Paul Lintier

Villers-devant-Dun, France

The guns awoke us early, and we prepared to return to meet the enemy. About seven o’clock we found ourselves back in Tailly, where we learnt that the day before the enemy had been pushed back as far as the Meuse, and that Beauclair and Halles were now entirely in French hands.

Standing in column of route in the village we awaited orders. The German artillery began to bombard the neighbouring hills.

In the market-place was a hay-cart in which were lying three wounded Uhlans. An officer, his hands behind his back, was walking up and down in front of the cart. Some women and children were standing round them in a group, silently contemplating the Germans. One or two of the gunners joined them out of curiosity. The Uhlans looked at them with sad and troubled blue eyes.

“They aren’t such an ugly set as I should have thought,” declared Tuvache.

“No?” said Millon. “I suppose you thought they had got a third eye in the middle of their foreheads, like the inhabitants of the moon!”

Tuvache shrugged his shoulders:

“No, only I had an idea they were uglier. They don’t look as bad as all that!”

There was severe fighting this morning in the Beauclair Gap, through which the enemy tried to force a passage. The incessant din of the battle sounded from afar like the rising tide beating on a rocky shore.

“Forward! Trot!”

After having proceeded some three hundred yards down the Beauclair road we again halted. Soldiers were coming back from the lines, some of them wounded in the hands or arms, and others in the shoulders. All of them were bandaged. They stopped to ask us for water or cigarettes, and we exchanged a few words with them :

“Are we advancing?”

“No, but we are holding our ground. It is their machine-guns that are the trouble. They’re just awful ! ”

“Are you in pain?”


“What does it feel like, a bullet?”

“It burns a bit, but it doesn’t hurt much.”

Some others, wounded in the leg, began to pass by. These were evidently in great pain. They were perspiring with fatigue and heat, for the sun, now in the zenith, was beating straight down in the hollow through which the road wound. Many were helping themselves along by the aid of sticks cut from the hedges.

An officer’s horse went by, led by a stretcher-bearer and bearing a foot-soldier whose thigh had been broken by a shell. The wounded man was clutching the animal’s mane with both hands, his right leg hanging helpless. Just above the knee was a rent in his breeches through which the blood flowed freely, running down to his boot and dripping thence to the ground. His eyes were closed and his blood-shot eyelids, pale lips, and the red beard covering his long, bony jaws, made him look like one crucified.

“Can you manage to hold out?” asked the stretcher-bearer.

“Are we still far from the ambulance?”

“No, not far now. If you feel faint let me know and I’ll put you down. Does it hurt much?”

“Yes, and it’s bleeding. . . . Look at the blood on the road!”

“That’s nothing. Hold on to the mane!”

An ambulance passed full of seriously-wounded. Instead of being laid down they had been propped up against the sides of the carriage so that it should hold more. Under the green tilt I caught a glimpse of one man with a face the colour of white marble whose head was rolling on his shoulders, and of another who was streaming with blood. A huge and swarthy corporal was sharing the box with the driver. His gun between his knees and one hand on his hip, he was sitting bolt upright with a grave and determined air, his head enveloped in a turban of crimson lint. Blood was trickling into his right eye, which, in its red-rimmed orbit, looked strangely white, and from thence ran down his drooping moustache, matting the hairs of his beard, and finally dropping on to his broad chest in black splashes and streams.

One of the wounded who had been waiting for a long time, sitting by the roadside, caught hold of a carriage which dragged him on.

“Please stop and let me get up!”

“We’ve no more room, I’m afraid!”

“I can’t walk.”

“But as you see we’re full up!”

“Can’t I get on the step? ”

“Yes, if you can manage it!”

But the vehicle still went on. A gunner helped the man on to the step.

At the end of a sunken road, in the shade of some tall poplars with dense foliage which the sun only penetrated in places, two Medical Corps officers had improvised a sort of operating-table on trestles. Some wounded laid out on the slope were waiting their turn to be bandaged. Among the stones a thin, dark-coloured stream of water was flowing, partially washing away the pools of blood and bits of red-stained cotton-wool and linen. The air was pervaded by a stale odour like that of a chemist’s shop, mingled with the damp smell of running water.

A Captain was brought up in a stretcher, on both sides of which his arms hung limply down. A hospital orderly cut off the sleeves of his tunic, and he was then placed on the operating-table. He was an ugly sight as he lay there with his blood-stained bare arms and his sleeveless blue tunic encircling his body. While his wounds were being dressed he gave long-drawn sighs of pain.

