Ch 5: The German Flood Flows North

It was soon evident that De Castelnau's effort to turn the German flank near St. Quentin, late in September, and cut their main communications crossing France from Belgium, had failed. Amade's cavalry was pushed northwest by the Hessian Division 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 vapour and upturned earth, but the French lines, on lower ground, were marked in red and blue, the fatally conspicuous uniforms making an obvious target. Their front seemed strangely silent and thin under heavy punishment. 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, extending 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 legendary "Hunters d'Afrique" came into open view suddenly before the Imperial Dragoons at the halt. "Close Ranks" 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 sabred as they came into action; the speed quickened from 500 to 600 paces as the French cut their way through the irresolute dragoons. Reforming under heavy machine-gun fire, with only one Squadron Leader left, the French cavalry wheeled to the flank of the field batteries in action near Fricourt and charged the artillery supports. The guns limbered up and retired at a gallop to Guillemont, the impetuous "Hunters" in pursuit, though the batteries were protected and finally saved by armoured cars. But the respite gained was vital. It enabled the French to push straight across the main road to Amiens and entrench, 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 between 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 reverted to trench warfare, Joffre again reached north to repeat this strategy east of Arras. On September 30th, based on this ancient capital of Artois, a new army was gathered under General Maud'huy. Composed chiefly of a mixed force of Territorials, this army was deployed on De Castelnau's left, extending 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, in a duplication of the previous manoeuvres, Maud'huy's offensive was checked and rolled back. The French retired to the line Hebuterne-Arras-Lens while heavy columns hammered their centre, to capture Arras. By October 5th, Maud'huy was reorganising 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 Falkenhayn took command of covering corps on the defensive line, von Stranz broadened his front before Metz, and the Crown Prince extended his left round Verdun. This released the Sixth and Seventh Armies. Across Champagne von Einem extended the reorganised Third Army. Two corps commanders 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 entrenched 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 decisively. 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 entrenching 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 important Channel ports.
   If the German leaders at first had been less impetuous in their assurance of victory, Plan 2 might have been consummated fully. When von Kluck captured Amiens, with the Allies in retreat, his reserve corps and cavalry could have swept southwest, isolated 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 experienced little difficulty in extending and entrenching 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 Belgium 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 deadlocked on the entrenched 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 Heeringen 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 Second 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 (Bavarians under Prince Ruprecht), 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 co-operate 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 Holland.
   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 defended Channel ports, and in co-operation 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.
   Recall the political trend of German strategy in the war. Its aim has been the extension of military 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 entrenched front. The next effort was to push the western frontier outward 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 successor, von Falkenhayn, was reaching for Belgium and all North France: Plan 2.

A German Army Field Bakery

   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 reconstruction, had long been ready. By October 1st the network of Belgian and French railways was restored and practicable. Even dynamited tunnels had been excavated from above by steam shovels, and opened into cuttings.
   The Allies had to move men and stores by a circuitous route, passing entirely along the new western front which the Germans were approaching, vulnerable 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 aeroplane could not cover the unforeseen things which wrecked the ponderous German plan. Her mechanical 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 organised resources.
   This left the active Territorials free for the fighting 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 overwhelmed. This developed the battle before Albert which saved the main railroad north.
   Unexpectedly Joffre had faced the risk, and, depleting the Territorial garrisons in the north, had massed them before Arras under Maud'huy, an intransigent 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 armoured cars manned by British Naval airmen under Commander Sampson. They had volunteered to patrol unguarded roads, came by fortunate chance on the enemy, and broke another cog in the German machine.
   A brigade of Marine Fusiliers, Breton recruits without sea service, marched recklessly from Dunkirk to Belgium without supports. The British Seventh Division sent from England too late to help Antwerp, also landed at Ostend, a blunder of Winston Churchill's which was to have a glorious result.
