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11 






.IBRARY 

DIVERSITY OP 

CALIFORNIA 
IRVINE 



D 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS 
FOR FRANCE 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS 
FOR FRANCE 



BY y 
GEORGE CLARKE MUSGRAVE 

AUTHOR OF "UNDER THREE FLAGS IN CUBA," 
"IN BOUTH AFRICA WITH BULLEK," 

ETC. 




ILLUSTRATED 



D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 

NEW YORK LONDON 

1918 



COPTRIOHT, 1918, BT 

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 



Printed in the United States of America 



TO 

E. R. 13. 



INTRODUCTION 

This book has been published at the suggestion of an 
officer of the United States Army whom I met recently in 
Europe. A keen student of the world war, he had fol- 
lowed its phases in the newspapers and had delved liber- 
ally in the imposing array of war books. But when he 
reached France, he found that he lacked perspective. 
Focussed on the great events, public attention has been 
moved daily to different episodes in the far-flung areas of 
conflict, until the mental picture has become kaleidoscopic. 

The super-strategy of Germany was based on a plan to 
extend her frontier straight across France to the mouth 
of the Seine. Hinged on Metz, her armies were to carry 
her frontier posts outward across Luxemburg and Bel- 
gium and, in an impressive sweep, swing the line south to 
embrace all of northern France. The French Army was 
to be overwhelmed in the process, and the capture of 
Paris would have been the logical result. 

Unprepared for this violation of neutral territory, Joffre 
met super-strategy with simple strategy and super-tactics 
which modified the invasion and wrecked all chances of a 
German victory and the bid for world dominance. 

From the outset, the operations on the Western front 
must be approached as a prolonged battle with every unit 
consolidated in the general plan. Everyone has read of 
definite actions in certain sectors, while brilliant phases, 
on which the developments of the campaign were based, 
have frequently been unrecorded. 

On the great battlefield outlined by the virtues and 
failures of Joffre's strategy, the United States Army is 
taking its place. A comprehensive story of the unified 

vii 



INTRODUCTION 

efforts of the composite armies to limit the German in- 
vasion and push it back to the frontier is necessary for 
many readers who desire to follow their own army in the 
field with a freshened memory and a coherent record of 
the events which have built up existing conditions. This 
I have endeavored to present. 

The Marne, Ypres, Verdun, are household words. Nancy, 
Lassigny, the Ancre Valley, and the Scarpe are among the 
vital French battles that have escaped general attention. 
Having had a fortunate opportunity to follow the reces- 
sion of the German flood from the Aisne northward in 
successive efforts to flow around the French flank, on the 
Oise, above the Somme, across south and north Artois, and 
finally from Lille and Belgium, to reach the coveted coast, 
I have perhaps been able to supply links necessary for a 
complete understanding of the greatest of French efforts 
when there were no correspondents and the most rigid 
censorship existed. 

In a nascent history well-known episodes must take their 
place to complete the story. But the basis of these pages 
is personal observation widened by a collection of facts 
gathered for three years from unusual sources bivouacs, 
hospitals, prisoner convoys, and neutral points close to the 
enemy's frontier, where conditions in Belgium and the 
German side have added to the store. In these chapters 
I have tried to give a concise story of the war, tinged with 
human interest and so arranged that its ramifications are 
reduced to a straightforward account of the achievements 
of France and her Allies under the master hand of Joffre, 
whose policy endures. 

The closing pages were outlined under the influence of 
two inspiring challenges to Teutonic fury the thunder 
of the new British guns in Belgium, and the American 
buglers sounding "Taps." 

GEORGE C. MUSGRAVB. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 1 

II. ON TO FRANCE 24 

III. THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 57 

IV. A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 88 

V. THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 104 

VI. THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 141 

VII. DEADLOCK 177 

VIII. THE BATTLES OF 1915: ARGONNE ARTOIS Loos 

CHAMPAGNE 199 

IX. THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 231 

X. THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 256 

XI. THE HINDENBURG LINE 286 

XII. THE CHEMIN DBS DAMES 311 

XIII. BELGIUM, 1917 . . . 325 

XIV. THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 339 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Marshall Joffre and General Pershing somewhere in 
France Frontispiece 

FACING 
PACE 

Machine guns of the Belgian Guide Cavalry Volunteers . 12 
Giant Austrian howitzer in Belgium 12 

"Ein Stuck Papier" Von Moltke and von Bethmann-Holl- 
weg, who planned the march across Belgium .... 44 

General von Kluck 44 

A German column marching to defeat at Nancy under the 
Kaiser's eye 60 

An occupied village shelled by French guns, which have 
respected the church 60 

German column crossing a pontoon bridge 120 

German army field bakery 120 

Marshall Joffre, Sir Douglas Haig and General Foch . . 258 
German trenches after the British bombardment .... 294 
British wounded on the Menin Road, October, 1917 . . . 334 
Massed German Reserves ready to charge near Ypres, 1915 334 



LIST OF MAPS 

MM 

I. Area covered during the strategic retreat, and dis- 
position of the opposing armies, Battle of the 
Marne 26 

II. Areas across which the German armies were checked 
and halted by the Allies in successive battles which 
curved the intrenched front from the Aisne north 
to the Belgian coast 107 

III. Area of the French offensive in Champagne . . . 221 

IV. Ground lost and gained above Verdun .... 250 
V. The Somme offensive 277 

VI. The tangle of German defenses surrounding 

Thiepval 281 

VII. The British grip on the Hindenburg line .... 304 

VIII. Scene of the French offensive on the Aisne between 

Soissons and Rheims, 1917 316 

IX. The Allied drive in Belgium 336 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS 
FOR FRANCE 

CHAPTER I 
THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

THE last days of July, 1914, found the industrious 
population of Belgium untroubled by rumor of war. 
The country people were concerned chiefly with plans 
for their summer Kermesses. Suddenly a commo- 
tion arose in every town and village. From Brussels 
came the curt order for the mobilization of the army. 
The surprised mayors pasted up the telegrams. 
Officers hurried into the busy factories: "Report 
yourselves. ' ' 

The newspapers had told the public that Austria 
had declared war on far-off Servia, but what had 
that to do with prosperous and contented Belgium? 
They now heard that Germany had sent an ultima- 
tum ordering Russia to demobilize. But, again, how 
was that their affair in Flanders, where everybody 
was busily maintaining the industries which made 
their trade balance, proportioned per capita, the 
greatest in the world ? Only a few policemen, on the 
next Sunday night, saw an automobile dash across 

1 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

country, breaking every speed limit, regardless of 
challenges. A Belgian employed on the railroad had 
overheard specific train orders in Cologne and his- 
toric legend had repeated itself in modern fashion. 
First by train, then by electric car, and finally by 
automobile, he had dashed through the night to get 
the tidings to the capital. That was why a party of 
army engineers came next morning to the bridge 
across the Meuse at Vise and drove away the chil- 
dren who had gathered to watch them. Eight Ger- 
man armies were preparing to attack France and 
strong forces were assembling to reach Belgium at 
sunrise. 

Since 1831 the preservation of the neutrality of 
Belgium had been the sworn gospel of Europe. Dur- 
ing the War of 1870, Germany expressed to England 
the fear that France might violate this neutrality, 
and Gladstone, supported by Disraeli, declared that 
such a step would range Great Britain as an ally of 
Prussia. Also a section of the Hague convention, 
ratified by Germany, reads "The Fact of a Power 
resisting by force an attempt to violate its neutrality 
cannot be regarded as a hostile act. ' ' 

On the evening of Sunday, August 2, Germany 
sent a twelve-hour ultimatum, generous in tone if ac- 
cepted, demanding that Belgium forget her sacred 
obligations and allow free passage for armies to in- 
vade France. Without hesitation the young ruler of 
this most democratic of kingdoms voiced the will of 

2 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

his people in refusal. He had only the summer Sun- 
day night to gather his parliament from country and 
sea shore, to ratify the dignified refusal of the note 
written by M. Davignon. Before daylight the mes- 
senger had reached the Palace with news that the 
Germans were moving. As the legislators assem- 
bled, it was 7 A. M. and German troops started over 
the border. Every bell rang out the news. 

The Meuse forms a natural defense to Belgium on 
a line extending from the French frontier near Givet, 
whence it flows north to Namur, roughly eastward 
through Huy to Liege, then north again to Holland. 
Between Liege and Namur the river parallels the di- 
rect road and rail between Berlin and Paris, which 
run through the military base at Cologne via Aix-la- 
Chapelle across Belgium to France, and thence via 
Maubeuge and St. Quentin to Paris. To discourage 
the use of this natural line of invasion across her 
territory by either France or Germany, strong forti- 
fications had been erected by Belgium, at Namur and 
Liege. Namur closed the gate to France; Liege 
closed the portal to Germany. On the main roads 
from Germany to the heart of Belgium there were 
no fortifications. 

To avoid the fortified line on the Franco-German 
border and to strike decisive blows before France 
had time to mobilize, the German General Staff 
planned to hurl five armies across neutral Belgium 
and Luxemburg at points where the French frontier 

3 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

was practically unfortified. Fully prepared, they 
gave Belgium nominal notice of one night, and in- 
stantly started their columns over the frontier. 
Liege was the first obstacle, and strong advance 
forces of the Second Army moved forward on the 
roads converging there, through Venders, Dolhain, 
Francorchamps and Stavelot. An army corps 
forced its way through Luxemburg, seizing the rail- 
roads of the Grand Duchy, opening the way for the 
Fourth and Fifth Armies, and sending a detached 
column north by rail through Trois Vierges (Faith, 
Hope and Charity) to ravish the undefended dis- 
tricts of southeast Belgium. 

Belgian resistance was not taken seriously the 
army was small, untried and scattered. A swift 
blow, therefore, was aimed by the First German 
Army from Aix-la-Chapelle at the nearest point, the 
Vise bridge, where troops could pour unhampered 
across the Meuse, isolate and attack General Leman 
and the Third Division of the Field Army which was 
mobilizing at Diest, and strike at the heart of Bel- 
gium without touching fortifications. 

Vise lies on the German side of the river. On 
the road toward the frontier, a patrol of Belgian 
lancers was already waiting David looking for 
Goliath. When a cloud of dust approaching re- 
solved itself, they galloped back through the town 
and across the bridge where the expectant engineers 
were waiting. With a roar a breach was blown in 

4 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

the structure, the permanent break between Belgium 
and Germany. Too late the Uhlans galloped down 
to the bridge-head where a solitary town guard, in 
glazed billy-cock and unarmed, stepped forward in 
protest. Emblem of insignificant Eight against 
Might, he spoke, and laid a restraining hand on the 
leader's bridle. This was the Civil challenge, con- 
temptuously met and ending in a lance thrust. In- 
stantly the military power, the handful of Belgian 
troops in the broken masonry across the river, took 
up the gage, and poured a volley across the breach, 
which sent the Uhlans flying, and veritably echoed 
round the world, the first definite shots in the great- 
est war in history. The mobile columns marched 
into Vise just too late. 

The destroyed bridge caused a short but vital de- 
lay to the invaders of the First Army, which sent 
back for pontoon trains and made a crossing toward 
neutral Maastricht. Cavalry and light artillery 
poured over and massed at Tongres, covering all 
roads to cut off General Leman. But he had al- 
ready gathered his famous Third Division and had 
made a dash of sixty-eight miles south to Liege, 
where volunteers were erecting defenses between the 
forts, and preparing for the German columns al- 
ready converging on the city, expecting to find it 
garrisoned only by artillery. Another pontoon 
bridge was later erected below Vise, and a column 
crossed to the west bank, to march on Liege from 

5 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the north. This force swept aside local troops as- 
sembling along the river, shooting as spies the peas- 
ants who rowed away from their goose farms some- 
times with information, generally with the not un- 
natural desire to get their families on the "safe" 
side of the Meuse. 

In turn its advance guard was surprised by Bel- 
gian cavalry and cut to pieces. The column, how- 
ever, pushed steadily south along the river, with 
huge screens of cavalry sweeping the districts on its 
right flank, spreading terror everywhere and in 
many cases rounding up and executing as civilians 
volunteers, poorly armed, but regularly enrolled in 
the villages to patrol roads and watch for the enemy. 

When this column entered Herstal, birthplace of 
Charlemagne and site of the National Arms factory, 
the men were away busily preparing defenses at 
Liege. But the women seized rifles and cartridges 
from the factories ; scalding water was drawn from 
the boilers; oil was heated; and as the leading ele- 
ments of the column went through the town they were 
furiously assailed, and finally forced to withdraw 
until artillery hammered out the spirited opposition. 
This fight accounts for the slaughter of many women 
and children. The defense of Herstal was a fight by 
civilians. Yet every free heart thrills at the story, 
and the delay entailed was of great value to the gar- 
rison feverishly strengthening its position a few 
miles south. 

6 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

Many civilians from the neighborhood, suspected 
of trying to take information to Liege, were shot 
and their homes destroyed. This recalls the fact 
that the homes of Spanish railroadmen who spied 
on the landing of troops near Santiago were re- 
spected and their families fed by the United States 
Army. 

We must realize that the Germans at the outset 
were enraged by losses inflicted from every bit of 
cover, a resistance which they had not expected. 
Remember also that the descendants of the people 
who withstood the Spanish Fury were not likely to 
submit tamely, and a bitterly hostile countryside un- 
doubtedly broke formal rules of war. Study the 
testimony of those neutrals who marched with the 
main German army and speak of its discipline. 
Erase the effect of exaggerated stories of atrocities. 
All this still leaves hundreds of positive incidents ,of 
severity which make the earlier days of invasion a 
black spot on German history, and without parallel 
in modern times. 

The first Germans seen in Liege were Uhlans. A 
patrol made a detour, rode into the unprotected 
suburbs through St. Laurent, and with magnificent 
effrontery cantered to the Belgian Headquarters on 
the rue Sainte Foi. They dashed in upon the staff, 
shot down several officers and rushed at General Le- 
man. Colonel March,and, however, unarmed and 
single-handed, fought them off with his fists and was 

7 



.UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

instantly killed, while an aide dragged the general 
backward through a rear door. Boy scouts, waiting 
for duty, recognized the uniform, stampeded the 
horses with their staves and gave the alarm to 
guards who rushed up and bayoneted the invaders. 

Further south two corps of the Second German 
Army were closing irresistibly on Liege. Various 
Belgian detachments had harassed its columns per- 
sistently, firing from wooded hills along the route, 
despite flanking cavalry, ineffective against a mobile 
foe which knew the by-paths and was helped by 
commandeered automobiles with machine guns. 

As a proof of German preparation, war had come 
automatically at 7 A. M V August 3. At 23 o'clock 
(Belgian time) the outposts on the main roads hold- 
ing Pepinster, Battice, Herve and smaller hamlets, 
were heavily engaged and finally forced back to the 
fortified lines of Liege. The pretty towns defended 
near the frontier were soon flaming ruins, the quaint 
neutral territory of Moresnet rising as an oasis in a 
desert of destruction. 

The German attack was so sudden that the Belgian 
Third Division in Liege could only be supplemented 
by the Fifteenth Mixed Brigade before the city was 
invested. Detachments of Civil Guards and enrolled 
civilian volunteers, who aided the defense, were after- 
ward refused the rights of belligerents, and many 
were executed. The defenses of Liege were based 
on a ring of twelve self-contained forts, dominant 

8 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

points on the circumference of the natural bowl in 
which the city is spread over the junction of the 
Meuse and lesser rivers and canals and railroads. 
Next to Antwerp, the position, fortified in 1886, 
marked the supreme effort of Brialmont. The forts 
were capped with burnished steel cupolas based on 
solid concrete, with disappearing guns. The turrets 
were impregnable to the fire of regular artillery, the 
domes deflecting shells fired at ordinary trajectory. 
Given sufficient time to prepare subordinate field, 
works between the forts, and enough troops to man 
the defensive circumference of thirty-three miles, the 
position was practically impregnable under old con- 
ditions. Redoubts between the forts, often sug- 
gested, had never been constructed. 

Because of the frank threats of German military 
writers, and the network of strategic railroads that 
had been built from the German military bases to 
the Belgian, French and Russian frontiers, to enable 
rapid concentration of troops, Belgium had partly 
heeded the warning and kept the forts equipped. It 
is significant, however, that a large order for shells 
for the 400 guns in the defenses, placed with the 
Krupps for delivery during the previous spring, had 
been delayed persistently without satisfactory ex- 
cuse. The Belgian Field Artillery also had little 
proper ammunition, and I have seen scores of their 
guns with the rifling torn out through the use of old 
shells without driving bands. Time and men were 

9 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

lacking to prepare adequately and to hold field works 
in the huge gaps between the forts before the at- 
tack on Liege opened, for while demanding that Kus- 
sia demobilize, Germany had three army corps ready 
to attack this plant alone. 

General von Emmich, commanding the Tenth Army 
Corps, had charge of the operations against Liege. 
With the Tenth was the Seventh Corps, under Count 
von Arnim, and the Ninth followed under General 
von Luetwitz. The advance guard of the Seventh 
Corps first clashed with the Belgian outposts on the 
Herve road. Forces moving from Verviers through 
the Vesdre Valley were also hotly engaged on 
August 3. By afternoon of the 4th the attack had 
fully developed, and the Seventh Corps advanced in 
force on the northeast sectors including Forts 
Barchon and Evegnee. The Germans opened fire 
with their regular complement of field artillery, 
but the shells ricochetted harmlessly from the forts, 
and Evegnee was bombarded for hours without los- 
ing a man. A large force of infantry then moved in 
close order against Fort Barchon, sweeping below 
the final depression of the guns. The center reached 
the glacis of the fort before it was swept away by 
infantry and machine guns in the parapet. The left 
and right wings pushed on against the two-mile gaps 
on either side, to encounter an effective repulse from 
a line of crude trenches constructed hastily the 
previous night. Three times the assault was at- 

10 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

tempted with huge masses which were slaughtered 
in hundreds and hurled back. After dark the 
Germans retired out of range with appalling losses. 
Their expected surprises had miscarried. 

But on the 5th the Germans were heavily reen- 
forced as the Tenth Corps, including the famous 
Ironsides of Brandenburg, closed in, followed by the 
Ninth Corps. Attacks were now delivered on all 
sides, and though the defenders fought desperately, 
General Leman soon found that he could no longer 
muster enough troops to meet simultaneous assaults 
between all the forts. Early on the 6th, heavy artil- 
lery opened on the town without notice, shelling 
three of the oldest churches in existence, and smash- 
ing stained glass and carvings which all the world 
loved and which can never be replaced. Many wo- 
men and children were killed, and a Zeppelin added 
to the terrors. 

Realizing that the city was doomed, the Belgian 
field forces made an amazing escape late at night on 
the 7th and the Germans entered next day. Though 
enormous siege howitzers were now firing, the forts 
prepared to resist to the last. General Leman and 
his staff retired to Fort Loncin. 

His cavalry and cyclist patrols, cut off east of the 
city, maintained a vigorous guerrilla warfare on the 
German communications. Their lawful tactics 
caused the most heartless reprisals by the invaders 
against the civil population. A detachment under 

11 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Corporal Van Dael, an artist well known in New 
York, rode around the outskirts of Vise, cleaned up 
guards on the water supply, from a hill sniped offi- 
cers ' cars in Maastricht Avenue, and ambushed some 
Hussars at Loretto. In reprisal many hostages in 
Vise were executed, and the town, in which all arms 
had been given up, was set on fire. Even the church 
containing the famous reliquary, Chasse de St. Hade- 
lin, was gutted, firemen being shot and thrown to 
the flames. In a dozen villages the shameful story 
was repeated. Noncombatants trapped in the out- 
skirts of Liege suffered terribly before the Germans 
gained entry August 8. 

Let no one underrate the capture of Liege as a feat 
of arms. For four days, gallantly and fruitlessly, 
the infantry in massed formation had tried to storm 
modern fortifications. The secret of the war, Ger- 
many's huge siege artillery, then came into action. 
Austrian howitzers 1 and Krupp mortars, with high- 
angle fire and enormous projectiles, spelled the doom 
of the forts. The necessary masonry platforms 
were ready when the hour arrived. Concrete takes 
many days to dry, and on the 6th the guns were in 
place. The Germans now claim that they have a 
secret concrete which hardens rapidly. In Belgium 
and in France there is positive proof that gun plat- 
forms were ready, carefully masked as the f ounda- 

1 Austrian gunners were fighting at Liege and Namur several 
days before their country had declared war on Belgium. 

12 




MACHINE GUNS OP THE BELGIAN GUIDE CAVALRY VOLUNTEERS 




GIANT AUSTRIAN HOWITZER IN BELGIUM 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

tions of flimsy commercial sheds operated by Ger- 
man firms. The guns had the range measured to a 
foot by previous survey. 

On Fort Loncin, west of the city, a ton of steel 
dropped from the sky cracked its central turret like 
an eggshell, and blew the top of the fort to pieces. 
Subsequent shells destroyed the entire structure, the 
heroic Belgian commander being buried in the ruins. 
Major Collard, two devoted orderlies and a gen- 
darme, crept into the shattered vaults where General 
Leman was being asphyxiated by the gases, and 
tore the masonry from his body. Major Collard 
collapsed and was suffocated. The other heroes 
dragged the General out and when he recovered con- 
sciousness the Germans were standing by him. 

General von Emmich hurried over, shook hands 
with his brave adversary, refusing his sword and 
congratulating him on his defense. ''Report that I 
was insensible when I was captured, that I did not 
surrender, ' ' Leman replied. The other forts made a 
sporadic defense for days. Not one capitulated 
after the city had fallen. They were reduced one by 
one in turn, becoming the tombs of their gallant 
defenders. At Fort Chaudfontaine Major Nameche 
blew up his magazine, dying with his men after send- 
ing engines and dynamite into the nearest tunnel, 
thus destroying the railroad to Aix-la-Chapelle. 
Near Chaudfontaine half of the Thirty-fourth Regi- 
ment was cut off in the woods, but finally cut its way 

13 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

out at night and reached Namur. Ten days were 
lost in opening the first gate to France. 

The Belgian Army, with its Garde Civique, was 
originally a compulsory National Guard, stiffened by 
a small regular army and its trained reserves. It 
also had some splendid volunteer regiments. Its 
formation deserves special study in the United 
States, as it maintained an effective fighting force 
with few of the elements of conscription. Many 
definite plans for improvements were being tested 
when war broke out. Its strength then was 260,000, 
more than half being fortress troops. 

The mobilization was conducted like clockwork, 
the Brussels division being equipped and ready in 
twenty-four hours. The infantry divisions are 
large, 22,000 men. Extensive fortifications called 
for garrison forces more than equalling the field 
army, and for them the Civil Guard was largely 
destined, until Germany denied these National 
Guardsmen belligerent rights, and 'deliberately exe- 
cuted those captured fighting. The Civil Guard, 
therefore, was finally withdrawn until it could be 
uniformed and incorporated in the regular army. 
Colonel Falls, then Adjutant of the Seventh Regi- 
ment of New York, was at the front with the Belgian 
army, and his instructive report on the simple effec- 
tiveness of Belgian mobilization has been filed in 
Washington. 

While Liege was tottering, the Belgian Field Army, 

14 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

which was to have been caught when scattered and 
unprepared, by the First German Army, which had 
massed unopposed at Tongres, had moved swiftly to 
its allotted positions. Its front, facing east, formed 
a huge crescent between France and Holland, its 
right resting near Namur, the line curving across 
Brabant through Wavre, Louvain, Aerschot and 
Diest, with cavalry on both flanks. 

When the First and Second German Armies should 
have been sweeping across France if the dash to Paris 
was to succeed, the Field Army across Belgium had 
still to be defeated. They attacked on both flanks, 
and by sheer weight of numbers beat the Belgian 
left and right back until the crescent became in- 
verted into a semi-circle before Brussels. Na- 
mur was thus isolated, but the Field Army was 
intact and fighting stubbornly, delaying actions 
when every hour gained was of vital importance 
to France. 

Recall the German contention of military neces- 
sity, which claimed that French troops were massing 
at Givet to attack Germany through Belgium. Dur- 
ing the spirited resistance of her small neighbor, the 
French had neither the forces available to make a 
defensive line along the Meuse, nor to check the army 
that marched in unopposed, north of Luxemburg. 
In the third week of war, only cavalry could be 
spared to help the Belgian right and when General 
Sylvester led his mounted troops to Gembloux, they 

15 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

were too late to make a junction. Namur was cut 
off and almost invested when a single French bat- 
talion went up to reenforce the garrison. History 
must emphatically negative the German claim. 
Nearly a million men were ravishing Belgium before 
France moved a man across the frontier. 

When war was imminent, two unarmed engineer 
officers did motor from France two miles over the 
frontier to discuss the need of destroying the 
new bridge near the famous church at Hastierre, a 
gateway to France. Less serious than the presence 
of the spies who reported it, this incident is the 
basis of the charge proclaimed by world-known pro- 
fessors as a breach of neutrality, and a justification 
for all that Germany has done to Belgium. 

I could fill a volume with unpublished incidents of 
the campaign which I have gathered from Belgian 
soldiers, officials, refugees and German deserters. 
When we realize that a peaceful country suddenly 
swarmed with hostile detachments, partly free from 
discipline and encouraged in excesses, outrages on 
unprotected women were to be expected. There are 
fiends in every nation and in peace the statistics of 
degeneracy in Germany were astounding. What 
does materially concern the world was the enforce- 
ment of an authorized and pitiless military code of 
rape, arson, murder and theft, which no people out- 
side Germany can either justify or understand; the 
deliberate foundation for their political heritage 

16 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

with a nation which they expected to absorb and 
Germanize. 

Though all its articles were not ratified by all the 
nations, the Hague Convention definitely outlines the 
military code of the United States, and by that code 
the conduct of the war will be judged by American 
public opinion. A clause agreed to by Germany 
states that the inhabitants of a territory, who take 
up arms spontaneously to resist invading troops 
without having time to organize themselves, shall 
be regarded as belligerents, if they carry arms 
openly and respect the laws of war. When the call 
for volunteers was made, civil guards, reservists, 
ex-soldiers and other able-bodied men hurried to 
various points of mobilization. Notably at Vise, the 
dividing line of Flemings and Walloons, who every- 
where rallied to the common cause, men from out- 
lying districts seized their rifles, but were caught in 
the tide of invasion as they made their way to vari- 
ous centers. They were rounded up in scores and 
summarily executed, because they had no uniforms. 
Most of them were members of organized forces that 
corresponded to the National Guard of the United 
States. The splendid armories of American cities 
are unknown in Europe. Detachments were widely 
scattered; the men kept their rifles for local drills, 
but uniforms and equipment were stored at central 
headquarters for use when the regiments were mus- 
tered for training, parade or emergency. 

17 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

In the Liege district a female spy was employed 
at some telephone exchange. The names of many 
people who called up Belgian Headquarters with 
information during the invasion were reported and 
all who were caught were shot. Among these was 
the superb heroine of Dalhem, a girl of seventeen. 
German batteries were grouped before her home, and 
regardless of the hail of bursting shells she remained 
for hours on the wire, correcting the aim of the Bel- 
gian gunners who were engaging the enemy's artil- 
lery. She did not flinch as she faced the firing 
squad, so piteously alone. Some of us who are 
pledged after the war to erect a statue on the spot 
hallowed by that child-woman's blood will appeal 
for funds only to the children of the United States 
and the British Empire, that each may give a mite. 

Caught in Verviers by the war and trying to reach 
Ostend, Dr. John Munro MacKenzie, pastor emeritus 
of the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church of Liv- 
erpool, seventy-eight and an invalid, was staying 
with Mr. Blaise, an official of Dalhem. The night 
that Liege fell an isolated patrol of the Thirty- 
fourth Regiment fired at the guard as they fled past 
the town, killing two men. In reprisal several 
houses were fired by the Germans, the male inmates 
being shot down like dogs as they escaped. The 
stairs of the Blaise home were on fire when the 
inmates, including a Danish lady with a sick child 
and the aged clergyman, escaped in their night 

18 



THE BELGIAN PKELUDE 

clothes. Dr. MacKenzie and Mr. Blaise, with his 
wife clinging to him, were dragged to the gutter and 
shot at close range. Other people were burned in 
their beds. The shameful reign of terror there is 
fully verified. 

At a later stage some cavalrymen had ordered 
coffee made at a village store. Owing to the intol- 
erable sanitary conditions caused by the bivouac of 
thousands of troops, the local authorities had dis- 
tributed small bags of quicklime. These Belgians 
had no sugar, but an eager soldier ladled lime into 
the coffee by mistake. The storekeeper and his wife 
were executed. Like a mare's nest a wholesale poi- 
son plot was scented, and several innocent people 
who had the official lime were shot, before an officer 
arrived who could interpret and understand. 

A boy scout, returning from a mission near Ghent, 
was caught by Hussars and, refusing to answer ques- 
tions, was taken up the road a prisoner. Without a 
sign he let his captors march into an ambush of the 
troops to which he was attached as messenger, and 
after the fight he was executed. At Soiron three 
farmers, finding soldiers stealing their crops, were 
attacked. They defended themselves with hay forks 
and killed one in the fight. They were hanged in a 
row. 

Paul Hocker, the novelist, and Captain of Land- 
wehr, describes the code. He was searching for 
arms. A boy, an enrolled volunteer, was discov- 

19 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ered in the straw, with a rifle. The mother and sis- 
ter pleaded, but the youth was shot. ' * Thus we sup- 
press the rabble that wars on German soldiers," 
was the naive comment in the diary of this cultured 
author. A boy, executed near Louvain, was patrol- 
ling the road with an empty .22 rifle, by the side of 
his soldier father. Peasants sometimes fired; they 
often waylaid and attacked small detachments of 
men that were ravishing their women. But the 
actual perpetrators were seldom caught, the villages 
were burned and innocent victims were hanged or 
shot. If hostages had been taken, generally mayors 
and priests, they paid forfeit if an over-zealous citi- 
zen or patrol fired a shot. At Aerschot, after its 
capture, three shots at night led to the destruction of 
several streets and the indiscriminate shooting of 
150 civilians in reprisal. The nephew of a lady whom 
I had met at the Plaza a few months earlier, a lad 
of 16, was executed. His crime was a hot-headed 
remark made when the house was searched. No 
rifles were found, but this house was deliberately 
burned. 

These are typical of hundreds of incidents of 
ruthless official massacre and destruction stimu- 
lated by inspired stories of impossible outrages by an 
unarmed people against an army. When half Bel- 
gium was a smoldering ruin the chief German sur- 
geon of the Military Hospital in Aix-la-Chapelle, 
through which all casualties were then evacuated, 

20 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

admitted that he had seen no German wounded mu- 
tilated by Belgians. 

For eleven days, fighting raged along the entire 
Belgian line across Brabant. Louvain fell August 
19, and with both flanks enveloped the army was 
forced to withdraw to Brussels, unfortified but 
hastily barricaded. The government had moved to 
Antwerp. To save the capital from destruction, on 
August 20, the barricades were removed and the 
greatly outnumbered army fell back in good order 
to the fortified lines of Antwerp. But von Kluck 
turned his main forces at Brussels and moved to 
France, leaving new formations to hold the roads. 
The Belgians made a sortie on the 25th and reached 
Malines. The alarm from this fighting and the run- 
ning amuck at night of a youth, half -crazed by an 
attempted assault of his sister by a staff officer, led 
to the burning of the Ville Haute quarter of Louvain, 
including the Jesuit college and the famous library. 
Civilians were executed in scores, including many 
neutral students. Among them were five Span- 
iards, for whom Germany has paid Spain 100,000 
marks for their relatives, with an official apology. 

The German schedule had allowed five days for 
the armies to wheel across Belgium from the frontier 
zones, with columns only partly unfolded. With 
siege guns on the left to batter the forts, the right 
wing was to rely on its cavalry for combat, and move 
in echelon to shorten the arc of the wide swing, on 

21 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

moving pivot, to change the front from west to south, 
and sweep on across France in line with the center 
armies. Six days more were to find the columns 
fully unfolded and deploying on the wide front be- 
tween Verdun and Paris to attack before the French 
armies could mobilize and concentrate. Three weeks 
had been consumed before Namur fell. The First, 
Second and Third German Armies then could only 
complete the turn to march southward down the 
main roads to France by leaving the unbroken Bel- 
gian army intact in its last stronghold to retain for 
weeks an army of investment urgently needed to 
support the march on Paris. And Anglo-French 
forces were now gathering across their path. 

The delay stirred the invaders to frenzy, and the 
final days were black for Belgium. Women and chil- 
dren were forced to act as screens to the advance, 
and the rear guards wreaked foul vengeance on the 
captured villages as they were evacuated. Every one 
has heard of children with amputated hands, but not 
a single case has been authenticated, and the wide- 
spread canard has been easily refuted. Shall we 
substitute the charge by the photograph now beside 
me, taken by German soldiers, showing the tortured 
bodies of seven tiny girls in a heap? Here is an- 
other of five older girls on the banks of a stream, 
also outraged to death. One of a boy crouched be- 
side the stripped body of his sister. Here are med- 
ical photographs also of living victims of degener- 

22 



THE BELGIAN PRELUDE 

ates these reached Belgian and French surgeons, 
but perhaps would have been better dead. Officers 
inured to battle turn away in horror from these 
photographs which illustrate part of the price that 
the innocent country has paid. "We lived like gods 
in Belgium, boozing and raping our way across," 
wrote one soldier to his brother. 



CHAPTEE II 
ON TO FRANCE 

THE German General Staff had provided for the 
simultaneous invasion of France by eight armies, 
from their great military bases linked by a network 
of strategic railways, which insured effective mobil- 
ization and rapid transportation to the frontier. 
The complete success of the operations depended 
upon the ability to strike at all points while the 
French were unprepared and in the chaos of mobil- 
ization, and to dash rapidly against Paris, deliver- 
ing decisive blows before the ponderous forces of 
Russia must be met by a strong army on the eastern 
frontier. Every detail for the violation of neutral 
territories had been provided for, including procla- 
mations in Flemish and French for general ex- 
igencies, many with date of imprint of 1906. 

From Cologne the armies marching via Belgium 
advanced through Aix-la-Chapelle. The First Army 
under General von Kluck, as described, moved due 
west across the unprotected section of the Meuse 
through the heart of Belgium, to march on France 
with its main advance down the Lille road from 
Brussels. The Second Army, under von Buelow, 

24 



ON TO FRANCE 

took the direct route from Berlin to Paris through 
Liege and Namur to Charleroi and into France via 
Maubeuge. Von Buelow had heavy siege trains, 
chiefly Austrian, to batter the forts en route. The 
Third Army, Saxon, under von Hausen, reached 
Belgium through Malmedy, marching along the 
Meuse to Huy, then southwest to Dinant, where the 
road, rail and river lead down to the frontier to 
France at Givet. Based on Coblenz, the Fourth 
Army under the Duke of Wurttemberg, advanced 
across North Luxemburg and Belgium and struck 
France at Mezieres and Sedan. Based on Coblenz 
and Frankfurt, the Fifth Army, under the Crown 
Prince, crossed Luxemburg to Arlon and attacked 
France at Longwy and Stenay, aiming at Verdun. 
The Sixth Army, under Prince Eupprecht of Ba- 
varia, backed by the heavy artillery of the Metz 
garrison, moved across Lorraine against the Ver- 
dun-Toul barrier, to menace the forts and aim at 
the gap at Nancy, the key to the splendid roads along 
the Marne to Paris. The Seventh Army, under the 
veteran von Heeringen, attacked on the line from 
Luneville through Baccarat and St. Die. The 
Eighth Army, under Lieut. Gen. von Deimling, 
moved across Alsace, operating through the Vosges. 
General Joffre has been criticized severely for 
reversing the importance of the invading armies. 
Facts prove that he did nothing of the kind. Some 
experts have pointed out that the dictates of com- 

25 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 



Brussels *". 
Vpros . ox' 

. *- 

\ *> 

tllleo \ / , Q 

Oonde(p/ /oMons 
^c\ * y o 
3ouolo 

Va 
Arras 

Oambral" 
Albert 

'Amiens oSt.Quentin 



All la Chippelle 




Purls 



MAP No. 1. ^AREA COVERED DURING THE STRATEGIC RETREAT, 

AND DISPOSITION OF THE OPPOSING ARMIES, 

BATTLE OF THE MARNE. 

To gain a general idea of Joffre's strategic retreat, the black 
line shows the approximate line where the Field armies rallied 
after they were thrown back to the French frontier. Move the 
line back southwest across the Meuse until it touches the Verdun 
field works. Then hinge it back from the Fortress until the left 
touches the environs of Paris, and the area of the retreat will 
have been covered. The arrows show the general direction of 
the German columns as they unfolded to invade France. 

Below, the relative positions of the opposing armies are shown 
on the front from Paris to Verdun and on the east front to 
Nancy on the eve of the Marne battle described in Chapter III. 



26 



ON TO FEANCE 

mon-sense strategy would have prepared a cam- 
paign based on a great effort to hold the Belgian 
Meuse to save North France. But Joffre has the 
gift of uncommon sense. Had France been planning 
the war, her preparations might have been made in 
that direction. But defense has been France's 
watchword. Her policy was based on a pathetic be- 
lief that Belgian territory was inviolate, and to the 
last she avoided any step which would give Germany 
an excuse to trample over the buffer State. The 
chief French armies were based on points adjacent 
to the German frontier, and fixed plans of concentra- 
tion cannot be changed over night. For years 
prominent Frenchmen had pleaded that the northern 
frontier should be fortified. The Committee of De- 
fense specifically recommended that extensive forts 
and field works should be prepared, and garrisons 
maintained between Lille and Maubeuge, and 
through the Ardennes to Longwy, with a protected 
military railroad along the entire Belgian frontier. 
Prominent statesmen opposed this as a direct 
challenge for Germany to violate Belgium. 

Recall, also, that for ten years, curiously ignored 
in Great Britain and in the United States, pacific 
doctrines, largely socialistic, prevailed in France, 
based on a magnificent gospel of international broth- 
erhood. The militarized socialism of Germany was 
reciprocated in France by a genuine policy for dis- 
armament and universal peace. The disciples of 

27 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Jaures shackled every reform and appropriation for 
the Army or Navy. Each measure urged for na- 
tional defense was defeated on the plea that it would 
invite aggression. Farsighted statesmen, who knew 
that Germany was improving her artillery and mak- 
ing military efficiency a religion, were cried down. 
The theory of French pacifism was the most beauti- 
ful that the world had seen, and it was based on 
sound common sense. But it misunderstood its only 
menace the subtle effect of national achievement 
in Germany on a virile and military people. 

The sudden crisis which developed in Morocco 
woke France from a trance. It checked the gospel 
of Herve, which was breaking down military disci- 
pline in the Reserves, and converted Briand, Miller- 
and and Clemenceau. At once they reorganized the 
Army and Navy, and restored the original scope of 
conscription by a new military law. But to the last 
hour the pacifists remained true to the idea of a 
federated Europe without frontiers. 

Recalling frank threats that I had heard, in Cuba, 
Africa, Finland and Siberia, from some of those 
skilled soldier-commercials who develop German 
trade and study every local phase, military and po- 
litical, through the world, I was deeply interested 
in a discussion on Belgium between American and 
French army engineers at the close of the July re- 
view in Paris, 1913. The French staff had evi- 
dently decided that their preparation along the 

28 



ON TO FRANCE 

Eastern frontier would tax German mobilization so 
severely that it would not pay her to involve Eng- 
land by an invasion via Belgium. 

Before that visit to Paris closed, we were to hear 
the band of the Thirty-first Eegiment drowned by 
the fierce tones of the " Internationale/' with cries 
of " Death to the Army," as the regiment crossed 
the Belleville District. When loyalists started the 
" Marseillaise/' the crowd threw stones and a fierce 
riot resulted. Thus we can perhaps compare mili- 
tarism in France and Germany in 1913. 

In May, 1914, M. Messimy, after great opposition, 
did manage to get a modified bill passed, making 
three inadequate grants for northern frontier de- 
fense. Hisses then for this War Minister, now a 
soldier. Cries also of " Death to the Army," and 
some scuffling in July when Paris again became an 
armed camp. Hisses also for Joffre, because he 
forced several picturesque old generals into retire- 
ment for failures at maneuvers. And two weeks 
after the close of the Quatorze Juillet had again de- 
mobilized and scattered thousands of France's sol- 
diers, a conclusive proof that the Republic had not 
dreamed of war, a huge German army was waiting 
for the bugle to march on France via Belgium and 
the open frontier, her mobilization far greater and 
more rapid than France or the world, including un- 
official Germany, had dreamed. And Jaures was 
dead, murdered by a disciple crazed by the fear that 

29 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

France was betrayed by the pacific leaders, who had 
accepted too literally the divine command, " Love 
thy neighbor as thyself. ' ' 

When Belgium was invaded, the French realized 
that invasion must also be their lot, but along routes 
which would entail long lines of communication 
through hostile territory, and menaced by detached 
French armies. Paris would probably face a siege ; 
but to besiege the capital was not necessarily to take 
it. There were no forces directly available to de- 
fend Belgium or to hold the north frontier. The 
Germans had Belgium on the brain, and expected 
that the French would tangle their plan of concen- 
tration by an attempt to rush their armies there, and 
would meet defeat in the process, leaving the barrier 
forts to hold their own. But, though German siege 
artillery surprised the world, the French staff was 
not surprised. Joffre, therefore, left the northern 
invaders until last, making his strong lines of de- 
fense doubly sure first, and throwing the flower of 
his army over the German frontier as a counter 
stroke. 

A strong series of field works was constructed 
facing the German frontier, to keep the siege guns 
from shelling the barrier forts. Early in the war 
these lines were manned and secured. This frus- 
trated the second part of the German plan, which 
aimed to isolate and crush Verdun with heavy ar- 
tillery while a way was battered via Nancy at the 

30 



ON TO FRANCE 

gap between Toul and Epinal, to open a direct road 
and railroad from Germany to France by which 
forces could pour to Paris, and attack in rear the 
French armies sent to cope with the huge commands 
advancing via Belgium. The first clash of patrols 
was at Delle where Andre Peugeot was the first 
French soldier killed in the war. 

On the Eastern front the regular first line forces 
of the French army were quartered, the actual 
armies of the frontier. At Belf ort, with the fortress 
garrison under General Therenet, was the Seventh 
Corps under General Bonneau, the Alsace frontier 
force. The First Army under General Dubail (gar- 
rison troops, two divisions of Chasseurs and the 
Twenty-first Corps), was based on Epinal and 
guarded the approaches through the Vosges and 
along the frontier to Luneville. The Second Army, 
General de Castelnau (garrison troops and the 
Ninth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Twentieth Corps), 
based on Toul, included some of the finest regiments 
in France, and guarded the Lorraine border through 
Nancy and Toul northward toward Verdun. The 
Third Army (garrison forces and the Sixth and 
Eighth Corps), reorganized finally under General 
Sarrail, was based on Verdun, and covered the re- 
mainder of the German frontier, curving along the 
border of neutral Luxemburg, with a second Corps 
de Couverture usually garrisoned at Amiens. 

These forces, being well equipped, were soon 

31 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ready, and having completed the barrier outworks, 
the much criticized offensive in Alsace and Lor- 
raine was started, an ill-judged invasion of Ger- 
many to relieve automatically the pressure in Bel- 
gium. These brilliant but hazardous attacks had 
an electrical political effect. The invasion of Al- 
sace took Altkirch and led to the temporary capture 
of Mulhausen. But these forces, which were to 
operate along the Rhine and act on the flank of the 
Second Army as it swept across Lorraine, lost touch. 
Being faced by superior artillery and attacked in 
unfortunate positions, they were forced to fall back 
on the Belfort field works with heavy loss. From 
tipper Alsace the German Army from Strasburg 
drove across the frontier, and captured Cirey, Bad- 
onviller, and Baccarat, where the civil population 
suffered terrible indignities. These forces were 
practically dividing the First and Second French 
Armies. 

In Lorraine, De Castelnau, sent from the Head- 
quarters Staff to lead the splendid Second Army, 
had advanced over a wide front extending from 
Luneville to Pont a Mousson. Chateau Salins was 
captured, and Morhange and Dieuze, while the 
French cavalry swept over the Saarburg district. 
Everywhere the German advance guards were 
driven back with heavy loss before the impetuous 
attack of the finest soldiers in France. 

German mobilization, however, had been amaz- 

32 



ON TO FRANCE 

ingly rapid, and we know now that preliminaries 
were secretly started directly a cloud appeared on 
the horizon. With magnificent effrontery, while de- 
manding that Russia demobilize, her own active as- 
sembling had commenced on July 24. While Ger- 
man legions were sweeping Belgium clean, De Cas- 
telnau in Lorraine was entering a territory admir- 
ably constituted for defense, and his brilliant ad- 
vance was suddenly checked. After he had swept 
over the Seille, August 17, capturing many guns and 
prisoners, his army was confronted by superior num- 
bers of the enemy on carefully prepared positions, 
backed by heavy artillery from Metz. His field guns 
were outranged. His magnificent cavalry on the 
flanks was everywhere checked by armored cars and 
machine guns. Difficulties of transport soon ham- 
pered the French, now facing well organized forces 
based on two of the strongest fortifications in the 
world. The failure and retirement of the army in 
Alsace had uncovered De Castemau's right flank, 
and his command was soon in danger of envelopment 
from the south. 

After terrific fighting for three days, with no 
means of locating or silencing the mass of heavy 
artillery carefully concealed in the wooded hills, 
three successive French assaults failed. 

Then from four directions the Germans launched 
counter attacks on the exhausted invaders, inflicting 
frightful losses and capturing many guns. Certain 

33 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

untried southern units of the Fifteenth Corps, 
well led by the gallant Espinasse, broke under the 
strain at Dieuze and imperiled the army. In some 
features Bull Run affords parallels, notably the 
magnificent behavior subsequently of the default- 
ing units from the Bouches du Rhone, especially 
the 112th that broke one day and the next was 
decimated in a glorious and voluntary charge at 
Coincourt, where they drove out superior forces 
of the enemy. Henceforth the men from Marseilles 
and Midi fought like lions. Checked, flanked, 
and short of ammunition, on August 20 rapid 
retirement to France was necessary to save the 
army. The famous Twentieth Corps was left to 
cover the retreat, and these gallant regiments held 
off the Bavarian army for two days and nights be- 
fore they were enveloped and one division practi- 
cally wiped out. 

Flushed with victory, the Germans crossed the 
Lorraine frontier, and swarmed after De Castelnau 
over the border departments. Three fresh army 
corps were already moving up on his flank at Lune- 
ville, which was evacuated. Fort Manonvillers, iso- 
lated, outranged and bombarded, soon capitulated. 
The advanced outposts of France were down. But 
everywhere the French rallied on their new defen- 
sive line. Dubail's left, which had fallen back 
from Luneville, now stood firm on the prepared front 
on high ground, and by cooperation with the Second 

34 



ON TO FRANCE 

Army reserves and the Toul garrison, brilliant coun- 
ter attacks were delivered simultaneously south and 
east of Nancy, forcing the pursuing Germans to 
withdraw and consolidate. This enabled De Castel- 
nau to rally and establish his shaken forces along the 
prepared positions on the Grande Couronne of 
Nancy, and the wooded heights which dominate the 
roads from Chateau Salins, natural barriers on the 
most critical point along the Franco-German fron- 
tier. 

In jubilant tones the German official reports had 
spoken of the crushing defeat of De Castelnau. 
The capture of guns and generals, with spoils from 
the reverse checked by the Twentieth Corps, fos- 
tered their belief. But De Castelnau 's forces stood 
before Nancy like a rock against which successive 
waves of assault were soon breaking in vain. No- 
where in the war had a German victory seemed more 
certain or so suddenly elusive. Miles of Joffre's 
field works kept the heavy artillery from the main 
frontier positions. 

North of Nancy the left of the Second Army, aug- 
mented by the Toul garrison, now withstood tre- 
mendous pressure from Metz at the point where, 
with some success, violent efforts were made to 
break in south of Verdun. A column also reached 
Spincourt from Metz, only fifteen miles northeast of 
the French stronghold. 

North of Verdun the French had launched a third 

35 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

offensive with the field forces of the Third Army 
against part of Wurttemberg and the Crown 
Prince's armies marching through Belgian Luxem- 
burg and the Grand Duchy. Here again early suc- 
cesses as at Mangiennes, where guns and 1,200 pris- 
oners were taken, led the troops to an impetuous ad- 
vance which narrowly escaped disaster. Near Neuf- 
chateau, though the Crown Prince had blundered, the 
Duke of Wurttemberg caught the French flank, when 
the front was facing a concentration of artillery and 
machine guns which inflicted terrible losses. Again 
the French fell back rapidly but without disorder, 
losing some prisoners, and sacrificing a strong rear 
guard and its artillery to cover this retirement. 

In the other offensives, except for the political 
effect of the invasion of the lost provinces, great 
risks were taken with little result, and the armies 
could have been more wisely employed on the de- 
fensive lines which have so effectively checked the 
German onslaught. Every nation has to learn by 
bitter experience the difference between offense and 
defense under modern conditions, Cuba, South 
Africa and Manchuria notwithstanding. On the 
Luxemburg frontier, however, the checked offensive 
gained important strategic results. It changed the 
plans of the impetuous Crown Prince, and dis- 
arranged his cooperation with the Duke of Wurttem- 
berg. But the army corps that covered the French 
retirement was terribly cut up, and the remnant, in- 

36 



ON TO FRANCE 

eluding its highest officers, was captured. Here 
especially, the brilliance of the French uniforms cost 
many lives. 

Enraged by the sight of their first dead, some of 
the Crown Prince's soldiers lost their heads, and 
during the French retreat many wounded were bay- 
oneted or killed with rifle butts as the Germans swept 
over the field. Americans with the French Bed 
Cross verify this, and state that surgeons and their 
helpers were also murdered. Such incidents are an 
illuminating commentary on the German state of 
mind. The ruthless ferocity is not merely inherent 
brutality. It springs from a spirit of unimaginative 
revenge against those who oppose the doctrine of 
Divine Germanic Right, which is the source of the 
enemy's great strength, and greatest weakness. 

The advance of the Crown Prince was also delayed 
by the amazing defense of Longwy by Colonel 
d'Arche and an insignificant garrison. Surprised 
when the war started, and completely invested, this 
heroic French force imposed heavy losses on their 
enemy, and held out from August 3 to August 27, 
and in those twenty-four days the town, the fortress 
and garrison were obliterated. The defense of 
Longwy deserves a volume to itself. It helped to 
save Verdun, and Verdun has saved France. 
D'Arche was able to do more than some of the 
armies. Thus in Belgium and France the first three 
weeks of war upset all calculations on both sides. 

37 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

With the regular lines of frontier defense com- 
pleted and manned (intrenched positions starting on 
the Swiss border and ending with a huge perimeter 
of outworks around Verdun), and while the First, 
Second and Third Armies were carrying out their 
ill-fated offensives beyond, mobilization was giving 
Joffre forces to build up a line with field armies 
which he deployed northwest across the Belgian 
frontier, to meet the menace of the huge forces gath- 
ering there to invade France. De Castelnau had 
extended his left toward Verdun, where the garrison 
curved round the position and formed the link with 
the basic units of the Third Army which was facing 
northeast. General Sarrail took command when its 
offensive failed. 

At Givet the Fifth Army had gathered on the 
Meuse under its senior general, soon replaced by 
General d'Esperey. This force was moved over 
westward, and the Fourth Army (under General 
Langle de Gary was built up between its right and 
the Third Army. These field armies, a total of ten 
corps, were composed of various units including the 
Moroccan and two Algerian divisions brought up 
from Africa and later stiffened by the splendid 
Ninth and Eighteenth Corps. Compared to their 
opponents, they were skeleton forces, for mistakes, 
confusion, and the result of years of economy in les- 
ser equipment had retarded the mobilization of the 

38 



ON TO FRANCE 

French Reserves, though the work was more efficient 
than was generally expected. 

Every German's complete equipment was assem- 
bled and ready. Thirty minutes after muster, re- 
serve regiments could fall in, in heavy marching or- 
der. The French system was more cumbersome. 
But while the Belgians were closing their first cam- 
paign, a thin French line was extended from Verdun 
northwest through Charleroi, along the Sambre, 
with a cavalry division operating farther in Bel- 
gium. The last two French corps only reached the 
front on August 19. 

The British regular army, which had landed in 
France, now sent up two army corps to add other 
sections to the French left, extending the line from 
Binche west of Charleroi through Mons to Conde. 
Had there been time another French army, the Sixth, 
gathering at Amiens and Rouen, would have come up 
on the British left, carrying the line toward Lille, 
where the garrison was covering important roads 
from Brussels to North France. 

With six corps on a war footing in his frontier 
armies, Joffre had flung them forward as strategic 
advance guards to engage the enemy with least de- 
lay, to force the development of their forces, to deal 
swift blows and then retire, fighting delaying ac- 
tions, with rear-guard tactics, while the French Re- 
serves were mobilized. But French strategy was 
mainly defensive. German mobilization had been 

39 



too rapid to allow these plans to develop, however. 
The initial cost was also too great. And the line 
across Belgium was inadequate to hold the front 
and had no time to intrench. 

At Dinant on August 15, a French force from 
Givet had surprised and driven back part of the 
Saxon Army which was the first pivot, and inactive 
while the armies on its right fought and changed 
front. But this was a big affair of outposts. The 
third week of the war was closing when the Kaiser, 
impatient at the delays, gave the word from the 
Grosses Hauptquartier for a general assault on 
France by all the armies on the stupendous front. 
The army in Alsace achieved some advantage, until 
the French were reorganized under the one-armed 
hero, Pau. Eupprecht of Bavaria rushed his 
masses forward, after the capture of Luneville, to 
achieve failure before Nancy. Above Nancy some 
ground was gained and a wedge driven below Ver- 
dun by the Metz garrison forces. With huge losses, 
the German Kronprinz hurled the Fifth Army 
against the French forces above Longwy and drove 
them back, though the fort and its plucky garrison 
continued their isolated resistance. 

The Wurttemberg army and Saxon forces on the 
right were now closing to the Meuse, leaving the 
French Third Army to retire at leisure. But west 
of the river the great armies of von Buelow and von 
Kluck were conducting operations more imminently 

40 



ON TO FRANCE 

vital to the fate of France. If Namur could have 
held out like Liege, there might still have been time 
to defend the river adequately, to use the Meuse and 
the forts as a wedge to divide the German line. Von 
Buelow had flung his Guards at Charleroi on August 
20, and for three days the African contingents had 
hotly contested its possession. While the British 
were moving into place, the French had twice fought 
their way back to be expelled, though they still held 
grimly to the outskirts. And there could be no gen- 
eral advance from Belgium while Namur held. But 
concentrated artillery fire blew huge gaps in its 
outer defenses, enabling German and Austrian siege 
howitzers to close in on the main fortifications, which 
were literally blown to pieces in twelve hours, open- 
ing the chief barrier to the north frontier. One of 
the most famous fortifications in Europe, Namur, 
collapsed like a stronghold of sand just as von Kluck 
was free to march south. On the left of the thin 
French line, on the Sambre, the Chasseurs a Pied, 
an infantry brigade, the Twenty-seventh Dragoons 
and a few field batteries, were vainly trying to hold 
the river against the Seventh Army Corps and the 
Twenty-fourth Regiment of artillery with every 
abtheilung concentrated on the French guns. An 
ominous gap existed also between the French and 
British. 

