from ‘the War Illustrated’ 16th June, 1917
'the Loosing of the War Dogs'
by Hamilton Fyfe
My Corners Of Armageddon

from 'the Graphic' - views of Paris, August 1914


These articles were published in several 1917 issues of 'the War Illustrated', a British war weekly. The author, veteran war-correspondent Hamilton Fyfe (see Reporters and Photographers with the British Armies ) describes his adventures in the first months of the war, as he traveled to Paris, Nancy, Amiens, Bordeaux, Albert and other cities and towns in northern France. He was hindered by strict Allied prejudice against journalists of any kind, but managed nonetheless to witness many interesting scenes and happenings along the way of his wanderings.



“WELL, where do you want to go ?"

I had broken in upon a council of war at the "Daily Mail" office. One man had been detailed already to start for Vienna that night. Another would go with him and seek leave to follow the Austrian Army. A telegram was being sent to a correspondent then in Albania to join the Serbians as quickly as he could. This was Wednesday, July 29th, 1914.

As yet only Austria and Serbia were at war. The other Powers were preparing. That was all.

"Well, where do you want to go ? "

"Serbia," I said.


I knew the speaker too well to argue. "To the French frontier, then ?"

"Good ! When can you start ?"

"At once."

"All right. Keep in touch closely. Let us know every day where you are. Good-bye and good luck !”

That night I left Charing Cross with the two who were going to Vienna, and with my wife as well. I had promised to take her to a theatre that evening. She had gone up to London from our cottage in Surrey. I dashed down to the cottage, packed my bag, had a maid pack hers, dashed up to town again, met her as we had arranged, and said, " We aren't going to the theatre. We're going to France."

The wives of special correspondents are prepared for shocks of this kind. She simply said: "Are we ? Then I must buy a hat."

So we bought a hat and took it with us in a paper bag.

War's Authentic Thrill

One of the men going to Vienna raised his eyebrows when he saw my wife with me. The Other said : "Quite right. Very sensible of you. You'll have a nice little trip, and you'll be back in a week or ten days. A general European War is unthinkable."

So indeed as we travelled swiftly through the soft summer darkness in the luxurious Pullman of the boat-train, it almost seemed "unthinkable." For years we had all talked of an Armageddon, a war of the nations that must some day be born from the heavy travail of our armaments, from the pains of costly preparation which burdened and bent all Europe more heavily year by year. Yet how many believed that Armageddon would really come ? There was a hint of it at Dover. Broad lanes of white light ran across the harbour entrance. The searchlights would let no craft pass in secret. We heard of sailors and Marines called to their ships that evening called out from theatre and music-hall.

A mere precaution, but it thrilled us as only war, or the nearness of war, can. Why this thrill, this tight, almost painful grip of interest, this fascination ? For the reason that war was then to us who had become over-civilised and lived lives foolishly artificial, the intensest reality. The thrill we felt was the same as that which Stevenson imagined stirring the sluggish emotions of his Suicide Club.

We were so careful of our trumpery lives that we shivered even to think of a game in which men were the willing counters and death the pitiless croupier raking them in.

Amiens next morning was its usual smiling, middle-class, prosperous, comfortable self, except for a crowd reading the latest news posted up in the window of a bank. I am glad no one told me as we strolled through the pleasant, hustling streets that in a month's time I should be in the town again listening to the sound of German guns.

Germany's Eternal Shame — Rheims

A telegram to Paris ordering a motor-car to meet us at Chalons-sur-Marne, tickets for Chalons, a hurried look at our favourite corners in the cathedral, and then a slow train out of Amiens through places I had never heard of before, which were soon to become so familiar to me and to all the world. In Villers-Bretonneaux and Rosieres I was not long after picking up and carrying in the wounded from the field of battle. Through Ham and Laon the retreating allied armies were soon to pour in disorder with the enemy on their heels.

Two hours wait at Rheims gave us opportunity to lunch at the famous hotel, the Lion d'Or, which looked on to the cathedral. I was glad of that enforced wait then. I am infinitely more glad of it now. It is hard to recollect that I shall never see again as I saw it then, that glorious west front, that massive grandeur, beautiful with a beauty of which we have lost the secret. For as long as history lasts the German nation will wear a shameful placard on its breast marked "Rheims."

Another slow journey brought us to Chalons, and here we began to understand how even the nearness of war upsets all our elaborate civilised schemes and pretences. The first to be affected is the pretence of money, the scheme of international finance.

I went out after dinner to buy something, and offered in payment an English sovereign. The shopkeeper called his wife. They examined King George's portrait and politely handed me the sovereign back. This was odd, but still odder was the refusal of a bank to change British gold next morning.

Shadow of the Sword

I went out early, but the bank manager had read the paper already. He waved away my sovereigns. It was absurd, of course, for each one was worth more just because there was a panic. But the bank manager had lost his head. I tried to argue. I said that never anywhere in the world before had a money-changer refused to change me British gold.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Never in the world before, monsieur," he said, "have we known such days as these."

This was Friday, July 31st. Already the Fates were spinning with scarlet thread. Already, on this hot day of July, the shadow of the sword lay across the ripe cornfields and the whispering forests of the Ardennes.

The first sign we saw of anything unusual was in a village near Verdun. A table was set in the street. Two officers were writing at it. Before them passed a procession of horses, horses drawn from the whole neighbourhood.

Other officers looked them over, cried “Yes" or "No," according as they were requisitioned or rejected. For miles the roads were dotted with them, some single, being brought in for examination, some in strings, under charge of soldiers, on the way to their new duties.

Driving into Verdun, all unconscious then of the golden page it was destined to win in history, we met a stream of cabs piled with luggage, women and children sitting in them, looking anxious and depressed. They were the wives and children of officers hurrying away.

In the afternoon, after lunch at Verdun and a walk through its narrow, crooked streets, we began to pass troops, dusty, marching troops of the line, regiment after regiment of Chasseurs, battery after battery of guns. All the men — troops of the Active Army — looked fit and hard.

We drove slowly, of course, and they courteously let us go by. Now and again we were stopped and politely asked where we were going.

"Service de la Presse," the driver replied, with an air of immense importance. The sentries smiled and waved us on, so that we came to Nancy not long after four in the afternoon, in spite of all delays.

Here there was no great excitement, though rumours were passing from lip to lip, and everyone who went through the big square stopped outside the Mairie to see if there were any fresh notices posted up. That was the last quiet evening Nancy knew.

The pleasant city was not, indeed, altogether normal then. The hotels had put up notices, "No foreign money exchanged," "No change can be given." The post-office refused a fifty-franc note. "We have our orders," the clerk said. "Que voulez-vous ?"

