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planned and that the inhabitants of Antwerp, thus warned of the
extreme gravity of the situation, would have had ample time to leave
the city with a semblance of comfort and order, for the railways
leading to Ghent and to the Dutch frontier were still in operation and
the highways were then not blocked by a retreating army.

The first of the promised reinforcements arrived on Sunday evening
by special train from Ostend. They consisted of a brigade of the
Royal Marines, perhaps two thousand men in all, well drilled and
well armed, and several heavy guns. They were rushed to the
southern front and immediately sent into the trenches to relieve the
worn-out Belgians. On Monday and Tuesday the balance of the
British expeditionary force, consisting of between five and six
thousand men of the Volunteer Naval Reserve, arrived from the
coast, their ammunition and supplies being brought by road, via
Bruges and Ghent, in London motor-buses. When this procession
of lumbering vehicles, placarded with advertisements of teas,
tobaccos, whiskies, and current theatrical attractions and bearing
the signs "Bank," "Holborn," "Piccadilly," "Shepherd's Bush,"
"Strand," rumbled through the streets of Antwerp, the populace went
mad. "The British had come at last! The city was saved! Vive les
Anglais! Vive Tommy Atkins!"

I witnessed the detrainment of the naval brigades at Vieux Dieu and
accompanied them to the trenches north of Lierre. As they tramped
down the tree-bordered, cobble-paved high road, we heard, for the
first time in Belgium, the lilting refrain of that music-hall ballad which
had become the English soldiers' marching song:


It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go; It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know! Good-bye, Piccadilly!
Farewell, Leicester Square! It's a long, long way to Tipperary;
But my heart's right there!


Many and many a one of the light-hearted lads with whom I
marched down the Lierre road on that October afternoon were
destined never again to feel beneath their feet the flags of Piccadilly,
never again to lounge in Leicester Square.

They were as clean-limbed, pleasant-faced, wholesome-looking a
lot of young Englishmen as you would find anywhere, but to anyone
who had had military experience it was evident that, despite the fact
that they were vigorous and courageous and determined to do their
best, they were not "first-class fighting men." To win in war, as in
the prize-ring, something more than vigour and courage and
determination are required; to those qualities must be added
experience and training, and experience and training were precisely
what those naval reservists lacked. Moreover, their equipment left
much to be desired. For example, only a very small proportion had
pouches to carry the regulation one hundred and fifty rounds. They
were, in fact, equipped very much as many of the American militia
organizations were equipped when suddenly called out for strike
duty in the days before the reorganization of the National Guard.
Even the officers - those, at least, with whom I talked - seemed to be
as deficient in field experience as the men. Yet these raw troops
were rushed into trenches which were in most cases unprotected by
head-covers, and, though unsupported by effective artillery, they
held those trenches for three days under as murderous a shell-fire
as I have ever seen and then fell back in perfect order. What the
losses of the Naval Division were I do not know. In Antwerp it was
generally understood that very close to a fifth of the entire force was
killed or wounded - upwards of three hundred cases were, I was told,
treated in one hospital alone - and the British Government officially
announced that sixteen hundred were forced across the frontier and
interned in Holland.

No small part in the defence of the city was played by the much-
talked-about armoured train, which was built under the supervision
of Lieutenant-Commander Littlejohn in the yards of the Antwerp
Engineering Company at Hoboken. The train consisted of four large
coal-trucks with sides of armour-plate sufficiently high to afford
protection to the crews of the 4.7 naval guns - six of which were
brought from England for the purpose, though there was only time
to mount four of them - and between each gun-truck was a heavily-
armoured goods-van for ammunition, the whole being drawn by a
small locomotive, also steel-protected. The guns were served by
Belgian artillerymen commanded by British gunners and each gun-
truck carried, in addition, a detachment of infantry in the event of the
enemy getting to close quarters. Personally, I am inclined to believe
that the chief value of this novel contrivance lay in the moral
encouragement it lent to the defence, for its guns, though more
powerful, certainly, than anything that the Belgians possessed, were
wholly outclassed, both in range and calibre, by the German artillery.
The German officers whom I questioned on the subject after the
occupation told me that the fire of the armoured train caused them
no serious concern and did comparatively little damage.

