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   Chapter 9 THE DEMON FACES

The Wonder of War on Land By Francis Rolt-Wheeler Characters: 46471

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"But yes, my boy, it is I!"

The boy ran forward eagerly to greet his old friend, for the moment ignoring the dogs by which he was surrounded, and then stopped and looked fixedly at his comrade.

"Your arm?" he queried.

The hunchback shrugged one shoulder.

"It is gone, as you see," he answered.

"But how?"

"It was my fate, no doubt," the other responded. "Destiny had decided that I should give an arm to the Germans; so, since the military authorities would not give me the opportunity to lose it at the front, I left it behind me in Paris."

"What happened?" Horace persisted.

"It was a little nothing," the hunchback replied. "A German bird dropped a shell out of his beak on the munitions factory where I was working."

"And a splinter hit you?"


"Why didn't you dodge?"

"I couldn't. You see," the hunchback continued, "there was a girl there."

"And then?" demanded the lad impatiently. "Don't stammer so, Croquier, tell the story!"

"It was a tiny nothing," his comrade repeated, somewhat shamefacedly. "It was this way. In the factory where I was working, there were many brave girls working also, brave girls, for the work was dangerous. It was especially dangerous, because there was a church on one side and a hospital near by. A Boche aviator always tries to hit a hospital when he can. The Red Cross to him is as it would be to a bull."

"I've noticed that," the boy agreed. "At the front, here, they shell the field hospitals every chance they get. But tell the story!"

"One foggy morning, then," the hunchback went on, "about a week before Christmas, an aviator who had escaped our air-sentries by reason of the mist, let fall a bomb. I feel sure it was meant for the hospital, but it hit us instead. I was working on the top floor. The bomb-it was quite a little one-came through the roof. I happened to be the one to see it coming and I saw, at once, that it would fall on the stone bench in front of which the girls were working.

"It was not the time for politeness, you understand, so I swept my left arm round, and the girl who was working next to me fell down flat.

"I must have been a little slow in bringing down my arm after I had swung it round, for the shell struck the bench at the same second and the splinters collected in my hand and wrist. The hand was almost quite cut off. The doctors said it was a lovely amputation-they are droll fellows, those doctors-but to make the matter more sure, they cut off my arm a little higher, as you see. It was to prevent infection, they said."

"And the girl?"

The hunchback looked grave.

"She was black and blue for a week," he said. "You see, I am rather strong and perhaps I hit her a little too hard."

"But you saved her life!"

"That, of course," said the Frenchman, simply; "what else would any one do?"

"And were you the only one hurt?"

"Alas, no!" sighed Croquier. "It is there that I was a fool. If I had hit two girls, one on either side, it would have been very good. But I had a sharp tool in my right hand and I did not think of it. The brave little one on that side was killed. No one else was hurt. It was a wonderful escape."

"I don't quite see it that way," the boy retorted. "One girl killed and one man crippled, by a small a?roplane bomb, looks to me more like a catastrophe than an escape. What happened to the girl whose life you saved?"

"She was as kind as she was brave," the hunchback answered. "She was very rich, or, rather, she had been so before the war, though she had put on workmen's clothes and was slaving in a munitions factory. She was doing it for France.

"Every day that I was in the hospital she came to see me after working hours. So did other of the operatives. They were all very kind, but she was the kindest. It was she who secured permission for me to have the 'captive Kaiser' on the little table beside my hospital bed. The doctors could refuse her nothing. She had a smile, ah! one to remember!"

Horace smiled at the mental picture of the grim, black eagle with the yellow eyes, iron-caged, in the white, cool cleanliness of a hospital ward.

"It was Mademoiselle Chandon, too," Croquier continued, "who enabled me to come here to the front. I am a general, no less, my boy, now. I am the General of this army of dogs."

"So I see," the lad agreed. "But I didn't know that you knew anything about dogs."

"Have you forgotten, my boy," the hunchback answered, "that, when I was a small urchin, I traveled with the circus? I am sure I have told you stories of that time. My master was the animal trainer and many were the tricks that he taught me. One does not forget what one has learned in childhood.

"Mademoiselle Chandon, she whose pretty face I was so fortunate as to save with my arm, formerly was rich, as I have said. Before the war, her father had owned magnificent kennels and he was forever lamenting that he could not give his dogs to the army. But they were not trained.

"'But I, Mademoiselle,' I said to her, 'behold, I can train dogs. That does not take two hands!'

"She clapped her little palms together with delight and ran away to her big house in the town, which was being used as a hospital for the blind.

"It was, perhaps, about a week after that, that the old nobleman, her grandfather, came to see me in the hospital. It must needs be her grandfather who came. Her father was an officer in the Cuirassiers. The family had given all their automobiles to the army for staff purposes, so the old nobleman came himself through the streets on foot.

Courtesy of "La Grande Guerre."