The French staff had greatly underestimated the 
number of German troops in Belgium. Not only 

41 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

were all the reserve corps fully mobilized and ready 
to cooperate, but the Ninth Army, including effective 
forces of Landsturm and other units, had reached 
the front by August 20 to encompass the Belgian 
army in the Antwerp district and to garrison the 
various towns. The five main armies therefore had 
now wheeled into line and closed on the open fron- 
tiers of France in full strength, utterly unaffected 
by the invasions of Alsace and Lorraine and enor- 
mously superior to the Franco-British field forces 
opposing them. 

In Hainaut province are the only clean coal dis- 
tricts in the world. The borains were chiefly at the 
front, but Mons, the neat, if ancient, capital, was 
spending its Sunday quietly. The beautiful caril- 
lon in the beffroi marked the hour of special services 
in the cathedral, where crowds of women and the 
aged prayed for Belgium. There was no band con- 
cert in the Grande Place August 23, but half the 
town was there discussing the war news, and greatly 
excited by the scouts and dispatch riders who dashed 
through the streets. For many anxious days the 
Belgians had endured suspense. Now the French 
had come up and the British army was arriving. 
The citizens argued that the Germans in Brussels 
would soon be wasting their time before impregnable 
Antwerp, and the enemy, if they succeeded at Na- 
mur, would pass to France down the direct roads 
there, and leave them unmolested. 

42 



ON TO FRANCE 

The German advance cavalry had formed a screen 
of reticence, scores of suspects were executed, and 
no definite news had come through. But troops by 
the hundred thousand had poured into Belgium, and 
the German columns, tireless and seemingly endless, 
were tramping steadily down the Route de Brunhilde 
where Roman legions had swarmed before them. 
And by every other road to France the dull gray 
columns now moved like a great inundation. 

On the British front, on Saturday and early on 
Sunday, as the troops were arriving, reports came 
in which indicated that only two German army corps 
with cavalry were advancing down the roads from 
Brussels. The British were on the line behind the 
canal from Conde through Mons and eastward to 
Binche where the cavalry division kept in touch east- 
ward with the French at Fontaine toward Charleroi. 
On the extreme left a single battalion of the Scottish 
Black Watch guarded the road to Lille, at Tour- 
nai, oldest of Belgium's towns. As the Third Corps 
had not arrived, the British had no reserves, but no 
general attack was expected while Namur held. 

The British regular troops in Belgium were only 
one brigade more than four infantry divisions of 
12,000 men, with the regular equipment of artillery 
and engineers, and five brigades of cavalry. But 
they were highly trained professional soldiers. On 
the British right two regiments had just arrived, 
tired out after forced marches with extra ammuni- 

43 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

tion, and were preparing to bivouac. Other troops 
were coming to cement the line with the French, 
when patrols came in to report that heavy columns 
were moving to strike between the British and the 
French forces. A rain of shells along the right wing 
announced an advance from the northeast. 

Aeroplanes now reported that both the armies of 
von Kluck and von Buelow were advancing in force. 
Von Kluck 's right had moved down the Lille roads 
and turned southeast, with the single battalion of 
the Black Watch, their two machine guns and one 
battery, to face this entire wing and keep it from 
enveloping the British left. Thus the two British 
army corps were to face the entire First German 
Army, while the right of the Second Army was aim- 
ing at their flank and had moved between them and 
the French. Under a terrific shelling the newly 
arrived battalions on the British right, the Royal 
Irish and the Suffolks, extended, scratched a light 
trench under fire, and poured volleys into the massed 
columns of Germans, which advanced as steadily as 
on parade and came within a few yards of the Brit- 
ish lines before they were broken, and retired. The 
British cavalry then charged but were soon checked 
by machine guns, as a second wave of gray advanced 
against withering volleys until pitchforked back by 
British bayonets. At five o'clock news came that 
Namur had fallen the night before and that the 
French armies had retired over the Sambre. 

44 



ON TO FRANCE 

Diverting his cavalry and one corps to work round 
the British left flank and cut off retreat, von Kluck 
now brought his main columns against the center 
and left of the greatly outnumbered British, and by 
sunset the entire line was hotly engaged facing a 
concentration of 600 guns. The outposts stood like 
a rock beyond the Mons canal, and the battery which 
supported them lost all its gunners before the ad- 
vance fell back, dragging the guns by hand. The 
engineers then blew up the bridges. 

From Tournai, the Scotch battalion on the flank, 
sending futile appeals for help, held out grimly until 
their ammunition gave out, and after dark a few 
survivors escaped, the battalion having been over- 
whelmed and annihilated. With the French retire- 
ment on the right, both British flanks were now ex- 
posed, and although urgent orders were sent to the 
garrison at Lille to move out to cover the left, alarm- 
ing cavalry screens on the direct Lille roads led 
General Percin to hold his forces to protect the city. 
For this course he has been severely disciplined, 
since it menaced the safety of the entire line. As 
Uhlans actually rode into Eoubaix, the general de- 
serves great sympathy. 

To clear its flank the British right had now fallen 
back to higher ground, holding stubbornly to every 
scrap of cover, and inflicting heavy losses as it re- 
tired. But the Second Corps was unable to con- 
form. Searchlights lit up their lines, and it was 

45 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

nearly daybreak, after several charges by Fergus- 
son's cavalry, before the exhausted left could dis- 
engage itself and fall back, cutting its way through 
hostile cavalry in the rear. 

Von Kluck, von Buelow, von Hausen and the Duke 
of Wurttemberg were all striking in force at the 
Allied line across south Belgium. Strong columns 
had poured across the famous industrial district of 
La Centre down the roads to Binche, Fontaine and 
Charleroi, still partly held by the African troops. 
The French line had made a gallant stand all Satur- 
day night, but the Fifth French Army was then weak 
in artillery and unwilling to intrench to lose mobil- 
ity. As the attack was developed it was forced back 
steadily between Charleroi and the Meuse, facing the 
heaviest losses in the war. Below Namur, near Di- 
nant, the French had held their own through Satur- 
day and Sunday, though the Germans were pouring 
across the Meuse at Huy. Wurttemberg and Saxon 
armies drove at the thin French line and in repeated 
blows forced a retirement of the Fourth Army across 
the river. Here fierce fighting took place near the 
old trap or iron of Sedan, but with French batteries 
on the heights inflicting a heavy toll where German 
guns forty-six years before had crushed the French. 
Thirty-three massive bridges on the Meuse south 
of Namur, were defended by French guns and 
mitrailleuses, and for each the Germans faced heavy 
losses, only to have the structures blown up suc- 

46 



ON TO FRANCE 

cessively as their masses gained possession. And at 
all these points the enraged invaders sought revenge 
on the civil population, and gave no quarter to de- 
voted detachments cut off across the river. Superior 
in numbers and organization, however, and with in- 
numerable pontoon trains, the avalanche of gray 
moved steadily across the Meuse Valley, pushing the 
French back southwest. 

Further west artillery finally drove the French 
from the slag heaps south of Charleroi. For three 
hours one force made a desperate stand at the canal 
bridge before the railway station, but was finally 
shelled out, and the line had to retire through Mar- 
chiennes, Landelis and Montignies. Eepulse fol- 
lowed repulse. After very heavy fighting on the 
Semois River and in the Ardennes, by Sunday night 
the sadly mixed field armies, greatly outnumbered, 
were holding a very irregular front back in France 
again, partly through a lack of trained coordination 
of units in the overwhelming onslaught. 

The stupendous and complete mobilization of the 
German army, and its concentration at every neces- 
sary point were feats beyond the range of conjec- 
ture. In the Spanish War, two months of hostilities 
found only Shafter's army, equaling a single Euro- 
pean division, and poorly equipped, ready for serv- 
ice. Three weeks of this war saw Belgium over- 
whelmed, and the German army, replete in detail 
from the siege trains down to licorice to prevent 

47 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

\ 

patrols from coughing, with every preliminary fin- 
ished, taking a vigorous offensive entirely on alien 
soil. Eliminating the help of the Belgians and Brit- 
ish, the first German plan could not have failed. 
Von Kluck had four active and one reserve corps 
and special divisions of cavalry; von Buelow, the 
Guard Corps and two active and two reserve corps 
and siege trains ; von Hausen, three corps, a total of 
600,000 men and 2,000 guns. In the center two 
armies with eight corps were closing in on open 
France east of Givet, and eight corps and spe- 
cial artillery were also over the Franco-German 
frontier. 

This critical August Sunday proved an anxious 
day for Joffre. His Intelligence Department tardily 
announced the general advance of von Kluck and 
von Buelow, in far greater force than he had antici- 
pated. News of the sudden fall of Namur had 
opened the day. His offensives everywhere were 
breaking down. The retirement of the French lines 
on the Sambre and the loss of Charleroi were re- 
ported, with the news of checks or serious reverses 
from Dinant to Neufchateau, and nothing but dis- 
couragement from De Castelnau and along the en- 
tire eastern front. In Alsace, Mulhausen had been 
evacuated. Joffre was forced to advise the British 
to retire to conform with the Fifth Army, which 
had fallen back through Beaumont, its left toward 
Maubeuge. 

48 



ON TO FRANCE 

When the British had retired fighting into France 
to the line Valenciennes-Maubeuge, the left practi- 
cally enveloped, the French Com m ander-in-Chief had 
to think and act quickly. He might order a des- 
perate stand along the north frontier, a hazardous 
attempt to save France, or he could sacrifice valu- 
able territory by drawing back the lines to more fa- 
vorable positions, and thus keep his forces intact. 
This was the great principle of French strategy al- 
ways. Verdun must be held at all costs, and the 
flank of the barrier forts protected. But he ordered 
the field armies to pivot back steadily, their right on 
the fortress, their front unbroken. For a rough idea 
set a clock at five minutes to five, call the hour hand 
the barrier forts, Verdun the center. Now move the 
large hand, the field armies, back to between eight 
and nine, Paris, and you cover the strategic retreat 
from Belgium to the Marne. 

Pouring around the British left, von Kluck vainly 
strove to crumple the line against Maubeuge and von 
Buelow. Envelopment, as of Bazaine in 1870, was 
averted only by fierce British and French cavalry 
charges, and the retirement was resumed. 

Withdrawal was humiliating, but Germany's " de- 
fensive " war was the advance of a marvelous mili- 
tary machine, geared entirely for the offensive. 
Horse, foot and guns were perfectly equipped and 
trained, an army stiffened with thousands of ma- 
chine guns, preceded by a cloud of aeroplanes, backed 

49 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

by heavy artillery of unprecedented mobility and 
power and intrenching machines, followed by field 
kitchens in hundreds, wireless outfits, field observa- 
tories, motor and horse transport, and effective am- 
munition trains. 

The Allied line swung back across the districts all 
tourists know so well. The British right under 
Haig, fighting a rear-guard action, fell back through 
the Mormal Forest, the heavily involved left con- 
forming more slowly. Late on the 25th the reserve 
division was rushed from the coast and a determined 
stand was made on the road from Cambrai through 
Le Gateau to Landrecies, where the narrow streets 
ran with blood and were choked with dead and 
wounded. Stiff fighting developed also at Solesmes, 
where an infantry division was enveloped and cut its 
way out. The Guard Cavalry caught the British 
Twelfth Brigade, and its mad charge was broken 
only at the muzzles of the rifles on the reserve line. 

Tired when the running battle opened, the British 
fought from midday of the 21st through the night, 
without food or rest, retiring eighteen miles. With 
only emergency rations they fought the second day 
and through the second night, and retired fighting 
twenty-six miles. Then without respite they fought 
again and retired thirty miles to the Somme. But 
Sordet's cavalry, by forced marches, now helped the 
British left ; and from Amiens General d 'Amade and 
the Seventh Corps reserves had moved eastward and 

50 



ON TO FRANCE 

checked the flanking cavalry, giving the exhausted 
British time to drop in their tracks and snatch a few 
hours' sleep between Peronne and St. Quentin, and 
then reorganize their broken and mixed formations, 
after four days and nights of battle. 

At Maubeuge von Buelow left his heavy artil- 
lery and reserve divisions to reduce the fortress. 
Here the British and French had detached single 
battalions to reenf orce the garrison, which made an 
heroic defense and held out until September 7, when 
the heavy howitzers, their concrete foundations 
treacherously ready, pounded the citadel and forts 
to pieces, suffocating most of the garrison. With 
hundreds insane from their frightful experiences, 
many complaints have been made of their treatment 
by the survivors. The daughter of the Prince de 
Polignac, who fought in the Civil War, wife of the 
artist and socialist, Count de Chabannes, and a com- 
poser of note, heroically endured the siege, attend- 
ing the wounded. For some reason this talented 
lady was held a close prisoner by the Germans, and 
wounded survivors sent to Torgau bitterly com- 
plained of the severity and intolerance of their Ee- 
servist jailer, Professor Brandes, the naturalist. 

Bight along the line, the Germans continued to 
force the Allies back. A firm stand was made on a 
line north of Fourmes, by the First and Third Corps, 
Fifth French Army. At Guise also this army, re- 
enforced, fought back brilliantly, relieving heavy 

51 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

pressure on the British forces retiring from St. 
Quentiu, and luring the Guard Corps close to 
screened batteries which drove them back and defi- 
nitely checked pursuit for three days. The Third 
Army struck the forces of the Crown Prince heavily 
northeast of Verdun and again on the Meuse, with- 
drawing across the river and conforming to the line 
unmolested. 

The end of August found the Allies approaching 
the celebrated La Fere-Laon-Rheims barrier, with a 
few obsolete forts and no preparations for defense. 
Here, if anywhere, the world expected Joffre to make 
a stand, if Paris was to be saved. To the French 
Commander, the safety of his army was his first con- 
sideration. While the Wurttemberg forces had coun- 
termarched wastefully to conform to the antics of the 
Crown Prince, who was still making blunders north 
of Verdun, von Hausen, with the three Saxon Corps 
and cavalry of the Third Army, had pushed south in 
an amazing march, a wedge which got between and 
threatened the flanks of the Fourth and Fifth French 
Armies, when both were engaged. He soon crossed 
the Aisne near Chateau Porcien below which Eheims 
was the prize, and von Buelow with five corps was 
approaching Laon, invaluable as a railroad junc- 
tion in German hands. Their advance hurried the 
French to the line where they expected to stand. 

But von Kluck had now marched his five corps 
across open ground below Compiegne; his cavalry 

52 



ON TO FRANCE 

corps had already swept across the Oise through 
Senlis. The left of the Allies was again in grave 
danger, and von Kluck was rapidly moving his 
army around the flank to cut off effectively the lines 
from Paris. Eetreat was again imperative. A 
splendid natural line of defense had to be aban- 
doned. Eheims was lost, and the direct roads to 
Paris were unrecovered, while the Allied field 
armies fell back to a front resting on Bray, Nu- 
gent, Arcis sur Aube, Vitry, Bar le Due and Ver- 
dun. Their left was on the Paris defenses; the 
line extended due east with the right wing curved 
sharply north and hinged on the fortress. The line 
had been bent in and distended where the Fourth and 
Fifth German Armies had pushed south between 
Vouziers and the Meuse, passing west of the fort- 
ress, through the Argonne. 

Von Kluck 's advance had been magnificent. By 
forced marches, occupying all the towns en route, in- 
cluding beautiful Amiens, he had given the Allies no 
rest. His forces had been generally humane in 
France, except at Senlis, where the rue de la Be- 
publique was destroyed. Many priceless treasures 
were also taken from the Museum, and some citizens 
were executed because one crazed patriot, in full 
view, fired a shot. 

During this tedious retreat the Germans had also 
suffered. At inviting positions along the front the 
Allies would make apparent stands which sent the 

53 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

systematic Germans through all their textbook for- 
mulae of battle. At the final stages the assaults 
proved the enemy to be mobile units, horse artillery, 
machine guns in motors, and cavalry acting as in- 
fantry, all of which melted up side roads and over- 
took the main bodies whose retirement they were 
covering. On the Aisne, the British and French 
destroyed the bridges and inflicted heavy losses on 
the Germans as they erected and crossed on pon- 
toons. The British left finally rested at Lagny on 
the eastern section of the Paris defenses, the Ger- 
mans halting on the Marne. 

Paris had vigorously prepared for a siege. The 
guns could be heard from the suburbs, and the gov- 
ernment had moved to Bordeaux. The labor unions 
had contributed 5,000 exempts to help the garrison, 
and men of every class seized axes and shovels until 
at the outworks a circle of trenches, ramparts and 
barbed wire, 60 miles across and 200 miles in extent, 
surrounded the city, to avoid the close investment of 
1870. Beautiful suburbs were razed to clear artil- 
lery ranges, a light railroad joined the important de- 
fenses, and in the perimeter droves of cattle and 
sheep were gathered. General Gallieni had a field 
garrison of 200,000 men. But the Germans consid- 
ered Paris theirs. The American Embassy in Ber- 
lin was especially consulted in regard to a plan to 
enable Americans to leave en masse when the city 
was captured. 

54 



ON TO FRANCE 

On September 3, Joffre, deciding to bring the 
German line over the Marne, instructed the British 
to change front by retiring twelve miles, and the 
Fifth Army also retired from the Marne to the Seine 
Valley. Completely misled by this further with- 
drawal, von Kluck moved his Second Corps and 
Fourth Reserve Corps to the Ourcq, and turned his 
main columns southeast along the roads through 
Meaux to break up the left of the " retreating " 
armies and cut them definitely off from the capital, 
which would then be open for his reserves and the 
siege guns already en route, to start investment. 
With the armies cut off from her aid, and with the 
lessons of Liege and Namur, the Germans gave 
Paris a week to withstand the howitzers. Their 
forces poured over the Marne in triumph, facing 
heavy losses in crossing, but lured to overconfidence 
by the fact that the Allies were abandoning the river 
and the final line that could defend the capital. 
Where now could the forces stand? For the second 
time every German army on the vast front united 
for a combined offensive. This time they were con- 
fident of a crushing decision. And von Kluck, ig- 
noring the " shattered'* British, was making an 
oblique march across their front, closing in to drive, 
like a battering-ram, at the weak link between them 
and the French left, to crumple D'Esperey's flank 
eastward when the frontal attack was delivered 
against this Fifth Army by von Buelow and superior 

55 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

forces. Before von Kluck's columns had cleared the 
river, the British had closed over eastward, their 
right solidly in touch with the Fifth French Army. 
On this day German cavalry were at Gonesse, eight 
miles from Paris, a part of the widely extended 
mounted forces led by von Marwitz. 



CHAPTER III 

THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

WE must not forget that all the armies engaged 
in France were playing their part in one stupendous 
battle. This is generally overlooked. The action 
of all the forces involved in the first and second 
phases of the German offensives was coordinate. 
Glancing along the line from Switzerland north, 
around Verdun, and west to Paris, the first week of 
September found the stage set for what seemed to 
promise a triumph for the German armies as they 
were readjusted for a general attack. In Alsace, 
though the French had again occupied Mulhausen 
where the son of Dreyfus was promoted for gal- 
lantry, the special field army was recalled August 28, 
and sent to strengthen the French center, leaving 
the Belf ort command to hold its defensive lines from 
the Swiss frontier over the Thann district, through 
the Vosges, across the approaches to Colmar. Gen- 
eral Dubail and the First Army fought stubborn 
battles with the Seventh Germany Army, now oc- 
cupying the ruins of St. Die and other frontier towns 
along the Meurthe, and aiming at Toul through 
Charmes, where the French could not be shaken. 

57 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

On Dubail's left, De Castelnau was holding the 
Second French Army firmly around Nancy from 
Rosieres west of Luneville north toward Verdun, as- 
sailed first from the south, east and northeast, and 
then from the north, where the garrison army from 
Metz had driven the wedge from Pont a Mousson 
across the Moselle toward the Meuse between Ver- 
dun and Nancy. Flushed by early successes, eager 
to play his part in the brilliant work of the armies 
sweeping across France, the Crown Prince of Ba- 
varia had attempted to force the famous Trouee of 
Mirecourt, south of Nancy, feinting also along the 
front, and moving strong columns well north of the 
city along the roads running from Metz to Toul. 
Covering a rough semicircle, these forces invited re- 
prisal against their right center. De Castelnau led 
his regiments from the heights into the valley, struck 
hard before Amance and drove the Bavarians back 
to the frontier. But the importance of holding the 
defensive barrier intact, the menace to his flank from 
Luneville, and the presence of many heavy batteries 
which were pushed out from Metz toward Pont a 
Mousson, demanded caution. De Castelnau, there- 
fore, recalled his forces when they had practically 
broken through the Bavarian front, and not without 
mutterings from men high in command, placed his 
splendid corps back on the strong position extending 
from Pont a Mousson across the plateau of Amance, 
along the Grand Couronne, curving before the city 

58 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

and circling south over the lower wooded hills of 
Ore vie and Vitrimont, to join the left of the First 
Army, a front of twenty-five miles. 

With effective preparation, the Bavarians now 
brought up 380 siege guns, and, while the Marne 
fighting developed, they opened September with a 
terrific bombardment of the main position before 
Nancy, which was continued for eight nights and 
days. The French improvised carriages for a few 
position-guns from Toul, but they could do little to 
meet this concentrated fire. They held their ground, 
however, and cleverly screened their outclassed .75 's 
to check massed attacks, which were soon aimed at 
various points of the position. 

Heavy shelling finally blew the outer French posi- 
tions to pieces. Outlying defensive villages were 
stormed and heavy forces pushed down the main 
Nancy road to Champenoux, and deployed in the 
woods close to the foot of the plateau of Amance, the 
main defense northeast of the city. Then Pont a 
Mousson fell, and the heavy artillery from Metz 
closed in on the north. De Castelnau had also been 
obliged to lose Foch and some of his finest troops to 
strengthen the French center below Rheims, just as 
the Germans pushed in round Amance. On Septem- 
ber 7, coincident with the combined assault on the 
other fronts, the final attack on Nancy was started. 

Attacking at every point, the strongest section of 
the assault was delivered against the heights of 

59 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Amance, and the French were driven from their 
trenches along the foot of the plateau. All night 
the guns thundered while the French reserved their 
ammunition, enduring heavy losses from the concen- 
trated artillery. On September 8 successive masses 
of twelve picked battalions formed in the woods be- 
fore Amance, to storm the shaken final lines on the 
hill. Not a shot was fired as they advanced with 
bands playing. " Fire when the first line is at two 
hundred yards," was the order in the silent French 
trenches where every gun and rifle was ready, and 
glasses showed crack cavalry waiting on the main 
road from Chateau Salins, a mass of white and sil- 
ver. The Guard Cuirassiers were in full dress ; the 
Kaiser was waiting for the signal for a state entry 
to Nancy. 

The Emperor had planned to lead his victorious 
troops, by the triumphal arch of Stanislas, to the 
Place Carriere, to impress the captured populace by 
a review down Le Pepiniere, with headquarters at 
the Governor's palace. But with their batteries 
pushed well over the Moselle on the north, and an 
incredible burst of heavy shells along the east front 
to pave the way, mass after mass of devoted German 
infantry were going to their death in a futile effort 
to wrest the final victory under the eyes of their Em- 
peror. Line after line was shot to pieces when the 
trenches on the Amance slopes broke their silence. 
Masses of Bavarians went boldly over the Bois de 

60 




A GERMAN COLUMN MARCHING TO DEFEAT AT NANCY UNDER THE 
KAISER'S EYE 




Ax OCCUPIED VILLAGE SHELLED BY FRENCH GUNS, WHICH HAVE 
RESPECTED THE CHURCH 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

Crevic, entire regiments of Saxons disappeared 
down the wooded slopes of the Moselle Valley, and 
only wounded men that were humanely dragged 
from the barbed wire by the French could tell the 
story. The defenders stood like a rock on their 
main position. 

More than 4,000 dead lay before the Amance sec- 
tion alone, when the Kaiser drove sadly and silently 
away just as news of checks to five other armies 
reached him. The French had lost heavily also, but 
they had saved the gate to France, and a week later 
the Germans retired to their own frontier. Success 
would have entailed the loss of Toul and Verdun, 
breached the frontier barrier, and opened a direct 
road from Germany to take in rear the French 
armies along the Marne line facing north. 

On the east front, though part of the First and 
Second French Armies had sacrificed fifty per cent 
of their strength in the terrific fighting of French 
Lorraine, few details beyond terse official dispatches 
have appeared in the American press, and from 
German sources there has been an ominous silence. 
Yet here were fought the greatest battles of the first 
campaign, and the heavy forests of French Lorraine 
cover the horrors of its first stages of primeval 
ferocity. 

With the army from Metz checked along the lines 
north of Nancy, and held off by forces on the sector 
southeast of Verdun, the Germans maintained a 

61 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

strip between the two which entered France like a 
wedge along the Valley of the Rupt de Mad across 
the Moselle toward the Meuse at St. Milhiel, aiming 
at Fort Troyon, which endured a terrific bombard- 
ment for weeks, though the garrison clung to the out- 
works and refused eight offers for capitulation. 

With the Bavarians continuing the line above this 
wedge, along the east front to Verdun, with outposts 
circling ineffectively round the north of the fortress, 
facing the big loop of defenses manned by the gar- 
rison, the parallel fronts of the rival armies were 
continued southwest of the fortress, where Sarrail 
with the Third Army was opposing the forces of the 
German Crown Prince. The defense of Longwy, 
lasting a week after Namur's fall, had released 
the other German armies, had led to some reckless 
infantry assaults, and much criticism of the royal 
general's tactics. Moving picture cameras have 
faithfully recorded every branch of this spectacular 
soldier 's direction of battles. For the film he regu- 
lated the fire of field batteries, and led a stirring 
advance of Hussars, considerately pulling in his 
charger if its impatience led it out of focus, forget- 
ting that even an actor-general would sometimes 
look toward the enemy instead of posing. I saw 
this official Lichtspiel recently with privileged neu- 
trals in Holland, who inconsiderately roared with 
laughter at the postures of this vulpine-faced prince, 
who seems to have inherited little of the ability of 

62 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

the Kaiser. The brain of his army has been Count 
von Haeseler, the famous cavalry leader of 1870. 

The German Embassy in Washington issued a dis- 
patch on August 25 announcing that the Crown 
Prince had ''decisively defeated" "five" French 
Army Corps, and that he now definitely stated that 
the "French were unable to face the terrific fire of 
German infantry." As the defeat at Neuf chateau 
was inflicted by the help of the troops of Albrecht of 
Wurttemberg, it is evident that Sarrail's masterly 
change of front at Verdun had completely misled the 
Crown Prince to the claim of a decisive victory. 
When the army of His Imperial Highness had oblit- 
erated Longwy, with its single battalion and obsolete 
forts, and had looted the frontier district, shooting 
the insolent civilians who objected, it crossed the 
Meuse, eager and anxious to earn more tangible 
laurels. 

After the failure of the offensive toward Luxem- 
burg, Sarrail had taken command of the Third 
French Army. Without heavy artillery, the field 
guns of the Thirtieth Artillery regiment had coolly 
faced the superior batteries of the Crown Prince as 
the French forces withdrew and moved west of the 
Meuse, to form line with the other Field Armies. 
On the Chiers, then crossing the river at Dun, deal- 
ing swift blows and retiring rapidly, -by August 28 
the Third Army was able to regain touch with the 
Fourth Army on its left, which was reforming on the 

63 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

line Buzancy-Bouvellemont after dealing two blows 
which checked the Wurttemberg forces. These 
armies now had to conform with the Allied left in 
the general retirement already described, and Sar- 
rail soon had to face the difficult task of keeping his 
right firmly on the Verdun field works, while his left 
retained touch with the other armies as the line 
pivoted back to Paris. He formed the hinge and, 
as the extreme left was forced back rapidly, he was 
obliged to retire at an acute angle through Varennes, 
Clermont and Vaubecourt before the Crown Prince. 

Sarrail could not risk a decision, so he engaged the 
Crown Prince chiefly with field artillery, and side- 
stepped before the efforts to turn his left, which 
lured the main columns through the Argonne forest 
too quickly for the heavier German guns to keep up. 
The situation was dangerous, however, for while it 
relieved direct pressure on the Verdun garrison, and 
brought the whole Fifth Army too far south to retain 
touch with the Bavarians on the semicircle of de- 
fenses above the fortress, Sarrail 's line was pivoting 
back ominously near the Meuse, and he had only 
two corps to deploy on his widening front, against 
any point of which the Crown Prince could deliver 
strong blows from his army, the Sixteenth, Eight- 
eenth and Twenty-first Corps and special units. 

Recall also that the Metz forces from the east 
front were driving in a wedge westward between 
Verdun and Toul, toward the Meuse, its apex point- 

64 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

ing toward Sarrail 's rear across the river. If the 
Crown Prince could break through the line, he could 
join hands across the Meuse with the Metz forces 
and isolate Verdun and all the French forces above 
the junction. For a short time he had three 280 
guns firing over Sarrail at Troyon, when it was 
crumbling from the artillery of the Metz forces on 
the other side. This was the basis for the claim 
that Verdun was surrounded and the Verdun-Toul 
barrier breached. But overconfidence led the Crown 
Prince to develop his attack as far south as Revigny, 
where the French left suddenly stood firm. Sarrail 
was now facing west, his right wing resting along 
the Meuse heights, fighting back to back with De 
Castelnau's left on the east front. Linked by the 
Verdun garrison these forces formed the lower sides 
of a huge inverted "U" round the fortress, De Cas- 
telnau fighting the Bavarians who faced west, while 
Sarrail was engaging the Fifth Army which faced 
east, the Verdun position extending like a huge 
peninsula of tangled field works and defenses be- 
tween them. Sarrail 's elastic left was now resting 
near Bar le Due, thirty miles below Verdun, where 
the Allied line curved and continued directly west, 
with Du Gary and the Fourth Army stretched below 
the Marne Valley opposing the Duke of Wurttem- 
berg's forces, which passing through Vouziers had 
pushed it through Suippes and west of Chalons and 
then to Vitry, twenty miles farther south. Continu- 

65 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ing west the Fifth French Army was also well over 
the Marne, retiring far below Epernay, facing north, 
but too widely deployed to more than check von Bue- 
low, and uncertain of von Hausen, who had swept 
below Rheims and Epernay and was consolidating, 
ready to smash through the line east of von Buelow 
and roll up the flanks when the final attack was de- 
livered. The British were facing von Kluck, well 
on the left of the Fifth Army. 

Extending along the rear of these forces, via the 
south fork, the main road from Paris across Seine 
et Marne to Nancy, gave J off re splendid communi- 
cations to rearrange his field forces on a more solid 
front, while the second great German attack was pre- 
paring. He closed up Langle de Gary and the 
Fourth Army eastward through Vitry toward Bar le 
Due, to strengthen the curving junction with the 
Third Army at which the Crown Prince was aiming. 
This made room for General Foch and the newly cre- 
ated Ninth Army to form on the left, from Mailly to 
near Sezanne, west of which D'Esperey's Fifth 
Army consolidated before Esternay to Courtagon. 
The British army, its Third Corps now completed, 
closed in and carried the compact line west to the 
Forest of Crecy, south of Meaux, and a few miles 
from Paris. Conneau's famous cavalry was on the 
Provins road where the French joined the British. 
This front between Verdun and Paris covered prac- 
tically 150 miles. (See Map I, page 26.) 

66 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

The Grosse Generalstab made the initial error of 
under-valuation. Berlin jubilantly announced that 
the Marne was ' 'forced" and that the " fleeing and 
shattered field armies" of the Allies had been over- 
taken and would be forced to fight. The entire Ger- 
man line prepared to deliver a crushing blow, every 
army cooperating, entirely ignorant of the rapid 
consolidation effected after their air reconnaissance. 

A terrific bombardment along the line on Septem- 
ber 5 evoked a mild response from the Allies. On 
September 7 the general assault started. Along the 
eastern front, notably at Nancy as shown, the French 
stood fast. On the north front the Crown Prince, 
losing touch on both flanks in the Argonne, drove in 
force at Sarrail's line, to break through well below 
Verdun, and isolate the fortress, by making a junc- 
tion with the point of the wedge driven in from the 
eastern front. This attack failed. Everywhere the 
Allies now held their ground. Attempting to co- 
operate with the Crown Prince, the Duke of Wurt- 
temberg attacked westward from the curve where 
Sarrail's left joined De Gary's Fourth Army, and 
was definitely checked at Vitry. 

The Ninth Army, and the right and center of the 
Fifth Army also stood firmly, September 7, as the 
Saxons and von Buelow started their crushing at- 
tack from a line from Chalons westward through 
Vertus, Etages and Champaubert, the moment that 
von Kluck's advance guard clashed with the left of 

67 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the French above Esternay, where his forces were 
to smash through to cut off the armies from Paris, 
and crumple up the flank of the heavily engaged line 
eastward, while his Keserves watched the capital 
and the British. It was an arrogant plan in which 
the tables were completely turned on the First Ger- 
man Army. 

The nucleus of the Sixth Army under D'Amade, 
its chief units still uncompleted or in Paris, had re- 
tired through Amiens to the railroad from Eouen. 
As von Kluck wheeled his army northeast above 
Paris, advancing down roads which led to what re- 
connoissance had reported as a vulnerable gap but 
across which the British were now closing up solidly 
to the left of the Fifth Army, 5,000 taxicabs rushed 
regiments from the capital northward. With its 
original components, which marched nearly forty 
miles to a battle of six days and nights, the Sixth 
Army was completed by magic, September 5, on a 
front from near Meaux up the main road to Ermen- 
onville, through St. Soupplets, at right angles to the 
main line. Composed of two corps supplemented 
by five Reserve divisions, a Moorish brigade and a 
division of cavalry, this army under Maunoury 
moved eastward against the German flank Septem- 
ber 6. The first shot was fired as it struck twelve 
noon. 

Next day von Kluck discovered that he was march- 
ing into a trap. His Second Cavalry Division was 

68 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

in column on the Coulommiers Eoad, his Ninth 
Mounted Division skirting the Crecy forest due south 
of Meaux. His infantry were pushing south, well 
east of these flank screens; the Ninth Corps at Re- 
bais, the Third and Seventh on the Petit Morin at 
Montmirail, and his wagon trains pouring across 
the Marne near Meaux. He first detached heavy 
reinforcements to his Reserve Corps on the Ourcq 
to hold off Maunoury's threat of envelopment from 
the west. Suddenly he found that the British and 
the left of the Fifth Army, were marching north, and 
forcing him to battle far from the ground he had 
chosen. His forces were in the wide-opened jaw of 
the Allies the Sixth Army, the upper maxillary, 
the British and some French units, the lower. 
Opened at right angles the jaws were starting to 
close on a hinge near Meaux. Hesitation would 
have meant envelopment and defeat. His pontoon 
bridges gave him a clear path back northward. The 
Reserves, who had behaved shamefully to women 
during their halt while Maunoury's surprise devel- 
oped unheeded on the Ourcq, received reenforce- 
ments and fought strenuously to keep the upper jaw 
from closing. But the Allied forces, which were 
moving north, flung von Kluck's main army back 
over the Morin, and he wheeled his columns in pre- 
cipitate retreat to the Marne. 

At Meaux, the angle of the Allied forces, a strong 
rear guard of all arms intrenched, to enable von 

69 



Kluck to get his impedimenta clear of the river. 
French batteries covered charge after charge of 
Zouaves and Turcos, and the German artillery re- 
tired at a gallop. At bay, the infantry resisted with 
desperation, and the French Colonials fought also 
almost to extermination to clear the road for pur- 
suit. Farther west, the Germans stood along the 
Marne, but were driven back across the river with 
heavy loss by the British. They destroyed their 
bridges but General French's army made light pon- 
toons, crossed under fire, and again drove the enemy 
north. 

The corps of the Fifth Army had now wheeled to 
attack von Buelow's uncovered flank, but the jaws, 
still wide open, were following von Kluck relent- 
lessly, as on the Ourcq Maunoury was facing east 
and maintaining the pace north. Once clear of the 
Marne the British advanced rapidly, smashing rear 
guards at every vantage point. Their left was soon 
on the flank of the forces facing Maunoury, and 
von Kluck 's entire army broke north on the 
10th, leaving valuable transport, 2,192 prisoners, 
and thirteen guns to the British credit during the 
day. 

The French cavalry made daring raids along the 
western line of retreat, harrying transport and 
capturing much ammunition. On the night of the 
9th, after the German aeroplanes had flown north to 
park, a squadron of Dragoons decided to put out 

70 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

the "eyes of the army." They located the park in 
a field off the main road beyond Viviers, and two 
pelotons dismounted and crept up, but met a with- 
ering machine-gun fire. The two remaining pelotons 
charged the guns, losing only eight horses and three 
men. Led by the sergeant fourrier, the troopers 
with axes smashed nine Taubes, broke the valves of 
five armored cars, and lit the petrol. As the fire 
stampeded their horses and brought hostile cavalry 
up, only ten of the French troopers survived, hiding 
in the forest while von Kluck's forces retreated and 
Maunoury's army swept across the Villiers Cot- 
terets. 

This raid blinded the tired German columns as 
they retreated. Overtaxed when the running battle 
started, the troops made forced marches of forty 
kilometers. Men died of exhaustion and laggards 
were shot as examples. Many regiments had only 
one hour 's sleep for three consecutive nights. In a 
dozen towns and villages I heard the same story 
of horses lashed to top speed, of delaying actions 
overwhelmed by the relentless pursuit, and prisoners 
too exhausted to be moved. The trails were blazed 
by abandoned wagons, stalled motor transport and 
field bakeries with the bread in cinders. 

But Nature first, and then Fate, was kind. The 
Marne gave von Kluck time to organize his retreat. 
The Ourcq paralleled and protected the most dan- 
gerous line of his withdrawal up the Meaux-Soissons 

71 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

roads. Then the Aisne ran right across the line 
of retreat, with serried plateaux on the north bank, 
Nature's gift of fortresses and moat well rebridged 
on the roads down which the German legions had 
swept southward. 

As he approached the Aisne von Kluck turned 
some of his forces northwest through Betz toward 
Nanteuil, to spread above the French flank and re- 
cover the important roads down which his right had 
advanced. He gave the French a severe check. But 
he was unable to get west of the Noyon road, though 
his maneuver caused the rectangular formation of 
the Allies to open wider and they approached the 
Aisne almost in line, as he got his exhausted main 
forces over the river. 

Leaving rear guards on the south bank on Mont 
de Paris near Soissons, and on hills on all other 
roads, he deployed his army along the heights, his 
right near Compiegne, his left directly below Laon, 
and stood at bay. Now Fate was kind. With his 
western communications barely covered, and much 
artillery and material lost, diverted or tumbled into 
rivers to prevent capture, von Kluck at Laon could 
tap von Buelow's communications. As Maubeuge 
had fallen on the 7th, the siege guns, intrenching ma- 
chines, pioneers and reserve ammunition for use 
against Paris, had reached the city a few hours be- 
fore he crossed the Aisne. Thus he had important 
help to intrench and wire his new front, and he could 

72 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

use the reserve ammunition of the Second Army to 
hold the Aisne heights. 

The British smashed the rear guards on the south 
bank late on September 12, to find their quarry at 
bay in a splendid position across the river, the tails 
of the columns toiling up the height as a target to 
the first batteries, which received the fire of siege 
guns in reply. While the right of the Sixth French 
Army captured Mont de Paris and regained 
Soissons, the British without a pause started to 
cross the river against heights in parts like the 
Palisades. 

Heavy German artillery and machine guns swept 
the approaches, smashing pontoons and destroying 
the engineer detachments. But the First Division 
on the right fought its way across the aqueduct at 
Bourg. Other forces crossed by rafts and pontoons 
under heavy fire during the night, and drove the ma- 
chine guns back to the hills. By sunset on the 13th, 
after heavy loss, the British army had crossed the 
Aisne and, in a battle in which the lessons of South 
Africa bore splendid fruit, the men fought their way 
up the steep plateau and established themselves 
along the irregular crest, driving the Germans to the 
backbone of the position in the teeth of vigorous 
attempts made to hurl them from the edge to the 
river below. It was a stupendous feat of arms. 

The French army on the left after desperate fight- 
ing also forced a passage at Fontenoy and Vic, push- 

73 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ing the enemy's right wing back toward the Coucy- 
Noyon road. But above Soissons the Allied center 
was checked by a maze of German owned quarries, 
constructed so that they could be made formidable 
fortresses in a few hours, wth gun emplacements 
ready. 

With disaster on their right the other German 
armies all paid the penalty of overconfidence. We 
left von Buelow, von Hausen, the Duke of Wurttem- 
berg and the Crown Prince striking together at the 
Fifth, Ninth, and Third, Fourth, French Armies. 
Bheims was a prize, and Epernay and Chalons were 
among their spoils for a week, when the citizens ex- 
ercised restraint with ropes at the necks of the 
mayors, M. Pol Eoger, whose brands we know, and 
M. Servas. Vast stores of luxuries and valuables 
rewarded the systematic looting of these rich depart- 
ments, while the forces were consolidated below 
them for the decisive attack across the compara- 
tively open country between Montmarail and the 
Argonne. The French everywhere were on posi- 
tions vastly inferior to those evacuated during their 
strategic retreat. 

For three days the armies were locked in a stub- 
born battle on a line south of the main road from 
Paris via Sezanne and Vitry to Bar le Due. With 
the Eighteenth disengaged from chasing von Kluck, 
D'Esperey was able to turn it against von Buelow 's 
exposed flank and smash it over the Marne, garner- 

74 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

ing much spoil. But his right, and the left of the 
Ninth Army, had been forced to give ground before 
the left of the Second German Army consolidated 
to wedge at a weak spot detected east of Sezanne. 
On Foch's right and De Gary's left, the Saxon and 
Wurttemberg Corps also pushed back the French be- 
low Mailly where the ground was impassable, and 
only the arrival of reinforcements from both Alsace 
and Lorraine saved the bulges from breaking. 

Helped by the splendid Lorraine Corps that he 
had commanded and trained, Foch, who was fighting 
three distinct engagements near Sezanne, snatched 
a double victory by an operation which in detail will 
form an interesting chapter in new textbooks. Von 
Buelow's Guard Corps, unable to pierce Foch's 
center on a ridge and protected by the St. Gond 
marshes, left a covering line there, and moved over 
to join the Saxons in smashing his right. With left 
and right wings both driven far back, Foch turned 
his well advanced center westward, and fell on the 
flank of the enemy there, retaking the Chateau de 
Mondement. His left now rallied, a maneuver the 
enemy was forced to withdraw before. Then by 
night he faced his center from west to east, attacked 
the flank of the eager Guards and Saxons pounding 
his right wing, and forced them to fall back. Vic- 
tory was thus snatched from impending disaster at 
Fere Champeniose by Foch's superb genius, which 
here broke the persistent theory of envelopment by 

75 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

mass on both wings, which marked the strategy of 
the German generals. 

As the Guard fell back in confusion through the 
swamps of St. Gond, Foch's artillery in the center 
smashed the retreat to a rout. Von Buelow, Guards 
and Saxons were now defeated, and by September 
10 were retiring full speed to the Marne, leaving 
General von Schack and many other wounded officers 
on the field. One Guard regiment had five officers 
left out of sixty. 

The discouraged citizens of Epernay, scraping 
their francs to pay their last crushing fine, heard a 
rumbling and rushed out to see the German forces 
pouring through the city in flight. Von Buelow and 
von Hausen marched rapidly north, with the French 
so closely at their heels that the rear guards left 
on the Marne were overwhelmed before they could 
prepare to stand. Closely pursued by the Fifth and 
Ninth Armies, these forces attempted to rally on 
the hills below Bheims, but the French troops had 
tasted victory and attacked so rapidly that the Ger- 
man batteries retired at a gallop. Bheims, the best 
prize of the war, was lost, and the Second and Third 
Armies in full retreat poured past the city and 
reached the fortified barrier line, five miles north, 
where they rallied and intrenched. With his center 
on the hills above Bheims, von Buelow 's right was 
bent back northwest along the road to Laon, to the 
Aisne, resting on the Craonne plateau, leaving a 

76 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

wide vulnerable gap to von Kluck. His left, east of 
Eheims, was deployed on the fortified heights of 
Berru and Nogent, the Saxons continuing the line 
across the Moronvillers plateau, protecting the 
upper railroad across the Champagne. 

During these kaleidoscopic operations, the Fourth 
and Third French Armies had played their special 
part. The Duke of Wurttemberg had essayed the 
double role of joining the frontal attack, and watch- 
ing the flank of the Crown Prince. During the 
operations already recorded, De Cary threw the re- 
enforced Fourth Army vigorously at the forces of 
the Grand Duke at Sompuis. The fight raged 
fiercely until the collapse of von Hausen (who was 
unjustly made the scapegoat for the Guard defeat 
and summarily retired). This left Wurttemberg 's 
right flank in the air. This Fourth German Army 
was pressing De Cary hard. His line had been 
saved by the arrival of a corps sent from the Vosges 
on the 9th. But he now drove at the exposed right, 
retook Cermaize and broke the Nineteenth Corps. 
This wing was forced to retreat along the old Cha- 
lons road, and was heavily shelled. There was dan- 
ger now that the Wurttemberg army might be 
pushed back northeast along the few main roads that 
led to the Argonne, already cluttered by the Crown 
Prince 's wagons, so the entire line had to disengage 
and retire north along poor roads, east of Chalons, 
which was so hurriedly abandoned that stores of 

77 



French military equipment were left there un- 
touched. 

The confusion of the Wurttembergers was in- 
creased when their right reached the great maneuver 
ground of the French army. Every range was 
known on terrain so familiar to all French troops, 
and despite its heavy losses the Fourth Army with 
its guns and cavalry kept the Germans at the double 
as they retreated across Champagne and conformed 
to the line of the Saxons and von Buelow. 

Having definitely cleared their front, the victori- 
ous French troops rapidly reformed for their inde- 
pendent role. Though quite out of touch with Foch 
and with his flank open, De Gary recalled the bulk 
of his forces, and in echelon pushed his army vigor- 
ously at the now exposed flank of the army of the 
Crown Prince. The entire German front had col- 
lapsed section by section, like a house of cards. 

Recall that the Fifth German Army, pushing 
south, had bent Sarrail back sharply from Verdun, 
until he was at right angles to the general French 
line and facing west. De Gary's rapid change of 
front eastward soon left the Crown Prince impo- 
tent in a "V," and with more cavalry the French 
could have surrounded him. He tried first to smash 
through so as to reach the apex of the wedge driven 
in from the east front, and cut his way out. Re- 
pulsed, he turned in precipitate retreat, losing heav- 
ily as he escaped from the cul-de-sac in which he was 

78 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

incased through his own blunders. Granting the 
difficulties of the region, the strategy and tactics of 
the army led by the Kaiser's son were pathetic, 
though German history will no doubt be charitable 
and partial. Eapid marching, and terrain difficult 
for French artillery, alone saved his army, which 
fell back to Varennes and Montfaucon though 
the pursuit ended near Clermont, the French being 
utterly exhausted. He had thus lost the railway and 
roads across the Argonne to Verdun and the Third 
and Fourth French Armies were consolidated on a 
shortened and straightened front north and west 
of the fortress. 

Eagerly fresh German forces advanced down the 
salient from Metz, pointed east, south of Verdun. 
Beaumont was captured, and Troyon again was bom- 
barded and tottering. But no effort now could reach 
the Crown Prince. On September 23 the Germans 
did reach the Meuse from the east. St. Mihiel was 
captured, and a vigorous lunge was made at the 
rear of Sarrail's line. He coolly detached his cav- 
alry corps held in reserve, and by a surprise drove 
back the invaders as they debouched. Forces from 
Nancy also came over and ended the danger. But 
the Germans maintained their grip on St. Mihiel, 
the point of a veritable thorn in the side of France, 
which enormous efforts have failed to expel. Yet 
below this wedge when the Germans rushed reen- 
forcements to help hold the Aisne, the First and 

79 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Second French Armies advanced on the front from 
Nancy to Belfort, and drove the enemy back to the 
frontier. 

On September 8 privileged neutrals had been taken 
to the Crown Prince 's headquarters to see his drive 
triumph. A visitor pointed, on the way, to Domremy, 
Jeanne d 'Arc's birthplace, southwest of Toul. The 
German artillery was pouring shells on the patient 
French lines, and the Staff was in high spirits. 
"Our guns will soon be too noisy for angels' whis- 
pers in the Chenus," jeered one. "There will be 
spirits enough there for all the Joans!" added an- 
other. "And a much alive zug for every girl too!" 
laughed a third. The Crown Prince was silent. 
Nancy was to fall that day, and there was no news 
from his father. Neither had the Trouee of 
Charmes been forced. So Domremy would hear no 
guns, for her sons with Dubail had not failed. For 
days the girls in the famous school by Joan's cot- 
tage had prayed, "Save France!" Then they 
learned that a cheering Vosges corps had been 
rallied near the village, able to go back to help the 
army at Vitry. And even the French censors did 
not suppress the news when four days after Nancy 
the Crown Prince himself was in full flight. So 
their faith in their patron saint will never die 
these pathetic, earnest little-mothers of France! 

During the retreat superb discipline and superior 
strength of artillery and machine guns saved the 

80 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

German armies from complete disaster. With mod- 
ern weapons rear-guard actions are full of possibili- 
ties. But they had played small part in German 
training, and of all their generals involved in the 
retreat, von Kluck alone had profited by the lessons 
taught by the Allies during their masterly with- 
drawal from Belgium. But once on the Aisne, they 
could not be dislodged. 

Intrenching machines and heavy artillery aided 
the German Army in its rapid efforts to dig in and 
consolidate on the new line west of Verdun and along 
the Aisne. Vast convoys of ammunition were pour- 
ing down their lines of communication, while the 
Allies' stores had been seriously depleted by the 
drain of the Marne battle. Lack of heavy guns also 
hampered the French and British Armies, which 
could make no adequate reply to the heavier calibers 
of the German artillery. 

Except for the artillery battle on the St. Mihiel 
salient, all operations below Verdun soon relapsed 
to siege warfare, with the Germans everywhere back 
on their own frontier. Westward from Verdun the 
tactics of the Crown Prince were simple. He had 
uncovered the road and railway through Clermont 
without an effort, but he dug in on a front from 
Etain well above the fortress, to Varennes, and at 
Vienne west of the Argonne forest, and endeavored 
by siege artillery to break the vital French communi- 
cations with Verdun which had slipped from his 

81 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

grasp. In the forest a series of picturesque and 
elemental battles raged for weeks, as the Germans 
attempted to link their divided front, and the French 
detachments stalked them in the gloomy tangle. 
Prodigal use of barbed wire and machine guns en- 
abled a rough line gradually to be established while 
woodland paths were turned into roads. Verdun it- 
self, like Nancy, could hardly hear a German gun, 
and the great efforts to open these direct gates be- 
tween France and Germany had failed. 

The Wurttemberg army dug in on the right, across 
the ancient battle ground of Attila, on the providen- 
tial chalk hills extending across the Champagne Pou- 
illeuse and protecting the Bazancourt-Challerange 
railway. The line rested on the natural ramparts of 
Tahure, Massiges, Mesnil, and the butte above 
Souaine (a city they tried to hold but soon lost) to 
the five-mile ridge above Auberive and the Suippe 
which was held by the redistributed Saxons and von 
Buelow, across the Moronvilliers plateau round the 
hills above Rheims to the Aisne heights. 

For several days von Buelow fought back vigor- 
ously and fruitlessly to recapture Eheims. Failing 
in this he made a desperate lunge eighteen miles east 
of the city, a surprise attack to break the French cen- 
ter and regain Souaine. Burning to retrieve their 
defeat at St. Gond, the Guards led the attack against 
the right of their old adversary at daybreak. The 
French were reorganizing their forces in open 

82 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

ground, with their reserves at Souaine. But their 
advanced posts, supported by heavy cavalry, fought 
back steadily and made a stand in the barricaded 
village of Auberive, holding out against overwhelm- 
ing odds until help arrived. Dragoons with machine 
guns held one road against seven massed attacks. 

While this hornets ' nest was checking the on- 
slaught, the French infantry were marching rapidly 
from Souaine, and the batteries, desperately needed, 
were cantering up the macadam road in column, a 
mile beyond their supports, when an aeroplane 
swooped over and reported that the guns had out- 
distanced the infantry. A brigade of German light 
cavalry at once made a detour to intercept the ven- 
turesome artillery. The Death's Head Hussars led 
the attack. Four narrow, screened paths through 
an abandoned vineyard enabled the cavalry to trot 
smartly to the flank of the marching batteries, and 
debouch in squadron columns on the edge of an open 
field which the road traversed 800 yards away. 
The long column of guns and wagons moved in a cloud 
of dust, and the gunners saw their danger only when 
their mounted flank guards were sabered as the 
enemy squadrons galloped into line and swept for- 
ward. In appalling confusion the batteries halted, 
unlimbered, and the guns came into action from the 
road, with intervals choked with limbers, wagons 
and plunging horses. As the Hussars changed from 
a gallop to a charge less than 200 yards distant, the 

83 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

75 's spoke thrice at point-blank range the race with 
death was theirs by a margin 'of seconds. The 
charging line quivered, slowed, and collapsed in 
pitiful heaps. Victory had slipped from their grasp, 
as the impetuosity of many officers brought them 
headlong into the French line. 

The scene repeated Balaklava. The shattered 
squadrons wheeled in confusion and rode madly 
back to cover, the guns belching behind them across 
fields littered with dead and dying. The brigade 
was literally shot to pieces. No poet laureate will 
immortalize this fight; six lines in the official re- 
port covered the entire day's battle. 

The batteries were hurried on up the road, where 
they found their dismounted cavalry nearly en- 
veloped. The Guard Corps made three desperate 
frontal attacks before Auberive and gained the 
village before the French infantry could all get up. 
But with cavalry too shattered to guard their flank, 
their position was soon enfiladed by Zouaves, who 
had advanced unseen along the Suippe, and a rapid 
retirement was necessary. Heavy guns soon bat- 
tered Auberive to pieces, however, and the French 
abandoned the exposed position and consolidated 
their lines above Souaine. 

On von Buelow's left, along the Aisne, the army 
of von Kluck had made a determined fight. With 
the river directly below him, he never expected that 
the Allies could cross. When the British fought 

84 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

their way over and gained the edge of the ridge, he 
made desperate efforts to throw them back. But 
the thin line clung fast. Every man was needed on 
this precarious front and the British had no re- 
serves. But a brigade of the First Division pushed 
up the valley of Vendresse through a tempest of fire, 
and after heavy losses companies of the Northamp- 
tons, supported by dismounted cavalry, reached the 
top of the ridge and clung to the ditch on the Chemin 
des Dames, the road which marked the main Ger- 
man front. They formed the tip of a wedge which 
aimed at von Kluck 's left, straight for the vulner- 
able gap which at first existed between the First 
and Second German Armies. 

Realizing the danger, von Kluck directed fourteen 
counter attacks on the vastly outnumbered forces 
at the top of the valley, all of which failed; and in 
a drive aimed at the base of this wedge, maintained 
by Haig, who commanded the British right, the Ger- 
mans lost a battery and 600 prisoners. 

