Unfounded optimisms, which under no possible circumstances could ever have been realised, are responsible for the disappointment felt in America. Inasmuch as these optimisms were widely accepted in England and France, civilian America's disappointment will be shared by the Allies, unless some hint of the truth is told as to what may be expected and what great preparations are under construction. It was generally believed that by the spring of 1918 America would have half a million men in the trenches and as many more behind the lines, training to become reinforcements. People who spoke this way could never have seen a hundred thousand men or have stopped to consider what transport would be required to maintain them at a distance of more than three thousand miles from their base. It was also believed that by the April of 1918, one year after the declaring of war, America would have manufactured ten thousand planes, standardised all their parts, trained the requisite number of observers and pilots, and would have them flying over the Hun lines. Such beliefs were pure moonshine, incapable of accomplishment; but there are facts to be told which are highly honourable.
So far I have tried to give a glimpse of America's fighting spirit in facing up to her job; now, in as far as it is allowed, I want to give a sketch of her supreme earnestness as proved by what she has already achieved in France. The earnestness of her civilians should require no further proof than the readiness with which they accepted national conscription within a few hours of entering the war—a revolutionising departure which it took England two years of fighting even to contemplate, and which can hardly be said to be in full operation yet, so long as conscientious objectors are allowed to air their so-called consciences. In America the conscientious objector is not regarded; he is listened to as only one of two things—a deserter or a traitor. The earnestness of America's fighting man requires no proving; his only grievance is that he is not in the trenches. Yet so long as the weight of America is not felt to be turning the balance dramatically in our favour, the earnestness of America will be open to challenge both by Americans and by the Allies. What I saw in France in the early months of this year has filled me with unbounded optimism. I feel the elated certainty, as never before even in the moment of the most successful attack, that the Hun's fate is sealed. What is more, I have grounds for believing that he knows it—knows that the collapse of Russia will profit him nothing because he cannot withstand the avalanche of men from America. Already he hears them, as I have seen them, training in their camps from the Pacific to the Atlantic, racing across the Ocean in their grey transports, marching along the dusty roads of two continents, a procession locust-like in multitude, stretching half about the world, marching and singing indomitably, "We've got four years to do this job." From behind the Rhine he has caught their singing; it grows ever nearer, stronger. It will take time for that avalanche to pyramid on the Western Front; but when it has piled up, it will rush forward, fall on him and crush him. He knows something else, which fills him with a still more dire sense of calamity—that because America's honour has been jeopardised, of all the nations now fighting she will be the last to lay down her arms. She has given herself four years to do her job; when her job is ended, it will be with Prussianism as it was with Jezebel, "They that went to bury her found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. And her carcase was as dung upon the face of the field, so that men should not say, 'This is Jezebel.'"
As an example of what America is accomplishing, I will take a sample port in France. It was of tenth-rate importance, little more than a harbour for coastwise vessels and ocean-going tramps when the Americans took it over; by the time they have finished, it will be among the first ports of Europe. It is only one of several that they are at present enlarging and constructing. The work already completed has been done in the main under the direction of the engineers who marched through London in the July of last year. I visited the port in January, so some idea can be gained of how much has been achieved in a handful of months.
The original French town still has the aspect of a prosperous fishing-village. There are two main streets with shops on them; there is one out-of-date hotel; there are a few modern dwellings facing the sea. For the rest, the town consists of cottages, alleys and open spaces where the nets were once spread to dry. To-day in a vast circle, as far as eye can reach, a city of huts has grown up. In those huts live men of many nations, Americans, French, German prisoners, negroes. They are all engaged in the stupendous task of construction. The capacity of the harbour basin is being multiplied fifty times, the berthing capacity trebled, the unloading facilities multiplied by ten. A railroad yard is being laid which will contain 225 miles of track and 870 switches. An immense locomotive-works is being erected for the repairing and assembling of rolling-stock from America. It was originally planned to bring over 960 standard locomotives and 30,000 freight-cars from the States, all equipped with French couplers and brakes so that they could become a permanent part of the French railroad system. These figures have since been somewhat reduced by the purchase of rolling-stock in Europe. Reservoirs are being built at some distance from the town which will be able to supply six millions gallons of purified water a day. In order to obtain the necessary quantity of pipe, piping will be torn up from various of the water-systems in America and brought across the Atlantic. As the officer, who was my informant remarked, "Rather than see France go short, some city in the States will have to haul water in carts."
As proof of the efficiency with which materials from America are being furnished, when the engineers arrived on the scene with 225 miles of track to lay, they found 100 miles of rails and spikes already waiting for them. Of the 870 switches required, 350 were already on hand. Of the ties required, one-sixth were piled up for them to be going on with. Not so bad for a nation quite new to the war-game and living three thousand miles beyond the horizon!
On further enquiry I learnt that six million cubic yards of filling were necessary to raise the ground of the railroad yard to the proper level. In order that the work may be hurried, dredges are being brought across the Atlantic and, if necessary, harbour construction in the States will be curtailed.
I was interested in the personnel employed in this work. Here, as elsewhere, I found that the engineering and organising brains of America are largely in France. One colonel was head of the marble industry in the States; another had been vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Another man, holding a sergeant's rank was general manager of the biggest fishing company. Another, a private in the ranks, was chief engineer of the American Aluminum Company. A major was general manager of The Southern Pacific. Another colonel was formerly controller of the currency and afterwards president of the Central Trust Company of Illinois. A captain was chief engineer and built the aqueducts over the keys of the Florida East Coast Railroad. As with us, you found men of the highest social and professional grade serving in every rank of the American Army; one, a society man and banker, was running a gang of negroes whose job it was to shovel sand into cars. In peace times thirty thousand pounds a year could not have bought him. What impressed me even more than the line of communications itself was the quality of the men engaged on its construction. As one of them said to me, "Any job that they give us engineers to do over here is likely to be small in comparison with the ones we've had to tackle in America." The man who said this had previously done his share in the building of the Panama Canal. There were others I met, men who had spanned rivers in Alaska, flung rails across the Rockies, built dams in the arid regions, performed engineering feats in China, Africa, Russia—in all parts of the world. They were trained to be undaunted by the hugeness of any task; they'd always beaten Nature in the long run. Their cheerful certainty that America in France was more than up to her job maintained a constant wave of enthusiasm.
It may be asked why it is necessary in an old-established country like France, to waste time in enlarging harbours before you can make effective war. The answer is simple: France has not enough ports of sufficient size to handle the tonnage that is necessary to support the Allied armies within her borders. America's greatest problem is tonnage. She has the men and the materials in prodigal quantities, but they are all three thousand miles away. Before the men can be brought over, she has to establish her means of transport and line of communications, so as to make certain that she can feed and clothe them when once she has got them into the front-line. There are two ways of economising on tonnage. One is to purchase in Europe. In this way, up to February, The Purchasing Board of the Americans had saved ninety days of transatlantic traffic. The other way is to have modern docks, well railroaded, so that vessels can be unloaded in the least possible space of time and sent back for other cargoes. Hence it has been sane economy on the part of America to put much of her early energy into construction rather than into fighting. Nevertheless, it has made her an easy butt for criticism both in the States and abroad, since the only proof to the newspaper-reader that America is at war is the amount of front-line that she is actually defending.
I had heard much of what was going on at a certain place which was to be the intermediate point in the American line of communications. I had studied a blue-print map and had been amazed at its proportions. I was told, and can well believe, that when completed it was to be the biggest undertaking of its kind in the world. It was to be six and a half miles long by about one mile broad. It was to have four and a half million feet of covered storage and ten million feet of open storage. It was to contain over two hundred miles of track in its railroad yard and to house enough of the materials of war to keep a million men fully equipped for thirty days. In addition to this it was to have a plant, not for the repairing, but merely for the assembling of aeroplanes, which would employ twenty thousand men.
