Paul Lintier

Moirey-Flabas-Crépion, France

Moirey-Flabas-Crépion, France

It was still raining when we started. Carts full of debris continued to pass us, each more heavily laden and each more dreadful to see than the last.

I heard that a Chasseur, whom I noticed yesterday morning mounted on a little bay horse, had been surprised by a party of Uhlans. They bound him hand and foot and then, with a lance-thrust in the neck, bled him as one bleeds a pig. A peasant who had witnessed the scene from behind a hedge told me of this devilish crime. He was still white with horror.

Last night the horses lay in mud and dung. This morning their manes and tails were stiff with mire, and large plasters of manure covered their haunches and flanks, giving them the appearance of badly kept cows. As for us, besmeared with dirt up to the knees and with our boots a mass of mud, we looked more heavy than ever in our dark cloaks, which were wet through and hung in straight folds from our shoulders.

We again started off, this time to take up fresh quarters at Moirey. From Azannes to Moirey is little more than a mile, but the road was blocked with wagons, and at every instant we had to halt and draw to one side.

The Captain gave the word :


The men, tortured by diarrhoea, availed themselves of the opportunity and scattered into the fields.

At Moirey we encamped under some plum-trees planted in fives, where we were as badly off as we had been at Azannes. Under the feet of the horses the grass immediately became converted into mud.

The first thing to do was to cover over with earth the filth left there by troops who had preceded us. The question of sanitary arrangements is a serious one. It is true that a sort of little trenches called feuillces are dug on one side of the camp, but many men obstinately refuse to use them, and prefer to make use of any haphazard spot at the risk of being drive- oft by whip-lashes by others of more cleanly disposition. A regular guard has to be kept round the guns and horses. It is useless for the officers to threaten severe punishment to any man taken in the act outside the feuillees. Nothing stops them. The Captain keeps repeating:

“What a set of hogs!”

To-night the sound of the guns is quite close. Perhaps we shall go into action at last.

It was a difficult job to find any wood fit to burn. Such as there was was damp and when burning gave off a thick acrid smoke which the wind blew down upon us. We had to fetch the water for the soup from more than 300 yards away, and then keep a constant look-out to prevent the horses from getting at it. The bread just given out was mouldy, and we had to toast it in order to take away the musty taste.

When it is time to water the teams the only street of the village is thronged with horses either led or ridden bare-back. Six batteries are encamped round Moirey, and there is only one pond into which a thin stream of clear water, not more than two fingers thick, trickles from a fountain. Every twenty paces one has to stop and manoeuvre in order to avoid kicks, and the men, annoyed by the delay, swear at each other without reason.

After four or five minutes one advances another twenty paces, and, when finally the pond is reached, the men and beasts sinking ankle-deep in mud, it is only to find that hundreds of horses have left so much drivel and slime on the water that our animals refuse to drink.

It is reported that there has been a great battle near Nancy and that we have won the day. Why don’t we advance also?

Paul Lintier

Azannes, France

Azannes, France

I have only just heard of an heroic episode which occurred during our expedition on Friday. It might be called “The Charge of the Baggage-train.”

During our march through the woods towards the enemy we were followed at some distance by our supply wagons. When we turned, we passed them, and they resumed their position behind the batteries. The head of the column had almost reached Azannes when the rear was still in the thick of the woods. Suddenly a lively fusillade was opened from the depths of the trees on the right and left of the train, and at the same time the noise of galloping horses was heard from behind. The Petty Officer bringing up the rear behind the forage wagon, who was riding near the cow belonging to the Group, which was being led by one of the gun-numbers, convinced that the enemy’s infantry was attacking the column from the flank while a brigade of cavalry was coming up from the rear, yelled out, “Run for your lives! The Uhlans are coming!” The gunners jumped from the carriages, loaded their muskets, and, suddenly, without any orders, the column broke into a gallop. The men followed as best they might. But the horses of the forage wagon, restive under the lash, reared, backed, and jibbed, kicking the cow, which, in her turn, pulled away from the man leading her, first to right and then to left, finally breaking loose and setting out at a gallop behind the wagons in a thick cloud of dust.

A few seconds afterwards the cavalry which had been heard approaching came up. It was the General of Artillery, who, with his Staff and escort of Chasseurs, had routed our baggage-train. As for the fusillade, it came from two companies of the 102nd of the line, who, concealed in the woods, had opened fire on a German aeroplane.

