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I 



Prof. Samuel L.Bigelow I 



f-.y.'-rW-S 



10 ii. 




el. 




MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



Going to War in Greece 

The Ways of the Service 

The Vagabond 

With Kuroki in Manchuria 

Over the Pass 

The Last Shot 

Mt Year of the Great War 



MY YEAR OF THE 

GREAT WAR 



BY 

FREDERICK PALMER 

Author of "The Last Shot," "With Kuroki io Manchuria," 



a 



The Vagabond/ 9 etc. 







NEW YORK 
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 

1916 



CorauoHT, 191S 
BT DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 



First Edition Octobes 
Second. Third and Fourth Editions Novrmbm 

Fifth and Sixth Editions Dicimbm 
Seventh Edition Jaitoaiy, 1916. 



Printed in U.S.A. 



/ 
r • 



v;U/ «> *— * < N '**♦" 



- 1 f 



i/*-jf 



TO THE READER 

In "The Last Shot," which appeared only a few 
months before the Great War began, drawing from 
my experience in many wars, I attempted to describe 
the character of a conflict between two great European 
land-powers, such as France and Germany. 

" You were wrong in some ways," a friend writes 
to me, " but in other ways it is almost as if you had 
written a play and they were following your script 
and stage business." 

Wrong as to the duration of the struggle and its 
bitterness ; right about the part which artillery would 
play; right in suggesting the stalemate of intrench- 
ments when vast masses of troops occupied the length 
of a frontier. Had the Germans not gone through 
Belgium and attacked on the shorter line of the Franco- 
German boundary, the parallel of fact with that of 
prediction would have been more complete. As for 
the ideal of " The Last Shot," we must await the out- 
come to see how far it shall be fulfilled by a lasting 
peace. 
J Then my friend asks, "How does it make you 

feel?" Not as a prophet; only as an eager ob- 
server, who finds that imagination pales beside reality. 
If sometimes an incident seemed a page out of my 
> novel, I was reminded how much better I might have 

done that page from life ; and from life I am writing 
now. 

I have seen too much of the war and yet not enough 
to assume the pose of a military expert ; which is easy 
when seated in a chair at home before maps and news 
despatches, but becomes fantastic after one has lived 



1 





vi TO THE READER 

at the front One waits on more information before 
he forms conclusions about campaigns. He is certain 
only that the Marne was a decisive battle for civilisa- 
tion; that if England had not gone into the war the 
Germanic Powers would have won in three months. 

No words can exaggerate the heroism and sacrifice 
of the French or the importance of the part which the 
British have played, which we shall not realise till the 
war is over. In England no newspapers were sup- 
pressed; casualty lists were given out; she gave pub- 
licity to dissensions and mistakes which others con- 
cealed, in keeping with her ancient birthright of free 
institutions which work out conclusions through dis- 
cussion rather than taking them ready-made from any 
ruler or leader. 

Whatever value this book has is the reflection of 
personal observation and the thoughts which have oc- 
curred to me when I have walked around my experi- 
ences and measured them and found what was worth 
while and what was not Such as they are, they are 
real. 

Most vital of all in sheer expression of military 
power was the visit to the British Grand Fleet; most 
humanly appealing, the time spent in Belgium under 
German rule; most dramatic, the French victory on 
the Marne ; most precious, my long stay at the British 
front. 

A traveller's view I had of Germany in the early 
period of the war ; but I was never with the German 
army which made Americans particularly welcome for 
obvious reasons. Between right and wrong one can- 
not be a neutral. By foregoing the diversion of shak- 
ing hands and passing the time of day on the Germanic 
fronts, I escaped having to be agreeable to hosts war- 



TO THE READER vii 

ring for a cause and in a manner obnoxious to me. I 
was among friends, living the life of one army and 
seeing war in all its aspects from day to day, instead 
of having tourist glimpses. 

Chapters which deal with the British army in 
France and with the British fleet have been submitted 
to the censor. In all, possibly one typewritten page 
fell foul of the blue pencil. Though the censor may 
delete military secrets, he may not prompt opinions. 
Whatever notes of praise and of affection which you 
may read between the lines or in them spring from 
the mind and heart. Undemonstratively, cheerily as 
they would go for a walk, with something of old-fash- 
ioned chivalry, the British went to death. 

Their national weaknesses and strength, revealed 
under external differences by association, are more 
akin to ours than we shall realise until we face our own 
inevitable crisis. Though one's ancestors had been in 
America for nearly three centuries and had fought 
the British twice for a good cause he was continually 
finding how much of custom, of law, of habit, and of 
instinct he had in common with them ; and how Ameri- 
cans who were not of British blood also shared these 
as an applied inheritance that has been the most forma- 
tive element in the crucible of the races which has pro- 
duced the American type. 

My grateful acknowledgments are due to the 
American press associations who considered me 
worthy to be the accredited American correspondent 
at the British front, and to Collier's and Everybody's; 
and may an author who has not had the opportunity 
to read proofs request the reader's indulgence. 

Frederick Palmer* 
British Headquarters, France, 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I Who Started It? i 

II "Lb Brave BblgbI" ao 

III Moms and Paris 39 

IV Paris Wars 36 

V On the Heels op Von Kluck 47 

VI And Calais Waits 73 

VII In Germany 8a 

VIII How the Kaiser Leads . . . , 95 

IX In Belgium Under the Germans 113 

X Christmas in Belgium 129 

XI The Future op Belgium 143 

XII Winter in Lorraine 159 

XIII Smiles Among Ruins 177 

XIV A Road op War I Know 200 

XV Trenches in Winter 014 

XVI In Neuvb Chapelle 226 

XVII With the Irish 046 

XVIII With the Guns 26a 

XIX Archibald the Archer 084 

XX Trenches in Summer 090 

XXI A School in Bombing 310 

XXII Mr Best Day at the Front 316 

XXIII More Best Day 335 

XXIV Winning and Losing 344 

XXV The Maple Leap Folk 350 

XXVI Finding the British Fleet 368 

XXVII On a Destroyer , , 374 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER FAOB 

XXVIII Ships That Have Fought 378 

XXIX On thi " Inflexible " 393 

XXX On the Fleet Flagship 400 

XXXI Simply Hard Work 412 

XXXII Hunting the Submarine 431 

XXXIII The Fleet Puts to Sea 425 

XXXIV Many Pictures 433 

XXXV British Problems 446 



MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 



t 

WHO STARTED IT? 

The ultimate arbitrament — The diplomatist's status-* The causes 
in the aims and ideals of the peoples — Europe's economic rela- 
tion to the rest of the world — The economic cause — "Biological 
necessity " — England's position — Her complacency — The " Ger- 
man Wedge" — The German system — Modern efficiency meth- 
ods — "A machine civil world" — The Kaiser's mission — A 
German the world over — Germany's plans and ambitions — 
Her war spirit — Activities in Italy — The Austrian situation — 
The Slav-Teuton racial hatred — France, a nation with a closed- 
in culture — The Kaiser's "peace" — The Germanic "isolation." 

Who started it? Who is to blame? The courts 
decide the point when there is a quarrel between 
Smith and Jones; and it is the ethics of simple jus- 
tice that no friend of Smith or Jones should act as 
judge. When the quarrel is between nations, the 
neutral world turns to the diplomatic correspondence 
which preceded the breaking-off of relations ; and only 
one who is a neutral can hope to weigh impartially 
the evidence on both sides. For war is the highest 
degree of partisanship. Every one engaged is a spe- 
cial pleader. 

I, too, have read the White and Blue and Yellow 
and Green Papers. Others have analysed them in 
detail ; I shall not attempt it. One learned less from 
their dignified phraseology than from the human mo- 
tives that he read between the lines. Each was aim- 
ing to make out the best case for its own side ; aiming 
to put the heart of justice into the blows of its arms. 
Obviously, the diplomatist is an attorney for a client. 



I MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Incidentally, the whole training of his profession is 
to try to prevent war. He does try to prevent it; 
so does every right-minded man. It is a horror and 
a scourge, to be avoided as you would avoid leprosy. 
When it does come, the diplomatist's business is to 
place all the blame for it with the enemy. 

One must go many years back of the dates of the 
State papers to find the cause of the Great War. He 
must go into the hearts of the people who are fight- 
ing, into their aims and ambitions, which diplomatists 
make plausible according to international law. More 
illumining than the pamphlets embracing an exchange 
of despatches was the remark of a practical German : 
" Von Bethmann-Hollweg made a slip when he talked 
of a treaty as a scrap of paper and about hacking his 
way through. That had a bad effect." 

Equally pointed was the remark of a practical 
Briton : " It was a good thing that the Germans vio- 
lated the neutrality of Belgium; otherwise, we might 
not have gone in, which would have been fatal for us. 
If Germany had crushed France and kept the Chan- 
nel ports, the next step would have been a war in 
which we should have had to deal with her single- 
handed." 

I would rather catch the drift of a nation's purpose 
from the talk of statesmen in the lobby or in the club 
than from their official pronouncements. Von Beth- 
mann-Hollweg had said in public what was universally 
accepted in private. He had let the cat out of the 
bag. England's desire to preserve the neutrality of 
Belgium was not altogether ethical. If Belgium's 
coast had been on the Adriatic rather than on the 
British Channel, her wrongs would not have had the 
support of British arms. 



WHO STARTED IT? 3 

Great moral causes were at stake in the Great 
War; but they are inextricably mixed with cool, na- 
tional self-interest and racial hatreds, which are also 
dictated by self-interest, though not always by the 
interests of the human race. One who sees the strug- 
gle of Europe as a spectator, with no hatred in his 
heart except of war itself, finds prejudice and 
efficiency, folly and merciless logic, running in com- 
pany. He would return to the simplest principles, 
human principles, to avoid confusion in his own mind. 
Not of Europe, he studies Europe; he wonders at 
Europe. 

On a map of the world twice the size of a foolscap 
page, the little finger's end will cover the area of the 
struggle. Europe is a very small section of the earth's 
surface, indeed. Yet at the thought of a great 
European war, all the other peoples drew their breath 
aghast. When the catastrophe came, all were af- 
fected in their most intimate relations, in their income, 
and in their intellectual life. Rare was the mortal 
who did not find himself taking sides in what would 
have seemed to an astronomer on Mars as a local ter- 
restrial upheaval. 

From Europe have gone forth the waves of vigour 
and enterprise which have had the greatest influence 
on the rest of the world, in much the same way that 
they went forth from Rome over the then known 
world. The war in this respect was like the great 
Roman civil war. The dominating power of our civ- 
ilisation was at war with itself. Draw a circle around 
England, Scandinavia, the Germanic countries, and 
France, and you have the hub from which the spokes 
radiate to the immense wheel-rim. It is a region 
which cannot feed its mouths from its own soil, though 



4 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

it could amply a little more than a century ago in the 
Napoleonic struggle. In a sense, then, it is a physical 
parasite on the rest of the world; a parasite which, 
however, has given its intellectual energy in return for 
food for its body. 

This war had for its object the delivery of no people 
from bondage, except the Belgians after the war had 
begun; it had no religious purpose such as the Cru- 
sades; it was not the uprising of democracy like the 
French Revolution. Those who charged the machine 
guns and the wives and mothers who urged them on 
were unconscious of the real force disguised by their 
patriotic fervour. Ask a man to die for money and he 
refuses. Ask him to die in order that he may have 
more butter on his bread and he refuses. This is put- 
ting the cause of war too bluntly. It is insulting to 
courage and to self-sacrifice, assessing them as some- 
thing set on a counter for sale. For nations do not 
know why they fight, as a rule. Processes of evolution 
and chains of events arouse their patriotic ardour and 
their martial instinct till the climax comes in blows. 

The cause of the European war is economic; and, by 
the same token, Europe kept the peace for forty years 
for economic reasons. She was busy skimming the 
cream of the resources of other countries. Hers was 
the capital, the skill, the energy, the morale, the cul- 
ture, for exploiting the others. All modern invention 
originated with her or with the offspring of her races 
beyond seas. Steamers brought her raw material, 
which she sent back in manufactures ; they took forth, 
in place of the buccaneers of former days seeking gold, 
her financiers, engineers, salesmen, and teachers, who 
returned with tribute or sent back the interest on the 
capital they had applied to enterprise. She looked 



WHO STARTED IT? 5 

down on the rest of the world with something of the 
Roman patrician feeling of superiority to outsiders. 

But also the medical scientist kept pace with other 
scientists and with invention. Sanitation and the 
preservation of life led to an amazing rapidity of in- 
crease in population. There were more mouths to 
feed and more people who must have work and share 
the tribute. Without the increase of population it is 
possible that we should not have had war. Biological 
necessity played its part in bringing on the struggle, 
along with economic pressure. The richest veins of 
the mines of other lands, the most accessible wood of 
the forests, were taken, and a higher rate of living all 
oyer Europe increased the demand of the numbers. 

Most fortunate of all the European peoples were 
the British. Most significant in this material progress 
was the part of Germany. England had a narrow 
stretch of salt water between her and the other nations. 
They could fight one another by crossing a land fron- 
tier; to fight her, they must cross in ships. She had 
the advantage of being of Europe and yet separated 
from Europe. All the seas were the secure pathway 
for her trade, guaranteed for a century by the victory 
of Trafalgar. By war she had won her sea power; 
by war she was the mistress of many colonies. Ger- 
many's increasing mercantile marine had to travel 
from a narrow sea front through the channel called 
British. Rich was England's heritage beyond her own 
realisation. Hers the accumulated capital; hers the 
field of resources under her own flag to exploit. 

But she had done more. Through a century's ex- 
perience she had learned the strength of moderation. 
What she had won by war she was holding by wisdom. 
If some one must guard the seas, if some one must 



6 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

have dominion over brown and yellow races, she was 
well fitted for the task. Wherever she had dominion, 
whether Bombay or Hongkong, there was freedom in 
trade and in development for all men. We who have 
travelled recognise this. 

When the war began, South Africa had no British 
regular garrisons, but the Boers, a people who had lost 
their nation in war with her fifteen years before, took 
up arms under her flag to invade a German colony. 
India without a parliament, India ruled by English 
governors, sent her troops to fight in France. In place 
of sedition, loyalty from a brave and hardy white 
people of another race and from hundreds of millions 
of brown men I Such power is not gained by war, but 
by the policy of fair play; of live and let live. Mea- 
surably, she held in trust those distant lands for the 
other progressive nations; she was the policeman of 
wide domains. Certainly no neutral, at least no 
American, envied her the task. Certainly no neutral, 
for selfish reasons if for no other, would want to risk 
chaos throughout the world by the transfer of that 
power to another nation. 

England was satiated, as Admiral Mahan said. 
She had gained all that she cared to hold. It is not too 
much to say that, of late years, colonies might come 
begging to her doorstep and be refused. Those who 
held her wealth were complacent as well as satiated — 
which was her danger. For complacency goes with 
satiation. But she, too, was suffering from having 
skimmed the cream, for want of mines and concessions 
as rich as those which had filled her coffers, and from 
the demand of the increased population become used 
to a higher rate of living. Her vast, accumulated 
wealth in investments the world over was in relatively 



WHO STARTED IT? 7 

few hands. In no great European country, perhaps, 
was wealth more unevenly distributed. Her old age 
pensions and many social reforms of recent years arose 
from a restlessness, locally intensified but not alone of 
local origin. 

Another flag was appearing too frequently in her 
channel. A wedge was being forced into her com- 
placency. A competitor who worked twelve hours a 
day, while complacency preferred eight or ten, met the 
Englishman at every turn. A navy was growing in the 
Baltic; taxes pressed heavily on complacency to keep up 
a navy stronger than the young rival's. Who really 
was to blame for the clerks 9 pay being kept down, while 
the cost of living went up ? That cheap-living German 
clerk ! What capitalist was pressing the English cap- 
italist ? The German ! The newspapers were always 
hinting at the German danger. Certain interests in 
England, as in any other country, were glad to find a 
scapegoat. Why should Germany want colonies when 
England ruled her colonies so well ? Germany — al- 
ways Germany, whatever way you looked, Germany 
with her seventy millions, aggressive, enterprising, in- 
dustrious, organised ! The pressure of the wedge kept 
increasing. Something must break. 

Does any one doubt that if Germany had been in 
England's place she would have struck the rival in the 
egg? But that is not the way of complacency. Nor 
is it the way of that wisdom of moderation, that live 
and let live, which has kept the British Empire intact. 

Germany wanted room for her wedge. In Central 
Europe, with foes on either side, she had to hold two 
land frontiers before she could start her sea wedge. 
She was the more readily convinced that England had 
won all she held by war because modern Germany was 



« MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the product of war. By war Prussia won Schleswig- 
Holstein ; by war Germany won Alsace-Lorraine, and 
welded the Germanic peoples into a whole. It was 
only natural that the German public should be loyal to 
the system that had fathered German success. 

Thus, England reveres its Wellingtons, Nelsons, 
Pitts, and maintains the traditions of the regiments 
which fought for her. Thus, we are loyal to the Con- 
stitution of the United States, because it was drafted 
by the forefathers who made the nation. If it had 
been drafted in the thirties we should think it more 
fallible. It is the nature of individuals, of business 
concerns, of nations, to hold with the methods that laid 
the foundations of success till some cataclysm shows 
that they are wrong or antiquated. This reckoning 
may be sudden loss of his position in a crisis for the 
individual, bankruptcy for the business concern, war 
for the nation. One sticks to the doctor who cured 
him when he was young and perhaps goes to an early 
grave because that doctor has grown out of date. 

The old Kaiser, Bismarck, and von Moltke laid the 
basis of the German system. It was industry, unity, 
and obedience to superiors, from bottom to top. Un- 
der it, if not because of it, Germany became a mighty 
national entity. Another Kaiser, who had the merit of 
making the most of his inheritance, with other generals 
and leaders, brought modern methods to the service of 
the successful system. A new, up-to-date doctor suc- 
ceeded the old, with the inherited authority of the old. 

That aristocratic, exclusive German officer, staring 
at you, elbowing you if you did not give him right of 
way in the street, seemed to express insufferable caste 
to the outsider. But he was a part of the system which 
had won j and he worked longer hours than the officers 



WHO STARTED IT? 9 

of other European armies. Seeming to enjoy enor- 
mous privileges, he was really a circumscribed being, 
subject to all the rigid discipline that he demanded of 
others, bred and fashioned for war. Wherever I 
have met foreign military attaches observing other 
wars, the German was the busiest one, the most per- 
sistent and resourceful after information; and he was 
not acting on his own initiative, but under careful 
instructions of a staff who knew exactly what it wanted 
to know; " Germany shall be first I " was his motto; 
" Germany shall be first I " the motto of all Germans. 

In the same way that von Moltke constructed his 
machine army, the Germany of the young Kaiser set 
out to construct a machine civil world. He had a 
public which was ready to be moulded, because plas- 
ticity to the master's hand had beaten France. Drill, 
application, and discipline had done the trick for von 
Moltke — these and leadership. The new method 
was economic education plus drill, application, and 
discipline. 

It is not for me to describe the industrial beehive of 
modern Germahy. The world knows it well. The 
Kaiser, who led, worked as hard as the humblest of his 
subjects. From the top came the impetus which the 
leaders passed on. Germany looked for worlds to 
conquer; England had conquered hers. The energy 
of increasing population overflowed from the bound- 
aries, pushing that wedge closer home to an England 
growing more irritably apprehensive. 

Wherever the traveller went he found Germans, 
whether waiters, or capitalists, or salesmen, learning 
the language of the country where they lived, making 
place for themselves by their industry. Germany was 
struggling for room, and the birth rate was increasing 



io MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the excess of population. The business of German 
nationalism was to keep them all in Germany and 
mould them into so much more power behind the sea 
wedge. The German teaching — that teaching of a 
partisan youth which is never complacent — did not 
contemplate a world composed of human beings, but a 
world composed of Germans, loyal to the Kaiser, and 
others who were not. Within that tiny plot on the 
earth's surface the German system was giving more 
people a livelihood and more comforts for their re- 
sources than anywhere else, unless in Belgium. 

Germany and her Kaiser believed that she had a 
mission and the right to more room. Wherever there 
was an opportunity she appeared with his aggressive 
paternalism to get ground for Germanic seed. The 
experience of her opportunistic fishing in the troubled 
waters of Manila Bay in '98 is still fresh in the 
minds of many Americans. She went into China dur- 
ing the Boxer rebellion in the same spirit. She had 
her foot thrust into every doorway ajar and was push- 
ing with all her organised imperial might, which kept 
growing. 

I never think of modern Germany without calling to 
mind two Germans who seem to me to illustrate Ger- 
man strength — and weakness. In a compartment 
on a train from Berlin to Holland some years ago, an 
Englishman was saying that Germany was a balloon 
which would burst. He called the Kaiser a vain mad- 
man and set his free English tongue on his dislike of 
Prussian boorishness, aggressiveness, and verbotens. 
I told him that I should never choose to live in Prussia ; 
I preferred England or France ; but I thought that Eng- 
land was closing her eyes to Germany's development. 
The Kaiser seemed to me a very clever man, his people 



WHO STARTED IT? u 

on the whole loyal to him; while it was wonderful 
how so great a population had been organised and 
cared for. We might learn the value of co-ordination 
from Germany, without adopting militarism or other 
characteristics which we disliked. 

The Englishman thought that I was pro-German. 
For in Europe one must always be pro or anti some- 
thing; Francophile or Francophobe, Germanophile or 
Germanophobe. I noticed the train-guard listening at 
intervals to our discussion. Perhaps he knew English. 
Many German train guards do. Few English or 
French train-guards know any but their own language. 
This also is suggestive, if you care to take it that way. 

When I left the train, the guard, instead of a porter, 
took my bag to the custom house. Probably he was 
of a mind to add to his income, I thought. After I 
was through the customs he put my bag in a compart- 
ment of the Dutch train. When I offered him a tip, 
the manner of his refusal made me feel rather mean. 
He saluted and clicked his heels together and said: 
" Thank you, sir, for what you said about my Em- 
peror I " and with a military step marched back to the 
German train. How he had boiled inwardly as he 
listened to the Englishman and held his temper, think- 
ing that " the day " was coming ! 

The second German was first mate of a little Ger- 
man steamer on the Central American coast. The 
mark of German thoroughness was on him. He spoke 
English and Spanish well; he was highly efficient, so 
far as I could tell. After passing through the Straits 
of Magellan, the steamer went as far as Vancouver in 
British Columbia. Its traffic was the small kind which 
the English did not find worth while, but which tireless 
Qerm^n capability in details and cheap labour made 



12 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

profitable. The steamer stopped at every small West, 
South, and Central American and Mexican port to take 
on and leave cargo. At any hour of the night anchor 
was dropped, perhaps in a heavy ground-swell and 
almost invariably in intense tropical heat. Sometimes 
a German coffee planter came on board and had a glass 
of beer with the captain and the mate. For nearly all 
the rich Guatemala coffee estates had passed into Ger- 
man hands. The Guatemaltecan dictator taxed the 
native owners bankrupt and the Germans, in collusion 
with him, bought in the estates. 

Life for that mate was a battle with filthy cargo- 
dores in stifling heat; he snatched his sleep when he 
might between ports. The steamer was in Hamburg 
to dock and refit once a year. Then he saw his wife 
and children for at most a month ; sometimes for only 
a week. In any essay-contest on " Is Life Worth Liv- 
ing? M it seemed to me he ought to win the prize for 
the negative side. 

11 Since I have been on this run I have seen Cali- 
fornia ranches," he said. " If I had come out to Cal- 
ifornia fifteen years ago, when I thought of emigrating 
to America, by working half as hard as I have 
worked — and that would be harder than most Cali- 
fornia ranchers work — I could have had my own plot 
of ground and my own house and lived at home with 
my family. But when I spoke of emigrating I was 
warned against it. Maybe you don't know that the 
local officials have orders to dissuade intending emi- 
grants from their purpose. They told me that the 
United States and Canada were lands of graft, injus- 
tice, and disorder, where native Americans formed a 
caste which kept all immigrants at manual labour. I 
should be robbed and forced to work for the trusts for 



WHO STARTED IT? 13 

a pittance. Instead of an imperial government to 
protect me, I should be exploited by millionaire kings. 
Wasn't I a German? Wasn't I loyal to my Kaiser? 
Would I forfeit my nationality ? This appeal decided 
me. And I am too old, now, to start at ranching." 

Had I been one of those wicked millionaire kings 
of the United States or Canada, I should have set this 
man up on a ranch, believing that he was not yet too 
old to make good in a new land if he were given a 
fair start, knowing that he would pay back the capital 
with interest; and I have known wicked millionaire 
kings to be guilty of such lapses as this from their 
tyranny. 

The imperial German system wanted his earning 
power and energy back of the sea wedge. German 
steamship companies promoted emigration from Hun- 
gary, Russia, and Italy for the fares it brought. The 
German government, however, took care that the 
steamship companies carried no German emigrants; 
and it ruled that no Russian peasant or Polish Jew 
bound for Hamburg or Bremen on the way to America 
might stop over en route across Germany, lest he stay. 
Russians and Poles and Jews were not desirable ma- 
terial for the German sea wedge. Let them go into 
the pot-au-feu of the capacious and indiscriminating 
American melting-pot, which may yet make something 
of them that will surprise the chauvinists. 

Breed more Germans ; keep them fed, clothed, em- 
ployed, organised industrially, educated! Don't re- 
lieve the economic pressure by emigration or by lower- 
ing the birth rate ! Keep up the military spirit ! De- 
velop the money spirit I Instilled with loyalty to the 
Kaiser, with a sense of. superiority in industry and 
training as well as of racial superiority, the German 



i 4 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

felt himself the victim of a world injustice. He saw 
complacent England living on the fat of empire. He 
saw America with its rich resources and lack of civil 
organisation and discipline and its waste individual 
effort. 

If the United States only would not play the dog in 
the manger 1 If Germany could apply the magic of 
her system to Mexico or Central America, what tribute 
that would bring home to Berlin! Consider organ- 
ised German industrialism working India for all that 
it was worth I Or Zanzibar ! Or the Straits Settle- 
ments! Germany had the restless ambition, with an 
undercurrent of resentment, of the young manager 
with modern methods who wants to supplant the old 
manager and his old-fogy methods — an old manager 
set in his way, but a very kindly, sound old manager, 
to whose ways the world had grown accustomed. 

Taxes for armament, and particularly for that new 
navy, lay heavily on Germany, too. Driving the 
wedge by peaceful means became increasingly difficult. 
It needed the blow of war to split open the way to rich 
fields. The war spirit lost nothing by Germany's 
sense of isolation. For this isolation England was to 
blame ; she and the alliances which King Edward had 
formed around her. England was to blame for every- 
thing. Germany could not be to blame for anything. 
The national rival is always the scapegoat of patriot- 
ism. So Germany prepared to strike, as one prepares 
to build and open a store or to put on a play. 

Where forty years ago the Englishman, with his 
aggressive ways, was the unpopular traveller in 
Europe, the German had become most disliked. In 
Italy, with his expanding industry, he ran many hotels. 
His success and his personal manners combined to 



WHO STARTED IT? 15 

make the sensitive Italian loathe him. Thus, he 
sowed the seed of popular feeling which broke in a 
wave that forced Italy into the war. 

Germany thought of England as too selfish and cun- 
ning in her complacency really to come to the aid of 
France and Russia. She would stay out; and had she 
stayed out, Germany would have crushed Russia and 
then turned on France. But Germany did not know 
England any better than England knew Germany. 
The jaundiced mists of chauvinism kept even high lead- 
ers from seeing their adversaries clearly. 

Austria, too, was feeling economic pressure. Her 
people, especially the Hungarians, looked toward the 
southeast for expansion. Her shrewd statesmanship, 
its instincts inherited from the Hapsburg dynasty, 
playing race hatred against race hatred and bound, so 
it looked, to national disruption, welcomed any oppor- 
tunity which would set the mind of the whole people 
thinking of some exterior object rather than of internal 
differences. She annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina with 
its Slav population at a moment when Russia was not 
prepared to aid her kindred. Bosnia and Herzego- 
vina are better off for the annexation; they have 
enjoyed rapid material progress as the result. 

Bounded by the Danube and the Turk were the 
Balkan countries, which ought to be the garden spot of 
civilisation. Here, poverty aggravated racial hate 
and racial hate aggravated poverty in a vicious circle. 
Serbia, longest free of the Turk, adjoining Austria, 
had no outlet except through other lands. She was a 
commercial slave of Austria, dependent on Austrian 
tariffs and Austrian railroads, with Hungarian business 
men holding the purse-strings of trade. In her swine- 
herds and tillers the desire for some of the good things 



1 6 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

of modern life was developing. Strangling, with 
Austria's hands at her throat, with many clever, re- 
sourceful agitators urging her on, she fought in the 
only way that she knew. To Austria she was the un- 
couth swineherd who assassinated the Austrian Crown 
Prince and his consort. This deed was the exterior 
object which united Austria in a passionate rage. For 
Austria, more than any other country, could welcome 
war for the old reason. It let out the emotion of the 
nation against an enemy instead of against its own 
rulers. 

A deeper-seated cause was the racial hatred of Slav 
and Teuton. For rulers do not make war these days ; 
they try to keep their thrones secure on the crest of 
public opinion. They appear to rule and to give, and 
are ruled and yield. Whoever had travelled in Russia 
of late years had been conscious of a rising ground- 
swell in the great mass of Russian feeling. Your sim- 
ple moujik had an idea that his Czar had yielded to the 
Austrians and the Germans. In short, the German 
had tweaked the nose of the Slav race with the annexa- 
tion of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Czar had borne 
the insult because his people were willing. 

Slow to think, and not thinking overmuch, the Rus- 
sian peasant began to see red whenever he thought of 
a German. As a whole public thinks, eventually its 
rulers must think. The upper class of Russia was in- 
clined to fan the flames of the people's passions. If 
the people were venting their emotions against the 
Teuton they would not be developing further revolu- 
tions against the old order of things. The military 
class was prompt to make use of the national tendency 
to strengthen military resources. By action and re- 



WHO STARTED IT? 17 

action across the frontiers the strain was increasing. 
Germany saw Russia with double her own population 
and was sensitive to the dangers behind Russia's am- 
bitions. Russia stood for everything abhorrent to 
German order and racial feeling. 

And what of France ? There is little to say of her 
when we assign responsibility. Here was a nation 
with its population practically stationary ; a nation with 
a closed-in culture ; a democracy with its racial and na- 
tional integrity assured by its own peculiar genius. 
Visions of conquest had passed from the French mind. 
Her " place in the sun " was her own sun of France. 
Her trade was that due to skill in handicraft rather 
than to any tactics of aggression. At every Hague 
conference France was for all measures that would 
assure peace; Germany against every one that might 
interfere with her military ambition ; England against 
any that might limit her action in defending the seas. 

The desire for " revenge " for '70 had died out in 
the younger generation of Frenchmen. Her station- 
ary population, which chauvinists resented, had solved 
the problem of expansion. From father to son, she 
could be content with her thrift, her industry, and her 
arts, and with the joy of living. For, more than any 
other European nation, she had that gift: the joy of 
living. Her armies and her alliances were truly for 
defence. She could not fight Germany and Austria 
alone. She must have help. If Russia went to war 
she, too, must go to war. She acted up to her belief 
when she held back her armies five miles from the 
frontier till the German struck; when she gave Ger- 
many a start in mobilisation — a start which, with 
England's delay, came near being fatal for her. That 



1 8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

price she paid for peace; that advantage Germany 
gained by striking first. It is a hard moral for the 
pacificists, but one which ought to give the French con- 
science a cleaner taste in after years. 

The Kaiser, too, insisted that he was for peace. So 
he was, according to German logic. He realised his 
military power as the outside world could not realise 
it. Had Italy joined her forces to her allies, he might 
have crushed France and then turned on Russia, as 
his staff had planned. For striking he could reduce 
France to a second-rate power, take her colonies, fatten 
German coffers with an enormous indemnity, and gain 
Belgium and the Channel ports as the next step in na- 
tional ambition before crushing England and securing 
the mastery of the seas. But he held off the blow for 
many years; that is the logic of his partisanship for 
peace. The fact that France proved stronger than he 
thought hardly interfered with his belief in his own 
moderation, in view of his confidence in his arms be- 
fore the test came. He was for peace because he did 
not knock the other man down as soon as he might. 

No other race in all Europe liked the Germans ; not 
even the Huns, or the Czechs, or the Croats, and least 
of all the Italians. The Belgians, too, shared the uni- 
versal enmity. It was Germany that Belgium feared. 
Her forts looked toward Germany; she looked toward 
England and France for protection. In this she was 
unneutral ; but not in the thing that counted — thor- 
ough military preparation. 

Thus were the Germanic empires isolated in senti- 
ment before the war began. This strengthened their 
realisation that their one true ally was their power in 
arms, unaffected by any sentiment except that of beat- 
ing their enemies. Europe, straining under the taxa« 



WHO STARTED IT? 19 

tion of preparation, long held back by fear of the 
cataclysm, yet drawn by curiosity as to the nature of its 
capacity, sent her millions of soldiers to that test in 
practice of the struggle of modern arms which had 
been the haunting subject of her speculation. 



II 

U LE BRAVE BELGEl" 

The stampede to Europe — Early days in Belgium — Characteristics 
of the Allies' armies — Rumours — First skirmishes — When 
would the English come? — S kipper ke spirit — Pathos of the Bel- 
gian defence — A Taube and a Belgian cyclist patrol — Brus- 
sels before its fall — A momentous decision. 

The rush from Monterey, in Mexico, when a telegram 
said that general European war was inevitable; the 
run and jump aboard the Lusitania at New York the 
night that war was declared by England against Ger- 
many ; the Atlantic passage on the liner of ineffaceable 
memory, a suspense broken by fragments of war news 
by wireless ; the arrival in an England before the war 
was a week old ; the journey to Belgium in the hope of 
reaching the scene of action I — as I write, all seem to 
have the perspective of history, so final are the proc- 
esses of war, so swift their execution, and so eager 
is every one for each day's developments. As one 
grows older the years seem shorter ; but the first year 
of the Great War is the longest year I have known. 

he brtve Beige I One must be honest about him. 
If one lets his heart run away with his judgment he 
does his mind an injustice. A fellow-countryman who 
was in London and fresh from home in the eighth 
month of the war, asked me for my views of the rela- 
tive efficiency of the different armies engaged. 

" Do you mean that I am to speak without regard to 
personal sympathies? " I asked. 

" Certainly," he replied. 

20 



"LE BRAVE BELGE1" 21 

When he had my opinion he exclaimed : 

" You have mentioned them all except the Belgian 
army. I thought it was the bravest and best of all." 

" Is that what they think at home? " I asked. 

" Yes, of course." 

" The Atlantic is broad," I suggested. 

This man of affairs, an exponent of the efficiency of 
business, was a sentimentalist when it came to war, 
as Anglo-Saxons usually are. The side which they 
favour — that is the efficient side. When I ventured 
to suggest that the Belgian army, in a professional 
sense, was hardly to be considered as an army, it was 
clear that he had ceased to associate my experience 
with any real knowledge. 

In business he was one who saw his rivals, their abil- 
ities, the organisation of their concerns, and their re- 
sources of competition with a clear eye. He could say 
of his best personal friend : " I like him, but he has a 
poor head for affairs." Yet he was the type who, if 
he had been a trained soldier, would have been a busi- 
ness man of war, who would have wanted a sharp, 
ready sword in a well-trained hand and to leave noth- 
ing to chance in a battle for the right. In Germany, 
where some of the best brains of the country are 
given to making war a business, he might have been a 
soldier who would rise to a position on the staff. In 
America he was the employer of three thousand men 
— a general of civil life. 

" But look how the Belgians have fought I " he ex- 
claimed. " They stopped the whole German army for 
two weeks." 

The best army was best because it had his sympathy. 
His view was the popular view in America : the view 
of the heart. America saw the pigmy fighting the 



22 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

giant rather than let him pass over Belgian soil. On 
that day when a gallant young king cried, " To arms ! " 
all his people became gallant to the imagination. 

When I think of Belgium's part in the war I always 
think of the little Belgian dog, the shipperke, who lives 
on the canal boats. He is a home-staying dog, loyal, 
affectionate, domestic, who never goes out on the tow- 
path to pick quarrels with other dogs ; but let anything 
on two or four feet try to go on board when his mas- 
ter is away and he will fight with every ounce of 
strength in him. The King had the shipperke spirit 
All the Belgians who had the shipperke spirit tried to 
sink their teeth in the calves of the invader. 

One's heart was with the Belgians on that eight- 
eenth day of August, 19 14, when one set out toward 
the front in an automobile from a Brussels rejoicing 
over bulletins of victory, its streets walled with bunt- 
ing; but there was something brewing in one's mind 
which was as treason to one's desires. Let Brussels 
enjoy its flags and its capture of German cavalry 
patrols while it might 1 

On the hills back of Louvain we came upon some 
Belgian troops in their long, cumbersome coats, dark 
silhouettes against the field, digging shallow trenches 
in an uncertain sort of way. Whether it was them or 
the Belgian staff officers hurrying by in their cars, I 
had the impression of the will and not the way and a 
parallel of raw militia in uniforms taken from grand- 
father's trunk facing the trained antagonists of an 
Austerlitz, or a Waterloo, or a Gettysburg. 

he brave Beige 1 The question on that day was 
not, Are you brave? but, Do you know how to fight? 
Also, Would the French and the British arrive in time 
to help you? Of a thousand rumours about the 



11 LE BRAVE BELGE 1 " 23 

positions of the French and the British armies, one was 
as good as another. All the observer knew was that 
he was an atom in a motor and all he saw for the 
defence of Belgium was a regiment of Belgians dig- 
ging trenches. He need not have been in Belgium 
before to realise that here were an unwarlike people, 
living by intensive thrift and caution — a most domes- 
ticated civilisation in the most thickly populated work- 
shop in Europe, counting every blade of grass and 
every kernel of wheat and making its pleasures go a 
long way at small cost; a hothouse of a land, with the 
door about to be opened to the withering blast of war. 

Out of the Hotel de Ville at Louvain, as our car 
halted by the cathedral door, came an elderly French 
officer, walking with a light, quick step, his cloak 
thrown back over his shoulders, and hurriedly entered 
a car; and after him came a tall British officer, walking 
more slowly, imperturbably, as a man who meant to 
let nothing disturb him or beat him — both character- 
istic types of race. This was the break-up of the last 
military conference held at Louvain, which had now 
ceased to be Belgian Headquarters. 

How little you knew and how much they knew! 
The sight of them was helpful. One was the repre- 
sentative of a force of millions of Frenchmen; of the 
army. I had always believed in the French army, and 
have more reason now than ever before to believe in it. 
There was no doubt that if a French corps and a Ger- 
man corps were set the task of marching a hundred 
miles to a strategic position, the French would arrive 
first and win the day in a pitched battle. But no one 
knew this better than that German staff whose su- 
periority, as von Moltke said, would always ensure 
victory. Wa3 the French army ready? Could it 



24 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

bring fulness of its strength into the first and perhaps 
the deciding shock of arms ? Where was the French 
army? 

The other officer who came out of the Hotel de 
Ville was the representative of a little army — a hand- 
ful of regulars — hard as nails and ready to the last 
button. Where was the British army? The restau- 
rant keeper where we had luncheon at Louvain — he 
knew. He whispered his military secret to me. The 
British army was toward Antwerp, waiting to crush 
the Germans in the flank should they advance on 
Brussels. We were " drawing them on ! " Most 
cheerful, most confident, mine hostl When I went 
back to Louvain under German rule his restaurant was 
in ruins. 

We were on our way to as near the front as we 
would go, with a pass which was written for us by a 
Belgian reservist in Brussels between sips of beer 
brought him by a boy scout. It was a unique, a most 
accommodating, pass; the only one I have received 
from the Allies' side which would have taken me into 
the German lines. 

The front which we saw was in the square of the 
little town of Haelen, where some dogs of a dog ma- 
chine gun battery lay panting in their traces. A 
Belgian officer in command there I recollect for his 
passionate repetition of, " Assassins ! The barbari- 
ans ! " which seemed to choke out any other words 
whenever he spoke of the Germans. His was a fresh, 
livid hate, born of recent fighting. We could go 
where we pleased, he said; and the Germans were 
" out there," not far away. Very tired he was, ex- 
cept for the flash of hate in his eyes; as tired as the 
dogs of the mitrailleuse battery. 



"LE BRAVE BELGE!" 25 

We went outside to see the scene of " the battle," 
as it was called in the despatches; a field in the first 
flush of the war, where the headless lances of Belgian 
and German cavalrymen were still scattered about. 
The peasants had broken off the lance-heads for the 
steel, which was something to pay for the grain smoul- 
dering in the barn which had been shelled and burned. 

A battle! It was a battle because the reporters 
could get some account of it and the fighting in Alsace 
was hidden under the cloud of secrecy. A superficial 
survey was enough to show that it had been only a 
reconnaissance by the Germans with some infantry and 
guns as well as cavalry. Their defeat had been an in- 
cident to the thrust of a tiny feeling finger of the Ger- 
man octopus for information. The scouting of the 
German cavalry patrols here and there had the same 
object. Waiting behind hedges or sweeping around 
in the rear of a patrol with their own cavalry when 
the word came by telephone, the Belgians bagged many 
a German, man and horse, dead and alive. 

Brussels and London and New York, too, thrilled 
over these exploits supplied to eager readers. It was 
the Uhlan week of the war; for every German cavalry- 
man was an Uhlan, according to popular conception. 
These Uhlans seemed to have more temerity than 
sense from the accounts that one read. But if one 
out of a dozen of these mounted youth, with horses 
fresh and a trooper's zest in the first flush of war, re- 
turned to say that he had ridden to such and such 
points without finding any signs of British or French 
forces, he had paid for the loss of the others. The 
Germans had plenty of cavalry. They used it as the 
eyes of the army, in co-operation with the aerial eyes 
of the planes. 



26 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

A peasant woman came out of the house beside the 
battlefield with her children around her ; a flat-chested, 
thin woman, prematurely old with toil. " Les An- 
glais! " she cried at sight of us. Seeing that we had 
some lances in the car, she rushed into her house and 
brought out half a dozen more. If the English 
wanted lances they should have them. She knew only 
a few words of French, not enough to express the 
question which she made understood by gestures. Her 
eyes were burning with appeal to us and flashing with 
hate as she shook her fist toward the Germans. 

When were the English coming? All her trust was 
in the English, the invincible English, to save her 
country. Probably the average European would have 
passed her by as an excited peasant woman. But 
pitiful she was to me, more pitiful than the raging 
officer and his dog battery, or the infantry awkwardly 
entrenching back of Louvain, or flag-decked Brussels 
believing in victory: one of the Belgians with the true 
shipperke spirit. She was shaking her fist at a dam 
which was about to burst in a flood. 

It was strange to an American, who comes from a 
land where every one learns a single language, Eng- 
lish, that she and her ancestors, through centuries of 
living neighbour in a thickly-populated country to peo- 
ple who speak French and to French civilisation, 
should never have learned to express themselves in 
any but their own tongue — singular, almost incredi- 
ble, tenacity in the age of popular education! She 
would save the lance heads and garner every grain of 
wheat; she economised in all but racial animosity. 
This racial stubbornness of Europe — perhaps it keeps 
Europe powerful in jealous competition of race with 
race. 



" LE BRAVE BELGE ! " 27 

The thought that went home was that she did not 
want the Germans to come ; no Belgian wanted them ; 
and this was the fact decisive in the scales of justice. 
She said, as the officer had said, that the Germans 
were " out there." Across the fields one saw nothing 
on that still August day; no sign of war unless a 
Taube overhead, the first enemy aeroplane I had seen 
in war. For the last two days the German patrols 
had ceased to come. Liege, we knew, had fallen. 
Looking at the map, we prayed that Namur would 
hold. 

" Out there " beyond the quiet fields that mighty 
force which was to swing through Belgium in flank 
was massed and ready to move when the German staff 
opened the throttle. A mile or so away a patrol of 
Belgian cyclists stopped us as we turned toward Brus- 
sels. They were dust-covered and weary; the voice 
of their captain was faint with fatigue. For over two 
weeks he had been on the hunt of Uhlan patrols. An- 
other shipperke he, who could not only hate but fight 
as best he knew how. 

11 We had an alarm," he said. " Have you heard 
anything? " 

When we told him no, he pedalled on more slowly, 
and oh, how wearily! to the front. Rather pitiful 
that, too, when you thought of what was " out there." 

One had learned enough to know, without the con- 
fidential information that he received, that the Ger- 
mans could take Brussels if they chose. But the peo- 
ple of Brussels still thronged the streets under the 
blankets of bunting. If bunting could save Brussels, 
it was in no danger. 

There was a mockery about my dinner that night. 
The waiter who laid the white cloth on $i marble tabls 



28 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

was unctuously suggestive as to menu. Luscious grapes 
and crisp salad, which Belgian gardeners grow with 
meticulous care, I remember of it. One might linger 
over his coffee, knowing the truth, and look out at the 
people who did not know it. When they were not 
buying more buttons with the allied colours, or more 
flags, or dropping nickel pieces in Red Cross boxes, 
they were thronging to the kiosks for the latest edition 
of the evening papers, which told them nothing. 

And one had to make up his mind. Clearly, he had 
only to keep in his room in his hotel in order to have 
a great experience. He might see the German troops 
enter Belgium. His American passport would pro- 
tect him as a neutral; Minister Brand Whitlock and 
Secretary of Legation Hugh Gibson would get him 
out of trouble. 

" Stick to the army you are with I " an eminent 
American had told me. 

" Yes, but I prefer to choose my army," I had re- 
plied. 

The army I chose was not about to enter Brussels. 
It was on the side of the shipperke dog mitrailleuse 
battery which I had seen in the streets of Haelen, and 
the peasant woman who shook her fist at the invader, 
and all who had the shipperke spirit. 

My empty appointment as the representative of the 
American press with the British army was, at least, 
taken seriously by the policeman at the War Office in 
London when I returned from trips to France. The 
day came when it was good for British trenches and 
gun positions; when it was worth all the waiting, if 
gne wished to see the drama of modern war intimately. 



Ill 

MONS AND PARIS 

The English base — Stories of the wounded — The cataclysm a 
reality — London after Mons — The call to Englishmen — The 
"Fog of war" — From Dieppe to Paris — The red trousers of 
the French — Empty Paris — Can the German machine be held ? 
—"The French have not had their battle yet I " 

Back from Belgium to England ; then across the Chan- 
nel again to Boulogne, where I saw the last of the 
French garrison march away, their red trousers a 
throbbing target along the road. From Boulogne the 
British had advanced into Belgium. Now their base 
was moved on to Havre. Boulogne, which two weeks 
before had been cheering the advent of " Tommee At- 
keens " singing " Why should we be downhearted? " 
was ominously lifeless. It was a town without sol- 
diers, a town of brick and mortar and pavements 
whose very defencelessness was its security should the 
Germans come. 

The only British there were a few stray wounded 
officers and men who had found their way back from 
Mons. They had no idea where the British army 
was. All they realised were sleepless nights, the 
shock of combat, overpowering artillery fire, and re- 
sisting the onslaught of outnumbering masses. 

An officer of Lancers, who had ridden through the 
German cavalry with his squadron, dwelt on the glory 
of that moment. What did his wound matter? It 
had come with the burst of a shell in a village street 
which killed his horse after the charge. He had hot?- 

*9 



3 o MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

bled away, reached a railroad train, and got on board. 
That was all he knew. 

A Scotch private had been lying with his battalion 
in a trench when a German aeroplane was sighted. 
It had hardly passed by when showers of shrapnel 
descended and the Germans, in that grey-green so 
hard to see, were coming on as thick as locusts. Then 
the orders came to fall back, and he was hit as his 
battalion made another stand. He had crawled a 
mile across the fields in the night with a bullet in his 
arm. A medical corps officer told him to find any 
transportation he could; and he, too, was able to get 
aboard a train. That was all he knew. 

These wounded had been tossed aside into eddies 
by the maelstrom of action. They were interesting 
because they were the first British wounded that I had 
seen ; because the war was young. 

Bade to London again to catch the mail with an 
article. One was to " commute " to the war from 
London as home. It was a base whence one sallied 
forth to get peeps through the curtain of military 
secrecy at the mighty spectacle. One soaked in Eng- 
land at intervals and the war at intervals. Whenever 
one stepped on the pier at Folkestone it was with a 
breath of relief, born of a sense of freedom long as- 
sociated with fields and hedges on the other side of 
the chalk cliffs which seemed to make the sequestering 
barrier of the sea complete. 

Those days of late August and early September, 
19 14, were gripping days to the memory. Eager 
armies were pressing forward to a cataclysm no longer 
of dread imagination but of reality. That ever deep- 
ening and spreading stain from Switzerland to the 
Jsforth Sea was as yet only a splash of fresh blood. 



MONS AND PARIS 31 

One still wondered if one might not wake up in the 
morning and find the war a nightmare. Pictures that 
grow clearer with time, which the personal memory 
chooses for its own, dissociate themselves from a back- 
ground of detail. 

They were very quiet, this pair that sat at the next 
table in the dining-room* of a London hotel. I never 
spoke to them, but only stole discreet glances as we 
all will in irresistible temptation at any newly-wedded 
couple. Neither was of the worldly type. One knew 
that to this young girl London was strange ; one knew 
the type of country home which had given her that sim- 
ple charm which cities cannot breed; one knew, too, 
that this young officer, her husband, waited for word 
to go to the front. 

Unconsciously she would play with her wedding- 
ring. She stole covert glances at it and at him, of the 
kind that bring a catch in the throat, when he was not 
looking at her — which he was most of the time, for 
reasons which were good and sufficient to others than 
himself. Apprehended in " wool-gathering," she 
mustered a smile which was so exclusively for him 
that the neighbour felt that he ought to be forgiven 
his peeps from the tail of his eye at it because it was 
so precious. 

They would attempt little flights of talk about 
everything except the war. He was most solicitous 
that she should have something which she liked to eat, 
while she was equally solicitous about him. Wasn't 
he going " out there " ? And out there he would have 
to live on army fare. It was all appealing to the old 
traveller. And then the next morning — she was 
alone, after she had given him that precious smile in 
parting. The incident was one of the thousands be- 



32 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

fore the war had become an institution, death a mat- 
ter of routine, and it was a commonplace for young 
wives to see young husbands away to the front with a 
smile. 

One such incident does for all, whether the war is 
young or old. There is nothing else to tell, even 
when you know wife and husband. I was rather glad 
that I did not know this pair. Then I should be look- 
ing at the casualty list in the newspaper each morning 
and I might not enjoy my faith that he will return 
alive. These two seemed to me the best of England. 
I used to think of them when gossip sought the latest 
turn of intrigue under the mantle of censorship, when 
Parliament poured out its oral floods and the news- 
papers their volumes of words. The man went off 
to fight ; the woman returned to her country home. It 
was the hour of war, not of talk. 

On that Sunday in London when the truth about 
Mons appeared stark to all England, another young 
man happened to buy a special edition at a street cor- 
ner at the same time as myself. By all criteria, the 
world and his tailor had treated him well and he de- 
served well of the world. We spoke together about 
the news. Already the new democracy which the war 
had developed was in evidence. Everybody had com- 
mon thoughts and a common thing at stake, with 
values reckoned in lives, and this makes for equality. 

11 It's clear that we have had a bad knock. Why 
deny it?" he said. Then he added quietly, after a 
pause: " This is a personal call for me. I'm going 
to enlist." 

England's answer to that " bad knock " was out of 
her experience. She had never won at first, but she 
had always won in the end ; she had won the last bat- 



MONS AND PARIS 33 

tie. The next day's news was worse and the next 
day's still worse. The Germans seemed to be ap- 
proaching Paris by forced marches. Paris might fall 
— no matter! Though the French army were shat- 
tered, one heard Englishmen say that the British 
would create an army to wrest victory from defeat. 
The spirit of this was fine, but one realised the enor- 
mity of the task; should the mighty German machine 
crush the French machine, the Allies had lost. To say 
so then was heresy, when the world was inclined to 
think poorly of the French army and saw Russian num- 
bers as irresistible. 

The personal call was to Paris before the fate of 
Paris was to be decided. My first crossing of the 
Channel had been to Ostend ; the second, farther south 
to Boulogne; the third was still farther south, to 
Dieppe. Where next? To Havre! Events were 
moving with the speed which had been foreseen with 
myriads of soldiers ready to be thrown into battle by 
the quick march of the railroad trains. 

Every event was hidden under the " fog of war," 
then a current expression — meagre official bulletins 
which read like hope in their brief lines, while the im- 
agination might read as it chose between the lines. 
The marvel was that any but troop trains should run. 
All night in that third-class coach from Dieppe to 
Paris! Tired and preoccupied passengers; every 
one's heart heavy; every one's soul wrenched; every 
one prepared for the worst I You cared for no other 
man's views; the one thing you wanted was no bad 
news. France had known that when the war came 
it would be to the death. From the first no French- 
man could have had any illusions. England had not 
realised yet that her fate was with the soldiers of 



34 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

France, or France that her fate and all the world's was 
with the British fleet. 

An Italian in our compartment would talk, how- 
ever, and he would keep the topic down to red 
trousers, and to the red trousers of a French Terri- 
torial opposite with an index finger when his gesticu- 
latory knowledge of the French language, which was 
excellent, came to the rescue of his verbal knowledge, 
which was poor. The Frenchman agreed that red 
trousers were a mistake, but pointed to the blue cover- 
ing which he had for his cap — which made it all 
right. The Italian insisted on keeping to the trou- 
sers. He talked red trousers till the Frenchman got 
out at his station and then turned to me to confirm his 
views on this fatal strategic and tactical error of the 
French. After all, he was more pertinent than most 
of the military experts trying to write on the basis of 
the military bulletins. It was droll to listen to this 
sartorial discourse, when at least two hundred thou- 
sand men lay dead and wounded from that day's fight 
on the soil of France. Red trousers were responsible 
for the death of a lot of them. 

Dawn, early September dawn, on dew-moist fields, 
where the harvests lay unfinished as the workers, has- 
tening to the call of war, had left the work. Across 
Paris, which seemed as silent as the fields, to a hotel 
with empty rooms I Five hundred empty rooms, with 
a clock ticking busily in every room ! War or no war, 
that old man who wound the clocks was making his 
rounds softly through the halls from door to door. 
He was a good soldier, who had heeded Joffre's re- 
quest that every one should go on with his day's work. 
" They're done ! " said an American in the foyer. 
' The French could not stand up against the Germans 



MONS AND PARIS 35 

— anybody could see that! It's too bad, but the 
French are licked. The Germans will be here to- 
morrow or the next day." 

I could not and would not believe it Such a dis- 
aster was against all one's belief in the French army 
and in the real character of the French people. It 
meant that autocracy was making sport of democracy; 
it meant disaster to all one's precepts ; a personal dis- 
aster. 

" Look at that interior line which the French now 
hold. Think of the power of the defensive with 
modern arms. No 1 The French have not had their 
battle yet! " I said. 

And the British Expeditionary Force was still 
intact ; still an army, with lots of fight left in it. 



IV 

PARIS WAITS 

The Paris of the boulevards a dead city — H«w Marianne goes to 
war — The Germans are coming! — Silence and darkness — 
Moonlight on the Arc de Triomphe — Trust in Joffre and in the 
army — Turn of the tide — Joff re's communiques more definite 

— Positions regained — The French in pursuit— Paris breathes 
again — A Sunday of relief — Religious rejoicing at Notre Dame 

— Groups in the cafes — The American Embassy " mobilised for 
war "— " In spite of '70, France still lived." 

It was then that people were speaking of Paris as a 
dead city — a Paris without theatres, without young 
men, without omnibuses, with the shutters of its shops 
down and its cafes and restaurants in gloomy empti- 
ness. 

The Paris the host of the idler and the traveller, 
the Paris of the boulevards and the night life pro- 
vided for the tourist, the Paris that sparkled and 
smiled in entertainment, the Paris exploited to the 
average American through Sunday supplements and 
the reminiscences of smoking-rooms of transatlantic 
liners, was dead. Those who knew no other Paris 
and conjectured no other Paris departed as from the 
tomb of the pleasures which had been the passing ex- 
travaganza of relief from dull lives elsewhere. The 
Parisienne of that Paris spent a thousand francs to get 
her pet dog safely away to Marseilles. Politicians 
of a craven type, who are the curse of all democracies, 
had gone to keep her company, leaving Paris cleaner 

than ever she was after the streets had had their morn- 

36 



PARIS WAITS 37 

ing bath on a spring day when the horse chestnuts 
were in bloom and Madame was arranging her early 
editions on the table of her kiosk — a spiritually clean 
Paris. 

Monsieur, would you have America judged by the 
White Way ? What has the White Way to do with 
the New York of Seventy-second Street or Harlem? 
It serves the same purpose as the boulevards of fur- 
nishing scandalous little paragraphs for foreign news- 
papers. Foreigners visit it and think that they un- 
derstand how Americans live in Stockbridge, Mass., 
or Springfield, 111. Empty its hotels and nobody but 
sightseers and people interested in the White Way 
would know the difference. 

The other Paris, making ready to stand siege, with 
the Government gone to Bordeaux with all the gold 
of the Bank of France, with the enemy's guns audible 
in the suburbs and old men cutting down trees and 
tearing up paving-stones to barricade the streets — 
never had that Paris been more alive. It was after 
the death of the old and the birth of the new Paris 
that an elderly man, seeing a group of women at tea 
in one of the few fashionable refreshment places which 
were open, stopped and said : 

" Can you find nothing better than that to do, 
ladies, in a time like this ? " 

And the Latin temperament gave the world a sur- 
prise. Those who judged France by her playful Paris 
thought that if a Frenchman gesticulated so emotion- 
ally in the course of every-day existence, he would get 
overwhelmingly excited in a great emergency. One 
evening, after the repulse of the Germans on the 
Marne, I saw two French reserves dining in a famous 
restaurant where, at this time of the year, four out 



38 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

of five diners ordinarily would be foreigners survey- 
ing one another in a study of Parisian life. They 
were big, rosy-cheeked men, country born and bred, 
belonging to the new France of sports, of action, of 
temperate habits, and they were joking about dining 
there just as two sturdy Westerners might about din- 
ing in a deserted Broadway. The foreigners and 
demi-mondaines. were noticeably absent; a pair of 
Frenchmen were in the place of the absentees; and 
after their dinner they smoked their black briar-root 
pipes in that fashionable restaurant. 

Among the picture post-cards then on sale was one 
of Marianne, who is France, bound for the front in 
an aeroplane with a crowing French cock sitting on 
the brace above her. Marianne looked as happy as 
if she were going to the races ; the cock as triumphant 
as if he had a spur through the German eagle's throat. 
However, there was little sale for picture post-cards 
or other trifles, while Paris waited for the siege. 
They did not help to win victories. News and not 
jeux d } esprit, victory and not wit, was wanted. 

For Marianne went to war with her liberty cap 
drawn tight over her brow, a beat in her temples, and 
her heart in her throat; and the cock had his head 
down and pointed at the enemy. She was relieved 
in a way, as all Europe was, that the thing had come ; 
at last an end of the straining of competitive taxation 
and preparation; at last the test. She had no chan- 
nel, as England had, between her and the foe. De- 
feat meant the heel of the enemy on her soil, German 
sentries in her streets, submission. Long and hard 
she had trained; while the outside world, thinking of 
the Paris of the boulevards, thought that she could 



PARIS WAITS J9 

not resist the Kaiser's legions. She was effeminate, 
effete. She was all right to run cafes and make artifi- 
cial flowers, but she lacked beef All the prestige 
was with her enemy. In '70 all the prestige had been 
with her. For there is no prestige like military pres- 
tige. It is all with those who won the last war. 

" But if we must succumb, let it he now," said the 
French. 

On, on — the German corps were coming like some 
machine-controlled avalanche of armed men. Every 
report brought them a little nearer Paris. Ah, mon- 
sieur, they had numbers, those Germans I Every Ger- 
man mother has many sons; a French mother only 
one or two. 

How could one believe those official communiques 
which kept saying that the position of the French 
armies was favourable and then admitted that von 
Kluck had advanced another twenty miles? The 
heart of Paris stopped beating. Paris held its breath. 
Perhaps the reason there was no panic was that 
Parisians had been prepared for the worst. 

What silence! The old men and women in the 
streets moved as under a spell, which was the sense 
of their own helplessness. But few people were 
abroad, and those going on errands apparently. The 
absence of traffic and pedestrians heightened the sepul- 
chral appearance to superficial observation. At the 
windows of flats, inside the little shops, and on by- 
streets, you saw waiting faces, every one with the 
weight of national grief become personal. Was 
Paris alive ? Yes, if Paris is human and not bricks 
and stone. Every Parisian was living a century in a 
week. So, too, was one who loved France. In the 



40 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

prospect of its loss he realised the value of all that 
France stands for, her genius, her democracy, her 
spirit. 

One recalled how German officers had said that the 
next war would be the end of France. An indemnity 
which would crush out her power of recovery would 
be imposed on her. Her northern ports would be 
taken. France, the most homogeneous of nations, 
would be divided into separate nationalities — even 
this the Germans had planned. Those who read 
their Shakespeare in the language they learned in 
childhood had no doubt of England's coming out of 
the war secure; but if we thought which foreign civi- 
lisation brought us the most in our lives, it was that 
of France. 

What would the world be without French civilisa- 
tion? To think of France dead was to think of cells 
in your own brain that had gone lifeless; of some- 
thing irreparably extinguished to every man to whom 
civilisation means more than material power of de- 
struction. The sense of what might be lost appealed 
to you at every turn in scenes once merely characteris- 
tic of a whole, each with an appeal of its own now; 
in the types of people who, by their conduct in this 
hour of trial, showed that Spartan hearts might beat 
in Paris — the Spartan hearts of the mass of every- 
day, work-a-day Parisians. 

Those waiting at home calmly with their thoughts, 
in a France of apprehension, knew that their fate was 
out of their hands in the hands of their youth. The 
tide of battle wavering from Meaux to Verdun might 
engulf them; it might recede; but Paris would resist 
to the last. That was something. She would resist 
in a manner worthy of Paris; and one could live on 



PARIS WAITS 41 

very little food. Their fathers had. Every day that 
Paris held out would be a day lost to the Germans and 
a day gained for Joffre and Sir John French to bring 
up reserves. 

The street lamps should not reveal to Zeppelins or 
Taubes the location of precious monuments. You 
might walk the length of the Champs filysees without 
meeting a vehicle or more than two or three pedes- 
trians. The avenue was all your own; you might 
appreciate it as an avenue for itself; and every build- 
ing and even the skyline of the streets you might ap- 
preciate, free of any association except the thought of 
the results of man's planning and building. Silent, 
deserted Paris by moonlight, without street lamps — 
few had ever seen that. Millionaire tourists with 
retinues of servants following them in automobiles 
tnay never know this effect; nor the Parisienne who 
paid a thousand francs to send her pet dog to Mar- 
seilles. 

The moonlight threw the Arc de Triomphe in ex- 
aggerated spectral relief, sprinkled the leaves of the 
long rows of trees, glistened on the upsweep of the 
broad pavements, gleamed on the Seine. Paris was 
majestic, as scornful of Prussian eagles as the Parthe- 
non of Roman eagles. A column of soldiery march- 
ing in triumph under the Arch might possess as a po- 
liceman possesses; but not by arms could they gain 
the quality that made Paris, any more than the Roman 
legionary became a Greek scholar by doing sentry go 
in front of the Parthenon. Every Parisian felt anew 
how dear Paris was to him ; how worthy of some great 
sacrifice ! 

If New York were in danger of falling to an enemy, 
the splendid length of Fifth Avenue and the majesty 



42 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

of the sky-scrapers of lower Broadway and the bay 
and the rivers would become vivid to you in a way 
they never had before; or Washington, or San Fran- 
cisco, or Boston — or your own town. The. thing that 
is a commonplace, when you are about to lose it takes 
on a cherished value. 

To-morrow the German guns might be thundering 
in front of the fortifications. The communiques from 
Joffre became less frequent and more laconic. Their 
wording was like some trembling, fateful needle of a 
barometer, pausing, reacting a little, but going down, 
down, down, indicator of the heart-pressure of Paris, 
shrivelling the flesh, tightening the nerves. Already 
Paris was in siege, in one sense. Her exits were 
guarded against all who were not in. uniform and 
going to fight; to all who had no purpose except to see* 
what was passing where two hundred miles resounded 
with strife. It was enough to see Paris itself await- 
ing the siege ; fighting one was yet to see to repletion. 

The situation must be very bad or the Government 
would not have gone to Bordeaux. Alors, one must 
trust the army and the army must trust Joffre. There 
is no trust like that of a democracy when it gives 
its heart to a cause; the trust of the mass in the 
strength of the mass which sweeps away the middle- 
man of intrigue. 

And silence, only silence, in Paris; the silence of the 
old men and the women, and of children who had 
ceased to play and could not understand. No one 
might see what was going on unless he carried a rifle. 
No one might see even the wounded. Paris was 
spared this, isolated in the midst of war. The 
wounded were sent out of reach of the Germans in 
case they should come. 



PARIS WAITS 43 

Then the indicator stopped falling. It throbbed 
upward. The communiques became more definite; 
they told of positions regained, and borne in the ether 
by the wireless of telepathy was something which con- 
firmed the communiques. At first Paris was uneasy 
with the news, so set had history been on repeating 
itself, so remorselessly certain had seemed the Ger- 
man advance. But it was true, true — the Germar s 
were going, with the French in pursuit, now twenty, 
now thirty, now forty, now fifty, sixty, seventy miles 
away from Paris. Yes, monsieur, seventy I 

With the needle rising, did Paris gather in crowds 
and surge through the streets, singing and shouting 
itself hoarse, as it ought to have done according to the 
popular international idea ? No, monsieur, Paris will 
not riot in joy in the presence of the dead on the bat- 
tlefields and while German troops are still within the 
boundaries of France. Paris, which had been with 
heart standing still and breathing hard, began to 
breathe regularly again and the glow of life to run 
through its veins. In the markets, whither Madame 
brought succulent melons, pears, and grapes with com- 
monplace vegetables, the talk of bargaining house- 
wives with their baskets had something of its old vi- 
vacity and Madame stiffened prices a little, for there 
will be heavy taxes to pay for the war. Children, so 
susceptible to surroundings, broke out of the quiet 
alleys and doorways in play again. 

A Sunday of relief, with a radiant September sun 
shining, followed a Sunday of depression. The old 
taxicabs and the horse vehicles with their venerable 
steeds and drivers too old for service at the front, 
exhumed from the catacomb of the hours of doubt, 
ran up and down the Champs filysees with airing par- 



44 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ties. At Notre Dame the religious rejoicing was ex- 
pressed. A great service of prayer was held by the 
priests who were not away fighting for France, as 
three thousand are, while joyful prayers of thanks 
shone on the faces of that democratic people who have 
not hesitated to discipline the church as they have 
disciplined their rulers. Groups gathered in the cafes 
or sauntered slowly, talking less than usual, gesticu- 
lating little, rolling over the good news in their minds 
as something beyond the power of expression. How 
banal to say, " Cest chic, qat " or, u Cest e pat ant 1 " 
Language is for little things. 

That pile of posters at the American Embassy was 
already historical souvenirs which won a smile. The 
name of every American resident in Paris and his ad- 
dress had been filled in the blank space. He had only 
to put up the warning over his door that the premises 
were under the Embassy's protection. Ambassador 
Herrick, suave, decisive, resourceful, possessed the 
gift of acting in a great emergency with the same ease 
and simplicity as in a small one, which is a gift some- 
times found wanting when a crisis breaks upon the 
routine of official life. 

He had the courage to act and the ability to secure 
a favour for an American when it was reasonable ; and 
the courage to say " No " if it were unreasonable or 
impracticable. No one of the throngs who had busi- 
ness with him was kept long at the door in uncertainty. 
In its organisation for facilitating the home-going of 
the thousands of Americans in Paris and the Ameri- 
cans coming to Paris from other parts of Europe, the 
American Embassy in Paris seemed as well mobilised 
for its part in the war as the German army. 

In spite of '70, France still lived. You noted the 



PARIS WAITS 45 

faces of the women in fresh black for their dead at the 
front, a little drawn but proud and victorious. The 
son or brother or husband had died for the country. 
When a fast automobile bearing officers had a Ger- 
man helmet or two displayed, the people stopped to 
look. A captured German in the flesh on a front seat 
beside a soldier chauffeur brought the knots to a stand- 
still. "Voilal C'est un Allemandl" ran the uni- 
versal exclamation. But Paris soon became used to 
these stray German prisoners, left-overs from the Ger- 
man retreat coming in from the fields to surrender. 
The batches went through by train without stopping 
for Paris, southward to the camps where they were to 
be interned; and the trains of wounded to winter re- 
sorts, whose hotels became hospitals, the verandas oc- 
cupied by convalescents instead of gossiping tourists. 
It is tres a la mode to be wounded, monsieur — 
ires a la mode all over Europe. 

And, monsieur, all those barricades put up for 
nothing! They will not need the cattle gathered on 
Longchamps race-track and in the parks at Versailles 
for a siege. The people who laid in stocks of canned 
goods till the groceries of Paris were empty of every- 
thing in tins — they would either have to live on 
canned food or confess that they were pigs, heinf 
Those volunteers, whether young men who had been 
excused because they were only sons or for weak 
hearts which now let them past the surgeons, whether 
big, hulking farmers, or labourers, or stooped clerks, 
drilling in awkward squads in the suburbs till they are 
dizzy, they will not have to defend Paris; but, per- 
haps, help to regain Alsace and Lorraine. 

Then there were stories going the rounds; stories 
of French courage and elan which were cheering to 



46 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the ears of those who had to remain at home. Did 
you hear about the big French peasant soldier who 
captured a Prussian eagle in Alsace? They had him 
come to Paris to give him the Legion of Honour and 
the great men made a ceremony of it, gathering 
around him at the Ministry of War. The simple 
fellow looked from one to another of the group, sur- 
prised at all this attention. It did not occur to him 
that he had done anything remarkable. He had seen 
a Prussian with a standard and taken the standard 
away from that Prussian. 

" If you like this so well," said that droll one, " I'll 
try to get another! " 

Oest un vrai Franqais, that garqon. What? 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 

An excursion to the front — The magic of a military pass — The high- 
water mark of German shells — Return of the refugees — Fate 
of the villages — War's results — Burying the dead — The vic- 
torious spirit of France — Approaching the line— -Roll and smoke 
of the guns — Passing the motor transports — Army organisa- 
tion — Line reserves — Newspapers and tobacco — Soissons de- 
serted — Stoicism of the townspeople — German prisoners — 
The Sixth Army headquarters — A town in ruins — Character 
of French women — French democracy and humanity. 

Though the Germans were going, the siege by the 
cordon of French guards around Paris had not been 
raised. To them every civilian was a possible spy. 
So they let no civilians by. Must one remain forever 
in Paris, screened from any view of the great drama ? 
Was there no way of securing a blue card which would 
open the road to war for an atom of humanity who 
wanted to see Frenchmen in action and not to pry into 
generals* plans? 

Happily, an army winning is more hospitable than 
an army losing; and bonds of friendship which stretch 
around the world could be linked with authority which 
has only to say the word in order that one might have 
a day's glimpse of the fields where von Kluck's Ger- 
mans were showing their heels to the French. 

Ours, I think, was the pioneer of the sightseeing 
parties which afterward became the accepted form of 
war correspondence with the French. None could 
have been under more delightful auspices in compan- 
ionship or in the event. Victory was in the hearts of 

47 



48 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

our hosts, who included M. Paul Doumer, formerly 
president of the Chamber of Deputies and governor 
of French Indo-China and now a senator, and General 
Fevrier, of the French Medical Service, who was to 
have had charge of the sanitation of Paris in case of 
a siege. 

M. Doumer was acting as Chef de Cabinet to Gen- 
eral Gallieni, the commandant of Paris, and he and 
General Fevrier and two other officers of Gallieni's 
staff, who would have been up to their eyes in work 
if there had been a siege, wanted to see something of 
that army whose valour had given them a holiday. 
Why should not Roberts and myself come along? 
which is the pleasant way the French have of putting 
an invitation. 

The other member of the party was the veteran 
European correspondent and representative of the As- 
sociated Press in Paris, Elmer Roberts, who would 
not be doing his duty to Melville E. Stone if he did not 
arrange for opportunities of this kind. I was really 
hanging onto Roberts's coat-tails. Other men may 
have publicity as individuals in a single newspaper or 
magazine, but the readers of a thousand newspapers 
take their news from Paris through him without know- 
ing his name. 

Oh, the magic of a military pass and the compan- 
ionship of an officer in uniform I It separates you 
from the crowd of millions on the other side of the 
blank wall of military secrecy and takes you into the 
area of the millions in uniform ; it wins a nod of con- 
sent from that middle-aged reservist on a road whose 
bayonet has the police power of millions of bayonets 
in support of its authority. 

At last one was to see; the measure of his impres- 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 49 

sions was to be his own eyes and not the written re- 
ports. Other passes I have had since, which gave me 
the run of trenches and shell-fire areas ; but this pass 
opened the first door to the war. That day we ran 
by Meaux and to Chateau Thierry to Soissons and 
back by Senlis to Paris. We saw a finger's breadth 
of battle area ; a pin point of army front. Only a ride 
along a broad, fine road out of Paris, at first; a road 
which our cars had all to themselves. Then at Claye 
we came to the high-water mark of the German in- 
vasion. This close to Paris in that direction and no 
closer had the Germans come. 

There was the field where the skirmishers had 
turned back. Farther on, the branches of the avenue 
of trees which shaded the road had been slashed as 
if by a whirlwind of knives, where the French soixante- 
quinze field guns had found a target. Under that 
sudden bath of projectiles, with the French infantry 
pressing forward on their front, the German gunners 
could not wait to take away the cord of five-inch shells 
which they had piled to blaze their way to Paris. One 
guessed their haste and *iieir irritation. They were 
within range of the fortifications; within two hours' 
march of the suburbs of the Mecca of forty years of 
preparation. After all that march from Belgium, 
with no break in the programme of success, the 
thunders broke and lightning flashed out of the 
sky as Manoury's army rushed upon von Kluck's 
flank. 

" It was not the way that they wanted us to get 
the shells," said a French peasant, who was taking one 
of the shell baskets for a souvenir. It would make 
an excellent umbrella stand. 

For the French it had been the turn of the tide; 



50 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

for that little British army which had fought its way 
back from Mons it was the eweet dream, which had 
kept men up on the retreat, come true. Weary Ger- 
mans, after a fearful two weeks of effort, became the 
driven. Weary British and French turned drivers. A 
hypodermic of victory renewed their energy. Paris 
was at their back and the German backs in front. 
They were no longer leaving their dead and wounded 
behind to the foe; they were sweeping past the dead 
and wounded of the foe. 

But their happiness, that of a winning action, ex- 
alted and passionate, had not the depths of that of the 
refugees who had fled before the German hosts and 
were returning to their homes in the wake of their 
victorious army. We passed farmers with children 
perched on top of carts laden with household goods 
and drawn by broad-backed farm-horses, with usually 
another horse or a milch cow tied behind. The real 
power of France these peasants, holding fast to the 
acres they own, with the fire of the French nature un- 
der their thrifty conservatism. Others on foot were 
villagers who had lacked horses or carts to transport 
their belongings. In the packs on their backs were a 
few precious things which they had borne away and 
were now bearing back. 

Soon they would know what the Germans had done 
to their homes. What the Germans had done to one 
piano was evident. It stood in the yard of a house 
where grass and flowers had been trodden by horses 
and men. In the sport of victory the piano had been 
dragged out of the little drawing-room, while Fritz 
and Hans played and sang in the intoxication of a 
Paris gained, a France in submission. They did not 
know what Joffre had in pickle for them. It had all 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 51 

gone according to programme up to that moment. 
Nothing can stop us Germans I Champagne instead 
of beer I Set the glass on top of the piano and sing! 
Haven't we waited forty years for this day ? 

Captured diaries of German officers, which reflect 
the seventh heaven of elation suddenly turned into 
grim depression, taken in connection with what one 
saw on the battlefield, reconstruct the scene around 
that piano. The cup to the lips; then dashed away. 
How those orders to retreat must have hurt ! 

The state of the refugees' homes all depended upon 
the chances of war. War's lightning might have hit 
your roof tree and it might not. It plays no favour- 
ites between the honest and the dishonest; the thrifty 
and the shiftless. We passed villages which exhib- 
ited no signs of destruction or of looting. The Ger- 
man troops had marched through in the advance and 
in the retreat without being billeted. A hurrying 
army with another on its heels has no time for looting. 
Other villages had been points of topical importance ; 
they had been in the midst of a fight. General Man- 
vaise Chance had it in for them. Shells had wrecked 
some houses ; others were burned. Where a German 
non-commissioned officer came to the door of a French 
family and said that room must be made for German 
soldiers in that house and if any one dared to interfere 
with them he would be shot, there the exhausted hu- 
man nature of a people trained to think that " Krieg 
ist Krieg " and that the spoils of war are to the victor 
had its way. 

It takes generations to lift a man up a single degree ; 
but so swift is the effect of war, when men live a day 
in a year, that he is demonised in a month. Before 
the occupants had to go, often windows were broken. 



52 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

crockery smashed, closets and drawers rifled. The 
soldiery which could not have its Paris " took it out " 
of the property of their hosts. Looting, destruction, 
one can forgive in the orgy of war which is organised 
destruction; one can even understand rapine and 
atrocities when armies, which include latent vile and 
criminal elements, are aroused to the kind of insane 
passion which war arouses in human beings. But 
some indecencies one could not understand in civilised 
men. All with a military purpose, it is said; for in 
the nice calculations of a staff system which grinds 
so very fine, nothing must be excluded that will em- 
barrass the enemy. A certain foully disgusting prac- 
tice was too common not to have the approval of at 
least some officers, whose conduct in several chateaus 
includes them as accomplices. Not all officers, not 
all soldiers. That there should be a few is enough 
to sicken you of belonging to the human species. 
Nothing worse in Central America; nothing worse 
where civilised degeneracy disgraces savagery. 

But do not think that destruction for destruction's 
sake was done in all houses where German soldiers 
were billeted. If the good principle was not suffi- 
ciently impressed, Belgium must have impressed it; a 
looting army is a disorderly army. The soldier has 
burden enough to carry in heavy marching order with- 
out souvenirs. That collector of the glass tops of 
carafes who had thirty on his person when taken pris- 
oner was bound to be a laggard in the retreat. 

To their surprise and relief, returning farmers 
found their big, conical haystacks untouched, though 
nothing could be more tempting to the wantonness of 
an army on enemy soil. Strike a match and up goes 
the harvest ! Perhaps the Germans as they advanced 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 53 

had in mind to save the forage for their own horses, 
and either they were running too fast to stop or the 
staff overlooked the detail on the retreat. 

It was amazing how few signs of battle there were 
in the open. Occasionally one saw the hastily made 
shelter trenches of a skirmish line ; and again, the em- 
placements for batteries — hurried field emplacements, 
so puny beside those of trench warfare. It had been 
open fighting; the tide of an army sweeping forward 
and then, pursued, sweeping back. One side was try- 
ing to get away ; the other to overtake. Here, a rear- 
guard made a determined action which would have 
had the character of a battle in other days; there, a 
rearguard was pinched as the French or the British 
got around it. 

Swift marching and quick manoeuvres of the type 
which gave war some of its old sport and zest; the 
advance, all the while gathering force, like the deep 
tide! Crowds of men hurrying across a harvested 
wheat-field or a pasture after all leave few marks of 
passage. A day's rain will wash away the blood 
stains and liven trampled vegetation. Nature hastens 
with a kind of contempt of man to repair the damage 
done by his murderous wrath. 

The cyclone past, the people turned out to put things 
in order. Peasants too old to fight, who had paid the 
taxes which paid for the rifles and guns and hell-fire, 
were moving across the fields with spades, burying 
the bodies of the young men and the horses that were 
war's victims. Long trenches full of dead told where 
the eddy of battle had been fierce and the casualties 
numerous; scattered mounds of fresh earth where they 
were light; and sometimes, when the burying was un- 
finished — well, one draws the curtain over scenes like 



54 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

that in the woods at Betz, where Frenchmen died 
knowing that Paris was saved and Germans died know- 
ing that they had failed to take Paris. 

Whenever we halted our statesman, M. Doumer, 
was active. Did we have difficulties over a culvert 
which had been hastily mended, he was out of the car 
and in command. Always he was meeting some man 
whom he knew and shaking hands like a senator at 
home. At one place a private soldier, a man of edu- 
cation by his speech, came running across the street at 
sight of him. 

" Son of an old friend of mine, from my town," 
said our statesman. Being a French private meant 
being any kind of a Frenchman. All inequalities are 
levelled in the ranks of a great conscript army. 

