A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 126

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FRANCE IN WARTIME


impossible to misunderstand. The name of the soldier, non-commissioned officer, or officer is followed by the name of the town where the depôt of his regiment is situated; next follows an injunction that the man must have rejoined his depôt by the first, second, third . . . tenth, or twelfth day after the mobilization order has been posted. On the date given, the man sets out on his journey, being assured by his booklet of a free pass on the railway so far as the town where his depôt may be, and where he wall be armed and equipped.

Thus, then, during the first days of August, 1914, several millions of Frenchmen responded to the call to arms. Whatever their social position or profession might be—rich or poor, townsmen or peasants—all went off gaily to the depôt to resume their rank, put on their uniforms, and shoulder their rifles. Several millions of men thus brusquely left their occupations or employments, abandoning desk or workshop. Banker and merchant, engineer and manufacturer, waiter and artist, lawyer and doctor, workman and agricultural labourer—all equalised by the same duty of defending the threatened country, leaving behind them home, wife, and children—set out for the great adventure. This formidable movement of men was carried out with complete order, calmness, and regularity. In a few days the depôts and arsenals had equipped and armed these masses of men; the railways transported those who had been mobilized to their depôts, whence they set out again for the frontier, after being assigned to battalions and regiments.

Everything gave place to military necessity. The groups of railways had been militarised ever since the notice of mobilization was posted, and were exclusively devoted to transporting troops, material, munitions, provisions, according to plans and timetables drawn up long before and continually brought up to date. For the convenience of civilians there remained on each line no more than four trains a day, one train every six hours. These were omnibus trains, stopping at every station, of which the times were liable to be changed at any moment, if military necessities demanded, and they might, in case of necessity, be suppressed altogether. As for the transport of goods, only perishable goods were forwarded.

Under such conditions it is obvious that there could be no question of pursuing one's daily occupation as usual. The sudden departure of so many men paralysed in a moment the

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