General French sent to Joffre's headquarters for 
reinforcements to enlarge the wedge. At this junc- 
ture De Castelnau was rushing over from Nancy 
with some of his finest troops. If these corps could 
have been pushed up in the gap, the Germans admit 
that von Kluck would have been cut off from the 
other armies and again forced to retire. But Gen- 
eral Joffre decided that De Castlenau's army could 
be detrained more rapidly farther west toward 

85 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Noyon on von Kluck 's exposed right and rear to 
definitely turn that flank. 

So the British held on grimly against repeated 
assaults, almost expelled by one desperate subter- 
fuge. Stretcher bearers were allowed to approach 
the head of the valley under the Geneva emblem, to 
collect the German wounded between the lines ; but 
machine guns were treacherously unloaded from the 
litters, and a murderous enfilade opened on the 
British, who had humanely ceased fire and were 
standing up in their trenches. An attack by masses 
at once supported this treacherous act ; but it failed, 
and the machine guns were left in the open, with 
new heaps of German dead. 

The British maintained their menace to the gap 
while De Castelnau's attack was developing, but 
just as the Sixth Division and heavy howitzers ar- 
rived from England, and a Morocco brigade of the 
Fifth Army came up to support the British wedge, 
unexpected help reached von Kluck. 

Hearing of the Marne defeat, General von Zwehl, 
left with a Corps of Reservists to garrison Maubeuge 
and guard cpmmunications, made forced marches to 
Laon without orders. His forces were flung across 
the gap, linking von Buelow and von Kluck 's firmly. 
For his initiative he was decorated and promoted 
on the field. Had Maubeuge been able to hold out 
longer history might have been different. The Ger- 
man front was now solid. As the Sixth Army was 

86 



THE ALLIES STRIKE BACK 

pushing von Kluck's right wing well north of the 
Aisne, and De Castelnau was preparing his envelop- 
ing movement on the extreme right, reinforcements 
from every army were shifted over to von Kluck, 
who built up a rapid curve on his flank and soon 
masked De Castelnau 's advance. These maneuvers 
definitely turned the lines northward to the vicinity 
of Noyon. 

The battle of the Aisne had now degenerated into 
a dead-locked front of definite siege warfare. Von 
Kluck had proved himself a brilliant and resourceful 
general, superior in strategy and tactics to his ma- 
chine-made confreres. By a narrow margin he had 
saved his army from a second retreat, and had thus 
saved the German line. 



CHAPTER IV 
A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

LET us take a more personal view of the new phases 
of the conflict after the stupendous battle of millions 
had resolved itself into a huge siege operation from 
Switzerland to Noyon. From September 21 the 
fighting on the German flank in the districts of Eibe- 
court, Noyon and Eoye, with many interlocking posi- 
tions and scores of minor battles, was like a game 
of chess. On September 30 a night attack gave the 
Germans the heights of Eoye and Fresnoy le Grande, 
northwest of Noyon, and the lines became definitely 
established on a firm curve northward from 
the Aisne. Until then no rigid front had been estab- 
lished across this zone. Life and property were no- 
where safe, and the farmers in the cultivated forests 
of the Oise suffered shamefully from German raid- 
ing parties foraging at night. The French invari- 
ably treated these freebooters as prisoners of war 
when caught, though, with the Germans, a peasant 's 
frown was a death-warrant. Specific cases of rape 
and degeneracy, frequent when von Kluck's Ee- 
serves were resting on the Ourcq, were repeated on 
the Oise. 

88 



Checked on the heights of Lassigny, De Castel- 
nau dug in, filled his trenches with territorials and 
pushed his picked forces to Amiens, to feel again 
for the German flank. Amade's cavalry reoccupied 
the St. Quentin roads, menacing important lines of 
communication, and other forces worked their way 
up the Somme valley in support. It was impressive 
to watch the change in the inhabitants of Amiens 
as the army based there pushed successfully east- 
ward. 

After the battle of Moreuil the Pickelhaubens of 
von Kluck's Reserve Corps had goose-stepped ma- 
jestically down the Rue Jules Barny, when they 
captured Amiens September 3, Amade retiring 
through Picquigny. They withdrew with no bands 
or chorus of Deutschland uber Alles, horse, foot and 
guns scrambling out on the 13th when von Kluck's 
retreat had uncovered the roads from the south. 
They left huge levies of wine and cigars uncollected, 
and did not seriously damage the railways, except to 
blow up one bridge as Sordet's cavalry approached. 

With incredible speed the Royal Engineers erected 
bridges of crib work on the already destroyed struc- 
tures on the Rouen branch. The French put cross- 
ings on the spans they had blown up on the Abbe- 
ville section. They were tested for a night by heavy 
express engines, and within two days the lines to 
Paris, Havre and North France, of special strategic 
value, were in operation. 

89 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

When I read the proclamations posted up in this 
district, in German and French Bekanntmachung 
or Avis moderate despite "Ordnungsgemasen," 
"Nichtbefolgung," Poliseiverwaltungen and Emp- 
fangsbescheinigung, it was apparent that German 
soldiers, like those of other armies, reflect the will 
and desire of their immediate commanders. The 
orders were different from the rigorous effusions I 
had seen elsewhere. I made diligent inquiries and 
emphasize the fact that I did not hear a serious com- 
plaint of brutality during the occupation, when 
Amiens was crowded with women and children from 
other districts. They took away many young men 
of the next recruit classes, an act of war, but they 
purchased instead of looting, and their requisitions 
were not excessive. General von Stockhausen and 
M. Fiquet, the mayor, deserve special commendation 
for their actions in those trying days. 

We cannot believe that the people of Picardy are 
merely more truthful than the inhabitants of other 
departments, from whom I heard stories of brutal- 
ity which cannot be swept away as lies or hysterical 
exaggerations, especially from the towns which were 
not torn to pieces in conflict, when suffering and 
horror are unavoidable. In most places the Ger- 
mans have been guilty of murder and outrage. 
Many soldiers were paleolithic men ; others were de- 
generates. Fiends were allowed full sway when 
those in authority were disciples of that pernicious 

90 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

doctrine of terrorism and destruction of all spiritual 
and moral structures; a code of war laid down by 
leading military writers in Germany. Side by side 
in Belgium and France you could trace the advance 
of humane leaders and the ruthless trail of those who 
had read, unwisely or too well, specific passages of 
"Kriegsbrauch in Landkriege." 

I could fill several volumes with the story of Ger- 
man ruthlessness not far away. Of special interest, 
however, is the treatment of the famous Au Fond des 
Forets, the beautiful country seat of Mr. William 
Payne of New York and his paralyzed wife, at Rosoy 
on the Oise. The British had camped in their 
grounds, but not a thing had been touched. Leaving 
three American flags on the Chateau and gates, the 
owners moved out when the Germans approached. 
The Stars and Stripes were torn down, pinned on 
the lawn and polluted. The Chateau was looted 
from attic to wine cellar, and of the historical furni- 
ture, prized library and collection of arms, tapestry, 
paintings and antiques, everything that could not be 
sent back to Germany was hacked to pieces. Dead 
horses were buried in the lawn, stained glass win- 
dows of Cucci were smashed, and Mrs. Payne's 
clothes were looted or torn up. Every bed was 
polluted. The Chateau de Chamant, home of Mr. 
Jefferson Davis Cohan near Senlis, was occupied by 
von Kluck's staff. The private property of this 
American was coolly loaded in his own farm wagons 

91 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

and driven off. Prince Eitel was at the Chateau 
Sivier at Choisy near Compiegne. When he left the 
art treasures were carted away with his baggage. 
The country seat of a Philadelphia lady was com- 
pletely looted. Her stock of preserves was emptied 
and each jar carefully refilled with offal. These 
are a few instances out of hundreds, but significant 
because in modern wars neutral flags have generally 
won immunity for property of foreign residents. 

I wish that I could take you through the black 
ruins of many historic French homes so that you 
would appreciate the vandalism which character- 
ized the German advance, and the destruction of so 
much that belongs to history rather than to an in- 
dividual owner or nation. In an indignant message 
to the United States, the Crown Prince denied the 
stories of looting by the German forces in general, 
and his own command in particular. The treatment 
of homes of neutral Americans in France is an em- 
phatic answer to his Eoyal Highness, and on his own 
front there have been shameful looting and spolia- 
tion. Some neutrals have visited the Chateau de 
Baye near Champaubert, M. Minnon's Chateau near 
Sedan, and a home at Revigny after the Crown 
Prince had moved his respective headquarters. And 
the treatment of women by men in his command 
during the advance of this royal plunderer was far 
worse than more isolated incidents on the route of 
the First Army. 

92 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

There is a need for moderate statements. But 
arson, organized pillage and foul pollution charac- 
terized the general German advance. The command- 
ers of several army corps also specifically author- 
ized murder and ignored rape, as their masses swept 
across France. In consequence a million women 
and children fled in mad terror from the northern de- 
partments, enduring terrible hardships and priva- 
tions, and leaving zones not endangered by battle. 
"Es bleibe kein Feind lebend Jiinter uns," was one 
clause of an order by General Stenger at Thiaville. 

Thousands of French troops were soon moving 
through Amiens to the fighting east of the city, 
when the flanking offensive was checked and ham- 
mered into a French defensive across the Somme 
valley and the plateau of Thipeval. The campaign 
was full of exciting and picturesque incidents. 

A moving picture of the effect of masked machine 
guns in checking the second advance of the French 
near Albert would speak eloquently of many phases 
of German success. Six hundred dead or frightfully 
wounded lay heaped in one sunken road along which 
a comparatively small force had deployed and at- 
tempted to sweep over the bank to charge. Verest- 
chagin alone could have painted the scene there. 
The attacking lines had been instantly swept away 
when exposed to a cleverly masked company of quick 
firers, the dead or dying falling back into the road 
with the survivors who waited until the 75 's cleared 

93 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the way, after which some ground was regained. 

War is no longer picturesque ; but in France mili- 
tary tradition had died hard in a land where the 
popular will has so frequently swept aside civil tradi- 
tion. With the exception of the dull linen covers for 
the headdress, the uniforms for the first few months 
were the same as those endeared to our hearts by 
the pens of French writers and the brushes of her 
artists. There was a puzzling sense of familiarity 
with every scene, a positive idea that you had partici- 
pated in it all before. 

Let us watch the French near Albert prepare a 
village for defense the troops of De Castelnau, the 
"permanent" general whose popularity is second 
only to Pere Joffre 's, and who has lost his three sons 
in the war. The artillery behind the hill have 
dropped from a Berne-Bellecour canvas. A squad- 
ron of dragoons are retiring down a road flanked 
by a canal lined with poplars. The farm, and espe- 
cially the water, are Thaulow ; the rest Beauquesne. 
Nothing has changed since '70 except the uniforms 
of the dejected prisoners who move down the road, 
and are given milk and wine by the village women 
an act of splendid magnanimity from people who 
know that sympathy from civilians for French pris- 
oners in Germany has been severely punished. 

Now a travel-stained regiment of infantry marches 
up with the loose plodding route-step of the French, 
denoting a spirit so peculiarly their own. These 

94 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

pioupious have stepped from the covers of several 
popular authors they are old comrades. Some 
joke, others laugh and sing, and the older men are 
marked by the dignity and reserve of men uprooted 
from their homes and families and flung into suf- 
fering and endurance, facing a death that few then 
could hope to escape. The curious tilt-carts driven 
by standing soldiers are De Neuville ; so also are the 
horse-ambulances driven by " pantalons rouges." 
The village square bristling with picturesque mili- 
tary preparation is merely a canvas of Edouard De- 
taille, and when a flock of geese scatter before a 
group of staff officers who ride up rapidly, and in- 
fantrymen drag lumbering farm wagons down to 
barricade the road against Uhlans and armored cars, 
the illusion is complete. Your mind can see this 
just as clearly as my eyes did. Thus art and litera- 
ture can make the whole world kin. 

But the opening roar of guns in the hills brings us 
back to solid reality as three sweet-faced nuns, in 
spotless headdress, walk calmly to the church, ready 
for the wounded, who soon trickle in on stretchers 
strapped to automobiles, which strike discordant 
modern notes in the vivid reproduction of the scenes 
we have stored in earliest memory. Some of the 
peasants have gone, but many remain, and despite 
the ruthless destruction a few miles away, and com- 
ing nearer, they carry food to the tired patrols and 
to the hungry prisoners, who are haggard, and some 

95 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

of whom are kindly faced fellows to contrast with 
their blasphemous Feldwebel and a group of thugs. 

A French sergeant offers to pay, and madame, the 
mayor's wife, is furiously angry a village matron, 
she talks with the dignity of a duchess. A bearded 
French boy, with sunken eyes that glow like hot 
coals, replies in a graceful flow of speech which re- 
calls Tellegen with Bernhardt, in "The Christmas 
Night." The soldiers clap madame wipes away a 
tear, and calls them her dear sons. How your heart 
goes out to these people of France, simple and kind- 
hearted ! The enemy at their throats, they are fight- 
ing for their homes, and they are trying to be brave 
and cheerful when every heart is breaking. 

The aeroplanes, another modern note, rush past 
overhead very low, and above the hill, behind which 
French artillery is concealed, a large craft appears, 
shaped exactly like a bird, the wings marked with the 
Maltese cross. The Taube insists on knowing what 
is going on, the French machines are lighter and 
faster, and finally the German reels and slithers side- 
ways to the ground. The soldiers give a reserved 
cheer ; a wagon and ambulance go out. The French 
machines, however, fly off without waiting the fight 
is all in the day's work. And on one hill the Alpine 
artillery, brought from the Vosges to serve the few 
heavy guns, are screening their position bronzed 
hardy mountaineers in picturesque barets and put- 
tees. 

96 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

French troops were not in Albert, but the pretty 
town was battered to pieces at considerable cost for 
ammunition for its wanton destruction. The beau- 
tiful church of Notre Dame de Brebieres was left, 
a sad ruin, with the figure of the Virgin shot away 
from the tower, but suspended sideways by its 
tangled supports. 

During a prolonged lull, on the first Sunday in 
October, women and children crept back to the piti- 
ful ruins of their homes to see what they could save. 
Without warning, shells were flung into them, killing 
one and fatally tearing a child with shrapnel. It is 
difficult to find an excuse for these gunners, and less 
palliation for the shells fired at the motor ambulance 
which went out for the little girl. It is fair to 
point out that all vehicles in the French Army carry 
small flags denoting the corps and branch of the 
service. It is not always possible to distinguish the 
Geneva emblem, but the German system gives no 
benefit of a doubt. In Albert the women, the chil- 
dren and the ambulance were all obvious, however. 
It was wanton murder. 

Two Sundays afterward, when passing again 
through Amiens, I saw a Taube drop bombs on the 
Evacuation Hospital on the rue Paul Tellier. One 
burst in the hospital yard, killing a well-known lady 
visiting the wounded, and injuring her daughter. 
The teams of some loaded ambulances stampeded, and 
each was stopped by French soldiers guarding the 

97 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

entrance to the railroad station, quiet, bearded Re- 
servists who caught the horses, adjusted the 
wounded, and resumed their posts. 

At the Champ des Courses an aviation park had 
just been founded. French aviators pursued the 
Taube, which dropped a second bomb at Picquigny, 
where a hundred women were giving water and cig- 
arettes to soldiers, as passing troop trains slowed 
down to cross the repaired bridges. Many were in- 
jured. A warning was telephoned to Abbeville, then 
held by the London Scottish volunteers, and a visit- 
ing British airman went up. The Taube then turned 
back and a French flier was over it in a flash. Three 
times the "dove" drove upward, and three times the 
more rapid Frenchman looped above his rival, firing 
when his machine righted itself. In five minutes the 
Taube crashed to the earth, both the occupants being 
killed. 

Apart from their brutal tactics, the scientific effi- 
ciency of the German air service is as unquestioned 
as the bravery of its aviators. In combat they suf- 
fered often because of the heavy stability of their 
machines. But for general military purposes their 
training was then unsurpassed. In ranging for ar- 
tillery, they would parallel a position, outlining its 
confines with smoke bombs or tinsel streamers if 
sunny, thus marking the sector for their gunners. 
At night they essayed flights, releasing parachute 
magnesium flares over bivouacs, parked convoys or 

98 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

ammunition trains, and made precarious landing at 
their base as a rain of shells searched out the 
lighted position. 

The feeding of vast armies in the field is a difficult 
and complex undertaking. When the German ma- 
chine became disorganized its efficient kitchen serv- 
ice went to pieces, and the men approached starva- 
tion after their emergency rations were devoured. 
The flexibility of French methods was adaptable to 
most circumstances. In trench warfare, however, 
the Germans were at first able to send their Feld- 
kuchen nearer the front, while the French broke 
monotony by alternating platoons for guard, re- 
serve and commissary, so that every third normal 
day the men got change, exercise, and a hot meal 
before taking up rations and supplies. An abun- 
dant meal of cooked meat, and vegetables, bread, red 
wine and coffee, was the French staple, helped out 
with rations of cheese and chocolate. But the people 
in the district were never too poor to remember their 
army, and it was touching to see the contributions 
made by the peasants. I have seen children with 
loaded baskets trudge along shell-swept roads daily, 
with gifts for soldiers whom they had never 
seen. 

The fortitude of the French wounded exhibited 
the most wonderful side of the national tempera- 
ment, and if you have seen them, you will hiss the 
next time your intelligence is outraged by the stage 

99 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

travesty of a Frenchman, just as you wonder at 
the popular foreign conception of British officers 
as monocled donkeys, when you see the modest, 
clean-cut men who lead their forces at the front. 
Only swagger German officers now wear 
monocles. 

At first most of the wounds were the clean punc- 
tures of the modern bullet. Occasionally the nickel 
coating becomes damaged and spreads, or the bullet 
is deflected, and topples in the body, making a fright- 
ful hole at egress. Uninitiated at once cry dum 
dums, but we learned to know these wounds in Cuba 
and South Africa. 

Some German soldiers reversed their bullets and 
fired them base first. I have never been able to 
loosen the slightly blunt French bullet, though with 
the pentacapsular clips of the Mauser bullets can 
generally be worked loose with the fingers and 
turned. I have found one clip with three cartridges 
thus reversed and. reset in wax. This would spoil 
accuracy but inflict a terrible wound. 

During September, diabolical wounds from shell 
fire, indescribably terrible in effect, became -common, 
though considering the persistent hail of heavy pro- 
jectiles which the Germans maintained on the Allies' 
positions, the losses inflicted were light. The high- 
angle howitzers, so potent against fortifications, are 
jokes when they fall from the clouds into receptive 
mother earth. With their great weight they burrow 

100 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

deeply, and the explosion makes a miniature volcano, 
dangerous only for those on the crater. A group of 
Royal Artillery drivers across the Aisne were play- 
ing cards when an 11-inch shell dropped among them, 
tearing off one man's leg. It exploded well under- 
ground, and the circle of men were raised, dazed but 
scathless, on a cone of earth. Only the maimed man 
lost his life. Bayonet wounds were common in Pi- 
cardy and generally fatal, owing, it was said, to some 
preparation smeared on the weapon. 

Saber wounds were encountered in volume only 
during this stage of the war when cavalry charged 
cavalry, and the Uhlan all-steel lances proved a 
deadly weapon, though in swordsmanship and shock 
both the French and British cavalry proved dis- 
tinctly superior. 

It has been said that the training of the French 
troops was lax. But "le soldat de demain" has to 
face a Spartan course, which is heartbreaking for 
those lacking virility. For some years the French 
have been following outdoor sports with avidity, 
until they have been producing athletes able to com- 
pete on equal terms with their cross-Channel neigh- 
bors. There is naturally no tirage au sort for the 
present recruit classes. Every lad is anxious to 
serve, and from the moment that a recruit receives 
his feuille de route, he has the deepest contempt for 
a pekin, as he terms a civilian. 

The French army is absolutely democratic, and the 

101 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

* 

Ein Jdhr previller of the German army, which 
groups some men of superior education, is unknown. 
The average Frenchman has little use for aristo- 
crats, and the sons of the best families are gruffly 
patronized by the ordinary private until they forget 
their airs. From 5 A. M. " reveille" to "retraite" 
the recruits drill, march, dig trenches, and perform 
fatigue until dark. For recreation there is setting- 
up drill and instruction in the savate, French boxing, 
to make the recruits aggressive. 

After a course of heavy field training, the class is 
ready for the third line of the . reserve near the 
front, where the final practice with the long French 
rifle at a changing silhouette target, and route 
marches of twenty miles with full equipment, often 
under shell fire, graduate the pioupiou to the 
front line, where his average term of life proved 
short in the terrible early days. Ask them if they 
are downhearted. "C'est la me, que voulez-vous?" 
They have little need to study their military code, 
"Moral duties of a soldier." Since the war, many 
regiments have had no cases of arrets de rigueur, 
and the priccoteur, or shirker, has disappeared. 

A glance at their towns occupied only by youths 
and women bravely trying to be cheerful, tells one 
story. But in the churches their mask is discarded, 
and life can never be the same again to those who 
have seen the packed rows of kneeling figures, who 
may never know the fate of their loved ones, but 

102 



A MORE PERSONAL VIEW IN PICARDY 

who supplicate silently with faith when the shadow 
of death is on their hearts, or chant the national 
prayer, "Sauvez la France, ne I'dbandonnez pas, 19 
majestic in its simplicity. 



CHAPTER V 
THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

IT was soon evident that De Castelnau's effort to 
turn the German flank near St. Quentin, late in Sep- 
tember, and cut their main communications cross- 
ing France from Belgium, had failed. Amade's 
cavalry was pushed northwest by the Hessian Divi- 
sion that marched up through Chauny and Ham 
against Peronne, the advanced French base which 
was lost in attacks from the south and east. The 
enemy marched west in force on both sides of the 
Somme, and a furious battle raged east of Amiens. 
Wounded poured into the city, windows shook with 
gun shock, and for two days the people expected the 
Germans to return any hour. 

French reinforcements raced up from Beauvais, 
adding to the barrier of flesh and blood opposed to 
a hail of steel. All roads to the front were swept 
by heavy shells. From the hills little could be seen 
to define the situation. The German lines could 
be traced only by patches of vapor and upturned 
earth, but the French lines, on lower ground, were 
marked in red and blue, the fatally conspicuous uni- 
forms making an obvious target. Their front 
seemed strangely silent and thin under heavy pun- 

104 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

ishment. But as soon as gray masses rose to storm 
the crumbling French line, they were swept away by 
rifle and machine-gun fire, and field guns which were 
outclassed in the artillery duel but terribly effective 
when the battle developed. 

The German pressure soon spread above the river 
to the plateau of Thiepval. The Guard cavalry 
raided La Boiselle, and De Castelnau's right, ex- 
tending between Albert and Bapaume, was soon 
pushed back to the Amiens-Douai road. Here were 
fought the most brilliant cavalry actions of the war. 
The Chasseurs d'Afrique debouched suddenly be- 
fore the Imperial Dragoons at the halt. Serrez les 
rang si sounded, but the stirring notes of the charge, 
and conflicting German orders to the horse artillery 
and the troopers were drowned by the thunder of 
hoofs. Gunners were sabered as they came into 
action ; the speed quickened from 500 to 600 paces as 
the French cut their way through the irresolute dra- 
goons. Reforming under heavy machine-gun fire, 
with only one Chef d'Escadron left, the French cav- 
alry wheeled to the flank of the field batteries in 
action near Fricourt and charged the artillery sup- 
ports. The guns limbered up and retired at a gal- 
lop to Guillemont, the impetuous CTiasses Marais in 
pursuit, though the batteries were protected and 
finally saved by armored cars. But the respite 
gained was vital. It enabled the French to push 
straight across the main road to Amiens and in- 

105 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

trench, and they had barred the most important 
approach to the city and the railroad. Other 
mounted regiments fought and drove back medium 
and heavy German cavalry from the flank, and 
cleared the Arras road. 

Checked on the banks of the Somme midway be- 
tween Peronne and Bray, and faced now by a solid 
front east of Albert, which stood persistent massed 
attacks, the Germans held a complete semicircle on 
the southern and western edge of the Thiepval 
plateau, maintaining a wide salient dominating the 
French positions. From these hills they destroyed 
Albert. But all efforts to debouch from the southern 
slopes to the Somme valley failed, and advances 
from the western ridges were met and stopped by 
De Castelnau's left now resting firmly along the 
Ancre. Amiens and the road to Arras were safe, 
and the Ancre line held through trying weeks, when, 
by mining and sapping, entire sections were blown 
up and the enemy trenches came ominously close. 
But all this was siege warfare, which had extended 
north forty miles from the Aisne across the Somme, 
and thirty miles north of the river, now nearly to 
Arras. 

Directly De Castelnau's flanking offensive re- 
verted to trench warfare, Joffre again reached north 
to repeat this strategy east of Arras. On Septem- 
ber 30, based on this ancient capital of Artois, a new 
army was gathered under General Maud'huy. Com- 

106 




MAP No. 2. 

AREAS ACROSS WHICH THE GERMAN ARMIES WERE CHECKED AND 
HALTED BY THE ALLIES IN SUCCESSIVE BATTLES WHICH CURVED 
THE INTRENCHED FRONT PROM THE AISNE NORTH TO THE BEL- 
GIAN COAST. 

107 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

posed chiefly of a mixed force of Territorials, this 
army was deployed on De Castelnau's left, extend- 
ing the front to Lens, while the cavalry, supported 
by strong columns, moved out from Arras along the 
Scarpe across the plain of Douai. These forces 
advanced well round the German flank and menaced 
communications at Valenciennes. But huge enemy 
forces had reached Cambrai to flank De Castelnau, 
and Maud'huy's offensive was checked and rolled 
back a duplicate of the previous maneuvers. The 
French retired to the line Hebuterne-Arras-Lens 
while heavy columns hammered their center, to cap- 
ture Arras. By October 5, Maud'huy was reorgan- 
izing his forces just east of the city. 

We have all read frequently of the "telescopic 
German right" which had been "steadily extended 
northward. ' ' This description can be applied to the 
forces of the Allies only. They had built up their 
line sector by sector. There was no "telescopic" 
extension of the German front above Noyon. It was 
a new invasion by mass. 

Speed was essential for a definite German 
triumph. Directly their armies were deadlocked on 
the Aisne, they had regrouped their forces for a 
great strategic stroke. On the frontier von Falken- 
hayn took command of covering corps on the de- 
fensive line, von Stranz broadened his front before 
Metz, and the Crown Prince extended his left round 
Verdun. This released the Sixth and Seventh 

108 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

Armies. Across Champagne von Einem extended 
the reorganized Third Army. Two corps command- 
ers were promoted, von Emmich, of Liege fame, and 
von Zwehl, questionable hero of Maubeuge and the 
Aisne gap. These commands, built up with forces 
from Alsace, Reservists, divisions of second line 
Landwehr and Ersatz formations, took over the in- 
trenched line between von Kluck and the Argonne, 
and released the Second and Fourth Armies. Thus 
four armies augmented by new divisions were free 
late in September to sweep back in a united effort 
to capture the rest of Belgium and all North France. 

Plan 1 of the General Staff, the capture of Paris 
and the rout of the French Army, had failed deci- 
sively. In a modified form Plan 2 was the natural 
sequence. This embraced the capture of Belgium, 
and all North France, above a line from Metz west 
to the sea, by seizing and intrenching the Rheims- 
Laon barrier along the Aisne and westward to Havre 
and the Seine mouth. The Marne retreat had now 
placed their armies on the eastern half of the selected 
line of positions which Nature had implanted along 
the greater part of this front, as an incentive for No. 
2 of Germany's defined plans of campaign, which 
would seize Belgium and rob France of her chief 
mineral and industrial regions and her most im- 
portant Channel ports. 

If the German leaders at first had been less im- 
petuous in their assurance of victory, Plan 2 might 

109 



UNDEE FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

have been consummated fully. When von Kluck cap- 
tured Amiens, with the Allies in retreat, his reserve 
corps and cavalry could have swept southwest, iso- 
lated Amade's forces and captured Rouen and Le 
Havre, avoiding the risk and losses of the dash 
south for Paris. The other armies would have ex- 
perienced little difficulty in extending and intrench- 
ing along the Aisne on a wider front to the west, thus 
embracing an extension to the sea of the same line 
to which they were soon driven with sanguinary loss. 
All the ports accessible from England would then 
have been cut off, an exposed flank avoided, and all 
North France occupied. The middle of October was 
to see the Germans holding firmly at a right angle 
to it, a longer and more difficult line north to Bel- 
gium than the one Plan 2 had selected from Laon 
west to the coast, and it was well east of the main 
railroad which linked Paris with ports 21 miles from 
England, while Dieppe and Le Havre, with its vast 
wharves and railroads, were open for Southampton 
to pour in daily fleets with men and stores. 

In September the German horde had been dead- 
locked on the intrenched Aisne line, like a tidal wave 
arrested by too strong a dam. The freed armies 
were to react, as the flood would recede from the 
barrier and flow round its confines. Von Heer- 
ingen and the Seventh Army, disengaged first, had 
gone over to operate between the Oise and Somme, 
above von Kluck 's right. Von Buelow with the Sec- 

110 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

ond Army, was striking due west, north of the 
Somme, aiming at Amiens, with his left swinging 
round toward Arras. He was checked as shown. 
The Sixth Army (Bavarian under Prince Rup- 
precht), was advancing further north, preceded by 
eight divisions of cavalry, and deploying above von 
Buelow between Arras and Belgium, aiming at Lille 
and the vast and practically undefended industrial 
regions of Nord and Pas de Calais. Above this 
army, on its right, the Fourth (Wurttemberg) was 
moving back to Belgium to cooperate with the Ninth 
Army under von Beseler, investing the Belgian Army 
in Antwerp. The siege guns were already reducing 
the fortress. The remnants of the Belgian Army 
were to be enveloped and driven to the sea or Hol- 
land. 

In theory, even when von Buelow was checked, 
German success was assured. With eighteen army 
corps and four corps of cavalry operating above 
Noyon, and upper North France guarded only by 
detachments of Territorials, the role appeared an 
easy one. With Belgium finished, the Fourth Army, 
its right on the coast, could clean up the weakly de- 
fended Channel ports, and in cooperation with the 
Bavarians in Artois and Pas de Calais, imposing 
masses could literally swamp the Allied flank when 
shaken by frontal attacks, and roll it south. 

Eecall the political trend of German strategy 
in the war. Its aim has been the extension of mili- 

111 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

tary lines as an actual extension of the German 
frontier. From the first the army may be said to 
have lifted the frontier posts and moved them as far 
outward across Belgium and France as they could 
force their way, making the ground behind solidly 
German. The nominal western frontier of Germany 
started at Antwerp and extended along a picketed 
line, through Brussels to France at Valenciennes and 
thence to the Aisne. Its southern border was 
marked firmly along the intrenched front. The 
next effort was to push the western frontier out- 
ward from the Noyon curve and, by sheer weight 
at the north, bend it forward until it extended 
straight across France to the western coast. Von 
Moltke had aimed for Paris and failed. His suc- 
cessor, von Falkenhayn, was reaching for Belgium 
and all North France : Plan 2. 

The Germans were operating on a concentric front 
from which troops could be moved rapidly by direct 
routes to any desired point. Belgian and French 
railroads had hastily been broken to delay the first 
invasion. But the skilled railroad corps had been 
long prepared for eventualities. Duplicate parts for 
destroyed bridges, surveys and material for re- 
construction, had long been ready. By October 1 
the network of Belgain and French railways was 
restored and practicable. Even dynamited tunnels 
had been excavated from above by steam shovels, 
and opened into cuttings. 

112 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

The Allies had to move men and stores by a cir- 
cuitous route, passing entirely along the new western 
front which the Germans were approaching, vulner- 
able at many points for attack in force, and open 
everywhere for raiders. But strategy must not only 
be based on knowledge of what an opponent is doing, 
but on a correct estimate of the action conditions 
will force upon him. Even the rapid report by aero- 
plane could not cover the unforeseen things which 
wrecked the ponderous German plan. Her mechan- 
ical definition of Force overlooked many elements 
of power which must come under the same heading. 
And Joffre seldom did the "correct" military thing 
as expected by minds trained in the rigid Moltke 
school. 

First, Germany did not seriously consider the 
French Territorials, or the Territorial Reserves of 
the last line, who had neither uniforms, stores, nor 
equipment, but possessed rifles and the spirit to dig 
and fight for France. Fathers and grandfathers, 
they died in a thousand minor actions, holding towns 
and villages and bridges, guarding the roads and 
railroads, eating and sleeping when fate decreed and 
placing no strain on organized resources. 

This left the active Territorials free for the fight- 
ing line. These had relieved De Castlenau 's left and 
enabled him to push up through Amiens overnight 
when the cavalry corps on the Somme, supported 
only by four Territorial divisions, were being over- 

113 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

whelmed. This developed the battle before Albert 
which saved the main railroad north. 

Unexpectedly Joffre had faced the risk, and, de- 
pleting the Territorial garrisons in the north, had 
massed them before Arras under Maud'huy, an in- 
transigent Lorrainer born at Metz. These forces 
made a solid line that bent but could not be broken. 
This left the two northern departments practically 
unprotected, but it kept open roads and rail vital 
for both British and French armies when they 
rushed up from the Aisne. The scattered garrisons 
that were to be swamped proved invincible when 
gathered as an unexpected army, and their final 
reserves proved heroes in their absence. 

Detachments of Uhlans and motorcyclists, who 
had moved round Arras to destroy bridges on road 
and rail between Amiens and Bethune, were routed 
at Doullens and St. Pol by Belgian armored cars 
manned by British Naval airmen under Commander 
Sampson. They had volunteered to patrol un- 
guarded roads, came by fortunate chance on the 
enemy, and broke another cog in the German ma- 
chine. 

A brigade of Marine Fusiliers, Breton recruits 
without sea service, marched recklessly from Dun- 
kirk to Belgium without supports. The British 
Seventh Division sent from England too late to help 
Antwerp, also landed at Ostend, a blunder of Wins- 
ton Churchill's which was to have a glorious result. 

114 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

These unexpected forces kept open roads by which 
the Belgian army was able to escape from Antwerp 
and envelopment, and because of these fortunate ac- 
cidents could join the Allies in fighting a delaying 
action, which broke the plans of the Wurttemburg 
army and saved the Channel ports. By a series of 
fortuitous circumstances, the ambitious German 
strategy was to fail at every point. 

Qui vive? Ou allez vous? The challenge was 
French when the post should have been British, and 
my companion on a trip toward Soissons had not 
troubled to get the "word" for the day and forgot 
also if the last countersign had been "Joan of Arc" 
or "Bouches du Rhone." He cursed the spies who 
turned signposts to deflect dispatch riders and con- 
voys toward the German lines with a maw of guns 
ready for the unwary. So we made a detour to get 
our bearings and gained the main road, singularly 
free from British transports and ambulances on 
an important line of communication. October had 
switched summer to winter with unprecedented ra- 
pidity, but the soldiers who stood shivering in the 
bitter rain wore the red and blue of France. 

We soon found parts of General French's army 
moving from the front. Could it be a retreat? 
No, because Messrs. Thomas Atkins were cheerful, 
singing ' ' Tipperary, " and singularly clean and sol- 
dierly; shaven, refitted, and well-groomed a strik- 

115 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ing contrast to anything that we had seen in the war. 

We soon learned that part of the French Army, 
and the British Army, were starting to withdraw 
from the Aisne to entrain for the north of France. 
Unit after unit was leaving the trenches after dark, 
and the new levies of France were taking their place. 
If French batteries were not available, spare wheels 
were taken from the artillery wagons or from farm- 
ers* carts, and dummy guns replaced the British 
batteries, leaving nothing new for the watchful 
aeroplanes to report. The new forces were manning 
the trenches secretly, and included the Second Regi- 
ment of the Foreign Legion with its effective Ameri- 
can contingent. In the ranks were two members of 
the Seventh New York, sons of Captain Towle, and 
Alan Seeger of Harvard. 

The British and strong French forces of the first 
line were packing up their multifarious equipment, 
moving down from the heights and over the river. 
Strategic initiative was impossible on the intrenched 
fronts. The Allies hoped to regain it by a rapid 
concentration above Arras which might decisively 
turn the German right, or, by masking it, sweep on 
into South Belgium to break communications and 
carry the war well behind the enemy's concentric 
front, and automatically relieve Antwerp, which was 
hard pressed. Its fall and the release of the Ger- 
man investing army would complicate the situation. 
If it held, much of Western Belgium might be saved. 

116 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

Hurrying back north in a Bed Cross car, we found 
the situation strangely complicated. There was a 
thunder of guns beyond the Arras road, and crowds 
of frightened refugees flocking west; invalids hud- 
dled in perambulators, children with cats and ca- 
naries, told the story. We had gone up ready for 
the hour that the Aisne forces reached Artois and 
pushed home Maud'huy's triumph. But the French 
had now been driven west from Douai, and enor- 
mous columns were already at the gates of Arras, 
with strong forces pushing the French left through 
Lens and breaking its link with the small Lille gar- 
rison. 

Maud'huy's right below Arras was pushed back 
west of the first Amiens road, losing the junction of 
the railway that joins the city with Amiens and 
Bapaume at Achiet. But his link with De Castel- 
nau was not pierced, and the front rested firmly 
before Monchy and Hebutern, saving the trunk road 
and important railway through Doullens. And his 
center stood firmly round Arras, clinging to the 
ruins of Blangy and its eastern suburb and circling 
round the ancient city, so intimately connected with 
French history, its sorrows and its glories. 

On October 6 a heavy bombardment raged over 
the lines and ruthlessly battered the city to pieces, 
murdering its citizens, destroying its famous build- 
ings, and wrecking concrete memorials to historic 
men and scenes. The first targets for Kultur were 

117 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the cathedral and the ancient Hotel de Ville with 
its magnificent belfry which has inspired architects 
and artists of all countries for centuries. Twice the 
enemy poured over the obsolete ramparts, and the 
streets ran with blood before they were expelled. 

When the General Staff found that the Aisne Army 
was passing north, the Guard Corps under the Kais- 
er's eye stormed the line en masse nine times in a 
desperate effort to break through to capture the 
city and gain the main roads that would enable their 
legions to swarm over the plains of Artois and dam 
the movement north. But Maud 'huy 's heroes stood 
firm, fulfilling at terrible cost Joffre's order, "Let 
the last man die before Arras falls! " 

Above Arras, with their guns on advantageous 
ridges, the Germans fought their way over the hills 
across the roads to Lille and Bethune. But the 
French line held them there firmly, and they were 
unable to debouch to the open ground westward for 
the flanking movements on which success now de- 
pended, and where the main roads from Paris via 
Amiens branched for the deployment of Joffre's 
forces above Arras. 

We skirted the front and through Bethune, eight- 
een miles north, as the battle was reaching its first 
fury in the repeated attacks which raged for 
twenty-five days. But soon the roads were again 
filled with bewildered refugees hurrying from every 
point of the compass. Women, children and very 

118 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

old men from the Bethune district were running up 
the roads to Estaires and Aire, and people from 
Merville were hurrying down to Bethune. When 
they mingled and turned west, .frightened villagers 
met them with news that Hussars and motorcyclists 
were lurking along the road to Hazebrouck, and 
patrols were swarming in the forest of Nieppe. Uh- 
lans and machine guns were also reported toward 
St. Omer. Then the truth dawned on us. The 
Arras battle was not the high-water mark of aggres- 
sion. Pas de Calais and the Nord were invaded, and 
the Territorial forces of these departments had been 
moved to Lille and Maud'huy's left wing. 

Broad roads led to the important railroads on 
which the armies must come north; inviting routes 
were open above Lille direct to the Channel ports 
and the direct communications with England. On 
the coast were the cliffs and dunes by Grinez, on 
which the German flag could float twenty-one miles 
from British shores, with positions for siege guns 
to dominate the Straits of Dover, to cover the 
planned invasion of England, and at extreme range 
bombard Folkestone and the Dover naval base. 
The Allied dam had not been built up far enough. 
Refugees from districts north of Lille had seen enor- 
mous masses of German cavalry and horse artillery, 
and there were no forces to cope with them. 

During the first week of October the depleted local 
garrison of Lille had fought gallantly. At first they 

119 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

had been driven out. Reenf orced, they had recap- 
tured the city ; reenf orced, the Germans later retook 
it ; reenf orced, the French got back ; reenf orced, the 
invaders finally went in to stay on the 12th. The 
citadel, a masterpiece of Vauban, played no part in 
the defense; the capital of French Flanders, sev- 
enth city of the Republic and queen of French in- 
dustries, was practically an open town, captured 
first by a huge sweep of cavalry at a time when there 
were no troops available to make adequate defense. 
And with only scattered handfuls of reserves guard- 
ing railroads, crossroads, bridges and towns, the 
northern departments were open to the enemy. 

Recall the exploits of Morgan, Stuart, Mosby, 
Grierson, Wilson, or Stoneman. For a leader of 
their class in early October the conditions for a stu- 
pendous and effective raid were ideal. Six divisions 
of cavalry, with motorcyclists, light artillery, ma- 
chine guns, and an abundance of armored automo- 
biles, were available, and in any army but the Ger- 
man, the officers, on the spot, would have gathered 
their forces and dashed off while the opportunity 
was theirs. But with Planmaessig * as their watch- 
word, the German forces do not move that way. 
Everything in the machine must be coordinate and 
subordinate to the general plan. Its strategy aimed 
at finality, and subordinate initiative was forbidden. 
The theory of envelopment must be worked out on 

1 According to plan. 

120 




GERMAN COLUMN CROSSING A PONTOON BRIDGE 




GERMAN ARMY FIELD BAKERY 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

schedule. The ponderous columns reaching Bel- 
gium had to move up for deployment ; Antwerp must 
fall, and advance guards must not seek premature 
engagements while the front was developing for the 
decisive attack with a maximum and irresistible 
force. 

This theory had sent the army to the gates of 
Paris, and only failed by an over-confident flank. 
How could similar masses fail in a second invasion, 
with a solid front, wheeling and changing direc- 
tion the right protected by the sea, and the Allied 
armies far south and depleted by forces necessary 
to maintain the intrenched front? But the theory 
was to collapse at its inception when challenged by 
the rapid coordinate initiative of independent forces 
which did not lose an hour to insure their safety, or 
wait for plans to develop when speed alone could 
save the day. The German staff would have taken 
either ten weeks or ten years to win the Civil War. 
Instead of concentration and vigorous action, the 
cavalry were now spread fan-shaped over a great ter- 
rain, terrorizing the countryside, to pave the way 
for the general advance which was frustrated in 
most of its objects by the arrival of the armies from 
the Aisne over tracks and bridges that proper pa- 
trols could easily have destroyed. "Die Reiterei 
allseit voran" had lost its trenchancy. 

Operating above Lens, round Bethune, south of 
Hazebrouck and near Cassel through Bailleul, oc- 

121 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

cupying Warneton and Armentieres, the mounted 
troops were loafing or riding into Belgium toward 
Menin and Ypres. Everywhere they were faced 
only by isolated detachments of Territorial reserves, 
as they waited for their infantry to move up. Yet 
off the main roads we looked down on many peaceful 
valleys dotted with farms, gardens still enameled 
with flowers, pleasant villages framed by trees, on 
the fertile borders of France's "black country " of 
solid miles of factory and foundry. The Angelus 
rang from distant belfries, children peered through 
embowered gates. Peace and beauty rested on the 
countryside, for the war had seemed very far away, 
and rumor had traveled slowly. The people hardly 
heeded the distant grumble which we knew was not 
thunder and which toward evening grew louder. At 
several points where we watched clouds of dust on a 
sky line broken by the tall smokeless chimneys of 
Lille and Eoubaix, French troops half dead with 
thirst and fatigue were plodding over the slopes, and 
the swath of destruction which marks German war- 
fare was starting to spread like prairie fire, oblit- 
erating church, chateau and cottage impartially. 

We found Hazebrouck almost normal, considering 
its danger. We ascended a hill near Cassel where 
the next station was burned. A wide view could be 
obtained, and farms were alight in several direc- 
tions. Near Caestre we could hear the rattle of 
rifles north, east and south, where isolated Terri- 

122 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

torial units were fighting. We passed many French 
Territorial detachments watching for boches, who 
kept off the main roads in the day. Later we met 
a cart with the bodies of four of these wonderful 
patriots. Two had been killed outright, and two who 
had been wounded had their skulls crushed in, for a 
coup de grace. One, in full uniform, was a courtly 
gentleman of the old school, with a white imperial. 
Two were apparently small storekeepers, and the 
fourth a farmer. What a stupendous insolence for 
these citizen-soldiers to defend their country, this 
" rabble" to face a superior force of German sol- 
diers without flinching! The miscreants had for- 
feited the right to live hence the crushed skulls of 
the wounded two. Jolt on, French patriots, back to 
your villages where your grandchildren will weep! 
An odd four in countless thousands, but four im- 
mortals who taught us what the watchwords "Hon- 
neur, Patrie, Gloire" meant, for on these older men, 
poorly equipped, rested the task of holding up an 
avalanche until help arrived. 

In times of peace we should smile at the last lines 
of the French army as a fighting force. Of the 
twenty-eight classes of men called to the colors by 
the three-year law, each regiment has its actives, 
its 3,000 reservists, and 3,000 territorials, the "reg- 
iments de marche," with 5,000 territorial reserves, 
older men, of the other classes, to draw on. These 
men of middle age, family men, shopkeepers, cob- 

123 



biers, the genial, comfortable bourgeoisie, had been 
gathered by mobilization for local work. And on 
these scattered units now fell the task of checking 
operations when hordes of cavalry started across 
Nord and Pas de Calais, giving no quarter. My pen 
can do feeble justice to these fathers and grand- 
fathers of France who after weeks of arduous and 
lonely vigil suddenly found the enemy sweeping 
across their territory. Nothing could make a more 
direct appeal to the American heart than these pa- 
triots, citizens, slaughtered in thousands when de- 
fending their native soil. Yet what space has been 
devoted to their glorious defense in the pages of 
praise for the German military machine, written by 
the pens of its then neutral guests, on a tour of 
inspection, in this very district? 

Early October was bitter cold, even on the Aisne, 
and farther north no one remembered such a pene- 
trating rawness which chilled to the marrow, and 
added enormously to the hardships of the unshel- 
tered troops and refugees. It was the aftermath of 
excessive precipitation from the continual artillery 
fire, at a period when cyclonic conditions were nor- 
mal. The isolated detachments had built rude 
shacks of straw. They were too scattered for reg- 
ular commissariat, but women and children tramped 
miles daily with food. Then patrols on motorcycles, 
and detachments of cavalry stalked them and shot 
them down, and hundreds of miniature battles raged 

124 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

where these devoted Frenchmen held villages suc- 
cessfully and fought at bridges and crossroads. 
And it was amazing to see how aimless the German 
efforts were, unless the shooting down piecemeal of 
middle-aged shopkeepers, on isolated guard duty, is 
a military achievement. The raiders would fight 
for and perhaps capture and burn a wayside station 
or farm. We could see fires in most contradictory 
places, and the rattle of rifles marked skirmishes at 
every point of the compass. 

No one seemed to know what was happening. To 
the large towns women and children fled, many giv- 
ing pitiful evidence of shameful treatment at lonely 
houses. A German cyclist detachment held up and 
boarded a train from St. Omer to Hazebrouck, shoot- 
ing from the windows the unsuspecting Territoriaux 
on guard along the railroad. They shot up Haze- 
brouck station, and killed the police, railroad por- 
ters, and a young girl, who bravely cried a warning. 
The raid accomplished nothing and left the railroad 
intact. 

At night we put up in a small town beyond Haze- 
brouck. After the soporific of the nightly roar of 
artillery down the lines, tense silence now made sleep 
for us difficult, and a distant rifle shot roused us. 
We soon heard shrieks, shouts and distant firing, 
then shots in the street below. There elderly re- 
servists, night shirts tucked in duck trousers, were 
crouching in doorways and firing up at the Square. 

125 



We hurried to the street, and heard that Uhlans had 
"captured" the town. But the sturdy citizen sol- 
diers, coolly firing up three streets centering on the 
Place d'Armes, had localized the "invasion." 

When the noise aroused the people who lived in 
the square, the Germans at once shot at all lighted 
windows, wounding one girl severely, others having 
narrow escapes as they dressed. Suddenly a Ger- 
man motorcyclist turned the corner so sharply that 
he nearly swept me off the narrow walk, shouting 
warnings as he fled. With a clatter of hoofs on the 
wet cobbles, a troop of French Reserve Dragoons, 
warned by telephone, galloped up the street, the 
Uhlans mounting and flying before them. Some of 
us raced up the road after the pursuers. Carbine 
shots whistled overhead as the Germans fired back at 
random to check pursuit, but the French reservists, 
remember rode like demons up the Meteren Road. 
The night was bitterly raw ; the horsemen soon out- 
distanced us. A house was blazing on the horizon ; 
a splutter of shots alone broke the silence, until a 
riderless horse galloped down the road and charged 
me when I tried to stop it. Another fire started in 
the distance, with faint but regular volleys, again 
shots nearer, and a woman's agonizing scream. 
Then a confused scuffling of hoofs, shouts, shots and 
curses down the road. Two French troopers rode 
back, one wounded and held in his saddle by his 
comrade. "Cornered some in the farm yard," was 

126 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

his laconic reply. We finally found the farm, but all 
was dark and silent, and we went back to bed. But 
daylight revealed two dead troopers and a writhing 
horse there. Multiply these incidents by hundreds 
and you have the trivial story of the achievement of 
one of the greatest independent cavalry commands 
in history. Evidently the Germans were not expect- 
ing the prompt Franco-British rush north. 

Even the German communicating patrols and con- 
necting posts were ineffectively arranged, and far 
too obvious, through their desire to shoot down small 
detachments. They threw the countryside into a 
turmoil, which gave the French troopers precise in- 
formation when they came up. French cavalry 
screens were far more silent and cleverly invisible. 
Many horses and riders were draped in a bower of 
evergreen which made the brilliant uniforms more 
neutral than the clever blue-gray of the Teutons. 

I should prefer to avoid writing of atrocities, or, 
by magnifying a sense of proportion, ascribe the acts 
to brutal individuals. But the evidence was so posi- 
tive in the new war zone that a benevolent Phila- 
delphia minister, caught by chance in the district, 
and who had both seen and investigated, told me that 
what the Allies needed were tanks of boiling oil for 
the prisoners. Certainly mounted patrols caught 
on the Meteren-Bailleul road should have been 
hanged. So much reflected the spirit of the German 
poet who attempted an epic in the soldiers' paper 

127 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

printed in Lille, including this Christian admonition : 

Oh ! Germany now hate ! Clad in Bronze take no prisoners, 
To each enemy a bayonet thrust through the heart, 
Silence all, and make a desert of the surrounding country. 

The beloved Abbe Bogaert, Cure of Pradelles, a 
village just east of Hazebrouck, on the upper road 
to Bailleul, was ordered by a group of impatient 
officers to take them to the tower of the church for 
observation. He explained that the sacristan had 
the key and had fled. "Liar," thundered one bully. 
"Break the door down, then shoot this hound." 
And the unfortunate priest was murdered in cold 
blood. This fact was reported to Rome as from 
Pradelles, the volcanic town in the Velay, and thus 
brushed aside as a canard. The incident was typical 
of hundreds. 

An American, an agent for electrical supplies, left 
his wife and three young daughters for the summer 
in a country house near Lille while he returned home 
on business. Caught suddenly in the swirl of the 
war, these unprotected Americans fell victims to a 
certain group of under-officers, and endured appall- 
ing experiences at their hands. When they were 
able to appeal for protection to a higher officer they 
were treated with great respect and kindness, and 
some weeks later were able to return home via Ger- 
many. This true story appears incredible and the 
details may never be published, as the victims' lips 
are naturally sealed, though some friends have urged 

128 



THE GERMAN FLOOD PLOWS NORTH 

the frantic father to report the facts to Washington 
as a public duty. The first thing that greeted these 
weeping people on landing in New York was the pos- 
ter of a current attraction advertising a sextette 
of vapid girls and youths who shook silken ankles 
over the footlights to the strains of "I did not raise 
my boy to be a soldier. ' ' 

War in itself does not brutalize. Many of us 
who have been under fire many times in various 
climes have never returned from a campaign without 
experiencing a severe shock at the amenities of civ- 
ilization, the selfish commercial scramble, the lack of 
human sympathy, the distorted standards of broth- 
erhood, in sharp contrast to the spirit engendered by 
war conditions where every man is a comrade, every 
luxury must be shared in common, and many unwrit- 
ten codes are enforced by the spiritual stimuli of 
danger and death. We can recall men vividly to- 
day who were Tenderloin rounders until they fought 
in Cuba or South Africa and were utterly changed 
by the realities of the campaign. To-day they are 
popular and public-spirited citizens. The horrors 
of war will bring reward to the survivors, and re- 
generate many effeminate youths who have sneered 
at the National Guard and wasted their energy at 
tango teas. 

In your morning paper you read that a new battle 
front had formed, and experts added more parallel 
lines across the war map. Geographically and in 

129 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

general the war news of the American press has 
been wonderfully correct and worthy of praise. 
But as you looked at the black lines did you have any 
realization of what they meant? Try to visualize 
the scene. 

Early October in the peaceful French lowlands! 
The busy industrial districts of Lille, where women 
were splendidly doing the bulk of the work while the 
men fought, and the flood of invasion had flowed 
toward Paris. Then shots, shouts, a clatter of 
hoofs, as cavalry patrols scampered through the vil- 
lages the first hints that the tidal wave of war was 
surging in their direction. 

On the farms the men were gone. The women and 
children would hear hoarse commands in an alien 
tongue, as cavalry or a cyclist detachment of the 
dreaded enemy rode up. Protection there was none 
and sometimes none was needed. Food and shelter 
must be given, and secrecy. The advanced parties 
would frequently sleep all day, with sentries guard- 
ing the family in the attic. If grandfather could not 
curb his tongue, or looked surly, there was generally 
trouble, ending in a shooting or hanging, and if the 
cellar stored wine, and the women were comely, un- 
pleasantness, trivial at first, would rapidly develop 
into tragedy at nightfall, unless some one possessed 
extreme tact. Tears at the outset often averted in- 
sult, where spirited resentment at a kiss or rough 
horseplay sometimes stimulated appalling outrage. 

130 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

Bavarians bivouacked on one farm two days, but 
slept in a cow shed so as not to upset a sick woman. 
They cleared up the place, chopped wood and over- 
paid for all they had. Very near, two girls were' 
forced to dance naked, until an officer arrived and 
cut short the orgy with a horsewhip. At Bailleul a 
few women were shockingly treated, while refugees 
that we talked to on the Merville road had been 
given bread and cheese by Uhlans who must have 
needed it themselves. All the peasants over- 
taken on the road were robbed of their money. The 
Westphalian Hussars, Seventh Corps, were special 
ruffians. In the Nieppe woods, near French troops, 
a patrol hanged a farmer because he told them to go 
to the devil when they roused him from his bed at 
midnight for military information. Shivering in 
her nightdress, the screaming wife lit the scene with 
her candle, and at daylight she was still sobbing 
in the cold by the body she had pulled down too 
late. 

