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graves on what is now the eastern boundary of the cemetery. The earliest
British burial dates from June, 1915. This cemetery had to be repeatedly
enlarged as the campaign levied its toll on our forces. It now contains
9,795 British and Dominion graves, 892 French, 2 Belgian, 52 American, and
32 Chinese. The majority of burials took place from the Canadian casualty
clearing stations at Remy. Of the French graves, 10 are those of unknown
soldiers and 689 will remain in the cemetery.

* * * * *

Going out of Belgium to France the sun was shining and the graciousness of
Nature, covering with herb and blossom the ulcers of the old
battle-fields, made this corner of Flanders seem a fair and human country.
For those who now saw the district for the first time, the concrete forts
lying like the bleached skeletons of strange monsters in the fields, and
the serried ranks of the graves, coming up in line after line to give
their mute witness, told something of what it cost to hold the Ypres
Salient. But the King knew all that it had been in the long dark winters
of the war, when the very abomination of desolation brooded over it, and
in its pools of slime his soldiers struggled and choked that the fields of
England might be kept free of the foe. He did not hide from those with him
that the memory of it weighed heavy on him and that in his mind, with
pride in the thought of such superhuman devotion, there was a passionate
hope that never again in the world's history would men be called upon to
suffer as these men had suffered.

Speaking, too, of the cemeteries, where general and private rest side by
side beneath the same simple stones, equal in the honour of their death
for duty's sake, he agreed that this was the only possible way.


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

THE KING MEETING MARSHAL FOCH]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

SALUTING THE FRENCH COLOUR PARTY]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

SALUTING THE FRENCH COLOUR PARTY]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

THE FRENCH GUARD OF HONOUR]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

THE KING AND MARSHAL FOCH]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

"_I have come to lay a wreath in homage on the tombs of French heroes who
have fallen for their country_"]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

THE SILENCE AND THE SALUTE TO THE DEAD]


[Illustration: NOTRE DAME DE LORETTE

THE BROW OF THE HILL OVERLOOKING THE RIDGE

THE KING WITH MARSHAL FOCH, GENERAL WEYGAND AND FIELD-MARSHAL EARL HAIG]


[Illustration: INSPECTION OF GARDENERS]


[Illustration: FORCEVILLE CEMETERY]


[Illustration: FORCEVILLE]


[Illustration: FORCEVILLE

THE KING SPEAKING TO THE MAYOR]


[Illustration: LOUVENCOURT]


[Illustration]


[Illustration: LOUVENCOURT

A TRAVELLING GARDENING PARTY]


[Illustration: PICQUIGNY

WHERE A NUMBER OF AUSTRALIANS LIE]


[Illustration: CROUY BRITISH CEMETERY

THE KING TALKING TO TWO BEREAVED AUSTRALIAN RELATIVES]




III: "_It was bare and hilly ground where once the bread-corn grew._"


In the evening of May 11 the King passed from Belgium into France on his
way to Vimy, which had been chosen as the resting-place for the night. As
the train arrived at Hazebrouck, the first stop after crossing the
frontier, the Prefect of the Nord, together with the Maire of Hazebrouck,
received His Majesty. The Maire (M. l'Abbé Lemire) is a figure known to
every soldier who passed through Hazebrouck during the war; not only had
he been a constant friend to all ranks of the British Army, but his
courageous and imperturbable control of his townspeople during the early
days of 1914 will always be remembered in the history of the war.

The journey through the stricken area of French Flanders was full of
memories of heroic resolution and accomplishment. Those fields yonder were
tilled during the war by the French - the old men, women, and
children - under the guns of the enemy, the plough-share's orderly cutting
of the soil now and again interrupted as exploding shells dug their pits,
but the stubborn peasants going on with their toil. Those same fields,
later, knew at its best the practical heroism of the British soldier (is
not that the dominant characteristic of the British race, its power to
bring the highest courage to the common labour of life?). The German
onrush had brought areas (which the French had cultivated under shell
fire) within the zone of the front line and the civilians had to be sent
back. Since every ear of wheat was precious at that time, the British Army
organized to save this part of the French harvest, and actually reaped the
product of eighteen thousand acres. It was gallant work, chiefly done by
fighting men between their turns in the trenches. When an area was under
the direct fire and close observation of the enemy the crop was cut at
night. When the enemy used gas shells to prevent the work, the soldier
reapers went on with their task in gas masks. One area of six acres of
corn was so close to the enemy trenches that the idea of saving it seemed
desperate. But one night seventeen volunteers with hand scythes cleared
the whole of it in the three hours of darkness that were available. This,
more perhaps than any deeds done in the heat and ardour of battle,
impressed the French farmers and set in their minds an imperishable memory
of the gallant friendliness of the British.

