Partea I Partea a II-a Partea a III-a
O serie de articole de epocă, de la siteul The Great War in a Different Light, despre realităţile de pe frontul românesc, în timpul primului război mondial.
- from 'the War Illustrated' 17th March, 1917
- 'Untold Chapters of Rumania’s Tragic Story'
- Special Correspondent with the Rumanian Army
Mr. Hamilton Fyfe, the distinguished, war correspondent of the "Daily Mail," who for upwards of two years has followed the fortunes of the Russian and Rumanian Armies, is, of all writers, most qualified to furnish faithful pictures of the. events that have happened in Rumania, our knowledge of which is still somewhat obscure. In this and succeeding articles, -written expressly for THE WAR ILLUSTRATED, he will tell my readers much that explains why Rumania has not realised our high hopes ; and these tense chapters' from Rumania's story will arouse in us sincere admiration for a brave and noble-minded people struggling against the greatest dignities.
You may fairly ask, "Why did you, a correspondent on the spot, not enlighten the world at large ?"
I will tell you why. First, It was difficult to collect exact information. That difficulty,, however, I did manage to overcome at all events, I collected enough information to enable me to write what we call in newspaper offices a pretty good "story." Then I came up against the second difficulty — the censorship.
Still, it was worth telegraphing home, even at fivepence a word, and I sent it, as I had sent so many other messages, by wireless. For some reason, not one of these wireless messages was delivered in England. I know they were despatched. But they did not reach the newspaper office to which they were addressed in London. I thought, when I with difficulty obtained leave to use the official "wireless" that I had gained a great advantage ; now I know that the many thousands of francs I spent in this way, not to mention the labour of collecting news and writing the despatches, were all wasted !
The Battle of the Arjesh, fought in the last days of November and the first of. December, ended the organised resistance of the Rumanian Army; Up to that time this Army had been kept together in spite of bad losses. put up a good fight in many places. No one could expect it to do more than it did — few supposed it could much.
I expected from what I had read about the Rumanian Army to find it ready in every way, provided with everything which this war has shown to be necessary to an army. But apart from the lack of heavy artillery, the troops were short of many things essential to success, which did not reach them in time. These things included aeroplanes, field telephones, barbed-wire cutters, trench periscopes trench-mortars, and hand-grenades.
That it stood so long was a proof of the Rumanian soldier's endurance and courage. Properly trained and properly armed, he would be fully the equal of the Russian soldier ; more useful, indeed, than many Russians, since he is quick in intelligence and adaptable. There was a great deal of talk, even among Rumanians, about regiments even divisions, and even armies, "running away." Cases there were of retreats which could not be called orderly, but these were almost all, when they came to be inquired found to have been ordered and led by officers, even officers of high rank.
Some of these had influence enough to escape the punishment that has fallen upon General Socec. Truly, the general who was to blame for the confusion that helped to lose the Battle of the Arjesh deserved more than any other guilty commander to suffer for his fault; for the consequences of it were not only a very grievous loss of life and the bagging by the enemy of a vast number of prisoners; not only the loss of Bukarest and the oil region, but this temporary break-up of the Rumanian Army.
For a fortnight after the Germans swept down from the mountains into the plain (November 15th) the Rumanians retreated before them. But they kept their formations unbroken. It was difficult to do this, because their flanks were being turned every few days. The German manoeuvre was fascinating to those who watched it and understood something of strategy. It worked like a clock. As the invading force moved eastward in the plain, the defenders of the passes to the north were forced to retire. So were the Rumanian troops stationed at various points along the Danube. Thus you had units of the Rumanian .Army retiring in an easterly, in a south-easterly, and in a north-easterly direction at the same-time.
The rough sketch which I give here will convey some idea of the country through which the Rumanians retreated. They might have made a stand upon the River Oitu if they had prepared positions beforehand. But this bad not been done. On the Arjesh they halted and gave battle. They were told that Russian troops were on the point of coming to their aid. On Saturday, December and, I was informed by Headquarters that a Russian cavalry division was due to detrain that evening, and that infantry with artillery were on the way. If the Rumanians could have held the line of the Arjesh for only a few days, the Russians might have arrived, the enemy might have been stopped at-that point.
