With Our Soldiers in France
THE WORLD AT WAR
Let us try to grasp the colossal facts of the present war. Since the beginning of the conflict there has been a daily attrition of more than 25,000 in killed, wounded, or prisoners every twenty-four hours. At the opening of the fourth year of the war the number killed was over 5,000,000. This does not include those who have perished in the devastated nations. Not less than 6,000,000 men are now in the military prisons of Europe, some of whom have undergone great suffering, both physical and mental. More than 5,000,000 lie wounded today in the military hospitals, not to speak of several times that number who have been patched up and sent back into the line to face death again, or have been rejected as unfit for further service, often left crippled or maimed, blinded, or deformed for life.
Mere numbers or statistics cannot measure the sacrifice and suffering of these lives. If we could know the infinite value of the unit of personality, or compute the preciousness and potentiality of a single life destroyed, we might then hope to multiply it by the million. If human scales could weigh the sorrow of a widow's heart, could compute the anguish of a mother's loss, could prophesy the deprivation of an orphan's lot, or know the good which might have been done by even one man who has now been killed, we would then be in a position to begin to estimate the casualty list.
There are today nearly 40,000,000 men with the colors. If we add to these the 5,000,000 already killed, the 6,000,000 prisoners and the large number discharged as unfit for further service, we have a total of far more than 50,000,000 who have been with the colors in the first three years of the war. We can better realize the significance of this statement if we remember that in no previous war have more than 3,000,000 men faced each other in conflict. According to Gibbon, Rome's great standing army was not over 400,000 men. Napoleon's grand army did not exceed 700,000, and in the Battle of Waterloo less than 200,000 men were engaged. In the American Civil War less than 3,000,000, and in the Russo-Japanese War only 2,500,000 men were employed. Indeed, if we sum up the twenty greatest wars of the last one hundred and twenty-five years, from the Napoleonic Wars to the present time, less than 20,000,000 men were engaged, while in this war nearly twice that number are now under arms. Britain alone has enrolled over 5,000,000 for the army, with 1,000,000 more from the overseas dominions, and about 500,000 for the navy. Germany has called some 12,000,000 and Russia more than 12,000,000 to the colors.
By the end of 1917 nearly 6,000,000 men will have been killed. Less than 5,500,000 were killed in the twenty greatest wars of the last century and a quarter, all combined. In the Battle of Gettysburg only 3,000 were killed. England's casualty list during a vigorous offensive averages over 3,000 every day. In the first ten days alone of the battle of the Somme, the British lost 200,000 in killed or wounded. France as a whole has lost even more heavily, while Germany's casualty list during the great battles of the Somme and in Flanders has averaged 200,000 a month. When our own relatives are at the front, And our own boys are in the line, we realize what these statistics mean. In Germany alone the number of men killed now totals far over 1,000,000. Think of the many millions of mothers and wives in the nations of Europe scanning that crowded page of the newspaper, with several thousand names on the casualty list every day, each looking to see if her boy's name is there.
During that fateful day of July 1st when the great drive on the Somme began, when the English along a front of twenty-five miles and the French on a front of ten miles leaped out of the trenches and sprang forward in that terrible charge, men were mowed down like ripened grain. Regiments on both sides were cut to pieces. The writer's brother-in-law, a young colonel, went in with 1,100 men of his battalion---only 130 came out. Only one officer was unscathed and he has since been killed. The young colonel was shot within an inch of the heart and fell into a shellhole. Two of his men fell dead on top of him. There he lay under a terrible fire for sixteen hours, and finally at midnight gained strength to struggle from under the two bodies that lay upon him, and crawled on his hands and knees for over a mile back to the nearest dressing station. In the first year of the war he lost nearly half his men with trench foot, the men's feet being frost-bitten or frozen in the muddy trenches. In the second year he was wounded in seven places by shrapnel, and later, after recovery, was almost killed. He has now again returned to the service.
