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A SOLDIER'S SKETCHES UNDER FIRE



[Illustration: PRIVATE HAROLD HARVEY. _Frontispiece_]




A SOLDIER'S SKETCHES UNDER FIRE

By HAROLD HARVEY

[Illustration: SLM & Co. MDCCXCIV]

LONDON

SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO., LTD.




FORENOTE


A title such as "A Soldier's Sketches Under Fire" indicates at once the
nature, scope and limitations of this unpretentious volume of annotated
drawings to which it has been given.

Faked pictures of the war are plentiful. Sketches taken on the spot they
depict, sometimes by a hand that had momentarily laid down a rifle to
take them, and always by a draughtsman who drew in overt or covert peril
of his life, gain in verisimilitude what they must lose in elaboration
or embellishment; are the richer in their realism by reason of the
absence of the imaginary and the meretricious.

All that Mr. Harold Harvey drew he saw; but he saw much that he could
not draw. All sorts of exploits of which pictures that brilliantly
misrepresent them are easily concoctable were for him impossible
subjects for illustration. As he puts it himself, very modestly:

"There were many happenings - repulsions of sudden attacks,
temporary retirements, charges, and things of that sort that would
have made capital subjects, but of which my notebook holds no
'pictured presentment,' because I was taking part in them."

He also remarks:

"Sketched in circumstances that certainly had their own
disadvantages as well as their special advantages, I present these
drawings only for what they are."

Just because they are what they are they are of enduring interest and
permanent value. They have the vividness of the actual, the convincing
touch of the true.

Mr. Harvey was among the very first to obey the call of "King and
Country," tarrying only, I believe, to finish his afterwards popular
poster of "A Pair of Silk Stockings" for the Criterion production. To
join the Colours as a private soldier, he left his colours as an artist,
throwing up an established and hardly-won position in the world of his
profession, into which - sent home shot and poisoned - he must now fight
his way back. His ante-war experiences of sojourn and travel in India,
South and East Africa, South America, Egypt and the Mediterranean should
again stand him in good stead, for the more an artist has learned the
more comprehensive his treasury of impressions and recollections; the
more he has seen the more he can show. To Mr. Harvey's studies of
Egyptian life, character and customs was undoubtedly attributable the
success of his "Market Scene in Cairo," exhibited in the Royal Academy
of 1909. Purchased by a French connoisseur, this picture brought its
painter several special commissions.

I venture to express the opinion that the simple, direct and soldierly
style in which Mr. Harold Harvey has written the notes that accompany
his illustrations will be appreciated. His reticence as regards his own
doings, the casual nature of his references - where they could not be
avoided - to his personal share in great achievements, manifest a spirit
of self-effacement that is characteristic of the men of the army in
which he fought; men whose like the world has never known.

ROBERT OVERTON.




TO

=LADY ANGELA FORBES=

WHOSE WORK FOR SOLDIERS IN FRANCE AND AT HOME HAS BEEN AS UNTIRING
AS IT HAS BEEN UNOSTENTATIOUS.




CONTENTS


FORENOTE


=ON THE WAY TO THE FRONT.=

Chapter

I. - FROM SOUTHAMPTON TO MALTA

II. - FROM MALTA TO MARSEILLES

III. - FROM MARSEILLES TO ARMENTIÈRES


=AT THE FRONT.=

Chapter

IV. - SOME SAMPLE EXCITEMENTS OF LIFE IN THE TRENCHES

V. - THE LIGHTER SIDE OF TRENCH LIFE

VI. - THE "MAKE" OF A BRITISH TRENCH

VII. - THE RUSE OF A GERMAN SNIPER

VIII. - THREE DEATH TRAPS

IX. - GERMAN BEASTS IN A FRENCH CONVENT

X. - ANOTHER SCENE OF BOCHE BRUTALITY

XI. - THE TRICK THAT DIDN'T TRICK US

XII. - THE BARRED ROAD TO CALAIS




SKETCHES


PRIVATE HAROLD HARVEY _Frontispiece_

ABOARD THE TRANSPORT

BIVOUAC AT MALTA

CASEMENT GARDENS, MALTA

SERGEANTS' MESS

ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT, MALTA

ON THE QUAYHEAD AT MARSEILLES

QUAYSIDE, MARSEILLES

FORTY PASSENGERS IN EACH CATTLE TRUCK

A WASH AND A WAIT

"DOOMSDAY BOOK": A FRENCH LESSON IN A CATTLE TRUCK

LADY ANGELA FORBES'S SOLDIERS' HOME AT ETAPLES

ROAD TO THE TRENCHES

MY SKETCH-BOOK

MAP: LA BASSÉE-ST. JULIEN

OUTSKIRTS OF A VILLAGE

MY FIRST SNIPING-PLACE

CAPTURED GERMAN TRENCH

THE WOODCUTTER'S HUT

TYPICAL FIGURES AND FIGURE-HEADS

"HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE"

