The Great War Part 180, January 26th 1918

¦ ;v - ~ _; . .................................. ] Cbe Great War E D IT O R S H. W. WILSON J. A. HAMMERTON O R EDITORIAL B M I A T T L E stories anim ate the chapters which constitute • this Part of T h e G r e a t W a i <. Glencorse Hill and Polygon W ood, H outhulst Forest, Langem arck, and Passchendaele Ridge are names w ritten in the life-blood of tw o great Em pires upon the m ap of Belgium and inscribed in golden glory on the colours of m any a Britisn regiment. In actual term s of hum an life the alternate processes of B ritish advance and Germ an counter-attack were horrible, and the strain upon the endurance of both Armies was unparalleled and past imagining. B u t the moral of the B ritish was the better, and the balance of the victory was theirs. The story of it as narrated here throbs w ith intensity. Hill 35 and Polygon Wood \ LM O ST em otional in their intensity are the passages ¦ **- devoted to the " tragic d ay for Ireland ” when, weakened b y their attack, her sons cam e all unsheltered under the fire of thousands of German guns massed upon the centre of the battlefield where the advanced Irish line was pierced and m any groups of it surrounded. H ill 35 w ill be remembered long in U ls te r ; but its blood­ stained slopes were sanctified b y splendid sacrifice and devotion— of warrior striving to take life, of doctor strivin g to save it, and of priest on his knees b y dying men speeding their souls with prayer. H ardly less tragic was th at d a y for English C ounty regiments and London battalions on the right of the Irish Divisions, w ith Polygon W ood for their objective. They, too, cam e under a tornado of lead— shrapnel bullets, high-explosive shells, and gas-shells poured from the parks of Germ an guns to the south and the east of them, and the w astage of life was grievous. Y e t the lesson th ey taught the enemy was th at he could kill but he could not conquer. When it comes to hard pounding, the B riton to-day, like the Briton of a hundred years ago, m ay be trusted to pound longest. Canada and Ludendorff Q U IT E as stirring is the battle-story of the Canadians at Lens, and it provides Mr. W right w ith an occasion to digress into one of the searching and most instructive dissertations of political strategy which are so distin­ guishing a feature of his historical m ethod. H e shows th at the repeated victories won b y the Canadians had had a most disturbing effect upon German opinion and upon the spirit of German troops opposed to , them, Ludendorff feared th a t a success at Lens com parable to th at won at V im y R idge would determ ine Canadian opinion in favour of com plete national service w ith cul­ m inating results disastrous to himself. H e hoped th at by subjecting them to an exceptional heavy w astage process he m ight dishearten the people of the Dominion and weaken the links which bound it to the M other Country. Conse­ quently, he paid them the m ilitary com plim ent of turning the fiercest blast of his fu ry upon them — and got badly burned for his pains. Lens was the new trium ph for Canada that Ludendorff dreaded it m ight b e ; and the result of the Canadian election, which was to determine the question of increasing her energy in sending over fighting men to Europe, was definitely in favour of the B ritish m ilitary cause. Subtle and far-seeing though Ludendorff was, he was a born m iscalculator where the psychology of the B ritish race was concerned. H e sought to weaken and destroy tlje B ritish Em pire b y drainirg the Overseas Dominions of their blood, and, behold I every drop that he spilled on the ground only went to the stronger cem enting of the great fabric. O N E point which Mr. W right m akes in the chapters here presented is th at people in this country who spread the opinion th at war-weariness has already sapped the moral of the German A rm y are playing the enem y’s game. B y a propaganda am ong the German soldiery— w hich he candidly acknowledges to have been brilliant— he shows how Ludendorff converted w hat war-weariness did exist am ong the German soldiery into an incentive to fierce action. H e hypnotised them into the belief th at if the B ritish A rm y could be held until overwhelm ing reinforcem ents could be brought from the Russian front, the w ar in the. west and south of E urope would be brought to a m ilitarily successful conclusion m onths before an adequate Am erican arm y could be brought into the field. Duty versus Fanaticism TT was a plausible proposition, and won such acceptance among the troops that there was seen on the western front som ething that had not been seen on any front since August, 1914— large numbers of individual Germ ans of the peasant and urban classes w illingly sacrificing them ­ selves in forlorn hopes along the first line of defences in m agnanimous endeavour to secure for their children “ the entire earth as a heritage." “ N ot since the Saracens fell at Tours,” says Mr. W right, “ and the Mongols were broken on the marches of Poland, had Europe seen such an out­ burst of intense m ilitary fanaticism as th at which carried the German A rm y through the cam paign of Y pres, and there left it battered, yet still unbroken in spirit.” A G A IN S T that fanaticism the B ritish A rm y set its n ative strong sense of d u ty and “ the strongest will to win th a t the world has ever know n,” to use words em ployed b v the semi-official “ Cologne G azette ” in an article published at the end of 1917, and intended to dissi­ pate misapprehensions still existing in Germ any as to the tem per of Great B ritain at the beginning of 1918. It proved an effective antidote to the Prussian evil. A t Lens the Germ an troops, in the first flush of their revived fanaticism , were ordered to recapture Hill 70 at all costs. Prussian Guards strove to fulfil the order, nobly upholding their finest traditions, and th ey failed. A t m any of the Cites surrounding the w ar-tortured tow n— each one a separate fortress, strongly held— savage fighting followed, and at each a fresh victory w as registered for d u ty over fanaticism . So the great story goes on. Mr. W right will carry it a farther stage forward in the n ext P art of T h e G r e a t W a r , recording the incidents and issue of the struggle that was resumed on the B elgian terrain in the neighbourhood of Zonnebeke and eastwards from Y p res to the Passchendaele Ridge, henceforward to be remembered as the scene of yet another trium ph for B ritish sense of d u ty and will to win. And so the story will go on, until m ilitary fanaticism and arrogant pretensions to rule the earth are broken idols for the Teutonic peoples. s The Great War—Part ISO. »
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