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Along this hillside ran the first line of German trenches, but now there are neither trenches semblances of trenches. This hill and all the surrounding hills are worked by shell fire until they resemble nothing so much as the pictures of the surface of the moon, familiar to all who recall the geographies of their youth. The flesh of the hill has been swept away; only the skeleton remains.
Occasionally, where the slope of the hill is undulating, the suggestion of a German dugout remains, perhaps a dugout overwhelmed by the first deluge of fire and still holding in its unexplored depths the scores of Germans who inhabitated it when the avalanche arrived. All over the hillside, too, is the litter of war, unexploded shells, the fragments of bombs, the debris of earlier and later camps. Always, too, wherever there is - a bit of level ground are graves, endless graves, graves placed without order and without system—the graves dug by men pressed with the need to get forward, compelled to lay aside all regard for the ceremony of inhumation.
From the hill of Mametz one looks westward beyond the battlefield. Across a little ravine the opposite slope rises, still but little scarred. The frontier of desolation is exactly marked; it is as plain to the eye as if it were indicated upon a map. But looking westward over miles and miles, there is nothing but the wild scene of desolation. The surface of hill and valley has been swept away; it is as if the outer and the inner strata of the earth had in some fashion changed places. It is destruction suggesting that of Sodom and Gomorrah-a destruction deliberately designed to make impossible forever the return of men to their old fields.
I do not know any way that one can give any slight hint of the desolation of the battlefield of the Somme. There it lies, ten miles deep, one shore touching the furnace which is still burning up and destroying the surface of the earth and all animate and inanimate things thereon. At the other shore there begins sharply the countryside of France, and between the two shores is an infernal
region in which at least a million and a half of men,
British, German, and French, have been killed or wounded. Perhaps half a million men lie buried in the shattered folds and turns of the scarred hillsides or in the flats beside the little brooks.
Mametz Spept Off the Earth Sometimes in the Sunday supplements scientists or alleged scientists . used to write articles describing the time when the earth would begin to dry up, when flames from inside the narrow crust would burst forth. What they sought to describe the artillery of the last great war has illustrated on the slopes of the Picardy hillsides.
Standing still on the slopes of the Mametz hill, on the slopes toward the north and east, one looks out upon the sites of many villages. At your feet was Mametz, but of Mametz there is not a stone, not a fragment. It has not been buried; it has been literally blown from the face of the earth; it has dissolved in dust, and the dust has been swept away. Here was a well-built little French town, with its solid houses of plaster and stone, old houses enduring from other centuries. It had the usual church, the familiar place, the fountain, all the slight but permanent details of a French village, and now there is just nothing.
And what is true of Mametz is true of Montauban; it is true of Fricourt; it is true of I do not know how many more villages. They are gone, and sometimes the hills upon which they stood are gone. On the map you will see marked many little bits of woodland, the usual communal grove or the inevitable clump of trees surrounding the frequent châteaus. But the woods are gone.
Woods Obliterated Near Verdun I saw the same thing at Verdun, when I visited Fort de Vaux before I went to the Somme. There half a dozen of the woods that have filled the battle reports have vanished-Bois de Laufée, Chenois, Capitre—they are gone, and there are left neither stumps nor stump holes; the ground out of which they grew has been worked into a mass of holes, huge cavities
in which men and animals have disappeared and been drowned.
This new artillery fire does not wreck; it does not even pause with obliteration; it alters the very surface and the subsurface; it raises new hills and it destroys old elevations.
And when the armies are gone and the war ends, (for even this war must end some time, it is interesting, if tragic, to think of what will be the emotions of all the little people who inhabited these regions, people who, faithful to the French love for the land, will return to their old homes. And of their old homes they will find not even a fragment; the fields that they cultivated and that their fathers cultivated will have disappeared; the subsurface will still be honeycombed by the corridors of mines or the molelike burrows of the dugouts.
I do not think one can get any conception of the real terror of this war who has not seen the country of the Somme or of Verdun, who has not seen the fashion in which this war, like a malignant war spirit, has not alone destroyed all that there was of homes of human habitation and of the fields of human effort, but has swept the earth with fire and sown it with salt, as if in the determination that there should never again be life, that men should not exist or fruit and foods grow in the fields over which it had passed.
Yet it is not alone the sense of destruction that one feels at the Somme. Indeed, I think the sense of human industry, of enormous effort of innumerable men at their tragic task of war, even passes the impression of desolation. Take one of the large anthills that one sometimes sees in a country field, draw a rake deeply through its curved summit, and watch the myriad of ants come swarming up and begin what seems a mad and frantic outburst of industry, and you will have some faint suggestion of what the battlefield of the Somme is like.
