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with terrific intensity and appalling loss of life on both sides. The
Germans occupied Dixmude November 11, only to lose it on November 13,
after a fierce attack by reinforced British troops.


The daily cost of the present war to the nations engaged in the struggle
is estimated at not less than $54,000,000 a day - a sum which fairly
staggers the imagination. This enormous cost of the armies in the field
gives a decided advantage to the nation best supplied with the "sinews
of war" and may contribute to a shortening of hostilities. War is indeed
a terrible drain upon the resources of a nation and only a few there
are that can stand many months of war expenditures like those of
August-October, 1914, amounting in the grand aggregate to nearly five
billions of dollars ($5,000,000,000).


On October 29 an act which was regarded in Russia as equivalent to a
declaration of war by Turkey was committed at Theodosia, the Crimean
port, when that town was bombarded without notice by the cruiser
Breslau, flying the Turkish flag, but commanded by a German officer and
manned by a German crew. The Breslau was a former German ship, and was
said to have been purchased by the Turkish government, with the German
battleship Goeben, when they sought refuge in the Dardanelles at
the beginning of the war, from the French and British fleets in the


The month of November, the fourth month of the war, was marked by the
heaviest losses to all the nations concerned, but made little change in
the general situation.

Along the Aisne the battle begun early in September continued
intermittently. Both sides literally dug themselves in and along the
battle line in many places, the hostile trenches were separated by only
a few yards. At the end of the month the burrowing had been succeeded by
tunneling, and both sides prepared for a winter of spasmodic action. It
was a military deadlock, but a deadlock full of danger for the side that
first developed a weak point in its far-flung front.

With the utmost fairness and impartiality it can be said that at the
beginning of December both the allied armies and the German forces
facing them from the Belgian coast east and south to the borders of
Alsace-Lorraine were exhausted by the strenuous efforts of the campaign.
By December 5, the 130th day of the war, after a seven-weeks' struggle
by the Germans for the possession of the French and Belgian coast, there
was a general cessation of offensive operations by both sides and the
indications were that this condition was due to pure physical weariness
of leaders and men. The world had never before witnessed such strenuous
military operations as those of the preceding three months and the
temporary exhaustion of the armies therefore was not surprising.

In the last days of November, the city of Belgrade fell into the
hands of the Austrians after a siege that had lasted, with continual
bombardments, since the war began. The city was finally taken by storm
at the point of the bayonet in a furious charge which fairly overwhelmed
the gallant defense of the Servians.

In this month it began to be generally realized that the war was likely
to be of prolonged duration. Strenuous preparations for the winter
campaign were made on both sides and the recruiting for the new British
army surpassed all previous records, the serious menace of the war being
at last recognized.

The month of November was also marked by enormous contributions of cash
and food stuffs by the people of the United States for the relief of
the impoverished and suffering Belgians. The people of Chicago alone
contributed over $500,000 and this was but a sample of the manner in
which Americans rose to the opportunity to alleviate the distress in
Belgium. "The United States has saved us from starvation," said a
Belgian official on December 1.

The casualties of all the armies in the field during the month of
November exceeded those of any previous period of the war. Basing an
estimate of the total casualties upon the same percentage as that
employed in the table given on another page, it is therefore safe to
say that up to December 5 the total losses of the combatant nations in
killed, wounded and missing aggregated not less than 3,500,000 men.


The month of December, 1914, the fifth month of the war, registered but
little change in the relative positions of the combatant nations. In the
west the lines held firm from the North Sea to Switzerland. Daily duels
of artillery and daily assaults here and there along the battle fronts
proved unavailing, so far as any change in general conditions was
concerned. Frequently the assaults were of a desperate character,
especially in Flanders, where in the middle of the month the Allies
assumed the offensive all along the line and sturdily strove to push
back the German front in Belgium. But the utmost valor and persistence
in attack were invariably met by resolute resistance. Both sides were
strongly entrenched and the gain of a few yards today was usually
followed by the loss of a few yards tomorrow.

