England And France Strike In The North
( Originally Published 1918 )
UP to July 18, 1918, the Allied armies in France had been steadily on the defensive, but on that date the tide turned. General Foch, who had been yielding territory for several months in the great German drives, now assumed the offensive himself and began the series of great drives which was to crush the German power and drive the enemy in defeat headlong from France.
The first of these great blows was the one which began with the appearance of the Americans at Château-Thierry. The Germans had formed a huge salient whose eastern extremity lay near Rheims, and its western extremity west of Soissons. It was like a great pocket reaching down in the direction of Paris from those two points. Against this salient the French and Americans had directed a tremendous thrust. The Germans resisted with desperation. It was the turning point of the war, but they were compelled to yield. Town after town was regained by the French and American troops, until, by August 5th, the Crown Prince had been driven from the Marne to the Vesle, and the salient had been completely obliterated.
On August 7th General Foch delivered his second blow. During the fighting on the Marne it had often been wondered by those who were observing the great French general's strategy, why the British seemed to make no move. Occasionally there had been reports of minor assaults, either on the Lys salient, far north, or on the Somme and Montdidier sec-tors, lying between. It had not been noticed that in these minor assaults the English had been obtaining positions of strategic importance, and that they were steadily getting ready for an English offensive.
But their time had now come, and on Au-gust 7th the armies of Sir Douglas Haig began an attack against the armies of Prince Rupprecht on the Lys salient. This was followed, on August 8th, by another still greater Allied advance in Picardy, between Albert and Montdidier.
Both of these attacks met with notable success. On the Lys salient the English penetrated a distance of one thousand yards over a four-mile front, and followed up this advance by persistent attacks which led to the reoccupation, on August 19th, of Merville, and on August 31st, of Mont Kemmel. On this front the Germans had weakened their strength by withdrawing troops to aid other parts of their front, and the British were constantly taking advantage of this weakening.
The Germans had found this salient a failure. It had failed to attain its objective, the flanking of the Lens line south. They there-fore were steadily retreating without any intention other than to extricate themselves from positions of no value, in the most economical manner. The quick operations of the British, however, led to the capture of many prisoners and a number of machine guns and trench mortars.
The English offensive in Picardy was a more serious matter, and from some points of view was the greatest offensive in the war. The Allied front had been prepared for offensive operations by minor attacks which had secured for the Allied troops dominating positions. The attack was a surprise attack. The Germans were expecting local attacks but not a movement of this magnitude. The surprise was increased because it was made through a heavy mist which prevented observation. It was preceded by tremendous artillery fire which lasted for four minutes, and which was followed by the charge of infantry and tanks. The German artillery hardly replied at all, and only the resistance of a few rifles and machine guns fired vaguely through the fog met the charging troops.
The attack was on a twenty-five-mile front and on the first day gained seven miles, captured seven thousand men and a hundred guns. On the following day there was an advance of about five miles and seventeen thousand more prisoners were captured.
The Germans were now retiring in great haste, blowing up ammunition dumps and abandoning an enormous quantity of stores of all kinds. The English were using cavalry and airplanes, which were flying low over the field and throwing the German troops into con-fusion. Over three hundred guns, including many of heavy caliber, were captured. The ground had been plowed up by shells and thousands of bodies of men and horses were found lying where they fell. A feature of the attack was the swift whippet tanks which advanced far ahead of the infantry lines.
In the French official report occurred the following statement :
"The brilliant operation which we, in concert with British troops, executed yesterday has been a surprise for the enemy. As occurred in the offensive of July 18th the soldiers of General Debeney have captured enemy soldiers engaged in the peaceful pursuit of harvesting the fields behind the German lines."
By August 10th the Germans had fallen back to a line running through Chaumes and Raye. Montdidier had been captured, and eleven German divisions had been smashed. By August 12th the number of prisoners was 40,000, and by the 18th the Allied front was almost in the same line as it was in the summer of 1916, before the battle of the Somme.
The next step was to capture Bapaume and Peronne. The French, on August 19th, captured the Lassigny Massif, and continued to press on their attack. Noyon fell on the 29th, Roye on the 27th, Chaumes on the 29th. Further north the British had captured Albert, and on the 29th occupied Bapaume. On September 1st they took Peronne with two thousand prisoners.
The advance still continued, and the German weakness was becoming more and more apparent. On September 6th the whole Allied line swept forward, with an average penetration of eight miles. Chauny was captured and the fortress of Ham. On September 17th the British were close to St. Quentin and the French in their own old intrenchments before La Fère. On September 18th a surprise advance over a twenty-two-mile front crossed the Hindenburg line at two points north of St. Quentin, Villeret and from Pontru to Hollom.
