AT Saint Nicholas du Port we rested, waiting for our division to go to the trenches. Almost every night we were visited by Boche aviators who would come over and drop a few bombs to add to our comfort. It was one of the nicest little spots one could find, for we were quartered in an old cow barn from which we had to shovel about two wagon loads of manure before we could put up beds, and when we did not have the Boche flying over us we were busy with the "cooties" round about us.
If ever conditions existed that were cootie producing, we certainly found them here. There was an old tile roof that was perfectly watertight, except when it rained, and evidently intended for astronomical observation. At other times our anti-aircraft batteries, located across the road, when they shot at the Boches caused shell fragments to drop on our none-too-solid roof, and thereby add to the access of small rivulets, to say nothing of the danger of our losing about a yard and a half of hide. But we were visited so many times by the Boches that we ceased to pay any attention to them. With practice one can get used to anything.
One night a little boy came up out of the darkness and asked if he could sleep in the driveway. He said he was very tired and had no place to go. He had been ordered back, for when a regiment goes into the fighting zone no one that is not attached to it is permitted to go along. There are hundreds of these urchins in France that follow the armies and live with them when they are not in the trenches.
This is just what had happened to Lombard, for that was his name. We questioned him very closely and he finally convinced us of his truthfulness, and so we made him comfortable for the night on a stretcher in one of the cars. In a short time he was in slumberland. About an hour later the Boche aviators came over and things were soon humming. The batteries were going full blast when I thought of that poor child out in the car without protection, and unable to get out.
I put on my steel helmet and went out to release our guest. I brought him into the barn and felt much better to know that he was at least sharing the protection we were afforded. The air raid soon ended and all was still. In the morning our guest was given his breakfast and a few francs, the net result of an impromptu collection, but he seemed to like American hospitality and started in to cut wood and carry water for our cook. Someone suggested that we keep him with us to do errands and help generally, but before this was to be considered it was necessary to learn more about the youngster, as we all had valuables that we did not wish to lose, and coming to us as he did no one cared to take chances.
We decided to question the lad and learned that for over two years he had been wandering about from one regiment to another. His home was at a place called Pont a Meusson, and when the place had been attacked by the Boches, his father had been killed and his mother carried off. He had two older brothers in the French Army, but did not know where they were. Thus, after the cross-examining, we decided to let him stay. We felt sure that as long as he was to help the cook and handle food, we might just as well have him clean.
On account of the particular interest I had shown in him, I was allotted the job of seeing that he was cleaned up. After taking up another collection I bought him underwear, a clean shirt, and socks. There were miscellaneous donations like handkerchiefs, ties, towels and soap, so our guest was now ready for the bath. We had some water heated, into which we put a disinfectant to help matters along, for I don't think he had had a bath since he left home. It is hardly necessary to say that the bath was, at least, a. partial success.
Fig. 11. A Camouflage Road Made to Order
Fig. 12. A Natural Camouflage Road
He seemed more than grateful for what we had done for him and all went well until we were ordered to the front with our division. Then it looked dark for Lombard, for we must go into the fighting zone and he would not be permitted to follow. But he seemed so distressed and forlorn that we tucked. him away in a camion and took him with us. We bought him a little uniform, and, when we left our division, the American boys who came to take our places gladly took him in charge. We were sorry to leave this little fellow, for he had become a part of our daily life.
It is unfortunate that all the little children that follow the armies can not be taken care of in some such way. There are thousands of them straggling in the wake of the troops over there and they have no one to consider their comfort or safety. What will become of them, beaten from pillar to post day after day, with no one to put out a helping hand. This is a problem for the women to solve, since the men are occupied with other things and have no time to adjust the matter.
ONE day in my turn I went out on service to the small town of B------. The front-line trenches were located just outside the village. Upon our arrival, shortly after noon, in this town we obtained our meal from a soup kitchen that was tucked away in a sort of a driveway between two demolished houses. It was an ideal location for a soup kitchen, for, from all outward appearances, no one would ever think that this desolate spot would be picked out or utilized by anyone for any purpose whatsoever. After eating we started out for the post. This was the first time we had gone up to the front-line trenches covering this particular sector of the front.
