Thomas Herbert Russell.

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again went straight to the very heart of every one of our 25,000,
fellow countrymen. That one promise has been sufficient to change the
whole mentality of the nation and fill their souls with new hope. It has
cleared up any doubt that might have existed in the minds of the Poles
in Austria and Prussia as to what it is that the allies are fighting
for - namely: the principles of nationality for which we have suffered,
ah! how many centuries!"


The ruin wrought by war in Belgium affected 7,000,000 people. In Poland
more than twice that number have been rendered destitute. Not less than
15,000 villages have been laid waste, burned, or damaged in Russian
Poland alone. The loss in property has been estimated at $500,000,000,
but may reach double that sum.

In Galicia the conditions are reported to be equally appalling, though
the smashup has not been as complete, because the Russians have been
able to maintain their positions more permanently than they have in the
district west and northeast of the Polish capital.

The greater part of Poland lying in a broad sweep of country west,
southwest and northeast of Warsaw has been swept over and battered to
pieces by shot and shell like the strip of Flanders on both sides of the
Yser river.

Without any direct interest in the present great conflict, the unhappy
Poles found themselves impressed into the armies of these three great
powers and fighting against their own racial brethren. That meant that
brother was to fight against brother, and as the stress of the war
increased and the age limit was raised to 38 years and even higher,
nearly every able-bodied Pole was impressed into service.

Almost the first move of the Russians at the outbreak of hostilities was
to invade Galicia. This brought with it instantly all the most frightful
horrors of war. Embracing as it does a large part of the grain-growing
district of the Polish peoples, the devastation of Galicia meant
suffering for not only that province, but for Russian Poland as well.
The crops had only been partially harvested by August, when the war

The panic of war stopped the work in the fields, even where the peasants
were not compelled to flee before the invader. The men were called to
the colors and the crops were allowed to rot in the fields. Numerous
towns were sacked.

The advance to Lemberg by the Russians was swift. In the panic that
followed this great city of 200,000 had scarcely 70,000 left when the
invaders took possession. Families were broken up; none of the refugees
had time to take supplies or clothes.

Germany's first move against Russia came from the great fortresses
along the Oder and Vistula. All of western Poland was overrun. When the
Russian advance from Warsaw drove back the invaders, the scars of the
conflict left this section of Poland badly battered. Then came Von
Hindenburg's victorious armies, and again this section was torn by shot
and shell and wasted. While some of the larger places, such as Lodz,
Plock, Lowicz, Tchenstochow and Petrokov, were spared, the smaller
towns, villages, and hamlets in the direct line of battle suffered
equally from the defenders and invaders.

All the section to the northeast of Warsaw between the East Prussian
frontier and the Bug, Narew, and Niemen rivers has suffered even a worse
fate, as the bitterness engendered by the devastation worked by the
Russians in East Prussia led to reprisals that not even the strict
discipline of the German army could curb. Not only were the peasants'
homes pounded to bits by the opposing artillery fire, but the armies as
they fought back and forth took all the cattle, horses, and stock that
came to their hands. Disease added to the suffering of the stricken


Henry Sienkiewicz, the great Polish writer and author of "Quo Vadis," a
refugee in Switzerland, said, on March 15, 1915:

"In the kingdom of Poland alone there are 15,000 villages burned or
damaged; a thousand churches and chapels destroyed. The homeless
villagers have sought shelter in the forests, where it is no
exaggeration to say that women and children are dying from cold and
hunger by thousands daily.

"Poland comprises 127,500 square kilometers. One hundred thousand of
these have been devastated by the battling armies. More than a million
horses and two million head of horned cattle have been seized by the
invaders, and in the whole of the 100,000 square kilometers in the
possession of the soldiers not a grain of corn, not a scrap of meat, nor
a drop of milk remain for the civil population. "The material losses up
to the present are estimated at 1,000,000,000 rubles ($500,000,000). No
fewer than 400,000 workmen have lost their means of livelihood.