The weather is changing. Already yesterday evening the storm gathering on our left had made us prick up our ears as if we heard gunfire. At breakfast-time we were surprised by a heavy shower, and had to abandon the kettles on the fires and take shelter under the wagons and trees. To-day it has been raining slowly but steadily. If this weather goes on we shall have to look out for dysentery!

Sitting on blankets in a circle round the fire, which was patiently tended by the cook, we drank our coffee. My comrades asked me to read them a few pages from my notebook, and wished me a safe return in order that these reminiscences, which to a great extent are theirs also, might be published.

“Are you going to leave the names in?”

“Yes, unless you don’t want me to.”

“No, of course not. We’ll show them to the old people and children later on, if we get back.”

“If I am killed, one of you will take care of my notebook. I keep it here see? in the inside pocket of my shirt.”

Hutin thought a little.

“Yes, only you know that it’s forbidden to search dead men. You’d better make a note in your book to say you told us to take it.”

He was quite right, so on the first page I wrote: “In case I am killed I beg my comrades to keep these pages until they can give them to my family.”

“Now you’ve made your arrangements mortis causa,” said Le Bidois, who was reading over my shoulder. And he added:

“That doesn’t increase the risk either.”

Le Bidois is a thin, lanky fellow rather like the King of Spain, for which reason Deprez and I have nicknamed him Alfonso. Every day we fire oft the old Montmartre catch at him:

Alfonso, Alfonso,
Feux-tu te t’nir comme il fo!

We also call him “the Spanish Grandee.”
He never gets annoyed.

“A jewel of a corporal!” as Moratin, his layer, always says.

Some of the 26th Artillery have brought back two ammunition wagons abandoned by the enemy at Mangiennes. Painted a dark colour they resembled the old 90 mm. material with which we used to practise when training at Le Mans. They were followed by two large carts, of the usual type used by the Meuse peasantry, long and narrow in build, full of packs, tins, kepis marked 130, camp-kettles already blackened by bivouac fires, belts with brass buckle-plates, and caps with dark stains on them. On the top bristled a heap of bayonets and rifles, red with rust and blood. A large blue flannel sash, sopping wet, hung behind one of the carts, and trailed in the muddy road. These were the wardrobes of the unfortunate infantry killed at Mangiennes.

This spectacle, rendered the more harrowing by the rain, moved us more than all the stories we had heard about last Monday’s fight.

As I was taking some horses down to drink I saw, near the gate of the loopholed cemetery at Azannes, some soldiers who had fallen asleep, stretched out anywhere, exhausted and half undressed. They might have been taken for dead men. That is how I think the fellows killed at Mangiennes must have looked. And those rags conjured up anew a vision of the trenches where they were lined up.

In the absolute silence which for eight days now has reigned all along the line we have almost forgotten the work of death for which we have come here.

At nightfall, after swallowing some hot soup, we returned to our billets, which are in a large barn where it is possible to get a good sleep in the straw. Soldiers of every rank and regiment were swarming in the village, and blue dolmans of the Chasseurs and the red breeches of the Infantry giving a welcome dash of colour to the sombre uniforms of the Artillery and Engineers as they all jostled together in the street. Some of them, carrying in each hand a pailful of water, shouted and swore at the others to let them pass.

It was still raining, and from the manure-heaps by the side of the road thick clouds of steam arose. The cavalrymen had made hoods of their horse-blankets, and many of the foot-soldiers were sheltering their heads and shoulders under sacks of coarse brown canvas which they had found in the barns or wagons. The whole of this muddy multitude was almost silent and solely bent upon getting back to their billets. Almost the only sound was the tramping of many feet in the mire. Four sappers, scaling a ladder to a loft from which hay was crowding out through a dark, wide-open window, looked like a bunch of black grapes hanging in mid-air.

Paul Lintier

Azannes, France

Azannes, France

I was helping Hutin to clean the gun.

“Well, Hutin, war’s a nice sort of show, isn’t it?”

” Well, if it consists in fooling about like this till the 22nd September, when my class will be discharged, I’d rather be in the field than the barracks. We’ve never been so well fed in our lives! If only that lasts! . . .”

“Yes, provided it lasts ! Only, there are Boches here.”

“Who cares?”

“And then, we don’t get many letters.”