Be it through towns unharmed or towns that had 
been looted and shelled, the people had the smile of 
victory, the look of victory in their eyes. Children 
and old men and women, the stay-at-homes, waved to 
our car in holiday spirit. The laugh of a sturdy 
young woman who threw some flowers into the ton- 
neau as we passed, in her tribute to the uniform of the 
army that had saved France, had the spirit of vic- 
torious France — France after forty years' waiting 
throwing back a foe that had two soldiers to every one 
of hers. All the land, rich fields and neat gardens 
and green stretches of woods in the fair, rolling land- 
scape, basked in victory. Dead the spirit of any one 
who could not, for the time being, catch the infection 
of it and feel himself a Frenchman. Far from the 
Paris of gay show for the tourist one seemed; in the 
midst of the France of the farms and the villages 
which had saved Paris and France. 

The car sped on over the hard road. Staff officers 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 55 

in other cars whom we passed alone suggested that 
there was war somewhere ahead. Were we never 
going to reach the battle-line, the magnet of our speed 
when a French army chauffeur made all speed laws 
obsolete ! 

Shooting out of a grove, a valley made a channel 
for sound that brought to our ears the thunder of 
guns, the firing so rapid that it was like the roll of 
some cyclopean snare-drum beaten with sticks the size 
of ship-masts. From the crest of the next hill we had 
a glimpse of an open sweep of parklike country to- 
ward wooded hills. As far as we could see against 
the background of the foliage throwing it into relief 
was a continuous cloud of smoke from bursting shrap- 
nel shells, renewed with fresh, soft, blue puffs as fast 
as it was dissipated. 

This, then, was a battle. No soldiers, no guns in 
sight; only a diaphanous, man-made nimbus against 
masses of autumn green which was raining steel hail. 
Ten miles of this, one ,,ould say; and under it lines 
of men in blue coats and red trousers and green uni- 
forms hugging the earth, as unseen as a battalion of 
ants at work in the tall grass. Even if a charge swept 
across a field one would have been able to detect noth- 
ing except moving pin-points on a carpet. 

There was hard fighting; a lot of French and Ger- 
mans were being killed in the direction of Compiegne 
and Noyon to-day. Another dip into another valley 
and the thir-r-r of a rapid-firer and the muffled firing 
of a line of infantry were audible. Yes, we were get- 
ting up with the army, with one tiny section of it op- 
erating along the road we were on. Multiply this by 
3 thousand and you have the whole. . 

Ahead was the army's stomach on wheels; a pro- 



•56 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

cession of big motor transport trades keeping their 
intervals of distance with the precision of a battleship 
fleet at sea. We should have known that they belonged 
to the army by the deafness of the drivers to appeals 
to let us pass. All army transports are like that. 
What the deuced right has anybody to pass? They 
are the transport, and only fighting men belong in 
front of them. Our automobile in trying to go by to 
one side got stuck in a rut that an American car, built 
for bad roads, would have made nothing of; which 
proves again how clearly European armies are tied 
to their fine roads. We got out, and here was our 
statesman putting his shoulder to the wheel again. 
That is the way of the French in war. Everybody 
tries to help. By this time the transport chauffeurs 
also remembered that they were Frenchmen; and as 
Frenchmen are polite even in time of war, they let 
us by. 

A motor-cyclist approached with his hand up. 

" Stop here ! " he called. 

Those transport chauffeurs who were deaf to ex- 
premiers heard instantly and obeyed. In front of 
them was a line of single horse-drawn carts, with an 
extra horse in the rear. They could take paths that 
the motor-trucks could not. Archaic they seemed, yet 
friendly, as a relic of how armies were fed in other 
days. For the first time I was realising what the 
automobile means to war. It brings the army im- 
pedimenta close up to the army's rear; it means a re- 
duction of road space occupied by transport by three- 
quarters ; ease in keeping pace with food with the ad- 
vance, speed in falling back in case of retreat. 

All that day I did not see a single piece of French 
army transport broken down. And this army had 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 57 

been fighting for weeks; it had been an army on the 
road. The valuable part of our experience was ex- 
actly in this : a glimpse of an army in action after it 
had been through all the vicissitudes that an army may 
have in marching and counter-marching and attack. 
Order one was to expect afterwards behind the siege 
line of trenches when there had been time to establish 
a routine; organisation and smooth organisation you 
had here at the climax of a month's strain. It told 
the story of the character of the French army and the 
reasons for its success other than its courage. The 
brains were not all with the German Staff. 

That winding road, with a new picture at every 
turn, now revealed the town of Soissons in the valley 
of the River Aisne. Soissons was ours, we knew, 
since yesterday. How much farther had we gone? 
Was our advance still continuing ? For then, the win- 
ter trench-fighting was unforeseen and the sightseers 
thought of the French army as following up success 
with success. Paris, rising from gloom to optimism, 
hoped to see the Germans put out of France. The 
appetite for victory grew after a week's bulletins which 
moved the flags forward on the map every day. 

Another turn and Soissons was hidden from view 
by a woodland. Here we came upon what looked like 
a leisurely family party of reserves. The French 
army, a small section of French army along a road ! 
And thus, if one would see the whole it must be in 
bits along the roads when not on the firing-line. They 
were sprawling in the fields in the genial afternoon 
sun, looking as if they had no concern except to rest. 
Uniforms dusty and faces tanned and bearded told 
their story of the last month. 

The duty of a portion of a force is always to wait 



$1 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAft 

on what is being done by the others at the front. 
These were waiting near a forks which could take 
them to the. right or the left, as the situation de- 
manded. At their rear, their supply of small arms 
ammunition; in front, caissons of shells for a battery 
speaking from the woods near by; a troop of cavalry 
drawn up, the men dismounted, ready; and ahead of 
them more reserves ready ; everything ready. 

This was where the general wanted the body of 
men and equipment to be, and here they were. There 
were no dragging ends in the rear, so far as I could 
see ; nobody complaining that food or ammunition was 
not up ; no aide looking for somebody who could not 
be found; no excited staff officer rushing about shout- 
ing for somebody to look sharp for somebody had 
made a mistake. The thing was unwarlike; it was 
like a particularly well-thought-out route march. Yet 
at the word that company of cavalry might be in the 
thick of it, at the point where they were wanted; the 
infantry rushing to the support of the firing-line ; the 
motor transport facing around for withdrawal, if 
need be. It was only a little way, indeed, into the 
zone of death from the rear of that compact column. 

Thousands of such compact bodies on as many 
roads, each seemingly a force by itself and each a part 
of the whole, which could be a dependable whole only 
when every part was ready, alert, and up where it be- 
longed I Nothing can be left to chance in a battle- 
line three hundred miles long. The general must 
know what to depend on, mile by mile, in his plans. 
Millions of human units are grouped in increasingly 
larger units, harmonised according to set forms. The 
most complex of all machines is that of a vast army, 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 59 

which yet must be kept most simple. No unit acts 
without regard to the others; every one must know 
how to do his part The parts of the machine are 
standardised. One is like the other in training, uni- 
form, and every detail, so that one can replace an- 
other. Oldest of all trades this of war ; old experts 
the French. What one saw was like manoeuvres. It 
must be like manoeuvres or the army would not hold 
together. Manoeuvres are to teach armies coherence ; 
war tries out that coherence, which you may not have 
if some one does not know just what to do; if he is 
uncertain in his role. Haste leads to confusion ; haste 
is only for supreme moments. In order to know how 
to hasten when the hurry call comes, the mighty or- 
ganism must move in its routine with the smoothness 
of a well-rehearsed play. 

Joffre and the others who directed the machine must 
know more than the mechanics of staff-control. They 
must know the character of the man-material in the 
machine. It was their duty as real Frenchmen to un- 
derstand Frenchmen, their verve, their restlessness for 
the offensive, their individualism, their democratic in- 
telligence, the value of their elation, the drawback of 
their tendency to depression and to think for them- 
selves. Indeed, the leader must counteract the faults 
of his people and make the most of their virtues. 

Thus, we had a French army's historical part re- 
versed : a French army falling back and concentrating 
on the Marne to receive the enemy blow. Equally 
alive to German racial traits, the German Staff had 
organised in their mass offensive the elan which means 
fast marching and hard blows. Thus, we found the 
supposedly excitable French digging in to receive th? 



60 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

onslaught of the supposedly phlegmatic German. 
When the time came for the charge — ah, you can 
always depend on a Frenchman to charge ! 

Those reserves were pawns on a chessboard. They 
appeared like it; one thought that they realised it. 
Their individual intelligence and democracy had rea- 
soned out the value of obedience and homogeneity, 
rather than accepted the dictum of any war lord. Dif- 
ficult to think that each had left a vacancy at a family 
board ; difficult to think that they were not automatons 
in a process of endless routine of war ; but pot difficult 
to learn that they were Frenchmen once we had 
thrown our bombs in the midst of the group. 

Of old, one knew the wants of soldiers. One 
needed no hint of what was welcome at the front. 
Never at any front were there enough newspapers or 
tobacco. Men smoke twice as much as usual in the 
strain of waiting for action, men who do not use to- 
bacco at all get the habit. Ask the G. A. R. men who 
fought in our great war if this is not true. Then, 
too, when your country is at war, when back at home 
hands stretch for every fresh edition and you at the 
front know only what happens in your alley, think 
what a newspaper from Paris means out on the bat- 
tle-line seventy miles from Paris. So I brought a 
bundle of newspapers. 

Monsieur, the sensation is beyond even the French 
language to express — the sensation of sitting down 
by the roadside with this morning's edition and the 
first cigarette for twenty-four hours. 

u C'est epatantl C'est chic, qal Cest mtgnifique! 
Alors, nom de Dieul Tiensf He las/ Voxlal 
Merci, mille remerciements ! " — it was an army of 
Frenchmen with ready words, quick, telling gestures. 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 61 

pouring out their volume of thanks as the car sped by, 
and we tossed out our newspapers at intervals, so that 
all should have a look. 

An Echo de Paris that fell into the road was the 
centre of a flag-rush, which included an officer. Most 
unmilitary — an officer scrambling at the same time 
as his men! In the name of the Kaiser, what dis- 
cipline ! 

Then the car stopped long enough for me to see a 
private give the paper to his officer, who was plainly 
sensible of a loss of dignity, with the courtesy which 
said, "A thousand pardons, mon capitainef" and 
the capitaine began reading the newspaper aloud to 
his men. Scores of human touches which were 
French, republican, democratic! 

With half our cigarettes gone, we fell in with some 
brown-skinned, native African troops, the Moham- 
medan Turcos. Their white teeth gleaming, their 
black eyes devilishly eager, they began climbing onto 
the car. We gave them all the cigarettes in sight; but 
fortunately our reserve supply was not visible, and an 
officer's sharp command saved us from being invested 
by storm. 

As we came into. Soissons we left the reserves be- 
hind. They were kept back out of range of the Ger- 
man shells, making the town a dead space between 
them and the firing-line which was beyond. When 
the Germans retreated through the streets the French 
had taken care, as it was their town, to keep their fire 
away from the cathedral and the main square to the 
outskirts and along the river. Not so the German 
guns when the French infantry passed through. Sois- 
sons was not a German town. 

We alighted from the car in a deserted street, with 



62 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

all the shutters of shops that had not been torn down 
by shell-fire closed. Soissons was as silent as the 
grave, within easy range of many enemy guns. War 
seemed only for the time being in this valley bottom 
shut in from the roar of artillery a few miles away, 
except for a French battery which was firing method- 
ically and slowly, its shells whizzing toward the ridge 
back of the town. 

The next thing that one wanted most was to go into 
that battery and see the soixante-quinze and their skil- 
ful gunners. Our statesman said that he would try 
to locate it We thought that it was in the direction 
of the river, that famous Aisne which has since given 
its name to the longest siege-line in history; a small, 
winding stream in the bottom of an irregular valley. 
Both bridges across it had been cut by the Germans. 
If that battery were on the opposite side under cover 
of any one of a score of blots of foliage we could not 
reach it. Another shot — and we were not sure that 
the battery was not on the other side of the town ; a 
crack out of the landscape : this was modern artillery 
fire to one who faced it. Apparently the guns of the 
battery were scattered, according to the accepted prac- 
tice, and from the central firing-station word to fire 
was being passed first to one gun and then to another. 

Beside the buttress of one bridge lay two still figures 
of Algerian Zouaves. These were fresh dead, fallen 
in the taking of the town. Only two men! There 
were dead by thousands which one might see in other 
places. These two had leaped out from cover to dash 
forward and bullets were waiting for them. They 
had rolled over on their backs, their rigid hands still in 
the position of grasping their rifles after the manner 
of crouching skirmishers. 



ON THE HEELS OF VON RLUCK 63 

Our statesman said that we had better give up try- 
ing to locate the battery; and one of the officers called 
a halt to trying to go up to the firing-line on the part 
of a personally conducted party, after we stopped a 
private hurrying back from the front on some errand. 
With his alertness, the easy swing of his walk, his light 
step, and that freedom in spirit and appearance, he 
typified the thing which the French call elan. When- 
ever one asked a question of a French private you 
could depend upon a direct answer. He knew or he 
did not know. This definiteness, the result of military 
training, as well as the Gallic lucidity of thought, is not 
the least of the human factors in making an efficient 
army, where every man and every unit must definitely 
know his part. This young man, you realised, had 
tasted the u salt of life," as Lord Kitchener calls it. 
He had heard the close sing of bullets; he had known 
the intoxication of a charge. 

" Does everything go well? " M. Doumer asked. 

"It is not going at all, now. It is sticking," was 
the answer. " Some Germans were busy up there in 
the stone quarries while the others were falling back. 
They have a covered trench and rapid-fire gun po- 
sitions to sweep a zone of fire which they have 
cleared." 

Famous stone quarries of Soissons, providing ready- 
made dugouts as shelter from shells ! 

There is a story of how before Marengo Napoleon 
heard a private saying: " Now this is what the gen- 
eral ought to do ! " It was Napoleon's own plan re- 
vealed. "You keep still!" he said. "This army 
has too many generals." 

" They mean to make a stand," the private went on. 
" It's an ideal place for it. There is no use of an 



64 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

attack in front. We'd be mowed down by machine 
guns." The br-r-r of a dozen shots from a German 
machine gun gave point to his conclusion. " Our in- 
fantry is hugging what we have and entrenching. 
You better not go up. One has to know the way, or 
he'll walk right into a sharpshooter's bullet " — instruc- 
tions that would have been applicable a year later when 
you were about to visit a British trench in almost the 
same location. 

The siege warfare of the Aisne line had already 
begun. It was singular to get the first news of it from 
a private in Soissons and then to return to Paris and 
London, on the other side of the curtain of secrecy, 
where the public thought that the Allied advance 
would continue. 

" A lions! " said our statesman, and we went to the 
town square, where German guns had carpeted the 
ground with branches of shade trees and torn off the 
fronts of houses, revealing sections of looted interior 
which had been further messed by shell-bursts. Some 
women and children and a crippled man came out-of- 
doors at sight of us. M. Doumer introduced himself 
and shook hands all around. They were glad to meet 
him in much the same way as if he had been on an elec- 
tion campaign. 

"A German shell struck there across the square 
only half an hour ago," said one of the women. 

" What do you do when there is shelling? " asked 
M. Doumer. 

" If it is bad we go into the cellar," was the answer; 
an answer which implied that peculiar fearlessness of 
women, who get accustomed to fire easier than men. 
These were the fatalists of the town, who would not 
turn refugee ; helpless to fight, but grimly staying with 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 65 

their homes and accepting what came with an incom- 
prehensible stoicism, which possibly had its origin in 
a race-feeling so proud and bitter that they would not 
admit that they could be afraid of anything German, 
even a shell. 

" And how did the Germans act ? " 

" They made themselves at home in our houses and 
slept in our beds, while we slept in the kitchen/' she 
answered. u They said if we kept indoors and gave 
them what they wanted we should not be harmed. 
But if any one fired a shot at their troops or any arms 
were found in our houses, they would burn the town. 
When they were going back in a great hurry — how 
they scattered from our shells ! We went out in the 
square to see our shells, monsieur ! " 

What mattered the ruins of her home ? Our shells 
had returned vengeance. 

Arrows with directions in German, " This way to 
the river," " This way to Villers-Cotteret," were 
chalked on the standing walls ; and on door-casings the 
names of the detachments of the Prussian Guard bil- 
leted there, all in systematic Teutonic fashion. 

" Prince Albrecht Joachim, one of the Kaiser's sons, 
was here and I talked with him," said the Mayor, who 
thought we should enjoy a morsel from court circles in 
exchange for a copy of. the t.cho de Paris which con- 
tained the news that Prince Albrecht had been 
wounded later. The mayor looked tired, this local 
man of the people, who had to play the shepherd of a 
stricken flock. Afterwards, they said that he deserted 
his charge and a lady, Mme. Macherez, took his place. 
All I know is that he was present that day; or at least 
a man who was introduced to me as mayor; and he was 
French enough to make a bon mot by saying that he 



66 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

feared there was some fault in his hospitality because 
he had been unable to keep his guest. 

" May I have this confiture t " asked a battle-stained 
French orderly, coming up to him. " I found it in 
that ruined house there — all the Germans had left. 
I haven't had a confiture for a long time and, monsieur, 
you cannot imagine what a hunger I have for con- 
fitures" 

All the while the French battery kept on firing 
slowly, then again rapidly, their cracks trilling off like 
the drum of knuckles on a table-top. Another effort 
to locate one of the guns before we started back to 
Paris failed. Speeding on, we had again a glimpse of 
the landscape toward Noyon, sprinkled with shell- 
bursts. The reserves were around their campfires 
making savoury stews for the evening meal. They 
would sleep where night found them on the sward 
under the* stars, as in wars of old. That scene 
remains indelible as one of many while the army was 
yet mobile, before the contest became one of the mole 
and of the beaver. 

Though one had already seen many German prison- 
ers in groups and convoys, the sight of two on the 
road fixed the attention because of the surroundings 
and the contrast suggested between French and Ger- 
man natures. Both were young, in the very prime of 
life, and both Prussian. One was dark-complexioned, 
with a scrubbly beard which was the product of the 
war. He marched with such rigidity that I should not 
have been surprised to see him break into a goose-step. 
The other was of that mild, blue-eyed, tow-haired type 
from the Baltic provinces, with the thin white skin 
which does not tan but burns. He was frailer than the 
Other and he was tired ; oh, how tired ! He would lag 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 67 

and then stiffen back his shoulders and draw in his chin 
and force a trifle more energy into his step. 

A typical, lively French soldier was escorting the 
pair. He looked pretty tired, too, but he was getting 
over the ground in the natural, easy way in which man 
is meant to walk. The aboriginal races, who have a 
genius for long distances on foot, do not march in the 
German fashion, which looks impressive, but lacks 
endurance. By the same logic, the cayuse's gait is 
better for thirty miles day in and day out than the high- 
stepping carriage horse's. 

You could realise the contempt which those two 
martial Germans had for their captor. Four or five 
peasant women refugees by the roadside unloosened 
their tongues in piercing feminine satire and upbraid- 
ing. 

" You are going to Paris, after all ! This is what 
you get for invading our country ; and you'll get more 
of it!" 

The little French soldier held up his hand to the 
women and shook his head. He was a chivalrous fel- 
low, with imagination enough to appreciate the feel- 
ings of an enemy who has fought hard and lost. Such 
as he would fight fair and hold this war of the civilisa- 
tions up to something like the standards of civilisation. 

The very tired German stiffened up again, as his 
drill sergeant had taught him, and both stared straight 
ahead, proud and contemptuous, as their Kaiser would 
wish them to do. I should recognise the faces of these 
two Germans and of that little French guard if I saw 
them ten years hence. In ten years, what will be the 
Germans' attitude toward this war and their military 
lords? 

It is not often that one has a senator for a guide; 



68 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

and I never knew a more efficient one than our states- 
man. His own curiosity was the best possible aid in 
satisfying our own. Having seen the compactness and 
simplicity of an army column at the front, we were to 
find that the same thing applied to high command. A 
sentry and a small flag at the doorway of a village 
hotel: this was the headquarters of the Sixth Army, 
which General Manoury had formed in haste and flung 
at von Kluck with a spirit which crowned his white 
hairs with the audacity of youth. He was absent, but 
we might see something of the central direction of one 
hundred and fifty thousand men in the course of one of 
the most brilliant manoeuvres of the war, before staffs 
had settled down to office existence in permanent quar- 
ters. That is, we might see the little there was to see : 
a soldier telegrapher in one bedroom, a soldier type- 
writist in another, officers at work in others. One 
realised that they could pack up everything and move 
in the time it takes to toss enough clothes into a bag to 
spend a night away from home. Apparently, when 
the French fought they left red tape behind with the 
bureaucracy. 

From his seat before a series of maps on a sitting- 
room table an officer of about thirty-five rose to receive 
us. It struck me that he exemplified self-possessed in- 
telligence and definite knowledge ; that he had coolness 
and steadiness plus that acuteness of perception and 
clarity of statement which are the gift of the French. 
You felt sure that no orders which left his hand wasted 
any words or lacked explicitness. The Staff is the 
brains of the army, and he had brains. 

" All goes well! " he said, as if there were no more 
to say. All goes well I He would say it when things 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 69 

looked black or when they looked bright, and in a way 
that would make others believe it. 

Outside the hotel were no cavalry escorts or com- 
manders, no hurrying orderlies, none of the legendary 
physical activity that is associated with an army head- 
quarters. An automobile drove up, an officer got out ; 
another officer descended the stairs to enter a waiting 
car. The wires carry word faster than the cars. 
Each subordinate commander was in his place along 
that line where we had seen the puffs of smoke against 
the landscape, ready to answer a question or obey an 
order. That simplicity, like art itself, which seems so 
easy is the most difficult accomplishment of all in war. 

After dark, in a drizzling rain, we came to what 
seemed to be a town, for our automobile lamps spread 
their radiant streams over wet pavements. But these 
were the only lights. Tongues of loose brick had 
been shot across the cobblestones and dimly the jagged 
skyline of broken walls of buildings on either side 
could be discovered. It was Senlis, the first town I 
had seen which could be classified as a town in ruins. 
Afterwards, one became a sort of specialist in ruins, 
comparing the latest with previous examples of de- 
struction. 

Approaching footsteps broke the silence. A small, 
very small, French soldier — he was not more than 
five feet two — appeared and we followed him to an 
ambulance that had broken down for want of gasoline. 
It belonged to the Societe de Femmes de France. The 
little soldier had put on a uniform as a volunteer for 
the only service his stature would permit. In those 
days many volunteer organisations were busy seeking 
to " help." There was a kind of competition among 



70 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

them for wounded. This ambulance had got one and 
was taking him to Paris, off the regular route of the 
wounded who were being sent south. The boot-soles 
of a prostrate figure showed out of the dark recess of 
the interior. This French officer, a major, had been 
hit in the shoulder. He tried to control the catch in 
his voice which belied his assertion that he was suffer- 
ing little pain. The drizzling rain was chilly. It was 
a long way to Paris yet. 

" We will make inquiries," said our kindly general. 

A man who came out of the gloom said that there 
was a hospital kept by some Sisters of Charity in Senlis 
which had escaped destruction. The question was 
put into the recesses of the ambulance : 

" Would you prefer to spend the night here and go 
on in the morning? " 

" Yes, monsieur, I — should — like — that — bet- 
ter I " The tone left no doubt of the relief that the 
journey in a car with poor springs was not to be con- 
tinued after hours of waiting, marooned in the street 
of a ruined town. 

While the ambulance passed inside the hospital gate, 
I spoke with an elderly woman who came to a nearby 
door. Cool and definite she was as a French soldier, 
bringing home the character of the women of France 
which this war has made so well-known to the world. 

" Were you here during the fighting? " 

" Yes, monsieur, and during the shelling and the 
burning. The shelling was not enough. The Ger- 
mans said that some one fired on their soldiers — a 
boy, I believe — so they set fire to the houses. One 
could only look and hate and pray as their soldiers 
passed through, looking so unconquerable, making 
all seem so terrible for France. Was it to be '70 



ON THE HEELS OF VON KLUCK 71 

1 

over again? One's heart was of stone, monsieur. 
Tiensl They came back faster than they went A 
mitrailleuse was down there at the end of the street, 
our mitrailleuse! The bullets went cracking by. 
They crack, the bullets; they do not whistle like the 
stories say. Then the street was empty of Germans 
who could run. The dead they could not run, nor the 
wounded. Then the French came up the street, run- 
ning, too — running after the Germans. It was good, 
monsieur, good, good! My heart was not of stone 
then, monsieur. It could not beat fast enough for hap- 
piness. It was the heart of a girl. I remember it all 
very clearly. I always shall, monsieur." 

" Allans 1" said our statesman. "The officer is 
well cared for." 

The world seemed normal again as we passed 
through other towns unharmed and swept by the dark 
countryside, till a red light rose in our path and a 
sharp " Qui vivef " came out of the night as we slowed 
down. This was not the only sentry call from a 
French Territorial in front of a barricade. 

At a second halt we found a chain as well as a bar- 
ricade across the road. For a moment it seemed that 
even the suave parliamentarism of our statesman or 
the authority of our general and our passes could not 
convince one grizzled reservist, doing his duty for 
France at the rear while the young men were at the 
front, that we had any right to be going into Paris at 
that hour of the night. The password, which was 
" Paris," helped, and we felt it a most appropriate 
password as we came to the broad streets of the city 
that was safe. 

There is a popular idea that Napoleon was a super- 
geniys who won all his battles alone, It is wrong. 



72 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

He had a lot of Frenchmen along to help. Much the 
same kind of Frenchmen live to-day. Not until they 
fought again would the world believe this. It seems 
that the excitable Gaul, whom some people thought 
would become demoralised in face of German organ- 
isation, merely talks with his hands. In a great crisis 
he is cool, as he always was. I like the French for 
their democracy and humanity. I like them, too, for 
leaving their war to France and Marianne; for not 
dragging in God as do the Germans. For it is just 
possible that God is not in the fight. We don't know 
that He even approved of the war. 



VI 

AND CALAIS WAITS 

Calais, the objective of a struggle for world power — Last reserves 
of the British — A city of refugees — Heroic care of the wounded 
— "Life going on as usual" — The cheerful Belgians— In a 
French hospital — An astonished but happy Tommy. 

To the traveller, Calais had been the symbol of the 
shortest route from London to Paris, the shortest spell 
of torment in crossing the British Channel. It was a 
point where one felt infinite relief or sad physical 
anticipations. In the last days of November Calais 
became the symbol of a struggle for world power. 
The British and the French were fighting to hold 
Calais; the Germans to get it In Calais Germany 
would have her foot on the Atlantic coast. She could 
look across only twenty-two miles of water to the chalk 
cliffs at Dover. She would be as near her rival as 
twice the length of Manhattan Island ; within the range 
of a modern gun; within an hour by steamer and 
twenty minutes by aeroplane. 

The long battle-front from Switzerland to the 
North Sea had been established. There was no get- 
ting around the Allied flank; there had ceased to be a 
flank* To win Calais, Germany must crush through 
without any manoeuvre by main force. From the cafes 
where the British newspaper men gathered England re- 
ceived its news, which they gleaned from refugees and 
stragglers and passing officers. They wrote some- 
thing every day, for England must have something 

73 



74 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

about that dizzy head-on wrestle in the mud, that 
writhing line of changing positions, of new trenches 
rising behind the old destroyed by German artillery. 
The British were fighting with their last reserves on 
the Ypres-Armentieres line. The French divisions to 
the south were suffering no less heavily, and beyond 
them the Belgians were trying to hold the last strip of 
their land under Belgian sovereignty. Cordons of 
guards which kept back the observer from the struggle 
could not keep back the truth. Something ominous 
was in the air. 

It was worth while being in that old town as it 
waited on the issue in the late October rains. Its 
fishermen crept out in the mornings from the shel- 
ter of its quays, where refugees gathered in crowds 
hoping to get away by steamer. Like lost souls, car- 
rying all the possessions they could on their backs, 
these refugees. There was numbness in their move- 
ments and their faces were blank — the paralysis of 
brain from sudden disaster. The children did not 
cry, but munched the dry bread which their parents 
gave them mechanically. 

The newspaper men said that " refugee stuff " was 
already stale; eviction and misery were stale. Was 
Calais to be saved? That was the only question. If 
the Germans came, one thought that Madame at the 
hotel would still be at her desk, unruffled, businesslike, 
and she would still serve an excellent salad for 
dejeuner; the fishermen would still go out to sea for 
their daily catch. 

What was going to happen ? What might not hap- 
pen? It was human helplessness to the last degree 
for all behind the wrestlers. Fate was in the battle- 
line. There could be no resisting that fate. If the 



AND CALAIS WAITS 75 

Germans came, they came. Belgian staff officers with 
their high-crowned, gilt-braided caps went flying by in 
their cars. There always seemed a great many 
Belgian staff officers back of the Belgian army in the 
restaurants and cafes. Habit is strong, even in war. 
They did not often miss their dejeuners. On the Dix- 
mude line all that remained of the active Belgian Army 
was in a death struggle in the rain and mud. To these 
shipperkes, honour without stint, as to their gallant 
king. 

Slightly wounded Belgians and Belgian stragglers 
roamed the streets of Calais. Some had a few belong- 
ings wrapped up in handkerchiefs. Others had only 
the clothes on their backs. Yet they were cheerful; 
this was the amazing thing. They moved about, 
laughing and chatting in groups. Perhaps this was 
the best way. Possibly the relief at being out of the 
hell at the front was the only emotion they could feel. 
But their cheerfulness was none the less a dash of sun- 
light for Calais. 

The French were grim. They were still polite; 
they went on with their work. No unwounded French 
soldiers were to be seen, except the old Territorials 
guarding the railroad and the highways. The mili- 
tary organisation of France, which knew what war 
meant and had expected war, had drawn every man 
to his place and held him there with the inexorable 
hand of military and racial discipline. Calais had 
never considered caring for wounded, and the 
wounded poured in. I saw an automobile with a 
wounded man stop at a crowded corner, in the midst 
of refugees and soldiers; a doctor was leaning over 
him, and he died while the car waited. 

But the newspaper men were saying that stories of 



76 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

wounded men were likewise stale. So they were, for 
Europe was red with wounded. Train after train 
brought in its load from the front, and Calais tried to 
care for them. At least, it had buildings which would 
give shelter from the rain. On the floor of a railroad 
freight shed the wounded lay in long rows, with just 
enough space between them to make an alley. Those 
in the row against one of the walls were German pris- 
oners. Their green uniforms melted into the stone of 
the wall and did not show the mud stains. Two 
slightly wounded had their heads together whispering. 
They were helplessly tired, though not as tired as most 
of the others, those two stalwart young men ; but they 
seemed to be relieved, almost happy. It did not mat- 
ter what happened to them, now, so long as they could 
rest. 

Next to them a German was dying, and others badly 
hit were glassy-eyed in their fatigue and exhaustion. 
This was the word, exhaustion, for all the wounded. 
They had not the strength for passion or emotion. 
The fuel for those fires was in ashes. All they wanted 
in this world was to lie quiet ; and some fell asleep not 
knowing or caring probably whether they were in Ger- 
many or in France. In the other rows, in contrast with 
this chameleon, baffling green, were the red trousers 
of the French and the dark blue of the Belgian uni- 
forms, sharing the democracy of exhaustion with their 
foe. 

A misty rain was falling. In a bright spot of light 
through a window one by one the wounded were being 
lifted up on to a seat, if they were not too badly hit, 
and onto an operating-table if they were very badly 
hit. A doctor and a sturdy Frenchwoman of about 
thirty, in spotless white, were in charge. Another 



AND CALAIS WAITS 77 

woman undid the first-aid bandage and others applied 
a spray. No time was lost; there were too many 
wounded to care for. The thing must be done as rap- 
idly as possible before another train-load came in. If 
these attendants were tired, they did not know it any 
more than the wounded had realised their fatigue in 
the passion of battle. The improvised arrangement to 
meet an emergency had an appeal which more elabo- 
rate arrangements of organisation which I had seen 
lacked. It made war a little more red; humanity a 
little more human and kind and helpless under the 
scourge which it had brought on itself. 

Though Calais was not prepared for wounded, 
when they came the women of energy and courage 
turned to the work without jealousy, without regard 
to red tape, without fastidiousness. I have in mind 
half a dozen other women about the streets that day in 
uniforms of short skirts and helmets, who belonged to 
some volunteer organisation which had taken some 
care as to its regimentals. They were types not char- 
acteristic of the whole, of whom one practical English 
doctor said : " We don't mind as long as they do not 
get in the way.' 9 Their criticisms of Calais and the 
arrangements were outspoken ; nothing was adequate ; 
conditions were filthy; it was shameful. They were 
going to write to the English newspapers about it and 
appeal for money. When they had organised a 
proper hospital, one should see how the thing ought 
to be done. Meantime, these volunteer French- 
women were doing the best they knew how and doing 
it now. 

A fine-looking young Frenchman who had a shell- 
wound in the thigh was being lifted onto the table. 
He shuddered with pain, as he clenched his teeth; yet 



78 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

when the dressing was finished he was able to breathe 
his thanks. On the seat was a Congo negro who had 
been with one of the Belgian regiments, coal black and 
thick-lipped, with bloodshot eyes; an unsensitised hu- 
man organism, his face as expressionless as his bare 
back with holes made by shell-fragments. A young 
Frenchwoman — she could not have been more than 
nineteen — with a face of singular refinement, sprayed 
his wounds with the definiteness of one trained to such 
work, though two days before it had probably never 
occurred to her as being in the possibilities of her ex- 
istence. Her coolness and the coolness of the other: 
women in their silent activity had a charm that went 
with one's devout respect. 

The French wounded, too, were silent, as if in the 
presence of a crisis which overwhelmed their personal 
thoughts. Help was needed at the front; they knew 
it. On sixty trains in one day sixty thousand French 
passed through Calais. With a pass from the French 
commandant at Calais, I got aboard one of these 
trains down at the railroad yards at dawn. This lot 
were Turcos, in command of a white-haired veteran 
of African campaigns. An utter change of atmos- 
phere from the freight shed ! Perhaps it is only the 
wounded who have time to think. My companions in 
the officers' car were as cheery as the brown devils 
whom they led. They had come from the trenches 
on the Marne, and their commissariat was a boiled 
ham, some bread and red wine. Enough! It was 
war time, as they said. 

" We were in the Paris railroad yards. That is all 
we saw of Paris, and in the night. Hard luck ! " 

They had left the Marne the previous day. By 
night they could be in the ficht. It did not take long 



AND CALAIS WAIXS 79 

to send reinforcements when the line was closed to all 
except military traffic and one train followed close on 
the heels of another. 

They did not know where they were going. One 
never knew where. Probably they would get orders 
at Dunkirk. Father Joffre, when there was a call for 
reinforcements never was in a panicky hurry about it. 
He seemed to understand that the general who made 
the call could hold out a little longer; but the rein- 
forcements were always up on time. A long head had 
Father Joffre. 

Now I am going to say that life was going on as 
usual at Dunkirk; that is the obvious thing to say. 
The nearer the enemy, the more characteristic that 
trite observation of those who have followed the roads 
of war in Europe. At Dunkirk you might have a 
good meal within sound of the thunder of the guns of 
the British monitors which were helping the Belgians 
to hold their line. At Dunkirk most excellent pastry 
was for sale in a confectionery shop. Why shouldn't 
tartmakers go on making tarts and selling them? 
The British naval reserve officers used to take tea in 
this shop. Little crowds of citizens who had nothing 
to do, which is the most miserable of vocations in such 
a crisis, gathered to look at armoured motor cars which 
had come in from the front with bullet dents, which 
rave them the atmosphere of battle. 

Beyond Dunkirk, one might see wounded Belgians 
fresh from the front, staggering in, crawling in, hob- 
bling in from under the havoc of shell-fire, their first- 
aid bandages saturated with mud, their ungainly and 
impracticable uniforms oozing mud, ghosts of men — 
these shipperkes of the nation that was unprepared for 
war, who had done their part, when the only military 



80 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

thought was for more men, unwounded men, British, 
French, Belgian, to stem the German tide. Yet many 
of these Belgians, even these, were cheerful. They 
could still smile and say, " Bonne chance/ " 

Indeed, there seemed no limit to the cheerfulness of 
Belgians. At a hospital in Calais I met a Belgian pro- 
fessor with his head a white ball of bandages, showing 
a hole for one eye and a slit for the mouth. He had 
been one of the cyclist force which took account of 
many German cavalry scouts in the first two weeks of 
the war. A staff automobile had run over him on the 
road. 

44 1 think the driver of the car was careless," he said 
mildly, as if he were giving a gentle reproof to a stu- 
dent. 

By contrast, he had reason to be thankful for his lot. 
Looked after by a brave man attendant in another 
room were the wounded who were too horrible to see ; 
who must die. Then in another, you had a picture of 
a smiling British regular, with a British nurse and an 
Englishwoman of Calais to look after him. They 
read to him, they talked to him, they vied with each 
other in rearranging his pillows or bedclothes. He 
was a hero of a story ; but it rather puzzled him why 
he should be. Why were a lot of people paying so 
much attention to him for doing his duty ? 

In the cavalry, he had been separated from his reg- 
iment on the retreat from Mons. Wandering about 
the country, he came up with a regiment of cuirassiers 
and asked if he might not fight with them. A number 
of the cuirassiers spoke English. They took him into 
the ranks. The regiment went far over on the Marne, 
through towns with French names which he could not 
pronounce, this man in khaki with the French troopers. 



AND CALAIS WAITS 81 

He was marked. Cest un Anglais! People cheered 
him and threw flowers to him in regions which had 
never seen one of the soldiers of the Ally before. 

Yes, officers and gentlemen invited him to dine, like 
he was a gentleman, he said, and not a Tommy, and 
the French Government had given him a decoration 
called the Legion of Honour or something like that. 
This was all very fine ; but the best thing was that his 
own colonel, when he returned, had him up before his 
company and made a speech to him for fighting with 
the French when he could not find his own regiment. 
He was supremely happy, this Tommy. In waiting 
Calais one might witness about all the emotions and 
contrasts of war — and many which one does not find 
at the front. 



VII 

IN GERMANY 

The other side of the shield — A German guard — A people organ* 
ised — A machine of psychical force — " A people who think only 
in the offensive" — A nation trained to win — At a Berlin hotel 

— Bluffing the nation into confidence — A "normal" city — Of- 
ficially instilled hate — England the cause — A Red Cross com- 
parison — Everything to win ! — " Are you for or against us ? " 

— The German point of view — A hothouse mind trained by a 
diligent paternalism — The "brand of the LusitaniaJ 



»> 



Never had the war seemed a more monstrous satire 
than on that first day in Germany as the train took me 
to Berlin. It was the other side of the wall of gun 
and rifle-fire, where another set of human beings were 
giving life in order to take life. The Lord had fash- 
ioned them in the same pattern on both sides. Their 
children were born in the same way; they bled from 
wounds in the same way — but why go on in this 
vicious circle of thought? My impressions of Ger- 
many were brief and the clearer, perhaps, for being 
brief and drawn on the fresh background of Paris and 
Calais waiting to know their fate ; of England staring 
across the Channel in a suspense which her phlegmatic 
nature would not confess to learn the result of the bat- 
tle for the Channel ports; of England and France 
straining with all their strength to hold, while the Ger- 
mans exerted all theirs to gain, a goal; of Holland, 
solid mistress of her neutrality, fearing for it and 

profiting by it while she took in the Belgian foundlings 

8a 



IN GERMANY 83 

dropped on her steps — Holland, that little land at 
peace, with the storms lashing around her. 

The stiff and soldierly appearing reserve officer with 
bristling Kaiserian moustache, so professedly alert 
and efficient, who looked at the mottled back of my 
passport and frowned at the recent visa, " A la Place 
de Calais, bon pour alter a Dunkerque, P. 0. he Chef 
d'£tat Major^ 9 but let me by without questions or 
fuss, aroused visions of a frontier stone wall studded 
with bayonets. 

For something about him expressed a certain char- 
acter of downright militancy lacking in either an 
English or a French guard. I could imagine his con- 
tempt for both and particularly for a " sloppy, undisci- 
plined " American guard, as he would have called one 
of ours. Personal feelings did not enter into his 
thoughts. He had none; only national feelings, this 
outpost of the national organism. The mood of the 
moment was friendliness to Americans. Germany 
wished to create the impression on the outside world 
through the agency of the neutral press that she was 
in danger of starving, while she amassed munitions for 
her summer campaign and the Allies were lulled into 
confidence of siege by famine rather than by arms. A 
double, a treble purpose the starving campaign served ; 
for it also ensured economy of foodstuffs, while 
nothing so puts the steel into a soldier's heart 
as the thought that the enemy is trying to beat him 
through taking the bread out of his mouth and the 
mouths of the women and children dependent upon 
him. 

Tears and laughter and moods and passions organ- 
ised! Seventy million in the union of determined 
earnestness of a life-and-death issue 1 Germany had 



84 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

studied more than how to make war with an army. 
She had studied how the people at home should help an 
army to make war. 

" With our immense army, which consists of all the 
able-bodied youth of the people," as a German officer 
said, " when we go to war the people must all be pas- 
sionate for war. Their impulse must be the impulse 
of the army. Their spirit will drive the army on. 
They must be drilled, too, in their part. No item in 
national organisation is too small to have its effect." 

Compared to the French, who had turned grim and 
gave their prayers as individuals to hearten their 
soldiers, the Germans were as responsive as a stringed 
instrument to the master musician's touch. A whis- 
per in Berlin was enough to set a new wave of pas- 
sion in motion, which spread to the trenches east and 
west. Something like the team work of the " rah- 
rah " of college athletics was applied to the nation. 
The soft pedal on this emotion, the loud on that, or a 
new cry inaugurated which all took up, not with the 
noisy, paid insincerity of a claque, but with the vibrant 
force of a trained orchestra with the brasses predomi- 
nant. 

There seemed less of the spontaneity of an individ- 
ualistic people than of the exaltation of a religious 
revival. If the army were a machine of material 
force, then the people were a machine of psychical 
force. Though the thing might leave the observer 
cold, as a religious revival leaves the sceptic, yet he 
must admire. I was told that I should succumb to the 
contagion as others had ; but it was not the optimism 
which was dinned into my ears that affected me as 
much as side lights. 



IN GERMANY 85 

When Corey and I took a walk away from a rail- 
way station where I had to make a train connection, I 
saw a German reservist of forty-five, who was helping 
with one hand to thresh the wheat from his farm, on 
a grey, lowering winter day. The other hand was in 
a bandage. He had been allowed to go home until he 
was well enough to fight again. The same sort of 
scene I had witnessed in France; the wounded man 
trying to make up to his family the loss of his labour 
during his absence at the front. 

Only, that man in France was on the defensive; he 
was fighting to hold what he had and on his own soil. 
The German had been fighting on the enemy's soil to 
gain more land. He, too, thought of it as the defen- 
sive. All Germany insisted that it was on the defen- 
sive. But it was the defensive of a people who think 
only in the offensive. That was it — that was the 
vital impression of Germany revealed in every conver- 
sation and every act. 

The Englishman leans back on his oars ; the German 
leans forward. The Englishman's phrase is " stick 
it," which means to hold what you have; the Ger- 
man's phrase is " onward." It was national youth 
against national middle age. A vessel with pressure 
of increase from within was about to expand or 
burst. A vessel which is large and comfortable 
for its contents was resisting pressure from with- 
out. The French were saying, What if we should 
lose? and the Germans were saying, What if 
we should not win all that we are entitled to ? Ger- 
many had been thinking of a mightier to-morrow and 
England of a to-morrow as good as to-day. Germany 
looked forward to a fortune to be won at thirty; 



86 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

England considered the safeguarding of her fortune 
at fifty. 

It is not professions that count so much as the thing 
that works out from the nature of a situation and 
the contemporaneous bent of a people. The English 
thought of his defence as keeping what he already had ; 
the German was defending what he considered that he 
was entitled to. If he could make more of Calais than 
the French, then Calais ought to be his. A nation with 
the " closed in " culture of the French on one side and 
the enormous, unwieldy mass of Russia on the other, 
convinced of its superiority and its ability to beat either 
foe, thought that it was the friend of peace be- 
cause it had withheld the blow. When the striking 
time came, it struck hard and forced the battle on 
enemy soil, which proved, to its logic, that it was only 
receiving payment of a debt owed it by destiny. 

Bred to win, confident that the German system was 
the right system of life, it could imagine the German 
Michael as the missionary of the system, converting 
the Philistine with machine guns. Confidence, the 
confidence which must get new vessels for the energy 
that has overflowed, the confidence of all classes in the 
realisation of the long-promised day of the " place in 
the sun " for all the immense population drilled in the 
system, was the keynote. They knew that they could 
lick the other fellow and went at him from the start 
as if they expected to lick him, with a diligence 
which made the most of their training and prepara- 
tion. 

When I asked for a room with a bath in a leading 
Berlin hotel, the clerk at the desk said, " I will see, 
sir." He ran his eye up and down the list method- 
ically before he added: " Yes, we have a good room 



IN GERMANY 87 

on the second floor." Afterward, I learned that all 
except the first and second floors of the hotel were 
closed. The small dining-room only was open, and 
every effort was made to make the small dining-room 
appear normal. 

He was an efficient clerk; the buttons boy who 
opened the room door, a goose-stepping, alert sprout 
of German militarism, exhibited a punctiliousness of 
attention which produced a further effect of normality. 
Those Germans who were not doing their part at the 
front were doing it at home by bluffing the other Ger- 
mans and themselves into confidence. The clerk 
believed that some day he would have more guests than 
ever and a bigger hotel. All who suffered from the 
war could afford to wait. Germany was winning; the 
programme was being carried out. The Kaiser said 
so. In proof of it, multitudes of Russian soldiers 
were tilling the soil in place of Germans, who were at 
the front taking more Russian soldiers. 

Everybody that one met kept telling him that every- 
thing was perfectly normal. No intending purchaser 
of real estate in a boom town was ever treated to more 
optimistic propaganda. Perfectly normal — wnen 
one found only three customers in a large department 
store I Perfectly normal — when the big steamship 
offices presented in their windows bare blue seas which 
had once been charted with the going and coming of 
German ships! Perfectly normal — when the spool 
of the killed and wounded rolled out by yards like that 
of a ticker on a busy day on the Stock Exchange! 
Perfectly normal — when women tried to smile in the 
streets with eyes which had plainly been weeping at 
home ! Are you for us or against us? The question 
was put straight to the stranger. Let him say that he 



88 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

was a neutral and they took it for granted that he was 
pro-Ally. He must be pro-something. 

As Corey and I returned to the railway station after 
our walk, a soldier took us in charge and marched us 
to the office of the military commandant. " Are you 
an Englishman?" was his first question. The gut- 
tural military emphasis which he put on Englishman 
was most significant. Which brings us to another fac- 
tor in the psychology of war : hate. 

" If men are to fight well," said a German officer, 
" it is necessary that they hate. They must be exalted 
by a great passion when they charge into machine 
guns." 

Hate was officially distilled and then instilled — 
hate against England, almost exclusively. The public 
rose to that. If England had not come in, the Ger- 
man military plan would have succeeded: first, the 
crushing of France; then, the crushing of Russia. 
The despised Belgian, that small boy who had tripped 
the giant and then hugged the giant's knees, delaying 
him on the road to Paris, was having a rest. For he 
had been hated very hard for a while with the hate of 
contempt — that miserable pigmy who interfered with 
the plans of the machine. 

The French were almost popular. The Kaiser had 
spoken of them as " brave foes." What quarrel 
could France and Germany have? France had been 
the dupe of England. Cartoons of the hairy, barbar- 
ous Russian and the futile little Frenchman in his long 
coat, borne on German bayonets or pecking at the 
boots of a giant Michael, were not in fashion. For 
Germany was then trying to arrange a separate peace 
with both France and Russia. France was to have 



IN GERMANY 89 

Alsace-Lorraine as the price of the arrangement. 
When the negotiations fell through the cartoonists 
were free to make sport of the anaemic Gaul and the 
untutored Slav again. And it was not alone in Ger- 
many that a responsive press played the weather vane 
to Government wishes. But in Germany the machin- 
ery ran smoothest. 

For the first time I knew what it was to have a 
human being whom I had never seen before hate me. 
At sight of me a woman who had been a good Samari- 
tan, with human kindness and charity in her eyes, 
turned a malignant devil. Stalwart as Minerva she 
was, a fair-haired German type of about thirty-five, 
square-shouldered and robustly attractive in her Red 
Cross uniform. Being hungry at the station at Han- 
over, I rushed out of the train to get something to eat, 
and saw some Frankfurter sandwiches on a table in 
front of me as I alighted. 

My hand went out for one, when I was conscious of 
a movement and an exclamation which was hostile, 
and looked up to see Minerva, as her hand shot out to 
arrest the movement of mine, with a blaze of hate, 
hard, merciless hate, in her eyes, while her lips framed 
the word, " Englisherl " If looks were daggers I 
should have been pierced through the heart. Perhaps 
an English overcoat accounted for her error. Cer- 
tainly I promptly recognised mine when I saw that this 
was a Red Cross buffet. An Englishman had dared 
to try to buy a sandwich meant for German soldiers I 
She might at least glory in the fact that her majestic 
glare had made me most uncomfortable as I mur- 
mured an apology, which she received with a stony 
frown. 



90 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

A moment later a soldier approached the buffet. She 
leaned over smiling, as gentle as she had been fierce 
and malignant a moment before, making a picture, as 
she put some mustard on a sandwich for him, which 
recalled that of the Frenchwoman among the 
wounded in the freight shed at Calais — a simile 
which would anger them both. 

The Frenchwoman, too, had a Red Cross uniform; 
she, too, expressed the mercy and gentle ministration 
which we like to associate with woman. But there 
was the difference of the old culture and the new; of 
the race which was fighting to have and the race which 
was fighting to hold. The tactics which we call the 
offensive was in the German woman's, as in every 
German's, nature. It had been in the Frenchwoman's 
in Napoleon's time. Many racial hates the war has 
developed; but that of the German is a seventeen-inch- 
howitzer-asphyxiating-gas hate. 

If hates help to win, why not hate as hard as you 
can ? Don't you go to war to win ? There is no use 
talking of sporting rules and saying that this and that 
is " not done " in humane circles — win ! The Ger- 
mans meant to win. Always I thought of them as 
having the spirit of the Middle Ages in their hearts, 
organised for victory by every modern method. 
Three strata of civilisation were really fighting, per- 
haps: The French, with its inherent individual pa- 
triotism which makes a Frenchman always a French- 
man, its philosophy which prevents increase of num- 
bers, its thrift and tenacity; the German, with its 
newborn patriotism, its discovery of what it thinks 
is the golden system, its fecundity, its aggressiveness, 
its industry, its ambition; and the Russian, unformed, 
groping, vague, glamorous, immense. 



IN GERMANY 91 

The American is an outsider to them all; some 
strange melting-pot product of many races which is 
trying to forget the prejudices and hates of the old 
and perhaps not succeeding very well, but not yet con- 
vinced that the best means of producing patriotic unity 
is war. After this and other experiences, after being 
given a compartment all to myself by men who glanced 
at me with eyes of hate and passed on to another com- 
partment which was already crowded or stood up in 
the aisle of the car, I made a point of buying an Ameri- 
can flag for my buttonhole. 

This helped ; but still there was my name, which be- 
longed to an ancestor who had gone from England to 
Connecticut nearly three hundred years ago. Palmer 
did not belong to the Germanic tribe. He must be 
pro- the other side. He could not be a neutral and 
belong to the human kind with such a name. Only 
Swenson, or Gansevoort, or Ah Fong could really be 
a neutral ; and even they were expected to be on your 
side secretly. If they weren't they must be on the 
other. Are you for us? or, Are you against us? I 
grew weary of the question in Germany. If I had 
been for them I would have " dug in " and not told 
them. In France and England they asked you ob- 
jectively the state of sentiment in America. But, pos- 
sibly, the direct, forcible way is the better for war 
purposes when you mean to win; for the Germans 
have made a study of war. They are experts in 
war. 

However, this rosy-cheeked German boy, in his 
green uniform which could not be washed clean of 
all the stains of campaigning, whom I met in the palace 
grounds at Charlottenberg, did not put this tiresome 
question to me. He was the only person I saw in the 



92 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

grounds, whose quiet I had sought for an hour's res- 
pite from war. One could be shown through the 
palace by the lonely old caretaker, who missed the 
American tourist, without hearing a guide's monotone 
explaining who the gentleman in the frame was and 
what he did and who painted his picture. This boy 
could have more influence in making me see the Ger- 
man view-point than the propagandist men in the 
Government offices and the belligerent German- Ameri- 
cans in hotel lobbies — those German- Americans who 
were so frequently in trouble in other days for dis- 
obeying the verbotens and then asking our State De- 
partment to get them out of it, now pluming them- 
selves over victories won by another type of Ger- 
man. 

About twenty-one this boy, round-faced and blue- 
eyed, who saw in Queen Louisa the most beautiful 
heroine of all history. The hole in his blouse which 
the bullet had made was nicely sewed up and his wound 
had healed. He was fighting in France when he was 
hit; the name of the place he did not know. Karl, 
his chum, had been killed. The doctor had given him 
the bullet, which he exhibited proudly as if it were 
different from other bullets, as it was to him. In a 
few days he must return to the front. Perhaps the 
war would be over soon ; he hoped so. 

The French were brave; but they hated the Ger- 
mans and thought that they must make war on the 
Germans, and they were a cruel people, guilty of many 
atrocities. So the Fatherland had fought to conquer 
the enemies who planned her destruction. A peculiar, 
childlike naivete accompanied his intelligence, trained 
to run in certain grooves, which is the product of the 
German type of popular education; that trust in his 



IN GERMANY 93 

superiors which comes from a diligent and efficient 
paternalism. He knew nothing of the atrocities 
which Germans were said to have committed in Bel- 
gium. The British and the French had set Belgium 
against Germany and Germany had to strike Belgium 
for playing false to her treaties. But he did think 
that the French were brave ; only misled by their Gov- 
ernment. And the Kaiser? His eyes lighted in a 
way that suggested that the Kaiser was almost a god 
to him. He had heard of the things that the British 
said against the Kaiser and they made him want to 
fight for his Kaiser. He was only one German — 
but the one was millions. 

In actual learning which comes from schoolbooks. 
I think that he was better informed than the average 
Frenchman of his class ; but I should say that he had 
thought less; that his mind was more of a hothouse 
product of a skilful nurseryman's hand, who knew the 
value of training and feeding and pruning the plant 
if you were to make it yield well. A kindly, willing, 
likable boy, peculiarly simple and unspoiled, it seemed 
a pity that all his life he should have to bear the brand 
of the Lusitania on his brow; that event which history 
cannot yet put in its true perspective. Other races 
will think Lusitania when they meet a German long 
after the Belgian atrocities are forgotten. It will 
endure to plague a people like the exile of the 
Acadians, the guillotining of innocents in the French 
Revolution, and the burning of the Salem witches. 
But he had nothing to do with it. A German admiral 
gave an order as a matter of policy to make an im- 
pression that his submarine campaign was succeeding 
and to interfere with the transport of munitions, and 
the Kaiser told this boy that it was right. One liked 



94 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

this boy, his loyalty and his courage; liked him as a 
human being. But one wished that he might think 
more. Perhaps he will one of these days, if he sur- 
vives the war. 



VIII 

HOW THE KAISER LEADS 

A prisoners' "show" camp — Filthy conditions — Scanty fare— 
Racial characteristics — " Upholding Britain's dignity "—Russian 
princes in disguise — A blind artist — A physical insult — Deadly 
monotony of prison life — Drilling — Hamburg a dead city — A 
hate of the pocket — The " system " at a Berlin hospital — Effects 
of the war in Berlin — At the Opera — A plethora of Iron 
Crosses — Immanence of the Kaiser — Imperial propaganda — 
The Crown Prince marooned —Glory to the Kaiser and tod 
Hindenburg — President of the German Corporation— Always 
the offensive — "America too far away!" 

Only a week before I had seen the wounded Ger- 
mans in the freight shed at Calais and all the prison- 
ers that I had seen elsewhere, whether in ones or twos, 
brought in fresh from the front or in columns under 
escort, had been Germans. The sharpest contrast of 
all in war which the neutral may observe is seeing the 
men of one army which, from the other side, he 
watched march into battle — armed, confident, dis- 
ciplined parts of an organisation, ready to sweep all 
before them in a charge — become so many sheep, dis- 
armed, disorganised, rounded up like vagrants in a 
bread-line and surrounded by a fold of barbed wire 
and sentries. Such was the lot of the nine thousand 
British, French, and Russians whom I saw at Doberitz, 
near Berlin. This was a show camp, I was told, but 
it suffices. Conditions at others might be worse; 
doubtless were. England treated its prisoners best, 
unless my information from unprejudiced observers 
is wrong. But Germany had enormous numbers of 

95 



96 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

prisoners. A nation in her frame of mind thought 
only of the care of the men who could fight for her, 
not of those who had fought against her. 

Then, the German nature is one thing and the 
British another. Crossing the Atlantic on the Lust- 
tania we had a German reserve officer who was already 
on board when the evening editions arrived at the pier 
with news that England had declared war on Ger- 
many. Naturally, he must become a prisoner upon 
his arrival at Liverpool. He was a steadfast Ger- 
man. When a wireless report of the German repulse 
at Liege came, he would not believe it. Germany had 
the system and Germany would win. But when he 
said, " I should rather be a German on board a British 
ship than a Briton on board a German ship, under the 
circumstances," his remark was significant in more 
ways than one. 

His English fellow-passengers on that splendid 
liner which a German submarine was to send to the 
bottom showed him no discourtesy. They passed the 
time of day with him and seemed to want to make his 
awkward situation easy. Yet it was apparent that he 
regarded their kindliness as a racial weakness. Krieg 
ist Krieg. When Germany made war she made war. 

So allowances are in order. One prison camp was 
like another in this sense, that it deprived a man of his 
liberty. It put him in jail. The British regular, who 
is a soldier by profession, was, in a way, in a separate 
class. But the others were men of civil industries and 
settled homes. Except during their term in the army, 
they went to the shop or the office every day, or tilled 
their farms. They were free ; they had their work to 
occupy their minds during the day and freedom of 
movement when they came home in the evening. 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 97 

They might read the news by their firesides; they 
were normal human beings in civilised surroundings. 

Here, they were pacing animals in a cage, com- 
manded by two field guns, who might walk up and 
down and play games and go through the daily drill 
under their own non-commissioned officers. It was 
the mental stagnation of the thing that was appalling. 
Think of such a lot for a man used to action in civil 
life — and they call war action! Think of a writer, 
a business man, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, reduced 
to this fenced-in existence, when he had been the kind 
who got impatient if he had to wait for a train that 
was late! Shut yourself up in your own backyard 
with a man with a rifle watching you for twenty-four 
hours and see whether, if you have the brain of a 
mouse, prison-camp life can be made comfortable, no 
matter how many greasy packs of cards you have. 
And lousy, besides ! At times one had to laugh over 
what Mark Twain called " the damfool human race I " 

Inside a cookhouse at one end of the enclosure was 
a row of soup boilers. Outside were a series of rail- 
ings, forming stalls for the prisoners when they lined 
up for meals. In the morning, some oatmeal and 
coffee; at noon, some cabbage soup boiled with 
desiccated meal and some bread ; at night, more coffee 
and bread. How one thrived on this fare depended 
much upon how he liked cabbage soup. The Russians 
liked it. They were used to it. 

" We never keep the waiter late by tarrying over 
our liqueurs," said a Frenchman. 

Our reservist guide had run away to America in 
youth, where he had worked at anything he could find 
to do; but he had returned to Berlin, where he had a 
" good little business " before the war. He was stout 



98 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

and cheery, and he referred to the prisoners as " boys." 
The French and Russians were good boys; but the 
English were bad boys, who had no discipline. He 
said that all received the same food as German sol- 
diers. It seemed almost ridiculous chivalry that men 
who had fought against you and were living inactive 
lives should be as well fed as the men who were fight- 
ing for you. The rations that I saw given to Ger- 
man soldiers were better. But that was what the 
guide said. 

" This is our little sitting-room for the English non- 
commissioned officers/' he explained, as he opened the 
door of a small shanty which had a pane of glass for a 
window. Some men sitting around a small stove 
arose. One, a big sergeant-major, towered over the 
others ; he had the colours of the South African cam- 
paign on the breast of his worn khaki blouse and stood 
very straight, as if on parade. By the window was a 
Scot in kilts, who was equally tall. He looked around 
over his shoulder and then turned his face away with 
the pride of a man who does not care to be regarded 
as a show. His uniform was as neat as if he were at 
inspection ; and the way he held his head, the haughti- 
ness of his profile against the stream of light, recalled 
the unconquerable spirit of the Prussian prisoner 
whom I had seen on the road during the fighting along 
the Aisne. Only a regular, but he was upholding the 
dignity of Britain in that prison camp better than 
many a member of Parliament on the floor of the 
House of Commons. I asked our guide about him. 

11 A good boy, that ! All his boys obey him, and he 
obeys all the regulations. But he acts as if we Ger- 
mans were his prisoners." 

The British might not be good boys, but they would 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 99 

be clean. They were diligent in the chase in their 
underclothes ; their tents were free of odour ; and there 
was something resolute about a Tommy who was bare 
to the waist in that freezing wind, making an effort at 
a bath. I heard tales of Mr. Atkins 9 characteristic 
thoughtlessness. While the French took good care 
of their clothes and kept their tents neat, he was likely 
to sell his coat or his blanket if he got a chance in 
order to buy something that he liked to eat. One 
Tommy who sat on his stray tick inside the tent was 
knitting. When I asked him where he had learned 
to knit, he replied : u India ! " and gave me a look 
as much as to say, " Now pass on to the next cage." 

The British looked the most pallid of all, I thought. 
They were not used to cabbage soup. Their stomachs 
did not take hold of it, as one said; and they loathed 
the black bread. No white bread and no jam ! Only 
when you have seen Mr. Atkins with a pot of jam and 
a loaf of white bread and some bacon frizzling near 
by can you realise the hardship which cabbage soup 
meant to that British regular who gets lavish rations 
of the kind he likes along with his shilling a day for 
professional soldiering. 

" You see, the boys go about as they please," said 
our guide. " They don't have a bad time. Three 
meals a day and nothing to do." 

Members of a laughing circle which included some 
British were taking turns at a kind of Russian blind 
man's buff, which seemed to me about in keeping with 
the mental capacity of a prison camp. 

" No French I " I remarked. 

" The French keep to themselves, but they are good 
boys," he replied. " Maybe it is because we have only 
a few of them here." 



ioo MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Every time one sounded the subject he was struck 
by the attitude of the Germans toward the French, 
not alone explained by the policy of the hour which 
hoped for a separate peace with France. Perhaps it 
was best traceable to the Frenchman's sense of amour 
propre, his philosophy, his politeness, or an indefin- 
able quality in the grain of the man. 

The Germans affected to look down on the French ; 
yet there was something about the Frenchman which 
the Germans had to respect — something not won by 
war. I heard admiration for them at the same time 
as contempt for their red trousers and their unpre- 
paredness. While we are in this avenue, German 
officers had respect for the dignity of British officers, 
the leisurely, easy quality of superiority which they 
preserved in any circumstances. The qualities of a 
race come out in adversity no less than in prosperity. 
Thus, their captors regarded the Russians as big, 
good-natured children. 

" Yes, they play games and we give the English an 
English newspaper to read twice a week, 1 ' said our 
affable guide, unconscious, I think, of any irony in the 
remark. For the paper was the Continental News, 
published in " the American language " for American 
visitors. You may take it for granted that it did not 
exaggerate any success of the Allies. 

" We have a prince and the son of a rich man 
among the Russian prisoners — yes, quite in the Four 
Hundred," the guide went on. " They were such 
good boys we put them to work in the cookhouse. 
Star boarders, eh ? They like it. They get more to 
eat." 

These two men were called out for exhibition. 
Youngsters of the first line they were and even in their 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 101 

privates 9 uniforms they bore the unmistakable signs 
of belonging to the Russian upper class. Each saluted 
and made his bow, as if he had come on to do a turn 
before the footlights. It was not the first time they 
had been paraded before visitors. In the prince's eye 
I noted a twinkle, which as much as said : " Well, 
why not? We don't mind." 

When we were taken through the cookhouse I asked 
about a little Frenchman, who was sitting with his nose 
in a soup bowl. He seemed too near-sighted ever to 
get into any army. His face was distinctly that of a 
man of culture; one would have guessed that he was 
an artist 

" Shrapnel burst," explained the guide. " He will 
never be able to see much again. We let him come in 
here to eat." 

I wanted to talk with him, but these exhibitions 
are supposed to be all in pantomime; a question and 
you are urged along to the next exhibit. He was 
young and all his life he was to be like that — like 
some poor, blind kitten 1 

The last among a number of Russians returning to 
the enclosure from some fatigue duty was given a blow 
in the seat of his baggy trousers with a stick which 
one of the guards carried. The Russian quickened 
his steps and seemed to think nothing of the incident. 
But to me it was the worst thing that I saw at Doberitz, 
this act of physical violence against a man by one 
who has power over him. The personal equation was 
inevitable to the observer. Struck in that way, could 
one fail to strike back? Would not he strike in red 
anger, without stopping to think of consequences? 
There is something bred into the Anglo-Saxon nature 
which resents a physical blow. We courtmartial an 



ioi MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

officer for laying hands on a private, though that 
private may get ten years in prison on his trial. Yet 
the Russian thought nothing of it, or the guard, either. 
An officer in the German or the Russian army may 
strike a man. 

" Would the guard hit a Frenchman in that way? " 
I asked. Our guide said not; the French were good 
boys. Or an Englishman ? He had not seen it done. 
The Englishman would swear and curse, he was sure, 
and might fight, they were such undisciplined boys. 
But the Russians — " they are like kids. It was only 
a slap. Didn't hurt him any." 

New barracks for the prisoners were being built 
which would be comfortable if crowded, even in win- 
ter. The worst thing, I repeat, was the deadly mo- 
notony of the confinement for a period which would 
end only when the war ended. Any labour should be 
welcome to a healthy-minded man. It was a mercy 
that the Germans set prisoners to grading roads, to 
hoeing and harvesting, retrieving thus a little of the 
wastage of war. Or was it only the bland insistence 
that conditions were luxurious that one objected to? 
— not that they were really bad. The Germans had 
a horde of prisoners to care for; vast armies to main- 
tain ; and a new volunteer force of a million or more — 
two millions was the official report — to train. 

While we were at the prison camp we heard at 
intervals the rap-rap of a machine gun at the practice 
range near by, drilling to take more prisoners, and on 
the way back to Berlin we passed on the road compa- 
nies of volunteers returning from drill with that sturdy 
march characteristic of German infantry. 

In Berlin we were told again that everything was 
perfectly normal. Trains were running as usual to 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 103 

Hamburg, if we cared to go there. " As usual " in 
war time was the ratio of one to five in peace time. 
At Hamburg, in sight of steamers with cold boilers 
and the forest of masts of idle ships, one learned 
what sea power meant. That city of eager shippers 
and traders, that doorstep of Germany, was as dead 
as Ypres, without a building being wrecked by shells. 
Hamburgers tried to make the best of it ; they assumed 
an air of optimism; they still had faith that richer 
cargoes than ever might come over the sea, while a 
ghost, that of bankruptcy, walked the streets, looking 
at office windows and the portholes of the ships. 

For one had only to scratch the cuticle of that 
optimism to find that the corpuscles did not run red. 
They were blue. Hamburg's citizens had to exhibit 
the fortitude of those of Rheims under another kind 
of bombardment: that of the silent guns of British 
dreadnoughts far out of range. They were good 
Germans ; they meant to play the game ; but that once 
prosperous business man of past middle age, too old 
to serve, who had little to do but think, found it hard 
to keep step with the propagandist attitude of Berlin. 

A free city, a commercial city, a city unto itself, 
Hamburg had been in other days a cosmopolitan 
trader with the rest of the world. It had even been 
called an English city, owing to the number of Eng- 
lish business men there as agents of the immense com- 
merce between England and Germany. Every one 
who was a clerk or an employer spoke English; and 
through all the irritation between the two countries 
which led up to the war, English and German business 
men kept on the good terms which traffic requires and 
met at luncheons and dinners and in their clubs. Eng- 
lishmen were married to German women and Germans 



104 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

to Englishwomen, while both prayed that their gov- 
ernments would keep the peace. 

Now the English husband of the German woman, 
though he had spent most of his life in Hamburg, 
though perhaps he had been born in Germany, had 
been interned and, however large his bank account, 
was taking his place with his pannikin in the stalls in 
front of some cookhouse for his ration of cabbage 
soup. Germans, were kind to English friends person- 
ally ; but when it came to the national feeling of Ger- 
many against England, nowhere was it so bitter as in 
Hamburg. Here the hate was born of more than 
national sentiment; it was of the pocket; of seeing for- 
tunes that had been laboriously built dwindling, once 
thriving businesses in suspended animation. There 
was no moratorium in name ; there was worse than one 
in fact. A patriotic freemasonry in misfortune took 
its place. No business man could press another for 
the payment of debts lest he be pressed in turn. What 
would happen when the war was over? How long 
would it last ? 

It was not quite as cruel to give one's opinion as 
two years to the inquirers in Hamburg as to the direc- 
tor of the great Rudolph Virchow Hospital in Ber- 
lin. Here, again, the system; the submergence of the 
individual in the organisation. The wounded men 
seemed parts of a machine; the human touch which 
may lead to disorganisation less in evidence than at 
home, where the thought is: This is an individual 
human being, with his own peculiarities of tempera- 
ment, his own theories of life, his own ego; not just 
a quantity of brain, tissue, blood, and bone which is 
required for the organism called man. A human 
mechanism wounded at the German front needed re- 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 105 

pairs and the repairs were made to that mechanism. 
The niceties might be lacking, but the repair factory 
ran steadily and efficiently at full blast Germany had 
to care for her wounded by the millions and by the 
millions she cared for them. 

" Two years ! " 

I was sorry that I had said this to the director, for 
its effect on him was like a blow in the chest. The 
vision of more and more wounded seemed to rise be- 
fore the eyes of this kindly man weary with the strain 
of doing the work which he knew so well how to do as 
a cog in the system. But for only a moment. He 
stiffened; he became the drillmaster again; and the 
tragic look in his eyes was succeeded by one of that 
strange exaltation I had seen in the eyes of so many 
Germans, which appeared to carry their mind away 
from you and their surroundings to the battlefield 
where they were fighting for their " place in the sun." 

" Two years, then. We shall see it through ! " 

He had a son who had been living in a French fam- 
ily near Lille studying French and he had heard noth- 
ing of him since the war began. They were good 
people, this French family ; his son liked them. They 
would be kind to him ; but what might not the French 
Government do to him, a German! He had heard 
terrible stories — the kind of stories that hardened the 
fighting spirit of German soldiers — about the treat- 
ment German civilians had received in France. He 
could think of one French family which he knew as 
being kind, but not of the whole French people as a 
family. As soon as the national and racial element 
were considered the enemy became a beast. 

To him, at least, Berlin was not normal; nor was 
it to that keeper of a small shop off Unter den Linden 



106 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

which sold prints and etchings and cartoons. What 
a boon my order of cartoons was to him ! He forgot 
his psychology code and turned human and confiden- 
tial. The war had been hard on him; there was no 
business at all, not even in cartoons. 

The Opera alone seemed something like normal to 
one who trusted his eyes rather than his ears for in- 
formation. There was almost a full house for the 
" Rosenkavalier " ; for music is a solace in time of 
trouble, as other capitals than Berlin revealed. Offi- 
cers with close-cropped heads wearing Iron Crosses, 
some with arms in slings, promenading in the refresh- 
ment room of the Berlin Opera House between the 
acts — this in the hour of victory should mean a pic- 
ture of gaiety. But there was a telling hush about the 
scene. Possibly music had brought out the truth in 
men's hearts that war, this kind of war, was not gay 
or romantic, only murderous and destructive. One 
had noticed already that the Prussian officer, so con- 
scious of his caste, who had worked so indefatigably 
to make an efficient army, had become chastened. He 
had found that common men, butchers and bakers and 
candlestick makers, could be as brave for their Kaiser 
as he. And more of these officers had the Iron Cross 
than not. 

The plenitude of Iron Crosses appealed to the risi- 
bilities of the superficial observer. But in this, too, 
there was system. An officer who had been in several 
battles without winning one must feel a trifle declassed 
and that it was time for him to make amends to his 
pride. If many were given to privates then the aver- 
age soldier would not think the Cross a prize for the 
few who had luck, but something that he, too, might 
win by courage and prompt obedience to orders. 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 107 

The masterful calculation, the splendid pretence 
and magnificent offence, could not hide the suspense 
and suffering. Nowhere were you able to forget the 
war or to escape the all-pervading influence of the 
Kaiser. The empty royal box at the opera, his opera, 
called him to mind. What would happen before he 
reappeared there for a gala performance? When 
again in the shuffle of European politics would the 
audience see the Czar of Russia or the King of Eng- 
land by his side ? 

It was his Berlin, the heart of his Berlin, that was 
before you when you left the opera — the new Ber- 
lin, taking few pages of a guide book compared to 
Paris, which he had fathered in its boom growth. In 
front of his palace Russian field guns taken by von 
Hindenburg at Tannenberg were exhibited as the 
spoils of his war; while the Never-to-be-Forgotten 
Grandfather in bronze rode home in triumph from 
Paris not far away. 

One wondered what all the people in the ocean of 
Berlin flats were thinking as one walked past the 
statue of Frederick the Great, with his sharp nose 
pointing the way for future conquerors, and on along 
Unter den Linden, with its broad pavements gleaming 
in a characteristic, misty winter night, through the 
Brandenburg Gate of his Brandenburg dynasty, or to 
the statue of the blood-and-iron Bismarck, with his 
strong jaw and pugnacious nose — the statesman mili- 
tant in uniform with a helmet over his bushy brow — 
who had made the German Empire, that young empire 
which had not yet known defeat because of the sys- 
tem which makes ready and chooses the hour for its 
blow. 

Not far away one had glimpses of the white statues 



108 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

of My Ancestors of the Sieges Allee, or avenue of 
victory, — the present Kaiser's own idea, — with the 
great men of the time on their right and left hands. 
People whose sense of taste, not to .say of humour, 
may limit their statecraft had smiled at this monoto- 
nous and grandiose row of all the dead bones of dis- 
tinguished and mediocre royalty immortalised in mar- 
ble to the exact number of thirty-two. But they were 
My Ancestors, O Germans, who made you what you 
are! Right dress and keep that line of royalty in 
mind! It is your royal line, older than the trees in 
the garden, firm as the rocks, Germany itself. The 
last is not the least in might nor the least advertised 
in the age of publicity. He is to make the next step 
in advance for Germany and bring more tribute home, 
if all Germans will be loyal to him. 

One paused to look at the photograph of the Kaiser 
in a shop window; a big photograph of that man whose 
photograph is everywhere in Germany. It is a stern 
face, this face, as the leader wishes his people to see 
him, with its erectile moustache, the lips firm set, the 
eyes challenging and the chin held so as to make it 
symbolic of strength : a face that strives to say in that 
pose : " Onward ! I lead ! " Germans have seen it 
every day for a quarter of a century. They have 
lived with it and the character of it has grown into 
their natures. 

In the same window was a smaller photograph of the 
Crown Prince, with his cap rakishly on the side of his 
head, as if to give himself a distinctive characteristic 
in the German eye; but his is the face of a man who 
is not mature for his years and a trifle dissipated. 
For a while after the war began he, as leader of the 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 109 

war party, knew the joy of being more popular than 
the Kaiser. But the tide turned soon in favour of a 
father, who appeared to be drawn reluctantly into the 
ordeal of death and wounds for his people in u defence 
of the Fatherland," and against a son who had clam- 
oured for the horror which his people had begun to 
realise, particularly as his promised entry into Paris 
had failed. There can be no question which of the 
two has the wiser head. 

The Crown Prince had passed into the background. 
He was marooned with ennui in the face of the French 
trenches in the West, while all the glory was being 
won in the East. Indeed, father had put son in his 
place. One day, the gossips said, son might have to 
ask father, in the name of the Hohenzollerns, to help 
him recover his popularity. His photograph had been 
taken down from shop windows and in its place, on 
the right hand of the Kaiser in the Sieges Allee of con- 
temporary fame, was the bull-dog face of von Hinden- 
burg, victor of Tannenberg. The Kaiser shared von 
Hindenburg's glory; he has shared the glory of all 
victorious generals; such is his histrionic gift in the 
age of the spotlight. 

Make no mistake — his people, deluded or not, love 
him not only because he is Kaiser but also for himself. 
He is a clever man, who began his career with the 
enormous capital of being emperor and made the most 
of his position to amaze the world with a more versa- 
tile and also a more inscrutable personality than most 
people realise. Poseur, perhaps, but an emperor 
these days may need to be a poseur in order to wear 
the ermine of Divine Right convincingly to most of 
his subjects, 



no MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

His pose is always that of the anointed King of 
My People. He has never given down on that point, 
however much he has applied State Socialism to ap- 
pease the Socialistic agitation. He has personified 
Germany and German ambition with an adroit egoism 
and the sentiment of his inheritance. Those critics 
who see the machinery of the throne may say that he 
has the mind of a journalist, quick of perception, ready 
of assimilation, knowing many things in their essentials 
but no one thing thoroughly. But this is the kind of 
mind that a ruler requires, plus the craft of the poli- 
tician. 

Is he a good man? Is he a great man? Banal 
questions ! He is the Kaiser on the background of the 
Sieges Allee, who has first promoted himself, then the 
Hohenzollerns, and then the interests of Germany 
with all the zest of the foremost shareholder and 
president of the corporation. No German in the Ger- 
man hothouse of industry has worked harder than he. 
He has kept himself up to the mark and tried to keep 
his people up to the mark. It may be the wrong kind 
of a mark; but we are not discussing that, and we may 
beg leave to differ without threshing the old straw of 
argument. 

That young private I met in the grounds at Char- 
lottenberg, that wounded man helping with the har- 
vest, that tired hospital director, the small trader in 
Hamburg, the sturdy Red Cross woman in the station 
at Hanover, the peasants and the workers throughout 
Germany, kept unimaginatively at their tasks, do not 
see the machinery of the throne, only the man in the 
photograph who supplies them with a national imagi- 
nation. His indefatigable goings and comings and his 
poses fill their minds with a personality which typifies 



HOW THE KAISER LEADS 1 1 1 

the national spirit. Will this change after the war? 
But that, too, is not a subject for speculation here. 

Through the war his pose has met the needs of the 
hour. An emperor bowed down with the weight of 
his people's sacrifice, a grey, determined emperor 
hastening to honour the victors, covering up defeats, 
urging his legions on, himself at the front, never seen 
by the general public in the rear, a mysterious figure, 
not saying much and that foolish to the Allies but ap- 
pealing to the Germans, rather appearing to submerge 
his own personality in the united patriotism of the 
struggle — such is the picture which the throne ma- 
chinery has impressed on the German mind. The his- 
trionic gift may be at its best in creating a saga. 

Always the offensive! Germany would keep on 
striking as long as she had strength for a blow, while 
making the pretence that she had the strength for still 
heavier blows. One wonders, should she gain peace 
by her blows, if the Allies would awaken after the 
treaty was signed to find how near exhaustion she had 
been, or that she was so self-contained in her produc- 
tion of war material that she had only borrowed from 
Hans to pay Fritz, who were both Germans. Russia 
did not know how nearly she had Japan beaten until 
after Portsmouth. Japan's method was the German 
method; she learned it from Germany. 

At the end of my journey I was hearing the same 
din of systematic optimism in my ears as in the begin- 
ning. 

" Warsaw, then Paris, then our Zeppelins will fin- 
ish London," said the restaurant keeper on the Ger- 
man side of the Dutch frontier; " and our submarines 
will settle the British navy before the summer is over. 
No, the war will not last a year." 



ii2 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

" And is America next on the programme ? " I 

asked. 

11 No. America is too strong; too far away." 

I was guilty of a faint suspicion that he was a 

diplomatist. 



IX 

IN BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 

British hospitality to the Belgians — A Dutch refugee camp — The 
American Commission for relief — Its generals — From Holland 
to Belgium — A forlorn Landsturm guard — Life in a conquered 
Land — The overlords in Antwerp — Belgium's hatred — The 
problem of feeding Belgium — American volunteers-—" Some ex- 
perience" — The conqueror's net — Relict of the former regime. 