The battle had begun well for them. Their left wing had attacked and driven back four divisions of the enemy, including one German. In Bukarest the population hailed the news of this success with hope and rejoicing. They had been hearing the guns for two days. Their nerve was shaken. For several hours they recovered their spirits, and were almost persuaded that the danger had passed. They did not know that while the Rumanian left was advancing, the. centre had begun to fall back, while the right as well was wavering under vigorous pressure, from a German force advancing south-eastwards.
Communication between left and centre was so poorly maintained that they became almost separate forces. Who was responsible for this and for the ordering of the centre to retreat was not clearly known at the time. General Socec is now revealed as the culprit. The confusion caused on the road which leads across the Arjesh towards Bukarest was frightful. There was consternation among those in authority when they learnt what had happened.
They did not learn from the army in the field, or even from Headquarters. A medical officer drove into the capital just after nightfall, and went straight to the house of a Minister.
But I have come from the spot. I saw the retirement beginning."
The Minister rang up the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister rang up Headquarters. He was told that nothing was known there about a retreat. Later the information reached them. It was then too late to countermand the order. Ministers saw that it was necessary for them to leave the capital. Headquarters also decided to shift at once.
The Arjesh was only between thirty and forty miles from Bukarest. Already a number of enemy cavalry patrols had been seen on roads quite close to the city. One was caught in a suburb. I was with our military attaché in his car on December 2nd when lie was warned that we might be surprised by Uhlans. It had already happened to me to be caught by these unpleasing enemies in the second month of war, and I did not care to take a chance of a second capture.
Altogether the losses of those first days of .December were not less than 100,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners. If was for the time being, the end of the Rumanian Army as an organised force. And General Socec. Only gets five vears!
- by Hamilton Fyfe
- Special Correspondent with the Rumanian Army
Rumania declared war at the end of August. She threw her troops across the Carpathians, invaded Transylvania, and for a month advanced into that country. By the end of September the Germans were ready. They had, in the summer, been preparing an Austro-German army which was to attack General Brussiloff's forces on the south-western Russian front. This army, commanded by Von Falkenhayn, was now directed against Rumania.
The first week of October saw the first blows of this Austro-German army delivered. They were scientifically aimed ; they had terrible weight behind them. The Rumanians reeled, then broke. By the middle of October the enemy had followed, them into the mountains. In several places he was fighting on Rumanian soil. Advance was difficult in narrow valleys, but he stubbornly pressed onward. When it became known that one of the passes into Rumania had been forced, there ,was a flight of people from the towns. These extracts from my diary give a picture of the capital in this hour.
Tuesday, October 10th.—Overwhelming German preponderance of machine-guns ; superiority of German aeroplanes, which have two machine-guns with two hundred and fifty cartridges each, against Rumanian airmen armed with one gun and forty-five cartridges, or in some cases armed only with a rifle. Impossible to sift the false from the true. Few of them seem to understand what an exact statement means. What is clear is that the Rumanians are outclassed, except in bayonet fighting and in their gunnery, which, appears to be accurate in aim.
Wednesday, October 11th.—Bratiano trying now to reconstruct the Cabinet and make it national — that is to say, representative of all shades of political opinion. He feels that his position has weakened. People are blaming him now for "coming in " when he did. Marghiloman, who was the leader of the pro-German party, but who has in his newspaper and in his private talk made clear since war began his sincere desire for Rumania's victory, declines to share Bratiano's responsibility.
Thursday, October 12th.—The Foreign Ministers are advising people who are not detained here by any special reason to leave the city. The consulates of Great Britain and Russia are full of travellers getting their passports put in order for the journey to Russia or to England. The newspapers publish appeals to the population to keep calm. Several of them blame the official, despatches for causing alarm by not telling all the truth. Bratiano's attempt to reconstruct the Ministry has failed. It is now being realised that Rumania can only be saved .from the fate of Belgium and Serbia by the aid. of Russia.