I arrived there at night. There was no town. One stepped from the train into the open country. Far away in the distance there was a glimmering of fires and the scarlet of sparks shooting up between bare tree-tops. My first impression was of the fragrance of pines and, after that, as I approached the huts, of a memory more definite and elusively familiar. The swinging of lanterns helped to bring it back: I was remembering lumber-camps in the Rocky Mountains. The box-stove in the shack in which I slept that night and the roughly timbered walls served to heighten the illusion that I was in America. Next morning the illusion was completed. Here were men with mackinaws and green elk boots; here were cook-houses in which the only difference was that a soldier did the cooking instead of a Chinaman; and above all, here were fir and pines growing out of a golden soil, with a soft wind blowing overhead. And here, in an extraordinary way, the democracy of a lumber-camp had been reproduced: every one from the Colonel down was a worker; it was difficult, apart from their efficiency, to tell their rank.
Early in the morning I started out on a gasolene-speeder to make the tour. At an astonishing rate, for the work had only been in hand three months, the vast acreage was being tracked and covered with the sheds. The sheds were not the kind I had been used to on my own front; they were built out of anything that came handy, commenced with one sort of material and finished with another. Sometimes the cross-pieces in the roofs were still sweating, proving that it was only yesterday they had been cut down in the nearby wood. There was no look of permanence about anything. As the officer who conducted me said, "It's all run up—a race against time." And then he added with a twinkle in his eye, "But it's good enough to last four years."
This was America in France in every sense of the word. One felt the atmosphere of rush. In the buildings, which should have been left when materials failed, but which had been carried to completion by pioneer methods, one recognised the resourcefulness of the lumberman of the West. Then came a touch of Eastern America, to me almost more replete with memory and excitement. In a flash I was transferred from a camp in France to the rock-hewn highway of Fifth Avenue, running through groves of sky-scrapers, garnished with sunshine and echoing with tripping footsteps. I could smell the asphalt soaked with gasolene and the flowers worn by the passing girls. The whole movement and quickness of the life I had lost flooded back on me. The sound I heard was the fate motif of the frantic opera of American endeavour. The truly wonderful thing was that I should hear it here, in a woodland in France—the rapid tapping of a steel-riveter at work.
I learnt afterwards that I was not the only one to be carried away by that music, as of a monstrous wood-pecker in an iron forest. The first day the riveter was employed, the whole camp made excuses to come and listen to it. They stood round it in groups, deafened and thrilled—and a little homesick. What the bag-pipe is to the Scotchman, the steel-riveter is to the American—the instrument which best expresses his soul to a world which is different.
I found that the riveter was being employed in the erection of an immense steel and concrete refrigerating plant, which was to have machinery for the production of its own ice and sufficient meat-storage capacity to provide a million men for thirty days. The water for the ice was being obtained from wells which had been already sunk. There was only surface water there when the Americans first struck camp.
As another clear-cut example of what America is accomplishing in France, I will take an aviation-camp. This camp is one of several, yet it alone will be turning out from 350 to 400 airmen a month. The area which it covers runs into miles. The Americans have their own ideas of aerial fighting tactics, which they will teach here on an intensive course and try out on the Hun from time to time. Some of their experts have had the advantage of familiarising themselves with Hun aerial equipment and strategy; they were on his side of the line at the start of the war as neutral military observers. I liked the officer at the head of this camp; I was particularly pleased with some of his phrases. He was one of the first experts to fly with a Liberty engine. Without giving any details away, he assured me impressively that it was "an honest-to-God engine" and that his planes were equipped with "an honest-to-God machine-gun," and that he looked forward with cheery anticipation to the first encounter his chaps would have with "the festive Hun." He was one of the few Americans I had met who spoke with something of our scornful affection for the enemy. It indicated to me his absolute certainty that he could beat him at the flying game. On his lips the Hun was never the German or the Boche, but always "the festive Hun." You can afford to speak kindly, almost pityingly of some one you are going to vanquish. Hatred often indicates fear. Jocularity is a victorious sign.
When I was in America last October a great effort was being made to produce an overwhelming quantity of aeroplanes. Factories, both large and small, in every State were specializing on manufacturing certain parts, the idea being that so time would be saved and efficiency gained. These separate parts were to be collected and assembled at various big government plants. The aim was to turn out planes as rapidly as Ford Cars and to swamp the Hun with numbers. America is unusually rich in the human as well as the mechanical material for crushing the enemy in the air. In this service, as in all the others, the only difficulty that prevents her from making her fighting strength immediately felt is the difficulty of transportation. The road of ships across the Atlantic has to be widened; the road of steel from the French ports to the Front has to be tracked and multiplied in its carrying capacity. These difficulties on land and water are being rapidly overcome: by adding to the means of transportation; by increasing the efficiency of the transport facilities already existing; by lightening the tonnage to be shipped from the States by buying everything that is procurable in Europe. In the early months much of the available Atlantic tonnage was occupied with carrying the materials of construction: rails, engines, concrete, lumber, and all the thousand and one things that go to the housing of armies. This accounts for America's delay in starting fighting. For three years Europe had been ransacked; very much of what America would require had to be brought. Such work does not make a dramatic impression on other nations, especially when they are impatient. Its value as a contribution towards defeating the Hun is all in the future. Only victories win applause in these days. Nevertheless, such work had to be done. To do it thoroughly, on a sufficiently large scale, in the face of the certain criticism which the delay for thoroughness would occasion, demanded bravery and patriotism on the part of those in charge of affairs. By the time this book is published their high-mindedness will have begun to be appreciated, for the results of it will have begun to tell. The results will tell increasingly as the war progresses. America is determined to have no Crimea scandals. The contentment and good condition of her troops in France will be largely owing to the organisation and care with which her line of communications has been constructed.
The purely business side of war is very dimly comprehended either by the civilian or the combatant. The combatant, since he does whatever dying is to be done, naturally looks down on the business man in khaki. The civilian is inclined to think of war in terms of the mobile warfare of other days, when armies were rarely more than some odd thousands strong and were usually no more than expeditionary forces. Such armies by reason of their rapid movements and the comparative fewness of their numbers, were able to live on the countries through which they marched. But our fighting forces of to-day are the manhood of nations. The fronts which they occupy can scarcely boast a blade of grass. The towns which lie behind them have been picked clean to the very marrow. France herself, into which a military population of many millions has been poured, was never at the best of times entirely self-supporting. Whatever surplus of commodities the Allies possessed, they had already shared long before the spring of 1917. When America landed into the war, she found herself in the position of one who arrives at an overcrowded inn late at night. Whatever of food or accommodation the inn could afford had been already apportioned; consequently, before America could put her first million men into the trenches, she had to graft on to France a piece of the living tissue of her own industrial system—whole cities of repair-shops, hospitals, dwellings, store-houses, ice-plants, etc., together with the purely business personnel that go with them. These cities, though initially planned to maintain and furnish a minimum number of fighting men, had to be capable of expansion so that they could ultimately support millions.
Here are some facts and statistics which illustrate the big business of war as Americans have undertaken it. They have had to erect cold storage-plants, with mechanical means for ice-manufacture, of sufficient capacity to hold twenty-five million pounds of beef always in readiness.
They are at present constructing two salvage depots which, when completed, will be the largest in the world. Here they will repair and make fit for service again, shoes, harness, clothing, webbing, tentage, rubber-boots, etc. Attached to these buildings there are to be immense laundries which will undertake the washing for all the American forces. In connection with the depots, there will be a Salvage Corps, whose work is largely at the Front. The materials which they collect will be sent back to the depots for sorting. Under the American system every soldier, on coming out of the trenches, will receive a complete new outfit, from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. "This," the General who informed me said tersely, "is our way of solving the lice-problem."
The Motor Transport also has its salvage depot. Knock-down buildings and machinery have been brought over from the States, and upwards of 4,000 trained mechanics for a start. This depot is also responsible for the repairs of all horse-drawn transport, except the artillery. The Quartermaster General's Department alone will have 35,000 motor propelled vehicles and a personnel of 160,000 men.
Every effort is being made to employ labour-saving devices to the fullest extent. The Supply Department expects to cut down its personnel by two-thirds through the efficient use of machinery and derricks. The order compelling all packages to be standardized in different graded sizes, so that they can be forwarded directly to the Front before being broken, has already done much to expedite transportation. The dimensions of the luggage of a modern army can be dimly realized when it is stated that the American armies will initially require twenty-four million square feet of covered and forty-one million of unroofed storage—not to mention the barrack space.