“No, that’s true; we don’t get enough,” said Hutin with some bitterness, viciously shoving his sponge through the bore.

And he added: “And as for the letters we write ourselves, we can’t say where we are, nor what we are doing, nor even put a date. What is one to write?”

“Well, I simply say that it is fine and that I am still alive.”

Always the same silence along the lines. That has lasted for days now. What can it mean? For us, pawns on the great chessboard, this waiting is agonizing, and stretches our nerves to that painful tension which one feels sometimes when watching a leaden sky, waiting for the storm to break.

Today I saw General Boelle, whose motor stopped on the road quite close to our camp. He is a man with refined features, of cheerful expression, still youthful-looking despite his white hair and grizzled moustache.

The classic popularity of war trophies has not diminished. Quite a crowd collected round a cyclist who had brought back from Mangiennes two German cowskin bags and a Mauser rifle. It is astonishing how quickly instinct develops in war. All civilization disappears almost at once, and the relations between man and man become primitively direct. One’s first preoccupation is to make oneself respected.

This necessity is not implicitly recognized by all, but every one acts as if he recognized it. Then again, the sense of authority becomes transformed. The authority conferred on the Captain by his rank diminishes, while that which he owes to his character increases in proportion. Authority has, in fact, but one measure: the confidence of the men in the capability of their officer. For this reason our Captain, Bernard de Brisoult, in whom even the densest among us has recognized exceptional intelligence and decision under a great charm of manner and invariable courtesy, exercises, thanks to this confidence, a beneficial influence upon all. And yet his actual personality, as our chief, makes little impression upon, one at first. Captain de Brisoult never commands. He gives his orders in an ordinary conversational tone; but, a man of inborn tact and refinement, he always remains the Captain, even while living with his men upon terms of intimacy. It is hard to say whether he is more loved than respected, or more respected than loved. And soldiers know something about men.

In the rough masculine relations between the artillerymen among themselves there nevertheless remains a place for great friendships, but they become rarer. The ties of simple barrack comradeship either disappear or harden into tacit treaties of real friendship. The mainspring of this is rather egoism than a need of affection. One is vividly conscious of the necessity of having close at hand a man upon whose assistance one can always rely, and to whom one knows one can turn in no matter what circumstances. In the relationships thus solidly established, without any words, a choice is implied; they are not engendered by affinities of character alone. One learns to appreciate in one’s friend his value as a help and also his strength and courage.

Paul Lintier

Azannes, France

Azannes, France

We had started off again at dawn, and now stood waiting for orders. The Captain had sent the battery forward down the lane leading to the main road to Verdun. The horses splashed about in the water running out from a drinking-trough hard by, and spattered us liberally with mud. After waiting till the sun was well up, we unbridled and gave the teams some oats.

Reserve regiments of the Army Corps began to file by — the 301st, 303rd, and 330th. The men were white with dust up to the knees. Stubbly beards of eight days’ growth darkened their faces and gave them a haggard appearance. Their coats, opened in front and folded back under their shoulder-straps, showed ghmpses of hairy chests, the veins in their necks standing out like whipcord under the weight of their packs. These reservists looked grave, resolute, and rather taciturn.

They swung by with a noise like a torrent rushing over pebbles, the sight of our guns bringing a smile of pleasure to their faces.

The foremost battalions climbed up the hill. There were so many men that nothing could be seen of the road, nor even of the red breeches. The moving human ribbon scintillated with reflections cast by kettles, shovels, and picks.

We had filled our water-bags, and some of the soldiers, as they streamed past, replenished their drinking tins from them. Then they strode on, their lips glued to the brims, restraining the swing of their step in order not to lose a drop of the precious liquid.

At last the battery moved on. But it was only to camp at Azannes, about a mile south-east of Ville-devant-Chaumont, where we were hardly any nearer to the enemy. On the road a continual cloud of dust was raised by guns and wagons, motors full of superior officers, and squadrons of cavalry escorting red-tabbed Staffs. The horses were smothered in it, and our dark uniforms soon became grey, while our eyebrows and unshorn chins looked as if they had been powdered. Paris motor-omnibuses, transformed into commissariat wagons, put the final touch as they lumbered by, and left us as white as the road itself.

“Limber up!”


“Limber up, quick now, come along!”

The order was repeated by the N.C.O’s, and the Captain, who passed us spurring his horse, said simply:

“We are going into action.”

