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"A GREAT DUN-COLOURED WASTE"

* BATTLE-SCARRED BELGIUM THROUGH A STRICKEN LAND "Belgium louks like a great duncoloured waste with jagged skyline, with gutted llelds, peopled with gray soldiery,and wandering peasants gaping before their tuinbled-down homes and shattered cathedrals" —this is the way Dudley Hall, a New York importer, who ncently returned, describes in the New •York ".Evening Post" the present state of the' stricken country. "I came from the hotel in Berlin," he said, "where there was music, laughter, crowded dining-rooms with rich, abundant eatables, through the unharmed Gorman forests, through the German lields where oxen were hauling tiiid where power ploughs of up-to-date make were turning up the ground. Even tile German farmers had prepared themselves with mechanical means for farming against the time when their horses would bo taken for war purposes. These German peasants were apparently going the round of their work as if there were no war. At the bridges there were guards, and here and there more soldiers, but otherwise homes, factories, churches, and theatres were as if nothing had happened. A Changed Scone. "Then we changed to the military train for the trip through Belgium. The German officers had cars to themselves. They sang, joked, drank beer, as it every field, every factory, was manned and prosperous. But as the train entered Belgium, the view" from the officers' coach changed. The lields wore bare and scored back and forth with trenches, swathed with barbed-wire. There were no . ploughs, no oxen, no farm hands. Large haystacks, some twenty-live feet high, which the Germans had carefully preserved for their own use, were silhouetted against the sky-line. Here and there 011 the hare lields were old-fashioned ploughs, a rake, and a, clump of shovels and spades, unused and rusting.

"The train rattled along. The tracks had been damaged and repaired hastily. On one side an engine and a few cars liad been pitched down the embankment. The engineer and passengers had boen pinned underneath, they said —but this was- an incident in the theatre of war. Wo went past a forest —not the stalwart upstanding German trees, but miles of razed woodland. Four-foot stubs of trees, which had taken years to grow, stretched as far as ono could see. "We came into Verviers. The town seemed to show traces of the war. There were few people on the streets and German soldiers everywhere. The atmosphere had changed. The soldiers in our train hushed their rather boisterous singing. The faces of these phlegmatic, stoical Belgians showed that the razed forests and inanimate pasture lands had belonged to somebody. They were something more than a picture of desolation. - Desolation and Ruin. "Toward Liege, the fields became more and more cut up with ugly trenches. Some trenches were right through last year's garden patches. Now and then a wall, or a chimney, or an outbuilding showed where a farmhouse had stood. Sometimes the houso would be standing, but outbuildings would be destroyed, and milk-pans, pails, wheelbarrows, and the rest heaped in junk piles. "But the shattered farms were but signposts to Liege, which looked like aI phantom city. Spires rose and ended in jagged peaks, the square tops of houses half-leaned against other crumbling walls. What had been windows were holes. Great holes were cut' between v/indows. The streets had been solid masses of glass, stone, and brick, with bureaus, beds, stairways, or just a little shoe protruding. The Germans bad started to pile the debris in heaps, just like the snow is piled in New York. "The station was vacant. There were no cabs, no porters, no people. Soldiers paced back and forth, helping where they could. They even carried travellingbags to help those who had a long distance to go. They insisted upon knowing where and why you wished to go, what business yon had, but they did this without discourtesy. To all appearances they were doing all they could to restore proper conditions of living. The soldiers patronised the little shops whose proprietors had coine back, buying tobacco, beer, and what-not, for which they paid their money. In one town, they said, the soldiers spent about 60,000 dollars a week. Yet I did not see one drunken German soldier from ono end of Belgium to the other. Dry-Eyed Crief. "But it is only here and there that the shopkeepers have come back. When they do come, with bundles, accumulated hunger and weariness, the sudden realisation of destruction of their all makes them immovable and speechless. I did not see ono of them crv or wail. It seemed too deep a grief "for that. Ono group of father, mother, three little girls, and a dog, stood before their j'ome. The front of it was gone, revealing the plain, worn furniture covered with bricks and plaster. On the upper floor clothing was still hanging on a hook, a bed with its red blanket was still smooth and soft, then in the next room a hole in the floor had dragged chairs and tables into an indiscriminate mass. The family stood still, then went np the street.

"In Malines the conditions are similar. The women and children look in-etched, dirty, and unwashed. It has been a long time since there has been any wash-day in Malines. It has been a long time since the people of Malines have had anything to wash their faces in. The children have the smudge of weeks on the little hands which they hold out."

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/DOM19150329.2.41

Bibliographic details

"A GREAT DUN-COLOURED WASTE", Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2421, 29 March 1915

Word Count
909

"A GREAT DUN-COLOURED WASTE" Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2421, 29 March 1915

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