A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 165

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THE GERMAN PLAN


The battle of Haeleri was one of those fights where the in- dividual soldier had a chance to distinguish himself, and the Belgians told many tales of the bravery of their own men after- wards. There was, for example, one farrier-sergeant by name Rousseau, of the Chasseurs a Cheval, who, with a little band of eight men, charged a whole company of Uhlans and routed them,bringingadozenhorsesbackastrophies. Onelieutenant, asked to send reinforcements, summoned the town fire brigade of Diest, and collected up what soldiers he could find along the road. He and his little band rushed to the point where they were wanted, stormed a Prussian battery and drove it back, the lieutenant himself seizing a soldier's rifle and shooting dead the Prussian officer in command. The day ended in a Belgian victoiy. By this time the Belgians were becoming exceedingly con- fident. At first they had almost despaired of their pr(?spects in thewar. Nowtheythoughtthej^liadpiovedinfightafterfight that they could hold their own, even against the Germans. Had ihey been better acquainted with the methods of the German General ,Staff they would have known that the settled policy of the German army was to play with the enemy during the time of preparations for a great move as a cat plays with a mouse. Tl^ German plan, as admitted by such a writer as General F. von Bernhardi, is to offer a relatively weak front during a period of concentration, to send out a dense screen of cavalry to keep in touch with tlie enemy, to make a show of weakness, to discover the strength of the foe and their dispositions, and then, when the right moment comes, to attack ‘‘like a thunderbolt from the clouds." The Germans at the beginning did not condescend to make elaborate preparations against the Belgians. Doubtless, tliey hoped and expected that forces such as that sent against Haelen would be sufficient in themselves to sweep away any opposition. When they found out their mistake they reverted to their regular tactics, paused, gathered strength, and then struck. The Belgians, after the first fortnight of war, came somewhat to despise the foe. The Germans were ill-equipped, short of food, lacking enthusiasm, and driven unwillingly to fight, said tlie Belgians. 'T go out to capture the Germans," said one Belgian, "not with a gun but with a buttered roll; I hold the roll out; the Uhlans when they see it are so hungry that they rush


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