By Tuesday night a boy scout could have seen that the position of
Antwerp was hopeless. The Austrian siege guns had smashed and
silenced the chain of supposedly impregnable forts to the south of
the city with the same businesslike dispatch with which the same
type of guns had smashed and silenced those other supposedly
impregnable forts at Liege and Namur. Through the opening thus
made a German army corps had poured to fling itself against the
second line of defence, formed by the Ruppel and the Nethe.
Across the Nethe, under cover of a terrific artillery fire, the Germans
threw their pontoon-bridges, and when the first bridges were
destroyed by the Belgian guns they built others, and when these
were destroyed in turn they tried again, and at the third attempt they
succeeded. With the helmeted legions once across the river, it was
all over but the shouting, and no one knew it better than the
Belgians, yet, heartened by the presence of the little handful of
English, they fought desperately, doggedly on. Their forts pounded
to pieces by guns which they could not answer, their ranks thinned
by a murderous rain of shot and shell, the men heavy-footed and
heavy-eyed from lack of sleep, the horses staggering from
exhaustion, the ambulance service broken down, the hospitals
helpless before the flood of wounded, the trenches littered with the
dead and dying, they still held back the German legions.

By this time the region to the south of Antwerp had been
transformed from a peaceful, smiling country-side into a land of
death and desolation. It looked as though it had been swept by a
great hurricane, filled with lightning which had missed nothing. The
blackened walls of what had once been prosperous farm-houses,
haystacks turned into heaps of smoking carbon, fields slashed
across with trenches, roads rutted and broken by the great wheels
of guns and transport wagons - these scenes were on every hand.
In the towns and villages along the Nethe, where the fighting was
heaviest, the walls of houses had fallen into the streets and piles of
furniture, mattresses, agricultural machinery, and farm carts showed
where the barricades and machine-guns had been. The windows of
many of the houses were stuffed with mattresses and pillows,
behind which the riflemen had made a stand. Lierre and Waelhem
and Duffel were like sieves dripping blood. Corpses were strewn
everywhere. Some of the dead were spread-eagled on their backs
as though exhausted after a long march, some were twisted and
crumpled in attitudes grotesque and horrible, some were propped
up against the walls of houses to which they had tried to crawl in
their agony.

All of them stared at nothing with awful, unseeing eyes. It was one
of the scenes that I should like to forget. But I never can.

On Tuesday evening General de Guise, the military governor of
Antwerp, informed the Government that the Belgian position was
fast becoming untenable and, acting on this information, the capital
of Belgium was transferred from Antwerp to Ostend, the members
of the Government and the Diplomatic Corps leaving at daybreak on
Wednesday by special steamer, while at the same time Mr. Winston
Churchill departed for the coast by automobile under convoy of an
armoured motorcar. His last act was to order the destruction of the
condensers of the German vessels in the harbour, for which the
Germans, upon occupying the city, demanded an indemnity of
twenty million francs.

As late as Wednesday morning the great majority of the inhabitants
of Antwerp remained in total ignorance of the real state of affairs.
Morning after morning the Matin and the Metropole had published
official communiqués categorically denying that any of the forts had
been silenced and asserting in the most positive terms that the
enemy was being held in check all along the line. As a result of this
policy of denial and deception, the people of Antwerp went to sleep
on Tuesday night calmly confident that in a few days more the
Germans would raise the siege from sheer discouragement and
depart. Imagine what happened, then, when they awoke on
Wednesday morning, October 7, to learn that the Government had
stolen away between two days without issuing so much as a word of
warning, and to find staring at them from every wall and hoarding
proclamations signed by the military governor announcing that the
bombardment of the city was imminent, urging all who were able to
leave instantly, and advising those who remained to shelter
themselves behind sand-bags in their cellars. It was like waiting until
the entire first floor of a house was in flames and the occupants'
means of escape almost cut off, before shouting "Fire!"