Never before in the history of warfare had the science of entrenchment
been developed to such an extent. The German, French, British and.
Belgian armies literally burrowed in the earth along a battle front of
150 miles. In many places the hostile trenches were separated by only a
few yards, and mining was frequently resorted to. Tunneling toward each
other, both the contending forces occasionally succeeded in blowing up
the enemy's trench, and whole companies of unsuspecting troops were
sometimes annihilated in this way. In the trenches themselves scenes
unparalleled in warfare were witnessed. With the arrival of winter the
troops on either side proceeded to secure what comfort they could by all
manner of clever and unique devices. Winter clothing was provided as far
as possible, but on both sides there was inevitable suffering for lack
of suitable supplies for the winter campaign, and individual initiative
had frequently to supply the deficiencies of official forethought.

Many unique features of trench life were developed during the first
month of winter warfare. Two-story trenches became common on both
sides of the firing line. Bombproof underground quarters for staff and
commanding officers were constructed, and these were fitted up so as to
provide all the comforts of the winter cantonments of old-time warfare.
The ever-necessary telephone was installed at frequent points in
trenches that stretched for scores of miles in practically unbroken
lines. Board roofs were built and provision made for heating the dugouts
in which thousands of men passed many days and nights before their
reliefs arrived. On the German side miles of trenches were provided with
stockade walls, leaving ample room inside for the rapid movement of
troops. The British built trenches with lateral individual dugouts
at right angles to the main trench, protecting the men against flank
fire - and these aroused the admiration even of their enemies. In the
French trenches the ingenuity of a French engineer provided a system
of hot shower baths on the firing line, and from all points along the
deadlocked battle front came stories of the remarkable manner in which
the troops of all the armies speedily accommodated themselves to
unprecedented conditions and maintained a spirit of cheerfulness truly
marvelous under the circumstances, especially as there was no cessation
of the constant endeavor to gain ground from the enemy and no end to the
daily slaughter.


A correspondent with the German army who visited the firing line in the
Argonne forest late in November, by special permission of the German
crown prince, described the conditions in the trenches as follows: "Here
in the now famous Argonne forest - the scene of some of the war's most
desperate fighting - the Germans are trenching and mining their way
forward, literally yard by yard. This afternoon I reached the foremost
trench, south of Grandpré. About 160 feet ahead of me is the French
trench. Picture to yourself a canebrake-like woods of fishpoles ranging
in size from half an inch to saplings of two and three inches thick and
so dense that you can hardly see forty yards even now when the leaves
have fallen. Among these is a scattering of big trees, the trunks of
which are veritable mines of bullets.

"Irregular lines of deep yellow clay trenches zigzag for miles.
Other trenches run back from these to what looks like a huge Kansas
'prairie-dog town' - human burrows, where thousands of soldiers are
literally living underground. From the lines of trenches running
parallel to one another comes a constant, spitting, sputtering, popping
of rifles, making the woods resound like a Chinese New Year in San
Francisco or an old-time Fourth of July. Field guns and hand grenades
furnish the 'cannon-cracker' effect. Through the woods the high-noted
'zing zing' of bullets sounds like a swarm of angry bees, while high
overhead shrapnel and shell go shrieking on their way. Here and there
you may see spades full of earth being thrown up as if by invisible
hands, marking the onward work of the German gopher-like pioneers in
their subterranean warfare. That is the Argonne forest.

"As the trench I am in was still in the hands of the French three days
ago and as the crown prince is advancing steadily, the trenches are
temporary and contain little in the way of comforts. In deep niches cut
in the side the soldiers rest, play cards or even sleep on damp ledges
between fights.

"The trenches also serve as a cemetery. When the enemy's fire is so hot
that it is impossible to stick your head out or to take the dead out to
bury them, the grave is made in a niche or a ledge cut into the side of
the trench."