* * * * *

Coming to Vimy and looking out on its ridge, the King bethought of the
great battle in which his Canadian troops had won this key-position, and
telegraphed to Lord Byng, the present Governor-General of Canada, and
before in command of the Canadian Corps, the following message of
thankfulness and congratulation: -

"I have just spent the night at Vimy. My thoughts are with you."

It was a right royal remembrance which delighted Canada.

* * * * *

The first act of the King on May 12 was to pay his homage to the dead of
the armies of France, and he passed through the torn and shattered country
at its base to Notre Dame de Lorette, the great bastion hill which was the
centre of the Allies' resistance in the North. Noticing that his train
would pass by it, he had written personally to Marshal Foch asking him to
meet him there, so that the great commander might be at his side when he
paid his homage.

To the French people Notre Dame de Lorette is _la colline sacrée_ of the
Great War. It was the key for the defence of Flanders and Artois, the most
bitterly contested strong point on French soil, not excepting Verdun. For
twelve continuous months, without a day's interruption, one battle raged
round the hill. Every yard of its soil bears shell scars and has been dyed
with noble blood. Altogether, over 100,000 men gave up their lives around
this hallowed hill, and it was the most fitting place for the King to pay
his homage to the noble dead of the French Army.

Nor is Notre Dame de Lorette without its proud memories for the British
Army, which held for long the Artois line of defences. Hardly one of the
many thousands of British officers who served in the Royal Regiment of
Artillery during the Great War but who has at one time "observed" for his
guns from Lorette. All the batteries, field and heavy, for miles around
were directed from the observation posts on the hill, which gave a great
range of view, north and south, so far behind the enemy lines that the
housing of his balloons and the movements of his railways could be
followed.

As it stands to-day, Lorette has been cleared of much of its timber and is
thicketed with the clustering crosses of the French cemeteries. It is
intended to erect upon it a memorial to the dead of the Artois and
Flanders fronts. The design by M. Louis Cordonnier, an architect of Lille
(which was shown by him to the King), provides for a Basilica on the spot
where once was built the chapel of Notre Dame de Lorette. One hundred
metres from the Basilica will be built a beacon tower which will show a
perpetual light visible for fifty miles around, reminding the miner and
agriculturist and trader of future generations with what great sacrifice
their country was held free.

* * * * *

The King, reaching Notre Dame de Lorette, walked up the steep slope of the
hill to a little plateau, in the centre of the thickly clustered French
graves, where he was met by Marshal Foch, General Weygand (the Marshal's
Chief of Staff), General Lacapelle, commanding the First Army Corps, and
M. Cauzel, Prefect of the Pas-de-Calais.

"I have come," said the King as he took Marshal Foch by the hand, "to lay
a wreath in homage on the tombs of French heroes who have fallen for their
country."

The trumpets sounded a salute as the King arrived and inspected the French
Guard of Honour, and then with Marshal Foch he walked along the lines of
white wooden crosses of the cemetery.

The King came back to the centre of the hill, where will be erected the
memorial to the dead, and, addressing Marshal Foch, said: "I am happy, M.
le Maréchal, that you are by my side at this moment, when I come to place
this wreath in deserved homage to the heroic soldiers of France." On a
mound over which flew the French flag he placed his chaplet of red roses,
palm and bay, bearing the simple inscription, "From King George V, - 12th
May, 1922," then stood for two minutes silent at the salute, Marshal Foch
and Field-Marshal Earl Haig on either side.

