On 2 July, the Saxon Ambassador in Berlin wrote back to his king that the German Army wanted Austria to attack Serbia as quickly as possible because the time was right for a general war since Germany was more prepared for war than either Russia or France. Emperor Wilhelm II came to share the views of the German General Staff and declared on 4 July that he was entirely for "settling accounts with Serbia". We must finish with the Serbs, quickly.
Now or never! The sooner Austria-Hungary struck, the better". On 24 June, Austria-Hungary had prepared a letter for its ally outlining the challenges in the Balkans and how to address them, but Franz Ferdinand was assassinated before it could be delivered. Russia was working toward an alliance of Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro against Austria-Hungary, dismemberment of Austria-Hungary, and the movement of borders from east to west.
To this letter was added a post-script on the Sarajevo Outrage and its impact. The letters were presented to Wilhelm II on 5 July. Even if Russia were to act in defence of Serbia, Wilhelm promised that Germany would do everything in its power, including war, to support Austria-Hungary. When asked if Germany was ready for a war against Russia and France, Falkenhayn replied with a "curt affirmative".
We in the General Staff are ready : there is nothing more for us to do at this juncture". As Wilhelm himself stated in private "in order not to alarm world opinion", the Kaiser left on his annual North Sea cruise. Germany's policy was to support a swift war to destroy Serbia that would present a fait accompli to the world. The thinking was as Austria-Hungary was Germany's only ally, if its prestige was not restored then its position in the Balkans might be irreparably damaged, encouraging further irredentism by Serbia and Romania.
A Serbian defeat would also be a defeat for Russia and reduce her influence in the Balkans. The benefits were clear but there were risks, namely that Russia would intervene and this would lead to a continental war. However, this was thought even more unlikely since the Russians had not yet finished their French-funded rearmament programme scheduled for completion in Moreover, they did not believe that Russia, as an absolute monarchy, would support regicides, and more broadly "the mood across Europe was so anti-Serbian that even Russia would not intervene".
Personal factors also weighed heavily and the German Kaiser was close to the murdered Franz Ferdinand and was affected by his death, to the extent that German counsels of restraint vis a vis Serbia in changed to an aggressive stance. On the other hand, the military thought that if Russia did intervene then St Petersburg clearly desired war and now would be a better time to fight, when Germany had a guaranteed ally in Austria-Hungary, Russia was not ready and Europe was sympathetic to them.
On balance, at this point in the crisis, the Germans anticipated that their support would mean the war would be a localised affair between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. This would be particularly true if Austria moved quickly, "while the other European powers were still disgusted over the assassinations and therefore likely to be sympathetic to any action Austria-Hungary took". The most hawkish on the Council considered a surprise attack on Serbia.
Samuel R. Williamson, Jr. Convinced Serbian nationalism and Russian Balkan ambitions were disintegrating the Empire, Austria-Hungary hoped for a limited war against Serbia and that strong German support would force Russia to keep out of the war and weaken its Balkan prestige. At this stage in the crisis the possibility of determined Russian support for Serbia, and its attendant risks, was never properly weighed up.
The Austrians remained fixated on Serbia but did not decide on their precise objectives other than war. Nevertheless, having decided upon war with German support, Austria was slow to act publicly, and did not deliver the ultimatum until July 23, some three weeks after the assassinations on 28 June. Thus Austria lost the reflex sympathies attendant to the Sarajevo murders and gave the further impression to the Entente powers that Austria was merely using the assassinations as a pretext for aggression. The Council agreed on putting harsh demands on Serbia but could not reach consensus on how harsh.
Except for Count Tisza, the Council intended to make such harsh demands that their rejection would be very probable. Tisza held out for demands that while harsh would not appear impossible to meet. Starting 7 July, the German Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, Heinrich von Tschirschky , and Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Berchtold held almost daily meetings about how to co-ordinate the diplomatic action to justify a war against Serbia.
On 8 July, Tisza informed another meeting of the Crown Council that any attack on Serbia was bound to lead to "intervention by Russia and consequently world war". If war does not come, if the Czar does not want it or France dismayed, counsels peace, then we still have a chance of maneuvering the Entente apart over this action. On 9 July, Berchtold advised the Emperor that he would present Belgrade with an ultimatum containing demands that were designed to be rejected.
This would ensure a war without the "odium of attacking Serbia without warning, put her in the wrong", and ensure that Britain and Romania would remain neutral. It took the week of 7—14 July to persuade Tisza to support war. On 11 July, Tschirschky reported to Jagow that he "again took the occasion to discuss with Berchtold what action was to be taken against Serbia, chiefly in order to assure the minister once again, emphatically that speedy action was called for". Wilhelm replied that not doing so might attract attention. Jagow described a war against Serbia as Austria-Hungary's last chance at "political rehabilitation".
He stated that under no circumstances did he want a peaceful solution, and though he did not want a preventive war, he would not "jib at the post" if such a war came because Germany was ready for it, and Russia "fundamentally was not". Then she will crush us on land by weight of numbers, and she will have her Baltic Fleet and her strategic railroads ready. Our group meanwhile is getting weaker".
