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E. Alexander Powell : FIGHTING IN FLANDERS (1914)

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E. Alexander Powell : FIGHTING IN FLANDERS (1914) - William Heinemann London

Undoubtedly one of the best written and adventurous memoirs about the early days of the war in Belgium. Comical and yet unashamedly heroic, veteran war-journalist E. Alexander Powell along with his sidekick photographer Donald Thompson is present in Belgium from the beginning of the war til the fall of Antwerp in October 1914. Good descriptions of the Siege of Antwerp and encounters with the German army. Gives a first-hand account of the first-ever aerial bombardement of a city. Describes encounters with young Winston Churchill and German generals. Photographer Thompson took many of the now famous photos of events during the siege of Antwerp. This book was one of the first books published on battles and events of the war during the war itself. It was also one of the first best-sellers, going through numerous translations and print-runs in many countries.

Reads like a boy-scout adventure, yet very factual and accurate in his descriptions of places and events. Many photos by Donald Thompson in the book.

Free tip for Hollywood producers, this book is almost custom made for a movie script : laughs and tears galore, high adventure, battles and intrigue, comic relief, dastardly villains, heroic fights and last-minute escapes, heroines and reckless loveable sidekicks, well-known historical figures and more action than you can shake a stick at. And all historically true as well.
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Fighting In Flanders

By E. Alexander Powell

Special Correspondent Of The New York World With The Belgian
Forces In The Field

Author of "The Last Frontier" "Gentlemen Ravers," "The End of the
Trail," "The Road to Glory," etc.

With Illustrations From Photographs By Mr. Donald Thompson

My Friends
The Belgians

"I have eaten your bread and salt;
I have drunk your water and wine;
The deaths you died I have sat beside
And the lives that you led were mine."



I. The War Correspondents
II. The City Of Gloom
III. The Death In The Air
IV. Under The German Eagle
V. With The Spiked Helmets
VI. On The Belgian Battle-Line
VII. The Coming Of The British
VIII. The Fall Of Antwerp


Nothing is more unwise, on general principles, than to attempt to
write about a war before that war is finished and before history has
given it the justice of perspective. The campaign which began with
the flight of the Belgian Government from Brussels and which
culminated in the fall of Antwerp formed, however, a separate and
distinct phase of the Greatest of Wars, and I feel that I should write
of that campaign while its events are still sharp and clear in my
memory and before the impressions it produced have begun to
fade. I hope that those in search of a detailed or technical account
of the campaign in Flanders will not read this book, because they
are certain to be disappointed. It contains nothing about strategy or
tactics and few military lessons can be drawn from it. It is merely the
story, in simple words, of what I, a professional onlooker, who was
accorded rather exceptional facilities for observation, saw in
Belgium during that nation's hour of trial.

An American, I went to Belgium at the beginning of the war with an
open mind. I had few, if any, prejudices. I knew the English, the
French, the Belgians, the Germans equally well. I had friends in all
four countries and many happy recollections of days I had spent in
each. When I left Antwerp after the German occupation I was as
pro-Belgian as though I had been born under the red-black-and-
yellow banner. I had seen a country, one of the loveliest and most
peaceable in Europe, invaded by a ruthless and brutal soldiery; I
had seen its towns and cities blackened by fire and broken by shell;
I had seen its churches and its historic monuments destroyed; I had
seen its highways crowded with hunted, homeless fugitives; I had
seen its fertile fields strewn with the corpses of what had once been
the manhood of the nation; I had seen its women left husbandless
and its children left fatherless; I had seen what was once a Garden
of the Lord turned into a land of desolation; and I had seen its
people--a people whom I, like the rest of the world, had always
thought of as pleasure-loving, inefficient, easy-going--I had seen this
people, I say, aroused, resourceful, unafraid, and fighting, fighting,
fighting. Do you wonder that they captured my imagination, that they
won my admiration? I am pro-Belgian; I admit it frankly. I should be
ashamed to be anything else.

E. Alexander Powell

London, November 1, 1914.
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I. The War Correspondents

War correspondents regard war very much as a doctor regards
sickness. I don't suppose that a doctor is actually glad that people
are sick, but so long as sickness exists in the world he feels that he
might as well get the benefit of it. It is the same with war
correspondents. They do not wish anyone to be killed on their
account, but so long as men are going to be killed anyway, they
want to be on hand to witness the killing and, through the
newspapers, to tell the world about it. The moment that the war
broke out, therefore, a veritable army of British and American
correspondents descended upon the Continent. Some of them were
men of experience and discretion who had seen many wars and
had a right to wear on their jackets more campaign ribbons than
most generals. These men took the war seriously. They were there
to get the news and, at no matter what expenditure of effort and
money, to get that news to the end of a telegraph-wire so that the
people in England and America might read it over their coffee-cups
the next morning. These men had unlimited funds at their disposal;
they had the united influence of thousands of newspapers and of
millions of newspaper-readers solidly behind them; and they carried
in their pockets letters of introduction from editors and ex-presidents
and ambassadors and prime ministers.

Then there was an army corps of special writers, many of them with
well-known names, sent out by various newspapers and magazines
to write "mail stuff," as dispatches which are sent by mail instead of
telegraph are termed, and "human interest" stories. Their
qualifications for reporting the greatest war in history consisted, for
the most part, in having successfully "covered" labour troubles and
murder trials and coronations and presidential conventions, and, in
a few cases, Central American revolutions. Most of the stories which
they sent home were written in comfortable hotel rooms in London
or Paris or Rotterdam or Ostend. One of these correspondents,
however, was not content with a hotel window viewpoint. He wanted
to see some German soldiers--preferably Uhlans. So he obtained a
letter of introduction to some people living in the neighbourhood of
Courtrai, on the Franco-Belgian frontier. He made his way there with
considerable difficulty and received a cordial welcome. The very first
night that he was there a squadron of Uhlans galloped into the town,
there was a slight skirmish, and they galloped out again. The
correspondent, who was a sound sleeper, did not wake up until it
was all over. Then he learned that the Uhlans had ridden under his
very window.

Crossing on the same steamer with me from New York was a well-
known novelist who in his spare time edits a Chicago newspaper.
He was provided with a sheaf of introductions from exalted
personages and a bag containing a thousand pounds in gold coin. It
was so heavy that he had brought a man along to help him carry it,
and at night they took turns in sitting up and guarding it. He confided
to me that he had spent most of his life in trying to see wars, but
though on four occasions he had travelled many thousands of miles
to countries where wars were in progress, each time he had arrived
just after the last shot was fired. He assured me very earnestly that
he would go back to Michigan Boulevard quite contentedly if he
could see just one battle. I am glad to say that his perseverance
was finally rewarded and that he saw his battle. He never told me
just how much of the thousand pounds he took back to Chicago
with him, but from some remarks he let drop I gathered that he had
found battle-hunting an expensive pastime.

One of the great London dailies was represented in Belgium by a
young and slender and very beautiful English girl whose name, as a
novelist and playwright, is known on both sides of the Atlantic. I met
her in the American Consulate at Ghent, where she was pleading
with Vice-Consul Van Hee to assist her in getting through the
German lines to Brussels. She had heard a rumour that Brussels
was shortly going to be burned or sacked or something of the sort,
and she wanted to be on hand for the burning and sacking. She had
arrived in Belgium wearing a London tailor's idea of what constituted
a suitable costume for a war correspondent--perhaps I should say
war correspondentess. Her luggage was a model of compactness: it
consisted of a sleeping-bag, a notebook, half a dozen pencils--and
a powder-puff. She explained that she brought the sleeping-bag
because she understood that war correspondents always slept in
the field. As most of the fields in that part of Flanders were just then
under several inches of water as a result of the autumn rains, a
folding canoe would have been more useful. She was as insistent
on being taken to see a battle as a child is on being taken to the
pantomime. Eventually her pleadings got the better of my judgment
and I took her out in the car towards Alost to see, from a safe
distance, what promised to be a small cavalry engagement. But the
Belgian cavalry unexpectedly ran into a heavy force of Germans,
and before we realized what was happening we were in a very warm
corner indeed. Bullets were kicking up little spurts of dust about us;
bullets were tang-tanging through the trees and clipping off twigs,
which fell down upon our heads; the rat-tat-tat of the German
musketry was answered by the angry snarl of the Belgian machine-
guns; in a field near by the bodies of two recently killed cuirassiers
lay sprawled grotesquely. The Belgian troopers were stretched flat
upon the ground, a veteran English correspondent was giving a
remarkable imitation of the bark on a tree, and my driver, my
photographer and I were peering cautiously from behind the corner
of a brick farmhouse. I supposed that Miss War Correspondent was
there too, but when I turned to speak to her she was gone. She was
standing beside the car, which we had left in the middle of the road
because the bullets were flying too thickly to turn it around, dabbing
at her nose with a powder-puff which she had left in the tonneau
and then critically examining the effect in a pocket-mirror.

"For the love of God!" said I, running out and dragging her back to
shelter, "don't you know that you'll be killed if you stay out here?"

"Will I?" said she, sweetly. "Well, you surely don't expect me to be
killed with my nose unpowdered, do you?"

That evening I asked her for her impressions of her first battle.

"Well," she answered, after a meditative pause, "it certainly was
very chic."

The third and largest division of this journalistic army consisted of
free lances who went to the Continent at their own expense on the
chance of "stumbling into something." About the only thing that any
of them stumbled into was trouble. Some of them bore the most
extraordinary credentials ever carried by a correspondent; some of
them had no credentials at all. One gentleman, who was halted
while endeavouring to reach the firing line in a decrepit cab,
informed the officer before whom he was taken that he represented
the Ladies' Home Journal of Philadelphia. Another displayed a letter
from the editor of a well-known magazine saying that he "would be
pleased to consider any articles which you care to submit." A third,
upon being questioned, said naively that he represented his literary
agent. Then--I almost forgot him--there was a Methodist clergyman
from Boston who explained to the Provost-Marshal that he was
gathering material for a series of sermons on the horrors of war.
Add to this army of writers another army of photographers and war-
artists and cinematograph-operators and you will have some idea of
the problem with which the military authorities of the warring nations
were confronted. It finally got down to the question of which should
be permitted to remain in the field--the war correspondents or the
soldiers. There wasn't room for them both. It was decided to retain
the soldiers.

The general staffs of the various armies handled the war
correspondent problem in different ways. The British War Office
at first announced that under no considerations would any
correspondents be permitted in the areas where British troops were
operating, but such a howl went up from Press and public alike that
this order was modified and it was announced that a limited number
of correspondents, representing the great newspaper syndicates
and press associations, would, after fulfilling certain rigorous
requirements, be permitted to accompany his Majesty's forces in the
field. These fortunate few having been chosen after much heart-
burning, they proceeded to provide themselves with the prescribed
uniforms and field-kits, and some of them even purchased horses.
After the war had been in progress for three months they were still in
London. The French General Staff likewise announced that no
correspondents would be permitted with the armies, and when any
were caught they were unceremoniously shipped to the nearest port
between two unsympathetic gendarmes with a warning that they
would be shot if they were caught again.

The Belgian General Staff made no announcement at all. The police
merely told those correspondents who succeeded in getting into the
fortified position of Antwerp that their room was preferable to their
company and informed them at what hour the next train for the
Dutch frontier was leaving. Now the correspondents knew perfectly
well that neither the British nor the French nor the Belgians would
actually shoot them, if for no other reason than the unfavourable
impression which would be produced by such a proceeding; but
they did know that if they tried the patience of the military authorities
too far they would spend the rest of the war in a military prison. So,
as an imprisoned correspondent is as valueless to the newspaper
which employs him as a prisoner of war is to the nation whose
uniform he wears, they compromised by picking up such information
as they could along the edge of things. Which accounts for most of
the dispatches being dated from Ostend or Ghent or Dunkirk or
Boulogne or from "the back of the front," as one correspondent
ingeniously put it.

As for the Germans, they said bluntly that any correspondents found
within their lines would be treated as spies--which meant being
blindfolded and placed between a stone wall and a firing party. And
every correspondent knew that they would do exactly what they
said. They have no proper respect for the Press, these Germans.

That I was officially recognized by the Belgian Government and
given a laisser-passer by the military Governor of Antwerp
permitting me to pass at will through both the outer and inner lines
of fortifications, that a motor-car and a military driver were placed at
my disposal, and that throughout the campaign in Flanders I was
permitted to accompany the Belgian forces, was not due to any
peculiar merits or qualifications of my own, or even to the influence
exerted by the powerful paper which I represented, but to a series of
unusual and fortunate circumstances which there is no need to
detail here. There were many correspondents who merited from
sheer hard work what I received as a result of extraordinary good

The civilians who were wandering, foot-loose and free, about
the theatre of operations were by no means confined to the
representatives of the Press; there was an amazing number of
young Englishmen and Americans who described themselves as
"attaches" and "consular couriers" and "diplomatic messengers,"
and who intimated that they were engaged in all sorts of dangerous
and important missions. Many of these were adventurous young
men of means who had "come over to see the fun" and who had
induced the American diplomatic representatives in London and
The Hague to give them dispatches of more or less importance--
usually less than more--to carry through to Antwerp and Brussels. In
at least one instance the official envelopes with the big red seals
which they so ostentatiously displayed contained nothing but sheets
of blank paper. Their sole motive was in nearly all cases curiosity.
They had no more business wandering about the war-zone than
they would have had wandering about a hospital where men were
dying. Belgium was being slowly strangled; her villages had been
burned, her fields laid waste, her capital was in the hands of the
enemy, her people were battling for their national existence; yet
these young men came in and demanded first-row seats, precisely
as though the war was a spectacle which was being staged for their
special benefit.

One youth, who in his busy moments practised law in Boston,
though quite frankly admitting that he was only actuated by curiosity,
was exceedingly angry with me because I declined to take him to
the firing-line. He seemed to regard the desperate battle which was
then in progress for the possession of Antwerp very much as
though it was a football game in the Harvard stadium; he seemed
to think that he had a right to see it. He said that he had come all the
way from Boston to see a battle, and when I remained firm in my
refusal to take him to the front he intimated quite plainly that I was
no gentleman and that nothing would give him greater pleasure than
to have a shell explode in my immediate vicinity.

For all its grimness, the war was productive of more than one
amusing episode. I remember a mysterious stranger who called one
morning on the American Consul at Ostend to ask for assistance in
getting through to Brussels. When the Consul asked him to be
seated he bowed stiffly and declined, and when a seat was again
urged upon him he explained, in a hoarse whisper, that sewn in his
trousers were two thousand pounds in bank-notes which he was
taking through to Brussels for the relief of stranded English and
Americans--hence he couldn't very well sit down.

Of all the horde of adventurous characters who were drawn to the
Continent on the outbreak of war as iron-filings are attracted by a
magnet, I doubt if there was a more picturesque figure than a little
photographer from Kansas named Donald Thompson. I met him
first while paying a flying visit to Ostend. He blew into the Consulate
there wearing an American army shirt, a pair of British officer's
riding-breeches, French puttees and a Highlander's forage-cap, and
carrying a camera the size of a parlour-phonograph. No one but an
American could have accomplished what he had, and no American
but one from Kansas. He had not only seen war, all military
prohibitions to the contrary, but he had actually photographed it.

Thompson is a little man, built like Harry Lauder; hard as nails,
tough as raw hide, his skin tanned to the colour of a well-smoked
meerschaum, and his face perpetually wreathed in what he called
his "sunflower smile." He affects riding-breeches and leather
leggings and looks, physically as well as sartorially, as though he
had been born on horseback. He has more chilled steel nerve than
any man I know, and before he had been in Belgium a month his
name became a synonym throughout the army for coolness and
daring. He reached Europe on a tramp-steamer with an overcoat, a
toothbrush, two clean handkerchiefs, and three large cameras. He
expected to have some of them confiscated or broken, he
explained, so he brought along three as a measure of precaution.
His cameras were the largest size made. "By using a big camera no
one can possibly accuse me of being a spy," he explained
ingenuously. His papers consisted of an American passport, a
certificate of membership in the Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks, and a letter from Colonel Sam Hughes, Canadian Minister of
Militia, authorizing him to take pictures of Canadian troops wherever

Thompson made nine attempts to get from Paris to the front. He
was arrested eight times and spent eight nights in guard-houses.
Each time he was taken before a military tribunal. Utterly ignoring
the subordinates, he would insist on seeing the officer in command.
He would grasp the astonished Frenchman by the hand and inquire
solicitously after his health and that of his family.

"How many languages do you speak?" I asked him.

"Three," said he. "English, American, and Yankee."

On one occasion he commandeered a motorcycle standing outside
a cafe and rode it until the petrol ran out, whereupon he abandoned
it by the roadside and pushed on afoot. On another occasion he
explained to the French officer who arrested him that he was
endeavouring to rescue his wife and children, who were in the
hands of the Germans somewhere on the Belgian frontier. The
officer was so affected by the pathos of the story that he gave
Thompson a lift in his car. As a matter of fact, Thompson's wife and
family were quite safe in Topeka, Kansas. Whenever he was
stopped by patrols he would display his letter from the Minister of
Militia and explain that he was trying to overtake the Canadian
troops. "Vive le Canada!" the French would shout enthusiastically.
"Hurrah for our brave allies, les Canadiens! They are doubtless with
the British at the front"--and permit him to proceed. Thompson did
not think it necessary to inform them that the nearest Canadian
troops were still at Quebec.

When within sound of the German guns he was arrested for the
eighth time and sent to Amiens escorted by two gendarmes, who
were ordered to see him aboard the first train for Boulogne. They
evidently considered that they had followed instructions when they
saw him buy a through ticket for London. Shortly after midnight a
train loaded with wounded pulled into the station. Assisted by some
British soldiers, Thompson scrambled to the top of a train standing
at the next platform and made a flashlight picture. A wild panic
ensued in the crowded station. It was thought that a German bomb
had exploded. Thompson was pulled down by the police and would
have been roughly handled had it not been for the interference of
his British friends, who said that he belonged to their regiment.
Shortly afterwards a train loaded with artillery which was being
rushed to the front came in. Thompson, once more aided and
abetted by the British Tommies, slipped under the tarpaulin covering
a field-gun and promptly fell asleep. When he awoke the next
morning he was at Mons. A regiment of Highlanders was passing.
He exchanged a cake of chocolate for a fatigue-cap and fell in with
them. After marching for two hours the regiment was ordered into
the trenches. Thompson went into the trenches too. All through that
terrible day Thompson plied his trade as the soldiers plied theirs.
They used their rifles and he used his camera. Men were shot dead
on either side of him. A storm of shrapnel shrieked and howled
overhead. He said that the fire of the German artillery was
amazingly accurate and rapid. They would concentrate their entire
fire on a single regiment or battery and when that regiment or
battery was out of action they would turn to another and do the
same thing over again. When the British fell back before the
German onset Thompson remained in the trenches long enough to
get pictures of the charging Germans. Then he ran for his life.

That night he bivouacked with a French line regiment, the men
giving him food and a blanket. The next morning he set out for
Amiens en route for England. As the train for Boulogne, packed to
the doors with refugees, was pulling out of the Amiens station, he
noticed a first-class compartment marked "Reserved," the only
occupant being a smartly gowned young woman. Thompson said
that she was very good-looking. The train was moving, but
Thompson took a running jump and dived head-foremost through
the window, landing in the lady's lap. She was considerably startled
until he said that he was an American. That seemed to explain
everything. The young woman proved to be a Russian countesss
who had been living in Paris and who was returning, via England, to
Petrograd. The French Government had placed a compartment at
her disposal, but in the jam at the Paris station she had become
separated from her maid, who had the bag containing her money.
Thompson recounted his adventures at Mons and asked her if she
would smuggle his films into England concealed on her person, as
he knew from previous experience that he would be stopped and
searched by Scotland Yard detectives when the train reached
Boulogne and that, in all probability, the films would be confiscated
or else held up so long that they would be valueless. The countess
finally consented, but suggested, in return for the danger she was
incurring, that Thompson lend her a thousand francs, which she
would return as soon as she reached London. As he had with him
only two hundred and fifty francs, he paid her the balance in United
Cigar Stores coupons, some of which he chanced to have in his
pocket-book, and which, he explained, was American war currency.
He told me that he gave her almost enough to get a briar-pipe. At
Boulogne he was arrested, as he had foreseen, was stripped,
searched and his camera opened, but as nothing was found he was
permitted to continue to London, where he went to the countess's
hotel and received his films--and, I might add, his money and cigar
coupons. Two hours later, having posted his films to America, he
was on his way to Belgium.

Landing at Ostend, he managed to get by train as far as Malines.
He then started to walk the twenty-odd miles into Brussels, carrying
his huge camera, his overcoat, field-glasses, and three hundred
films. When ten miles down the highway a patrol of Uhlans suddenly
spurred out from behind a hedge and covered him with their pistols.
Thompson promptly pulled a little silk American flag out of his
pocket and shouted "Hoch der Kaiser!" and "Auf wiedersehn" which
constituted his entire stock of German. Upon being examined by the
officer in command of the German outpost, he explained that his
Canadian credentials were merely a blind to get through the lines of
the Allies and that he really represented a syndicate of German
newspapers in America, whereupon he was released with apologies
and given a seat in an ambulance which was going into Brussels.
As his funds were by this time running low, he started out to look for
inexpensive lodgings. As he remarked to me, "I thought we had
some pretty big house-agents out in Kansas, but this Mr. 'A. Louer'
has them beaten a mile. Why, that fellow has his card on every
house that's for rent in Brussels!"

The next morning, while chatting with a pretty English girl in front of
a cafe, a German officer who was passing ordered his arrest as a
spy. "All right," said Thompson, "I'm used to being arrested, but
would you mind waiting just a minute until I get your picture?" The
German, who had no sense of humour, promptly smashed the
camera with his sword. Despite Thompson's protestations that he
was an inoffensive American, the Germans destroyed all his films
and ordered him to be out of the city before six that evening. He
walked the thirty miles to Ghent and there caught a train for Ostend
to get one of his reserve cameras, which he had cached there.
When I met him in Ostend he said that he had been there overnight,
that he was tired of a quiet life and was looking for action, so I took
him back with me to Antwerp. The Belgians had made an inflexible
rule that no photographers would be permitted with the army, but
before Thompson had been in Antwerp twenty-four hours he had
obtained permission from the Chief of the General Staff himself to
take pictures when and where he pleased. Thompson remained
with me until the fall of Antwerp and the German occupation, and no
man could have had a more loyal or devoted companion. It is no
exaggeration to say that he saw more of the campaign in Flanders
than any individual, military or civilian--"le Capitaine Thompson," as
he came to be known, being a familiar and popular figure on the
Belgian battle-line.

There is one other person of whom passing mention should be
made, if for no other reason than because his name will appear
from time to time in this narrative. I take pleasure, therefore, in
introducing you to M. Marcel Roos, the young Belgian gentleman
who drove my motor-car. When war was declared, Roos, who
belonged to the jeunesse doree of Brussels, gave his own ninety
horse-power car to the Government and enlisted in a regiment of
grenadiers. Because he was as familiar with the highways and
byways of Belgium as a housewife is with her kitchen, and because
he spoke English, French, Flemish and German, he was detailed to
drive the car which the Belgian Government placed at my disposal.
He was as big and loyal and good-natured as a St. Bernard dog and
he was as cool in danger as Thompson--which is the highest
compliment I can pay him. Incidentally, he was the most successful
forager that I have ever seen; more than once, in villages which had
apparently been swept clean of everything edible by the Belgians or
the Germans, he produced quite an excellent dinner as mysteriously
as a conjuror produces rabbits from a hat.

Now you must bear in mind that although one could get into
Antwerp with comparative ease, it by no means followed that one
could get out to the firing-line. A long procession of correspondents
came to Antwerp and remained a day or so and then went away
again without once getting beyond the city gates. Even if one
succeeded in obtaining the necessary laisser-passer from the
military Government, there was no way of reaching the front, as all
the automobiles and all except the most decrepit horses had been
requisitioned for the use of the army. There was, you understand,
no such thing as hiring an automobile, or even buying one. Even the
few people who had influence enough to retain their cars found
them useless, as one of the very first acts of the military authorities
was to commandeer the entire supply of petrol. The bulk of the cars
were used in the ambulance service or for purposes of transport,
the army train consisting entirely of motor vehicles. Staff officers,
certain Government officials, and members of the diplomatic and
consular corps were provided by the Government with automobiles
and military drivers. Every one else walked or used the trams. Thus
it frequently happened that a young staff officer, who had never
before known the joys of motoring, would tear madly down the street
in a luxurious limousine, his spurred boots resting on the broadcloth
cushions, while the ci-devant owner of the car, who might be a
banker or a merchant prince, would jump for the side-walk to
escape being run down. With the declaration of war and the taking
over of all automobiles by the military, all speed laws were flung to
the winds.

