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THE IRON CROSS

PRODIGAL DISTMBUTION. FOK CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY. It is reported that already 38,000 Gorman Goldiers have received the Iron Cross for conspicuous gallantry in the field. This German decoration, which is similar in design to our Victoria Cross, is 6aid to bo cast out of guns captured in war, and in this connection it carries its resemblance to our decoration a little further, inasmuch as it is said that the Victoria Cross is made out of funs captured in the Crimea. The Prussian Order was instituted on March 10, 1813. by Frederick William 111 Its inception was due to Gneisenau, who in 1811 proposed to the King a general rising against Napoleon, and suggested that all men who served with distinction in tho field should bo decorated with a black-and-white scarf or a national cockade. Tho King, however, favored an emblem in tho shape of two pieces of black-and-white ribbon sewn in tho form of a cross on the breast of the coat. The deagainst Napoleon did not mature until after Moscow in 1813, and in that year the Order of tho Iron Cross was instituted, as it was thought that a decoration of metal would bo more suitable. On March, 1913, the King of Prussia decreed that "in tho present critical state of affairs, on which depends everything for tho country, tho bravo spirit which the nation has so grandly shown deserves to be honored and to be commemorated by some special form of recognition. Wo have therefore resolved specially to distinguish the merit which in tho war now about to break out shall be displayed, either in actual fight with the enmy or in the field or at homo, in connection with this great struggle for freedom and independence, and after this war not again to bestow this special form of recognition." By Virtue of this decree tho Iron Cross of two classes and a Grand Cross were instituted, on tho anniversary of tho birthday of the late Queen Luise. Fifty-seven years later ,on July 19, 1870, tho anniversary of the death of Queen Luise, war was declared aigainst France, and it was thought that no better recognition could be conferred for valor in thi3 campaign than the Order of 1813, although tho King in his decree had declared that this distinction would not again bo bestowed. On July 19 another der eree by King William reintroduced the Order of the" Iron Cross. "In view of the serious situation of tho Fatherland." ho decreed, " And in grateful remembrance of tho heroism of our ancestors m tho great years of tho War of Liberts - , I revive in its full meaning and importance the Order of the Iron Cross instituted by my father, now in rest with God. The Iron Cross will bo given without distinction of rank or position as a reward for merit, gained either in actual fight with the enemy or at home, in connection with this war for tho honor and independence of the beloved country." Both classes of the Iron Cross have a precisely similar black cross of cast iron with silver edging. On the front there is not any inscription. Tho front face of the cross of 1813 is bare of any insignia. On tho reverse of the. cross of 1870-71 is a crown and tho date 1870. In the centre is a "W.," the initial of the Christian name of tho then King of Prussia. Tho cross of 1813 bore the initials "F.W." In tho centre of the cross are three oak leaves, and tfib presence on the Order to-day of the dates 1813 and 1870-71 indicates that the soldier upon whom it is conferred participates by rijjht in the honors of the previous wars. Tho Grand Cross can only be received by a commander who has been victorious in a deekive battle, after which the enemy has evacuated his position, or who has captured on important fortress, or by a commander who lias unflinchingly defended a fortress which has not fallen into the enemy's hands. The Iron Cross is borne on tho standards aud colors of the troops, and, like the Victoria Cross in our Army, its bestowal is not confined to any one rank. In the campaign of 1813, 331 first class and 6fiM) KeoD.iil class crosses were awarded, and six years later it was reported that the cross was worn by 9,136 soldiers, and that there were 6,813 inheritors of the decoration. After the Franco-German War of 1870 the number of crosses distributed totalled nearly 50,000. Of this number 3,000 wero crosses with the white ribbon with ; black edging, indicating- that they had not I been awarded for service against the enemy.