“Right about wheel!”

We set off up a steep incline across the fields to take up position on the heights overlooking the Beauclair Gap and the road we had just left. The battery was backed by a spur of the hills which hid Tailly from view except for the spire of the steeple, surmounted by a weather-cock, which seemed to rise out of the earth behind us.

In this position we were visible to the enemy through the V-shaped gap between the hills commanding the Meuse. We could see the woods and fields beyond Beauclair occupied by the Germans, and which the French batteries ahead of us were covering with shrapnel shell from behind the sheltering ridges. In the fields in the distance the German infantry debouching from the woods looked Hke an army of black insects on a bright green lawn. We immediately opened fire, and under our shells the enemy hastily regained the woods, which we then began to bombard.

The action seemed to be going favourably for us this morning. Some French batteries had advanced by the Beauclair road and were now engaged in the gap. On the hills surrounding us in a semicircle other batteries which, like ours, had taken up positions on the counter slope, and others still farther off, near the hills directly above the Meuse, thundered incessantly, the position of the invisible guns being revealed by clouds of dust and flashes of fire showing up against the greenery. The firing of these batteries was so violent that little by little the air became cloudy. An acrid atmosphere of smoke and dust invaded the valley, in which the numberless echoes multiplied the roar of the guns as the sound-waves met and intermingled. We were surrounded by a loud and continual humming and buzzing which deafened us and almost paralysed our other senses.

“Cease firing!”

The detachments became motionless round the guns. It was already midday.

Suddenly the enemy began to bombard Tailly and the pine-woods commanding our position. Some limbers which since the early morning had been waiting on the outskirts of the woods moved off hurriedly. A section of infantry emerged from the smoke of a high-explosive shell.

“Take cover!” ordered Captain de Brisoult.

The fire of the French artillery gradually slackened. A volley of shrapnel shells burst over the valley where our teams were waiting for us, and a fuse sang loud and long through the air. Nobody seemed to be wounded. The limbers standing motionless in the sunshine made a black square on the grass.

The enemy appeared to have registered the position of a battery installed on the other side of the pine-woods, and, under a perfect hail of howitzer shells, the guns were brought back one by one through the woods.

Hutin, who had taken shelter behind the shield, suddenly stood up in order to see. He crossed his arms.

“Yes, that’s it!” he growled.

“What is it? But take cover!”

“That’s it! Retreat! Oh, my God!”

I also stood up. Sure enough, sections of infantry were crossing the ridges and falling back.

“Take cover, you idiots!” yelled Brejard.

A shell swooped down. The splinters whistled through the air and the displaced earth pattered round us on the dry field. I had stooped down instinctively, but Hutin had not moved, being too much occupied in observing the retreat of the infantry, which was becoming more general every moment.

” There you are,” said he, ” now it will be our turn. … I bet … we shall retire too. . . . Here’s an A.D.C. coming up. . . . Oh, if we’re always going to retire like that we may as well take a train ! ”

As he had suspected, the A.D.C. brought orders for us to retreat. The teams trotted up the slope to join the guns. The moment was critical, and, as ill-luck would have it, the first gun, in position on the counterslope, began to roll downhill as soon as the spade, which had been solidly jammed in the ground by the recoil, had been pulled out. It took eight of us to drag the gun back, and at every instant we asked ourselves whether we should succeed in assembling the train. The drivers began to lose their nerve, and backed the horses at random, this way and that.

” Now then, all together. . . . Whoa, there, whoa ! . . . Steady ! . . . Whoa back ! ”

A final pull, and we had limbered up.

” Ready ! ”

The team started.

Beyond the village of Tailly the hill we had to ascend in order to reach the plateau was very steep, especially where the road skirted the stone wall of the cemetery.

Some foot-soldiers resting on both sides of the way had taken off their packs and piled arms. Sitting in the grass they watched us go by with that absent and stupefied look peculiar to men just returned from the firing-line. Suddenly a shrapnel shell, the whistling approach of which had been drowned by the rumble of the vehicles, burst above the cemetery. Some of the spldiers promptly dived into the ditch, and others fell on their knees close to the wall, shielding their heads with their packs. Two men, who had remained standing, stupidly hid their heads in the thick hedge. On the limbers we bent our shoulders and the drivers whipped up the horses.

At one point the road was visible to the enemy, but when we discovered this it was already too late to stop.

A volley of shells. . . . Over ! We had escaped by a hair’s breadth.