The first and third British armies, a little further to the north, were moving toward Cambrai and Douai, threatening not only them, but to get in the rear of Lens. This force proceeded up the Albert-Bapaume highway, and on August 27th captured a considerable portion of the Hindenburg line. On the 30th they reached Bullecourt and on September 2d crossed the Drocourt Quéant line on a six-mile front. This was the famous switch line, meant to supplement the Hindenburg line and its capture meant the complete overthrow of the German intrenched positions at this point.
The Germans retreated hastily to the Canal du Nord, and on September 3d Quéant was captured by an advance on a twenty-mile front, along with ten thousand prisoners. The Allied forces were moving steadily forward. On September 18th the British reached the defenses of Cambrai and were encircling the city of St. Quentin. On October 3d the advance upon Cambrai forced the Germans to evacuate the Lens coal fields, and on October 9th another advance over a thirty-mile front enabled the Allies to occupy Cambrai and St. Quentin. On the 11th they had reached the suburbs of Douai. By this time the whole of the Picardy salient had been wiped out.
The preceding summary of this great movement gives little idea of the tremendous struggle which had gone on during these two critical months, and hardly does more than suggest the tremendous importance of the British operations. The Hindenburg line was like a great fortification, and for more than a year had been regarded as impregnable. At Bullecourt there were two main lines. One hundred and twenty-five yards in front of the first line was a belt of wire twenty-five feet broad, so thick that it could not be seen through. The line itself contained double machine-gun emplacements of ferro-concrete, one hundred and twenty-five yards apart, with lesser emplacements between them. More belts of wire protected the support line. Here a continuous tunnel had been constructed at a depth of over forty feet. Every thirty-five yards there were exits with flights of forty-five steps. The tunnels were roofed and lined and bottomed with heavy timber, and numerous rooms branched off. They were lighted by electricity. Large nine-inch trench mortars stood at the traverses and strong machine-gun positions covered the line from behind.
The Hindenburg line was really only one of a series of twenty lines, each connected with the others by communicating trenches. The main lines were solid concrete, separated by an unending vista of wire entanglements. At points this barrier of barbed wire extended in solid formation for ten miles. This tremendous system of defenses was originally called by the Germans the Siegfried line, and in the spring of 1917 they found it wise, at points where a strong offensive was expected, to fall back to it for protection. It had been their hope that it would prove an impassable barrier to the Allied troops, but now it had been broken, and the moral effect of the British success was even greater than the material.
One of the most noticeable results of the British advance had been the capture of Lens. It had been captured without a fight, because of the British threat upon its rear, but its capture was of tremendous importance. Lens had been the scene of bitter fighting in the latter part of August, 1917, when the Canadians had specially distinguished themselves. This city had been heavily fortified by the Germans who had recognized its importance as being the center of the great Lens coal fields, and they had never given it up. It had sometimes been described as the strongest single position that had ever confronted the Allies on the western front. It had been made a sort of citadel of reinforced concrete. Even the courage and power of the Canadians had only given them possession of some of its suburbs. Between these suburbs and the concrete citadel were the coal pits, with their fathomless depths of ages and the mysteries of kultural strategy. The struggle became a succession of avalanches of gas, burning oil, rifle and machine-gun fire. Both sides lost terrifically, but the Germans had held the town. Now it was given up with-out a blow and its great coal fields were once more in possession of the French. Before re-treating the Germans showed their usual destructive energy and the mines were found flooded as a result of consistent and scientific use of dynamite.
The recapture of Lens was cheering news in Paris. Not the least of the many sufferings of the French during the last two years of the war was that which came from the scarcity of coal. Indeed, more than once during those two winters coal could not be obtained at any price. These periods unfortunately came in the latter part of the winter, and it happened they were unusual periods of intense cold. Thousands of people stayed in bed all day in order to keep warm. The capture of Lens, therefore, had been anxiously desired. Nearly the whole of the French coal supply had come from Lens and the adjacent Bethune coal fields. The Bethune field, although steadily working, had never produced enough coal for even the pressing necessities of the French munition works.
The news that Bapaume had fallen on Au-gust 29th brought back, especially to the British, memories not only the previous year and of the great forward movement which, on March 17th, had swept them over Bapaume and Peronne, but also bitter memories of the retreat in the previous March, which had carried them back under the overwhelming German pressure. The capture therefore was balm to their spirits, and an English correspondent, Mr. Philip Gibbs, who had accompanied the British on their previous advance, found officers and men full of laughter and full of memories.
