Page 3473

3473 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

searchlights were installed which could sweep

the zone outside the forts. However,

notwithstanding all these preparations,

the place had some vital weaknesses

against the new system of attack, and

unfortunately the Krupp firm had had

a large part in the construction and arming

of the original defenses; in consequence,

the Germans knew the permanent fortifications as well as or better than did the

Belgians themselves.

The people of Antwerp had been given

a foretaste of what was in store for them

as early as the 25th of August. At one

o'clock on the morning of that day, a

German dirigible appeared over the sleeping city and dropped ten enormous bombs,

which blotted out buildings and killed

or wounded over fifty people. All the

victims were civilians, many of them

women and children, and no military

damage was done. The airship was greeted

with a fusillade of bullets from anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, rifles, and even

from the revolvers of the gendarmes, but

it escaped seemingly without injury. Thereafter the city was kept in Stygian darkness

at night in order that the enemy would

have no means of ascertaining its location.

The Belgian army managed to keep

open a line of retreat toward the southwest, and the Germans were unable to

surround the city. Instead they proceeded to drive a wedge through its defenses, concentrating their attack along

the Lierre-St. Catherine-Waelhem sector.

They knew exactly the range of the guns

mounted in the forts, and so they proceeded to mount their own great siege

howitzers beyond the range of these guns.

What followed was, says an eye-witness,

like "a. professional heavyweight prize-fighter, with an abnormally long reach,

holding an amateur bantam-weight boxer

at arm's length with one hand and hitting

him when and where he pleased with the

other." With the regularity of clockwork

and the power of a giant trip-hammer,

the besieging army proceeded with almost

no loss to itself to pulverize the Belgian

forts and blow the Belgian soldiers out

of their trenches. Furthermore, the great

reservoir forming the chief water supply

for the city was destroyed by shell fire,

and this loss threatened the population

with pestilence.

By October 3, the outer forts at the

main point of attack had been silenced,

and a German force, pushing through

the breach, had managed to effect a crossing

of the Nethe River. The garrison was

discouraged and worn out, and it was

apparent that the defense could not be

greatly prolonged. The Belgian Government was upon the point of leaving the

city, when word came that Winston

Churchill, the British First Lord of the

Admiralty, had started for Antwerp, and

had important word to communicate.

That afternoon, "a big drab-colored touring car filled with British naval officers

tore up the Place de Meir, its horn sounding

a hoarse warning, took the turn into the

narrow Marche aux Souliers on two wheels,

and drew up in front of the hotel. Before

the car had fairly come to a stop the

door of the tonneau was thrown violently

open and out jumped a smooth-faced,

sandy-haired, stoop-shouldered, youthful-looking man in the undress Trinity House

uniform. There was no mistaking who

it was. It was the Right Hon. Winston

Churchill."

Mr. Churchill announced publicly and

impressively that "We're going to save the

city," and the Antwerpers took heart,

thinking that surely he had means at hand

to make good his words. In the course

of the next few days there did, in fact,

arrive five or six thousand men of the

British Volunteer Naval Reserve, and

they and the lumbering London motor

'buses, which brought their ammunition

and supplies by way of Bruges and Ghent,

were greeted with wild shouts of "Five

les Anglais! Vive Tommy Atkins!" The

reinforcement was, however, more apparent than real, for the men were poorly

equipped and were almost without military

training, while the 4.7-inch naval guns

which they brought with them lacked

much of being able to cope with the great

siege howitzers of the enemy. They fought

with great courage and helped to hearten