drop the mask of reasonableness, and a lingering 
prudence made them seek to Umit the coming conflict. They must 
stand in the eyes of their own people and of the world as 
the aggrieved not the aggressors ; above all, they wished to do 
nothing that might bring Britain into the arena against them. 
At the same time, owing to the reports of Count Pourtales (the 
most foolish figure in the not very brilliant German corps diplo- 
matique), they seem to have imagined that Russia would not 
fight under any circumstances, and the same delusion was strong 
in Vienna. Accordingly they adopted the pose of trying to mod- 
erate Austria's precipitation. On the evening of the 28th the 
Imperial Chancellor sent for the British Ambassador and opened 
his heart to him. His view was that the quarrel with Serbia was 
purely Austria's business, with which Russia had no concern ; 
he could not accept the conference suggested by Sir Edward Grey, 
for that would look like sitting in judgment on sovereign Powers ; 
but a war among the Great Powers must be avoided, and he was 


very willing to co-operate wi\;h Britain to this end. He was anxious 
for direct negotiations between Vienna and Petrograd, and was 
advising Vienna accordingly. We know from other sources what 
this advice was. He told Austria not to refuse further conversa- 
tions, to seize Serbian territory as a guarantee, but to explain to 
Russia that she did not intend permanent annexation. In this 
there was no hint of concession. The impossible Austrian demands 
remained, and Serbia, though not annexed, would still be brought 
into a state of vassalage. The action was part of the elaborate 
hypocrisy by which Germany hoped to mislead Britain. The 
Imperial Chancellor wished it to be known that he was attempting 
to restrain Vienna, but he concealed the details of his feeble per- 
suasion. On the afternoon of the 29th Sir Edward Grey very 
seriously and courteously warned Prince Lichnowsky of the dan- 
gerous waters to which Germany was steering. " The situation 
was very grave. While it was restricted to the issues at present 
actually involved, we had no thought of interfering in it. But if 
Germany became involved in it, and then France, the issue might 
be so great that it would involve all European interests ; and I 
did not wish him to be misled by the friendly tone of our conver- 
sations — which I hoped might continue — into thinking that we 
should stand aside." 

The centre of interest now moves for the moment to Russia. 
On Wednesday the 29th, after Austria's declaration of war on 
Serbia, orders were given for a partial Russian mobilization, affect- 
ing the districts of Kiev, Odessa, Moscow, and Kazan, which were 
nearest to Austria. That day the bombardment of Belgrade 
began, the German High Sea Fleet had been recalled from Norway, 
Belgium had taken certain military steps in self-defence, and in 
the British Fleet all manoeuvre leave had been cancelled and 
concentration was proceeding. It was the beginning of the final 
stage of the crisis, and its twenty-four hours passed in such a 
tension as Europe had never known. The two storm centres 
that day were in Petrograd and Berlin. 

On the evening of the 28th, forty hours after his return, the 
German Emperor dispatched a telegram to the Tsar. Hitherto 
they had been on terms of intimacy, had addressed each other 
by pet names in their correspondence, and at various times the 
Hohenzollem had advised his brother monarch how to establish 
a reverence for autocracy by devices little suited to the Romanov 
temperament. He now appealed to their old friendship and the 
common interest of kings in punishing the murder of those in high 


places and stamping out anarchy. At i p.m. on the 29th the 
Tsar replied, begging the Emperor to restrain Austria from going 
too far, since " in Russia the indignation, which I share, is tre- 
mendous." That afternoon the order went out for partial mobiHza- 
tion, though Sukhomlinov, the Minister of War, and Janusch- 
kevitch, the Chief of the General Staff, considered that in view 
of the threatening outlook the mobilization should be general. 
Immediately afterwards M. Sazonov had an interview with Count 
Pourtales. That light-witted diplomat, who had just had news 
of the mobilization, adopted a hectoring tone. He reminded 
Sazonov that Austria was Germany's ally, and that any threat 
to the former could not leave the latter unaffected. There was a 
second interview at 7 p.m., when he produced a telegram from 
Bethmann-Hollweg, which, as interpreted by him, announced that 
any further military preparation by Russia would compel Germany 
to mobilize, and that that meant war. Count Pourtales had 
presented Russia with an ultimatum. 

M. Sazonov was gravely perturbed. The Russian partial mobi- 
lization against Austria had begun, and Germany was about to make 
this a casus belli. It seemed to him that nothing was now left 
but to prepare on the full scale for war. He consulted Sukhomli- 
nov and Januschkevitch, and found them of the same mind. They 
had already acted on their own initiative, and issued secret instruc- 
tions for a general mobilization. It was a highly improper act, 
however patriotic the motives, but it is not difficult to under- 
stand their reasoning. The partial mobilization did not affect 
the biggest army group, that of Warsaw, which for two hundred 
miles lay along the Galician frontier ; and if war with Austria 
was inevitable, then this group must be set in motion at once. 
Nevertheless their dupHcity had involved the innocent Foreign 
Minister in a misstatement of fact to Count Pourtales. After 
7 p.m., however, M. Sazonov became a convert to their view, and 
sometime about 8 p.m. the Tsar reluctantly consented to the 
general mobilization. 

Presently arrived a telegram from the German Emperor framed 
in more conciliatory terms than Count Pourtales' blunt declara- 
tion. The Tsar replied in the same tone, and being now in a 
state of painful indecision, telephoned to Sukhomlinov bidding 
him countermand the general mobilization. But that had been 
proceeding swiftly for many hours and could not be stopped. 
Sukhomlinov, thoroughly frightened, informed his master that 
his orders were technically impossible to carry out, and begged 


him to consult the Chief of the General Staff. Januschkevitch, 
on being applied to, gave the same answer, but was told that the 
Imperial decision was final. The two confederates were in des- 
pair, for not only had their disobedience brought them to a hopeless 
impasse, but from the point of view of policy the Tsar's command 
was absurd. The German Emperor's telegram in no way altered 
the situation. His grievance was against " any military measure 
which can be construed as a menace to Austria-Hungary," and 
this applied equally to a partial mobilization. Sukhomlinov and 
Januschkevitch resolved to ignore the Imperial order and to let 
the general mobilization continue ; but there was little rest that 
night for their uneasy heads. While these conversations were 
proceeding, Count Pourtales was reflecting on his recent interview 
with the Foreign Minister, and beginning to wonder whether he 
had not gone too far. In the small hours he called on M. Sazonov 
and asked if there were any conditions on which Russia would 
suspend her mobilization, promising to dispatch them at once 
to Berlin. He was told that if Austria removed from her ulti- 
matum the points which violated the sovereign rights of Serbia, 
Russia would stop all military preparations. This was telegraphed 
to the Wilhelmstrasse, but neither the indecision of Nicholas nor 
the second thoughts of Count Pourtales had any longer much 
meaning, for that night in the German capital an irrevocable 
conclusion had been reached. 

Sometime between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the 29th the Emperor 
met his military and political chiefs at Potsdam. The partial 
Russian mobilization was known to the conference, and on that 
they resolved on war against Russia, and, as a corollary, against 
France. But before publishing the declaration they decided to 
make a " strong bid " * for British neutrality. The Imperial 
Chancellor motored back to BerUn and sent for the British Ambas- 
sador. Sir Edward Goschen's dispatch gives the gist of the 
strange conversation which followed : — 

" He said that it was clear, so far as he was able to judge the main 
principles that governed British policy, that Great Britain would 
never stand by and allow France to be crushed in any conflict there 
might be. That, however, was not the object at which Germany 
aimed. Provided that the neutrality of Great Britain were certain, 
every assurance would be given to the British Government that the 
Imperial Government aimed at no territorial acquisitions at the expense 
of France should they prove victorious in any war that might ensue. 

• The phrase is Sir Edward Goschen's. 


I questioned his Excellency about the French colonies, and he said 
that he was unable to give a similar undertaking in that respect. As 
regards Holland, however, his Excellency said that, so long as Ger- 
many's adversaries respected the integrity and neutrality of the 
Netherlands, Germany was ready to give His Majesty's Government 
an assurance that she would do likewise. It depended upon the 
action of France what operations Germany might be forced to enter 
upon in Belgium, but, when the war was over, Belgian integrity would 
be respected if she had not sided against Germany." 

With this amazing proposal the troubled day of Wednesday 
the 29th closed. Britain had been offered complicity by Ger- 
many on insulting terms — that she should suffer France to be 
stripped of her colonies without protest, and that the neutrality 
of Belgium, guaranteed by Germany and Britain, should be re- 
spected only when the war was over. Sir Edward Grey was moved 
to honourable wrath, and early on the morning of the 30th replied 
in words which could not be misconstrued. He rejected utterly 
the Imperial Chancellor's suggestion that Britain should bind 
herself to a disgraceful neutrality. He appealed once more to 
Germany to work with him to preserve the peace of Europe, and 
he concluded with the expression of a hope which at the moment 
seemed to the world a vague academic idea, but which the rigour 
of war was to make a living reality. 

" I will say this : If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the 
present crisis safely passed, my one endeavour will be to promote some 
arrangement to which Germany could be a party, by which she could 
be assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued 
against her or her Allies by France. Russia, and ourselves, jointly 
or separately. I have desired this and worked for it, as far as I could, 
through the late Balkan crisis, and, Germany having a corresponding 
object, our relations sensibly improved. The idea has hitherto been 
too Utopian to form the subject of definite proposals, but if this present 
crisis, so much more acute than any that Europe has gone through 
for generations, be safely passed, I am hopeful that the relief and 
reaction which will follow may make possible some more definite 
rapprochement between the Powers than has been possible hitherto." 

It was one of the ironies of that week that these wise words should 
have been addressed to Germany when she had already girt herself 
for illimitable conquest. 

Two hours after the break-up of the Imperial Council at Pots- 
dam the Emperor sent a telegram to the Tsar, which placed on the 
latter the entire weight of decision. If Russia mobilized against 


Austria, mediation was impossible. Presently came the informa- 
tion from Berlin that Germany refused to forward to Vienna the 
formula agreed on with Count Pourtales at his final interview. 
There was other news — of military preparations in Germany, of 
the movement of Austrian corps to Galicia, and of the continued 
bombardment of Belgrade. M. Sazonov went to Tsarskoe Selo, 
and convinced the Tsar that there was no alternative to general 
mobilization, so that the anticipatory acts of Sukhomlinov and 
Januschkevitch could at last be regularized. Meantime Ger- 
many did not act at once on the decision of the Potsdam Council. 
She was waiting for Britain's reply. Nervousness prevailed among 
her military chiefs, lest at the last moment the cup should be dashed 
from their lips ; they breathed more freely when the Berlin Lokalan- 
zeiger published at noon what purported to be a decree mobilizing 
the whole German army and fleet. It was presently contradicted 
officially and the copies of the journal seized, but the announce- 
ment had done its work. Telegraphed to Petrograd, it overcame 
the last remnants of indecision in the mind of the Tsar, who 
thereupon signed the decree for the general mobilization. That 
was at four o'clock in the afternoon. Germany had no need for 
hurry. She had already taken steps which elsewhere would have 
covered all the preliminary work of mobilization. It needed only 
the touching of a button to set her great machine in motion. But 
in order to delude the world she was anxious that this final pressure 
should be subsequent to the official mobilization of her opponents, 
that on them the responsibility might appear to He. 

That day, on which all hope of peace between Germany and 
Russia disappeared, saw a certain wavering on the part of Austria. 
For the statesmen of Vienna seem suddenly to have realized that 
Russia was prepared to fight. Count Berchtold instructed the 
Austrian Ambassador in Petrograd to open conversations again 
with M. Sazonov, and used certain remarkable phrases. Austria, 
he said, did not desire to " infringe the sovereignty of Serbia," 
but to win guarantees for her own future security. She had 
mobilized only against Serbia, and had not moved a single man of 
the ist, loth, and nth Corps, which were next to Russia. If 
Russia ordered a general mobilization, Austria must follow suit, 
but he especially laid it down that " this measure did not imply 
any attitude of hostility towards Russia, but was exclusively a 
necessary counter-measure against the Russian mobiUzation." 
This was a very different attitude from anything hitherto revealed. 
Count Berchtold for the first time spoke of respecting the sove- 


reign right of Serbia, which was the point in dispute, though he 
still stuck to the unfortunate ultimatum. More important still, 
he showed that, unlike Germany, he did not regard mobilization, 
even a general mobilization, as shutting the door on peace. That 
day, too, a telegram was sent to Tschirschky by Bethmann- 
Hollweg, advising Austria to continue to negotiate with Petrograd. 
The message was so wholly out of tune with the other German 
deeds and declarations of this stage that it is difficult to believe 
that its purpose was other than propagandist. It was drafted 
with the hope of deceiving Britain as to the real responsi- 
bility, and to this end was published in an English paper on 
August ist. 

Sir Edward Grey, though the skies were swiftly darkening, had 
not yet lost hope. He still clung to his own proposal, that 
Austria should occupy Belgrade as a guarantee, and then allow 
Europe to mediate between herself, Russia, and Serbia. He had 
spoken in this strain to Lichnowsky on the 29th, but he received 
from Berlin only vague replies. His suggestion was accepted by 
M. Sazonov — a great concession, for it meant that Russia was 
prepared to negotiate while Austrian troops were on Serbian 
soil. Obviously there might be a violent difference of opinion 
between Austria and the Entente as to what constituted a viola- 
tion of Serbia's sovereign rights, but there was one element of real 
hope in the situation : the mobilizations and counter-mobiliza- 
tions had produced an impasse — but Count Berchtold had announced 
that he did not regard mobilization as necessarily implying war. 
To Sir Edward Grey's anxious eyes there seemed even at this 
eleventh hour a chance of peace. Germany thought likewise, and 
promptly took steps to shatter it. 

Before we leave the 30th, we must notice two other events 
of that day. Prince Henry of Prussia sent a telegram to King 
George in which he urged that the only hope of peace was that 
Britain should induce Russia and France to remain neutral. He 
referred to a verbal message given him when in England by the 
King, which the German Emperor in his telegram to President 
Wilson a few days later alleged to have contained an assurance 
that Britain would be neutral even though Germany, Austria, 
France, and Russia went to war. It need hardly be said that 
no such message was ever given. On receiving Prince Henry's 
telegram King George replied, urging the Emperor to accept 
Sir Edward Grey's formula. It was the beginning of a telegraphic 
correspondence between the two monarchs, which was no more 


than an expression of hopes and goodwill, and was without influ- 
ence on the course of events. The second incident was of supreme 
importance. That day M. Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador, 
called on Sir Edward Grey, and reminded him of two letters written 
in November 1912, in which he had pledged himself, if the peace 
of Europe should be threatened, to discuss the attitude of Britain's 
policy in regard to the position of France. M. Cambon asked in 
effect for an assurance that, if war came, Britain would cast in her 
lot with France and Russia. Sir Edward Grey agreed to lay the 
matter before the Cabinet on the following day. 

We come now to the morning of Friday the 31st. The British 
Cabinet met and decided that they could not yet guarantee the 
intervention of Britain. M. Cambon was informed that the 
Government intended to take steps forthwith to obtain from 
Germany and France an undertaking to respect Belgian neutrality, 
and must wait for the situation to develop. Sir Edward Grey — 
reasonably, on the information before him — still clung to the hope 
which the more pacific attitude of Austria had given him. He 
was also uncertain about his countrymen. As he wrote to the 
British Ambassador at Paris : " Nobody here feels that in this 
dispute, so far as it has yet gone, British treaties or obligations 
are involved. Feeling is quite different from what it was during 
the Morocco question. That crisis involved a dispute directly 
involving France, whereas in this case France is being drawn into 
a dispute which is not hers." This was undoubtedly at the moment 
a correct reading of British opinion ; its long insensitiveness to 
foreign politics had unfitted it to read the signs now written large 
on the skies. High Conservative finance and the extreme Radical 
press were at one in their determination to avoid war. Again, if 
the Foreign Secretary was uncertain about his countrymen, he was 
not less uncertain about his colleagues. Six men in the Cabinet 
saw where events were tending unless a miracle intervened. These 
were the Prime Minister, Lord Haldane, Sir Edward Grey, Lord 
Crewe, Mr. McKenna, and Mr. Churchill. The others were igno- 
rant, puzzled, and angry, and the left wing was making ready, in 
the event of the six voting for war, to lead a campaign for non- 
intervention in which they believed they would have overwhelming 
popular support. The Government of late had not been well 
agreed, and an active faction welcomed the chance of cutting loose 
from the bondage of the " Whigs." In the circumstances Sir 
Edward Grey could scarcely have done otherwise than he did. His 
enforced caution had no effect on German policy. Had he pub- 


lished that day the news of a military alliance between Britain and 
France,. Germany would not have swerved one hair's-breadth from 
her plan. 

About midday on the 31st the news reached Berlin that Russia 
had ordered a general mobilization. It was the cue for which she 
had been waiting. It is clear from the Imperial Chancellor's 
conversation that morning with Sir Edward Goschen that Germany 
had resolved to act immediately on the decision of the Imperial 
Council of the 29th, now that Britain had been sounded, and, as 
he hoped, placed in the wrong. But the news at noon exactly 
served his purpose. The Emperor decreed a Kriegsgefahrzu stand, 
a " state of danger of war," which meant the introduction of martial 
law, and the perfecting of the mihtary machine, so that it only 
needed Moltke's famous " Mobil-krieg " to set it in motion. In 
every other country it would have been understood as in the fullest 
sense a general mobilization. An ultimatum was at once sent 
to Petrograd, and at midnight on the 31st Count Pourtales 
notified M. Sazonov that if within twelve hours — that is, by mid- 
day on Saturday, August ist — Russia did not demobilize against 
Austria as well as Germany, his Government would be compelled 
to order German mobilization. At the same time something in 
the nature of an ultimatum was sent to France. She was asked 
whether she intended to remain neutral in a Russo-German war, 
and a reply was demanded within eighteen hours — that is, by one 
o'clock next day. Baron von Schoen saw M. Viviani at seven 
that evening, and the brusqueness of the request lost nothing from 
the Ambassador's manner. It was clearly necessary for Germany 
to hurry on the breach with France, for all her military disposi- 
tions contemplated that the first blow should be struck in the 
West, and it would be fatal to be implicated in a Russian campaign 
with France still undecided. She knew very well what answer 
France would give to her truculent interrogatory. Within a few 
hours Germany had cleared the air, she had made war with France 
and Russia inevitable, and had put an end to the temporizing of 
her Austrian ally. That the latter danger was real is shown by 
the fact that sometime that day Count Berchtold instructed the 
Austrian Ambassador in Petrograd " to deal with Russia on the 
broadest base possible," and to open a discussion on the terms 
of the note to Serbia. It is hard to believe that this change of 
tone was merely part of the game of hypocrisy ; for, with Germany 
declaring war, these concessions could only weaken the justifica- 
tion for such a war in the eyes of the world. But now and hence- 

1914] M. POINCARfi'S APPEAL. 67 

forward the doings of Austria have no significance ; the conduct 
of affairs had been taken into stronger hands. 

That day the King of England received two messages. One 
was from the Emperor William, in which it was made clear that 
Germany regarded herself as committed to war with Russia. The 
other was from the President of the French Republic, in which, 
while admitting that Britain was under no formal obligation, he 
appealed to her to declare herself on the side of France as the 
one hope of preserving peace. " From all the information which 
reaches me it would seem that war would be inevitable if Germany 
were convinced that the British Government would not intervene 
in a conflict in which France might be engaged ; if, on the other 
hand, Germany were convinced that the Entente cordiale would 
be affirmed, in case of need, even to the extent of taking the field 
side by side, there would be the greatest chance that peace would 
remain unbroken." We know now that that chance had already 
gone, but M. Poincare's message is proof, if proof were needed, 
of the earnest desire of France to avert war. King George, after 
consulting his Ministers, replied on the following morning with 
the same answer which Sir Edward Grey had given to M. Paul 
Cambon. There was still a faint hope of peace, and till that had 
gone the pledge asked for could not be given. But before many 
hours had passed the hope had vanished even from the mind of 
the British Cabinet. 

That week-end was such as no one then living had ever known. 
For so widespread a sense of foundations destroyed and a world 
turned topsy-turvy we must go back to the days of the French 
Revolution. In Britain the markets went to pieces, the Bank 
rate rose on the Saturday to 10 per cent., and the Stock Exchange 
was closed. An air of great and terrible things impending impressed 
the most casual spectator. Crowds hung about telegraph offices 
and railway stations ; men stood in the streets in little groups ; 
there was not much talking, but many spells of tense silence. 
The country was uneasy. It feared war ; it was beginning to 
realize the immensity of the crisis ; and another feeling was appear- 
ing, scarcely reckoned with by the Government — a fear of a dis- 
honourable peace. In Berlin, where the news was no novelty to 
the inner circle, an interesting performance was being enacted. 
With adroit stage management the incidents of 1870 were re- 
peated. In the middle of the week the populace hai gone mad 
with war fever, in spite of the famine of coin and the rapid advance 
in food prices. Wherever the Emperor appeared he was greeted 


with wild enthusiasm. On the Thursday feeUng quieted down 
when it was beheved that Russia had given in, but on the declara- 
tion of a " state of danger of war " the fever broke out again. The 
approaches to the Palace were crowded at all hours, thrilling reli- 
gious services were held, singing and shouting mobs filled the 
streets, until the order came after noon on Saturday for the general 
mobilization. That solemnized Berlin ; anxious women took the 
place of noisy maffickers ; and the capital, calming her nerves, 
prepared for a great struggle. If Germany failed, it was on her 
gates that the conqueror would beat. 

Saturday, August ist, opened with a misunderstanding between 
Prince Lichnowsky and Sir Edward Grey. The German Ambas- 
sador understood a question directed to him as to whether Germany 
would remain neutral if France did the same, as meaning whether 
Germany would keep from attacking France. He consulted Berhn, 
and promptly received an answer in the afhrmative. But Sir Edward 
Grey asked for German neutrality also towards Russia, and this 
was of course refused. During the day the time-limit of the two 
ultimatums expired. At noon war began between Germany and 
Russia. At II a.m. Baron von Schoen was instructed, if France 
promised neutrality, to ask for stringent guarantees — no less 
than the temporary cession of the great border fortresses of Toul 
and Verdun — a demand which would have been refused. But 
the need did not arise for this harsh condition. M. Viviani seems 
not to have left it in doubt what course his country would take, 
but the German Ambassador departed without asking for his 
passports. He knew that the German mobilization was due that 
afternoon, and that the inevitable French counter-mobiHzation 
would give his masters all the pretext they required. Besides, 
they wanted to get the benefit of their surprise invasion of Luxem- 
bourg and Belgium before formally declaring war on France. 
Just after midday Germany issued the order for general mobiliza- 
tion ; at 3.40 that afternoon France followed suit. Her troops 
were instructed not to go nearer the German frontier than ten 
kilometres, and to avoid any semblance of provocation. In 
starting her war machine she was already forty-eight hours behind 

We must now turn our attention to Belgium, which for the rest 
of the week-end took first place in the world's eyes. On the 
19th of April 1839, ^ treaty was signed in London by Austiia, 
France, Prussia, Britain, Russia, and Holland under which Belgium 
was recognized as an " independent and perpetually neutral state," 


and her neutrality guaranteed by the first five signatories. For 
long the main danger was looked for from France, and it was 
Bismarck's revelation of the proposal made by Napoleon III., 
that he should be allowed to annex Belgium on certain terms, 
which did much to turn British opinion against the French Em- 
peror in 1870. In that year Britain asked both the combatants 
their intentions towards Belgium, and both pledged themselves 
not to allow their troops to cross the Belgian frontier, while Britain 
engaged to declare war at once on the offender. After 1870 the 
menace seemed to come from the new German Empire, but both 
France and Germany showed themselves eager to make certain 
that the Belgian defences were strong enough to prevent a surprise 
attack by either Power. The inviolability of Belgian territory 
was also of acute interest to Britain, and in 1906 the British mili- 
tary attache at Brussels, Colonel Barnardiston, had an exchange 
of views with the chief of the Belgian General Staff as to the 
measures which Britain would take as guarantor should Belgian 
neutrality be infringed by Germany. Such a step was perfectly 
in order, and was indeed no more than Germany had taken in 
May 1875. In 1912, after the Agadir crisis, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Bridges had a similar conversation,* and Sir Edward Grey, in 
order to clear up any misunderstanding, expressly disclaimed any 
intention on Britain's part to land troops in Belgium, unless the 
latter's integrity had already been violated. Germany, as late 
as the spring of 1913, apparently held to her treaty obligations, 
for on 29th April of that year her Minister of War declared in the 
Reichstag : " Belgium plays no part in the causes which justify 
the proposed reorganization of the German military system. . . . 
Germany will not lose sight of the fact that Belgium is guaranteed 
by international treaty." This undertaking was repeated in the 
same debate by Jagow. 

Belgium had therefore been for some years in a condition of 
jealous watchfulness, determined to defend her integrity against 
all the guaranteeing Powers without discrimination — nervous 
especially about Germany's doings, but not without twinges of 
anxiety concerning France. Her position made her a close student 
of European affairs, and she viewed with profound disquiet Austria's 

* The record of these conversations, found in the archives at Brussels after 
the occupation of that city by Germany, was made much of by German publicists, 
though they proved nothing except Britain's loyalty to her guarantee of neutrality. 
In this Germany followed the example of Frederick the Great, who in 1756, after his 
unprovoked attack on Saxony, ransacked Dresden for some secret treaty which 
should show Saxony's hostility to Prussia. 


ultimatum to Serbia. On the 29th of July she mobilized her army 
and put her forts in a state of defence. As soon as the German 
" state of danger of war " was ordered, Sir Edward Grey, remem- 
bering the Imperial Chancellor's words to Sir Edward Goschen on 
the night of the 29th, asked the French and German Governments 
for an assurance that they would respect the neutrality of Belgium 
so long as no other Power violated it. He received from France 
at once the fullest assurance, but from Germany an ambiguous 
and disquieting answer. Jagow said that he must consult the 
Emperor and the Imperial Chancellor before replying, and that 
he was doubtful if he could answer at all, " since any reply 
they might give could not but disclose a certain amount of their 
plan of campaign, in the event of war ensuing." He added that 
his Government considered that certain hostile acts had already 
been committed by Belgium. The stage was being set for a new 
version of the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb. 

With this news on the Saturday Sir Edward Grey attended the 
meeting of the British Cabinet. The situation was changing. 
Belgium was clearly threatened, and Belgium directly touched 
British interests and British honour. The Cabinet resolved that 
Germany must be warned that here lay a clear cause of strife, 
unless the required pledge was given at once. Prince Lichnowsky, 
when he met the Foreign Secretary, asked whether, if Germany 
promised not to invade Belgium, Britain would agree to remain 
neutral. Sir Edward Grey declined to commit himself. " All I 
could say was that our attitude would be determined largely by 
public opinion here, and that the neutrality of Belgium would 
appeal very strongly to public opinion here. I did not think we 
could give a promise of neutrality on that condition alone." The 
Ambassador's question was futile, for he was not in the confi- 
dence of his superiors. The invasion of Belgium had already been 
arranged down to the last field gun. 

On the morning of Sunday, 2nd August, came the first act of 
war. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, about the size of an 
English county, lies at the south-eastern corner of Belgium, between 
the Ardennes and the river Moselle. It is a country of low ridges 
and meadowland, the junction point of five railway lines with 
important connections. The little state, which had a population 
less than Edinburgh, had long been in a position of disarmed 
neutrality under the protection of its powerful neighbours. A 
volunteer force of 150 men, and the same number of gendarmes, 
constituted its sole defence, and the city of Luxembourg, once 


reckoned the strongest fortress in Europe, had for half a century 
been dismantled. On the Sunday morning the advance guard of 
the German 8th Corps crossed the frontier by the bridges of Wasser- 
bilUg and Remich, and about 11 a.m. the inhabitants of the 
capital were surprised by the arrival of motor cars and an armoured 
train containing the officers and men of the 29th Regiment. These 
seized the Adolf Bridge, and demanded a right of passage through 
the duchy for the German army. A gendarme or two protested, 
and there was an end of it. Luxemboiirg was like the nest of 
field-mice in the path of the reaping machine, and could do nothing 
to stay the onset. By the afternoon German covering troops from 
Treves were tramping along her eastern roads, and her railways 
were in German hands. 

That hot August Sunday saw movements elsewhere on the 
frontier. German cavalry patrols of the i6th Corps crossed the 
Alsatian border as far as the village of Joncherey, and had a brush 
with French pickets. A body of German dragoons entered the 
village of Suarce and took prisoner nine French peasants. The 
same thing happened near the village of Reppe. Early next 
morning — before the declaration of war — there was a raid near 
Luneville, and a fight at Remereville with Uhlans from Chateau- 
Salins. Even under this provocation France behaved with scrupu- 
lous correctness, and kept her covering troops more than six miles 
from the frontier. The Germans published broadcast official tales 
of French violations of German territory, but each was later proved 
a fabrication. They are too childish to be worth recounting 
here : the most important were later denied by Germany herself ; 
and it was remarkable that, while the falsehoods were being cir- 
culated, German statesmen were so badly coached that they did 
not all tell the same story.* But the motive of this mendacious 
propaganda was clear. The German nation must be convinced 
that they were the aggrieved, not the aggressors ; and the Em- 
peror must have a free hand in his manoeuvres for position, for 
under the Imperial Constitution he could not declare war without 
the assent of the Bundesrat unless German territory were attacked. 
At seven o'clock that evening came the celebrated ultimatum 
to Belgium, t The views of Germany on the binding nature of 
treaties had not been concealed from the world. " No people," 

• See, for example, French Yellow Book, No. 155, and Ren6 Puaux's Le Mensonge. 

t According to Herr Kautsky's evidence, this note was finally drafted by the 
Ger nan Staff as early as July 26th, and presented to the Imperial Chancellor for 
approval on the 29th. 


so ran a famous saying of Bismarck's, " should sacrifice its exist- 
ence on the altar of fidelity to treaty, but should only go ?o far 
as suited its own interests." And throughout Treitschke's writings 
the doctrine is repeatedly preached : " The statesman has no 
right to warm his hands at the smoking ruins of his fatherland 
with the pleased self-praise that he has never hed. That is merely 
a monkish virtue." And again : " All treaties are written with 
the clause understood : So long as things remain as they are 
at present." We may admit some reason in the rebus sic stanti- 
bus argument ; it is easy to conceive a case where a treaty might 
be a purely antiquarian document, empty of reference to a hv- 
ing world, and adherence to it mere pedantry, because by uni- 
versal consent it had been tacitly superseded. We may admit, 
too, that in certain circumstances there may be a moral duty of 
self-preservation in defiance of written law. But this situation 
was clear beyond casuistry. The guarantee of Belgian neutrality 
was as vital as on the day when it was given ; it was the charter 
of Belgium's existence as a nation, and on it the other guaran- 
teeing Powers based their conduct. Nor was the national exist- 
ence of Germany in danger except from her own arrogance ; as 
her every act bore witness, she was deliberately setting forth 
on a campaign of conquest. A man protecting his own home 
against violence may be pardoned if he goes beyond the letter 
of the law, but not so the violator. 

The note presented to the Belgian Foreign Minister began by 
stating that Germany had received reliable news that the French 
intended to march on the line of the Meuse by Givet and Namur, 
and that Germany in self-defence must anticipate any such attack. 
This was a bold saying, considering that the whole of the French 
military scheme was based on an advance in the Alsace-Lorraine 
area, and that she had fatally neglected the Belgian border. The 
document went on to demand a passage through Belgium for German 
troops. If Belgium assented and maintained a benevolent neutral- 
ity, Germany undertook, at the conclusion of the war, to evacuate 
her territory and guarantee in full her independence. If she 
refused, Germany would be regretfully compelled to treat her as an 
enemy. The thunderbolt had fallen, and all that night the Belgian 
statesmen discussed the terms of their reply. 

Meanwhile on that Sunday things were moving faster in Britain. 
The Naval Reserves were called out, and a moratorium was proclaimed 
for the payment of bills of exchange other than cheques. The 
Cabinet met in the morning, and with the growth of anxiety about 

1914] SUNDAY, AUGUST 2. 73 

Belgium the pacificist group began to lose ground. The most 
notable conversion now in progress was that of Mr. Lloyd George. 
His past reputation had been won as an opponent of war, and it 
was not easy for him to appear suddenly in a new role. Of all 
the Ministers he was probably the one least instructed in the intri- 
cacies of foreign affairs, and in the true nature of the crisis. But 
the threatened outrage on a little people roused his anger, and his 
acute power of diagnosing the mind of his countrymen told him that 
in this matter popular feeling would soon be at fever-heat. Bel- 
gium was to make of him an emotional convert to wax, and for 
three years, long after the larger ambitions of Germany had been 
made abundantly clear, he continued to assert that Britain entered 
the struggle because of Belgium and Belgium alone. There could 
be no better commentary on the mental confusion of the majority 
of British Ministers. That Sunday morning's Cabinet, however, 
made an appreciable advance. It authorized Sir Edward Grey to 
assure M. Paul Cambon that, if the German fleet came into the 
Channel or through the North Sea to attack the French coast, the 
British navy would give France all the protection in its power. 
This assurance was subject to the Government receiving the support 
of Parliament, and did not bind Britain to move till the specified 
hostile action had taken place. The main value of the pledge 
was that it enabled France to settle her naval dispositions in the 
Mediterranean, where her fleet had long been concentrated. She 
was indeed in a most perilous case. She had depleted her Atlantic 
and Channel defences in hope of Britain's alliance ; now she was at 
war and Britain was not yet an ally ; at any moment a German fleet 
might appear on her western coasts. She had taken the desperate 
resolution to send Admiral Rouyer with a single cruiser squadron to 
engage the enemy in the Straits of Dover. That day the Opposi- 
tion took a step, highly creditable to themselves, which greatly 
strengthened Mr. Asquith's hands. The Unionist statesmen, 
collected hurriedly from distant country houses, sent to the Prime 
Minister a note offering their unqualified support in any measures 
he might take on behalf of the honour and security of Britain and 
her Allies. In the evening, after dinner. Sir Edward Grey and 
Lord Haldane, having received the news of the Belgian ultimatum, 
visited Mr. Asquith and explained to him their own decision, with 
which he concurred. It remained to be seen whether he could 
carry the Cabinet and Parliament with him ; if not, his coarse 
was resignation. The Prime Minister, after his fashion, when 
convinced at long last of the reaUty of a crisis, did not suffer from 



a divided mind. He empowered Lord Haldane to summon on 
his behalf the Army Council next morning, and issue orders for 

The battle of diplomacy was nearing its end, and Monday, 
3rd August, saw throughout Europe a knitting of loose threads 
into the web of war. That day the Grand Duke Nicholas was 
appointed Generalissimo of the Russian forces, and the first blow 
was struck in the East — a skirmish of outposts near Libau. That 
day Germany declared war upon France. In Berlin itself the chief 
preoccupation of the Government seemed to be to secure that 
political unity which would be a strong shaft for the spearhead 
of the armies. The Social Democratic Party had just sent an 
envoy, one Hermann Miiller, to confer with the French Socialists 
in Paris. The latter told him that if France were attacked they 
must either abstain or vote for the war credits ; they could not 
vote against them. Miiller replied that most German Social 
Democrats would prefer to vote against the credits, but if his 
French comrades abstained, his colleagues might do likewise. 
Presently, however, the whole situation changed. The Imperial 
Chancellor, who knew his men, received in private conference 
on 3rd August the leaders of the Reichstag groups, and that day 
the Social Democrats also met. The great majority of the latter, 
beheving that Germany was being wantonly attacked, resolved to 
vote the war credits, and, apparently influenced by fear of what 
they called the " victory of Russian despotism," next day the 
whole group, including even Haase and Bernstein and Karl 
Liebknecht, assented to the Chancellor's proposals. The rulers 
of Germany had not misread the temperament of their people. 

At 7 a.m. on the Monday morning, twelve hours after the 
ultimatum was presented, Belgium returned her answer. She 
intended at all costs to fulfil her international obligations, and would 
offer vigorous resistance to any invader. " The Belgian Govern- 
ment, if they were to accept the proposals submitted to them, 
would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray their duty 
towards Europe. Conscious of the part which Belgium had 
played for more than eighty years in the civilization of the world, 
they refuse to believe that her independence can be procured only 
at the price of the violation of her neutrality. If this hope is 
disappointed, they are firmly resolved to repel by all the means 
in their power every attack upon their rights." This bold defiance, 
delivered while Britain still seemed to hesitate, was like the sudden 
wind which sweeps a morning fog from the valleys. At the same 


hour King Albert telegraphed to King George making a supreme 
appeal for the diplomatic intervention of Britain to safeguard 
the integrity of his country. He had still a faint hope that the 
invader might hesitate if it was made clear that the crossing of 
the Belgian frontier meant instant war with Britain. 

That morning the British Cabinet met. It was a momentous 
occasion, for Ministers were already in possession of the German 
ultimatum to Belgium, and, while they sat, came King Albert's 
personal appeal to King George. Mr. Churchill informed his 
colleagues that he had taken timely steps, and that by that hour 
the whole sea power of Britain was in readiness for war. An hour 
before. Lord Haldane, acting for the Prime Minister at the War 
Office, had ordered the mobilization of the British army — an act 
of incalculable importance at a time when every hour was vital.*- 
The Government were at the parting of the ways. The temper of 
the people was rising, and the hope of the pacificist section to lead 
a whirlwind campaign for peace was dwindling. The desperate 
case of Belgium had had a profound effect upon Mr. Lloyd George, 
and without him there could be no real opposition. Lord Morley, 
the last of the strait Victorians, and Mr. John Burns took the 
honourable course and resigned. They were men of an older 
world ; war was to them so repugnant that no compulsion of 
fact could persuade them to be party to it. Ten of the others 
made a feeble attempt at revolt, and that day endeavoured to 
form a faction which they besought Lord Morley to lead. But 
the events of the afternoon persuaded them that the House of 
Commons and the nation were against them, and they yielded, 
whether convinced or unconvinced, to the dictates of political 
discretion. It is not the least of the comedies of history that the 
most fateful decision ever taken by a British Cabinet was arrived 
at in the case of most of its members for mistaken or even for dis- 
creditable reasons. Sir Edward Grey prepared a telegram f to Sir 
Edward Goschen demanding from Germany an immediate assur- 
ance that Belgian neutrality would be respected, and he informed 
the Belgian Minister in London that a violation of Belgium would 
for Britain mean war. 

The views of the House of Commons had still to be ascertained. 

* The results may be judged from the dates of concentration in France. The 
ist, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Infantry Divisions, and the ist and 2nd Cavalry Divisions 
were concentrated on various dates between the 9th and 22nd of August ; the 4th 
Division on the 23rd. 

t The telegram was not sent ofif till early on the 4th, after the House of Common* 


The day was a Bank Holiday, and during the afternoon at every 
post-office in the country crowds were waiting for the first news 
of Sir Edward Grey's speech. When it came the sigh of reUef 
which went up from men who had most to lose by war showed 
how deep had been the national anxiety. The Foreign Secre- 
tary's statement that afternoon was such as only he could have 
made. It was the expression, in plain words without rhetoric or 
passion, of a most honest and peace-loving mind, which had left 
no channel of mediation unexplored, which had striven against 
every rebuff to avert calamity, and which now sadly but inevi- 
tably was forced towards war. He narrated the events of the past 
week and defined the part which, in his view, Britain must play. 
She was bound to Belgium by the most sacred treaty obliga- 
tions. She was not bound to France by any actual defensive 
or offensive alliance, though her Government had anticipated that 
joint action might some day be necessary, and had arranged for 
certain consultations between the two General Staffs. But she 
had given France the promise that, if the German fleet under- 
took hostile operations against the French coast or French 
shipping, the British fleet would protect her. He announced that 
that fleet was already mobilized, and that the Cabinet had de- 
cided to mobiUze all the land forces of the Crown. The House 
of Commons received this declaration of policy with almost 
unanimous approval. 

Next day, Tuesday the 4th, saw the end of those thirteen 
days, when statesmanship laboured to buttress the tottering 
barriers. That morning Sir Edward Grey advised Belgium to 
resist by force any German invasion, and promised to join with 
Russia and France in supporting her. In the early hours the 
invasion had begun. The Germans crossed the frontier at Gemme- 
nich, and during the day Vise was burned and the first shots were 
fired on the forts of Liege. At the same time the German Minister 
in Brussels announced that since Belgium refused to grant her a 
free passage, Germany would take one by force — the equivalent of 
a declaration of war. 

The last act was played in Berlin. Sir Edward Goschen re- 
ceived Sir Edward Grey's message early on the 4th, and at once 
called upon Jagow. He was told that a passage through 
Belgium was a matter of life or death to Germany, and that she 
could not draw back. Then came a second telegram from London 
instructing the British Ambassador to serve an ultimatum on Ger- 
many, and unless a satisfactory reply was given before midnight. 


to ask for his passports. When the message arrived the Imperial 
Chancellor was delivering his historic speech in the Reichstag, 
in which he repeated the familiar misstatements about France's 
violation of German territory. His most famous passage was 
that in which he defended the breach of the neutrality of Luxem- 
bourg and Belgium : — 

" We are in a state of necessity, and necessity knows no law. We 
were compelled to override the just protests of the Luxembourg and 
Belgian Governments. That is a breach of international law. . . . 
The wrong — I speak frankly — that we are committing we will try to 
make good as soon as our military goal is reached. He who is threatened 
as we are threatened and is fighting for his all can have but the one 
thought — how he is to hack his way through." 

Of Britain he said little ; even at that late hour he seems to have 
doubted her entering the arena. But when he returned from the 
Reichstag, he was asked to see Sir Edward Goschen, who had 
already, about 7 p.m., presented Jagow with the British ulti- 

That final interview with Bethmann-Hollweg sheds so clear 
a Hght upon the mind of Germany that Sir Edward Goschen's 
narrative deserves quotation. 

" I found the Chancellor very agitated. His Excellency at once 
began a harangue which lasted for about twenty minutes. He said 
that the step taken by His Majesty's Government was terrible to a 
degree : just for a word — ' neutrality,' a word which in war time 
had so often been disregarded — just for a scrap of paper Great Britain 
was going to make war on a kindred nation who desired nothing better 
than to be friends with her. All his efforts in that direction had been 
rendered useless by this last terrible step, and the policy to which, 
as I knew, he had devoted himself since his accession to office had 
tumbled down like a house of cards. What we had done was un- 
thinkable ; it was like striking a man from behind while he was fighting 
for his life against two assailants. He held Great Britain responsible 
for all the terrible events that might happen. I protested strongly 
against that statement, and said that, in the same way as he and 
Herr von Jagow wished me to understand that for strategical reasons 
it was a matter of life and death to Germany to advance through 
Belgium and violate the latter' s neutrality, so I would wish him to 
understand that it was, so to speak, a matter of ' life and death ' for 
the honour of Great Britain that she should keep her solemn engage- 
ment to do her utmost to defend Belgium's neutrality if attacked. 
That solemn compact simply had to be kept, or what confidence could 
any one have in engagements given by Great Britain in the future ? 


The Chancellor said, ' But at what price will that compact have been 
kept ? Has the British Government thought of that ? ' I hinted to 
his Excellency as plainly as I could that fear of consequences could 
hardly be regarded as an excuse for breaking solemn engagements; 
but his Excellency was so excited, so evidently overcome by the news 
of our action, and so little disposed to hear reason, that I refrained 
from adding fuel to the flame by further argument. As I was leaving 
he said that the blow of Great Britain joining Germany's enemies was 
all the greater that almost up to the last moment he and his Govern- 
ment had been working with us and supporting our efforts to maintain 
peace between Austria and Russia. I said that this was part of the 
tragedy which saw the two nations fall apart just at the moment 
when the relations between them had been more friendly and cordial 
than they had been for years. Unfortunately, notwithstanding our 
efforts to maintain peace between Russia and Austria, the war had 
spread and had brought us face to face with a situation which, if we 
held to our engagements, we could not possibly avoid, and which, 
unfortunately, entailed our separation from our late fellow-workers. 
He would readily understand that no one regretted this more than I."* 

The news had leaked out. The Under Secretary for Foreign 
Affairs called on the British Ambassador about 9.30, and asked if 
the request for passports meant a declaration of war. It was then 
two and a half hours to midnight, and he was reminded that at 
midnight Sir Edward Grey must have his answer. But no formal 
answer was ever given. The newsboys in the street were already 
shouting war with Britain, and presently the crashing of glass in 
the Embassy windows told that the Berlin mob had awakened to 
the fact that the strife was not to be confined to the continent of 
Europe, but was to rage through the wide world. The disappoint- 
ment of Germany was deep — deep as had been her bHndness. For 
a moment her zest was a little dashed, for the entrance of Britain 
brought into that methodical future which she had planned a 
touch of the incalculable. " The British change the whole situa- 
tion," the Emperor told Mr. Gerard a few days later. " An obsti- 
nate nation ! They will keep up the war. It cannot end soon." 

So closed the feverish fortnight when the dams of war cracked 
and broke and let loose the torrent. The historian, surveying 
the facts with all due detachment, can reach but the one conclu- 
sion. Austria, not without some show of reason, had ever since 

• It is fair to note that Bethmann-Hollweg's own account of this interview 
1 aries in some important points, and in particular p«ts a slightly different complexion 
on the " scrap of paper " remark. Both men were deeply moved, and liable tc 
interpret words and gestures in the light of their own emotion. 


the Balkan War decided that the growth of the new Slav power 
beyond the Danube threatened the existence of the Dual Monarchy 
in its traditional form, and had resolved to seize the first occasion 
to dissipate the menace. The tragedy of Serajevo gave her the 
chance she sought. But her governing motive was a perverted 
notion of self-defence, for, as a state, she had no large dreams of 
conquest, and when she saw that the fire she was lighting in south- 
eastern Europe was like to become a world-wide conflagration, she 
hesitated at the last moment and would have drawn back. Such 
is the only possible interpretation of Count Berchtold's action on 
30th and 31st July. The view of the meaning of a general mobiliza- 
tion which he then stated cut the ground from the whole of Ger- 
many's cause of quarrel with Russia. But Berlin stepped in and 
slammed the door on peace. For more than a year the rulers of 
Germany had made up their minds for war — war, if possible, in 
instalments, but war which in the last resort would give them 
a world hegemony. She seized, like Austria, on the pretext of 
Serajevo, but with a far wider purpose. From first to last she was 
privy to every step taken by Vienna, for she initiated and directed 
them. She could count for support upon the megalomania of her 
governing classes, but it was necessary to convince her soberer 
citizens that she was entering upon a war of defence, so for a fort- 
night she laboured to put her future opponents in the wrong. 
But in all her subtle diplomacy she blundered, for, save among her 
own people, she stood self-condemned before the storm broke. 
Instead of severing her rivals she united them, and made her plan 
of war by instalments impossible. The entrance of Britain was 
against her immediate calculations, but not outside her ultimate 
scheme. It is unnecessarj^ to assume that the whole of Germany 
was agreed upon such a colossal bid for fortune as that to which 
she was committed by 4th August. All her statesmen were at 
one on the war with Russia and France, but many would have fain 
postponed the reckoning with Britain to a more convenient day. 
But she had willed the end, and had peFforce to embrace the means. 
The guilt of war in the major degree rests upon every class of her 
people, not only on the actual war-makers but upon the millions 
of her citizens who docilely accepted from their rulers the coarsest 

Against the conduct of the Entente during those weeks no 
charge of substance can be made. Russia strove zealously for 
peace, for the aberrations of Sukhomhnov and Januschkevitch 
were in defiance of the Tsar, and in any case did not affect the main 


issue. France laboured till the last moment to prevent catas- 
trophe, and by her scruples gave her enemy an initial advantage. 
When all hope had gone she faced the crisis with a noble calm, 
very different from the excited hours of 1870. Nor can there be 
any serious reflection on the action of Britain. Sir Edward Grey 
played under supreme difficulties a part which must rank among 
the most honourable achievements of British statesmen, and for 
Mr. Asquith and the Ministers who supported him from the first there 
can be nothing but praise. Yet it must be recorded that it was only 
by accident that the right course was taken. The tone of the press 
at the time, and the discussions in the Cabinet up to 3rd August, 
showed how ignorant and unprepared were our people. The true 
political issue was not understood save by a few, and had the 
issue remained only political it is to be feared that Britain would 
have long hesitated, and might have fatally compromised the 
fortunes of the Entente by her delay. But the outrage on Belgium 
raised a moral issue which swept away every doubt. It is not 
too much to say that the honour and liberty of our race were 
saved by the martyrdom of their little neighbour. 



The German Military System — Austria-Hungary — France — Russia — Britain — ^The 
British and German Navies — Economic Strength of the Belligerents — ^The 
Strategic Position — The Rally of the British Empire. 

Before we enter on the chronicle of the campaigns, it is desirable 
to review the position of the different combatants — their relative 
preparedness for war, and the strength which they could muster 
in the field, for on such circumstances depended their strategical 
plans. Such a review must necessarily be of the most general 
type. If we take as our standpoint the strength patent to the 
world on the outbreak of hostilities, we shall reach some under- 
standing of how the odds looked to contemporaries, but we shall 
neglect many sources of strength and weakness which were only 
revealed during the campaign. If, again, we make our review 
in the light of full knowledge, we shall present a picture which no 
contemporary would have accepted as accurate even for his own 
land, and shall get a false impression of how the problem appeared 
to each Government, since a nation's policy is based not on objective 
truth but on what it takes to be the truth. It will be sufficient if 
at this stage we set down on broad lines and in round figures the 
apparent assets of each belligerent, leaving it to later chapters to 
add to or subtract from such an inventory. 


The two weapons potent above others for the coming struggle 
were the German army and the British navy. The German army 
system may be said to date from the reconstruction of the Prus- 
sian force which followed the battle of Jena. Under Bismarck, 
von Moltke, and von Roon it was extended to the other German 
states ; it was barely completed when the war of 1870 began ; 
since that date it had been amplified and perfected into an exact 
machine, but the main features were still those of Gneisenau and 



Scharnhorst. Its guiding principle was that of the " nation in 
arms," an idea which was in turn the product of the wars of Na- 
poleon. Every male citizen of reasonable physique was liable to 
service ; the State took what men it desired, passed them through 
its hands in a period of short service, and from them, and from 
those le..s fully trained, established under various grades of effici- 
ency an enormous reserve, which could be called up in that combat 
d outrance which had never been absent from the contemplation 
of German statesmen. A German was Hable to serve from the 
age of seventeen, and if he was called up his service began at 
twenty. He served for two years with the colours if in the 
infantry, and for three if in the cavalry and horse artillery. A 
high standard of physique and discipline prevailed, and those 
years were years of incessant toil. Then he entered the Regular 
Reserve, where he remained for five or four years, according to 
his arm. These seven years completed, he went into the first 
levy of the Landwehr for five years more, and then entered the 
second levy, where he remained till he had completed his thirty- 
ninth year. This gave him a total of nineteen years of varied 
service from the day he first joined. After that he joined the 
first levy of the Landsturm, in which he continued till he was 
forty-five. This Landsturm had a second levy, which consisted 
of men between the ages of thirty-nine and forty-five who had 
escaped the ordinary training. Over and above the number thus 
provided, out of the many who for various reasons escaped the call 
to the colours the Ersatz Reserve was formed, whose members 
duly passed into the Landsturm. There were thus various classes 
of reserves, apart from the Ersatz, who were called up in order of 
their value. First came the Regular Reserve — the men who had 
served with the colours and were aged from twenty-three to twenty- 
seven. Next came the Landwehr, Class I., consisting of those who 
had served seven years with the colours and with the Regular 
Reserve, and whose ages were from twenty-seven to thirty-two. 
After that ranked the Landwehr, Class II., made up of the same men 
between thirty-two and thirty-nine. Then we reach the Landsturm, 
Class I., which consisted of men who had passed through the 
Landwehr, and were from thirty-nine to forty-five years old. 
The Landsturm, Class II., the last emergency resort, were un- 
trained men of all ages. We may call the three reserves the 
Regular, the Special, and the National, provided we realize that 
these names are not to be construed in their English sense. 

The German army in the final form given it by the law of 


1912 was organized in twenty-five army corps, which, except the 
Guard Corps, were recruited on a territorial basis. Each corps 
was usually composed on a war establishment of a Staff ; two 
infantry divisions, each of two brigades, while each brigade was 
made up of two regiments with three battalions each ; two regi- 
ments of field artillery, comprising seventy-two pieces ; a battalion 
of riflemen (Jager) ; a contingent of cavalry, varying from three 
squadrons to a complete division in the case of the Guard ; and 
a number of corps troops. On mobilization each corps formed a 
third or reserve division from the Regular Reserve. The cavalry 
was organized in regiments, each with one depot and four service 
squadrons, and was grouped in brigades of two regiments, and in 
divisions of three brigades. All this was a matter of common 
knowledge throughout the world. But there were arcana imperii 
not revealed. It was known, for example, that provision had been 
made for forming reserve corps out of surplus reservists, but 
it was not known— it was not even guessed— that before 1914 
arrangements had been completed for duplicating every first line 
corps with a reserve corps during the mobilization period. Such 
reserve corps were not like those of the French— half empty cadres 
made up of poor material — but units ready at once to take the 
field. Other unrevealed matters were the capacity for a rapid and 
lavish provision of machine guns * throughout the line, a con- 
sidered scheme for their tactical use, and the developments made 
in the departments of motor traction and heavy artillery. 

It was difficult to form an exact estimate of the fighting strength 
of such a force. The population of the German Empire in 19 14 
was some 65 milHons, the number of males some 32 millions. The 
law of 19 12 provided for a peace strength which should rapidly 
advance to something in excess of 700,000. This would permit 
of a mobilization in first line and reserve corps of at least four 
million trained men. But such a figure was only the starting point. 
In a war of life and death, the whole male population between 15 
and 60 would beyond doubt be drawn upon, and the nature of 
German education and society made a drastic levy easier than in 
other lands. Her man-power would give her in any one year 
some 15 millions of men of every variety of fighting value, and, 
making all deductions for the unfit and for losses, she could main- 
tain under arms at least 6 millions, of whom 5 millions would be 
in the battle line. Each year her increment from the new classes 
would be 500,000. 

• The nominal provision was the same as the French — 2 per 1,000 men. 


Her man-power for war was therefore the greatest in the world, 
with the exception of Russia. But of still higher value was the 
quality of her organization. For at least half a century the best 
brains in the country had been directed to the military art. The 
army was the chief arbiter of social fashion, and a middle-class 
family would pinch and hoard to have one son an officer. For the 
nobiUty it was almost the sole profession ; and it was a real pro- 
fession—arduous, exacting, but offering splendid rewards. Promo- 
tion was slow, for a senior subaltern might have twenty years' 
service behind him, and a senior captain thirty, but the interest 
and prestige of the Ufe would seem to have been sufficient recom- 
pense. For the army in Germany was a popular thing, in which 
the people felt an intimate pride. A man who did well was assured 
of a career, and a man who did competently could look forward 
to a civil service post which would provide for his old age. 

Of the whole machine the Staff was the key, and the two hun- 
dred officers on the General Staff in 1914 were the cream of the 
army, and scarcely to be matched in the world. The German is 
a good teacher and an apt pupil, and in this sphere there were the 
highest inducements to teach and learn. Entrance to the General 
Staff was slow and difficult, and misfits were ruthlessly discarded. 
The selected staff officer was a man sound in body and tempera- 
ment, thoroughly trained in the practical work of soldiering, and 
possessing of necessity considerable mental power. The two very 
different spheres of administration and operations were strictly 
delimited, and the work in both was brought to the highest pitch 
of theoretical perfection. The antiquated ideas of the old Prus- 
sian system had been discarded, subordinates were encouraged 
to show initiative, and mistakes were rated lightly compared with 
the vice of supineness. In the unassuming building in the Alsen 
Platz, hard by the Brandenburg Gate, the Great General Staff, 
created by Scharnhorst and perfected by the elder Moltke and von 
Schlieffen, had for years been making plans in full detail to meet 
every conceivable crisis. Served by a highly organized intelligence 
system, minutely informed as to the views and capacity of their 
neighbours and the terrain of every possible field of operations, 
they had made certain that, at the word of the Emperor, a machine 
would be set in motion which for power and smoothness had no 
parallel in history. 

As this narrative proceeds we shall have occasion to consider 
the principles which governed Germany's war ; here it is enough 
to note the suppleness and strength of the weapon. But a word 


may be said of the spirit in which the weapon was forged. The 
German Staff had calculated to the last decimal the calculable 
part of the problem which they knew they must face. They fore- 
saw a war on two fronts, and realized that the advantage given 
them by their supreme preparedness was terminable, and that 
to win they must win quickly. Hence they concentrated their 
efforts on the maximum weight of attack in the shortest time, 
on an accumulation of strength in the vital area which should 
be far superior to any which their enemies could show. They had 
the immediate preponderance in numbers, and owing to the per- 
fection of their railways they had the means of using them. In 
this they reasoned soundly ; and they were not less correct in 
their recognition of the truth that the coming campaign would be 
fought under novel conditions and must at the outset be largely 
a matter of guess-work. To the best of their ability they had 
assessed the possibilities of modern scientific discoveries in their 
relation to war, and in certain matters of armament had reached 
true conclusions. But they were not willing to dogmatize ; they 
were content to feel their way. Clausewitz's wise words were 
always in their mind : " He who intends to move in such an 
element as war must bring with him nothing at all gained from 
books save the education of his mind ; if he brings with him ready- 
made ideas which have not been inspired in him by the shock of 
the moment, which he has not generated out of his own flesh and 
blood, the rush of events will overthrow his building before it is 
completed." In such a mood of cool science they entered upon 
their task. But it is not given to human nature to shake itself 
wholly free from dogma. If in theory the German military chiefs 
professed a wise opportunism, in fact they had their biases of 
race and temperament, sometimes avowed, more often uncon- 
scious, which, rather than the revealed truths of the case, were to 
decide their practice. And while their theory was right, these 
more potent biases, as we shall see, were not infrequently wrong. 

The armed forces of Austria-Hungary were organized mainlj. 
on the German system, with certain exceptions due to the nature 
of the Dual Monarchy. There was an Imperial army — the oldest 
standing army in Europe ; two Landwehrs, one for Austria and 
one for Hungary ; and a general Landsturm, or levy-in-mass. 
There were sixteen army corps, on a territorial basis, each corps 
containing two infantry divisions of two brigades each, one cavalry 
brigade, one artillery brigade, and various corps troops. In war a 


Landwehr division was added to each of the regular corps. On a 
peace footing the strength of the army was a little over 400,000 
officers and men, and on a war basis it reached a figure in the 
neighbourhood of 2,000,000, exclusive of the Landsturm. In a 
defensive war a a-Atrance the country could count on putting some 
6,000,000 men, trained and untrained, into the field. 

The Austrian army was not a military machine which ap- 
proached the calibre of the German. Austria had had no Bis- 
marck or Moltke, not even a Gneisenau, in her recent history. 
Since the Archduke Charles she had had no commander of the first 
rank, and her campaigns from Austerlitz onward had been mainly 
records of defeat. Solferino and Sadowa were not encouragements 
to recruiting like Gravelotte and Sedan. The result was that, 
while her military caste was dominant and assured and many 
of her constituent peoples of excellent fighting quality, there was 
no strong popular enthusiasm for her army and no great intelli- 
gence in its direction. Austria was also faced with a special diffi- 
culty. Under her rule were many races who had affinities beyond 
her borders. To send her Polish troops against Russian Poland, 
or her Croats and Serbs against the armies of the Southern Slavs 
was to run the risk of mutiny and defection. In a war such as 
the present she was, therefore, bound to distribute her army 
corps not on purely military, but on political grounds. Her 
Tyrolese must go north of the Carpathians ; her Galicians to 
the Italian frontier. It was obvious that such a necessity must 
grievously complicate her whole problem of mobilization at the 
outset, and of transport and reinforcements in the later stages. 
Yet she had elements in her ranks of high fighting quality, notably 
the divisions from Tyrol and Hungary, and in certain branches of 
military science, such as siege artillery, she had no equal. Her 
strength as an ally to Germany was that she greatly added to the 
man-power of the Teutonic League ; her weakness lay in the long 
extension of the battle line that her security demanded, and in 
the lack of homogeneity in her levies. The strength, it was clear 
from the outset, could be fully used and the weakness provided 
against only by a very complete subordination of her leaders to 
the German High Command. 

The French army, as is usual with a nation whose last great 
campaign has ended in failure, had been the object of many ex- 
periments in the past forty years. The law which governed it in 
its present form was only one year old, which meant that the 


service was not yet properly standardized, and many of those 
with the colours were the products of superseded statutes, just as 
in Britain the terms of enlistment laid down in 1902 only ceased 
to work in 1914. The law of 1913, like its predecessor of 1905, 
was framed to reduce the disparity of France as against the rapidly 
increasing man-power of Germany, for she had a population of 
under forty millions, as against the German sixty-five. Unlike 
Germany, she called practically her whole able-bodied male popula- 
tion to arms. A Frenchman found fit for service normally joined 
the colours at the age of twenty, spent three years in the Regular 
Army, eleven in the Regular Reserve, seven in the Territorial 
Army, and seven in the Territorial Reserve, and did not leave 
the strength till he had attained the age of forty-eight. 

As a colonial Power she had been compelled since the 'eighties 
to keep a colonial army, recruited by volunteers, as an expedi- 
tionary force for her overseas empire. Like Russia, she had there- 
fore come to possess several armies, each with its own special char- 
acter. First came the first line of the Home Army. There were 
twenty-one army corps, organized more or less on a territorial basis 
— twenty located in France and one in Algeria. An army corps 
had two divisions, a division two brigades, a brigade two regi- 
ments, a regiment three battalions each of 1000 men. In addi- 
tion, there were in each corps a cavalry regiment and a special 
force of corps artillery, not allocated to the divisions, and number- 
ing twelve batteries. To eight corps there was allotted also a 
battalion of chasseurs. There were ten cavalry divisions, each divi- 
sion comprising six regiments, divided into two or three brigades. 
There were also a number of special " regional " troops, which pro- 
vided an extra division for certain corps. As part of the Armee 
Metropolitaine, we must note the four regiments of Zouaves — 
white troops nominally belonging to the Algerian force, but largely 
stationed in France ; and the six regiments of Chasseurs d'Afrique, 
the cavalry whose famous charge all but redeemed the calamity 
of Sedan. The native African troops, recruited in Algeria by 
balloting and elsewhere by volunteers, were the twenty battalions of 
Tirailleurs Algeriens or Turcos, the heroes of Solferino ; the four 
cavalry regiments of Spahis ; and a division of Tirailleurs Senega- 
lais, drawn from the Niger basin, troops of much the same tj'pe as 
the British Sudanese. The reserves for the first-line army were 
arranged in eleven classes, and were computed to number some 2,000 
men for each battaHon. The Territorial Army, destined for lines 
of communication and garrison duty, but also available for field 


service in home defence, was organized to produce 36 divisions on 
mobilization. These divisions were, however, only cadres, and the 
purpose of the Territorials was to form local guards, the surplus 
being sent to depots for training as drafts to supply losses. Afhli- 
ated with the normal Territorials and destined for the same pur- 
pose of garrison work were the Gendarmerie, the Garde Republi- 
caine, the Douaniers and the Gardes Forestiers. Lastly we come 
to the Armee Coloniale, partly white troops recruited anywhere 
in French territory, partly native troops raised in Africa. This 
force was a true corps d' elite, and in the fullest meaning of the word 
a first-Hne army. In 1914 it numbered 87,000, white and native 
troops. Of similar quality, but regarded as a special force under 
the authority of the Admiralty, was the Infanterie de Marine, 
which was relegated for service with the home army. 

These various forces provided a peace strength of some 700,000 
men, and on mobilization the first line would be doubled by the 
inclusion of men from the reserve — a field strength of some 1,400,000. 
The remaining reservists would be organized in reserve units 
similar to the regulars, and all duties behind the lines would be 
taken over by the Territorials. Roughly speaking, the system 
gave France a month or so after the beginning of war about 
4,000,000 trained and partially trained men, of whom we may 
allot 700,000 to the first line, 700,000 to that portion of the Regular 
Reserve required to put the first line on a war footing, 700,000 to 
the balance of the Regular Reserve, 700,000 to the embodied Terri- 
torial Army, 700,000 to the Territorial depot reserve, and 700,000 
to the Territorial surplus. This provided a first-line army of about 
1,500,000, a second line of about 500,000 partially trained, and a 
reserve of some 2,000,000. 

The fighting machine which France could set in motion on the 
outburst of war ranked easily second among the forces of the 
world. In numbers it was inferior to the German, but the inferi- 
ority was not glaring ; France's real danger lay in her limited 
power of subsequent expansion. Each year her increment from 
the new classes would be only 200,000, as against Germany's 
500,000. Out of a possible six or seven millions of able-bodied 
males she had already enrolled two-thirds, whereas Germany had 
not used a half, scarcely indeed a third, of her resources. Her only 
additional reservoir lay in her African possessions, but Colonel 
Mangin's proposal of a vast native army * had not been acted 
upon. In a war of endurance France might find herself declining 
• See his La Force Noire. 


in numbers at a perilous rate, while her antagonist was still far 
from his maximum. There were other defects which weighed 
heavily on the mind of the French leaders. The reserve divisions 
could not take the field quickly in full strength. The Quarter- 
master-General's side was in grave disorder, and the stores of 
essential equipment had been suffered to sink dangerously low. 
The fortresses had fallen into a great decay, though on the French 
theory of war they were to play the part of breakwaters and hold 
the tide of invasion till the army was ready. In the matter of 
weapons the merits of the 75 mm. field gun, the best of its kind 
in the world, had induced a false confidence. The machine gun 
equipment was inferior to that of Germany ; there were far fewer 
of them, the type was less good, and their tactical use was still in 
the rudimentary stage. Heavy artillery, too, had been neglected. 
The French heavy batteries were utterly insufficient in number 
and weak in power ; the 4.2 howitzer threw a shell of only 40 lb., 
as against the German 5.9 with its 87 lb. shell and three shots a 
minute. France's strength lay in the quality of her men rather 
than in their numbers or equipment. She had a magnificent 
first line, but too little behind it. 

Yet, when all discount has been made, that quality was in 
itself a most formidable thing. Her North African possessions 
gave her a magnificent training-ground, and many of her troops 
had had actual experience of war. If Germany's inspiration was 
Moltke and 1870, France's was the Napoleonic Wars ; and in 
many points, like the heavy loads carried by the infantry and 
the belief in rapid and cumulative attacks, her views were those 
of the Grande Armee. The French Infantry retained all their 
historic dash and elan, and were probably the best marchers in 
Europe. The French General Staff,* too, had not been behind 
Germany in that " fundamental brain work " which was rightly 
regarded as the basis of success. Some of the best military litera- 
ture of modern times had been produced by French officers, and 
France had of late years shown a remarkable aptitude for military 
inventions. In one respect she differed greatly from her neighbour. 
She had no military caste to draw upon for her officers. The 
highest posts in her service were open to any one who could pass 
the requisite examinations and show the requisite talent. A democ- 
racy has its drawbacks in war, and a republic cannot give, perhaps, 

* Foch, when Commandant of the ficole de Guerre, had endeavoured unsuc- 
cessfully to increase the two years Staff course to the three years of the German 
system. Yet, in spite of a shorter course, by a skilful arrangement of studies the 
French Stafi training was unquestionably the most perfect of all the belligerents. 


that freedom from political interference and that continuity of 
policy which are desirable for a military machine. But the lack 
of this mechanical perfection had its compensations. If the disci- 
pline appeared less rigorous, there was a far greater camaraderie 
between men and officers, as any one who has marched with a 
French regiment will bear witness. In a defensive war for national 
existence this spirit of fraternity might be more potent in battle 
than any barrack-yard precision. 

Russia, Hke France, was a great Power which had suffered 
disaster in her last campaign, and was therefore eager to redeem 
her credit. A reform movement of a kind had been at work in her 
army for the past eight years, and Kuropatkin had interpreted the 
lessons of the Japanese War in unequivocal terms to his country- 
men.* But how far progress had gone was hard to estimate ahke 
for enemy and ally, for she did not publish her domestic concerns 
to the world. Unhappily many reforms remained only on paper, 
and much of the new credits granted was not honestly applied. 
Like her neighbours she had the system of universal compulsory 
service, but with her vast population of more than 170 millions 
she could afford to allow large exemptions. The age-limit of service 
was forty-three, and the term with the colours was three years 
in the infantry and four in the other arms. Her force was organ- 
ized in army corps, whose recruiting areas extended from the banks 
of the Vistula to the shores of the Pacific, and from the Arctic circle 
to the steppes of Turkestan. It was divided into three Regular 
armies — the European army of 27 army corps and 20 cavalry 
divisions, of which we may put the peace strength at some figure 
like 1,200,000 ; the Army of the Caucasus of three corps and four 
cavalry divisions ; and the Siberian Army of five corps. The 
total strength may be taken at 1,700,000 — approximately double 
the peace strength of Germany. The duplication of the first line 
by new reserve units and the bringing up of all units to their full 
total would give a war strength on mobilization of at least four 
millions. But this was only the beginning. The surplus of drilled 
reservists after the reserve units were formed could not be less 
than two millions ; the various bans of the Militia would add 
another million ; and since less than half of her available contin- 
gent was called up yearly, there was a balance of many millions 
for further recruiting, f 

♦ See his Russian Army and the Japanese War (Eng. trans. 1904). 
t General Gourko (Russia in 1914-1917) estimates that 14,000,000 were called 
to the colours up to December 1916. 


The man-power of Russia seemed, indeed, inexhaustible, but 
her fighting capacity was hmited by the difficulties of the transport 
problem over so vast an area, and the doubt as to whether war 
material could be accumulated in sufficient quantities to do justice 
to her numbers. Unlike Western Europe, her railways were few 
and irregularly distributed. Her field guns were good, but she 
had little heavy artillery, and, being a country with few industries, 
she had not the machinery for a rapid expansion of munitions. 
Her officer class had undoubtedly improved since the Japanese 
War, but it was far too small for the huge forces to be mobilized. 
She suffered, too, as we shall see later, from the lack of a considered 
strategic policy. Indeed it might fairly be said that of all the 
reforms canvassed since 1905 only one had taken effect, the in- 
crease in mobilizable numbers. Her army was a formidable 
weapon, but rather from size than from quality. In a war of 
defence she might justly be regarded as invincible ; in offensive 
warfare, where time was of the essence of the problem, her defects 
were obvious. One asset she possessed of high value. The do- 
cility and endurance of the Russian rank and file had always been 
famous, and under competent leading they had few superiors. 
For Russia much depended upon the cause in which she fought. 
Her infinite masses, far removed from ordinary news channels, 
were slow to kindle ; but if the cause were truly popular, the Slav 
nature might reveal that stubborn ardour against which a century 
before the genius of Napoleon had striven in vain. Yet even in 
this fine quality there lurked a danger. The Russian people were 
not, so far as ordinary education went, on the same level as their 
Western allies, and the very patience and dociUty which made 
them formidable in battle might by a turn of fortune's wheel 
ruin their military value. For it is a characteristic of the primitive 
virtues that their application is incalculable. 

In the British army we reach a force different in history, 
constitution, and purpose from that of every other European 
country. The aim of Britain for the last century had been to 
possess a small, highly professional, and perfectly equipped army 
for service anywhere on the globe, and a second line purely for home 
defence. She desired a real army without surplusage, exactly 
suited to the needs of her Empire and of home defence, but no 
more. Of the many efforts to attain this ideal I need not write 
at length , every war which we had waged had taught us a lesson, 
not infrequently exaggerated in its application. We may content 


ourselves with a brief survey of the system instituted by Lord 
Haldane between 1907 and 1910, during his tenancy of the office 
of Secretary of State for War. 

The conclusion of the South African campaign in 1902 left our 
military system in great confusion. We had detected many flaws 
and given ourselves up to empiric remedies. There was no General 
Staff. The attempt of Lord Roberts and Lord Midleton to organize 
the army in six corps produced only phantoms. The War Office 
showed a succession of fleeting military chiefs who had neither 
the talent nor the authority to adjust the machine. In 1905 the 
military forces of the Crown were a heterogeneous collection of 
fragments incapable of speedy and effective use. The Regular 
Army had no unit larger than a brigade which could have gone to 
war without changing its composition. The only large unit, the 
so-called Aldershot Army Corps, could not have taken the field 
without a long delay. The cavalry was short of horses. Mr. 
Arnold-Forster had armed the artillery with the new i8-pounder, 
but no adequate provision had been made for ammunition, and not 
more than forty-two batteries could have been put in the field. 
The infantry was short of men, and the system of Hnked battalions 
had virtually broken down. In the second line was the MiUtia, which 
was bled in peace for the Regular Army, and which in any case 
was not liable to serve abroad. The third line, the Volunteers 
and Yeomanry, competed for recruits with the Militia, and had no 
real higher organization. All three lines were uncorrelated. Most 
serious of all, there was no provision for expanding the first line 
in case of need. 

Lord Haldane, when he took office, saw that the main problem 
for the British army was not home defence, but the power of tak- 
ing an offensive overseas wherever required, and that the problem 
was the same whether the expeditionary force was destined for 
some part of the Empire or for the continent of Europe. His first 
step was to summon to his aid the younger soldiers who had made 
a reputation in South Africa. In his reconstruction he followed 
three great principles. The first was that a true General Staff 
must be created, and that its work of planning strategy and super- 
vising training should be completely separated from the wholly 
different province of administration.* The second was that all 
organization must be on a war and not on a peace basis, the units 

* He did not succeed in getting the departments of the Adjutant-General, 
the Quartermaster-General, and the Master General of the Ordnance — the Adminis- 
trative or Intendantur side — into one great department, but he freed the Imperial 
General Staff from irrelevant duties. 


being ready to spring into full activity immediately on receiving 
their reserves, instead of having to enter a new formation. The 
third was that a larger fighting unit was needed than the brigade, 
and that this should be not the old small British division, but the 
great continental division of three brigades, complete with divi- 
sional cavalry, artillery, and transport. He refused the alterna- 
tive of a two million army on the continental pattern, for Britain 
did not need it. The old three lines were replaced by two — the 
Regulars, with the Militia turned into a special reserve, and the 
Territorial Force, with an organization akin to the first line. His 
aim was to provide a striking force of professional soldiers ready 
to serve anywhere at any moment, and behind it a volunteer 
citizen army, capable of rapid expansion and intensive training 
in time of war. He had, therefore, an Expeditionary Force of 
six divisions capable of mobilizing and concentrating on the Con- 
tinent within twelve days, and at its back a Territorial army 
of fourteen infantry divisions and fourteen mounted brigades, 
which, with the assistance of the 20,000 partially trained young 
men of the Officers' Training Corps, might expand under stress 
into a nation in arms.* 

♦ In 1914 the results stood as follows. — To take the Regular Array first : The 
Expeditionary Force was organized as a force of six infantry divisions and nearly two 
of cavalry. The Regular infantry were divided between the stations at home and 
abroad, with the exception of the Guards, who in peace time were not employed 
on foreign service, and whose term was three years with the colours and nine in the 
Reserve. The Army Reserve consisted of those who had completed their service 
with the colours, and had not yet completed the term for which they had enlisted. 
The Special Reserve acted in peace time mainly as a feeder for the Regulars, many 
joining it as a preliminary to the Line ; the period of enlistment was for six years, 
and all ranks were liable for foreign service in war. In the Territorial Force, the 
term of service was four years, re-engagements being allowed, and the training 
was considerably higher than in most of the classes of the continental Territorial 
forces. The Territorial Reserve, which was part of Lord Haldane's scheme, had 
made little progress, and consisted mainly of officers who had left their regiments 
but wished to rejoin on mobilization. Lastly came the National Reserve, made up 
of old soldiers, many beyond the age limit, who were registered in part for general 
service, in part for home service alone, and in part merely for purposes of training 
and administration. It will be seen that the British army presented features analogous 
to all the classes of continental military systems. The army corps, the superior 
unit of continental systems, did not appear in the British army in its peace organiza- 
tion. The administrative unit was the Command, based on localities, and includ- 
ing both Regular Army, Special Reserve, and Territorial forces. The highest field 
unit in peace was the division, which consisted of three infantry brigades, three 
field artillery brigades, one field howitzer brigade, one heavy battery, two field com- 
panies of Royal Engineers, one squadron of cavalry, and various divisional troops, 
making a total of 18,073 men, 5,592 horses, 76 guns, and 24 machine guns. 
A brigade of infantry consisted of four battalions ; a battalion of four companies 
of about 240 men each, subdivided into platoons of 60. The battalion was com- 
manded by a lieutenant-colonel, the brigade by a brigadier-general, and the division 
by a major-general. The artillery unit was the " brigade," which in this connection 


Lord Haldane's reconstruction did not meet with universal 
approval. The General Staff would have preferred conscription 
and a large first line on the continental model. The difficulties 
in the way of this policy were, first, that such an army could not 
have been created except during a long period of assured peace, 
and that in peace the British nation would not have consented 
to a machine so far beyond what it considered to be its normal 
needs ; second, that such a development would have involved a 
hiatus between old and new, and that to admit this hiatus would 
have been to court Germany's attack. Lord Roberts, with all the 
weight of his great character and long experience, advocated a 
scheme of universal compulsory training for home defence. On 
the merits of his proposal it is not necessary at this date to argue ; 
undoubtedly, had it been in operation in 1914, it would have greatly 
facihtated the creation of the new armies. The practical obstacle 
in its way was the difficulty of providing officers ; but it is important 
to remember that it would not have given Britain a larger ex- 
peditionary force to meet the urgent crisis. It was not in this sense 
an alternative to Lord Haldane's system, but a development of one 
side of it ; the only alternative was the General Staff's proposal for 
a conscript continental army, which the peculiar circumstances of 
Britain made impracticable, even if it had been desirable. Minor 
criticisms directed against the reduction in the infantry and artillery 
may be neglected ; there was in fact no reduction ; weak units 
disappeared, but the total mobilizable strength was increased. As 
we look back after the long testing years we may well admit that 
the structure which Lord Haldane built, upon foundations laid 
by Mr. Balfour, was not only the best which the circumstances 
permitted, but a thing in itself nobly conceived, wisely wrought, 
and abundantly justified by results. By virtue of his proven 
achievement he stands with few rivals in the roll of the War Min- 
isters of Britain. 

On the outbreak of war the Expeditionary Force for immediate 
use numbered 160,000 troops of all arms. The total regular 
strength with the British colours reached in round figures 250,000 ; 
the Army Reserve numbered 145,000, the Special Reserve 81,000 ; 

had a different meaning from the word as used in continental armies. In the Field 
Artillery a brigade comprised three six-gun batteries ; in the Horse Artillery two 
batteries. The cavalry regiment was made up of three squadrons, each some 150 
sabres, subdivided into four troops. A cavalry brigade had three regiments ; a 
cavalry division had four brigades, and four batteries of horse artillery ; but there 
were also cavalry brigades which were not allotted to any division. In war the 
full strength of a cavalry division was 9,269 men, 9,813 horses, 24 guns, and 24 
machine guns. 


the Territorial Force had a peace establishment of 316,500, but it 
was short of this by some 50,000 ; and the National Reserve had 
reached the creditable level of 200,000. But these figures were no 
index to the potential fighting strength of Britain. She had never 
been called upon to exert herself in recruiting, and the first shock 
of war sent myriads of young men flocking to the colours. She 
had deliberately chosen to limit herself to a small highly trained 
striking force, trusting to the protection of her Navy to allow her 
to improvise an adequate army in the case of a great war. The 
choice, as it now seems to us, was wise. She followed Raleigh's 
precept : " There is a certain proportion both by sea and land 
beyond which the excess brings nothing but disorder and amaze- 
ment." She was consciously reserving her strength for a long 
sustenance of effort ; as Germany played for immediate victory, so 
Britain thought of the ultimate battle. Her resources, provided 
the issue were not decided in the early months, would steadily 
grow, for unlike her neighbours she had but skimmed the cream 
of her man-power for the first trial, and had not depleted her 
economic wealth by extravagant armaments. In three years, 
were she given the time, it was fair to assume that, with her colonies 
and dependencies, she could send five million men to the theatres 
of war. 

But that was for the future. Britain's military strength in 
the first round of the struggle could be measured only by her 
Expeditionary Force. Small as this striking force was by com- 
parison with that of her neighbours, it was not to be compared with 
any continental army of the same size. In the words of a German 
critic, it was " a perfect thing apart." The British regulars were 
beyond question the most professional in the world. Their train- 
ing, both in duration and thoroughness, went far beyond anything 
known in the short-service German army. The fact that she had 
commonly to fight her wars in desert and ill-provided countries 
had compelled her to bring her transport and commissariat arrange- 
ments to the highest pitch of perfection. The same was true of 
the engineering and medical services. Again, a large proportion 
of both men and officers had had actual experience of war. Most 
officers over thirty had gone through the trying South African 
campaign ; the senior commanders had Indian and Egyptian wars 
as well in their recollection. Such field experience is no small 
ingredient in the moral of an army. A man who has already led 
or followed successfully under fire has learned something that no 
text-book or staff college or manoeuvres can teach. In Carnot's 


famous words, " It is not pirouetting up and down a baiTack-yard, 
but active service that makes an old soldier." The British staff- 
officer, though he had not behind him the long traditions of the 
French or the German, was adequate to the forces with which he 
was associated. And in one matter the younger British officer 
surpassed his foreign colleagues. His mind worked freshly and 
originally on the discovery of new weapons. The nature of the 
coming war was not fully envisaged by any soldier, but many of 
its details were correctly anticipated in Britain. In the course of 
this narrative we shall find examples of British skill in the inven- 
tion of new weapons ; here it is sufficient to note that, years before 
the war, officers at such schools as Hythe had pressed for the use 
of rifle-grenades, bombs, trench periscopes. Very pistols, and other 
instruments presently to become only too famihar, and had almost 
invariably been rebuffed by an unimaginative Treasury.* 

To state the opposing strengths in the field at the outset of 
war in mere numbers gives little enlightenment, for numbers 
were not the only, or indeed the chief, factor. It is better to 
put the odds in general terms than with any mathematical pre- 
ciseness. The total man-power of France, Russia, and Britain, 
with their allies of Belgium and Serbia, was a little short of double 
that of Germany and Austria, but the disparity was enormously 
less — probably not more than 13 to 8 — with regard to the immedi- 
ately mobilizable armies. In the vital theatre of war — the Western 
front — Germany could at once place forces preponderating by at 
least 50 per cent over those of France and Britain. In that theatre, 
indeed, the immediate odds in Germany's favour were even greater, 
owing to the perfection of her long-planned scheme of attack. If 
she could succeed at once in the West, the Eastern theatre, where 
the elements were less clear, would offer no difficulty, since she 
could then give it an undivided attention. But if victory did 
not come at once and the war lengthened out, a new situation 
would arise involving naval and economic factors. To these we 
must now give brief consideration. 


In reviewing the naval power of the belligerents we may for 
the moment neglect all save Britain and Germany, The other 

* It is significant that Bernhardi in his post-bellum Vom Kriege der Zukunft 
advocates as a result of war experience many principles which were either adopted 
in the British army of 1914, or were then strongly urged by leading British soldiers. 


navies played their part, but it was local, and immaterial to the 
main problem ; the duel for the supremacy of the sea must be 
fought out by the two antagonists who faced each other across 
the northern waters. The British navy at the outbreak of war 
had reached a point of efficiency both in quality and quantity 
which was unprecedented in its history. It is true that the growth 
of German sea-power had relatively reduced its pre-eminence, but 
the existence of a bold claimant for the empire of the ocean had 
stimulated the spirit of the fleet, and improved its organization 
for war. This is not the place to enter into the interminable 
discussions which since 1906 had raged around the subject. The 
attempts at reduction, happily frustrated, may well be relegated 
to oblivion. Ever since Lord Selborne's period of office at the 
Admiralty a steady advance may be noted in training and equip- 
ment. The establishment of the Royal Fleet Reserve and the 
Volunteer Naval Reserve, the provision of North Sea bases, the 
admirable work done by the Committee of Imperial Defence, 
the development of armament and of battleship designing, the 
improvement in gunnery practice, the system of manning older 
ships with nucleus crews, the revision of the rates of pay, the open- 
ing up of careers for the lower deck, and the provision of a naval 
air service, were landmarks in the advance. Much was due to 
Lord Fisher, who for five and a half years held the post of First 
Sea Lord ; something was due, also, to the civilian First Lords, 
Mr, McKenna and Mr. Winston Churchill. The former saved the 
situation in the crisis of 1909 ; the latter flung himself into the 
work of his department with a zeal and intelligence which were 
of incalculable value to the country in the hour of need. In the 
Navy Estimates of March, 1914, Parliament sanctioned over 
fifty-one millions for naval defence — the largest sum ever granted 
for the purpose. There was always a certain criticism of our 
naval policy on technical grounds, for the advent of the big gun, 
the submarine, and the airship had dissolved much of the old ortho- 
dox theory, and the air was thick with new doctrine. In particular, 
the organization of the Admiralty was attacked with some justice, 
and the first months of war revealed various errors of prevision. 
The capital ship had tended to monopolize our mind to the exclu- 
sion of other weapons. But it is unquestionable that Britain had 
never been stronger afloat than when at 8.30 on the morning of 
4th August her Grand Fleet put to sea. 

