French Advance

A striking description of life in and around Brussels at this time is
given by Dr. Dillon:

Brussels is herself again. The delirious excitement which during the
first days of mobilisation displayed itself in acts of frenzy has
subsided. The inhabitants have adjusted themselves to the wearisome
suspense and unpleasant surprises of a state of war. Shops that were
shuttered a few days ago are open and doing a brisk business once
more. The cafés are thronged inside and out. The boulevards are bright
with streams of many-coloured humanity. The newspapers which dish up
the same stories day after day are grabbed at by citizens eager to
obtain the first news of the military movements.

The only striking differences one discerns between this and normal
times affect the lives of the well-to-do classes. All the theatres,
cinematographs, and other places of amusement are closed. Some of
the principal hotels are turned into temporary hospitals. Public
conveyances, whether cabs or taxis, can hardly be said to exist.
Certain sorts of food which were formerly exported, such as peaches,
grapes, and chickens, have hardly any market and are being sold at
half prices. Flowers are withering on their stalks for lack of buyers.
Artisans, such as electricians and plumbers, have vanished.

Notwithstanding these changes, added Dr. Dillon, the links with the
cheerful life of a month ago had not yet been severed. The people of
Brussels were still blithesome and self-confident, buoyed up by the
sense of security imparted by the heroic conduct of their defenders and
the consciousness of a right cause. As yet the unquiet temper of war
had nowhere manifested itself, yet maimed warriors, homeless families,
destitute women, orphaned children, claimed and received attention, and
reminded the observer all too suggestively of the harvest of misery yet
to be garnered in.

A couple of hours’ drive out of the town took one to a world of grim
realities and sinister contrasts. Over the country between Tirlemont
and Saint Trond, but yesterday full of tame beauty, rich in cornfields
and carefully tended gardens, the withering breath of the ruthless
Moloch had already fitfully passed. As the traveller moved along the
dusty road, catching a glimpse of an occasional farmhouse quivering in
the distance through the heat of the August day, he might well feel
beset by the vague dangers that might at any moment have started into
concrete shape and ended his hopes and cares for all time.

As one approached the village of Orsmael at this time unmistakable
tokens of desolation thrust themselves on the view. At first shattered
panes of glass, then domestic utensils flung among the cabbages of the
gardens or before the wrenched doors, greybeards with shrivelled faces
moaning under the trees, women trembling and wailing plaintively, and
still beholding as a mirage the scenes of horror which upset their
mental balance. Here a couple of children prattling in subdued tones,
there a mother leading three orphaned little girls from the still
smoking ruins of their house into the wide world, and everywhere the
loathsome soilure and squalor of war.

Inhuman hate appeared to possess those Prussian invaders, whom terror
drove and terror alone could curb. Belgians who dealt with them at
close quarters, as at Dormael, declared that these Uhlans fought with
the bitterness of personal fury, and, not content with killing those
who manfully resisted them in fight, assassinated numbers who had laid
down their weapons and held their hands up. Many of the corpses have
their hands raised and their elbows on a level with the shoulders. The
wounds of these brave defenders are horrible, having been inflicted
with weapons fired at a distance of a couple of inches from the mouth
or breast.

Some Uhlans met a Belgian chemist who was riding a bicycle near
Jodoigne. Arresting him they inquired their way to the town hall,
placing the muzzles of revolvers to his head while they listened. He
gave them the required information and was allowed to pass on, but
before he had gone ten yards they sent three bullets into his back.

On Friday afternoon, August 14th, the Press Bureau issued the following
statement, summing up the position in Northern Belgium:

(1) After a successful resistance of five days at the passes of Sainte
Marie aux Mines and Le Bonhomme, the French troops have occupied the
region of the Saale Pass, which commands the valley of the Burche, an
affluent of the Rhine.

(2) At Saale numerous desertions from the German troops are notified.
The French have taken many prisoners, and have captured some
machine-guns.

(3) It is now confirmed that in Belgium the Belgians were successful
in an engagement which took place on August 12th between their troops
and six regiments of German cavalry, supported by 2,500 infantry,
machine-guns and artillery. The enemy was completely disorganised; the
six cavalry regiments suffered great losses, and the Belgians pursued
the infantry which gave way.

(4) This (Friday) morning, towards Eghezée, sixteen kilomètres to
the north of Namur, a mixed detachment from the garrison surprised
some German cavalry regiments in camp, threw them into confusion and
forced them back towards the east, after taking numerous prisoners
and capturing cannon and machine-guns. To the south of the Meuse the
German cavalry avoids contact with the French.

(5) The news of fighting about Haelen yesterday is confirmed. The
Germans were driven back eastwards, and there is now no German cavalry
between Hasselt and Ramillies.

(6) Liège forts are reported to be still holding out, and to have
plenty of supplies.

(7) German cavalry patrols are now reported north of Montmedy.

(8) General Joffre, by virtue of the powers conferred on him by the
Ministry of War (decision of August 8th, 1914), has made Lieutenant
Bruyant, of the Dragoons, a Knight of the Legion of Honour. “This
officer,” it is stated in the text of his appointment, “accompanied by
seven horsemen, did not hesitate to charge a platoon of some thirty
Uhlans: he killed the officer in charge of them with his own hand, and
routed the German platoon, inflicting severe losses upon it.”

(9) The Commander-in-Chief has conferred the first war medal of the
campaign on Escoffier, Corporal of Dragoons, for having charged with
the greatest courage and received several wounds.

(10) Belgian cyclists and cavalry from Namur surprised yesterday a
force of German cavalry, accompanied by artillery and machine-guns,
and compelled them to retire. The Germans lost a field gun and several
machine-guns.

The French army was meanwhile making good progress, and on the night of
the 14th it was officially announced by the War Ministry in Paris that
the French were entering Belgium through Charleroi and were proceeding
in the direction of Gembloux, some thirty miles to the north-east.

Reports were current on Friday evening that the German attack had been
renewed, but these were afterwards seen to be baseless. The German
forces around Liège were content to remain on the defensive for a
time; and even towards the south, in the Vosges, the French troops
were slowly driving the invaders before them. At Liège itself several
bodies of the enemy had taken up their position in the town, but the
forts were still intact. An observer of the scene at this juncture
commented on the changed physiognomy of that once gay capital of the
Walloon country. Some 30,000 of the inhabitants had fled from the place
in terror when the enemy’s guns began to shower shells upon the forts
from Fléron. The remainder buried themselves in cellars and underground
passages, scores huddling together without food, drink, or other of
life’s necessaries. The city bore marks of havoc everywhere. Gaping
bridges, half-demolished houses, many without doors, which had been
taken off their hinges and cast into the courtyard or the roadside,
fallen roofs, smouldering ruins, told their dismal tale.

There was not a street in which shells had not fallen. The very
asphalt was ploughed up in places like a cornfield at sowing time.
Hurriedly-made graves with their soft mounds protruded in unexpected
places. During the day the Germans were everywhere in evidence: they
patrolled the principal thoroughfares, stood at the barricades which
they had raised at all the approaches to the town, or crept up towards
the forts with remarkable recklessness. Nine of them on bicycles rode
to within 300 mètres of the forts one morning; eight returned unharmed,
only one paying for the pleasant sense of daring adventure with his
life. The inhabitants were cowed by recent deterrent examples and by
the terrors hanging over them.

At nightfall the city assumed the aspect of a churchyard. The silence
was soul-curdling, yet the hearts of the inhabitants beat quicker and
louder when that silence was broken by the heavy tread of the Prussian
patrols or the rending thunder of heavy guns. All the doors still
extant had to be kept wide open. Early in the morning when the bakers
removed their bread from the ovens, German guards, posted wherever
victuals are to be had, were in the habit of pouncing down on the
entire output of the bakeries, for which they sometimes paid; but the
ill-starred inhabitants had no share. The soldiers made their own
coffee and soup in great motor cauldrons, from which it was poured into
metal porringers that they carry with them. They now wore reformed
field uniforms, rendering them hardly distinguishable from a distance,
just as their airships were so re-painted as to resemble the grey of
cloudland.

At Haelen and Diest, the scene of Wednesday’s engagement, one drew
nearer to the ghastly realities of war. The struggle waxed desperate,
man meeting man, striking, thrusting, and wrestling in the final fight
for life or death. Here the once peaceful country-side was utterly
transformed. In the background heaps of ruins that so lately were
farmhouses still emitted pungent smoke. Between the leafy trees one saw
the charred rents in the dwellings still erect, animals erring hither
and thither, barricades hastily erected of dead horses, their horrible
wounds gaping and spreading the mephitic reek of death, and along the
carriage-road on either side freshly-made ridges which hid the German
dead.

The serious attention of the civilised world was at this juncture
once again directed to the inhuman methods of warfare practised by
the German soldiery in Belgium, else, it was declared, the campaign
would assume a character of fiendish savagery unmatched in the annals
of war. “Unless some real respect be shown to the usages received
by civilised nations,” said one observer, “both sides will end by
making no prisoners. If even a tithe of the narratives now passing
from mouth to mouth about the atrocities committed by the invaders be
well founded–and they are vouched for by credible and level-headed
clergymen, mayors, and foreigners who feel no personal animus against
the Germans–the soldiery of the Fatherland have outrun the Hercules
pillars of inhumanity.”

Another report stated that the Germans in Liège were trying to
fraternise with the Belgians, and that German military bands played
daily in the two Belgian cafés.

About the middle of August a Belgian who had a relative at Port Talbot,
Cardiff, wrote:

Every day brings to light new acts of heroism displayed by the plucky
little Belgians, whilst several more no doubt have been accomplished,
of which we shall never hear. Their heroes are either too silent or
for ever silent. Lupin, a boy of eighteen, a corporal in the regiment
of Major Jeanne, who himself was nearly killed during the battle of
Liège, has died, a great hero in the eyes of his whole regiment.

One of his comrades who has known Lupin for years tells this pathetic
story, which Major Jeanne has himself brought to light. “We were
on the right bank of the river Meuse at Bellaire, which is not far
above Jupille, and we were in close touch with a German battery.
The musketry on both sides was terrible. I was stretched out flat,
continuously loading and shooting, and could feel my gun getting hot.
Bullets were flattening their noses in front of me, raising clouds of
sand and dust. My mouth, eyes, and ears were full of powder. Corpses
were heaped round me, their faces black with powder, and stamped
with the horrible grimace of death; their hands, with swollen veins,
gripping their deadly Mausers. Yes, war is magnificently terrible.

“All at once the Germans adopted new tactics, and I must give them
credit for being a cute lot. They seemed to withdraw from their
position, and we could distinctly notice their ranks splitting as if
in great confusion, but it was only to bring to the front some more
artillery which had been rushing from behind. The move was smartly
executed, the ranks closed again, and for a time they seemed as if
they were going to have the advantage over us.

“But now young Lupin had seen his chance looming, and what he did
altogether changed the face of things. ‘Leave them to me now,’ was
what someone heard him say, and like a flash the boy dashed off under
cover of a ditch on the left. Only a few of us had seen it, but
Major Jeanne knew his corporal of eighteen, and knew he was up to
something grand. Watching him, he shouted, ‘Go for them! Get at those
square-heads with your bullets. Fire!’