No matter how unimportant his business, every one tore through the
city streets as though the devil (or the Germans) were behind him.
The staid citizens of Antwerp quickly developed a remarkably agility
in getting out of the way of furiously driven cars. They had to.
Otherwise they would have been killed.

Because, from the middle of August to the middle of October,
Antwerp was the capital of Belgium and the seat of the King,
Cabinet, and diplomatic corps; because from it any point on the
battle-front could easily be reached by motor-car; and because,
above all else, it was at the end of the cable and the one place in
Belgium where there was any certainty of dispatches getting
through to England, I made it my headquarters during the
operations in Flanders, going out to the front in the morning and
returning to the Hotel St. Antoine at night. I doubt if war
correspondence has ever been carried on under such comfortable,
even luxurious, conditions. "Going out to the front" became as
commonplace a proceeding as for a business man to take the
morning train to the city. For one whose previous campaigning had
been done in Persia, Mexico and North Africa and the Balkans, it
was a novel experience to leave a large and fashionable hotel after
breakfast, take a run of twenty or thirty miles over stone-paved
roads in a powerful and comfortable car, witness a battle--provided,
of course, that there happened to be a battle on that day's list of
events--and get back to the hotel in time to dress for dinner.
Imagine it, if you please! Imagine leaving a line of battle, where
shells were shrieking overhead and musketry was crackling along
the trenches, and moaning, blood-smeared figures were being
placed in ambulances, and other blood-smeared figures who no
longer moaned were sprawled in strange attitudes upon the ground
--imagine leaving such a scene, I say, and in an hour, or even less,
finding oneself in a hotel where men and women in evening dress
were dining by the light of pink-shaded candles, or in the marble-
paved palm court were sipping coffee and liqueurs to the sound of
water splashing gently in a fountain.
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II. The City Of Gloom

In order to grasp the true significance of the events which preceded
and led up to the fall of Antwerp, it is necessary to understand the
extraordinary conditions which existed in and around that city when I
reached there in the middle of August. At that time all that was left to
the Belgians of Belgium were the provinces of Limbourg, Antwerp,
and East and West Flanders. Everything else was in the possession
of the Germans. Suppose, for the sake of, having things quite clear,
that you unfold the map of Belgium. Now, with your pencil, draw a
line across the country from east to west, starting at the Dutch city of
Maastricht and passing through Hasselt, Diest, Aerschot, Malines,
Alost, and Courtrai to the French frontier. This line was, roughly
speaking, "the front," and for upwards of two months fighting of a
more or less serious character took place along its entire length.
During August and the early part of September this fighting
consisted, for the most part, of attempts by the Belgian field army to
harass the enemy and to threaten his lines of communication and of
counter-attacks by the Germans, during which Aerschot, Malines,
Sempst, and Termonde repeatedly changed hands. Some twenty
miles or so behind this line was the great fortified position of
Antwerp, its outer chain of forts enclosing an area with a radius of
nearly fifteen miles.

Antwerp, with its population of four hundred thousand souls, its
labyrinth of dim and winding streets lined by mediaeval houses, and
its splendid modern boulevards, lies on the east bank of the
Scheldt, about fifteen miles from Dutch territorial waters, at a
hairpin-turn in the river. The defences of the city were modern,
extensive, and generally believed, even by military experts, to be
little short of impregnable. In fact, Antwerp was almost universally
considered one of the three or four strongest fortified positions in
Europe. In order to capture the city it would be necessary for an
enemy to break through four distinct lines of defence, any one of
which, it was believed, was strong enough to oppose successfully
any force which could be brought against it. The outermost line of
forts began at Lierre, a dozen miles to the south-east of the city,
and swept in a great quarter-circle, through Wavre-St. Catherine,
Waelhem, Heyndonck and Willebroeck, to the Scheldt at Ruppelmonde.

Two or three miles behind this outer line of forts a
second line of defence was formed by the Ruppel and the Nethe,
which, together with the Scheldt, make a great natural waterway
around three sides of the city. Back of these rivers, again, was a
second chain of forts completely encircling the city on a five-mile
radius. The moment that the first German soldier set his foot on
Belgian soil the military authorities began the herculean task of
clearing of trees and buildings a great zone lying between this inner
circle of forts and the city ramparts in order that an investing force
might have no cover. It is estimated that within a fortnight the
Belgian sappers and engineers destroyed property to the value of
£16,000,000. Not San Francisco after the earthquake, nor Dayton
after the flood, nor Salem after the fire presented scenes of more
complete desolation than did the suburbs of Antwerp after the
soldiers had finished with them.

On August 1, 1914, no city in all Europe could boast of more
beautiful suburbs than Antwerp. Hidden amid the foliage of great
wooded parks were stately chateaux; splendid country-houses rose
from amid acres of green plush lawns and blazing gardens; the
network of roads and avenues and bridle-paths were lined with
venerable trees, whose branches, meeting overhead, formed leafy
tunnels; scattered here and there were quaint old-world villages,
with plaster walls and pottery roofs and lichen-covered church
spires. By the last day of August all this had disappeared. The
loveliest suburbs in Europe had been wiped from the earth as a
sponge wipes figures from a slate. Every house and church and
windmill, every tree and hedge and wall, in a zone some two or
three miles wide by twenty long, was literally levelled to the ground.
For mile after mile the splendid trees which lined the highroads were
ruthlessly cut down; mansions which could fittingly have housed a
king were dynamited; churches whose walls had echoed to the
tramp of the Duke of Alba's mail-clad men-at-arms were levelled;
villages whose picturesqueness was the joy of artists and travellers
were given over to the flames. Certainly not since the burning of
Moscow has there been witnessed such a scene of self-inflicted
desolation. When the work of the engineers was finished a jack-
rabbit could not have approached the forts without being seen.
When the work of levelling had been completed, acres upon acres
of barbed-wire entanglements were constructed, the wires being
grounded and connected with the city lighting system so that a
voltage could instantly be turned on which would prove as deadly as
the electric chair at Sing Sing. Thousands of men were set to work
sharpening stakes and driving these stakes, point upward, in the
ground, so as to impale any soldiers who fell upon them. In front of
the stakes were "man-traps," thousands of barrels with their heads
knocked out being set in the ground and then covered with a thin
layer of laths and earth, which would suddenly give way if a man
walked upon it and drop him into the hole below. And beyond the
zones of entanglements and chevaux de frise and man-traps the
beet and potato-fields were sown with mines which were to be
exploded by electricity when the enemy was fairly over them, and
blow that enemy, whole regiments at a time, into eternity. Stretching
across the fields and meadows were what looked at first glance like
enormous red-brown serpents but which proved, upon closer
inspection, to be trenches for infantry. The region to the south of
Antwerp is a network of canals, and on the bank of every canal
rose, as though by magic, parapets of sandbags. Charges of
dynamite were placed under every bridge and viaduct and tunnel.
Barricades of paving-stones and mattresses and sometimes farm
carts were built across the highways. At certain points wires were
stretched across the roads at the height of a man's head for the
purpose of preventing sudden dashes by armoured motor-cars. The
walls of such buildings as were left standing were loopholed
for musketry. Machine-guns and quick-firers were mounted
everywhere. At night the white beams of the searchlights swept this
zone of desolation and turned it into day. Now the pitiable thing
about it was that all this enormous destruction proved to have been
wrought for nothing, for the Germans, instead of throwing huge
masses of infantry against the forts, as it was anticipated that they
would do, and thus giving the entanglements and the mine-fields
and the machine-guns a chance to get in their work, methodically
pounded the forts to pieces with siege-guns stationed a dozen miles
away. In fact, when the Germans entered Antwerp not a strand of
barbed wire had been cut, not a barricade defended, not a mine
exploded. This, mind you, was not due to any lack of bravery on the
part of the Belgians--Heaven knows, they did not lack for that !--but
to the fact that the Germans never gave them a chance to make
use of these elaborate and ingenious devices. It was like a man
letting a child painstakingly construct an edifice of building-blocks
and then, when it was completed, suddenly sweeping it aside with
his hand.

As a result of these elaborate precautions, it was as difficult to go in
or out of Antwerp as it is popularly supposed to be for a millionaire to
enter the kingdom of Heaven. Sentries were as thick as policemen
in Piccadilly. You could not proceed a quarter of a mile along any
road, in any direction, without being halted by a harsh "Qui vive?"
and having the business end of a rifle turned in your direction. If
your papers were not in order you were promptly turned back--or
arrested as a suspicious character and taken before an officer for
examination--though if you were sufficiently in the confidence of the
military authorities to be given the password, you were usually
permitted to pass without further question. It was some time before I
lost the thrill of novelty and excitement produced by this halt-who-
goes-there-advance-friend-and-give-the-countersign business. It
was so exactly the sort of thing that, as a boy, I used to read about
in books by George A. Henty that it seemed improbable and unreal.
When we were motoring at night and a peremptory challenge would
come from out the darkness and the lamps of the car would pick out
the cloaked figure of the sentry as the spotlight picks out the figure
of an actor on the stage, and I would lean forward and whisper the
magic mot d'ordre, I always had the feeling that I was taking part in
a play-which was not so very far from the truth, for, though I did not
appreciate it at the time, we were all actors, more or less important,
in the greatest drama ever staged.

In the immediate vicinity of Antwerp the sentries were soldiers of the
regular army and understood a sentry's duties, but in the outlying
districts, particularly between Ostend and Ghent, the roads were
patrolled by members of the Garde civique, all of whom seemed
imbued with the idea that the safety of the nation depended upon
their vigilance, which was a very commendable and proper attitude
indeed. When I was challenged by a Garde civique I was always a
little nervous, and wasted no time whatever in jamming on the
brakes, because the poor fellows were nearly always excited and
handled their rifles in a fashion which was far from being reassuring.
More than once, while travelling in the outlying districts, we were
challenged by civil guards who evidently had not been entrusted
with the password, but who, when it was whispered to them, would
nod their heads importantly and tell us to pass on.

"The next sentry that we meet," I said to Roos on one of these
occasions, "probably has no idea of the password. I'll bet you a box
of cigars that I can give him any word that comes into my head and
that he won't know the difference."

As we rolled over the ancient drawbridge which gives admittance to
sleepy Bruges, a bespectacled sentry, who looked as though he
had suddenly been called from an accountant's desk to perform the
duties of a soldier, held up his hand, palm outward, which is the
signal to stop the world over.

"Halt!" he commanded quaveringly. "Advance slowly and give the

I leaned out as the car came opposite him. "Kalamazoo," I
whispered. The next instant I was looking into the muzzle of his rifle.

"Hands up!" he shouted, and there was no longer any quaver in his
voice. "That is not the word. I shouldn't be surprised if you were
German spies. Get out of the car!"

It took half an hour of explanations to convince him that we were not
German spies, that we really did know the password, and that we
were merely having a joke--though not, as we had planned, at his

The force of citizen soldiery known as the Garde civique has, so far
as I am aware, no exact counterpart in any other country. It is
composed of business and professional men whose chief duties,
prior to the war, had been to show themselves on occasions of
ceremony arrayed in gorgeous uniforms, which varied according to
the province. The mounted division of the Antwerp Garde civique
wore a green and scarlet uniform which resembled as closely as
possible that of the Guides, the crack cavalry corps of the Belgian
army. In the Flemish towns the civil guards wore a blue coat, so
long in the skirts that it had to be buttoned back to permit of their
walking, and a hat of stiff black felt, resembling a bowler, with a
feather stuck rakishly in the band. Early in the war the Germans
announced that they would not recognize the Gardes civique as
combatants, and that any of them who were captured while fighting
would meet with the same fate as armed civilians. This drastic ruling
resulted in many amusing episodes. When it was learned that
the Germans were approaching Ghent, sixteen hundred civil
guardsmen threw their rifles into the canal and, stripping off their
uniforms, ran about in the pink and light-blue under-garments which
the Belgians affect, frantically begging the townspeople to lend them
civilian clothing. As a whole, however, these citizen-soldiers did
admirable service, guarding the roads, tunnels and bridges,
assisting the refugees, preserving order in the towns, and, in
Antwerp, taking entire charge of provisioning the army.

No account of Antwerp in war time would be complete without at
least passing mention of the boy scouts, who were one of the city's
most picturesque and interesting features. I don't quite know how
the city could have got along without them. They were always on the
job; they were to be seen everywhere and they did everything.
They acted as messengers, as doorkeepers, as guides, as orderlies
for staff officers, and as couriers for the various ministries; they ran
the elevators in the hotels, they worked in the hospitals, they
assisted the refugees to find food and lodgings. The boy scouts
stationed at the various ministries were on duty twenty-four hours at
a stretch. They slept rolled up in blankets on the floors; they
obtained their meals where and when they could and paid for them
themselves, and made themselves extremely useful. If you
possessed sufficient influence to obtain a motor-car, a boy scout
was generally detailed to sit beside the driver and open the door
and act as a sort of orderly. I had one. His name was Joseph. He
was most picturesque. He wore a sombrero with a cherry-coloured
puggaree and a bottle-green cape, and his green stockings turned
over at the top so as to show knees as white and shapely as those
of a woman. To tell the truth, however, I had nothing for him to do.
So when I was not out in the car he occupied himself in running the
lift at the Hotel St. Antoine. Joseph was with me during the German
attack on Waelhem. We were caught in a much hotter place than
we intended and for half an hour were under heavy shrapnel fire. I
was curious to see how the youngster--for he was only fourteen--
would act. Finally he turned to me, his black eyes snapping with
excitement. "Have I your permission to go a little nearer, monsieur?"
he asked eagerly. "I won't be gone long. I only want to get a
German helmet." It may have been the valour of ignorance which
these broad-hatted, bare-kneed boys displayed, but it was the sort
of valour which characterized every Belgian soldier. There was one
youngster of thirteen who was attached to an officer of the staff and
who was present at every battle of importance from the evacuation
of Brussels to the fall of Antwerp. I remember seeing him during the
retreat of the Belgians from Wesemael, curled up in the tonneau of
a car and sleeping through all the turmoil and confusion. I felt like
waking him up and saying sternly, "Look here, sonny, you'd better
trot on home. Your mother will be worried to death about you." I
believe that four Belgian boy scouts gave up their lives in the
service of their country. Two were run down and killed by
automobiles while on duty in Antwerp. Two others were, I
understand, shot by German troops near Brussels while attempting
to carry dispatches through the lines. One boy scout became so
adept at this sort of work that he was regularly employed by the
Government to carry messages through to its agents in Brussels.
His exploits would provide material for a boy's book of adventure
and, as a fitting conclusion, he was decorated by the King.

Anyone who went to Belgium with hard-and-fast ideas as to social
distinctions quickly had them shattered. The fact that a man wore a
private's uniform and sat behind the steering-wheel of your car and
respectfully touched his cap when you gave him an order did not
imply that he had always been a chauffeur. Roos, who drove my car
throughout my stay in Belgium, was the son of a Brussels
millionaire, and at the beginning of hostilities had, as I think I have
mentioned elsewhere, promptly presented his own powerful car to
the Government. The aristocracy of Belgium did not hang around
the Ministry of War trying to obtain commissions. They simply
donned privates' uniforms, and went into the firing-line. As a result
of this wholehearted patriotism the ranks of the Belgian army were
filled with men who were members of the most exclusive clubs and
were welcome guests in the highest social circles in Europe. Almost
any evening during the earlier part of the war a smooth-faced youth
in the uniform of a private soldier could have been seen sitting amid
a group of friends at dinner in the Hotel St. Antoine. When an officer
entered the room he stood up and clicked his heels together and
saluted. He was Prince Henri de Ligne, a member of one of the
oldest and most distinguished families in Belgium and related to half
the aristocracy of Europe. He, poor boy, was destined never again
to follow the hounds or to lead a cotillion; he was killed near
Herenthals with young Count de Villemont and Philippe de Zualart
while engaged in a daring raid in an armoured motorcar into the
German lines for the purpose of blowing up a bridge.

When, upon the occupation of Brussels by the Germans, the capital
of Belgium was hastily transferred to Antwerp, considerable difficulty
was experienced in finding suitable accommodation for the staffs of
the various ministries, which were housed in any buildings which
happened to be available at the time. Thus, the foreign relations of
the nation were directed from a school-building in the Avenue du
Commerce--the Foreign Minister, Monsieur Davignon, using as his
Cabinet the room formerly used for lectures on physiology, the walls
of which were still covered with blackboards and anatomical charts.
The Grand Hotel was taken over by the Government for the
accommodation of the Cabinet Ministers and their staffs, while the
ministers of State and the members of the diplomatic corps were
quartered at the St. Antoine. In fact, it used to be said in fun that if
you got into difficulties with the police all you had to do was to get
within the doors of the hotel, where you would be safe, for half of the
ground floor was technically British soil, being occupied by the
British Legation; a portion of the second floor was used by the
Russian Legation; if you dashed into a certain bedroom you could
claim Roumanian protection, and in another you were, theoretically,
in Greece; while on the upper floor extra-territoriality was exercised
by the Republic of China. Every evening all the ministers and
diplomats met in the big rose-and-ivory dining-room--the white shirt-
fronts of the men and the white shoulders of the women, with the
uniforms of the Belgian officers and of the British, French and
Russian military attaches, combining to form a wonderfully brilliant
picture. Looking on that scene, it was hard to believe that by
ascending to the roof of the hotel you could see the glare of burning
villages and hear the boom of German cannon.

As the siege progressed and the German lines were drawn tighter,
the military regulations governing life in Antwerp increased in
severity. The local papers were not permitted to print any accounts
of Belgian checks or reverses, and at one time the importation of
English newspapers was suspended. Sealed letters were not
accepted by the post office for any foreign countries save England,
Russia and France, and even these were held four days before
being forwarded. Telegrams were, of course, rigidly censored. The
telephone service was suspended save for governmental purposes.
At eight o'clock the trams stopped running. Save for a few
ramshackle vehicles, drawn by decrepit horses, the cabs had
disappeared from the streets. The city went spy-mad. If a man
ordered Sauerkraut and sausage for lunch he instantly fell under
suspicion. Scarcely a day passed without houses being raided and
their occupants arrested on the charge of espionage. It was
reported and generally believed that those whose guilt was proved
were promptly executed outside the ramparts, but of this I have my
doubts. The Belgians are too good-natured, too easy-going. It is
probable, of course, that some spies were executed, but certainly
not many.

One never stirred out of doors in Antwerp without one's papers,
which had to be shown before one could gain admission to the post
office, the telegraph bureau, the banks, the railway stations, or any
other public buildings. There were several varieties of "papers."
There was the plain passport which, beyond establishing your
nationality, was not worth the paper it was written on. There was the
permis de sejour, which was issued by the police to those who were
able to prove that they had business which necessitated their
remaining in the city. And finally, there was the much-prized laisser-
passer which was issued by the military government and usually
bore the photograph of the person to whom it was given, which
proved an open sesame wherever shown, and which, I might add,
was exceedingly difficult to obtain.

Only once did my laisser-passer fail me. During the final days of the
siege, when the temper and endurance of the Belgian defenders
were strained almost to the breaking-point, I motored out to witness
the German assault on the forts near Willebroeck. With me were
Captain Raymond Briggs of the United States army and Thompson.
Before continuing to the front we took the precaution of stopping at
division headquarters in Boom and asking if there was any objection
to our proceeding; we were informed that there was none. We had
not been on the firing-line half an hour, however, before two
gendarmes came tearing up in a motor-car and informed us that we
were under arrest and must return with them to Boom. At division
headquarters we were interrogated by a staff major whose temper
was as fiery as his hair. Thompson, as was his invariable custom,
was smoking a very large and very black cigar.

"Take that cigar out of your mouth!" snapped the major in French.
"How dare you smoke in my presence?"

"Sorry, major," said Thompson, grinning broadly, "but you'll have to
talk American. I don't understand French."

"Stop smiling!" roared the now infuriated officer. "How dare you
smile when I address you? This is no time for smiling, sir! This is a
time of war!"

Though the major was reluctantly forced to admit that our papers
were in order, we were nevertheless sent to staff headquarters in
Antwerp guarded by two gendarmes, one of whom was the bearer
of a dossier in which it was gravely recited that Captain Briggs and I
had been arrested while in the company of a person calling himself
Donald Thompson, who was charged by the chief of staff with
having smiled and smoked a cigar in his presence. Needless to say,
the whole opera-bouffe affair was promptly disavowed by the higher
authorities. I have mentioned the incident because it was the sole
occasion on which I met with so much as a shadow of discourtesy
from any Belgian, either soldier or civilian. I doubt if in any other
country in the world in time of war, a foreigner would have been
permitted to go where and when he pleased, as I was, and would
have met with hospitality and kindness from every one.

The citizens of Antwerp hated the Germans with a deeper and more
bitter hatred, if such a thing were possible, than the people of any
other part of Belgium. This was due to the fact that in no foreign city
where Germans dwelt and did business were they treated with such
marked hospitality and consideration as in Antwerp. They had been
given franchises and concessions and privileges of every
description; they had been showered with honours and decorations;
they were welcome guests on every occasion; city streets had
been named after leading German residents; time and time again,
both at private dinners and public banquets, they had asserted,
wineglass in hand, their loyalty and devotion to the city which was
their home. Yet, the moment opportunity offered, they did not scruple
to betray it. In the cellar of the house belonging to one of the most
prominent German residents the police found large stores
of ammunition and hundreds of rifles and German uniforms. A
German company had, as a result of criminal stupidity, been
awarded the contract for wiring the forts defending the city--and
when the need arose it was found that the wiring was all but
worthless. A wealthy German had a magnificent country estate the
gardens of which ran down to the moat of one of the outlying forts.
One day he suggested to the military authorities that if they would
permit him to obtain the necessary water from the moat, he would
build a swimming-pool in his garden for the use of the soldiers.
What appeared to be a generous offer was gladly accepted--but
when the day of action came it was found that the moat had been
drained dry. In the grounds of another country place were
discovered concrete emplacements for the use of the German
siege-guns. Thus the German residents repaid the hospitality of
their adopted city.

When the war-cloud burst every German was promptly expelled
from Antwerp. In a few cases the mob got out of hand and smashed
the windows of some German saloons along the water-front, but no
Germans were injured or mistreated. They were merely shipped,
bag and baggage, across the frontier. That, in my opinion at least, is
what should have been done with the entire civil population of
Antwerp--provided, of course, that the Government intended to hold
the city at all costs. The civilians seriously hampered the
movements of the troops and thereby interfered with the defence;
the presence of large numbers of women and children in the city
during the bombardment unquestionably caused grave anxiety to
the defenders and was probably one of the chief reasons for the
evacuation taking place when it did; the masses of civilian fugitives
who choked the roads in their mad flight from Antwerp were in large
measure responsible for the capture of a considerable portion of the
retreating Belgian army and for the fact that other bodies of troops
were driven across the frontier and interned in Holland. So strongly
was the belief that Antwerp was impregnable implanted in every
Belgian's mind, however, that up to the very last not one citizen in a
thousand would admit that there was a possibility that it could be
taken. The army did not believe that it could be taken. The General
Staff did not believe that it could be taken. They were destined to
have a rude and sad awakening.
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III. The Death In The Air

At eleven minutes past one o'clock on the morning of August 25
death came to Antwerp out of the air. Some one had sent a bundle
of English and American newspapers to my room in the Hotel St.
Antoine and I had spent the evening reading them, so that the bells
of the cathedral had already chimed one o'clock when I switched off
my light and opened the window. As I did so my attention was
attracted by a curious humming overhead, like a million
bumblebees. I leaned far out of the window, and as I did so an
indistinct mass, which gradually resolved itself into something
resembling a gigantic black cigar, became plainly apparent against
the purple-velvet sky. I am not good at estimating altitudes, but I
should say that when I first caught sight of it it was not more than a
thousand feet above my head--and my room was on the top floor of
the hotel, remember. As it drew nearer the noise, which had at first
reminded me of a swarm of angry bees, grew louder, until it
sounded like an automobile with the muffler open. Despite the
darkness there was no doubting what it was. It was a German

Even as I looked something resembling a falling star curved across
the sky. An instant later came a rending, shattering crash that shook
the hotel to its foundations, the walls of my room rocked and reeled,
about me, and for a breathless moment I thought that the building
was going to collapse. Perhaps thirty seconds later came another
splitting explosion, and another, and then another--ten in all--each,
thank Heaven, a little farther removed. It was all so sudden, so
utterly unexpected, that it must have been quite a minute before I
realized that the monstrous thing hovering in the darkness overhead
was one of the dirigibles of which we had read and talked so much,
and that it was actually raining death upon the sleeping city from the
sky. I suppose it was blind instinct that caused me to run to the door
and down the corridor with the idea of getting into the street, never
stopping to reason, of course, that there was no protection in the
street from Zeppelins. But before I had gone a dozen paces I had
my nerves once more in hand. "Perhaps it isn't a Zeppelin, after all,"
I argued to myself. "I may have been dreaming. And how perfectly
ridiculous I should look if I were to dash downstairs in my pyjamas
and find that nothing had happened. At least I'll go back and put
some clothes on." And I did. No fireman, responding to a night
alarm, ever dressed quicker. As I ran through the corridors the
doors of bedrooms opened and sleepy-eyed, tousle-headed
diplomatists and Government officials called after me to ask if the
Germans were bombarding the city.