The western operations in December made it clear that the German advance
to the Channel ports of France had been definitely halted. In the
terrible battle of Ypres in Flanders, following the prolonged
engagements along the Yser river, the Allies succeeded in repulsing the
desperate German onslaught, and the German offensive was brought to
a full stop. Towns and villages in Flanders, in Artois and in Champagne,
that had been captured in the early German rush, were retaken one by
one by the Belgians, French and British, slowly but surely, until
the Germans were forced to act upon the defensive along a line of
entrenchments prepared to enable them to keep open their communications
through Belgium with their great base at Aix-la-Chapelle.

An incident of the desperate fighting at Ypres, in which British and
French troops practically annihilated six German regiments, including
the crack Second regiment of Prussian Guards, has been graphically
described by an eye-witness as follows:

"A long valley stretches out before us and the little rise on which we
stand - about fifty feet above the plain - commands it. The British guns
are shooting almost horizontally at the German infantry trudging through
the mud 2,000 yards away.

"I count easily five regiments together, but further to the right a
sixth one evidently wards off a flank attack on the part of the French
colonial troops. The lone regiment is the Second Prussian regiment of
the guard, the emperor's own, the elite of the Kaiser's army, 2,500 of
the brawniest, most disciplined men in the world. It is now 1 o'clock.
In one hour only 300 of these men will leave the field.

"A gust of wind brings to our ears the sound of music. The guards' band
is encouraging the men. At the foot of the small hill on which we stand
are twenty lines of trenches filled with Scotch and English infantry.
The men are silently awaiting the attack. Not a rifle is being fired.
The trenches are the Germans' goal; these and the British batteries once
taken, the road into Ypres is clear.

"In the valley the Germans halt. The range is only 1,500 yards now and
every British shot is telling. The effects are appalling. The gray
masses move onward once more, seem to hesitate, but sharp bugle blasts
launch them forward again and on the run they come for the trenches.

"At 1,000 yards our batteries again stop them. Whole rows are
mowed down, vast spaces appearing between the ranks. The companies
intermingle, then the regiments themselves seem to amalgamate and
melt into one another. Officers are seen galloping along the sides,
evidently trying to bring order out of chaos.

"The artillerymen work silently, the perspiration streaming down their
cheeks, and continue sending on their messengers of death.

"The Second regiment of the Guard alone, off to the right, seems
untouched, and on it comes. Suddenly the sound of a bagpipe is heard.
The Scots are awake. From the trenches an avalanche rushes forward
toward the disordered Germans.

"At the double-quick Scots and English, a few feet apart, yelling like
demons, pounce on the attackers. Rifles are silent. It is cold steel
alone. Our battery captains cry 'Stop firing.' There is a risk of
shelling our own men now. We become spectators.

"On the right the Guard has suddenly turned toward the hill. A bugle
blast and the mass of men half turns and seems to be thrown on the back
of the British, outflanked. The situation is desperate. Our artillery is

"Listen! Over the valley, rising louder and still louder, comes a song
which the Germans have heard before. A crash of brass, a hoarse roar
fills the air, echoing across the valley, drowning the shouts and curses
of the human wave fighting below.

"The 'Marseillaise' - the English and Scots have heard it. 'Hold tight,
the French are coming,' we scream. They cannot hear us, but we must
shout - the strain is too intense.

"Past our batteries a company of Spahis rushes like a cyclone. Two more
follow, then the Zouaves. Rifles close to their hips, bayonets low,
throwing out over the valley its glorious anthem, the human flood
crashes against the Guard.

"The lines waver in an indescribable jumble of gray, yellow, blue, and
red uniforms, then seem to bounce back from the very force of the shock.
Men appear, raised from their feet, and raised high in the air.

"Caught in a vise between the British and the French, the Guard alone
remains. Ten times the shattered remnants of the Kaiser's proud regiment
charged, and ten times was thrown back, first against the French, then
against the British. Crying, 'Comrades, comrades!' hundreds began
throwing their guns aside.

"At 2 o'clock it was over. The Allies had lost 1,200 men. Only
prisoners remained of the Second Prussian regiment of the Guard.


