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standpoint, that Premier Asquith was able to announce that two divisions
(40,000) of British (white) soldiers were to be removed from India.

The aid that India could offer was not lightly to be considered. The
soldiery retained by the British and the rajahs, constituting India's
standing army, amount to about 400,000, not taking into consideration
the reserves and the volunteers. The rajahs maintain about 23,
soldiers, who are named Imperial Service Troops, expressly for purposes
of Imperial defense, and these have served in many wars. They served
with British, German, French, and United States troops in China from
September, 1900, to August, 1901, and gained the highest laurels for
efficiency and good conduct.

The first Indian troops called for by Lord Kitchener included two
divisions of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, adding about 70,
combatants to the allied armies in France, with approximately 130 pieces
of artillery, both light and heavy, and howitzers.

Twelve Indian potentates were selected to accompany this expeditionary
force. These included the veteran Sir Pertab Singh, regent of Jodhpur;
Sir Ganga Bahadur, Maharajah of Bikanir, and Sir Bhupindra Singh,
Maharajah of Patiala.

The expeditionary force contained units of the regular army and
contingents of the Imperial Service Troops in India, From twelve states
the viceroy accepted contingents of cavalry, infantry, sappers and
transport, besides a camel corps from Bikanir.

The Maharajah of Mysore placed $1,600,000 at the disposal of the
Government in connection with the expenditure for the expeditionary
force. In addition to this gift, the Maharajahs of Gwalior and Bhopal
contributed large sums of money and provided thousands of horses as
remounts. Maharajah Repa offered his troops and treasure, even his
privately-owned jewelry, for the service of the British King and Emperor
of India. Maharajah Holkar of Indore made a gift of all the horses in
the army of his state.

A similar desire to help the British Government was shown by committees
representing religious, political, and social associations of all
classes and creeds in India.

In the House of Lords on August 28 Earl Kitchener announced that the
first division of the troops from India was already on the way to the
front in France. At the same time the Marquis of Crewe, secretary of
state for India, said: "It has been deeply impressed upon us by what we
have heard from India that the wonderful wave of enthusiasm and loyalty
now passing over that country is to a great extent based upon the desire
of the Indian people that Indian soldiers should stand side by side with
their comrades of the British army in repelling the invasion of our
friends' territory and the attack made upon Belgium. We shall find our
army there reinforced by native Indian soldiers - high-souled men of
first-rate training and representing an ancient civilization; and we
feel certain that if they are called upon they will give the best
possible account of themselves side by side with our British troops in
encountering the enemy."


On September 9 a message from King George to the British colonies,
thanking them for their aid in Britain's emergency, was published as

"During the last few weeks the peoples of my whole empire at home and
overseas have moved with one mind and purpose to confront and overthrow
an unparalleled assault upon the continuity of civilization and the
peace of mankind.

"The calamitous conflict is not of my seeking. My voice has been cast
throughout on the side of peace. My ministers earnestly strove to allay
the causes of the strife and to appease differences with which my empire
was not concerned. Had I stood aside when in defiance of pledges to
which my kingdom was a party, the soil of Belgium was violated and
her cities made desolate, when the very life of the French nation was
threatened with extinction, I should have sacrificed my honor and given
to destruction the liberties of my empire and of mankind.

"I rejoice that every part of the empire is with me in this decision.

"Paramount regard for a treaty of faith and the pledged word of rulers
and peoples is the common heritage of Great Britain and of the empire.
My peoples in the self-governing dominions have shown beyond all doubt
that they whole-heartedly indorse the grave decision it was necessary
to take, and I am proud to be able to show to the world that my peoples
oversea are as determined as the people of the United Kingdom to
prosecute a just cause to a successful end.

"The Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion
of New Zealand have placed at my disposal their naval forces, which
have already rendered good service for the empire. Strong expeditionary
forces are being prepared in Canada, Australia and New Zealand for
service at the front, and the Union of South Africa has released all
British troops and undertaken other important military responsibilities.