On all sides were the battle-fields of 1916 and 1917; Mametz Wood, Belleville Wood, Usna Hill, Ginchy, Morval, Guillemont. The fields were covered with battle débris, and yet to the English it was sacred ground from the graves of the men who fell there. Those graves still remained. The British shell fire had not touched them, but as the English advanced there were many bodies of gray-clad men on the roads and fields, and dead horses, and a litter of barbed wire, and deep shelters dug under banks, and shell craters, and helmets, gas masks, and rifles thrown here and there by the enemy as they fled. Now it was the Germans that were fleeing, and fleeing hopelessly, sullen, bitter at their officers, impatient of discipline.
One of the great differences between the at-tacks of the Allies in their last year of the war and those of preceding years, was the increased use and the improved character of the tanks. The tanks were a development of the war. Before the war, however, the development of the caterpillar tractor had suggested to a few far-sighted people the possibility of evolving from this invention a machine capable of offensive use over rough country in close war-fare. Experiments were made in behalf of the English War Office for some time without practical results.
At last after these experiments had resulted in various failures, a type of tractor was finally designed which produced satisfactory results. It was a caterpillar tractor, with an endless self-laid track, over which internal driving wheels could be propelled by the engines. It was not until July, 1916, that the first consignment of these new engines of warfare arrived at the secret maneuver ground.
There were two kinds. One called the male was armed with two Hotchkiss quick-fire guns, as well as with an armament of machine guns. The other type, called the female, was armed only with machine guns. The male tank was designed for dealing with the concrete em-placements for the German machine guns. The other was more suitable for dealing with machine-gun personnel and riflemen. Some time was taken in training men to use these tanks, for the crew of a tank must suffer a great deal of hardship; on account of the noise of the engine every command had to be made by signs, and the motion of the tank being like that of a ship on a heavy sea, was likely to produce sea-sickness.
The tanks were painted with weird colors for the purpose of concealment, and when they first appeared caused a great deal of wonder and amusement. They were first used in battle on September 15, 1916, in a continuation of the battle of the Somme, and proved a great surprise to the Germans. The Germans directed all available rifle and machine-gun fire upon them without success. A correspondent narrates that : "As the `Crème de Menthe' moved on its way, the bullets fell from its sides harmlessly. It advanced upon a broken wall, leaned up against it heavily, until it fell with a crash of bricks, and then rose on to the bricks and passed over them and walked straight into the midst of factory ruins." They were an immense success and had come to stay, In the course of time, on account of the growing size and importance of the tanks organization, the British established a special Tank Corps by itself, under a Director General. The troops of other nations soon found it necessary to use the new engine of war, and, throughout the year of 1918, the Allied superiority in tanks had much to do with their success.
One more great Allied victory must be briefly referred to. The capture of Cambrai, which took place on the 9th of October, was the climax of weeks of the hardest fighting of the whole year, and the Germans were driven into a flight which was practically a rout. In the series of fights which resulted in this great success the British engaged and defeated thirty-six German divisions, approximately 432,000 men. The final attack was fought by infantry without artillery support, for it was fought in the streets of the city, where every house was a machine-gun fort.
On the previous day the Canadians had captured the Scheldt Canal, which swings in a close loop around the city. The attack was made in the darkness and rain, and every step in advance was bitterly contested. The Germans received numerous reinforcements and counter-attacked again and again with the most fanatical courage. The British advance was a massacre, and at four o'clock in the morning the Canadian and English troops, pressing in from the north and south of the city, joined hands in the chief square of Cambrai.
This was a city which in the previous year had resisted all British attacks. Its capture was a glorious victory and it was only accomplished after the Allied forces had stormed down the strongest lines ever made in war.
FOR more than four years Belgium suffered under the iron heel of the German invaders. One little corner in the far west was occupied by her gallant army, fighting with the utmost courage and a patriotism which has won the admiration of the world under its great Sing Albert, whose heroic leadership had turned the little commercial nation into a nation of heroes. Conditions of life in the Belgian cities were almost intolerable. The great Belgian Relief Commission, under the direction of Mr. Hoover, had kept the people from starvation, but it could not secure them their rights. They lived in the midst of brutality and injustice.