After we had proceeded some three hundred yards, we came to a place where the trenches passed through a small clump of woods, in which was located one of our advanced artillery observation posts. Here we were met by a sergeant major, who informed us that we had better exercise a great deal of caution in our advance of the next hundred yards, which was the distance that separated us from our front line. It was necessary to pass through a gulley and the trench we were in was only shoulder high. The Boche trenches were so close to our front line that the enemy, by posting men in the trees behind their lines, were in a position to observe what transpired in the gulley, we were about to enter.
We climbed out of the trench, and, with the aid of field glasses, carefully scrutinized the taller trees to ascertain whether or not the Boche at this time was on the lookout. As we did not see anything that attracted undue attention, we decided to take a chance and proceed.
Crouching, we advanced some fifty yards. In passing one place that was particularly low, we were observed and the next second brought a hail of machine-gun bullets which kicked up the dust all about us. In front of us, some fifteen or twenty feet away, I noticed another spot where the side walls of the trench did not afford much protection and at the same instant, or just long enough for a man to proceed from one opening to another, came a stream of machine-gun bullets in front of us.
It was a case of being between the devil and the deep sea; all we could do was to remain in the position where we were protected. We finally decided that by crawling on our hands and knees we could get past the second opening. This we did without being observed and the last we heard of our sniping Boche friend was a few shots intermittently fired in the hope of picking us off.
Arriving at the front line, we proceeded along the machine-gun positions, and, finally, entered a small communicating trench which led into the lieutenant's dug-out. We descended and found our friend seated at a table, pondering over military maps and familiarizing himself with this particular sector which our division had just taken over. While we were conversing, one of the under officers reported the completion of a "Petit Post" (listening post). The lieutenant inquired if I would care to accompany him in looking it over. Of course I would.
The general direction we took immediately impressed me as being toward the location of our Boche friend, who was planted in a tree based upon the angle that the machine-gun bullets came from. But we did not have to give much consideration to him, as the side wall of our trench nearest to his position was over six feet high and afforded complete cover. We soon arrived at our destination---sixty feet from the Boche front line.
The instruction completed, two soldiers were stationed here and became a part of the defense for this sector. We were soon on our way to the rear. We passed through the gulley where we had been held up on the way out without attracting any attention. Arriving at the town of B----, we obtained our tinned meat with four large potatoes, sought a quiet spot and built a fire to prepare our evening meal. Suddenly we were startled by the hum of a shell, as it passed over us and burst in a field just beyond. Then came a second, which burst closer; then a third. My companion and I looked at each other in amazement---then, thinking that the smoke from our fire was the cause of the shelling, we quickly stamped it out and poured water on the spot where our spoiled dinner had been sending up delightful odors only a moment before. We ran as fast as good legs could carry us into an old house near by that afforded better protection in the event of a shell breaking near us.
The shells kept coming for about ten minutes, then stopped. Cautiously, we returned to where our fire had been and were considering the possible salvage when the hum of a motor attracted our attention to a Boche aviator flying directly over our heads. We were only about five hundred yards back of our first-line trench, toward which the Boche plane proceeded. It went directly over the trench, swooped down and raked it from one end to the other with machine-gun fire. Circling back, be returned as far in the rear as we were and then again made a run for the front line to open up with his machine gun as he dived for it.
In the open we afforded him a fine mark, but each time as he flew back toward us we saw to it that there was a brick wall between him and ourselves. By this time he had attracted the attention of our anti-aircraft guns and they began shooting shrapnel at him as he circled, and the machine guns in our front-line trenches also shot in our direction as they followed the flyer to the rear. As the shrapnel and pieces of the exploded shells fell like rain around us, we decided to give up our supper as a bad job, and went to sleep hungry that night.
We walked up the street and passed the Post du Succors. The stretcher-bearers had begun to bring in the wounded. One man had lost most of his head. Accustomed as I was to such scenes, the sight of this man's condition was the last straw in the way of gruesome experiences, and I was glad to get away and to bed.
" PETIT POST "
OUT where the night seems the blackest, where one is unable to see his hands before his face, and where, in many instances, due to close proximity of the enemy trenches, one is compelled to be as quiet as a mouse, there is located in a shell-hole or the like is the Petit Post (or listening post), which is employed by all armies engaged in carrying on modern trench warfare.