So on every road, with thoroughness and some 
frightfulness, the antennas of the invaders were rest- 
ing before feeling their way to the coast, a waste 
of precious time before the real advance followed. 
And back of Lille and Courtrai, thousands of troops 
of all branches were massing and losing time to per- 
fect every detail before following the forces spread 
over a front marked by Lens, Bethune, Merville and 
Cassel into Belgium, and only two days ' march from 

131 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the coast. A few regiments could have seized and 
held strategic points soon essential for German suc- 
cess. 

In a short time guns crowded the hills, and as soon 
as the avalanche started, they pounded every town 
or village within range, regardless of noncombat- 
ants, and often when there were no French troops 
near. But waiting for Antwerp to fall, to release 
forces in Belgium, masses of cavalry had been wast- 
ing time, perhaps sparing the railroads for later use, 
while scores of French troop trains were loading 
from the Aisne to rush the Allies north under their 
very noses, to fill the gap of fifty-one miles from 
Maud'huy's left to the Belgian coast. 

The first troop trains started up with French 
troops bound for Belgium, but they were diverted to 
reenforce the Arras army. The men came up by 
night, and at daylight the emptied trains went back 
with stores and retrieved freight on the flat cars as 
masks. Aeroplanes which caught a distant view 
reported numerous trains going south, probably 
taking down some of Kitchener's forces. When the 
Allies realized how the German tidal wave was flow- 
ing back to North France, the race was against time, 
and trains came north every twelve minutes, the 
route covered by French fliers who kept inquisitive 
machines away, though from the air the procession 
of empty trains maintaining the same headway south 
might have proved puzzling. 

132 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

There was delay and congestion between Staples 
and Boulogne, due to the switching and drilling of 
some trains at Hesdigneul from the main Calais line. 
But the work of transferring the French and British 
armies was wonderfully done by the government 
control of the railroads, which automatically became 
military without hitch or friction, by placing a guard 
at every station, and giving the railroad staff mili- 
tary hats. French railroad efficiency is proverbial ; 
the trains are also the fastest in the world. Becall- 
ing confusion in Tampa in 1898, the simplicity of the 
French system deserves notice in the United States, 
for a stroke of the pen and a change of uniform only 
were necessary. 

Antwerp fell with astonishing suddenness October 
10, after a terrific bombardment of twelve days. 
Von Beseler's siege artillery outranged the defend- 
ing guns, and pulverized the forts, most of which 
had been evacuated. The Belgian army crossed the 
Scheldt behind the civil population, and made a de- 
tour, getting round the end of the German lines be- 
fore the shattered city surrendered, to avoid de- 
struction. The capitulation was a severe blow to 
the Allies. 

Antwerp 's fall was the signal for the Wurttemberg 
army to start across Belgium, only to find that the 
British Seventh Division and cavalry, too late to 
reach the fortress from Ostend, were marching 
across its path. They were soon joined by the 

133 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

French marines, and von Beseler's forces, moving 
along the coast, had been able to shell only the rear 
of the escaping Belgians. The German forces on 
the Lys, headed by cavalry, swung forward to head 
off King Albert 's army but met a decided check from 
the unexpected British cavalry while the Belgians 
marched toward France intact. Finally the small 
forces of the three Allies turned at bay on a pitifully 
thin line to check the sweep across Belgium until 
help arrived. 

The fall of Antwerp was the tocsin also for the 
Bavarians to start forward across Pas de Calais. 
But the forces from the Aisne were now detraining, 
and the French cavalry which had guarded Maud- 
'huy's flank was freed to move north in conjunction 
with the British mounted divisions. 

Too late German demolition detachments scurried 
down by night, to destroy railroads, and the cavalry 
pushed forward to seize bridges and important 
points. An improvised Corps de Mitrailleurs, Bel- 
gian and British, scoured the roads with armored 
cars. The usually brilliant spies also failed every- 
where except in one derailment on the main line be- 
low Calais, which caught a troop train returning 
loaded with homeless women and children, 400 of 
whom were killed as the cars plunged from the steep 
embankment. With horse artillery, machine guns, 
bicycle detachments, Jaeger companies and supply 
trains, the now futile cavalry divisions moved down 

134 



several roads west of Lille, followed by the advance 
guard of the Bavarian columns. 

"Formations be d ! Get up the road as far as 

you can and fight!" was one British order, and it 
epitomized the new campaign of the Allies. Unlike 
the Germans, they wasted no time on ornate plans 
or submissive strategy and tactics. The cavalry 
and some troops in motor vans and busses came up 
from the Aisne by road, and wiped up Uhlans at 
Bethune on October 11. Some of the British bat- 
teries had not fully refitted after earlier battles. 
There were teams with only a lead driver, wheel 
and center horses being driven by the limber gunners 
with rope reins. Batteries were commanded by sub- 
alterns; sections by sergeants. But as each unit, 
horse, foot or guns arrived, either in the Bethune 
district or on the St. Omer-Hazebrouck railroad, it 
was started off up some designated road to the front. 

A Bavarian cavalry column hurried down the road 
from Haubourdin and extended between Salome and 
Estaires, overwhelming and annihilating some 
French squadrons. But as they touched the border 
of Pas de Calais a fleet of airships came up, and 
working in relays, rained bombs and les Heches on 
them, the tiny arrows breaking up formations in the 
most novel fight of the war, which ended when Brit- 
ish and French troopers charged on each flank, and 
the Germans withdrew. Two regiments of French 
Cuirassiers then gained their rear by crossing the 

135 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Lys in flood during the night, a trooper swimming 
across with guide ropes under the nose of the sen- 
tries. This caused the only brilliant move of the 
German cavalry to fail utterly. They retreated, 
covered by rear guards, and apparently were with- 
out orders to fight. 

Anglo-French cavalry saved Bethune by a nar- 
row margin with its star of important roads. The 
Germans, however, still held the pyramid slag heaps 
of Lens firmly, and from Douai poured men and 
guns up the Estaires road. Far from supports, in- 
stead of retiring as good troopers should, the Allied 
cavalrymen borrowed spades from the farms, dug in, 
and held as infantry east of the town, until Smith- 
Dorrien arrived and augmented the line with the 
British Second Corps, and built it up after a score of 
individual battles had been fought. The right of the 
Second Corps gained some ground before Bethune 
and, extending toward Vermelles, joined hands with 
the left of the Tenth French Army on the Arras- 
Lens front. Bethune was a serious loss to the Ger- 
mans, who had sacrificed thousands of men to gain 
a footing along hills on the main road from Arras at 
Lorette and Souchez, but lost the cities at each end. 
Bethune gave the British a valuable advanced 
base, with the vats of beet sugar refineries as baths 
for the clothes and person of the cleanly Thomas 
Atkins. 

The Germans, however, took up a position at La 

136 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

Bassee, along the main road running north from 
Lens to Estaires, where brick fields and ridges gave 
them a strong line of defenses for scores of machine 
guns and heavy artillery. For a few days the 4.3 
field howitzers shelled Bethune ineffectively, but 
the batteries withdrew as the British consolidated 
their lines three miles east of the city, and got their 
few field guns into action from cleverly masked posi- 
tions near the front. 

Its right checked at La Bassee, the left of the 
British Second Corps, north of Bethune, fought its 
way forward, driving the Germans back nine miles 
to the Aubers ridge and along the boundary of Pas 
de Calais, the spirited advance only being checked 
by a mass of artillery rushed out from Lille, to which 
the British could make no adequate reply. In this 
brilliant fighting the British lost General Hamilton 
and half of the strength of the units engaged, but 
they had gained a big section of the main road north, 
above La Bassee, though weeks of desperate fighting 
subsequently modified their front. 

While Smith-Dorrien was creating his lines, the 
French and British cavalry had continued their 
sweep northeast to clear the front toward Belgium. 
The French cavalry under Conneau had first cleared 
the Nieppe forest, having special trouble with cy- 
clists backed by machine guns, who pushed through 
Aire and operated with special dash around Haze- 
brouck until rounded up. Conneau then cooperated 

137 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

with the British, while their Third Corps was de- 
training at St. Omer. He relieved and then sup- 
ported Gough's cavalry brigade, which was flanking 
and routing the huge cavalry forces which had loafed 
in the Bailleul district for eight days, looting, and 
maltreating women while they waited for the plan 
to develop. The Sixth Division, Bavarian Cavalry, 
proved more adept at making girls dance naked than 
at destroying bridges or erecting defenses. 

By October 15 the French and British cavalry 
were holding all the towns, villages, and bridges on 
the Lys to Armentieres, twelve miles above Lille. 
Here they recaptured the railroad in a spectacular 
raid, blew up flimsy barricades and galloped into 
that important city. Two British squadrons with 
machine guns went right on to Warneton, and rode 
into the heart of the town, which was hastily evac- 
uated. Houses were loopholed, and they prepared 
for defense in the square, sending back for help. 
When the insignificance of the force was appreciated, 
a German regiment opened an attack from adjacent 
streets. The handful of heroes held out until their 
machine guns were useless, and as reinforcements 
were not reported, they crept to their horses after 
dark and galloped out. Warneton was the center of 
the hop industry, and the fields were carefully pro- 
tected for subsequent German use. 

But Armentieres, captured under the noses of a 
Saxon Corps, gave the Allies important roads to Bel- 

138 



THE GERMAN FLOOD FLOWS NORTH 

gium and a railroad junction ; and units of the Third 
Corps hurried up, after the resourceful cavalry had 
intrenched on a line well east of the town. The 
British repelled desperate attempts to recapture Ar- 
mentieres, and its loss sent several high German 
officers to retirement. 

Heavy artillery soon rendered the railroad use- 
less, but in further retaliation the city itself was 
bombarded without notice, though it was unfortified 
and used only for the wounded. The Chamber of 
Commerce met and sent an appeal to Washington, 
pointing out that only noncombatants were suffer- 
ing. The faith we found in the justice of the United 
States was touching, and as we saw a hundred pretty 
towns and villages, well behind the firing line, ruth- 
lessly bombarded, and trembled with rage as rows of 
tiny coffins passed us, and as we watched mangled 
heaps that had been a girl of twenty and a pretty tot 
of three, we wondered if neutrality should silence 
official protest? 

After a series of semi-independent battles, the two 
British Corps, by October 17, had masked the Lille 
front with an irregular and thin but effective line 
between Vermelles to the Belgian frontier north of 
which hardly pressed mixed forces now stretched 
precariously across Belgium to the sea. There 
was not a single unit in actual reserve along the en- 
tire line. This was a radical modification of the 
original Allied plan of seizing Bethune and pivoting 

139 



UNDER FOUE FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the line there across the German right above Arras. 
But the German armies were now firmly checked in 
their rush to the Channel ports, and strategically 
the victory was with the Allies. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

DUBINQ the early stages of the arrival and de- 
ployment of the British army, it was an easy ride 
from Hazebrouck to Belgium where the field forces 
and garrison of Antwerp were being hotly pursued 
to the frontier. We dined one night with a relative 
of the War Minister, a clean-cut lieutenant carrying 
dispatches from London. He dashed off by motor- 
cycle after dark to reach Bruges, but the next morn- 
ing, covered with mud, he rode into the square at 
Fumes, where we had gone before breakfast. He 
had encountered big German forces on two roads, 
escaping by a miracle. The Belgian army appeared 
to be cut off. 

Owing to efficient censorship, the people in Flan- 
ders were not greatly worried. But we passed some 
heavy drays unostentatiously carrying the priceless 
art treasures of Belgium to safety. M. Dommartin, 
State Librarian, and Deputy de Grott deserve the 
thanks of the civilized world for saving part of the 
matchless art of Flanders from destruction. Alas, 
the mishap to one wagon left Jordaen's wonderful 
"Adoration" stranded at Dixmude, where it was de- 

141 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

stroyed, with its cover of theatrical scenery tied over 
to protect it. We found the officials in Fumes 
keenly anxious to learn the fate of the plucky Bel- 
gian army risking annihilation in the interior, with 
disturbing reports of the enemy from every direc- 
tion. The civil government was moving from Os- 
tend to Havre ; the leading newspapers were chang- 
ing their offices to London. 

From Dunkirk, Admiral Eonarch had taken his 
famous brigade of Marine Fusiliers to Belgium. 
These Breton lads, without naval experience, led by 
France's youngest Admiral, marched to the Bruges- 
Ghent road to help the Belgian army. We now 
heard of' the mysterious British force also fighting 
in the interior. At Antwerp 's eleventh hour Kitch- 
ener had rushed General Rawlinson with part of the 
Fourth Corps to Ostend to help. This force, the 
Seventh Infantry Division under Capper, and 
Byng's cavalry division, had landed just too late. 
Prudence dictated a return to the transports, but 
this meager force hurried over to meet the menace 
of Wurttemberg columns moving up the Alost and 
Ghent roads against the flank of the approaching 
Belgians. Then disquieting news came of German 
cavalry with artillery from Tournai, moving north 
of Lille through Menin, where they soon occupied 
strong positions on the hills and ridges south of 
Ypres. Thus the Belgians, and the French and 
British operating with them, had the enemy advanc- 

142 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

ing on three sides: von Beseler hurrying through 
Bruges from Antwerp, Wurttemberg columns march- 
ing down the Ghent roads, and Bavarian mobile 
forces pushing northwest across the lines of retreat, 
with the North Sea to complete the quadrangle. 

Biding beyond Furnes, we strained our ears for 
the guns ! Dame Rumor was busy, but truthful, for 
the Germans were already marching from Antwerp 
along the coast, though trams for refugees ran to the 
last moment, and the Allies held open a gap between 
Bruges and Ghent. Motor cars were tearing down 
from Antwerp, each with a thrilling story; and 
women and children babbling hysterically from 
their terrible experiences of the siege and flight. 
The population of a large slice of Belgium was in 
flight. The faster cars were followed by a steady 
procession of military and civilian vehicles of every 
description, hurrying madly to apparent safety 
across the French frontier. The cry of that vast 
multitude must have reached the Throne of God. 
It was borne on the air as the pitiful plaint of flocks 
of parched sheep being driven from drought, grow- 
ing louder and clearer until the human tones of 
fright and despair gripped our throats. It was 
heartrending. Magnificent limousines; delivery 
vans; taxicabs, crowded with frantic women and 
children ; and armored cars full of wounded, led the 
way. Cavalry and artillery followed, and every 
species of vehicle, loaded with civilian fugitives 

143 



UNDER FOUE FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

soldiers and citizens inextricably mixed. A squad- 
ron of lancers rode their magnificent but jaded 
horses proudly, and carried a standard riddled and 
charred from a bursting shell. Many of the soldiers 
were wounded; the civilian equipages carried hun- 
dreds of sick people. Field batteries later rumbled 
along, the guns scored and useless because obsolete 
shells without driving bands had been used, a further 
proof of Belgian "aggression" which sent most of 
their guns to the scrap heap. Military cars, riddled 
transport wagons, field telegraph and ambulances, 
were mixed with the vehicles of farm and city. 

Along the mud troughs beside the paves strode the 
people from nearer towns, all fleeing frantically be- 
fore the advancing Germans. Surely something 
more tangible than idle rumor was impelling these 
thousands to mad flight. For three days without a 
break, processions poured into France along the dif- 
ferent roads: infantry, civilians, and patient dogs 
drawing everything from machine guns to carts 
bearing cots with dying people who dared not face 
the German terror. The weary women and children 
tramped until they fell from exhaustion, slept in wet 
grass by the roadside, and fled on again, looking 
back furtively. Many years of campaigning and 
travel in wild places had failed to prepare me for 
such wholesale suffering of the simple, prosperous 
people martyred for keeping their word. 

Many of the cars also were spattered by shrapnel 

144 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

slugs, and several civilians were wounded, because 
at one place a German field battery, noticing sol- 
diers, wounded stragglers retreating with the last of 
the column, had fired several indiscriminate rounds. 
As the range was luckily short, the minimum of the 
time fuses was a fraction too long, so the shells had 
buried themselves in the beet fields before they ex- 
ploded, or the loss of innocent lives must have been 
terrible. The Germans are full of sentiment but 
they are utterly lacking in sympathy. These people 
had opposed them therefore no mercy. Their ha- 
tred of the Belgians was intense, their prejudice, 
infantile. 

I recalled scenes of another war. When the Span- 
iards retreated from El Caney, every American gun 
was masked because a few women and children were 
fleeing to Santiago with the soldiers. And as I lis- 
tened to stories of these Belgian people, of towns 
bombarded without notice, of houses burned, and 
hostages executed, I remembered that every non- 
combatant from Santiago was escorted into the 
American lines before a shell was fired at the city; 
and the people, including many families of Spanish 
soldiers, were fed by an overworked commissary, the 
troops giving up their scanty rations without a mur- 
mur. Also that thousands of unprotected women 
and girls, going from Santiago to Siboney, slept in 
the woods unmolested, on the American line of com- 
munication. If there were tents available, the men 

145 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

gave them up ; and not an insult or coarse word was 
uttered. 

The Belgian army proved the ordeal it had faced 
by the number of wounded who marched in its ranks. 
The spirit of the men was unbroken. They were 
clean-cut, self-respecting soldiers the first and re- 
maining impression being the way they looked you 
straight in the eye. These were not impressed peas- 
ants, but skillful artisans the material which has 
made Belgium industrially great their natty uni- 
forms helping to make their bearing a striking con- 
trast to the stolid German prisoners marching sul- 
lenly with them to Fumes. 

Not only Antwerp but conquered Belgium was 
again in flight ; fear had been spread over Flanders 
Orient, and, in Flanders Occident, also, the people 
were starting to flee. Recalling incidents of which 
I positively knew in North France, the course could 
only be commended. In the face of it all the mind 
clouded and recoiled, to see how the secure comfort 
and essentials of the material civilization of which 
we boast can be blotted out in a flash. The tenets 
of "noblesse oblige" have no power to restrain the 
mailed fist of Prussia. 

To disarrange a German plan is often as effica- 
cious as a decisive victory, though if the plan ma- 
tures it is generally irresistible. By brilliant initia- 
tive and rapid offensives when opportunity invited, 
the French and British forces that had failed to help 

146 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

Antwerp not only checked the huge forces that 
planned to wipe out the Belgian Army, but effec- 
tively cooperated with King Albert's troops, and 
spoiled the junction of the German Armies crossing 
Belgium with the forces north of Lille; and they 
stopped these tidal waves from inundating North 
France to the sea. 

The British Seventh Division had neither base nor 
line of communication, and was threatened on three 
sides. With Bonarch's Marines, this command fell 
back stubbornly, after covering the Belgian retire- 
ment. Faced by superior forces, they moved from 
the Bruges-Ghent front by a forced march through 
the night of the 12th, some units covering forty-eight 
miles, as the column withdrew through Eoulers and 
was completely cleared from contact with the pursu- 
ing army corps, on the 13th. Byng's cavalry rode 
hard in advance, and had already surprised and 
checked the Germans pushing up in rear of Ypres. 
The British troopers interrupted a shocking orgy in 
the Messines district there was no time for the Uh- 
lans to bury their female victims when the alarm 
sounded. 

When Joffre had realized the danger on his ex- 
posed left flank above Arras and to the Channel 
ports, he placed General Foch in command of the 
entire operations north of Noyon. Foch was head 
of the Ecole de Guerre he commanded the Twen- 
tieth Corps, and then the Ninth Army. His genius 

147 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

was unquestioned. He was faced by three problems. 
He had to mask and check the enemy attacking in 
force from Albert to Arras ; to organize to meet the 
Bavarian, spreading forward on the open Lille 
front; and during this pressure the huge flanking 
forces marching across Belgium to Pas de Calais 
must be held back at all costs. In the race that 
ensued everything favored the Germans, who could 
move their columns direct to any point on the 
spreading circumference of the new front. The 
pressure in France grew so rapidly that the forces 
which were first destined for Belgium were diverted. 
"Extermination if necessary, but hold every road 
until help arrives," was Joffre's message to Foch. 

General d'Urbal, commander of Dunkirk, had now 
thrown his available forces over the frontier toward 
Roulers, to protect the immediate Belgian flank. 
Eeserve cavalry, some Spahis and Territorials, who 
all worked splendidly, cooperated north of the Brit- 
ish, who were clearing advanced guards of the enemy 
from the eastern approaches to Ypres. In a des- 
perately thin line the three Allies now faced about to 
make a stand across Belgium, along the rail and road 
running to Lille from the western outskirts of Os- 
tend, through Roulers and Menin. The Belgian 
army, facing a strong force on the northern section 
of the new line, was utterly exhausted by its experi- 
ences in Antwerp, and in the close pursuit many 
supplies had to be left. The German Third Corps, 

148 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

advancing along the coast from Antwerp, now cap- 
tured Ostend on the flank, and the Twelfth Corps, 
having reenforced the cavalry, was preparing to 
push from the hills behind Ypres and the British to 
Furnes, against the Belgian rear. King Albert's 
army, therefore, retired through Dixmude, and its 
main body was in Furnes, prepared for further re- 
tirement across the frontier, when Joffre's message 
arrived. 

The eagerness of the enemy to envelop the Bel- 
gians led to quick counter strokes. A column ap- 
proaching Dixmude for a frontal attack found a 
rapidly constructed barricade before the town held 
by the French Marines, who repelled repeated as- 
saults. Forces pushing in behind Ypres for the Bel- 
gian rear were met by an audacious attack by Byng's 
cavalry toward Mont des Chats, and the southern 
menace to Furnes was checked. 

Quietly King Albert rode through Furnes and ad- 
dressed his army. Food and ammunition his men 
should have. Rest was even more badly needed, but 
he only asked them to stand along the Yser for 
forty-eight hours, when reinforcements should ar- 
rive from the Aisne. You would not think that the 
Age of Chivalry was dead if you had seen the King 
and Queen of the Belgians with their army. Only 
such a king could have turned these exhausted men 
straight back to battle without a murmur. They 
had fought persistently for ten weeks. For many 

149 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

days in Antwerp and during the retreat, food and 
rest had been impossible. I saw men fall on the wet 
cobbles and sleep like logs until their regiments 
marched. They walked in a trance, their eyes set 
and bloodshot. Some who stepped into the churches 
to pray fell asleep prostrated before the altar. But 
they were all soon trudging back up the road to check 
the eager enemy along the northern section of the 
new thin line being built across Belgium. Many 
units had straggled into France, and without rest 
they also turned back to the front next day. We 
had seen too much to be moved, but a dozen times 
we sprang up in the car and cheered. 

To me the most interesting of the many incidents 
crowding those few puzzling, chaotic days was the 
reorganization of the famous Belgian machine-gun 
batteries. The regular dog teams were augmented 
by the Lilliputian country carts drawn by canine 
heroes that had dragged the lares and penates of 
their owners to safety; and now, requisitioned for 
the army, they were reloaded with supplies and am- 
munition. The intelligence of the Belgian draught 
dog is beyond belief. The military teams at first 
showed haughty resentment toward their civilian 
comrades. Later a tacit understanding arose. 
These amazing defenders were drawn up in line for 
the final inspection, every dog started to bark its 
loudest, and every team, military and civilian, 
strained at the leash. By amazing instinct they 

150 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

knew that up the road was the enemy that had driven 
them from home, and furiously they bayed for the 
chance to get back. When the order was given to 
move off in sections from the right, every team 
dashed forward at top speed, dragging the soldier 
drivers along in a mad race for the canal bridge that 
led to the front. At this crossing wheels were 
locked, guns overturned, supplies spilled, until the 
batteries were a tangled, yelping mass. There was 
some delay as the teams were formed in column and 
restarted. But, though discipline was now main- 
tained, no persuasion could make the animals walk, 
and they disappeared up the road at a dog trot which 
kept the gunners at a double, and they soon came into 
action as they clashed with the German advance 
guard, afterward forced back by some of De Mitry's 
cavalry that were on the Eoulers Eoad. 

With sixty damaged field guns, just five to the 
mile, the Belgian army extended along a twelve-mile 
front, its left squarely on the coast and its main line 
through Nieuport along the Yser to Dixmude, with 
forces on the east bank to guard important cross- 
ings. With outposts at Vladsloo and Essen, Eon- 
arch placed his marines before Dixmude to hold the 
cross roads and railway. Upon him hung the safety 
of the entire line. A Belgian division, French Ee- 
serve cavalry of De Mitry, Bindon's Territorials 
based at Nieucappelle, and the British Seventh Di- 
vision continued the thin line of defense across 

151 



Belgium along the winding roads below Dixmude 
across the Forest of Houthulst, through Zonnebeke, 
well east of Ypres toward Warneton on the French 
frontier. 

Against this precarious and curving front of over 
thirty-three miles, four massive columns were soon 
clashing; while across the British right flank, at 
direct right angles to the thin line of the Allies, the 
Twelfth Corps occupied strong advanced positions 
on the hills, Mont des Chats to Kemmel and Menin, 
south of Ypres. 

But local conditions had changed too quickly for 
the German General Staff. Planmaessig was in 
command, and when the force across the flank should 
have deployed from the hills and struck rapidly to 
crumple up the Allies ' line, it waited for the develop- 
ment of frontal attacks, which were delayed for 
heavy artillery. Byng's cavalry division, helped by 
some snappy French, audaciously countermarched 
in a fog, and fell on the unsuspecting left of the 
flanking Germans, crumpling them up, and driving 
them from Mont des Chats. 

Reinforcements, chiefly Bavarian, were gathering 
between Lille and Menin. The plateau beyond the 
Lys, a wedge of ten miles dividing the Allied line in 
France from the line in Belgium, was vital if the 
Allied forces in the northern sectors were to be en- 
veloped before help came from the Aisne. "Run no 
risks. Develop methodically, then smash decisively 

152 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

and envelop," was the German maxim which must 
have made their cavalry leaders weep for missed 
chances. Byng's surprise stroke was delivered 
from the west, and as the enemy was cleared from 
the western half of the plateau, the British cavalry 
corps pushed across the frontier and dug in as in- 
fantry, deploying on the left of the Third Corps in 
France, with their own left toward Ypres. Thus the 
fronts were triumphantly linked, and though all the 
sectors above Arras were thinly held, the entire line 
from Switzerland to the North Sea, a curving front 
of 588 miles, was now intact Joffre's greatest tri- 
umph. 

But across Belgium the line was a thread. "Help 
is coming. Hold on at least for forty-eight hours," 
the commanders had asked of their tired men. The 
battle raged for 208 hours before effective reen- 
forcements could be spared for Belgium, so great 
was the need on the heavily pressed front from 
Arras to Armentieres. In a terrific battle, with the 
odds four to one, and in places eight to one, 
the line in Belgium had to stand alone. And it 
stood ! 

North Belgium seemed strangely like Long Island 
in parts, just as from Cassel to Arras reminds you of 
rural New England mixed with Scranton, and from 
the hills there the Lille section might be mistaken for 
industrial New Jersey. That is why the war seems 
so incongruous, even to those of us who have seen 

153 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

many battles in more relevant settings. In an easy 
ride along a famous tourist route, north of Arras, 
you crossed the preliminary chaos which was de- 
veloping rapidly into three huge battles, or one stu- 
pendous battle with three distinct sections. From 
the staccato of machine guns with bursts of inde- 
pendent firing, the preliminary fighting before Dix- 
mude did not sound serious, and we were near the 
Belgian forces on the coast roads when a roar of 
German artillery burst suddenly on the town. And 
down roads declared impassable, new streams of 
refugees came flocking through an inferno. They 
came, too, over the sand dunes and across the fens 
from Ostend, and from all the "endes" and 
"kerkes" of the coast districts, helpless, homeless, 
and without future, their villages blazing behind 
them. 

The Duke of Wurttemberg had now concentrated a 
formidable army near Ghent. Before daylight on 
October 17, huge masses of Swabian infantry rushed 
through the mist and gained the advanced trenches 
of the French Marines. Dixmude seemed lost. At 
daylight, without artillery support, these incompre- 
hensible youngsters went back and drove the Ger- 
mans out. Owing to the growing concentration 
there, Colonel Wieschoumes brought over the most 
serviceable of his powder-scored field guns, and by 
using French shells, maintained some sort of bom- 
bardment in support. The Belgian gunners, how- 

154 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

ever, suffered severely under a steady hail of large 
caliber shells. 

The Germans were also pouring along the coast 
from Ostend, determined to smash their way 
through the exhausted Belgian line. And when we 
feared that some one had blundered in allowing 
Michel 's splendid forces to bear the brunt, the grow- 
ing and persistent grumble of battle farther south 
showed that the French and British also had their 
hands full east of Ypres. 

From the sand dunes near Nieuport after dark, 
every hamlet and farm along the front could be seen 
on fire; and none of us gave Peruyse or Fumes 
many hours of escape as the weary days and nights 
dragged on, and we rode across to the Lille front and 
back, and realized the delays necessary before even 
an effective battery could be spared to help the Bel- 
gian front. Yet in both towns the people seemed 
unaware of their danger, so firmly does the normal 
grip the mind. 

On October 19, a mysterious thunder crept from 
the sea through fog and bitter drizzle. Soon the 
German artillery slackened and ceased fire. I 
walked over the wet sand dunes, overtaking a chance 
British officer who seemed as mystified as I was. 
Heavy guns flashed at sea, but the shell-burst was on 
land. British monitors had crept in, utterly dis- 
organizing the German coast attack, to the great 
relief of the First Belgian Division. That night, 

155 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

however, the enemy made desperate assaults and 
gained important villages east of the Yser. Ad- 
miral Shroder also sent mounted marines from Os- 
tend to patrol and fight, so the legend of Horse 
Marines has lost its point. 

Unfortunately the Germans above Lille, cleared 
from the Lys, could not be driven from Menin and 
the heights beyond, and the ineffective breaks on the 
Lille-Menin-Roulers-Ostend railroad were rapidly 
repaired, giving them a direct line of communication 
across Belgium, parallel to the Allies' front. Next 
to the arrival of the British naval flotilla, a consign- 
ment of barbed wire cheered the Allies most ! Be- 
fore Dixmude, the marines, after two counter offen- 
sives, drew back and wired their positions. The 
naval guns, helped by a captive balloon from a war- 
ship, now dropped shells even on the German posi- 
tions at Schoore. But a huge concentration of heavy 
artillery, which moved from Antwerp to attack Dix- 
mude, could not be reached. 

On the 22nd the bombardment ceased, and the new 
units from Germany were launched to their baptism 
of fire to carry the blazing city by assault. Urged 
by patriotism, eager for glory, the devoted youths 
and older men swept against the position, and not a 
shot met them until they reached the wire. The Bel- 
gians and French then poured their volleys from the 
broken trenches, repulsing ten desperate charges 
during the day. French howitzers arrived at the 

156 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

front just too late to share the glory of the desperate 
resistance. 

Into the flaming hell of Dixmude, where three 
thousand shells per hour were falling, Dr. Hector 
Munro took his volunteer hospital corps from 
Furnes, with cars and ambulances, and brought out 
the wounded. With him were Lady Fielding, the 
son of Baron de Broqueville, Minister of War, some 
British volunteers, and Arthur Gleason, a Yale man 
whose writings are well known. I had heard the 
Belgians talk of "Glisson," and had supposed that 
they were referring to one of the Gilsons, an heroic 
Belgian family whose deeds will live in history. I 
was happy to find that the brave volunteer risking 
his life there was a friend of earlier days, whose 
writings have breathed a gentle idealism utterly 
foreign to modern commercialism and ridiculed as 
impractical by more than one critic. It is splendid 
to realize that the author of ' ' The Spirit of Christ- 
mas" ignored orders and drove back into Dixmude 
to drag abandoned wounded from cellars of crashing 
buildings. His wife and Mrs. Kurcher and Miss 
Chisholm were attending wounded at the front in a 
damp cellar in shell-swept Peruyse for two years 
of war. This little band of young Americans and 
British have received Belgium's highest decoration 
from the hands of a grateful king. 

At last reinforcements came to the amazing line 
of three nations. Early on October 24, Grossetti's 

157 



.UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

famous division from the Champagne front reached 
Nieuport and relieved the line. . Muddy, bloody, hag- 
gard specters crept out of the trenches on the Bel- 
gian left, and tramped painfully to rest in Furnes. 
Many whimpered like children when a band played 
them in. But after food and sleep and work 
in reserve, the overstrained Belgian troops went 
cheerfully back to the trenches, separated from the 
German lines only by the sluggish canal to Nieuport. 

Heavy French artillery was now supporting the 
First and Fourth Belgian Divisions. But Bonarch, 
on the Belgian right, was facing another series of 
desperate drives near Ramscappelle, aimed at 
Furnes. Covered by concentrated artillery on the 
25th, the Germans put pontoons over the Yser and 
crossed in several places, the exhausted Belgians 
falling back to the embankment of the Nieuport-Dix- 
mude railroad. Peruyse was soon a flaming ruin, 
and the direct road to Furnes was threatened. At 
last the citizens became alarmed and started to leave. 

Inundation had saved Flanders before. Mr. 
Krogge, a quiet government engineer, now reversed 
the Nieuport sluices, filled in the road passing under 
the railway, and had gaps blown in the dykes near 
the shore. High tides and rains soon converted the 
basin of the lower Yser into a swamp from Dixmude 
to the sea, with the Belgians holding the embank- 
ment, which acted as a dyke and kept the flood from 
reaching their lines. The Germans soon found the 

158 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

water creeping over their newly won territory, but 
for six days these amazing soldiers waded to night 
attacks and gained a footing at Ramscappelle. 

But on the 31st every available Belgian joined in 
an offensive as a heavy rain swamped the German 
area. The enemy losses will never be known. The 
teams of the field guns were cut loose, drivers and 
gunners riding to safety while artillery sank in the 
mud. German infantry under heavy fire had to 
cross fields waist deep in water. Note also that, 
despite earlier provocation, several Belgian machine 
guns stopped firing at the mass of blue-gray infantry 
squirming and floundering through the flood, because 
of the wounded, many of whom sank and were 
drowned. When this district of submerged salt 
meadow is recovered, the final history of the German 
retreat from the Yser may be written. 

It was interesting after this Belgian effort to read, 
in American papers that reached the front, the 
official wireless, from Berlin, October 20, that half 
the Belgian army had fled to Holland to be interned, 
one-fourth had deserted, and the balance was de- 
moralized. This same statement added -that the 
Italian volunteers had returned to Italy in disgust, 
when, in reality, the Garibaldis had been killed 
leading their heroic contingent in the Argonne ; and 
some eager Italian Reservists then returned home to 
fight. 

Reinforcements for both the British and French 

159 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

now arrived, and the thin line of the Allies grew in 
strength, so that King Albert still ruled over a strip 
of his country thirty miles long and, roughly, ten 
miles wide, as well as in the hearts of his people. 
Below Dixmude and the Marines, a Belgian division 
and French Reservists held a line based on the canal- 
ized Yser toward Ypres, curving eastward on the 
edge of the Houthulst Forest on the first section 
of a deep angle of defenses maintained as a protec- 
tive salient before Ypres by the British. This city 
was the junction for eleven important roads. The 
Seventh Division, after an abortive attack on Menin, 
had retired on Gheluvelt, five miles due east of Ypres, 
and, with dismounted cavalry on both flanks, had ex- 
tended back northwest and southwest on a defensive 
angle to cover the main approaches to the city. 
Strong columns, which marched down by three roads, 
were checked by this single division, on the apex of 
the famous salient which was linked on the south by 
the dismounted cavalry corps to the left of the Third 
Corps, across the Ploegsteert woods and over the 
frontier to Armentieres. 

The Seventh Division attempted to save Ypres for 
Belgium by field works, in a small edition of Ver- 
dun. Unfortunately Kawlinson had not enough men 
to create a zone wide enough to keep artillery out 
of range of the city, and the trenches were dug in a 
flat country with few natural aids to defense. The 
Germans were on the eastern half of the Messines 

160 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

ridges, from which heavy guns dominated the entire 
Ypres salient. Artillery from three directions 
could concentrate on parts of the British line, to 
prepare for assaults which were delivered night and 
day without success, as the British held on grimly, 
their batteries outranged, a barrier of nerve and 
flesh, waiting for reinforcements. 

The First Corps detrained near St. Omer on Octo- 
ber 19 and 20. Sir Douglas Haig at once led his 
Aisne veterans to Belgium, intending to take the 
offensive by smashing through the extended German 
front, to push between the Fourth and Sixth Armies. 
But as his columns were forming in the salient, the 
Belgians were driven across the Yser, exposing the 
left of the French cavalry, who fell back west of the 
forest to preserve their front, but left a gap at the 
northern base of the salient, at which a fresh enemy 
corps was thrown. Haig's forces quickly stopped 
the break. But the Germans, realizing that all was 
lost if they lost the chance to maneuver, had deter- 
mined to break the stubborn line. Aeroplanes re- 
ported that the roads converging on Ypres were 
black with German troops, and the First Corps ex- 
tended on the salient just in time to check a series 
of desperate assaults by three corps. 

In this fighting the Seventh Division on the apex 
continued to suffer, and some famous British bat- 
talions practically ceased to exist. Even now reen- 
forcements did not mean rest. The forces closed 

161 



.UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

up their shattered ranks and continued to fight. The 
cavalry formed the only reserve, galloping to sag- 
ging points of the front, riding down enemy elements 
which sometimes broke through, and dismounting to 
reenf orce a depleted firing line. 

On the 23rd and 24th, after repulsing heavy as- 
saults, the British counter attacked. As they har- 
ried the confused Germans back to their lines, tak- 
ing hundreds of prisoners, the struggling, fighting 
mass, masking 'hostile machine guns, literally 
swamped back into the advanced German trenches. 
The German front collapsed and the British took up 
the line, reversing the trenches by lifting the sand- 
bags across and throwing over the loosened wire, 
so that parados became parapets, and they could 
face and repel the enemy when the fugitives brought 
back the reserves. Twice now, tired masses broke 
up and retreated as soon as they came within range, 
and when the Ninth French Corps detrained and 
formed on the left of the British, attacks ceased for 
nine days, during which the Allies reorganized their 
front under constant shelling. 

Their guns were still outranged, so their losses 
were heavy, and though the lines were six miles 
from the city, the Germans bombarded Ypres daily. 
The famous Gothic Halle des Drapiers was natu- 
rally the first target, and immortal art gems, in- 
cluding the panels of Pauwels, were destroyed. 
Section by section the city was pulverized from 

162 



THE FEONT IN FLANDERS 

Messines ridge, hundreds of noncombatants being 
killed as they fled. But passing back from the 
Belgians' line to France and the Lille front, we 
heard few details of the terrible fighting on this posi- 
tion bulging between the two. The tired Belgians 
realized little of the struggle below them, and won- 
dered what their Allies were doing. 

Before Lille the fighting had grown in intensity 
daily. Between Lens and Belgium each week of 
October marked a special phase. A week wasted by 
absurd reconnoissance of German cavalry, on a front 
which cyclist patrols could have covered in a day. 
A week of slow concentration and a tardy cavalry 
advance, thwarted by inferior forces of the Allies. 
Seven days more of battles on every road, as the 
British forces detrained and moved by the shortest 
cuts eastward, when the ponderous enemy columns 
were unfolding (Entfaltung). During this, accord- 
ing to theory, their numerical superiority would force 
any enemy to tremble and prepare a defensive. A 
smaller boy challenged by a bully may inflict effec- 
tive punishment by unexpectedly dashing in while the 
larger antagonist is taking off his coat. So Deploy- 
ieren became involved, the front was irregular and 
prematurely engaged, and the simultaneous Ger- 
man blows planned, after methodical deploy- 
ment, with enveloping weight on the flanks, be- 
came impossible. The ponderous theory became a 
farce. 

163 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

During the last week in October, sheer weight told 
a little, and the Allies were pounded back on ad- 
vanced points, and forced to a defensive on a defined 
front. But the spectacular sweep of envelopment 
via Belgium to Pas de Calais was breaking on a 
thin line of heroes stretched firmly to the sea. 

When we first skirted the Lille front, the Arcadian 
edge to industry was a beautiful countryside lightly 
swept by looting cavalry. In a week it became a 
depopulated zone of bewildering conflict. By the 
end of October the front was marked by a wide fur- 
row of ruin and desolation a blackened inferno 
into which strong men marched in thousands, and 
from which only thin streams of maimed and shat- 
tered bodies flowed back. From Hazebrouck, which 
was behind the center of the wriggling front that 
twisted its way along the sixty direct miles between 
Arras and Nieuport, it was an easy ride to any sec- 
tion of the new battle. During the evacuation of a 
populous countryside and the installation of the dif- 
ferent forces, it was possible to keep in touch with 
the fluctuating campaign until the armies had defi- 
nitely dug in. 

The official reports of these operations are mere 
history, but every mile, each incident and each min- 
ute, teemed with human interest: the country at 
first was so peaceful and charming, the war so ab- 
normal in that setting. During the first days we 
could hear only the heavy guns at Arras and sput- 

164 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

ters of skirmishing at many places. The skirmish 
fire grew in volume. From points along the road 
from Hazebrouck and Bethune we could see peace- 
ful hamlets and farm land spread in replica of the 
country between Summit and Bernardsville, just as 
two distant views we had of Lille and its industrial 
suburbs, from a greater eminence, might well be 
labeled Newark and the Oranges as seen from the 
Millburn mountain. But in the hamlets were groups 
of Allied troops, some making defenses, others des- 
perately fighting. German artillery soon picked up 
the range and the towns and villages, occupied or un- 
occupied, were shot to pieces. 

We rode down one road where a few French troop- 
ers had fought from an irrigation ditch, and had 
kept a German force from fording the muddy canal. 
The smart dragoons were angry because they were 
armored in slime, and though the Boches had fought 
from a hedge not fifty meters away, not a corpse was 
discovered. Dead and wounded had undoubtedly 
been carried away, but the farmers were incredulous 
and made flippant remarks. The enemy was expected 
back any minute, but we waited two hours. I found 
there a German clip with inverted bullets reset in 
wax, and a Uhlan helmet with a faint 17U marked 
inside, of a size evidently used by a boy, probably a 
musician. Down the road we found an abandoned 
car. 

We soon caught the growl of field guns and found 

165 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Tommy Atkins going cheerfully into action, as im- 
perturbable as a public school battalion at a Fox Hill 
maneuver. The good spirits of the British soldiers 
were amazing. The heavy losses of the previous 
weeks of fighting at the Marne and Aisne were pain- 
fully evident. Junior officers held important com- 
mands; some companies were woefully depleted; 
there were batteries with a single officer. But the 
men were all cheerful. The tension of trench work 
was temporarily over ; they were fighting again in the 
open, and during intervals of much tedious work 
they played football, and marched on singing, when 
patrols signaled that the road was clear. 

Of course, they were professional soldiers, mer- 
cenaries, the Germans insist, as if there was nothing 
greater than the King's shilling a day that im- 
pelled enlistment even in times of peace, one of the 
many important facts which the enemy overlooked 
in his formulae of theories. In the armies of the 
United States and England the open life and lure 
of adventure fill the ranks with material which the 
pay alone could never attract. Recall the writings 
of German military experts during the Spanish War 
and more recently. After the Lusitania crime a 
great authority stated: "The Yankee army is a 
polyglot mob. The National Guard has no disci- 
pline, few rifles, inferior equipment, and, as proved 
in Cuba, it will refuse to face the enemy." On such 
logic the basis of Kulturpolitik rests, and ranting 

166 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

Imperialists like the Baron von Bodelschwingh- 
Schwarzenhazel found their arguments. 

After the Ulster resignations a few weeks before 
the war, a careful authority wrote, "If the English 
Navy is as rotten as their army has proved, the 
flimsy fabric called the British Empire will topple 
at the first crack of a German gun." Another ex- 
pert said, "The so-called British army is a rabble 
composed of gutter snipes, degenerates, and physical 
ineffectives, and to our trained eyes it is a joke." 
But the "joke," in a thin drab line, had jumped 
out and stopped the advance of an impressive 
army. 

In South Africa the Boers were immensely re- 
spected by rank and file, and it was amazing to hear 
every British soldier express a patronizing pity for 
the German troops, and respect only for their ma- 
chine guns. Every man seemed to have a German 
helmet, which spoke more eloquently than the official 
reports of the victory of the Marne. Yet there were 
many tributes also to the way the gray-clad masses 
advanced in close order against a withering fire, in 
apparent contempt of death. Of bitterness or anger 
there was never a trace in the early campaigns. 
Here and there men had a look of haunting fear, 
which always means that life holds some special 
feminine ties. But the British regulars in general 
were clean-cut, hardy campaigners, used to foreign 
service, freed by habit from the pangs of homesick- 

167 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ness, and geared for fighting from the drop of the 
hat. Only there were not enough of them. 

The fighting of the British Army and French cav- 
alry in North France from October 12 to the 20th, 
was so independent in every conception, that it de- 
serves careful study in the United States where co- 
operative initiative is the keynote of training. 
Faced by equal, and soon greatly superior forces, 
the fighting started with scores of minor engage- 
ments where individual initiative had full play. 
Company officers, and frequently sergeants, solved 
their immediate problems in their own way. The 
Germans were caught and forced on the defensive, 
when their perfect machine was geared for invasion. 
Everywhere the component parts went to pieces, 
floundered hopelessly and fell back, until they were 
supported by sheer weight of numbers and guns. 
On equal terms they would have been defeated. But 
the British were woefully lacking in artillery and 
machine guns, and their two small corps with cav- 
alry, in France, were facing an army plus one corps, 
with prior choice of position, but a disarranged 
plan. 

To a series of impetuous and unexpected attacks, 
the Germans responded bravely but aimlessly, every 
one apparently waiting for orders from superior au- 
thority. Directly the machine was regeared for the 
new development, it proved perfect in defense, but 
that was not victory. When batteries were shelling 

168 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

harmless hamlets, British troops dashed across open 
fields and captured farms and crossroads, while the 
battery commanders waited for orders to change 
their target. Cavalry ordered to move by one road 
waited for orders without latitude, when new condi- 
tions developed which any corporal could have 
solved. The German failure along the Lys was a 
gigantic farce. But for some days the front was 
irregular and the fighting most confusing. 

On one road French cavalry had advanced two 
miles without a shot, and had captured many pris- 
oners. Following one detachment of twenty-seven, 
guarded by French troopers, we were surprised to 
find a British outpost on a crossroad far behind, 
eagerly waiting for guns they had sent back to 
borrow, to clear a wooded hill reported by patrols to 
be full of the enemy, and soon the scene of a hot 
fight and heavy losses. 

Discipline was forgotten, and as the prisoners pre- 
pared for the worst, their hands were shaken, and 
they were patted on the back, objects of friendly in- 
terest. Some one suggested that the prisoners might 
be hungry, and canned beef, bread, jam, and hard 
tack soon made a love feast. Two French officers 
rode up, glaring sternly. The Germans dropped 
everything and stood at attention. The senior offi- 
cer's face softened. "Continuez mes enfants," he 
said. Then tins of English cigarettes were pro- 
duced, a solace to men who had not smoked for three 

169 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

weeks. Their regiment had made forced marches 
from Lorraine, and was then put on outpost duty. 
Alas, a scene like this could not have happened a 
few weeks later when, as obedient cogs in a ruthless 
machine, men similar to these had shot the wounded 
and launched poison gas. 

Gradually the trenches grew deeper, positions 
were consolidated, and the rival lines ran in parallel 
furrows along the new front. In many villages 
finally secured by the Allies there was ample evi- 
dence of the brutal terrorism of Prussian mili- 
tarism. 

I could fill volumes with interesting incidents. 
Across the Belgian frontier I recalled a small hotel 
kept by a Yorkshire man. With an equally hungry 
British supply officer, I led the way. Most of the 
people had gone, but the hotel and the owner were 
there. ' ' Food ? Where could he get it ! " He had 
a little ham, tea without milk, and bread a week 
old. But we feasted. Later, riding past a French 
force holding a road, an orderly requested the offi- 
cer's presence. The commandant had a few odds 
and ends to hand over field glasses; a coat and a 
map dropped by a British cavalry officer who was 
shot off his horse, but who revived and insisted on 
galloping after his men; also three rifles, and two 
stray privates. Each Tommy Atkins looked sheep- 
ish, saluted, but said nothing. 

Out of earshot the officer questioned the "desert- 

170 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

ers." One had volunteered to take hot coffee to the 
outer trenches. He missed his guide post, crossed 
to a match flare and heard men talking German. 
Three soldiers sprang from a trench and challenged. 
It was pitch dark, so he merely handed over the 
coffee, which they took without question, and started 
back to his lines. But his people opened fire every 
time he approached. He lay outside for three days 
before he could get in, and then reached the French 
force and was still there. 

The other man, a finely built private of a York- 
shire regiment, had crawled over to a French trench 
to repay borrowed bread. As a sergeant lifted his 
head to talk, a sharpshooter's bullet killed him. An 
officer moved over to catch the body, and was 
wounded. So Tommy volunteered to squirm out and 
stalk the sniper. He finally located him far on the 
flank in a little scoop behind a loopholed intrench- 
ing tool. In the duel one bullet plowed his scalp, 
but the shield stopped all his shots. So he raised 
himself, toppled in a heap, and lay with his gun 
ready. And in two places advanced snipers lifted 
themselves to look at the "kill." He shot one 
through the head ; one, in the shoulder. This started 
shooting from friend and enemy, so he had to wait 
until dark. His wounded man began to moan, so he 
went over. "Blowed if he didn't think I came to 
finish him, and he hit me a wallop," he said indig- 
nantly. But he patchtd the wound, and a truce, 

171 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

and they got in. The outposts were French. "I 
thought myself a bit of a hero, but they made me a 
prisoner too," added the soldier. 

The French here had few rations. The first sol- 
dier was half dead with hunger, so we took him back 
to a village and found a stylishly dressed Parisienne, 
just from New York, helping with the wounded in 
deep mud over her dainty shoes, and the wounded 
German eating one of her two hundred nickel packets 
of Baker's chocolate. The rival snipers were soon 
chatting famously by signs, until a French officer 
stopped the tete-a-tete. Here again all the wounded 
enemy were being well treated by the French, and at 
all points I have seen the same thing. The York- 
shire private had a ridge across his scalp that would 
have fractured an African skull. 

The soldiers will have their jokes. We heard a 
gun boom. " Chicken for dinner," said a Cockney. 
"What?" "Well, I just heard von Kluck." On 
some Sunday nights, in a lull, the British and Ger- 
mans sang hymns together, with different words to 
the many sacred tunes they have in common. The 
French have a song about Rosalie (their bayonet). 
In perfect French, voices afterward inquired about 
the damsel's health, and the pioupious promised to 
bring the lady over one day and introduce her. 
They did a few nights afterward. " 'Ow's Kaiser 
Bill?" yelled a Tommy. "With his troops. 
.Where's George?" was the swift repartee in Eng- 

172 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

lish. But the King was soon closer to the front than 
the Kaiser has ever ventured. 

At one town I met several new French recruits 
waiting to be allocated. Among them were five 
Americans, two from college. These promising lads 
were spending a vacation on Gloucester whalers off 
Cape Verde, when they heard of the war. They 
jumped ship at Grand Canary and, as the shortest 
road to the front, attested at the consulate as sons of 
unnaturalized Frenchmen in America, and so fin- 
ished their adventurous trip by being sent to France 
to fight. 

The efforts of the French to care for their own 
and Belgian refugees, and to move them from the 
danger zone, were touching. We had just seen the 
mass of bodies where spies had derailed a train, 
when news came that the Amiral Ganteaume, en- 
gaged in moving the helpless and homeless from 
Dunkirk and Calais to Havre where they could have 
better care, had been torpedoed off Grinez with 
2,200 women and children on board, on October 25. 
Luckily the Folkestone mail boat, the Queen, left 
France late, and by chance was able to rescue most 
of the helpless in a heavy sea, though forty lives 
were sacrificed. Embedded in the wreckage was a 
fragment of steel bearing the words "Ruder unten 
Sperrung." This was an act of ruthless barbarity, 
for the decks were black with women, and no mis- 
take was possible. The refugees lost the few treas- 

173 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ures that they had saved from their destroyed homes. 
They were taken to Folkestone, a town which then 
sheltered 80,000 Belgian refugees, and which turned 
its splendid hotels over to the sick and wounded 
a great example of sympathetic hospitality. 

The Indian divisions came up from Orleans 
October 24 to act in reserve of the Second Corps, 
which had been forced to modify its front and which 
had no reserves. But a new effort of the enemy to 
regain Mont des Chats and break through the left of 
the Third Corps just across the frontier called a 
brigade to Belgium; while against Dorrien's new 
line a massed attack captured Neuve Chapelle and 
was checked with difficulty as it attempted to push 
down the road to Bethune on the 27th, just as a 
British attack on La Bassee had broken down be- 
fore machine guns masked in brick fields. Next day, 
the Indians moved into line, regained some lost 
ground, and straightened the line. 

After the arrival of the Indian Corps, the Meerut 
and Lahore divisions under "Jim" Willcocks, the 
Kiplingesque touch was no longer lacking. The 
camps of Hindus, Sikhs, and Mohammedans pre- 
served their startling individuality, and our passing 
glances proved the tact with which the British hold 
the loyal cooperation of Oriental races. Everything 
had been done to meet the rigid fastidiousness of 
caste. Herds of goats were sent up to be slaugh- 
tered according to ritual, for the Hindus must not 

174 



THE FRONT IN FLANDERS 

look on the flesh of cattle. The Mohammedan re- 
volts at pork, the British soldier must have beef 
and bacon, and the Sikh can only face canned mut- 
ton. The Mohammedan smokes, but drinks tea only ; 
to the Sikh, tobacco is unclean. 

The regiments of each race are childishly jeal- 
ous of each other. Units taunted each other before 
attacks or enjoyed a mad race to the German 
trenches, afterward quarreling over the winner until 
their brigadier, a Solomon, declared it a dead heat. 
These men were led by the princes of their own 
states, with a leaven of British officers. Each com- 
mand was voluntarily offered for active service after 
a conference of the heads of Indian states passively 
hostile to each other by tradition, nationality, and 
religion. They came from the Himalayas and the 
scorching plains of Hindustan Beluchis, Sikhs, 
Dogras, Pathans, Jats, and mild Bengalis, with the 
snappy Gorkas, a fighting cousin of the Jap. The 
Punjab, Bengal, Bombay, and Madras each contri- 
buted their contingents. Among the maharajas who 
were at the front were Sir Pertab Singh, Regent of 
Jodhpur, a veteran soldier of '71, and the Maharaja 
of Jodhpur, aged eighteen, commanding the famous 
cavalry of his state. 

Hassgesang gegen England! Cheer the subtlety 
of 77 Wilhelmstrasse ! Airships persistently bom- 
barded the lines of the high caste Aryan Hindus 
with leaflets in Urdu announcing that a Holy War 

175 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

on England had been declared by the Sheik-ul-Islam 
at Mecca. This effort was worthy of the intelligence 
which sent a one-armed Prussian officer to Cuba to 
assure the American soldiers privately that an at- 
tack on Santiago was hopeless and the climate deadly 
propaganda which made this gentleman an in- 
dignant guest of Uncle Sam until he could be sent 
north. 

By November 1, the Germans had four active and 
five reserve corps, a marine division, and a cavalry 
corps in Belgium. The Bavarians had five active 
and two and a half reserve corps, and cavalry be- 
tween Arras and Belgium. Four active and one and 
a half reserve corps were between Arras and the 
Somme in the Second Army. Ten active and nine 
reserve corps were on the Oise and Aisne front 
to the Verdun sectors, where the Crown Prince's 
Fifth Army formed the curving link with the forces 
covering the frontier. A total of fifty-two corps 
were in the Franco-Belgian area. 



