Слике страница
PDF
ePub

showed himself master of his machine. There are boys in the British air service who have killed six or seven Germans in single combat and a few who have accounted for many more and go off again for mornings, hunting men as if on a good adventure. Yet they know the risks and the fortune of war. They cannot have all the luck all the time. When their turn comes it is quick to the end, or if hit and left alive they do amazing things up there in the high skies to save the final crash.

During this battle of Arras the British airmen have made thousands of flights over the German lines, have engaged in hundreds of combats with hostile squadrons, and at the cost of their own lives in many cases have saved the British infantry great losses by keeping down the fire of the German batteries, destroying their kite balloons, signaling preparations for the German counterattacks, photographing the enemy's trenches and positions, and blinding his own power of observation to some extent, at least, by chasing his airplanes away from the lines on a day when the British infantry is not hard pressed. It is good to pay this tribute to the flying men, whose exploits are not much recorded, though they are always overheard and though the droning song of their engines is always the accompaniment of battle down below.

Capture of Arleux April 29.-Yesterday the attack northward was delivered against the Oppy switch line, which the British broke by the capture of Arleux en Gohelle, which has fallen to the Canadians, and by successful assaults upon Oppy Village, from which the British troops afterward fell back for a few hundred yards .owing to the intense enemy fire making a target of the village. English divisions have also swept across the northern and west. ern slopes of Greenland Hill, which I already described as the dominating position above Roeux, and hold the ground in spite of the most resolute counterattacks and heavy shelling. Roeux itself has been entered by the British, and

their line now runs through the station there.

Further north the Canadians fought hard in Arleux Wood, and English troops, who had advanced up to Oppy, came against strong forces of the enemy, who came up from Neuvireuil and had to swing back a little upon a defensive line. South of the River Scarpe there was shellfire heavier than the British had yet encountered since the full height of the Somme battle, as heavy perhaps as that on July 1 at Gommecourt. The enemy has not only brought up new divisions, massing great reserves, but has dragged up many new batteries of heavy guns which are now firing ceaselessly day and night at long range.

At Lagnicourt I saw the corpses of the Germans who tried to capture the Australians' guns, and I was told that the first estimate of 1,500 men caught on their own wire by the British artillery and rifle fire was much below the number afterward reckoned. This German army is paying a fearful price for Hindenburg's strategic plans, but the men are fighting now as fiercely as ever they fought in this war, and this battle, now raging under a blue sky, is a most bloody episode of history.

Terrible Word Picture April 30.—There has been but little time lately to describe the scenes of war or chronicle the small human episodes of this great battle between Lens and St. Quentin, with its storm centre at Arras, where men are fighting in mass, killing in mass, and dying sometimes in mass, as when German counterattacks were broken and destroyed at Gavrelle, Monchy, Guémappe, and Lagnicourt. The scene of battle changed during the last few days, because Spring has come at last and warm sunshine. It has made a tremendous difference to the look of things and sense of things.

More frightful now even than in the worst days of Winter is the way up to the front. In all that great stretch of desolation the British left behind the shell craters which were full of water, red water and green water, are now dried up and are hard, deep' pits, scooped

out of the powdered earth from which targets were Arleux, captured by the all vitality is gone so that Spring brings Canadians, and Guémappe, which fell to no life to it. I thought, perhaps, that the Scottish troops, both of which places some of these shell-slashed woods would he tried to take back by repeated and put out new shoots when Spring came, violent counterattacks. He is still in a and I watched them curiously for any trench on the east side of Guémappe runsign of rebirth. But there is no sign ning down to a bit of ruin called Cavalry and their poor mutilated limbs, their Farm, where there has been close fightbroken and tattered trunks, stand naked ing for several days since the great batand stark under the blue sky. Everything tle of April 23, when Guémappe was is dead, with a white, ghastly look in the taken by the Scots. brilliant sunshine except where here and Two hundred prisoners were taken in there in a litter of timber and brickwork that first forward sweep, when the kilted which marks the site of a French village men advanced in long lines and went a little bush is in bud or flowers blossom

through and beyond the village of Guéin a scrap heap which once was a garden. · mappe with loud shouts and cheers. For

All this is the background of the pres- nearly three hours the Scots were held ent battle, and through this vast stretch up by the fire of German machine guns of barren country British battalions move and artillery, and suffered many casualslowly forward to take part in the battle

ties, but they fought on, each little group when their turn comes, resting a night or

of men acting with separate initiative, two among the ruins where other men

and it is to their great honor as soldiers who work always behind the lines road

that they destroyed every machine-gun mending, wiring, on the supply column,

post in front of them. They were checked

again by machine-gun fire from many at ammunition dumps, in casualty clearing stations, and railheads make their

different directions and from the ruin billets on the lee side of the broken walls

called Cavalry immediately. ahead of or in holes dug deep by the enemy and

them. This was afterward cleared and reported safe for use. Dead horses lie

many Germans lie dead there. Then be

tween 11 and 12 in the morning the enon the roadsides or in great shell craters.