"They are," I answered, without stopping. There was no time to
explain that for the first time in history a city was being bombarded
from the air.

I found the lobby rapidly filling with scantily clad guests, whose teeth
were visibly chattering. Guided by the hotel manager and
accompanied by half a dozen members of the diplomatic corps in
pyjamas, I raced upstairs to a sort of observatory on the hotel roof. I
remember that one attache of the British Legation, ordinarily a most
dignified person, had on some sort of a night-robe of purple silk and
that when he started to climb the iron ladder of the fire-escape he
looked for all the world like a burglarious suffragette.

By the time we reached the roof of the hotel Belgian high-angle and
machine-guns were stabbing the darkness with spurts of flame, the
troops of the garrison were blazing away with rifles, and the
gendarmes in the streets were shooting wildly with their revolvers:
the noise was deafening. Oblivious of the consternation and
confusion it had caused, the Zeppelin, after letting fall a final bomb,
slowly rose and disappeared in the upper darkness.

The destruction wrought by the German projectiles was almost
incredible. The first shell, which I had seen fall, struck a building in
the Rue de la Bourse, barely two hundred yards in a straight line
from my window. A hole was not merely blown through the roof, as
would have been the case with a shell from a field-gun, but the three
upper stories simply crumbled, disintegrated, came crashing down
in an avalanche of brick and stone and plaster, as though a Titan
had hit it with a sledge-hammer. Another shell struck in the middle of
the Poids Public, or public weighing-place, which is about the size of
Russell Square in London. It blew a hole in the cobblestone-
pavement large enough to bury a horse in; one policeman on duty
at the far end of the square was instantly killed and another had
both legs blown off. But this was not all nor nearly all. Six people
sleeping in houses fronting on the square were killed in their beds
and a dozen others were more or less seriously wounded. Every
building facing on the square was either wholly or partially
demolished, the steel splinters of the projectile tearing their way
through the thick brick-walls as easily as a lead-pencil is jabbed
through a sheet of paper. And, as a result of the terrific concussion,
every house within a hundred yards of the square in every direction
had its windows broken. On no battlefield have I ever seen so
horrible a sight as that which turned me weak and nauseated when I
entered one of the shattered houses and made my way, over heaps
of fallen debris, to a room where a young woman had been
sleeping. She had literally been blown to fragments. The floor, the
walls, the ceiling, were splotched with--well, it's enough to say that
that woman's remains could only have been collected with a shovel.
In saying this, I am not speaking flippantly either. I have dwelt upon
these details, revolting as they are, because I wish to drive home
the fact that the only victims of this air-raid on Antwerp were
innocent non-combatants.

Another shell struck the roof of a physician's house in the
fashionable Rue des Escrimeurs, killing two maids who were
sleeping in a room on the upper floor. A shell fell in a garden in the
Rue von Bary, terribly wounding a man and his wife. A little child
was mangled by a shell which struck a house in the Rue de la
Justice. Another shell fell in the barracks in the Rue Falcon, killing
one inmate and wounding two others. By a fortunate coincidence
the regiment which had been quartered in the barracks had left for
the front on the previous day. A woman who was awakened by the
first explosion and leaned from her window to see what was
happening had her head blown off. In all ten people were killed, six
of whom were women, and upwards of forty wounded, two of them
so terribly that they afterwards died. There is very little doubt that a
deliberate attempt was made to kill the royal family, the General
Staff and the members of the Government, one shell bursting within
a hundred yards of the royal palace, where the King and Queen
were sleeping, and another within two hundred yards of staff
headquarters and the Hotel St. Antoine.

As a result of this night of horror, Antwerp, to use an inelegant but
descriptive expression, developed a violent case of the jim-jams.
The next night and every night thereafter until the Germans came in
and took the city, she thought she saw things; not green rats and
pink snakes, but large, sausage-shaped balloons with bombs
dropping from them. The military authorities--for the city was under
martial law--screwed down the lid so tight that even the most rabid
prohibitionists and social reformers murmured. As a result of the
precautionary measures which were taken, Antwerp, with its four
hundred thousand inhabitants, became about as cheerful a place of
residence as a country cemetery on a rainy evening. At eight o'clock
every street light was turned off, every shop and restaurant and cafe
closed, every window darkened. If a light was seen in a window after
eight o'clock the person who occupied that room was in grave
danger of being arrested for signalling to the enemy. My room,
which was on the third floor of the hotel, was so situated that its
windows could not be seen from the street, and hence I was not as
particular about lowering the shades as I should have been. The
second night after the Zeppelin raid the manager came bursting into
my room. "Quick, Mr. Powell," he called, excitedly, "pull down your
shade. The observers in the cathedral tower have just sent word
that your windows are lighted and the police are downstairs to find
out what it means."

The darkness of London and Paris was a joke beside the darkness
of Antwerp. It was so dark in the narrow, winding streets, bordered
by ancient houses, that when, as was my custom, I went to the
telegraph office with my dispatches after dinner, I had to feel my
way with a cane, like a blind man. To make conditions more
intolerable, if such a thing were possible, cordons of sentries were
thrown around those buildings under whose roofs the members of
the Government slept, so that if one returned after nightfall he was
greeted by a harsh command to halt, and a sentry held a rifle-
muzzle against his breast while another sentry, by means of a dark
lantern, scrutinized his papers. Save for the sentries, the streets
were deserted, for, as the places of amusement and the eating-
places and drinking-places were closed, there was no place for the
people to go except to bed. I was reminded of the man who told his
wife that he came home because all the other places were closed.

I have heard it said that Antwerp was indifferent to its fate, but it
made no such impression on me. Never have I lived in such an
atmosphere of gloom and depression. Except around the St.
Antoine at the lunch and dinner-hours and in the cafes just before
nightfall did one see anything which was even a second cousin to
jollity. The people did not smile. They went about with grave and
anxious faces. In fact, outside of the places I have mentioned, one
rarely heard a laugh. The people who sat at the round iron tables on
the sidewalks in front of the cafes drinking their light wines and beer
--no spirits were permitted to be sold--sat in silence and with solemn
faces. God knows, there was little enough for them to smile about.
Their nation was being slowly strangled. Three-quarters of its soil
was under the heel of the invader. An alien flag, a hated flag, flew
over their capital. Their King and their Government were fugitives,
moving from place to place as a vagrant moves on at the approach
of a policeman. Men who, a month before, were prosperous
shopkeepers and tradesmen were virtual bankrupts, not knowing
where the next hundred-franc note was coming from. Other men
had seen their little flower-surrounded homes in the suburbs razed
to the ground that an approaching enemy might find no cover.
Though the shops were open, they had no customers for the people
had no money, or, if they had money they were hoarding it against
the days when they might be homeless fugitives. No, there was not
very much to smile about in Antwerp.

There were amusing incidents, of course. If one recognizes humour
when he sees it he can find it in almost any situation. After the first
Zeppelin attack the management of the St. Antoine fitted up
bedrooms in the cellars.

A century or more ago the St. Antoine was not a hotel but a
monastery, and its cellars are all that the cellars of a monastery
ought to be--thick-walled and damp and musty. Yet these
subterranean suites were in as great demand among the
diplomatists as are tables in the palm-room of the Savoy during the
season. From my bedroom window, which overlooked the court, I
could see apprehensive guests cautiously emerging from their cellar
chambers in the early morning. It reminded me of woodchucks
coming out of their holes.

As the siege progressed and the German guns were pushed nearer
to the city, those who lived in what might be termed "conspicuous"
localities began to seek other quarters.

"I'm going to change hotels to-day," I heard a man remark to a

"Why?" inquired the other.

"Because I am within thirty yards of the cathedral," was the answer.
The towering spire of the famous cathedral is, you must understand,
the most conspicuous thing in Antwerp--on clear days you can see it
from twenty miles away--and to live in its immediate vicinity during a
bombardment of the city was equivalent to taking shelter under the
only tree in a field during a heavy thunderstorm.

Two days before the bombardment began there was a meeting of
the American residents--such of them as still remained in the city--at
the leading club. About a dozen of us in all sat down to dinner. The
purpose of the gathering was to discuss the attitude which the
Americans should adopt towards the German officers, for it was
known that the fall of the city was imminent. I remember that the
sense of the meeting was that we should treat the helmeted
intruders with frigid politeness--I think that was the term--which,
translated, meant that we were not to offer them cigars and buy
them drinks. Of the twelve of us who sat around the table that night,
there are only two--Mr. Manly Whedbee and myself--who remained
to witness the German occupation.

That the precautions taken against Zeppelins were by no means
overdone was proved by the total failure of the second aerial raid on
Antwerp, in the latter part of September, when a dirigible again
sailed over the city under cover of darkness. Owing to the total
absence of street-lights, however, the dirigible's crew were evidently
unable to get their bearings, for the half-dozen bombs that they
discharged fell in the outskirts of the city without causing any loss of
life or doing any serious damage. This time, moreover, the Belgians
were quite prepared--the fire of their "sky artillery," guided by
searchlights, making things exceedingly uncomfortable for the

I have heard it stated by Belgian officers and others that the bombs
were dropped from the dirigibles by an ingenious arrangement
which made the airship itself comparatively safe from harm and at
the same time rendered the aim of its bombmen much more
accurate. According to them, the dirigible comes to a stop--or as
near a stop as possible--above the city or fortification which it wishes
to attack, at a height out of range of either artillery or rifle-fire.
Then, by means of a steel cable a thousand feet or more in length,
it lowers a small wire cage just large enough to contain a man and a
supply of bombs, this cage being sufficiently armoured so that it is
proof against rifle-bullets. At the same time it affords so tiny a mark
that the chances of its being hit by artillery-fire are insignificant. If
it should be struck, moreover, the airship itself would still be
unharmed and only one man would be lost, and when he fell his
supply of bombs would fall with him. The Zeppelin, presumably
equipped with at least two cages and cables, might at once lower
another bomb-thrower. I do not pretend to say whether this
ingenious contrivance is used by the Germans. Certainly the
Zeppelin which I saw in action had nothing of the kind, nor did it drop
its projectiles promiscuously, as one would drop a stone, but
apparently discharged them from a bomb-tube.

Though the Zeppelin raids proved wholly ineffective, so far as their
effect on troops and fortifications were concerned, the German
aviators introduced some novel tricks in aerial warfare which were
as practical as they were ingenious. During the battle of Vilvorde, for
example, and throughout the attacks on the Antwerp forts, German
dirigibles hovered at a safe height over the Belgian positions and
directed the fire of the German gunners with remarkable success.
The aerial observers watched, through powerful glasses, the effect
of the German shells and then, by means of a large disc which was
swung at the end of a line and could be raised or lowered at will,
signalled as need be in code "higher--lower--right--left" and thus
guided the gunners--who were, of course, unable to see their mark
or the effect of their fire--until almost every shot was a hit. At
Vilvorde, as a result of this aerial fire-control system, I saw the
German artillery, posted out of sight behind a railway embankment,
get the range of a retreating column of Belgian infantry and with a
dozen well-placed shots practically wipe it out of existence. So
perfect was the German system of observation and fire control
during the final attack on the Antwerp defences that whenever the
Belgians or British moved a regiment or a battery the aerial
observers instantly detected it and a perfect storm of shells was
directed against the new position.

Throughout the operations around Antwerp, the Taubes, as
the German aeroplanes are called because of their fancied
resemblance to a dove, repeatedly performed daring feats of
reconnaissance. On one occasion, while I was with the General
Staff at Lierre, one of these German Taubes sailed directly over the
Hotel de Ville, which was being used as staff headquarters. It so
happened that King Albert was standing in the street, smoking one
of the seven-for-a-franc Belgian cigars to which he was partial.

"The Germans call it a dove, eh?" remarked the King, as he looked
up at the passing aircraft. "Well, it looks to me more like a hawk."

A few days before the fall of Antwerp a Taube flew over the city in
the early afternoon, dropping thousands of proclamations printed in
both French and Flemish and signed by the commander of the
investing forces, pointing out to the inhabitants the futility of
resistance, asserting that in fighting Germany they were playing
Russia's game, and urging them to lay down their arms. The
aeroplane was greeted by a storm of shrapnel from the high-angle
guns mounted on the fortifications, the only effect of which,
however, was to kill two unoffending citizens who were standing in
the streets and were struck by the fragments of the falling shells.

Most people seem to have the impression that it is as easy for an
aviator to see what is happening on the ground beneath him as
though he were looking down from the roof of a high building. Under
ordinary conditions, when one can skim above the surface of the
earth at a height of a few hundred feet, this is quite true, but it is
quite a different matter when one is flying above hostile troops who
are blazing away at him with rifles and machine-guns. During
reconnaissance work the airmen generally are compelled to ascend
to an altitude of a mile or a mile and a quarter, which makes
observation extremely difficult, as small objects, even with the aid of
the strongest glasses, assume unfamiliar shapes and become fore-
shortened. If, in order to obtain a better view, they venture to fly at a
lower height, they are likely to be greeted by a hail of rifle fire from
soldiers in the trenches. The Belgian aviators with whom I talked
assured me that they feared rifle fire more than bursting shrapnel,
as the fire of a regiment, when concentrated even on so elusive an
object as an aeroplane, proves far more deadly than shells.

The Belgians made more use than any other nation of motor-cars.
When war was declared one of the first steps taken by the military
authorities was to commandeer every motor-car, every motor-cycle
and every litre of petrol in the kingdom. As a result they depended
almost entirely upon motor-driven vehicles for their military
transport, which was, I might add, extremely efficient. In fact, we
could always tell when we were approaching the front by the
amazing number of motor-cars which lined the roads for miles in the
rear of each division.

Anything that had four wheels and a motor to drive them--diminutive
American run-abouts, slim, low-hung racing cars, luxurious
limousines with coronets painted on the panels, delivery-cars
bearing the names of shops in Antwerp and Ghent and Brussels,
lumbering motor-trucks, hotel omnibuses--all met the same fate,
which consisted in being daubed with elephant-grey paint, labelled
"S.M." (Service Militaire) in staring white letters, and started for the
front, usually in charge of a wholly inexperienced driver. It made an
automobile lover groan to see the way some of those cars were
treated. But they did the business. They averaged something like
twelve miles an hour--which is remarkable time for army transport--
and, strangely enough, very few of them broke down. If they did
there was always an automobile des reparations promptly on hand
to repair the damage. Before the war began the Belgian army had
no army transport worthy of the name; before the forts at Liege had
been silenced it had as efficient a one as any nation in Europe.

The headquarters of the motor-car branch of the army was at the
Pare des Automobiles Militaires, on the Red Star quays in Antwerp.
Here several hundred cars were always kept in reserve, and here
was collected an enormous store of automobile supplies and
sundries. The scene under the long, low sheds, with their
corrugated-iron roofs, always reminded me of the Automobile Show
at Olympia. After a car had once been placed at your disposal by
the Government, getting supplies for it was merely a question of
signing bons. Obtaining extra equipment for my car was Roos' chief
amusement. Tyres, tools, spare parts, horns, lamps, trunks--all you
had to do was to scrawl your name at the foot of a printed form and
they were promptly handed over. When I first went to Belgium I was
given a sixty horse-power touring car, and when the weather turned
unpleasant I asked for and was given a limousine that was big
enough to sleep in, and when I found this too clumsy, the
commandant of the Parc des Automobiles obligingly exchanged it
for a ninety horse-power berline. They were most accommodating,
those Belgians. I am sorry to say that my berline, which was the
envy of every one in Antwerp, was eventually captured by the

Though both the French and the Germans had for a number of
years been experimenting with armoured cars of various patterns,
the Belgians, who had never before given the subject serious
consideration, were the first to evolve and to send into action a
really practical vehicle of this description. The earlier armoured cars
used by the Belgians were built at the great Minerva factory in
Antwerp and consisted of a circular turret, high enough so that only
the head and shoulders of the man operating the machine-gun
were exposed, covered with half-inch steel plates and mounted on
an ordinary chassis. After the disastrous affair near Herenthals, in
which Prince Henri de Ligne was mortally wounded while engaged
in a raid into the German lines for the purpose of blowing up
bridges, it was seen that the crew of the auto-mitrailleuses, as the
armoured cars were called, was insufficiently protected, and, to
remedy this, a movable steel dome, with an opening for the muzzle
of the machine-gun, was superimposed on the turret. These grim
vehicles, which jeered at bullets, and were proof even against
shrapnel, quickly became a nightmare to the Germans. Driven by
the most reckless racing drivers in Belgium, manned by crews of
dare-devil youngsters, and armed with machine-guns which poured
out lead at the rate of a thousand shots a minute, these wheeled
fortresses would tear at will into the German lines, cut up an outpost
or wipe out a cavalry patrol, dynamite a bridge or a tunnel or a
culvert, and be back in the Belgian lines again almost before the
enemy realized what had happened.

I witnessed an example of the cool daring of these mitrailleuse
drivers during the fighting around Malines. Standing on a railway
embankment, I was watching the withdrawal under heavy fire of the
last Belgian troops, when an armoured car, the lean muzzle of its
machine-gun peering from its turret, tore past me at fifty miles an
hour, spitting a murderous spray of lead as it bore down on the
advancing Germans. But when within a few hundred yards of the
German line the car slackened speed and stopped. Its petrol was
exhausted. Instantly one of the crew was out in the road and, under
cover of the fire from the machine-gun, began to refill the tank.
Though bullets were kicking up spurts of dust in the road or ping-
pinging against the steel turret he would not be hurried. I, who was
watching the scene through my field-glasses, was much more
excited than he was. Then, when the tank was filled, the car refused
to back! It was a big machine and the narrow road was bordered on
either side by deep ditches, but by a miracle the driver was able--
and just able--to turn the car round. Though by this time the German
gunners had the range and shrapnel was bursting all about him, he
was as cool as though he were turning a limousine in the width of
Piccadilly. As the car straightened out for its retreat, the Belgians
gave the Germans a jeering screech from their horn, and a parting
blast of lead from their machine-gun and went racing Antwerpwards.

It is, by the way, a curious and interesting fact that the machine-gun
used in both the Belgian and Russian armoured cars, and which is
one of the most effective weapons produced by the war, was
repeatedly offered to the American War Department by its inventor,
Major Isaac Newton Lewis, of the United States army, and was as
repeatedly rejected by the officials at Washington. At last, in despair
of receiving recognition in his own country, he sold it to Russia and
Belgium. The Lewis gun, which is air-cooled and weighs only
twenty-nine pounds--less than half the weight of a soldier's
equipment--fires a thousand shots a minute. In the fighting around
Sempst I saw trees as large round as a man's thigh literally cut
down by the stream of lead from these weapons.

The inventor of the Lewis gun was not the only American who
played an inconspicuous but none the less important part in the War
of Nations. A certain American corporation doing business in
Belgium placed its huge Antwerp plant and the services of its corps
of skilled engineers at the service of the Government, though I
might add that this fact was kept carefully concealed, being known
to only a handful of the higher Belgian officials. This concern made
shells and other ammunition for the Belgian army; it furnished
aeroplanes and machine-guns; it constructed miles of barbed-wire
entanglements and connected those entanglements with the city
lighting system; one of its officers went on a secret mission to
England and brought back with him a supply of cordite, not to
mention six large-calibre guns which he smuggled through Dutch
territorial waters hidden in the steamer's coal bunkers. And, as
though all this were not enough, the Belgian Government confided
to this foreign corporation the minting of the national currency. For
obvious reasons I am not at liberty to mention the name of this
concern, though it is known to practically every person in the United
States, each month cheques being sent to the parent concern by
eight hundred thousand people in New York alone.

Incidentally it publishes the most widely read volume in the world. I
wish that I might tell you the name of this concern. Upon second
thought, I think I will. It is the American Bell Telephone Company.
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IV. Under The German Eagle

When, upon the approach of the Germans to Brussels, the
Government and the members of the Diplomatic Corps fled to
Antwerp, the American Minister, Mr. Brand Whitlock, did not
accompany them. In view of the peculiar position occupied by the
United States as the only Great Power not involved in hostilities, he
felt, and, as it proved, quite rightly, that he could be of more service
to Belgium and to Brussels and to the cause of humanity in general
by remaining behind. There remained with him the secretary of
legation, Mr. Hugh S. Gibson. Mr. Whitlock's reasons for remaining
in Brussels were twofold. In the first place, there were a large
number of English and Americans, both residents and tourists, who
had been either unable or unwilling to leave the city, and who, he
felt, were entitled to diplomatic protection. Secondly, the behaviour
of the German troops in other Belgian cities had aroused grave
fears of what would happen when they entered Brussels, and it was
generally felt that the presence of the American Minister might deter
them from committing the excesses and outrages which up to that
time had characterized their advance. It was no secret that
Germany was desperately anxious to curry favour with the United
States, and it was scarcely likely, therefore, that houses would be
sacked and burnt, civilians executed and women violated under the
disapproving eyes of the American representative. This surmise
proved to be well founded. The Germans did not want Mr. Whitlock
in Brussels, and nothing would have pleased them better than to
have had him depart and leave them to their own devices, but, so
long as he blandly ignored their hints that his room was preferable to
his company and persisted in sitting tight, they submitted to his
surveillance with the best grace possible and behaved themselves
as punctiliously as a dog that has been permitted to come into a
parlour. After the civil administration had been established,
however, and Belgium had become, in theory at least, a German
province, Mr. Whitlock was told quite plainly that the kingdom to
which he was accredited had ceased to exist as an independent
nation, and that Anglo-American affairs in Belgium could
henceforward be entrusted to the American Ambassador at Berlin.
But Mr. .Whitlock, who had received his training in shirt-sleeve
diplomacy as Socialist Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, was as impervious to
German suggestions as he had been to the threats and pleadings
of party politicians, and told Baron von der Golz, the German
Governor, politely but quite firmly, that he did not take his orders
from Berlin but from Washington. "Gott in Himmel!" exclaimed the
Germans, shrugging their shoulders despairingly, "what is to be
done with such a man?"

Before the Germans had been in occupation of Brussels a fortnight
the question of food for the poorer classes became a serious and
pressing problem. The German armies, in their onset toward the
west, had swept the Belgian country-side bare; the products of the
farms and gardens in the immediate vicinity of the city had been
commandeered for the use of the garrison, and the spectre of
starvation was already beginning to cast its dread shadow over
Brussels. Mr. Whitlock acted with promptness and decision. He sent
Americans, who had volunteered their services, to Holland to
purchase food-stuffs, and at the same time informed the German
commander that he expected these food-stuffs to be admitted
without hindrance. The German replied that he could not comply
with this request without first communicating with his Imperial
master, whereupon he was told, in effect, that the American
Government would consider him personally responsible if the food-
stuffs were delayed or diverted for military use and a famine ensued
in consequence. The firmness of Mr. Whitlock's attitude had its
effect, for at seven o'clock the next morning he received word that
his wishes would be complied with. As a result of the German
occupation, Brussels, with its six hundred thousand inhabitants, was
as completely cut off from communication with the outside world as
though it were on an island in the South Pacific. The postal,
telegraph and telephone services were suspended; the railways
were blocked with troop trains moving westward; the roads were
filled from ditch to ditch with troops and transport wagons; and so
tightly were the lines drawn between that portion of Belgium
occupied by the Germans and that still held by the Belgians, that
those daring souls who attempted to slip through the cordons of
sentries did so at peril of their lives. It sounds almost incredible that
a great city could be so effectually isolated, yet so it was. Even the
Cabinet Ministers and other officials who had accompanied the
Government in its flight to Antwerp were unable to learn what had
befallen the families which they had in many cases left behind them.

After nearly three weeks had passed without word from the
American Legation, the Department of State cabled the American
Consul-General at Antwerp that some means of communicating with
Mr. Whitlock must be found. Happening to be in the Consulate when
the message was received, I placed my services and my car at the
disposal of the Consul-General, who promptly accepted them. Upon
learning of my proposed jaunt into the enemy's lines, a friend, Mr.
M. Manly Whedbee, the director of the Belgian branch of the British-
American Tobacco Company, offered to accompany me, and as he
is as cool-headed and courageous and companionable as anyone I
know, and as he knew as much about driving the car as I did--for it
was obviously impossible to take my Belgian driver--I was only too
glad to have him with me. It was, indeed, due to Mr. Whedbee's
foresight in taking along a huge quantity of cigarettes for distribution
among the soldiers, that we were able to escape from Brussels. But
more of that episode hereafter.