Machine-Gun Dog-Team In Belgium.

Courtesy of "Illustrated London News."

Each Kennel Inhabited By One Wise, Silent Dog.

Note that these kennels are drilled out of solid rock as a protection against dropping shells.

"'So, my fine fellow,' he said to me, 'after saving my daughter's life, you want to train my dogs so that they may get crippled, eh?'

"'That is as Monsieur le Comte wishes,' I made reply.

"'I shall give myself the pleasure of taking you to the country with me when I go, next week,' he said.

"Ah, it is the old families who understand true courtesy!

"He had nearly a hundred dogs. They were a little too much inbred, perhaps, and therefore over-nervous, but good dogs. Monsieur le Comte gave me the gardener's cottage to live in-the gardener is in the trenches at Verdun-and I spent two happy months teaching the dogs."

"That's why my letters never reached you, then," said Horace. "I always wrote to our old address."

"I think the landlady died when I was in the hospital," answered Croquier. "She fell ill soon after you left. And, you remember, she was very old."

"She was old," the boy agreed. "But why didn't you ever write to me?"

"I did, many times. Naturally, I wrote to the Motorcycle Corps of the Fourth Army, but I never received a response."

"Of course," said the boy thoughtfully, "that wouldn't reach me. My old motor-cycle has been idle for several months. When I found that there wasn't any more dispatch work to do, I took a military telephone course at the camp school."

"So you're a telephonist, now!"

"And you're a dog general!"

"I have some beauties, too!" Croquier looked around at the little rock-cut kennels with manifest pride. "They're so clever that I'm afraid, some morning, I'll come out and find them all talking."

"What do you teach them to do?" asked Horace, smiling at the exaggeration.

"I train them into three different lines of work," the hunchback answered. "One set is taught to serve on listening-posts and to assist on sentry duty, another group is trained to carry messages, and the third group is taught to hunt for the wounded when a battle has been raging over a large space of ground."

"What does a dog do at a listening-post?" Horace asked. "Does he bark when he hears something?"

"Not a bark, not a sound!" the hunchback answered. "I teach them to bite a man's ankles gently, so!" He bent down and with his strong fingers nipped Horace just above the heel. "Then the sentry knows that there is an alarm, for a dog's hearing is much keener than a man's. If the sentry is lying down, I teach the dog to pay no attention to him but to run to the sentry at the next listening-post. Then the second sentry knows that there is an alarm, and also that the man at the next post is either dead or wounded. From that listening-post a message is sent back, sometimes by telephone, sometimes by messenger, sometimes by message or liaison dog. Star shells are meantime shot up to illumine that particular bit of trench, and the machine guns spray death there."

"And the message dogs, how do you work them?" the boy asked.

"The dogs of liaison are used on advanced post work, or in saps, or when tunneling is done for a mine. Sometimes it is necessary to send back for re?nforcements and a man cannot be spared. Then a message is attached to a dog's neck and he is told to go. He gallops back to the headquarters which is his home for the time being and the man in charge takes the message and gives him a feed. The dogs are kept hungry and they know that whenever they take a message they will get a good dinner. I tell you, my boy, they do not stop to play along the road!"

"And the Red Cross dogs?"

"I have only a few of those," the hunchback answered, "chiefly Belgian dogs, because the Red Cross is using a great many dogs from Mount St. Bernard, dogs which have already been taught by the monks to find travelers lost in the snow.

"Then I have ratting terriers, a few rough-coated fox terriers, which have a natural instinct for fighting rats, and a number of Irish terriers which have to be trained to the work. When properly taught, they are much the better."

"I don't see why," the boy objected; "I should think that dogs which didn't have to be trained would be keener after the rats."

"So they are," the trainer replied, "if we were dealing with ordinary rats. But the savage rats which have developed in the trenches, creatures which are sometimes ferocious enough to kill and devour the severely wounded, are sometimes more than the snappy little fox-terriers can manage. Some of those rats have a body eight inches long from snout to root of tail and weigh over a pound. The hard wiry coat and tough skin of the Irish terrier is a good protection against the terrible down-slashing stroke of a rat's teeth. Besides which, the Irish terrier is a much more determined fighter, when aroused, and his square jaw is far more powerful than that of his black-and-white cousin."

Courtesy of "Illustrated London News."

Message Dog Wearing Gas Mask.

In order to escape poison fumes, dogs of the liaison have to be trained to wear masks, like soldiers.

"Why not use ferrets to drive the rats out the trenches, just as they do to drive them out of granaries and warehouses in the city?"

"Too unsafe," the hunchback answered. "We can't spare men enough to send them rat-hunting with ferrets, and if we simply turned the ferrets loose, they might multiply so fast that they would kill off all the rats and then become a tenfold worse danger. A ferret is twice as long as a rat and is the most murderous creature that draws the breath of life. A plague of ferrets would be fearful. They would be worse than poison gas, which is the thing that troubles me most in the kennels here."

