I, therefore, from the facilities given me, can only make one assertion in summing up my opinion of the French grand army of 1915, that it is strong, courageous, scientifically intelligent, and well trained as a champion pugilist after months of preparation for the greatest struggle of his career. The French Army waits eager and ready for the gong.
[From The London Morning Post, Feb. 1, 1915.]
The Echo de Paris has published today a letter that throws a considerable amount of light upon the psychology of the French soldier, and that shows how he behaves himself when subjected to very trying fire and compelled to act on his own initiative. It is written by the man to his wife, and is as follows:
I am acting as guard to a convoy, and am comfortably installed, with no work to do, in the house of an old woman who has lent me a candle and writing materials. I shan’t be suffering from the cold in the way I have done on previous nights, as I have a roof over me and a fire. What luxury! It’s been freezing for several nights, and you feel the frost when you are sleeping in the open. But that is nothing to the three days we passed in the village of ——. We were stationed in the mairie. In front of us in the clock tower an artillery Captain was taking observations. On the road between the church and the mairie a Sergeant and four artillerymen were sending orders to the battery behind us. Suddenly a shell struck. We saw the artillerymen on the ground and the Sergeant alone left standing.
The fire was so thick that no one could think of going out. But suddenly one of the men moved, so I got up to find out about it, taking care to put on my knapsack. When I was among them I found that one had been hit right in the heart; two others were dying, one with his head in a pulp and the other with his thigh broken and the calf of his leg torn to a jelly. I helped the Sergeant to mend the telephone wire that had been broken by the shell, and all the time we were having shells and bits of brick breaking around us.
Then I went back to the mairie, and asked for some one who would not be frightened to come with me. Two of us went off to the village for a stretcher. I found one at the old ambulance, and was just leaving it when I heard the scream of a shell, and took cover in the chimney—just in time. A big black brute smashed half the house in. My comrade and I hurried off after the wounded man. Our pals were watching us from the mairie, wondering if we should ever get back. Old Gerome, (that’s me,) they said, will get back all right, and when back at the mairie I began to give the wounded man first aid. Another shell came along, and the place shook, window panes rained upon us, and dust blinded us, but at last it cleared.