Friday, October 13th. — To-day the official despatch was able to record success in checking the enemy's advance and the tone of feeling is now very hopeful. These people go always from one extreme to the other. They now say : "It is all right. We are holding them at a number of points." They do not see that the danger lies in the fact that the enemy is attacking at a number, of points. More and more people are leaving., I went to the station this morning at 6.30 to see a friend off.
Saturday, October 14th. — News bad again. The enemy has broken through one of the passes. The anxiety to get away among the baser sort of people now becomes greater. Nothing is talked about but the chances of keeping out Falkenhayn's army until the Russians can send here forces large enough to take the offensive. At noon the hospitals were told to evacuate their patients. At two they were told not to. At noon the Legations were asked to have all their archives and the personal baggage of their members ready by the early evening. There was hasty packing up, burning of papers, filling of cases with books and documents, withdrawing of money from banks. About six, word was sent round that the cases and trunks would not be sent away to Jassy until to-morrow. As for the departure of the Ministers and their staffs, that is indefinitely postponed.
Another consul had packed up all his belongings so carefully that lie had to borrow a suit of pyjamas for the night. We go to bed in a state of uncertainty.
As I write, between eleven and midnight, I hear the noise of heavy vans in the street. That is the noise of the evacuation of Bukarest.
Sunday, October 15th. — Another hot day, brilliantly sunny, exquisite, pale-blue autumn sky. What an irony that under a sky so tenderly serene and amid glorious mountain scenery men should be killing and maiming one another! What a comment upon two thousand years of pretended Christianity ! After the fever and unrest of yesterday there has descended upon the city a tranquil Sabbath calm. No one speaks of going away. The scare of yesterday seems like a nightmare that has passed and left the sufferer laughing at the terrors of his dream.
Yet, if one judges by the official despatch, the situation is .very little better than it was. Indeed, if it is carefully studied it seems to be, on the whole, rather worse. The enemy is still attacking at all points, and although he has suffered reverses at some of them, he clearly intends to go on. General Avarescu says he can keep him out for twenty days. But the Government does not seem to have fully regained its confidence. This morning it was decided that there should be a move from Bukarest. This afternoon the matter is again in doubt.
Monday, October 16th.—Heated debates are going on in all official quarters, foreign as well as Rumanian, with regard to the question of the hour — "To go or not to go ?" Many members of the Legation staffs strongly oppose the former; The argument against going is that it would depress the Rumanian troops and encourage the enemy. This was also the view taken at Headquarters a few days ago. Now the military view represents Bukarest as a bad place to be in, "regarding it in a strategical sense." The truth, I believe, is that Headquarters thinks "les civils tiendraient mieux" if the politicians were farther off.
Pains have been taken to prevent communication between the front and the rear. No letters or newspapers are received by the troops, except a little sheet prepared especially for them. An officer wounded in Transylvania told me last night he had received no letter for a month.
Wednesday, October 18th. — The Rumanian, troops are making a better stand than could have been expected from their earlier demeanour. The summary punishment of a few officers who failed in their duty appears to have had a good effect upon the others. The men have always been excellent material, and now they are growing accustomed to the din and terrors of battle.
Almost the whole Rumanian Army is now defending the passes of the Carpathians, for the most part on Rumanian soil. This means something like 300,800 men. The attack is being delivered, so far as I can gather, by sixteen divisions which, allowing for the weakness of many among them would give a total, perhaps, of 250,000. The enemy's numerical inferiority is made up by their possession of heavier artillery and of machine-guns greater in number by many times than those of the Rumanians.
The only traces of the fear that passed over Bukarest on Saturday are the number of empty houses and the still higher prices that are charged for all kinds of commodities under the influence of the "frousse." This has always been an expensive place to live in. Before Rumania came into the war the city was spoken of as the most expensive in the world. Here are one or two prices which .have come under my notice during the past few days.