CHAPTER VII 

DEADLOCK 

RECALL Bloch's forgotten prophecy that modern 
war must degenerate into siege operations, barren 
of decisive results and demanding campaigns that can 
be ended only by exhaustion of the resources of one 
or both sides. October crept out and November 
dawned in icy drizzle, fog and sleet that inaugurated 
a winter of unprecedented severity. Each side 
grew stronger, each side dug in, and offensives 
launched in either direction failed. 

But the Teuton armies refused to bow to predes- 
tined conditions. Their masses were "invincible," 
and must conquer. Their plan of breaking up the 
Allied left above Noyon had failed. The hope of 
swarming like a flood above Arras had also. been 
chastened. Thwarted by the British rush to North 
France and ten days of failure in a series of des- 
perate attacks at La Bassee, advance below Lille was 
stopped. 

But hills dominating the narrow straits of Dover 
and the port of Calais, which legend says was 
printed across the heart of one ambitious queen, 
could be reached from Belgium across a few miles 

177 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

of low land and sand dunes. A thin exposed line of 
defense alone barred the way to the point where 
siege guns and close submarine bases could still 
strike a blow at British security. 

In early November, therefore, battering rams of 
men were mobilized in Belgium to break through. 
Twelve army corps and four corps of cavalry gath-; 
ered north of Lille to do the work. 

The French Ninth Corps, forming on the British 
left, took over the northern sector of the Ypres 
defenses, consolidating with Grossetti's division and 
other units to form the Eighth French Army under 
General Dubail. The first blow of the November 
battle was given by three corps hurled against the 
British at Gheluvelt, apex of the salient, due east of 
Ypres. With more bravery than skill, companies of 
the highly educated volunteers supplementing the 
Ersatz regiments led the advance. The 'German 
patriots, famous in art, science and finance, led the 
first assault after a terrific howitzer fire had 
crumpled up parts of the British trenches. But 
with equal fortitude the shaken British were clinging 
to the debris, withholding their fire as the line moved 
forward singing the national hymn, until within bat- 
tle-sight range. Then a burst of magazine fire shat- 
tered the German formation. 

Again a cascade of high explosives swept the 
British position; trenches caved in; survivors were 
buried alive in a mass of sand and human debris. 

178 



But again as massed lines charged, the dogged Brit- 
ish soldiers shattered the formation. These German 
volunteers fought with a sublime devotion to their 
cause and country, with a zeal that made the chival- 
rous British and French risk their lives to drag 
wounded survivors to safety and give them the place 
of honor in the field hospitals. 

Dazed and stunned by hours of renewed bombard- 
ment when the genius of Krupp, from a saf e dis- 
tance, dropped heavy shells of such size and in such 
profusion that their bursting alone made the actual 
reports of the Allies* guns in reply sound like fire- 
crackers versus thunder, the British continued to 
hold. They were pitifully supported by inadequate 
field guns soon masked and checked as the Germans 
increased their range and diverted their shower of 
projectiles from the trenches to the batteries in rear 
and covered the advance of four columns of Teuton 
soldiers from Hoelbeck, from the Belgian village 
America, which few have discovered, and points on 
the Menin-Ypres road. These swept forward in suc- 
cessive waves of men in close order, following the 
Japanese idea. The first line was annihilated; the 
second was close to the parapets before it dissolved 
in bloody groups ; the third was tearing through the 
shell-wrecked barbed barricade and closing with the 
bayonet before it received attention, and during this 
struggle the fourth line dashed in intact, overwhelm- 
ing a big section of the line and capturing Ghelu- 

179 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

velt, the apex of the defense. Through the breach 
in the British lines eager German reinforcements 
poured up the Ypres road. But the field artillery 
continued the battle alone, with case shot, many guns 
being run forward by hand, inflicting and receiving 
terrible losses as it smashed formations, until staff 
officers gathered mixed forces even from the hospi- 
tals and charged, retaking Gheluvelt with the bayo- 
net. As the entire front was engaged by covering 
attacks, no help could be spared from other sectors. 
Next day these sorry, improvised forces were 
hard pressed in the broken trenches, without support 
under more extended assaults. With roads almost 
impassable on foot, British cavalry were ordered to 
go up mounted from their billets, tie their horses and 
move to the front to reenf orce the line. But reviving 
the tradition of the Battle of the Spurs once fought in 
Flanders, the troopers rode right up into action in 
the Zillebeke woods, now swarming with the enemy. 
With a cheer they charged among the trees, many 
using spades which in trench work were often might- 
ier than the sword. The French cavalry, follow- 
ing them, also broke into a gallop, and as the action 
of machine guns was retarded by the woods, they also 
rode the Germans down and cleared the section. 
During the action the German Fifteenth Corps, ade- 
quately supported by artillery, were thrice repulsed 
when storming a wide sector held only by a de- 
pleted brigade. And the line of the Allies was then 

180 



DEADLOCK 

so thin that there were no resting reserves merely 
supports always under shell fire. 

On November 10 airmen reported great activity at 
Menin. The presence of a protective air flotilla an- 
nounced the arrival of the Kaiser. Daybreak on 
the llth opened a terrific bombardment of both the 
British and the French lines, southeast and north- 
east of Ypres. An overwhelming battering ram was 
prepared, backed by huge guns from Antwerp, and 
tipped by the First and Fourth Brigades of Prus- 
sian Guards brought over from Arras. 

At a given signal a bombardment engaged every 
sector along the north front, and then the huge 
bolt of men was launched at the British line, again 
toward Gheluvelt. Earlier days had depleted the 
stock of British shells, and ten days of desperate 
fighting had ruined several of the pitifully few ma- 
chine guns, when the Guards charged in successive 
waves. The first mass was swept away ; the second 
reached the shaken trenches with the bayonet; the 
third line swept over men fighting desperately for 
their lives, and went cheering madly across the 
wooded district toward the city. 

But their formation was broken in crossing the 
trenches ; the ground was a quagmire from constant 
rain, and they were soon masking their own guns. 
Field guns, pushed through the mud, met them. Dis- 
mounted Horse Guards, Northampton reservists four 
months from their cobbler 's benches, Gloucester 

181 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

fanners, cotton spinners of the Lancasters, and the 
Midget Rifles, pigmies against the six-foot Prus- 
sians, came up from different directions, and with 
scant formations went into the fray. For two hours 
fighting more like a desperate riot raged, a conflict 
fatal for troops trained in close-order formation. 
Without orders, many French soldiers also fought 
like lions as individuals until the bewildered Guards 
staggered back over the captured trenches filled 
chiefly with dead and wounded. 

Before the British could repair their trenches two 
fresh assaults were made by other brigades, but 
these also were both repulsed. At daybreak the 
Guards, reenf orced, determined to retrieve their de- 
feat by an attack against the French on the north- 
east. The result was the same, for though the last 
two masses broke through, the fire of the famous 75 
guns broke the formation and morale of the invaders. 
Then the supports, including cooks and lightly 
wounded, were loosed, and expelled them with the 
bayonet. 

The battle losses of the Germans were appalling. 
But their superiority in heavy artillery and machine 
guns enabled them to maintain their defensive points 
with a minimum of exposure. On normal days their 
casualties were trivial, while the losses of the Allies 
maintained a heavy average, and continued until 
they could create and train adequate heavy field ar- 
tillery, which was necessarily a tedious and difficult 

182 



DEADLOCK 

process after years of pacific army estimates. In 
October that small British army lost 3,013 officers 
and 69,017 men, in saving Flanders. 

During these days of stress Lord Eoberts was in 
France visiting' his East Indian comrades. Ask 
Tommy Atkins if exposure in the icy wind killed 
this veteran hero amid the roar of the guns and 
among the men he loved so well. He will tell you 
that "Bobs" died of a broken heart. The aged 
Field Marshal found remnants of battalions that he 
had once led to victory, depleted by losses of ninety 
per cent. What must his emotions have been when 
he saw the result of his neglected warnings I For 
years he prophesied that this war would come unless 
the British maintained a large reserve army with 
full equipment, which would be a guaranty of peace. 
His advice was derided by pacifists. The statesmen 
who were feverishly trying to create a huge army 
overnight had once been his most bitter oppo- 
nents. 

Measures for modernizing and doubling the Brit- 
ish artillery establishment were voted down by a 
party tinged with socialism and theoretical ideals, 
when the changes in the Balkans, and Austria's jeal- 
ousy of Servian aspirations, had made the risk of 
war acute. With a prepared England in the back- 
ground, who can believe that the Central Powers 
would have chosen war instead of arbitration? And 
now the enemy was practically in sight of the Chan- 

183 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

nel ports, and living bodies formed the barrier which 
should have been held by potential guns and screens 
of shells. Military preparation may not avert war, 
but the lack of it will surely invite hostilities. 
Broadway audiences ridiculed the play "The Eng- 
lishman's Home," but National Guard officers ad- 
vised their men to see it, for its lessons were inter- 
national, and the scenes might well have been laid 
in any New York suburb. 

Besides Lord Eoberts, who died on November 14, 
the fall campaign claimed other victims known in 
the United States. The Duke of Hesse was killed 
on the Mont des Chats ; Julius Foehr, once popular 
manager of the North German Lloyd, fell when 
leading his platoon of the King Karl Grenadiers in 
the desperate Yser fighting. On the British side, 
Prince Maurice of Battenberg, cousin of King 
George and brother of the Queen of Spain, and as 
modest and brave as his father who lost his life in 
the Ashanti Expedition, was mortally wounded. 
Lieutenant St. George, grandson of G. F. Baker, the 
New York banker, was killed in the fight with the 
Prussian Guards before Ypres. 

In November a severe winter set in. Life along 
the opposing lines became a nightmare of horror, 
with every trench a ditch of half -frozen water which 
all ingenuity failed to overcome. Blocked in their 
advance to the sea across Belgium, the Germans 
made a final effort to smash through the British lines 

184 



DEADLOCK 

before Lille in December, the brunt of which first fell 
on the forces from India and the British brigades on 
the La Bassee roads. Misled by the transfer of 
certain forces to Ypres, the Bavarians concentrated 
suddenly and launched one of their human battering 
rams behind a curtain of shells. The advanced 
trenches were overwhelmed and the wounded survi- 
vors were stamped on and beaten to death in a frenzy 
of rage. The British recaptured most of their 
trenches, but at heavy cost, and the Germans had 
gained some ground. 

But it was the last flicker of Germany's desperate 
battle for the coast, and the offensives simmered 
down to a monotonous defensive, with artillery ex- 
changes and merciless sniping on both sides to re- 
lieve trench tedium. Early in December the French 
made a surprise attack on Vermelles, which they 
captured after a terrific hand-to-hand fight, strength- 
ening their junction with the British, and gaining the 
first step on the way to Lens. 

A succession of heavy snowstorms was punctuated 
by thaws which added greatly to the suffering of the 
soldiers. Protected by the morass before them, 
the Germans now reaped the benefit of their numer- 
ous machine guns, maintaining miles of advanced 
lines with light forces, and withdrawing the bulk of 
their troops to comparative comfort behind the firing 
line. Huge reinforcements were also sent to the east 
front, since costly experience had taught them how 

185 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

slender a line could maintain a defense against 
overwhelming odds. 

Christmas awoke the strongest whisper of interna- 
tional brotherhood heard in the war. By mutual 
consent firing stopped at midnight, and Christmas 
morning brought many heads above the opposing 
trenches, and a tacit truce was actuated by a common 
impulse. Along the British front officers and men of 
both armies were soon flocking across the danger 
zone, grasping hands and exchanging gifts. If the 
fate of nations could be decided by the rank and file, 
peace and a lasting friendship would have been 
struck up then. Boers and Britons have made a 
lasting peace because local conditions gave those 
who actually fought on both sides a great part in 
the final adjustment. In Germany a newspaper 
that printed a photograph of the rival soldiers fra- 
ternizing was suppressed. But at midnight the 
truce ended, and the tiresome vigil in trenches knee- 
deep in icy water was resumed, with hundreds of 
victims of frostbite daily, and hospitals busy with 
amputations. 

The new year started with the newspaper chatter 
of a great Allied offensive, which made those who 
knew conditions smile. While the Allies had 
checked Germany's amazing preparation with a de- 
fined boundary, their successes had been chiefly de- 
fensive, at an appalling cost. "With enough ammu- 
nition an enemy, numerically vastly inferior, can 

186 



DEADLOCK 

maintain a fortified line. The British had agreed 
to land an expeditionary force of 150,000 men. In 
six months their losses were almost double that num- 
ber, and they were maintaining an army of 350,000 
on a line short if estimated by miles, but difficult and 
costly, when we considered the exposed position in 
Flanders, and the operations which virtually en- 
tailed the siege of Lille in direct communication 
with Berlin, and one of the most formidable points 
of German defense. 

Many were scoffing at the delay in equipping 
Kitchener's new army. The first million rifles or- 
dered in the United States were promised for deliv- 
ery in nine months to a year. Dies necessary to 
make parts of machine guns could only be supplied 
in six months. For some months nearly three mil- 
lions of the finest men in the British Isles were drill- 
ing with old rifles and sticks while government 
plants, working night and day, were just able to meet 
the wastage of rules at the front and supply enough 
weapons for effective target practice for the new 
army. Japanese rifles bridged one gap, but it 
needed a year to create factories to turn out an 
ample supply, and two years for adequate artillery 
and shells. 

On January 8, after a rainstorm, the Aisne was in 
flood, temporary bridges were swept away, and the 
Germans rushed storm troops by rail to Laon for a 
surprise attack on the unsupported French. The 

187 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

first assault near Soissons was a great success. A 
huge gap was made in the French line, and trains 
rushed reinforcements to the scene, while the Ger- 
man press hinted at a new drive on Paris. But on 
the hills south of the river the French reserves 
checked the advance, though the enemy, until 1917, 
maintained a bridge head to the south bank, and 
some of the high ground, up which the British fought 
their way after the battle of the Marne, was lost. 

Farther west, across Champagne, as winter's grip 
relaxed, the French took the offensive, massing their 
artillery to maintain a rideau de fer, section by sec- 
tion, along a five-mile front across Perthes to Beause- 
jour Farm, and pushing the German trenches back 
by persistent infantry assaults to straighten the 
front. 

In March, General French decided upon a bold 
stroke in north France against the tangle of helmets 
and crossroads between La Bassee and Laventie, on 
the end of the Aubers Ridge, the key to many minor 
roads to Lille, and directly north of and flanking 
the strong German position at La Bassee which 
barred the route nationale from Lens north, and the 
main road from Bethune to Lille. 

The British cavalry had been relieving the worn 
French Ninth Corps in Belgium, which was rested 
and refitted. The Fifth Corps had reenforced the 
depleted Third Corps before Lille. The Canadian 
contingent had also landed and afforded fresh re- 

188 



DEADLOCK 

serves. During the winter also a new British air 
fleet had been equipped and trained and new flotillas 
were formed, which assumed superiority over the 
aeroplanes of the enemy. Taube after Taube was 
shot down, and effective air patrols kept every hos- 
tile flier away while the new concentration was 
made. They also destroyed two important forts of 
Lille used by the enemy for ammunition stores. 

On a narrow front 600 guns were massed on the 
line opposite Neuve Chapelle, and picked brigades of 
General Haig's corps were brought down and con- 
centrated for a surprise attack March 10. Neuve 
Chapelle was stormed and captured, the reserve line 
was breached, and in places the front was penetrated 
to the depth of a mile. But on some sections re- 
doubts on the second line resisted stubbornly and 
the irregular front made effective artillery support 
difficult. Three hours were lost in readjusting the 
front, covering the flanks of the far advanced line, 
and rearranging the artillery schedule in a dense fog 
which prevented signaling; then heavy German re- 
enforcements checked further progress. Two 
thousand prisoners were taken with machine guns 
and trench mortars, and the German losses 
were heavy, though at exposed points they had re- 
treated skillfully in echelon, an effect of their dis- 
cipline which restrained the suicidal scramble so 
frequent in evacuating trenches. The British losses 
were also heavy, 572 officers and 12,230 men, a large 

189 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

proportion of the strength actually on the firing line. 
But in this vigorous, though not extended, battle, the 
artillery had used more ammunition than the supply 
during the entire South African War. 

In one fight before Ypres a British battalion fired 
a million rounds. On the firing line during recent 
state maneuvers the incessant cry of army officers 
attached to the National Guard was " Faster, 
faster." It must be remembered that, though fire 
superiority must be maintained, it is often difficult 
to keep advanced trenches supplied in action when 
communicating trenches are muddy and almost in- 
passable for tired men with cases of ammunition. 
For modern conditions fire discipline is often more 
important than rigid accuracy, and the time in the 
National Guard once devoted to creating sharpshoot- 
ers and experts, is now used in training only for 
trench sniping; while the imperative study of re- 
serving fire, delivering effective bursts of aimed fire, 
catching moving targets in open order, and beating 
down an attack with sweeping fire was generally 
neglected until recently. In this period also the 
shooting of half trained units, brought up at a criti- 
cal period, has proved more effective than the vol- 
leys of trained men, aiming more deliberately, but 
at wrong range. Practice in judging ranges quickly 
has been neglected in the National Guard. All over 
England shooting galleries have sprung up with tar- 
gets of moving pictures. Many of the new soldiers 

190 



DEADLOCK 

had already learned to take quick sights at moving 
objects, and from them the best sharpshooters have 
been produced. 

In advancing, also, crouching, crawling or rolling 
to new positions is a part of the general training. 
But under modern conditions and flat trajectory, 
time is the great factor, and a rapid dash across an 
exposed zone is less fatal than to squirm laboriously 
over. Against shell fire the British reserves ad- 
vance in squad and platoon columns, as in American 
tactics, with great success. 

The lesson of Neuve Chapelle woke the British 
Government up to the crying need of ammunition and 
heavy artillery if ascendancy was to be gained. 
Shells by the million, more potential than shrapnel, 
were needed, and it was obvious that there would be 
no drive forward until artillery had been created 
wholesale. 

On April 17 the British captured Hill 60, a low 
ridge south of Ypres. This success started a new 
and determined German drive at the salient. Ke- 
enforcements came from Lille and Arras, and after 
two days* preliminary shelling, which drew strong 
forces to repel the expected assault, the Germans on 
the 22nd astonished the world by the first attack with 
asphyxiating gas. This first struck the French 
along the Pilkem road. The trench periscopes 
showed a yellow vapor floating toward the trenches. 
Heavier than air, propelled by a light wind, the 

191 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

deadly fumes choked the men in the first line, in 
terrible agony. The British saw the French in the 
second line rushing back in confusion while the Ger- 
mans mowed down the gasping men as they retired, 
and then charged and seized the empty trenches. 
This exposed the flank of the Canadian division on 
the right to an assault before which a big section of 
the line sagged and crumbled, the Germans bayonet- 
ing the gunners of a heavy battery in support. But 
the Canadians rallied and retook the guns, and after 
a night of confusion and desperate fighting, the Al- 
lies formed a modified line across the captured gap 
and held it. 

But for several days the wind favored the use of 
gas. The devilish cylinders were used on different 
sections with success, and the point of the salient 
was reduced for three miles in a battle of sixteen 
days, giving the enemy low but important ridges. 
But in three days British women had made a mil- 
lion respirators for the troops, sufficient for their 
entire battle front, and though in the strongest fumes 
men still died in agony or lingered for three days and 
nights of torture while their lungs dissolved, re- 
serves behind the firing line were now able to rush 
through the thinning fumes so that Ypres was not 
captured after forty assaults. 

"What king going to make war . . . sitteth not 
down first and consulteth whether he be able with ten 
thousand to meet him that cometh against him with 

192 



DEADLOCK 

twenty thousand ? ' ' Neither the French nor the Brit- 
ish had correctly estimated the forces required to 
curb a German invasion. The anticipation of essen- 
tial preparations which took six months to perfect 
would have checked the invaders in Belgium and 
divided their immense formation on the Meuse. 

But at the close of the winter campaign the Ger- 
mans realized that their invasion on the west front 
had reached its limit, and, while the Allies gathered 
strength for a determined offensive, they devoted 
their ingenuity to make the occupied territory se- 
cure. With a special force of 250,000 pioneers and 
adequate machinery and material, the most vulner- 
able sections of the 588 intrenched miles of the west- 
ern front, maintained chiefly in foreign territory, 
were turned into massive fortifications. Trenches 
were scientifically excavated by machinery, and miles 
of main trenches were laid out in concrete. Ma- 
chine guns remained in deep vaults, secure from pre- 
paratory bombardment, to be rushed by ladder to 
the surface when the shell fire ceased, and the line 
of attack approached. The main lines were dry 
and well drained, and in many cases deep tunnels 
extended from fortified hills to advance trenches. 
While the Allies were developing heavy artillery, the 
Germans were securing their guns in steel case- 
mates, screened and invisible in earthworks, and 
making reserve battery positions of concrete deeply 
padded with sand for their heavy guns and howitzers 

193 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

on branch lines to main railways by which artillery 
and shells could be rapidly gathered at any section 
of the front. 

Starfish defenses, spacious chambers under- 
ground, electrically lighted, ventilated and heated, 
with tunnels radiating in all directions to the sur- 
face, to advance trenches, to the flanks and to re- 
serve lines in rear, were a special feature and in- 
sured adequate cover, warm quarters for the troops 
and secure approaches to any section, front, flank or 
rear. 

During the campaign of 1915, outlined in the fol- 
lowing chapter, the French steadily reorganized 
their army and offset the handicaps imposed by 
the invasion which covered the homes of nine million 
people, seventy per cent, of both the coal and steel 
production of France and one-third of the horse 
power of her machinery. Two thousand three hun- 
dred and eleven French towns and villages were 
within the German lines surely a concrete ideal 
for American troops to help restore them to a sister 
republic ! 

Experience and time soon greatly improved con- 
ditions at the front. Joffre remolded his army at 
the top. Ability was the only test. He summarily 
retired twenty-four generals in the first two phases, 
eleven of them divisional commanders. Obscure 
officers who had showed marked ability were jumped 
to important commands, and after its terrible vicissi- 

194 



DEADLOCK 

tudes in 1914 the spirit of the French army in 1915 
proved the confidence all ranks retained in their 
leader. The forces also discarded their fatally bril- 
liant uniforms, which were replaced by a cloth of 
invisible blue-gray shot with fine tricolor threads 
for tradition.- This radically lightened the heavy 
casualty lists, which were soon further lessened by 
the adoption of the Adrien casque, a light steel hel- 
met which reduced the losses from shell fire in the 
trenches. France had only 300 heavy guns in 1914 ; 
she had 6,200 in 1917. 

The changes on the British front were soon amaz- 
ing. As the original establishment of the regular 
army was seriously depleted, it was maintained by a 
magnificent type of recruits with a stratum of ex- 
soldiers. It was then augmented by volunteer Terri- 
torial regiments which were sent over to act in re- 
serve. After a short training near the front, they 
were needed in the first line, where they soon equaled 
the regular troops. The London Scottish, the first 
volunteers in France and first in the firing line, went 
up at a critical period at Ypres just as a section 
south of the salient was broken. They fixed bayo- 
nets, dashed through the shell zone and definitely 
repulsed the massed line of Germans who had poured 
through the gap. The London Rifle Brigade, the 
Artists, the Honourable Artillery Company, the Inns 
of Court Lawyers, Queen's Westminsters and other 
crack London battalions were soon followed by Ter- 

195 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ritorial volunteer regiments from all sections of the 
country, and all have covered themselves with glory. 
The percentage of older men in the ranks was large. 
The lesson answered those critics in the United 
States who doubted the value of the National Guard. 

If the British seemed slow in getting their stride, 
their progress was sure. The Tommy Atkins of 
history was soon replaced by average citizens. 
Through the voluntary system hundreds of thou- 
sands of the most promising men in the country 
joined the Colors. The picked men sent out to aug- 
ment the first line of the army had attained an aver- 
age of physical fitness and intelligence previously 
unsurpassed in history. By careful selection, Kitch- 
ener's first million had mobilized the cream of the 
man-power of the Empire, and by the incorporation 
of successive battalions in the old regiments they 
assumed the pride of old traditions, and by simple 
elasticity the original establishment absorbed its 
millions. 

In every branch of equipment, also, the wonderful 
German machine was outstripped. Every article 
had been selected to further the comfort, health and 
efficiency of the men at the front under the special 
requirements of the campaign. It was an impres- 
sive sight to see the first splendid regiments in 
France, men of every creed and class in the ranks, 
recruited under stringent physical standards, perfect 
in drill and equipment. History would indeed have 

196 



DEADLOCK 

been different if one quarter of those voluntary re- 
serves had been organized to become available in the 
early open days when quality counted more. The 
army had now to sacrifice itself in the generally 
fruitless waste of trench warfare. 

The loss of officers among both French and British 
was appalling. The Germans adopted stringent 
measures to lessen the drain, and the days when 
some devoted leaders actually rode to certain death 
in attack at the head of the massed infantry were 
soon over. Prisoners soon complained that their 
officers were forced to remain in the rear in attacks. 
But in many battles twelve per cent of British losses 
have been officers, and a serious disproportion con- 
tinues. 

The patriotism which has maintained state regi- 
ments of special efficiency with little Federal aid 
or encouragement organizations like the Seventh 
New York and the Boston Cadets has in three wars 
provided the United States with material for creat- 
ing officers by a stroke of the pen. In the Civil War 
nearly 800 Seventh men were given commissions with- 
out a notorious failure, and despite cruel misunder- 
standings which kept the regiment at home unwill- 
ingly in the Spanish War, 300 of its members went 
out as officers, and four gained undying fame by 
rallying a shattered column and leading it to victory 
when at San Juan a small Spanish force on a narrow 
front was inflicting a loss of 120 men a minute. 

197 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

With their available supply of officers sadly im- 
paired, the British now followed this example. The 
famous volunteer regiment, the Artists' Bifles, un- 
der the Territorial System the Twenty-eighth Lon- 
don, went to the front 1,200 strong. The regular 
army, in peace, patronized the volunteers, but in 
the hour of need examination proved that most of 
the Artists were eligible for commissions, and they 
received wholesale promotion. The experiment 
proved successful. The Depot Battalion therefore 
sent its trained drafts out, and the organization was 
made an Officers' Training Corps, with a special 
staff which was soon producing a hundred lieuten- 
ants a month for the regular army. Other first- 
class volunteer regiments followed suit and bridged 
the gap when a supply of trained officers was vital to 
maintain efficiency at the front. For the later bat- 
talions the officers are chiefly men who enlisted as 
privates and gained the nomination by sheer ability 
in the field, so the new troops are trained and led 
by men of actual experience. 

It is also interesting to note that depot battalions 
of many famous regiments recruited and trained 
thousands of men especially selected, of the caliber 
suitable to uphold regimental tradition. This has 
supplied high-class troops for special emergency and 
might well be copied in the United States now by 
encouraging the recruiting of men by special organi- 
zations to supplement the draft. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE BATTLES OF 1915 ARGONNE ARTOIS LOOS- 
CHAMPAGNE 

ALONG the Franco-German frontier from Switzer- 
land north the Germans were chiefly intrenched on 
their own soil, with the French holding a long strip 
of Lower Alsace, in sight of the Rhine, with guns 
dominating but sparing Altkirch, and the tricolor 
again waving over some Alsatian towns on the bor- 
der. Hartmanns-Weilerkopf and other heights in 
the Vosges were shared by both armies where the 
French fought their way to the top but were unable 
to force the Germans down on the other side. The 
French held Metzeral and maintained the chief ap- 
proaches to Colmar, points invaluable for pushing 
the war on German soil. Farther north, the areas so 
terribly devastated in the early invasion were solidly 
French again, with farming going on and people re- 
pairing homes in reach of the guns, and the Germans 
holding on the edge of the frontier up to Pont-a- 
Mousson where the St. Mihiel salient begins. Guns 
on the outer Metz defenses enfiladed the French line 
and checked all attacks to expel this wedge. 

The extraordinary efforts made to isolate and 
invest Verdun at long range by driving in south of 

199 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the fortress, and on the west of the wide ellipse of 
trenches protecting it, marked the German offensives 
of 1915. Aiming at Les Eparges, and supported by 
the Foot Artillery of the Prussian Inspection with 
heavy guns, the forces from Metz under General 
Strantz gained important positions early in the year. 
Gas clouds played the chief part. But the French 
regained the heights of Les Eparges, enfilading the 
advance along the valley of Longeau, though much 
ground was gained by the enemy. 

These efforts were seconded by the army of the 
Crown Prince on the front extending north of the 
fortress, through Etain, Montfaucon and Varennes 
and across the Argonne hog's-back. Unable to 
make progress against the immediate outworks of 
Verdun created and maintained by Sarrail, the royal 
general soon concentrated his efforts on his right 
wing. After the Marne battle the Fifth German 
Army had uncovered the railroad from Chalons to 
Verdun and lost the defile of Les Islettes, Clermont, 
and control of the Vienna road near their present 
front far from the main approaches to the fortress 
and the best roads across the forest, though the 
French pursuit had ended ten miles south of their 
present line. 

After many futile assaults the Crown Prince made 
a determined drive from Varennes February 16, 
which was decisively checked and followed by a coun- 
ter offensive by the French, who charged the in- 

200 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

trenched slope of Vauquois with the bayonet Feb- 
ruary 28 and reached the edge of the village, but 
were forced back. They extended the sphere of 
their bombardment, and broke down the flanking fire, 
while the Tenth Division, sworn to get back to Vau- 
quois, fought night and day until March 5, when 
they seized the houses opposite the main German 
line where artillery fire was restricted and counter 
attacks by the Kaiser 's One Hundred and Twentieth 
Wurttemberg could not dislodge them. The French 
communications in the valley were no longer domi- 
nated, and their guns could now sweep the Four de 
Paris road. 

For several weeks comparative quiet reigned on 
both fronts. More heavy guns reached the east front 
while in the Argonne; romantic bridle paths were 
turned into military roads. Von Mudra, Germany's 
leading military engineer, was in charge of the 
work. The Crown Prince concentrated his men and 
artillery on the western edge of the Forest, aiming 
at the main communications from Champagne to 
Verdun. On June 20 the old battle was renewed 
below Varennes with gas and massed attacks, but 
the operations were a mask west of which the main 
effort was made. 

General Sarrail had been transferred to the Dar- 
danelles when his defenses received their second 
tribute by the entire change of attack. Miles from 
Verdun the Crown Prince had concentrated the Six- 

201 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

teenth Army Corps to drive between La Grurie and 
the Four de Paris. Clouds of deadly chlorine and 
sulphur chloride, released at dawn, surprised and 
suffocated the men in the French trenches on a front 
of four miles. Tons of heavy projectiles rained 
through the gas clouds, tearing up the wire and 
breaking up the French reserves. 

Donning their masks, driblets of French reserves, 
however, reached the trenches, and standing among 
their writhing comrades, poured determined volleys 
into the first mass of Germans, stopping desperate 
charges which had been delayed by the density of 
the gas. Two mines were exploded at Bagatelle, and 
only there was the front pierced and two sections of 
trenches occupied. 

For two weeks the new artillery positions belched 
heavy shells, during which the French strengthened 
their reserve positions, brought up fresh field bat- 
teries, and withdrew their men secretly from the 
front trenches. One artillery post alone recorded 
the receipt of 1,826 large shells, only eleven of 
which affected the cleverly screened battery. One 
shell penetrated the dugout of the French staff, but 
was blindganger and did no damage. Then clouds 
of gas descended on the torn, evacuated trenches on 
which every French field gun was also ranged, and 
when the massed Germans delivered the assault they 
were met and repulsed by the rapid fire of the 75 's, 
while the soldiers held the reserve lines in compara- 

202 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

tive security. Charge after charge was broken up, 
but on a mile front the Germans finally gained a 
footing at night in the old trenches. But every effort 
to extend the gain was beaten down by artillery, and 
the German loss was heavy for a negligible gain. 

Undeterred by his casualties, telegraphing his 
father "We are resuming! the offensive that we 
love," telling his troops that they would celebrate 
the war's anniversary by breaking through, the 
Crown Prince resumed operations in the Argonne 
August 1. The front was now more complicated, 
the opposing trenches frequently close, and the Ger- 
mans employed the new flammenwerfer which 
poured blazing liquid on the French while a shell 
curtain checked the reserves. The inferno defies 
the imagination. The German infantry rushed the 
trenches, and ended the misery of men who fought 
in blind frenzy with eyes burnt out, or squirmed in 
helpless agony with flesh scorched off to the bone. 
Masses of troops poured into the lines, and on two 
sides assailed and captured Hill 213, and a strong 
footing was gained in the French lines toward St. 
Hubert. 

But the French infantry saw some of their burned 
comrades and were stirred to fury. Their attempts 
to regain the hill were swept away, but they recap- 
tured all their main trenches, and restored the line. 

Desperate bravery, huge losses, and barbarous 
tactics signalized the futile efforts to invest Verdun. 
203 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

But farmers within the bastion of fieldworks and 
forts with a face of seventy-two miles, gathered the 
second harvest in the lines, hardly hearing a gun, 
and the only casualty in the city was one girl killed 
by an aeroplane bomb. 

The great French effort, extending over 1915, was 
aimed at the huge tangle of defenses and earth- 
works pushed westward between Arras and Lens 
along the series of hills and ridges in an almost im- 
penetrable barrier. For eight months the Germans 
had labored to link up every natural and artificial 
defense in the district to form a barricade to the 
plains of Douai and its vital communications by 
road and rail, at which the French were aiming. 
Trenched ridges, hills, quarries, steel-clad forts hid- 
den in the face of cliffs, tunnels for communication, 
concrete defenses, catacombs dug deeply in chalk 
with only embrasures for guns opening on the face 
of the ridges, machine guns and batteries hidden for 
cross-fire at every possible angle, and miles of barbed 
wire, created the tangled Gibraltar of the western 
front. Between Vermelles and Arras a blunt salient 
pointed west, its edges embracing the heights of 
Lorette, Ablain, Carency, and La Targette, across 
the terrible Labyrinth to Arras, with the massif, 
Vimy Eidge, as a backbone. 

Only a sanguinary guerre de forteresse could hope 
to succeed. General d'Urbal succeeded Maud'huy 
in command. Terrible and futile fighting had oc- 

204 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

curred at various points. In May a new plan 
was tried under the personal supervision of Foch. 
After sunset on May 8 guns were concentrated round 
the curved nose of the salient which bulged across 
the Bethune road, and at daybreak on Sunday the 
9th, unusually sultry, a heavy bombardment burst 
on the chosen front. But the Bavarians were alert, 
having noticed that wire had been removed from 
gaps in the French positions. 

For three hours the French guns continued, nota- 
bly before Ablain and Carency, which received 20,- 
000 shells before 8 A. M., when huge mines were ex- 
ploded at two points and selected battalions from 
the Twenty-first and Thirty-third Corps broke 
through the German line, while the Ninth Corps 
launched a covering attack farther north before 
Loos. 

General Foch had now trained his armies to new, 
scientific offensive tactics. The Germans rapidly 
concentrated on their main position, before Souchez, 
but the French broke through midway between the 
strongest advanced positions at Ablain and Carency, 
and moved north and south behind them, practically 
isolating these strongholds. The attack was per- 
fectly planned. Before the first phase could be dealt 
with, fresh mines were exploded toward La Targette 
and Ecurie, and again the French broke through, 
enfilading and rolling up the first lines farther 
south. The Landwehr from the lower Rhine, re- 

205 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

enforced by Bavarian cavalry (dismounted), were 
unable to check the French onslaught. The attack 
here was led by the Second Regiment, First Foreign 
Legion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Cot, with a com- 
pany of Americans fighting for France. The first 
battalion was terribly mauled getting through the 
wire, but the three remaining battalions captured La 
Targette, and, joining the Turcos, swept on through 
Neuville St. Vaast, where every house was fortified. 
In these operations the Legionnaires lost 2,000 men, 
including many Americans. Carency and Ablain 
were now isolated except for communicating tunnels, 
and in the rear the Zouaves, raked by two fires, 
moved to the north and gained a footing in the end 
of the trenches at the foot of the Lorette heights. 
The Germans fought desperately but could not eject 
the French from their communication trenches. 

Artillery could not reach the deep recesses of the 
machine guns in the quarries of Carency, and for 
three days the French had to advance yard by yard, 
bombing their way along the German communicating 
trenches. On the afternoon of the 12th the Zouaves 
charged across an open field, tore down the barbed 
wire and reached a deep cutting and tunnel leading to 
Lorette. At sunset a white flag was raised over 
Carency, and a thousand troops surrendered. But 
1,200 French bodies were tangled in the wire which 
was torn down by hand in the last advance. 

The French maintained steady progress. The 

206 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

Crown Prince of Bavaria had flung forward every 
spare man in the district, but Carency, Neuville, the 
historic heights of Lorette, and afterward Ablain, 
became solid rewards for Foch's new tactics of ad- 
vancing by the German communicating trenches after 
the troops had broken through the outer tangle of 
positions and hills that constituted the advanced 
line. 

Until June 12 the operations were continued, the 
Baden regiments holding on stubbornly, the French 
sapping, mining and bombing their way forward 
through the intrenchments toward Souchez. From 
the 12th to the 16th the French carried on a des- 
perate offensive in which the African divisions 
and the Foreign Legion again played a part. The 
fortified sugar refinery was taken in a furious rough 
and tumble fight, and the railroad station was sur- 
prised, captured, and held against violent counter 
attacks. But here the French were pinned down for 
three months before the final capture of the fortified 
town and cemetery held by the Iron Corps of Bran- 
denburg to lines enfiladed by heavy artillery on the 
heights of Angres. In the Labyrinth, however, 
steady progress was made by patient tactics, for sev- 
eral hundred yards. 

South of Arras other successes were planned and 
directed by General Petain. Colonel of the Thirty- 
third Infantry, then a brigadier under Maud 'huy, he 
was promoted Joffre-fashion, for his ability, to a 

207 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

corps commander and finally attained the supreme 
command. Petain is of the infantry, a superb ath- 
lete, cool in danger and tested as a leader of men 
in battles where he went ahead of his men and 
personally directed the fighting. De Castelnau now 
directed all operations from Noyon to Verdun, and 
Petain took over his army. 

He took a mixed force from Amiens and struck a 
surprise blow south of Arras in June to relieve pres- 
sure. Bretons, a battalion of Alpines, and middle- 
aged Reservists from the historic Vendee, without 
strong backing of artillery, moved unseen into the 
outer trenches between Serre and Hebuterne. Cov- 
ered by the mist of dawn on June 7, they rushed 
the trenches held by the Seventeenth Baden Infantry 
on a crescent-shaped front of a mile. The first men 
to get through occupied the communicating trenches 
that supplied the salient, cutting off retreat and sup- 
port. All the defenders of the first line were killed 
or captured. In the center the attacking battalions 
gained three-quarters of a mile of ground and three 
lines of main trenches. Though forces were rushed 
up from the Albert sectors, and the Ninety-ninth In- 
fantry were sent south from Arras in motor trucks, 
the French dug in and joined the ends of their new 
front with the original line. Petain had no reserves 
to spare to follow up the success, but it drew big 
enemy forces from the Arras front. 

As the French ambulance service was overtaxed, 

208 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

the wounded on the new field would have fared badly 
but for the providential arrival in Amiens of an 
American Ambulance train under Richard Norton. 
For four days and three nights these splendid volun- 
teers worked under fire with little sleep or rest. 
Farther north also various detachments from Paris 
did splendid work, and any car bearing the words 
"Ambulance de I'Hopital Americain" was cheered 
by villagers and soldiers. 

The British right, which had been steadily nibbling 
its way toward Lille, north of La Bassee, supported 
the French attack above Arras by continued pres- 
sure. On May 9 a drive was suddenly made against 
the Bavarian trenches on the Aubers-Fromelles sec- 
tor. After exploding two mines, part of the Fourth 
Corps attacked. They broke through on a narrow 
front above Fromelles, swept over the reserve 
trenches, and fought and defeated the supports in 
the open ground. But this gap was narrow, and by 
a natural impulse the troops poured through and 
rushed forward, making the fire of the British bat- 
teries as they swept on in open order. Before 
forces could be organized to enfilade the exposed 
ends of the German trenches to widen and secure 
the opening, a party of Bavarian pioneers threw up 
a barricade of sand bags in the main trench, and ma- 
chine guns were installed which swept the flanks of 
the gap. In vain the British tried to silence the fire 
with hand grenades. In the confusion fresh Ger- 

209 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

man reinforcements with sand bags and machine 
guns were pushed along the other trenches and the 
breach through which the British had poured was 
swept on both sides with rapid fire. The gap was 
soon closed up solidly with two British battalions 
well inside, cheering as they drove the Germans from 
a farm. Expecting reinforcements to follow, some 
companies started up a road to Lille. 

German guns now opened on them at close range. 
Their advance still curtailed their own artillery, but 
they secured what cover they could and fought 
against superior numbers until their ammunition 
gave out. Then they made a desperate effort to 
fight their way back with the bayonet, but found 
that they were relentlessly surrounded and that no 
quarter would be given. A terrible scene was en- 
acted as the trapped men turned at bay and fought 
desperately. 

After dark the Bavarians used their knives, in a 
hideous frenzy. Wounded had their throats slit. 
A group stalked scattered survivors hiding in shell 
holes or other cover. Their leader went in advance, 
asking in a low voice, in perfect English, "Is that 
you, Alfred? Where are you?" When men re- 
plied, the Bavarians crept among the unsuspecting 
British and used their knives. "Is that you, Al- 
fred?" became a joke on the German front in Artois, 
and by that ruse scores of soldiers were murdered. 
Some who surrendered had their brains dashed out 

210 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

with rifle butts. When the ferocity died down, out of 
1,800 men 140 were picked up next day, nearly all 
seriously wounded. Bead German diaries after- 
ward captured, describing this slaughter. Add 
the evidence of the official report which boasts of 
burying the bodies of 143 English officers and over 
1,500 men, of capturing 140 prisoners and 7 ma- 
9hine guns. The Crown Prince of Bavaria knows 
the details of this shambles. He knows also that 
some of his surgeons protested. 

Day after day the British continued the pressure 
by holding attacks along their front, and, as re- 
enforcements had arrived, they took over the posi- 
tions held by the French in Belgium, toward Boes- 
inghe, and extended their right from Vermelles south 
below Grenay, enabling the Tenth French Army un- 
der d'Urbal to concentrate its forces for the im- 
portant Souchez front. 

July, August and September passed with steady 
preparation for a great offensive which took place 
at daybreak September 25, aiming to break the lines 
below Lille and on the Champagne front simultane- 
ously. For weeks ammunition was gathered at all 
depots, and early in September a steady stream 
poured up to the British and French batteries on all 
fronts in general, and between Rheims and the Ar- 
gonne and between Arras and Belgium in particular. 
A bombardment then gave the German lines no re- 
spite for twenty-four days and nights. Six months 

211 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

before, the Germans were able to expend ten heavy 
shells to one round of a British field gun. But in 
this phase adequate explosive shells poured from 
the Allies without a halt. 

On September 24 Vice-Admiral Bacon with a 
squadron made a feint on the Belgian coast. Eight 
across Belgium and France threats of attack were 
made, which kept German forces busy all night, and 
early next day. After dark thousands of troops 
moved to the front between La Bassee to the Laby- 
rinth, and across Champagne ready for assault 
on both sides of the great rectangle pushed into 
France, where success would jeopardize the mainte- 
nance of the entire front. 

In North France all watches were synchronized 
by field telephone at 1 :00 A. M. on the 25th, while 
battery commanders reviewed their instructions, 
and the supply of shells was checked up. At 4:25 
a great cannonade roared on the selected fronts, 
rousing people and shaking windows forty miles 
away. For half an hour the appalling deluge of 
shells searched out every yard of ground within 
range. 

Above Arras, the British, between La Bassee and 
Grenay, and the French from Carency and the 
Labyrinth, made simultaneous drives aiming above 
and below Lens junction. From the British lines a 
new and merciful stupefying gas was tried, more 
merciful but effective in reprisal, which missed the 

212 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

main part of the German line and drifted back. 

At 6 :30 A. M., with two corps, the British stormed 
the opposing trenches on a five-mile front, north 
and south of Vermelles. The crumbling advanced 
lines were all rapidly taken. But forces operating 
on the left (Ninth Division) were checked by two 
strong redoubts. In the center, also, fortified slag 
heaps in the coal district had to be stormed by the 
First Division. The French on the extreme right 
succeeded in breaking through only after consid- 
erable delay. 

But on wide sections the British swept over every 
obstacle, and were soon a mile and a half beyond the 
serried first lines. Here they surprised and stormed 
strongholds on the second line. Some units swept 
a mile beyond this, ironically singing a free trans- 
lation of the "Hymn of Hate," ending with a 
stentorian "Whom do we hate? England?" .But 
after these successes there arose the complicated 
tactical situations which seriously reduce the 
chances for a decisive victory under modern condi- 
tions. 

Adequate forces must build defensive walls on 
both sides of the new path of advance, to enable re- 
serves and artillery, with flanks and communications 
secure, to push forward the invasion of the occupied 
territory, and carry on effective warfare inside the 
lines. Speed is essential to snatch a victory before 
the enemy can gather reinforcements. At the gap 

213 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

forces must also enfilade and roll up the first trenches 
from the broken ends to widen effectively the en- 
trance. 

The Seventh Division had soon advanced two 
miles, capturing Hulluch and scores of mining pits 
and slag heaps defended by a surprised and tempo- 
rarily demoralized enemy. But its flanks were ex- 
posed. 

South of Vermelles when the First Division was 
checked, the Fifteenth Division broke through below 
it, stormed strong positions before Grenay, and went 
cheering into Loos, where severe fighting took place 
in the streets and houses. Several companies went 
on a mile beyond, capturing Hill 70. The Forty- 
seventh Division (London Volunteers) on the far 
right also broke through, and built up a protective 
barrier from Grenay through Loos, where the ad- 
vanced brigade stormed and captured the cemetery 
held by machine-gun detachments. But as the 
French attack farther south was developing slowly, 
the path of the British advance was soon being as- 
sailed on that flank. 

The first attack had succeeded so rapidly that a 
vital victory, with the strategic prize of Lens itself, 
was within sight. But the first phase was too quick 
for the development of the second. Earlier rain, 
and ground cut up by trenches and shells, made ar- 
tillery advance difficult ; time was consumed in check- 
ing opposition on the flanks and center and heavy 

214 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

shelling from the north caused delay on the com- 
munications. At 9 :30 troops, scattered and victori- 
ous on the advanced front, were eagerly waiting for 
orders and reinforcements to push on again against 
the reserve positions and capture the city. Men 
sat and smoked in the open, and Tommy Atkins 
fired at the heavy batteries unsupported on the hills, 
rounded up fugitives, and prayed for the guns and 
men necessary to push on to Lens while the chance 
was his. Some companies reached and for a time 
held part of its suburb, the Cite St. Auguste, where 
they chased and overturned trucks loaded with bombs 
for Hulluch, and encountered little opposition until 
attacked and practically exterminated by armored 
cars as they waited for reenf orcements. 

When effective support reached the new front, 
German troops and artillery were pouring through 
Lens, and motor lorries from Lille brought down ma- 
chine guns and men. The British could go no 
farther and were forced to consolidate their gains. 
By night furious counter attacks were made on all 
sides of the rectangular salient which had broken 
the first and second German line and reached part 
of the third system of defenses. 

The inhabitants of Loos were free after a year 
of German occupation. But sharpshooters still 
lurked in many attics and picked off the officers 
undetected. Emilienne Moreau, a young school 
teacher, attacked by a party that was shooting at the 

215 * 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

British wounded from her twice looted home, seized 
a revolver and killed three Germans. She has been 
decorated by both the French and British. 

The French operations on the right met with a 
strenuous resistance from the outset. Mines were 
exploded before Souchez and at certain sections the 
French broke through and captured the first 
trenches. But artillery on the heights of Angres en- 
filaded the advance and for some hours the French 
were pinned to the first line. Three weeks' pound- 
ing had not affected communicating tunnels, and a 
single machine gun detachment inflicted serious 
losses on the entire army, especially the divisions 
encompassing the Souchez wood, which were soon 
facing strong reinforcements. The cemetery was 
captured by direct assault. 

In perfect order the advanced battalions were 
withdrawn to enable the French batteries to sweep 
the woods. On the 26th the French advanced again, 
storming fortins with low revolving turrets, cleverly 
screened on the ridges. A terrible hand-to-hand 
struggle took place in the Fond de Buval. When 
the French had gained the ascendancy and were re- 
moving wounded and prisoners, German machine 
guns swept the ravine, killing friend and foe indis- 
criminately in the desperate effort to stem the tide. 

The Prussian Guards had been rushed from Rus- 
sia to meet the threatened offensive. Several com- 
panies held the Chateau of Carleul until it was bat- 

216 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

tered to pieces, and gradually the crumbled stones 
that marked the remains of Souchez were invested 
on three sides and taken, while in the woods 1,500 
prisoners were rounded up. On the third day the 
Zouaves stormed trenches on the Arras-Lille road, 
which was finally uncovered, while another desperate 
assault captured the ridge of Ecurie. In the Laby- 
rinth also the French gained the last mass of tangled 
defenses and were able to straighten their new front 
and hold it in the face of furious counter attacks. 

Thus the Artois offensive had reached its limit 
with Lens menaced and with Vimy and other strong- 
holds yet to be stormed before the barrier to the 
Douai plains was broken. Attacks were delivered 
everywhere by the Germans with little success except 
on Hill 70, where the defenders were isolated by 
artillery fire, swept by machine guns, and expelled. 
On the 27th the British Guard Division was sent up. 
They retook Hill 70 and occupied the crest, though 
they were unable to reach redoubts on the eastern 
spur. 

In the Loos operations the British lost 2,378 offi- 
cers and 57,288 men. Major General Capper, who 
led the Seventh Division in its fight across Belgium, 
General Thesiger and General Wing were killed. 
And 3,000 German prisoners, 5 batteries and 40 ma- 
chine guns were captured. Wireless from Berlin 
stated that the total German losses "at Loos" were 
less than 700, which evidently referred to the bat- 

217 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

talion holding the town itself, a concrete example of 
their official juggling. The French losses on the 
right were also heavy. 

During this thrust for Lens, which had fallen short 
of sanguine expectations, a greater assault was 
made by De Castelnau with the augmented Fourth 
and Second Armies on the formidable tangle of field 
fortifications traced across the Champagne chalk 
hills between Auberive and Ville sur Tourbe on the 
front controlled by General von Einem. 

While the guns had thundered for three weeks on 
the entire front, special preparations were carried 
out in Champagne, while every available aeroplane 
was used to keep away inquisitive fliers. An enor- 
mous concentration of men and supplies was effected 
at Chalons. Miles of screened artillery positions 
were created ; saps were pushed up by night toward 
vulnerable points, and advance trenches excavated 
from which the attack could be launched and the re- 
serves deployed for support. The German staff was 
partly misled by the British pressure in Flanders 
and the threatened front was not strongly re- 
enforced. 

By night new batteries were concentrated on every 
sector until September 22, when an unprecedented 
fire was opened on the German lines, a fury which 
shattered organized defense. Fresh enemy troops 
and guns were then sent down from Craonne, but 
they were gathered north of Chalons, where the 

218 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

French reserves were waiting to march eastward for 
the final hour. 

At sunrise on the 25th, the guns ceased suddenly. 
Every range was checked, every watch set by wire- 
less. Across Champagne every branch of the serv- 
ice had moved into place five separate battering 
rams to push forward simultaneously, each in- 
structed in detail regarding the work to be done in 
their immediate sectors. A signal sent every gun 
crashing against the main points of attack for three 
hours, while the infantry waited. 

At eight o'clock von Fleck, commanding the cen- 
ter, grew alarmed at the fury and made a personal 
report to the Hauptquartier the great war brain 
near Sedan which ruled every part of the concentric 
front. The great General Staff had also heard that 
the British were attacking in the north ; the Crown 
Prince reported that activity across the Argonne 
was holding all units of the Fifth Army; pressure, 
too, was reported from the Somme, and on the Aisne. 
Von Fleck must await developments. The " Armee- 
gruppe" on his left was also stunned by the inten- 
sity of the French artillery. But the Germans were 
able to put in five thousand men per mile-section 
of their serried defenses. They could await attack 
with complacency. 

At 8 :30 A. M., a cloud of French aeroplanes swept 
over every section of the Champagne, bombing light 
railroad junctions, stores, and depots. 

219 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

At 9:00, the order flashed along the French line, 
' ' Prepare yourselves ! ' ' 

At 9:10, "Standby!" 

At 9:15, "En want!" 

The commands were inaudible in the din of bat- 
tle, but the relief from the tension made the reply 
of the eager divisions ring above the Vulcan thun- 
der: "Vaincre ou mourir! En avant!" as five 
steel-blue tidal waves of twenty living miles surged 
forward against the first lines of the Germans. 

The chief object of the offensive was to reach the 
Bezancourt-Challerange railroad, the vital artery of 
the German front between the Aisne and the Ar- 
gonne, linked by miles of light railroads which fed 
the line. The chief objective was the Somme-Py 
sector. Joffre had learned the bitter cost of nar- 
row wedges, and he had gathered his men, guns, and 
shells for attack on a wide front so that at the base 
the breach should be broad, to keep pressure off the 
immediate flanks if the attack broke completely 
through. Masses of reserves and cavalry were 
ready to force their way in the gaps and if possible 
carry the war beyond the trench lines to open 
country. 

Briefly, the German front ran slightly south from 
near Rheims along the ugly hog's-back of Moronvil- 
liers eastward to Auberive, across to Ville sur 
Tourbe. The chalk hills of the Champagne Pouil- 
leuse are ideal for defense. For a year the Germans 

220 




221 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

had labored to make the front impregnable. Seven 
rows of linked trenches, like a huge gridiron, pro- 
tected by masses of barbed wire, faced the French. 
Behind this maze, miles of communicating trenches 
linked every fortified foothill. Woods, shot down 
in earlier battles, formed effective abattis tangled 
throughout with barbed wire. Fire trenches ran at 
every commanding angle; redoubts with machine 
guns dominated every approach. A backbone of 
formidable ridges gave a perfect second line of de- 
fense parallel to the vital railroad, and afforded a 
series of positions from which artillery could dom- 
inate every foot of the ground below. These im- 
pressive defenses were garrisoned by over 120,000 
men when the attack started. 

On the extreme left, the reenforced sector of the 
defense, the French rushed and captured the strong, 
advanced trenches intact, but were checked by un- 
broken wire on ground which in peace had fringed 
their great maneuvers. They were soon pinned 
down by machine guns, and with their own first 
trenches ranged to a foot, German artillery on the 
Moronvilliers plateau pounded the captured posi- 
tions, inflicting heavy loss on the French and their 
own men who had been captured. Here the attack- 
ers at first could only hold on grimly while the as- 
sault developed on their right. 