No week at the front, where war is made, left the 
mind so full as this week beyond the sound of the guns 
with war's results. It taught the meaning of the sim- 
ple words life and death, hunger and food, love and 
hate. One was in a house with sealed doors, where 
a family of seven millions sat in silence and idleness, 
thinking of nothing but war and feeling nothing but 
war. He had war cold as the fragments of a shrap- 
nel shell beside a dead man on a frozen road; war 
analysed and docketed for exhibition, without its noise, 
its distraction, and its hot passion. 

In Ostend I had seen the Belgian refugees in flight 
and I had seen them pouring into London stations, 
bedraggled outcasts of every class, with the staring 
uncertainty of the helpless human flock flying from the 
storm. England, who considered that they had suf- 
fered for her sake, opened her purse and her heart to 
them; she opened her homes, both modest suburban 
homes and big country houses which are particular 
about their guests in time of peace. No British fam- 
ily without a Belgian was doing its duty. Bishop's 

"3 



ii 4 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

wife and publican's wife took whatever Belgian was 
sent to her. The refugee packet arrived without the 
nature of contents on the address label. All Belgians 
had become heroic and noble by grace of the defend- 
ers of Liege. 

Perhaps the bishop's wife received a young woman 
who smoked cigarettes and asked her hostess for rouge 
and the publican's wife received a countess. Mrs. 
Smith of Clapham, who had brought up her children 
in the strictest propriety, welcomed as playmates for 
her dears, whom she had kept away from the contami- 
nating associations of the alleys, Belgian children from 
the toughest quarters of Antwerp, who had a precocity 
that led to baffling confusion in Mrs. Smith's mind 
between parental responsibility and patriotic duty. 
Smart society gave the run of its houses sometimes to 
gentry who were used to getting the run of that kind 
of houses by lifting a window with a jimmy on a dark 
night. It was a refugee lottery. When two hosts 
met one said : " My Belgian is charming ! " and the 
other said : " Mine isn't Just listen — " But the 
English are game ; they are loyal ; they bore their bur- 
den of hospitality bravely. 

The strange things that happened were not the 
more agreeable because of the attitude of some refu- 
gees, who when they were getting better fare than they 
ever had at home, thought that, as they had given 
their " all " for England, they should be getting still 
better, not to mention wine on the table in temperance 
families; while there was a disinclination toward self- 
support by means of work on the part of certain he- 
roes which promised a Belgian occupation of England 
that would last as long as the German occupation of 
Belgium. England was learning that there are Bel- 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 115 

gians and Belgians. She had received not a few of 
the " and Belgians." 

It was only natural. When the German cruisers 
bombarded Scarborough and the Hartlepools, the first 
to the station were not the finest and sturdiest. Those 
with good bank accounts and a disinclination to take 
any bodily or gastronomic risks, the young idler who 
stands on the street corner ogling girls and the girls 
who are always in the street to be ogled, the flighty- 
minded, the irresponsible, the tramp, the selfish, and 
the cowardly are bound to be in the van of flight from 
any sudden disaster and to make the most of the gen- 
erous sympathy of those who succour them. 

The courageous, the responsible, those with homes 
and property at stake, those with an inborn sense of 
real patriotism which means loyalty to locality and to 
their neighbours, are more inclined to remain with 
their homes and their property. Besides, a refugee 
hardly appears at his best. He is in a strange coun- 
try, forlorn, homesick, a hostage of fate and personal 
misfortune. The Belgian nation had taken the Allies' 
side and now all individual Belgians expected the Al- 
lies to help them. 

England did not get the worst of the refugees. 
They could travel no farther than Holland, where the 
Dutch Government appropriated money to care for 
them at the same time that it was under the expense 
of keeping its army mobilised. Looking at the refu- 
gees in the camp at Bergen op Zoom, an observer 
might share some of the contempt of the Germans for 
the Belgians. Crowded in temporary huts in the chill, 
misty weather of a Dutch winter, they seemed listless, 
marooned human wreckage. They would not dig 
ditches to drain their camp; they were given to pil- 



u6 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

fering from one another the clothes which the world's 
charity supplied The heart was out of them. They 
were numbed by disaster. 

" Are all these men and women who are living to- 
gether married? " I asked the Dutch officer in charge. 

" It is not for us to inquire," he replied. " Most 
of them say that they have lost their marriage certifi- 
cates." 

They were from the slums of that polyglot seaport 
town Antwerp, which Belgians say is anything but real 
Belgium. To judge Belgium by them is like judging 
an American town by the worst of its back streets, 
where saloons and pawnshops are numerous and the 
red lights twinkle from dark doorways. 

Around a table in a Rotterdam hotel one met some 
generals, who were organising a different kind of cam- 
paign from that which brought glory to the generals 
who conquered Belgium. It was odd that Dr. Rose 
— that Dr. Rose who had discovered and fought the 
hook worm among the mountaineers of the Southern 
States — should be succouring Belgium, and yet only 
natural. Where else should he and Henry James, Jr., 
of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Mr. Bicknell, of 
the American Red Cross, be, if not here directing the 
use of an endowment fund set aside for just such pur- 
poses? 

They had been all over Belgium and up into the 
Northern departments of France occupied by the Ger- 
mans, investigating conditions. For they were prac- 
tical men, trained for solving the problem of charity 
with wisdom, who wanted to know that their money 
was well spent. They had nothing for the refugees 
in London, but they found that the people who had 
stayed at home in Belgium were worthy of help. The 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 117 

fund was allowing five hundred thousand dollars a 
month for the American Commission for Relief in 
Belgium, which was the amount that the Germans had 
spent in a single day in the destruction of the town 
of Ypres with shells. Later they were to go to Po- 
land; then to Serbia. 

With them was Herbert C. Hoover, a celebrated 
mining engineer, the head of the Commission. When 
American tourists were stranded over Europe at the 
outset of the war, with letters of credit which could 
not be cashed, their route homeward must lie through 
London. They must have steamer passage. Hoo- 
ver took charge. When this work was done and Bel- 
gium must be helped, he took charge of a task that 
could be done only by a neutral. For the adjutants 
and field officers of his force he turned to American 
business men in London, to Rhodes scholars at Oxford, 
and to other volunteers hastening from America. 

When Harvard, 19 14, who had lent a hand in the 
American refugees' trials, appeared in Hoover's of- 
fice to volunteer for the new campaign, Hoover said : 

" You are going to Rotterdam to-night." 

" So I ami " said Harvard, 1914, and started ac- 
cordingly. Action and not red tape must prevail in 
such an organisation. 

The Belgians whom I wished to see were those 
behind the line of guards on the Belgo-Dutch fron- 
tier ; those who had remained at home under the Ger- 
mans to face humiliation and hunger. This was pos- 
sible if you had the right sort of influence and your 
passport the right sort of vises to accompany a 
Besheinigung, according to the form of " 31 Oktober, 
1914, Sect. 616, Nr. 1083," signed by the German 
consul* at Rotterdam, which put me in the same auto- 



n8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

mobile with Harvard, 19 14, that stopped one blustery, 
snowy day of late December before a gate, with Bel- 
gium on one side and Holland on the other side of it 
on the Rosendaal- Antwerp road. 

" Once more 1 " said Harvard, 1914, who had made 
this journey many times as a despatch rider. 

One of the conquerors, the sentry representing the 
majesty of German authority in Belgium, examined 
the pass. The conqueror was a good deal larger 
around the middle than when he was young, but not 
so large as when he went to war. He had a scarf 
tied over his ears under a cracked old patent leather 
helmet, which the Saxon Landsturm must have taken 
from their garrets when the Kaiser sent the old fel- 
lows to keep the Belgians in order, so that the young 
men could be spared to get rheumatism in the trenches 
if they escaped death. 

You could see that the conqueror missed his wife f 9 
cooking and Sunday afternoon in the beer garden with 
his family. However much he loved the Kaiser, it 
did not make him love home any the less. His nod 
admitted us into German-ruled Belgium. He looked 
so lonely that as our car started I sent him a smile. 
Surprise broke on his face. Somebody not a German 
in uniform had actually smiled at him in Belgium 1 
My last glimpse of him was of a grin spreading under 
the scarf toward his ears. 

Belgium was webbed with these old Landsturm 
guards. If your Passerschein was not right, you 
might survive the first set of sentries and even the 
second, but the third, and if not the third some suc- 
ceeding one of the dozens on the way to Brussels, 
would hale you before a Kommandatur. Then you 
were in trouble. In travelling about Europe I became 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 119 

80 used to passes that when I returned to New York 
I could not have thought of going to Hoboken with- 
out the German consul's visa, or of dining at a French 
restaurant without the French consul's. 

11 And again! " said Harvard, 1914, as we came to 
another sentry. There was good reason why Har- 
vard had his pass in a leather-bound case under a 
celluloid face. Otherwise, it would soon have been 
worn out in showing. He had been warned by the 
Commission not to talk and he did not talk. He was 
neutrality personified. All he did was to show his 
pass. He could be silent in three languages. The 
only time I got anything like partisanship out of him 
and two sentences in succession was when I mentioned 
the Harvard-Yale football game. 

" My ! Wasn't that a smear ! In their new sta- 
dium, too ! Oh, my ! Wish I had been there ! " 

When the car broke a spring halfway to Antwerp, 
he remarked, "Naturally!" or, rather, a more ex- 
pressive monosyllable which did not sound neutral. 

While he and the Belgian chauffeur, with the help 
of a Belgian farmer as spectator, were patching up 
the broken spring, I had a look at the farm. The 
winter crops were in; the cabbages and Brussels 
sprouts in the garden were untouched. It happened 
that the scorching finger of war's destruction had not 
been laid on this little property. In the yard the wife 
was doing the week's washing, her hands in hot water 
and her arms exposed to weather so cold that I felt 
none too warm in a heavy overcoat. At first sight she 
gave me a frown, which instantly dissipated into a 
smile when she saw that I was not German. 

If not German, I must be a friend. Yet if I were 
I would not dare talk — not with German sentries all 



120 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

about. She lifted her hand from the suds and swung 
it out to the west toward England and France with an 
eager, craving fire in her eyes, and then she swept it 
across in front of her as if she were sweeping a spider 
off a table. When it stopped at arm's length there 
was the triumph of hate in her eyes. I thought of 
the lid of a cauldron raised to let out a burst of steam 
as she asked: "When?" When? When would 
the Allies come and turn the Germans out ? 

She was a kind, hard-working woman, who would 
help any stranger in trouble the best she knew how. 
Probably that Saxon whose smile had spread under his 
scarf had much the same kind of wife. Yet I knew 
that if the Allies' guns were driving the Germans 
past her house and her husband had a rifle, he would 
put a shot in that Saxon's back, or she would pour 
boiling water on the enemy's head if she could. Then, 
if the Germans had time, they would burn the farm- 
house and kill the husband who had shot one of their 
comrades. 

I recollect a youth who had been in a railroad acci- 
dent saying: "That was the first time I had ever 
seen death; the first time I realised what death was." 
Exactly. You don't know death till you have seen it; 
you don't know invasion till you have felt it. How- 
ever wise, however able the conquerors, life under 
them is a living death. True, the farmer's property 
was untouched. But his liberty was gone. If you, a 
well-behaved citizen, have ever been arrested and 
marched through the streets of your home town by a 
policeman, how did you like it? Give the policeman 
a rifle and a fixed bayonet and full cartridge boxes 
and transform him into a foreigner and the experience 
would not be any more pleasant 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 121 

That farmer could not go to the next town with- 
out the permission of the sentries. He could not 
even mail a letter to his son who was in the trenches 
with the Allies. The Germans had taken his horse; 
theirs the power to take anything he had — the power 
of the bayonet. If he wanted to send his produce to 
a foreign market, if he wanted to buy food in a for- 
eign market, the British naval blockade closed the sea 
to him. He was sitting on a chair of steel spikes, 
hands tied and mouth gagged, while his mind seethed, 
solacing its hate with hope through the long winter 
months. If you lived in Kansas and could not get 
your wheat to Chicago, or any groceries or newspapers 
from the nearest town, or learn whether your son in 
Wyoming were alive or dead, or whether the man who 
owned your mortgage in New York had foreclosed or 
not — well, that is enough without the German sentry. 

Only, instead of newspapers or word about the 
mortgage, the thing you needed past that blockade was 
bread to keep you from starving. America opened 
a window and slipped a loaf into the empty larder. 
Those Belgian soldiers whom I had seen at Dixmude, 
wounded, exhausted, mud-caked, shivering, were 
happy beside the people at home. They were in the 
fight. It is not the destruction of towns and houses 
that impresses you most, but the misery expressed 
by that peasant woman over her washtub. 

A writer can make a lot of the burst of a single 
shell; a photographer showing the ruins of a block 
of buildings or a church makes it appear that all 
blocks and all churches are in ruins. Running through 
Antwerp in a car, one saw few signs of destruction 
from the bombardment. You will see them if you are 
specially conducted. Shops were open, the people 



122 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

were moving about In the streets, which were well 
lighted. No need of darkness for fear of bombs 
dropping here! German barracks had safe shelter 
from aerial raids in a city whose people were the 
allies of England and France. But at intervals 
marched the German patrols. 

When our car stopped before a restaurant a knot 
gathered around it. Their faces were like all the 
other faces I saw in Belgium — unless German — 
with that restrained, drawn look of passive resist- 
ance, persistent even when they smiled. When? 
When were the Allies coming? Their eyes asked the 
question which their tongues dared not. Inside the 
restaurant a score of German officers served by Bel- 
gian waiters were dining. Who were our little party ? 
What were we doing there and speaking English — 
English, the hateful language of the hated enemy? 
Oh, yes ! We were Americans connected with the re- 
lief work. But between the officers' stares at the 
sound of English and the appealing inquiry of the 
faces in the street lay an abyss of war's fierce sus- 
picion and national policies and racial enmity, which 
America had to bridge. 

Before we could help Belgium, England, blockad- 
ing Germany to keep her from getting foodstuffs, had 
to consent. She would consent only if none of the 
food reached German mouths. Germany had to 
agree not to requisition any of the food. Some one 
not German and not British must see to its distribu- 
tion. Those rigid German military authorities, hold- 
ing fast to their military secrets, must consent to scores 
of foreigners moving about Belgium and sending mes- 
sages across that Belgo-Dutch frontier, which had been 
closed to all except official German messages. This 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 123 

called for men whom both the German and the Brit- 
ish duellists would trust to succour the human beings 
crouched and helpless under the circling flashes of 
their steel. 

Fortunately, our Minister to Belgium was Brand 
Whitlock. He is no Talleyrand or Metternich. If 
he were, the Belgians might not have been fed, be- 
cause he might have been suspected of being too much 
of a diplomatist. When a German, or an English- 
man, or a Hottentot, or any other kind of a human 
being gets to know Whitlock, he recognises that here 
is an honest man with a big heart. When leading 
Belgians came to him and said that winter would find 
Belgium without bread, he turned from the land that 
has the least food to his own land, which has the 
most. 

For Belgium is a great shop in the midst of a gar- 
den. Her towns are so close together that they seem 
only suburbs of Brussels and Antwerp. She has the 
densest population in Europe. She raises only enough 
food to last her for two months of the year. The 
food for the other ten months she buys with the prod- 
ucts of her factories. In 19 14-15 Belgium could not 
send out her products; so we were to help feed her 
without pay, and England and France were to give 
money to buy what food we did not give. 

But with the British navy generously allowing food 
to pass the blockade, the problem was far from solved. 
Ships laden with supplies steaming to Rotterdam — 
this was a matter of easy organisation. How get 
the bread to the hungry mouths when the Germans 
were using all Belgian railroads for military pur- 
poses? Germany was not inclined to allow a carload 
of wheat to keep a carload of soldiers from reaching 



124 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the front, or to let food for Belgians keep the men in 
the trenches from getting theirs regularly. Horse 
and cart transport would be cumbersome, and the Ger- 
mans would not permit Belgian teamsters to move 
about with such freedom. As likely as not they might 
be spies. 

Anybody who can walk or ride may be a spy* 
Therefore, the way to stop spying is not to let any one 
walk or ride. Besides, Germany had requisitioned 
most of the horses that could do more than draw an 
empty phaeton on a level. But she had not drawn 
the water out of the canals; though the Belgians, al- 
ways whispering jokes at the expense of the conquer- 
ors, said that the canals might have been emptied if 
their contents had been beer. There were plenty of 
idle boats in Holland, whose canals connect with the 
web of canals in Belgium. You had only to seal the 
cargoes against requisition, the seal to be broken only 
by a representative of the Relief Commission, and 
start them to their destination. 

And how make sure that only those who had money 
should pay for their bread, while all who had not 
should be reached? The solution was simple com- 
pared to the distribution of relief after the San Fran- 
cisco earthquake and fire, for example, in our own 
land, where a scantier population makes social or- 
ganisation comparatively loose. 

The people to be relieved were in their homes. 
Belgium is so old a country, her population so dense, 
and she is so much like one big workshop, that the 
Government must keep a complete set of books. 
Every Belgian is registered and docketed. You know 
just how he makes his living and where he lives. 
Upon marriage a Belgian gets a little book, giving his 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 125 

name and his wife's, their ages, their occupations, and 
address. As children are born their names are added. 
A Belgian holds as fast to this book as a woman to a 
piece of jewellery that is an heirloom. 

With few exceptions, Belgian local officials had not 
fled the country. They realised that this was a time 
when they were particularly needed on the job to pro- 
tect the people from German exactions and from their 
own rashness. There were also any number of vol- 
unteers. The thing was to get the food to them and 
let them organise local distribution. 

The small force of Americans required to oversee 
the transit must both watch that the Germans did not 
take any of the food and retain both British and Ger- 
man confidence in the absolute good faith of their in- 
tentions. The volunteers got their expenses and the 
rest of their reward was experience ; and it was " some 
experience " as a Belgian said, who was learning a 
little American slang. They talked about canal-boat 
cargoes as if they had been from Buffalo to Albany on 
the Erie Canal for years ; they spoke of " my prov- 
ince " and compared bread lines and the efficiency of 
local officials. And the Germans took none of the 
food ; orders from Berlin were obeyed. Berlin knew 
that any requisitioning of relief supplies meant that 
the Relief Commission would cease work and announce 
to the world the reason. 

However many times the Americans were arrested 
they must be patient. That exception who said, when 
he was put in a cell overnight because he entered the 
military zone by mistake, that he would not have 
been treated that way in England, needed a little more 
coaching in preserving his mask of neutrality. For I 
must say that nine out of ten of these young men, 



126 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

leaning over backward to be neutral, were pro-Ally, 
including some with German names. But publicly 
you could hardly get an admission out of them that 
there was any war. As for Harvard, 1914, hand a 
passport carried around the Sphinx's neck and you 
have him done in stone. 

Fancy any Belgian trying to get him to carry a 
contraband letter or a German commander trying to 
work him for a few sacks of flour! When I asked 
him what career he had chosen he said, " Business ! " 
without any waste of words. I think that he will suc- 
ceed in a way to surprise his family. It is he and all 
those young Americans of which he is a type, as dis- 
tinctive of America in manner, looks, and thought as 
a Frenchman is of France or a German of Germany, 
who carried the torch of Peace's kindly work into 
war-ridden Belgium. They made you want to tickle 
the eagle on the throat so he would let out a gentle, 
well-modulated scream, of course, strictly in keeping 
with neutrality. 

Red lanterns took the place of red flags swung by 
Landsturm sentries on the run to Brussels as dark- 
ness fell. There was no relaxation of watchfulness 
at night. All the twenty-four hours the systematic 
conquerors held the net tight. Once when my com- 
panion repeated his " Again! " and held out the pass 
in the lantern's rays, I broke into a laugh, which ex- 
cited his curiosity, for you soon get out of the habit 
of laughing in Belgium. 

11 It has just occurred to me that my guidebook 
states that passports are not required in Belgium ! " I 
explained. 

The editor of that guidebook will have a busy time 
before he issues the next edition. For example, he 



BELGIUM UNDER THE GERMANS 127 

will have a lot of new information about Malines, 
whose ruins were revealed by the motor lamps in 
shadowy, broken walls on either side of the main 
street Other places where less damage had been 
done were equally silent. In the smaller towns and 
villages the population must keep indoors at night; 
for egress and ingress are more difficult to control 
there than in large cities, where guards at every 
corner suffice — watching, watching, these disciplined 
pawns of remorselessly efficient militarism; watching 
every human being in Belgium. 

44 The last time I saw that statue of Liege," I re- 
marked, peering into the darkness as we rode into the 
city, " the Legion of Honour conferred by France on 
Liege for its brave defence was hung on its breast. I 
suppose it is gone now." 

44 1 guess yes," said Harvard, 19 14. 

We went to the hotel at Brussels which I had left 
the day before the city's fall. English railway signs 
on the walls of the corridor had not been disturbed. 
More ancient relic still seemed a bulletin board with 
its announcement of seven passages a day to England, 
traversing the Channel in 44 fifty-five minutes via Ca- 
lais " and 44 three hours via Ostend," with the space 
blank where the state of the weather for the despair 
or the delight of intending voyagers had been chalked 
up in happier days. The same men were in attend- 
ance at the office as before ; but they seemed older and 
their politeness that of cheerless automatons. For 
five months they had been serving German officers as 
guests with hate in their hearts and, in turn, trying to 
protect their property. 

A story is told of how that hotel had filled with 
officers after the arrival of the Germanic flood and 



128 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

how one day, when it was learned that the proprietor 
was a Frenchman, guards were suddenly placed at 
the doors and the hall was filled with baggage as every 
officer, acting with characteristic official solidarity, va- 
cated his room and bestowed his presence elsewhere. 
Then the proprietor was informed that his guests 
would return if he would agree to employ German 
help and buy his supplies from Germany. He re- 
fused, for practical as well as for sentimental reasons. 
If he had consented, think what the Belgians would 
have done to him after the Germans were gone! 
However, officers were gradually returning, for this 
was the best hotel in town, and even conquerors are 
human and German conquerors have particularly hu- 
man stomachs. 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 

" A man's house is his castle " worth fighting for — - Breakfast in a 
Belgian hotel — Groups of the conquerors — " News " in Belgium 
— Companionship at mass — Business at a standstill — A Bel- 
gian bread line — Workers and no work — Methods of relief 
distribution — German surveillance — Dinner at the American 
legation — M When would the Allies come?" 

Christmas in Belgium with the bayonet and the wolf 
at the door taught one to value Christmas at home for 
more than its gifts and the cheer of the fireside. It 
taught him what it meant to belong to a free people 
and how precious is that old England saying that a 
man's house is his castle, which was the inception of 
so much in our lives that we accept as a commonplace. 
If such a commonplace can be made secure only by 
fighting, then it is best to fight. At any time a foreign 
soldier might enter the house of a Belgian and take 
him away for trial before a military court. 

Breakfast in the same restaurant as before the city's 
fall! Again the big grapes which are a luxury of 
the rich man's table or an extravagance for a sick 
friend with usl The hothouses still grew them. 
What else was there for the hothouses to do, though 
the export of their products was impossible ? A short- 
age of the long, white-leafed chicory that we call en- 
dive in New York restaurants ! There were piles of 
it in the Brussels market and on the hucksters' carts ; 
nothing so cheap. One might have excellent steaks 

and roasts and delicious veal ; for the heifers were be- 

129 



130 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ing butchered, as the Germans had taken all fodder. 
But the bread was the Commission's brown, which 
every one had to eat. Belgium, growing quality on 
scanty acres with intensive farming, had food luxuries 
but not the staff of life. 

One looked out of the windows on to the square 
which four months before he had seen crowded with 
people bedecked with the Allies' colours and eagerly 
buying the latest editions containing the communiques 
of hollow optimism. No flag in sight now except a 
German flag flying over the station! But small re- 
venges may be enjoyed. A German soldier tried to 
jump on the tail of a cart driven by a Belgian; but 
the Belgian whipped up his horse and the German fell 
off onto the pavement, while the cart sped around a 
corner. 

Out of the station came a score of German soldiers 
returning from the trenches, on their way to barracks 
to regain strength so that they could bear the ordeal 
of standing in icy water again. They were not the 
kind exhibited on press tours to illustrate the " vigour 
of our indomitable army." Eyelids drooped over 
hollow eye-sockets ; sore, numbed feet moved like feet 
which are asleep in their vain effort to keep step. 
Sensitiveness to surroundings, almost to existence, 
seemed to have been lost. 

One was a corporal, young, tall, and full-bearded. 
He might have been handsome if he had not been so 
haggard. He gave the lead to the others; he seemed 
to know where they were going, and they shuffled on 
after him in dogged painfulness. Four months ago 
that corporal, with the spring of the energy of youth 
when the war was young, was perhaps in the green 
column that went through the streets of Brussels in the 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 131 

thunderous beat of their regular tread on the way to 
Paris. The group was an object lesson in how much 
the victor must suffer in war in order to make his vic- 
tim suffer. 

Some officers were at breakfast, too. Mostly they 
were reservists ; mostly bespectacled, with middle age 
swelling their girth and hollowing their chests, but 
sturdy enough to apply the regulations made for con- 
duct of the conquered. While stronger men were 
under shell-fire at the front, they were under the fire 
of Belgian hate as relentless as their own hate of Eng- 
land. You saw them always in the good restaurants, 
but never in the company of Belgians, these ostracised 
rulers. In four months they had made no friends ; at 
least, no friends who would appear with them in pub- 
lic. A few thousand guards in Belgium in the com- 
panionship of conquest and seven million Belgians in 
the companionship of a common helplessness! Bay- 
onets may make a man silent, but they cannot stop his 
thinking. 

At the breakfast table on that Christmas morning 
in London, Paris, or Berlin the patriot could find the 
kind of news that he liked. His racial and national 
predilections and animosities were solaced. If there 
were good news it was " played up " ; if there were 
bad news, it was not published, or it was explained. 
L'£cho Beige and U Independence Beige, and all the 
Brussels papers were either out of business or being 
issued as single sheets in Holland and England. 

The Belgian, keenest of all the peoples at war for 
news, having less occupation to keep his mind off the 
war, must read the newspapers established under Ger- 
man auspices, which fed him with the pabulum that 
German chefs provided, reflective of the stumbling de- 



132 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

generacy of England, French weariness of the war, 
Russian clumsiness, and the invincibility of Germany. 
If an Englishman had to read German, or a German 
English, newspapers every morning he might have 
understood how the Belgian felt. 

Those who had sons or fathers or husbands in the 
Belgian army could not send or receive letters, let 
alone presents. Families scattered in different parts 
of Belgium could not hold reunions. But at mass I 
saw a Belgian standard in the centre of the church. 
That flag was proscribed, but the priests knew it was 
safe in that sacred place and the worshippers might 
feast their eyes on it as they said their aves. 

A Bavarian soldier came in softly and stood a little 
apart from others, many in mourning, at the rear, a 
man who was of the same faith as the Belgians and 
who crossed himself with the others in the house of 
brotherly love. He would go outside to obey orders ; 
and the others to nurse their hate of him and his race. 
This private in his faded green, bowing his head be- 
fore that flag in the shadows of the nave, was war- 
sick, as most soldiers were; and the Belgians were 
heartsick. They had the one solace in common. But 
if you had suggested to him to give up Belgium, his 
answer would have been that of the other Germans : 
41 Not after all we have suffered to take itl " Chris- 
tians have a peculiar way of applying Christianity. 
Yet if it were not for Christianity and that infernal 
thing called the world's opinion, which did not exist 
in the days of Caesar and the Belgii, the Belgians 
might have been worse off than they were. More of 
them might have been dead. When they were say- 
ing, " Give us this day our daily bread M they were 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 133 

thinking, " An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," 
if ever their turn came. 

A satirist might have repeated the apocryphal 
naivete of Marie Antoinette, who asked why the peo- 
ple wanted bread when they could buy such nice cakes 
for a sou. For all the patisseries were open. Brus- 
sels is famous for its French pastry. With a store of 
preserves, why shouldn't the bakeshops go on making 
tarts with heavy crusts of the brown flour, when war 
had not robbed the bakers of their art? It gave work 
to them; it helped the shops to keep open and make 
a show of normality. But I noticed that they were 
doing little business. Stocks were small and bravely 
displayed. Only the rich could afford such luxuries, 
which in ordinary times were what ice cream cones 
are to us. Even the jewellery shops were open, with 
diamond rings flashing in the windows. 

" You must pay rent; you don't want to discharge 
your employees," said a jeweller. " There is no place 
to go except your shop. If you closed it would look 
as if you were afraid of the Germans. It would 
make you blue and the people in the street blue. One 
tries to go through the motions of normal existence, 
anyway. But, of course, you don't sell anything. 
This week I have repaired a locket which carried the 
portrait of a soldier at the front and I've put a main- 
spring in a watch. I'll warrant that is more than some 
of my competitors have done." 

Swing around the circle in Brussels of a winter's 
morning and look at the only crowds that the Germans 
allow to gather, and any doubt that Belgium would 
have gone hungry if she had not received provisions 
from the outside was dispelled. Whenever I think of 



134* MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

a bread line again I shall see the faces of a Belgian 
bread line. They blot out the memory of those at 
home, where men are free to go and come ; where war 
has not robbed the thrifty of food. 

It was fitting that the great central soup kitchen 
should be established in the central express office of 
the city. For in Belgium these days there is no ex- 
press business except in German troops to the front 
and wounded to the rear. The despatch of parcels is 
stopped, no less than the other channels of trade, in a 
country where trade was so rife, a country that lived 
by trade. On the stone floor, where once packages 
were arranged for forwarding to the towns whose 
names are on the walls, were many great cauldrons in 
clusters of three, to economise space and fuel. 

" We don't lack cooks," said a chef, who had been in 
a leading hotel. " So many of us are out of work. 
Our society of hotel and restaurant keepers took 
charge. We know the practical side of the business. 
I suppose you have the same kind of a society in New 
York and would turn to it for help if the Germans oc- 
cupied New York." 

He gave me a printed report in which I read, for ex- 
ample, that " M. Arndt, professor of the £cole Nor- 
male, had been good enough to take charge of ac- 
counts," and " M. Catteau had been specially ap- 
pointed to look after the distribution of bread." 

Most appetising that soup prepared under direction 
of the best chefs in the city. The meat and green 
vegetables in it were Belgian and the peas American. 
Steaming hot in big cans it was sent to the communal 
centres, where lines of people with pots, pitchers, and 
pails waited to receive their daily allowance. A de- 
mocracy was in that bread line such as I have never 



0\ 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 135 

seen anywhere except at San Francisco after the earth- 
quake. Each person had a blue or a yellow ticket, 
with numbers to be punched, like a commuter. The 
blue tickets were for those who had proved to the com- 
munal authorities that they could not pay; the yellow 
for those who paid five centimes for each person 
served. A flutter of blue and yellow tickets all over 
Belgium, and in return life! With each serving of 
soup went a loaf of the American brown bread. The 
faces in the line were not those of people starving — 
they had been saved from starvation. There was 
none of the emaciation which pictures of famine in the 
Orient have made familiar; but they were pinched 
faces, bloodless faces, the faces of people on short ra- 
tions. 

To the Belgian bread is not only the staff of life ; it 
is the legs. At home we think of bread as something 
that goes with the rest of the meal; to the poorer 
classes of Belgians the rest of the meal is something 
that goes with bread. To you and me food has meant 
the payment of money to the baker and the butcher and 
the grocer, or the hotelkeeper. You get your money 
by work or from investments. What if there were no 
bread to be had for work or money? Sitting on a 
mountain of gold in the desert of Sahara would not 
quench thirst. 

Three hundred grams, a minimum calculation — 
about half what the British soldier gets — was the 
ration. That small boy sent by his mother got five 
loaves ; his ticket called for an allowance for a family 
of five. An old woman got one loaf, for she was 
alone in the world. Each one as he hurried by had a 
personal story of what war had meant to him. They 
answered your questions frankly, gladly, with the 



136 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Belgian cheerfulness which was amazing considering 
the circumstances. A tall, distinguished-looking man 
was an artist. 

" No work for artists these days," he said. 

No work in a community of workers where every 
link of the chain of economic life had been broken. 
No work for the next man, a chauffeur, or the next, a 
brass worker; the next, a teamster; the next, a bank 
clerk; the next, a doorkeeper of a Government office; 
while the wives of those who still had work were buy- 
ing in the only market they had. But the husbands of 
some were not at home. Each answer about the 
absent one had an appeal that nothing can picture bet- 
ter than the simple words or the looks that accom- 
panied the words. 

" The last I heard of my husband he was fighting at 
Dixmude — two months ago." 

" Mine is wounded, somewhere in France." 

" Mine was with the army, too. I don't know 
whether he is alive or dead. I have not heard since 
Brussels was taken. He cannot get my letters and I 
cannot get his." 

" Mine was killed at Liege, but we have a son." 

So you out in Nebraska who gave a handful of 
wheat might know that said handful of wheat reached 
its destination in an empty stomach. If you sent a suit 
of clothes or a cap or a pair of socks, come along to the 
skating-rink, where ice polo was played and matches 
and carnivals were held in better days, and look on at 
the boxes, packed tight with gifts of every manner of 
thing that men and women and children wear except 
silk hats, which are being opened and sorted and dis- 
tributed into hastily constructed cribs and compart- 
ments. 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 137 

A Belgian woman whose father was one of Bel- 
gium's leading lawyers — her husband was at the 
front — was the busy head of this organisation, be- 
cause, as she said, the busier she was the more it 
" keeps my mind off — " and she did not finish the sen- 
tence. How many times I heard that " keeps my mind 
off — " a sentence that was the more telling for not 
being finished. She and some other women began 
sewing and patching and collecting garments; "but 
our business grew so fast " — the business of relief is 
the one kind in Belgium that does grow these days — 
" that now we have hundreds of helpers. I begin to 
feel that I am what you would call in America a cap- 
tainess of industry." 

Some of the good mothers in America were a little 
too thoughtful in their kindness. An odour in a box 
that had evidently travelled across the Atlantic close 
to the ship's boilers was traced to the pocket of a boy's 
suit, which contained the hardly distinguishable re- 
mains of a ham sandwich, meant to be ready to hand 
for the hungry Belgian boy who got that suit. Bro- 
ken pots of jam were quite frequent. But no matter. 
Soap and water and Belgian industry saved the suit, 
if not the sandwich. Sweaters and underclothes and 
overcoats almost new and shiny, old frock coats and 
trousers with holes in seat and knees might represent 
equal sacrifice on the part of some American three 
thousand miles away, and all were welcome. Needle- 
women were given work cutting up the worn-outs of 
grown-ups and making them over into astonishingly 
good suits or dresses for youngsters. 

44 We've really turned the rink into a kind of de- 
partment store," said the lady. " Come into our boot 
department. We had some leather left in Belgium 



i 3 8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

that the Germans did not requisition, so we bought it 
and that gave more Belgians work in the shoe facto- 
ries. Work, you see, is what we want to keep 
our minds off — " 

Blue and yellow tickets here, too ! Boots for chil- 
dren and thick-set working women and watery-eyed old 
men ! And each was required to leave behind the paw 
he was wearing. 

" Sometimes we can patch up the cast-offs, which 
means work for the cobblers," said the captainess of 
industry. "And who are our clerks? Why, the 
people who put on the skates for the patrons of the 
rink, of course ! " 

One could write volumes on this systematic relief 
work, the businesslike industry of succouring Belgium 
by the businesslike Belgians, with American help. 
Certainly one cannot leave out those old men strag- 
glers from Louvain and Bruges and Ghent — vener- 
able children with no offspring to give them paternal 
care — who took their turn in getting bread, which 
they soaked thoroughly in their soup for reasons that 
would be no military secret, not even in the military 
zone. On Christmas Day an American, himself a 
smoker, thinking what class of children he could make 
happiest on a limited purse, remembered the ring 
around the stove and bought a basket of cheap briar 
pipes and tobacco. By Christmas night some tooth- 
less gums were sore, but a beatific smile of satiation 
played in white beards. 

Nor can one leave out the very young babies at 
home, who get their milk if grown people don't, and 
the older babies beyond milk but not yet old enough 
for bread and meat, whose mothers return from the 
bread line to bring their children to another line, where 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 139 

they got portions of a sirupy mixture which those who 
know say is the right provender. On such occasions 
men are quite helpless. They can only look on with 
a frog in the throat at pale, improperly nourished 
mothers with bundles of potential manhood and 
womanhood in their arms. For this was woman's 
work for woman. Belgian women of every class 
joined in it: the competent wife of a workman, or the 
wife of a millionaire who had to walk like everybody 
else now that her automobile was requisitioned by the 
army. 

Pop-eyed children, ruddy-cheeked, aggressive chil- 
dren, pinched-faced children, kept warm by sweaters 
that some American or English children spared, happy 
in that they did not know what their elders knew 1 Not 
the danger of physical starvation so much as the actual 
presence of mental starvation was the thing that got 
on our nerves in a land where the sun is seldom seen 
in winter and rainy days are the rule. It was bad 
enough in the " zone of occupation," so called, a line 
running from Antwerp past Brussels to Mons. One 
could guess what it was like in the military zone to the 
westward, where only an occasional American relief 
representative might go. 

This is not saying that the Germans were stricter 
than necessary, if we excuse the exasperation of their 
militarism, in order to prevent information from pass- 
ing out when a multitude of Belgians would have risked 
their lives gladly to help the Allies. One spy bringing 
accurate information might cost the German army 
thousands of casualties; perhaps decide the fate of a 
campaign. They saw the Belgians as enemies. They 
were fighting to take the lives of their enemies and save 
their own lives, which made it tough for them and for 



140 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the French and the British — tough all round, but very 
particularly tough for Belgians. 

It was good for a vagrant American to dine at the 
'American Legation, where Mr. and Mrs. Whitlock 
were far, very far, from the days in Toledo, Ohio, 
where he was mayor. Some said that the place of the 
Minister to Belgium was at Havre, where the Belgian 
Government had its offices; but neither Whitlock nor 
the Belgian people thought so, nor the German Gov- 
ernment, of late, since they had realised his prestige 
with the Belgians and how they would listen to him in 
any crisis when their passions might break the bonds 
of wisdom. Hugh Gibson, being the omnipresent Sec- 
retary of Legation in four languages, naturally was 
also present. We recalled dining together in Hon- 
duras, when he was in the thick of vexations. 

Trouble accommodatingly waits for him wherever 
he goes, because he has a gift for taking care of 
trouble, in the ascendency of a cheerful spirit and much 
knowledge of international law. His present for the 
Minister who daily received stacks of letters from all 
sources asking the impossible, as well as from Ameri- 
cans who wanted to be sure that the food they gave 
was not being purloined by the Germans, was a rubber 
stamp, " Blame-it-all — there's-a-state-of-war-in-Bel- 
gium! " which he suggested might save typewriting — 
a recommendation which the Minister refused to ac- 
cept, not to Gibson's surprise. 

On that Christmas afternoon and evening, the 
people promenaded the streets as usual. You might 
have thought it a characteristic Christmas afternoon 
or evening except for the Landsturm patrols. But 
there was an absence of the old gaiety, and they were 



CHRISTMAS IN BELGIUM 141 

moving as if from habit and moving was all there was 
to do. 

They had heard the sound of the guns at Dixmude 
the night before. Didn't the sound seem a little 
nearer? No. The wind from that direction was 
stronger. When ? When would the Allies come ? 



XI 

THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 

A buffer state divided in itself — Her ideals those of prosperity — 
False sentiment regarding the Belgians — Not a war-like people 
— Moral force of her plutocracy — Ruins exaggerated — Ger- 
man policy of destruction — "Mass" logic — A military occu- 
pancy, merciless and crafty — " Reprisals " of the Belgians — Lou- 
vain — The bread line at Liege — Politics and German propa- 
ganda — Her Belgian policy worthy of England at her best — 
England still true to her ideals. 

In former days the traveller hardly thought of Bel- 
gium as possessing patriotic homogeneity. It was a 
land of two languages, French and Flemish. He was 
puzzled to meet people who looked like well-to-do 
mechanics, artisans, or peasants and find that they 
could not answer a simple question in French. This 
explained why a people so close to France, though they 
made Brussels a little Paris, would not join the French 
family and enter into the spirit and body of that great 
civilisation on their borders, whose language was that 
of their own literature. Belgium seemed to have no 
character. Its nationality was the artificial product of 
European politics; a buffer divided in itself, which 
would be neither French nor German nor definitely 
Belgian. 

In later times Belgium had prospered enormously. 
It had developed the resources of the Congo in a way 
that had aroused a storm of criticism. Old King Leo- 
pold made the most of his neutral position to gain ad- 
vantages which no one of the great powers might enjoy 

142 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 143 

because of jealousies. The International Sleeping- 
Car Company was Belgian and Belgian capitalists se- 
cured concessions here and there, wherever the small 
tradesman might slip into openings suitable to his size. 
Leopold was not above crumbs ; he made them profit- 
able. Leopold liked to make money and Belgium 
liked to make money. 

Her defence guaranteed by neutrality, Belgium need 
have no thought except of thrift. Her ideals were 
those of prosperity. No ambition of national expan- 
sion stirred her imagination as Germay's was stirred; 
there was no fire in her soul as in that of France in 
apprehension of the day when she should have to fight 
for her life against Germany; no national cause to 
harden the sinews of patriotism. The immensity of 
her urban population contributed its effect in depriving 
her of the sterner stuff of which warriors are made. 
Success meant more comforts and luxuries. In towns 
like Brussels and Antwerp this doubtless had its effect 
on the moralities, which were hardly of the New 
England Puritan standard. She had a small standing 
army ; a militia system in the process of reform against 
the conviction of the majority, unlike that of the Swiss 
mountaineers, that Belgium would never have any need 
for soldiers. 

If militarism means conscription as it exists in 
France and Germany, then militarism has improved 
the physique of races in an age when people are leaving 
the land for the factory. The prospect of battle's 
test unquestionably developed certain sturdy qualities 
in a people which can and ought to be developed in 
some other way than with the prospect of spending 
money for shells to kill other people. 

With the world making every Belgian man a hero 



i 4 4 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

and the unknowing convinced that a citizen soldiery 
at Liege — defended by the Belgian standing army — 
had rushed from their homes with rifles and beaten 
German infantry, it is right to repeat that the ship- 
perke spirit was not universal, that at no time had 
Belgium more than a hundred and fifty thousand men 
under arms, and that on the Dixmude line she main- 
tained never more than eighty thousand men out of a 
population of seven millions, which should yield from 
seven hundred thousand to a million ; while they lost a 
good deal of sympathy both in England and in France 
through the number of able-bodied refugees who were 
disinclined to serve. It was a mistaken idealism that 
swept over the world early in the war, characterising 
a whole nation with the gallantry of its young king and 
his little army. 

The spirit of the Boers or of the Minute Men at 
Lexington was not in the Belgian people. It could not 
be from their very situation and method of life. They 
did not believe in war; they did not expect to prac- 
tice war; but war came to them out of the still 
blue heavens, as it came to the prosperous Incas of 
Peru. 

Where one was wrong was in his expectation that 
her bankers and capitalists — an aristocracy of money 
not given to the simple life — and her manufacturers, 
artisans, and traders, if not her peasants, would soon 
make truce with Caesar for individual profit. Therein, 
Belgium showed that she was not lacking in the moral 
spirit which, with the shipperke's, became a fighting 
spirit. It seemed as if the metal of many Belgians, 
struck to a white heat in the furnace of war, had cooled 
under German occupation to the tempered steel of a 
new nationalism. 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 145 

When you travelled over Belgium after it was 
pacified, the logic of German methods became clear. 
What was haphazard in their reign of terror was due 
to the inevitable excesses of a soldiery taking the calcu- 
lated redress ordered by superiors as licence in the first 
red passion of war to a war-mad nation, which was 
sullen because the Belgians had not given up the keys 
of the gate to France. 

The extent of the ruins in Belgium east of the Yser 
has been exaggerated. They were the first ruins, most 
photographed, most advertised; bad enough, inexcus- 
able enough, and warrantedly causing a spell of horror 
throughout the civilised world. We have heard all 
about them, mind, while hearing nothing about those in 
Lorraine, where the Bavarians exceeded Prussian ruth- 
lessness in reprisals. I mean, that to have read the 
newspapers in early September, 19 14, one would have 
thought that half the towns of Belgium were debris, 
while the truth is that only a small percentage are — 
those in the path of the German army's advance. 
Two-thirds of Louvain itself is unharmed; though the 
fact alone of its venerable library being in ashes is 
sufficient outrage, if not another building had been 
harmed. 

The German army planned destruction with all the 
regularity that it billeted troops, or requisitioned sup- 
plies, or laid war indemnities. It did not destroy by 
shells exclusively. It deliberately burned homes. 
No matter whether the owners were innocent or not, 
the homes were burned as an example. The principle 
applied was that of punishing half a dozen or all 
the boys in the class in the hope of getting the real 
culprit. 

Cold ruins mark blocks where sniping was thought 



146 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

to have occurred. The Germans insist that theirs was 
the merciful way. Krieg ist Krieg. When a hundred 
citizens of Louvain were gathered and shot because 
they were the first citizens of Louvain to hand, the pur- 
pose was security of the mass at the expense of the 
individual, according to the war-is-war machine reason- 
ing. No doubt there was firing on German troops by 
civilians. What did the Germans expect after the way 
that they had invaded Belgium? If they had both- 
ered with trials and investigations, the conquerors say, 
sniping would have kept up. They may have taken 
innocent lives and burned the homes of the innocent, 
they admit; but their defence is that thereby they saved 
many thousands of their soldiers and of Belgians, and 
prevented the feud between the rulers and the ruled 
from becoming more embittered. 

Sniping over, the next step in policy was to keep the 
population quiet with the minimum of soldiery, which 
would permit a maximum at the front. In a thickly- 
settled country, so easily policed, in a land with the 
population inured to peace, the wisdom of keeping 
quiet was soon evident to the people. What if Boers 
had been in the Belgians 9 place? Would they have 
attempted guerrilla warfare? Would you or I want 
to bring destruction on neighbours in a land without 
any rural fastnesses as a rendezvous for operations? 
One could tell only if a section of our country were 
invaded. 

A burned block costs less than a dead German 
soldier. The system was efficacious. It was merci- 
lessness mixed with craft. When Prussian brusque- 
ness was found to be unnecessarily irritating to the pop- 
ulation, causing rash Belgians to turn desperate, the 
elders of the Saxon and Bavarian co-religionists were 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 147 

called in. They were amiable fathers of families, who 
would obey orders without taking the law into their 
own hands. The occupation was strictly military. It 
concerned itself with the business of national suffoca- 
tion. All the functions of the national Government 
were in German hands. But Belgian policemen 
guided the street traffic, arrested culprits for ordinary 
misdemeanours, and took them before Belgian judges. 
This concession, which also meant a saving in soldiers, 
only aggravated to the Belgian the regulations directed 
against his personal freedom. 

" Eat, drink, and live as usual. Go to your own 
police courts for misdemeanours," was the German 
edict in a word; " but remember that ours is the mili- 
tary power, and no act that aids the enemy, that helps 
the cause of Belgium in this war, is permitted. Ob- 
serve that particular affiche about a spy, please. He 
was shot." 

At every opportunity the Belgians were told that the 
British and the French could never come to their 
rescue. The Allies were beaten. It was the British 
who got Belgium into trouble; the British who were 
responsible for the idleness, the penury, the hunger, 
and the suffering in Belgium. The British had used 
Belgium as a cat's-paw; then they had deserted her. 
But Belgians remained mostly unconvinced. They 
were making war with mind and spirit, if not with 
arms. 

" We know how to suffer in Belgium," said a Bel- 
gian jurist. " Our ability to suffer and to hold fast to 
our hearths has kept us going through the centuries. 
Flemish and French, we have stubbornness in com- 
mon. Now a ruffian has come into our house and 
taken us by the throat. He can choke us to death, or 



i 4 8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

he can slowly starve us to death, but he cannot make 
us yield. No, we shall never forgive I " 

" You, too, hate, then? " I asked. 

" Of course I hate. For the first time in my life 
I know what it is to hate ; and so do my countrymen. 
I begin to enjoy my hate. It is one of the privileges 
of our present existence. We cannot stand on chairs 
and tables as they do in Berlin cafes and sing our hate, 
but no one can stop our hating in secret." 

Beside the latest verboten and regulation of Bel- 
gian conduct on the city walls were posted German offi- 
cial news bulletins. The Belgians stopped to read; 
they paused to reread. And these were the rare oc- 
casions when they smiled, and they liked to have a Ger- 
man sentry see that smile. 

" Pour les enfants! " they whispered, as if talking 
to one another about a creche. Little ones, be good ! 
Here is a new fairy tale I 

When a German wanted to buy something he got 
frigid politeness and attention — very frigid, telling 
politeness — from the clerk, which said : 

" Beast! Invader! I do not ask you to buy, but 
as you ask, I sell ; and as I sell I hate ! I hate ! ! I 
hate!!!" 

An officer entering a shop and seeing a picture of 
King Albert on the wall, said : 

" The orders are to take that down ! " 

"But don't you love your Kaiser?" asked the 
woman, who kept the shop. 

" Certainly 1 " 

" And I love my King ! " was the answer. " I like 
to look at his picture just as much as you like to look at 
your Kaiser's." 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 149 

" I had not thought of it in that way 1 " said the 
officer. 

Indeed, it is very hard for any conqueror to think of 
it in that way. So the picture remained on the wall. 

How many soldiers would it take to enforce the 
regulation that no Belgian was to wear the Belgian 
colours ? Imagine thousands and thousands of Land- 
sturm men moving about and plucking King Albert's 
face or the black, yellow and red from Belgian button- 
holes! No sooner would a buttonhole be cleared in 
front than the emblem would appear in a buttonhole 
in the rear. The Landsturm would face counter, 
flank, frontal, and rear attacks in a most amusing mili- 
tary manoeuvre, which would put those middle-aged 
conquerors fearfully out of breath and be rare sport 
for the Belgians. You could not arrest the whole 
population and lead them off to jail; and if you bayo- 
neted a few — which really those phlegmatic, comfort- 
able old Landsturms would not have the heart to do 
for such a little thing — why, it would get into the 
American press and the Berlin Foreign Office would 
say: 

" There you are, you soldiers, breaking all the crock- 
ery again ! " 

In the smaller towns, where the Germans were bil- 
leted in Belgian houses, of course the hosts had to 
serve their unwelcome guests. 

" Yet we managed to let them know what was in our 
hearts," said one woman. " Some tried to be friendly. 
They said they had wives and children at home; and 
we said : * How glad your wives and children would 
be to see you I Why don't you go home ? ' " 

When a report reached the commander in Ghent 



150 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

that an old man had concealed arms, a sergeant with a 
guard was sent to search the house. 

" Yes, my son has a rifle." 

" Where is it?" 

" In his hands on the Yser, if he is not dead, mon- 
sieur. You are welcome to search, monsieur." 

Belgium was developing a new humour: a humour 
at the expense of the Germans. In their homes they 
mimicked their rulers as freely as they pleased. To 
carry mimicry into the streets meant arrest for the eld- 
ers, but not always for the children. You have heard 
the story, which is true, of how some gamins put car- 
rots in old bowler hats to represent the spikes of Ger- 
man helmets, and at their leader's command of u On 
to Paris ! " did a goose-step backwards. There is an- 
other which you may not have heard of a small boy 
who put on grandfather's spectacles, a pillow under 
his coat, and a card on his cap, " Officer of the Land- 
sturm." The conquerors had enough sense not to in- 
terfere with the battalion which was taking Paris; but 
the pseudo-Landsturm officer was chased into a door- 
way and got a cuff after his placard was taken away 
from him. 

When a united public opinion faces bayonets it is not 
altogether helpless to reply. By the atmospheric 
force of mass it enjoys a conquest of its own. If a 
German officer or soldier entered a street car, women 
drew aside in a way to indicate that they did not want 
their garments contaminated. People walked by the 
sentries in the streets giving them room as you would 
give a mangy dog room, yet as if they did not see the 
sentries; as if no sentries existed. 

The Germans said that they wanted to be friendly. 
They even expressed surprise that the Belgians would 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 151 

not return their advances. They sent out invitations 
to social functions in Brussels, but no one came — not 
even to a ball given by the soldiers to the daughters of 
the poor. Belgium stared its inhospitality, its con- 
tempt, its cynical drolleries at the invader. 

I kept thinking of a story I heard in Alaska of a 
man who had shown himself yellow by cheating his 
partner out of a mine. He appeared one day hungry 
at a cabin occupied by half a dozen men who knew 
him. They gave him food and a bunk that night ; they 
gave him breakfast; they even carried his blanket roll 
out to his sled and harnessed his dogs as a hint, and 
saw him go without one man having spoken to him. 
No matter if that man believed he had done no wrong, 
he would have needed a rhinoceros' hide not to have 
felt this silence. Such treatment the Belgians have 
given to the Germans, except that they furnished the 
shelter and harnessed the team under duress, as they 
so specifically indicate by every act. No wonder, 
then, that the old Landsturm guards, used at home to 
saying " Wie gehts?" and getting a cheery answer 
from the people they passed in the streets, were 
lonely. 

Not only stubborn, but shrewd, these Belgians. 
Both qualities were brought out in the officials who had 
to deal with the Germans, particularly in the small 
towns and where destruction had been worst. Take, 
for example, M. Nerincx, of Louvain, who has energy 
enough to carry him buoyantly through an American 
political campaign, speaking from morning to mid- 
night. He had been in America. I insisted that he 
ought to give up his professorship, get naturalised, and 
run for office at home. I know that he would soon be 
mayor of a town, or in Congress. 



152 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

When the war began he was professor of interna- 
tional law at the ancient university whose walls alone 
stand, surrounding the ashes of its priceless volumes, 
across from the ruined cathedral. With the burgo- 
master a refugee from the horrors of that orgy, he 
turned man of action on behalf of the demoralised peo- 
ple of the town with a thousand homes in ruins. Very 
lucky the client in its lawyer. He is the kind of man 
who makes the best of the situation; picks up the 
fragments of the pitcher, cements them together with 
the first material at hand, and gogs for more milk. 
It was he who got a German commander to sign an 
agreement not to " kill, burn, or plunder " any more, 
and the signs were still up on some houses saying that 
" This house is not to be burned except by official or- 
der." ^ . - " . . 

There in the Hotel de Ville, which is quite un- 
harmed, he had his office within reach of the German 
commander. He yielded to Caesar and protected his 
own people day in and day out, diplomatic, watchful, 
Belgian. And he was cheerful. What other people 
could have preserved any vestige of it! Sometimes 
one wondered if it were not partly due to an absence 
of keen nerve-sensibilities, or to some other of the 
traits which are a product of the Belgian hothouse and 
Belgian inheritance. 

I might tell you about M. Nerincx's currency sys- 
tem; how he issued paper promises to pay when he 
gave employment to the idle in repairing those houses 
which permitted of being repaired and cleaned the 
streets of debris, till ruined Louvain looked as ship- 
shape as ruined Pompeii ; and how he got a little real 
money from Brussels to stop depreciation when the 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 153 

storekeepers came to him and said that they had stacks 
of his notes which no mercantile concern would cash. 

M. Nerincx was practising in the life about all that 
he ever learned and taught at the university, " which 
we shall rebuild I" he declared, with cheery confi- 
dence. " You will help us in America," he said. 
" Pm going to America to lecture one of these days 
about Louvain ! " 

" You have the most famous ruins, unless it is 
Rheims," I assured him. " You will get flocks of 
tourists " — particularly if he fenced in the ruins of 
the library and burned leaves of ancient books were on 
sale. 

" Then you will not only have fed, but have helped 
to rebuild Belgium*" he added. 

A shadow of apprehension overhung his anticipa- 
tion of the day of Belgium's delivery. Many a Bel- 
gian had arms hidden from the alert eye of German 
espionage, and his bitterness was solaced by the 
thought : " I'll have a shot at the Germans when they 
go ! " The lot of the last German soldiers to leave 
a town, unless the garrison slips away overnight, would 
hardly make him a good life insurance risk. 

My last look at a Belgian bread line was at Liege, 
that town which had had a blaze of fame in August, 
19 14, and was now almost forgotten. An industrial 
town, its mines and works were idle. The Germans 
had removed the machinery for rifle-making, which 
has become the most valuable kind of machinery in the 
world next to that for making guns and shells. If 
skilled Belgians here or elsewhere were called upon 
to serve the Germans at their craft, they suddenly be- 
came butter-fingered. So that bread line at Liege was 



154 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

long, its queue stretching the breadth of the cathedral 
square. 

As most of the regular German officers in Belgium 
were cavalrymen — there was nothing for cavalry to 
do on the Aisne line of trenches — it was quite in 
keeping that the aide to the commandant of Liege, 
who looked after my pass to leave the country, should 
be a young officer of Hussars. He spoke English 
well ; he was amiable and intelligent. While I waited 
for the commandant to sign the pass he chatted of his 
adventures on the pursuit of the British to the Marne. 
The British fought like devils, he said. It was a ques- 
tion if their new army would be so good. He showed 
me a photograph of himself in a British Tommy's 
overcoat. 

" When we took some prisoners I was interested in 
their overcoats," he explained. " I asked one of the 
Tommies to let me try on his. It fitted me perfectly, 
so I kept it as a souvenir and had this photograph 
made to show my friends." 

Perhaps a shade of surprise passed over my face. 

" You don't understand," he said. " That Tommy 
had to give me his coat ! He was a prisoner." 

On my way out from Liege I was to see Vise — the 
town of the gateway — the first town of the war to 
suffer from frightfulness. I had thought of it as en- 
tirely destroyed. A part of it had survived. 

A delightful old Bavarian Landsturm man searched 
me for contraband letters when our cart stopped on 
the Belgian side of a barricade at Maastricht, with 
Dutch soldiers on the other side. His examination 
was a little perfunctory, almost apologetic, and he did 
want to be friendly. You guessed that he was think- 
ing he would like to go around the corner and have 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 155 

u ein Glas Bier" rather than search me. What a 
hearty " A uf wiedersehenf " he gave me when he saw 
that I was inclined to be friendly, tool 

I was glad to be across that frontier, with a last 
stamp on my Passierschein; glad to be out of the land 
of those ghostly Belgian millions in their living death; 
glad not to have to answer again their ravenously 
whispered "When?" When would the Allies 
come? 

The next time that I was in Belgium it was in the 
British lines of the Ypres salient, two months later. 
When should I be next in Brussels ? With a victorious 
British army, I hoped. A long wait it was to be for 
a conquered people, listening each day and trying to 
think that the sound of gun-fire was nearer. 

The stubborn, passive resistance and self-sacrifice 
that I have pictured was that of a moral leadership 
of a majority shaming the minority; or an ostracism of 
all who had relations with the enemy. Of course, it 
was not the spirit of the whole. The American Com- 
mission, as charity usually must, had to overcome ob- 
stacles set in its path by those whom it would aid. 
Belgian politicians, in keeping with the weakness of 
their craft, could no more forego playing politics in 
time of distress than some that we had in San Fran- 
cisco and some we have heard of only across the Brit- 
ish Channel from Belgium. 

Zealous leaders exaggerated the famine of their dis- 
tricts in order to get larger supplies; communities in 
great need without spokesmen must be reached ; pow- 
erful towns found excuses for not forwarding food to 
small villages which were without influence. Natural 
greed got the better of men used to turning a penny , 
anyway they could. Rascally bakers who sifted the 



156 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

brown flour to get the white to sell to patisseries and 
the well-to-do, while the bread line got the bran, re- 
quired shrewd handling when the only means of pun- 
ishment was through German authority. 

" The local burgomaster yesterday offered to sell 
me some of your Commission's flour," wrote a Ger- 
man commandant. " I bought it and have the receipt, 
in order to prove to you that these Belgians are what 
we say they are — a vile people. I am turning the 
flour over to your Commission. We said that we 
would not take any of it and the German Government 
keeps its word." 

How that commandant enjoyed making that score 1 
As for the burgomaster, he was proscribed in a way 
that will brand him among his fellow-citizens for life. 
When German soldiers took bread from families 
where they were billeted, the German Government 
turned over an amount of flour equivalent to the bread 
consumed. 

A certain percentage of Belgians saw the invasion 
only as a visitation of disaster, like an earthquake. 
A flat country of gardens limits one's horizon. They 
fell in line with the sentiment of the mass. But as 
time wore on into the summer and autumn of the sec- 
ond year, some of them began to think, What was the 
use? German propaganda was active. All that the 
Allies had cared for Belgium was to use her to check 
the German tide to Paris and the Channel ports! 
Perfidious England had betrayed Belgium I German 
business and banking influences, which had been con- 
siderable in Belgium before the war, and the numerous 
German residents who had returned, formed a busy 
circle of appeal to Belgian business men, who were told 
that the British navy stood between them and a return 



THE FUTURE OF BELGIUM 157 

to prosperity. Germany was only too willing that 
they should resume their trade with the rest of the 
world. 

Why should not Belgium come into the German cus- 
toms union? Why should not Belgium make the best 
of her unfortunate situation, as became a practical 
and thrifty people? But be it a customs union or 
annexation that Germany plans, the steel had entered 
the hearts of all Belgians with red corpuscles; and 
King Albert and his shipperkes were still fighting the 
Germans at Dixmude. A British army appearing be- 
fore Brussels would end casuistry; and pessimism 
would pass, and the German residents, too, with the 
huzzas of all Belgium as the gallant King once more 
ascended the steps of his palace. 

Worthy of England at her best was her consent to 
allow the Commission's food to pass, which she ac- 
companied by generous giving. She might be slow in 
making ready her army, but give she could and give 
she did. It was a grave question if her consent was 
in keeping with the military policy which believes that 
any concession to sentiment in the grim business of war 
is unwise. Certainly, the Krieg ist Krieg of Germany 
would not have permitted it. 

There is the very point of the war that makes a 
neutral take sides. If the Belgians had not received 
bread from the outside world, then Germany would 
either have had to spare enough to keep them from 
starving or faced the desperation of a people who fight 
for food with such weapons as they had. This must 
have meant a holocaust of reprisals that would have 
made the orgy of Louvain comparatively unimportant. 
However much the Germans hampered the Commis- 
sion with red tape and worse than red tape through 



158 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the activities of German residents in Belgium, Ger- 
many did not want the Commission to withdraw. It 
was helping her to economise her food supplies. And 
England answered a human appeal at the cost of hard 
and fast military policy. She was still true to the 
ideals which have set their stamp on half the world. 



XII 

WINTER IN LORRAINE 

Paris returning normality — Regular train service — Nancy under 
fire — By automobile to the front — Panorama of the contested 
lines — View of the German wedge — French veterans — An- 
cient Lorraine — A vision of battle — Resume* of the struggle — 
The first German advance — " The face of the earth sown with 
shells" — The Kaiser silenced — The German Lorraine cam- 
paign lost — Visit to a French heavy battery— Underground 
quarters — A policed army — Military simplicity. 

Only a winding black streak, that four hundred and 
fifty miles of trenches on a flat map. It is difficult to 
visualise the whole as you see it in your morning paper, 
or to realise the labour it represents in its course 
through the mire and over mountain slopes, through 
villages and thick forests and across open fields. 

Every mile of it was located by the struggle of guns 
and rifles and men coming to a stalemate of effort, 
when both dug into the earth and neither could budge 
the other. It is a line of countless battles and broken 
hopes; of as brave charges as men ever made; a sym- 
bol of skill and dogged patience and eternal vigilance 
of striving foe against striving foe. 

From the first, the sector from Rheims to Flanders 
was most familiar to the public. The world still 
thinks of the battle of the Marne as an affair at the 
door of Paris, though the heaviest fighting was from 
Vitry le Francois eastward and the fate of Paris was 
no less decided on the fields of Lorraine than on the 
fields of Champagne. The storming of Rheims cathe- 

159 



160 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

dral became the theme of thousands of words of print 
to one word for the defence of the Plateau d'Amance 
or the struggle around Luneville. Our knowledge of 
the war is from glimpses through the curtain of mili- 
tary secrecy which was drawn tight over Lorraine and 
the Vosges, shrouded in mountain mists. This is 
about Lorraine in winter, when the war was six months 
old. 

But first, on our way, a word about Paris, which I 
had not seen since September. At the outset of the 
war, Parisians who had not gone to the front were in 
a trance of suspense; they were magnetised by the 
tragic possibilities of the hour. The fear of disaster 
was in their hearts, though they might deny it to them- 
selves. They could think of nothing but France. 
Now they realised that the best way to help France 
was by going on with their work at home. Paris was 
trying to be normal, but no Parisian was making the 
bluff that Paris was normal. The Gallic lucidity of 
mind prevented such self-deception. 

Is it normal to have your sons, brothers, and hus- 
bands up to their knees in icy water in the trenches, in 
danger of death every minute? This attitude seems 
human ; it seems logical. One liked the French for it. 
He liked them for boasting so little. In their effort 
at normality they had accomplished more than they 
realised. After all, only one-thirtieth of the area of 
France was in German hands. A line of steel made 
the rest safe for those not at the front to pursue the 
routine of peace. 

When I had been in Paris in September there was 
no certainty about railroad connections anywhere. 
You went to the station and took your chances, gov- 
erned by the movement of troops, not to mention other 



1 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 161 

conditions. This time I took the regular noon express 
to Nancy, as I might have done to Marseilles, or 
Rome, or Madrid, had I chosen. The sprinkling of 
quiet army officers on the train were in the new uni- 
form of peculiar steely grey, in place of the target blue 
and red. But for them and the number of women in 
mourning and one other circumstance, the train might 
have been bound for Berlin, with Nancy only a stop on 
the way. 

The other circumstance was the presence of a sol- 
dier in the vestibule who said : u Votre laisser-passer, 
monsieur, s'il vous plait 1" If you had a l*isser- 
passer, he was most polite ; but if you lacked one, he 
would also have been most polite and so would the 
guard that took you in charge at the next station. In 
other words, monsieur, you must have something be- 
sides a railroad ticket if you are on a train that runs 
past the fortress of Toul and your destination is 
Nancy. You must have a military pass, which was 
never given to foreigners if they were travelling alone 
in the zone of military operations. The pulse of the 
Frenchman beats high, his imagination bounds, when 
he looks eastward. To the east are the lost prov- 
inces and the frontier drawn by the war of '70 be- 
tween French Lorraine and German Lorraine. This 
gave our journey interest 

Nancy, capital of French Lorraine, is so near Metz, 
the great German fortress town of German Lorraine, 
that excursion trains used to run to Nancy in the opera 
season. " They are not running this winter," say the 
wits of Nancy. " For one reason, we have no opera 
— and there are other reasons." 

An aeroplane from the German lines has only to 
toss a bomb in the course of an average reconnaissance 



1 62 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

on Nancy if it chooses; Zeppelins are within easy com- 
muting distance. But here was Nancy as brilliantly 
lighted at nine in the evening as any city of its size at 
home. Our train, too, had run with the windows un- 
shaded. After the darkness of London, and after 
English trains with every window shade closely drawn, 
this was a surprise. 

It was a threat, an anticipation, that has darkened 
London, while Nancy knew fulfilment. Bombard- 
ment and bomb dropping were nothing new to Nancy. 
The spice of danger gives a fillip to business in the 
town whose population heard the din of the most 
thunderously spectacular action of the war echoing 
among the surrounding hills. Nancy saw the enemy 
beaten back. Now she was so dose to the front that 
she felt the throb of the army's life. 

" Don't you ever worry about aerial raids?" I 
asked madame behind the counter at the hotel. 

" Do the men in the trenches worry about them? " 
she answered. " We have a much easier time than 
they. Why shouldn't we share some of their dan- 
gers? And when a Zeppelin appears and our guns 
begin firing, we all feel like soldiers under fire." 

" Are all the population here as usual? " 

" Certainly, monsieur I " she said. " The Germans 
can never take Nancy. The French are going to take 
Metz ! " 

The meal which that hotel restaurant served was as 
good as in peace times. Who deserves a good meal 
if not the officer who comes in from the front? And 
madame sees that he gets it. She is as proud of her 
poulet en casserole as any commander of a soixante- 
quinze battery of its practice. There was steam heat, 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 163 

too, in the hotel, which gave an American a homelike 
feeling. 

In a score of places in the Eastern States you see 
landscapes with high hills like the spurs of the Vosges 
around Nancy sprinkled with snow and under a blue 
mist And the air was dry; it had the life of our air. 
Old Civil War men who had been in the Tennessee 
Mountains or the Shenandoah Valley would feel per- 
fectly at home in such surroundings; only the fore- 
ground of farm land which merges into the crests cov- 
ered with trees in the distance is more finished. The 
people were tilling it hundreds of years before we be- 
gan tilling ours. They till well ; they make Lorraine 
a rich province of France. 

With guns pounding in the distance, boys in their 
capes were skipping and frolicking on their way to 
school; housewives were going to market, and the 
streets were spotlessly clean. All the men of Nancy 
not in the army pursued their regular routine while 
the army went about its business of throwing shells at 
the Germans. On the dead walls of the buildings 
were M. Deschanel's speech in the Chamber of Depu- 
ties, breathing endurance till victory, and the call for 
the class of recruits of 1915, which you will find on 
the walls of the towns of all France beside that of 
the order of mobilisation in August, now weather- 
stained. Nancy seemed, if anything, more French 
than any interior French town. Though near the 
border, there is no touch of German influence. When 
you walked through the old Place Stanislaus, so ex- 
pressive of the architectural taste bred for centuries 
in the French, you understand the glow in the hearts of 
this very French population which made them uncon- 



1 64 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

scious of danger while their flag was flying over this 
very French city. 

No two Christian peoples we know are quite so dif- 
ferent as the French and the Germans. To each 
every national thought and habit incarnates a patriot- 
ism which is in defiance of that on the other side of 
the frontier. Over in America you may see the good 
in both sides, but no Frenchman and no German can 
on the Lorraine frontier. If he should, he would no 
longer be a Frenchman or a German in time of war. 

At our service in front of the hotel were waiting 
two mortals in goatskin coats, with scarfs around their 
ears and French military caps on top of the scarfs. 
They were official army chauffeurs. If you have 
ridden through the Alleghenies. in winter in an open 
car why explain that seeing the Vosges front in an 
automobile may be a joy ride to an Eskimo, but not to 
your humble servant? But the roads were perfect; 
as good wherever we went in this mountain country 
as from New York to Poughkeepsie. I need not tell 
you this if you have been in France ; but you will be 
interested to know that Lorraine keeps her roads in 
perfect repair even in war time. 

Crossing the swollen Moselle on a military bridge, 
twisting in and out of valleys and speeding through vil- 
lages, one saw who were guarding the army's secrets, 
but little of the army itself and few signs of transpor- 
tation on a bleak, snowy day. At the outskirts of 
every village, at every bridge, and at intervals along 
the road, Territorial sentries stopped the car. Having 
an officer along was not sufficient to let you whizz by 
important posts. He must show his pass. Every 
sentry was a reminder of the hopelessness of being a 
correspondent these days without official sanction. 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 165 

The sentries were men in the thirties. In Belgium, 
their German counterpart, the Landsturm, were the 
monitors of a journey that I made. No troops are 
more military than the first line Germans; but in the 
snap and spirit of his salute the French Territorial has 
an elan, a martial fervour, which the phlegmatic Ger- 
man in the thirties lacks. 

Occasionally we passed scattered soldiers in the vil- 
lage streets, or a door opened to show a soldier figure 
in the doorway. The reason that we were not seeing 
anything of the army was the same that keeps the 
men and boys who are on the steps of the country 
grocery in summer at home around the stove in win- 
ter. AH these villages were full of reservists who 
were indoors. They could be formed in the street 
ready for the march to any part of the line where a 
concentrated attack was made almost as soon after 
the alarm as a fire engine starts to a fire. 

Now, imagine your view of a ball game limited to 
the batter and the pitcher: and that is all you see in 
the low country of Flanders. You have no grasp 
of what all the noise and struggle means, for you 
cannot see over the shoulders of the crowd. But in 
Lorraine you have only to ascend a hill and the moves 
in the chess game of war are clear. 

A panorama unfolds as our car takes a rising grade 
to the village of Ste. Genevieve. We alight and walk 
along a bridge, where the sentry or a lookout is on 
watch. He seems quite alone, but at our approach 
a dozen of his comrades come out of their " home " 
dug in the hillside. Wherever you go about the 
frozen country of Lorraine it is a case of flushing sol- 
diers from their shelters. A small, semicircular table 
is set up before the lookout, like his compass before 



1 66 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

a mariner. Here run blue pencil lines of direction 
pointing to Pont-a-Mousson, to Chateau-Salins, and 
other towns. Before us to the east rose the tree-clad 
crests of the famous Grand Couronne of Nancy, and 
faintly in the distance we could see Metz, that strong 
fortress town in German Lorraine. 

" Those guns that I hear, are they firing across the 
frontier? " I asked. For some French batteries com- 
mand one of the outer forts of Metz. 

11 No, they are near Pont-a-Mousson." 

To the north the little town of Pont-a-Mousson lay 
in the lap of the river bottom, and across the valley, 
to the west, the famous Bois le Pretre. More guns 
were speaking from the forest depths, which showed 
great scars where the trees had been cut to give fields 
of fire. This was well to the rear of our position — 
marking the boundaries of the wedge that the Ger- 
mans drove into the French lines, with its point at St. 
Mihiel — in trying to isolate the forts of Verdun and 
Toul. Doubtless you have noticed that wedge on the 
snake maps and have wondered about it, as I have. 
It looks so narrow that the French ought to be able 
to shoot across it from both sides. If not, why don't 
the Germans widen it? 

Well, for one thing, a quarter of an inch on a map 
is a good many miles of ground. The Germans can- 
not spread their wedge because they would have to 
climb the walls of an alley. That was a fact as clear 
to the eye as the valley of the Hudson from West 
Point. The Germans occupy an alley within an alley, 
as it were. They have their own natural defences for 
the edges of their wedge ; or, where they do not, they 
lie cheek by jowl with the French in such thick woods 
as the Bois le Pretre. 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 167 

At our feet, looking toward Metz, an apron of cul- 
tivated land swept down for a mile or more to a 
forest edge. This was cut by lines of trenches, 
whose barbed wire protection pricked a blanket of 
snow. 

" Our front is in those woods," explained the colonel 
who was in command of the point. 

" A major when the war began and an officer of 
reserves," mon capitaine, who had brought us out 
from Paris, explained about the colonel. We were 
soon used to hearing that a colonel had been a major 
or a major a captain before the Kaiser had tried to 
get Nancy. There was quick death and speedy pro- 
motion at the great battle of Lorraine, as there was at 
Gettysburg and Antietam. 

" They charged out of the woods, and we had a 
battalion of reserves — here are some of them — » mes 
poilus! " 

He turned affectionately to the bearded fellows in 
scarfs who had come out of the shelter. They smiled 
back. Now, as we all chatted together, officer-and- 
man distinction disappeared. We were in a family 
party. 

It was all very simple to mes poilus, that first fight. 
They had been told to hold. If Ste. Genevieve were 
lost, the Amance plateau was in danger, and the loss 
of the Amance plateau meant the fall of Nancy. 
Some military martinets say that the soldiers of France 
think too much. In this case thinking may have taught 
them responsibility. So they held; they lay tight, 
these reserves, and kept on firing as the Germans 
swarmed out of the woods. 

"And the Germans stopped there, monsieur. 
They hadn't very far to go, had they? But the last 



1 68 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

fifty yards, monsieur, are the hardest travelling when 
you are trying to take a trench." 

They knew, these poilus, these veterans. Every 
soldier who serves in Lorraine knows. They them- 
selves have tried to rush out of the edge of a woods 
across an open space against intrenched Germans, and 
found the shoe on the other foot. 

Now the fields in the foreground down to the wood's 
edge were bare of any living thing. You had to take 
tnon capitainefs word for it that there were any sol- 
diers in front of us. 

" The Bodies are a good distance away at this 
point," he said. " They are in the next woods." 

A broad stretch of snow lay between the two clumps 
of woods. It was not worth while for either side to 
try to get possession of the intervening space. At the 
first movement by either French or Germans the 
woods opposite would hum with rifle fire and echo 
with cannonading. So, like rival parties of Arctic 
explorers waiting out the Arctic winter, they watched 
each other. But if one force or the other napped, 
and the other caught him at it, then winter would not 
stay a brigade commander's ambition. Three days 
later in this region the French, by a quick movement, 
got a good bag of prisoners to ipake a welcome item 
for the daily French official bulletin. 

"We wait and the Germans wait on spring for 
any big movement," said the colonel. " Men can't lie 
out all night in the advance in weather like this. In 
that direction — " He indicated a part of the line 
where the two armies were facing each other across 
the old frontier. Back and forth they had fought, 
only to arrive where they had begun. 

There was something else which the colonel wished 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 169 

us to see before we left the hill of Ste. Genevieve. It 
appealed to his Gallic sentiment, this quadrilateral of 
stone on the highest point where legend tells that 
44 Jovin, a Christian and very faithful, vanquished the 
German barbarians 366 A.D." 

44 We have to do as well in our day as Jovin in 
his, 9 ' remarked the colonel. 

The church of Ste. Genevieve was badly smashed by 
shell. So was the church in the village on the Plateau 
d'Amance. Most churches in this district of Lor- 
raine are. Framed through a great gap in the wall 
of the church of Amance was an immense Christ on 
the cross without a single abrasion, and a pile of debris 
at its feet. After seeing as many ruined churches as 
I have, one becomes almost superstitious at how often 
the figures of Christ escape. But I have also seen 
effigies of Christ blown to bits. 

Any one who, from an eminence, has seen one battle 
fought visualises another readily when the positions lie 
at his feet. Looking out on the field of Gettysburg 
from Round Top, I can always get the same thrill 
that I had when, seated in a gallery above the Rus- 
sian and the Japanese armies, I saw the battle of Liao- 
yang. In sight of that Plateau d'Amance, which rises 
like a great knuckle above the surrounding country, a 
battle covering twenty times the extent of Gettysburg 
raged, and one could have looked over a battle-line 
as far as the eye may see from a steamer's mast. 

An icy gale swept across the white crest of the pla- 
teau on this January day, but it was nothing to the 
gale of shells that descended on it in late August and 
early September. Forty thousand shells, it is esti- 
mated, fell there. One kicked up fragments of steel 
on the field like peanut shells after a circus has gone. 



170 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Here were the emplacements of a battery of French 
soixante-quinze within a circle of holes torn by its ad- 
versaries' replies to its fire ; a little farther along, con- 
cealed by shrubbery, the position of another battery 
which the enemy had not located. 

" So that was it! " The struggle on the immense 
landscape, where at least a quarter of a million men 
were lulled and wounded, became as simple as some 
Brobdignagian football match. Before the war be- 
gan the French would not move a man within five 
miles of the frontier lest it be provocative: but once 
the issue was joined they sprang for Alsace and Lor- 
raine, their imagination magnetised by the thought of 
the recovery of the lost provinces. Their Alpine 
chasseurs, mountain men of the Alpine and the Pyr- 
enees districts, were concentrated for the purpose. 

I recalled a remark I had heard: " What a pitiful 
little offensive that was ! " It was made by one of 
those armchair " military experts," who look at a map 
and jump at a conclusion. They appear very wise in 
their wordiness when real military experts are silent 
for want of knowledge. Pitiful, was it? Ask the 
Germans who faced it what they think. Pitiful, that 
sweep over those mountain walls and through the 
passes? Pitiful, perhaps, because it failed, though 
not until it had taken Chateau-Salins in the north and 
Mulhouse in the south. Ask the Germans if they 
think that it was pitiful! The Confederates also 
failed at Antietam and at Gettysburg, but the Union 
army never thought of their efforts as pitiful. 

The French fell back because all the weight of the 
German army was thrown against France, while the 
Austrians were left to look after the slowly mobilising 
Russians. Two million five hundred thousand men on 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 171 

their first line the Germans had, as we know now, 
against the French twelve hundred thousand. To 
make sure of saving Paris as the Germans swung their 
mighty flanking column through Belgium, Joffre had 
to draw in his lines. The Germans came over the 
hills as splendidly as the French had gone. They 
struck in all directions toward Paris. In Lorraine 
was their left flank, the Bavarians, meant to play the 
same part to the east that von Kluck played to the 
west We heard only of von Kluck and the British 
retreat from Mons ; nothing of this terrific struggle in 
Lorraine. 

From the Plateau d'Amance you may see how far 
the Germans came and what was their object. Be- 
tween the fortresses of fipinal and of Toul lies the 
Trouee de Mirecourt — the Gap of Mirecourt. It is 
said that the French had purposely left it open when 
they were thinking of fighting the Germans on their 
own frontier and not on that of Belgium. They 
wanted the Germans to make their trial here — and 
wisely, for with all the desperate and courageous ef- 
forts of the Bavarian and Saxon armies they never 
got near the gap. 