"Why here?" asked the boy in surprise, "you're far enough in the rear to escape poison gas, surely?"

"Yes, but my dogs have to work at the front," the hunchback explained, "and they need protection, just as much as the men in the fire trench. The dogs have to become accustomed to wearing gas-masks, just like soldiers. It's hard on the dogs, too, because a dog doesn't breathe much through his nose when he's running but through his mouth and so the mask has to be made in a different way.

"You'd never believe the amount of trouble I have in trying to teach my dogs to keep from scratching the gas-masks off with their paws. I've got some little puppies that I keep in gas-masks all the time. I only take their alkali-soaked bonnets off at their breakfast and dinner time. They even sleep in them."

"Poor little beggars!" exclaimed Horace, "and they haven't even got the satisfaction of realizing why they have to do it."

"Well," said the hunchback, gravely, "I always tell them 'It's for France!' Because," he added, half-seriously, "one can never tell how much a dog understands."

Horace spent the whole of his day off duty with his old friend and returned that evening to his telephone station, full of stories of the hunchback's wonderful dogs. With great gusto he recounted to his friend the veteran the story of the canine gas-masks.

"Luckily, as yet we haven't needed them here," the sergeant-major answered, "though I suppose we may expect gas at any time. It's a dirty, sneaking way of making war, I think! The Boches only started that against the British because they hate them so. You know their 'Chant of Hate':

"'You we hate with a lasting hate, We will never forego our hate, Hate by water and hate by land, Hate of the head and hate of the hand, We love as one, we hate as one, We have one foe and one alone, England!' When you hate anybody as much as that, I suppose, even poison gas seems justified."

"One hardly realizes," said Horace, thoughtfully, "that any nation could work up such a hate."

"Germany is worse poisoned by her hate than any one of our poor asphyxiated soldiers is poisoned by their chlorine gas. Yet it's a terrible thing to be gassed. I saw some of its victims on that sector to which I was transferred for a while, this spring. A gassed man is made blind and dumb; sometimes the sight returns, and sometimes it does not. The tongue is swollen to nearly double its normal size, ulcerated and blotched with black patches. The lungs are attacked so badly that quite often the blood vessels burst and the man chokes to death with bubbling frothy blood. The arms and legs turn a mottled violet color. The pulse is no more than a faint flutter. Even those who recover have their health so badly wrecked that they can never march or work again. To lift the hands over the head a few times drives a gassed man into a violent perspiration, and to walk upstairs produces exhaustion, while others, for the rest of their lives, will never be able to eat a solid meal."

"But did that poison gas do the Germans any good?" the boy asked. "Did it achieve any military gain?"

"Yes," the veteran admitted, "it did. It almost won them the war. If they had known as much about poison gas when they started it as they do now, they would have gobbled up the little piece of Belgium which they have never been able to win and thus secured a hold on the English Channel coast."

"What stopped them?"

"Two things," the veteran replied, "the valor of the Canadians and the fact that the poison gas system which they used at the beginning was fixed and not mobile. When the fiendish fumes were first directed against fighting troops, they were projected from fixed gasometers, and the pipes leading from them were permanent and solidly made, so that they would not leak gas into their own trenches. That meant that the fumes could only be wafted from the one fixed point."

"When was it first used?"

"On April 22," the veteran answered.[20] "It was the Duke of Würtemberg's army which had the foul dishonor of being the first to employ the evil thing. About five o'clock in the evening, from the base of the German trenches and over a considerable stretch of the line, there appeared vague jets of whitish mist. Like the vapors from a witch's caldron they gathered and swirled until they settled into a definite low-hanging cloud-bank, greenish-brown below and yellow above, where it reflected the rays of the sinking sun. This ominous bank of vapor, impelled by a northeastern breeze, drifted slowly across the space which separated the two lines, just at the point where the British and French commands joined hands. The southernly drift of the wind drove it down the line.

"The French troops, staring over the top of their parapet at this curious cloud, which, for the time being, ensured them a temporary relief from the continuous bombardment, were observed suddenly to throw up their hands, to clutch at their throats and to fall to the ground in the agonies of asphyxiation.

"Many lay where they had fallen, while their comrades, absolutely helpless against this diabolical agency, rushed madly out of the mephitic mist and made for the rear, overrunning the lines of trenches behind them. Some never halted until they had reached Ypres, while others rushed westwards and put the canal between themselves and the enemy.

"The Germans, meanwhile, advanced, and took possession of the successive lines of trenches, tenanted only by dead garrisons, whose blackened faces, contorted figures and lips fringed with blood and foam from their bursting lungs, showed the agonies in which they had died. Some thousands of stupefied prisoners, eight batteries of 75's and four British batteries were the trophies won by this disgraceful victory.

