En août 1914, la presse internationale, et notamment la
presse anglophone (dont celle de l'Empire britannique), a le regard tourné vers
les événements qui se déroulent en France : elle suit ainsi, au jour le jour,
les moindres opérations militaires en traduisant les communiqués officiels, et
relate très vite les « barbarities » d'août 1914, de sorte qu'on retrouve dès le
20 août la relation tant des évènements militaires que des exactions bavaroises
dans divers journaux anglais, jusqu'à New-York et
Le cas de le presse australienne est cependant plus surprenant, puisqu'après
dépouillement des très nombreux titres de l'époque, dont divers exemples
ci-dessous, on constate :
- une relation quasi-immédiate des combats de Blâmont
dans tous les journaux entre le 17 et le 19 août (avec des noms de lieux
parfois fantaisistes, l'imputation à Blâmont du convoi allemand capturé vers
- à compter du 20 août une importante émotion
concernant l'affaire des affiches (apposées le 14 août par les Bavarois)
annonçant l'exécution prochaine du maire de Blâmont. Mais aucune allusion à
l'assassinat d'Aline Cuny, de Charles Barthélémy, ou de l'exécution de Louis Foëll...
Ainsi, les autres événements (exécutions et massacres de
civils, incendies de maisons) sont quasiment absents de la presse australienne,
qui ne fait que très rarement allusion par des généralités aux premiers
communiqués du préfet Mirman. Lorsqu'on connait l'ampleur des crimes commis en
Belgique et en France, on peut s'étonner de trouver si peu d'informations, et
lorsqu'elles figurent, c'est parfois sous une forme très distante, voire
« The French cavalry passed several burned villages which the
Germans had set on fire with petrol. The allies, particularly the Belgians, are
maddened by these outrages, and vow to exact the full measure of retribution.
The Belgians have nick-named the Prussians “The Red Indians of Europe” owing to
their farm burning proclivities. » (The Richmond River
Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser - 21 August 1914)
Il faudra attendre octobre 1914 (avec la publication officielle du rapport
Mirman) pour que la presse australienne fasse état des crimes du mois d'août.
Les journaux du 7 octobre 1914 nous apportent l'explication de ce retard : les
Australiens n'y ont pas cru !
« There are many persons in our community who will not place
any credence in the cabled reports of the brutalities committed by the German
soldiers on the unarmed peasantry in France and Belgium women especially. There
are also patriotic news paper writers of high standing who have the courage to
aver that the reports of violations of young women, wives and maids, are
emanations of the war correspondents, whose papers live and make fortunes out of
sensationalism. But how, in the name of Heaven, do they reconcile the statements
enclosed in letters from private sources, and from eye witnesses, testifying to
these acts of savagery on the part of the German soldiery ? We were inclined to
believe ourselves that the reports were exaggerated, but are now of the opinion
that there is more than a modicum of truth in them. » (Leader - 7 octobre
« In war time all stories told by one side (even if it be our
own side) against the other must be read und listened to with caution. When
people are excited they believe easily what they wish to believe.They even
suffer from delusions, and give detailed accounts of events which they persuaded
themselves they saw but which really never happened (writes H. Hamilton Fyle
from Paris, August 19, to the London "Mail”). Therefore I have been sceptical
about the tales of horror which appear in the French newspapers accusing the
Germans of murder and brutality. I hate to think that any soldiers could be so
devilish as to kill unarmed civilians in blind rage, or any officers so wicked
as to permit it. I should infinitely prefer to be able to say, "I am convinced
these are exaggerations. Do not put any faith in them." » (The Brisbane
Courier du 7 octobre 1914)
Pourtant la déclaration de guerre à l'Allemagne par la Grande-Bretagne le 4 août
1914, a impliqué tout l'Empire britannique. Dès le 31 juillet, le premier
ministre australien Joseph Cook avait déclaré "When the Empire is at War, so
also is Australia."
Mais les forces armées australiennes sont quasiment inexistantes car la
conscription n'existe pas: ce n'est qu'à compter du 6 août qu'est formée par
l'engament de volontaires, l'Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF),
puis la Première Force Impériale australienne (1st AIF) qui rejoint
l'Egypte en novembre 1914, avant de participer en avril 1915 à l'opération de
Gallipoli dans les Dardanelles. Les forces australiennes n'interviendront sur le
font de l'ouest qu'en 1916.
