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Drumfire Rocks Earth

It was just before dusk when the counterattacks began northward from Wytschaete and southward from Meteren, and although before then there had been a steady slogging of guns and howling of shells, at that time this volume of dreadful noise increased tremendously, and drumfire broke out in fury, so that the sky and earth trembled with it. It was like the beating of all the drums of the world in muffled tattoo, above which and through which there were enormous clangoring hammer strokes from the British and German heavies.

It went on till evening, with a few pale gleams of sun through storm clouds and the smoke of guns, and for miles all this panorama of battle was boiling and seething with bursting shells and curling wreaths of smoke from the batteries in action.

When darkness came each battery was revealed by its flashes, and all the fields around were filled with red winkings and sharp stabs of flame. There was no real darkness of night, for every second the sky was crossed by rushes of light and burning beacons in many places, and gun flashes etched outlines of trees and cottages.

The general situation today is in our favor for the time being by the recapture of Wytschaete and Meteren and the repulse of many German attacks, but it is with natural regret one hears of the withdrawal from the heights east of Ypres in order to straighten the line and economize men. There was one other regret today, though only sentimental. The enemy knocked down the Albert church tower, the tower of the golden Virgin, who had bent head downward over that ruined city with her babe outstretched. It was a great landmark bound up with all our memories.

How General Carey Saved Amiens

A Pivotal Episode

NE of the most dramatic episodes of the battle of Picardy was the disaster which befell the 5th British Army, under General Gough, and the brilliant way in which it was retrieved by Brig. Gen. Sandeman Carey, who was warmly complimented by Premier Lloyd George in his man-power speech, (Page 263.) Sir Hubert Gough's army was sent down in January to take over from the French a sector forty to fifty miles long. Clearly such a line as this could be held only if it were strongly located and cunmingly constructed, and there is no doubt that it was. Three lines were designed: First, an outpost line, then a “line of resistance,” and then a “battleline.” The outpost line was designed with special care. It consisted of a number of separate posts so located as to provide for a cross-fire on any enemy that penetrated them. It was intended to be held until the last gasp, and it was presumed that the Germans might pass through it, but that they would be terribly punished by the garrisons of the isolated posts. In one way the attack was not a surprise. General Gough had known for days that it was imminent, and had moved his men up to their positions and made every preparation possible. But

in the Great Battle

one thing he could not foresee or guard against—the mist and fog. Under cover of the mist, which prevented sight for more than thirty yards, the Germans crept forward, and the outpost line was overrun before the alarm could be given. It was simply swamped, and the crossfire on which so much depended was never delivered. Consequently the fight began at the line of resistance instead, and before many hours had passed by sheer weight of numbers the Germans had forced the British back on the battleline. Then the fewness of numbers began to tell, and, as always at points of junction between divisions, the Germans got through between the 7th and 19th, the 19th and 18th, and the 3d and 18th. The whole line was broken up, and it seemed as if the road was open to Amiens.

Meanwhile it was impossible for the French reinforcements to come up as quickly as was necessary, and the retreat began. Bridges were not blown up for the simple reason that the parties of engineers were all killed. Every kind of soldier that could be collected was hastily thrown into action to fill the gap —including a strong contingent of American engineers.

Close to where the gap occurred was a training school for machine gunners. Of course, the men in training had long since been hurried into action, but a large supply of machine guns remained. It is not every soldier, however, who understands how to use these weapons, and the officer found himself with a large supply of them which at all costs he must prevent from being captured, and very few men able to handle them. Those who could were put in charge of squads, and whenever they had a moment's respite from turning them on the Germans they set to work to give hurried instructions. Orders came to General Carey at 2 A. M., March 26, to hold the gap. He went to work at once to develop the plans that had been hurriedly laid out. He crganized a scratch force by telephone, messengers, and flag signals. Every available man—laborer, raw recruit, sapper, engineer—was rounded up. By the middle of the next morning Carey had found a considerable number of men, and by the early part of the afternoon he had organized them into some sort of force and had selected and marked out the position it must hold. For a time he had some guns, but these were hurried away to another point that was even more seriously threatened. He had fifty cavalrymen to do a little scouting, but in the main he had to depend entirely on the sheer grit of his scratch force, who lay in their shallow trenches, firing almost point blank at the gray hordes of Germans, and at every moment of respite seized their shovels to improve their shelters. For nearly six days they stuck to it, and, as Lloyd George said, “they held the German Army and closed that gap on the way to Amiens.” After a time they got some artillery behind them and things were easier, but at first it was just a ding-dong fight, with soldiers taking orders from strange officers, officers learning the ground by having to defend it, and every man from enlisted man to Brigadier jumping at each job as it came along and putting it through with all his might. During all that six days General Carey was the life and inspiration of the entire