"Newfoundland has doubled the number of its branch of the royal naval
reserve, and is sending a body of men to take part in the operations at
the front. From the Dominion and Provincial governments of Canada, large
and welcome gifts of supplies are on their way for use both by my naval
and military forces.

"All parts of my oversea dominions have thus demonstrated in the most
unmistakable manner the fundamental unity of the empire amidst all its
diversity of situation and circumstance."

A message similar to the foregoing was addressed by King George to the
princes and the people of India.

The King's eldest son, the young Prince of Wales, volunteered for active
service at the outset of the war and was gazetted as a second lieutenant
in the First Battalion, Grenadier Guards. He also inaugurated and acted
as treasurer of a national fund for the relief of sufferers by the war.
This fund soon grew to $10,000,000 and steadily climbed beyond that



_Belgian Resistance to the German Advance_ - _The Fighting at Vise,
Haelen, Diest, Aerschot and Tirlemont_ - _Mons and Charleroi the First
Great Battles of the War_ - Make a Gallant Stand, but Forced to Retire
Across the French Border_.

From the first day of the German entry into Belgium brief and hazy
reports of battles between the patriotic Belgians and the invaders came
across the Atlantic. Many absurd and mischievous reports of repeated
Belgian "victories" were received throughout the month of August. These
were for the most part rendered ridiculous by the steady advance of
the German troops. The resistance of the Belgians was gallant and
persistent, but availed only to hinder and delay the German advance
which it was powerless to stop. Up to August 23, there were no
"victories" possible for either side, because never until then were the
opposing armies definitely pitted against each other in an engagement in
which one or the other must be broken.

All the time these Belgian "victories," which were no more than
resistances to German reconnoissances, were being reported, the German
line was not touched, and behind that line the Germans were methodically

When they were ready they came on. The Belgian army retired from the
Diest-Tirlemont line, from Aerschot and Louvain, from Brussels, because
to have held these positions against the overwhelming force opposed to
them would have meant certain destruction. The rearguards held each of
these points with the greatest heroism so long as that was necessary,
and then retired in good order on the main force.


The first fighting of any severity in Belgium occurred at Visé, near
the frontier, early in the German advance. German troops crossed the
frontier in motors, followed by large bodies of cavalry, but the
Belgians put up a stubborn resistance. The chiefs of the Belgian staff
had foreseen the invasion and had blown up the bridges of the River
Meuse outside the town, as well as the railway tunnels. Time after time
the Belgians foiled with their heavy fire the attempts of the Germans to
cross by means of pontoons. Visé itself was stubbornly defended. Only
after a protracted struggle did the Germans master the town, which they
fired in several places on entering.


At the end of the first week of the Belgian invasion it was estimated
that the Germans had concentrated most of their field troops, probably
about 900,000 combatants, along a 75-mile line running from Liege to the
entrance into Luxemburg at Treves. With this immense army it was said
there were no less than 5,894 pieces of artillery. This was only the
first-line strength of the Germans, the reserves being massed in the
rear. Part of the right wing was swung northward and westward in the
direction of Antwerp, and swept the whole of northern Belgium to the
Dutch frontier.

On August 10 the Belgian defenders fought a heavy engagement with the
Germans at Haelen, which was described in the dispatches as the first
battle of the war. A Belgian victory was claimed as the result, the
German losses, it was said, being very heavy, especially in cavalry,
while the Belgian casualties were reported relatively small. But the
German advance was merely checked. The covering troops were speedily
reinforced from the main body of the army and the advance swept on.

The result of the Haelen engagement was thus described in the dispatches
of August 13:

"The battle centered around Haelen, in the Belgian province of Limbourg,
extending to Diest, in the north of the province of Brabant, after
passing round Zeelhem.

"At 7 o'clock last evening all the country between the three towns
mentioned had been cleared of German troops, except the dead and
wounded, who were thickly strewn about the fire zone. Upward of 200 dead
German soldiers were counted in a space of fifty yards square.

