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Heavy Artillery that none had been since his admonitory shells had carried their iron warning to climb down. A staff officer of the Division had intro
duced him to me as "the friend of the Rheims Cathedral," explaining that it probably wouldn't be standing today but for him.
"So you are the vandal?" "the friend of the Rheims Cathedral was asked.
Yes, I am the barbarian,'" he
laughed, modestly. He wears the Iron Cross of the first and second class, and, although still only a Lieutenant, commands two batteries. A most picturesque but paradoxical "barbarian," with a softspoken lisp, mild blue eyes, boyish face in spite of a tawny-reddish full beard of long standing, and slightly bowed legs, it required a most rigorous reportorial inquisition as practiced on millionaires and politicians at home to extract these details from the modest "friend of the Rheims Cathedral":
"The French observer on the cathedral was first noticed on Sept. 13. After that the French artillery fire became uncomfortably accurate. Eighty shells fell here in one day alone-killing only one cow," he added, with a plaintive note of reminiscence. He pointed to three big holes in the ground close by and all within a circle of ten yards' radius, where three French shells had dropped in quick succession, as further evidence of how well they had got the range.
"The fellow continued on the job' quite shamelessly until the 18th," he went on, "when I aimed two shots at the cathedral, and only two. No more were needed to dislodge him. One from a 15-centimeter howitzer struck the top of the 'observation tower,' the other, from a 21-centimeter mortar, hit the roof and set it on fire. I used both howitzers and mortars so as to let the French know that we could shoot well with both kinds. I wanted to dislodge the observer with the least possible damage to the fine old cathedral, and the result shows that it is possible to shoot just as accurately with heavy artillery as with field artillery. The
French also had a battery planted about 100 yards from the cathedral. It isn't there any more," he added laconically.
A few turns of the screw brought a row of trees marking a boulevard into the field of vision. "There is a French battery there at the present time," he said.
"How do you know?” For I saw trees but no guns.
66 Aeroplanes," "the friend of the cathedral" explained. Another turn of the screw brought a church steeple into view.
"The French are now using this church steeple for observation purposes," the battery commander said. "The observer is reported to me every morning. He is getting to be too shameless. I shall take a shot at that steeple this afternoon in all probability. And then I suppose they will again call us barbarians. I saw the fellow myself this morning. He sits in that little arched window there." I saw the window quite distinctly, and only regret that the culprit had climbed down for the luncheon intermission, which is religiously kept by both the French and German artillery.
A tour of the wrecked fort followed, and among other interesting sights the guide pointed out the trail of the famous freak shot that killed the cow. The shell went first through a glass window, then through the wall at the back of the room, into a second chamber, where, without exploding, it had amputated a hind leg of the milch cow whose loss is still mourned by two batteries of heavy artillery.
Up to now, war, as experienced from the vantage ground of a high hill overlooking Rheims, seemed a pleasant picnic, for the German arsenal was well stocked with plenty of good food, while the Chief of the Division Staff, with typical German hospitality, had sent along his adjutant armed with two baskets of Teuton sandwiches, which added to the picnic illusion and claimed far more attention than the Cathedral of Rheims. The frequent sight of Gen
erals down to high privates taking hearty nourishment all along the front in France with the same comfortable enjoyment as in their own homes was more convincing than all official bulletins that they are not worrying about the outcome in the West, for morale and meals are synonyms.
The luncheon interval over, the French batteries woke up and began sending over shells with Gallic prodigality, the Germans replying sparingly, and as if in invitation, for my benefit, a French aeroplane no bigger than a Jersey mosquito appeared and circled over the German positions trying to locate the cleverly concealed heavy batteries, while down on the plain back of the hills a German motor aeroplane gun popped away for dear life trying to connect with the inquisitive visitor. Little cottonball clouds of white smoke, like daylight fireworks, hung high in the air, where the French flier had been, also black "smoke pots " to help the gunners in getting the range, but the Frenchman managed to dodge all the shrapnel that came his way, and escaped.
By request, "the friend of the cathedral" led the way (a long and strenuous one) to his 15-centimeter howitzer battery, concealed with amazing cleverness even against the observation of aviators, and pointed out the gun that had fired "the shot heard round the world." He would gladly have fired a sample shot, but the guns of the battery were already set for the night (although it was only noon!) that is, aimed at certain portions of the landscape which French troops would have to cross if they attempted to make a night attack on certain of the German trenches, so that no time would be lost in aiming the guns-all they had to do was to fire the moment the telephone bell rang a night alarm.
