BELGIUM'S HEROIC RESISTANCE
AN ADDRESS BY S. N. DANCY, ESQ.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, March 4, 1915
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN, There is only one regret in my heart today, and that is that I have not at my disposal something in the neighbourhood of two or three hours rather than thirty or thirty-five minutes, because the subject which I shall discuss is one of such far-reaching measure, that it is absolutely impossible to do justice to it in the brief time which I have. However, it is my privilege to present myself to the Empire Club today as a Canadian, born in the City of Belleville, of good Canadian parents; who succeeded in going into Germany and looking around behind the German lines, and succeeded in coming back in safety to my native land of Canada. I have with me my German passports to prove to those of sceptical mind that the statements I make are absolutely correct. I do not just know where we might begin discussing the situation in Europe. So far-reaching has been the propaganda organised by Germany in the United States of America that it might be well at the, outset, in view of the fact that I am speaking before an Iperial club, to refute a statement which has been published broadcast by the German government, to the effect that the war was forced on Germany, and that she is fighting for her very life and existence. I have seen with my own eyes, and I have heard with my own ears, sufficient to convince me beyond the shadow of a doubt that Germany has organised this war for the past twenty or twenty-five years, and it is only now when she realises her state of helplessness that she seeks to appeal to the neutral lands in an effort to justify what is possibly the greatest crime in the annals of the human race. I have seen at Maubeuge and Namur and Antwerp the foundations for the 42-centimetre guns, foundations which were carefully constructed in the form of foundations for palatial villas occupied by German civilians. I have studied the network of railways along the Belgian frontier, which proves but one purpose in the German mind, which was the mobilisation and the transportation of troops through Belgium. I have studied the German character in my different visits through Europe, and I have instances beyond number, which now I may place together, and which resolve themselves into one indisputable fact, that Germany knew this war was coming two years back, because I have seen in Berlin the mobilisation orders of 1912 with the " 2 " struck out and the figure " 4 " put in the place of the "2." I have seen other evidence too, but suffice to say this: Germany organised this war; she thought she could pass through Belgium, that there would be no resistance in Belgium; she thought that Great Britain, with the Empire of which we are all so proud to be members, would lie idle and allow those principles for which she stands and exists, to be trampled under foot. I say that I as a Britisher am as proud of my British birthright as any man in this hall, but if Britain had not come to the assistance of Belgium, I would not have been a Britisher long. Knowing the character of Belgium, and understanding the situation as I do, I know German troops were on Belgian soil two days before war was declared, and it was only out of respect to the neutrality of Belgium that Britain declared war. So it is as I go through Germany today, I hear naught but words of abuse and scorn for everything British. I was proud of that, because I know wherever you find hatred and abuse there is some well-founded reason, and that reason is this, that with Britain at war, Germany can never succeed. So it is that as I followed the train of events, landing at Boulogne on the gist of August last, I followed the British army into the very jaws of that struggle at Mons, where the Germans outnumbered the British ten to one, but the British did not retire because they had to, but only when orders came to retire. Notwithstanding the fact that the average British soldier was not at all pleased with that order, which meant his retirement, he did so gladly; and never have I seen joy written on the faces of- any men to such a marked degree as I did at the battle of the Marne when the orders came to the British army to abandon the tactics of retirement and charge the enemy; and from that moment Germany has been driven back to the banks of the Aisne, and she will be driven farther and farther back, because in the last few weeks armies have been gathering numbering nearly 10,000,000 men, to say nothing of the reserves of Roumania or Russia or Belgium. But that army of 2,500,000 men, known as Kitchener's army, is as good as any 5,000,000 Germans that ever stepped. In point of equipment and instruction it is the finest army that ever went to war, and proud as we are of the glorious achievements of the British in the past, and proud as we must be of the glorious deeds of gallantry and pluck of the British soldiers in this present struggle, I ask you to wait patiently for the record that will be set up by Kitchener's new army; and that will not alone be in glory for the British army and the old Union Jack, but it will mean the destruction of every vestige of German armament, the razing of Krupps to the ground, and the setting up of those conditions that will absolutely prevent Germany coming back in five years' time to disturb the peace of the world. Why this world-wide propaganda, if Germany is in the right? If I were in the right, I should be prepared to leave that to the good judgment and intelligence of my, fellow-beings; but the very fact that I would set forth a world-wide propaganda is in itself evidence of the fact that I have no confidence