Unheeded Warnings

Next day, Saturday, August 1st, I started early for Epinal, passing along the second line of French frontier defences, a range of low hills with a fort crowning almost every one of them. How was it possible that an enemy should seek to push through here ? From Verdun to Belfort stretched what General Maitrot, one of the best French military writers, called "a Chinese Wall" of fortifications.

He warned France that the Germans would never hurl their armies against this. His warning went unheeded. All preparations were made for meeting invasion from Lorraine and Alsace. No preparation was made for repelling an attack through Luxemburg. I wondered that day whether General Maitrot was right and the French War Office wrong, and if this were so, what would happen. In a few days we knew all about it. This was the first of the allied blunders, the French mobilising in the wrong place.

Epinal, a clean little town on the clear-running Meuse, was not much moved by the preparations. These frontier towns had known so many war alarms which were "rung off" before anything occurred. Military motors were running busily about. Carts piled high with uniforms were passing through the streets. But no one, I think, fancied that the collars were already being slipped off the dogs of war.

Yet before we came to Luneville, in the middle of the hot August afternoon, the ugly brutes were loose.



from ‘the War Illustrated’, 22rd June, 1917
'Paris in the Early Days of the War'
by Hamilton Fyfe


Territorials checking motor-vehicles at the gates of Paris


There were many odd transformations in the first hours of the French mobilisation. Here is one that occurred in Nancy, and brought home to us vividly the difference between peace and war.

One night the Grand Hotel was in full activity. There were a number of guests. The dining-room was full of cheerful chatter.

The order came to mobilise and next evening there was no staff left. No cook, no waiters, no "boots." All the guests save myself, my wife, and one other man had fled already. Our footsteps echoed through silent corridors. In the dark hall sat the manager and his wife, gloomy and furious. It was no use being furious. Mobilisation is mobilisation. War is war.

The manageress cooked some dinner for herself and as a favour, let us share it. She believed all the wild rumours that were passing from lip to lip. Fighting had begun already, it was said. "Close to Nancy," she assured us. Everyone was keyed up to a pitch of excitement.

All night motor-cars with officers in them were hooting their way swiftly through the streets. In the cafés there were lights and groups of reservists, drinking and talking till the small hours. A grey-haired man, carrying a sword wrapped up in a newspaper, was cheered as he went by.

From Nancy to Paris

There was much joking about a major in the Reserve, who made a needy knife-grinder put an edge to his old sabre in view of an admiring crowd. There was much recollecting of old days "in the regiment." Some hastened at once to put on their uniforms, and were laughingly complimented on their warlike appearance or chidden for their increased girth.

There was no marching about or shouting. They are solid, stolid folks in Lorraine. There was almost a feeling of relief in the air. It seemed as though a sigh of thankfulness breathed through that warm, scented night. After the tension of the days past, with reports hourly changing, it was almost a relief to know that the blow had fallen.

My first idea was to stay in Nancy. I changed my mind for three reasons: One, my car-driver had to report himself in Toulouse for mobilisation. I knew I could not hire or buy another car, since all were requisitioned.

Two, I received a telegram accepting my proposal that I should apply for leave to go with the French Army as war correspondent. That could only be done in Paris.

Three, the authorities told us to go. No foreigners were allowed to stay in frontier towns after mobilisation had begun. Mobilisation was to begin, according to the placard on the Town Hall, upon the next day, Sunday, August 2nd. So I ordered the car for six o'clock Sunday morning, resolved to be well on the way to Paris before the closing-up of the roads should begin.

At six o'clock of a misty morning — the mist that promised a hot day — we started, but the Territorial soldiers charged with the guarding of the roads were before us. The car had not gone a mile out of Nancy when it was stopped. After that we were held up at twenty-mile intervals all the way.

Driving on this eventful Sunday from Nancy to Paris yielded many uncommon experiences. The number of soldiers to be seen was astonishing. So sudden a change from the aspect of the roads during the few days before made one feel as if magic had been at work, as if dragons' teeth had been sown and this were the resultant crop of armed men.

Calm in the Capital

At only one place was I put through an interrogatory. Having passed the barrier at one end of a village, I was stopped again at the other end. A very fussy young man with a large notebook asked me whence we came. I told him from Nancy. He then wanted to know all I could tell him about the troops there and the rumours of fighting on the frontier. He turned out to be an enterprising local journalist who had hit upon this method of gathering news. I thought it wise to pretend I had no information whatever. He thereupon wrote in his notebook : "M. Hamilton, correspondant du 'Daily Mail' de Londres, ne sait rien." And then we drove on.

We were in Paris soon after one o'clock. The city was under the influence of its usual Sunday luncheon hour calm. Railway stations were thronged, for did not the "Regulations concerning Foreigners " order all German subjects to leave at once. All barracks buzzed with activity. But in the streets people strolled as usual. In the restaurants they lunched. Whatever is happening, a Frenchman must lunch. This is a sacred rite with the whole nation, rich and poor alike. On the boulevards those who had lunched sat sipping in the sunshine their coffee and liqueur.

The calm did not last long. Processions began to march up and down the Grands Boulevards from the Madeleine to the office of the "Matin" newspaper. They were composed mostly of unpleasant-looking young men of what appeared to be foreign extraction. They sang the "Marseillaise" and other songs. They made foolish noises. Parisians shrugged their shoulders and. said: "Oh la, la." which meant they were annoyed. All sensible people "were annoyed”.

One Night of Riot

Towards evening the processions became larger and noisier. Still the police did not interfere. A large proportion of the processionists were now clearly of the hooligan class. "Apaches" from the slums. Everyone foresaw trouble, except the Prefect of Police.

Before a shop with a German name over it one gang of roughs halted. Someone shouted : "Down with the Germans !" That was enough. In a few minutes the shop had been sacked. Thus the trouble began. All night the looting and wrecking of shops and restaurants went on.

Next day the Prefect of Police, who had failed to take any precautions against disorder, went to the opposite extreme. He not only forbade processions and threatened looters with the rigour of martial law, he ordered all cafés and restaurants to close at eight o'clock, and made it an offence for more than two people to walk together. The police were instructed to move on anybody who stood still in the street even for a few seconds to speak to a friend.

As a result of the Prefect's incompetence and the rioting which he permitted on the Sunday night, Paris for weeks afterwards was by day a desert and the gloomiest of cities after dark One saw at once what makes her "La Ville Lumiere." It is her cafes and wine-shops. the great and the little places of refreshment and conversation which are found in every street, all open until midnight, all gaily lighted up. With these closed Paris became "la Ville Obscure." Not a theatre, not a cafe ! At half-past nine the streets were as dark and still as those of a little country town. or as those of London became a little later. As yet the Zeppelins were only a vague threat, though we had aeroplane raids over Paris, and a good deal of damage done.

The desert air of Paris during the day was due to the closing of shops. The looting frightened shopkeepers. Everywhere one saw shuttered fronts. Most of the shutters had notices nailed to them saying that their owners had joined the Colours.