These arc the words of Dr Freiherr von I Herfcling, President and " Vanquish Minister of Foreign Afor Vanish." fairs for the Kingdom of Bavaria, which is second in size and importance of the kingdoms of the German Empire. "Tho truo enemy of Germany," ho told an interviewer at Naples, "is England. Her hand was "guiding the present terrible tragedy, and "Germany had either to vanquish or to " vanish." By constant repetition the story has become an old one, and from our standpoint assertions such as these are tho highest tribute that Germans can pay to the Motherland. England, doubtless, is guiding tho policy of the Allies now that tho sword lias been drawn, and English money is being used for the strengthening and comforting of smaller nationalities which have been mado to feel the oppressors' heel. Nor will the Empire dissent from this Bavarian Minister's conclusion. Germany must either vanquish the nations against which she has hurled her war machine or she herself must vanish from the scene as a dominating and disturbing factor in European politica. Objection, however, will be tar-en to tho words " terrible tragedy" in tho sense that they are used by Dr Hertling. His implication is that tho cause of this "terrible tragedy" is England's policy. This is tho He that Germany, from the Kaiser. Count Bernstcrff, and Maximilian Harden down, has tried to impose upon the unwary and ignorant. The responsibility for tho "terrible tragedy" that, has shocked mankind, and that in a few shoTt hours flung the greater portion of Europe and many outlying parts of the earth hade into the nameless ferocities of its early prime, rests with one man and one people alone. This world is a. forgetful world, and the happenings of yesterday are most frequently the forgotten traditions of the morrow. But it is not so deaf and blind and dull that it has ceaeed to remember a certain fateful interview—tho most momentous in Geimau history, if not in the history of tho nations. It happened less than four months ago, and remains recorded for all time in the handwriting of the British Ambassador. " I found tho Chancellor," wrote Sir Edward Goschen, " very agi- " tatcd, and he at once began an harangue 'U\hich lasted /or twenty minutes." Tt was ia the conree of this famous, or infaii.ous, harangue that the German Chancellor admitted that the neutrality of England while Belgium's integrity was being violated and France ravaged and desecrated was the basis of Germany's policy. And when he learned that this insolent and insulting assumption was foredoomed to failure, he turned in his anger and cried that he would hold England responsible for all the " terrible" events that might happen. Tho words, it will be noticed, are almost identical with those now attributed to the Bavarian Foreign Minister. Because Great Britain would no(< break her pledged word, because she would not stand idly by and see Belgium crushed and France smitten to death, the archfiends and sanguinary plotters turn with untshameu auaacit.v and inviio tha nations to look with reproving frown upon this hypercritical and predatory England, who in her unsatisfied greed and envy of German commercial progress has wantonly piovoked tlio "terrible tragedy" that notv oppresses humanity. Happily for England, for the Empire, and for international righteousness, time hj with the Allies alike in the council chamber and en tho field. Every day there is some fresh evidence of the nature and intensity of tho long-prepared conspiracy the ultimate aim of which, in Germany's own good time, was the annihilation of the British Empire. We havo nothing to fear in this regard. Open the windows to tho four winds, let in every ray of daylight that the blessed God gives to his poor benighted creatures, search every desk and pigeon-hole, for we know that nothing therein will bo seen or found that will movo by a 6ingle evanescent tremor our faith in the integrity of British statesmen. England's word stande not only in the Chancelleries of Europe and the Cabinets of oversea nations, but, which is greater and better than all, in the hearts of uruciviiieed aborigines. Field-marshal Sir Evelyn Wood recently gave an experience of his during the Zulu War of 55 years ago :

By his instructions a number of Zulus were captured, and when they were asked, in view of a previous incident, why they should not bo killed, one of them replied: " Because it is not the English custom." This is the England we. havo in our minds when we cherish her in thought and remember her in our prayers. England and the Empire could havo been at peace today, and havo been doing a splendid trade as the mercenary vassal of the German war lords; but it would not he an England with which we should be anxious to claim kith or kin. On the contrary, every man and woman among us would have grown hot with wrath when their children asked: "Why is England not fighting?" To such an England as that we should well cry : Hence, broker lackey ! ignomy and shame Pursue thy life and live aye with thy name! The Empire has chosen, as h c >r children knew she would, the better part. She stands in her wonted place, and is coupled with Belgium in the world's esteem. Poor, bleeding Belgium I torn, strangled, but not conquered; tho hearts of all men and women have gone out to her. Here in Otago the people havo done well. They have, in fact, thanks to tho inspiring campaign of the Otago Patriotic Association, done more than well. Ten thousand pounds is a splendid freewill offering, and our own people may well claim now to turn their thoughts to meeting their own future provision. Not that more could not have been done had those who are paid to be reaping material advantages from this ghastly war been blessed with larger hearts. The Government, too, have not risen to the level of their opportunity. Australia gave £120,000 out of her public purse; New Zealand lias given £20,000 out of money subscribed as the rosult of a direct popular appeal. There has been a lamentable failure by the Cabinet to interpret the heart of the people of the Dominion in this regard, but with such failure the people have no ehare. They have not failed, whether in gifts of service or in money or in soils, to make plain their determination that the sword shall not be sheathed until German militarism has been crushed beyond hope of resurrection.