in my own case, and seek to set up favour in neutral lands. But Germany has lost. She will never win America to her cause, nor Holland, nor Italy; and I doubt if she can win the German people to her cause before the close of the present war. Conditions in AustriaHungary point to only one thing. They are of a serious character; the rioting of the mobs in search of food is of passing interest as compared with the discontent of public sentiment; which means, that the Slav population will ultimately rise in revolt to strike at that very monster which has been the hate of every Hungarian in the past, and is today the displeasing factor in the life of the Austrian people too; I refer to Prussian militarism. If the world must know the cause of the present war they can read it in two words: Prussian militarism. I have talked with the French Generals; I have spoken to the Belgian Generals; I have discussed this matter with the British Generals too; and there is only one purpose and resolve in the mind and heart of the Allies today, and it is this, that peace will be made in the city of Berlin, and that peace will be of such an everlasting and far-reaching character as to put aside for ever the doubt that the tranquillity of this world will ever again be disturbed; and that e will be written, not at the behest of Germany, but it will be written when the Allies deem it advisable to do so, and not until every force and power of a military character in the heart of the German Empire has been crushed to dust and crushed to ashes.
I was in the City of Brussels when the dispatch was flashed across the world, that in the archives of the government buildings there had been found papers which set forth an entente between Britain and France and Belgium, which practically meant that the neutrality of Belgium would have been otherwise violated by one of the allied members. I want to say that I know members of the Belgian government; and I know that when the Belgian government left Brussels for Antwerp, the archives were cleaned and dusted, and if there is any man in this hall today who feels that the Belgian government is so shortsighted as to leave in those archives a document of such important character, then you do not know or understand the Belgian character. Those archives were cleaned and dusted, and the statement of the German government to the effect that that document was found is a fabrication of malicious falsehood, and they can never substantiate it in fact. It is absolutely useless for me to waste time in discussing that side of the struggle; that war is here, and although we may differ in political opinions, although we may have our internal disputes, I am proud of one thing. In the South African War there was difference of opinion in Britain and even in Canada; but go from Australia and New Zealand, passing through the heart of the old Empire, right to the far-flying western outpost at Vancouver, and there is no Britisher today but who is determined on one thing, the elimination of Germany as a military power, and the destruction of those forces that wish to trample under foot the liberty and independence of small nations. Everywhere you go through England, Ireland, and Scotland, you see naught but that same unanimity of opinion among the whole of the British people; they are resolved, they are in perfect harmony, and even some of the ultra-Irish, who at other times might have got up a little internal strife, are contented with present conditions; because they are giving of their life and of their blood today, shedding that blood for the old flag that a few months ago they despised; and with that before Germany, how can she hope to succeed? I can understand the Kaiser; he thought the Irish trouble would disorganise British politics; the statement in the French Chamber of Deputies that their army was not properly equipped gave some force to his hopes; in India and South Africa he saw the possibility of revolt. But, thank God, the life dream of the Kaiser can never be realised never be realised for one reason alone. You can put France out of this war today; you can lay Russia aside; you can ask Belgium to accept a well-merited rest; you can then say to Italy, No, do not come into this war in April, we have no need for you; even tell Roumania it is not necessary that she join the Allies; because with the resources we have on hand at the present moment, Britain is big enough and strong enough to beat Germany on her own soil. Some of you will ask why this great delay, why it is the Allies are not at Berlin. But you must remember this; this is not a war of today, it is not a war of tomorrow; this is a war which must and will determine the peace of this whole world for many years or many centuries to come. Britain was not prepared; France was not prepared; France had equipment for 500,000 men, and had to put 4,000,000 men in the field. Belgium was poorly equipped as well. But the British Empire was big enough, and night and day the factories have been busy making supplies, arms and ammunition and uniforms, for the French and Belgians. She has been assisting Servia with money and arms; she brought two corps of the Russian army through England; she has assisted in a monetary so it was that everywhere I went I met stragglers from the British army, men who had been left during the dark hours of the night. Some of them were in rags, some with bleeding feet, some without food for days, but despite their hunger and thirst and want, they had only one purpose, and that was to get back to the army and get another strike at the Germans. And some of them did get back, and some who did return have succeeded in placing under the sod Germans outnumbering themselves many times over.