Jagow's belief that the summer of was the best time for Germany to go to war was widely shared in the German government. On 13 July, Austrian investigators into the assassination of Franz Ferdinand reported to Berchtold that there was little evidence that the Serbian government had abetted the murders.
On 14 July, the Austrians assured the Germans that the ultimatum to be delivered to Serbia "is being composed so that the possibility of its acceptance is practically excluded ". Petersburg meant that it was considered undesirable to present the ultimatum until the visit was over. Petersburg that Russia should inform Austria-Hungary of its negative view of Austrian demands.
Divine Games | The MIT Press
The Austrian Ambassador in St. Petersburg falsely told the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Sazonov , that Austria was not planning on any measure that might cause a war in the Balkans, so no Russian complaints were made. Zimmermann told Schoen that a powerful and successful move against Serbia would save Austria-Hungary from internal disintegration, and that was why Germany had given Austria "a blank power of full authority, even at the risk of a war with Russia".
On 19 July, the Crown Council in Vienna decided upon the wording of the ultimatum to be presented to Serbia on 23 July. Due to Austria's delay in writing the ultimatum, the element of surprise that Germany had counted upon in the war against Serbia was lost. Though Jagow's pretence was not widely believed, it was still believed at the time that Germany was aiming for peace, and could restrain Austria. On 20 July, the German government informed the directors of the Norddeutscher Lloyd and Hamburg America Line shipping companies that Austria would soon present an ultimatum that might cause a general European war, and they should start withdrawing their ships from foreign waters back to the Reich at once.
On 23 July, the whole German military and political leadership ostentatiously went on vacation. Russia, yes! On 22 July, before the ultimatum was delivered, the Austrian government asked that the German government deliver the Austrian declaration of war when the ultimatum expired on 25 July. The French and the Russians agreed their alliance extended to supporting Serbia against Austria, confirming the already established policy behind the Balkan inception scenario.
As Christopher Clark notes "Poincare had come to preach the gospel of firmness and his words had fallen on ready ears. Firmness in this context meant an intransigent opposition to any Austrian measure against Serbia. At no point do the sources suggest that Poincare or his Russian interlocutors gave any thought whatsoever to what measures Austria-Hungary might legitimately be entitled to take in the aftermath of the assassinations".
The meetings were centrally concerned with the crisis unfolding in central Europe. On 21 July, the Russian Foreign Minister warned the German ambassador to Russia that "Russia would not be able to tolerate Austria-Hungary's using threatening language to Serbia or taking military measures". The leaders in Berlin discounted this threat of war. German foreign minister Gottlieb von Jagow noted "there is certain to be some blustering in St.
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German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg told his assistant that Britain and France did not realize that Germany would go to war if Russia mobilized. He thought London saw a German "bluff" and was responding with a "counterbluff". Meanwhile, Berlin was downplaying its actual strong support for Vienna so as to not appear the aggressor, for that would alienate German socialists. The Austro-Hungarian ultimatum demanded that Serbia formally and publicly condemn the "dangerous propaganda" against Austria-Hungary, the ultimate aim of which, it claimed, is to "detach from the Monarchy territories belonging to it".
Moreover, Belgrade should "suppress by every means this criminal and terrorist propaganda". The Austro-Hungarian Government, concluding the document, was expecting the reply of the Serbian Government at the latest by 5 o'clock on Saturday evening, 25 July An appendix listed various details from "the crime investigation undertaken at court in Sarajevo against Gavrilo Princip and his comrades on account of the assassination", which allegedly demonstrated the culpability and assistance provided to the conspirators by various Serbian officials. Instructions were given to the Austrian Minister in Belgrade, Baron von Gieslingen, whereby if "no unconditionally positive answer" was received from the Serbian government within "the hour deadline" of the ultimatum "as measured from the day and hour of your announcing it" , the Minister should proceed to leave the Austro-Hungarian Embassy of Belgrade together with all its personnel.
On the night of 23 July, Serbian Regent Crown Prince Alexander visited the Russian legation to "express his despair over the Austrian ultimatum, compliance with which he regards as an absolute impossibility for a state which had the slightest regard for its dignity". Confronted with the ultimatum and the lack of support from other European powers, the Serbian Cabinet worked out a compromise. Some historians argue Serbia accepted all of the terms of the ultimatum except for the demand in point 6 that Austrian police be allowed to operate in Serbia.
We are urgently advised to proceed without delay. Asquith outlined the sequence of events that might lead to a general war, but noted that there was no reason for Britain to become involved. The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia being the most insolent document of its kind ever devised", but believed that Britain would stay neutral in the coming war.
It [Serbia] is not a nation in the European sense, but a band of robbers! The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov sent a message to all of the great powers asking them to pressure Austria to extend the deadline of the ultimatum. On 23 July, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made a mediation offer with a promise that his government would attempt to influence Russia to influence Serbia, and Germany to influence Austria-Hungary as the best way of stopping a general war.