Within the next few months they will require bakeries capable of feeding one million and a quarter men. These bakeries are divided into: the field bakeries, which are portable, and the mechanical bakeries which are stationary and on the line of communications. One of the latter had just been acquired and was described to me when I was in the American area. It was planned throughout with a view to labour-saving. It was so constructed that it could take the flour off the cars and, with practically no handling, convert it into bread at the rate of 750,000 lbs. a day. This struck me as a peculiarly American contribution to big business methods; but on expressing this opinion I was immediately corrected. This form of bakery was a British invention, which has been in use for some time on our lines. The Americans owed their possession of the bakery to the courtesy of the British Government, who had postponed their own order and allowed the Americans to fill theirs four months ahead of their contract.
This is a sample of the kind of discovery that I was perpetually making. Two out of three times when I thought I had run across a characteristically American expression of efficiency, I was told that it had been copied from the British. I learnt more about my own army's business efficiency in studying it secondhand with the Americans, than I had ever guessed existed in all the time that I had been an inhabitant of the British Front. It is characteristic of us as a people that we like to pretend that we muddle our way into success. We advertise our mistakes and camouflage our virtues. We are almost ashamed of gaining credit for anything that we have done well. There is a fine dishonesty about this self-belittlement; but it is not always wise. During these first few months of their being at war the Americans have discovered England in almost as novel a sense as Columbus did America. It was a joy to be with them and to watch their surprise. The odd thing was that they had had to go to France to find us out. Here they were, the picked business men of the world's greatest industrial nation, frankly and admiringly hats off to British "muddle-headed" methods. Not only were they hats off to the methods, many of which they were copying, but they were also hats off to the generous helpfulness of our Government and Military authorities in the matter of advice, co-operation and supplies. From the private in the ranks, who had been trained by British N.C.O.'s and Officers, to the Generals at the head of departments, there was only one feeling expressed for Great Britain—that of a new sincerity of friendship and admiration. "John Bull and his brother Jonathan" had become more than an empty phrase; it expressed a true and living relation.
A similar spirit of appreciation had grown up towards the French—not the emotional, histrionic, Lafayette appreciation with which the American troops sailed from America, but an appreciation based on sympathy and a knowledge of deeds and character. I think this spirit was best illustrated at Christmas when all over France, wherever American troops were billeted, the rank and file put their hands deep into their pockets to give the refugee children of their district the first real Christmas they had had since their country was invaded. Officers were selected to go to Paris to do the purchasing of the presents, and I know of at least one case in which the men's gift was so generous that there was enough money left over to provide for the children throughout the coming year.
In France one hears none of that patronising criticism which used to exist in America with regard to the older nations—none of those arrogant assertions that "because we are younger we can do things better." The bias of the American in France is all the other way; he is near enough to the Judgment Day, which he is shortly to experience, to be reverent in the presence of those who have stood its test. He is in France to learn as well as to contribute. Between himself and his brother soldiers of the British and French armies, there exists an entirely manly and reciprocal respect. And it is reciprocal; both the individual British and French fighting-man, now that they have seen the American soldier, are clamorous to have him adjacent to their line. The American has scarcely been blooded at this moment, and yet, having seen him, they are both certain that he's not the pal to let them down.
The confidence that the American soldier has created among his soldier-Allies was best expressed to me by a British officer: "The British, French and Americans are the three great promise-keeping nations. For the first time in history we're standing together. We're promise-keepers banded together against the falsehood of Germany—that's why. It isn't likely that we shall start to tell lies to one another."
THE WAR OF COMPASSION
Officially America declared war on Germany in the spring of 1917; actually she committed her heart to the allied cause in September, 1914, when the first shipment of the supplies of mercy arrived in Paris from the American Red Cross.
There are two ways of waging war: you can fight with artillery and armed men; you can fight with ambulances and bandages. There's the war of destruction and the war of compassion. The one defeats the enemy directly with force; the other defeats him indirectly by maintaining the morale of the men who are fighting and, what is equally important, of the civilians behind the lines. Belgium would not be the utterly defiant and unconquered nation that she is to-day, had it not been for the mercy of Hoover and his disciples. Their voluntary presence made the captured Belgian feel that he was earning the thanks of all time—that the eyes of the world were upon him. They were neutrals, but their mere presence condemned the cause that had brought them there. Their compassion waged war against the Hun. The same is true of the American Ambulance Units which followed the French Armies into the fiercest of the carnage. They confirmed the poilu in his burning sense of injustice. That they, who could have absented themselves, should choose the damnation of destruction and dare the danger, convinced the entire French nation of its own righteousness. And it was true of the girls at the American hospitals who nursed the broken bodies which their brothers had rescued. It was true of Miss Holt's Lighthouse for the training of blinded soldiers, which she established in Paris within eight months of war's commencement. It was true of the American Relief Clearing House in Paris which, up to January, 1917, had received 291 shipments and had distributed eight million francs. By the time America put on armour, the American Red Cross, as the army's expert in the strategy of compassion, found that it had to take over more than eighty-six separate organisations which had been operating in France for the best part of two years.
One cannot show pity with indignant hands and keep the mind neutral. The Galilean test holds true, "He who is not for me is against me." You cannot leave houses, lands, children, wife—everything that counts—for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake without developing a rudimentary aversion for the devil. All of which goes to prove that America's heart was fighting for the Allies long before her ambassador requested his passports from the Kaiser.
The American Red Cross Commission landed in France on the 12th of June, 1917, seven days ahead of the Expeditionary Force. It had taken less than five days to organise. Its first act was to convey a monetary gift to the French hospitals. The first actual American Red Cross contribution was made in April to the Number Five British Base Hospital. The first American soldiers in France were doctors and nurses. The first American fighting done in France was done with the weapons of pity. The chief function of the American Red Cross up to the present has been to "carry on" and to bridge the gap of unavoidable delays while the army is preparing.
To prove that this "war of compassion" is no idle phrase, let me illustrate with one dramatic instance. When the Italian line broke under the pressure of Hun artillery and propaganda, the American Red Cross sent representatives forward to inaugurate relief work for the 700,000 refugees, who were pouring southward from the Friuti and Veneto, homeless, hungry, possessing nothing but misfortune, spreading despair and panic every step of the journey. Their bodies must be cared for—that was evident; it would be easy for them to carry disease throughout Italy. But the disease of their minds was an even greater danger; if their demoralisation were not checked, it would inevitably prove contagious.
The first two representatives of the American Red Cross arrived in Rome on November 5th, with a quarter of a million dollars at their disposal. That night they had a soup-kitchen going and fed 400 people. Their first day's work is the record of an amazing spurt of energy. In that first day they sent money for relief to every American Consul in the districts affected. They mobilised the American colony in Rome and arranged by wire for similar organisations to be formed throughout the length and breadth of Italy, wherever they could lay hands on an American. On all principal junction points through which the refugees would pass, soup-kitchens were installed and clothes were purchased and ready to be distributed as the trains pulled into the stations. They were badly needed, for the passengers had endured all the rigours of the retreat with the soldiers. They had been under shell and machine-gun fire. They had been bombed by aeroplanes. No horror of warfare had been spared them. Their clothes were verminous with weeks of wearing. They were packed like cattle. Babies born on the journey were wrapped in newspapers. There were instances of officers taking off their shirts that the little bodies should not go naked. A telegram was at once despatched to Paris for food and clothes and hospital supplies. Twenty-four cars came through within a week, despite the unusual military traffic. This ends the list of what was accomplished by two men in one day.
The great thing was to make the demoralised Italians feel that America was on the spot and helping them. The sending of troops could not have reused their fighting spirit. They were sick of fighting. What they needed was the assurance that the world was not wholly brutal—that there was some one who was merciful, who did not condemn and who was moved by their sorrow. This assurance the prompt action of the American Red Cross gave. It restored in the affirmative with mercy, precisely the quality which Hun fury and propaganda had destroyed with lies. It restored to them their belief in the nobility of mankind, out of which belief grows all true courage.