A sixpenny bottle- of soda-mint tabloids, 2s.; boots soled and heeled, 15s. ; biscuits, 3s. 6d. a pound; coffee, 25s. a pound; tea, dearer still. As for clothes, they are impossibly dear — 350 francs for an overcoat, 300 francs for a tweed suit. I hope there will be no more panics to give the shopkeepers any further chance of raising prices.
- by Hamilton Fyfe
- Special Correspondent with the Rumanian Army
I carried my story last week up to the calming-down of the first panic which disturbed the capital, and not only the capital, but the whole country. While this panic lasted there was a large flow of people out of Bukarest, and at the same time a large inward flow, also. Those who went out were well-to-do inhabitants of the city. Those who came in were mostly peasants from the country round about. The exchange was advantageous. Peasants consumed less; they talked less, also.
Food was getting scarce. We had plenty of wheat bread, plenty of maize flour and enough potatoes, but very little meat, very few eggs ; and everything grew rapidly dearer, for the reason that the thoughtless among the well-to-do paid whatever prices were asked. If they had said firmly and sensibly : "We will not be robbed ; we will do without this or that," the price of this or that would have dropped immediately. Thus they would have done the whole community a service. Actually they made all suffer for their thoughtlessness and unreadiness to change their habits. No one regretted their flight. It made food conditions a trifle more easy.
It also lessened the number of rumours that flew about the city. The people of Bukarest are afflicted with both the Oriental love of gossip and the Oriental's lack of exactitude. Their favourite amusement before the war was to gather in crowded tea-shops on the Calle Victoria, the principal street, and wag their chins. As soon as war was declared by Rumania the Government ordered those tea-shops to be closed. The Rumanians themselves admitted that this was wise. "We talk too much," they said, with engaging candour. "This might be dangerous in war-time."
This lasted for about a month. Confidence grew more steady. The Rumanian Army defended the passes of the Carpathians with stubborn courage, fighting against almost impossible odds; for what are bayonets opposed to big guns ? The loss of Constantsa, Rumania's only seaport, was a bitter grief, but the hope was firm that it would quickly be retaken.
Then suddenly cam's the shock of the news that the Germans had burst through the mountain barrier and were pouring on to the plain. The fall of Craiova was so unexpected that at first people refused to believe this rich and pleasant town — the Millionaires' Town as they called it — could have been taken. When they were convinced of this disaster they fell into profound depression. Day by day they looked for comfort in the official despatches, but found only admissions of retreat.
My friend is a man of vigorous mind, of extensive experience. He admitted that his country had made mistakes, miscalculations ; but his patriotic faith never wavered — until Craiova fell. He said to me on the morrow of the official admission that it had surrendered : "If anyone had told me this yesterday I would have struck him in the face. I could not have believed it. I cannot understand it. This is a terrible disenchantment. What next ?"
What next ? That question everyone was asking.
Could Bukarest be saved ? Those were unquiet days. At lunch-time we talked quietly and rather anxiously in our little room, where we often heard .the police-whistles and church-bells announce air raids, and, looking up, saw the bomb-dropping aeroplanes, and, listening, heard the explosions of their bombs, sometimes near by, sometimes far away. Ideal Love little occupied our thoughts in these times. Each member of the mess would come in, asking, "Well, what news ?" Each would contribute the facts or fictions he had gathered that morning.
On the day the order for departure was given I took a walk in the only big open space Bukarest possesses, the Chaussee Kissileff, a broad highway bordered by small woods, leading northward out of the city. Although it was near the end of November there was bright and even warm sunshine. I walked into the country past the Military Wireless Station, past the French anti- aircraft guns which the French gunner officers had only that week finished getting into position.
Just before I turned to go back the King and Queen flashed by in a motor, the King driving, the Queen looking sad and anxious. When I reached the busy part of the Calle Victoria I was astonished to see flags hung out. Everyone was smiling and talking excitedly. All who had not hoisted their flags already were mounting step-ladders or running the national colours out on poles from first-floor windows. I asked a shopkeeper what it all meant.