When the Consul-General asked General Dufour, the military
governor of Antwerp, to issue us a safe conduct through the Belgian
lines, that gruff old soldier at first refused flatly, asserting that as
the German outposts had been firing on cars bearing the Red
Cross flag, there was no assurance that they would respect one
bearing the Stars and Stripes. The urgency of the matter being
explained to him, however, he reluctantly issued the necessary
laisser-passer, though intimating quite plainly that our mission
would probably end in providing "more work for the undertaker,
another little job for the casket-maker," and that he washed his
hands of all responsibility for our fate. But by two American
flags mounted on the windshield, and the explanatory legends
"Service Consulaire des Etats-Unis d'Amerique" and "Amerikanischer
Consular dienst" painted in staring letters on the hood, we
hoped to make it quite clear to Germans and Belgians alike
that we were protected by the international game-laws so far
as shooting us was concerned.

Now the disappointing thing about our trip was that we didn't
encounter any Uhlans. Every one had warned us so repeatedly
about Uhlans that we fully expected to find them, with their
pennoned lances and their square-topped schapskas, lurking
behind every hedge, and when they did not come spurring out to
intercept us we were greatly disappointed. It was like making a
journey to the polar regions and seeing no Esquimaux. The smart
young cavalry officer who bade us good-bye at the Belgian
outposts, warned us to keep our eyes open for them and said,
rather mournfully, I thought, that he only hoped they would give us
time to explain who we were before they opened fire on us. "They
are such hasty fellows, these Uhlans," said he, "always shooting first
and making inquiries afterward." As a matter of fact, the only Uhlan
we saw on the entire trip was riding about Brussels in a cab,
smoking a large porcelain pipe and with his spurred boots resting
comfortably on the cushions.

Though we crept along as circumspectly as a motorist who knows
that he is being trailed by a motor-cycle policeman, peering behind
farmhouses and hedges and into the depths of thickets and
expecting any moment to hear a gruff command, emphasized by
the bang of a carbine, it was not until we were at the very outskirts
of Aerschot that we encountered the Germans. There were a
hundred of them, so cleverly ambushed behind a hedge that we
would never have suspected their presence had we not caught the
glint of sunlight on their rifle-barrels. We should not have gotten
much nearer, in any event, for they had a wire neatly strung across
the road at just the right height to take us under the chins. When we
were within a hundred yards of the hedge an officer in a trailing grey
cloak stepped into the middle of the road and held up his hand.


I jammed on the brakes so suddenly that we nearly went through
the windshield.

"Get out of the automobile and stand well away from it," the officer
commanded in German. We got out very promptly.

"One of you advance alone, with his hands up."

I advanced alone, but not with my hands up. It is such an
undignified position. I had that shivery feeling chasing up and down
my spine which came from knowing that I was covered by a
hundred rifles, and that if I made a move which seemed suspicious
to the men behind those rifles, they would instantly transform me
into a sieve.

"Are you English?" the officer demanded, none too pleasantly.

"No, American," said I.

"Oh, that's all right," said he, his manner instantly thawing. "I know
America well," he continued, "Atlantic City and Asbury Park and
Niagara Falls and Coney Island. I have seen all of your famous

Imagine, if you please, standing in the middle of a Belgian highway,
surrounded by German soldiers who looked as though they would
rather shoot you than not, discussing the relative merits of the hotels
at Atlantic City and which had the best dining-car service, the
Pennsylvania or the New York Central!

I learned from the officer, who proved to be an exceedingly
agreeable fellow, that had we advanced ten feet further after the
command to halt was given, we should probably have been planted
in graves dug in a nearby potato field, as only an hour before our
arrival a Belgian mitrailleuse car had torn down the road with its
machine-gun squirting a stream of lead, and had smashed straight
through the German line, killing three men and wounding a dozen
others. They were burying them when we appeared. When our big
grey machine hove in sight they not unnaturally took us for another
armoured car and prepared to give us a warm reception. It was a
lucky thing for us that our brakes worked quickly.

We were the first foreigners to see Aerschot, or rather what was left
of Aerschot after it had been sacked and burned by the Germans. A
few days before Aerschot had been a prosperous and happy town
of ten thousand people. When we saw it it was but a heap of
smoking ruins, garrisoned by a battalion of German soldiers, and
with its population consisting of half a hundred white-faced women.
In many parts of the world I have seen many terrible and revolting
things, but nothing so ghastly, so horrifying as Aerschot. Quite two-
thirds of the houses had been burned and showed unmistakable
signs of having been sacked by a maddened soldiery before they
were burned. Everywhere were the ghastly evidences. Doors had
been smashed in with rifle-butts and boot-heels; windows had been
broken; furniture had been wantonly destroyed; pictures had been
torn from the walls; mattresses had been ripped open with bayonets
in search of valuables; drawers had been emptied upon the floors;
the outer walls of the houses were spattered with blood and pock-
marked with bullets; the sidewalks were slippery with broken wine-
bottles; the streets were strewn with women's clothing. It needed no
one to tell us the details of that spammer of blood and lust. The story was
so plainly written that anyone could read it.

For a mile we drove the car slowly between the blackened walls of
fire-gutted buildings. This was no accidental conflagration, mind you,
for scattered here and there were houses which stood undamaged
and in every such case there was scrawled with chalk upon their
doors "Gute Leute. Nicht zu plundern." (Good people. Do not

The Germans went about the work of house-burning as
systematically as they did everything else. They had various devices
for starting conflagrations, all of them effective. At Aerschot and
Louvain they broke the windows of the houses and threw in sticks
which had been soaked in oil and dipped in sulphur. Elsewhere they
used tiny, black tablets, about the size of cough lozenges, made of
some highly inflammable composition, to which they touched a
match. At Termonde, which they destroyed in spite of the fact that
the inhabitants had evacuated the city before their arrival, they used
a motor-car equipped with a large tank for petrol, a pump, a hose,
and a spraying-nozzle. The car was run slowly through the streets,
one soldier working the pump and another spraying the fronts of the
houses. Then they set fire to them. Oh, yes, they were very
methodical about it all, those Germans.

Despite the scowls of the soldiers, I attempted to talk with some of
the women huddled in front of a bakery waiting for a distribution of
bread, but the poor creatures were too terror-stricken to do more
than stare at us with wide, beseeching eyes. Those eyes will always
haunt me. I wonder if they do not sometimes haunt the Germans.
But a little episode that occurred as we were leaving the city did
more than anything else to bring home the horror of it all. We
passed a little girl of nine or ten and I stopped the car to ask the
way. Instantly she held both hands above her head and began to
scream for mercy. When we had given her some chocolate and
money, and had assured her that we were not Germans, but
Americans and friends, she ran like a frightened deer. That little
child, with her fright-wide eyes and her hands raised in supplication,
was in herself a terrible indictment of the Germans.

There are, as might be expected, two versions of the happenings
which precipitated that night of horrors in Aerschot. The German
version--I had it from the German commander himself--is to the
effect that after the German troops had entered Aerschot, the Chief
of Staff and some of the officers were asked to dinner by the
burgomaster. While they were seated at the table the son of the
burgomaster, a boy of fifteen, entered the room with a revolver and
killed the Chief of Staff, whereupon, as though at a prearranged
signal, the townspeople opened fire from their windows upon the
troops. What followed--the execution of the burgomaster, his son,
and several score of the leading townsmen, the giving over of the
women to a lust-mad soldiery, the sacking of the houses, and the
final burning of the town--was the punishment which would always
be meted out to towns whose inhabitants attacked German soldiers.

Now, up to a certain point the Belgian version agrees with the
German. It is admitted that the Germans entered the town
peaceably enough, that the German Chief of Staff and other officers
accepted the hospitality of the burgomaster, and that, while they
were at dinner, the burgomaster's son entered the room and shot
the Chief of Staff dead with a revolver. But--and this is the point to
which the German story makes no allusion--the boy killed the Chief
of Staff in defence of his sister's honour. It is claimed that toward the
end of the meal the German officer, inflamed with wine, informed
the burgomaster that he intended to pass the night with his young
and beautiful daughter, whereupon the girl's brother quietly slipped
from the room and, returning a moment later, put a sudden end to
the German's career with an automatic. What the real truth is I do
not know. Perhaps no one knows. The Germans did not leave many
eye-witnesses to tell the story of what happened. Piecing together
the stories told by those who did survive that night of horror, we
know that scores of the townspeople were shot down in cold blood
and that, when the firing squads could not do the work of slaughter
fast enough, the victims were lined up and a machine-gun was
turned upon them. We know that young girls were dragged from
their homes and stripped naked and violated by soldiers--many
soldiers--in the public square in the presence of officers. We know
that both men and women were unspeakably mutilated, that
children were bayoneted, that dwellings were ransacked and looted,
and that finally, as though to destroy the evidences of their horrid
work, soldiers went from house to house with torches, methodically
setting fire to them.

It was with a feeling of repulsion amounting almost to nausea that
we left what had once been Aerschot behind us. The road leading to
Louvain was alive with soldiery, and we were halted every few
minutes by German patrols. Had not the commanding officer in
Aerschot detailed two bicyclists to accompany us I doubt if we
should have gotten through. Whedbee had had the happy idea of
bringing along a thousand packets of cigarettes--the tonneau of the
car was literally filled with them--and we tossed a packet to every
German soldier that we saw. You could have followed our trail for
thirty miles by the cigarettes we left behind us. As it turned out, they
were the means of saving us from being detained within the
German lines.

Thanks to our American flags, to the nature of our mission, and to
our wholesale distribution of cigarettes, we were passed from
outpost to outpost and from regimental headquarters to regimental
headquarters until we reached Louvain. Here we came upon
another scene of destruction and desolation. Nearly half the city was
in ashes. Most of the principal streets were impassable from fallen
masonry. The splendid avenues and boulevards were lined on
either side by the charred skeletons of what had once been
handsome buildings. The fronts of many of the houses were
smeared with crimson stains. In comparison to its size, the
Germans had wrought more widespread destruction in Louvain than
did the earthquake and fire combined in San Francisco. The looting
had evidently been unrestrained. The roads for miles in either
direction were littered with furniture and bedding and clothing. Such
articles as the soldiers could not carry away they wantonly
destroyed. Hangings had been torn down, pictures on the walls had
been smashed, the contents of drawers and trunks had been
emptied into the streets, literally everything breakable had been
broken. This is not from hearsay, remember; I saw it with my own
eyes. And the amazing feature of it all was that among the Germans
there seemed to be no feeling of regret, no sense of shame.
Officers in immaculate uniforms strolled about among the ruins,
chatting and laughing and smoking. At one place a magnificent
mahogany dining-table had been dragged into the middle of the
road and about it, sprawled in carved and tapestry-covered chairs, a
dozen German infantrymen were drinking beer.

Just as there are two versions of the destruction of Aerschot, so
there are two versions, though in this case widely different, of the
events which led up to the destruction of Louvain. It should be borne
in mind, to begin with, that Louvain was not destroyed by
bombardment or in the heat of battle, for the Germans had entered
it unopposed, and had been in undisputed possession for several
days. The Germans assert that a conspiracy, fomented by the
burgomaster, the priests and many of the leading citizens, existed
among the townspeople, who planned to suddenly fall upon and
exterminate the garrison. They claim that, in pursuance of this plan,
on the night of August 26, the inhabitants opened a murderous fire
upon the unsuspecting troops from house-tops, doors and windows;
that a fierce street battle ensued, in which a number of women and
children were unfortunately killed by stray bullets; and that, in
retaliation for this act of treachery, a number of the inhabitants were
executed and a portion of the city was burned. Notwithstanding the
fact that, as soon as the Germans entered the city, they searched it
thoroughly for concealed weapons, they claim that the townspeople
were not only well supplied with rifles and ammunition, but that they
even opened on them from their windows with machine-guns.
Though it seems scarcely probable that the inhabitants of Louvain
would attempt so mad an enterprise as to attack an overwhelming
force of Germans--particularly with the terrible lesson of Aerschot
still fresh in their minds--I do not care to express any opinion as to
the truth of the German assertions.

The Belgians tell quite a different story. They say that, as the result
of a successful Belgian offensive movement to the south of Malines,
the German troops retreated in something closely akin to panic, one
division falling back, after nightfall, upon Louvain. In the inky
blackness the garrison, mistaking the approaching troops for
Belgians, opened a deadly fire upon them. When the mistake was
discovered the Germans, partly in order to cover up their disastrous
blunder and partly to vent their rage and chagrin, turned upon the
townspeople in a paroxysm of fury. A scene of indescribable terror
ensued, the soldiers, who had broken into the wine-shops and
drunk themselves into a state of frenzy, practically running amuck,
breaking in doors and shooting at every one they saw. That some of
the citizens snatched up such weapons as came to hand and
defended their homes and their women no one attempts to deny--
but this scattered and pitifully ineffectual resistance gave the
Germans the very excuse they were seeking. The citizens had
attacked them and they would teach the citizens, both of Louvain
and of other cities which they might enter, a lasting lesson. They did.
No Belgian will ever forget--or forgive--that lesson. The spammer of blood
and lust and destruction lasted for two days. Several American
correspondents, among them Mr. Richard Harding Davis, who were
being taken by train from Brussels to Germany, and who were held
for some hours in the station at Louvain during the first night's
massacre, have vividly described the horrors which they witnessed
from their car window. On the second day, Mr. Hugh S. Gibson,
secretary of the American Legation in Brussels, accompanied by the
Swedish and Mexican charges, drove over to Louvain in a taxi-cab.
Mr. Gibson told me that the Germans had dragged chairs and a
dining-table from a nearby house into the middle of the square in
front of the station and that some officers, already considerably the
worse for drink, insisted that the three diplomatists join them in a
bottle of wine. And this while the city was burning and rifles were
cracking, and the dead bodies of men and women lay sprawled in
the streets! From the windows of plundered and fire-blackened
houses in both Aerschot and Louvain and along the road between,
hung white flags made from sheets and tablecloths and pillow-
cases--pathetic appeals for the mercy which was not granted.

If Belgium wishes to keep alive in the minds of her people the
recollection of German military barbarism, if she desires to inculcate
the coming generations with the horrors and miseries of war, if she
would perpetuate the memories of the innocent townspeople who
were slaughtered because they were Belgians, then she can
effectually do it by preserving the ruins of Aerschot and Louvain,
just as the ruins of Pompeii are preserved. Fence in these
desolated cities; leave the shattered doors and the broken furniture
as they are; let the bullet marks and the bloodstains remain, and it
will do more than all the sermons that can be preached, than all the
pictures that can be painted, than all the books that can be written,
to drive home a realization of what is meant by that dreadful thing
called War.

The distance from Louvain to Brussels is in the neighbourhood of
twenty miles, and our car with its fluttering flags sped between lines
of cheering people all the way. Men stood by the roadside with
uncovered heads as they saw the Stars and Stripes whirl by;
women waved their handkerchiefs while tears coursed down their
cheeks. As we neared Brussels news of our coming spread, and
soon we were passing between solid walls of Belgians who waved
hats and canes and handkerchiefs and screamed, "Vive l'Amerique!
Vive l'Amerique!" I am not ashamed to say that a lump came in my
throat and tears dimmed my eyes. To these helpless, homeless,
hopeless people, the red-white-and-blue banner that streamed from
our windshield really was a flag of the free.

Brussels we found as quiet and orderly as London on a Sunday
morning. So far as streets scenes went we might have been in
Berlin. German officers and soldiers were scattered everywhere,
lounging at the little iron tables in front of the cafes, or dining in the
restaurants or strolling along the tree-shaded boulevards as
unconcernedly as though they were in the Fatherland. Many of the
officers had brought high, red-wheeled dogcarts with them, and
were pleasure-driving in the outskirts of the city; others,
accompanied by women who may or may not have been their
wives, were picnicking in the Bois. Brussels had become, to all
outward appearances at least, a German city. German flags
flaunted defiantly from the roofs of the public buildings, several of
which, including the Hotel de Ville, the Palais de Justice and the
Cathedral, were reported to have been mined. In the whole of the
great city not a single Belgian flag was to be seen. The Belgian
police were still performing their routine duties under German
direction. The royal palace had been converted into a hospital for
German wounded. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was occupied by
the German General Staff. The walls and hoardings were plastered
with proclamations signed by the military governor warning the
inhabitants of the penalties which they would incur should they
molest the German troops. The great square in front of the Gare du
Nord, which was being used as a barracks, was guarded by a line of
sentries, and no one but Germans in uniform were permitted to
cross it. One other person did cross it, however, German
regulations and sentries notwithstanding. Whedbee and I were
lunching on Sunday noon in the front of the Palace Hotel, when a
big limousine flying the American flag drew up on the other side of
the square and Mr. Julius Van Hee, the American Vice-Consul at
Ghent, jumped out. He caught sight of us at the same moment that
we saw him and started across the square toward us. He had not
gone a dozen paces before a sentry levelled his rifle and gruffly
commanded him to halt.

"Go back!" shouted the sentry. "To walk across the square
forbidden is."

"Go to the devil!" shouted back Van Hee. "And stop pointing that
gun at me, or I'll come over and knock that spiked helmet of yours
off. I'm American, and I've more right here than you have."

This latter argument being obviously unanswerable, the befuddled
sentry saw nothing for it but to let him pass.

Van Hee had come to Brussels, he told us, for the purpose of
obtaining some vaccine, as the supply in Ghent was running short,
and the authorities were fearful of an epidemic. He also brought with
him a package of letters from the German officers, many of them of
distinguished families, who had been captured by the Belgians and
were imprisoned at Bruges. When Van Hee had obtained his
vaccine, he called on General von Ludewitz and requested a safe
conduct back to Ghent.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Van Hee," said the general, who had married an
American and spoke English like a New Yorker, "but there's nothing
doing. We can't permit anyone to leave Brussels at present.
Perhaps in a few days------"

"A few days won't do, General," Van Hee interrupted, "I must go
back to-day, at once."

"I regret to say that for the time being it is quite impossible," said the
general firmly.

"I have here," said Van Hee, displaying the packet, "a large number
of letters from the German officers who are imprisoned in Belgium. If
I don't get the pass you don't get these letters."

"You hold a winning hand, Mr. Van Hee," said the general, laughing,
as he reached for pen and paper.

But when Whedbee and I were ready to return to Antwerp it was a
different matter. The German authorities, though scrupulously polite,
were adamantine in their refusal to permit us to pass through the
German lines. And we held no cards, as did Van Hee, with which to
play diplomatic poker. So we were compelled to bluff. Telling the
German commander that we would call on him again, we climbed
into the car and quietly left the city by the same route we had
followed upon entering it the preceding day. All along the road we
found soldiers smoking the cigarettes we had distributed to them.
Instead of stopping us and demanding to see our papers they
waved their hands cheerily and called, "Auf wiedersehn!" As we
knew that we could not get through Louvain without being stopped,
we drove boldly up to headquarters and asked the general
commanding the division if he would detail a staff officer to
accompany us to the outer lines. (There seemed no need of
mentioning the fact that we had no passes.) The general said, with
profuse apologies, that he had no officer available at the moment,
but hoped that a sergeant would do. We carried the sergeant with
us as far as Aerschot, distributing along the way what remained of
our cigarettes. At Aerschot we were detained for nearly an hour, as
the officer who had visited Atlantic City, Niagara Falls and Coney
Island insisted on our waiting while he sent for another officer who,
until the outbreak of the war, had lived in Chicago. We tried not to
show our impatience at the delay, but our hair stood on end every
time a telephone bell tinkled. We were afraid that the staff in
Brussels, learning of our unauthorized departure, would telephone
to the outposts to stop us. It was with a heartfelt sigh of relief that we
finally shook hands with our hosts and left ruined Aerschot behind
us. I opened up the throttle, and the big car fled down the long,
straight road which led to the Belgian lines like a hunted cat on the
top of a backyard fence.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Apr 2008 7:30    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

V. With The Spiked Helmets

It was really a Pittsburg chauffeur who was primarily responsible for
my being invited to dine with the commander of the Ninth German
Army. The chauffeur's name was William Van Calck and his
employer was a gentleman who had amassed several millions
manufacturing hats in the Smoky City. When war was declared the
hat-manufacturer and his family were motoring in Austria, with Van
Calck at the wheel of the car. The car being a large and powerful
one, it was promptly commandeered by the Austrian military
authorities; the hat-manufacturer and his family, thus dumped
unceremoniously by the roadside, made their way as best they
could to England; and Van Calck, who was a Belgian by birth,
though a naturalized American, enlisted in the Belgian army and
was detailed to drive one of the armoured motor-cars which so
effectively harassed the enemy during the early part of the
campaign in Flanders. Now if Van Calck hadn't come tearing into
Ghent in his wheeled fortress on a sunny September morning he
wouldn't have come upon a motor-car containing two German
soldiers who had lost their way; if he had not met them, the two
Germans would not have been wounded in the dramatic encounter
which ensued; if the Germans had not been wounded it would not
have been necessary for Mr. Julius Van Hee, the American Vice-
Consul, to pay a hurried visit to General von Boehn, the German
commander, to explain that the people of Ghent were not
responsible for the affair and to beg that no retaliatory measures be
taken against the city; if Mr. Van Hee had not visited General von
Boehn the question of the attitude of the American Press would not
have come up for discussion; and if it had not been discussed,
General von Boehn would not have sent me an invitation through
Mr. Van Hee to dine with him at his headquarters and hear the
German side of the question.

But perhaps I had better begin at the beginning. On September 8,
then, the great German army which was moving from Brussels on
France was within a few miles of Ghent. In the hope of inducing the
Germans not to enter the city, whose large and turbulent working
population would, it was feared, cause trouble in case of a military
occupation, the burgomaster went out to confer with the German
commander. An agreement was finally arrived at whereby the
Germans consented to march around Ghent if certain requirements
were complied with. These were that no Belgian troops should
occupy the city, that the Garde Civique should be disarmed and
their weapons surrendered, and that the municipality should supply
the German forces with specified quantities of provisions and other
supplies--the chief item, by the way, being a hundred thousand

The burgomaster had not been back an hour when a military motor-
car containing two armed German soldiers appeared in the city
streets. It transpired afterwards that they had been sent out to
purchase medical supplies and, losing their way, had entered Ghent
by mistake. At almost the same moment that the German car
entered the city from the south a Belgian armoured motor-car,
armed with a machine-gun and with a crew of three men and driven
by the former Pittsburg chauffeur, entered from the east on a
scouting expedition. The two cars, both travelling at high speed,
encountered each other at the head of the Rue de l'Agneau, directly
in front of the American Consulate. Vice-Consul Van Hee, standing
in the doorway, was an eyewitness of what followed.

The Germans, taken completely by surprise at the sight of the grim
war-car in its coat of elephant-grey bearing down upon them, threw
on their power and attempted to escape, the man sitting beside the
driver opening an ineffectual fire with his carbine. Regardless of the
fact that the sidewalks were crowded with spectators, the Belgians
opened on the fleeing Germans with their machine-gun, which
spurted lead as a garden-hose spurts water. Van Calck, fearing that
the Germans might escape, swerved his powerful car against the
German machine precisely as a polo-player "rides off" his opponent,
the machine-gun never ceasing its angry snarl. An instant later the
driver of the German car dropped forward over his steering-wheel
with blood gushing from a bullet-wound in the head, while his
companion, also badly wounded, threw up both hands in token of

Vice-Consul Van Hee instantly recognized the extremely grave
consequences which might result to Ghent from this encounter,
which had taken place within an hour after the burgomaster had
assured the German commander that there were no Belgian
soldiers in the city. Now Mr. Julius Van Hee is what is popularly
known in the United States as "a live wire." He is a shirt-sleeve
diplomatist who, if he thought the occasion warranted it, would not
hesitate to conduct diplomatic negotiations in his night-shirt.
Appreciating that as a result of this attack on German soldiers,
which the Germans would probably characterize as treachery,
Ghent stood in imminent danger of meeting the terrible fate of its
sister-cities of Aerschot and Louvain, which were sacked and
burned on no greater provocation, Mr. Van Hee jumped into his car
and sought the burgomaster, whom he urged to accompany him
without an instant's delay to German headquarters. The burgomaster,
who had visions of being sent to Germany as a hostage, at first
demurred; but Van Hee, disregarding his protestations, handed
him his hat, hustled him into the car, and ordered the chauffeur
to drive as though the Uhlans were behind him.

They found General von Boehn and his staff quartered in a chateau
a few miles outside the city. At first the German commander was
furious with anger and threatened Ghent with the same punishment
he had meted out to other cities where Germans had been fired on.
Van Hee took a very firm stand, however. He reminded the general
that Americans have a great sentimental interest in Ghent because
of the treaty of peace between England and the United States which
was signed there a century ago, and he warned him that the burning
of the city would do more than anything else to lose the Germans
the sympathy of the American people.

"If you will give me your personal word," said the general finally,
"that there will be no further attacks upon Germans who may enter
the city, and that the wounded soldiers will be taken under American
protection and sent to Brussels by the American Consular
authorities when they have recovered, I will agree to spare Ghent
and will not even demand a money indemnity."