Out in front of even your own barb wire, with no form of protection from the enemy, two men must be constantly on watch, in order to send up signals in the event that Fritz decides to come over with his nippers for the purpose of slashing a passage in the wire that his men may come through quickly in order to prevent the machine guns from collecting too much toll. It is necessary for the men at the post to lie flat and listen for the nip of the wire clippers. If this comes, it is their duty to signal the front-line trench, and, with star shells, the machine-gunners can discern the enemy and put the finishing touches on the wire-clipping party.
The end generally comes before they even get started. As soon as these men know that the enemy are over, in addition to sending up their signals, they throw out six or eight hand grenades, and then run back to their trenches as best they can and assist in the defense in the case of an attack. But the thing to imagine is lying out there in the rain and mud with absolutely no protection, the wind cutting to the marrow and moaning mournfully as it sweeps over "No Man's Land," whistling through the barb-wire entanglements. The night seems just that much blacker after the star shell dies out, for such is the blinding effect on the eyes.
There have been many instances where enemy patrols have stumbled right into these little listening posts while they are on patrol duty in "No Man's Land," and other instances have been known where one patrol would be walking side by side with an enemy patrol until someone would happen to discover the fact and then there was always a fight. A few exchanges of shots, a few thuds from the swinging of butt ends of guns and all was over in a few moments.
Picture yourself on such duty where even a whisper will bring you a present in the form of a hand grenade, and when there are no wire-cutting operations on, or enemy patrols to bother you, it rains, and you wallow in mud like an animal with your knees knocking together, and your clothing so wet that it sticks to your body. But this is very important work and must be performed. Two lives out there may mean the saving of hundreds in the trenches.
All such operations as cutting the wire and patrol duty are carried on under the cover of darkness, with only the intermittent star shell, which is sent up like a rocket to impede the work. When these are in the sky it is necessary for everyone between the trenches to lie flat on the ground because a man standing with this light on him would be a mark for the enemy sniper.
I have known of instances where men on patrol duty have been shot early in the morning while inspecting the wire, and, falling over, hung there entangled in utter helplessness. The light coming on prevented their comrades from rescuing them and they lay there for days at a time with the German machine guns trained on them. Once in a life time on Petit Post is enough-an abundant sufficiency.
BADONVILLER THE MARTYR
IN the foothills of the Vosges Mountains just inside the Lorraine border is the site of what was once a peaceful village. This village suffered the most terrible devastation of any along the eastern front in France. Not only the town but also the civil population received such treatment at the hands of the Boches that it is beyond my powers to describe the atrocities that were committed. But I shall endeavor to set forth some of the outstanding facts in order that the reader may understand why this village is now known as "Badonviller the Martyr."
When the German Army invaded France from Lorraine this peaceful little village lay in its path, and, after sharp fighting, was occupied by advance troops of this army.
The enemy entered the town at three o'clock in the morning and marched five abreast all through the day and long into the night---a continuous stream of men that never paused. On they went to the next village, Roan L'Etape, and in its turn that village suffered even a worse fate than had Badonviller, as the resistance by the French here was greater, hence the destruction was to be greater. At this point, the German command allowed free sacking, and applied the torch. The homes of the inhabitants were burned and destruction of things and pillage in general permitted, even though of no military value whatever.
In this town the German officers caused to be written all over the altars of churches, public buildings and store fronts the words "Capute Ramberviller," the name of the next village in the path of this army. This meant that not a stone should be left unturned and the torch applied to every home, store, church or building of any kind. There was a reason for this, a German reason.
During the Franco-Prussian War, over fifty years ago, the civil population in this village of Ramberviller turned out to assist a handful of French soldiers in holding back some crack Prussian regiments until the French reserves could come up and defeat them. Fifty years of grievance, and this was their opportunity for revenge.
Think of revenge on a people most of whom were unborn at the time because their grandfathers defended their homes from pillage a half century before! But the stories of atrocity that had been handed down were borne out by the new generation of German soldiery, the flower of the German Army of to-day.
Now this village happened to be the next in the line of march, but the French had anticipated what was in the heart of the Hun and the French Headquarters Staff, knowing what would happen to this town if captured, decided to make a stand against the invader between Roan L'Etape and Ramberviller. And here history repeated itself, for the glorious poilu of France administered a smashing defeat to the invading army, and Ramberviller was again spared. But not without the toll that always attends heavy fighting.