Then, followed by the gun-commanders, trumpeters, and battery-leaders, he set off at a gallop.

We passed through Azannes, where we were to have camped. It is a wretched-looking village, full of manure-heaps, and composed of low-built cottages eloquent of the fact that here no one has thought it worth while to undertake building or repair work of any kind. It is not that the surrounding country is barren, but the perpetual threat of war and invasion has nipped all initiative in the bud. The poorer one is the less one has to lose.

After passing Azannes the column lapsed into silence. The road skirted the cemetery, in the walls of which the infantry, at every few yards, had knocked loopholes through which we caught glimpses of graves, chapels, and crosses. At the foot of the walls lay heaps of rubble and mortar. Farther on, near the edge of a wood, the field had been seared by a narrow trench, covered with lopped-off branches bearing withered leaves, and showing up against the fresh green grass like a yellow gash.

In front of the trench barbed wire had been stretched. The enemy, therefore, was presumably not far off.

Amid the monotonous rumble of the carriages we tried to collect our thoughts. The prospect of the first engagement brought with it an apprehension and dread which clamoured for recognition in each man’s mind. There is no denying the fact.

The battery rolled on its way through a large wood. The road, almost blindingly white in the midday sun, formed a striking contrast to the arch-shaped avenues of sombre trees, whose green plumes towered above us at a giddy height.

By the side of the road stood a horse with drooping head and the viscous discharge due to strangles running from his nostrils; he did not even budge as the guns and wagons thundered on their way. It seemed almost a miracle that the bones of the poor beast’s haunches had not broken through his skin. His flanks, heaving spasmodically, seemed to meet behind his ribs, as if they had been emptied of flesh and entrails. He was a pitiful sight. In the shade of a bridle-path yet another abandoned horse was still browsing.

Between two clumps of trees lay a pond bordered by reeds and rushes, its surface shimmering like a silver mirror — an effect which was heightened by the dark woodlands in the background. In the distance the magnificent line of lofty hills which had hidden the horizon from us at Ville-devant-Chaumont, and which we had now flanked, formed an azure setting to the picture. On one side of the road stood a farmhouse. In a small paddock near the flood-gates of the pond we saw a freshly dug grave in the shade of an elder-bush. A cross, roughly fashioned out of a couple of branches tied together, was planted in the newly turned soil, and a ruled leaf torn out of a pocket-book, stuck on to some splinter of the wood, bore a name roughly written in pencil.

On emerging from the forest our batteries, which up to then had been in column of route, rapidly deployed down the side of a long valley, half hidden by the oat-crops, through which infantry, whose presence could only be guessed, caused ripples to flow like those raised by a puff of wind on still water.

Where was the enemy? What were these positions worth, and from what point could they be observed? Was the infantry on ahead protecting us? In a fever of excitement we formed up in battery in a neighbouring meadow. The limbers retired to the rear and took cover in the woods. Brejard at once ordered us to complete the usual protection afforded by the gun-shields and ammunition wagons by piling up large sods of turf which we hacked up with our picks. As far as the eye could reach stretched the motionless oats, like masses of molten metal under a sky of unbroken blue. As the gun-layers could not find as much as a tree or sheaf to serve as an aiming point we had to plant a spade in front of the battery. I should not have suspected the strength of the artillery — more than sixty guns — waiting for the enemy in this field, had I not seen the batteries take up their positions, and had it not been for the observation-ladders upon which, perched like large black insects on the points of so many grass-blades, the gun-commanders were to be seen surveying the land to the north-east.

We were ready for action, and lying behind our guns awaited the word “Fire!” No sound of battle was audible.

A gunnery oflficer brought some order to the Captain, and the latter, waving his kepi, signalled for the limbers to be brought up.

“Hallo! What’s up now?”

” We’re off,” answered Brejard, who had overheard the orders.

“Aren’t the Germans coming then?”

“I don’t know. That officer told the Captain that after this the fourth group would be attached to the seventh division.”

“Well, and what then?”

“Well, the fourth group has got to go.”

“Where ? ”

“Probably to camp at Azannes.”

Rather disappointed at having done nothing we returned westwards by the same road, bathed in an aureole of crimson light cast by the setting sun.

The horse with the strangles was now lying down in the ditch. He was still breathing, and from time to time tossed his head in order to shake off the wasps which collected in yellow clusters round his eyes and nostrils.