Before Souain, a trident of clever saps in the 
salient enabled the assault to be delivered rapidly 

222 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

at three vulnerable points between the ridges, each 
of which cleanly pierced the German front. The 
leading units made amazing progress, the supports 
following practically in column. In an hour, sev- 
eral ugly positions had been cut out on the Somme- 
Py road by forces which fought their way between, 
joined hands in the rear, and took the fortifications 
intact in reverse. By ten o'clock one division was 
nearly three miles in the German front and had ap- 
proached the last line defending the railroad. On 
the right of the entrance, however, the series of nat- 
ural bastions defied the bombardments and assaults 
for three days and took heavy toll of supports as 
they pushed up the salient. 

West of this sector, the forces attacking Perthes 
smashed through without a pause. The French bat- 
teries here were able to cover their infantry advance 
fully; the German batteries were silenced and the 
resistance of a triangular work full of machine guns 
was so masked that the troops crossed the trenches 
on either side and fought their way behind it, taking 
it with all its defenders. Supports then poured up 
through the gap, moved east behind other fortifica- 
tions, and with a cheer flanked and captured three 
batteries and the camp of the German reserves wait- 
ing in dugouts in the Bricot woods. The French 
artillery limbered up and followed the infantry into 
practically open country behind the outer German 
positions. 

223 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Between this gap and the breach forced in above 
Souain, however, the enemy maintained a rectangu- 
lar series of defenses, and this flanking fire had to 
be overcome before the splendid advances could con- 
tinue to push north to the railroad, the approach to 
which was then barred only by the strong trench 
line linking the Buttes de Souain and Tahure. The 
French staff had done its work perfectly, and in 
the center a stupendous victory was in sight when 
night fell. Considering the extent of the gains, the 
losses of the Colonial forces and the Eleventh Corps 
engaged here were comparatively light. General 
Marchand of Fashoda fame, who led the Colonial 
Division in person, was shot down early in the ad- 
vance, but before he was carried from the field vital 
successes had been gained and a decisive victory 
seemed in sight. 

In the adjoining sectors of Mesnil and Beausejour 
farm the same thing had occurred. From the height 
of Le Mesnil the attack had swept over the famous 
and difficult Ravin des Cuisiners victoriously, only 
to be enfiladed and checked by a mass of machine 
guns implanted in a salient of small hills which the 
artillery had been unable to silence. Yet in the 
blood-stained and more formidable area of Beause- 
jour the first waves of attack smashed through the 
dreaded Le Bastion, gained the communication 
trenches, and swept on to surprise and capture the 
German batteries on the Maisons de Champagne. 

224 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

On the extreme right, two battalions led the at- 
tack in a dash through the mist from Hill 180 before 
Massiges across 700 yards of fury, and gained the 
boyeaux leading to the height. After rough and 
tumble fighting with grenade and bayonet, the sur- 
vivors reached the crest, where the flag was planted 
by a St. Cyr cadet celebrating his baptism of fire, 
with only a colonel and three junior officers left to 
rally the shattered command and hold out while 
reserves bombed their way along communicating 
trenches in this maze of defenses. The reserves and 
artillery on the flank held up reinforcements tardily 
sent over by the Crown Prince, which marched with 
no apparent reason down the Cernay-Ville sur 
Tourbe road. 

It is obvious that the irregularity of the battle 
front soon made a French curtain fire difficult to 
maintain. At three points the attack had smashed 
through the main German positions. Between them, 
the enemy held two definite sections firmly, menac- 
ing the flanks of the advance. A few more hours 
of daylight or fine weather would have altered his- 
tory. Above Beausejour the artillery and reserves 
moved forward across practically open country, pre- 
pared to force the fighting across the final heights, 
only a mile from the railroad. Wireless messages 
from Laon, too urgent for coding, proved how se- 
verely the Germans were menaced. French guns 
were smashing the light railroad from Ripont, and 

225 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

three German batteries thrown forward at this 
point were captured before the gunners could 
unlimber. 

Keenforcements rushed by motor lorry from 
Vouzies advanced down the strip below Tahure and 
moved through the disarranged shell curtain to men- 
ace the rear of one advanced brigade, and a fresh 
battery also worked around the flank and came into 
action directly behind the French. Light cavalry, 
champing impatiently in reserve, instantly rode out. 
Guns greeted them from the flank, and men and 
horses fell writhing among the astonished reserves 
holding captured trenches, but two squadrons gal- 
loped across country and charged the new arrivals, 
while even the desperately wounded cheered. The 
troopers then dismounted and finished the fight on 
foot, helping to capture the new battery and round- 
ing up a battalion as it was deploying. At the 
Navarin farm on the Souain road west of Tahure 
and within range of the railroad below Eipont, the 
French were firmly established in the afternoon. 
Heavy artillery could have pierced the lines on the 
final ridge while the defenders were disorganized. 
But rain followed the bombardment and made ar- 
tillery progress difficult, and darkness checked 
further operations. All night the French rescued 
their own and thousands of enemy wounded, mag- 
nificently aided by American Ambulance units. But 
the rain increased and the work of bringing up 

226 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

the heavier batteries was retarded. At every point 
now the Germans were strongly reenforced. 

At daybreak the struggle was resumed to expel 
the enemy from the salients maintained in the re- 
gained territory. A dozen isolated battles raged 
for three days. Sapping, mining, direct assault, and 
isolation broke down most of the resistance. Per- 
haps the most picturesque of these battles was 
fought by the Foreign Legion. Depleted by heavy 
losses in the Argonne and Artois and the transfer 
of the British and Garibaldian units to their own 
armies, the rest were consolidated in two regiments 
as part of the army of Morocco. While the Colonial 
forces were winning much ground, the Legion 
formed the reserve and acted on the right flank of 
the Souain advance, where the Germans firmly main- 
tained their strongholds. For two days the artillery 
failed to affect these earthworks shaped like a horse- 
shoe on curving foothills on the Bois Sabot. 

Colonel Cot volunteered to take the position by 
direct assault on the afternoon of the 28th. The 
moment the Legion broke cover, the German artil- 
lery fire opened. The first battalion charged 
straight for the center of the curve, but the leading 
companies were checked by wire and annihilated as 
they tore their way through. The succeeding waves, 
however, followed, the American contingent being 
rallied by the Stars and Stripes, which changed 
hands five times during the advance. The surviv- 

227 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ors of the leading battalion penetrated the curve 
of the horseshoe and gained shelter in the trous des 
marmites dug by the French bombardment, while 
the other battalions worked their way around the 
flanks to the communication trenches. 

At a signal, the Legion made the final rush with 
the bayonet and was victorious after a terrific com- 
bat with the garrison, which resisted to the end. 
Forty per cent, of the Legion were killed or wounded 
in the fight which cleared the flank when every hour 
was enabling the Germans to renew their barriers to 
the north and nullify the early promise of the offen- 
sive. Many Americans were killed in the capture 
of this almost impregnable position among them, 
Lieutenant Sweeny, a West Pointer; John Casey, 
the artist; Dugan, Soubrian, Scanlon, Charles, 
Dowd, Capdeville, Egan, Zinn, and Nelson. Among 
the wounded were Dr. Wheeler, the Arctic explorer ; 
Thoran, Trinkhead, Genet, Pavidka, and Musgrave, 
who received the Croix de Guerre for conspicuous 
gallantry. 

The sequel was interesting. A captured anti- 
aeroplane gun now manned by the Legion shot 
down an inquisitive aeroplane hovering low for ob- 
servation, so the German artillery innocently con- 
tinued their curtain fire before the lost fortification, 
while the French forces safely within it swarmed un- 
seen and unshelled through the woods in the rear. 
They captured all lines of communication and 

228 



THE BATTLES OF 1915 

cleared the region right to the main artillery posi- 
tion on the reverse of the final heights. Inciden- 
tally, the Legionnaires captured gas apparatus 
stamped 1908. 

For a decisive success, all advantages must be 
promptly followed up. With a large section of 
ground above Souain solidly French, an assault be- 
fore Vedegrange on September 28 cleared another 
solid section of the second German line, capturing 
forty-five guns and the survivors of five battalions. 
On the main sectors of the assault, the French front 
was now consolidated before the ridge parallel to the 
railroad. But while the French slaved with their 
bogged artillery, miles of new trenches and thou- 
sands of reinforcements had strengthened the final 
German line, and close to their objectives the French 
advance was held up. The blow had captured 41 
square miles of territory, 316 officers, 17,055 un- 
wounded men, and 61 guns, but it just failed to 
break through. 

For a month the French struggled on and finally 
captured the Tahure heights. General Gouraud 
had been appointed to command the special army 
of the Champagne to continue the operations. Two 
German army corps were brought from Russia, 
and as winter became severe, the French offensive 
died down and again the front remained unbroken. 

On every sector through the winter Belgians, Brit- 
ish and French had held their exposed lines. Day 

229 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

by day the signal flashed, E. A. S. (rien a signaler), 
nothing to report. But men in thousands were being 
blown to pieces in the freezing, water-logged 
trenches, enduring, facing death in a hundred ways, 
but grimly holding on. The record of trench raids, 
local attacks by both sides, and bitter fighting on 
many sectors during 1915 would fill many volumes. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

THE persistent and heavy casualty lists from th 
army of the Crown Prince, during his abortive at- 
tempts to isolate Verdun, were causing much dis- 
satisfaction in Germany. "What had he accom- 
plished?" The pivot of the war frontier but no 
longer the most vital postern between France and 
Germany was a difficult point to select for an offen- 
sive. But a stupendous blow at Verdun would 
divert the maximum of French strength from any 
sectors likely to be chosen by the Allies for a 1916 
offensive. The moral effect of success would be 
great, and though the strategic value was minimized 
by miles of precautionary field works created by the 
French to bar the way across west Champagne, the 
reduction of France's most important fortress 
would add luster to the Hohenzollern halo. 

During January, 1916, continuous fog and sleet 
spoiled air reconnoissance, but reports poured in to 
prove increased activity in Belgium, while the major 
preparations of the Fifth Army before Verdun were 
completed before the danger was discovered by the 
French staff. Two weeks before the blow fell iome 

231 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

portents were heeded, but the decisive strength 
behind the effort was not anticipated. A cloud of 
new war planes prevented the French fliers from 
making a careful survey during the few opportuni- 
ties for visibility, but accurate reports of massed 
batteries led the French Staff to improve the roads 
from the south. 

Verdun, the picturesque citadel city of the Meuse, 
gave its name to the great circle of modern forts 
and outer perimeter of ultra-modern field works, 
which had hitherto frowned down ideas for direct 
attack. Its people were still asleep, its garrison 
watchful, when a sharp staccato of air-craft guns 
was drowned by a rolling cataclysm of sound that 
sent people flocking to the street. The staff knew 
the meaning of the convulsion. Their cars dashed 
to the main circle of fortified hills where the pano- 
rama showed a curving line of eruption as of minia- 
ture volcanoes marking the confines of the outer 
front. 

A great air attack was delivered at dawn, in which 
every type of air craft, from Zeppelins to Fokkers, 
bombed French bases and communications, damaged 
bridges, and destroyed observation balloons and 
aeroplanes. It was the prelude for the concentrated 
roar of nearly two thousand German guns which 
opened fire from the Argonne to St. Mihiel. Long- 
range shells played havoc with the main communi- 
cations, but the great fury of the bombardment raged 

232 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

from batteries massed on a complete arc of twenty- 
five miles a titanic maw of artillery, stretching 
from Melancourt eastward across the Meuse to 
Etain, its wide-open jaws ready to close upon the 
Verdun perimeter. In perfect alignment the grip 
tightened on the outer positions. Fraction by frac- 
tion the range was increased as the great curve of 
destruction contracted slowly on its prey; yard by 
yard the ground was systematically pulverized as 
the cascade of shells closed in. 

The French artillery had to be distributed on a 
wide front, against any sector of which the German 
reserves could be hurled on the crumbling defenses 
too swiftly to permit effective regrouping of bat- 
teries. Toward evening, the wide-flung outworks of 
Verdun's first lines and their defenders were prac- 
tically obliterated, and just before dark the expected 
attack burst on the northern sectors between the 
Meuse and Ornes. The German masses advanced 
slowly to occupy and reconstruct the devastated 
trenches, marching behind the wall of shells which 
now moved within the outer lines. But some dazed 
and half-stunned defenders still clung desperately 
to the churned debris. A few machine guns had sur- 
vived the fury of the shelling, and an incredibly de- 
liberate fire checked the complacency of the German 
advance and reaped some toll before the enemy fixed 
bayonets and ended the amazing defense of men 
who knew that they could not be reenf orced through 

233 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the shell curtain but who refused to surrender. 

At Hertebois, the pitiful remnants of a regiment 
were rallied. Dragging out machine guns that had 
been hidden in a shattered wood, they fought back 
so desperately that the German attack broke, re- 
formed twice, again to be repulsed, and actually with- 
drew after dark to enable their guns to recommence. 
At the Bois des Caures, in the center, the survivors 
of the famous Chasseurs from Nancy resisted from 
shell holes through the entire night, and fought back 
successive assaults. Farther west, at Haumont, 
other decimated companies, driven from their first 
trenches, fought from the concrete redoubt and the 
broken houses of the village. At first pushed back 
slowly, they were miraculously stiffened by gunners 
who crept on hands and knees through the barrage, 
retrieved a third of the silenced and partly buried 
field guns, and brought them into action at point- 
blank range. 

Next day, the crescent of German shells which 
was triumphantly contracting on the main positions 
was obliged to expand to the outer works, thus 
affording the main garrison further time to reor- 
ganize, while the front line of heroes again bore the 
brunt. These amazing forces were further reduced 
during the second day, but continued their resistance 
until the end, which approached in the late after- 
noon. Outnumbered twenty to one, the garrison of 
Haumont was gassed, tortured by Flammenwerfer, 

234 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

and the pitiful remnants were finally bayoneted amid 
the ruins of the houses in which they had made their 
Spartan defense. Their annihilation isolated Bra- 
bant on the river, and exposed the dank at Caures. 
Here Colonel Driant, son-in-law of Boulanger and 
Deputy for the Department, again and again rallied 
his men in the final defense on the front and the left 
flank. 

When his command was practically enveloped, 
with the last machine gun he and a sergeant held a 
narrow gap down which the survivors withdrew, a 
handful passing safely through the barrage. Erect 
and dauntless, the Colonel stood alone, facing the 
approaching horde, until pierced by the bayonets of 
the enraged enemy. A more chivalrous foe might 
have spared a hero whose courage has not been sur- 
passed in history. 

At Hertebois, on the right, helped by a new field 
battery, the defense was maintained until annihila- 
tion at four o'clock on the 23rd. The relentless jaw 
of shells now again closed in, but the matchless 
heroes of Verdun had held the line with their bodies 
for thirty-six hours at Hertebois for fifty-seven 
hours thus gaining the respite that saved the for- 
tress. 

The defense of pitiful hundreds against a reen- 
forced army had localized the sectors chosen for 
the main assault, and had thus enabled the surprised 
higher command to organize for defense, and bring 

235 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

up shells, supplies, and reserves before the massed 
guns again closed on the second line. Fresh troops 
and guns were soon concentrated on the main strong 
line below the gap the defenses before Douaumont 
west across the Cote du Poivre while reenforce- 
ments which reached the intermediate front Ornes 
to Samogneux fought from woods and shell holes to 
delay the advance. Their left wing was soon shat- 
tered, then the right, so that Ornes was lost. The 
center was then enveloped and smashed. Here pris- 
oners were spared and some quarter was given. 

The Germans were now holding a black gap of 
destruction stretching across from Brabant to Ornes, 
four miles deep. 

General Herr had rallied the Verdun garrison 
magnificently, but he had few reserves and could 
get no help from General Roques, who was facing 
heavy pressure on the east front, or from General 
Humbert, heavily engaged on the famous line west 
of the Meuse, which for seventeen months had foiled 
the efforts of the Crown Prince. But he grouped 
new guns to strengthen the position-batteries on the 
threatened sectors and this artillery pounded the 
captured lines and inflicted severe losses on the 
storming elements of the thirteen new divisions 
which von Haeseler, "the Devil of Metz," had 
grouped for the general assault. 

The St. Mihiel salient had long curtailed direct 
communications south from the fortress. The main 

236 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

railroad was available only to Bar le Due, thirty- 
five miles southwest of Verdun. The line and road 
from St. Menehould, approaching from the west, 
were now dominated by heavy howitzers. Road 
transport was the only solution. Ten thousand 
skilled men were placed on the roads from Bar le 
Due. Requisitioned by telephone, every available 
motor lorry on the Champagne front was loaded with 
men and supplies and rushed up to the garrison. 
On the second day, 4,000 motor vehicles were organ- 
ized and working on the lines of communication in 
defined relays at nine and a half miles per hour, 
from rail-head to the fortress. At fixed intervals 
gangs dashed out, filled in ruts and maintained the 
surface, and by a clever system of controls the pro- 
cession never halted. The national highway was re- 
served for loaded cars going up ; the chemin vicinal 
linked minor roads for ambulances and empty lor- 
ries to get down. If a car broke down, it was ditched 
by its successor. 

"With the upper curve of the Brabant-Ornes peri- 
meter broken in, the French maintained a straight 
line across the gap four miles north of the fortress. 
On this narrowed front between Bras and Fort Dou- 
aumont, the German guns concentrated their fury 
until February 26. During one period two thou- 
sands shells a minute were thrown on this five-mile 
strip. It was a flaming inferno. 

At 3 :00 A. M. on the 25th, when matters were crit- 

237 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ical, General De Castelnau, chief of the General 
Staff, arrived. The main line from the river to 
Douaumont was quivering under the deluge. The 
defenders were dazed, and massed attacks were be- 
ing repulsed with difficulty. The hours of the 
stronghold seemed numbered. The city was being 
heavily bombarded, and General Dubois, the military 
governor, had arranged for the evacuation of the 
civil population. But the place was crowded with 
wounded who were being ruthlessly slaughtered. 
The American and British ambulances were aiding 
the French, and working day and night to remove 
the thousands of disabled to a safe zone. Surgeons, 
brancardiers, and drivers all paid a heavy toll, forty 
per cent of some units, men and cars, being de- 
stroyed on the roads as the guns closed in. 

De Castelnau called up General Petain, who was 
placed in supreme command of the central armies. 
He arrived during the afternoon with heavy reen- 
forcements to build up the special Eleventh Army 
and save the fortress. The defenders of the ad- 
vanced lines on the eastern outworks of the Woevre 
were already being drawn back under pressure, to 
give them a chance to escape should the fortress fall. 
The Samogneux-Ornes line was battered to pieces, 
and the first report to the new commander announced 
the loss that afternoon of the important hill which 
dominated the center of the main line. It had been 
captured after seven desperate assaults, and tons of 

238 



THE ATTACK ON VEEDUN 

projectiles were falling on the ridges upon which 
rested a section of the main ring of the Verdun 
forts. 

But the famous Twentieth Corps under Balfour- 
ier, which started off eighteen minutes after orders 
were received, was now arriving. Next morning, 
two of its regiments dashed through the German 
barrage, as the Kaiser joined his son to watch a 
triumphant assault over the debris where the French 
lines had once rested. The main blow was delivered 
on the Douaumont ridge, where parts of the position 
could be swept from the hill captured the previous 
day, but the finest troops of France, clinging to shell 
holes and crumbled redoubts, hurled back the picked 
storm-masses which surged up the smoking ridges 
in successive waves. 

Early on the 27th, the approaches to Douaumont 
were again attacked by the Brandenburgers, but the 
Morocco division stood like a wall of steel against 
the "Ironclads" before the village. The armored 
fortress crowning the height to the southeast had 
been dismantled after the lessons of Liege, and its 
guns were distributed in field fortifications in its 
rear. It was an important observation post, and 
rounded off the French line, but it proved a perfect 
target for the heavy howitzers. Huge gas shells re- 
duced the garrison to nine hundred men, and the 
machine-gun detachments were finally buried alive 
in its crushed redoubts. 

239 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

All approaches to the fortress were closed by shell 
fire, and the isolated defenders soon were half suffo- 
cated in the underground chambers when the 
Twenty-fourth Brandenburg Infantry crept up a 
path through a thicket on the farther side, and en- 
tered by a broken embrasure near the northeast gate. 
Many of the garrison were bayoneted ; the rest sur- 
rendered. 

The prize, heralded around the world, proved an 
empty shell. Except for the disappearing guns re- 
tained in the turrets, now utterly demolished, the 
real artillery of Douaumont, in reserve field works, 
was soon cutting off all support from its captors. 
The fort became an island in a sea of French and 
German shell-burst. The Brandenburgers received 
food and water only at night, delivered by men who 
crept down along the shell-swept path. And the 
French held the small western redoubt on the flank 
of their lines of trenches defending the village. 

Douaumont village was attacked persistently from 
February 27 to March 4. Again and again every 
man of the Twentieth Corps re-earned the immortal 
Fourragere which had already been won in Artois 
and Champagne. Hour by hour the trenches 
crumbled; each bombardment was punctuated by 
massed attacks, but the defenders hung on. "Our 
regiments will die but will not give a yard without 
orders, ' ' was the command and motto. 

Wearied by the failure of the costly frontal at- 

240 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

tacks, the Germans now reached for the flank west 
of the Meuse. Obviously, from the ground gained 
on the east bank, the original French lines west from 
the river could be enfiladed. After seven massed at- 
tacks, the advanced trenches of the line running 
from the Meuse west to Champagne were a shambles, 
and the right wing of the Third French Army with- 
drew to its main positions, conforming with the 
front north of Verdun across the Hautes de Meuse 
the high rocky defile through which the river 
curves its way northward. 

The French were now consolidated on ridges only 
five miles from the key positions on the communica- 
tions from the Argonne to Verdun. Picked regi- 
ments held the heights of Mort Homme for thirty- 
three days of furious assault, with only one pause. 
As the front was partially protected by a curve in 
the river, massed attacks were also delivered farther 
west on Haucourt Hill, in an effort to gain the rear 
of the ' ' Dead-Man ' ' positions. Thousands of troops 
were slaughtered on both sides, but the Germans 
gained only a trench element and 600 prisoners. 
The pressure on the main sectors north of Verdun 
was also continued, and the fury of the assault de- 
veloped farther eastward, with a special effort to 
envelop the fortress and village of Vaux, which at 
first failed. 

With its curve flattened and its grip widened, and 
with added weight on its claws, the relentless arc of 

241 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

artillery was closing in on both sides, while masses 
of troops 1 tried to force weak points developed by 
the guns. 

On March 4, the battle approached the climax of 
its intensity. The enemy first pushed in on both 
sides of Douaumont, enveloping the village. Losing 
heavily, the garrison cut its way out. Three com- 
panies attempting to harry this retirement were 
counter attacked, but the hand-to-hand fight was 
ended by a deluge of shells from German batteries 
which impartially tore up friend and foe as the 
French dug in south of the breach. 

The claw that was reaching west of the Meuse 
made constant progress over the defenses toward 
Melancourt, but the tactics of envelopment failed on 
account of the stubborn resistance maintained by 
the French, curved around the Mort Homme and 
west on Hill 304 above Avoucourt. On March 12, 
the weight of four German divisions on a three-mile 
front finally pushed men over a trail of corpses up 
two ravines from Forges and farther west, pene- 
trating the French lines at both points and gaining 

1 During the first part of March the Germans used the Sixteenth 
Corps, the Sixth and Tenth Reserve Corps, and special divisions 
on the sectors west of the Meuse. The Seventh Reserve, the 
Eighteenth and Third Corps, and finally the Fifth Reserve Corps 
were employed on the center directly above Verdun. Part of the 
Fifteenth, the Fifth Corps, and the Third Bavarian Corps at- 
tacked the French right, the Bavarians operating below Les 
Eparges in conjunction with the special forces of von Stranz 
from St. Mihiel. 

242 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

the front trenches between them. But every effort 
of the assailants to join forces in the rear in 
order to cut out the high ground between them, or 
to work along the rear of the Mort Homme, 
failed. 

On the 16th, a third wedge was driven in farther 
west, but again the point was blunted and checked, 
and these salients restricted the target for the Ger- 
man batteries. 

Sheer weight on the last wedge, sustained for two 
weeks, spread its area, and the front before Melan- 
court was evacuated late on March 31. An airman 
by moonlight saw scores of batteries closing over 
to follow up this advantage, so before daylight the 
French troops were moved silently back to strong 
reserve positions on the south bank of the small 
Forges Eiver. It was on April 1, rather signifi- 
cantly, that the Crown Prince delivered his " sur- 
prise" which was to break and turn the stubborn 
line to the Meuse in order to outflank Verdun. 
Thousands of shells blasted the empty French 
trenches the troops silent and unscathed across the 
Forges. Then five massed lines moved to the attack. 
Not a shot was fired until the Germans were well 
over the crest of the evacuated position. Then the 
untouched French unmasked a murderous fire, 
throwing the enemy into confusion. They bravely 
tried to cling to shell craters, but were too exposed, 
and finally fled, batteries above Bethincourt tearing 

243 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

their flank. Two thousand dead marked this at- 
tempt. 

The center above Verdun, further flattened by a 
week of desperate assaults, was still unbroken, and 
for seven days picked storm-troops under von Cor- 
nitz littered the ground east of Douaumont with 
thousands of dead, in a fruitless effort to break in 
around Vaux. When they paused from exhaustion, 
a counter attack drove them from part of the Cail- 
lette wood. On April 3 a desperate battle with en- 
tirely fresh German divisions raged on a front of 
thirty-three miles. On the eastern sectors, the claw 
made a definite advance below Vaux. One force 
broke in on the reorganized line between Vaux and 
Douaumont and created a dangerous situation until 
the marvelous 75 guns closed in and, regardless of 
losses, delivered a hurricane of fire at close range. 
Then a famous infantry regiment, trained by Foch, 
swept up with the bayonet and ejected the Germans, 
firing not a single shot in the operation. 

Fighting ebbed and flowed, tons of steel raining 
on the French, until April 20 when, after a quieter 
night, drum fire burst on the entire front at daylight, 
and the afternoon saw waves of gray again breaking 
at every vulnerable point on the left center and right. 
The high tide of the battle was outlined by mounds 
of corpses and by a dozen minor salients held by 
utterly exhausted German troops, and night was 
marked by comparative silence, both sides being in- 

244 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

capable of further effort. But as reveille sounded, 
Petain gave the signal, and impetuous French re- 
serves sprang forward in a restrained counter-offen- 
sive which ejected the enemy from seven salients, 
and on the entire front the line was straightened. 

On April 29 three simultaneous assaults on all 
sectors were repulsed. Further attacks were at- 
tempted, but even supermen have a limit, and the 
German masses now broke and recoiled at the first 
burst of French fire. On April 30 aviators reported 
that many German batteries were ' * retiring. ' ' The 
battle, continuous for more than nine weeks, was 
lapsing sullenly, and despite awful losses the French 
front and spirit remained unbroken. At night now 
star shells revealed only gruesome fatigue par- 
ties collecting the German dead who littered the 
landscape like the gray rocks of the Brittany 
coast. 

The German casualty lists were appalling. With 
what Napier called the "mechanical courage of 
close-order discipline" perfectly developed, masses 
of troops again and again had swept at practically 
impregnable French positions. The dead were 
piled in thousands. Sanguinary combats had raged 
on the steep defiles along the Meuse. Miles lower 
down, during the height of this fighting, the writer 
saw the river thickly polluted with the gruesome 
debris of these battles, especially after the Germans 
launched mines to drift against the French barriers, 

245 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

or when concentrated fire smashed loaded pontoons 
in costly attempts to turn flanks on the banks. 

It often took all night to collect the thousands of 
German dead. For sanitary reasons, few could ob- 
ject to the cremation of the fallen ; but the mind re- 
volts at the system which gathers the gallant dead 
like carrion, strips off the uniform, and wires the 
stark forms in bundles which are stacked in the dis- 
trict Leichen Halle and transported by periodic 
trains to the furnaces of the different army groups. 
Words fail in dealing with the direct evidence of foul 
materialism which used its science to extract by- 
products from the bodies of its heroes, and which 
changed its kilns for incineration into " corpse util- 
ization" factories, where bone and fat were sepa- 
rated and reduced to economic terms to maintain the 
Kultur which claims "Gott mit uns" and inscribes 
"Deutsche Treue" on the escutcheon of Mittel- 
europa. This horror, reported first from the Ver- 
dun front, was confirmed by a captured order to the 
Sixth Army on the Somme front. 

The British army was now taking over the lines in 
Artois and Picardy, releasing French forces to re- 
pair the Verdun losses. Having underestimated the 
British efforts, the German Staff now found that a 
formidable menace was growing on their western 
center. At all costs, therefore, it seemed necessary 
to smash Verdun in order to establish direct com- 
munications from Metz and dominate the Meuse- 

246 



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247 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Moselle watershed before the British could attack. 

On May 7, General Petain was promoted to com- 
mand the entire southern line, and General Nivelle, 
the half-English hero of Alsace, leader of the 
Seventh Corps on the Ourcq, was selected to control 
the Central armies, with Mangin in local command 
of Verdun. This day was marked by a new artil- 
lery attack, with the greatest weight on the east 
wing. The artillery retirement reported earlier was 
for regrouping, and the German assaults were soon 
falling more fiercely than ever. Their weight 
finally told. The line crept in well below Vaux ; the 
grip on Fort Douaumont was firmly reestablished on 
June 1, and at Fort Vaux held by Major Raynal 
and the 101st Infantry over 8,000 howitzer shells 
crashed in on turret and battlement until only 130 
men were left. At night, 260 survivors from the 
trenches southeast crept into the fort, which next 
day was surrounded. With this garrison, reduced 
daily and without water, the Major resisted until the 
night of the 6th, when he and the survivors crept 
through the main sewer and escaped. 

The eastern claw had now gripped the Souville 
plateau and pushed in the French right to Fleury 
and Forts de Souville and Tavannes on the inner 
line, which barred the railroad from Metz. Tons of 
steel daily smashed the defenses at Fleury, where for 
five weeks a persistent but fruitless effort was made 
to break in and take the forts in the rear. On July 

248 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

11, with new Bavarian divisions, eight tremendous 
assaults were delivered along the entire eastern half 
of the crescent. The defenders of Fleury were prac- 
tically obliterated and a gap was forced through the 
reserve lines. 

An engineer commander, leaving Verdun in his 
car, saw the German flood suddenly pouring down 
the road that led behind the forts and to the city. 
Under a hail of shots he went back for machine gun 
detachments, which checked the rush until reserves 
arrived. 

For four days the Germans battled desperately to 
enlarge their thrust which was reaching the vitals of 
the fortress called by the Crown Prince "the Heart 
of France." British victories on the Somme now 
made the royal general desperate for a decision, and 
he poured out his men like water until their endur- 
ance failed. Yet during these attacks the French 
sent three divisions to the Somme. 

Forces specially selected and directed by General 
Mangin severely modified the German advance be- 
low Fleury on July 15. Frontal attacks, regardless 
of cost, on the two threatened forts, were also re- 
pulsed. The Germans had occupied 120 square 
miles of territory and had captured over 40,000 pris- 
oners. The French losses were nearly 200,000 men, 
but the Germans had lost over 500,000. 

Mangin now decided upon a surprise stroke 
against an evidently over-strained enemy. On Au- 

249 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

gust 1 the forces of the Crown Prince were at- 
tempting to push in well south of Tavannes, when 
the French suddenly counter attacked toward Fleury 
and farther north, where they temporarily broke 
the German center and pushed it back toward Dou- 



c? w , ^b V> >jU:B. < 6 V . 

Js^&^Xr^i kfi/ 

>?,* o rffiX 4 >r 




MAP No. 4. GROUND LOST AND GAINED ABOVE VERDUN. 
Dotted line shows original German position. Lower line marks 
limit of their advance. The shaded portions show the ground 
retaken in 1916 and 1917 by the French. 

aumont. When the first impact was checked, the 
French dug in and for sixteen days fought on until 
Fleury was theirs again and the irregular front was 
straightened on its old intermediate defense line. 
The huge drain of shells for the Somme had 

250 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

quieted the batteries attacking Verdun, and the in- 
creasing success of the British in September drew 
several German divisions westward. Nivelle and 
Mangin now prepared another surprise, with three 
divisions led by De Salines, De Passaga, and De 
Lardemelle. The troops first went to Chalons to 
recuperate and rehearse every detail of attack on 
huge plans marked in replica on the grounds. On 
October 24 the attack was delivered. 

The French had definitely located seventy German 
batteries on the five-mile front selected. Massed 
guns suddenly concentrated their fire and crippled 
this artillery and then blew definite gaps in the 
German lines. Just before midday, in a dense fog, 
the French divisions dashed forward, following their 
carefully rehearsed tactics. On the left, a division 
aimed due north to gain the Bras-Douaumont road 
and to swing around with its right on the fort. The 
next division the center aimed between that for- 
tress and Vaux, its wings to spread to the outworks 
left and right. The third division aimed south of 
Vaux. 

The French had constructed the largest siege how- 
itzer in history, a greater weapon than "Fleissige 
Bertha." As the attacking lines approached their 
objectives, this dropped its projectiles on the Ger- 
man lines. Four shells hit Fort Vaux and it was 
temporarily evacuated. Fort Douaumont was soon 
on fire and filled with fumes. Von Luchow, von 

251 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Luttwitz, and the doughty Keservist, von Zwehl, had 
been utterly baffled by the scientific tactics of the 
French. "With huge forces they had attempted sim- 
ilar things and failed. Heerdenmenschen had lost, 
and elan and initiative were now to win. 

The French drove forward in three protected 
wedges, joined forces behind their objectives, and 
thus cut out great sections of the enemy's lines. A 
huge forceps of men, Colonials on the left, the 
French divisions in the center, literally clamped out 
the Douaumont ridge, debouching through ravines 
and woods on the west and east. On the right, the 
other division broke through east of Vaux and 
turned the line there. It was a dramatic coup which 
had fully succeeded before dark a trident pushed 
in to encompass two strongholds. 

A battalion of rapid Morocco infantry, "cheval a 
pieds," led by Major Nicols, fought their way to 
Fort Douaumont. A party of volunteers led by 
Lieutenant Dumont crept under the wire into the 
blazing fort. Machine guns were smashed by their 
hand grenades, and the depleted garrison of dazed 
Brandenburgers dropped their rifles and surren- 
dered. 

Vaux was gripped also, but fought on stubbornly. 
Next day, the lines west of Douaumont were rolled 
up from the flank and occupied to within two miles 
of the Meuse. The French moved their guns up, 
reenforced their exhausted troops, and exerted 

252 



THE ATTACK ON VEEDUN 

steady pressure for five days. Then Andlauer 's di- 
vision stormed over the Vaux plateau; Arlabosse's 
division crept through the Fumin wood, and the 
enemy fled from Vaux fort. 

The tricolor was hoisted on November 2 a dra- 
matic scene with the French musicians ironically 
playing the "Chant de Depart" amid a cascade of 
German shells. The ugly defenses of the village 
were crushed on the 4th. An attack southeast to- 
ward the Woevre and west to the Meuse restored to 
France in two weeks the entire main line a full 
negation of Germany 's nine months of bloody effort. 

The Crown Prince had now to reestablish and hold 
the outer line of the original perimeter with six 
divisions, and he held in reserve only five more, 
"resting" from the Somme. Haig's pressure had 
told. 

Three French divisions of Verdun veterans and a 
new division went back to Chalons to train for the 
final coup. Air photographs and maps made repro- 
duction of the front possible. Each unit rehearsed 
its part, and on December 16 the scientific offensive 
was launched to final victory pushing out a six- 
mile curve over solidly fortified ridges to a depth of 
two miles. In three days the earlier victory became 
a triumph. 

In the revanche at Verdun the French captured 
26,668 Germans; 115 guns were taken in three De- 
cember days. In the area of woods and ridges, Ger- 

253 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

man authorities estimate that there were expended in 
shells 1,350,000 tons of steel, sowing an average of 
50 tons an acre. No less than 42 divisions had 
passed through the ordeal of sacrifice to win a halo 
for their Crown Prince, who was given supreme com- 
mand of the entire group of armies on the Aisne, of 
Champagne, and Verdun, while his septuagenarian 
mentor, his lesser generals, and also von Deimling, 
were retired in disgrace as scapegoats for the san- 
guinary failure. In his Verdun command some ex- 
members of his infamous Club der Harmlosen had 
truly earned their promotion. 

On the eve of this victory, General Nivelle was 
promoted to commander in chief of the French Army 
in the field ; and after the wear of over two years of 
active service General Joffre, as field marshal, took 
over the administrative control of the new era of 
military history opened by the Battle of the Somme. 

In June, 1917, the famous Mort Homme, held by 
dismounted cavalry, and Hill 304 were lost by a sud- 
den German coup. The French answer was com- 
plete. Inviting the American officers to witness 
their triumph and learn actual conditions, the French 
made an impetuous drive on both sides of the Meuse 
on August 20, with the troops of Fondclair, Fran- 
chette and Martin. Von Dietrich was driven from 
Mort Homme. The French put their front on the 
important points of the original line as it stood in 
1916, except at Ornes. In the Legion Etrangere, 

254 



THE ATTACK ON VERDUN 

Americans again fought and died, but inspired by 
the knowledge that they were no longer individual 
representatives of their country's conscience, but 
allies in a common cause. And General Pershing 
greeted the wounded as they were carried back, 
proud and content, part of the first regiment to win 
the Legion of Honor Cross. 



CHAPTER X 

THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

SILENTLY and thoroughly, Greater Britain had 
been preparing for her part. The Regulars had 
played the game in the earlier battles ; the shattered 
battalions had been rebuilt with Reservists and Ter- 
ritorials to stem the tide in North France and Bel- 
gium. This original army establishment had been 
obliterated in the glorious shambles of the thin line 
that was never broken, and a wider Army of the 
Empire had taken over the immortal trenches 
marked lightly across the front of blood-soaked mud. 
An army of 250,000 men was the pledge of the Power 
whose navy was holding the Seven Seas. Yet at the 
end of 1915 the casualty lists alone showed 16,471 
officers and 528,000 men two-thirds of whom had 
fallen on the defensive barrier of dogged pluck 
and 4,000,000 volunteers were training in reserve, 
at a time when service seemed a synonym for ex- 
termination, with inadequate forces on the line. 

General French being now retired with fame for 
endurance (Joffre's emotion at the parting is a 
gauge of his service), Sir Douglas Haig assumed 
command of the new British Grand Army, and its 

256 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

executive head was General Kobertson, who had 
started as a cavalry trooper. The ground work was 
still tedious. For one item, 3,000 miles of railroad 
had to be constructed along the front, chiefly on shell- 
swept ground. In England, the same number of fac- 
tories had to be established to turn out adequate ar- 
tillery, machine guns, shells by the millions, cart- 
ridges by the billions, and the numerous adjuncts to 
new trench warfare. 

Behind the lines, every month, training camps and 
"bull pens" were turning out men by the hundred 
thousand. On the Flanders front, the British line 
had crept south. Then a complete army took over 
the French trenches between Hebuterne to the 
Somme Valley, a section directly supplied from 
Havre. Next the French Army of Artois was re- 
leased for Verdun, and the British took over the 
Arras sections, linking their forces solidly on an 
exposed line of one hundred intrenched miles. 

But the lessons of Lens and Champagne in Sep- 
tember had not been lost on the Germans. During 
the winter and spring of 1916, every yard of 
defenses was enormously strengthened and backed 
by strong reserve lines. On the west front, from 
the sea to the Somme, adequate forces for defense 
faced the British threat with complacency. His 
headquarters at Roulers, the Duke of Wurttemberg 
commanded the line in Belgium, with the Naval 
Corps on the coast, four Landwehr and Ersatz divi- 

257 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

sions facing the Belgian army, and the Twenty-sixth 
Reserve and Thirteenth Army Corps curved around 
Ypres to the frontier. Continuing the line, 1 Ru- 
precht of Bavaria at Lille commanded the Twenty- 
third Reserve, Nineteenth, Seventh, Second Bava- 
rian, Fourth and Ninth Reserve, First Bavarian, 
Fourteenth Reserve, and Sixth Army Corps on the 
front from Belgium to the Somme, with two Guard 
divisions held for special work. 

Rumors of a big British drive had strangled them- 
selves in the long months of nonfulfillment. But it 
came at last on July 1, 1916, heralded by four weeks 
of persistent bombardment, and launched on De Cas- 
telnau's old front before Amiens, with tortured 
Albert as the center of the British effort and bril- 
liant French cooperation across the Somme marshes. 

Recall the battles of the first autumn, when the 
Germans attempted to recapture Amiens. The 
drive from Peronne was halted by the line across the 
Somme Valley. But as the attack developed, the 
German Second Army flowed well forward over the 
high ground above it, sweeping across the serried 
Thiepval plateau, to be checked and forced to in- 
trench on the southern and western edge. North of 
the Somme, therefore, the German front described 

1 Under the Hindenburg-Ludendorff regime Prince Rupprecht 
assumed command of all forces from the coast to Laon, the 
Crown Prince controlled the southern line, Laon to Verdun, and 
the Duke of Wurttemberg took charge of the frontier army, Metz 
to Switzerland. 

258 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

a huge crescent of trenches facing almost south be- 
fore it curved north again and faced due west on the 
hills along the Ancre, to which De Castelnau had 
finally pinned von Buelow's army below Arras. 

The early war maps made it difficult to follow the 
British offensive, because they were marked by a 
straight line from Bray north to Arras for little 
has been written about the great flood which the 
French stopped in Picardy. But it formed a big 
bulge between the Somme and the Scarpe, over the 
high ground before Bapaume where successive 
ridges were ready for each caliber of German artil- 
lery, to back a sweeping deployment over the plains 
below the drive which would have cut off all the 
western half of Northern France to the sea had the 
Germans blundered less, had De Castelnau 's forces 
faltered, or had Joffre been a day late in creating 
the flanking army at Arras. The German offensive 
had then become defensive. But for twenty months 
the serried ridges had gained in strength. 

Above the Somme loop, at Frise and Curlu, curve 
a line on the map toward Hardecourt and due west 
below Mametz and Fricourt toward Albert. Then 
curve north around the outskirts of La Boisselle, two 
and a half miles northwest from Albert, twisting 
snake-like on the ridges east of and overlooking the 
Ancre, below Thiepval. Still north, cross the river 
and trace the line through Serre and Hebuterne 
through Monchy. Two miles above this, turn the 

259 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

line directly northeast to Glangy due east of Arras, 
and you have outlined the great bulge of occupied 
territory between Peronne and Arras, pushed 
roughly ten miles due west from Bapaume and 
twenty-five miles across, from the Somme to the 
Scarpe. 

On this outlined front, the German army groups 
maintained a front-line system of a maze of 
trenches from four to ten rows deep, zigzagged 
across the ridges, the lower ground in front tangled 
with barbed wire. Behind this, deep concrete for- 
tifications linked the outer villages and held thou- 
sands of machine guns which could sweep every 
approach in assault, but which could rest securely 
underground during bombardments. Over a hun- 
dred Picardy villages were linked in a series of field 
fortifications which formed three definite systems 
or lines. In every sector, woods, heavily wired, 
screened clever artillery positions and were cut up 
by alleys for machine guns to operate at various 
angles. The Germans had intrenched to make the 
front an unassailable part of a permanent frontier. 

The Allies had small choice for battery positions. 
But the British artillery had grown to stupendous 
power, and the guns were massed closely along every 
yard of the front, relying for concealment on a flimsy 
camouflage of branches, on air superiority, and on 
weight of metal when their power was unmasked. 
For weeks, tons of British shell shook the German 

260 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

lines in France and Belgium. But the chief weight 
fell on the sectors below the Ancre. With the 
French operating on both sides of the Somme Eiver, 
aiming at Peronne, the British planned to crush in 
round the curve of the bulge on a wide front whence 
they could drive a wedge toward Bapaume, which 
would act as a lever at the base and wrench the mass 
away. With such a gap, further pressure might 
force a road toward Valenciennes, to modify the en- 
tire front in France, and perhaps end static warfare. 
By June 30, the German side of the artillery duel 
had materially weakened; their front trench lines 
were a mass of debris and torn wire. All night the 
attacking guns roared without a break. All night, 
too, columns of British infantry closed in to reen- 
f orce the intrenched forces of the Fourth Army un- 
der Rawlinson, who commanded the operations ; the 
Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, Third, Fifteenth, and Thir- 
teenth Corps, running from left to right, were 
massed along the line. Selected divisions were de- 
ployed in the advance trenches on a front of twenty 
miles from Gommecourt north of the Ancre along 
the western front to La Boisselle and curving along 
the southern defenses to Maricourt, where the 
French were consolidating, and where the front 
faced west again across the Somme Valley south- 
ward to Fay. To visualize the scene of this great 
battle, take the general aspect of Westchester 
County its series of hills, woods and valleys. It 

261 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

was an ironically peaceful setting of farms, of ham- 
lets showing through the trees that hid their partial 
ruin, and of pasture run to seed, gorgeous in patches 
of color. But at the foot and sides of the plateau 
and ridges which stand above the Ancre and curve 
round to the Somme, pulverized belts of torn earth, 
stumps and broken masonry marked the work of 
British guns on the hardly visible lines of defense 
hidden underground. Once these arrondissements 
were the home of disorder, boycott, and agrarian out- 
rage which Ireland never equaled. But content had 
been regained in the peaceful valleys until von Bue- 
low's army swept across. 

Many villages were only looted, and stood intact in 
the enemy's lines, masking deep the concrete works 
in their cellars fortresses linked in the chains of 
defenses rising tier on tier on successive ridges to 
Bapaume. To the south the lazy Somme curled 
through difficult marshes in the valley across which 
the French had gathered. Along the Ancre flowers 
and grass had softened the mine craters prodigal in 
the district, but British howitzers were now tearing 
up new excavations. 

At night the scene was strange, with miles of gun 
flash, signal rockets in the German lines, the roar of 
artillery, and the steady tramp of legions of march- 
ing feet as the columns closed in for the attack, sing- 
ing to their stride, and showing no trace of the 
ordeal to which they were closing, with its death to 

262 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

many thousands. Miles of transports held the 
roads, and ambulance trains moving up for the mor- 
row's work. The near background showed line on 
line of guns belching destruction on those silent 
trenches on the foothills and artillery replying far 
behind them. So the night passed a mass of seem- 
ing confusion from which the British faculty for or- 
der evolved system until all was ready for the signal. 

It came at 7 :30 A. M., July 1, with a barely percept- 
ible pause in the guns as the range leaped from the 
smoking first lines to a fire curtain behind them. A 
huge mine exploded under the bastion of La Bois- 
selle; clouds of black smoke were released on "no 
man's land" for a screen. And a curving wave of 
troops twenty-five miles long were over the parapets 
and charging the German lines. 

Yet the churned earth of the enemy front came to 
life in places but there was little loss generally as 
the British tore across the first lap and then ma- 
chine guns and rifles burst from reserve trenches, 
the German guns came into action, and the real bat- 
tle had started. 

The enemy expected attack on the west on a nar- 
rower front, and had massed his reserves and guns 
before Hebuterne, along the rising ground at Serre, 
Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval. The left wing 
therefore faced a hurricane of fire, and the lines 
were torn to pieces as they charged. Supports fol- 
lowed steadily up the slopes and finally took the 

263 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

first line. By magnificent bravery men of the 
Seventh Corps went on, swept up to Serre, and some 
troops swarmed round Thiepval. But the efforts 
could not be maintained. The Germans everywhere 
were massed on high ground with a clear field of 
fire, and wave on wave of British troops was swept 
away as they strove to reach the dominating posi- 
tions. Machine guns cut through the ranks like 
scythes. 

On the center La Boisselle, and Fricourt checked 
any sweeping advance. The ridge, most of the vil- 
lage of La Boisselle, and part of Fricourt were taken 
during the day; otherwise little progress was made 
beyond the capture of the first trench lines, thou- 
sands of troops being swept away as they strove to 
reach the main strongholds. But at several points 
in the center the British had taken deep bites in the 
German front. 

On the right, an advance of nearly one mile was 
made on a front of seven, the British sweeping over 
several important defenses, including the fortified 
villages of Mametz and Montauban, and strongholds 
in the Bernafay wood. 

Little ground was lost at night during fierce coun- 
ter attacks, however, and at daylight the guns recom- 
menced on the stubborn salients before which the 
British dead were piled. Fricourt, on the curve, was 
completely conquered at heavy cost before the sec- 
ond afternoon, and some troops gained a footing in 

264 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

the fortified woods above it. But in the environs of 
La Boisselle and Thiepval desperate assaults were 
repulsed and a later counter attack gave the enemy 
Serre again. 

From the 2nd o the 7th, minor progress was made 
by the British, who sustained frightful losses in 
straightening out their new lines and consolidating 
positions where they were hanging on doggedly at 
the edge of formidable field fortifications, bombing 
their way forward a yard here and there, and every- 
where exposed to machine-gun fire. It was the real 
baptism of fire for most of the battalions, and the 
men were often too keen to smash forward and win 
at all costs. 

The lessons of the first week on the Somme should 
be studied in the United States, for the eagerness of 
American regiments to get to close grips with the 
enemy will cause many casualties and a waste of 
precious men unless impetuosity is checked. How- 
ever, troops will see red at first, and nothing but 
practical experience can teach the ratio of caution. 

On July 1, below Gommecourt, a command of fa- 
mous London volunteers the Queen's Westmin- 
sters (friendly rivals of the New York Seventh), the 
London Scottish, the Rifle Brigade, Rangers, and 
Kensingtons broke through the first line. They 
went on through a hail of machine-gun fire and broke 
through the second line. With magnificent enthu- 
siasm they now followed the fleeing Germans toward 

265 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the third line of defenses, and were checked in the 
outworks, far beyond their objective. By lucky sig- 
nals they stopped the scheduled bombardment of the 
British guns which would have cleared the front they 
were holding. But the troops on each side had not 
been able to advance so far. Their flanks were ex- 
posed and they were too close to the next defenses 
for artillery to help safely. Ammunition ran low, 
and the Germans placed a terrific barrage behind 
them a veritable portcullis of shells so they could 
neither be reenforced nor supplied. A sad few 
trickled back. Some companies dug in, and for 
nearly a week made a hopeless defense, suffering 
terrific losses before the survivors would withdraw. 
Yet no general could withhold praise. Like good 
sportsmen, they had attempted the impossible and 
nearly succeeded. They sacrificed seven-eighths of 
their strength and never surrendered, giving the an- 
swer to the German delusion that citizen soldiers 
cannot fight. 

At times, entire British battalions were shot to 
pieces as they charged cheering across the open, 
when they should have fallen flat for two minutes 
to allow fresh artillery work, and gone on after a 
burst of firing had sent machine gunners to cover. 
The casualty lists were heavy before the new troops 
learned to combine caution with dash. Patient tac- 
tics soon won wide success. Points were seized in 
short rushes, battery work cooperating. Positions 

266 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

were often gained by reaching communication 
trenches and bombing the way until the impregnable 
frontal positions were cut out and enveloped. 

The British army had marched to the Somme full 
of confidence. Each branch of the service had been 
trained patiently and thoroughly. At the first sig- 
nal, every unit went in to win. Men showed bull- 
dog courage ; they put forth every ounce of weight 
they had, to break the German front. A huge ma- 
chine had been assembled, but time and bitter losses 
were required before the various parts ran smoothly. 
Frontal attacks were inevitable ; but generally there 
are weaker lines that can be penetrated by pluck, 
and utilized for victory with skill and patience. Un- 
til the practical Somme course, the general ten- 
denpy of the British was to advance too far on 
sections where an initial success was won. Some- 
times big results were gained, but keen judgment 
was necessary. The lesson cost thousands of lives. 

Under a barrage the first line goes over with the 
bayonet as quickly as possible. It is supported with 
a line of bombers who can sense machine-gun lairs 
or stubborn nests passed over in the first rush but 
which may prove fatal for supports. These are 
bombed out and cleared as the second wave goes 
across and passes on to rebuild the first line, with 
its own bombers in support. Special clearing par- 
ties now sweep over the captured ground for the 
carefully concealed traps and tunnel exits which 

267 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

may soon pour ugly forces in rear. More supports 
build up the attacking line, and to them falls the 
important duty of walling in salients and blocking 
up flank approach. But bitter experience alone can 
restrain the ardor of men bred with the tradition: 
"Up, Guards, and at them!" 

The advancing front soon becomes irregular. 
Stubborn obstacles check the advance on definite sec- 
tions; the tide of men flows forward on either side, 
and soon there is a dangerous gap or entrance down 
which the enemy reserves can get on the flanks or 
rear of the advanced forces. At such points the 
captured sections of trenches must be walled in and 
guarded, and the salient reduced or cut off in rear by 
special tactics. Bombers must always watch the 
flanks of the advance and wall in the ends of any 
trench section not definitely cleared. A few sand- 
bags in the traverse, with bombers and a machine 
gun enfilading the position, may soon quiet the de- 
termination of enemy reserves which in all assaults 
seek bypaths to get at the rear of the weakened ad- 
vance lines. 

The British lost more than an army corps to learn 
these lessons in the first Somme period. Pedantry 
had established defined rules for every emergency, 
but generals soon learned to discard all peace theo- 
ries of modern warfare, and after early mistakes 
they exhibited fertility of resource and brilliance of 
direction. The troops responded, showing the sen- 

268 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

timent of respect and habit of subordination which 
is discipline, coupled with high qualities of individu- 
ality and initiative which wrested success from the 
solidly trained and always courageous soldiers of 
Germany. 

On the British right, the French also made splen- 
did progress the Colonial Corps and the famous 
Twentieth Corps, tipped by the Thirty-ninth or Iron 
Division. These troops, brought specially from 
Verdun, had profited by its lessons and its glories. 
On the three-mile front north of the Somme and to 
Fay on the south, the first line trenches were rapidly 
captured. These trained veterans gave a splendid 
object lesson of the way attacks must be delivered. 
First, irresistible dash, then solid team work with 
every branch coordinated. They sensed the possi- 
bilities and limitations, always ready to hold back 
when the guns should pave the way, and to strike 
without restraint at the crucial moment. In two 
days they had captured 9,000 prisoners and many 
guns. Curlu and Frise were taken, and below the 
Somme the Germans were driven from their second 
line by a dashing advance under Foch's eye. The 
troops tore over the front trenches and, while sup- 
ports dealt with intermediate points of defense, re- 
enforced lines of assault swept to the artillery posi- 
tions, taking seven heavy batteries, the field guns 
escaping by a margin of seconds. 

The French attack was partly a surprise. On 

269 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

July 1, a sudden air raid shot down fifteen enemy 
observation balloons, and though the Germans 
claimed mastery of the air, not a single plane ven- 
tured to approach the French lines that day. The 
artillery, therefore, had things their own way. Five 
different columns of enemy reinforcements were 
then reported, caught in the open by the heavy guns, 
and broken up. Definite periods of silence broken 
by terrible rafales from the soixante-quinze guns 
also greatly disconcerted the Germans, whose com- 
munications here were exposed. Magnificent air 
photography was the base of this battery work, and 
the enemy's food and ammunition had grown scarce 
before the attack started. When the French troops 
went over, they swept all front lines, and the second 
line for three miles, reaching within four miles of 
Peronne. 