The German navy, the second in the world, was a creation of 
the past fifteen years, deliberately undertaken for the purpose 


of challenging British supremacy. The chief begetter had been 
an obscure naval officer called Tirpitz, who in 1897 succeeded 
Admiral von HoUmann as Minister of Marine. With the support 
of the Emperor he began to wring money for the navy out of a 
reluctant Treasury and in the face of a jealous army, and by 
dint of a skilful press campaign succeeded in arousing in the Ger- 
man people a new enthusiasm for maritime power. At the out- 
break of war he had held office for fifteen years, and had built 
up a navy which in ships and men was second only to one — a 
marvellous performance for so short a period. In the old days 
the German navy had been regarded as a branch of the army : 
naval strategy was conceived of as only an auxihary to land strat- 
egy, and ships as units for coast defence. It had been the task 
of the new German sea-lords to emancipate the fleet from this 
military tradition. The result was that the navy had become a 
far more democratic profession than the sister service, and had 
drawn to it many able men of middle-class birth who were repelled 
by the junkerdom of the army. It was manned chiefly by con- 
scripts, but about a quarter consisted of volunteers, mainly 
dwellers on the coast and on the Frisian and Baltic islands, and 
men who had deliberately made it their career. The officers were 
almost to a man professional enthusiasts, and British sailors, who 
fraternized with them in foreign ports, had borne witness to their 
efficiency and seamanHke spirit. 

In August 1914 Britain possessed 73 battleships and battle- 
cruisers, 34 armoured cruisers, 87 cruisers, 227 destroyers, and 
75 submarines — many of each class being of an antiquated type. 
Germany had 46 battleships and battle-cruisers, 40 armoured 
cruisers, 12 cruisers, 152 destroyers, and 40 submarines. But 
as she had practically all her fleet in northern waters, the true 
comparison was between her High Sea Fleet and its actual antag- 
onist, the British Grand Fleet. On this basis Britain had 20 
Dreadnoughts, 8 pre-Dreadnoughts, 4 battle -cruisers, 9 cruisers, 
12 light cruisers, and 42 destroyers ; Germany, 13 Dreadnoughts, 
16 pre-Dreadnoughts, 3 battle-cruisers, 2 cruisers, 15 light cruisers, 
and 88 destroyers. Germany had 28 submarines, and was build- 
ing 24 ; Britain had 54 and was building 19 ; but of the 54, 37 
were old types useful only for coast defence, and only 9 of the 
total were comparable to the German craft. Germany's strength 
in destroyers and submarines is to be noted, for it gave a hint of 
her naval policy. She could not hope to meet the British Grand 
Fleet in an open battle — at any rate not at the beginning. It 


was her aim to avoid such a trial of strength until the British lead 
had been reduced by the slow attrition of submarines, mines, and 
the casualties of the sea. The policy of a sudden raid— that " day " 
which German naval officers had long toasted— was made almost 
impossible by the manner in which war broke out and by the pre- 
paredness of Britain at sea. 

The Fabian Une of strategy had many advantages from Ger- 
many's standpoint. It gave ample scope for the ingenuity and 
boldness of those branches of her sea-service, like mine-layers 
and submarines, to which she had paid special attention. It kept 
her fleet intact against the time when, her arms victorious on land, 
she could sally forth to fight a dispirited enemy. Further, a 
period of forced inaction must have a wearing effect upon the 
nerves of the British navy. For a fleet which beheves itself in- 
vincible s-nd longs for combat it is a hard trial to wait day after 
day without descrying an enemy's pennon on the horizon. The 
modern battleship had not the constant small duties which existed 
in the ships of Nelson's time, and it was hoped that the men and 
officers might grow stale and apathetic ; or, in the alternative, they 
might risk an attack upon the German fleet in its home waters — 
an attack which, in the German view, would result in the crushing 
defeat of the invader. 

This plan, perfectly sound strategy in the circumstances, was 
made possible by the peculiar configuration of the German coast, 
and the magnificent shelter it provided. The few hundred miles 
between Emden and the Danish frontier are deeply cut by bays 
and river mouths, and the western part is screened by the chain 
of Frisian islands from Borkum to Wangeroog. In the centre of 
the bight lies Heligoland, a strong fortress with a wireless station. 
Close to the Dutch frontier is the estuary of the Ems, with the town 
of Emden. Then follows a low, sandy stretch of coast, indented 
with tidal creeks, till the estuary of the Jade is reached at Wilhelms- 
haven, which was the fortified base of the North Sea Fleet. Next 
is the estuary of the Weser, with the important dockyard of 
Bremerhaven. Last comes the estuary of the Elbe, with Cuxhaven 
at its mouth, opposite the debouchment of the Kiel Canal, and at 
its head the great city and dockyard of Hamburg. Each estuary 
was a network of mazy channels among the sands, requiring skilful 
piloting, and in themselves a strong defence against a raid. There 
was, further, the screen of the islands, behind which operations 
could take place unnoticed, and there was the Kiel Canal to furnish 
a back door to the Baltic. The coast was followed by a double 


line of railway from Hamburg to Emden, which tapped no popu- 
lous district and carried no traffic, but was meant solely for strategic 
purposes. This Frisian corner was the key to German naval 
defence. Her front there was protected from British assault, and 
from that base her submarines and destroyers could make raids 
on the British navy and return swiftly to sanctuary. Britain was 
handicapped in this kind of contest by her weight. It was like 
the fight of an elephant against a leopard. The heavier antagonist, 
once he can use his strength, makes short work of the enemy; 
but he may be given no chance to exert that strength and may, 
weaken and sink from a multitude of trivial wounds. Britain 
had the further drawback that at the outset she possessed no 
naval bases on the North Sea fortified against submarine attack. 

The German plan involved the immediate sacrifice of Germany's 
foreign trade, which would be speedily put an end to by that 
considerable part of the British navy which was not on duty with 
the Grand Fleet. On the other hand it maintained her main naval 
strength intact ; it immobilized in the difficult duty of siege and 
blockade the bulk of the sea-power of Britain, and kept that sea- 
power in a state of exasperated inaction and perpetual risk. These, 
however, were advantages and disadvantages which could only 
materialize in the event of the prolongation of the war. In the 
early stage, Germany's effort after immediate victory, the two 
navies had no bearing upon the struggle save in one point — the 
ferrying over the Channel of the British Expeditionary Force. 
If Germany could prevent or delay that operation her fleet would 
have secured a brilliant and most vital success in the first round. 

To the later rather than to the early stages belonged, too, the 
question of the economic resources of the belligerents ; but in this 
place a short survey may be permitted, for if such considerations 
were principally relevant to a protracted war, they had also some 
effect in determining the initial preparation. The capacity of a 
nation to endure the economic strain of a long campaign, to feed 
itself, to manufacture munitions, to keep its people in reasonable 
employment, to avoid the panics which force the hand of statesmen, 
is an integral part of military strength. Many economic factors 
may be neglected. War reduces life to its bare bones and curiously 
simplifies the problem. Three questions only need be asked : 
could the land keep itself from starvation ? could it manufacture 
or procure the necessaries of war ? could it raise, within or without 
its borders, the funds required to pay for the campaign ? 


Britain imported the larger part of her food supply— some 
80 per cent, of her wheat, 40 per cent, of her meat, vast quantities 
of other cereals and dairy produce, and the whole of her sugar. 
Of these supplies only a small proportion came from enemy coun- 
tries, and most of the great staples were brought from lands where 
production was not crippled by the war. Provided, therefore, 
that the sea could be kept clear by her navy, Britain's food supply 
would not be seriously affected ; on the other hand, the closing of 
the seas would mean starvation within three months. France 
was able to feed herself. She grew 40 million quarters of wheat 
to the British 7I, and though she imported certain food-stuffs 
to a considerable amount, she exported others. Her danger under 
this head came from the decline in her own productive capacity 
caused by the march of the invader and the withdrawal of husband- 
men for military service. As against this the overseas routes 
were open to her, assuming that the British navy were not beaten, 
and her customary surplus of home-grown food was now available 
for home consumption. Russia could without difficulty feed her- 
self, even if she put ten million men into the field. Austria-Hun- 
gary also had a balance of home-grown supplies beyond her needs. 
Germany's position approached more nearly that of Britain. 
In normal times she imported large stocks of food-stuffs, and the 
balance against her would naturally be increased in time of war 
by the withdrawal of rural workers. Her former main supply 
grounds, Russia and America, would now be cut off, and Austria- 
Hungary and Rumania could not fill the gap. A lengthy war 
would beyond question pinch her, but it would be years before 
that pinch became famine. For her deficit of home-grown food 
was not, Hke Britain's, overwhelming ; she could, if necessary, 
stimulate home production, and by this means, and by the in- 
genious manipulation of alternative foods, she could continue to 
exist long after the outer world was closed to her. She might 
presently be under-fed, but it would be hard to bring her to actual 

How far could the beUigerent lands manufacture or procure 
the essential munitions of war, for it was obvious that if the cam- 
paign lengthened out the bulk of the industries in each country 
would be diverted to that purpose ? Here Britain was in by far 
the most fortunate position. Her huge industrial machine was 
not at the start weakened by any wholesale withdrawal of men 
for the line of battle. She had ample coal, and while she held 
the sea she had the whole world to draw on for raw materials. 


France, too, had this last advantage, but in coal and iron ore 
she was weak, and her industries were not on the British scale. 
Russia was a poorly industrialized land, and must depend for 
a large part of her munitions of war on her Western allies. 
Germany was in a curious position. She had become predomi- 
nantly a manufacturing people, importing great quantities of raw 
material and minerals, and in 1913 exporting no less than 
£495,000,000 worth of manufactured goods. Within her own 
bounds she had certain kinds of wealth in great abundance — 
various chemicals, coal, and iron ores. Indeed it had been the 
iron-fields of Lorraine, annexed in 1871, which had made possible 
her industrial and military development. The discovery in 1878 
of the basic process of smelting the ore was like the discovery of 
the silver mines of Laureion by Athens after Marathon ; the one 
gave a navy for Salamis, the other provided an army for the con- 
quest of Europe. But in some matters Uke copper and rubber 
she had no hope of home supplies, and the closing down of her 
import trade would gravely handicap her munition production. 
This she had foreseen, and endeavoured to avert by accumulating 
large stocks in advance and devising alternatives. We may there- 
fore say that Germany was all but a self-sufficing state for the pur- 
poses of war — all but, not wholly — and the " little less " would 
be a considerable handicap as time went on. Her opponents 
were very far from being self-sufficing, but they held the sea and 
with it the markets of the outer world. 

The last question concerns the funds available for the conduct 
of war. In the long run this resolves itself into the ability of 
each nation to raise money from its own citizens or its allies, for 
loans from neutral countries are at best a precarious staff to lean 
on. Too much stress is apt to be laid on the actual gold reserve 
existing at the outbreak of hostilities. It is no doubt important, 
but its absence may be compensated for by the general stability 
of credit in a particular country and the existence of private wealth 
to be reached by taxation. Britain had no war chest, but she had 
a strong and elastic banking system, a wealthier population than 
any other, and her losses from the operations of war were likely 
to be at the start far less than those of the other combatants. 
There remained, in spite of recent taxation which critics had 
condemned as being on a war basis, a vast reserve of untouched 
wealth in British hands, and in a struggle for endurance she 
was more favourably situated than any continental state. In 
France the taxation had long been high, and the nation's debt 


was heavy. Her assets were the huge gold reserve — some 145 
millions— in the Bank of France, the considerable store of gold in 
private hands, and, above all, the thrifty habits of her population. 
Russia had a large war chest, and a big reserve of gold in the State 
bank, while her recent prosperity had accumulated resources 
among her people. In such a crisis the less complex organism 
suffers least, and to Russia the strain of war would to begin with 
not be serious. Austria-Hungary had to face a grave shrinking 
of her joint revenue, which was mainly derived from customs ; 
and this, which was the source of her military expenditure, would 
have to be supplemented by grants from the direct taxation of 
her component states. Here the pinch would soon be felt, but 
for a considerable period it would be a pinch and not a catastrophe. 
Germany had a big gold balance in her banks, and the war chest 
in the Spandau Tower. Owing to the peculiarities of her political 
system it was difficult to compare her financial position with that 
of other nations ; but her various pubHc debts were large, and 
there was no question but that, between imperial and state taxa- 
tion, her people were heavily burdened. As the industrial sources 
of wealth would soon be dried up, she had to depend for her income 
upon accumulations. Her position would have been more serious 
were it not that her bureaucratic system of government enabled 
her to manipulate the available resources with a speed and a smooth- 
ness impossible in a democratic community. For the first stage 
of war this question of finance is, indeed, the least important. No 
nation has ever yet been restrained from fighting because of a 
depleted exchequer, A self-sufficing state which does not need im- 
ports or is unable to import can always provide funds by voluntary 
and forced levies from its citizens. The more serious dilficulty 
is for the importing states, which have to pay for imports in some 
form of currency which the exporters will accept. But this is a 
problem which is not urgent at the outset for nations which have 
any reserve of gold or of foreign investments. 


We have seen that, except in one respect, naval strength did 
not enter into the problem of the first stage, and economic consider- 
ations were irrelevant. Germany had set the lists for and decreed 
the form of the first round, which was a struggle of armies on the 
French frontier. In our present Hmited inquiry two matters still 


remain for consideration — the strategical position, and the moral of 
the various combatants. The natural situation of Britain was unique. 
Without a land frontier in Europe she was practically invulnerable 
to land attack from a European Power throughout her whole 
empire, except from Russia, who was her ally. The key of her 
security was the ocean, and invasion was possible only when some 
Power temporarily had command of the narrow seas. But this 
position, admirable for defence, had its drawbacks in offensive 
warfare. If she desired to fight on the Continent, not only must 
she hold the seas for the transport of her armies, but she must 
be in alliance with a continental Power who would facilitate their 
disembarkation and land transport. 

France had a land frontier with Germany, extending from a 
point just south of Belfort, at the north-west corner of Switzerland, 
northwards to Longwy on the Belgian border — a distance of some 
150 miles. This frontier showed very varied physical character- 
istics. Between Switzerland and the southern butt of the Vosges 
Mountains is a piece of flat land known as the Gap of Belfort, the 
passage through which is dominated by the fortress of that name. 
Northwards for seventy miles the line follows the crest of the 
Vosges till the mountains sink into the plain of Lorraine. Inside 
this French frontier on the west are the upper valleys of two rivers 
— the Meuse on the north, and the Moselle farther south. In all 
parts this Hne was strongly defended. From Belfort north to 
Epinal ran a line of forts, while the difficult Vosges country was a 
further protection. Between Epinal and Toul lay the Trouee de 
Charmes, a gap in the fortress system which the Germans regarded 
as a trap left open on purpose. Between Toul and Verdun, two first- 
class fortresses, lay the fortified area of the upper Meuse. Opposite 
Verdun, and commanded by it, is a gateway into France from the 
German fortress of Metz. This gap is some thirty miles wide, 
and at its northern end begins the rough, hilly land of the Ardennes, 
which extends through Belgium to the valley of the lower Meuse. 
France was thus protected on her side towards Germany by a 
combination of natural and artificial barriers which would make 
invasion a slow and difficult process. Her weak point was the 
contiguity of Belgium and Luxembourg. The latter was a neutral 
state wholly without fortifications, and giving access to any enemy, 
who cared to disregard its neutrality, to the southern Ardennes 
and the central Meuse valley. Belgium showed on the north-east 
a narrow front of entry between the Dutch frontier and the northern 
flank of the Ardennes — a front which was defended by the Meuse, 


which here turns northward, and by the forts of U6ge. In Namur 
and Antwerp she possessed other first-class fortresses ; but obvi- 
ously the resistance of so small a state against invasion could not 
be indefinitely prolonged. Once the invader won through Belgium, 
the French Une of defence would become the line from Maubeuge 
by Lille to the coast, a Une vastly inferior both in natural and 
artificial strength to the Verdun-Belfort line in the east. On the 
south France had no strategic difficulties. Switzerland and Spain 
would be neutral, and, though Italy was a member of the Triple 
Alliance, it was unlikely that she would draw the sword against 
her old ally in the Risorgimento. France's sea-power had con- 
siderable strategic importance, though far less than in the case 
of Britain. Some of the best of her troops were in Algiers, and 
to bring them back necessitated the command of the Western 
Mediterranean. With the assistance of the British fleet this was a 
practical certainty. 

Russia, so far as conquest was concerned, had long been re- 
garded as invulnerable. No invasion, not even under a Charles 
XII. or a Napoleon, could hope, it was thought, to prevail 
against her vast distances and the rigours of her winter climate. 
For a war of offence she had certain strategic difficulties, chiefly 
concerned with the topography of her western frontier. On 
the east she had nothing to fear from Japan, and could recall 
her troops of occupation from Manchuria. She was free to con- 
centrate her whole might against the Teutonic alliance, but that 
concentration was not an easy matter. Russian Poland ran 
in a salient westwards to a point only some 180 miles from 
BerUn. North was East Prussia, commanding the right flank of 
any Russian advance, and south was the Austrian province of 
Gahcia, commanding the left. While the main Russian concentra- 
tion was likely to be on the fortress line running through Warsaw, 
it was necessary, before an advance could be made westwards, to 
clear the enemy out of East Prussia and Gahcia. The first was a land 
of marshes and swampy ponds, difficult campaigning at all times, 
and one vast morass, as Napoleon found, in the rains. When that 
country was traversed, the line of the Vistula had to be crossed, 
defended by the strong fortresses of Thorn, Graudenz, and Danzig. 
Gahcia, on the south, contained only two first-class fortresses, 
Przemysl and Cracow, and the Austrian armies operating there, 
being drawn mainly from the non-Slav parts of the Dual Mon- 
archy, would be at some distance from their southern bases. Once 
the flanks were clear, the way would be open for a Russian advance 


against Posen from Russian Poland, and against Breslau and Silesia 
from Galicia. 

The natural difficulties of Russia's strategic position in a var 
of offence were obvious, and they were not decreased by the nature 
of her communications. A report of General Kuropatkin as War 
Minister, written in 1900, summarized a situation which for Russia 
had not' materially improved. In the West, both in France and 
Germany, railways and canals had been considered from the 
strategic point of view. They were admirably adapted for con- 
centration on important points ; all vital bridges and tunnels 
were provided with explosive chambers, and, when necessary, 
were heavily fortified. But in the East the preparation was one- 
sided. Germany had seventeen lines of railway leading to the 
Russian frontier, which would enable her to send five hundred 
troop trains daily, so that she could concentrate some fourteen 
to sixteen army corps on that border within a few days of the 
declaration of war. On the Russian side there were only five 
railway lines. So, too, with Austria. The Carpathians had been 
pierced by seven railways, so that Galicia had become like a glacis 
of the Austrian fort, where in a short space she could concentrate 
over 1,000,000 men, while on her eight lines she could run two 
hundred and sixty trains to the frontier every twenty-four hours. 
As against this, Russia had only four lines. Further, the German 
gauge was in force as far east as Warsaw, so Germany could run 
across the frontier from her internal bases without detraining. 

The German Staff had long foreseen the possibility of Germany 
being involved in a war such as the present — with Austria in 
alliance, Italy neutral, and France, Russia, and Britain engaged 
against her. It was the German doctrine of war that the offensive 
supplied the best defence. If she were assailed on both sides she 
must crush one enemy before turning to the other. Time was at the 
heart of her problem, for a protracted struggle might mean starva- 
tion, bankruptcy, and, consequently, defeat. Her first movement 
would naturally be directed against the West. There her frontier 
was strongly defended. The great fortified areas of Metz and 
Thionville stood as outposts, and behind them was the fine of 
the Rhine fortresses — Neu-Breisach, Strassburg, Mayence, Co- 
blentz, Cologne — not to speak of the Rhine itself, where almost 
every bridge was strongly fortified. On the East the position 
was far less secure. The Vistula, the Warta, and the Oder, though 
by no means contemptible, were not natural barriers like the Rhine ; 
the eastern fortresses, with the exception of Konigsberg, had 


not the strength of the western ; and the difficult nature of the 
country and the immense length — some 500 miles — of the frontier, 
made an offensive, proceeding from a not too secure base, terribly 
hable to a counterstroke. There was also the difficulty that, 
for the defence of her right flank on the East, Germany must trust 
to Austria, and such vicarious security was repugnant to the orderly 
mind of her General Staff. There was the further trouble about 
Italy. Though nominally an ally, neutrality was the most that 
could be hoped from her, and at any moment she might be drawn 
into active hostility. In the latter case she would take Austria 
in the rear by way of the Trentino and Trieste ; and Austria, 
with Russia in front, Italy behind, and Serbia on her flank, would 
be in no position to safeguard her share of the Eastern frontier. 
It was, therefore, highly necessary to strike a deadly blow as early 
as possible at France, in order to confirm the wavering neutrality 
of Italy, and to enable Germany to concentrate her attention on 
the East, where lay what seemed to many of her people to be the 
graver danger. 

Now, a swift blow at France was only possible through Luxem- 
bourg and Belgium. A glance at the map will reveal the reason.* 
A frontal attack on the frontier barrier, Verdun-Belfort, would 
be a matter of months. An entry by the Gap of Metz would not 
only expose her armies to a flank attack by a force coming up 
from behind Verdun, but would compel her to pour many hundreds 
of thousands of men through a bottle neck not more than thirty 
miles wide. This would mean that many corps, with their trains, 
would be packed on the same road, that the lines of supply would be 
overburdened, that all communications would have to be transferred 
to the middle Rhine, leaving the bridges and railways of the lower 
Rhine half idle. Such a step would be to court disaster. Germany 
needed a wide " out-march " for her front, and this could only 
be got by buying, begging, or forcing a passage through Luxem- 
bourg and Belgium. This would enable her to turn the eastern 
fortress barrier of France, and to open a direct advance from the 
north-east on the Marne valley, which was for Germany the key 
to Paris. Any loss of reputation she might incur by high-handed 
action in Belgium would be more than compensated for by its 
great strategic benefits. Belgium was the key of the whole problem 
in the West. If it were held inviolable, France's strategical posi- 
tion was good; if not, the advantage lay conspicuously with 

• See p. 178. 


The last question, which bears on strategical position, concerns 
the moral of the troops, their enthusiasm for war, and their confi- 
dence in the goodness of their cause. In this there was Uttle to 
choose between the combatants. Russia beheved herself to be 
engaged in a holy war ; France was fighting for her Hfe against her 
secular enemy ; Britain was drawing the sword for public honour 
and the free ideals of her empire against the massed forces of auto- 
cracy and reaction. Austria may have been somewhat half- 
hearted, for she had been made a catspaw of by Germany, but 
she had her long grievance against Serbia to avenge, and she had 
as a spur the terror of the advancing Slav. Not least was Germany 
confident in her cause. What seemed to the world an act of brig- 
andage and bad faith was to her only the natural instinct of self- 
preservation. To the ordinary German the Triple Entente was a 
vast conspiracy to hem in Germany, and prevent her from gaining 
the expansion which her vigour demanded, Germany must fight 
some day unless she were to be crushed, and the sooner the better 
before Russia became too strong. She believed that in such a 
war she was certain to win, since France was decadent, Britain 
contemptible by land, and Russia not yet prepared. Her spies 
had gone abroad through the globe and reported the omens happy. 
The British navy might be stronger than the German, but the 
latter could, at any rate, cripple its power ; and she believed, more- 
over, that Britain had no stomach for war, and would speedily 
seek a profitable peace. Let us also grant that something more 
than self-preservation and material aggrandizement entered into 
the German ideal. There was the exhilaration of one strong people 
contra mundum, and the belief that German nationalism was 
fighting for its honour. We may admit that when men like Haeckel 
and Wundt, Hamack and Eucken, declared that theirs was a war 
for civilization, they did sincerely beheve that something noble 
and worthy was in danger. 


The forces disposed for the struggle were thus tolerably patent 
so far as weight and quantity were concerned, though their quality 
was still to be assessed. The first round must be fought by strengths 
already established, and only in the event of the result being in- 
decisive would the chance occur for the less-known factors to 
come into play. Of these the most indefinable was the man- 
power of Britain, for her picked army was only a first wave of a 


torrent to be later unloosed, the volume of which was as yet 
unplumbed. But in the opening days of war signs were not wanting 
that the volume would be formidable, for the British Empire 
awoke to life with an energy not surpassed by the most compact 
territorial units, and, since the muster of that Empire was the 
extreme opposite both in principle and method of the German 
assembly, we may glance in this place at the beginning of an epic 
which was to grow in power and majesty up to the last hour of 
the campaign. 

In normal times the British Commonwealth had been a loose, 
friendly aggregation, more conscious of its looseness than of its 
unity. The South African War had given it a short-lived soli- 
darity ; but with peace the fervour passed, and each colony and 
dominion went busily on its own road. Workers for union found 
themselves faced with many strong centrifugal forces, and had 
often reason to despair of making their dream a reality. To 
foreign observers, who could not discern its hidden strength, it 
seemed as if the Empire were moving towards an amicable dis- 
solution, or, at the best, a weak alliance of independent nations. 
This was notably the view held in Germany. Britain, in German 
eyes, had not the vitality to organize her territories for a common 
purpose. Canada was drifting towards the United States ; Austral- 
asia and South Africa towards complete separation ; and India 
was a powder magazine needing but a spark to blow sky-high 
the jerrybuilt fabric of British authority. The view was natural, 
for to Germany empire meant a machine, where each part was 
under the exact control of a central power. To her local autonomy 
seemed only a confession of weakness, and the bonds of kinship 
an idle sentiment. The British conception of empire, on the 
other hand, was the reverse of mechanical. She believed that 
the liberty of the parts was necessary to the stability of the whole, 
and that her Empire, which had grown " as the trees grow while 
men sleep," was a living organism far more enduring than any 
machine. She had blundered often, but had never lost sight 
of the ideals of Burke and Chatham. She had created a spiritual 
bond — 

"Which, softness' self, is yet the stuff 
To hold fast where a steel chaia snaps." 

By the gift of liberty she had made the conquered her equals and 
her allies, and the very men she had fought and beaten became in 
her extremity her passionate defenders. 

The response of the British Commonwealth was a landmark 


in British history, greater, perhaps, than the war which was its 
cause. No man can read without emotion the tale of those early 
days in August, when from every quarter of the globe there poured 
in appeals for the right to share in our struggle. There was loyalty 
in it, but there was more than loyalty ; every free dominion felt 
that its own liberty was threatened by Germany's challenge as 
much as that of France and Belgium. Canada, the " eldest 
daughter," had many sections of her people who in the past had 
disclaimed any responsibility for our foreign policy, and had 
hugged the notion of Canadian aloofness in a European war. 
Suddenly these voices died away. She had been passing through 
a time of severe economic troubles ; these were forgotten, and 
all her resources were flung open in the cause of the Allies. Sir 
Robert Borden and Sir Wilfrid Laurier united their forces, and 
party activity ceased. As in the South African War, a field force 
was promptly offered, and a division of all arms was accepted 
by the British Government. The call for volunteers was 
responded to with wild enthusiasm. In a few days more 
than 100,000 men had offered themselves. Old members of 
Strathcona's Horse and the Royal Canadians clamoured for re- 
enlistment ; rich citizens vied with each other in securing equip- 
ment and batteries ; and large sums were raised to provide for 
the dependants of those who were to serve. Every public man in 
Canada played his part. French-Canadians stood side by side 
with the descendants of the Family Compact ; and the men of 
the western plains, the best shots and the hardest riders on earth, 
journeyed great distances to proffer their services to the King. The 
various Canadian steamship companies offered their vessels to the 
British Government for transport. The Canadian cruisers Niohe 
and Rainbow were handed over to the Admiralty for purposes of 
commerce protection, and two submarines were offered for general 

Newfoundland increased her Naval Reserve strength to i,ooo, 
and sent 500 men to the Expeditionary Force. AustraHa and 
New Zealand, which possessed a system of national service, were 
not behind Canada in loyalty. The former placed all the vessels 
of the Australian navy at the Admiralty's disposal, and under- 
took to raise and equip an Expeditionary Force of 20,000 men 
and a Light Horse Brigade of 6,000. The New Zealand Expe- 
ditionary Force was fixed at 8,000 of all arms, and 200 Maoris 
were accepted for service in Egypt. In South Africa the people 
had had unique experience of war, and both British and Dutch 


were eager to join the British field army. Many old officers of 
Boer commandos came to London to enlist, and the home-coming 
steamers were full of lean, sunburnt young men from Rhodesia 
bent on the same errand. The chiefs of the Basutos and the 
Barotses offered their aid ; as did the East African Masai, the chiefs 
of the Baganda, and the emirs of Northern Nigeria. The Union 
Government released all British troops for service outside South 
Africa, and, amid immense popular enthusiasm, General Botha 
called out the local levies for a campaign against German South- 
West Africa, and put himself at their head. The most brilliant 
of Britain's recent opponents in the field had become a British 
general. Besides these offers of men and money, help in kind was 
forthcoming from every corner of the Empire. The smaller Crown 
colonies which could not provide troops could at any rate send 
supplies. No unit of the Empire, however small or however remote, 
was backward in this noble emulation. 

But it was the performance of India which took the world 
by surprise and thrilled every British heart — India, whose alleged 
disloyalty was the main factor in German calculations. There 
were roughly 70,000 British troops on the Indian establishment, 
and a native army consisting of 130 regiments of infantry, 39 regi- 
ments of cavalry, the Corps of Guides, and ten regiments of Gurkhas 
who were mercenaries hired from the independent kingdom of 
Nepal. The native army was composed of various race and caste 
regiments, representing the many Indian peoples who in the past 
century and a half had been brought under the sway of the British 
Raj. In a war for the existence of the Empire it was inevitable 
that that army, one of the strongest of the Empire's forces, should 
be given a share. Moreover, it had an old grudge against the 
Germans. Indian troops had accompanied the Allies, under von 
Waldersee, to China in 1900, and had been contemptuously used by 
German men and officers. The oldest and proudest races on earth, 
accustomed to be treated on equal terms by English gentlemen, 
resented the German talk of " coolies " and " niggers," and the 
memory of an Indian soldier is long. From the Indian army it 
was announced that two infantry divisions and one cavalry brigade 
would be dispatched at once to the seat of war in Europe, while 
three more cavalry brigades would follow. Meantime the rulers 
and princes of India had placed their resources at the King-Em- 
peror's call. The twenty-seven larger native states, which main- 
tained Imperial Service troops, offered their armies, and from twelve 
of these the Viceroy accepted contingents of cavalry, infantry, 


sappers, and transport, besides a camel corps from Bikanir. Vari- 
ous durbars combined to provide hospital ships. The Maharaja of 
Mysore gave fifty lakhs of rupees to go to the equipment of the 
Expeditionary Force. Large sums of money and thousands of 
horses came from Gwalior and Bhopal. Little hill states in the 
Punjab and Baluchistan gave camels and drivers. The Maharaja 
of Rewa offered his troops, his treasury, and even his private 
jewels, and asked simply, " WTiat orders has my King for me ? " 
The chiefs of the Khyber and Chitral tribes sent messages proffering 
help; Kashmir sent money, as did every chief in the Bombay 
Presidency ; while the Maharaja Holkar offered the horses of his 
army. Tiny statelets, islanded in the forests of Central India, 
clamoured to share. From beyond the border, Nepal placed her 
incomparable Gurkhas at the service of Britain, and gave three 
lakhs of rupees to purchase field guns. And the Dalai Lama, 
forgetting the march to Lhasa, and remembering only our hos- 
pitahty during his exile, offered i,ooo Tibetan troops, and in- 
formed the King that lamas through the length and breadth of 
Tibet were praying for the success of British arms and for the 
happiness of the souls of the fallen. 

Almost every Indian chief offered personal service in the field, 
and when no other way was possible the Aga Khan, the spiritual 
ruler of 60,000,000 souls, volunteered to fight as a private in the 
ranks. It was wisely decided that some of the great princes should 
accompany their men and show by their presence in the West 
that India and Britain were one. To read the list of those selected 
was to see as in a pageant the tale of British India. First came 
Sir Pertab Singh, a major-general in the British army, who long ago 
had sworn that he would not die in his bed, and now, at seventy 
years of age, rode out to the greatest of his wars. With him went 
other gallant Rajputs, the Maharajas of Bikanir and Jodhpur; the 
young Maharaja of Patiala, the head of the Sikhs ; the chiefs of the 
great Mohammedan states of Bhopal, Jaoram, and Sachin. Every 
great name in India was represented in this chivalry ; and never 
in India's history had such a muster been known. Chiefs whose 
ancestry went back to the days of Alexander, and whose forefathers 
had warred against each other and against Britain on many a 
desperate field, were now assembled with one spirit and one 
purpose and under one king. Nor was this all. Leagues of 
Indians throughout the world sent their blessings on the campaign. 
The long and bitter nationalist agitation disappeared as if by magic, 
and its leaders ralUed their countrymen to Britain's aid. The 


small farmers of the south sent their horses ; Bengahs, who could 
not enlist, organized ambulances and hospitals ; and peasant 
women throughout all India, not content with giving their sons 
and brothers to the cause, offered the humble jewels which were 
their only wealth. Such depths of sacrifice are too sacred for 
common praise. The British soldiers and civilians who had found 
lonely graves between Himalaya and Cape Comorin had not lived 
and died in vain, when the result of their toil was this splendid 
and unfaltering loyalty. 

The effect upon the people of Britain of this rally of the Empire 
was a sense of an immense new comradeship which stirred the 
least emotional. For, consider what it meant. Geographically 
it brought under one banner the trapper of Athabasca, the stock- 
man of Victoria, the Dutch farmer from the back-veld, the tribes- 
man from the Khyber, the gillie from the Scottish hills, and the 
youth from the London back streets. Racially it united Mongol 
and Aryan, Teuton and Celt ; politically it drew to the side of 
the Canadian democrat the Indian feudatory whose land was 
still mediaeval ; spiritually it joined Christianity in all its forms 
with the creeds of Islam, Buddha, Brahma, and a thousand little 
unknown gods. The British Commonwealth had revealed itself 
as that wonderful thing for which its makers had striven 
and prayed — a union based not upon statute and officialdom, 
but upon the eternal simplicities of the human spirit. Small 
wonder that the news stimulated recruiting in England. Every 
young man with blood in his veins felt that in such a cause and 
in such a company it was just and pleasant to give his all. Not 
less profound was the effect of the muster upon our allies acro?s 
the Channel. No longer, as in 1870, did France stand alone. 
The German armies might be thundering at her gates, and the 
fields of Belgium soaked in blood ; but the avenger was drawing 
nigh, and the ends of the earth were hastening to her aid. 



/[th Augusf-iSth August. 

The New Factors in War— The German Plan— The French Plan— The German 
Anfmarsch— The Defences of Belgium— The Attack on the Liege Forts— The 
French Move into Alsace. 

As the minds of both soldiers and civilians bent themselves to the 
great contest, it was inevitable that they should be busied with 
forecasts. All agreed that the war would be of a magnitude never 
known before in history, and that most of the problems would be dif- 
ferent in kind from those of the past. During the last half century 
revolution had succeeded revolution. The invention of the internal 
combustion engine had provided motor transport and airplanes. 
Field telephones and wireless telegraphy had altered the system 
of communication among troops. The cannon had passed through 
a series of bewildering metamorphoses, till it had reached the 75 mm. 
field gun and the mighty siege howitzer. No single weapon of war 
but had a hundredfold increased its range and precision. The old 
minor tactics, the old transport and intelligence methods were 
now, it appeared, as completely out of date as the stage coach 
and the China clipper. There would be no room in the Higher 
Command for the brilliant guesses, the sudden unexpected strokes, 
or the personal heroisms of old days. It would no longer be 
necessary to divine, Uke Wellington at Assaye, what was happening 
behind a hill. In one sense, many argued, the problem would be 
simpler, at least it would have fewer elements ; but these elements 
would be difficult to control, and, from their novelty, impossible 
to estimate. There was a general agreement that modem war was 
a venture into the unknown, and that while the existence of the 
new factors was plain, their working was incalculable. 

Let us glance at some of these new factors. The chief was 
the vast numbers now destined for the battlefield. The greatest 



action of the old regime was the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig, 
but there the combatants numbered only 472,000. At Sadowa 
there were 436,000, at Gravelotte 300,000.* In the Russo-Japanese 
war the armies had been greater — Mukden, for example, had been 
fought on a front of eighty miles, had lasted for three weeks, and had 
engaged 700,000 men. But in the coming war it was plain that the 
number of troops, the length of front, and the duration of actions 
must be indefinitely enlarged. The improvement in firearms 
would itself, as Schlieffen had pointed out in 1909, lead to a great 
extension of fighting front. The handling of such masses over such 
an area meant that railways would be of the first importance. 
Moltke, in 1870, had foreseen this, and his successors in the German 
command had practised his teaching. They held, probably with 
truth, the view that Napoleon's ultimate failure had been due 
to the fact that his armies had outgrown the technical resources 
of his age, and they were determined that every resource of con- 
temporary invention should be harnessed in the service of their new 
millions. Staff work, too, of which Moltke had first made a science, 
must advance pari passu with the growth in complexity of the 
problems. One special feature also must distinguish this from other 
struggles. It was the first instance in history of large bodies 
of men operating in a closely settled country, for in most parts 
of the garden land of Western Europe there was little freedom of 
movement. The cultivated nature of the terrain would no doubt 
simplify the problem of communications, but it would not be easy 
to find the wide and open battlefield which it was believed that 
great masses of men would require. 

For it was almost universally assumed that the coming war 
would be a war of movement and manoeuvre. The principal 
reason for this view was that men's minds could not envisage 
the long continuance of a struggle in which the whole assets of 
each nation were so utterly pledged. They underestimated the 
power of human endurance ; they beheved that modern numbers 
and modern weapons would make the struggle most desperate 
but also short, since flesh and blood must soon be brought to the 
breaking-point. Such a view was possible, because no belligerent 
had recognized the immense relative increase of strength given 
by modern weapons to the defence over the attack. One form of 
defence, the old-fashioned fortress, was indeed rightly underrated 
by Germany, for she realized that the heavy howitzer directed 

• A useful summary of the numbers engaged in the chief battles of the niue> 
teenth century will be found in Otto Berndt's Die Zahl im Kriege. 


by aircraft would speedily make havoc of the type of fort upon 
which France and Belgium still reHed.* But of the impregna- 
bility of field entrenchments no combatant was aware till the 
third month of war.f 

The gravest of the new problems was scarcely grasped at the 
outset. What provision could be made for the Supreme Command ? 
Obviously, even in the case of the army of a single nation, the task 
of the commander-in-chief would be most intricate. The organiz- 
ing power of the human brain is limited, and no man could handle 
a modern army who was not capable of disregarding all but the 
simple essentials and taking the broad synoptic view. An army 
must resolve itself into a number of separate commands operating 
on a general strategic plan. Individual generals must be given 
a free hand to fight their own battles, provided they conformed 
to the main scheme. But what of the superior direction of the 
whole Allied strength ? There would be national pride to reckon 
with, and diverse political interests ; different Staff methods ; dif- 
ferent, perhaps conflicting, theories of war. That this problem 
did not trouble the minds of statesmen more acutely at the start 
was due to the fact that the contest was regarded as not Hkely to 
be a long one. A decision would be reached before it became 
practical politics ; the thing would be hke the clashing of two 
great forces of nature, and the human mind must in large measure 
be content to wait humbly on fortune. No man foresaw that 
presently the whole strength of every belligerent would be in- 
volved ; that scarcely a corner of the globe would be free from the 
turmoil ; and that the supreme need on each side would be some 
central direction, political, naval, and military, such as in the 
Seven Years' War the elder Pitt gave to Britain. 

All the world in that early stage failed, it may fairly be said, 
in prescience. Men looked for too little from the new factors in 
war, and they looked for too much. They could recognize these 
factors, but they could not assess them ; they guessed that they 
would revolutionize military practice, but they both underestimated 
the effect of that revolution in certain details and overestimated it 
in the greater matters. Even Germany did not wholly foresee the 
power of heavy pieces in the field or the deadliness of machine guns, 
and no country envisaged the tactical effect of airplanes, or the possi- 

♦ In practice, though in theory France held the sound doctrine which had been 
laid down by Napoleon. See his Corr. xiii. 10726, and xviii. 14707. 

t See Lord French's remarks in his 1914, pp. 12-13. The man who foresaw 
modern conditions most clearly was the pacificist Jean de Blocb, writing at the close 
of last century. 


bility of campaigns in which there would be no flanks to turn, or the 
power of a modern front to cohere again after it had been pierced, 
or the way in which the mere elaboration of the machine deprived 
it of speed and precision, or the influence of the submarine upon 
the accepted principles of naval war. In these respects the world 
was blind to the meaning of its own progress. But in other matters 
it was too ready to believe that the former things had passed away, 
and to assume a breach with the past. Changes in warfare come 
slowly to maturity, and the mind of man no sooner stumbles on a 
poison than it discovers the antidote. Each revolutionary device 
developed an attendant drawback; so that the resultant, so far 
as it concerned human talent and endurance, was not greatly 
different from other wars. Modern inventions, which made 
possible millions under arms, provided facilities for leading them. 
The great range and devastating effect of the new artillery were 
largely counterbalanced by the elaboration of its transport and 
service. The eternal principles of strategy, determined by the 
changeless categories of space and time, had not altered, and, 
after various excursions into heresy, the war in the end was to be 
won by sound doctrine. The configuration of the earth, in spite 
of all the new methods of communication, was to decide the form 
of the campaigns. The ancient battlegrounds, the ancient avenues 
of advance — the valleys of Somme and Oise, of Aisne and Marne, 
of Vardar and Tigris, the Pripet marshes, the Palestine coast 
road — exercised their spell as faithfully over the latest armies as over 
Roman and Crusader. The new problems were different in scale 
and complexity, but the same in kind. Surprise, which was be- 
lieved to have been banished from war, returned most dramatically 
in the first three months, and appeared at frequent intervals till the 
great denouement ; and a system which was assumed to have made 
the soldier only a cog in a vast impersonal machine was to demand 
in a dozen services the extreme of initiative and individual valour, 
and in the long run to give to the major personalities a power 
and significance not less than that possessed by any of the great 
captains of the past. 

To a German commander-in-chief the general strategy of an 
invasion of France was determined by two considerations. The 
first was the nature of the Aufmarsch imposed upon him by 
the lie of the frontier. The second was the necessity for that 
immediate disabling blow — that " battle without a morrow " — 
consequent upon a war waged simultaneously in two separate 


theatres. The eastern frontier of France may be divided into 
three parts : first, the frontier Hne from Belfort to Verdun, 
with the gaps in the centre between Toul and Epinal, and in the 
north between Verdun and the Ardennes, left purposely in order 
to " canalize " the stream of invasion ; secondly, the line of the 
central Meuse ; and, thirdly, the Belgian border on the Hne Mau- 
beuge-Valenciennes-Lille. A general advance against all parts of 
that frontier would move with different speeds in each section. In 
the first it would be Ukely to beat for some time against the for- 
tress barrier, and in the second the difficult territory of the Ardennes, 
culminating in the trenchlike valley of the Meuse, was scarcely 
suitable for rapidity in great armies. Only in the third section, 
where the country was open and the fortresses far apart, could real 
speed of movement be attained. Such differences in possible pace 
pointed to an enveloping movement by the German right as the 
strategy most likely to succeed. The same conclusion was indi- 
cated by the necessity for a crushing blow at the earliest possible 
moment. For, as Clausewitz had written a hundred years before, 
the " pit of the stomach of the French monarchy is between Paris 
and Brussels." 

The German strategical plan was based upon two assumptions. 
Russian mobilization would be slow, and might be safely confided 
to Austria to deal with for the six weeks which it was estimated 
would be the time required in which to defeat France. It was, 
therefore, possible to leave less than one-third of the mobilizable 
forces on the eastern frontier and concentrate two-thirds on the 
west. The second was that the blow against France must be in 
the nature of an encirclement and a surprise encirclement. Only 
by envelopment could Germany secure a speedy and final decision, 
and without it she might be forced into an interminable war of 
exhaustion which would wreck all her plans. Moltke had preached 
and practised this doctrine, and Schlieffen, when Chief of Staff, 
had worked it out in full detail as a scheme for the conquest of 
France. It was his scheme which the German High Command 
took from its pigeon-hole in the closing days of July. Ger- 
many, as the attacker, had the initiative ; she could determine 
the form of battle and make her enemy conform to her will. She 
aimed at surprise, and had the means of attaining it. Her enemy 
had to face a variety of possible attacks — by Belgium and the 
Meuse, by the Ardennes, by the Gap of Lorraine, by southern 
Alsace. She had decided long ago upon her Belgian policy, while 
France was entangled with the whimsies of international honour. 


France could not know how small a proportion of her forces she 
had relegated to the East, or the use she proposed to make of 
her reserve divisions. She was allotting thirty-five corps to the 
Western front, while the French Staff expected only twenty-two. 
These great numbers would permit her to send a deluge through 
Belgium utterly beyond the French calculation, and at the same 
time allow her to press hard on the French right wing so as to 
bring about a complete encirclement. For the German plan 
contemplated a double envelopment — by Belgium and by the 
Gap of Lorraine.* 

Germany therefore arranged her Aufmarsch in three groups. In 
the north, moving against the French left was more than one-third 
of her total forces in the West — her I. and II. Armies, | compris- 
ing thirteen corps and a mass of cavalry. Directed through the 
Ardennes against the middle Meuse was the central group — the III., 
IV., and V. Armies — amounting to fourteen corps. On the left were 
the VI. and VII. Armies, eight corps strong, based on Metz, and 
destined for Lorraine. It was approximately Moltke's grouping 
in 1866 and 1870. The left group, assisted by the left wing of the 
centre, was to break the French right, while the rest of the centre 
engaged the French centre, and the great right group enveloped 
the French left. 

Faced with such a threat, France was in serious difficulties. 
Her plain duty, to begin with, was to fight on the defensive. She 
did not know where the chief blow was to be delivered. It might 
come through Belgium or through Lorraine, or, like Schwarzen- 
berg's manoeuvre in 18 14, through a corner of Switzerland — for 
Germany had flung all international treaties to the winds. It 
was her business to be prepared at every point, but how was 
it to be done ? She could not string out her armies in a thin 
cordon, like douaniers along the frontier. " Engage the enemy 
everywhere and then see " had been one of Napoleon's maxims 
of war ; but the times had changed, and a strategy suited to little 
armies of 60,000 was out of place in dealing with millions. Yet 
an adaptation of Napoleon's precept was the only feasible plan. 
Till the situation was clearer, she should attempt to feel the enemy 

* This is made clear by Freytag-Loringhoven's statement (Deductions from 
the World War, 1917) and by the maps issued to the German troops (see Joseph 
Reinach's introduction to the French translation of Die Schlachten an der Marne). 
The " Cannae " idea of Schlieffen was still dominant. That a double encirclement was 
contemplated has been denied by von Tappen (Bis zur Marne, 1914), but his views 
on most subjects have been hotly controverted by his former colleagues. 

t Throughout this narrative the armies of the Teutonic League are indicated 
by Roman numerals — e.g., I. ; those of the Allies by the full word — e.g., First. 


strength along the whole front, and be prepared with reserves to 
fling in at tne crucial point. 

The classic principle in French strategy was a Napoleonic 
one— that of the " general advanced guard." The position was 
too critical to risk everything on a hazard— to use the whole of 
France's military power according to a prearranged scheme which 
might be mistaken. The policy must be opportunist. The first 
armies must be employed to " fix " the enemy, to retreat if neces- 
sary, and to provide opportunity at the right moment for the 
deadly use of reserves, that " mass of manoeuvre " which tradi- 
tionally was the key to the French plan.* But the craze for the 
offensive induced a departure from this policy in favour of a general 
attack with the right pushed up to the Rhine, which would threaten 
the flank of the enemy forces moving through Luxembourg and 
Belgium. Accordingly the French command grouped nine divi- 
sions around Belfort, and the twenty-one divisions of the First 
and Second Armies along the Lorraine frontier, thus allotting one- 
half of their total available force for an offensive. The Third 
Army, of nine divisions, lay round Verdun ; and the Fifth Army, 
of twelve divisions, watched the exits from the Ardennes. The 
Fourth Army, of six divisions, was held in reserve, f 

It is easy to criticize these dispositions in the light of later 
events. They were in fact a mistake, a departure from a sound 
principle, and the mistake was partly due to imperfect information. 
The total German strength was underestimated by the French Staff, 
who accordingly did not allow for the magnitude of the wheel of 
the enemy's right wing. For the violation of Belgium they were 
prepared, but they looked for the attack by the Ardennes and the 

• It seems to me fantastic to identify — as, for example, General Bonnal has done 
— this general doctrine of the "strategic vanguard" and "mass of manoeuvre " with 
the tactical device of the bataillon carree or "pivoting square" which Napoleon used 
at Jena. The tactics of one battle should not be used as a Procrustean bed into 
which to force the strategy of a campaign. Napoleon employed the device beauti- 
fully to swing all his corps into the battle hne, as soon as Murat's reconnaissance told 
him which of two alternatives the enemy was adopting. But in its strict form I do 
not think he ever used it except at Jena, and it can only lead to confusion to find 
parallel instances in wholly different types of action, such as Alvensleben's at 
Mars-la-Tour on August i6, 1870, and still more in the strategy of a war of move- 

t First Army — 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, and 21st Corps and 7th and 8th Cavalry 
Divisions. Second Army — 9th, 15th, i6th, i8th, and 20th Corps, 2nd Group of 
Reserve Divisions, and 2nd and loth Cavalry Divisions. Third Army — 4th, 5th, 
and 6th Corps, 3rd Group of Reserve Divisions, and 7th Cavalry Division. Fourth 
Army — 12th, 17th, and Colonial Corps and gtL Cavalry Division. Fifth Army — 
ist, 2nd, 3rd, loth, nth Corps, two Reserve divisions, and one Cavalry division. The 
ist and 4th Groups of Reserve Divisions remained at the disposal of the Commander- 
in-Chief, as also a Cavalry Corps (ist, 3rd, and 5th D'visions). 

1914] THE FRENCH PLAN. 121 

Meuse valley ; they had never dreamed that Germany could 
muster sufficient forces for a wide sweep through the Belgian plain. 
Their intelligence system was defective, and this fault vitiated 
the careful French plan. The offensive into Lorraine, a sound 
enough scheme in different circumstances, would scarcely have been 
undertaken had France realized the huge weight of the German 
armies of the right. The argument was that if the Germans were 
strong on their right wing they would be weak on their left, and, 
alternatively, if they were strong on both wings they must be weak 
in the centre ; therefore if the French right failed, the left would 
succeed, or, if both were held, the centre would go through. As 
events developed, the first French operations had the look of the 
linear strategy, the morcellement of the First Republic before the 
advent of Carnot and Napoleon. But the mistake was a momentary 
forgetfulness, not a reasoned rejection, of principle, and, since the 
sound principle remained, it could be retrieved. The advance 
guard was at the start faultily handled, and fell into grievous 
straits ; but the doctrine of the " mass of manoeuvre " survived, 
to be used when the enemy's impetus slackened. The French 
strength was to be gravely imperilled but never irrevocably 

The truth seems to be that the French Staff at the outbreak of 
war, besides its imperfect information as to the enemy's strength, 
suffered from a divided mind as to its first steps. Their diffi- 
culties were great, for before the 4th of August they could not be 
certain about Italy's neutrality, and they had no means of assess- 
ing the precise value of Britain and Belgium in the field. Faced 
with so many unknown quantities, they chose, instead of a strate- 
gical defensive combined with a tactical offensive, the hopeless 
course of a general offensive in widely separated fields. They 
permitted their immediate " mass of manoeuvre," the Fourth Army, 
to be thrown into an area the importance of which was not proven. 
The mistake is the stranger when we remember that Joffre himself 
has admitted that he realized the possibility of a German advance 
by the Belgian plain, and that men Hke Michel and Lanrezac had 
long advocated this view. The error may be largely attributed to 
the undue emphasis which had been placed upon the offensive in 
and out of season. The mind of France had been trained to see 
in the catastrophe of 1870 a warning against a passive defence, 
and to believe that in a desperate energy of attack lay at all times 
the road to victory. This prepossession had been strengthened by 
the lectures of Foch at the Ecole de Guerre, who preached an almost 


metaphysical doctrine of the prevaiHng power of the audacious 
spirit. Ere the war was finished that great soldier was to learn that 
patience may be as vital as boldness, and a minute calculation of 
means as necessary as the " will to conquer." This mystical 
optimism combined with a grave ignorance of and misreading of 
facts to bring the French command very near disaster. At a 
moment when every horizon was misty, and when Britain and 
Russia needed time to marshal their strength, they all but played 
into Germany's hands by giving her the chance of that decisive 
battle which she desired.* 

But as yet the issue was not joined with France. For the 
moment we have to consider the great German armies manoeu- 
vring into position for the attack, and colliding in their assembly 
with the Httle Belgian force that guarded the main gate. 

On paper the French concentration on the eastern frontier 
was speedier than the German ; but owing to the perfection of her 
railway system, the number of new strategic lines and sidings on 
the Luxembourg and Belgian borders, and the long start given by 
the declaration of the Kriegsgefahrzustand, Germany did in fact 
win the race. It must be granted that the movement of her 
twenty-one active and thirteen reserve corps to the front of out- 
march was accomplished with marvellous celerity, when we remem- 
ber that a corps normally required for its transport ii8 trains, 
and 130 if it were accompanied by its heavy artillery. The I. 
Army, commanded by Alexander von Kluck, a veteran of the 
1870 war, and containing, in addition to their Landwehr brigades, the 
2nd, 3rd, 3rd Reserve, 4th, 4th Reserve, 9th and (later) 9th Reserve 
Corps, assembled in the Aix-la-Chapelle region. On its left the 
II. Army, under von Biilow, arrived east of Malmedy, with the loth, 
loth Reserve, Guard, Guard Reserve, 7th and 7th Reserve Corps. 
South was the III. Army, under the Saxon general, von Hansen, 

• This view, which a foreigner is bound to offer with hesitation, has been 
vigorously stated by many French writers. See especially Thomasson's Le 
Revers de 1914 ^' ^^^ Causes, General Palat's La Grande Guerre sur le Front 
Occidental, Victor Margueritte's Au Bord du Gouffre, General Malleterre's Etudes et 
Impressions de Guerre, F. Engerand's Le Secret de la Frontiere, Reinach's La Guerre 
sur le Front Occidental, Lanrezac's Le Plan de Catnpagne Frangais et le Premier Mots 
de Guerre, and the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Briey coalfields, 1918- 
19. The defence of the General Staff will be found in General Berthaut's L'Erreur 
de 1914. Riponse aux Critiques. General Michel in 1910, when Chief of Staff, 
proposed an Army of the North of 500,000 men, on the line Maubeuge-Dunkirk ; 
an Army of the East of the same size between Belfort and Mezieres ; and a Reserve 
Army of 250,000. To get the men, he proposed to incorporate reserve formations, 
as the Germans actually did in 1914. He found not a single supporter either in tba 
Government or the General Staff. 


with the 12th, I2th Reserve, nth and 19th Corps. These three 
armies were the group assigned for the march through Belgium 
and the northern envelopment of the French. The IV. Army, 
under Duke Albrecht of Wiirtemberg — the connecting link in the 
advance — had the 8th, 8th Reserve, i8th and i8th Reserve Corps, 
and concentrated in the Pronsfeld-Gerolstein region, with its march 
directed towards the Semoy and the southern Ardennes. The V. 
Army, under the Imperial Crown Prince, with the 13th, 6th, 6th 
Reserve, i6th, 5th and 5th Reserve Corps, was based on Treves, 
looking towards the Gap of Stenay. On its left, in front of Sarre- 
briick, the VI. Army, the Bavarians under their Crown Prince, 
comprising the ist, 2nd, and 3rd Bavarian Corps, the ist Bavarian 
Reserve, and the 21st Corps, had before them the Gap of Lorraine. 
The small VII. Army, under von Heeringen, assembling east of 
the Vosges and north of Sarrebourg, embraced the 14th and 14th 
Reserve Corps and part of the 15th Reserve. A detachment under 
von Deimling, consisting principally of the 15th Corps, watched 
Alsace from the neighbourhood of Colmar. 

The supreme direction of the Army of the West, as of the whole 
armed strength of the German Empire, was vested in the Emperor 
as War Lord, but in practice the command was in the hands of 
the Chief of the General Staff. At the moment this post was 
held by Lieutenant-General Helmuth von Moltke, a nephew of 
the victor of 1870. He was then a man of sixty-six, who had 
served as a subaltern in the Franco-Prussian War, had been for 
some time a lecturer in the Berlin Military Academy, had in 1891 
become Adjutant to the Emperor, and in 1906 had succeeded 
von Schlieffen as Chief of Staff. He was known to the world as a 
learned and accomplished soldier and a successful commander at 
manoeuvres, while to his countrymen his name seemed of happy 
augury. The first Moltke had broken the French Empire ; the 
second would shatter the French Republic and the Empire of 

But the peculiar situation caused by the attitude of Belgium 
compelled Germany to send an advance guard to make ready the 
path through the northern gate for her great armies of the right. 
Covering troops from Westphalia and Hanover, belonging mainly 
to the 7th and loth Corps of Billow's II. Army, were detailed 
for this purpose. These were six brigades of infantry, which were 
strengthened and converted into mixed brigades by the addition 
to each of a cavalry squadron, a brigade of field artillery, and a 
Jager battalion. This force was placed under General von Emmich, 


the commander of the loth Corps, and directed to seize Liege by 
a coup de main. At the same time the 2nd and 4th Cavalry Divi- 
sions, under von der Marwitz, were ordered to the north of Liege, 
and in the south the 9th, 5th, and Guard cavahy divisions moved 
into position in the Ardennes and along the Meuse to protect the 
concentration of the IL and HL Armies from the interference 
of French cavalry. On the morning of Tuesday, 4th August, 
Marwitz had seized Vise, crossed the Meuse, and entered Belgium, 
and late that evening Emmich's scouts came into touch with the 
Belgian pickets. 

The chief routes into Belgium from the Rhine valley are four. 
There is the ingress through Luxembourg into the Southern 
Ardennes, and so to the central Meuse valley ; there is the route 
from the German frontier camp of Malmedy to Stavelot, which 
would give access to the Northern Ardennes and to the Meuse 
at Dinant, Namur, and Huy ; there is the great route from Aix 
via Verviers, by the main line between Paris and Berlin, down the 
valley of the Vesdre to Liege ; and, lastly, there is the direct route 
by road from Aix to the crossing of the Meuse at Vise, on the very 
edge of the Dutch frontier. All four routes were requisitioned. 
But for Germany's immediate purpose the vital entry was the 
gap of ten miles between the Dutch border and the Ardennes, 
the bottle-neck of the Belgian plain, with the fortress of Liege 
in the gate. There the Meuse runs in a deep trench between two 
masses of upland. On the north lies a tableland which extends 
for fifty miles to the vicinity of Louvain ; on the south and east 
is the hill country of the Ardennes, a land of ridges and forests, 
broken by the glens of swift-running streams, which fall west and 
north and south to the Meuse. The sides of the trench are sharply 
cut, and generally clothed with scrub oak and beeches. The 
alluvial bottom is the site of many industries ; railways follow both 
banks of the river, and the smoke from a hundred factory and 
colliery chimneys darkens the sky. It is the Black Country of 
Belgium, and, like our own Black Country, is neighbour to the 
clean pastoral hills. Strategically, the bordering uplands are 
very different in character. The Ardennes are rough and broken, 
easy to defend, and difficult for large armies to move in ; while 
the northern tableland is a plain covered with crops of beetroot 
and cereals, presenting no serious obstacle to any invader. North- 
east and east of Liege the Meuse valley broadens into the Dutch 
flats. The natural defence of Belgium from the east might be 
said to cease with the winning of the upland crest north of the city. 

1914] THE FORTS OF LifiGE. 125 

Li^ge itself lies astride the main stream of the Mcuse and the 
second channel which receives the waters of the Ourthe and the 
Vesdre. It occupies the flat between the northern plateau and the 
river, spreading eastwards down the valley, and climbing west- 
wards towards the plateau in steep, crooked streets. The city 
had no defences in itself, the old walls having gone, and the old 
citadel being merely a relic on a hill-top. It contained many 
bridges, the most important of which was the railway bridge 
of Val-Benoit, which carried the main line from Germany across 
the Meuse. From the railway station this line was borne to the 
northern plateau on a high embankment, called the Plan incline, 
through which the roadways passed under vaulted gateways. 
Special engines were used to push the trains up the hills, till the 
junction of Ans was reached on the edge of the plateau, whence 
there was a level run to Brussels. Obviously such a position had 
great capacities for defence, and these were made use of in the 
series of forts constructed by Henri Alexis Brialmont for the 
Belgian Government between the years 1888 and 1892. Brial- 
mont occupies in the modern history of fortifications the place 
which Vauban held in the old. Born in 1821, he received his first 
training in military engineering from French officers ; but by 1855, 
when he was a captain on the Belgian General Staff, he had thrown 
over French models, and was inclined to the new German theories. 
He aimed at adapting fortresses to meet long-range rifled guns 
and high-angled shell fire, and rejected the old French star shape, 
with bastioned ramparts and intricate outworks, for the German 
type of long front and detached forts. The approval of Todleben, 
the defender of Sebastopol, confirmed him in his views. His first 
great work was the fortifications of Antwerp, completed in 1868. 
In 1883 he designed for the Rumanian Government the gigantic 
defences of Bucharest, and by 1892 he had completed the defence 
of the Meuse valley in the forts of Liege and Namur. 

Brialmont's typical fort was largely an underground structure. 
The military engineer of the days before artillery piled up his 
towers and turrets into a stately castle. But with the advent 
of the artillerist fortresses began to sink into the earth as their 
best protection, Brialmont's forts were buried in it. His ordinary 
design was a low mound, surrounded by a deep ditch, the top of 
the mound hardly showing above its margin. The mound was 
cased in concrete and masonry, and roofed with concrete, covered 
with earth and sods. The top was broken by circular pits, in which, 
working Uke pistons, the " cupolas," or gun-turrets, slid up and 


down, with just enough movement to bring the gun muzzles above 
the level of the ground. Internally the mound was like a gigan- 
tic molehill, hollowed out into passages and chambers. In this 
subterranean structure were the quarters of the small garrison, 
the machinery for manoeuvring guns and turrets, the stores ot 
ammunition and supphes, the electric lighting arrangements, and 
the ventilating fans. The whole fort was like a low-freeboard 
turret ship sunk in the ground, and it was fought much as the 
barbettes of a battleship are fought in action. Its garrison was 
a crew of engineers and mechanics, who obtained access to it by 
an inclined tunnel. Brialmont made of any place to be forti- 
fied a ring fortress, surrounding it with such forts as have been 
described, so as to command the main approaches. He assumed 
that lines of trenches and redoubts for infantry, as well as gun- 
pits for artillery, would be constructed in the ground between them, 
as what he called a " safety circle," to prevent raids between the 
forts at night or in misty weather. This important point in his 
plan seems to have been generally forgotten, while the one weak 
spot, an infantry defence for the fort itself by means of a parapet 
lined with riflemen, was zealously clung to by his countrymen — 
a complication as useless as devising positions for small-arm men 
round the sides of a Dreadnought. 

The Liege defences consisted of six main forts of the pentagonal 
type, and six lesser forts, or foriins, triangular in shape. It is 
necessary to note these exactly if we are to understand the events 
which follow. Beginning at the north end, at the point nearest 
to the Dutch frontier, we find the fort of Pontisse on rising ground 
close to the canal on the left bank of the Meuse. From this point 
it is some nine miles to Eysden, the nearest Dutch village ; and 
the undefended gap in the Belgian frontier — to strengthen which 
no step seems to have been taken — may be put at between five 
and six miles. This was the gap which the German attack on 
Vise was intended to seize. South-east across the Meuse stood 
the fort of Barchon, and south from it the fortin of Evegnee. 
South, again, came the large fort of Fleron, commanding one 
railway line to Aix. South-west lay the two fortius, Chaudfontaine 
and Embourg, on opposite sides of the Vesdre, commanding the 
main line to Germany via Verviers. Westwards in the circle 
we cross the Ourthe valley, and reach the fort of Boncelles, which 
commanded the hilly ground between the Ourthe and the Meuse. 
North from Boncelles, on the plateau beyond the Meuse, stood 
three important defences — the fort of Flemalle at the south end. 

1914] THE BELGIAN ARMY. 127 

the fortin of Hollogne, and the vital fort of Loncin, which com- 
manded the junction of Ans and the railways which ran from 
Liege north and west across the plateau. Lastly, between Loncin 
and Pontisse lay the two lesser fortius of Lantin and Liers. The 
forts made an irregular circle around the city, the average distance 
of each from the centre being about four miles ; the greatest dis- 
tance between any two forts was 7,000 yards, and the average less 
than 4,000. In theory they formed a double line of defence, so 
that if one fell its neighbours to the left and right should still be 
able to hold the enemy. At one or two points the invaders might 
come under the fire of as many as four forts. The garrison of 
each was small, for there was no room in them for numbers — some 
eighty men at the most, engineers, gunners, and a handful of 
riflemen to hold the parapets. The noise, heat, and confine- 
ment made the service the most trying conceivable, and during 
the attack on Liege the defenders found that they could not 
swallow food or compose themselves to sleep, even when sleep was 
permitted. The armaments were two 6-inch guns, four 4.7-inch, 
two 8-inch mortars, and four light quick-firers for the forts ; two 
6-inch, two 4.7-inch, one or two 8-inch mortars, and three quick- 
firers for the fortius. Liege mounted a total of some 400 pieces. 

The old Belgian army had been organized on the basis of con- 
scription with paid substitution, which virtually produced a force 
of professional volunteers. By the reforms of 1909 and 1913 
the principle of a " nation in arms " was introduced ; the term 
of service was put at thirteen years, and the strength on mobiliza- 
tion was fixed at 150,000 for the field army, 130,000 for the fortress 
garrisons, and a reserve of 60,000 — a total of 340,000 men. Un- 
fortunately, these reforms were not completed by 1914, and the 
total available was only 263,000, which, on the assumption that 
the fortress garrisons could not be reduced, left no more than 
133,000 for the field. To bring the field force up to the required 
standard, it was found necessary to call upon the Civic Guard, 
one of the last survivors of the old National Guards of Europe. 
Belgium was, therefore, able to put in the field six divisions of 
infantry and one of cavalry. A division was formed of three 
" mixed brigades," each consisting of six battalions and three 
batteries. The field artillery was good, but there were few heavy 
pieces ; the equipment, especially of the infantry, left something 
to be desired, and no field uniform had been adopted. The Belgian 
soldier went into battle in the same garb that he wore in peace 
time on parade. 


" The difficulty of the situation was that Belgium could have 
no settled plan of campaign. She had to face many ways and 
watch all her neighbours, and in her peace dispositions had one 
division in Flanders with an eye on England, one at Liege with 
an eye on Germany, and two near the French frontier to deal 
with France. After the German ultimatum, and not till then, 
the whole army faced eastward. On 4th August the Belgian 
forces were still in process of mobilization on the line of the river 
Dyle covering Brussels and Antwerp. The church bells were still 
ringing their summons at midnight, and the dogs were being 
collected from the milk carts to draw the mitrailleuses. The 
1st Division was moved from Ghent to Tirlemont, the 2nd from 
Antwerp to Louvain, the 5th from Mons to Pervyse, the 6th from 
Brussels to Wavre. The movements were protected by the cavalry 
division, concentrated at Gembloux and moving on Waremme, 
and two detached mixed brigades at Tongres and Huy. The 3rd 
Division was rushed to Liege, and the civic guard of that city took 
their stand by the side of the regulars. At full strength the force 
should have numbered over 30,000 men ; but as the mobilization 
was incomplete, it was little more than 20,000. The defenders 
of Liege were in the same position as the attackers — an improvised 
force, hastily put together and imperfectly equipped. No stranger 
medley of colour could be found in Europe than such a field army 
which lacked a field dress — the men of the line in their blue and 
white ; the chasseurs a pied with their peaked caps, green and 
yellow uniforms, and flowing capes ; and the Civic Guard, with 
their high, round hats and red facings. Little could be done in 
two days to improvise defences ; but gangs of colliers and navvies 
were set to work to dig trenches and throw up breastworks, and 
the village of Boncelles and various houses, spinneys, and even 
churches, which obviously obstructed the line of fire, were levelled 
to the ground. By the afternoon of Tuesday, 4th August, the 
Belgians held the line of the south-eastern forts from Boncelles 
to Barchon, and cavalry patrols covered the gap between Pontisse 
and the Dutch frontier. 

The army of Liege was under the command of General Leman, 
an officer of engineers and commandant of the Military School, 
who had worked under Brialmont on the Antwerp and Meuse 
defences, and was regarded as the foremost living representative 
of his views. At the outbreak of war he was between fifty and 
sixty years of age — a grave, silent man, who inspired respect rather 
than enthusiasm in his followers. Obviously, he could do no 

1914] THE ATTACK ON LI£GE. 129 

more than play for time. His business was to make such a stand 
on the hne of the southern forts as would delay the enemy for a 
day or two. Then the city, in the absence of either redoubts 
between the forts or a strong field army, must inevitably fall, 
but its fate did not necessarily mean the end of the resistance. 
The northern forts could still hold out till the enemy should force 
the plateau from the city, or, advancing from Vise or Huy, should 
take them on the flank. This meant time, and till they fell there 
was no progress by rail from Liege towards the Belgian plain. It 
was Leman's aim to hold on as long as possible to the forts com- 
manding the railway between Liege and Namur, for by that road 
the French would come. If three days were gained it would be 
something ; if a week it would be much ; for daily, hourly, the 
little Belgian army looked west for the arrival of its allies of 
France and Britain. 

Germany did not rate Belgian valour high, and believed that 
Emmich's advanced guard had an easy task before them ; for 
in spite of her elaborate intelligence system, she seemed to have 
no instruments delicate enough to gauge the spirit of a people. 
She did not realize that Belgium had acquired an army, and some- 
thing more potent than armies — a vivid national self-consciousness 
and a stalwart patriotism. For two thousand years the little 
country had been the cockpit of Europe. On her soil Caesar had 
crushed the resistance of Gaul ; France had won her nationhood ; 
the dwellers by the North Sea had fought for liberty against Spain ; 
Louis XIV. had seen his ambitions frustrated ; and Napoleon had 
dreamed his last dream. In her position, to retain sovereign rights 
involved a sleepless vigilance and an infinite sacrifice. When the 
hour came Belgium was ready, and her faith was found in the 
words of her king : " A countrj^ which defends itself cannot perish." 
Germany forgot that liberty and nationhood cannot be assessed 
in marketable terms, and that there are wrongs for which there 
is no compensation. She had not reckoned with the Belgian 
spirit. To her it seemed, as Stein said of the Tugendbund, " the 
rage of dreaming sheep," and her fury was the measure of her 

On the night of Tuesday the 4th, as we have seen, Leman's 
pickets came into touch with Emmich's vanguard, and about 
11.30 that night the citizens of Liege heard the beginning of a 
great cannonade. The Germans, coming down the Ourthe and the 
Vesdre, were attacking the forts of Boncelles, Embourg, Chaud- 
fontaine, and Fleron with long-range fire over the woods, the guns 


being laid by the map. Their heavy pieces had not yet come up, 
and the fire was high-explosive shell from ordinary field artillery. 
The guns of the forts replied, but did little damage, as the enemy 
positions in that broken country were easily concealed. The 
artillery duel went on through the night, and on the morning of 
Wednesday, the 5th, a flag of truce was sent to Leman demanding 
a passage. The Belgian general refused, and an infantry attack 
was launched forthwith between Embourg and Boncelles. It 
was beaten off with heavy loss to the assault. That afternoon 
Emmich received reinforcements from the loth Corps, and the 
van of Kluck's infantry, the 9th Corps, having crossed the river 
at Vise, began to move on Liege from the north-east. In the 
afternoon the Germans, hard pressed for time and now strengthened 
by a supply of medium heavy pieces, opened a new bombardment, 
which damaged Fleron by smashing the mechanism of its cupolas. 
All night the German infantry attacked, regardless of losses, and 
by the morning of the 6th their 14th Brigade had filtered 
through the circle of forts, and was marching on the city. By 
that afternoon the Belgian infantry and artillery were falling back 
on Liege, for Leman had decided that the place of his 3rd Division 
was with the field army now mustering behind the river Gette. 
The retreat was necessarily hurried, and there was no time to 
destroy the Meuse bridges ; but Leman succeeded in his purpose, 
and himself took up position in Fort Loncin, which commanded 
the plateau and the railway line to France. 

That night the 14th German Brigade encamped on the heights 
of La Chartreuse, overlooking the city. Its general having fallen, 
it was led by the deputy Chief of Staff of Billow's II. Army, who 
had been sent to accompany Emmich. His name was von Luden- 
dorff, and at one time he had been chief of the operations section 
of the General Staff, where he had come into conflict with the 
Imperial Chancellor on the subject of the army estimates. It is a 
name which will appear many times in the course of this history, 
and now his quickness of conception and high personal courage 
were mainly responsible for the German success. On the morning 
of the 7th he went alone with the brigade adjutant to the citadel 
of Liege and received its surrender. Terms were arranged with 
the Burgomaster and the Bishop, and the Germans marched in. 

The line of the southern forts had been pierced, though none 
of them had yet fallen. But it was the forts on the north bank 
of the Meuse in which lay the chief strategic value ; for, so 
long as they were untaken, the great railway lines could not be 

1914] FALL OF LI£GE. 131 

used, and for the German advance Liege was a terminus and 
not a junction. Emmich had had enough of frontal infantry 
attacks and inadequate bombardments. He suffered Leman in 
the north forts to remain in peace till he had brought up his siege 
train. Meantime, to the east and west of the city, the German 
advance continued. Stores of all kinds poured into Liege, the 
pontoon bridges at Vise were completed, and the great batteries 
of Kluck's army were brought on to Belgian soil. Two German 
cavalry divisions advanced to test the crossings of the Gette, along 
the western bank of which lay the main Belgian force of five 
divisions. On Sunday, the 9th, German cavalry had advanced 
to various points well inside the frontier. The method was the 
same in most cases. Cavalry, often preceded by scouts in armed 
motor cars, entered a town, seized certain prominent citizens as 
hostages, lowered the Belgian flag, and demanded supphes. The 
cavalry had only emergency rations and no supply wagons. There 
was a good deal of terrorizing, but few serious outrages, for they 
had not yet felt the spirit of Belgian resistance. On Tuesday, the 
nth, the German front ran from Hasselt on the right through 
St. Trond to Waremme. Various Belgian detachments, chiefly 
cavalry, had been thrown forward to form an irregular screen 
against the German advance. On the nth, word had come of a 
French movement across the Sambre, and the Belgian right was 
extended in the direction of Enghezee, to join hands with it. But 
the rumour was unfounded ; the French mobilization was still in 
process, and the French Commander-in-Chief had decided not to 
move a brigade till it was completed. 

On Wednesday, the 12th, the German cavalry screen came into 
touch with the Belgians at various places. Its right advanced 
from Hasselt down the little river Gette towards the small unfor- 
tified town of Diest, with the object of outflanking the Belgian 
field force on the Dyle. At the village of Haelen, a mile or two 
south-east of the town, they encountered a Belgian force which 
had barricaded the river bridges. The Germans were a detach- 
ment of cavalry, with some machine guns, and a weak brigade of 
infantry in support. They made a determined effort to rush the 
bridges with their infantry, but were beaten back, and the charge 
of the Belgian cavalry on the flanks completed their rout. They 
had been guilty of the mistake of underestimating the enemy, 
and had made no artillery preparations for the assault. This 
battle among cornfields was fought with great determination, and 
in front of the bridges the dead lay in heaps. The Germans 


succeeded, however, in carrying off their wounded ; and the defeat 
was not crushing, for there was no serious attempt at pursuit. 
On the afternoon of the same day a German column crossed the 
Gette above Haelen, and tried to force the bridge at Cortenaecken, 
on its tributary the Velpe. For four hours the Belgians contested 
the passage, and the enemy was beaten off. Next day this series 
of desultory actions was continued by an attack of 2,000 German 
cavalry on the town of Tirlemont ; which was driven back by the 
fire of Belgian infantry. Far on the German left, at Enghezee, 
close to the field of Ramillies, and almost within range 
of the forts of Namur, a German cavalry detachment which 
had bivouacked in the village was surprised by a sortie of 
Belgian cavalry and cyclists from Namur. They were expelled 
in confusion, leaving their machine guns and some forty dead 
behind them. 

The result of these skirmishes — for they were scarcely more, 
being entirely affairs of outposts — was to inspire the Belgian soldiers 
with immense self-confidence, and lead them to despise the mihtary 
prowess of the invaders. Man for man, they had proved them- 
selves superior to the renowned Uhlans, and the clumsiness of 
German cavalry tactics roused their contempt. The Belgian plain 
was not the best ground for cavalry work, and the small num- 
ber of infantry employed by the enemy was of little use against 
the well-chosen Belgian positions. Yet it must be admitted that 
these five days of skirmishing had achieved the end which the 
German commander intended. The cavalry had acted as a true 
screen, and had moved right up to the edge of the Gette line. Tele- 
grams from Belgium during that week implied that no German 
infantry in any strength had crossed the Meuse, which proved 
that the screen had done its work ; for at that very moment, 
when the great armies of Kluck and Billow were placing their last 
troops on Belgian soil, the Belgians still rated the force inside 
their frontier at a couple of cavalry divisions and a few odd- 
ments of foot and artillery. The French Staff suffered from the 
same defective intelligence. Sordet's cavalry corps of three divi- 
sions had crossed the Belgian frontier on the 6th, and on the 8th 
was within a few miles of Liege. But neither then, nor in their 
later reconnaissances on the nth and the 15th, did they discover 
the strength of the German infantry, which was the vital problem 
before the defence. The German cavalry screen fell back, but was 
never pierced. This lack of exact knowledge among the Entente 
Staff is shown further by the fact that Sir John French on the 

1914I THE LAST FORTS. 133 

i8th, and even so late as the 21st, believed that the forts at Li6ge 

were still untaken.* 

Meantime detachments from the II. Army, which had concen- 
trated south of Kluck, were feeling their way up the Meuse valley 
towards Namur. On Wednesday, the 12th, its advanced guards 
seized the town of Huy, which stood half-way between Namur and 
Liege, and was out of the danger zone of the forts of both cities. 
The old citadel, long dismantled and used as a storehouse, had no 
guns wherewith to command the bridge ; and though Belgian posts 
offered some resistance, the Huy crossing was soon in German 
hands. The capture of Huy put the invader astride of the main 
hne from Aix to France by way of Liege ; bat at present it was of 
Uttle use to him, since the northern forts of Liege still commanded 
its most vital point. It gave him, however, a branch line, running 
directly north from Huy across the plain to Landen and the heart 
of Belgium. 

On the nth the main siege train began to arrive at Li^ge. 
Barchon had already fallen on the gth, and Evegnee on the 
loth, to the German field pieces, and at midday on the 12th the 
final bombardment began. The heavy artillery used was mainly 
the 28-centimetre (ii-inch), but it seems that a certain number 
of the 42-centimetre (16-inch) howitzers were also in action, f 
Pontisse, Embourg, and Chaudfontaine feU on the 13th, Fleron 
on the 14th. That day Boncelles was summoned to surrender, 
and on its refusal was bombarded for twenty-four hours. The 
electric light apparatus was destroyed, and through the night the 
defenders fought on in a suffocating darkness. By six o'clock on 
the morning of the 15th the concrete chambers began to fall in, 
several of the cupolas were smashed, and shells penetrated the 
roof and burst inside the fort itself. Surrender was inevitable, 
and the gallant commander hoisted a white flag, after a resistance 
of eleven days. Nothing was left of the fort but a heap of ruins. 

Meanwhile the bombardment of Loncin, which General Leman 
stubbornly held for Belgium, was continued without rest. It was 
commanded by reverse fire ; that is to say, the ii-inch howitzers 
were trained on it from the direction of the city, and all the pen- 
tagonal forts of Brialmont were weak on the side which at normal 
times was not that which fronted the enemy. The heavy shell 
fire, as at Boncelles, smashed the cement framework and the 

• 1914, pp. 41, 48. 

t Ludendorff's My War Memories (Eng. trans.), p. 39 ; Muhlon's Diary (quot- 
ing von Einem), p. 79 ; Kluck's The March on Paris (Eng. trans.), p. ao. 


cupvolas; and seems to have exploded the magazine, for at 5.20 
p.m. on the 15th the whole fort blew up. The few defenders 
left alive were half dead from suffocation. Only one shot was 
fired— by a man with his left hand, his right having been blown 
away. General Leman was found unconscious, his body pinned 
by falling beams, and his Hfe in grave danger from poisoning 
by noxious fumes. He was carried to Emmich, whom he had 
met two years before at manoeuvres. His captor congratulated 
him on his heroic resistance, and gave him back his sword. " I 
thank you," was the answer of this soldier of few words. " War 
is a different sort of job from manoeuvres. I ask you to bear 
witness that you found me unconscious." 

For eleven days the forts of Liege had stood out against the 
enemy, and blocked his main advance. It may fairly be said 
that their resistance put back the German time-table by at least 
seventy-two hours, and by that space of time hindered Kluck 
from reaching the main battlefield. Of what immense consequence 
was that delay this narrative will show. On it depended in all 
likelihood the salvation of the Entente armies and the defeat of 
the German plan. Without it, the British Army and the French 
Fifth Army might well have been destroyed. That was a great 
thing in itself, but those eleven days of fighting made an impres- 
sion upon the world out of all proportion to their results. The 
true significance of the Belgian stand was that it pricked the 
bubble of German invincibility. A great nation, which for a 
generation had given itself up to the study of war, and had 
boasted throughout the world of its army, found itself held in the 
gates by a little unmilitary people that it despised. It was much 
that Belgium should defy Germany ; it was more that she should 
make good her defiance. The triumph was moral — an advertise- 
ment to the world that the ancient faiths of country and duty 
could still nerve the arm for battle, and that the German idol, 
for all its splendour, had feet of clay. 

At the other end of the Western battlefield the first week of 
war revealed a premature activity. As Germany with half- 
mobilized troops attacked the Belgian line in the north, France 
with troops in the same condition made a movement against 
Upper Alsace in the south. The wedge of plain between the Vosges 
and the Swiss frontier was a natural line of advance against Ger- 
many, for it had behind it to the west the French fortified position 
of Belfort, and it gave easy access to the upper Rhine. But a 

{Fiuinf p. 134.) 