Courtesy of "The Graphic."

The Zouave Bugler's Last Call.

"... he tore off his protecting mask, sent his anguished appeal to his comrades in the rear, and then lurched forward to die an agonizing death."

"It was especially terrifying to the Africans. They were ready for any form of fighting, but brigades such as the Moroccans, born and brought up under a vivid primitive fear of sorcery, were-for the first time in their history-driven into panic. They were willing to charge against men, no matter what the odds, but not against magic, and our officers had great difficulty in rallying them, even two or three days afterwards. When, however, the Algerian and Moroccan troops became convinced that it was the work of men and not of afrits or djinns, they had but one desire-revenge.

"Yet the Germans gained far less by this advantage than they should have done, for they wasted their time in consolidating the trenches they had won. A marvelous opening was before them, but for lack of personal dash, their best opportunity passed away forever. 'They sold their souls as soldiers,' as one of the English writers, Sir Conan Doyle, expressed it, 'but the Devil's price was a poor one. Had the Germans had a corps of cavalry ready and passed them through the gap, it would have been the most dangerous moment of the war.'"

"'They sold their souls as soldiers, but the Devil's price was a poor one.' That's a good phrase," repeated Horace, "I'll remember it."

"It was really the most dangerous moment of the war," the veteran continued, "for it was the only time in the war that the Germans actually broke through. They had not broken through in Belgium. They had not broken through-save for advance cavalry-at Charleroi. They had not broken through on the British left in the retreat from Mons, though it was a near shave. They had not broken through at Foch's right in the Battle of the Marne, though in a few hours more they must have done so. But they broke through at Ypres. The initial poison gas attack pierced the Allied lines for the first time.

"Then the hidebound German strategy, which wins a few battles for them and loses twice as many more, became their ruin. Finding themselves on the farther side of the line, it seemed a supreme opportunity to adopt flanking tactics. The Canadians-whom the Germans hated equally with the Australians and twice as much as the English, if that were possible-held the line to the north of the sector which had been pierced by the aid of poison gas. The Germans hungrily turned on the Canadians to encircle and crumple them up.

"They soon found that they had clutched a spiny thistle in bare hands.

"From three sides they advanced upon the Canadians, ranging their artillery in a devastating cross-fire. Not a man in the Canadian regiments expected to survive. Few did. In the teeth of every conceivable projectile, Canadian re?nforcements came up to dare and die. Again the Germans, having recharged their reservoirs, opened their poison gas valves. But the direction of the attack was different and the wind blew the fumes away. The Germans, though in gas-masks (worn for the first time that day), were not sufficiently protected and hundreds died from their own infernal device. The gas was shut off. In the night the wind changed and on Friday morning another discharge of gas was sent against the Canadian lines.

"The Canadian Highlanders received that discharge, and, though they showed themselves to be among the most gallant soldiers who ever fought like heroes in a righteous cause, they were compelled to fall back. Yet, even so, the Teutons did not break the line. On every side, the German forces poured in. They threw army corps after army corps into the gap. At one time, there were fourteen Germans against one Canadian, and the artillery concentration was as sixty shells to one.

"Yet the men held firm, knowing, that hour by hour, even minute by minute, the gap behind them was being closed by re?nforcements. They died, and died willingly, to save the day. Neither poison gas-remember, they had no masks, for the gas was a surprise only of the night before-artillery, nor overwhelming odds could break the line. The officers ran to the foremost places in the trenches and died, fighting, with the men. Every Canadian reserve was hurled into the breach, to charge and counter-attack for a few minutes before they died, that others, following, also might hold the foe for a few moments, and then die.

"By the middle of Friday morning, British re?nforcing brigades had come up. They reached the Canadian lines.

"The British halted, sent up a cheer for Canada, for a heroic fight seldom equaled in the annals of war, a fight which has given Canada a glory equal to the splendor of Belgium at Liége, of France at the Marne and of the Irish and Scotch at the Aisne, and, cheering still, the British drove at the Germans.

"Without a single moment of rest for two days and nights, the struggle continued, and, by Sunday morning, the gap was closed and the German opportunity was gone. Every advance was dammed back by rifle-fire, even though the fingers that pulled the triggers were already writhing in the intolerable agony which precedes a death from asphyxiating gas.

"Once, indeed, during the second British charge, all seemed lost, for the charge failed, and halted. For a moment it seemed to give way, then a cry ran along the English lines.

"'The Bowmen! The Bowmen of Agincourt!'

"And the British, peering through the cloud of gas, saw, before them, the ghostly shapes of ranks upon ranks of English archers, such as had fought upon the field of Europe exactly five hundred years before. Their short armor gleamed against the hideous greenish cloud and the bowstrings twanged as they released the cloth-yard arrow shafts, drawn to the head.