On Belgian Independence Day at London, Arthur J. Balfour, the British Foreign Minister, made an address in which he commented upon the German treatment of Belgium. In the course of his address he said: "Bitter must be the thought in every Belgian heart of what Belgians in Belgium are now suffering. Let them, however, take courage. Let their spirits rise in a mood of profound cheerfulness, for these dark days are not going to last for-ever, and when they come to a conclusion, when again peace dawns upon this much tormented and cruelly tried world, when Belgium is again free and prosperous, then Belgians, whether they have spent these unhappy years in exile, or, an even harder fate, have spent them in their own country, they will be able to look back upon this time of cruel and unexampled trial, and they will say to themselves, to their children and to their descendants, that Belgium, though her existence as a political entity is less than a century, has within that period shown an example of courage, constancy and virtue to man-kind for which all the world should be grateful."
The English Foreign Minister was perhaps not prophesying. He knew something of what was coming. The Great Offensive which was to free Belgium and her German oppressor was already under way. The first move, however, was not upon land, but upon the sea. In the autumn of 1914 the little Belgian port of Zeebrugge, with the neighboring port of Ostend, was captured by the Germans. The Germans, who had already seized the ship-building plants at Antwerp, then began to build submarines, and sent them down the canals through Bruges to Zeebrugge and Ostend. From these ports they proceeded to attack the English commerce.
In the spring of 1918 submarine attacks on English shipping was so serious that England was using every possible effort to destroy these piratical craft, and it was determined to make an attempt to block the entrances to the canals at Zeebrugge and Ostend, by sinking old ships in the channels.
The expedition took place during the night of April 22d, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes. Six obsolete British cruisers took part in the expedition. These were the Brilliant, Iphigenia, Sirius, Intrepid, Thetis and Vindictive. The Vindictive carried storming parties to destroy the stone mole at Zeebrugge; the remaining five cruisers were filled with concrete, and it was intended that they should be sunk in the entrances of the two ports. A large force of monitors and small fast craft accompanied the expedition. An observer thus describes the heroic exploit:
The night was overcast and there was a drifting haze. Down the coast a great searchlight swung its beam to and fro in the small wind and short sea. From the Vindictive's bridge, as she headed in toward the mole, there was scarcely a glimmer of light to be seen shoreward. Ahead as she drove through the water rolled the smoke screen, her cloak of invisibility, wrapped about her by small craft. This was the device of Wing-Commander Brock, with-out which, acknowledged the Admiral in command, the operation could not have been conducted. A northwest wind moved the volume of it shoreward ahead of the ships. Beyond it was the distant town, its defenders unsuspicious.
It was not until the Vindictive, with blue-jackets and marines standing ready for landing, was close upon the mole, that the wind lulled and came away again from the southeast, sweeping back the smoke screen and laying her bare to eyes that looked seaward. There was a moment immediately afterward when it seemed to those on the ships as if the dim harbor exploded into light. A star shell soared aloft, then a score of star shells. Wavering beams of the searchlights swung around and settled into a glare. A wild fire of gun flashes leaped against the sky; strings of luminous green beads shot aloft, hung and sank. The darkness of the night was supplemented by a night-mare daylight of battle-fired guns, and machine guns along the mole. The batteries ashore woke to life.
It was in a gale of shelling that the Vindictive laid her nose against the thirty-foot-high concrete side of the mole, let go her anchor, and signalled to the Daffodil to shove her stern in. The Iris went ahead and endeavored to get alongside likewise.
The fire was intense while the ships plunged and rolled beside the mole in the seas, the Vindictive, with her greater draft, jarring against the foundations of the mole with every lunge. They were swept diagonally by machine-gun fire from both ends of the mole and by the heavy batteries on shore. Captain Carpenter conned the Vindictive from the open bridge until her stern was laid in, when he took up his position in the flame thrower hut on the port side. It is marvelous that any occupant should have survived a minute in this hut, so riddled and shattered was it.
The officer of the Iris, which was in trouble ahead of the Vindictive, described Captain Carpenter as handling her like a picket boat. The Vindictive was fitted along her port side with a high, false deck, from which ran eighteen brows, or gangways, by which the storming and demolition parties were to land. The men gathered in readiness on the main lower decks, while Colonel Elliott, who was to lead the marines, waited on the false deck just abaft the bridge. Captain Hallahan, who commanded the bluejackets, was amidships. The word for the assault had not yet been given when both leaders were killed.