I! I- \l 


I ill' ,;.S>->M; 




. ii 
111 1^ 



"l\.^ -f 

,; ^■■4^$:^X J 









serious advance was only possible for a strong field army, for 
north, guarding the river valley, lay the great German fortresses 
of Neu-Breisach and Strassburg. What happened during this 
week was an affair of weak advanced guards. It was reported 
by French airplanes that the Germans were holding the right 
bank of the Rhine, and on the left bank had only small detach- 
ments ; so it was decided to attempt to occupy the country up to 
the river. What good a weak occupation could do does not appear, 
for it was at the mercy of larger masses operating from the Ger- 
man fortresses. Late on the evening of Friday the 7th, the day 
when Emmich entered Liege, troops from the Belfort garrison 
crossed the frontier and drove back small German detachments 
which were entrenched at Altkirch. The pursuing cavalry came 
into contact with German rearguards, and were unable to press 
their advantage ; but the town was evacuated, and the French 
entered amid great demonstrations of popular joy. Next morn- 
ing they continued their way unopposed to Mulhouse, an impor- 
tant manufacturing town without permanent fortifications, and 
to their surprise found the entrenchments deserted. Desultory 
fighting was carried on with a German force — about a brigade 
strong — in the neighbouring woods ; but the resistance was insig- 
nificant, and, unfortunately, gave the French a false idea of their 
opponents' condition. They were disillusioned next day, the 9th, 
when large bodies of Germans, coming from the direction of 
Colmar and Neu-Breisach, began to close in on Mulhouse from 
the north and east. The French commander, knowing his posi- 
tion untenable, evacuated the town early on Monday morning, 
loth August, and occupied a position a Httle to the south. Finding 
the enemy in strength, he returned to Altkirch, some twelve miles 
from the French frontier. 

The raid — for it was nothing more — had no military signifi- 
cance, and seems to have been hampered by faulty reconnaissances 
on the part of the French airmen. Its political purpose was proved 
by the message of General Joffre, published in Altkirch and Mul- 
house. The enterprise was an advertisement to the lost provinces 
that the day of their dehverance was at hand. Nowhere were the 
memories of 1870 so ineradicable as in Alsace-Lorraine ; nowhere 
was the Prussian mihtary system, as exhibited in incidents like 
that of Zabern, so hateful. But the announcement was addressed 
even more to the people of France. It was necessary, in the view 
of the French leaders, to give to their countrymen at the outset 
of the great struggle some dramatic episode to fire their imagina- 


tions and typify the purpose of the war. What more dramatic 
than a raid into Alsace with a message of emancipation ? A wise 
general, drawing upon a nation in arms, will not disdain to remem- 
ber popular emotions. The incident had its effect. On the Mon- 
day afternoon, loth August, when Paris had the news of the taking 
of Mulhouse, but not of its evacuation, there was a great assembly 
in the Place de la Concorde. The centre of interest was the Strass- 
burg statue, draped those many years with crape, but bearing on 
its escutcheon the proud words, " QtU vive? France quand-meme ! " 
In a reverent silence the signs of mourning were removed. If the 
tricolour did not yet float above the spires of the Alsatian city, 
the march of the deliverers had begun. 


i^th August-2^th August. 

The French Mobilization — Joffre — His Change of Plan — Failure of the Advance in 
Lorraine and the Southern Ardennes — The First Clash of the Main Armies — • 
Fall of Namur — Battle of Charleroi — ^The British Expeditionary Force — Mons 
— The Retreat begins. 

The war preparation of France began at 9 p.m. on 31st July with 
the moving of the covering troops, a task completed by midday on 
3rd August. The mobilization proper started on 2nd August, 
and the concentration at midday on 5th August. By noon on the 
12th the more urgent transport movements had been completed, 
and between that day and midnight on the i8th the main work 
was accomplished. It was a brilliant performance, the more as 
the original destination of four corps was changed during its 
progress. On the i8th the First Army under Dubail lay between 
Belfort and the line Mirecourt-Luneville, Castelnau's Second 
Army thence to the Moselle, the Third Army, under Ruffey, from 
the Moselle to Verdun, and Lanrezac's Fifth Army along the Meuse 
and the Belgian frontier. The general reserve, the Fourth Army 
under de Langle de Gary, lay east of Commercy. The French 
forces faced Germany on the ancient frontier line of the Vosges, 
the Moselle, and the Meuse. 

Between 1875 and 1914 there had been no less than forty 
Ministers of War in France and seventeen Chiefs of the General 
Staff. An organization subject to so many vicissitudes of control 
must necessarily have suffered in efficiency. Politics had played 
a great part in military appointments, and there was a lack of 
central authority in controlling the various services of war. When 
M. Millerand, to whom the modern French army owed much, 
went to the War Office, he relied especially on three officers for the 
working out of his schemes of reform. The great and well-deserved 
popular reputations of the day belonged to those generals, such as 



Gallieni, Lyautey, and d'Amade, who had recently won distinction 
in North Africa, Madagascar, and Tonkin. M. Millerand's three 
were almost unknown to the man in the street. One was Pan, 
who had left an arm on the battlefields of 1870, adored by the rank 
and file, to whom he was " le premier troupier du monde," but 
only a name to the world of pohtics and society. A second was 
Castelnau. a man of singular gentleness and nobihty of spirit, 
and the possessor of a mathematical brain which excelled in 
problems like mobilization. The third was Joseph Cesaire Joffre, 
an engineer officer sprung from bourgeois stock in the Eastern 
Pyrenees. He had first come into note in the Timbuctu expedi- 
tion of 1893-4, and had later served in Madagascar. In 1910 he 
had become a member of the Conseil Superieur de la Guerre, and a 
year later had become its vice-president, succeeding Michel, and 
being preferred to Pau and Gallieni. He was an anti-clerical and 
a strenuous republican, but he allowed no intrigues of party or 
sect to bias his judgment. In the three years of his vice-presi- 
dency he had done much to reform the machine, but he had had 
little influence on strategical thought. He was not, like Foch, 
a great miUtary student and thinker, and he accepted what was 
given him in that line, devoting himself to the concrete prepara- 
tion in detail which he understood. He represented character 
rather than mind, and, as it happened, it was character which 
France needed most in the hour of crisis. His honesty was to 
enable him to make the drastic changes for which events clam- 
oured ; his modesty and intellectual candour allowed him to 
revise plan after plan ; above all, his steadfast courage, his in- 
finite patience, and his kindly simplicity gave to his countrymen 
a leader whom they could regard with confidence, respect, and 
love. We shall see him unchanged both by sunshine and shadow, 
in good and evil report the same bluff, shrewd, wise paternal being 
— one who, as Bossuet said of Turenne, could fight without anger, 
win without ambition, and triumph without vanity. 

Of the other French commanders now in the field, de Langle 
de Cary, who had been aide-de-camp to Trochu in 1870, was 
recalled by Joffre from the retired list ; Dubail, Ruffey, and 
Castelnau were members of the Conseil Superieur. Ruffey was 
soon to disappear, but of the other two this history will have much 
to say. Lanrezac, also a member of the Conseil and a man of 
first-rate ability, was in revolt against the accepted French strategy, 
and was presently to suffer for his heterodoxy. He alone of the 
acting command seems to have divined Germany's plan and to 

Marshal Joseph- Jacques-Cesaire J off re 


have had the courage to oppose his chiefs. But France was no 
exception to the rule that the men who finish a war are rarely 
those who begin it. Just as the chief German soldier was now 
only deputy chief of staff to a single army, and the future British 
commander was in charge of a corps, so the true leaders of 
France were still in subordinate posts, at the head of divisions, 
brigades, even of regiments. The greatest of all was a corps 
commander in the Second Army, 

As the concentration was completed, the forces of the Entente 
which moved eastward to the shock were not greatly, if at all, 
exceeded by those of the enemy. It is a point which needs to be 
emphasized, for nonsensical legends circulated at the time in France 
and Britain. France had slightly more first-line divisions in the 
field than Germany ; if we add the Belgian and British contingents, 
she had a clear superiority. In total numbers the two sides in 
the West were approximately equal. But while the French reserve 
divisions were ill trained, ill armed, ill supplied, and destined 
only for minor tasks, the German reserve formations were troops 
of shock, capable of use in the first line. Moreover, in heavy artil- 
lery, in the use of airplanes for reconnaissance and with the guns, in 
motor transport, in the art of field entrenchment, and in general 
tactical training the enemy had a real superiority. Lastly, the 
Germans had the initiative and a strategical plan prepared with 
infinite care, while France was about to commit herself to a mis- 
taken theory and an ill-considered adventure. The French armies 
at the start were not outnumbered, but in almost everything but 
fighting spirit they were outclassed ; and Germany by her skill 
was able to fight her first battles with a great local superiority 
of men. 

On loth August the French contingent in Alsace was back 
at Altkirch, and Mulhouse was again in German hands. It had 
been only a raid and a reconnaissance, and preparations now 
began for that Lorraine offensive which was the first step in the 
French plan. The object of this advance was to turn the left 
of the main German force advancing through Luxembourg and the 
Ardennes, to secure the Briey coalfields by the investment or cap- 
ture of Metz, and by the seizure of the bridgeheads of the upper 
Rhine to interfere with the communications of the German V., 
VI., and VII. Armies. It was reckoned that Heeringen's army 
was the weakest of the German forces, and would have difficulty 
in holding the country between the Vosges and the Rhine. Ac- 
cordingly, on the loth, an Alsace group was formed under Pau 


of the strength of three corps. The first effort was to clear the 
Vosges passes, which were held by weak German forces, and which 
must be captured in order to safeguard the flank of any advance 
from Belfort or Nancy. On the French side long river glens lead 
up to the summit, but on the east there is a sharp descent to- 
wards the Alsatian plain. The first to be taken was the Ballon 
d' Alsace, at the south end of the range, which carried with it 
the control of the Col de Bussang. Farther north they took the 
Hohneck and Schlucht passes, which brought them to the great 
central boss of the ridge. Here the task became more difficult, 
as the approach from the French side was now steep, and the 
hillsides were densely wooded, while on the gentler slopes of the 
Alsatian side the Germans had field fortifications held by heavy 
guns. There was some sharp fighting, in which the Chasseurs 
Alpins played a notable part, and successively the Col du Bon- 
homme and the Col de Sainte-Marie were taken. The last and 
most difficult was the Pass of Saales, on which they advanced 
from St. Die. They won it by occupying the plateau of Blacques, 
and this gave them not only the possession of Mont Donon, the 
great northern massif of the Vosges, but allowed them to enter 
the valley of the Bruche, which led directly to Strassburg. 

The capture of Mont Donon, on the 14th, enabled the First 
and Second armies and the Alsace group to begin their main 
advance. The last from the outset was successful. It took 
Dannemarie and Thann, and wedged the extreme German left be- 
tween the Rhine and the Swiss frontier. On the 19th, at Dornach, 
it had 3,000 prisoners, and next day re-entered Mulhouse. Mean- 
time Castelnau with the Second Army and Dubail with the 
First — a total of nine active and three reserve corps — moved 
eastward, Castelnau by the Seille and the Gap of Morhange and 
Dubail on his right into the Sarre valley. They had scarcely 
started when orders came to detach from the Second Army the 9th 
and 1 8th Corps and send them northward to Lanrezac, while three 
African divisions on their way to Alsace were deflected for the 
same purpose. For, on the 15th, Joffre heard for the first time 
that German forces were moving through Liege en route for the 
Belgian plain, though he had as yet no notion of their size. The 
northern attack was not coming only by the Ardennes, and he must 
extend his left to meet it. Accordingly he ordered the Fifth Army 
to move up into Belgium and occupy the angle formed by the 
Sambre and the Meuse, and the Fourth Army — the general reserve 
— to link up with the Third Army by taking the place left vacant 

1914] MORHANGE. 141 

by the Fifth. Already the French general was compelled to recon- 
struct his plan. 

Even with the loss of two corps, Dubail and Castelnau were 
superior in numbers to the VI. and VII. German Armies opposed 
to them. But they were operating in difficult country — the woods 
and marshes of Morhange and the intricacies of the Sarre valley. 
The enemy had prepared a series of concealed defences, supported 
by heavy artillery, running from Morville through Morhange to 
Phalsburg. This line was held in the south by Heeringen's 
right wing, the centre by the complete strength of the Bavarian 
VI. Army, and the right by a detachment from the Metz garrison. 
On the 19th Dubail was at Sarrebourg, and that day Castelnau 
faced the immense natural strength of the Morhange position. 
On the left of his Second Army lay the famous 20th Corps of 
Nancy, under the command of Ferdinand Foch, a southerner of 
Tarbes, now sixty-three years old. He had been for some time 
professor at the Ecole de Guerre, and his two great books. La 
Condnite de la Guerre and Les Principes de la Guerre, had given 
him a world-wide reputation. He was beyond question the most 
famous of living writers on war, and was now afforded the chance 
of putting into practice the doctrines which he had so convincingly 
preached. He was the apostle of the offensive, and his first action 
was to be an offensive which failed — which was bound to fail. At 
Morhange the new power of the defence was proved beyond cavil. 

At 5 a.m. on the 20th Castelnau attacked — the 20th Corps 
against the heights of Marthil, Baronville, and Conthil, with as 
its objective the capture of Morhange and a nodal point of the 
railways ; on its left rear was a group of reserve divisions, and 
on its right the 15th. At once the assault was brought under a 
deadly fire from concealed positions, which do not seem to have 
been properly reconnoitred. It was a repetition on a huge scale 
of Emmich's experience at Liege. The reserve divisions on the 
left were attacked by fresh enemy forces from Metz, but held their 
own ; the 15th Corps, in a region of marshy ponds, was utterly 
broken, and at 6.30 a.m. was in flight. The 20th Corps, with its 
right flank exposed, fought gallantly all day against hopeless odds. 
At 4 o'clock that afternoon Castelnau ordered a general retirement ; 
he had no other course before him. Dubail, who had been holding 
his own at Sarrebourg and on the Rhine canal, had to fall back 
to conform. 

So failed the first French offensive. The position was very 
grave, for there was a wide breach between Castelnau and Dubail, 


and through it lay the way to the Gap of Charmes, between 
Toul and Epinal, which, if the enemy once gained it, would enable 
him to take in reverse the main armies of France. Or he might 
concentrate on the capture of Nancy, which would achieve the 
same result. Happily, the Bavarians were in no condition to press 
their advantage. Dubail fell back from Mont Donon to a line 
from Rozelieures to the north end of the Vosges, at right angles 
to the Second Army and covering the entrance to the Gap of 
Charmes. Castelnau brought his force behind the Meurthe and 
the lower Mortagne. The defence of Nancy was left to the group 
of reserve divisions which we have seen on his left rear, and which 
were in touch with Foch and what remained of the 20th Corps.* 
On the 24th the Germans were in Luneville ; on the 25th Mulhouse 
was retaken, and Pau's Alsace group was dissolved, for the bulk 
of it was wanted for the defence of Nancy and the north. 

On the evening of the 20th Joffre had news of the failure of 
the Lorraine offensive and Castelnau's retreat. He had also 
for five days been aware that considerable German forces were 
moving north of the Meuse. Yet, faithful to his purpose of the 
offensive, at a moment when every argument seemed to point to 
a strengthening of his left wing, he tried the second of his alter- 
natives and gave orders for an advance by his centre into the Bel- 
gian Ardennes. Ruffey's Third Army and Tangle's Fourth Army 
were now on the Meuse from Verdun northward. They were 
directed to cross the river and move into the wooded hills, in order 
to threaten the flanks both of the Bavarians, now moving on Nancy, 
and of Kluck and Biilow marching through Belgium. The scheme, 
had it been strictly limited to a raid and reconnaissance, was not 
without its merits ; but it was no raid, involving, as it did, two of 
the main French armies and the whole of the general reserve. It 
seems certain that at the time the French Staff were not aware of 
the full strength of the IV. and V. German Armies, and were 
altogether ignorant of the existence of Hansen's III. Army, now 
concealed among the woods of the north-western Ardennes. Ruffey 
and Tangle moved into impossible country against an enemy 
superior in numbers, who possessed also the advantage in arma- 
ment, position, and more accurate intelligence. 

The enterprise was short-lived and disastrous. On the 21st 
the Fourth Army moved beyond the Semoy, with the Third Army 
in echelon on its right. Tangle's objective was roughly the 

• It should be noted that the success of this most difiScult retirement was mainly 
due to the skill with which Dubail handled his First Army. 


line Maissin-Ochamps-Neufchateau-Forest of Rulles, while Ruffey 
was moving across the upper valleys of the Semoy, Chiers, and 
Othain towards Virton and Longwy. Almost at once the advance 
came up against strong prepared positions, which in that tangled 
country were hard to detect, and was at the same time taken in 
flank by enemy columns marching from the east. There was in- 
sufficient connection, too, between the corps of the attack, so 
that each unit fought a separate battle. At PaUiseul, in the 
forest of Luchy, and at Rossignol (where Lefebvre's Colonial 
Corps was all but destroyed) there were desperate combats on 
the 22nd, and that night Duke Albrecht of Wiirtemberg drove 
the French Fourth Army across the Semoy. Ruffey had no 
better fortune against the Imperial Crown Prince. His 2nd and 
4th Corps fought a stiff battle at Virton, and Sarrail's 6th 
Corps fought stoutly, but no ground was made, and presently the 
Third Army was back on the Othain. On the 24th Langle had 
his left west of the Meuse and his right between the Meuse and 
the Chiers. 

The failure of the French offensive gave the Germans the Briey 
coalfield, by far the most valuable booty which they won in the 
first months of war. Its little guardian fort, Longwy, under a 
gallant commander, Colonel Darche, resisted to the last with 
antiquated works and a garrison of only two infantry battalions 
and a battery and a half of light guns. It had been surrounded 
on the loth, invested on the 20th, and did not fall till the 26th. 
The performance was a proof of what French valour might have 
done with the fortresses had they been regarded more seriously 
in the plans of the General Staff. 

On the 15th, as we have seen, Joffre was aware of the German 
advance into the Belgian plain, and pushed his Fifth Army into 
the angle between Charleroi, Namur, and Dinant, on the Sambre 
and Meuse. At the time he estimated the total forces of Kluck 
and Billow as six army corps, three divisions of cavalry, and at 
the outside two or three reserve divisions. He had no inkling of 
Hansen's III. Army, and he beheved that Langle and Ruffey 
were competent to break the armies of Duke Albrecht of Wiirtem- 
berg and the Imperial Crown Prince. Namur he considered to be 
capable of making as stout a defence as the Liege forts, and he 
held that it would form a good pivot for an advance into 
Belgium by Lanrezac and the British Army, now in process of 
concentration, which, if successful, would gain the line Namur- 


Brussels-Antwerp. As a protection against raiding cavalry, how- 
ever, he sent d'Amade to Arras to take command of a group of 
territorial divisions, and watch the country about Douai and Lille. 
It was clear to his mind the enemy could not be equally strong in 
Lorraine, in the Ardennes, and north of the Meuse, and his forward 
policy would search out the weak spot. 

He had miscalculated the speed of the German advance, as 
he had underestimated its weight. We left the Belgian army 
still holding the crossings of the Gette against Kluck's van- 
guards. But once the last Liege forts had fallen, and the trunk 
line was cleared for traffic, there came the real impact. The 
invasion swept on like a tide, the cavalry screen fell away, and 
the Belgian field armies realized what was before them. Their 
one hope was the French, but the French infantry were far dis- 
tant, though part of Sordet's cavalry was then across the Sambre 
and in touch with the Belgian right somewhere near the field 
of Waterloo. On the 17th Kluck reached the Gette, with three 
corps flanked by two cavalry divisions. During the morning of 
the i8th the river was forced at Haelen and Diest, and by the 
evening its whole line was in German hands. There was nothing 
for the Belgian command but to retreat behind the Dyle and seek 
sanctuary. It withdrew, therefore, on the 19th, and by the 
20th, as Brialmont had always foreseen, was inside the Antwerp 
forts, leaving the open city of Brussels to the enemy. 

On the 2oth, M. Max, the burgomaster of the capital, arranged 
with the Germans for a peaceful occupation. In return for the 
free passage of German troops through the city and the reception 
of a garrison in the local barracks, the enemy undertook to pay 
in cash for all requisitions, to ensure the safety of the inhabitants, 
to respect public and private property, and to leave the manage- 
ment of city affairs to the municipality. About 2 p.m. the sound of 
cannon and military music was heard, and the van of the army of 
occupation appeared on the Chaussee de Lou vain. It was the 
4th Corps under General Sixtus von Armin, whom we shall meet 
again. When the infantry reached the great square in front of 
the Gare du Nord, they broke into the old Prussian parade step, 
the legacy of Frederick the Great, to show the importance of the 
occasion. The German general left the Belgian flag flying on 
the Hotel de Ville, but hauled down those of the AUies ; he pla- 
carded the city with a stern proclamation against acts of aggres- 
sion on the part of civilians ; and presently it was announced 
that Germany had imposed upon Brussels a war indemnity of 


£8,000,000. The occupation in force did not last long, for 
Kluck had no time for parades. Already his 2nd Corps, after 
a skirmish at Aerschot, had passed to the north of the capital, 
and the 3rd Corps had gone through the southern suburbs on the 
road to Mons, while the 9th was heading for Braine-l'Alleud. The 
3rd Reserve and 9th Reserve Corps were detailed to watch the 
Belgian army in Antwerp. On the morning of the 21st the bulk of 
the I. Army was swinging south-westwards from Brussels, having 
reached the Hne Grammont-Enghien-Hal-Braine-l'Alleud ; while 
the whole of von der Marwitz's cavalry moved westwards in the 
general direction of Lille, looking for Sir John French. Kluck's 
huge wheel was behind the German time-table, but far in advance 
of his opponents' expectation. 

Billow's IL Army had less ground to cover. We have seen 
that on the 12th he had seized the bridge at Huy, and was rapidly 
transferring part of his troops to the left bank of the Meuse. On 
the morning of the 21st he had the better part of five corps north 
of that river, with their right in touch with Kluck about Genappe, 
their centre at Gembloux, and their left a mile or two from Namur. 
Meantime the mysterious TIL Army had moved swiftly through 
the northern Ardennes, where the leafy cover seems to have screened 
it completely from the French airmen. Its commander, the Saxon 
von Hansen — like Kluck and Biilow a man of 68 — had started 
with four corps and a cavalry division, but had already surrendered 
the cavalry division for the Russian front. On the 15th his ad- 
vance guard had attempted to seize the passage of the Meuse at 
Dinant, the town eighteen miles south of Namur, where the hills 
break down in high limestone cliffs to the river. This coup de 
main gave them the old citadel, but they were presently ousted 
by the arrival of French supports. Hansen's objective was again 
Dinant, but on the 21st he had detailed the nth Corps to co- 
operate with the Guard Reserve Corps of the IL Army in the 
investment of Namur. 

On the morning of the 21st, therefore, the I., II. , and III. 
German Armies were bearing down on the angle of the Sambre 
and the Meuse in an arc 70 miles long — Kluck with four corps, 
Biilow with the better part of five, and Hausen with four — a total 
of at least 25 divisions, supported by a great force of cavalry. 
Before them lay Lanrezac's Fifth Army, as yet only of four corps, 
now getting into position on the Sambre, the fortress of Namur, 
garrisoned by the Belgian 4th Division, and on Lanrezac's left the 
British army of two corps, the concentration of which was expected 


to be completed that day. On the 20th Joffre, from his head- 
quarters far away at Vitry-le-Frangois in Champagne, had given 
orders for an advance across the Sambre. The British were to 
move north-east in the direction of Nivelles, between Brussels and 
Charleroi, while Lanrezac marched against Biilow. The idea of 
the French Commander-in-Chief was a blow at the flank of the 
advance through Belgium. He considered the advance of Langle 
and Ruffey, which began on the 20th, as his main operation, 
and the attack of Lanrezac and the British as a supporting 
movement. It was a plan foredoomed to disaster, for, while it 
took into account Biilow, it ignored Kluck, and knew nothing of 

In considering this clash of the great armies, we can look upon 
the situation as composed of three elements — Namur, the fight 
of Lanrezac against Biilow and Hansen, and the stand of the 
British against Kluck. The city of Namur stands mainly on 
a scarp of hill in the angle between Meuse and Sambre. South 
of it stretch the forested slopes of the central Meuse ; east lies 
the trench valley which runs to Liege ; north is the great plain of 
Belgium ; and due west is the vale where the Sambre flows amid 
coal pits, mounds of debris, and factory chimneys. The place is 
famous in British history as the scene of one of the chief exploits 
of William III., who wrested the town from Boufflers under the 
eyes of Villeroy's great army, and in literature as the theme 
of the reminiscences of Uncle Toby in Tristram Shandy. Its 
fortifications had been one of Brialmont's masterpieces. Follow- 
ing the same lines as at Liege, he had given it a ring of four forts 
and five fortins, mounting altogether 350 pieces. These forts 
were at a distance from the city of from two and a half to five 
miles, and were on the average about two and a half miles distant 
from each other. Beginning in the north, Cognelee defended the 
railway to Brussels, while Marchovelette occupied the space 
between it and the Meuse. In the south-east angle made by the 
rivers stood the three forts of Maizeret, Andoy, and Dave. Between 
the Meuse and the Sambre were St. Heribert and Malonne, and 
north of the Sambre, between that river and Fort Cognelee, stood 
the forts of Suarlee and Emines. All were of the familiar Brial- 
mont type, and the armament was the same as at Liege. The 
Belgian garrison had ample notice of the German intentions. 
For ten days the great siege trains had been crawling painfully 
westwards over the cobbled Belgian roads. Namur was held by 

1914] THE SIEGE OF NAMUR. 147 

the Belgian general Michel, who, though convinced that the place 

was impregnable, devoted much time before the enemy appeared 
to strengthening the defence. Large areas were mined, the field 
of fire was cleared, entrenchments for infantry were constructed 
between the forts, and barbed wire entanglements, highly electri- 
fied, were erected at the approaches. It should be remembered that 
he did not expect to defend Namur alone. Long before the first 
shot was fired he hoped to have the Allies at his back. The blue 
tunics of the Chasseurs d'Afrique had been seen for some days on 
Belgian soil, squadrons of French dragoons were on the road to 
Brussels, and French infantry and artillery were only eighteen 
miles off at Dinant. Michel seems to have been well aware 
that the forts alone could not repel the enemy. Remembering 
one lesson of Liege, he gave special attention to the intermediate 

For a day or two the weather along the Meuse had been close 
and misty — the summer heat-haze common in that valley. Late 
on the evening of Thursday, 20th August, the howitzers * were 
in position under the screen of haze, some three miles from the 
Belgian trenches. The German troops of assault were the Guard 
Reserve Corps from the II. and the nth Corps from the III. 
Army. Michel learned now, what many other commanders were 
to learn afterwards, that he had let the enemy get too close — an 
enemy who would not be guilty of Emmich's blunder at Liege, 
but would use the full strength of his artillery before he launched 
his infantry. The first shots were fired on that sultry Thursday 
evening, and the fire was directed on the trenches between Forts 
Cognelee and Marchovelette. Through the whole night it con- 
tinued with amazing accuracy, and since the Germans were out 
of range of the Belgian guns there was no means of replying. The 
unfortunate Belgians had no chance for a rush with the bayonet, 
as at Liege — they had simply to wait and suffer ; and after ten 
hours, whole regiments having been decimated, the thing became 
insupportable. Early on the morning of Friday, the 21st, the 
infantry withdrew from the trenches, and the Germans entered 
within the ring of the forts, taking up a position on the ridge of 
St. Marc, just north of the city. 

The real bombardment began at 10 a.m. on the 21st, and 

• These were the Austrian 30.5 cm. pieces from the Skoda Works. According 
to their conamander, Colonel Albert Langer [N.F. Presse, Vienna, February 18, 1915), 
they came — at any rate the bulk of them — by Verviers, and only left Cologne on 
X5th August. 


before long the forts Marchovelette and Maizeret were silenced. 
Maizeret had received shells at the rate of twenty a minute, and 
had only been able to fire ten shots in reply. Marchovelette held 
out till it was blown up on the next day. About the same time 
— that is, early on the morning of Friday, the 2ist — the HI. Army 
on the right bank of the Meuse directed a terrific bombardment 
against Forts Andoy, Dave, St. Heribert, and Malonne, and a 
German force was pushed across the Meuse into the southern part 
of the angle between it and the Sambre. All that day an infantry 
battle continued, for the Belgians hoped for a French advance 
from Dinant to their relief. But, as we shall see, the French at 
Dinant had their hands full with their own affairs. On the Satur- 
day morning part of the French 8th Brigade under General Mangin 
arrived, but they were too late to give much assistance. That 
day, when the skies were darkened by an echpse of the sun, panic 
reigned in Namur. Incendiary bombs were dropped by German 
airplanes, and stray shells crashed into the outlying buildings. 
The weather was heavy with thunder, and Nature and man com- 
bined to create pandemonium. 

Some time on that Saturday Michel, seeing that resist- 
ance was futile, and desiring, like Leman at Liege, to save 
his force for the field army, drew off many of his troops by the 
western route, which was still open. No provision had been 
made for a retreat, and it soon became a case of sauve qui pent. 
Only the north-western forts were standing, and the infantry 
battle in the angle between the rivers had resulted in the defeat 
of the French and Belgians. The Germans coming from the 
south joined with those on the ridge of St. Marc, and so were 
able to take in the rear the defenders of the trenches between 
Forts Emines and Cognelee. The Belgians in the river angle were 
compelled to escape as best they could, and their only outlet 
was to the south-west. The enemy had shut the gate at 
Bois de Villers, but two Belgian regiments hacked a road 
through and managed to reach Philippeville. On their way 
they found themselves entangled with a French army coming 
south from the Charleroi direction, and had their first news of 
the retreat of the whole Allied line. Eventually, by way of 
Hirson, Laon, and Amiens, they came in seven days to Rouen, 
whence they took ship to Ostend, and joined the main Belgian 

On Sunday afternoon, the 23rd, the Germans entered Namur, 
singing their part-songs. The advanced guard narrowly escaped 

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1914] FALL OF NAMUR. 149 

destruction, for the Germans north-east of the city, unaware 
that their troops had entered from the south, kept shelHng 
the Citadel and the Grande Place. That night Namur was 
set afire in parts, whether by accident or design no one knew. 
Next day Biilow entered the place, and with him the new 
military Governor of Belgium, Field-Marshal von der Goltz, who 
was described by an observer as "an elderly gentleman covered 
with orders, buttoned in an overcoat up to his nose, above which 
gleamed a pair of enormous glasses." The conquerors did not 
behave badly. They took hostages, demanded the surrender of 
all arms, and issued, after the German fashion, a vast number of 
proclamations. Presently the great armies surged southwards, 
and left the occupation of the city to reservists. The last stand 
of the Belgians was made at the north-west segment of the fortress 
ring. Fort Suarlee held out gallantly till the morning of Tuesday, 
25th August, when it was blown to pieces. Part of its garrison 
and that of Emines escaped southwards to the woods on the north 
bank of the Sambre. There they were surrounded, and surrendered 
to the number of 800 early on the 26th. The first shot had been 
fired on the evening of 20th August ; by the next night five or 
six forts had fallen ; by the 23rd the Germans held Namur, and 
by the 25th the last forts had gone. So much for the impregnable 
city. The shade of Boufflers must have rejoiced at so fantastic 
a consummation, 

Namur had been the pivot of the French position. Lanrezac 
held an angle, and the loss of the apex of that angle meant that 
each of the two sides was outflanked. It is time to return to the 
French Fifth Army, which on the 20th was still laboriously getting 
into position. Lanrezac, who had pressed for an earlier advance 
into Belgium, only received Joffre's orders to cross the Sambre 
on the 2oth; and in any case he could not have moved earher, 
owing to the adjustments necessary to send troops to Langle and 
Ruffey beyond the Meuse. On Friday, the 21st, part of his army 
was still concentrating, for the advance had been fixed for the 
23rd, by which time the British would have been well started on 
their flank wheel. On the 20th he had only two corps on the 
south bank of the Sambre. On the 21st his right wing, Franchet 
d'Esperey's ist Corps, was on the Meuse north of Dinant, fronting 
east ; the loth Corps held the heights south of the Sambre between 
Charleroi and Namur, facing the Sambre crossings ; the 3rd 
Corps lay before the town of Charleroi ; and the i8th Corps, not 


yet up, was to be echeloned on the left, south of Thuin. Most of 
his reserve divisions were not yet in their place. Through no fault 
of his own, he had to accept battle on ground not of his choosing 
and at a time appointed by the enemy. For, on the morning of 
the 2ist, Billow had reached the north bank of the river, wheehng 
by his left, and by midday the action had begun with an attack by 
the German Guard on the bridges of Tamines and Auvelais, held 
by the French loth Corps. By 2.30 p.m. they were across the 
stream, and ere nightfall held the village of Arsimont, two miles 
to the south of it. At the same time the German loth Corps 
forced the river just east of Charleroi, and on the German right 
the 7th Corps was on the Charleroi-Mons road. Biilow that 
night had won the first stage, and prepared the ground for his 

Saturday, the 22nd, saw the main Battle of Charleroi. The 
French loth Corps, struggling desperately on the right, retook 
Arsimont, but lost it as the great weight of German artillery began 
to make itself felt. The French had not yet the German science of 
entrenchment ; they had too few guns, and their most gallant 
charges were futile against a wary enemy. Farther west there was 
fierce fighting in the streets of Charleroi, where the Turcos of the 
37th (African) Division took heavy toll of the Prussian Guard, 
But slowly the French 3rd Corps was forced back, and by the 
darkening Biilow had shaken himself free of the mining dis- 
trict, and was in position four miles south of the Sambre. But 
Lanrezac did not despair. On his left he had now got up his i8th 
Corps, which was holding both sides of the Sambre at Thuin, and 
his ist Corps at Dinant, having been relieved by the 51st Reserve 
Division, was available to reinforce his shaken right. Thinking 
that he had only Biilow to deal with, he sent word to the 
British Commander-in-Chief at Mons that evening asking him to 
strike north-eastward at Billow's flank. Sir John French rightly 
declined. He had already had news of Kluck. 

On Sunday, the 23rd, Lanrezac attacked with his right — the 
1st Corps and a reserve division — from the high ground about 
Mettet. But his centre was already in straits, and the cavalry in 
front of the i8th Corps on his left was giving ground before Billow's 
envelopment. That afternoon the 3rd Corps was retiring in dis- 
order on Walcourt, a place in the latitude of Maubeuge. This 
was bad enough, but early in the evening came a deluge of ill 
tidings. Namur, the pivot, was falling — had already fallen. 
Langle and Ruffey had failed utterly, and they were back on the 

1914] CHARLEROI. 151 

Meuse, so nothing was to be hoped for from the Ardennes offensive. 
A new German army, the Saxon III., had appeared on his right 
flank, and had taken Dinant. Last, and not least, Kluck had 
revealed himself against the British — not a matter of one or 
two corps, as had been supposed, but at least four corps and 
several cavalry divisions. Lanrezac acted promptly. He dis- 
patched his 1st Corps to Dinant, where it brilliantly disputed 
the passage of the river with the Saxons. It could not stay the 
invader, but it delayed him, and saved the communications of 
the Fifth Army. But he clearly could not stay. The British 
were in straits, and he was instructed by Joffre to send Sordet's 
cavalry to their support. That evening he ordered a general 
retirement, and the first battle in the north was lost to the 

There is no " enigma of Charleroi." The facts are only too 
fatally clear. Lanrezac fought a gallant fight, and had he had 
only Billow to deal with, might have retrieved all on the 
morning of the 23rd by a flank attack of the ist Corps on the 
German left, for the Prussian Guard had been badly shaken. 
But the 1st Corps, Hke d'Erlon's at Quatre Bras, had to dissipate 
its force on two fronts. The battle was lost before it was joined 
through the mistaken theory and imperfect intelligence of the 
French General Staff, and under no conceivable circumstances 
could Lanrezac have succeeded. He had to fight before his army 
was in position, and when his centre was already tottering he 
found his flank turned. General Joffre, at a later date, expressed 
the opinion that Charleroi should have been won,* but it could 
not have been won on the plan for which he was responsible. That 
plan courted disaster, being based on a complete misreading 
of facts. It is not easy to explain the singular breakdown of 
the French intelligence. They knew nothing of Hausen and 
practically nothing of Kluck, though they were aware that great 
forces under his command had passed through Liege. It is 
possible that they regarded the bulk of his troops as destined for 
the Channel ports — a strange plan with which to credit an enemy 
who had not neglected the study of the science of war. 

The fundamental error has long ago been admitted by all 
competent soldiers. But it is necessary to say one word on the 
legend, fostered by a distinguished historian, that Lanrezac's 
misfortunes were in a large part due to the British army.f The 

* Interview with M. Arthur Hue, D^piche de Toulouse, March 1915. 
•f Gabriel Hanotaux's L'Enigme de Charleroi, 


accusation is threefold : First, that the British were late in reach- 
ing their agreed position — the 23rd instead of the 20th ; second, 
that Sir John French should have complied with Lanrezac's re- 
quest for assistance on the 23rd ; third, that it was the premature 
British retreat which compelled the retreat of the French Fifth 
Army. For no charge is there the slenderest foundation of fact. 
If Lanrezac was not wholly in position by the 21st, it was un- 
reasonable to expect Sir John French, who had a day's march 
farther to go, to be in position by the 20th. Besides, the offensive 
which Joffre had ordered was not due to begin till the 23rd. The 
British kept precisely the terms of their arrangement with the 
French Commander-in-Chief. Secondly, a flank attack by the 
British against Biilow on the 23rd, with three of Kluck's corps 
attacking them and a fourth enveloping their left, would have 
been sheer insanity and an invitation to destruction. Finally, on 
the 23rd, Lanrezac's corps had been falling back all day, and at 
9 o'clock that night the order was given for the general retire- 
ment. The main British withdrawal did not begin till the morning 
of the 24th, and by that time their neighbours had been at least 
twelve hours in retreat. 

We turn now to the doings of Sir John French and his Expedi- 
tionary Force. 

The state of war with Germany, officially declared by Britain 
on 4th August, did not in itself commit her to sending an expedi- 
tionary force to the Continent ; but the unmistakable trend of 
public feeling, and the assurance of France that she counted upon 
our military co-operation, gave the Government no choice. It 
was resolved to dispatch four infantry divisions at once, to be 
followed by two more at short intervals. On 6th August the 
House of Commons, in five minutes, voted a credit of 100 millions, 
and sanctioned an increase of the army by 500,000 men. The 
railways had been taken over by the Government, and troops were 
hurried down, mostly under cover of night, to the various ports 
of embarkation. The time of crossing varied from eight to fifteen 
hours. There was no covering fleet, the Grand Fleet in the North 
Sea being a sufficient protection ; but the British and French 
navies supplied destroyers as scouts and messengers, and airships 
and seaplanes kept watch in the sky. The people of Britain knew 
little of the crossing till Monday, the 17th, when it was officially 
announced that it was over. In ten days, by a remarkable feat 
of transport, more than 150,000 men had been landed at various 
ports in France. Each man carried with him a message from Lord 


Kitchener, which admirably summed up the duties of the British 
soldier in war : — 

" You are ordered abroad as a soldier of the King to help our 
French comrades against the invasion of a common enemy. You 
have to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, 
your patience. 

" Remember that the honour of the British army depends on your 
individual conduct. It will be your duty, not only to set an example of 
discipline and perfect steadiness under fire, but also to maintain the most 
friendly relations with those whom you are helping in this struggle. The 
operations in which you are engaged will, for the most part, take place 
in a friendly country, and you can do your own country no better 
service than in showing yourself in France and Belgium in the true 
character of a British soldier. 

" Be invariably courteous, considerate, and kind. Never do any- 
thing likely to injure or destroy property, and always look upon loot- 
ing as a disgraceful act. You are sure to meet with a welcome, and to 
be trusted ; your conduct must justify that welcome and that trust. 
Your duty cannot be done unless your health is sound. So keep con- 
stantly on your guard against any excesses. In this new experience 
you may find temptations in wine and women. You must entirely 
resist both temptations, and, while treating all women with perfect 
courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy. 

" Do your duty bravely. 

" Fear God. 

" Honour the King. 

" Kitchener, Field-Marshal." 

The scene at Boulogne may be taken as a type of many. It 
was just over a hundred years since a British army had landed 
to fight in Western Europe, but the scene was very different from 
that before Waterloo, when officers' wives and friends and idle 
spectators came over to see the show. Jos Sedley with his carriage, 
the Bareacres's menage, and the ladies of Captain Osborne and 
Captain Rawdon Crawley had no counterparts in this severe and 
businesslike expedition. Since the Monday when war became in- 
evitable much anxiety had been felt about the attitude of Britain. 
As the French mobilization proceeded, military enthusiasm awoke ; 
it was realized that France was entering upon her greatest struggle, 
and, though Sir Edward Grey had pledged our help by sea, it was 
help by land that seemed to the ordinary man to count for most. 
On the 4th and the 5th, eager eyes watched the destroyers and 
cruisers in the Channel. Were the English coming, or would they 
remain secure in their island while their allies were sacrificing 
homes and fortunes and lives for the common cause ? For a 


moment the life of an Englishman in Boulogne became difficult ; 
the educated inhabitants looked askance at him, as if Albion had 
not yet outgrown her perfidy. Only the fisher-folk kept their 
confidence. They had been to Aberdeen and Ramsgate and 
Plymouth, and their confreres there had always told them that 
the English would come. " Vous allez voir arriver les /wglais 
bientot et plus vite que 9a I " At last, on the morning of Sunday, 
9th August, two transports were sighted making for the harbour. 
It was " les /wglais " at last, and the fishermen were justified. 
Instantly opinion swung round to the opposite pole, and the name 
of Briton was a passport in Boulogne that day. The landing of 
the troops awakened wild enthusiasm. The geniality and fine 
physique of the men, and their gentleness to women and children ; 
the cavalryman's care of his horses ; above all the Highlanders, 
who were heroes of nursery tales in France, went to the hearts of 
the people. The old alliance with Scotland was remembered — the 
days when Buchan and Douglas led the chivalry of France. The 
badges and numbers of the men were begged for keepsakes, and 
homely delicacies were pressed upon them in return. Many a 
Highlander was of the opinion which Alan Breck expressed to 
David Balfour, " They're a real bonny folk, the French nation." 
The cavalry were encamped at Ostrohove, just above the Villa 
Josephine of famous memory. But if we seek for dramatic mo- 
ments, we shall find them in that midnight Mass, celebrated by 
the English-speaking clergy of Boulogne for our Catholic soldiers, 
at the Camp Malbrouck, round the Colonne de la Grande Armee. 
The name recalled the greatest of British generals ; on that spot 
Napoleon meditated the invasion of England ; and — happier omen 
— there was first assembled the Grand Army, the army of Ulm 
and Austerlitz and Jena. 

On 5th August Lord Kitchener, who had been on the eve of 
returning to Egypt, was appointed, largely by the urgency of 
Lord Haldane, as Secretary of State for War. He accepted the 
post with the gravest sense of responsibility. He did not believe 
in any short and easy contest, or any campaign of limited liability. 
To the ordinary Briton he was the foremost subject of the King, a 
man untainted by party politics, aloof from social intrigue, a single- 
minded servant of the State. He had had a career of brilliant 
success, and the nation had faith in his star. From the outset 
he realized that Britain was ill prepared for a great war on land, 
but he trusted his countrymen and conceived that such prepara 
tion could still be achieved. The struggle, as he saw it, would 

1914] SIR JOHN FRENCH. i55 

last at least three years, and he laid his plans for an army of seventy 
divisions, which should reach its maximum strength when the 
enemy's had begun to decline. Though from his long service 
abroad he was unfamiliar with European problems, his curious 
flair for essentials made him divine the situation more correctly 
than the experts of the French Staff. He was convinced that 
the main German thrust would come through Belgium, and he 
was anxious that the British army should concentrate about 
Amiens and not at Maubeuge, for he guessed at the broad sweep 
of Kluck's envelopment, and he did not wish the moral of his 
troops to be impaired by beginning the campaign with a com- 
pulsory retirement. On this point he was overruled, but his 
instructions to the British Commander-in-Chief showed how little 
confidence he had in the initial French plan. He warned him 
that he could not be rapidly or strongly reinforced, and that there- 
fore he must husband his reserves. He told him that his command 
was independent— that he would "in no case come in any sense 
under the orders of any AlUed general." " While every effort," 
he added, " must be made to coincide most sympathetically with 
the plans and wishes of our Ally, the gravest consideration will 
devolve upon you as to participation in forward movements where 
large bodies of French troops are not engaged, and where your 
force may be unduly exposed to attack." This caution was wholly 
justifiable. If Britain in the next three years was to build up 
great armies, she could not afford to have her nucleus of highly- 
trained regulars squandered fruitlessly at the outset. 

The British Expeditionary Force consisted to begin with of 
two infantry corps and one cavalry division. The Commander- 
in-Chief, Field-Marshal Sir John French, had long been con- 
sidered the best field officer on the British active list. He had 
served in the Sudan Expedition of 1884-85, and had afterwards 
held high cavalry commands at home, till, in 1899, he was sent 
to command the cavalry under Sir George White in the Natal 
campaign. His was, perhaps the chief reputation made by the 
South African War. His successes in the Colesberg district, 
his relief of Kimberley, and his handling of the cavalry in Lord 
Roberts's advance on Pretoria, marked him out a soldier of excep- 
tional knowledge, judgment, and energy. He commanded the ist 
Army Corps from 1901 to 1907, after which he held for four years 
the post of Inspector-General of the Forces, till in 191 1 he became 
Chief of the Imperial General Staff. In 1913 he was made a field- 
marshal. He was immersed in his profession, a serious student 


of the military thought of Europe ; but his most notable quality 
was one which is not commonly found in the staff officer. He 
was a personality rather than a mind— a born leader of men, of 
tried courage, coolness, and sagacity. 

The ist Corps was under the command of Sir Douglas Haig, 
a cavalryman like Sir John French, and one of the youngest of 
British lieutenant-generals. Its ist Division was under Major- 
General Lomax, and its 2nd under Major-General Monro. To 
the 2nd Army Corps had been originally appointed Lieutenant- 
General Sir James Grierson, but he had died suddenly after the 
landing of the Expeditionary Force in France. His death was a 
grave loss to the British army, for no officer was more popular, 
and none so immensely learned in all branches of the professicn 
of arms. From 1882 onwards he had been in nearly every British 
war, and had written the standard books on the Russian, German, 
and Japanese armies. He knew Germany intimately, and few 
foreigners could judge so truly her strength and weakness. We 
may well regret that one of the most accomplished staff officers 
of the day was not spared to prove his worth in his first high light- 
ing command. He was succeeded by General Sir Horace Smith- 
Dorrien, who had done brilliant work in South Africa, and had held 
the Southern command at home since 1912. The 2nd Corps em- 
braced the 3rd and 5th Divisions, the former under Major-General 
Hubert Hamilton, and the latter under Major-General Sir Charles 
Fergusson. The Cavalry Division was commanded by Major- 
General Allenby, who at the outbreak of war held the office of 
Inspector of Cavalry. The ist Brigade was commanded by Brig- 
adier-General Briggs, the 2nd by Brigadier-General De Lisle, the 
3rd by Brigadier-General Hubert Gough, the 4th by Brigadier- 
General the Hon. C. Bingham. A separate 5th Brigade was 
under Brigadier-General Sir Philip Chetwode. The 3rd Corps, 
under Major-General W. P. Pulteney, was still in process of forma- 
tion ; but the 4th Division from it, under Major-General Snow, 
was to concentrate in France on the 23rd August ; and on the 
lines of communication was the 19th Infantry Brigade. 

On Saturday, the 22nd, the British army was a day's march 
north of the Sambre, getting into position between Conde and 
Binche. A word must be said of the configuration of this corner 
of Hainault. West of Mons along the valley of the Haine and the 
Conde Canal lies a country of flat, marshy meadows. Mons itself 
is a mining town, the centre of the Borinage coalfield, an area 
like any north English colliery district. There was a network 


of railways, many of them carried on low embankments, and among 
them the miners' villages, with the headgears of the pits and the 
tall chimneys of the engine-houses towering above the low-roofed 
cottages. Around these hamlets the accumulation of shale and 
waste heaps suggested at first sight ranges of hills, and the illusion 
was strengthened by the little forests of dwarf firs with which some 
of the larger heaps had been planted. To the north lay a sandy 
ridge covered with a wide stretch of woodland, from St. Ghislain 
six miles west of Mons to a point some three miles east of the town. 
To the south, after the coalfields were left behind, lay an agricul- 
tural region, enclosed on the south by the big wood of Mormal. 
The place was poor ground for a defensive action, teeming as it 
was with an industrial population, and endlessly split into enclosures 
and pockets, which gave no observation or free field of fire. It 
was a classic battle-ground. There Conde and Turenne had 
marched their armies ; Bliicher and Wellington had ridden over 
those fields ; from Mons had come a detachment of burghers to 
help the English at Crecy ; south-west of the town amid a tangle 
of colliery lines lay Jemappes, where Dumouriez overthrew the 
Austrians when the French Republicans invaded Belgium ; a 
mile or two farther south was Marlborough's battlefield of Mal- 

By the evening of the 22nd the British 2nd Corps lay along 
the Conde Canal, while the ist Corps on its right stretched from 
Mons to the village of Peissant — a front of about 25 miles, held 
by a force of some 70,000 men and 300 guns. Sir John French 
had no general reserve, in the absence of his 3rd Corps, and had 
to use his cavalry as best he could for the purpose. That day 
the British horse had been scouting far to the north, and had come 
into contact with parties of Uhlans, and, driving them in, had dis- 
covered behind them large infantry columns on the march — in 
what force they could not tell, for they could not advance farther, 
and the thick woodlands about Soignies made the country inscru- 
table to the British airplanes. Our cavalry screen, in turn, prevented 
the enemy from reconnoitring the British position, but this gave 
Kluck no anxiety. It had long been Germany's fashion to 
despise our " mercenaries," and the phrase, " Sir John French's 
contemptible little army," attributed by some imaginative propa- 
gandist to the Emperor, embodied the current opinion in the German 
army. Further, the German Staff did not believe that British in- 
fantry in any number could, as yet, have arrived within fifty miles. 
On the evening of the 22nd the I. Army had its 4th and 9th Cavalry 


Divisions somewhere on the Scheldt, and its 2nd Cavalry Division 
scouting westward towards Courtrai, Lille, and Tournai. On 
its left the 9th Corps was on the road from Nivelles to Binche, 
getting very near the canal ; the 3rd Corps was coming down the 
Brussels-Mons road from Soignies ; the 4th Corps had reached 
the Mons-Ath railway, and the 2nd Corps on the left was south- 
east of Ath. That night the 3rd and 4th Corps were some five 
miles from the British outposts, and the two flanking corps between 
ten and twelve miles distant. It had been a swift march, for the 
outer corps of the wheel had tramped 150 miles in eleven days, 
and the men were tired with the dust and heat of the Belgian 
plain. Late that night Sir John French, anxious about his un- 
protected left, moved Allenby's cavalry to that flank, with the 
exception of Chetwode's 5th Brigade, which was in advance on 
the right. 

Sunday, the 23rd, brought a hot August morning, and its first 
hours passed in a Sabbatical calm, while the bells of the village 
churches rang for mass. The men in the trenches heard a distant 
sputter of rifle fire where the German cavalry were feeling at our 
outposts. Sir John French met his generals, and explained to 
them Joffre's plan. His information at the moment was that 
" one, or at most two, of the enemy's army corps, with perhaps 
one cavalry division, were in front of my positions, and I was 
aware of no outflanking movement by the enemy." Kluck, 
though he had not yet half his army in position, did not beheve 
that the main British force was in front of him, and resolved to 
send his 9th Corps at once into action, and to extend the battle 
presently with his 3rd Corps. Accordingly, at about 10.30 a.m., 
he began his artillery preparation, and half an hour later the 
infantry of the 9th Corps attacked at the angle of the canal north 
of Mons against Hubert Hamilton's 3rd Division. 

The first impression of the British soldier was one of amaze- 
ment. Instead of the thin and widely extended lines which he 
had expected he found the enemy coming on in dense masses, 
which made a wonderful target for his rifle. This was the teach- 
ing of Meckel,* which had recently replaced the old instructions 
of the German drill book. He found that he could well hold his 
own, and it was not till the enemy numbers had crossed the canal 
east of Obourg, and converged upon Mons from north and east, 
that Hamilton fell back through Mons to a prepared position 
south of it which linked up with the left of the ist Corps at Har- 

• See his curious work, A Summer Night's Dream (Eng. trans, by Gawne). 

1914] THE BATTLE OF MONS. 159 

mignies. Late in the afternoon the left of Kluck's 3rd Corps and 
his 4th Corps closed with Sir Charles Fergusson's 5th Division, 
which at first held its ground on the Canal without dilhculty, 
while on the extreme left there were patrol actions with Allenby's 
cavalry, now reinforced by the 19th Infantry Brigade. But as 
the battle developed one thing was becoming clear — the weight 
of German artillery was far greater than two corps demanded. 
Two corps might have brought into action some three hundred 
pieces, but before long it was plain that there were some five or 
six hundred guns firing. 

The British 2nd Corps throughout the afternoon was attacked 
by two German corps, and lost no more than its outpost line, 
and this at heavy cost to the enemy. The British position was not 
uncomfortable, except that the 3rd Division, in its difficult with- 
drawal from Mons, had allowed a small gap to appear between 
it and the 5th. Kluck, apparently surprised by the opposition 
to his centre and the heavy losses of his 3rd and 4th Corps, had 
resolved to wait till he could bring up his flanking corps for en- 
velopment. That delay, combined with the absence of Marwitz's 
cavalry, due to the German ignorance of the exact position of the 
British army, was Sir John French's salvation, and it enabled 
70,000 men and 300 guns to check and frustrate the 600 guns and 
the 160,000 men of the enemy. 

But about 5 p.m. the British commander received a message 
from Joffre which put a new complexion on the affair. He learned 
of the fall of Namur and the defeat of Charleroi, and that he was 
not told of these things before shows how feeble was the liaison 
work between the two commands. He learned, what he had 
begun to suspect, that Kluck was attacking with two or three 
times the force originally estimated. Already the French Fifth 
Army on his right was a day's march to the rear. On his left there 
was d'Amade's Territorial divisions — the 84th at Valenciennes and 
west of Conde, the 82nd in difficulties about Tournai, the 81st 
between Lille and Dunkirk, the 88th arriving at Arras — scattered 
and ill-equipped troops, and the nearest some miles behind his 
left. He realized that, though his little army might resist for a 
time against such odds, a prolonged defence of the Mons position 
would mean that inevitably it would be cut off, enveloped, and 
destroyed. Already it lay alone in face of an enemy more than 
twice its strength. The only course was to hold on till nightfall, 
give his men a brief rest, and begin a fighting retreat southwards 
at daybreak. Like a prudent commander, he had already recon- 


noitred and selected a position to be held in the first stage of 
retirement, should a retirement prove necessary. He issued the 
order to fall back — to the surprise of his army, which knew nothing 
of Namur and Charleroi, and was very certain that it had not 
been beaten. History had repeated itself almost on the same 
battle-ground. On the evening of June 17, 1815, when Wellington 
at Quatre Bras heard the news of Ligny, he said to his staff : 
" Bliicher has had a damned good hiding, and we must go. I 
suppose they will say in England that we have been beaten, but 
that can't be helped." Sir John French " had to go " because 
Lanrezac and Langle and Ruffey had suffered Bliicher's fate. 
Officers who remembered history asked themselves whether this 
new Ligny would be the prelude to a second Waterloo. 

Joffre, at his headquarters in Champagne, awoke on the morn- 
of Monday, the 24th, to confront a falling world. The battles of 
the frontier had one and all ignominiously failed. His three 
offensives had been met and broken, and the main armies of France 
hurled back inside their borders. He had used up his only general 
reserve. In almost every detail of war he had been outwitted 
by the Germans. He had to face the tragic fact that this first 
round had been won by the enemy, not by superior numbers, but 
by superior skill. Moreover, the fighting had shown the French 
inferior in many important details — the use of airplanes, heavy 
artillery, and wired entrenchments — all matters vital to a war 
of defence. The Germans were pouring through Lorraine against 
Castelnau and Dubail, already weakened by defeat, who stood 
precariously in front of Nancy and the Gap of Charmes. If the 
eastern fortress line fell, there might be a second Sedan, and who 
could guarantee its security after Liege, Namur, and Morhange? 
Great armies were flooding over the Ardennes to the Meuse, and 
the German right wing, far stronger than his wildest imagining, was 
swinging round the weak Allied left, brushing aside the feeble 
Territorial divisions. The northern forts had been neglected, as 
had those of the Falaises de Champagne, and there was no defence 
to bar the road to Paris. Rarely has a general been faced with 
a bleaker prospect. One plan only gave a faint promise of hope. 
The eastern front must be held at all costs, and the northern armies 
must by a breakneck retreat slip out of the noose. The whole 
battle-line of France must fall back and play for time — time to 
give it a better alignment — time, above all, to create laboriously 
and feverishly a new reserve, which could be used to restore the 
war of manoeuvre. Wide regions of France — nay, Paris itself — 


must be sacrificed, if need be, to keep intact the field strength. 
If reserves could not be brought up to the army, the army must 
fall back to the reserves. 

That day, the 24th, Joffre issued his " Note to all the Armies," 
and the following evening his famous " General Instruction No. 
2." Presently there followed a degringolade of general officers, 
thirty-three army, corps, and divisional commanders being 
removed.* In this holocaust the innocent suffered with the 
guilty — the far-sighted and competent Lanrezac equally with the 
creature of some lobby intrigue. With incomparable courage and 
patience, and with the mental elasticity of his race, Joffre faced 
the crisis, jettisoned his cherished preconceptions, and prepared a 
new plan on the grim facts now at last made plain. We have 
seen him in his weakness ; we are now to see him in his strength. 

* Two commanders of armies, seven of corps, twenty of infantry, and four of 
eavalry divisions (Thomasson's Le Revers). 



24th August-^th September. 

Joffre's Revision of Policy — ^The Retirement of the French Armies — Kluck's Pursuit 
of the British — Battle of Le Cateau — Maunoury's New Army — End of the 
British Retreat. 

It was the strength of Joffre in adversity that he had the courage 
to face the most unwelcome facts. He must break off contact 
with the enemy right and centre, now sweeping down more 
than a milUon strong from the north and north-east, must retreat 
and continue to retreat till the time came to resume the attack. 
When that hour would strike he could not tell ; he must do the duty 
that lay nearest him and trust to fortune. It is clear from his 
" General Instruction No. 2," of 25th August, that he had not en- 
visaged the full results of the frontier debacle. He hoped for a 
resumption of the offensive somewhere on the Somme or the 
Falaises de Champagne. But this false calculation did not vitiate 
the soundness of his general policy. Its essentials were — first, 
a stand at all costs in the east by Dubail and Castelnau, holding 
Nancy if possible, but in any case the line Toul-Epinal-Belfort ; 
a short retreat by the Third and Fourth Armies pivoting on 
Verdun ; a withdrawal of the Fifth and British Armies till such 
time as they could be reorganized and strengthened ; and the pro- 
vision of two new armies as a " mass of manoeuvre " to aid his 
left and centre in the ultimate reaction. These reserves at the 
moment he did not possess, and he could only obtain them by moving 
troops from such of the field armies as were less hotly pressed. 
This meant time and complicated transport, and he must have 
known in his heart from the outset that a stand on the Somme and 
the Laon hills was impossible. The question of Paris was not the 
least of his difficulties. On 25th August he received definite orders 
from his Government that if the retreat continued three active corps 



must be allotted for the defence of the capital. He acquiesced, 
but reserved his opinion. He remembered too well the events of 
1870, and was resolved to resist most stoutly the lure of fortified 
places, and keep his armies together as a force of manoeuvre. 

While his main preoccupation was with the north, the eastern 
line was a constant anxiety, and fortunately there came news 
which eased his mind. We have seen that after Morhange the 
First and Second Armies ranged themselves in rectangular for- 
mation across the Gap of Charmes, Castelnau from the Grand 
Couronne of Nancy southward to Rozelieures, and Dubail thence 
eastward to the line of the Vosges. There was an open space 
in the angle of their junction, and thither the enemy pressed 
after the fall of Lun^ville on the 24th. Dubail brought up two 
corps into the angle with three divisions of Conneau's cavalry, 
and when on the morning of the 25th the Germans entered Roze- 
lieures they were almost at once driven out of it. That afternoon 
Castelnau struck at one flank with Foch's 20th Corps, and on the 
other wing Dubail reached the Meurthe and Mortagne at Lamath 
and Blainville. The Germans could only escape by a hasty retreat, 
and by the 26th the French had closed the Gap of Charmes and 
held a line from the east side of the Grand Couronne to St. Die 
in the south. It was a brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed 
action, a forehint of the great battle which was to open a fortnight 
later, and for the moment it secured the eastern front. The Im- 
perial Crown Prince also suffered a check. Maunoury with three 
reserve divisions formed at the time a group in Ruffey's Third 
Army, and had been entrusted with the task of watching movements 
from Metz. On the 24th he obtained intelligence that the Crown 
Prince, believing that the whole Fourth Army had been disas- 
trously engaged at Virton, had resolved forthwith to turn Ruffey's 
right on the Othain. On the 25th Maunoury anticipated him by 
driving in his left flank. Had the attack been forced home, the 
whole German V. Army might have been imperilled.* But that 
night Maunoury and his divisions were recalled, for Joffre had 
urgent need of them in the north. 

The retreat of the Allied armies of the right and centre was 
by the left, pivoting on Verdun, and for a proper understanding 
it is best surveyed from east to west — from the short retirement of 
Ruffey near the centre of the wheel to the one-hundred-and-eighty- 
mile march of the British at the circumference. 

• See the admissions in the German General Staff monograph, Der Grosse Krieg 
in Einzeldarstellungen : Dei Schlacht bet Longwy. 


We have seen that Ruffey's Third Army, having failed at 
Virton on the 22nd, had fallen back to the Othain, whence it pres- 
ently found itself compelled to withdraw by the influence of events 
further down the Meuse valley. On the 26th it retired across 
the Meuse, and began slowly to retreat on the entrenched camp of 
Verdun. Its opponent, the Imperial Crown Prince, who had with 
him the bulk of six infantry corps and one of cavalry, had little 
credit by the pursuit. That day, as we have seen, Longwy fell, but 
the retreat was never hustled, and by the last day of the month the 
Third Army was in position west and south-west of Verdun, garri- 
soning at the same time the forts and woody hills north and east of 
the town. On the 30th Ruffey had been retired, presumably for 
Virton, and his place taken by Sarrail, the commander of the 6th 
Corps, The new general was comparatively young, a man of fifty- 
eight, a southerner who had learned his trade in African wars, able, 
ambitious, with a somewhat fantastic and speculative mind, but 
one whose martial bearing and curious blue eyes — yeux de faience, 
as the phrase went — made a profound impression on the men he led. 
He succeeded to little more than the fragment of an army, for he had 
had to send the 42nd Division of the 6th Corps to Foch's new force, 
and the 4th Corps to Maunoury at Paris. His instructions from 
Joffre were at all costs to keep clear of the entanglement of Verdun, 
and if necessary to retreat to Bar-le-Duc, But he realized the 
value of the fortified Meuse heights, and when he took up position 
in the first days of September his right was still in touch with the 
fortress — a decision which was to mean much for the future of the 

Tangle's Fourth Army had a more troubled retreat, for it had 
further to go, and it was engaged with the IV. Army of Duke 
Albrecht of Wiirtemberg and the bulk of Hansen's Saxons. 
It had also to deplete itself to form Foch's new Ninth Army, sur- 
rendering its 9th and nth Corps. On the 25th, after the failure 
of its Ardennes offensive, it was still east of the Meuse between 
Mezieres and Montmedy. At the moment Langle had only 
Duke Albrecht to deal with, and on the 26th he vigorously re- 
pulsed a German attempt to cross the river on the very ground 
over which in September 1870 the Germans had marched to en- 
velop at Sedan the doomed army of MacMahon. On the 27th 
came Joffre's order to retire, for Hansen was coming down the 
west bank. Langle obtained permission to suspend his retreat 
for one day, drove back Duke Albrecht with his right between 
Sedan and Stenay, and struck hard with his left at Hausen's 


left at Launois between Signy-l'Abbaye and Novion-Porcien, where 
he had the assistance of the ist Moroccan Division, soon to belong 
to Foch's new army. On the 29th he began his retreat in good 
order, falling back through Rethel. There was a gap of some 
twenty-five miles between him and the French Fifth Army— a 
space into which from the 27th onward Foch's force was 
gathering ; but Hausen was unable to take advantage of it, for 
he was himself in difficulties. If the retreat of the French Fourth 
Army was the most perfect of the Allied movements, the advance 
of the III. Army was the clumsiest part of the German perform- 
ance. Hausen had been too early at Charleroi, and by attacking 
on the Meuse prematurely had given Lanrezac warning ; ever 
afterwards he was consistently too late. He had a gap in his 
army corresponding to the gap between Langle and Lanrezac, 
and was distracted by appeals for help from Biilow on his right 
and Duke Albrecht on his left, so that his unhappy force made 
a sidelong progress southwards, their eyes turned everywhere. 
Langle was never seriously troubled. On the 29th he was on the 
front Buzanc3'-Rethel ; next day he was crossing the Aisne. After 
that, having checked the ardour of the German centre, he marched 
fast in accordance with Joffre's orders. Rheims and Chalons were 
occupied by the enemy, and in the first days of September the 
French Fourth Army was astride the upper Marne among the 
Champagne wolds, just south of Joffre's old poste de commandement 
at Vitry-le-Frangois. 

Of the three French armies of the north the Fifth had the longest 
way to go, and the most difficult task, for at Charleroi it had 
suffered a far heavier defeat than the mischances of Langle and 
Ruffey in the Ardennes, and from first to last it was in peril of out- 
flanking. Its retreat, as we have seen, began on the 23rd, and 
by the night of the 24th it was on the general line Maubeuge-Givet, 
two of its reserve divisions being actually inside the Maubeuge 
forts, but with orders to continue the retreat next morning; and 
its true left, the i8th Corps, at Solre-le-Chateau, twelve miles 
from the British right. As Sordet's cavalry corps was under orders 
to proceed to the British left, Lanrezac had cause to be anxious 
for the safety of his left wing. On the 25th he was roughly between 
Avesnes and Chimay, fighting Billow's vanguards, and keeping 
off with his right the threat from Hausen. On the 26th, under 
pressure from the Saxon right, his course was directed more to the 
south-west, towards the upper Oise valley. On the evening of the 
27th Lanrezac was across the Oise, and his four corps lay from 


Guise by the south of Hirson to Rumigny. He had received Joffre's 
orders to attack next day towards St. Quentin, and this required 
a wheel by his right and centre so as to face westwards. That 
was clearly impossible, and the only plan was a flank march be- 
hind the Oise, which should transfer the main striking forces to 
the left wing. The British army was now between Noyon and La 
Fere, well to Lanrezac's left rear, and the plan involved an advance 
by Sir John French on St. Quentin from the south. But the position 
of the British made their co-operation impossible ; and Lanrezac 
was obliged to put in Valabregue's two reserve divisions as a left 
flank guard. On the morning of the 29th his i8th and 3rd Corps 
crossed the Oise between Guise and Moy, moving on St. Quentin. 
But about 8 a.m. the pressure of Billow on his right centre, the 
loth Corps, compelled him to give up all thought of that objective. 
He resolved to devote himself to punishing the German loth. 
Guard, and Guard Reserve Corps now pressing east of Guise. He 
moved his 3rd Corps to his right, and with it and his loth and 
ist Corps inflicted upon Biilow a severe check. But his left 
wing, the 18th Corps, had to fall back, and Lanrezac retired 
from the Oise towards the Ailette and the Aisne. The check 
was of extreme importance, for it disengaged the British 
1st Corps from Billow's close pursuit. But the situation was 
still dangerous, for the front of the retreating armies was 
highly irregular. On the 29th, the day when Joffre resolved to 
retire on the Marne, while Langle was forty miles north of that 
river, and Lanrezac fifty, Sir John French was less than thirty. On 
the following day, while Lanrezac was still north of Laon, the British 
were fighting far to the south-west in the Clermont-Compiegne 
region. Yet without serious difficulty Lanrezac by the 3rd of 
September had crossed the Aisne and the Marne, thanks to the 
incompetence of Biilow and his own skill and resolution. On 
that day he was replaced by Franchet d'Esperey, the former com- 
mander of the ist Corps. The new general was to prove a most 
wise and gallant soldier, but it is permissible to regret that Lanrezac 
should have suffered for blunders in which he had no share, and 
that his great talents should have been thus early lost to the service 
of his country. 

We turn now to the most critical part of the retreat — the events 
on the Allied left. In telling the tale we must keep in mind the 
standpoint of the German Command, for with it was the initiative 
and on it lay the burden of making decisions on which were to 
hinge the whole fortune of the war. When the tale has been told 

1914] KLUCK. 167 

of its hesitations and resolves, it will be possible with greater clear- 
ness to consider the mind of the French Generalissimo and assess 
the value of his dispositions. 

Kluck, the commander of the I, Army, the marching wing of 
the invasion, had, unlike most of his colleagues, no experience of 
staff work. A self-made man, who had risen from a comparatively 
humble station, he had spent all his life with troops. He had four 
very special difficulties to contend with. One was that he had no 
purchase with Great Headquarters, was apparently not fully in 
their confidence, and, though in command of the most vital part 
of the German attack, had from 17 th August been placed under 
Billow's orders. The second was that he had little regard for that 
colleague, and differed from him profoundly on strategical and 
tactical matters. The third was that the German Intelligence 
system had broken down, and, now that contact had been made 
with the main armies, was markedly inferior to that of the Allies.* 
Finally, the German line of march was becoming dangerously long. 
The liaison with Great Headquarters at Luxembourg and between 
the different armies was precarious, and Klack, who needed every 
man he could scrape together if his enveloping net was to be flung 
sufficiently wide, had been compelled to leave the 3rd Reserve and 
9th Reserve Corps (the latter of which had just come up) to watch 
the Belgians at Antwerp, and the 4th Reserve as a temporary 
garrison of the Brussels area. Biilow, timid about his right 
flank, forbade the I. Army to get too far west, and Marwitz's 
Cavalry Corps — the mainspring of the enveloping tactics — was 
not under Kluck's direction. The I. Army commander, there- 
fore, joined battle at Mons ill-informed as to his enemy's posi- 
tion, not very clear about his next step, and chafing under a 

The fighting from Conde to Binche on the afternoon of Sunday 
the 23rd revealed to him the British, two corps strong. He was 
impressed by their stalwart resistance, but correctly assessed their 
numbers. His orders for the 24th were that his 4th, 9th, and 

* I take the following instances from Kluck's own narrative : He thought 
the French 2nd Corps was in Brussels on gth August, when it was actually with 
Langle. He thought the British had disembarked at Dunkirk, Ostend, and Calais, 
and seems to have been of this opinion till after the Battle of the Mame. He post- 
dated the British disembarkment in France by two days. He was surprised by the 
British appearance on the Conde Canal on the 23rd, believing the whole country to 
be clear for 50 miles. He was completely at sea about the British alignment at Le 
Cateau, thinking it to be north and south, instead of east and west. His main 
blunder was, of course, as to the size and position of Maunoury's army. It has been 
generally admitted in Germany that the InteUigence department, under Major 
Nikolai, was one of their feeblest services. 


3rd Corps should drive Sir John French into Maubeuge, while 
his right wing, the 2nd and the 4th Reserve Corps (the latter 
now coming up), should march rapidly on the west side to cut 
off the enemy from his presumed base. There was trouble with 
Billow over Marwitz's cavalry, which Kluck wished to advance 
towards Denain to support the enveloping movement, and after 
valuable time had been lost he obtained his wish by an appeal to 
the Supreme Command, and Marwitz passed under his orders. The 
movement did not proceed according to plan, for the envelopers 
were late, and the German centre, heavily punished the day before, 
advanced with extreme caution. Smith-Dorrien's 2nd Corps, 
with the 19th Brigade and Allenby's cavalry on its left, having 
fallen back from the canal five miles to the southward, held a line 
from the mining village of Frameries to the cornfields west of 
Audregnies and beat off the attack of the German 3rd and 4th 
Corps. When the right of the British 5th Division seemed in 
danger of being turned, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade was sent to its 
aid. At 7 a.m., Smith-Dorrien, being outnumbered by something 
like four to one, began his retirement. Haig's ist Corps had already 
slipped away, and early in the afternoon the whole British force, 
intact and in good heart, was assembled on the Maubeuge position. 
Haig held the ground from Maubeuge to the little town of Bavai ; 
thence Smith-Dorrien prolonged the line westward to the village 
of Bry, with the 19th Brigade on his flank between Bry and Jen- 
lain. The forts of Maubeuge made the British right relatively 
safe, and, since the worst danger was on the left, Allenby's cavalry 
were sent to the rear of Jenlain. Further west, Kluck had been 
more fortunate. Tournai, which was held only by a brigade 
of French Territorials, was taken, and the 2nd German Corps 
drove the 84th French Territorial Division out of Valenciennes, 
while German cavalry occupied Douai. Lille, too, was abandoned 
by General Percin on instructions from the Government at 

Sir John French avoided the trap prepared for him. Already 
the Germans were well south of both his flanks, and any delay 
would mean that he would find himself shut up in Maubeuge, with 
the fate of Bazaine in store for him. He decided to halt, for the 
night but no longer, on the Jenlain-Maubeuge position. Next day 
the place was invested, the 7th Reserve Corps from Billow's 
II. Army being deputed for the task. The old Vauban stronghold 

• For this curious tale, which in the early days of the war developed into a pre- 
posterous legend, see General Percin's Lille. 

1914] MAUBEUGE. 169 

had had a chequered history in late years, having been treated only 
as a place of arrest and support, and not as a fortress. But it 
occupied a position of great strategical importance as the junction 
of several vital railway lines, and on the outbreak of war large 
numbers of troops were set to entrenching the ground between 
the forts. General Fournier with his garrison of 30,000 held out 
till the 7th of September, enduring not less than eight days' bombard- 
ment by the Namur siege train, and thereby seriously confused the 
German communications and kept one of their corps away from 
the Battle of the Marne. His performance, strangely misrepre- 
sented at the time, was not the least of the services rendered by 
the generals of France. Alone of the northern fortresses Maubeuge 
played a vital part in the campaign.* 

On the 25th Sir John French's aim was to put the forest of 
Mormal behind him. This woodland, ten miles long from north to 
south and six miles wide, was rough and tangled with undergrowth, 
and was believed — wrongly — to have no roads fit for an army to 
travel. It lay directly between him and the Sambre, and must 
clearly be passed on the east or the west. But the roads on the 
east side were too few and too bad for his whole army to travel ; 
while if he moved by the west side only he would leave a desperate 
gap between himself and Lanrezac, and moreover would thrust 
his left wing into the jaws of Kluck's enveloping force. Accord- 
ingly he decided to send Haig by the east roads to Maroilles and 
Landrecies, while Smith-Dorrien kept the west side in the direction 
of Le Cateau, It was perhaps the only solution of the problem, 
but it was a solution with its own risks, for a gap of some ten miles 
separated the two corps on the march. The intention was that 
the inner wings should get into touch as soon as they were south 
of the forest. 

Kluck that day seemed to have the cards in his hand, but 
he failed to play them. The excuse which he has given was 
the absence of Marwitz's cavalry, which had only come under 
his command on the evening of the 24th, and was consequently 
too late to get behind the British left flank. He directed 
his 2nd Corps from Denain on Bouchain and Avesnes-le-Sec ; 
Marwitz, who had been aimlessly galloping towards the sunset, 
through Denain in the same direction ; half of the 4th Corps on the 
main road from Valenciennes to Solesmes, the other half by the 
west side of Mormal on Landrecies ; the 3rd Corps through the forest 

* See Paul Cassou, La VSriti sur le Siege de Maubeuge. A most unnecessary 
Inqiiiry was held after the war, and Fournier was honourably acquitted of any blame. 


towards Maroilles ; and the 9th Corps from Bavai by the east side. 
The 4th Reserve Corps followed the centre in general reserve. He 
was slow in starting, partly because of his troubles with the 
cavalry, partly because he had to make arrangements to watch 
Maubeuge, and largely because some time was needed to reorganize 
his troops after the hard work of the previous days. 

Tuesday the 25th was a summer's day of intense and glaring 
heat, and the weary British army found the long march in the 
dust a trying business. Haig started late and had little trouble 
on the eastern roads, but it was dusk before the van of the ist 
Division reached Maroilles and the 2nd Division the neighbourhood 
of Landrecies. It had been Sir John French's intention to bring 
Haig's left more to the west, but the hour was too far advanced and 
the troops were too exhausted for further movement. It was a 
dark night with a cloudy sky and d drizzle of rain, which pres- 
ently changed to a downpour. The advance guards of the German 
3rd Corps, which had advanced straight through the forest, and 
so escaped detection by the British airplanes, came into action 
between 9.30 and 10 p.m. against the ist Division at Maroilles, 
and the Guards Brigade of the 2nd Division at Landrecies. The 
latter assault was gallantly beaten off, and with the assistance of 
two reserve divisions of the French Fifth Army the situation at 
Maroilles was saved. When the last shots had died away the men 
of the 1st Corps lay down where they stood to snatch a brief rest. 
They were very exhausted, and it was decided that next day they 
should continue their movement southward, while Smith-Dorrien 
and AUenby should follow the retirement and hold back the 

But Smith-Dorrien was in worse case. That day he had had 
no easy march, and his 3rd Division had held and beaten off 
at Solesmes an attack by Marwitz's horse and part of the 
infantry of the 4th Corps. Allenby, too, had been in action 
south-east of Valenciennes. By dusk, however, Smith-Dorrien had 
reached a position on the left bank of the Selle west of the town 
of Le Cateau. There he found part of the 4th Division under 
General Snow, which had detrained at Le Cateau and had already 
entrenched on the ground. The dispositions that night were, 
from right to left, the 5th Division through Reumont and Trois- 
villes, the 3rd Division through Caudry, and the 4th Division about 
Beauvois and Haucourt. Half of Allenby 's cavalry was on the 
right, attempting to fill the gap between the 2nd and ist Corps, 
The 19th Brigade was in support to the 5th Division. On the 


British left was Sordet's Cavalry Corps, and beyond it various 
detachments of d'Amade's Territorials.* 

Smith-Dorrien in the small hours of the morning of the 26th 
had to decide whether he dared to retreat then and there, or must 
first stand and fight. He had apparently received no explicit orders 
from Sir John French to retire at once, though he was given the 
general direction of retirement as the line Ribemont-St. Quentin- 
Vermand, thirty-five miles away. Clearly instructions as to so 
distant an objective could not be interpreted by any commander 
as the immediate orders for his day's work. Smith-Dorrien may 
well have assumed that the details and the method of retirement 
were left to his discretion. About 1.30 a.m., having received a 
cavalry report which warned him of the great strength of Kluck, 
he learned from Allenby that if a battle was to be avoided the 
retreat must be begun before daybreak, but that the scattered 
cavalry could not be got together in time to cover it. Even then 
he cannot have known of the full weight of the I. Army : he cannot 
have known, for example, of the 4th Reserve Corps, now marching 
against his left centre. But he knew other things : that his 2nd 
Corps were very weary, having had much the hardest of the march- 
ing and fighting since noon on the 23rd ; that the 4th Division 
would not be complete for some hours ; that his right, owing to 
the seven-mile gap between him and Haig, was in the air ; he 
learned, too, from its commander that the 3rd Division, owing to 
the action at Solesmes, would not be in a position to march till 
9 a.m. Presently he reahzed that battle was already joined. At 
or just before dawn the advanced guard of the German 3rd Corps 
was in Le Cateau, and the 4th Corps was attacking his centre at 
Caudry. In these circumstances it seemed impossible to begin 
his retreat till he had checked the enemy ; and he believed himself 
competent to do so, remembering the various occasions in the 
past few days when he had struck back at and crippled the 
pursuit. Looked at in any way it was a prodigious gamble, but 
the hazard of retreating from such a position may well have 
seemed greater than that of fighting in it. Sir John French 
praised the decision in his original dispatch, but afterwards re- 
canted his praise and blamed it severely as a disobedience to 
orders. This it can scarcely have been ; and any ill effect which 
it may have had on the subsequent retreat is not the point at 

* They were the 84th Territorial Division, now retiring through Cambrai, and 
further west the 6ist and 62nd Reserve Divisions, which had come up from Arras 
and Bapaume. 


issue. The question is whether Smith-Dorrien had any choice : 
whether in the position in which he found himself at dawn on 
the 26th he could possibly have retired straightway without utter 
disaster. The commander of the 2nd Corps was a soldier of proven 
sagacity and of a temperament not easily excited or nonplussed. 
If he thought it imperative to stand and fight, we may well accept 
the necessity.* 

The rain of the night had ceased, and a fine summer morning 
dawned. Bright sunlight, a pale blue sky, and the thin mists 
rising from the wet fields gave promise of a sultry day. As the 
sun rose, the flashes of the German guns tore through the haze, 
and the first light showed the grey masses of the enemy's infantry 
pushing forward in dense firing lines. Against Smith-Dorrien's 
55,000 Kluck opposed not less than 140,000 men. He was sur- 
prised to find the British in position, and hoped at last to have 
that decisive battle which he had hitherto missed. His tactics 
were the same as at Mons — a frontal attack mainly by artillery, 
to be followed by an envelopment on both flanks. But the orders 
for the day, issued the night before, had not contemplated a pitched 
battle, and it took some time to revise them. The 4th and 4th 
Reserve Corps were to attack the front, the 3rd Corps and Marwitz's 
cavalry to envelop the British right, and more cavalry and the 2nd 
Corps to work round the British left and move on Cambrai. At 
first the British 4th Division, not having its guns up, fell back a 
little, but presently by its rifle fire it brought the enemy cavalry 
to a standstill. This, however, was no more than the prologue, 
and the battle proper began about 7 a.m. with a terrific German 
bombardment by the artillery of the 4th Corps, gradually rein- 
forced by that of the 3rd and of the 4th Reserve. The ridge which 
Smith-Dorrien held was studded with villages, the church spires 
of which gave good targets for the enemy gunners. The British 
had had little time to entrench their position, though along the 
front line shelter trenches had been hastily dug and afforded 
some small cover. Their artillery, though outnumbered by nearly 

* The reader will find Lord French's case stated in his 1914, pp. 74-80. This 
work, which should be of the highest authority, contains unfortunately so many in- 
accuracies that it must be used with extreme caution. The dispute, it is obvious, 
can never be finally settled, for some of the factors are hypothetical. Put shortly, it re- 
solves itself into the question whether Smith-Dorrien at an early hour on the 26th was 
engaged only with Kluck's covering troops and cavalry or with his main infantry. 
If the first, he fell into Kluck's trap and fought an unnecessary battle. On the 
evidence before me I think the second alternative is the true one, and that from just 
after dawn the British were engaged with the main troops of the 4th Corps and 
Marwitz's cavalry. 

1914] LE CATEAU. 173 

four to one, made a brilliant stand, and for seven hours checked 
the enemy's infantry rushes. The two points of serious danger 
were the right wing near Le Cateau, where the Germans managed 
to work round the fiank of the sorely tried 5th Division, and at 
Caudry, which formed an acute salient, garrisoned by the brigade 
of the 3rd Division which had been fighting the night before at 
Solesmes. Nevertheless at i p.m. the British front was still intact, 
and Sordet and AUenby and d'Amade's reserves had for the 
moment checked the enveloping movements. 

About I p.m. Smith-Dorrien realized that it was time to leave. 
His right flank was getting hourly more exposed by Haig's with- 
drawal, and Kluck's 9th Corps would presently be arriving. He 
had persuaded the enemy that he was not to be trifled with, and 
had beaten off his chief corps with heavy losses. If he was to get 
away, he must issue the orders forthwith, for to break off a battle 
with a vastly superior opponent is one of the most difficult of the 
operations of war. The attack of the 3rd Corps about noon broke 
the 5th Division on the right and precipitated the retreat. Orders 
could not reach many of the units, who remained in the trenches 
and so protected the retirement of the rest, but under cover of the 
devoted artillery most of the infantry quietly withdrew from the 
field. The batteries left behind had been so knocked to pieces 
that it was impossible to move them. Before the sun set the 
2nd Corps was tramping over the belt of low upland in which the 
streams of Scheldt and Sambre take their rise, and on the morning 
of the 27th it halted north of St. Quentin where the land begins to 
fall to the bright valley of the Oise. The chief miracle of the 
retreat had been effected. 