He continued: "Am I to do that? Lichnowsky reported to Berlin "If we do not join the mediation, all faith here in us and in our love of peace will be shattered. At the same time, Grey met with opposition from the Russian Ambassador who warned that a conference with Germany, Italy, France, and Britain serving as the mediators between Austria and Russia would break apart the informal Triple Entente. Starting 23 July, all of Germany's leaders returned secretly to Berlin to deal with the crisis. Moltke repeatedly stated that would be the best time for starting a "preventive war", or the Russian Great Military Programme would finish by , making Germany unable to ever again risk a war.
On 24 July, Zimmermann sent out a dispatch to all German ambassadors except for Austria-Hungary telling them to inform their host governments that Germany had no advance knowledge whatsoever of the ultimatum. Grey suggested mediation between Italy, France, Germany, and Britain as the best way of stopping an Austro-Serbian war. Jagow sabotaged Grey's offer by waiting until after the ultimatum had expired to pass on the British offer.
We are advised One would not have believed it of the Viennese! How hollow the whole Serbian power is proving itself to be; thus, it is seen to be with all the Slav nations! Just tread hard on the heels of that rabble! On 24 July, the Serbian government, expecting an Austrian declaration of war the next day, mobilized while Austria broke off diplomatic relations. Wildest enthusiasm prevails in Vienna. On 24—25 July the Russian Council of Ministers met. The Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Krivoshein , who was especially trusted by Nicholas, argued that Russia was not militarily ready for a conflict with Germany and Austria-Hungary, and that it could achieve its objectives with a cautious approach.
On 25 July , the council of ministers was held in Krasnoye Selo at which Tsar Nicholas II decided to intervene in the Austro-Serbian conflict, a step toward general war. He put the Russian army on alert on 25 July. Although this was not mobilization, it threatened the German and Austrian borders and looked like a military declaration of war. Despite the fact that she had no alliance with Serbia, the Council agreed to a secret partial mobilisation of over one million men of the Russian Army and the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets.
It is worth stressing, since this is a cause of some confusion in general narratives of the war, that this was done prior to the Serbian rejection of the ultimatum, the Austrian declaration of war on 28 July or any military measures taken by Germany. As a diplomatic move this had limited value since the Russians did not make this mobilisation public until 28 July.
In addition Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov believed that war was inevitable and refused to acknowledge that Austria-Hungary had a right to counter measures in the face of Serbian irredentism. On the contrary, Sazonov had aligned himself with the irredentism, and expected the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Crucially, the French had provided their clear support for their Russian allies for a robust response in their recent state visit just days before. Christopher Clark states, "It would be difficult to overstate the historical importance of the meetings of 24 and 25 July",  as it emboldened Serbia and raised the stakes for Germany, which was still hoping for a conflict localized to the Balkans.
Russian policy was to pressure the Serbs to accept the ultimatum as much as possible without being humiliated too much. Petersburg, the acting head of the French government, Jean-Baptiste Bienvenu-Martin took no line on the ultimatum. On 25 July, Grey suggested again that Germany inform Austria that the Serbian reply to the Austrian ultimatum was "satisfactory".
Petersburg wants a war". Jagow accepted the Franco-Russian offer as it offered the best chance to sever Britain from France and Russia. On 26 July, Berchtold rejected Grey's mediation offer, and wrote that if a localization should not prove possible, then the Dual Monarchy was counting, "with gratitude", on Germany's support "if a struggle against another adversary is forced on us".
Petersburg stated that the principal aim of German foreign policy now was to make it appear that Russia had forced Germany into a war, in order to keep Britain neutral and ensure that German public opinion would back the war effort. On 26 July, in St. Austrian demands" and willing to do almost anything to save the peace.
Grey stated that a compromise solution could be worked out if Germany and Britain were to work together. Conrad wanted to wait until a military offensive was ready, while Berchtold thought that the diplomatic window for a retaliatory strike would have passed by then. On 27 July, Grey sent another peace proposal through Prince Lichnowsky asking for Germany to use its influence on Austria-Hungary to save the peace.
Petersburg if Germany should "counsel moderation in Vienna, since Serbia had fulfilled nearly every point". On 28 July, after reading Serbia's reply, Wilhelm commented, " But that eliminates any reason for war"  or " every cause for war falls to the ground". Wilhelm's sudden change of mind about war enraged Bethmann Hollweg, the military, and the diplomatic service, who proceeded to sabotage Wilhelm's offer.
The Kaiser wants peace He even wants to influence Austria and to stop continuing further. I had a few articles of tinned food with me and they proved to be of use. From that moment I determined never to be without a tin of bully beef in my haversack, and I formed the bully beef habit in the trenches which lasted till the end and always amused the men. The general cesspool and manure heap of the farm was, as usual, in the midst of the buildings, and was particularly unsavoury.
A cow waded through it and the family hens fattened on it. Opposite our window in one of the buildings dwelt an enormous sow with a large litter of young ones. When any of the ladies of the family went to throw refuse on the manure heap, the old sow, driven by the pangs of hunger, would stand on her hind legs and poke her huge face out over the half door of her prison appealing in pig language for some of the discarded dainties.
Often nothing would stop her squeals but a smart slap on her fat cheeks by the lady's tender hand. In the hayloft of the barn the men were quartered. Their candles made the place an exceedingly dangerous abode. There was only one small hole down which they could escape in case of fire.