Si les dirigeants semblent ainsi s'être prononcés très tôt pour s'engager dans
la guerre aux côtés de l'empire, on voit ainsi plus de réticence dans l'opinion
public : l'Australie n'est une fédération de six colonies britanniques que
depuis 1901 ; le Defence Act (1903, puis 1909) stipule que l'armée régulière ne
peut intervenir que pour les intérêts de la fédération, et ne peut séjourner
hors de ses frontières. De même, deux référendum successifs (28 octobre 1916, 20
décembre 1917) rejetteront le recours à la conscription.
Si l'AIF ne compte à ses débuts que 32 000 soldats, au final, 420 000
Australiens volontaires auront servi dans l'armée pendant la première guerre,
dont 330 000 à l'étranger ; le coût humain aura été de 60 000 tués et de 150 000
blessés, soit le plus haut pourcentage de toute l'armée britannique.
Mais on voit qu'en août et septembre 1914, les Australiens craignent que le
récit des cruautés allemandes en Belgique et en France ne soit qu'une
propagande mensongère pour les inciter à s'engager davantage aux côtés de
l'empire... et ainsi, à la différence des autres presses alliées, le nom de
victimes de Blâmont restera inconnu des Australiens.
17 - 19 août - La bataille de Blâmont
The Mercury - 17 août 1914
BATTLE OF BLAMONT.
BAVARIANS DRIVEN BACK.
PARIS, August 16.
An engagement took place yesterday round the village of Blamont, on the
river Vesouze, 17 miles from Luneville, and near the German frontier,
and in neighbouring villages of Cirey-les Forges and Reion, where the
Bavarians had gathered in force.
The French occupied the village of Blamont and the neighbouring heights
at the point of the bayonet, and many of the Bavarians were killed and
The Register - 17 août
French and Bavarians in Touch.
PARTS, August 16.
An engagement between the French and Germans has occurred In the region
of Blamont and Cirey les Forges, two villages 17 and 21 miles
respectively east of Luneville near the Alsatian border. The Bavarians
had gathered in force, when they were attacked by the French troops.
Blamont was strongly held by the latter, while other French regiments
cleared the neighboring heights of the invaders at the point of the
bayonet. Many of the Bavarians were killed and wounded. [...]
The Register - 18 août
GERMAN CANNON CAPTURED.
On Sunday the French operations were directed towards developing a
strong line of defence between Rachecourt and the Saint-Marieux mines.
Their advance troops made a specially rapid advance into Southern Alsace
by way of the Schirmeck Valley, 28 miles from Strassburg. So quickly did
the French soldiers move that they were, able to capture 1,000 German
troops, in addition to 500 taken on the previous day. They also secured
several heavy guns and field. pieces, at Saint-Marie, and 19 transport
wagons at Blamont.
Port Pirie Recorder and
North Western Mail - 18 août 1914
A GERMAN SUCCESS.
A force of five hundred Germans captured the village of Blamont, near
Luneville, on Friday.
Bendigo Advertiser - 18
BAVARIAN TROOPS SUFFER. FRENCH
VICTORY AT BLAMONT
PARIS, 17th August.
The latest details regarding the fighting show that the Bavarian army
corps held a strongly-entrenched position before Blamont. The French
division opened the attack on Friday night, and after pushing the German
outposts back suspended operations, until the dawn of Saturday. The
infantry advanced under powerful artillery fire, and soon drove the
Germans from Blamont and Cirey. The Germans then occupied the hill
overlooking the village from the northwards, but the French advanced,
and the Bavarians withdrew towards Saarburg., leaving many dead anpd
wounded on the hillside. The French troops occupied positions beyond the
A French force, four miles further southwards, occupied Donnan, one of
the chief summits of the Vosges just beyond the frontier.
Further northward, in the Briey district, the retreating Bavarians
pillaged houses and maltreated civilians. The retreating Germans in
Alsace burnt many houses and shot a number of the inhabitants.
Bairnsdale Advertiser and
Tambo and Omeo Chronicle - 18 août 1914
REPORTED GERMAN SUCCESS.
FRENCH FRONTIER CROSSED AND BLAMONT CAPTURED.
Five hundred Germans crossed the south-western frontier of France, and
captured Blamont, a small place just inside the border, on Friday.
[Blanmont is near Luneville and near the latter place is a fort.]
Queensland Times - 18 août
THE FRENCH AT BLAMONT.
500 GERMANS CAPTURED.
Paris, August, 16.
Five hundred Germans were captured at Blamont, on the Meuse River, on
(Blamont, which has a population of 2100 is situated 17 miles to the
east of Luneville.)