As the work progressed, it branched out on a much larger scale, embracing civilian, military and child-welfare activities. In the month of November upward of half a million lire were placed in the hands of American consuls for distribution. One million lire were contributed for the benefit of soldiers' families. A permanent headquarters was established with trained business men and men who had had experience under Hoover in Belgium in charge of its departments. Over 100 hospitals and two principal magazines of hospital stores had been lost in the retreat. The American Red Cross made up this deficiency by supplying the bedding for no less than 3,000 beds. Five weeks after the first two representatives had reached Rome three complete ambulance sections, each section being made up of 20 ambulances, a staff car, a kitchen trailer and 33 men, were turned over to the Italian Medical Service of the third Army. By the first week in December the stream of refugees had practically stopped. Italy had been made to realise that she was not fighting alone; her morale had returned to her. This work, which had been initially undertaken from purely altruistic motives, had proved to possess a value of the highest military importance—an importance of the spirit utterly out of proportion to the money and labour expended. Magnanimity arouses magnanimity. In this case it revived the flame of Garibaldi which had all but died. It achieved a strategic victory of the soul which no amount of military assistance could have accomplished. The victory of the American Red Cross on the Italian Front is all the more significant since it was not until months later that Congress declared war on Austria.
The campaign which the American Red Cross is waging in every country in which it operates, is frankly an "out to win" campaign. To win the war is its one and only object. What the army does for the courage of the body, the Red Cross does for the courage of the mind. It builds up the hearts and hopes of people who in three and a half years have grown numb. It restores the human touch to their lives and, with it, the spiritual horizon. Its business, while the army is still preparing, is to bring home to the Allies in every possible way the fact that America, with her hundred and ten millions of population, is in the war with them, eager to play the game, anxious to sacrifice as they have sacrificed, to give her man-power and resources as they have done, until justice has been established for every man and nation.
It is necessary to lay stress on this programme since it differs greatly from the popular conception of the functions of the Red Cross in the battle area. It was on the field of Solferino in 1859, that Henri Dunant went out before the fury had spent itself to tend the wounded. It was here that he was fired with his great ambition to found a non-combatant service, which should recognise no enemies and be friends with every army. His ambition was realised when in 1864 the Conference at Geneva chose the Swiss flag, reversed, as its emblem—a red cross on a field of white—and laid the foundations for those international understandings which have since formed for all combatants, except the Hun in this present warfare, the protective law for the sick and wounded. The original purpose of the Red Cross still fills the imagination of the masses to the exclusion of all else that it is doing. Directly the term "Red Cross" is mentioned the picture that forms in most men's minds is of ambulances galloping through the thick of battle-smoke and of devoted stretcher-bearers who brave danger not to kill, but in order that they may save lives.
This war has changed all that. To-day the Red Cross has to minister to not the wounded of armies only, but to the wounded of nations. In a country like France, with trenches dug the entire length of her eastern frontier and vast territories from which the entire population has been evacuated, the wounds of her armies are small in comparison with the wounds, bodily and mental, of her civil population—wounds which are the outcome of over three years of privation. When the civil population of any country has lost its pluck, no matter how splendid the spirit of its soldiers, its armies become paralysed. The civilians can commence peace negotiations behind the backs of their men in the trenches. They can insist on peace by refusing to send them ammunition and supplies. As a matter of fact the morale of the soldiers varies directly with the morale of the civilians for whom they fight. Behind every soldier stand a woman and a group of children. Their safety is his inspiration. If they are neglected, his sacrifice is belittled. If they beg that he should lay down his arms, his determination is weakened. It is therefore a vital necessity, quite apart from the humanitarian aspect, that the wounds of the civilians of belligerent countries should be cared for. If the civilians are allowed to become disheartened and cowardly, the heroic ideal of their fighting-men is jeopardised. This fact has been recognised by the Red Cross Societies of all countries in the present war; a large part of their energies has been devoted to social and relief work of a civil nature. Even in their purely military departments, the comfort of the troops claims quite as much attention as their medical treatment and hospitalisation. As a matter of fact, the actual carrying of the wounded out of the trenches to the comparative safety of the dressing station is usually done by combatants. A man has to live continually under shell-fire to acquire the immunity to fear which passes for courage. The bravest man is likely to get "jumpy," if he only faces up to a bombardment occasionally. There are other reasons why combatants should do the stretcher-bearing which do not need elaborating. The combatants have an expert knowledge of their own particular frontage; they are "wise" to the barraged areas; they are "up front" and continually coming and going, so it is often an economy of man-power for them to attend to their own wounded in the initial stages; they are the nearest to a comrade when he falls and all carry the necessary first-aid dressings; the emblem of the Red Cross has proved to be only a slight protection, as the Hun is quite likely not to respect it. What I am driving at is that the Red Cross has had to adapt itself to the new conditions of modern warfare, so that very many of its most important present-day functions are totally different from what popular fancy imagines.
The American Red Cross has its French Headquarters in a famous gambling club in the Place de la Concorde. It is somewhat strange to pass through these rooms where rakes once flung away fortunes, and to find them industriously orderly with the conscience of an imported nation. By far the larger part of the staff are business men of the Wall Street type—not at all the kind who have been accustomed to sentimentalise over philanthropy. There is also a sprinkling of trained social workers, clergy, journalists, and university professors. The medical profession is represented by some of the leading specialists of the States, but at Headquarters they are distinctly in the minority. The purely medical work of the American Red Cross forms only a part of its total activities. The men at the head of affairs are bankers, merchants, presidents of corporations—men who have been trained to think in millions and to visualise broad areas. Girls are very much in evidence. They are usually volunteers, drawn from all classes, who offered their services to do anything that would help. To-day they are typists, secretaries, stenographers, nurses.
The organisation is divided into three main departments: the department of military affairs, of civil affairs and of administration. Under these departments come a variety of bureaus: the bureau of rehabilitation and reconstruction; of the care and prevention of tuberculosis; of needy children and infant mortality; of refugees and relief; of the re-education of the French mutiles; of supplies; of the rolling canteens for the French armies; of the U.S. Army Division; of the Military, Medical and Surgical Division, etc. They are too numerous to mention in detail. The best way I can convey the picture of immense accomplishment is to describe what I actually saw in the field of operations.
The first place I will take you to is Evian, because here you see the tragedy and need of France as embodied in individuals. Evian-les-Bains is on Lake Geneva, looking out across the water to Switzerland. It is the first point of call across the French frontier for the repatries returning from their German bondage. When the Boche first swept down on the northern provinces he pushed the French civilian population behind him. He has since kept them working for him as serfs, labouring in the captured coal-mines, digging his various lines of defences, setting up wire-entanglements, etc. Apart from the testimony of repatriated French civilians, I myself have seen messages addressed by Frenchmen to their wives, scrawled surreptitiously on the planks of Hun dug-outs in the hope that one day the dug-outs would be captured, and the messages passed on by a soldier of the Allies. After three and a half years of enforced labour, many of these captured civilians are worked out. To the Boche, with his ever-increasing food-shortage, they represent useless mouths. Instead of filling them he is driving their owners back, broken and useless, by way of Switzerland. To him human beings are merchandise to be sold upon the hoof like cattle. No spiritual values enter into the bargain. When the body is exhausted it is sent to the knacker's, as though it belonged to a worn-out horse. The entire attitude is materialistic and degrading. Evian-les-Bains, the once gay gambling resort of the cosmopolitan, has become the knacker's shop for French civilians exhausted by their German servitude. The Hun shoves them across the border at the rate of about 1,300 a day. From the start I have always felt that this war was a crusade; what I saw at Evian made me additionally certain. When I was in the trenches I never had any hatred of the Boche. Probably I shall lose my hatred in pity for him when I get to the Front again—but for the present I hate him. It's here in France that one sees what a vileness he has created in the children's and women's lives.
I took the night train down from Paris. Early in the morning I woke up to find myself in the gorges of the Alps, high peaks with romantic Italian-looking settings soaring on every side. At noon we reached Lake Geneva, lying slate-coloured and sombre beneath a wintry sky. That afternoon I saw the train of repatries arrive.
I was on the platform when the train pulled into the station. It might have been a funeral cortege, only there was a horrible difference: the corpses pretended to be alive. The American Ambulance men were there in force. They climbed into the carriages and commenced to help the infirm to alight. The exiles were all so stiff with travel that they could scarcely move at first. The windows of the train were grey with faces. Such faces! All of them old, even the little children's. The Boche makes a present to France of only such human wreckage as is unuseful for his purposes. He is an acute man of business. The convoy consisted of two classes of persons—the very ancient and the very juvenile. You can't set a man of eighty to dig trenches and you can't make a prostitute out of a girl-child of ten. The only boys were of the mal-nourished variety. Men, women and children—they all had the appearance of being half-witted.