We encamped at Azannes, and the horses, tethered under the plum-trees planted in fives, wearied by the march, the dust, and the heat, let me rest and dream away my four hours’ duty.

The night was clear, illuminated by the Verdun searchlights which stretched golden fingers into the sky. A magnificent mid-August night, scintillating with constellations and alive with shooting stars which left long phosphorescent tails behind them.

The moon rose, and with difficulty broke through the dense foliage of the plum-trees. The camp remained dark except for occasional patches of light on the grass and on the backs of the horses as they stood sleeping. My fellow-sentry was lying at the foot of a pear-tree, wrapped in his greatcoat. In front of me the plain was lit up by the moon, and the meadows were veiled in a white mist. Both armies, with fires extinguished, were sleeping or watching each other.

Paul Lintier

Ville-devant-Chaumont, France

Ville-devant-Chaumont, France

The French are fond of heroic legends. I have now found out the truth about the affair in which two battalions were said to have been cut up, and there is not the least resemblance to the highly coloured yarn of the little fox-faced sergeant.

On August 10 the officers of the 130th had not the slightest suspicion that the enemy were so close. A few men were taken by surprise as they were going down to the river, unarmed and half undressed. Immediately afterwards the fight began, and the 130th defended themselves bravely against superior numbers, at first without any support from the artillery, which, having received no orders, remained in its quarters. At last three batteries of the 31st arrived and succeeded in repelling the German attack. We were the victors.

As for Lieutenant X, who, according to the sergeant, had been killed as he stood bare-chested encouraging his men to attack, it appears that, in reality, he fell into the river called the Loison. The chill of the water, together with the excitement of the first brush with the enemy, set up congestion, but he is now reported to be perfectly fit again.

That is fortunate, for he is a valuable officer.

Several of his men, charging too soon, also fell into the river, which flows right across the fields between very low banks. There they remained as if entrenched, with the water up to their waists, and fought as best they could. The flag of the 130th was never even taken out of its oil-skin case.

The whole day was spent in sleeping, cooking, and in bathing in the river. Some of the drivers with their teams were told off to transport the wounded of the 130th to Verdun.

When night fell we stretched ourselves out on the grass under the clear sky and sang in chorus until we gradually fell asleep.

If only those we have left behind anxiously waiting for news could have heard us!

Paul Lintier

Ville-devant-Chaumont, France

Ville-devant-Chaumont, France

The French are fond of heroic legends. I have now found out the truth about the affair in which two battalions were said to have been cut up, and there is not the least resemblance to the highly coloured yarn of the little fox-faced sergeant.

On August 10 the officers of the 130th had not the slightest suspicion that the enemy were so close. A few men were taken by surprise as they were going down to the river, unarmed and half undressed. Immediately afterwards the fight began, and the 130th defended themselves bravely against superior numbers, at first without any support from the artillery, which, having received no orders, remained in its quarters. At last three batteries of the 31st arrived and succeeded in repelling the German attack. We were the victors.

As for Lieutenant X, who, according to the sergeant, had been killed as he stood bare-chested encouraging his men to attack, it appears that, in reality, he fell into the river called the Loison. The chill of the water, together with the excitement of the first brush with the enemy, set up congestion, but he is now reported to be perfectly fit again.

That is fortunate, for he is a valuable officer.

Several of his men, charging too soon, also fell into the river, which flows right across the fields between very low banks. There they remained as if entrenched, with the water up to their waists, and fought as best they could. The flag of the 130th was never even taken out of its oil-skin case.

The whole day was spent in sleeping, cooking, and in bathing in the river. Some of the drivers with their teams were told off to transport the wounded of the 130th to Verdun.

When night fell we stretched ourselves out on the grass under the clear sky and sang in chorus until we gradually fell asleep.

If only those we have left behind anxiously waiting for news could have heard us!

Paul Lintier

Ville-devant-Chaumont, France

Ville-devant-Chaumont, France

Shortly after dawn we were ready to start. Some of the 130th Infantry had arrived at the next village, called Ville-devant-Chaumont, to take up their quarters there. Pending the order to advance I entered into conversation with a little red-haired foxy-faced sergeant:

“Ah,” said he, “so you’re from Mayenne. Well, I don’t know whether many of the 130th will ever get back there. There was a scrap yesterday. . . . Slaughter simply awful! . . . My battalion wasn’t touched, but the two others! . . . There are some companies which don’t count more than ten men, and haven’t a single officer left. . . . It’s their machine-guns which are so frightful. . . . But what the devil can you expect? Two battalions against a whole division!”