It is not necessary to go into details to know and understand the character of the British retreat from Mons. It was absolutely necessary, because Kitchener-and that is a name that Germany has learned to respect, despite the fact that she seeks to heap scorn on his head--Kitchener--is the stumbling-block for Von Kluk and some of the German generals--Kitchener's policy was to use up the German machine with the least possible expenditure of men and ammunition and money. Has he succeeded? Look at Europe today; the flower of the German army is under the sod; and there is not enough force in Germany if they take every man and boy from fifteen to eighty, big enough to beat the British army alone, to say nothing of the French or the Russians or the Belgians. I was in Paris when Kitchener made a hurried visit to that city; that was the time when the French had failed to come up to relieve the British. He laid down to the French government one cast-iron law, and he told them if they did not live up to that law, he would withdraw every soldier from France. What is the result today? There is not a move that the French army makes, but Lord Kitchener is consulted. There is hardly a space in the French line but you will find a few British there to cheer up the hearts of the Frenchmen. So it is that although the heroic Belgians held the Germans back sufficiently long at Liege to allow France time to mobilise and prepare, the resistance and tactics of that contemptible little army has saved France over and over again. It will save the Allies; it will save Belgium, and save the whole civilised world, because if Germany should ever succeed, God help humanity. Militarism in Germany today is naught but a tyrannical force; its oppression is telling on the German people. When the war is over, when Prussian militarism will have been crushed for all time to come, I believe some of the gladdest hearts in the world will be found in the peasantry of the German Empire. Of the German soldiers with whom I have conversed, there is not one in ten that wants the war. The war has been forced upon them, and these poor unfortunate individuals are forced into the war, and if they do not march in step, and continue their tactics to please the officers, they have the point of a swordthrust, and sometimes a revolver-shot, from the German officers to silence them. The German officers imitate the British officers in only one respect, and that is that they want to force this fight. But, thank God, there is one distinction between the British and the German officer. The British officer is found at the head of his regiment with uplifted sword; the German officer is found behind his regiment with pistol lifted to shoot the first deserter.