In the course of the informal conversation which followed, General
von Boehn remarked that copies of American papers containing
articles by E. Alexander Powell, criticizing the Germans' treatment of
the Belgian civil population, had come to his attention, and he
regretted that he could not have an opportunity to talk with their
author and give him the German version of the incidents in
question. Mr. Van Hee said that, by a curious coincidence, I had
arrived in Ghent that very morning, whereupon the general asked
him to bring me out to dinner on the following day and issued a safe
conduct through the German lines for the purpose.

We started early the next morning. As there was some doubt about
the propriety of my taking a Belgian military driver into the German
lines I drove the car myself. And, though nothing was said about a
photographer, I took with me Donald Thompson. Before we passed
the city limits of Ghent things began to happen. Entering a street
which leads through a district inhabited by the working classes, we
suddenly found our way barred by a mob of several thousand
excited Flemings.

Above a sea of threatening arms and brandished sticks and angry
faces rose the figures of two German soldiers, with carbines slung
across their backs, mounted on work-horses which they had
evidently hastily unharnessed from a wagon. Like their unfortunate
comrades of the motor-car episode, they too had strayed into the
city by mistake. As we approached the crowd made a concerted
rush for them. A blast from my siren opened a lane for us, however,
and I drove the car alongside the terrified Germans.

"Quick!" shouted Van Hee in German. "Off your horses and into the
car! Hide your rifles! Take off your helmets! Sit on the floor and keep
out of sight!"

The mob, seeing its prey escaping, surged about us with a roar. For
a moment things looked very ugly. Van Hee jumped on the seat.

"I am the American Consul!" he shouted. "These men are under my
protection! You are civilians, attacking German soldiers in uniform. If
they are harmed your city will be burned about your ears."

At that moment a burly Belgian shouldered his way through the
crowd and, leaping on the running-board, levelled a revolver at the
Germans cowering in the tonneau. Quick as thought Thompson
knocked up the man's hand, and at the same instant I threw on the
power. The big car leaped forward and the mob scattered before it.
It was a close call for every one concerned, but a much closer call
for Ghent; for had those German soldiers been murdered by
civilians in the city streets no power on earth could have saved the
city from German vengeance. General von Boehn told me so

A few minutes later, as playlets follow each other in quick
succession on a stage, the scene changed from near tragedy to
screaming farce. As we came thundering into the little town of
Sotteghem, which is the Sleepy Hollow of Belgium, we saw, rising
from the middle of the town square, a pyramid, at least ten feet high,
of wardrobe-trunks, steamer-trunks, bags, and suit-cases. From the
summit of this extraordinary monument floated a huge American
flag. As our car came to a halt there rose a chorus of exclamations
in all the dialects between Maine and California, and from the door
of a near-by cafe came pouring a flood of Americans. They proved
to be a lost detachment of that great army of tourists which, at the
beginning of hostilities, started on its mad retreat for the coast,
leaving Europe strewn with their belongings. This particular
detachment had been cut off in Brussels by the tide of German
invasion, and, as food-supplies were running short, they determined
to make a dash--perhaps crawl would be a better word--for Ostend,
making the journey in two lumbering farm wagons. On reaching
Sotteghem, however, the Belgian drivers, hearing that the Germans
were approaching, refused to go further and unceremoniously
dumped their passengers in the town square. When we arrived they
had been there for a day and a night and had begun to think that it
was to be their future home. It was what might be termed a mixed
assemblage, including several women of wealth and fashion who
had been motoring on the Continent and had had their cars taken
from them, two prim schoolteachers from Brooklyn, a mine-owner
from West Virginia, a Pennsylvania Quaker, and a quartet of
professional tango-dancers--artists, they called themselves--who
had been doing a "turn" at a Brussels music-hall when the war
suddenly ended their engagement. Van Hee and I skirmished about
and, after much argument, succeeded in hiring two farm-carts to
transport the fugitives to Ghent. For the thirty-mile journey the thrifty
peasants modestly demanded four hundred francs--and got it.
When I last saw my compatriots they were perched on top of their
luggage piled high on two creaking carts, rumbling down the road to
Ghent with their huge flag flying above them. They were singing at
the top of their voices, "We'll Never Go There Any More."

Half a mile or so out of Sotteghem our road debouched into the
great highway which leads through Lille to Paris, and we suddenly
found ourselves in the midst of the German army. It was a sight
never to be forgotten. Far as the eye could see stretched solid
columns of marching men, pressing westward, ever westward. The
army was advancing in three mighty columns along three parallel
roads, the dense masses of moving men in their elusive grey-green
uniforms looking for all the world like three monstrous serpents
crawling across the country-side.

The American flags which fluttered from our wind-shield proved a
passport in themselves, and as we approached the close-locked
ranks parted to let us pass, and then closed in behind us. For five
solid hours, travelling always at express-train speed, we motored
between walls of marching men. In time the constant shuffle of
boots and the rhythmic swing of grey-clad arms and shoulders grew
maddening, and I became obsessed with the fear that I would send
the car ploughing into the human hedge on either side. It seemed
that the interminable ranks would never end, and so far as we were
concerned they never did end, for we never saw the head of that
mighty column. We passed regiment after regiment, brigade after
brigade of infantry; then hussars, cuirassiers, Uhlans, field batteries,
more infantry, more field-guns, ambulances with staring red crosses
painted on their canvas tops, then gigantic siege-guns, their grim
muzzles pointing skyward, each drawn by thirty straining horses;
engineers, sappers and miners with picks and spades, pontoon-
wagons, carts piled high with what looked like masses of yellow silk
but which proved to be balloons, bicyclists with carbines slung upon
their backs hunter-fashion, aeroplane outfits, bearded and
spectacled doctors of the medical corps, armoured motor-cars with
curved steel rails above them as a protection against the wires
which the Belgians were in the habit of stringing across the roads,
battery after battery of pom-poms (as the quick-firers are
descriptively called), and after them more batteries of spidery-
looking, lean-barrelled machine-guns, more Uhlans--the sunlight
gleaming on their lance-tips and the breeze fluttering their pennons
into a black-and-white cloud above them, and then infantry in spiked
and linen-covered helmets, more infantry and still more infantry--all
sweeping by, irresistibly as a mighty river, with their faces turned
towards France.

This was the Ninth Field Army, composed of the very flower of the
German Empire, including the magnificent troops of the Imperial
Guard. It was first and last a fighting army. The men were all young,
and they struck me as being as keen as razors and as hard as
nails. Their equipment was the acme to all appearances ordinary
two-wheeled farm-carts, contained "nests" of nine machine-guns
which could instantly be brought into action. The medical corps was
magnificent; as businesslike, as completely equipped, and as
efficient as a great city hospital--as, indeed, it should be, for no
hospital ever built was called upon to treat so many emergency
cases. One section of the medical corps consisted wholly of
pedicurists, who examined and treated the feet of the men. If a
German soldier has even a suspicion of a corn or a bunion or a
chafed heel and does not instantly report to the regimental
pedicurist for treatment he is subject to severe punishment. He is
not permitted to neglect his feet--or for that matter his teeth, or any
other portion of his body--because his feet do not belong to him but
to the Kaiser, and the Kaiser expects those feet kept in condition to
perform long and arduous marches and to fight his battles.

At one cross-roads I saw a soldier with a horse-clipping machine.
An officer stood beside him and closely scanned the heads of the
passing men. Whenever he spied a soldier whose hair was a
fraction of an inch too long, that soldier was called out of the ranks,
the clipper was run over his head as quickly and dexterously as an
expert shearer fleeces sheep, and then the man, his hair once more
too short to harbour dirt, ran to rejoin his company. They must have
cut the hair of a hundred men an hour. It was a fascinating
performance. Men on bicycles, with coils of insulated wire slung on
reels between them, strung field-telephones from tree to tree, so
that the general commanding could converse with any part of the
fifty-mile-long column. The whole army never slept. When half was
resting the other half was advancing. The German soldier is treated
as a valuable machine, which must be speeded up to the highest
possible efficiency. Therefore he is well fed, well shod, well clothed--
and worked as a negro teamster works a mule. Only men who are
well cared-for can march thirty-five miles a day, week in and week
out. Only once did I see a man ill-treated. A sentry on duty in front of
the general headquarters failed to salute an officer with sufficient
promptness, whereupon the officer lashed him again and again
across the face with a riding-whip. Though welts rose at every blow,
the soldier stood rigidly at attention and never quivered. It was not a
pleasant thing to witness. Had it been a British or an American
soldier who was thus treated there would have been an officer's
funeral the next day.

As we were passing a German outpost a sentry ran into the road
and signalled us to stop.

"Are you Americans?" he asked.

"We are," said I.

"Then I have orders to take you to the commandant," said he.

"But I am on my way to dine with General von Boehn. I have a pass
signed by the General himself and I am late already."

"No matter," the man insisted stubbornly. "You must come with me.
The commander has so ordered it."

So there was nothing for it but to accompany the soldier. Though we
tried to laugh away our nervousness, I am quite willing to admit that
we had visions of court-martials and prison cells and firing parties.
You never know just where you are at with the Germans. You see,
they have no sense of humour.

We found the commandant and his staff quartered at a farmhouse a
half-mile down the road. He was a stout, florid-faced, boisterous
captain of pioneers.

"I'm sorry to detain you," he said apologetically, "but I ordered the
sentries to stop the first American car that passed, and yours
happened to be the unlucky one. I have a brother in America and I
wish to send a letter to him to let him know that all is well with me.
Would you have the goodness to post it?"

"I'll do better than that, Captain," said I. "If you will give me your
brother's name and address, and if he takes the New York World,
he will read in to-morrow morning's paper that I have met you."

And the next morning, just as I had promised, Mr. F. zur Nedden of
Rosebank, New York, was astonished to read in the columns of his
morning paper that I had left his soldier-brother comfortably
quartered in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Renaix, Belgium, in
excellent health but drinking more red wine than was likely to be
good for him.

It was now considerably past midday, and we were within a few
miles of the French frontier, when I saw the guidon which signified
the presence of the head of the army, planted at the entrance to a
splendid old chateau. As we passed between the stately gateposts,
whirled up the splendid, tree-lined drive and came to a stop in front
of the terrace, a dozen officers came running out to meet us. So
cordial and informal were their greetings that I felt as though I were
being welcomed at a country-house in America instead of the
headquarters of a German army in the field. So perfect was the
field-telephone service that the staff had been able to keep in touch
with our progress ever since, five hours before, we had entered the
German lines, and had waited dinner for us. General von Boehn I
found to be a red-faced, grey-moustached, jovial old warrior, who
seemed very much worried for fear that we were not getting enough
to eat, and particularly enough to drink. He explained that the
Belgian owners of the chateau had had the bad taste to run away
and take their servants with them, leaving only one bottle of
champagne in the cellar. That bottle was good, however, as far as it
went. Nearly all the officers spoke English, and during the meal the
conversation was chiefly of the United States, for one of them had
been attached to the German Embassy at Washington and knew
the golf-course at Chevy Chase better than I do myself; another
had fished in California and shot elk in Wyoming; and a third had
attended the army school at Fort Riley. After dinner we grouped
ourselves on the terrace and Thompson made photographs of us.
They are probably the only ones--in this war, at least--of a German
general and an American war correspondent who is not under
arrest. Then we gathered about a table on which was spread a staff
map of the war area and got down to serious business.

The general began by asserting that the accounts of atrocities
perpetrated by German troops on Belgian non-combatants were

"Look at these officers about you," he said. "They are gentlemen,
like yourself. Look at the soldiers marching past in the road out
there. Most of them are the fathers of families. Surely you do not
believe that they would do the unspeakable things they have been
accused of?"

"Three days ago, General," said I, "I was in Aerschot. The whole
town is now but a ghastly, blackened ruin."

"When we entered Aerschot," was the reply, "the son of the
burgomaster came into the room where our officers were dining and
assassinated the Chief of Staff. What followed was retribution. The
townspeople got only what they deserved."

"But why wreak your vengeance on women and children?" I asked.

"None have been killed," the general asserted positively.

"I'm sorry to contradict you, General," I asserted with equal
positiveness, "but I have myself seen their bodies. So has Mr.
Gibson, the secretary of the American Legation in Brussels, who
was present during the destruction of Louvain."

"Of course," replied General von Boehn, "there is always danger of
women and children being killed during street fighting if they insist
on coming into the streets. It is unfortunate, but it is war."

"But how about a woman's body I saw with the hands and feet cut
off? How about the white-haired man and his son whom I helped to
bury outside of Sempst, who had been killed merely because a
retreating Belgian soldier had shot a German soldier outside their
house? There were twenty-two bayonet wounds in the old man's
face. I counted them. How about the little girl, two years old, who
was shot while in her mother's arms by a Uhlan and whose funeral I
attended at Heyst-op-den-Berg? How about the old man near
Vilvorde who was hung by his hands from the rafters of his house
and roasted to death by a bonfire being built under him?"

The general seemed taken aback by the exactness of my

"Such things are horrible if true," he said. "Of course, our soldiers,
like soldiers in all armies, sometimes get out of hand and do things
which we would never tolerate if we knew it. At Louvain, for
example, I sentenced two soldiers to twelve years' penal servitude
each for assaulting a woman."

"Apropos of Louvain," I remarked, "why did you destroy the library?"

"We regretted that as much as anyone else," was the answer. "It
caught fire from burning houses and we could not save it."

"But why did you burn Louvain at all?" I asked.

"Because the townspeople fired on our troops. We actually found
machine-guns in some of the houses. And," smashing his fist down
upon the table, "whenever civilians fire upon our troops we will teach
them a lasting lesson. If women and children insist on getting in the
way of bullets, so much the worse for the women and children."

"How do you explain the bombardment of Antwerp by Zeppelins?" I

"Zeppelins have orders to drop their bombs only on fortifications and
soldiers," he answered.

"As a matter of fact," I remarked, "they destroyed only private
houses and innocent civilians, several of whom were women. If one
of those bombs had dropped two hundred yards nearer my hotel I
wouldn't be here to-day smoking one of your excellent cigars."

"That is a calamity which, thank God, didn't happen," he replied.

"If you feel for my safety as deeply as that, General," I said,
earnestly, "you can make quite sure of my coming to no harm by
sending no more Zeppelins."

"Well, Herr Powell," he said, laughing, "we will think about it. And,"
he continued gravely, "I trust that you will tell the American people,
through your great paper, what I have told you to-day. Let them
hear our side of this atrocity business. It is only justice that they
should be made familiar with both sides of the question."

I have quoted my conversation with General von Boehn as nearly
verbatim as I can remember it. I have no comments to make. I will
leave it to my readers to decide for themselves just how convincing
were the answers of the German General Staff--for General von
Boehn was but its mouthpiece--to the Belgian accusations. Before
we began our conversation I asked the general if my photographer,
Thompson, might be permitted to take photographs of the great
army which was passing. Five minutes later Thompson whirled
away in a military motor-car, ciceroned by the officer who had
attended the army school at Fort Riley. It seems that they stopped
the car beside the road, in a place where the light was good, and
when Thompson saw approaching a regiment or a battery or a
squadron of which he wished a picture he would tell the officer,
whereupon the officer would blow a whistle and the whole column
would halt.

"Just wait a few minutes until the dust settles," Thompson would
remark, lighting a cigar, and the Ninth Imperial Army, whose
columns stretched over the country-side as far as the eye could
see, would stand in its tracks until the air was sufficiently clear to get
a good picture.

A field battery of the Imperial Guard rumbled past and Thompson
made some remark about the accuracy of the American gunners at
Vera Cruz.

"Let us show you what our gunners can do," said the officer, and he
gave an order. There were more orders--a perfect volley of them. A
bugle shrilled, eight horses strained against their collars, the drivers
cracked their whips, the cannoneers put their shoulders to the
wheels, and a gun left the road and swung into position in an
adjacent field. On a knoll three miles away an ancient windmill was
beating the air with its huge wings. A shell hit the windmill and tore it
into splinters.

"Good work," Thompson observed critically. "If those fellows of
yours keep on they'll be able to get a job in the American navy when
the war is over."

In all the annals of modern war I do not believe that there is a
parallel to this little Kansas photographer halting, with peremptory
hand, an advancing army and leisurely photographing it, regiment
by regiment, and then having a field-gun of the Imperial Guard go
into action solely to gratify his curiosity.

They were very courteous and hospitable to me, those German
officers, and I was immensely interested with all that I saw. But,
when all is said and done, they impressed me not as human beings,
who have weaknesses and virtues, likes and dislikes of their own,
but rather as parts, more or less important, of a mighty and highly
efficient machine which is directed and controlled by a cold and
calculating intelligence in far-away Berlin. That machine has about
as much of the human element as a meat-chopper, as a steam-
roller, as the death-chair at Sing Sing. Its mission is to crush,
obliterate, destroy, and no considerations of civilization or chivalry or
humanity will affect it. I think that the Germans, with their grim, set
faces, their monotonous uniforms, and the ceaseless shuffle,
shuffle, shuffle of their boots must have gotten on my nerves, for it
was with a distinct feeling of relief that I turned the bonnet of my car
once more towards Antwerp and my friends the Belgians.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Apr 2008 7:31    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

VI. On The Belgian Battle-Line

In writing of the battles in Belgium I find myself at a loss as to what
names to give them. After the treaty-makers have affixed their
signatures to a piece of parchment and the arm-chair historians
have settled down to the task of writing a connected account of the
campaign, the various engagements will doubtless be properly
classified and labelled--and under the names which they will receive
in the histories we, who were present at them, will probably not
recognize them at all. Until such time, then, as history has granted
them the justice of perspective, I can only refer to them as "the fight
at Sempst" or "the first engagement at Alost" or "the battle of
Vilvorde" or "the taking of Termonde." Not only this, but the
engagements that seemed to us to be battles, or remarkably lifelike
imitations of battles, may be dismissed by the historians as
unimportant skirmishes and contacts, while those engagements that
we carelessly referred to at the time as "scraps" may well prove, in
the light of future events, to have been of far greater significance
than we realized. I don't even know how many engagements I
witnessed, for I did not take the trouble to keep count. Thompson,
who was with me from the beginning of the campaign to the end,
told a reporter who interviewed him upon his return to London that
we had been present at thirty-two engagements, large and small.
Though I do not vouch, mind you, for the accuracy of this assertion,
it is not as improbable as it sounds, for, from the middle of August to
the fall of Antwerp in the early part of October, it was a poor day that
didn't produce a fight of some sort. The fighting in Belgium at this
stage of the war may be said to have been confined to an area
within a triangle whose corners were Antwerp, Aerschot and
Termonde. The southern side of this triangle, which ran somewhat
to the south of Malines, was nearly forty miles in length, and it was
this forty-mile front, extending from Aerschot on the east to
Termonde on the west, which, during the earlier stages of the
campaign, formed the Belgian battle-line. As the campaign
progressed and the Germans developed their offensive, the
Belgians were slowly forced back within the converging sides of the
triangle until they were squeezed into the angle formed by Antwerp,
where they made their last stand.

The theatre of operations was, from the standpoint of a professional
onlooker like myself, very inconsiderately arranged. Nature had
provided neither orchestra-stalls nor boxes. All the seats were bad.
In fact it was quite impossible to obtain a good view of the stage and
of the uniformed actors who were presenting the most stupendous
spectacle in all history upon it. The whole region, you see, was
absolutely flat--as flat as the top of a table--and there wasn't
anything even remotely resembling a hill anywhere. To make
matters worse, the country was criss-crossed by a perfect network
of rivers and brooks and canals and ditches; the highways and the
railways, which had to be raised to keep them from being washed
out by the periodic inundations, were so thickly screened by trees as
to be quite useless for purposes of observation; and in the rare
places where a rise in the ground might have enabled one to get a
comprehensive view of the surrounding country, dense groves of
trees or red-and-white villages almost invariably intervened. One
could be within a few hundred yards of the firing-line and literally not
see a thing save the fleecy puffs of bursting shrapnel. Indeed, I
don't know what we should have done had it not been for the church
towers. These were conveniently sprinkled over the landscape--
every cluster of houses seemed to have one--and did their best to
make up for the region's topographical shortcomings. The only
disadvantage attaching to the use of the church-spires as places to
view the fighting from was that the military observers and the
officers controlling the fire of the batteries used them for the same
purpose. The enemy knew this, of course, and almost the first thing
he did, therefore, was to open fire on them with his artillery and drive
those observers out. This accounts for the fact that in many
sections of Belgium there is not a church-spire left standing. When
we ascended a church tower, therefore, for the purpose of obtaining
a general view of an engagement, we took our chances and we
knew it. More than once, when the enemy got the range and their
shells began to shriek and yowl past the belfry in which I was
stationed, I have raced down the rickety ladders at a speed which,
under normal conditions, would probably have resulted in my
breaking my neck. In view of the restrictions imposed upon
correspondents in the French and Russian theatres of war, I
suppose that instead of finding fault with the seating arrangements I
should thank my lucky stars that I did not have to write my
dispatches with the aid of an ordnance-map and a guide-book in a
hotel bedroom a score or more of miles from the firing-line.

The Belgian field army consisted of six divisions and a brigade of
cavalry and numbered, on paper at least, about 180,000 men. I very
much doubt, however, if King Albert had in the field at anyone time
more than 120,000 men--a very large proportion of whom were, of
course, raw recruits. Now the Belgian army, when all is said and
done, was not an army according to the Continental definition; it
was not much more than a glorified police force, a militia. No one
had ever dreamed that it would be called upon to fight, and hence,
when war came, it was wholly unprepared. That it was able to offer
the stubborn and heroic resistance which it did to the advance of the
German legions speaks volumes for Belgian stamina and courage.
Many of the troops were armed with rifles of an obsolete pattern, the
supply of ammunition was insufficient, and though the artillery was
on the whole of excellent quality, it was placed at a tremendous
disadvantage by the superior range and calibre of the German field-
guns. The men did not even have the protection afforded by neutral-
coloured uniforms, but fought from first to last in clothes of blue and
green and blazing scarlet. As I stood one day in the Place de Meir in
Antwerp and watched a regiment of mud-bespattered guides clatter
past, it was hard to believe that I was living in the twentieth century
and not in the beginning of the nineteenth, for instead of serviceable
uniforms of grey or drab or khaki, these men wore the befrogged
green jackets, the cherry-coloured breeches, and the huge fur
busbies which characterized the soldiers of Napoleon.

The carabineers, for example, wore uniforms of bottle-green and
queer sugar-loaf hats of patent leather which resembled the
headgear of the Directoire period. Both the grenadiers and the
infantry of the line marched and fought and slept in uniforms of
heavy blue cloth piped with scarlet and small, round, visorless
fatigue-caps which afforded no protection from either sun or rain.
Some of the men remedied this by fitting their caps with green
reading-shades, such as undergraduates wear when they are
cramming for examinations, so that at first glance a regiment looked
as though its ranks were filled with either jockeys or students. The
gendarmes--who, by the way, were always to be found where the
fighting was hottest--were the most unsuitably uniformed of all, for
the blue coats and silver aiguillettes and towering bearskins which
served to impress the simple country-folk made splendid targets for
the German marksmen. This medley of picturesque and brilliant
uniforms was wonderfully effective, of course, and whenever I came
upon a group of lancers in sky-blue and yellow lounging about the
door of a wayside tavern or met a patrol of guides in their green
jackets and scarlet breeches trotting along a country-road, I always
had the feeling that I was looking at a painting by Meissonier or

At the beginning of the war the Belgian cavalry was as well mounted
as that of any European army, many of the officers having Irish
hunters, while the men were mounted on Hungarian-bred stock. The
almost incessant campaigning, combined with lack of proper food
and care, had its effect upon the horses, however, and before the
campaign in Flanders was half over the cavalry mounts were a raw-
boned and sorry-looking lot. The Belgian field artillery was horsed
magnificently: the sturdy, hardy animals native to Luxembourg and
the Ardennes making admirable material for gun-teams, while the
great Belgian draught-horses could scarcely have been improved
upon for the army's heavier work.