"The state of things in Galicia is just as dreadful for the civil
population - innocent victims of the war. Of 75,000 square kilometers all
except 5,000 square kilometers around Cracow are in possession of the
Russians. They commandeered 900,000 horses and about 200,000 head of
horned cattle and seized all the grain, part of the salt fields, and the
oil wells.

"The once rich province is a desert. Over a million inhabitants
have sought refuge in other parts of Austria, and they are in sheer

Truly, "War is hell!"


Following the invasion and over-running of Belgium by the Germans, the
problem of feeding the Belgian population became an urgent one. The
invaders left the problem largely to the charitable sympathies of the
civilized world, and from almost every quarter of the globe aid was sent
in money or provisions for the stricken people. In spite of the enormous
war drains upon the resources of the British Empire, every one of the
Overseas Dominions did its full share in Belgian relief, while the
United States, through the Rockefeller Foundation and other agencies, as
well as the South American countries, also contributed to alleviate the
suffering in the little kingdom. The contributions continued during more
than two years and the relief was administered most efficiently by means
of commissions.


On April 3, 1915, the leading United States newspapers printed an
appeal received from Nish, the war capital of Serbia, which set forth a
terrible situation in terms that confirmed a report already made public
by Sir Thomas Lipton, who dedicated his famous steam yacht, the Erin,
as a hospital ship for use in the Mediterranean, and visited Serbia
in February and March. The appeal was dated February 23 and said in
substance as follows:

"Typhus is raging in Serbia, and unless immediate aid be sent the
mortality will be appalling. "Typhus is a filth disease and is spread
by lice, which flourish only in dirt. There are not enough buildings to
house the sick and they lie huddled together on dirty straw.

"They have not changed their clothes for six months, and consequently
personal cleanliness, which is absolutely essential in checking the
disease, is impossible. They cannot get proper nourishment, as there is
not enough available, nor is there money to buy it if it were.

"The doctors can usually only work for two weeks before contracting
the disease, as they have no means of protecting themselves. Yet they
volunteer for typhus hospitals, knowing that they are probably going to
their death, for the mortality is over 50 per cent.

"The following four things are most urgently needed:

"1. Tents and portable chicken runs, as these make excellent houses.
There is no lumber in Serbia, so nothing can be built here.

"2. Beds and bed linen. It is impossible to keep straw free from lice.

"3. Underclothing. Dirty clothes make an ideal breeding place for lice.

"4. Disinfectants and whitewash.

"Speedy help is essential, as every day's delay costs hundreds of

The response to this touching appeal was immediate and generous, Germans
and Austrians in America contributing freely. A large amount of cash and
supplies for the Austrian prisoners was sent to the American consul at
Nish, who was also acting consul for Germany and Austria in Serbia.


A dispatch from Berlin by wireless March 23 stated that according to a
report received there from Cracow, the damages due to the war in
Poland and Galicia at that time amounted to 5,000,000,000 marks

In Galicia 100 cities and market places and 6,000 villages had been more
or less damaged, while 250 villages had been destroyed. Horses to the
number of 800,000 and 500,000 head of cattle, with all grain and other
provisions in Galicia had been taken away by the Russians.



_Results of the Battle of the Aisne_ - _Fierce Fighting in Northern
France_ - _Developments on the Eastern Battle Front_ - _The Campaign in
the Pacific_ - _Naval Activities of the Powers_.

With a battle front reaching from the Belgian coast on the North Sea
to the frontier of Switzerland, or a total distance of 362 miles, the
operations in the western theater of war toward the end of October were
being conducted on a more gigantic scale than was ever witnessed before.
On both sides reinforcements were being rushed to the front. German
efforts to break through the Allies' lines were concentrated on the main
center at Verdun and on the right flank of the Allies' left wing, above
its elbow, between Noyon and Arras, while powerful coincidal movements
were in progress on the extreme western end of the line in Belgium and
on the southeastern wing in Alsace. At Verdun continuous fighting of the
fiercest character had been going on for over sixty days, surpassing
in time and severity any individual battle in history. The army of
the Crown Prince had been unable to force the French positions in the
vicinity of Verdun and the check sustained by the Germans at this point
early in the campaign constituted a principal cause of General von
Kluck's failure in his dash toward Paris.