"Once before, at Mons, at the time when St. George also had appeared on the right wing of the Engli

sh, the left wing had seen the bowmen, when they drove back the flanking German host, and victory had been theirs for the moment.

"Remembering this, triumph rang in the shout which reverberated through the English lines:

"'The Bowmen! The Bowmen of Agincourt!'

"Neither poison gas, explosive shells, machine-guns, rifles nor bayonet could stop that rush. Backed up by three brigades of Indian troops, the English charged. They reached the front line of the trenches when once more the ominous yellow-green mist rolled on. In a moment the Indians were encircled by the dead fumes. Many of the men died where they stood. The mephitic cloud passed slowly over, but every man who was not dead was stupefied. Into the mass the rifle and shrapnel fire fell. Of one of the Indian regiments, seventy answered the roll-call that night, in another, only eleven.

"The famous Hill 60 was taken by gas. There, with a favorable wind, the Boches poured out gas in such vast quantities as to eddy and swirl around the base of the hill and finally to submerge it. The crest disappeared from sight like a rock by the advancing tide. Out of the green death, finally, came two men. There appeared staggering towards the dug-out of the commanding officer of the Duke's regiment, two figures, an officer and an orderly. The officer was pale as death and when he spoke, his voice came hoarsely from his throat. Beside him, his orderly, with unbuttoned coat, his rifle clasped in his hand, swayed as he stood. The officer said slowly in his gasping voice:

"'They have gassed the Duke's. I believe I was the last man to leave the hill. The men are all up there dead. They were splendid. I thought I ought to come and report.'

"He died that night."

"But it couldn't be like that now," said Horace, "every one's got a gas-mask."

"That doesn't save everything," the veteran replied. "You've heard the story of the Zouave Bugler's last call?"

"No," said the boy, "tell me."

"It was during a strong German offensive on one of our exposed sectors," the sergeant-major began, "when our front trench was exposed to an extraordinarily intense shell-fire, accompanied by a terrific cloud of asphyxiating gas.

"The few survivors were almost in extremis, fighting furiously and doggedly, though without hope other than that of selling their lives as dearly as they could and sending as many Germans as possible to the halls of death which they had prepared for others.

"Help was absolutely necessary if the position was to be held, and, as the men knew well, if their position fell, others would be in danger. Yet, though re?nforcements were imperative, any communication with the second line seemed impossible. The telephone wires were like the trenches, broken and pulverized, and no man could move from that inferno alive.

"There was only one way to give the news to those behind and that was by bugle. This meant certain death to the bugler, who would have to lower his gas mask to sound the call. The captain hesitated to give the order.

"The gallant clairon, however, did not wait for the word of command. As soon as he realized the danger, he tore off his protecting mask, sent his anguished appeal to his comrades in the rear and then lurched forward to die an agonizing death, though not in vain, for his brave deed had saved the day."

Courtesy of "Illustrated London News."

When Hooded Demons take the Trenches.

British at Loos charging down on Germans first line. Note the two style of bombs and the Germans surrendering a machine gun. Also note the changed type of British gas masks.

"Great!" cried Horace, his eyes shining.

"Great, indeed," echoed the veteran, "great, but awful. That a man's life should depend not on his courage, not on his skill, not on his power, but on a piece of saturated gauze before his nose-that is awful, and it is not war."

"But masks are needed!"

"More than ever," the veteran agreed, "for since that time the Germans have invented three different kinds of asphyxiating gas: the gases which have a suffocating effect, so that men die from strangulation, mainly carbonic acid and nitrogen; the poisonous gases, in which men are killed by reason of the poison of the fumes, such as carbon monoxide and cyanogen; and the spasm gases, in which men are killed by the muscular and nervous spasms set up by the gases, such as chlorine, sulphuric acid and phosgene.[21] One of our men, who was a chemist in civil life, told me all about it."

"Which were the gases used at Ypres, where the poison gas business first began?"

"Chlorine and bromine," the other answered, "so this chemist chap told me. They get the chlorine by passing strong currents of electricity through sea-water by some process he explained but which I couldn't understand; and the bromine is a by-product that they make from the Strasburg salts. But there's some other gases like sulphurous anhydride and carbonyl chloride that I don't know much about."

"Did you find out how it is that the masks really prevent poisoning?" the boy asked.

"That's simple enough. Chlorine and bromine have what this chemist fellow called an 'affinity' for alkalies, and the gas combines with the alkali somehow, so that all the poisonous effect is lost. French, English and German masks are different in shape, but the idea is the same. The Germans have a mask which fits over the nose and mouth, filled with absorbent cotton treated with hyposulphite of sodium or sodium carbonate. The French and English have a mask that covers the whole head and which can be tucked under the collar of the tunic.