If they had forced it, however, with von Kluck 
swinging on the other flank, they might have got 
around the French army. Such was the dream of 
German strategy, whose realisation was so boldly and 
skilfully undertaken. The Germans counted on their 
immense force of artillery, built for this war in the 
last two years and outranging the French, to demor- 
alise the French infantry. But the French infantry 
called the big shells "marmites" (saucepans), and 
made a joke of them and the death they spread as 
they tore up the fields in clouds of earth, 



172 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Ah, it took more than artillery to beat back the 
best troops of France in a country like this — a coun- 
try of rolling hills and fenceless fields cut by many 
streams and set among thick woods, where infantry 
on a bank or at a forest's edge with rifles and rapid- 
firers and guns kept their barrels cool until the charge 
developed in the open. Some of these forests are 
only a few acres in extent; others are hundreds of 
acres. In the dark depths of one a frozen lake was 
seen glistening from our position on the Plateau 
d'Amance. 

" Indescribable that scene which we witnessed from 
here," said an officer, who had been on the plateau 
throughout the fighting. " All the splendid majesty 
of war was set on a stage before you. It was intoxi- 
cation. We could see the lines of troops in their re- 
treat and advance, batteries and charges shrouded in 
shrapnel smoke. What hosts of guns the Germans 
had! They seemed to be sowing the whole face of 
the earth with shells. The roar of the thing was like 
that of chaos itself. It was the exhilaration of the 
spectacle that kept us from dropping from fatigue. 
Two weeks of this business ! Two weeks with every 
unit of artillery and infantry always ready, if not act- 
ually engaged ! " 

The general in command was directing not one but 
many battles, each with a general of its own; ma- 
noeuvring troops across the streams and open places, 
seeking the cover of forests, with the aeroplanes un- 
able to learn how many of the enemy were hidden in 
the forests on his front, while he tried to keep his men 
out of angles and make his movements correspond 
with those of the divisions oh his right and left. Skill 
this requires ; skill equivalent to German skill ; the skill 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 173 

which you cannot organise in a month after calling for 
a million volunteers, but which grows through years 
of organisation. 

Shall I call the general in chief command General 
X? This is according to the custom of anonymity. 
A great modern army like the French is a machine; 
any man, high or low, only a unit of the machine. In 
this case the real name of X is Castelnau. If it lacks 
the fame which may seem its due, that may be because 
he was not operating near a transatlantic cable end. 
Fame is not the business of French generals nowadays. 
It is war. What counted for France was that he 
never let the Germans get near the gap at Mire- 
court. 

Having failed to reach the gap, the Germans, with 
that stubbornness of the offensive which characterises 
them, tried to take Nancy. They got a battery of 
heavy guns within range of the city. From a high 
hill it is said that the Kaiser watched the bombard- 
ment. But here is a story. As the German infantry 
advanced toward their new objective they passed a 
French artillery officer in a tree. He was able to lo- 
cate that heavy battery and able to signal its position 
back to his own side. The French concentrated suffi- 
cient fire to silence it after it had thrown forty shells 
into Nancy. The same report tells how the Kaiser 
folded his cloak around him and walked down in 
silence from his eminence, where the sun blazed on his 
helmet. It was not the Germans 9 fault that they failed 
to take Nancy. It was due to the French. 

Some time a tablet will be put up to denote the high- 
water mark of the German invasion of Lorraine. It 
will be between the edge of the forest of Champenoux 
and the heights. When the Germans charged from 



174 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the cover of the forest to get possession of the road to 
Nancy, the French guns and mitrailleuses which had 
held their fire turned loose. The rest of the story 
is how the French infantry, impatient at being held 
back, swept down in a counter-attack, and the Ger- 
mans had to give up their campaign in Lorraine as 
they gave up their campaign against Paris in the early 
part of September. Saddest of all lost opportunities 
to the correspondent in this war is this fighting in Lor- 
raine. One had only to climb a hill in order to see 
it all! 

In half an hour, as the officer outlined the posi- 
tions, we had lived through the two weeks 9 fighting; 
and, thanks to the fairness of his story — that of a 
professional soldier without illusions — we felt that 
we had been hearing history while it was very fresh. 

44 They are very brave and skilful, the Germans," 
he said. " We still have a battery of heavy guns on 
the plateau. Let us go and see it." 

We went, picking our way among the snow-covered 
shell pits. At one point we crossed a communicating 
trench, where soldiers could go and come to the guns 
and the infantry positions without being exposed to 
shell fire. I noticed that it carried a telephone wire. 

"Yes," said the officer; "we had no ditch during 
the fight with the Germans, and we were short of tele- 
phone wire for a while ; so we had to carry messages 
back and forth as in the old days. It was a pretty 
warm kind of messenger service when the German 
marmites were falling their thickest" 

At length he stopped before a small mound of earth 
not in any way distinctive at a short distance on the 
uneven surface of the plateau. I did not even notice 
that there were three other such mounds. He pointed 



WINTER IN LORRAINE 175 

to a hole in the ground. I had been used to going 
through a manhole in a battleship turret, but not 
through one into a field-gun position before aeroplanes 
played a part in war. 

" Entrez, monsieur I" 

And I stepped down to face the breech of a gun 
whose muzzle pointed out of another hole in the tim- 
bered roof covered with earth. 

41 It's very cosy! " I remarked. 

" Oh, this is the shop 1 The living-room is below 
— here ! " 

I descended a ladder into a cellar ten feet below 
the gun level, where some of the gunners were lying 
on a thick carpet of perfectly dry straw. 

" You are not doing much firing these days ? " I 
suggested. 

" Oh, we gave the Bodies a couple this morning so 
they wouldn't get cocky thinking they were safe. It's 
necessary to keep your hand in even in the winter." 

II Don't you get lonesome? " 

" No, we shift on and off. We're not here all the 
while. It is quite warm in our salon, monsieur, and 
we have good comrades. It is war. It is for France. 
What would you ? " 

Four other gun positions and four other cellars like 
this ! Thousands of gun positions and thousands of 
cellars ! Man invents new powers of destruction and 
man finds a way of escaping them. 

As we left the battery we started forward, and sud- 
denly out of the dusk came a sharp call. A young 
corporal confronted us. Who were we and what busi- 
ness had we prowling about on that hill? If there 
had been no officer along and I had not had a laisser- 
passer on my person, the American Ambassador to 



irf MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

France would probably have had to get another coun- 
tryman out of trouble. 

The incident shows how thoroughly the army is po- 
liced and how surely. Editors who wonder why their 
correspondents are not in the front line catching bul- 
lets, please take notice. 

It was dark when we returned to the little village 
on the plateau where we had left our car. The place 
seemed uninhabited with all the blinds closed. But 
through one uncovered window I saw a room full of 
chatting soldiers. We went to pay our respects to the 
colonel in command, and found him and his staff 
around a table covered with oilcloth in the main liv- 
ing-room of a villager's house. He spoke of his men, 
of their loyalty and cheerfulness, as the other com- 
manders had, as if this were his only boast. These 
French officers have little "side"; none of that toe- 
the-mark, strutting militarism which some soldiers 
think necessary to efficiency. They live very simply 
on campaign, though if they do get to town for a few 
hours they enjoy a good meal. If they did not, 
madame at the restaurant would feel that she was not 
doing her duty to France. 



XIII 

SMILES AMONG RUINS 

Elation in the cause — From Nancy southward — A giant Frenchman 
— Personnel of the French machine — Dijeuner — Father Joffre's 
boarding establishment — A thrifty army — Responsibility in a 
democracy— Determination for final peace — "Rural free de- 
livery" at the front — A card-indexed army — Their families — 
Battlefields that saved Paris — Souvenirs aplenty — Ruthless 
u military advantage"— A shattered farmhouse — Helping the 
farmers — Construction of trenches — In the front line trench — 
Watchful waiting— The Lorraine country — Widespread de- 
struction—Another "Louvain"— A brave and great Sister — 
Thrilling attacks— "It was for France!"— His Honour, the 
Mayor— The tricolour in Lorraine. 

Scorched piles of brick and mortar where a home has 
been ought to make about the same impression any- 
where. When you have gone from Belgium to French 
Lorraine, however, you will know quite the contrary. 
In Belgium I suffered all the depression which a night- 
mare of war's misery cap bring; in French Lorraine I 
found myself sharing something of the elation of a 
man who looks at a bruised knuckle with the conscious- 
ness that it broke a burglar's jaw. 

A Belgian repairing the wreck of his house was a 
grim, heartbreaking picture ; a Frenchman of Lorraine 
repairing the wreck of his house had the light of hard- 
won victory, of confidence, of sacrifice made to a great 
purpose, of freedom secure for future generations, in 
his eyes. The difference was this: The Germans 
were still in Belgium; they were out of French Lor- 
raine for good. 

" What matters a shell-hole through my ^alls and 

i77 



178 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

my torn roof!" said a Lorraine farmer. "Work 
' will make my house whole. But nothing could ever 

have made my heart and soul whole while the Ger- 
mans remained. I saw them go, monsieur; they left 
us ruins, but France is ours ! " 

I had thought it a pretty good thing to see some- 
thing of the Eastern French front ; but a better thing 
was the happiness I found there. Mon capitaine had 
come out from the Ministry of War in Paris; but 
when we set out from Nancy southward, we had a 
different local guide, a major belonging to the com- 
mand in charge of the region which we were to visit. 
He was another example which upsets certain popular 
notions of Frenchmen as gesticulating, excitable little 
men. Some six feet two in height, he had an eye that 
looked straight into yours, a very square chin, and a 
fine forehead. You had only to look at him and size 
him up on points to conclude that he was all there; 
that he knew his work. 

" Well, we've got good weather for it to-day, 
monsieur, 1 ' said a voice out of a goatskin coat, and I 
found we had the same chauffeur as before. These 
French privates talk to you and you talk to them. 
They are not simply moulds of flesh in military form 
who salute and salute and salute. They take an in- 
terest in your affairs and you take an interest in theirs ; 
they make you feel like home folks. 

The sun was shining — a warm winter sun like that 
of a February thaw in our Northern States — glisten- 
ing on the snowy fields and slopes among the for- 
ests and tree-clad hills of the mountainous country. 
Faces ambushed in whiskers thought it was a good day 
for trimming beards and washing clothes. The sen- 
tries along the roads had their scarfs around their 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 179 

necks instead of over their ears. A French soldier 
makes ear muffs, chest protector, nightcap, and a blan- 
ket out of the scarf which wife or sister knits for him. 
If any woman who reads this knits one to send to 
France she may be sure that the fellow who received 
it will get every stitch's worth out of it. 

To-day, then, it was war without mittens. You did 
not have to sound the bugle to get soldiers out of their 
burrows or their houses. Our first stop was at our 
own request, in a village where groups of soldiers were 
taking a sun bath. More came out of the doors as 
we alighted. They were all in the late twenties or 
early thirties, men of a reserve regiment. Some had 
been clerks, some labourers, some farmers, some em- 
ployers, when the war began. Then they were piou- 
pious, in French slang; then all France prayed god- 
speed to its beloved piou-pious. Then you knew the 
clerk by his pallor; the labourer by his hard hands; 
the employer by his manner of command. Now they 
were poilus — bearded, hard-eyed veterans ; you could 
not tell the clerk from the labourer or the employer 
from the peasant. 

Any one who saw the tenderfoot pilgrimage to the 
Alaskan gold field in '97-98 and the same crowd six 
months later will understand what had happened to 
these men. The puny had put on muscle; the city 
dweller had blown his lungs ; the fat man had lost some 
adipose; social differences of habit had disappeared. 
That gentleman used to his bath and linen sheets and 
the hard living farmer or labourer — all had had to 
eat the same kind of food, do the same work, run the 
same risks in battle, and sleep side by side in the houses 
where they were lodged and in the dugouts of the 
trenches when it was their turn to occupy them through 






180 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the winter. Any " snob " had his edges trimmed by 
the banter of his comrades. Their beards accentuated 
the likeness of type. A cheery lot of faces and in- 
telligent, these, which greeted us with curious inter- 
est. 

" Perhaps President Wilson will make peace," one 
said. 

"When?" I asked. 

A shrug of the shoulder, a gesture to the East, and 
the answer was : 

" When we have Alsace-Lorraine back." 

Under a shed their dejeuner was cooking. This 
meal at noon is the meal of the day to the average 
Frenchman, who has only bread and coffee in the morn- 
ing. They say he objects to fighting at luncheon time. 
That is the hour when he wants to sit down and for- 
get his work and laugh and talk and enjoy his eating. 
The Germans found this out and tried to take his 
trenches at the noon hour. This interference with his 
gastronomic habits made him so angry that he dropped 
the knife and fork for the bayonet and took back any 
lost ground in a ferocious counter-attack. He would 
teach those " Boches " to leave him to eat his dejeuner 
in peace. 

That appetising stew in the kettles in the shed once 
more proved that Frenchmen know how to cook. I 
didn't blame them for objecting to being shot at by 
the Germans when they were about to eat it. The 
average French soldier is better fed than at home ; he 
gets more meat, for a hungry soldier is usually a poor 
soldier. It is a very simple problem with France's 
fine roads to feed that long line when it is stationary. 
It is like feeding a city stretched out over a distance of 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 181 

four hundred and fifty miles; a stated number of 
ounces each day for each man and a known number of 
men to feed. From the railroad head trucks and 
autobusses take the supplies up to the distributing 
points. At one place I saw ten Paris autobusses, their 
signs painted out in a steel-grey to hide them from 
aeroplanes, and not one of them had broken down 
through the war. The French take good care of their 
equipment and their clothes ; they waste no food. As 
a people is, so is their army, and the French are thrifty 
by nature. 

Father Joffre, as the soldiers call him, is running the 
next largest boarding establishment in Europe after 
the Kaiser and the Czar. And he has a happy fam- 
ily. It seemed to me that life ought to have been 
utterly dull for this characteristic group of poilus, liv- 
ing crowded together all winter in a remote village. 
Civilians sequestered in this fashion away from home 
are inclined to get grouchy on one another. 

One of the officers in speaking of this said that early 
in the autumn the reserves were pretty homesick. 
They wanted to get back to their wives and children. 
Nostalgia, next to hunger, is the worst thing for a 
soldier. Commanders were worried. But as the 
winter wore on the spirit changed. The soldiers be- 
gan to feel the spell of their democratic comradeship. 
The fact that they had fought together and survived 
together played its part; and individualism was sunk 
in the one thought that they were there for France. 
The fellowship of a cause taught them patience, 
brought them cheer. And another thing was the in- 
creasing sense of team play, of confidence in victory, 
which holds a ball team, a business enterprise, or an 



182 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

army together. Every day the organisation of the 
army was improving; every day that indescribable and 
subtle element of satisfaction that the Germans were 
securely held was growing. 

Every Frenchman saves something of his income; 
madame sees to it that he does. He knows that if he 
dies he will not leave wife and children penniless. 
His son, not yet old enough to fight, will come on to 
take his place. Men at home who are twenty-two or 
three and unmarried, men who are twenty-eight or 
thirty and not long married, and men of forty with 
some money put by, will, in turn, understand how their 
own class feels. 

In ten minutes you had entered into the hearts of 
this single company in a way that made you feel that 
you had got into the heart of the whole French army. 
When you asked them if they would like to go home 
they didn't say " No ! " all in a chorus, as if that were 
what the colonel had told them to say. They obey the 
colonel, but their thoughts are their own. Otherwise, 
these ruddy, healthy men, representing the people of 
France and not the cafes of Paris, would not keep 
France a republic. 

Yes, they did want to go home. They did want to 
go home. They wanted their wives and babies; they 
wanted to sit down to morning coffee at their own 
tables. Lumps rose in their throats at the suggestion. 
But they were not going until the German peril was 
over forever. Why stop now, only to have another 
terrible war in thirty or forty years? A peace that 
would endure must be won. They had thought that 
out for themselves. They would not stick to their 
determination if they had not. This is the way of 
democracies. Thus every one was conscious that he 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 183 

was fighting not merely to win, but for future genera- 
tions. 

" It happened that this great struggle which we had 
long feared came in our day, and to us is the duty," 
said one. You caught the spirit of comradeship pass- 
ing the time with jests at one another's expense. One 
of the men who was not a full thirty-third degree poilu 
had compromised with the razor on a moustache as 
blazing red as his shock of hair. 

" I think that the colonel gave him the tip that he 
would light the way for the Zeppelins," said a com- 
rade. 

" Envy ! Sheer envy I " was the retort. " Look at 
him! " and he pointed at some scraggly bunches on 
chin and cheeks which resembled a young grass plat 
that had come up badly. 

11 1 don't believe in air-tight beards," was the re- 
sponse. 

When I produced a camera, the effect was the same 
as it always is with soldiers at the front. They all 
wanted to be in the photograph, on the chance that 
the folks at home might see how the absent son or 
father looked. Would I send them one? And the 
address was like this : " Monsieur Benevent, Cor- 
poral of Infantry, 18th Company, 5th Battalion, 
299th Regiment of Infantry, Postal Sector No. 121," 
by which you will know the rural free delivery methods 
along the French front. This address is the one rift 
in the blank wall of anonymity which hides the indi- 
viduality of the millions under Joffre. Only the army 
knows the sector and the number of the regiment in 
that sector. By the same kind of a card-index sys- 
tem Joffre might lay his hand on any one of his mil- 
lions, each a human being with all a human being's 



1 84 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

individual emotions, who, to be a good soldier, must 
be only one of the vast multitude of obedient chess- 
men. 

" We are ready to go after them when Father Joff re 
says the word," all agreed. Joffre has proved himself 
to the democracy, which means the enthusiastic loyalty 
of a democracy's intelligence. 

"If there are any homesick ones we should find 
them among the lot here," said tnon capitaine. 

These were the men who had not been long married. 
They were not yet past the honeymoon period; they 
had young children at home ; perhaps they had become 
fathers since they went to war. The younger men of 
the first line had the irresponsibility and the ardour of 
youth which makes comradeship easy. 

But the older men, the Territorials as they are 
called, in the late thirties and early forties, have set- 
tled down in life. Their families are established; 
their careers settled; some of them, perhaps, may enjoy 
a vacation from the wife, for you know madame, in 
France, with all her thrift, can be a little bossy, which 
is not saying that this is not a proper tonic for her 
lord. So the old boys seem the most content in the 
fellowship of winter quarters. What they cannot 
stand are repeated, long, hard marches; their legs give 
out under the load of rifle and pack. But their hearts 
are in the war, and right there is one very practical 
reason why they will fight well — and they have 
fought better as they hardened with time and the old 
French spirit revived in their blood. 

" A lions, messieurs/ 99 said the tall major, who 
wanted us to see battle-fields. It required no escort to 
tell us where the battle-field was. We knew it when 
we came to it as you know the point reached by high 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 185 

tide on the sands — this field where many Gettysburgs 
were fought in one through that terrible fortnight in 
late August and early September, when the future of 
France and the whole world hung in the balance — 
as the Germans sought to reach Paris and win a de- 
cisive victory over the French army. Where destruc- 
tion ended there the German invasion reached its 
limit. 

Forests and streams and ditches and railroad cul- 
verts played their part in tactical surprises, as they did 
at Gettysburg; and cemetery walls, too. In all my 
battle-field visits in Europe I have not seen a single 
cemetery wall that was not loopholed. But the 
fences, which throughout the Civil War offered im- 
pediment to charges and screen to the troops which 
could reach them first, were missing. The fields lay 
in bold stretches, because it is the business of young 
boys and girls in Lorraine to watch the cows and keep 
them out of the corn. 

We stopped at a crossroads where charges met and 
wrestled back and forth in and out of the ditches. 
Fragments of shells appeared as steps scuffed away 
the thin coating of snow. I picked up an old French 
cap, with a slash in the top that told how its owner 
came to his end, and near by a German helmet. For 
there are souvenirs in plenty lying in the young wheat 
which was sown after the battle was over. Millions 
of little nickel bullets are ploughed in with the blood of 
those who died to take the Kaiser to Paris and those 
who died to keep him out in this fighting across these 
fields and through the forests, in a tug of war of give- 
and-take, of men exhausted after nights and days 
under fire, men with bloodshot eyes sunk deep in the 
sockets, dust-laden, blood-spattered, with forty years 



i86 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

of latent human powder breaking forth into hell when 
the war was only a month old and passion was at a 
white heat 

Hasty shelter trenches gridiron the land; such 
trenches as breathless men, dropping after a charge, 
threw up hurriedly with the spades that they carry on 
their backs, to give them a little cover. And there is 
the trench that stopped the Germans — the trench 
which they charged but could not take. It lies among 
shell-holes so thick that you can step from one to an- 
other. In places its crest is torn away, which means 
that half a dozen men were killed in a group. But 
reserves filled their places. They kept pouring out 
their stream of lead which German courage could not 
endure. Thus far and no farther the invasion came 
in that wheat-field which will be ever memorable. 

We went up a hill once crowned by one of those 
clusters of farm buildings of stone and mortar, where 
house and stables and granaries are close together. 
All around were bare fields. Those farm buildings 
stood up like a mountain peak. The French had the 
hill and lost it and recovered it. Whichever side had 
it, the other was bound to bathe it in shells because it 
commanded the country around. The value of prop- 
erty meant nothing. All that counted was military 
advantage. Because churches are often on hilltops, 
because they are bound to be used for lookouts, is 
why they get torn to pieces. When two men are 
fighting for life they don't bother about upsetting a 
table with a vase, or notice any " Keep off the grass " 
signs; no, not even if the family Bible be underfoot. 

None of the roof, none of the superstructure of 
these farm buildings was left; only the lower walls, 
which were eighteen inches thick and in places pene- 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 187 

trated by the shells. For when a Frenchman builds 
a farmhouse he builds it to last a few hundred years. 
The farm windmill was as twisted as a birdcage that 
has been rolled under a trolley car, but a large hay- 
rake was unharmed. Such is the luck of war. I 
made up my mind that if I ever got under shell-fire 
I'd make for the hayrake and avoid the windmill. 

Our tall major pointed out all the fluctuating po- 
sitions during the battle. It was like hearing a chess 
match explained from memory by an expert. Words 
to him were something precious. He made each one 
count as he would the shots from his cannon. His 
narrative had the lucidity of a terse judge reviewing 
evidence. The battle-field was etched on his mind in 
every important phase of its action. 

Not once did he speak in abuse of the enemy. The 
staff officer who directs steel ringing on steel is too 
busy thrusting and keeping guard to indulge in dia- 
tribes. To him the enemy is a powerful impersonal 
devil who must be beaten. When I asked about the 
conduct of the Germans in the towns they occupied, 
his lip tightened and his eyes grew hard. 

" I'm afraid it was pretty bad! " he said; as if he 
felt, besides the wrong to his own people, the shame 
that men who had fought so bravely should act so ill. 
I think his attitude toward war was this : " We will 
die for France, but calling the Germans names will 
not help us to win. It only takes breath." 

a A lions, messieurs! " 

As our car ran up a gentle hill we noticed two 
soldiers driving a load of manure. This seemed a 
pretty prosaic, even humiliating, business, in a poetic 
sense, for the brave poilus, veterans of Lorraine's 
great battle. But Father Joffre is a true Frenchman 



1 88 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

of his time. Why shouldn't the soldiers help the 
farmers whose sons are away at the front and perhaps 
helping farmers back of some other point of the line? 

Over the crest of the hill we came on long lines of 
soldiers bearing timbers and fascines for trench build- 
ing, which explained why some of the villages were 
empty. A fascine is something usually made of 
woven branches which will hold dirt in position. The 
woven wicker cases for shells which the German artil- 
lery uses and leaves behind when it has to quit the field 
in a hurry, make excellent fascines, and a number 
that I saw were of this ready-made kind. After 
carrying shells for killing Frenchmen they were to pro- 
tect the lives of Frenchmen. Near by other soldiers 
were turning up a strip of fresh earth against the 
snow, which looked like a rip in the frosting of a 
chocolate cake. 

" How do you like this kind of war? " we asked. 
It is the kind that irrigationists and subway excavators 
do. 

" We've grown to be very fond of it," was the an- 
swer. " It is a cultivated taste, which becomes a pas- 
sion with experience. After you have been shot at in 
the open you want all the earth you can get between 
you and the bullets." 

Now we alighted from the automobile and went 
forward on foot. We passed some eight lines of 
trenches before we came to the one where we were 
to stop. A practised military eye had gone over all 
that ground; a practised military hand had laid out 
each trench. After the work was done the civilian's 
eye could grasp the principle. If one trench were 
taken, the men knew exactly how to fall back on the 
next, which commanded the ground they had left 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 1*9 

The trenches were not continuous. There were open 
spaces left purposely. All that front was literally 
locked, and double and triple locked, with trenches. 
Break through one barred door and there is another 
and another confronting you. Considering the mil- 
lions of burrowing and digging and watching soldiers, 
it occurred to one that if a marmite (saucepan) came 
along and buried our little party, our loss would not be 
as much noticed as if a piece of coping from a high 
building had fallen and extinguished us on Broadway, 
which would be a relatively novel way of dying. Be- 
ing killed in war had long ceased to be a novelty on 
the continent of Europe. 

We seemed in a dead world, except for the 
leisurely, hoarse, muffled reports of a French gun in 
the woods on either side of the open space where we 
stood. Through our glasses we could see quite 
clearly the line of the German front trench, which was 
in the outskirts of a village on higher ground than the 
French. Not a human being was visible. Both sides 
were watching for any move of the other and mean- 
while lying tight under cover. By day they were 
marooned. All supplies and all reliefs of men who 
are to take their turn in front go out by night. 

There were no men in the trench where we stood; 
those who would man it in case of danger were in the 
adjoining woods, where they had only to cut down sap- 
lings and make shelters to be as comfortable as in a 
winter resort camp in the Adirondacks. Any minute 
they might receive a call — which meant death for 
many. But they were used to that, and their card 
games went on none the less merrily. 

44 No farther? " we asked our major. 

" No farther I " he said. " This is risk enough for 



(190 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

you. It looks very peaceful, but the enemy could toss 
in some marmites if it pleased him." Perhaps he was 
exaggerating the risk for the sake of a realistic effect 
on the sightseers. No matter 1 In time one was to 
have risks enough in trenches. It was on such an oc- 
casion as this, on another part of the French line, that 
two correspondents slipped away from the officers con- 
ducting them, though their word of honour was given 
not to do so — which adds another reason for mili- 
tary suspicion of the press. The officers rang up the 
nearest telephone which connected with the front 
trenches, the batteries, and regimental and brigade 
headquarters, to apprehend two men of such-and-such 
description. They were taken as easily as a one-eyed, 
one-eared man, with a wooden leg and red hair, would 
be in trying to get out of police headquarters when the 
doorman had his Bertillon photograph and measure- 
ments to go by. -*" 

That battery hidden from aerial observation in the 
thick forest kept up its slow firing at intervals. It 
was "bothering** one of the German trenches. 
Fiendish the consistent regularity with which it kept 
on, and so easy for the gunners. They had only to 
slip in a shell, swing a breechlock home, and pull a 
lanyard. The German guns did not respond because 
they could not locate the French battery. They may 
have known that it was somewhere in the forest, but 
firing at two or three hundred acres of wood on the 
chance of reaching some guns heavily protected by 
earth and timbering was about like tossing a pea from 
the top of the Washington Monument on the chance 
of hitting a four-leafed clover on the lawn below. 

Our little group remained, not standing in the 
trench, but back of it in full relief for some time ; for 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 191 

the German gunners refused to play for realism by 
sending us a marmite. Probably they had seen us 
through the telescope at the start and concluded we 
weren't worth a shot. In the first months of the war 
such a target would have received a burst of shells, 
for the fun of seeing us scatter, if nothing else. Then 
ammunition was plentiful and the sport of shooting 
had not lost its zest; but in these winter days orders 
were not to waste ammunition. The factories must 
manufacture a supply ahead for the summer campaign. 
There must be fifteen dollars' worth of target in 
sight, say, for the smallest shell costs that; and the 
shorter you are of shells the more valuable the target 
must be. Besides, firing a cannon had become as 
commonplace a function to both French and German 
gunners as getting up to put another stick of wood in 
the stove or going to open the door to take a letter 
from the postman. 

We had glimpses of other trenches ; but this is not 
the place in this book to write of trenches. We shall 
see trenches till we are weary of them later. We are 
going direct to Gerbeviller, which was — emphasis on 
the past tense — a typical little Lorraine town of fif- 
teen hundred inhabitants. Look where you would 
now, as we drove along the road, and you saw churches 
without steeples, houses with roofs standing on sec- 
tions of walls, houses smashed into bits. 

11 1 saw no such widespread destruction as this in 
Belgium ! " I exclaimed. 

" There was no such fighting in Belgium," was the 
answer. 

Of course not, except in the southwestern corner, 
where the armies still face each other. 

44 Not all the damage was done by the Germans," 



192 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the major explained. " Naturally, when they were 
pouring in death from the cover of a house, our guns 
let drive at that house," he went on. " The owners 
of the houses that were hit by our shells are rather 
proud — proud of our marksmanship, proud that we 
gave the unwelcome guest a hot pill to swallow." 

For ten days the Bavarians had Gerbeviller. They 
tore it to pieces before they got it, then burned the 
remains because they said the population sniped at 
them. All the orgy of Louvain was repeated here, 
unchronicled to our people at home. The church 
looks like a Swiss cheese from shell-holes. Its 
steeple was bound to be an observation post, reasoned 
the Germans; so they poured shells into it. But the 
brewery had a tall chimney which was an even better 
lookout, and the brewery is the one building unharmed 
in the town. The Bavarians knew that they would 
need that for their commissariat. For a Bavarian 
will not fight without his beer. The land was littered 
with barrels after they had gone. I saw some in 
trenches occupied by Bavarian reserves not far back 
of where their firing-line had been. 

" However, the fact that the brewery is intact and 
the church in ruins does not prove that a brewery is 
better than a church. It only proves which is the 
Lord's side in this war," said Sister Julie. But I get 
ahead of my story. 

In the middle of the main street were half a dozen 
smoke-blackened houses which remained standing, an 
oasis in the sea of destruction, with doors and win- 
dows intact, facing gaps where doors and windows had 
been. We entered with a sense of awe of the chance 
which had spared these buildings. 

" Sister Julie 1 " the major called. 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 193 

A short, sturdy nun of about sixty years answered 
cheerily and appeared in the dark hall. She led us 
into the sitting-room, where she spryly placed chairs 
for our little party. She was smiling; her eyes were 
sparkling with a hospitable and kindly interest in us, 
while I felt, on my part, that thrill of curiosity that 
one always has when he meets some celebrated person 
for the first time — a curiosity no less keen than if I 
were to meet Barbara Frietchie. 

Through all that battle of ten days, with the can- 
non never silent day or night, with shells screaming 
overhead and crashing into houses; through ten days 
of thunder and lightning and earthquake, she and her 
four sister associates remained in Gerbeviller. When 
the town was fired they moved from one building to 
another. They nursed both wounded French and 
Germans, also wounded townspeople who could not 
flee with the others. 

" You were not frightened? You did not think of 
going away? " she was asked. 

" Frightened ? " she answered. " I had not time 
to think of that. Go away ? How could I when the 
Lord's work had come to me? " 

President Poincare went in person to give her the 
Legion of Honour, the first given to a woman in this 
war; so rarely given to a woman, and here bestowed 
with the love of a nation. Sister Marie was in the 
kitchen at the time, very busy cooking the meal for 
the sick whom the sisters are still caring for. So Sis- 
ter Julie took the President of France into the kitchen 
to meet Sister Marie, quite as she would take you or 
me. A human being is simply a human being to Sister 
Julie, to be treated courteously; and great men may 
not cause a meal for the sick to burn. After the com- 



194 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

plexity of French politics, President Poincarc was any- 
thing but unfavourably impressed by the incident. 

u He was such a little man, I could not believe at 
first that he could be President," she said. " I 
thought that the president of France would be a big 
man. But he was very agreeable and, I am sure, very 
wise. Then there were other men with him, a Mon- 
sieur de-de-Deschanel, who was president of some- 
thing or other in Paris, and Monsieur du-du — yes, 
that was it, Du Bag. He also is president of some- 
thing in Paris. They were very agreeable, too." 

" And your Legion of Honour? " 

41 Oh, my medal that M. le President gave me I I 
keep that in a drawer. I do not wear it every day 
when I am in my working clothes." 

" Have you ever been to Paris? " 

" No, monsieur." 

" They will make a great ado over you when you 

" I must stay in Gerbeviller. If I stayed during 
the fighting and when the Germans were here, why 
should I leave now? Gerbeviller is my home. 
There is much to do here, and there will be more to 
do when the people who were driven away return." 

These nuns saw their townspeople stood up against 
a wall and shot ; they saw their townspeople killed by 
shells. The cornucopia of war's horrors was emptied 
at their door. And women of a provincial town, who 
had led peaceful, cloistered lives, they did not blench 
or falter in the presence of ghastliness which only men 
are supposed to have the stoicism to witness. 

What feature of the nightmare had held most viv- 
idly in Sister Julie's mind? It is hard to say; but the 
one which she dwelt on was about the boy and the cow. 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 195 

The invaders, when they came in, ordered that no in- 
habitant leave his house, on pain of death. A boy of 
ten took his cow to pasture in the morning as usual. 
He did not see anything wrong in that. The cow 
ought to go to pasture. And he was shot, for he 
broke a military regulation. He might have been a 
spy using the cow as a blind. War does not bother to 
discriminate. It kills. 

Sister Julie can enjoy a joke, particularly on the 
Germans, and her cheerful smile and genuine laugh 
are a lesson to all people who draw long faces in time 
of trouble and weep over spilt milk. A buoyant tem- 
perament and unshaken faith carried her through her 
ordeal. Though her hair is white, youth's optimism 
and confidence in the future and the joy of victory for 
France overshadowed the present. The town and 
church would be rebuilt; children would play in the 
streets again ; there was a lot of the Lord's work to do 
yet. 

In every word and thought she is French — French 
in her liveliness of spirit and quickness of comprehen- 
sion; wholly French there on the borderland of Ger- 
many. If we only went to the outskirts of the town, 
she reminded us, we could see how the soldiers of her 
beloved France fought and why she was happy to have 
remained in Gerbeviller to welcome them back. 

In sight of that intact brewery and that wreck of a 
church is a gentle slope of open field, cut by a road. 
Along the crest were many mounds as thick as the 
graves of a cemetery, and by the side of the road was 
a temporary monument above a big mound, sur- 
rounded by a sanded walk and a fence. The dead 
had been thickest at this point, and here they had been 
laid in a vast grave. The surviving comrades had 



196 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

made that monument; and, in memory of what the 
dead had fought for, the living said that they were 
not yet ready to quit fighting. 

Standing on this crest, you were a thousand yards 
away from the edge of a woods. German aeroplanes 
had seen the French massing for a charge under the 
cover of that crest; but French aeroplanes could not 
see what was in the woods. Rifles and machine guns 
poured a spray of lead across the crest when the 
French appeared. But the French, who were fighting 
for Sister Julie's town, would not stop their rush at 
first. They kept on, as Pickett's men did when the 
Federal guns riddled their ranks with grapeshot. 
This accounts for many of the mounds being well be- 
yond the crest. The Germans made a mistake in fir- 
ing too soon. They would have made a heavier kill- 
ing if they had allowed the charge to go farther. 
After the French fell back, for two days and nights 
their wounded lay out on that field without water or 
food, between the two forces, and if their comrades 
approached to give succour the machine guns blazed 
more death, because the Germans did not want to let 
the French dig a trench on the crest. After two days 
the French forced the Germans out of the woods by 
hitting them from another point. 

We went over the field of another charge half a 
mile away. There a French regiment put a stream 
with a single bridge at their back — which requires 
some nerve — and charged a German trench on rising 
ground. They took it. Then they tried to take the 
woods beyond. Before they were checked twenty- 
two officers out of a total of thirty fell. But they did 
not give up the ground they had won. They bur- 
rowed into the earth in a trench of their own, and 



> 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 197 

when help came they put the Germans out of the 
woods. 

The men of this regiment were not first line, but 
the older fellows — men of the type we stopped to 
chat with in the village — hastening to the front when 
the war began. Their officers were mostly reserves, 
too, who left their civil occupations at the call of arms. 
One of the eight survivors of the thirty was with us, 
a stocky little man, hardly looking the hero or the 
soldier. I expressed my admiration, and he answered 
quietly: " It was for France! " How often I have 
heaid that as a reason for courage or sacrifice ! The 
brave enemies of France have learned to respect it, 
though they had a poor opinion of the French army 
before the war began. " That railroad bridge yon- 
der the Germans left intact when they occupied it 
because they were certain that they would need it to 
supply their troops when they took the Gap of Mire- 
court and surrounded the French army," I was told. 
" However, they had to go in such a hurry that they 
failed to mine it. They must have fired five hundred 
shells afterward to destroy it, in vain." 

It was dusk when we entered the city of Luneville 
for the second time. Whole blocks lay in ruins; 
others only showed where shells had crashed into 
walls. It is hard to estimate just how much damage 
shell-fire has done to a town, for you see the effects 
only where they have struck on the street sides and not 
when they strike in the centre of the block. But 
Luneville has certainly suffered as much as Louvain, 
only we did not hear about it. Grim, sad Louvain, 
with its sentries among the ruins! Happy, trium- 
phant Luneville, with its poilus instead of German sen- 
tries! 



i 9 8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

" We are going to meet the mayor," said the major. 

First we went to his office. But that was a mistake. 
We were invited to his house, which was a fine, old 
eighteenth-century building. If you could transport it 
to New York some arms-and-ammunition millionaire 
would give half a million dollars for it. The hallway 
was smoke-blackened and a burnt spot showed where 
the enemy had tried to set it on fire before evacuating 
the town. An ascent of a handsome old staircase and 
we were in rooms with gilded mirrors and carved old 
mantels, where we were introduced to His Honour, a 
lively man of forty. 

" I have been in Amerique two months. So much 
English do I speak. No more ! " said the mayor 
merrily, and introduced us in turn to his wife, who 
spoke not even " so much " English, but French as 
fast and as piquantly as only a Frenchwoman can. 
Her only son, who was seventeen, was going up with 
the 19 16 class of recruits very soon. He was a 
sturdy youngster; a type of Young France who will 
make the France of the future. 

" You hate to see him go ? " I asked. 

" It is for France I " she answered. 

We had cakes and tea and a merrier — at least, a 
more heartfelt — party than at any mayor's reception 
in time of peace. Everybody talked. For the 
French do know how to talk, when they have not 
turned grim, silent soldiers. Foreigners say we do. 
Maybe it is a democratic weakness. I heard story on 
story of the German occupation, and how the mayor 
was put in jail and held as hostage, and what a Ger- 
man general said to him when he was brought in as a 
prisoner to be interrogated in his own house, which 
the general occupied as headquarters. 



SMILES AMONG RUINS 199 

Among the guests was the wife of a French general 
in her Red Cross cap. She might see her husband 
once a week by meeting him on the road between the 
city and the front. He could not afford to be any 
farther from his post, lest the Germans spring a sur- 
prise. The extent of the information which he gave 
her was that all went well for France. Father Joffre 
plays no favourites in his discipline. 

Happy, happy Lorraine in the midst of its ruins! 
Happy because her adored tricolour floats over those 
ruins. 



XIV 

A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 

Victoria Station — The "tenth man" — Leavetaking — Roar of Lon- 
don — British habits — Everywhere khaki — System at the 
French port — The correspondents' home — Strict censorship — 
The one link with the reading public — Necessity for censorship 
— Freedom of the press — " Jig-saw n intelligence experts — The 
run of the trenches — Exchange of slang — Organisation of Gen- 
eral Headquarters — A business institution — A colossal dynamo. 

Other armies go to war across the land, but the Brit- 
ish go across the sea. They take the Channel ferry in 
order to reach the front. Theirs is the home road of 
war to me; the road of my affections, where men speak 
my mother tongue. It begins on the platform at 
Victoria Station, with the khaki of officers and men 
returning from leave, relieved by the warmer colours 
of women who have come to say good-bye to those 
they love. In five hours from the time of starting 
one may be across that ribbon of salt water, which 
means much in isolation and little in distance, and in 
the trenches. 

That veteran regular — let us separate him from 
the crowd, — is a type I have often seen, a type that 
has become as familiar as one's neighbours in one's 
own town. We will call him the tenth man. That is, 
of every ten men who went to the front a year ago in 
his battalion, nine are gone. All of the hardships and 
all of the terrors of war he has witnessed: men 
dropped neatly by a bullet; men mangled by shells. 

His khaki is spotless, thanks to his wife, who has 

200 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW ao* 

dressed in her best for the occasion. Terrible as war 
itself, but new, that hat of hers, which probably repre- 
sented a good deal of looking into windows and pric- 
ing; and her gown of the cheapest material, drooping 
from her round shoulders, is the product of the poor 
dressmaking skill of hands which show only too well 
who does all the housework at home. The children, 
a boy of four and a girl of seven, are in their best, too, 
with faces scrubbed till they shine. 

You will see like scenes in stations at home when the 
father has found work in a distant city and is going on 
ahead to get established before the family follow him. 
Such incidents are common in civil life; they became 
common at Victoria Station. What is common has 
no significance, editors say. 

When the time came to go through the gate, the vet- 
eran picked the boy up in his arms and pressed him 
very close and the little girl looked on wonderingly, 
while the mother was not going to make it any harder 
for the father by tears. "Good-bye, Tom!" she 
said. So his name was Tom, this tenth man. 

I spoke with him. His battalion was full with re- 
cruits. It had been kept full. But, considering the 
law of chance, what about the surviving one out of 
an original ten? 

" Yes, I've had my luck with me," he said. " Prob- 
ably my turn will come. Maybe I'll never see the 
wife and kids again." 

The morning roar of London had begfcn. That 
station was a small spot in the city. There were not 
enough officers and men taking the train to make up 
a day's casualty list ; for ours was only a small party 
returning from leave. The transports, unseen, car- 
ried the multitudes. Wherever one had gone in Eng- 



202 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

land he had seen soldiers and wherever he went in 
France he was to see still more soldiers. England had 
become an armed camp; and England plodded on, 
" muddled " on, preparing, ever preparing, to forge 
in time of war the thunderbolt for war which was un- 
dreamed of in time of peace when other nations were 
forging their thunderbolts. 

Still the recruiting posters called for more soldiers 
and the casualty lists appeared day after day with 
the regularity of want advertisements. Imagine eight 
million men under arms in the United States and you 
have the equivalent to what England did by the vol- 
unteer system. The more there were the more pessi- 
mistic became the British press. Pessimism brought in 
recruits. Bad news made England take another deep 
breath of energising determination. It was the last 
battle which was decisive. She had always won that. 
She would win it again. 

They talk of war aboard the Pullman, after officers 
have waved their hands out of the windows to their 
wives, quite as if they were going to Scotland for a 
week-end instead of back to the firing-line. British 
phlegm that is called. No, British habit, I should say, 
the race-bred, individualistic quality of never parading 
emotions in public, the instinct of keeping things 
which are one's own to one's self. Personally, I like 
this way. In one form or another, as the hedges fly 
by the train windows, the subject is always war. War 
creeps into golf, or shooting, or investments, or pol- 
itics. Only one suggestion quite frees the mind from 
the omnipresent theme: Will the Channel be smooth? 
The Germans have nothing to do with that. It is 
purely a matter of weather. Bad sailors are more 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 203 

worried about the crossing than about the shell-fire 
they are going to face. 

With bad sailors or good sailors, the significant 
thing which had become a commonplace was that the 
Channel was a safely-guarded British sea lane. In 
all my crossings I was never delayed. For England 
had one thunderbolt ready forged when the war began. 
The only submarines, or destroyers, or dirigibles that 
one saw were hers. Antennas these of the great fleet 
waiting with the threat of stored lightning ready to be 
flashed from gun-mouths; a threat as efficacious as 
action, in nowise mysterious or subtle, but definite as 
steel and powder, speaking the will of a people in 
their chosen field of power, felt over all the seas of the 
world, coast of Maine and the Carolinas no less than 
Labrador. Thousands of transports had come and 
gone, carrying hundreds of thousands of soldiers and 
food for men and guns to India ; and on the highroad 
to India, to Australia, to San Francisco, shipping went 
its way undisturbed by anything that dives or flies. 

The same white hospital ships lying in that French 
harbour; the same line of grey, dusty-looking ambu- 
lances parked on the quay! Everybody in that one- 
time sleepy, week-end tourist resort seems to be in uni- 
form; to have something to do with war. All sur- 
roundings become those of war long before you reach 
the front. That knot of civilians, waiting their turn 
for another examination of the same kind as that on 
the other side of the Channel, have shown good 
reasons for going to Paris to the French consul in Lon- 
don, or they might not proceed even this far on the 
road of war. They seem outcasts — a humble lot in 
the variegated costumes of the civil world — outcasts 



204 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

from the disciplined world in its pattern garb of 
khaki. Their excuse for not being in the game is that 
they are too old or that they are women. For now 
the war has sucked into its vortex all who are strong 
enough to fight. 

A traveller might be a spy; hence all this red tape 
for the many to catch the one in its mesh. Even this 
red tape seems now to have become normal. War is 
normal. It would seem strange to cross the Channel 
in a time of peace; the harbour would not look like 
itself with civilians not having to show their passports, 
and without the white hospital ships, and the white- 
bearded landing-officer at the foot of the gangway, and 
the board held up with lists of names of officers who 
have telegrams waiting for them. 

For the civilians a yellow card of disembarkation 
and for the military a white card. The officers and 
soldiers walk off at once and the queue of civilians 
waits. One civilian with a white card, who belongs 
to no regiment, who is not even a chaplain or a nurse, 
puzzles the landing-officer for a moment. But there is 
something to go with it — a correspondent's licence 
and a letter from a general who looks after such 
things. They show that you " belong " ; and if you 
don't belong on the road of war you will not get far. 
As well try to walk past the doorman and take a seat 
in the United States Senate chamber during a ses- 
sion. 

Most precious that magical piece of paper. I hap- 
pen to be the only American with one, unless he is in 
the fighting line — which is one sure way to get to the 
front. The price of all the opera boxes at the Metro- 
politan will not buy it ; and it is the passport to the wel- 
coming smile from an army chauffeur whom I almost 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 205 

regard as my own. But its real value appears at the 
outskirts of the city. There the dead line is drawn; 
there the sheep are finally separated from the goats by 
a French sentry guarding the winding passageway be- 
tween some carts, which have been in the same place 
in the road for months. 

The car spins over the broad, hard French road, in 
a land where for many miles you see no signs of war, 
until it turns into the grounds of a small chateau 
opposite a village church. The proprietor of a dry- 
goods store in a neighbouring city spends his summers 
here ; but this summer he is in town, because the press 
wanted a place to live and he was good enough to rent 
us his country place. So this is home, where the five 
British and one American correspondents live and 
mess. The expense of our cars costs us treble all the 
rest of our expenses. They take us where we want to 
go. We go where we please, but we may not write 
what we please. We see something like a thousand 
times more than we can tell. The conditions are such 

■ 

as to make a news reporter throw up his hands and 
faint. But if he had his unbridled way, one day he 
might feel the responsibility for the loss of some hun- 
dreds of British soldiers' lives. 

" It may be all right for war correspondents, but 
it is a devil of a poor place for a newspaper man," as 
one editor said. Yet it is the only place where you 
can really know anything about the war. 

We become a part of the machinery of the great or- 
ganisation that encloses us in its regular processes. 
No one in his heart envies the press officer, who holds 
the blue pencil over us. He has to " take it both 
going and coming." He labours on our behalf and 
sometimes we labour with him. The staff are willing 



206 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

enough to let us watch the army at work, but they do 
not care whether or not we write about their war ; he 
wants us both to see it and to write about it. He tells 
us some big piece of news, and then says: " That is 
for yourselves; you may not write it." 

People do not want to read about the correspond- 
ents, of course. They want to read what the corre- 
spondents have to tell about the war; but the con- 
ditions of our work are interesting because we are the 
link between the army and the reading public. All 
that it learns from actual observation of what the 
army is doing comes through us. 

We may not give the names of regiments and bri- 
gades until weeks after a fight, because that will tell 
the enemy what troops were engaged; we may not 
give the names of officers, for that is glorifying one 
when possibly another did his duty equally well. It is 
the anonymity of the struggle that makes it all seem 
distant and unreal — till the telegram comes from the 
War Office to say that the one among the millions who 
is dear to you is dead or wounded. Otherwise, it is a 
torment of unidentified elements behind a curtain, 
which is parted for an announcement of a gain or a 
loss, or to give out a list of the fallen. 

The world wants to read that Peter Smith led the 
King's Own Particular Fusiliers in a charge. It may 
not know Peter Smith, but his name and that of his 
regiment make the information seem definite. The 
statement that a well-known millionaire yesterday 
gave a million dollars to charity, or that a man in a 
checked suit swam from the Battery to Coney Island, 
is not convincing; nor is the fact that one private un- 
named held back the Germans with bombs in the trav- 
erse of a trench for hours until help came. We at 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 107 

the front, however, do know the names ; we meet the 
officers and men. Ours is the intimacy which we may 
not interpret except in general terms. 

Every article, every despatch, every letter, passes 
through the censor's hand. But we are never told 
what to write. The liberty of the press is too old an 
institution in England for that. Always we may learn 
why an excision is made. The purpose is to keep in- 
formation from the enemy. It is not like fighting 
Boers or Filipinos, this war of walls of men who can 
turn the smallest bit of information to advantage. 

Intelligence officers speak of their work as piecing 
together the parts of a jig-saw puzzle. What seems 
a most innocent fact by itself may furnish the bit which 
gives the figure in the picture its face. It does not 
follow because you are an officer that you know what 
may and what may not be of service to the enemy. 

A former British officer who had become a well- 
known military critic, in an account of a visit to the 
front mentioned having seen a battle from a certain 
church tower. Publication of the account was fol- 
lowed by a tornado of shell-fire that killed and 
wounded many British soldiers. Only a staff special- 
ist, trained in intelligence work and in constant touch 
with the intelligence department, can be a safe censor. 
At the same time, he is the best friend of the corre- 
spondent. He knows what is harmless and what may 
not be allowed. He wants the press to have as much 
as possible. For the more the public knows about its 
soldiers, the better the morale of the people, which 
reflects itself in the morale of the army. 

The published casualty lists giving the names of 
officers and men and their battalions is a means of 
causing casualties. From a prisoner taken the enemy 



208 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

learns what battalions were present at a given fight; 
he adds up the numbers reported killed and wounded 
and ascertains what the fight cost the enemy and, in 
turn, the effect of the fire from his side. But the Brit- 
ish public demanded to see the casualty lists and 
the British press were allowed to gratify the desire. 
They appeared in the newspapers, of course, days 
after the nearest relative of the dead or wounded man 
had received official notification from the War Office. 

Officers' letters from the front, so freely published 
earlier in the war, amazed experienced correspondents 
by their unconscious indiscretions. The line officer 
who had been in a fight told all that he saw. Twenty 
officers doing the same along a stretch of front and the 
jig-saw experts, plus what information they had from 
spies, were in clover. Editors said : " But these men 
are officers. They ought to know when they are im- 
parting military secrets." 

Alas, they do not know! It is not to be expected 
that they should. Their business is to fight ; the busi- 
ness of other experts is to safeguard information. 
For a long time the British army kept correspondents 
from the front on the principle that the business of a 
correspondent must be to tell what ought not to be 
told. Yet they were to learn that the accredited cor- 
respondent, an expert at his profession, working in 
harmony with the experts of the staff, let no military 
secrets pass. 

At our mess we get the Berlin dailies promptly. 
Soon after the Germans are reading the war corre- 
spondence from their own front we are reading it, and 
laughing at jokes in their comic papers and at cartoons 
which exhibit John Bull as a stricken old ogre and 
Britannia who Rules the Waves with the corners of 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 209 

her mouth drawn down to the bottom of her chin, as 
she sees the havoc that von Tirpitz is making with sub- 
marines which do not stop us from receiving our Ger- 
man jokes regularly across the Channel. 

Doubtless the German messes get their Punch and 
the London illustrated weeklies regularly. In the 
time that it took the English daily with the account of 
the action seen from the .church tower to reach Berlin 
and the news to be wired to the front, the German 
guns made use of the information. Neutral little Hol- 
land is the telltale of both sides; the ally and the en- 
emy of all intelligence corps. Scores of experts in 
jig-saw puzzles on both sides seize every scrap of 
information and piece them together. Each time that 
one gets a bit from a newspaper he is for a sharper 
press censorship on his side and a more liberal one 
on the other. 

We six correspondents have our insignia, as must 
every one who is free to move along the lines. By a 
glance you may tell everybody's branch and rank in 
that complicated and disciplined world, where no man 
acts for himself, but always on some one else's orders. 

" Don't you know who they are? They are the 
correspondents," I heard a soldier say. " D. Chron., 
that's the Daily Chronicle; M. Post, that's the Morn- 
ing Post; D. Mail, that's the Daily Mail. There's 
one with U. S. A. What paper is that? " 

41 It ain't a paper," said another. " It's the States 
— he's a Yank!" The War Office put it on the 
American cousin's arm, and wherever it goes it seems 
welcome. It may puzzle the gunners when the Amer- 
ican says, " That was a peach of a shot, right across 
the pan! " or the infantry when he says, " It cuts no 
ice ! " and there is no ice visible in Flanders ; he speaks 



210 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

about typhoid to the medical corps which calls it 
enteric; and " fly-swatting " is a new word to the sani- 
tarians, who are none the less busily engaged in that 
noble art. Lessons for the British in the " American 
language 9 ' while you waitl In return, the American 
is learning what a " stout-hearted thruster " and other 
phrases mean in the Simon-pure English. 

The correspondents are the spoiled spectators of the 
army's work; the itinerants of the road of war. No- 
body sees so much as we, because we have nothing to 
do but to see. An officer looking at the towers of 
Ypres cathedral, a mile away from the trench where 
he was, said : " No, I've never been in Ypres. Our 
regiment has not been stationed in that part of the 
line." 

We have sampled all the trenches ; we have studied 
the ruins of Ypres with an archaeologist's eye; we 
know the names of the estaminets of the villages, from 
" The Good Farmer " to " The Harvester's Rest " 
and " The Good Cousin," not to mention " The Omni- 
bus Stop " on the Cassell Hill. Madame who keeps 
the hotel in the G. H. Q. town knows me so well that 
we wave hands to each other as I pass the door; and 
the clerks in a certain shop have learned that the 
American likes his fruit raw, instead of stewed in the 
English fashion, and plenty of it, especially if it comes 
from the South out of season, as it does from Florida 
or California to pampered human beings at home, 
who, if they could see as much of this war as I have 
seen, would appreciate what a fortunate lot they are 
to have not a ribbon of salt water but a broad sea full 
of it, and the British navy, too, between them and the 
thing on the other side of the zone of death. 

G* H. Q. means General Headquarters, and 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 211 

B. E. F., which shows the way for your letters from 
England, means British Expeditionary Force. The 
high leading, the brains, of the army are theoretically 
at G. H. Q. That word theoretically is used ad- 
visedly in view of opinion at other points. An officer 
sent from G. H. Q. to command a brigade had not 
been long out before he began to talk about those con- 
founded one-thing-and-another fellows at G. H. Q. 
When he was at G. H. Q., he used to talk about those 
confounded one-thing-and-another fellows who com- 
manded corps, divisions, and brigades at the front. 
The philosophers of G. H. Q. smiled and the phi- 
losophers of the army smiled — it was the old story 
of the staff and the line; of the main office and the 
branches. But the line did the most smiling to see 
the new brigadier getting a taste of his own medicine. 

G. H. Q. directs the whole ; here every department 
of all that vast concern which supplies the hundreds 
of thousands of men and prepares for the other hun- 
dreds of thousands is focussed. The symbol of its 
authority is a red band around the cap, which means 
that you are a staff officer. No war at G. H. Q., only 
the driving force of war. It seems as far removed 
from the front as the New York office of a string of 
manufacturing plants. 

If one follows a red-banded cap into a door he 
sees other officers and clerks and typewriters, and a 
sign which says that a department chief has his desk 
in the drawing-room of a private house — where he 
has had it for months. Go to one mess and you will 
hear talk about garbage pails and how to kill flies ; to 
another, about hospitals and clearing stations for the 
wounded; to another, about barbed wire, sandbags, 
spades, timber, and galvanised iron — the engineers ; 



212 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

to another, about guns, shells, rifles, bullets, mortars, 
bombs, bayonets, and high explosives — the ordnance ; 
to another, about jam, bread, bacon, uniforms, iron 
rations, socks, underclothes, canned goods, fresh beef, 
and motor trucks — the Army Service Corps ; to an- 
other, about attacks, counter-attacks, and salients, and 
about what the others are doing and will have to do — 
the operations. 

The chief of staff drives the eight-horse team. He 
works sixteen hours a day. So do most of the others. 
This is how you prove to the line that you have a 
right to be at G. H. Q. When you get to know 
G. H. Q. it seems like any other business institution. 
Many are there who don't want to be there ; but they 
have been found out. They are specialists, who know 
how to do one thing particularly well and are kept 
doing it. No use of growling that you would like a 

fighting job." 

G. H. Q. is the main station on the road of war, 
which hears the sound of the guns faintly. Beyond 
is the region of all the activities that it commands, 
up to the trenches, where all roads end and all efforts 
consummate. One has seen dreary, flat lands of mud 
and leafless trees become fair with the spring, the 
growing harvests reaped, and the leaves begin to fall. 
Always the factory of war was in the same place; 
the soldiers billeted m the same villages; the puffs 
of shrapnel smoke over the same belt of landscape ; 
the ruins of the same viUages being pounded by hLh 

t? l0 a SlVCS V ^ WZys the sound of &**'> a^ays the 

drawn 8C «n°/ H* *u ? aSsing ambulan <** the curtains 
drawn, speed by, their part swiftly and covertly done. 

sure fnTT .° f th0 **"* holds *** Pagination; its 
sure and orderly processes of an organised civilisation 



A ROAD OF WAR I KNOW 213 

-working at destruction win the admiration. There is 
a thrill in the courage and sacrifice and the drilled 
readiness of response to orders. 

One is under varying spells. To-day he seems in 
the midst of a fantastic world, whose horror makes 
it impossible of realisation. To-morrow, as. his car 
takes him along a pleasant by-road among wheat- 
fields where peasants are working and no soldier is 
in sight, it is a world of peace, and one thinks that 
he has mistaken the roar of a train for the distant 
roar of gun-fire. Again, it seems the most real of 
worlds, an exclusive man's world, where nothing 
counts but organised material force, and all those 
cleanly, well-behaved men in khaki are a part of the 
permanent population. 

One sees the war as a colossal dynamo, where force 
is perpetual like the energy of the sun. The war is 
going on forever. The reaper cuts the harvest, but 
another harvest comes. War feeds on itself, renews 
itself. Live men replace the dead. There seems no 
end to supplies of men. The pounding of the guns, 
like the roar of Niagara, becomes eternal. Nothing 
can stop it. 



XV 

TRENCHES IN WINTER 

A trench must be "experienced" — Appearance of the trench — A 
trench periscope — "One hundred and fifty yards away" — Im- 
agination at work — The dead wall opposite — Trench realism 

— A genuine officer — A night excursion — General Mud — The 
German flares — A house in a trench wall — Oozing walls — 
" A ditch in the mud " — Discovered by a searchlight — Suspense 

— Arrival of supplies — The relief and cleanliness. 

The difference between trench warfare in winter and f 

in summer is that between sleeping on the lawn in 
March and in July. It was in the mud and winds of 
March that I first saw the British front. The winds 
were much like the seasonal winds at home; but the 
Flanders mud is like no other mud, in the judgment of 
the British soldier. It is mixed with glue. When I 
returned to the front in June for a longer stay, the 
mud had become clouds of dust that trailed behind * 

the automobile. 

In March my eagerness to see a trench was that 
of one from the Western prairies to get his first 
glimpse of the ocean. Once I might go into a trench 
as often as I pleased I became " fed up " with 
trenches, as the British say. They did not mean much 
more than an alley or a railroad cut. One came to 
think of the average peaceful trench as a ditch where 
some men were eating marmalade and bully beef and 
looking across a field at some more men who were 
eating sausage and " K. K." bread, each party taking 
care that the other did not see him. 

Writers have served us trenches in every possible 

214 



TRENCHES IN WINTER 215 

literary style that censorship will permit. Whoever 
" tours " one is convinced that none of the descrip- 
tions published heretofore has been adequate and 
writes one of his own which will be final. All agree 
that it is not like what they thought it was. But, de- 
spite all the descriptions, the public still fails to vis- 
ualise a trench. You do not see a trench with your 
eyes so much as with your mind and imagination. 
That long line where all the powers of destruction 
within man's command are in deadlock has become a 
symbol for something which cannot be expressed by 
words. No one has yet really described a shell-burst, 
or a flash of lightning, or Niagara Falls; and no 
one will ever describe a trench. He cannot put any 
one else there. He can only be there himself. 

The first time that I looked over a British parapet 
was in the edge of a wood. Board walks ran across 
the spongy earth here and there; the doors of little 
shanties with earth roofs opened on to those streets, 
which were called Piccadilly and the Strand. I was 
reminded of a pleasant prospector's camp in Alaska. 
Only everybody was in uniform and occasionally some- 
thing whished through the branches of the trees. 
One looked up to see what it was and where it was 
going, this stray bullet, without being any wiser. 

We passed along one of the walks until we came 
to a wall of sandbags — simply white bags about 
three-quarters of the size of an ordinary pillowslip, 
filled with earth and laid one on top of another like 
bags of grain. You stood beside a man who had a 
rifle laid across the top of the pile. Of course, you 
did not wear a white hat or wave a handkerchief. 
One does not do that when he plays hide-and-seek. 

Or, if you preferred, you might look into a chip of 



216 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

glass, with your head wholly screened by the wall of 
sandbags, which got a reflection from another chip of 
glass above the parapet. This is the trench peri- 
scope ; the principle of all of them is the same. They 
have no more variety than the fashions in knives, 
forks and spoons on the dinner table. 

One hundred and fifty yards away across a dead 
field was another wall of sandbags. The distance is 
important. It is always stated in all descriptions. 
One hundred and fifty yards is not much. Only when 
you get within forty or fifty yards have you something 
to brag about. Yet three hundred yards may be 
more dangerous than fifteen, if an artillery " hate " 
is on. 

Look for an hour and all you see is the wall of 
sandbags. Not even a rabbit runs across that dead 
space. The situation gets its power of suggestion 
from the fact that there are Germans behind the other 
wall — real, live Germans. They are trying to kill 
the British on our side and we are trying to kill them ; 
and they are as coyly unaccommodating about putting 
up their heads as we are. The emotion of the situa- 
tion is in the fact that a sharpshooter might send a 
shot at your cap ; he might smash a periscope ; a shell 
might come. A rifle cracks — that is all. Nearly 
every one has heard the sound, which is no different 
at the front than elsewhere. And the sound is the 
only information you get. It is not so interesting as 
shooting at a deer, for you can tell whether you hit 
him or not. The man who fires from a trench is not 
even certain whether he saw a German or not. He 
shot at some shadow or object along the crest which 
might have been a German head. 

Thus, one must take the word of those present that 



TRENCHES IN WINTER 217 

there is any more life behind than in front of the 
sandbags. However, if you are sceptical you may 
have conviction by starting to crawl over the top of 
the British parapet. After dark the soldiers will slip 
over and bring your body back. It is this something 
you do not see, this something the imagination vis- 
ualises, that convinces you that you ought to be con- 
siderate enough of posterity to write the real descrip- 
tion of a trench. Look for an hour at that wall of 
sandbags and your imagination sees more and more, 
while your eye sees only sandbags. What does this 
war mean to you ? There it is ; only you can describe 
what this war means to you. 

Many a soldier who has spent months in trenches 
has not seen a German. I boast that I have seen real 
Germans through my glasses. They were walking 
along a road back of their trenches. It was most 
fascinating. All the Germans I had ever seen in Ger- 
many were not half so interesting. I strained my 
eyes watching those wonderful beings as I might at 
the first visiting party from Mars to earth. There 
must have been at least ten out of the Kaiser's mil- 
lions. 

In summer that wood had become a sylvan bower, 
or a pastoral paradise, or a leafy nook, as you please. 
The sun played through the branches in a patchwork ; 
flowers bloomed on the dirt roofs of the shanties, 
and a swallow had a nest — famous swallow ! — on 
one of the parapets. True, it was not on the front 
parapet; it was on the reserve. The swallow knew 
what he was about. He was taking a reasonable 
amount of risk and playing reasonably secure to get 
a front seat, according to the ethics of the war corre- 
spondent The two walls of sandbags were in the 



2i8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

same place that they had been six months previously. 
A little patching had been done after some shells had 
hit the mark, though not many had come. 

For this was a quiet corner. Neither side was in- 
terested in stirring up the hornets' nest. If a mem- 
ber of Parliament wished to see what trench life was 
like he was brought here, because it was one of the 
safest places for a few minutes' look at the sandbags 
which Mr. Atkins stared at week in and week out. 
Some Conservatives, however, in the case of Radical 
members, would have chosen a different kind of trench 
to show; for example, that one which was suggested 
to me by the staff officer with the twinkle in his eye 
in my best day at the front. 

In want of an army pass to the front in order to 
write your own description, then, put up a wall of 
sandbags in a vacant lot and another one hundred 
and fifty yards away and fire a rifle occasionally from 
your wall at the head of a man on the opposite side, 
who will shoot at yours — and there you are. If you 
prefer the realistic to the romantic school and wish 
to appreciate the nature of trench life in winter, find 
a piece of wet, flat country, dig a ditch seven or eight 
feet deep and stand in icy water looking across at 
another ditch, and sleep in a cellar that you have dug 
in the wall, and you are near understanding what Mr. 
Atkins has been doing for his country. The ditch 
should bq cut zigzag in and out, like the lines binding 
the squares of a checker-board ; that makes more work 
and localises the burst of shells. 

Of course, the moist walls will be continually fall- 
ing in and require mending in a drenching, freezing 
rain of the kind that the Lord visits on all who 
wage war underground in Flanders. Incidentally, you 



TRENCHES IN WINTER 219 

must look after the pumps, lest the water rise to your 
neck. For all the while you are fighting Flanders as 
well as the Germans. 

To carry realism to the limit of the Grand Guignol 
school, then, arrange some bags of bullets with dyna- 
mite charges on a wire, which will do for shrapnel; 
plant some dynamite in the parapet, which will do 
for high explosive shells that burst on contact; and 
sink heavier charges of dynamite under your feet, 
which will do for mines — and set them off, while you 
engage some one to toss grenades and bombs at you. 

Though scores of officers' letters had given their 
account of trench life with the vividness of personal 
experience, I must mention my first trench in Flanders 
in winter when, with other correspondents, I saw the 
real thing under the guidance of the commanding offi- 
cer of that particular section, a slight, wiry man who 
wore the ribbon of the Victoria Cross, won in another 
war for helping to " save the guns." He made see- 
ing trenches in the mud seem a pleasure trip. He 
* was the kind who would walk up to his ball as if he 
knew how to play golf, send out a clean, fair, long 
drive, and then use his iron as if he knew how to use 
an iron, without talking about his game on the way 
around or when he returned to the club-house. 

Men could go into danger behind him without real- 
ising that they were in danger ; they could share hard- 
ship without realising that there were any hardships. 
Such as he put faith and backbone into soldiers by 
their very manner; and if their professional training 
equal their talents, when war comes they win victories. 

Of course, we had rubber boots, electric torches, 

and wore British warms, those short, thick coats which 

, accrue a modicum of mud for you to carry besides 



220 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

what you arc carrying on your boots. We walked 
along a hard road in the dark toward an aurora 
borealis of German flares, which popped into the sky 
like Roman candles and burst in circles of light. 
They seemed to be saying : " Come on I Try to 
crawl up on us and play us a trick and our eyes will 
find you and our marksmen will stop you. Come on 1 
We make the night into day, and watching never 
ceases from our parapet." 

Occasional rifle-shots and a machine gun's ter-rut 
were audible from the direction of the jumping red 
glare, which stretched right and left as far as the eye 
could see. We broke off the road into a morass of 
mud, as one might cross lots when he had lost his 
way, and plunged on till the commanding officer said, 
" We go in here ! " and we descended into a black 
chasm in the earth. The wonder was that any ditch 
could be cut in soil which the rains had turned into 
syrup. Mud oozed from the sandbags, through the 
wire netting, and between the wood supports which 
held the walls in place. It was just as bad over in 
the German trenches. General Mud laid siege to 
both armies. The field of battle where he gathered 
his gay knights was a slough. His tug of war was 
strife against landslides, rheumatism, pneumonia, and 
frozen feet. 

The soldier tries to kill his adversary; he tries to 
prevent his adversary from killing him. He is as 
busy in safeguarding as in taking life. While he 
breathes, thinks, fights mud, he blesses as well as 
curses mud. Mother Earth is still unconquerable. 
In her bosom man still finds security; such security 
that " dug in " he can defy at a hundred yards' dis- 
tance rifles that carry death three thousand yards. 



TRENCHES IN WINTER 221 

She it is that has made the deadlock of the trenches 
and plastered their occupants with her miry hands. 

The C. O. lifted a curtain of bagging as you might 
lift a hanging over an alcove bookcase, and a young 
officer, rising from his blankets in his house in the 
trench*wall to a stooping posture, said that all was 
quiet. His uniform seemed fleckless. Was it possi- 
ble that he wore some kind of cloth which shed mud 
spatters? He was another of the type of Captain 

P , my host at Neuve Chapelle ; a type formed on 

the type of seniors such as his C. O. Unanalysable 
this quality, &k there is something distinguished about 
it and delightfully appealing. A man who can be the 
same in a trench in Flanders in midwinter as in a 
drawing-room has my admiration. They never lose 
their manner, these English officers. They carry it 
into the charge and back in the ambulance with them 
to England, where they wish nothing so much as that 
their friends will " cut out the hero stuff," as our own 
officers say. 

In other dank cellars soldiers who were off guard 
were lying or sitting. The radiance of the flares 
lighted the profiles of those on guard, whose faces 
were half hidden by coat collars or ear-flaps — imper- 
turbable, silent, marooned and marooning, watchful 
and fearless. The thing had to be done and they 
were doing it; and they were going to keep on doing 
it. 

There was nothing dry in that trench, unless it was 
the bowl of a man's pipe. There were not even any 
braziers. In your nostrils was the odour of the soil 
of Flanders, cultivated by many generations through 
many wars. As night wore on the sky was bright- 
ened by cold, winter stars and their soft light became 



222 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

noticeable between the disagreeable flashes of the 
flares. 

We walked on and on. It was like walking in a 
winding ditch; that was all. The same kind of walls 
at every turn; the same kind of dim figures in satu- 
rated, heavy army overcoats. Slipping off the board 
walk into the ooze, one was thrown against the mud 
wall as his foot sank. Then he held fast to his boot 
straps lest the boot remain in the mud while his foot 
came out. Only the C. O. never slipped. He knew 
how to tour trenches. The others were as clumsy 
beside him as if they were trying to walk a tight 
rope. 

" Good night 1 " he said to each group of men as 
he passed, with the cheer of one who brings a con- 
fident spirit to vigils in the mud and with that note 
of affection of the commander who has learned to 
love his men by the token of ordeals when he saw 
them hold fast against odds. 

"Good night, sir I " they answered; and in their 
tone was something which you liked to hear — a finer 
tribute to the C. O. than medals which kings can be- 
stow. It was affection and trust. They were ready 
to follow him, for they knew that he knew how to 
lead. I was not surprised when I heard of his pro- 
motion, later. I shall not be surprised when I hear 
of it again. For he had brain and heart and the 
gift of command. 

" Shall we go on or shall we go back? " he asked 
when we had gone about a mile. " Have you had 
enough?" 

We had, without a dissenting voice. A ditch in the 
mud — that was all, no matter how much farther we 
went. So we passed out of the trench into a soapy, 



TRENCHES IN WINTER 123 

slippery mud which had been ploughed ground in the 
autumn, now become lathery with the beat of men's 
steps. Our party became separated, when some 
foundered and tried to hoist themselves with both 
boot straps at once. The C. O. called out in order to 
locate us in the darkness, and the voice of an officer 
in the trenches cut in : " Keep still I The Germans 
are only a hundred yards away I " 

" Sorry! " whispered the C. O. " I ought to have 
known better." 

Then one of the German searchlights that had been 
swinging its stream of light across the paths of the 
flares lay its fierce, comet eye on us, glistening on the 
froth-streaked mud and showing each mud-splashed 
figure in heavy coat in weird silhouette. 

" Stand still I " 

That is the order whenever searchlights come spy- 
ing in your direction. So we stood still in the mud, 
looking at one another and wondering. It was the 
one tense second of the night, which lifted our 
thoughts out of the mud with the elation of risk. 
That searchlight was the eye of death looking for a 
target. With the first crack of a bullet we should 
have known that we were discovered and that it was 
no longer good tactics to stand still. We should have 
dropped on all fours into the porridge. The search- 
light swept on. Perhaps Hans at the machine gun 
was nodding or perhaps he did not think us worth 
while. Either supposition was equally agreeable to 
us. 

We kept moving our mud-poulticed feet forward, 
with the flares at our backs, till we came to a road 
where we saw dimly a silent company of soldiers 
drawn up and behind them the supplies for the trench. 



224 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Through the mud and under cover of darkness every 
bit of barbed wire, every board, every ounce of food, 
must go up to the moles in the ditch. The search- 
lights and the flares and the machine guns waited for 
the relief. They must be fooled. But in this opera- 
tion most of the casualties in the average trenches, 
both British and German, occurred. Without a 
chance to strike back, the soldier was shot at by an 
assassin in the night. 

When the men who had been serving their turn of 
duty in the trenches came out, a magnet drew their 
weary steps — cleanliness. They thought of nothing 
except soap and water. For a week they need not 
fight mud or Germans or parasites, which, like Gen- 
eral Mud, waged war against both British and Ger- 
mans. Standing on the slats of the concrete floor 
of a factory, they peeled off the filthy, saturated outer 
skin of clothing with its hideous, crawling inhabitants 
and, naked, leapt into great, steaming vats, where they 
scrubbed and gurgled and gurgled and scrubbed. 
When they sprang out to apply the towels, they were 
men with the feel of new bodies in another world. 

Waiting for them were clean clothes, which had 
been boiled and disinfected; and waiting, too, was 
the shelter of their billets in the houses of French 
towns and villages, and rest and food and food and 
rest, and newspapers and tobacco and gossip — but 
chiefly rest and the joy of lethargy as tissue was re- 
built after the first long sleep, often twelve hours at 
a stretch. They knew all the sensations of physical 
man, man battling with nature, in contrasts of exhaus- 
tion and danger and recuperation and security, as the 
pendulum swung slowly back from fatigue to the glow 
of strength. 



TRENCHES IN WINTER 225 

Those who came out of the trenches quite " done 
up," Colonel Bate, Irish and genial, fatherly and not 
lean, claimed for his own. After the washing they lay 
on cots under a glass roof, and they might play domi- 
noes and read the papers when they were well enough 
to sit up. They had the food which Colonel Bate 
knew was good for them, just as well as he knew what 
was deadly for the inhabitants whom they brought into 
that isolated room which every man must pass through 
before he was admitted to the full radiance of the 
colonel's curative smile. When they were able to re- 
turn to the trenches, each was written down as one 
unit more in the colonel's weekly statistical reports. 
In summer he entertained al fresco in an open air 
camp. 



XVI 

IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 

British advance— The human stone wall moves — Neuve Chapelle 
"on the map" — The travelled British army — A demolished 
trench — Stray bullets — The intelligence system — A captured 
spy — Old friends — Power of the British artillery — Front line 
breastworks — Business-like readiness — A cosy house — A tick- 
lish walk — Glowing braziers — "How do they feel in- the 
States?"— The Rhine or Berlin? — The passing of the "Soldiers 
Three" — The modern Tommy — Capturing a helmet. 

Typical of many others, this quiet village in a flat 
country of rich farming land, with a church, a school, 
a post-office, and stores where the farmers could buy a 
pound of sugar or a. spool of thread, employ a notary, 
or get a pair of shoes cobbled or a horse shod, without 
having to go to the neighbouring town of Bethune, 
Neuve Chapelle became famous only after it had 
ceased to exist — unless a village remains a village 
after it has been reduced to its original elements by 
shell-fire. 

It was the scene of one of those actions in the long 
siege line which have the dignity of a battle; the 
losses on either side, about sixteen thousand, were 
two-thirds of those at Waterloo or Gettysburg. 
Here the British after the long winter's stalemate in 
the mud, where they stuck when the exhausted Ger- 
mans could press them no farther, took the offensive, 
with the sap of spring rising in their veins. 

The guns blazed the way and the infantry charged 

in the path of the guns' destruction; and they kept 

226 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 227 

on while the shield of shell-fire held. When it left 
an opening for the German machine guns through its 
curtain and the German guns visited on the British 
what their guns had been visiting on the Germans, 
the British stopped. A lesson was learned; a prin- 
ciple established. A gain was made, if no goal were 
reached. 

The human stone wall had moved. It had broken 
some barriers and come to rest before others, again 
to become a stone wall. But it knew that the thing 
could be done with guns and shells enough — and only 
with enough. This means a good deal when you have 
been under dog for a long time. Months were to 
pass waiting for enough shells and guns, with many 
little actions and their steady drain of life, while every 
one looked back to Neuve Chapelle as a landmark. 
It was something definite for a man to say that he 
had been wounded at Neuve Chapelle and quite in- 
definite to say that he had been wounded in the course 
of the day's work in the trenches. 

No one might see the battle in that sea of mud. 
He might as well have looked at the smoke of Vesu- 
vius with an idea of learning what was going on in- 
side of the crater. I make no further attempt at 
describing it. My view came after the battle was 
over and the cauldron was still steaming. 

Though in March, 19 14, one would hardly have 
given Neuve Chapelle, intact and peaceful, a passing 
glance from an automobile, in March, 191 5, Neuve 
Chapelle in ruins was the one town in Europe which 
I most wanted to see. Correspondents had not then 
established themselves. The staff officer whom I 
asked if I might spend a night in the new British line 
was a cautious man. He bade me sign a paper free- 



228 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ing the British army from any responsibility. Judg- 
ing by the general attitude of the Staff, one could 
hardly take the request seriously. One correspondent 
less ought to please any Staff ; but he said that he had 
an affection for the regulars and knew that there were 
always plenty of recruits to take their places without 
resorting to conscription. The real responsibility was 
with the Germans. He suggested that I might go 
out to the German trenches and see if I could obtain 
a paper from them. He thought if I were quick 
about it I might get at least a yard in front of the 
British parapet in daylight. His sense of humour 
I had recognised when we had met in Bulgaria. 

Any traveller is bound to meet men whom he has 
met before in the travelled British army. At the 
brigade headquarters town, which, as one of the offi- 
cers said, proved that bricks and mortar can float in 
mud, the face of the brigadier seemed familiar to 
me. I found that I had met him in Shanghai in the 
Boxer campaign, when he had come across a riotous 
China from India on one of those journeys in re- 
mote Asia which British officers are fond of making. 
He was " all there," whether dealing with a mob of 
Orientals or with Germans in the trenches. I made 
myself at home in the parlour of the private house 
occupied by himself and staff, while he went on with 
his work. No flag outside the house; no sign that it 
was Headquarters. An automobile stopped in front 
only long enough for an officer to enter it or alight 
from it. Brigade headquarters is precisely the tar- 
get that German aeroplanes or spies like to locate 
for their guns. 

" Are you ready? Have you your rubber boots? " 
the brigadier asked a few minutes later, as he put his 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 229 

head in at the parlour door. It would not do to ap- 
proach the trenches until after dark. Of course, I 
had rubber boots. One might as well try to go to 
sea without a boat as to trenches without rubber 
boots in winter. " I'll take my constitutional," he 
added; "the trouble with this kind of war is that 
you get no exercise." 

He was a small man, but how he could walk! I 
began to understand why the Boxers could not catch 
him. He turned back after we had gone a mile or 
more and one of his staff went on with me to a point 
where, just at dusk, I was turned over to another 
pilot, an aide from battalion headquarters, and we set 
out across sodden fields that had yielded beet root in 
the last harvest, taking care not to step in shell-holes. 
Dusk settled into darkness. No human being was in 
sight except ourselves. 

u There's the first line of German trenches before 
the attack," said my companion. " Our guns got 
fairly on them." Dimly I saw what seemed like a 
huge, long, irregular furrow of earth which had been 
torn almost out of the shape of a trench by British 
shells. " There was no living in it when the guns 
began all together. The only thing to do was to 
get out." 

Around us was utter silence, where the hell of 
thunders and destruction by the artillery had raged 
during the battle. Then a spent or ricochet bullet 
swept overhead, with the whistle of complaint of 
spent bullets at having travelled far without hitting 
any object. It had gone high over the British 
trenches ; it had carried the full range ; and the chance 
of its hitting any one was ridiculously small. But the 
nearer you* get to the trenches, the more likely these 



2 3 o MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

strays are to find a victim. " Hit by a stray bullet I " 
is a very common saying at the front. 