Numbers of soldiers from the British Empire who served during WWI:
It is a wonder we did not have more fires in our billets than we did. The trenches assigned to our Brigade were to the right of Fleurbaix. They were poorly constructed, but as the time went on were greatly improved by the labours of our men. The Brigadier assigned to me for my personal use a tiny mud-plastered cottage with thatched roof and a little garden in front.
It was in the Rue du Bois, a road which ran parallel with the trenches about yards behind them. I was very proud to have a home all to myself, and chalked on the door the word "Chaplain". In one p. Another room I fitted up as a chapel. An old box covered with the silk Union Jack and white cloth and adorned with two candles and cross served as an altar.
There were no chairs to be had, but the plain white walls were not unsuited to the purpose to which the room was dedicated. In this chapel I held several services. It was a fine sight to see a group of tall and stalwart young Highlanders present. Their heads almost reached to the low ceiling, and when they sang, the little building trembled with the sound. Every night when there were any men to be buried, I used to receive notice from the front line, and after dark I would set out preceded by my batman, Murdoch MacDonald, a proper young Highlander, carrying a rifle with fixed bayonet on his shoulder.
It made one feel very proud to go off down the dark road so attended. When we got to the place of burial I would hold a short service over the open graves in which the bodies were laid to rest. Our casualties were light then, but in those days we had not become accustomed to the loss of comrades and so we felt the toll of death very bitterly. It made a great difference to me to have a house of my own. Previously I had found it most difficult to get any place in which to lay my head. On one occasion, I had obtained permission from a kind-hearted farmer's wife to rent one corner of the kitchen in her two-roomed house.
It was on a Saturday night and when the family had retired to their room I spread my sleeping bag in the corner and went to bed. I got up when the family had gone to Mass in the morning. All through the day the kitchen was crowded, and I saw that if I went to bed that night I should not have the opportunity of getting up again until the family went to Mass on the following Sunday. So I paid the woman five francs for my lodging and started out in pursuit of another. I managed to find a room in another little farmhouse, somewhat larger and cleaner.
My room was a small one and had an earth floor. The ceiling was so low that I could touch the beams with my head when I stood on my toes. But in it were two enormous double beds, a table and a chair. What more could one want? A large cupboard full of straw furnished a billet for Murdoch and he was allowed to do my simple cooking on the family stove. Small p. I also stowed away a sergeant in the cupboard with Murdoch. My three guests were very hungry and very tired and enjoyed a good sleep in the ponderous beds.
I saw a photo of one of the lads afterwards in the Roll of Honour page of the "Graphic," and I remembered the delightful talk I had had with him during his visit. At that time we were all very much interested in a large fifteen-inch howitzer, which had been placed behind a farmhouse, fast crumbling into ruins. It was distant two fields from my abode. To our simple minds, it seemed that the war would soon come to an end when the Germans heard that such weapons were being turned against them. We were informed too, that three other guns of the same make and calibre were being brought to France.
The gun was the invention of a retired admiral who lived in a farmhouse nearby and who, when it was loaded, fired it off by pressing an electric button. The officer in charge of the gun was very pleasant and several times took me in his car to interesting places. I went with him to Laventie on the day of the battle of Neuve Chapelle, and saw for the first time the effects of an attack and the wounded being brought back in ambulances.
There was one large barn not far off full of beautiful yellow straw which held several hundred men. I had a service in it one night. The atmosphere was smoky and mysterious, and the hundreds of little candles propped up on mess-tins over the straw, looked like a special illumination. A large heap of straw at the end of the barn served as a platform, and in lieu of an organ I had a mandolin player to start the hymns.
The service went very well, the men joining in heartily. The night before the battle of Neuve Chapelle, I went over to see the captain in charge of the big gun, and he showed me the orders for the next day, issued by the British General. He told me that at seven o'clock it would be "Hell let loose", all down the line. Next morning I woke up before seven, and blocked up my ears so that I should not be deafened by the noise of artillery. But for some reason or other the plans had been changed and I was quite disappointed that the Germans did not get the hammering it was intended to give them.
We were on the left of the British line during the battle of Neuve Chapelle, and were not p. The British suffered very heavily and did not meet with the success which they had hoped for. My son was wounded in this engagement and was sent out with the loss of an eye. On returning from seeing him put into a hospital train at Merville, I was held up for some hours in the darkness by the British Cavalry streaming past in a long line. I was delighted to see them for I thought we had broken through.
On the next day to our great disappointment we saw them going back again. Near Canadian Headquarters at Sailly there was a large steam laundry which was used as a bath for our men. It was a godsend to them, for the scarcity of water made cleanliness difficult. The laundry during bath hours was a curious spectacle. Scores of large cauldrons of steaming water covered the floor.
In each sat a man with only his head and shoulders showing, looking as if he were being boiled to death. In one of them he represents a certain type of sinner as being tormented forever in boiling water. We had now finished our time in this part of the line and the Division was ordered back for a rest.