"The newest kind that we're using has a tin tube three inches long and an inch in diameter, prolonged on the exterior by a rubber appendix in which there is a valve opening outward. The valve cannot open inward at all. So, when poison gas is seen coming, you can put on your mask and take the tube in your teeth. You can't breathe through your mouth, then, because the valve in the pipe won't open inward, and none of the poison gas can get in. You breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth."[22]

"It's awfully uncomfortable," said Horace; "they make me go around with a gas mask in my pocket, but every time I put it on for a few minutes, I'm glad enough to take it off again."

The veteran shook his head.

"That's foolish," he said, "because you need to become accustomed to wearing it. Practice a little bit every day. If you don't, and suddenly find yourself in the middle of a gas cloud, you won't be able to stand it more than five minutes. You'll feel that you're choking for air. So you slip it off, just for a moment's relief, the green horror catches at your throat, and you're done."

"But, as you said yourself," protested the boy, "a cloud of gas passes over, and then it's gone."

"I said it used to be that way," the sergeant-major answered, "but it's not that way any more. The Germans don't send their gas from big fixed gasometers now; they have tanks which a man can carry on his back and from which the gas is jetted by compressed air. Infantry, with gas-masks on, can come right up behind the men carrying the gas tanks and, just as soon as the heavy poison fumes begin to fill the trenches, they charge."

"Isn't there any way of stopping it?"

"Only with a fearful amount of trouble and enormous expense. Poison gas, being heavier than the air, sinks. To keep it from sinking, then, you have to create a strong upward air current. Any bonfire will do that. If, when a cloud of gas approaches or when men carrying gas reservoirs approach the trenches, you can start a bonfire every few yards along the line, the poison gas will be sucked into this up-draught and dispersed by the heat. That has been done, several times, and it was the only defense of the British at Ypres, before the gas masks were hastily improvised. But that means hauling a lot of fuel to the front, and every pound of fuel transported means a pound less of provisions and munitions. Besides, as soon as we worked out that kind of defense, the Germans schemed a new way to use the gas. Now they put it into shells by compressed air. They have two of these gas shells which they call the 'T' type and the 'K' type."

"How do we know what they call them?"

"Because those letters are painted on the ogives of the shells. The 'T' shells are filled with a very dense gas, which disperses slowly. After a storm of these shells has fallen, the air is unbreathable for an hour or sometimes two, according to the dampness of the weather. The 'K' shells are filled with a more powerful spasm-gas, virulent in its effects, but which disperses rapidly.

"The first is used in curtain fire, when the Germans expect to be assaulted. A steady dropping bombardment of 'T' shells makes a gas-filled zone. Charging troops have to wear gas masks, for they must pass through it. Defending troops do not need to wear masks, and, as you know yourself, a man is twice as quick and agile without a mask.

"The second, or 'K' shell, is used when the enemy plans to make the assault. You can't see the shells coming, there is no evidence of any change in the enemy's lines which can be reported by an a?roplane. No one knows when the German artillery has received orders to change from high explosive or shrapnel to gas shells, when, suddenly, all along the line, there drops a concerted hail of gas shells, and in ten seconds half the men in the first line trenches are gassed. It takes about twenty seconds to put on a gas-mask properly. It is a horrible, vicious, and cowardly way of making war."

"But don't we use it, too?"

"We haven't yet," the veteran answered, "but we shall have to begin soon, in self-defense.[23] Then the Boches will be sorry that they began, for their own atrocious cruelty will return on their own heads. But we have a new invention, too, which is gaining us more ground than we lost by the poison gas."

"You mean the tanks?"


"I'd like to see a tank in action," said Horace, eagerly. "But I suppose we won't have them, here."

Courtesy of "L'Illustration."

The Approach of Doom.

British tank, first appearing at Flers (September 15, 1916) which drove the German Army into a panic of unreasoning terror.

"We shall," the veteran replied, "and soon. We shall be compelled to use them. The night before last, the Germans started using liquid fire on our lines. That's a wicked thing, too. From what I hear, it is a mixture of gasoline, paraffine and tar, forced out by compressed nitrogen and ignited at the point of a long tube. It throws a jet of fire twenty or even thirty yards.[24] It burns a man to a crisp where he stands. No gas-mask will stop that."

"And the tanks don't mind it?"

"A tank minds nothing," was the answer.

That very night, Horace learned what a tank looked like.

As he was going off duty at midnight, he saw a squat colossal monster come lumbering up through the dusk. A huge rotating belt on either side dragged the Juggernaut car forward, while two wheels behind served for steering. Two protected windows in the front gave place for machine guns of the heavier patterns, and sponsons on either side mounted three machine guns operating through small openings. There were thus eight machine guns to each tank. When it is remembered that the fire of a protected machine gun is equal to fifty men, each tank represented an invulnerable company of 400 men. Moreover, not a shot need be wasted. In full fire, a tank could eject 4,800 shots per minute, or 80 bullets per second, and could carry its own fuel and ammunition.

