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.

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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.”

Paul Lintier

Beauclair, France

“Alarm!”

” What ? ”

“Come on, up you get!”

“What’s the time?”

“Don’t know. . . . It’s still dark.”

“All right, then, we’ll get up. Hutin, come on, get up!”

I shook Hutin, who growled in answer:

“All right ! Oh, Lord, I was so comfortable there!”

The noise of shuffling straw filled the barn.

“What’s the time?” repeated somebody.

“Look out there ! There’s a rung missing in the ladder.”

Noises of feet scraping against the ladder. An oath.

“Get the lantern!”

“Where is it?”

“Hanging behind the door.”

The men groped about for their belongings.

“My kepi!”

“Dashed if I can find the lantern! Come and help, can’t you?”

“Sure it can’t be two o’clock yet.”

” Come along now, hurry up,” cried a sergeant, opening the door. “Anybody else still asleep?”

No one replied. Outside, it was very cold, and the night was dark. Not a star was to be seen. Fires had been lit in the middle of the village, and coffee was on the boil. The church, a diminutive chapel magnified by the light from below, had almost the air of a cathedral, its spire lost in the inky blackness of the sky. Fantastic shadows danced on the walls, and the windows were momentarily lit up by red or green lights. A crowd of poor people fleeing from the enemy were sleeping in the nave, together with some soldiers who in vain had sought shelter elsewhere. Through the front entrance, which was wide open, the interior of the church looked mysterious, filled as it was with fugitive lights and shadows, like those cast by a building on fire. Under the vivid reflections of the stained-glass windows on the flags I caught a glimpse of prostrate human figures. In the square, soldiers coming and going between their fires threw enormous shadows on the ground and on the walls of the houses.

Why this alarm? Had the enemy succeeded in crossing the frontier near Stenay? We set off behind the infantry, whose tramp, tramp sounded like the movement of a flock of sheep on the road. The night was alive with moving but unseen forms. The breathing of hundreds of men on the march was felt rather than heard ; every now and then, as if from far off, came a half-lost word. All this invisible life in movement seemed to give off currents which traversed the night air like electricity.

In the distance we heard the sound of the guns towards which we were marching.

Soon the first streaks of dawn lit up the wooded hills, which reared their severe yet splendid crests between us and the Meuse. We passed through Tailly — a village at the bottom of a ravine, consisting of a few cottages, a church, and a cemetery.

When we arrived at Beauclair, in the valley of the Meuse, the engagement appeared to have finished.

In front of the church the infantry who had just been in action were resting amid their piled arms. The majority were pale — but some were very red. They had thrown themselves down on the bare ground in the sun, and not one of them moved a muscle. The stiffened features of the sleepers were eloquent of tragic weariness as they lay there with open coats and shirts, showing glimpses of naked chests. All were indescribably dirty, their legs plastered with mud up to the knees.

The battery halted outside the last houses of the village, and we at once set about making coffee. A hulking Tommy came up to ask for an onion. We questioned him :

“So they’ve not succeeded in crossing the Meuse yet ? ”

“Oh, yes, they have! . . . One brigade got over all right . . . but the artillery had mown down the bridges behind them, and so we had a go at them with fixed bayonets. . . . Lord! you don’t know what that’s like, you chaps! . . . A charge! . . . It’s awful! . . . Never known anything like it 1 If there is a Hell, I expect there’s bayonet fighting always going on there! . . . No! I mean it! Off  you go, shouting. . . . Then one or two fall, and after them lots of others. . . . And the more that fall the louder you’ve got to shout so that the others will come along. And then when at last you get to close quarters with ’em, why, you’re just raving mad, and you thrust and thrust. . . . But the first time you feel your bayonet sink into a chap’s stomach, you feel a bit queer. . . . It’s all soft, you’ve only got to shove a bit! . . . But it’s harder to withdraw clean! I was so damned gentle that I upset my fellow — a great big fat chap with a red beard. I couldn’t pull my bayonet out . . . had to put my foot on his chest, and felt him squirm under my tread. Here, have a look at this ! . . .”

He drew out his bayonet, which was red up to the cross-bar. As he went away he stooped down and plucked a handful of grass to clean it.

The hours passed. The enemy appeared unwilling to make another attempt to force the passage of the Meuse.

We heard that d’Amade had made a fiank attack on the opposing German army, and had taken Marville.

D’Amade ! Well done, d’Amade ! But . . . was it true ?

At Halles, a mile and a half from Beauclair, we encamped at the foot of some high hills. The guns, which for some time past had been
silent, again began to thunder. The enemy was bombarding the heights above us.

As billets for the night we had been given a spacious barn. But when at dusk we went there to get some sleep we found our straw covered with foot-soldiers, rifles, and packs.

The artillerymen began swearing:

“Hallo, what the hell’s all this ? No more room left?”

There was a scrimmage to let us find places.

The barn had a loft above it to which a ladder gave access, and the floor of which was worm-eaten. We stuffed up the holes with hay.

“There we are! As usual, the artillery- above, and the infantry below. That’s all right. … But mind you don’t take the ladder away!”

“Take care of your feet. . . . 0-o-oh ! ”

” Why couldn’t you say you were in the straw?”