"Was there any connection between his iron crosses and the Rheims Cathedral?" he was tactfully asked. There was not, but modest heroes are nuisance journalistically, and friend of the cathedral" required a lot
of coaxing before he told that he had won both the first and second class sometime before and elsewhere, the second for galloping his heavy howitzer battery into action like field artillery and by getting it to work at close range, smearing" a desperate French attack; first class for continuing to direct the fire of his battery from the roof of a building until it was literally shot from under his feet. "The friend of the cathedral" is also an experienced aviator, and when business is dull in the howitzer line around Rheims, kills time by aerial reconnoitring. “Be sure and send me a copy of your paper," he laughed, when I beat a hasty strategic retreat to the rear to keep the Wilsonian neutrality from being violated, for after lunch French shells have a habit of raining alike on the just and the unjust.
The strategic retreat led through a village where in a farmyard was seen one of the most curious freaks of the war. A French shell had exploded here, and the terrific air pressure had lifted a farm wagon bodily and deposited it on the roof of the stable, where it still perches.
Half a mile beyond was something even more curious-a subterranean village built in the woods by German pioneers, and consisting of many small block houses of fir logs, sunk threequarters of the way into the ground, the rest covered over with mounds of dirt and laid with sod. The idea, it was ex
plained, was to have a cozy and safe
place of retreat when the French batteries, as occasionally happened, took the village ahead under fire.
My retreat ended at Château Mumm, well out of the firing zone, where Gen. Count von Waldersee did the honors in the unavoidable absence of the owner, said to be related to a well-known brand of champagne. On inquiry, I learned. that the champagne cellars of Château Mumm were quite empty, but the retreating French were said to have caused the vacuum, not the Germans. Château Mumm's absentee owner will be glad to learn that his property is being well
cared for, pending his return. I was interested to note quite recent issues of The London Times, Daily Mail, and London Daily Telegraph on the drawing room table.
"It's very interesting, you know, to read what our enemies are saying about us," a staff officer explained.
Two other items of miscellaneous interest were picked up. From a well informed source I learned that at one stage of the game, the English "Long Toms" were posted to good advantage back of Rheims out of range of the German heavy artillery. Although their lyddite shells were alleged to have been comparatively harmless and did little damage, they were nevertheless silenced on general principles and by a very simple expedient. Every time the "Long Toms were fired, a few answering shells were sent their way and, of course, falling short, dropped into the city. This gave rise to stories of "furious bombardment of Rheims," but also caused the withdrawal of the Long Toms to spare the city.
A General whose name is familiar to
every reader of THE NEW YORK TIMES said:
"I could take Rheims with my corps in twenty-four hours."
But there was no present advantage in storming it at this time, and certain disadvantages, for in addition to certain strategic reasons, it was explained, the Germans would be saddled with the burden of having to administer and feed the large city.
The "battle of Rheims " looked to me very much like à put-up job, a game of trying to silence one another's batteries and nothing more. A heavy artillery duel is essentially a contest between trained observers trying to get a line on the whereabouts of the enemy's guns, and looking down on Rheims from the German hills, even a lay correspondent could sense the military necessity which I would drive the French to make use of the only high spots in town from which you could see anything for observation purposes, and the equally grim necessity for the Germans to dislodge them. I came away with the impression that the world owes a real debt of gratitude to "the friend of the Rheims Cathedral."
Up to the hour of 3, howitzer shells had passed through the southern wall of the cathedral, killing two of the German wounded inside, had wrecked the Grand Hotel opposite the cathedral, knocked down four houses immediately facing it, and in a dozen places torn up immense holes in the cathedral square. Twentyfour hours after Lieut. Wengler claims he ceased firing shells set fire to the roof and utterly wrecked the chapel of the cathedral and the Archbishop's palace, which is joined to the cathedral by a yard no wider than Fifth Avenue, and in the direction of the German guns the two shells fired by Lieut. Wengler had already wrecked all that part of the city surrounding the cathedral for a quarter of a mile.
To get an idea of the destruction, suppose St. Patrick's Cathedral, on Fifth Avenue, to be the Rheims Cathedral; the Union Club and the Vanderbilt houses, the chapel and Archbishop's palace, and all the buildings running north from St. Patrick's Cathedral to Central Park and east and west to Madison Avenue and Sixth Avenue that part of Rheims that was utterly wrecked. That gives you some idea of the effectiveness of Lieut. Wengler's fire.
the French placed a battery a hundred yards from the cathedral also is interesting. The cathedral stands in a maze of twisting narrow lanes. From no spot within a quarter of a mile of it could you drive a golf ball without smashing a window a hundred feet distant. To place a battery of artillery a hundred yards from the Rheims Cathedral with the intent of firing upon the German position would be like placing a battery in Wall Street with the idea of shelling Germans in the Bronx. Before your shells reached the Bronx you first would have to destroy all of Northern New York.