The mere landing on the mole was a perilous business. It involved a passage across the crashing and splintering gangways, a drop over the parapet into the field of fire of the German machine-guns which swept its length, and a further drop of some sixteen feet to the surface of the mole itself. Many were killed and more wounded as they crowded up the gangways, but nothing hindered the orderly and speedy landing by every gangway. The lower deck was a shambles, as the Commander made the round of the ship, yet the wounded and dying raised themselves to cheer as he made his tour.
The Iris had trouble of her own. Her first attempts to make fast to the mole ahead of the Vindictive failed, as her grapnels were not large enough to span the parapet. Two officers, Lieutenant-Commander Bradford, and Lieutenant Hawkins, climbed ashore and sat a stride the parapet trying to make the grapnels fast, till each was killed, and fell down between the ship and the wall. Commander Valentine Gibbs had both legs shot away, and died next morning. Lieutenant Spencer though wounded, took command and refused to be relieved.
The Iris was obliged at last to change her position and fall in astern of the Vindictive, which suffered very heavily from fire. Her total casualties were eight officers and sixty-nine men killed, and three officers and 103 men wounded.
The storming parties upon the mole met with no resistance from the Germans other than an intense and unremitting fire. One after an-other buildings burst into flames, or split and crumbled as dynamite went off. A bombing party working up toward the mole in search of the enemy destroyed several machine-gun em-placements but not a single prisoner awarded them. It appears that upon the approach of the ships and with the opening of fire the enemy simply retired and contented themselves with burning machine guns to the short end of the mole.
The object of the fighting on the mole was in large part to divert the enemy's attention while the work of blocking the canals was being accomplished.
Of this operation the official narrative says: "The Thetis came first steaming into a tornado of shells from great batteries ashore. All her crew save a remnant who remained to steam her in and sink her, already had been taken off her by a ubiquitous motor launch. The remnant spared hands enough to keep her four guns going. It was hers to show the road to the Intrepid and Iphigenia which followed. She cleared a string of armed barges, which de-fends the channel from the tip of the mole, but had the ill-fortune to foul one of her propellers upon a net defense which flanks it on the shore side. The propeller gathered in the net and it rendered her practically unmanageable. Shore batteries found her and pounded her unremittingly. She bumped into the bank, edged off and found herself in the channel again, still some hundreds of yards from the mouth of the canal in practically a sinking condition. As she lay she signalled invaluable directions to others, and her Commander blew charges and sank it. Motor launches took off her crew. The Intrepid, smoking like a volcano, and with all her guns blazing, followed. Her motor launch had failed to get alongside, outside the harbor, and she had men enough for anything. Straight into the canal she steered, her smoke blowing back from her into the Iphigenia's eyes so that the latter was blinded, and going a little wild, ran into the dredger, with her barge moored beside it, which lay at the western arm of the canal. She was not clear though, and entered the canal, pushing the barge before her.
"It was then that a shell hit the steam connections of her whistle and the escape of steam which followed drove off some of the smoke, and let her see what she was doing. Lieutenant Carter, commanding the Intrepid, placed the nose of his ship neatly on the mud of the western bank, ordered his crew away, and blew up his ship by switches in the chart room. Lieutenant Leake, commanding the Iphigenia, beached her according to arrangement on the eastern side, blew her up, saw her drop nicely across the canal, and left her with her engines still going to hold her in position till she should have bedded well down on the bottom. According to the latest reports from air observation the two old ships, with their holds full of concrete, are lying across the canal in a V-position, and it is probable that the work they set out to do has been accomplished and that the canal is effectively blocked."
At Ostend an attempt was also made to block the canal on the same night, but it was unsuccessful owing to a shift of wind which blew away the smoke screen behind which the British craft were acting, and enabled the German gun fire to destroy the flares which had been lit to mark the entrance to the harbor. The cruisers tried to act by guesswork, and one of the block ships was sunk, but it was not in a position to obstruct the canal.
On May 9th another attempt was made, and the Vindictive, filled with concrete, was sunk in the Ostend channel.
This daring exploit of the English fleet, though it had destroyed the value of Zeebrugge and Ostend as submarine bases, had left the Germans in possession. In September, how-ever, General Foch determined that the time had come to throw his armies against the German forces in the distracted little country. He planned two widely separated thrusts. On the south he sent Pershing against the Germans between the Argonne and the Meuse. They made rapid progress, capturing Montfaucon, Varennes and driving on until they had destroyed the German control of the Paris-Châlons-Verdun Railroad.