Fascinated by War

All the jewellers in the Rue de la Paix went out of business. I saw one window, which usually was littered with thousand-guinea diamond tiaras, filled with little papers flags to wear in the buttonhole at twopence a dozen. In another window was the announcement that the proprietor had gone to the country, and that he confided his stock to the care of his honourable fellow-citizens. Tears came into my eyes as I read this noble Frenchman's profession of faith in humanity, until I noticed that he had taken the precaution to clear everything of value away. The window was bare.

While Mobilisation Went On

While thousands of trains carried hundreds of thousands of soldiers to their appointed posts, Paris, after the rioting of that one night, and all France with Paris, remained calm. even depressed. There was no shouting of "A Berlin," as in 1870. There was no sureness of victory. War seemed to fascinate the French people as a rabbit is fascinated by a snake.

They soon settled down to it. They made no struggle against changing their habits and mode of life as we did in England. From the first day of war they accepted war as conditioning their whole existence.

Human nature accommodates itself rapidly to changes. In normal times it seems to the normal human being that the whole of civilisation depends upon the 9:10 train running, as usual. But after a few days on which the 9:10 train has not run, there is a readjustment of habits ; life settles down upon a different basis. It was a manifest proof of mankind's adaptability, the quickness with which the most civilised of the nations accustomed itself to the stress and the suffering and the savagery of war.



from ‘the War Illustrated' 30th June, 1917
'What We Heard on the Way to Amiens'
by Hamilton Fyfe



PARIS was interesting for a few days after war broke out, but it soon began to pall. I sent my wife home with a friend who was motoring to Boulogne. The railway journey to the coast was uncertain and tedious. I took up my quarters with a friend who had a quiet, cool flat in the Rue de Rivoli, where in the morning the twittering of birds was the only sound that came distinctly to my waking ears,

The weather was hot. We had our windows all wide open. One evening a third man who was staying there, a Rumanian, whose brother I met two years later in Rumania as chief of one of the branches of the Headquarters Staff. He began to play the piano. Immediately came voices from the courtyard. "Silence. Stop that music ! Don't you know that we are at war ?"

That was how Paris felt. The atmosphere was not congenial. It was too "nervy." Good news was received with extravagant delight. Bad news cast a gloom. No news was worst. And it was mostly "no news," while each side was preparing for the first big clash of arms.

I was coming back from a walk in the Bois on the Saturday afternoon when the newspapers brought out the news of French successes on the soil of Alsace.


British soldiers in Rouen


Out to Rouen

Everyone was in high spirits. The war had begun with a French advance. The first point had been scored by them. German troops had run before the bayonet. Nothing could hold the brave "little soldiers" of France back. What a pitiful aspect the rejoicing of that August afternoon was soon to wear ! How painfully the misgivings and forebodings of the Parisians were to be justified !

I got hold of another motor-car, and began to skirmish about wherever there seemed to be promise of events. I saw the British troops arrive in France and march through the French country-side towards Mons. I was at Rouen when the first trainload of wounded British soldiers arrived from the Battle of Mons. It was clear from what they said that we had not done well; but the official reports gave no hint of what had really happened. It was supposed, towards the end of the week which had begun with the battle, that the enemy was still being held on the frontier.

I had gone to Rouen with Arthur Moore, of the "Times," a brave Irishman, who had done good work in Albania during the disturbances, and had come thence direct to France. We talked over what the wounded had told us. We saw that the engagement had in the beginning gone adversely for us. But we supposed that, after a bad start, the British had made a stand, and that French forces had come up in support of them. The official despatches suggested nothing in the nature of a reverse.

Next morning we drove to Dieppe and sent off our despatches by the mail-boat. Then we discussed what to do next. Moore was for going to Amiens. He is a man who has a "nose" for adventure.

He is Irish, and I dare say a believer in the supernatural. He could not say why he wanted to go to Amiens. Perhaps he had a touch of "second sight." At all events, I soon began to think so.

We left Dieppe before six. As we were driving out of a village where we had breakfast we came upon an English motor-van with two soldiers in it stretching themselves in the sunshine, as cats. do after sleep, and who looked as if they had spent the night there.

"Breakdown ?" we inquired.

They said, "Yes. Ran into another van and smashed our radiator."

All the rest had gone on to Rouen. That was to be the new British base, so the soldiers believed.

"New base ? But what about Amiens ?" we asked, astonished, for only a few days earlier we had seen all our base establishments settling down there.

From Dieppe to Amiens

"Amiens ?' Why, we've all got out of Amiens. Brought away what we could. Broke up the rest. Thirty vans we had to leave. Burnt 'em."

"No British left there ?”

"Not much. Orders came a few days ago — everyone to clear out. Didn't take long, either."

Moore and I looked at one another. Here was news ! It proved his premonition to be right.

"Amiens ?" asked Eric Loder. He had put his Rolls-Royce at my service, and was kind enough, being in search of adventure, to drive me about.

"As hard as we can."

We were there soon after ten. The place was in a state of extraordinary excitement. The streets were filled with men and women, some talking in gloomy whispers, some hurrying to escape while there was yet time. It is a wild, unreasoning fear which attacks civilian populations when the foe is near. No wonder, when the foe is the Hun !

I sat down in a café crowded with gossip-mongers, and scribbled a few lines to my editor. I then hurried to the railway-station to find some passenger who would carry my note.

In the station thousands of people were sitting on their boxes or bundles, waiting for trains to take them anywhere, I asked some railwaymen if any of the rumours flying about were true.

"Fighting eighteen miles from here," one answered dejectedly. "I came from down the line two hours ago."

"People came in who had to leave their farm. Just threw down what they had in their hands and ran for the train," another added. "No doubt about it."

Queer "British Officer"

I walked about among the passengers awaiting the Boulogne train. I was looking for a likely messenger.

It was a Frenchman, travelling to England, who agreed to carry my despatch. He lived in England. He had crossed over to take his place in the Territorial Reserve. Only a small number of that Reserve had been embodied. He was told he could return to his home..

I often thought of him afterwards when the Territorials were all called up and when everyone was asking, "Where can the French Army be ?"

France had not yet understood that she would need every man she could summon to the colours.

Going back into the town to find Moore, I saw a British officer in the crowd and followed him to see what he knew. He went into a pastry-cook's shop. I went after him. I talked to him while he ate puffs and drank sweet syrup, with water — nasty-looking pink stuff. This strange behaviour, together with his perfect French accent, made me suspicious. He also had a Germanically Jewish cast of feature, with puffy cheeks and heavy-lidded eyes. I will call him Goldschmidt, which was, maybe, once his name.

