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
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
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