No one who witnessed the exodus of the population from Antwerp
will ever forget it. No words can adequately describe it. It was not a
flight; it was a stampede. The sober, slow-moving, slow-thinking
Flemish townspeople were suddenly transformed into a herd of
terror-stricken cattle. So complete was the German enveloping
movement that only three avenues of escape remained open:
westward, through St. Nicolas and Lokeren, to Ghent; north-
eastward across the frontier into Holland; down the Scheldt toward
Flushing. Of the half million fugitives - for the exodus was not
confined to the citizens of Antwerp but included the entire population
of the country-side for twenty miles around - probably fully a quarter
of a million escaped by river. Anything that could float was pressed
into service: merchant steamers, dredgers, ferry-boats, scows,
barges, canal-boats, tugs, fishing craft, yachts, rowing-boats,
launches, even extemporized rafts. There was no attempt to
enforce order. The fear-frantic people piled aboard until there was
not even standing room on the vessels' decks. Of all these
thousands who fled by river, but an insignificant proportion were
provided with food or warm clothing or had space in which to lie
down. Yet through two nights they huddled together on the open
decks in the cold and the darkness while the great guns tore to
pieces the city they had left behind them. As I passed up the
crowded river in my launch on the morning after the first night's
bombardment we seemed to be followed by a wave of sound - a
great murmur of mingled anguish and misery and fatigue and
hunger from the homeless thousands adrift upon the waters.

The scenes along the highways were even more appalling, for here
the retreating soldiery and the fugitive civilians were mixed in
inextricable confusion. By mid-afternoon on Wednesday the road
from Antwerp to Ghent, a distance of forty miles, was a solid mass
of refugees, and the same was true of every road, every lane, every
footpath leading in a westerly or a northerly direction. The people
fled in motor-cars and in carriages, in delivery-wagons, in moving-
vans, in farm-carts, in omnibuses, in vehicles drawn by oxen, by
donkeys, even by cows, on horseback, on bicycles, and there
were thousands upon thousands afoot. I saw men trundling
wheelbarrows piled high with bedding and with their children
perched upon the bedding. I saw sturdy young peasants carrying
their aged parents in their arms. I saw women of fashion in fur coats
and high-heeled shoes staggering along clinging to the rails of the
caissons or to the ends of wagons. I saw white-haired men and
women grasping the harness of the gun-teams or the stirrup-
leathers of the troopers, who, themselves exhausted from many
days of fighting, slept in their saddles as they rode. I saw springless
farm-wagons literally heaped with wounded soldiers with piteous
white faces; the bottoms of the wagons leaked and left a trail of
blood behind them. A very old priest, too feeble to walk, was
trundled by two young priests in a handcart. A young woman, an
expectant mother, was tenderly and anxiously helped on by her
husband. One of the saddest features of all this dreadful procession
was the soldiers, many of them wounded, and so bent with fatigue
from many days of marching and fighting that they could hardly
raise their feet. One infantryman who could bear his boots no longer
had tied them to the cleaning-rod of his rifle. Another had strapped
his boots to his cowhide knapsack and limped forward with his
swollen feet in felt slippers. Here were a group of Capuchin monks
abandoning their monastery; there a little party of white-faced nuns
shepherding the flock of children - many of them fatherless - who had
been entrusted to their care. The confusion was beyond all
imagination, the clamour deafening: the rattle of wheels, the
throbbing of motors, the clatter of hoofs, the cracking of whips, the
curses of the drivers, the groans of the wounded, the cries of
women, the whimpering of children, threats, pleadings, oaths,
screams, imprecations, and always the monotonous shuffle, shuffle,
shuffle of countless weary feet.

The fields and the ditches between which these processions of
disaster passed were strewn with the prostrate forms of those who,
from sheer exhaustion, could go no further. And there was no food
for them, no shelter. Within a few hours after the exodus began the
country-side was as bare of food as the Sahara is of grass. Time
after time I saw famished fugitives pause at farmhouses and offer all
of their pitifully few belongings for a loaf of bread; but the kind-
hearted country-people, with tears streaming down their cheeks,
could only shake their heads and tell them that they had long since
given all their food away. Old men and fashionably gowned women
and wounded soldiers went out into the fields and pulled up turnips
and devoured them raw - for there was nothing else to eat. During a
single night, near a small town on the Dutch frontier, twenty women
gave birth to children in the open fields. No one will ever know how
many people perished during that awful flight from hunger and
exposure and exhaustion; many more, certainly, than lost their lives
in the bombardment.