“In the meantime Lupin had managed to get to the left of the German
battery, and at 300 mètres distance he sheltered behind a wall.
He took aim at the battery in enfilade, and under the fire of his
Mauser brought down in quick succession the chief officer, the
under-officers, and the artillerymen. This time real confusion took
place at the German battery, which was nearly silenced, the Germans,
thinking that a whole platoon was now attacking them from behind the
wall, directed their last piece of artillery on the wall, and with a
terrific crash the wall came down, burying the brave Corporal Lupin.
The boy’s bravery had weakened the German position, and it did not
take us long to scatter them, and put another victory on our list.”

On Saturday and Sunday, August 15th and 16th, there was little definite
news from any part of the theatre of war. There was some fighting in
the south undoubtedly, and a French force defeated a strong body of
Bavarians, capturing 500 prisoners. At Dinant, in Belgium, there was
another stiff engagement, but no details of it came to hand for a
few days. An authoritative report was given out at Brussels to the
effect that the Germans had lost more than 25,000 killed, wounded,
and prisoners at Liège–more than half an army corps. These losses,
of course, would have been reckoned as trivial if the Germans had
succeeded in their original design of executing a “military promenade”
through Belgian territory. Apart from the scarcity of food, already
referred to, the besieging forces at Liège suffered from lack of
horses, and cavalry reconnaissances were gradually becoming impossible.

On Monday, August 17th, it was officially announced that the British
Expeditionary Force had been safely landed on French soil; and it was
at the same time stated that the French army had scored some successes
in Upper Alsace. The movement of this wing of General Joffre’s army
appeared to extend from the Swiss frontier at Altkirch, near Mülhausen,
as far away as Château Salins, a distance of eighty miles. Its object,
which was afterwards frustrated by a strong German advance, was to
isolate and “contain” the great fortresses of Metz and Strassburg. The
two official notices issued by the War Ministry in Paris describe these
operations:

Sunday Midnight [_i.e._, August 16th].

The forward movement has been developed along the whole front from
Réchicourt to Sainte Marie-aux-Mines. In the Vosges we have carried
Sainte Marie-aux-Mines and made progress towards Sainte Blaise.

The French troops which occupied the Donon yesterday have advanced. In
the valley of Schirmeck especially their progress has been extremely
rapid. We have taken 1,000 prisoners, in addition to the 500 captured
yesterday. Large quantities of equipment have been abandoned by the
enemy.

In this district, as at Sainte Marie, we have captured guns of large
calibre, field-guns, and ammunition.

In the region Blamont–Cirey we have gained the heights of Lorquin,
and in doing so have taken the convoy of a division of German cavalry,
consisting of nineteen motor wagons.

In the attack on Dinant the enemy’s forces consisted of the Cavalry
Division of the Guard and the First Division of Cavalry, supported
by infantry from several battalions and some companies with maxims.
When these forces appeared on the left bank the French troops attacked
them. This attack, delivered with magnificent dash, soon drove the
enemy back, and they recrossed the Meuse in great disorder. Many were
unable to regain the bridge, and fell into the river, which at this
point has steep banks and flows swiftly. Numbers of the enemy were
drowned.

Taking advantage of this disorder, one of our Chasseur cavalry
regiments crossed the river after the Germans and pursued them for
several kilomètres. Several hundred horses belonging to the Uhlans
were captured and subsequently passed to the rear for remount
purposes. In this pursuit the French regiment put to flight forces of
the enemy considerably superior to itself in numbers.

Monday (11 a.m.) [_i.e._, August 17th].

Our advance continues to develop. Our troops have carried the heights
to the north of the frontier, and their lines pass Breschwiller,
Lorquin, Azaudange, Marsal.

In the Donon region we occupy Schirmeck, 7-1/2 miles beyond Saales.

The number of field-guns taken by us at this point is not four, as
was stated yesterday, but twelve, as well as twelve limbers and eight
maxims. Our cavalry has pushed forward as far as Lutzelhausen and
Muhlbach.

Further to the south we have occupied Ville, to the east of the Pass
of Urbans, on the road to Schlestadt. Thann, Cernay, and Dannemarie
are occupied.

At Blamont, a village from which the Germans have just been driven
by our troops, they had, without reason or provocation, put to death
three persons, of whom one was a young girl and another an old man of
eighty-six, whose name was M. Barthélemy, and who was an ex-Mayor of
the village.

On Monday, August 17th, the Queen of the Belgians and the Ministers for
War, Finance, and Foreign Affairs retired from Brussels to Antwerp with
the Ministers of France and Russia, who left French interests in the
hands of the Spanish Legation.

It was officially stated that this was according to long pre-arranged
and Constitutional arrangements, and not because the military situation
was disquieting. The families of the withdrawing Ministers remained in
Brussels, which was protected by over 20,000 Civic Guards, entrenched
behind barbed-wire fences, making the capital quite safe against
surprise attack.

This move was really made because the Germans had managed to bring
up heavy siege guns; and, although the forts were still holding out,
arrangements were gradually being made to “contain” them and to advance
on the capital with the main army. The Belgian Government afterwards
decided not to attempt to defend Brussels, and the barricades which had
been erected were dismantled and the barbed-wire fences taken down.

In the meantime the second stronghold of the Belgian army, Namur, was
prepared for the onslaught of the enemy. On August 13th Mr. Granville
Fortescue, who had arrived there, noted that the city exhibited all
the grim circumstances of a siege except the actual falling of shells
within its boundaries. When he arrived at the station he followed the
crowd, which was herded into a corner until each passenger had been
examined. One could not move without a “laissez-passer.” Soldiers
patrolled the streets, and every few hundred yards pedestrians were
halted and made to show their papers. Barricades commanded all the main
avenues into the city. They had been made by dragging enormous goods
vans across the street and turning the van into a sort of blockhouse.
The sides were pierced for rifle fire, and sand bags were piled
breast-high inside.

[Illustration]

Defences of sand bags and earth were built at either side of the van.

* * * * *

Suddenly the whirl of an aeroplane sounds overhead. Then we hear a
scattered volley. The aeroplane is German, and the garrison are trying
to pot it, despite the fact that it must be 2,000 feet up. They are
striking in appearance, these German aeroplanes. Once seen it is easy
afterwards to distinguish them. Seen from directly below, it is best
described as scarab shaped–what I should imagine a giant scarab would
look like on the wing. The whole machine is white, except for a panel
of sky blue painted across the centre of each wing. The engine of the
German machine makes a louder noise than either the French or Belgian.
The aeroplane we were watching circled above the forts and remained in
this vicinity about half an hour. Then it turned about and disappeared
to the east.

* * * * *

The Kaiser, with three of his sons, left Berlin on August 17th for
Mayence, about 100 miles to the north of Strassburg; but he did not
venture upon Belgian soil.

* * * * *

An English officer who returned to England from Brussels at this time
had had the most interesting experience, and, it should be added,
privilege, of chatting with one of the heroic defenders of Liège, a
Belgian officer. To a representative of _The Daily Telegraph_ he said:

I never had any doubt that the Belgians were plucky fellows. The
defence of Liège shows them in heroic light.

One of them, in the course of a casual conversation, which would not
have given you any idea that he, or any of his colleagues, had taken
part in anything extraordinary, said: “Some of us late arrivals only
managed to get to our posts when the German attack began. It was
night-time. We replied sharply with our guns. Until the dawn came we
had no very distinct idea of what our practice was. Then we noticed
heaps of slain Germans in a semi-circle at the foot of our fort. The
German guns must have been much less successful, because they rarely
hit us that night. They did better at daybreak. We did better still.

“As line after line of the German infantry advanced, we simply mowed
them down. It was terribly easy, monsieur, and I turned to a brother
officer of mine more than once and said, ‘Voilà! They are coming on
again, in a dense, close formation! They must be mad!’ They made no
attempt at deploying, but came on, line after line, almost shoulder
to shoulder, until, as we shot them down, the fallen were heaped one
on top of the other, in an awful barricade of dead and wounded men
that threatened to mask our guns and cause us trouble. I thought of
Napoleon’s saying–if he said it, monsieur; and I doubt it, for he
had no care of human life!–‘C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la
guerre!’ No, it was slaughter–just slaughter!

“So high became the barricade of the dead and wounded that we did
not know whether to fire through it or to go out and clear openings
with our hands. We would have liked to extricate some of the wounded
from the dead, but we dared not. A stiff wind carried away the smoke
of the guns quickly, and we could see some of the wounded men trying
to release themselves from their terrible position. I will confess I
crossed myself, and could have wished that the smoke had remained!

“But, would you believe it, this veritable wall of dead and dying
actually enabled these wonderful Germans to creep closer, and actually
charge up the glacis? Of course, they got no farther than half way,
for our maxims and rifles swept them back. Of course, we had our own
losses, but they were slight compared with the carnage inflicted upon
our enemies.”

The English officer added:

“There is, as you know, quite a large colony of English people in
Brussels, and also in Bruges. They have their English club and tennis
courts. Many of these Britishers have their own houses, and live in
Belgium for three or six months every year. When the war broke out
all but those owning, or renting, property were advised to leave the
country, which they did. Many English householders in Belgium also
closed their residences and left for England.

“The Belgians were at first extremely dubious of our intention to send
troops to Belgium to support them, and night after night, at a certain
well-known seaside resort, they crowded about the British Consulate
for news. When it was definitely known that the British Expeditionary
Force had started Belgian men and women asked for the Union Jack to
be brought out by the Consul, and when this was done they filed past,
kissing it. I saw this with my own eyes.”

On the 18th it became evident that the German forces had gathered
on the line Maastricht-Liège and were about to make an attempt to
penetrate the allied armies facing them. There was no serious fighting
on this date, but German cavalry were seen in the direction of Antwerp.

The long-expected battle appeared to have begun on the 19th
(Wednesday), and Tirlemont, a town some twenty-three miles from
Brussels, on the railway to Liège, was said to be its centre. Refugees
hurried into Brussels from Aerschot and Diest, and hundreds of
civilians from Tirlemont also made for the capital.

Saarburg was occupied by the French on the same day.

* * * * *

The great German advance on Belgium was begun on Friday, August
21st, in a line extending from Dinant, a town to the south of
Namur, as far as a point opposite Antwerp. About noon Brussels was
reached and occupied. The following account of the position of the
Belgian Government was issued officially just before the capital was
transferred to Antwerp:

At the present moment the general situation in the Belgian theatre of
war may be described as follows: After having lost a great deal of
time, a large number of men, and a great quantity of material, the
Prussian army has managed to gain ground on both banks of the Meuse up
to a line where it is in contact with the allied armies. The German
troops on the north side of the Meuse belong to various corps, whose
operations have been principally directed against Liège, and who in
the course of time have become available in other directions. There
is also a strong force of cavalry, by means of which the Germans have
been able to make a great show by extending to the north and south.

In the south they came into collision with our troops and the French
troops, and were repulsed. In the north, on the other hand, they found
an open road, and small portions of them managed to make dashes far
afield. In a word, the Germans have taken the measure of our position,
but that they should have lost a fortnight in attaining this result is
all to the honour of our arms. That may have incalculable consequences
for the issues of the operations. The normal development of the
latter, according to the plan concerted between the allies, may lead
to the carrying out of “manoeuvres,” that is to say, to changes of
position in order to effect a change in the general situation.