Another thing made me feel doubtful about him. He continued to talk with me as if I were a human being after I had told him that I was a newspaper man. The British officer of the old days usually spoke — at all events, until he reached the grade of colonel — of those "dam'd newspaper fellers " with lofty scorn and impatience. Colonels, as a rule, behaved civilly, because they could be helped or hurt by newspaper criticism; also, perhaps, because they had come to years of discretion. If they reached higher rank, they still remembered that the Press could be useful to them. Their civility continued until they reached the highest rank of all. Then they relapse into the attitude of suspicion and disdain.

Expecting the Enemy

This officer, who talked French like a Frenchman and drank syrup in a pastry-cook's shop, was exceptional then also, in the way he behaved to journalists. He was going to see where the Germans were. So were we. He suggested we should exchange notes when we came back.

We took first the road to Péronne. We went on foot, but got a lift in a farm-cart, and soon met French troops retreating. They were tired and disheartened. Nothing further to be done in that direction. We could hear guns very plainly over to our right from the direction of a little town called Albert, so back we went, got the car out, and drove that way,

A stiff artillery duel was being fought, and the enemy were gaining ground, the enemy whom all France and all England, bar the Army chiefs, believed to be still on the frontier. The Germans were approaching. Amiens was in danger.

Again we found ourselves mixed up with retreating troops. In the villages along the road were many wounded. In one house an officer had just died, and women were crying round the door. Poor souls, they were thinking of their own dear ones in danger !

We were ordered back to Amiens in the early darkness by an officer who was bringing away a battery which had been in action. As we re-entered, soldiers were placing machine-guns in position on the top of the hill where the houses begin. Trenches had been dug hastily in the fields on either side of the road,. Turcos (French. Algerian troops) were in them. Bricks were being knocked out of walls to make loopholes for rifle fire.

We met our officer acquaintance. "They may be here to-night," Moore said.

"Shouldn't wonder," was the reply. We sat up most of the night, partly to write long despatches, telling the bad news upon which we had stumbled, thanks to Moore's second sight; partly because we were not sure that it might not be necessary to leave in a hurry. In five days the Germans had got almost to Amiens from the frontier. They were bound to be in Amiens very soon.



from ‘the War Illustrated, 7th July 1917
'Story of the Famous Mons Despatches'
By Hamilton Fyfe


British soldiers on the road to Mons


NOTHING in the history of the world's Press, before or since their appearance, has. made a deeper impression on the public mind than the despatches published in the special edition of the "Times" on Sunday, August 30th, 1914. In the vividly-written article on this page Mr. Hamilton Fyfe for the first time describes the circumstances in which the despatches were written, how they reached London, the Chief Censor's action in regard to them, and how they were published. In recalling the splendid manner in which the British public took the bad news, and rallied as never before to the recruiting offices, surely justified a more liberal-minded policy towards the news-papers than that still extended to them in all matters affecting the war.

WE did not leave Amiens for Dieppe without much debate. We knew for certain now that an event of the greatest gravity had happened. Our first duty was to communicate what we knew to our newspapers. We did not suppose they would be allowed to publish what we communicated, but that was not our business. Clearly it was necessary to get our despatches to the coast as quickly as possible.

But then arose the question: Should we take them ourselves or send them ? The difficulty of finding any trustworthy messenger was great. So was the risk of something very interesting happening while we were gone. However, "a bird in the hand — ." You know the rest.

We had important messages in our pockets — messages which would tell the British people and the French people, if they were published, that they were living in a fool's paradise, that the enemy they supposed to be hammering at the gates was already inside the house.

Moved Off the Map

The character of the catastrophe we learned from officers we met in Amiens, from one in particular, a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was an oldish man, grey hair, grey moustache. He was exhausted in body and in mind. He had lost touch with the Staff to which he belonged, the Staff of a division. It had been obliged to move rapidly. No sooner did it halt and try to snatch a few hours' rest, or to plan a reorganisation of its scattered regiments, than German shells began to fall about it. It had to pack up and push on.

This officer was searching pathetically for a place through which his division had been instructed to retreat. He could not find it on his map. The truth was the retreat had been so hurried that he had moved off his map. We pointed this out delicately. Tears came into his eyes. I hated to see his legs tremble with weariness and his lip twitch at the thought of defeat.

Conflict of Testimony

I recall another officer, a young one, whose nerve had suffered badly. Small wonder. He had not eaten since Tuesday. This was Friday night. He could not talk coherently. We also came across an American who had been to inquire of the French general commanding at Amiens which road would be the safest for Paris.

"Any road, my dear sir," the general told him. "There is no danger."

At that moment, entered an officer of Cuirassiers who had just ridden in. "Make no mistake !" he cried. "All roads are dangerous. They are spreading over the country like a flood."

Clearly, I repeat, we were bound — Moore and I — to let our newspapers have word of what had happened as speedily as could be. For this purpose it was urgent that we should go to Dieppe and put our despatches on board a boat ourselves. Correspondents in war, you must recollect, are judged not only by what they write. There is another and a more exigent test of their value to the news-papers that employ them. They are judged by their resource in sending home their messages by the surest and speediest means. Here is the chief difficulty of their calling.

Problems of a Correspondent

Thousands of men, and of women too, could write acceptably about the incidents of war. Anybody can describe with a certain pictorial quality events that pass before their eyes. Read the letters from the front, written by soldiers educated in elementary schools, or even by officers who, through being sent to Eton or some other public school, have not been educated at all. Most of them are admirably vivid.

But the war correspondent must not only write so as to interest his readers. He must arrange for the swift despatch of his copy. "Ay, there's the rub."

I have in mind now, I should say here, the work of correspondents who are thrown upon their own resources, as we were in France at that early stage of the war, and as we were later during the Russian and Rumanian retreats. For the most part correspondents now have their way made smooth and simple for them. They are given comfortable quarters, they are amply fed, transport is provided for them, information is handed out to them, a special wire is put at their service.

What to Do Next

Very different the task of the correspondent who has to find his own horse or motor-car, live as best he can, pick up his news, and send it away by means of his own devising.

He must leave nothing to chance, nor to the ordinary modes of conveyance. He must be wary as to whom he can trust. He must know by instinct when to bribe and when to appeal to that kindly helpfulness which resides in the breasts of most of us, though often overlaid. He must bear in mind always that something short and hasty that can be printed on Saturday morning is worth infinitely more than a long, elaborate article which only arrives in time for Monday's sheet.

To Dieppe therefore, Moore and I returned. We. were off just after day-break. The sentries on the road out of the town looked at our passes suspiciously, but beamed when they understood that we were English. As we travelled swiftly to the coast we discussed what we should do next.

I was inclined to return to Amiens at once and see the Germans enter. I had almost bargained to remain as a waiter, speaking French with a southern accent.

