A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 154

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GERMAN INVASION OF BELGIUM


upon which the Germans based their justification of their out-, rages, it is as well to remind ourselves not only of the desperate ferocity of the ruined peasantry but also of the very near success which attended the magnificent sorties of the Belgian line from Antwerp. ^fter tlie occupation of Brussels, the German right wing swung S.W, towards France, leaving on its right flank the still un- beaten Belgian army concentrated in front of Antwerp, and admirably placed to cut the German lines of communication. Two magnificent attempts were made, the first on August 24, and the second on September 9, and the measure of their success is to be judged in the light of the horrors subsequently perpetrated atlLouvain and elsew^iere. Three other points must be remembered. The German linos of communication through Belgium, upon which the very life blood of their w^estern army depended, w^ere exposed to perpetual wrecking and sabotage at the hands of the kicensed civil popula- tion. It is^beyond human nature to witness the destruction of all your worldly goods and the desecration of your country with- outseizingeveryopportunitytowreakafiercerevenge. Outrage begat outrage, and the fate of the small foraging parties of .Uhlans and other troops trapped by the Belgian peasants is best left to the imagination. Secondly Prussian militarism was^he most iron-disciplined of any organized system the world had seen. Theproverbiallicenceofsoldieryfreedfromrestraintwas intensified by the tyranny they suffered under when in the line. Thirdly, Belgium is a wine-drinking country, and the large supplies of liquor which suddenly became available for the German soldiery were but further encouragements to rapine, loot- ing and murder.

All these factors, however, are no condonation of German behaviour. Whiletheymayaidanunderstandingofhowitwas that a highly civilized nation could act with such inhumanity they by no means excuse it, German ** frightfulness” was initially deliberate and it became but the more appalling as panic, and the unparalleled opportunity for its indulgence, grew. While one section of the German army was striking through Vis6 at Louvain, Antwerp and Brussels, a more powerful attack was being delivered on the fortifications of Li^ge. Next to Antwerp and Namur, Li^^ge was the greatest fortified place in Belgium. It was surrounded by a series of detached forts,

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