This was a serious blow to the Germans, for a further push northward would cut the vital lateral railway connecting the German armies in Belgium and France with those in Alsace-Lorraine. Ludendorff hastened reserves to this front, and the American operation was slowed down. Meanwhile at the other end of the line the Belgians, with General Plumer's Second British Army, suddenly attacked on a front which extended all the way from the canal at Dixmude the Lys, swept the Germans out of all the famous fighting ground of the Ypres salient, pushed across the Passchendaele Ridge and down into the Flanders plain below.
The situation of the Germans in the Lille regions of the south and also the Belgian coast became at once dangerous. Once more Ludendorff was compelled to send reserves, and this thrust began to slow up but it was not checked permanently, and the Belgian armies were to move on. While this advance was being conducted the British fleet were bombarding the coastal defenses. The Belgian army, fighting with the utmost spirit under command of King Albert, made a penetration of five miles and captured four thousand prisoners and an immense amount of supplies.
On September 30th they captured the city of Roulers. For ten days there was a consolidation of position by the Allies, but on October 14th they made a furious attack in the general direction of Ghent and Courtrai. Thousands of prisoners and several complete batteries of guns were captured. In this attack British, Belgian and French troops took part, and the troops of the three nations went over the top without preliminary bombardment, taking the enemy by surprise.
On October 15th the news from Flanders showed that the victory was growing in extent, the Allied armies were advancing on a front of about twenty-five miles, and in some places had penetrated the enemy's positions six or seven miles. The Belgians had captured seven thousand prisoners and the British and French about four thousand. In French Flanders the British advanced to a point about three miles west of Lille.
The battle was carried on in a heavy rain which turned the battlefields into seas of mud; while this hampered the Allied troops it hindered even more the Germans in trying to move away their material through the mired ground of the Flanders Lowland.
On the next day dispatches indicated that a retreat on a tremendous scale in northern Belglum was under way. The Germans were re-treating so fast that the Allies lost touch with the enemy. The gallant little Belgian army, assisted by crack British and French troops, had driven the despoilers of its country from a large section which the Germans had occupied since the early days of the war, and had gained positions of such importance as to make it probable that the Germans would have to abandon the entire coast of Belgium.
Moreover, on the south, the city of Lille, with the great mining and manufacturing districts around it, was being left in a salient which was growing deeper every hour and which the enemy could not hope to hold. At certain points the resistance of the Germans was extraordinarily fierce. This was especially true in the region of Thouret. The battle here was from street to street and from house to house. The Germans had placed. machine-guns in the windows of houses and cellars and fired murderous streams of bullets into the advancing Belgians but were unable to stop them.
The Belgians fought with a dogged determination such as only troops fighting to regain their outraged country could display. Nothing could stop them. At other points, especially in the northern part of the battle area, the Germans surrendered freely. Many civilians were rescued from the towns and districts captured, and little processions of these were straggling rearward out of range of the guns, and out of the way of the fighting troops. At times liberated Belgian women could see their sons, brothers or husbands going forward into battle. On October 17th the German retreat in Flanders became a rout. The enemy were fleeing rapidly on their entire front from the sea southward. The British entered Lille.
The Germans fled from Ostend and British naval forces were landed there. The Belgian infantry were sweeping up the coast, and Belgian patrols entered Bruges. In the afternoon of the day King Albert of Belgium, and Queen Elizabeth entered Ostend. The splendid fighting of the Belgian troops and their magnificent victory was now attracting universal attention. It was one of the revelations of the war. They were bearing the giant's share of the work of the Allied armies in their own country, and had already liberated territory which more than doubled the area of that part of Belgium which had been in their possession.
With the Belgian coast cleared of invaders it became open to British transports which would afford relief to the whole Allied armies from the resultant decrease in the congestion of the channel ports. On October 19th the progress continued. Zeebrugge was occupied by the Allies, the last Belgian port remaining in German hands.
The Belgian advance continued along the whole line. King Albert entered Bruges. Day after day the advance continued. The reception of the King and Queen of Belgium in the recovered towns was something to remember. In Bruges they rode in amid the tumultuous cheering of the frenzied population. In the central square they were received by the burgomaster with an escort of a solitary gendarme, who had refused to give up his uniform and old-fashioned rifle to the enemy; though fined and imprisoned he had kept their hiding place secret. As he stood there alone with fixed bayonet the King and the Queen shook him by the hand and congratulated him. Greatly moved, he stammered, "It is too great an honor, too great an honor."
And with all this happiness came the happiness arising from the return of the soldiers to the homes from which they had been absent so long, the reunions of husband and wife, of parents and children. Belgium was now to reap the reward for her heroism.