“But why didn’t the third battalion join in?”

“Blessed if I know. . . . You never know the reason of these things.”

And he added:

“Some of our chaps were splendid. . . . Lieutenant X, for example. … He jumped up, drew his sword, and opening his tunic he shouted to his men : ” Come on, lads! . . . And he was killed on the spot. . . . The flag? . . . That was taken by the enemy, retaken by one of our captains, and then again captured. Finally, a chap with a good-conduct badge got hold of it, and managed to hide it under a bridge before he died. One of the sections of the 115th found it there. . . . And then the artillery came up at last. . . . Three batteries of the 31st. They soon made the blighters clear off. . . . They abandoned two batteries, what’s more!”

Orders came to unharness. What a heat! Transparent vapours rose from the ground and made the horizon quiver. From time to time we heard the muffled sound of the guns but more often we mistook the noise of the carts on the road for firing. Fleecy white clouds forming above the crests of the hills gave one the impression of shells bursting. For a moment their appearance was most deceptive.

I saw one of the men of the 130th coming back from the firing-line in a wretched condition, without cap, pack, or arms. It seemed wonderful that he should have managed to drag himself so far. With staring, frightened eyes he looked nervously from one side to the other. The gunners surrounded him as he stood there, with bent shoulders and hanging head, but he only answered their questions by-
expressive gestures.

“Done for!” he murmured. “Done for!”

We couldn’t hear anything else. His lips kept moving:

“Done for! . . . Done for!”

Down he flopped in the middle of us, and immediately fell asleep, his mouth wide open and his features contracted as if with pain. Two gunners carried him into a neighbouring barn.

I heard to-day that a priest of Ville-devant-Chaumont had been arrested on a charge of espionage and sent to Verdun.

We availed ourselves of our leisure in order to wash our linen and have a bath in the river. Then, stretched naked on the grass, we waited until the sun had dried our shirts, socks, and underlinen, which lay spread out around us.

Paul Lintier

Charny-sur-Meuse, France

Charny-sur-Meuse, France

At 3 a.m. the grey shadow of a dirigible passed overhead beneath the stars. Friend or enemy?

At daybreak the park began to stir. Men draped in their rugs emerged from between the gun-wheels and from underneath the limbers and stretched themselves, yawning. We set about digging hearths and fetching wood and water, and before long coffee was steaming in the camp kettles.

On the Verdun road infantry regiments — off to the firing-Hne no doubt — were already defiling, the long red-and-blue column rippling like the back of a huge caterpillar. The battalions were hid, for a moment, by the cottages and trees of the village. But farther ahead, on the corn-clad slopes of the hills, one could just distinguish, in spite of the distance, the movements of troops marching on the thin
white ribbon of a road.

We waited for the order to harness.

The meadow in which we had camped for the night sloped down, on the one side, into marshy ground watered by a stream issuing from a mill and running through the rank grass, and was bounded on the other by a rampart of wheat-sheaves. To the east a high hill of symmetrical contour, covered with yellow barley and tawny wheat, gave one the impression of a golden mountain shining in the sun.

Behind the horses tied together in parallel lines the harness made black patches in the grass. Some of us had slept there under our rugs. Saddles, propped up on their pommels, served as pillows to the men, who, half undressed, with bare chests, slept soundly. I would willingly have slept too, for I was tired out with running about all night, but I could not help thinking of my mother, and of the anxiety the news of the hecatombs of Alsace must have caused her. She had no idea of my whereabouts and would be certain to think that I should be in the thick of any fighting in progress.

On the road columns of artillery succeeded the regiments of the Hne. It was nine o’clock, but so far no sound of battle had yet reached us. A driver, shaking his rug, woke me, and I started up. In my turn I roused Deprez, who was sleeping near me. Was it the guns? No, not yet.

Officials news came that the Alsace army, whose headquarters were at Mulhouse, had been defeated by the French in a great battle at Altkirch. The beginning of the Revenge! . . . But there was talk of fifty thousand dead. . . .

Held spellbound by a sort of magnetic fascination Deprez and I riveted our gaze on the lofty line of hills to the east which stood between us and Destiny. Yonder were others like ourselves, masses of men in the plains and in the woods, men who would kill us if we did not kill them.