Fig. 13. Bombing the Hun
To-day the fields and the woods are filled with crosses, black for the Allamand and the Tri-color for the French. Thirty-five thousand men fell in the fighting before this village. From this point the French kept pushing the Boche back until they got them out of Roan L'Etape and finally back to Pexonne, just outside of Badonviller.
As the Germans were falling back they used the upper part of a house in this town as a hospital for officers---one large room, and a smaller one adjoining. The smaller of the two rooms was used as an operating room, while the larger one became a ward where the stretchers were placed on the floor. In the small room was a window looking out on to a little courtyard, and, as the arms and legs and hands and feet were amputated, they were thrown out of this window into a pile on the ground floor. The woman who owned the house was forced to assist wherever her services might be required. After the elapse of several days, she requested the privilege of cleaning up the little courtyard of its human debris. For reply she was told by a German surgeon to mind her own business' or she might ornament the pile also with her "filthy French carcass."
The brancardiers, or stretcher-bearers, of the German Army were bringing in officers in numbers as the fighting increased, and it so happened that in the ward to which I have alluded there was no more room, being filled to its capacity, except in one corner where a young French boy was stretched out, his leg amputated at the thigh. As the last German officer was brought in and it was found there was no room for him, two Boche stretcher-bearers lifted the French boy up and threw him out of the second-story window into the street below, where, needless to say, he died very shortly.
To give you the history of just one of the families here it will be necessary for me to go back to the first attack by the Boches on this village. A young boy nineteen years old, the son of the mayor of this town, was shot and mortally wounded while defending the village from attack. He was carried to his home and laid at his mother's feet, where he soon died. (Number 1.)
The following morning, with her son dead in the house, the mother stood at her gate weeping. The Boches were filing through the streets in front of her home when a German officer took notice of her. He stepped out of the ranks, and, as he approached, inquired why a woman should feel so badly at seeing the glorious soldiers of the Kaiser marching by triumphantly, and when she replied, "You have killed my boy," the officer drew a revolver and shot her dead. (Number 2.)
In the house we have described as used for a temporary hospital, on the first floor was located a large room used by some of the German officers as a Headquarters. This room had two large windows looking out upon the street. A little boy nine years old, walking down the road, was called by one of the officers sitting at one of the windows and given a pitcher in which to bring some beer from a neighboring cafÈ. The child returned in a few moments with the beer, which he handed to the officer, and, for some unknown reason, the officer lifted him by the collar into the room and shot him.
As the child fell mortally wounded, he was picked up bodily and placed on a red-hot stove used for heating the water for the operating room upstairs. The odor issuing from the burning clothing and flesh soon brought the doctor to the head of a small staircase on the second floor. "What is that smell?" he demanded, and the officer who had placed the child on the stove replied, "Doctor, we are preparing your dinner." Whereupon, the doctor shouted, "Take that damn stinking thing off of there, as the smell is coming upstairs and it will make somebody sick." Thereupon, the body of the boy, now dead, was taken from the stove and thrown out of the kitchen window onto the pile of arms and legs in the courtyard. (Number 3.)
Four days later a young girl was carried off by the Boches, as they were evacuating the city through pressure from the French, who had, by this time, so increased in number that the Germans saw that it would be impossible to hold the village. What became of this girl no one can say, but from what I know of a great many other cases I believe it would have been much better for her had she been killed in the streets than to have suffered the fate that I am sure must have been hers. (Number 4.)
Her father, who was the mayor of the town, protested to the German command regarding the treatment his family, as well as the women and children of the town generally, had received, whereupon he was tied hand and foot and mutilated, being told at the same time that this would refresh his memory whenever he had any thought of interfering with the supreme command of that particular army. (Number 5.) The total of the family.
The French pressure now becoming too heavy, the Boches were unable to withstand it, and started a systematic sacking and demolition of the village. Barricades were thrown up in preparation for street fighting; not even the dead were held in reverence, for trenches were dug through the cemetery and the bodies and skeletons were thrown up to become a part of the embankments and the headstones lined the parapets, behind which the barbarians would fight.