   These unexpected forces kept open roads by which the Belgian army was able to escape from Antwerp and envelopment, and because of these fortunate accidents 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 convoys 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 rapidity, 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 soldierly, shaven, refitted, and well-groomed, were a striking 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 farmers’ 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 Regiment of the Foreign Legion with its effective American 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 entrenched 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 German investing army would complicate the situation. If it held, much of Western Belgium might be saved.
   Hurrying back north in a Red 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 huddled in perambulators, children with cats and canaries, 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 enormous 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 garrison.
   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 Castelnau was not pierced, and the front rested firmly before Monchy and Hebutern, saving the trunk road and important railway through Doullens. And his centre 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 6th a heavy bombardment raged over the lines and ruthlessly battered the city to pieces, murdering its citizens, destroying its famous buildings, and wrecking concrete memorials to historic men and scenes. The first targets for "Kultur" were 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 Kaiser'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 depended, 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, eighteen 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 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. Uhlans 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 aggression. 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 enormous 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 had been driven out. Reinforced, they had recaptured the city; reinforced, the Germans later retook it; reinforced, the French got back; reinforced, the invaders finally went in to stay on the 12th. The citadel, a masterpiece of Vauban, played no part in the defence; the capital of French Flanders, seventh city of the Republic and queen of French industries, 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 defence. And with only scattered handfuls of reserves guarding 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 stupendous and effective raid were ideal. Six divisions of cavalry, with motorcyclists, light artillery, machine guns, and an abundance of armoured automobiles, were available, and in any army but the German, the officers, on the spot, would have gathered their forces and dashed off while the opportunity was theirs. But with organisation, planning and scheduling as their watchwords, the German forces do not move that way. Everything in the machine must be co-ordinate and subordinate to the general plan. Its strategy aimed at finality, and subordinate initiative was forbidden. The theory of envelopment must be worked out in detail. The ponderous columns reaching Belgium 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, along a solid front, wheeling and changing direction, with the right protected by the sea, and the Allied armies far south and depleted by forces necessary to maintain the entrenched front? But the theory was to collapse at its inception when challenged by the rapid co-ordinated initiative of independent forces which did not lose an hour to ensure 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 terrain, terrorising 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 patrols could easily have destroyed.
   Operating above Lens, round Bethune, south of Hazebrouck and near Cassel through Bailleul, occupying 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 enamelled 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 rumour had travelled 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 Roubaix, French troops half dead with thirst and fatigue were plodding over the slopes, and the swath of destruction which marks German warfare was starting to spread like prairie fire, obliterating 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 directions. Near Caestre we could hear the rattle of rifles north, east and south, where isolated Territorial units were fighting. We passed many French Territorial detachments watching for "Les Boche", 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. 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 soldiers without flinching! The miscreants had forfeited 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 immortals who taught us what the watchwords "Honour, Fatherland, Glory" 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 colours by the three-year law, each regiment has its actives, its 3,000 reservists, and 3,000 territorials, the "regiments de marche," with 5,000 territorial reserves, older men, of the other classes, to draw on. These men of middle age, family men, shopkeepers, cobblers, the genial, comfortable "bourgeoisie," had been gathered by mobilisation for local work. And on these scattered units now fell the task of checking operations when hordes of cavalry began their advance across Pas de Calais, giving no quarter. My pen can do feeble justice to these fathers and grandfathers 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 patriots, citizens, slaughtered in thousands when defending their native soil. Yet what space has been devoted to their glorious defence 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 bitterly cold, even on the Aisne, and farther north no one remembered such a penetrating rawness which chilled to the marrow, and added enormously to the hardships of the unsheltered troops and refugees. It was the aftermath of excessive precipitation from the continual artillery fire, at a period when cyclonic conditions were normal. The isolated detachments had built rude shacks of straw. They were too scattered for regular 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 where these devoted Frenchmen held villages successfully 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 giving pitiful evidence of shameful treatment at lonely houses. A German cyclist detachment held up and boarded a train from St. Omer to Hazebrouck, shooting from the windows the unsuspecting Territorials on guard along the railroad. They shot up Hazebrouck station, and killed the police, railroad porters, 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 Hazebrouck. 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 reservists, night shirts tucked in duck trousers, were crouching in doorways and firing up at the Square. We hurried to the street, and heard that Uhlans had "captured" the town. But the sturdy citizen soldiers, coolly firing up three streets centering on the Place d'Armes, had localised 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 German 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 rode like demons up the Meteren Road. The night was bitterly raw; the horsemen soon outdistanced us. A house was blazing on the horizon; a splutter of shots alone broke the silence, until a rider-less 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 agonising 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 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 expecting the prompt Franco-British rush north.