The Tamworth Daily
Observer - 18 août 1914
The French operations are developing along the line from Rechieourt to
Sautern and Vineaux. The advance has been specially rapid in the
The French made a thousand prisoners in addition to 500 captured the
previous day. Several heavy guns and field pieces were captured at
Sautemaine, and 19 transport waggons at Blamont.
The Mercury - 19 août 1914
CAPTURED GERMAN FLAG.
ARRIVES AT PARIS.
PARIS, August 17.
The first German flag captured by the French in the battle at Blamont
has arrived at Paris.
20 - 22 août - Les affiches de
The Mail - 20 août 1914
SAVED FROM DEATH.
MAYOR OF BLAMONT
(Independent Cable Service.)
A report has been received from Paris stating that when the French
troops entered the small town of Blamont, in the Vosges Mountains. they
found notices on the walls stating that the Mayor and prominent
inhabitants would be shot. The sudden arrival of the French and the
disorderly retreat of the Germans saved them from death.
The Richmond River Express
and Casino Kyogle Advertiser - 21 août 1914
PROGRESS OF THE WAR.
At Paris M. Mirman, Prefect of Meurthe-and-Moselle, reported to the
Minister of the interior, M. Malhy, that many women, girls, and old men
had been butchered by Germans, and their houses had been looted and
burnt at Badonviller, Cirey and Blamont. It was further alleged that an
old man had been trussed up and shot at Brenteuil.
The French cavalry passed several burned villages which the Germans had
set on fire with petrol. The allies, particularly the Belgians, are
maddened by these outrages, and vow to exact the full measure of
retribution. The Belgians have nick-named the Prussians “The Red Indians
of Europe” owing to their farm burning proclivities.
Port Pirie Recorder and
North Western Mail - 21 août 1914
The Fate in Store for Blamont.
MAYOR AND COUNCILLORS TO
BE BUTCHERED BY THE
FRENCH ENTRY PREVENTS THE MASSACRE.
When the French troops that, in pursuance of the offensive movement
against Germany, last week penetrated Lorraine, well beyond the border,
entered Blamont, in that Province, they found the town placarded with
posters, in German, notifying that it was the intention of the German
military authorities to shoot the Mayor, members of the town council,
and other Prominent citizens the following morning.
The Register - 21 août
SIGNIFICANT FIND IN A FRENCH TOWN.
PARIS. August 19. 10.55 a.m.
When French troops entered Blamont, a French town in the department of
Meurthe-et-Moselle, from which the Kaiser's soldiers had just retreated,
the found German posters announcing that the Mayor of the town and other
notabilities who had fallen into the hands of the invaders, would be
shot next morning.
Kalgoorlie Miner - 21 août
DOOMED TO BE SHOT. Paris. Aug. 19.
When the French troops entered Blamont last Saturday they found German
posters stuck up in the town stating that the mayor and other
notabilities would be shot the next morning.
The Brisbane Courier - 21
WHAT THE FRENCH FOUND AT BLAMONT.
When the French troops entered Blamont, a town in the department of
Meurthe-et-Moselle, and 17 miles east of Luneville, they found German
posters notifying that the major and other notabilities would be shot
Daily Herald - 21 août
GERMANS EXPELLED FROM BLAMONT
SANGUINARY DESIGNS FOILED
PARIS, August 18, 10.40 p.m.
When the French troops entered Blamont, from which they had expelled the
Germans, they found notices posted on the walls stating that the mayor
and other prominent inhabitants were to he shot. The sudden arrival of
the French and the disorderly retreat of the Germans saved the mayor and
the other prominent citizens from death.
Examiner - 21 août 1914
GERMANS AT BLAMONT.
WHAT The FRIENCH TROOPS DISCOVERED
When the French troops entered Blamont they found German posters
notifying that the Mayor and notabilities were to be shot next morning.
Hamilton Spectator - 21
FRENCH IN BLAMONT.
IN TIME TO SAVE A MASSACRE.
When the French troops entered Blamont they -found German posters
notifying that the mayor and other notabilities would be shot next
The Maitland Weekly
Mercury - 22 août 1914
GERMANS IN BLAMONT.
When the French troops entered Blamont they found German posters
exhibited, notifying that the Major of the town and other notabilities
would be shot next morning
Northern Times - 22 août
HREAT AT BLAMONT.
London, August 19.
A report states that when the French troops entered Blamont they found
German posters notifying that the mayor and notabilities were to be shot
Western Star and Roma
Advertiser - 22 août 1914
GERMANS PUSHED BACK.
