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قراءة كتاب Golden Lads

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‏اللغة: English
Golden Lads

Golden Lads

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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resorts; Blankenberghe, for instance, was full of them. They were all very well received and had plenty of friends in Belgian families, from the court down. When the war broke out, it immediately became evident that many of these welcomed guests had been spying, measuring distances, preparing foundations for heavy guns in their villas located at strategical points, and so on. It is noteworthy that this spying was not simply done by poor devils who had not been able to make money in a cleaner way—but by very successful German business men, sometimes men of great wealth and whose wealth had been almost entirely built up in Belgium. These men were extremely courteous and serviceable, they spent much money upon social functions and in the promotion of charities, German schools, churches and the like; they had numerous friends, in some cases they had married Belgian girls and their boys were members of the special corps of our 'National Guard.' ... Yet at the same time, they were prying into everything, spying everywhere.

"When the Germans entered into Belgium, they were guided wherever they went by some one of their officers or men who knew all about each place. Directors of factories were startled to recognize some of their work people transformed into Uhlans. A man who had been a professor at the University of Brussels had the impudence to call upon his former 'friends' in the uniform of a German officer.

"When the war is over, when Belgium is free again, it will not be many years before the Germans come back, at least their peaceful and 'friendly' vanguard. How will they be received this time? It is certain that it will be extremely difficult for them to make friends again. As to myself, when I meet them again in my country—I shall ask myself: 'Is he a friend, or is he a spy?' And the business men will think: 'Are they coming as faithful partners, or simply to steal and rob?' That will be their well deserved reward."

One mile from where we were billeted on the Belgian coast stood a villa owned by a German. It lay between St. Idesbald and Coxyde Bains, on a sand dune, commanding the Channel. After the war broke out the Belgians examined it and found it was a fortification. Its walls were of six-foot thickness, of heavy blocks of stone and concrete. Its massive flooring was cleverly disguised by a layer of fancy tiling. Its interior was fitted with little compartments for hydraulic apparatus for raising weights, and there was a tangle of wires and pipes. Dynamite cleared away the upper stories. Workmen hacked away the lower story, piece by piece, during several weeks of our stay. Two members of our corps inspected the interior. It lay just off the excellent road that runs from St. Idesbald to Coxyde Bains, up which ammunition could be fed to it for its coast defense work. The Germans expected an easy march down the coast, with these safety stations ready for them at points of need.[A]

A Belgian soldier rode into a Belgian village one evening at twilight during the early days of the war. An old peasant woman, deceived because of the darkness, and thinking him to be a German Uhlan, rushed up to him and said, "Look out—the Belgians are here." It was the work of these spies to give information to the marauding Uhlans as to whether any hostile garrison was stationed in the town. If no troops were there to resist, a band of a dozen Uhlans could easily take an entire village. But if the village had a protecting garrison the Germans must be forewarned.

Three days after arriving in Belgium, in the early fall of 1914, a friend and I met a German outpost, one of the Hussars. We fell into conversation with him and became quite friendly. He had no cigarettes and we shared ours with him. He could speak good English, and he let us walk beside him as he rode slowly along on his way to the main body of his troops. The Germans had won the day and there seemed to be nothing at stake, or perhaps he did not expect our little group would be long-lived, nor should we have been if the German plans had gone through. It was their custom to use civilian prisoners as a protective screen for their advancing troops. Whatever his motive, after we had walked along beside his horse for a little distance, he pointed out to us the house of the spy whom the Germans had in that village of Melle. This man was a "half-breed" Englishman, who came out of his house and walked over to the Hussar and said:

"You want to keep up your English, for you'll soon be in London."

In a loud voice, for the benefit of his Belgian neighbors, he shouted out:

"Look out! Those fellows shoot! The Germans are devils!"

He brought out wine for the troops. We followed him into his house, where he, supposing us to be friends of the Germans, asked us to partake of his hospitality. That man was a resident of the village, a friend of the people, but "fixed" for just this job of supplying information to the invaders when the time came.

During my five weeks in Ghent I used to eat frequently at the Café Gambrinus, where the proprietor assured us that he was a Swiss and in deep sympathy with Belgians and Allies. He had a large custom. When the Germans captured Ghent he altered into a simon pure German and friend of the invaders. His place now is the nightly resort of German officers.

In the hotel where I stayed in Ghent the proprietor, after a couple of days, believing me to be one more neutral American, told me he was a German. He went on to say what a mistake the Belgians made to oppose the Germans, who were irresistible. That was his return to the city and country that had given him his livelihood. A few hours later a gendarme friend of mine told me to move out quickly, as we were in the house of a spy.

Three members of our corps in Pervyse had evidence many nights of a spy within our lines. It was part of the routine for a convoy of motor trucks to bring ammunition forward to the trenches. The enemy during the day would get the range of the road over which this train had to pass. Of course, each night the time of ammunition moving was changed in an attempt to foil the German fire. But this was of no avail, for when the train of trucks moved along the road to the trenches a bright flash of light would go up somewhere within our lines, telling the enemy that it was time to fire upon the convoy.

Such evidences kept reaching us of German gold at work on the very country we were occupying. Sometimes the money itself.

My wife, when stationed by the Belgian trenches at Pervyse, asked the orderly to purchase potatoes, giving him a five-franc piece. He brought back the potatoes and a handful of change that included a French franc, a French copper, a Dutch small coin, a Belgian ten-centime bit, and a German two-mark piece with its imperial eagle. This meant that some one in the ranks or among the refugees was peddling information to the enemy.

In early October my wife and I were captured by the Uhlans at Zele. Our Flemish driver, a Ghent man, began expressing his friendliness for them in fluent German. After weeks of that sort of thing we became suspicious of almost every one, so thorough and widespread had been the bribery of certain of the poorer element. The Germans had sowed their seed for years against the day when they would release their troops and have need of traitors scattered through the invaded country.

The thoroughness of this

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