Le Cateau was Kluck's most conspicuous and most indefensible 
failure. Had he pressed hard with his 3rd Corps at the moment 
when the 5th Division was falling back, or had he sent in a fresh 
cavalry division on the flank of the pursuit before evening, 
it is hard to see how the 2nd Corps could have escaped. But he 
handled his cavalry throughout with singular maladroitness, and 
his rigid devotion to envelopment, tactical as well as strategic, 
meant that he dissipated his striking force at the vital points. As 
for Smith-Dorrien, he had achieved the patently impossible at the 
expense of some 8,000 casualties and the loss of thirty-six guns. 
Who shall say how much that heroic stand did to disarrange the 
German plan, or to enable the British to win clear of the pincers 
and re-form for the counter-attack ? By one of those strange coin- 
cidences which delight the historian the battle was fought at the 


very place where, in 17 12, the British troops in bitter shame with- 
drew from their allies, when Ormonde took the place of Marl- 
borough, On the general himself the best comment is to be found 
in the earlier and juster judgment of Sir John French. " I say 
without hesitation that the saving of the left wing of the army 
under n)y command on the morning of the 26th August could 
never have been accomplished unless a commander of rare and 
unusual coolness, intrepidity, and determination had been present 
to conduct personally the operation." 

Kluck had suffered heavily, and the orders issued for the 
27th directed a start at 5 a.m., a late hour for an army of pursuit. 
Being under the impression that the British base was Calais and 
that Sir John French was trying to retreat thither, he once again 
dispatched Marwitz's cavalry on a wild goose chase to the 
west, where it was faithfully dealt with by Sordet. His force was 
moving south-westward while Biilow was marching south, and 
the result was that Haig's retreat on the 26th was unmolested. 
On the 27th it was Billow's right which was in contact with the 
British ist Corps. On the 28th the two halves of the British force 
had been reunited, and that evening the ist Corps lay south of 
La Fere between the St. Gobain forest and the Oise, while the 2nd 
Corps was north of the river about Noyon. 

Meantime the centre of gravity had shifted further west. On 
the night of the 25th Maunoury was ordered to leave Ruffey's 
Third Army and repair to Montdidier to collect and command the 
new Sixth Army. He was a man of sixty-seven, a distinguished 
artillery officer who had held the posts of commandant of the £cole 
de Guerre and Governor of Paris. His troops could only come 
into Hne by degrees, for some of them had long journeys to make, 
and this fact presently convinced Joffre that a general counter- 
attack from the Somme and the Falaises de Champagne was im- 
possible. According to the original plan of de Rivieres, if the 
frontier defences were forced, a stand could be made on the 
heights of Champagne, the escarpment which extends in a long 
curve from the Oise eastwards by Laon to Rheims. But the 
forts of the Falaises had been permitted to decline, the retreat- 
ing armies were in no condition yet awhile to turn, and the two 
new armies, the Ninth and the Sixth, were only in their assembly 

At this moment the German Supreme Command was in a state of 
elation and confidence. Two-thirds of the great march were over, and 
the Allies, everywhere beaten, seemed to be fleeing before them. The 


fight at Le Cateau, indecisive as it was, seems to have convinced 
Kluck that the British army was out of action. On the 27th 
he had been made independent of Biilow, and at once began 
to press his views on Great Headquarters. Paris was now the pre- 
occupation of the Supreme Command far away in Luxembourg, 
and the news from Kluck, and the optimistic reports pouring 
in from the other armies, decided their policy. On the evening 
of the 28th they issued orders that the I. Army should march west 
of the Oise towards the lower Seine, while the H. Army should 
take the Hne Laon-La Fere towards Paris. This meant that 
the capital would be isolated between two German forces. 
Kluck did not agree. Hitherto he had been thinking mainly of 
cutting off the British from the coast, and, now that they were 
banished from his mind as a broken remnant, he was anxious to 
find the left flank of the French, roll it up, and force it away from 
Paris. On the 28th he was crossing the Somme, and on the 29th 
his right had a stubborn fight between Villers-Bretonneux and 
Proyart. It was his first taste of Maunoury, who had taken over 
from d'Amade on the 27th ; but he was not perturbed by it, re- 
garding it as only the last sputter of resistance from the oddments 
of French Territorials and reserve divisions in the west with which 
he had been in touch for four days. In his memoirs he has com- 
plained that he was not kept informed by Great Headquarters of 
the general situation, and in particular of the dispatch of corps to 
Russia. But had he had this news, it would only have strengthened 
his main contention, that the I. and II. Armies should close in and 
attack the French left. On the 29th came Lanrezac's counter- 
stroke at Guise, when the commander of the II. Army was com- 
pelled to ask Kluck for help, and this seems to have converted 
Biilow to his colleague's view. That night it was agreed that 
the order for the south-westerly move should be disregarded 
and that the I. Army should advance south through Noyon and 
Compiegne and close up on the II. The decision was at once 
accepted by Great Headquarters, who seem at the time to have 
had the most imperfect knowledge of what was happening and 
but a feeble control over the Army Commanders. The step 
was obviously wise. The German line was already strung out 
to its extreme capacity, and was beginning to show gaps. Had 
its right been stretched to the lower Seine it would have courted 

The 29th was also an important day for the British army. 
Sir John French was able to give it a brief rest. The day before 


he had heard for the first time of the formation of Maunoury's 
force, for the Uaison between the Allies was little better than that 
of the enemy. On the 29th he met Joffre, who, in spite of the success 
that day at Guise, told him that he had relinquished his intention 
of standing on the line Rheims-Amiens and had resolved to fall 
back behind the Marne. This was also Sir John French's view, 
but, in assenting to it, he added the warning that his army was 
totally unfit for further fighting till it had been refitted and re- 
inforced. To this the French Generalissimo agreed, and undertook 
that the French Fifth and Sixth Armies should close in so as to 
screen the British retreat. The record of the interview is not free 
from contradictions. At one moment the British Commander-in- 
Chief seems to be protesting against retirement, and at another to 
be explaining the impossibility of keeping his army in the line. He 
was in a position of undoubted difficulty, for he was moving his 
sea base from Havre to the Atlantic coast at St. Nazaire. Next 
day he met his corps commanders, when, according to his 
account, Smith-Dorrien urged retreat to the coast and re-embarka- 
tion. Sir John French was mistaken ; no such counsel, the folly 
of which equalled the disloyalty, was given. But that day we 
find the British commander informing Lord Kitchener that he 
had decided to retire " behind the Seine in a south-westerly direc- 
tion west of Paris." Joffre had proposed a general retirement, 
but this looked very like the British withdrawing altogether from 
the Allied line. The ominous message, followed by others in the 
same tone of despair, brought Kitchener across the Channel, who 
conveyed to Sir John the instructions of the British Government 
that an independent command must not be construed so as to 
involve a failure in duty to the armies of France. So ended a 
foolish and unpleasant incident, in which it is charitable to beheve 
that Sir John French did not mean what he said. The situation 
was in the highest degree perplexing ; he had not been kept fully 
informed by the French Command, he had had friction with Lan- 
rezac, he believed that he had had to bear the brunt of the fight- 
ing without proper support, he had anxieties about his communi- 
cations which no French army shared, and he had, not unnaturally 
in the circumstances, lost faith in the French Staff and the French 
Command. If there was dire confusion throughout the retirement 
among the fighting troops, it is unreasonable to expect perfect 
balance and clarity in the commanding officer.* 

• The British War Office had some cause for anxiety during those days. A day 
or two after Mons they received an urgent request from G.H.Q. for maps as far as 

1914] THE RETREAT ENDS. 177 

The immense significance of the decisions of the 29th and 30th 
must be left to be discussed in a later chapter. Here we may 
summarize the last stage of the retirement. Kluck, who should 
have been in echelon behind Billow's right, easily outstripped his 
neighbour, and on 2nd September the I. Army was crossing the 
Marne when the II. was crossing the Aisne. Maunoury, finding the 
pressure of Kluck's right inimical to the concentration of his 
army, fell back through St. Just and Creil on the northern de- 
fences of Paris. The British were over the Aisne on the 31st, 
and felt again the pressure of Kluck's new wheel, in actions in 
the woods of Compiegne and Villers-Cotterets. On 3rd September 
they crossed the Marne, and the long retreat from the Belgian 
frontier approached its end. 

The last days had been hard and critical, the afternoons a blaze 
of heat, the nights chilly and often wet. There was no rest, for 
each day's march was continued late, and the incessant retire- 
ment might well have broken the spirit of the best of troops. But 
the men went through it all with fortitude, even with gaiety, and 
their only anxiety was to know when they would at last be 
allowed to stand and take order with the enemy. To realize 
the full achievement of the British force, which in the retreat had 
the most laborious task, we must remember the temperament of 
the soldier. He was entering on a war against what public opinion 
agreed was the most formidable army in the world. Partly, it 
is true, the legend of German invincibility had been weakened by 
the stand of Belgium ; but, as our soldiers understood that tale, 
it had been fortress work rather than battles in the field. In such 
a campaign initial success, however small, works wonders with 
the spirit of an army. But there had been no success. The men 
had gone straight from the train, or from a long march, into action, 
and almost every hour of every day they had been retreating. 
Often they were given the chance of measuring themselves in close 
combat against their adversaries, and on these occasions they held 
their own ; but still the retreat went on, and it was difficult to 
avoid the feeling that, even if their own battalion had stood fast, 
there must have been a defeat elsewhere in the line to explain 
this endless retirement. Such conditions are trying to a soldier's 
nerves. The man who will support cheerfully any fatigue in 

the Seine and Marne ; a day or two later for maps as far back as Orleans, then for 
the Loire area, and finally for maps reaching back to Bordeaux. They may well 
have wondered if panic had not fallea on the Allied front. — Sir C. E. Callwell's 
Experiences 0/ a Dug-Out (1920). 


a forward march will wilt and slacken when he is going back- 
ward. Remember, too, that, except for a few members of the 
Headquarters Staff, the officers and men knew nothing of the gen- 
eral situation. Had they learned of Namur and Charleroi it 
would have explained much, but few of them heard of it till a 
week later. They fell back in complete uncertainty as to what 
was happening, and could only suspect that the Germans were 
winning because they were the better army. Under such circum- 
stances to have preserved complete discipline and faithfulness, 
nay, even to have retained humour and gaiety and unquenchable 
spirits, was an achievement more remarkable than the most 
signal victory. 

Not less splendid was the performance of the French. Indeed, 
in many ways they had the more difficult duty. Though they 
were less constantly harassed than our men in their retreat, they 
had begun by a more nerve-shaking experience. Mons was not 
worse than a drawn battle; but Charleroi, Dinant, and Virton 
were unequivocal defeats. Further, for the French soldier 
defence must be in itself aggressive. To yield mile after mile was 
for the French troops of the line, and not less for corps like the 
Zouaves and Turcos, an almost intolerable discipline. That it 
was done without grave disaster, and that, after so great a damping 
of zeal, the fire of attack could be readily rekindled, was an immense 
tribute to the armies of the Republic. The nation had always 
been famous for elan and drive ; they showed now that their 
temper was as good when their business was the anvil rather than 
the hammer. 

For the British troops the ten days of the retreat had been like 
a moving picture seen through a haze of weariness and confusion. 
Blazing days among the coal heaps and grimy villages of Hainault, 
which reminded our north-countrymen of Lancashire and Durham ; 
nights of aching travel on upland roads through the fields of beet 
and grain ; dawns that broke over slow streams and grassy valleys 
upon eyes blind with lack of sleep ; the cool beech woods of Com- 
pi^gne ; the orchards of Ourcq and Marne, now heavy with plum 
and cherry. And hour after hour the rattle of musketry and the 
roaring swell of the great shells, the hurried entrenchments and 
the long, deadly vigils, or the sudden happy chance of a blow back, 
when the bayonet took revenge for dusty miles and crippled bodies 
and lost comrades. On the evening of the 4th the van of the re- 
treat saw from the slopes above the Grand Morin a land of coppice 
and pasture rolling southward to a broad valley, and far off the 


dusk of many trees. It was the forest of Fontainebleau and the 
vale of the Seine. The AlHes had fallen back behind all but one 
of the four rivers which from north and east open the way to Paris. 
That night they were encamped along the very streams towards 
which a hundred years before Napoleon had retired before Schwar- 
zenberg and Bliicher. 



^th August-ioth September. 

Russia's Strategic Position — Rennenkampf's Advance in East Prussia — Battle of 
Tannenberg — The Austrian Offensive — Battles of Lemberg and Rava Russka 
— Serbia's Stand — The Russian Proclamation to Poland. 

At this moment begins the reaction upon the West of events on 
the Russian front. Already news had reached Great Headquarters 
in Luxembourg which compelled them to reconsider their first 
plans and prepare to send reinforcements eastward. It is necessary 
to leave the German armies in France, now approaching their hour 
of crisis, and consider the position of that battle ground where 
Germany stood, to begin with, on the defence. 

The configuration of Russia, as has been already pointed out, 
made invasion in the ordinary sense a hopeless task. The strongest 
army would be apt to melt away before it reached Moscow or 
Petrograd. But with the Russian field forces stationed in West- 
em Poland an opportunity was given to Germany and Austria 
of striking a blow without the handicap of insuperable natural 
obstacles. A glance at the map will show that Russian Poland 
projects into the territory of the Teutonic League in a great salient, 
which is roughly 200 miles from north to south and 250 from east 
to west. This land is a monotonous wind-swept plain, through 
which from south to north flows the river Vistula. About the 
centre stood the capital, Warsaw, reputed one of the strongest 
citadels in Europe, and around Warsaw lay the group of for- 
tresses called the PoUsh Triangle. The southern apex was Ivan- 
gorod, on the Vistula ; the eastern, Brest Litovsk ; the northern, 
Warsaw itself ; while to the north-west lay the advanced fort 
of Novo Georgievsk. This triangle was a fortified region with 
three fronts — two towards Germany, and one towards Austria; 
and the various fortresses were fully hnked up with railways. 



The southern frontier of Russian Poland was purely artificial, 
for there was no continuous barrier till from fifty to one hun- 
dred miles south of it, where the range of the Carpathians pro- 
tects the plains of Hungary against attacks from the north. Galicia 
is simply a flattened terrace at the base of this range, watered 
by the upper Vistula and its tributaries, the Wisloka, the San, and 
the upper streams of the Bug. But in the north of Russian Poland, 
between the river Narev and the sea, is a country where cam- 
paigning is difficult. It is mainly swampy forest, but as it nears 
the Baltic coast it becomes a chain of lakes and ponds with wood- 
land of birch and pine between them. On the very edge of the sea, 
along the river Pregel and the large lagoon called the Frisches 
Haff, there is a belt of firmer land which of old was the main high- 
way between Prussia and Muscovy. This was the German prov- 
ince of East Prussia, a district unfriendly to the invader, as 
Napoleon found in his campaign of Friedland and Eylau. East of 
the Polish salient, and dividing it from Russia proper, lies a curious 
piece of country around the river Pripet. It is a vast tangle of 
streams, ponds, and marshes, covering some 30,000 square miles, 
and is called the Marshes of Pinsk, from the chief town of the neigh- 
bourhood. This district barred the march of armies, and a way 
must be taken to the north or south. On the north the road lay 
along the valleys of the Narev and the Niemen, where was a chain 
of fortified crossings. South, on the side towards Galicia, there were 
the three fortified towns of Lutsk, Dubno, and Rovno. 

The salient of Russian Poland was, therefore, defended on its 
western side by the Polish Triangle, on the north by the chain of 
forts along the Narev and Niemen, on the south by the forts 
south of Pinsk, and on the east by the great marshes of the Pripet. 
Its communications with Russia passed north and south of these 
marshes. Only on the Galician side and the front towards Posen 
did the nature of the land offer facilities for offensive campaigning. 
The German frontier defences consisted of the Silesian fortresses of 
Breslau and Glogau, guarding the line of the Oder ; the strong 
city of Posen on the Warta, opposite the point of the Russian 
salient ; and a powerful line of forts on the lower Vistula, guarding 
the road from East to West Prussia. Thorn on the Vistula, and 
Danzig at its mouth, held the river valley ; while Graudenz, much 
strengthened of late years, formed a link between them. Dirschau 
and Marienburg guarded the road and railway crossings of the Vis- 
tula delta. The northern entrance to the Frisches Haff lagoon was 
guarded by Pillau, and at its eastern end, at the mouth of the Pregel, 


stood Konigsberg, the second strongest of German fortresses, bar- 
ring the coast road and railway to Russia. In GaHcia the true 
Austrian Une of defence was the Carpathians, but north of it were 
the fortified city of Cracow, the old capital of Poland, and the 
great entrenched camp of Przemysl. 

It is important to grasp the configuration of this frontier 
district, for it determined the initial strategy of the campaign. 
Russia was bound to assume the offensive, in order to relieve her 
allies who were bearing the brunt of the German onslaught in the 
West. Her natural Hne of attack was through Posen, for that 
angle of her frontier was only i8o miles from Berlin. There was 
another reason : the salient of Poland went racially much farther 
west than the Warta, and included the bulk of the province of 
Posen and a considerable part of West Prussia. Germany had 
never been successful with her resident aliens, and she had been 
peculiarly unsuccessful with her Poles, all her schemes of Prussian- 
ization and land settlement having ended in something very like 
a fiasco. In moving westwards by the Posen route, Russia would 
be moving among a race who, in spite of all they had suffered from 
the Empire of the Tsars, still preferred a Slav to a Teuton. But 
this direct western advance obviously could not be made until 
its flanks had been safeguarded by the conquest of East Prussia 
and Galicia — until the Russian armies, that is to say, could be 
deployed safely on a front which we may define by the lower Vistula, 
the Warta, and the upper Oder. Russia's first task, therefore, 
was to defeat the Germans in East Prussia and the Austrians in 
Galicia, and so find a straight line of deployment for her main 
advance. Her centre, till her long mobilization was completed, 
must be her weakest point, and the Polish fortresses had not been 
kept at a strength which would allow her to trust in them. She 
could not concentrate on her Posen frontier, scarcely even on the 
Vistula ; the Bug was the nearest line up to which she might hope 
to clear her flanks. These flanks were not less important to the 
Teutonic League. Austria, alone of the two allies able to put 
great forces into the field at once, lay not west but south-west, 
while Germany had long realized that Warsaw would most readily 
fall to an attack by flank and rear. For both combatants, and for 
purposes of both offence and defence, the vital areas were East 
Prussia and Galicia, and the snout of western Poland might for 
the moment be disregarded. 

The mobilization of Russia, slow as it inevitably was, was 
speedier than the Germans had calculated. It took weeks to 


muster her full strength, but in a few days she had ready a striking 
force. She had to prepare two army groups for immediate action 
— one on the Galician border to meet the Austrian attack, and one 
to take the offensive in East Prussia, where it would be opposed by a 
jingle German army, the VHI., under von Prittwitz. The East 
Prussian invasion was intended ultimately to prepare the way 
for the main advance towards Posen, but it was hurried on with 
the object of relieving the pressure on France ; for Russia inter- 
preted most strictly and chivalrously her duty towards her alUes. 
Consequently it must be made, like Emmich's attack on Liege, 
by improvised forces. As Commander-in-Chief of all her armies the 
uncle of the Tsar was appointed — the Grand Duke Nicholas, a tall, 
silent prince, simple and straightforward in character and wholly 
devoted to his profession. As commander of the Petrograd area he 
had done more than any living man for the remaking of the army. 
His Chief of Staff was that General Januschkevitch whom we have 
already met. The commander of the South-Western group, facing 
Austria, was Ivanov, a modest, laborious soldier who had won fame 
in Manchuria by his leadership of the 3rd Siberian Corps. His Chief 
of Staff was Alexeiev, by general consent the ablest of Russia's mili- 
tary minds. Of the North-Western group the commander was 
Gilinski, a mediocrity who owed his place to the friendship of 
Sukhomlinov, the Minister of War. 

Our first concern is with the North-Western group, the lesser 
of the two in importance ; for the Russian strategy contemplated 
a main effort against Austria, and a concentration against Germany 
only when the Dual Monarchy should have been put out of action 
— an exact parallel to the strategy of Berlin. It consisted of two 
armies — the First, moving west into East Prussia from the Niemen ; 
the Second, moving north from the Narev. A reserve army, the 
Tenth, was being assembled in their rear. The First was under 
Rennenkampf , a man of German ancestry, and one of the few Russian 
soldiers who had emerged from the Manchurian campaign with an 
enhanced reputation. He had a name for audacity and speed, 
and was eager to take advantage of the unreadiness of Germany 
on her eastern borders, in spite of the fact that the organization of 
the four infantry corps and five cavalry divisions of his command 
was very far from being complete. Samsonov, the commander 
of the Second Army, was of a different type. He had done well in 
Manchuria as a cavalryman, but he had never been regarded 
as brilliant ; his assets were his simple kindliness of character 
and the devotion of his men. His force was a little larger than 


Rennenkampf s — five infantry corps and a mass of cavalry. The 
German troops in East Prussia were thus greatly outnumbered. 
They consisted of four corps — the ist, ist Reserve, lyth, and 20th — 
and one division of cavalry. The way seemed plain for a con- 
verging movement by Rennenkampf and Samsonov which would 
drive the enemy behind the Vistula, provided that close touch 
was kept between the two Russian armies, for the terrain 
was exceptionally Wind and difficult. The dangers lay in the 
nature of the countryside, the incapacity of the group com- 
mander Gihnski to provide central direction, and the inevitable 
weakness of staff and intelligence work in armies so hastily 

At first Rennenkampf moved fast. After some skirmishing by 
cavalry and covering troops he crossed the border at Suwalki on 
6th August, marching in a north-westerly direction ; while Samsonov 
on the 5th advanced on both sides of the railway from Mlawa by 
Soldau to Allenstein. The town of Insterburg stands at the con- 
fluence of the rivers Inster and Pregel, and at the junction of the 
railways that run east from Konigsberg and south from Tilsit. 
It was the most important strategic position in that neighbour' 
hood, and to cover it Prittwitz made his first stand at Gum- 
binnen, a town on the railway some ten miles due east. It is a 
country of great woods of pine, interspersed with fields of rye, 
and thousands of trees were felled by the Germans to make abattis. 
On Sunday, i6th August, Rennenkampf came in touch with the 
enemy, and after severe fighting carried the place. On the 19th 
and 2oth the battle was renewed, the German left was threatened 
with envelopment, Insterburg was occupied by the Russians, and 
Prittwitz fell back upon Konigsberg, though, as at Gravelotte, 
the defeated army took a considerable number of prisoners. The 
retreat was hasty, the roads being strewn with abandoned material. 
Meantime Samsonov's vanguard had driven in the frontier guards 
and roughly handled a detachment of the German 20th Corps that 
attempted to hold Soldau against them. 

These victories gave the Russians for the moment the mas- 
tery of East Prussia, the sacred land of the German squirearchy. 
Rennenkampf occupied Tilsit, where Napoleon and Alexander 
of Russia once signed a treaty for the partition of the world. 
Konigsberg was directly threatened, and advanced cavalry moved 
in the direction of Danzig. On the 27th a fete was held in Pet- 
rograd, and by the sale of flags £20,000 was raised, which sum was 
to be given to the first Russian soldier who entered Berlin. The 

1914] HINDENBURG. 185 

opening round of the fight in the East had left Russia an 
apparent victor. 

But it was only the opening round, and the peripeteia was to 
be more sudden and dramatic than the success. The result of 
Gumbinnen and Soldau was to create something like consterna- 
tion in Berlin. On Tuesday, 25th August, the day when the 
British forces in the West were struggling out of the trap at 
Maubeuge, the high-water mark of the Russian invasion of East 
Prussia was reached. Russian cavalry had penetrated far to 
the west, driving before them crowds of fugitives. Some of the 
villages were burned — often by accident, for the wooden huts 
were hke tinder in that dry August weather. In the towns which 
they occupied the troops of the Tsar behaved with decorum and 
discretion. But the terror of their name was on the peasantry of 
East Prussia, who remembered wild tales of the ragged spearmen 
who had ridden through their land a hundred years ago and made 
little distinction between German allies and French opponents. 
With stories of universal burnings and slaughters the peasants 
and gentry alike fled over the Vistula, and brought to Berlin the 
news that East Prussia was in the grip of the enemy. The recon- 
quest of the country was necessary to the Germans for strategical 
reasons, for without it any advance from Posen would be caught on 
the flank. But apart from such considerations, the Emperor had 
a personal motive in undertaking the work of deliverance. The 
province was one of the oldest lands of the Prussian monarchy. 
Konigsberg had been the capital of the dukes of Prussia in the days 
when Berlin was an unknown fishing village among the swamps of 
the Spree. During every year of his reign the Emperor had spent 
some weeks in East Prussia, and his hunting lodge amid its forests 
was now in Russian hands. The invasion and overrunning of the 
province was to him a personal insult, only less intolerable ttan 
a descent upon the capital itself. He therefore directed the con- 
centration of a relieving force behind the Vistula, and he was for- 
tunate enough to find a competent commander. 

Before the outbreak of war there was living in retirement at 
Hanover a certain Paul von Hindenburg, who knew something of 
East Prussia, for he had commanded corps at Konigsberg and 
Allenstein. He was a veteran of the war of 1870, and later had 
been associated on the General Staff with Verdy du Vernois. He 
had a reputation as a resolute leader of men, and he had made some- 
thing of a speciality of Germany's north-eastern frontier. Though 
nearer seventy than sixty, he was a man of rude health and a body 


as hard as a deep-sea fisherman. He was a man, too, of a rugged 
strength of character — the strength that comes from simpHcity and 
singleness of aim and an unquestioning rehgious faith. On 22nd 
August the Emperor sent for him and offered him the command 
of the VIII. Army. As Chief of Staff he was given Ludendorff, 
who had just been awarded the Order of Merit for his perform- 
ance at Liege. It was a formidable combination of personality 
and mind — a combination which was to come within an ace of 
winning for Germany the war. 

The problem before the new general was a hard one. He had 
to stay the Russian advance, but he could get no reinforcements 
yet awhile from the west, and had to look only to what he could 
scrape together from the Vistula fortresses and the covering troops 
in Posen. His main asset was his admirable communications, 
for he had behind him lines by which he could move troops with 
great celerity from north to south. But the three corps in front of 
Rennenkampf were tired and depleted, and the 20th Corps before 
Samsonov seemed in no condition for a great effort. Luden- 
dorff, as he surveyed the scene, recognized that only a bold coup 
would save him, for a retreat behind the Vistula seemed to him 
unthinkable. He resolved to gamble on the gap that separated 
the two Russian armies, and bring his whole strength to bear on 
Samsonov. Their easy victories had inspired in the Russian com- 
manders a confidence not warranted by the facts of the case. Ren- 
nenkampf on the 25th was sitting down leisurely in front of the 
eastern defences of Konigsberg. Samsonov was marching boldly 
through the wilderness of forest, lake, and marsh towards Osterode, 
his army strung out on a broad front, and his columns widely 
separated from each other. The German Intelligence service knew 
that region better than the Russians ; if sufficient forces could be 
collected the unwary Samsonov might be destroyed. But these 
forces could only be got from Rennenkampf's front, and to move 
them was possible only if that general remained supine and ignorant 
of their transfer. 

Rennenkampf was blind, and the great hazard was success- 
fully taken. The ist, 17th, and ist Reserve Corps quietly slipped 
away southward, as well as one cavalry brigade, till on the 27th two 
cavalry brigades were all that remained facing Rennenkampf. 
On the morning of that day the German ist Corps lay echeloned on 
the right about Gilgenburg, the 20th Corps and the 3rd Reserve 
Divisions were at Tannenberg, a Landwehr division was at Osterode, 
and the 17th and ist Reserve Corps were north-east of Allenstein — 

1914] TANNENBERG. ' 187 

the whole forming a pocket into which Samsonov's five corps were 
slowly and carelessly marching. The battle began on the 26th 
with an affair of outposts, and for two days the Russians were 
under the impression that their attack was succeeding. They 
regarded their left as their dangerous flank, the right being appar- 
ently protected by Rennenkampf's position in the north. When 
they had thoroughly committed themselves to an offensive in impos- 
sible country, Hindenburg struck. He began by driving in the 
Russian left on the morning of the 28th, but this was only sub- 
sidiary to the deadly attack launched presently against their right 
wing east of Allenstein by the 17th and ist Reserve Corps from 
Rennenkampf's front. The two corps of the Russian centre, with 
which were Samsonov and his staff, were driven back into the 
big wood of Tannenberg, and presently it was clear that the enemy 
had forced his way between the two Russian armies. The attack- 
ing line was now a huge crescent, strongest on the left, and Sam- 
sonov was being shepherded into an almost roadless country, 
where the difficulties would grow with every hour. From 
Ludendorff's own account it would appear that the southern 
road of retreat by Mlawa was still open, but the state of 
the communications between the units of the Second Russian 
Army made it impossible to execute what would have been a 
difficult movement, even had the chance in that direction been 

There only remained the defile towards Ortelsburg, where 
there was a spit of solid ground between the marshes. On the 30th 
the Russians were in full retreat along this narrow outlet, and 
the bulk of Samsonov's force was shut up in a tract of ground 
where, between the clumps of wood, lay treacherous swamps 
and wide muddy lakes. The Russian batteries as they retired 
found their guns sinking to the axle-trees. The last day of the 
battle, 31st August, was an unrelieved disaster for the Russian 
army. Samsonov died, but how or when no man can tell. The 
Second Russian Army had been five corps strong at the beginning of 
the fight. Little more than one complete corps and a portion of 
another succeeded in gaining Ortelsburg and retreating eastward by 
the Une of the frontier railway. It was a very complete destruction. 
The Germans had between 80,000 and 90,000 prisoners in their 
hands, about the same number that had capitulated forty-four 
years before at Sedan. Hundreds of guns and ammunition wagons 
were taken, many of them left abandoned in swampy places, whence 
it was difficult for the victors to extricate their trophies. Huge 


quantities of supplies were also captured in the derelict trains on 
the Ortelsburg-Allenstein railway. 

Tannenberg ranks with the later Caporetto as one of the few 
battles in the war that in itself can be considered a complete and 
decisive victory. The veteran Hindenburg became the idol of the 
German people, and his triumph was well deserved. Strategically he 
had outmanoeuvred his opponent ; tactically he had shown, not for 
the first time in history, that with skilful handling a small force 
may envelop a larger. The battle bears a curious resemblance to 
Mukden, and in his last stricken hours Samsonov may have remem- 
bered that the German feint against one wing to hide a crushing 
attack on the other was the device which Oyama had used on 
Kuropatkin by means of Nogi's army. At Ludendorff' s suggestion 
the action, which was at first called by the name of Osterode or 
Hohenstein, was christened Tannenberg in memory of that other 
battle, now gloriously avenged, when in 1410 the Lithuanian and 
Polish hosts had broken the power of the Teutonic Order. 

The remnant of the defeated army retired across the frontier 
towards the Narev, followed up by a strong German pursuit. 
Without losing a day, Hindenburg set the main mass of his troops 
in movement towards the north-east along the Allenstein-Inster- 
burg railway, which formed his line of supply. Rennenkampf, 
whose communications were now threatened, abandoned the attack 
on Konigsberg at the news of Samsonov's disaster, left a position 
which he had elaborately prepared, and retreated eastward towards 
the Niemen. He had withdrawn beyond Insterburg before the 
German advance could come within striking distance. At Gum- 
binnen he fought a rearguard action with the German left, but 
he made no attempt to maintain himself in East Prussia, The 
invasion of that province had failed disastrously, and the Niemen 
for the moment must be the Russian hue of defence. 

It was now that Hindenburg made his first mistake. Rallying 
to his side all the German detachments in East Prussia, he crossed 
the Russian frontier in several columns on a broad front from 
Wirballen on the left to Augustovo on the right. In the wide forests 
near the latter place a single corps delayed his advance for a little, 
and there was much fighting among the woods before the tventual 
Russian retreat on Grodno. He occupied Suwalki, the capital of 
the Russian frontier province, and installed a German adminis- 
tration as if he regarded the district as a permanent annexation. 
There is evidence that he had reached a frame of mind, common 
to successful generals, which underrates the enemy's power of 


{Foiing p. iSS.) 


resistance. He was getting very near to that dangerous attitude 
which had been Samsonov's undoing, and he was to pay for his 
confidence. It is strange that the blunder should have been 
made, for it was obvious that, as Rennenkampf retired behind 
the Niemen, he must be falling back upon enormous forces sup- 
plied by the Russian mobilization. The province of Vilna was as 
certain to be strongly defended as the environs of Petrograd. 

Hindenburg's confidence was communicated to his country- 
men, and the moral effect of Tannenberg had a lasting influence on 
the war. Germany had anticipated great and immediate successes 
in the Western theatre, but no one believed that at the outset 
much could be done in the East. There the most that was hoped 
for was a defence that should for a time delay the Russian advance 
to the German frontier. But on the very day that news reached 
Berlin of the advance of the Germans to the gates of Paris there 
came tidings from the East that Hindenburg had destroyed a Russian 
army and cleared East Prussia of the invaders. Such a combina- 
tion of successes might well intoxicate any people. All talk of a 
mere defence in the East was abandoned ; Berlin began to clamour 
for an immediate advance on Warsaw ; and Hindenburg was hailed 
as the greatest soldier of the day, who was destined to free Germany 
for good and all from the menace of the Slav. In popular esteem 
the laurels of this rugged veteran far eclipsed the modest chap- 
lets of Kluck or Biilow. The Emperor raised him to the rank of 
Field-Marshal, and was soon to make him Commander-in-Chief of 
the armies in the East. 

We turn now to the campaign in the south. On the Posen 
side the Germans, early in August, occupied the three towns of 
Kalisz, Czestochova, and Bendzin, just inside the Russian frontier. 
The second was probably taken to provide a rallying-point for 
that Polish revolt against Russia for which Germany fondly hoped ; 
for Czestochova is one of the great religious centres to which pil- 
grims journey from every part of Poland, whether Russian, 
Austrian, or German. Presently they seized the Pohsh mining 
district of Dumbrovna, on the Silesian frontier, and, helped by the 
fact that their railway gauge was extended beyond the border- 
line, proceeded to transport coal to Germany. But on the Posen 
side there was no serious German advance during August. The 
German strategy for the moment was concerned with flanking 
movements, and their forces in Posen were only garrison troops 
and cavalry. In Galicia, however, the month of August saw a 


campaign of the first importance. Austria had assembled north 
of the Carpathians a force of thirty divisions, with the Archduke 
Frederick as Commander-in-Chief and Conrad von Hoetzendorff 
as Chief of Staff. Her aim was a flank attack directed at the 
gap in the frontier line between Lubhn and Cholm. For this 
purpose the I. Army under Dankl, and the IV. Army under Auffen- 
berg, based upon Przemysl, were to advance northward ; while the 
III. Army and part of the II., based upon Lemberg, were drawn 
up at right angles to them from the upper waters of the Bug as 
far south as the town of Halicz, to protect the right flank against 
any Russian attack from Kiev and Odessa. Apart from more 
distant objectives, it was vital for Austria to hold Galicia, for 
otherwise all her future plans would be compromised. For this 
an immediate offensive was necessary. Russia might cross the 
Galician frontier in three places — west of the point where the 
Vistula receives the waters of the San ; between the San and the 
upper Bug ; or on the east along the line of the river Sereth. 
The danger lay in a combined Russian movement against the 
first and third portions of the frontier, which would cut off and 
enclose the Austrian forces based upon Przemysl and Lemberg. 
To avoid this danger the boldest, and apparently the safest, plan 
was to advance northward against the Warsaw fortresses, for 
such a movement would in all likelihood prevent the Russian 
armies from crossing the Vistula, and defer any attack from the east 
against the Sereth. Austria gambled upon the incompleteness of 
the Russian mobilization. She knew that the initial concentration 
had taken place east of Warsaw, along the Bug and the Narev. The 
Army of the Narev was, as she knew, busily engaged in East Prussia, 
and the Army of the Bug appeared to be inconsiderable. She was 
aware of armies mustering to the east, south of the Pripet Marshes, 
and from the direction of Kiev ; but she hoped by a vigorous attack 
delivered towards Warsaw to compel these armies to reinforce the 
Russian centre, by which time she trusted to the coming of strong 
reinforcements from Posen and Germany. 

On loth August Dankl crossed the Polish frontier, moving 
towards Krasnik, and established contact with the enemy a few 
days later about thirty miles south of Lubhn. Here he was 
engaged with the smallest of Ivanov's forces, the Fourth Army, 
based on Brest Litovsk. Much outnumbered, the Russians slowly 
gave way, retreating eastwards towards the Bug valley, with their 
left protected by the fortress of Zamosc. That it was only a 
strategic retirement was presently made clear ; for during the 


third week of August the Third Russian Army, based on Kiev, 
began to cross the Galician frontier about Brody and move upon 
Lemberg from the east and north-east, menacing the right flank 
of Auffenberg's IV. Army. This force was commanded by Russki, 
one of the most learned of Russian soldiers and a professor at 
the War Academy, who in the Japanese campaign had been Chief 
of Staff to General Kaulbars, the commander of the 2nd Man- 
churian Army. Since then he had been the right-hand man of 
Sukhomlinov in his reorganization of the Russian forces. With him 
was associated a remarkable man, Radko Dmitrieff, who was born 
in 1859, in the little town of Grodez in Bulgaria, then a Turkish 
province. When his country obtained independence he was one 
of the first pupils who passed through the new military school at 
Sofia, and, since the Bulgarian army was then wholly under Russian 
control, finished his studies at the War Academy of Petrograd. 
He returned to his native land with the rank of captain on the eve 
of that rupture with Russia which in one day deprived the Bul- 
garian army of its staff, its generals, and most of its officers. Serbia 
seized the occasion to declare war, and Dmitrieff, suddenly pro- 
moted to the rank of colonel, brilliantly commanded a regiment 
in the campaign of Slivnitza. Later he was implicated in the 
conspiracy which ended in the abdication of Prince Alexander, 
and Stambulov forced him into exile. For more than ten years 
he served in the Russian army, and only returned to Bulgaria 
after the accession of Prince Ferdinand. In 1902 he became Chief 
of the General Staff, and commanded the military district on the 
Turkish frontier. When the war of the Balkan League broke out 
he commanded one of the Bulgarian armies, won the first victory 
at Kirk Kilisse, and led the left in the decisive battle of Lule Burgas- 
Bunarhissar, He was the popular hero of the Balkan War ; but, 
weary of the quarrels among the allies which followed it, he accepted 
an offer to re-enter the Russian service. Meantime the Eighth 
Russian Army, based upon Odessa, which had been deputed to 
watch the Rumanian frontier till Rumania's neutrality was cer- 
tain, was coming westward against Austria's right flank on the 
Sereth. It was commanded by Brussilov, a man then unknown 
to the world, but soon to be among the most famous of the Allied 
generals. By the 27th of August the forces of Brussilov and 
Russki were in touch, moving upon Lemberg and the III. and 
part of the II. Austrian Army in a vast semicircle. The line of 
battle now extended nearly two hundred miles from the Vistula 
to the Dniester. 


A glance at the map will show how vital to Austria was 
the possession of Lemberg. It was the key of th2 road and 
railway system of Eastern Galicia. It was the administrative 
capital of the province, and its most important commercial 
centre. For many centuries it had been a strongly-walled city, 
but of its old defences all that now remained was the citadel, 
an obsolete fortress without military value. The place was 
not fortified in the ordinary sense, and its defence depended 
upon the field armies. During the last week of August Russki 
fought his way slowly across the upper Bug, and found himself 
facing the entrenchments of the Austrian right centre along the 
Gnila Lipa, a tributary of the Dniester. His right wing was flung 
out well to the north-west, and was threatening to turn Auffen- 
berg's right flank in the direction of Tomasov. Meantime Brussilov 
had been hotly engaged on the Sereth. He captured the town of 
Tarnopol about the 27th ; a heavy engagement, which lasted for 
nearly three days, the Austrian entrenchments being stormed with 
the bayonet. The loss of Tarnopol compelled the Austrian right 
to fall back from the Sereth towards the Lemberg trenches. Brus- 
silov next swept upon Halicz, the ancient town on the Dniester 
which gave its name to Galicia. It was from Halicz that, in 1259, 
King Daniel of Ruthenia sent his son. Prince Leo, to found the 
new city of Leopol, which the Germans call Lowenburg, the Rus- 
sians Lvov, and which we know as Lemberg. The surrounding 
country is largely a series of volcanic ridges and extinct craters, 
admirably suited for defensive works. After two days' fierce con- 
flict Brussilov carried the Dniester, occupied Halicz, and wheeled 
northward towards Lemberg. 

The Battle of Lemberg began on ist September, and the main 
fighting lasted for two days. Its chief feature was a fierce attack 
by Brussilov on the Austrian right, aided by Dmitrieff, who carried 
the line of the Gnila Lipa ; while Russki 's right, sweeping round 
to the north of the city, drove in the Austrian left and threatened 
its communications. By the evening of 2nd September both of 
the Austrian wings had been driven in, and their Hne had been 
forced back into a flattened curve, with its left in imminent dan- 
ger of collapse under Russki's attack. Early in the morning of 
3rd September the Austrian Staff decided to abandon Lemberg, 
although as yet there had been no serious attack on the entrenched 
positions east of the city. At half-past ten on the morning of 
Thursday, 3rd September, the Russian flag broke from the flag- 
staff of the town hall. The population welcomed the conquerors 


with enthusiasm. Huge quantities of stores of every kind fell 
into Russian hands, and the total number of prisoners taken in 
the fighting of that week cannot have been less than 100,000. 
The Russians behaved with exemplary restraint. There was no 
looting or any kind of outrage. A Russian governor, Count 
Bobrinski, was appointed, and the city was carefully policed. 
The Grand Duke Nicholas issued a proclamation to the many races 
of the Dual Monarchy, which was skilfully framed, not only for 
Galicia, but for the discontented peoples beyond the Carpathians. 

But the Austrian HI. Army could not save itself by flight, for 
Russki was round its left flank. The result of two armies moving 
on divergent lines was now to reveal itself, for Russki was also 
threatening Auffenberg's right. There was no halt after Lemberg. 
Brussilov divided his army, and sent his left wing into the Car- 
pathian passes. Within the next ten days he had occupied Stryj, 
a town commanding the approach to the Uzsok Pass, and Czer- 
novitz, the capital of Bukovina. His centre and right advanced 
due westward along the railway towards Przemysl, while Dmitrieff 
with Russki 's left wing marched on a line between Grodek and 
Rava Russka, the railway junction where the line from Lemberg 
joins the line which follows the Galician frontier. Russki himself 
moved north-westward with his right to reinforce the Russian 
Fourth Army on the Bug. 

Meantime Dankl was in sore straits. The news of the fall of 
Halicz and Lemberg had convinced him of his peril, and he had to 
bethink himself of a way of meeting it. The natural course would 
have been to fall back and link up with Auffenberg on the San. 
A possible course was to attack at once before the Russian Army 
of the Bug could be reinforced, disperse it, and take Russki on 
the flank. This latter and bolder plan was the one adopted. 
Dankl had now received considerable reinforcements. His left 
was reinforced by von Woyrsch's German Landwehr Corps and 
a cavalry division from Cracow. It rested on the Vistula at Opole, 
and in case of a Russian turning movement across that river 
another German force from Czestochova moved towards it. The 
centre, under Dankl, extended just south of the Lublin-Cholm 
railway, behind Krasnostav, and then bent southward towards 
the GaHcian frontier at Tomasov ; on the right Auffenberg's IV. 
Army, which had now been largely strengthened, lay from Rava 
Russka to just west of Grodek. 

The first effort of the Austrian counter-offensive was made on 
4th September, against the Russian centre. But that centre was 


unexpectedly strong, and the attack collapsed. Thereupon the 
initiative passed to the Russians, and heavy fighting began on 6th 
September. The Russian strategy in these engagements completely 
outclassed the Austrian. Following the tactics of Mukden and 
Tannenberg, the Fourth Army feinted against the Archduke 
Joseph Ferdinand on the Austrian left, while the real Russian 
strength was being massed for an attack on the Austrian right. 
From 6th-ioth September the battle was joined everywhere from 
the Vistula to the upper Dniester. On the loth the Archduke 
Joseph, on the hills between Opole and Turobin, was decisively 
beaten by a brilliant frontal attack, aided by superior Russian 
gunnery, and was driven in ignominious retreat southward to- 
wards the San. In the Austrian centre things went no better. 
Dankl held on gallantly to the broken country between Turobin 
and Tomasov, but by loth September the pressure on his right 
compelled him to fall back. It was that right, Auffenberg's 
army, which had to face the heaviest attack, for against it came 
the victors of Lemberg, Russki and Dmitrieff. At Rava Russka 
it met its fate, being taken in flank and in front, and dispersed in 
utter confusion. When a " refused " flank is turned or broken, 
it means that the enemy gets well behind the centre of the defeated 
army. This was what now happened. The whole Austrian 
force hurled itself southward in acute disorder. The defeated 
right found sanctuary in Przemysl and Jaroslav ; the rest fled 
westward across the San and the Wisloka, and soon the van- 
guard of the flight was under the guns of Cracow. 

Austria had not been more successful in her operations in 
Serbia. Her two first Une corps had been withdrawn from Bosnia 
and sent north, and she attempted to conquer the country with 
second line troops. For some weeks there was much desultory 
and unrelated fighting, such as Balkan wars have often shown. 
The most serious engagements were along the line of the lower 
Save, more especially the struggle for Shabatz and the railway 
which connected with Losnitza on the Drina. On 12th August 
Shabatz fell, but on the i6th the Serbians checked the Austrian 
advance in that neighbourhood. On the same day a strong 
Austrian force from Bosnia, under General Potiorek, crossed the 
Drina and took the towns of Lesnitza and Losnitza, its object being 
to co-operate with the Shabatz contingent and pen the Serbians in 
the triangle of land between the Save and Drina and Jadar. But 
on the 19th the Serbian Crown Prince attacked the Bosnian army 


.(wer iqaa 3uA) a oua ^na^io 


on both banks of the Jadar, and after four days' hard fighting 
completely defeated it. The fire of their Creusot guns began what 
the rifle and the bayonet completed, and the troops, which had 
learned their trade at Kumanovo, Uskub, and Monastir, drove the 
Austrians with great loss across the Drina. By the 24th August 
Shabatz was evacuated, and the Serbians could claim with truth 
that they had cleared their country of the enemy. 

The end of the first week of September marked the close of the 
first round in the Eastern campaign. Russia, only partially pre- 
pared, had hurled herself into the combat, and in East Prussia 
had paid heavily for her temerity. But her sacrifice had not beei\ 
fruitless, for it had its influence on the greater struggle in the West ; 
and though she had lost the bulk of one army, she was now safe 
behind the Niemen. For the rest, her own territory was untrodden 
by the enemy, save for a few German detachments near the Posen 
border. On the other hand, at the very outset she had brought 
Austria to the brink of demoralization. The main armies of the 
Dual Monarchy had been routed in four great battles, and were 
fleeing westward ; the Russian flag flew over Lemberg ; Russian 
cavalry were crossing the Carpathians, and Russian armies were 
pressing on with their faces towards Cracow. In the field she had 
done enough to waken her national confidence and to compel the 
enemy to revise his plans. She had also thrown down the gage 
of a war to the bitter end, for on the 15th August the Grand Duke 
Nicholas, on behalf of his Emperor, had issued to Poland a pro- 
clamation promising that self-government which had been the 
object of a century's agitation. In the old proud days Poland 
had been a great kingdom. Then came evil times, till in 1772 
began those acts of public brigandage by Austria, Russia, and 
Prussia, with the rest of Europe consenting, which form perhaps 
the most shameful violation in history of international decency. 
Poland was an unconscionable time a-dying, and not till the first 
quarter of last century was the partition complete. Her plunder 
did not greatly benefit the brigands. Galicia gave Austria many 
anxious moments, Prussian Poland was a thorn in the Kaiser's 
side, and Russia only maintained her rule in Warsaw by the ready 
sword. Of the three, Russia seemed to stand in the most favour- 
able position, for she was a Slav power dealing with fellow-Slavs, 
though divided from them by a difference in religious creeds. 
Home Rule for Poland was an idea which the Emperor had long 
had under consideration. Now he was committed to it, and to 


much more ; for he was bound not only to make Russian Poland 
a self-governing state under Russia's protection, but to reconsti- 
tute its old boundaries. It meant that, if the Allies won, Austria 
and Germany must disgorge— that GaHcia must be given up by 
one and Prussian Poland by the other. At the beginning of 
the campaign Russia had made it clear what territory she would 
demand when the campaign was over. She was fighting for 
Danzig, Posen, and Cracow ; and such a demand Germany would 
never concede unless utteriy routed. We know Bismarck's views 
on this question. " Nobody doubts," he had said in 1894, " that 
we would have to be crushed before we gave up Alsace. The same 
applies in still greater measure to our eastern frontier. We cannot 
dispense either with Posen or Alsace, with Posen still less than 
with Alsace. . . . Munich and Stuttgart are not more endangered 
by a hostile occupation of Strassburg or Alsace than Berlin would 
be by an enemy in the neighbourhood of the Oder. . . . How our 
existence could shape itself if a new kingdom of Poland were to 
be formed nobody has yet had the courage to inquire." 

By the close of the first week of September in the Western 
theatre a no less dramatic change had come over the scene. We 
must return to the great battle which had meantime been joined 
between Paris and Lorraine. 


26th August-^th September. 

Comparison of Situation with 1870— The Defence of Paris— Kluck changes Direc- 
tion—His Justification — The Eve of the Marne — Jofire issues Orders for Battle. 

The opening of September brought round the Day of Sedan, that 
anniversary which for more than forty years has been the national 
festival of the German Empire. BerHn witnessed a demonstration 
that was designed to advertise to the Fatherland and to the world 
that triumphs were being won no less glorious than the victories 
of 1870. Escorted by brilliant troops, with bands playing 
patriotic airs, many captured guns were drawn through the gaily 
decked streets. There one might see Belgian and French cannon 
and a few British pieces, carefully repaired and remounted to con- 
ceal the fact that they had not been taken by a dashing charge 
but picked up shattered and useless on some Picardy battlefield. 
When the parade was over the guns were parked before the Imperial 
Palace, and the citizens of Berlin had pleasant talk of successes 
already secured, of hostile armies in process of dissolution, and of 
Paris to be occupied before the week of Sedan had ended. The 
momentary depression caused by the entry of Britain into the 
war had passed. In their chief newspapers they read that words 
were too weak to describe the magnitude of the German triumph. 
It was a pardonable exaggeration, for in wartime the patriotic jour- 
nahst does not deal in strict values, and the German press had some 
foundation for its rhetoric. In the Eastern theatre the invasion of 
East Prussia had been stayed, and the tide of battle was clearly on 
the turn. In the West, fortress after fortress had fallen before the 
shock of the German guns, or had surrendered to the mere menace 
of their attack. Belgium had been overrun, its capital occupied, 
its army pent up behind the forts of Antwerp. The Allied armies 
of France and England had assumed the offensive along the frontier, 



and in ten days had been driven back a hundred miles to that 
valley which Napoleon had held to be the last defence of Paris. 
To the annals of German arms there had been added a new roll 
of battles won. For the future German historian the names of 
Morhange and Virton, Longwy and the Semoy, Charleroi and Mons 
and Dinant, Tournai, Le Cateau, Bapaume, and Rethel would be 
names of victory. There were the broad, indisputable facts that 
the Allied armies had yielded ground everywhere day by day ; 
that the German armies had poured into France like a rising flood 
sweeping over a lowland when the dykes are broken ; and, if the 
dykes were to be represented by the fortresses, it seemed that Ger- 
many in her new artillery had an engine that could swiftly and 
surely level every barrier to her triumphant march. Such were, 
in German eyes, the situation and the outlook in the first days of 
the week of Sedan. At the moment it seemed that this rosy 
estimate had good warrant, and that the German " plan " was 
working with mechanical precision. France would be swiftly 
crushed, and then whole armies, flushed with victory, could be 
transferred to the Eastern battle front for a march on the Vistula.* 
On 26th August Gallieni had been appointed Governor of Paris, 
and his predecessor, Michel, had volunteered to serve under him. 
Gallieni was a veteran of 1870, and as a young officer of marines he 
had fought in Lebrun's corps in the desperate defence of Bazeilles on 
the day of Sedan. He was best known in France as the soldier who 
had completed the conquest of Madagascar, and reorganized the 
great island as a French colony. It was this talent for organization 
that marked him out as the man for his new post. The defences of 
the French capital had been widely extended since the siege of 1870, 
when the circuit of the outlying forts was about thirty-two miles. 
Erected under the defence scheme of Thiers in the days of Louis 
Philippe, they had been planned to resist the attack of the short- 
range artillery of the period, and in the siege they could not protect 
the city from bombardment. De Rivieres' plans, drawn up in 1874, 
included Versailles in the region to be defended, and the new 
fortifications were a second outer ring of forts, redoubts, and 
batteries covering a circle of more then seventy-five miles, and 
holding all the high ground on which the Germans in 1870 had 
erected their siege guns. The drawback of such a vast entrenched 
camp was that it required a huge army for its garrison, and though 

* Moltke had named the thirty-ninth or fortieth day after mobilization as the 
date of the decision in the West (K. F. Novak's Der Weg zur Katastrophe). He was 
almost exactly right — but in a sense difierent from what he meant. 


its extent made investment almost impossible, no such operation 
was required for the attack. As the parallel case of Antwerp was 
to show, if the Germans had appeared before Paris in September 
1914 they would have concentrated their efforts upon one sector 
of the outlying circle of forts, and if they had broken through 
these the inner line would have been of small value, and the city 
itself would have been at once exposed to long-range bombard- 
ment. Further, it was an open secret that even the outer and newer 
defences were not of any great strength. They were old-fashioned 
works of the 1874 type, planned before the days of high explosive 
shells, and no effort had been made to bring them up to date, for 
the French Government had come to regard an attack on Paris 
as outside the range of practical possibilities. The works had even 
been neglected. They were armed with old guns, and there was 
a deficiency of stores for completing the defences between the 
forts. To take one example, the amount of barbed wire for en- 
tanglements did not suffice for even one front of the great fortress. 
Gallieni, on his appointment to the command, did what he could 
in the last days of August to remedy the neglect of years. Trenches 
were dug on a circumference of a hundred miles, guns and muni- 
tions assembled, and supplies collected for a population of four 
million. But it was hopeless to think to complete in a few days 
a work that demanded many thousands of hands for many weeks. 

Paris had refused to be alarmed by the exploits of German 
airmen who made daring flights over the city and dropped bombs 
into the streets. Curiosity seemed to banish fear. Instead of 
taking refuge under cover, men, women, and children stood 
gazing up at the enemy's war-hawks. When, in the last days 
of August, however, the official news at last admitted that the 
Allied armies were everywhere in retreat, when numbers of strayed 
and wounded soldiers appeared in the streets, and the distant 
growling of cannon and the blowing up of bridges could be heard 
from the north-eastern suburbs, there came a wave of anxiety and 
alarm. A considerable exodus began of the well-to-do classes, 
who dreaded a siege, and could afford to make a long journey. 
There was much movement to England by way of Havre, the trains 
making their way to the coast by devious roads, mostly on the 
west bank of the Seine. The exodus to the southern provinces and 
overseas accounted for perhaps one-quarter of the normal population 
of the capital. Those who were in the secrets of the Government 
had most cause for alarm. On the 28th it was resolved to declare 
Paris an open town and abandon it, but on the 30th this decision 


was cancelled, and Gallieni announced that he had received Joffre's 
orders to defend the capital against all invaders and would fulfil 
the mandate to the end — " jusqu'au bout," a phrase soon to become 
a national watchword. On the night of the 31st it was known 
that the Government meant to leave the city, and two days later 
the President and the Ministers departed for Bordeaux. The step 
awoke disquieting memories of 1870. Already the enemy was as 
near to the towers of Notre Dame as is Windsor to the dome of 
St. Paul's. 

But in truth there was no parallel. In the month of cam- 
paigning that ended at Sedan France was irrevocably beaten. 
The first engagement at Saarbruck took place on 2nd August. 
On 4th August the German armies began to pass the frontier. 
On the 6th the French right under MacMahon was defeated at 
Worth, and the left, under Frossard, at Forbach, Then came 
Napoleon III.'s first reluctant admission of failure, the telegram 
to Paris, " Tout pent se retahlir " — " All may yet be regained " — 
a confession that much had been already lost. MacMahon re- 
treated to Chalons ; Bazaine, with the " Army of the Rhine," 
fell back on Metz, and, as the result of the three battles which 
ended at Gravelotte (St. Privat) on i8th August, was penned up 
in that fortress. Then came MacMahon's ill-advised march north- 
eastward, a movement imposed upon him for political reasons 
by the Paris Regency. It ended on ist September in the surren- 
der at Sedan. The Germans advanced to the siege of Paris, and 
the French Government was transferred to Tours. But France 
was beaten, not because the invader had marched far into the 
country and was about to besiege her capital — not even because 
the Germans had been victorious at Weissenburg, Spicheren, 
Worth, Borny, Mars-la-Tour, Gravelotte, and Sedan. She was 
vanquished because her field armies were, in the military sense of 
the word, " destroyed." About a quarter of a million men had been 
sent to the eastern frontier, where they had met some 400,000 
Germans. After heavy losses in the field, 170,000 were shut up 
in Metz, and less than 50,000 reached Chalons, where they were 
reinforced by about the same number, and marched out to surren- 
der at Sedan. The army of Chalons was thus utterly swept away ; 
the army of Metz was shut up in the fortress, and doomed presently 
to a like fate. There remained to France only one or two regular 
units, some improvised armies of depot troops, mostly young 
recruits, the half-drilled or wholly untrained National Guards 
and Mobiles, and a few corps of Volunteers. These raw levies 

1914] THE WEEK OF SEDAN. 201 

had to be enrolled, armed, and given some rough instruction, and 
then hurried into action under officers who, for the most part, knew 
nothing of their business, and soon found to their cost that the 
most reckless courage was useless without discipline. Bismarck 
contemptuously described them as " not soldiers, but men with 
muskets." The war dragged on till the following January ; but 
every element of success, except devoted bravery, was absent. 
Improvised armies, directed in their general strategy by a group 
of politicians, fought in vain against well-ordered forces, more than 
a million strong, directed by a brilliant staff and led by veteran 
generals. They could not secure victory, but they fought on to 
the end for the honour of France. The fate of the campaign had 
been decided on two battlefields in the first month of operations — 
Gravelotte which doomed the army of Bazaine, and Sedan which 
destroyed the army of MacMahon. 

Let us compare with this the situation in the week of Sedan in 
1914. Once more, within a month of the day when the first shots 
were fired — nay, within a fortnight of the first great battles — the 
French armies found themselves defeated and driven from the 
frontier ; the German invaders had marched so far into the heart 
of the land that again a siege of Paris seemed imminent ; and the 
Government was forced to abandon the capital. But, apart from 
the fact that France, which had stood alone in the terrible days 
of 1870, now fought beside powerful allies, the whole situation 
was radically different, and different in the one great essential. 
The Allied armies had, indeed, suffered defeat in a gigantic clash 
of arms, compared to which the battles of 1870 were small engage- 
ments ; but they had not been destroyed. They were still intact, 
and ready to measure themselves once more against the invader. 
They had trained men ready to make good their losses. The 
Germans had failed in their main object — to put masses of their 
opponents permanently out of action in a decisive battle, so that 
the subsequent operations would be merely a gathering up of the 
fruits of victory. After Sedan the Germans had to face only im- 
provised levies. After the anniversary of Sedan in this new in- 
vasion they had still before them the unbroken might of France 
and Britain. In war partial successes count for nothing except in 
so far as they pave the way for the " decision " — the definite 
success that destroys the opponent's resistance. The mere occu- 
pation of ground, the seizure of towns, the overrunning of prov- 
inces, may serve a useful purpose, but these are not the decisive 
factors. The one thing that counts is the dispersion, disarmament. 


and capture of the enemy's fighting force, or its reduction to such 
a state that resisting power has gone out of it. 

Apart from the military position, the moral of the nation was 
wholly different from 1870. There had been no easy confidence 
of victory, no boasting, no singing of music-hall catches, when the 
French armies marched north and east. War had come to France 
as a solemn duty, long foreseen — a national sacrifice of which the 
cost had been counted. 1870 had been for her a year of crum- 
bling constitutions. The Napoleonic bubble had burst ; the " Liberal 
Empire " of M. Ollivier had suffered no better fate ; everywhere 
there were dissolution, discontent, and distrust. The politicians, 
not the soldiers, directed the war, and the politicians were cast 
in a mean mould. The riff-raff of the population was out of hand, 
and power was passing to the fanatics and mountebanks of the 
Commune. In 1870 there were parties, but it was hard to find a 
nation. In 19 14 France had forgotten all lesser rivalries, and 
was united in one grave and inflexible purpose. In M. Poincare 
she had as President a man whose brilliant attainments and sober 
good sense carried on the best traditions of Republican states- 
manship. On 27th August the Ministry was reconstructed on a 
national basis. Under M. Viviani as Premier, M. Delcasse became 
Foreign Minister, M. Millerand Minister of War, M. Ribot Minister 
of Finance, M. Briand Minister of Justice. In this cabinet of 
defence all political schools were represented. M. Clemenceau, 
indeed, stood outside, but that was scarcely a disadvantage, for 
the famous " destroyer of Ministries " remained to act the part 
of a critical but patriotic Opposition. In all the land there was no 
dissentient voice. M. Jaures, the leader of the pacificists, had died 
by an assassin's hand on the last day of July, but not before he 
had blessed his country's enterprise. Even M. Herve, the inter- 
national socialist, who in the past had talked of " consigning the 
tricolour to the dunghill," now recanted his errors, and volunteered 
for service in the ranks. From statesmen and people there would be 
no folly forthcoming to tie the hands of the armies in the im- 
pending crisis. 

In every campaign there comes a moment of high tide, when 
the strength of one of the combatants is stretched taut, and on 
the fighting of the next day or two depends the success or failure 
of a great strategical plan. That moment was now approaching 
in the Western theatre. By one of the mysterious anticlimaxes 
so common in war, a complete change was coming over the scene. 
The time had arrived for the Allies to strike back and go forward. 


With the battles on the Marne — battles to be fought on a front 
of more than a hundred miles — began a new act in the drama. 
To understand this most complex movement it is necessary to 
examine the mind of the German and Allied commands in the 
closing days of the retreat. 

We must first consider the plan of German Great Head- 
quarters. There is no evidence that at any time they regarded 
Paris as the main object of attack, though all their armies were 
cheered by the promise of a speedy entry into the French capital. 
Their military theorists from Clausewitz to Bernhardi had con- 
sistently preached the doctrine of the " major objective," the 
destruction of the enemy's field army. They were not blind to 
the peculiar importance of Paris ; Bernhardi had classed it with 
Vienna as one of the two capitals the capture of which had a de- 
cisive miUtary importance ; but the taking of it, while Joffre's 
armies remained intact, might well prove a doubtful blessing. 
They were correctly informed about its defences, and realized 
that, while a sector could no doubt be taken by assault, the enter- 
prise would be costly and slow, and would require a German army 
and a great weight of artillery, while in the meantime the main French 
forces would have leisure to recover. For investment they simply 
had not the men. By the end of August, when the resolution of 
the French Government and of Gallieni was apparent, they may 
well have been convinced that even the capture of Paris would 
not mean the demoralization of France. For one moment, as we 
have seen, they had wavered in this view. After Le Cateau they 
seem to have believed that the enemy was indeed broken, and 
Kluck was ordered to move south-west to the lower Seine and so 
bring the capital inside the battle-Hne. But Lanrezac's turn at 
Guise on the 29th disillusioned them, and they acquiesced in 
Kluck's proposal to swerve south-east, closing up on Biilow, and so 
leave Paris on his right flank. In this decision they wished to 
take all due precautions against a sally from inside the Paris 
defences. On the night of 2nd September Kluck was informed 
that the intention was to drive the French in a south-easterly 
direction away from the capital, and was ordered to follow in 
echelon behind Biilow and make himself responsible for the flank 
protection of the German front. That he chose to disregard this 
order was not the fault of Great Headquarters. 

But in a sense he was justified in his disobedience. Great 
Headquarters wished to have both success and security, and the 
two were incompatible. Their urgent need was a decisive victory. 


Things were in a perilous state in the East, in spite of Tannenberg. 
Austria was stumbling from failure to failure, and would presently 
need help. Already corps had had to be sent eastward from 
France, and large bodies of troops were detained at Antwerp, 
at Brussels, at Maubeuge, and along the ever lengthening communi- 
cations. Kluck and Biilow, the marching wing of the advance, 
had been compelled to shed brigades as if there were no armies of 
France before them. By this time the German forces had lost any 
chance of superiority in numbers. Their men, who had broken 
every record for their speed of advance, were, as the daily reports 
of the army commanders told them, very weary. " The men 
stagger forward," wrote one of Kluck's officers on 2nd September, 
" their faces coated with dust, their uniforms in rags, looking hke 
living scarecrows. They march with their eyes closed, singing in 
chorus so that they shall not fall asleep. ... It is only the delirium 
of victory which sustains our men, and, in order that their bodies 
may be as intoxicated as their souls, they drink to excess, but this 
drunkenness helps to keep them going. . . , Abnormal stimulants 
are necessary to make abnormal fatigue endurable. We will put all 
that right in Paris." The German people might be confident and 
hilarious, but Great Headquarters knew that their fortunes were 
on a razor edge. At all costs they must bring the enemy to action 
at once and secure a decision. 

So far they had to admit that they had not succeeded. There 
had been a week's futile delay in Belgium. The chance of en- 
veloping the enemy on the Sambre had failed. It had failed even 
more ignominiously on the Somme. Now the attempt had to be 
made under far more difficult conditions, but made it must be. 
To relapse into anything approaching a defensive would take the 
heart out of the troops and deprive the armies of the fruit of their 
cumulative blows. Joffre might strike back with deadly con- 
sequences at a puzzled and dispirited front. Therefore the risk 
of Paris must be faced, and the envelopment, which had so far 
failed, must be achieved south of the Marne. How great the risk 
was the High Command did not know owing to the faultiness of 
their Intelligence service. They discovered it on the evening of 
4th September, and ordered the I. and II. Armies to halt facing 
the eastern front of Paris. But by that time the mischief had 
been done. The I. Army was over the Marne and approaching 
the Seine, and had now to conform to Joffre's will. 

The true criticism of the German High Ccmmand is not that 
out of pedantry it forewent its chance of demoralizing the enemy 

1914] KLUCK'S DECISION. 205 

by the seizure of his capital. That seizure could not have been 
made without exposing the German armies to a fatal riposte, and 
in any case it would not have met the clamorous need to put 
Joffre out of action. A battle for Germany was an instant necessity, 
and she took the only way to secure it. Where she failed was far 
back in her whole conception of enveloping strategy. To envelop 
great armies without a colossal superiority in numbers was from 
the start a forlorn hope. It was a plan born of over-confidence and 
one contrary to the doctrine of Clausewitz, who had always taught 
that the manoeuvre was impossible unless the enemy force was 
wholly engaged with the attackers' centre.* 

Kluck, on whom the main duty of envelopment lay, fulfilled 
what he believed to be the spirit of the orders of Great Head- 
quarters, but disobeyed them in detail. So far, partly from the 
poverty of his information and partly because of the preposterous 
handling of the cavalry, for which he was not wholly responsible, 
he had been grossly unsuccessful. He had let the British army 
slip out on at least three occasions when he had had it in his hand. 
But the man was of a resolute temper and a born leader of troops, 
and he would not consent to failure. He saw Germany's need for a 
decisive battle, and he was resolved to give it her. For this reason 
he refused to obey the order of 28th August to march to the south- 
west, and on the 30th began to turn south and south-east to close 
in on the II. Army. His object was to find the operative flank of 
the enemy, which he conceived to be the French Fifth Army. 
The great decision to neglect Paris was made on or before the 30th ; 
it was known to regimental officers, as we learn from captured 
letters, not later than 3rd September ; and his two left corps, the 
9th and the 3rd, may have guessed it on ist September when they 
crossed the Aisne. He was aware of the danger from Paris, and 
detached his 4th Reserve Corps and a cavalry division to cover 
his right rear. Apart altogether from the instructions of Great 
Headquarters, he could only hope to deal with Paris by using the 
whole of his army, and this would have meant an enormous widen- 
ing of the gap between him and Biilow, which as late as 4th 

• See also Freytag-Loringhoven's remarks, Deductions from the World War 
(Eng. trans., p. 80). The locus classicus on the subject is a passage in von der Goltz's 
Kriegfuhrung (a much better book than his more popular Volk im Waffen). There 
he distinguishes an ordinary flank attack (Flugelangriff) from the more deadly 
operation of envelopment. Envelopment may be either Umfassung or Umgehung, 
the former being the envelopment of one flank, as at Sadowa, the latter a complete 
surrounding, as at Sedan. In August 1914 the Germans aimed primarily at Umfas- 
sung, but even the limited envelopment demanded, on von der Goltz's showing, 
either great numerical superiority or a complete breakdown in the enemy's moral. 


September was nearly fifty miles. To take Paris was impossible 
for a single German army ; even to secure the German flank against 
any danger from Paris would have required the whole of Kluck's 
forces, li the French left was to be enveloped and a great battle 
fought, every available man would be needed ; it was imperative, 
therefore, that the minimum rearguard should be left to watch 
the capital, while he took his main force south-eastward against 
the French left. He was conscious of the risk, but decided on the 
evidence before him that the risk was justified. 

Such we may assume to have been the reasoning of the com- 
mander of the I. Army. His whole thoughts were directed to 
forcing battle, and with this in mind he deliberately neglected the 
orders of 2nd September to echelon himself behind Biilow. At 
the moment a considerable part of his force was beyond the Marne, 
while the H. Army was a good day's march behind. To carry 
out the instructions of Great Headquarters would mean a two days' 
halt, which would not only give the enemy a chance to recover 
but would prevent the projected envelopment. It is difficult to 
say that Kluck's decision was wrong. If the major objective, 
the battle, was to be attained, complete security from the direction 
of Paris was impossible, unless Great Headquarters sent him four 
or five more divisions. He was gambling, but gambling with a 
cool head, carrying out the main purpose of his superiors, and to 
this end disregarding any contradictory instructions on details. 
Whatever he did he must take risks, but the risks, on the infor- 
mation he possessed, seemed not unreasonable. So he pressed on 
till on the 5th September he was south of the Grand Morin. In 
about thirty days his army had covered 312 miles without a rest — 
an achievement of which much of the renown must rest with its 
dogged commanding officer. 

The last stage, presenting as it did a flank to the enemy, has 
been and must continue to be among the most sharply criticized 
movements of the campaign. But the failure in which it resulted 
does not necessarily involve an extreme reprobation of the re- 
sponsible general. Kluck was left with no other choice. If an 
enveloping battle was required, it was the only means to force it. 
It may be argued, indeed, that an army commander is entitled to 
protest against a decision of the High Command which is clearly 
suicidal, that Kluck was of a stalwart and independent character, 
and that he did not protest. But it is certain that on the meagre 
information which he possessed, the decision did not appear suicidal 
or the risk unjustifiable. He, like all the other army commanders. 


was kept ill-informed about the general situation. He did not 
know what was happening to his colleagues, " whose reports of 
decisive victories," he complained, " have so far been frequently 
followed by appeals for support." He did not hear till the evening 
of 5th September that the German left wing, which he had believed 
to be triumphantly advancing, was checked before the eastern 
fortresses. The lack of this knowledge was responsible for his 
misjudging of the offensive capacities of Paris. He had no great 
respect for the divisions of Maunoury with which he had hitherto 
been in touch, and considered that his rearguard was competent 
to hold them. He thought that the French armies of the centre 
and right were so closely engaged that they could not spare troops 
to move to the left behind the French front. He thought, as did 
Great Headquarters, that the stout defence in Lorraine meant 
the presence there of far larger forces than was in reality the case. 
He erred, too, in underestimating the British army. He thought 
that it was broken, demoralized, and out of action. The litter and 
debris of the retreat had convinced him that its transport was in 
chaos, and, since he assumed that its base was the eastern Channel 
ports, he conceived that he had cut its only communications, 
and that it now wandered a forlorn remnant south of the Seine. 
Like all his class he forgot that a maritime Power can change its 
base at will — that, as Francis Bacon wrote three hundred years 
ago : "He that commands the sea is at great hberty." These 
miscalculations, which were shared by his superiors, were to bring 
him defeat ; but, granted the data on which he had to work, it is 
hard to see how he could have decided otherwise.* 

We turn to the French Command. After the debacle of 24th 
August Joffre had, as we have seen, revised his whole conception of 
the campaign, and resolved to disengage his armies by a strategic 
retirement and fall back to such a position as would enable him to 
use the reserves which he was hastily collecting. These reserves 
consisted of Maunoury's Sixth Army on the extreme French 
left, and Foch's Ninth Army in the centre between Franchet 
d'Esperey and Langle de Cary. The Ninth Army, which was 
a reorganization of commands rather than a reinforcement, had 
been coming into place during the last week of August, and sharing 

• Kluck has been severely criticized by most English writers on the war; 
less severely and more acutely by the French (except General Cherfils). The view 
given above is based principally on his own narrative, The March on Paris (Eng. 
trans., 1920), on Billow's Mein Bericht zur Marneschlacht, 1919, and the pamphlet Die 
Schlahcten an der Marne, 1916, believed to reflect the views of the younger Moltke. 


in the general retreat. When completed it was to consist of the 
42nd Division, taken from the 6th Corps of the Third Army ; the 
gth and nth Corps, from the Fourth Army; the 52nd and 6oth 
Reserve Divisions, also from the Fourth Army ; and the 9th Divi- 
sion of cavalry. It could only assemble slowly, but by 3rd Sep- 
tember most of it lay to the east of Epernay. Joffre correctly 
assumed that the German plan of envelopment included the breach 
of his centre, and Foch was there to strengthen it. Maunoury's 
Sixth Army, which had to be brought from greater distances, was 
still slower in its formation. It was to consist of the 7th Corps 
from Alsace, the 4th Corps from the Third Army, Sordet's ist 
Cavalry Corps, four reserve divisions — the 55th, 56th, 6ist, and 
62nd — a Moroccan brigade, and the new 45th Division, composed 
of troops from Algeria. But the 45th Division would not be ready 
till 6th September, and the 4th Corps would only detrain in Paris 
on the 5th. On the evening of 2nd September, while the Germans 
were in Senlis, Maunoury's force, as yet far from completion and 
part of it very weary with its fighting from Arras southward, lay 
behind the shelter of the forests of Ermenonville and Chantilly, 
across the north-eastern suburbs of Paris from Dammartin to the 
Marne. On that day Joffre had not yet his mass of manoeuvre in 
readiness for action. 

The French Commander-in-Chief had kept an open mind as to 
when and where he should make his stand. He had hoped for the 
Somme, but Kluck's south-western wheel had convinced him that 
that was impossible, and he had the fortitude to resist the tempta- 
tion of a local success like Guise, and possess his soul in patience 
till the appointed time. On the 2gth, as we have seen, he told Sir 
John French that he had resolved to fall back behind the Marne. 
At that date he was willing to make Paris an open town, but next 
day the arguments of Gallieni made him consent to its defence. 
But he was not prepared to allow any part of his field force to be 
entangled there, always excepting Maunoury's Sixth Army, for 
which it was the base and place of assembly. On ist September he 
contemplated a great extension of the retreat. He wished the 
enemy to go deeper into the sack he had prepared for him, and he 
wanted time to get ready the string of that sack, the Sixth Army. 
He also hoped for news of a Russian victory which would dislocate 
the German plans. On ist September he indicated to his armies 
as the probable limit of their retirement a line behind the Seine, 
the Aube, and the Ornain. He seems to have imagined that 
Kluck would be engaged with Maunoury and the British on the 


east front of Paris, and in that case he intended to fling his strongest 
army, the Fifth, through the gap between Kluck and Biilow and 
against Biilow's unprotected right. This decision, even remem- 
bering that it was taken in ignorance of the exact details of Kluck's 
change of direction, was beyond doubt a blunder. To resume the 
offensive behind a large river like the Seine would have been a 
difficult task against an enemy far superior in heavy artillery. No 
provision, moreover, was made for holding bridgeheads on the 
northern bank for the purpose of recrossing. Had these orders 
been carried out, the Germans might well have occupied a position 
on the Seine such as they were later to create on the Aisne. There 
would have been no Battle of the Marne, and soon Paris and 
Verdun would have fallen. Nay, worse might have followed, for 
the line suggested was impossible, since it had no flanking supports 
to take the place of the Meuse Heights and the capital.* 

But fate intervened to correct the error. About midnight on 
31st August Maunoury telegraphed to Gallieni that Kluck seemed to 
be sheering off from Paris. That evening, it will be remembered, 
the flank guard of the I. Army was Marwitz's cavalry, heading 
south-eastward through the forest of Compiegne, and Maunoury, 
who was then falling back on Creil, had word of its route and drew 
the correct inference. The thing was, however, not yet proven, 
and it was only in the early hours of 3rd September that indis- 
putable evidence came to Maunoury's superior, Gallieni, in Paris. 
For while on the 26th August Gallieni had been placed under 
Joffre, Maunoury's army, at the moment the garrison of Paris, 
was under Gallieni, and it was not till the Battle of the Ourcq 
developed that it passed out of the Paris command. About noon 
Gallieni issued a note to the garrison warning them of the apparent 
change in the German march, and at once communicated with 
Joffre. He received no reply that day, and indeed seems not to 
have been aware of the orders for the further retreat issued on ist 
September. Next morning he took the matter into his own hands. 
At 9 a.m. on the 4th he warned the Sixth Army that he intended 
to use it for an attack on Kluck's flank, and ordered it to be ready 
to march that afternoon and begin the general movement next 
day. Then he proceeded to telephone to Joffre, who from cap- 
tured maps had learned about Kluck on the evening of the 2nd, 
but who had to wait till the Sixth Army was disengaged, which 
did not happen till the 4th. At 2.50 p.m. the Commander-in- 

* For the most unfavourable view of Joflre's action see General Le Gros's La 
Genise de la Bataille de la Marne. 


Chief authorized the advance of Maunoury's army for the next 
day. Meantime Gallieni had received orders, issued two days 
before, directing the British army to go behind the Seine. Such 
a move would wreck his plans, so he hastened with Maunoury 
to the British Headquarters, from which unfortunately Sir John 
French was absent. The British retirement therefore could not 
be stayed on that day. At this most critical juncture it is obvious 
that the machinery of direction was difficult owing to the several 
semi-independent commands. But Joffre showed no indecision. 
His mind was made up when the news about Kluck's march was 
verified, and he struck as soon as the Sixth Army was ready. 

During the evening of 4th September Joffre issued his first 
orders for battle. Dispositions were to be taken up on the 5th 
with a view to an attack on the 6th upon the German I. Army by 
the Allied armies of the left. The Sixth Army was to be ready 
to cross the Ourcq, " so as to attain the meridian of Meaux ; " the 
British Army on the front Changis-Coulommiers was to move 
towards Montmirail ; the Fifth Army, closing up slightly to the 
left, was to establish itself on the line Courta^on-Esternay-Sezanne, 
preparatory to advancing north, with the 2nd Cavalry Corps as a 
link between it and the British. The role of the Ninth Army was 
defensive, protecting the right of the Fifth at the south side of the 
Marshes of St. Gond. Next day, the 5th, orders were issued for 
the Third and Fourth Armies, and Sir John French was informed 
by Joffre in person of the decision to halt and turn, and gladly 

So ended the retreat from the frontiers. Compelled by a grave 
strategical blunder, it was carried to a successful end less by skilful 
generalship than by the endurance and courage of the rank and 
file. Indeed, there was little guiding on the part of the higher 
commands, and such leadership as there was came from the regi- 
mental officers. Except for the armies of Lorraine, it may fairly 
be said that by 5th September no French or British general 
had done anything to increase his reputation for talent, though 
many had shown a redoubtable coolness and courage. It cannot 
rank among the great strategic retreats in history, but it was a 
prelude to one of the greatest of the world's battles. 


$th-i2th September. 

The German and Allied Dispositions— Maunoury moves— Advance of British and 
French Fifth Army— Kluck's Tactics— The Crisis of gth September— German 
Retreat ordered— Foch's Stand at F6re-Champenoise— The Fight of the French 
Fourth and Third Armies— Castelnau and Dubail in Lorraine— The Causes of 


To understand the immense and complex action or series of actions 
which we call the First Battle of the Marne, it is necessary to ex- 
amine closely the position of the opposing armies on 5th Sep- 
tember, when Joffre gave the general order to turn and fight. 
The main German forces lay in a semicircle two hundred miles wide 
and thirty miles deep, from Verdun to the skirts of Paris. The I. 
Army had its 4th Cavalry Division and 4th Reserve Corps as a 
flankguard west of the Ourcq, with no local reserves attached to it 
except a Landwehr brigade then on the Oise. South of the Marne 
it had the 2nd Corps astride the Grand Morin and still advancing, 
and the 4th Corps south of that river from Coulommiers to Chevru. 
Both these corps were facing the British. Further east the 3rd Corps 
was midway between Montmirail and Provins, and the 9th Corps 
near Esternay and Morsains. Marwitz's cavalry corps was in 
front of the 4th and 3rd Corps, facing the junction of the British 
and French Fifth Armies. On Kluck's left the II. Army had the 
7th Corps behind its neighbour's right between Chateau-Thierry 
and Montmirail, the loth Reserve Corps south-east of Montmirail, 
the loth Corps at the west end of the St. Gond marshes, and the 
Guard Corps north and north-east of the marshes. East lay the 
III. Army, the 12th Corps a Httle behind, and not yet in line with 
Billow's left, the 12th Reserve Corps also out of alignment north 
of Sommesous, and the 19th Corps between Chalons and Vitry. 



On its left the IV. Army— the 8th, 8th Reserve, i8th, and i8th 
Reserve Corps— lay from the north-west of Vitry to the neighbour- 
hood of Possesse on the Vitry-Ste. Menehould road. Beyond it 
the V. Army lay north and south in an odd curve, south of the 
Argonne and astride the river Aire. Its right corps, the 6th, was 
moving on Revigny, having come by the west side of the Argonne ; 
the 13th Corps, coming by Ste. Menehould, had reached Triaucourt ; 
the i6th, aiming at Bar-le-Duc, was on the Aire at Froidos ; the 
6th Reserve Corps was at Montfaucon ; and the 5th Reserve Corps 
was east of the Meuse about Consenvoye, north of Verdun. The 
5th Corps from Metz was on its way to attack the Meuse Heights 
from the east. So much for the main front. Beyond the Moselle 
the detached German left wing lay before Nancy. The VI. Army 
had a division south of Pont-^-Mousson, the 3rd Bavarian Corps 
just east of the forest of Champenoux, the 2nd Bavarian Corps 
south to the Sanon, the 21st Corps between the Meurthe and the 
Mortagne, and the ist Bavarian and the ist Reserve Bavarian Corps 
as supports. The VII. Army had its 14th and 14th Reserve Corps 
west of Baccarat, and the 15th and 15th Reserve Corps in the 
St. Die valley. 