On the difficult British front, for the first few days, 
forty salients were maintained, like the first grip of 
teeth in jaws that were starting to close. On the 
north and south, Thiepval height was guarded by 
huge redoubts. After all frontal attacks had failed, 
a sudden reckless dash contrary to cautious tactics 
pushed up from a salient and maintained a wedge 
across the rear of the Leipzig Redoubt. This 
enabled troops below to take Orvillers. Along the 
south front, a score of minor salients were soon re- 
duced. When the big gains here had been consoli- 
dated, the artillery closed in, and on July 7 beauti- 

270 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

fully planned attacks were delivered on three sides 
of Contalmaison. 

A brigade of the Third Division Prussian Guards 
had just detrained to strengthen the garrison. Un- 
conscious that a new assault had started, they 
marched down, singing a chorus which was to prove 
the Morgenroth of many a stalwart soldier, squarely 
into the zones plotted for the jump of the British 
bombardment when the infantry attacked. As the 
British leaped forward they saw that their protective 
fire was deluging a living target. After a desperate 
fight, the depleted Guards were rounded up as pris- 
oners, beaten in part by a battalion of North County 
Bantams, specials of the five-foot class. 

By the afternoon of the 10th, Contalmaison, very 
strongly defended, was walled in on the east and 
west. A few companies also, skirting the Albert- 
Bapaume road, had crawled through the woods to the 
northwest, where they went nearly a mile across the 
open to reach upper approaches to the village. 
When this minor force charged down in rear, the 
already shaken garrison turned and fled to avoid en- 
velopment. 

On the curve, the British center had now a definite 
grip on the second main line, but Mametz Wood on 
the right was still strongly held. On July 14, 
France's day, the attack recommenced. The Brit- 
ish right stormed Longueval and after 2,500 heavy 
shells had been dropped into Bazentin le Grand, 

271 



UNDER FOUE FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the gain was extended westward and the line 
joined to the forces in Contalmaison. By night the 
ugly stronghold of Bazentin le Petit was also 
pinched out. The great second line was now 
breached for three miles and hundreds of troops were 
cut off and captured in the wooded valley in the 
south. 

Thousands of prisoners were taken, but many de- 
tachments retired to shell holes in wheat fields and 
wired thickets in the open country behind, and on 
these wasp nests the Dragoons and Indian Lancers 
were loosed. In an old-time cavalry charge the 
troopers cleared the front and swept across the 
open until the German artillery caught them. They 
then sent their horses back and dug in on an ad- 
vance line which the infantry soon reached in sup- 
port. That night the Germans withdrew masses 
of artillery, but threw heavy reinforcements to 
strengthen their front and join the remaining second 
line strongholds to the third line on the high ground 
before Courcelette, Martinpuich, Flers, Lesboeufs, 
and southeast to Morval and Combles. 

The new advance was cutting seriously in rear 
of the untaken strongholds on the west front. The 
ridge to Orvilles above the Amiens-Bapaume road 
was captured from the Prussian Guards on the 17th, 
and on two sides the British were free to close in on 
Pozieres. But German reserves were pouring up to 
save their threatened front, and for four days they 

272 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

counter attacked in desperation from behind Thiep- 
val, westward along the line to Delville Wood and 
around the curve to Guillemont. A week of heavy 
rain also hampered the British advance and made it 
difficult to consolidate and supply the new front, and 
many exhausted divisions were replaced. Rawlin- 
son's forces were closed over to the right and the 
Second Corps and First Anzac Corps pushed up in 
the center, tightening the grip around Thiepval and 
covering the salient behind it across the Albert-Ba- 
paume road and round the lower slopes of the spur 
dominated by Pozieres. 

A melee of medieval ferocity raged for days in the 
woods on the right, where thousands fought in the 
tangle with clubbed rifles, bayonets, and fists. In 
spite of the mud, the British artillery pushed for- 
ward and regrouped in the valley below Pozieres and 
on the captured ridges farther east. The rains 
ended on July 22, and the artillery opened a terrific 
bombardment, new supplies enabling them to expend 
half a million shells a day in the battle area. At 
midnight, the bombardment lifted, and a London 
Territorial and Australian division jumped forward 
in a surprise attack in the center, which gave them 
a wide section of the general defense system cen- 
tered by Pozieres captured by clever cooperation 
of the two forces in a desperate battle. 

During a week of glorious weather, regardless of 
losses, new German divisions and batteries were 

273 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

flung into the fray. Their impregnable front was in 
jeopardy. From the sea to Switzerland the Allies 
exerted a steady pressure; but unfortunately they 
had no adequate force available for a simultaneous 
offensive at a distant point in order to divert enemy 
reserves which were now pouring over from the Rus- 
sian front to the Somme area. But the Australians 
twice counter attacked and captured more elements 
of the Pozieres system. All gains were held stub- 
bornly. No record can be made of the hundred bat- 
tles that raged along the line and around the right 
curve to the French toward Hardecourt. In many 
sections when the German Reserves paused from 
sheer exhaustion, the British counter attacked and 
made headway. Delville Wood east of Longueval, 
packed with dead, proved a debated point and 
changed hands night and day until July 29, when 
it was definitely cleared out and held by the South 
Africans while the Scotch took the high ground on 
the right above Guillemont. 

From these woods west to Pozieres, the captured 
second line of field works was consolidated, complet- 
ing a gain of thirty square miles. But the British 
shells had dug a mass of temporary defenses which 
the enemy reserves linked and wired by night in the 
gap for which thousands of British lives had been 
sacrificed. Instead of a great sweep forward to the 
third line, progress was therefore slow and costly. 

On August 4, in the center, an Australian and a 

274 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

South England division before Pozieres, by a sur- 
prise assault after sunset, when "retreat" had 
sounded, took the dominating crest held by the Ninth 
Reserve Corps. In a sweep nearly two miles wide 
the unconquered section of the second line where 
it crossed the backbone of the highest ridge and 
trenches, right to the spur behind Thiepval, was 
captured. By moonlight the panting troops looked 
down at last upon the open country behind, across 
the third line which rested on the farther edge of the 
plateau. This vital gain was fruitlessly counter 
attacked, and a brigade feeling for the left of the ad- 
vance was shelled to pieces by high-angle fire, prov- 
ing how surely the grip had tightened behind 
triumphant Thiepval. 

Though rain again turned the churned dust to 
swamp, the batteries were soon on the ridge for di- 
rect fire on the massed German guns before Cource- 
lette and Martinpuich. Generals Fuchs, Marschall, 
and "Kickback" hurried to Prince Rupprecht; the 
Headquarters cars tore down to observe and confer ; 
engineers arrived to plan laborious mines under the 
position; Berlin 's Nachrichtendienst told the world 
that the British advance ended in repulse. But 
men and guns were on the key position of the great 
stronghold, and the gunners tried to see German time 
on Bapaume clock tower. 

On the right also the menace had grown. The 
new British front facing north turned at a sharp 

275 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

angle above Guillemont to join the French army fac- 
ing east. Heavy assaults were made on both sides 
of the apex to break this Allied link. Night attacks 
against the British intrenched in the woods were led 
by flame throwers, who scorched the faces off the 
defenders as the " Stosstruppen" tried to "push" 
through. Late in July these attacks culminated in 
the capture of many scorched and gassed troops who 
were deliberately left foodless and unattended, suf- 
fering horrible agony and exposed to artillery fire 
for five days before a British counter attack re- 
covered these dying victims and eased their torture 
with morphine. 

A concerted Anglo-French movement was organ- 
ized to round out the angle and cut out the strong- 
holds of Combles in the valley to the east and Morval 
on the ridge to the north, by extending the British 
line farther east from Longueval through Ginchy, 
and by pushing the French left forward across the 
open ground before Maurepas, then extending it 
north to join the British, thus inclosing the hostile 
area and its defenders. 

Fayolle 's army had been making good progress on 
both sides of the Somme. South of the river, Es- 
trees was captured, and the line was closing in on 
Biaches, two and a half miles west of Peronne, and 
approaching Belloy farther south, where Alan See- 
ger, the Harvard poet, was killed, with other Ameri- 
cans of the Legion. North of the Somme, the French 

276 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

had taken Hem and were approaching Clery north- 
west of Peronne, with their left in touch with the 
British before Hardecourt. 

On July 30, the French line pushed eastward on 
the entire front. Their left obtained a footing on 




Scale of Mllot 



MAP No. 5. THE SOMME OFFENSIVE. 

Black line shows original German front attacked by British, 
July 1, 1916. Dotted line shows British front, Sept. 18, 1916. 
Line of dashes marks final British gains and left of French line 

at Sailly Saillisel. 

the ridge outside Maurepas. Cooperating, the Brit- 
ish stormed Guillemont, but were checked before 
Ginchy and fell back with heavy loss. On August 
7, Guillemont was again captured and the approaches 
to Ginchy. The Germans now brought up heavy bat- 
teries and fresh divisions. They cut in from the 

277 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Combles road, and flanked and enveloped two Brit- 
ish battalions in the village. Forces also reached 
for the French flank and fought magnificently when 
caught in a hopeless bombardment. 

The Germans attached great importance to the 
Peronne-Bapaume road ; they fought desperately to 
hold this approach. But on September 3 the British 
again took Guillemont, buried two thousands of its 
garrison, and held on while rain, gas shells, and 
night attacks made life a hell for a week. 

Then the peerless Irish Division Nationalists 
and Ulster Orangemen raced for the latent 
strength of Ginchy, still defiant after six weeks ' bat- 
tle. Its defense had cost the British heavily, but 
the Irish brigades won the final honors after a des- 
perate rough-and-tumble fight in the cellars and 
trenches on the top of the main ridge. There was 
no long wait. The French had been fighting stead- 
ily eastward. The First Infantry won the Croix de 
Guerre by storming Maurepas ; the Guillemont road 
was cleared up and they could now extend their front 
northward up the valley east of Combles, while Baw- 
linson's forces fought eastward through Ginchy to 
the edge of the Morval plateau. Again the French 
advanced on their entire front, their left approach- 
ing Raucourt and capturing Bouchavesne from the 
Westphalians on the Peronne-Bapaume road. 

On September 26, the battle for Combles was 
started unexpectedly when reserves from Morval at- 

278 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

tempted to prevent the English and French lines 
from finally closing in a rectangle on the heights 
above the town. Fighting developed in the valleys 
on both sides of Combles, and just before dark its 
defenders weakened. A patrol led by Ernest Wal- 
dron of Paterson, New Jersey, found a way in. He 
guided the column to the center of the town. An- 
other party approached with bayonets ready. A 
challenge broke the tension and French and British 
clasped hands, having unconsciously effected the 
angle of envelopment long fought for. Farther 
north, two English regiments, hearing the rush of 
the retreating garrison, went over without formation 
and caught most of them. 

But the widening of the angle of the Franco-Brit- 
ish liaison which had started this joint movement had 
become secondary during the march of events. 
South of the Somme, the French had made such 
amazing progress that General Micheler had brought 
the Tenth Army to extend the offensive south from 
Barleux to Chilly. The front south of the river 
moved eastward in pace with the line to the north 
until it pushed across the railroad from Peronne to 
Roye and got near the main road to Roye and Noyon. 
When the forces fighting on the north bank reached 
the Bapaume road, they were within range of Mt. 
St. Quentin, due north of and protecting Peronne, 
which now became the French objective. On both 
banks of the river there was terrific fighting. 

279 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Haig now lost no time in striking a wide blow 
to sweep the Germans right off the ridge from be- 
hind Thiepval eastward across to Morval on the 
third line, and capturing the strongholds on lower 
ground behind it. The guns had not rested since 
the second line was breached. September 15 gave 
the triumphant climax to ten weeks of desperate 
effort. 

The men went over the top at 6 :30 A. M., a phalanx 
of six miles against the formidable and greatly 
strengthened defenses, and losses were heavy. 
Then, as an experiment, new types of armored cars, 
or moving fortins, the famous tanks, were tested. 
Four lines of trenches had been stormed, but a forti- 
fied sugar factory held up the left below Cource- 
lette. The first tank in action christened Creme 
de Menthe now lumbered forward. The steel tor- 
toise crawled to the factory, crushed out the machine 
guns, and the infantry dashed up and captured the 
garrison. Other deadly points were rolled out, and 
the monster, passing over trenches, led the infantry 
to Courcelette, turned its guns at the cellar defenses, 
and met and stopped reinforcements hurrying to 
the village. By 9 P.M. the great stronghold was 
subdued. Other tanks waddled serenely across the 
deadly open ground on the plateau at Martinpuich, 
Daphne, and Delysia, crushed out a row of spouting 
machine guns as the troops charged across, and be- 
fore sunset this great tangle of defenses was taken. 

280 



THE SOMMB OFFENSIVE 

" Vulcan's Joy Rides" was the slogan. And on the 
right above Ginchy, the British, after a bitter strug- 
gle, swarmed over the ridge to the open, field bat- 
teries and cavalry advancing at the gallop toward 
Guillemont. 




MAP No. 6. THE TANGLE OF GERMAN DEFENSES SURROUNDING 

THIEPVAL. 

In the center, on the eastern front, only a mass of 
woods remained untaken. For ten uneventful days 
fighting raged. Guards met Guards; the tanks 
crawled out; salients were straightened, while the 
rains descended, drowning many wounded in the 
shell holes. Then the line went forward again, an- 
other clear sweep that took Guedecourt, Lcsboeufs, 

281 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

and Morval; and many German guns were moved 
back while machine guns played at rear guard and 
balked the expectant British cavalry. 

Now Thiepval, the sullen, western sentinel of the 
plateau, was doomed. Pulverized masonry marked 
the village, the center of four crossroads. But the 
gloomy hog's-back, bristled by charred stumps, had 
resisted all attacks and stood unconquered under 
hundreds of tons of shells. The height was a rabbit 
warren, tunneled in all directions and dominating an 
amazing field of fire. When approached, bristling 
with guns, it resounded like a huge steel structure 
clamped by a thousand riveting machines. There 
was no dashing assault at the last. Its resistance 
was gradually squeezed out after weeks of costly 
advance, and its garrison, strong in the belief of 
their impregnability, fought like cornered rats. 

The end came on September 26. The attackers 
closed in persistently, subduing dugouts with bombs ; 
while machine guns came up like Jacks-in-Boxes, 
took their toll, and disappeared. There seemed no 
key to the main underground system until a tank 
lumbered along half a mile of redoubt and suddenly 
crashed through the roof of its parallel tunnel. Its 
crew were killed, but men with bombs poured in the 
hole. Bullets spouted up the dark corridors, and 
only the saving quality of mercy spared any of the 
garrison, as gas fumes and smoke seemed the only 
remedy when the inmates refused to surrender. 

282 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

A second way was found to the underground vaults 
in which men fought, stabbed, and wrestled in hellish 
darkness until the garrison was overcome. A thou- 
sand men were captured, but some escaped by an- 
other tunnel to the Schwaben Redoubt farther 
north. 

There were still great redoubts on the northwest 
of the ridge, and Beaumont Hamel above it over- 
looking the bend of the Ancre. But the British had 
smashed in over the lower curve of the bulge to a 
depth of six miles on a front of eight a definite 
breach of the solidly fortified German front. The 
winning of the third line was a stupendous achieve- 
ment, because in two days of frontal attack with 
perfect cooperation, a position, on which every avail- 
able gun and man could be crowded, was cleared 
in its entirety. It cost thousands of lives, but it 
swept the ridges clear and gave the British domi- 
nating artillery positions as they swept on to the 
open valleys beyond, and it wrote Defeat across the 
most formidable barrier of defense constructed by 
Germany to hold the western front negativing 
twenty months of herculean labor. 

But the vision that many had of the rapid advance 
of a victorious army through the breach to impose 
a Sedan on the forces of defense, and reestablish 
strategic initiative in open country, faded as the 
Germans demonstrated their ability to link up shell 
craters over night for delaying actions and to dot 

283 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

their machine guns over miles of improvised de- 
fenses blasted by hostile artillery. Even naval divi- 
sions came down to help Kupprecht's forces. But 
had there been a longer period of fine weather, no 
hasty system could long have withstood the pressure 
that had broken through that front. 

Early storms of snow and sleet converted the 
ground into a morass and proved a great relief to 
the German Staff, while the British toiled to get guns 
to the crest of the defensive backbone which had cost 
them nearly 300,000 men. In October, the British 
captured Beaumont Hamel, a naval division request- 
ing the honor of storming its ravine and trench 
strongholds on the Ancre. This widened the gap. 
Picked forces also made a huge sweep and carried 
the front forward to three miles southwest of Ba- 
paume. Fine weather was needed, however, to 
maintain a steady advance. The snow caught a huge 
army camped in the open and delayed the fruits of 
the enterprise while the troops prepared winter 
quarters. But Bapaume was doomed. 

Winter also deferred the wonderful French ad- 
vance against the linked defenses of von Ermolli and 
von Gamier. On October 18, their left wing took 
the heights of Sailly Saillisel, and made good on the 
ridges running north from Peronne. South of the 
Somme, the army had closed within range of its 
southern approaches, and its right had cut important 
roads from St. Quentin. By their skillful tactics of 

284 



THE SOMME OFFENSIVE 

penetration and envelopment the French made large 
hauls in guns and prisoners. 

During 1916, the total prisoners of the French 
army were 78,592. They had completely destroyed 
416 aeroplanes and forced down 195. The British 
during the year took 40,578 prisoners. On the 
Somme, the Allies jointly captured 1,449 officers and 
71,532 men ; 130 heavy howitzers, 173 guns, 215 mor- 
tars, and 987 machine guns, and had engaged 38 Ger- 
man divisions. 



CHAPTER XI 
THE HINDENBURG LINE 

"CALIGULA!" remarked a tourist. "No, Cali- 
ban I ' ' said his friend, commenting on the gross bulk 
of a man seldom absent from or abstemious at a fa- 
mous German tavern. The war sent him to Russia 
where he won a great victory against a line of five 
men per rifle, and the Hindenburg legend grew 
through the days the wooden effigy was hammered 
full of nails for charity. The Somme failure needed 
changes at the top, radical and popular, so with Lu- 
dendorff as brain, Hindenburg, the ruthless, assumed 
absolute command, upset the Navy to the edge of re- 
volt, organized the full national power for war serv- 
ice and gained a strategic waiting reserve of a mil- 
lion. The Somme threat had to be met. But the 
tourist was wrong the beer drinker was Attila, the 
Hun, a reversion to type. To him age, sex and law 
of war did not exist military prisoners and civilians 
were impressed by thousands and lashed as a great 
human plow to excavate deep defenses on a new line 
to modify the front. And on the thousand square 
miles before it devastation. "Where my horse 
passes the grass will never growl" 

286 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

The winter, too, had been busy for the Allies on 
the old front, with fierce fighting January 11, and 
on all subsequent fronts by the British, who had 
started too late in 1916 and now were to finish the 
task. But their Somme activity masked prepara- 
tion for as great a blow farther north. 

For two weeks, in February, rain, snow, and fog 
spoiled air visibility, but patrols sensed an increas- 
ing nervousness on the German front. Shells of 
heavy caliber ceased, and on the 25th a raiding party 
found the trenches beyond Serre unoccupied. On 
the Ancre front the infantry at once went across the 
intervening slime, to find that thirty square miles 
the angle above Thiepval, pressed from the west and 
south had been evacuated. 

Feeling attacks on the Somme front encountered 
heavy machine-gun fire. By the middle of March 
the ground was passable. The British army closed 
forward from the west toward Bapaume on the 15th, 
to meet a nominal resistance except at Tries west of 
Serre, where a switch trench protected the railway 
junction at Achiet. Though the German press was 
jeering the British for their failure to break through, 
the staff had appraised the menace. Hindenburg 
was in the saddle to rejuvenate a discouraged army, 
and drastic strategy was to save the situation. We 
had known during the winter that the population in 
the invaded territory was being dragged into slav- 
ery to work on the German lines. Contrary to con- 

287 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

vention, thousands of military prisoners were also 
forced to this labor, where they were starved, beaten, 
and exposed to shell fire. Early Allied activity tore 
the mask off the surprise before it was completed. 
Germany was preparing to step back from the pres- 
sure to a straighter reserve line which had been built 
from seven to twenty-five miles behind the original 
curving front pushed westward between Arras and 
Soissons. 

There was to be no collapse on the old front. 
Numerous outpost lines were prepared, and the 
Allies were to be lured eastward from their strong 
positions. Beyond the protection of their artillery, 
and backed by the desolate waste of the battle area, 
they were to be punished in the open, enticed by 
rear-guard actions to the range of new artillery, and 
allowed to approach the impregnable Hindenburg 
line with the maximum of loss and discomfort. Hun- 
dreds of batteries of six-inch guns had been con- 
structed a medium artillery which would comprise 
caliber and mobility. 

The spring plans of the Allies embraced Joffre's 
aim for a simultaneous offensive on two fronts. On 
March 3, the French Armies of the Somme had gone 
south to the concentration on the Aisne, while the 
British took over the front to Nesle due west of St. 
Quentin, and resumed their drive west. But prep- 
arations were also made for a strong offensive in 
Artois to gain Lens and clear Arras while the French 

288 



THE HINDENBUEG LINE 

Army drove north on the other front. The British 
also relieved the Belgian army from Dixmude to the 
sea. Yet Hindenburg's plan was to defer Allied 
action in 1917. 

On March 17, the fog lifted, and as the British 
guns opened, huge columns of smoke were seen in 
Bapaume and Peronne. Troops pushed forward, 
and found the cities wrecked and evacuated except by 
rear guards, easily repulsed. Bapaume was taken, 
and Peronne occupied next day. Below St. Quentin 
the French found Eoye, Noyon, and other places in 
flames, and their front opposed by strong rear 
guards. Both armies pushed forward cautiously 
and ignored the incentive to pursue the fleeing army. 
Cavalry patrols and infantry screens felt the way 
and developed ground mines and ambuscades Pan- 
zerkraftwagen, fast lorries with machine guns, and 
Fussartillerie with extra horses holding promising 
points. But these took meager toll from the cau- 
tious skirmish lines, and cleared off up the roads 
when pressure developed, plowing up the roads and 
bridges as they retreated. The entire territory be- 
fore the Hindenburg line was ruthlessly devastated 
to make it a waterless glacis of destruction "the 
Realm of Death." 

History affords few examples of such methodical 
spoliation and no record to approach the filthy 
grossness which tainted the work. In November, the 
Germans started the destruction of trees. By Jan- 

289 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

uary, houses, churches, and public buildings were 
mined. Hamlets and small houses everywhere were 
burned. On February 10, catalogues of every article 
of value were checked, and the wholesale looting was 
systematized. Baron von Hadelhn supervised the 
official seizure of important art treasures and an- 
tiques for Germany, including the Latour pastels of 
St. Quentin. Then the rest was divided, and demoli- 
tion patrols started. All wells were unprintably de- 
filed, roads and bridges were mined, and fuel stacked 
in large buildings. Some stained glass was re- 
moved from the churches; the rest was pulverized. 
Altars were torn down, sacred vessels looted, and 
the walls dynamited. Cottages were pulled down 
by horses, while their owners wept. 

On signal, at 3 :00 A. M., March 17 Hail, German 
system ! thousands of waiting men finished the de- 
struction. Charges were exploded, fires lit, and at 
six o'clock all but rear guards marched east. Pe- 
ronne was a shell; Bapaume, a sad ruin. Chauny 
was utterly destroyed, its people left standing in the 
open behind the outposts, and many died before 
rescue. Noyon was looted, but suffered less; the 
cathedral was left standing, but even the bronze 
Christ was torn from the cross and carried off, 
with the organ, bells, and images. Two chapels were 
befouled and mottoed in the frequent type of German 
humor. Nesle was saved by British cavalry who 
caught the incendiary squads red-handed, while 

290 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

French troopers rode round and took three batteries 
there as they retreated. Eoye was only looted and 
a few landmarks burned. These three larger towns 
were well west and had to be evacuated hurriedly 
under Allied pressure. Villages were burned in 
hundreds. 

Only 45,052 of the inhabitants were left, ragged 
and starving among their ruined homes. Their 
money was taken, and all supplies left by the Ameri- 
can Belief Commission. All women from sixteen 
to thirty-five were carried off, ostensibly to labor, 
but the world will gasp with horror when the full 
story is written. Hundreds of young girls had been 
debauched by officers, and these pitiful victims were 
then by unwritten law the property of the soldiers. 
Special houses of ill-fame, legally controlled, were 
filled by the victims of vicious orgies. Hungry and 
unprotected, other women became victims to condi- 
tions. In many outlying strongholds girls were 
kept caged white slaves maintained for the garri- 
son. Ask the American women who with gas masks 
went under shell fire and took away convoys of the 
homeless women and children. They know details 
of the awful story. 

On the Oise, many stately homes were destroyed 
and historic mausoleums wrecked. In one case a 
fifteenth century metal coffin was forced open and 
shockingly defiled, with the inevitable "joke" 
chalked on it. At Coucy le Chateau, near the Oise, 

291 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the world's most perfect feudal castle carefully 
preserved for centuries from time's erosion was 
utterly destroyed. 

Von Fleck of the Seventeenth Corps, before he 
retired to St. Quentin, ordered the loading of all 
antique furniture and paintings from the country 
house which he had made his headquarters. The 
owners were present. The last days were a con- 
tinued orgy in all the territory. Murder was fre- 
quent. Scores of officers quartered in well-known 
houses raped the women of the household the night 
they left. 

On the night of April 2nd in Washington, while 
the President was declaring war, dawn was breaking 
in France, and long-range British guns were already 
sending the first shots at actual points of the boasted 
line. These facts reached Berlin simultaneously 
the United States had come in. The elastic strategy 
of Hindenburg had failed utterly! The British 
were preparing early breakfast on the last outpost 
lines; they had taken Doignies and Croiselles, and 
their right was only two miles from St. Quentin. On 
a wide front, the Germans were pouring back to 
the Hindenburg line. Before Noreuil, two British 
companies pursued too closely. They were cut off, 
captured, and deliberately driven to the fire of their 
own guns by the exasperated enemy. 

In two weeks the Allies had surmounted all ob- 
structions. Bridges and roads had been restored, 

292 



THE HINDENBUEG LINE 

and on the front of one hundred miles they had 
pushed the rear guards eastward. The British, 
from five miles south of Arras to St. Quentin, the 
French continuing the line to the Aisne, had ad- 
vanced far too rapidly for Hindenburg's plan to de- 
velop. The armies that were to gain "voluntary 
elasticity" to force the Allies to flounder over the 
glacis of destruction were being pushed to cover in 
the magic line itself. The devastation of the area 
had proved wanton and barren of military result. 
And the plea of shortening the linef The saving 
was twenty-one miles. The Somme offensive had 
forced Germany to yield 1,300 square miles of 
French territory, with 315 towns and important vil- 
lages; but in retaliation some of the most beauti- 
ful districts in France had been converted into a 
desert. 

"Les Picards ont la tete chaude!" is a proverb 
that Germany will have cause to remember when the 
Picardy divisions go into action. The sturdy me- 
tayers of the devastated arrondissements will re- 
store the countryside. But they will never forgive 
the treatment of their women. 

^When the French and British linked their lines 
around the suburbs of St. Quentin, fires and explo- 
sions showed that the work of destruction had 
started there. But the guns of the Allies were too 
close to be used without damaging the city senti- 

293 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ment won a partial respite, and the enemy retained 
his hold. 

On April 9, Haig's blow above Arras fell nine 
hours after Hindenburg had declared to the world 
that his new defense system was impregnable his 
apologia, when the Allies had so rapidly pushed up to 
it. 

The Hindenburg line was the generic term for the 
new defense system across France along the edge of 
the devastated area. Starting from the Aisne pla- 
teau at right angles to the southern front, with strong 
protective positions six miles northeast of Soissons 
to guard the junction, the main section ran due north 
across the forests west of Laon behind La Fere, 
where the Oise locks were broken and the district 
before it flooded. Using the river as a moat, the 
line was continued along the Oise behind St. Quen- 
tin, with the city's circle of defenses as an outpost, 
to Queant ten miles west of Cambrai. From this 
point, the upper section, or switch line, ran directly 
northeast across the Somme Department, crossing 
four miles east of Arras to the end of the Vimy 
Ridge, where it joined the original strong line before 
Lens across Belgium. Forking from the main Sieg- 
fried system near Queant, behind this upper oblique 
barrier, the Wotan reserve line was in course of 
construction straight north to Drocourt, linking there 
with the existing reserve line built before the cities 
of Lille, Eoubaix, and Tourcoing. 

294 




GERMAN TREXCUKS AFTER THE BRITISH BOMBARDMENT 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

The upper section of the new system was not com- 
pleted when Haig struck at an unexpected moment. 
And the assault holds the record for results achieved 
in a single day. The first attack was most heavy 
on a twelve-mile front below Lens to the southern 
suburbs of Arras. On the north, the army of Gen- 
eral Horn the Canadian Corps, and mixed English 
and Scottish divisions was holding the Souchez 
front, where sixty thousand French graves marked 
the futile effort to break the Artois barrier before 
big guns had been provided. The Vimy Eidge the 
Gibraltar of Artois 482 feet high was the barrier 
to the plain of Douai and its junction of eight 
strategic railroads. 

Aided by a strong bombardment and the element 
of surprise, and screened by a blinding snowstorm, 
sixteen Canadian battalions stormed the steep face 
of Vimy. On an exact model of the ground each 
phase of the attack had been rehearsed. Successive 
lines swept over the ridge, and, pivoting on the left, 
rolled up the massive defensive system. So rapidly 
were the troops over the first line that they kicked 
the machine guns aside, and bayoneted the aston- 
ished gunners. Following a perfect barrage, they 
swept the Germans practically off the ridge and in- 
trenched without a pause. The American battalion 
took part in the assault and many were killed. The 
batteries were abandoned when German resistance 
collapsed. Through perfect artillery and infantry 

295 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

cooperation, three strong lines were rolled up. 

Before Arras, where the rival lines ran through 
opposite cellars in the same streets, the British 
swarmed up ladders, tore across regardless of losses, 
and deluged the enemy with bombs. Supports then 
swarmed beyond the city, stormed the second line, 
captured the forts holding the railroad junction, 
and dug in two miles eastward. 

On April 11, the wings of the assault extended to 
a fifty-mile front from Loos to the Bapaume-Cam- 
brai road. A mine was exploded under the Hohen- 
zollern Redoubt, and the lines were advanced toward 
Lens. At Vimy Ridge, the Guard Reserve was form- 
ing for another counter attack on the northern end 
where the enemy retained a high spur Hill 145, 
"the Pimple." A short deluge of shells broke their 
formation; "the Pimple" was captured and the be- 
wildered Guards were partly enveloped and made 
prisoners. 

When the Canadians had captured Vimy, the 
strongest natural element of the first barrier was 
cut out and the flank of the new oblique Queant- 
Arras line was exposed. The outpost positions east 
of Arras were quickly stormed as the battle spread. 
Hindenburg's sphere of elasticity was gone, and on 
the entire front the enemy was on the defensive, on 
the breached line itself. 

The First British Army under General Horn, oper- 
ating from La Bassee to the Arras front, made 

296 



THE HINDENBUEG LINE 

steady progress. On the left, Midland troops 
cleared the Loos sectors and fought their way toward 
Lens. In two days guns were ready on the Vimy 
Eidge, and the Canadian Corps and the troops on 
their right debouched to the plains of Gohelle below, 
advanced three miles eastward, and captured both 
the Vimys, Ginchy, and Willerval, all being fever- 
ishly fortified when taken. By the evening of April 
13, the British front for twelve miles was consoli- 
dated across the roads to Lens and Douai. The next 
day the left wing captured Lieven a twin coal town 
of Lens with many prisoners, carloads of supplies, 
much ammunition, and big naval guns. The spoil 
included mines that were able to produce one million 
tons a year for Germany's coal-tar explosives. 

The left was soon fighting furiously in a semi- 
circle in the actual suburbs of Lens, where scores of 
slag-heaps had been cored with cement and linked 
as fortifications. Explosions soon proved that the 
enemy was destroying the mines there, making their 
prize coal district valueless to hold. 

The Third Army under Allenby, operating before 
Arras along the Scarpe, was also making progress. 
In the flat land four miles east of the city the main 
line of defense was protected by a wide area of 
small triple-storied underground forts concrete 
with steel cupolas. A triumph of military engineer- 
ing, a subject in German textbooks, this amazing bar- 
rier in the Hindenburg system was bombarded, 

297 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

breached, stormed, and entirely captured with its 
artillery and mass of machine guns, by the 12th. 
Farther south, Fampoux was taken and a gap made 
above the great natural rampart of Monchy a skill- 
fully fortified hill holding the national highway to 
Cambrai from Arras. It was flanked, then tanked 
and captured by a frontal attack. The tanks made 
short work of Hindenburg's dense new wire rows, 
300 feet deep, and the troops followed them through. 
The garrison fought to the last, but the gain was 
held. 

For the first time, the German front was definitely 
breached. This was the type of gap dreamed of by 
the earlier strategists. It afforded the clearest op- 
portunity during the war to push the battle to the 
open, to fling an army through in a hazardous bid for 
a degree of strategic initiative. But the forces on 
the spot were exhausted by incessant fighting, cul- 
minating in a desperate battle of three days and 
nights. The flanks had to be rolled up and consoli- 
dated, the commands reorganized. Many units were 
shattered ; the loss in officers had been high. When 
the Staff realized that a great success was impend- 
ing, they called up cavalry and fresh batteries, in 
reserve at distant points, and they were ready when 
the breach was practicable. Masses of cavalry 
poured through and charged the enemy reserves as 
they advanced at the double. Horse and field bat- 
teries galloped out and came into action in the open, 

298 



THE HINDENBUEG LINE 

and thousands of prisoners were taken. To avoid 
capture, the German batteries moved south to the 
unbroken section, but many guns were taken and 
communications raided over a wide area. A tank 
went four miles up the road to Cambrai, and on side 
roads found bewildered supply columns which the 
cavalry soon captured. In the distance, the tank 
shot at pioneers working complacently on the reserve 
line which " might be needed in 1918." 

The day was waning, the horses had been pushed 
to the limit, and there was no water available. Many 
fell exhausted, and the enormous possibilities for a 
hazardous incursion were curtailed by thirst and 
darkness. The tired horses had to go three miles 
for adequate water. 

Hope ran high for a resumption of the big advance 
at daybreak. But the Allies were now to feel the 
blasting effect of Russia's failure. By mobilizing 
every available man including the 1918 youths 
and free from anxiety for the Eastern front, Hin- 
denburg had built up enormous strategic reserves 
which were entirely available for the west. Half a 
million fresh troops poured to the southern front to 
help check the victorious French. The loss of Vimy 
had called many thousands more, and en route forty 
train loads were diverted that night to Cambrai and 
flung out before the serious gap at Monchy. The 
first battalions had marched over and scratched light 
trench lines under fire. Their captured orders 

299 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

stated that any man who fell back would be shot. 

The British cavalry went out at daylight and made 
some progress, but it was soon forced to fight dis- 
mounted, backed by infantry. The batteries took 
awful toll of the exposed defenders in the open, 
but were soon answered by new long-range guns and 
clouds of troops. Under shell fire, in three days, the 
Germans dug before Monchy gap a triple line of 
trenches 7,000 yards long. The hazardous oppor- 
tunity to push in behind the lines had passed, through 
the fortune of war, or the failure of an overworked 
staff to provide water for an unexpected contingency. 
The care taken by the British artillery to spare the 
church at Monchy is a hitherto unpublished inci- 
dent. Machine guns, thereby left untouched, cost 
many British lives during the assault. The first 
target of the German guns on April 13 was the 
church. 

Haig had now captured seven miles of the upper 
section of the line. Success had also been achieved 
by the armies on the right the Fifth under Gough, 
operating below the Sensee ; and the Fourth, under 
Rawlinson, continuing the front south to St. Quen- 
tin. On March 26, the outpost line at Lagnicourt 
had been captured. By April 1 the armies here 
were five miles from the Hindenburg line. The 
strong outpost lines based on the fortified quarries of 
Ytres were stormed. The cavalry galloped in a 
breach and took Equancourt ; the positions at Sorel 

300 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

and Fins went next; the defenses of Havrincourt 
woods were flanked and reduced by the capture of 
Gonnelieu. Heavy guns were dragged over the de- 
stroyed area, and were bombarding the main or 
Siegfried line on the entire Cambrai front to the 
St. Quentin canal. Villers-Guisian fell, and farther 
south the capture of Eoisel cut the outer railway 
from Cambrai ; while Fayet, a mile from St. Quentin, 
was captured. 

Both frontiers were closed while Germany poured 
fresh thousands of her strategic reserves to hold the 
boasted front which was tottering. Pioneers slaved 
night and day to construct the Oppy line, a crescent, 
to protect Douai until the Wotan line could be com- 
pleted from Queant to Drocourt. One hundred and 
sixty-six German divisions were now trying to hold 
the general Western front. Regardless of losses, 
the reserves were thrown in to hinder the results of 
the battle which was smashing up the German line 
for twenty miles below Lens and had gained 16,190 
prisoners, and 227 guns in its first phase. 

During the last week of April the struggle became 
desperate along the entire front, and both sides lost 
heavily. The line was a saw-edge of salients driven 
in between unconquered points, where men fought 
like tigers in the broken defenses, with attacks and 
counter attacks won and lost in the gaps. Minor bat- 
tles raged on the flanks of each stronghold, the 
British fighting to widen their gains, the Germans 

301 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

pouring out endless reserves from Vitry. Hinden- 
burg suddenly unmasked a marvelous artillery re- 
serve, and at a dozen advanced points the British 
were obliterated, enabling the enemy to push in 
temporarily and straighten their lines. 

On April 23, having built up his force, Haig again 
delivered an assault on the entire front. More 
ground was gained around Lens. From the Vimy 
Eidge to the Sensee, succeeding waves of men took 
Arleux in their stride. Eoeux and Oppy definitely 
fell ; then Gavrelle which held the Arras-Douai high- 
road ; and finally Fresnoy. The Oppy crescent was 
smashed and the guns went forward against the 
Wotan line. On April 28, the thousandth day of the 
war, the British were within eight miles of Douai. 
Between Gavrelle and Monchy, however, Greenland 
Hill long remained a stubborn German salient, for 
the holding of which no sacrifice was too great. 

Farther south, also, the armies were fighting their 
way forward. Henin and Croiselles were taken ; the 
breach in the line was widened. Gough's forces 
were smashing up the line toward Queant. But the 
formidable position at Fontaine, partly protected by 
the Sensee Kiver, maintained a three-mile strip be- 
fore the junction of his left with Allenby's army and 
resisted all efforts. 

From the end of the central system at Queant, the 
new reserve line forked straight north, behind the 
tottering oblique line to Vimy. It was being 

302 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

strengthened night and day, though its northern 
end was already breached. On May 3, the Austral- 
ians broke through the first line above Queant, and 
with a narrow gap as entrance they pushed across 
and extended in the prong of the fork before a sec- 
tion of the reserve line. For two weeks a unique 
battle was fought on a sandwiched front, with the 
Germans on the front line fighting back to back 
against the British attacking the inner line. 

This gap on the front line was widened. On the 
night of the 14th, vast waves of men attempted to 
close this gap. Australians and Londoners lost 
heavily in the fighting, but drove the enemy back. 
Then machine guns swept from the flanks and a 
pitiless shell curtain left only a heap of German dead 
at daylight. The Lehr Regiment, the Kaiser's Cock- 
chafers, also made a desperate attempt to sweep 
down the fork to clear the sandwiched front. Two 
companies moved between the lines while a frontal 
attack was raging, but they were discovered and 
surrounded by the New South Wales troops and 
driven like sheep through the front gap, where they 
surrendered. 

But the stubborn point on the Scarpe, and the 
Fontaine-Bullecourt strip greatly retarded a general 
British advance. When Cherisy was taken, the guns 
could enfilade the Fontaine strip on the north. 
Gough's artillery was pounding the line toward 
Bullecourt where some batteries expended 6,000 

303 




0123456789 10 
Scala of Mile 

MAP No. 7. THE BRITISH GRIP ON THE HINDENBURO LINE. 

In May, 1917, the British were holding all the main sections of 
the line above St. Quentin, while east of Arras the front was 
pushed far beyond it. This section runs southeast. 

304 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

rounds a day. At many points the infantry broke 
through, only to have their wedges dominated and 
annihilated. But the gap maintained near Rien- 
court was finally widened to 800 yards. Then Bulle- 
court was approached from the south in short des- 
perate rushes. On May 17 the London troops 
stormed a section above it, the Australians fought 
their way up from the flank below, and the strong- 
hold was captured with its garrison, which fought to 
the last. 

The Allied sweep had teemed with incidents. 
The weather marked the most stormy spring in 
memory. But the troops, under the elixir of ad- 
vance, cared little for hardships. They were at last 
fighting in the open, and the tedium of trench war- 
fare seemed ended. The batteries maneuvered at 
the trot; the infantry reverted to field tactics, and 
the cavalry was often in action. During the first 
ten days the British batteries fired 4,000,000 shells. 
At one point the General commanding the Seven- 
teenth Bavarian Division was signing a report to 
Prince Rupprecht on the bombardment, when six 
dusty Tommies walked into his dugout. "Are you 
prisoners I " he asked curtly in English. ' ' You are, ' ' 
replied a soldier, smiling. His staff and many of his 
men were captured with him. At Lagnicourt, be- 
low Arras, the Guards charged the Australian ad- 
vance line and broke through. In the open, they 
met the reserves who fought from a hedge while the 

305 



A 

UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

batteries galloped to the flank and enfiladed the 
enemy, who fled leaving 1,600 dead on the field. 

Before Monchy, too, the Third Bavarian Division 
charged in solid masses. But after a burst of firing 
on a wide section, the British evacuated their first 
lines almost without loss. Screens of batteries on 
the flank then enfiladed the position and tore it to 
pieces directly the line was in German hands. 

The Germans had perfected an Infanterieflieger 
a line of heavy battle planes for the " Fifth Arm" 
to lead infantry assaults. But swift British flight 
squadrons with frontal fire were ready the same 
week and occupied a battle front of ten miles during 
attacks, restoring air superiority for fighting units. 
Pyramid squadrons, machines for artillery observa- 
tion at 6,000 feet, fighting planes at 10,000 feet, and 
a cone of swift scouts on top at 15,000 feet, proved 
effective, and during several summer battles no 
hostile planes except rapid scouts have operated over 
the Allied lines, while French and British squadrons 
have swept over the German armies hourly. But the 
Germans have specialized on powerful raiding 
squadrons to attack communications and rest camps 
in surprise sallies. These have been very success- 
ful. 

During this fighting, the 176th Infantry, Thirty- 
fifth Division, were remarkably considerate to the 
British wounded captured in the second great coun- 
ter attack and rescued five days later when the de- 

306 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

cision was reversed. For this general act of con- 
sideration, the British Army commends to its Allies 
for special treatment any man of this unusual regi- 
ment, if captured. Some of its units taken in later 
fighting were carried shoulder high and treated as 
honored guests. 

South of Queant, great gaps were torn in Hinden- 
burg 's central system and the gains were widened 
to Neuville, on a front of eight miles to St. Quentin. 
Eawlinson's artillery was now bombarding the main 
roads from Cambrai and was close to the canal its 
reserve defense. 

By the end of May the character of the fighting 
had entirely changed. Hindenburg and Ludendorff 
had rushed along their shattered line. At first their 
heavy guns had spared the strongest sections of the 
system they had hoped to recover. But the insen- 
sate counter attacks died down and their heavy guns 
opened promiscuously on the entire front. The deep 
new wire was little protection with tanks to lead 
the way. Hindenburg 's vaunted system had proved 
as legendary as the mythological heroes after whom 
the lines were named. His plan was one grand 
error. But by a strange irony his reputation was 
saved by the potency of the shells that had wrecked 
his line, but made the new defense feasible. 

The entire front was pitted with British shell 
craters. In these, a few sandbags and machine guns 
easily created a mass of minor forts, spread over a 

307 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

great depth. Those in the rear were reenforced at 
night by concrete vaults capped by cupolas easily 
hidden by dirt and weeds. The Maschinen Eisen 
Betun Unterstand had been previously planned to 
form a long barrier across the Russian front, to re- 
lease part of the defensive army. Conditions there 
enabled the materials to be rushed to the west, to 
be implanted easily in the shell craters. 

The M. E. B. U. system dubbed the "May Be" 
by the facetious Tommies saved the threatened 
front. Spread thickly over a wide, shell-torn area, 
these scattered targets were difficult for artillery to 
locate or destroy and afforded no defined line. A 
direct hit alone hurts them, and many survived the 
most methodical bombardment to remain silent and 
unseen until the infantry assaults. Then they 
swept front and flanks, each one enfilading the ap- 
proaches to its fellow. Special tank mortars were 
also developed to hurl huge shells at short range 
when a monster approached. This fortuitous evo- 
lution in defensive tactics averted disaster from fol- 
lowing defeat. The ultimate test will be in morale. 
The communications of these new scattered garri- 
sons are precarious, and escape is generally impossi- 
ble. 

The British had now failed to break through. 
During May (after the great initial victories) the 
losses were 112,332. Except at Lens, the four Brit- 
ish armies in France gradually relapsed to intensive 

308 



THE HINDENBURG LINE 

trench warfare while the new positions were consoli- 
dated and strengthened. But the armies were 
within definite reach of Douai and Cambrai. To 
protect these vital junctions, the Germans were 
forced to expose their reserves in the open at prodi- 
gal cost, and the great concentration effected for 
1917 was used in holding ground when it should have 
been available for a formidable offensive. The pas- 
sive Eussian Army reaped the principal benefit. No 
German forces were free to strike a decisive blow in 
the east when the army was demoralized, and an 
offensive could have gone as far as its columns could 
march during the summer. Germany retained only 
twelve active divisions in her army on the Eussian 
front. The remainder were entirely Landwehr and 
Landsturm formations. 

In spite of their offensive on the Aisne, the French 
also made good progress on their thirty-mile front 
below St. Quentin, and held a strong German force 
on this line. From the outer curve below Noyon, 
they had, in places, twenty-five miles of devastated 
country to cross before they were in touch with the 
revised German front. They got their guns over the 
Somme Canal, and with their left on St. Quentin 
drove the enemy from his outworks and closed on the 
Hindenburg line along the Oise. They gained Terg- 
nier, the railroad junction on the Paris-Brussels line, 
and pushed their guns close to the flooded area be- 
fore La Fere, maintaining a heavy fire on the Ger- 

309 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

man front across the swamp and sweeping the ap- 
proaches to the city. 

Below Chauny, the enemy made a determined 
stand in the Conchy forest; but the French pushed 
in from the south across the Ailette, and the Ger- 
mans were pushed back to a salient formed by the 
forest-clad hills of Gobain. Northeast of Soissons, 
also, the Leuilly outpost line was smashed and the 
enemy pushed back to the Albrecht line built before 
Laon to protect the angle with the Aisne front. 
These operations were the ground work for the 
wedge at Vauxaillon, which played a big part in the 
Aisne offensive, and a basis for the capture of Laon 
where Germany expects an American army to strike 
first. 



CHAPTER XH 

THE CHEMIN DES DAMES 

ON the eve of their great spring offensive, the 
German retreat and its orgy of devastation mag- 
netized the French with mixed feelings of hope and 
resentment. "France is bled white!" shrieked von 
Reventlow, the frightful, after Verdun. The re- 
sponse was a concentration of national energy dur- 
ing the winter to sustain a blow decisive in aim and 
so great that an entire volume would do scant jus- 
tice to its ramifications. Yet the offensive was com- 
prehensively simple in its execution, and in general 
terms it can be described in a few pages. 

Electrified by her Verdun victories, France de- 
manded an aggressive effort. There was a feeling 
that the day for Joffre's policy of nibbling had 
passed. There was no deep bitterness in the politi- 
cal crisis which arose. But Joffre retired, Foch 
went to study conditions on the Swiss frontier, De 
Castelnau went to Eussia, and Nivelle, who had re- 
trieved Verdun, was appointed to command the 
armies. A new supply of guns, and a vast stock of 
shells manufactured by the women of the Republic, 
had made the artillery powerful, and early in April 

311 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

the picked corps of the French Grand Army were 
concentrated on the selected sectors between Sois- 
sons and Souain. 

At 8 :30 on April 16, the first assault was delivered 
along the Aisne plateau, between Soissons and 
Eheims, against the front traversed by the ancient 
road of chivalry ,the Chemin des Dames, where von 
Kluck made his great stand, and along its curve over 
the heights northwest of Eheims where von Bue- 
low's left had rallied. A special force operated 
against the hills above Bheims, notably Brimont, 
where guns shook the world by their insensate Strafe 
of the Cathedral. Backed perfectly by the artillery, 
the troops stormed successive German lines, break- 
ing in and rolling them up in sequence. 

When the first Aisne lines were down and the 
Crown Prince had hurried over his guns and re- 
serves, flinging in sixteen divisions, an unexpected 
assault was delivered on the Eheims heights. The 
objectives in this wide battle were the capture of 
Laon and its railroads, and the release of Eheims 
from the destructive curve clamped above the city. 
Conditions in the districts involved have been fully 
described in earlier chapters. 

Miles of tortillard had been built by the French 
during the winter, so that men and supplies could be 
railed rapidly to necessary points. A feature of the 
attack was the support rendered by the field batter- 
ies which followed the infantry closely, protecting 

312 



THE CHEMIN DES DAMES 

each sector with local creeping barrage, and meet- 
ing each emergency as it arose. German counter 
attacks were broken up; points developing special 
resistance were subdued by a rain of shells, and for 
three days French progress was hardly halted. 

On the first day of uphill battle the front lines 
along the Aisne were crushed from Missy to the 
Craonne plateau, where a footing was gained on the 
height and a wedge driven into the second line to- 
ward Juvencourt. The Ville aux Bois was sur- 
rounded and an entire regiment captured. East of 
Soissons also a huge gain was made on the flank of 
the positions gained by von Kluck during the Aisne 
flood, where a huge salient dominated by Fort Conde 
reached across the river and enabled the enemy to 
launch assaults on the south bank and menace the 
rear of the Aisne line. 

All German counter attacks were repulsed, and at 
daylight the French again swept forward, extending 
the right of the attack for seventeen miles of Auber- 
ive over the fortified hills east of Bheims from Mont 
Cornillet across the Moronvillers massif to Vaude- 
vincourt. The heights were protected on the face by 
seven trench lines, which were captured. Huge 
wedges of men then fought their way forward on 
either side of the plateau. On the east, Auberive 
was stormed, flanked, and taken. From this salient 
the ridge on the north v/as won and the second part 
of the third lines on Moronvillers were flanked and 

313 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

turned. Forces from the wedge on the west had 
worked around in rear, and the face of the stubborn 
plateaux, six and a half miles of solid fortifications 
in places 1,000 feet high was captured on the 
third day with most of the heavy artillery. 

The most stubborn fighting occurred on the heights 
above Eheims, where the German guns were retali- 
ating uselessly on the tortured city. At terrific cost, 
a footing was gained on the heights of Bricourt, but 
the first progress could not be maintained. The 
Russian Division fought splendidly along the Aisne- 
Marne Canal to Courcy, which was successfully 
stormed, enabling a wedge to push up along the 
railroad west of Brimont. Farther west, the French 
pushed up on both sides of the Craonne plateau along 
the Laon road, and on the left took Chavonne, which 
was stubbornly defended, and Ostel, a mile above. 

Along the general Aisne front, between Missy and 
Chavonne, the French had cleared a wide system of 
field fortifications, including the approaches to 
Bray. Seventeen thousand prisoners and 92 guns 
were the proceeds of the first three days. The Ger- 
mans were pushed back from successive positions, 
but rallied in a general line marked by the Chemin 
des Dames, in many places 500 feet higher than the 
original French line above the river, and with the 
Ailette Valley between them. 

The junction of the Hindenburg system on the 
west front to the Aisne line was protected by a nest 

314 



THE CHEMIN DES DAMES 

of outpost positions across the road from Soissons 
to Laon. The ground gained at Vailly east of the 
salient maintained by Fort Conde and its bridge- 
head south of the river, became the base of an ambi- 
tious plan to drive the wedge deeply northwest to 
meet the apex of a similar wedge to be forced in 
southeast, from the west front at Laffaux. This 
would obviously cut out a corner of ugly outpost de- 
fenses between Laon and Soissons, and would include 
in the isolated area Fort Conde, a hill 400 feet high, 
with its wide field of fire which made it impregnable 
for ordinary attack. On a smaller scale, the opera- 
tion repeated the first abortive efforts made by Ger- 
mans to isolate Verdun. 

Nanteuil was captured by a unique sweep of 
French cavalry. When the artillery had broken a 
gap on the flank which the infantry stormed and 
widened, the cavalry rode into the break, galloped 
behind the town, and completed its envelopment 
before the reserves could get up. This cleared the 
front south of Laffaux and to the approaches to 
Fort Malmaison holding the road to Laon. The 
French also took Neuville above it. Eeserves 
poured down the road from Laon to hold the road, 
but with the French on three sides a simultaneous 
attack captured Laffaux with its mass of fortified 
quarries, where French women kept for the garri- 
son were released in pitiable condition. Joffre 
started his mission to the United States with the 

315 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

most encouraging situation on the front that France 
had known since the victory of the Marne. 

On April 19, the French advanced above Soissons 
from the west and south. Again the Twentieth 
Corps was in the van, on the wedge east of Conde. 
The German guns escaped through the narrowing 
gap, but the Saxon brigade was too slow; it was 
caught between two fires and the survivors surren- 
dered. 




MAP No. 8. SCENE OF THE FRENCH OFFENSIVE ON THE AISNE 
BETWEEN SOISSONS AND RHEIMS, 1917. 

Dotted line on the left shows ground gained below Laon, Oct., 
1917. 

The Germans fell back to the reserve Siegfried 
line protecting Laon, and along the Chemin des 
Dames, which here runs on the highest part of the 
Aisne plateau, abandoning the Vregny salient, 
though their guns could still enfilade part of the 
Aisne Valley. On April 20, fresh German divisions 
were thrown on the Aisne front. But the French 

316 



THE CHEMIN DBS DAMES 

were now a mile north of Ostel ; Braye en Laonnais 
was captured and the entire front eastward to Court- 
con, with five batteries and three depots with stores 
gains held in the face of five desperate counter 
attacks. At three points they were touching the 
famous road. 

Nivelle was now free to develop the second phase 
of his battle for the actual capture of Laon. The 
city stands at the apex of a triangular block of 
heights rising from the Aisne Valley, which outlines 
the base of the position. The road from Soissons 
to Laon marks one side of the triangle, and the upper 
section of the Eheims-Laon road across the Craonne 
plateau, the other. 

Fighting its way north from the Aisne, the army 
was pushing up the base of this triangle, while on 
either side wedges northeast from Laffaux and 
northwest through Craonne were to close toward 
the apex, Laon, each operation automatically short- 
ening the lines of attack. With the capture of 
Vauxaillen above Laffaux, the grip had widened on 
the Hindenburg system across the Laon road. 
Rains hampered the operations, but the French 
forces to the east concentrated on the edge of the 
Craonne plateaux, and on May 4, they swept across, 
smashing the defenses, capturing Craonne, and driv- 
ing the enemy from the Casemates, and the Cali- 
fornie, called in Germany the "Winterberg." 