The campaign in the eastern theater of war attracted the attention
of the whole world in December, when the German operations begun in
November under Field Marshal Von Hindenburg, the victor of Tannenberg
earlier in the war, were continued with varying successes. Early in the
month the Germans captured Lodz, the second city and chief manufacturing
center of Russian Poland, with a population of about 500,000, after a
bombardment of a week's duration, the city being set on fire in many
places. The Russians made a desperate resistance, and the fighting
around Lodz constituted the most bitter struggle of the entire war on
this front. A general Russian retirement in the direction of Warsaw
followed, but the Germans failed in their subsequent efforts to
envelop the flanks of the Russian army to the north and south. Russian
reinforcements from Warsaw coming up promptly, the Germans were in their
turn compelled to retire. Two German army corps were then practically
cut off by the Russians, but made a successful retreat, fighting their
way back to safety with the bayonet in one of the most brilliant
exploits of the war. Thus the net result of the German campaign in
Poland in December left the general situation there practically
unchanged and the Russian front unbroken, while in East Prussia, too,
the Russian invasion continued despite German efforts to roll it back
across the frontier.

The losses on both sides in the eastern campaign in December were
appalling, the fighting being of the fiercest possible nature. A typical
struggle occurred a few miles west of Lodz in the little churchyard of
Beschici, where the Russians, in one of the final phases of the
struggle for the Polish city, showed that in spite of their defeats and
discouragements they knew how to fight and die. This churchyard lies
on a small eminence which formed a salient into the German lines. The
Germans were able to make an attack from three sides with infantry and
artillery. All the Russian trenches were enfiladed by shrapnel from
one direction or another, but the Russians clung to their positions
obstinately. When the Germans finally captured the trenches 878 Russian
corpses were found in a space about eighty yards square.

It was resistance of this nature which the Germans had to overcome in
order to capture Lodz. Later in December it became clear that Russia
was getting her millions into the field and that the strategy of the
commander-in-chief, the Grand Duke Nicholas, would soon be aided by the
weight of overwhelming numbers.


During November and December Madame Vandervelde, wife of a member of
the Belgian cabinet, toured the United States soliciting aid for her
suffering fellow-countrymen. The response everywhere was extremely
generous and in appreciation of the aid given the war victims of her
country Madame Vandervelde penned the following poem, entitled "Belgium
Thanks America:"

But still we tell the story which once we loved to tell.
"Good will! Good will!" we read it, and "Peace!" - we hear the name,
And crouch among the ruins, and watch the cruel flame,
And hear the children crying, and turn our eyes away -
For them there's neither bread nor home this happy Christmas day.

But look! there comes a message from far across the deep,
From hearts that still can pity and eyes that still can weep -
O little lips a-hunger! O faces pale and wan!
There's somewhere - somewhere - peace on earth, somewhere good will to man,
Across the waste of waters, a thousand leagues away,
There's some one still remembers that here it's Christmas day.

0 God of Peace, remember, and in thy mercy keep
The hearts that still can pity, the eyes that still can weep,
Amid the shame and torment, the ruins and the graves,
To theirs, the land of freedom, from ours, the land of slaves,
What answer can we send them? We can but kneel and pray:
God grant - God grant to them, at least, a happy Christmas day.

A vivid picture of the horrible realities of the war, as seen in a
field hospital near the firing line, was given in "The New Republic" of
November 28 by Mr. Henry W. Nevinson, who described his experiences at
Dixmude in Belgium as follows:

"When I entered Dixmude one night in the middle of October the first
bombardment was over, but from both sides the heavy shells flew across
the town. From the end of the main street came an incessant noise of
rifles and machine guns. Unaimed bullets wailed through the air, and
pattered as they struck the walls. Flaming houses shed a light upon the
ruined streets, but only one house looked inhabited, and all the others
which were not burning stood silent and empty, expecting destruction.