VIII. The Fall Of Antwerp


The bombardment of Antwerp began about ten o'clock on the
evening of Wednesday, October 7. The first shell to fall within the
city struck a house in the Berchem district, killing a fourteen-year-old
boy and wounding his mother and little sister. The second
decapitated a street-sweeper as he was running for shelter.
Throughout the night the rain of death continued without cessation,
the shells falling at the rate of four or five a minute. The streets of
the city were as deserted as those of Pompeii. The few people who
remained, either because they were willing to take their chances or
because they had no means of getting away, were cowering in their
cellars. Though the gas and electric lights were out, the sky was
rosy from the reflection of the petrol-tanks which the Belgians had
set on fire; now and then a shell would burst with the intensity of
magnesium, and the quivering beams of two searchlights on the
forts across the river still further lit up the ghastly scene. The noise
was deafening. The buildings seemed to rock and sway. The very
pavements trembled. Mere words are inadequate to give a
conception of the horror of it all. There would come the hungry
whine of a shell passing low over the house-tops, followed, an
instant later, by a shattering crash, and the whole facade of the
building that had been struck would topple into the street in a
cascade of brick and stone and plaster. It was not until Thursday
night, however, that the Germans brought their famous forty-two-
centimetre guns into action. The effect of these monster cannon
was appalling. So tremendous was the detonation that it sounded
as though the German batteries were firing salvoes. The projectiles
they were now raining upon the city weighed a ton apiece and had
the destructive properties of that much nitroglycerine. We could
hear them as they came. They made a roar in the air which
sounded at first like an approaching express train, but which rapidly
rose in volume until the atmosphere quivered with the howl of a
cyclone. Then would come an explosion which jarred the city to its
very foundations.

Over the shivering earth rolled great clouds of dust and smoke.
When one of these terrible projectiles struck a building it did not
merely tear away the upper stories or blow a gaping aperture in its
walls: the whole building crumbled, disintegrated, collapsed, as
though flattened by a mighty hand. When they exploded in the open
street they not only tore a hole in the pavement the size of a cottage
cellar, but they sliced away the facades of all the houses in the
immediate vicinity, leaving their interiors exposed, like the interiors
upon a stage. Compared with the "forty-twos" the shell and shrapnel
fire of the first night's bombardment was insignificant and harmless.
The thickest masonry was crumpled up like so much cardboard.
The stoutest cellars were no protection if a shell struck above them.
It seemed as though at times the whole city was coming down about
our ears. Before the bombardment had been in progress a dozen
hours there was scarcely a street in the southern quarter of the city -
save only the district occupied by wealthy Germans, whose houses
remained untouched - which was not obstructed by heaps of fallen
masonry. The main thoroughfares were strewn with fallen electric
light and trolley wires and shattered poles and branches lopped
from trees. The sidewalks were carpeted with broken glass. The air
was heavy with the acrid fumes of smoke and powder. Abandoned
dogs howled mournfully before the doors of their deserted homes.
From a dozen quarters of the city columns of smoke by day and
pillars of fire by night rose against the sky.