What is the situation in Germany today? It has been my pleasure to visit Germany twice. Never in my life have I seen such a spirit of boastful certainty as I found in the German people on my first visit. There was absolutely nothing that that German war machine could not accomplish; it was invincible. London was to be laid in ruins; Paris was to become a German possession; Belgium was to be another German province. As I pause and view the magnificence of that life-dream of the Kaiser, it is almost startling in its effect. What is the difference today? That spirit of boastful certainty has given place to a spirit of doubt; that doubt is gradually growing into a fear, and men who six months ago boasted of the success of German arms, are in that state of mind where they will tell you that Germany may not succeed, but they will fight to the last man and the Allies will never see Berlin. We are prepared to grant that the Germans may never succeed in France or Belgium or Britain, but as to the matter of entering Berlin, let us leave that to the Allies, and not accept the dictates of the Kaiser or the warlords. We will be in Berlin before six months' time. When I say " we " I speak of the Allies, because Russia will be in Berlin and the Cossacks will be riding up the Unter den Linden long before the Kaiser anticipates. Some say the Russians are not a force to consider seriously. In point of strategy alone the Russians have outpointed the Germans. They have three men to every German, and if they were defeated the other day, that is only part of the general plan, due also to the fact that her railway system is not what it should be. But Russia will have her troops there about the same time as the Allies from the west. An army from France and Belgium and England is going to be rushed across Holland, to join forces from Italy and Roumania. The first duty of that army is to crush Krupp's to the ground, and then complete the encircling movement. The Kaiser will see in September the Cossacks riding down Unter den Linden, and then he will realise that his scheme has failed; but not before. He is an unusual man; he has such unbounded confidence that " Me and God " are going to accomplish this and that. After my study of conditions in Germany and France and Belgium, and particularly in Belgium, I say that if the Kaiser is really sincere then he is absolutely insane; and if he is not insane, then I say he is a criminal. It is impossible to say what character of punishment should be meted out to that man. Some say he should be sent to St. Helena; others say he should be dragged at the end of a long rope through Paris. A Belgian lady said, " Let the Kaiser pass down Rue Royale in Brussels, and let every Belgian lady be there with a hatpin one foot long, and let us all take a jab at him, and we will be perfectly satisfied."
I want to say one thing about the conditions in Belgium. Much has been written about the alleged barbarities of the German troops, perpetrated in the heart of Belgium. What has been written does not represent one half the truth. I have seen the mutilation of women and children; I have seen the noncombatant population driven from their homes and massacred; it has only been a policy of fire, pillage, and murder. The Germans claim that they promoted that policy with a purpose of affrighting the French people, so that when the German armies entered France the French would be prepared to throw down their gauntlet. But little Belgium has withstood the test of steel, and the test of fire, and the test of pillage, and along the banks of the Yser Canal there is a remnant of an army, 55,000 strong, but it is big enough to hold back the hosts, because they can never cross the canal. For months they have attempted to do it in battering their way to Calais. But the little British army held them at Mons, and has held them at Yser for five months, with the whole flower of the German army thrown against that wall of British steel. Had they yielded, Calais would have been in the hands of the Germans in seven days, but even with the Prussian Guards the Kaiser was not able to break down the wall. That wall is there today, and the only changeable feature is that it is moving farther and farther north, but not towards Calais.
Barbarities in Belgium, and in northern France, will form one of the blackest pages in the history that will be written in connection with the present war. The first invasion of the German troops represented what we call the professional soldier, bent on the lust of killing and of drink. Drink is responsible in large sense for many of the cruelties in Belgium. But Louvain and Alost and Tirlemont and Malines and Dinant have been sacked by the German troops; women and children have been mutilated and massacred; civilians have been passed to the mitrailleuse, for no other reason than that they were Belgians. The Germans may crush the life out of the Belgian people, but they can never crush the heart out of them. There is only one thing I ask; and that is, that when the Allies go into Germany, do honour to that little state by placing in the front rank the remnant of their army, to prove to the Kaiser and to Berlin that they can survive, and to congratulate the Kaiser on his downfall.
Another point is this: Germany was bent upon the violation of Belgian neutrality months and years before that neutrality was ever violated. In the hotel in Ostend I was talking to the patron when two German guests, who had visited him every summer for the past ten years, were in the act of leaving. He bade them adieu and asked them if they would be back next year again. They said they would be back in fifteen days. They were back in a few months' time, and came with the force that tore down the name Ostend on the station and from the public buildings, and put up the name " Calais," with the intent and purpose of leading the German soldiers to believe they were m Calais; as the German soldiers were led to believe, when they were firing across the inundated lands in Belgium, that they were firing across the Straits of Dover.
Although the German war machine was--I do not use the word is--the most perfected military machine in the history of mankind; and although the Germans may be bright and intelligent in many things, particularly in commerce and in espionage, there is one thing in which they do not excel, and that is the ability to accomplish a purpose which has been set forth, and which means the surmounting of obstacles that may be set up in the form of a British defence or a British resistance, or a Belgian defence or a Belgian resistance.