"That one house was used as an outlying hospital or dressing-place
nearest the firing line, and the wounded had to be led or carried only
two or three hundred yards to reach it. They sat on the dining-room
chairs or lay helpless on the floor. A few surgeons were at work upon
them, cutting off loose fingers and throwing them into basins, plugging
black holes that welled up instantly through the plug, straining
bandages, which in a minute ceased to be white, round legs and heads.
The smell of fresh, warm blood was thick on the air. One man lay deep in
his blood. You could not have supposed that anyone had so much in him.
Another's head had lost on one side all human semblance, and was a
hideous pulp of eye and ear and jaw. Another, with chest torn open,
lay gasping for the few minutes left of life. And as I waited for the
ambulance more were brought in, and always more.

"In a complacent and comfortable account of hospital work I lately read
that 'deaths from wounds are happily rare; one surgeon put the number as
low as 2 per cent.' Happy hospital, far away in Paris or some Isle of
the Blest! The further from the front the fewer the deaths, because so
many have died already.

"In the nearest hospitals to the front, half the wounded, and on some
days more than half, die where they are put. Often they die in the
ambulance, and one's care in drawing them out is wasted, for they will
never feel again. I found one always took the same care, though the
greenish-yellow of the exposed hands or feet showed the truth. Laid on
the floor of the main hospital itself, some screamed or moaned, some
whimpered like sick children, especially in their sleep, some lay quiet,
with glazed eyes out of which sight was passing. Mere fragments of
mankind were there extended, limbs pounded into mash, heads split open,
intestines hanging out from gashes. Did those bones - did that exquisite
network of living tissue and contrivances for life - cost no more in
the breeding than to be hewed and smashed and pulped like this?
Shrapnel - shrapnel - it was nearly always the same. For this is, above
all, an artillery war, and both sides are justly proud of their
efficiency in guns."


Confidence of safety having been restored in the French capital, the
Paris bourse reopened on December 7, after having been closed since
September 3. President Poincaré transferred his official residence back
to Paris from Bordeaux on December 9 and a meeting of the French cabinet
was held in Paris on December 11, for the first time since the capital
was threatened by the German advance at the end of August.


In the second week of December the British navy avenged the defeat of
Rear Admiral Cradock's squadron off the Chilean coast in November, when
a powerful special fleet, under Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Sturdee,
encountered the German cruiser fleet, under Admiral von Spee, off the
Falkland Islands and practically destroyed it. Only one of the five
German cruisers escaped. The flagship Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau, the
Leipzig and the Nurnberg were sunk in the action, which lasted for five
hours, and the German admiral with three of his sons and most of the
officers and men of the German crews perished. The British losses were

This sea fight in the South Atlantic was the most important engagement
in which British men-of-war had participated since the era of Napoleon.
The sailing of the British fleet in quest of Admiral von Spee's
squadron had been kept secret and the news of the victory was therefore
especially welcome to the people of England, who had been considerably
worried by a succession of minor naval losses inflicted by German
cruisers, submarines and mines. The action was gallantly fought on both
sides. The advantage in weight of metal and range of guns lay on the
side of the British, and the battle was decided at long range. Admiral
von Spee, refusing to surrender, in spite of the odds against him,
went down with his ship. The flagship of the victorious admiral, Sir
Frederick Sturdee, was the modern battle cruiser Invincible. A number of
the German sailors were rescued by the British after the engagement and
sent as prisoners of war to England. The total German loss was over
2,000 officers and men.

Fine strategy was shown by the British admiralty in sending Admiral
Sturdee to South American waters. He was ordered to sea from his desk as
chief of the British naval board, after Von Spee's Chilean victory in
November, and was placed in command of some of the fastest and most
powerful cruisers of the British fleet. The entire affair, from the time
the admiral left London until he succeeded in finding and sinking the
German squadron in the South Atlantic, took about a month - a truly
remarkable exploit.


During December all the armies in the field were visited by the rulers
of their respective countries. The Czar spent some time with his troops
near the firing lines in Poland; King George of England visited the
British forces in Belgium and Northern France and conferred the Victoria
Cross ("For Valor") on a number of officers and men; and President

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 32 of 49)