Against this array the Allied front lay in concave form, from 
Maunoury west of the Ourcq to Sarrail bent in a coil round Verdun. 
Maunoury's Sixth Army, still on the 5th in process of formation, 
we shall examine as the battle develops. The British Army had 
on its left the 3rd Corps south of Crecy, the 2nd Corps in the centre, 
and the ist Corps on the right, east of Rozoy. Beyond it lay the 
French Fifth Army — Conneau's 2nd Cavalry Corps keeping touch 
with the British, the i8th Corps at Provins, the 3rd Corps south- 
west of Esternay, the ist Corps across the Grand Morin at Esternay, 
the loth Corps a little advanced between Esternay and Sezanne. 
Valabregue's group of reserve divisions was in support. The 
Ninth Army, under Foch, had on its left the 42nd Division, then 
the 9th Corps on both sides of Fere-Champenoise, with posts north 
of the St. Gond marshes, and the nth Corps, with only one division 
so far in line, covering the Sommesous cross-roads. The Fourth 
Army lay south of Vitry across the upper Mame on a front bending 
to the north-east. It had the 17th Corps from Sompuis to Cour- 
demanges, the 12th Corps at Vitry, Lefevbres's Colonial Corps on its 
right, and the 2nd Corps extending to Sermaize. The 21st Corps, 
which Joffre had hoped to keep as a general reserve, was presently 
to be brought in on Langle's left. The Third Army had a fantastic 
alignment. On 5th September it had the 5th Corps north of 

1914] THE ALLIED LINE. 213 

Revigny, the 6th Corps astride the Aire, and various reserve divi- 
sions extending the line northward to Souilly. A few scattered 
battalions lay in and around Verdun and on the Heights of the 
Meuse. In Lorraine the Second Army had a reserve division in the 
Moselle valley, a group of reserve divisions in front of Nancy, the 
20th Corps astride the Sanon, and the i6th Corps on the Mortagne. 
The First Army had the 8th Corps from Gerbeviller southward, 
then the 13th Corps, the 14th Corps in the St. Die valley, and 
scattered divisions east of the Meurthe. If we set against each 
part of the Allied front its immediate opponent, we shall find 
Maunoury and the British engaged with Kluck, Franchet d'Esperey 
with Kluck's left and Billow's right and centre, Foch with Billow's 
left and Hansen's right and centre, Langle with Hansen's left 
and the bulk of the Duke of Wiirtemberg's army, Sarrail with 
the Duke of Wiirtemberg's left corps and the Imperial Crown 
Prince, Castelnau with the Bavarian Crown Prince, and Dubail 
with Heeringen. 

It will be observed that the concave arc of the Allied main front 
rested on 5th September on two fortified areas, Paris and Verdun ; 
that there intervened a tract of difficult hilly country between the 
Meuse and Nancy ; and that its detached right wing held the gate- 
way of Lorraine. It was a situation to cause acute anxiety, for if 
Castelnau failed to bar the door, the whole line would be turned. 
But, assuming his success, the position had obvious advantages. 
Its hinterland was magnificently served by roads and railways, so 
that troops could be moved easily behind the front. The mass 
of the Argonne would impede the enemy's lateral communications, 
while his main line of supply was already desperately long, and 
seriously congested by the resistance of Maubeuge. The chances 
of outflanking were declining for him — except in Lorraine — since 
the sixty miles of upland between Verdun and Nancy made a large 
operation difficult, while Kluck at the other end was himself out- 
flanked. Moreover, the numerical advantage was clearly with the 
Allies. Between Verdun and Paris the latter had now a superiority 
in man power equivalent to at least two first line corps.* Yet, when 
all has been said, the decision to give battle involved many hazards. 
The enemy had reserves detained at Maubeuge and in Belgium 
which might at any moment arrive, and Joffre had none. The 
latter had skimmed his front to make new armies, and brought 
every trained man he could lay his hands on into the line. In 

* The usual estimate is forty-six Allied divisions to forty-one German. Kluck 
in his March on Paris, p. 162, estimates the difference as three corps — i.e., six divisions. 


order to weight his striking force, the Fifth and Sixth Armies, he 
had left certain sections very weak — 'Castelnau at Nancy, Sarrail 
at Verdun, Langle at Vitry, Foch on the Sezanne plateau. Yet 
it is certain that the enemy plan had always involved a breach of 
his centre and a turning of his right flank as well as his left, and if 
the enveloping movement failed a frantic effort would be made to 
pierce his line. Could Castelnau hold in Lorraine ? Could Sarrail 
prevent a break into Burgundy ? Above all, could Langle and 
Foch stand against the united assault of the Duke of Wiirtemberg, 
Hansen, and Biilow ? To these questions a less bold man than 
the French Commander-in-Chief might well have returned a de- 
sponding answer. It is not the least of Joffre's titles to admiration 
that, having failed once, he had the courage a second time to stake 
everything on a plan where failure could not be retrieved. 

As we glance down the roll of generals about to engage in the 
battle it is curious to note how many on both sides were to play a 
great part to the last day of the war. If some of the major com- 
manders presently disappeared, few of the great names in the 
campaign were absent at the Marne. Among Kluck's subordi- 
nates were Linsingen, Armin, Lochow, Quast, Marwitz — names only 
too familiar in after years, Biilow had Einem and Eben ; Hansen, 
Elsa and Kirchbach ; the Imperial Crown Prince, Mudra ; and in 
Lorraine was Deimling. With Maunoury, Nivelle served as a 
colonel of artillery. With the British Army were Haig and Cavan, 
Allenby and Home. Franchet d'Esperey had Maud'huy in com- 
mand of a corps, and Mangin and Petain with divisions. Foch had 
Grossetti, Dubois, and Humbert ; with Sarrail were Micheler and 
d'Urbal ; with Castelnau, Balfourier and Fayolle. 

In telling the tale of the Marne a day-to-day chronicle will not 
suffice. It is simplest to group the action under three heads : the 
fight of the Allied left — Maunoury, the British, and Franchet 
d'Esperey — in their effort to envelop the enveloper ; the resistance 
of the Allied centre and right centre — Foch, Langle, and Sarrail — 
against the German attempt to pierce their front ; and the stand 
of the Allied right — Castelnau and Dubail — against the Bavarians 
at Nancy. But before we turn to the record of events, the physical 
configuration of the theatre of the impending battle merits a 
brief description. Let us imagine a traveller in early September 
going westward from the Verdun forts. 'S^'lien he has left behind 
him the narrow vale of the Meuse he will find himself in an upland 
country of small pastures, diversified by narrow ravines and spinneys 
choked with undergrowth. He will cross the stream of the Aire 


and from any rise will note to the southward the profound wood- 
lands that sweep towards Bar-le-Duc. Presently his road will 
descend, and he will see before him a long, low ridge covered with 
dense forests— a knuckle of clay rising from the chalk of the weald. 
This is the forest of the Argonne, an old check to the invaders of 
France, for the paths are few and blind, and only two gaps carry a 
highroad and a railway. From some clear point in the Argonne, 
if he looks south-westward, he will catch, far on the horizon, the 
golden shimmer which tells of miles of ripening wheat. But as he 
looks westward he will see a plain Uke a petrified ocean. For forty 
miles to the west and for more than a hundred from north to south 
stretch those dreary steppes where heaths and chalky moorlands 
are broken by patches of crop, by shapeless coppices, and by large 
new plantings of little firs. It is the Champagne-Pouilleuse, the 
Sahsbury Plain of France, on whose melancholy levels it had for a 
thousand years been prophesied that the Armageddon of Europe 
would be fought. Our traveller will cross the infant Aisne, and as 
he advances will see the gleam of water which marks where the 
Marne flows north from Burgundy. Passing that river at Chalons, 
he will presently have before him a long, low line of bluffs, running 
north and south— the eastern front of the Falaises de Champagne. 
Crossing the highroad from Fere-Champenoise to Rheims, he 
will ascend three hundred feet to what is called the plateau of 
Sezanne, through which the Marne runs in a deep-cut vale. He 
will pass tributaries coming from the south — the Grand and the 
Petit Morin — each, Uke the main river, a slow-flowing, unfordable 
stream, but each well provided with stone bridges and lined with 
woods and country houses. The plateau through which they 
flow is the Brie country, noted for its fertes, the ruins of famous 
donjons of the past. North of the Marne he will traverse the 
Valois and the Ile-de-France, a land rich in farms and orchards, 
till beyond the coppices he sees from some low ridge the spires 
of Paris. 

Both sides reco^ized the gravity of the coming battle. On 
the morning of 6th September the French Generalissimo issued 
from the old chateau of Marshal Marmont at Chatillon-sur-Seine 
the following order to his men : — 

" At the moment when a battle is about to begin on which the 
salvation of the country depends, it is my duty to remind you that 
the time has gone for looking back. We have but one business on 
hand — to attack and repel the enemy. Any troops which can no 
longer advance will at all costs hold the ground they have won, and 


allow themselves to be slain where they stand rather than give way. 
This is no time for faltering, and it will not be tolerated." 

We possess an order issued to the German 8th Corps at Vitry : — 

" The object of our long and arduous marches has been achieved. 
The principal French troops have been forced to accept battle after 
having been continually driven back. The great decision is without 
doubt at hand. For the welfare and honour of Germany I expect 
every officer and man, notwithstanding the hard and heroic fighting 
of the last few days, to do his duty unswervingly and to his last breath. 
Everything depends on the result of to-morrow." 

To the levies of France Joffre's appeal came with especial 
solemnity, for the main battle-ground was the holy land of French 
arms. In the north the Allies had been fighting in places whose 
names were famous not less in English than in French history, 
but the Champagne-Pouilleuse was France's own. From its 
southern borders Joan of Arc had come to give heroic inspiration 
to her people. On one of its ridges stood the tomb of Kellermann, 
to mark where Valmy turned the tide of the Revolution wars. But 
the great monument of the past was the vast oval mound which 
catches the eye of the traveller on the old Roman road from Chalons. 
It is called the Camp of Attila, and the legend is that this uncouth 
thing, as strange to European eyes as the Pyramids, was a forti- 
fication of the Huns when they broke like a flood upon the West. 
The flood was rolled back there, on the plain of Chalons, by Aetius 
the Roman, and Theodoric, King of the Visigoths. Once again 
the Catalaunian flats were to be the arena of strife with an invader 
from the East. 


Gallieni on 4th September had ordered Maunoury to begin his 
forward movement on the following day. Joffre's order of the 
4th had directed Maunoury to get into position of attack on the 
5th, but the 6th was fixed by him as the time for the general battle 
to commence. If a surprise were to be achieved, it was therefore 
essential that Maunoury, while deploying on the 5th, should not 
discover himself on that day to Kluck's rearguard.* At noon on 

* It should be noted that no blame for this premature discovery can attach 
to Maunoury. He was carrying out Joffre's orders — to get into position for attack 
with his right near Meaux. Such a position was at the mercy of any German 
cavalry reconnaissance. 


the 5th Lamaze's group of divisions, which had already marched 
nearly a hundred miles in three days and nights, moved from the 
south of Dammartin towards the line St. Soupplets-Monthyon. 
Almost at once they were under fire from the batteries of the 
German 4th Reserve Corps. This came as a surprise to Gallieni. 
Maunoury, when he started, was at least a dozen miles from the 
Ourcq, but it had been assumed that at the outset he would meet with 
no opposition, and would make such progress that, when the battle 
opened on the 6th, he would be able to cross the Ourcq and move on 
Chateau-Thierry. Here, however, was Kluck's flank guard far to 
the west of the river. For once the German reconnaissance was 
superior to that of the Allies. Gronau, commanding the 4th Reserve 
Corps, was aware of Lamaze's position at Dammartin on the 4th 
September, and guessed at his purpose. He sent out detachments 
towards St. Soupplets on the morning of the 5th, and Lamaze was 
detected as soon as he started. Thereupon Gronau resolved to 
attack to clear up the situation, and Lamaze with his weary and 
depleted divisions had to fight for every yard of his advance. All 
day the French struggled on through that rich country, where the 
baked white roads ran through the green of beetroot and lucerne, 
the yellow of mustard, the gold of ripe corn, and the scarlet of clover. 
They suffered heavily, but by the evening Gronau had fallen back 
behind the Therouanne. Yet their front was no further than the 
line Montge-Cuisy-Iverny-Charny, and the Ourcq ran ten miles 
beyond them. The first round had left the vital army of assault 
in an equivocal position, and the somewhat slender chance of 
surprise had gone. 

Meantime the British, having in obedience to Joffre's order 
altered their Une of retreat to the south-westward to give the French 
Fifth Army room, were behind the forest of Crecy, and in touch 
with the railway junctions south of Paris, whence they could draw 
their much needed reinforcements. These they received on the 
5th. They had before them Kluck's right centre, the 2nd and 
part of the 4th Corps, and it was still advancing. That day Sir 
John French met Joffre at Melun, and the original instructions to 
move due east on the 6th were sHghtly modified. The British 
front was now to face north-east ; on its right, to fill the space 
between it and the French Fifth Army, would be Conneau's 2nd 
Cavalry Corps, and on its left, towards the Marne, Gallieni was 
instructed to send the 8th Division of the French 4th Corps to 
occupy the gap. At the moment it seemed to Joffre that Maunoury 
would require no assistance for his march on the Ourcq. Sir John 


French's action at this time was much criticized, as showing undue 
timidity about his flanks, and undue slowness in beginning the 
counterstroke ; but it is to be remembered that he acted in 
accordance with Joffre's precise instructions, and that the French 
Commander-in-Chief did not dream that on the 5th his enveloping 
plan would l^ revealed to the enemy. 

For on the evening of that day Kluck was fully warned. He 
had decided to disobey the orders of Great Headquarters, received 
early on the morning of the 5th, to halt and cover the northern 
and eastern fronts of Paris. But before evening he had news from 
his flankguard that strong enemy forces were advancing from Dam- 
martin, and he had already received from Biilow tidings of an 
Allied concentration on the west. At the same moment there arrived 
from Great Headquarters Lieut.-Colonel Hentsch * with the dis- 
quieting intelligence that the French had been withdrawing troops 
from the centre and right, and that things were going ill on the 
east of the line. Kluck did not take long to make up his mind. 
With admirable promptness he revised his whole plan of campaign. 
At II p.m. that night he ordered his 2nd and 4th Corps back, and 
at 3 on the morning of the 6th the 2nd Corps, which lay between 
the Marne and the Grand Morin, marched to recross the former 
stream in order to support his rearguard. Seven hours before the 
beginning of the Allied concentration which was to be a surprise 
envelopment Kluck had realized his peril and taken steps to 
meet it. 

The 6th, the great day, dawned, and Maunoury's Sixth Army 
advanced with hope and resolution. It had now the 7th Corps 
under Vautier in line on Lamaze's left, and it believed that it had 
no more than one German corps and one cavalry division against 
It. At first it seemed to be succeeding. St. Soupplets was taken, 
and the line of the Therouanne stream reached and crossed ; the 
Monthyon ridge followed ; and by the afternoon Maunoury's left 
was facing the Bouillancy-Puisieux ridge and his right the hills 
around Etrepilly, about five miles from the Ourcq. But suddenly 
he found the enemy's resistance stiffen. There was more than 
the 4th Reserve Corps before him. A division of the 2nd Corps 
had arrived to support the German right about Trocy, and another 
to strengthen the left at Varreddes. Maunoury's advance came to 
a standstill. 

That morning the British army began its forward march. The 
change of direction had put it in high spirits, but it believed that it 
♦ He was Chief of the Information Section at Great Headquarters. 


had a severe task before it, no less than the stemming of the tide 
of the bulk of Kluck's forces. On its left was the 3rd Corps under 
Pultcney — the 4th Division and the 19th Brigade ; in its centre 
Smith-Dorrien's 2nd Corps ; and Haig with the ist Corps on the 
right. At first it appeared that it would have to struggle hard to 
advance. Haig had to repel an attack by the rearguard of the 
German 4th Corps, now under orders for the Ourcq front. But 
by noon of that blistering day, when our men had left the cool 
shades of the forest and entered open country, it became clear 
that they were only contending with rearguards and Marwitz's 
cavalry. The German 2nd Corps had gone, and that morning at 
5.30 the 4th Corps moved to recross the Mame. That night the 
British had reached the Grand Morin from Crecy eastward, and 
had outposts beyond it. Meantime the Fifth Army had also 
advanced. It had before it Kluck's two corps of his left, the 
3rd and the 9th, and the 7th and loth Reserve Corps of Billow's 
right. At first it met with a stout resistance, for Biilow had no 
Maunoury to deal with, and the German position was strong on 
the two Morins. Conneau's cavalry occupied Courta9on, the i8th 
and 3rd Corps carried the villages on the Paris-Nancy highroad 
which were the key of the German centre, and the ist Corps, 
after a stubborn battle, drove the enemy from Chatillon-sur-Mcrin 
and came to the skirts of Esternay. The day was one of small 
and hard-won successes, but the reports of the Allied airmen gave 
ground for encouragement. Something very odd was happening 
to Kluck and the I. Army. 

The whole German plan was in process of revision, and the 
chief revisor seems to have been the masterful Kluck. The old 
enveloping scheme was now impossible, but another had revealed 
itself. Kluck would turn and deal with Maunoury, outflank him 
on the right and drive him back on Paris. His left and Biilow's 
right, assisted by Marwitz's cavalry, would hold off the British 
and Franchet d'Esperey, and for this purpose that evening he 
handed over to Biilow his left corps, the 3rd and 9th. Meantime 
the German centre — Biilow's left, Hansen, the Duke of Wiirtem- 
berg, and the Imperial Crown Prince — would drive furiously against 
Foch, Langle, and Sarrail, while the Bavarians broke Castelnau at 
Nancy. If the Allied centre could be routed, the decisive battle 
would have been won, for French and Franchet d'Esperey would 
be penned between Paris and the victorious Germans wheeling to 
the right. The plan involved one immense hazard. Biilow and 
Kluck would be operating in different directions, one to the south- 


east and the other to the north-west, and every hour they would 
feel the " effet de ventouse " and tend to draw further apart. 
Could the void be filled sufficiently to keep French and Franchet 
d'Esperey at arm's length ? Apart from the postulated success of 
the German centre, two things were needed for victory — the holding 
back of the British and the French Fifth Army, and the complete 
destruction of Maunoury. 

His ultimate failure cannot lessen our admiration for the way 
in which Kluck coped with a shattering crisis. No soldier will 
deny his tribute of praise to the skill shown in bringing back the 
German corps across the Marne. On the morning of the 7th 
Maunoury was faced with the task of a frontal attack on the three 
plateaus of Varreddes, Trocy, and Etavigny, which were separated 
by the ravines of the Therouanne and Gergogne streams flowing 
east to the Ourcq. He had no heavy artillery and no airplanes, 
and so was at the mercy of the concealed German batteries. The 
day was one long and desperate battle. Kluck's flank guard was 
under the general command of Linsingen, and was disposed in three 
groups : the right under Armin, the centre under Gronau, and the 
left under Trossel — a necessary arrangement, since units had to be 
thrown into the fight as they arrived from south of the Marne. 
There were now available the 2nd, 4th, and 4th Reserve Corps, 
and at 11. 15 a.m. Kluck asked back from Biilow his 3rd and 9th 
Corps for use on the Ourcq. So grave did he consider the position 
that he ordered his headquarters guard to be ready to go in. 
Maunoury had Lamaze's group of divisions and Vautier's 7th 
Corps, and next day he got the 45th Algerian Division and the 
much-reduced 6ist Reserve Division. Both the combatant armies 
were therefore growing, and it was a race between them which 
should grow the faster. That day the 45th Division reached Barcy, 
and early in the night under a harvest moon entered Etrepilly. 
The 7th Corps took Etavigny, but was driven back by the arrival 
of part of the German 2nd Corps, and Maunoury 's left was only 
saved by Colonel Nivelle's handling of his five field batteries. But 
the Trocy plateau was still unwon, and it became clear that Lin- 
singen was extending his right with a view to envelopment. Mau- 
noury duly extended his left, but he had nothing to put i-j there 
except the 6ist Reserve Division and Sordet's ist Cavalr^ Corps. 
That evening the French Sixth Army, as it clung to the skirts 
of the blazing hills, might well have viewed the future with dis- 
may. It was the anvil for the hammer, and it could not see the 
thrust which was to cripple the hammer-arm. 


Meantime all went well with the British and the French Fifth 
Army. During the night of the 6th the former had taken Cou- 
lommiers, and, starting at 5 a.m. on the 7th, carried the line of the 
Grand Morin and pressed on to the Petit Morin. They were opposed 
by Marwitz supported by infantry and heavy artillery. By noon, 
however, he gave way under the pressure of Allenby's cavalry — 
forty-five British squadrons routed seventy-two German — and by 
that evening the British 3rd and 2nd Corps were well beyond the 
Grand Morin, between La Tretoire and the junction with the Marne. 
This advance and the fact that Kluck's 3rd and 9th Corps had gone 
north cleared the ground for Franchet d'Esperey's left wing — 
fortunately for him, for that day he had to send a division to Foch's 
assistance. He marched fast through the forest of Gault, and by 
the evening was for the most part across the Grand Morin, with 
his van approaching Montmirail. 

That night it was clear that Maunoury was in imminent danger 
of defeat unless he could find reinforcements. Some were arriving. 
The remaining half of the 4th Corps, the 7th Division (the 8th had 
already been sent south of the Marne to link up with the British), 
detrained that afternoon in Paris. It was at once dispatched to 
Betz on Maunoury 's extreme left, and since the need was urgent 
half of it covered the 40 miles in Paris taxi-cabs. At dawn on 
the 8th it was in its place, and not an hour too soon. For that 
day the 3rd Corps was extending the German right, and the 9th 
Corps was following it northward. Maunoury attacked on his 
wings, but in spite of desperate efforts failed to make way. The 
enemy occupied Betz, and bent back the French left between 
Nantheuil-le-Haudouin and Bouillancy. The 62nd Reserve Divi- 
sion, the last unit left in Paris, was sent out to organize a position 
to which the Sixth Army could fall back in case of need. The old 
game had been played and once again the enveloper had become 
the enveloped. Gallieni did his best to alarm Kluck about his com- 
munications. He sent out a detachment of Zouaves in motor cars to 
make a raid towards Senlis and Creil, and Bridoux, who had now 
succeeded Sordet, dispatched the 5th Cavalry Division on a wild 
ride into the Villers-Cotterets woods.* But such devices did not 
touch the heart of the problem. Maunoury and his men were at 
the very limit of their strength. 

But French and Franchet d'Esperey were moving fast, and the 
gap between Kluck and Biilow was widening. The British reached 

♦ For this episode see Hethay's Le Role de la Cavalerie Franfaise d I'Aile Gauche 
i* la p'-'x^re bataille de la Marne, 1919, and Kluck's March nn Paris, p. 133. 


and crossed the Petit Morin, after Haig had been in action at La 
Tretoire and Smith-Dorrien had had a stiff fight at Orly. This 
meant that our left, the 3rd Corps, now rested on the Marne at La 
Ferte-sous-Jouarre, where it was in touch with Kluck's left on the 
Ourcq. Franchet d'Esperey, further up the wooded glen of the 
Petit Morin, took Montmirail in the late afternoon, and before the 
dark fell was well on the road to Chateau-Thierry. That evening 
the weather broke. The brilliant starry night changed to showers 
of rain which continued through the following day. The position 
of the German armies had become irregular in the extreme. Kluck, 
wholly north of the Marne, was rapidly lengthening his Hne to the 
north ; Bulow, driving on with his left, was drawing back his right 
before Franchet d'Esperey's attack. From Lizy-sur-Ourcq to 
Conde-en-Brie stretched a gap of thirty miles occupied by nothing 
save Marwitz's horse ; and right athwart this gap, about to cross the 
Marne, were the British and French Fifth Armies. If Maunoury 
could endure for twelve hours more his opponent must retire or 
be destroyed. 

Wednesday, 9th September, a day of rain and high winds, was 
everywhere the crisis of the battle. For Maunoury it seemed that 
the crisis had passed and that he was beaten. He was heavily 
outnumbered and had no reserves except the 8th Division, which 
he now summoned from the south bank of the Marne, but too late 
to avert disaster. His troops were hungry, ragged, parched with 
thirst, and bone-weary. He was still five miles from the Ourcq 
and his left was virtually turned. Gallieni could not send him 
another man. Early on the 9th the enemy right attacked and 
carried Villers-St.-Genest and Nantheuil, so that the French left 
was back at Silly-le-Long, not far from its starting-point four days 
earlier. For a moment it looked as if all was over, and Kluck would 
soon be hammering at the gates of Paris. 

Suddenly there came strange news from the front line. Betz 
had been evacuated by the enemy ! From the other end it was 
reported that Varreddes and Etrepilly were empty. Very cautiously 
the 4th Corps crept forward ; the Germans were still at Nan- 
theuil and Etavigny ; but reports came from airmen that long 
enemy convoys were moving on all the roads to the north. But 
the centre still held east of Etrepilly and Puisieux ! Maunoury's 
weary forces could only look on and wonder. Had he had two 
fresh divisions he might have made an end of Kluck. It was not 
till next morning that the situation was plain, and by that time the 
retreat had been in progress for twenty hours. The Si:cth Army 

1914] THE GAP WIDENS. 223 

by its endurance on the Ourcq had enabled the Allies to win the 
Battle of the Marne. It well deserved the message which Maunoury 
issued that day : " Comrades ! The Commander-in-Chief asked 
you in the name of your Fatherland to do more than your duty : 
you have responded to his appeal beyond the limits of human 
possibility. ... If I have done any service I have been repaid 
by the greatest honour that has been granted me in a long career, 
that of commanding such men as you." 

The eleventh hour salvation of the Sixth Army was due to the 
doings on the 9th of the Fifth Army and the British. Franchet 
d'Esperey, whose army seemed to gather momentum with each 
mile it advanced, was driving Billow's right before him like a 
flock before a shepherd. He had to send his loth, and later his 
1st Corps, to support Foch, but these losses did not lessen his im- 
petus. On his left Conneau's cavalry crossed the Marne at Azy 
and struck at Billow's flank ; the i8th Corps marched on Chateau- 
Thierry, which fell in the evening; the 3rd occupied Montigny. 
Billow's right corps, the 7th, was so severely handled that it fell 
back in something like disorder. The gap between the German I. and 
II. Armies threatened to turn from a fissure to a chasm. Presently 
there would be forty miles of unprotected flank on which Biilow 
would invite attack. In the evening Franchet d'Esperey issued 
his famous order to the Fifth Army : — 

" Soldiers ! On the historic fields of Montmirail, Vauchamps, and 
Champaubert, which a hundred years ago witnessed the victories of 
our ancestors over Bliicher's Prussians, our vigorous offensive has 
triumphed over the resistance of the Germans. Harried on his flanks, 
broken in his centre, the enemy is now retreating east and north by 
forced marches. The finest corps of Old Prussia, the contingents of 
Westphalia, Hanover, and Brandenburg have fallen back in haste before 
you. But this initial success is only a prelude. The enemy is shaken 
but not decisively beaten. You will still have to endure great hard- 
ships, to make long marches, and to fight hard battles. May the image 
of your country, soiled by barbarians, be ever before your eyes ! " 

Straight through the ever-widening gap and against Kluck's 
flank and rear the British were marching. In their haste the 
Germans had failed to blow up the Marne bridges west of Chateau- 
Thierry, except those at La Fert6-sous-Jouarre. They might have 
disputed the crossing, for the river runs in a deep trench, and the 
wooded bluffs on the north bank command all the approaches 
from the south. But on the river line there was little resistance. 
The 3rd Corps on the left was hung up most of the day at La Fert^- 


sous-Jouarre by the broken bridge, and the ist Corps on the right 
by a threat of attack from Chateau-Thierry, which was still held 
by the enemy. But in the morning the British centre, the 2nd 
Corps, crossed with ease, and by 8 a.m. was four miles to the north 
on the Chateau-Thierry-Lizy road, directly in rear of Kluck's 
left flank. The delay of the 3rd and ist Corps enabled Kluck to 
improvise a temporary defence across the loop of the Marne between 
Lizy and Chateau-Thierry. Two divisions of Marwitz's cavalry 
were in the gap, and about 11 a.m. Kluck sent the 5th Infantry 
Division from Trocy, with the support of some of his heavy artillery, 
and borrowed Richthofen's cavalry from Biilow. The screen was 
never seriously attacked by the British owing to the delay to their 
3rd and 1st Corps. Marwitz fell back in the evening to the line 
of the Clignon stream, and presently Sir John French heard from his 
airmen that the Germans were evacuating the whole angle between 
Ourcq and Marne. Kluck had at last given the order for retreat. 

What was the news which finally convinced the stubborn general 
of the I. Army ? His own narrative traces the stages of his con- 
version. About ir a.m., he says, he heard from Marwitz that 
part of the British had crossed the Marne. According to his 
account he was not alarmed. He was succeeding famously on his 
right, and by slightly swinging back his left and sending reinforce- 
ments to Marwitz, he hoped to stave off the danger till Maunoury 
was crushed. But before i p.m. he received a message from the 
II. Army that it had begun the retreat. Franchet d'Esperey's han- 
dling of Billow's 7th Corps had convinced that commander that his 
position was desperate. Simultaneously Colonel Hentsch, the 
plenipotentiary of Great Headquarters, arrived from Biilow, and 
informed Kluck's staff that all the armies must fall back. The 
I. Army must retire at once to the line Soissons-Fere-en-Tardenois, 
perhaps even to that of Laon-La Fere. These were the instructions 
of the Supreme Command, and Kluck had no choice but to obey. 
At 2 p.m. he gave the orders for a retreat towards the Aisne. Such 
is his own account, but it is not possible wholly to accept it, for a 
general looking back at an unpleasant decision is apt unwittingly 
to post-date it. It seems certain, judging by the early evacuation 
of Betz and Varreddes, and the early hour when his transport took 
the road, that by 11 a.m. Kluck had decided that the game was 
lost, and that any fighting thereafter was in the strictest sense a 
rearguard action. This decision can only have been caused by 
the news that by 9 a.m. part of the British 2nd Corps was four 
miles north of the Marne. Biilow and Hentsch, in their repre- 

1914] FOCH. 225 

sentations after midday, were forcing an open door. As Franchet 
d'Esperey convinced Biilow, so Sir John French convinced Kluck 
that there was no alternative to retreat.* 

By midday on the 9th the left wing of the Allies had won an 
indisputable victory. But the situation was fantastic, for their 
centre was still hard pressed and on the verge of breaking. We 
turn now to the doings of Foch, Langle, and Sarrail. 


So soon as Kluck was compelled to turn about to face Maunoury, 
the German plan, if a decisive battle were to be fought, had for 
its most vital offensive movement the breach of the French centre, 
and the success of the Allied left wing increased the burden on 
Foch. On 5th September the French Ninth Army was in that 
portion of the Champagne-Pouilleuse which lies between the 
sharp edge of the Brie plateau in the west and the Troyes-Chalons 
road in the east. The battlefield was open, the plateau of Sezanne 
falling gently eastward toward the upper Mame. It contained, 
however, one curious feature. In the chalky soil of the plateau 
lies a pocket of clay, ten miles long from east to west, and of a 
breadth varying from one to two miles. Through that pocket 
flows the Petit Morin, now a very small stream ; indeed, here lay 
its springs, and it and its affluents had been canalized to prevent 
flooding. The place was called the Marshes of St. Gond ; they 
were now almost wholly reclaimed, and between the acres of rank 
grass the various rivulets ran in deep ditches, as in any marshy 
English meadow. In fine weather the ground was dry enough, 
but in heavy rains the slopes to north and south sent down trickles 
of water, the canalized streams overflowed, and the clay soil of 
the pocket became a quagmire. The Marshes were crossed at 
each end by two notable highways, leading respectively from 
Sezanne to Epernay and from Fere-Champenoise to Mareuil. 
Between these roads four country tracks crossed the bog, none of 
them engineered or metalled, and likely in flood time to become as 
deep in mire as the adjoining marshes. The place had played its 
part in the 1814 campaign, and was obviously of high strategic 

♦This view is confirmed by the account of the military inquiry in 1917 into 
Hentsch's conduct, published in the Militdr Wochenblatt, September 1920, from which 
it appears that (i) there was a panic behind that part of the I. Army opposed to the 
British ; (2) von Kuhl, Kluck's Chief of Staff, thought retirement inevitable ; and (3) 
Kluck's left wing had been ordered back — all before Hentsch's arrival at I. Army 


importance. The swamp formed a natural barrier against the 
German advance, and the western road across it was commanded 
on the south by the hill of Mondement, the eastern by Mont Aout. 

On 5th September, after Foch received from Joffre the order 
to stand, he had his left, the 42nd Division, on the hills between 
Soisy and Mondement ; his centre, Dubois' 9th Corps, just south 
of the Marshes, with two battalions pushed beyond them ; his 
right, Eydoux's nth Corps, from the east end of the Marshes to 
Sommesous, with a cavalry division covering the gap between him 
and Langle. He had against him Biilow's left, and almost the 
whole of Hausen's HI. Army, and besides being outnumbered, was 
conspicuously inferior in artillery. His position was uneasy, for 
on his right lay a gap which Hansen might well pierce, and he 
could not strengthen this in the face of Biilow's thrust against his 
left. He was compelled to pivot on the Sezanne position and 
defend that plateau to the last, trusting to fortune that the enemy 
would not detect the dangerous gap about Sommesous. 

When the battle opened on the 6th, he had to meet the attack 
of Biilow's right on the Marshes. His own left centre, the advanced 
units of the 9th Corps, was speedily driven south of the Marshes, 
and evening found Dubois at Mont Aout, with the Prussian Guard 
at Bannes, though small French detachments still clung to Morains 
and Aulnay. His left held at Soisy, but his right was in trouble 
at Ecurie and Normee, and just managed to cling to Sommesous. 
It was plain that the part of the Ninth Army in the battle was to 
be that of a desperate defence. 

On the 7th the 42nd Division, which was helped by Franchet 
d'Esperey's advance, yielded nothing. But Humbert's ist Moroc- 
can Division on their right had a fierce struggle with the German 
loth Corps around Mondement. " The Germans are bottled up," 
Humbert told his men, " and Mondement is the cork ; we must 
never let it go." The place was held that day, but only by the nar- 
rowest margin. Further east Morains and Aulnay were lost, and 
Aulnizeux followed in the evening. The enemy that day had 
cleared the St. Gond Marshes, and prepared the way for an attack 
by both his wings. This came before dawn on the 8th, but at first 
things went well for the French in the west. The 42nd and Moroc- 
can Divisions counter-attacked, and took Oyes and Soisy. But 
in the east the assault of the Prussian Guard and the 12th Saxon 
Corps on the French nth Corps came very near to a break through. 
Lenharree was early lost, Sommesous followed, and the broken line 
was forced back, till at 10.30 a.m. the Prussian Guard entered Fere- 


Champenoise. There was much gallant fighting by rearguards, but 
by the evening the enemy was four or five milts south of Fere- 
Champenoise, and further east was in Mailly, and the whole of 
Foch's right was in fragments. This disaster reacted on his left and 
centre. The 42nd Division lent a regiment as support to Dubois, 
and presently it and the Moroccans had to relinquish all their 
morning's gain. Humbert, however, clung to Mondement, though 
he had but a single battalion in reserve, and the heavy rain which 
began in the evening helped the defence. The centre, Dubois's 
9th Corps, found its flanks turned by the defeat of the right wing, 
but it managed to form an irregular front facing east and covering 
Puits and Mont Aout. In the afternoon there were further losses, 
but the nth Corps rallied sufficiently to occupy a hne in the Mau- 
rienne valley from Corroy to Semoine. 

Foch was aware that at any moment might come the crisis of 
the battle. He had only to hold, and Franchet d'Esperey, French, 
and Maunoury would do his business for him further west. That 
day, when his centre and right had been broken on a front of ten 
miles, he had reported that the situation was excellent and that 
he was about to attack. It was not bravado. It was a reasoned 
decision on sound data by a consummate master of war. He saw 
that the German armies were being sucked apart, and that at any 
moment the attack would itself split into gaps ; and though his 
own army had been driven back in three days of desperate battle, 
he prepared to take the offensive. He would strike with his last 
strength at the decisive moment and in a decisive place, and that 
place must be the new German flank, eight miles long, between 
Mont Aout and Corroy — for a thrust which does not wholly succeed 
offers a vulnerable flank. Where could he get his striking force ? 
Eydoux and Dubois could give him nothing. There remained 
only his extreme left, Grossetti's 42nd Division. To take its 
place he borrowed the 51st Division from Franchet d'Esperey. 

But when the wet dawn broke on the 9th an offensive seemed 
the wildest folly. For at 3 a.m. Mondement fell. Humbert 
counter-attacked and failed. But the place must be retaken, or 
the left of the Ninth Army would be swept off its pivot on the 
Sezanne plateau. Humbert borrowed Grossetti's artillery and 
got back the 77th Regiment, which he had lent to Dubois, and 
at 2.30 p.m. advanced to the attack. At 3.30 he had again 
failed. At 6 p.m. came the final effort, and before 7 p.m. the 
chateau was in French hands. The " last ounce of resolution " had 
won. That was for the left, but things were very desperate in 


the centre. At 5 a.m. Biilow and Hansen mustered all their 
strength and hurled the Prussian Guard and the two Saxon Corps 
against Dubois and Eydoux. The Corroy position fell, Mont 
Aout fell, and for hours the line resolved itself into a precarious 
struggle of oddments of infantry and cavalry wherever there seemed 
a chance for a stand. The whole of the centre and right had de- 
composed under the assault. But Foch was adamant. He would 
still attack, and with the 42nd Division, which since 8.30 a.m. had 
been marching eastward behind the rear. He was convinced that 
the enemy had reached the extreme limit of fatigue, and that 
victory would still fall to the last ounce of resolution. 

The Germans, after a night's revel in Fere-Champenoise, pushed 
on steadily during the day, and by i p.m. the Guard was in Con- 
nantre and the Saxons in Gourgan^on. It was Foch's plan that 
the 42nd Division should attack their flank between Linthes and 
Pleurs, along the highway to Fere-Champenoise. Dubois was to 
do what he could on the left, and Eydoux was to raUy from the 
south. About 6 p.m., while the sky was clearing after the rain to a 
red sunset, the 42nd Division arrived. But it was not needed. 
Only the 9th Corps, of all the contemplated offensive, went into 
action, and then only in a rearguard skirmish. For that day, 
about noon, Biilow had made up his mind to fall back, and Colonel 
Hentsch was ordering the retreat of all the German armies. The 
orders must have been issued from the different headquarters 
before 3 p.m. By 5.30 Fere-Champenoise was full of German 
troops hurrying north from Connantre and Gourgangon. The 
long anguish of the Ninth Army was over. 

Ever since the month of the battle legend has been busy with 
Foch's performance. The march of the 42nd Division has become 
a saga. Human nature longs to simplify and to find the culmi- 
nating drama in some small thing — the heroism of one man, the 
sudden inspiration of a single general, the intervention of a solitary 
unit against impossible odds. It has been held that the 42nd 
Division struck the blow which compelled the enemy's retreat. 
But the facts do not support this gallant romance, for the 42nd 
Division was never in action before the retirement. Yet its march 
was a great achievement, and it may well be maintained that had 
the orders to retreat not been already issued the 42nd Division 
would have compelled them. Biilow and Hausen escaped only 
just in time. Beyond doubt Foch's stubborn defence was one of 
the main causes of the Allied victory, for it defeated the alterna- 
tive German plan. Had he yielded on the 6th or 7th, Franchet 


d'Esperey and the British would have been gravely compromised. 
For sheer magnificence of stubborn heroism the fight of the Ninth 
Army must remain unsurpassed in any campaign, and the last 
retaking of Mondement by Humbert and the march of the weary and 
dazed 42nd on what seemed a hopeless venture will live for ever 
as proof of what may be endured and dared by the spirit of man. 

As we move eastward in the battle-line the struggle is slower 
to reach a decision. The fight of the French Fourth and Third 
Armies had no help from any outflanking movement, nor were the 
enemy forces opposed to them being sucked apart as were Biilow 
and Hausen before Foch. Their actions were stubborn pieces of 
stonewalling against an antagonist slightly superior in numbers. 
Had Langle given way at any time before the 9th the Marne would 
have been a lost battle, and had Sarrail failed the whole salient 
of the Meuse would have gone to the enemy. On the night of 5th 
September Langle had his 17th Corps facing Hansen's left, the 
Saxon 19th Corps, just east of the Camp of Mailly ; his centre, 
the Colonial Corps, against the 8th and 8th Reserve Corps of 
Duke Albrecht south of Vitry ; and his right, the 2nd Corps, flung 
forward against the German i8th Corps north of the Ornain. He 
was aiming in conjunction with Sarrail at an outflanking move- 
ment to press Duke Albrecht and the Imperial Crown Prince west- 
ward after the fashion of Maunoury's movement on the Ourcq. 
On the 6th, the 17th Corps made a slight advance west of Courde- 
manges, but the centre was driven back and all but separated from 
the right wing. That right wing in the afternoon was forced south 
of the Ornain, and next day, the 7th, the Germans were in Etrepy 
and Sermaize. 

For a moment it looked as if Tangle's two flanks were to be 
turned. Only just in time arrived two corps of the reserve, the 
13th, which filled the gap between him and Sarrail, and the 21st, 
which extended his left. The chief danger lay on the right, where 
the Allied front made a right angle, and where a break through 
would sever for good Sarrail and Langle. The enemy, having 
crossed the Ornain, had reached the wooded plateau of Trois- 
Fontaines and was aiming at St. Dizier. On the 8th he was in 
Pargny and Maurupt, but meantime the 15th Corps had arrived and 
threatened the flank of any further German advance. That day 
there was a desperate battle in the centre around Mont Moret, and 
the French left clung to its position till the first troops of the 21st 
Corps could arrive. They came that evening, and next day, the 9th, 


attacked the Saxon left and drove it back to Sommesous. That 
was the end of Hansen, for on the loth he was in full retreat before 
Foch and Langle. 

Sarrail had a still more difficult task. He was opposed to the 
Imperial Crown Prince, who was now some twenty-five miles south- 
west of Verdun, and his front, which faced east and north, had behind 
it the Heights of the Meuse, which were threatened by an attack 
from Metz. He saw more clearly than the Commander-in-Chief the 
importance of Verdun, and resolved to keep in touch with that 
fortress so long as he dared, even though he might thereby lose 
contact with Langle. On the morning of the 6th he had his left, 
the 5th Corps, facing Duke Albrecht's left and the Crown Prince's 
6th Corps at Revigny ; his centre, the 6th Corps, against the German 
13th Corps astride the Aire ; and the group of divisions on his right 
along the Verdun-Bar-le-Duc highroad against the German i6th 
and 6th Reserve Corps. The Imperial Crown Prince was aiming 
at Bar-le-Duc, and his cavalry had orders to ride for the line Dijon- 
Besangon-Belfort — a proof that the German V. Army beUeved 
itself on the verge of a dramatic success. But on the 6th he found 
his centre held, and the communications of his left threatened, 
though his right in conjunction with Wiirtemberg had gravely com- 
promised Sarrail's left, and had taken Revigny. On the 7th the 
struggle was intense, but that evening the arrival of a division of 
the 15th Corps from Lorraine eased the situation on the left. 
D'Urbal had been sent with his cavalry to that flank, when he was 
suddenly recalled, for the position on the eastern bank of the Meuse 
had become critical. About noon on the 7th part of the 5th Corps 
from Metz arrived and began the bombardment of Fort Troyon, 
which commanded the Gap of Spada. In twenty-four hours 400 
heavy shells were thrown into the place, and seven of its guns were 
put out of action. Sarrail had no reserves, and, while his left was 
being enveloped, it looked as if his right might any moment be 
taken in the rear. 

On the evening of the 8th Joffre directed Sarrail to fall back 
from Verdun to the west bank of the Meuse. But the stout- 
hearted commander of the Third Army did not act on this authority. 
By II on the morning of the 9th Troyon had not a gun left in 
action, the thin screen around Verdun seemed about to dissolve, 
while the centre was shaking under the assaults of the German 13th 
and i6th Corps. That night came the news that Kluck was in 
retreat before the British and Franchet d'Esperey, Biilow before 
Foch, and Hansen before Langle. On the loth Sarrail's left ad- 


vanced, but the struggle in the centre and on the right continued, 
and in the evening the first steps were taken for the abandonment of 
Verdun. But, though Sarrail did not know it, the Imperial Crown 
Prince was already in retreat. His right was swinging back to- 
wards the Argonne, and on the night of the 12th his centre and left 
followed. Troyon, now little more than a shell, was saved. 


It remains to chronicle the stand of the detached Allied right 
wing in Lorraine. We have seen that Dubail and Castelnau had 
secured the Gap of Charmes and now faced the enemy on the strong 
ground between Pont-a-Mousson and the northern spurs of the 
Vosges. Their task was to remain on the defensive, and for this 
the simplest position might well have seemed to be the difhcult 
banks of the Moselle, Meurthe, and Mortagne, with Toul and Epinal 
behind them. But Castelnau, who had long foreseen some such 
situation as this, had planned otherwise. A scion of an ancient 
and famous house, and a man so liberal in mind that, though 
himself a devout Catholic, his two principal assistants were a 
Protestant and a free-thinker, he represented a rare union of 
new and old, of military science and fighting ardour. He saw the 
value of Nancy, and clung to it as Sarrail clung to Verdun. He 
took up position on the eastern half-moon of hills, the Grand 
Couronne, the two tips of which, the hill of Amance in the north and 
the Rambetant ridge in the south, enclosed the woody plateau of 
Champenoux. Thence his left was extended by the Moselle 
heights, and on the south beyond the Sanon lay an intricate land 
of wood and river up to the Vosges buttresses. No stronger 
position for defence could be found on the frontier. 

The French First and Second Armies had been skimmed to 
form Joffre's reserve. Castelnau had surrendered the i8th, 9th, 
15th, and 2nd Cavalry Corps ; Dubail the 21st and, presently, the 
13th Corps. On the 4th September the former had the 73rd 
Reserve Division withdrawn on his left flank near Pont-a-Mousson ; 
a group of divisions, including the 70th under Fayolle, in front of 
Nancy ; Balfourier's 20th Corps on the right of the Grand Cou- 
ronne across the Sanon ; and the i6th Corps on the Mortagne. 
Dubail, with the 8th, 13th, and 14th Corps and several divisions, 
lay from Gerbeviller to south of St. Die. The German VI. and 
VII. Armies considerably outnumbered the French, for they had 
just received very large accretions from the Ersatz and Landwehr. 


The enemy plan was for Heeringen to pin Dubail down, and then 
transfer forces to the centre for Prince Rupprecht's assault on 
Nancy. This was the first stage in the battle, and on 4th Sep- 
tember, when the main action began, Dubail had resisted the enemy 
attempts to break west from the valley of the upper Meurthe. 
The engagement spread to Castelnau's right, but by the 6th the first 
stage was finished, for Heeringen had begun to move the bulk of 
his troops to Prince Rupprecht and was himself under orders for 
the Aisne. Dubail had also to surrender his 13th Corps and remain 
inactive, watching the passes. For the combat was now joined 
before Nancy. 

The Bavarian bombardment began there on the afternoon of 
the 4th. The French centre, the 20th Corps, held firm under the 
infantry attacks which presently revealed themselves as an attempt 
to break through between the horns of the Grand Couronne and 
at the same time envelop the northern wing by an attack of the 
Metz troops up the Moselle valley. All night the battle raged 
furiously, the Bavarians pushed up the gullies and woodland 
paths, and by the morning the whole front between the Cham- 
penoux forest and the Rambetant had been pressed back. Further 
south the i6th Corps was driven to the left bank of the Mortagne, 
and the enemy crossed below Gerbeviller. This danger, however, 
was checked on the 5th, and on the 6th the i6th Corps recrossed 
the river and retook Gerbeviller. But early on the 5th the Bava- 
rians reached the foot of Amance hill, and by the evening the 20th 
Corps had lost half of the southern horn of the Grand Couronne. 
That afternoon, too, the blow fell in the north. The German 33rd 
Reserve Division came down on Ste. Genevieve in the loop of the 
Moselle, and next day, the 6th, was only six miles from Nancy at 
Marbache and eight miles from Toul at Saizerais. 

On the 7th came the crisis. The Bavarians concentrated their 
efforts on breaking the French centre by way of Amance and the 
little Amezule glen. After a violent bombardment ten battalions 
rushed the gap, and by midday Prince Rupprecht had the Cham- 
penoux plateau. But Amance held, and under the fire of the 
French guns the enemy's threat was stayed on its slopes. More- 
over, the French posts on the Ste. Genevieve spur had delayed the 
advance of the Metz troops, and Castelnau was able to send re- 
inforcements to that quarter.* All day on the 8th the struggle 

* On this day the orders were actually written for the evacuation of Nancy, 
owing to the belief that the Ste. Genevieve spur was lost. See Dubail's account ia 
his Quatre Annies de Commandement, Vol. I. {1920). 


: LUXEMBURG I) I ) ^ \ 

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continued among the woody hills till the enemy impetus began to 
weaken. The proof of failure came that evening when in the 
chagrin of disappointment the German guns threw eighty shells into 
Nancy. On the 9th the reaction began, and by the night of the 
loth the Bavarians were in retreat. Pont-^-Mousson, Remere- 
ville, Luneville, Baccarat, St. Die passed again into French hands : 
Castelnau by the narrowest of margins had barred the gate of the 

For a Uttle the German Emperor had viewed the fight at Nancy 
from a hill near Moncel. We shall see him again, in his grey 
cloak and spiked helmet, watching the menace of the Russians 
from a Polish castle, or looking at the desperate charge of his 
volunteers among the wet fields of Flanders. He flits restlessly 
between east and west, everywhere making brave speeches, every- 
where announcing a speedy and final triumph. A melancholy 
figure he cuts, as he stands on the fringe of the battle-smoke at 
Nancy, looking west to Burgundy and that promised land which 
he could not enter. An object for pity, perhaps, rather than 
commination, for he is the dreamer whose dreams do not come 
true, and who in his folly has imagined that his caprices are the 
ordinations of destiny. 


The First Battle of the Marne ranks by common consent as 
the greatest, because the most significant, contest of the war. 
In one sense it was not decisive ; it did not destroy one of the 
combatant forces like Jena, or make peace inevitable like Sadowa 
and Solferino. The German losses were not overwhelming; they 
kept their armies in being, and were able to make a masterly re- 
tirement. But it was decisive in another sense ; for it meant 
the defeat of the first German plan of campaign, and it utterly 
transformed the strategical situation. The avalanche designed to 
crush French resistance in a month had failed of its purpose. The 
" battle without a morrow " had gone beyond hope ; the battle had 
been fought and the morrow was come. Thereafter Germany was 
compelled to accept a slow war of entrenchments which was re- 
pugnant to all her theories, and every week brought her nearer to 
the position of a beleaguered city. 

She failed, as Marmont failed at Salamanca, because she left a 
perilous gap in her front, and that gap was due, as we have seen, 
less to any blunders of individual generals than to the defects in- 


herent in her whole strategy of envelopment. The scheme was 
over-ambitious, and broke down because it demanded the im- 
possible. It asked too much of her overworked troops, and it 
placed a burden of co-ordination and control on Great Head- 
quarters which they could not sustain. Tactically, when the 
battle was joined, her commanders made few mistakes.* It has 
been for long the fashion to dispute as to which movement on the 
Allied side was the main cause of victory. Human nature, as we 
have seen, in its quest for drama loves to simplify — but this instinct 
is less historical than literary, and modern battles are not won by 
the heau gesie. The causa causans of victory was Joffre's plan, the 
Fabian strategy which, in spite of many blunders, was resolved 
to delay till it found a favourable terrain, a better balance of 
strength, and the chance of the strategic initiative. The proxi- 
mate cause was Maunoury's flank attack, inspired by Gallieni, 
which halted Kluck and opened the way for the British and Fran- 
chet d'Esperey. But without the heroic offensive-defensive of 
Foch, and the stubborn endurance of Langle and Sarrail — above 
all, without Castelnau's epic resistance at Nancy — the initiative 
could not have been seized in the West, and the Marne would have 
reahzed Kluck's hopes. In the far-flung contest every army of 
the Allies did its appointed task and earned a share in the triumph. 
It was the ultimate battle of the old regime of war, a battle of 
movement, surprise, improvisation ; which is to say, it was fought 
and won less by the machine than by the human quality of the 
soldier. In the last resort the giver of victory was the ancient 
and unconquerable spirit of France. 

* The only serious mistakes seem to have been that Hansen did not realize the 
gap between Foch and Langle, and that the Imperial Crown Prince failed to recognize 
till it was too late the weakness of the junction of Langle and Sarrail. 



The Overrunning of Belgium — German Breaches of the Laws of War— The " Armed 
Dogma " — Belgium and her King. 

As the Allied armies moved forward after the Marne they came 
for the first time into a countryside ravaged by war, and learned 
the ways of the would-be conquerors. Everywhere the tale was 
the same — among the farms of the Valois and the orchards of the 
Marne, in the skirts of Champagne, in the Meuse uplands, in the 
Lorraine towns, and throughout the villages which nestled in the 
Vosges glens. It was a tale of horrors which revealed a new thing 
in war, and to read the full text of it we must return to Belgium. 

The surge of the great armies southward on 24th August left 
Belgium in the hands of the invaders, with the exception of the 
city of Antwerp, Ostend and the coast, and a portion of West 
Flanders. There is a passage in the Book of Deuteronomy which 
was quoted at the time by a German newspaper as an encouraging 
precedent for the doings of a modern Israel : — 

" And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto 
Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through 
thy land : I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the 
right hand nor to the left. Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that 
I may eat ; and give me water for money, that I may drink .... But 
Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him : for the Lord thy 
God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might 
deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. And the Lord said 
unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee : 
begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. jjThen Sihon 
came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the 
Lord our God delivered him before us ; and we smote him, and his 
sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and 
utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every 
city, we left none to remain : only the cattle we took for a prey unto 
ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took." 

That Belgium should share the fate of the cities of Heshbon 



was no part of the original German plan. The Emperor and his 
advisers had sincerely hoped that she would for due consideration 
sell Germany the right of passage. Had she done that, we may 
be certain that the march through Belgium would have been a 
miracle of decorum, that every bushel of oats and peck of flour 
would have been paid for in cash, and that not a door-knob would 
have been damaged. German discipline was marvellously per- 
fect when discipHne was desired. Failing the right of entry, the 
German leaders believed that the complete repulse of the Belgian 
forces, the occupation of her capital, and the sight of the omni- 
potent German armies would awe her into an abject, if sullen, 
submission. Belgium would no doubt fall to Germany when the 
war was over, and this sleek and mercantile little people, the 
comniis voyageurs of Europe, would not quarrel with their future 
bread and butter. If, on the other hand, the nation should prove 
refractory, the position might be serious, and would demand strin- 
gent measures. For through the plain of Belgium and the hilly 
Ardennes ran the communications of the great armies now sweeping 
towards Paris. No first-line troops could be spared to guard them ; 
only reserves, and a limited number of these. To waste a field 
army by using it as an army of occupation was repugnant to the 
whole German theory of war. The process of Germanization was 
at once set going. Marshal von der Goltz had been nominated 
military governor of Belgium ; governors were appointed for dis- 
tricts and cities ; fines were levied on the different localities, to 
warn a presumably thrifty race of the folly of resistance ; the 
clocks were changed to German time ; German currency was 
introduced, and German nomenclature adopted. Everything 
was done to convince the Belgian people that the conquest of 
Belgium was an accomplished fact. 

But the Belgian people obstinately refused to be convinced. 
The field army was not content with the security of Antwerp. 
On the 24th of August it made a sortie and took Malines, which 
commanded the best railway connection between Germany and 
West Flanders. At the moment there was considerable German 
activity towards the north-west of Belgium and the coast. General 
von Boehn's 9th Reserve Corps, destined to reinforce Kluck, was 
marching towards Bruges and Ghent, and a detachment of Uhlans 
was close upon Ostend. On 27th August three battalions of British 
Marines occupied that town, which might be the forerunners of a 
new British army.* With the British at Ostend and the Belgians 
* This force was withdrawn on the 31st. 


at Malines, the German forces in West Flanders might be caught 
in a trap, and the communications on which the great armies 
depended seriously imperilled. The Belgian sortie had the valu- 
able result of depriving Kluck of his reinforcements and bringing 
Boehn hurriedly eastward again. The fighting in Belgium of the 
next three weeks took place for the most part in a triangle of which 
Antwerp was the apex and a line drawn from Termonde to Aerschot 
the base. A second sortie on the 9th September gave the Belgians 
Termonde and Aerschot, but by the 13th they had retired, when 
the Germans brought up a fresh division of the 3rd Reserve 
Corps. Thereafter there was nothing before them but a slow fall- 
ing back upon Antwerp, and the enemy began to close in on that 
devoted city. 

After this gallant diversion the misery which is inseparable 
from war increased to something like a reign of terror. Belgium 
was a most vulnerable land. The long-descended habits of its 
people made of it a hive of industry ; its fields were tilled like 
gardens, its little cities were history embodied and visible, full 
of precious tokens of their stormy past and industrious present. 
Everywhere was a civilization rich, warm, compact, and continuous. 
In this most habitable land was to be seen some of the finest stone 
and brick work of the Flemish Renaissance, and whole streets 
and towns might have come intact from the fifteenth century. 
Everywhere were ancient church spires, rising far over the flats, 
and sweetening the air with their carillons ; and in town and 
hamlet alike were masterpieces of Flemish tapestry and painting 
— the handiwork of Rubens and Vandyck and Bouts and Matsys. 
A bull on a common is a harmless creature, but he will play havoc 
in the cabinet of the virtuoso. 

Let us deal first with the vandalism which was proven and 
admitted — the destruction of old and beautiful cities. Louvain 
was the chief university town of Belgium, and one of the intel- 
lectual centres of Catholic Europe. Even more than Oxford it 
whispered from its spires " the last enchantments of the Middle 
Age." Its town hall was the most miraculous of the many miracles 
of Gothic architecture which adorned the Belgian plain. Its uni- 
versity was one of the oldest in Europe, and contained in its library 
riches of incunabula and manuscripts befitting a city which was 
associated with More and Erasmus. Its Church of St. Peter was 
full of treasures of painting and carving, and the fabric itself in 
its solemn simplicity rose majestically above the cluster of ancient 
dusky streets. On the evening of 25th August, while the Belgian 


front was about ten miles distant, there was an outburst of rifle 
fire in the town, and several Germans were hit. The Germans an- 
nounced that it was the outcome of a plot among the civilian popu- 
lace, instigated by the Belgian Government ; the Belgians declared 
that a detachment of Germans, driven back from Malines, was 
fired upon in mistake by the German troops of occupation. Such 
were the two tales ; we need only add that the first was weakened 
by the fact that the Civic Guard of Louvain had already been 
disarmed, and the rifles in the town hunted out and confiscated ; 
while the probability of the second was heightened by the proven 
circumstance that many of the German garrison were drunk. 
A certain Major von Manteuffel — an unworthy bearer of a famous 
name — was in command, and he gave the order for the destruction 
of the city. It was done as systematically as the condition of the 
soldiers allowed. Small incendiary tablets and fagots soaked in 
paraffin were flung in through the broken windows. Houses were 
entered and assiduously looted, what could not be carried away 
being smashed and flung into the streets. Presently much of the 
city was in a blaze. The university disappeared, and with it the 
great library ; only the walls of St. Peter's Church remained ; and 
who shall say how many ancient houses were turned into heaps of 
ashes ? The town hall survived, saved by the Germans out of 
some sudden compunction, and that gemlike thing stood forlorn 
among the blackened acres. 

Malines — the Mechlin which gave its name to the lace collars 
of our ancestors — was only less famous in the annals of Flanders. 
The great Cathedral of St. Rombaut, soaring with its unfinished 
tower above the Grande Place, dated from late in the thirteenth 
century, and contained the most superb of Vandyck's pictures. 
In its Palais de Justice Margaret of Austria had held court, and 
no city in the world was richer in ancient and storied houses. We 
have seen that the Belgian army retook Malines ; but they did not 
hold it, for they were a field army and not a garrison. On 27th 
August, when the first German bombardment took place, there were 
probably no Belgian troops in the town. The roof and walls of 
the cathedral were riddled with shells, and the populace fled from 
the place in panic. On 2nd September it was again bombarded, 
and the German fire was directed successfully against the tower 
of St. Rombaut's. The famous bells, which had rung their carillon 
for five centuries, were shattered to pieces. Again on 26th Sep- 
tember, when the scared inhabitants had begun to creep back, 
there was a third bombardment, which issued in a fire that raged 


furiously for days. Malincs had to all intents gone the way of 

Termonde, which Marlborough had captured in his wars, was 
another historic town lying between Ghent and Malincs, on the 
banks of the Scheldt. Unhappily it too had treasures in stone and 
lime — the Church of Notre Dame, with its paintings by Vandyck 
and Rubens, and its exquisite town hall. It was the theatre of 
desperate fighting during the first fortnight of September, but its 
destruction was not due to any battle. It was dehberately smashed 
to pieces during the German occupation because the fine levied 
upon it was not immediately forthcoming. Of all the Belgian 
cities, its fate perhaps was the direst, for almost literally it was 
levelled with the ground. Small wonder, for the burning was 
most scientifically managed. The houses were first sprayed with 
paraffin by soldiers, who perambulated the streets with oil-carts 
and hoses. 

To cite Louvain, Malines, and Termonde is only to mention 
the most famous instances of destruction. Hundreds of little 
villages were laid waste, towns like Alost and Dinant were wantonly 
bombarded, and scarcely any part of this vandalism was imposed 
upon the invaders by military needs. Let us be very clear on this 
subject. War is a stern taskmistress, and will not be denied. If 
a famous church happens to be in the field of fire of an army in 
battle, the church must go. No aesthetic compunction can be 
allowed to interfere with strategical necessities. But only a small 
part of the demolition of Belgian cities was done for the purposes 
of military operations. Louvain was destroyed by the Germans 
at their leisure, while they were the force in occupation. Malines 
and Termonde were bombarded apparently out of pique, for the 
Belgians did not defend them. As for Dinant, it is hard to see 
what purpose was served by the ruin of its pleasant streets and the 
quaint church which lay in the nook of its cliffs. The Saxon 
army, who did the work, crossed the Meuse without difficulty, 
and did all their fighting on the farther bank. The only apparent 
motive was the inspiration of terror in the conquered, that the 
task of the future masters might be easy. Civilized war respects 
non-combatants, and not less those inanimate non-combatants, 
the great fabrics of the past. But this was not civilized war. 

We come next to the subject of looting. Every town which 
was shelled or burned, and many which were not, were made the 

• It is fair to remember that Malines was only some 4,000 yards from the southern 
forts of Antwerp, and so almost in the battle-line. 


object of a comprehensive robbery. Little places were plundered 
down to the last sheet and florin. Now, looting was once a per- 
quisite of the victors, but it had long been interdicted in civilized 
warfare. Soldiers, of course, break out occasionally and loot ; 
but they are disobeying orders, and suffer for it. But the German 
soldier did not break loose and disobey ; he was too well drilled 
by the machine. The looting of the Belgian cities would have 
been impossible had it not been permitted and instigated by the 
officers in command. They turned their men free, and human 
nature, which is eternally acquisitive, did the rest. 

Last comes the subject which made of this war a nightmare, 
and recalled the days of Tilly and Wallenstein — the murder and 
outrage done upon civilian non-combatants. Even after all doubt- 
ful cases are discarded — and the world for months was full of wild 
legends — there remains a long catalogue of proven outrages, many 
of which Germany admitted by the nature of her defence. She 
did not denj? ; she justified, and apparently believed sincerely in 
the justice of her plea. The bare facts — whatever the condonation 
— were, roughly, these. At Louvain there was a great deal of 
wholesale shooting of civilians — men, women, and children. At 
Aerschot there was something not unlike a massacre. The Ger- 
mans alleged that one of their officers was treacherously shot dead 
by the burgomaster's son. One Belgian report admitted the shoot- 
ing, but added that it was done in defence of his sister's honour ; 
another denied it altogether. At Vise, at Alost, at Dinant, at 
Tamines, and many little villages, unarmed civilians were shot and 
baj'oneted, sometimes on a charge of having firearms in their pos- 
session, sometimes apparently purely as an exemplary measure — 
pour encourager les mitres. There were many cases of the murder 
of old people, women, and children by a drink-maddened or panicky 
soldiery. There were a number of well-authenticated cases of 
crimes against women and young girls. There were certain in- 
stances of the Germans having used non-combatants and women 
as a screen for their firing lines. There were cases of mutilation 
and torture too horrible to be recounted. 

There have been various pleas in extenuation. One is that the 
Germans did not choose to treat armed civilians according to the 
ordinary laws of war, and they included the Belgian Civic Guard 
in this category. They simply did not accept the findings of the 
Hague Conventions on the subject. WTiat their theory of war 
was we shall presently consider ; but — difficult as it is to under- 
stand — it allowed them to do things which other nations chose 


to regard as monstrous.* This is, of course, not a defense, but it 
affords a partial explanation on other grounds than mere inherent 
brutahty. A second is that there was a great deal of heavy drinking 
among the troops — an explanation again, not an excuse. German 
peasants swilled heavy red wine with the same freedom with which 
they were used to drink light beer, and the results were disastrous. 
Having said so much, the fact remains that in many cases there 
was a carnival of sheer murder which excelled the sack of Magde- 
burg and other seventeenth century horrors. Let us accept for a 
moment the German explanation of Louvain and Aerschot, and 
admit that they were treacherously shot at by one or more of the 
inhabitants. Did the punishment — the burning and looting of 
the town and wholesale murder and outrage — show any reasonable 
proportion to the crime ? The plea is preposterous. It may be 
expedient that one man die for the people, but not that the people 
die for one or two men. The doctrine of collective responsibility 
might conceivably, if modestly interpreted, be used in war. The 
Roman penalty of " decimation " was such a use. It is barbarous 
and, to modern eyes, unjust, but it might be defended. But a 
holocaust by way of atonement has no sort of relation to any 
civilized code of justice. In barbarous armies, like Timour's or 
Attila's, we see how it happens. There you are dealing with 
elementary beings, savages inflamed and maddened by conquest. 
But this was the most modern of armies springing from the most 
modern of fatherlands, which had long vaunted to the world its 
civilization. Louvain and Aerschot were the fruit not of sudden 
passion but of a long-accepted doctrine. 

A doctrine, let it be remembered, an " armed dogma " of the 
kind against which Burke warned the world. The ordinary 
German is not naturally cruel or brutal. He behaved badly in 
1815, as we know from Wellington ; but he conducted himself 
well on the whole in 1870. The authors of the atrocities were 
mostly Landwehr troops, many of them decent fathers of families 
and respectable bourgeois. There are blackguards in every army 
who now and then get out of hand, but it is impossible to think 
of the majority of these German troops as naturally blackguards. 
They carried in their knapsacks letters from their own Gretchens 
and Gertruds, and had set out with high notions about warring 
for their land and its " kultur." Yet the result of their cam- 

* The Continental (and not merely the German) military law on the subject of 
civilians taken in arms and the use of hostages is different from the British and 
American ; but the charge is not the formal law, but the preposterous extravagance 
with which it was enforced. 


paigning was Louvain. How is it to be explained ? Partly, no 
doubt, by panic — the fear of nervous, excitable folk in the midst 
of a hostile country ; but mainly by the German doctrine of war. 
Their leaders had evolved an inhuman creed which they practised 
with the rigidity of Brahmins, and the disciplined troops acted 
as they were bid. Presently drink and bloodshed did their work, 
and what began as obedience to orders ended as a debauch. 

The unhappy consequence of those deeds in France and Belgium 
was to destroy among the Allies the chivalrous respect for their 
opponents which is one of the antiseptics of war — that feeling 
which found expression in Whitman's cry, " My enemy is dead, a 
man divine as myself is dead." It is necessary to be very precise 
in our charges. Every nation at war believes evil things about 
its opponents, and takes for premeditated crimes what are merely 
the incidents of campaigning. Therefore we must confine our- 
selves to the outrages which are fully substantiated and incapable 
of being explained away as mistakes. Germany, again, broke many 
of the conventions of international law which she herself had 
formally accepted, bat on these more abstract questions it is not 
worth while to argue. It matters Httle how many of the Hague 
rules she violated, since she altogether repudiated the bondage of 
international obligations. What is vital is the German breaches 
of laws, written and unwritten, which lie at the very root of civil- 
ized warfare. It is possible to imagine a Power, with Machia- 
vellian notions about public conduct, and loose ideas about the 
rights of neutrals, who in the greater matters would fight with 
reasonable decency. But it is a different thing if she offends 
against those elementary human conventions which are observed 
by many savages and by all who claim the title of civilized. It 
is indubitable that Germany so offended, not once or twice, but 
with a consistency which argued a reasoned policy. The tradition 
of the German machine did not frown upon outrages ; it favoured 
them. What was that policy ? * 

We can call it, following a common practice, the Frederician 
tradition, though the army of Frederick had a curious respect for 
non-combatant rights ; or if we wish a modern peg, we can call 
it the spirit of Zabern, from its most recent pre-war exemphfica- 
tion. Reasonably stated, as, for example, by Clausewitz, it means 
simply that war should be waged whole-heartedly, for the more 

* The reader will find the fullest discussion of Germany's infringements of inter- 
national law and the customs of war in Professor Wilford Garner's International Lav 
and the World War (1920). 

1914] THE LAWS OF WAR. 243 

whole-hearted it is the quicker it will be ended. War cannot be 
made with kid gloves. Loss of life, to your own side or the enemy's, 
is to be disregarded, so long as your object is attained. There is 
nothing inherently wrong in such an attitude. Stonewall Jackson, 
a humane man and a devout Christian, did not hesitate to sacrifice 
his troops or to inflict suffering upon the innocent, if relentlessness 
were necessary for success. But modern Germany consistently 
overstated this truth, until it became in her hands a fatal folly. 
We can see the overstatement beginning in Bismarck's famous 
words, though in practice he was wise enough to temper his heroics 
with common sense. " You must inflict," he said, " on the in- 
habitants of invaded towns the maximum of suffering, so that 
they may become sick of the struggle, and may bring pressure 
to bear on their Government to discontinue it. You must leave 
the people through whom you march only their eyes to weep 
with." * But the full extravagance appeared in the speech of 
the Emperor when he addressed the troops leaving for China in 
1900. " Quarter is not to be given. Prisoners are not to be made. 
Whoever falls into your hands is into your hands delivered. Just as 
a thousand years ago the Huns, under their king Attila, made for 
themselves a name which still appears imposing in tradition, so may 
the name of German become known in China." And he added to 
this pious exhortation, " The blessing of the Lord be with you." 

Such a spirit is in clear defiance of the rules and decencies which 
must be observed if war is to be anything higher than the struggle 
of wild beasts. These rules are very old, and have been more or 
less observed since the days of Alexander the Great. All through 
the Middle Ages the ritual of chivalry provided a code of conduct 
in war, and a few centuries ago international jurists began to collect 
and expound the rules. Great lawyers like Grotius and Bynkers- 
hoek, Vattel and Puffendorf, laid down the customs of war be- 
tween civilized peoples, and in our day the various Hague Confer- 
ences brought the code up to date, and secured the definite assent of 
the nations of the world. A Power which assents to and then 
violates these rules of decency is an outcast from the commonwealth 
of civilization. In every war they are broken, but they are broken 
against the will of the authorities of the belligerents. In the 
German case we had the curious result that their observance 
depended upon the character of the individual soldier ; for offi- 
cially they were disliked and disregarded. 

* He is generally believed to have borrowed this last phrase from the Americaa 
general Sheridan, who accompanied the German Staff in 1870. 


The German answer — always implied and often explicitly 
stated — was that they did not accept any laws of war which were 
against their interests. In the pride of those early days all classes, 
from the ordinary junker to intellectuals like Maximihan Harden, 
laughed and shrugged their shoulders at tales of outrage, even 
when they suspected that they might be true. Such things, they 
said, would be forgotten when they had conquered. They claimed 
to be a law to themselves, and if other people did not like it it 
was their business to show themselves stronger than the Germans. 
To this it might be replied that such anarchism was, to say the 
least of it, bad policy. Clausewitz long ago warned his country- 
men that it was " inexpedient " to do anything to outrage the 
general moral sense of other peoples, and the great men who made 
the German Empire, Bismarck and Moltke, were tireless in their 
efforts to keep right with European opinion. For if no law is 
acknowledged, no conventions and codes of honour, then this law- 
lessness will certainly be turned some day against the lawbreakers 
themselves. No land will make an alliance with them or a treaty 
if their views on the duty of obligations are so notoriously lax. 
But the main point is that this crude lawlessness illustrated an 
interesting characteristic of what was then in Germany the govern- 
ing mind — its curious immaturity. That mind was like a child's, 
which simplifies too much. As we grow up we advance in com- 
plexity ; we see half-tones where before we saw only harsh blacks 
and whites ; we reahze that nothing is quite alone, that everything 
is interrelated, and we become shy of bold simplicities. The me- 
chanical may be simple ; the organic must be complex and mani- 
fold. It sounds so easy to say, like the villain in melodrama, that 
you will own no code except what you make yourself ; but it really 
cannot be done. It was not that the rejection of half a dozen of 
the diffuse findings of the Hague Tribunal mattered much ; what 
signified was the disregard of the unformulated creed which pene- 
trates every part of our modern life — Germany's, too, in her sober, 
non-martial moments. To massacre a hundred unarmed people 
because one man has fired off a rifle may be enjoined by some 
half-witted mihtary theorist, but it is fundamentally inhuman and 
silly. It offends against not only the heart of mankind, but against 
their common sense. It is not even virilely wicked. It lacks 
intelligence. It is merely childish. 

The same crudeness was found in other parts of the German 
scheme — for example, in their elaborate espionage system. The 
industry spent on it was more than human; it was beaver-like. 

1914] THE GERMAN CREED. 245 

ant-like, incredible, like the slavery of some laborious animal ; 
but it, and the hundred other things like it, could not win battles. 
It had its effect, but that effect was in no way commensurate with 
the pains taken. The truth is that human energy is limited, and 
if too much thought be given to minor things, no vitality will be 
left for the great matters. The weakness could be observed in 
many activities of the modem German mind — immense erudition 
which beat ineffectual wings and achieved little that was lasting 
in scholarship ; a meticulousness in business organization which 
terribly frightened the nervous British merchant, and yet some- 
how did not achieve much — nothing, at any rate, comparable 
with the care taken in the preparation. But it was most con- 
spicuous in war. Frederick and Moltke were military geniuses of 
a high order ; but the military genius did not appear in Germany's 
superbly provided armies, for there was no room in them for the 
higher kind of intelligence. German industry was not mature ; 
it was like the painful, unintelligent absorption of a child. No 
amount of organizing the second-rate will produce the first-rate. 

Let us suppose that a man starts in business with good brains 
and a reasonable capital. He resolves to be bound by nothing, 
to get on at all costs, to outstrip his neighbours by a greater industry 
and a complete unscrupulousness. He will keep within the four 
corners of the law, but he will have no regard to any of the anti- 
quated decencies of trade. So he toils incessantly ; no detail is 
too small for him ; he studies and codifies what seem to him the 
popular tastes with the minuteness of a psychological laboratory ; 
he corrupts the employees of his rivals ; no bribe is too base for him ; 
he buys secrets and invites confidences only to betray them ; he 
is full of a thousand petty ingenuities ; he allows no human com- 
passion to temper his ruthlessness ; his one god, for whom no sacrifice 
is too costly, is success. What will be the result of such a career ? 
Inevitably, failure. Failure, because his eternal preoccupation 
with small things ruins his mind for the larger view. The great 
truths in economics are always simple, but they escape a perverted 
ingenuity. He will not have the mind to grasp the major matters 
in supply and demand, and the odds are that, leaving the question 
of his certain unpopularity aside, he will be outclassed in sheer 
business talent by more scrupulous and less laborious competitors. 
Commerce is not the same thing as war, but the parallel in this 
case is fairly exact. The German mind could not see the wood 
for the trees. It knew the situation, dimensions, and value of 
every bit of timber ; but it had no time to spare for the quagmires 


on either side, and it had no care for what might be beyond the 

The impression left by the spectacle of the wonderful machine, 
the proudest achievement of the modern German spirit, with its 
astonishing efficiency up to a point, its evidence of unwearied care 
and endless industry, remained oddly childish, like a toy on the 
making of which a passion of affection has been lavished. It was 
a perversion, an aberration, not a healthy development from the 
great Germany of the past. The man who can devise the campaign 
of Trafalgar is not the man who is always busy about the brass- 
work. Undue care is, not less than slovenliness, a sign of the im- 
mature and unbalanced mind. And the profession of a morality 
above all humble conventions, so far from impressing the world 
as godlike, seemed nothing but the swagger of a hobbledehoy. It 
was not barbarism, which is an honest and respectable thing ; it 
was decivilization, which stands to civilization as a man's decay 
stands to his prime. 

What of the little people who bore the brunt of this savagery ? 
Before the war Belgium had been as sharply divided into parties 
and races as any nation in Europe. There were deep gulfs between 
Catholic and Socialist, between the peasants of Flanders and the 
colliers and factory hands of Hainault, between northern Fleming 
and southern Walloon. She had under no conceivable circum- 
stances anything to gain from war. Her laborious population 
would at the best lose wealth and employment, and her closely 
settled land was an easy booty for the plunderer. In such a country 
the complex industrial machine, once put out of gear, would be hard 
to start again. From the material point of view Germany was 
right ; it was insanity for Belgium to resist. Moreover, she had 
never made a profession of romantic adventures. She had been 
forced into the Congo business a little against her will, and her 
recent history showed none of the far-wandering restlessness in 
commerce and colonization which had characterized in different 
ways Germany and Britain. She was a home-keeping people 
who believed in attending to the shop. But when the day of trial 
came she did not waver. Her armies fought in the last ditch, and 
never for one moment was there a thought of surrender in the hearts 
of the nation. The prosperity which had taken generations to 
build up went in a day ; she lost her land and her cities, her Govern- 
ment presently went into exile, and the shores of Britain were 
crowded with her fugitives. The Germans had tried to wheedle 

1914] KING ALBERT. 247 

her, but she shook her head ; they tried to frighten her, and found 
only tight Hps ; and when again they tried cajolery and dithy- 
rambs about the blessings of German rule, they were met with 
scornful laughter. Belgium replied, like Spain in Wordsworth's 
poem : — 

" We can endure that he should waste our lands. 
Despoil our temples, and by sword and flame 
Return us to the dust from which we came ; 
Such food a Tyrant's appetite demands ; 
And we can brook the thought that by his hands 
Spain may be overpowered, and he possess. 
For his delight, a solemn wilderness 
Where all the brave lie dead. But, when of bands 
Which he will break for us he dares to speak ; 
Of benefits, and of a future day 
When our enlightened minds shall bless his sway ; 
Then the strained heart of fortitude proves weak." 

Britain, the old ally and protector of Belgium, did the little 
in her power to mitigate this suffering. She had already lent the 
Belgian Government a large sum which was to carry no interest, 
and at the end of August a private organization — originally destined 
by the irony of fate for the reception of ultra-Protestant refugees 
from Ulster — was organized as a relief committee. Presently 
the Government took over the work, and the Belgian fugitives 
became officially the guests of Britain. Did the crowds that 
stared curiously at the haggard, grey-faced people who arrived 
by every boat at Folkestone, and soon began to throng the London 
streets — all classes of society — all forms of raiment — realize that 
they were looking upon the results of the most heroic sacrifice in 
modern history ? The miracle was the more wonderful from 
its unexpectedness. We are ready to cheer Mr. Greatheart when 
he advances to meet the giant ; it is splendid, but we knew it 
would happen, for after all giant-kiUing is his profession. But 
when some homely pilgrim, without shining armour or great sword, 
seizes his staff and marches stoutly to a more desperate conflict we 
do not cheer. It is a marvel which dims the eyes and catches at 
the heart-strings. 

Much was due to her King, the most purely heroic figure of 
the day. No monarch of the great ages more nobly fulfilled the 
ideal of kingship. He raised Belgium to the position of a Great 
Power, if moral dignity has any meaning in the world. There can 
be no finer tribute to him than some words spoken by a refugee, 


a quiet little man who had lost family and Uvelihood, and seemed 
to peer out upon a new world like a dazed child : " Frankly, we 
did not think we could have behaved so well. You will under- 
stand that we are a small people, a people of traders, not greatly 
interested in high pohtics or war. We needed a leader, and God 
sent that leader. We owe everything to our King, He has made 
of our farmers and tradesmen a nation of heroes. When the 
war is over he will rule over a broken land and a very poor people, 
but for all that he will be one of the greatest kings in the world." 


4th August-22nd Seftemher. 

Germany's Nival Policy — Sir John Jellicoe's Problem — The Transport of the Armies 
— Escape of the Goeben and the Breslau — Protection of the Trade Routes — 
Security of the British Coasts — The Battle of the Bight of Heligoland— What 
Control of the Sea implies — The Submarine Menace — The German Commerce- 
raiders — The Declaration of London. 

Early on the morning of 4th August the British Grand Fleet 
put to sea. From that moment it disappeared from English sight. 
Dwellers on the southern and eastern coasts in the bright weather 
of early August could see an occasional cruiser or destroyer speed- 
ing on some errand, or an escorted mine-sweeper busy at its perilous 
task. But the great battleships had gone. Somewhere out on the 
blue waters or hidden in a creek of our northern and western shores 
lay the vigilant admirals of Britain. But presently came news. 
On the night of the 4th the German mine-layer Konigin Luise 
left Borkum, and about 11 a.m. on the 5th she was sighted, chased, 
and sunk by two British destroyers. Early on the 6th the British 
light cruiser Amphion struck one of the mines she had laid, and 
foundered with some loss of life. Battle had been joined at sea. 

To the command of the Grand Fleet there had been appointed 
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, with Rear-Admiral Charles Madden as 
Chief of Staff. It consisted at the moment of twenty Dreadnoughts, 
eight " King Edwards," four battle cruisers, two squadrons of 
cruisers and one of Hght cruisers. Those who shared Steven- 
son's view as to the racy nomenclature of British seamen found 
something reassuring in the name of the new Commander-in- 
Chief. Admiral Jelhcoe had served as a heutenant in the Egyptian 
war of 1882. SpeciaUzing in gunnery, he had become a com- 
mander in 1891 and a captain in 1897 ; had served on the China 
station, commanding the Naval Brigade and acting as chief staff 
cf&cer in the Peking expedition of 1900, where he was severely 



wounded Thereafter he became successively Naval Assistant 
to the Controller of the Navy, Director of Naval Ordnance and 
Torpedoes, Rear-Admiral in the Atlantic Fleet, a Lord Commis- 
sioner of the Admiralty and Controller of the Navy, Vice-Admiral 
commanding the Atlantic Fleet, Vice-Admiral commanding the 
Second Division of the Home Fleet, and second Sea Lord of the 
Admiralty. He brilliantly distinguished himself in the command 
of the " Red " Fleet at the naval manoeuvres of 1913. Rear- 
Admiral Madden, his Chief of Staff, who was also his brother-in- 
law, had already served with him at the Admiralty. Sir John 
Jellicoe was one of the officers chiefly responsible for the modern 
navy of Britain, and enjoyed not only the admiration and complete 
confidence of his colleagues, but a peculiar popularity among all 
grades of British seamen. His nerve and self-possession were not 
less conspicuous than his professional skill, and in the wearing 
months ahead of him he had need of all resources of mind and 

The British fleet had not fought a great battle at sea since 
Trafalgar. Since those days, only a century removed in time, 
the conditions of naval warfare had seen greater changes than 
in the span between Themistocles and Nelson. The old wooden 
walls, the unrifled guns, the boarders with their cutlasses, belonged 
to an earlier world. The fleet had no longer to scour the ocean 
for the enemy's fleet. Wireless telegraphy, aerial reconnaissance, 
and swift destroyers brought it early news of a foe. The gun power 
of a modern battleship would have wrecked the Spanish Armada 
with one broadside, and the enemy could now be engaged at a 
distance of many miles. Sea fighting was no more the clean and 
straightforward business of the old days. Destruction dwelt in 
every element when there was no sign of a hostile pennant. Aircraft 
dropped bombs from the clouds ; unseen submarines, like sword- 
fish, pierced the hull from the depths ; and anywhere might lurk 
those mines which destroyed, like some convulsion of nature, with 
no human enemy near. Britain had to fight under new conditions, 
with new strategy and new weapons, with far greater demands 
on the intellect and a far more deadly strain on the nerves. Most 
things had changed, but two things remained unaltered — the cool 
daring of her sailors, and their conviction that the seas were the 
unquestionable heritage of their race. 

