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marked by the incessant patter of bul for both sides the struggle has been a lets from machine guns. There were a fiery ordeal, in which a great sum of great many Poles among them, speak human life has been burned and blasted. ing a queer patois, and these men, though On the great day of April 9 the British they fought according to order, loathe losses were very light, as losses must be war and want to finish with it. They counted nowadays, and in comparison are tall, lean, swarthy fellows, unlike with the great gains. The enemy lesses the blonde, square-shouldered Prussians
on that day were huge in prisoners, in brought down with them from Roeux. killed and wounded, in guns, and in all The Prussian machine gunners stood in material of war. Since then, after hours a separate group and were a sturdy and even days of panic lest the British looking crowd, not very dirty, in spite of tide of men should break all barriers and their fighting, and looking well fed. overwhelm his Hindenburg line, the Other prisoners, twenty of them, came enemy has been able to rally, to rush up in like earthmen or men buried and dug
great reserves, and to replace his capup again, which was their actual fate,
tured and battered guns by many new although they did the digging with their
batteries. That has saved the Hindenown hands. Their dugouts blown in by burg line for a time at least, but has not the British shellfire and all the stair
reduced his daiy toil of life and limb, ways and openings closed, they found
for he has only been able to defend himthemselves entombed. Horrible enough as self by counterattacking, and, although it happens to the British, buried in shell
that is the best means of defense, accordcraters or trenches with friends above
ing to the German textbooks, it has to rescue them quickly if they have that
proved to be frightful in cost for the luck, but most horrible for those men,
German soldiers. They succeeded in cut off from the world in the battle which
flinging back the British here and there swept over them. For two days they
by sheer weight of numbers when, after used their spades, digging furiously till
hard days' fighting, they lie exhausted they were drenched with sweat and weak
in their advanced positions, but every and parched with thirst. At last they
time they have been swept by machinebroke up to daylight and surrendered to
gun fire and shrapnel, so that they have British soldiers, who were surprised to
fallen in great numbers. To pretend that see them rise out of their tombs.
the British escaped scot free would be a Some of the British wounded lying out
silly lie. The casualty lists tell how on these battlefields must have been
many the British have lost. picked up by the Germans as the fight In the battle of Arras there was ining swayed to and fro, but here and
dividual courage, incredible almost in there a man lay where he fell and was
human nature, but what to me is more recovered again by his comrades in a
amazing is the general stolidity of all new advance just as parties of unwounded
of them—this common valor of shop men held out or hid until the British
boys and cooks and farmers' lads and line reached them again. One man had
factory hands. To say they are always been lying out since April 23. He was
without fear would be ridiculous. They brought in yesterday. He was an officer
are often very much afraid, as all men who had been hit in the stomach by a
must be when high explosives come out piece of shell and lay in a crater for five
of the blue skies with frightful noises days, unconscious for a time and suffer
for abominable slaughter, but these lads ing in his conscious hours the agony of
are by some magic, which is in expethirst, which is the greatest torture of
rience, steeled against ordinary appreall.
hensiveness and against imaginative End of Fourth Week
terror. A few days ago near Oppy I May 7.—The battle of Arras has now passed a group who had just been lasted for a month, with successive knocked out by a shell. It was a sight shocks of attack and counterattack, and to turn one sick and cold, but a company
of boys came along on the way to the front line, where other shells were falling, and they paid very little heed to this group of men.
Night Scenes at Lens May 8.—Last night and after daylight this morning the enemy's gunfire was very heavy southward from the neighborhood of Loos and Lens, and he launched
violent counterattack against the British line north of Fresnoy, captured a few days ago by the Canadians. Further south still, at Bullecourt, the Scots are fighting at close quarters, mainly with bombs, routing the enemy down trenches and out of the village, regained for a while in the backward and forward drives of this fierce struggle westward of Queant, where the Hindenburg line is most closely menaced. Elsewhere in the northern lines it was a night of small raids on both sides, and along all the front a night of great artillery. I watched his battle of guns from the old trenches looking across to Lens and giving a wide sweep of the battle front from the field of Loos to the ground below the sloping shoulder of Vimy Ridge.