Overcome by the heat, I allowed my thoughts to dwell on these and similar reflections, and in vain endeavoured to banish from my mind the horrible picture of the fifty thousand men lying dead on the fields of Alsace. Eventually I fell asleep.

They have just killed, by means of a revolver-shot behind the ear, a horse which had broken its leg. The carcass is going to be cut up, and the best portions distributed among the battery detachments. There seems no likelihood of going into action today.

The soup-kettles had been put on the fires. On the side of the hill, where the corn stood in sheaves, the men were building straw huts in which to pass the night.

As the sun sank, damp vapours began to rise from the stream and the marshy ground adjoining it. Side by side on our bed of straw Deprez and I, booted and spurred, our revolver holsters bruising our hips, fell asleep with our faces upturned to the stars, which seemed to shine more brightly than usual in the eastern sky.

Paul Lintier

Charny-sur-Meuse, France

Charny-sur-Meuse, France

The train rumbled on for fifteen to eighteen hours. A long journey like this is best passed as a stable-guard. I made myself comfortable on some shaken-up hay, and, cushioning my head in a well-padded saddle, eventually fell asleep.

The horses, almost all of which were suffering from strangles, slobbered and sneezed over me, and eventually woke me up. It was already day. A thick summer mist was floating over the fields at a man’s height from the ground. The sun, breaking through it in places, lit up myriads of shimmering grass-blades, dripping with dew.

Sitting at the open doors of the vans, their legs dangling over the side, the gunners watched the country flit past. The empty trains passing us in the opposite direction frightened the horses, which neighed and whinnied. No one — not even our officers — knew whither we were bound, and the engine-driver himself said that he didn’t know, but that he was to receive orders on the way.

The Territorials guarding the line greeted us as we passed by holding out their rifles at arm’s length. We waved our whips in answer.

“Morning, old chap!”

“Good luck to you, boys!”

Rheims. First the canal, then a glimpse of the town, and then open country again, with fields of ripe corn yellow in the morning sun. There were only a few sheaves to be seen. The crops were standing almost everywhere, motionless in the heat, casting golden lights on the gently rolling hills and quiet beauty of the countryside. I felt as though I could not see enough of it. In a few days, perhaps, I should no longer be able to see the splendour of the sun-kissed corn and the gorgeous mantle it throws over the symmetrical slopes of the harvest-land hke a drapery of old lace lightly shrouding a graceful Greek form.

The train rolled slowly on towards Verdun. In each village, from the gardens adjoining the railway-line, girls and children threw kisses to us. They threw flowers, too, and, whenever the train stopped, brought us drinks.

It was already dusk when, after passing the interminable sidings and platforms of Verdun, with its huge bakeries installed under green awnings, the train finally came to a standstill at Charny. We had been travelling for more than thirty hours. Before we had finished detraining it was quite dark.

We were crossing the Meuse. The sun had gone down and the river, winding its way between its reedy banks and marshy islands in the afterglow of the crimson western sky, looked as though it was running with blood. Tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, the appearance may have become reality. I do not know why these blood-red reflections in the water affected me so much as this last moment of the evening, but so it was.

Night fell — a clear night, in which I uneasily sought for searchlights among the stars. By the wayside, in one of the army cattle parks, countless herds lay sleeping. The country would have been absolutely still and silent had it not been for the muffled rumble of our column as we marched along. The last reflections of the daylight and the first beams of the moon, just rising in the east, were
welded together in a weird, diffused light.

We were marching eastwards, and, as the road skirted the dark mass of a steep hill, the moon rose clear ahead over the gloomy pine-trees, which stood out like silhouettes on the horizon. Soon the battery entered a dark wood, where the drivers had difficulty in finding the way. Nobody spoke.

Occasionally the moon peeped through the trees, and showed up a horseman. It almost seemed as if the yellow light threw off a palpable golden powder; the brasswork of the equipment and the tin mugs of the men shone as though they were gilded. One man passed, then another, and the shadows, clear cut on the road, seemed to form part of the silhouettes of the horsemen and magnify them. Of the rest of the column, lost in the night of the forest, nothing could be seen.

We had been told that the enemy was not far off, somewhere in the plain stretching beyond the hills. At every cross-roads we were afraid lest we should take the wrong turning and find ourselves in the German lines. Besides, this first march of the campaign, at night-time, had something uncanny about it which scared us a little in spite of ourselves.