We formed up ready for action in the same position as the day before, overlooking the neighbouring ridges, where the tall poplars served as aiming-points. The third battery, which had been with us on the Saturday, had opened up some fine trenches here. But the limbers had hardly had time to range up on the edge of a copse when high-explosive shell began to fall round us.

How had the enemy been able to discover our new position? We were carefully covered, and were invisible to him on all sides, nor had we yet fired a single shot, so that our presence had not been betrayed by smoke or flashes.

No aeroplane was in the sky. Then how had we been seen ? . . .

We sheltered in the trenches.

“It isn’t at us that they’re firing,” said Hutin.

” Then what are they firing at ? ”

” I think we’ve got to thank those fat old dragoons they saw passing on the road for this!They’re aiming at the road.”

But the dragoons got farther and farther away, and the enemy continued to fire in our direction. There was no doubt that he was aware that there was a battery in position here. Had we been betrayed by signal by a spy hiding somewhere behind us? I carefully scrutinized the surrounding country, but could see nothing.

Some shells fell a few yards off the guns, smothering the battery in smoke and dust, and shaking us at the bottom of our trenches. I heard the Major shout :

” Take cover on the right!”

While the Captain and Lieutenant remained at their observation-posts the gunners hurriedly moved out of the line of fire of the howitzers. But as we ran along the road across the fields in view of the enemy a Staff passed by. I was seized with sudden anger. The horse-men would get us killed ! The party consisted of about twenty ofiicers in whose centre rode a General, a little, thin man with grey hair. A gaily coloured troop of blue and red Chasseurs followed them. The scream of
approaching shells at once made itself heard, and thrilled long in the air. The Chasseurs and officers saluted, but the little General made no movement. This time the enemy had fired too low.

” To your guns ! ”

The Captain thought he had discovered the battery bombarding us :

” Layers ! ” he called.

Feverishly, beneath the shells, we prepared for action.

” Echelon at fifteen. First gun, a hundred and fifty ; second gun, a hundred and sixty-five. . . . Third …”

The fuse-setters repeated the corrector and the range.

” Sixteen. . . . Three thousand five hundred. . . .”

” In threes, traverse ! By the right, each battery ! . . .”

” First gun . . . fire ! . . . Second . . .”

The rapid movements of serving the guns electrified us. In the deafening din made by the battery in full action orders had to be shouted. We no longer heard the enemy’s guns ; they were silenced by the roar of our own. We forgot the shrapnel, which nevertheless continued to fall.

Suddenly the howitzer fire slackened, and then ceased.

” They’re getting hit ! ” said Hutin, bending over the sighting gear.

” Fire ! ” answered the No. i.

” Ready ! ”

” Fire ! . . . Fire ! . . .”

On the plateau behind us companies were retiring in extended order.

Night fell. We also received orders to retire. It seemed as if the earth and the woods were absorbing such light as was left. The movements of the infantry in the distance were lost in the undulations of the ground. The men seemed to become incorporated with the fields, and dissolved, disappearing from view.

Near a dark shell-crater lay a red heap. A soldier was lying stretched on his back, one of his legs blown off by a shell, leaving a torn, bluish-red stump through which he had emptied his veins. The lucerne leaves and earth under him were glued together with blood. The man’s head had been thrown back in his agony, and the Adam’s apple jutted out amid the distended muscles of his neck. His glassy eyes were wide open, and his lips dead white. He still grasped his broken rifle, and his kepi had rolled underneath his shoulder.

Kate Luard

Le Havre, France

Le Havre, France

We all got up at 5.30 to be ready, but I daresay we shan’t move to-day. Yesterday we had two starved, exhausted, fugitive (from Amiens) No.— Sisters in to tea on our floor, and heard their stories. The last seventeen of them fled with the wounded. A train of cattle-trucks came in at Rouen with all the wounded as they were picked up without a spot of dressing on any of their wounds, which were septic and full of straw and dirt. The matron, M.O., and some of them got hold of some dressings and went round doing what they could in the time, and others fed them. Then the No.— got their Amiens wounded into cattle-trucks on mattresses, with Convent pillows, and had a twenty hours’ journey with them in frightful smells and dirt. Our visitor had five badly-wounded officers, one shot through the lungs and hip, and all full of bullets and spunk. They were magnificent, and asked riddles and whistled, and the men were the same. They’d been travelling already for two days. An orderly fell out of the train and was badly injured, and died next morning.