"DIRTY DICK'S"

"ENTRENCHING" THE PIANO

"SEVENTY-FIVE HOTEL"

CHICKEN FARM

A FRENCH COMRADE-COMEDIAN

A TRENCH SNIPER, RESTING

A TRAVERSE

THE BIRTH-PLACE OF A SONG

TRENCH PERISCOPE IN USE

"THE WHITE FARM"

A GERMAN SNIPER'S NEST

"SUICIDE BRIDGE"

"SUICIDE SIGNAL BOX"

A GHASTLY PROMENADE

THE HOLE IN THE WALL

A VIOLATED CONVENT

WHERE GERMANS RAPED AND MURDERED

"THE BLACK HOLE"

THE BLACK TOWER

WHERE THE TRAP WAS SET

"GOLGOTHA"




PART I.

ON THE WAY TO THE FRONT.




A SOLDIER'S SKETCHES UNDER FIRE.


INTRODUCTORY.

ON THE WAY TO THE FRONT.


CHAPTER I.

FROM SOUTHAMPTON TO MALTA.

[Illustration]


On the outbreak of the war I joined the Royal Fusiliers, uninfluenced by
the appeal of wall-posters or the blandishments of a recruiting
sergeant. My former experience as a trooper in the Hertfordshire
Yeomanry being accounted unto me for military righteousness, I sailed
with my regiment from Southampton on September 3rd, 1914. We thought we
were bound for France direct, and only discovered on the passage that we
were to be landed, first, at Malta.

I think I know the reason why the short trip across Channel was avoided,
but, as it behoves me to be very careful about what I say on certain
points, I don't state it.

I show the fore part of the boat, the bows being visible in the
distance. The doorways on the right are those of the horse boxes,
specially erected on the deck. In fact, the whole liner, with the most
creditable completeness and celerity, had been specially fitted up for
the use of the troops, still retaining its crew of Lascars, who did the
swabbing down and rough work required.

My sketch shows a crane bringing up bales of fodder for the horses from
the hold, with two officers standing by to give orders.

[Illustration: ABOARD THE TRANSPORT.]

We experienced some exciting incidents on the way out; for instance, in
the Bay we ran into a fog, and the order was given for all to stand by.
For the next two or three hours all were in doubt as to what might
happen - of course there was fear of torpedoes.

We heard in the distance several shots fired, presumably by the
battle-cruiser which was our escort. When the fog lifted, we could just
see the smoke lifting on the horizon of some enemy craft, which had been
chased off by our own warship. We again steamed ahead towards our
destination and were soon sailing into smooth and calm waters, the
temperature becoming quite genial and warm as we approached the Straits
of Gibraltar. As we passed through the Straits the message was signalled
that those two notorious vessels, the "Goeben" and the "Breslau," were
roaming loose in the Mediterranean.


AT MALTA.

On arrival at Malta, I and others were put through our firing course,
and the regiment took over the charge of prisoners and interned Germans,
of whom, together, there were on the island - so soon after the beginning
of hostilities - no fewer than 8,000. One of the first sketches I made
was of our Bivouac.

[Illustration: BIVOUAC AT MALTA.]


MALTA AND THE PIRATES.

Malta, which has been called "the master key of the Mediterranean and
the Levant," "the stepping-stone to Egypt and the Dardanelles," and "the
connecting link between England and India," is one of our Empire's most
valuable possessions, and its physical formation has made it for
generations past of great maritime value. The island is, in itself, a
rock, and all its earth and mould has been imported. In the days when
there were no submarines or warships, it was the headquarters of pirates
roaming at large in the Mediterranean. These pirate crews, after
capturing their prey, used to bring their captures into one of the
entrances of the island, now called the Grand Harbour. At the base of
the harbour is the town of Valetta, which was catacombed in those early
times, and tunnels were made through the island rock. When pirates had
brought a ship under cover of the natural harbour to these tunnels, they
took all the merchandise ashore and then broke up the vessel, so as to
leave no trace of the incident. The crew were usually massacred to a
man, and when chase was given, no trace whatever could be found of
either the pirates or their captures, and later on their ill-gotten
gains would be shipped off from the other end of the tunnel in another
part of the island.