The Bavarian army corps held a strongly entrenched position before
Blamont. A French division opened the attack on Friday night, and, after
pushing the German outposts back, suspended operations until dawn on
Saturday. Then the infantry advanced under cover of a powerful artillery
fire, and soon drove the Germans from Blamont and Cirey. The Germans
then occupied a hill over-looking the villages from the northward,. but
as the French advanced the Bavarians withdrew towards Saarburg, leaving
many dead and wounded oh the hillsides. The French subsequently occupied
positions beyond the frontier.
A French force four miles further southward occupied the Donon, one of
the chief summits of the Vosges, just beyond the frontier. Further
northward, in the Briey district the retreating Bavarians pillaged the
houses, maltreating the civilians. Also the retreating Germans in Alsace
burned many houses and shot a number of inhabitants.
4 - 7 octobre - La reconnaissance des
Sunday Times - 4 octobre
FIENDISH GERMAN OUTRAGES
FRENCH CIVILIANS ARE BRUTALLY MURDERED
SEIZED WITH BLOOD FRENZY
CALLOUS TREATMENT OP WOMEN.
LONDON, August 20.
Never in the memory of living man has public indignation been aroused to
the extent it has by the reports of German atrocities that pour into the
columns of the press daily. A certain amount of cruelty was only to be
expected on the part of an invader finding his progress being more
bitterly contested than he had imagined; but that presumably civilized
men should have permitted themselves the excesses and relentless
butcheries that have so far characterized the doings of the Germans
passes all understanding.
Every day, every edition, the press, print fresh stories of insane
savagery that make the blood run cold in chill horror. Among the most
terrible of these is the atrocious murder of five French civilians by
German soldiers at Lorrach, in Baden, a few miles from the Franco-German
frontier, on August 1, before Germany had declared war on France. The
story is told by an eye-witness, M. Gaudefroy-Demonhynes, in a sworn
statement to a Paris magistrate published by the “Temps” : -
M. Demonynes, who was attempting to return to France from Baden, found
himself detained with other Frenchmen and some Russians at the railway
station of Lorrach. The party were arrested by soldiers and taken to the
police station, where they and their luggage were searched. They were
then led under guard through the town, amid hostile demonstrations by
the inhabitants, to the square in front of the railway station, where
they found another party of about 30 Frenchmen and 20 Russians. One of
this party, a French commercial traveler, a stout man aged about 40,
suddenly shouted 'Vive la France !' Instantly the two soldiers guarding
him took him before an officer or a non-commissioned officer standing a
few paces away from a group of officers. People standing between M.
Demonhynes and the scene prevented him from hearing what was said, but a
few seconds later a shot - only one shot - rang out. “I don't know who
fired,” the witness says, “but I know that just before the report the
Frenchman was standing before my eyes against the wall of a restaurant
facing, the station, held fast by his two guards in the position of one
who is about to be executed. Hardly had the shot rung out than protests
arose from our little band. Among those who protested most vigorously
were three young Frenchmen from 18 to 20. They looked to me like
students leaving Germany like myself. I did not, speak to them, and do
not know their names. Just as
THE SOLDIERS SEIZED HIM,
and his comrades one on the young Frenchmen tried to speak to an officer
who was wearing a large light grey cloak. This officer did not listen to
him. Some order must have been given, I don't know by whom. One of the
three Frenchmen, who must have been told of the fate awaiting him, cried
out in German: 'Don't hold us; we aren't afraid; we are Frenchmen !'
This time the officer replied coarsely, half turning round: 'Shut up !'
The three Frenchmen, of their own accord, placed themselves against the
wall of the same restaurant. Two lines of soldiers were drawn up on
either side of them at right angles to the wall. Other soldiers - how
many I did not count - took up their position in front of them, about
eight yards away.
A volley rang out. The three Frenchmen fell. Fresh cries arose from our
party. Horror stricken women began to weep. I did not see the bodies
removed, but I saw them fall to the ground. At this moment a great
uproar broke out. Another Frenchman, a big man with a great black beard,
whom I did not know, began to shout, 'Cowards. Murderers' Soldiers
surrounded him. He struggled with them. They speedily overcame him, and
without taking the trouble to stand him up against the wall, without the
intervention of any officer, one of the soldiers thrust the barrel of
his rifle against his body and shot him down point-blank before my eyes.
I saw these same soldiers dragging his body along the ground. The man
was struggling still. I had not the strength to look any more. I heard
other shots. I don't know if there were any other victims.” M.