It is very interesting to read on Monday the ‘Times’ Military Correspondent’s forecast of Friday. He seems to know so exactly the different lines of defence of the Allies, and exactly where the Germans will try and break through. But he has never found out that Havre has been a base for over a fortnight. He speaks of Havre or Cherbourg as a possible base to fall back upon, if fortified against long-distance artillery firing, which we are not. And now we are abandoning Havre!

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim, Germany

Altheim, Germany

I heard a small boy singing to-day:

“Wo liegt Paris, Paris liegt Hier, Den fingen drauf’ Das nehmen Wir.”

I pray it may not prove prophetic, but they all talk of occupying Paris as a certainty, and the German Emperor has invited a number of his Generals to dine with him there on the 12th of September. I hear that a doctor went into the Prince of Wales’ Hotel to-day, and saw stuck up in the hall the words: “Das Seegefecht in der Nordsee” (in which of course we were victorious). He tore it down and stamped on it. An altruistic German waiter thinking to please the English guests had put the first sheet of the “Frankfurter Zeitung” in a prominent position to console them for the many defeats we are supposed to have had. John Burns’ speech at the Albert Hall is reported in full in the German newspapers, headed “Eine Rede des ehemaligen Englischen Minister, John Burns. England gegen seine wahren interessen” (a speech of the former English minister, John Burns. England against her true interests). No passports yet! No release! This suspense is wearing!

Paul Lintier

Villers-devant-Dun, France

This morning we marched for hours through clouds of dust, the sun scorching the backs of our necks. The men were thirsty and continually spat out the clayey saliva which clogged their mouths. The battery halted in a valley on the outskirts of a village — Villers-devant-Dun, I think it was — where the sound of the guns seemed to come from the west and south as well as from the east and north. This was a surprise, and at first made us uneasy. Janvier, for the hundredth time, said:

“That’s it! We are surrounded!”

He was haunted by this idea. However, it was not long before we discovered that the illusion was solely caused by an exceptionally clear echo. In reality the fighting was going on near Dun-sur-Meuse.

We crowded round the fountain, on the surrounding wall of which the last Bulletin des Communes was pasted. But first we each drank, in great gulps, at least a quart of fresh water. Afterwards we read the news. All was going well! Nevertheless, it was announced that Mulhouse had been retaken. Apparently, then, it had been lost. We exchanged impressions:

“Well, Hutin?”

“Not bad,” he answered rather dubiously, “but they don’t say anything about our little show of last week.”

Brejard, on the contrary, was filled with an optimism which nothing could damp:

“Virton, Marville — why, all that is a mere nothing on a front as long as this! We’ve had to give a little in some sectors, that’s all. . . . But otherwise things are going quite all right!”

“All the same, it isn’t nice to find ourselves in one of the sectors which have to give way,”
answered Hutin.

“All that will change. We’re going to be reinforced. . . . They say that De Langle is only a day’s march off.”

“He’ll have to hurry up if he wants to find any of the 4th Infantry left!”

That was true. The regiments of the line, especially those of the 8th Division, had suffered terribly. Some battalions had been diminished by two-thirds, and, since the Battle of Virton, many companies were not more than fifty or eighty strong, and had lost all their officers. How we wished that De Langle would arrive!

In the ever-thickening dust and overpowering heat we returned by the same road to the positions we had occupied the day before at Tailly. It seemed to us that we had uselessly wasted more than seven hours marching in a large circle.

Another aeroplane appeared. This oppression was becoming unbearable ! We felt like a flock of frightened sparrows beneath the shadow of the hawk. The Germans have improved and developed the aerial arm to an enormous extent, and, unfortunately, our .75’s are unable to hit aeroplanes, the mobility of the gun on the carriage not being sufficient. It is necessary to dig a pit for the spade, and before this is finished the machine is always out of range.

The aviator who had just flown over us had thrown out a star in order to mark the situation of one of our batteries in position on the heights commanding the river. The guns at once moved off, and took up a fresh position elsewhere. Shortly afterwards shells began to fall on the hill they had been occupying — enormous shells, which made the earth quake for miles around and withered the grass with their dirty, pungent smoke.

“I expect those are the famous 22 cm. shells ” said the Captain.

We had nothing to do. Towards Stenay the horizon was deserted and motionless. For several hours heavy shells continued to fall in threes, making black holes in the green meadows in which not a soul remained. We were obviously within range of the guns from which they were fired, and we had no guarantee that we should not be hit if the enemy lifted his fire a little.