This ground was the storm centre of the world's war last night just after dark, and before the coming of the moon lights rose from the German lines. The old devil was lighting his tapers round the witches' caldrons of fire. These rockets rose high, flung up like jugglers' balls, then falling slowly and going out. Some of them burned for a minute or more and the woods and trenches beneath them were illuminated with sharp white lights. One remained hanging high over Lens for more than five minutes like a great star. All through the night the battle of the guns went on and the sky was filled with the rush of the shells and the moon veiled his face from this horror which made hell on earth. But in a little wood a nightingale sang all through the night.
Germans Recapture Fresnoy May 9.-The night bombardment I described yesterday was the preliminary of a strong morning attack against the
British position in and around Fresnoy. Upon this village and the neighboring ground the enemy concentrated everything he has in artillery which can be directed on this sector of the front, and, in addition to the ordinary high explosives and shrapnel, he flung a storm of gas shells wherever he thought the British had battery positions. Fresnoy itself had been a difficult place to hold since the Canadians took it so gallantly on May 3. Having Acheville to the north of it and Oppy to the south, it jutted like a square-walled bastion with exposed sides, along which at the time of capture the Canadians had to form defensive flanks. The enemy had marked it down for attack, and for several days made strong counterthrusts on each side of it in order to prevent British troops getting forward to straighten out the line. English troops had to bear the brunt of the German concentrated fury. The German Army Corps Staff evidently decided to attack with the greatest strength possible on a narrow front, which was already held by their best troops. For a time that village is lost, but one day sooner or later the British will take it back. These men do not reckon cost, even though it is their own life that pays.
Australians at Builecourt May 13.-While the British were fighting north and south of the Scarpe an attack was made yesterday morning by the English and Scots at Bullecourt, supported by the Australians on their flank. The English and Scottish troops advanced from the south and west and drove forward through the village, establishing themselves first on the road which runs through the centre of the ruins and then going forward again to a line at the extreme north of the village, from which they have pushed out posts. The place is a rabbit warren of tunnels, in which there may still be Germans holding out, cut off from all chance of escape.
When the British got through, the enemy seemed to run up these tunnels, hoping to get away to Riencourt, but by this time the Australians had just come up and captured a crowd of them numbering two officers and over 180
men, bayonetting a number who refused to surrender and fought like tigers.
The history of this fighting at Bullecourt is, however, inseparably bound up with the Australian troops who broke through the Hindenburg line to the right of this village and held on to their positions with amazing and splendid courage, although they were utterly exposed on their left and subjected to at least a dozen counterattacks in considerable force, preceded and followed by severe shelling.
All Australian officers pay high and touching tribute to the work of their stretcher bearers, who were superb in courage and self-sacrifice. I have seen the ground they had to cross and I know the evil and peril of it, but they went forward with the infantry and day after day crossed this country in the open with their heavy burdens, never stopping to glance at the bursting shells on either side of them, regardless of their own lives so that they could save their comrades. Unfortunately, the enemy did not respect ambulances, although they could clearly see the sign of the Red Cross, but sniped them continually with shells and shrapnel bullets, as well as stretcher parties which had more faith in German chivalry and for that reason walked deliberately in the open, so that they could not be mistaken. The percentage of mortality among these men is rather higher than that of the infantry themselves.
Heroic Incidents at Roeux May 15.—The account I have already given of the way in which Roeux was taken a few nights ago left out some episodes which should be told and remembered, for the winning of this place was the result of many weeks' most fierce and tragic fighting.
After dusk some British lost their way from the cemetery and wandered off the track into the ruined streets of Roeux. There were some Irishmen among them, bold and reckless fellows who are very quick to do the right things in a tight corner when, as they say, they are on their own. They searched some dugouts and hauled out, by good luck, a group of staff officers belonging to the 3620 Regiment and a doctor.
