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DAILY MYTHS., Issue 15703, 18 January 1915
SOISSONS AND THE TRUTH. [By A. Spenck.] ~,, Irightfulne«s is the coat in which your German loves to wru-p war up. Hindenburg, for instance, is particularly strong on that —stronger than most Gerra&nß; but they are all strong enough on the doctrine of frightfuJness in war. Some- of the accounts of the welter of blood in Poland in the Home papers are frightful past conception.
One straggle at dead of night hi a cemetery at Kielcc is told in 'The Times' of November 29. It was bayonet *nd buttend. The writer describes the wra.ek in the cemetery next <\»y. He says that we read a. lot in these: days of the soil drenched with human blood. Usually it is a figure of speech. Here it, was a reality. One can br.t dimly fancy a-u encounter in a graveyard at dead of night, under the sole light of a small moon and the twinkling of tit* stars in the serene heavens above. Round the- church in the cemetery, and even to the portals of the edifice, men with musket and steel slew each other, stumbling over graves and tripping ovw the headstones placed to majk t-ha peaceful ones that slept below the sod oblivions to the hell let loose in the sacred precincts above.
"The blue blood-stained costs of the Austria lis," says the writer. " were piled indiscriminately with the. grey great-coats of their Russian brothers. 1. have seen many wounds before and many dead, but this "was really the first, block of bayouetkilled men tFl'at I had ever seen. The wounds are such that in ninety-nine eases out of a hundred they must be fatal." BRITAIN'S GREAT LOSS OF MEN. But Poland holds no monopoly. We are beginning to receive the lists of British losses now. Perhaps 140,000 to 160,000 British troops went to France in August. In the issue of ''l'he, Times' of December 2 their losses are recorded a* no less than 84,000! Fifty thousand of these losses were sustained in t lie terrific combats round Ypres and Armentieres, far more than their losses at Moris, the. Marne, and the Aisnc put together. In this threeweeks' struggle it appears that 16 German army corps, numbering nbout 500,000, lost as many as 200.000. Perhaps that was why the cables at the time referred to it as 'the bloodiest battle in history. Slaughters such as Eylau, Borodino. Gravelotte. Gettysburg, and Waterloo fade out of' the comparison. INDIAN DETAILS AT LAST.
Interesting matter about, tho Indians is beginning to come to hand. It is embodied in Sir John French's despatch of November 20, of which we, only received a short summary—nothing in it about the Indians. The despatch occupies pages in the London Press, and, thanks to it, we now know which of the Indian divisions reached France first. These, were the I-ahore division, which came into "line on October 19. and the Meernt division some time later. The Seeunderabad Cavalry Brigade came up to the front on November 1, and perhaps other cavalry not mentioned.
The Lahore, division iMajor-geneiul Watkisl is a strong tonimsrtd, numbering one British snd four native commands. The. Meerut division (Major-general Anderson) is not quite so strong, but has the same number of brigades. As we, already know, the Indian commander is Sir James Willcocks. The Indian losses in the three weeks when the fighting was heaviest ran up to 5.500. The Ja-ts had then shaped better in battle than other classes of native, soldiers. The Gurkhas seem to have sustained the roughest handling. INDIANS AT THE CANAL. Since ihp, Lahore and Meerut divisions •'went in" other heavy Indian drafts, largely cavalry, reached' Marseilles, perhaps about November i. There is definite evidence, too, of a. third Indian contingent at, the Suez Canal. They came at the end of November, and " The. Times' of December 3 describes scenes which may be taken as typical: It was pleasant to ?e* Indian Moslem soldiers greeted at the doors of the little mosques by white-bearded elders, who, satisfied as to the visitors' orthodoxy, wore brushing the sand from their uniforms and uttering pious ejaculations of welcome, while a gr°up of small children, summoned by two little, girls with the cries of "Don't he afraid, they Muslinieen." stood around agapeMid" timidly touched the soldiers* clothes. Then there was a- snuadron of turbaned lancers which provoked the comment of the Bedouin onlookers—and your Bedouin often is. and always believes himself to be. a good judge of a. horse. The account, goes on to hint that the unceasing streams of transports and warships passing up the canal have impressed the dwellers on its banks. WHAT BEFELL AT SOISSONS. It- is scarcely an exaggeration to say th»b thfl usual military lie'has come to be regarded as such a. solemn rite, that-, without ft, a war could not be regarded as properly launched. Both sides are prevaricating hard over the French reverse at Soissonis. It is difficult—impossible, in fsct—to see what has happened, partly because of the obvious prevarication and partly _ because ths military jargon—" Spur 132,'' for in-stance—-has come into the story. The military set out their maps in squares, the squares being often numbered alphabetically and the features inside the squares numerically. This line in the report shows that the French account, has been dictated to the pressmen by some Staff officer. If so, it is a good report to lie sceptical over. That is the French side of it.