"A great victory," he said. ''Thirty-seven thousand prisoners ! A great many cannon ! We are saved ! We are saved !"
I knew that what he said could not be true, but I hoped there had been some kind of a success. The secretary to the Belgian Legation came up.
"What do you make of it ?" he asked me. "All through the city the people are rejoicing."
Before I could reply I saw the Minister for Education, who was also Chief of the Censorship, passing in his motor-car. I ran into the road and held my hand up. The car stopped.
"Excellency," I said, "have you heard this news ? Is it true ?"
"True !" he replied bitterly. "No, mon ami, of course it isn't true ! It is a German trick. Pull those flags down !" he' shouted, in a voice that shook with anger and mortification. "Hi, policeman, see that all the flags are taken in at once !"
That night a friend came to my rooms, woke me up. and told me the Legations were to leave next evening. I left with them, as I have described elsewhere ; but a few days later I was back in Bukarest. The city was under ,martial law. Patrols of aged militiamen stumped about the streets. No one was allowed to stand still in the street. Not more than three people might walk together.
Warnings were posted up that any person caught stealing would be shot at once. The population seemed spiritless and cowed. The sound of the guns could be heard distinctly. A battle was going on, but nobody had any hope left that the Germans could be stopped.
- by Hamilton Fyfe
- Special Correspondent with the Rumanian Army
Nor was this all that told against them. They were many times sacrificed and humiliated by the blunders, the incapacity, and the panic of their own leaders. There were, among Rumania's commanders, fine soldiers, men of nerve and resolute character. But there were at the beginning (they have all disappeared now) a number of generals who lost their heads in the first moment of serious difficulty.
It was murdering them .to send men so ill-equipped against an enemy supplied abundantly with every engine and device of the latest warfare. They behaved for the most part bravely. They showed endurance as well as courage. It was not their fault that they were beaten, but the fault of those above them. No one who knows them will deny that they. could have. done far better if they had been properly prepared and well handled. They never had a dog's chance.
I liked the Rumanian soldier as soon as I made his acquaintance, and the more I saw of him the more I liked him. No one who knows him can help liking him. His 'good qualities are all of the attractive kind. He is courteous in manner, kind-hearted, ready to oblige, easily contented in the matter of food and lodgment.
I have seen him in the field under conditions of advance, conditions of retirement, conditions which made if necessary for him to hold fast against unequal forces. I have been with him in the trenches ; sung and danced with him in villages behind the front where he was resting; travelled with him in troop trains ; ridden and marched with him on the road. I am convinced that no finer material for an army exists anywhere. And I want to tell you a few stories to justify and explain this belief.
I might illustrate the fearlessness of the Rumanian soldier by relating how he dashes forward with the bayonet whenever a charge is permitted ; how lie has taken guns and even a fortress — the fortress of Alion on the Danube — by assault. I could fill a page with examples of that kind of courage. But I think I can better that, I can tell. You the tale of a soldier who, on a hot day, found a water-melon of the variety called pasteque, lusciously pink inside. He was very, very thirsty, and he wanted to enjoy his melon undisturbed. So he climbed out of the trench and sat down in front of it, and there he stayed until the melon was finished. An officer told him afterwards he had no business to risk his life in such a foolhardy way. "But, Domnule Capitan", he objected, "there was nowhere else to go".
If I were to call the Rumanian soldier "emotional," I might be misunderstood, especially by British readers, who are apt- to consider emotion a weakness. It is not easy to find an expression that will convey just what I mean. Perhaps "impulsive" is the nearest I can get to it. Yet there is more than impulse in the Rumanian's love for his country. In a hospital at Craiova the father of a wounded soldier wept aloud in his simple peasant way when he saw his son's head covered by bandages, leaving only the face to be seen. The son sat up in bed. He stretched out his arm and harangued the old man. "Why should you weep ?" he said. "You should be glad, as I am, that I have suffered for the country. This is a great honour that has befallen you and me, my father. Do not shed tears, but he happy. We are happy to be hurt and to die, if it must be ; and all those who belong to as must be proud of our wounds."