Another red-cheeked boy told the writer that his battalion had gone in with 960 men and had come out with only eighty. In another battalion all the officers were killed or wounded and the remaining handful was left with a lance-corporal in command: the colonel , the majors, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and corporals had all been killed or wounded. At Bradford the writer was told that their favorite sons in the "Bradford Pals" had to be sacrificed, and every man that went into action in this battalion was either killed or wounded within a few hours. An unusual proportion of British officers have fallen. The university students and the flower of the land who have gone into the officers' training corps have oftentimes been among the first to fall.
Let us now turn from the numbers of killed, wounded, and prisoners and estimate if we can the cost of the conflict. The present war, more than any in previous history, has been a warfare of attrition, that is, by the killing and maiming of men and the destruction of resources to attempt to wear out the enemy.
Already the cost of the war has mounted to over $130,000,000 a day, or more than $100,000 every minute of the twelve hours that the sun shines upon us. Contrast, for instance, the total cost, the lives lost, and the numbers of men called to the colors in the twenty principal wars during the last century and a quarter, from the Napoleonic Wars of 1793, with the figures for the present war to August 4, 1917, at the end of the third year of the conflict.(1)
Twenty previous wars
|Called to the colors||
We have said that the cost of the war has now risen to the almost unbelievable total of over $130,000,000 a day.(2) That is more than the total cost of the whole war between Russia and Turkey in 1828. In a single great day in the battles on the Somme, or in Belgium, the British have used as much ammunition as they were able to manufacture in the entire first ten months of the war in 1914.
Even before the end of 1915 the five great powers had more than doubled their national debts. When will these debts be paid? Great Britain, the wealthiest of the nations of Europe, after one hundred years of peace still owes much of the debt incurred in the American Revolution and all of the debt incurred in the Napoleonic Wars. The whole cost of the American Civil War was only $5,000,000,000, and of the Napoleonic Wars $6,000,000,000, while this war will cost over six times the amount of either during this single year.
Great Britain's war debt at the end of the third year has reached the enormous total of more than $20,000,000,000, or twenty times the national debt of the United States at the beginning of the war, yet even this does not begin to exhaust her resources. At the close of the Napoleonic Wars Great Britain's debt was one-third of her national resources. She can almost double her present enormous war debt before utilizing a third of her wealth.
We have not in this calculation reckoned on the economic value of the lives destroyed. That would average about $3,000 for each man. Five million men killed means an economic loss to the countries concerned of $15,000,000,000. But the economic value of the lives destroyed represents only a small fraction of their potentiality---socially, morally, and spiritually. No human brain can calculate, no heart can fathom the cost or loss of this terrible conflict.
The cost of less than one month of the present war would equal that of the entire Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Another month would pay for the whole Russo-Japanese War; twelve days would pay for the Boer War, while the cost for three days would dig the Panama Canal. At the beginning of 1918 the war debts of the warring countries will exceed $90,000,000,000, or more than one-fifth the wealth of all the warring nations of Europe. The daily cost of the war is equal to half the earning power of these European nations, and the interest on their war debts will be equal to one-half their budgets as they stood at the beginning of the war. The wealth of more than twenty nations is being rapidly drained, and the world's financial reserves are being consumed in this vicious and sinful struggle which an autocratic militarism has forced upon the world.
Although late in entering the war, America's expenditure has been out of all proportion to that of any other nation. Upon arrival in this country the writer finds the statement in our press that the nation will have spent or sanctioned before the end of 1917, the enormous total of $19,000,000,000. That is more than twenty per cent of the entire cost of the war to date for all the European nations. That sum is as great as Germany spent on land and sea for the conduct of the first three years of the war. It represents more than twice our total wealth in 1850, and one-twelfth of our present national wealth of $228,000,000,000.
In order to estimate further the cost and realize the suffering of the war, let us turn for a moment to the nations devastated in Europe. In Belgium and Northern France 9,500,000 were being fed by the Commission for Relief in Belgium until Germany forbade it. Of 7,000,000 inhabitants of Belgium, 3,000,000 were early left destitute by the war and were drawing daily one meal consisting of the equivalent of three thick slices of bread and a pint of soup. Mr. F. C. Wolcott writes:
"I have seen thousands of people lined up in snow or rain, soaked and chilly, waiting for bread and soup. I have returned to the distributing stations at the end of the day and have found men, women, and children sometimes still standing in line, but later compelled to go back to their pitiful homes, cold, wet, and miserable. It was not until eighteen weary hours afterward that they got the meal they missed. The need will continue to be great for many months after peace is declared. Factories have been stripped of their machinery. There is a complete stagnation of industry. It will take months to rehabilitate these industries and to start the wheels again."