At last we felt the solidity of a paved road under 
our feet, and following this we came to a peasant's 
cottage. Inside, two soldiers were sitting beside tele- 
phone and telegraph instruments, behind a window 
stuffed with sandbags. On our way across the fields 
we had stepped on wires laid on the ground; we had 
stooped to avoid wires stretched on poles — the wires 
that form the web of the army's intelligence. 

Of course, no two units of communication are de- 
pendent on one wire. There is always a duplicate. 
If one is broken it is immediately repaired. The 
factories spin out wire to talk over and barbed wire 
for entanglements in front of trenches and weave 
millions of bags to be filled with sand for breastworks 
to protect men from bullets. If Sir John French 
wished, he could talk with Lord Kitchener in London 
and this battalion headquarters at Neuve Chapelle 
within the same space of time that a railroad president 
may speak over the long distance from Chicago to 
New York and order dinner out in the suburbs. 

These two men at the table, their faces tanned by 
exposure, men in the thirties, had the British regular 
of long service stamped all over them. War was an 
old story to them; and an old story, too, laying sig- 
nal wires under fire. 

" We're very comfortable," said one. " No dan- 
ger from stray bullets or from shrapnel; but if one 
of the Jack Johnsons come in, why, there's no more 
cottage and no more argument between you and me. 
We're dead and maybe buried, or maybe scattered 
over the landscape, along with the broken pieces of 
the roof." 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 231 

A soldier was on guard with bayonet fixed inside 
that little room, which had passageway to the cellar 
past the table, among straw beds. This seemed 
rather peculiar. The reason lay on one of the beds 
in a private's khaki. He had come into this bat- 
talion's trenches from our front and said that he be- 
longed to the D regiment and had been out on 

patrol and lost his way. 

It was two miles to that regiment and two miles 
is a long distance to stray between two lines of trenches 
so close together, when at any point in your own line 
you will find friends. It was possible that this fel- 
low's real name was Hans Schmidt, who had learned 
cockney English in childhood in London, and in a 
dead British private's uniform had come into the Brit- 
ish trenches to get information to which he was any- 
thing but welcome. He was to be sent under guard 

to the D regiment for identification; and if he 

were found to be a Hans and not a Tommy — well, 
though he had tried a very stupid dodge he must have 
known what to expect when he was found out, if his 
officers had properly trained him in German rules of 
war. 

I had a glimpse of him in the candlelight before 
stooping to feel my way down three or four narrow 
steps to the cellar, where the farmer ordinarily kept 
potatoes and vegetables. There were straw beds 
around the walls here, too. The major commanding 
the battalion rose from his seat at a table on which 
were some cutlery, a jam pot, tobacco, pipes, a news- 
paper or two, and army telegraph forms and maps. 

If the hosts of mansions could only make their hos- 
pitality as simple as the major's, there would be less 
affectation in the world. He introduced me to an offi- 



232 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

cer sitting on the other side of the table and to one 
lying in his blankets against the wall, who lifted his 
head and blinked and said that he was very glad to 
see me. 

It is a small world, for China cropped up here, as 
it had at brigade headquarters. The major had been 
in garrison at Peking when the war began. If my 
shipmate on a long battleship cruise, Lt.-Col. Dion 
Williams, U.S.M.C., reads this out in Peking, let it 
tell him that the major is just as urbane in the cellar 
of a second-rate farmhouse on the outskirts of Neuve 
Chapelle as he would be in a corner of the Peking 
Club. 

" How is it? Paining you any? " asked the major 
of Captain P , on the other side of the table. 

" No account. It's quite all right," said the cap- 
tain. 

" Using the sling? " 

" Part of the time. Hardly need it, though." 

Captain P was one of those men whose eyes are 

always smiling; who seems, wherever he is, to be glad 
that he is not in a worse place; who goes right on 
smiling at the mud in the trenches and bullets and 
shells and death. They are not emotional, the Brit- 
ish, perhaps, but they are given to cheeriness, if not to 
laughter, and they have a way of smiling at times 
when smiles are much needed. The smile is more 
often found at the front than back at Headquarters; 
or perhaps it is more noticeable there. 

11 You see, he got a bullet through the arm yes- 
terday," the major explained. " He was reported 
wounded, but remained on duty in the trench." I saw 
that the captain would rather not have publicity given 
to such an ordinary incident. He did not see why 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 233 

people should talk about his arm. " You are to go 
with him into the trench for the night," the major 
added; and I thought myself very lucky in my com- 
panion. 

" Aren't you going to have dinner with us ? " the 
major asked him. 

44 Why, I had something to eat not very long ago," 

said Captain P . One was not sure whether he 

had or not. 

"There's plenty," said the major. 

" In that event, I don't see why I shouldn't eat when 
I have a chance," the captain returned ; which I found 
was a characteristic trench habit, particularly in win- 
ter when exposure to the raw, cold air calls for plenty 
of body-furnace heat. 

We had a ration soup and ration ham and ration 
prunes and cheese ; what Tommy Atkins gets. When 
we were outside the house and starting for the trench, 
this captain, with his wounded arm, wanted to carry 
my knapsack. He seemed to think that refusal was 
breaking The Hague conventions. 

Where we turned off the road, broken finger-points 
of brick walls in the faint moonlight indicated the 
site of Neuve Chapelle; other fragments of walls in 
front of us were the remains of a house; and that 
broken tree-trunk showed what a big shell can do. 
The trunk, a good eighteen inches in diameter, had 
not only been cut in two by one of the monsters of the 
new British artillery, but had been carried on for ten 
feet and left lying solidly in the bed of splinters of 
the top of the stump. All this had been in the field 
of that battle of a day, which was as fierce as the 
fiercest day at Gettysburg and fought within about 
the same space. Every tree, every square rod of 



234 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ground, had been paid for by shells, bullets, and hu- 
man life. 

But now we were near the trenches; or, rather, 
the breastworks. We are always speaking of the 
trenches, while not all parts of the line are held by 
trenches. A trench is dug in the ground; a breast- 
work is raised from the level of the ground. At some 
points a trench becomes practically a breastwork, as 
its wall is raised to get free of the mud and water. 

We came into the open and heard the sound of 
voices and saw a spotty white wall; for some of the 
sandbags of the new British breastworks still retained 
their original colour. On the reverse side of this 
wall rifles were leaning in readiness, their fixed bay- 
onets faintly gleaming in the moonlight. I felt of 
the edge of one and it was sharp, quite prepared for 
business. In the surroundings of damp earth and 
mud-bespattered men, this rifle seemed the cleanest 
thing of all, meticulously clean, that ready weapon 
whose well-aimed and telling fire, in obedient and 
cool hands, was the object of all the drill of the new 
infantry in England; of all the drill of all infantry. 
Where pickets watched in the open in the old days be- 
fore armies met in pitched battle, an occasional sol- 
dier now stands with rifle laid on the parapet, watch- 
ing. 

Across a reach of field faintly were made out the 
white spots of another wall of breastworks, the Ger- 
man, at the edge of a stretch of woods, the Bois du 
Bies. The British reached these woods in their ad- 
vance; but, their aeroplanes being unable to spot the 
fall of shells in the mist, they had to fall back for 
want of artillery support. Along this line where we 
stood outside the village they stopped; and to stop is 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 235 

to set the spades going to begin the defences which, 
later, had risen to a man's height, and with rifles and 
machine guns had riddled the German counter-attack. 

And the Germans had to go back to the edge of the 
woods, where they, too, began digging and building 
their new line. So the enemies were fixed again be- 
hind their walls of earth, facing each other across the 
open, where it was death for any man to expose him- 
self by day. 

"Will you have a shot, sir?" one of the sentries 
asked me. 

"At what?" 

" Why, at the top of the trench over there, or at 
anything you see moving," he said. 

But I did not think that it was an invitation for a 
non-combatant to accept. If the bullet went over the 
top of the trench it had still two thousand yards and 
more to go, and it might find a target before it died. 
So, in view of the law of probabilities, no bullet is 
quite waste. 

" Now, which is my house? " asked Captain P . 

" I really can't find my own home in the dark." 

Behind the breastwork were many little houses 
three or four feet in height, all of the same pattern, 
and made of boards and mud. The mud is put on top 
to keep out shrapnel bullets. 

" Here you are, sir ! " said a soldier. 

Asking me to wait until he made a light, the cap- 
tain bent over as if he were about to crawl under the 
top rail of a fence and his head disappeared. After 
he had put a match to a candle and stuck it on a stick 
thrust into the wall, I could see the interior of his 
habitation. A rubber sheet spread on the moist earth 
served as floor, carpet, mattress, and bed. At a 



236 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

squeeze there was room for two others besides him- 
self. They did not need any doormat, for when they 
lay down their feet would be at the door. 

" Quite cosy, don't you think? " remarked the cap- 
tain. He seemed to feel that he had a royal chamber. 
But, then, he was the kind of man who might sleep in 
a muddy field under a wagon and regard the shelter 
of the wagon body as a luxury. " Leave your knap- 
sack here," he continued, " and we'll go and see what 
is doing along the line." 

In other words, after you had left your bag in the 
host's hall, he suggested a stroll in the village or across 
the fields. But only to see war would he have asked 
you to walk in such mud. 

" Not quite so loud I " he warned a soldier who 
was bringing up boards from the rear under cover of 
darkness. " If the Germans hear they may start fir- 
ing. 

Two other men were piling mud on top of a section 
of breastwork at an angle to the main line. 

" What is that for? " the captain asked. 

"They get an enfilade on us here, sir, and Mr. 
(the lieutenant) told me to make this higher." 

" That's no good. A bullet will go right through," 
said the captain. " We'll have to wait until we get 
more sandbags." 

A little farther on we came to an open space, with 
no protection between us and the Germans. Half a 
dozen men were piling earth against a staked chicken 
wire to extend the breastworks. Rather, they were 
piling mud, and they were besmirched from head to 
foot. They looked like reeking Neptunes rising from 
a slough. In the same position in daylight, standing 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 237 

full height before German rifles at three hundred 
yards, they would have been shot dead before they 
could leap to cover. 

"How does it go?" asked the captain. 

"Very well, sir; though what we need is sand- 
bags." 

44 We'll have some up to-morrow." 

At the moment there was no firing in the vicinity. 
Faintly I heard the Germans pounding stakes, at 
work improving their own breastworks. 

A British soldier appeared out of the darkness in 
front. 

44 We've found two of our men out there with their 
heads blown off by shells," he said. 44 Have we per- 
mission to go out and bury them, sir ? " 

44 Yes." 

They would be as safe as the fellows piling mud 
against the chicken wire, unless the Germans opened 
fire. If they did, we could fire on their working 
party, or in the direction of the sound. For that 
matter, we knew through our glasses by day the loca- 
tion of any weak places in their breastworks and they 
knew where ours were. A sort of 44 after-you-gentle- 
men-if-you-fire-we-shall " understanding sometimes ex- 
ists between the foes up to a certain point. Each 
side understands instinctively the limitation of that 
point. Too much noise in working; a number of 
men going out to bury dead or making enough noise 
to be heard, and the ball begins. A deep, broad 
ditch filled with water made a break in our line. No 
doubt a German machine gun was trained on it. 

44 A little bridging is required here," said the cap- 
tain. 44 We'll have it done to-morrow night. The 



238 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

break is no disadvantage if they attack; in fact, we'd 
rather like to have them try for it. But it makes 
movement along the line difficult by day." 

When we were across and once more behind the 
breastworks, he called my attention to some high 
ground in the rear. 

" One of our officers took a short cut across there 
in daylight," he said. " He was quite exposed and 
they drew a bead on him from the German trench 
and got him through the arm. Not a serious hit. 
It wasn't cricket for any one to go out to bring him 
in. He realised this and called out to leave him to 
himself, and crawled to cover on his hands and knees." 

I was getting the commonplaces of trench life. 
Thus far it had been a quiet night and was to remain 
so. Reddish, flickering swaths of light were thrown 
across the fields between the trenches by the enemy's 
Roman candle flares. One tried to estimate how 
many flares the Germans must use every night from 
Switzerland to the North Sea. 

On our side, the only light was from our braziers. 
Thomas Atkins has become a patron of braziers made 
by punching holes in buckets; and so have the Ger- 
mans. Punch holes in a bucket, start a Are inside, 
and you have cheer and warmth and light through the 
long night vigils. Two or three days before we had 
located a sniper between the lines by seeing him swing 
his fire pot to make a draft against the embers. 

If you have ever sat around a campfire in the for- 
est or on the plains you need be told nothing further. 
One of the old, glamourous features of war survives 
in these glowing braziers, spreading their genial rays 
among the little houses and lighting the faces of the 
men who stand or squat in encircling groups around 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 239 

the coals, which dry wet clothes, slake the moisture of 
a section of earth, make the bayonets against the walls 
glisten, and reveal the position of a machine gun with 
its tape ready for firing. 

Values are relative, and a brazier in the trenches 
makes the satisfaction of a steam-heated room in win- 
ter very superficial and artificial. You are at home 
there with Tommy Atkins, regular of an old line Eng- 
lish regiment, in his heavy khaki overcoat and solid 
boots and wool puttees, a sturdy, hardened man of 
a terrific war. He, the regular, the shilling-a-day 
policeman of the empire, was still doing the fighting 
at the front. The new army, which embraces all 
classes, was not yet in action. 

This man and that one were at Mons. This one 
and that one had been through the whole campaign 
without once seeing Mother England for whom they 

were fighting. The affection in which Captain P 

was held extended through his regiment, for we had 
left his own company behind. At every turn he was 
asked about his arm. 

" You've made a mistake, sir. This isn't a hos- 
pital," as one man expressed it. Oh, but the captain 
was bored with hearing about that arm! If he is 
wounded again I am sure that he will try to keep the 
fact a secret. 

These veterans could " grouse," as the British call 
it. Grousing is one of Tommy's privileges. When 
they got to grousing worst on the retreat from Mons, 
their officers knew that what they really wanted was 
to make another stand. They were tired of falling 
back; they meant to take a rest and fight a while. 
Their language was yours, the language in which our 
own laws and schoolbooks are written. They made 



Ho MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the old blood call. For months they had been taking 
bitter medicine; very bitter for a British soldier. 
The way they took it will, perhaps, remain a greater 
tribute than any part they play in future victories. 

41 How do they feel in the States? " I was asked. 
"Against us ?" 

" No. By no means." 

" I don't see how they could be I " Tommy ex- 
claimed. 

Tommy may not be much on argument as it is de- 
veloped by the controversial spirit of college profes- 
sors, but he had said about all there was to say. How 
can we be? Hardly, after you come to know T. 
Atkins and his officers and talk English with them 
around their campfires. 

" The Germans are always sending up flares," I 
remarked. " You send up none. How about it?" 

" It cheers them. They're downhearted I " said 
one of the group. " You wouldn't deny them their 
fireworks, would you, sir? " 

" That shows who is top dog," said another. 
" They're the ones that are worried." 

I had heard of trench exhaustion, trench despair, 
but there was no sign of it in a regiment that had 
been through all the hell and mire that the British 
army had known since the war began. To no one 
had Neuve Chapelle meant so much as to these com- 
mon soldiers. It was their first real victory. They 
were standing on soil won from the Germans. 

"We're going to Berlin! " said a big fellow who 
was standing, palms downward to the fire. " It's set- 
tled. We're going to Berlin." 

A smaller man with his back against the sandbags 
disagreed. There was a trench argument. 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 241 

" No, we're going to the Rhine," he said. " The 
Russians are going to Berlin." (This was in March, 
19 1 5, remember.) 

" How can they when they ain't over the Balkans 
yet?" 

" The Carpathians, you mean." 

"Well, they're both mountains and the Russians 
have got to cross them. And there's a place called 
Cracow in that region. What's the matter of a pair 
of mountain ranges between you and me, Bill? 
You're strong on geography, but you fail to follow 
the campaign." 

"The Rhine, I say I" 

" It's the Rhine first, but Berlin is what you want 
to keep your mind on." 

Then I asked if they had ever had any doubt that 
they would reach the Rhine. 

" How could we, sir? " 

"And how about the Germans. Do you hate 
them?" 

" Hate I " exclaimed the big man. " What good 
would it do to hate them? No, we don't hate. We 
get our blood up when we're fighting and when they 
don't play the game. But hate! Don't you think 
that's kind of ridiculous, sir? " 

"How do they fight?" 

" They take a bit of beating, do the Bodies! " 

11 So you call them Boches! " 

" Yes. They don't like that. But sometimes we 
call them Allemands, which is Germans in French. 
Oh, we're getting quite French scholars! " 

" They're good soldiers. Not many tricks they're 
not up to. But in my opinion they're overdoing the 
hate. You can't keep up to your work on hate, sir. 



242 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

I should think it would be weakening to the mind, 
too." 

" Still, you would like the war over ? You'd like 
to go home ? " 

They certainly would. Back to the barracks, out 
of the trenches. They certainly would, 

"And call it a draw?" 

" Call it a draw, now I Call it a draw, after all 
we've been through — " 

" Spring is coming. The ground will dry up and 
it will be warm." 

" And the going will be good to Berlin, as it was 
back from Paris in August, we tell the Boches" 

" Good for the Russians going over the Carpa- 
thians, or the Pyrenees, or whatever those mountains 
are, too. I read they're all covered with snow in 



winter." 



It was good, regular soldier talk, very " homey " 
to me. As you will observe, I have not elided the 
h's. Indeed, Tommy has a way of prefixing his h's 
to the right vowels more frequently than a genera- 
tion ago. The " Soldiers Three " type has passed. 
Popular education will have its way and induce better 
habits. Believing in the old remedy for exhaustion 
and exposure to cold, the army served out a tot of 
rum every day to the men. But many of them are 
teetotalers, these hardy regulars, and not even Mul- 
vaney will think them effeminate when they have seen 
fighting which makes anything Mulvaney ever saw 
child's play. So they asked for candy and chocolate, 
instead of rum. 

Some people have said that Tommy has no patriot- 
ism. He fights because he is paid and it is his busi- 
ness. That is an insinuation, Tommy doesn't care 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE 243 

for the " hero stuff," or for waving flags and speech- 
making. Possibly he knows how few Germans that 
sort of thing kills. His weapons are bullets. To 
put it cogently, he is fighting because he doesn't want 
any Kaiser in his. 

Is not that what all the speeches in Parliament are 
about and all the editorials and the recruiting cam- 
paign? Is not that what England and France are 
fighting for ? It seems to me that Tommy's is a very 
practical patriotism, free from cant; and the way that 
he refuses to hate or to get excited, but sticks to it, 
must be very irritating to the Germans. 

" Would you like a Boche helmet for a souvenir, 
sir? " asked a soldier, who appeared on the outer edge 
of the group. He was the small, active type, a British 
soldier with the elan of the Frenchman. " There are 
lots of them out there among the German dead " — 
the unburied German dead, who fell like grass before 
the mower in a desperate and futile counter-attack to 
recover Neuve Chapelle. " I'll have one for you on 
your way back." 

There was no stopping him; he had gone. 

"Matty'sa devil!" said the big man. "He'll 
get it, all right. He's equal to reaching over the 
BockeS parapet and picking one off a Boche* 5 head I " 

As we proceeded on our way, officers came out of 

the little houses to meet Captain P and the 

stranger civilian. They had to come out, as there was 
no room to take us inside ; and sometimes they talked 
shop together after I had answered the usual question, 
" Is America against us?" There seemed to be an 
idea that we were, possibly because of the prodigious 
advertising tactics of a minority. But any feeling that 
we might be did not interfere with their simple cour- 



244 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

tesy, or lead them to express any bitterness or break 
into argument. 

"How are things going on over your side?" 
" Nicely." 
"Any shelling?" 

" A little this morning. No harm done." 
" We cleaned out one bad sniper to-day." 
" Ought to have some sandbags up to-night." 
" It's a bad place there. They've got a machine 
gun trained which has quite a sweep. I asked if the 
artillery shouldn't put in a word, but the general didn't 
think it worth while." 

" You must run across that break. Three or four 
shots at you every time. We're gradually getting 
shipshape, though." 

Just then a couple of bullets went singing overhead. 
The group paid no attention to them. If you paid at- 
tention to bullets over the parapet you would have 
no time for anything else. But these bullets have a 
way of picking off tall officers, who are standing up 
among their houses. In the course of their talk they 
happened to mention such an instance, though not 
with reference to the two bullets I have mentioned. 

" Poor S did not last long. He had been out 

only three weeks." 

"How is J ? Hit badly?" 

" Through the shoulder; not seriously." 

" H is back. Recovered very quickly." 

Normal trench talk, this ! A crack which signifies 
that the bullet has hit — another man down. One 
grows accustomed to it, and one of this group of offi- 
cers might be gone to-morrow. 

" I have one, sir," said Matty, exhibiting a helmet 
when we returned past his station. " Bullet went 



IN NEUVE CHAPELLE *45 

right through the head and came out the peak I " 

It was time that Captain P was back to his own 

command. As we came to his company's line word 
was just being passed from sentry to sentry : 

cl Not firing. Patrols going out." 

It was midnight now. 

"We'll go in the other direction," said Captain 
P , when he had learned that there was no news. 

This brought us to an Irish regiment. The Irish 
naturally had something to say. 



XVII 

WITH THE IRISH 

The Irish have something to say I — The Irish in America — The mis- 
guided Germans — The American's visit an event — Veterans of 
Mons — Eggs in the trenches 1 — Irish hospitality — A dum-dum 
souvenir — A memorable drink — Sixty yards from the Germans 

— The Germans at work — British discipline, a comparison — A 
vision of the German dead — German diaries — Pawns of war 

— A heaven of soap and hot water — In the captain's "house" 

— Soldier shop talk — Trench appetite — A village literally 
flailed — Pity the refugees. 

Here, not the Irish Sea lay between the broad a and 
the brogue, but the space between two sentries or be- 
tween two rifles with bayonets fixed, lying against the 
wall of the breastworks ready for their owners' hands 
when called to arms in case of an alarm. One stepped 
from England into Ireland; and my prediction that 
the Irish would have something to say was correct. 
They had; for that matter, there are always indi- 
vidual Irishmen in the English regiments, lest English 
phlegm should let conversation run short. 

The first man who made his presence felt was a 
good six feet in height, with a heavy moustache, and 
the ear-pieces of his cap tied under his chin though 
the night was not cold. He placed himself fairly in 
front of me in the narrow path back of the breast- 
works and he looked a cowled and sinister figure in 
the faint glow from a brazier. I certainly did not 
want any physical argument with a man of his build. 

"Who are you?" he demanded, as stiffly as if I 

246 



WITH THE IRISH 247 

had broken in at the veranda window with a jimmy. 

For the nearer you get to the front, the more you 
feel that you are in the way. You are a stray extra 
piece of baggage ; a dead human weight. Every one 
is doing something definite as a part of the machine 
except yourself; and in your civilian clothes you feel 
the self-conscious conspicuousness of appearing on a 
dancing-floor in a dressing-gown. 

Captain P was a little way bade in another pas- 
sage. I was alone and in a rough tweed suit — a 
strange figure in that world of khaki and rifles. 

" A German spy I That's why I am dressed this 
way, so as not to excite suspicion," I was going to say, 

when a call from Captain P identified me, and 

the sentry's attitude changed as suddenly as if 
the inspector of police had come along and told 
a patrolman that I might pass through the fire- 
lines. 

" So it's you, is it, right from America? " he said. 
" I've a sister living at Nashua, New Hampshire, 
U. S. A., with three brothers in the United States 
army." 

Whether he had or not you can judge as well as 
I by the twinkle in his eye. He might have had five, 
and again he might not have one. I was a tenderfoot 
seeing the trenches. 

" It's mesilf that's going to America when me sarv- 
ice in the army is up in one year and six months," 
he continued. " That's some time yet. I'm going 
if I'm not killed by the Germans. It's a way that 
they have, or we wouldn't be killing them." 

"What are you going to do in America? Enlist 
in the army?" 

" No. I'm looking for a better job. I'm think- 



248 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ing I'll be one of your millionaires. Shure, but that 
would be to me taste." 

44 What do you think of the Germans? " 

44 It's little thinking we're doing and more shooting. 
Now do ye know our opinion of them ? " 

11 Some of the Irish in America are pro-Ger- 
man." 

44 Now will ye listen to that I Their words come 
out of their mouths without acquainting their heads 
and hearts with what they are saying. Did you ever 
find nine Irishmen on the right side without one doing 
the talking for the divil for the joy of argument? 
It's the Irish that would be at home in the German 
army doing the goose-step and taking orders from the 
Kaiser, is it not, now? " 

44 And what about the Germans — are they win- 
ning?" 

44 They started out strong, singing and goose-step- 
ping high, for the Kaiser had told them that if they 
died for him they could burgle the world, and they 
thought it a grand idea. Shure, we accommodated 
them. There's plenty of them dead, and some of 
them are wondering if, when they're all dead, the 
Kaiser will have any more of the world than when he 
started, which makes them sorry for him and they 
give him another 4 Hoch ' I 'Tis the nature of them, 
because they've never been told different." 

Not one Irishman was speaking really, but a dozen. 
They came out of their little houses and dugouts to 
gather around the brazier; and for every remark I 
made I received a fusillade in reply. It was an event, 
an American appearing in that trench in the small 
hours of the morning. 

44 I've a brother in Oklahoma I " said one. 



WITH THE IRISH 449 

" Is he a millionaire yet ? " I asked. 

" If he is he's keeping it a secret ! " 

Some of them had been at Mons; a few of them had 
gone through the whole campaign without a scratch; 
more had been wounded and returned to the front. I 
like to ask that question, " Were you at Mons? " and 
get the answer, "Yes, sir, I was; I was through it 
all 1 " without boasting — a Mons veteran need not 
boast — but in the spirit of pride. To have been at 
Mons, where that hard-bought retreat of one against 
five began, will ever be enough glory for English, 
Scotch, Irish, or Welsh. It is like saying, " I was in 
Pickett's charge ! " 

A trench-toughened, battle-toughened old sergeant 
was sitting in the doorway of his dugout, frying a strip 
of bacon over one rim of the brazier and making tea 
over the other. The bacon sizzled with an appetising 
aroma and a bullet sizzled harmlessly overhead. Be- 
hind that wall of sandbags all were perfectly safe, un- 
less a shell came. But who worries about shells ? It 
is like worrying about being struck by lightning when 
clouds gather in a summer sky. 

" It looks like good bacon," I remarked. 

" It is that I " said the sergeant. "And the hun- 
grier ye are the better. It's your nose that's telling 
ye so this minute. I can see that ye're hungry your- 
silf!" 

" Then you're pretty well fed? " 

"Well fed, is it? It's stuffed we are, like the 
geese that grow the pate what-do-you-call-it ? Eating 
is our pastime. We eat when we've nothing else to 
do and when we've got to do something. We get eggs 
up here — a fine man is Lord Kitchener — yes, sir, 
eggs up here in the trenches ! " 



450 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

When they seemed to think that I was sceptical, he 
produced some eggs in evidence. 

" And if ye'll not have the bacon, ye'll have a drop 
of tea. Mind, now, while your tongue is trying to be 
polite, your stomach is calling your tongue a liar I " 

Irish hospitality responded to the impulse of a 
warm Irish heart. Wouldn't I have a souvenir? 
Out came German bullets and buckles and officers 9 
whistles and helmets and fragments of shells and 
German diaries. 

" It's easy to get them out there where the Germans 
fell that thick! " I was told. " And will ye look at 
this and take it home to give your pro-German Irish 
in America, to show what their friends are shooting 
at the Irish? I found them mesilf on a dead Ger- 
man. 1 

He passed me a clip of German bullets with the 
blunt ends instead of the pointed ends out. The 
change is readily made, for the German bullet is easily 
pulled out of the cartridge case and the pointed end 
thrust against the powder. Thus fired, it goes accu- 
rately four or five hundred yards, which is more than 
the average distance between German and British 
trenches. When it strikes flesh the effect is that of a 
dum-dum and worse ; for the jacket splits into slivers, 
which spread through the pulpy mass caused by the 
explosion. A leg or an arm thus hit must almost in- 
variably be amputated. I am not suggesting that this 
is a regular practice with German soldiers, but it 
shows what wickedness is in the power of the sinister 
one. 

" But ye'll take the tea," said the sergeant, " with a 
little rum hot in it 'Twill take the chill out of your 
bones." 



WITH THE IRISH 251 

44 What If I haven't a chill in my bones? " 

44 Maybe it's there without speaking to ye and it 
will be speaking before an hour longer — or afther 
ye're home between the sheets with the rheumatiz, 
and ye'U be saying, 4 Why didn't I take that glass ? ' 
which I'm holding out to ye this minute, steaming its 
invitation to be drunk." 

Held out by a man who had been at Mons and 
44 through it all " I It was a memorable drink 
Champagne poured out by a butler at your elbow is 
insipid beside it. Snatches of brogue followed me 
from the brazier's glow when I insisted that I must 
be going. 

Now our breastworks took a turn and we were ap- 
proaching closer to the German breastworks. Both 
lines remained where they had 44 dug in " after the 
counter-attacks which had followed the battle had been 
checked. Ground is too precious in this siege warfare 
to yield a foot. Soldiers become misers of soil. 
Where the flood is checked there you build your dam 
against another flood. 

44 We are within about sixty yards of the Germans," 

said Captain P , at length, after we had gone in 

and out of the traverses and left the braziers well 
behind. 

Between the spotty, whitish wall of German sand- 
bags, quite distinct in the moonlight, and our parapet 
were two mounds of sandbags about twenty feet apart. 
Snug behind one was a German and behind the other 
an Irishman, both listening. They were within easy 
bombing range, but the homicidal advantage of po- 
sition of either resulted in a truce. Sixty yards! 
Pace it off. It is not far. In other places the enemies 
have been as close as five yards — only a wall of earth 



252 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

between them. Where a bombing operation ends in 
an attack, a German is naturally on one side of a 
traverse and a Briton on the other. 

The Germans were as busy as beavers dam building. 
They had a lot of work to do before they had their 
new defences right. We heard them driving stakes 
and spading; we heard their voices with snatches of 
sentences intelligible and occasionally the energetic, 
shouted, guttural commands of their officers. All 
through that night I never heard a British officer speak 
above a conversational tone. The orders were defi- 
nite enough, but given with a certain companionable 
kindliness. I have spoken of the genuine affection 

which his men showed for Captain P , and I was 

beginning to appreciate that it was not a particular 
instance. 

" What if you should shout at Tommy in the Ger- 
man fashion?" I asked. 

" He wouldn't have it; he'd get rebellious," was the 
reply. " No, you mustn't yell at Tommy. He's a 
little temperamental about some things and he will not 
be treated as if he were just a human machine." 

Yet no one will question the discipline of the Brit- 
ish soldier. Discipline means that the officer knows 
his men, and British discipline, which bears a retreat 
like that from Mons, requires that the man likes to 
follow his officers, believes in his officers, loves his 
officers. Each army and each people to its own ways. 

Sixty yards I And the dead between the trenches 
and death lurking ready at a trigger's pull should life 
show itself! When daylight comes the British sing 
out their " Good morning, Germans I " and the Ger- 
mans answer, " Good morning, British I " without 
adding, " We hope to kill some of you to-day I " 



WITH THE IRISH 253 

Ragging banter and jest and worse than jest and grim 
defiance are exchanged between the trenches when 
they are within such easy hearing distance of each 
other; but always from a safe position behind the par- 
apet which the adversaries squint across through their 
periscopes. The thing was ridiculous. 

At the gibe business the German is, perhaps, better 
than the Briton. Early in the evening a regiment on 
our right broke into a busy fusillade at some fancied 
movement of the enemy. In trench talk, that is get- 
ting " jumpy." The Germans in front roared out 
their contempt in a chorus of guying laughter. 
Toward morning, these same Germans also became 
" jumpy " and began tearing the air with bullets, firing 
against nothing but the blackness of night. Tommy 
Atkins only made some characteristic comments; for 
he is a quiet fellow, except when he is played on the 
music hall stage. Possibly he feels the inconsistency 
of laughter when you are killing human beings; for, 
as his officers say, he is temperamental and never goes 
to the trouble of analysing his emotions. A very real 
person and a good deal of a philosopher is Mr. At- 
kins, Britain's professional fighting man, who was the 
only kind of fighting man she had ready for the war. 

Any small boy who had never had enough fireworks 
in his life might be given a job in the German trenches, 
with the privilege of firing flares till he fell asleep 
from exhaustion. All night they were going, with the 
regularity of clockwork. The only ones sent up from 
our side that night were shot in order that I might get 
a better view of the German dead. 

You know how water lies in the low places on the 
ground after a heavy rain. Well, the patches of dead 
were like that, and dark in the spots where they were 



254 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

very thick — dark as with the darkness of deeper 
water. There were also irregular tongues of dead 
and scattered dead, with arms outstretched or under 
them as they fell, and faces white even in the reddish 
glare of the rockets and turned toward you in the 
charge that failed under the withering blasts of ma- 
chine guns, ripping out two or three hundred shots a 
minute, and well-aimed rifle bullets, each bullet getting 
its man. Threatening that charge would have seemed 
to a recruit, but measured and calculated in certainty 
of failure in the minds of veteran defenders, who knew 
that the wheat could not stand before their mowers. 
Man's flesh is soft and a bullet is hard and travels fast. 

One bit of satire which Tommy sent across the field 
covered with its burden of slaughter to the Germans 
who are given to song, ought to have gone home. It 
was : " Why don't you stop singing and bury your 
dead? " But the Germans, having given no armistice 
in other times when British dead lay before the 
trenches, asked for none here. The dead were nearer 
to the British than to the Germans. The discomfort 
would be in British and not German nostrils. And 
the dead cannot fight; they can help no more to win 
victory for the Fatherland. And the time is A. D., 
19 1 5. Two or three thousand German dead alto- 
gether, perhaps — not many out of the Kaiser's mil- 
lions. Yet they seemed a great many to one who saw 
them lying there. 

We stopped to read by the light of a brazier some 
German soldiers' diaries that the Irishmen had. 
They were cheap little books, bought for a few cents, 
each one telling the dead man's story and revealing the 
monotony of a soldier's existence in Europe to-day. 
These pawns of war had been marched here and there, 



WITH THE IRISH 155 

they never knew why. The last notes were when 
orders came entraining them. They did not know 
that they were to be sent out of those woods yonder to 
recover Neuve Chapelle — out of those woods in the 
test of all their drill and waiting. 

A Bavarian officer — for these were Bavarians — 
actually rode in that charge. He must have worked 
himself up to a strangely exalted optimism and con- 
tempt of British fire. Or was it that he, too, did not 
know what he was going against? that only the Ger- 
man general knew ? Neither he nor his horse lasted 
long ; not more than a dozen seconds. The thing was 
so splendidly foolhardy that in some little war it 
might have become the saga of a regiment, the subject 
of ballads and paintings. In this war it was an inci- 
dent heralded for a day in one command and forgotten 
the next. 

" Good night ! " called the Irish. 

" Good night and good luck ! " 

" Tell them in America that the Irish are still fight- 
ing!" 

" Good luck, and may your travelling be aisy; but 
if ye trip, may ye fall into a gold mine ! " 

We were back with the British regulars; and here, 
also, many of the men remained up around the 
braziers. The hours of duty of the few on watch do 
not take many of the twenty-four hours. One may 
sleep when he chooses in the little houses behind the 
breastworks. Night melts into day and day into 
night in the monotony of mud and sniping rifle-fire. 
By-and-by it is your turn to go into reserve; your 
turn to get out of your clothes — for there are no 
pajamas for officers or men in these " crawls," as they 
are sometimes called. Boots off is the only undress- 



256 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ing; boots off and puttees unloosed, which saves the 
feet. Yes, by-and-by the march back to the rear, 
where there are tubs filled with hot water and an outfit 
of clean clothes awaiting you, and nothing to do but 
rest and sleep. 

" How soon after we leave the trenches may we 
cheer? " officers have been asked in the dead of win- 
ter, when water stood deep over the porous mud and 
morning found a scale of ice around the legs. 

You, nicely testing the temperature of your morn- 
ing tub ; you, satisfied only with faucets of hot and cold 
water and a mat to stand on — you know nothing 
about the joy of bathing. Your bath is a mere part 
of the daily routine of existence. Try the trenches 
and get itchy with vermin; then you will know that 
heaven consists of soap and hot water. 

No bad odour assails your nostrils wherever you 
may go in the British lines. Its cleanliness, if noth- 
ing else, would make British army comradeship enjoy- 
able. My wonder never ceases how Tommy keeps 
himself so neat; how he manages to shave every day 
and get a part, at least, of the mud off his uniform. 
It makes him feel more as if he were " at home " in 
barracks. 

From the breastworks, Captain P and I went 

for a stroll in the village, or the site of the village, 
silent except for the occasional singing of a bullet. 
When we returned he lighted the candle on a stick 
stuck into the wall of his little earth-roofed house and 
suggested a nap. It was three o'clock in the morning. 
Now I could see that my rubber boots had grown so 
heavy because I was carrying so much of the soil of 
Northern France. It looked as if I had gout in both 
feet — the over-bandaged, stage type of gout — 



WITH THE IRISH 257 

which were encased in large mud poultices. I tried to 
stamp off the incubus, but it would not go. I tried 
scraping one foot on the other, and what I scraped off 
seemed to reattach itself as fast as I could remove it. 

" Don't try ! " said the captain. " Lie down and 
pull your boots off in the doorway. Perhaps you will 
get some sleep before daybreak." 

Sleep 1 Does a debutante go to sleep at her first 
ball? Sleep in such good company, the company of 
this captain, who was smiling all the while with his 
eyes ; smiling at his mud house, at the hardships in the 
trenches, and, I hope, at having a guest, who had been 
with armies before! 

It was the first time that I had been in the trenches 
all night ; the first time, indeed, when I had not been 
taken into them by an escort in a kind of promenade. 
On this visit I was in the family. If it is the right 
kind of a family that is the way to get a good impres- 
sion. There would be plenty of time to sleep when I 
returned to London. 

So Captain P and I lay there talking. One 

felt the dampness of the earth under his body and the 
walls exuded moisture. The average cellar was dry 
by comparison. " You will get your death of cold I " 
any mother would cry in alarm if her boy were found 
even sitting on such cold, wet ground. For it was a 
clammy night of early spring. Yet, peculiarly enough, 
few men get colds from this exposure. One gets 
colds from draughts in overheated rooms much 
oftener. Luckily, it was not raining; it had been rain- 
ing most of the winter in the flat country of Northern 
France and Flanders. 

" It is very horrible, this kind of warfare," said the 
Captain. He wa? thinking of the method of it, rather 



258 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

than of the discomforts. " All war is very horrible, 
of course." Regular soldiers rarely take any other 
view. They know war. 

" With your wounded arm you might be back in 
England on leave/' I suggested. 

" Oh, that arm is all right! " he replied. " This is 
what I am paid for" — which I had heard regulars 
say before. " And it is for England I " he added, in 
his quiet way. " Sometimes I think we should fight 
better if we officers could hate the Germans," he went 
on. " The German idea is that you must hate if you 
are going to fight well. But we can't hate." 

Sound views he had about the war; sounder than I 
have heard from the lips of cabinet ministers. For 
these regular officers are specialists in war. 

" Do you think that we shall starve the Germans 
out?" 

" No. We must win by fighting," he replied. 
This was in March, 19 15. " You know," he went on, 
taking another tack, " when one gets back to England 
out of this muck he wants good linen and everything 
very nice." 

" Yes. I've found the same after roughing it," I 
agreed. " One is most particular that he has every 
comfort to which civilisation entitles him." 

We chatted on. Much of our talk was soldier shop 
talk, which you will not care to hear. Twice we were 
interrupted by an outburst of firing, and the captain 
hurried out to ascertain the reason. Some false alarm 
had started the rifles speaking from both sides. A 
fusillade for two or three minutes and the firing died 
down to silence. 

Dawn broke and it was time for me to go; and 
with daylight, when danger of a night surprise was 



WITH THE IRISH 259 

over, the captain would have his sleep. I was leaving 
him to his mud house and his bed on the wet ground 
without a blanket. It was more important to have 
sandbags up for the breastworks than to have blan- 
kets; and as the men had not yet received theirs, he 
had none himself. 

" It's not fair to the men," he said. " I don't want 
anything they don't have." 

No better food and no better house and no warmer 
garments 1 He spoke not in any sense of stated duty, 
but in the affection of the comradeship of war; the 
affection born of that imperturbable courage of his 
soldiers, who had stood a stone wall of cool resolution 
against German charges when it seemed as if they 
must go. The glamour of war may have departed, 
but not the brotherhood of hardship and dangers 
shared. 

What had been a routine night to him had been a 
great night to me; one of the most memorable of 
my life. 

" I was glad you could come," he said, as I made 
my adieu, quite as if he were saying adieu to a guest 
at home in England. 

Some of the soldiers called their cheery good-byes ; 
and with a lieutenant to guide me, I set out while the 
light was still dusky, leaving the comforting parapet 
to the rear to go into the open, four hundred yards 
from the Germans. A German, though he could not 
have seen us distinctly, must have noted something 
moving. Two of his bullets came rather close before 
we passed out of his vision among some trees. 

In a few minutes I was again entering the peasant's 
cottage that was battalion headquarters; this time by 
daylight. Its walls were chipped by bullets that had 



26o MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

come over the breastworks. The major was just get- 
ting up from his blankets in the cellar. By this time 
I had a real trench appetite. Not until after break- 
fast did it occur to me, with some surprise, that I had 
not washed my face. 

" The food was just as good, wasn't it? " remarked 
the major. " We get quite used to such breaches of 
convention. Besides, you had been up all night, so 
your breakfast might be called your after-the-theatre 
supper." 

With him I went to see what the ruins of Neuve 
Chapelle looked like by daylight. The destruction 
was not all the result of one bombardment, for the 
British had been shelling Neuve Chapelle off and on 
all winter. Of course, there is the old earthquake 
comparison. All writers have used it. But it is 
quite too feeble for Neuve Chapelle. An earthquake 
merely shakes down houses. The shells had done a 
good deal more than that. They had crushed the 
remains of the houses as under the pestle head in a 
mortar; blown walls into dust; taken bricks from the 
east side of the house over to the west and thrown 
them back with another explosion. 

Neuve Chapelle had been literally flailed with the 
high explosive projectiles of the new British artillery, 
which the British had to make after the war began to 
compete with what the Germans already had; for 
poor, lone, wronged, bullied Germany quite unpre- 
pared — Austria with her fifty millions does not 
count — was fighting on the defensive against wicked, 
aggressive enemies who were fully prepared. This 
explains why she invaded France and took possession 
of towns like Neuve Chapelle to defend her poor, un- 
ready people from the French, who had been plotting 



WITH THE IRISH 261 

and planning " the day " when they would conquer the 
Germans. 

Bits of German equipment were mixed with ruins 
of clocks and family pictures and household utensils. 
I noticed a bicycle which had been cut in two, its parts 
separated by twenty feet ; one wheel was twisted into a 
spool of wire, the other simply mashed. 

Where was the man who had kept the shop with a 
few letters of his name still visible on a splintered 
bit of board ? Where the children who had played in 
the littered square in front of the church, with its 
steeples and walls piles of stone that had crushed the 
worshippers 9 benches? Refugees somewhere back of 
the British lines, working on the roads if strong 
enough, helping France any way they could, not mur- 
muring, even smiling, and praying for victory, which 
would let them return to their homes and daily duties. 
To their homes I 



XVIII 

WITH THE GUNS 

A war of explosions — And machines — Battle-panorama style — 
Value of surprise — Ever hungry guns — Accurate or blind and 
groping guns — Demon guns — Balloon observations — Finding 
the guns — Ingenious concealments — " Funk pits " — Mechanism 
— Bookkeeping and trigonometry — " Cover! "—The German 
aeroplane — New howitzers and their crews — The general — A 
gun specialist — The " hell-for-leather " guns — The "curtain of 
fire 1 '— In operation — Spotting the targets — How the system 
works — A chagrined gunner — A bull's eyet — The Germans 
retort — Horrible fascination of war — A queer "refugee" — 
" Besides, they are women and children." 

It is a war of explosions, from bombs thrown by hand 
within ten yards of the enemy to shells thrown as far 
as twenty miles and mines laid under the enemy's 
trenches; a war of guns, from seventeen-inch down to 
three-inch and machine guns ; a war of machinery, with 
man still the pre-eminent machine. 

Guns mark the limit of the danger zone. Their 
screaming shells laugh at the sentries at the entrances 
to towns and at cross-roads who demand passes of all 
other travellers. Any one who tried to keep out of 
range of the guns would never get anywhere near the 
front. It is all a matter of chance, with long odds or 
short odds, according to the neighbourhood you are 
in. If shells come, they come without warning and 
without ceremony. Nobody is afraid of shells and 
everybody is — at least, I am. 

"Gawd! Wat a 'ole!" remarks Mr. Thomas 



WITH "THE GUNS 263 

Atkins casually, at sight of an excavation in the earth 
made by a thousand-pound projectile. 

It is only eighteen years ago that, at the battle of 
Domoko in the Greco-Turkish war, I saw half a dozen 
Turkish batteries swing out on the plain of Thessaly, 
limber up in the open and discharge salvos with black 
powder, in the good, old, battle-panorama style. One 
battery of modern field guns unseen would wipe out 
the lot in five minutes. Only ten years ago, at the 
battle of Liao-yang, as I watched a cloud of shrapnel 
smoke sending down steel showers over the little hill 
of Manjanyama, which sent up showers of earth from 
shells burst by impact on the ground, a Japanese mili- 
tary attache remarked : 

" There you have a prophecy of what a European 
war will be like ! " 

He was right. He knew his business as a military 
attache. The voices of the guns along the front seem 
never silent. In some direction they are always firing. 
When one night the reports from a certain quarter 
seemed rather heavy, I asked the reason the next day. 

" No, not very heavy. No attack," a division staff 
officer explained. " The Boches had been building a 
redoubt and we turned on some h. e. s." — meaning 
high explosive shells. 

Night after night, under cover of darkness, the Ger- 
mans had been labouring on that redoubt, thinking 
that they were unobserved. They had kept extremely 
quiet, too, slipping their spades into the earth softly 
and hammering a nail ever so lightly; and, of course, 
the redoubt was placed behind a screen of foliage which 
hid it from the view of the British trenches. Such is 
the hide-and-seek character of modern war. What 
the German builders did not know wa$ that a British 



a«4 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

aeroplane had been watching them day by day and 
that the spot was nicely registered on a British gun- 
ner's map. On this map it was a certain numbered 
point. Press a button, as it were, and you ring the 
bell with a shell at that point. The gunners waited 
till the house of cards was up before knocking it to 
pieces. 

Surprise is the thing with the guns. A town may 
go for weeks without getting a single shell. Then 
it may get a score in ten minutes ; or it may be shelled 
regularly every day for weeks. " They are shelling 
X again," or, " They have been leaving Z alone for 
a long time," is a part of the gossip up and down the 
line. Towns are proud of having escaped altogether 
and proud of the number and size of the shells re- 
ceived. 

"Did you get any?" I asked the division staff 
officer, who had told me about the session the six-inch 
howitzers had enjoyed. A common question that, at 
the front, " Did you get any? " (meaning Germans). 
A practical question, too. It has nothing to do with 
the form of play or any bit of sensational fielding; 
only with the score, with results, with casualties. 

" Yes, quite a number," said the officer. " Our 
observer saw them lying about." 

The guns are watching for targets at all hours — 
the ever hungry, ever ready, murderous, cunning, 
quick, scientifically calculating, marvellously accurate, 
and also the guessing, wondering, blind, groping, help- 
less, guns, which toss their steel messengers over 
streams, woodlands, and towns, searching for their 
unseen prey in a wide landscape. 

Accurate and murderous they seem when you drop 
low behind a trench wall or huddle in a dugout as you 



WITH THE GUNS 265 

hear an approaching scream, and the earth trembles, 
the air is wracked by a concussion, and the cry of a 
man a few yards away tells of a hit. Very accurate 
when still others, sent from muzzles six or seven thou- 
sand yards away, fall in that same line of trench I 
Very accurate when, before an infantry attack, with 
bursts of shrapnel bullets they cut to bits the barbed- 
wire entanglements in front of a trench ! The power 
of chaos that they seem to possess when the fighting- 
trench and the dugouts and all the human warrens 
which protect the defenders are beaten as flour is 
kneaded ! 

Blind and groping they seem when a dozen shells 
fall harmlessly in a field ; when they send their missiles 
toward objects which may not be worth shooting at; 
when no one sees where the shells hit and the amount 
of damage they have done is guesswork; and helpless 
without the infantry to protect them, the aeroplanes 
and the observers to see for them. 

One thinks of them as demons with subtle intelli- 
gence and long reach, their gigantic fists striking here 
and there at will, without a visible arm behind the 
blow. An army guards against the blows of an en- 
emy's demons with every kind of cover, every kind of 
deception, with all resources of scientific ingenuity and 
invention; and an army guards its own demons in 
their lairs as preciously as if they were made of some 
delicate substance which would go up in smoke at a 
glance from the enemy's eye, instead of having bar- 
rels of the strongest steel that can be forged. 

Your personal feeling for the demons on your side 
is in ratio to the amount of hell sent by the enemy's 
which you have tasted. After you have been scared 
stiff, while pretending that you were not, by sharing 



266 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

with Mr. Atkins an accurate bombardment of a trench 
and are convinced that the next shell is bound to get 
you, you fall into the attitude of the -army. You want 
to pat the demon on the back and say, " Nice old 
demon ! " and watch him toss a shell three or four 
miles into the German lines from the end of his fiery 
tongue. Indeed, nothing so quickly develops interest 
in the British guns as having the German gunners take 
too much personal interest in you. 

You must have some one to show you the way or 
you would not find any guns. A man with a dog 
trained to hunt guns might spend a week on the gun- 
position area covering ten miles of the front and not 
locate half the guns. He might miss " Grand- 
mother " and " Sister " and " Betsy " and " Mike " 
and even " Mister Archibald," who is the only one 
who does not altogether try to avoid publicity. 

When an attack or an artillery bombardment is on 
and you go to as high ground as possible for a bird's- 
eye view of battle, all you see is the explosion of the 
shells; never anything of the guns which are firing. 
In the distance over the German lines and in the fore- 
ground over the British lines is a balloon, shaped like 
a caterpillar with folded wings — a chrysalis of a 
caterpillar. Tugging at its moorings, it turns this 
way and that with the breeze. The speck directly 
beneath it through the glasses becomes an ordinary 
balloon basket and other specks attached to a guy rope 
play the part of the tail of a kite, helping to steady 
the type of balloon which has taken the place of the 
old spherical type for observation. 

Any one who has been up in a captive spherical bal- 
loon knows how difficult it is to keep his glasses 
focussed on any object, because of the jerking and 



\ 



WITH THE GUNS 267 

pitching and trembling due to the envelope's response 
to air-movements. The new type partly overcomes 
this drawback. To shrapnel their thin envelope is 
as vulnerable as a paper drum-head to a knife ; but I 
have seen them remain up defiantly when shells were 
bursting within three or four hundred yards, which 
their commanders seemed to understand was the limit 
of the German battery's reach. Again, I have seen a 
shrapnel burst alongside within range ; and five minutes 
later the balloon was down and out of sight. No bal- 
loon observer hopes to see the enemy's guns. He is 
watching for shell-bursts, in order to inform the guns 
of his side whether or not they are on the target. 

Riding along the roads at the front, one may know 
that there is a battery a stone's throw away only when 
a blast from a hidden gun-muzzle warns him of its 
presence. It was wonderful to me that the artillery 
general who took me gun-seeing knew where his own 
guns were, let alone the enemy's. I imagine that he 
could return to a field and locate a four-leafed clover 
that he had seen on a previous stroll. His dogs of 
war had become foxes of war, burrowing in places 
which wise, old father foxes knew were safest from 
detection. Hereafter, I shall not be surprised to see 
a muzzle poking its head out of an oven, or from un- 
der grandfather's chair or a farm wagon, or up a tree, 
or in a garret. Think of the last place in the world 
for emplacing a gun and one may be there; think of 
the most likely place and one may be there. 

You might be walking across the fields and minded 
to go through a hedge and bump into a black ring of 
steel with a gun's crew grinning behind it. They 
would grin because you had given proof of how well 
their gun was concealed. But they wouldn't grin as 



268 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

much as they would if they saw the enemy plunking 
shells into another hedge two hundred yards distant, 
where the German aeroplane observer thought he had 
seen a battery and had not. 

" I'll show you a big one, first ! " said the general. 

We left the car at a cottage and walked along a 
lane. I looked all about the premises and could sec 
only some artillerymen. An officer led me up to a 
gun-breech; at least, I know a gun-breech when it is 
one foot from my nose and a soldier has removed its 
covering. But I shall not tell how that gun was con- 
cealed; the method was sp audacious that it was en- 
tirely successful. The Gehnans would like to know 
and we don't want them to know. A pencil-point on 
their map for identification, and they would send a 
whirlwind of shells at that gun. 

And then ? 

Would the gun try to fire back? No. Its gun- 
ners probably would not know the location of any of 
the German batteries which had concentrated on their 
treasure. They would desert the gun. If they did 
not, they ought to be court-martialed for needlessly 
risking the precious lives of trained men. They 
would make for the " funk pits," just as the gunners 
of any other power would. 

The chances are that the gun itself would not be 
hit bodily by a shell. Fragments might strike it with- 
out causing more than an abrasion ; for big guns have 
pretty thick cuticle. When the storm was over, the 
gunners would move the gun to another hiding-place ; 
which would mean a good deal of work on account of 
its size. 

It is the inability of gun to see gun, and even when 
seen to knock out gun, which has put an end to the so- 



WITH THE GUNS 269 

called artillery duel of pitched-battle days, when can- 
non walloped cannon to keep cannon from walloping 
the infantry. Now when there is an action, though 
guns still go after guns if they know where they are, 
most of the firing is done against trenches and to sup- 
port trenches and infantry works, or with a view to 
demoralising the infantry. Concentration of artillery 
fire will demolish an enemy's trench and let your in- 
fantry take possession of the wreckage remaining; but 
then the enemy's artillery concentrates on your in- 
fantry and frequently makes their new habitation un- 
tenable. 

Noiselessly except for a little click, with chickens 
clucking in a field near by, the big breech-block which 
held the shell fast, sending all the power of the explo- 
sion out of the muzzle, was swung back and one 
looked through the shining tube of steel, with its rifling 
which caught the driving band and gave the shell its 
rotation and accuracy in its long journey, which would 
close when, descending at the end of its parabola, its 
nose struck brick or earth or pavement and it ex- 
ploded. 

Wheels that lift and depress and swing the muzzle, 
and gadgets with figures on them, and other scales 
which play between the map and the gadgets, and 
atmospheric pressure and wind variation, all worked 
out with the same precision under a French hedge as 
on board a battleship where the gun-mounting is fast 
to massive ribs of steel — it seemed a matter of book- 
keeping and trigonometry rather than war. 

If a shell from this gun were to hit at the corner of 
Wall Street and Broadway at the noon hour, it would 
probably kill and wound a hundred men. If it went 
into the dugout of a support trench it would get every- 



270 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

body there; but if it went ten yards beyond the trench 
into the open field it would probably get nobody. 

" Cover 1 " some one exclaimed, while we were look- 
ing at the gun ; and everybody promptly got under the 
branches of a tree or a shed. A German aeroplane 
was cruising in our direction. If the aviator saw a 
group of men standing about, he might draw conclu- 
sions and pass the wireless word to send in some shells 
at whatever number on the German gunners 9 map was 
ours. 

These gunners loved their gun; loved it for the 
power which it could put into a blow under their 
trained hands; loved it for the care and the labour it 
had meant for them. It is the way of gunners to love 
their gun, or they would not be good gunners. Of all 
the guns I saw that day, I think that two big howitzers 
meant the most to their masters. These had just ar- 
rived. They had been set up only two days. They 
had not yet fired against the enemy. For many 
months the gunners had drilled in England, and had 
tried their " eight-inch hows " out on the target range, 
and brought them across the Channel, and nursed 
them along the French roads, and finally set them up 
in their hidden lair. Now they waited for observers 
to assist them in registration. 

When the general approached there was a call to 
turn out the guard ; but he stopped that. At the front 
there is an end of the ceremoniousness of the barracks. 
Military formality disappears. Discipline, as well as 
other things, is simpler and more real. The men 
went on with their recess, playing football in a nearby 
field. 

The officers possibly were a trifle diffident and un- 
certain; they had not yet the veterans' manner. It 



WITH THE GUNS 271 

was clear that they had done everything required by 
the text-book of theory — the latest, up-to-date text- 
book of experience at the front as taught in England. 
When they showed us how they had stored their stock 
of shells to be safe from a shot by the enemy, one re- 
marked that the method was according to the latest 
directions, though there was some difference among 
military experts on the subject. When there is a dif- 
ference, what is the beginner to do? An old hand, 
of course, does it his way until an order makes him do 
otherwise. 

The general had a suggestion about the application 
of the method. He had little to say, the general, and 
it all was in the spirit of comradeship and much to the 
point. Few things escaped his observation. It seems 
fairly true that one who knows any branch of' human 
endeavour well makes his work appear easy. Once a 
gunner always a gunner is characteristic of all armies. 
The general had spent his life with guns. He was a 
specialist visiting his plant ; one of the staff specialists 
responsible to a corps commander for the work of the 
guns on a certain section of map, for accuracy and 
promptness of fire when it was needed in the com- 
mander's plans. 

If the newcomers put their shells into the target on 
their first trial they had qualified ; and sometimes new- 
comers shoot quite as well as veterans, which is a sur- 
prise to both and the best kind of news for the gen- 
eral who is in charge of an expanding plant. New 
guns are just beginning to come ; England is only be- 
ginning to make war. It takes time to make a gun 
and time to train men to fire it. The war will be won 
by gunners and infantry that knew nothing of guns or 
drill when the war began. 



2 7 * MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

" Here are some who have been in France from the 
first/' said the general, when we came to a battery of 
field-guns; of the eighteen-pounders, the fellows you 
see behind the galloping horses, the hell-for-leather 
guns, the guns which bring the gleam of affection into 
the eyes of men who think of pursuits and covering 
retreats and the pitched-battle conditions, before 
armies settled down in trenches and growled and 
hissed at each other day after day and brought up 
guns of calibres which we associate with battleships 
and coast fortifications. 

These are called " light stuff " and " whiz-bangs " 
now, in army parlance. They throw an eighteen- 
pound shell which carries three hundred bullets, and 
so fast that one chases another through the air. 
There has been so much talk about the need of heavy 
guns that you might think eighteen-pounders were too 
small for consideration. Were the German line bro- 
ken, these are the ones which could follow as rapidly 
as the engineers could lay bridges for them to cross. 

They are the boys who weave the " curtain of fire " 
which you read about in the French official bulletins as 
checking an infantry charge; which demolish the 
barbed-wire entanglements to let an infantry charge 
get into a trench. If a general wants a shower of bul- 
lets over any part of the German line he has only to 
call up the eighteen-pounders and it is sent as promptly 
as the pressure of a button brings a pitcher of iced 
water to a room in a first-class hotel. A veteran eight- 
een-pounder crew in action is a poem in precision and 
speed of movement. The gun itself seems to possess 
intelligence. 

There was the finesse of gunners' craft, worthy of 



WITH THE GUNS 273 

veterans, in the way that these eighteen-pounders were 
concealed. The Germans had put some shells in the 
neighbourhood, but without fooling the old hands. 
They did not change the location of their battery, and 
their judgment that the shots which came near were 
chance shots fired at another object was justified. 
Particularly I should like to mention their " funk pits," 
which kept them safe from the heaviest shells. For 
the veterans knew how to take care of themselves; 
they had an eye to the protection which comes of ex- 
perience with German high explosives. Their expert 
knowledge of all the ins and outs of their business had 
been fought into them for eleven months. 

Another field battery, also, I have in mind, placed 
in an orchard. Which orchard of all the thousands of 
orchards along the British front the German Staff may 
guess, if they choose. If German guns fired at all the 
orchards, one by one, they might locate it — and then 
again they might not. Besides, this is a peculiar sort 
of orchard. 

It is a characteristic of gunners to be neat and to 
have an eye for the comeliness of things. These men 
had a lawn and a garden and tables and chairs. If 
you are familiar. with tljie tidiness of a retired New 
England sailor, who regards his porch as a quarter- 
deck and sallies forth to remove each descending 
autumn leaf from the grass, then you know how scru- 
pulous they were about litter. 

For weeks they had been in the same position, un- 
seen by German aeroplanes. They had daily baths; 
they did their week's washing, taking care not to hang 
it where it would be visible from the sky. Every 
day they received London papers and letters from 



274 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

home. When they were needed to help in making 
war, all they had to do was to slip a shell in the breech 
and send it with their compliments to the Germans. 
They were camping out at His Majesty's expense in 
the pleasant land of France in the joyous summer 
time; and on the roof of sods over their guns were 
pots of flowers, undisturbed by blasts from the gun- 
muzzles. 

It was when leaving another battery that, out of the 
tail of my eye, I caught a lurid flash through a hedge, 
followed by the sharp, ear-piercing crack that comes 
from being in line with a gun-muzzle when a shot is 
fired. We followed a path which took us to the rear 
of the report, where, through undergrowth, we 
stepped among the busy groups around the breeches of 
some guns of one of the larger calibres. 

An order for some " heavy stuff " at a certain point 
on the map was being filled. Sturdy men were moving 
in a pantomime under the shade of a willow tree, each 
doing exactly his part in a process that seemed as 
simple as opening a cupboard door, slipping in a pack- 
age of concentrated destruction, and closing the door 
again. All that detail of range-finding and mathe- 
matical adjustment of aim at the unseen target which 
takes so long to explain was applied as automatically 
as an adding-machine adds up a column of figures. 
Everybody was as practice-perfect in his part as per- 
formers who have made hundreds of appearances in 
the same act on the stage. 

All ready, the word given, a crack, and through the 
air in front you saw a wingless, blade object rising in 
a curve against the soft blue sky, which it seemed to 
sweep with a sound something like the escape of water 
through a break in the garden hose, multiplied by 



WITH THE GUNS 275 

ten, rising to its zenith and then descending till it 
passed out of sight behind a green bank of foliage on 
the horizon. 

After the scream had been lost to the ear you heard 
the faint, thudding boom of an explosion from the 
burst of that conical piece of steel which you had seen 
slipped into the breech. This was the gunners' part 
in chess-board war, where the moves are made over 
signal wires, while the infantry endure the explosions 
in their trenches and fight in their charges in the 
traverses of the trenches at as close quarters as in the 
days of the cave-dwellers. 

There was no stopping work when the general came, 
of course. It would have been the same had Lord 
Kitchener been present. The battery commander ex- 
pressed his regret that he could not show me his guns 
without any sense of irony; meaning that he was sorry 
he was too busy to tell me more about his battery. In 
about the time that it took a telegraph key to click 
after 6ach one of those distant bursts, he knew 
whether or not the shot was on the target and what 
variation of degree to make in the next if it were not; 
or if the word came to shift the point of aim a little, 
when you are trying to shake the enemy up here and 
there along a certain length of trench. 

At another wire-end some one was spotting the 
bursts. Perhaps he was in the kind of place where I 
once found an observer, who was sitting upon a cushion 
looking out through a chink broken in a wall, with a 
signal corps operator near by. It was a small chink, 
just large enough to allow the lens of a pair of glasses 
or a telescope a range of vision ; and even then I was 
given certain warnings before the cover over the 
chink was removed, though there could not have been 



276 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

any German in uniform nearer than four thousand 
yards. But there may be spies within your own lines, 
looking for such holes. 

From this post I could make out the German and 
the British trenches in muddy white lines of sand- 
bags running snake-like across the fields, and the officer 
identified points on the map to me. Every tree and 
hedge and ditch in the panorama were graven on his 
mind; all had language for him. His work was en- 
grossing. It had risk, too ; there was no telling when 
a shell might lift him off the cushion and provide a 
hole for his remains. If he were shelled, the observer 
would go to a funk pit, as the gunners do, until the 
storm had passed ; and then he would move on with his 
cushion and his telegraph instrument and make a hole 
in another wall, if he did not find a tree or some other 
eminence which suited his taste better. Meanwhile, 
he was not the only observer in that section. There 
were others nearer the trenches, perhaps actually in the 
trenches. The two armies, seeming chained to their 
trenches, are set with veiled eyes at the end of wires; 
veiled eyes trying to locate the other's eyes, the other's 
guns and troops, and the least movement which indi- 
cates any attempt to gain an advantage. 

" Gunnery is navigation, dead reckoning, with the 
spotting observer the sun by which you correct your 
reckoning," said one of the artillery officers. 

Firing enough one had seen — landscape bathed in 
smoke and dust and reverberating with explosions ; but 
all as a spectacle from the orchestra seat, not too close 
at hand for comfort. This time I was to see the guns 
fire and then I was to see the results of the firing in de- 
tail. Both can rarely be seen at the same time. It 
was not show firing, this that we watched from an ob- 



WITH THE GUNS 277 

serving station, but part of the day's work for the guns 
and the general. First, the map ; " here and there," 
as an officer's finger pointed; and then one looked 
across the fields, green and brown and golden with 
summer crops. 

Item I. The Germans were fortifying a certain 
point on a certain farm. We were going to put some 
" heavy stuff " in there and some " light stuff," too. 
The burst of our shells could be located in relation to a 
certain tree. 

Item II. Our planes thought that the Germans had 
a wireless station in a certain building. " Heavy 
stuff " exclusively for this. 

No enemy's wireless station ought to be enjoying 
serene summer weather without interruption; and no 
German working party ought to be allowed to build 
redoubts within range of our guns without a break 
in the monotony of their drudgery. 

Six lyddites were the order for the wireless station ; 
six high explosives which burst on contact and make 
a hole in the earth large enough for a grave for the 
Kaiser and all his field marshals. Frequently, not 
only the number of shells to be fired, but also the in- 
tervals between them is given by the artillery com- 
mander, as a part of his plan in his understanding of 
the object to be accomplished; and it is quite clear 
that the system is the same with the Germans. 

One side no sooner develops an idea than the other 
adopts it. By the effect of the enemy's shells you 
judge what the effect of yours must be. Months of 
experience have done away with all theory and prac- 
tice has become much the same with either adversary. 
For example, let a German or a British airman be 
winged by anti-aircraft gun-fire and the enemy's guns 



278 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

instantly loosen up on the point over his own lines, 
if he regains them, where he is seen to fall. All the 
soldiers in the neighbourhood are expected to run to 
his assistance ; and, at any rate, you may kill a trained 
aviator, whose life is a valuable asset on one side of 
the ledger and whose death an asset on the other. 
There is no sentiment left in war, you see. It is all 
killing and avoiding being killed. 

By the scream of a shell the practised ear of the 
artilleryman can tell whether it comes from a gun 
with a low trajectory or from a howitzer, whose pro- 
jectile rises higher and falls at a sharper angle which 
enables it to enter the trenches ; and he can even tell 
approximately the calibre. 

A scream sweeping past from our rear, and we knew 
that this was for the redoubt, as that was to have the 
first turn. A volume of dust and smoke breaking 
from the earth short of the redoubt; a second's delay 
of hearing the engine whistle after the burst of steam 
in the distance on a winter day, and then the sound 
of the burst. The next was over. With the third 
the " heavy stuff " ought to be right on. 

But don't forget that there was also an order for 
some " light stuff," identified as shrapnel by its soft, 
nimbus-like puff which was scattering bullets as if giv- 
ing chase to that working party as it hastened to cover. 
There you had the ugly method of this modern artil- 
lery fire : death shot downward from the air and leap- 
ing up out of the earth. Unhappily, the third was 
not on, nor the fourth — not exactly on. Exactly on 
is the way the British gunners like to fill an order 
f.o.b., express charges prepaid, for the Germans. 

Ten years ago it would have seemed good shooting. 
It was not very good in the twelfth month of the war ; 



WITH THE GUNS 279 

for war beats the target range in developing accuracy. 
At five or six or seven or eight thousand yards' range 
the shells were bursting thirty or forty yards away 
from where they should. 

No, not very good; the general murmured as much. 
He did not need to say so aloud to the artillery offi- 
cer responsible for the shooting, who was in touch 
with his batteries by wire. The officer knew it. He 
was the high-strung, ambitious sort. You had better 
not become a gunner unless you are. Any good- 
enough temperament is ruled off wasting munitions. 
Red was creeping through the tan from his throat to 
the roots of his hair. To have this happen in the 
presence of that quiet-mannered general, after all his 
efforts to remedy the error in those guns ! 

But the general was quite human. He was not the 
" strafing " kind. 

" I know those guns have an error 1 " he said, as he 
put his hand on the officer's arm. That was all; but 
that was a good deal to the officer. Evidently, the 
general not only knew guns ; he knew men. The offi- 
cer had suffered admonit'.on enough from his own in- 
jured pride. 

Besides, what we did to the supposed wireless sta- 
tion ought to keep any general from being down- 
hearted. Neither guns, nor the powder which sent 
the big shells on their errand, nor the calculations of 
the gunner, nor the adjustment of the gadgets, had 
any error. With the first shot, a great burst of the 
black smoke of deadly lyddite rose from the target. 

" Right on 1 " 

And again and again — right on ! 

The ugly, spreading, low-hanging, dense cloud was 
renewed from its heart by successive bursts in the same 



280 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

place. If the aeroplane's conclusions were right, that 
wireless station must be very much wireless, now. 
The only safe discount for the life insurance of the 
operators was one hundred per cent. 

" Here, they are firing more than six 1 " said the 
general. " It's always hard to hold gunners down 
when they are on the target like that." 

He spoke as if it would have been difficult for him 
to resist the temptation himself. The Germans got 
two extra for full measure. Perhaps those two were 
waste ; perhaps the first two had been enough. Con- 
servation of shells has become a first principle of the 
artillerists' duty. The number fired by either side in 
the course of the routine of an average so-called 
peaceful day is surprising. Economy would be easier 
if it were harder to slip a shell into a gun-breech. The 
men in the trenches are always calling for shells. 
They want a tree or a house which is the hiding-place 
of a sniper knocked down. The men at the guns 
would be glad to accommodate them, but the say as 
to that is with commanders who know the situation. 

11 The Boches will be coming back at us soon, you 
will see 1 " said one of the officers at our observation 
post. " They always do. The other day they chose 
this particular spot for their target " — which was a 
good reason why they would not this time, an optimist 
thought. 

Let either side start a bombardment and the other 
responds. There is a you-hit-me-and-ril-hit-you char- 
acter to siege warfare. Gun-fire provokes gun-fire. 
Neither adversary stays quiet under a blow. It wa« 
not long before we heard the whish of German shells 
passing some distance away. 

They say the sport is out of war. Perhaps, but 



WITH THE GUNS 281 

not its enthralling and horrible fascination. Knowing 
what the target is, knowing the object of the fire, hear- 
ing the scream of the projectile on the way and watch- 
ing to see if it is to be a hit, when the British are 
fighting the Germans on the soil of France, has an 
intensive thrill which is missing to the spectator who 
looks on at the Home Sports' Club shooting at clay 
pigeons — which is not in justification of war. It 
does explain, however, the attraction of gunnery to 
gunners. One forgets for the instant that men are 
being killed and mangled. He thinks only of points 
being scored in a contest which requires all the wit 
and strength and fortitude of man and all his cunning 
in the manufacture and control of material. 

You want your side to win; in this case, because it 
is the side of humanity and of that quiet, kindly gen- 
eral and the things that he and the army he represents 
stand for. The blows which the demons from the 
British lairs strike are to you the blows of justice; 
and you are glad when they go home. They are 
your blows. You have a better reason for keeping an 
army's artillery secrets than for keeping secret the 
signals of your Varsity football team, which any one 
instinctly keeps — the reason of a world cause. 

Yet another thing to see — an aeroplane assisting a 
battery by spotting the fall of its shells, which is en- 
grossing, too, and amazingly simple. Of course, this 
battery was proud of its method of concealment. 
Each battery commander will tell you that one of the 
British planes has flown very low, as a test, without 
being able to locate his battery. If the plane does 
locate it, there is more work due in " make-up " to 
complete the disguise. Competition among batteries 
is as keen as among battleships of the North Atlantic. 



282 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Situation favoured this battery, which was Cana- 
dian. It was as nicely at home as a first-class Adiron- 
dack camp. At any rate, no other battery had a dug- 
out for a litter of eight pups, with clean straw for 
their bed, right between two gun-emplacements. 

" We found the mother wild out there in the 
woods," one of the men explained. " She, too, was 
a victim of war ; a refugee from some home destroyed 
by shell-fire. At first she wouldn't let us approach 
her, and we tossed her pieces of meat from a safe 
distance. I think those pups will bring us luck. 
We'll take them along to the Rhine. Some mascots, 
eh?" 

On our way back to the general's headquarters 
we must have passed other batteries hidden from 
sight only a stone's throw away; and yet in an illus- 
trated paper recently I saw a drawing of some guns 
emplaced on the crest of a bare hill, naked to all the 
batteries of the enemy but engaged in destroying all 
the enemy's batteries, according to the account. 
Eleven months of war have not shaken conventional 
ideas about gunnery; which is one reason for writing 
this chapter. 

Also, on our way back we learned the object of 
the German fire in answer to our bombardment of 
the redoubt and the wireless station. They had 
shelled a cross-roads and a certain village again. As 
we passed through the village we noticed a new hole 
in the church tower and three holes in the churchyard, 
which had scattered clods of earth about the pave- 
ment. A shopkeeper across the street was engaged 
in repairing a window-frame that had been broken 
by a shell-fragment. 

There is no flustering the French population. That 






WITH THE GUNS 283 

very day I heard of an old peasant, who asked a 
British soldier if he could not get permission for the 
old man to wear some kind of an armband which 
both sides would respect, so that he could cut his 
field of wheat between the trenches. Why not? 
Wasn't it his wheat? Didn't he need the crop? 

The Germans fire into villages and towns; for the 
women and children there are the women and children 
of the enemy. But those in the German lines belong 
to the ally of England. Besides, they are women 
and children. So British gunners avoid the towns — 
which is, in one sense, a professional handicap. 



XIX 

ARCHIBALD THE ARCHER 

The anti-aeroplane gun — Tricks of the trade — The vagabond of the 
army lines — Before the days of Archibald — Pie for the Taube 
— "Swaggerest" of the gun tribe — Sport of war — Puffs in the 
blue — Difficulty of accuracy — "Sending the prying aerial eye 
home" — The business of planes. 

There is another kind of gun, vagrant and free lance, 
which deserves a chapter by itself. It has the same 
bark as the eighteen-pounder field piece ; the flight of 
the shell makes the same kind of sound. But its 
scream, instead of passing in a long parabola toward 
the German lines, goes up in the heavens toward 
something as large as your hand against the light 
blue of the summer sky — a German aeroplane. 

At a height of seven or eight thousand feet the 
target seems almost stationary, when really it is going 
somewhere between fifty and ninety miles an hour. It 
has all the heavens to itself, and to the British it is a 
sinister, prying eye that wants to see if we are build- 
ing any new trenches, if we are moving bodies of 
troops or of transport in some new direction, and 
where our batteries are in hiding. That aviator three 
miles above the earth has many waiting guns at his 
command. A few signals from his wireless and they 
would let loose on the target he indicated. 

If the planes might fly as low as they pleased, they 

would know all that was going on in an enemy's lines. 

They must keep up so high that through the aviator's 

284 



ARCHIBALD THE ARCHER 285 

glasses a man on the road is the size of a pin-head. 
To descend low is as certain death as to put your 
head over the parapet of a trench when the enemy's 
trench is only a hundred yards away. There are dead 
lines in the air, no less than on the earth. 

Archibald, the anti-aircraft gun, sets the dead line. 
He watches over it as a cat watches a mouse. The 
trick of sneaking up under cover of a noon-day cloud 
and all the other man-bird tricks he knows. A couple 
of seconds after that crack a tiny puff of smoke breaks 
about a hundred yards behind the Taube. A soft 
thistleblow against the blue it seems at that altitude ; 
but it wouldn't if it were about your ears. Then it 
would sound like a bit of dynamite on an anvil struck 
by a hammer and you would hear the whiz of scores 
of bullets and fragments. 

The smoking brass shell-case is out of Archibald's 
steel throat and another shell-case with its charge 
slipped into place and started on its way before the 
first puff breaks. The aviator knows what is coming. 
He knows that one means many, once he is in range. 

Archibald rushes the fighting; it is the business of 
the Taube to sidestep. The aviator cannot hit back 
except through his allies, the German batteries, on 
the earth. They would take care of Archibald if 
they knew where he was. But all that the aviator 
can see is mottled landscape. From his side Archi- 
bald flies no goal flags. He is one of ten thousand 
tiny objects under the aviator's eye. 

Archibald's propensities are entirely peripatetic. 
He is the vagabond of the army lines. Locate him 
and he is gone. His home is where night finds him 
and the day's duties take him. He is the only gun 
that keeps regular hours like a Christian gentleman. 



286 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

All the others, great and small, raucous-voiced and 
shrill-voiced, fire at any hour, night or day. Aero- 
planes rarely go up at night ; and when no aeroplanes 
are up, Archibald has no interest in the war. But 
he is alert at the first (lush of dawn, on the lookout for 
game with the avidity of a pointer dog; for aviators 
are also up early. 

Why he was named Archibald nobody knows. As 
his full name is Archibald the Archer, possibly it 
comes from some association with the idea of archery, 
If there were ten thousand anti-aircraft guns in the 
British army, every one would be known as Archibald. 
When the British Expeditionary Force went to France 
it had none. All the British could do was to bang 
away at Taubes with thousands of rounds of rifle-bul- 
lets, which might fall in their own lines, and with the 
field guns. 

It was pie in those days for the Taubes ! Easy to 
keep out of the range of both rifles and guns and ob- 
serve well I If the Germans did not know the prog- 
ress of the British retreat from on high it was their 
own fault. Now, the business of firing at Taubes is 
left entirely to Archibald. When you see how hard it 
is for Archibald, after all his practice, to get a Taube, 
you understand how foolish it was for the field guns 
to try to get one. 

Archibald, who is quite the " swaggerest " of the 
gun tribe, has his own private car built especially for 
him. Such of the cavalry's former part as the planes 
do not play he plays. He keeps off the enemy's 
scouts. Do you seek team-work, spirit of corps, and 
smartness in this theatre of France, where all the old 
glamour of war is supposed to be lacking? You will 
find it in the attendants of Archibald. They have 



ARCHIBALD THE ARCHER 287 

pride, elan, alertness, pepper, and all the other appe- 
tisers and condiments. They are as neat as a pri- 
vate yacht's crew and as lively as an infield of a major 
league team. The Archibaldians are naturally bound 
to think rather well of themselves. 

Watch them there, every man knowing his part, as 
they send their shells after the Taube ! There is not 
enough waste motion among the lot to tip over the 
range-finder, or the telescopes, or the score board, 
or any of the other paraphernalia assisting the man 
who is looking through the sight in knowing where to 
aim next, as a screw answers softly to his touch. 

Is the sport of war dead? Not for Archibald! 
Here you see your target — which is so rare these 
days when British infantrymen have stormed and 
taken trenches without ever seeing a German — and 
the target is a bird, a man-bird. Puffs of smoke with 
bursting hearts of death are clustered around the 
Taube. One follows another in quick succession, for 
more than one Archibald is firing, before your en- 
tranced eyes. 

You are staring like the crowd of a county fair 
at a parachute act. For the next puff may get him. 
Who knows this better than the aviator? He is, 
likely, an old hand at the game; or, if he is not, he 
has all the experience of other veterans to go by. 
His ruse is the same as that of the escaped prisoner, 
who runs from the fire of a guard in a zigzag course, 
and more than that. If a puff comes near on the 
right, he turns to the left; if one comes near on the 
left, he turns to the right; if one comes under, he 
rises; over, he dips. This means that the next shell 
fired at the same point will be wide of the target. 

Looking through the sight, it seems easy to hit a 



288 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

plane. But here is the difficulty. It takes two sec- 
onds, say, for the shell to travel to the range of the 
plane. The gunner must wait for its burst before he 
can spot his shot Ninety miles an hour is a mile 
and a half a minute. Divide that by thirty and you 
have about a hundred yards which the plane has trav- 
elled from the time the shell left the gun-muzzle till 
it burst. It becomes a matter of discounting the 
aviator's speed and guessing from experience which 
way he will turn next. 