On the other hand, the Germans see in .this" battlfl somethinjj approaching the majesty of Gravelotte. At least cables say they do. Whether the Germans do or not is another matter. If they do, they are singularly unfortunate in big things with small. Thty say that 5,000 French were killed and 5,200 taken prisoners In round figures about 415,000 combatants took part at, Gravelotte. of whom 20,500 Germans and 15,800 French were struck down, which was fairly ferocious work for one day's fighting. Wo cannot find anything corresponding to that in the cables on Soissons. The French are hitting back by pointing otit —but only " semi-officially " —that not ' more than 'three brigades, aggregating i 4,200, took part in the for ths plateau behind Soissons. If so, it was a skimpy force to launch on an important, operation, but here we are probably only encountering further misstatement. It may be years before it can be ascertained whether it was three brigades, three divisions, or three army corps. Whatever it was, it received % blow. Attacks on uplands are carried out by advance* in a rigid w»v which permit of no dispute. On N«w Zealand landscapes the front of most chains of hiiis runs down to the lower land in lines of spur* and gullies. Th« military calla the spurs "•alients" and the gullies " re-eiitnmts." I'he aim in attacking uplands is to keep the infantry on the spurs and out of ths fullies, but if a commander is sure of is reconnaissance a good deal may be done through the depressions and valleys. Th* Germans must nave been masters of the reconnaissance, for " they regrouped their forces and advanced np Chivers Valley (wherever that maybe), outnumber-, in£ anQl outflanking the French." That was on Wednesday. If a hostile force ean regroup this way the French leadership may not have been very good, but this point need not be pursued beyond stating that the French attacked a position which they do not appear to have known much about. Such risks have to be taken. When the battle of Steinbach occurred lately in Upper Alsace the key to operation* -if this kind was given mk. Considering what it going on in Poland, it is the businoss of the Allies to frequently develop the German front in the west. «sd at as many points as possible. Tfee sorest way to .duvelop ihg spemjr if $g ftflfetteK. *ad
General Joffra is doing it. In the Upper Alsace operation he won, as it happened. In the Soissons operation he happened to lose. These tactical wins and losses affect the childish judgment of the public, and hence the military prevarication to keep that public from dying with fright. But they only affect the course of the war this far: General Joffre now knows that the enemy were recently weak in Upper Alsace. On Wednesday they wore found to be unexpectedly strong behind Soissons. He will probably have a gopd working idea now whether few or many German troop<= are being drawn off from France -to Poland. "IF WF. CAN STICK IT." "For Canada and Old England" was the cry when the first of the Canadians were put in near Ypres, it seems. I am never sure of these picturesque battle cries, for the thunder of the lire must drown all shouts by combatants. And, of oourso, it all smacks of vaudeville as well. By last advice from Home over 30,000 Canadians were training on Salisbury Plain under very trying conditions. The plain is now a quag—not perhaps so bad as John Bunyan's Siough of Despond, but everywhere cut about by the passage of artillery. It is described as a bolt of slime and ooze, and men and animals sink deep in it. "It will," says one paper. " be some summers before the grass grows green again here." The. Canadians were anchored in four camps—one at Bustard, two at Westdown, and » fourth at Pond Farm. The men were working daily in mud ov«r the boot tops, and the number of cough* and colds gave the medical officers some contort).
It seems that they regretted that their training at VaJcarlier was not quite enough for Kitchener. They chafed a little at the halt in England, but recognised its wisdom. The spirit of the men appears to have been admirably caught by one writer who went through their camp. There was no foolish bragging about the way in which they wore going to acquit themselves, but they thought that they ought to be able to do whatever the best troops could do. At the same time, they knew that even the best troops get stage fright. "If we can stick it first time! " "Flint seemed to be the universal word. After that they would have no doubt. And this sober facing of the seriousness of the job ahead, so vastly finer than any empty vaporings, was in itself a fairly good guarantee that they would " stick it." THE COVETKI) CANAL.