We are on the outside wing, where these manoeuvres are nearly always
necessitated, either for the direct or indirect protection of the
flank. Our army, therefore, must necessarily modify its original
positions, and thus carry out completely the first task devolving
upon it, which consists in gaining time. There is, consequently, no
ground for anxiety if the army makes a movement in such and such a
direction, and armchair strategists need not occupy themselves with
the arrangements made, but should realise that our army now belongs to
a co-ordinated whole, and remember that the strategic conditions have
entirely changed since close contact has been established with our
allies on our right.

The object of the operations as at present going on is not to cover
such and such a district or such and such a town, which has now become
a matter of only secondary importance. The pursuit of the aim assigned
to the Belgian troops in the general plan of campaign preponderates
over everything. This object cannot be revealed, and the most
well-informed persons are unable to discover it in view of the veil of
obscurity which is rightly being spread over all the news allowed to
come through regarding the operations.

Fighting is going on along the whole front from Bale to Diest. The
closer the contact comes between the two armies and the closer
one gets to a decisive action, the more one must expect to see an
advantage gained at one point while ground is lost at another. That
is only to be expected in the case of battles taking place over such
immense fronts as those occupied by the great armies of modern times.

To sum up, one may say that what is going on at our gates is not the
only thing to be thought of. A strategic movement conceived with a
well-defined object is not necessarily a retreat. The fighting which
has taken place at the front during the last few days has resulted in
making the enemy more circumspect and in delaying his forward march
to the great advantage of the whole scheme of operations. There is
no reason at the present time for letting oneself be hung up, thus
playing into the hands of the Germans. That is the motive of the
movements now being carried out. We are not beaten, far from it, but
are making arrangements for beating the enemy in the best possible
conditions. The public should, in this matter, place all trust in the
commander of the army, and should remain calm and confident.

The outcome of the struggle does not appear doubtful. Meanwhile the
newspapers should abstain from mentioning movements of troops, as
secrecy is essential for the success of the operations.

The exodus from Brussels was vividly described in a telegram from Mr.
A.J. Rorke, the correspondent of the Central News Agency. He wired,
under date of August 20th:

I left Brussels at three o’clock this morning, with the Germans at its
very gates.

All through the evening, following the evacuation of Tirlemont,
Louvain, and neighbouring villages, there had been coming into the
city from all the roads leading into it one unending procession of
old men, women, children, and wounded soldiers retreating before the
advance of the Uhlan vanguard.

They came into the centre of the city, clamouring at the Gare du Nord
for tickets to the coast, but the trains were all reserved for the
hosts of wounded brought in by motor-ambulances and carts from the
firing-line.

Most of the men had been wounded in the head and face, disproving the
repeated stories that the Germans were bad marksmen and aimed low.

As a matter of fact, practically all the men wounded in yesterday’s
battle were hit high, proving that the Germans, infantrymen and
cavalrymen, are firing from the hip.

Later came the news that there would probably be no more trains out
of Brussels, so the more timid of the population began to prepare
hurriedly for departure.

A dramatic moment in the history of Europe occurred when the Civic
Guard, unwillingly, and only on instructions from the Executive
Government at Antwerp, abandoned their defensive on the outskirts of
the city, and in the forest around the town, and marched into Brussels.

They were ordered to Ghent, and singing, with unbroken spirit, the
“Marseillaise,” the strains of which rose over the murmurs of a
panic-stricken population, they entered the railroad station.

And so Brussels, undefended, evacuated by its troops unwillingly,
though their going really showed a finer spirit of patriotism than
death on a battlefield, awaited the arrival of the “modern Huns.”

Just before I left early this morning a rumour, which at that hour I
was unable to confirm, spread through the city that the French had
arrived, and that the Turcos were actually in action with the Germans
on the Louvain road.

These facts must stand out in the battle of yesterday.

One long line of burning villages marked the German advance, and three
regiments of Belgian troops are no more. They are, I hear, the First
Regiment of Guides and the Third and Ninth Regiments of the Line.

A weeping woman whom I took into my automobile drew from her breast,
on the road to Ghent, a blue cap with a yellow facing, upon which was
the figure “3.”

“Voilà une casquette d’un de nos braves petits soldats,” she said to
me, “mais il n’y a plus du Troisième.”

As Mr. William Maxwell pointed out, the real capital of Belgium, in the
military sense, had always been Antwerp, not Brussels; and Napoleon
himself gave one of his generals to understand, in explicit terms,
that there could be no glory in entering the undefended capital of an
enemy’s country. “Most of the country the Germans have overrun up to
the present,” said Mr. Maxwell, “has not been seriously contested,
for it does not enter into the Allies’ plan of action.” Antwerp, as
an important Belgian official explained, was provisioned for an
indefinite period; it could be supplied with stores of every kind from
the sea; and it was calculated that the forts would be able to hold out
for at least a year. In these circumstances the Belgian army entrenched
there would always be a menace to the right wing of the Germans, who
would be obliged to detach a large part of their forces to prevent an
attack from that direction.

Great indignation was aroused all over Europe when it became known that
the Germans had imposed a war levy on Brussels of no less a sum than
£8,000,000, the alternative being the sacking of the city, with all its
priceless art treasures. A levy of £2,000,000 had already been imposed
on the province of Liège.

The Germans made their official entry into Brussels at two o’clock in
the afternoon of Friday, August 21st. To the eternal credit of the
people it must be said that they betrayed not the slightest sign of
panic, but faced their painful uncertainty with dignity and courage.

The Civil Guard, of whom 20,000 were in Brussels, were uniformed men,
and may be compared to our old volunteers. They had made preparations
to resist the capture of the city, and had covered the approaches with
trenches and barbed wire entanglements. But Brussels is not a fortified
place, and armed opposition would have involved severe penalties. The
Guard, therefore, withdrew from the capital soon after midnight. They
retired with the honours of war, singing songs of victory.

For some days the citizens had recognised the possibility of having the
Germans for their uninvited guests, and when Louvain was abandoned they
accepted the inevitable. The spirit they manifested was reflected in a
dignified and courageous proclamation by their burgomeister.

At six o’clock in the morning the enemy’s cavalry appeared at
Tervueren, a distant suburb of the capital. From that hour every door
was closed, and every window was darkened with shutter or blind. From
the outskirts people began to flock into the heart of the city, yet
there was no panic-fear. At nine o’clock the capital was surrounded,
but no entry was made until after two o’clock. The occupation proceeded
with method. Railway stations and telegraph and telephone offices were
taken over, and sentries were posted on all the main roads. The city,
which was crowded twelve hours before, looked like a deserted place.

Pushing on from Brussels the same evening, the Germans took possession
of the undefended cities of Ghent and Bruges, and advance brigades of
cavalry made their appearance at Ostend, which was occupied shortly
afterwards. This advance–of no military importance, and savouring
of what is colloquially known as window-dressing–was more than
compensated for by a series of French successes in Alsace-Lorraine.
General Joffre’s forces drove the Germans out of several of the smaller
towns, captured many hundreds of prisoners, and took ninety-one guns
from the enemy.

Coincidentally with the arrival of the Germans in Brussels, it was
announced that this country would lend our Belgian allies the sum of
£10,000,000 in recognition of their splendid services at the beginning
of the war.

The first complete account of the fighting at Dinant a few days
previously was given in a special message from Mr. Granville Fortescue.
Writing from Dinant on August 15th, Mr. Fortescue said:

A considerable force of German light infantry, supported by mountain
batteries, to-day made a determined attack on this town. The fight
lasted from daylight till dark. Although the Germans had some success
in the morning, the arrival of French reinforcements compelled them to
evacuate the excellent positions they had taken.

The first shell just missed the clock above the railroad station,
which marked ten minutes past six, and fell through the roof. It did
little damage beyond shattering numerous windows. The railroad station
is directly opposite my hotel. The second shell tore through the
chimney of the hotel. The kitchen was filled with bits of bricks and
mortar. The breakfast coffee was spoiled.

Captain X., who was here on a special mission, made his escape in a
motor, accompanied by a squad of khaki-clad couriers on motor-cycles.
The guests of the hotel scuttled to the cellars.

It was nearly seven o’clock before the infantry began firing in
earnest. The only French troops in the town were some of a regiment of
the line. The French had no artillery when the action opened.

The position was in a certain state of defence, which might have been
improved. However, the streets were barricaded and a field of wire
entanglements stretched across the bridge, which was also commanded by
a mitrailleuse.

Dinant lies in a well, one might say, on both banks of the Meuse. High
limestone cliffs tower above the town. On the east bank these are
steep, and are crowned by an ancient fort known as the citadel. The
fort dominates the whole adjacent country. On the west bank of the
Meuse the town scrambles up a hillside, covered with trees.

When the engagement opened I joined Commandant A. and Lieutenant B.,
who were in charge of the detachment defending the bridge.

At this time the Germans were making a strong effort to capture the
citadel. It was held by a small French force, perhaps one company.

The cliffs resounded with the rifle and gun fire. The din and the
falling shells drove the population en masse to the “caves.”

Members of the Volunteer Hospital Corps, however, hurried along on
their bicycles searching the streets for wounded.

The German mountain batteries fired with accuracy, although the small
projectiles had little effect. I picked up the fuse of one shell, a
Dapp, cut at 4,000 mètres.

About ten o’clock the Germans held the crest of the cliffs across the
river, and soon took the citadel. They sent down a veritable hail of
lead on the defenders. Behind the cover of the bridge abutments the
French reply gallantly. Thus the fight goes on for an hour. One hears
nothing save the irregular explosions of rifles, the machine-like
sputterings of the mitrailleuse, punctuated by the shock of shell
fire. It rains, but this in no way halts the firing. About thirty
wounded are brought in when the French troops change position to
the high ground back of the town. A sudden increase in the volume of
sound tells me that the wished-for reinforcements have arrived. Soon
a half-company of a regiment crowd into the hotel, expecting to find
there a good field of fire. They bring with them a dozen frightened
women who have been hiding in the station.

About noon the firing slackens, and the rain ceases. A few limping
figures in blue coats and red trousers stagger into the hotel. A
doctor stationed here gives them first-aid attention. While the lull
continues a woman crosses to the pillar-box and drops in a postcard.

About one I return to my post of observation. The German flag has
been hoisted over the citadel. This is a signal for renewed firing.
The sight of the hated flag seems to rouse the French troops to fury.
About 2 p.m. I hear for the first time the welcome sound of French
field artillery. One of the first shots cuts the German flag across.
Two French batteries have arrived, and they hail projectiles into the
citadel with extraordinary accuracy. Another line regiment arrives
to reinforce the troops here, and under a smothering fire I see the
heads of the Germans that dotted the ramparts of the fort begin to
disappear. At this time I also hear heavy firing in the south-east.
About ten minutes before six I cannot distinguish a German on the
ramparts. The only firing is some scattered shooting from the French
side. A cheer greets the coming of another new regiment, and soon the
French troops are back in the positions they held in the morning.

But the road back of the bridge is dotted with the dead. They lie in
all sorts of contorted positions. Their blue coats are splashed with
red, their red trousers are stained a deeper crimson.

And the cheers of the troops who have just arrived die down as they
pass this grim testimony of what war means.

