Hide Articles List

5 articles on this Page




I WILL THE GERMAN SHORTEN HIS LINE? The message which a British cor- respondent at army headquarters was allowed to send through yester- day giyee immediate interest to a, question which must be present in the mid oi every man who follows «ueh quotations from the enemy press as are telegraphed from Hol- i land. It is: are tho dapreAse4 ar- ticles meant to break gently to the Germans the imperative necessity for a shortening of the line in the West? The German press is well under the heel of the military power. There is not much liberty left to the British press to- day, but our journals still retain, and will retain, the right to apeax truth, even though at times it is necessary not to state all the truth. We caimofe conceive an enemy journal grousing against autho- rity—unless under order. P. a hind the pessimism of the extracts from the German press given us this week is a reason. The Gerrnan publicity machine is working with some definite purpose in view.. The Berliner Tageblatt," when it seeks to raise the hair of its readers by a realistic account of the terrors on the Somme, and the inferiority of the German artillery, has an- other purpose in mind than the sup- plying of vivid news. Whilst the hand is that of its correspondent, the director is not in the newspaper office but at Stan Headquarters. And their master's voice speaks in dismal tones through the whole German press. What is the object? I Firstly it may be an apology fOJ; the mistaken line taken at the end of July, when all Germany was as- sured that tho danger on the Somme had been overcome. It was de- clared, a month ago, that the ad- vance was dead. Instead, the danger has increased, the ad- vance has gone on. Something had to be done in the way of explana- tion; and the principle explanation appears to be that the Allies have massed a preponderance of guns. Secondly, it is suggested in some quarters that it may be the de- pressed tone of the enemy journals depression, we may be perfectly sure, under orders—is adopted to prepare the German mind for an attempt to shorten the lines in the west. The British correspondent to whom we have referred, speaking of the curious fact that af ter the cap- ture of Guillemont there was only a heavy howitzer barrage put up by the German, and no whiz-bangs" sent over, comments that this means either that the field artillery has withdrawn beyond range from apprehension of the guns falling into our hands, or as the prelimi- nary to a general withdrawal. Not much is to be said in favour of the latter! A general withdrawal is not an easy operation, even if the ground given up is small. The theorists who cling to the hope that this is what is about to happen, lose sight for the moment of the fact that a withdrawal is a vast business after practically two years in one position; that it meatis the removal of mountains of stores, the aban- donment of much material, the making of new rail-heads and ad- vanced bases. And a withdrawal cannot be a sectional affair. A re- retirement from the Somme front is likely to mean a disturbance of the whole western line, and when we re- member that a retirement could be effected only at appalling cost in life and material, we do not feel in- clined to think that the new tone of the German press leads up to that idea. No., the Germans are not likely to retire to a shortened front —yet. Affairs have not reached that desperate stage with them. Mr. Belloc, a reliable guide when he is not engaged in bewildering he is not c--n gag ed Iin bewl l(l.i-n- says, this week, all that 4 eivitiaii out,side ijhe secrets of General Head- quarters' can say. It is not desir- able to indulge in speculations as to the ultimate strategical purposes we are aiming at, in oonjunctioa with the French; but he disposes of the crude notion that it is to be our fate to be for ever fighting for the possession of this village and that, reconquering France from the in- vader yard by yard. It is not the object of the Allies to acquire nar- row and long belts of ground alone, nor even to reduce one by one suc- cessive lines as the enemy construct them. It is their object to maintain -in unbroken superior pressure upon a certain chosen sector of the enemy's front, and to* keep this pressure at such a high "potential (to borrow a term from physical science), that the enemy sh..¡Jl be compelled to concentrate here a very large fraction of his available effectives, that his loss shall give him increasing anxiety, That the perpetual necessity of resting and replacing men under such a strain shall exhaust his numbers, and that he shall be prevented altogether, or perilously hampered, in his at- tempt—which must come sooner or later—to save his diminishing re- sources by a retirement that- would shorten his line. Our supremacy in long-range fir- ing would lead to fearful enemy losses were he to resolve upon a withdrawal. The parallel of the Gallipoli evacuation will not do. For the eyes of our army never sleep. Day and night we get to know what the enemy is doing. And once we saw him on the move we. could send disaster into his arrav. The Somme pictures that have been shown in Swansea this week give some sort of an idea what our heavy guns can do. No one who sees, upon the screen, the representation of that awful barrage we raised on July 1st will ever forget it. What then is the actual scene like The writer