The doctor found his position rather obscure. He remained in his dugout for some time, attending British wounded brought down to him, and, according to these men, labeled them for Berlin. It was quite a time before he realized that his patients were not German prisoners, but that he was a British prisoner.
May 16.—The enemy is still making violent efforts to gain back Roeux and the part which he recently lost of Bullecourt, two places where for four weeks men fought on both sides in a daily struggle so deadly that the ground thereabout is heaped with bodies.
Yesterday, as I wrote, all Roeux was in British hands--the chemical works beyond the station, where many prisoners were taken; the château, with its great dugouts and machine-gun emplacements; the cemetery from which a great tunnel runs westward to Mount Pleasant Wood, and the village of Roeux itself. The British established machine-gun posts in the edge of the old German emplacements, dug defensive trenches, and cleaned out the dugouts in which dead Germans lay. There can hardly have been a patch of ground between the shell craters and the rubbish heap of the houses and barns on which there was not a German corpse. Among them lay men of the British Army. Some day, when the nightmare of this war has passed and the
back to his own place, some of the men now fighting will come to Roeux as to a sepulchre where the dust of heroes lies; for all this place is a graveyard, although no dead lie quiet there yet. Living men are fighting there again amid all that mortality. Today's fighting here began this story of blood all over again; it piled new dead on the old dead; it refilled the cup of agony which has overflowed around these heaps of brickwork and tattered timbers.
While the artillery protects the enemy's present line he is digging hard behind in order to safeguard any further retreat that may be forced upon him. Now that the old Hindenburg line is breached both at Bullecourt and Wan
court up north he is trying to strengthen on this back line is helped by forced his new line of defense running down labor and there is evidence that he is through Montigny, Drocourt, and Queant. employing British prisoners of war under To fall back on that would mean the British shellfire on this work. abandonment of Lens and of the Oppy May 17.-The British troops today Mericourt line and the round about com ted the capture of the village of Fontaine lez Croiselles, and Chérisy, Bullecourt, for which they have been which is gravely menaced. His industry fighting since May 3.
French Offensive On the
the Aisne From April 16 to May 17, 1917
[See Map on Page 422]
NEW battle of the Aisne has been in progress since April 16, when
General Nivelle, the French Commander in Chief, launched a great offensive on a front of twenty-five miles between Soissons and Rheims. This was on the line to which the Germans fell back after the battle of the Marne and from which the Allies had been unable to drive them.
In expectation of a strong offensive in this region, the enemy had massed large numbers of men and many guns, the intense bombardment of the previous ten days having given them ample warning that the French were preparing an attack. The Germans fought with great desperation along the whole front, realizing that a successful French advance would isolate the important city of Laon, upon which the Hindenburg line depends, but, according to General Nivelle's report at the end of the first day's fighting, “ everywhere the valor of our troops overcame the energetic defense of our adversary."
The German first-line positions along the entire front were captured, and at some places the second line also. Over 10,000 prisoners were taken, as well as a large quantity of war material. On the two succeeding days the offensive was continued with unabated vigor. By the end of the third day the total number of prisoners taken was 17,000, with 75 guns. In many places the Germans were forced to fall back in disorder. The French gained several important positions, including the villages of Chavonne,
Chivy, Ostel, and Braye-en-Laonnois. Further to the west, where the old German line stood on the south bank of the Aisne, the French delivered another attack, no less successful. The important town of Vailly was captured in its entirety, while a powerfully organized bridgehead between Vailly and Condésur-Aisne also fell into the hands of the attackers. At the same time the French struck a strong blow against the western leg of the German salient, which has its apex at Fort Condé on the Aisne, capturing the village of Nanteuil-le-Fosse. East of Craonne, in the forest of La Villeau-Bois, the French surrounded a body of 1,300 Germans, who threw down their
Further to the east, where the French in their first onslaught captured the German second-line positions, the Germans delivered a counterattack, employing two divisions, or about 40,000
The attackers met a hail of artillery and machine-gun fire, and suffered heavy losses. At no point were they able to reach the French lines. Twenty-four guns and three large cannon with their shell dépôts were captured by the French in this region during the day's fighting, the guns being immediately turned against the enemy.