They were terribly pathetic. As I watched them I tried to picture to myself what three and a half long years of captivity must have meant. How often they must have dreamt of the exaltation of this day—and now that it had arrived, they were not exalted. They had the look of people so spiritually benumbed that they would never know despair or exaltation again. They had a broken look; their shoulders were crushed and their skirts bedraggled. Many of them carried babies—pretty little beggars with flaxen hair. It wasn't difficult to guess their parentage.
As they were herded on the platform a low, strangled kind of moaning went up. I watched individual lips to see where the sound came from. I caught no movement. The noise was the sighing of tired animals. Every one had some treasured possession. Here was an old man with an alarm-clock; there an aged woman with an empty bird-cage. A boy carried half-a-dozen sauce-pans strung together. Another had a spare pair of patched boots under his arm. Quite a lot of them clutched a bundle of umbrellas. I found myself reflecting that these were the remnants of families who had been robbed of everything that they valued in the world. Whatever they had saved from the ruin ought to represent the possession which had claimed most of their affections, and yet—! What did an alarm-clock, an empty bird-cage, a pair of patched boots, a string of sauce-pans, a bundle of ragged umbrellas signify in any life? What utter poverty, if these were the best that they could save!
There was a band on the platform, consisting mainly of bugles and drums, to welcome them. The leader is reputed to be the laziest man in the French Army. It is said that they tried him at everything and then, in despair, sent him to Evian to drum forgotten happiness into the bones of repatries. Whatever his former military record, he now does his utmost to impersonate the defiant and impassioned soul of France. His moustaches are curled fiercely. His brows are heavy as thunderclouds. When he drums, the veins swell out in his neck with the violence of his energy.
Suddenly, with an ominous preliminary rumble, the band struck up the Marseillaise. You should have seen the change in this crowd of corpses. You must remember that these people had been so long accustomed to lies and snares that it would probably take days to persuade them that they were actually safe home in France.
As the battle-song for which they had suffered shook the air their lips rustled like leaves. There was hardly any sound—only a hoarse whisper. Then, all of a sudden, words came—an inarticulate, sobbing commotion. Tears blinded the eyes of every spectator, even those who had witnessed similar scenes often; we were crying because the singing was so little human.
"Vive la France! Vive la France!" They waved flags—not the tri-colour, but flags which had been given them in Switzerland. They clung together dazed, women with slatternly dresses, children with peaked faces, men unhappy and unshaven. A woman caught sight of my uniform. "Vive l'Angleterre," she cried, and they all came stumbling forward to embrace me. It was horrible. They creaked like automatons. They gestured and mouthed, but the soul had been crushed out of their eyes. You don't need any proofs of Hun atrocities; the proofs are to be seen at Evian. There are no severed hands, no crucified bodies; only hearts that have been mutilated. Sorrow is at its saddest when it cannot even contrive to appear dignified. There is no dignity about the repatries at Evian, with their absurd umbrellas, sauce-pans, patched-boots, alarm-clocks and bird-cages. They do not appeal to one as sacrificed patriots. There is no nobility in their vacant stare. They create a cold feeling of bodily decay—only it is the spirit that is dead and gangrenous.
There is a blasphemous story by Leonid Andreyev, which recounts the bitterness of the after years of Lazarus and the mischief Christ wrought in recalling him from the grave. After his unnatural return to life there was a blueness as of putrescence beneath his pallor; an iciness to his touch; a choking silence in his presence; a horror in his gaze, as if he were remembering his three days in the sepulchre—as if forbidden knowledge groped behind his eyes. He rarely looked at any one; there were none who courted his glance, who did not creep away to die. The terror of his fame spread beyond Bethany. Rome heard of him, and at that safe distance laughed. It did not laugh after Caesar Augustus had sent for him. Caesar Augustus was a god upon earth; he could not die. But when he had questioned Lazarus, peeped through the windows of his eyes, and read what lay hidden in that forbidden memory, he commanded that red-hot irons should quench such sight for ever. From Rome Lazarus groped his way back to Palestine and there, long years after his Saviour had been crucified, continued to stumble through his own particular Gethsemane of blindness. I thought of that story in the presence of this crowd, which carried with it the taint of the grave.
But the band was still playing the Marseillaise—over and over it played it. With each repetition it was as though these people, three years dead, made another effort to cast aside their shrouds. Little by little something was happening—something wonderful. Backs were straightening; skirts were being caught up; resolution was rippling from face to face—it passed and re-passed with each new roll of the drums. The hoarse cries and moaning with which we had commenced were gradually transforming themselves into singing.
There were some who were too weak to walk; these were carried by the American Red Cross men into the waiting ambulances. The remainder were marshalled into a disorderly procession and led out of the station by the band.
We were moving down the hill to the palaces beside the lake—the palaces to which all France used to troop for pleasure. We moved soddenly at first, shuffling in our steps. But the drums were still rolling out their defiance and the bugles were still blowing. The laziest man in the French Army was doing his utmost to belie his record. The ill-shod, flattened feet took up the music. They began to dance. Were there ever feet less suited to dancing? That they should dance was the acme of tragedy. Stockings fell down in creases about the ankles. Women commenced to jig their Boche babies in their arms; consumptive men and ancients waved their sauce-pans and grotesque bundles of umbrellas. The sight was damnable. It was a burlesque. It pierced the heart. What right had the Boche to leave these people so comic after he had squeezed the life-blood out of them?
All his insults to humanity became suddenly typified in these five hundred jumping tatterdemalions—the way in which he had plundered the world of its youth, its cleanness, its decency. I felt an anger which battlefields had never aroused, where men moulder above ground and become unsightly beneath the open sky. The slain of battlefields were at least motionless; they did not gape and grin at you with the dreadful humour of these perambulating dead. I felt the Galilean passion which animates every Red Cross worker at Evian: the agony to do something to make these murdered people live again. This last convoy came, I discovered, from a city behind the Boche lines against which last summer I had often directed fire. It was full in sight from my observing station. I had watched the very houses in which these people, who now walked beside me, had sheltered. For three and a half years these women's bodies had been at the Hun's mercy. I tried to bring the truth home to myself. Their men and young girls had been left behind. They themselves had been flung back on overburdened France only because they were no longer serviceable. They were returning actually penniless, though seemingly with money. The thrifty German makes a practice of seizing all the good redeemable French money of the repatries before he lets them escape him, giving them in exchange worthless paper stuff of his own manufacture, which has no security behind it and is therefore not negotiable.
We came to the Casino, where endless formalities were necessary. First of all in the big hall, formerly devoted to gambling, the repatries were fed at long tables. As I passed, odd groups seeing my uniform, hurriedly dropped whatever they were doing and, removing their caps, stood humbly at attention. There was fear in their promptness. Where they came from an officer exacted respect with the flat of his sword. What a dumb, helpless jumble of humanity! It was as though the occupants of a morgue had become galvanised and had temporarily risen from their slabs.
The band had been augmented by trumpets. It took its place in the gallery and deluged the hall with patriotic fervour. An old man climbed on a table and yelled, "Vive La France!" But they had grown tired of shouting; they soon grew tired. The cry was taken up faintly and soon exhausted itself. Nothing held their attention for long. Most of them sat hunched up and inert, weakly crying. They were not beautiful. They were not like our men who die in battle. They were animated memories of horror. "What lies before us? What lies before us?" That was the question that their silence asked perpetually. Some of them had husbands with the French army; others had sweethearts. What would those men say to the flaxen-haired babies who nestled against the women's breasts? And the sin was not theirs—they were such tired, pretty mites. "What lies before us?" The babies, too, might well have asked that question. Do you wonder that I at last began to share the Frenchman's hatred for the Boche?
An extraordinary person in a white tie, top hat and evening dress entered. He looked like a cross between Mr. Gerard's description of himself in Berlin and a head-waiter. He evidently expected his advent to cause a profound sensation. I found out why: he was the official welcomer to Evian. Twice a day, for an infinity of days, he had entered in solemn fashion, faced the same tragic assembly, made the same fiery oration, gained applause at the climax of the same rounded periods and allowed his voice to break in the same rightly timed places. Having kept his audience in sufficient suspense as regards his mission, he unwrapped the muffler from his neck, removed his coat, felt his throat to see whether it was in good condition, swelled out his chest, including his waist-coat which was spanned by the broad ribbon of his office, then let loose the painter of his emotion and slipped off into the mid-stream of perfunctory eloquence. With all his disrobing he had retained his top-hat; he held it in his right hand with the brim pressed against his thigh, very much in the manner of a showman at a circus. It contributed largely to the opulence of his gestures.