Looking through between the trees in my sketch of the Casement Gardens,
under the Barracks of Floriana, which stand on an eminence overlooking
the spot, a portion of the harbour is seen which commands the back
moorings, and the water where the P. & O. liners lay up. Beyond the
vessel drawn I indicate the island of Fort Manoel, which is an ancient
fortress which possesses a very handsome gateway, which may have been
built by the Romans. In fact, all over this island are remarkable
relics, some of them probably as old as those of Stonehenge, but how or
by whom the original materials were brought there or the original
buildings constructed is now left by historians to conjecture.

[Illustration: CASEMENT GARDENS, MALTA.]

Other public gardens are those of Biracca and Floriana. Public
establishments include the biggest Fever Hospital in the world, the
Castille Prison, and the Governor's Palace.


SERGEANTS' MESS.

[Illustration: SERGEANTS' MESS AT FLORIANA, MALTA.]

The view of the site of the Sergeants' Mess at Floriana gives a good
idea of the massive style of architecture and the palatial design of
many of the buildings. The big construction of the walls will be noted,
and the height of the chimney. All the houses have flat roofs, and on
them people sleep at night because of the intense heat. From the roof of
this house is obtained the best view of the island. Although Malta is
composed entirely of rock, flowers grow profusely, and a variety of
creeper, very similar to our own azalea, climbs up the front of the
forts, requiring little or no root. A garden of this flower was attached
to the Sergeants' Mess house.


FORTIFICATIONS.

[Illustration: ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT, MALTA.]

The ancient fortifications proved impregnable for ages, and are now
modernised for the use of up-to-date artillery equipment. I show the
exterior of the Army Ordnance Department, Fort Tigne, and on the extreme
left, on the other side of the harbour, a portion of Fort Manoel.


THE MALTESE.

The habits and manners of the Maltese have long been notorious for their
rude characteristics, probably attributable to the people's Moorish
origin, although the race has now blended with the smooth Italian.
Throughout the Levant they have the bad name first deserved by their
robberies and murders. British rule has effected great reforms, but it
cannot change the leopard's spots.

The experience of our boys in some of the outlying parts of the island,
and even in many streets and cafés, was that these primitive people had
not altogether lost their primitive instincts in the course of becoming
civilised. One of their customary tricks is to offer one of their
bangles, or some other souvenir, to get you to spend money in the cafés
and dancing saloons, and he would be a clever man who ever succeeded in
obtaining one of the souvenirs promised him from day to day. The women
of Malta certainly have strong claims to beauty, at any rate up to the
age of sixteen, for they mature early. They have large and lustrous
black eyes, and are of a swarthy and somewhat Spanish type. They still
wear the traditional hood, a black scarf, called a "Faldetta," thrown
over the head and shoulders, and disposed in such a style as to exhibit
the countenance of the wearer in the most alluring form. Although
picturesque in the distance, they are very slovenly in their hair and
dress on closer acquaintance, and generally exhibit the traces of
their Oriental origin. They are great experts in the making of Maltese
lace, for which they have won a world-wide reputation, and their native
filigree work is also very famous and very beautiful. Churches (where
weddings are celebrated in the evening) are very numerous, and priests
and friars are always to be seen in the streets. The boys of our
regiment said that Malta was chiefly notable for "yells, smells, and
bells."

We passed a very merry time here for nearly three weeks - such a time as
many were destined never to know again - and then were shipped to
Marseilles, _en route_ for the trenches on the Western Front.

In the "Main Guard" of the Governor's Palace at Valetta we left behind
us a fresco memorial of our short sojourn on the island. For many
generations it has been the custom of regiments stationed in Malta to
paint or draw regimental crests, portraits (and caricatures), etc., on
the interior walls of this "Main Guard," and on its doors also. Walls
and doors, both are very full of these more or less artistic mementoes,
but space was found which I was asked to cover with a black and white
series of cartoons of prominent members of our (the 2nd) Battalion R.F.




CHAPTER II.

FROM MALTA TO MARSEILLES.


From the bows of our boat as she lay in harbour at Marseilles, I
"spotted" three typical figures. The one holding the rope is a French
sailor, the one at the bottom of the picture is a French gendarme, and
the third is a Ghurka, one of our fine sturdy hillmen from India, who
had come out to France to stand by the Empire.