Industry Amid Ruin For, in spite of the desolation, there is no lack of population, there is no lack of human activity. Indeed, looking down upon any section of the field, it suggests
pictures that one sees of some great engineering operation, the removal of a mountain, the transformation of some square miles of the surface of the earth, a labor like that of Panama. For gridironed amid all the waste are railroad tracks, the bottom of every valley is carpeted with rails, and the noise of the distant artillery deadened by the shrill whistles of engines as they drag cars up toward the front-toward the railheadthe " dump" of the military argot.
And beside the railroads are highways, the white, even, and splendid highways of France. They alone have survived the ruin, as the stones of the Appian Way have outlived the centuries and the onrush of other barbarians. And along these highways flow the most amazing streams of mankind that are conceivable, and not alone men but motors and horses; the voice of the Missouri mule challenges the passage of the tank” and the donkey of the pack train alike.
Up these roads, following their artillery, surrounding their rolling kitchens, the men of Australia and of Canada move between those of Scotland and of England. And the roads are crowded day and night, like the roads that lead to the Polo Grounds when a ball game is scheduled. And on the shell-swept hillsides every sort of shanty and barrack affords temporary resting place for the mender of highways or police of the rear. It is as if the flower and pick of British imperial manhood had suddenly sought a dwelling place in the desert.
And the impression is bewildering beyond all else I have ever seen. Here are some square miles of the earth's surface which have been swept and torn and wrecked by shell, by the fury of the weapons invented by man, and the men who have done these things with the maddest of all energy, with the most terrible of all machines, have now come forward to restore to human use what they have just destroyed. First they have created a wilderness, and worse than a wilderness, and then they have fared forward into the wilderness, bringing with them all the machinery they could devise, not to repair all the injuries they have wrought, but such of these injuries as
are hampering their purpose--which purpose is to get forward swiftly and turn still more miles of France into the same centre of desolation.
Scene of Lasting Destruction I do not know how any one can quite describe this battlefield of the Somme so that the man who lives in peace on this side of the Atlantic can understand it or grasp something of the supreme insanity and the supreme intelligence which are both unmistakable there. I am sure that centuries from now men and women will go to this place to see the surviving evidences of the storm that blighted it a year ago. I have never seen anything that approached the terribleness of the sight, save about Verdun.
Yet an engineer, a man interested in the moving of mountains or the transformation of valleys to human ends, would look down also upon these fields today and see an order, an organization, a development of human genius and human system, which would take him completely and command his admiration. The saddest and most completely wasted corner of a valley may conceal a terminal station that would make an operating railroad man jealous. A New York policeman, a traffic man, used to the problems of Fifth Avenue and Fortysecond Street, might shrink from the task of separating and ordering the stream that flows through what was once the main street of Montauban and is now a white road in the midst of powdered ashes.
And like the forest fires of the North, destruction advances, steadily, surely. The road below the hill at Mametz passes Montauban, Guillemont, Ginchy, it reaches Combles, it arrives at Sailly-Saillisel, which is now the extreme front, but tomorrow the flames will pass Sailly-Saillisel. And when the storm has passed, then the railroad and the highway will push forward, more men will come with tools and with machinery, and they will reclaim to their own purposes this land that has been deluged with steel, torn by mines, watered by the blood of thousands and thousands of men coming from the uttermost parts of the earth and exhaust
ing their resources, first of destruction and then of reconstruction,
Last Summer we used to wonder why the British advance was so slow. I do not think one wonders when one clambers with difficulty up the steep slopes of one hill and sees beyond this hill after hill, valley after valley; not great hills, but sharp and steep hills, all now like to nothing so much as the deserted nest of hornets, along whose slopes there may still be traced in places the cuttings of the trenches and tangles of barbed wire.
“ Tank" a Symbol of Fury Beyond Mametz, at Trones Wood, my guide showed me a "tank,” disabled and lying beside the road. Oddly enough, it seemed to me the only really appropriate thing in the whole accursed region roundabout. It seemed animal rather than mechanical, like a prehistoric animal, and it was not difficult to imagine that all the scene of desolation that extended on every side was the work of this animal, of many animals such as this; that there was still going forward the war of some prehistoric age between man and this scaled creature, and that in its fury, its dying fury—for this “ tank” was deadit had torn up the Trones Wood, lashed about itself and overturned trees and rooted them up.
One more detail. All this field of contrasting waste and reconstruction is well within reach of German shell fire. Now and again the storm begins and the caravans of men and animals slowly extend, draw out into thin groups, and go on. It never stops by day or by night, this steady, even flow of human life toward the extreme front at which annihilation becomes absolute, at an arbitrary frontier of sandbags.
The centre of the storm has passed, but the storm area includes all of the torn and wrecked country, and always there is to be heard, not distant, the steady drumming of heavy artillery; the hills are shaken almost every moment by the tremendous explosions, and the intermittent cannonade rises to the magnitude of an earthquake again and again.
