The Great War, I was there - Part 8

Part 9 of THE GREAT WAR: I WAS THERE!On Sale Everywhere Next Tuesday Leaves from the Editor’s Note-Book (Continued from page //of this raw pp er) to August 28,1914, and suggests that another thing which should be remembered is the great heat, which might well setup a mirage effect on those long, flat Belgian plains, particu­larly in the evening light. Moreover, the presence on the line of retreat of the Scots Greys, who, as we know, painted their light-coloured horses with permanganate of potash to reduce their visibility, combined with the mirage effect of their apparent riding upside-down in the far distance, was, he suggests, quite enough to convey to men in nearly the last stages of exhaustion an impression of spectral horsemen. Be this as it may, effects and impressions of this sort w'ould certainly tend to deepen the after-effects of such an excellent story as Mr. Machen’s, although, ashe says, it was not actually published until the end of September in that year. correspondent throws out the extremely interesting hint that the other myth which Mr. Machen demolishes so easily and, to my mind, completely— that of the fabulous Russian hosts who were supposed to be travelling in number­less troop trains through all parts of England— may have had avery slight and genuine basis in fact. His information is that about a thousand Russian reservists, who happened to be in America when the war broke out, were collected, equipped, and sent to Liverpool in September 1914. Thence they proceeded by troop train to Avonmouth, and soto France, where, incidentally, they are said to have given the French quite a lot of trouble. He thinks that this, if it were a fact, was quite enough to start the whole story, and I must say that when one considers how quickly such yarns get spread abroad and how' ridiculously they may become exaggerated, I think it quite possible that some such relatively insignificant fact may have produced the myth of the colossal Russian reinforce­ments. These are questions and arguments to which no final conclusion is possible but they undoubtedly possess a perpetual attraction to the human mind. R W any have been the queries and questions that 1 have already received. Most of these I have replied to direct, but two of them I think are well worth comment on this page. Mr. W. J. Hannington, an Ex-Staff Sergeant-Major, 12th Royal Lancers, who was attached to the Northumberland Hussars, asks me— rather unnecessarily, perhaps— if we are going “to perpetuate the old story of the London Scottish Territorials being first inaction.” This is a matter which had previously come to my notice, for it is a comparatively old bone of contention. As my correspondent says, the Official History of the War gives the Oxfordshire Hussars as being the first Territorials “to come into collision with the enemy.” But there seems no doubt that the first to come into real action were the Northumberland Hussars, who suffered a patrol ambush on October 10th and another patrol action on the 15th, the regiment as a whole being engaged with a German cyclist battalion on the 19th, and being again inaction in Polygon Wood on October 23rd and 24th. THE London Scottish, of course, as we noted in Part 6 of The Great War: I Was There !in connexion with the most excellent chapter by my old friend Herbert de Hamel, were the first London Territorial Battalion to engage the enemy, the date ol their action near Messines being October 31, when, as was told in that very vivid chapter, “they covered themselves with imperishable glory.” There is always some confusion in these claims to priority but I think there is now no room for doubt so far as these two Territorial units are concerned. Incidentally Mr. de Hamel is justifiably rather proud of the fact that as a sergeant on the reserve when there was a full complement of active list sergeants, he voluntarily reverted to private in order to get to France with the first battalion of the London Scottish. In the note under his portrait in Part 6 we omitted the rather important words ‘‘on the reserve” and I make this note lest any unthinking person should'imagine the reversion cast any reflection upon his capacity as a sergeant. J then. next letter for comment we leave the Western Front. Mr. Geal tells me that his father, who is still alive, w'as a member of the 29th Division which made the unforgettable landing from the River Clyde and other transports at Gallipoli on Sunday, April 25,1915. His father was among the first ashore, and was happily and miraculously unhurt. He knows another man who was the last man to get ashore from the shambles of the River Clyde, and is verv anxious that there should be in our work a clear and correct account of this landing. Many that he has read are incorrect— even the B.B.C., he says, failed to mention the English troops on the River Clyde in their 21st anniversary broadcast. Also, every picture and illustration that he has ever seen is a misrepresentation of the actuality, and both he and his son are looking forward w'ith interest to see how this, one of the greatest epics of the whole war, is presented in our pages. flow, I cannot promise, of course, that in an anthology such as our work is, every important detail of an action or a battle will be described. The essential feature of The Great War: I Was There !is that it presents only accounts and stories written by the men who were actually there. Generally, we can give only one account of any. particular action, and as that must be seen through the eyes of one man it is obvious that it cannot be as complete and comprehensive as an historical account written after consulting all the documents available. But our method does give not only the immense human interest and vividness of the eye-w'itness story, but an actuality that no pedantically accurate historian can ever convey. I feel sure that when Mr. Geal reads the account in the present Part by Major Mure, who was actually on one of the transports alongside the River Clyde and saw both the landing and the fighting afterwards on the beach and the cliffs, he will be well satisfied. g faro as illustrations are concerned, of course, Mr. Geal maybe equally well satisfied. As I have already mentioned in this Note-Book, illustrations to this work are definitely, with the rarest exceptions, photographic, and although the photographer cannot select as the Academy painter can, and vary the emphasis according to the idea which he wishes to present, the photographer again shares with the eye-witness writer that immediacy and accuracy which no painter can equal. To Make Sure of Getting Your Copy, Give Your Newsagent a Firm Order NOW
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