As the French were digging in on the plateaux, 

317 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

three selected divisions, headed by Eoehr's shock 
units, made a desperate drive at Berry au Bac, 
southeast of the new gains. The Fusil Mitrailleurs 
took heavy toll of the charging masses, but numbers 
finally told. The French front was broken and the 
Germans sent up fresh troops to push in behind the 
distended lines. The enemy was now on the river, 
menacing the right flank and rear of the entire Aisne 
line. A great disaster threatened. Nivelle at once 
gathered a force to check the menace. Thousands 
of gallant French soldiers threw themselves against 
the elated enemy, and during the next day the gains 
were localized and walled in at heavy cost. The 
Crown Prince was concentrating his energy to press 
the advantage. Berlin announced that the French 
front was broken. And with superb confidence, at 
the height of this crisis east of Craonne, Nivelle 
ordered a general advance along the entire Aisne 
front. 

The Germans were caught off guard by this as- 
tounding offensive. The French Army smashed 
their entire front of eighteen miles and, except be- 
low Laon, drove them right off the Aisne ridges, 
sweeping across the Chemin des Dames. The tri- 
color was waving triumphantly on the backbone of 
the barrier that had marked the western half of Ger- 
many's southern war frontier. The French Armies 
were looking down on the Aillette Valley, with mag- 
nificent observation posts and artillery positions to 

318 



THE CHEMIN DES DAMES 

pave the way to Laon, whose spires glittered among 
the wooded hills only seven miles distant a prize to 
which they now held most of the important ap- 
proaches. In some sections, the front had been ad- 
vanced four miles. Official Germany was stunned 
at the news and Hindenbnrg rushed to the Head- 
quarters of the Crown Prince, pushing his car under 
shell fire to look over the scene of the reverse. 

During the battle, furious fighting had taken place 
before Rheims. With the entire Aisne line pushed 
north, the front east of Juvincourt curved sharply 
back southeast by the Berry au Bac salient to the 
canal and the occupied hills north of the city. With 
a strong footing on both sides of Brimont, the 
French now strove to break in from the curve above 
it and envelop it from the north. On a six-mile 
front, the French had pushed the line toward the 
valley of the Suippe. 

East of Rheims, Fort Pompelle was retaken and 
definite wedges were driven between the heights of 
the old French fortified line toward Beine. Baden, 
Saxon, and Brandenburg troops held the three ob- 
servation posts 1,000 feet high, on the line toward 
Auberive, and these changed hands definitely by 
May 20, after a furious struggle. 

But France was to reap the fruits of bitter disap- 
pointment through the continued stagnation in Rus- 
sia. The Gferman Army on the east front had rested 
and refitted; its artillery had been passive for weeks, 

319 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

using no ammunition, while the Russian gunners 
stood idle with a stock of British shells sent to 
enable winter pressure to follow Brusiloff's offen- 
sive. The German artillery was soon transferred to 
France and extended in an unbroken curve below 
Laon and above Eheims, to check a further French 
advance. Division after division of troops was 
rushed from the Russian front to stem the French 
tide, which had sacrificed 85,000 men when the 
chance for a final decision was taken from them. 

Toward the end of May, when the French on the 
west front were cutting out huge sections of the 
fortified Gobain forest, and normally would have 
followed up their victories on the south front, in- 
tense bombardments broke up their advances. 

On June 4, German waves, a division strong, 
flowed simultaneously against the Casemates, Cal- 
if ornie, and Vauclerc plateaux. The Crown Prince 
repeated his Verdun tactics. Guns were concen- 
trated in curves on definite sectors; the troops at- 
tacked in dense masses. To save life where yards 
of ground were not vital, the French withdrew from 
their front lines when the bombardment opened. At 
close range their field batteries poured shells at the 
advancing masses, harried the survivors in the cap- 
tured trenches, and then recaptured the position 
with the bayonet. Assault after assault inflicted 
severe losses on the forces of the Crown Prince, but 
the French casualties were also heavy. Twice the 

320 



THE CHEMIN DES DAMES 

enemy attained a definite footing on the plateaux, 
but was ejected by counter attacks and the early 
gains were made good. West of Eheims ground was 
also gained between Monts Blond and Cornillet, but 
on the iron circle above the city a concentration of 
men and guns made further progress impossible, 
and the ancient capital has been smashed out of 
recognition in retaliation. 

Senator Root has spoken of the annoyance ex- 
pressed by the leaders of the revolution in Russia 
because the French and British missions urged that 
the army should instantly recommence operations. 
Decisive results were never nearer than at the hour 
that Russia failed. The British had re-equipped her 
army with field batteries, heavy guns, and crews to 
man them. But while Russia was wrangling, the 
early promise of the British and French offensives 
was negatived by guns and reserves that could have 
been held on the eastern front by normal pressure. 

Failing at Craonne, the Crown Prince attacked on 
the Champagne front, and failing there he opened a 
terrific bombardment on the Chemin des Dames, fol- 
lowed by desperate assaults that gained a definite 
footing at some points. Again the French regained 
the ground by counter attack. Then the assault 
spread suddenly to the Craonne heights, where 
ground was regained by the Germans at appalling 
cost, only to be lost a week later. 

Hindenburg determined to retake the lost ridges 

321 
\ 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

at all costs. The positions were important, but the 
fury of the assaults was inspired by a double motive. 
He hoped to break the heart of France before an 
adequate army could be sent from the United States. 
He feared the hour when those fresh and ardent 
forces might strike along the Aisne front, where 
even the investment of Laon coupled with the loss or 
destruction of Douai by the British, would cripple 
the railway system and force another strategic re- 
treat, with a severe modification of the rectangle 
maintained in France. 

During June and July the fighting raged on with- 
out respite. Both sides made gains. The French 
counter attack on June 27 broke the German front 
at Hurtebise farm. In the impetuosity of the as- 
sault, the troops swept by the entrance to the famous 
Dragons' Cave, and its garrison surrendered igno- 
miniously to a French priest who came up to help 
the wounded. On July 4, the Germans made their 
major effort to regain the Chemin des Dames. The 
attack was repeated on the 14th and changed to 
Craonne on the 24th, but the efforts of seventy di- 
visions over a million men have not been able to 
entirely affect the French position, and the German 
losses have been prodigious. During August the 
attacks degenerated into mere trench . raids on a 
large scale and on September 4 many German bat- 
teries were sent north to Belgium. 

The French maintained their hold on the heights, 

322 



THE CHEMIN DES DAMES 

but their losses were- appalling. The capture of 
Laon must be effected by more patient tactics. Per- 
haps the price for the ridges was too high to pay 
since the audacious operation came to a standstill. 
Petain was restored to the supreme command, with 
Foch chief of staff. Nivelle retired with Mangin to 
await the verdict of history which can be rendered 
only when the effect of the waste of Germany's man 
power can be weighed. 

Below Laon the Germans still held high ground 
before the French lines with dominating artillery 
positions. For some days Trommelfeueren epitom- 
ized the German reports from this sector. On Octo- 
ber 25 the cars of General Petain, Generals Pershing 
and Sibert and many American officers drove at 
dawn to join D'Esperey's forces. Hindenburg"s 
main reserves had gone to the Italian front, and the 
French were to strike another blow for Laon. Un- 
der the interested eyes of American officers of all 
branches, picked forces led by General Maistre at- 
tacked between Vauxvaillon and Chevrigny. 

The western front curved round the St. Gobain 
massif, with Fort Malmaison holding the south- 
eastern approaches before which the previous offen- 
sive had been halted. By midday the French had 
pushed round the fort. Field guns were thrown for- 
ward close behind the line of attack, and Malmaison 
fell. On the second day the Germans were pushed 
back across the valley, the Forest of Pinon was in 

323 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

French hands, and twenty-five square miles of 
ground had been gained at the base of the Laon tri- 
angle, with cave and quarry strongholds, and a sec- 
tion of the old Brussels railroad. Many guns and 
11,000 prisoners were taken in the stroke which 
would allow a wedge to be driven between St. Go- 
bain and Laon. In a few days the Germans with- 
drew across the Ailette, abandoning the salient below 
the city. 

The loss of Laon, which links the railroads from 
the north and east, would be a serious blow, and 
coupled with the growing wedge in Belgium, would 
force Germany to retire to the strong Meuse line al- 
ready prepared from Antwerp across Belgium to 
Charleroi, and along the Meuse to the east of Ver- 
dun, a buffer to her own frontier. 



CHAPTER XIII 

BELGIUM, 1917 

WITH the French Armies staggering under succes- 
sive blows above the Aisne, and the, forces on the 
British front in France recuperating from heavy 
losses, consolidating their front along the Hinden- 
burg line, and building permanent communications, 
the off ensive again changed to Belgium. 

When Foch with his meager Anglo-French di- 
visions was holding up the German flood in Belgium, 
the Germans had gained the ridges below the Ypres 
salient which overlooked the entire area, and for 
thirty-two months their guns had been able to shell 
the rear of the British lines. From stubby Hill 60, 
where the Dorset Regiment was asphyxiated by gas 
in the night, and before which thousands of British 
dead were heaped in successive attacks to avenge the 
deed, and from Wytschaete and Messines ridges, the 
batteries had daily shattered hundreds of the dogged 
men exposed on the salient which gas alone had con- 
tracted but which had never broken. 

The Duke of Wurttemberg had gone to command 
the Franco-German frontier, and Prince Rupprecht 
of Bavaria now controlled the entire line from Laon 

325 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

to the coast. For a year, General Plumer and the 
Second Army had been waiting for the order to at- 
tack and avenge the Ypres shambles. For ten 
months the engineers had driven mine galleries un- 
der the ridges in the impervious clay stratum that 
underlies the sand in Flanders and makes the fen 
land rich for farming but difficult to intrench or to 
maneuver across after rains that can never dry in. 
The clay now proved a blessing. German counter 
mines found only sand that caved in, and so 450 tons 
of ammonal were packed and wired in secret, while 
the enemy batteries above the petards grew abun- 
dantly and men in concrete tunnels jeered at the 
growing gun power in the plain below. 

Through the night of June 6 a stupendous artil- 
lery duel raged as the troops moved up on a ten- 
mile front, below Ypres, before the ridges, and 
across Ploegstaert to the frontier. At 2 :00 A. M., 
the Sapper General reported to Headquarters after 
final inspection, and for minutes that seemed hours 
officers peered at their luminous dials with hands 
that crept from 3 :00 A. M. to 3 :10. Then geysers of 
yellow flame tore skyward; a shock of air stunned 
hundreds of men ; the roar rolled across to expectant 
England, and roused Holland from sleep. Over a 
wide expanse a torrent of rocks, concrete, dirt, trees, 
bits of metal, and human fragments rained back to 
the soil of tortured Belgium. Then one thousand 
guns opened across the smoking abyss. 

326 



BELGIUM, 1917 

When the long lines of troops rushed forward, the 
waves that crossed the torn area were followed by 
a mass of bearer companies who mercifully bore out 
the enemy injured. "Do you call this war?" wailed 
an officer as he was carried to the dressing station. 
"Do you call that war?" answered the surgeon, 
pointing to Ypres ghastly in the fitful gun-glare. 

In one triumphant rush the Irish Division took 
Wytschaete Nationalists and Ulster battalions 
fighting as brothers in the common cause. The An- 
zacs swept Messines clear. The Twenty-fourth 
Saxons and Twenty-third Bavarians were about to 
be relieved, and the One Hundred and Fourth In- 
fantry and Third Bavarians were marching up when 
the explosion occurred. The uninjured men in the 
approach trenches went back passively as prisoners, 
and the assaulting lines were soon swarming over 
the ruins against the dazed reliefs. They had taken 
shelter in the woods and made a sporadic resistance, 
but were rounded up during the day. 

The tunneled emplacements, forts of six-foot con- 
crete, and the maze of trenches on the crests were 
torn up and thrown in a jumble in twelve yawning 
craters. Many guns were farther back, and escaped 
while the troops were storming the fortified towns 
beyond the mine area, though the dazed prisoners 
soon surrendered for effective artillery fire had fol- 
lowed the explosive shock. 

On the entire front the first lines were captured in 

327 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ten minutes. The second line south of the ridges 
developed a strong resistance from concrete trenches 
screened in the woods. The English battalions on 
the right lost heavily, but would not be denied, and 
they finally pushed the front forward to less than a 
mile from "Warneton. 

Reserve defenses, east of the ridges, were soon 
strongly reenforced, and the British advance was 
checked until the field batteries came up at a gallop 
after thirty-two months in camouflage, the drivers 
cheering in the saddle, the horses sharing the excite- 
ment that only gun and fire teams know. By night 
the crucial five miles below Ypres were pushed for- 
ward three miles and the bloody salient had passed. 
As Allenby had won a victory at Greenland Hill on 
the previous day, the Germans had now been cleared 
from all the ridges to Rheims which at first had 
made their grip in the west comparatively easy to 
maintain. After vain counter attacks and a daily 
British advance, the enemy retreated to a straight 
front between Hollebeke and Warneton, on June 15. 

Intermittent fighting of a brisk character has con- 
tinued on the Hindenburg line during the summer 
and autumn, and various points have been taken, but 
the bulk of the fighting there raged around Lens. 
The Canadians took the electric light station on 
June 4, but 500 guns drove them back. On the 28th, 
they took Avion just as they heard that an Ameri- 
can army had landed in France. Daily the fighting 

328 



BELGIUM, 1917 

raged, with a steady progress measured in yards. 
On August 15, the Canadians captured Hill 70 and 
St. Laurent, cleaning the Loos sector, and placed a 
forceps closely on Lens, and as the shell is now use- 
less for Germany's coal, continual sacrifice is not 
necessary the guns take the toll. 

After the Messines victory, however, Belgium re- 
mained the center of British activity. Early in 
1917, the Ministry of Munitions had provided for a 
lavish output of large-caliber shells of unusual po- 
tency. Woolwich had perfected a new type of heavy 
field howitzer, advantageous in range and mobility, 
and new artillery of extraordinary strength was 
ready in June to carry out a new policy of blasting a 
steady path forward to save the suicidal waste of 
men. The casualties incurred in carrying one de- 
fense system on the Somme were 40,000 an army 
corps. British losses in August, 1916, were 127,945 
men far too heavy for a war of endurance. 

The flat country of Flanders was eminently fitted 
for this war by artillery. There were more vital 
sectors in France, but most were thickly settled, and 
each one would entail the destruction of valuable 
towns about which German defense is centered. A 
methodical advance across Belgium might automat- 
ically free Lille and turn the western line, and it 
would force German reserves to face attrition in 
open country with less opportunity for ruthless de- 
struction of property. The guns started in June. I 

329 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

have heard their thunder when at sea, 130 miles 
away. 

To forestall the threatened offensive from spread- 
ing along the coast to the submarine bases, Ger- 
many struck a brilliant blow. To enforce the with- 
drawal of vital squadrons of the Eoyal Flying Corps 
from the front, ruthless air raids were made on Eng- 
land. The busiest street of Folkestone, a seashore 
resort, was deliberately bombed by daylight one 
Saturday evening. Civilians on the Essex coast 
were blown to pieces the following week, and then 
London at midday, where two machines sought out 
the quarters of General Pershing's men who had 
gone to France on the previous evening. Thirteen 
machines, however, dropped torpedoes and incen- 
diary bombs on the most crowded streets, and hun- 
dreds of noncombatants were killed or injured. 

On July 7, London was again attacked. The ma- 
chines flew at a low altitude. I have witnessed many 
air raids, but none where the destruction of civilians 
was so deliberately sought. In perfect phalanx the 
machines swept across the city and launched their 
bombs only in crowded thoroughfares like Holborn 
and St. Paul's. A few civilian lives are of less im- 
portance than the safety of the army that is endur- 
ing all the horrors or war. But popular opinion 
demanded more protection, and until new squadrons 
were formed, a strong flotilla was diverted to watch 
for raiders and on July 10 the army paid the price. 

330 



BELGIUM, 1917 

The British had taken over the Belgian left from 
Dixmude to the coast. On a front of ten miles from 
the sea to Nieuport the trenches were built half a 
mile east of the Yser, with communications on pon- 
toon bridges across the canalized river whose banks 
here are deep and reenforced to prevent floods at 
high tide. With the air service depleted, the Brit- 
ish did not discover a concentration of naval guns 
before this sector. There are also stories of treach- 
erous lights which disclosed the positions of the 
bridges. At daybreak, direct hits smashed the com- 
munications and a terrific bombardment tore to 
pieces the British trenches in the sand dunes. For 
an hour the first line was churned by shells, which 
then broke up the support trenches. 

The new thunder of guns toward Ostend rolled far 
seaward and cheered the hearts of the tireless naval 
auxiliaries. When we heard the firing we inter- 
preted it as the tocsin of the first blow toward the 
submarine base at Zeebrugge which would help to 
free the seas. At night the truth was learned. A 
concentrated barrage had torn up the defenses in 
the dunes. The showers of sand clogged rifles and 
buried machine guns, and a fire curtain on the river 
destroyed all efforts to restore bridges and get up 
reinforcements. I tried to get a comprehensive 
story from two of the few survivors, but no one had 
been able to see in the blasts of blinding sand. 

In the evening, from six until seven, Trommelfeuer 

331 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

raged across the area, and at low tide the naval 
corps delivered a massed attack, moving through the 
shallow water to envelop the flank. The trapped 
troops fought to the last, but sand had made even the 
Lewis guns useless. Many wounded had been gath- 
ered in a shore tunnel. Marines went straight to its 
mouth and poured in liquid fire. There was only 
one survivor. At the headquarters of the Sixtieth 
Rifles, the officers used their revolvers to the last 
and all were killed ; while a surrounded group of boy 
officers of the Northamptons on the right stood fight- 
ing back to back until a machine gun piled them in 
a heap. The troops, too, were magnificent. Even 
at the last, only twenty unwounded men retired 
across the river, where impotent British batteries 
could not fire into an area filled with friend and foe. 

The Nieuport approaches were reenforced and 
held, but the enemy advanced his lines to the Yser, 
adding to the difficulties of a British advance along 
the coast which to the layman appears so easy in 
cooperation with the navy. Some minor trench 
howitzers were lost significant from the fact that it 
was the first British artillery captured by Germany 
in two years and two months. Except at Verdun, 
France has lost no uninjured gun in the same period. 

From the sea, the region of the sand dunes and 
the dredged mouth of the Bruges canal, from which 
U-boats creep and fast destroyers dash out on foggy 
nights to bombard unfortified towns, looks simple 

332 



BELGIUM, 1917 

enough. But twice I have seen that coast erupt in 
the dark. Long-range naval guns on concrete are 
packed closely among the dunes; the sea area is 
exactly plotted, and the naval cost of Zeebrugge 
would be a high one. 

The reverse, however, was local. On the strip of 
Belgium where the knightly King lives among his 
soldiers and the Queen works tirelessly among the 
wounded, the mass of British guns is growing, and 
on its slow potency the Belgians have now pinned 
their hopes. The cost of such artillery is stagger- 
ing, but on July 31 its effects had their first test. A 
French Army had again moved north of Ypres to 
the lines where the first gas attack murdered their 
unsuspecting soldiers. They were massed on the 
curve from Dixmude to the ' ' Big Shoot ' ' road, with 
the British on the right before Langmarck and St. 
Julien, and on the long, but now straightened, front 
east of Ypres to Warneton in France. On this 
twenty-mile front the Allies swept forward in 
unison, and captured the first and second German 
lines. 

The third anniversary of the war was ushered in 
by a sixty-hour downpour of rain, caused by the 
heavy gunfire the curse of great offensives. But 
the French were fighting in the ruins of Bixshoote, 
and the British were across the Steenbeck River, 
with Pilkem taken and the outworks of Langemarck 
and St. Julien. At night, the German reserves 

333 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

gained ground before both these towns, but the en- 
tire front had been advanced again, and east of 
Ypres the British line was pushed a mile along the 
Menin road, with Hooge and Hollebeke captured. 

But the reserve lines were a scattered mass of 
small forts against which the infantry floundered 
through deep mud, an easy mark for machine guns, 
and the attacks were recalled to consolidate the new 
line and allow the guns to pave the way. The front 
was mudlocked for ten days. Attacks and counter 
attacks were local, but the guns continued. On Aug- 
ust 10, the line again went forward. Many forts 
had survived the pitiless bombardment, but the Brit- 
ish took Westhoek, and each day the line made 
progress. 

In a week, the French had pushed steadily for- 
ward northeast of Ypres and flanked the Yser line. 
The British cleared the rest of Langemarck and put 
their lines one thousand yards beyond. Boys of the 
1918 class were captured in the fighting, and the 
Seventy-ninth Division broke and retired when the 
first attack was launched. 

By August 23, the British were breaking up the 
maze of minor forts east of St. Julien and clearing 
the fortified woods which make an almost impreg- 
nable defense. On the 27th, they finally cleared the 
third system on a mile front across the Poelcappelle 
Eoad. Section by section ground was gained. 
Hampered by intolerable weather the front has been 

334 




BRITISH WOUXDED ox TIIK MEXIX ROAD. OCTOKER. 1!)17 




MASSED GKRMAN RESERVES READY TO CHARGE NEAR YI-RES, 1915 



BELGIUM, 1917 

pushed forward over four miles toward Roulers. 
After trusting to mud, and sacrificing misfits in 
thousands, Prince Rupprecht soon detrained some 
of his finest troops at Iseghem, and put them on the 
lines before the British, who were fighting mud 
rather than men. On October 12, Passchendaele 
ridge was in their grip. But mud held the supports 
floundering until the machine guns wiped them out, 
and the line had to fall back, losing heavily. Noth- 
ing had dried fourteen days later when the troops 
again waded waist-deep in water across the morass 
and stormed Bellevue, and gradually closed over the 
end of the ridge. The position was dotted with 
small screened forts which had to be charged and 
subdued by hand, under the most difficult conditions 
that the war has produced. Many wounded sank 
under the slime, but in three days all objectives were 
gained. On November 6 the British took Passchen- 
daele village five and one-half miles from Roulers, 
and obtained a definite grip on the ridge to base their 
operations on the plain below. 

France and Belgium have also been wading to- 
gether, widening the base of the broad British 
wedge along the edge of Houthulst Forest. And 
Anthoine has thrown his guns across the swamp, 
near Merckem, enfilading and forcing the German 
batteries to retire. Thus the pressure is widening 
to the coast as the British front is approaching 
Roulers, cutting across communications with Ostend 

335 



UNDER FOUE FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

and gradually approaching the road to Bruges, from 
which the canal leads to Zeebrugge, the port which 
had been reconstructed just when war broke out, 



gr /l^^'^outhem .Wervick 

s-' #<i & I N^ t.^v^^v > 




MAP No. 9. THE ALLIED DRIVE IN BELGIUM. 
The British Army is aiming for the railroads across Belgium 
to the coast. The French are on the north of the wedge with the 
Belgian Army fighting on their left along the Yser Canal. The 
broken line shows the front of the old Ypres salient. 

with German interests fostering the undertaking. 

Pressure is also growing toward Menin, where the 

British are approaching communications above Lille 

336 



BELGIUM, 1917 

with the Ghent-Antwerp line their objective. 
Though the German system now keeps its reserves 
well back and relies on mud and the deep belt of scat- 
tered forts, the British artillery can place barrage 
miles behind the line, and the reserves lose heavily 
in getting up. Shell fire all night makes it difficult 
also to supply the scattered defenses with food and 
ammunition. 

The Flanders battle must prove slow and conser- 
vative. In the first two weeks the British loss was 
only 21,735. The August total was 59,811 and the 
last week of October 24,091 officers and men. This is 
about the number in the massive column that swept 
down Fifth Avenue for five hours on August 30, a 
comparison which helps to visualize the cost of 
modern war. 

Germany has yet to be expelled from 29,000 square 
kilometers of Belgium and 19,000 square kilometers 
of France. But this is no hour for pessimism. No 
longer when in Holland shall we live on American 
canned products and watch 10,000 cattle go to Ger- 
many in a single May week. The new guns are 
patiently paving the way in Belgium. At Lens, the 
knell has been sounded to Germany's stolen coal 
industry, for which she expended lives like water. 
West and south in France the Allies are now on the 
enemy's main positions. Douai, Cambrai, St. Quen- 
tin, and Laon are within reach, if they cannot be 
saved automatically from the destruction that will 

337 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

attend forcible evacuation. The Verdun gate to 
France is now barred as strongly as ever. 

In Alsace, France still holds 1,000 square kilo- 
meters of ground within the German frontier. And 
on the peaceful pastures of French Lorraine a new 
army is growing daily and building road and rail for 
the great base of the legions yet to come. Its final 
destination, the Germans say, is the Aisne. The lo- 
cation of its base may presage that "Old Glory" 
will lead the way to German soil. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

FOB nearly three years, thousands of French chil- 
dren had been praying "Que le cceur de Jesus 
sauve la France!" That is the reason why some 
of them in simple faith knelt among the cheering 
crowd that greeted the first American contingent. 
In the quaint French seaport selected for the base 
of the new army, there was no news of the coming 
until the flagship swung in with the first transports 
early on the morning of June 26. Bear Admiral 
Gleaves' squadron had escorted the ships safely 
across, beating off submarines, and the flower of the 
United States Regular Army was landed without the 
loss of a man. Perhaps nothing has so thoroughly 
tested the efficiency of the War and Navy Depart- 
ments or given a happier augury for the future than 
the equipment and transportation of this great expe- 
ditionary force to Europe. Compare the achieve- 
ment with the dispatch of Shafter's army to Cuba in 
the Spanish War, where confusion and mismanage- 
ment ruled from first to last. The British, who have 
had to face great problems in South Africa and dur- 

339 



TINDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

ing this war in moving large forces at sea, have 
given it their unstinted praise. 

General Pershing, with his staff, had arrived in 
France from London on the 13th. He hurried to the 
dock to greet General Sibert, and with little delay 
the troops filed off the boats and marched out to their 
first camp amid cheers and cries of "Vivent les 
Etats Unis!" and "Nos amis!" the latter phrase 
becoming interpreted as "Sammies," a name which 
has been adopted largely for the American soldiers, 
without enthusiasm on their part. In two days th*e 
entire force and its supplies were landed. The Age 
of Chivalry is not dead, and no Crusaders marched 
for a higher purpose than the soldiers of the United 
States now landing to help free France. 

On July 4, the troops paraded through Paris, 
where they received a tremendous ovation, and again 
on France's Day (July 14), when a special contin- 
gent marched in the annual review with their French 
comrades. Special departmental forces training in 
England received their public reception on August 
15, when they marched across London, led by the 
massed bands of the Guards, and were reviewed by 
Ambassador Page and Admiral Sims at the Em- 
bassy, and then by the King and Queen at Bucking- 
ham Palace. 

From the necessary policy of secrecy for troop 
movements, England has had few opportunities for 
showing enthusiasm during the war. Famous bat- 

340 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

talions have been moved quietly at night, and public 
farewells have been prohibited. This undoubtedly 
led to apathy on the part of the masses in the early 
stages of the war, and only the Australians and the 
Republican Guard Band of France had given Lon- 
don a chance to show its fervor until the American 
troops marched through its historic streets to the 
strains of "The long, long trail." The reaction of 
long-suppressed feeling added to the zest of the 
spontaneous welcome expressed by the countless 
thousands packed along the route from Waterloo 
Station. 

Every week the arrival of fresh contingents is 
adding to the army in France, and though the num- 
ber of men is a secret, it was officially announced 
in October that the hundred thousand mark had been 
exceeded without the loss of a single life in crossing. 
The incomparable marines took up land duty with 
avidity. The infantry also was soon busy with 
intensive training for trench warfare under British 
and French instructors, and the artillery followed 
under the leadership of Brigadier General Peyton 
March. 

The first work of the engineers was to improve 
the communications with the various training cen- 
ters and to take over definite sections of French rail- 
roads from the coast bases to the permanent camps. 

At this interval, it was interesting to leave the 
subconscious war depression of Europe and spend 

341 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

a few weeks in the United States, to imbibe mag- 
nificent optimism and return with a full realization 
of the gigantic effort that is being made to play a 
notable part in the conflict. Many persons in Eu- 
rope expected grave disorder in the raising of a con- 
script army. The labor unions of Great Britain had 
long dreaded the word " conscription, " and though 
a magnificent army answered the call, the unfairness 
and defects of the volunteer system were obvious. 
Voluntary recruiting in the United States had raised 
the Eegular Army to 300,000 men of the highest 
grade of physical fitness, and the National Guard to 
300,000. 

On July 20, 1917, lots were drawn for selective 
drafts from nearly ten million men who had regis- 
tered. The Secretary of War opened the drawing 
with the first number, 258. Many other noted men 
drew a capsule, and then the work devolved on regu- 
lar tellers until 10,500 numbers had been listed, 
checked, recorded, and sent to every state so that 
the men holding corresponding numbers in each sec- 
tion of the country could hold themselves in readi- 
ness for examination, until each state quota was 
filled to furnish the necessary 687,000 men required 
for the National Army. Recalling the draft riots in 
1863, the contrast in 1917 was remarkable. The sys- 
tem worked perfectly, in the face of the efforts of 
some pro-Germans and pacifist editors to empha- 
size the sufferings and dangers of modern warfare. 

342 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

While the Boards were selecting the cream of 
American manhood for service, the cantonments for 
training the National Guard and the new army were 
prepared at the following points : 

National Guard: Greenville and Spartanburg, 
South Carolina; Augusta and Macon, Georgia; 
Montgomery and Anniston, Alabama; Fort Worth, 
Texas ; Fort Sill, Oklahoma ; Deming, New Mexico ; 
Waco and Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Caro- 
lina; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Alexandria, Louis- 
iana; Linda Vista and Palo Alto, California. 

National Army : Ayer, Massachusetts ; Yaphank, 
Long Island ; Wrightstown, New Jersey ; Annapolis 
Junction, Maryland; Petersburg, Virginia; Colum- 
bia, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Chillicothe, 
Ohio ; Louisville, Kentucky ; Battle Creek, Michigan ; 
Rockford, Illinois; Little Rock, Arkansas; Des 
Moines, Iowa ; Fort Riley, Kansas ; Fort Sam Hous- 
ton, Texas ; American Lake, Washington. 

When the National Guard regiments were f ederal- 
ized, they were gradually moved to the cantonments 
in order to start training without delay. At this 
time, after receiving a report from General Per- 
shing, the War Department decided to reorganize the 
units of the army so as to correspond with the stan- 
dard of the divisions of the Allies. The original 
infantry division was composed of three brigades 
of three regiments. The new divisions called for 
27,152 men and 416 machine guns, divided into 

343 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

two brigades of two regiments each, but with the 
size of the regiments increased to 103 officers and 
3,652 men, in companies of six officers and 250 
men. 

The platoon is the chief operating unit, 58 men 
under a lieutenant, and is divided into one section of 
bombers and rifle grenadiers, two sections of rifle- 
men, and eleven men with automatic rifles. 

The division is made up of the following units: 
division headquarters, 164 men; machine-gun bat- 
talions, 768 men; 2 infantry brigades of two regi- 
ments, 16,420; brigade division artillery 3 regi- 
ments field artillery and 1 trench mortar battery 
5,068; field signal Battalion, 262; engineer regi- 
ment, 1,666; train and police, 337; ammunition col- 
umn, 962; supply train, 472; engineer train, 84; 
sanitary and ambulance department, 949. Total 
27,152 men. 

Each division has 14 machine-gun companies, 
and 48 sections automatic rifles. It is interesting 
to note that when war broke out the United States 
had only 1,000 machine guns. 

To bring the National Guard regiments to war 
strength rapidly, drastic measures of redistribution 
had to be taken which caused temporary unhappi- 
ness to men who had long served with a particular 
regiment and were obliged to transfer in order to 
fill up the ranks of units specially selected to be first 
for France. It was a hard blow to men devoted to 

344 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

famous regiments, and saturated with tradition, to 
be moved suddenly to another command. But the 
men accepted the change in a proper spirit, and in 
a few weeks other regiments were grouped together 
to form commands of full strength, each receiving its 
Federal number in a system that is aiming at effi- 
ciency and cannot at this crisis take time to cater to 
tradition. 

While preparations were being made for the draft, 
officers' training camps were establishing at the 
principal army stations, while college camps and 
the Plattsburg idea which had already provided a 
valuable nucleus of trained officers when war started 
were enlarged to carry out this work. Germany 
has scoifed at this hurried training, overlooking the 
short but invaluable period when the call for pre- 
paredness stirred the colleges and led thousands of 
business men also to master the rudiments of drill. 
She has also forgotten the thousands of others in 
the National Guard who have spent their time train- 
ing in the armories and on the Texas border. These 
were the men whom three months of intensive train- 
ing could make valuable captains for the new Na- 
tional Army, fully fitted to take up the first drilling 
of recruits while they are also learning the great les- 
son the control and understanding of men and 
using every spare hour in work to perfect themselves 
for the test to come. Britain's "contemptible" 
army has taught the War Lords some lessons, and 

345 



UNDER FOUB FLAGS FOE FRANCE 

yet the German mind persists in its delusions. It 
brags in neutral countries that the American effort 
will not cost them a minute's sleep, basing its con- 
tention on arguments so petty that they stir con- 
tempt, not anger. 

Many who have returned from ravished Europe 
have felt that Americans were not taking the war 
seriously. The sudden transition from areas where 
suffering, bereavement, and destruction are ever 
present, to the glare of Broadway, to people who 
can still enjoy music, discuss art values, and sit 
through plays, is startling. But after the first 
shock, the great deep purpose that is dominating the 
country, the determination to see it through, the 
spirit of the workers, the food conservation and 
preservation in homes where only the moral need 
was urging, requires a more powerful pen than mine 
to praise adequately. 

War obsession will come with the casualty lists 
it is something to shun like the plague, for it grips 
the mind too closely. Some writers deplore the 
"superficial hysteria" of parades and demonstra- 
tions which everywhere are stimulating young and 
old, teaching them that it is their war, their battle 
for right, not the effort of an official war brain which 
the people must passively support. And nothing 
has been more impressive than the enthusiasm of the 
conscript army, the interest shown in the new camps 
where men of every grade, from homes of wealth 

346 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

and from East Side tenements, unused to discipline, 
raw to military service, are learning the great lesson 
of democratic comradeship, together with a subjec- 
tive idealism that stirs the soul. If one wishes a 
concrete object lesson of the spirit of the National 
Army, he should visit some camp where he can see 
the bitter disappointment of men who have failed to 
pass the final test. With rigid physical examination 
at the outset and after preliminary training, with 
skilled psychiatrists weeding out the mental weak- 
lings and those with unstable nerves, the new army 
that is gathering for France will be the most per- 
fect that the world has known. When the war broke 
out, the Allies were forced to throw in every avail- 
able man to stem the tide. In exposed trenches, 
without proper artillery, there was often a shocking 
waste of perfect manhood at points where inferior 
troops could have done the work and saved the 
cream for a later era where the highest standard was 
imperative. 

Those days are past. In three years scientific 
tactics have been evolved, and high qualities of cour- 
age and initiative as well as fortitude are required 
to wrest supremacy from a foe which at the outset 
enjoyed every advantage and demanded an awful 
toll of "cannon fodder" until the Allies could catch 
up and adequately answer the challenge thrown sud- 
denly at an unsuspicious world. 

On a broad basis of common experience, each army 

347 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

to-day employs its own methods. France, England, 
and personal experience are all necessary tutors for 
the new forces which can profit by the bitter lessons 
which the other troops have learned in blood and 
trench slime. But the United States Army will fight 
in its own fashion, utilizing the past experience of 
others with an untired vision and a strong vitality. 
Gradually there will come a new evolution of tactics 
and theory on the American front. 

The use of the bayonet suits the dogged determi- 
nation of the British troops. Their main idea is to 
close in on the enemy and engage him hand to hand 
in a, struggle where they soon prove that they are 
the better men. But this frequently leads to heavy 
losses in an impetuous advance. The French swear 
more by grenades which can effectively confuse and 
rout an enemy at a greater distance. Americans 
are learning the methods of both armies, but their 
tactics will still retain faith in the rifle. It needs a 
cool head and steady nerve amid the crash of burst- 
ing shells and the hail from machine guns, to pause 
for effective aim at close range, when it would seem 
more easy to dash through the agony and get it over. 
Even in these days of changed German methods, 
there are many times when the rifle can do the best 
work. 

The motto of all the Allied armies is ' * Forward ! ' ' 
and only Germany at present has reason to study 
permanent field works. But American engineers in 
France are not neglecting defensive studies, to make 

348 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

the front secure and save the men in case of attack. 
At present the United States must depend upon 
France for guns. The artillery is being trained on 
magnificent proving grounds with French guns and 
howitzers. Artillery is playing the major part in 
this fighting, and no arm of the service is so difficult 
to create after the outbreak of hostilities. At the 
outset, France's field guns proved their superiority 
in many ways ; but in every movement the early suc- 
cesses of the Allies were checked when the Germans 
could bring heavy guns into action. The French 
155 mm. gun is very effective; it has caterpillar 
wheels and can be both moved and operated rapidly. 
British batteries are now the most powerful that 
the world has known. But at first the Allies had no 
adequate heavy artillery. 

The French field gunners specialize in indirect 
fire, and their "75's" are the best field batteries in 
the world. The German in attack in open battle at 
first massed their batteries and flung them forward, 
protecting the guns by machine-gun detachments. 
With huge reserves of trained gunners to draw upon, 
they could face the loss of men entailed. With the 
morale shaken by the roar of guns at close range, 
the first lines were at a disadvantage when masses 
of German infantry were brought up and launched 
at some vulnerable point in the shell-torn front of 
hastily constructed trenches. But not one assault 

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UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

in a hundred gained success commensurate with the 
loss of men sustained. 

The efficiency of Krupp was ably seconded by the 
Skoda works of Austria. Any one who knows these 
works realizes that the Teutonic Allies entered the 
war with a perfect artillery equipment. But as the 
months of slaughter dragged on, the French and 
British slowly overcame their costly and surprising 
deficiencies. 

In the early mobilization, skilled French workers 
were swept to the front and killed before the country 
could recover its poise. In Pas de Calais, engi- 
neering works, imperative for scores of military 
necessities, had been closed through lack of labor, 
and valuable property was scrapped because simple 
repairs could not be made. The British enlisted and 
lost thousands of skilled men soon wanted to make 
guns and shells. A selective draft obviates these 
errors. 

Second only to Krupps are the French ordnance 
works at Le Creusot. From these famous factories 
which have given France her world-famed "75" 
guns, howitzers and mortars are now being turned 
out in quantity and quality which have rearranged 
the average. While the Germans were blaming the 
United States for making ammunition for France, 
the Schneider Company, cooperating with the Gov- 
ernment, was turning out at Bourges and other 
works all the shells necessary for the French Army. 

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THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

Germany alone seemed to appreciate at first the 
expenditure of ammunition necessary to maintain 
an average battle. While the British were still 
using shrapnel, much of Germany's first success 
came from her high explosive shells which tore away 
all obstructions and killed by concussion. The 
secret of the penetration of their great shells against 
forts was the soft nose or cap which spread on im- 
pact and tore through the hardest steel. The six- 
teen-inch defense gun of the United States is in all 
points superior to the German or Austrian siege 
guns, except for the mounting for mobile field work. 
Its range is 18,580 yards, and muzzle velocity 2,250 
feet per second. The projectile weighs 2,400 pounds. 
Yet the Krupp howitzers were called a surprise to 
the world. 

Trinitrotoluol, or T. N. T., now in general use, is 
a powerful and safe explosive, derived from a coal- 
tar product and more easily handled than Melinite 
or Lyddite, with their dangerous base of picric acid. 
T. N. T. can easily be prepared from coal, and the 
seizure of the main coal and iron fields of France and 
Belgium has greatly solved the question of German 
ammunition. Ammonal, used in the Austrian shells, 
deteriorates easily, and in Belgium and at Maubeuge 
many of these shells failed to explode. 

In machine guns, the Vickers-Maxim of the latest 
model, which was severely tested and approved by 
the Sixth Cavalry in Texas, has received high praise 

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UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

from the British for its simplicity and durability. 
The Benet-Mercier (also used in the United States 
Army) is lighter, is air-cooled, and can be fired with- 
out a tripod, but certain disadvantages are ascribed 
in France to the lighter weapons, which outweigh 
their greater rapidity of fire. All authorities seem 
to favor a tripod to insure accuracy, although the 
Germans frequently steady their weapon with chains 
from the belt padlocked so that the gunners have 
no chance to escape and so work their weapons until 
the last. 

From guns let us turn to casualties. France owes 
a great debt to the American Ambulance men who 
have worked so tirelessly among her wounded. The 
United State Hospitals at Etaples have also done 
magnificent work for the British troops, maintain- 
ing a large and efficient staff under Major Collins, 
U. S. A., and Dr. Gushing of Harvard. American 
wounded will now reap the full benefit of earlier re- 
search and will escape many of the perils that have 
so greatly added to the death toll in France. 

Nothing is more bewildering than the stream of 
wounded which pours down the lines of communica- 
tions after a battle. Splendid hospital trains, adja- 
cent ports and ships to take the wounded home, have 
mitigated the sufferings of the British troops. With 
the enemy holding a vast area and contingent rail- 
roads, the French have faced greater difficulties. 
Enough hospital trains cannot always be run on 

352 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

congested railroads, and after engagements the ordi- 
nary trains have to be utilized, where the springless 
box cars with the familiar "Hommes 32-40 Chevaux 
(En Long) 8," become messengers of horror to the 
shattered bodies which must be conveyed beyond the 
war zone. But the agony of smashed bones and torn 
flesh is soon allayed by the splendid efficiency of the 
hospitals of the Croix Rouge Frangaise under the 
joint management of the societies of the Secours 
aux Blesses, Femmes de France, and Les Dames 
Frangaise. During the first weeks of war, the ap- 
palling records of French wounded could not be com- 
piled. During the six weeks following the Marne 
victory September 15 to November 30 there were 
489,333, practically half a million French wounded; 
and the Army and the French Bed Cross together 
had organized and equipped 3,968 hospitals and had 
set up 400,000 permanent beds. These figures will 
help one to realize the sufferings of French democ- 
racy. 

Surgery and science have made vast strides during 
the war, where desperate cases in thousands have 
justified the most drastic and heroic experiments, 
from which accepted theories have become nega- 
tived and new facts have been successfully demon- 
strated, with marvelous results. The fertilized soil 
of the war zone abounds in deadly bacilli. At first, 
gangrene, tetanus, and kindred complications super- 
vened with appalling frequency. The foremost sur- 

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UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

geons of France, Great Britain, and the United 
States have devoted their time and skill to the sub- 
ject, with extraordinary success. An anti-tetanus 
serum was soon prepared, and owing to the rapid 
action of the bacilli measures were instituted to in- 
oculate the wounded on the field. The first work of 
the Army Medical Corps is to apply a field dressing 
and inject the serum. 

The continued fury of modern battle and the de- 
lay in removing the wounded on crowded lines of 
communications made common gangrene very fre- 
quent in the French Army. But it was soon obvious 
that the disease which supervenes from delay in 
dressing a wound also rose from direct infection by a 
deadly germ that long defied detection and termi- 
nated in amputation or fatality. The antidote has 
now been discovered. 

Clean wounds are rare among men exposed for 
weeks in muddy trenches. The rigors of the cam- 
paign often weaken the powers of resistance to in- 
fection. Experiments are, however, evolving a uni- 
versal serum which contains the elements of the 
most common and deadly bacilli of the battle field. 
Prompt injection after a wound enables the blood 
to resist the progress of the most dangerous invad- 
ers, and a second injection will so stimulate the re- 
action that, when the infection of the wound com- 
mences, the blood of the patient is ready to neutral- 
ize the enemy. As the science is developed it may 

354 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

become customary in the near future to inoculate all 
the soldiers going to the front with a serum which 
will render them immune to the most horrible penal- 
ties of war, though at present cultures on an enor- 
mous scale can barely sustain the supply necessary 
to treat the wounded. Dothienteric fever and ex- 
anthematic typhus are no longer dreaded, but there 
are still forms of gas gangrene which defy treat- 
ment. 

General experience in the war is proving the theory 
that resistance to infection should come from within 
rather than from without. Powerful disinfectants 
dry the healing lymph which nature throws out to 
kill bacteria, and destroy tissue, in which new germs 
can quickly find a home. New discoveries enable 
the germs to be attacked safely from without and 
within, and thus the dangers are minimized. 

Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved 
by antityphoid inoculation. The valuable experi- 
ence of the United States troops roused both the 
French and British authorities to the importance 
of the treatment. With thousands of decomposing 
bodies and the conditions which must arise from mil- 
lions of men living in earthworks, their armies have 
enjoyed comparative immunity. Dysentery, chol- 
era, enteric, and many other evils have raised their 
heads, but all have been successfully combated. 
Even cerebrospinal meningitis has been checked, 
the fatal microbe being boldly extracted in sufficient 

355 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

quantity to give ample supply for its study and com- 
bat. Thus from War, the grim destroyer, there 
has sprung scientific knowledge which must prove of 
enormous value to humanity. 

After first aid has been applied on the field, the 
casualties are carried to the ambulance stations 
where some attention can be given the British 
generally including an intravenous saline infusion; 
they are then sent to a regular dressing station on 
the edge of the danger zone, and thence to the nearest 
casualty clearing station, where the patients pass 
under the eye of skilled surgeons who operate when 
necessary, and the men are there prepared for the 
final ordeal of transfer to the base hospitals. 

The French Premieres Posies de Secour are 
usually bomb-proof excavations in the actual 
trenches. Light cars have now been installed 
"voitures de garde" which carry two stretchers 
and can ply from close to the firing line to the ambu- 
lance trains which run to the evacuation hospitals. 
The casualty clearing stations are set up in houses 
safely available near the fighting. The building is 
scoured, drenched with carbolic, and whitewashed. 
Army cots stretchers on trestles are set up, bed 
ticks are filled with straw, and a room is fitted up for 
operations. Portable sterilizers, Arnold kettles for 
dressings, and operating tables are placed, and in 
a few hours an efficient hospital is improvised. 
Directly a convoy arrives, each patient is examined 

356 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

by the officer of the day, tagged, and sorted in wards. 
The "cases" are washed, dressed, and, unless urg- 
ent, are given a cigarette the soldier's analgesic. 
Then, after a bowl of soup, the patient is induced to 
sleep until the surgeon is ready. It is comforting 
to know that the percentage of casualties is now 
much lighter than in the earlier battles, and the 
ratio of death from wounds is greatly reduced. The 
shambles of the earlier periods are past history. 

Special schools for the training of officers in in- 
fantry tactics have been organized in France by 
General Bullard, and every lesson is being thor- 
oughly learned by eager students who will impart 
the knowledge to the new regiments, so that every 
unit will take its place at the front trained in the 
art of modern war. And that means conservation 
of life. 

When in the United States recently, I was sur- 
prised to hear contempt expressed for men who had 
joined ambulance companies. Those who know the 
danger of collecting wounded under fire, the diffi- 
culty of carrying stretchers across shell-swept, 
muddy ground, realize that nerve and endurance of 
high quality are required. France at first had to 
rely on ambulance men unfit for army service. They 
worked heroically, but they had not the stamina for 
the task, and suffering and death resulted. As I 
recently watched American stretcher bearers under 
training, my mind reverted to the horror of the early 

357 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

days of the war, from which the troops of the United 
States will largely be spared. 

In feeding and equipment of the American forces, 
efficiency and forethought are evident on every side. 
Most of the grave disasters that threatened the army 
in Cuba arose from imperfect commissary. Coffee 
was shipped unroasted and unground. The canned 
beef was offal. Crackers were sent in unlined boxes 
and arrived in a moldy pulp, and there were no anti- 
scorbutic rations. To-day the supply organization 
is reaching for perfection. Trained cooks, field- 
kitchens, a varied diet, and a rigid system of inspec- 
tion which secures only the best for the army will 
prevent the development of those weak points which 
often have serious consequences in the field. 

Each war winter in Europe has been more severe 
than its predecessor. The human cataclysm seems 
to have affected the elements, and for three years the 
secure defensive of the enemy made the weather his 
greatest ally. The fourth winter started early, but 
on great stretches of the front the warm German 
dugouts have gone and in the new system of defenses 
mud, rain, and cold are telling heavily. But the 
general health of the American troops remains good, 
and thanks to the busy fingers of devoted women 
large supplies of knitted garments are enabling the 
men to face the rawness of France with equanimity. 
Crush those pro-German stories that say that this 
work is wasted. The need for voluntary effort is 

358 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

great your socks and sweater may save a life 
and though in the first enthusiasm some regiments 
enjoyed a surfeit and others went short, a perfect 
organization is growing, and nothing sent through 
the proper channels is wasted. With suitable cloth- 
ing and food, open-air life acts as a tonic, and the 
first weeks of exposure to a war winter have left the 
American troops with a percentage of sickness one- 
half that of the normal figures of an army post. 

The canvas legging is the only article of equip- 
ment criticized, and it will be replaced by the put- 
tee. The British steel helmet, which is by far the 
most effective yet made, has been issued to the 
army. 

With the countryside long stripped of active men, 
the barns and wagon sheds in which thousands of 
troops are billeted needed more than ordinary polic- 
ing. The story of Santiago was repeated. Every 
district was rapily cleaned out. Surface drains were 
dug, cesspools removed, water supply installed, and 
with a generous scouring and whitewashing of in- 
teriors the ancient villages have been made over. 
Every law of sanitation is now enforced. 

Think what this vigor means to those war-tired 
French women and old men who have been carrying 
their lonely burdens with dull resignation. To-day 
they face the future with a strengthened faith. Of 
course, the cheery optimism of American soldiers 
sometimes wounds the susceptibilities of those who 

359 



UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

have borne the awful weight from the outset. The 
confident way that the men speak of smashing the 
stubborn line, of ''sweeping to the Rhine," the spirit 
that believes there will not be much more to do than 
cheer when the new army strikes in force, sometimes 
grates on the ears of Allies who have had to do so 
much with edge-worn tools, and who feel that their 
sacrifices have broken the back of the enemy's first 
power of resistance. Yet what an asset is this un- 
shaken confidence! In itself it creates the winning 
spirit, and by no means should it be discouraged. 
Americans who appreciate the conditions faced by 
the Allies and who feel that these are early days 
for boasting, will have an easier task in explaining 
this spirit to those who will reap much from its 
virtues, than in trying to curb youthful tongues which 
sometimes seem tactless. 

I have seen four major air raids where Ameri- 
cans stood the test: two in France, where college 
ambulances dashed through the area when bombs 
and shrapnel were falling; two in England, where 
army nurses raced as volunteers with fearless Brit- 
ish ambulance women, and American soldiers joined 
British Tommies in dragging victims from burning 
debris when the air was full of bursting shells. 
Such incidents strike a note of harmony that has the 
deepest import. 

The French and British officers expected self-reli- 
ance, courage, and initiative in the American Army. 

360 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

But they doubted its discipline. This is a quality 
which they no longer question. 

Here is one keynote of the system from United 
States Army regulations : 

"When issuing orders, a commander should indi- 
cate clearly what should be done by each subordinate, 
but not how it is to be done. A subordinate who is 
reasonably sure that his intended action would be 
ordered by the commander were he present, has en- 
couragement to go ahead confidently. When circum- 
stances render it impracticable to consult the author- 
ity issuing an order, officers should not hesitate to 
vary it when it is clearly based on an incorrect view 
of the situation, or has been rendered impracticable 
on account of changes since its promulgation. Su- 
periors should be careful not to censure an apparent 
disobedience when the act was done in a proper 
spirit and to advance a general plan." 

I could give a hundred instances of German fail- 
ure from lack of subordinate initiative. At times 
when a specified target has been designated, the 
artillery has lost vital opportunities while they 
waited for orders to change it. Troops sent to cap- 
ture a certain section have frequently failed to go on 
when the chance was theirs. After the first gas at- 
tack at Ypres, a wide gap was filled up and a new 
front built under the eyes of masses that had halted, 
unopposed, for supports, and came on again too 
late. 

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UNDER POUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

Impetuosity must be restrained, but initiative must 
never be lost. 

During the last week of October, 1917, a shot was 
heard which echoed around the world. American 
troops had moved up the night before to share the 
first-line trenches with the French. It was wet and 
cold, but officers had to order their men to stop sing- 
ing as they marched through the blackness which de- 
velops a sixth sense. When they moved cheerily to 
the first line, every soldier received a warm greeting 
from the poilus, and then settled himself in the mud 
for a tiresome vigil, with sentries peering for the 
first time across the desolation of "No Man's Land" 
to the enemy's position. 

The men had previously been trained on an area 
dugout in a replica of the section which they were to 
occupy. For days they had repeated every item of 
duty. Their final dress rehearsal took place under 
Joffre's eye, and then the men started on the first 
real step of the Great Adventure. Every unit took 
its place without a sound reaching the watchful 
enemy, and at 6 A. M. American gunners, sandwiched 
with the French artiflots on the front artillery posi- 
tion, fired their first shot. The shell case was given 
to General Sibert to be forwarded to President Wil- 
son. 

An artillery duel was soon raging, the Ajnerican 
gunners working the famous French "75's." 

362 



THE UNITED STATES STEPS IN 

Though Sergeant Calderwood and Private Branni- 
gan of the railroad troops, struck by shell splinters, 
were the first American soldiers to be wounded in 
France, the honor of the first wound under combat 
conditions goes to Lieutenant Harden of the Signal 
Corps, who was injured by a shell splinter. 

On the night of October 27, an American patrol be- 
yond the French wire met their first Germans, who 
were taking a short cut between the trenches. 
Bolting when challenged, one was mortally wounded, 
and then carried back for the most considerate treat- 
ment possible until the end. A week later, a supe- 
rior German force, under a heavy barrage, raided a 
minor salient on this front, killing three Americans 
and capturing twelve. The names of Enright, Gres- 
ham and Hay appear first on the army's roll of hon- 
ored dead. 

After a few days ' experience, German sniping died 
down. American sharp-shooters had an unpleasant 
knack of locating their shots and replying accurately. 
Week by week battalions are relieving each other on 
the first lines, intelligently carrying out the generally 
monotonous duties of trench warfare. As the train- 
ing grew more complete, the French troops were per- 
manently relieved. The final test for which all are 
waiting will come with the order ' ' Over the top and 
the best of luck!" 

There is little pessimism among any troops at the 
front. The British army is at the zenith of its 

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UNDER FOUR FLAGS FOR FRANCE 

power and asks only for fine weather. Their guns 
of enormous range are giving the Germans no winter 
respite. The French army, with 3,000,000 seasoned 
fighting men, is more resigned, but never despondent. 
The American Army is eagerly waiting the word to 
attack, straining at the leash. 

No one who has seen the horrors of this or any war 
can write a paean to glorify it. Neither can they min- 
imize its great spiritual values. No man can face 
death or see his comrades go to the Great Unknown, 
and remain unchanged. Splendid lessons of self- 
sacrifice are learned daily. Everything material in 
life has an altered value, and new spiritual influences 
create an idealism over the stern veneer that hard- 
ship and lack of comfort create. Acheron has to be 
crossed, but in the passing there is thg call of some- 
thing higher than self, and a reward that cannot be 
judged by material standards. 



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