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WHAT A FRENCH COMMISSION FOUND

A DEVASTATED COUNTRY. (By P. de Bathe, in the London ‘ Telegraph'). A painful task was imposed by the French Government on a Commission of Ministers, who, during the early days of October, travelled through several of the districts devastated by the German hordes. They reported that nowhere had greater ravages or more wholesale destruction been performed than in the regions of the Meuse and in the Vosges. At Eevigny, on the Ornain, about 10 miles from Bar-le-Duc, not a single house is left intact. Most of them have been completely destroyed, and the usual sacking of the town, shooting several of the civil population, and a drunken orgie preceded the burning and final bombardment. It is close to this formerly prosperous and well-kept little town that President Poincare’s country place is situated, which unfortunately also shared the fate of Eevigny, and was for no reason whatever, except that it belonged to the Head of the State, ruthlessly bombarded. It was noteworthy that the greatest savagery and most wanton destruction had been found in the wake of the Crown Prince and General Von Bulow’s armies, from Bar-le-Dnc to Chalons, on to Eheims, and across again to Montmedy, the country through which the Kaiser is reported to have passed on two occasions since the outbreak of the war, though his Eoyal and Imperial Majesty is said to have offered M. Minnon to rebuild his Chateau of Bellevue, near Sedan, where Napoleon 111. was lodged as a prisoner of war in 1870, which had been completely destroyed and sacked by his soldiery during the last days of August. The sight of this ruin doubtless the august eyes the same kind of tears* that we have heard were shed over the destruction of Louvain. This offer, apparently, was made at the end of the first week of September, when the Kaiser was at Charleville, and it was promptly refused by the patriotic owner. OFFICER’S DIARY. A diary of a Saxon officer of the 177 th Foot which I have read also deals with this part of France, and three of his entries, which I give below, are most characteristic, and fnllv bear.out what I have written. Under date of August 10 he says : Wo marched on to I.es Basses, a pretty little village situated on a hill. We found nothing living there whatever, not even a hen. Luckily Schaffrath had brought along with him six bottles of red wine and six bottles of champagne. I’m afraid that night we all drank a great deal too much. On xlugust 25 he writes : “ Whan we left Belgium we left all the villages in flames. It is like the Thirty Years’ War—murder and fire everywhere." On August 27, dated Guignettc-de-Merlemont, the diary continues : We had to . abandon everything. When we loft the village we were greeted by a most violent fnsilado from a wood close by. There was general confusion amongst us. I lay down with my company in the ditch by the side of the road. Some of our Hussars, who had gone out before us, had sustained heavy losses, and were now in full retreat. For some time we could not return the enemy’s fire owing to our retreating cavalry being between us. The whole night" long we remained in position in the damp. Before lea'ring, though, we burned that village and shot all the male inhabitants. Wo also hanged the cure, who had signalled to the enemy from the roof of his church. This officer writes of the burning and bombardment of Rethel on August 31, and of the enormous losses sustained by the Germans from the tire of the French artillery, and also of a report circulated by his general in order to revive the sinking spirits of the troops, to the effect that “ 40,000 French had been taken prisoners, several generals, and a great number of guns.’’ He adds t “ I only hope this is true!” A GRUESOME STORY. A story, not in this officer’s diary, is told by the * Petit Parisien ’ from Verdilly, a village on the far side of the Marne. A villager—father of four children—lent some plain clothes to some French soldiers who had lost their way in the enemy’s country. He was arrested by the Germans, and sentenced to be snot. In the meanwhile the German officers left him in the charge of a civil fractionary of the village. Luckily for him the officers began drinking, and became so drunk that they forgot to give the order for the sentence to be carried out, and left the next morning.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141211.2.54

Bibliographic details

WHAT A FRENCH COMMISSION FOUND, Issue 15673, 11 December 1914

Word Count
766

WHAT A FRENCH COMMISSION FOUND Issue 15673, 11 December 1914

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