South of St. Quentin the Germans made two strong counterattacks. The first one failed completely, the second had only momentary success, as a French attack immediately afterward retook all positions, capturing or killing all the enemy who had penetrated the line.
To stem the French advance, Hinden
burg threw twelve new German divi German attacks on the French positions sions, approximately 240,000 men, into at Hurtebise Farm, north of the Chemin the lines on the night of April 18, but des Dames, but the advantage remained next day the French pushed further with the French, who on April 27 gained ahead. The most desperate attempt further ground. made by the Germans on April 19 was There was now some diminution of the between Juvincourt and Berry-au-Bac, intensity of the fighting. The French the weakest point on the line. Here 30, were in possession of the chief heights of 000 of the best German troops were Moronvillers. On April 30 they began hurled forward in a furious counterat another offensive on the left of the pretack, but were beaten off with heavy vious advance in Western Champagne. losses. The most important French gains The fighting was particularly severe on were made at two widely separated the north slopes of Mont Haut, to the points at the angle of the new front northeast of which the French pushed a east of Soissons and north of Vailly, salient reaching the approaches to the where a sharp salient was developed, and Nauroy - Moronvillers road. Artillery just northwest of Auberive, in the Cham fighting of considerable violence continpagne, where the town of Moronvillers ued along the Chemin des Dames, north was threatened with capture.
of the Aisne, and in the region northwest Following up these successes in squeez of Rheims. By May 1 the French had ing out the German salient, which had taken well over 21,000 prisoners since the its point at Fort Condé, on the Oise, the opening of the drive on April 16. French continued to press back the enemy
Scenes of Awful Combat in this sector on April 20 toward the “ One of the most awful parts of the Chemin des Dames, the road running battle line in France,".wrote G. H. Perris, along the crest of the heights north of The London Daily Chronicle correspondthe river. General Nivelle's troops occu ent with the French Army, on May 14, pied the village of Sancy, between Aizy “is the Chemin des Dames and the neighand Nanteuil. They also made apprecia- boring points of the Aisne heights, where ble progress east of Laffaux. Imme mutual bombardments never cease and diately in front of the French in this infantry fighting goes on continuously. sector is the fort of Malmaison, standing Before a resistance of unprecedented on a range of high hills and protecting obstinacy the French have slowly made the high road from Soissons to Laon. good and slightly extended their hold West of Craonne the Germans launched
upon the ridge, and every day makes its a heavy attack in the region of Ailles commanding views more useful to them. and Hurtebise Farm, employing large I suppose that in the whole extent of the forces of troops. They met a withering war there could hardly be found a natural fire from the French artillery and ma stronghold put to better defensive use chine guns and fell back in disorder. In than this has been. From the outset the Champagne the French also made prog German armies have been richly provided ress, capturing several important points with machine guns. They are now emof support in Moronvillers Wood. Here, ployed upon a larger scale than ever, and also, the Germans attempted strong in this rugged ground, with its ravines, counterattacks, but without result. cliffs, woods, and stone villages, they are
On April 22 and 23 the Germans con peculiarly formidable. The chalk slopes centrated their energies to capture Mont are honeycombed with caverns and grotHaut, the dominating position in West toes, natural and artificial, which the ern Champagne, but without result. German engineers had furnished, enMeanwhile the French gained more larged and connected by tunnels. Here ground at the western end of the Sois they awaited the end of the bombardsons-Rheims front. South of St. Quen ment in comparative immunity, while the tin the artillery duel which had been in French had to approach from a valley 300 progress several days continued with feet below by trenches that were nearly vigor. April 25 was notable for strong everywhere overlooked.