In Serbia more than 4,000,000 people were deprived of their living by the war. In Poland the suffering has been more terrible than in either Belgium or Serbia. The population fleeing behind the retreating Russians were not able to keep up because of the women and children, the aged and the sick. They were overtaken by the German army and left in the charred remains of their burned dwellings. Some 200 cities and 15,000 towns and villages were destroyed in Poland. Already 2,000,000 have died of starvation there. In some districts all the children under six years of age have perished.
Armenia has suffered relatively more than any of the other nations. Mr. Henry Morgenthau, the American Ambassador to Turkey, said: "One million of these people have either been massacred or deported and unless succor reaches them shortly, those remaining will be lost." In all history there is no record more sad than that of the persecution and extermination of the Armenians. University professors educated in the United States have had their hair and nails torn out by the roots and have been slowly tortured to death. Women and girls were outraged and brutally killed. Little children perished of hunger. It is said that probably 1,000,000 of the 2,000,000 Armenians in Turkey have been slain, or have been driven into the country to starve, or have been forced to accept Islam.
The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief reports:
"Men in the army were the first to be brutally put to death. These and civilians, after being subjected to horrible tortures, were shot. Even priests were made victims of brutal murder. Women, children, the sick and aged, were forced at a moment's notice to start on foot on a journey of exile. Mothers, torn from their children, were compelled to leave the little ones behind. Women giving birth to children on the road were forbidden to delay, but, under the whiplash, were made to continue their march until they dropped from exhaustion to die. A United States Consul reported that he saw helpless people brained with clubs, while children were killed by beating their brains out against the rocks. Other children were thrown into rivers and those who could swim were shot down as they struggled in the water. Crimes that have been, and are being, practiced upon Armenian women are too cruel and horrible for words. The mutilated corpses of hundreds bear testimony to this inhuman reign."(3)
Who was responsible for these outrages, and how long will the world permit them to continue?
Whichever way we turn, whether we survey the number of killed, wounded, or prisoners, the cost of the conflict, or the suffering of the devastated nations, we realize that the war means sacrifice. It is difficult for us at home in America to appreciate the spirit in which the men in this great struggle in Europe are fighting, and the sacrifices they are making. In all these months in many lands, the writer has not heard from the lips of a single soldier who had actually seen service at the front, words of hatred or of boasting. Quietly and often with sadness most of these men are going forward to face death.
Here is a letter from a young officer who fell on that fatal first day of July on the Somme.
"I never felt more confident or cheerful in my life before, and would not miss the attack for anything on earth. Every officer and man is more happy and cheerful than I have ever seen them. My idea in writing this letter is in case I am one of the 'costs' and get killed. I have been looking at the stars, and thinking what an immense distance they are away. What an insignificant thing the loss of, say, forty years of life is compared with them! It seems scarcely worth talking about. Well, good-bye, you darlings. Try not to worry about it, and remember that we shall meet again really quite soon. This letter is going to be posted if . . ."
A friend of the writer, a young chaplain whom he met recently at the front, went out to find his brother's mangled body on the battlefield. The boy who fell was the son of the Bishop of Winchester, and one of the finest spirits in Oxford. Canon Scott Holland writes:
"The attack had failed. There was never any hope of its succeeding, for the machine guns of the Germans were still in full play, with their fire unimpaired. The body had to lie where it had fallen. Only, his brother could not endure to let it lie unhonoured. He found some shattered Somersets, who begged him to go no further. But he heard a voice within him bidding him risk it, and the call of the blood drove him on. Creeping out of the far end of the trench, as dusk fell, he crawled through the grass on hands and knees, in spite of shells and snipers, dropping flat on the ground as the flares shot up from the German trenches. At last he found what he sought. He could stroke with his hand the fair young head that he knew so well; he could feel for the pocketbook and prayer-book, the badge and the whistle. He could breathe a prayer of benediction and then crawl back on his perilous way in the night."