He always seemed to have concluded and was always starting up afresh, as if in reluctant response to spectral clapping. He called upon the repatries never to forget the crimes that had been wrought against them—to spread abroad the fire of their indignation, the story of their ravished womanhood and broken families all over France. They watched him leaden-eyed and wept softly. To forget, to forget, that was all that they wanted—to blot out all the past. This man with the top-hat and the evening-dress, he hadn't suffered—how could he understand? They didn't want to remember; with those flaxen-haired children against their breasts the one boon they craved was forgetfulness. And so they cowered and wept softly. It was intolerable.
And now the formalities commenced. They all had to be medically examined. Questions of every description were asked them. They were drifted from bureau to bureau where people sat filling up official blanks. The Americans see to the children. They come from living in cellars, from conditions which are insanitary, from cities in the army zones where they were underfed. The fear is that they may spread contagion all over France. When infectious cases are found the remnants of families have to be broken up afresh. The mothers collapse on benches sobbing their hearts out as their children are led away. For three and a half years everything they have loved has been led away—how can they believe that these Americans mean only mercy?
From three to four hours are spent in completing all these necessary investigations. Before the repatries are conducted to their billets, all their clothes have to be disinfected and every one has to be bathed. The poor people are utterly worn out by the end of it—they have already done a continuous four days' journey in cramped trains. Before being sent to France they have been living for from two to three weeks in Belgium. The Hun always sends the repatries to Belgium for a few weeks before returning them. The reason for this is that they for the most part come from the army zones, and a few weeks will make any information they possess out of date. Another reason is that food is more plentiful in Belgium, thanks to the Allies' Relief Commission. These people have been kept alive on sugar-beets for the past few months, so it is as well to feed them at the Allies' expense for a little while, in order that they may create a better impression when they return to France. The American doctors pointed out to me the pulpy flesh of the children and the distended stomachs which, to the unpractised eye, seemed a sign of over-nourishment. "Wind and water," they said; "that's all these children are. They've no stamina. Sugar-beets are the most economic means of just keeping the body and the soul together."
The lights are going out in the Casino. It is the hour when, in the old days, life would be becoming most feverish about the gaming tables. In little forlorn groups the repatries are being conducted to their temporary quarters in the town. To-morrow morning before it is light, another train-load will arrive, the band will again play the Marseillaise, the American Red Cross workers will again be in attendance, the gentleman in the top-hat and white-tie will again make his fiery oration of welcome, his audience will again pay no attention but will weep softly—the tediously heart-rending scene will be rehearsed throughout in every detail by an entirely new batch of actors. Twice a day, summer and winter, the same tragedy is enacted at Evian. It is a continuous, never-ending performance.
Poor people! These whom I have seen, if they have no friends to claim them, will re-start their journey to some strange department on which they will be billeted as paupers. Here again the American Red Cross is doing good work, for it sends one of its representatives ahead to see that proper preparations have been made for their reception. After they have reached their destination, it looks them up from time to time to make sure that they are being well cared for.
If one wants to picture the case of the repatrie in its true misery, all he needs to do is to convert it into terms of his own mother or grandmother. She has lived all her life in the neighbourhood of Vimy, let us say. She was married there and it was there that she bore all her children. She and her husband have saved money; they are substantial people now and need not fear the future. Their sons are gaining their own living; one daughter is married, the others are arriving at the marriageable age. One day the Hun sweeps down on them. The sons escape to join the French army; the girls and their parents stay behind to guard their property. They are immediately evacuated from Vimy and sent to some city, such as Drocourt, further behind the Hun front-line. Here they are gradually robbed of all their possessions. At the beginning all their gold is confiscated; later even the mattresses upon their beds are requisitioned. For three and a half years they are subjected to both big and petty tyrannies, till their spirits are so broken that fear becomes their predominant emotion. The father is led away to work in the mines. One by one the daughters are commandeered and sent off into the heart of Germany, where it will be no one's business to guard their virtue. At last the mother is left with only her youngest child. Of her sons who are fighting with the French armies she has no knowledge, whether they are living or dead. Then one day it is decided by her captors that they have no further use for her. They part her from her last remaining child and pack her off by way of Belgium and Switzerland back to her own country. She arrives at Evian penniless and half-witted with the terror of her sorrow. There is no one to claim her; the part of France that knew her is all behind the German lines. A label is tied to her, as if she was a piece of baggage, and she is shipped off to Avignon, let us say. She has never been in the South before; it is a foreign country to her. Poverty and adversity have broken her pride; she has nothing left that will command respect. There is nothing left in life to which she can fasten her affections. Such utter forlornness is never a welcome sight. Is it to be wondered at that the strangers to whom she is sent are not always glad to see her? Is it to be wondered at that, after her repatriation, she often wilts and dies? Her sorrow has the appearance of degradation. Wherever she goes, she is a threat and a peril to the fighting morale of the civilian population. Yet in her pre-war kindliness and security she might have been your mother or mine.
The American Red Cross, by maintaining contact with such people, is keeping them reminded that they are not utterly deserted—that the whole of civilised humanity cares tremendously what becomes of them and is anxious to lighten the load of their sacrifice.
* * * * *
I have before me a pile of sworn depositions, made by exiles returned from the invaded territories. They are separately numbered and dated; each bears the name of the region or town from which the repatrie came. Here are a few extracts which, when pieced together, form a picture of the life of captured French civilians behind the German lines. I have carefully avoided glaring atrocities. Atrocities are as a rule isolated instances, due to isolated causes. They occur, but they are not typical of the situation. The real Hun atrocity is the attitude towards life which calls chivalry sentiment, fair-play a waste of opportunity and ruthlessness strength. This attitude is all summed up in the one word Prussianism. The repatries have been Prussianised out of their wholesome joy and belief in life; it is this that makes them the walking accusations that they are to-day. In the following depositions they give some glimpses of the calculated processes by which their happiness has been murdered.
* * * * *
"Lately copper, tin, and zinc have been removed in the factories and amongst the traders, and quite recently in private houses. For all these requisitions the Germans gave Requisition Bonds, but private individuals who received them never got paid the money. To force men to work 'voluntarily' and sign contracts the Germans employed the following means: the Germans gave these men nothing to eat, but authorised their families to send them parcels; these parcels once in the hands of the Germans are shown to these unhappy men and are not handed over until they have signed. About a week ago young boys from the age of fourteen who had come back from the Ardennes had to present themselves at the Kdr to be registered anew; a number of the young people work in the sawmills, etc.; some have died of privation and fatigue."
* * * * *
"A week after Easter this year the population of LILLE was warned by poster that all must be ready to leave the town. At three o'clock in the morning private houses were invaded by the German soldiers; they sorted out women and girls who were to be deported. There then took place scandalous scenes: young girls belonging to the most worthy families in the town had to pass medical visits even with the speculum and had to endure most atrocious physical and moral suffering. These young girls were segregated like beasts anywhere in the rooms of the town halls and schoolhouses, and were mingled with the dregs of the population."
* * * * *
"For a certain time the Germans did not requisition milk and allowed it to be sold, but now this is forbidden under a fine of 1,000 marks or three months' imprisonment. Recently WIGNEHIES was fined 100,000 frcs., and as the whole of this sum was not paid the Germans inflicted punishment as follows: Several inhabitants of WIGNEHIES were caught in the act of disobeying by the gendarmes and were struck, and bitten by the police dogs of the gendarmes because they refused to denounce the sellers.... Brutal treatment is due more to the gendarmes than to the soldiers. About six weeks ago Marceau Horlet of WIGNEHIES was found, on a search by the gendarmes, to have a piece of meat in his possession. He was brutally beaten by them and bitten by the police dogs because he refused to say who had given it to him. In 1915, the youth Remy Vallei of WIGNEHIES, age 15, was walking in the street after 6-9 p.m., which was forbidden; he was seen by two gendarmes and ran away. He was straightway killed, receiving six revolver bullets in his body."