All along the tremendous battle front the allies' lines as a rule held
firm in the thirteenth week of the war, when the great conflict had
entered upon what may well be called its fourth stage. The third stage
may be said to have ended with the fall of Antwerp and the subjugation
of all Belgium but a small portion of its southwestern territory. On
the main front the Allies were maintaining the offensive at some vital
points, while repulsing the German assaults at others. One or two of
the French forts commanding Verdun had fallen but the main positions
remained in the hands of the French, and all along the line it was a
case of daily give-and-take.


After capturing Antwerp the Germans pushed on to Ostend, an "open"
or unfortified town, and occupied it with slight resistance from the
Belgian army, which was reforming its broken ranks to the south, between
Ostend and the French frontier, and preparing to contest the passage of
the Kaiser's forces across the River Yser. Moving northward from Lille,
the Allies encountered the Germans at Armentières, which was occupied
by a Franco-British force and there was also fierce fighting at Ypres,
where there is a canal to the sea. For more than a week the Belgians
gallantly held the banks of the Yser in spite of the utmost endeavors of
the Germans to cross, and it was not until October 24 that the latter
finally succeeded in getting south of the river, with the French seaport
of Dunkirk as their next objective point. Bloody engagements were fought
at Nieuport, Dixmude, Deynze and La Bassée.

At this time the battle line formed almost a perpendicular from Noyon in
France north to the Belgian coast, south of Ostend. A battle raged for
several days in West Flanders and Northern France and both sides claimed
successes. The losses of the Allies and the Germans were estimated
in the thousands and the wounded were sent back to the rear by the
trainful. In the Flemish territory the flat nature of the terrain, with
its numerous canals and almost total absence of natural cover, made
the losses especially severe. The passage of the Yser cost the Germans
dearly and Dixmude was strewn with their dead. And their advance could
get no farther.

The necessity of holding the French ports, Dunkirk and Calais, was
fully realized by the Allies, who threw large reinforcements into their
northern line. The Germans also drew heavily on their center and left
wing to reinforce the right, and for a while the forces opposing one
another at the extreme western end of the battle front were greater than
at any other point. The Germans were firmly held on a line running from
south of Ostend to Thourout, Roulers and Menin, the last mentioned place
being on the border north of Lille. Flanking attacks being no longer
possible, as the western flanks of both armies rested on the North Sea,
the Germans were compelled to make a frontal assault along the line
formed by the Belgian frontier. As the Belgian troops, assisted by
a British naval brigade, were pushed back from the Yser, they were
gradually merged into the army of the allies, by whom they were received
with the honors due the men who had made, for twelve long weeks, such
a gallant and determined defense of their country against invasion and


Soon after the German occupation of Ostend, several British warships
shelled the German positions in and around the city and aided in
hampering the German advance along the coast. The principal vessels
engaged in this work were three monitors which were being completed in
England for the Brazilian government when the war started and which were
bought by the admiralty.

These monitors, which had been renamed Mersey, Humber and Severn, drew
less than nine feet of water and could take up positions not far from
shore, from which their 6-inch guns and 4.7-inch howitzers, of which
each vessel carried two, were able to throw shells nearly four miles
across country, the range being given them by airmen.

French warships of light draft later joined the British monitors and
destroyers and assisted in patrolling the coast, shelling German
positions wherever the latter could be discovered by the aeroplane
scouts. One reported feat of the naval fire was the destruction of the
headquarters of a German general, Von Trip, in which the general and his
staff lost their lives.

From time to time German aerial attacks were made in the vicinity of
Dover, across the Straits, but these without exception proved to be
without military importance in their results. Steps were taken to
organize anti-aircraft artillery forces on the eastern coast of England
and the continued failure of Zeppelin attacks, annoying as they were,
soon restored the equanimity of the British public in this respect.