There was no desire for effect in that speech, no hint of theatricality. The peasant soldier felt what he said, felt it with all the force of his being. If a British soldier had behaved so, one would have set him down for a rogue. With us those who talk of loving their country are usually of foreign descent, or else are scoundrels who make patriotism "their last resort." But autres pays, autres moeurs.
Whether two poor fellows with their tongues cut out by Hungarians will be permitted to rejoin their regiments I do not know, but they asked to be sent back in spite of their disability. When I saw them they had recovered their health and strength, but not their speech. That is gone the doctors say, for ever, though they may be able to make intelligible noises in course of time.
Those who respond quickly to impulse are usually of quick intelligence also. That is true of the Rumanian soldier as a rule. I could cite many examples of their resourcefulness. One must suffice. A corporal in charge of a patrol captured three prisoners. From them he learned that there was a considerable force of the enemy near at hand. At once he thought of a plan by which they might be attacked and routed. He knew that close by a regiment of Russians was encamped.
One of the prisoners was a bugler; one of the men of the corporal’s patrol knew the calls. The corporal ordered him to warn and summon the Russians. After the enemy had been beaten off with heavy loss, the Russian colonel called the corporal out of the ranks and pinned on his tunic the Cross of St. George, giving him credit before all his comrades, Rumanian and Russian, for the success that had been won.
That Rumania has suffered defeats is not, I repeat, the fault of the Rumanian soldier. He has done all, and more than all, that could have been expected of him. He has suffered sorely for the faults of others. There would, under happier conditions, be no better soldier in the world.
- by Hamilton Fyfe
- Special Correspondent with the Romanian Army
They are not high mountains, nothing like the Swiss Alps in grandeur. From a distance you might think slightingly of them. But when you draw near and find yourself amid their confused jumble of rocky heights and wooded depths, of steep valleys and narrow passes and precipitous roads, you must be hard to please if you are not won by the simple, homely beauty of the Carpathians. They do not awe one into silence, but they have charm.
It was not their charm, however, which I had gone out to see on a sunny November morning, early in the month. I was motoring up to the positions held by the Rumanian Army in the Jiu valley. My business was not with the glory of hillsides golden with autumn leafage, not with the joy of streams tumbling a-foam and a-tinkle down their rocky beds. Death and destruction were the matters which took me thither. I wanted to see how strong were the Rumanian positions in the Vulkan Pass.
Through this pass a Bavarian division had forced its way a few days before. The German commander struck hard and kept, on striking, as is the German way. The Rumanians could not hold their positions. They were pursued down gentle slopes towards the town of Targu Jiu. Two hundred of the enemy pressed on rashly, and came to the bridge which carries across the river the road leading into the town. There were no Rumanian first-line troops there, only a few militiamen and a few gendarmes. The local bigwigs advised the Prefect of the Department to quit. He said he would stay and see the thing through, and his wife stayed with him.
The whole division was "strafed" severely. In command at this point on the Rumanian side was General Dragalina, a very competent officer who owed his rise to merit alone. He rapidly sketched out a plan, providing for attacks on both flanks. He entrusted the flanking movements to two colonels whom he knew he could trust. The operation succeeded. The enemy was driven back out of the valley into the mountains again. Unfortunately, while he was driving round to reconnoitre the position. General Dragalina came under machine-gun fire at three hundred yards range. He was hit; his driver was killed. His arm had to be taken off. A fortnight later, in hospital at Bukarest, his strength failed, and the Rumanian Army lost one of its most capable commanders.
As quickly as possible the Germans set about preparing a second and more . weighty attack. That November morning I was told by the officers with whom I drove the numbers and strength of the fresh units they were bringing up.