* * * * *
"At PIGNICOURT during the CHAMPAGNE offensive the village was bombarded by the French, who were attempting to destroy the railway lines and bridges. The Commandant, by name Krama, of the Kdr, forced men and youths, and even women, to fill up the holes made by the bombardment during the action. A German general passed and reprimanded them on the ground that there was danger to the civilians; they were withdrawn for the moment, but sent back as soon as the general had left."
* * * * *
"As regards the Hispano-American revictualling, it may be said with truth that without this the population of Northern France would have died of hunger, for the Germans considered themselves liberated from any responsibility. During the first months of the war before this Committee started, the Germans put up posters saying that the Allies were trying to starve Germany, who in turn was not obliged to feed the invaded territory.... When informant (who is from ST. QUENTIN) left at the general evacuation of this town, no requisition bonds were given for household goods. As the inhabitants left, their furniture was loaded on to motor lorries and taken to the station, whence it was sent by special train to Germany. This shows clearly that requisition bonds issued by the Germans show only the small proportion of what has been suffered by the inhabitants.... Informant was the witness of the execution of French civilians whose only fault was either to hide arms or pigeons: several who had committed these infractions of requisitions were shot, and the Germans announced the fact by poster of a blood-red colour. In other cases the men shot were British prisoners who had dressed in civil clothes on the arrival of the Germans. Informant had a long conversation with one of them before his execution. He told informant how he had been unable to leave ST. QUENTIN, viz., by the 28th August. Some passers-by offered to hide him. It appears that, through his ignorance of the French language, he was unaware that the Germans threatened execution to all men found after a certain date. He was discovered and condemned to death for espionage. It is obvious, as the man himself said, that one could not imagine a man acting as a spy without knowing either the language of the country or that of the enemy."
* * * * *
"Before the evacuation of the population the Germans chose those who were to remain as civilian workers, viz., 120 men from 15 to 60. On the very day of the evacuation they kept back at the station 27 others. These men are now at CANTIN or SOMAIN, where they are employed on the roads or looking after munitions in the Arras group. The others at DECHY and GUESNIN are in the VIMY group and are making pill-boxes or railway lines. A certain number of these workers refused to carry out the work ordered, and as punishment during the summer were tied to chairs and exposed bareheaded to the full blaze of the sun. They were often threatened to be shot."
* * * * *
"After the bombardment of LILLE the Germans entered ENNETIERES on the 12th October, 1914. On the next Monday 200 Uhlans occupied the Commune, and houses and haystacks were burned.... At LOMME every one was forced to work: the Saxon Kdnt. Schoper announced that all women who did not obey within 24 hours would be interned: all the women obeyed. They were employed in the making of osier-revetement two metres high for the trenches. The men were forced to put up barbed wire near Fort Denglas, two kltrs. from the front. A few days after the evacuation of ENNETIERES the Uhlans shot a youth, Jean Leclercq, age 17, son of the gardener of Count D'Hespel, simply because they had found a telephone wire in the courtyard of the chateau."
* * * * *
"Informant, who has lost his right arm, was nevertheless forced to work for the Germans, notably to unload coal and to work on the roads. He had with him males from 13 to 60. Having objected because of his lost arm, he was threatened with imprisonment. At LOMME squads of workers were given the work of putting up barbed wire; women were forced to make sand bags. In cases of refusal on either side the Kdr. inflicted four or five weeks' imprisonment, to say nothing of blows with sticks inflicted by the soldiers. In spring 1917 a number of men were sent from LOMME to the BEAUVIN-PROVINS region to work on defences.... Those who refused to sign were threatened and struck with the butts of rifles, and left in cellars sometimes filled with water during bombardments. Several of them came back seriously ill from privation."
* * * * *
"Young girls are separated from their mothers; there are levies made at every moment. Sometimes these young girls have barely a few hours before the moment of departure.... Several young girls have written to say that they are very unhappy and that they sleep in camps amongst girls of low class and condition."
* * * * *
"For a long time past women have been forced to work as road labourers. These work in the quarries and transport wood cut down by the men in the mountain forest. A number of women and young girls have been removed from their families and sent in the direction of RHEIMS and RETHEL, where it is said (although this cannot be confirmed) that they are employed in aerodromes."
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These extracts should serve to explain the mental and physical depression of the returning exiles. They have been bullied out of the desire to live and out of all possession of either their bodies or their souls. They have been treated like cattle, and as cattle they have come to regard themselves. Lazaruses—that's what they are! The unmerciful Boche, having killed and buried them, drags them out from the tomb and compels them to go through the antics of life. Le Gallienne's poem comes to my mind:
"Loud mockers in the angry street Say Christ is crucified again— Twice pierced those gospel-bearing feet, Twice broken that great heart in vain...."
That is all true at Evian. But when I see the American men and girls, leaning over the Boche babies in their cots and living their hearts into the hands and feet of the spiritually maimed, the last two lines of the poem become true for me:
"I hear, and to myself I say, 'Why, Christ walks with me every day.'"
The work of the American Red Cross at Evian is largely devoted to children. It provides all the ambulance transportation for the repatries, to and from the station. American doctors and nurses do all the examining of the children at the Casino. On an average, four hundred pass through their hands daily. The throat, nose, teeth, glands and skin of each child are inspected. If the child is suspected or attacked by any disease, it is immediately segregated and sent to the American hospital. If the infection is only local or necessitates further examination, the child and its family are summoned to present themselves at the American dispensary next day. Every precaution is employed to prevent the spread of infection—particularly the infection of tuberculosis. Evian is the gateway from Germany through which disease and death may be carried to the furthest limits of France. Very few of the repatries are really healthy. It would be a wonder if they were after the privations through which they have passed. All of them are weakened in vitality and broken down in stamina. Many of them have no homes to go to and have to be sent to departments of the interior and the south. If they were sent in an unhealthy condition, it would mean the spread of epidemics.
The Red Cross has a large children's hospital at Evian in the villas and buildings of the Hotel Chatelet. This hospital deals with the contagious cases. It has others, especially one at the Chateau des Halles, thirty kilometers from Lyons, which take the devitalised, convalescent and tubercular cases. The Chateau des Halles is a splendidly built modern building, arranged in an ideal way for hospital use. It stands at the head of a valley, with an all day sun exposure and large grounds. Close to the Chateau are a number of small villages in which it is possible to lodge the repatries in families. This is an important part of the repatrie's problem, as after their many partings they fight fiercely against any further separations. One of the chief reasons for having the Convalescent Hospital out in the country is that families can be quartered in the villages and so kept together.
The pathetic hunger of these people for one another after they have been so long divided, was illustrated for me on my return journey to Paris. A man of the tradesman class had been to Evian to meet his wife and his boy of about eleven. They were among the lucky ones, for they had a home to go to. He was not prepossessing in appearance. He had a weak face, lined with anxiety, broken teeth and limp hair. His wife, as so often happens in French marriages, had evidently been the manageress. She was unbeautiful in rusty black; her clothes were the ill-assorted make-shifts of the civilian who escapes from Germany. Her eyes were shifty with the habit of fear and sunken with the weariness of crying. The boy was a bright little fellow, full of defiance and anecdotes of his recent captors.
When I entered the carriage, they were sitting huddled together—the man in the middle, with an arm about either of them. He kept pressing them to him, kissing them by turn in a spasmodic unrestrained fashion, as if he still feared that he might lose them and could not convince himself of the happy truth that they were once again together. The woman did not respond to his embraces; she seemed indifferent to him, indifferent to life, indifferent to any prospects. The boy seemed fond of his father, but embarrassed by his starved demonstrativeness.
