The Great German Failure.

After Verdun, What?

Important French Progress

“IN these days when the fate of France is being settled at Verdun...” is a phrase from an article in which the “Munchner Neueste Nachrichten” explains why “no serious men can believe that Germany will be defeated.”

The Germans are not, however, getting quite so much of this kind of thing as formerly, and a paper of the importance of the “Frankfurter Zeitung” publishes reports from its correspondent at Headquarters on the Western front plainly suggesting that the initiative has passed to the French.

“It is undeniable,” says the correspondent, “that the French in the last fighting have developed before Verdun a degree of activity which they had not hitherto attained.” He speaks of the “quite extraordinary obstinacy” they are displaying around Mort Homme, and says “these unceasing attacks make upon our troops demands of tremendous nerve, force, and watchfulness.”

There is, in such statements, a hint that the German troops are badly shaken and that there is discouragement among the younger officers is plainly shown by a letter given publicity by the Swiss paper “Basler Nachrichten,” hitherto notoriously pro-German.

Writing to a friend in Switzerland under date April 15, a young officer who has been fighting at Verdun says: “I have never witnessed such ferocious fighting, such indescribable things, as these combats on the banks of the Meuse. I give up depicting them to save your mind from being haunted with such horrors. We are day and night under an incredible tempest of shells from the French guns. The enemy’s resistance is wonderful.”

He goes on to speak of an attempted attack on April the 11th to capture a French trench, and says: “After 12 hours’ shelling from our batteries we got orders to rush for the enemy’s trenches, but as soon as our infantry attempted to move the French machine guns started spitting fire at us. Our first line was literally mown down. The French then battered the position with such a hail of shells that is was impossible to continue our advance.

“We are now 100 yards from the French lines, but all our roads and approaches are under the enemy’s fire and we are unable to bury our dead or even pick up our wounded. As for our rations, they reach us sometimes but oftener not. The men occupied with the bringing up of supplies are constantly shot down and few of us have any hope of getting out of this alive.”

“Meanwhile” observes Mr Hilaire Belloc in “Land and Water,” “the greatest battle that has ever take place in the recorded history of the world has been won by the French,” adding that “Verdun means to the enemy a loss over and above the loss he has inflicted upon his opponent certainly of four army corps probably of five.

“It means that an effort on which he had concentrated the whole of his available resources, for which he spent months in preparation, in which he had such confidence that he risked open declarations of victory and deliberate and definite prophecies of success, has resulted for him in a bloody and irreparable defeat.”

He admits that it is not possible to say that the enemy will not go on again – “we must pray that he may, and the longer the better” – for “Prussian stupidity and Prussian vanity, it’s colleague, are here our powerful allies, and they rarely fail us.”