"A church, a brewery and some houses in Haelen. were set afire, and two
bridges over the Denier were destroyed by Belgian engineers.

"Great quantities of booty were collected on the battlefield, and this
has been stacked in front of the town hall of Diest. Many horses also
were captured.

"The strength of the German column was about 5,000 men."

Another report said of the encounter:

"A division of Belgian cavalry, supported by a brigade of infantry and
by artillery, engaged and defeated, near the fortress of Diest, eighteen
miles northeast of Louvain, a division of German cavalry, also supported
by infantry and by artillery.

"The fighting was extremely fierce and resulted in the Germans being
thrown back toward Hasselt and St. Trond."

Meanwhile the forts at Liege, to the southeast, still held out, though
fiercely bombarded by German siege guns. The fortress of Namur was also
being attacked. The Germans had bridged the river Meuse and were moving
their crack artillery against the Belgian lines. French troops had
joined the Belgian defenders and the main battle line extended from
Liege on the north to Metz on the south.

A visit to Haelen and other towns by a Brussels correspondent August
17, "showed the frightful devastation which the Germans perpetrated in
Belgian territory.

"For instance, at Haelen itself houses belonging to the townspeople have
been completely wrecked. Windows were broken, furniture destroyed, and
the walls demolished by shell fire. Even the churches have not been
respected. The parish church at Haelen has been damaged considerably
from shrapnel fire, "On the battlefield there are many graves of Germans
marked by German lances erected in the form of a cross."


A correspondent of the New York Tribune said:

"Across the battlefield of Diest there is a brown stretch of harrowed
ground half a furlong in length. It is the grave of twelve hundred
Germans who fell in the fight of August 11. All over the field there are
other graves, some of Germans, some of Belgians, some of horses. When I
reached the place peasants with long mattocks and spades were turning in
the soil. For two full days they had been at the work of burial and they
were sick at heart. Their corn is ripe for cutting in the battlefield,
but little of it will be harvested. Dark paths in their turnip fields
are sodden with the blood of men and horses."

The Belgians, in contempt of German markmanship, had forced the enemy
to the attack, which had been made from three points of the field
simultaneously. The fighting had been fierce, but now that both sides
had swept on, no one seemed to know how those in the fight had really
fared. Only by the heaps of dead could one make estimate:

"At least, there were most dead on the side toward the bridge. A charge
of 300 Uhlans, who were held in check for a short time by seventeen
Belgians at a corner, seems, however, to have come near success. The
derelict helmets and lances that covered the fields show that the charge
pressed well up to the guns and to the trenches in the turnip fields
where the Belgian soldiers lay. On the German left mitrailleuses got in
their work behind, and in the houses on the outskirts of the villages.
Five of these houses were burned to the ground, and two others farther
out broken all to pieces and burned. In a shed was a peasant weeping
over the dead bodies of his cows.

"It would be easy now at the beginning of this war to write of its
tragedy. The villages have each a tale of loss to tell. All of the
twelve hundred men in the long grave were men with wives, sweethearts,
and parents. All the Belgian soldiers and others who were buried where
they fell have mourners. A LETTER FROM THE GRAVE

"A letter which I picked up on the field and am endeavoring to have
identified and sent her for whom it is intended will speak for all. It
is written in ink on half a sheet of thin notepaper. There is no date
and no place. It probably was written on the eve of battle in the hope
that it would reach its destination if the writer died. This is the

"'Sweetheart: Fate in this present war has treated us more cruelly than
many others. If I have not lived to create for you the happiness of
which both our hearts dreamed, remember my sole wish now is that you
should be happy. Forget me and create for yourself some happy home that
may restore to you some of the greater pleasures of life. For myself, I
shall have died happy in the thought of your love. My last thought has
been for you and for those I leave at home. Accept this, the last kiss
from him who loved you.'