The first word of the employment of British Indian troops at the front
came on October 27, when it was reported that in the fighting near Lille
a reserve force of Sikhs and Ghurkas, the former with bayonets and the
latter with the kukri (a short, curved sword) played havoc with an
attacking force of Germans. "Never has there been such slaughter," said
the dispatches. "Twenty thousand German dead and wounded, nearly half
the attacking force, lay upon the field, while the British losses did
not exceed 2,000."


At the end of October the French right wing in Alsace-Lorraine was
reported to be making distinct progress. It was said to be advancing
through the passes of the Vosges in the midst of heavy snowstorms. Paris
reported that the Germans, who were attempting a movement against the
great French frontier fortress of Belfort, had been driven back with
heavy losses, while from other sources the Germans were reported to be
bringing up heavy mortars for the bombardment of Belfort. There
were persistent reports of German defeats in Alsace, but these were
repeatedly denied in Berlin. The situation in the territory coveted by
the French appeared to resemble that farther west - neither side was
making much headway.


In the eastern theater of war the conflict during October was waged with
fortunes that favored, first one side and then the other. Contradictory
claims were put forth from time to time by Petrograd, Vienna and Berlin,
but the net result of the operations at the end of the thirteenth week
of the war appeared to be that while the intended Russian march on
Berlin had been completely checked, the Germans had been repulsed with
heavy losses in all their attempts to cross the Vistula and occupy
Warsaw, the capital of Russian Poland, which was at one time seriously

The fighting along the Vistula was fierce and prolonged for several days
at a time. The Germans made numerous attempts to cross the river at
different points by means of pontoon bridges, but these were destroyed
by the Russian artillery as fast as completed. The slaughter on both
sides was considerable. On October 28 the Russian battle front reached
from Suwalki on the north to Sambor and Stryj on the south, a distance
of about 267 miles. The German operations on the Vistula were still
in progress and Poland furnished the main arena of battle. East Prussia
was practically free from Russian troops, save at a few points near the
boundary, but they strongly maintained their positions in Galicia.


After eleven weeks' bombardment by the Austrians, the Servian defenders
of Belgrade were still bravely resisting, although half the city had
been destroyed. The situation was such as to cause at once astonishment,
pity and admiration.

In the open field the Servians continued to hold their own against the
Austrian forces opposed to them. Their Montenegrin allies, under General
Bukovitch, were reported to have defeated 16,000 Austrians, supported by
six batteries of artillery, at a point northeast of Serajevo. The battle
terminated in a hand-to-hand bayonet conflict which lasted four hours.
The Austrians are said to have lost 2,500 men, killed and wounded, while
the Montenegrins claimed that their losses amounted to only 300 men.


Beginning with the loss of its colonies in the China sea, Germany was
compelled to witness during the first two years of the war the passing
into enemy hands of practically all its colonial possessions, which more
than balanced its temporary possession of enemy soil in Europe. One
by one its colonies in Asia and Africa were captured, and in these
operations not only the Japanese but the Belgians assisted, the latter
in Africa.

Late in October, 1914, the Japanese received the surrender of Tsing
Tau, the important German city in Kiauchau, China. The place had been
battered for weeks by land and sea by the Japanese forces, and the
surrender was ordered, it was said, to save the German forces and
civilians from certain annihilation if a defense by the garrison to the
end were to be carried on. German warships were powerless to assist the
beleaguered city, as Japanese and English war vessels had driven them
far from the coast of China.

The Japanese cruiser Takachiho was sunk by a mine in Kiauchau Bay on the
night of October 17. One officer and nine members of the crew are known
to have been saved. The cruiser carried a crew of 284 men. Her main
battery consisted of eight 6-inch guns.


