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Daily Telegraph, Aug 9, 1914

Daily Telegraph, Aug 9, 1914

The German advance army crossed into Belgium on the 4th of August and was greatly surprised by Belgian resistance along a line of forts on the River Meuse, guarding the city of Liége. Headlines in London and Antwerp celebrated.  Next Stop Berlin, read one.  Enormous German siege guns, one needing 36 horses to pull it, were days behind the initial assault.  At the same time the French, fixated on their Plan XVII, regardless of what the Germans were doing, sent several brigades into Alsace to recover it after 44 years of German occupation following the Franco-Prussian war.

“From August 6 to 10, while the Germans at Liège were waiting for the siege guns and the French were liberating and losing Mulhouse, 80,000 troops of the BEF [British Expeditionary Force] with 30,000 horses, 315 field guns, and 125 machine guns were assembling at Southampton and Portsmouth. Officers’ swords had been freshly sharpened in obedience to an order that prescribed sending them to the armorer’s shop on the third day of mobilization , although they were never used for anything but saluting on parade.

“On August 9 embarkation began, the transports departing at intervals of ten minutes. As each left its dock every other ship in the harbor blew whistles and horns and every man on deck cheered. So deafening was the noise that it seemed to one officer that General von Kluck could not fail to hear it behind Liège.”

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I;  Barbara W Tuchman


From the diary of an American in Paris, this is recorded for Sunday, August 9

To-day Paris presented a strong contrast. The news of French and Belgian successes at the front had cheered the hearts of Parisians, and, in spite of the strange aspect of the boulevards, denuded of their gay terraces, and of most of the ordinary means of locomotion, the city had something of a holiday aspect about it.

In the afternoon the city was crowded with promenaders dressed in Sunday garb. The proportion of women to men has largely increased, but the arrival of numerous reservists from the provinces caused Paris to appear, temporarily at least, somewhat less empty of men.

Indeed, the aspect of the city very much resembled that of any Sunday in summer, when the city is normally far from crowded.

I met MacAlpin of the Daily Mail, who said to me:

“I took a walk in the Bois de Boulogne yesterday afternoon. In a lonely alley I was stopped by three cyclist policemen. They asked for my papers. Fortunately, I had with me my passport and the ‘permission to remain’ issued to me as a foreigner. If I had happened to have left these in another coat, I should have been arrested.

“The policemen told me those were their orders. They added confidentially that they were looking for Germans. After this I saw many more cyclists on the same errand. They are hunting the woods systematically, because many Germans of suspicious character have taken refuge there.

“I rang up a friend on the telephone, and began, as usual: ‘Hullo, is that you?’ I was immediately told by the girl at the exchange that ‘speaking in foreign languages was not permitted.’ ‘Unless you speak in French’ she said, ‘I shall cut you off at once.’ I suppose she listened to what we were saying all the time.

“I went into a post-office to send a telegram to my wife. ‘You must get it authorized at a police office’ I was told. Not the simplest private message can be accepted until it has passed the censor.”

And as to the arts?

The tenors and baritones and sopranos of the Opéra and other theaters are going round singing in the courtyards for the benefit of the Red Cross. The Salon is turned into a military stable. Where the pictures hung, horses are munching their hay. The Comedie Francaise is to become a day nursery for the children of women who, in the absence of their husbands, are obliged to go out to work.