"Postcards from fathers with blessings to their gallant sons I found,
too, on the field, little mementos of people and of places carried by
men as mascots. Everywhere were broken lances of German and Belgian,
side by side; scabbards and helmets, saddles and guns. These the
peasants were collecting in a pile, to be removed by the military.
High up over the graves of twelve hundred, as we stood there, a German
biplane came and went, hovering like a carrion crow, seeking other
victims for death.

"In the village itself death is still busy. A wounded German died as we
stood by his side and a Belgian soldier placed his handkerchief over his
face. Soldiers who filled the little market-place may be fighting for
life now as I write. The enemy is in force not a mile away from them,
and in a moment they may be attacked. It is significant that all German
prisoners believed they were in France. The deception, it appears, was
necessary to encourage them in their attack, and twelve hundred dead
in the harrowed field died without knowing whom or what they were


A number of German prisoners were taken by the Belgians during the
fighting at Haelen-Diest. From these it was learned that the German
soldiers really believed they were fighting in France. At Diest it is
said that 400 surrendered the moment they lost their officers and were
surprised to learn that they were in Belgium.

King Albert of Belgium was constantly in the field during the early
engagements of the war, moving from point to point inside the Belgian
lines by means of a high-powered automobile, in which he was slightly
wounded by the explosion of a shell. He was thus enabled to keep in
touch with the field forces, as well as with his general staff, and
speedily endeared himself to the Belgian soldiery by his personal
disregard of danger.

The Belgians by their gallant fight against the trained legions of
Germany quickly won the admiration even of their foes. The army
of Belgium was brought up to its full strength of 300,000 men and
everywhere the soldiers of the little country battled to halt the
invaders. Often their efforts proved effective. The losses on both sides
were truly appalling, the Germans suffering most on account of their
open methods of attack in close order. But their forces were like the
sands of the sea and every gap in the ranks of the onrushing host was
promptly filled by more Germans.


The fighting at Tirlemont and Louvain was described by a citizen of
Ostend, who says he witnessed it from a church tower at Tirlemont first
and later proceeded to Louvain. He says:

"Until luncheon time Tuesday, August 18, Tirlemont was quiet and normal.
Suddenly, about 1 o'clock, came the sound of the first German gun. The
artillery had opened fire.

"From the church tower it was possible to see distinctly the position of
the German guns and the bursting of their shells. The Belgians replied
from their positions east of Louvain. It was a striking sight, to the
accompaniment of the ceaseless thud-thud of bursting shells with their
puffs of cottonlike smoke, tearing up the peaceful wheat fields not far


"Gradually working nearer, the shells began to strike the houses in
Tirlemont. This was a signal for the populace, which had been confident
that the Belgian army would protect them, to flee. All they knew was
that the Germans were coming. From the tower the scene was like the
rushing of rats from a disturbed nest. The people fled in every
direction except one.

"I moved down to Louvain, where everything seemed quiet and peaceful.
The people sat in the cafes drinking their evening beer and smoking.
Meanwhile the Belgian troops were retiring in good order toward Louvain.


"By midnight the town was in the throes of a panic. Long before midnight
throngs of refugees had begun to arrive, followed later by soldiers. By
11 o'clock the Belgian rear guard was engaging the enemy at the railroad
bridge at the entrance to the town.

"The firing was heavy. The wounded began to come in. Riderless horses
came along, both German and Belgian. These were caught and mounted by
civilians glad to have so rapid a mode of escape.


"I remember watching a black clad Belgian woman running straight down
the middle of a road away from the Germans. Behind her came the retiring
Belgian troops, disheartened but valiant. This woman, clad in mourning,
was the symbol of the Belgian populace.

"At some of the barricades along the route the refugees and soldiers
arrived simultaneously, making the defense difficult. All about
Tirlemont and Louvain the refugees interfered with the work of the
troops. The road to Brussels always was crowded with refugees and many
sorrowful sights were witnessed among them as they fled from the homes
that had been peaceful and prosperous a few days before. BRUSSELS FILLED

"Brussels is filled with refugees from surrounding towns, despite the
large numbers who left the city for Ghent and Ostend during the last few
days," said a correspondent, writing from Ghent on August 20.