As it was the intention of the French to hold the Dinant bridge at
all hazards, their strongest force was placed behind the abutment
wings of this bridge. These are limestone block walls, about three
feet high, and offer good cover. But this cover would have been
vastly improved if the walls had been capped with sandbags. There was
plenty of time to have so improved this defence. Again, the field of
fire before this position was poor. But the gravest mistake was the
neglect to construct protected approaches to the advanced position.
Reinforcements had to be rushed across an open field of fire, where
they suffered unnecessary casualties. And when the French line of
defence had to be changed, and the troops withdrawn to a higher
position behind the town, they suffered heavily because they must
pass along a road swept by the German fire. All of which should have
been provided against. This is not written in a spirit of criticism,
but simply to call attention to certain mistakes that will, in the
future, surely be corrected.

The French are under a severe handicap in the matter of uniform. It is
over a dozen years since the Boer War, and certainly they should have
discarded the blue coat and red trousers for a more neutral colour.
They have covered the red crown of their caps with blue. This is to
prevent their being discovered by aeroplane scouts. But the flamboyant
uniform of the line regiments makes a fair mark, as far as the modern
rifle is effective. In groups they are all the gunner asks for a
target.

On the other hand, the Germans have adopted a grey-green colour that
is almost invisible. Yesterday, with a first-class glass, I had
difficulty in locating individuals.

What I have written applies with more force to the Belgian troops.
These soldiers are as conspicuous as claret stains on a new tablecloth.

On my way here I passed some four or five regiments of infantry.
Though the men are young, they are going into this war with a
seriousness unusual in the French. Of course, the Gallic temperament
is not changed. They still show their “esprit” and their gaiety is
not altogether extinguished. Perhaps the solemnity I have alluded to
is more noticed among the officers than the men. They are as grave as
schoolmasters. All of which is a good sign.

I have been particularly struck by the professional atmosphere of the
artillery officers. It needs but a glance of the eye to be sure that
this arm will perform splendid service under their direction.

The Germans had so many men massed in the occupied portions of Belgium
by this time that temporary checks did not stem what one correspondent
aptly described as a tidal wave of troops sweeping irresistibly through
the valley of the Meuse. Japan, who had sent Germany an ultimatum
with regard to Kiao-Chau, declared war on receiving no reply by the
stipulated time; but, it is unnecessary to add, this fact had no
influence on the operations of the German troops in Belgium. Telegrams
sent off on Sunday stated that a big battle was developing in the
neighbourhood of Charleroi–Mons, and that the Germans in order to
ensure the uninterrupted and safe passage of their army, had occupied
all the villages between Louvain and Alost. The Liège forts, it was
officially announced, were still holding out, but the Germans had
“contained” them by a large force of soldiers. Attention was rather
concentrated on the forts at Namur, to subdue which the Germans had
advanced their heavy siege guns. It was said on Monday, August 24th,
that “Namur had fallen,” but no confirmation of this statement could be
obtained, and it was generally taken as meaning that the invaders had
managed to enter the town, but that the forts were still holding out.
An official message from Brussels on the following Wednesday evening
said that Namur had not yet fallen.

In the meantime refugees were hurrying from Ostend, to which city
both Belgian and German wounded were being brought. The cross-Channel
steamers were crowded, and Belgian refugees who had come away from
Brussels and Tirlemont made their appearance in London.

The British Expeditionary Force was engaged in the battle at Mons, and
it was subsequently stated that the soldiers had been fighting for
thirty-six hours on end. A short statement by the Press Bureau was
more usefully expanded into the following account, which was issued by
the French Embassy and summed up the situation as it existed on Monday
night, August 24th:

On the west of the Meuse the English army, which was on our left, has
been attacked by the Germans. Its behaviour under fire was admirable,
and it resisted the enemy with its customary coolness.

The French army which operated in this region attacked. Our army
corps, with the African troops in the first line, carried forward by
their over-eagerness, were received with a very murderous fire. They
did not fall back, but later by a counter-attack by the Prussian Guard
they were compelled to retire. They did so only after having inflicted
enormous loss on the enemy. The flower of the Prussian Guard suffered
very severely.

On the east of the Meuse our troops advanced across very difficult
ground. They met with a vigorous attack as they left the woods, and
were compelled to retire after fierce fighting on the south of the
Semoy.

At the order of General Joffre, our troops and the English troops
have taken up their position on the covering line, which they would
not have quitted had not the splendid courage of the Belgian army
permitted us to enter Belgium. The covering line is intact. Our
cavalry has not suffered. Our artillery has proved its superiority.
Our officers and our soldiers are in splendid physical and moral
condition.

As a result of the orders given, the struggle will change its
aspect for several days. The French army will for a time remain
on the defensive. When the proper moment comes, as chosen by the
Commander-in-Chief, it will resume a vigorous offensive.

Our losses are severe. It will be premature to estimate them or to
estimate those of the German army, which, however, has suffered
so severely as to be compelled to halt in its counter-attack and
establish itself in new positions.

The communiqué then proceeds to deal with the situation in regard to
Lorraine. It says:

Yesterday we four times counter-attacked from the positions we occupy
on the north of Nancy, and we inflicted very severe losses on the
Germans.

Generally speaking, we retain full liberty to use our railway system,
and every sea is open for our re-provisioning. Our operations
have permitted Russia to enter into action and to reach the heart
of Eastern Prussia. It is, of course, regrettable that, owing to
difficulties in execution which could not have been foreseen, our plan
of attack has not achieved its object. Had it done so it would have
shortened the war, but in any case our defence remains intact in face
of an already weakened enemy.

All Frenchmen will deplore the momentary abandonment of the portions
of annexed territory which we had already occupied. On the other
hand, certain portions of the national territory must, unfortunately,
suffer from the events of which they will be the theatre. The trial is
inevitable, but will be temporary.

Thus, some detachments of German cavalry, belonging to an independent
division operating on the extreme right, have penetrated into the
Roubaix–Tourcoing district, which is defended only by Territorial
forces. The courage of our brave people will support this trial with
unshaken faith in our final success, which is beyond doubt.

In telling the country the whole truth, the Government and the
military authorities afford it the strongest possible proof of their
absolute confidence in a victory, which depends only on our tenacity
and perseverance.

A thrilling description of the behaviour of the British troops at Mons
was given by Mr. A.J. Rorke, the correspondent of the Central News
Agency, who wired from Paris on Monday night:

Graphic stories of how the British troops at Mons fought during the
two days in which they bore the brunt of the main German advance
reached Paris in the early hours of this morning, when officers
arriving from the front reported at the War Office, and, in subsequent
conversation with their closest personal friends, told of the
wonderful coolness and daring of our men. The shooting of our infantry
on the firing fine, they said, was wonderful. Every time a German’s
head showed above the trenches and every time the German infantry
attempted to rush a position there came a withering rifle fire from
the khaki-clad forms lying in extending formation along a big battle
front.

The firing was not the usual firing of nervous men, shooting without
aiming and sometimes without rhyme or reason, as is so often the case
in warfare. It was rather the calm, calculated riflemanship of the men
one sees on the Stickledown range firing with all the artificial aids
permitted to the match rifle expert whose one concern is prize money.

When quick action was necessary the firing and the action of the men
was only that of prize riflemen firing at a disappearing target. There
was no excitement, no nervousness; just cool, methodical efficiency.
If the British lost heavily heaven only knows what the Germans must
have lost, because, as one of their wounded officers (whom the British
took prisoner) remarked, “We had never expected anything like it; it
was staggering.”

The British troops went to their positions silently but happily. There
was no singing, because that was forbidden, but as the khaki-clad
columns deployed and began to crawl to the trenches there were various
sallies of humour in the different dialects of English, Irish, and
Scottish counties. The Yorkshireman, for instance, would draw a
comparison between the men they were going to fight and certain dogs
that won’t fight which the Yorkshire collier has not time to waste
upon at the pit-head; the Cockney soldier was there with his sallies
about “Uncle Bill,” and every Irishman who went into the firing line
wished he had the money to buy a little Irish horse, so that he could
have a slap at the Uhlans.

And the cavalry! Officers coming from the front declare that our
cavalrymen charged the much-vaunted German horsemen as Berserks might
have done. When they got into action with tunics open, and sometimes
without tunics at all, they flung themselves at the German horsemen in
a manner which surprised even their own officers, who had themselves
expected great things of them. The Uhlans, whose name and fearful fame
had spread terror among the Belgian peasants and the frontier villages
of France, were just the sort of men the British troopers were waiting
for. The Britishers, mostly Londoners, who, as Wellington said, make
the best cavalry soldiers in the world, were dying to have a cut at
them; and when they got into clinches the Uhlans had the surprise of
their lives.

From the scene of battle, the point of interest in the European war
drama, as far as England is concerned, shifted in the small hours of
this morning to the railway station at X, where officers and men of
the Army Service Corps awaited the arrival of the wounded–the British
wounded from the firing line. Everything was perfectly organised;
there was no theatrical display; the officers and men of the British
army waited silently and calmly for the toll of war, which they had
been advised was on its way.

The station at the time was crowded with Americans coming to England
from Paris after their release from Switzerland, and cheer after
cheer, in which the French in the station joined, echoed under the
arched roof. Britishers who were there felt very proud of their Empire
and their soldiers at that moment. The men who were waiting for the
wounded had not been in the first line of battle it was true–that was
not their job–but their work was probably the greatest of all. It was
for them to watch and wait, while every fibre of their inmost being
thrilled to the note of war; and yet to restrain their desires while
they practised that which the Iron Duke called the wonderful “two
o’clock in the morning” courage. So they waited in a draughty station
for their comrades, thrown back temporarily from the scene of action,
to fit them to return, if possible, immediately.

While the crowd waited for the wounded, train after train rolled
slowly through carrying more of “our boys” to the active front. They
were sleeping in horse trucks alongside their equine friends; they
were sleeping in cattle wagons; yet they stood up when the cheering
reached their ears, looking fresh, fit, clean, and healthily British
from their service caps to their puttee straps. All young, all
full-blooded, all British; happy and eager to get at grips in what
is to them a holy war. And then, at the end, as the boat-train was
creeping out in the early morning, the wounded arrived.

It was my privilege to witness, on the road between Boulogne and
Paris last Saturday, a scene as picturesque and deeply inspiring as a
page from Froissart. The two English Cardinals, Cardinal-Archbishop
Bourne and the Cardinal Abbot Gasquet, famed as an historian, had
left London to journey to the Conclave at Rome. On the line the train
in which they travelled was stopped, and by a curious chance a train
in which a regiment including in its ranks a large number of Irish
Catholics–these men, like the Plantagenets of old, wearing a sprig of
green in their head-dress–was drawn up for a moment alongside.

The Cardinals, who, under their cassocks, wore the red of their
rank, stepped into the corridor, and, leaning out of a window, said
together, “May God bless you, my children.”

In an instant every Catholic soldier in the open trucks of the troop
train dropped to his knees to receive the Cardinals’ blessing. It
appears, maybe, a simple affair, but in its spontaneity and sincerity,
its mingling of the spiritual with the grimly material, it was
eloquent and moving beyond the comprehension of those who only read
what others saw.

On August 25th the Germans made a raid by Zeppelin airship on Antwerp
and dropped several bombs on the palace, the St. Elizabeth Hospital,
and other public buildings. Twelve persons were blown to pieces in
different parts of the city, and shots aimed at the airship proved
ineffectual. The same evening the Belgian Government gave out the
following official statement regarding the shocking atrocities
committed by the invading forces in various parts of the occupied
territory:

In spite of solemn assurances of goodwill and long-standing treaty
obligations, Germany has made a sudden savage and utterly unwarranted
attack on Belgium.