force. Careless of danger, he rode along the hastily intrenched line, giving an order here and shouting words of encouragement there to his weary and hard-pressed men. His staff was as hastily recruited as his men. He had no knowledge of how long he must hold out. He was not even certain of getting supplies of ammunition and provisions. All he had to do was to hang on, and hang on he did against an almost endless series of formidable attacks. He never lost heart or wavered. The gap to Amiens was closed and held. Three companies of an engineering regiment were caught in the early bombardment and ordered to fall back. To one of the American companies, which had been consolidated with the British Royal Engineers, was delegated the task of guaranteeing the destruction of an engineers’ dump, which it had been decided to abandon. This detachment destroyed all the material, made a rapid retreat, caught up with the larger group, and immediately resumed work, laying out trenches. These operations lasted from March 22 to 27. As the German attack became more intense, the engineers were joined by cooks, orderlies, and railway men as a part of General Carey's forces. The commanding officer of an American regiment took charge of an infantry sub-sector and directed the action of his troops for one week, until the emergency passed at that point. To this officer General Rawlinson, commanding the British Army engaged in that sector, sent the following letter:

The army commander wishes to record officially his appreciation of the excellent work your regiment has done in assisting the British Army to resist the enemy's powerful offensive during the last ten days. I fully realize that it has been largely due to your assistance that the enemy has been checked, and I rely on you to assist us still further during the few days which are still to come before I shall be able to relieve you in the line. I consider your work in the line to be greatly enhanced by the fact that, for six weeks previous to taking your place in the front line, your men had been working at such high pressure erecting heavy bridges on the Somme. My best congratulations and warm thanks to all. RAWLINSON.

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Battle Viewed From the French Front By G. H. Perris

Special Correspondent with the French Armies

George H. Perris was with the French Armies in Picardy throughout the German offensive. The aim of the Germans was to drive a wedge between the British and French Armies at the point of juncture mear La Fère, and Mr. Perris was admirably situated to obtain not only the story of the fighting on the allied right, but a good general view of the whole great battle and of the strategic methods adopted by the German command. CURRENT HISTORY MAGAZINE, through its connection with THE NEW YORK TIMES, has full use of these important dispatches,

which are copyrighted.

LITTLE before 5 A. M. on March 21, between the Scarpe and the Oise, there began an extremely violent artillery preparation, including barrages largely composed of gas shells, especially near Cambrai, and toward the Oise a strong counterbattery fire and a plentiful bombardment of the allied rear and communications. At 9:45 A. M. an infantry attack began. Each German division engaged had a front of attack of about a mile and a half, and seems to have been disposed as follows: Two regiments, less a battalion of each, were in the first line, and one regiment was in reserve. Battalions were echeloned in a depth of two companies, each with six light machine guns, constituting the first wave. The second

wave of two companies, carrying heavier

machine guns, followed at an interval of 100 yards. These were followed at 200 or 300 yards' distance by light bombthrowers and the battalion staff. Finally there came one-inch and other very light field guns, called “artillery of accompaniment,” which deployed as required. The divisional reserves consisted of five infantry battalions. No new gas was used, and although the enemy has tanks they were not brought into action.


The first attack was made by perhaps fifty divisions, or about 750,000 men. Of these at least ten divisions, and perhaps thirteen or fourteen, were thrown into the corner of the field between St. Quentin, La Fère, and Noyon. They were divided into six columns.

[See Map on Page 198.]

The first consisted of a division with three battalions of chasseurs, which, debouching from La Fère, quickly took Tergnier, and on the evening of March 22 came to a stop before Vouel, the next village westward, and a division which came into action on the evening of the 22d passed the first, and on the following day pushed on toward Chauny. The second column consisted of two divisions. The former advanced from the old line near Moy, on the Oise, through La Fontaine and Remigny and to the southwest. It stopped at Liez, on the Crosat Canal, on the 22d. That night it was passed by the other division, which, on the 23d, captured VillequierAumont, on the St. Quentin-Chauny road. To the right of this was the third column, composed of two divisions. The first attacked through Cerizy to Benay and Hinacourt, and was stopped on the evening of the 22d at Lamontagne. It was passed that evening by the other division on the canal, which, after occupying Genlis Wood, closed up to the second column. The fourth column included the 1st and 10th Divisions, of which the former attacked through Essigny to Jussy, and on the 23d was at the north of Ugny, while the latter on its right passed the canal and reached Ugny and Beaumont. Of the fifth column, which occupied the region of Villeselve, and the sixth, in the Ham-Noyon sector, my information is slighter, owing to the severity of the trial of the British contingents there before the French took over the front.

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