Deeply moved was the King and those around him. All the tragedy and all
the heroism which Notre Dame de Lorette symbolizes rose up before the
mind. At the King's feet stretched, in row after row, the tombs of the
French, who lost almost a complete generation of their glorious youth in
defence of their country. Beyond the line of tombs showed for miles and
miles devastated France - the ruins which had been great manufacturing
towns, the wastes which had been fertile fields, the dusty stains on the
landscape which had been smiling villages, the tangles of splintered
stumps which had been fruitful trees. Here was the record of the
scientifically considered, the systematically prepared, the meticulously
executed ruin of France; and these graves were of those who stemmed the
wave of that hideous desolation.

Leaving the cemetery and walking on a little distance, the King, Marshal
Foch, and Earl Haig took their stand on a commanding point of the hill and
discussed the strategy of the campaign. Marshal Foch and Earl Haig talked
over some of the great actions of the war, pointing out to the King
various points the names of which are household words to-day - Souchez,
Vimy, the Labyrinth, Loos, Lens, and those betraying dumps of the coal
pits which caused the loss of so many a soldier.

The King listened with keen interest and was clearly delighted at the
cordial comradeship of the two great soldiers. He turned to them at one
point with the confident query: "_Toujours bons amis, n'est ce pas?_"
Marshal Foch replied with fervour: "_Toujours, toujours, pour les mêmes
causes et les mêmes raisons_," and grasped Earl Haig's hand. As the two
Marshals clasped hands in the grip of comradeship the King placed his hand
over theirs.

A scene to be remembered for all time, the making of that pledge and its
sealing with the King's hand on the sacred hill of Notre Dame de Lorette.

Leaving the hill, the King and his party proceeded by car in the direction
of Albert, going through the mining villages, still mostly ruins, but busy
now again with useful industry. The route followed passed such well-known
places as Souchez and Mont St. Eloy. The day being a crowded one, there
was no time to stop in the ruined town of Arras, but with the thought
which characterized all the arrangements which the French had made, the
Prefect had detailed a guard of cyclists to meet the cars at the entrance
to the town. They conducted the King's car through Arras, passing all the
chief points in the town which had suffered from the enemy's fire.

From thence the King went on to Bapaume, Warlencourt, and Le Sars, seeing
again the Somme battle-field, the scene of the first great British
offensive attack in the summer of 1916. It was there the New Armies were
put to the crucial test and proved that they were worthy to take up and
guard the tradition of the old Regular Army. In many hundreds of thousands
of British homes to-day the Battle of the Somme is the greatest memory of
the campaign, for it marked the end of the wearisome trench war, the first
move to drive the enemy from out of the land he had invaded, though he had
made of it, as he thought, an invincible fortress. They can remember the
joy they had in the heartening roar of our guns as they prepared the
attack, the multitudinous clamour of the field guns, the sharp scream of
the 12-inch guns which reared their monstrous throats by street corners of
Albert, the deep note, as of a giant's cough, of the 15-inch howitzers,
pushing out shells as big almost as mines.

Bitter was the fighting on the Somme, most bitter when in moving to the
attack the infantry encountered rain and the chalky downs became as grease
under their feet. But there was the exultant feeling of advancing, of
winning back day by day a little bit of France. The Somme heartened the
British soldier with the knowledge that impregnableness had lost its
meaning, heartened them, too, with the knowledge that our Air Force had
won supremacy in the air, and now could blind the enemy at will by driving
his aeroplanes and observation balloons out of the sky.

Passing by several cemeteries and battle exploit memorials erected by both
home and Dominion units, the party reached Albert, from the ruined
cathedral tower of which a great statue of the Virgin and Child hung
perilously through years of the war. It was said that, when it fell, the
war would end; and in truth it did not fall until the end was near. A halt
at Albert had not been arranged, but the King, noting a party of workers
of the War Graves Commission in a camp there, stopped and talked with the
men.

The afternoon was occupied in visiting cemeteries in the surrounding
districts.

* * * * *

For the Somme victories we paid heavy price, as the crowding Somme
cemeteries show. The King visited of these: -

WARLENCOURT. - This cemetery is 500 yards north of the Butte de
Warlencourt, across the Albert-Bapaume road. It is entirely a
concentration cemetery, begun towards the end of 1919. It includes the
graves brought from the original cemeteries at Hexham Road, Le Sars, and
Seven Elms, Flers, as well as over 3,000 British graves due to the
fighting which took place around the Butte de Warlencourt from the autumn
of 1916 to the spring of 1917, and again in the German advance and retreat
of 1918.