Upon a front of four hundred miles the Rumanians were defending themselves in country like this. Imagine the difficulties of transport, of moving guns, of keeping in touch even, for an Army which began its campaign so ill-prepared. There in the pass were the enemy. It is true that if they had tried to come out in the day-time the entrance would quickly have been piled high with dead.
- 'In yon straight path a thousand
- Might well be stopped by three.'
That was how the disastrous, retreat of the Jiu valley division began, which led to the retreat of the whole Rumanian Army.
That sunny November morning we had no fear of any such catastrophe. Everyone expected that reinforcements would be sent. Everyone talked in high spirits of the defeat inflicted upon the Bavarians. Signs of their hasty twelve-mile retirement with the Rumanians hot-foot after them could be seen in places at every turn of the road. Here at the foot of a slope a heap of Bavarian helmets, cartridge-belts, gas-mask tins. Over there a huge mound, the funeral cairn of thirteen hundred horses, killed by thirteen hundred German troopers who tried to get away through the woods on foot.
The German divisional staff fled in such haste that they left behind their telephone exchange board. I. Saw it at Targu Jiu. In the roadway that leads through the Vulkan Pass you could hardly kick up the soil anywhere without coming upon clips of cartridges dropped or thrown away and trodden deep into the mud of that costly and humiliating retreat.
Now the Germans were preparing another push. They had begun their preliminary bombardment already. As we returned first by a narrow, rocky valley, then along hillside well above the road by which we came, we heard the frequent swish of shells and their explosion below us. The highway had become unhealthy for bodies of troops or transport columns passing along it.
This was the curtain fire which always precedes and accompanies an attack.
Furthermore, we had heard all the morning the cannon boom to westward of us. So in the afternoon we drove up towards another pass to see how the troops were faring there. Here the formation was different. No river, no continuous valley. A road dug out of hillsides, carried across saddles, over cols. Here the enemy kept up an incessant war of raids, of sudden incursions and alarms. An oldish colonel whom we met told us he had not had his boots off for eight days. He showed us his regimental headquarters, a huge rock by the side of the road. Against this rock, on a heap of bracken under a canvas shelter he and his major slept. The other officers and men rolled themselves in their greatcoats and bivouacked on the hill-side. Their trenches were about a mile farther on. “They would prefer to be in them," the major says. "Unfortunately there is not room for all."
That will show you the spirit in which the Rumanians were defending their country. Their trenches were not like those on the western front, strongly fortified and provided with all the comforts of home. Food was of the roughest and simplest. The men were often called upon to endure weariness almost insupportable, to hold out under difficult conditions against troops immeasurably better equipped. Yet there was no complaining among them. They were patient, they were even cheerful.
It was not their fault that the enemy, a few days later, poured through the Vulkan Pass, swept down the Jiu valley, captured Targu Jiu in their stride, and pressed on to occupy Craiova. One tired division, ill-provided with fighting material, cannot hold back two and a half divisions well- found in every requisite of warfare.
- Rumania's Tragic Story
- by Hamilton Fyfe
- Special Correspondent with the Rumanian Army
Modelled after the French example, the Rumanian system of government was centralised to a scarcely credible degree. Local administration hardly existed. All matters, however parochial, had to be referred to Bukarest. Even there they could not be settled out of hand by subordinate officials. In the Ministries the plan of leaving all decisions to the chief was carried to absurd lengths. Jealous of interference with their prerogative, Ministers insisted upon settling everything themselves. This method prevailed at all times and with catastrophic consequences as soon as the central organ of Government, the sole seat of power, ceased to exercise its usual authority.
This came to pass as soon as the daily contact ceased between M. Bratiano, the Premier, and the Headquarters Staff. That happened when the unexpectedly rapid advance of the enemy permitted by the retreat of General Socec on the Arjesh River, contrary to orders, obliged Headquarters to quit hastily the village near Bukarest where the Staff had been conveniently housed since the beginning of the war. It was only seventy minutes' motor drive from the city to this village, and it was well provided with buildings which could be used as offices.