However sorely pressed she may be, Belgium will never fight unfairly
and never stoop to infringe the laws and customs of legitimate
warfare. She is putting up a brave fight against overwhelming odds,
she may be beaten, she may be crushed, but, to quote our noble King’s
words, “she will never be enslaved.”

When German troops invaded our country, the Belgian Government issued
public statements which were placarded in every town, village, and
hamlet, warning all civilians to abstain scrupulously from hostile
acts against the enemy’s troops. The Belgian Press daily published
similar notices broadcast through the land. Nevertheless, the German
authorities have issued lately statements containing grave imputations
against the attitude of the Belgian civilian population, threatening
us at the same time with dire reprisals. These imputations are
contrary to the real facts of the case, and as to threats of further
vengeance, no menace of odious reprisals on the part of the German
troops will deter the Belgian Government from protesting before the
civilised world against the fearful and atrocious crimes committed
wilfully and deliberately by the invading hosts against helpless
non-combatants, old men, women, and children.

Long is the list of outrages committed by the German troops, and
appalling the details of atrocities, as vouched for by the Committee
of Inquiry recently formed by the Belgian Minister of Justice and
presided over by him. This committee comprises the highest judicial and
university authorities of Belgium, such as Chief Justice Van Iseghem,
Judge Nys, Professors Cottier, Wodon, etc.

The following instances and particulars have been established by
careful investigations based in each case on the evidence of reliable
eye-witnesses:

German cavalry occupying the village of Linsmeau were attacked by
some Belgian infantry and two gendarmes. A German officer was killed
by our troops during the fight and subsequently buried at the request
of the Belgian officer in command. No one of the civilian population
took part in the fighting at Linsmeau. Nevertheless, the village was
invaded at dusk on August 10th by a strong force of German cavalry,
artillery, and machine guns. In spite of the formal assurances given
by the Burgomaster of Linsmeau that none of the peasants had taken
part in the previous fight, two farms and six outlying houses were
destroyed by gun-fire and burnt. All the male inhabitants were then
compelled to come forward and hand over whatever arms they possessed.
No recently discharged firearms were found. Nevertheless, the invaders
divided these peasants into three groups, those in one group were bound
and eleven of them placed in a ditch, where they were afterwards found
dead, their skulls fractured by the butts of German rifles.

During the night of August 10th, German cavalry entered Velm in great
numbers. The inhabitants were asleep. The Germans, without provocation,
fired on M. Deglimme-Gevers’ house, broke into it, destroyed furniture,
looted money, burnt barns, hay and corn stacks, farm implements,
six oxen, and the contents of the farmyard. They carried off Madame
Deglimme, half-naked, to a place two miles away. She was then let go,
and was fired upon as she fled, without being hit. Her husband was
carried away in another direction, and fired upon. He is dying. The
same troops sacked and burned the house of a railway watchman.

Farmer Jef Dierick, of Neerhespen, bears witness to the following acts
of cruelty committed by German cavalry at Orsmael and Neerhespen on
August 10th, 11th, and 12th:

An old man of the latter village had his arm sliced in three
longitudinal cuts; he was then hanged head downwards and burned alive.
Young girls have been maltreated, and little children outraged at
Orsmael, where several inhabitants suffered mutilations too horrible
to describe. A Belgian soldier belonging to a battalion of cyclist
carabineers, who had been wounded and made prisoner, was hanged, whilst
another, who was tending his comrade, was bound to a telegraph pole on
the St. Trond road and shot.

On Wednesday, August 12th, after an engagement at Haelen, Commandant
Van Damme, so severely wounded that he was lying prone on his back, was
finally murdered by German infantrymen firing their revolvers into his
mouth.

On August 9th, at Orsmael, the Germans picked up Commandant Knapen,
very seriously wounded, propped him up against a tree, and shot him.
Finally they hacked his corpse with swords.

In different places, notably at Hollogne sur Geer, Barchon, Pontisse,
Haelen, and Zelck, German troops have fired on doctors, ambulance
bearers, ambulances, and ambulance wagons carrying a Red Cross.

At Boncelles a body of German troops marched into battle carrying a
Belgian flag.

On Thursday, August 6th, before a fort at Liège, German soldiers
continued to fire on a party of Belgian soldiers (who were unarmed, and
had been surrounded while digging a trench) after these had hoisted the
white flag.

On the same day, at Vottem, near the fort of Loncin, a group of German
infantry hoisted the white flag. When Belgian soldiers approached to
take them prisoners the Germans suddenly opened fire on them at close
range.

Harrowing reports of German savagery at Aerschot have reached the
Belgian Government at Antwerp from official local sources. Thus on
Tuesday, August 18th, the Belgian troops occupying a position in front
of Aerschot received orders to retire without engaging the enemy. A
small force was left behind to cover the retreat. This force resisted
valiantly against overwhelming German forces, and inflicted serious
losses on them. Meanwhile practically the whole civilian population of
Aerschot, terrorised by the atrocities committed by the Germans in the
neighbouring villages, had fled from the town.

Next day, Wednesday, August 19th, German troops entered Aerschot
without a shot having been fired from the town and without any
resistance whatever having been made. The few inhabitants that remained
had closed their doors and windows in compliance with the general
orders issued by the Belgian Government. Nevertheless the Germans
broke into the houses and told the inhabitants to quit.

In one single street the first six male inhabitants who crossed their
thresholds were seized and shot at once under the very eyes of their
wives and children. The German troops then retired for the day, only to
return in greater numbers on the next day, Thursday, August 20th.

They then compelled the inhabitants to leave their houses and marched
them to a place 200 yards from the town. There, without more ado, they
shot M. Thielmans, the Burgomaster, his fifteen-year-old son, the clerk
of the Local Judicial Board, and ten prominent citizens. They then set
fire to the town and destroyed it.

The following statement was made by Commandant Georges Gilson, of the
9th Infantry of the Line, now lying in hospital at Antwerp:

I was told to cover the retreat of our troops in front of Aerschot.
During the action fought there on Wednesday, August 19th, between six
and eight o’clock in the morning, suddenly I saw on the high road,
between the German and Belgian forces, which were fighting at close
range, a group of four women, with babies in their arms, and two
little girls clinging to their skirts. Our men stopped firing till
the women got through our lines, but the German machine guns went
on firing all the time, and one of the women was wounded in the arm.
These women could not have got through the neighbouring German lines
and been on the high road unless with the consent of the enemy.

All the evidence and circumstances seem to point to the fact that
those women had been deliberately pushed forward by the Germans to act
as a shield for their advance guard, and in the hope that the Belgians
would cease firing for fear of killing the women and children.

This statement was made and duly certified in the Antwerp Hospital on
August 22nd by Commandant Gilson, in the presence of the Chevalier
Ernst N. Bunswyck, Chief Secretary to the Belgian Minister of Justice,
and M. de Cartier de Marchienne, Belgian Minister to China.

Further German atrocities are continuously being brought to notice
and made the subject of official and expert inquiry by the proper
authorities.

* * * * *

In issuing the above statements to the English Press, the only comment
the Press Bureau could offer was that these atrocities appeared to
be committed in villages and throughout the country side with the
deliberate intention of terrorising the people, and so making it
unnecessary to leave troops in occupation of small places or to protect
lines of communication. In large places like Brussels, where the
diplomatic representatives of neutral Powers are eye-witnesses, there
appeared to have been no excesses.

When Parliament met on August 25th, after a short adjournment, Lord
Kitchener, Minister for War, gave the following account of the
situation in the House of Lords:

As this is the first time that I have had the honour of addressing
your lordships, I must ask for the indulgence of the House. In the
first place I desire to make a personal statement. Noble lords on both
sides of the House doubtless know that, while associating myself in
the fullest degree for the prosecution of the war with my colleagues
in His Majesty’s Government, my position on this Bench does not in any
way imply that I belong to any political party, for as a soldier I
have no politics.

Another point is that my occupation of the post of Secretary of State
for War is a temporary one. The terms of my service are the same as
those under which some of the finest portions of our manhood, now so
willingly stepping forward to join the colours, are engaging. That is
to say for the war; or if it lasts longer, then for three years.

It has been asked why the latter limit has been fixed. It is because
should this disastrous war be prolonged–and no one can foretell with
any certainty its duration–then, after three years’ war, there will
be others, fresh and fully prepared, to take our places and see this
matter through.

The very serious conflict in which we are now engaged on the Continent
has been none of our seeking. It will undoubtedly strain the resources
of our Empire and entail considerable sacrifices on our people. These
will be willingly borne for our honour and the preservation of our
position in the world, and will be shared by our dominions beyond the
seas, now sending contingents and assistance of every kind to help the
Mother Country in this struggle.

If I am unable, owing to military consideration for the best interests
of the allied armies in the field, to speak with much detail on
the present situation of our army on the Continent, I am sure your
lordships will pardon me for the necessary restraint which is imposed
upon me.

The Expeditionary Force has taken the field on the French north-west
frontier, and has advanced to the neighbourhood of Mons, in Belgium.
Our troops have already been for thirty-six hours in contact with
a superior force of German invaders. During that time they have
maintained the traditions of British soldiers, and have behaved with
the utmost gallantry. The movements which they have been called upon
to execute have been those which demand the greatest steadiness in the
soldiers, and skill in their commanders. Sir John French telegraphed
to me at midnight, as follows:

“In spite of hard marching and fighting, the British force is in the
best of spirits.”

I replied:

“Congratulate troops on their splendid work. We are all proud of them.”

As your lordships are aware, European fighting causes greater
casualties than the campaigns in which we are generally engaged in
other parts of the world. The nation will, I am sure, be fully prepared
to meet whatever losses and sacrifices we may have to make in this
war. Sir John French, without having been able to verify the numbers,
estimates the loss since the commencement of active operations at
rather more than 2,000 men _hors-de-combat_.

As to the work of the last few weeks, I have to remark that when war
was declared, mobilisation took place without any hitch whatever, and
our Expeditionary Force proved itself wholly efficient, well equipped,
and immediately ready to take the field.

The Press and the public have, in their respective spheres, lent
invaluable aid to the Government in preserving a discreet silence,
which the exigencies of the situation obviously demanded, and I
gladly take this opportunity of bearing testimony to the value of
their co-operation. The hands of the military authorities were also
strengthened by the readiness with which the civilian community faced
and accepted the novel situation created by the issue of requisitions
for horses, transport, supplies and billets.

The railway companies, in the all-important matter of the transport
facilities, have more than justified the complete confidence reposed in
them by the War Office, all grades of railway services having laboured
with untiring energy and patience. And it is well to repeat that the
conveyance of our troops across the Channel was accomplished, thanks to
the cordial co-operation of the Admiralty, with perfect smoothness and
without any untoward incident whatever.

We know how deeply the French people appreciate the value of the prompt
assistance we have been able to afford them at the very outset of the
war, and it is obvious that not only the moral but the material support
our troops are now rendering must prove to be a factor of high military
significance in restricting the sphere and determining the duration of
hostilities.

Had the conditions of strategy permitted, everyone in this country
would have rejoiced to see us ranged alongside the gallant Belgian
army in that superb struggle against desperate odds which has just
been witnessed. But, although this privilege was perforce denied to
us, Belgium knows of our sympathy with her in her sufferings, of our
indignation at the blows which have been inflicted on her, and also of
our resolution to make sure that in the end her sacrifices will not
have been unavailing.