WARLOY-BAILLON. - There are two cemeteries at the village of that name. The
Communal Cemetery is on the east of the village and the Extension is in
an apple orchard on the eastern side of the cemetery. The apple trees
around the graves, in blossom on this spring day, made the burial ground
very beautiful. All the cemeteries of France and Belgium have in common a
noble simplicity of design, but each one has some particular feature. One
is beautiful with orchard trees; another is graced with rose trees; of
another sentinel poplars are a feature; of another the shroud-like
cypresses. In every case the planning of a cemetery, its alignment, the
site of the Cross of Sacrifice, and the Stone of Remembrance, its
plantations and walls, are designed by the architects to harmonize with
the natural features of the country. Not often on the French and Belgian
sites has it been possible to attain the supreme loveliness of some of the
Italian cemeteries, but all are beautiful. The first British burial took
place in the Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery in October, 1915, and the
last on July 1st, 1916. By that date field ambulances had come to the
village in readiness for the attack on the German line, five miles away,
and the Extension was begun. There are buried in the Extension 857
soldiers from the Home Country, 318 from Australia, 152 from Canada, and 3
unknown. The Communal Cemetery records 46 British burials.

FORCEVILLE. - This cemetery is to the west of the village of Forceville,
about twelve miles from Doullens and six miles from Albert. In 1915
British troops of the Third Army took over the area from the French. In
February, 1916, a field ambulance was established in the village, and it
was followed by others until the end of July, 1916. Early in August, 1915,
additional land to the south of the Communal Cemetery was enclosed to
provide space for military graves. This land is enclosed by a low wall and
a hedge. Some of the old poplar trees have been preserved and fragrant
lime trees planted (the lime-tree avenues of Amiens will be recalled by
the troops on whom they showered their perfume as they went forward for
the first Battle of the Somme).

LOUVENCOURT. - The Military Cemetery here is south-east of the village,
which is midway between Albert and Doullens. The French soldiers' graves
dated June and July, 1915, mark the end of the French occupation of the
Allied front on the Somme. The British graves cover the period from July,
1915, to July, 1918. Louvencourt Military Cemetery is enclosed by a great
stone wall and the paths are stone paved. The Cross of Sacrifice is placed
at the entrance. The Stone of Remembrance is at the east side of the
cemetery, and the steps of it command a wide view over the north country.
The cemetery holds 151 British dead.

PICQUIGNY. - There are here a communal cemetery and a British military
cemetery. The historic town (where a treaty of peace between France and
England was signed in 1475) lies in the valley of the Somme River, on the
main road between Abbeville and Amiens. During the first four years of the
war Picquigny was on lines of communication, and the ten British soldiers
who died in or near the town were buried in the Communal Cemetery. At the
end of March, 1918, casualty clearing stations were brought to Picquigny,
and the British Cemetery was opened a little west of the town. It shelters
94 soldiers from the Home Country, 29 from Australia, one from Canada and
one unknown, and one French soldier.

CROUY. - The British Cemetery here is about half a mile south of the
village, near the Amiens-Abbeville main road. It was opened in April,
1918, when the enemy advance sent two casualty clearing stations to the
village. In October, 1919, the graves from the British Cemetery at
Riviere, a few miles nearer Abbeville, were brought to Crouy. There are
now buried in Crouy 281 soldiers from the Home Country, 275 from
Australia, 179 from Canada and one of the British West Indies Regiment, 2
labourers of the Indian Labour Corps, and 6 French soldiers.

LONGPRÉ-LES-CORPS SAINTS. - The village owes its name to relics sent from
the Holy Land by the founder of the church in the twelfth century. In
April, 1918, there was opened a British cemetery. It was closed before the
end of the month, and the present cemetery opened about half a mile south
of the village. In May, 1919, the graves from the first cemetery were
moved to it. The cemetery now contains 56 British graves, 20 Australians,
and one French.

* * * * *

On this day, during the morning and afternoon, the only bad weather
occurred, but the rainstorms did not in any way deter the King from
carrying out the programme which he had determined on. At all the
cemeteries visited in the afternoon there were striking demonstrations of
affection by the country people. The smaller cemeteries were surrounded by
the villagers, five or six deep, the children standing on the low walls,
the King as he inspected the graves passing close to them. All maintained
an attitude of sympathetic reverence. The King, who was evidently moved,
showed on many occasions how he felt himself among friends and was visibly
interested in the little children who stared round-eyed at "the King of
the British soldiers."

