Mina “Jerry” McDonald

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Please note date is approximate

In the beginning of December a Light Blue Hussar, who had been invalided home, came on a short visit to Schloss K . He had been in Galicia, where he was laid up with dysentery ” The second worst case in the hospital, too,” he said with pride and he was glad to escape with dysentery which was one of the minor diseases in Galicia where cholera, spotted typhus, and small-pox were raging. The campaign in this waste and infected land was almost too horrible for description not only did the nature of the country, the climate, and the difficulties of transport make fighting there a hopeless task, but the morale of the Austrian troops was bad, and Galicia was simply a nest of treachery : there wasn’t a man, he said, from end to end of Galicia but had his price. It was better now, for there was practically no civilian population left, but in the beginning they had been quite unable to cope with the treachery. Almost the very first traitor to be shot was one of their own colonels an Austrian, who was not a Slav, and who had never been suspected of any anti-Austrian leanings. It had been his unpleasant duty on several occasions to preside over the execution of the Slav priests who had been convicted of treason ; “And I give you my word, it was almost more than I could get through. They thought far less of it than I did, and were much calmer. It’s one thing to kill Russians in a bayonet charge, but to string up those miserable priests in cold blood was no job for me,” and the Hussar grew pale at the recollections of the dawn of those hideous August mornings in Galicia. He was full of admiration for the Russian, whom he described as “the best-natured fellow in the world,” and a very clean fighter. He could get his Hungarians to face anything except the Don Cossacks, whose very name demoralised the enemy. “And that is not saying little,” he said, “for in the whole world I don’t believe you’ll find fighters like the Hungarians, unless, perhaps, the Scottish Englishmen in the little skirts.”

He was, nevertheless, very full of hope and enthusiasm, and was confident, not in the power of Austria, but of Germany to win ; and he spoke of the efficiency and organisation of the Germans with whom he had come in contact very often, as something that passed his comprehension, frankly confessing that till German officers would be distributed over the whole Austrian line nothing could ever be effected against the Russians in Galicia, ” for it isn’t in us to be good officers but we remain human beings, while those Germans are nothing but machines pfui! ”

The Light Blue Hussar would not go across to the hospital at all. He approved of it in the distance, but “What do you want me to go there for?” he said. “Do you imagine it’s a treat for the soldiers to see an officer? No, poor devils, they see more of us than they like, and we see a lot more of them than we like, so, for goodness’ sake, give us each a rest from the other.”

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