"The plight of most of the refugees is pitiable. Many are camped in
the public square whose homes in the suburbs have been fired by the
Prussians. The roads leading into Brussels have been crowded all day
with all kinds of conveyances, many drawn by dogs and others by girls,
women and aged peasants.

"Most of these people have lost everything. Few of them have any money.
The peasant is considered lucky who succeeded in saving a single horse
or a cow.

"Military men characterize the German force which is moving across
Belgium as overwhelming, saying it consists of at least two or three
army corps. The advance of this huge force is covered over the entire
thirty-mile front by a screen of cavalry. The Germans had no difficulty
in taking Louvain, which was virtually undefended.

"In the high wooded country between Louvain and Brussels the Germans
found an excellent defensive position. Having occupied Louvain, the
Kaiser's troops pushed forward with great celerity, the cavalry opening
out in fan-shaped formation, spreading across country.

"At one point they ran into a strong force of Belgian artillery, which
punished them severely. Later in the day a Belgian scouting force
reached Louvain and found it unoccupied, but received imperative
orders to fall back, because of the danger of being outflanked and


By August 20 the Germans were in touch with the French army that had
advanced into Belgium and occupied the line Dinant-Charleroi-Mons, the
right of the French resting on Dinant and the left on Mons, where they
were reinforced by the British expeditionary force under Field Marshal
French. There was a heavy engagement at Charleroi, and a four days'
battle was begun at Mons August 23. Slowly but surely the Franco-British
army was forced back across the French border, to take up a new position
on the line, Noyon-Chant-La Fere, which constituted the second line of
the French defense.

The German right, opposing the British, was under command of General von
Kluck; General von Buelow and General von Hausen commanded the German
center opposing the Franco-Belgian forces between the Sambre and Namur
and the Meuse. The Grand Duke Albrecht of Wuerttemberg operated between
Charleroi and the French border fortress of Maubeuge. The German Crown
Prince led an army farther east, advancing toward the Meuse. The Crown
Prince of Bavaria commanded the German forces farther south toward
Nancy, and General von Heeringen was engaged in repulsing French attacks
on Alsace-Lorraine, in the region of the Vosges mountains, where the
French had met with early successes.

Meanwhile on August 18 the town of Aerschot had been the scene of a
bloody engagement and was occupied and partly destroyed by the Germans.
The occupation of Brussels followed on August 20-21 and the German line
of communications was kept open by a line of occupied towns.

After overwhelming the Belgians the Kaiser's great advance army swept
quickly into deadly conflict with the allies. The first mighty shock
came at Charleroi, where the French were forced back, and on August
came the first battle with the British at Mons.


All England was thrilled on the morning of September 10 when the British
government permitted the newspapers to publish the first report from
Field Marshal Sir John D.P. French, commander-in-chief of the British
army allied with the French and Belgians on the continent, telling of
the heroic fight made by the British troops, August 23-26, to keep from
being annihilated by the Germans. The withdrawal of the British army
before the German advance was compared to the pursuit of a wildcat by
hounds, the English force backing stubbornly toward the River Oise,
constantly showing its teeth, but realizing that it must reach the river
or perish. The report of Field Marshal French created much surprise in
England, as it was not known until his statement was made public just
how hard pressed the British army had been.

The communication was addressed to Earl Kitchener, the secretary for
war, and its publication indicated that the government was responding to
the public demand for fuller information on the progress of operations,
so far as the British forces in France were concerned.

The report, as published in the London Gazette, the official organ, was
as follows:


"The transportation of the troops from England by rail and sea was
effected in the best order and without a check. Concentration was
practically completed on the evening of Friday, August 21, and I was
able to make dispositions to move the force during Saturday to positions
I considered most favorable from which to commence the operations which
General Joffre requested me to undertake. The line extended along the

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 15 of 49)