As the train steamed into Picquigny Station, the Bishop of Amiens was seen
standing with his clergy on the platform, having come out from Amiens,
specially and without interfering with the privacy of the pilgrimage,
sympathetically to greet our King. The Bishop reminded His Majesty that
the last time a King of England had come to Picquigny was in 1475, when
Edward IV agreed there on a treaty of peace with the French King. King
George V must have been interested to remember the piquant contrast
between then and now, for when in 1475 Edward met Louis at Picquigny a
close fence was built across a bridge "with no longer intervals than would
allow the arm to pass," and the two Kings came from opposite sides to meet
and confer under those precautions of mistrust. Now a British King moved
among the people of France with no guard but their respect and love for
him and his Army.


[Illustration: ETAPLES

INSPECTING SOUTH AFRICAN GRAVES]


[Illustration: ETAPLES

INSPECTING NEWFOUNDLAND GRAVES]


[Illustration: ETAPLES

THE KING READING THE LETTER FROM A BEREAVED MOTHER ASKING THE QUEEN TO
PLACE A BUNCH OF FORGET-ME-NOTS ON HER SON'S GRAVE]


[Illustration: ETAPLES

THE KING PLACING THE FORGET-ME-NOTS ON THE GRAVE]


[Illustration: ETAPLES

AT THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE]


[Illustration: GENERAL VIEW OF ETAPLES

THE KING AND DOMINION REPRESENTATIVES]


[Illustration: ETAPLES

EXAMINING PLANS OF CONSTRUCTIONAL WORK]


[Illustration]


[Illustration: MEERUT INDIAN CEMETERY

INSPECTING INDIAN GRAVES]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN THE LAST POST

"_They lie in the keeping of a tried and generous friend, a resolute and
chivalrous comrade-in-arms, who, with ready and quick sympathy has set
aside for ever the soil in which they sleep, so that we ourselves and our
descendants may for all time reverently tend and preserve their
resting-places._"]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE FRENCH GUARD OF HONOUR AT THE CROSS OF SACRIFICE]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE KING PLACING A WREATH ON THE CROSS OF SACRIFICE]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE SILENCE AND THE SALUTE AT THE CROSS]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE KING'S ADDRESS

"_And the last land he found it was fair and level ground
About a carven stone,
And a stark sword brooding on the bosom of the cross
Where high and low are one._"]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

GENERAL DE CASTELNAU'S REPLY]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

PROCESSION TO THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

PROCESSION TO THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE

"_All that they had they gave - they gave_"]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE QUEEN LAYING A WREATH ON THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE SALUTE AT THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE QUEEN AT THE GRAVES]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE QUEEN AT THE GRAVES]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

THE STONE OF REMEMBRANCE WITH THE QUEEN'S WREATH

"_Their name liveth for evermore_"]


[Illustration: TERLINCTHUN

NAPOLEON'S COLUMN IN THE BACKGROUND

"_And here ... the shadow of his monument falling almost across their
graves, the greatest of French soldiers - of all soldiers - stands guard
over them_"]


[Illustration: LEAVING ETAPLES]


[Illustration: "_In the course of my pilgrimage I have many times asked
myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth
through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses
to the desolation of war_"]




IV: "_And there lay gentlemen from out of all the seas._"


On the evening of May 12 the King's train left Longpré and went down to
the coast. The night was spent at Etaples, a fishing port at the mouth of
the River Canche, which has figured since many centuries back in the
history of the British Empire, and now is the site of what has come to be
known as our "Empire Cemetery" in France.

When the Romans were bringing in the path of their legions order and
civilization into Europe - misfortunately thwarted by forest or bog or sea
from reaching some countries, which have suffered from the fact
since - they had their chief naval station for northern Gaul at the mouth
of the Canche. This station, no doubt, Julius Cæsar used in his expedition
against Britain. Later, when Carausius, a Roman Briton, revolted against
the Roman Empire, he won the command of the English Channel with his fleet


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Online LibraryFrank FoxThe King's pilgrimage → online text (page 2 of 4)