That ought to have got him — the burst was right 
under. No I He rises. Surely that one got him I 
The puff is right in front, partly hiding the Taube 
from view. You see the plane tremble as if struck 
by a violent gust of wind. Close I Within thirty or 
forty yards, the telescope says. But at that range the 
naked eye is easily deceived about distance. Probably 
some of the bullets have cut his plane. 

But ycfu must hit the man or the machine in a vital 
spot in order to bring down your bird. The explo- 
sions must be very close to count. It is amazing how 
much shell-fire an aeroplane can stand. Aviators are 
accustomed to the whiz of shell-fragments and bullets 
and to have their planes punctured and ripped. 
Though their engines are put out of commission, and 
frequently though the men be wounded, they are able 
to volplane back to the cover of their own lines. 

To make a proper story we ought to have brought 
down this particular bird. But it had the luck, which 
most planes, British or German, have, to escape anti- 
aircraft gun-fire. It had begun edging away after the 
first shot and soon was out of range. Archibald had 
served the purpose of his existence. He had sent the 
prying aerial eye home. 



ARCHIBALD THE ARCHER 289 

A fight between planes in the air very rarely hap- 
pens, except in the imagination. Planes do not go up 
to fight other planes, but for observation. Their busi- 
ness is to see and learn and bring home their news. 



XX 

TRENCHES IN SUMMER 

General Mud "down and out"— "What hopes ! "— Heroes in khaki 
— "Tickets to England" — Coddling at home — Comradeship 
among the men — The uses of barbed wire — " Your hat, sir ! " 

— Sniping — Sentimental Mr. Atkins — Exchange of pleasantries 

— A "Boche" joke — A mine explodes — Wasting the Kaiser's 
powder — A maze of trench "streets" — A soldier cook — And 
cook stoves — Officers' mess — Fresh from Sandhurst — "When 
do you think the war will be over ? " — Strafing the chicken — 
From favourite actors to military methods — A night crawl be- 
tween trenches — An alarm — In the midst of barbed-wire — 
Crawling patrols in the wheat field — A narrow escape — A 
trench cot — The " morning hate " — A memory of cheerful hos- 
pitality. 

It was the same trench in June, still a relatively " quiet 
corner," which I had seen in March; but I would never 
have known it if its location had not been the same 
on the map. One was puzzled how a place that had 
been so wet could become so dry. 

This time the approach was made in daylight 
through a long communication ditch, which brought us 
to a shell-wrecked farmhouse. We passed through 
this and stepped down at the back door into deep tra- 
verses cut among the roots of an orchard; then behind 
walls of earth high above our heads to battalion head* 
quarters in a neat little shanty, where I deposited the 
first of the cakes I had brought, on the table beside 
some battalion reports. A cake is the right gift for 
the trenches, though less so in summer than in winter 

when appetites are less keen. The adjutant tried a 

290 



FRENCHES IN SUMMER 291 

slice while the colonel conferred with the general, who 
had accompanied me this far; and he glanced up at a 
sheet of writing with a line opposite hours of the day, 
pinned to a post of his dugout. 

" I wanted to see if it were time to make another 
report," he said. " We are always making reports. 
Everybody is, so that whoever is superior to some one 
else knows what is happening in his subordinate's de- 
partment." 

Then in and out in a maze, between walls with 
straight faces on the hard, dry earth, testifying to the 
beneficence of summer weather in constructing fast- 
nesses from artillery fire, until we were in the firing- 
trench, where I was at home among the officers and 
men of a company. General Mud was " down and 
out." He waited on the winter rains to take com- 
mand again. But winter would find an army prepared 
against his kind of campaign. Life in the trenches 
in summer was not so unpleasant but that some pre- 
ferred it, with the excitement of sniping, to the bore- 
dom of billets. 



" What hopes I " was the current phrase I heard 
among the men in these trenches. It shared honours 
with strafe. You have only one life to live and you 
may lose that any second — what hopes! Dig, dig, 
dig, and set off a mine that sends Germans skyward 
in a cloud of dust — what hopes I Bully beef from 
Chicago and Argentina is no food for babes, but bet- 
ter than " K.K." bread — what hopes I Mr. Thomas 
Atkins, British regular, takes things as they come — 
and a lot of them come — shells, bullets, asphyxiating 
gas, grenades, and bombs. 



292 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

There is much to be thankful for. The King's 
Own Particular Fusiliers, as we shall call this regiment, 
had only three men hit yesterday. On every man's 
cap is a metal badge crowded with battle honours, 
from the storming of Quebec to the relief of Lady- 
smith. Heroic its history ; but no battle honours equal 
that of the regiment's part in the second battle of 
Ypres ; and no heroes of the regiment's story, whom 
you picture in imagination with halos of glory in the 
wish that you might have met them in the flesh in 
their scarlet coats, are the equal of these survivors in 
plain khaki manning a ditch in A. D. 19 15, whom any 
one may meet. 

But do not tell them that they are heroes. They 
will deny it on the evidence of themselves as eye- 
witnesses of the action. To remark that the K. O. P. 
F. are brave is like remarking that water flows down 
hill. It is the business of the K. O. P. F. to be 
brave. Why talk about it ? 

One of the three men hit was killed. Well, every- 
body in the war rather expects to be killed. The 
other two " got tickets to England," as they say. My 
lady will take the convalescents joy riding in her car 
and afterwards seat them in easy chairs, arranging 
the cushions with her own hands, and feed them slices 
of cold chicken in place of bully beef and strawberries 
and cream in place of ration marmalade. Oh, my I 
What hopes! 

Mr. Atkins does not mind being a hero for the pur- 
poses of such treatment Then, with never a twinkle 
in his eye, he will tell my lady that he does not want 
to return to the front; he has had enough of it, he 
has. My lady's patriotism will be a trifle shocked, 
as Mr. Atkins knows it will be; and she will wonder 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 293 

if the " stick it " quality of the British soldier is 
weakening, as Mr. Atkins knows she will. For he 
has more kinks in his mental equipment than mere no- 
bility ever guesses and he is having the time of his 
life in more respects than strawberries and cream. 
What hopes I Of course, he will return and hold on 
in the face of all that the Germans can give, without 
any pretence to bravery. 

If one goes as a stranger into the trenches on a 
sightseeing tour and says, " How are you ? " and, 
" Are you going to Berlin? " and, " Are you comfort- 
able? " etc., Tommy Atkins will say, " Yes, sir," and 
" Very well, sir," etc., as becomes all polite regular 
soldier men ; and you get to know him about as well as 
you know the members of a club if you are shown 
the library and dine at a corner table with a 
friend. 

Spend the night in the trenches and you are taken 
into the family; into that very human family of sol- 
dierdom in a quiet corner; and the old, care- free 
spirit of war, which some people thought had passed, 
is found to be no less alive in siege warfare than on 
a march of regulars on the Indian frontier or in the 
Philippines. Gaiety and laughter and comradeship 
and " joshing " are here among men to whom wounds 
and death are a part of the game. One may challenge 
high explosives with a smile, no less than ancient round 
shot. Settle down behind the parapet and the little 
incongruities of a trench, paltry without the intimacy 
of men and locality, make for humour no less than in 
a shop or a factory. 

Under the parapet runs the tangle of barbed wire — 
barbed wire from Switzerland to Belgium — to wel- 
come visitors from that direction, which, to say the 



294 MY YEAR OE THE GREAT WAR 

least, would be an impolitic direction of approach for 
any stranger. 

" All sightseers should come into the trenches from 
the rear," says Mr. Atkins. u Put it down in the 
guidebooks." 

Beyond the barbed wire in the open field the wheat 
which some farmer sowed before the positions were 
established in this area is now in head, rippling with 
the breeze, making a golden sea up to the wall of 
sandbags which is the enemy's line. It was late June 
at its loveliest; no signs of war except the sound of 
our guns some distance away and an occasional sni- 
per's bullet. One cracked past as I was looking 
through my glasses to see if there were any evidence 
of life in the German trenches. 

" Your hat, sir I " 

Another moved a sandbag slightly, but not until 
after the hat had come down and the head under it 
most expeditiously. Up to eight hundred yards a 
bullet cracks ; beyond that range it whistles, sighs, even 
wheezes. An elevation gives snipers, who are always 
trained shots, an angle of advantage. In winter they 
had to rely for cover on buildings, which often came 
tumbling down with them when hit by a shell. The 
foliage of summer is a boon to their craft. 

" Does it look to you like an opening in the branches 
of that tree — the big one at the right ? " 

In the mass of leaves a dark spot was visible. It 
might be natural, or it might be a space cut away for 
the swing of a rifle barrel. Perhaps sitting up there 
snugly behind a bullet-proof shield fastened to the 
limbs was a German sharpshooter, watching for a 
shot with the patience of a hound for a rabbit to come 
out of its hole. 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 295 

" It's about time we gave that tree a spray good for 
that kind of fungus, from a machine gun ! " 

A bullet coming from our side swept overhead. 
One of our own sharpshooters had seen something to 
shoot at 

" Not giving you much excitement! " said Tommy. 

" I suppose I'd get a little if I stood up on the 
parapet? " I asked. 

" You wouldn't get a ticket for England; you'd get 
a box!" 

" There's a cemetery just back of the lines if you'd 
prefer to stay in France 1 " 

I had passed that cemetery with its fresh wooden 
crosses on my way to the trench. These tender- 
hearted soldiers who joked with death had placed flow- 
ers on the graves of fallen comrades and bought elabo- 
rate French funeral wreaths with their meagre pay — 
which is another side of Mr. Thomas Atkins. There 
is sentiment in him. Yes, he's loaded with sentiment, 
but not for the movies. 

" Keep your head down there, Eames ! " called a 
corporal. " I don't want to be taking an inventory 
of your kit." 

Eames did not even realise that his head was above 
the parapet. The hardest thing to teach a soldier is 
not to expose himself. Officers keep iterating warn- 
ings and then forget to practise what they preach. 
That morning a soldier had been shot through the 
heart and arm sideways back of the trench. He had 
lain down unnoticed for a nap in the sun, it was sup- 
posed. When he awoke, presumably he sat up and 
yawned and Herr Schmidt, from some platform in a 
tree, had a bloody reward for his patience. 

The next morning I saw the British take their re- 



296 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

venge. Some German who thought that he could not 
be seen in the mist of dawn was walking along the 
German parapet. What hopes 1 Four or five men 
took careful aim and fired. That dim figure collapsed 
in a way that was convincing. 

As I swept the line of German trenches with the 
glasses, I saw a wisp of a flag clinging to its pole in 
the still air far down to the left. Flags are as unusual 
above trenches as men standing up in full view of the 
enemy. Then a breeze caught the folds of the flag 
and I saw that it was the tricolour of France. 

44 A Boche joke I " Tommy explained. 

" Probably they are hating the French to-day? " 

44 No, it's been there for some days. They want 
us to shoot at the flag of our ally. They'd get a 
laugh out of that — a regular Boche notion of hu- 
mour." 

44 If it were a German flag? " I suggested. 

"What hopes! We'd make it into a lace cur- 
tain!" 

Even the guns had ceased firing. The birds in their 
evensong had all the war to themselves. It was diffi- 
cult to believe that if you stood on top of the parapet 
anybody would shoot at you; no, not even if you 
walked down the road that ran through the wheat- 
field, everything was so peaceful. One grew scepti- 
cal of there being any Germans in the trenches oppo- 
site. 

44 There are three or four sharpshooters and a fat 
old Boche professor in spectacles, who moves a ma- 
chine gun up and down for a bluff," said a soldier, 
and another corrected him: 

44 No, the old professor's the one that walks along 
at night sending up flares I " 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 297 

" Munching K.K. bread with his false teeth I " 

" And singing the hymn of hate I " 

Thus the talk ran on in the quiet of evening, till 
we heard a concussion and a quarter of a mile away, 
behind a screen of trees, a pillar of smoke rose to the 
height of two or three hundred feet. 

" A mine I " 

" In front of the — th brigade I " 

"Ours or the Boches'?" 

" Ours, from the way the smoke went — our fuse ! " 

" No, theirs ! " 

Our colonel telephoned down to know if we knew 
whose mine it was, which was the question we wanted 
to ask him. The guns from both sides became busy 
under the column of smoke. Oh, yes, there were 
Germans in the trenches which had appeared vacant. 
Their shots and ours merged in the hissing medley of 
a tempest. 

" Not enough guns — not enough noise for an at- 
tack I " said experienced Tommy, who knew what an 
attack was like. 

The commander of the adjoining brigade tele- 
phoned to the division commander, who passed the 
word through to our colonel, who passed it to us, 
that the mine was German and had burst thirty yards 
short of the British trench. 

" After all that digging, wasting Boche powder in 
that fashion ! The Kaiser won't like it I " said Mr. 
Atkins. " We exploded one under them yesterday 
and it made them hate so hard they couldn't wait. 
They've awful tempers, the Boches/" And he fin- 
ished the job on which he was engaged when inter- 
rupted, eating a large piece of ration bread sur- 
mounted by all the ration jam it would hold; while 



298 MY YEAR OF JHE GREAT WAR 

one of the company officers reminded me that it was 
about dinner time. 



" What do you think I am ? A blooming traffic 
policeman? 9 ' growled the cook to two soldiers who 
had found themselves in a blind alley in the maze of 
streets back of the firing-trench. " My word ! Is 
His Majesty's army becoming illiterate? Strafe that 
sign at the corner ! What do you think we put it up 
for ? To show what a beautiful hand we had at print- 
ing?" 

The sign on a board fastened against the earth wall 
read, " No thoroughfare 1 " The soldier cook, with 
a fork in his hand, his sleeves rolled up, his shirt open 
at his tanned throat, looked formidable. He was 
preoccupied; he was at close quarters roasting a 
chicken over a small stove. Yes, they have cook 
stoves in the trenches. Why not ? The line had been 
in the same position for six months. 

" Little by little we improve our happy home," 
said the cook. 

The latest acquisition was a lace curtain for the 
officers' mess hall, bought at a store in the nearest 
town. 

When the cook was inside his kitchen there was no 
room to spill anything on the floor. The kitchen was 
about three feet square, with boarded walls and roof, 
which was covered with tar paper and a layer of 
earth set level with the trench parapet. The chicken 
roasted and the frying potatoes sizzled as an occa- 
sional bullet passed overhead, even as flies buzz about 
the screen door when Mary is baking biscuits for sup- 
per. 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 299 

The officers' mess hall, next to the kitchen and 
built in the same fashion, had some boards nailed on 
posts sunk in the ground for a table, which was proof 
against tipping when you climbed over it or squeezed 
around it to your place. The chairs were rifle-am- 
munition boxes, whose contents had been emptied with 
individual care, bullet by bullet, at the Germans in 
the trench on the other side of the wheat-field. Din- 
ner was at nine in the evening, when it was still twi- 
light in the longest day of the year in this region. 
The hour fits in with trench routine, when night is the 
time to be on guard and you sleep by day. Breakfast 
comes at nine in the morning. I was invited to help 
eat the chicken and to spend the night. 

Now, the general commanding the brigade who ac- 
companied me to the trenches had been hit twice. So 
had the colonel, a man about forty. From forty, ages 
among the regimental officers dropped into the twen- 
ties. Many of the older men who started in the 
war had been killed, or were back in England wounded, 
or had been promoted to other commands where their 
experience was more useful. To youth, life is sweet 
and danger is life. The oldest of the officers of the 
proud old K. O. P. F. who gathered for dinner was 
about twenty-five, though when he assumed an air of 
authority he seemed about forty. It was not right to 
ask the youngest his age. Parenthetically, let it be 
said that he is trying to start a moustache. They had 
come fresh from Sandhurst to swift tuition in gruel- 
ling, incessant warfare. 

" Has any one asked him it yet? " one inquired, re- 
ferring to some question to the guest. 

"Not yet? Then all together: When do you 
think that the war will be over? " 



300 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

It was the eternal question of the trenches, the army 
and the world. We had it over with before the sol- 
dier cook brought on the roast chicken, which was 
received with a befitting chorus of approbation : 

Who would carve? Who knew how to carve? 
Modesty passed the honour to its neighbour, till a 
brave man said: 

44 1 will ! I will strafe the chicken ! " 

Gott strafe England I Strafe has become a noun, a 
verb, an adjective, a cussword, and a term of greeting. 
Soldier asks soldier how he is strafing to-day. When 
the Germans are not called Boches they are called 
Strafers. 4< Won't you strafe a little for us?" 
Tommy sings out to the German trenches when they 
are close. What hopes! 

That gallant youngster of the K. O. P. F. in the 
midst of bantering advice succeeded in separating the 
meat from the bones without landing a leg in any- 
body's lap or a wing in anybody's eye. Timid spec- 
tators who had hung back where he had dared might 
criticise his form, but they could not deny the effi- 
ciency of his execution. He was appointed permanent 
44 strafer " of all the fowls that came to table. 

Everybody talked and joked about everything, from 
plays in London to the Germans. There were argu- 
ments about favourite actors and military methods. 
The sense of danger was as absent as if we had been 
dining in a summer garden. It was the parents and 
relatives in pleasant English homes in fear of a dread 
telegram who were worrying, not the sons and broth- 
ers in danger. Isn't it better that way ? Would not 
the parents prefer it that way? Wasn't it the way of 
the ancestors in the scarlet coats and the Merrie Eng- 
land of their day? With the elasticity of youth my 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 301 

hosts adapted themselves to circumstances. In their 
light-heartedness they made war seem a keen sport. 
They lived war for all it was worth. If it gets on 
their nerves their efficiency is spoiled. There is no 
room for a jumpy, excitable man in the trenches. 
Youth's resources defy monotony and death at the 
same time. 

An expedition had been planned for that night. A 
patrol the previous night had brought in word that the 
Germans had been sneaking up and piling sandbags in 
the wheat-field. The plan was to slip out as soon 
as it was really dark with a machine gun and a dozen 
men, get behind the Germans' own sandbags, and give 
them a perfectly informal reception when they re- 
turned to go on with their work. 

Before dinner, however, J , who was to be the 

general of the expedition, and his subordinates made 
a reconnaissance. Two or more officers or men al- 
ways go out together on any trip of this kind in that 
ticklish space between the trenches, where it is almost 
certain death to be seen by the enemy. If one is 
hit the other can help him back. If one survives he 
will bring back the result of his investigations. 

J had his own ideas about comfort in trousers 

in the trench in summer. He wore trunks with his 
knees bare. When he had to do a " crawl " he un- 
wound his puttee leggings and wound them over his 
knees. He and the others slipped over the parapet 
without attracting the attention of the enemy's sharp- 
shooters. On hands and knees, like boy scouts play- 
ing Indian, they passed through a narrow avenue in 
the ugly barbed wire, and still not a shot at them. A 
matter of the commonplace to the men in the trench 
held the spectator in suspense. There was a fasci- 



302 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

nation about the thing, too; that of the sporting 
chance, without a full realisation that failure in this 
hide-and-seek game might mean a spray of bullets 
and death for these young men. 

They entered the wheat, moving slowly like two 
land turtles. The grain parted in swaths over them. 
Surely the Germans might see the turtles 9 heads as 
they were raised to look around. No officer can be 
too young and supple for this kind of work. Here 
the company officer just out of school is in his element, 
with an advantage over older officers. That pair 
were used to crawling. They did not keep their heads 
up long. They knew just how far they might expose 
themselves. They passed out of sight, and reap- 
peared and slipped back over the parapet again with- 
out the Germans being any the wiser. 

Hard luck I It is an unaccommodating world! 
They found that the patrol which had examined the 
bags at night had failed to discern that they were old 
and must have been there for some time. 

" I'll take the machine gun out, anyhow, if the col- 
onel will permit it," said J . 

For the colonel puts on the brakes. Otherwise, 
there is no telling what risks youth might take with 
machine guns. 

We were half through dinner when a corporal came 
to report that a soldier on watch thought that he 
had seen some Germans moving in the wheat very near 
our barbed wire. Probably a false alarm; but no 
one in a trench ever acts on the theory that any alarm 
is false. Eternal vigilance is the price of holding a 
trench. Either side is cudgelling its brains day and 
night to spring some new trick on the other. If one 
side succeeds with a trick, the other immediately 



[TRENCHES IN SUMMER 303 

adopts it No international copyright on strategy is 
recognised. We rushed out of the mess hall into the 
firing-trench, where we found the men on the alert, 
their rifles laid on the spot where the Germans were 
supposed to have been seen. 

" Who are you ? Answer, or we fire I " called the 
ranking young lieutenant. 

If any persons present out at front in face of thirty 
rifles knew the English language and had not lost 
the instinct of self-preservation, they would certainly 
have become articulate in response to such an unveiled 
hint. Not a sound came. Probably a rabbit running 
through the wheat had been the cause of the alarm. 
But you take no risks. The order was given, and 
the men combed the wheat with a fusillade. 

" Enough ! Cease fire I " said the officer. " No- 
body there. If there had been we should have heard 
the groan of a wounded man or seen the wheat stir 
as the Germans hugged closer to the earth for cover." 

This he knew by experience. It was not the first 
time he had used a fusillade in this kind of a test. 

After dinner J rolled his puttees up around his 

bare knees again, for the colonel had not withdrawn 

permission for the machine gun expedition. J 's 

knees were black and blue in spots ; they were also — 
well, there is not much water for washing purposes 
in the trenches. Great sport that, crawling through 
the dew-moist wheat in the faint moonlight, looking 
for a bunch of Germans in the hope of turning a 
machine gun on them before they turn one on you. 

" One man hit by a stray bullet," said J , on his 

return. 

11 1 heard the bullet go th-ip into the earth after it 
went through his leg," said the other officer. 



304 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

" Blythe was a recruit and he had asked me to take 
him out the first time there was anything doing. I 
promised that I would, and he got about the only 
shot fired at us." 

"Need a stretcher?" 

" No." 

Blythe came hobbling through the traverse to the 
communication trench, seeming well pleased with him- 
self: The soft part of the leg is not a bad place to 
receive a bullet if one is due to hit you. 



Night is always the time in the trenches when life 
grows more interesting and death more likely. 

" It's dark enough, now," said one of the youngsters 
who was out on another scout. " We'll go out with 
the patrol." 

By day, the slightest movement of the enemy is 
easily and instantly detected. The light keeps the 
combatants to the warrens which protect them from 
shell and bullet-fire. At night there is no telling what 
mischief the enemy may be up to; you must depend 
upon the ear rather than the eye for watching. Then 
the human soldier-fox comes out of his burrow and 
sneaks forth on the lookout for prey; both sides are 
on the prowl. 

" Trained owls would be the most valuable scouts 
we could have," said the young officer. " They 
would be more useful than aeroplanes in locating the 
enemy's gun positions. A properly reliable owl would 
come back and say that a German patrol was out in 
the wheat-field at such a point and a machine gun 
would wipe out the German patrol." 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 305 

We turned into a side trench, an alley off the main 
street, leading out of the front trench toward the 
Germans. 

" Anybody out? " he asked a soldier, who was on 
guard at the end of it. 

"Yes, two." 

Climbing out of the ditch, we were in the midst of 
a tangle of barbed wire protecting the trench front, 
which was faintly visible in the starlight. There was 
a break in the tangle, a narrow cut in the hedge, as it 
were, kept open for just such purposes as this. When 
the patrol returned it closed the gate again. 

44 Look out for that wire — just there I Do you 
see it ? We've everything to keep the Boches off our 
front lawn except 4 keep off the grass! ' signs." 

It was perfectly still, a warm summer night with- 
out a cat's-paw of breeze. Through the dark curtain 
of the sky in a parabola rising from the German 
trenches swept a brilliant sputter of red light of a 
German flare. It was coming as straight toward us 
as if it had been aimed at us. It cast a searching, un- 
canny glare over the tall wheat in head between the 
trenches. 

44 Down flat ! " whispered the officer. 

It seemed foolish to grovel before a piece of fire- 
works. There was no firing in our neighbourhood; 
nothing to indicate a state of war between the British 
Empire and Germany; no visual evidence of any Ger- 
man army anywhere in France except that flare. 
However, if a guide, who knows as much about war 
as this one, says to prostrate yourself when you are 
out between two lines of machine guns and rifles — 
between the fighting powers of Britain and Germany 



306 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

— you take the hint. The flare sank into the earth a 
few yards away, after a last insulting, ugly fling of 
sparks in our faces. 

" What if we had been seen? " 

" They'd have combed the wheat in this neighbour- 
hood thoroughly, and they might have got us." 

" It's hard to believe," I said. 

So it was, he agreed. That was the exasperating 
thing about it. Always hard to believe, perhaps, un- 
til after all the cries of wolf the wolf came ; until after 
nineteen harmless flares the twentieth revealed to the 
watching enemy the figure of a man above the wheat, 
when a crackling chorus of bullets would suddenly 
break the silence of night by concentrating on a target. 
Keeping cover from German flares is a part of the 
minute, painstaking economy of war. 

We crawled on slowly, taking care to make no noise, 
till we brought up behind two soldiers hugging the 
earth, rifles in hand ready to fire instantly. It was 
their business not only to see the enemy first, but to 
shoot first, and to capture or kill any German patrol. 
The officer spoke to them and they answered. It 
was unnecessary for them to say that they had seen 
nothing. If they had we should have known it. He 
was out there less to scout himself than to make sure 
that they were on the job; that they knew how to 
watch. The visit was part of his routine. We did 
not even whisper. Preferably, all whispering would 
be done by any German patrol out to have a look at 
our barbed wire and overheard by us. 

Silence and the starlight and the damp wheat; but, 
yes, there was war. You heard gun-fire half a mile, 
perhaps a mile, away ; and raising your head you saw 
auroras from bursting shells. We heard at our backs 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 307 

faintly snatches of talk from our trenches and faintly 
in front the talk from theirs. It sounded rather in- 
viting and friendly from both sides, like that around 
some campfire on the plains. 

It seemed quite within the bounds of probability that 
you might have crawled on up to the Germans and 
said, " Howdy ! " But by the time you reached the 
edge of their barbed wire and before you could pre- 
sent your visiting-card, if not sooner, you would have 
been full of holes. That was just the kind of diver- 
sion from trench monotony for which the Germans 
were looking. 

" Well, shall we go back? " asked the officer. 

There seemed no particular purpose in spending 
the night prone in the wheat with your ears cocked 
like a pointer dog's. Besides, he had other duties, 
exacting duties laid down by the colonel as the result 
of trench experience in his responsibility for the com- 
mand of a company of men. 

It happened, as we crawled back into the trench, 
that a fury of shots broke out from a point along 
the line two or three hundred yards away; sharp, 
vicious shots on the still night air, stabbing, merciless 
death in their sound. Oh, yes, there was war in 
France ; unrelenting, shrewd, tireless war. A touch of 
suspicion anywhere and the hornets swarmed. 



It was two A. M. From the dugouts came un- 
mistakable sounds of slumber. Men off duty were 
not kept awake by cold and moisture in summer. 
They had fashioned for themselves comfortable dor- 
mitories in the hard earth walls. A cot in an offi- 
cer's bed chamber was indicated as mine. The walls 



308 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

had been hung with cuts from illustrated papers and 
bagging spread on the floor to make it " home-like." 
He lay down on the floor because he was nearer the 
door in case he had to respond to an alarm; besides, 
he said I would soon appreciate that I was not the 
object of any favouritism. So I did. It was a 
trench-made cot, fashioned by some private of engi- 
neers, I fancy, who had Germans rather than the 
American cousin in mind. 

" The wall side of the rib that runs down the 
middle is the comfortable side, I have found," said my 
host. " It may not appear so at first, but you will 
find that it works out that way." 

Nevertheless, one slept, his last recollection that of 
sniping shots, to be awakened with the first streaks of 
day by the sound of a fusillade — the " morning hate " 
or the " morning strafe," as it was called. After 
the vigil of darkness it breaks the monotony to sa- 
lute the dawn with a burst of rifle-shots. Eyes 
strained through the mist over the wheat-field watch- 
ing for some one of the enemy who may be exposing 
himself, unconscious that it is light enough for him 
to be visible. Objects which are not men but look as 
if they might be in the hazy distance, called for at- 
tention on the chance. For ten minutes, perhaps, the 
serenade lasted, and then things settled down to the 
normal. The men were yawning and stirring from 
their dugouts. After the muster they would take the 
places of those who had been " on the bridge " through 
the night. 

11 It's a case of how little water you can wash with, 
isn't it?" I said to the cook, who appreciated my 
thoughtfulness when I made shift with a dipperful, as 
I had done on desert journeys. We were in a trench 



TRENCHES IN SUMMER 309 

that was inundated with water in winter, and not 
more than two miles from a town which had a water 
system. But bringing a water supply in pails along 
narrow trenches is a poor pastime, though better than 
bringing it up under the rifle-sights of snipers across 
the fields back of the trenches. 

" Don't expect much for breakfast," said the strafer 
of the chicken. But it was eggs and bacon, the Brit* 
ish stand-by in all weathers, at home and abroad. 

J was going to turn in and sleep. These 

youngsters could sleep at any time; for one hour, or 
two hours, or five, or ten, if they had a chance. A 
sudden burst of rifle-fire was the alarm clock which 
always promptly awakened them. The recollection 
of cheery hospitality and their fine, buoyant spirit is 
even clearer now than when I left the trench. 



XXI 

A SCHOOL IN BOMBING 

War specialism — A school on a French farm — A lesson — " Bomb- 
ing them out " — Fighting in zigzag traverses — Cold steel — The 
bomb storehouse — All shapes and sizes — Revivals of Roman 
legionary days — A home-made product — A fool-proof, up to 
the minute and popular (except with the "Bochea") variety. 

It was at a bombing school on a French farm, where 
chosen soldiers brought back from the trenches were 
being trained in the use of the anarchists' weapon, 
which has now become as respectable as the rifle. The 
war has steadily developed specialism. M.B. degrees 
for Master Bombers are not beyond the range of pos- 
sibilities. 

Present was the chief instructor, a young Scotch 
subaltern with blue eyes, a pleasant smile, and a Cock 
o' the North spirit. He might have been twenty 
years old, though he did not look it On his breast 
was the purple and white ribbon of the new order 
of the Military Cross, which you get for doing some- 
thing in this war which would have won you a Vic- 
toria Cross in one of the other wars. 

Also present was the assistant instructor, a sergeant 
of regulars — and very much of a regular — who had 
three ribbons which he had won in previous campaigns. 
He, too, had blue eyes, bland blue eyes. These two 
understood each other. 

"If you don't drop Jt, why, iVs all right I " said tfie 
sergeant. *Of course, if you do — " 

I did not drop it 

" And when you throw it, sir, you must look out and 

310 



A SCHOOL IN BOMBING 311 

not hit the man behind and knock the bomb out of your 
hand. That has happened before to an absent-minded 
fellow who was about to toss one at the Boches, and 
it doesn't do to be absent-minded when you throw 
bombs." 

" They say that you sometimes pick up the Ger- 
man bombs and chuck them back before they explode," 
it was suggested. 

" Yes, sir, I've read things like that in some of the 
accounts of the reporters who write from Somewhere 
in France. You don't happen to know where that is, 
sir ? All I can say is that if you are going to do it you 
must be quick about it. I shouldn't advise delaying 
your decision, sir, or perhaps when you reached 
down to pick it up, neither your hand nor the bomb 
would be there. They'd have gone off together, 
sir." 

" Have you ever been hurt in your handling of 
bombs?" I asked. 

Surprise in the bland blue eyes. 

"Oh, no, sir! Bombs are well behaved if you 
treat them right. It's all in being thoughtful and 
considerate of them ! " Meanwhile, he was jerking 
at some kind of a patent fuse set in a shell of high 
explosive. " This is a poor kind, sir. It's been dis- 
carded, but I thought that you might like to see it. 
Never did like it. Always making trouble I " 

More distance between the audience and the per- 
former. 

"Now I've got it, sir — get down, sir!" 

The audience carried out instructions to the letter, 
as army regulations require. It got behind the pro- 
tection of one of the practice-trench traverses. He 
threw the discard beyond another wall of earth. 



312 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

There was a sharp report, a burst of smoke, and some 
fragments of earth were tossed into the air. 

In a small affair of two hundred yards of trench a 
week before, it was estimated that the British and 
the Germans together threw about five thousand 
bombs in this fashion. It was enough to sadden any 
Minister of Munitions. However, the British kept 
the trench. 

" Do the men like to become bombers ? " I asked the 
subaltern. 

" I should say so 1 It puts them up in front. It 
gives them a chance to throw something, and they 
don't get much cricket in France, you see. We had 
a pupil here last week, who broke the throwing record 
for distance. He was as pleased as Punch with him- 
self. A first-class bombing detachment has a lot of 
pride of corps." 

To bomb soon became as common a verb with the 
army as to bayonet. " We bombed them out " meant 
a section of trench taken. As you know, a trench is 
dug and built with sandbags in zigzag traverses. In 
following the course of a trench it is as if you fol- 
lowed the sides of the squares of a checkerboard up 
and down and across on the same tier of squares. 
The square itself is a bank of earth, with the cut on 
either side and in front of it. When a bombing party 
bombs their way into possession of a section of Ger- 
man trench, there are Germans under cover of the tra- 
verses on either side. They are waiting around the 
corner to shoot the first British head that shows it- 
self. 

" It is important that you and not the Boches chuck 
the bombs over first," explained the subaltern. 
u Also, that you get them into the right traverse, or 



A SCHOOL IN BOMBING 313 

they may be as troublesome to you as to the en- 
emy." 

With bombs bursting in their faces, the Germans 
who are not put out of action are blinded and stunned. 
In the moment when they are thus off guard, the ag- 
gressors leap around the corner. 

"And then ?" 

" Stick 'em, sir ! " said the matter-of-fact sergeant 
14 Yes, the cold steel is best. And do it first I As Mr. 
MacPherson said, it's very important to do it first." 

It has been found that something short is handy 
for this kind of work. In such cramped quarters — 
a ditch six feet deep and from two to three feet broad 
— the rifle is an awkward length to permit of prompt 
and skilful use of the bayonet. 

" Yes, sir, you can mix it up better with something 
handy — to think that British soldiers would come to 
fighting like assassins!" said the sergeant. "You 
must be spry on such occasions. It's no time for wool- 
gathering." ^ 

Not a smile from him or the subaltern all the time. 
They were the kind you would like to have along in 
a tight corner, whether you had to fight with knives, 
fists, or seventeen-inch howitzers. 

The sergeant took us into the storehouse where he 
kept his supply of bombs. 

" What if a German shell should strike your store- 
house? " I asked. 

" Then, sir, I expect that most of the bombs would 
be exploded. Bombs are very peculiar in their habits. 
What do you think, sir ? " 

It was no trouble to show stock, as clerks at the 
stores say. He brought forth all the different kinds 
of bombs that British ingenuity has invented — but no, 



3H MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

not all invented. These would mount into the thou- 
sands. Every British inventor who knows anything 
about explosives has tried his hand at a new kind of 
bomb. One means all the kinds which the British 
War Office has considered worth a practice test. The 
spectator was allowed to handle each one as much as 
he pleased. There had been occasions, that boyish 
Scotch subaltern told me, when the men who were ex- 
amining the products of British ingenuity — well, the 
subaltern had sandy hair, too, which heightened the 
effect of his blue eye. 

There were yellow and green and blue and black 
and striped bombs ; egg-shaped, barrel-shaped, conical, 
and concave bombs ; bombs that were exploded by pull- 
ing a string and by pressing a button — all these to be 
thrown by hand, without mentioning grenades and 
other larger varieties to be thrown by mechanical 
means, which would have made a Chinese warrior of 
Confucius' time or a Roman legionary feel at home. 

11 This was the first-born," the subaltern explained, 
" the first thing we could lay our hands on when the 
close quarters' trench warfare began." 

It was as out of date as grandfather's smooth- 
bore, the tin-pot bomb that both sides used early in 
the winter. A wick was attached to the high explo- 
sive, wrapped in cloth and stuck in an ordinary army 
jam can. 

" Quite home-made, as you see, sir," remarked the 
sergeant. " Used to fix them up ourselves in the 
trenches in odd hours — saved burying the refuse jam 
tins according to medical corps directions — and you 
threw them at the Boches. Had to use a match to 
light it. Very old-fashioned, sir. I wonder if that 
old fuse has got damp. No, it's going all right "— 



A SCHOOL IN BOMBING 315 

and he threw the jam pot, which made a good ex- 
plosion. Later, when he began hammering the end 
of another, he looked up in mild surprise at the dig- 
nified back-stepping of the spectators. 

" Is that fuse out? " some one asked. 

" Yes, sir. Of course, sir," he replied. " It's 
safer. But here is the best; we're discarding the oth- 
ers," he went on, as he picked up a bomb. 

It was a pleasure to throw this crowning achieve- 
ment of experiments. It fitted your hand nicely; it 
threw easily; it did the business; it was fool-proof 
against a man in love or a war-poet. 

" We saw as soon as this style came out," said the 
sergeant, " that it was bound to be popular. Every- 
body asks for it — except the Boches, sir." 



XXII 

MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 

Planning at headquarters — Trench maps — A "hot corner" north 
of Ypres — The English in possession — Preparation for a gas 
attack — Farming behind the lines — Reaching the tornado belt 
— " Policing the district " — Man the most precious machine — A 
general's dugout headquarters — First aid to the wounded — 
Cave men at home — The scream of a great shell — A close call 

— Galleries to the front — The philosophy of shell-fire — The 
flitting planes — An arc of shell fire — Lace work of puffs from 
shrapnel bursts — " Artillery preparation for an infantry attack " 

— Under a tornado of steel hail. 

It was the best day because one ran the gamut of the 
mechanics and emotions of modern war within a single 
experience — and oh, the twinkle in that staff officer's 
eyel 

It was on a Monday that I first met him in the ball- 
room of a large chateau. Here another officer was 
talking over a telephone in an explicit, businesslike 
fashion about " sending up more bombs," while we 
looked at maps spread out on narrow, improvised 
tables, such as are used for a buffet at a reception. 
Those maps showed all the British trenches and all 
the German trenches — spider-web like lines that cun- 
ning human spiders had spun with spades — in that 
region ; and where our batteries were and where some 
of the German batteries were, if our aeroplane ob- 
servations were correct. 

To the layman they were simply blue prints, such 

as he sees in the office of an engineer or an architect, 

or elaborate printed maps with many blue and red pen- 

316 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 317 

cillings. To the general in command they were alive 
with rifle-power and gun-power and other powers mys- 
terious to us; the sword with which he thrust and 
feinted and guarded in the ceaseless fencing of trench 
warfare, while higher authorities than he kept their 
secrets as he kept his and bided their day. 

That morning one of the battalions which had its 
pencilled place on the map had taken a section of 
trench from the Germans about the length of two city 
blocks. It got into the official bulletins of both sides 
several times, this two hundred yards at Pilken in 
the everlastingly " hot corner " north of Ypres. So 
it was of some importance, though not on account of 
its length. 

To take two hundred yards of trench because it is 
two hundred yards of trench is not good war, tacticians 
agree. Good war is to have millions of shells and 
vast reserves ready and to go in over a broad area and 
keep on going night and day, with a Niagara of artil- 
lery, as fresh battalions are fed into the conflict. 

But the Germans had command of some rising 
ground in front of the British line at this point. They 
could fire down into our trench and crosswise of it. It 
was as if we were in the alley and they were in a first- 
floor window. This meant many casualties. It was 
man-economy and fire-economy to take that two hun- 
dred yards. A section of trench may always be taken 
if worth while. Reduce it to dust with shells and then 
dash into the breach and drive the enemy back from 
zigzag traverse to traverse with bombs. But such a 
small action requires as careful planning as a big oper- 
ation of other days. We had taken the two hundred 
yards. The thing was to hold them. That is always 
the difficulty; for the enemy will concentrate his guns 



318 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

to give you the same dose that you gave him. In an 
hour after they were in, the British soldiers, who 
knew exactly what they had to do and how to do it 
after months of experience, had turned the wreck of 
the German trenches into a British trench which faced 
toward Berlin, rather than Calais. 

In their official bulletin the Germans said that they 
had recovered the trench. They did recover part of 
it for a few hours. It was then that the commander 
on the German side must have sent in his report to 
catch the late evening editions. Commanders do not 
like to confess the loss of trenches. It is the sort of 
thing that makes Headquarters ask : " What is the 
matter with you over there, anyway? " There was a 
time when the German bulletins about the Western 
front seemed rather truthful; but of late they have 
been getting into bad habits. 

The British general knew what was coming; he 
knew that he would start the German hornets out of 
their nest when he took the trench ; he knew, too, that 
he could rely upon his men to hold till they were told 
to retire or there were none left to retire. The Brit- 
ish are a home-loving people, who do not like to be 
changing their habitations. In succeeding days the 
question up and down the lines was, u Have we still 
got that trench? " Only two hundred yards of ditch 
on the continent of Europe 1 But was it still ours? 
Had the Germans succeeded in " strafing " us out of 
it yet ? They had shelled all the trenches in the region 
of the lost trench and had made three determined 
and unsuccessful counter-attacks when, on the fifth day, 
we returned to the chateau to ask if it were practicable 
to visit the new trench. 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT, 319 

" At your own risk ! " said the staff officer. If we 
preferred we could sit on the veranda where there 
were easy chairs, on a pleasant summer day. Very 
peaceful the sweep of the well-kept grounds and the 
shade of the stately trees of that sequestered world of 
landscape. Who was at war ? Why was any one at 
war? Two staff automobiles awaiting orders on the 
drive and a dust-laden despatch rider with messages, 
who went past toward the rear of the house, were 
the only visual evidence of war. 

The staff officer served the three of us with helmets 
for protection in case we got into a gas attack. He 
said that we might enter our front trenches at a cer- 
tain point and then work our way as near the new 
part as we could; division headquarters, four or five 
miles distant, would show us the way. It was then 
that the twinkle in the staff officer's eye as it looked 
straight into yours became manifest. You can never 
tell, I have learned, just what a twinkle in a British 
staff officer's eye may portend. These fellows who 
are promoted up from the trenches to join the " brain- 
trust " in the chateau, know a great deal more about 
what is going on than you can learn by standing in 
the road far from the front and listening to the sound 
of the guns. We encountered a twinkle in another 
eye at division headquarters, which may have been 
telephoned ahead along with the instructions, " At 
their own risk.'] 

There are British staff officers who would not mind 
pulling a correspondent's leg on a summer day ; though, 
perhaps, it was really the Germans who pulled ours, 
in this instance. Somebody did remark at some head- 
quarters, I recall, that, u You never know 1 " which 



320 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

shows that staff officers do not know everything. The 
Germans possess half the knowledge — and they are 
at great pains not to part with their half. 

We proceeded in our car along country roads, quiet, 
normal country roads, off the main highway. It has 
been written again and again, and it cannot be written 
too many times, that life is going on as usual in the 
rear of the army. Nothing could be more wonderful 
and yet nothing more natural. All the men of fight- 
ing age were absent. White-capped grandmothers, 
too old to join the rest of the family in the fields, sat 
in doorways sewing. Everybody was at work and 
the crops were growing. One never tires of remark- 
ing the fact. It brings you back from the destruc- 
tive orgy of war to the simple, constructive things 
of life. An industrious people go on cultivating the 
land and the land keeps on producing. It is pleasant 
to think that the crops of Northern France were good 
in 1915* That is cheering news from home for the 
soldiers of France at the front. 

At an indicated point we left the car to go forward 
on foot, and the chauffeur was told to wait for us 
at another point. If the car went any farther it 
might draw shell-fire. Army authorities know how 
far they may take cars with reasonable safety as well 
as a pilot knows the rocks and shoals at a harbour 
entrance. 

There was an end of white-capped grandmothers in 
doorways; an end of people working in the fields. 
Rents in the roofless walls of unoccupied houses 
stared at the passerby. We were in a dead land. 
One of two soldiers whom we met coming from the 
opposite direction pointed at what looked like a small 
miner's cabin half covered with earth, screened by a 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 321 

tree, as the next headquarters which we were seeking 
in our progress. 

It was not for sightseers to take the time of the 
general, who received us at the door of his dugout. 
The German guns had concentrated on a section of 
his trenches in a way that indicated that another at- 
tack was coming. One company already had suffered 
heavy losses. It was an hour of responsibility for 
the general, isolated in the midst of silent fields and 
houses, waiting for news from a region hidden from 
his view by trees and hedges in that flat country. He 
might not move from headquarters, for then he would 
be out of communication with his command. His 
men were being pounded by shells and the inexorable 
law of organisation kept him at the rear. Up in the 
trench he might have been one helpless human being 
in a havoc of shells which had cut the wires. His 
place was where he could be in touch with his subordi- 
nates and his superiors. 

True, we wanted to go to the trench that the Ger- 
mans had lost and his section was the short cut. 
Modesty was not the only reason for not taking it. 
As we started along a road parallel to the front, the 
head of a soldier popped out of the earth and told us 
that orders were to walk in the ditch. One judged 
that he was less concerned with our fate than with the 
likelihood of our drawing fire, which he and the others 
in a concealed trench would suffer after we had passed 
on. 

There were three of us, two correspondents, L 

and myself, and R , an officer, which is quite 

enough for an expedition of this kind. Now we were 
finding our own way, with the help of the large scale 
army map which had every house, every farm, and 



322 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

every group of trees marked. The farms had been 
given such names as Joffre, Kitchener, French, Botha, 
and others which the Germans would not like. One 
cut across fields with the same confidence that, follow- 
ing a diagram of city streets in a guidebook, he turns 
to the left for the public library and to the right for 
the museum. 

Our own guns were speaking here and there from 
their hiding-places; and overhead an occasional Ger- 
man shrapnel burst. This seemed a waste of the 
Kaiser's munitions, as there was no one in sight. Yet 
there was purpose in the desultory scattering of bullets 
from on high. They were policing the district ; they 
were warning the hated British in reserve not to play 
cricket in those fields or march along those deserted 
roads. 

The more bother in taking cover that the Germans 
can make the British, the better they like it; and the 
British return the compliment in kind. Everything 
that harasses your enemy is counted to the good. If 
every shell fired had killed a man in this war, there 
would be no soldiers left to fight on either side; yet 
never have shells been so important in war before. 
They can reach the burrowing human beings in shel- 
ters which are bullet-proof; they are the omnipresent 
threat of death. The firing of shells from batteries 
securely hidden and emplaced represents no cost of 
life to your side, only cost of material; which ridicules 
the foolish conclusion that machinery and not men 
count. It is because man is still the most precious 
machine — a machine that money cannot reproduce — 
that gun machinery is so much in favour, and every 
commander wants to use shells as freely as you use 
city water when you don't pay for it by metre. 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 323 

Now another headquarters and another general, 
also isolated in a dugout, holding the reins of his 
wires over a section of line adjoining that of the one 
we had just left. Before we proceeded we must look 
over his shelter from shell-storms. The only time 
that these British generals become boastful is over 
their dugouts. They take all the pride in them of 
the man who has bought a plot of land and built 
himself a home; and like him, they keep on making 
improvements and calling attention to them. 

I must say that this was one of the best shelters I 
have seen anywhere in the tornado belt; and what- 
ever I am not, I am certainly an expert in dugouts. 
Of course, this general, too, said, "At your own 
riskl " He was good enough to send a young offi- 
cer with us up to the trenches; then we should not 
make any mistakes about direction if we wanted to 
reach the neighbourhood of the two hundred yards 
which we had taken from the Germans. When we 
thanked him and said " Good-bye 1 " he remarked: 

" We never say good-bye up here. It does not 
sound pleasant. Make it au revoir" And he, too, 
had a twinkle in his eye. 

By this time one leg ought to have been so much 
longer than the other that one would have walked in 
a circle if he had not had a guide. 

That battery which had been near the dugout kept 
on with its regular firing, its shells sweeping over- 
head. We had not gone far before we came to a 
board nailed to a tree with the caution, " Keep to the 
right I " If you went to the left you might be seen 
by the enemy, though we were seeing nothing of him, 
nor of our own trenches yet. Every square yard of 
this ground had been tried out by actual experience, 



324 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

at the cost of dead and wounded men, till safe lanes 
of approach had been found. 

Next was a clearing station, where the wounded are 
brought in from the trenches for transfer to ambu- 
lances. A glance at the burden on a stretcher just 
arriving automatically framed the word, " shell-fire 1 " 
The stains overrunning on tanned skin beyond the 
edges of the white bandage were a bright red in the 
sunlight. A khaki blouse torn open, or a trousers 
leg, or a sleeve cut down the seam, revealing the 
white of the first aid and a splash of red, means one 
man wounded; and by the ones the thousands come. 

Fifty wounded men on the floor of a clearing station 
and the individual is lost in the crowd. When you 
see the one borne past, if there is nothing else to 
distract attention you always ask two questions : Will 
he die? Has he been maimed for life? If the an- 
swers to both are No, you feel a sense of triumph, as 
if you had seen a human play, built skilfully around a 
life to arouse your emotions, turn out happily. 

The man has fought in an honourable cause; he 
has felt the very touch of death's fingers. How 
happy he is when he knows that he will get well ! In 
prospect, as his wound heals into the scar which will 
be the lasting decoration of his courage, is home and 
all that it means and those in it mean to him. What 
kind of a home has he, this private soldier? In the 
slums, with a slattern wife? Or in a cottage with a 
flower garden in front, only a few minutes' walk from 
the green fields of the English countryside? — but we 
set out to tell you about the kind of inferno in which 
this man got his splash of red. 

We come to the banks of a canal which has carried 
the traffic of the Low Countries for many centuries; 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 3*5 

the canal where the British and French had fought 
many a Thermopylae in the last eight months. Along 
its banks run rows of fine trees narrowing in perspec- 
tive before the eye. Some have been cut in two by 
the direct hit of a heavy shell and others splintered 
down, bit by bit. Others still standing have been hit 
many times. There are cuts as fresh as if the chip 
had just flown from the axeman's blow, and there are 
scars from cuts made last autumn which nature's sap, 
rising as it does in the veins of wounded men, has 
healed while it sent forth leaves in answer to the call 
of spring from the remaining branches. 

In this neighbourhood the earth is many-mouthed 
with caves and cut with passages running from cave 
to cave, so that the inhabitants may go and come hid- 
den from sight. Jawbone and Hairyman and Low- 
brow, of the stone age, would be at home here, squat- 
ting on their hunkers and tearing at their raw kill 
with their long incisors. It does not seem a place for 
men who walk erect, wear woven fabrics, enjoy a 
written language, and use soap and safety razors. 
One would not be surprised to see some figure swing 
down by a long, hairy arm from a branch of a tree 
and leap on all fours into one of the caves, where he 
would receive a gibbering welcome to the bosom of his 
family. 

Not so ! Huddled in these holes in the earth are 
free-born men of an old civilisation, who read the 
daily papers and eat jam on their bread. They do 
not want to be there, but they would not consider 
themselves worthy of the inheritance of free-born 
men if they were not. Only civilised man is capable 
of such stoicism as theirs. They have reverted to the 
cave-dweller's protection because their civilisation is 



326 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

so highly developed that they can throw a piece of 
steel weighing anywhere from eighteen to two thou- 
sand pounds anywhere from five to twenty miles with 
merciless accuracy, and because the flesh of man is 
even more tender than in the cave-dweller's time, not 
to mention that his brain-case is a larger target. 

An officer calls our attention to a shell-proof shelter 
with the civic pride of a member of a Chamber of 
Commerce pointing out the new Union Station. 

" Not even a high explosive " — the kind that bursts 
on impact after penetration — " could get into that ! " 
he says. " We make them for generals and colonels 
and those who have precious heads on their shoul- 
ders." 

With material and labour, the same might have 
been constructed for the soldiers; which brings us 
back to the question of munitions in the economic bal- 
ance against a human life. It was the first shelter of 
this kind which I had seen. One never goes up to the 
trenches without seeing something new. The defen- 
sive is tireless in its ingenuity in saving lives and the 
offensive in taking them. Safeguards and salvage 
compete with destruction. And what labour all that 
excavation and construction represented — the cumu- 
lative labour of months and day-by-day repairs of the 
damage done by shells. After a bombardment, dig 
out the filled trenches and renew the smashed dugouts 
to be ready for another go 1 

The walls of that communication trench were two 
feet above our heads. We noticed that all the men 
were in their dugouts ; none were walking about in the 
open. One knew the meaning of this barometer — 
stormy. The German gunners were " strafing quite 
lively " this afternoon. 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 327 

Already wc had noticed many shells bursting five 
or six hundred yards away, in the direction of the 
new British trench; but at that distance they do not 
count. Then a railroad train seemed to have jumped 
the track and started to fly. Fortunately and unfor- 
tunately, sound travels faster than big shells of low 
velocity; fortunately, because it gives you time to be 
undignified in taking cover; unfortunately, because it 
gives you a fraction of a second to reflect whether 
or not that shell has your name and your number on 
Dugout Street. I was certain that it was a big shell, 
of the kind that will blow a dugout to pieces. Any 
one who had never heard a shell before would have 
" scrooched," as the small boys say, as instinctively as 
you draw back when the through express tears past 
the station. It is the kind of scream that makes you 
want to roll yourself into a package about the size 
of a pea, while you feel as tall and large as a cathe- 
dral, judged by the sensation that travels down your 
backbone. 

Once I was being hoisted up a cliff in a basket, when 
the rope on the creaking windlass above slipped a 
few inches. Well, it is like that, or like taking a false 
step on the edge of a precipice. Is the clock about 
to strike twelve or not ? Not this time ! The burst 
was thirty yards away, along the path we had just tra- 
versed, and the sound of it was like the burst of a 
shell and like nothing else in the world, just as the 
swirling, boring, growing scream of a shell is like 
no other scream in the world. A gigantic hammer- 
head sweeps through the air and breaks a steel drum- 
head. 

If we had come along half a minute later we should 
have had a better view, and perhaps now we should 



328 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

have been on a bed in a hospital worrying how we 
were going to pay the rent, or in the place where, 
hopefully, we have no worries at all. Between walls 
of earth the report was deadened to our ears in the 
same way as a revolver report in an adjoining room; 
and not much earth had gone down the backs of our 
necks from the concussion. 

Looking over the parapet, we saw a cloud of thick, 
black smoke; and we heard the outcry of a man who 
had been hit. That was all. The shell might have 
struck nearer without our having seen or heard any 
more. Shut in by the gallery walls, one knows as 
little of what happens in an adjoining cave as a clam 
buried in the sand knows of what is happening to a 
neighbour clam. A young soldier came half stum- 
bling into the nearest dugout. He was shaking his 
head and batting his ears as if he had sand in them. 
Evidently he was returning to his home cave from a 
call on a neighbour which had brought him close to 
the burst. 

" That must have been about six- or seven-inch," I 
said to the officer, trying to be moderate and casual 
in my estimate, which is the correct form on such oc- 
casions. My actual impression was forty-inch. 

" Nine inch, h. e.," replied the expert. This was 
gratifying. It was the first time that I had been that 
near to a nine-inch shell explosion. Its " eat-'em- 
alive " f rightfulness was depressing. But the expe- 
rience was worth having. One wants all the expe- 
riences there are — but only " close." A delightful 
word that word close, at the front 1 

But the Germans were generous that afternoon. 
Another big scream seemed aimed at my own head. 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 329 

L disagreed with me ; he said that it was aimed at 

his. We did not argue the matter to the point of a 
personal quarrel, for it might have got both our heads. 
It burst back of the trench about as far away as the 
other shell. After all, a trench is a pretty narrow 
ribbon, even on a gunner's large scale map, to hit. 
It is wonderful how, firing at such long ranges, he 
is able to hit the trench at all. 

This was all of the nine-inch style, for the time 
being. We got some fours and fives in our neighbour- 
hood, as we walked along. Three bursting as near 
together as the ticks of a clock, made almost no smoke 
as they brought some tree-limbs down and tore away 
a section of a trunk. Then the thunder storm moved 
on to another part of the line. Only, unlike the 
thunder storms of nature, this, which is man-made 
and controlled as a fireman controls the nozzle of his 
hose, may sweep back again and yet again over its 
path. All depends upon the decision of a German 
artillery officer, just as whether or not a flower bed 
shall get another sprinkle depends upon the will of 
the gardener. 

We were glad to turn out of the support trench into 
a communication trench leading toward the front 
trench ; into another gallery cut deep in the fields, with 
scattered shell-pits on either side. Still more soldiers, 
leaning against the walls or seated with their legs 
stretched out across the bottom of the ditch; more 
waiting soldiers, only strung out in a line and as used 
to the passing of shells as people living along the 
elevated railroad line to the passing of trains. They 
did not look up at the screams boring the air any more 
than one who lives under the trains looks up every 



330 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

time that one passes. Theirs was the passivity of a 
queue waiting in line before the entrance to a theatre 
or a ball-ground. 

A senator or a lawyer, used to coolness in debate, 
or to presiding over great meetings, or to facing 
crowds, who happened to visit the trenches could have 
got reassurance from the faces of any one of these 
private soldiers, who had been trained not to worry 
about death till death came. Harrowing every one 
of these screams, taken by itself. Instinctively, un- 
necessarily, you dodged at those which were low — 
unnecessarily because they were from British guns. 
No danger from them unless there was a short fuse. 
To the soldiers, the low screams brought the delight 
of having blows struck from their side at the enemy, 
whom they themselves could not strike from their re- 
serve position. 

For we were under the curving sweep of both the 
British and the German shells, as they passed in the 
air on the way to their targets. It was like stand- 
ing between two railroad tracks with trains going by 
in opposite directions. You came to differentiate be- 
tween the multitudinous screams. " Ours 1 " you ex- 
claimed, with the same delight as when you see that 
your side has the ball. The spirit of battle contest 
rose in you. There was an end of philosophy. 
These soldiers in the trenches were your partisans. 
Every British shell was working for them and for 
you, giving blow for blow. 

The score of the contest of battle is in men down; 
in killed and wounded. For every man down on your 
side you want two men down on the enemy's. Sport 
ceases. It is the fight between a burglar with a re- 
volver in his hand and a knife between his teeth; and 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 331 

a wounded man brought along the trench, a visible, 
intimate proof of a hit by the enemy, calls for more 
and harder blows. 

Looking over the parapet of the communication 
trench you saw fields, lifeless except for the singing 
birds in the wheat, who had also the spirit of battle. 
The more shells, the more they warble. It was al- 
ways so on summer days. Between the screams you 
heard their full-pitched chorus, striving to make it- 
self heard in competition with the song of German 
invasion and British resistance. Mostly, the birds 
seemed to take cover like mankind; but I saw one 
sweep up from the golden sea of ripening grain to- 
ward the men-brothers with their wings of cloth. 

Was this real, or was it extravaganza? Painted 
airships and a painted summer sky? The audacity of 
those British airmen! Two of them were spotting 
the work of British guns by their shell-bursts and 
watching for gun-flashes which would reveal concealed 
German battery positions, and whispering results by 
wireless to their own batteries. 

It is a great game. Seven or eight thousand feet 
high, directly over the British planes, is a single Taube 
cruising for the same purpose. It looks like a beetle 
with gossamer wings suspended from a light cloud. 
The British aviators are so low that the bull's-eye 
identification marks are distinctly visible to the naked 
eye. They are playing in and out, like the short stop 
and second baseman around second, there in the very 
arc of the passing shells from both sides fired at 
other targets. But scores of other shells are most 
decidedly meant for them. In the midst of a lace- 
work of puffs of shrapnel bursts, which slowly spread 
in the still air, from the German anti-aircraft guns, 



332 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

they dip and rise and turn in skilful dodging. At 
length, one retires for good; probably his planecloth 
has become too much like a sieve from shrapnel frag- 
ments to remain aloft longer. 

Come down, Herr Taube, come down where we 
can have a shot at you ! Get in the game 1 You can 
see better at the altitude of the British airmen ! But 
Herr Taube always stays high — the Br'er Fox of the 
air. Of course, it was not so exciting as the pictures 
that artists draw, but it was real. 

Every kind of shell was being fired, low and high 
velocity, small and large calibre. One-two-three-four 
in quick succession as the roll of a drum, four Ger- 
man shells burst in line up in the region where we 
have made ourselves masters of the German trench. 
British shells responded. 

" Ours again 1 " 

But I had already ducked before I spoke, as you 
might if a pellet of steel weighing a couple of hun- 
dred pounds, going at the rate of a thousand yards a 
second or more, passed within a few yards of your 
head — ducked to find myself looking into the face 
of a soldier, who was smiling. The smile was not 
scornful, but it was at least amused at the expense of 
the sightseer, who had dodged one of our own shells. 
In addition to the respirators in case of a possible 
gas attack, supplied by that staff officer with a twinkle 
in his eye, we needed a steel rod fastened to the back 
of our necks and running down our spinal columns in 
order to preserve our dignity. 

We were witnessing what is called the " artillery 
preparation for an infantry attack," which was to try 
to recover that two hundred yards of trench from the 
British. Only the Germans did not limit their atten- 



MY BEST DAY AT THE FRONT 333 

tion to the lost trench alone. It was hottest there 
around the bend of our line, from our view-point ; for 
there they must maul the trench into formless debris 
and cut the barbed wire in front of it before the 
charge was made. 

" They touch up all the trenches in the neighbour- 
hood to keep us guessing, 9 ' said the officer, " before 
they make their final concentration. So it's pretty 
thick around this part." 

" Which might include the communication trench? " 

" Certainly. This makes a good line shot. No 
doubt they will spare us a few when they think it is 
our turn. We do the same thing. So it goes." 

From the variety of screams of big shells and little 
shells and screams harrowingly close and reassuringly 
high, which were indicated as ours, one was war- 
ranted in suggesting that the British were doing con- 
siderable artillery preparation themselves. 

" We must give them as good as they send — and 
more." 

More seemed correct. 

" Those close ones you hear are doubtless meant 
for the front German trench, which accounts for their 
low trajectory; the others for their support trenches 
or any battery positions that our planes have located." 

We could not see where the British shells were 
striking. We could judge only of the accuracy of 
some of the German fire. Considering the storm 
being visited on the support trench which we had 
just left, we were more than ever glad to be out of 
it. Artillery is the war burglar's jimmy; but it has 
to batter the house into ruins and smash all the plate 
and blow up the safe and kill most of the family be- 
fore the burglar can enter. Clouds of dust rose from 



334 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

the explosions ; limbs of trees were lopped off by tor- 
nadoes of steel hail. 

" There ! Look at that tree ! " 

In front of a portion of the British support trench 
a few of a line of stately shade trees were still stand- 
ing. A German shell, about an eight-inch, one 
judged, struck fairly in the trunk of one about the 
same height from the ground as the lumberman sinks 
his axe in the bark. The shimmer of hot gas spread 
out from the point of explosion. Through it as 
through an aureole one saw that twelve inches of 
green wood had been cut in two as neatly as a thistle 
stem is severed by a sharp blow from a walking-stick. 
The body of the tree was carried across the splint- 
ered stump with crushing impact from the power of 
its flight, plus the power of the burst of the explo- 
sive charge which broke the shell-jacket into slash- 
ing fragments; and the towering column of limbs, 
branches, and foliage laid its length on the ground 
with a majestic dignity. Which shows what one shell 
can do, one of three which burst in the neighbour- 
hood at the same time. In time, the shells would 
get all the trees; make them into chips and splinters 
and toothpicks. 

" I'd rather that it would hit a tree-trunk than my 
trunk," said L . 

" But you would not have got it as badly as the 
tree," said the officer reassuringly. " The substance 
would have been too soft for sufficient impact for a 
burst. It would have gone right through 1 " 



XXIII 

MORE BEST DAY 

"Without any anesthetic" — Tea at a dugout — Oyer the wires 
"German West Africa fallen 1 ' — Playing with death — A trag- 
edy — Travelling the " narrow cut of earth "— Good manners of 
the trenches — And democracy — "The men who will rule Eng- 
land" — A periscope glance at the German trench — A "direct 
hit" for the British — " Bombing up ahead!"— A gas shell — 
Under heavy fire — "Like beating up grouse to the guns and 
we are the birds " — Crash 1 — And safe again 1 — A " dead 
heat" to cover — A touch of "nerves" — Back to the dead land 
behind the trenches. 

At battalion headquarters in the front trenches the 
battalion surgeon had just amputated an arm which 
had been mauled by a shell. 

" Without • any anaesthetic," he explained. "No 
chance if we sent him back to the hospital. He would 
die on the way. Stood it very well. Already chirk- 
ing U P-" 

A family practitioner at home, the doctor, when the 

war began, had left his practice to go with his Ter- 
ritorial battalion. He retains the family practition- 
er's cheery, assuring manner. He is the kind of man 
who makes you feel better immediately he comes into 
the sick-room ; who has already made you forget your- 
self when he puts his finger on your pulse. There are 
thousands of that kind at home. Probably you have 
sent a hurry telephone call for his like more than 
once. 

" The same thing that we might have done in the 
Crimea," he continued, " only we have antiseptics 

335 



336 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAft 

now. It's wonderful how little you can work with 
and how excellent the results. Strong, healthy men, 
these, with great recuperative power and discipline 
and resolution — very different patients from those 
we usually operate on." 

Tea was served inside the battalion commander's 
dugout. Tea is as essential every afternoon to the 
British as ice to the average American in summer. 
They don't think of getting on without it if they can 
possibly have it, and it is part of the rations. As 
well take cigarettes away from those who smoke as 
tea from the British soldier. 

It was very much like tea outside the trenches, sa 
far as any signs of perturbation about shells and cas- 
ualties were concerned. In that the battalion com- 
mander had to answer telegrams, it had the aspect 
of a busy man's sandwich at his desk for luncheon. 
Good news to cheer the function had just come over 
the network of wires which connects up the whole 
army, from trenches to headquarters — good news in 
the midst of the shells. 

German West Africa had fallen. Botha, who was 
fighting against the British fifteen years ago, had taken 
it fighting for the British. A suggestive thought 
that. It is British character that brings enemies like 
Botha into the fold; the old, good-natured, sports- 
manlike, live-and-let-live idea, which has something to 
do with keeping the United States intact. A board 
with the news on it in German was put up over the 
British trenches. Naturally, the board was shot full 
of holes; for it is clear that the Germans are not yet 
ready to come into the British Empire. 

11 Hans and Jacob we have named them," said the 
colonel, referring to two Germans who were buried 



MORE BEST DAY 337 

back of his dugout. " It's dull up here when the 
Boches are not shelling, so we let our imaginations 
play. We hold conversations with Hans and Jacob 
in our long watches. Hans is fat and cheerful and 
trusting. He believes everything that the Kaiser tells 
him and has a cheerful disposition. But Jacob is a 
professor and a fearful 'strafer.' It seems a little 
gruesome, doesn't it, but not after you have been in 
the trenches for a while." 

A little gruesome — true ! Not in the trenches — 
true, too ! Where all is satire, no incongruity seems 
out of place. Life plays in and out with death ; they 
intermingle ; they look each other in the face and say, 
" I know you. We dwell together. Let us smile 
when we may, at what we may, to hide the character 
of our comradeship ; for to-morrow — " 

Only half an hour before one of the officers had 
been shot through the head by a sniper. He was a 
popular officer. The others had messed with him 
and marched with him and known him in the fulness 
of affection of comradeship in arms and dangers 
shared. A heartbreak for some home in England. 
No one dwelt on the incident. What was there to 
say? The trembling lip, trembling in spite of itself, 
was the only outward sign of the depth of feeling that 
words could not reflect, at tea in the dugout. The 
subject was changed to something about the living. 
One must carry on cheerfully; one must be on the 
alert; one must play his part serenely, unflinchingly, 
for the sake of the nerves around him and for his 
own sake. Such fortitude becomes automatic, it 
would seem. Please, I must not hesitate about hav- 
ing a slice of cake. They managed cake without any 
difficulty up there in the trenches. And who if not 



338 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

men in the trenches was entitled to cake, I should like 
to know ? 

" It was here that he was hit," another officer said, 
as we moved on in the trench. " He was saying that 
the sandbags were a little weak there and a bullet 
might go through and catch a man, who thought him- 
self safely under cover as he walked along. He had 
started to fix the sandbags himself when he got it. 
The bullet came right through the top of one of the 
bags in front of him." 

A bullet makes the merciful wound; and a bullet 
through the head is a simple way of going. The bad 
wounds come mostly from shells; but there is some- 
thing about seeing any one hit by a sniper which is 
more horrible. It is a cold-blooded kind of killing, 
more suggestive of murder, this single shot from a 
sharpshooter waiting as patiently as a cat for a 
mouse, aimed definitely to take the life of one man. 

Again we move on in that narrow cut of earth with 
its waiting soldiers, which the world knows so well 
from reading tours of the trenches. No one not on 
watch might show his head on an afternoon like this. 
The men were prisoners between those walls of earth ; 
not even spectators of what the guns were doing; 
simply moles. They took it all as a part of the day's 
work, with that singular, redoubtable combination of 
British phlegm and cheerfulness. 

Of course, some of them were eating bread and 
marmalade and making tea. Where all the marma- 
lade goes which Mr. Atkins uses for his personal 
munition in fighting the Germans puzzles the Army 
Service Corps, whose business it is to see that he is 
never without it. How could he sit so calmly under 
shell-fire without marmalade? Never I He would 



MORE BEST DAY 339 

get fidgetty and forget his lesson, I am sure, like the 
boy who had the button which he was used to finger- 
ing removed before he went to recite. 

Any minute a shell may come. Mr. Atkins does 
not think of that. Time enough to think after it has 
arrived. Then perhaps the burial party will be doing 
your thinking for you ; or if not, the doctors and the 
nurses who look after you will. 

I noted certain acts of fellowship of comrades who 
are all in the same boat and have learned unselfish- 
ness. When they got up to let you pass and you 
smiled your thanks, you received a much pleasanter 
smile in return than you will from many a well-fed 
gentleman, who has to stand aside to let you enter 
a restaurant. The manners of the trenches are good, 
better than in many places where good manners are 
a cult. 

There is no better place to send a spoiled, undisci- 
plined, bumptious youth than to a British trench. He 
would learn that there are other men in the world 
besides himself and that a shell can kill a rich brute 
or a selfish brute as readily as a poor man. Democ- 
racy there is in the trenches; the democracy where 
all men are in the presence of death and " hazing " 
parties need not be organised among the students. 

But there is another and a greater element in the 
practical psychology of the trenches. These good- 
natured men, fighting the bitterest kind of warfare, 
without the signs of brutality which we associate with 
the prize fighter and the bully in their faces, know 
why they are fighting. They consider that their duty 
is in that trench, and that they could not have a title 
to manhood if they were not there. After the war 
the men who have been in the trenches will rule Eng- 



340 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

land. Their spirit and their thinking will fashion 
the new trend of civilisation, and the men who have 
not fought will bear the worst scars from the war. 

Ridiculous it is that men should be moles, per- 
haps; but at the same time there is something sub- 
lime in the fellowship of their courage and purpose, 
as they " sit and take it," or guard against attacks, 
without the passion of battle of the old days of ex- 
cited charges and quick results, and watch the toll pass 
by from hour to hour. Borne by comrades pickaback 
we saw the wounded carried along that passage too 
narrow for a litter. A splash of blood, a white 
bandage, a limp form I 

For the second permissible — periscopes are tempt- 
ing targets — I looked through one over the top of 
the parapet. Another filml A big British lyddite 
shell went crashing into the German parapet. The 
dust from sandbags and dugouts merged into an im- 
mense cloud of ugly, black smoke. As the cloud 
rose, one saw the figure of a German dart out of 
sight; then nothing was visible but the gap which the 
explosion has made. No wise German would show 
himself there. British snipers were watching for him. 
At least half a dozen, perhaps a score, of men had 
been put out by this single " direct hit M of an h. e. 
(high explosive). Yes, the British gunners were 
shooting well, too. Other periscopic glimpses proved 
it. 

Through the periscope we learned also that the 
two lines of sandbags of German and British trenches 
were drawing nearer together. Another wounded 
man was brought by. 

" They're bombing up ahead. He has just been 
hit by a bomb." 



MORE BEST DAY 341 

As we drew aside to make room for him to pass, 
once more the civilian realised his helplessness and 
unimportance. One soldier was worth ten Prime 
Ministers in that place. We were as conspicuously 
mat a propos as an outsider at a bank directors' meet- 
ing or in a football scrimmage. The officer politely 
reminded us of the necessity of elbow room in the nar- 
row quarters for the bombers, who were hidden from 
view by the zigzag traverses, and I was not sorry, 
though perhaps my companions were. If so, they 
did not say so, not being talkative men. We were 
not going to see that two hundred yards of captured 
trench that was beyond the bombing action, after all. 
Oh, the twinkle in that staff officer's eye! 

" A Boche gas shell! " we were told, as we passed 
an informal excavation in the communication trench 
on our way back. " Asphyxiating effect. No time 
to put on respirators when one explodes. Laid out 
half a dozen men like fish, gasping for air, but they 
will recover." 

" The Boches want us to hurry! " exclaimed L . 

They were giving the communication trench a turn 
at " strafing," now, and shells were urgently dropping 
behind us. There was no use of trying to respond to 
one's natural inclination to run away from the pursu- 
ing shower when you had to squeeze past soldiers as 
you went. 

41 But look at what we are going into ! This is like 
beating up grouse to the guns, and we are the birds ! 
I am wondering if I like it." 

We could tell what had happened in our absence in 
the support trench by the litter of branches and leaves 
and by the excavations made by shells. It was still 
happening, too. Another nine-inch, with your only 



342 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

view of your surroundings the wall of earth which 
you hugged. Crash — and safe again ! 

" Pretty ! " L said, smiling. He was referring 

to the cloud of black smoke from the burst Pretty 
is a favourite word of his. I find that men use habit- 
ual exclamations on such occasions. R , also smil- 
ing, had said, " A black business, this I " a favourite 
expression with him. 

" Yet — pretty ! " R and I exclaimed together. 

L took a sliver off his coat and offered it to us 

as a souvenir. He did not know that he had said 
" Pretty I " or R that he had said " A black busi- 
ness I " several times that afternoon; nor did I know 
that I had exclaimed " For the love of Mike I " Psy- 
chologists take notice; and golfers are reminded that 
their favourite expletives when they foozle will come 
perfectly natural to them when the Germans are 
" strafing." Then another nine-inch, when we were 
out of the gallery in front of the warrens. My com- 
panions happened to be near a dugout. They did not 
go in tandem, but abreast. It was a " dead heat." 
All that I could see in the way of cover was a wall 
of sandbags, which looked about as comforting as 
tissue paper in such a crisis. 

At least, one faintly realised what it meant to be 
in the support trenches, where the men were still 
huddled in their caves. They never get a shot at the 
enemy or a chance to throw a bomb, unless they are 
sent forward to assist the front trenches in resisting 
an attack. It is for this purpose that they are kept 
within easy reach of the front trenches. They are 
like the prisoner tied to a chair-back, facing a gun. 

11 Yes, this was pretty heavy shell-fire," said an 
officer, who ought to know. " Not so bad as on the 



MORE BEST DAY 343 

trenches which the infantry are to attack — that is 
the first degree. You might call this the second." 

It was heavy enough to keep any writer from being 
bored. The second degree will do. We will leave 
the first till another time. 

Later, when we were walking along a paved road, 
I heard what seemed the siren call of another nine- 
inch. Once, in another war, I had been on a paved 
road when — well, I did not care to be on this one 
if a nine-inch hit it and turned fragments of paving- 
stones into projectiles. An effort to " run out the 
bunt " — Caesar's ghost ! It was one of our own 
shells! Nerves 1 Shame 1 Two stretcher-bearers 
with a wounded man looked up in surprise, wonder- 
ing what kind of a hide-and-seek game we were play- 
ing. They made a picture of imperturbability of the 
kind that is a cure for nerves under fire. If the other 
fellow is not scared it does not do for you to be 
scared. 

" Did you get any shells in your neighbourhood? " 
we asked the chauffeur — also British and imperturb- 
able — whom we found waiting at a clearing station 
for wounded. 

" Yes, sir, I saw several, but none hit the car." 

As we came to the first cross-roads in that dead 
land back of the trenches which was still being shelled 
by shrapnel, though not another car was in sight and 
ours had no business there (as we were told after- 
ward), that chauffeur, as he slowed up before turn- 
ing, held out his hand from habit as he would have 
done in Piccadilly. 

Two or three days later things were normal along 
the front again, with Mr. Atkins still stuffing himself 
with marmalade in that two hundred yards of trench. 



XXIV 

WINNING AND LOSING 

The Western front: a pulsating, changing line — Offensive with the 
British — The buoyant youth of England — Not a "good show" 

— English sportsmanship — A successful battalion — Psychology 
of the charge — " Here we are again I " — Stories of the capture 

— The " Keetcheenaires " — An army in the making. 

Seeming an immovable black line set as a frontier in 
peace, that Western front on your map which you 
bought early in the war in anticipation of rearranging 
the flags in keeping with each day's news was, in real- 
ity, a pulsating, changing line. 

At times one thought of it as an enormous rope 
under the constant pressure of soldiers on either side, 
who now and then, with an " all together " of a tug 
of war at a given point, straightened or made a bend, 
with the result imperceptible except as you measured 
it by a tree or a house. Battles as severe as the most 
important in South Africa, battles severe enough to 
have decided famous campaigns in Europe in older 
days, when one king rode forth against another, be- 
came the landmark incidents of the give and take, the 
wrangling and the wrestling of siege operations. 

The sensation of victory or defeat for those en- 
gaged became none the less vivid because victory 
meant the gain of so little ground and defeat the loss 
of so little; perhaps the more vivid in want of the 
movement of pursuing or of being pursued in the shock 
of arms in past times when an army front hardly cov- 
ered that of one brigade in the trenches. For win- 

344 



WINNING AND LOSING 345 

ners and losers returning to their billets in French vil- 
lages, as other battalions took their places, had time; 
to think over the action. 

The offensive was mostly with the British through 
the summer of 191 5; any thrust by the Germans was 
usually to retake a section of trenches which they had 
lost. But our attacks did not all succeed, of course. 
Battalions knew success and failure; and their nar- 
ratives were mine to share, just as one would share 
the good luck or the bad luck of his neighbours. 

You may have a story of heartbreak or triumph an 
hour after you have been chatting with playing chil- 
dren in a village street, as the car speeds toward the 
zone where the reserves are billeted and the occa- 
sional shell is warning that peace is behind you. 
First, one alights near the headquarters of two bat- 
talions which have been in an attack that failed. The 
colonel of the one to the left of the road was killed. 
We go across the fields to the right. Among the sur- 
viving officers resting in their shelter tents, where 
there is plenty of room now, is the adjutant, tall, boy- 
ish, looking tired, but still with no outward display 
of what he has gone through and what it has meant 
to him. I have seen him by the hundreds, this buoy- 
ant type of English youth. The colonel comes out 
of the farmhouse and he sends for some other officers. 

In army language, theirs had not been a " good 
show." We had heard the account of it with that 
matter-of-fact prefix from G. H. Q., where they took 
results with the necessarily cold eye of logic. The 
two battalions were set to take a trench ; that was all. 
In the midst of merciless shell-fire they had waited for 
their own guns to draw all the teeth out of the trench. 
When the given moment came they swept forward. 



3.46 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

But our artillery had not " connected up " properly. 

The German machine guns were not out of com- 
mission, and for them it was like working a loom play- 
ing the bullets back and forth across the zone of a 
hundred yards which the British had to traverse. The 
British had been told to charge and they charged. 
Theirs not to reason why; that was the glory of the 
thing. Nothing more gallant in warfare than their 
persistence, till they found that it was like trying to 
swim in a cataract of lead. One officer got within fifty 
yards of the German parapet before he fell. At last 
they realised that it could not be done — later than 
they should, but they were a proud regiment and 
though they had been too brave, there was something 
splendid about it. 

With a soldier's winning frankness and simplicity 
they told what had happened. Even before they 
charged they knew the machine guns were in place; 
they knew what they had to face. One spoke of see- 
ing, as they lay waiting, a German officer standing 
up in the midst of the British shell-fire. 

" A stout-hearted fighter ! We had to admire 
him ! " said the adjutant. 

It was a chivalrous thought with a deep appeal, 
considering what he had been through. Oh, these 
English! They will not hate; they cannot be sepa- 
rated from their sense of sportsmanship. 

It was not the first time the guns had not " con- 
nected up " for either side, and German charges on 
many occasions had met a like fate. Calm enough, 
these officers, true to their birthright of phlegm. They 
did not make excuses. Success is the criterion 
of battle. They had failed. Their unblinking recog- 
nition of the fact was a sort of self-punishment 



WINNING AND LOSING 347 

which cut deep into your own sensitiveness. One 
young lieutenant could not keep his lip from trembling 
over that naked, grim thought. The pride of regi- 
ment had been struck a whip-blow which meant more 
to the soldier than any injury to his personal pride. 