The column came to a halt just outside a village. Troops were camping on both sides of the road, and lower down, in one of the fields a gloomy artillery park had been formed. Despite the hour — nearly midnight — the heat was oppressive, and the stars were lightly veiled by a thin mist. The bivouac fires cast flickering shadows of soldiers in varying stages of undress, some of them naked to the waist.

A little farther on, in a meadow where the 10th Battery was already encamped for the night — men and horses lying in the damp grass — we parked our guns.

We had to lie on the bare ground, and between drivers and gunners a competition in cunning at once arose as to who was to have the horse-cloths. Most of the men stretched themselves out under the ammunition wagons and guns, where the dampness of the night was less penetrating. But I was still on stable duty, and had to keep watch on the horses, which were tied side by side to a picket-line stretched between two stakes. The animals not only kicked and bit each other, but their collars kept getting loose, and one or two, succeeding in throwing them off, ambled off into the fields. I spent the night in wild chases. One little black mare in particular led me a dance for several hours, and I only caught her at last by rustling some oats in the bottom of a nose-bag.

Grasping my whip, and wet up to the knees with dew, I had surely fulfilled my task as stable-picket conscientiously.

Paul Lintier

Le Mans, France

Le Mans, France

At last we have received orders to entrain. Our first taste of war has been a sort of flower-show. A crowd of women and grey-haired men were waiting for us under the trees on the other side of the avenue. Children, their tiny arms full of flowers, ran up to us; their mothers waved their hands and smiled. But how sad the smiles of these women were! Their swollen eyes told a tale of tears, and the lines lurking round their lips, despite their smiles, showed that another breakdown was not far off. The younger children — and quite tiny ones came toddling across the street — were obviously finding the day’s proceedings finer than a circus. They laughed and clapped their hands with dehght.

We passed the fag-end of the morning getting the limbers and wagons ready and furbishing up the harness. Twelve o’clock struck. As the hour of departure approached the tumult in the avenue calmed down, and the crowd waiting in the shade became gradually quiet.

There was almost complete silence when the Captain gave the order, in clear resonant tones:


Like an echo there rose from the crowd a loud hurrah, through which I nevertheless distinctly heard two heartrending sobs.

Never was there a brighter August day. The limber-boxes and gun-wheels, the straps and hooks of the harness — even the muzzles of the guns themselves — were festooned with flowers and ribbons, the bright hues of which were blended together in a harmony of colour against the iron-grey background of the guns.

This morning the Captain, Bernard de Brisoult, said to us :

“Take the flowers they offer you, and decorate your guns with them. They are the only send-off the women can give you. And, whatever you do, keep calm! Then they’ll be much braver when you go off.”

The streets, through which we proceeded at a walking pace, were gay with flags and bunting. The departure of the soldiers, many of whom would never return, was attended with a degree of composure and good order which was really admirable. The gunners, sitting motionless on the limber-boxes or walking beside the horses, smiled and laughed merrily as the women by the wayside waved them farewell. We felt moved, of course, but it was rather the emotion of the crowd in the street which affected us than any feeling born in our inner selves.

Entraining was effected easily and expeditiously. As it was very hot, the gunners hoisting the material on to the trucks had discarded their vests, and, with red faces, their shoulders to the gun-wheels, they united their efforts whenever the gun-commanders gave the word “Together!” which was echoed down the whole length of the train. The drivers had great difficulty in getting their teams into the boxes. The old battery horses were used to the manoeuvre, but the commandeered animals resisted obstinately. Girths were slung round them, two by two, and they were hauled by force on to the foot-bridges.

Once in the vans they had to be turned round and backed into position so that four could stand on each side. This operation was ccompanied by a deafening din of iron-shod hoofs on the wooden floors and partitions. The horses once safely installed and secured face to face in their places by picket-lines, the stable-pickets began to arrange the harness and forage in the space between the two lines.

Just as the train was starting I was attacked by a sort of dizziness. Something in my chest seemed to snap, and I felt almost choked by a sudden feeling of weakness and fear. Should I ever come back? Yes! I felt sure of it! And yet, I wonder why I felt so sure!

Connerre-Beille. I am sitting on a truss of hay between my eight horses. At every moment, in spite of my whip, they bite at the forage and nearly pull away my seat. The door of the van is opened wide on the sunny country.