Marseilles was a most wonderful sight at the time I was there, and
although I had made many previous visits in normal times, when I had
greatly admired its grand proportions, none of them had given me any
idea of what its appearance would be when it became the clearing station
in the time of such a great war, and one of the chief bases of all food
supplies. Troops of all descriptions were working like ants by day and
by night, unloading boats to the huge stores of all descriptions of
provender, and loading the trains with all kinds of artillery,
ammunition, Red Cross wagons, motors, horses, and all the paraphernalia
of modern warfare.

The town is the third largest in France, and the chief Mediterranean
seaport. Its history teems with exciting incidents of plague, fire,
sacking, siege, and hand-to-hand fighting, so it is quite in keeping
that it should take so important a part in the present conflict. It was
here Monte Cristo was hurled from the Chateau d'If in the sack from
which he cut his escape. Francis the First besieged it in vain, and it
prospered under King Rene. In the French Revolution it figured so
conspicuously as to give the title to the national hymn of the French.


THE STORY OF "THE MARSEILLAISE."

Is it too late to tell again the story of the origin of "The
Marseillaise"?

[Illustration: ON THE QUAYHEAD AT MARSEILLES.]

Its author and composer (or it might be more correct to say composer and
author, for in this case music preceded words), Rouget de Lisle - a young
aristocrat and an artillery officer - had as a friend a citizen of
Strasbourg, to whose house, in the early days of the Revolution, he came
on a visit one evening. The tired guest was cordially welcomed by the
citizen and his wife and daughter. To celebrate the occasion his friend
sent the daughter into the cellar to bring up wine. Exhausted as he was,
de Lisle drank freely, and, sitting up late with his host, did not
trouble to go to bed. He had been amusing the family by playing some of
his original compositions on the spinnet. When the host retired for the
night he left de Lisle asleep with his head resting on the instrument.
In the early hours of the morning the young officer awoke, and running
through his head was a melody which, in his semi-drunken state the
evening before, he had been attempting to extemporise. It seemed to
haunt him, and, piecing it together as it came back to his memory, he
played it over. Then, feeling inspired, he immediately set words to it.
When the family came down he played and sang it to them, and his host
was so moved by it that he became quite excited and called in the
neighbours. The instrument was wheeled out into the garden, and in the
open air young de Lisle sang the song that was to become the national
air of his country to this local audience. The effect upon them was
"terrific," and from that moment the song became the rage. It seemed to
embody the whole spirit of the Revolutionists, and spread like wildfire
throughout France. It was to this song that the unbridled spirits of
Marseilles marched to Paris, hence its name, "The Marseillaise." Shortly
after this, de Lisle received a letter from his mother, the Baroness,
dated from her chateau, saying, "What is this dreadful song we hear?"
Fearing that his own life might be in danger, he being an aristocrat and
a suspect, he had before long to take flight across the mountains. As he
went from valley to crag, and crag to valley, he time after time heard
the populace singing his song, frequently having to hide behind rocks
lest they discovered him. It sounded to him like a requiem, for he knew
that many of his friends were being marched to the scaffold to his own
impassioned strains.

[Illustration: QUAYSIDE, MARSEILLES.]




CHAPTER III.

FROM MARSEILLES TO ARMENTIÈRES.


The incidents of the railway journey from Marseilles to Etaples, _en
route_ to Armentières, told in detail, would fill a book. It was made in
ordinary cattle trucks, in which, packed forty to a truck, we spent four
days and a half at one stretch. Yet was it a bright and merry trip, for
our spirits were raised to the highest by the thought that we were going
into action, and we were at all sorts of expedients to make ourselves
comfortable. For instance, before we started the Stationmaster's Office
was ransacked, and every available nail pulled out to make coat and hat
pegs of in the cattle trucks. We had to sleep on the floor. Our
corporal, who was an old soldier of many campaigns, of iron physique
and a perfect Goliath, and the life and soul of our party, was so tired
when he got aboard the train, after strenuous efforts, that he fell dead
asleep on the floor, and there was so little available space, and his
massive form took up so much of what there was, that no fewer than nine
men, as they became tired and dropped down from the walls of the truck,
fell on him and went to sleep on the top of him. However, that corporal
slept the sleep of the just for four or five hours, and even then did
not awaken until, the train halting and somebody mentioning wine, there
was a scuffle, and another man stepped on his head, whereupon he flung
him off and made a good first out of the train.

[Illustration: FORTY PASSENGERS IN EACH CATTLE TRUCK.]