The General was troubled about my transportation as I had no horse, but I quoted my favourite text, "The Lord will provide. When, however, he had seen me on various occasions picked up by stray motor cars and lorries and get to our destination before he did, he began to think there was more in the text than he had imagined. I was accused of helping Providence unduly by base subterfuges such as standing in the middle of a road and compelling the motor to stop until I got in. I considered that my being able to stop the car was really a part of the providing. In fact I found that, if one only had courage to stand long enough in the middle of the road without moving, almost any car, were it that of a private or a general, would come to a standstill.
It was only a natural thing, when the car had stopped, to go to the occupants and say, "I know the Lord has sent you for the purpose of giving me a lift. One day at Estaires I tried to commandeer a fine car standing in the square, but desisted when I was informed by the driver p. I am sure that if the Prince had been there to hear the text, he would have driven me anywhere I wanted to go. On the present occasion, I had not gone far down the road before a car picked me up and took me on my way—an incident which I narrated to the General afterwards with intense satisfaction.
Our rest-time at Estaires at the end of March was a delightful period of good fellowship. The beautiful early spring was beginning to assert its power over nature. The grass was green. The trees and hedgerows were full of sap and the buds ready to burst into new life. As one walked down the roads in the bright sunshine, and smelt the fresh winds bearing the scent of springtime, an exquisite feeling of delight filled the soul.
Birds were singing in the sky, and it was pitiful to think that any other thoughts but those of rapture at the joy of living should ever cross the mind. A sergeant found me a comfortable billet in a house near the Church. A dear old man and his two venerable daughters were the only occupants. Like all the French people we met, their little home was to them a source of endless joy. Everything was bright and clean, and they took great pleasure in showing off its beauties.
There was a large room with glass roof and sides, like a conservatory. On the wall was the fresco of a landscape, drawn by some strolling artist, which gave my hosts infinite delight. There was a river flowing out of some very green woods, with a brilliant blue sky overhead. We used to sit on chairs opposite and discuss the woodland scene, and I must say it brought back memories to me of many a Canadian brook and the charming home life of Canadian woods, from which, as it seemed then, we were likely to be cut off forever.
The officers and men were charmed with his personality. It was a joy to me that we were to spend Easter at such a convenient place. On Good Friday afternoon we had a voluntary service in front of the Town Hall. It seemed very fitting that these men who had come in the spirit of self-sacrifice, should be invited to contemplate, for at least an hour, the great world sacrifice of Calvary.
A table was brought out from an estaminet nearby and placed in front of the steps. I mounted on this and so was able p. I remember specially the faces of several who were themselves called upon within a few weeks to make the supreme sacrifice. Like almost all other religious services at the front, this one had to struggle with the exigencies of war. A stream of lorries at the side of the Grande Place and the noisy motor cycles of despatch riders made an accompaniment to the address which rendered both speaking and hearing difficult.
Easter Day rose bright and clear. I had a hall situated down a narrow lane, which had been used as a cinema. There was a platform at one end and facing it, rows of benches. On the platform I arranged the altar, with the silk Union Jack as a frontal and with cross and lighted candles for ornaments. It looked bright and church-like amid the sordid surroundings. We had several celebrations of the Holy Communion, the first being at six a. A large number of officers and men came to perform their Easter duties. A strange solemnity prevailed.
It was the first Easter spent away from home; it was the last Easter that most of those gallant young souls spent on earth. The other chaplains had equally large attendances.
We sang the Easter hymn at each service, and the music more than anything else carried us back to the days that were. But our stay in Estaires was only for a time, and soon orders came that we were to move. On April 7th, a bright and lovely spring morning, the whole Division began its fateful journey to Ypres and marched off to Cassel, about thirty miles behind the Salient. We passed through Caestre, where I saw my old friends, the Mayor and Mayoress. That afternoon I was taken by two British officers to the little hotel in Cassel for luncheon.
The extensive view over the country from the windows reminded me of dear old Quebec. After luncheon my friends motored me to Ypres. The city at that time had not been heavily shelled, except the Cloth Hall and Cathedral. The shops around the square were still carrying on their business and people there were selling post-cards and other small articles. We went into the Cathedral, which had been badly damaged. The roof was more or less intact and the altar and pulpit in their places. A fire engine and horses were quartered under the central tower. There was a quiet air of light and beauty in the quaint old buildings that suggested the mediaeval prosperity of the city.
Behind the better class of houses there were the usual gardens, laid out with taste, and often containing fountains and rustic bridges. The French and the Belgians delighted in striving to make a landscape garden in the small area at their command. I shall always be thankful that I had the opportunity of paying this visit to Ypres while it still retained vestiges of its former beauty. Dark and hideous dreams of drives on ambulances in the midnight hours haunt me now when the name of Ypres is mentioned.
I hear the rattle of lorries and motorcycles and the tramp of horses on the cobblestones. The grim ruins on either side of the road stand out hard and sombre in the dim light of the starry sky. There is the passing of innumerable men and the danger of the traffic-crowded streets. But Ypres, as I saw it then, was full of beauty touched with the sadness of the coming ruin. In the afternoon, I motored back to our brigade on the outskirts of Cassel.