emy developed his first counterattack. I passed a row of these poor beasts as

He massed great numbers of men in the though all had fallen down and died to

valley below Guémappe, flung a great gether in a last comradeship. Dead Ger

storm of shell on to the village and then mans or bits of dead Germans lie in old

sent forward his troops to work around trenches, and a few days ago I watched

it. It was then that these Scottish troops the bombardment of Lens close to the

showed their fierce and stubborn fighting bones of a little Frenchman who had

spirit. They tore rents in the lines of worn the red trousers of the old army

advancing Bavarians with Lewis guns when he fought down the slopes of Notre

and rifle and grenade fire, and the Dame de Lorette to the outskirts of

enemy's losses were so great that the Souchez. He seemed like a man of

supporting troops passed over lines of ancient history, and that red scrap of

dead comrades. clothing belonged to an epoch long gone.

Canadians Take Fresnoy
May Day in the Trenches

May 3.-Another day of close, fierce, May 1.-May Day has been quiet along difficult fighting is in progress, having the British front so far as infantry ac begun early this morning in the darkness tivity was concerned, although noisy and going on down the long front in hot enough with gunfire. It was a day of sunshine and dust and the smoke of inperfect weather, rich in sunshine under a numerable shells. At many points the cloudless sky, through which the British British troops succeeded splendidly, in air squadrons went away this morning spite of great resistance from fresh Gerflying low, so that they were fine to see, man regiments and intense artillery fire. with glistening wings and wires. Today The most important gains of the day as well as yesterday the enemy's chief were in the direction of the village of

Chérisy, where ground has been won by the English battalions, and in Bullecourt, where street fighting is in progress.

is thrust at the enemy by Fontaine lez Croiselles, where he is still holding out in a narrow-pointed salient, which should be an utterly unendurable way to Chérisy, was taken rapidly without any serious check, although there was savage machine-gun fire. At Fontaine lez Croiselles - the British troops found it very difficult to get forward, owing to the strength of the German defenses south of the wood and the barrage of heavy shellfire.

North of the river Scarpe there was great fighting around Roeux, Gavrelle, and Oppy. When the British advanced they were met by masses of Germans, and once more the line of battle had an ebb and flow and both sides passed over the dead and wounded in assault and retirement. Four times the old windmill beyond the village changed hands. Men were fighting here as if these bits of brick and wall were worth a King's ransom or a world's empire, and in a way they were worth it, for the windmill at Gavrelle is one point which will decide a battle or a series of battles upon which the fate of two empires is at stake.

In Oppy, above the cathedral, the Germans had been very businesslike. They knew this attack was coming. It was clear that it must come to them, and at night they worked hard to protect themselves. They made machine-gun emplacements not only in pits and trenches, but in branches of many trees, and wired themselves in with many twisted strands. A second Guards reserve, newly brought up, held the village and wood and a white château, with its empty windows and broken roofs, and kept below ground when the British gunfire stormed about them. So when the British attacked in that pale darkness of the night they found themselves at once in a hail of machine-gun bullets and later under shellfire which made fury about them. They penetrated into Oppy Wood, but, owing to the massed German troops, who counterattacked fiercely, they did not go far into the wood or lose themselves in a sure deathtrap. They were withdrawn to the

outskirts of Oppy, so that the British guns could get at the enemy and drive him below ground again.

To the northward the British stormed and won long trenches running up from Oppy to Arleux, and, most necessary for their further progress, linking up with the Canadians, who made a great and successful attack upon the village of Fresnoy, just south of Acheville. This was a very gallant feat, in the face of many difficulties of ground and savage fire. They completely surrounded the village and caught the garrison in a trap from which they had no escape. The prisoners escaped the British shellfire, but were nearly done to death by their own guns. I saw this incident this morning. They had been put in an inclosure next to the Canadian field dressing station, flying the Red Cross flag, when suddenly the German guns began shelling the area with 5.9s. They burst again and again during a half hour with tremendous crashes and smoke clouds.

Deadly Windmill Fight May 4-_I told yesterday of the windmill at Gavrelle and said it changed hands four times. That figure has now doubled since yesterday morning. Eight times the Germans recaptured it and eight times lost it again. While the British hold it and look above its chaos of timbers and bricks and sandbags and rusty wire to those stretches of shelled earth where many hundred forms lie, other field-gray men are approaching from Fresnes Woods, shoulder to shoulder, until the British guns tear holes in their ranks and they crumble away under the machine-gun bullets. So it is at Oppy and Roeux, in this battleground north of the Scarpe. Picked troops have been chosen to hold the villages, and, although so far they have held them by counterattacks in great strength against the British advanced posts, they suffered losses which one cannot reckon but I know to be most bloody under the British bombardments.

In this fighting just north of Oppy the British took many prisoners yesterday.

I saw the prisoners made around the chemical works, whose bricks are pock

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]
« ПретходнаНастави »