We were regaled at each station by the populace, who brought us cakes
and wine, small flags, toys, tin trumpets, oranges, and other fruits,
and we parted with nearly all our buttons as souvenirs.


TUB, TEA AND A HALT.

At one stopping place a large leathern hose was depending from a water
main for giving the engine water, and somebody turning this on, we all
took shower baths under it, or plunged into the huge tub alongside, some
being so keen on not missing their chance that they took their baths in
their clothes, tunics and all. Try to imagine our feelings after being
cooped up in the train for just on three days and nights and then
getting a wash or prehistoric bath!

We had a two hours' wait here, and the "dixies" (about a dozen in all)
were filled with water, and a huge fire was lighted, and soon a "long
felt want" was satisfied in the form of tea. Though it was like Indian
ink, it went down with a rare relish (I think my little lot was the best
drink of tea I ever enjoyed); but unfortunately there was no second
edition.

[Illustration: A WASH AND A WAIT.]

After our "tub" we made a line for the station, the train being so long
that only a portion of it was in it. We received a pleasant surprise
in the form of a stall, where there were cakes, buns, bottles of red
wine, fruit and many other luxuries.

After we had cleared out the whole lot, the French people living in the
town came to the railings at the side of the station and bombarded us
with all kinds of food and dainties. Just as we were all thoroughly
stretching our legs and enjoying ourselves, the order was given to board
train, so, with much cheering, singing and shouting, we resumed our
seats - or rather our "standing room only."


"DOOMSDAY BOOK."

[Illustration: "DOOMSDAY BOOK": A FRENCH LESSON IN A CATTLE TRUCK.]

Our corporal (behold him with an open book of Family Bible dimensions)
often busied himself with expounding his views on the French language,
in which he was labouring to become proficient. His linguistic ambitions
did not end at self-proficiency, for he was solicitous to instruct his
fellows, and we had quite a number of French lessons from him, although
it must be admitted that they suffered many interruptions in good old
plain English from the Tommies, provoked by the jolting of the train.
They nicknamed this huge French dictionary the "Doomsday Book," because
it was their doom to have its contents thrown at them every day.


THE LAST STAGE.

The weather set in very cold and snowy, and as the cracks in the bottom
of the truck measured three inches in width, it can be guessed what a
draught there was. But in spite of everything and the general discomfort
of things, jam and biscuits were "lowered" in plenty. I amused the boys
by making sketches on biscuits and throwing them out of the window at
the various stations we passed through to the crowds of French
civilians, soldiers, and Red Cross nurses. Perhaps some of my comrades
will find some of these biscuit souvenirs at their homes - if they ever
get there - for not a few were kept to the end of the journey and posted
to friends in England.

We passed over several bridges which the Germans had destroyed, but
which had been made temporarily good again by the French engineers. Over
these our train had to travel gingerly. As we neared the fighting zone
the booming of the guns could be heard, and a little further on things
became more warlike. We noticed the devastated stations, villages, and
large shell holes in the embankment of the line.

All this seemed to bring to the surface our fighting spirits, and we
only wanted to be out and at the Huns.

On arrival at Etaples, after a rest of two hours or so in the station
yard and street adjoining same, we marched in full pack and kit,
including blankets and our waterproof sheets, to a fishing village,
where we struck a camp and turned in for the night. We were under canvas
for four days - the only four days under canvas during the whole time I
was in France. The Colonel gave orders that all the men's heads were to
be shaved, as we were proceeding to the trenches.


LADY ANGELA FORBES'S SOLDIERS' HOME AT ETAPLES.

[Illustration: LADY ANGELA FORBES'S SOLDIERS' HOME AT ETAPLES.]

A never fading recollection of Etaples will be that of the kindness and
hospitality we received at the hands of Lady Angela Forbes and the "very
gallant gentlewomen" who assisted her in the management of her Soldiers'
Home there. The warmest of welcomes and the best of cheer awaited every
soldier who crossed its threshold. Nothing that thoughtfulness could
suggest and liberality could provide was lacking. Tact and an
understanding sympathy characterised the administration of every
department. We left behind us blessings and thanks we could not express
in words.


ON THE ROAD TO THE TRENCHES.

We had a three days' march (most of the way on cobble stones) from camp
to Armentières, via Aire, Hazebruck and Bailleul, things getting hotter
and hotter. In the course of the first day the enemy's aircraft dropped
bombs on our route. We scattered in the hedges and ditches, lying flat
and getting what cover we could. We had several men wounded by the


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