The writer has just come from visiting a group of a dozen British and American military hospitals in one French town, with from one to four thousand patients in each, where at this moment the trains are arriving in almost a steady stream, bearing the wounded from the front in the great drive in Flanders. He has stood by the operating tables and passed down those long, unending rows of cots. Some of these tragic hospital wards are filled with men, every one of whom is blinded for life by poison gas or shrapnel. They, like all the other wounded, are brave and cheerful, but it will take great courage to maintain this cheer, groping a long lifetime in the dark. One man counted 151 trains of twenty cars each, or 3,000 carriages, filled with German wounded passing back in a steady stream through Belgium. Behind all the active fronts these train loads of wounded are daily bearing their burden of suffering humanity. The cities and towns of Europe are filled with limping or crippled or wounded men today.
Opposite the writer at the ship's table sat a young man with the lower part of his face carried away. His chin and jaw were gone, yet he must live on for a lifetime deformed. Another young fellow had spent seven long weary months in training. The moment his regiment reached the front it was ordered immediately into action. He sprang to the top of the trench, but never got over it. He fell back wounded. Within three days he was back in England again, but with only one leg. Seven months of training, five minutes in action, then crippled for life! The writer saw one young fellow whose face was left contorted by shrapnel, which had carried away one eye and the bridge of his nose. He was a quiet, earnest Christian. He said, "Of course, they cannot send me back again into the line or compel me to go with only one eye, but I am going just the same. I am going to give all that I have left to the country and the cause."(4)
Hear that young soldier of France, Alfred Casalis, a brilliant student of philosophy and theology, a Student Volunteer for the African mission field, as he writes home to his father and mother at the age of nineteen: "I volunteered of course. I know with an unalterable knowledge and with an unconquerable confidence that the foundation of my faith is unshakeable, it rests upon the Rock. I shall fight with a good conscience and without fear (I hope), certainly without hate. I feel myself filled with an illimitable hope. You can have no idea of the peace in which I live. On the march I sing inwardly. I listen to the music that is slumbering inside me. The Master's call is always ringing loudly in my ears. I am not afraid of death. I have made the sacrifice of my life. I know that to die is to begin to live." And the last sentence of the unfinished letter written before the charge in which he fell, "The attack cannot but succeed. There will be some wounded, some killed, but we shall go forward and far---" In the other pocket of his coat, at the end of his will were the words," 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.' And I would that all my friends, all those who are every moment with me, and whose hearts beat with mine, should repeat the word of our hope, 'Because I live, ye shall live also."(5)
Professor Gilbert Murray, of Oxford, writes thus of the sacrifice of the men for us: "As for me personally, there is one thought that is always with me---the thought that other men are dying for me, better men, younger, with more hope in their lives, many of whom I have taught and loved. The orthodox Christian will be familiar with the thought of one who loved you dying for you. I would like to say that now I seem to be familiar with the feeling that something innocent, something great, something that loved me, is dying, and is dying daily for me. That is the sort of community we now are---a community in which one man dies for his brother."
Yes, these boys are making the great sacrifice for us. With 5,000,000 who have already been killed, with 10,000,000 of our own sons enrolled as subject to their call to the colors when needed, with hundreds of American army camps at home and in France already crowded with men, what sacrifice can we make for them? How can we surround their lives with the best influences of home, that they may come back to us even better men than when they went away?
We have seen the terrible ordeal to which they will be subjected at the front, the temptations to which they are exposed in France, in the training schools, and the base camps; we have seen something of the havoc which demoralizing forces have already wrought in other armies in the camps of the prodigals, and we have seen the deadly dangers and perils, both physical and moral, which the soldier must face. We have spoken of the enormous sums voted to carry on a great war of destruction. Is there not a yet more urgent need that we should supply the great constructive forces for fortifying the physical and moral manhood of our nation? Two organizations have been recognized by our own and the other allied governments in the war zone-the one bearing the symbol of the red cross for the wounded, and the other the red triangle for the fighting men.