But next time ! They wanted another try for that 
trench, these survivors. No matter about anything 
else — the battalion must have another chance. You 
appreciated this from a few words and more from the 
stubborn resolution in the bearing of all. There was 
no " let-us-at-'em-again " frightfulness. In order to 
end this war you must " lick " one side or the other, 
and these men were not " licked." One was sorry 
that he had gone to see them. It was like lacerating 
a wound. One could only assure them, in his faith 
in their gallantry, that they would win next time. 
And oh, how you wanted them to win! They de- 
served to win because they were such manly losers. 

At home in their rough wooden houses in camp 
we found a battalion which had won — the same un- 
demonstrative type as the one that had lost; the same 
simplicity and kindly hospitality which gives life at 
the front a charm in the midst of its tragedy, from 
these men of one of the dependable line regiments. 
This colonel knew the other colonel, and he said about 
the other what his fellow-officers had said : it was not 
his fault; he was a good man. If the guns were not 
" on," what happened to him was bound to happen to 
anybody. They had been " on " for the winning bat- 
talion; perfectly " on." They had buried the ma- 
chine guns and the Germans with them. 

When a man goes into the kind of charge that 
either battalion made he gives himself up for lost. 
The psychology is simple. You are going to keep on 



348 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

until — ! Well, as Mr. Atkins has remarked in his 
own terse way, a battle was a lot of noise all around 
you and suddenly a big bang in your ear; and then 
somebody said, " Please open your mouth and take 
this I " and you found yourself in a white, silent place 
full of cots. 

The winning battalion was amazed how easily the 
thing was done. They had "walked in." They 
were a little surprised to be alive — thanks to the 
guns. " Here we are I Here we are again ! " as the 
song at the front goes. It is all a lottery. Make 
up your mind to draw the death number; and if you 
don't, that is velvet. Army courage these days is 
highly sensitised steel in response to will. 

They had won; there was a credit mark in the 
regimental record. All had won; nobody in particu- 
lar, but the battalion, the lot of them. They did not 
boast about it. The thing just happened. They 
were alive and enjoying the sheer fact of life, writ- 
ing letters home, re-reading letters from home, look- 
ing at the pictures in the illustrated papers, as they 
leaned back and smoked their briar-wood pipes and 
discussed politics with that freedom and directness of 
opinion which is an Englishman's pastime and his 
birthright. 

The captain who was describing the fight had re- 
tired from the army, gone into business, and returned 
as a reserve officer. The guns were to stop firing at 
a given moment. As the minute-hand lay over the 
figure on his wrist watch he dashed for the broken 
parapet, still in the haze of dust from the shell-bursts, 
to find not a German in sight. All were under cover. 
He enacted the ridiculous scene with humorous ap- 
preciation of how he came face to face with a German 



WINNING AND LOSING 349 

as he turned a traverse. He was ready with his re- 
volver and the other was not, and the other was his 
prisoner. 

There was nothing grewsome about listening to a 
diffident soldier explaining how he u bombed them 
out,'! and you shared his amusement over the sur- 
prise of a German who stuck his head out of a dugout 
within a foot of the face of a British soldier, who was 
peeping inside to see if any more Boches were at 
home. You rejoiced with this battalion. Victory is 
sweet. 

When on the way back to quarters you passed some 
of the New Army men, " the Keetcheenaires," as the 
French call them, you were reminded of how, al- 
though the war was old, the British army was young. 
There was a " Watch our city grow 1 " atmosphere 
about it. Little by little, some great force seems 
steadily pushing up from the rear. It made that busi- 
ness institution at G. H. Q. feel like bankers with an 
enormous, increasing surplus. In this the British is 
like no other army. One has watched it in the 
making. 



XXV 

THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 

Canadians at the front — Home folks to the American — One touch 
of New York slang — Hustlers — The discipline of self-reliance 

— Charging through gas — Our bond with the Canadians — 
Their optimism and sentiment — The Princess Pats — Holding 
down the lid of hell — The second battle of Ypres — The Story 
of May Eighth — Holding a salient — The Germans prepare to 
attack — The marksmen of the P. P's — Down go the Germans 

— The attack broken — Official record of the struggle — Ma- 
chine guns buried — Reinforcements and ammunition — The 
third and severest charge — Seventy-five per cent casualties — 
The P. P's, "regulars"— Modern knights. 

These were home folks to the American. You 
might know all by their maple leaf symbol; but even 
before you saw that, with its bronze none too promi- 
nent against the khaki, you knew those who were not 
recent emigrants from England to Canada by their 
accent and by certain slang phrases which pay no cus- 
toms duty at the border. 

When, on a dark February night cruising in a 
slough of a road, I heard out of a wall of blackness 
back of the trenches, " Gee ! Get onto the bus 1 " 
which referred to our car, and also, " Cut out the 
noise ! " I was certain that I might dispense with an 
interpreter. After I had remarked that I came from 
New York, which is only across the street from Mon- 
treal as distances go in our countries, the American 
batting about the front at midnight was welcomed 
with a " glad hand " across that imaginary line which 

has and ever shall have no fortresses. 

350 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 351 

What a strange place to find Canadians — at the 
front in Europe! I could never quite accommodate 
myself to the wonder of a man from Winnipeg, and 
perhaps a " neutral " from Wyoming in his company, 
fighting Germans in Flanders. A man used to a 
downy couch and an easy-chair by the fire and steam- 
heated rooms, who had ten thousand a year in 
Toronto, when you found him in a chill, damp cellar 
of a peasant's cottage in range of the enemy's shells 
was getting something more novel, if not more pic- 
turesque, than dog-mushing and prospecting on the 
Yukon ; for that contrast we are quite used to. 

All I asked of the Canadians was to allow a little 
of the glory they had won — they had won such a 
lot — to rub off on their neighbours. If there must 
be war, and no Canadian believed in it as an institu- 
tion, why, to my mind, the Canadians did a fine thing 
for civilisation's sake. It hurt sometimes to think 
that we also could not be in the fight for the good 
cause, too, particularly after the Lusitania was sunk, 
when my own feelings had lost all semblance to neu- 
trality. 

The Canadians enlivened life at the front; for they 
have a little more zip to them than the thorough- 
going British. Their climate spells " hustle," and we 
are all the product of climate to a large degree, 
whether in England, on the Mississippi flatlands, or 
in Manitoba. Eager and highstrung the Canadian 
born, quick to see and act. Very restless they were 
when held up on Salisbury Plain, after they had come 
three-four-five-six thousand miles to fight and there 
was nothing but mud in an English winter to fight. 

One from the American continent knew what ailed 
them; they wanted action. They may have seemed 



352 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

undisciplined to a drill sergeant; but the kind of dis* 
cipline they needed was a sight of the real thing. 
They wanted to know, What for ? And Lord Kitch- 
ener was kinder to them, though many were begin- 
ners, than to his own new army ; he could be, as they 
had their guns and equipment ready. So he sent 
them over to France before it was too late in the 
spring to get frozen feet from standing in icy water 
looking over a parapet at a German parapet. They 
liked Flanders mud better than Salisbury Plain mud, 
because it meant that there was " something doing.' 1 

It was in their first trenches that I first saw them, 
and they were " on the job, all right," in face of scat- 
tered shell-fire and the sweep of the searchlights and 
the flares. They had become the most ardent of 
pupils, for here was that real thing which steadied 
them and proved their metal. They refashioned 
their trenches and drained them with the fastidious- 
ness of good housekeepers, who had a frontiersman's 
experience for an inheritance. In a week they ap- 
peared to be old hands at the business. 

u Their discipline is different from ours," said a 
British general, "but it works out. They are splen- 
did. I ask for no better troops." 

They may have lacked the etiquette of discipline 
of British regulars, but they had the natural disci- 
pline of self-reliance and of " go to it " when a crisis 
came. This trench was only an introduction, a prep- 
aration for a thing which was about as real as ever 
fell to the lot of any soldiers. It is not for me to 
tell here the story of their part in the second battle 
of Ypres when the gas fumes rolled in upon them. I 
should like to tell it and also the story of the deeds 
of many British regiments, from the time of Mons 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 353 

to Festubert. All Canada knows it in detail from 
their own correspondents and their record officer. 
England will one day know about her regiments ; her 
stubborn regiments of the line, her county regiments, 
who have won the admiration of all the crack regi- 
ments, whether English or Scots. 

" When that gas came along," said one Canadian, 
who expressed the Canadian spirit, " we knew the 
Boches were springing a new one on us. You know 
how it is if a man is hit in the face by a cloud of 
smoke when he is going into a burning building to 
get somebody out. He draws back — and then he 
goes in. We went in. We charged — well, it was 
the way we felt about it. We wanted to get at them 
and we were boiling mad over such a dastardly kind of 
attack." 

Higher authorities than any civilian have testified 
to how that charge helped, if it did not save the situa- 
tion. And then at Givenchy — straight work into the 
enemy's trenches under the guns. Canada is a part 
of the British Empire and a precious part; but the 
Canadians, all imperial politics aside, fought their 
way into the affections of the British army, if they 
did not already possess it. They made the Rocky 
Mountains seem more majestic and the Thousand Is- 
lands more lovely. 

If there are some people in the United States busy 
with their own affairs who look on the Canadians as 
living up north somewhere toward the Arctic Circle 
and not very numerous, that old criterion of merit 
which discovers in the glare of battle's publicity merit 
which already existed has given to the name Canadian 
a glory which can be appreciated only with the per- 
spective of time. The Civil War left us a martial 



354 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

tradition ; they have won theirs. Some day a few of 
their neutral neighbours, who fought by their side will 
be joining in their army reunions and remarking, 
" Wasn't that mud in Flanders — " etc. 

My thanks to the Canadians for being at the front. 
They brought me back to the plains and the North- 
west, and they showed the Germans on some occa- 
sions what a blizzard is like when expressed in bullets 
instead of in snowflakes, by men who know how to 
shoot. I had continental pride in them. They had 
the dry, pungent philosophy and the indomitable opti- 
mism which the air of the plains and the St. Lawrence 
Valley seems to develop. They were not afraid to 
be a little emotional and sentimental. There is room 
for that sort of thing between Vancouver and Hali- 
fax. They had been in some " tough scraps " which 
they saw clear-eyed, as they would see a boxing-match 
or a spill from a canoe into a Canadian rapids. 

As for the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light In- 
fantry, all old soldiers of the South African campaign 
almost without exception, knowing and hardened, 
their veteran experience gave them an earlier oppor- 
tunity in the trenches than the first Canadian division. 
Brigaded with British regulars, the Princess Pats 
were a sort of corps d'elite. Colonel Francis Far- 
quhar, known as " Fanny," was their colonel, and he 
knew his men. After he was killed his spirit re- 
mained with them. Asked if they could stick, they 
said, " Yes, sir! " cheerily, as he would have wanted 
them to say it. 

I am going to tell you about the work of the Prin- 
cess Pats on May 8th, not to single them out from 
any other regiment, but because it is typical of the 
kind of fighting which many another regiment has 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 355 

known and I have it in illustrative detail. Losses, 
day by day losses, characteristic of trench warfare, 
they had previously suffered in holding a difficult 
salient at St. Eloi — losses that added up into the 
hundreds. Heretofore as one of them said, they had 
been holding down the lid of hell, but on May 8th 
they were to hold on to the edge of the opening by 
the skin of their teeth and look down into the bowels 
of hell after the Germans had blown off the lid with 
high explosives. 

It was in a big chateau that I first heard the story 
and felt the thrill of it told by the tongues of its par- 
ticipants. There were twenty bedrooms in that cha- 
teau. If I wished to stay all night I might occupy 
three or four — and as for that bathroom, paradise 
to men who have been buried in filthy mud by high 
explosives, the Frenchman who planned it had the 
most spacious ideas in immersions. A tub or a 
shower or a hose as you pleased. Some bathroom, 
that I 

For nothing in the British army was too good for 
the Princess Pats before May 8th; and since May 8th 
nothing was quite good enough. Five of us sat down 
to dinner in a banquet hall looking out on a private 
park, big enough to hold fifty. The talk ran fast. 

" Too bad Gault is not here. He's in England 
recovering from his wound. Gault is six feet tall and 
five feet of him legs. All day in that trench with a 
shell wound in his thigh and arm. God! How he 
was suffering! But not a moan — his face twitch- 
ing and trying to make the twitch into a smile — and 
telling us to stick." 

" Buller away, too. He was the second in com- 
mand. Gault succeeded him. Buller was hit on 



356 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

May 5th — and missed the big show — piece of shell 
in the eye." 

" And Charlie Stewart, who was shot through the 
stomach. How we miss him. If ever there were a 
4 live-wire ' it's Charlie. Up or down, he's smiling 
and ready for the next adventure. Once he made 
thirty thousand dollars in the Yukon — and spent it 
on the way to Vancouver. The first job he could get 
was washing dishes — but he wasn't washing them 
long. Again he started out in the Northwest on an 
expedition with four hundred traps to cut into the 
fur business of the Hudson's Bay Company. His 
Indians got sick ; he wouldn't desert them — and be- 
fore he was through he had a time which beat any- 
thing yet opened up for us by the Germans in Flan- 
ders — but you have heard such stories from the 
Northwest before. Being shot through the stomach 
the way he was all the doctors agreed that Charlie 
would die. It was like Charlie to disagree with 
them. He always has his own point of view. So 
he is getting well. Charlie came out to the war with 
the packing-case which had been used by his grand- 
father, who was an officer in the Crimean War. He 
said that it would bring him luck." 

The 4th of May was bad enough — a ghastly fore- 
runner for the 8th. On the 4th the P. P's, after 
having been under shell-fire throughout the second 
battle of Ypres — the " gas battle " — were ordered 
forward to a new line to the southeast of Ypres. To 
the north of Ypres the British line had been driven 
back by the concentration of shell-fire and the roll- 
ing, deadly march of the clouds of asphyxiating gas. 

The Germans were still determined to take the 
town which they had showered with four million dol- 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 357 

lars' worth of shells. It would be big news — the 
fall of Ypres as a prelude to the fall of Przemysl 
and of Lemberg. A wicked salient was produced in 
the British line to the southeast by the cave-in to the 
north. It seems to be the lot of the P. P's to get 
into salients. On the 4th they lost 28 men killed 
and 98 wounded from a gruelling all-day shell-fire 
and stone-walling. That night they got relief and 
were out for two days, when they were back in the 
front trenches again. The 5 th and the 6th were 
fairly quiet; that is, what the P. P's or Mr. Thomas 
Atkins would call quiet. Average mortals wouldn't. 
They would try to appear unconcerned and say they 
had been under pretty heavy fire — which means 
shells all over the place and machine guns combing 
the parapet. Very dull, indeed. Only three men 
killed and seventeen wounded. 

On the night of May 7th the P. P's had a muster 
of 635 men. This was a good deal less than half 
of the original total in the battalion, including re- 
cruits who had come out to fill the gaps caused by 
death, wounds and sickness. Bear in mind that be- 
fore this war a force was supposed to prepare for 
retreat with a loss of ten per cent, and get under way 
to the rear with the loss of fifteen per cent., and that 
with the loss of thirty per cent, it was supposed to 
have borne all that can be expected of the best trained 
soldiers. 

The Germans were quiet that night — suggestively 
quiet. At 4.30 the prelude began; by 5.30 the Ger- 
man gunners had fairly warmed to their work. They 
were using every kind of shell they had in the locker. 
Every signal wire the P. P's possessed had been cut. 
The brigade commander could not know what was 



358 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

happening to them and they could not know his 
wishes — except that it may be taken for granted that 
the orders of any British brigade commander are al- 
ways to " stick it." 

The shell-fire was as thick at the P. P.'s backs as 
in front of them. They were fenced in by shell-fire. 
And they were infantry taking what the guns gave 
in order to put them out of business so that the way 
would be clear for the German infantry to charge. 
In theory they ought to have been buried and man- 
gled beyond the power of resistance by what is called 
" the artillery preparation for the infantry in at- 
tack.' 1 

Every man of the P. P's knew what was coming. 
There was relief in their hearts when they saw the 
Germans break from their trenches and start down 
the slope of the hill in front. Now they could take 
it out of the German infantry in payment for what 
the German guns were doing to them. This was their 
only thought. Being good shots, with the instinct of 
the man who is used to shooting at game, the P. P's 
" shoot to kill " and at individual targets. The light 
green of the German uniform is more visible on the 
deep green background of spring grass and foliage 
than against the tints of autumn. 

At two or three or four hundred yards no one of 
the marksmen of the P. P's, and there were several 
said to be able to " shoot the eye off an ant," could 
miss the target. As for Corporal Christy, the old 
bear hunter of the Northwest, he leaned out over the 
parapet when a charge began because he could shoot 
better in that position. They kept on knocking down 
Germans; they didn't know that men around them 
were being hit ; they hardly knew that they were being 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 359 

shelled except when a burst shook their aim or filled 
their eyes with dust. In that case they wiped the 
dust out of their eyes and went on. The first that 
many of them realised that the German attack was 
broken was when they saw green blots in front of the 
standing figures — which were now going in the other 
direction. Then the thing was to keep as many of 
these as possible from getting back over the hill. 
After that they could dress the wounded and make 
the dying a little more comfortable. For there was 
no getting the wounded to the rear. They had to 
remain there in the trench perhaps to be wounded 
again, spectators of their comrades' valour without 
the preoccupation of action. 

In the official war journal where a battalion keeps 
its records — that precious historical document which 
will be safeguarded in fireproof vaults one of these 
days — you may read in cold official language what 
happened in one section of the British line on the 8th 
of May. Thus: 

"7 A. M. Fire trench on right blown in at sev- 
eral points. ... 9 A. M. Lieutenants Martin and 
Triggs were hit and came out of left communicating 
trench with number of wounded. . . . Captain Still 
and Lieut, de Bay hit also. . . . 9.30 A. M. All 
machine guns were buried (by high explosive shells) 
but two were dug out and mounted again. A shell 
killed every man in one section. . . . 10.30 A.M. 
Lieut. Edwards was killed. . . . Lieutenant Craw- 
ford, who was most gallant, was severely wounded. 
. . . Captain Adamson, who had been handing out 
ammunition, was hit in the shoulder, but continued 
to work with only one arm useful. . . . Sergeant- 
Major Frazer, who was also handing out ammunition 



360 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

to support trenches, was killed instantly by. a bullet 
in the head." 

At 10.30 only four officers remained fit for action. 
All were lieutenants. The ranking one of these was 
Niven, in command after Gault was wounded at 7 A. M. 
We have all met the Niven type anywhere from the 
Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Circle, the high-strung, 
wiry type, who moves about too fast to carry any loose 
flesh and accumulates none because he does move 
about so fast. A little man Niven, a rancher, a horse- 
man, with a good education and a knowledge of men. 
He rather fits the old saying about licking his weight 
in wild cats — wild cats being nearer his size than 
lions or tigers. 

Eight months before he had not known any more 
about war than thousands of other Canadians of his 
type, except that soldiers carried rifles over their 
shoulders and kept step. But he had " Fanny " Far- 
quhar of the British army for his teacher; and he 
studied the book of war in the midst of shells and 
bullets — which means that the lessons stick in the 
same way as the lesson the small boy receives when 
he touches the red-hot end of a poker to see how it 
feels. 

Writing in the midst of ruined trenches rocked by 
the concussion of shells, every message he sent that 
day, every report he made by orderly after the wires 
were down was written out very explicitly — which 
Farquhar had taught him was the army way. The 
record is there of his coolness when the lid was blown 
off of hell. For all you can tell by the firm chirog- 
raphy he might have been sending a note to a ranch 
foreman. 

After his communications were cut, he was not cer 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 361 

tain how much support he had on his flanks. It 
looked for a time as if he had none. After the first 
charge was repulsed he made contact with the King's 
Royal Rifle Corps on his right. He knew from the 
nature of the first German charge that the second 
would be worse than the first. The Germans had ad- 
vanced some machine guns; they wcmld be able to 
place their increased artillery fire more accurately- 
Again green figures started down that hill and again 
they were put back. Then Niven was able to estab* 
lish contact with the Shropshire Light Infantry, an- 
other regiment on his left. So he knew that right 
and left he was supported — and by seasoned British 
regulars. This was very, very comforting — espe- 
cially so when German machine gun fire was not only 
coming from the front but in enfilade — which is so 
trying to a soldier's steadiness. In other words, the 
P. P's were shooting at Germans in front while bul- 
lets were whipping crosswise of their trenches and 
of the regulars on their flanks, too. Some of the 
German infantrymen who had not been hit or had 
not fallen back had dug themselves cover and were 
firing at a closer range. 

The Germans had located the points in the P. PY 
trench occupied by the machine guns. At least, they 
could put these hornets 9 nests out of business, if not all 
the individual riflemen. So they concentrated high 
explosive shells on them. That did the trick; it bur- 
ied them. But a buried machine gun may be dug out 
and fired again. It may be dug out two or three times 
and keep on firing as long as it will work and there is 
any one to man it. 

While the machine guns were being exhumed every 
man in one sector of the trench was killed. Then the 



362 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

left half of the right fire trench got three or four 
shells one after another bang into it. There was no 
trench left: only macerated earth and mangled men. 
Those emerging alive were told to fall back to the 
communicating trench. Next the right end of the 
left fire trench was blown in. When the survivors 
fell back to the communication trench that was also 
blown in their face. 

" Oh, but we were having a merry party," as Lieu- 
tenant Vandenberg said. 

Niven and his lieutenants were moving here and 
there to the point of each new explosion to ascertain 
the amount of the damage and to decide what was 
to be done as the result. One soldier described 
Niven's eyes as sparks emitted from two holes in his 
dust-caked face. 

Papineau tells how a tree outside the trench was 
cut in two by a shell and its trunk laid across the 
breach of the trench caused by another shell; and 
lying over the trunk limp and lifeless where he had 
fallen was a man killed by still another shell. 

" I remember how he looked because I had to step 
around him and over the trunk,' 9 said Papineau. 

Unless you did have to step around a dead or 
wounded man there was no time to observe his ap- 
pearance; for by noon there were as many dead and 
wounded in the P. PV trench as there were men fit 
for action. 

Those unhurt did not have to be steadied by their 
superiors. Knocked down by a concussion they 
sprang up with the promptness of disgust of one 
thrown off a horse or tripped by a wire. When told 
to move from one part of the trench to another where 
there was desperate need, a word was sufficient direc- 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 363 

tion. They understood what was wanted of them, 
these veterans. They went. They seized every lull 
to drop the rifle for the spade and repair the breaches. 
When they were not shooting they were digging. 
The officers had only to keep reminding them not to 
expose themselves in the breaches. For in the thick 
of it — and the thicker the more so — they must try 
to keep some dirt between all of their bodies except 
the head and arm which must be up in order to fire. 

At 1.30 a cheer rose from that trench. It was for 
a platoon of the King's Royal Rifles which had come 
as reinforcement. Oh, but that band of Tommies did 
look good to the P. P's! And the little prize pack- 
age that the very reliable Mr. Atkins had with him — » 
the machine gun ! You can always count on Mr. At- 
kins to remain " among those present " to the last on 
such occasions. 

Now Niven got word by messenger to go to the 
nearest point where the telephone was working and 
tell the brigade commander the complete details of 
the situation. The brigade commander asked him if 
he could stick, and he said " Yes, sir ! " which is what 
Col. " Fanny " Farquhar would have said. That 
trip was hardly what could be called peaceful. The 
orderly whom Niven had with him both going and 
coming was hit by high explosive shells. Niven is so 
small — it is very difficult to hit him. He is about up 
to Major Gault's shoulder. 

He had been worrying about his supply of rifle car- 
tridges. There were not enough to take care of an- 
other German infantry charge which was surely com- 
ing. After repelling two charges, think of failing to 
repel the third for want of ammunition! Think of 
Corporal Christy, the bear-hunter, with the Germans 



364 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

thick in front of him and no bullets for his rifle! 
But appeared again Mr. Thomas Atkins — another 
platoon of him with twenty boxes of cartridges which 
were rather a risky burden to bring through the shell 
fire. The relief as these were distributed was that of 
having something at your throat which threatens to 
strangle you removed. 

Making another tour of his trenches about four in 
the afternoon, Niven found that there was a gap of 
fifty yards between his left and the right of the ad- 
joining regiment. Fifty yards is the inch on the end 
of a man's nose in trench warfare on such an occasion. 
He was able to place eight men in that gap. At least, 
they could keep a lookout and tell him what was going 
on. 

It was not cheering news either to learn a little 
later that the regiments on his left had withdrawn to 
trenches about three hundred yards to the rear — a 
long distance in trench warfare. But the P. P's had 
no time for retirement. They could have gone only 
in the panic of men who think of nothing in their de- 
moralisation except to flee from the danger in front 
without thinking that there may be more danger to the 
rear. They were held where they were under what 
cover they had by the renewed blasts of shells — put- 
ting the machine guns out of action again — which 
suddenly ceased; for the Germans were coming on 
again. 

Now was the supreme effort. It was as a night- 
mare in which only the objective of effort is recalled 
and all else is a vague struggle of all the strength one 
can exert against smothering odds. No use to ask 
these men what they thought. What do you think 
when you are climbing up a rope whose strands are 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 365 

breaking over the edge of a precipice ? You climb — 
that is all. 

The P. P's shot at Germans. After a night with- 
out sleep, after a day among their dead and wounded, 
after the torrents of shell-fire, after breathing smoke, 
dust and gas, these veterans were in a state of exalta- 
tion entirely unconscious of dangers of their surround- 
ings, mindless of what came next, automatically shoot- 
ing to kill as they were trained to do, even as a man 
pulls with every ounce of strength he has in him in a 
close finish of a boat race. 

Corporal Dover had to give up firing his machine 
gun at last. Wounded, he had dug it out of the earth 
after an explosion and set it up again. The explosion 
that destroyed the gun finally crushed his leg and arm. 
He crawled out of the debris towards the support 
trench which had become the fire trench, only to be 
killed by a bullet. 

The Germans got possession of a section of the P. 
PV trench where, it is believed, no Canadians were 
left. But the German effort died there. It could get 
no farther. This was as near to Ypres as the Ger- 
mans were to go in this direction. When the day's 
work was done and there in sight of the field scattered 
with German dead, the P. P's counted their numbers. 
Of the 635 men who had begun the fight at daybreak 
one hundred and fifty men and four officers, Niven, 
Papineau, Clark and Vandenberg, remained fit for 
duty. 

Papineau is a young lawyer of Montreal, who had 
already won the Military Cross for bombing Germans 
out of a sap at St. Eloi. Vandenberg is a Dutchman 
— but mostly he is Vandenberg. To him the call of 
youth is the call to arms. He knows the roads of 



366 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Europe and the roads of Chihuahua. He was at 
home fighting with Villa at Zacatecas and at home 
fighting with the P. P's in front of Ypres. 

Darkness found all the survivors among the P. P's 
in the support and communication trenches. The fire 
trench had become an untenable dust-heap. They 
crept out only to bring in any wounded unable to help 
themselves ; and wounded and rescuers were more than 
once hit in the process. It was too dangerous to at- 
tempt to bury the dead, who were in the fire trench. 
Most of them had already been buried by shells. For 
them and for the dead in the support trenches interred 
by their living comrades Niven recited such portions as 
he could recall of the Church of England service for 
the dead — recited them with a tight throat. Theij 
the P. P's, unbeaten, marched out, leaving the position 
to their relief, a battalion of the King's Royal Rifle 
Corps. 

Eighteen hundred strong they had come out to 
France; and after they had repulsed German charges 
in the midst of shells that mauled their trenches at 
Hooge on that indescribable day of May 8th, one 
hundred and fifty were able to bear arms and little 
Lieutenant Niven, polo player and horseman, who 
had entered as a private, was in command. Corporal 
Christy, bear-hunter of the Northwest, who could 
" shoot the eyes off an ant," by some miracle had es- 
caped without a scratch. All the praise that the 
P. P's, millionaire or labourer, scapegrace or respect- 
able pillar of society, ask is that they were worthy of 
fighting side by side with Mr. Thomas Atkins, regular. 
At best one poor little finite mind only observes 
through a rift in the black smoke and yellow smoke of 
high explosives and the clouds of dust and military 



THE MAPLE LEAF FOLK 367 

secrecy something of what has happened in a small 
section of that long line from Switzerland to the North 
Sea many times ; and this is given here. 

Leaning against the wall in a corner of the dining- 
room of the French chateau were the P. PY colours. 
Major Niven took off the wrapper in order that I 
might see the flag with the initials of the battalion 
which Princess Patricia embroidered with her own 
hands. There's room, one repeats, for a little senti- 
ment and a little emotion, too, between Halifax and 
Vancouver. 

" Of course we could not take our colours into 
action," said Niven. "They would have been torn 
into tatters or buried in a shell crater. But we've al- 
ways kept them up at battalion headquarters. I be- 
lieve we are the only battalion that has. We prom- 
ised the Princess that we would." 

In her honour an old custom has been renewed in 
France: knights are fighting in the name of a fair 
lady. 



XXVI 

FINDING THE BRITISH FLEET 

The Briton's island instinct — Secrecy surrounding the fleet — The 
magic message — The journey — A night drive along the bleak 
coast of Scotland — Boy scouts as sentries—- An obdurate guard 
— The navy yard — The Admiral's "quarter deck"— The 
largest contract in all England — Great dry docks — Patriots in 
workmen's clothes. 

The Briton's national self-consciousness is surrounded 
by salt water. His island instinct is only another 
word for sea instinct. Ebb and flow of war on the 
Continent, play of party politics at home, optimism 
and pessimism wrestling in the press — in the back of 
his head he was thinking of the navy. 

During the first year of the war all other curtain^ 
of military secrecy were parted at intervals; but the 
world of British naval operations seemed hermetically 
sealed. One could only imagine what the Grand Fleet 
was like. He had despaired of ever seeing it in the 
life, when good fortune slipped a message across the 
Channel to the British front, which became the magic 
carpet of transition from the burrowing army in its 
trenches to the solid decks of battleships; which 
changed the war correspondent's modern steed, the 
automobile, trailing dust over French roads, to de- 
stroyers trailing foam in choppy seas off English 
coasts. 

But not all the journeying was on destroyers. One 

must travel by car also if he would know something 

of the intricate, busy world of the Admiralty's work, 

368 



FINDING THE BRITISH FLEET 369 

which makes coastguards a part of its personnel. 
There was more than ships to see ; more than one place 
to go in that wonderful week. 

The transition is less sudden if we begin with the 
career of an open car along the coast of Scotland in 
the night. Dusk had fallen on the purple cloud-lands 
of heather dotted with the white spots of grazing 
sheep in the Scotch highlands under changing skies, 
with headlands stretching out into the misty reaches 
of the North Sea, forbidding in the chill air after the 
warmth of France and suggestive of the uninviting 
theatre where, in approaching winter, patrols and 
trawlers and mine-sweepers carried on their work to 
within range of the guns of Heligoland. A people 
who lived in such a chill land, in sight of such a chill 
sea, and who spoke of their " bonnie Scotland for- 
ever," were worthy to be masters of that sea. 

The Americans who think of Britain as a small is- 
land forget the distance from Land's End to John o' 
Groat's, which represents coast line to be guarded; 
and we may find a lesson, too, we who must make our 
real defence by sea, of tireless vigils which may be our 
own if the old Armageddon beast ever comes threaten- 
ing the far-longer coast line that we have to defend. 
For you may never know what war is till war comes. 
Not even the Germans knew, though they had prac- 
tised with a lifelike dummy behind the curtains for 
forty years. 

At intervals, just as in the military zone in France, 
sentries stopped us and took the number of our car; 
but this time sentries, who were guarding a navy's 
rather than an army's secrets. With darkness we 
passed the light of an occasional inn, while cottage 
lights made a scattered sprinkling among the dim 



370 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

masses of the hills. One wondered where all the 
kilted Highland soldiers whom he had seen at the 
front came from, without, I trust, disclosing any mili- 
tary secret that the canny Highlanders enlist Low- 
landers in kilty regiments. 

The Frenchmen of our party — M. Stephen Pichon, 
former Foreign Minister, M. Rene Bazin, of the 
Academie Frangaise, M. Joseph Reinach, of the 
Figaro, M. Pierre Mille, of Le Temps, and M. Henri 
Ponsot — who had never been in Scotland before, 
were on the lookout for a civilian Scot in kilts and 
were grievously disappointed not to find a single one. 

That night ride convinced me that however many 
Germans might be moving about in England under the 
guise of cockney or of Lancashire dialects in quest of 
information, none has any chance in Scotland. He 
could never get the burr, I am sure, unless born in 
Scotland; and if he were, once he had it the triumph 
ought to make him a Scotchman at heart. 

The officer of the Royal Navy, who was in the car 
with me, confessed to less faith in his symbol of 
authority than in the generations'-bred burr of our 
chauffeur to carry conviction of our genuineness; so 
arguments were left to him and successfully, including 
two or three with Scotch cattle, which seemed to be 
co-operating with the sentries to block the road. 

After an hour's run inland and the car rose over a 
ridge and descended on a sharp grade, in the distance 
under the moonlight we saw the floor of the sea again, 
melting into opaqueness, with curving fringes of foam 
along the irregular shore cut by the indentations of the 
firths. Now the sentries were more frequent and 
more particular. Our single light gave dim form to 



FINDING THE BRITISH FLEET 371 

the figures of sailors, soldiers, and boy scouts on 
patrol. 

" They've done remarkably well, these boys ! " said 
the officer. " Our fears that, boy like, they would see 
all kinds of things which didn't exist were quite need- 
less. The work has taught them a sense of responsi- 
bility which will remain with them after the war, when 
their experience will be a precious memory. They 
realise that it isn't play, but a serious business, and act 
accordingly." 

With all the houses and the countryside dark, the 
rays of our lamp seemed an invading comet to the men 
who held up lanterns with red twinkles of warning. 

" The patrol boats have complained about your 
lights, sir ! " said one obdurate sentry. 

We looked out into the black wall in the direction 
of the sea and could see no sign of a patrol boat. 
How had it been able to inform this lone sentry of 
that flying ray which disclosed the line of a coastal 
road to any one at sea ? He would not accept the best 
argumentative burr that our chauffeur might produce 
as sufficient explanation or guarantee. Most Scottish 
of Scots in physiognomy and shrewd matter-of-fact- 
ness, as revealed in the glare of the lantern, he might 
have been on watch in the Highland fastnesses in 
Prince Charlie's time. 

" Captain R , of the Royal Navy! " explained 

the officer, introducing himself. 

" I'll take your name and address ! " said the sentry. 

" The Admiralty. I take the responsibility." 

" As I'll report, sir ! " said the sentry, not so con- 
vinced but he burred something further into the chauf- 
feur's ear. 



372 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

This seems to have little to do with the navy, but it 
has much, indeed, as a part of an unfathomable, com- 
plicated business of guards within guards, intelligence 
battling with intelligence, deceiving raiders by land or 
sea, of those responsible for the safety of England 

and the mastery of the seas. 

• •••••• 

It is from the navy yard that the ships go forth to 
battle and to the navy yard they must return for sup- 
plies and for the grooming beat of hammers in the dry 
dock. Those who work at a navy yard keep the 
navy's house; welcome home all the family, from 
Dreadnoughts to trawlers, give them cheer and shelter, 
and bind up their wounds. 

The quarter-deck of action for Admiral Lowry, 
commanding the great base on the Forth, which was 
begun before the war and hastened to completion since, 
was a substantial brick office building. Adjoining his 
office, where he worked with engineers' blue prints as 
well as with sea maps, he had fitted up a small bed- 
room where he slept, to be at hand if any emergency 
arose. 

Partly we walked, as he showed us over his domain 
of steam-shovels, machine shops, cement factories, of 
building and repairs, of coaling and docking, and partly 
we rode on a car that ran over temporary rails laid 
for trucks loaded with rocks and dirt. Borrowing 
from Peter to pay Paul, a river bottom had been filled 
in back of the quays with material that had been exca- 
vated to form a vast basin with cement walls, where 
squadrons of Dreadnoughts might rest and await their 
turn to be warped into the great dry docks which open 
off it in chasmlike galleries. 
44 The largest contract in all England," said the con- 



FINDING THE BRITISH FLEET 373 

tractor. " And here is the man who checks up my 
work/ 9 he added, nodding to the lean, Scotch naval 
civil engineer who was with us. It was clear from his 
look that only material of the best quality and work 
that was true would be acceptable to this canny mentor 
of efficiency. 

"And the workers? Have you had any strikes 
here?" 

44 No. We have employed double the usual num- 
ber of men from the start of the war," he said. u I'm 
afraid that the Welsh coal troubles have been accepted 
as characteristic. Our men have been reasonable and 
patriotic. They've shown the right spirit. If they 
hadn't, how could we have accomplished that? " 

We were looking down into the depths of a dry 
dock blasted out of the rock, which had been begun 
and completed within the year. And we had heard 
nothing of all this through those twelve months ! No 
writer, no photographer, chronicled this silent labour ! 
Double lines of guards surrounded the place day and 
night. Only tried patriots might enter this world of 
a busy army in smudged workmen's clothes, bending 
to their tasks with that ordered discipline of indus- 
trialism which wears no uniforms, marches without 
beat of drums, and toils that the ships shall want noth- 
ing to ensure victory. 



XXVII 

ON A DESTROYER 

Losing one's heart to the British navy — "Specialised in torpedo 
work "— Watching for submarines — Passing a flotilla — The 
eyes of the navy — Cold on the bridge — A jumpy sea — Look 
out for the spray — A symphony in mechanism— -Around a bend 
and: the sea power of England! 

Now we were on our way to the great thing — to our 
look behind the curtain at the hidden hosts of sea- 
power. Of some eight hundred tons' burden our 
steed, doing eighteen knots, which was a dog-trot for 
one of her speed. 

" A destroyer is like an automobile/' said the com- 
mander. " If you rush her all the time she wears 
out. We give her the limit only when necessary." 

On the bridge the zest of travel on a dolphin of steel 
held the bridle on eagerness to reach the journey's end. 
We all like to see things well done and here one had 
his first taste of how well things are done in the 
British navy, which did not have to make ready for 
war after the war began. With an open eye one went, 
and the experience of other navies as a balance for his 
observation; but one lost one's heart to the British 
navy and might as well confess it now. A six months' 
cruise with our own battleship fleet was a proper in- 
troduction to the experience. Never under any flag 
not my own did I feel so much at home. 

After the arduous monotony of the trenches and 
after the traffic of London, it was freedom and sport 
and ecstasy to be there, with the rush of salt air on 

374 



ON A DESTROYER 375 

the face ! Our commander was under thirty years of 
age; and that destroyer responded to his will like a 
stringed instrument He seemed a part of her, her 
nerves welded to his. 

" Specialised in torpedo work," he said, in answer 
to a question. That is the way of the British navy: 
to learn one thing well before you go on with another. 
If in the course of it you learn how to command, larger 
responsibilities await you. If not — there's retired 
pay. 

Inside a shield which sheltered them from the spray 
on the forward deck, significantly free of everything 
but that four-inch gun, its crew was stationed. The 
commander had only to lean over and speak through 
a tube and give a range, and the music began. That 
tube bifurcated at the end to an ear-mask over a 
youngster's head; a youngster who had real sailor's 
smiling blue eyes, like the commander's own. For 
hours he would sit waiting in the hope that game 
would be sighted. No fisherman could be more pa- 
tient or more cheerful. 

" Before he came into the navy he was a chauffeur. 
He likes this," said the commander. 

" In case of a submarine you do not want to lose 
any time ; is that it ? " 

" Yes," he replied. " You never can tell when we 
might have a chance to put a shot into Fritz's peri- 
scope or ram him — Fritz is our name for sub- 
marines." 

Were all the commanders of destroyers up to his 
mark, one wondered. How many more had the 
British navy caught young and trained to such quick- 
ness of decision and in the art of imparting it to his 
men? 



376 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Three hundred revolutions! The destroyer 
changed speed. Five hundred I She changed speed 
again. 

Out of the mist in the distance flashed a white rib- 
bon knot that seemed to be tied to a destroyer's bow 
and behind it another destroyer, and still others, lean, 
catlike, but running as if legless, with greased bodies 
sliding over the sea. We snapped out some message 
to them and they answered as passing birds on the 
wing before they swept out of sight behind a headland 
with uncanny ease of speed. How many destroyers 
had England running to and fro in the North Sea, 
keen for the chase and too quick at dodging and too 
fast to be in any danger of the under- water dagger 
thrust of the assassins whom they sought. We know 
the figures in the naval lists, but there cannot be too 
many. They are the eyes of the navy; they gather 
information and carry a sting in their torpedo tubes. 

It was chilly there on the bridge, with the prospect 
too entrancing not to remain even if one froze. But 
here stepped in naval preparedness with thick, short 
coats of llama wool. 

" Served out to all the men last winter, when we 
were in the thick of it patrolling," the commander ex- 
plained. " Yau'll not get cold in that I " 

" And yourself? " was suggested to the commander. 

" Oh, it is not cold enough for that in September 1 
We're hardened to it. You come from the land and 
feel the change of air; we are at sea all the time," he 
replied. He was without even an overcoat; and the 
ease with which he held his footing made land lubbers 
feel their awkwardness. 

A jumpy, uncertain tidal sea was running. Yet our 
destroyer glided over the waves, cut through them, 



ON A DESTROYER 377 

played with them, and let them seem to play with her, 
all the while laughing at them with the power of the 
purring vitals that drove her steadily on. 

" Look out! " which at the front in France was a 
signal to jump for a " funk pit." We ducked, as a 
cloud of spray passed above the heavy canvas and 
clattered like hail against the smokestack. " There 
won't be any more ! " said the commander. He was 
right. He knew that passage. One wondered if he 
did not know every gallon of water in the North Sea, 
which he had experienced in all its moods. 

Sheltered by the smokestack down on the main deck, 
one of our party, who loved not the sea for its own 
sake but endured it as a passageway to the sight of 
the Grand Fleet, had found warmth, if not comfort. 
Not for him that invitation to come below given by 
the chief engineer, who rose out of a round hole with 
a pleasant, " How d'y do ! " air to get a sniff of the 
fresh breeze, wizard of the mysterious power of the 
turbines which sent the destroyer marching so noise- 
lessly. He was the one who transferred the captain's 
orders into that symphony in mechanism. Turn a 
lever and you had a dozen more knots ; not with a leap 
or a jerk, but like a cat's sleek stretching of muscles. 
Not by the slightest tremor did you realise the acceler- 
ation; only by watching some stationary object as you 
flew past. 

Now a sweep of smooth water at the entrance to a 
harbour, and a turn — and there it was: the sea power 
of England I 



xxviii 

SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 

The "invisible" fleet — No chance for German submarines — No 
end to the greyish blue-green monsters — the Queen Elizabeth 

— Sea-power and world power — Ships that have been under 
fire — A German " mistake "— Sir David Beatty — " Youth for 
action"— On board the Lion — Sensations during the fighting 

— Importance of accurate marksmanship — Crashing blasts and 
the scream of shells — Watching the hits — The precious turret 

— Result of German gunfire — A city of steel — Its brain-center 

— A panoply of tubes, levers, push-buttons — Methods of British 
gunfire — One of the great guns — Its human complement — The 
gun-pointer — From the upper bridge — An impressive beauty 

— The chase off Heligoland — Safe return of the Lion. 

But was that really it? That spread of greyish blue- 
green dots set on a huge greyish blue-green platter? 
One could not discern where ships began and water 
and sky which held them suspended left off. Invisible 
fleet it had been called. At first glance it seemed to 
be composed of baffling phantoms, absorbing the tone 
of its background. Admiralty secrecy must be the re- 
sult of a naval dislike of publicity. 

Still as if they were rooted, these leviathans I 
How could such a shy, peaceful looking array send out 
broadsides of twelve- and thirteen-five and fifteen-inch 
shells? What a paradise for a German submarine! 
Each ship seemed an inviting target. Only there 
were many gates and doors to the paradise, closed to 
all things that travel on and under the water without 
a proper identification. Submarines that had tried 
to pick one of the locks were like the fish who found 

37« 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 379 

going good into the trap. A submarine had about the 
same chance of reaching that anchorage as a German 
in the uniform of the Kaiser's Death's Head Hussars, 
with a bomb under his arm, of reaching the vaults of 
the Bank of England. 

And was this all of the greatest naval force ever 
gathered under a single command, these two or three 
lines of ships? But as the destroyer drew nearer the 
question changed. How many more? Was there 
no end to greyish blue-green monsters, in order as pre- 
cise as the trees of a California orchard, appearing out 
of the greyish blue-green background ? First to claim 
attention was the Queen Elizabeth, with her eight fif- 
teen-inch guns on a platform which could travel at 
nearly the speed of the average railroad train. 

The contrast of sea and land warfare appealed the 
more vividly to one fresh from the front in France. 
What infinite labour for an army to get one big gun 
into position ! How heralded the snail-like travels of 
the big German howitzer I Here was ship after ship, 
whose guns seemed innumerable. One found it hard 
to realise the resisting power of their armour, painted 
to look as liquid as the sea, and the stability of their 
construction, which was able to bear the strain of fir- 
ing the great shells that travelled ten miles to their 
target. 

Sea-power, indeed! And world power, too, there 
in the hollow of a nation's hand, to throw in whatever 
direction she pleased. If an American had a lump in 
his throat at the thought of what it meant, what might 
it not mean to an Englishman? Probably the Eng- 
lishman would say, " I think that the fleet is all right, 
don't you?" 

Land-power, tool On the Continent vast armies 



3 8o MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

wrestled for some square miles of earth. France has, 
say, three million soldiers; Germany, five; Austria, 
four — and England had, perhaps, a hundred thou- 
sand men, perhaps more, on board this fleet which de- 
fended the English land and lands far over seas with- 
out firing a shot. One American regiment of infantry 
is more than sufficient in numbers to man a Dread- 
nought. How precious, then, the skill of that crew I 
Man-power is as concentrated as gun-power with a 
navy. Ride three hundred miles in an automobile 
along an army front, with glimpses of units of sol- 
diers, and you have seen little of a modern army. 
Here, moving down the lanes that separated these 
grey fighters, one could compass the whole ! 

Four gold letters, spelling the word Lion, awakened 
the imagination to the concrete of the Bliic her turning 
her bottom skyward before she sank off the Dogger 
Bank under the fire of the guns of the Lion and of the 
Tiger, astern of her, and the Princess Royal and the 
New Zealand, of the latest fashion in battle-cruiser 
squadrons which are known as the " cat " squadron. 
This work brought them into their own ; proved how 
the British, who built the first Dreadnought, have kept 
a little ahead of their rivals in construction. With al- 
most the gun-power of Dreadnoughts, better than 
three to two against the best battleships, with the 
speed of cruisers and capable of overwhelming 
cruisers, or of pursuing any battleship, or get- 
ting out of range, they can run or strike, as they 
please. 

Ascend that gangway, so amazingly clean, as were 
the decks above and below and everything about the 
Lion or the Tiger, and you were on board one of the 
few major ships which had been under heavy fire. 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 381 

Her officers and men knew what modern naval war 
was like; her guns knew the difference between the 
wall of cloth of a towed target and an enemy's wall of 
armour. 

In the battle of Tsushima Straits battleships had 
fought at three and four thousand yards and closed 
into much shorter range. Since then, we had had the 
new method of marksmanship. Tsushima ceased to 
be a criterion. The Dogger Bank multiplied the 
range by five. A hundred years since England, all 
the while the most powerfully armed nation at sea, 
had been in a naval war of the first magnitude ; and 
to the Lion and the Tiger had come the test. The 
Germans said that they had sunk the Tiger; but the 
Tiger afloat purred a contented denial. 

One could not fail to identify among the group of 
officers on the quarter-deck Vice-Admiral Sir David 
B catty, for his victory had impressed his features on 
the public's eye. Had his portrait not appeared in 
the press, one would have been inclined to say that a 
first lieutenant had put on a vice-admiral's coat by mis- 
take. He was about the age of the first lieutenant of 
our own battleships. Even as it was, one was inclined 
to exclaim : " There is some mistake ! You are too 
young! " The Who is Who book says that he is all 
of forty-four years old and it must be right, though it 
disagrees with his appearance by five years. A vice- 
admiral at forty-four I A man who is a rear-admiral 
with us at fifty-five is very precocious. And all the 
men around him were young. The British navy did 
not wait for war to teach again the lesson of " youth 
for action!" It saved time by putting youth in 
charge at once. 

Their simple uniforms, the directness, alertness, and 



382 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

definiteness of these officers, who had been with a fleet 
ready for a year to go into battle on a minute's notice, 
was in keeping with their surroundings of decks 
cleared for action and the absence of anything which 
did not suggest that hitting a target was the business 
of their life. 

" I had heard that you took your admirals from the 
school-room," said one of the Frenchmen, " but I be- 
gin to believe that it is the nursery." 

Night and day they must be on watch. No easy- 
chairs; their shop is their home. They must have the 
vitality that endures a strain. One error in battle by 
any one of them might wreck the British Empire. 

It is difficult to write about any man-of-war and not 
be technical ; for everything about her seems technical 
and mechanical except the fact that she floats. Her 
officers and crew are engaged in work which is leger- 
dermain to the civilian. 

" Was it like what you thought it would be after 
all your training for a naval action? " one asked. 

"Yes, quite; pretty much as we reasoned it out," 
was the reply. " Indeed, this was the most remark- 
able thing. It was battle practice — with the other 
fellow shooting at you ! " 

The fire-control officers, who were aloft, all agreed 
about one unexpected sensation, which had not oc- 
curred to any expert scientifically predicating what 
action would be like. They are the only ones who 
may really " see " the battle in the full sense. 

"When the shells burst against the armour," said 
one of these officers, " the fragments were visible as 
they flew about. We had a desire, in the midst of 
our preoccupation with our work, to reach out and 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 383 

catch them. Singular mental phenomenon, wasn't it ? " 

At eight or nine thousand yards one knew that the 
modern battleship could tear a target to pieces. But 
eighteen thousand — was accuracy possible at that dis- 
tance ? 

" Did one in five German shells hit at that range ? " 
I asked. 

"No!" 

Or in ten? No I In twenty? Still no, though 
less decisively. One got a conviction, then, that the 
day of holding your fire until you were close in enough 
for a large percentage of hits was past. Accuracy 
was still vital and decisive, but generic accuracy. At 
eighteen thousand yards all the factors which send a 
thousand or fifteen hundred or two thousand pounds 
of steel that long distance cannot be so gauged that 
each one will strike in exactly the same line when ten 
issue from the gun-muzzles in a broadside. But if 
one out of twenty is on at eighteen thousand yards, it 
may mean a turret out of action. Again, four or five 
might hit, or none. So, no risk of waiting may be 
taken, in face of the danger of a chance shot at long 
range. It was a chance shot which struck the Lion's 
feed tank and disabled her and kept the cat squadron 
from doing to the other German cruisers what they 
had done to the Bliicher. 

" And the noise of it to you aloft, spotting the 
shots?" I suggested. " It must have been a lonely 
place in such a tornado." 

" Yes. Besides the crashing blasts from our own 
guns we had the screams of the shells that went over 
and the cataracts of water from those short sprinkling 
the ship with spray. But this was what one expected. 



384 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Everything was what one expected, except that desire 
to catch the fragments. Naturally, one was too busy 
to think much of anything except the enemy's ships — 
to learn where your shells were striking." 

44 You could tell? " 

44 Yes, just as well and better than at target practice 
for the target was larger and solid. It was enthrall- 
ing, that watching the flight of our shells toward their 
target." 

Where were the scars from the wounds? One 
looked for them on both the Lion and the Tiger. 
That armour patch on the sloping top of a turret might 
have escaped attention if it had not been pointed out. 
A shell struck there and a fair blow, too. And what 
happened inside? Was the turret gear put out of 
order? 

To one who has lived in a wardroom a score of 
questions were on the tongue's end. The turret is the 
basket which holds the precious eggs. A turret out 
of action means two guns out of action; a broken 
knuckle for the pugilist. 

Constructors have racked their brains over the sub- 
ject of turrets in the old contest between gun-power 
and protection. Too much gun-power, too little 
armour! Too much armour, too little gun-power! 
Off the Virginia capes we have pounded antiquated 
battleships with shells as a test, with sheep inside the 
turrets to see if life could survive. But in the last 
analysis results depend on how good is your armour, 
how sound your machinery which rotates the turret. 
That shell did not go through bodily, only a frag- 
ment, which killed one man and wounde4 another. 
The turret would still rotate ; the other gun remained 
in action and the one under the shell-burst was soon 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 385 

back in action. Very satisfactory to the naval con- 
structors. 

Up and down the ail-but perpendicular steel ladders 
with their narrow steps, and through the winding pas- 
sages below decks in those cities of steel, one followed 
his guide, receiving so much information and so many 
impressions that he was confused as to details between 
the two veterans, the Lion, which was hit fifteen times, 
and the Tiger, which was hit eight. Wherever you 
went every square inch of space and every bit of equip- 
ment seemed to serve some purpose. 

A beautiful hit, indeed, was that into a small hooded 
aperture where an observer looked out from a turret. 
He was killed and another man took his place. Fresh 
armour and no sign of where the shot had struck. 
Then below, into a compartment between the side of 
the ship and the armoured barbette which protects the 
delicate machinery for feeding shells and powder from 
the magazine deep below the water to the guns. 

" H was killed here. Impact of the shell pass- 
ing through the outer plates burst it inside; and, of 
course, the fragments struck harmlessly against -the 
barbette." 

" Bang in the dugout I " one exclaimed, from army 
habit. 

41 Precisely ! No harm done next door." 

Trench traverses and " funk-pit shelters " for lo- 
calising the effects of shell-bursts are the terrestrial 
expression of marine construction. No one shell hap- 
pened to get many men either on the Lion or the 
Tiger. But the effect of the burst was felt in the 
passages, for the air-pressure is bound to be pro- 
nounced in enclosed spaces which allow of little room 
for the expansion of the gases r 



386 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Then up more ladders out of the electric light into 
the daylight, hugging a wall of armour whose thick- 
ness was revealed in the cut made for the small door- 
way which you were bidden to enter. Now you were 
in one of the brain-centres of the ship, where the action 
is directed. Through slits in that massive shelter of 
the hardest steel one had a narrow view. Above 
them on the white wall were silhouetted diagrams of 
the different types of German ships, which one found 
in all observing stations. They were the most popu- 
lar form of mural decoration in the British navy. 

Underneath the slits was a literal panoply of the 
brass fittings of speaking-tubes and levers and push- 
buttons, which would have puzzled even the " Hello, 
Central " girl. To look at them revealed nothing 
more than the eye saw; nothing more than the face of 
a watch reveals of the character of its works. There 
was no telling how they ran in duplicate below the 
water line or under the protection of armour to the 
guns and the engines. 

" We got one in here, too. It was a good one I " 
said the host. 

11 Junk, of course," was how he expressed the re- 
sult. Here, too, a man stepped forward to take the 
place of the man who was killed, just as the first lieu- 
tenant takes the place of a captain of infantry who 
falls. With the whole telephone apparatus blown off 
the wall, as it were, how did he communicate ? 

" There 1 " The host pointed toward an opening 
at his feet. If that failed there was still another way. 
In the final alternative, each turret could go on firing 
by itself. So the Germans must have done on the 
Bliicher and on the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst in 
their last ghastly moment? of bloody chaos. 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 387 

" If this is carried away and then that is, why, then, 
we have — " as one had often heard officers say on 
board our own ships. But that was hypothesis. Here 
was demonstration, which made a glimpse of the Lion 
and the Tiger so interesting. The Lion had had a 
narrow escape from going down after being hit in the 
feed tank; but once in dry dock, all her damaged parts 
had been renewed. Particularly it required imagina- 
tion to realise that this tower had ever been struck; 
visually, more convincing was a plate elsewhere which 
had been left unpainted, showing a spatter of dents 
from shell-fragments. 

" We thought that we ought to have something to 
prove that we had been in battle," said the host. " I 
think I've shown all the hits. There were not many." 

Having seen the results of German gun-fire, we 
were next to see the methods of British gun-fire ; some- 
thing of the guns and the men who did things to the 
Germans. One stooped under the overhang of the 
turret armour from the barbette and climbed up 
through an opening which allowed no spare room for 
the generously built, and out of the dim light appeared 
the glint of the massive steel breech block and gun, 
set in its heavy recoil mountings with roots of steel 
supports sunk into the very structure of the ship. It 
was like other guns of the latest improved type ; but it 
had been in action, and one kept thinking of this fact 
that gave it a sort of majestic prestige. One wished 
that it might look a little different from the others, as 
the right of a veteran. 

As the plugman swung the breech open I had in 
mind a giant plugman on the U. S. S. Connecticut 
whom I used to watch at drills and target practice. 
Shall I ever forget the flash in his eye if there were a 



388 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

fraction of a second's delay in the firing after the 
breech had gone home ! The way in which he made 
that enormous block obey his touch in oily obsequious- 
ness suggested the apotheosis of the whole business of 
naval war. I don't know whether the plugman of H. 
M. S. Lion or the plugman of the U. S. S. Connecti- 
cut was the better. It would take a superman to im- 
prove on either. 

Like the block, it seemed as if the man knew only 
the movements of the drill; as if he had been bred 
and his muscles formed for that. One could conceive 
of him playing diavolo with that breech. He be- 
longed to the finest part of all the machinery, the hu- 
man element, which made the parts of a steel machine 
play together in a beautiful harmony. 

The plugman's is the most showy part; others 
playing equally important parts are in the cavern be- 
low the turret; and most important of all is that of 
the man who keeps the gun on the target, whose true 
right eye may send twenty-five thousand tons of battle- 
ship to perdition. No one eye of any enlisted man 
can be as important as the gun-pointer's. His the eye 
and the nerve trained as finely as the plugman's 
muscles. He does nothing else, thinks of nothing else. 
In common with painters and poets, gun-pointers are 
born with a gift, and that gift is trained and trained 
and trained. It seems simple to keep right on, but it 
is not. Try twenty men in the most rudimentary test 
and you will find that it is not; then think of the nerve 
it takes to keep right on in battle, with your ship 
shaken by the enemy's hits. 

How long had the plugman been on his job? Six 
years. And the gun-pointer? Seven. Twelve years 
is the term of enlistment in the British navy. Not too 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 389 

fast but thoroughly, is the British way. The idea is 
to make a plugman or a gun-pointer the same kind of 
expert as a master artisan in any other walk of life, 
by long service and selection. 

None of all these men serving the two guns from 
the depths to the turret saw anything of the battle, 
except the gun-pointer. It was easier for them than 
for him to be letter-perfect in the test, as he had to 
guard against the exhilaration of having an enemy's 
ship instead of a cloth target under his eye. Super- 
drilled he was to that eventuality ; super-drilled all the 
others through the years, till each one knew his part 
as well as one knows how to turn the key in the lock 
of his bureau. Used to the shock of the discharges 
of their own guns at battle practice, many of the crew 
did not even know that their ship was hit, so preoccu- 
pied was each with his own duty, which was to go on 
with it until an order or a shell's havoc stopped him. 
Every mind was closed except to the thing which had 
been so established by drill in his nature that he did it 
instinctively. 

A few minutes later one was looking down from the 
upper bridge on the top of this turret and the black- 
lined planking of the deck eighty-five feet below, with 
the sweep of the firm lines of the sides converging to- 
ward the bow on the background of the water. Sud- 
denly the ship seemed to have grown large, impres- 
sive; her structure had a rocklike solidity. Her 
beauty was in her unadorned strength. One was ab- 
sorbing the majesty of a city from a cathedral tower 
after having been in its thoroughfares and seen the 
detail of its throbbing industry. 

Beyond the Lion's bow were more ships, and port 
and starboard and aft were still more ships. The 



390 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

compass range filled the eye with the stately precision 
of the many squadrons and divisions of leviathans. 
One could see all the fleet. This seemed to be the 
scenic climax ; but it was not, as we were to learn when 
we should see the fleet go to sea. Then we were to be- 
hold the mountains on the march. 

One glanced back at the deck and around the bridge 
with a sort of relief. The infinite was making him 
dizzy. He wanted to be in touch with the finite again. 
But it is the writer, not the practical, hardened sea- 
man, who is affected in this way. To the seaman, here 
was a battle-cruiser with her sister battle-cruisers 
astern, and there around her were Dreadnoughts of 
different types and pre-Dreadnoughts and cruisers and 
all manner of other craft which could fight each in its 
way, each representing so much speed and so much 
metal which could be thrown a certain distance. 

11 Homogeneity ! " Another favourite word, I re- 
member, from our own wardrooms. Here it was ap- 
plied in the large. No experimental ships there, no 
freak variations of type, but each successive type as a 
unit of action. Homogeneous, yes — remorselessly 
homogeneous. The British do not simply build some 
ships; they build a navy. And of course the experts 
are not satisfied with it; if they were, the British navy 
would be in a bad way. But a layman was; he was 
overwhelmed. 

From this bridge of the Lion on the morning of 
the 24th of January, 19 14, Vice- Admiral Sir David 
Beatty saw appear on the horizon a sight inexpressibly 
welcome to any commander who has scoured the seas 
in the hope that the enemy will come out in the open 
and give battle. Once that German battle-cruiser 
squadron had slipped across the North Sea and, under 



SHIPS THAT HAVE FOUGHT 391 

cover of the mist which has ever been the friend of the 
pirate, bombarded the women and children of Scar- 
borough and the Hartlepools with shells meant to be 
fired at hardened adult males sheltered behind 
armour ; and then, thanks to the mist, they had slipped 
back to Heligoland with cheering news to the women 
and children of Germany. This time when they came 
out they encountered a British battle-cruiser squadron 
of superior speed and power, and they had to fight as 
they ran for home. 

Now, the place of an admiral is in his conning 
tower after he has made his deployments and the firing 
has begun. He, too, is a part of the machine; his 
position defined, no less than the plugman's and the 
gun-pointer's. Sir David watched the ranging shots 
which fell short at first, until finally they were on, and 
the Germans were beginning to reply. When his 
staff warned him that he ought to go below, he put 
them off with a preoccupied shake of his head. He 
could not resist the temptation to remain where he 
was, instead of being shut up looking through the slits 
of a visor. 

But an admiral is as vulnerable to shell-fragments 
as a midshipman, and the staff did its duty, which had 
been thought out beforehand like everything else. 
The argument was on their side ; the commander really 
had none on his. It was then that Vice-Admiral 
Beatty sent Sir David Beatty to the conning tower, 
much to the personal disgust of Sir David, who envied 
the observing officers aloft their free sweep of vision. 

Youth in Sir David's case meant suppleness of limbs 
as well as youth's spirit and dash. When the Lion 
was disabled by the shot in her feed tank and had to 
fall out of line, Sir David must transfer his flag. He 



392 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

signalled for his destroyer, the Attack. When she 
came alongside, he did not wait on a ladder, but 
jumped on board her from the deck of the Lion. An 
aged vice-admiral with chalky bones might have 
broken some of them, or at least received a shock to 
his presence of mind. 

Before he left the Lion Sir David had been the first 
to see the periscope of a German submarine in the 
distance, which sighted the wounded ship as inviting 
prey. Officers of the Lion dwelt more on the cruise 
home than on the battle. It was a case of being towed 
at five knots an hour by the Indomitable. If ever sub- 
marines had a fair chance to show what they could do 
it was then against that battleship at a snail's pace. 
But it is one thing to torpedo a merchant craft and an- 
other to get a major fighting ship, bristling with tor- 
pedo defence guns and surrounded by destroyers. 
The Lion reached port without further injury. 



XXIX 

ON THE "INFLEXIBLE" 

Veterans of the Dardanelles — "The range of them" — The Falkland 
affair — The "double bluff" on von Spec — The intercepted 
British wireless — Sturdee's trap — Story book of strategy — 
The Germans go down with their colours flying — Only a dis- • 
ordered wardroom — The chaplain's anecdote — All a lark for 
the midshipman — Souvenirs of action. 

What Englishman, let alone an American, knows the 
names of even all the British Dreadnoughts ? With a 
few exceptions, the units of the Grand Fleet seem 
anonymous. The Warspite was quite unknown to the 
fame which her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth had 
won. For " Lizzie " was back in the fold from the 
Dardanelles; and so was the Inflexible, flagship of the 
battle of the Falkland Islands. Of all the ships which 
Sir John Jellicoe had sent away on special missions, 
the Inflexible had had the grandest Odyssey. She, 
too, had been at the Dardanelles. 

The Queen Elizabeth was disappointing so far as 
wounds went. She had been so much in the public 
eye that one expected to find her badly battered, and 
she had suffered little, indeed, for the amount of sport 
sh had had in tossing her fifteen-inch shells across the 
Gallipoli peninsula into the Turkish batteries and the 
amount of risk she had run from Turkish mines. 
Some of these monster shells contained only eleven 
thousand shrapnel bullets. A strange business for a 
fifteen-inch naval gun to be firing shrapnel. A year 
ago no one could have imagined that one day the 

393 



394 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

most powerful British ship, built with the single 
thought of overwhelming an enemy's Dreadnought, 
would ever be trying to force the Dardanelles. 

The trouble was that she could not fire an army 
corps ashore along with her shells to take possession 
of any batteries she put out of action. She had some 
grand target practice ; she escaped the mines ; she kept 
out of reach of the German shells, and returned to re- 
port to Sir John with just enough scars to give zest to 
the recollection of her extraordinary adventure. All 
die fleet was relieved to see her back in her proper 
place. It is not the business of super-Dreadnoughts 
to be steaming around mine-fields, but to be surrounded 
by destroyers and light cruisers and submarines safe- 
guarding her giant guns which are depressed and ele- 
vated as easily as if they were drum-sticks. One had 
an abrasion, a tracery of dents. 

That was from a Turkish shell," said an officer. 
And you are standing where a shell hit." 

One looked down to see an irregular outline of 
fresh planking. 

" An accident when we did not happen to be out of 
their reach. We had the range of them," he added. 

" The range of them " is a great phrase. Sir 
Frederick Doveton Sturdee used it in speaking of the 
battle of the Falkland Islands. "The range of 
them " seems a sure prescription for victory. Noth- 
ing in all the history of the war appeals to me as quite 
so smooth a bit of tactics as the Falkland affair. It 
was so smooth that it was velvety ; and it is worth tell- 
ing again, as I understand it. Sir Frederick is an- 
other young admiral. Otherwise, how could the 
British navy have entrusted him with so important a 
task? He is a different type from Beatty, who in an 






ON THE " INFLEXIBLE " 395 

army one judges might have been in the cavalry. 
Along with the peculiar charm and alertness which we 
associate with sailors — they imbibe it from the salt 
air and from meeting all kinds of weather and all kinds 
of men, I think — he has the quality of the scholar, 
with a suspicion of merriness in his eye. 

He was Chief of Staff at the Admiralty in the early 
stages of the war, which means, I take it, that he as- 
sisted in planning the moves on the chessboard. It 
fell to him to act; to apply the strategy and tactics 
which he planned for others at sea while he sat at a 
desk. It was his wit against von Spee's, who was not 
deficient in this respect. If he had been he might not 
have steamed into the trap. The trouble was that 
von Spee had some wit, but not enough. It would 
have been better for him if he had been as guileless as 
a parson. 

Sir Frederick is so gentle-mannered that one would 
never suspect him of a " double bluff," which was what 
he played on von Spee. After von Spee's victory over 
Cradock, Sturdee slipped across to the South Atlantic, 
without any one knowing that he had gone, with a 
squadron strong enough to do unto von Spee what von 
Spee had done unto Cradock. 

But before you wing your bird you must flush him. 
The thing was to find von Spee and force him to give 
battle; for the South Atlantic is broad and von Spee, 
it is supposed, was in an Emden mood and bent on 
reaching harbour in German Southwest Africa, 
whence he could sally out to destroy British shipping 
on the Cape route. When he intercepted a British 
wireless message — Sturdee had left off the sender's 
name and location — telling the plodding old Canopus 
seeking home or assistance before von Spee overtook 



396 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

her, that she would be perfectly safe in the harbour at 
Port William, as guns had been erected for her pro- 
tection, von Spee guessed that this was a bluff, and 
rightly. But it was only Bluff Number One. He 
steamed to the Falklands with a view to finishing off 
the old Can opus on the way across to Africa. There 
he fell foul of Bluff Number Two. Sturdee did not 
have to seek him; he came to Sturdee. 

There was no convenient Dogger Bank fog in that 
latitude to cover his flight. Sturdee had the speed of 
von Spee and he had to fight. It was the one bit of 
strategy of the war which is like that of the story 
books and worked out as the strategy always does in 
proper story books. Practically the twelve-inch guns 
of the Inflexible and the Invincible had only to keep 
their distance and hang on to the Scharnhorst and the 
Gneisenau in order to do the trick. Light-weights or 
middle-weights have no business trafficking with 
heavy-weights in naval warfare. 

" Von Spee made a brave fight," said Sir Frederick, 
" but we kept him at a distance that suited us, without 
letting him get out of range." 

He had had the fortune to prove an established prin- 
ciple in action. It was all in the course of duty, which 
is the way that all the officers and all the men look at 
their work. Only a few ships have had a chance to 
fight and these are emblazoned on the public memory. 
But they did no better and no worse, probably, than 
the others would have done. If the public singles out 
ships, the navy does not. Whatever is done and who- 
ever does it, why, it is to the credit of the family, ac- 
cording to the spirit of service that promotes uni- 
formity of efficiency. Leaders and ships which have 
won renown are resolved into the whole in that 



ON THE " INFLEXIBLE w 397 

harbour where the fleet is the thing; and the good 
opinion they most desire is that of their fellows. If 
they have that, they will earn the public's when the 
test comes. 

Belonging to the class of the first of battle-cruisers 
is the Inflexible, which received a few taps in the 
Falklands and a blow that was nearly the death of her 
in the Dardanelles. Tribute enough for its courage 
— the tribute of a chivalrous enemy — von Spee's 
squadron receives from the officers and men of the In- 
flexible, who saw them go down into the sea tinged 
with sunset red with their colours still flying. Then in 
the sunset red the British saved as many of those afloat 
as they could. 

Those dripping German officers who had seen one 
of their battered turrets carried away bodily into the 
sea by a British twelve-inch shell, who had endured a 
fury of concussions and destruction, with steel missiles 
cracking steel structures into fragments, came on board 
the Inflexible looking for signs of some blows de- 
livered in return for the crushing blows that had 
beaten their ships into the sea and saw none until they 
were invited into the wardroom, which was in chaos 
-?— and then they smiled. 

At least, they had sent one shell home. The sight 
was sweet to them, so sweet that, in respect to the feel- 
ing of the vanquished, the victor held silence with a 
knightly consideration. But where had the shell en- 
tered? There was no sign of any hole. Then they 
learned that the fire of the guns of the starboard turret 
midships over the wardroom, which was on the port 
side, had deposited a great many things on the floor 
which did not belong there; and their expression 
changed Even this comfort was taken from them. 



398 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

" We had the range of you 1 " the British explained. 

The chaplain of the Inflexible was bound to have an 
anecdote. I don't know why, except that a chaplain's 
is not a fighting part and he may look on. His 
place was down behind the armour with the doctor, 
waiting for wounded. He stood in his particular 
steel cave listening to the tremendous blasts of her 
guns which shook the Inflexible 9 s frame, and still no 
wounded arrived. Then he ran up a ladder to the 
deck and had a look around and saw the little points 
of the German ships with the shells sweeping toward 
them and the smoke of explosions which burst on 
board them. It was not the British who needed his 
prayers that day, but the Germans. 

Perhaps the spirit of the Inflexible? s story was best 
given by a midshipman with the down still on his 
cheek. Considering how young the British take their 
officer-beginners to sea, the admirals are not young, 
at least, in point of sea service. He got more out of 
the action than his elders ; his impressions of the long 
cruises and the actions had the vividness of boyhood. 
Down in one of the caves, doing his part as the shells 
were sent up to feed the thundering guns above, the 
whispered news of the progress of the battle was 
passed on at intervals till, finally, the guns were silent. 
Then he hurried on deck in the elation of victory, suc- 
ceeded by the desire to save those whom they had 
fought. It had all been so simple ; so like drill. You 
had only to go on shooting — that was all. 

Yes, he had been lucky. From the Falklands to 
the Dardanelles, which was a more picturesque busi- 
ness than the battle. Any minute off the Straits you 
did not know but a submarine would have a try at you 
or you might bump into a mine. And the Inflexible 



ON THE " INFLEXIBLE " 399 

did bump into one. She had two thousand tons of 
water on board. It was fast work to keep the re- 
mainder of the sea from coming in, too, and the same 
kind of dramatic experience as the Lion's in reaching 
port. Yes, he had been very lucky. It was all a lark 
to that boy. 

"It never occurs to midshipmen to be afraid of 
anything," said one of the officers. " The more dan- 
ger, the better they like it" 

In the wardroom was a piece of the mine or the 
torpedo, whichever it was, that struck the Inflexible; 
a strange, twisted, annealed bit of metal. Every ship 
which had been in action had some souvenir which the 
enemy had sent on board in anger and which was pre- 
served with a collector's enthusiasm. 

The Inflexible seemed as good as ever she was. 
Such is the way of naval warfare. Either it is to the 
bottom of the sea or to dry docks and repairs. There 
is nothing half way. So it is well to take care that 
you have " the range of them." 



XXX 

ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 

The "grande dames" of the fleet — The boarding— Nelson'* heri- 
tage — Guardians of the peace of the seas — Sir John Jellicoe 
— The China seas incident — The compliment returned at 
Manila Bay — Friends in the service — That command of 
Joshua's — Waiting and watching — England's true genius — A 
complete blockade — Intricate and concentrated mechanism — 
Personality of Sir John — The spirit of service. 

Thus far we have skirted around the heart of things, 
which in a fleet is always the commander-in-chiefs 
flagship. Our handy, agile destroyer ran alongside 
a battleship with as much nonchalance as she would 
go alongside a pier. I should not have been sur- 
prised to have seen her pirouette over the hills or take 
to flight. 

There was a time when those majestic and pampered 
ladies, the battleships — particularly if a sea were run- 
ning as there was in this harbour at the time — hav- 
ing in mind the pride of paint, begged all destroyers 
to keep off with the superciliousness of grande s dames 
holding their skirts aloof from contact with nimble, 
audacious street gamins, who dodged in and out of 
the traffic of muddy streets. But destroyers have 
learned better manners, perhaps, and battleships have 
been democratised. It is the day of Russian dancers 
and when aeroplanes loop the loop, and we have grown 
used to all kinds of marvels. 

But the sea has refused to be trained. It is the 

same old sea that it was in Columbus' time, without 

400 



ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 401 

any loss of trickiness in bumping small craft against 
towering sides. The way that this destroyer slid up 
to the flagship without any fuss and the way her blue- 
jackets held off from the paint as she rose on the crests 
and slipped back into the trough, did not tell the whole 
story. A part of it was how, at the right interval, 
they assisted the landlubber to step from gunwale to 
gangway, making him feel perfectly safe when he 
would have been perfectly helpless but for them. 

I had often watched our own bluejackets at the 
same thing. They did not grin — not when you were 
looking at them. Nor did the British. Bluejackets 
are noted for their official politeness. I should like 
to have heard their remarks — they have a gift for 
remarks — about those invaders of their uniformed 
world in Scotch caps and other kinds of caps and the 
different kind of clothes which tailors make for civil- 
ians. Without any intention of eavesdropping, I did 
overhear one asking another whence came these 
strange birds. 

One knew the flagship by the admirals' barges 
astern, as you know the location of an army head- 
quarters by its automobiles. It seemed in the centre 
of the fleet at anchor, if that is a nautical expression. 
Where its place would be in action is one of those 
secrets as important to the enemy as the location of a 
general's shell-proof shelter in Flanders. Perhaps Sir 
John Jellicoe may be on some other ship in battle. 
If there is any one foolish question which one should 
not ask it is this. 

As one mounted the gangway of this mighty super- 
Dreadnought one was bound to think of another flag- 
ship in Portsmouth harbour, Nelson's Victory — at 
least, an American was. Probably an Englishman 



402 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

would not indulge in such a commonplace. One would 
like to know how many Englishmen had ever seen the 
old Victory. But, then, how many Americans have 
been to Mount Vernon and Gettysburg ? 

It was a hundred years, one repeats, since the Brit- 
ish had fought a first-class naval war. Nelson did his 
part so well that he did not leave any fighting to be 
done by his successors. Maintaining herself as mis- 
tress of the seas by the threat of superior strength — 
except in the late fifties, when the French innovation 
of iron ships gave France a temporary lead on paper 
— ship after ship, through all the grades of progress 
in naval construction, has gone to the scrap heap with- 
out firing a shot in anger. 

The Victory was one landmark, or seamark, if you 
please, and this flagship was another. Between the 
two were generations of officers and men working 
through the change from stagecoach to motors and 
aeroplanes and seaplanes, who had kept up to a stand- 
ard of efficiency in view of a test that never came. A 
year of war and still the test had not come, for the old 
reason that England had superior strength. Her out- 
numbering guns which had kept the peace of the seas 
still kept it. 

All second nature to the Englishman this, as the 
defence of the immense distances of the steppes to the 
Russian or the Rocky Mountain wall and the Missis- 
sippi's flow to the man in Kansas. But the American 
kept thinking about it ; and he wanted the Kansans to 
think about it, too. A sentimentalist envisaged the 
tall column in Trafalgar Square, with the one-armed 
figure turned toward the wireless skein on top of the 
Admiralty Building when he went on board the flag- 
ship of Sir John Jellicoe. 






ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 403 

One first heard of Jellicoe fifteen years ago on the 
China coast, when he was Chief of Staff to Sir Edward 
Seymour, then Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic 
Squadron. Indeed, one was always hearing about 
Jellicoe. He was the kind of man whom people talk 
about after they have met him, which means person- 
ality. It was in China seas, you may remember, that 
when a few British seamen were hard pressed in a 
fight that was not ours that the phrase, " Blood is 
thicker than water," sprang from the lips of an Amer- 
ican commander, who waited not on international 
etiquette but went to the assistance of the British. 

Nor will any one who was present in the summer 
of '98 forget how Sir Edward Chichester stood loyally 
by Admiral George Dewey, when the German squad- 
ron was empire-fishing in the waters of Manila Bay, 
until our Atlantic Fleet had won the battle of Santiago 
and Admiral Dewey had received reinforcements and, 
east and west, we were able to look after the Germans. 
The British bluejackets said that the rations of frozen 
mutton from Australia which we sent alongside were 
excellent; but the Germans were in no position to 
judge, as none was sent to them, doubtless through an 
oversight in the detail of hospitality by one of Admiral 
Dewey's staff. No. Let us be officially correct. 
We happened to run out of spare mutton after serving 
the British. 

In the gallant effort of the Allied force of sailors 
to relieve the legations against some hundreds of thou- 
sands of Boxers, Captain Bowman McCalla and his 
Americans worked with Admiral Seymour and his 
Britons in the most trying and picturesque thing of 
its kind in modern history. McCalla, too, was always 
talking of Jellicoe, who was wounded on the expedi- 



404 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

tion; and Sir John's face lighted at mention of Mc- 
Calla's name. He recalled how McCalla had painted 
on the superstructure of the little Newark that saying 
of Farragut's, "The best protection against an en- 
emy's fire is a well-directed fire of your own " ; which 
has been said in other ways and cannot be said too 
often. 

" We called McCalla Mr. Lead," said Sir John; 
" he had been wounded so many times and yet was 
able to hobble along and keep on fighting. I cor- 
responded regularly with him until his death." 

Beatty, too, was on that expedition; and he, too, 
was another personality one kept hearing about. It 
seemed odd that two men, who had played a part in 
work which was a soldier's far from home, should 
have become so conspicuous in the Great War. If on 
that day when, with ammunition exhausted, all mem- 
bers of the expedition had given up hope of ever re- 
turning alive, they had not accidentally come upon the 
Shi-kou arsenal, one would not be commanding the 
Great Fleet and the other its battle-cruiser squad- 
ron. 

Before the war, I am told, when Admiralty lords 
and others who had the decision to make were dis- 
cussing who should command in case of war, opinion 
ran something like this : 

" Jellicoe ! He has the brains ! " 

" Jellicoe ! He has the health to endure the strain, 
with years enough and not too many I " 

" Jellicoe I He has the confidence of the service ! " 

The choice literally made itself. When any one is 
undertaking the gravest responsibility which has been 
an Englishman's for a hundred years, that kind of a 
recommendation helps. He had the guns; he had 



ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 405 

supreme command; he must deliver victory — such 
was England's message to him. 

When I mentioned in a despatch that all' that differ- 
entiated him from the officers around him was the 
broader band of gold lace on his arm, an English naval 
critic wanted to know if I expected to find him in cloth 
of gold. No; nor in full dress with all his medals 
on, as I saw him appear on the screen at a theatre in 
London. 