After dinner I started off to find my new billet. As usual I lost my way. I went off down the country roads. The farms were silent and dark. There was no one to tell me where my battalion was. I must have gone a long distance in the many detours I made. The country was still a place of mystery to me, and "The little owls that hoot and call" seemed to be the voice of the night itself.
The roads were winding and lonely and the air was full of the pleasant odours of the spring fields. It was getting very late and I despaired of finding a roof under which to spend the night. I determined to walk back to the nearest village. As I had marched with the men that day all the way from Estaires, a distance of about twenty miles, I was quite reasonably tired and anxious to get a bed. I got back to the main road which leads to St. On approaching the little village I was halted by a British sentry who was mounting guard over a line of Army Service Corps lorries.
I went on and encountered more sentries till I stood in the town itself and made my difficulty known to a soldier who was passing. I asked him if he knew where p. I went to the house which was pointed out to me and knocked. There was a light in a window upstairs so I knew that my knocking would be heard. Presently a voice called out from the hollow passage and asked me to open the door and come in.
I did so, and in the dim light saw at the end of the hall a white figure which was barely distinguishable and which I took to be the individual who had spoken to me. Consequently I addressed my conversation to it. The shadowy form asked me what I wanted and I explained that I had lost my way and asked where the headquarters of my battalion were. The being replied that it did not know but invited me to come in and spend the night. At that moment somebody from the upstairs region came with an electric torch, and the light lit up the empty hall.
To my surprise I found that I had been addressing my conversation to the life-sized statue of some saint which was standing on a pedestal at the foot of the stairs. I rather mystified my host by saying that I had been talking to the image in the hall. However, in spite of this, he asked me to come upstairs where he would give me a bed.
By this time several of the British officers who occupied the upper flat had become interested in the arrival of the midnight visitor, and were looking over the bannisters. I can remember feeling that my only chance of receiving hospitality depended on my presenting a respectable appearance. I was on my best behaviour. It was greatly to my confusion, therefore, as I walked upstairs under the inspection of those of the upper flat, that I stumbled on the narrow steps. In order to reassure my would-be friends, I called out, "Don't be alarmed, I am a chaplain and a teetotaller".
They burst out laughing and on my arrival at the top greeted me very heartily. I was taken into a long bedroom where there were five beds in a row, one of which was assigned to me. Not only was I given a bed, but one of their servants went and brought me a hot-cross bun and a glass of milk. In return for such wholehearted and magnificent hospitality, I sat on the edge of the bed and recited poems to my hosts, who at that hour of the morning were not averse to anything which might be conducive to sleep.
On the next day I was made an honorary member of their mess. I should like to bear testimony here to the extraordinary cordiality p. Later on in the day, I found the 13th Battalion just a few miles outside Cassel at a place called Terdeghem. It was a quaint little village with an interesting church. I got a billet in a farmhouse. It was a curious building of brick and stood on the road where a little gate opened into a delightful garden, full of old-fashioned flowers. My room was reached by a flight of steps from the kitchen and was very comfortable.
I disliked, however, the heavy fluffy bed. Murdoch MacDonald used to sleep in the kitchen. There were some charming walks around Terdeghem. One which I liked to take led to a very old and picturesque chateau, surrounded by a moat. I was immensely impressed with the rows of high trees on which the rooks built their noisy cities. Sometimes a double line of these trees, like an avenue, would stretch across a field.
Often, as I have walked home in the dark after parish visiting, I have stood between the long rows of trees and listened to the wind sighing through their bare branches and looked up at the stars that "were tangled in them". Then the dread mystery of war and fate and destruction would come over me. It was a relief to think how comfortable and unconcerned the rooks were in their nests with their children about them in bed.
The Games of July Explaining the Great War
They had wings too wherewith to fly away and be at rest. Cassel was used at that time by the French Army, so we were excluded from it unless we had a special permit. It was a delightful old town, and from its commanding position on a rock has been used as a fortress more or less since the days of Julius Caesar. The Grand Place is delightful and quaint. From it, through various archways, one looks down upon the rich verdure of the fields that stretch far off into the distance.
We had a parade of our four battalions one day, when General Smith-Dorrien came to inspect us. The place chosen was a green slope not far from the entrance to the town. The General reviewed the men, and then gave a talk to the officers. As far as I can recollect, he was most sanguine about the speedy termination of the war.
He told us that all we had to do was to keep worrying the Germans, and that the final crushing stroke would be given on the east by the Russians. He also told us that to us was assigned the place of honour on the extreme left of the British line next to the p. I overheard an irreverent officer near me say, "Damn the place of honour", and I thought of Sam Hughes and his warning about not objecting to swearing. The General, whom I had met before, asked me to walk with him up to his car and then said, "I have had reports about the Canadian Artillery, and I am delighted at their efficiency.
I have also heard the best accounts of the Infantry, but do you think, in the event of a sudden onslaught by the Germans, that the Canadians will hold their ground? They are untried troops.
Before a fortnight had passed, in the awful struggle near Langemarcke, the Canadians proved their ability to hold their ground. Shortly after the General's visit we were ordered to move, and by some oversight on Murdoch MacDonald's part, my kit was not ready in time to be taken by the Brigade transport. In consequence, to my dismay, I saw the men march off from Terdeghem to parts unknown, and found myself seated on my kit by the wayside with no apparent hope of following.
