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3575 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR,

able to supply Germany with much of

which she stood in need.

Meanwhile, the Italian army had been

gaining valuable experience in the hard

school of war, and, as its losses had not

been large, comparatively speaking, it

stood ready to play an important part

when the Allies at last attempted their great

advance.

Italy's own position was not, however,

entirely safe. There existed a possibility

that the Germans and Austrians might

concentrate vast forces, burst forth from

the Alpine passes, and overflow Lombardy

as many an invading army from the north

had done in the past. Up to the spring

of 1916, however, Germany and Italy

still remained nominally at peace, nor

was there any outward indications that the

Central Powers had such a stroke in contemplation. Such an invasion would require larger forces than they had yet been

able to muster, for, unlike in the case of

Servia, they would be compelled to defeat a

powerful army that was already on the

ground, while British and French troops

could be easily transferred by rail from

France to aid in stemming such an on rush.

CHAPTER CLXXIX- THE DEADLOCK IN THE WEST.

JUST as the great battle

of Flanders was dying

away, the celebrated

Field Marshal Earl

Roberts, then over

eighty years of age,

paid a visit of inspection, encouragement, and farewell to the British forces at

the front, particularly to the Indian troops,

with whom he had long been associated.

For more than a decade the old man had

been urging his countrymen adequately

to prepare for the great war that he foresaw. His warnings had fallen upon heedless ears, yet when the deluge had come,

he had not paused to say, "I told you

so," but, with splendid devotion, had set

about helping to extemporize preparations

that ought to have been made long before.

The hero of the march to Candahar, the

"Bobs" of Kipling's poem, was received

with wild acclaim by the troops. But

the effort and exposure proved too much

for the old General's scanty remnant of

strength, and he died on November 14

after a very short illness. England's

uncrowned Poet Laureate wrote:

"He passed in the very battle smoke

Of the war he had descried.

Three hundred miles of cannon spoke

When the master gunner died."

Lord Roberts' death made a deep impression upon Great Britain and the world.

It was an end which any soldier might

have envied. And one of the most effective

of the posters used in securing enlistments

consisted of a draped portrait of the old

hero, with the simple words, "He did

his duty. Will you do yours?"

For some months relative quiet settled

down over the long line of trenches stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea.

Every day saw bombardments; every day

saw lives snuffed out by hundreds or by

thousands, but there were no great attempts by either side to break the deadlock. In Alsace the French conducted

a local campaign which gained them considerable territory, while the Germans

retaliated by capturing some French

trenches near Soissons with several thousand prisoners. In the main it was a war

of trenches, of bombardments, of sniping

by sharpshooters, of fighting with hand

grenades, of standing in cold and muddy

trenches exposed to the pitiless severity

of the winter as well as to the bullets of

the enemy.

Back of the battle lines all the nations

were making preparations for the future.

The French Government had returned to

Paris soon after the failure of the German

drive in Flanders, and the whole French