That is the situation in Europe today. In a few months' time the story of this war will be brought to a close. The close of the war may be hastened through the present policy of the Allies to effect the strangulation of Germany. I know from personal knowledge that the food supply of Germany is not what it should be. In the large hotels that gave five and six-course dinners, today they are giving one course, and a man is fortunate to get the one course. In some of the peasant cottages there is absolute want today. Famine is staring in the face the Austrian and Hungarian people, and in the east of Germany that monster is fastening his fangs on the people. Internal troubles will in a large measure hasten the end of this war, and when the end of this war does come let us be of the one mind that the force of Prussian militarism has sought to perpetrate upon the civilised world, and on humanity at large, a crime so great that it has no parallel in past history. But, thank God, that even as the German army and even as Prussian militarism were the product and development of an ulterior motive to promote the PanGerman movement and bring the whole world to its knees in humble reverence before that spirit of militarism, still, civilisation has not been crushed because civilisation has developed a force; that force is in the British trenches, in the French trenches, and in the Belgian trenches today; it is with the Russians and the Servians, and that force of civilisation has not alone effected the disorganisation of the German plans, placing Paris and Calais and London and Warsaw in the category of forbidden fruit, but it has been big enough to rise in its strength and strike a blow at the heart of militarism, which will mean that that militarism must and will go down. Never can I forget the turning movement in the battle of the Marne. I was in Paris. The very atmosphere seemed to tell you something great was happening. From one station to another troops were being rushed. I went into the station St. Lazare, which was full of refugees who were sleeping in the corridors of that station, hoping that the train might carry them to safety. The government had left for Bordeaux. There was a spirit of unrest in the heart of the people. But something happened; that atmosphere seemed to be charged with something of great moment; it seemed to develop more and more. A train of British wounded came into the station. I took off my coat, and joined with the Red Cross to assist them. I joined that train with the wounded and went almost to the Marne. There I got off and walked and rode in peasants' carts. I met train after train of refugees coming down the roadway. I knew something was happening. I entered into a small hamlet; I saw the Uhlans, and I secreted myself in a haystack, and for four hours I lay there patiently waiting. Then there was a commotion on the roadway, and I saw from my place of concealment German cavalry, infantry, and artillery rushing down the road. I knew not how to understand the scene until only ten minutes later I saw the British cavalry in hot pursuit, and I said, Thank God, the day has turned. And, from that day, I have never had any doubt about the result of the present European struggle.
Things have gone on to a point better and better and better, until today, along the banks of the Aisne, the French hold the points where the Germans were entrenched. The Germans have spent their maximum and have failed. They could not succeed. Germany has today something like 3,000,000 raw recruits from 18 to 20 years upwards. With those 3,000,000 she can never hope to succeed. She may do as she is doing today. I have seen boys of 16 to 18 years taken out of the schools, given 24 hours' instruction, and put into the trenches. She may take the Landsturm, who have been forced into the trenches; but the presence of thousands of those men in Germany today speaks in unmistakable language of the dissatisfaction in the Landsturm Guards. So the ever-increasing strength of the Allies is setting up a force of aggression and offence that the German army or the German nation can never withstand or beat back. German trade has been destroyed. In England today there is a movement, and justifiable too, to remove those conditions which have obtained for many years; for nearly every article you bought was marked Made in Germany. To the lasting shame of Canada the same has been true here as well.