Demonhynes, who, with the remainder of the party, was eventually allowed
to proceed on his journey, says two young man, students returning to
Lyons from Germany, told him they had seen
GERMAN SOLDIERS KILL TWO ITALIANS
in the train in which he was travelling and in which he heard the sound
of shots. One Italian was shot, they said, because he wanted the windows
shut, and protested when his request was refused; the other because he
repulsed a soldier who tried to sit down on him by way of a joke.
Inhuman hate appears to possess these Prussian invaders, whom terror
alone can curb. Belgians who have, dealt with them at close quarters
declare that these Uhlans fought with the bitterness of personal fury,
and, not contented with killing those who manfully resisted them in
fight, assassinated numbers who had laid down their weapons and held
their hands up. Many of the corpses have their hands raised and their
elbows on a level with the shoulders. The wounds of these brave
defenders are horrible, having been inflicted with weapons fired at a
distance of a couple of inches from the mouth or breast. At Orsmael,
Uhlans shot ten peasants, the occupants of a house from which, the
Germans alleged, they fired at and wounded a priest who was trying to
give Extreme Unction to a dying man. Dormael appears to have been
singled out for specially violent treatment. Three brothers named
Sevenans, who had fired upon the Ger mans, were shot dead, and their
home burned down. Some Uhlans met a Belgian chemist who was riding a
bicycle near Jodoigne. Arresting him, they inquired their way, to the
town hall, placing the muzzles of revolvers to his head while they
listened. He gave them the required information and was allowed to pass
on, but before he had gone ten yards they
SENT THREE BULLETS INTO HIS BACK,
and he was mortally wounded. On the arrival of M. Michel de Smeth, Mayor
of the village of Pontillac, between Liege and Namur, at Brussels, he
related further stories of German atrocities. M. De Smeth states that
5000 men belonging to the 17th, Hussars from Mecklenburg entered the
village, having met with no resistance. They demanded food, which the
inhabitants freely gave them, but after eating and drinking, the
troopers commenced to ride through the streets like drunken cowboys,
emptying their carbines at the windows of the houses. Two Belgian
soldiers secreted in the village returned the fire, and the Germans in
revenge killed an innocent man, one of their officers emptying a six-chambered
revolver into his head. The Mayor adds that the Germans having
discovered that their pointed bullets do not inflict a sufficiently
severe wound, have been filing them, making the ends jagged, and
practically converting them into “dum-dums.” It is further stated that
ever since the invasion of Belgium, and particularly since the Germans
met with such a determined resistance, they have committed most horrible
outrages on the civil population. Thousands of cases have been
investigated and proved.
TERRIBLE TREATMENT OF WOMEN.
News from St. Petersburg reports that Russian ladies had been stripped
naked by German soldiers in the presence of officers. In one instance a
father of one of the ladies so treated, was shot, dead for intervening,
and other Russian gentlemen, upon protesting, were threatened with the
same fate. From the same city it is reported that the Germans seized the
wife of a Russian chief of gendarmery and demanded that she should
reveal the movements of the Russian troops. Having refused she was shot
dead. Barbarities are also said to have occurred at Kalish, in Russian
Poland, where the Germans have published a proclamation announcing that
every tenth inhabitant will be shot in the event of further resistance.
In reading these awful incidents it is hard to realize that we are still
living in the twentieth century. Indeed the most ruthless barbarian
conqueror would scarcely be guilty of such deeds of shame as to-day mark
every foot of progress made by the inhuman Uhlans and their fellows.
Most of us now drink to “The Day” that will see such things, for ever
put out of the possibility of happening again.
A Rennes telegram to the 'Matin' this week gives a graphic account of
the shooting of three Frenchmen in Hanover. M. and Mme. Guillon, who
live in the province of Lille et Vilaine, went to Germany for their
holidays, and were staying at Holberg, on the borders of the Baltic,
when the storm burst, and French mobilization was ordered. The couple
immediately started on an attempt to return to their country, but were
refused passports, and were arrested. After four days of continual
vexations and troubles M. and Mme. Guillon arrived at Hanover, whence
they hoped to reach France after certain formalities. Unfortunately,
however, Mme. Guillon was there guilty of an indiscretion in addressing
to her husband a few words in English. Her words were immediately
remarked by police officers standing near, and the couple were hauled to
the police station and there
DENOUNCED AS SPIES.