Germany's naval poHcy in the first instance was, as we have 
seen, to refuse battle and withdraw her fleet behind prepared 
defences. To this decision various purposes contributed. She 


needed every soldier she possessed in the battle-line, and wished 
to avoid the necessity of guarding her Pomeranian coast with an 
army. Again, she hoped that public opinion in Britain, alarmed 
at the inactivity of its navy, would compel an attack on the Elbe 
position — an attack which, she beUeved, would end in a British 
disaster. But her defence was not to be passive. By a mine and 
submarine offensive, pushed right up to the British coasts, she 
hoped to wear down Britain's superiority in capital ships and bring 
it in the end to an equality with her own. Then, and not till then, 
her High Seas Fleet was willing to sally forth and give battle. 

To meet such Fabian tactics was no easy problem for Britain. 
The ordinary citizen hoped for a theatrical coup, a full dress battle, 
or at the least a swift series of engagements with enemy warships. 
When nothing happened he began to think that something was 
amiss ; he could not believe that it was a proof of success that 
nothing happened — nothing startling, that is to say, for every day 
had its full record of quiet achievement. As a consequence of this 
inactivity, false doctrines began to be current, in which, let it be 
said, the British naval leaders did not share. It was Britain's 
business to command the sea, and so long as an enemy fleet remained 
intact, that command was not absolute but qualified. The British 
fleet might be invincible, but it was not yet victorious. Its numer- 
ous minor activities were not undertaken for their own sake, as if 
in themselves they could give the final victory ; they were forms of 
compulsion conceived in order to force the High Sea Fleet to come 
out and fight. But that ultimate battle was not to be induced 
by measures which spelt suicide for the attacker. There were 
urgent tasks to be performed on the ocean — in protecting British 
trade, in cutting off enemy imports, in moving the troops of a world- 
wide Empire. So long as these were duly performed the practical 
mastery of the seas was in British hands, and it would have been 
criminal folly to throw away capital ships in an immediate attack 
on the fortified retreat of so accommodating an enemy. It was 
Britain's duty to perform this work of day-to-day sea control, 
and to be ready at any moment for the grand battle. On land 
an army fights its way yard by yard to a position from which 
it can deal a crushing blow. But a fleet needs none of these pre- 
liminaries. As soon as the enemy chooses to appear the battle can 
be joined. Hence Admiral von Ingenohl was right in saving his 
fleet for what he considered a better chance, and Britain was right 
in not forcing him unduly. Naval power should be used, not 
squandered, and the mightiest fleet on earth may be flung away on 


a fool's errand. It should not be forgotten that the strength of a 
fleet is a more brittle and less replaceable thing than the strength 
of an army. New levies can be called for on land, and tolerable 
infantry trained in a few months. But in the navy it takes six 
years to make a junior officer, two years in normal times to build 
a cruiser, and three years to replace a battleship. A serious loss 
in fighting units is, for any ordinary naval war, an absolute, not 
a temporary, calamity. 

Sir John Jellicoe had to face a problem far more intricate than 

at the time was commonly believed. Not since the seventeenth 

century had Britain confronted a great naval Power whose base 

lay northward of the Straits of Dover. The older British sea 

strategy had assumed an enemy to southward of the English 

Channel, and on the southern coasts lay the best and securest of 

our naval ports. But now the foe lay across the stormy North 

Sea, 120,000 square miles in extent, into which he possessed two 

separate entries linked by the Kiel Canal. The east coast of Britain 

was now the fighting front, and on it lay a dozen vulnerable ports 

and no first-class fleet base. Before 1914 this situation had been 

foreseen, but it had not been adequately met. A first-class base 

was in preparation at Rosyth, but it was not yet ready, and in any 

case its outer anchorage was exposed to torpedo attack. In 1910 

Cromarty had been selected as a fleet base, and Scapa in the 

Orkneys as a base for minor forces, and by July 1914 the fixed 

defences of the former were ready. But nothing had been done at 

Scapa, which from its position and size was selected as the Grand 

Fleet base on the outbreak of hostiUties. Jellicoe was aware of the 

German purpose of attrition, and realized that till his base was 

better secured his fleet was at the mercy of an enemy attack both 

in harbour and in its North Sea cruises, for he was still very short 

of mine-sweepers and destroyers to form a protective screen. 

He saw that Germany's chance lay in the uncertainty of the first 

month, when Britain had to perform many urgent naval tasks 

before her sea organization was complete. He therefore decided 

to confine his Battle Fleet in ordinary conditions to operations in 

the more northern waters of the North Sea, and to establish in 

the southern waters a regular system of cruiser patrols, supported 

by periodic sweeps of the Battle Fleet. It was his business to avoid 

losses so far as possible from the casual mine and submarine, and 

at the same time to protect the British coasts from raids and be 

ready at any moment to fall upon the High Seas Fleet if it ventured 

out— a combination of calculated duties and incalculable hazards 


trjdng under any circumstances, and doubly trying when the 
Grand Fleet had not yet found a certain home. 

The problems of the Grand Fleet were not the only ones 
confronting the Admiralty, which had to deal with all the waters 
of the world. There were three urgent tasks which had to be per- 
formed while a wider strategy was in process of shaping — the safe 
transport of the Expeditionary Force to France ; the clearing 
and safeguarding of the trade routes ; and the protection of the 
British coasts against enemy attacks, whether sporadic raids or a 
concerted invasion. Let us consider briefly how the three duties 
were fulfilled before turning to the events in the main battle area 
of the North Sea. 

The first, so far as concerned the British army, was brilliantly 
performed. There were no convoys, but both ends of the Channel 
were closed against raids, by the Dover Patrol at one end and the 
Anglo-French cruiser squadron at the other, while the Grand Fleet 
took up a station from which it could strike at the High Sea Fleet, 
should Tngenohl venture out. During the crossing of the Ex- 
peditionary Force there was no sign of the enemy — a piece of 
supineness which can be explained only on the supposition that 
Germany considered the British army too trivial a matter to risk 
ships over. In the Mediterranean France had a similar problem. 
On 4th August Italy announced her neutrality, and Austria had not 
yet declared war on Britain or France, though it was clear that the 
declaration was imminent. The Austrian fleet was in the Northern 
Adriatic and had to be watched. Germany had in the Mediterranean 
the fastest armoured ships in her navy : the battle cruiser Goeben 
and the fast light cruiser Breslau — two vessels admirably fitted to 
act as commerce destroyers. The British squadron consisted of 
three battle cruisers, four heavy cruisers, and four light cruisers — 
a greatly superior force in gun power, but containing no vessel 
which was the Goeben's equal in speed. It was their business to 
prevent the German ships making for the Atlantic, and to hunt 
them down at the earliest possible moment. But the situation 
was complicated by two factors — one, the necessary co-operation 
with the French ; the other, the difficulty of receiving in time the 
orders of the British Admiralty, which had the strategic direction 
of the operations. In such a chase unless the man on the spot 
can act on his own responsibility the quarry may escape, for from 
hour to hour the situation changes. 

The first orders of Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne, who commanded 
the British squadron, were to protect the movements of the French 


transports from Algiers to Toulon. At daybreak on the 4th th&Coeben 
and Breslau appeared off the Algerian coast and fired a few shots 
at the coast towns of Bona and Philippeville. Meantime Admiral 
Souchon, in command of the Goeben, had received wireless in- 
structions from Berlin to proceed to Constantinople. Admiral de 
Lapeyrere, commanding the Toulon fleet, decided on his own 
initiative to depart from his original instructions (which were to 
operate to the eastward of the transports) and to form convoys. 
The decision was sound, for his ships were too slow to hunt down 
the enem}', and by putting them alongside the transports he was 
in a better position for both defence and a blow at the Germans 
if they were shepherded westward. This decision should have 
left Admiral Milne's force to pursue the Goeben, but unfortunately 
his first instructions from the Admiralty were not cancelled, and 
this was the main cause of the fiasco which followed. Souchon, 
after feinting to the west, turned eastward and reached Messina 
on the 5th. Milne took up a position which he believed to be in 
accordance with his orders, and which would have cut off Souchon 
had he come westward again. But Souchon passed out of the 
southern end of the straits in the evening, and if he could get clear 
of Admiral Troubridge in the mouth of the Adriatic, the way was 
open for him to the Dardanelles. Now Troubridge had with him 
no battle cruiser, he had instructions from the Admiralty not 
to risk an action against a superior force, and he considered 
therefore that he was not entitled to fight unless he could manoeuvre 
the enemy into a favourable position. Souchon feinted towards 
the Adriatic, and then turned south-east for Cape Matapan. 
Troubridge gave up the chase when day broke on the 7th and 
slowed down, waiting on the British battle cruisers which did not 
come. The Gloucester (Captain Howard Kelly), a ship scarcely 
larger than the Breslau, clung, however, to the enemy skirts, and 
fought a running fight till 1.50 p.m. on the 7th. Souchon was 
not yet out of danger, for when he reached the ^gean he heard 
that he would not be permitted to enter the Dardanelles, and was 
compelled for several days to cruise among the islands. Milne, 
who followed slowly, was soon within a hundred miles of the 
Germans, but beheved that they were making for Alexandria, 
or about to break back to join the Austrians. On the 9th Souchon 
heard the wireless of the British, and decided at all costs to run 
for Constantinople. At 8.30 p.m. on the loth he was allowed to 
enter the Dardanelles. 

The British failure was to have the most malign and far-reaching 


consequences. Souchon, perplexed by conflicting orders from 
Berlin, played, largely on his own responsibility, a bold game which 
succeeded. The British admirals, dutifully following their 
Admiralty's formal instructions, missed their chance. They were 
very properly exonerated from blame, for the mistake was the 
result of the new conditions of war. They received by wire- 
less all the news that reached the Admiralty, and consequently 
had to keep their eyes turning every way instead of concentrating 
on the one vital object. In the old days an admiral would have 
been left to his general instructions, and, had he been a bold man, 
would have destroyed the enemy. 

The second task was the clearing and safeguarding of the 
world's trade-routes. The first step lay with the Grand Fleet, 
for, as Sir Julian Corbett has well put it, " since all the new enemy's 
home terminals lay within our own home waters, we could close 
them by the same disposition with which we ensured free access 
to our own." But, the earths having been stopped, it was necessary 
to run down the quarries. All German cables were cut, and, except 
for wireless, her outlying ships were left without guidance from 
home. In every quarter of the globe British cruisers spread their 
net. German merchantmen in the ports of the Empire were de- 
tained, and hundreds of ships were made prize of in the high and 
the narrow seas. Some escaped to the shelter of neutral ports, 
especially to those of the United States, but none got back to 
Germany. In a week German seaborne commerce had ceased to 
exist, and on 14th August the Admiralty could announce that 
the passage of the Atlantic was safe. It was true that a few German 
cruisers and armed merchantmen were still at large. Admiral 
von Spee had in the Pacific the armoured cruisers Scharnhorst 
and Gneisenau and the light cruisers Niirnberg, Leipzig, and Emden ; 
the light cruisers Karlsruhe and Dresden were in the Atlantic. But 
the number seemed too few and their life too precarious seriously 
to affect our commerce. The British Government very properly 
began by guaranteeing part of the risk of maritime insurance ; 
but soon the rates fell of their own accord to a natural level, 
as it became clear how complete was our security. It was calcu- 
lated at the outbreak of war that British losses in the first six 
months would rise to 10 per cent, of vessels engaged in foreign 
trade. A return issued early in October showed that of her mer- 
cantile marine Britain had lost up to that date only 1.25 per cent., 
while Germany and Austria had each lost 10 per cent, of their total 


The third problem, the security of the British coast from 
invasion, loomed large in those early days. The curious inacti\dty 
of the enemy during the crossing of the Expeditionary Force seemed 
to presage a great surprise attack in the near future. The danger 
was much in Lord Kitchener's mind, and, considering that it was 
unsafe to leave the country without at least two regular divisions, 
he postponed the crossing of the 6th Division and brought it to 
East Anglia. The heavy ships of the Grand Fleet, owing to the 
risk of submarines, were ordered on 9th August to go north-west 
of the Orkneys, and since the enemy had located Scapa, a second 
war anchorage was estabhshed on the north-west coast of Scotland 
at Loch Ewe. They were brought east again on the 15th when the 
risk of invasion seemed greatest, and took up a midsea position 
in the latitude of Aberdeen, while Rear- Admiral Christian's South- 
ern Force, which included the Harwich flotilla, and was now an 
independent command directly under the Admiralty, watched 
the southern waters. On the 17th, the immediate danger being 
over, the Grand Fleet returned to Loch Ewe. Against minor 
raids the protection of the coasts lay with the destroyer flotillas, 
which were organized in two classes, " Patrol " and " Local Defence." 
Presently a vast auxiliary service was created from the mer- 
cantile marine, from the fishing fleets, from private yachts and 
motor boats. Britain became a nation in arms on the water as 
well as on the land, and her merchantmen became part of the 
navy as in her ancient wars. 

Meantime she did not forget the major duty of watching and 
enticing to battle the German High Sea Fleet. Apart from the 
regular cruisers of the British fleet and the cruiser squadrons in 
the North Sea, the Harwich flotilla kept watch to the very edge of 
the German sanctuary. The German admiral's aim was to send 
out patrols which would entice the British destroyers inside the 
Bight of Heligoland and then to cut in behind them with his 
light cruisers. There was an attempt of this sort on i8th August ; 
another on 21st August, when the German hght cruiser Rostock 
had a narrow escape ; but both were fruitless thrusts into the void. 
A third operation on the night of 25th August laid mines off the 
Tyne and the Humber. At this time both sides overestimated the 
danger from submarines and were over-careful with their heavier 
ships ; consequently any action was likely to be fought by only 
a fraction of the strength of the combatants. But the strategy of 
two opponents, however cautious, operated on converging lines 
which were certain sooner or later to meet, and the result was that 


28th August, the day when Sir John French's army reached the 
Oise, saw the first important naval engagement of the war. 

The plan, which originated with Commodore Roger Keyes, 
was to lure out to sea the enemy day patrols and intercept them 
by our destroyer flotillas while British cruisers and battle cruisers 
waited in readiness to deal with any heavier German ships that 
came out in support.* The battle cruisers were the largest and 
newest of their class, displacing some 27,000 tons, with a speed of 

29 knots, and an armament each of eight 13.5 and sixteen 4-inch 
guns. The First Light-Cruiser Squadron contained ships of the 
" town " class — 5,500 tons, 25 to 26 knots, and eight or nine 6-inch 
guns. The Seventh Cruiser Squadron were older ships from the 
Third Fleet — 12,000 tons and 21 knots. The First Destroyer 
Flotilla contained destroyers each of about 800 tons, 30 knots, 
and two 4-inch and two 12-pounder guns. The Third Flotilla was 
composed only of the largest and latest type — 965 tons, 32 knots, 
and three 4-inch guns. Of the accompanying cruisers the Arethnsa 
— the latest of an apostolic succession of vessels of that name — 
was the first ship of a new class ; her tonnage was 3,750, her speed 

30 knots, and her armament two 6-inch and six 4-inch guns. Her 
companion, the Fearless, had 3,440 tons, 26 knots, and ten 4-inch 
guns. The two small destroyers which accompanied the sub- 
marines, the Lurcher and the Firedrake, had 767 tons, 35 knots, 
and two 4-inch and two 12-pounder guns. 

At midnight on the 26th the submarine flotilla, under Com- 
modore Keyes, sailed from Harwich for the Bight of Heligoland. 

• The various forces engaged may be set down in the order of their appearance 
in the action. 

1. Eighth Submarine Flotilla (Commodore Roger Keyes).— Parent ships : De- 

stroyers Lurcher and Firedrake. Submarines : D2, D8, E4, E5, E6, 
E7, E8, Eg. 

2. Destroyer Flotillas (Commodore R. Y. Tyrwhitt).— Flagship : Light cruiser 

First Destroyer Flotilla : Light cruiser Fearless (Captain Blunt). — Destroyers : 

Acheron, Archer, Ariel, Attack, Badger, Beaver, Defender, Ferret, Forester, 

Goshawk, Hind, Jackal, Lapwing, Lizard, Phoenix, Sandfly. 
Third Destroyer Flotilla : Laertes, Laforey, Lance, Landrail, Lark, Laurel, 

Lawford, Legion, Leonidas, Lennox, Liberty, Linnet, Llewelyn, Lookout, 

Louis, Lucifer, Lydiard, Lysander. 

3. First Light-Cruiser Squadron (Commodore W. R. Goodenough). — Southamp- 

ton, Falmouth, Birmingham, Lowestoft, Nottingham. 

4. First Battle-Cruiser Squadron (Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty). — Lion, Prin- 

cess Royal, Queen Mary, New Zealand. Joined at sea by Invincible 
(Rear- Admiral Moore) and by destroyers : Hornet, Hydra, Tigress, and 

5. Seventh Cruiser Squadron (Rear- Admiral A. H. Christian).— Armoured 

cruisers : Euryalus, Cressy, Hogue, Aboukir, Sutlej, Bacchante, and light 
cruiser Amethyst, 


At five o'clock on the evening of the 27th the First and the Third 
Destroyer Flotillas, under Commodore Tyrwhitt, left Harwich, 
and during that day the Battle-Cruiser Squadron, the First Light- 
Cruiser Squadron, and the Seventh Cruiser Squadron also put to 
sea. The rendezvous appointed was reached early on the morning 
of the 28th, the waters having been searched for hostile submarines 
before dawn by the Lurcher and the Firedrake. The enemy had 
word of their coming, and was preparing a counterplot. His usual 
patrols were not sent out, but a few torpedo boats were dispatched 
to the entrance of the Bight as a bait to entice the attackers into a 
net which would be drawn tight by his light cruisers. 

The chronicle must now concern itself with hours and minutes. 
The first phase of the action began just before 7 a.m. on the 28th. 
The morning had broken windless and calm, with a haze which 
limited the range of vision to under three miles. The water was 
like a mill-pond, and out of the morning mist rose the gaunt rock 
of Heligoland, with its forts and painted lodging-houses and crum- 
bling sea-cliffs. It was the worst conceivable weather for the sub- 
marines, since in a calm sea their periscopes were easily visible. 
The position at seven o'clock was as follows. Close to Heligoland, 
and well within German territorial waters, were Commodore 
Keyes's eight submarines, with his two small destroyers in attend- 
ance. Approaching rapidly from the north-west were Commodore 
Tyrwhitt's two destroyer flotillas, while behind them, at some 
distance and a little to the east, was Commodore Goodenough's 
First Light-Cruiser Squadron. Behind it lay Sir David Beatty's 
battle cruisers, with four destroyers in attendance. A good deal 
to the south, and about due west of Heligoland, lay Admiral 
Christian's Seventh Cruiser Squadron, to stop all exit towards the 

The submarines, foremost among them E6, E7, and E8, per- 
formed admirably the work of a decoy, and presently from behind 
Heligoland came a number of German destroyers. These were 
followed by two cruisers, and the submarines and their attendant 
destroyers fled westwards, while the British destroyer flotillas came 
swiftly down from the north-west. At the sight of the latter the 
German destroyers turned to make for home ; but the British 
flotillas, led by the Third, along with the Arethusa, altered their 
course to port in order to head them off. " The principle of the 
movement," said the official report, " was to cut the German 
light craft from home and engage them at leisure in the open 
sea." The destroyers gave little trouble, and our own ships of that 

(Between pp. z^S and 2S9') 


. -7.3 FI TUPSA WOIT130«I ^ 

1914] THE SECOND PHASE. 259 

class were quite competent to deal with them. Bi t between our 
two attendant cruisers and the two German cruisers a fierce 
battle was waged. About eight o'clock the Arethusa — clarum et 
venerabile nomen — was engaged with the German Stettin and the 
Fraiienlob, and till the Fearless drew the Stettin's fire, was exposed to 
the broadsides of the two vessels, and was considerably damaged. 
About 8.25, however, one of her shots shattered the forebridge of 
the Frauenlob, and the crippled vessel drew off towards Heligoland, 
whither the Stettin soon followed. Meantime the destroyers had 
not been idle. They had sunk the leading boat of the German 
flotilla, V187, and had damaged a dozen more. With great heroism 
they attempted to save the German sailors now struggling in the 
water, and lowered boats for the purpose. These boats, as we shall 
see, came into deadly peril during the next phase of the action. 

On the retreat of the Stettin and the Frauenlob the destroyer 
flotillas were ordered to turn westward. The gallant Arethusa 
was in need of attention, for a water-tank had been hit, and all her 
guns save one were temporarily out of action. She was soon re- 
paired, and only two of her 4-inch guns were left still out of order. 
Between nine and ten o'clock, therefore, there was a lull in the 
fight, which we may take as marking the break between the first 
and second phases of the battle. The submarines, with their 
attendants. Lurcher and Firedrake, were still in the immediate 
vicinity of Heligoland, as well as some of the destroyers which 
had boats out to save life. 

About ten o'clock the second phase began. The Germans 
believed that the only hostile vessels in the neighbourhood were 
the submarines, destroyers, the Arethusa and the Fearless, and 
they resolved to take this excellent chance of annihilating them. 
First the Stettin returned, and came on the boats of the First 
Flotilla busy saving life, and, thinking apparently that the British 
had adopted the insane notion of boarding, opened a heavy fire on 
them. The small destroyers were driven away, and two boats, 
belonging to the Goshawk and the Defender, were cut off under the 
guns of Heligoland. At this moment submarine E4 (Lieutenant- 
Commander E. W. Leir) appeared alongside. By ths threat of a 
torpedo attack he drove off the German cruiser for a moment, and 
took on board the British seamen. 

The Arethusa, the Fearless, and the destroyers now moved 
westward. They had already suffered considerably, and their 
speed and handiness must have been reduced. The next incident 
was an artillery duel between the Arethusa and the Stralsund, a 


four-funnellad cruiser of the " Breslau " class. Then came the 
Mainz, which engaged the First Flotilla, till she was headed off by 
the appearance of Commodore Goodenough's light cruisers. So 
far the destroyer flotillas had covered themselves with glory, but 
their position was far from comfortable. They were in German 
home waters, not far from the guns of Heligoland (which the fog 
seems to have made useless at that range) ; they were a good deal 
crippled, though still able to fight ; and they did not know but that 
at any moment the blunt noses of Ingenohl's great battleships might 
come out of the mist. The battle had now lasted for five hours- 
ample time for the ships in the Elbe to come up. Commodore 
Tyrwhitt about eleven had sent a wireless signal to Sir David 
Beatty asking for help, and by twelve o'clock that help was sorely 
needed. It was on its way. Admiral Beatty, on receipt of the 
signal, at once sent the First Light-Cruiser Squadron south-east- 
wards. The first vessels, the Falmouth and the Nottingham, arrived 
on the scene of action about twelve o'clock, and proceeded to deal 
with the damaged Mainz. By this time the First Destroyer Flotilla 
had retired westward, but the Third Flotilla and the Arethusa were 
still busy with the Stralsund. Admiral Beatty had to take a 
momentous decision. There was every likelihood that some of 
the enemy's great armoured and battle cruisers were close at hand, 
and he wisely judged that " to be of any value the support must 
be overwhelming." It was a risky business to take his vessels 
through a mine-strewn and submarine-haunted sea ; but in naval 
warfare the highest risks must be run. Hawke pursued Conflans 
in a stormy dusk into Quiberon Bay, and Nelson before Aboukir 
risked in the darkness the shoals and reefs of an uncharted sea. 
So Admiral Beatty gave orders at 11.30 for the battle cruisers to 
steam e.s.e. at full speed. They were several times attacked by 
submarines, but their pace saved them, and when later the Queen 
Mary was in danger she avoided it by a skilful use of the helm. 
By 12.15 the smoke-blackened eyes of the Arethusa' s men saw 
the huge shapes of our battle cruisers emerging from the northern 

Their advent decided the battle. They found the Mai^iz 
fighting gallantly but on fire and sinking by the head, and steered 
north-eastward to where the Arethusa and the Stralsund were hard 
at work. The Fearless was meantime engaged with the Stettin 
and a new cruiser, the Koln. The Lion came first, and she alone 
among the battle cruisers seems to have used her guns. Her 
immense fire power and admirable gunnery beat down all opposi- 


Battle in the 

D. Final phase of the action. 

Intervention of Beattys 
Battle-Cruisers, Ham. TO- 

'* //. 2bo atid 2fy/. ) 


tion. The Koln fled before her, but the Lion's guns at extreme 
range hit her and set her on fire. Presently the Ariadne hove in 
sight from the south — the forerunner, perhaps, of a new squadron. 
Two salvos from the terrible 13.5-inch guns sufficed for her, and, 
burning furiously, she disappeared into the haze. Then the battle 
cruisers circled north again, and in ten minutes finished off the 
Koln. She sank like a plummet with every soul on board. At 
twenty minutes to two Admiral Beatty turned homeward. The 
submarines and the destroyer flotillas had already gone westward, 
and the Light-Cruiser Squadron, in a fan-shaped formation, pre- 
ceded the battle cruisers. Admiral Christian's squadron was left 
to escort the damaged ships and defend the rear. 

By that evening the whole British force was in its own waters 
without the loss of a single unit. The Arethusa had been badly 
damaged, but in a week was ready for sea again. The British 
casualties were thirty-five killed and about forty wounded. The 
Germans lost three light cruisers, the Mainz, Koln, and Ariadne, 
and one destroyer, the V1S7. At least 700 of the German crews 
perished, and there were over 300 prisoners. 

Of the Battle of the Bight it may fairly be said that it was 
creditable to both victors and vanquished. The Germans fought 
in the true naval spirit, and the officers stood by their ships till 
they went down. The gallantry of our own men was conspicuous, 
as was their readiness to run risks in saving fife, a readiness which 
the enemy handsomely acknowledged. The submarine flotilla 
fought under great disadvantages, but the crews never wavered, 
and their attendant destroyers, the Lurcher and the Firedrake, 
were constantly engaged with heavier vessels. The two destroyer 
flotillas were not less prominent, and, having taken the measure 
of the German destroyers, did not hesitate to engage the 
enemy's cruisers. But the chief glory belonged to the Arethusa 
and the Fearless, who for a critical hour bore the brunt of the 
battle. For a time they were matched against three German 
cruisers, which between them had a considerably greater force 
of fire. Nowadays much of naval fighting is so nearly a mathe- 
matical certainty that, given the guns and the speed, you can 
calculate the result. But it was the good fortune of the Arethusa 
to show her mettle in a conflict which more resembled the auda- 
cious struggles of Nelson's day. It is a curious fact that though 
we had some sixty vessels in the action from first to last, only 
four or five were hit. The light-cruiser squadron and the battle 
cruisers decided the battle, and while their blows were deadly. 


the enemy never got a chance of retaliation. From twelve o'clock 
onward it was scientific modern destruction ; before that it was 
any one's fight. 

The chief consequence of the Battle of the Bight was its moral 
effect upon Germany. Ingenohl was confirmed in his resolution 
to keep his battleships in harbour, and not even a daring sweeping 
movement of the British early in September, when our vessels 
came within hearing of the church bells on the German coast, 
could goad him into action. But he retaliated by an increased 
activity in mine-laying and the use of submarines. In the land 
warfare of the Middle Ages there came a time when knights and 
horses were so heavily armoured that they lost mobility, and what 
had been regarded as the main type of action ended in stalemate. 
Wherefore, since men must find some way of conquering each other, 
came the chance for the hitherto despised lighter troops, and the 
archers and spearmen began to win battles like Courtrai and 
Bannockburn. A similar stalemate was now reached as between 
the capital ships of the rival navies. The British battleships were 
vast and numerous ; the German fleet, less powerful at sea, was 
strong in its fenced harbour. No decision could be arrived at by 
the heavily armed units, so the war passed for the moment into 
the hands of the lesser craft. For a space of several months the 
Germans fought almost wholly with mines and submarines. 
One truth at this period was somewhat forgotten by the British 
people. Command of the sea, unless the enemy's navy is totally 
destroyed, does not mean complete protection. This had been 
well stated in a famous passage by Admiral Mahan * : — 

" The control of the sea, however real, does not imply that an 
enemy's single ships or small squadrons cannot steal out of ports, 
and cross more or less frequented tracts of ocean, make harassing 
descents upon unprotected points of a long coast-line, enter blockaded 
harbours. On the contrary, history has shown that such evasions 
are always possible, to some extent, to the weaker party, however 
great the inequality of naval strength." 

It has been true in all ages, and was especially true now that 
the mine and submarine had come to the assistance of the weaker 
combatant. Our policy was to blockade Germany, so that she 
should suffer and our own life go on unhindered. But the blockade 
could only be a watching blockade ; it could not seal up every 
unit of the enemy's naval strength. To achieve the latter we 
• Influence of Sez Power upon History, p. 14. 


should have had to run the risk of missing the very goal at which 
we aimed. It was our business to see that Germany did nothing 
without our knowledge, and to encourage her ships to come out 
that we might fall upon them. Her business was to make our 
patrolling as difficult as possible. To complain of British losses 
in such a task was to do precisely what Germany wished us to do, 
in order that caution might take the place of a bold and aggressive 

Germany had laid in the first days of the war a large mine- 
field off our eastern coasts, and early in September, by means of 
trawlers disguised as neutrals, she succeeded in dropping mines 
off the north coast of Ireland, which endangered our Atlantic 
commerce and the operations of our Grand Fleet. The right 
precaution — the closing of the North Sea to neutral shipping, 
unless specially convoyed — was not taken till later in the 
day, and even then was too perfunctorily organized. But the 
mine-field, for all its terrors, was not productive of much actual 
loss to our fighting strength. During the first two months of 
war, apart from the Amphion, the only casualty was the old gun- 
boat Speedy, which struck a mine and foundered in the North 
Sea on 3rd September. Indeed the new German mine-field had 
its advantages ; since it barred certain approaches to our coast, 
it released our flotillas for a more extensive coastwise patrol. 

The submarine was a graver menace. On 5th September the 
Pathfinder, a light cruiser of 2,940 tons, with a crew of 268, was 
torpedoed off the Lothian coast and sunk with great loss of life. 
Eight days later the German light cruiser Hela, a vessel slightly 
smaller than the Pathfinder, was sunk by the British submarine 
E9 (Lieutenant Max Horton) in wild weather between Heligo- 
land and the Frisian coast — an exploit of exceptional boldness 
and difficulty. During that fortnight a storm raged, and our 
patrols found it hard to keep the seas, many of the smaller de- 
stroyers being driven to port. This storm led indirectly to the 
first serious British loss of the war. Three cruisers of an old 
pattern, the Cressy, Hogue, and Aboukir, which were part of 
Admiral Christian's Southern Force, had for three weeks been 
engaged in patrolling off the Dutch coast. It is obvious that 
three large ships carrying heavy crews should not have been 
employed on a duty which could have been performed better and 
more safely by Hghter vessels, but the Admiralty had not yet got 
the new light cruisers of the Arethusa class which were to relieve 
them. No screen of destroyers was with them at the moment, 


owing to the storm. On 22nd September the sky had cleared 
and the seas fallen, and about half-past six in the morning, as 
the cruisers proceeded to their posts, the Ahoukir was torpedoed, 
and began to settle down. Her sister ships beheved she had struck 
a mine, and closed in on her to save life. Suddenly the Hogue 
was struck by two torpedoes, and began to sink. Two of her 
boats had already been got away to the rescue of the Ahoukir' s 
men, and as she went down she righted herself for a moment, with 
the result that her steam pinnace and steam picket-boat floated 
off. The Cressy now came up to the rescue, but she also was 
struck by two torpedoes, and sank rapidly. Three trawlers in 
the neighbourhood at the time picked up the survivors in the 
water and in the boats, but of the total crews of 1,459 officers 
and men only 779 were saved. In that bright, chilly morning, 
when all was over within a quarter of an hour, the British sailor 
showed admirable discipline and courage. Men swimming in 
the frosty sea or clinging naked to boats or wreckage cheered each 
other with songs and jokes. The destruction was caused by a 
single German submarine, the U29, a comparatively old type, 
commanded by Captain Otto Weddigen, of whom the world was 
to hear more. The loss of the three cruisers was a result of the 
kind of mistake which is inevitably made at the beginning of a 
naval war before novel conditions are adequately realized. The 
senior officer in charge took an undue risk in steering towards the 
enemy's base in full daylight, unscreened by destroyers, and in 
proceeding slowly without zigzagging, and with the ships abreast 
two miles apart. At the same time the Admiralty's general 
instructions were far from clear, and the three vessels were per- 
forming a duty on which it was folly to employ them. 

The third method of weakening British sea power was by the 
attack upon merchantmen by light cruisers. Germany could send 
forth no new vessels of this type after the outbreak of war, and 
her activities were confined to those which were already outside 
the Narrow Seas, especially those under Admiral von Spec's 
command at Kiao-chau. So far as the present stage is concerned, 
we need mention only the Emden and the Konigsberg. The former 
was to provide the world with a genuine tale of romantic adventure, 
always welcome among the grave realities of war, and in her 
short life to emulate the achievements and the fame of the Alabama. 
She appeared in the Bay of Bengal on loth September, and within 
a week had captured seven large merchantmen, six of which she 
sank. Next week she arrived at Rangoon, where her presence cut 


off all sea communication between India and Burma. On 22nd 
September she was at Madras, and fired a shell or two into the 
environs of the city, setting an oil tank on fire. On the 2gth she 
was off Pondicherry, and the last day of the month found her 
running up the Malabar coast. There for the present we leave 
her, for the tale of her subsequent adventures belongs to another 
chapter. The Konigsberg had her beat off the east coast of Africa. 
Her chief exploit was a dash into Zanzibar harbour, where, on 
20th September, she caught the British Hght cruiser Pegasus 
while in the act of repairing her boilers. The Pegasus was a 
seventeen-year-old ship of 2,135 tons, and had no chance against 
her assailant. She was destroyed by the Konigsberg' s long-range fire. 
The exploits of the two German commerce-raiders were magni- 
fied because they were the exceptions, while the British capture of 
German merchantmen was the rule. We did not destroy our 
captures, because we had many ports to take them to, and they 
were duly brought before our prize courts. In addition, we had 
made havoc of Germany's converted liners. The Kaiser Wilhelm 
der Grosse, which had escaped from Bremerhaven at the begin- 
ning of the war, and which had preyed for a fortnight on our South 
Atlantic commerce, was caught and sunk by the Highflyer near 
the Cape Verde Islands. On 12th September the Berwick captured 
in the North Atlantic the Spreewald, of the Hamburg-Amerika 
line. On 14th September the Carmania, Captain Noel Grant, a 
British converted liner, fell in with a similar German vessel, the 
Cap Trafalgar, off the coast of Brazil. The action began at 9,000 
yards, and lasted for an hour and three-quarters. The Carmania 
was skilfully handled, and her excellent gunnery decided the 
issue. Though the British vessel had to depart prematurely owing 
to the approach of a German cruiser, she left her antagonist sink- 
ing in flames. These instances will suffice to show how active 
British vessels were in all the seas. The loss of a few light cruisers 
and a baker's dozen of merchantmen was a small price to pay for 
an unimpaired foreign trade and the practical impotence of the 
enemy. Modern inventions give the weaker Power a better chance 
for raiding than in the old days ; but in spite of that our sufferings 
at this stage were small compared with those in any other of our 
great wars. It is instructive to contrast our fortunes during the 
struggle with Napoleon. Then, even after Trafalgar had been 
fought, French privateers made almost daily captures of English 
ships in our home waters. Our coasts were frequently attacked, and 
the inhabitants of the seaboard went for years in constant expecta- 


tion of invasion. In the twenty-one years of war we lost 10,248 
British ships. Further back in our history our inviolabiHty was 
even more precarious. In the year after Agincourt the French 
landed in Portland. Seven years after the defeat of the Armada 
the Spanish burned Penzance and ravaged the Cornish coasts. 
In 1667 the Dutch were in the Med way and the Thames. In 1690 
the French burned Teignmouth, and landed in Sussex ; in 1760 
they seized Carrickfergus ; in 1797 they landed at Fishguard. 
In 1775 Paul Jones captured Whitehaven, and was the terror of 
our home waters. The most prosperous war has its casualties in 
unexpected places. 

The opening stages of the war at sea, though they brought no 
dramatic coup, were of supreme imj)ortance in the history of the 
campaign. A very real crisis had been successfully tided over. 
Germany had missed a chance which she was never to recover, 
and her growing difficulties on the Eastern front compelled her 
for a time to devote as much attention to the Baltic as to the 
North Sea. The British army had safely crossed the Channel, 
and the French Algerian forces the Mediterranean. The seas of 
the world had been cleared of German commerce, and, except 
for a few stragglers, of German warships. The High Sea Fleet 
was under close observation, and flanking forces at Harwich, in 
the Humber, and at Rosyth waited on its appearance, while the 
Grand Fleet closed the northern exits of the North Sea. The 
Grand Fleet was as yet without a proper base, and the situation 
was still full of anxiety for its commander. JelHcoe's steadfastness 
in those difficult days, his caution which never sank into inaction, 
his boldness which never degenerated into folly, convinced his 
countrymen that in him they had the naval leader that the 
times required. The ill-informed might clamour, but the student 
of history remembered that it had never been an easy task to 
bring an enemy fleet to book. In the Revolution Wars, Britain 
had to wait a year for the first naval battle, Howe's victory of the 
1st June ; while Nelson lay for two years before Toulon, and Corn- 
wallis for longer before Brest. " They were dull, weary, eventless 
months" — to quote Admiral Mahan — "those months of waiting 
and watching of the big ships before the French arsenals. Pur- 
poseless they surely seemed to many, but they saved England. 
The world has never seen a more impressive demonstration of 
the influence of sea power upon its history. Those far-distant, 
storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, 
stood between it and the dominion of the world." 


In Nilson's day Britain had one advantage of which she was 
now deprived. She was not hampered by a code of maritime law 
framed in the interests of unmaritime nations. The Declaration 
of Paris of 1856, among other provisions, enacted that a neutral 
flag covered enemy's merchandise except contraband of war, and 
that neutral merchandise was not capturable even under the 
enemy's flag. This Declaration, which was not accepted by the 
United States, had never received legislative ratification from the 
British Parhament ; but Britain regarded herself as bound by it, 
though various efforts had been made to get it rescinded in time 
of peace by those who realized how greatly it weakened the belhg- 
erent force of a sea Power. The Declaration of London of 1909 
made a further effort to codify maritime law.* It was signed by 
the British plenipotentiaries, though Parhament refused to pass the 
statutes necessary to give effect to certain of its provisions. In 
some respects it was more favourable to Britain than the Declara- 
tion of Paris, but in others it was less favourable, and it was con- 
sistently opposed by most good authorities on the subject. Gener- 
ally speaking, it was more acceptable to a nation like Germany 
than to one in Britain's case.f When war broke out the British 
Government announced that it accepted the Declaration of London 
as the basis of its maritime practice. The result was a state of 
dire confusion, for the consequences of the new law had never 
been fully reahzed. Under it, for example, the captain of the 
Emden could justify his sinking of British ships instead of taking 
them to a port for adjudication. One provision, which seems to 
have been deduced from it, was so patently ridiculous that it was 
soon dropped — that belligerents (that is, enemy reservists) in 

* Parliamentary Paper, Cd. 4554 of 1909. 

t The following are a few examples of the way in which it impaired our naval 
power : It was made easy to break a blockade, for the right of a blockading Power 
to capture a blockade-runner did not cover the whole period of her voyage and was 
confined to ships of the blockading force (Articles 14, 16, 17, 19, 20) ; stereotyped 
lists of contraband and non-contraband were drawn up, instead of the old custom 
of leaving the question to the discretion of the Prize Court (Articles 22, 23, 24, 25, 
28) ; a ship carrying contraband could only be condemned if the contraband formed 
more than half its cargo ; a belligerent warship could destroy a neutral vessel 
without taking it to a port for judgment ; the transfer of an enemy vessel to a 
neutral flag was presumed to be valid if effected more than thirty days before the 
outbreak of war (Article 55) ; the question of the test of enemy property was 
left in confusion (Article 58) ; a neutral vessel, if accompanied by any sort of 
warship of her own flag, was exempt from search ; belligerents in neutral vessels 
on the high seas were exempt from capture (based on Article 45). With the 
Declaration of London would go most of the naval findings of the Hague Conference 
of 1907. The British delegates who assented to the Declaration of London 
proceeded on the assumption that in any war of the future Britain would be 
neutral, and so endeavoured to reduce the privileges of maritime belligerents. 


neutral ships were not liable to arrest. Presently successive 
Orders in Council, instigated by sheer necessity, altered the Declara- 
tion of London beyond recognition. The truth is, that Britain 
was engaged in so novel a war that many of the older rules could 
not be applied. Germany had become a law unto herself, and the 
Allies were compelled in self-defence to frame a new code, which 
should comply not only with the halfrdozen great principles of 
international equity, but with the mandates of common sense. 



12th September-yd October. 

The German Retreat from the Marne — The Aisne Position — The Struggle for the 
Crossings — The Struggle for the Heights — Joffre extends his Left Wing — ^Tht 
Fighting on the Meuse — The Race to the Sea. 

On the evening of gth September, in a gale of wind and rain, the 
right wing of the German armies was in full retreat before Maunoury 
and French, Foch and Franchet d'Esperey. On the nth the Fifth 
Army was in Epernay ; on the 12 th it was in Rheims, while Foch 
entered Chalons. That same day Langle had recovered Vitry-le 
Francois and Revigny, and on the 13th the Imperial Crown Prince 
had fallen back to Montfaucon before Sarrail, who had now re- 
covered his direct communications with the capital. The Battle 
of the Marne was over, and a new battle was beginning. The 
Allied armies were too weary to turn Kluck's right flank during 
his retreat, and Bridoux' ist Cavalry Corps was unable to do more 
than threaten his communications. On the nth the German I. Army 
was crossing the Aisne, with instructions to protect at all costs the 
right wing of the German retirement to the new position. Kluck 
was once again under the orders of Billow, and to fill the gap be- 
tween the two, the VII. Army under Heeringen, new come from 
Alsace, was moving into position. Its 15th Corps was expected 
by the 13th, its 7th Reserve Corps was hurrying south from Mau- 
beuge, and its 9th Reserve Corps from Belgium. Germany in re- 
treat had lost the offensive, but had snatched again the initiative ; 
she was about to dictate to her enemies the form of the struggle — 
to compel them to accept a trench battle, well suited to her own 
stubborn and mechanical genius. 

Let us glance at the topography of those wide grassy vales of 
Aisne and Suippe which are scored from west to east across Northern 
France. The Aisne, which enters the Oise at Compiegne, has on 



its north side, at an average of a mile or more from the stream, a 
line of steep ridges, the scarp of a great plateau. The valley floor 
is like much other French scenery — a sluggish stream some fifty 
yards wide, villages, farmhouses, unfenced fields of crops, poplar- 
lined roads, and a few little towns, the chief of which is Soissons, 
with its twelfth-century cathedral, the scene of many great doings 
in France's history. On the north the hills stand like a wall, and 
the spurs dip down sharply to the vale, while between them the 
short and rapid brooks have cut steep re-entrant combes in the 
plateau's edge. The height of the scarp varies from some 200 
feet, where the uplands begin on the west above Compiegne from 
the forest of Laigue, to more than 450 feet thirty miles east in the 
high bluffs of Craonne. Beyond this latter place the Aisne takes 
a wide sweep to the north-east towards its source in the Argonne, 
and the banks fall to the lower level characteristic of the shallow 
dales of Champagne. The section from Compiegne to Craonne is 
everywhere of the same type, with sometimes a bolder spur and 
sometimes a deeper ravine. The top of the plateau cannot be seen 
from the valley, nor even from the high ground to the south. It 
is muffled everywhere by a cloak of woods, which dip over the 
edge and descend for some distance towards the river. The lower 
slopes are, for the most part, steep and grassy, with here and there 
enclosed coppices. The plateau stretches back for some miles 
till at La Fere and Laon it breaks down into the plains of north- 
eastern France. Seven miles east of Soissons as the crow flies 
the river Vesle enters the Aisne on the south bank. It is the stream 
on which stands the city of Rheims, and its valley is a replica in 
miniature of the Aisne. At Neufchatel-sur-Aisne the river Suippe 
comes in from the south, rolling its muddy white waters through 
a shallow depression in the chalk of northern Champagne. Both 
its banks are long, gentle slopes of open ploughland, with a few 
raw new plantations to break the monotony. Beyond the southern 
slope and over the watershed we descend to where Rheims lies 
beautifully in its cincture of bold and forested hills. 

The German armies had chosen for their stand, not the line 
of the Aisne, but the crest of the plateau beyond it, at an average 
of two miles from the stream side. The place had once been used 
before as a defensive position by an invader — by Bliicher in February 
and March 18 14 — and the study of that campaign may have sug- 
gested the idea to the German Staff. A more perfect position could 
not be found. It commanded all the crossings of the river and 
most of the roads on the south bank, and even if the Allies reached 


the north side the out jutting spurs gave excellent opportunities 
for an enfilading fire. The blindness of the crests made it almost 
impossible for the German trenches to be detected. Eastward 
towards Neufchatel, where the Aisne valley changed its character, 
the line crossed the river, and followed in a wide curve the course 
of the Suippe, keeping several miles back from the stream on the 
northern slopes. Here the position was still stronger. Before them 
they had a natural glacis, and across the river they could command 
the bare swelling downs for miles. The line crossed the Cham- 
pagne-Pouilleuse, with the Bazancourt-Grand-Pre railway behind 
it, and rested on the Argonne, to the east of which the army of 
the Imperial Crown Prince was ringing Verdun on north and east 
from Montfaucon to the shaggy folds of the Woevre. 

At the moment the problem before the German right wing was 
no easy one. Kluck was instructed to try to serve Maunoury as 
Maunoury had served him, but he had not the men. He had to 
watch his right flank in case of a turning movement up the Oise, 
and in consequence a huge breach appeared between his left and 
Billow's right, which the VII. Army had not yet arrived to fill. 
That space of seven miles was held only by a portion of Richtho- 
fen's cavalry. Kluck held in all a line of some twenty-seven miles, 
and his flanks were precarious. An extra corps, even an extra 
division, on the Allies' side might have driven him from his ground, 
with incalculable consequences for the future ; had the British 
6th Division arrived on the 12th instead of on the i6th the thing 
might have been done. At that stage every hour was of impor- 
tance ; but by the 15th the gap had been filled, so that in the critical 
section Franchet d'Esperey's left corps and the British two and a 
half corps were opposed by five German corps, three of them fresh, 
and the chance had gone. 

When the Allied troops on the 13th and 14th of September 
first became dimly cognizant of the nature of the German position 
they did not realize its full meaning. They could not know that 
they were on the glacis of the new type of fortress which Germany 
had built for herself, and which was presently to embrace about 
a fifth of Europe. On the nth and the 12th they had beheved 
the enemy to be in full retreat, and when they felt his strength 
their generals were puzzled to decide whether he meant to make 
a serious stand, or was only fighting delaying actions preparatory 
to a further retirement to the Sambre or beyond. Had Joffre 
known the strength of the Aisne positions, he would probably 
from the beginning have endeavoured to turn them on the west. 


or — what would give far more decisive results — to break through 
the Crown Prince's army in the east, and so get between them 
and their own country. As it was, he decided to make a frontal 
attack, which would be the natural course against an enemy in 
retreat who had merely halted to show his fangs. The fighting on 
the Aisne was to continue for many weary months, and to show 
a slow and confusing series of trench attacks sandwiched between 
long periods of stagnant cannonades. But the First Battle of the 
Aisne in the strict sense of the word — the battle during which 
the Allied plan was a frontal assault — lasted for six days only, 
and on the widest interpretation for no more than a fortnight. 
It represented a delaying action, while Germany changed from her 
first to her second plan of campaign. 

The first action was one of advanced Allied cavalry and 
strong German rearguards. On Saturday, 12th September, Mau- 
noury's Sixth Army was in the forest of Compiegne, with its 
right fronting the enemy in the town of Soissons. It had secured 
several good artillery positions on the south bank, and spent the 
day in a long-range duel with the German guns across the river, 
in the endeavour to " prepare " a crossing. Practically all the 
bridges were down, and since the Aisne is fully fifteen feet deep, 
the only transport must be by pontoons. It took some time to 
capture a German post on the Mont de Paris, south of Soissons. 
On Maunoury's right the British 3rd Corps was busy at the same 
task just to the east of Soissons. East of it, again, the two 
other British corps were advancing in echelon, while the cavalry 
was driving the enemy from the ground around the lower Vesle. 
On the day before our cavalry had arrived in the Aisne valley, 
the 3rd and 5th Brigades just south of Soissons, the ist, 2nd, and 
4th Brigades at Couvrelles and Cerseuil in the tributary glen of 
the Vesle. On the 12th Allenby discovered that the Germans were 
holding Braisne and the surrounding heights in some force, and 
drove them out, and cleared the stream. Shortly after midday 
the rain began, and our advance in the afternoon was handicapped 
by transport difficulties in the heavy soil. In the evening the ist 
Corps lay between Vauxcere and Vauxtin ; the 2nd astride the 
Vesle from Brenelle to near Missy, where the 5th Division on its 
left found the Aisne crossing strongly held ; the 3rd Corps south 
of Soissons, chiefly in the neighbourhood of Buzancy, while its 
heavy batteries were assisting Maunoury. East of the British, 
Franchet d'Esperey brought his army up to the Vesle, and Langle 
was moving down the upper Suippe. The fighting around Verdun 


must be left till later, for it did not belong to the present series of 

Sunday, the 13th, was the beginning of the passage of the 
Aisne. The French Sixth Army constructed pontoons at various 
places under a heavy fire, and several divisions were got over. 
Vic and Fontenoy were the chief crossings, for a pontoon bridge 
at Soissons itself was made impossible by the guns on the northern 
heights. A number of French infantry did succeed in making a 
passage by means of the single girder which was all that was now 
left of the narrow-gauge railway bridge. To the east the British 
operations during the day were full of interest. The 3rd Corps 
attempted the section between Soissons and Venizel. The Aisne 
was in high flood, and the heavy rain made every movement diffi- 
cult. Its bridging train attempted to build a heavy pontoon 
bridge on the French right, but this failed, like the similar French 
attempt, owing to the fire of the German howitzers. At Venizel 
there was a road bridge, not completely destroyed, which was 
mended sufficiently to allow of the passage of field guns. A pon- 
toon bridge was built beside it, and early in the afternoon the whole 
of the 4th Division was across, and co-operating with the left of 
the 2nd Corps against the German positions at Chivres and Vregny. 
Farther east the 2nd Corps had been in difficulties. The 5th Divi- 
sion on its left found the open space between the river and the 
heights opposite Missy a death-trap from the German guns. Its 
13th Brigade could not advance, but its 14th and 15th Brigades 
succeeded in crossing by means of rafts between Missy and Venizel, 
and took up positions around the village of Ste. Marguerite. The 
3rd Division had a still harder task. One of its brigades, the 8th, 
managed to cross at Vailly ; but the 9th and 7th Brigades, making 
the attempt at Conde, found the bridge there still standing, and 
in German hands. This bridge remained in the possession of the 
Germans long after the British forces were on the north bank, a 
point of danger between the two divisions of the 2nd Corps. The 
British ist Corps, with some of the cavalry, was concerned with 
the section between Chavonne and Bourg. Here there were both 
the river and a canal on the south bank to be passed, and not 
only was there heavy shell-fire to be faced from the northern heights, 
but most of the possible crossing-places were guarded by strong 
detachments of German infantry with machine guns. The 2nd 
Division was in trouble from the start. Only one battalion of 
Cavan's 4th (Guards) Brigade succeeded in crossing in boats at 
Chavonne, while the 5th Brigade crossed by the broken girders 


of the bridge at Pont-Arcy, where the flooded river washed over 
their precarious foothold. The ist Division crossed principally by 
the aqueduct which carried a small canal over the Aisne at Bourg, 
and which by some miracle was weakly held, while an advanced 
body of infantry preceded them by pontoons. By the evening it 
had occupied the positions of Paissy, Moulins, and Vendresse, on 
the northern bank. 

On the evening of that difficult Sunday we may summarize 
the situation by saying that, on the fifteen miles of front allotted 
to the British, they had crossed the river at most points, and had 
entrenched themselves well up the farther slopes. Only the 19th 
Brigade of the 3rd Corps, and of the 2nd Corps the 4th (three bat- 
talions), 6th, 7th, gth, and 13th Brigades bivouacked on the south- 
ern bank. The British army has been familiar with difficult river 
crossings — like the Alma, the Modder, and the Tugela — but never 
before had it forced a passage so quickly in the face of so great 
and so strongly posted an enemy. High honour was won by our 
artillery, working under desperate conditions, and most notably 
by the Royal Engineers, who wrought with all the coolness they 
had once shown at the Delhi Gate, and went on calmly with their 
work of flinging across pontoon bridges and repairing damaged 
girders in places where it seemed that no human being could live. 

During the night of the 13th, while the German searchlights 
played upon the sodden riverside fields, Joffre decided that the fol- 
lowing day must be made to reveal the nature of the German plans. 
Accordingly on the 14th, while the engineers were busy strengthen- 
ing the new bridges and repairing some of the old for heavy traffic, a 
general advance was begun along the whole western section of the 
front. Maunoury carried the line of the river between Compiegne 
and Soissons, and attacked vigorously right up to the edges of the 
plateau. From Vic his Zouaves advanced up the deep cleft of 
Morsain through St. Christophe, and seized the villages of Autreches 
and Nouvron on the containing spurs. By the evening, or early 
the next morning, he had won his way far up the heights, and was 
suddenly brought up against the main German position on the 
plateau itself. There he found himself held, and of all the Allied 
commanders was the first to realize the nature of the defensive 
trenches which the enemy had prepared. The fate of the British 
3rd and 2nd Corps was much the same. The 4th Division could 
make no advance on the Bucy uplands between Vregny and Chivres 
because of the merciless shell-fire from the hidden German trenches. 
The 5 th Division was in like case north of Conde, and the 3rd 


Division, which made a gallant attempt to advance on Aizy, was 
driven back to its old ground at Vailly. Everywhere as soon as 
they felt the enemy they began to dig themselves in on the slopes 
— their first real experience of a task which was soon to become 
their staple military duty. 

The chief offensive was entrusted to Sir Douglas Haig's ist 
Corps, which, as we have seen, was mostly on the northern bank 
between Chavonne and Moulins, where to the east begins the first 
lift of the Craonne plateau. It was directed to cross the line 
Mouhns-Moussy by 7 a.m., a section where the northern heights 
are more withdrawn from the Aisne. A widish glen opens out at 
Pont-Arcy, and up it runs the little canal which, as we have seen, 
crossed the river at Bourg. This canal presently disappears in a 
tunnel in the hillside. In all these ravines there are little villages 
and rock dwellings, where live the men employed in the limekilns 
and the plaster quarries. Four miles to the north an important 
highway, the Chemin des Dames, runs east and west along the 
plateau. It is the main upper road along the Aisne valley to 
Craonne, and runs parallel, at an average distance of three miles, 
with the lower road along the riverside. From it the traveller has 
a wide prospect as far north as the heights of Laon. If it could 
be seized it would give command of the southern plateau from 
Soissons to Berry-au-Bac. It was towards this line that Sir Douglas 
Haig directed his efforts. The action began before dawn on the 
14th with a movement by the advance guard of the ist Division 
— the 2nd Brigade — from MouHns to the hamlet of Troyon, south 
of the Chemin des Dames. There was a sugar factory there 
strongly held by the enemy, which by midday was captured with 
the assistance of the ist Brigade. The two brigades were now 
drawn up on a line north of Troyon and just south of the Chemin 
des Dames. There they were close to the enemy's main entrench- 
ments, and could make no headway for his fire. The day was wet 
and misty, and this dulled the precision of the artillery on both 
sides. The 3rd Brigade continued the hne west of Vendresse, and 
linked up with the 2nd Division. 

The 2nd Division found itself in heavy waters from the outset. 
Many of its battalions, it must be remembered, had still to cross 
the Aisne when the morning broke. Its 6th Brigade, which should 
have seized a point on the Chemin des Dames south of Courtecon, 
was hung up just south of Braye, and had to be supported by two 
howitzer brigades and a heavy battery. The 4th (Guards) Brigade, 
aiming at Ostel, fought its way through the thick dripping woods, 


where very little aid could be got from our artillery, and by one 
o'clock was close on the Ostel ridge. Here the Germans counter- 
attacked in force, and for some time it looked as if they might turn 
the left flank of the Guards and cut the communications of the 3rd 
Division at Vailly. Sir John French had no reserves available except 
AUenby's cavalry ; but since the British trooper is also a mounted 
infantryman, and can fight with a rifle as well as with a sabre, 
the cavalry proved sufficient. Sir Douglas Haig used part of AUen- 
by's division, chiefly the ist Brigade, to prolong the left flank of 
the Guards, and after some hard fighting repelled the German 
attack. About four in the afternoon the commander of the ist Corps 
ordered a general advance. From then till daylight departed there 
was a heavy engagement, which resulted in a clear British success. 
At nightfall they held, not indeed the Chemin des Dames, but a 
position which ran from a point on the north-east of Troy on, through 
Troyon and Chivy to La Cour de Soupir, while the cavalry carried 
it down to the Soissons road west of Chavonne. The whole day's 
work was well conceived and brilliantly executed, and gave the 
Allies for the first time an entrenched position on the plateau itself. 

On the day before Franchet d'Esperey's Fifth Army had in 
large part crossed the Aisne east of Bourg, and on the 14th the 
first assault began on the Craonne plateau. On the evening of 
that day the eastern flank of the British ist Corps was safeguarded 
by French Moroccan battalions, which entrenched themselves in 
echelon on its right rear. The Germans held the river crossing 
at Berry-au-Bac, an important point, for there the highroad runs 
from Rheims to Laon. Along the Suippe the Ninth Army was 
feeling the German strength in the impregnable trenches on the 
northern slopes, and finding it so great that the advance checked. 
Farther east in north Champagne, Tangle's Fourth Army had 
occupied Souain, and, like its colleague to the west, was becoming 
aware of the fortress in which the enemy had found shelter. At 
the moment, however, the German High Command was greatly 
perturbed. No intelligible orders came from Great Headquarters, 
and Biilow, who had the direction of the main battle, was prepar- 
ing to fall back on La Fere ; it was his habit to see defeat before 
he was beaten. But in the night the first reserves arrived, and 
on the 15th came the news that the 9th Reserve Corps had come 
to strengthen Kluck's endangered right. 

That day, Tuesday the 15th, saw an enemy reaction, a series 
of violent counter-attacks along the western front. Maunoury's 
Sixth Army was the chief sufferer. From their main position 


at Nampcel the Germans drove the French out of their posts 
on the crests of the spurs, recaptured Autrcches, and forced the 
French right out of the Morsain ravine and off the spurs of Nou- 
vron. By the Wednesday morning the French were back on a Hne 
close to the Aisne, and only a few hundred yards north of their 
original crossing-places at Vic and Fontenoy. Soissons was heavily 
shelled, and all the northern part of the town was gutted by fire. 
The French left, however, continued its flanking movement up 
the Oise on the west side of the forest of Laigue, and on this day 
made considerable progress in the direction of Noyon, where, how- 
ever, it was suddenly checked by the arrival of the 9th Reserve 
Corps. On the British left the 4th Division of the 3rd Corps was 
severely handled, but stood stoutly to the ground it had won south 
of Vregny. The 5th Division felt the weight of the same onslaught, 
and was enfiladed on its left by the German fire from Vregny, and 
could not advance in face of the heavy artillery posted north of 
Chivres and Conde. In the evening it was forced back almost to 
the line of the stream, and held the ground between Missy and Ste. 
Marguerite — a line dominated everywhere by the guns on the 
heights. The 3rd Division on its right was more fortunate, for it 
advanced from Vailly, and retook the high ground from which it 
had been evicted the day before. Haig on the right had a long 
day of counter-attacks, which he succeeded in repulsing, and the 
4th (Guards) Brigade in particular gave the enemy much punish- 
ment. By the evening the British line was fairly comfortable, 
except for the precarious situation of the 4th and 5th Divisions. 

Next day, the i6th, there was a sudden lull on the British 
front. Sir John French had contemplated a second attack on the 
Chemin des Dames, which would give relief to the hard-pressed 
4th and 5th Divisions ; but the news from Franchet d'Esperey 
convinced him that it would be highly dangerous. For the French 
Fifth Army had found the enemy on the Craonne plateau too strong 
for them, and the Moroccan battalions, echeloned on the British 
right, had fallen back, and so left that flank in the air. Accord- 
ingly the 6th Division, which had arrived that morning from 
England, was kept in reserve on the south bank of the Aisne, 
instead of being sent to support the ist Corps in a forward move- 

But on the 17th events moved more swiftly. Maunoury had 
received reinforcements, and the right of the French Sixth Army 
checked the German attack, and won back all the ground they had 
lost. They drove the Germans right back from the edge of the 


plateau to their main position behind Nampcel, and in particular 
cleared them out of the quarries of Autreches, which had given 
them deadly gun positions. This French success eased the situa- 
tion of the British 4th and 5th Divisions, and the centre of our 
line was left in peace. Not so our ist Division, perched high 
up on the plateau at Troyon, and looking towards the Chemin 
des Dames, which spent an unceasing day of attacks and counter- 
attacks. Farther to the east the French Fifth Army was still 
assaulting in vain the Craonne plateau, and the Ninth Army had 
fallen back from the Suippe to just outside Rheims. The Germans 
were now on the hills north of that city, and were able to pour 
shells into it. The heights of Brimont were won by them, and 
though the French made desperate efforts to retake them, and for 
a moment looked like succeeding, they continued to hold the 
ground. These heights were only 9,000 yards from the city. 
More important still, they had worked round the French position 
on the east, and had won the hill of Nogent-l'Abbesse, though 
the French remained in possession of Pompelle, the southern spur. 
Here the German advance stopped, for west of Rheims lay the high 
wooded ground of Pouillon, and south the heights known as the 
Montagne de Rheims, both old prepared positions for the defence 
of the Marne. The battle here resolved itself into the artillery 
duel which was to last for months, and which played havoc with 
that noblest monument of French Gothic, the cathedral of Rheims. 
Farther east, Tangle's army held its own, but made little progress. 
It was still some three miles short of the Bazancourt-Grand-Pre 
railway, and had cause for anxiety about its communications with 
Foch, One last event of the 17th must be recounted. Bridoux' 
ist Cavalry Corps, operating from Roye, made a brilliant raid 
as far east as Ham and St. Quentin, during which its commander 

On the next day there was little doing in the daytime, but at 
night there was a general attack on the ist and 2nd British Divi- 
sions. Elsewhere Maunoury was striving fruitlessly against Kluck's 
position, and his left was pressed back by the German 9th Reserve 
Corps ; Franchet d'Esperey was beating in vain on the Craonne 
escarpment ; Foch's army was hard pressed at Rheims ; and 
Langle found the Wiirtembergers in Champagne a barrier which he 
could not break. This Friday, i8th September, may be taken as 
the end of the Battle of the Aisne in its strict sense, for it marked 
the conclusion of the attempt of the Allies to break down the German 
positions by a frontal attack. Five days' fighting had convinced 


{Fating f. ajS.) 

^13iA aHT IC 


them that here was no halting-place for a rearguard action, but the 
long-thought-out defences of an army ready and willing for battle. 
The forces were too evenly matched to produce anything better 
than stalemate, and continued assaults upon those hidden bat- 
teries would only lead to a useless waste of life. The Allies might 
win a spur here and there, but they would find, as Napoleon found 
at Craonne, that the capture of peninsulas of land was idle when 
the enemy held the main plateau in strength. Their only plan 
was to dig themselves in and creep towards the German lines in 
a slow campaign of sap and mine. By the i8th they had got 
ready their trenches, and were settling down to this novel warfare. 

The general situation was strategically bad. The enemy, from 
whom they hoped that they had wrested the offensive at the Marne, 
was beginning to recover it. Billow's attack on Rheims was a 
dangerous blow at their centre, and if Langle failed in Champagne 
the Allied front might be pierced in a vital spot. The determined 
assault upon Verdun, which we shall presently consider, was also 
a ground for uneasiness. Fortress was now an anxious word in 
French ears. Sarrail had none too many men, and if the Imperial 
Crown Prince, aided by the Bavarians, could break through the 
Heights of the Meuse the Allied right would be turned, and a clear 
road laid open for the invaders from Metz and the Rhine. 

The situation demanded a counter-offensive which should 
promise more speedy results than a frontal assault upon the Aisne 
plateau. Accordingly, as early as i6th September, Joffre changed 
his strategy. He resolved to play the German game, fling out his 
line to the west, and attempt to envelop Kluck's right. Such a 
movement, if successful, would threaten the chief German com- 
munications by the great trunk line of the Oise valley, and if it 
could be pushed as far as La Fere, or even as far as the junction 
of Tergnier, would compel the retreat of the whole German right. 
Accordingly, orders were given for two new armies to form on 
Maunoury's left, aligning themselves in an angle to the north- 
west. The first was the reconstructed Second Army, under Castelnau, 
who for the purpose surrendered his command in Lorraine to 
Dubail.* On its left was to be formed the Tenth Army, under 
General Louis Maud' buy, a man of fifty-seven, who was best known 
as Professor of Military History at the £cole de Guerre. At the 
beginning of the war he was only a brigadier, commanding a brigade 
in the Army of Lorraine. In three weeks he had passed through 

• Dubail now held the front from Belfort to Nancy with 350,000 men. After 
asth September he commanded all French troops east of the Meuse. 


the stages of divisional general and corps commander to army 
commander — a rapidity of promotion which can scarcely be paral- 
leled from the Napoleonic wars. 

For the three weeks on from Frida}', iSth September, the 
Battle of the Aisne, so far as Maunoury and French were con- 
cerned, degenerated into a sullen trench warfare, with no possi- 
bility of any great movement. Both sides were in position and 
under cover. Sporadic attacks had to be faced, especially by the 
British ist Division at Troyon, and there were many counter- 
attacks, by which more than once the advanced German trenches 
were won. But, generally speaking, these weeks showed few 
incidents. The worst fighting was over by the i8th, and we had 
now acquired the trick of this strange burrowing. But if the gravest 
peril had gone, the discomfort remained. The first two weeks at 
the Aisne were one long downpour. To them succeeded a week of 
St. Martin's summer, and then came autumn damp and mist. On 
the sides of the plateau the chalky mud seemed bottomless. It 
filled the ears and eyes and throats of the men, it plastered their 
clothing, and mingled generously with their diet. Their grand- 
fathers who had been at Sebastopol could have told the British 
soldiers something about mud ; but after India and South Africa 
the mire of the Aisne seemed a grievous affliction. The day was 
soon to come when the same men in West Flanders sighed for 
the Aisne as a dry and salubrious habitation. Our trenches were 
for the most part well up on the slopes of the plateau. Sometimes, 
as at Troyon, they were pushed close up to and in full view of the 
enemy's position ; but generally the latter was concealed behind 
the crest of the ridge, and on flanking spurs which enfiladed ours. 
Great assistance in locating the enemy was given by our airmen ; 
but we suffered from a chronic lack of artillery. Not only had 
the Germans far more pieces than we had, but they had their big 
8-inch howitzers from Maubeuge, and they seemed to have an 
endless supply of machine guns. Our artillery had to give most 
of its time to keeping down the German gun-fire, and in this arm 
we could rarely take the offensive. The bombardment which the 
Allies endured was, therefore, far more incessant and torturing 
than any they could inflict on the enemy. On 23rd September the 
four 6-inch howitzer batteries which Sir John French had asked 
for from England arrived at the Aisne, and the British were able 
to make some return in kind ; but for every shell of this type 
which they could fire the Germans fired twenty. 


During these weeks the French armies of the centre and left 
had a difficult task, and the hardest was that of Sarrail's army 
around Verdun. That great fortress, as we have seen, had been 
menaced by the Imperial Crown Prince during the Battle of the 
Mame, and his left wing had bombarded Fort Troyon from the 
high ground to the west of the Meuse. In the general German 
retreat on ioth-i2th September he had retired north of Verdun, 
and his right no longer lay at Ste. Menehould, commanding the pass 
of Les Islettes and the main railway from Verdun, but had fallen 
back two days' march almost as far north as the pass of Grand- 
Pre, which was the terminus of the branch line from Bazancourt. 
Verdun was promptly cleared by the French general of most of the 
bonchss inutiles, its civilian inhabitants. Seven thousand were 
ordered out of the town, a tariff for foodstuffs was drawn up, and 
everything was made ready for a prolonged siege. But Sarrail 
was determined that it should be no siege in the ordinary sense, 
and that the German howitzers should never be permitted within 
range. By earthworks and entrenchments the fortified zone was 
largely extended. The lines of the Crown Prince found them- 
selves brought to a halt in a semicircle, with their right on the 
Argonne at Varennes, passing northward by Montfaucon and 
Consenvoye, and joining up with the German army in the 

At the Battle of the Marne the only German attacking force in 
this district had been that of the Crown Prince. In the Woevre 
the Bavarian right had been engaged with the Toul garrison, but 
the Bavarians had enough to do with Castelnau at Nancy, and 
had no leisure to spare for the Heights of the Meuse. About the 
20th of September, however, a new army detachment appeared 
in the Woevre. It was commanded by von Strantz, and consisted 
of four South German corps, mainly Wiirtembergers. They were 
reserve corps, the 3rd, loth, 13th, and i6th, and they had with 
them several reserve divisions. Sarrail had opposed to him not 
less than seven corps, comprised in the Crown Prince's and Strantz's 
commands, and his original army was greatly outnumbered. He 
received the better part of an army corps from Toul as reinforce- 
ments, but he fought throughout against heavy odds, relying on 
the natural and artificial strength of the French position. 

A word must be said on the nature of the Meuse defences 
between Verdun and Toul. First after the Verdun ring came the 
fort of Genicourt ; then Fort Troyon ; then the Camp des Romains, 
protecting the bridge at St. Mihiel, and crossing lire with Fort 


Paroches on the west side of the river ; then Fort Liouville ; then 
various southern works which need not be specified, for they 
were never assaulted. The obvious centre of attack was Fort 
Troyon, for it commanded the biggest gap in the chain. About 
20th September a second attempt was made on it, when Strantz, 
advancing from the base at Thiaucourt on a broad front, deUvered 
a strong attack, but was repulsed by the French army on the 
heights. The fort had suffered heavily from the first assault, 
and the second practically destroyed it. It says much for the 
garrison that, till relief came, they continued to hold out in what 
was little more than a dust-heap. This, however, was only a 
reconnaissance in force. The real attack was delivered four 
days later, and directed against the little town of St. Mihiel, which 
lies on the Meuse, midway between Toul and Verdun. The 
eastern bank is a plateau some 300 feet high above the Meuse, 
rising to a greater height in various summits, and falling steeply 
in the east to the deep ravines and wooded knolls of the Woevre. 
The spur of the plateau, due east of Troyon, is called Hatton- 
chatel, and here the Germans established a footing on 23rd 
September, and got up their heavy artillery. They silenced 
the small fort of Paroches across the Meuse, and presently silenced 
and destroyed the Camp des Romains, and took St. Mihiel with 
its bridgehead on the western side of the water. 

They got no farther, for a French cavalry detachment drove in 
the van of the advance, and compelled them to entrench them- 
selves on the edge of the river. The German aim was clear. 
They hoped to push from St. Mihiel due west to Revigny, and so 
get south of Sarrail's army, which would thus be caught between 
Strantz and the Crown Prince. Sarrail had enough and only 
just enough men to prevent this, and for a day or two the issue 
hung in the balance. But with every day the German position 
grew more uncomfortable. They had pierced the fortress line 
Toul- Verdun, but they could not use the path through the gap. 
They had no railway behind them nearer than Thiaucourt, and 
only one road, and that a bad one, for the main route through 
Apremont was held by the French. In the autumn fogs which 
cloak the Woevre it was a bad line of communications, and it says 
much for German tenacity that they managed to hold St. Mihiel 
for years against all comers. Meantime the Toul garrison sent 
out troops which fought their way to the southern edge of the 
Rupt de Mad, the narrow glen by which the railway runs from Metz 
t© Thiaucourt. The fighting east of the Meuse was presently 

1914] CHAMPAGNE. 283 

tramiformcd into that war of entrenchments which we have seen 
beginning on the Aisne. One last effort to secure a decision was 
made in this district before stalemate set in. On Saturday, 3rd 
October, the Crown Prince made a vigorous assault upon Sarrail's 
centre, which lay roughly from south of Varennes to just north 
of Verdun. Varennes at the moment was in German hands. 
The Crown Prince attempted a turning movement through the 
woods of the Argonne against Ste. Menehould, his former head- 
quarters. A forest road runs from Varennes west to Vienne on 
the upper Aisne, and north of this lies the wood of La Grurie, 
through which the Germans brought their guns. In the pass the 
French fell upon them, and after sharp fighting on the Sunday 
drove them back north of Varennes, capturing that town, and 
gaining the road across the Argonne, which gave them touch with 
the right of Langle's Fourth Army. This victory straightened 
out the French front, which now ran from Verdun due west to 
north of Souain, and then along the Roman road to Rheims. 

The prevailing stalemate was most marked in North Cham- 
pagne. Langle had made no head against the Wiirtembergers. 
His object was the Bazancourt-Grand-Pre railway ; but the 
German trenches in the flat pockets and along the endless chalk 
hillocks of Champagne held him fast. He maintained his ground, 
and the danger of the effort to pierce the line at this point was 
temporarily removed, largely because of the extensive read- 
justment of forces which was then going on behind the German 
front. Farther east the German army around Rheims had better 
success. The shelHng of the city began on Friday the i8th, 
and for ten days the bombardment continued. There was 
much loss of life among the civilians, large sections of the city 
were burnt and demolished, and the cathedral, though its walls 
remained standing, lost much of its adornment, including its 
ancient stained-glass windows, its delicate stone carving, and 
portions of its towers. The shelling of Rheims cathedral was one 
of the acts of vandalism which most scandalized the feelings of 
the civilized world. The German plea — that the French had 
erected signal stations on the roof and tower, and gun stations 
close to the building — cannot be substantiated, and the business 
was made worse by the fact that the interior was being used as 
a hospital, and the Red Cross flag was flown. It is hard to see 
what military excuse could be put forward for this senseless 
destruction. The cathedral did not suffer indirectly through 
being in the zone of fire ; the German guns were deliberately 


trained on it.* Only when it was discovered that neutral nations 
were seriously shocked was the tale of hostile gun-platforms in- 
vented. To the French it appeared a happy omen that the statue 
of Joan of Arc, which stood in front of the cathedral, was uninjured. 
Round it the Uhlans had stacked their lances when they first 
entered the city on their way to the Mame. During the bombard- 
ment, though the square around was ploughed up by shells and 
her horse's legs were chipped and scarred, the figure of the Maid 
remained inviolate. Some soldiers had placed a tricolour in her 
outstretched hand, and in all these days of smoke and terror the 
French flag was held aloft by the arm of France's deliverer. About 
the 28th the worst fury of the attack was over. The change in the 
German dispositions compelled them to call a halt, and of this 
slackening the French took immediate advantage. The Germans 
had seized a position at La Neuvillette, on the slopes towards 
Brimont, two miles north of Rheims, which gave them a dangerous 
mastery over the French lines, and might form a starting-point for 
a piercing movement. On the evening of the 28th the French 
counter-attacked, and in spite of heavy fire drove the enemy 
back to Brimont. That same evening saw a general movement 
along the whole French front in this section, and one battahon 
of the Prussian Guard was completely destroyed. The important 
position of Prunay, on the railway between Rheims and Chalons, 
was carried, and the danger of a wedge between the Ninth and 
Fourth Armies was removed. 

Meantime the Fifth Army had no success in the Craonne 
district. The vital crossing at Berry-au-Bac, where runs the 
Roman road from Rheims to Laon, was still in German hands. 
Franchet d'Esperey in vain struggled towards Craonne village. 
His African troops fought with the utmost gallantry ; he had cer- 
tain minor victories and reported a number of prisoners ; but he 
never won the edge of the plateau or came near the German main 
position. As in the British section, the French won the spurs 
and ramparts, but were brought up short before the citadel. 

• " It is of no consequence if all the monuments ever created, all the pictures 
ever painted, and all the buildings ever erected by the great architects of the world 
were destroyed, if by their destruction we promote Germany's victory over her 
enemies. . . . The commonest, ugliest stone placed to mark the burial-place of a 
German grenadier is a more glorious and perfect monument than all the cathedrals 
in Europe put together. . . . Let neutral peoples and our enemies cease their empty 
chatter, which is no better than the twittering of birds. I et them cease their talk 
about the cathedral at Rheims and about all the churches and castles of France 
which have shared its fate. These things do not interest us." — Major-General von 
Ditfurth in the Hamburger NzchricJiten, November 1914. 


The true offensive of the Allies, as we have seen, was now 
on the extreme left, where Maunoury had extended his flank 
up the Oise, and the armies of Castelnau and Maud'huy were 
lengthening the hne towards the north. By the 20th of September 
Castelnau had estabHshed himself south of Lassigny, a day's 
march from the Oise and the railway line. On the 22nd he 
advanced, but in severe fighting between the 25th and 28th he 
was forced back from Chaulnes and Roye. In the last week of 
September, Maud'huy 's Tenth Army was engaged in a struggle 
for the Albert plateau. He never attained it, and when the fighting 
ceased his Une lay well to the west of Bapaume, and behind the 
upper Ancre — a situation which was to be of vital importance 
two years later. But, as his divisions came up, his left went on 
extending till presently it covered Arras and Lens, and on 3rd 
October his left corps, the 21st, was three miles west of Lille. 
The French left now ran for seventy miles north of Compiegne, 
almost to the Belgian frontier. It was a comprehensive piece of 
outflanking, and it bent back the German right from its apex on 
the heights above the forest of Laigue in the shape of a gigantic L. 
A little more pressure, and it looked as if the angle might be made 
so acute that the great Oise railway would be uncovered and the 
main line of German communications on the west made untenable. 
If that happened there must be a general retirement ; for, though 
the Germans had other lines of supply, they had none which could 
keep their right and right-centre rapidly fed with the vast quantities 
of heavy ammunition on which the holding of their Aisne position 

But presently it appeared that this flanking strategy was 
being met by another. The Germans were themselves taking the 
offensive, and stretching out their right, not to conform with, 
but to outstrip our movement. It was becoming a race for the 
northern sea. 

As early as i6th September, Sir John French had become 
anxious about his position, and had reached the conclusion that 
the British army was in the wrong place. At Mons it had been 
the extreme left, now it was almost the centre of the Allied line. 
This meant constant difficulties with supplies and communica- 
tions, for these now ran through Paris to the Atlantic coast, 
and so crossed those of Maunoury, Castelnau, and Maud'huy. 
If, on the other hand, the British were transferred once more 
to the left wing, they could draw upon the Channel ports, and 
would be within easy reach of home. This in itself was sufficient 


reason for the change, but there were others not less cogent. The 
stalemate on the Aisne had become chronic. Both sides were 
securely entrenched, and territorial levies might be trusted to hold 
the hne. It seemed a waste of good material that a seasoned 
professional army should be kept at a task which might with 
perfect safety be entrusted to men less fully trained. Above 
all, the British Commander-in-Chief saw the dawning of a dangerous 
German offensive, directed especially against Britain, and aiming 
at the possession of Calais and the Channel ports. News was 
arriving that the great fortress of Antwerp was in extremity, 
and, once it fell, a fresh army could be hurled at the gap between 
Lille and the sea. A campaign is full of surprises, and this one had 
by now taken on the character of a siege. Germany had been 
forced to accept the position, and was penned behind a line of 
entrenchments running in the West from Lille to Switzerland, 
and in the East from the East Prussian frontier to the Carpathians. 
There was a huge area inside the lines — about one-fifth of Europe — 
but it was a closing area, and might soon be finally sealed up. 
It was not the kind of campaign we would have chosen, but since 
it had developed in this way it was our business to take out of it 
the best advantage. The one sally-port was West Flanders, and 
without delay that bolt-hole must be stopped. 

His conclusion was strengthened by news of a new German 
disposition which revealed the gravity of their projected offensive. 
On 14th September, Erich von Falkenhayn, the Minister of War, 
had succeeded the younger Moltke as Chief of the General Staff.* 
The reason given was Moltke's health, which had become bad ; 
but it is Hkel}/ that in any case the result of the Battle of the 
Marne would have compelled a change. The new Chief of Staff 
was a man of remarkable ability, comparatively young, vigorous 
and original in ideas, and with a mind which could envisage the 
struggle in its poUtical, naval, and economic, as well as in its 
military aspects. He began by transferring Great Headquarters 
from Luxembourg to Charleville, on the Meuse, opposite Mezieres. 
In reviewing the situation he saw that there was an instant danger 
of envelopment unless the German right flank could rest on the 
sea. Again, without the command of the Belgian coast, the Ger- 
man submarine campaign would be crippled. There was another 
reason which weighed much with him. He was firmly convinced 
that in the West and in the West alone a decision could be reached. 

* Till January 1915, when he was succeeded at the War Of&ce by Wild von Hoben- 
born, Falkenhayn filled both posts. 

1914] THE RACE TO THE SEA. 287 

Since the original plan had failed another must be found, and 
the most promising was an attack by the right, which, even if it 
did not succeed in enveloping the Allies, might bring the northern 
coast of France and the control of the Channel into German hands. 
Accordingly, the flower of the German troops was given orders 
for the north. In Alsace and Lorraine were left only detach- 
ments under Gaede and Falkenhausen. Strantz was entrusted 
with the Verdun area and the St. Mihiel sahent. The Imperial 
Crown Prince remained where he had been, and the III. Army, 
now under von Einem, held Champagne. Heeringen's VII. Army 
replaced Biilow on the heights of the Aisne, and Kluck held the 
angle of the front on the Oise. North of him Billow's II. Army 
was moved to face Castelnau and Maud'huy's right, while the VI. 
Army of Bavaria was sent to the country around Arras and Lille. 
Most significant of all, the Duke of Wiirtemberg was marching 
to the extreme right with his IV. Army, heavily reinforced, to open 
the one gate that remained. 

These changes, which were partially known to the Allied Staff, 
reinforced Sir John French's case. On 29th September he formally 
approached Joffre, and on ist October the French Commander- 
in-Chief accepted the plan. He brought up reserves to take the 
place of the British, and arranged for the creation of a new Eighth 
Army under General d'Urbal to support the left of the line. He 
also took Foch, whose reputation was now the most brilliant of 
all the army commanders', and put him in general charge of the 
operations north of Noyon, The French and British Staffs 
worked in perfect concord, and the result was a brilHant piece of 
transport. The whole thing was done without noise or friction. 
Gough's 2nd Cavalry Division * was the first to go on 3rd October, 
and the three infantry corps followed from left to right, till on 
the 19th the ist Corps detrained at St. Omer. Some of our 
soldiers passed near enough to the Channel to see the vessels of 
the senior service out on the grey waters. 

We won the race to the sea, but only by the narrowest margin. 
The Germans' sally was stronger than we had dreamed, and a host 
of new corps, of which the investing force from Antwerp was only 
a small part, was about to pour westward over the Flanders 
flats. How the pass was held will be the subject of a later chapter. 
The movement of the British northward marked the end of the 
second phase of the war. In the rirst, which ended before the 

• The cavalry was now organized in divisions, and the first two formed the 
cavalry corps under Allenby. 


Marne, the Allies were on the defensive before the great German 
" out-march." In the second, which included the Battles of the 
Marne and the Aisne, they had the offensive ; but after the defeat 
of the Marne the Germans regained the initiative, and compelled 
the Allies to accept the kind of battle they had chosen. Pres- 
ently the Allies changed their plans, and endeavoured to hoist the 
enemy with his own petard, the enveloping movement ; but, while 
seeking to envelop him, they found themselves in danger of envelop- 
ment. He was soon to possess himself of both the initiative and 
the offensive, and in the dark winter months his opponents replied 
with the very strategy he had practised on the Aisne, and dug 
themselves into trenches from which he could not oust them. 