I have related the happenings that have taken place in only one home and in one village. I have occupied the room described herein as the officers headquarters and prepared meals on the same stove. There were many such families, there were many such operating rooms, and there were many women known to be alive that were carried off by the Boches. It is hard to understand how such things are possible, but that is why this little town is now known as "Badonviller the Martyr."
SNIPERS" AT WORK
THE "sniper" of the present war would have been called a "sharpshooter" during the war of the rebellion. Such men are most expert in the use of the rifle and seldom miss their mark. Many of them have now become proficient in the use of the modern machine gun for the same class of work, that of picking off the "lookouts" on the firing platforms of the opposing trenches.
Most everyone has heard of the game bird known as the snipe. They are very small and hard to see, usually blending with the landscape and shrubbery. When it is said of a man that he can "hit a snipe with a rifle at two hundred yards," the last word in praise of his markmanship has been said. Thus the term "sharpshooter" has been displaced by the word "sniper" by reason of the American love of brevity.
The "sniper" of to-day is no less than a picked marksman whose trained eye is both keen and tireless. The "lookouts" of the trenches may well be wary of him. They know he is always on the job and that his far-seeing eye, with the aid of the globe-sights through which he constantly peers in search of his prey, is ever on the lookout. He knows the hatred in which he is held and that once captured no punishment is held too cruel for infliction upon him.
There was one place in our front line where the trench was shallow and a man of ordinary height would have been exposed from his shoulders up had it not been for two boards twelve inches wide that had been placed there. The two ends that came together were not sawed straight and left a V shape where they joined. Some sand bags were placed in front of the opening between the two boards, but the V was left partly uncovered, which enabled the Boche to peer through. The opening was so small that it was impossible to see a man and get a shot at him before he had passed.
In front of the German trenches at this point was a willow tree that had been pruned for the willow industry. This means that when the tree grows up to the required height the main trunk is cut away and the stump sealed. Then the dwarfed tree starts sprouting, "shoots." This keeps it short and bushy. Such was this tree. From within it a man could observe the top of a helmet in our trench on either side of the V-shaped "peep hole."
This was just the knowledge that the Boche wanted in order to make use of the bad joint between the boards. A man was placed in the willow with a machine gun, which was strapped securely into the fork of the tree so it would not shake. It was trained on the V hole between the two boards. The gun was so fastened that it did not have to be aimed, for each time it was fired the ball would go straight through the V.
One of the boys in the French trench unknowingly exposed himself and was found dead with a bullet through his brain. There was nothing to cause any other thought than that he had carelessly looked over the top.
Later that afternoon a sergeant, in line of duty, was going along the same trench inspecting the machine-gun positions. Three or four shots were heard and he was found dead with a bullet through his head. While mystifying, this second death did not reveal the truth. The sergeant was tall and his death was laid to this fact. However, the French lieutenant did know that whoever was doing the shooting was no amateur, and gave orders to his men to be especially cautious, and it so happened that no one else was hit that day.
Next morning, nevertheless, brought renewed activities, and among the first casualties was the death of a French boy who was killed at the same spot by a bullet through his head.
This brought about an investigation, which disclosed the V-shaped opening between the two boards. A sand bag ended further trouble from this source, but the location of the "sniper" was yet in order. A Frenchman at a machine-gun position thought that he had noticed smoke issuing from the willow tree. It was decided to keep careful watch on it and send a scouting patrol out that night. As soon as it was dark enough the men started out and soon found the Boche tucked away in the tree with his gun. Needless to say, no time was wasted on him, several bayonet thrusts serving to end his activities as a machine-gun sniper.
In another location there was a little brook just behind the line, and, during the summer, the boys would go back about thirty yards and fill their canteens with fresh, cool water-and sometimes they failed to return. When found they would be lying dead in the brook, which was only a few inches deep.
The roadway on the side nearest the Boches was eight feet above the brook and everywhere else perfect covering was afforded, yet every once in a while someone was bagged here. Finally a young fellow, who was preparing to fill his canteen, before doing so dropped to his knees to take a drink from the stream. just as he did this he heard three bullets whistle over his head and splash in the brook some distance ahead, which disclosed the fact that the Boches were shooting from a position over five hundred yards away through a culvert in the road. When the target showed through this culvert several bullets sped on their way. The act of stooping over had saved the young man's life.
Chapter Sixteen: "Kamerad!"
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