Paris in the early days of the war: August 15, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)

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(see previous post in this series: August 14 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Saturday, August 15, 1914.  Fourteenth day of mobilization. Heavy thunder storms set in at three A.M. Showers followed until one o’clock; cloudy afternoon with variable wind. Thermometer at five P.M. 22 degrees centigrade.

Huge crowds lined the streets leading from the Gare du Nord to the British Embassy, to welcome Field-marshal Sir John French, Commander of the British expeditionary force, who came to visit President Poincaré before taking command of his army. At quarter to one, three motor-cars rapidly approached the Embassy. In the second I could get a glimpse of Sir John in his gray-brown khaki uniform. His firm, trim appearance and his clear blue eyes, genial smile, and sunburnt face made an excellent impression, and he was greeted with loud cheers. He had a long talk with M. Messimy, Minister of War.

I am having a very busy time trying to obtain permission for American war correspondents to accompany the French armies in the field. Mr. Richard Harding Davis and Mr. D. Gerald Morgan have arrived in London on the Lusitania from New York to act as war correspondents in the field with the French forces. As president of the Association of the Foreign Press, and as Paris correspondent of the New York Tribune, I made special applications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the War Office for authority for them to act as war correspondents for the New York Tribune. These applications were endorsed by Ambassador Herrick, who also did everything possible to secure permission for them to take the field.

The official regulations for war correspondents are much more severe, however, than those enforced during the Japanese and Turkish wars. In the first place, only Frenchmen and correspondents of one of the belligerent nationalities, that is to say French, British, Russian, Belgian, or Servian, are allowed to act as war correspondents. Frenchmen may represent foreign papers. All despatches must be written in the French language and must be sent by the military post, and only after having been formally approved by the military censor. No despatches can be sent by wire or by wireless telegraphy. No correspondent can circulate in the zone of operations unless accompanied by an officer especially designated for that purpose. All private as well as professional correspondence must pass through the hands of the censor. War correspondents of whatever nationality will, during their sojourn with the army, be subject to martial law, and if they infringe regulations by trying to communicate news not especially authorized by the official censors, will be dealt with by the laws of espionage in war time. These are merely a few among the many rigid prescriptions governing war correspondents.

I talked with several editors of Paris papers on the subject, notably with M. Arthur Meyer of the Gaulois, Marquis Robert de Flers of the Figaro, and M. Georges Clemenceau of the Homme Libre. They one and all expressed the opinion that war correspondents would enjoy exceptional opportunities, enabling them to get mental snap-shots of picturesque events and to acquire valuable first-hand information for writing magazine articles or books, but that from a newspaper standpoint there would be insurmountable difficulties preventing them from getting their “news to market,” that is to say, in getting their despatches on the wires for their respective papers. However, Mr. Herrick is doing everything he can to obtain all possible facilities for Mr. Davis and for Mr. Morgan.

Almost every day brings some fresh measure in the interest of the public. Yesterday the Prefect of Police issued an order forbidding the sale of absinthe in the cafés under pain of immediate closure, and again called the attention of motorists to the regulations which they are daily breaking.

The sanitary authorities, too, have their hands full. So far, however, the present circumstances have had no influence on the state of health in Paris. The weekly bulletin published by the municipality shows that the death and disease figures are quite normal.

Mr. Bernard J. Schoninger, chairman of the committee which has recently been formed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris with the object of settling difficult questions which may arise in Franco-American commercial relations, states that his committee is collaborating with the ladies’ committee founded by the wife of the American Ambassador to assist wounded soldiers. In a few days this committee collected one hundred and seventy-five thousand francs. His own committee has issued an appeal to all Chambers of Commerce in the United States, and he trusts that considerable funds will be forthcoming for the ambulance corps created under the auspices of the American Hospital in Paris. The Minister for War has granted the use of the Lycée Pasteur, where it is hoped to establish an ambulance of two hundred beds, which may later be increased to one thousand.

The committee has also taken up the question of the payment of customs duties on American imports into France, and Mr. Schoninger states that he has met with the greatest kindness and that the French customs authorities have agreed to accept guarantees from various commercial syndicates instead of actual immediate cash payments. This will obviate difficulties occasioned by the refusal of French banking establishments, acting under the terms of the moratorium, in handing over funds which they have on deposit.

~ ~ ~ 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 16 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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