<..'ues,«es on the Turkish advance on the. Sum Canal arc thro© a penny. The Cairo correspondent of the ' Daily News ' says that the deed must be done by February :or th* desert springs will be dry. He ha-s I evidently forgotten the reservoirs at El j Nakl, to say nothing of tilt: perennial wells on two other ::arava-n routes. Kerious attack on the canal is mostly limited by the artillery problem. Shiffinjf jjiiiw across tin; sand is a, difficulty which n«ad* no further word, unless it can be surmounted by light railways. It is Raid that the collect ion of Syrian camels is designed t» me»t this. It will certainly have to meet this, and wrniothinj* more, for British warships of the. Minerva- class may enter the canal and do as Captain Wariegh did a.L Akaaa. Cairo think:; that the Turk* are a-ndoabtedly advancing in forre, but that they will never reach th-e canal. Simultaneously, however, there is a.n astonishing advance of Turks into Persia, the. country which the Foreign Office took all manner of care to win over wheti the war began, and a country which allowed Britain to violate the rules of neutrality bv stationing ships, with ohvious warlike intent, inside Persian territorial waters before a biow was struck bv Turkey at all. Whatever the Turk? rimy or may not do l'n the region of the canal, they will certainly detain a ]ar«e number of valuable troops in its neighborhood. We .ire practically netfinc no news about- this itisr iK>int. Tlw FmyliVn military direction eertninlv <!<"• not view the threat a* th** eau.il wholly as a joke. The heavy coloiiial and Indian contingent?, to say nothing of th-e garrison*, of .K.aypt and the Mediterranean s-t.-oions. have notconcentrated on the foreshore of Kj*vpt. for nothing. THK COLD IX CLOU I "LAND.
Airmen at the iront must drink a bitter cup now. The regulations forbid coastinc at Inwpr than o.COOft as a general thing, and 6.000 ft is a- common flight altitude. We forget, perhaps, what this means in winter. It .seems, from Home accounts, as much as 50deg of frost is sometime* experienced at sa'h heights in winter.
Reeortnai?sau< -e. ov*r the lines, therefore, calls for ;m ireiri constitution as well ;i.s sn iron nerve. 'The Time? ' of November 30 records a. case where a. Oerman aviator came down to earth uniiit nut of sheer loss of iiciTc and endurance. ]t was about that- time thai the Indian troops bagged their iirst Ts.iibe. it descended well pitted with bullet*, and the Sikhs, rushed from the trenches to examine it. They had, it serins, harbored the notion that it was pome sort of living thing, a\id, a.p. 'The Times' puts* it. they were a little relieved to discover its fallibility. In jcr environment the fiver has some, advantages, h'lw-cvn. The- higher and colder th<s safer. One German score is given to-day. ' The TimesV correspondent pay* of the Dunkirk air raid that liertiiAn aviators t«ik w> notice of aniiairernfl uunv They might a.s wpM aim at nwxquitncs \iith jifH-ftiontrm xl 100 yards range. On our side of the ledger we *ee that. nine aviatnjs gr| in «oil; on 0.-.tend. doing " considerable damage" to the railway and barrack?. \\V will not he able to form any safe opinion on this damage till Homo papers ionic five <>r'.«ix »'f(it hence.
THF BRrfiGK-RABIKtrrON* BOMBS. It will he remembered that on Saturday, November 21. a. dating dart was made on the Zeppelin works at 'Friedrirhshaven by FLight-comniander Briggs a.nd Lieutenants P.abingtou and Sippe. It was our third long distance. sky raid. Three Bristol biplanes came- to the fortress of Belfort s"inc. days before, but their purpose was not realised. Six bombs were dropped. One. fell on th» Zeppelin factory, making a, great, hole, in the glass root. All the windows were shattered, and the inside, of the building was thrown into disorder. Two bombs fell beside the building, making large holes in the ground. The others feJl on neighboring buildings, all doing destruction. The. staff of the factory were having dinner when the. nnplaasa.nt visitors soared overhead. The. one thing certain about the result of the. raid was that a new big Zeppelin -which was to have, made its first- trial that day wa.s never brought out-.
DAILY MYTHS., Issue 15703, 18 January 1915
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