Up to the last week in October the main fleets of the warring powers
were still inactive, but rumors of intended German naval activity were
frequent. The cat-and-mouse attitude of the British and German fleets
in the North Sea was continued, the Germans lying snug in their ports,
protected by their mines and submarines, while the British battleships
lay in wait at all points of possible egress. The situation tried the
patience of the people of both countries and there were frequent demands
for action by the great and costly naval armaments. But the Germans
apparently were not ready to risk a general engagement, and the British
could not force them to come out and fight. The British admirals,
therefore had, perforce, to pursue a policy of "watchful waiting,"
irksome as it was to all concerned, and "the tireless vigil in the North
Sea," as it was termed by Mr. Asquith, was maintained day and night.
No sea captain becalmed in the doldrums ever whistled for a wind more
earnestly than the British Jack tars prayed for a chance at the enemy
during those three months of playing the cat to Germany's mouse; and on
the other hand, the German sailors were, no doubt, equally desirious
of a chance to demonstrate the fighting abilities of their brand-new
battleships. All were equally on the _qui vive_, for any hour might
bring to the Germans the order to put to sea, and to the British the
welcome cry of "Enemy in sight!"


The plight of the Belgian people, including the refugees in Holland,
England and France, was pitiable in the extreme and by the end of
October had roused the sympathy of the entire world. A conservative
estimate placed the number of Belgians expatriated at 1,500,000 out of a
population of 7,000,000. On October 26 Mr. Brand Whitlock, United States
minister to Belgium, reported that the entire country was on the verge
of starvation, while Holland and England had their hands full caring for
the Belgians who had sought refuge in those countries. In eight cities
of Holland there were said to be 500,000 Belgian refugees. Over 70,
arrived in London in one week and a central committee in London had
twenty-seven subcommittees at work in different cities in England,
Scotland and Wales, placing the refugees in homes as rapidly as
possible. The humanitarian problem of taking care of the Belgians was
one of tremendous responsibility, but the people of the three countries
in which most of them sought refuge rose nobly to the occasion and
spared no effort to lessen their sufferings.


It was announced in Ottawa, Canada, on October 19 that the Dominion
Government had decided to put 30,000 more men in training in Canada, to
be despatched to England when ready. As soon as the first unit of 15,
was embarked, probably in December, another 15,000 men would be enlisted
to replace them, the plan being to keep 30,000 men continuously in
training, to be drawn upon in units of 10,000 or 15,000 as soon as
equipped, during the continuance of hostilities in Europe. Thus with the
32,000 Canadian volunteers already landed in England, and 8,000 under
arms guarding strategic points in the Dominion, Canada would soon raise
100,000 men as part of her contribution to Imperial defense.

But this was only a beginning. Later in the war Canada stood ready to
furnish half a million men to the cause of the Empire, if required.
Nearly 360,000 of that number had been enlisted when the war was two
years old. The greatest problems were encountered in the first year, or
rather in the first six months of the war, after which time efforts were
systematized, the military machine worked smoothly, and the Dominion's
splendid response to the call to arms was maintained throughout. General
prosperity in the face of adverse conditions happily attended this
record of patriotic achievement, and the predominant spirit in Canada
was one of buoyant optimism as to the inevitable outcome of the great


During the first three months of the war the German cruiser Emden,
operating principally in the Indian ocean, played havoc with British
merchantmen, sinking over twenty vessels engaged in far Eastern
commerce, besides a Russian cruiser and a French torpedo-boat. But she
met her match in the second week of November, when she was engaged off
the Cocos or Keeling group of islands, southwest of Java, by the fast
Australian cruiser Sydney and driven ashore a burning wreck after an
hour's fight, with a loss of 280 men.


Early in November a fleet of five German cruisers, under Admiral von
Spee, encountered a British squadron composed of the cruisers Good
Hope, Monmouth and Glasgow, in command of Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher
Cradock, off the coast of Chile, in the Southern Pacific. Despite a
raging gale, a long-range battle ensued, resulting in the defeat of the
British and the loss of the flagship Good Hope, with the admiral and all
her crew, and of the cruiser Monmouth. The Glasgow escaped in a damaged
condition. The loss of life was about 1,000, officers and men.

Up to November 15, the struggle in the coast region of Belgium continued

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 31 of 49)