The Great War, I was there - Part 5

at hand, and looking for the cause f saw an armoured-train, with guns en brunche“ steaming towards me. It halted, fired again. Iran towards it, and was obligingly hauled by a couple of Beig’an officers who were standing at its open door into a goods-van or horse-van which formed the wooden tail of the metal train. A s I struggled in I saw the forms of some of our own sailors at the guns in the armoured trucks ahead. This train was an improvisation of an ollicer of the Royal Navy, ever at its most royal when overruling difficulties. It had been assembled with the help of the Cockerill workshops in Antwerp. It was one of a pair, each bearing 4'7 naval guns in steel-plated trucks, with a couple of magazine-trucks attached, drawn by two engines. Lieutenant-Com- mandcr Littlejohns was its deviser and presided over one of his trains. The other was in charge of a Belgian, Captain Servais. Naval gunners manned both trains, assisted by Belgian volunteers. These trains were, to say the least of it, widely known in defence circles, and had all sorts of names from “Le Rapide Leel-le-jaw "(i.e. Littlejohns belfjice) to“le wagon-lil.” Somehow they main­tained a seafaring character they cruised allover the threatened L erre hinterland, firing away indefatigably at the enemy. What is more, they eluded him persistently, despite all his kitc- balloons, Zeppelins and aircraft. As soon as the Germans had got their range Littlejohns or Servais would tack up the raiiway-line and watch inter­estedly the shells detonating over their recent berth. If any instrument of war can be light-hearted this train was. When I was dragged on board to the grins of the watching seamen I found that its Belgian officers and men had absorbed the communicative naval manner. A R MYTH A TWAS TOO LATE stayed up most of the night. Earlier in the evening there had been another Council of War at the Royal Palace, and the determination had been reached to fight 011. King Albert, Mr. Churchill records, “preserved an un­alterable majesty ”in the face of untoward fortune. Hope endured still that an Anglo-French force woul 1 reach Antwerp from the coast within three days, in time to raise the siege. Some of our troops had already massed for the purpose in maritime Flanders, but the decision, or perhaps the opportunity, to form this army had come just too late. Time was lost in the passage of notes between England and France, in the technical preparations of transport, and in various facings and fronting!? soon made necessary by the German army’s movement at the northward end of its Cline. o the situation rushed into crisis at Antwerp. Our last offensive was taken that afternoon by two Belgian regiments, who, at the bayonet’s point, drove the Germans established on the near bank back across the Nethe. Part of the newly arrived Naval Brigade attacked at their side. But there was much confusion and alack of co­ordination. I cull from the official history of the Marines during the. war the acid statement that “there appear to have been present a number of un­official staff-officers and politicians who attached themselves to the staff and gave orders to the troops.” I do not think this is intended for Mr. Churchill, who as First Lord of the Admiralty could hardly be described as unofficial. If it were so intended it would be unjust, for he only gave orders when it was a question of his orders or of none at all and after he had conferred with General Deguise and had obtained his agreement and his leave. In any case, this effort of the Belgians could not be renewed. •The sweet fibre of Allied support out,drew thinned to Photoprcss FIRST THE RIFLE, THEN COLD STEEL The Belgian Army showed extraordinary bravery and tenacity in the defence of Antwerp. Here men of an infantry regiment are lining the banks of the N^the, peppering the German positions with incessant rifle fire, while across the river the smoke of a burning village goes up. These men could use cold steel as well as the rille, and Mr. Jeffries relates in this chapter how, with an heroic charge, they drove the Germans back in hand to hand fighting across the Nethe in a last desperate effort tn save the city.
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