I was struck by the marvellous faculty of adaptability which forms the basis of human nature. One becomes accustomed to danger just as one becomes accustomed to the most cruel privations, or to the uncertainty of the morrow.

Before the war I used to wonder how it was that old men nearing the extreme limits of existence could continue to live undisturbed in the imminent shadow of death. But now I understand. For us the risk of death has become an element of daily life with which one coolly reckons, which no longer astonishes, and terrifies less. Besides, a soldier’s every-day life is a school for courage. Familiarity with the same dangers eventually leaves the human animal unmoved. One’s nerves no longer quiver; the conscious and constant effort to keep control over oneself is successful in the end. Therein lies the secret of all military courage. Men are not born brave; they become brave. The instinct to be conquered is more or less resistant — that is all. Moreover, one must live, on the field of battle just as elsewhere ; it is necessary to become accustomed to this new existence, no matter how perilous or harsh it may be. And what renders it difficult — more, intolerable — is fear, the fear that throttles and paralyses. It has to be conquered, and, finally, one does conquer it.

Apart from the necessity of living as well as can possibly be managed, the greatest disciplinary factors in the life of a soldier under fire are a sense of duty and a respect for other people’s opinion — in a word, honour. This is not a discovery; it is merely a personal opinion.

It must also be confessed that this training in courage is far more easy for us than for the foot-soldiers — the least fortunate of all the fighting forces. A gunner under fire is literally unable to run away. The whole battery would see him — his dishonour would be palpable, irretrievable. Now fear, in its more acute manifestations, seems to me necessarily to imply annihilation of will-power. A man incapable of controlling himself sufficiently to face danger bravely will, in the majority of cases, be equally incapable of facing the intolerable shame of public flight. Flight of this kind would necessitate an exercise of will — almost a kind of bravery. The infantryman is often isolated when under fire; when the shrapnel bullets are humming above him a man lying down at a distance of four yards from another is virtually alone. Concern for his own safety monopolizes all his faculties and he may succumb to the temptation to stop and lie low, or to sneak off to one side and then take to flight. When he rejoins his company in the evening he may declare that he lost his squad or that he fought elsewhere. Perhaps he is not believed, and possibly he was aware beforehand that no one would believe him ; but at least he will have escaped the intolerable ignominy of running away before the eyes of all.

To remain under fire is by no means easy, but to keep cool in the heat of a modern engagement is harder still. At first fear makes one perspire and tremble. It is irresistible. Death seems inevitable. The danger is unknown, and is magnified a thousandfold by the imagination. One makes no attempt to analyse it. The bursting of the shells and their acrid smoke together with the shrapnel are the main causes of the first feeling of terror. And yet neither the flashes of mehnite, nor the noise of the explosions, nor the smoke are the real danger ; but they accompany the danger, and at first one is attacked by all three at once. Soon, however, one learns to discriminate. The smoke is harmless, and the whistling of the shells indicates in what direction they are coming. One no longer crouches down unnecessarily, and only seeks shelter knowingly, when it is imperative to do so. Danger no longer masters but is mastered. That is the great difference.

In order to form an exact idea of the effects of a shell, I went with Hutin to examine a field full of Jerusalem artichokes in which a heavy projectile had just fallen. In the centre of the field we found a funnel-shaped hole about ten yards in diameter, so regular in shape that it could only have been made by a howitzer shell. This kind of projectile strikes the ground almost perpendicularly, and buries itself deep in the soft soil, throwing up enormous quantities of earth as it bursts. Many of the steel splinters are lost in the depths of the ground, and the murderous cone of dispersion is thereby proportionately reduced.

The truth of this can be easily confirmed. In the present case the farther we went from the hole the higher was the point at which the artichokes had been shorn off, and at a dozen paces or so from the edge of the crater the shrapnel had only reached the heads of the highest stems. It follows therefore that a man lying very near the point of impact would probably not have been hit. Next came a circular zone which was entirely unscathed, but a little farther on the falling
bullets and spHnters had mown off leaves and stems, and a man lying down here would have risked quite as much as if he had remained standing.

When thus coldly examined a shell loses much of its moral effect.

The actual organization of the artillery also stimulates a gimner’s courage. The footsoldier, cavalryman, and sapper are units in themselves, whereas for us the only unit is the gun. The seven men serving it are the closely connected, interdependent organs of a thing which becomes alive — the gun in action.