Speaking of cavalry, the thing that I most wanted to see when I went
to the war was a cavalry charge. I had seen mounted troops in
action, of course, both in Africa and in Asia, but they had brown
skins and wore fantastic uniforms. What I wanted to see was one of
those charges such as Meissonier used to paint--scarlet breeches
and steel helmets and a sea of brandished sword-blades and all
that sort of thing. But when I confided my wish to an American army
officer whom I met on the boat going over he promptly discouraged
me. "Cavalry charges are a thing of the past," he asserted. "There
will never be one again. The modern high-power rifle has made
them impossible. Henceforward cavalry will only be used for
scouting purposes or as mounted infantry." He spoke with great
positiveness, I remember, having been, you see, in both the Cuban
and Philippine campaigns. According to the textbooks and the
military experts and the armchair tacticians he was perfectly right; I
believe that all of the writers on military subjects agree in saying that
cavalry charges are obsolete as a form of attack. But the trouble
with the Belgians was that they didn't play the war-game according
to the rules in the book. They were very primitive in their
conceptions of warfare. Their idea was that whenever they got
within sight of a German regiment to go after that regiment and
exterminate it, and they didn't care whether in doing it they used
horse, foot, or guns. It was owing, therefore, to this total disregard
for the rules laid down in the textbooks that I saw my cavalry charge.
Let me tell you about it while I have the chance, for there is no doubt
that cavalry charges are getting scarce and I may never see

It was in the region between Termonde and Alost. This is a better
country for cavalry to manoeuvre in than most parts of Flanders, for
sometimes one can go almost a mile without being stopped by a
canal. A considerable force of Germans had pushed north from
Alost and the Belgian commander ordered a brigade of cavalry,
composed of the two regiments of guides and, if I remember rightly,
two regiments of lancers, to go out and drive them back. After a
morning spent in skirmishing and manoeuvring for position, the
Belgian cavalry commander got his Germans where he wanted
them. The Germans were in front of a wood, and between them and
the Belgians lay as pretty a stretch of open country as a cavalryman
could ask for. Now the Germans occupied a strong position, mind
you, and the proper thing to have done according to the books
would have been to have demoralized them with shell-fire and then
to have followed it up with an infantry attack. But the grizzled old
Belgian commander did nothing of the sort. He had fifteen hundred
troopers who were simply praying for a chance to go at the
Germans with cold steel, and he gave them the chance they
wanted. Tossing away his cigarette and tightening the chin-strap of
his busby, he trotted out in front of his men. "Right into line!" he
bellowed. Two long lines--one the guides, in green and scarlet, the
other the lancers, in blue and yellow--spread themselves across the
fields. "Trot!" The bugles squealed the order. "Gallop!" The forest of
lances dropped from vertical to horizontal and the cloud of gaily
fluttering pennons changed into a bristling hedge of steel. "Charge!"
came the order, and the spurs went home. "Vive la Belgique! Vive la
Belgique!" roared the troopers--and the Germans, not liking the look
of those long and cruel lances, fell back precipitately into the wood
where the troopers could not follow them. Then, their work having
been accomplished, the cavalry came trotting back again. Of
course, from a military standpoint it was an affair of small
importance, but so far as colour and action and excitement were
concerned it was worth having gone to Belgium to see.

After the German occupation of Brussels, the first engagement of
sufficient magnitude to be termed a battle took place on August 25
and 26 in the Sempst-Elewyt-Eppeghem-Vilvorde region, midway
between Brussels and Malines. The Belgians had in action four
divisions, totalling about sixty thousand men, opposed to which was
a considerably heavier force of Germans. To get a clear conception
of the battle one must picture a fifty-foot-high railway embankment,
its steeply sloping sides heavily wooded, stretching its length across
a fertile, smiling country-side like a monstrous green snake. On this
line, in time of peace, the bloc trains made the journey from Antwerp
to Brussels in less than an hour. Malines, with its historic buildings
and its famous cathedral, lies on one side of this line and the village
of Vilvorde on the other, five miles separating them. On the 25th the
Belgians, believing the Brussels garrison to have been seriously
weakened and the German communications poorly guarded, moved
out in force from the shelter of the Antwerp forts and assumed a
vigorous offensive. It was like a terrier attacking a bulldog.

They drove the Germans from Malines by the very impetus
of their attack, but the Germans brought up heavy reinforcements,
and by the morning of the 26th the Belgians were in a most perilous
position. The battle hinged on the possession of the railway
embankment had gradually extended, each army trying to outflank
the other, until it was being fought along a front of twenty miles. At
dawn on the second day an artillery duel began across the
embankment, the German fire being corrected by observers in
captive balloons. By noon the Germans had gotten the range and a
rain of shrapnel was bursting about the Belgian batteries, which
limbered up and retired at a trot in perfect order. After the guns were
out of range I could see the dark blue masses of the supporting
Belgian infantry slowly falling back, cool as a winter's morning.
Through an oversight, however, two battalions of carabineers did
not receive the order to retire and were in imminent danger of being
cut off and destroyed.

Then occurred one of the bravest acts that I have ever seen. To
reach them a messenger would have to traverse a mile of open
road, swept by-shrieking shrapnel and raked by rifle-fire. There was
about one chance in a thousand of a man getting to the end of that
road alive. A colonel standing beside me under a railway-culvert
summoned a gendarme, gave him the necessary orders, and
added, "Bonne chance, mon brave." The man, a fierce-moustached
fellow who would have gladdened the heart of Napoleon, knew that
he was being sent into the jaws of death, but he merely saluted, set
spurs to his horse, and tore down the road, an archaic figure in his
towering bearskin. He reached the troops uninjured and gave the
order for them to retreat, but as they fell back the German gunners
got the range and with marvellous accuracy dropped shell after shell
into the running column. Soon road and fields were dotted with
corpses in Belgian blue.

Time after time the Germans attempted to carry the railway
embankment with the bayonet, but the Belgians met them with
blasts of lead which shrivelled the grey columns as leaves are
shrivelled by an autumn wind. By mid-afternoon the Belgians and
Germans were in places barely a hundred yards apart, and the rattle
of musketry sounded like a boy drawing a stick along the palings of
a picket-fence. During the height of the battle a Zeppelin slowly
circled over the field like a great vulture awaiting a feast. So heavy
was the fighting that the embankment of a branch railway from
which I viewed the afternoon's battle was literally carpeted with the
corpses of Germans who had been killed during the morning. One
of them had died clasping a woman's picture. He was buried with it
still clenched in his hand. I saw peasants throw twelve bodies into
one grave. One peasant would grasp a corpse by the shoulders and
another would take its feet and they would give it a swing as though
it were a sack of meal. As I watched these inanimate forms being
carelessly tossed into the trench it was hard to make myself believe
that only a few hours before they had been sons or husbands or
fathers and that somewhere across the Rhine women and children
were waiting and watching and praying for them. At a hamlet near
Sempst I helped to bury an aged farmer and his son, inoffensive
peasants, who had been executed by the Germans because a
retreating Belgian soldier had shot a Uhlan in front of their
farmhouse. Not content with shooting them, they had disfigured
them almost beyond recognition. There were twenty-two bayonet
wounds in the old man's face. I know, for I counted them.

By four o'clock all the Belgian troops were withdrawn except a thin
screen to cover the retreat. As I wished to see the German advance
I remained on the railway embankment on the outskirts of Sempst
after all the Belgians, save a picket of ten men, had been withdrawn
from the village. I had my car waiting in the road below with the
motor running. As the German infantry would have to advance
across a mile of open fields it was obvious that I would have ample
time in which to get away. The Germans prefaced their advance by
a terrific cannonade. The air was filled with whining shrapnel.
Farmhouses collapsed amid puffs of brown smoke. The sky was
smeared in a dozen places with the smoke of burning hamlets.
Suddenly a soldier crouching beside me cried, "Les Allemands! Les
Allemands!" and from the woods which screened the railway-
embankment burst a long line of grey figures, hoarsely cheering. At
almost the same moment I heard a sudden splutter of shots in the
village street behind me and my driver screamed, "Hurry for your
life, monsieur! The Uhlans are upon us!" In my desire to see the
main German advance it had never occurred to me that a force of
the enemy's cavalry might slip around and take us in the flank,
which was exactly what had happened. It was three hundred yards
to the car and a freshly ploughed field lay between, but I am
confident that I broke the world's record for the distance. As I leaped
into the car and we shot down the road at fifty miles an hour, the
Uhlans cantered into the village, the sunlight striking on their lance-
tips. It was a close call.

The retreat from Malines provided a spectacle which I shall never
forget. For twenty miles every road was jammed with clattering
cavalry, plodding infantry, and rumbling batteries, the guns, limbers,
and caissons still covered with the green boughs which had been
used to mask their position from German aeroplanes. Gendarmes in
giant bearskins, chasseurs in uniforms of green and yellow,
carabineers with their shiny leather hats, grenadiers, infantry of the
line, guides, lancers, sappers and miners with picks and spades,
engineers with pontoon-wagons, machine-guns drawn by dogs,
ambulances with huge Red Cross flags fluttering above them, and
cars, cars, cars, all the dear old familiar American makes among
them, contributed to form a mighty river flowing towards Antwerp.
Malines formerly had a population of fifty thousand people, and
forty-five thousand of these fled when they heard that the Germans
were returning. The scenes along the road were heart-rending in
their pathos. The very young and the very old, the rich and the well-
to-do and the poverty-stricken, the lame and the sick and the blind,
with the few belongings they had been able to save in sheet-
wrapped bundles on their backs or piled in push-carts, clogged the
roads and impeded the soldiery. These people were abandoning all
that they held most dear to pillage and destruction. They were
completely terrorized by the Germans. But the Belgian army was not
terrorized. It was a retreating army but it was victorious in retreat.
The soldiers were cool, confident, courageous, and gave me the
feeling that if the German giant left himself unguarded a single
instant little Belgium would drive home a solar-plexus blow.

For many days after its evacuation by the Belgians, Malines
occupied an unhappy position midway between the contending
armies, being alternately bombarded by the Belgians and the
Germans. The latter, instead of endeavouring to avoid damaging
the splendid cathedral, whose tower, three hundred and twenty-five
feet high, is the most conspicuous landmark in the region, seemed
to take a grim pleasure in directing their fire upon the ancient
building. The great clock, the largest in Belgium, was destroyed; the
famous stained-glass windows were broken; the exquisite carvings
were shattered; and shells, crashing through the walls and roof,
converted the beautiful interior into a heap of debris. As there were
no Belgian troops in Malines at this time, and as this fact was
perfectly well known to the Germans, this bombardment of an
undefended city and the destruction of its historic monuments struck
me as being peculiarly wanton and not induced by any military
necessity. It was, of course, part and parcel of the German policy of
terrorism and intimidation. The bombardment of cities, the
destruction of historic monuments, the burning of villages, and, in
many cases, the massacre of civilians was the price which the
Belgians were forced to pay for resisting the invader.

In order to ascertain just what damage had been done to the city,
and particularly to the cathedral, I ran into Malines in my car during a
pause in the bombardment. As the streets were too narrow to permit
of turning the car around, and as it was more than probable that we
should have to get out in a hurry, Roos suggested that we run in
backward, which we did, I standing up in the tonneau, field-glasses
glued to my eyes, on the look-out for lurking Germans. I don't recall
ever having had a more eerie experience than that surreptitious visit
to Malines. The city was as silent and deserted as a cemetery;
there was not a human being to be seen; and as we cautiously
advanced through the narrow, winding streets, the vacant houses
echoed the throbbing of the motor with a racket which was positively
startling. Just as we reached the square in front of the cathedral a
German shell came shrieking over the house-tops and burst with a
shattering crash in the upper story of a building a few yards away.
The whole front of that building came crashing down about us in a
cascade of brick and plaster. We did not stay on the order of our
going. No. We went out of that town faster than any automobile
every went out of it before. We went so fast, in fact, that we struck
and killed the only remaining inhabitant. He was a large yellow dog.

Owing to strategic reasons the magnitude and significance of the
great four days' battle which was fought in mid-September between
the Belgian field army and the combined German forces in Northern
Belgium was carefully masked in all official communications at the
time, and, in the rush of later events, its importance was lost sight
of. Yet the great flanking movement of the Allies in France largely
owed its success to this determined offensive movement on the part
of the Belgians, who, as it afterwards proved, were acting in close
co-operation with the French General Staff. This unexpected sally,
which took the Germans completely by surprise, not only compelled
them to concentrate all their available forces in Belgium, but, what
was far more important, it necessitated the hasty recall of their Third
and Ninth armies, which were close to the French frontier and
whose addition to the German battle-line in France might well have
turned the scales in Germany's favour. In addition the Germans had
to bring up their Landwehr and Landsturm regiments from the south
of Brussels, and a naval division composed of fifteen thousand
sailors and marines was also engaged. It is no exaggeration, then,
to say that the success of the Allies on the Aisne was in great
measure due to the sacrifices made on this occasion by the Belgian
army. Every available man which the Germans could put into the
field was used to hold a line running through Sempst, Weerde,
Campenhout, Wespelaer, Rotselaer, and Holsbeek. The Belgians
lay to the north-east of this line, their left resting on Aerschot and
their centre at Meerbeek. Between the opposing armies stretched
the Malines-Louvain canal, along almost the entire length of which
fighting as bloody as any in the war took place.

To describe this battle--I do not even know by what name it will be
known to future generations--would be to usurp the duties of the
historian, and I shall only attempt, therefore, to tell you of that
portion of it which I saw with my own eyes. On the morning of
September 13 four Belgian divisions moved southward from
Malines, their objective being the town of Weerde, on the Antwerp-
Brussels railway. It was known that the Germans occupied Weerde
in force, so throughout the day the Belgian artillery, masked by
heavy woods, pounded away incessantly. By noon the enemy's
guns ceased to reply, which was assumed by the jubilant Belgians
to be a sign that the German artillery had been silenced. At noon the
Belgian First Division moved forward and Thompson and I, leaving
the car in front of a convent over which the Red Cross flag was
flying, moved forward with it. Standing quite by itself in the middle of
a field, perhaps a mile beyond the convent, was a two-story brick
farmhouse. A hundred yards in front of the farmhouse stretched the
raised, stone-paved, tree-lined highway which runs from Brussels to
Antwerp, and on the other side of the highway was Weerde.
Sheltering ourselves as much as possible in the trenches which
zigzagged across the field, and dashing at full speed across the
open places which were swept by rifle-fire, we succeeded in
reaching the farmhouse. Ascending to the garret, we broke a hole
through the tiled roof and found ourselves looking down upon the
battle precisely as one looks down on a cricket match from the
upper tier of seats at Lord's. Lying in the deep ditch which bordered
our side of the highway was a Belgian infantry brigade, composed of
two regiments of carabineers and two regiments of chasseurs a
pied, the men all crouching in the ditch or lying prone upon the
ground. Five hundred yards away, on the other side of the highway,
we could see through the trees the whitewashed walls and red
pottery roofs of Weerde, while a short distance to the right, in a
heavily wooded park, was a large stone chateau. The only sign that
the town was occupied was a pall of blue-grey vapour which hung
over it and a continuous crackle of musketry coming from it, though
occasionally, through my glasses, I could catch glimpses of the lean
muzzles of machine-guns protruding from the upper windows of the

Now you must bear in mind the fact that in this war soldiers fired
from the trenches for days on end without once getting a glimpse of
the enemy. They knew that somewhere opposite them, in that bit of
wood, perhaps, or behind that group of buildings, or on the other
side of that railway-embankment, the enemy was trying to kill them
just as earnestly as they were trying to kill him. But they rarely got a
clear view of him save in street fighting and, of course, when he was
advancing across open country. Soldiers no longer select their man
and pick him off as one would pick off a stag, because the great
range of modern rifles has put the firing-lines too far apart for that
sort of thing. Instead, therefore, of aiming at individuals, soldiers aim
at the places where they believe those individuals to be. Each
company commander shows his men their target, tells them at what
distance to set their sights, and controls their expenditure of
ammunition, the fire of infantry generally being more effective when
delivered in bursts by sections.

What I have said in general about infantry being unable to see the
target at which they are firing was particularly true at Weerde owing
to the dense foliage which served to screen the enemy's position.
Occasionally, after the explosion of a particularly well-placed Belgian
shell, Thompson and I, from our hole in the roof and with the aid of
our high-power glasses, could catch fleeting glimpses of scurrying
grey-clad figures, but that was all. The men below us in the trenches
could see nothing except the hedges, gardens, and red-roofed
houses of a country town. They knew the enemy was there,
however, from the incessant rattle of musketry and machine-guns
and from the screams and exclamations of those of their fellows
who happened to get in the bullets' way.

Late in the afternoon word was passed down the line that the
German guns had been put out of action, that the enemy was
retiring and that at 5.30 sharp the whole Belgian line would advance
and take the town with the bayonet. Under cover of artillery fire so
continuous that it sounded like thunder in the mountains, the
Belgian infantry climbed out of the trenches and, throwing aside
their knapsacks, formed up behind the road preparatory to the
grand assault. A moment later a dozen dog batteries came trotting
up and took position on the left of the infantry. At 5.30 to the minute
the whistles of the officers sounded shrilly and the mile-long line of
men swept forward cheering. They crossed the roadway, they
scrambled over ditches, they climbed fences, they pushed through
hedges, until they were within a hundred yards of the line of
buildings which formed the outskirts of the town. Then hell itself
broke loose. The whole German front, which for several hours past
had replied but feebly to the Belgian fire, spat a continuous stream
of lead and flame. The rolling crash of musketry and the ripping
snarl of machine-guns were stabbed by the vicious pom-pom-pom-
pom-pom of the quick-firers. From every window of the three-storied
chateau opposite us the lean muzzles of mitrailleuses poured out
their hail of death. I have seen fighting on four continents, but I have
never witnessed so deadly a fire as that which wiped out the head of
the Belgian column as a sponge wipes out figures on a slate.

The Germans had prepared a trap and the Belgians had walked--or
rather charged--directly into it. Three minutes later the dog batteries
came tearing back on a dead run. That should have been a signal
that it was high time for us to go, but, in spite of the fact that a storm
was brewing, we waited to see the last inning. Then things began to
happen with a rapidity that was bewildering. Back through the
hedges, across the ditches, over the roadway came the Belgian
infantry, crouching, stooping, running for their lives, Every now and
then a soldier would stumble, as though he had stubbed his toe,
and throw out his arms and fall headlong. A bullet had hit him. The
road was sprinkled with silent forms in blue and green. The fields
were sprinkled with them too. One man was hit as he was struggling
to get through a hedge and died standing, held upright by the thorny
branches. Men with blood streaming down their faces, men with
horrid crimson patches on their tunics, limped, crawled, staggered
past, leaving scarlet trails behind them. A young officer of
chasseurs, who had been recklessly exposing himself while trying to
check the retreat of his men, suddenly spun around on his heels,
like one of those wooden toys which the curb vendors sell, and then
crumpled up, as though all the bone and muscle had gone out of
him. A man plunged into a half-filled ditch and lay there, with his
head under water. I could see the water slowly redden.

Bullets began to smash the tiles above us. "This is no place for two
innocent little American boys," remarked Thompson, shouldering his
camera. I agreed with him. By the time we reached the ground the
Belgian infantry was half a mile in our rear, and to reach the car we
had to cross nearly a mile of open field. Bullets were singing across
it and kicking up little spurts of brown earth where they struck. We
had not gone a hundred yards when the German artillery, which the
Belgians so confidently asserted had been silenced, opened with
shrapnel. Have you ever heard a winter gale howling and shrieking
through the tree-tops? Of course. Then you know what shrapnel
sounds like, only it is louder. You have no idea though how
extremely annoying shrapnel is, when it bursts in your immediate
vicinity. You feel as though you would like nothing in the world so
much as to be suddenly transformed into a woodchuck and have a
convenient hole. I remembered that an artillery officer had told me
that a burst of shrapnel from a battery two miles away will spread
itself over an eight-acre field, and every time I heard the moan of an
approaching shell I wondered if it would decide to explode in the
particular eight-acre field in which I happened to be.

As though the German shell-storm was not making things
sufficiently uncomfortable for us, when we were half-way across the
field two Belgian soldiers suddenly rose from a trench and covered
us with their rifles. "Halt! Hands up!" they shouted. There was
nothing for it but to obey them. We advanced with our hands in the
air but with our heads twisted upward on the look-out for shrapnel.
As we approached they recognized us. "Oh, you're the Americans,"
said one of them, lowering his rifle. "We couldn't see your faces and
we took you for Germans. You'd better come with us. It's getting too
hot to stay here." The four of us started on a run for a little cluster of
houses a few hundred yards away. By this time the shells were
coming across at the rate of twenty a minute.

"Suppose we go into a cellar until the storm blows over," suggested
Roos, who had joined us. "I'm all for that," said I, making a dive for
the nearest doorway. "Keep away from that house!" shouted a
Belgian soldier who suddenly appeared from around a corner. "The
man who owns it has gone insane from fright. He's upstairs with a
rifle and he's shooting at every one who passes." "Well, I call that
damned inhospitable," said Thompson, and Roos and I heartily
agreed with him. There was nothing else for it, therefore, but to
make a dash for the car. We had left it standing in front of a convent
over which a Red Cross flag was flying on the assumption that there
it would be perfectly safe. But we found that we were mistaken. The
Red Cross flag did not spell protection by any means. As we came
within sight of the car a shell burst within thirty feet of it, a fragment
of the projectile burying itself in the door. I never knew of a car
taking so long to crank. Though it was really probably only a matter
of seconds before the engine started it seemed to us, standing in
that shell-swept road, like hours.

Darkness had now fallen. A torrential rain had set in. The car slid
from one side of the road to the other like a Scotchman coming
home from celebrating Bobbie Burns's birthday and repeatedly
threatened to capsize in the ditch. The mud was ankle-deep and the
road back to Malines was now in the possession of the Germans, so
we were compelled to make a detour through a deserted country-
side, running through the inky blackness without lights so as not to
invite a visit from a shell. It was long after midnight when, cold, wet
and famished, we called the password to the sentry at the gateway
through the barbed-wire entanglements which encircled Antwerp
and he let us in. It was a very lively day for every one concerned
and there were a few minutes when I thought that I would never see
the Statue of Liberty again.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Apr 2008 7:33    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

VII. The Coming Of The British

Imagine, if you please, a professional heavy-weight prize-fighter,
with an abnormally long reach, holding an amateur bantam-weight
boxer at arm's length with one hand and hitting him when and where
he pleased with the other. The fact that the little man was not in the
least afraid of his burly antagonist and that he got in a vicious kick or
jab whenever he saw an opening would not, of course, have any
effect on the outcome of the unequal contest. Now that is almost
precisely what happened when the Germans besieged Antwerp, the
enormously superior range and calibre of their siege-guns enabling
them to pound the city's defences to pieces at their leisure without
the defenders being able to offer any effective resistance.

Though Antwerp was to all intents and purposes a besieged city for
many weeks prior to its capture, it was not until the beginning of the
last week in September that the Germans seriously set to work of
destroying its fortifications. When they did begin, however, their
great siege pieces pounded the forts as steadily and remorselessly
as a trip-hammer pounds a bar of iron. At the time the Belgian
General Staff believed that the Germans were using the same giant
howitzers which demolished the forts at Liege, but in this they were
mistaken, for, as it transpired later, the Antwerp fortifications owed
their destruction to Austrian guns served by Austrian artillerymen.
Now guns of this size can only be fired from specially prepared
concrete beds, and these beds, as we afterwards learned, had been
built during the preceding month behind the embankment of the
railway which runs from Malines to Louvain, thus accounting for the
tenacity with which the Germans had held this railway despite
repeated attempts to dislodge them. At this stage of the investment
the Germans were firing at a range of upwards of eight miles, while
the Belgians had no artillery that was effective at more than six. Add
to this the fact that the German fire was remarkably accurate, being
controlled and constantly corrected by observers stationed in
balloons, and that the German shells were loaded with an explosive
having greater destructive properties than either cordite or shimose
powder, and it will be seen how hopeless was the Belgian position.

The scenes along the Lierre-St. Catherine-Waelhem sector, against
which the Germans at first focussed their attack, were impressive
and awesome beyond description. Against a livid sky rose pillars of
smoke from burning villages. The air was filled with shrieking shell
and bursting shrapnel. The deep-mouthed roar of the guns in the
forts and the angry bark of the Belgian field-batteries were answered
at intervals by the shattering crash of the German high-explosive
shells. When one of these big shells--the soldiers dubbed them
"Antwerp expresses"--struck in a field it sent up a geyser of earth
two hundred feet in height. When they dropped in a river or canal,
as sometimes happened, there was a waterspout. And when they
dropped in a village, that village disappeared from the map.

While we were watching the bombardment from a rise in the
Waelhem road a shell burst in the hamlet of Waerloos, whose red-
brick houses were clustered almost at our feet. A few minutes later
a procession of fugitive villagers came plodding up the cobble-
paved highway. It was headed by an ashen-faced peasant pushing
a wheelbarrow with a weeping woman clinging to his arm. In the
wheelbarrow, atop a pile of hastily collected household goods, was
sprawled the body of a little boy. He could not have been more than
seven. His little knickerbockered legs and play-worn shoes
protruded grotesquely from beneath a heap of bedding. When they
lifted it we could see where the shell had hit him. Beside the dead
boy sat his sister, a tot of three, with blood trickling from a flesh-
wound in her face. She was still clinging convulsively to a toy lamb
which had once been white but whose fleece was now splotched
with red. Some one passed round a hat and we awkwardly tried to
express our sympathy through the medium of silver. After a little
pause they started on again, the father stolidly pushing the
wheelbarrow, with its pathetic load, before him. It was the only home
that family had.