I thought at first I might pass as a peasant in a blue blouse and tall peaked cap. But my hands would have betrayed me. We felt pretty confident, though, that something could be arranged. We both spoke French well enough to pass for Frenchmen — among Germans. We were both ready to take a small risk. Unfortunately, like those of the ship-wrecked clerks on the desert island in the Bab Ballad, all our plans were shattered .in a moment when we found that the boat advertised to leave Dieppe at ten that Saturday morning had not come in, and therefore could not go out. As we ran down the hill into the town we looked anxiously at the harbour lying below us. Never a mail packet could we see.

Arrival of the Despatch

We knew that there was a boat leaving Boulogne, some seventy-five nines away, at two o'clock in the afternoon. But here arose another difficulty. Our car was in need of some slight repair. What it was I cannot say. All I know about machinery is that it usually breaks down when you have direst need of it. This was certain. It could not get to Boulogne by mid-day. Our only expedient was to hire another car. We inquired, and were told we could have one "at a war price."

"What price ?"

"Six hundred francs." (24 pounds)

Twenty-four pounds for a hundred and fifty miles ! We protested, but had no remedy. No other car could be hired. The war price had to be paid. The despatches reached London, that evening. They were printed next morning, Sunday, and they made a stir, for they gave the first news of the reverse at Mons and the Germans' rapid advance.

At the time Moore and I were accused of exaggeration, but every word we wrote was soon afterwards proved to be painfully exact.

Effect of Bad News

Here is another tribulation of the war correspondent. "Though it be honest, it is never good to bring bad news." So Cleopatra told her slave, and the official world thinks with Cleopatra all the time.

Although the Chief Censor. Mr. (now Sir) F. E. Smith, had passed the messages, and written a note saying he considered they ought to be published, Mr. Asquith accused us of "unpatriotic" conduct, and Lord Kitchener told a friend of mine that he would like to have me shot. Nothing about having F. E. Smith shot! The Chief Censor's object, like our own, was to show people that there was need for a vigorous effort. That object was attained.

The next few days saw the recruiting offices fuller than they had been at any time before. Writing to the "Times" some months later, Sir Bampfylde Fulker said that our despatches, "condemned at the time as almost treasonable, were admitted afterwards to have been the force which swelled so satisfactorily the tide of recruiting."


Wounded from Mons back in England



from ‘the War Illustrated’ 14th July, 1917
'Fleeing Before the Flood Of Invasion'
When the Germans Occupied Amiens and Paris was Threatened
by Hamilton Fyfe


Germans marching through Amiens in 1914


THE cuirassier captain had said in Amiens : "The Germans are everywhere. They are spreading over the country like a flood." Moore and I soon discovered how quickly. We could not get back into Amiens. We left Dieppe again early on Sunday morning, August 30th, and drove round the villages lying to south and west of the city. But the Germans were then very near. Already the mayor of Amiens had placarded the walls with a notice begging the inhabitants to be civil and kind to German wounded.

"If the tide of battle turns against us, and they come again as they did in 1870, remember that any act of hostility may be terribly punished."

By nine o'clock next morning the German, troops were in the city. We were not sorry to be out of it, though it would have been vastly interesting to stay. Even now the official bulletins kept up the mystification in which they had shrouded the events following the Battle of Mons. They never admitted the fall of Amiens. It became known, of course, but the first official intimation that the French and British nations had of it was the statement on September 10th that the Germans had withdrawn.

To conceal any longer the threat to Paris had now, however, become impossible. On that last Sunday of August I saw groups in every little town and village discussing, in gloomy whispers, the news that the inhabitants of the zone in front of the Paris fortifications had been ordered to leave their homes at once.

Flight of the "Froussards"

The shock was painful. Up to this time, remember, everyone had supposed the Germans to be still in Belgium, or only a few miles across the frontier, Most people were at first dazed, unable to grasp the dread possibilities.

"How can it have happened ?" we were asked a hundred times a day. "Is it to be 1870 over again ? Will there be another Siege of Paris ? Why was it said so confidently that the French Army could beat the Germans ? Surely, surely it must be able to stop them. If not, nous sommes foutus — we are done."

Panic spread among certain classes of the population like a forest fire. As usual, the rich and easeful cut the poorest figure. Every day now Dieppe was filled by a fresh crowd of well-to-do fugitives seeking safety in England. The place had been empty. A melancholy silence wrapped the Casino and the beach, which at this season were wont to be gay and thronged by holiday- makers. On the front wandered a chance fisherman or two. The hotels were either closed or merely pretending to keep open.

Suddenly they filled up. In the last week of August you could have your pick of the best rooms at low prices. In the first week of September it was difficult to get a bed. The deserted dining-rooms were once more loud with chatter, every table taken. The trains from Paris brought thousands of refugees, who stayed one night before taking ship to Folkestone. In one week over a million people left Paris.

A "siege census" showed the population left in the city to be 1,809,000. Before the exodus the figure had stood at 2,850,000. On the road between Dieppe and Paris ours was the only car going south, towards the capital. We met hundreds carrying froussards, as they were called, people who had given way to the shiver of fear, la frousse, all bound for the coast; we saw every kind of vehicle, from the millionaire's thousand-guinea limousine down to humble taxi-cabs — "coffee-mills" they were derisively styled by the drivers of more luxurious machines.

Courage of the Mass

Piled high with baggage most of them. Beds and birdcages, and hastily-packed trunks gaping open. White, scared faces peeping round valises or bundles, peering over pyramids of portmanteaux, wishing their cars would make better speed, as if the Germans were close behind them ! They looked at us pityingly, as if we were mad to risk meeting the enemy.

It was only a few, reckoned against the mass of the nation, who were overcome by panic. The mass behaved with courage and good sense, though the rapid advance of the Germans filled everyone with the most painful forebodings. The nation had not been prepared for it. Its unexpectedness turned their hearts sick and cold with fear. The enemy, whom they had hoped to defeat on the frontier, seemed irresistible. The flood, swallowed up more and more of the country every day.

The method of the advance was in this wise. The Germans sent on first, ahead of their cavalry, armed motor-cars carrying Maxim guns. These dashed about, discovering whether the Army was likely to meet with any opposition in force, and terrorising the population. Cavalry patrols followed, spreading out, fan-shape, in all directions. Close on their heels came horse-gunners. Under cover of their batteries the infantry pushed forward with their Maxims.

Beauvais Barred

Thus they surged forward with a speed which, for a few days, stupefied the French people. Their rush on Paris was certainly one of the most skilfully-planned and brilliantly executed feats in the whole history of the war.

"If there is another siege," I said, "I am going to be in it." That was why we travelled southward. I sent my wife an exhortation not to be anxious if she heard nothing from me. It seemed hardly possible that the flood could be turned back or even held up.

One day they were in Amiens, the next at Compiegne, the next at Chantilly, the French Newmarket, close to Paris, where the race-horses are trained. We came across one trainer who had heard firing near at hand, had packed his family at once into a motor-car, and had driven off within five minutes.