In consequence of the links existing between the seven men among themselves and between each of them and the gun, any faint-heartedness is rendered more obvious, its consequences much greater, and the shame it bears in its wake more crushing. Moreover, in this com- plete solidarity the effluvia which create psychological contagion are easily developed; one or two gunners who stick resolutely and calmly to their posts are often able to inspire the whole detachment with courage.

To-day was a day of undisturbed quiet. Over towards Tailly and Stenay nothing revealed the presence of the enemy.

When evening approached we were again sent off to encamp on the other side of the woods. There was a glorious summer sunset, and through the dark depths of the trees the road opened up a mysterious avenue at the end of which glowed a western sky more varied in hues than a rainbow.

All sound of battle had ceased. Gradually the sky darkened and night fell. As yesterday, the artillery rolled monotonously on through the shadowy woods.

One by one the stars were veiled by a rising mist, and the sky became opalescent with a nocturnal luminosity that flooded the stretches of the forest, which, from the crests of the hills, could be seen rising and falling as far as the eye could reach. But underneath the trees the darkness was intense, and the road would have seemed a trench dug deep in the earth itself but for an occasional infantry bivouac, the embers of which glowed faintly through the brushwood, and but for a damp scent of mint and other herbs which rose from the dark undergrowth mingled with a certain sensuous smell of animality. We were surrounded by a delicious freshness with which we filled our lungs and which made us shiver slightly.

Millon, who was sitting next to me on the limber-box, told me the story of his life. It was a sad and simple history. Only twenty, with his girl’s face and roguish yet infantile eyes, he had nevertheless long been the breadwinner of a family, and now his mother — ” my old mother ” as he said in a tone full of deep affection — had been left alone in Paris with another child, still very young, whose delicate constitution and highly strung nerves were the cause of continual alarm. He told me of past misfortunes still fresh in his memory, of the present anxiety of his people in Paris, and of material worries.

“Ah,” he sighed, “if only my old mother could see me to-night, safe and soimd on the limber!”

In the field where the battery halted we had almost to fight in order to get a few armfuls of straw. The gunners of a battery which had arrived before us had stretched themselves out haphazard on a fallen hay-rick. They had twenty times more straw than they needed, but when we tried to pull a little from under them the awakening of the overwrought sleepers was terrifying. They shouted, cursed, and threatened. Finally they fell asleep again, growling and grunting under their breath like a pack of surly dogs.

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

Northern France

Northern France

. . . My little mother, it is certain that though we did not leave yesterday, it is yet only a question of hours. I won’t say to you anything that I have already said, content only that I have from you the approval of which I was certain.

. . . In the very hard march yesterday only one man fell out, really ill. France will come out of this bad pass.

I can only repeat to you how well I am prepared for all eventualities, and that nothing can undo our twenty-seven years of happiness. I am resolved not to consider myself foredoomed, and I fancy the joy of returning, but I am ready to go to the end of my strength. If you knew the shame I should endure to think that I might have done something more!

In the midst of all this sadness we live through magnificent hours, when the things that used to be most strange take on an august significance.

Kate Luard

Le Havre, France

Le Havre, France

Orders to-day for the whole Base at Havre to pack itself up and embark at a moment’s notice. So No.—, No.—, No.—, and No.— G.H., who are all here, and a Royal Flying Corps unit, the Post Office, and the Staff, and every blessed British unit, are all packing up for dear life. We may be going home, and we may be going to Brittany, to Cherbourg, or to Brest, or to Berlin.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim, Germany

Altheim, Germany

Joy at last! Even the “Frankfurter Zeitung” acknowledges that there has been a fight in the North Sea, and that we have sunk German ships, but, of course, it was “overpowering numbers and larger ships” that did it, and the Germans covered themselves with glory as usual. I came home and hung out my flag, the best I could do, a red silk dressing jacket, lined with white, and draped over a blue silk parasol, which I tied knob out, to look like a pole.

On our church door to-day was posted a typewritten notice: “We have smashed your army on the French Continent,(!) and we will smash you too if you dare to ring your bell!”

Paul Lintier

Tailly, France

Reveille came at two o’clock, together with orders to start at once. The Germans, we heard, had crossed the Meuse. But our artillery had no doubt registered the course of the river. I could not understand why we had not heard the guns.

In the darkness of the early dawn the road showed up yellow between the blue-grey fields. On the way I recognized the yew-trees of a cemetery in which some dead were being buried the day before.

We stopped in column on the steep ascent towards Tailly, and waited for orders. The day broke behind the hills and gradually overspread the whole horizon.