One of the bravest acts that I have ever seen was performed by an
American woman during the bombardment of Waelhem. Her name
was Mrs. Winterbottom; she was originally from Boston, and had
married an English army officer. When he went to the front in
France she went to the front in Belgium, bringing over her car, which
she drove herself, and placing it at the disposal of the British Field
Hospital. After the fort of Waelhem had been silenced and such of
the garrison as were able to move had been withdrawn, word was
received at ambulance headquarters that a number of dangerously
wounded had been left behind and that they would die unless they
received immediate attention. To reach the fort it was necessary to
traverse nearly two miles of road swept by shell-fire. Before anyone
realized what was happening a big grey car shot down the road with
the slender figure of Mrs. Winterbottom at the wheel. Clinging to the
running-board was her English chauffeur and beside her sat my little
Kansas photographer, Donald Thompson. Though the air was filled
with the fleecy white patches which look like cotton-wool but are
really bursting shrapnel, Thompson told me afterwards that Mrs.
Winterbottom was as cool as though she were driving down her
native Commonwealth Avenue on a Sunday morning. When they
reached the fort shells were falling all about them, but they filled the
car with wounded men and Mrs. Winterbottom started back with her
blood-soaked freight for the Belgian lines.

Thompson remained in the fort to take pictures. When darkness fell
he made his way back to the village of Waelhem, where he found a
regiment of Belgian infantry. In one of the soldiers Thompson
recognized a man who, before the war, had been a waiter in the St.
Regis Hotel in New York and who had been detailed to act as his
guide and interpreter during the fighting before Termonde. This man
took Thompson into a wine-shop where a detachment of soldiers
was quartered, gave him food, and spread straw upon the floor for
him to sleep on. Shortly after midnight a forty-two centimetre shell
struck the building. Of the soldiers who were sleeping in the same
room as Thompson nine were killed and fifteen more who were
sleeping upstairs, the ex-waiter among them. Thompson told me
that when the ceiling gave way and the mangled corpses came
tumbling down upon him, he ran up the street with his hands above
his head, screaming like a madman. He met an officer whom he
knew and they ran down the street together, hoping to get out of the
doomed town. Just then a projectile from one of the German siege-
guns tore down the long, straight street, a few yards above their
heads. The blast of air which it created was so terrific that it threw
them down. Thompson said that it was like standing close to the
edge of the platform at a wayside station when the Empire State
Express goes by. When his nerve came back to him he pulled a
couple of cigars out of his pocket and offered one to the officer.
Their hands trembled so, he said afterwards, that they used up half
a box of matches before they could get their cigars lighted.

I am inclined to think that the most bizarre incident I saw during the
bombardment of the outer forts was the flight of the women inmates
of a madhouse at Duffel. There were three hundred women in the
institution, many of them violently insane, and the nuns in charge,
assisted by soldiers, had to take them across a mile of open
country, under a rain of shells, to a waiting train. I shall not soon
forget the picture of that straggling procession winding its slow way
across the stubble-covered fields. Every few seconds a shell would
burst above it or in front of it or behind it with a deafening explosion.
Yet, despite the frantic efforts of the nuns and soldiers, the women
would not be hurried. When a shell burst some of them would
scream and cower or start to run, but more of them would stop in
their tracks and gibber and laugh and clap their hands like excited
children. Then the soldiers would curse under their breath and push
them roughly forward and the nuns would plead with them in their
soft, low voices, to hurry, hurry, hurry. We, who were watching the
scene, thought that few of them would reach the train alive, yet not
one was killed or wounded. The Arabs are right: the mad are under
God's protection.

One of the most inspiring features of the campaign in Belgium was
the heroism displayed by the priests and the members of the
religious orders. Village cures in their black cassocks and shovel
hats, and monks in sandals and brown woollen robes, were
everywhere. I saw them in the trenches exhorting the soldiers to
fight to the last for God and the King; I saw them going out on to the
battlefield with stretchers to gather the wounded under a fire which
made veterans seek shelter; I saw them in the villages where the
big shells were falling, helping to carry away the ill and the aged; I
saw them in the hospitals taking farewell messages and administering
the last sacrament to the dying; I even saw them, rifle in hand, on the
firing-line, fighting for the existence of the nation. To these soldiers
of the Lord I raise my hat in respect and admiration. The people of
Belgium owe them a debt that they can never repay.

In the days before the war it was commonly said that the Church
was losing ground in Belgium; that religion was gradually being
ousted by socialism. If this were so, I saw no sign of it in the nation's
days of trial. Time and time again I saw soldiers before going into
battle drop on their knees and cross themselves and murmur a
hasty prayer. Even the throngs of terrified fugitives, flying from their
burning villages, would pause in their flight to kneel before the little
shrines along the wayside. I am convinced, indeed, that the ruthless
destruction of religious edifices by the Germans and the brutality
which they displayed toward priests and members of the religious
orders was more responsible than any one thing for the desperate
resistance which they met with from the Belgian peasantry.

By the afternoon of October 3 things were looking very black for
Antwerp. The forts composing the Lierre-Waelhem sector of the
outer line of defences had been pounded into silence by the
German siege-guns; a strong German force, pushing through the
breach thus made, had succeeded in crossing the Nethe in the face
of desperate opposition; the Belgian troops, after a fortnight of
continuous fighting, were at the point of exhaustion; the hospitals
were swamped by the streams of wounded which for days past had
been pouring in; over the city hung a cloud of despondency and
gloom, for the people, though kept in complete ignorance of the true
state of affairs, seemed oppressed with a sense of impending

When I returned that evening to the Hotel St. Antoine from the
battle-front, which was then barely half a dozen miles outside the
city, the manager stopped me as I was entering the lift.

"Are you leaving with the others, Mr. Powell?" he whispered.

"Leaving for where? With what others?" I asked sharply.

"Hadn't you heard?" he answered in some confusion. "The
members of the Government and the Diplomatic Corps are leaving
for Ostend by special steamer at seven in the morning. It has just
been decided at a Cabinet meeting. But don't mention it to a soul.
No one is to know it until they are safely gone."

I remember that as I continued to my room the corridors smelled of
smoke, and upon inquiring its cause I learned that the British
Minister, Sir Francis Villiers, and his secretaries were burning papers
in the rooms occupied by the British Legation. The Russian Minister,
who was superintending the packing of his trunks in the hall,
stopped me to say good-bye. Imagine my surprise, then, upon
going down to breakfast the following morning, to meet Count
Goblet d'Alviella, the Vice-President of the Senate and a minister of
State, leaving the dining-room.

"Why, Count!" I exclaimed, "I had supposed that you were well on
your way to Ostend by this time."

"We had expected to be," explained the venerable statesman, "but
at four o'clock this morning the British Minister sent us word that Mr.
Winston Churchill had started for Antwerp and asking us to wait and
hear what he has to say."

At one o'clock that afternoon a big drab-coloured touring-car filled
with British naval officers tore up the Place de Meir, its horn
sounding a hoarse warning, took the turn into the narrow Marche
aux Souliers on two wheels, and drew up in front of the hotel. Before
the car had fairly come to a stop the door of the tonneau was thrown
violently open and out jumped a smooth-faced, sandy-haired, stoop-
shouldered, youthful-looking man in the undress Trinity House
uniform. There was no mistaking who it was. It was the Right Hon.
Winston Churchill. As he darted into the crowded lobby, which, as
usual at the luncheon-hour, was filled with Belgian, French, and
British staff officers, diplomatists, Cabinet Ministers and
correspondents, he flung his arms out in a nervous, characteristic
gesture, as though pushing his way through a crowd. It was a most
spectacular entrance and reminded me for all the world of a scene
in a melodrama where the hero dashes up, bare-headed, on a
foam-flecked horse, and saves the heroine or the old homestead or
the family fortune, as the case may be.

While lunching with Sir Francis Villiers and the staff of the British
Legation, two English correspondents approached and asked Mr.
Churchill for an interview.

"I will not talk to you," he almost shouted, bringing his fist down upon
the table. "You have no business to be in Belgium at this time. Get
out of the country at once."

It happened that my table was so close that I could not help but
overhear the request and the response, and I remember remarking
to the friends who were dining with me: "Had Mr. Churchill said that
to me, I should have answered him, 'I have as much business in
Belgium at this time, sir, as you had in Cuba during the Spanish-
American War.'"

An hour later I was standing in the lobby talking to M. de Vos, the
Burgomaster of Antwerp, M. Louis Franck, the Antwerp member of
the Chamber of Deputies, American Consul-General Diederich and
Vice-Consul General Sherman, when Mr. Churchill rushed past us
on his way to his room. He impressed one as being always in a
tearing hurry. The Burgomaster stopped him, introduced himself,
and expressed his anxiety regarding the fate of the city. Before he
had finished Churchill was part-way up the stairs.

"I think everything will be all right now, Mr. Burgomaster," he called
down in a voice which could be distinctly heard throughout the
lobby. "You needn't worry. We're going to save the city."

Whereupon most of the civilians present heaved sighs of relief.
They felt that a real sailor had taken the wheel. Those of us who
were conversant with the situation were also relieved because we
took it for granted that Mr. Churchill would not have made so
confident and public an assertion unless ample reinforcements in
men and guns were on the way. Even then the words of this
energetic, impetuous young man did not entirely reassure me, for
from the windows of my room I could hear the German guns quite
plainly. They had come appreciably nearer.

That afternoon and the three days following Mr. Churchill spent in
inspecting the Belgian position. He repeatedly exposed himself
upon the firing-line and on one occasion, near Waelhem, had a
rather narrow escape from a burst of shrapnel. For some
unexplainable reason the British censorship cast a veil of profound
secrecy over Mr. Churchill's visit to Antwerp. The story of his arrival,
just as I have related it above, I telegraphed that same night to the
New York World, yet it never got through, nor did any of the other
dispatches which I sent during his four days' visit. In fact, it was not
until after Antwerp had fallen that the British public was permitted to
learn that the Sea Lord had been in Belgium.

Had it not been for the promises of reinforcements given to the King
and the Cabinet by Mr. Churchill, there is no doubt that the
Government would have departed for Ostend when originally
planned and that the inhabitants of Antwerp, thus warned of the
extreme gravity of the situation, would have had ample time to leave
the city with a semblance of comfort and order, for the railways
leading to Ghent and to the Dutch frontier were still in operation and
the highways were then not blocked by a retreating army.

The first of the promised reinforcements arrived on Sunday evening
by special train from Ostend. They consisted of a brigade of the
Royal Marines, perhaps two thousand men in all, well drilled and
well armed, and several heavy guns. They were rushed to the
southern front and immediately sent into the trenches to relieve the
worn-out Belgians. On Monday and Tuesday the balance of the
British expeditionary force, consisting of between five and six
thousand men of the Volunteer Naval Reserve, arrived from the
coast, their ammunition and supplies being brought by road, via
Bruges and Ghent, in London motor-buses. When this procession
of lumbering vehicles, placarded with advertisements of teas,
tobaccos, whiskies, and current theatrical attractions and bearing
the signs "Bank," "Holborn," "Piccadilly," "Shepherd's Bush,"
"Strand," rumbled through the streets of Antwerp, the populace went
mad. "The British had come at last! The city was saved! Vive les
Anglais! Vive Tommy Atkins!"

I witnessed the detrainment of the naval brigades at Vieux Dieu and
accompanied them to the trenches north of Lierre. As they tramped
down the tree-bordered, cobble-paved high road, we heard, for the
first time in Belgium, the lilting refrain of that music-hall ballad which
had become the English soldiers' marching song:

It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go; It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know! Good-bye, Piccadilly!
Farewell, Leicester Square! It's a long, long way to Tipperary;
But my heart's right there!

Many and many a one of the light-hearted lads with whom I
marched down the Lierre road on that October afternoon were
destined never again to feel beneath their feet the flags of Piccadilly,
never again to lounge in Leicester Square.

They were as clean-limbed, pleasant-faced, wholesome-looking a
lot of young Englishmen as you would find anywhere, but to anyone
who had had military experience it was evident that, despite the fact
that they were vigorous and courageous and determined to do their
best, they were not "first-class fighting men." To win in war, as in
the prize-ring, something more than vigour and courage and
determination are required; to those qualities must be added
experience and training, and experience and training were precisely
what those naval reservists lacked. Moreover, their equipment left
much to be desired. For example, only a very small proportion had
pouches to carry the regulation one hundred and fifty rounds. They
were, in fact, equipped very much as many of the American militia
organizations were equipped when suddenly called out for strike
duty in the days before the reorganization of the National Guard.
Even the officers--those, at least, with whom I talked--seemed to be
as deficient in field experience as the men. Yet these raw troops
were rushed into trenches which were in most cases unprotected by
head-covers, and, though unsupported by effective artillery, they
held those trenches for three days under as murderous a shell-fire
as I have ever seen and then fell back in perfect order. What the
losses of the Naval Division were I do not know. In Antwerp it was
generally understood that very close to a fifth of the entire force was
killed or wounded--upwards of three hundred cases were, I was told,
treated in one hospital alone--and the British Government officially
announced that sixteen hundred were forced across the frontier and
interned in Holland.

No small part in the defence of the city was played by the much-
talked-about armoured train, which was built under the supervision
of Lieutenant-Commander Littlejohn in the yards of the Antwerp
Engineering Company at Hoboken. The train consisted of four large
coal-trucks with sides of armour-plate sufficiently high to afford
protection to the crews of the 4.7 naval guns--six of which were
brought from England for the purpose, though there was only time
to mount four of them--and between each gun-truck was a heavily-
armoured goods-van for ammunition, the whole being drawn by a
small locomotive, also steel-protected. The guns were served by
Belgian artillerymen commanded by British gunners and each gun-
truck carried, in addition, a detachment of infantry in the event of the
enemy getting to close quarters. Personally, I am inclined to believe
that the chief value of this novel contrivance lay in the moral
encouragement it lent to the defence, for its guns, though more
powerful, certainly, than anything that the Belgians possessed, were
wholly outclassed, both in range and calibre, by the German artillery.
The German officers whom I questioned on the subject after the
occupation told me that the fire of the armoured train caused them
no serious concern and did comparatively little damage.

By Tuesday night a boy scout could have seen that the position of
Antwerp was hopeless. The Austrian siege guns had smashed and
silenced the chain of supposedly impregnable forts to the south of
the city with the same businesslike dispatch with which the same
type of guns had smashed and silenced those other supposedly
impregnable forts at Liege and Namur. Through the opening thus
made a German army corps had poured to fling itself against the
second line of defence, formed by the Ruppel and the Nethe.
Across the Nethe, under cover of a terrific artillery fire, the Germans
threw their pontoon-bridges, and when the first bridges were
destroyed by the Belgian guns they built others, and when these
were destroyed in turn they tried again, and at the third attempt they
succeeded. With the helmeted legions once across the river, it was
all over but the shouting, and no one knew it better than the
Belgians, yet, heartened by the presence of the little handful of
English, they fought desperately, doggedly on. Their forts pounded
to pieces by guns which they could not answer, their ranks thinned
by a murderous rain of shot and shell, the men heavy-footed and
heavy-eyed from lack of sleep, the horses staggering from
exhaustion, the ambulance service broken down, the hospitals
helpless before the flood of wounded, the trenches littered with the
dead and dying, they still held back the German legions.

By this time the region to the south of Antwerp had been
transformed from a peaceful, smiling country-side into a land of
death and desolation. It looked as though it had been swept by a
great hurricane, filled with lightning which had missed nothing. The
blackened walls of what had once been prosperous farm-houses,
haystacks turned into heaps of smoking carbon, fields slashed
across with trenches, roads rutted and broken by the great wheels
of guns and transport wagons--these scenes were on every hand.
In the towns and villages along the Nethe, where the fighting was
heaviest, the walls of houses had fallen into the streets and piles of
furniture, mattresses, agricultural machinery, and farm carts showed
where the barricades and machine-guns had been. The windows of
many of the houses were stuffed with mattresses and pillows,
behind which the riflemen had made a stand. Lierre and Waelhem
and Duffel were like sieves dripping blood. Corpses were strewn
everywhere. Some of the dead were spread-eagled on their backs
as though exhausted after a long march, some were twisted and
crumpled in attitudes grotesque and horrible, some were propped
up against the walls of houses to which they had tried to crawl in
their agony.

All of them stared at nothing with awful, unseeing eyes. It was one
of the scenes that I should like to forget. But I never can.

On Tuesday evening General de Guise, the military governor of
Antwerp, informed the Government that the Belgian position was
fast becoming untenable and, acting on this information, the capital
of Belgium was transferred from Antwerp to Ostend, the members
of the Government and the Diplomatic Corps leaving at daybreak on
Wednesday by special steamer, while at the same time Mr. Winston
Churchill departed for the coast by automobile under convoy of an
armoured motorcar. His last act was to order the destruction of the
condensers of the German vessels in the harbour, for which the
Germans, upon occupying the city, demanded an indemnity of
twenty million francs.

As late as Wednesday morning the great majority of the inhabitants
of Antwerp remained in total ignorance of the real state of affairs.
Morning after morning the Matin and the Metropole had published
official communiqués categorically denying that any of the forts had
been silenced and asserting in the most positive terms that the
enemy was being held in check all along the line. As a result of this
policy of denial and deception, the people of Antwerp went to sleep
on Tuesday night calmly confident that in a few days more the
Germans would raise the siege from sheer discouragement and
depart. Imagine what happened, then, when they awoke on
Wednesday morning, October 7, to learn that the Government had
stolen away between two days without issuing so much as a word of
warning, and to find staring at them from every wall and hoarding
proclamations signed by the military governor announcing that the
bombardment of the city was imminent, urging all who were able to
leave instantly, and advising those who remained to shelter
themselves behind sand-bags in their cellars. It was like waiting until
the entire first floor of a house was in flames and the occupants'
means of escape almost cut off, before shouting "Fire!"

No one who witnessed the exodus of the population from Antwerp
will ever forget it. No words can adequately describe it. It was not a
flight; it was a stampede. The sober, slow-moving, slow-thinking
Flemish townspeople were suddenly transformed into a herd of
terror-stricken cattle. So complete was the German enveloping
movement that only three avenues of escape remained open:
westward, through St. Nicolas and Lokeren, to Ghent; north-
eastward across the frontier into Holland; down the Scheldt toward
Flushing. Of the half million fugitives--for the exodus was not
confined to the citizens of Antwerp but included the entire population
of the country-side for twenty miles around--probably fully a quarter
of a million escaped by river. Anything that could float was pressed
into service: merchant steamers, dredgers, ferry-boats, scows,
barges, canal-boats, tugs, fishing craft, yachts, rowing-boats,
launches, even extemporized rafts. There was no attempt to
enforce order. The fear-frantic people piled aboard until there was
not even standing room on the vessels' decks. Of all these
thousands who fled by river, but an insignificant proportion were
provided with food or warm clothing or had space in which to lie
down. Yet through two nights they huddled together on the open
decks in the cold and the darkness while the great guns tore to
pieces the city they had left behind them. As I passed up the
crowded river in my launch on the morning after the first night's
bombardment we seemed to be followed by a wave of sound--a
great murmur of mingled anguish and misery and fatigue and
hunger from the homeless thousands adrift upon the waters.

The scenes along the highways were even more appalling, for here
the retreating soldiery and the fugitive civilians were mixed in
inextricable confusion. By mid-afternoon on Wednesday the road
from Antwerp to Ghent, a distance of forty miles, was a solid mass
of refugees, and the same was true of every road, every lane, every
footpath leading in a westerly or a northerly direction. The people
fled in motor-cars and in carriages, in delivery-wagons, in moving-
vans, in farm-carts, in omnibuses, in vehicles drawn by oxen, by
donkeys, even by cows, on horseback, on bicycles, and there
were thousands upon thousands afoot. I saw men trundling
wheelbarrows piled high with bedding and with their children
perched upon the bedding. I saw sturdy young peasants carrying
their aged parents in their arms. I saw women of fashion in fur coats
and high-heeled shoes staggering along clinging to the rails of the
caissons or to the ends of wagons. I saw white-haired men and
women grasping the harness of the gun-teams or the stirrup-
leathers of the troopers, who, themselves exhausted from many
days of fighting, slept in their saddles as they rode. I saw springless
farm-wagons literally heaped with wounded soldiers with piteous
white faces; the bottoms of the wagons leaked and left a trail of
blood behind them. A very old priest, too feeble to walk, was
trundled by two young priests in a handcart. A young woman, an
expectant mother, was tenderly and anxiously helped on by her
husband. One of the saddest features of all this dreadful procession
was the soldiers, many of them wounded, and so bent with fatigue
from many days of marching and fighting that they could hardly
raise their feet. One infantryman who could bear his boots no longer
had tied them to the cleaning-rod of his rifle. Another had strapped
his boots to his cowhide knapsack and limped forward with his
swollen feet in felt slippers. Here were a group of Capuchin monks
abandoning their monastery; there a little party of white-faced nuns
shepherding the flock of children--many of them fatherless--who had
been entrusted to their care. The confusion was beyond all
imagination, the clamour deafening: the rattle of wheels, the
throbbing of motors, the clatter of hoofs, the cracking of whips, the
curses of the drivers, the groans of the wounded, the cries of
women, the whimpering of children, threats, pleadings, oaths,
screams, imprecations, and always the monotonous shuffle, shuffle,
shuffle of countless weary feet.

The fields and the ditches between which these processions of
disaster passed were strewn with the prostrate forms of those who,
from sheer exhaustion, could go no further. And there was no food
for them, no shelter. Within a few hours after the exodus began the
country-side was as bare of food as the Sahara is of grass. Time
after time I saw famished fugitives pause at farmhouses and offer all
of their pitifully few belongings for a loaf of bread; but the kind-
hearted country-people, with tears streaming down their cheeks,
could only shake their heads and tell them that they had long since
given all their food away. Old men and fashionably gowned women
and wounded soldiers went out into the fields and pulled up turnips
and devoured them raw--for there was nothing else to eat. During a
single night, near a small town on the Dutch frontier, twenty women
gave birth to children in the open fields. No one will ever know how
many people perished during that awful flight from hunger and
exposure and exhaustion; many more, certainly, than lost their lives
in the bombardment.

VIII. The Fall Of Antwerp

The bombardment of Antwerp began about ten o'clock on the
evening of Wednesday, October 7. The first shell to fall within the
city struck a house in the Berchem district, killing a fourteen-year-old
boy and wounding his mother and little sister. The second
decapitated a street-sweeper as he was running for shelter.
Throughout the night the rain of death continued without cessation,
the shells falling at the rate of four or five a minute. The streets of
the city were as deserted as those of Pompeii. The few people who
remained, either because they were willing to take their chances or
because they had no means of getting away, were cowering in their
cellars. Though the gas and electric lights were out, the sky was
rosy from the reflection of the petrol-tanks which the Belgians had
set on fire; now and then a shell would burst with the intensity of
magnesium, and the quivering beams of two searchlights on the
forts across the river still further lit up the ghastly scene. The noise
was deafening. The buildings seemed to rock and sway. The very
pavements trembled. Mere words are inadequate to give a
conception of the horror of it all. There would come the hungry
whine of a shell passing low over the house-tops, followed, an
instant later, by a shattering crash, and the whole facade of the
building that had been struck would topple into the street in a
cascade of brick and stone and plaster. It was not until Thursday
night, however, that the Germans brought their famous forty-two-
centimetre guns into action. The effect of these monster cannon
was appalling. So tremendous was the detonation that it sounded
as though the German batteries were firing salvoes. The projectiles
they were now raining upon the city weighed a ton apiece and had
the destructive properties of that much nitroglycerine. We could
hear them as they came. They made a roar in the air which
sounded at first like an approaching express train, but which rapidly
rose in volume until the atmosphere quivered with the howl of a
cyclone. Then would come an explosion which jarred the city to its
very foundations.

Over the shivering earth rolled great clouds of dust and smoke.
When one of these terrible projectiles struck a building it did not
merely tear away the upper stories or blow a gaping aperture in its
walls: the whole building crumbled, disintegrated, collapsed, as
though flattened by a mighty hand. When they exploded in the open
street they not only tore a hole in the pavement the size of a cottage
cellar, but they sliced away the facades of all the houses in the
immediate vicinity, leaving their interiors exposed, like the interiors
upon a stage. Compared with the "forty-twos" the shell and shrapnel
fire of the first night's bombardment was insignificant and harmless.
The thickest masonry was crumpled up like so much cardboard.
The stoutest cellars were no protection if a shell struck above them.
It seemed as though at times the whole city was coming down about
our ears. Before the bombardment had been in progress a dozen
hours there was scarcely a street in the southern quarter of the city--
save only the district occupied by wealthy Germans, whose houses
remained untouched--which was not obstructed by heaps of fallen
masonry. The main thoroughfares were strewn with fallen electric
light and trolley wires and shattered poles and branches lopped
from trees. The sidewalks were carpeted with broken glass. The air
was heavy with the acrid fumes of smoke and powder. Abandoned
dogs howled mournfully before the doors of their deserted homes.
From a dozen quarters of the city columns of smoke by day and
pillars of fire by night rose against the sky.