Sir John French, when he began the march to the sea, thought 
less of defence than attack. He expected that in a few weeks 
he would have under him a force of ten infantry and four cavalry 
divisions, with which to turn the German right ; but if that was 
to be achieved there must be a flank to be turned. It was essential 
that the Duke of Wiirtemberg should not reach the sea, and that 
Ostend, Zeebrugge, and Antwerp should remain in the Allies' hands. 
The Marine Brigade of the British Royal Naval Division had 
arrived at Ostend on 20th September. Joffre was willing to 
send a Territorial division and Ronarc'h's brigade of Fusiliers 
Marins, and the British 7th Infantry and 3rd Cavalry Divisions 
were waiting ready in England. It seemed incredible that with 
all these potential supports, and with only Beseler's small be- 
sieging army against them, the Belgians should not be able to 
maintain their ground long enough to let the British army of attack 
swing eastward along the coast. But Falkenhayn was determined 
to clear forthwith this menace from his flank, and, because he 
could act with an undivided mind, he won. On 2nd October, 
Sir John French to his alarm heard from Kitchener that Antwerp 
was in imminent danger, and on the 9th came the news of its fall. 



2Sth September-ioth October. 

The Antwerp Defences — The Belgian Sortie — The Siege opens — Arrival of British 
Naval Division — Lord Kitchener's Plan — The Last Hours of the City, 

Visitors to Antwerp in the June before the outbreak of war found 
a city settled and comfortable and decorous, full of ease and pros- 
perous busyness, and all the signs of an interminable peace. She 
had had stormy episodes in her history. She had been the object 
in 1576 of that sack and massacre which is called " the Spanish 
Fury " ; she had been captured by Parma ; the Treaty of Munster 
in 1648 had closed the Scheldt and broken her prosperity ; in 
1832 she had been taken by the French and Belgians, and the 
Dutch general Chasse had bombarded her streets from the citadel. 
But she bore no sign of this restless past. In the seventeenth 
century a Venetian envoy had reported that more business was 
done at her wharves in a fortnight than in Venice during the year, 
and in the last four decades she had recovered her commercial 
pre-eminence. With a population of between 300,000 and 400,000, 
and an annual trade of more than £100,000,000 sterUng, she was 
one of the largest and richest ports of the world. Her broad 
streets and her handsome buildings, with the delicate spire of her 
great cathedral soaring into the heavens, made her one of the 
comeliest of European cities. Museums, Hbraries, and many halls 
and public buildings testified to her wealth and the variety of her 
interests. If a man had been asked to name a city from which 
fighting seemed infinitely remote — which seemed the very shrine 
of peace and the citadel of that bourgeois civilization which it was 
fondly hoped had made war impossible — the odds are that Antwerp 
would have been chosen. 

We have seen how, when Brussels was threatened, the Belgian 
Court and Government had retired inside the Antwerp Unes, and 



how during the first fortnight of September the Belgian army 
had made several gallant sallies against the German troops of 
occupation. The main object of these efforts was to relieve the 
pressure on the Allies in France, but another motive was in the 
minds of the Belgian Staff, Sooner or later it was certain that the 
Germans would make an attempt upon the city, and the lessons 
of Liege and Namur were beginning to be understood. The great 
howitzers must not be allowed to come within range of the forts, 
and the Belgian hues of defence must be far to the south, beyond 
the Nethe, and along the roads from Mahnes to Louvain and 
Brussels. By 17th September they had been driven back from 
the line of the MaUnes-Louvain railway. By 25th September, 
after two days' hard fighting, they were on the railway Hne between 
Malines and Termonde. Here, on the 26th, there was a moment 
of success. The enemy was driven from the village of Audeghem 
and pressed back on Alost, while at Lebbeke next day there was 
also a German repulse. The day after the Germans regained most 
of the ground they had lost ; but their left seems to have given 
up the idea of forcing an immediate crossing of the Scheldt, owing 
to the strength of the forces which the Belgians had massed on the 
northern bank. Meanwhile the main attack was beginning to 
develop against the first line of the Antwerp defences. MaHnes 
— what was left of it — had been subjected to a new cannonade on 
Sunday the 27th, and on the Monday the great siege howitzers 
were so far advanced to the north that they were within range 
of the southern forts, and the bombardment of Antwerp began. 
The Belgians had done the right thing, but they had been too 
weak to achieve success. They had been fighting without inter- 
inission for nearly two months, and the Germans were fresh troops. 
But the decisive factor was the enormous German preponderance 
in artillery. The defence in prepared positions may repel an attack 
six times as numerous, but it cannot stand against six times its 
weight in guns. 

The fortifications of Antwerp demand a brief exposition. In 
the days of Spanish rule Alva had demolished the old walls of 
the city, and refortified it wth a citadel and a bastioned rampart. 
These were the works which Carnot held against the Allies in the 
last days of Napoleon's empire, and which Chasse later defended 
against Gerard. When Belgium won her freedom it was realized 
that the city must have space to grow in, and after much debate 
the reconstruction of the fortress was entrusted to Erialmont. 
His plans, completed in 1859, provided, as we have already seen, 


for a wholesale reorganization of the Belgian defensive system. 
Belgium's chief danger was believed to lie in the ambitions of 
Napoleon III., and Brialmont's idea was to make of Antwerp 
an entrenched camp, into which in the last resort the army could 
retire to await succour from Britain. That is why the main citadel 
of Belgium was erected at a point within easy reach of reinforce- 
ments from the sea. Brialmont's works were begun in 186 1, and 
completed ten years later. The old ramparts were levelled and 
replaced by a line of boulevards, around which the new quarters 
of the city grew up. A fresh line of ramparts, with huge bastions 
and a ditch Hke a canal, was erected more than a mile in front of 
the line of the boulevards, with, as a further defence, a circle of 
outlying forts two miles in advance of these ramparts. Taking 
into account the range of siege artillery at that time, it was be- 
lieved that such a line of forts would be an absolute protection 
to the city and the harbour. On the northern and western fronts, 
and on parts of the eastern and southern fronts, large inundations 
could be made to add to the strength of the defence. The new 
entrenched camp had a circuit of twenty-seven miles, and formed 
the most extensive fortress in Europe, It was expected that the 
alliance or the friendly neutrality of Holland would permit supplies 
to enter from the Scheldt, so that complete investment would be 
impossible. To meet the objection that it would take more than 
a fortnight to put the place on a war footing, Brialmont added 
to his plan two strong forts on the Nethe, to delay the approach 
of an invader from the south-west. 

But the issue of the war of 1870 upset all these calculations. 
Strassburg and Metz passed to Germany, leaving the eastern 
frontier of France open, and in 1874 was begun the construction 
of the French barrier forts from Verdun to Belfort. Presently 
it was apparent that these new fortresses might be a serious danger 
to Belgium. France was no longer a probable assailant, but the 
Verdun-Belfort hne meant that the natural route of a German 
invasion of France was closed, and that Germany in the event of 
war might be disposed to turn the barrier by a movement through 
the Belgian plain. The result was the strengthening of Liege 
and Namur, and a complete overhauling of the Antwerp defences. 
Much had happened since 1861, and the time had come to replace the 
earthworks and stone casements with concrete and steel. Again, 
Antwerp had prospered beyond the dreams of 1861 ; new suburbs 
were demanded, and Brialmont's ramparts were cramping the 
growing city, while the citadel prevented the construction of new 


docks. Besides, the greater range of modern artillery made the 
place no longer safe from distant bombardment. On all these 
grounds it was proposed to demolish Brialmont's inner works, 
and construct a new rampart along the line of the outer forts, 
which would still serve as bastions. Further, to protect the city 
from long-range guns, a new circle of outlying forts was to be 
built some ten miles out in the open country. The southern forts 
would be beyond the Hne of the Rupel and the Nethe, close to 
Malines, the northern would be within gunshot of the Dutch frontier, 
and the whole circle would be not less than sixty miles. Brialmont 
opposed the scheme, on the ground that the defence of so great 
an enceinte would require not a garrison but an army. He was 
overruled, and the work was begun. The outlying forts, con- 
structed on the same plan as those of Liege, were only completed 
on the eve of war, and it is doubtful whether the eastern and 
northern sections were ever fully armed. In one respect the great 
entrenched camp of Antwerp was very strong, for its extent and its 
contiguity to the sea and the Dutch frontier made investment 
practically impossible. It fulfilled its purpose, too, of serving as a 
rallying-ground for the Belgian forces, where they could shelter 
themselves for a time and wait on the coming of their allies. But 
so far as bombardment went, its strength was no more than the 
strength of any group of its advanced forts ; and what that was 
Liege and Namur had given a melancholy demonstration. 

That the Belgian army should make a stand in Antwerp was 
inevitable. The great city was the last important piece of Belgian 
soil left under the administration of King iMbert's Government. It 
represented Belgium's sovereignty, and if it fell the nation would 
be homeless. Germany's reason for the attack was no less obvious. 
The possession of Antwerp would give her no outstanding strategic 
advantage. It did not command any main line of communication, 
and the neutrahzation of the Scheldt — unless she chose to quarrel 
with Holland — prevented its use as a naval base against Britain. 
But, since she had projected a sweep to the Channel ports, it was 
essential that to begin with she should clear her flanks. There 
were other motives. Germany, strange as it may seem, still cher- 
ished the idea of conciliating Belgian sentiment — a proof of her 
complete incapacity to gauge the temper of peoples other than her 
own. She argued that, so long as Antwerp remained as a focus of 
resistance, Belgium would continue intractable, but that with its 
fall she would realize facts, and accept — grudgingly, perhaps, at 
first, but with growing alacrity — the part which Germany had 


destined for her. About this time the German papers were filled 
with curious cartoons, in which female figures representing Ham- 
burg and Bremen had their arms about the neck of Antwerp, their 
weeping sister, with the consoling words on their hps, "Soon 
you shall be happy as we are, when you have won a German mind." 
Accordingly, efforts were still made to convince Belgium of her 
errors. A certain elderly pubhcist of Brussels was employed to 
make a proposal to King Albert. If the Belgian army would promise 
to keep quiet, wrote von der Goltz, to stay within its defences, 
and do nothing to molest the German occupation of the rest of 
the country, Antwerp should not be attacked. The emissary re- 
turned to Brussels with a very short answer. Some days later 
Beseler sent an airplane over Antwerp to drop proclamations 
addressed to the Belgian soldiers. " You have fought long enough," 
ran this curious document, " in the interests of the Russian princes 
and the capitalists of perfidious Albion. Your situation is des- 
perate. ... If you wish to rejoin your wives and children, if 
you long to return to your work, stop this useless strife, which is 
only working your ruin. Then you will soon enjoy the blessings of a 
happy and perfect peace." It seems strange that those responsible 
for Louvain and Aerschot should have beheved in the efficacy of 
such a lure ; but Germany had not yet begun, even dimly, to realize 
how her code of miUtary ethics was viewed by normal human 
beings. A second reason was also political. The capture of Ant- 
werp, one of the chief ports in the world, would be an acceptable 
present to the German nation, which was beginning to be in want 
of such encouragement. Hindenburg had failed on the Niemen, 
the Russians were drawing near to Cracow, and the Aisne had proved 
a costly refuge. The high hopes of the Week of Sedan had dechned, 
and it looked as if the speedy realization of German dreams were 
out of the question. A soUd gain, such as the taking of a great 
city, would give an enormous stimulus to civiUan Germany. Gener- 
ally speaking, a political purpose must subserve strategical aims ; 
still, if it can be achieved without loss to the main strategy, it is 
mere pedantry to disregard it. 

At the time the world believed that Antwerp was virtually 
isolated, that four or five miles inland from Ostend the Germans 
controlled all the country east of the Scheldt. The truth, however, 
known at the moment only to the more careful students of war, 
was that they held no part of that district. Bruges was unoccu- 
pied ; Ghent was not held ; the main hne from Antwerp to Ostend 
by St. Nicholas, Ghent, and Bruges was open, as were the smaller 


parallel lines running from St. Nicholas westward along the Dutch 
frontier. Further, there were half a dozen good roads available 
for traffic. That is to say, there was not only an outlet left for 
the Belgian army to emerge, but an inlet for Allied reinforcements to 
enter. Moreover, the Belgians did not hold, and could not have 
held, this district in any strength. Why did Beseler neglect this 
open flank ? WT^iy, before attacking Antwerp, did he not isolate it, 
for only thus could he reap the full fruits of his victory ? He made, 
indeed, some attempts to cross the Scheldt, but never in force 
till it was too late. Yet if he had advanced to St. Nicholas before 
1st October not a British sailor would have entered the city, and if 
he had reached it before 9th October not many fighting men would 
have left it.* The explanation is that, with Httle more than an army 
corps at his disposal, he had not the men. The assault on Antwerp 
relied upon the siege guns ; if they failed, Beseler must wait for 
the new corps now marching from Germany to the Duke of Wiirtem- 
berg. It was the advent of these that was the essential point in 
Falkenhayn's plan. If the IV. Army could turn the extended 
Allied left and drive on to the coast at Calais, the Belgian gar- 
rison of Antwerp and any reinforcements the AUies might have 
sent would be cut off in Northern Flanders without shelter or 
base, and could be dealt with at leisure. 

On Monday, 28th September, the curtain rose on the first 
act of the tragedy of Antwerp. The German howitzers were in 
position against the forts south of the river Nethe, and the first 
attack was directed upon Waelhem and Wavre St. Catherine. 
All day on the 28th the pounding of Waelhem and Wavre went 
on, and there was a good deal of infantry fighting all along the 
line from Termonde to Lierre. The Belgians south of the Nethe, 
assisted by their field batteries on the northern bank, met the 
German attack, and counter-attacked with some success. But 
for the big howitzers, the day went well for Belgium. Yet those 
who saw the effect of the shells on the two forts realized that the 
end could not long be delayed. The bombardment went on during 
the night, and early on the morning of Tuesday, the 29th, Fort 
Wavre was silenced. Its cupolas and concrete works were smashed 
beyond repair, and the blowing up of the magazine made the 
work untenable. Its commander insisted on returning with a 
fresh garrison, but found that every gun was out of action. Wael- 
hem also had one of its cupolas smashed, but managed to continue 

• For a partial explanation, see the ofl&cial monograph, Schlacten des Weltkrieges 
Antwerpen 191 4. 


its resistance during the day. Next day it and Fort Lierre were 
the centre of German attentions. An unfortunate accident which 
happened during the morning had important results for the defence. 
Behind Waelhem lay the main waterworks of Antwerp, and shell 
after shell was dropped by the Germans on the embankment of 
the great reservoir. At last the dyke gave way, and the water 
poured into the infantry trenches which had been dug between the 
forts. These were presently flooded out, the field guns were sub- 
merged, and it became impossible to carry supphes to Waelhem. 
The Belgian device of inundation was turned against them. A 
more serious result was the shrinkage caused in the city's water 
supply. It did not fail, for there were artesian wells, but water 
had now to be carried long distances in pails and buckets, the health 
of the citizens was imperilled, and it was certain that any conflagra- 
tion caused by the bombardment must burn unchecked. 

Thursday, ist October, saw the fall of the southern forts. 
Wavre was destroyed, Waelhem had only one gun. Fort Kon- 
ingshoyckt, south of Lierre, was silenced, and Fort Lierre soon 
followed ; while the village of Lierre was set on fire, and advertised 
by its smoke, which was seen clearly from Antwerp, what was 
happening south of the Nethe. Farther west German infantry 
attacks had cleared out Termonde, and forced the Belgians across 
the Scheldt by a wooden bridge, which they afterwards destroyed. 
On that day, and during the night which followed, the Belgian 
forces relinquished the ruined fortresses and fell back to the northern 
bank of the Nethe, to a line of entrenchments which they had already 
prepared. Fort Wavre and its fellows had held out for four days — 
a fine achievement if we realize the circumstances. It was longer 
than any of the Liege forts had resisted after the big guns had once 
been brought against them, and four times as long as Namur. The 
stand of the southern defences of Antwerp represented probably the 
maximum achievement of a Brialmont fort against modern artillery. 

The fight for Antwerp had now ceased to be a siege, and become 
something in the nature of a field battle. The Nethe lines gave 
a strong position, but to hold them required a large force and 
an artillery equipment not inferior to that of the enemy. In 
Antwerp itself a gallant effort was made to keej up the spirit of 
the citizens. The newspapers published reassuring statements, 
and any whisper of the true state of affairs across the Nethe was 
rigorously excluded. All day long the faint thunder of the guns 
was heard in the streets ; by night numbers of wounded and 
dead were brought in in the darkness ; the hotels and cafes were 


filled with staff officers and correspondents, and airplanes circled 
daily above the city. But for some reason the hopes of the inhabit- 
ants were high. They had a fixed idea that their great forts would 
hold off the enemy, and that at any hour the British might arrive, 
to turn the defence into an advance. By Saturday, the 3rd, how- 
ever, melancholy had begun to descend upon the crowds in the 
streets and boulevards. Something of the views of those in authority 
had filtered through to the ordinary citizen. For on the Friday 
afternoon it had been decided that the Government should leave for 
Ostend. One boat was to sail on the Saturday morning with the 
Belgian authorities and the foreign Legations, and another in the 
afternoon with the members of the French and British colonies. 
A proclamation was issued by the burgomaster, M. de Vos, allowing 
those who wished to leave the city, and General de Guise, the 
military governor, issued another, calling upon the citizens to 
show courage and coolness in all contingencies. These two pro- 
clamations had an immediate effect upon the popular mind. Many 
of the ordinary inhabitants, especially the well-to-do, began to leave 
for Holland and England. The second boat, arranged for the 
Saturday afternoon, sailed with the principal members of the 
French and British colonies. But the first boat, which was to carry 
the Government and the Legations, did not leave, for on the 
Saturday came a sudden change in the situation. Belgium had 
made a last despairing appeal to Britain for help, and news had 
arrived that this help was on the way. 

The condition of Antwerp had, since 2nd October, given Lord 
Kitchener acute anxiety. He saw the malign consequences involved 
in its fall, and was resolved to make every effort to prevent it. 
He had already a brigade of marines at Ostend, and he induced the 
Cabinet, still very nervous about invasion, to allow him to send 
the 7th Infantry Division, under Sir Henry Rawlinson, and the 3rd 
Cavalry Division, under Sir Julian Byng, to Belgium as a relief force. 
Sir John French was at the time moving his army from the Aisne, 
and was too far away and too much engaged to take charge of the 
new operations ; for this reason, and also to quiet the nervousness 
of the Cabinet, Kitchener kept the relief forces under his own 
command. Joffre was sending a brigade of marines and a Territorial 
division for the same purpose. But these reinforcements could not 
reach the Belgian coast before the 6th or 7th, and already the 
condition of Antwerp was desperate. He agreed to send at once 
the only troops immediately available, the half-trained Royal 
Naval Division. 


On Sunday, 4th October, about one o'clock, Mr. Winston 
Churchill, the British First Lord of the Admiralty, arrived in Ant- 
werp, and stayed for three days. He visited the firing lines, exposing 
himself with his usual courage, and he managed to convince the 
authorities that there was still a reasonable chance of victory. 
Late on the Sunday night the first instalment of the British rein- 
forcements arrived by train from Ostend in the shape of the brigade 
of Royal Marines, 2,000 strong, with several naval guns. They 
at once marched out to the front, and took up a position on the 
Nethe to the left of the Belgians. Next day came the remainder of 
the reinforcements, two naval brigades, totalling 6,000 men — 
the whole British force being commanded by General Paris of the 
Royal Marines, who was himself under the direction of General de 
Guise. The two naval brigades, the cadres of which were drawn 
from the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Fleet Reserve, and the 
Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, had been constituted in the 
third week of August, and were still busily recruiting at the begin- 
ning of October. Most of the officers and men had no previous 
military experience, and some of those recently joined had come 
straight from civil life, and had not yet handled a rifle. Their 
equipment was imperfect : many had no pouches to carry their 
ammunition, or water-bottles, or overcoats ; while some were 
compelled to stick their bayonets in their putties, or tie them to 
their belts with string. The four battalions of Marines were, of 
course, regulars, representing the full efficiency of their splendid 
service. Each naval brigade was organized in four battalions 
named after famous admirals. The ist Brigade was made up of 
the " Drake," " Benbow," " Hawke," and " Colhngwood " batta- 
lions ; the 2nd of the " Nelson," " Howe," " Hood," and " Anson." 
The arrival of the British had an electrical effect on the spirits of 
the Belgians, both soldiers and civilians. The spruce, well-set-up 
lads looked business-like and fit, and only trained observers could 
see that the majority of them were novices at soldiering. Cheering 
crowds followed them in the streets, and the sorely tried Belgian 
soldiery marched out to their trenches with songs on their lips 
and a new light in their eyes. It was not only for themselves that 
our men were welcomed, but as an earnest of what might follow. 
The Belgians could not believe that Britain would put her hand 
to the business unless she meant to see it through. The military 
authorities thought that the better part of an army corps was 
on its way, and that the six naval guns were only the beginning 
of a great influx of artillery, sufficient to equalize their strength 


in this arm with that of the enemy. The London motor omnibuses 
with their homely legends, lumbering through the Antwerp streets 
with the ammunition and supplies of the Naval Division, seemed 
a proof that their AUies had come at last. Another ground of 
confidence was the British armoured train, which had been built 
in an engineering yard at Hoboken, and which mounted four 4.7 
naval guns. Whatever may have been the actual achievement 
of this train, it served wonderfully to raise Belgian spirits. The 
other four 6.5 guns were mounted close to Forts 3 and 4 in the 
inner circle of the defences. 

We have seen that from Friday, 2nd October, the fight for 
Antwerp had become more in the nature of a field battle, the 
Belgians holding a line of trenches just north of the Nethe. They 
were not good trenches, their head-cover was bad, and certainly 
they were not prepared to resist the storm of shrapnel which the 
Germans directed against them. Something between 300 and 400 
field guns were brought into the attack. The villages in the Belgian 
rear, especially Waerloos and Linth, were destroyed by the German 
fire, and the inhabitants of all the district north of the Nethe 
began to flock towards Antwerp. On the Saturday, 3rd October, 
the Germans attempted to cross the river at Waelhem. Several 
pontoon bridges were built, but in each case they were blown 
to pieces before they could be used, and here probably the invaders 
incurred their heaviest losses. On the Sunday a crossing was 
attempted between Duffel and Lierre, and was vigorously resisted 
by the British Marines, who were stationed in this section. But 
the numbers, both of men and artillery, were too great to be long 
denied, and on the afternoon of Monday, the 5th, the left wing of 
the defence fell back from its trenches on the river bank to a 
second line some hundreds of yards to the north. On the Monday 
night there was a great German attack, covered by powerful 
artillery, on the Belgian centre. The defenders managed to prevent 
the building of pontoons, but in the night several thousand Ger- 
mans swam or waded the river, and established themselves on 
the northern shore. Early on the morning of Tuesday, the 6th, the 
passage of the Nethe had been won, and there was nothing for 
it but to fall back upon the inner circle of forts, whose armament 
was obsolete, and as little fitted to face the German howitzers as 
a liner to meet the shock of a battleship. 

That day, the 6th, revealed to every one the desperate case of 
Antwerp, She had, indeed, been at the mercy of the big howitzers 
from the moment they were brought up close to the Nethe. But 

1914] THE END OF THE SIEGE. 299 

the Germans did not choose to use these for the bombardment, 
contenting themselves with bringing their field guns and their 
lesser siege pieces against the inner forts. The country between 
the Nethe and the inner circle became uninhabitable. In that 
land of closely tilled fields and windmills and poplars, in the pleasant 
autumn weather when the labourers should have been busy with 
getting in the root crops and preparing the soil for the spring sow- 
ing, there was only desolation and destruction. Many villages 
had been levelled by the Belgian army, and some, set on fire by 
the enemy's shells, smouldered in the windless air, instead of the 
common October bonfires of garden refuse ; while the inhabitants 
with their scanty belongings poured along the guarded highways 
to Antwerp or to Holland. In the city the truth was faced at 
last. The British troops could not delay the inevitable, and there 
was no hope of further reinforcements. In the evening the Belgian 
Government and the Legations of the Allies went on board the two 
steamers which had been kept in readiness, and early on the 7th 
sailed down the Scheldt for the coast of France. That evening, 
too, the machinery of the German ships lying in Antwerp docks 
was rendered useless by dynamite explosions. During the night 
the citizens had another proof of Antwerp's impending doom. 
On the western side of the Scheldt, beyond the bridge of boats 
which led to the railway terminus at Waes, stood the great oil tanks 
which formed one of the chief depots in north-western Europe. 
These tanks were tapped by order of the authorities ; but, since 
the oil ran off too slowly, they were set on fire. When the people 
of Antwerp woke on the morning of the 7th they smelt the rank 
odour of burning petroleum, and saw drifting above the city a 
dense black cloud which obscured the sunlight. 

Wednesday, the 7th, brought the official announcement that 
all was over. Proclamations, signed by General de Guise, were 
posted throughout the city declaring that a bombardment was 
imminent, while the burgomaster advised all who wished to leave 
to lose no time, and recommended those who meant to stay to 
take shelter in their cellars. The newspapers announced that the 
enemy was already attacking the inner forts, and that a service 
of steamers had been provided for refugees, and would begin at 
midday. The more dangerous wild beasts in the Zoological Gar- 
dens, many of them treasured gifts from the Congo State, were shot 
by their keepers. The day before Beseler had sent a message to 
de Guise, warning him of the intended bombardment, and the 
Belgian governor had answered that he accepted responsibility for 


the consequences. That day there came another message from the 
German lines, asking for a plan of Antwerp with the hospitals, 
public buildings, and museums clearly marked, that, as far as 
possible, they might be spared. Such a plan was carried to Beseler 
by an official from the American Consulate ; but the inhabitants, 
suspicious of the honour of the enemy, gave all such places a wide 
berth, and regarded them as likely to be the first objects of the 
German attack. Meanwhile the nerve of the townspeople had at 
last broken. Up till now they had kept their spirits high, but the 
official proclamation, the sound of the great guns ever drawing 
nearer, the black pall of smoke, the blaze at night of the shell-fire 
to the south, and above all the sight of their own soldiers march- 
ing westward over the bridge of boats towards Waes, convinced 
them that the doom of the city was sealed. Small blame to them 
that, with Louvain and Aerschot in their memories, they expected 
a carnival of unimaginable horrors. Antwerp, on the morning of 
the 7th, contained little short of half a million people, for the in- 
habitants of the neighbouring districts had flocked to it for refuge. 
By the evening a quarter of a million had gone ; by the next night 
the place was as solitary as a desert. Half at least went by water. 
The quaysides were packed with frantic crowds, carrying house- 
hold goods on their backs and in their hands, and struggling for 
places on any kind of raft that could keep afloat. Tramps, ferries, 
dredgers, trawlers, pleasure yachts, steam launches, fishing boats, 
and even rafts were put in use. There was desperate confusion, 
for there were no police ; and vessels, sunk almost to the water- 
line with a weight of humanity, lay for hours in the stream, till the 
actual bombardment began, and the incendiary bombs made lurid 
patches below the dark canopy of smoke from the oil tanks. One 
observer reported that as each shell burst there came a great sigh 
of terror from the vessels lingering in the dark waters. 

The exodus was even more terrible by land. Many crossed 
the Scheldt by the bridge of boats and the ferries, and fled to 
Ghent ; but most took the road where the tramways ran to the 
Dutch frontier and Bergen-op-Zoom. This little town, which has 
only 16,000 inhabitants in normal times, received in these days at 
least 200,000 exiles ; and it says much for the patient kindliness 
of the Dutch people that somehow or other food and shelter were 
forthcoming. Most of the refugees had been too hurried to provide 
themselves with provisions, and many fell weary and famished by 
the wayside. Infants were prematurely born, and the sick and the 
old died from exposure. Women who had been delicately nurtured 


ate raw turnips and potatoes from the fields. Every kind of con- 
veyance from motor cars to wheelbarrows was utilized, and many 
an yEneas carried Anchiscs on his shoulders. On the Ghent road 
women in fur coats and high-heeled shoes clung to the ends of 
wagons ; white-haired men grasped the harness of the gun teams, 
or the stimip-leathers of the troops ; pale nuns shepherded flocks 
of weeping children. It was worse on the road to Bergen, by which 
the poorest and the weakest fled. There the highway and the 
fields for miles on either side were black with the panting crowds, 
stumbling over the forms of those who had fallen from exhaustion. 
And ever behind them roared the great guns, and the horrible 
fleur-de-lis of pitchy smoke seemed to form a barrier between the 
tortured earth and the merciful heavens. 

Such was the " passion " of Antwerp. Let us return to the 
final stage of the conflict north of the Nethe. Early on Tuesday, 
the 6th, the Germans had won the crossings of the river, and the 
defenders had fallen back on the inner forts. On that day the 
withdrawal of the Belgian army began, and several divisions, 
chiefly cavalry and cyclists, were hurried through Antwerp across 
the Scheldt towards the Ghent railway. Their duty was to hold 
the western road and block any flank attack. All day the Germans 
were busy bringing their guns over the river, and by the evening 
the inner forts were subjected to a heavy bombardment. The 
great howitzers were not brought north of the Nethe, and the 
Germans confined their activity to common shell, shrapnel, and 
incendiary bombs. On the 7th there was desperate fighting on 
the Scheldt, for Beseler seems to have at last resolved to do some- 
thing to cut off the retreat of the garrison. German troops crossed 
that river at Termonde, as well as at Schoonaerde and Wetteren, 
and began a movement towards the railway line at Lokeren. Now 
was proved the usefulness of the advance guard of the Belgians 
which had been sent west on the night of the 6th. They made a 
gallant stand at Zele, and prevented for nearly two days the Ger- 
man approach to the railway. 

The official bombardment began at midnight on the 7th, and 
the suburb of Berchem was set on fire. During Thursday, the 8th, 
there was fierce fighting along the inner ring of forts, while the 
Belgian and British troops were being withdrawn across the Scheldt. 
General Paris asked that his Naval Division should act as rear- 
guard, but General de Guise reserved the privilege for his own 
men. All through the day the inner forts were assafled, and by 
the evening Forts 3 and 4 had fallen. By this time the defence 


was at an end. Nearly all the garrison had fallen back, and much 
of it was over the Scheldt. The Naval Division had stuck to the 
end to the forts and the trenches between, and for new troops 
had acquitted themselves most gallantly, considering the badness 
of the commissariat arrangements and the weakness of their artil- 
lery supports. Unfortunately the staff work proved faulty, as it 
well might in such a confusion. The 2nd Naval Brigade was on 
the west of the Malines road, and the ist Brigade was on the east, 
around Forts 1-4. The order to retire did not reach the " Hawke," 
" Benbow," and " Collingwood " battalions of the latter brigade, 
and the result was that they were almost the last to leave the now 
useless defences. By the morning of Friday, the 9th, practically 
the whole of the garrison was across the Scheldt. The three laggard 
battalions of the Naval Division arrived to find that the bridge of 
boats had been destroyed, but they managed to cross on rafts and 
barges, and found a train at Waes. Then their difficulties began. 
One party got as far as Lokeren, where they heard that the Germans 
had cut the railway ahead ; probably a false report, for the Germans 
do not seem to have reached that part of the line till the evening. 
Accordingly they marched north to the Dutch frontier. A second 
party got as far as Niewerken, the station east of St. Nicholas, 
where they found the Germans in possession, and were forced to 
surrender. Some went down the Scheldt in boats, and landed in 
Dutch territory, out of ignorance of the law as to internment. 
About 18,000 of the Belgian troops were also driven into Holland, 
and some, mainly those who fought at Zele, were made prisoners 
by the Germans. The British losses were 37 killed, 193 wounded, 
nearly 1,000 missing, of whom over 800 became prisoners of war, 
and 1,560 interned in Holland. Of the ist Naval Brigade which 
had arrived at Antwerp 3,000 strong, less than 1,000 returned to 

The expedition to Antwerp occasioned at the time much heart- 
searching in Britain and among our troops in France. It was a 
side-show, and side-shows are condemned by sound strategy. 
Cynics found comfort in the fact that we had never won success 
in continental war without a disastrous adventure in the Low 
Countries organized by politicians. But to see in the Antwerp 
affair a second Walcheren Expedition does less than justice to the 
sanity of the scheme. It was no escapade of a single Minister, but 
part of a larger strategical plan which had the approval of the 
Secretary of State for War. Lord Kitchener's scheme was for a 
considerable relief force, which should not only relieve Antwerp but 



♦ ♦ 


"I 3 W I y\ A 

igi4l THE FLIGHT. 303 

join with the main British army in operating against the enemy's 
right flank. But RawUnson's 7th Division and Byng's cavalry did 
not arrive at Zeebrugge and Ostend till the 6th and 7th, after a 
most difficult passage, and by that time Antwerp was doomed. 
There was nothing to do but to retire to meet the main British 
forces coming north from the Aisne, for by the 8th it was clear that 
the German right was in far greater strength than had been at first 
imagined. Sir John French has criticized the whole operation ; but 
as an emergency measure it was justified, since it was plain that any 
relief work from his end was impossible. It is true that it condemned 
Byng and RawHnson to a difficult retreat, but to urge that they 
should have been sent straightway to French's command is to deny 
the reasonableness of any attempt at Antwerp's relief. They failed 
in their purpose because events at Antwerp marched faster than 
Kitchener expected. The value of the dispatch of the Naval 
Division is more disputable. The British brigades undoubtedly, 
by delaying the fall of the city for a few days, enabled much useful 
destructive work to be done in the city and among the ships in 
the harbour. They did not cover the retreat of the Belgian army, 
for it is clear that the Belgians covered the retreat of the 
Naval Division; and it is not improbable that this duty in- 
creased the total of Belgian losses. Had the garrison retired 
on the 4th or 5th it would have got clear away. It must be 
written down as a failure, but that failure was due to the 
fact that it was an isolated enterprise, and by ill fortune could 
not be combined with the larger operation which was Kitchener's 

The bombardment, which began at midnight on the 7th, lasted 
throughout the 8th. Antwerp was like a city of the dead. Only 
the hospitals remained, working hard to get off their patients, and 
a few Belgian soldiers left behind on special duty. Shells whistled 
overhead, and now and then the gable of a building would fall 
into the street ; but it did Httle harm, for there was no one 
near to be hurt. Night, when it came, presented an appalling 
spectacle, as in old pictures of the fall of Troy. Fires had broken 
out in various districts, and burned luridly in the still air. A 
number of flaming lighters lit up the Scheldt, till the waters flowed 
blood-red like some river of Hades. Overhead was the black mush- 
room of petroleum smoke, which seemed to brood over the house- 
tops, and only on the far horizon was there a belt of clear star- 
sown sky. There were no lamps in the city, so that acres of abysmal 
darkness were varied with patches of glaring shell-light. But all 


the time the desperate cannonade went on, and sometimes an 
incendiary bomb would make a rosy cavern in the heart of the 
dark cloud. 

Early on the 9th the bombardment ceased. The inner forts 
had fallen, and the gates of the city lay open. About one o'clock 
German motor cars entered by the Porte de Malines, and an officer 
informed the burgomaster that Antwerp was now a German city. 
When Admiral von Schroeder made his stately entrance down the 
broad boulevards to the Hotel de Ville a very different sight met 
his eye from that which had greeted Armin's forces when they 
entered Brussels. There were no spectators to admire the Prus- 
sian parade step or be impressed by the precision of the part 
songs. It might have been an avenue of sepulchres instead of 
one of the gayest cities of Europe. No flag was flown, no in- 
quisitive face looked out of the blind windows. As some one 
caustically observed, it was like a circus that had come to town 
before it was expected. 

The world had never before seen such a migration of a people 
or such an emptying of a great city. It recalled the time when a 
king of Babylon carried Israel captive to eat the bread of sorrow 
by foreign streams, or those doings of ancient conquerors when they 
moved the inhabitants of a conquered town to some new site, and 
razed and sowed with salt the old foundations. But those were 
affairs of little places and small numbers, and this involved half 
a million souls and one of the proudest cities of Europe. Fighting 
has its own decencies, and when it is done on conventional lines 
of attack and counter-attack by normal armies, our habituation 
prevents us from realizing the colossal unreason of it all. But 
suddenly comes some such business as Antwerp and unseals our 
eyes. We see the laborious handiwork of man, the cloak which 
he has made to shelter himself from the outer winds, shrivel before 
a folly of his own devising. All the sacrifice and heroism, which are 
the poor recompenses of war, are suddenly overshadowed, and 
etched in with bitter clearness we note its horror and futility. 
Some day the world, when its imagination has grown quicker, 
will find the essence of war not in gallant charges and heroic stands, 
but in those pale women dragging their pitiful belongings through 
the Belgian fields in the raw October night. When that day comes 
the tumult and the shouting will die, and the kings and captains 
depart on nobler errands. 



The Position of Parties in Britain — A Nation United but not yet Awake — The Situa- 
tion in France — False Views about Russia — Germany — Turkey — Italy — The 
Smaller Peoples — ^The United States. 

Even in a history of war concerned mainly with the operations of 
fleets and armies, it is imperative to pause now and then and glance 
at civil events. The most notable are those which shed light upon 
the domestic conditions and the spirit of the belligerent peoples, 
and upon the feeling of the neutral states. The political situation 
is especially interesting at the beginning and the end of a campaign. 
Half-way the position is apt to ossify. Belligerents settle down to 
a sullen resolution, and neutrals to a sombre acquiescence. But 
in the first months we are witnessing the creation of national 
attitudes, and much wavering and disquiet before the realization 
of the facts is complete. 

The first week of war broke to pieces the accepted military 
policy of Britain. It was not that that policy was inherently 
wrong ; but it was shaped for ninety-nine out of a hundred possible 
contingencies, and the hundredth had happened. Her Expedi- 
tionary Force, adequate for any ordinary crisis, was transparently 
inadequate for this, and had to be many times multiplied. Her 
Territorial Force, consecrated to home defence, was soon an army 
of volunteers for foreign service. It may fairly be said that the 
British people set themselves with commendable sang-froid to 
revise their theories and improvise levies on the continental scale, 
rhey were both assisted and hampered by the fact that the ordinary 
life of the country was not seriously dislocated. They had no 
invaders within their borders, nor much likelihood of invasion. 
After the first hectic days they found that their commerce 
and industries were not greatly affected. The financial crisis 
was manfully faced, and the Government, in consultation with 
che chiefs of the city of London, devised a series of measures, 



some of which, indeed, were open to criticism, but which on the 

whole serv'ed the purpose of restoring confidence and safeguarding 
national credit. Expedients like the moratorium and the new 
note issues were obvious enough, but it required courage to guar- 
antee outstanding bills of exchange to the amount of £400,000,000, 
and to devise the various means of preventing the Stock Exchange 
from disappearing in wholesale bankruptcy. Except among a 
very limited class, there was far less unemployment than in 
the beginning of an ordinary autumn. Some industries were 
crippled, but others were enormously benefited by war. In a few 
weeks a sense of security stole over the land, and when later the 
Government announced a vast scheme of new taxation and the 
raising of a war loan of £350,000,000 — by far the largest state 
loan in the world's history — the people of Britain assented without 
a murmur. 

She possessed one signal advantage as compared with her past 
struggles. Her leaders, at any rate, recognized that they were 
face to face with war on the grand scale. Policy was in harmony 
with strategy ; there was not likely to be any interference with 
the armies on political grounds — none of the maddening and inept 
dictation from home which was the bane of Wellington in the 
Peninsula. Both the great political parties were determined 
on a " fight to a finish," and willing to trust the experts. No 
praise can be too high for the conduct of the official Opposition, 
and for those smaller sections which were not wholly in sympathy 
with the party in power. The Government had not to face the 
kind of attack which Pitt suffered at the hands of Fox and his 
allies, and which in a lesser degree appeared during the South 
African War. An opposition quickly formed, but it was small in 
numbers and intellectually inconsiderable. It contained the men 
who, whether from generosity or from perversity of spirit, must 
always side with the minority. It was sufficient for such that Ger- 
many should be widely unpopular ; instantly they discovered merits 
in the German case. Their motive, as has been well said, was that 
" peculiar form of pugnacity which is often miscalled ' love of 
justice ' — a habit of irritation at excess which finds vent not in 
justice but in counter-excess." * Others were so rooted in a 
stubborn British confidence that they could not envisage any 
danger to their hberties, and, distrusting after the British fashion 
all politicians, convinced themselves that their country's interests 
were being sacrificed to some shoddy political game. Some out 

♦ Gilbert Murray : Faith, War, and Policy, p. 53. 


of a gross spiritual pride conceived that the ethical principle which 
brought the nation into war must needs be wrong, since it was 
so generally accepted. There were the few genuine pacificists 
to whom war on any ground was abhorrent ; there were various 
egotistical practitioners of minor arts and exponents of minor 
causes who resented anything which distracted attention from 
themselves and their works. But whether the cause was moral 
arrogance, or temperamental obstinacy, or vanity, or mere mental 
confusion, the anti-war party was neghgible. The nation had 
rarely been so completely united. 

But it was not yet completely awake. The Government, 
after the first shock, anticipated a short campaign and a decisive 
triumph, in which they showed no desire to allow their poUtical 
opponents to share. Lord Kitchener's insistence upon a three 
years' war was considered to be the grandiosity of a specialist 
who exaggerates his own speciality. They recognized the 
reality of the challenge which they had to meet, but underrated 
its magnitude. Mr. Asquith stated with admirable clearness the 
issues, but seemed to regard the result as predetermined ; Mr. 
Lloyd George lent his impassioned eloquence to rouse his country- 
men, but was himself so far from realizing the nature of the 
struggle that he estimated Britain's daily expenditure at ;^75o,ooo, 
which he said would be a diminishing figure. Like leaders like 
people. The national psychology of Britain during the first 
months of war provided an interesting contrast with the state of 
mind of a land like France, where compulsory service and the 
presence of the invader brought home to every man and woman 
the terrible gravity of the contest. In Britain there was no lack 
of patriotic enthusiasm. Large sums were subscribed to the 
Prince of Wales's Fund and to similar collections; a thousand 
war charities were started ; the sports and pleasures of the 
rich disappeared ; there was an honest desire in all classes 
to lend a hand. From the press flowed a torrent of pamphlets 
in which the German character was acidly analyzed, and the 
badness of the German case compendiously expounded. Letters 
from angry novelists and furious poets filled the newspapers, and 
every man who could write became a publicist. Many a noted 
pacificist, temporarily bellicose, girded on his pen. Much of this 
gave the impression that the writers wrote to soothe uneasy con- 
sciences, and to atone for past perversity by present exuberance. 
But with all this activity the attitude of the ordinary Briton was 
curiously academic. He was indignant with Germany, because 


of her doings in Belgium, because she seemed to him the author 
of the war, and because her creed violated all the doctrines in 
which he had been taught to believe. He was determined to beat 
her and to draw her fangs. But he had as yet no realization of 
the horrible actualities of modem battles, or of the solemnity of 
the crisis for civilization, for his country, and for himself. The 
ordinary mind is slow to visualize the unknown, and the smoke 
of a burning homestead, seen or remembered, is a more potent 
aid to vision than the most graphic efforts of the war correspondent 
or the orator. A proof of this was the popularity during the 
early weeks of the phrase, " Business as usual," as a national 
watchword — a watchword acclaimed by every type of citizen, 
from advertisement agents to Cabinet Ministers. The phrase, 
properly applied, was not without good sense, but its application 
was preposterously wide. Many came to think more of capturing 
the enemy's trade after the war than of beating him as soon as 
possible in the field. The catchword showed the comparative 
remoteness of the bulk of our citizens from any true understanding 
of the struggle. Early in September the Government, faithful 
to the same motto, took occasion to pass into law their two chief 
controversial measures. For such an action there was no doubt, 
under the circumstances, a certain justification ; but that it was 
possible showed how greatly the situation of Britain differed from 
that of France, where a national and not a partisan government 
was in power, and where the gravity of war was intimately present 
to every mind. 

This feeling — as of a crisis serious but not too serious — was 
obviously bad for recruiting. There were other hindrances. 
Britain's treatment of aliens looked very like playing with the 
question. Hordes of humble folk — waiters, barbers, and the 
like — were interned or put under surveillance, but various wealthy 
and highly placed foreigners went free, and continued to share 
the confidence of the authorities. Most of these, no doubt, were 
naturalized ; but the world was already aware of the value of such 
naturalization. Again, she was not fortunate in her handling of 
the press. She established a Press Bureau, which proceeded upon 
principles not easily intelligible. Britain, with her free tradi- 
tions, made a bad censor, and in official secrecy she went far 
beyond what was demanded by military requirements. Her 
people heard little of the great deeds of their army, and regi- 
ments were rarely mentioned, so that the chief aid to recruiting 
was abandoned. Such a censorship was in truth inconsistent 


not only with her system of voluntary recruiting, but with her 
type of democratic government. In time of war a civilian First 
Lord at the Admiralty and a civilian Home Secretary, dealing 
with many semi-military questions, involved as their logical 
corollary a large measure of free public criticism. To withdraw 
this right by withdrawing reasonable information was to make 
of her constitution a bureaucracy without a true bureaucracy's 
efficiency. There were other blunders made in the machinery 
of enrolment. The magic of Lord Kitchener's name was beyond 
doubt one of the chief aids to recruiting, but the Secretary for 
War increased the immense difficulties of his task by refusing to 
use the existing Territorial organization for his levies and creat- 
ing a brand-new model.* A mistake was made, too, with regard 
to Ireland. The outbreak of war had called a truce between the 
combatants there, a truce most honourably observed by the 
respective leaders. Sir Edward Carson and Mr. John Redmond 
flung themselves into the work of recruiting, and Ireland's well- 
wishers hoped that the partnership of North and South in the 
field might bring about that sense of a common nationality without 
which Home Rule must be a forlorn experiment. For a moment 
it seemed as if there was a chance of such harmony, but the refusal 
to attract nationalist sentiment in Ireland by the creation of 
national units chilled the fervour of these first stages. The 
chance of the flood tide was not to come again. 

Yet in spite of many hindrances the voluntary system did not 
at once break down. Indeed, it justified itself beyond the hopes of 
its warmest advocates. Remember what Britain asked of her volun- 
teers. In a continental country, with the enemy at its gates, a man 
was called upon to enlist for the defence of his home and his Hveli- 
hood. But that was not her case, nor at the time did it seem hkely 
to be her case. She could only ask for recruits to fight for the 
honour and interest of Britain and of her Alhes. These were great 
matters, but obviously they must appeal to a more Hmited class 
than the call to strike a blow against a direct invasion. The men 
who enlisted came often from classes to whom the soldier's pay was 
no attraction, and who had other ways of earning their living. They 
came either because they comprehended and believed in the prin- 
ciples for which the Allies stood, or because they hked fighting for 
its own sake. Those who were engaged in the business of recruiting 

• The defence is that the Territorial Associations consisted too largely of civilians 
(Sir George Arthur's Life of Lord Kitchener, III., 308) — a weak argument which was 
disposed of by Kitchener himself, who in the Derby Scheme and the Military Service 
Act of 1916 made use of a purely civilian organization. 


soon came to realize that a man's readiness to enlist depended 
mainly upon his understanding of the situation. The areas which 
did specially well— the mining districts of North England, London, 
Lancashire, the Scottish Lowlands, Birmingham— were those near 
the centre of things, or where the people showed a high level of intel- 
ligence and education. The Durham miners enlisted in thousands 
when the news came of the German destruction of Belgian coal-pits ; 
that made them visualize the realities of war. The backward areas 
were either those remote from news centres, or localities where the 
mills were busy with the manufacture of war stores. The rural 
districts were, on the whole, apathetic till after the harvest or the 
term day ; but when the shepherds and labourers were free, they 
showed no disinchnation to serve. By Christmas, 1914, fully 
2,000,000 of the inhabitants of the British Isles were under arms, 
either for home defence or foreign service, and the figures were 
daily growing. To an impartial observer it must seem that the 
voluntary system achieved wonders — miracles, if we remember 
the many needless obstacles placed in its path. 

In France the arresting feature was the singular calm of her 
people. War was inside her threshold, and the usual social life 
was at a standstill. By the end of August she had lost 93 per cent, 
of her wool industry, 83 per cent, of her iron industry, 63 per cent, 
of her steel industry, 92 per cent, of her iron ore mines, 35 per cent, 
of her sugar industry, and 10 per cent, of her cereal production. 
Presently the Government left Paris, and the capital waited breath- 
lessly for the sound of the fortress guns which should announce 
the beginning of the German assault. But in the press, in public 
speeches, in private letters, in conversation, there was no sign of 
fear or flurry. She realized the worst, she expected it, but she was 
confident of the end. For some years past there had been a re- 
markable revival in the country of what may be called a rehgious 
nationahsm. The old shallow secularism was losing its grip. At 
the moment she led the world in philosophy, and the teaching of 
men Uke Bergson and Henri Poincare was in the direction of a 
rational humility before the mysteries of the spirit. Just as there 
was a striking religious movement in the armies of Lee before the 
great conflict in the Wilderness, so in France before the outbreak of 
war there had been a very clear reaction against the former material- 
ism. In her pubhc life she had suffered in late years especially 
from two dangers : a doctrinaire international socialism, and — far 
more insidious — a conscienceless international finance. When the 


hour of crisis came the exponents of the first rallied, as we have seen, 
most nobly to the national cause. The second disappeared from the 
surface, though its evil effects were long to be felt in the corruption 
which had weakened the army in many branches of war material. 

The spirit of France can best be described in the words of Maurice 
Barres as a " grave enthusiasm, a disciplined exaltation." It was 
the temper which wins battles, for it was unbreakable. Once more 
she felt herself leading the van of Europe, and the alliance of Britain, 
her secular enemy, filled her with a generous delight. On the 
great memorial crucifix on the field of Agincourt French soldiers, 
encamped near by, wrote : " Hommage k nos braves allies." Old 
critics of England, like M. Hanotaux and M. Rostand, recanted 
their suspicions, and testified to the spiritual unity, which wars had 
never wholly broken, between those whose history was so closely 
knit. France awoke to a consciousness of her past. In all this 
there was no violent reversal of things, no leaning to a sectional 
aim, nothing of Boulangism, or Royalism, or ClericaHsm. She 
became cathoHc in the broadest sense, zealous to maintain her 
repubhcan freedom and her post in the forefront of intellectual 
liberty, but not less zealous for that delicate spiritual heritage which 
is independent of change in creeds and churches. 

The bane of her wars in the past had been the domination of 
the soldier by the poHtician. But at the end of August politi- 
cians of all shades subordinated themselves to the soldiers. There 
were no appointments made because this or that minister wished 
to do a kindness to a friend, and no moves were undertaken be- 
cause Paris had views. The discretion and self-effacement of M. 
Viviani and his colleagues were as remarkable as their resolution. 
A standard of naked efficiency ruled at General Joffre's headquarters. 
Eminent generals were ruthlessly dismissed when they failed ; 
younger men were promoted with bewildering speed when their com- 
petence was proved. The personaHty of the Commander-in-Chief 
was beyond doubt one of the chief assets of his country at the mo- 
ment. That square, homely figure, scant of words, loathing adver- 
tisement, plainly, almost untidily dressed, and looking not unlike 
a North Sea pilot, was far enough removed from the traditional 
French general who, in brilliant uniform, curvets on a white charger, 
and pronounces eulogies of " la gloire." He was another portent 
of the new France. 

The position of Russia seemed at the moment almost the most 
hopeful of all the AUies. For the first time since 1812 it looked as 


if she had a national war and a national ideal which could permeate 
and vitalize the whole of her gigantic body politic. In Manchuria 
she had been fighting half-heartedly for a cause which she neither 
liked nor understood, and thereafter had come that welter of dis- 
order, that ill-led scramble for hberties, which often follows an un- 
successful and unpopular campaign. The forces of order won as 
against the forces of emancipation, for the liberationists were not 
ready, and in a strife of dreams and pohcy, policy will usually be 
victor. But the forces of order learned much in the contest, and 
under men hke Stolypin began a slow movement towards, not the 
westernizing of Russia, but the realization of her own native ideals. 
When the campaign opened, there appeared to be an amazing rally 
of those very elements in her society which had hitherto seemed 
intent upon a doctrinaire cosmopolitanism. The " intelligents " 
were not less enthusiastic than the mujiks, and the student class, 
formerly the nursery of revolutions, was foremost in offering its 
services, and accepted joyfully the repeal of the laws which gave it 
freedom from conscription. Russia, it was assumed, had one special 
advantage in such a war. In the Tsardom she had a natural centre 
of leadership, an office with mystic sanctions which no other modern 
kingship could display. The humblest peasant from the backwoods 
fought for a monarch whom he had never seen as the soldiers of the 
French Guard fought for Napoleon. In the Alhed hues in the West 
there was a strange mixture of nationalities and races, but it was 
nothing to that battle front in the East. There, indeed, you had 
a bewildering array of figures : Finn and Tartar, Caucasian and 
Mongol, Buriat and Samoyede and Kirghiz and Turcoman, fight- 
ing side by side with the normal types of European Russia. To 
weld such a miscellany into a fighting force more was needed than 
skilful organization, more even than a great national cause ; it 
required the spell of a kingship, mystic and paternal and half 
divine. It seemed as if the Tsardom were such a kingship. To 
Western observers it appeared that Russia had undergone a great 
regeneration, and that the scandals of the Russo-Japanese War 
were now for ever impossible. A further proof was found in the 
renunciation by her Government of the alcohol monopoly, which 
meant a loss of many millions of revenue. Only a great and simple 
people, it was argued, could take such heroic measures and loyally 
obey them. 

This belief in the strength and efficiency of Russian power was 
buttressed by an altogether different confidence in her spiritual 
quaUty. Many Western observers had long looked towards her 


for an influence which should counteract the weakness of our modern 
commercial civiHzation. Russia, with all her faults, was perhaps 
the purest democracy in the world. She had not felt the blight- 
ing effects of a mechanical culture, and had retained a certain 
primitive simpUcity and spirituality. At her best, in her hterature 
and her thought, she represented the new spirit which we have seen 
to be appearing in France. She still dwelt in the ages of faith. 
Her mystic communism had no affinities with the shallow material- 
ism and the capitalistic tyranny which had been the working creed 
of western Europe and the United States. Her great writers, hke 
Dostoievski and Tolstoi, had flown the flag of an unshaken idealism. 
Of the fighting valour of the Russian there was never any doubt, 
for the spirit of the men who fought at Borodino still lived in their 
descendants. But joined to their courage was a curious gentleness, 
the gentleness of that iron dreamer, that practical mystic, whom 
Lord Rosebery has called the most formidable of all combinations. 
The race which Prussia condemned as barbarians had a culture 
beyond that of their critics. In them there seemed to be a wide 
humanity, a pity for the oppressed, a mercifulness and an un- 
worldUness like that of the Gospels. From them it seemed that 
there might spring the new hope of the world. 

In the first throes of a struggle the mind of man is apt to lose the 
power of accurate generalization. He cannot judge soberly, for he 
sees the facts all tinted with his private hopes and fears ; moreover, 
his thoughts are so centred upon instant needs that he cannot look 
to the horizon. No one in that early stage had any true vision of 
what the war must mean to the social fabric — the utter sweeping 
away of old debris that must follow the remodelling and transforming 
of every problem. This blindness as to world consequences was 
paralleled by the blindness of most men towards Russia, which in 
effect was a world by itself, as strange to the rest of Europe as the 
new conditions produced by the war. The statesman who marvelled 
at Russia's apparent strength and exulted in her alliance, did not 
realize that she represented a stage of development wholly unlike 
that of the Western nations, and that the impulsion of new forces, 
which elsewhere led to rapid but orderly changes, might spell 
in her case a relapse into anarchy. He did not see upon what 
insecure foundations her monarchy reposed, and how the strain of 
war, which could be borne by tempered steel, must crumble a 
cast-iron machine, however vast its dimensions. He believed too 
readily that the vices and corruptions of five hundred years of 
autocracy could be removed in a week. He forgot that a simple 


and undeveloped people, while it may bear itself heroically up to 
a point, has not the store of corporate discipline and inherited know- 
ledge that enables it to recover from disaster. The dreamers who 
saw in the Russian temperament a new revelation were not less 
mistaken. They forgot that the humanity which they admired in 
Russian idealism might as easily have its roots in moral apathy and 
intellectual slovenliness as in divine wisdom, and that qualities 
which may characterize the saint may also be an attribute of the 

Germany presented the unique case of a nation where the crisis 
had been long foreseen and every means had been taken to meet it. 
Her civil life was beautifully stage-managed ; but it was artificial, 
not natural. Her financial arrangements, highly impressive on 
paper, were in the nature of taking in each other's washing ; they 
were spectacular rather than sound. Her press was directed with 
immense care. It was given ample information of the right kind, 
and daily it said the things which the Government wished the 
people to believe. It was not till the 23rd of September that any 
news was allowed to leak out about the disaster of the Mame. 
Germany's chief mistake at the outset had been to get at variance 
with the opinion of neutral nations. She realized this, and at 
once began to angle for their sympathies with all her terrible 
industry, but with all her customary lack of tact and percep- 
tion. The pose of the Government was that Germany could beat 
her foes with her right hand and conduct her ordinary life with 
the other. Her captains of industry issued reassuring pronounce- 
ments ; her cities were brilliantly lighted, while London and Paris 
were in shadow ; her cafes, restaurants, theatres, and operas went 
on as usual ; to a casual observer, except for the absence of young 
men, her streets seemed as gay and busy as ever. The nation was 
kept in a high vein of confidence, and scarcely one man in a thousand 
had a suspicion of a doubt that the war could end otherwise than 
in a complete triumph. The thousandth, who was in the secrets 
of the Government, took a graver view, for he was aware how 
utterly the first great plan had failed, that wholesale victory was 
now out of the question, and that in the long war which threatened 
the country's resources would be stretched to the uttermost. But 
he was consoled by the singular unanimity which prevailed. Civil 
Ministers and General Staff wrought in complete harmony ; the 
Burgfriede was absolute ; the Social Democrats had placed all 
thoir resources at the disposal of the Government, and provided 

1914] THE GERMAN MOOD. 315 

the most useful propagandist emissaries for neutral states, A few 
men like Kautsky and Bernstein, Haase and Liebknecht were be- 
ginning to criticize, but as yet there was no serious opposition. 

Undoubtedly the policy of the German Government was wise, 
Germany needed to conserve all her confidence and power, for she 
could not relax her efforts for a moment, and if she was to win she 
must win quickly. She was rapidly falling into the position of a 
beleaguered city. Except through Scandinavia and Holland, Italy 
and Rumania, her communications with the outer world were cut, 
and even those few ports of entry were woefully restricted. Soon 
the pinch would be felt, not only in war munitions, but in the civil 
industries which she so feverishly toiled to maintain. Once let 
the spirit of the people weaken, and the palace of cards would fall. 
There was another reason for this policy. Foreign observers had 
been in the habit of describing the ordinary Teuton as stolid, un- 
emotional, and unshakable ; and German admirals and generals 
fostered this notion by declaring that the people with the best 
nerves would win, and that the German nerves were the strongest 
in the world. The truth was almost the opposite. Scarcely any 
nation suffered so acutely from nervous ailments. The German 
lived on his nerves ; he was quick in emotion and sentiment, easily 
fired, a prey alike to hopes and suspicions. In his own way he was 
as excitable as the Latin, and he had not the Latin's saving store of 
common sense. He was the stuff out of which idealists are made, 
but also neurotics. This trait could be seen in the overweening 
national arrogance which he had acquired ; that was the character- 
istic not of steady but of diseased nerves. It could be seen 
in his almost mystical fidelity to a plan. The neurotic loves a 
mechanical order ; he flies to it for comfort, as a hysterical lady 
obeys the dictates of an autocratic physician. It could be seen in 
the passion of hatred which about the beginning of September rose 
against Britain, drowning all the lesser antagonisms against Gaul 
and Slav. " Hymns of Hate " became the popular form of com- 
position ; they sometimes had poetic value, but they were the 
scream of jangled nerves rather than the poetry of sane men. It 
is not easy to exaggerate the courage and self-sacrifice of the German 
people. Their great armies fought like heroes, their young men 
flocked to the colours to fill the places of the dead, their women cheer- 
fully b/d their best on the national altar. But it is important to 
recognize the high, strained pitch of the German temper, which 
could only be sustained by frequent stimulants. One such was 
ready to their leaders' hands. The cause for which Britain fought 


was to Germany unintelligible. It seemed to her a wanton malice, 
a sordid jealousy of a neighbour's prosperity. Hence it was easy to 
convince the nation at large that they were fighting a war of defence 
against a malevolent world, and in such a conviction lay the secret 
of German unity. Even the most scrupulous among her people 
were not likely to question the doings of their armies, or believe the 
accusations of misconduct brought by their enemies, when they 
considered that these enemies had entered the war for purposes 
of naked brigandage. 

As a half-way house between the belligerent and neutral Powers, 
we naturally turn to Turkey, which in September was still maintain- 
ing an uneasy peace. She had committed a grave technical breach 
of neutrality in connection with the Goeben and the Breslau, and 
through August and September her military leaders were busy 
with underground preparations which were perfectly well known to 
the Allied Powers. German gold, arms, and men were imported 
through Bulgaria. A German general, Liman von Sanders, had 
for some years been a kind of honorary Inspector-General of the 
Turkish army. The two German warships remained under Ger- 
man control, and a large German element was introduced into the 
Turkish fleet. German merchant vessels, such as the Cor cor ado 
and the General, were used as naval auxiliaries, and their wireless 
apparatus was adapted for communication with the German Gen- 
eral Staff. The army was mobihzed, and large quantities of war 
stores were sent to Syria and Bagdad. Meanwhile, under German 
direction an attempt was made to preach a Holy War throughout 
the Moslem provinces. It was represented that the German 
Emperor was a convert to Islam, and that presently the Khahf 
would order a Jehad against the infidel. Stories were told of the 
readiness of the Mohammedan subjects of Britain, Russia, and 
France to revolt at this call, and preparations were made for the 
manufacture of Indian mihtary uniforms at Aleppo to give proof 
to the Syrians that the Indian faithful were on their side. Egypt, 
which had long been the hunting-ground of German emissaries, 
was considered ripe for revolt, and the Khedive was known to be 
friendly. The Mohammedan world was beheved to be a powder 
magazine waiting for the spark. 

All this activity was not the work of a united Government. 
There were serious differences of opinion in the higher Turkish 
councils. The Sultan was consistently averse to a breach of neu- 
trality, and did his best to prevent it. The Grand Vizier, a weak 

1914] TURKEY. 317 

man, could not at first be persuaded of the danger, but was as 
strongly against war as his nature permitted. Djavid Bey, the 
Minister of Finance, was well aware that the treasury was empty, 
and stoutly opposed the designs of the militarists. Nor were the 
Turkish people at large in any way hostile to the Allies. They had 
been offended by Britain's action in preventing delivery of their two 
battleships, the Sultan Osman and the Reshadie ; but this feeling 
was passing, and they had little love for the military junta who ruled 
the land with an oppressiveness at least as great as in the old days 
of Abdul Hamid. But the Turkish people were voiceless, and the 
Turkish Government was in the hands of the army, which, in turn, 
was in the hands of the strangely named Committee of Union and 
Progress, of Enver, the Commander-in-Chief, and of his German 
patrons and paymasters. The Turkish nation had been unhappy 
under its old rulers, but it was infinitely more unhappy under the 
new. When the Young Turkish movement in 1909 drove Abdul 
Hamid from his throne, the Western critics of the former regime 
proclaimed the dawn of a nobler world, and burned foolish incense 
before the shrines of the revolutionaries. It needed little familiarity 
with Turkey and with the character of the new leaders to see that 
the latter end of the country would be worse than the beginning. 
Turkey's strength lay in her religion and in her peasantry. For a 
strong Turkey was needed an Islamic revival and a pure govern- 
ment which would relieve the burdensome taxation of her provinces. 
The Young Turks were at bottom anti-Islam, and, therefore, anti- 
national, and they were fully as corrupt, as unscrupulous, and as 
brutal as their predecessors. Their creed was the sort of thin 
Comtism which the Western world had more or less forsaken. 
Their aim was dominance for their own sect and faction, and their 
leader was Enver, a tinsel Napoleon, who dreamed of himself as 
the master of the Mohammedan world. They insulted the Sheikh- 
ul-Islam, and neglected orthodoxy, forgetting that the whole 
strength of Turkey lay in her faith. When honest men stood in 
their path they removed them in the fearless old fashion, beginning 
with journalists and pohticians, and ending with the ablest soldiers, 
Nazim and Mahmud Shevket. They envisaged a Holy War, en- 
gineered by unbelievers, which should beguile the Mohammedan 
populations of Africa and Asia, and they naturally leaned on the 
broad bosom of Germany, who made a speciaUty of such grandiose 

There was little chance of such a Jehad succeeding. To begin 
with, the Committee of Union and Progress were too deeply suspect. 


They had proved themselves both corrupt and incompetent. They 
had led Turkey to defeat in two great wars, and in the matter of 
oppression their little finger was thicker than Abdul Hamid's loins. 
Again, the ordinary Turk had no natural leaning toward the German 
side. In the great days of Turkey's history the Grand Vizier had 
been wont to assemble the standards at the Adrianople Gate for the 
march to Vienna, and it was in that direction that the Turkish war 
should roll in the view of many conservatives of a deeply con- 
servative people. In a pure-blooded race, too, birth counts for 
much, and the Committee's origin was too patently mongrel. Enver 
was partly Polish ; Djavid was a crypto-Jew from Salonika ; Talaat 
was Bulgarian by descent ; Achmet Riza was partly Magyar and 
partly Circassian. They talked of Islam, but their conduct had 
shown no love for Islam. In the Tripoli war the Arabs had been 
scandalized by the infidelity of the Young Turk officers, and news 
spreads fast through the Moslem world. The Sultan's title to the 
Khalifate, too, was very generally questioned. The Turks had won 
it originally by conquest from the Abbasids, and the Arabs had never 
done more than sullenly acquiesce. But a title won by the sword 
can only be held in the same way, and to the faithful of Islam it 
looked as if the sword had grown blunt in degenerate hands. Most 
important of all, the Turco-German alliance was breaking its head 
against an accomplished fact. By September the whole of Moham- 
medan India and the leaders of Mohammedan opinion in British 
Africa were clearly on the Allied side, and their forces were already 
moving to Britain's aid, while forty thousand Arab Moslems were 
fighting for France in the battles of the West. Islam had made its 
chpice before Enver sent his commissaries to buy Indian khaki in 
Aleppo and inform the Syrians that the Most Christian Emperor had 
become a follower of the Prophet. 

Of all the neutral Powers the action of Italy was most vital to 
the struggle, for she held a strategical position on the flank of both 
combatants. Her intervention on behalf of her colleagues of the 
Triple Alliance would menace the French right wing ; and if she 
joined the Allies she could turn the Austrian flank, while her fleet 
would establish a crushing superiority against Austria in the Medi- 
terranean. When Italy became a kingdom she had two principles 
in her foreign policy — a dislike of Austria, and a not unnatural sus- 
picion of France. The assistance which Napoleon III. had given 
to the Risorgimento was counterbalanced in Italian eyes by the 
price he had exacted for it, and by the obstacles he had placed in 

1914] ITALY. 319 

the way of Garibaldi's seizure of Rome. Besides, her position 
compelled her to be a naval Power, and France's naval activity and 
the French colonization of the North African Httoral alarmed her 
susceptibiUties. The direct result of the Congress of Berlin, which 
gave Cyprus to Britain and Tunis to France, was the formation 
in 188 1 of the Triple Alliance between Italy, Austria, and Germany. 
Italy was a very new Power ; the arrangement gave her powerful 
backers at a most critical time ; and the Italian statesman Crispi 
did what at the moment was the wisest thing for his country. The 
Alliance was renewed in 1887, in 1891, in 1902, and in 1912, but in 
each case under changed conditions. From 1882 onwards Italy 
began her colonial adventures, undertaken by Crispi at the instiga- 
tion of Bismarck, who aimed at setting France, Russia, and Britain 
by the ears. A commercial war with France did not improve her 
relations with the Republic. Then came dark days, days of in- 
dustrial distress and colonial misfortunes, culminating in the disaster 
of Adowa on March i, 1896. Italian ambition was sobered, and the 
disappearance of Bismarck from the European stage had removed 
the chief rivet which bound her to the Triplice. Relations with 
France began to improve, and in 1896 and 1898 commercial treaties 
were signed. Then, in 1904, came the Entente between France and 
Britain, which was tested in the following year at the Conference of 
Algeciras, when Italian sympathy leaned against the German 
claims. In 1908 Austria's annexation of Bosnia, with the consent 
of Germany, annoyed Italy acutely, and in 191 1 her declaration of 
war with Turkey over Tripoli showed that she was aware of, and 
resented, Germany's policy in the Near East. Probably the only 
thing that still kept her in the Triplice was the partnership of 
Russia in the Entente, for she feared above all things a Slav advance 
to the Adriatic. 

The Italian people, however, have always shown an aptitude for 
realpolitik far greater than the nation that invented the term. By 
1913 Italy had acquiesced in the rise of the Balkan states, provided 
her own interests were safeguarded. She refused to join Austria in 
an attack on Serbia, and coldly rejected the Austro-German plans 
which were unfolded to her in the spring of 1914. Her interests 
were becoming clearly defined. Some day she wanted Trieste and 
the hinterland of Istria, and, less urgently, the Trentino. She 
must rule in the Adriatic, and especially must hold the Albanian 
port of Valona (Avlona), which was only forty miles from her shores. 
No great Power other than herself must dominate Albania. These 
were the essentials, and they brought her sharply up against both 


her colleagues of the Triplice. When war broke out Italy's 
interests were, on the whole, opposed to those of Germany and 
Austria ; her relations with France were good and with Britain 
cordial ; and the sympathies of her people were by a great 
majority on the side of the Allies. Her neutrality, at least, was 

WTiether she should go further was an intricate question. It is 
one thing to be estranged from your allies, and another thing to go 
to war against them. To begin with, she was jealous of her honour. 
More wise than Germany, she did not believe in a Machiavellianism 
which offended the sense of decency of the world, and she had no 
desire to be called unscrupulous. The bitter witticism of a French 
diplomatist — " Elle volera au secours du vainqueur " — was in no 
way justified. Italy was in a most delicate position. Her treasury 
was not overflowing, her debt was large, her taxation high ; and 
though the training of her army was good, its equipment was 
not perfect. An immediate declaration of war against Germany 
was difficult for a thousand reasons, of which not the least was the 
appearance of bad faith. German conduct, it is true, soon gave 
a civilized and liberal Fewer a good excuse for withdrawing from 
the Triplice ; but the immediate occasion for hostile action was still 
wanting, and the chance of its appearance was lessened by Ger- 
many's strenuous courtship, which culminated in the dispatch of 
the former Chancellor, Prince Biilow, as Ambassador to Rome. 
Further, since Italy was one of the few means of entry for foreign 
supplies into Austria and Germany, considerable sections of her 
population were benefited by her neutrality. On the other hand, 
if she delayed too long, and the Allies were victorious, she could 
not expect to have much share in the fruits. Italy, as the youngest 
of the Great Powers, was bound to consider the matter on prac- 
tical lines, and it was inevitable that her real interest should be 
slow in revealing itself. So she contented herself with preserving 
an armed and watchful neutrality. But popular sympathy, being 
free from the responsibility of statesmanship, was not neutral. The 
extreme Clericals and the extreme Socialists, being united in the 
bonds of anti-nationalism, were in favour of neutrality at all costs. 
At the other end of the line the Nationalists, Republicans, moderate 
Socialists, and smaller oddments like the Futurists, favoured an 
immediate breach with Germany, and they probably carried the 
bulk of the people with them. The centre party, the Liberals, who 
were the party in office, adopted the policy of neutrality for the time 
being, and they had the support of the majority of the commercial 


and professional classes. But all the elements in Italian life 
which the world has been accustomed to rate high, the idealists, 
the inheritors of the Mazzini tradition, were arrayed against 
German pretensions. Many old " red shirts " volunteered for 
the French and British service, and more than one descendant 
or kinsman of Garibaldi gave his life for the Allies' cause in the 
allied ranks. 

The action of Rumania depended upon Italy, and on Rumania, 
again, largely hinged the poHcy of Bulgaria. Close relations existed 
between Rumania and Italy, since both were to some extent Latin 
Powers, and both were free from diplomatic entanglements at the 
moment. The position of the former was curious. Her king was 
a German of the Catholic branch of the Hohenzollerns ; she had no 
special love for Russia, since the Peace of Berlin had deprived her of 
Bessarabia ; and the Austrian possession of Transylvania remained 
a bone of contention with the Dual Monarchy. She was bound to 
benefit by neutrality, for she remained the one great granary open 
to the Teutonic League, and, after the Russians had seized Galicia, 
the only source of German oil supplies. Her strategic position on 
Austria's flank made her intervention of considerable military im- 
portance, for she could put in the field nearly half a million troops. 
The death of King Carol on loth October removed the chief dynastic 
bond with Germany, and presently the Russian domination of the 
Bukovina seemed to forebode a summary cutting off of her ac- 
tivities as an exporter of wheat and oil. The sympathies of 
her people were with the Allied cause, but her course craved 
wary walking, and for the first months of war she maintained 
a decorous and observant neutrality, waiting for events to give 
the lead. 

The situation of the smaller Baltic and North Sea states was 
very different. For them there could be no question of intervention, 
at any rate for many a day. Holland, Denmark, Norway, and 
Sweden were compelled by their geographical position and by 
their military feebleness to bear with the best grace possible the 
penalties of an impotent detachment. They were useful to Ger- 
many as conduits for foreign supplies ; but the omnipresence of 
the British fleet, the unsafeness of the North Sea from mines, and 
our rigorous application of the doctrine of " continuous voyage " 
with regard to contraband, gravely interfered with their commerce. 
Holland was the chief sufferer. She was compelled by the Rhine 
Acts to forward to Germany any consignments arriving on a through 
bill of lading, and the British Government was forced in conse- 


quence to take stringent measures, including the absolute prohibi- 
tion of the export of certain food-stuffs to Dutch territory. But, 
in spite of all our efforts, large quantities of goods, both absolute 
and conditional contraband, reached Germany through Holland 
and Scandinavia, including materials for the making of war muni- 
tions in the shape of copper, rubber, and various chemicals. On the 
general question these countries stood to gain by a victory of the 
Allies, but political foresight is often obscured by an immediate 
loss to the pocket. Yet, on the whole, they conducted themselves 
well. The Allied cause, in spite of ceaseless German attentions, 
was the more popular ; except, perhaps, in Sweden, which had an 
old dislike and dread of Russia. Holland, remembering the pro- 
claimed ambitions of Germany and realizing that the quarrel with 
Britain would mean the end of her colonies, showed by her press 
the direction of her S5mipathies ; and, though suffering severely 
herself, welcomed and sheltered many hundred thousands of Belgian 
fugitives with an uncomplaining generosity which deserves to be 
honourably remembered. 

The United States of America on the outbreak of war revealed, 
in spite of her large German and Irish-American population, a 
clear bias towards the AlHed cause. Something was due to those 
ties of blood and language which are apt to be forgotten except 
in a crisis ; much to the hatred felt by a free democracy for a creed 
which put back the clock of civilization. No proud people likes 
to be told that it is not competent to make up its mind for itself, 
and America resented patronage of this kind from Germany, as 
she would have resented it from Britain. The German Ambassador, 
Count Bernstorff, who was personally popular and had married 
an American wife, set a-going a vast bureau of information, and 
sedulously cultivated the press. He was assisted by Herr Dern- 
burg, a former German Colonial Minister, and between them they 
managed in a month or two to antagonize thoroughly American 
sentiment, and to make themselves the object of general ridicule. 
There can be no question but that during the first months of 
war, except for a few German financiers in New York, the Irish- 
American politicians, and the German communities of the Middle 
West, the feeling of the United States was clearly, even enthusi- 
astically, on the side of the Allies. But in war it is inevitable 
that outsiders must suffer, and America soon began to feel the 
pinch. The campaign at sea which Britain conducted was bound 
to play havoc with some of her industries, and just as during 
her Civil War the loss of cotton imports almost beggared Lancashire, 


so now the cotton and lumber interests in America were heavily 
handicapped. Some American products benefited, for all the 
Allies were buying in her markets, but others were gravely hurt. 
Copper was a case in point. American exports of this metal to the 
neutral states of Europe were suddenly multiplied fourfold. Un- 
doubtedly the bulk of this was destined for Germany, who was 
soon in straits from her excessive expenditure of ammunition. 
Accordingly British cruisers seized American copper in neutral 
vessels and held it up, unless — which rarely happened — it was 
clearly proved that the goods were for hona-fide neutral use. This 
practice, while foreign to our old customs, was justified by more 
recent maritime law, first laid down in the American courts, as in 
the Springbok case * during the Civil War. America forgot this 
fact, and protested ; and, later, in her proposal to buy, at the 
expense of the nation, from German owners German ships interned 
in American ports, she infringed a fundamental rule of law. 
She had, indeed, ever been an ardent student of international 
principles, but, like most other nations, not always a consistent 

It would be as unfair to blame the United States Government 
for their protests and the American people for their occasional 
outbursts at this period as to blame British feeling during the 
American Civil War. When industry is disorganized and thousands 
suffer, there is not the time or disposition to abide calmly by the 
text-books, and it was highly exasperating to see a great fleet 
playing havoc with what till a few weeks before had been legitimate 
commerce. Besides, by her wavering attitude towards the Dec- 
laration of London, Britain had made it exceedingly hard for 
neutrals to know where exactly they stood. Happily there was 
a real disposition in both governments and peoples to bear with 
each other— in the British to abate the right of capture as far as 
was consistent with the demands of war, and in America to listen 
to reason and put a friendly construction on the occasional dif- 
ferences. The support of America was of high value at this time 
to the British people. American intervention in the quarrel at 
the moment would, indeed, have made httle immediate difference 
to either side, from the smallness of her regular army and her 
distance from the scene of war. No statesman or soldier foresaw 
the length of the contest, and the part which would be played 
in the last stages by American soldiers who were now still in the 

* This, as well as the analogous cases of the Bermuda and the Peterhoff, were 
decisions of Chief Justice Chase and the Supreme Court of the United Stales. 


schoolroom. But to have the moral assent of the great EngUsh- 
speaking Republic was a supreme comfort even to those in Britain 
who know little of the United States. Americans and EngHshmen, 
it was reahzed, would continue to criticize each other to the end 
of time, but such criticism was only a proof how nearly they were 
related. Their wrangles were like the tiffs among the members 
of a household. 



8/A Octoher-20th November. 

The Terrain of West Flanders — The Allied Plan — The British Army conaes into Line 
— The Fight of the 2nd and 3rd Corps — The German Objective — The Battle 
of the Yser — The Defence of Arras — The First Battle of Ypres — Death of 
Lord Roberts — End of the Old British Regular Army. 

In this war the historian, in whatever part of the arena he moves, 
is accompanied by mighty shades. In the East, in the woody 
swamps of Masurenland and the wide levels of Poland, he has 
Kutusov to attend him, and Barclay de Tolly and Bagration, 
and the inscrutable face of Napoleon. In the West, looming 
like clouds through the years, he sees the shapes of Caesar and 
Attila and Theodoric and Charlemagne, and, as the centuries 
pass, a motley host of great captains — Charles of Burgundy, Joan 
the Maid, Bedford, Talbot and King Harry, Guise and Navarre, 
Turenne and Conde, the Roi Soleil, Villars, Marlborough and Saxe. 
Then come the shaggy leaders of the Revolution, and Napoleon 
again with his twenty marshals, and the pursuing Teutons, Bliicher 
and Schwarzenberg, and WelUngton, holding himself a little aloof 
from his ill-assorted colleagues. And last, in the clothes almost 
of our own day, he has the sturdy bristling figure of Bismarck 
and the unearthly pallor of Moltke. Of all these we have already 
trodden the battlefields, and now we return to the campaigning 
ground of one who ranks only after Caesar and Napoleon. The 
cold, beautiful eyes of John Churchill had two centuries ago scanned 
the meadows of West Flanders, and Marlborough's subtle brain 
had faced the very problem which was now to meet the Allied 

After the crushing defeat of Blenheim, the French Marshal, 
anxious for the safety of Paris, took to a war of earthworks and 
entrenchments. He could not save Flanders, but he managed 



to check the invader in northern France. But after Oudenarde 
not all Vauban's fortifications could keep Lille from the Allies, 
and Villars prepared the great line of trenches from the Scarpe 
to the Lys, which had for their centre the high ground about La 
Bassee. What followed is familiar to every student of the history 
of the British army. Marlborough feinted against the Hues, 
turned eastward, took Tournai, and won the Battle of Malplaquet. 
Villars replied with a new line of trenches, and, though the Allies 
took Bethune and Douai, La Bassee itself proved impregnable, 
and the war of entrenchments moved toward that stalemate 
which ended three years later with the Peace of Utrecht.* 

• Marlborough's campaigns in West Flanders cover so much of the ground of 
the present war that a note may be permitted. The aim of the Allies in 1708 
was to strike at France through Artois, and for this purpose the control of the 
navigation of the Scheldt and Lys was essential. It was the object of Vendome's 
army, which marched north in the summer of 1708, to recapture Bruges and Ghent, 
which were the keys of the lower waterways. It succeeded in this task, but was 
decisively defeated by Marlborough on nth July at Oudenarde on the Scheldt, 
after one of the most wonderful forced marches in history. Marlborough himself 
now desired to march straight into France, detaching troops to mask Lille, and co- 
operating with General Erie's projected descent upon Normandy — a proceeding which 
would have automatically led to the evacuation by tiie French of Ghent and Bruges. 
This bold stroke the caution of the Dutch deputies forbade, and the Allies sat down 
before the fortress of Lille, bringing their siege train by road from Brussels, since the 
Scheldt and the Lys were closed to them. Vendome and Berwick united their 
armies, and marched from Tournai to Lille, where, however, they did not dare to offer 
battle, and Marlborough was prevented by his Dutch colleagues from forcing it on 
them. The French now attempted to hold the line of the Scarpe and Schrldt to 
Ghent, and cut off all convoys from Brussels ; but Marlborough held Ostend, and 
Webb's victory of Wynendale enabled the convoys to get through. 

Lille, gallantly defended by old Marshal Boufflers, fell on 9th December, and 
Bruges and Ghent quickly followed. The way to Paris was now dangerously open, 
and Villars, who took command of the French armies when the campaign opened 
in the spring of 1709, resolved at all costs to cover Arras, which he rightly regarded 
as the gate of the capital. He drew up lines of entrenchments from the Scarpe to 
the Lys, passing through La Bassee. Marlborough, lying to the south of Lille, made 
apparent preparations for an assault in force, and induced Villars to summon the 
garrison of Tournai to his aid. Meantime the duke had sent his artillery to Menin, 
and on 26th June marched swiftly eastward to Tournai, which fell to him on 
the 23rd of July. While the siege was going on, Marlborough led his main army 
back before the La Bass6e lines. His object was to turn those lines by striking 
eastward, and entering France by way of the rivers Trouille and Sambre, and he 
wished to mislead Villars as to his purpose. On the last day of August, Orkney 
with twenty squadrons was sent to St. Ghislain to the west of Mons, and the Prince 
of Hesse-Cassel and Cadogan followed in the midst of torrential rains. Villars, 
fearing for the fortress of Mons, hastened after them, and on 7th September had 
arrived before the stretch of forest which screens Mons on the west, and is pierced 
by two openings — at the village of Jemappes in the north and at Malplaquet in 
the south. Mons was by this time invested by the Allies, and to cover its siege 
Marlborough fought the Battle of Malplaquet on nth September. In that battle 
— " one of the bloodiest," says Mr. Fortescue, " ever fought by mortal men " — the 
Allies had 20,000 casualties as against the French 12,000; and though it was a 
victory, and Mons fell a month later, the season was too far advanced, and the 
Allies had suffered too heavily, to allow of an invasion of France. But with Mons 


Had Marlborough had a free hand, the turning movement, in 
which Malplaquet was an incident, might well have brought his 
armies to the gates of Paris. Villars's qualified success showed 
the enormous strength of entrenchments in that corner of France 
which marches with West Flanders. When the AlUed generals 
in the first days of October 1914 considered the situation, the 
campaign of Marlborough must have occurred to their minds. 
It was true that the situation was reversed, for it was the en- 
trenching of the invader that they wished to forestall, and they 
moved from the south, not, as Marlborough had done, from the 
north. At that time they beheved that they had the initiative 
in their hands, and their aim was to turn the German right, and 
free Flanders of the invaders. For this purpose — as well as for 
defence, should their offensive fail — it was necessary to gain the 
two crucial positions of La Bassce and Lille. The first gave the 
strongest defence in all the district, and the second was even more 
vital than in Marlborough's day, for it controlled the junction of 
six railway lines and a great network of roads, and contained 
large engineering works and motor factories, as well as the con- 
struction shops of the Chemin de Fer du Nord. With Lille as a 
position in the Allied Hnes the invasion from the east would be in 

and Tournai in their hands, they controlled the Lys and Scheldt, and protected 
their conquests in Flanders. 