Mme. Guillon on the way to the station could not suppress cries of 'Vive
la France,' and in this cry was joined with equal enthusiasm by two
young Frenchmen. The latter were also arrested. A firing party was then
immediately summoned, and M. Guillon and his two compatriots were ranged
up against a shop and shot on the spot. After this terrible experience
Mme Guillon thought of nothing but flight, and finally reached Dentheim,
a frontier station on the Dutch border. Here, however, after being
robbed by German soldiers of £400, the unfortunate lady was imprisoned
in the local gaol.
Stories received through Holland of the burning of Vise by Germans
seemed at first
to believe, and even now, though they are confirmed by a correspondent
of the 'Handelsblad,' who. was an eye-witness of the scene, they seem
The correspondent telegraphs:-
“It was an awful sight Every house was a mass of flames, through which
the streets were hardly visible. At the entrance of the Grand Hotel were
three disarmed soldiers, bound hand and foot. Entering the hotel I found
the floor covered with dead bodies.
“In the hall of the dead several soldiers stood on guard. The uniform of
one was covered with blood and dirt. From this
AWFUL, NAUSEATING SCENE.
I hurried back to the blinding glare and suffocating heat of the burning
villages.. The houses of the villagers were burning wildly, while they
locked on helpless, victims of the Prussian might.
Along the pavements, splitting and crackling with the heat, we hurried.
Here and there groups of soldiers were looting and chasing in and out of
the burning houses. Beer shops had the most attention.
Paris advices tell of more outrages in the Luneville district. The
Prefect of Meurthe and Moselle, Monsieur Mirman, has made the following
report to the Minister of the Interior relative to German brutality :-
“To-day I paid a visit to the districts of Badonville, Cirey, and
Blamont, in the Luneville area. It is impossible to cite all the acts of
savagery and brutality on the part of the German troops which have come
under my notice. I could make a long list of women, young girls, and old
men and women who have been executed, without any reason and at the
“Houses have been systematically burned by the Germans as they advance,
and then again as they retreat. These wanton acts are not only in the
form of pillaging and creating havoc wherever possible, but money and
personal property have been looted.
“At Badonviller, for example, eleven inhabitants have been murdered,
amongst whom was the wife of the mayor. Seventy-eight houses have been
burnt with petrol and specially prepared faggots.
“Throughout my journey
THE PITIFUL, SHAMEFUL STORY
was the same. At Bremenil five inhabitants were butchered, including an
old man of 74, who was trussed and then shot like a rabbit. The Communal
Hall was razed to the ground.
“At Blamont there were three victims, including a young girl. A large
chocolate factory belonging to a Swiss subject was ransacked.”
French war news issued from the Eiffel Tower wireless station and
received by the Marconi Company states that numerous letters found by
victorious French troops on German soldiers corroborate the stories of
looting and outrage practiced by the Germans. Thus, according to one
epistle, the writer “shot down inhabitants of from 14 to 60 years of age
and accounted for 30 head, every one killed.” The German soldiers admit
that no civilians fired upon them.
“Early this afternoon,” writes a Brussels correspondent, “Germans
entered Tirlemont, in the vicinity of which they have been for some days.
They were in strong force, mostly cavalry and artillery. The big guns
shelled the place, and the cavalry played at war by attacking the flying
and panic-stricken populace.
SHOOTING THEM AND STICKING THEM AT RANDOM.
“Never have I seen such a picture of woe as a peasant woman and five,
children who stood be wildered in the Place de la Gare, all crying as if
their hearts would break. It was a terrible story the woman had to tell.
'They shot my husband before my eyes,' she said, 'and trampled two of my
children to death. I am the mother of nine, and I have only, five with
me; two others are lost'”
Leader - 7 octobre 1914
There are many persons in our community who will not place any credence
in the cabled reports of the brutalities committed by the German
soldiers on the unarmed peasantry in France and Belgium women especially.
There are also patriotic news paper writers of high standing who have
the courage to aver that the reports of violations of young women, wives
and maids, are emanations of the war correspondents, whose papers live
and make fortunes out of sensationalism. But how, in the name of Heaven,
do they reconcile the statements enclosed in letters from private
sources, and from eye witnesses, testifying to these acts of savagery on
the part of the German soldiery ? We were inclined to believe ourselves
that the reports were exaggerated, but are now of the opinion that there
is more than a modicum of truth in them. Take the following letter from
the correspondent of the London "Daily Mail" as an instance of the
brutality of the enemy : - "Today (August 21) I paid a visit to the
districts of Badonviller, Virey, and Blamont, in the Luneville area. It
is impossible to cite all the acts of savagery and brutality on the part
of the German troops which have come under my notice. I could make a
long list of women, young girls, and old men and women who have been
executed without any reason and on the slightest pretext. Houses have
been systematically burned by the Germans as they advance, and then
again as they retreat. These wanton acts are not only in the form of
pillaging and creating havoc wherever possible, but money and personal
property have been looted. At Badonviller, for example, eleven in
habitants had been murdered, among whom was the wife of the mayor.