One by one the regiments of the 7th Division climbed up from the ravine and passed us. The men looked haggard and tired. Their eyes were hollow, and the faces of the youngest, drawn and sallow with privations, were furrowed with lines. The corners of their mouths drooped. Bending forward under the weight of their packs, in the attitude of Christ bearing the Cross, the infantry toiled up the hill as though it were a Calvary. At every hundred yards or so they halted and rehoisted their burdens with a jerk of their shoulders. Some of them were holding out their rifles at arm’s length, as though it were a balance which helped them to march. Others were complaining that they had had nothing to eat for two days. One of the lost, a pale, lanky, thin-faced fellow, with feverishly bright eyes, halted close to us and stroked the chase of the gun.

“Lord,” said he to Hutin,” you might as well put a shell through my chest! At least there’d be an end of it!”

“Aren’t you ashamed to talk like that?”

The other made a vague gesture, shrugged his shoulders, and went off dragging one leg after him.

As soon as the infantry had gone by we were ordered to take up our position on the plain, near the edge of the wood behind which the regiments of the line were retreating.

I heard the Major repeat the order received to the Captain: “Prevent the enemy from setting foot on the plateau. There are no more French in front of you!”

“So we are still covering the retreat! A vile job!” said Millon, the firing number, a good little Parisian chap, with a face like a girl.

In our present position we ran as great a risk from the rifle and machine-gun fire as from the shells. Not far off on the edge of the plateau, near the brush-shaped poplar, was a dark little copse whence at any minute bullets might come buzzing about our ears. The Germans might get their machine-guns there without being seen, rather than risk coming out into the open. And what might we expect then ? Oh, well ! . . . After all, that is what we had come there for.

“If we hadn’t been sold, things would have gone very differently,” growled Tuvache, a Breton farmer, who was brave enough under fire, but who suffered from bad morale.

And, still obsessed by the idea of treason, he added :

“And the proof is that they’ve been able to cross the Meuse without hindrance.”

Brejard made him stop talking.

” Why, you’re worse than the others, you are 1 We’re fighting from the North Sea right down to Belfort, aren’t we? Well, then, how can you judge by one wretched little corner? Perhaps we’re letting them advance as far as this in order to surround ’em afterwards. . . . Some of you chaps always seem to know more than your Generals. . . . And besides, all this time the Russians are advancing. You let things be. . . . We shall have ’em some day, never fear ! And then they’ll
pay for this!”

We awaited the appearance of the heads of the enemy’s columns, which from one moment to another might emerge from the Tailly valley.

The plateau, shining with dew, had assumed that absolutely silent immobility one so often notices in the country in the early hours of a sunny morning.

Four black points suddenly appeared far down the road? Was it the enemy’s advanced guard ? No. We were soon able to recognize three stragglers and a cyclist. A troop in column of march followed them out of the valley. In this order they could not be Germans. The column, which proved to be a
battalion of the loist, passed by, and disappeared down the road leading to the wood. But, in the rise and fall of the valleyed country stretching on the north-west as far as the dark masses of distant forests. Lieutenant Hely d’Oissel had discovered through his field-glasses large masses of men marching westwards through sunken roads which almost hid them from our view. Were they the enemy, or were they the French troops which were occupying the heights of the Meuse near Stenay and which were now retiring?

We had already experienced the same terrible uncertainty at Marville. The Captain climbed up into an apple-tree in order to see better, and the Major also tried to recognize the mysterious troops. But neither could distinguish anything. A mist — the dampness of the night evaporating — ^was already rising from the ground and veiling the horizon. If those were German columns, they would threaten the flank of the retreating army. A scout was sent off at a gallop to reconnoitre. Time passed, and the columns disappeared. At last the scout came back; the troops were French. He had seen parties of Chasseurs flanking them.

Our feet wet with dew, we once again became motionless and awaited the enemy.

About midday we received orders to move to the edge of the plateau, and take up position behind a clump of trees, in order to command the Tailly valley and the hills on the south of Stenay. And, continually, successive regiments -of infantry emerged from the forest and passed us, falling back.

“Dashed if I can fathom it!” said Hutin.

“Nor can I!”

It was very hot, and we were thirsty, but our water-bottles were empty.

We continued to wait until dusk, but the enemy did not appear.

Night had fallen when we were sent to encamp on the other side of the woods.