I listened to their conversation. The man's talk was all of the future—what splendid things he would do for them. How, as long as they lived, he would never waste a moment from their sides. It appeared that he had been at Tours, on a business trip when the war broke out, and could not get back to Lille before the Germans arrived there. For three and a half years he had lived in suspense, while everything he loved had lain behind the German lines. The woman contributed no suggestions to his brilliant plans. She clung to him, but she tried to divert his affection. When she spoke it was of small domestic abuses: the exorbitant prices she had had to pay for food; the way in which the soldiery had stolen her pots and pans; the insolence she had experienced when she had lodged complaints against the men before their officers. And the boy—he wanted to be a poilu. He kept inventing revenges he would take in battle, if the war lasted long enough for his class to be called out. As darkness fell they ceased talking. I began to realise that in three and a half years they had lost contact. They were saying over and over the things that had been said already; they were trying to prevent themselves from acknowledging that they had grown different and separate. The only bond which held them as a family was their common loneliness and fear that, if they did not hold together, their intolerable loneliness would return. When the light was hooded, the boy sank his hand against his father's shoulder; the woman nestled herself in the fold of his arm, with her head turned away from him, that he might not kiss her so often. The man sat upright, his eyes wide open, watching them sleeping with a kind of impotent despair. They were together; and yet they were not together. He had recovered them; nevertheless, he had not recovered them. Those Boches, the devils, they had kept something; they had only sent their bodies back. All night long, whenever I woke up as the train halted, the little man was still guarding them jealously as a dog guards a bone, and staring morosely at the blank wall of the future.
These were among the lucky ones; the boy and woman had had a man to meet them. Somewhere in France there was protection awaiting them and the shelter of a house that was not charity. And yet ... all night while they slept the man sat awake, facing up to facts. These were among the lucky ones! That is Evian; that is the tragedy and need of France as you see it embodied in individuals.
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The total number of repatries and refugies now in France is said to total a million and a half. The repatries are the French civilians who were captured by the Germans in their advance and have since been sent back. The refugies are the French civilians from the devastated areas, who have always remained on the Allies' side of the line. The refugies are divided into two classes: refugies proper—that is fugitives from the front, who fled for the most part at the time of the German invasion; and evacues—those who were sent out of the war zone by the military authorities. Naturally a large percentage of this million and a half have lost everything and, irrespective of their former worldly position, now live with the narrowest margin between themselves and starvation. The French Government has treated them with generosity, but in the midst of a war it has had little time to devote to educating them into being self-supporting. A great number of funds have been privately raised for them in France; many separate organisations for their relief have been started. The American Red Cross is making this million and a half people its special care, and to do so is co-operating directly with the French Government and with existing French civilian projects. Its action is dictated by mercy and admiration, but in results this policy is the most far-seeing statesmanship. A million and a half plundered people, if neglected and allowed to remain downhearted, are likely to constitute a danger to the morale of the bravest nation. Again, from the point of view of after-war relations, to have been generous towards those who have suffered is to have won the heart of France. The caring for the French repatriates and refugees is a definite contribution to the winning of the war.
The French system of handling this human stream of tragedy is to send the sick to local hospitals and the exhausted to the maison de repos. The comparatively healthy are allowed to be claimed by friends; the utterly homeless are sent to some prefecture remote from the front-line. The prefects in turn distribute them among towns and villages, lodging them in old barracks, casinos and any buildings which war-conditions have made vacant. The adults are allowed by the Government a franc and a half per day, and the children seventy-five centimes.
The armies have drained France of her doctors since the war; until the Americans came, the available medical attention was wholly inadequate to the civilian population. The American Red Cross is now establishing dispensaries through the length and breadth of France. In country districts, inaccessible to towns, it is inaugurating automobile-dispensaries which make their rounds on fixed and advertised days. In addition to this it has started a child-welfare movement, the aim of which is to build up the birth-rate and lower the infant mortality by spreading the right kind of knowledge among the women and girls.
The condition of the refugees and repatriates, thrust into communities to which they came as paupers and crowded into buildings which were never planned for domestic purposes, has been far from enviable. In September, 1917, the American Red Cross handed over the solving of this problem to one of its experts who had organised the aid given to San Francisco after the earthquake, and who had also had charge of the relief-work necessitated by the Ohio floods at Dayton. Co-operating with the French, houses partially constructed at the outbreak of war were now completed and furnished, and approximately three thousand families were supplied with homes and privacy. The start made proved satisfactory. Supplies, running into millions of francs, were requisitioned, and the plan for getting the people out of public buildings into homes was introduced to the officials of most of the departments of France. Delegates were sent out by the Red Cross to undertake the organisation of the work. Money was apportioned for the supplying of destitute families with furniture and the instruments of trade; the object in view was not to pauperise them, but to afford them the opportunity for becoming self-supporting. Re-construction work in those devastated areas which have been won back from the Boche was hurried forward in order that the people who had been uprooted from the soil might be returned to it and, in being returned to their own particular soil, might recover their place in life and their balance.
I visited the devastated areas of the Pas-de-Calais, Somme, Oise and Aisne and saw what is being accomplished. This destroyed territory is roughly one hundred miles long by thirty miles broad at its widest point. In 1912 one-quarter of the wheat produced in France and eighty-seven per cent. of the beet crop employed in the national industry of sugar-making, were raised in these departments of the north. The invasion has diminished the national wheat production by more than a half. It is obvious, then, that in getting these districts once more under cultivation two birds are being killed with one stone: the refugee is being made a self-supporting person—an economic asset instead of a dead weight—and the tonnage problem is being solved. If more food is grown behind the Western Front, grain-ships can be released for transporting the munitions of war from America.
The French Government had already made a start in this undertaking before America came into the war. As early as 1914 it voted three hundred million francs and appointed a group of sous-prefets to see to the dispensing of it. Little by little, as the Huns have been driven back, the wealthier inhabitants, whose money was safe in Paris banks, have returned to these districts and opened oeuvres for the poorer inhabitants. Many of them have lost their sons and husbands; they find in their daily labour for others worse off than themselves an escape from life-long despair. Misfortune is a matter of comparison and contrast. We are all of us unhappy or fortunate according to our standards of selfishness and our personal interpretation of our lot. These patriots are bravely turning their experience of sorrow into the materials of service. They can speak the one and only word which makes a bond of sympathy between the prosperous and the broken-hearted, "I, too, have suffered." I came across one such woman in the neighbourhood of Villequier-au-Mont. She was a woman of title and a royalist. Her estates had been laid waste by the invasion and all her men-folk, save her youngest son, were dead. Directly the Hun withdrew last spring, she came back to the wilderness which had been created and commenced to spend what remained of her fortune upon helping her peasants. These peasants had been the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Hun for three and a half years. When his armies retreated, they took with them the girls and the young men, leaving behind only the weaklings, the children and the aged. Word came to the Red Cross official of the district that her remaining son had been killed in action; he was asked to break the news to her. He went out to her ruined village and found her sitting among a group of women in the shell of a house, teaching them to make garments for their families. She was pleased to see him; she was in need of more materials. She had been intending to make the journey to see him herself. She was full of her work and enthusiastic over the valiance of her people. He led her aside and told her. She fell silent. Her face quivered—that was all. Then she completed her list of requirements and went back to her women. In living to comfort other people's grief, she had no time to nurse her own.
These "oeuvres," or groups of workers, settle down in a shattered village or township. The military authorities place the township in their charge. They at once commence to get roofs on to such houses as still have walls. They supply farm-implements, poultry, rabbits, carts, seeds, plants, etc. They import materials from Paris and form sewing classes for the women and girls. They encourage the trades-people to re-start their shops and lend them the necessary initial capital. What is perhaps most valuable, they lure the terror-stricken population out of their caves and dug-outs, and set them an example of hope and courage. Some of the best pioneer work of this sort has been done by the English Society of Friends who now, together with the Friends of the United States, have become a part of the Bureau of the Department of Civil Affairs of the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross works through the "oeuvres" which it found already operating in the devastated area; it places its financial backing at their disposal, its means of motor transport and its personnel; it grafts on other "oeuvres," operating in newly taken over villages, in which Americans, French and English work side by side for the common welfare; at strategic points behind the lines it has established a chain of relief warehouses, fully equipped with motor-lorries and cars. These warehouses furnish everything that an agricultural people starting life afresh can require—food, clothes, blankets, beds, mattresses, stoves, kitchen utensils, reapers, binders, mowing-machines, threshing-machines, garden-tools, soap, tooth brushes, etc. If you can conceive of yourself as having been a prosperous farmer and waking up one morning broken in heart and dirty in person, with your barns, live-stock, daughters, sons, everything gone—not a penny left in the world—you can imagine your necessities, and then form some picture of the fore-thought that goes to the running of a Red Cross warehouse.