Seventy eight houses have been burned with petrol, and especially
prepared faggots. After the town was pillaged the church was fired and
demolished, and fifteen of the inhabitants were taken away as hostages.
These included a judge, and none has returned. Throughout my journey the
pitiful, shameful story was the same. At Bremenil five inhabitants were
butchered, including an old man of seventy-four who was trussed and then
shot like a rabbit. The Communal Hall was razed to the ground. Nearly
all the houses were fired, not during the battle, but by the soldiers on
their arrival. Four men were executed; two others have disappeared. One
of the victims is a little lad who was killed by being entombed in a
burning house. At Blamont there were three victims, including a young
girl. A large chocolate factory belonging to a Swiss subject was
ransacked. All this evidence has been given me by reliable witnesses
without any striving after effect."
Since the foregoing letter was written, we have all read in the cables
of further atrocities, all of which are in direct contravention of the
war agreement of the Hague, which was signed by Germany in common with
the other nations concerned. It bears out In all its gruesomeness the
dishonorable tactics of Germany, and what value can be placed on her
word. Is it any wonder that she should violate the agreement contained
in the "little scrap of paper," when she resorts to such uncivilized
savagery in modern warfare, as we are led to believe she is doing.
Certain it is that there are in Germany men and women equally as kind-hearted
and true as any in Britain or its dependencies, and we have had
innumerable instances in our own country of German citizens whose word
is their bond, and who are now in a state bordering on despair to think
that their military dignitaries should stand for such wanton destruction
of life and property, and for the rape and rapine which is being carried
on. Speaking to a well known German resident yesterday on the subject,
he said that "it was appalling to even contemplate that his countrymen
could be guilty of the offences attributed to them, but he was sorry to
say that the letters from private sources lent color to the veracity of
the statements." "Why they are as bad as the Huns," he concluded,
whose cruelty has been a by-word the world over, ever since the Tartar
demons over-ran Europe from 372 to 453 A.D., and who were responsible
for giving to Hungary its name. A terrible retribution will be exacted
on the Germans when the Cossacks commence to over-run their country -
too terrible even to contemplate. The Cossack spares nobody - man, woman
or child; they are all the same to him; and, although the slaughter will
be frightful, the unfortunate villagers of rural Germany, who had
nothing whatever to do with the making of the war, can only visit the
blame on their Prussian militarists and the Kaiser. God help them and
their families, what time the Russians swarm over their fields, towns
and hamlets. . "The Terrible Turk" has given way now to "The Terrible
Teuton” whose massacres are on a par with those of the Porte on the
The Brisbane Courier - 7
THE BARBARITY OF GERMAN TROOPS.
SINS AGAINST CIVILISATION.
THE SPY SYSTEM.
In war time all stories told by one side (even if it be our own side)
against the other must be read und listened to with caution. When people
are excited they believe easily what they wish to believe. They even
suffer from delusions, and give detailed accounts of events which they
persuaded themselves they saw but which really never happened (writes H.
Hamilton Fyle from Paris, August 19, to the London "Mail”).
Therefore I have been sceptical about the tales of horror which appear
in the French newspapers accusing the Germans of murder and brutality. I
hate to think that any soldiers could be so devilish as to kill unarmed
civilians in blind rage, or any officers so wicked as to permit it. I
should infinitely prefer to be able to say, "I am convinced these are
exaggerations. Do not put any faith in them."
Unfortunately there is no room for doubt any longer that the Germans
have been making war in a manner which is very far indeed from being
civilised. To call it "savage" or "barbarous" would be doing a monstrous
injustice even to uncivilised races. There is only one word, I have used
It already. Do not think I mean to apply it to all the German soldiers,
or even to most of them. But that a large number have acted not like men
but like devils is now lamentably put beyond dispute. And the French War
Office declares that letters found on dead and captured Germans prove
these actions to have been deliberate, to have been ordered by officers
as high in rank as colonels and majors, and to be part of a general
Take the case of the village of Badonviller, in one of the French
frontier departments. Ghastly rumours of what happened here when the
Germans captured it have been floating about for days. From an official
report from the prefect of the department, and from the story told by a
Red Cross war nurse, we have learnt the truth. According to the nurse,
one of the Emperor's sons was there and made a speech to the troops.