Against the British-invented tanks all the light German trench artillery was powerless. The tank-pilots and gunners wore gas masks, hence gas could not stop them. Rifle bullets glanced from the armor-plate of the tank like hail striking on a window pane. Machine guns peppered its steel skin with no more effect than if the bullets had been pointed peas. Liquid fire found no entrance, even if a projector could be brought near. Nothing could damage a tank save a high explosive shell from the heavy batteries in the rear, and no artillerist in the world could hope to strike a small moving object several miles away.

Early next morning the two tanks advanced. There was no road. They needed none. With a grotesque, crawling gait, they waddled down and up shell holes, lurched over trenches and belly-crawled ahead.

There was nothing they resembled so much as huge antediluvian tortoises which passed unscathed amid the most ferocious prehistoric beasts, secure in the massive protection of their shelly backs. A hurricane of shot greeted them, till their outlines were dimmed to view in the blue of flying steel. Not a bullet penetrated.

Slowly, cumbrously, uncouthly, careening nose down, into a hole, climbing askew nose upwards, they sidled menacingly a tortuous course to the German lines.


Much the tanks cared for wire! They waddled on regardlessly, heeding the barbed trap no more than as though pieces of pack-thread had been stretched along the ground. Such of the wire as was tight enough they snapped, the rest they stamped deep into the mud.

Down and up!

The tanks straddled the German first-line trench.

So far, they had been voiceless.

There had not been sign nor sound of human leading. They were the incarnation in metal of grotesque terror. They seemed as an evil dream of machines that had developed life: inhuman, monstrous, dire.

Then they spoke.

The German trenches on either side were swept clean of men by that concentrated tornado spout of slaughter.

The French infantry yelled with delight and plunged into the fray after the tanks. One of the giants lifted an eyelid, as a forward window opened to let through a torrent of machine-gun fire. The blast scorched and ravaged the ground before it.

With a grunt the tanks heaved their prodigious menace on.

The Germans did not wait for their coming. They scattered and fled in all directions. They were willing enough to invent new distortions of war, such as poison gas and liquid fire, but, in childish unreason, they became furious when any new device was directed against them.

Yet still the brutes of steel crawled onward, growling, as their sponsons spit flame.

For six months the trenches on either side had remained unbroken. In sixty minutes, two tanks, backed up by the French infantry, had driven the Germans back, captured a thousand prisoners, taken several score machine guns and frightened an entire German army corps into wild-eyed and headlong panic. Its morale was broken and in spite of their officers' commands, they dared not return to the charge.

The French captured and consolidated the trenches, which were underground forts of surprising strength. One of the communication trenches was more than a hundred yards long, completely lined with timber and carried so deep underground as to be safe from anything but mining. There were dug-outs entered through a steel door, two stories in depth, with spacious rooms closely boarded. In one such dug-out, there were evidences that one of the officers had been living in comfort, with his wife and child. Another was fitted with a hydraulic mechanism for sending up excavated earth to be used in sand bags.

Some of the larger dug-outs could easily hold a platoon of men in complete security. Several tunnels led to sniper stations, like a manhole to a sewer, reaching the surface at high points. These were well timbered, with iron ladders. The trenches were lined with concrete, warm and dry. The manual labor was astounding. Contrasted with the French trenches, roughly built and damp, the German advantages all winter had been enormous.

The distant German batteries, changing their range to the location of their former trenches, commenced a heavy bombardment, but the consolidation had been rapidly effected, the French artillery had advanced without delay, engineering companies had put up new wire entanglements, and though, for a week without cessation, the Germans charged again and again, they were pushed back with heavy losses. And when, ten days later, an attack was made in force, Mesdames Tank waddled to the front again and the Germans fled in dismay. Little by little the German line was pushed back, little by little the soil of France was rewon.

But, for Horace, the end was not yet.

One bright spring morning, while busy at his switchboard in the little shelter which had been constructed for the telephone, the boy heard a thin, high whistle and a small shell crashed through the roof. It struck the floor and exploded, thin splinters flying in every direction.

Dazed with surprise that he had not been blown up sky high, Horace realized that this could not be a high explosive bomb. It must be a gas shell.

With a beating heart, he held his breath and seized his gas-mask, his fingers fumbling in his haste as he put it on, wondering, as he did so, that he had seen no green or yellow fumes arise.

British Official Sketch

Bringing up Food for the Firing Line Through a Poison Gas Cloud.

Courtesy of "Illustrated London News."

The Battle of Demon Faces Flinging Bombs in a Mist of Green Death

One minute, two minutes passed, and no fumes arose. Cautiously the boy lifted a corner of the mask and gave the merest little sniff. He smelt nothing.

It was a false alarm!