A year ago I visited the field of the Marne. Here there was nothing of de
struction visible that might not have been the work of the men and the machines that fought Napoleon on the same ground a century before. On the battlefield of Champagne, of 1915, as I have said, the effect of shell fire was patent but temporary; the walls of houses stood and the fields can be plowed and planted when the trenches are filled and the barbed wire removed. But at the
Somme there is nothing more terrifying in all the terrible things that one sees than the mutilation of the surface of the earth itself, the permanent destruction of the hills, and the lasting scarring of the hillsides, sown as they are with the shattered fragments of half a million of human beings and condemned to eternal sterility. Surely the Somme must be the last word in war.
America as Viewed by the Allies Mr. Simonds, in discussing the effect comfort and privation their blockade may of the break in diplomatic rel ons be
They no longer expect that Gertween the United States and Germany mans will rise against their own Govand the probable entrance of this country ernment and welcome their enemies as into the war, says:
liberators, nor do they longer pin any I found no belief in Britain that it faith to the old ideas of Anglo-Saxon would be possible for America to organ
solidarity, however pleasant to ize, equip, and transport armies to the is the sympathy and support of their European front in time to contribute to American friends. the decision, although the British Prime England-Britain, the empire-expects Minister expressed the conviction that to win the war by fighting, by killing thousands of American volunteers Germans on the western battle front. She would flock to the allied cause and serve is making her preparations not for one either in British or French armies under but for several years of war. If Russia the American flag, but commanded-as or Italy, or even heroic France, whose to higher officers—by the British or the contribution and devotion find only praise French Army chiefs.
and admiration, are able to contribute What the British felt was possible much or little, so much the better; if was that America would be able, by America joins and contributes, still betseizing German shipping in American
ter. But these things will be as they may ports, to contribute to mitigating the se be—the main thing is for Britain to preverity of the German submarine block pare to do all that Britain can. ade, and, by giving the Allies credit, sim
The French Vieppoint plify and accelerate the financing of the war. Some slight help in the shape
I do not believe that any one can go of convoys for merchant ships sailing to France, despite all there is of sufferunder the American flag, but carrying ing and of sorrow, and not feel that the munitions and foodstuffs, was also sug
will of the nation remains unshaken and gested.
that, though the loss of blood has been But in the main I think London has great, the strength of will remains unfew illusions as to the material benefits broken. Confidence in victory there is, to flow from American participation in
too. France expects to win, but beneath the war, and there is a profound sus
all is the grim realization that to subpicion that in some way or other a meth mit now, to accept a German peace, is od will be found by the President to avoid but to escape destruction for a little and coming in—that is, effectively.
to bind the nation to eternal slavery to The simple truth is that the British
the ideas and the ideals which are abhave put aside almost all the illusions
horrent to all Frenchmen and destructive that they had in the earlier period of
of all that France means in the world or the war. They do not expect to starve
has meant. the Germans to death, however much dis Always Frenchmen, talking of America
and American views, speaking of President Wilson and his course, come back to the same point. To them it is incomprehensible that any democratic nation, any civilized nation, can fail to perceive the fact of this war, can fail to perceive the impossibility of making peace, not with Germans as Germans, but with the German race, so long as it clings to those doctrines which have brought so much of horror and shame into France and swept away so much of what was beautiful in man and in art.
The Germans persist in the notion that the French people desire peace and the French politicians compel war. I think the opposite is the truth. I think it is the politicians who are the sole pacifists, those who do profess pacifism, and I think this is due to their failure to understand the will and the determination of those whom they represent. Government, a peace Ministry, could not live; no French politicians dare openly to talk of peace, save those who do not count and cannot gain or lose by their words.
When I was in Paris the city was suffering from the worst Winter since the siege. Coal was practically unobtainable and the suffering was great; there was a sense of suffering about that one does not think of in Paris, and yet through it all there was no outward evidence of any weakening of will, there were no disorders of the sort that one hears as
taking place in German cities; life is not easy in France, it is not pleasant, the sufferings that the war brings mount day by day, and the end of the increase is not in sight.
Yet I do not think that any one who loved the French would talk to them long of peace. I do not think any but an incredibly stupid man, or a German, would find evidence of the breaking of French spirit or the decay of French resolution.
Returning to France after a year, one could not help feeling the extension of sadness, the intensification of the strain. France is suffering and she is bleeding, but there has been no change in French spirit or the French conception of the ultimate issues of the war. It remains a battle between civilization and barbarism, and it remains a battle which must have a decision, and a decision which will insure the safety of France. All else means permanent ruin, the end of France. France, French men and French women are struggling with an unclean but powerful beast; they are struggling with a beast which will destroy them and their children, as it has devoured some and outraged more, unless they are able to destroy it, and no suffering, no agony, can make peace possible save death itself until the victory is won, because any other peace is death. This, I think, is the French view, and this is why for France the war will go on beyond this year, if necessary.