Paris in the early days of the war: August 9, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)

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(see previous post in this series: August 8 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Sunday, August 9, 1914. Eighth day of mobilization. Hot summer day, with light southwesterly breezes. Temperature at five P. M. 26 degrees centigrade.

This may be regarded as the first Sunday of the war. Last Sunday was a day of rush and clamor in Paris. All shops were open and filled with eager customers; the streets were crammed with shouting crowds and hurrying vehicles; everything was forgotten in the outburst of national enthusiasm. In the afternoon and evening the city was the scene of riots and pillage.

To-day Paris presented a strong contrast. The news of French and Belgian successes at the front had cheered the hearts of Parisians, and, in spite of the strange aspect of the boulevards, denuded of their gay terraces, and of most of the ordinary means of locomotion, the city had something of a holiday aspect about it.

In the afternoon the city was crowded with promenaders dressed in Sunday garb. The proportion of women to men has largely increased, but the arrival of numerous reservists from the provinces caused Paris to appear, temporarily at least, somewhat less empty of men.

Indeed, the aspect of the city very much resembled that of any Sunday in summer, when the city is normally far from crowded.

I met MacAlpin of the Daily Mail, who said to me:

“I took a walk in the Bois de Boulogne yesterday afternoon. In a lonely alley I was stopped by three cyclist policemen. They asked for my papers. Fortunately, I had with me my passport and the ‘permission to remain’ issued to me as a foreigner. If I had happened to have left these in another coat, I should have been arrested.

“The policemen told me those were their orders. They added confidentially that they were looking for Germans. After this I saw many more cyclists on the same errand. They are hunting the woods systematically, because many Germans of suspicious character have taken refuge there.
~~~ “I rang up a friend on the telephone, and began, as usual: ‘Hullo, is that you?’ I was immediately told by the girl at the exchange that ‘speaking in foreign languages was not permitted.’ ‘Unless you speak in French’ she said, ‘I shall cut you off at once.’ I suppose she listened to what we were saying all the time.
~~~ “I went into a post-office to send a telegram to my wife. ‘You must get it authorized at a police office’ I was told. Not the simplest private message can be accepted until it has passed the censor.”

No one is to be allowed from now on to have a complete wireless installation in Paris. Many people have set up instruments, some for amusement, some, it appears, for sinister purposes. No one may send messages now, though they are allowed to keep their receivers. In order to hear the messages which come through from Russia, the Eiffel Tower station, it is explained, needs “dead silence” in the air.

It was even announced two days ago that no one would be allowed to pass in or out of Paris between six at night and six in the morning. But this caused such inconvenience to so many people that the Military Governor of Paris was asked by the police to rescind his order, which he at once did.

The tenors and baritones and sopranos of the Opéra and other theaters are going round singing in the courtyards for the benefit of the Red Cross. The Salon is turned into a military stable. Where the pictures hung, horses are munching their hay. The Comedie Francaise is to become a day nursery for the children of women who, in the absence of their husbands, are obliged to go out to work.

Mr. Herrick told me this afternoon that a few days ago the Telegraph Office refused his cipher cables to Washington. The Ambassador at once protested at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the Minister, M. Doumergue, forthwith gave orders authorizing the telegraph office to accept his cipher messages. The Austrian Ambassador, who is still here, is not permitted to communicate by cipher telegrams with his Government. This is quite natural.

~ ~ ~ Charles Inman Barnard, from his book Paris War Days: the Diary of an American (Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1914).

(see the next post in this series: August 10 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 9, 2014 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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