We must still allow ourselves to admire a good thing, though it is Ignorance In of German origin. Tha Action. attitude of mind that inspires the scornful question "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" is not to be encouraged by us, even amid the passions aroused by war. The particular good thing from Germany that we would acknowledge now is Goethe's aphorism: " There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action." A kindred truth, less felicitously expressed, finds frequent utterance among ourselves when we say that none do more harm than good but mistaken men. Whether the truth is stated in the British or German way, it finds ample illustration at this time in both nations. Turning first to Germany, such men as Hamack and Eucken arrest attention. Their integrity of character, like their scholarship, is above question. It ia true that of Hamack the Rev. R. J. Campbell has said: ' For his great contributions to " Chritsian learning I have, in common " with religious teachers in general, the " highest gratitude, but I have not been " equally able to admire the man j his "temper of mind and public record are " too closely akin to tho Prussian official"ism with which he has been so long "and so closely associated." When we remember that Harnack is the Kaisers personal friend there is no difficulty in accepting the statement that he is In sympathy with the Prussian official mind, but this is not to deny that he is " a good man," as we generally understand that phrase. Eucken's goodness is recognised without any such qualification as attaches to his fellow-professor. Now, the fine character of these men not only does not prevent their exercising a most mischievous influence in this war—it even increases that influence. Their power over their countrymen vests in their goodness. But goodness does not exclude even great ignorance, and ignorant both Harnack and Eucken are of the motives of England and Germany in waging this war. Eucken. for instance, declares that England opposes Germany's existence, that she lay 'n wait for a favorable opportunity to inflict lasting injury on his country, and that the defence of, Belgium is only a pretext for draping her own brutal national egotism in a mantle of decency. It is clear from such statements that goodness and ignorance can exist together even in specialists of renown. So in Germany Goethe's aphorism is finding? abundant illustration, for " ignorance in action" is followed by " frightful" results, since it increases the bitterness felt for England, and adds to the horrors of a horrible war by deepening passion.

When wo look to England, the mischief wrought by tho Ignoranco in action of good men is much more in evidence. This is what we might expect because of the greater liberty of speech and action obtaining there. The members of the peace-at-any-price party unquestionably meant well. According to their imperfect lights, they obeyed the voice of conscience in hindering the formation of a strong arii.", aim in opposing larger grants for a yet more powerful navy. It was their ignoranco in action that frustrated the wise endeavors of the late Earl Roberts. The '' frightful" consequence of their ill-advised action is, in all probability, this war itself, and certainly much needless slaughter, since wo should have had millions of soldiers where we have but thousands. These good) but fearfully mischievous men are still busy. Ramsay Mac Donald and Norman Angell, with others, are issuing manifestos ajid impertinently dogmatising on the favorable terms of peace to be imposed on Germany when tho war is ended. Wo have been too tolerant of ignoranco in action in the past, where it has been coupled with good intentions. But now tho ignorant intermeddling of our Harnacks and Euckens and Mac Donalds must cease We reprobate the ignorance in action of doctors ; then why not of politicians and philosophers? Wo reprobate, too, tho ignoranco in action of Admirals and Generals ; then why not also of theologians wiio step outside their special sphere? Where iunorance is wedded to goodness it may be our duty to forgive, but we must not overlook, and so encourage. Forgiveness wo learn from that august Sufferer who proved in His own experience on Cal vary how frightful ignoranco is in action, for He prayed : '' Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But from Him, too, wo learn that, sins of ignoranco must bo confessed and renounced. This is very specially the case now, when through lack of knowledge i certain restless souls are, though with the j best intentions, helping "to dung God's] harvest fields with rotten death." :

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Bibliographic details

THE IRON CROSS, Evening Star, Issue 15661, 27 November 1914

Word Count
2,648

THE IRON CROSS Evening Star, Issue 15661, 27 November 1914

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