stood on a hillside behind the lines some weeks ago, upon a dazzling August afternoon when nature seemed in her most gracious mood. The corn, planted in late spring by the dauntless women and children of France, upon a slope perilously open then to German fire, awaited the scythe of the mower. Even to the edges of the old trenches it grew, even amid the barbed-wire entangle- mentis that were mute witnesses of old fighte. One looked over the val- ley where the Virgin and child gazed < downwards upon the ruin of Pic- ardy's -Jerusalem—for this town has J been for centuries a place of pious j pilgrimage—over to the scarred land where so many thousands of I our lads had fallen. Save for the 1 white lines across country where jt was scored by the trenches, and the t sentinels watching in the skies, it ( waa hard to discover., the £ moment, a sign of war. Presently on the clearly-defined horizon, some- where beyond Pozieres and t-owarcli (Tu-illeii-iont, a white cloud in the air, then another, and another. The battle had re-opened. One caught the fire-spit of the guns, then their boom, then the rushing message of the shells, and finally saw their de- livery on and behind the German trenches. Soon the horizon was curtained in smoke, and one knew; that death was raining in upon thE) enemy in a most terrible shape. An: awesome spectacle—but merely ani afternoon incident, dismissed in thef British communique, one noted later on, in some such lines as these i During 'the day, there was greafi artillery activity on our part." Imagination fails to conjure up the scene that would be presented were our guns trained on a foe seek- ing to retire to new lines. The prob. abilities are that the Boche will hang on until the situation grows really precarious. It is scarcely, that yet. The four massed attacks south of the Somme reported irL, Friday's French communique reveal that he has not given up the hopei that he can retrieve his position, ce at worst, steady his line where it now stands. Although lie knows in his heart that his star is de- scending, he is far from being beaten. We spoke this week of the physique of the German prisoners  taken lately, and controverted the I tale that the enemy wa? now mad<? up of very young and old men. Con, firmation of our contention is con- tained in a message, from one of thd press correspondents printed this • morning. He declares that he saw a large body of prisoners—some 700 -drawn up in marching order. On the whole they looked a formidable lot of men. There were many young and weedy ones among them and some well over 40. A large pro- portion, however, were sound and stalwart men. But the correspon- dent tells us that it is by no means the best-Looking men among them who always fight the best, nor the puny who are the readiest 'to sur- render. Again and again parties \.1! three or four of our men-un-l kempt, dirty, and great-hearted- have rounded up batches of Ger-: mans much exceeding themselves in number.. We print to-day an Amsterdam; telegram which reveals the fact thak the new chief of the German Genertr Staff, Marshal Von Hindenburg, Is now visiting-for the first time it is ,said-the Western Front. He has a pretty problem to solve. As the Times points out, the new commander has to live up to his reputation as a thruster," on pairB of being flung down from his pedes- tal and following his predeceesoc into obscurity. But thruster though he be, it is plain to the merest civilian that he cannot thrust upon all fronts at onee. He must take his choice between the .F'list- the est, arid it seems probable may impi. tnvj liiast the less unhopeful of the two. The problem before him, if he doea make this choice, is to get togethei a force strong enough to strike a crushing blow there without hope- lessly weakening his li,nes in France; and Belgium. The old man has the most ter- rible task which has ever faced a military commander. He will see, on the Western Front, our gun mastery. Our heavies have no rivals. We are told to-day that, above all other places the sur- roundings of Trones Woods arc mac- adamised with German shell-casesi and fragments, which are restored1 to missile work by the explosion of other shells. And we fire even more and much heavier shells than the enemy! That is (and will be) "the chief reason why we are moving forward, in spite of the hill, and the enemy is moving backward. Add to that the exultant spirit of our soldiers. The men are said to be fighting with a sense of victory which is half the battle. They feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have the German on the run at last, and that by getting hard on to him, taking all risks, they will keep him running. Let us trust that they will; but do not let us allow our hopes to run headlong. W e face an astute and crafty foe., The first week of Von Hindenburg as generalissimo has been hapless. Even the claim made with regard to Rumania has been riddled. And with Brusidloff again on the move, with Sarrail patiently waiting his hour in the Balkans, with Cadorn3 preparing another blow against the miserable Austrians, destiny seems closing in upon the breakers of the world's peace. The K^er is re- ported t-o have come to Com hIes to exhort his troops to resistance. One sees him gazing at nightfall at the flaming skies, an d one wonders whether he needs; an interpreter ol the messages of light filling the heavens. mene, k.el, upharsin.



[No title]