Any general of high command must be surrounded 
by more pomp than an admiral in time of action. A 
headquarters cannot have the simplicity of the quarter- 
deck. The force which the general commands is not 
in sight; the admiral's is. You saw the commander 
and you saw what it was that he commanded. Within 
the sweep of vision from the quarter-deck was the 
terrific power which the man with the broad gold band 
on his arm directed. At a signal from him it would 
move or it would stand still. That command of 
Joshua's if given by Sir John one thought might have 
been obeyed. 

One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four 
hundred twelve-inch guns and larger, which could carry 
a hundred tons and more of metal in a single broadside 
for a distance of eighteen thousand yards I But do 
not forget the little guns, bristling under the big guns 
like needles from a cushion, which would keep off the 
torpedo assassins; or the light cruisers, or the colliers, 
or the destroyers, or the 2,300 trawlers and mine- 
layers, and what not, all under his direction. He had 
submarines, too, double the number of the German. 
But with all the German men-of-war in harbour, they 
had no targets. Where were they? One did not 
ask questions that could not be answered. Waiting, 



4 o6 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

as the whole British fleet was waiting, for the Ger- 
mans to show their heads, while cruisers were abroad 
scouting the North Sea. 

At the outset of the war the German fleet might 
have had one chance in ten of getting a turn of fortune 
of its favour by an unexpected stroke of strategy. 
This was the danger which Admiral Jellicoe had to 
guard against. For in one sense, the Germans had 
the tactical offensive by sea as well as by land; theirs 
the outward thrust from the centre. They could 
choose when to come out of their harbour; when to 
strike. The British had to keep watch all the time 
and be ready whenever the enemy should come. 

Thus, the British Grand Fleet was at sea in the 
early part of the war, cruising here and there, begging 
for battle. Then it was that they learned how to 
avoid the submarines and the mine-fields. Submarines 
had played a greater part than expected, because Ger- 
many had chosen a guerrilla naval warfare : to harass, 
to wound, to wear down. Doubtless she hoped to 
reduce the number of British fighting units by attri- 
tion. 

Weak England might be in plants for making arms 
for an army, but not in ship-building. Here was her 
true genius. She was a maritime power; Germany 
a land-power. Her part as an ally of France and 
Russia being to command the sea, all demands of the 
Admiralty for material must take precedence over de- 
mands of the War Office. At the end of the first 
year she had increased her fighting power by sea to 
a still higher ratio of preponderance over the Ger- 
mans; in another year she would increase it fur- 
ther. 

Admiral von Tirpitz wanted nothing so much as to 



ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 407 

draw the British fleet under the guns of Heligoland 
or into a mine-field and submarine trap. But Sir John 
Jellicoe refused the bait. When he had completed 
his precautions and his organisation to meet all new 
conditions, his fleet need not go into the open. His 
Dreadnoughts could rest at anchor at a base while 
his scouts kept in touch with all that was passing and 
his auxiliaries and destroyers fought the submarines. 
Without a British Dreadnought having fired a shot 
at a German Dreadnought, nowhere on the face of 
the seas might a single vessel show the German flag 
except by thrusting it above the water for a few min- 
utes. 

If von Tirpitz sent his fleet out he, too, might find 
himself in a trap of mines and submarines. He was 
losing submarines and England was building more. 
His naval force rather than Sir John's was suffering 
from attrition. The blockade was complete from Ice- 
land to the North Sea. While the world knew of the 
work of the armies, the care that this task required, 
the hardships endured, the enormous expenditure of 
energy, were all hidden behind that veil of secrecy 
which obviously must be more closely drawn over 
naval than over army operations. 

From this flagship the campaign was directed. One 
would think that many offices and many clerks would 
be required. But the offices and the clerks were at 
the Admiralty. Here was the execution. In a room 
perhaps four feet by six was the wireless focus which 
received all the reports and sent all the orders, with 
trim bluejackets at the keys. " Go ! " and " Come ! " 
the messages were saying; they wasted no words. 
Officers of the staff did their work in narrow space, 
yet seemed to have plenty of room. Red tape is in- 



4 o8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

flammable. There is no more place for it on board a 
flagship prepared for action than for unnecessary 
woodwork. 

At every turn the compression and the concentra- 
tion of power were like the guns and the decks cleared 
for action in their significant directness of purpose. 
The system was planetary in its impressive simplicity, 
the more striking as nothing that man has ever made 
is more complicated or includes more kinds of ma- 
chinery than a battleship. One battleship was one 
unit, one chessman on the naval board. 

Not all famous leaders are likeable, as every world 
traveller knows. They all have the magnetism of 
force, which is quite another thing from the mag- 
netism of charm. What the public demands is that 
they shall win victories, whether personally likeable 
or not. But if they are likeable and simple and hu- 
man in the bargain and a sailor besides — well, we 
know what that means. 

Perhaps Sir John Jellicoe is not a great man. It is 
not for a civilian even to presume to judge. We have 
the word of those who ought to know, however, that 
he is. I hope that he is, because I like to think that 
great commanders need not necessarily appear formi- 
dable. Nelson refused to be cast for the heavy part, 
and so did Farragut. It may be a sailor characteris- 
tic. I predict that after this war is over, whatever 
honours or titles they may bestow on him, the Eng- 
lish are going to like Sir John Jellicoe not alone for 
his service to the nation, but for himself. 

Admiral Jellicoe is one with Captain Jellicoe, whose 
cheeriness even when wounded kept up the spirits of 
the others on the Relief Expedition of Boxer days. 
" He could do it, too 1 " one thought, having in mind 



ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 409 

Sir David Beatty's leap to the deck of a destroyer. 
Spare, of medium height, ruddy, and fifty-seven. So 
much for the health qualification which the Admiralty 
lords dwelt upon as important. After he had been at 
sea for a year he seemed a human machine, much of 
the type of that destroyer as a steel machine — a 
thirty-knot human machine, capable of three hundred 
or five hundred revolutions, engines running smoothly, 
with no waste energy, slipping over the waves and cut- 
ting through them; a quick man, quick of movement, 
quick of comprehension and observation, of speech 
and of thought, with a delightful self-possession — 
for there are many kinds — which is instantly respon- 
sive with decision. 

A telescope under his arm, too, as he received his 
guests. One liked that. He keeps watch over the 
fleet himself when he is on the quarter-deck. One 
had a feeling that nothing could happen in all his 
range of vision, stretching down the " avenues of 
Dreadnoughts " to the light-cruiser squadron, and es- 
cape his attention. It hardly seems possible that he 
was ever bored. Everything around him interests 
him. Energy he has, electric energy in this electric 
age, this man chosen to command the greatest war 
product of modern energy. 

Fastened to the superstructure near the ladder to 
his quarters was a new broom which South Africa 
had sent him. He was highly pleased with that pres- 
ent; only the broom was von Tromp's emblem, while 
Blake's had been the whip. Possibly the South Afri- 
can Dutchmen, now fighting on England's side, knew 
that he already had the whip and they wanted him to 
have the Dutch broom, too. 

He had been using both, and many other devices 



410 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

in his campaign against von Tirpitz' "unlet see 
boots," which was illustrated by one of the maps hung 
in his cabin. Quite different this from maps in a gen- 
eral's headquarters, with the front trenches and sup- 
port and reserve trenches and gun-positions marked 
in vari-coloured pencillings. Instantly a submarine 
was sighted anywhere, Sir John had word of it, and 
another dot went down on the spot where it had been 
seen. In places the sea looked like a pepper-box 
cover. Dots were plentiful outside the harbour where 
we were ; but well outside, like flies around sugar which 
they could not reach. 

Seeing Sir John among his admirals and guests one 
had a glimpse of the life of a sort of mysterious, busy 
brotherhood. I was still searching for an admiral 
with white hair. If there were none among these 
seniors, then all must be on shore. Spirit, I think, 
that is the word; the spirit of youth, of corps, of serv- 
ice, of the sea, of a ready, buoyant definiteness — yes, 
spirit was the word to characterise them. Sir John 
moved from one to another in his quick way, asking a 
question, listening, giving a direction, his face smiling 
and expressive with a sort of infectious confidence. 

" He is the man 1 " said an admiral. I mean, sev- 
eral admirals and captains said so. They seemed to 
like to say it. Whenever he approached one noted 
an eagerness, a tightening of nerves. Natural leader- 
ship expresses itself in many ways; Sir John gave it 
a sailor's attractiveness. But I learned that there was 
steel under his happy smile; and they liked him for 
that, too. Watch out when he is not smiling, and 
sometimes when he is smiling, they say. 

For failure is never excused in that fleet, as more 
than one commander knows. It is a luxury of consid- 



ON THE FLEET FLAGSHIP 411 

eration which the British nation cannot afford by sea 
in time of war. The scene which one witnessed in 
the cabin of the Dreadnought flagship could not have 
been unlike that of Nelson and his young captains on 
the Victory, in the animation of youth governed with 
only one thought under the one rule that you must 
make good. 

Splendid as the sight of the power which Sir John 
directed from his quarter-deck while the ships lay still 
in their plotted moorings, it paled beside that when 
the anchor chains began to rumble and, column by 
column, they took on life slowly and majestically gain- 
ing speed one after another turned toward the har- 
bour's entrance. 



XXXI 

SIMPLY HARD WORK 

England's navy, the culmination of her brains and application — A 
perpetual war-footing — Pride of craft — The personnel behind 
the guns — Physique, health, conduct — Fate's favourites in the 
tienches! — Gun practice — A miniature German Navy — The 
acme of efficiency — The British nation lives or dies with its 
navy — The prototype of our own Atlantic fleet 

Besides the simple word spirit, there is the simple 
word work. Take the two together, mixing with 
them the proper quantity of intelligence, and you have 
something finer than Dreadnoughts; for it builds 
Dreadnoughts, or tunnels mountains, or wins vic- 
tories. 

In no organisation would it be so easy as in the 
navy to become slack. If the public sees a naval re- 
view it knows that its ships can steam and keep their 
formations ; if it goes on board it knows that the ships 
are clean — at least, the limited part of them which 
it sees. And it knows that there are turrets and guns. 

But how does it know that the armour of the tur- 
rets is good, or that the guns will fire accurately ? In- 
deed, all that it sees is the shell. The rest must be 
taken on trust. A navy may look all right and be 
quite bad. The nation gives a certain amount of 
money to build ships which are taken in charge by 
officers and men who, shut off from public observa- 
tion, may do about as they please. 

The result rests with their industry and responsi- 
bility. If they are true to the character of the nation 

412 



SIMPLY HARD WORK 413 

by and large that is all the nation may expect ; if they 
are better, then the nation has reason to be grateful, 
Englishmen take more interest in their navy than 
Americans in theirs. They give it the best that is in 
them and they expect the best from it in return. 
Every youngster who hopes to be an officer knows 
that the navy is no place for idling; every man who 
enlists knows that he is in for no junket on a pleasure 
yacht. The British navy, I judged, had a relatively 
large percentage of the brains and application of 
Britain. 

" It is not so different from what it was for ten 
years before the war," said one of the officers. " We 
did all the work we could stand then; and whether 
cruising or lying in harbour, life is almost normal for 
us to-day." 

The British fleet was always on a war footing. It 
must be. Lack of naval preparation is more danger- 
ous than lack of land preparation. It is fatal. I 
know of officers who had had only a week's leave in 
a year in time of peace; their pay is less than our 
officers 9 . Patriotism kept them up to the mark. 

And another thing : Once a sailor, always a sailor, 
is an old saying; but it has a new application in mod- 
ern navies. They become fascinated with the very 
drudgery of ship's existence. They like their world, 
which is their house and their shop. It has the attrac- 
tion of a world of priestcraft, with them alone under- 
standing the ritual. Their drill at the guns becomes 
the preparation for the great sport of target practice, 
which beats any big game shooting when guns com- 
pete with guns, with battle practice greater sport than 
target practice. Bringing a ship into harbour well, 
holding her to her place in the formation, roaming 



4 i4 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

over the seas in a destroyer — all means eternal ef- 
fort at the mastery of material with the results posi- 
tively demonstrated. 

On one of the Dreadnoughts I saw a gun's crew 
drilling with a dummy six-inch, weight one hundred 
pounds. 

" Isn't that boy pretty young to handle that big 
shell ? " an admiral asked a junior officer. 

" He doesn't think so," the officer replied. " We 
haven't any one who could handle it better. It would 
break his heart if we changed his position." 

Not one of fifty German prisoners whom I had 
seen filing by over in France was as sturdy as this 
youngster. In the ranks of an infantry company of 
any army he would have been above the average of 
physique; but among the rest of the gun's crew he 
did appear slight. Need more be said about the phys- 
ical standard of the crews of the fighting ships of the 
Grand Fleet? 

One had an eye to more than guns and machinery 
and to more than the character of the officers. He 
wanted to become better acquainted with the personnel 
of the men behind the guns. They formed patches 
of blue on the decks, as one looked around the fleet, 
against the background of the dull, painted bulwarks 
of steel — the human element whose skill gave the 
ships life — deep-chested, vigorous men in their prime, 
who had the air of men grounded in their work by 
long experience. One noted when an order was given 
out that it was obeyed quickly by one who knew what 
he had to do because he had done it thousands of times. 

There are all kinds of bluejackets, as there are all 
kinds of other men. Before the war some took more 
than was good for them when on shore; some toofc 



SIMPLY HARD WORK 415 

nothing stronger than tea; some enjoyed the sailor's 
privilege of growling; some had to be kept up to the 
mark sharply; an occasional one might get rebellious 
against the merciless repetition of drills. 

The war imparted eagerness to all, the officers said. 
Infractions of discipline ceased. Days pass without 
any one of the crew of a Dreadnought having to be 
called up in default, I am told. And their health? 
At first thought, one would say that life in the steel 
caves of a Dreadnought would mean pasty complexions 
and flabby muscles. For a year the crews had been 
the prisoners of that readiness which must not lose a 
minute in putting to sea if von Tirpitz should ever 
try the desperate gamble of battle. 

After a turn in the trenches the soldiers can at least 
stretch their legs in billets. A certain number of a 
ship's company now and then get a tramp on shore; 
not real leave, but a personally conducted outing not 
far from the boats which will hurry them back to their 
stations on signal. However, all that one needs to 
keep well is fresh air and exercise. The blowers 
carry fresh air to every part of the ship ; the breezes 
which sweep the deck from the North Sea are fresh 
enough in summer and a little too fresh in winter. 
There is exercise in the regular drills, supplemented 
by setting-up exercises. The food is good and no 
man drinks or eats what he ought not to, as he may 
on shore. So there is the fact and the reason for the 
fact : the health of the men, as well as their conduct, 
had never been so good. 

" Perhaps we are not quite so clean as we were 
before the war," said an officer. " We wash decks 
only twice a week instead of every day. This means 
that quarters are not so moist and the men have more 



4i 6 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

freedom of movement. We want them to have as 
much freedom as possible." 

Waiting, waiting, in such confinement for thirteen 
months ; waiting for battle I Think of the strain of it ! 
The British temperament is well fitted to undergo such 
a test, and particularly well fitted are these sturdy 
seamen of mature years. An enemy may imagine 
them wearing down their efficiency on the leash. 
They want a fight ; naturally, they want nothing quite 
so much. But they have the seaman's philosophy. 
Old von Tirpitz may come out and he may not. It 
is for him to do the worrying. They sit tight. The 
men's ardour is not imposed upon. Care is taken that 
they should not be worked stale; for the marksman 
who puts a dozen shots through the bull's-eye had bet- 
ter not keep on firing, lest he begin rimming it and 
get into bad habits. 

Where an army officer has a change when he leaves 
the trench for his billet, there is none for the naval 
officer, who, unlike the army officer, is Spartan-bred 
to confinement. The army pays its daily toll of 
casualties; it lies cramped in dugouts, not knowing 
what minute extinction may come. The Grand Fleet 
has its usual comforts; it is safe from submarines in 
a quiet harbour. Many naval officers spoke of this 
contrast with deep feeling, as if fate were playing fa- 
vourites, though I have never heard an army officer 
mention it. 

The army can give each day fresh proof of its cour- 
age in face of the enemy. Courage 1 It takes on a 
new meaning with the Grand Fleet. The individual 
element of gallantry merges into gallantry of the 
whole. You have the very communism of courage. 
The thought is to keep a cool head and do your part 



SIMPLY HARD WORK 417 

as a cog in the vast machine. Courage is as much 
taken for granted as the breath of life. Thus, Cra- 
dock's men, and von Spee's men, too, fought till they 
went down. It was according to the programme laid 
out for each turret and each gun in a turret. 

Smith, of the army, leads a bomb-throwing party 
from traverse to traverse; Smith, of the navy, turns 
one lever at the right second. Army gunners are im- 
proving their practice day by day against the enemy; 
all the improving by navy gunners must be done before 
the battle. No sieges in trenches; no attacks and 
counter-attacks : a decision within a few hours — per- 
haps within an hour. 

This partially explains the love of the navy for its 
work; its cheerful repetition of the drills which seem 
such a wearisome business to the civilian. The men 
know the reason of their drudgery. It is an all-con- 
vincing bull's-eye reason. Ping-ping ! One heard the 
familiar sound of subcalibre practice, which seems as 
out of proportion in a fifteen-inch gun as a jnouse 
squeak from an elephant whom you expect to trumpet. 
As the result appears in subcalibre practice, so it is 
practically bound to appear in target practice; as it 
appears in target practice, so it is bound to appear in 
battle practice. 

It was on the flagship that I saw a device which Sir 
John referred to as the next best thing to having the 
Germans come out. He took as much delight in it 
as the gun-pointers, who were firing at German 
Dreadnoughts of the first line, as large as your thumb, 
which were in front of a sort of hooded arrangement 
with the guns of a British Dreadnought inside — the 
rest I cjensor myself before the regular censor sees it. 
When we heard a report like that of a small target 



4 i 8 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

rifle inside the arrangement a small red or a small 
white splash rose from the metallic platter of a sea. 
Thus the whole German navy has been pounded to 
pieces again and again. It is a great game. The 
gun-pointers never tire of it and they think they know 
the reason as well as anybody why von Tirpitz keeps 
his Dreadnoughts at home. 

But elsewhere I saw some real firing; for ships must 
have their regular target practice, war or no war. 
If those cruisers steaming across the range had been 
sending six- or eight-inch shrapnel, we should have 
preferred not to be so near that towed square of 
canvas. Flashes from turrets indistinguishable at a 
distance from the neutral-toned bodies of the vessels 
and the shells struck, making great splashes just be- 
yond the target, which was where they ought to go. 

A familiar scene, but with a new meaning when 
the time is one of war. So far as my observation is 
worth anything, it was very good shooting, indeed. 
One broadside would have put a destroyer out of 
business as easily as a " Jack Johnson " does for a 
dugout ; and it would have made a cruiser of the same 
class as the one firing pretty groggy — this not from 
any experience of being on a light cruiser or any desire 
to be on one when it receives such a salute. But it 
seems to be waiting for the Germans any time that 
they want it. 

Oh, that towed square of canvas 1 It is the symbol 
of the object of all building of guns, armour, and ships, 
all the nursing in dry dock, all the admiral's plans, all 
the parliamentary appropriations, all the striving on 
board ship in man's competition with man, crew with 
crew, gun with gun, and ship with ship. One had in 
mind some vast factory plant where every unit was 



SIMPLY HARD WORK 419 

efficiently organised; but that comparison would not 
do. None will. The Grand Fleet is the Grand 
Fleet. 

Ability gets its reward as in the competition of civil 
life. There is no linear promotion indulgent to medi- 
ocrity and inferiority which are satisfied to keep step 
and harassing to those whom nature and application 
meant to lead. Armchairs and retirement for those 
whose inclinations run that way; the captain's bridge 
for those who are fit to command. Officers' records 
are the criterion when superiors come to making pro- 
motions. But does not outside influence play a part? 
you ask. If professional conscience is not enough to 
prevent this, another thing appears to be: that the 
British nation lives or dies with its navy. Besides, 
the British public has said to all and sundry outsiders : 
41 Hands off the navy ! " All honour to the British 
public, much criticised and often most displeased with 
its servants and itself, for keeping its eye on that can- 
vas square of cloth I 

The language on board was the same as on our 
ships; the technical phraseology practically the same; 
we had inherited British traditions. But a man from 
Kansas and a man from Dorset live far apart. If 
they have a good deal in common they rarely meet to 
learn that they have. But seamen do meet and share 
a fraternity which is more than that of the sea. Close 
one's eyes to the difference in uniform, discount the 
difference in accent, and one imagined that he might 
be with our North Atlantic fleet. 

The same sort of shop talk and banter in the ward- 
room, which trims and polishes human edges; the 
same fellowship of a world apart. Securely ready 
the British fleet waits. Enough drill and not too 



4 20 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

much ; occasional visits between ships ; books and news- 
papers and a light-hearted relaxation of scattered con- 
versation in the mess. One wardroom had a thirty- 
five-second record for getting past all the pitfalls in 
the popular " Silver Bullet " game, if I remember cor- 
rectly. 



XXXII 

HUNTING THE SUBMARINE 

Seaplanes afloat and on high — Diabolical bombs — Sighting a sub- 
marine — The chase — Submarine defences — Torpedo boats at 
home — The mine sweepers — Patience in the cold of the North 
Sea. 

Seaplanes cut practice circles over the fleet and then 
flew away on their errands, to be lost in the sky beyond 
the harbour entrance. With their floats, they were 
like ducks when they came to rest on the water, sturdy 
and a little clumsy looking compared to those hawks 
the army planes, soaring to higher altitudes. 

The hawk had a broad, level field for its roost ; the 
duck, bobbing with the waves after it came down, had 
its wings folded as became a bird at rest after its 
engines stopped and a dead thing, it was lifted on 
board its floating home with a crane, as cargo is swung 
into the hold. 

On shipboard there must be shipshapeness ; and that 
capacious, one-time popular Atlantic liner had under- 
gone changes to prepare it for its mothering part, with 
platforms in place of the promenades where people 
had lounged during the voyage, and bombs in place of 
deck quoits and dining-saloons turned into workshops. 
Of course, one was shown the different sizes and types 
of bombs. Aviators exhibit them with the pride of a 
collector showing his porcelains. Every time they 
seem to me to have grown larger and more diabolical. 

Where will aerial progress end? Will the next war 

421 



422 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

be fought by forces that dive and fly like fish and 
birds ? 

" I'd like to drop that hundred-pounder onto a Zep- 
pelin ! " said one of the aviators. All the population 
of London would like to see him do it. Also Fritz, 
of the submarine, does not like to see the shadow of 
man's wings above the water. 

Seaplanes and destroyers carry the imagination 
away from the fleet to another sphere of activity, 
which I had not the fortune to see. An aviator can 
see Fritz below a smooth surface ; for he cannot travel 
much deeper than thirty or forty feet. He leaves a 
characteristic ripple and tell-tale bubbles of air and 
streaks of oil. When the planes have located him 
they can tell the hunters where to go. Sometimes it 
is known that a submarine is in a certain region ; he is 
lost sight of and seen again; a squall may cover his 
track a second time, and the hunters, keeping touch 
with the planes by signals, course here and there on 
the lookout for another glimpse. Perhaps he escapes 
altogether. It is a tireless game of hide-and-seek, like 
that of gunnery at the front. Naval ingenuity has 
invented no end of methods and no end of experiments 
have been tried. Strictest kept of naval secrets, these. 
Fritz is not to be told what to avoid and what not to 
avoid. 

Very thin the skin of a submarine ; very fragile and 
complicated its machinery. It does not take much of 
a shock to put it out of order or a large cargo of explo- 
sive to dent that skin beyond repair. It being in the 
nature of submarines to sink, how does the hunter 
know when he has struck a mortal blow? If oil and 
bubbles come up for sometime in one place, or if they 
come up with a rush, that is suggestive. Then, it does 



HUNTING THE SUBMARINE 4 *3 

not require a nautical mind to realise that by casting 
about on the bottom with a grapnel you will learn if 
an object with the bulk and size of a submarine is 
there. Admirals accept no guesswork from the hunt- 
ers about their exploits ; they must bring the brush to 
prove the kill. 

With Admiral Crawford I went to see the sub- 
marine defences of a harbour. It reminded one of 
the old days of the drawbridge to the castle, when a 
friend rode freely in and an enemy might try to swim 
the moat and scale the walls if he pleased. 

14 Take care ! There is a tide here ! " the coxswain 
was warned, lest the barge get into some of the 
troubles meant for Fritz. # " A cunning fellow, Fritz. 
We must give him no openings." 

The openings appear long enough to permit British 
craft, whether trawlers, or flotillas, or cruisers, or bat- 
tleships, to go and come. Lying as close together as 
fish in a basket, I saw at one place a number of torpedo 
boats home from a week at sea. 

44 Here to-day and gone to-morrow," said an officer. 
What a time they had last winter ! You know how 
cold the North Sea is — no, you cannot, unless you 
have been out in a torpedo boat dancing the tango in 
the teeth of that bitter wind, with the spray whipping 
up to the tops of the smoke-stacks. In the dead of 
night they would come into this pitch-dark harbour. 
How they found their way is past me. It's a trick of 
those young fellows, who command." 

Stationary they seemed now as the quay itself; but 
let a signal speak, an alarm come, and they would soon 
be as alive as leaping porpoises. The sport is to those 
who scout and hunt. But, again, do not forget those 
who watch, those who keep the blockade, from the 



4< 



424 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

Channel to Iceland, and those trawlers who plod over 
plotted sea-squares with the regularity of mowing 
machines cutting a harvest, on their way back and forth 
sweeping up mines. They were fishermen before the 
war and are fishermen still. Night and day they keep 
at it. They come into the harbours stiff with cold, 
thaw out, and return to hardships which would make 
many a man, prefer the trenches. Tributes to their 
patient courage, which came from the heart, were 
heard on board the battleships. 

44 It is when we think of them," said an officer, 
44 that we are most eager to have the German fleet 
come out, so that we can do our part." 



XXXIII 

THE FLEET PUTS TO SEA 

The test of perfect motion — Is the fleet bottled by submarines ? — 
The message arrives — The sea-march of dull-toned unadorned 
power — Destroyers in the van — The majestic procession of 
battleships — The secret in sheer hard work — The sea-lion on 
the hunt — The "old" Dreadnought — The exotic Turk — An 
hour and still passing — Irresistible power — Visualizing the 
whole globe, safe behind that fleet — Back in London — The 
Zeppelin's pitiable target — Meaning of British dominion — A 
German comparison. 

There is another test besides that of gun drills and 
target practice, which reflects the efficiency of indi- 
vidual ships, and the larger the number of ships the 
more important it is. For the business of a fleet is 
to go to sea. At anchor it is in garrison rather than 
on campaign, an assembly of floating forts. Navies 
one has seen which seemed excellent when in harbour, 
but when they started to get under way the result was 
hardly reassuring. Some erring sister fouled her 
anchor chain; another had engine room trouble; 
another lagged for some other reason; there was 
fidgeting on the bridges. Then one asked, What if 
a summons to battle had come? 

Our own officers were authority enough for me that 
the British had no superiors in any of the tests. But 
strange reports dodged in and out of the alleys of 
pessimism in the company of German insistence that 
the Tiger and other ships which one saw afloat had 
been sunk. Was the fleet really held prisoner by fear 
of submarines? If it could go and come freely when 

42s 



426 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

it chose, the harbour was the place for it while it 
waited. If not, then, indeed, the submarine had revo- 
lutionised naval warfare. Admiral Jellicoe might 
lose some of his battleships before he could ever go 
into action against von Tirpitz. 

"Oh, to hear the hoarse rattle of the anchor 
chains I " I kept thinking while I was with the fleet. 
" Oh, to see all those monsters on the move I " 

A vain wish it seemed, but it came true. A message 
from the Admiralty arrived while we were on the 
flagship. Admiral Jellicoe called his flag secretary, 
spoke a word to him, which was passed in a twinkling 
from flagship to squadron and division and ship. He 
made it as simple as ordering his barge alongside, this 
sending of the Grand Fleet to sea. 

From the bridge of a destroyer beyond the harbour 
entrance we saw it go. I shall not attempt to describe 
the spectacle, which convinced me that language is the 
vehicle for making small things seem great and great 
things seem small. If you wish words invite splendid 
and magnificent and overwhelming and all the reliable 
old friends to come forth in glad apparel from the dic- 
tionary. Personally, I was inarticulate at sight of that 
sea march of dull-toned, unadorned power. 

First came the outriders of majesty, the destroyers; 
tlien the graceful light cruisers. How many destroy- 
ers has the British navy? I am only certain that it 
has not as many as it seems to have, which would mean 
thousands. Trying to count them is like trying to 
count the bees in the garden. You cannot keep your 
eye on the individual bees. You are bound to count 
some twice, so busy are their manoeuvres. 

" Don't you worry, great ladies I " one imagined the 
destroyers were saying to the battleships. " We will 



THE FLEET PUTS TO SEA 427 

clear the road. We will keep watch against snipers 
and assassins." 

41 And if any knocks are coming, we will take them 
for you, great ladies ! " said the cruisers. " If one of 
us went down, the loss would not be great. Keep 
your big guns safe to beat other battleships into scrap." 

For you may be sure that Fritz was on the watch in 
the open. He always is, like the highwayman hiding 
behind a hedge and envying people who have com- 
fortable beds. Probably from a distance he had a 
peek through his periscope at the Grand Fleet before 
the approach of the policeman destroyers made him 
duck beneath the water; and probably he tried to count 
the number of ships and identify their classes in order 
to take the information home to Kiel. Besides, he 
always has his fingers crossed. He hopes that some 
day he may get a shot at something more warlike than 
a merchant steamer or an auxiliary; only that prospect 
becomes poorer as life for him grows harder. Except 
a miracle happened, the steaming fleet, with its cordons 
of destroyers, is as safe from him as from any other 
kind of fish. 

The harbour which is the fleet's home is landlocked 
by low hills. There is an eclipse of the sun by the 
smoke from the ships getting under way; streaming, 
soaring columns of smoke on the move rise above the 
skyline from the funnels of the battleships before they 
appear in sight around a bend. Indefinite masses as 
yet they are, under their night-black plumes. Each 
ship seems too immense to respond to any will except 
its own. There is something automatic in the regu- 
larity with which, one after another, they take the 
bend, as if a stop watch had been held on twenty 
thousand tons of steel for a second's variation. As 



428 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

they approach they become more distinct and, showing 
less smoke, there seems less effort. Their motive- 
power seems inherent, perpetual. 

There is some sea running outside the entrance, 
enough to make a destroyer roll. But the battleships 
disdain any notice of its existence. It is no more to 
them than a ripple of dust to a motor truck. They 
plough through it. 

Though you were within twenty yards of them you 
would feel quite safe. An express train was in no 
more danger of jumping the track. Mast in line with 
mast, they held the course with a majestic steadiness. 
Now the leading ship makes a turn of a few points. 
At the same spot, as if it were marked by the grooves 
of tires in a road, the others make it. Any variation 
of speed between them would have been instantly no- 
ticeable, as one forged ahead or lagged; but the dis- 
tance between bows and sterns did not change. A line 
of one length would do for each interval so far as one 
could discern. It was difficult to think that they were 
not attached to some taut moving cable under water. 
How could such apparently unwieldy monsters, in such 
a slippery element as the sea, be made to obey their 
masters with such fine precision ? 

The answer again is sheer hard work! Drills as 
arduous in the engine room as at the guns ; machinery 
kept in tune ; traditions in manoeuvring in all weathers, 
which are kept up with tireless practice. 

Though all seemed perfection to the lay eye, let it 
be repeated that this was not so to the eyes of admirals. 
It never can be. Perfection is the thing striven for. 
Officers dwell on faults ; all are critics. Thus you have 
the healthiest kind of spirit, which means that there 
will be no cessation in the striving. 



THE FLEET PUTS TO SEA 429 

" Look at that ! " exclaimed an officer on the de- 
stroyer. " They better try another painting on her 
and see if they can't do better." 

Ever changing that northern light. For an instant 
the sun's rays, strained by a patch of peculiar cloud, 
playing on a Dreadnought's side made her colour 
appear molten, exaggerating her size till she seemed as 
colossal to the eye as to the thought. 

" But look, now I " said another officer. She was 
out of the patch and seemed miles farther away to the 
vision, a dim shape in the sea-haze. 

"You can't have it right for every atmospheric 
mood of the North Sea, I suppose ! " muttered the 
critic. Still, it hurt his professional pride that a battle- 
ship should show up as such a glaring target even for 
a moment. 

The power of the fleet was more patent in move- 
ment than at rest; for the sea-lion was out of his lair 
on the hunt. Fluttering with flags at a review at Spit- 
head the battleships seemed out of their element; 
giants trying for a fairy's part. Display is not for 
them. It ill becomes them, as a pink ribbon on a bull- 
dog. Irresistibly ploughing their way they presented 
a picture of resolute utility — guns and turrets and 
speed. No spot of bright colour was visible on board. 
The crew was at the guns, I took it. Turn the turrets, 
give the range, lay the sights on the enemy's ships, and 
the battle was on. 

" There is the old Dreadnought," said an officer. 

The old Dreadnought — all of ten years of age, the 
senile old thing ! What a mystery she was when she 
was building ! The mystery accentuated her celebrity 
— and almost forgotten now, while the Queen Eliza- 
befh and the Warsfite and others of their class with 



430 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

their fifteen-inch guns would be in the public eye as the 
latest type till a new type came. A parade of naval 
types was passing. One seemed to shade into the 
other in harmonious effect. 

But here was an outsider, whom one noted instantly 
as he studied those rugged silhouettes of steel and 
counted guns. She had been a Turk. As the Turks 
were going to have only one battleship, they were not 
bothered about squadron homogeneity. They piled 
turret on turret, twelve twelve-inch guns in exotic 
array. She was finished and the Turks were already 
on board to take her home when the war began. But 
British law requires that any foreign man-of-war 
building in English shipyards may be taken over for 
her cost in case of war. So England kept the ship, 
which the Turks, I understand, thought was hardly a 
sporting thing to do. . 

One division, two divisions, four ships, eight Dread- 
noughts — even a squadron coming out of a harbour 
numbs the faculties with a sense of its might. Sixteen 
— twenty — twenty-four — it was the unending num- 
bers of this procession of sea-power which was most 
impressive. An hour passed and all were not by. 
One sat down for a few minutes behind the wind screen 
of the destroyer's bridge, only to look back and see 
more Dreadnoughts going by. One had not realised 
that there were so many in the harbour. He had a 
suspicion that Admiral Jellicoe was a conjuror who 
could take Dreadnoughts out of a hat. 

The first was lost in the gathering darkness far out 
in the North Sea, and still the cloud of smoke over the 
anchorage was as thick as ever ; still the black plumes 
kept appearing around the bend. The King Edward 



THE FLEET PUTS TO SEA 431 

VII class with their four twelve-inch guns and other 
ancients of the pre-Dreadnought era, which are still 
powerful antagonists, were yet to come. One's eyes 
ached. Those who saw a German corps march 
through Brussels said that it seemed irresistible. 
What if they had seen the whole German army? 
Here was the counterpart of the whole German army 
in sea-power and in land-power, too. 

The destroyer commander looked at his watch. 

44 Time I " he said. " I'll put you on shore." 

He must take his place in the fleet at a given mo- 
ment. A word to the engine room and the next thing 
we knew we were off at thirty knots an hour, cutting 
straight across the bows of a Dreadnought steaming at 
twenty knots towering over us threateningly, with a 
bone in her teeth. 

One's imagination sped across seas where he had 
cruised into harbours that he knew and across conti- 
nents that he knew. He was trying to visualise the 
whole globe — all of it except the Baltic seas and a 
thumbmark in the centre of Europe. Hong Kong, 
Melbourne, Sydney, Halifax, Cape Town, Bombay — 
yes, and Rio and Valparaiso, Shanghai, San Francisco, 
New York, Boston, these and the lands back of them 
where countless millions dwell were all safe behind the 
barrier of that fleet. 

Then back through the land where Shakespeare 
wrote to London, with its glare of recruiting posters 
and the throbbing of that individual freedom which is 
on trial in battle with the Prussian system — and as 
one is going to bed the sound of guns in the heart of 
the city! From the window one looked upward to 
see, under a searchlight's play, the silken sheen of a 



432 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

cigar-shaped sort of aerial phantom which was drop- 
ping bombs on women and children, while never a shot 
was fired at those sturdy men behind armour. 

When you have travelled far; when you think of 
Botha and his Boers fighting for England ; when you 
have found justice and fair play and open markets 
under the British flag; when you compare the vocifera- 
tions of von Tirpitz glorying in the torpedoing of a 
Lusitania with the quiet manner of Sir John Jeilicoe, 
you need only a little spark of conscience to prefer the 
way that the British have used their sea-power to the 
way that the men who send out Zeppelins to war on 
women and children would use that power if they had 
it. 



XXXIV 

MANY PICTURES 

The aviation grounds — Arabian Nights' heroes and their magic 
carpets — Corps' spirit — A chivalric custom — Billeting in 
French houses — Well-disciplined guests — Teaching the art of 
war — Picturesque tribesmen from India — Their loyalty — 
British justice — Matins and Angel us — Farming without men 

— The peasants win — Greeting the French troops— Sir John 
French on duty — " Inspecting and disinfecting" — The new 
"shilling a day" men — Albert Edward, the " willing prince" 

— Care of the wounded. 

A single incident, an impression photographic in its 
swiftness, a chance remark, may be more illuminating 
than a day's experiences. One does not need to go to 
the front for them. Sometimes they come to the gate- 
way of our chateau. They are pages at random out 

of a library of overwhelming information. 

• ••••••• 

One of the aviation grounds is not far away. Look 
skyward at almost any hour of the day and you will see 
a plane, its propeller a roar or a hum according to its 
altitude. Sometimes it is circling in practice; again, 
it is off to the front. At break of day the planes 
appear ; in the gloaming they return to roost. 

If an aviator has leave for two or three days in 
summer he starts in the late afternoon, flashing over 
that streak of Channel in half an hour and may be at 
home for dinner without getting any dust on his clothes 
or having to bother with military red tape at steamer 
gangways or customs houses. 

The airmen are a type, with certain marked charac- 
teristics. No nervous man is wanted, and it is time 

433 



434 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

for an aviator to take a rest at the first sign of nerves. 
They seem shy and diffident, men of the kind given to 
observation rather than to talking; men accustomed to 
using their eyes and hands. It is difficult to realise 
that some quiet young fellow, who is pointed out, has 
had so many hairbreadth escapes. What tales, 
worthy of Arabian Nights' heroes who are borne away 
on magic carpets, they bring home, relating them as 
matter-of-factly as if they had broken a shoelace. 

Up in their seats, a whir of the motor, and they are 
off on another adventure. They shy at mention of 
their names in print, for that is not good for the spirit 
of corps of this newest branch in the service of war. 
Anonymity is absolute. Everything is done by the 
corps for the corps. Possibly because it is so young, 
because it started with chosen men, the British Avia- 
tion Corps is unsurpasesd; but partly it is because of 
the British temperament, with that combination of 
coolness and innate love of risk which the British man- 
ner sometimes belies. 

Something of the old spirit of knighthood character- 
ises air service. It is individual work; its numbers 
are relatively few. I like one of the aviation customs, 
not for its chivalry alone, but because it makes one feel 
more kindly toward the Germans. If a German avia- 
tor has to descend in the British lines, whether from 
motor trouble or because he is winged by an anti- 
aircraft gun, a British aviator flies over the German 
lines and drops a " message-bag " with long streamers 
telling whether the unfortunate one is dead or alive, 
and the Germans do the same. 

Some mornings ago I saw several young soldiers 
with notebooks going about our village street. They 



MANY PICTURES 435> 

jpere from the cadet school where privates, from the 
trenches, take a course and return with chocolate drops 
on their sleeve-bands as commissioned officers. This 
was a course in billeting. For ours is not an army in 
tents, but one living in French houses and barns. The 
pupils were learning how to carry out this delicate 
task; for delicate it is. A stranger speaking another 
language becomes the guest of the host for whom he is 
fighting. Mr. Atkins receives only shelter; he sup- 
plies his own meals. His excess of marmalade one 
sees yellowing the cheeks of the children in the family 
where he is at home. Madame objects only to his 
efforts to cook in her kitchen; womanlike, she would 
rather handle the pots and pans herself. 

Tommy is thoroughly instructed in his duty as guest 
and under a discipline that is merciless so far as con- 
duct toward the population goes; so the two get on 
better than French and English military authorities 
feared that they might. Time has taught them to 
understand each other and see that difference in race 
does not mean absence of human qualities in common, 
though differently expressed. Many armies I have 
seen, but never one better behaved than the British 
army in France and Flanders in its respect for prop- 
erty and the rights of the population. 

And while the fledgling officers are going on with 
their billeting, we hear the t-r-r-t of a machine gun at 
a machine-gun school about a mile distant, where 
picked men also from the trenches receive instruction 
in the use of an arm new to them. There are other 
schools within sound of the guns teaching the art of 
war to an expanding army in the midst of war, with the 
teachers bringing their experience from the battle-line. 



436 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

44 Their shops and their houses all have fronts of 
glass," wrote a Sikh soldier home, " and even the poor 
are rich in this bountiful land." 

Sikhs and Ghurkas and Rajputs and Pathans and 
Gherwalis, the brown-skinned tribesmen in India, have 
been on a strange Odyssey, bringing picturesqueness 
to the khaki tone of modern war. Aeroplanes inter- 
ested them less than a trotting dog in a wheel for 
drawing water. They would watch that for hours. 

Still fresh in mind is a scene when the air seemed a 
moist sponge and all above the earth was dripping and 
all under foot a mire. I was homesick for the flash on 
the windows of the New York skyscrapers or the 
gleam on the Hudson of that bright sunlight in a drier 
air, that is the secret of the American's nervous energy. 
It seemed to me that it was enough to have to exist in 
Northern France at that season of the year, let alone 
fighting Germans. 

Out of the drizzly, misty rain along a muddy road 
and turning past us came the Indian cavalry, which, 
like the British cavalry, had fought on foot in the 
trenches, while their horses led the leisurely life of true 
equine gentry. Erect in their saddles, their martial 
spirit defiant of the weather, their black eyes flashing 
as they looked toward the reviewing officers, troop 
after troop of these- sons of the East passed by, every 
one seeming as fit for review as if he had cleaned his 
uniform and equipment in his home barracks instead 
of in French barns. 

One asked who had trained them; who had fash- 
ioned the brown clay into resolute and loyal obedience 
which stood the test of a Flanders winter? What was 
the force which could win them to cross the seas to 
fight for England? Among the brown faces topped 



MANY PICTURES 437 

with turbans appeared occasional white faces. These 
were the men; these the force. 

The marvel was not that the Indians were able to 
fight as well as they did in that climate, but that they 
fought at all. What welcome summer brought from 
their gleaming black eyes ! July or August could not 
be too hot for them. On a plateau one afternoon I 
saw them having a gymkana. It was a treat for the 
King of the Belgians, who has had few holidays, in- 
deed, this last year, and for the French peasants who 
came from the neighbourhood. Yelling, wild as they 
were in tribal days before the British brought order 
and peace to India, the horsemen galloped across the 
open space, picking up handkerchiefs from the ground 
and impaling tent pegs on their lances. The French 
peasants clapped their hands and the British Indian 
officers said, " Good ! " when the performer suc- 
ceeded, or, " Too bad ! " when he failed. 

If you asked the officers for the secret of the Indian 
Empire they said: "We try to be fair to the na- 
tives ! " which means that they are just and even-tem- 
pered. An enormous, loose-jointed machine the Brit- 
ish Empire, which seems sometimes to creak a bit but 
yet holds together for that very reason. Imperial 
weight may have interfered with British adaptability 
to the kind of warfare which was the one kind that the 
Germans had to train for; but certainly some English- 
men must know how to rule. 

That church bell across the street from our chateau 
begins its clangour at dawn, summoning the French 
women and children and the old men to the fields in 
harvest time. But its peals carrying across the farm- 
lands are softened by distance and sweet to the tired 



438 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

workers in the evening. In the morning its peal in 
their ears tells them that the day is long and they have 
much to do before dark. After that thought I never 
complained because it robbed me of my sleep. I felt 
ashamed not to be up and doing myself, and worked 
with a better spirit. 

"Will they do it? '\ 

We asked this question as often in our mess in those 
August days as, Will the Russians lose Warsaw? 
Would the peasants be able to get in their crops, with 
all the able-bodied men away? I had inside informa- 
tion from the village mayor and the blacksmith and the 
baker that they would. A financial expert, the baker. 
Of course, he said that France would go on fighting till 
the German was beaten, just as the old men and the 
women and children said, whether the church bell was 
clanging the matins or the angelus. But there was 
the question of finances. It took money to fight. 
The Americans, he knew, had more money than they 
knew what to do with — as Europeans universally 
think, only, personally, I find that I was overlooked in 
the distribution — and if they would loan the Allies 
some of their spare billions, Germany was surely 
beaten. 

A busy man the blacksmith, and brawny, if he had 
no spreading chestnut tree; busy not only shoeing 
farmhorses, but repairing American reapers and bind- 
ers, whose owners profited exceedingly and saved the 
day. But not all farmers felt that they could afford 
the charge. These kept at their small patches with 
sickles. Gradually the carpets of gold waving in the 
breeze became bundles lying on the stubble, and great 
conical harvest stacks rose, while children gathered 
the stray stems left on the ground by the reapers till 



MANY PICTURES 439 

they had immense bouquets of wheat-heads under their 
arms, enough to make two or three loaves of the pain 
de menage that the baker sold. So the peasants did 
it ; they won ; and this was some compensation for the 
loss of Warsaw. 

One morning we heard troops marching past, which 
was not unusual. But these were French troops in 
the British zone, en route from somewhere in France 
to somewhere else in France. There was not a person 
left in any house in that village. Everybody was out, 
with affection glowing in their eyes. For these were 
their own — their soldiers of France. 

• ••••••a 

When you see a certain big limousine flying a small 
British flag pass you know that it belongs to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief; and though it may be occupied only 
by one of his aides, often you will have a glimpse of 
a man with a square chin and a drooping white 
moustache, who is the sole one among the hundreds of 
thousands at the British front who wears the crossed 
batons of a field marshal. 

It is erroneous to think that Sir John French or any 
other commander, though that is the case in time of 
action, spends all his time in the private house occupied 
as headquarters, designated by two wisps of flags, 
studying a map and sending and receiving messages, 
when the trench line remains stationary. He goes 
here and there on inspections. It is the only way that 
a modern leader may let his officers and men know 
that he is a being of flesh and blood and not a name 
signed to reports and orders. A machine-gun com- 
pany I knew had a surprise when resting in a field 
waiting for orders. They suddenly recognised in a 
figure coming through an opening in a hedge the su- 



440 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

preme head of the army in France. There was no 
need of a call to attention. The effect was like an 
electric shock, which sent every man to his place and 
made his backbone a steel rod. Those crossed batons 
represented a dizzy altitude to that battery which 
had just come out from England. Sir John walked 
up and down, looking over men and guns after their 
nine months 9 drill at home, and said, " Very good! " 
and was away to other inspections where he might not 
necessarily say, " Very good ! " 

Frequently his inspections are formal. A battalion 
or a brigade is drawn up in a field, or they march past. 
Then he usually makes a short speech. On one occa- 
sion the officers had arranged a platform for the 
speech-making. Sir John gave it a glance and that 
was enough. It was the end of such platforms erected 
for him. 

" Inspections 1 They are second nature to us 1 " 
said a new army man. " We were inspected and in- 
spected at home and we are inspected and inspected 
out here. If there is anything wrong with us it is the 
general's own fault if it isn't found out. When a 
general is not inspecting, some man from the medical 
corps is disinfecting.' 9 

Battalions of the new army are frequently billeted 
for two or three days in our village. The barn up the 
road I know is capable of housing twenty men and one 
officer ; for this is chalked on the door. Before they 
turn in for the night the men frequently sing, and the 
sound of their voices is pleasant. 

A typical inspection was one that I saw in the main 
street. The battalion was drawn up in full marching 
equipment on the road. Of those officers with packs 
on their backs one was only nineteen. This is the 



MANY PICTURES 441 

limit of youth to acquire a chocolate drop on its arm. 
The sergeant major was an old regular, the knowing 
backbone of the battalion, which had taken the men of 
clay and taught them their letters and then how to spell 
and to add and subtract and divide. One of those im- 
pressive red caps arrived in a car, and the general who 
wore it went slowly up and down the line, front and 
rear, examining rifles and equipment, while the young 
officers and the old sergeant were hoping that Jones or 
Smith hadn't got some dust in his rifle-barrel at the last 
moment. 

Brokers and carpenters, bankers and mechanics, 
clerks and labourers, the new army is like the army of 
France, composed of all classes. One evening I had a 
chat with two young fellows in a battalion quartered 
in the village, who were seated beside the road. Both 
came from Buckinghamshire. One was a schoolmas- 
ter and the other an architect. They were " bunkies," 
pals, chums. 

" When did you enlist? " I asked. 

"In early September, after the Marne retreat. 
We thought that it was our duty, then. But we've 
been a long time arriving." 

"How do you like it?" 

" We are not yet masters of the language, we find," 
said the schoolmaster, " though I had a pretty good 
book knowledge of it." 

" I'm learning the gestures fast, though," said the 
architect. 

" The French are glad to see us," said the school- 
master. " They call us the Keetcheenaires. I fancy 
they thought we were a long time coming. But now 
we are here, I think they will find that we can hold up 
our end." 



442 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

They had the fresh complexions which come from 
healthy, outdoor work. There was something en- 
gaging in their boyishness and their views. For they 
had a wider range of interests than that professional 
soldier, Mr. Atkins, these citizens who had taken up 
arms. They knew what trench-fighting meant by 
work in practice trenches at home. 

" Of course it will not be quite the same; theory and 
practice never are," said the schoolmaster. 

" We ought to be well-grounded in the principles," 
said the architect — imagine the average Mr. Atkins 
talking in such language ! — " and they say that in a 
week or two of actual experience you will have mas- 
tered the details that could not be taught in England. 
Then, too, having shells burst around you will be 
strange at first. But I think our battalion will give a 
good account of itself, sir. All the Bucks men have 1 " 
There crept in the pride of regiment, of locality, which 
is so characteristically Anglo-Saxon. 

They change life at the front, these new army men. 
If a carpenter, a lawyer, a sign-painter, an accountant, 
is wanted, you have only to speak to a new army bat- 
talion commander and one is forthcoming — a million- 
aire, too, for that matter, who gets his shilling a day 
for serving his country. Their intelligence permitted 
the architect and the schoolmaster to have no illusions 
about the character of the war they had to face. The 
pity was that such a fine force as the new army, which 
had not become trench stale, could not have a free 
space in which to make a great turning movement, in- 
stead of having to go against that solid battle-front 

from Switzerland to the North Sea. 

• ••••••• 

We have heard enough — quite enough for most of 



MANY PICTURES 443 

us — about the German Crown Prince. But there is 
also a prince with the British army in France. No 
lieutenant looks younger for his years than this one in 
the Grenadier Guards, and he seems of the same 
type as the others when you see him marching with 
his regiment or off for a walk smoking a briar-wood 
pipe. There are some officers who would rather not 
accompany him on his walks, for he can go fast and 
far. He makes regular reports of his observations, 
and he has opportunities for learning which other sub- 
alterns lack, for he may have both the staff and the 
army as personal instructors. Otherwise, his life is 
that of any other subaltern; for there is an instrument 
called the British Constitution which regulates many 
things. A little shy, very desirous to learn, is Albert 
Edward, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of Great 
Britain and Ireland and the Empire of India. He 
might be called the willing prince. 

This was one of the shells that hit — one of the 
hundred that hit. The time was summer; the place, 
the La Bassee region. Probably the fighting was all 
the harder here because it is so largely blind. When 
you cannot see what an enemy is doing you keep on 
pumping shells into the area which he occupies; you 
take no risks with him. 

The visitor may see about as much of what is going 
on in the La Bassee region as an ant can see of the 
surrounding landscape when promenading in the grass. 
The only variation in the flatness of the land is the 
overworked ditches which try to drain it. Look up- 
ward and rows of poplar trees along the level and a 
hedge, a grove, a cottage, or trees and shrubs around 
it, limit your vision. Thus, if a breeze starts timidly 



444 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

in a field it is stopped before it goes far. That " hot 
comer " is all the hotter for a burning July sun. The 
army water-carts which run back to wells of cool water 
are busy filling empty canteens, while shrapnel trims 
the hedges. 

A stretcher was being borne into the doorway of an 
est amine t which had escaped destruction by shells, and 
above the door was chalked some lettering which indi- 
cated that it was a first clearing station for the 
wounded. Lying on other stretchers on the floor were 
some wounded men. Of the two nearest, one had a 
bandage around his head and one a bandage around 
his arm. They had been stunned, which was only 
natural when you have been as close as they had to a 
shell-burst — a shell that made a hit. The concussion 
was bound to have this effect. 

A third man was the best illustration of shell de- 
structiveness. Bullets make only holes. Shells make 
gouges, fractures, pulp. He, too, had a bandaged 
head and had been hit in several places; but the 
worst wound was in the leg, where an artery had been 
cut. He was weak, with a sort of where-am-I look 
in his eyes. If the fragment which had hit his leg 
had hit his head, or his neck, or his abdomen, he would 
have been killed instantly. He was an illustration of 
how hard it is to kill a man even with several shell- 
fragments, unless some of them strike in the right 
place. For he was going to live; the surgeon had 
whispered the fact in his ear, that one important fact. 
He had beaten the German shell, after all. 

Returning by the same road by which we came a mo- 
tor car ran swiftly by, the only kind of car allowed on 
that road. We had a glimpse of the big painted red 
cross on an ambulance side, and at the rear, where the 



MANY PICTURES 445 

curtains were rolled up for ventilation, of four pairs 
of soldier boot-soles at the end of four stretchers, 
which had been slid into place at the estaminet by the 
sturdy, kindly, experienced medical corps men. 

Only one ambulance, dust-covered, of the colour of 
the road itself came along, clear of any blast of shells ; 
nothing at the front sends the same chill down the 
spine as the thought of a man wounded by a shell being 
hit a second time by a shell. It rarely happens, so 
prompt and so shrewd is the work of the Royal Army 
Medical Corps. 

Before we reached the village the ambulance 
passed us on the way back to the estaminet. Very 
soon after the shell-burst, a telephone bell had rung 
down the line from the extreme front calling for an 
ambulance and stating the number of men hit, so that 
everybody would know what to prepare for. At the 
village, which was outside the immediate danger zone, 
was another clearing station. Here the stretchers 
were taken into a house — taken without a jolt by men 
who were specialists in handling stretchers — for any 
redressing if necessary, before another ambulance 
started them on a journey, with motor trucks and staff 
automobiles giving right of way, to a spotless white 
hospital ship which would take them home to England 
the next night. 

It had been an incident of life at the front and of 
the organisation of war, causing less flurry than an 
ambulance call to an accident in a great city. 



XXXV 

BRITISH PROBLEMS 

The people behind an army — Military traditions — The "regulars'* 
at Mont — Our ideas of conscription — British pride of regiment 
— Our West Point system — Sandhurst and the German sys- 
tem — Martial team-play an instinct — The gallant British 
Expeditionary Force — A perfect instrument — Mr. Thomas 
Atkins, hero — England after the Marne — Empire-wide 
problems — The first year wastage — Making a new army — 
Kitchener the man — Characteristics of the British — The last 
battle that counts — The recruiting — Free institutions versus a 
feudal socialistic organisation — "Putting their backs into it" 
— The British type persists — Freedom or "verboten" on every 
street corner ? — England's sturdiest blows yet to come. 

Throughout the summer of 19 15 the world was 
asking, What about the new British army ? Why was 
it not attacking at the opportune moment when Ger- 
many was throwing her weight against Russia? A 
facile answer is easy; indeed, facile answers are al- 
ways easy. Unhappily, they are rarely correct. 
None that was given in this instance was, to my mind. 
They sought to put a finger on one definite cause; 
again, on an individual or a set of individuals. 

The reasons were manifold ; as old as Waterloo, as 
fresh as the last speech in Parliament. They were 
inherent in the Anglo-Saxon race. Whoever raised 
a voice and said, This, or that, or you, are responsible 1 
should first have looked into his own mind and into 
the history of his race and then into a mirror. Least 
of all should any American have been puzzled by 
the delay. 

" Oh, we should have done better than that — we 

446 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 447 

are Americans ! " I hear my countrymen say. Per- 
haps we should. I hope so; I believe so. The 
British public thought that they were going to do bet- 
ter; military men were surprised that they did as well. 

Along with laws and language we have inherited 
our military ideas from England. In many qualities 
we are different — a distinct type ; but in nothing are 
we more like the British than in our attitude toward 
the soldier and toward war. The character of any 
army reflects the character of its people. An army is 
the fist; but the muscle, the strength of the physical 
organism behind the blow in the long run belong to 
the people. What they have prepared for in peace 
they receive in war, which decides whether they have 
been living in the paradise of a fool or of a wise man. 

As a boy I was brought up to believe, as an inherit- 
ance of the American Revolution, that one American 
could whip two Englishmen and five or six of any 
other nationality, which made the feathers of the eagle 
perched on the national escutcheon look glossy. It 
was a satisfying sort of faith. Americans had never 
tried five or six of any first-class fighting race ; but that 
was not a thought which occurred to me. As we had 
won victories over the English and the English had 
whipped the French at Waterloo, the conclusion 
seemed obvious. 

English boys, I understand, also had been brought 
up to believe that one Englishman could whip five or 
six men of any other nationality, but, I take it for 
granted, only two Americans. This clothed the 
British lion with majesty, while the lower ratio of su- 
periority over Americans returned the compliment in 
kind from the sons of the lion to the sons of the 
eagle. 



448 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

After I began to read history for myself and to 
think as I read, I found that when British and Ameri- 
cans had met, the generals on either side were solici- 
tous about having superior forces, and in case of odds 
of two to one they made a " strategic retreat." 
When either side was beaten, the other always ex- 
plained that he was overcome by superior numbers, 
though perhaps the adversary had not more than ten 
or fifteen per cent, advantage. Then I learned that 
the British had not whipped five or six times their 
numbers on the Continent of Europe. The British 
Expeditionary Force made as fine an effort to do so 
at Mons as was ever attempted in history, but they 
did not succeed. 

It was a regular army that fought at Mons. The 
only two first-class nations which depend upon regu- 
lars to do their fighting are the British and the Ameri- 
can. This is the vital point of similarity which is 
the practical manifestation of our military ideas. We 
have been the earth's spoiled children, thanks to the 
salt seas between us and other powerful military na- 
tions. Before any other power could reach the 
United States it must overwhelm the British navy, 
and then it must overwhelm ours and bring its forces 
in transports. Sea-power, you say. That is the 
facile word, so ready to the lips that we do not realise 
the wonder of it any more than of the sun rising and 
setting. 

When we want soldiers our plan still is to advertise 
for them. The ways of our ancestors remain ours. 
We think that the volunteer must necessarily make 
the best soldier because he offers his services; while 
the conscript — rather a term of opprobrium to us — 
must be lukewarm. It hardly occurs to us that some 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 449 

forms of persuasion may amount to conscription, or 
that the volunteer, won by oratorical appeal to his 
emotions or by social pressure, may suffer a reaction 
after enlistment which will make him lukewarm also, 
particularly as he sees others, also young and fit, hang- 
ing back. Nor does it occur to us that there may be 
virtue in that fervour of national patriotism aroused by 
the command that all must serve, which on the Con- 
tinent in this war, has meant universal exaltation to 
sacrifice. The life of Jones means as much to him as 
the life of Smith does to him; and when the whole 
nation is called to arms there ought to be no favour- 
ites in life-giving. 

For the last hundred years, if we except the Ameri- 
can Civil War, ours have been comparatively little 
wars. The British regular army has policed an em- 
pire and sent punitive expeditions against rebellious 
tribes with paucity of numbers, in a work which the 
British so well understand. Our little regular army 
took care of the Red Indians as our frontier advanced 
from the Alleghenies to the Pacific. To put it bluntly, 
we have hired some one to do our fighting for us. 

Without ever seriously studying the business of sol- 
diering, the average Anglo-Saxon thought of himself 
as a potential soldier, taking his sense of martial su- 
periority largely from the work of the long-service, 
severely drilled regular. Also, we used our fists 
rather than daggers or duelling swords in personal en- 
counters and, man to man, unequipped with fire-arms 
or blades, the quality which is responsible for our 
sturdy pioneering individualism gave us confidence in 
our physical prowess. 

Alas! modern wars are not fought with fists. A 
knock-kneed man who knows how to use a machine gun 



450 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

and has one to use — which is also quite important — 
could mow down all the leading heavy-weights of the 
United States and England, with the latest champion 
leading the charge. 

Now, this regular who won our little wars was not 
representative of the people as a whole. He was the 
man " down on his luck," who went to the recruiting 
depot. Soldiering became his profession. He was in 
a class, like priests and vagabonds. When you passed 
him in the street you thought of him as a strange be- 
ing, but one of the necessities of national existence. 
It did not interest you to be a soldier; but as there 
must be soldiers, you were glad that men who would 
be soldiers were forthcoming. 

When trouble broke, how you needed him ! When 
the wires brought news of his gallantry you accepted 
the deeds of this man whom you had paid as the re- 
flection of national courage, which thrilled you with 
a sense of national superiority. To him, it was in 
the course of duty; what he had been paid to do. He 
did not care about being called a hero ; but it pleased 
the public to make him one — this professional who 
fights for a shilling a day in England and $17.50 a 
month in the United States. 

Though when the campaign went well the public 
was ready to take the credit as a personal tribute, 
when the campaign went illy they sought a scapegoat, 
and the general, who might have been a hero, was 
sent to the wilderness perhaps because those busy men 
in Congress or Parliament thought that the army could 
do without that little appropriation which was needed 
for some other purpose. The army had failed to de- 
liver the goods which it was paid to produce. The 
army was to blame, when, of course, under free in- 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 451 

stitutions the public was to blame, as the public is 
master of the army and not the army of the public. 

A first impression of the British army is always 
that of the regiment. Pride of regiment sometimes 
appears almost more deep-seated than army pride to 
the outsider. It has been so long a part of British 
martial inheritance that it is bred in the blood. In the 
old days of small armies and in the later days of small 
wars, while Europe was making every man a soldier 
by conscription, regiment vying with regiment won 
the battles of empire. The memory of the part each 
regiment played is the inspiration of its present; its 
existence is inseparable from the traditions of its long 
list of battle honours. 

The British public loves to read of its Guards' regi- 
ment and to watch them in their brilliant uniforms at 
review. When a cadet comes out of Sandhurst he 
names the regiment which he wishes to join, instead of 
being ordered to a certain regiment, as in West Point. 
It rests with the regimental commander whether or 
not he is accepted. Frequently the young man of 
wealth or family serves in the Guards or another crack 
regiment for a while and resigns, usually to enjoy 
the semi-leisurely life which is the fortune of his in- 
heritance. 

Then there are the county line regiments, such as 
the Yorkshires, the Kents, and the Durhams. In this 
war each county wanted to read about its own regi- 
ments at the same time as about the Guards, just as 
Kansas at home would want to read about the Kansas 
regiments and Georgians about the Georgia regiments. 
The most trying feature of the censorship to thq 
British public was its refusal to allow the exploitation 
of regiments. The staff was adamant on this point; 



452 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

for the staff was thinking for the whole and of the 
interests of the whole. In the French and the Ger- 
man armies, as in our regular army, the regiment was 
known by a number. 

The young man who lives in the big house on the 
hill, the son of the man of wealth and power in the 
community, as a rule does not go to West Point. 
None of the youth of our self-called aristocracy, 
which came up the golden road in a generation past 
those in modest circumstances who have generations 
of another sort back of them, think of going into the 
First Cavalry or the First Infantry for a few years 
as a part of their career. A few rich men's sons en- 
ter our army, but only enough to prove the rule by 
the exception. They do not regard the army as " the 
thing." It does not occur to them that they ought to 
do something for their country. Rather, their coun- 
try ought to do something for them. 

But sink the plummet a little deeper and these are 
not our aristocracy nor our ruling class, which is too 
numerous and too sound of thought and principle for 
them to feel at home in their company. One boy, 
however humble his origin, may go to West Point if 
he can pass the competitive examination. Europe, 
particularly Germany, would not approve of this ; but 
we think it the best way. The average graduate of 
the Point, whether the son of a doctor, a lawyer, or a 
farmer, sticks to the army as his profession. We 
maintain West Point for the strict business purpose 
of teaching young men how to train our army in time 
of peace and to lead and direct it in time of action. 

Our future officers enter West Point when they are 
two years younger than is the average at Sandhurst; 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 453 

the course is four years compared with two at Sand- 
hurst. I should venture to say that West Point is the 
harder grind; that the graduate of the Point has a 
more specifically academic military training than the 
graduate of Sandhurst. This is not saying that he 
may be any better in the performance of the simple 
duties of a company officer. It is not a new criticism 
that we train everybody at West Point to be a gen- 
eral, when many of the students may never rise above 
the command of a battalion. However, it is a sig- 
nificant fact that at the close of the Civil War every 
army commander was a West Point man and so were 
most of the corps commanders. 

The doors are open in the British army for a man 
to rise from the ranks ; not as wide as in our army, but 
open. The Chief of Staff of the British Expedition- 
ary Force, Sir William Robertson, was in the ranks for 
ten years. No man not a West Pointer had a posi- 
tion equivalent in importance to his at the close of the 
Civil War. His rise would have been possible in no 
other European army. 

But West Point sets the stamp on the American 
army and Sandhurst and Woolwich, the engineering 
and artillery school, on the British army. At the end 
of four years at West Point the men who survive 
the hard course may be tried by courtmartial not for 
conduct unbecoming an officer, but an officer and a 
gentleman. They are supposed, whatever their 
origin, to have absorbed certain qualities, if they were 
not inborn, which are not easily described but which 
we all recognise in any man. If they are absent it 
is not the fault of West Point; and if a man cannot 
acquire them there, then nature never meant them for 



454 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

him. From the time he entered the school the gov- 
ernment has paid his way ; and he is cared for until he 
dies, if he keeps step and avoids courtmartials. 

His position in life is secure. His pay counting 
everything is better than that of the average graduate 
of a university or a first-class professional school, who 
practises a profession. Yet only three boys, I re- 
member, wanted to go to West Point from our con- 
gressional district in my youth. Nothing could bet- 
ter illustrate the fact that we are not a military people. 
From West Point they go out to the little army which 
is to fight our wars; to the posts and the Philippines, 
and become a world in themselves; an isolated caste 
in spite of themselves. I am not at all certain that 
either the British or the American officer works as 
hard as the German in time of peace. Neither has 
the practical incentive nor the determined driver be- 
hind him. 

For it takes a soldier Secretary of War to drive a 
soldier; for example, Lord Kitchener. Those 
British officers, who applied themselves in peace to the 
mastery of their profession and were not content with 
the day's routine requirements, had to play chess with- 
out chessmen; practise manoeuvres on a board rather 
than with brigades, divisions, corps, and armies. 
They became the rallying points in the concourse of 
untrained recruits. 

German and French officers had the incentive and 
the chessmen. The Great War could not take them 
by surprise. They took the road with a machine 
whose parts had been long assembled. They had 
been trained for big war; their ambition and intelli- 
gence were under the whip of a definite anticipation. 

A factor overlooked, but even more significant than 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 455 

training or staff work, was that what might be called 
martial team-play had become an instinct with the con- 
tinental peoples through the necessity of their situa- 
tion. This the Japanese also possess. It is the right 
material ready to hand for the builder. Not that it 
is the kind of material one admires; but it is the right 
material for making a war-machine. One had only 
to read the expert military criticism in the British and 
the American press at the outset of the war to realise 
how vague was the truth of the continental situation to 
the average Englishman or American — but not to 
the trained British staff. 

So that little British Expeditionary Force, in ratio 
of number one to twenty or thirty of the French army, 
crossed the Channel to help save Belgium. Gallantry 
it had worthy of the brightest chapter in the immortal 
history of its regiments from Quebec to Kandahar, 
from Waterloo to South Africa, Guards and Hussars, 
Highlanders and Lowlanders, kilts and breecks, Con- 
naught Rangers and Royal Fusiliers, Duke of Well- 
ingtons and Prince of Wales' Own, come again to 
Flanders. The best blood of England was leading 
Tommy Atkins. Whatever British aristocracy is or 
is not, it never forgets its duty to the England of its 
fathers. It is never ingrate to its fortune. The time 
had come to go out and die for England, if need be, 
and these officers went as their ancestors had gone 
before them, as they would go to lectures at Oxford, 
to the cricket field and the polo field, in outward 
phlegm, but with a mighty passion in their hearts. 

The Germans affected to despise this little army. 
It had not been trained in the mass tactics which hurl 
columns of flesh forward to gain tactical points that 
have been mauled by artillery fire. You do not use 



456 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

mass tactics against Boers, nor against Afridis or 
Filipinos. It is difficult to combine the two kinds of 
efficiency. Those who were on the march to the re- 
lief of the Peking legations recall how the Germans 
were as ill at ease in that kind of work as the Ameri- 
can and British were at home. It made us misjudge 
the Germans and the Germans misjudge us when they 
thought of -us as trying to make war on the Continent 
of Europe. A small, mobile, regular army, formed 
to go over seas and march long distances, was to fight 
in a war where millions were engaged and a day's 
march would cover an immense stretch of territory 
in international calculations of gain and loss. 

For its own purposes, the British Expeditionary 
Force was well-nigh a perfect instrument. As quan- 
tity of ammunition was an important factor in trans- 
port in the kind of campaign which it was prepared 
for, its guns were the most accurate on a given point 
and its system of fire adapted to that end; but the 
French system of fire, with plentiful ammunition from 
near bases over fine roads, was better adapted for a 
continental campaign. 

To the last button that little army was prepared. 
Man for man and regiment for regiment, I should say 
it was the best force that ever fired a shot in Europe ; 
this without regard to national character. As Eng- 
land must make every regular soldier count and as 
she depended upon the efficiency of the few rather 
than on numbers, she had trained her men in mus- 
ketry. No continental army could afford to allow its 
soldiers to expend the amount of ammunition on the 
target range that the British had expended. Only by 
practise can you learn how to shoot. This gives the 
soldier confidence. He stays in his trench and keeps 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 457 

on shooting because he knows that he can hit those 
advancing figures and that this is his best protection. 
The more I learn, the more I am convinced that the 
Germans ought to have got the British Expeditionary 
Force ; and the Germans were very surprised that they 
did not get it. With their surprise developed a re- 
spect for British arms, reported by all visitors to Ger- 
many. 

Mr. Thomas Atkins, none other, is the hero of that 
retreat from Mons. The first statue raised in Lon- 
don after the war ought to be of him. If there had 
been five hundred thousand of him in Belgium at the 
end of the second week in August, Brussels would now 
be under the Belgian flag. Like many other good 
things in this world, including the French army, there 
were not enough of him. Many a company on that 
retreat simply got tired of retreating, though orders 
were to fall back. It dug a trench and lay down and 
kept on firing — accurately, in the regular, business- 
like way, reinforced by the " stick it " British char- 
acter — until killed or engulfed. This held back the 
flood long enough for the remainder of the army to 
retire. 

Not all the generalship emanated from generals. 
I like best that story of the cross-roads where, with 
Germans pressing hard on all sides, two columns in 
retreat fell in together, uncertain which way to go. 
With confusion developing for want of instructions* 
a lone exhausted staff officer who happened along took 
charge and standing at the junction in the midst of 
shell-fire told every doubting unit what to do, with 
one-two-three alacrity of decision. His work fin- 
ished, he and his red cap disappeared, and I never 
could find any one who knew who he wa$ , 



458 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

After the retreat and after the victory of the 
Marne, what was England's position? The average 
Englishman had thought that England's part in the 
alliance was to send a small army to France and to 
take care of the German fleet. England's fleet was 
her first consideration ; that must be served ; France's 
demand for rifles and supplies must be attended to 
before the British demand; Serbia needed supplies; 
Russia needed supplies; a rebellion threatened in 
South Africa; the Turks threatened the invasion of 
Egypt. England had to spread her energy out over 
a vast empire with an army that had barely escaped 
annihilation. Every soldier who fought must be sup- 
plied over seas. German officers put a man on a rail- 
road train and he detrained near the front Every 
British soldier had to go aboard a train and then a 
ship and then disembark from the ship and go aboard 
another train. Every article of ordnance, engineer- 
ing, medical supply, food supply, must be handled 
four times, while in Germany they need be handled 
but twice. Any railway traffic manager will under- 
stand what this means. Both the British supply sys- 
tem and the medical corps were marvels. 

Germany was stronger than the British public 
thought. Germany and Austria could put at the 
front in the first six months of the war practically 
double the number which the Allies could maintain. 
Russia had multitudes to draw from in reserve, but 
the need was multitudes at the front. There she was 
only as strong as the number she could feed and equip. 
In the first year of the war England suffered 380,000 
casualties on land, six times the number of bayonets 
that she had at Mons. All this wastage must be met 
before she could begin to increase her forces. The 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 459 

length of line on the Western front that she was hold- 
ing was not the criterion of her effort. The French 
who shared with the British that terrible Ypres salient 
realised this. 

Aside from the regulars she had the Territorials, 
who are much the same as our National Guard and 
varied in equality in the same way. Native Indian 
troops were brought to France to face the diabolical 
shell-fire of modern guns, and Territorials went out to 
India to take the place of the British regulars, who 
were withdrawn for France. Every rifle that Eng- 
land could bring to the assistance of the French in 
their heroic stand was a rifle to the good. 

Meanwhile, she was making her new army. For 
the first time since Cromwell's day, all classes in Eng- 
land were going to war. Making an army out of the 
raw is like building a factory to be manned by expert 
labour which you have to train. Let us even suppose 
that the factory is ready and that the proprietor must 
mobilise his managers, overseers, foremen, and la- 
bour from far and near — a force individually com- 
petent, but which had never before worked together. 
It would require some time to organise team-play, 
wouldn't it? Particularly it would if you were short 
of managers, overseers, and foremen. To express 
my meaning from another angle, in talking once with 
an English pottery manufacturer he said: 

44 We do not train our labour in the pottery dis- 
trict. We breed it from generation to generation." 

In Germany they have not only been training sol- 
diers, but breeding them from generation to genera- 
tion. You may think that system is wrong. It may 
be against your ideals. But in fighting against that 
system for your ideals when war is violence and kill- 



460 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

ing, you must have weapons as effective as the 
enemy's. You express only a part of Germany's pre- 
paredness by saying that the men who left the plough 
and the shop, the factory and the office, became 
trained soldiers at the command of the staff as soon 
as they were in uniform and had rifles. These men 
had the instinct of military co-ordination bred in them 
and so had their officers, while England had to take 
men from the plough and the shop, the factory and 
the office, and equip them and teach them the rudi- 
ments of soldiering before she could consider making 
them into an army. 

It was one thing for the spirit of British manhood 
to rise to the emergency. Another and even more 
important requisite went with it. If my country ever 
faces such a crisis I hope that we also may have the 
courage of wisdom which leaves an expert's work to 
an expert. England had Lord Kitchener, who could 
hold the imagination and the confidence of the nation 
through the long months of preparation, when there 
was little to show except repetition of drills here and 
there on gloomy winter days. It required a man with 
a big conception and patience and authority to carry 
it through, and recruits with an unflinching sense of 
duty. The immensity of the task of transforming a 
non-military people into a great fighting force grew 
on one in all its humdrum and vital details as he 
watched the new army forming. 

" Are you learning to think in big numbers? " was 
Lord Kitchener's question to his generals. 

Half of the regular officers were killed or wounded. 
Where the leaders? Where the drillmasters for the 
new army? Old officers came out of retirement, 
where they had become used to an easy life as a rule, 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 4*1 

to twelve hours a day of hard application. " Dug- 
outs " they were called. Veteran non-commissioned 
officers had to drill new ones. It was demonstrated 
that a good infantry soldier can be made in six 
months ; perhaps in three. But it takes seven months 
to build a rifle-plant; many more months to make 
guns — and the navy must never be stinted. Prob- 
ably the English are slow; slow and thoroughgoing. 
They are good at the finish, but not quick at the start. 
They are used to winning the last battle, which they 
say is the one that counts. The complacency of em- 
pire with a century's power was a handicap, no doubt. 
We are inclined to lean forward on our oars, they to 
lean back — which does not mean that they cannot 
lean forward in an emergency or that they lack reserve 
strength. 

Public impatience was inevitable. It could not be 
kept silent; that is the English of it — the American, 
too. We demand to know what is being done. It 
was not silent in the Civil War. From the time that 
McClellan started forming his new army until the 
Peninsula was six months, if I remember rightly. 
Von Moltke, who built the German staff system, said 
that the Civil War was a strife between two armed 
mobs ; though I think if he had brought his Prussians 
to Virginia a year later, in '63, which would have 
ended the Civil War there and then, he would have 
had an interesting time before he returned to Berlin. 

The British new army was not to face another new 
army, but the most thoroughly organised military ma- 
chine that the world has ever known. Not only this, 
but the Germans, with a good start and their system 
established, were not standing still and waiting for the 
British tQ catch up, so that the two could begin again 



462 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

even, but were adapting themselves to the new fea- 
tures of the war. They had been the world's arms- 
makers. With vast munition plants ready, their 
feudal socialistic organisation could make the most of 
their resources in men and material 

More than two million Englishmen went to the re- 
cruiting depots, though no invader had set foot on 
their soil, and offered to serve in France or wherever 
they were needed over seas. If no magic could put 
rifles in their hands or summon batteries of guns to 
follow them on the march, the fact of their volunteer- 
ing, when they knew by watching from day to day the 
drudgery that it meant and what trench warfare was, 
shows at least that the race is not yet decadent. Per- 
haps we should have done better. No one can know 
until we try it. If liberal treatment by the govern- 
ment and the course set by Secretary Root means any- 
thing, our staff ought to be better equipped for such a 
task than the English were; this, too, only war can 
decide. 

Whatsoever of pessimism appeared in the British 
press was telegraphed to America. Pessimism was 
not permitted in the German press. Imagine Ger- 
many holding control of the cable and allowing press 
despatches from Germany to pass over it with the 
freedom that England allowed! Imagine Germany 
having waited as long as England before making cot- 
ton contraband! The British press demanded in- 
formation from the government which the German 
press would never have dared to ask. I have known 
an American correspondent, fed out of hand in Ger- 
many and thankful for anything that the fearful Ger- 
man war machine might vouchsafe, turning a bellig- 
erent when he was in London for privileges which 



BRITISH PROBLEMS 463 

he would never have thought of demanding in Ber- 
lin. 

If an English ship were reported sunk, he believed 
it must be, despite the government's denial. Did he 
go to the Germans and demand that he might publish 
the rumours of what had happened to the Moltke in 
the Gulf of Riga, or how many submarines Germany 
had really lost? Indeed, he was unconsciously pay- 
ing a compliment to British free institutions. He ex- 
pected more in England ; it seemed a right to him, as 
it would at home. Englishmen talked frankly to him 
about mistakes; he heard all the gossip; and some- 
times he concluded that England was in a bad way. 
In Germany such talk was not allowed. Every Ger- 
man said that the government was absolutely truth- 
ful; every German believed all of its reports. But 
ask this critical American how he would like to live 
under German rule, and then you found how anti- 
German he was at heart. Nothing succeeds like suc- 
cess, and Germany was winning and telling no one if 
she had any setbacks. 

If there were a strike, the British press made the 
most of it for it was big news. Pessimism is the Eng- 
lishman's natural way of arousing himself to fresh 
energy. It is also against habit to be demonstrative 
in his effort; so it is not easy to understand how much 
he is doing. Then, pessimism brought recruits; it 
made the Englishman say, " I've got to put my back 
into it I " Muddling there was and mistakes, such as 
that of the method of attack at Gallipoli ; but in the 
midst of all this disspiriting pessimism, no English- 
man thought of anything but of putting his back into 
it more and more. Lord Kitchener had said that it 
was to be a long war and evidently It must be. Qf 



464 MY YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR 

course, England's misfortune was in having the war 
catch her in the transition from an old order of things 
to social reforms. 

But if the war shows anything it is that basically 
English character has not changed. She still has un- 
conquerable, dogged persistence, and her defects for 
this kind of war are not among the least admirable of 
her traits to those who desire to live their own lives 
in their own way, as the English-speaking people have 
done for five hundred years, without having a ver- 
boten sign on every street corner. 

It is still the law that when a company of infantry 
marches through London it must be escorted by a 
policeman. This means a good deal : that civil power 
is superior to military power. It is a symbol of what 
Englishmen have fought for with spades and pitch- 
forks and what we have fought Englishmen for. My 
own idea is that England is fighting for it in this strug- 
gle; and starting unready against a foe which was 
ready, as the free peoples always have, she was 
fighting for time and experience before she could strike 
her sturdiest blows. 



THE END