I administered a rebuke to Murdoch as sternly as was consistent with the position of a chaplain, and then asked him to see if he could find any sort of vehicle at all to carry my stuff off in the direction towards which the battalion had marched. I must say I felt very lonely and a "bit out of it", as I sat by the wayside wondering if I had lost the Brigade for good.
In the meantime, Murdoch scoured the village for a horse and carriage. Suddenly, to my surprise, a despatch rider on a motorcycle came down the road and stopped and asked me if I knew where Canon Scott was. I said, "I'm the man", and he handed me a letter. There I was lucky enough to obtain a cart with three wheels. It was an extremely long and heavily built vehicle and looked as if it dated from the 17th century.
The horse that was put into it looked as if it had been born about the same period. The old man who held p. It must have been about thirty feet from the tip of the old horse's nose to the end of the cart. However I was glad to get any means of transportation at all, so I followed the thing to the road where my kit was waiting, Murdoch MacDonald put all my worldly possessions on the equipage. They seemed to occupy very little room in the huge structure. Murdoch, shouldering his rifle, followed it, and I, rather ashamed of the grotesque appearance of my caravan, marched on as quickly as I could in front, hoping to escape the ridicule which I knew would be heaped upon me by all ranks of my beloved brigade.
A man we met told us that the battalion had gone to Steenvoorde, so thither we made our way. On the following morning an Imperial officer very kindly took me and my kit to Ypres. There at the end of Yser Canal, I found a pleasant billet in a large house belonging to a Mr. Vandervyver, who, with his mother, gave me a kind reception and a most comfortably furnished room. Later on, the units of our brigade arrived and I marched up with the 14th Battalion to the village of Wieltje. Over it, though we knew it not, hung the gloom of impending tragedy. Around it now cluster memories of the bitter price in blood and anguish which we were soon called upon to pay for the overthrow of tyranny.
It was a lovely spring evening when we arrived, and the men were able to sit down on the green grass and have their supper before going into the trenches by St. I walked back down that memorable road which two years later I travelled for the last time on my return from Paschendaele. The great sunset lit the sky with beautiful colours. The rows of trees along that fateful way were ready to burst into new life. The air was fresh and invigorating. To the south, lay the hill which is known to the world as Hill 60, afterwards the scene of such bitter fighting.
Before me in the distance, soft and mellow in the evening light, rose the towers and spires of Ypres—Ypres! For all time, the word will stand as a symbol for brutal assaults and ruthless destruction on the one hand and heroic resolve and dogged resistance on the other. Behind my house at Ypres there was an old-fashioned garden which was attended to very carefully by my landlady. A summerhouse gave a fine view of the waters of the Yser Canal, which was there quite wide.
It was nice to see again a good-sized body of water, for the little streams often dignified by the name of rivers did not satisfy the Canadian ideas as to what rivers should be. A battalion was quartered in a large brick building several stories high on the east side of the canal.
There was consequently much stir of life at that point, and from my summerhouse on the wall I could talk to the men passing by. My billet was filled with a lot of heavy furniture which was prized very highly by its owners. Madame told me that she had buried twelve valuable clocks in the garden in case of a German advance. She also told me that her grandfather had seen from the windows the British going to the battle of Waterloo. She had both a piano and a harmonium, and took great pleasure in playing some of the hymns in our Canadian hymn book.
I was so comfortable that I hoped our residence at Ypres might be of long duration. At night, however, desultory shells fell into the city. We could hear them ripping along with a sound like a trolley on a track, and then there would be a fearful crash. One night when returning from Brigade Headquarters near Wieltje, I saw a magnificent display of fireworks to the South. I afterwards heard that it was the night the British attacked Hill On Sunday, the 18th of April, I had a service for the 15th Battalion in one of the stories of the brick building beside the canal.
Something told me that big things were going to happen. I had a feeling that we were resting on the top of a volcano. At the end of the service I prepared for any sudden call to ministration on the battlefield by reserving the Blessed Sacrament. On Monday some men had narrow escapes when a house was shelled and on the following day I went to the centre of the town with two officers to see the house which had been hit. They appeared to be in a hurry to get to the Square, so I went up one of p.
In a cellar near by I found an old woman making lace. Her hunchback son was sitting beside her. While I was making a few purchases, we heard the ripping sound of an approaching shell. It grew louder, till at last a terrific crash told us that the monster had fallen not far off. At that moment a number of people crowded into an adjoining cellar, where they fell on their knees and began to say a litany. I stood at the door looking at them. It was a pitiful sight. There were one or two old men and some women, and some little children and a young girl who was in hysterics.
They seemed so helpless, so defenceless against the rain of shells. I went off down the street towards the Square where the last shell had fallen, and there on the corner I saw a large house absolutely crushed in. It had formerly been a club, for there were billiard tables in the upper room.