We made first for Beauvais, Moore and I, after we left Rouen on Monday, August 31st. We no longer had our Rolls-Royce. (Eric Loder had fallen sick.) In place of it we secured (never mind how !) a car that had been hired by a rival newspaper correspondent who was going home.

That same evening we fell in with another correspondent of the rival journal who had expected the car to be his. Fortunately, he did not recognise it in the darkness. We were waiting outside a barrier placed across the road leading into the town of Beauvais. The town was closed for the night. The whole country-side was in fear of the Uhlan patrols who were prowling about. The woods were full of them.

Moore and I inquired of the sentries for an officer, and were allowed to walk to a second barrier made of farm-carts and trunks of trees about a hundred yards farther on. At first the captain in command here was inclined to let us walk to an hotel, carrying our bags. We went back to fetch them from the car, and there at the first barrier found some peasants arguing with the sentries.

They wanted to get into the town too. As soon as they heard we had been given permission they raised an outcry. Why should foreigners be favoured ? The officer came along to see what the noise was about, and in the end he refused to let any of us pass through. We had then to decide whether we should sleep in the car, without supper, or hark back and try to find a wayside inn. Hunger settled the question. We harked back.

In Quest of an Inn

Four or five miles along the road we came to an inn, crowded with fugitives, country people who had been obliged to leave their farms or cottages. All the afternoon we had been passing caravans after caravans of them. Imagine the state of decent, thrifty folk compelled suddenly to leave their homes, pack what they could into farm-carts or perambulators or wheelbarrows, start off they knew not whither.

In this inn there were many of them, listless and exhausted, but the greater number chattered and laughed over their scraps of food and their heel-taps of red wine, as French folk laugh and chatter whatever their misfortunes may be.

Dear, cheerful souls, I would have loved to stay and chatter with them, but there was no food left. Landlord and landlady begged us to accept their apologies, directed us to another little auberge a mile or so off the main road.

We came to this. It was dark and shuttered. We knocked and called stoutly about us. From a house near by appeared a frightened woman with two children clinging about her skirts. Yes, she owned the inn, but in these times — .

"Had we seen the Boches ? Were we Germans ?" she asked in terror.

“Ah, ces messieurs sont anglais!"

She was relieved, so much relieved that she agreed at once to cook us a supper and find us somewhere to sleep. An excellent ham omelette she gave us, large and juicy, with a pot of home- made raspberry preserve and red wine and coffee. We supped and slept like kings,



from ‘The War Illustrated’ 21st July, 1917.
'Held Up by Uhlans!'
a Thrilling Adventure on the Road to Paris
by Hamilton Fyfe


guarding the approaches to Paris - from 'le Miroir'


We left our little inn at seven in the morning, having tried to put courage into our landlady's timorous heart. Poor soul ! She feared for herself and her children, not without cause. Yet it was surely better for her to stay where she had a roof over her head and a little store of food than to join the pitiful throng of refugees, and perhaps see her children starve by the roadside. Experience has taught me that the inhabitants of a war-zone are wiser to bear the ills they have than fly to others that they know not of.

We drove into Beauvais in time to hear the white-bearded mayor making a speech from the town-hall steps, telling the crowd gathered in front of him, anxious and perplexed, that for the moment there was no danger. The effect of this assurance was spoiled, a few minutes later, by three troopers who clattered into the square and told how they had been fired on by Uhlans from a wood only three and a half miles away.

It was a bad morning for Beauvais and many another town and village that sunny September 1st, 1914. No one knew how near the enemy flood might be.

A Fateful Permit

While Moore and I were debating what to do next, the correspondent whose car we had filched drove up in an ancient "Puffing James," which he had dug from the depths of some small town garage, and recognised our vehicle at once. It had on its glass screen in front a permit to circulate in Belgium, whence it had lately arrived. He could not get the car away from us, but, while we were looking for petrol, he scratched off this permit with his pocket-knife, thinking to do us a bad turn. We thought he had done us a bad turn, for the permit helped to give us some sort of standing. But, as events shaped themselves within the next few hours, it proved to be a very great service that he had rendered his rivals. Perhaps he saved our lives.

We started about ten for Clermont, a town about twenty-five miles distant. We felt sure of meeting French troops on the road, and of learning where the enemy were. Soon we fell in with a column belonging to one of the two divisions of Territorials — that is to say, of soldiers past the age of service in the Active Army, who had encountered the shock of the Germans at Charleroi. They were retreating as quickly as they could. In order to avoid slowing down the car, so as to pass them without raising dust, we inquired for a side turning which would bring us back on to the road in front of them. A peasant told us how to go.

We followed a small road, little more than a cart-track. It led across fields, then through a wood. In the wood we turned a sharp corner, and there, not more than five minutes away from the French column on the march, we saw a patrol of German cavalry.

We knew them at once for what they were, by their low-crowned helmets, their grey Jaeger-like uniforms ; by their dour, unsmiling faces and by a certain air of stern, stealthy repression which there was about them. The moment about which all correspondents had been talking ever since the war started was upon us.

What would be done to newspaper men caught in the war-zone ? Would they be considered spies and shot ? Would they be treated as prisoners of war ? These were .the questions that all of us had debated. We would gladly have avoided learning the answers in this fashion, but there was no way of escape.

In the few seconds which passed between our seeing and being stopped by them we did a good deal of hard thinking. Mercifully the Belgian military permit no longer showed on our glass screen. Luckily, I had nothing on my passport to show that I was a journalist. Moore's passport had his profession written on it. " Keep it in your pocket," I whispered to him, and when the little officer of the patrol asked us in good French for our papers, I at once handed up mine, with Moore's safe-conduct from the Mayor of Dieppe.

A Bad Moment

While the officer read them a very ill-looking corporal ordered us gruffly to open our bags. He covered us with a large revolver. It seemed to me to be the largest revolver I had ever seen.

On the other side a trooper kept his lance levelled at the chauffeur. The rest of the eighteen troopers surrounded the car, except three, who went a little way on to scout against any surprise.

The corporal searched the bags with a very plain hope of finding some evidence against us. He tore out our maps. He tossed our clothes about roughly. Nothing to convict us of being anything worse than eccentric tourists ! But there came a bad moment when he turned out the contents of the chauffeur's bag. The first .thing he saw was a Browning pistol. He glanced at the officer as one should say : "What need have we of any further witness ?" He had a blood-lustful look.

But the officer was thoughtful. "Where are you going ?" he asked.

"To Paris, monsieur," We smiled at him blandly.

"To Paris ?" he repeated, and smiled too, as if he were thinking, "We are going there also." Then he said : "Which road are you taking ?"