While other countries engaged in this war have under a system of
compulsory service brought their full resources of men into the field,
we, under our national system, have not done so, and can, therefore,
still point to a vast reserve drawn from the resources both of the
Mother Country and of the British Dominions across the Seas.

The response which has already been made by the great Dominions,
abundantly proves that we did not look in vain to these sources
of military strength, and while India, Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand are all sending us powerful contingents, in this country the
Territorials are replying with loyalty to the stern call of duty which
has come to them with such exceptional force.

Over seventy battalions have, with fine patriotism, already
volunteered for service abroad, and when trained and organised in the
larger formations, will be able to take their places in the line.

The 100,000 recruits for which, in the first place, it has been thought
necessary to call, have been already practically secured. This force
will be trained and organised in divisions similar to those which are
now serving on the Continent.

Behind these we have our Reserves. The Special Reserve and the National
Reserve have each their own part to play in the organisation of our
national defence.

The Empires with whom we are at war have called to the colours
almost their entire male population. The principle we, on our part,
shall observe, is this, that while their maximum force undergoes a
constant diminution, the reinforcements we prepare shall steadily and
increasingly flow out, until we have an army in the field which in
numbers, not less than in quality, will not be unworthy of the power
and responsibilities of the British Empire.

I cannot, at this stage, say what will be the limits of the forces
required, or what measures may eventually become necessary to supply
and maintain them. The scale of the Field Army which we are now calling
into being is large and may rise in the course of the next six or
seven months to a total of thirty divisions continually maintained in
the field. But if the war should be protracted, and if its fortunes
should be varied or adverse, exertions and sacrifices beyond any which
have been demanded will be required from the whole nation and Empire,
and where they are required we are sure they will not be denied to the
extreme needs of the State by Parliament or the people.

THE CASE FOR BELGIUM

It has been sought in the preceding chapters to give as detailed a
description as the information at our disposal will allow of the
fighting in the North–_i.e._ the struggle for Liège and Namur, and
the subsequent series of closely-contested battles from Tirlemont to
Mons. The case for the Belgian people, and an account of the sufferings
which had to be endured by a peaceful, non-combatant population, will
be found mentioned also in the course of the narrative. The diplomatic
case for Belgium has already been given to the public in another volume
of this series (“How the War Began”); but the details of this case, and
the reasons why this country is taking part in the war, have been so
well summed up by Mr. Asquith that a few extracts from his speech are
necessary to make this volume complete.

The first of a series of meetings to bring home to the people of
England the vital importance of the questions at issue was held in the
Guildhall on Friday, September 4th; and the speakers included the
Prime Minister, Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Balfour. In the
course of his remarks Mr. Asquith referred to the Arbitration Treaty
between Great Britain and the United States, which he mentioned at a
previous Guildhall meeting some three and a-half years previously. “We
were very confident three years ago in the rightness of our position,”
he said. “We are equally confident to-day, when reluctantly and against
our will, but with a clear judgment and with a clean conscience we find
ourselves involved with the whole strength of this Empire in a bloody
arbitrament between Might and Right.”

Mr. Asquith continued:

The issue has passed out of the domain of argument into another field,
but let me ask you, and through you the world outside, what would have
been our condition as a nation to-day, if we had been base enough,
through timidity, or through a perverted calculation of self-interest,
or through a paralysis of the sense of honour and duty, if we had been
base enough to be false to our word and faithless to our friends?

Our eyes would have been turned at this moment, with those of the
whole civilised world, to Belgium, a small State, which has lived for
more than seventy years under the several and collective guarantee
to which we, in common with Prussia and Austria, were parties; and
we should have seen, at the instance and by the action of two of
these guaranteeing Powers, her neutrality violated, her independence
strangled, her territory made use of as affording the easiest and most
convenient road to a war of unprovoked aggression against France.

We, the British people, would at this moment have been standing by
with folded arms, and with such countenance as we could command, while
this small and unprotected State, in defence of her vital liberties,
made an heroic stand against overweening and overwhelming force. We
should have been admiring, as detached spectators, the siege of Liège,
the steady and manful resistance of their small army; the occupation
of their capital, with its splendid traditions and memories; the
gradual forcing back of their patriotic defenders of their native
land to the ramparts of Antwerp; countless outrages suffered through
buccaneering levies exacted from the unoffending civil population,
and finally, the greatest crime committed against civilisation
and culture since the Thirty Years’ War–the sack of Louvain and
its buildings, its pictures, its unique library, its unrivalled
associations–shameless holocaust of irreplaceable treasures, lit up
by blind barbarian vengeance.

What account should we, the Government and the people of this
country, have been able to render to the tribunal of our national
conscience and sense of honour if, in defiance of our plighted and
solemn obligations, we had endured, if we had not done our best to
prevent–yes, and to avenge–these intolerable outrages?

For my part I say that sooner than be a silent witness, which means
in effect a willing accomplice, of this tragic triumph of force over
law, and of brutality over freedom, I would see this country of ours
blotted out of the page of history.

Several German newspapers, distorting the facts of the case with
remarkable disingenuousness, had roundly asserted that England had
chosen to take part in the war for purely materialistic reasons, and
that this country was not so anxious to vindicate the principle of
Belgian neutrality as to secure the oversea trade of the German Empire.
Even if Mr. Asquith had not spoken on the subject at all, it would have
been realised sooner or later that there was no foundation for this
assertion; for it was hardly likely, if we had had only this object in
view, that a community of practical business men would have tolerated
the enormous sacrifice of life and money involved in attempting by war
to displace German exports to European and non-European countries.

As this argument was advanced with such persistence in the German
Press, it may be worth while dwelling on it for a moment. The total
value of the German export trade for 1913 was just over £495,000,000,
and of our own export trade £635,000,000. With many German products,
such as dyes, and certain chemical and electrical goods, this country
has never been able to compete. At the beginning of the war, for
example, when the German coast had been blockaded by our Fleet, we
should have been compelled to spend millions of pounds in order to
experiment with, and later on to manufacture, aniline dyes analogous to
those produced in Germany. The same remark applies to many classes of
electrical goods. Millions would have had to be spent on experiments
before we began to manufacture the products, assuming–in many cases
a large assumption–the success of the experiments. This, too, at a
time when money was notoriously scarce, when accommodation could not
be obtained from the banks, and when the Government had just announced
that it wanted a hundred millions sterling as a first instalment of war
expenses.

Apart from this, even if we had thought of capturing Germany’s export
trade, or a large part of it, it was clear that other nations had
conceived the same notion and were getting ready to act upon it.
Japanese merchants, for instance, had their eyes fixed on the markets
of China, and manufacturers in the United States had been showing,
even before the war, a deep interest in South America. Is it likely,
in these circumstances, that a nation such as this would have seen
at least half a million men withdrawn from productive work, and the
expenditure of millions of money, purely for the sake of competing
with the United States and Japan in foreign markets?–always realising
that the war must end some time, that Germany must once more begin to
manufacture, and that competition would be as severe as ever in less
than a decade? No; if we can capture some of Germany’s export trade,
that will be a mere incidental in the struggle for national existence,
and the profits represented thereby will but ill balance the lives and
money which will have to be sacrificed in the meantime.

Fortunately, Mr. Asquith took the opportunity, when speaking at
the Guildhall, to make it clear that Great Britain and the British
Dominions were not actuated by materialistic aims in entering upon the
greatest campaign in history. There was something to be considered
besides profits. Having referred to the sacking of Louvain, Mr. Asquith
went on to say:

That is only a phase–a lurid and illuminating phase–in the contest
in which we have been called, by the mandate of duty and of honour,
to bear our part. The cynical violation of the neutrality of Belgium
was, after all, but a step–a first step–in a deliberate policy of
which, if not the immediate, the ultimate and the not far-distant aim
was to crush the independence and the autonomy of the Free States of
Europe. First Belgium, then Holland and Switzerland–countries, like
our own, imbued and sustained with the spirit of liberty–were one
after another to be bent to the yoke; and these ambitions were fed and
fostered by a body of new doctrines, a new philosophy, preached by
professors and learned men.

Free and full self-development, which to these small States, to
ourselves, to our great and growing Dominions over the seas, to our
kinsmen across the Atlantic, is the well-spring and life-breath of
national existence–that free self-development is the one capital
offence in the code of those who have made force their supreme
divinity, and upon its altars are prepared to sacrifice both the
gathered fruits and the potential germs of the unfettered human
spirit. I use this language advisedly.

This is not merely a material; it is also a spiritual conflict. Upon
its issue everything that contains promise and hope, that leads to
emancipation, and a fuller liberty for the millions who make up the
mass of mankind, will be found sooner or later to depend.

The Prime Minister proceeded to combat the absurd suggestions that the
Anglo-French Agreement of 1904, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of
1907, were likely to prove a menace to the German Empire:

Let me now just for a moment turn to the actual situation in Europe.
How do we stand? For the last ten years, by what I believe to be happy
and well-considered diplomatic arrangements, we have established
friendly and increasingly intimate relations with the two Powers,
France and Russia, with whom in days gone by we have had, in various
parts of the world, occasions for constant friction, and now and again
for possible conflict. Those new and better relations, based in the
first instance upon business principles of give-and-take, have matured
into a settled temper of confidence and goodwill. They were never in
any sense or at any time, as I have frequently said in this hall,
directed against other Powers.

No man in the history of the world has ever laboured more strenuously
or more successfully than my right honourable friend, Sir Edward Grey,
for that which is the supreme interest of the modern world–a general
and abiding peace. It is, I venture to think, a very superficial
criticism which suggests that, under his guidance, the policy of this
country has ignored, still less that it has counteracted and hampered,
the Concert of Europe. It is little more than a year ago that under
his presidency, in the stress and strain of the Balkan crisis, the
Ambassadors of all the Great Powers met here day after day, curtailing
the area of possible differences, reconciling warring ambitions and
aims, and preserving, against almost incalculable odds, the general
harmony.

And it was in the same spirit, and with the same purpose, when a
few weeks ago Austria delivered her ultimatum to Servia, that the
Foreign Secretary–for it was he–put forward the proposal for a
mediating Conference between the four Powers who were not directly
concerned–Germany, France, Italy, and ourselves. If that proposal had
been accepted actual controversy would have been settled with honour
to everybody, and the whole of this terrible welter would have been
avoided.

With whom does the responsibility rest for its refusal and for all
the illimitable suffering which now confronts the world? One Power,
and one Power only, and that Power is Germany. That is the fount and
origin of this world-wide catastrophe.

We are persevering to the end. No one who has not been confronted, as
we were, with the responsibility of determining the issues of peace
and war can realise the strength and energy and persistency with
which we laboured for peace. We persevered by every expedient that
diplomacy could suggest, straining almost to the breaking point our
most cherished friendships and obligations, even to the last making
effort upon effort, and hoping against hope. Then, and only then,
when we were at last compelled to realise that the choice lay between
honour and dishonour, between treachery and good faith–when we at
last reached the dividing line which makes or mars a nation worthy of
the name, it was then, and then only, that we declared for war.

Is there anyone in this hall, or in this United Kingdom, or in the
vast Empire of which we here stand in the capital and centre, who
blames or repents our decision? (Cries of “No!”) For these reasons,
as I believe, we must steel ourselves to the task, and in the
spirit which animated our forefathers in their struggle against the
domination of Napoleon, we must, and we shall, persevere to the end.