In the campaign of 1710 Marlborough's thoughts again turned westward, and on 
26th June he captured Douai. But he found Arras and the road to France protected 
by a vast line of trenches, which Villars had constructed to be, as he said, the " 7ie 
plus ultra of Marlborough." The duke had to content himself with taking Bethune, 
Aire, and St. Venant, which gave him the complete control of the Lys. He was in 
a difficult position for bold action, for his pohtical enemies were lying in wait for the 
slightest hint of failure to work his ruin. During the winter the work of entrenching 
went on, and in the spring of 171 1 the French lines ran from the coast, up the river 
Canche by Montreuil and Hesdin, down the Gy to Montenescourt, whence the 
flooded Scarpe carried them to Biache ; thence by canal to the river Sensee ; thence 
to Bouchain, on the Scheldt, and down that river to Valenciennes. The story of 
how Marlborough outwitted Villars and planted himself beyond the Scheldt at 
Oisy, between Villars and France, and within easy reach of Arras and Cambrai, 
deserves to be studied in detail, for it is one of the most wonderful in the whole 
history of tactics. Thereafter the jealousy and treachery of Marlborough's enemies 
achieved their purpose, and the great duke's campaigns in Flanders were at an end. 

Marlborough's objective was, of course, the opposite of that of the AlHes in 
1914, Thev were moving from the south-west, while he moved from the north- 
east, and the lines of Villars were meant to hinder attack from the east, whereas 
the Germans at La Bassee were entrenched against an attack from the south and 
west. But all the line of Northern France from the Scarpe to the Sambre was 
Villars's front of defence, as it was the German flank defence about loth October, 
when the race to the sea was in progress. If the AUies had been able to push through 
the gap between Roulers and the Lys and turn the German right, they would have 
followed the identical strategy of the movement which led to Malplaquet, with 
this difference, that their object would have been not an invasion of France, but the 
turning of the flank of an entrenched invader. 


a doubtful case. The city had been relinquished at the beginning 
of the German sweep from the Sambre ; but since then it and the 
surrounding country had reverted to the French, and was held at 
the moment by a division of Territorials. The occupation of 
Lille in force was one of the tasks entrusted to Maud'huy when, 
at the end of September, his new army aligned itself on Castel- 
nau's left. 

In telling the story of the opening of the West Flanders cam- 
paign, it is necessary to proceed slowly and with circumspection. 
No rapid summary will enable the reader to understand the nature 
of the task which confronted the Allied forces. It was for the 
moment a self-contained campaign, and concerned only four out 
of the Allied armies — the French Eighth Army under d'Urbal, the 
Belgian Army, the British Army, and the Tenth Army of Maud'huy. 
Its story is of three successive strategical plans which miscarried, 
then of three weeks of a desperate defensive which broke the 
eneraj'^'s attack. The record naturally divides itself into three 
parts — the movements which culminated in the positions reached 
by all four armies on or about 20th October ; the attacks upon 
the Allied Hne on the Yser, at La Bassee, and at Arras ; and 
the final attack dehvered upon the forces holding the salient of 
Ypres. With the failure of the assault upon Ypres the West 
Flanders campaign entered upon a new phase. 

In the first days of October the Allied plan, based on the assump- 
tion that Antwerp could be saved, was so to extend their left as 
to hold the line of the vScheldt from Antwerp to Tournai, con- 
tinuing south-west by Douai to Arras, and with this as a base to 
move against the German communications through Mons and 
Valenciennes. But by 6th October it was seen that Antwerp must 
fall, and this plan was replaced by a second. The Belgian Army, 
covered by Rawlinson's British force, would retire by Bruges and 
Ghent to the line of the Yser to protect the Allied left, and meet, 
along with the new French reinforcements, any coast attack by 
the German troops released after the fall of Antwerp. Lille and La 
Bassee must be held by the Allies, and the British, pivoting on the 
latter place, would swing south-eastward, isolate Beseler's army of 
Antwerp, and threaten the north-western communications of the 
vast German front, which now ran from somewhere near Tournai 
southward to the Aisne heights. In the last resort, if the Allies 
were forestalled in La Bassee and Lille, the strategy of Marlborough 
might be used, and, instead of a frontal attack, an enveloping 
movement could be attempted from the line of the Lys against 


the right flank of the main German armies. For this purpose the 
town of Menin on the Lys, south-east of Yprcs, was essential as a 
pivot, and we shall see how the loss of this point ruined the last 
of the three strategical schemes. Clearly the whole of the Allied 
plan was contingent on the German right not being farther north 
than the neighbourhood of Roubaix. Joffre knew that it was 
rapidly extending, and it was the business of his whole northern 
movement to overlap it. Time was, therefore, of the essence of 
his problem. The strategy was well conceived. If it succeeded, 
the AUies might be in the position to strike a decisive blow. If it 
failed, then the situation would be no worse. It is true that the 
extension of the lines to the sea would prevent any attack upon 
the German communications, which would then be sheltered behind 
a ring-fence of arms. But, on the other hand, it would prevent 
any German enveloping movement, and pin down the enemy to a 
slow war of positions ; and, since time was on the side of the 
Allies, he would be driven to a stalemate, which would militate 
disastrously against his ultimate success. 

The Germans were from the start well informed as to the Allied 
movement, and divined Joffre's intention. By the end of Septem- 
ber they had begun the transference of first-Hne corps from the 
southern part of their front.* They had excellent railways behind 
them for this purpose, and, since thej^ held the interior lines, most 
of their corps had a shorter distance to travel than those of the 
Allies. But the change took time, and so it fell out that the more 
northerly parts of the Une were not manned till the Allies were 
almost in position. Against this drawback, however, the Germans 
had one great advantage. They had a fairly fresh army released 
from Antwerp, which could occupy the coast end, and they had 
through north Belgium a straight hue from northern Germany 
for the dispatch of newly formed corps. They had quantities of 
cavalry, which had been of no use in the Aisne battle, to harass 
the left flank of the Allied turning movement, and to occupy points 
of vantage till their infantry came up. But it was an anxious 
moment for Great Headquarters. For them, not less than for the 
Allies, it was a race to the salt water. To the Allies' scheme they 
sought to oppose a counter-offensive which should give them 
Calais and the Channel ports, and ultimately the Seine valley for 
an advance to Paris. To succeed they must be first through the 

* It should be noted that the Duke of Wurtemberg's IV. Army was not the old 
IV. Army, the corps of which had been distributed between Billow's II. and Einem's 
III. Armies. In the same way Prince Rupprecht's VI. Army contained only one of 
his old corps, the 1st Bavarian Reserve. 


sally-port between La Bassee and the sea. If the British fore- 
stalled them, Eeseler would be cut off, and the German front would 
be bent round into a square, with the Allies operating against 
three sides of it. The forty miles between LiUe and Nieuport 
became suddenly the critical terrain of the war. 

On 8th October Foch, who had been appointed to the general 
command over all the Allied troops north of Maunoury, was at 
Doullens, some twenty miles north of Amiens. There he was 
visited by Sir John French, who arranged with him a plan of 
operations. In all likelihood the Germans would attack the points 
of junction of the Allied armies — always the weak spots in a 
front — and it was necessary to determine these points with some 
care. The road between Bethune and Lille was fixed as the 
dividing Hne between the British command and Maud'huy. If 
an advance were possible it would be eastward, when the British 
right and the French left would be directed upon Lille. To the 
north it was arranged that the British 2nd Corps should take its 
place on Maud'huy's left, with the cavalry protecting its left till 
the 3rd Corps came into line. The cavalry would perform the same 
task for the 3rd Corps till the ist Corps arrived in position. Noth- 
ing was decided about the future of Sir Henry Rawlinson's force, 
which was covering the Belgian retreat from Antwerp, and might 
be expected in a week from the direction of Courtrai. 


By the close of September Castelnau's position was fixed west 
of Roye and Lihons, while Maud'huy had taken up ground from 
the north end of the Somme plateau to Lens. A Territorial divi- 
sion was in Lille as an advance guard of the outflanking movement, 
which in the case of the Tenth Army would be directed towards 
Valenciennes. Arras, the centre of its front, was a place of the 
first strategic importance. It lay below the northern edge of a 
plateau between Somme and Scheldt ; the slopes on three sides 
of it provided strong defensive positions, and a network of railways 
connected it with every part of northern France. The beautiful 
old city was famous in history. France and Burgundy had con- 
tended for its possession ; there Vauban raised his celebrated 
ramparts, there Robespierre saw the light. By ist October 
Maud'huy had occupied Arras, and was pushing eastward on 
the road to Douai. But presently he found himself in difficulties 

igi4] FALL OF LILLE. 331 

as the German VL Army came into line, and for the first week of 
October was heavily engaged in the flats east of Arras between 
the Scarpe and the town of Lens. He was aware that the enemy 
was outflanking him, and he had only nine divisions and a cavalry 
corps wherewith to hold all north-eastern France till the British 
should arrive. He was forced back upon Arras, and soon the city 
was under bombardment. By the 8th he was in an awkward 
place. The Germans held Douai and Lens, and were closing in on 
Lille, from which at any moment the Territorials might be driven. 
Every day the enemy was increasing in numbers. The plain of 
West Flanders was swarming with his cavalry, and they were re- 
ported as far west as Hazebrouck, Bailleul, and Cassel, the last 
place only twenty miles from Dunkirk. Maud'huy's task was to 
cling to his position at Arras till some relief came from the Allied 
operations on his left. That, generally speaking, was the work of 
both him and Castelnau for the succeeding ten days up to igth 
October. There were awkward sags in the French line at Roye, 
at Albert, and at Arras, but much was done during these days to 
straighten them out. The attackers were driven back from Arras, 
but, to set against this, on the 12th Lille fell to the Saxon 19th 
Corps. So stood the position on igth October, the day when the 
AlUed Hne was at last completed to the sea. Maud'huy's experience 
supplies an answer to the conundrum — why, since the possession 
of Lille was of the first importance, was it not held from the first 
with some force stronger than a Territorial division ? The 
explanation is that the Tenth Army was far too sorely pressed to do 
more than retain its position. Had its offensive succeeded, had it 
driven the enemy from Douai towards Valenciennes, then Lille 
would have been occupied by its left wing, and would have formed 
part of its front. But it was forced back on Arras, where for 
weeks it could do no more than maintain its ground. 

We turn to the task of the British army, which during the 
first three weeks of October was coming into line north of Mau- 
d'huy. The extreme left of the French Tenth Army was at the 
time in the villages north-west of Lens, and the Lille-Bethune 
highway had been fixed as its northern hmit. Conneau's 2nd 
Cavalry Corps was engaged in watching this flank against the 
dangerous German enveloping movement. On nth October 
Smith-Dorrien, with the British 2nd Corps, had marched from 
Abbeville to the line of the canal between Aire and Bethune. On 
his right was Conneau connecting him with Maud'huy, and on his 
left Hubert Cough's 2nd Cavalry Division, which was busily en- 


gaged in driving German cavalry out of the forest of Nieppe, Sir 
John French's plan at this time for the 2nd Corps was a rapid dash 
upon La Bassee and Lille. Smith-Dorrien was directed to bring 
up his left to Merville, and on the 12th move east against the hne 
Laventie-Lorgies, to threaten the flank of the Germans in La 
Bassee, and compel them to fall back lest they should be cut off 
between the British and Maud'huy. On the 12th the movement 
began in thick fog, the 5th Division on the right, and the 3rd 
crossing the canal to deploy on its left. Smith-Dorrien, however, 
found that the enemy were in great strength, four cavalry divisions 
and several Jager battalions holding the road to Lille. The 2nd 
Corps, struggling all day through difficult country where good 
gun positions were rare, made some progress, but not much. His 
experience convinced Smith-Dorrien that an ordinary frontal 
attack was impossible, and he resolved to try to isolate La Bassee. 
His object was to wheel to his right, pivoting on Givenchy, and 
to get astride the La Bassee-Lille road in the neighbourhood of 
Fournes, so as to threaten the right flank and rear of the enemy's 
position on the high ground south of La Bassee. 

On the 13th the wheel commenced, but it met with a strong 
resistance. The work of the British 2nd Corps now resolved itself 
into a struggle for La Bassee. On the 14th the 3rd Division lost its 
commander, Major-General Hubert Hamilton, who was killed by 
the explosion of a shell — a serious loss to the army, for he was one 
of the most skilful and beloved of the younger generals. Next day 
the division avenged its leader's death by a brilliant advance, 
crossing the dykes by means of planks, and driving the Germans 
from village after village, till they had pushed them off the Estaires- 
La Bassee road. On the i6th they were close upon Aubers ; the 
following day they took the village, and late that evening carried 
Herlies at the point of the bayonet. This was the end of the 
movement of the 2nd Corps. Hitherto they had been opposed 
chiefly by German cavalry, and had made progress, but now they 
were against the wall of the main German line, the centre of the 
VL Army. 

While the counterstroke was impending, supports were arriving 
for the 2nd Corps. On 19th and 20th October there appeared 
west of Bethune the Lahore Division of the Indian army. The 
Indian Expeditionary Force consisted of two infantry divisions — 
the 3rd, or Lahore, under the command of Lieutenant-General 
H. B. Watkis, and the 7th, or Meerut, under Lieutenant-General 
C. A. Anderson. The force was under Lieutenant-General 


Sir James Willcocks, the general then commanding the Northern 
Army in India, who had originally won fame in West African 
fighting. On a hot autumn morning the first troops had landed 
in Marseilles, and been received by the French with the enthusiasm 
due to their martial appearance and splendid dignity. Then for 
days the smell of wood smoke rose from the dusty hills behind 
Borely, strange flocks of goats thronged the streets — the first step 
in the Indian commissariat — and grave, bearded Sikh orderlies 
slipped through the southern crowds. From Marseilles the Indian 
Division went to camp at Orleans, and that city, which had seen 
so much, saw a new pageant in her ancient streets. Much had 
to be done before the troops were ready for the field, for an equip- 
ment adapted for an Indian year was no match for the rigours of a 
Flemish winter. The troops were chafing to be in action, for the 
honour of their country and their race was in their keeping in this 
far western land, where the sahibs had fallen out. 

The 3rd Corps, under Pulteney, destined for the position on 
the left of the 2nd Corps, had completed its detrainment at St. 
Omer on the night of the nth. It marched to Flazebrouck, where 
it remained during the 12th, and next day moved generally east- 
ward towards the line Armentieres-Wytschaete, with its advance 
guard on a line through the village of Strazeele. Pulteney's aim 
was to get east of Armentieres astride the Lys, and join up the 
Ypres and La Bassee sections of the front. It was an impossible 
length of line for one corps to hold, so he had cavalry operating on 
both sides of him, Allenby to the north, and Conneau to the south. 
The Germans were found in strength at Meteren, west of Bailleul, 
the usual advanced force of cavalry and infantry supports hurried 
forward in motor buses. It was a day of heavy rain and a thick 
steamy fog, the fields were water-logged, aircraft were useless, and 
the countryside was too much enclosed for cavalry. The Germans 
in Meteren had no artillery, and but for the bad light would have 
suffered heavily from Pulteney's guns. He carried the position, 
drove out the enemy, and entrenched himself some time towards 
midnight, preparatory to a full-dress attack upon Bailleul, in 
which he beUeved that the Germans were in force. His recon- 
naissances, however, on the morning of the 14th showed that the 
enemy had retired, and that day he occupied the line Bailleul- 
St. Jans Cappelle. 

Next day the 3rd Corps was ordered to take the Hne 
of the L3's from Armentieres to Sailly, where, five days before 
Conneau's cavalry had met with a stubborn resistance. The 


weather was still dark with fog, and there were many small bodies 
of the enemy about, but no position was held in force. Pulteney 
by the evening of the 15th was on the Lys, with the 6th Division 
on his right at Sailly, and the 4th Division on the left at Nieppe, 
a point on the Armentieres-Bailleul road. Next day he entered 
Armentieres, and on the 17th he had pushed beyond it, with his 
right at Bois Grenier, three miles south of the Lys, and his left at 
the hamlet of Le Gheir, a mile north of it. It was now ascer- 
tained that the Germans were holding in some strength a Una 
running from Radinghem in the south, through Perenchies, to 
Frelinghien on the Lys, while the right bank of the river below 
Frelinghien was held as far as Wervicq. On the i8th an effort was 
made to clear the right bank of the Lys with the aid of Allenby's 
cavalry corps. The strength of the Germans was still doubtful, 
and Pulteney had some ground for assuming that it was only the 
mixed cavalry and infantry he had been so far pressing back. As 
a matter of fact, the 3rd Corps was now approaching the main 
German position, as the 2nd Corps about the same time was 
finding it at Aubers and Herlies. That day revealed two facts — 
that the infantry could do nothing in the direction of Lille, and 
that the cavalr3^ in spite of some brilliant work by the 9th Lancers, 
could not win the right bank of the Lys. They found themselves 
firmly held at all points from Le Gheir to Radinghem, and their 
position on the night of the i8th and on the 19th represented the 
farthest Hne held by this section of our front. This — the British 
right centre — was destined to have one of the most awkward 
places in the coming battle. It was not itself the object of any 
great massed attack, as on the Yser, at Ypres, and at La Bassee, 
but it suffered from being on the fringes of the two latter zones, 
and, as we shall see, was gravely endangered in the German envel- 
oping movements. 

One link was necessary to connect the 3rd Corps with the 
infantry farther north. This was provided by the two divisions 
of Allenby's cavalry corps. The 2nd Division from nth 
October busied itself with clearing the country of invading bands 
in the neighbourhood of Cassel and Hazebrouck. On the 14th it 
joined the ist Division, and the corps took up positions on the 
high ground above Berthen on the road between Bailleul and 
Poperinghe. On the 15th and i6th it reconnoitred the Lys, and, till 
the 19th, endeavoured to secure a footing on the right bank below 
Armentieres. On the night of the 19th Allenby's position was goner- 
ally east of Messines, on a Une drawn from Le Gheir to Hollebeke, 


We pass now to the doings of the Antwerp garrison and the 
British and French covering troops. The 4th Corps, under RawUn- 
son — Capper's 7th Division and Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division — 
was in Flanders by 8th October. On the 7th Rawlinson's head- 
quarters were at Bruges, and Admiral Ronarc'h's brigade of French 
Marines was at Ghent in support. On the 8th the retirement 
from Antwerp was in full operation, and the 4th Corps head- 
quarters were removed to Ostend, while the 7th Division was at 
Ghent. Next day Antwerp had fallen, and the covering of the 
Belgian retreat began. The cavalry went first, to clear the coun- 
try, and were at Thourout on the loth and at Roulers on the 12th, 
where they took up the line from Oostnieukerke to Iseghem to 
cover the Ghent railway, which was threatened by roving German 
horse to the west and south. On that day the 7th Division and the 
French sailors left Ghent, forming a rearguard for the Belgians. 
Next day the Germans entered that town, and the following day 
passed through Bruges. Two days later the 3rd Reserve Corps 
occupied Ostend. This was from Beseler's army of Antwerp, 
which included also the 4th Ersatz Division. 

The 7th Division, much assisted by its armoured cars, arrived 
at Roulers on the 13th, and the 3rd Cavalry Division reconnoitred 
the country towards Ypres and Menin, riding in one day over fifty 
miles. The only hostile activity they could learn of was in the 
south-west, where large enemy forces were reputed to be moving 
eastwards towards Wervicq and Menin from the direction of Bail- 
leul. This was the force of cavalry and infantry supports with 
which, as we have seen, the 3rd Corps had had dealings. The 
3rd Cavalry Division was now in touch with AUenby's cavalry 
in the neighbourhood of Kemmel, on the road between Ypres and 
Armentieres. By this time the Belgian army, very weary and 
broken, was in the forest of Houthulst, north-east of Ypres, and 
had begun to extend along the line of the Yser by Dixmude to 
Nieuport. On the i6th the 7th Division was holding a position 
east of Ypres, with the 3rd Cavalry Division as advance guard on 
a line which ran roughly from Bixschoote to Poelcappelle. North 
lay the Belgians, with French supports, and to the west of Ypres 
two French Territorial divisions— the 87th and 89th— under the 
command of General Bidon. The line of the 7th Division ran from 
Zandvoorde through Gheluvelt to Zonnebeke. 

At this time Sir John French was still uncertain about the 
forces opposed to him. He knew of Beseler on the coast route, 
and was naturally anxious as to the stand which the wearied 


Belgians, aided by French Territorials, marines, and cavalry, could 
make against him on the Yser. He also had word of a German 
reserve corps and a Landwehr division which had been giving 
trouble to Allenby's cavalry on the Lys. The far more formidable 
movement, of which the 7th Division was beginning to get news, 
was still unknown to him, and if he had heard the rumours of it, 
he had not been able to get verification. At that time he still 
believed that the extreme right of the main German force was in 
the neighbourhood of Tourcoing, and that Beseler's was an isolated 
flanking force. He did not know that Beseler was no more the 
outer rim of a huge serried line wheeling against the Allies from 
the north-east. 

On loth October four reserve corps, which were to form the 
main strength of the IV. Army — the 22nd, 23rd, 26th, and 27th — 
left Germany. One corps was rushed through by rail to Courtrai, 
and was, indeed, not formed till the men arrived there. The 
other three were concentrated in Brussels, and, without losing an 
hour, began their eighty-mile march westward. These corps were 
new formations, composed largely of Landsturm and the new 
volunteers, and including every type, from boys of sixteen to stout 
gentlemen in middle life. They were to show themselves as des- 
perate in attack as the most seasoned veterans. By the i8th they 
were on the line Roulers-Menin, and the 3rd Reserve Corps, which 
had screened their advance, drew away to the right wing. 

On the i6th the Belgians were driven out of the forest of 
Houthulst, and fell back behind the Hazebrouck-Dixmude railway. 
Their retreat uncovered the left of the British 3rd Cavalry Division, 
but on the following day four French cavalry divisions, under 
General de Mitry, cleared the forest, and re-established the line. 
On that night, the 17th, Sir John French decided that the moment 
had come to put into effect the third of his strategical alternatives. 
If La Bassee and Lille had proved too strong for the 2nd Corps, 
then Marlborough's strategy might be employed against the Ger- 
man right. With Menin as a pivot, commanding an important 
railway and the Hne of the Lys, a flanking movement might be 
instituted against Courtrai and the hne of the Scheldt. Accord- 
ingly he instructed Rawlinson to advance next morning, seize 
Menin, and await the support of the ist Corps, which was due in 
two days. 

Rawlinson had an impossible task. He had to operate on a 
front at least twenty miles wide, and he could look for no supports 
till Haig arrived. Moreover, he knew of the four new German 


corps, which were still hardly credited at headquarters, for on 
the morning of the i8th the French cavalry near Roulers cap- 
tured some cyclists belonging to one of them. On the morn- 
ing of the 19th he moved out towards Mcnin, with the right of 
the 7th Division protected as far as possible by Allcnby's cavalry 
north of the Lys, while the 3rd Cavalry Division was on its left, 
and Mitry's French cavalry to the north of them. The cavalry 
to the left presently came in touch with large enemy forces advan- 
cing from Roulers. The British brigades were skilfully handled, 
and the 6th Brigade took Ledeghem and Rolleghemcappelle. But 
owing to the continued German pressure, the 7th Brigade on the 
left had to fall back, and in the afternoon the 6th Brigade also fol- 
lowed, retiring to billets in the villages of Poelcappelle and Zonne- 
beke, while the French cavalry held Passchendaele, a mile in 
advance. The progress of the infantry was summarily stopped 
by the advance of enormous masses from the direction of Courtrai. 
The nearest the 7th Division got to Menin was the line Ledeghem- 
Kezelberg, about three miles from the town. It had to fall back 
at once to avoid utter disaster, and entrenched itself on a line of 
eight miles, just east of the Gheluvelt cross-roads, a name soon to 
be famous in the annals of the war. The great struggle for Ypres 
was on the eve of beginning. 

On that day, 19th October, the ist Corps, under Sir Douglas 
Haig, detrained at St. Omer, and marched to Hazebrouck. That 
evening Haig was instructed to move through Ypres to Thourout, 
with the intention of advancing on Bruges and Ghent. That such 
instructions should have been given shows that the British head- 
quarters were still very imperfectly informed about the real strength 
of the enemy, which the 7th Division were then learning from 
bitter experience. Two alternatives presented themselves to the 
mind of Sir John French. His force was holding far too long a 
line for its numbers and strength, and the natural use of the ist 
Corps would have been to strengthen some part of the front, such 
as that before La Bassee. On the other hand, a much-battered 
Belgian army with a small complement of French Territorials and 
cavalry had sole charge of the twenty-mile line from Ypres to the 
sea. If the Germans chose to attack north of Ypres they would 
find a weakly held passage. Accordingly Haig was directed to 
move north of Ypres, and Sir John French bade him use his dis- 
cretion should an unforeseen situation arise after he had passed 
the town. The unforeseen situation was not long in appearing. 
The ist Corps never approached Thourout, but was detained in 


front of Ypres, where it formed the left wing of the British in the 
great struggle. 

By the 19th — to continue our course to the sea — the Belgians 
had fallen back nearly to the line of the Yser from Dixmude to 
Nieuport. The Yser is a canalized stream, which, rising near St. 
Omer, enters at Nieuport the canal system which lies behind the 
sand-dunes on the edge of the cultivated land, and connects with 
the salt water by several sea canals. The Belgians were nominally 
six divisions, but three had been reduced to the strength of brigades, 
and were in the last stages of exhaustion. For ten weeks they had 
scarcely been out of action, but their spirit was unconquered, and 
the gaps in their line — they were no more than 48,000 strong — 
were filled up by French Marines, while the British and French 
fleets were waiting to give them support from the sea. But the 
front was still dangerously weak, and on i8th October Joffre 
placed at the disposal of Foch the reinforcements which were to 
complete the French Eighth Army. It was commanded by Victor 
d'Urbal, a man of fifty-six, who, like Maud'huy, had been a briga- 
dier at the beginning of the war. This new army, which not only 
took over the existing troops on the Yser, but acted as a reinforce- 
ment to the British left, contained at the start only Ronarc'h's 
marines, the four divisions of Mitry's cavalry, and the 87th and 89th 
Territorial Divisions. It was to grow before the end of the battle to 
five army corps, two Territorial divisions, and two corps of cavalry. 

The 20th of October saw the whole Allied line from Albert to 
the sea in the position in which it had to meet the desperate effort 
of the Germans to regain the initiative and the offensive. The 
gate was closed, but it might yet be opened. Maud'huy's Tenth 
Army lay on a line from east of Albert, through Arras, west of 
Lens, to just west of the chateau of Vermelles, south of the Bethune- 
La Bassee railway. Smith-Dorrien's 2nd Corps ran from Givenchy, 
west of La Bassee, through Herlies and Aubers to Laventie. Then 
came Conneau's corps of French cavalry, and then Pulteney's 3rd 
Corps, which was astride the Lys east of Armentieres. North of 
it came Allenby's cavalry corps, with the ist Division south of 
Messines, and the 2nd Division between Messines and Zandvoorde. 
Then, forming the point of the Ypres Salient, came the 7th Division 
east of the Gheluvelt cross-roads, with, on its left, between Zcmne- 
beke and Poelcappelle, Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division. North-west 
of them, between Zonnebeke and Bixschoote, Haig's ist Corps 
was coming into position. North, again, lay de Mitry's French 
cavalry, till the French Marines were reached at Dixmude. Thence 


lay the Belgian front to the sea, where the guns of the Allied war- 
ships were waiting for the enemy. This line of battle, little short 
of a hundred miles, was held on the Allied side by inadequate 
forces. Maud'huy had four corps ; the British were three and a 
half corps strong — seven divisions of infantry ; the Belgians were 
in effectives Httle more than a corps ; d'Urbal had still only a 
brigade of marines and two divisions of Territorials. The British 
force had an average strength of only 1.6 rifles per yard of front. 
The enemy at the start had eleven corps of infantry and a far 
greater strength of cavalry and guns. Moreover, he was rapidly 
reinforcing his front from the rest of his line, so that in all the 
points of contact he had a clear, and in many a crushing, superiority 
of numbers. 

A word must be said on the terrain of the impending battles. 
From the peatfields and cornlands of the Santerre, where Castel- 
nau was engaged, the plateau of Albert rises between the Somme 
and the Scarpe. It is the ordinary Picardy upland — hedgeless 
roads, unfenced fields, lines of stiff trees, and here and there the 
shallow glen of a stream. At the northern end Arras lies in its 
crook of hills, a beautiful and gracious Httle city on the edge of 
the ugliest land on earth. The hills sweep north-westward to the 
coast of the Channel, ending in Cape Grisnez, and bound the valleys 
of the Scarpe, Scheldt, Lys, and Yser, forming in reality the west- 
ern containing wall of the great plain of Europe, of which the 
eastern is the Urals. This plain of the Scheldt and its tributaries 
is everywhere of an intolerable flatness. A few inconsiderable 
swells break its monotony, such as Kemmel ridge, north-east of 
Bailleul, and the undulations south of Ypres and at La Bassee, 
and there is, of course, the noble solitary height of Cassel. But in 
general it is flat as a tennis lawn, seamed with sluggish rivers, 
and criss-crossed by endless railways and canals. Ten miles north 
of Arras, at the town of Lens, the Black Country of France begins. 
From there to Lille and Armentieres is the mining region of the 
Pas-de-Calais. Every road is lined with houses ; factory chimneys 
and the headgear of collieries rise everywhere ; and the whole 
district is Uke a piece of Lancashire or West Yorkshire, where towns 
merge into each other without rural intervals. The Lys flows, 
black and foul, through a land of industrial debris. North of the 
Lys towards Ypres we enter a countryside of market gardens, 
where every inch is closely tilled, and the land is laid out like a 
chessboard. There are patches of wood, some fairly large, like the 
forest of Houthulst, between Ypres and Roulers, but these are no 


barrier to military movements. Everywhere there are good roads, 
partially paved after the Flemish fashion, and the only obstacles 
to the passage of armies are the innumerable canals. As we move 
toward the Yser we pass from Essex to the Lincolnshire Fens. The 
fields are lined and crossed with ditches, and the soil seems a com- 
promise between land and water. Then comes the great barrier 
of the sand-dunes, which line the coast from Calais eastwards, and 
through which the waterways of the interior debouch by a number 
of sea canals. Beyond the dunes are the restless and shallow waters 
of the North Sea. 

On such a line the Allies on 20th October awaited the 
attack of the enemy, as they had done two months before on the 
Sambre and the Meuse. Now, as then, they were outnumbered ; 
now, as then, they did not know the enemy's strength ; now, as 
then, their initial strategy had failed. The fall of Antwerp had 
destroyed the hope of holding the line of the Scheldt ; the German 
occupation of La Bassee and Lille had spoiled the turning move- 
ment against the German right ; the failure at Menin and the swift 
advance of the new German corps had put Marlborough's device 
out of the question. Once more, as at Mons and Charleroi, they 
waited on the defensive. 


The map will show that in the Allied battle-line, which on the 
19th October stretched from Albert to the sea, two points would 
give results of special value to an enemy attack. The first was 
Arras, which was a centre on which lines converged from West 
Flanders and north-eastern France, and from which Unes ran 
down the Ancre valley to Amiens and the basin of the Seine, 
to Boulogne by Doullens and by St. Pol, and northward to Lens 
and Bethune. The second was La Bassee, which gave a straight 
line by Bethune and St. Omer to Calais and Boulogne. If the 
Germans sought possession of the Channel ports, then their natural 
road was by one or the other. A third possible route lay along the 
seashore by Nieuport, where the great coast road runs behind 
the shelter of the dunes. If the aim of the enemy was the speedy 
capture of Dunkirk, Calais, and Boulogne, a successful breach 
in the Allied front at Arras or La Bassee would enable them to 
reahze it. Possible, but far less valuable for the same purpose, was 
the road which followed the sea. It was the shortest route to 


Calais, but it had no railway to accompany it, and it led through 
some of the most difficult country which a great army could 

In war the shortest way to an end is often the longest. By 
this time the German Staff, as we have seen, under the inspiration 
of Falkenhayn, had decided that at all costs the Channel ports 
must be won. Their main reason was twofold. They thought 
that the capture of Calais and Boulogne would gravely alarm 
pubUc opinion in Britain, and interfere with the sending of the 
new levies, which, in spite of their official scepticism, they fully 
believed in and seriously dreaded. In the second place, with 
the coast in their possession, they hoped to mount big guns which 
would command the narrows of the Channel, to lay under their 
cover a mine-field, and to prepare a base for a future invasion of 
England. It was argued that such a measure would complicate 
the task of the British fleet, which would be compelled to watch 
two hostile bases — the Heligoland Bight and the French Channel 
coast — and that in such a division of tasks the chance might come 
for a naval battle, in which the numerical superiority would not 
be with Britain. Other motives lay behind the plan, but these 
constituted the chief strategical reasons. Now, with this purpose, 
the best road was clearly not the shortest. If the AUied front could 
be pierced at La Bassee, or, still better, at Arras, and a gate were 
forced for the passage of the German legions, then two of the 
Allied armies would be cut off and penned between the enemy and 
the sea. In this way the chief purpose of all campaigns would 
be effected, and a large part of their opponents' strength would be 
destroyed. Further, a magnificent line of communications to the 
coast would be opened up — communications which could not be 
cut, for all the Channel httoral and hinterland west of Antwerp 
would be in German hands. If, on the other hand, a way were won 
along the shore by Nieuport, all that would happen would be that 
the AUies' left would fall back to the line of heights which ends 
in Cape Grisnez, and their front, instead of running due north 
from Albert, would bend to the north-west in an easy angle. 
Further, the coast road would be a poor line of communications 
at the best, and most open to attack by a movement from Ypres 
or La Bassee. 

Besides these three points where a road might be won, the 
Allied Une revealed another special feature. East of Ypres, on 
19th October, it bent forward in a bold salient, the legacy 
bequeathed by an offensive which had failed. If this could be 


maintained, it obviously provided a base for flank attacks upon 
any force advancing across the Yser or through La Bassee. It 
was, therefore, the aim of the Germans to flatten out the saUent 
as soon as possible. The importance of Arras, La Bassee, Ypres, 
and Nieuport must be kept constantly in mind if we would under- 
stand the complicated campaign which follows. The first two were 
the points where a successful piercing movement would have 
results of the highest strategic value, not only opening up the road 
to the Channel, but putting the whole Allied left wing in deadly 
jeopardy. The third was a saHent which, if left alone, would en- 
danger any German advance. The fourth, if gained, would give a 
short, if difficult, route to Calais, and would turn the Allies' flank, 
though not in a fashion to put it in serious danger. 

It is a sound rule in war that strength should not be dissipated. 
On this principle it is at first sight hard to discover an explanation 
for the course which the Germans actually followed. For they 
attacked almost simultaneously at all four points, and for three 
desperate weeks persisted in the attack. Now, had the movement 
against Arras succeeded all would have been won, and the salient 
at Ypres would have only meant the more certain destruction of 
the British army. Had the attack from La Bassee been success- 
fully carried through, the same result would have been attained ; 
though, since the success was won farther from the Allied centre, 
a smaller section of the Allied force would have been isolated. Had 
even the worst of the three roads been chosen for a concentrated 
action and the coast route cleared for the passage of the German 
armies, then the Allied flank must have fallen back from Ypres and 
from before La Bassee. The explanation seems to be that Falken- 
hayn was imperfectly informed of the position of the Allies. His 
aim was to outflank the Allied front while its left was still in the air, 
and for this purpose he gave his four new corps to the right-wing 
commander, the Duke of Wiirtemberg. He did not conceive that 
his main problem was to find the weak points in a front already 
formed. This view was not without reason, and it carried with it 
the corollary that the rest of the still mobile Allied front from 
Arras northward should be pressed hard so as to prevent a rein- 
forcement of the left.* As it happened, that front was more stable 
than he anticipated, and what were meant for holding attacks 
developed by the odd logic of circumstance into full-dress battles, 

• That this was the German intention seems to be shown by the order given on 
14th October to the VI. Army. See the General Staff monograph, Schlacht an der 
Yser und bei Ypern im Herbst 1914 (Eng. trans.), p. 7. 

1914] THE YSER. 343 

so that the action instead of concentrating in the coast terrain 
became a series of alternating efforts to break the front at pre- 
sumably weak points. This in turn was an intelhgible plan — 
it was Foch's in 1918 — but Falkenhayn had leaned so heavily 
on the first scheme that his balance was shaken before he essayed 
the second. 

Our first task is to consider the assault on the Yser, and the 
subsidiary attacks at La Bassee and Arras, before dealing with the 
supreme effort against Ypres. But let it be clearly understood 
that ail four attacks were to a large extent contemporaneous, and 
directed against a single battle-front. The fighting on the Yser 
merged, towards the south, in the fighting north of Ypres ; the 
struggle for Ypres was closely connected with the battle which 
raged from La Bassee to the Lys ; and the stand of the 2nd Corps 
at La Bassee was influenced in many ways by the fate of Maud'huy's 
left wing north of Lens. If this fact is realized, it is clearer and 
more convenient to deal separately with each attack, since each had 
its own special objective. 

We turn first to the country along the canal which is usually 
dignified by the name of the Yser, the Uttle river which feeds it 
from the south-west. Between Nieuport, the port on the coast 
a mile from the ocean, and the town of Dixmude, where the Yser 
turns sharply to the south-west, is a distance of ten miles. On the 
left bank, at an average distance of a mile and a half from the 
Yser, runs a single-line railway from Dixmude to Nieuport, through 
the villages of Pervyse and Ramscappelle. No railway crosses the 
canal between Dixmude and Nieuport, but it is spanned by several 
bridges. The most important is at Nieuport, where the main coast 
road runs along the harder soil of the dunes. A second lies about 
midway in the reach, where a road comes east from Pervyse just 
below the point where the canal loops into a pocket. At Dix- 
mude itself, which lies on the eastern bank, a road and a line run 
to Fumes and Dunkirk. A number of small creeks of brackish 
water enter the Yser on both sides, and all around are low, marshy 
meadows, a little below the level of the sea. One or two patches 
of drier and higher land are found along the edge of the canal, but 
nowhere, till the dunes are reached on the actual coast, are there 
any slopes which can be said to give gun positions or a commanding 
situation. The whole country is bUnd and sodden, as ill fitted for 
the passage of troops and heavy guns as the creeks and salt marshes 
of the Essex coast. 


On i6th October, as we have seen, the right wing of the 
retreating Belgian army had reached the forest of Houthulst, north- 
east of Ypres, and had been driven out of it by the German move- 
ment from Roulers. They now drew in that wing, and by the fol- 
lowing day were aligned on the east bank of the Yser, with French 
cavalry and Territorials connecting them with the British army 
to the south. King Albert had under 50,000 in his command, 
and to a man they were battle-weary. But the presence of their 
king, and the consciousness that they were waging no longer a 
solitary war, but were arrayed with their Allies, spurred them 
to a great effort. The Yser was the natural line for them to hold, 
for, more than French or British, they were accustomed to war 
among devious water-courses. The plan was to hold strong bridge- 
heads at Nieuport and Dixmude, and an advance line covering 
them on the east bank of the river. Behind this lay the line of the 
Yser itself, and, should that be lost, the Nieuport-Dixmude railway 
embankment for a last stand. The disposition was as follows : 
The 2nd Division held Nieuport, Lombartzyde, and the ground to 
the sea ; the ist Division on its right extended to the middle of the 
Tervaete bend, including the Schoorbakke bridgehead ; on its right 
lay the 4th Division, and beyond it the 3rd, which along with the 
Breton marines provided the garrison of Dixmude ; the 5th Divi- 
sion was echeloned between St. Jacques Cappelle and Driegrachten ; 
and the 6th Division continued the front to the junction with the 
French Territorials at Boesinghe. The only reserves were part of 
the 3rd Division and a division of cavalry. 

By the evening of the 17th Beseler, to whom the first coast 
attack had been entrusted, had moved west from Middelkerke and 
Westende, and was in position just east of Nieuport. Early on the 
morning of the i8th he attacked with the object of seizing the 
Nieuport bridge. The Belgians were drawn up east of the Yser, 
holding in strength the three main bridges. The sudden and violent 
assault of a superior force upon the left wing of a much-enduring 
army would in all likelihood have succeeded, and if at this date 
King Albert had been pushed well back from the Yser towards 
Furnes, Beseler would have been in Dunkirk in two days and in 
Calais the day after. But at this most critical moment help arrived 
from an unexpected quarter. Suddenly the German right resting 
on the sand-dunes found itself enfiladed. Shells fell in their trenches 
from the direction of the sea, and, looking towards the Channel, 
they saw the ominous grey shapes of British warships. Two and 
a half centuries before, when Turenne met the Spaniards at the 


Battle of the Dunes, he had been greatly aided by Cromwell's 
fleet, which shelled the enemy's wing. History repeated itself 
almost in the same spot, and once more the French front fought 
in alliance with the British navy. 

Germany had never dreamed of any serious danger from the 
sea. She believed from the charts that off that shelving shore, 
with its yeasty coastal waters, there was no room for even a small 
gunboat to get within range, and she did not imagine that Britain 
would venture her ships in such perilous seas. Every student of 
naval history knows the dangers of the " banks of Zeeland," 
and at this very place, between Nieuport and Ostend, the San 
Felipe, from the Spanish Armada, had been wrecked. But at the 
outbreak of war three strange vessels lay at Barrow, built to the 
order of the Brazilian Government. Broad in the beam, and 
shallow of draught, they had been intended as patrol ships for the 
river Amazon. In August the Admiralty, with fortunate prescience, 
purchased these odd craft, which appeared in the Navy List 
as the Huniber, the Severn, and the Mersey. They were heavily 
armoured, and carried each two 6-inch guns mounted forward in an 
armoured barbette, and two 4.7 howitzers aft, while four 3-pounder 
guns were placed amidships. Their draught was only 4 feet 7 
inches, so that they could move in shoal water where an ordinary 
warship would run aground. With the first news of the German 
advance along the coast the Admiralty saw the value of their 
purchase. On the evening of 17th October the three monitors * 
left Dover under the command of Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace 
Hood, and sailed for the Flemish coast. The German attack on the 
i8th had hardly started when Hood began his bombardment. 
Beseler brought his heavy guns into action, but they were com- 
pletely outranged, and several batteries were destroyed. For days 
this strange warfare continued. Admiral Hood's flotilla was 
presently joined by other craft, chiefly old ships of little value, for 
the Admiralty did not dare to risk the newer ships in so novel a 
type of battle. French warships acted with the British, and the 
bombardment extended east to Ostend. The Germans were unable 
to retaliate. Their big guns did not reach us, their submarines 

♦ The term " monitors " is not strictly accurate as applied to these vessels. 
The original Monitor was a low-freeboard, light-draft turret ship, invented by Erics- 
son, which fought the Merrimac in Hampton Roads during the American Civil 
War. Its appearance, when cleared for action, was not unUke a big submarine 
operating on the surface. The vital feature of the Monitor, apart from its light 
draught, was that its guns were mounted in a central closed turret, so that they 
could be trained in any direction and used in narrow channels where broadsides 
would be impossible. 


could not manoeuvre in the shallow water, and the torpedoes which 
they fired, being set at a much greater depth than the monitors' 
draught, passed harmlessly beneath their hulls. Our naval guns 
swept the country for some six miles inland, and the German 
right was pushed away from the coast. On the 20th Lombartzyde 
had fallen, but it was presently recovered. Nieuport was saved, 
and the German attack on the Yser was possible only beyond the 
range of the leviathans from the sea. 

But the battle for the coast route was only beginning. The 
Duke of Wiirtemberg was now in command, and with him were the 
four new reserve corps — the 22nd north of Dixmude, the 23rd 
against Dixmude itself, and the 26th and 27th against the weak 
Belgian right and British left. Joffre still hoped to press east along 
the coast, and Grossetti's 42nd Division — the heroes of Foch's stand 
at the Marne — which arrived on the 22nd, was ordered to advance 
from the Nieuport bridgehead. Grossetti, assisted by the guns of 
Hood's ships, pushed on to Westende, but on the 24th he was 
hurriedly recalled to reinforce the Belgian centre. For during the 
previous days, out of range of the British fleet, the Germans had 
been struggling desperately for the Yser passage. On the 22nd they 
had won the west bank in the Tervaete loop, and also carried the 
Schoorbakke bridgehead, while the strife at Dixmude had been 
bitter and continuous. On Friday, the 23rd, a body of Germans 
succeeded in crossing at St. Georges and forcing their way almost 
to Ramscappelle on the railway. There, however, the Belgians drove 
them back, and that day they gained no further footing on the 
western bank. On that night, too, no less than fourteen attacks 
were made upon Dixmude, and were driven back by Admiral 
Ronarc'h and his sailors. Next day another great effort was 
made at Schoorbakke by the bridge which carried the Pervyse road, 
and also at a point in the loop of the canal immediately to the south. 
About 5,000 men crossed, and at midnight they held the positions 
they had gained. On Sunday, the 25th, there was a crossing in 
greater force, and for a moment it looked as if the line of the Yser 
had been lost. But in that country it is one thing to gain a position 
on the west bank and quite another to be able to advance from it 
through the miry fields, intersected with countless sluggish rivulets. 
As the Germans tried to deploy from each bridgehead they were 
met with stubborn resistance from the Belgian and French en- 
trenched among the dykes. For three days those ragged battalions 
fought a desperate action in the meadows. Every yard was con- 
tested, and the German progress was slow and costly. But even in 


country where the defence has a natural advantage numbers are 
bound to tell, and the steady stream of German reinforcements was 
pressing back the French and Belgians. By the 28th they had 
retired almost to the Dixmude-Nieuport railway, which ran on an 
embankment above the level of the fields. The Emperor was 
with the Duke of Wiirtemberg, and under his eye the German attack 
grew hourly in impetus. Another day, and the Allied left might 
have been broken. 

In that moment of crisis the Belgians played their last card. 
Once more they sought aid from the water, and, after the fashion 
of their ancestors, broke down the dykes. The past week had been 
heavy with rains, and the canalized Yser was brimming to its 
bank. Under cover of the British naval guns the Belgian left 
had been hard at work near Nieuport. They had dammed the 
lower reaches of the canal, and on the 28th achieved their purpose. 
The Yser lipped over its brim, and spread in great lagoons over the 
flat meadows. The German forces on the west bank found them- 
selves floundering in a foot of water, while their guns were water- 
logged and deep in mud. On the few dry patches they kept their 
ground, but all the intervening land was impossible. The Belgians 
had fallen back to a position beliind the Dixmude-Nieuport railway. 

Duke Albrecht did not at once give up the attempt. The floods 
were bad enough, but they were still not impassable. It was 
clear that the Belgians had larger schemes of inundation, and it 
became the German aim to win to the railway before these could 
be put into execution. The obvious point of vantage was the 
village of Ramscappelle, and on 30th October, moving from the 
bridgeheads at St. Georges and Schoorbakke, the Wiirtembergers 
advanced to the attack. They waded through the sloppy fields 
covered with several inches of water, and by means of " table-tops " 
— broad planks carried on the men's backs — crossed the deeper dykes. 
So furiously was the attack pressed home that they won to the rail- 
way line and seized Pervyse and Ramscappelle. But early on the 
31st troops of the French 42nd Division and of the 2nd and 3rd 
Belgian Divisions counter-attacked, and after a stubborn battle 
drove out the Germans from the villages, and hurled them back into 
the lagoons. The Wiirtembergers retired from the ruins, and found 
a position in the meadows where the flood was comparatively 

But in the meantime the Belgians, largely under the inspiration 
of General Bridges of the British Mission, had prepared a greater 
destruction. Far and wide in all the drainage area of the Yser 


they had succeeded by now in opening the sluices of the canals. 
Suddenly on all sides the water rose. Dammed at its mouth, and 
fed by a thousand little floods, the Yser spread itself in seething 
brown waves over the whole country up to the railway line. The 
depth now was not of inches but of feet. The Germans, caught in 
the tide, were drowned in scores. A black nozzle of a field gun 
would show for a moment above the current, and presently dis- 
appear. All the while the AlHed gun positions at Nieuport and 
Ramscappelle and Pervyse, and west of Dixmude, shelled the drown- 
ing troops. Some escaped ; many struggled out on the wrong side, 
and were made prisoners. The attack had failed finally and dis- 
astrously. The Emperor, who had watched the operations through 
his glasses, shut them up and turned away. The coast road was 
barred, and he must look for success farther south, at Ypres or 
La Bassee. 

The flooding of the Yser marked the end of the main struggle 
for the shortest route to Calais. The Belgians and French now 
held a Hne resting on Nieuport, and following the railway by 
Ramscappelle and Pervyse to Dixmude. Between them and the 
enemy lay a mile or two of muddy waters. Nieuport was safe, 
for it was protected by British guns from the sea. The Belgians, 
who had lost a quarter of their effectives, began to counter-attack 
on the left, and pushed forward advanced posts towards Middel- 
kerke and Westende. Presently the Germans had evacuated the 
whole of the west bank of the Yser — that is, the few dry spots 
where troops could maintain themselves. They managed to check 
the Belgian advance in the north, and on 7th November retook 
Lombartzyde. But in this section their main efforts were now 
directed against Dixmude, which was the only point where a 
bridgehead, if won, could be maintained. The defence of the town 
by Ronarc'h's marines and the Belgian 5th Division was one of the 
conspicuous feats of the war. It was a vital position, for its capture 
by the Germans at any time before ist November would have 
meant the turning of the Belgian right. The Belgian batteries had 
been placed with great skill to the west of the town, and a big 
flour mill gave a good observation post. The garrison had desperate 
fighting on i6th October, and won a few days' respite, which 
enabled them to complete their defences. On the 19th they had 
to meet a heavy attack, which drove in their advanced posts upon 
the town. Thereafter they had to face a terrific bombardment, 
which battered Dixmude to pieces. On the night of the 23rd and 
24th they had to withstand fourteen different assaults. But the 


defence held firm, and Dixmude did not fall till its fall was no 
longer vital. After a heavy bombardment the Germans took the 
town on the evening of loth November, and captured a few hundred 
prisoners. But it gave them no advantage. There was still half 
a mile of floods between them and the Belgians, and by that date 
the first fury of their attack had been gravely weakened. For in 
the great battle to the south, after three weeks of constant struggle, 
the flower of their armies had been repelled everywhere from the 
Allied lines. 

We pass over the twenty miles which separate Dixmude from 
the Lys, and which constituted the terrain of the Battle of Ypres. 
Pulteney's 3rd Corps, with Allenby's cavalry on its left and Con- 
neau's French cavalry on its right, occupied, as we have seen, on 
19th October, a position running from east of Messines southward 
by the east of Armentieres to a point to the west of Radinghem. 
The fighting on this section may be most conveniently dealt with 
in connection with the Battle of Ypres, of which it formed the 
extreme right. For the present we will consider only the work of 
Smith-Dorrien's 2nd Corps, which was engaged in repelling the 
German advance from Lille against La Bassee and Bethune. 

On 19th October the 2nd Corps held a line pivoting on Givenchy 
in the south, and then running east in a saUent north of the La 
Bassee-Lille road to the village of Herlies, where it bent west- 
ward to Aubers, and connected with Conneau's cavalry in the 
neighbourhood of the La Bassee-Armentieres highway. The 5th 
Division was on the right of the front, and the 3rd Division to 
the north of it. The Germans, the centre of the Crown Prince of 
Bavaria's huge command, held La Bassee, the line of the La Bassee- 
Lille canal, and all the country immediately to the south and east. 
Smith-Dorrien's first aim had been to strike at the fine La Bassee- 
Lille in the neighbourhood of Fournes, and so, with the help of the 
French Tenth Army, isolate the La Bassee position. But from the 
20th onward, as he felt the surge of the great German advance, his 
whole energies were devoted to maintaining his ground and blocking 
the passage to Bethune and the west. 

The main attack at La Bassee lasted for ten days — from 22nd 
October to 2nd November — by which time the current of direction in 
the battle had moved farther north against Ypres. On the morning 
of the 22nd came the first big attack. The 5 th Division on the 
British right was driven out of the village of Violaines, on the road 
between Givenchy and Lorgies. Smith-Dorrien could now judge of 


the strength of the German movement, and he saw that the advanced 
position of the 3rd Division on his left was untenable. Accordingly 
that night he withdrew to the line running from just east of Givenchy 
by Neuve Chapelle to Fauquissart, due south of Laventie. Two days 
later, on the 24th, the enemy attacked heavily along the Une ; but 
the British artillery prevented him getting to close quarters. By 
this time the 2nd Corps, which had been for ten days more or less 
constantly under fire, was getting exhausted, and it became very 
necessary to find supports. These had arrived a few days before 
in the shape of the Lahore Division of the Indian Corps. The 
Ferozepore Brigade of that division had been sent on the 22nd to sup- 
port Allenby's cavalry, and the remainder was now used to support 
the left rear of the 2nd Corps. One brigade was entrenched on 
the extreme left, to take over the ground formerly occupied by 
Conneau's French cavalry, which was needed farther north. 

On the 27th the Germans got into Neuve Chapelle, and for the 
succeeding few days the main fighting continued on the left of the 
2nd Corps. Next day the Indian troops were given their first taste 
of battle, with various British battahons interspersed among them, 
and the 2nd Cavalry Brigade in support. Their task was the re- 
taking of Neuve Chapelle. The 3rd Division was by this time 
very weary and reduced, the staff work had become faulty, and the 
attack was inadequately supported, except by the cavalry. The 
fighting on both sides was desperate and confused, and the Germans 
flung the bodies of their dead from their trenches to make cover 
under which they could advance. No sooner had the British won 
a hundred yards than the counter-attack came, and the lines 
swayed backwards and forwards, before and behind the ruins which 
had once been Neuve Chapelle. At the end of the month the Meerut 
Division arrived, and two days later came the Secunderabad Cavalry 
Brigade and the Jodhpur Lancers. The Indian Corps was now 
constituted under the command of Sir James Willcocks, and the 
much-tried 2nd Corps was partially withdrawn into reserve. 
Its rest was short, for very soon some of its battalions had to be 
sent north to take their part in the fight which raged round Ypres. 
The defence of the La Bassee gate was now chiefly in the hands of 
the Indians, aided by two and a half British brigades and most 
of the 2nd Corps Artillery. 

The story of the next three weeks in this section is one of 
repeated attacks, gradually slackening off owing to the concentra- 
tion against Ypres. Ypres was a providential intervention, for 
It is difficult to believe that, if the attack had been delivered with 

1914] THE INDIAN CORPS. 351 

the violence of the fighting on 22nd October and earlier, our line 
could have held its position. As it was, it was slowly forced back 
till it ran from Givenchy, to which we stubbornly clung, north by 
Festubert towards Estaires. An attack on Givenchy on 7th 
November failed signally. Then for a fortnight the campaign 
here degenerated into an artillery duel, and our men were given a 
welcome chance of improving and elaborating their line of trenches. 
On the work of the Indians we have Sir John French's testi- 
mony : " Since their arrival in this country and their occupation 
of the line allotted to them, I have been much impressed by the 
initiative and resource displayed by the Indian troops. Some 
of the ruses they have employed to deceive the enemy have been 
attended with the best results, and have doubtless kept superior 
forces in front of them at bay." In Britain the ordinary man, 
accustomed to tales of the prowess of Sikh and Gurkha, was in- 
clined to think them invincible, and forget that they had been 
brought to an unfamiHar type of warfare, and that the finest 
troops in the world may get into trouble in an uncongenial task. 
The strangeness of the whole situation — the great howitzer shells, 
the endless stream of shrapnel, the mole warfare of the trenches, 
and all the black magic of the white man's war — cannot but have 
shaken the nerves at first of the Indian soldiers. It is to their 
eternal credit that they so quickly recovered ; but when the line 
wavered and cracked here and there it meant a heavy mortality 
among the flanking troops, and among the white and native 
officers. Of their splendid courage there was never a moment's 
doubt. W'Tien Indian troops broke it was just as often forward 
as backward. We must remember, too, that they had very few 
chances, except in night work, of revealing their special excellences. 
Too rarely came the charge, where Sikh and Pathan and Gurkha 
could show their unique elan. When it came, the Germans learned 
what many a frontier tribe has known to its cost. The climate was 
their chief enemy. Many who watched their arrival at Marseilles 
had given them four months to last out in a European winter. 
Up till 5th November there was incessant fog and rain. Then 
came a week of bright weather till the nth, and then a bitter 
sleet began, to be followed by frost, and presently by snow. The 
Indian can stand cold of a kind, as he proved in the Tibetan 
Expedition, but his diet and his habits ill fit him to resist long- 
continued wet and the damp cold of our north. They suffered 
terribly from the unfamiliar weather, and physical stamina gave 
way in many whom no enemy's fire could unnerve. 


The last stroke against Arras, which, properly dealt, would 
have been the greatest menace of all, was delivered from 20th 
October to 26th October. Before that the battle had raged 
chiefly around Maud'huy's left centre. The possession of Lens 
gave the Germans one great advantage, for south from the town 
ran a railway which, three miles east of Arras, connected with 
the main hne, Arras-Douai-Lille. When the German front was 
pushed west of this it was in possession of perfect lateral com- 
munications. The first German aim was to drive in Maud'huy's 
left, and, by extending to Bethune, come in on the right rear of 
the British 2nd Corps. If it succeeded, then an advance from 
Lille would force the British back into the triangle between the 
Germans and the Channel. But after the 20th the objective 
changed to Arras itself, and Prince Rupprecht seemed to awake 
to the immense possibiHties of the gate which the city provided. 
If he succeeded, not only would the Channel ports fall to him, not 
only would he recover the northern road to Paris, but he would 
have achieved what had always been the main German objective 
and split the Allied line into two parts, which would be driven 
asunder by a broadening wedge. The southern half might retire 
in good order, but there would be no way of escape for the northern. 
It was what Hausen had done on the Meuse, what the Duke of 
Wiirtemberg had failed to do at Vitry, and Biilow at Rheims. 
Had some of the German forces which at the time were butting 
their heads against the Ypres Salient or struggling in the Yser 
bogs been brought to aid the task, the odds are that it would 
have been accomplished. 

Happily for Maud'huy's slender army the attack was not made 
one of the major operations. It was vigorously pressed, but 
advantage could not be followed up, because of the growing demands 
of the northern battles. The German guns were now near enough 
to bombard the city a second time, and for a week shells rained 
in its ancient streets. The Hotel de Ville, one of the oldest and 
finest buildings in France, was ruined, and whole quarters were 
reduced to debris. But the destruction of Arras did not give the 
enemy possession. All attempts to break the French line failed, 
and by the 26th Maud'huy had begun to retaliate. The tradi- 
tional furia francese has never been seen to better purpose than 
in the counter-attacks which in many places pushed the Germans 
out of their advanced trenches, and restored to the French some 
of the Httle villages in the flats of the Scheldt. Bit by bit the 
circle was widened, till Arras was beyond the reach of the German 

llouthulstil ~^Siaden^ 

Oncgrachten jke''Mt/of 
* •.'•//Merckem JlHoU^'^' 

JiV/ormhoudt ^ 


St Jans'CappWe \ ^^^su 

tecelaere !,[ {■■'•=11:9'" 

(Oct.-Nov. 1914). 

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^a ::iHi 


1914] YPRES. 353 

howitzers, and the inhabitants began to return to their ruined 
dwelHngs. The enemy held the Vimy ridge, and his hnes lay in 
a loop round the city, but he was never fated to enter its streets. 
By the beginning of November the attack had failed ; and it was 
not likely to be renewed, for Prince Rupprecht's best corps were 
demanded for the north, where before Ypres was being fought 
the longest, bloodiest, and most desperate combat in the history 
of British arms. 


The little city of Ypres, now only the shade of its former grandeur, 
stood midway between the smoky industrial beehive of the Lys 
and the well-tilled flats of the Yser. Once it had been the centre 
of the wool-trade of Flanders, and its noble Cloth Hall, dating 
from the twelfth century, testified to its vanished mercantile pre- 
eminence. No Flemish town could boast a prouder history. It 
was the red-coated burghers of Ypres who, with the men of Bruges 
and Courtrai, marched in July 1302 against Count Robert of 
Artois, and inveigled the chivalry of France into a tangle of dykes 
and marshes, from which few of the proud horsemen escaped. 
Seven hundred pairs of gilded spurs were hung in the x\bbey church 
of Courtrai as spoil of battle, and the prowess of the burgher 
infantry on that fatal field established the hitherto despised foot- 
soldier as the backbone of all future armies. Ypres possessed, 
too, a Hnk with British records. Till the other day, in one of its 
convents hung the British flag which Clare's regiment, fighting 
for France, captured at RamilHes. The town stood on a tiny 
stream, the Yperlee, a tributary of the Yser, which had long ago 
been canalized. A single-line railway passed through it from 
Roulers to the main Lille-St. Omer hne at Hazebrouck. An 
important canal ran from the Yser in the north to the river Lys 
at Comines, and two miles south of the town, at the village of St. 
Eloi, turned eastward, bending south again in a broad angle be- 
tween Hollebeke and Zandvoorde. To the east there were con- 
siderable patches of forest between Bixschoote and the Lys valley. 
A series of slight ridges rose towards the south and east in a curve 
just inside the Belgian frontier from west of Messines to the neigh- 
bourhood of Zonnebeke. For the rest, the country was dead 
flat, so that the spires of Ypres made a landmark for many miles. 
On all sides from the town radiated the cobbled Flemish roads, 


the two main highways on the east being those to Roulers and to 
Menin, with an important connecting road cutting the latter five 
miles from Ypres at the village of Gheluvelt. 

On the evening of the 19th the Allied offensive had \drtually 
ceased. First one and then another of the three strategic possi- 
bilities had been frustrated. We were aware that at last we had 
reached the main German front in position everywhere from 
Lille to the sea, and daily growing in numbers which threatened 
to fall in a tidal wave upon the thin and far-stretched Allied line. 
But Sir John French, though cognizant of the enemy's strength, 
was not yet fully informed about its details, and he made one more 
effort to break through with a counterstroke. Haig with the ist 
Corps had, as we have seen, arrived behind the front on the 19th, 
and had been directed to move to the north of Ypres in the direc- 
tion of Thourout. " The object he was to have in view," Sir 
John wrote, " was to be the capture of Bruges, and subsequently, 
if possible, to drive the enemy towards Ghent." Had it been 
possible, the move would have had great strategic advantages. 
It would have hemmed in Beseler on the sea coast, and prevented 
reinforcements reaching him from the south, while it would have 
provided a basis for a turning movement against the flank of the 
enemy's main front. But Sir John French had his doubts about 
its possibility, and Haig was instructed after passing Ypres to use 
his own judgment. As the ist Corps advanced to the north of 
Ypres it had Bidon's divisions of French Territorials and Mitry's 
cavalry on its left, extending from Bixschoote north through the 
forest of Houthulst. On its right it had Byng's 3rd Cavalry 
Di\dsion, and south of Byng was the British 7th Division — the 
two forming Rawlinson's 4th Corps, which was directed to con- 
form generally to Haig's movements. 

The ist Corps had borne the brunt of the fighting on the Aisne, 
and had had no rest save such as was afforded by the journey to 
the north. On Tuesday, the 20th, it advanced to a line extending 
from Bixschoote to the cross-roads a mile and a half north-west 
of Zonnebeke, with the 2nd Division on the right of its front, and 
the ist Division on the left. That day it had no fighting, but the 
cavalry on its flanks were heavily engaged. Byng's Division not 
only protected its right, along with detachments of French 
Territorials, but was feeling its way some miles in advance. The 
French in Poelcappelle were driven out by shell-fire in the afternoon, 
and Byng was compelled to fall back towards Langemarck. The 
position, therefore, on the morning of the 21st was — on the extreme 


left, north-east of Ypres, divisions of Bidon's Territorials and some 
of Mitry's cavalry ; then the British ist Division, between Bix- 
schoote and Langemarck ; then the 2nd Division, extending to 
near Zonnebeke, with Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division in support 
on its right rear ; then the 7th Division to the east of the Ghelu- 
velt cross-roads. In front of Messines was AUenby's Cavalry 
Corps, which had been attempting in vain the crossings of the 
Lys ; after which came the hne of the 3rd Corps, ten miles long, 
through Armentieres. 

Clearly the immediate posts of danger in the Allied front were 
the extreme left, between Bixschoote and Dixmude, and the right 
centre around Zandvoorde, between the 7th Division and Alien- 
by. But on the 21st the main enemy attack was not at these 
points. It was delivered against the point of the salient between 
Zonnebeke and Becelaere. Haig with the ist Corps advanced 
successfully till about two o'clock in the afternoon, when news 
came of trouble on his flanks. The French Territorials on the left 
were driven out of the forest of Houthulst, and they and their 
supports of the ist French Cavalry Corps retired across the Yser 
Canal. At the same time he was informed that the 7th Division 
and AUenby's 2nd Cavalry Division beyond it were heavily attacked, 
and it became necessary to halt on the Une Bixschoote-Lange- 
marck-St. Julien-Zonnebeke. That line marked the limits of the 
last British offensive. Thourout and Bruges were now as inacces- 
sible as the moon. The main fighting was along the front of the 
7th Division, against which the left wing of the German IV. Army 
was thrown. In the first place, its left was enfiladed by a German 
movement against Zonnebeke, and for a Uttle looked Hke having its 
flank turned. Not till the afternoon could Haig's 2nd Division link 
up with it at the level crossing of the Ypres-Roulers railway and safe- 
guard that danger-point. In the centre at Becelaere the Germans 
succeeded in temporarily piercing our line. On the extreme right 
a fierce assault was made from the direction of Houthem against 
Gough's 2nd Cavalry Division in Klein Zillebeke. The only 
reserves available were Byng's 3rd Cavalry Division, and from it 
Kavanagh's 7th Brigade was directed to support the left of the 
22nd Brigade, which it did successfully till help came from the 
2nd Division. The 6th Cavalry Brigade was hurried south to 
Zandvoorde in the afternoon, and filled the gap, occupying the 
two canal crossings at HoUebeke. By the evening the whole of 
Byng's cavalry had been moved to the right of the 7th Division, 
linking up with Gough between HoUebeke and Wytschaete. 


That evening Sir John French in Ypres had an anxious consulta- 
tion with Haig and RawHnson, Mitry and Bidon. It was now 
abundantly clear that the most they could do was to hold the 
Ypres Salient from the Lys to Dixmude till Joffre could send 
help — a length of fully thirty miles. For that purpose there was 
the 1st Corps, the 3rd Corps (though Pulteney had also his own 
separate battle to fight), the 7th Division of the 4th Corps, three 
divisions of British cavalry, Mitry 's 2nd French Cavalry Corps 
of four divisions, and Bidon's two divisions of French Territorials 
— all told about 100,000 men, and some of the troops not of the 
first Hne. French's first task was to arrange matters in Ypres, 
which had become congested with French Territorials, and it 
was decided that they should immediately move out and cover 
the flank of Haig's ist Corps. He had that day seen Joffre, who 
had told him that he was sending the 9th Corps to Ypres, that 
d'Urbal's further forces were being rapidly concentrated, and 
that he hoped presently to take the offensive. This help, how- 
ever, could not arrive before the 24th, and for three days the 
present Hne must maintain its precarious and extended front. 

Thursday, the 22nd, was a heavy day all along the line. Haig, 
being compelled to send help to the 7th Division, could do little 
but maintain his defence. This he did with much loss to the enemy ; 
but late in the evening a violent assault was made upon his left, 
north of Pilkem, and the line was partially broken. Farther south, 
the 7th Division was in a difficult place. In consequence of the 
attack upon its 22nd Brigade it had retired its left, and so made a 
sharp new saHent with the left of the 21st Brigade. Farther south 
there was a long line from the Zandvoorde ridge to south of Mes- 
sines held by the 3rd and 2nd Cavalry Divisions in trenches. 
Round Hollebeke the Germans pressed hard, both with artillery 
and infantry attacks, and their snipers greatly troubled our men. 
But they did not press hard enough, for this long cavalry line 
was our weak spot, and an attack in force would have broken 
it and uncovered Ypres. Farther south Pulteney had been 
having some anxious days. On the 20th the Germans had attacked 
the advanced posts of the 12th Brigade on his left, driven them in, 
and occupied Le Gheir, just north of the Lys. A counter-attack, 
however, drove back the enemy with great loss, and occupied 
the abandoned trenches. At this time the 3rd Corps was divided 
into two halves by the Lys, and on the 22nd the centre held by 
the 1 6th Brigade was heavily attacked from FreHnghien. It was 
rapidly becoming necessary to shorten the line by drawing in the 


right, and bringing Conneau's 2nd Cavalry Corps nearer Armen- 

The failure of the attack of the 22nd, especially that part 
delivered by the 23rd Reserve Corps between Bixschoote and 
Langemarck, seems to have convinced the enemy that he could 
not break through in that quarter. The new corps had fought 
with the utmost gallantry, but in the nature of things they could 
not be depended upon in a protracted battle ; they must do their 
work with their first impetus or not at all.* Accordingly Falken- 
hayn began in all haste to pull out troops wherever they could 
be spared and to constitute a new Army Group under the Wiirtem- 
berger von Fabeck, to operate between the IV. and VI. Armies 
against the Allied front from Ypres to the Lys. This new group 
by itself was to start with almost the equivalent in numbers of the 
British army, and was presently to consist of nine divisions of 
infantry and four of cavalry. Its assembly was to be complete on 
the 29th, and its attack was fixed for the 30th. Its formation 
would allow the Duke of Wiirtemberg's left wing to concentrate 
against Dixmude and the Ypres Canal. 

On the morning of Friday, the 23rd, the position was as follows : 
There was a bad dint in the British front on the left of the ist 
Division ; there was an ugly sahent on the left of the 7th Division, 
where the left of the 2i5t Brigade was brought to a sharp angle 
by the " refusal " of the 22nd Brigade ; and a dint in the line of 
the 2ist. An effort was made during the day to get rid of these 
dangers. Major-General Bulfin restored the left of the ist 
Division, and a furious enemy attack was beaten off in the Lange- 
marck neighbourhood. There was also a determined frontal 
attack on the 7th Division. That evening there came a welcome 
relief. The 31st Division of the French i6th Corps and the bulk 
of the French 9th Corps arrived and took over part of the front 
held by the British ist Corps, which was thus enabled to extend 
to the south, and relieve the hard-pressed 7th Division of the 
northern end of the line near Zonnebeke. 

Next day, the 24th, there was an advance upon our extreme 
left. The French 9th Corps, the veterans of Sezanne and Rheims, 
pushed forward between Zonnebeke and Poelcappelle, and won a 
fair amount of ground. In the evening the fine of the ist Divi- 
sion was taken over by French Territorials, and the former moved 
to behind our front at Zillebeke. The 2nd Division had now 

• See Freytag-Loringhoven's comments. Deductions from the World War (Eng. 
trans.), pp. 118-119 


closed up, and relieved the left wing of the 7th, and this relief 
came just in time. For on that day the point of the saHent gave 
way at last, and the Germans entered the Polygon Wood at Reytel, 
west of Becelaere, destined to be the scene of much desperate 
fighting in the days to come. The next day, Sunday the 25th, 
saw the advance of the left continued. It was in the nature of 
a counter-offensive to relieve the pressure on the centre, and it 
temporarily succeeded, some guns and a number of prisoners 
being taken. In the centre itself the Germans did not follow up 
their achievement in the Polygon Wood ; they were waiting for 
von Fabeck. At night an enveloping attack was made on the 
saHent held by the 20th Brigade, at Kruseik, north-east of Zand- 
voorde. It was renewed in force just before the wet misty dawn, 
and all the morning the battle continued to rage around Kruseik 
— a critical place, for if the saUent were broken there, the enemy 
would gain possession of the Zandvoorde ridge. The situation was 
saved after midday by a brilliant counter-attack of the 7th Cavalry 
Brigade, who were in trenches at Zandvoorde. Meanwhile the 
extreme British right under Pulteney had been hard pressed, and 
it was resolved temporarily to shorten that part of the line which 
was south of the Lys. The falHng back of the 2nd Corps in the 
south, and the continuation of its front northward by Indian troops, 
enabled Pulteney to take up this new position with the less risk. 

On the evening of the 26th it was becoming clear that the line 
of the 7th Division was dangerously advanced. All that night 
its commander. General Capper, was busy readjusting his brigades. 
The work was completed on the 27th, when the front ran as follows : 
On the extreme left north of Bixschoote, the 87th French Terri- 
torial Division ; from Bixschoote to Zonnebeke, the four divisions 
of Mitry's cavalry, two divisions of the French 9th Corps and one 
of the French i6th ; from east of Zonnebeke to the Gheluvelt 
cross-roads, the ist Corps ; from Gheluvelt cross-roads to east of 
Zandvoorde, the 7th Division ; from Zandvoorde to Klein Zillebeke, 
Byng's 3rd Cavalry ; from Klein Zillebeke to east of Messines, 
Allenby's Cavalry Corps ; and south of that, Pulteney's 3rd Corps. 
That evening Sir John French visited Haig at Hooge and discussed 
the position of affairs. The 7th Division for a month had been 
engaged in continuous marching and fighting, and had suffered 
terrible losses. It was resolved, accordingly, that RawHnson should 
return to England to supervise his 8th Division, which was now 
being formed, and that the 7th Division and the 3rd Cavalry 
Division should be temporarily attached to the ist Corps. 


Next day, the 28th, there was Httle but shelHng on the front — 
a dangerous lull which heralded the storm. The enemy was 
gathering his forces for a cumulative attack upon our whole line. 
On the morning of Thursday, the 29th — about 5.30 a.m. — the 
British Staff learned of his intentions, for they intercepted a wire- 
less message. It was the beginning of the sternest phase of the 
struggle. The great battles of the world have not uncommonly 
been fought in places worthy of so fierce a drama. The mountains 
looked upon Marathon and Thermopylae, Marengo, Solferino, and 
Plevna ; mighty plains gave dignity to Chalons and Borodino ; 
the magic of the desert encompassed Arbela and Omdurman ; or 
some fantasy of weather lent strangeness to death, like the snow 
at Austerlitz or the harvest moon at Chattanooga, against which 
was silhouetted Sheridan's charge. Ypres was stark carnage and 
grim endurance, without glamour of earth or sky. The sullen 
heavens hung low over the dank fields, the dripping woods, the 
mean houses, and all the sour and unsightly land. It was such a 
struggle as Lee's Wilderness stand, where, amid tattered scrub 
and dismal swamps, the ragged soldiers of the Confederacy fought 
their last battles. The worst danger lay in the re-entrants of the 
Salient, to the north between Bixschoote and Zonnebeke, and 
to the south between Zandvoorde and Messines. The Germans, 
confident in their numbers, attacked both, and they also drove 
hard against the point of the bastion in front of Gheluvelt. 
As time went on, their main efforts tended to concentrate on the 
southern re-entrant, where were the cavalry and the right of the 
7th Division. 

Very early on Thursday, the 29th, in a sudden spell of clear 
weather, the first wave broke against the centre of the ist Corps 
at the point of the Salient on the Gheluvelt cross-roads. The ist 
Division was driven back from its trenches, and all morning the 
line swayed backwards and forwards. It was an enemy reconnais- 
sance to prepare the way for von Fabeck. Before the dark we had 
recaptured the ridge at Kruseik, and the front line was reconstituted. 
South of Kruseik the fighting fell chiefly to Byng's cavalry, while 
on Pulteney's front there was an attack on Le Gheir and in the 
Ploegsteert Wood. 

The 30th was the day fixed for the main German attack. The 
Duke of Wiirtemberg was to press hard on his left against Bix- 
schoote and Langemarck, while the left of a new Reserve Corps, 
the 27th, was directed on Gheluvelt. South of it, against the 
southern side and the southern re-entrant of the Salient, moved 


von Fabeck — his 15th Corps under Deimling south of the Menin 
road, and his 2nd Bavarian Corps against the Messines ridge. 

Daylight had scarcely come when the battle began. Wiirtem- 
berg attacked with his three new reserve corps, took the ruins 
of Bixschoote, but failed to drive the French from Langemarck. 
The impact of von Fabeck was first felt by Byng's cavalry on the 
Zandvoorde ridge. The Germans, who had a great weight of 
heavy artillery, simply blew the British trenches to pieces. One 
troop was buried alive, and soon the whole division was compelled 
to fall back a mile to the ridge of Klein Zillebeke on the north. 
The right of the ist Division was thus uncovered, and had to 
retire to conform, and the Gheluvelt Salient was made so much 
the sharper. Allenby sent up supports, and with their assistance 
Byng held the Klein Zillebeke position till the evening, when 
Lord Cavan's 4th (Guards) Brigade from the 2nd Division arrived 
and took over the line. Haig resolved that the front from Gheluvelt 
to the angle of the canal south of Klein Zillebeke must be held at 
all costs. He accordingly brought the 2nd Brigade to the rear of 
the line held by the ist Division and Cavan's 4th Brigade, placed 
a battalion in reserve at Hooge, and borrowed from the French 
9th Corps three battalions and one cavalry brigade. The situa- 
tion was desperately critical. If the Germans got to the Ypres- 
Comines canal at any point north of Hollebeke they would speedily 
cut the communications of the ist Corps holding the Salient, 
and nothing would lie between them and Ypres itself. The 
Emperor was with his men, and had told the Bavarians that the 
winning of the town would determine the issue of the war. It 
would certainly have determined the fate of the ist Corps, which 
would have been wholly isolated and destroyed. 

Nor was the peril at Klein Zillebeke all. Farther south the 2nd 
Cavalry Division had been driven out of Hollebeke, and had fallen 
back on St. Eloi, on the Ypres-Armentieres road. The ist Cavalry 
Division sent help, and were presently themselves in heavy conflict 
round Messines, which was bombarded by the German howitzers. 
Pulteney, too, in the south had the line of the nth Brigade broken 
at St. Yves, but the situation was saved by a spirited counter- 
attack. It was becoming clear that he would have to extend his 
already attenuated line, for the ist Cavalry Division on his left 
must be supported. Reinforcements had already come up from 
the 2nd Corps. Four battalions, which had been relieved by the 
Indian troops, were posted at Neuve Eglise, on the road between 
Messines and Bailleul, as reserves for the cavalry. Lastly, to 


conclude the events of this day, the 7th Division north of Zand- 
voorde was given no peace. The Alhed Hne at this point was 
now retired to just east of Gheluvelt, where was the 7th Division, 
and to the corner of the canal near Klein Zillebeke, where were the 
2nd and 4th Brigades, assisted by General Moussy's troops from 
the 9th French Corps, and with the 3rd Cavalry Division in 

Next day came the crisis. The fighting began early along the 
Menin-Ypres road, and presently the attack developed in great 
force against Gheluvelt village. The ist Division was driven back 
from Gheluvelt to the woods between Hooge and Veldhoek. The 
headquarters at Hooge of the ist and 2nd Divisions were shelled. 
General Lomax was badly wounded, General Monro stunned, six of 
their staff officers were killed, and the command of the ist Division 
passed to General Landon of the 3rd Brigade. Meantime the falling 
back of this part of the Hne menaced the flank of the 7th Division. 
On the right of that division Bulfin's detachment, consisting of the 
2nd and 4th Brigades, which had been brought there from the ist 
Corps, was exposed by the attack on its left-hand neighbours. 
The 2nd Brigade fell back just as the right of the 7th Division, 
having been reinforced, advanced again. This right — the 20th 
Brigade — was once more exposed, but it managed to cling to its 
trenches till the evening. On Bulfin's right Moussy, with his 
troops of the 9th French Corps, was struggling hard to keep the 
line intact towards Klein Zillebeke. He had come to the British 
assistance in the nick of time, as sixty years before the French 
army at the same season of the year had come to our aid at Inker- 
man. He held the line, but he could make no advance to relieve 
the sore-pressed 2nd and 4th Brigades. Indeed, at one moment 
it looked as if he might have to yield, but he saved himself by 
novel reinforcements. He bade the corporal commanding his 
escort collect every available man, from cooks to cuirassiers. 
It was a repetition of Bruce's camp followers at Bannockburn, 
or the charge of Sir John Moore's ambulance men in the retreat 
to Corunna. The bold adventure prospered, and Moussy was 
able to hold his ground. 

Meantime Allenby's cavalry farther south were also in straits. 
He had the whole hne to hold from Klein Zillebeke by Hollebeke 
to south of Messines, and his sole reinforcements at the time were 
the two much exhausted battalions of the 7th Indian Brigade 
sent up from the 2nd Corps. Byng, who had his 3rd Cavalry 
Division at Hooge, pushed forward Kavanagh's 7th Brigade, which 


took up the line south of the canal near Hollebeke, while the 6th 
Brigade was ordered to clear the woods between Hooge and Ghelu- 
velt. Even with this assistance Allenby had no light task. He 
had to hold up the advance of two nearly fresh German corps till 
such time as Conneau could be brought from the south and the 
troops of the French i6th Corps could arrive. Hollebeke and 
most of the Messines ridge were lost, and the position there was not 
the least desperate of that desperate day. 

Between two and three o'clock on Saturday, the 31st, was the 
most critical hour in the whole battle. The ist Division had 
fallen back from Gheluvelt to a line resting on the junction of the 
Frezenberg road with the Ypres-Menin highway. It had suffered 
terribly, and its general had been sorely wounded. On its right 
the 7th Division had been bent back to the Klein Zillebeke ridge, 
while Bulfin's two brigades were just holding on, as was Moussy 
on their right. Allenby's cavalry were fighting an apparently 
hopeless battle on a long line, and it seemed as if the slightest for- 
ward pressure would crumble the Ypres defence. The enemy was 
beginning to pour through the Gheluvelt gap, and at the same 
time pressed hard on the whole arc of the SaHent. There were 
no reserves except an odd battalion or two and some regiments of 
cavalry, all of which had already been sorely tried during the 
past days. French sent an urgent message to Foch for rein- 
forcements, and was refused. At the end of the battle he learned 
the reason. Foch had none to send, and his own losses had been 
greater than ours. Between 2 and 2.30 Haig was on the Menin 
road, grappling with the crisis. It seemed impossible to stop 
the gap, though on its northern side some South Wales Borderers 
were gallantly holding a sunken road and galling the flank of 
the German advance. He gave orders to retire to a hne a little 
west of Hooge and stand there, though he well knew that no stand, 
however heroic, could save the town. He foresaw a retirement 
west of Ypres, and French, who had joined him, agreed. 

And then suddenly out of the void came a strange story. A 
white-faced staff officer reported that something odd was happen- 
ing north of the Menin road. The enemy advance had halted ! 
Then came the word that the ist Division was re-forming. The 
anxious generals could scarcely believe their ears, for it sounded a 
sheer miracle. But presently came the proof, though it was not for 
months that the full tale was known. Brigadier-General Fitz- 
Clarence, commanding the ist (Guards) Brigade in the ist Division, 
had sent in his last reserves and failed to stop the gap. He then 

The Battlefield of Ypres: Winter 
Froyn a painting, by D. Y. Cameron, R.A. 

1914] THE 2ND WORCESTERS. 363 

rode off to the headquarters of the division to explain how des- 
perate was the position. But on the way, at the south-west corner 
of the Polygon Wood, he stumbled upon a battalion waiting in 
support. It was the 2nd Worcesters,* who were part of the right 
brigade of the 2nd Division. FitzClarence saw in them his last 
chance. They belonged to another division, but it was no time 
to stand on ceremony, and the officer in command at once put 
them at his disposal. The Worcesters, under very heavy artillery 
fire, advanced in a series of rushes for about