One lesson of this war is that forts have been proved to be useless. To place men in forts is to waste them. The bayonet has proved its usefulness; obsolete as it was a few years ago, the Germans counted on the big guns, never counting on the individual men. Every victory has been carried at the point of the bayonet. There are many lessons, but the one great lesson I want to force on my fellow-Canadians is this: Provide well in the productiveness of this great world struggle, that little Belgium will be restored. Her independence and her liberty will be placed in that happy position where German militarism can never again hope to annoy or molest it. The independence and liberty of that people must be written in language unmistakable; and a different set of international rules must come, which will mean that when Germany violates the clauses of the Hague Convention, when Germany refuses to respect the laws of God or man, that the United States of America will better employ her time than in sending a note of protest against Britain's action in searching ships for contraband of war, which is justifiable, and was granted by Britain to the United States. She made no protest when Germany violated the clauses of the Convention to which the United States was a party. President Wilson's note of congratulation to the Kaiser has been misinterpreted, and rightly so. If the birthdays of all the monarchs should fall on the same day, he might be justified in sending a note of felicitation, but that was not so. So it is that the French and Belgian people are displeased with President Wilson today. If Wilson is more content to seek out and place the German vote in the United States than he is in justifying the principles of humanity, then it is nearly time the United States of America had a president whose principles represented the good old constitution of our neighbours to the south. The American consular service has accomplished a great work in Belgium and France; that is the one bright star in the diadem of American activity, but there is one hope Wilson can never cherish. At the outset it was said America would be the most influential factor in the determination of the conditions of peace. I make this statement in full knowledge of the facts, that America will never be consulted. The Allies will make that peace, and make it in such a way as to guard and protect their own interests; and, above all, guard and protect the independence and liberty of all classes and all peoples and all creeds.
That is the lesson of the present war today. That sentiment which today is sweeping over the whole of the British Empire, and that is found in Canada as well, stipulates the ruin and degradation and destruction of Prussian militarism, which has sought to drag down and trample in the dust the principles of humanity. That sentiment will not only secure the success of the British arms, and prove a powerful factor in determining the victory of the allied forces, but it will prove something greater and bigger and grander than that: that if the Prussian people may be united in times of war, they too will be united in times of peace.
Although I do not propose to pose as a political prophet, I want to say this, that this present war is the greatest blessing that the Giver of all good things has ever- sent to the British Empire. It is going to unite and solidify the whole of the. British people; it is going to concentrate our energies and make the Empire one united and undivided whole. It is going to set up the Empire as the salvation of smaller states. It is going to strengthen the sinews of peace; it is going to develop a greater spirit of patriotism, and that spirit of patriotism is going to develop a greater love of home industry; it is going to set up that spirit in the British Empire that says, " If it is British, it is good enough for us; and if it is not British, we do not want it at all." That is the spirit that the present war has developed for the British Empire; and even as little Belgium will ever rise in a spirit of reverence and thankfulness to the British nation that has come to her assistance; and even as France has called in the assistance of British arms; so will all the nations of the world come to understand and know and prove, in a deeper measure, the great fundamental truths on which this old British Empire is formed. Then it is that, from one end to the other of that vast domain, we shall have pride and justification for saying this is the home of the brave and the land of the free; and that spirit of freedom will sweep over the whole world, and will ever crush and destroy any force that may seek to raise its head in a spirit that means the destruction of the principles of the human race.
That is the story of the war. Victory is all but realised; the allied forces must and will succeed, and Canada is the proudest star in the diadem that covers the globe. Will Canada accept this lesson, that there is only one people who have the right to inhabit this God-given land, and that is the British people; and that British people must live in one hope, the development and strengthening of the British Empire? Do that, and there is only one closing thought that I will leave with you; and it is simply this, that that British Empire will stand out as a mighty citadel of freedom, and at the foot of that Empire will be bowed the head of every small and independent state. The old flag will continue to flow over every land of British freedom within this Empire; the British navy will continue to be mistress of the sea; the army will continue to be the stumbling block of every force that seeks to destroy the human race. Civilisation will prosper, and, to the glory and honour of the Empire let it be known, that the highest interpretation of civilisation is written in the British trenches in France and Belgium today.
A hearty vote of thanks was tendered to the speaker on motion of the Bishop of Toronto.