The nation has already generously responded to the needs of the wounded even before the first battle was fought, giving more in one week than any other nation in a year for the same purpose. And not a dollar too much has been given for this great cause. But we shall soon have several millions of fighting men under arms. What are we to do for these men? We have already seen that they present a threefold need. There is the physical need of these millions who will soon be training, fighting, and suffering. Only the men at the front know what it really is. There are the mental and social requirements of men who must have recreation, healthy amusement and occupation. There is also the moral and spiritual need of men who will face the greatest temptations of their lives, when they will be farthest from the help of home and friends, while old standards seem to be submerged or swept away "for the period of the war."
We have already seen that the building that bears the red triangle of the Y M C A at the front is at once the soldier's club, his home, his church where his own denomination holds its services, his school, his place of rest, his recreation center, his bank and postoffice where he writes his letters, his friend in need that stands by him at the last and meets his relatives who are called to his bedside in the hospital. If there is anything which safeguards the physical, social, and moral health of the men who are dying for us, can we do less than provide it for them? While billions are being spent for destruction, must we not at least invest an infinitesimal fraction of one per cent of our expenditure, in construction, in that which is the greatest asset of any nation---its moral manhood? Can we not provide a home away from home for our own sons and the other boys with them whose parents may be too poor to do so?
Here is a unique contribution which America can also make to her hard pressed allies who have been exhausted by three terrible years of fighting. Britain has already set us a wonderful example and will not need our help. But there is France to which we owe so much and whose war weary soldiers sorely need just such centers for recreation and rebuilding. General Petain, the Commander in Chief, and the French authorities have asked for the help of our Movement in their camps. General Pershing, after surveying the field, has declared that the greatest service which America can immediately render France, even before our own men can reach the trenches in large numbers, is to extend the welfare work of the Y M C A to the entire French Army. Can we do less than this for the nation that gave all that Washington asked in our own hour of crisis? Then there is Italy, with all her deep need and great possibilities. What can we do to minister to the wants of her great army?
But let us turn to Russia, which represents the deepest need of all---the nation which has undergone the greatest suffering, both within and without its borders, of any of the belligerents. Think of its vast area, greater than all North America, or one seventh of the land area of the entire globe. Think of its population, almost twice our own, and more than one tenth of the entire world. Think of these people, who have the greatest capacity for suffering of any nation on earth, suddenly released, like their own prisoners, with steps unsteady and eyes unaccustomed to the blinding light of freedom. Think of what such a movement of hope and cheer and re-creation may mean to troops hard pressed or demoralized, facing another winter in the trenches.
Add to all these the suffering prisoners of war, and we have over 24,000,000 men who deeply need the ministry of this Movement, and need it now. Here are millions who have already suffered or who are going forward ready to make the great sacrifice for us. What sacrifice shall we make for them ?
1. See World Almanac 1915, p. 488. Back to text.
2. The cost of the war has been calculated by various writers on both sides the Atlantic. Mr. Wm. Rossiter writes on "The Statistical Side of the Economic Costs of the War " in the American Economic Review for March, 1916. Mr. Edmund Crammond's pager in The Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Sir George Paish in the various issues of the London Statist and others, have given careful estimates of the direct cost of the war to nations and individuals. During the first and cheapest year, according to Mr. Rossiter, the total cost of the war, not including the economic value of the lives lost, rose to forty billion dollars. That is equal to all the national debts of the world. Back to text.
3. See Appendix II on "The Treatment of Armenians," by Viscount Bryce Back to text.
4. Publishers' Note: The whole problem of the meaning of suffering and its relation to the present war, especially for those who have suffered bereavement, is dealt with by the author in his book, "Suffering and the War." Back to text.
5. "For France and the Faith," Letters of Alfred Eugène Casalis, Association Press. Back to text.
EXTRACTS FROM "ETERNAL PEACE"
"No conclusion of peace shall be held to be valid as such when it has been made with the secret reservation of the material for a future war. No State having an existence by itself---whether it be small or large---shall be acquired by another State through inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation. A State is not to be regarded as property or patrimony, like the soil on which it may be settled. Standing armies shall be entirely abolished in the course of time. For they threaten other States incessantly with war by their appearing to be always equipped to enter upon it. No State shall intermeddle by force with the constitution or government of another State.
