About noon on the following day the two army corps were already south of Leith. A brigade had been pushed forward towards the south; the rest of the troops had bivouacked, that the men might recuperate after their two days’ sea journey.
The quartermasters had purchased provisions for ready money in the town, the villages, and the scattered farmhouses. The warships filled their bunkers from the abundant stock of English coal, guardships being detached to ensure the safety of the squadron. The Admiral had ordered that, after coaling, the warships should take up a position at the entrance to the bay, the transports remaining in the harbour. In the possible event of the appearance of a superior English squadron the whole fleet was to leave the Firth of Forth as rapidly as possible and disperse in all directions. Certainly in that case the army would be deprived of the means of returning, but the military authorities were convinced that the appearance of an army of 60,000 German troops on British soil would practically mean the end of the war, especially as an equally strong French corps was to land in the south. The military authorities consequently thought they need not trouble themselves further about the possibility of the troops having to return.
The garrison of Edinburgh had surrendered without resistance, since it would have been far too weak to offer any opposition to the invading army. Accordingly the German officers and soldiers could move about in the town without hindrance. A number of despatches and fresh war bulletins were found which threw some light upon the strategic position, although they were partly obscure, and partly contained obvious falsehoods.
A great naval battle was said to have taken place off Flushing on the 15th of July, ending in the retreat of the German and French fleets with heavy losses. It was further reported that the British fleet had destroyed Flushing and bombarded several of the Antwerp forts. Lastly, according to the newspapers, the English fleet which had been stationed before Copenhagen had entered Kid harbour and captured all the German ships inside, the loss of the English battleships at the Kieler Fohrde being admitted. The German officers were convinced that only the report of the loss of the two battleships deserved credit, since the English would hardly have invented such bad news. Everything else, from the position of things, bore the stamp of improbability on the face of it.
The trumpets blew, the soldiers grasped their arms, the battalions began their march. The batteries clattered along with a dull rumble. In four columns, by four routes, side by side the four divisions started for the south.
THE BATTLE OF FLUSHING
The strategy of red tape, by which the Commander-in-Chief’s hands were tied, was destined, as in so many previous campaigns, to prove on this occasion also a fatal error to the English.