” Now then, up you go!”

Five or six artillerymen were on the ladder at the same time. It bent beneath their weight. Below, a foot-soldier stood motionless, holding a candle in his hand.

“Look out ! Don’t want your spurs in my face, you know!”

“Growl away, old chap! Let’s get up.”

“The floor’s giving way ! . . . They’ll fall through.”

“Go on, climb up! It’s less dangerous than the shells!”

“Damn it all, move up a bit, you fellows; otherwise there won’t be room for all of us!”

“Don’t go there ! There’s a hole. . . . You’ll fall on the Tommies down below!”

Downstairs the infantry were grumbling :

“Can’t you keep quiet, up there, eh ? We want to sleep ! And the straw’s all falling in our mouths!”

“If only it would stop yours!”

“Look out, you’re on my stomach ! ”

“Sorry. Can’t see an inch in here. . . . Can’t you raise the lantern over there?”

Again came the soimd of a shell bursting in the distance. I hesitated whether to take off my spurs and leggings, although I knew quite well that I should sleep better without them. But, if there was an alarm, should I be able to find them in the straw ? Finally, I decided to keep them on, nor did I unstrap my revolver holster, which was chafing my side. I tightened my chin-strap so as not to lose my kepi.

Kate Luard

Le Havre, France

Le Havre, France

Hot and brilliant. Eleven fugitive Sisters of No.— have come back to-day from Amiens, and the others are either hung up somewhere or on the way. The story is that Uhlans were arriving in the town, and that it wasn’t safe for women; I don’t know if the hospital were receiving wounded or not. Yes, they were. Another rumour to-day says that No.— Field Ambulance has been wiped out by a bomb from an aeroplane. Another rumour says that one regiment has five men left, and another one man—but most of these stories turn out myths in time.

Wounded are being taken in at No.—, and are being shipped home from there the same day.

This morning Matron took two of us out to our Hospital camp, three miles along the Harfleur road. The tram threaded its way through thousands of our troops, who arrived this morning, and through a regiment of French Sappers. There were Seaforths (with khaki petticoats over the kilt), R. Irish Rifles, R.B. Gloucesters, Connaughts, and some D.G.’s and Lancers. They were all heavily loaded up with kit and rifles (sometimes a proud little French boy would carry these for them), marching well, but perspiring in rivers. It was a good sight, and the contrast between the khaki and the red trousers and caps and blue coats of the French was very striking. We went nearly to Harfleur (where Henry V. landed before Agincourt), and then walked back towards No.— Camp, along a beautiful straight avenue with poplars meeting over the top. About 20 motors full of Belgian officers passed us.

The camp is getting on well. All the Hospital tents are pitched, and all the quarters except the Sisters and the big store tents for the Administration block are ready. The operating theatre tent is to have a concrete floor and is not ready.

The ground is the worst part. It is a very boggy hay-field, and in wet weather like Wednesday and Tuesday they say it is a swamp. We are all to have our skirts and aprons very short and to be well provided with gum-boots. We shall be two in a bell-tent, or dozens in a big store tent, uncertain yet which, and we are to have a bath tent. I am to be surgical.

While waiting for the tram on the way back, on a hot, white road, we made friends with a French soldier, who stopped a little motor-lorry, already crammed with men and some sort of casks, and made them take us on. I sat on the floor, with my feet on the step, and we whizzed back into Havre in great style. There is no speed limit, and it was a lovely joy-ride!

We are seeing the ‘Times’ a few days late and fairly regularly. Have not seen any list of the Charleroi casualties yet. It all seems to be coming much nearer now. The line is very much taken up with ammunition trains.

To show that there is a good deal going on, though we’ve as yet had no work, I’m only half through my 7d. book, and we left home a fortnight and two days ago. If you do have a chance to read anything but newspapers, you can’t keep your mind on it.

We are getting quite used to a life shorn of most of its trappings, except for the two hotel meals a day.

My mattress, on the floor along the very low large window, with two rugs and cushions, and a holdall for a bolster, is as comfortable as any bed, and you don’t miss sheets after a day or two. There is one bathroom for 120 or more people, but I get a cold bath every morning early. S—— gets our early morning tea, and M. sweeps our room, and I wash up and roll up the beds. We are still away from our boxes, and have a change of some clothes and not others. I have to wash my vest overnight when I want a clean one and put it on in the morning. We have slung a clothes-line across our room. The view is absolutely glorious.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim, Germany

Altheim, Germany

Nothing new. The German papers, as usual, full of their victories and their piety, and their patriotism, and their “Kultur,” and goodness knows what not besides. Both Kaisers praising each other and distributing iron crosses ad lib., early though it be in the day. No mention of English troops or England, except to abuse the “Verflüchte” English.

A train of wounded men arrived yesterday, and bandaged and lame soldiers are to be seen limping about the town, looking ghastly pale and ill. At the Lazarett behind the “Prince of Wales’ Hotel” there are many sad cases. The Red Cross Society has made every provision for their comfort and happiness possible. Sheets have been hemmed, pillow cases sewn, bandages got ready. The Germans, however, are chary of admitting English women to share their labours, and those who go and offer to help meet with a very chilly reception.