The front wall had crashed down upon the pavement, and from the debris some men were digging out the body of an officer who had been standing there when the shell fell. His was the first terribly mangled body that I had ever seen. He was laid face downwards on a stretcher and borne away. At that moment a soldier came up and told me that one of the officers with whom I had entered the town about half an hour ago had been killed, and his body had been taken to a British ambulance in the city. I walked across the Square, and there I saw the stretcher-bearers carrying off some civilians who had been hit by splinters of the shell.
In the hospital were many dead bodies and wounded men for there had been over one hundred casualties in the city that day. We had hardly arrived when once again we heard the ripping sound which had such a sinister meaning. Then followed a terrific explosion. The final and dreadful bombardment of Ypres had begun. At intervals of ten minutes the huge seventeen-inch shells fell, sounding the death knell of the beautiful old town. On the next morning, the brother-in-law of the officer who had been killed called on me and asked me to go and see the Town Major and secure a piece of ground which might be used for the Canadian Cemetery.
The Town Major gave us permission to mark off a plot in the new British cemetery. It was in an open field near the jail, known by the name of the Plain d'Amour, and by it was a branch canal. Our Headquarters ordered the Engineers to mark off the place, and that night we laid the body to rest.
The p. The day was bright and beautiful. After burying another man in the Canadian lot, I went off to have lunch and write some letters in my billet. In the afternoon one of the 16th Battalion came in and asked me to have a celebration of the Holy Communion on the following morning, as some of the men would like to attend. I asked him to stay to tea and amuse himself till I had finished my letters. While I was writing I heard the ripping sound of an approaching shell, quickly followed by a tremendous crash.
Some building quite close by had evidently been struck. I put on my cap and went out, when the landlady followed me and said, "I hope you are not going into the town. As I went up the street I saw the shell had hit a large building which had been used as a hospital. The smoke from the shell was still rolling up into the clear sky. Thinking my services might be needed in helping to remove the patients, I started off in the direction of the building. There I was joined by a stretcher-bearer and we went through the gate into the large garden where we saw the still smoking hole in the ground which the shell had made.
I remember that, as I looked into it, I had the same sort of eerie feeling which I had experienced when looking down the crater of Vesuvius. There was something uncanny about the arrival of shells out of the clear sky. They seemed to be things supernatural. The holes made by the seventeen inch shells with which Ypres was assailed were monstrous in size.
The engineers had measured one in a field; it was no less than thirty-nine feet across and fifteen feet deep. The stretcher-bearer who was with me said as he looked at this one, "You could put three ambulances into it. Whether we had thrown ourselves down or had been blown down I could not make out. We got up and the man went back to his ambulance and I went into the building to see if I could help in getting out the wounded.
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The place I entered was a large chapel and had been used as a ward. There were rows of neat beds on each side, but not a living soul was to be seen. It seemed so ghostly and mysterious that I called out, "Is anyone here? I went down to the end of the chapel and p. I walked down the passage to go to the cellar, when once again there was the ominous ripping sound and a shell burst and all the glass was blown about my ears.
An old man in a dazed condition came from the cellar at the end of the passage and told me that all the people had gone. I was helping him across the courtyard towards a gateway when a man came in from the street and took the old fellow on his back and carried him off. By the gateway was a room used as a guardroom.
There I found a sentry with three or four Imperials. One of the lads had lost his nerve and was lying under a wooden bench. I tried to cheer them by telling them it was very unlikely that any more shells would come in our direction. I remembered reading in one of Marryatt's books that an officer in the Navy declared he had saved his life by always sticking his head into the hole in the ship which a cannon ball had made, as it was a million chances to one against another cannon ball striking that particular place.
Still, at regular intervals, we heard the ripping sound and the huge explosion of a shell. Later on, two members of the 14th Battalion came in, and a woman and a little boy carrying milk. We did our best to restore the lady's courage and hoped that the bombardment would soon cease. It was about seven p. To my horror I saw a battery of artillery galloping into the town.
Civilians were rushing down the pavements on each side of the road, and had even filled the limbers. I called out to one of the drivers and asked him what it meant. I said to myself, "Has old England lost the War after all? A young fellow on horseback stopped and, dismounting, very gallantly said, "Here, Sir, take my horse. I returned to the guardroom and told the sentries what had happened. The lady and the young boy disappeared and the men and I debated as to what we should do. The words, "The Germans are on our p.
I did not quite know what they signified. Whether they meant in military language that the Germans were ten miles away or were really round the next corner, I did not know, but I took the precaution of looking up the street before entering the gateway. On talking the matter over, the men and I thought it might be the part of discretion to make our way down past the Railway Station to the Vlamertinghe road, as none of us wanted to be taken prisoners. We therefore went down some side streets and crossed the bridge on the road that leads to Vlamertinghe.
There I found an ammunition column hurrying out of the town, and the man riding one of the horses on a limber invited me to mount the other, which was saddled. It is so long, however, since I left the circus ring that I cannot mount a galloping horse unless I put my foot into the stirrup. So after two or three ineffectual attempts at a running mount, I climbed up into the limber and asked the driver if it was a general retreat. I stopped the car and asked the officer if he would give me a ride back to Ypres. When I got in, I said to him quite innocently, "Is this a general retreat?
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