At the Guildhall, as in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister
referred to the noble example shown by the Belgian people in summoning
all their available forces to repel the aggression of a Power which had
been presumed to be friendly. He said:

It would be a criminal mistake to under-estimate either the magnitude,
the fighting quality, or the staying power of the forces which are
arrayed against us. But it would be equally foolish and equally
indefensible to belittle our own resources whether for resistance
or attack. (Cheers.) Belgium has shown us by a memorable and a
glorious example what can be done by a relatively small State when
its citizens are animated and fired by the spirit of patriotism. In
France and Russia we have as allies two of the greatest Powers of the
world engaged with us in a common cause, who do not mean to separate
themselves from us any more than we mean to separate ourselves from
them, (Cheers.)

Having paid this tribute–how well deserved it was, and to what a
remarkable extent the German check at Liège influenced the subsequent
developments of the campaign, the world is now beginning to
realize–Mr. Asquith paid an equally warranted tribute to our own Fleet:

We have upon the seas the strongest and most magnificent Fleet which
has ever been seen. The Expeditionary Force which left our shores
less than a month ago has never been surpassed, as its glorious
achievements in the field have already made clear, not only in
material and equipment, but in the physical and the moral quality of
its constituents.

As regards the Navy, I am sure my right honourable friend (Mr.
Winston Churchill) will tell you there is happily little more to be
done. I do not flatter it when I say that its superiority is equally
marked in every department and sphere of its activity. We rely on
it with the most absolute confidence, not only to guard our shores
against the possibility of invasion, not only to seal up the gigantic
battleships of the enemy in the inglorious seclusion of their own
ports, whence from time to time he furtively steals forth to sow the
seeds of murderous snares which are more full of menace to neutral
ships than to the British Fleet–our Navy does all this, and while it
is thirsting, I do not doubt, for that trial of strength in a fair and
open fight which is so far prudently denied it, it does a great deal
more.

It has hunted the German mercantile marine from the high seas. It has
kept open our own sources of food supply and largely curtailed those
of the enemy, and when the few German cruisers which still infest
the more distant ocean routes have been disposed of, as they will be
very soon, it will achieve for British and neutral commerce passing
backwards and forwards from and to every part of our Empire a security
as complete as it has ever enjoyed in the days of unbroken peace. Let
us honour the memory of the gallant seamen who in the pursuit of one
or another of these varied and responsible duties have already laid
down their lives for their country.

As not the least important object of the Guildhall meeting was to
stimulate recruiting, Mr. Asquith naturally referred to the army and
its work. At a very early stage in the war both Germany and France
had called up practically their last available man. Indeed, so hard
pressed did the German Empire find itself after five weeks’ fighting
that arrangements, it was officially announced, were made for giving
instruction in rifle shooting to boys aged from sixteen to nineteen.
It was not, of course, intended that these lads should at once take
an active part in the fighting: but it was assumed that by the time
they reached their military age they would be familiar with the use of
weapons and more or less adequately drilled. Retired officers who were
too old to take part in the campaign were ordered to take the boys in
hand.

To remedy the inevitable wastage in the French Army, as well as in
our own Expeditionary Force–which, a few days before Mr. Asquith’s
speech, had already fought gallantly and lost some 14,000 men at
Mons and Charleroi–it was desired that armies should be raised in
England, trained, and sent out to the fighting line as required. For
this purpose Lord Kitchener had intimated that at least 500,000 men
would be required, and calls were made for 100,000 men at a time. The
oversea Dominions, and, above all, India–where the German Government
had vainly tried to bring about a disloyal outbreak–hastened to come
forward with offers of men; but all this did not relieve the home
country of its responsibility. Speaking on this subject, Mr. Asquith
said:

In regard to the Army, there is call for a new, a continuous, a
determined, and a united effort. For, as the war goes on, we shall
have not merely to replace the wastage caused by casualties, not
merely to maintain our military power at its original level, but we
must, if we are to play a worthy part, enlarge its scale, increase
its numbers, and multiply many times its effectiveness as a fighting
instrument. The object of the appeal which I have made to you, my Lord
Mayor, and to the other Chief Magistrates of our capital cities, is to
impress upon the people of the United Kingdom the imperious urgency of
this supreme duty.

Our self-governing Dominions throughout the Empire, without any
solicitation on our part, demonstrated, with a spontaneousness and
a unanimity unparalled in history, their determination to affirm
their brotherhood with us, and to make our cause their own. From
Canada, from Australia, from New Zealand, from South Africa, and from
Newfoundland the children of the Empire assert, not as an obligation
but as a privilege, their right and their willingness to contribute
money, material, and, what is better than all, the strength and
sinews, the fortunes, and the lives of their best manhood.

India, too, with no less alacrity has claimed her share in the common
task. Every class and creed, British and natives, Princes and people,
Hindus and Mahommedans, vie with one another in noble and emulous
rivalry. Two divisions of our magnificent Indian Army are already on
their way. We welcome with appreciation and affection their proffered
aid. In an Empire which knows no distinction of race or cause we all
alike, as subjects of the King-Emperor, are joint and equal custodians
of our common interests and fortunes. We are here to hail with
profound and heartfelt gratitude their association, side by side and
shoulder to shoulder, with our home and Dominion troops, under the
flag which is the symbol to all of a unity that a world in arms cannot
dissever or dissolve.

With these inspiring appeals and examples from our fellow-subjects all
over the world what are we doing, and what ought we to do here at home?

Mobilisation was ordered on August 4th. Immediately afterwards Lord
Kitchener issued his call for 100,000 recruits for the Regular Army,
which has been followed by a second call for another 100,000. The
response up to to-day gives us between 250,000 to 300,000. I am glad
to say that London has done its share. The total number of Londoners
accepted is not less than 42,000.

I need hardly say that that appeal involves no disparagement or
discouragement of the Territorial Force. The number of units in that
force who have volunteered for foreign service is most satisfactory
and grows every day. We look to them with confidence to increase their
numbers, to perfect their organisation and training, and to play
efficiently the part which has always been assigned to them, both
offensive and defensive, in the military system of the Empire.

But to go back to the expansion to the Regular Army. We want more
men–men of the best fighting quality–and if for a moment the number
who offer themselves and are accepted should prove to be in excess of
those who can at once be adequately trained and equipped, do not let
them doubt that prompt provision will be made for the incorporation
of all willing and able men in the fighting forces of the kingdom. We
want first of all men, and we shall endeavour to secure them, and men
desiring to serve together shall, wherever possible, be allotted to
the same regiment or corps. The raising of battalions by counties or
municipalities with this object will be in every way encouraged.

But we want not less urgently a larger supply of ex-non-commissioned
officers, and the pick of the men with whom in past days they served,
men, therefore, whom in most cases we shall be asking to give up
regular employment and to return to the work of the State, which they
alone are competent to do. The appeal we make is addressed quite as
much to their employers as to the men themselves. The men ought to be
absolutely assured of reinstatement in their business at the end of
the war. Finally, there are numbers of commissioned officers now in
retirement, who are much experienced in the handling of troops and
have served their country in the past. Let them come forward, too, and
show their willingness, if need be, to train bodies of men for whom
at the moment no cadre or unit can be found.

Mr. Asquith concluded one of the most eloquent speeches he had ever
delivered with a warning to the optimists who had predicted a too easy
task for the allied forces, and recommended those present–and, through
them, the British Empire generally–to cultivate the virtue of patience:

I have little more to say. Of the actual progress of the war I will
not say anything, except that, in my judgment, in whatever direction
we look there is abundant ground for pride and for confidence. I say
nothing more, because I think we should all bear in mind that we are
at present watching the fluctuations of fortune only in the early
stages of what is going to be a protracted struggle. We must learn to
take long views, and to cultivate, above all other faculties, those of
patience, endurance, and steadfastness.

Meanwhile, let us go, each of us, to his or her appropriate place
in the great common task. Never had a people more or richer sources
of encouragement and inspiration. Let us realise first of all
that we are fighting as a united Empire in a cause worthy of the
highest traditions of our race; let us keep in mind the patient and
indomitable seamen, who never relax for a moment, night or day, their
stern vigil of the lonely sea; let us keep in mind our gallant
troops, who to-day, after a fortnight’s continuous fighting, under
conditions which would try the mettle of the best army that ever took
the field, maintain not only an undefeated, but an unbroken front.

Finally, let us recall the memories of the great men and the great
deeds of the past, commemorated, some of them, in the monuments which
we see around us on these walls; nor forgetting the dying message of
the younger Pitt, his last public utterance, made at the table of one
of your predecessors, my Lord Mayor, in this very hall: England has
saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by
her example.

The England of those days gave a noble answer to his appeal, and did
not sheath the sword until after nearly twenty years of fighting the
freedom of Europe was secured. Let us go and do likewise.

As the published documents now at our disposal sufficiently show, the
German Government matured its preparations for the greatest war in
history in what they believed to be the certain hope that Great Britain
would not intervene. It was fully believed at Berlin that our domestic
differences would prevent any designs at helping Belgium which the
Government here might wish to carry out. The sudden change in national
feeling, which reconciled political opponents like Sir Edward Carson
and Mr. John Redmond, or Mr. Asquith and Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Winston
Churchill and Lord Charles Beresford, could not be comprehended on
the other side of the North Sea, and completely upset the plans of
the German Government. This loyalty to the nation, taking the place
of loyalty to party at a time of national emergency, was demonstrated
in the House of Commons as soon as the crisis became acute. At the
Guildhall, too, Mr. Bonar Law once more proved how ready the Opposition
were to sink their differences with the Government, and to support
the Liberal Ministry in its endeavours to bring the campaign to an
honourable conclusion.

When Mr. Asquith, after an enthusiastic burst of applause, had sat
down, Mr. Bonar Law rose, amid an equally enthusiastic demonstration of
welcome, and said:

It would, indeed, be impossible for me to add anything to the force
of the appeal which has just been addressed by the Prime Minister
to our people. But I am glad to be here as representing one of our
great political parties in order to show clearly that in this supreme
struggle, and in everything connected with it until it is brought to
a triumphant close, the head of our Government must speak not as the
leader of a party but as the mouthpiece of a nation.

We are a peace-loving people, but never, I believe, in our history has
the whole nation been so convinced as it is to-day that the cause for
which we are fighting is righteous and just. We strove for peace by
all means up to the last moment, but when, in spite of our efforts,
war came, we could not stand aside. The honour and the interests of
Great Britain-and believe me, they go together–alike forbade it. It
was inevitable that we must be drawn into this world struggle, and the
only question was whether we should enter it honourably or be dragged
into it with dishonour.

This war is a great crime–one of the greatest in history. But it is
a crime in which as a nation we have no share. Now, as always, for
nearly a generation, the key of peace or war was in Berlin. The head
of the German Government had but to whisper the word “Peace,” and
there would have been no war. He did not speak that word. He drew the
sword, and may the accursed system for which he stands perish by the
sword!

War has come, and we are fighting for our life as truly as Belgium or
France, where the tide of battle, with all its horrors, is rolling on.
As Cromwell said of his Ironsides we can say with equal truth to-day:
“We know what we are fighting for, and we love what we know.”

