E. Alexander Powell.

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had been in almost constant action for the preceding fortnight and
that for forty hours had poured death and destruction into the city,
yet both men and horses were in the very pink of condition, as keen
as razors, and as hard as nails; the blankets, the buckets, the
knapsacks, the intrenching tools were all strapped in their appointed
places, and the brown leather harness was polished like a lady's tan
shoes. After the field batteries came the horse artillery and after the
horse artillery the pom-poms - each drawn by a pair of sturdy
draught horses driven with web reins by a soldier sitting on the
limber - and after the pom-poms an interminable line of machine-
guns, until one wondered where Krupp's found the time and the
steel to make them all. Then, heralded by a blare of trumpets and a
crash of kettledrums, came the cavalry; cuirassiers with their steel
helmets and breastplates covered with grey linen, hussars in
befrogged grey jackets and fur busbies, also linen-covered, and
finally the Uhlans, riding amid a forest of lances under a cloud of
fluttering pennons. But this was not all, nor nearly all, for after the
Uhlans came the sailors of the naval division, brown-faced,
bewhiskered fellows with their round, flat caps tilted rakishly and the
roll of the sea in their gait; then the Bavarians in dark blue, the
Saxons in light blue, and the Austrians - the same who had handled
the big guns so effectively - in uniforms of a beautiful silver grey.
Accompanying one of the Bavarian regiments was a victoria drawn
by a fat white horse, with two soldiers on the box. Horse and
carriage were decorated with flowers as though for a floral parade at
Nice; even the soldiers had flowers pinned to their caps and
nosegays stuck in their tunics. The carriage was evidently a sort of
triumphal chariot dedicated to the celebration of the victory, for it
was loaded with hampers of champagne and violins!

The army which captured Antwerp was, first, last and all the time, a
fighting army. There was not a Landsturm or a Landwehr regiment
in it. The men were as pink-cheeked as athletes; they marched with
the buoyancy of men in perfect health. And yet the human element
was lacking; there was none of the pomp and panoply commonly
associated with man; these men in grey were merely wheels and
cogs and bolts and screws in a great machine - the word which has
been used so often of the German army, yet must be repeated,
because there is no other - whose only purpose is death. As that
great fighting machine swung past, remorseless as a trip-hammer,
efficient as a steam-roller, I could not but marvel how the gallant,
chivalrous, and heroic but ill-prepared little army of Belgium had held
it back so long.


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Online LibraryE. Alexander PowellFighting in Flanders → online text (page 11 of 11)