"The road through Clermont," we made answer. It was the only road we knew. I thought he looked relieved. He was in a difficulty. That was clear. With the French so near, he could hardly risk any shooting. Nor can a patrol of cavalry take a motor-car about with it in hostile territory. The mention of Clermont brightened him up.

"Out of the Frying-pan——"

He had the car searched thoroughly, all the cushions taken out and examined, everything turned over. The maps with which we were driving were confiscated. So were all the newspapers we had. He held out the papers I had given him. "These are no good," he said gently. Then I knew how the condemned criminal feels when the judge addresses him before passing sentence.

"No good," he said again. ' " However," he continued, " I will allow you to go on to Clermont. All right." He was plainly proud of his knowledge of English. As to Moore's passport he had said nothing.

He gave a sharp word of command. The corporal disappointedly tucked his revolver away. The troopers wheeled about and put their horses to a smart walk again. We were free.

"Make her go," we said to the chauffeur. We twisted about in narrow lanes until at last we came to the road again. We stopped and asked if any Germans had been seen. No, we were told ; all safe. So we bowled along till we came to the first houses of Clermont.

Then we understood why the little officer had let us go.

People rushed into the roadway, " Don't come in," they cried, " the streets are full of Germans." I have never seen a car turn so quickly as ours did then. The driver seemed to swing it right round with one mighty pull on the wheel. We went off towards Beauvais as hard as we could.



from ‘the War Illustrated’ 26th July, 1917
'The Retreat on Paris'
Some Exciting Episodes by the War
By Hamilton Fyfe



We understood, when we heard that the streets of Clermont were "full of Germans,” why the officer in charge of the Uhlan patrol, which caught us, had let us go. He knew that the German advance guards had occupied Clermont that morning. We did not know it. Nor did the population of the villages round about. He said to himself, "We shall have them all right. They are going to run straight into the trap." We very nearly did, too.

Back we went, after we had been warned in that dramatic way by the sympathetic people of the town, on the road towards Beauvais. We felt we had no time to waste. Where had the French army got to ?

Here, at all events, were four of its soldiers, jogging along in a covered van, plump into the enemy's lines. Hurriedly we explained to them what had happened. They did not at first believe us. They said it was impossible the Germans could be so near. But we convinced them.

In a few seconds they were in our car, and we were speeding along again. It was dangerous, of course, but we could not leave the poor fellows there. "If they catch us," I said, "you must say you took us prisoners. They won't shoot you anyway. It might get us off." But I think that two English correspondents with French soldiers in their car would have fared ill in German hands.



Friend or Foe?

We looked ahead through our field-glasses, Moore and I, to see that we did not run into further peril. There was, unfortunately, a range of hills along the side of the road which was nearer to safety.. No break showed in the range. We must keep on until we came to. a road leading through it.

After a little while, which-seemed a long while to us, we saw such a road and a motor-driver standing at the corner by his car. He gave us the glad news that the French troops had turned off here and were not very far ahead. It was lucky we were not a few minutes later in coming to this turning. We saw that motor-driver again next day. He told us that just after we had disappeared about a hundred Uhlans came clattering down the road. A number of patrols had evidently united. They would have caught us again and carried us into Clermont.

Our particular patrol was attacked just after we parted from it. We had heard the tap-tap of rifle-fire. Several saddles were emptied. I hope that of the corporal with the big revolver, who so plainly desired our blood, was one of them. We got through the hills, and as we slid down the other side we saw some cavalry ahead. Anxiously we stopped.

We examined their uniforms with our field-glasses. Were they friend or foe ?

"C'est bien !" shouted one of the soldiers. "Ce sont nos chasseurs !"

And so they were, the rearguard of a large body of infantry which was toiling along under the roasting mid-day sun. It was slow work and hot work moving along with them. A general of division, worried and testy, was for stopping us altogether. When he relented, he told us not to do more than two and a half miles an hour. But we were so glad to be with our own side again that we would cheerfully have gone, if he had bidden us upon our hands and knees.

There were halts every halt hour for a few minutes. The weary soldiers, dispirited by they retreat, threw themselves in any shade they could find. They were not first-line troops, nor even second-line. Many of them were men over forty, taken from desks or counters, from comfortable, effortless lives. They were in a pitiable state of fatigue and depression.

During one halt a stream was discovered. The cry went up " De l'eau — de l'eau !" As many as were near enough crowded down to drink. Hundreds pressed round, hoping to fill their empty water-bottles.

British Soldiers Three

An old man stood in the road watching them. I talked to him. He told me he was a gamekeeper in the service of the Marquis de Breteuil. The men's thirst touched him. Also their wistful eagerness for a sight of some newspapers which a cottager close by brought out.

"War, monsieur," the old gamekeeper said, "is madness. Think of the partridges I have had the trouble of raising. All frightened away. And think of men killing one another upon such a fine day as this."

We left the Territorials to pursue their march towards Paris, and took a road which led back in the direction of Beauvais. We had decided to return there and see what was happening. Beauvais lies west of Clermont, and the German line of advance was southward. So we thought we might return without much risk.

Soon we came upon artillery, retreating also. They were very courteous and let us go through them. One officer stopped us, but only to ask if we would take a telegram from him and send it off from the first office we passed. We thought it must be an official telegram, for he was an officer of high rank. But when he read it over to me it ran : "Safe and well. Best love."

It was a telegram to his wife. I cannot. tell you how I liked him for that. Almost the first people we saw in Beauvais were three British soldiers, three privates in the Army Service Corps. They were leaning against a doorway smoking cigarettes, French cigarettes, which, they said, " 'ain't got no blooming bite in 'em."

Around them was a crowd of French admirers. Nothing moves a French crowd to admiration more easily than a cool, casual acceptance of difficulties. They have many great qualities the French, but they are never casual, and seldom, in adverse circumstances, cool. They feel the drama of life too keenly to take things as they come.

Side-Tracked Traction Engines

These three soldiers were magnificent. In a strange land, with people all round them speaking a language of which they understood not one word, with no money and no kit but what they stood in, no idea of whither they were going or how to get there, they were not in the very least disturbed. They leaned against their doorway, listening to the "jabber," as they called it, of their admirers, mildly amused, enjoying the sunshine, ready for anything that might turn up.

They told me their story. Sent up to Mons with a traction-engine, they were sent back before the battle because the engine was too slow. An officer wrote down for them the names of the places they were to pass through on their way to the British base at Amiens.

“Funny thing, y'know," one of them said. "People we asked didn't seem to know where these places was." Imagine how they must have pronounced French names !

"Consequence was, we kept taking the wrong road. Soon finished the grub we had. Lucky for us the people did us a treat. Soon as we come puffin' and snortin" into a place, out they'd come sayin’ ''Onglay' and makin' signs, y'know, if we wanted anything to eat. Best of everything they gave us. Chicken and cutlets, and red beef, and runner beans, just as if we was generals. Believe some of 'em thought we was generals.