We are fighting for our national existence, for everything which
nations have always held most dear. But we are fighting for something
more–we are fighting for the moral forces of humanity. We are
fighting for respect for public law, and for the right of public
justice, which are the foundation of civilisation. We are fighting, as
the Prime Minister has said, for Right against Might. I do not attempt
what Burke has declared to be impossible–to draw up an indictment
against a whole people–but this I do say, that the German nation has
allowed itself to be organised as a military machine which recognises
no law except the law of force, which knows no right except the right
of the strongest. It is against that we are fighting to-day.

The spirit in which this war was entered into was shown clearly in the
words addressed to our Ambassador at Berlin by the German Chancellor.
“You are going to war,” he said, “for a scrap of paper.” (Cries of
“Shame!”)

Yes, but a “scrap of paper” with which was bound up the solemn
obligation, and with that obligation the honour, of a great nation–a
“scrap of paper” in which was involved also the right to independence,
to liberty, the right even of existence, of all the small nations of
the world. It is for that “scrap of paper” that the Belgian soldiers
have fought and died, that the Belgian people, by what they have done,
and by what they have endured, have won for themselves immortal fame.
It is for that “scrap of paper,” and all that it means, that we, too,
have already watered with the blood of our sons the fair fields of
France, and for which we shall conquer or perish.

Like Mr. Asquith, Mr. Bonar Law emphasised the fact that the war was a
spiritual and not a materialistic conflict; and he denounced in no less
vigorous terms the atrocities which had been perpetrated by the German
Army on its way through a friendly country. After his reference to the
“scrap of paper,” he went on to say:

The words which I have quoted show not merely the spirit in which the
war was entered into, but the spirit in which it is being conducted
to-day. When reports first reached us of German atrocities in Belgium
I hoped for the sake of our common humanity that they were untrue,
or at least exaggerated. We can entertain that hope no longer. The
destruction of Louvain has proclaimed to the world in trumpet tones
what German methods are. It has fixed upon German honour an indelible
stain, and the explanations which it has been attempted to give of it
have only made that stain the deeper.

War at the best is terrible. It is not from the ordinary soldier,
it is not from below, that restraint can be expected. It must come,
if it come at all, from above. But here the outrages have come not
from below but from above. They are not the result of accident, but
of design. They are part of a principle–the principle by any means,
at any expense of the lives of defenceless men or helpless women and
children, to spread terror in the country and to facilitate the German
arms. This is a moral and a spiritual conflict. Believe me, in the
long run, the moral and the spiritual are stronger than the material
forces.

The object of this meeting, and of the speech to which we have just
listened, is to appeal to the manhood of our country to rally once
again round the old flag. That appeal will not be made, is not being
made, in vain. Our people had only to realise, as at first they did
not quite realise, what were the issues at stake to come forward with
all the spirit of their fathers. That lesson is being driven home now
by influences stronger far than any speeches. It is being taught by
the heroic steadfastness of the Belgian people. It is being taught now
by the knowledge that but for the close shield of the Navy–the shield
which if we fail to conquer cannot save us–our fate to-day would be
the fate of Belgium. It is being taught, above all by the accounts,
meagre though they are, of what has been done by our soldiers on the
field of battle. With that mistaken estimate of themselves and of
others, which is one of the explanations of this war, the Germans,
before and after the outbreak, have spoken of us as a decadent nation.
Do they say that to-day?

Let the long-drawn-out fight that began at Mons give the answer. There
our troops, pitted against the choicest bodies of the German army,
outnumbered by nearly three to one as I believe, were undefeated and
unbroken. When the story of that fight comes to be written, it is my
belief that it will form as glorious a page as is to be found in the
whole annals of our history. The men will come.

There is no doubt of that. Everywhere I find the same spirit. Everyone
is asking, “What can I do to help my country?” The men will come.

There is one thing more only which I should like to say. Many of those
whom I am addressing are, like the Prime Minister and myself, unable
to take our place in the fighting line. It is not right, it is not
fair, that we should make an appeal for sacrifices to the patriotism
of those only who are able and willing to fight our battles. An equal
sacrifice is demanded of those who remain behind. Let us not as a
Government merely, but as a nation, realise our obligation and make
a vow and keep it, that no dependent of any man who is fighting our
battles shall go hungry while we have bread to eat. And let us realise
also, as we have not always realised in the past, that our soldiers
are the children of the State, and that they have the first claim upon
the resources of our nation.

When Mr. Balfour had supported the leader of the Unionist party there
were loud calls for Mr. Churchill, who made a very brief but pointed
speech on the Navy and its work:

My Lord Mayor and Citizens of London,–You may rely with good
confidence upon the strength and efficiency of our naval defence.
That defence will enable you to live and to work and draw the means
of life and power from the utmost ends of the earth. It will give you
the time, it will give you the means to create the powerful military
force which this country must wield before this trouble is brought to
its conclusion.

Certain I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.

You have only to persevere to save yourselves and to save all those
who rely upon us. You have only to go right on, and at the end of the
road, be it short or be it long, victory and honour will be found.

_Apropos_ of the German atrocities at Liège, the brutal character of
the German troops, and Mr. Bonar Law’s reference to the fact that the
outrages were instigated from above and were not to be blamed wholly
on the soldiers themselves, a word may be added regarding one or two
philosophical misconceptions which have arisen as to the origin of
this modern trait in the character of the German people. It is often
asserted that the philosophy of Nietzsche has been responsible for not
merely encouraging but developing the German belief in physical power
and brute force; and amid the host of “professors,” on whom blame is
cast for urging on the Teuton to develop his country at the expense of
his neighbours, Nietzsche has frequently been singled out for special
mention as a man in whose works the Kaiser has always taken an especial
interest.

This belief is quite erroneous. Nietzsche, who poked bitter fun at the
clumsiness and stupidity of his countrymen, who cracked jokes over the
musicians and philosophers most dear to the German heart, and who,
before all else, repudiated Prussianism lock, stock, and barrel, was
certainly not a writer likely to appeal to the Kaiser or to any of the
makers of modern Germany. The reader cannot fail to be impressed by
the striking fact that the “professors” who have written in support
of German development have one and all disclaimed any connection with
Nietzsche or his teachings. The thinker who is really responsible, even
more so than Treitschke, for Germany’s attempt to burst her confines
and to increase her possessions, is a man of a very different order.

A year or two ago there appeared the English translation of a book
by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, “The Foundations of the Nineteenth
Century.” This was a book dealing generally, in so far as a connected
thread ran through it, with racial problems, and the author’s
admiration for the Teutonic race was expressed without limits.
Chamberlain came of English stock, but he developed German sympathies,
lived in Germany, and wrote in German. For the Aryans, gradually
turned into the Teutons and modern Germans, Chamberlain claimed all
the virtues of mankind; and his net was spread wide. The Founder of
the Christian Church was of Teutonic stock, according to the teachings
of the Chamberlain school; and so was Dante. The Latin races, on the
contrary, were held to be decadent–it was only a matter of time before
they would have to disappear and make way for the strong, virile race
from the North.

This book created a profound impression at the time of its publication
in Germany–and in German, although the author had been an Englishman.
It was read widely in Court circles, by the “professors,” and by
military men. It was brought to the notice of the Kaiser, who ordered
several hundred copies to be sent to him. These–the number was said to
be as many as eight or nine hundred–were distributed, by the Imperial
command, to heads of schools, burgomasters, and the like, throughout
the length and breadth of the German Empire. To the views of the
Chamberlain school Nietzsche was unalterably opposed; and his choicest
fulminations were directed against the group of thinkers who wrote with
unstinted admiration of the Teutonic race. To use his own expression,
the victories of 1870-1871 had given the Germans an inflated conception
of their own importance in the world, and the material wealth that
accrued to them during the next two decades ruined completely the old
German philosophy and culture which had been the pride and hope of such
men as Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, and Schopenhauer.

Next to Chamberlain, the greatest influence in the modern development
of Germany was the famous historian, Heinrich von Treitschke. Like
Chamberlain, Treitschke distorted some facts to suit his purpose, and
neglected others which would have spoilt his theories; but there is
no doubt about the vigour of his thought and the lucid style in which
he wrote. He lived from 1834 to 1896, and specialised on historical
subjects from his ‘teens. His view was that the Germans were the
greatest people on earth, that it was their duty to the world to
subjugate other peoples and races, and that nothing should prevent the
fulfilment of this task. These opinions, enunciated at first in a
series of brilliant historical essays, found their most dramatic, one
might almost say their most sensational, expression in Treitschke’s
“History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century,” a work which has for
many years been regarded in Germany as scarcely less important than the
Bible itself. It was Treitschke who first poured contempt on the French
as a race of “decadents,” and who prophesied that the most difficult
reckoning would be with England.

These two men had, and still have, innumerable followers; nor
should we overlook Bismarck’s speeches. But there was a third and
independent influence who must not be overlooked, either. This is
General von Bernhardi, whose book “Germany and the Next War” has now
become notorious, as much in the original as in the English and other
translations. With a curious smattering of philosophy and religion,
General von Bernhardi advocated the opinion that war was not merely
difficult to avoid, but that it was desirable and necessary for
maintaining the virility and strength of a nation. For this reason he
did not profess to shrink from a European campaign, no matter how dire
the effects of it might be; and his book contains a full _exposé_ of
what the German plans should be, on land and sea, on the outbreak of
war. He has full confidence in the German army, and no less confidence
in the German navy; and he is determined that the power of Prussia and
the Prussian system shall be used to secure for his country the place
in the sun to which he thinks she is entitled. He ridicules Peace
Conferences, Geneva Conventions, and the like–for war is war, and not,
as the German Ambassador in Washington has just told us, an afternoon
tea-party–and war is to be waged ruthlessly against France and this
country. “France,” writes General von Bernhardi, “must be crushed so
that she can never again cross our path.”

It is obvious to any reader who compares the thoughts and sentiments
in all these works with the Kaiser’s speeches that his Majesty is a
careful student of them. To him both Heine and Nietzsche, who preferred
the old to the new Germany, are enemies of his Empire; but men like
Bernhardi, Treitschke, Chamberlain, Bismarck, and Frederick the Great
are safe guides. The Kaiser has, throughout his speeches, made many
references to Frederick the Great, whose literary works deserve
more study than is usually accorded them in England. They contain
the views of a man who, bullied in childhood by a coarse father,
had to fend for himself and to make his own discoveries in war and
social administration. His experiences are summed up, now and then,
in a series of snappy epigrams which are even more to the point than
Bismarck’s. Within his limits, the Emperor William II. is at least
original, and it would hardly be fair to accuse him of plagiarism; but
he has, at least, had recourse to his great ancestor for inspiration.

A survey of the influences at work in modern Germany, then, must
include the writings of the men just referred to, and often of their
followers as well. When these writings are considered we shall be able
to realise why Mr. Bonar Law had to refer so pointedly to the Belgian
atrocities and their instigation “from above.” The Kaiser himself
has declared more than once that war must be waged ruthlessly; and
Treitschke, Bernhardi, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, and Chamberlain
unite in holding weakness up to ridicule and in emphasising the
necessity for brutality, in the face of these teachings, which have
influenced the ruling caste in the German Empire for more than a
generation, we need not wonder if the invaders of Belgium and France
have been urged on by their officers to excesses which have called
forth the censure of the civilised world. When the Emperor himself
advises his soldiers to “leave a name like Attila,” we may be sure that
his officers will not be behindhand in enforcing the instruction.