The moon was rising clear of the tree-tops. The regular clatter of hoofs and the monotonous roll of the vehicles blended together into a sort of weary cradle-song, and made us sleepy after a time. In order to suffer uncomplainingly all the hardships and miseries of war, we would have asked no more than one hour of affection, of sympathetic tenderness, in safety, at evening-time, after the long day spent in watching or fighting.

The road was level, and we were hardly shaken at all ; no one spoke, and most of us slept or dozed.

No sound disturbed the stillness of the warm night save that of the column on the march. Gradually we lost ourselves in pleasing reveries and memories of the past, forgetting present dangers and distress. On we jogged through space and time. . . . Lyons at night-time . . .long rows of lamps lighting the wharves and reflected in the Rhone . . . above the river the amphitheatre of Croix-Rousse with its lights scintillating Hke golden points, and above them, again, the stars. . . . Where did the town end, or where did the sky begin? . . . And the Mayenne in the bright days of autumn and summer, its sombre waters sparkling like black diamonds. . . . The memories which
rose up before me gradually blurred the scene of illusive reflections.

And perhaps I should die in a few hours time. . . .

Almost as if I myself had been able to write those beautiful verses of Du Bellay, I felt the aching nostalgia of his words:

Quand reverrai-je, helas I de mon petit village Fuiner la cheminee, et en quelle saison Reverrai-je le clos de ma pauvre maison, Qui tn’ est une province et beaucoup d’avantage

I repeated the lines to myself several times.

Mina “Jerry” McDonald

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Please note the date of this event is approximate:

At the end of the month the Admiral arrived from Vienna. He was no longer young, but he was very enterprising, and, though for many years retired, he now offered himself to his country, which was ungrateful enough to evince no very pressing need of his services. The Admiral’s thoughts, from force of habit, lingered on things naval, and his morning greeting was, invariably

“Good morning ! To-day we shall hear something from the sea ! ”

We all grew impatient as time passed and the Admiral’s big sea-battle failed to take place I once dared to suggest that the German Fleet was afraid to come out. The Admiral’s remaining hairs literally stood on end.

“Afraid ! Oh, Miss Jerry ! You must have patience they will come out in time. What do you suppose Willy built his Dreadnoughts for? To sit in the Kiel Canal, perhaps?”

There was never even a hint in the Austrian papers of any doings at sea at all ; but the Man of Art knew of the clearing of enemy ships from the seas by the Allied Fleets. It was in the suppressed Slav papers.

“But how do you manage to get those papers? ” I once asked.

“Na, Fraulein ; don’t ask me that. To have that known is as much as my life is worth. But you can be quite certain that I’m not the only person here who gets them.”

Japan’s declaration of war was the surprise of the Admiral’s life, and his rage was almost classic. It was right, though, he said, for the Allies to welcome the yellow Japs to their rainbow collection of soldiers!

Uncle Pista was charmingly funny about Japan one afternoon when Claire, the Admiral, and I went to tea to Aunt Sharolta.

“Japan will regret what she has done,” and in anticipation of this his face grew rounder and redder. “There won’t be much left of her by the time that Germany’s done with her.”

“How is Germany going to manage it ?”

“By sending ships and men there, of course,” he replied, contemptuously.

“And how will Germany manage that ? ” asked the Admiral, greatly amused.

” How!” repeated the old gentleman. “How does any ship go anywhere ? By crossing the sea, of course.”

“What about the British Navy on the way ? ” asked Claire.

“Why would the German boats go near the British Navy ? ” and Uncle Pista was surprised and disappointed.

“Not intentionally but they might find the British Navy difficult to avoid,” said the Admiral.

“Then they wouldn’t avoid it at all,” said Uncle Pista, recovering his spirits. “They would just smash it up, as they’re smashing up the English in Flanders just now, and then go on, and they would be in Japan in a few days.”

“Good sailing!” commented the Admiral.

“Oh yes, there will be an end of Japan and of England, too ! Willy will teach them the lesson they need. How glad I am that no child of mine ever learned English!” By this time we were literally roaring with laughter, and he paused in surprise.

“What are you all laughing at? Am I not right?” He had forgotten my nationality.

“Quite,” I said, hoping he would continue. But Aunt Sharolta looked up from the chest-protector she was sewing and said “It is useless for you to talk like that, Pista, when we are being annihilated in Galicia and Serbia. Oh yes, I know the newspapers are very encouraging, but those who know say otherwise.”

” Have patience ! Have patience,” said the Admiral. ” Trust in Willy. And mark my words, to-morrow we shall hear something from the sea.”