"No State at war with another shall adopt such modes of hostility as would necessarily render mutual confidence impossible in a future peace---such as the employment of assassins or poisoners, the violation of a capitulation, the instigation of treason, and such like. These are dishonorable stratagems. For there must be some trust in the habit and disposition even of an enemy in war.
"The civil constitution in every State shall be republican. The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free States. People or nations regarded as States may be judged like individual men. If it is a duty to realize a state of public law, and if at the same time there is a well-grounded hope of its being realized-although it may be only by approximation to it that advances ad infinitum---then perpetual peace is a fact that is destined historically to follow the falsely so-called treaties of peace which have been but cessations of hostilities. Perpetual peace is, therefore, no empty idea, but a practical thing which, through its gradual solution, is coming always nearer its final realization; and it may well be hoped that progress toward it will be made at more rapid rates of advance in the times to come."(*)
* English Edition---Pages 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 81, 127.
EXTRACTS FROM "THE TREATMENT
From Four Members of the German Missions Staff in Turkey to the Imperial German Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Berlin: "Out of 2,000 to 3,000 peasant women from the Armenian Plateau who were brought here in good health, only forty or fifty skeletons are left. The prettier ones are the victims of their gaolers' lust; the plain ones succumb to blows, hunger, and thirst. Every day more than a hundred corpses are carried out of Aleppo. All this happened under the eyes of high Turkish officials. The German scutcheon is in danger of being smirched for ever in the memory of the Near Eastern peoples."
Events in Armenia, published in the Sonnenaufgang, and in the Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift, November, 1915: "Twelve hundred of the most prominent Armenians and other Christians were arrested; 674 of them were embarked on thirteen Tigris barges, the prisoners were stripped of all their money and then of their clothes; after that they were thrown into the river. Five or six priests were stripped naked one day, smeared with tar, and dragged through the streets. For a whole month corpses were observed floating down the River Euphrates, hideously mutilated. The prisons at Biredjik are filled regularly every day and emptied every nigh--into the Euphrates." . . .
From a German eye-witness: "In Moush there are 25,000 Armenians; in the neighborhood there are 300 villages, each containing about 500 houses. In all these not a single male Armenian is now to be seen, and hardly a woman. Every officer boasted of the number he had personally massacred. In Harpout the people have had to endure terrible tortures. They have had their eyebrows plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off. Their torturers hew off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they do in shoeing horses. When they die, the soldiers cry: 'Now let your Christ help you.'"
Memorandum forwarded by a foreign resident at H.: "On the 1st of June, 3,000 people (mostly women, girls, and children) left H. accompanied by seventy policemen. The policemen many times violated the women openly. Another convoy of exiles joined the party, 18,000 in all. The journey began , and on the way the pretty girls were carried off one by one, while the stragglers from the convoy were invariably killed. On the fortieth day the convoy came in sight of the Euphrates. Here they saw the bodies of more than 200 men floating in the river. Here the Kurds took from them everything they had, so that for five days the whole convoy marched completely naked under the scorching sun. For another five days they did not have a morsel of bread, nor even a drop of water. They were scorched to death by thirst. Hundreds upon hundreds fell dead on the way, their tongues were turned to charcoal, and when, at the end of five days, they reached a fountain, the whole convoy naturally rushed towards it. But here the policemen barred the way and forbade them to take a single drop of water. At another place where there were wells, some women threw themselves into them, as there was no rope or pail to draw up the water. These women were drowned, the dead bodies still remaining there stinking in the water, and yet the rest of the people later drank from that well. On the sixty-fourth day, they gathered together all the men and sick women and children and burned and killed them all. On the seventieth day, when they reached Aleppo, there were left 150 women and children altogether out of the whole convoy of 18,000."
LINES WRITTEN BY A SOLDIER IN THE ENGLISH ARMY ABOUT MARCH, 1916.
Christ in Flanders
"We had forgotten You or very nearly,
And there were always other things to think of,
And all the while, in street or lane or byway
Now we remember over here in Flanders
You helped us pass the jest along the trenches
We think about You kneeling in the Garden
Tho' we forgot You, You will not forget us.
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