The Heady Days of August 1914 :

Paris Mobilizes



Mobilization Posters


Patriotic Drawing


Crowds carrying flags at the place Vendome on the night of August 2nd 1914



'In the days that followed the Second of August I saw the whole meaning of mobilization in France - the call of a nation to arms - from Paris to the Eastern frontier, and the drama of it all stirs me now as I write, though many months have passed since then and I have seen more awful things on the harvest fields of death. More awful, but not more pitiful. For even in the sunshine of that August, before blood had been spilt and the brooding spectre of war had settled drearily over Europe, there was a poignant tragedy beneath the gallantry and the beauty of that squadron of cavalry that I had seen riding out of their barrack gates to entrain for the front. The men and the horses were superb-clean-limbed, finely trained, exquisite in their pride of life. As they came out into the streets of Paris the men put on the little touch of swagger which belongs to the Frenchman when the public gaze is on him. Even the horses tossed their beads and seemed to realize the homage of the populace. Hundreds of women were in the crowd, waving handkerchiefs, springing forward out of their line to throw bunches of flowers to those cavaliers, who caught them and fastened them to Kepi and jacket. The officers - young dandies of the Chasseurs - carried great bouquets already and kissed the petals in homage to all the womanhood of France whose love they symbolized. There were no tears in that crowd, though the wives and sweethearts of many of the young men must have stood on the kerbstone to watch them pass. At those moments, in the sunshine, even the sting of parting was forgotten in the enthusiasm and pride which rose up to those splendid ranks of cavalry who were on their way to fight fox France and to uphold the story of their old traditions. I could see no tears then but my own, for I confess that suddenly to my eyes there came a mist of tears and I was seized with an emotion that made me shudder icily in the glare of the day. For beyond the pageantry of the cavalcade I saw the fields of war, with many of those men and horses lying mangled under the hot sun of August. I smelt the stench of blood, for I had been in the muck and misery of war before and had seen the death carts coming back from the battlefield and the convoys of wounded crawling down the rutty roads - from Adrianople - with men, who had been strong and fine, now shattered, twisted and made hideous by pain. The flowers carried by those cavalry officers seemed to me like funeral wreaths upon men who were doomed to die, and the women who sprang out of the crowds with posies for their men were offering the garlands of death.'


from : Philip Gibbs ‘The Soul of the War’ 1915