Profoundly grateful over his escape, Horace decided that by some happy accident, the shell which had fallen had been a gas shell, but, by some accident of manufacture, it had escaped being filled. Evidently, he was born lucky, he thought. Had it been a high-explosive shell, it would have blown him to atoms; had the shell been filled with gas, he would have been poisoned before he had time to put on his mask.

Five minutes passed.

Then the boy noticed, on the under side of his legs, just where his weight touched the edge of the chair, a curious prickling sensation, as though he had been stung with nettles. Unconsciously, he rubbed the place with his hand.

That instant, wherever the weight of his hand had been, the prickling began. His hand, too, began to smart.

Something was happening. A vague discomfort spread over the skin of his entire body.

He blinked his eyes. The sight was dim and blurred. He could not see clearly the holes in which to put his telephone plugs and, when he picked one up, his fingers were burning so that he let them fall.

Something was happening.

His flesh felt raw about his neck where the collar touched it, and where his skin had touched the chair, fire seemed to be eating him.

A black and purple light was blinding him, heavy fingers pressed on his eyeballs.

Gropingly he managed to find the wire to headquarters.

"I'm going blind," he mumbled, in a thick voice he could not recognize as his own, "send relief."

Relief came half an hour later and the men found Horace on the floor, his clothing half-torn from his body and his shrill screams sunk into hard, husky moanings.

The stretcher-bearers took him to the nearest dressing station.

One look was enough for the examining doctor.

"Put on rubber gloves," he said to his assistant, "take off every stitch he has and burn the clothes. Don't let them touch anything. Burn the canvas of that stretcher. Get the 'phone instruments out of that shelter and burn the shelter. Tell the operator who is there now to change his clothes and burn them, too, and tell him to come here for treatment, quickly!"

"Why, Doctor, what is it?" the assistant asked.

"Blister gas," the doctor answered, "the newest horror of those German fiends.[25] You can't see it, can't smell it, don't know it's there, but ten minutes after you've been near it, the vile stuff raises a thousand blisters on the skin. The poison will sometimes stay in the clothes for weeks. Even the wood of a chair will hold the venom."

"But is it fatal?"

"Victims die from the pain, sometimes," the doctor answered. "Take this boy here. He's had an awful dose, because, as I understand, the shell burst right in the shelter and he soaked it in. He'll be unconscious for quite a while and in about three days all those blisters will break. His body will be nothing but a sheet of raw flesh. We'll have to keep him under morphine and we'll be lucky if he pulls through."

For two long awful weeks Horace lay in a drugged state which left him dulled and yet conscious of pain. The agony rose above the an?sthetic.

At last, exhausted, weak and still in acute torment, he came to himself, to find the hunchback standing beside his bed.

The lad looked up feebly.

"Oh, Croquier," he said, speaking with a still raw throat, "I've been having such a queer dream."

The hunchback leaned forward to listen to the weary, croaking voice.

"I dreamed that Father was over here, in American uniform, and that he said:

"'We're here, my son, at last. We've lagged in late, after France and Britain's heroism, that they may show us what we still can do to save the world from the Hun.'

"And, Croquier, he had in his hand the cage with the 'captive Kaiser'!"

The hunchback leaned low over the bed.

"Remember Madame Maubin!" he said. "That, my boy, was not a dream, but a prophecy!"


* * *


[20] Official British report, April 27, 1915. No poisonous gases or bombs had been used by the Allies prior to this time.

[21] This anticipates a little the development of poisonous gases. Some of these forms were not in use until 1917.

[22] This is the main principle. It is to be remembered that new devices are constantly being experimented with and put into use on the front.

[23] The Allies refrained from using asphyxiating gases for several months, but by 1918, they had attained superiority in their use.

[24] First used in the spring of 1917.

[25] This gas was a development of 1918; it is known as gas vesical.

Transcriber's Note:

Retained some inconsistent hyphenation (e.g. gun-fire vs. gunfire).

Added missing umlauts to "Würtemberg" in multiple places.

Page v, changed "in not" to "is not."

Page vi, changed "L'illustration" to "L'Illustration" and "Le Monde Illustré" to "Le Monde Illustre" for consistency with image captions.

Page viii, changed "Liège" to "Liége" for consistency.

Page 100, removed unnecessary quote before "I-I-."

Page 104, changed "Evidenly" to "Evidently."

Page 122, changed "in second" to "in seconds."

Page 156, changed "near-by" to "near by" for consistency.

Page 172, removed "he" from "he declared the hunchback."

Page 178, changed "French speak" to "French speaks."

Page 228, added missing close quote after "Yes, sir."

Page 241, changed "is orders" to "'is orders."

Page 252, changed comma to period after "upon the map."

Page 259, removed unnecessary comma from "Two days, later."

Page 308, changed "aeroplane" to "a?roplane" for consistency.

Page 311, changed "aeroplane" to "a?roplane" for consistency.

Page 350, changed "writters" to "writers."

Page 355, changed period to colon after "gasping voice."

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