"Run short of coal yesterday. Just managed to get into — what was the name' o' that place, Arthur ? Same as the "ouse near Esher, where some o' the Royal Family used to live — Claremont, that's it. (Clermont). Well, we got in there and a lady took us in. Spoke a little English. Gave us a good supper and beds. Five o'clock we gets up to look for coal. All of a sudden we hears rifles poppin', quite near too. Someone catches hold of me and says in an excited sort o' way something we didn't understand. We took him to mean the Germans was comin', so we cleared out quick."

Moore and I were not the only Englishmen who had had a narrow escape from being captured on that eventful day.



from ‘the War Illustrated’ 4th August 1917
'On the Marne Battlefield'
Where the German Advance to Paris was Stayed
by Hamilton Fyfe


a blown bridge - from 'le Miroir'


From Beauvais to Dieppe. We put our messages on board a boat which was filled up to every corner, every foot of deck space, by terrified people, fleeing from the German threat.

Then we motored along the pleasant valley of the Seine towards Paris again. I meant to get into the city before the enemy could surround it and begin that siege which everybody regarded as a certainty then.

The French Government was to leave that night for Bordeaux. General Gallieni told Ministers that the Paris fortifications "might hold out for a week." It was said afterwards that he thought it better to be rid of politicians in that hour of danger. Anyway, the President and the Cabinet, and a troop of Government officials, took train for the famous and beautiful city on the Garonne. They stood not upon the order of their going. In obedience to General Gallieni's suggestion, they went at once.

The signs seemed all to point one way. Yet, as the sun will sometimes break out from behind the blackest cloud-scud, so there was about to he revealed a sudden and striking change in the positions of the warring forces. The movement of troops which saved Paris was quietly being prepared.

We came across the preparation as we drove that afternoon and night. In the villages lying along the Seine west of Saint Germain, we went through a big cavalry concentration. We could not get into any inn. Officers filled them all. In the narrow streets of the villages troopers were rubbing down their horses. Already the movement towards the Marne had begun.

"Slip Through"

Near Saint Germain we were stopped in the darkness at a barricade. No one allowed to pass. We chatted with the soldiers in. charge. We asked their counsel as to finding some place to pass the night. All roads, it appeared, were cut. They could only suggest a tiny auberge near by, which had food of sorts, but no beds.

Luck was on our side again, though. Luck and the friendly French character. A military car arrived. The barrier had to be opened. "Slip through," said the officer in command, "English ? Then I make myself responsible for you."

So we got to Saint Germain, which meant supper and a good bed.

Next day we found Paris resigned, even hopeful. The fearful had departed. The city went about its daily business much as usual. The change which I noticed most distinctly was due to the order forbidding sellers of newspapers to cry them in the streets. Upon the Boulevards reigned a rare and welcome peace.

It was funny to see hawkers of the noon and afternoon sheets whispering hoarsely as they ran along. "Reported defeat of the Germans !" or "Resignation of a Minister," unable to raise their voices for fear of the police. Some of them rang little bells to attract attention. Anyway, they had no difficulty in selling their wares.

The thirst for news was consuming. As in all periods of popular emotion or excitement, people read the 'same statements over and over again. Hardly ever was anything of interest to be found in the extras, which everyone bought so readily. Yet they continued to tee bought without complaint. The purchasers seemed to be quite content to be told lies under picturesque headings. They wiped their eyes, said "Mon Dieu !" and waited for the next edition.

I found in Paris a telegram telling me to follow the French Government to Bordeaux. I was instructed not to get shut up in Paris, which was just what I had made up my mind to do. In the end I was very glad to have been sent to Bordeaux, and I did not miss anything, seeing there was no siege. But at the moment I thought myself hardly treated.

ln a Deserted Land

Next day, Saturday, September 5th, I motored out from Paris in an easterly direction to see how true was the story that the French forces were awaiting the enemy along the hue of the Marne. It was known that a large number of troops had passed through Paris. One hundred thousand men were said to have been sent across the city in taxi-cabs. The cavalry concentration I had seen for myself. Some plan was evidently maturing fast.

When we came to the open country across the Marne we found ourselves in a deserted land. The scene was set for the battle which all expected and which, in the event, began next day. The inhabitants had been cleared out. The empty villages stood silent and even in the sunshine, ghostly. Deprived of cultivators, the fields stretched away to the horizon without a figure moving among them. There were no animals left even. It was like seeing the stage of a theatre in the daytime, and being left to imagine what it would look like when the performers were upon it for the play to begin.

There were new suburbs out in the direction we took, Colonies of jaunty little houses with gardens flaming in their final colour- burst. All shut up now, left to whatever might be their fate. The evening trains no longer discharged loads of husbands from Paris offices. The morning sun looked in vain for the usual dainty procession of wives and servants to do the day's marketing. We drove through miles of pleasant roads without meeting a sold or seeing a sign of life.

In one village we found a few old people left. They sat on chairs set in the grass which bordered the little street, with their backs to a wall and their faces towards the cast, from which they expected the Germans to arrive.

One tiny old lady was too terrified to answer when we spoke to her. She thought we were Germans,

I fancy, though when I asked her she denied it, passing her hand over her face to vindicate that we did not look like them. I am sure she believed that Germans had horns and tails.

Between the Armies

It was odd to come upon road-menders at work as if nothing unusual were afoot. I respected them for it, old fellow bent in the back, asking if we had any .news, and chirruping "All will end well, Monsieur." Tramps too, we saw, padding the hoof, as usual in frowsy couples, with sinister glances from under their shaggy brows. They were having the time of their lives. They could sleep in beds, dine at tables, take their ease in arm- chairs. They had their choice of houses. It was only necessary to push a door open and go in and occupy.

We got something to eat by persuasion in a fishermen's inn on the banks of the Marne at Lassignies. Two bridges had been blown up here. All the shop-fronts hard by had been shattered by the explosion. The telegraph and telephone wires dangled in a twisted mass like a spider's web partially swept down from its corner by a housemaid's busy .broom.

That is war, a broom sweeping away what man has spun so laboriously with the experience of centuries, destroying in a minute what it took ages of conflict with Nature to create.

At one period of the day we nearly ran into the Germans again. We drove on past the outposts. There was something sinister and vaguely alarming in the bareness and the silence of the country. We had a French soldier with us, brother to a friend who was driving me. He was for going on. So was Moore. But I persisted in telling them we had passed the last French vedettes. We were between. the armies, I said, and I was proved to be right.

We got back to Paris in the evening. I hoped to motor out again next day and see what I could of the battle. But I found another and more urgent telegram telling me to leave for Bordeaux at once. How I journeyed thither I will tell next week.


from 'the Graphic' - standing guard in Paris, August 1914


journalist for 'the Daily Mail'

to part 2

Back to Index