He and most of the War Ministers had stayed behind in Bukarest when the Legations, the Government officials, and the members of Parliament were sent to Jassy. They were buoyed up by hopeful reports from Headquarters. They forced themselves to believe that the capital might be saved. These first moves of Headquarters were not sufficient. I went with the Staff to Buzeo, a small town farther north. We got there after midnight. There was hot soup ready for us, the last food I saw in any Rumanian station restaurant. Hunger, the great leveller, set us all down to table together, regardless of rank. Generals Eupped next to captains, majors forgot their contempt for under-lieutenants and talked to them quite as if they recognised them to be fellow human beings. No billets had been prepared in advance, so we slept in the train, and bitterly cold it was, so cold that it kept one awake. There was only one dreadful little eating-house in the town, so a capable young officer arranged a mess. Here the meals, necessarily simple, not to say scanty, were at all events decently served.
And I was soon wishing that I could travel like a limpet also. I should have travelled almost as quickly as the trains, and in greater comfort. The railway service fell all to pieces. For ordinary passengers it was suspended ; for those who had military passes there were “courier trains." If that name suggests to you speed, non-stop expresses carrying mails, I must politely ask you to guess again. The speed of these courier trains was from ten to fifteen miles an hour. You could never tell when they were due, whether they would arrive to-day or to-morrow. One Sunday I waited on the platform at Galatz from one o'clock in the day until 8.30 at night for the coming of a train for Jassy. No one knew when it would come, or whence it was coming, or how soon it would go when it did come. When it arrived there was, as usual, a fight to get aboard. The compartments were very dirty, no one troubling to clean them ; you had no light unless you carried your own candles.
I got a compartment with a Frenchman and a Rumanian. It had luckily only one broken window — I say ''luckily," because it was snowing. In it we stayed until six o'clock the next evening. The distance we covered was well under two hundred miles. Of course, we had food with us. The "Times" correspondent and I always carried a provision bag with us, or otherwise we should have got nothing but occasional mugs of tea and hunks of bread at Russian Red Cross feeding- points. Often we were grateful to the kind Sisters at these hospitable tea-rooms.
Upon every train there were hundreds of men, sometimes women as well, on the roofs of the carriages. No one tried to prevent this foolhardiness or pointed out its danger. Centralisation had robbed the railway people of any initiative they might have possessed under a better system. When the central authority ceased to issue orders the whole business of transportation broke down. General Sakharoff, taking over the chief command in Rumania, found it impossible to make use of the railways. Troops had to march ; supplies had to sent by road.
And the difficulties of road transport, great enough in any case, were enormously increased by the refugees. Let me give one picture, t-he picture of the flight from Buzeo in the second week of December. The road out of the town was filled with every kind of vehicle. Three military transport columns were mixed up in the tangle. Motor-lorries, motor-cars, ox-carts drawn by. the beautiful, patient beasts with wondering, wide-open eyes, farm-waggons, carts of every description, cabs piled high with furniture or baggage which frightened women did their best to steady when it threatened to topple over.
The same disorder which fell upon the railways affected the posts and telegraphs. Telegrams to France or England were weeks on the way. I sent a telegram on a certain Friday, addressed to the British Embassy in Petrograd. It was stamped by the British Legation in Jassy, so it had precedence as an official despatch. It was delivered in Petrograd on the following Tuesday week. The postal service collapsed altogether. The newspapers ceased to appear. There was none in the whole of Rumania after the fall of Bukarest, barring a small sheet or two with the official news, which nobody believed, though in fact it fairly often told the worst. The change of Government in England was only made known at Jassy more than a week after it had taken place, by the arrival of a newspaper from Odessa. isolation was painful. We felt cut off from the rest of the world.
The paralysis of Government lasted until near the end of 1916. Then a new Government was formed and order came creeping forth again to beat down chaos. Upon the ruins of the past Rumania began to build up her future, a future which we hope and believe will be more solid and glorious than any period in her history before.