"The French are savages," he said. "Strike hard and make examples." The
troops needed no further exhortation. They set about killing and burning
without delay. To begin with, they had bombarded an unfortified village,
an outrage which civilised warfare forbids. When they entered they found
the inhabitants crowded into the cellars. They fired into the windows,
they fired down into the hiding places of the terrified folk. Then they
pulled out those who were left alive and set them up against a wall,
where they amused themselves by pointing their rifles at them, filling
women and children with wild terror.
"Eleven persons assassinated," says the official repart. One was the
wife of the mayor, another a poor woman with a child in her arms. All
were innocent of any offence even against the laws of warfare. The
Germans set up the defense that civilians fired upon them. They could
hardly plead that excuse for shooting women, and it is proved false as
regards the men. These poor villagers were as truly and shamefully
murdered as if a number of Germans had entered their village and done
them to death in time of Peace.
Then the burning and blowing up of houses began. Sometimes it is
necessary for an enemy to clear away buildings-always, of course after
warning the inhabitants to leave. If the Germans had been defending
themselves in Badonviller there might have been good reason for what
they did. But they had no such pretext. In shame wanton rage they
destroyed the church, they destroyed 80 houses, they pillaged and
ransacked the rest
Then they had news at a French force drawing near, and left the smoking
ruins, left the dead bodies covered with bullet-wounds, left a
population hating the very name of Germans as dwellers in the jungle
hate the name of wild beasts that kill and tear and maim.
And now for the part of the story which lifts the heart again and fills
the eves with tears. Next day a German prisoner was brought in by a
French patrol. As soon as the villagers heard of it they gathered with
black vengeance in their minds They would have dragged him away from his
captors they would have rent his wretched body a pieces but between
their fury, not unnatural or unjustified, and their victim stood the
Major Benoit whose wife bad been murdered was the man who might have
cried for vengeance most loudly of all. Instead he pleaded for the
prisoner. He fought down the will of the people. He saved the man s
life. If ever there was an action that could rightly be called Christ-like
it was that. One hears an echo of “Forgive them ; they know not what
they do”. One sees the nobility of the human soul triumphing over the
animal instinct of revenge
So deep an impression did his magnanimity make upon the President and
his Ministers that they immediately made M. Benoit a Knight of the
Legion of Honour “for heroic behaviour” (so the declaration rends) in
that his wife having been assassinated and his house burned he continued
to discharge his duties with cool devotion, and also saved the live of a
prisoner threatened by the just wrath of the inhabitants, giving thus a
magnificent example of energy and greatness of soul”. M Benoit will live
in history. His action will light up one of the most inspiring pages in
the record of the war
In another little place called Blamont, from which the French drove out
the Germans by a sudden attack, they only just saved the mayor and other
leading residents from being shot; On the walls were papers stating that
they had been "condemned to death.” Far from being able to carry out
their sentence the Germans suffered in great number the pains of death
themselves. There was a thrilling charge of French cavalry from a mile
away. So violent was the shock that the Germans were utterly broken
Another terrible accusation brought against the Germans is that of
killing the wounded. Again, one would like to dismiss it as a wild
horror. But It rests upon appallingly solid testimony. Names are given
by a committee charged with inquiring into any lapses from the civilised
code of war. A Belgian sergeant was even told by an officer taken
prisoner that '”the Germans wanted no prisoners". That cannot certainly
be taken as expressing the general view of the German Army, but there
are many who have acted up to it. A French non commissioned officer
wrote to his parents in Toulouse that a wounded officer of chasseurs had
been “finished off” on the battlefield, and that this was declared by
the murderer to be "according to orders ".
Such sins against humanity are bound to meet with awful retribution. So,
too, will the widespread German spy system make life very unpleasant in
future for Germans living abroad It has been discovered that the German
Consuls were empowered to call upon any subject of the Kaiser to employ
himself in the mean and degrading capacity of a spy. Note-books were
supplied in which the information required was set down, strength of
garrisons, names of regiments composing them, names of local officials,
resources of the locality, names of wealthy people and estimates of
their possessions, amount of food stored in neighbourhood, and so on
The number of spies who went thus systematically to work in Franco and
Belgium was enormous, and in England the system is said to have been
carried on also. No country will feel cordial towards people who are
capable of abusing hospitality and friendship in this sinister and