   Even the German communicating patrols and connecting 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 information 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 positive in the new war zone that a benevolent Philadelphia 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 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, Curate 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 appalling 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 Germany. This true story appears incredible and the details may never be published, as the victims' lips are naturally sealed, though some friends have urged 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 poster of a current attraction, advertising a sextet 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 brutalise. 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 civilization, the selfish commercial scramble, the lack of human sympathy, the distorted standards of brotherhood, 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 unwritten codes are enforced by the spiritual stimuli of danger and death. We can recall men vividly today who were mere "tenderloins" until they fought in Cuba or South Africa and were utterly changed by the realities of the campaign. Today they are popular and public-spirited citizens. The horrors of war will bring reward to the survivors, and regenerate 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 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 realisation of what they meant? Try to visualise 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 villages 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 guarding 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, unpleasantness, trivial at first, would rapidly develop into tragedy at nightfall, unless some one possessed extreme tact. Tears at the outset often averted insult, where spirited resentment at a kiss or rough horseplay sometimes stimulated appalling outrage.
   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 overpaid 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 overtaken 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 resting 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 perfect 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 the coast. A few regiments could have seized and held strategic points soon essential for German success.
   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 non-combatants, 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 wasting 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 reinforce 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 realised how the German tidal wave was flowing 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.
   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 military hats. French railroad efficiency is proverbial; the trains are also the fastest in the world. Recalling 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 on October 10th, after a terrific bombardment of twelve days. Von Beseler's siege artillery outranged the defending guns, and pulverised the forts, most of which had been evacuated. The Belgian army crossed the Scheldt behind the civil population, and made a detour, getting round the end of the German lines before the shattered city surrendered, to avoid destruction. 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 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, Belgian and British, scoured the roads with armoured cars. The usually brilliant spies also failed everywhere except in one derailment on the main line below 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 several roads west of Lille, followed by the advance guard of the Bavarian columns.
   "Formations be damned! Get up the road as far as you can and fight!" was one British order, and it epitomised 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 11th. Some of the British batteries had not fully refitted after earlier battles. There were teams with only a lead driver, wheel and centre horses being driven by the limber gunners with rope reins. Batteries were commanded by subalterns; 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 shrapnel on them, the tiny arrows breaking up formations in the most novel fight of the war, which ended when British and French troopers charged on each flank, and the Germans withdrew. Two regiments of French infantry then gained their rear by crossing the Lys in flood during the night, a trooper swimming across with guide ropes under the nose of the sentries. This caused the only brilliant move of the German cavalry to fail utterly. They retreated, covered by rear guards, and apparently were without orders to fight.
   Anglo-French cavalry saved Bethune by a narrow 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, instead 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 Germans, 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 Bassee, along the main road running north from Lens to Estaires, where brick fields and ridges gave them a strong line of defences 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 positions 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 cyclists backed by machine guns, who pushed through Aire and operated with special dash around Hazebrouck until rounded up. Conneau then co-operated with the British, while their Third Corps was detraining at St. Omer. He relieved and then supported 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 defences.
   By October 15th 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 evacuated. Houses were loop-holed, and they prepared for defence 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 centre of the hop industry, and the fields were carefully protected for subsequent German use.
   Heavy artillery soon rendered the railroad useless, 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 non-combatants were suffering. 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, ruthlessly 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 17th, 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 entire line. This was a radical modification of the original Allied plan of seizing Bethune and pivoting 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.

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