Wengler says the only shells aimed at the cathedral were fired by him on the 18th, and that after that date neither he nor any other officer fired a shot. On the 22d I was in the cathedral. It was then being shelled. I was with the Abbé Chinot, Gerald Morgan of this city, Capt. Granville Fortescue of Washington, and on the steps of the cathedral was Robert Bacon, our ex-Ambassador to France.
The "evidence" of Lieut. Wengler is a question of veracity. It lies between him and these gentlemen. I am content to let it go at that.
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS. New York, Jan. 7, 1915.
The German Airmen
Rheims. When I met him he was traveling in his luxurious private limousine which he had brought with him into the field from Berlin. My military motor car had executed a flank attack on the road embankment with disastrous re
EADQUARTERS OF GERMAN NTH ARMY, Somewhere in France, Dec. 6, 1914.-Sensational duels between hostile aeroplanes are regular occurrences now, and not infrequently aerial battles take place between whole squadrons.sults and the aviator kindly gave me a
I heard this from the chief of an aeroplane squadron, who was returning from a reconnoitring flight around
lift into town and some interesting information.
"We are all eagerly awaiting orders
for a raid on England," the Captain led off. "Yes, I have flown over Paris. Going to Paris is mere chauffeur's work. The six machines of my squadron have covered 15,000 miles since the war began. The French machines are about twenty miles an hour faster than ours; but there is no advantage in going so fast, for you can't make good observations. At a height of 6,000 feet you are quite safe against fire from below. We also find the safest thing to do is to circle right over a battery. can't get at you then.
"Fights in the air are regular occurrences now. We attack every chance we get in spite of the fact that we have only our revolvers against the machine guns which they have mounted on their aeroplanes. We find the best defense against their machine-gun fire is to get up close to the French aeroplane and then dodge and twist in sharp dips and curves, spoiling the aim of their mounted machine gun, and giving us an advantage with our revolvers.
"One of the most interesting engagements was between a squadron of four of our aeroplanes armed with revolvers and a big and little 'Bauerschreck,' [the German nickname for the armored French aeroplanes armed with machine guns.] The fight lasted for nearly an hour at an altitude ranging from 5,000 to 6,000 feet, the big 'Bauerschreck' being finally forced to land, while the little one flew off. One of our aviators did a fine piece of work recently, landing behind the French lines, destroying the railway at that point and flying off again. The French are magnificent fliers, and so are the English, but we Germans have the training. Especially in trained observers we have a big advantage."
I saw one of the German flier heroes in a base hospital. To the nurse's chart over his cot were pinned the Iron Cross of the second and first class and a bunch of flowers, and the Surgeon General coaxed him to give the details of the winning of his decorations.
Sergt. Luchs and his observer were returning from an aerial reconnoissance
when they were overtaken and attacked by a fast French aeroplane. The effectiveness of the French machine-gun fire was later shown by seventy holes in the wings of the German aeroplane. For forty-five minutes the battle in the air lasted-6,000 feet up-revolver against machine gun, ending only when Luchs was shot through the lungs and liver. He was able to guide his machine safely to the ground within the German lines before he lost consciousness. But one
of his revolver bullets had gone home, probably puncturing the gasoline tank, for the French aeroplane was also seen making a forced landing.
Gen. von Heeringen, Commander in Chief of the Nth army, told me a similar story about two officers who fought with revolver against machine gun until their motor and tank were shot to pieces, forcing them to glide to earth. The General said he had learned about their bravery only by accident, as they had reported only the results of their reconnoissance.
That the German aviators are at a disadvantage in fighting against the Allies' aeroplanes armed with machine guns was freely admitted by Gen. von Heeringen, who said significantly that that would be attended to in the near future.
"French aeroplanes have paid me a number of visits," the commanding General said with a laugh. "Our aviation camp seems to be an attraction for them. We have shot down six of them in the last few weeks. Our gunners are really only just beginning to get the hang of it, with practice. The trouble in peace time was always to find some sort of a target to train our gunners in the use of the new motor gun. We couldn't very well ask of our own aviators to go up and let themselves be shot at. But now the French are affording us just the moving target we have been looking for, and our shooting is improving splendidly."
Gen. von Haenisch, von Heeringen's brilliant Chief of Staff, who as former Inspector General of the aviation arm