Owing to circumstances - fortunate or unfortunate, as one chooses
to view them - I was not in Antwerp during the first night's
bombardment. You must understand that a war correspondent, no
matter how many thrilling and interesting things he may be able to
witness, is valueless to the paper which employs him unless he is
able to get to the end of a telegraph wire and tell the readers of that
newspaper what is happening. In other words, he must not only
gather the news but he must deliver it. Otherwise his usefulness
ceases. When, therefore, on Wednesday morning, the telegraph
service from Antwerp abruptly ended, all trains and boats stopped
running, and the city was completely cut off from communication
with the outside world, I left in my car for Ghent, where the telegraph
was still in operation, to file my dispatches. So dense was the mass
of retreating soldiery and fugitive civilians which blocked the
approaches to the pontoon-bridge, that it took me four hours to get
across the Scheldt, and another four hours, owing to the slow
driving necessitated by the terribly congested roads, to cover the
forty miles to Ghent. I had sent my dispatches, had had a hasty
dinner, and was on the point of starting back to Antwerp, when Mr.
Johnson, the American Consul at Ostend, called me up by
telephone. He told me that the Minister of War, then at Ostend, had
just sent him a package containing the keys of buildings and
dwellings belonging to German residents of Antwerp who had been
expelled at the beginning of the war, with the request that they be
transmitted to the German commander immediately the German
troops entered the city, as it was feared that, were these places
found to be locked, it might lead to the doors being broken open and
thus give the Germans a pretext for sacking. Mr. Johnson asked me
if I would remain in Ghent until he could come through in his car with
the keys and if I would assume the responsibility of seeing that the
keys reached the German commander. I explained to Mr. Johnson
that it was imperative that I should return to Antwerp immediately;
but when he insisted that, under the circumstances, it was clearly
my duty to take the keys through to Antwerp, I promised to await his
arrival, although by so doing I felt that I was imperilling the interests
of the newspaper which was employing me. Owing to the congested
condition of the roads Mr. Johnson was unable to reach Ghent until
Thursday morning.

By this time the highroad between Ghent and Antwerp was utterly
impassable - one might as well have tried to paddle a canoe up the
rapids at Niagara as to drive a car against the current of that river of
terrified humanity - so, taking advantage of comparatively empty by-
roads, I succeeded in reaching Doel, a fishing village on the Scheldt
a dozen miles below Antwerp, by noon on Thursday.

By means of alternate bribes and threats, Roos, my driver,
persuaded a boatman to take us up to Antwerp in a small motor-
launch over which, as a measure of precaution, I raised an
American flag. As long as memory lasts there will remain with me,
sharp and clear, the recollection of that journey up the Scheldt, the
surface of which was literally black with vessels with their loads of
silent misery. It was well into the afternoon and the second day's
bombardment was at its height when we rounded the final bend in
the river and the lace-like tower of the cathedral rose before us.
Shells were exploding every few seconds, columns of grey-green
smoke rose skyward, the air reverberated as though to a continuous
peal of thunder. As we ran alongside the deserted quays a shell
burst with a terrific crash in a street close by, and our boatman,
panic-stricken, suddenly reversed his engine and backed into the
middle of the river. Roos drew his pistol.

"Go ahead!" he commanded. "Run up to the quay so that we can
land." Before the grim menace of the automatic the man sullenly
obeyed.

"I've a wife and family at Doel," he muttered. "If I'm killed there'll be
no one to look after them."

"I've a wife and family in America," I retorted. "You're taking no more
chances than I am."

I am not in the least ashamed to admit, however, that as we ran
alongside the Red Star quays - the American flag was floating above
them, by the way - I would quite willingly have given everything I
possessed to have been back on Broadway again. A great city
which has suddenly been deserted by its population is inconceivably
depressing. Add to this the fact that every few seconds a shell
would burst somewhere behind the row of buildings that screened
the waterfront, and that occasionally one would clear the house-tops
altogether and, moaning over our heads, would drop into the river
and send up a great geyser, and you will understand that Antwerp
was not exactly a cheerful place in which to land. There was not a
soul to be seen anywhere. Such of the inhabitants as remained had
taken refuge in their cellars, and just at that time a deep cellar would
have looked extremely good to me. On the other hand, as I argued
with myself there was really an exceedingly small chance of a shell
exploding on the particular spot where I happened to be standing,
and if it did - well, it seemed more dignified, somehow, to be killed in
the open than to be crushed to death in a cellar like a cornered rat.

About ten o'clock in the evening the bombardment slackened for a
time and the inhabitants of Antwerp's underworld began to creep out
of their subterranean hiding-places and slink like ghosts along the
quays in search of food. The great quantities of food-stuffs and
other provisions which had been taken from the captured German
vessels at the beginning of the war had been stored in hastily-
constructed warehouses upon the quays, and it was not long before
the rabble, undeterred by the fear of the police and willing to chance


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