Owing to circumstances--fortunate or unfortunate, as one chooses
to view them--I was not in Antwerp during the first night's
bombardment. You must understand that a war correspondent, no
matter how many thrilling and interesting things he may be able to
witness, is valueless to the paper which employs him unless he is
able to get to the end of a telegraph wire and tell the readers of that
newspaper what is happening. In other words, he must not only
gather the news but he must deliver it. Otherwise his usefulness
ceases. When, therefore, on Wednesday morning, the telegraph
service from Antwerp abruptly ended, all trains and boats stopped
running, and the city was completely cut off from communication
with the outside world, I left in my car for Ghent, where the telegraph
was still in operation, to file my dispatches. So dense was the mass
of retreating soldiery and fugitive civilians which blocked the
approaches to the pontoon-bridge, that it took me four hours to get
across the Scheldt, and another four hours, owing to the slow
driving necessitated by the terribly congested roads, to cover the
forty miles to Ghent. I had sent my dispatches, had had a hasty
dinner, and was on the point of starting back to Antwerp, when Mr.
Johnson, the American Consul at Ostend, called me up by
telephone. He told me that the Minister of War, then at Ostend, had
just sent him a package containing the keys of buildings and
dwellings belonging to German residents of Antwerp who had been
expelled at the beginning of the war, with the request that they be
transmitted to the German commander immediately the German
troops entered the city, as it was feared that, were these places
found to be locked, it might lead to the doors being broken open and
thus give the Germans a pretext for sacking. Mr. Johnson asked me
if I would remain in Ghent until he could come through in his car with
the keys and if I would assume the responsibility of seeing that the
keys reached the German commander. I explained to Mr. Johnson
that it was imperative that I should return to Antwerp immediately;
but when he insisted that, under the circumstances, it was clearly
my duty to take the keys through to Antwerp, I promised to await his
arrival, although by so doing I felt that I was imperilling the interests
of the newspaper which was employing me. Owing to the congested
condition of the roads Mr. Johnson was unable to reach Ghent until
Thursday morning.

By this time the highroad between Ghent and Antwerp was utterly
impassable--one might as well have tried to paddle a canoe up the
rapids at Niagara as to drive a car against the current of that river of
terrified humanity--so, taking advantage of comparatively empty by-
roads, I succeeded in reaching Doel, a fishing village on the Scheldt
a dozen miles below Antwerp, by noon on Thursday.

By means of alternate bribes and threats, Roos, my driver,
persuaded a boatman to take us up to Antwerp in a small motor-
launch over which, as a measure of precaution, I raised an
American flag. As long as memory lasts there will remain with me,
sharp and clear, the recollection of that journey up the Scheldt, the
surface of which was literally black with vessels with their loads of
silent misery. It was well into the afternoon and the second day's
bombardment was at its height when we rounded the final bend in
the river and the lace-like tower of the cathedral rose before us.
Shells were exploding every few seconds, columns of grey-green
smoke rose skyward, the air reverberated as though to a continuous
peal of thunder. As we ran alongside the deserted quays a shell
burst with a terrific crash in a street close by, and our boatman,
panic-stricken, suddenly reversed his engine and backed into the
middle of the river. Roos drew his pistol.

"Go ahead!" he commanded. "Run up to the quay so that we can
land." Before the grim menace of the automatic the man sullenly

"I've a wife and family at Doel," he muttered. "If I'm killed there'll be
no one to look after them."

"I've a wife and family in America," I retorted. "You're taking no more
chances than I am."

I am not in the least ashamed to admit, however, that as we ran
alongside the Red Star quays--the American flag was floating above
them, by the way--I would quite willingly have given everything I
possessed to have been back on Broadway again. A great city
which has suddenly been deserted by its population is inconceivably
depressing. Add to this the fact that every few seconds a shell
would burst somewhere behind the row of buildings that screened
the waterfront, and that occasionally one would clear the house-tops
altogether and, moaning over our heads, would drop into the river
and send up a great geyser, and you will understand that Antwerp
was not exactly a cheerful place in which to land. There was not a
soul to be seen anywhere. Such of the inhabitants as remained had
taken refuge in their cellars, and just at that time a deep cellar would
have looked extremely good to me. On the other hand, as I argued
with myself there was really an exceedingly small chance of a shell
exploding on the particular spot where I happened to be standing,
and if it did--well, it seemed more dignified, somehow, to be killed in
the open than to be crushed to death in a cellar like a cornered rat.

About ten o'clock in the evening the bombardment slackened for a
time and the inhabitants of Antwerp's underworld began to creep out
of their subterranean hiding-places and slink like ghosts along the
quays in search of food. The great quantities of food-stuffs and
other provisions which had been taken from the captured German
vessels at the beginning of the war had been stored in hastily-
constructed warehouses upon the quays, and it was not long before
the rabble, undeterred by the fear of the police and willing to chance
the shells, had broken in the doors and were looting to their hearts'
content. As a man staggered past under a load of wine bottles,
tinned goods and cheeses, our boatman, who by this time had
become reconciled to sticking by us, inquired wistfully if he might do
a little looting too. "We've no food left down the river," he urged,
"and I might just as well get some of those provisions for my
family as to let the Germans take them." Upon my assenting he
disappeared into the darkness of the warehouse with a hand-truck.
He was not the sort who did his looting by retail, was that boatman.

By midnight Roos and I were shivering as though with ague, for the
night had turned cold, we had no coats, and we had been without
food since leaving Ghent that morning. "I'm going to do a little
looting on my own account." I finally announced. "I'm half frozen and
almost starved and I'm not going to stand around here while there's
plenty to eat and drink over in that warehouse." I groped my way
through the blackness to the doorway and entering, struck a match.
By its flickering light I saw a case filled with bottles in straw casings.
From their shape they looked to be bottles of champagne. I reached
for one eagerly, but just as my fingers closed about it a shell burst
overhead. At least the crash was so terrific that it seemed as though
it had burst overhead, though I learned afterward that it had
exploded nearly a hundred yards away. I ran for my life, clinging,
however, to the bottle. "At any rate, I've found something to drink," I
said to Roos exultantly, when my heart had ceased its pounding.
Slipping off the straw cover I struck a match to see the result of my
maiden attempt at looting. I didn't particularly care whether it was
wine or brandy. Either would have tasted good. It was neither. It was
a bottle of pepsin bitters!

At daybreak we started at full speed down the river for Doel, where
we had left the car, as it was imperative that I should get to the end
of a telegraph wire, file my dispatches, and get back to the city.
They told me at Doel that the nearest telegraph office was at a little
place called L'Ecluse, on the Dutch frontier, ten miles away. We
were assured that there was a good road all the way and that we
could get there and back in an hour. So we could have in ordinary
times, but these were extraordinary times and the Belgians, in order
to make things as unpleasant as possible for the Germans, had
opened the dykes and had begun to inundate the country. When we
were about half-way to L'Ecluse, therefore, we found our way barred
by a miniature river and no means of crossing it. It was in such
circumstances that Roos was invaluable. Collecting a force of
peasants, he set them to work chopping down trees and with these
trees we built a bridge sufficiently strong to support the weight of the
car. Thus we came into L'Ecluse.

But when the stolid Dutchman in charge of the telegraph office saw
my dispatches he shrugged his shoulders discouragingly. "It is not
possible to send them from here," he explained. "We have no
instrument here but have to telephone everything to Hulst, eight
miles away. As I do not understand English it would be impossible to
telephone your dispatches." There seemed nothing for it but to walk
to Hulst and back again, for the Dutch officials refused to permit me
to take the car, which was a military one, across the frontier. Just at
that moment a young Belgian priest--Heaven bless him!--who had
overheard the discussion, approached me. "If you will permit me,
monsieur," said he, "I will be glad to take your dispatches through to
Hulst myself. I understand their importance. And it is well that the
people in England and in America should learn what is happening
here in Belgium and how bitterly we need their aid." Those
dispatches were, I believe, the only ones to come out of Antwerp
during the bombardment. The fact that the newspaper readers in
London and New York and San Francisco were enabled to learn
within a few hours of what had happened in the great city on the
Scheldt was due, not to any efforts of mine, but to this little Belgian

But when we got back to Doel the launch was gone. The boatman,
evidently not relishing another taste of bombardment, had
decamped, taking his launch with him. And neither offers of money
nor threats nor pleadings could obtain me another one. For a time it
looked as though getting back to Antwerp was as hopeless as
getting to the moon. Just as I was on the point of giving up in
despair, Roos appeared with a gold-laced official whom he
introduced as the chief quarantine officer. "He is going to let you
take the quarantine launch," said he. I don't know just what
arguments Roos had brought to bear, and I was careful not to
inquire, but ten minutes later I was sitting in lonely state on the after-
deck of a trim black yacht and we were streaking it up the river at
twenty miles an hour. As I knew that the fall of the city was only a
matter of hours, I refused to let Roos accompany me and take the
chances of being made a prisoner by the Germans, but ordered him
instead to take the car, while there was yet time, and make his way
to Ostend. I never saw him again. By way of precaution, in case the
Germans should already be in possession of the city, I had taken
the two American flags from the car and hoisted them on the
launch, one from the mainmast and the other at the taffrail. It was a
certain satisfaction to know that the only craft that went the wrong
way of the river during the bombardment flew the Stars and Stripes.
As we came within sight of the quays, the bombardment, which had
become intermittent, suddenly broke out afresh and I was
compelled to use both bribes and threats--the latter backed up by a
revolver--to induce the crew of the launch to run in and land me at
the quay. An hour after I landed the city surrendered.

The withdrawal of the garrison from Antwerp began on Thursday
and, everything considered, was carried out in excellent order, the
troops being recalled in units from the outer line, marched through
the city and across the pontoon-bridge which spans the Scheldt and
thence down the road to St. Nicolas to join the retreating field army.
What was implied in the actual withdrawal from contact with the
enemy will be appreciated when I explain the conditions which
existed. In places the lines were not two hundred yards apart and
for the defenders no movement was possible during the daylight.
Many of the men in the firing-line had been on duty for nearly a
hundred hours and were utterly worn out both mentally and
physically. Such water and food as they had were sent to them at
night, for any attempt to cross the open spaces in the daytime the
Germans met with fierce bursts of rifle and machine-gun fire. The
evacuation of the trenches was, therefore, a most difficult and
dangerous operation and that it was carried out with so
comparatively small loss speaks volumes for the ability of the
officers to whom the direction of the movement was entrusted, as
does the successful accomplishment of the retreat from Antwerp
into West Flanders along a road which was not only crowded with
refugees but was constantly threatened by the enemy. The chief
danger was, of course, that the Germans would cross the river at
Termonde in force and thus cut off the line of retreat towards the
coast, forcing the whole Belgian army and the British contingent
across the frontier of Holland. To the Belgian cavalry and carabineer
cyclists and to the armoured cars was given the task of averting this
catastrophe, and it is due to them that the Germans were held back
for a sufficient time to enable practically the whole of the forces
evacuating Antwerp to escape. That a large proportion of the British
Naval Reserve divisions were pushed across the frontier and
interned was not due to any fault of the Belgians, but, in some cases
at least, to their officer's misconception of the attitude of Holland.
Just as I was leaving Doel on my second trip up the river, a steamer
loaded to the guards with British naval reservists swung in to the
wharf, but, to my surprise, the men did not start to disembark. Upon
inquiring of some one where they were bound for I was told that they
were going to continue down the Scheldt to Terneuzen. Thereupon I
ordered the launch to run alongside and clambered aboard the

"I understand," said I, addressing a group of officers who seemed to
be as much in authority as anyone, "that you are keeping on down
the river to Terneuzen? That is not true, is it?"

They looked at me as though I had walked into their club in Pall Mall
and had spoken to them without an introduction.

"It is," said one of them coldly. "What about it?"

"Oh, nothing much," said I, "except that three miles down this river
you'll be in Dutch territorial waters, whereupon you will all be
arrested and held as prisoners until the end of the war. It's really
none of my business, I know, but I feel that I ought to warn you."

"How very extraordinary," remarked one of them, screwing a
monocle into his eye. "We're not at war with Holland are we? So
why should the bally Dutchmen want to trouble us?"

There was no use arguing with them, so I dropped down the ladder
into the launch and gave the signal for full steam ahead. As I looked
back I saw the steamer cast off from the wharf and, swinging slowly
out into the river, point her nose down-stream toward Holland.

On Friday morning, October 9, General de Guise, the military
governor of Antwerp, ordered the destruction of the pontoon-bridge
across the Scheldt, which was now the sole avenue of retreat from
the city. The mines which were exploded beneath it did more
damage to the buildings along the waterfront than to the bridge,
however, only the middle spans of which were destroyed. When the
last of the retreating Belgians came pouring down to the waterfront
a few hours later to find their only avenue of escape gone, for a time
scenes of the wildest confusion ensued, the men frantically
crowding aboard such vessels as remained at the wharves or
opening fire on those which were already in midstream and refused
to return in answer to their summons. I wish to emphasise the fact,
however, that these were but isolated incidents; that these men
were exhausted in mind and body from many days of fighting
against hopeless odds; and that, as a whole, the Belgian troops
bore themselves, in this desperate and trying situation, with a
courage and coolness deserving of the highest admiration. I have
heard it said in England that the British Naval Division was sent to
Antwerp "to stiffen the Belgians." That may have been the intention,
the coming of the English certainly relieved some and comforted
others in the trenches. But in truth the Belgians needed no
stiffening. They did everything that any other troops could have
done under the same circumstances--and more. Nor did the men of
the Naval Division, as has been frequently asserted in England,
cover the Belgian retreat. The last troops to leave the trenches were
Belgians, the last shots were fired by Belgians, and the Belgians
were the last to cross the river.

At noon on Friday General de Guise and his staff having taken
refuge in Fort St. Philippe, a few miles below Antwerp on the
Scheldt, the officer in command of the last line of defence sent word
to the burgomaster that his troops could hold out but a short time
longer and suggested that the time had arrived for him to go out to
the German lines under a flag of truce and secure the best terms
possible for the city. As the burgomaster, M. de Vos, accompanied
by Deputy Louis Franck, Communal Councillor Ryckmans and the
Spanish Consul (it was expected that the American Consul-General
would be one of the parlementaires, but it was learned that he had
left the day before for Ghent) went out of the city by one gate, half a
dozen motor-cars filled with German soldiers entered through the
Porte de Malines, sped down the broad, tree-shaded boulevards
which lead to the centre of the city, and drew up before the Hotel de
Ville. In answer to the summons of a young officer in a voluminous
grey cloak the door was cautiously opened by a servant in the blue-
and-silver livery of the municipality.

"I have a message to deliver to the members of the Communal
Council," said the officer politely.

"The councillors are at dinner and cannot be disturbed," was the
firm reply. "But if monsieur desires he can sit down and wait for
them." So the young officer patiently seated himself on a wooden
bench while his men ranged themselves along one side of the hall.
After a delay of perhaps twenty minutes the door of the dining-room
opened and a councillor appeared, wiping his moustache.

"I understand that you have a message for the Council. Well, what
is it?" he demanded pompously.

The young officer clicked his heels together and bowed from the

"The message I am instructed to give you, sir," he said politely, "is
that Antwerp is now a German city. You are requested by the
general commanding his Imperial Majesty's forces so to inform your
townspeople and to assure them that they will not be molested so
long as they display no hostility towards our troops."

While this dramatic little scene was being enacted in the historic
setting of the Hotel de Ville, the burgomaster, unaware that the
enemy was already within the city gates, was conferring with the
German commander, who informed him that if the outlying forts
were immediately surrendered no money indemnity would be
demanded from the city, though all merchandise found in its
warehouses would be confiscated.

The first troops to enter were a few score cyclists, who advanced
cautiously from street to street and from square to square until they
formed a network of scouts extending over the entire city. After
them, at the quick-step, came a brigade of infantry and hard on the
heels of the infantry clattered half a dozen batteries of horse artillery.
These passed through the city to the waterfront at a spanking trot,
unlimbered on the quays and opened fire with shrapnel on the
retreating Belgians, who had already reached the opposite side of
the river. Meanwhile a company of infantry started at the double
across the pontoon-bridge, evidently unaware that its middle spans
had been destroyed. Without an instant's hesitation two soldiers
threw off their knapsacks, plunged into the river, swam across the
gap, clambered up on to the other portion of the bridge and, in spite
of a heavy fire from the fort at the Tete de Flandre, dashed forward
to reconnoitre. That is the sort of deed that wins the Iron Cross.
Within little more than an hour after reaching the waterfront the
Germans had brought up their engineers, the bridge had been
repaired, the fire from Fort St. Anne had been silenced, and their
troops were pouring across the river in a steady stream in pursuit of
the Belgians. The grumble of field-guns, which continued throughout
the night, told us that they had overtaken the Belgian rearguard.

Though the bombardment ended early on Friday afternoon, Friday
night was by no means lacking in horrors, for early in the evening
fires, which owed their origin to shells, broke out in a dozen parts of
the city. The most serious one by far was in the narrow, winding
thoroughfare known as the Marche aux Souliers, which runs from
the Place Verte to the Place de Meir. By eight o'clock the entire
western side of this street was a sheet of flame. The only spectators
were groups of German soldiers, who watched the threatened
destruction of the city with complete indifference, and several
companies of firemen who had turned out, I suppose, from force of
training, but who stood helplessly beside their empty hose lines, for
there was no water. I firmly believe that the saving of a large part of
Antwerp, including the cathedral, was due to an American resident,
Mr. Charles Whithoff, who, recognizing the extreme peril in which
the city stood, hurried to the Hotel de Ville and suggested to the
German military authorities that they should prevent the spread of
flames by dynamiting the adjacent buildings. Acting promptly on this
suggestion, a telephone message was sent to Brussels, and four
hours later several automobiles loaded with hand grenades came
tearing into Antwerp. A squad of soldiers was placed under Mr.
Whithoff's orders and, following his directions, they blew up a
cordon of buildings and effectually isolated the flames. I shall not
soon forget the figure of this young American, in bedroom slippers
and smoking jacket, coolly instructing German soldiers in the most
approved methods of fire fighting. Nearly a week before the
surrender of the city, the municipal waterworks, near Lierre, had
been destroyed by shells from the German siege guns, so that
when the Germans entered the city the sanitary conditions had
become intolerable and an epidemic was impending. So scarce did
water become during the last few days of the siege that when, on
the evening of the surrender, I succeeded in obtaining a bottle of
Apollinaris I debated with myself whether I should use it for washing
or drinking. I finally compromised by drinking part of it and washing
in the rest.

The Germans were by no means blind to the peril of an epidemic,
and, before they had been three hours in occupation of the city their
medical corps was at work cleaning and disinfecting. Every
contingency, in fact, seemed to have been anticipated and provided
for. Every phase of the occupation was characterized by the
German passion for method and order. The machinery of the
municipal health department was promptly set in motion. The police
were ordered to take up their duties as though no change in
government had occurred. The train service to Brussels, Holland
and Germany restored. Stamps surcharged "Fur Belgien" were put
on sale at the post office. The electric lighting system was repaired
and on Saturday night, for the first time since the Zeppelin's
memorable visit the latter part of August, Antwerp was again ablaze
with light. When, immediately after the occupation, I hurried to the
American Consulate with the package of keys which I had brought
from Ghent, I was somewhat surprised, to put it mildly, to find the
consulate closed and to learn from the concierge, who, with his wife,
had remained in the building throughout the bombardment, that
Consul-General Diederich and his entire staff had left the city on
Thursday morning.

I was particularly surprised because I knew that, upon the departure
of the British Consul-General, Sir Cecil Hertslet, some days before,
the enormous British interests in Antwerp had been confided to
American protection. The concierge, who knew me and seemed
decidedly relieved to see me, made no objection to opening the
consulate and letting me in. While deliberating as to the best
method of transmitting the keys which had been entrusted to me to
the German military governor without informing him of the
embarrassing fact that the American and British interests in the city
were without official representation, those Americans and British
who had remained in the city during the bombardment began to
drop in. Some of them were frightened and all of them were plainly
worried, the women in particular, among whom were several British
Red Cross nurses, seeming fearful that the soldiers might get out of
hand. As there was no one else to look after these people, and as I
had formerly been in the consular service myself, and as they said
quite frankly that they would feel relieved if I took charge of things, I
decided to "sit on the lid," as it were, until the Consul-General's
return. In assuming charge of British and American affairs in
Antwerp, at the request and with the approval what remained of the
Anglo-American colony in that city, I am quite aware that I acted in a
manner calculated to scandalize those gentlemen who have been
steeped in the ethics of diplomacy. As one youth attached to the
American Embassy in London remarked, it was "the damndest
piece of impertinence" of which he had ever heard. But he is quite a
young gentleman, and has doubtless had more experience in
ballrooms than in bombarded cities. I immediately wrote a brief note
to the German commander transmitting the keys and informing him
that, in the absence of the American Consul-General I had assumed
charge of American and British interests in Antwerp, and expected
the fullest protection for them, to which I received a prompt and
courteous reply assuring me that foreigners would not be molested
in any way. In the absence of the consular staff, Thompson
volunteered to act as messenger and deliver my message to the
German commander. While on his way to the Hotel de Ville, which
was being used as staff headquarters, a German infantry regiment
passed him in a narrow street. Because he failed to remove his hat
to the colours a German officer struck him twice with the flat of his
sword, only desisting when Thompson pulled a silk American flag
from his pocket. Upon learning of this occurrence I vigorously
protested to the military authorities, who offered profuse apologies
for the incident and assured me that the officer would be punished if
Thompson could identify him. Consul-General Diederich returned to
Antwerp on Monday and I left the same day for the nearest
telegraph station in Holland.

The whole proceeding was irregular and unauthorized, of course,
but for that matter so was the German invasion of Belgium. In any
event, it seemed the thing to do and I did it, and, under the same
circumstances I should do precisely the same thing over again.

Though a very large force of German troops passed through
Antwerp during the whole of Friday night in pursuit of the retreating
Belgians, the triumphal entry of the victors did not begin until
Saturday afternoon, when sixty thousand men passed in review
before the military governor, Admiral von Schroeder, and General
von Beseler, who, surrounded by a glittering staff, sat their horses in
front of the royal palace. So far as onlookers were concerned, the
Germans might as well have marched through the streets of ruined
Babylon. Thompson and I, standing in the windows of the American
Consulate, were the only spectators in the entire length of the mile-
long Place de Meir--which is the Piccadilly of Antwerp--of the great
military pageant. The streets were absolutely deserted; every
building was dark, every window shuttered; in a thoroughfare which
had blossomed with bunting a few days before, not a flag was to be
seen. I think that even the Germans were a little awed by the
deathly silence that greeted them. As Thompson drily remarked, "It
reminds me of a circus that's come to town the day before it's

For five hours that mighty host poured through the canons of brick
and stone:

Above the bugle's din,
Sweating beneath their haversacks,
With rifles bristling on their backs,
The dusty men trooped in.

Company after company, regiment after regiment, brigade after
brigade swept by until our eyes grew weary with watching the ranks
of grey under the slanting lines of steel. As they marched they sang,
the high buildings along the Place de Meir and the Avenue de
Keyser echoing to their voices thundering out "Die Wacht Am
Met hart en ziel
De enige echte
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Patrick Mestdag

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BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Apr 2008 9:26    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

dit staat ook op de wiki

de link naar het on line boek
zie ook topic
Verdun ….papperlapapp! Louis Fernand Celine
Ein Schlachten war’s, nicht eine Schlacht zu nennen“ Ernst Junger .
Oublier c'est trahir ! marechal Foch
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BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Apr 2008 9:35    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Ik ga me in een hoekje zitten schamen Patrick
Met hart en ziel
De enige echte
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Patrick Mestdag

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BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Apr 2008 9:45    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Niet eenvoudig te weten of te herinneren wat er al zoal
op dit uitgebreide forum reeds aan bod is gekomen

de zoek robot helpt wel daarin Evil

Verdun ….papperlapapp! Louis Fernand Celine
Ein Schlachten war’s, nicht eine Schlacht zu nennen“ Ernst Junger .
Oublier c'est trahir ! marechal Foch
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Percy Toplis

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BerichtGeplaatst: 30 Jul 2009 12:01    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Mag dicht.

"A grand canyon has opened up in our world, the fissure, the crack, grows wider every day. Neither on each side can hear a word that the other shrieks and nor do they want to."
-Stephen Fry on political correctness.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 30 Jul 2009 12:29    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Amaai Yvonne, slijten uw vingertjes niet van al dat typwerk?????? Evil
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old" poppy
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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Aug 2009 21:34    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Met hart en ziel
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