Paris in the early days of the war: August 8, 1914 — (M.E. Clarke)



(see also the post by Charles Inman Barnard for August 8)

Saturday, August 8, 1914. The events, the emotions, the revelations, which have been packed into this first week in August 1914, will remain for ever with those who have been through them. When Germany declared war on France, Paris was indulging in dusty summer slackness and the tourists shared with the concierges the delights of the holiday season. But, on the issue of the order for general mobilisation, the whole country sprang to action with a gesture as graceful as it was orderly, and Paris put off her holiday garb for one of more martial appearance.

From the first moment, the mobilisation plans worked with clock-like regularity. The men obeyed their summons eagerly and the women bravely seconded them. In a week, Paris has been stripped of her young men, and it is impossible to walk down any street or avenue in the city without feeling the sting of sudden tears, or that grip at the throat which is even more painful. Yet no men could have gone off in better spirits, and there have been few open demonstrations of grief from the women they have left behind. Both the highly and the lowly born have shown a most admirable self-control on all occasions. I saw to-day, a tall, slim man in the pale-blue uniform of a hussar regiment walking with his wife, his two children, and a nurse; he bent to say something to his wife, then caught his little girl by the hand and ran with her down the avenue, laughing gaily. The boy stayed with his mother and as I passed I caught a glimpse of the pain in the woman’s face, and my own eyes grew dim.

Avenue de L'Opera nearly deserted, August 1914

Avenue de L’Opera nearly deserted, August 1914

Another day I was on the Metro’ and the carriage was full of little soldiers of the line on their way to the Gare de l’Est or the Gare du Nord. Each man had a group of relations and friends with him; wife and children, mother and father, sweetheart and friends. They were all laughing and talking. The rare signs of distress came from the women, although now and then a man would begin kissing his child with passionate affection, or you would see a husband possess himself of his wife’s hand and her lip would quiver as she returned his pressure. It was very painful, and even the poorest jokes were welcomed. I remember seeing a carriage full of people grow almost hysterical with laughter because an unmarried soldier with no belongings asked a married man with too many, whether he had brought the armoire à glace . It was not a brilliant effort, but it relieved the tension.  All too often the last good-byes were but broken attempts at smiles, for not even love for La France could soften the pain of that last embrace. Yet how great that love is, no one can ever doubt who has seen the country mobilise.

~~~ M.E. Clarke, from her book Paris Waits, 1914 (London: GP Putnam’s Sons, 1915).

(see next post in this series: August 12)

Published in: on August 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paris in the early days of the war: August 7, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



(see previous post in this series: August 6 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Friday, August 7, 1914. This is the sixth day of mobilization. Steady rain during the morning. Temperature at five P.M. 16 degrees centigrade.

Disembarking of British troops in France has begun, and the greatest enthusiasm is reported from the northern departments. I went to see the Duc de Loubet this morning and met there Mr. De Courcey Forbes, who told me that the French mobilization was working like clock-work two days ahead of scheduled time. He said that about a hundred Germans and Austrians had been arrested as spies. They were tried by court martial at eleven o’clock yesterday morning, and fifty-nine of them, who were found guilty, were shot at Vincennes at four o’clock the same afternoon.

It subsequently turned out that these spies had not been shot, after all, but had been imprisoned and kept in close confinement.

When Baron Schoen left the German Embassy in Paris, he was treated with great courtesy and escorted by the Chef de Protocol, M. William Martin, to the railway station, where he was provided with a special train de luxe with a restaurant car. Upon the arrival at the frontier, the Germans actually seized and confiscated the train! Reports of French families returning from Germany show that not only individual Frenchmen but French diplomatists and Russian diplomatists have been greatly insulted in Germany, especially in Berlin and Munich.

Contrast with this the attitude of a crowd which I saw to-day watching about a thousand Germans and Austrians tramp to a railway station, where they were entrained for their concentration camp. They marched between soldiers with fixed bayonets ready to protect them. But the crowd watched them almost sympathetically, with not an insult, not a jeer.

The mobilization in France has caused an extraordinary increase in the number of marriages contracted at the various Paris town halls. From morning till night the mayors and their assistants have been kept busy uniting couples who would be separated the same day or the next, when the husband joined his regiment. At the bare announcement of the possibility of war, the marriage offices at the town halls were literally taken by assault. As there was no time to be lost, arrangements were made by the chief officials to accept the minimum of documentary proofs of identity in all cases where the bridegrooms were called upon to serve their country. The other papers required by the law will be put in later.

The statistics of the first five days of the mobilization show that one hundred and eighty-one marriages were performed a day as against the ordinary figure of one hundred and ten. In the suburbs the increase is even greater, and a notable fact, both in Paris and outside, is that the largest number of marriages took place in the most populous districts. In the eleventh arrondissement the ordinary figures were trebled. All wedding parties wear little French, English, Russian, and Belgian flags.

General Michel, Military Governor of Paris, has issued an order formally forbidding any one to leave or enter Paris either on foot or in any kind of vehicle between the hours of six at night and six in the morning.

At a meeting of the executive committee of the American Ambulance of Paris, it was announced that more than thirty thousand francs had been received, exclusive of the sums obtained by the women’s committee, and apart from the promises of larger subscriptions.

Up to yesterday morning twelve physicians and surgeons and twice that number of nurses had volunteered to assist the regular staff of the American Hospital in the work of caring for wounded French soldiers. Among the physicians and surgeons who have volunteered are Doctor Joseph Blake, of New York; Doctor Charles Roland, formerly a surgeon of the United States army; and Doctor George B. Hayes, of Paris.

The women’s committee held a meeting at the American Embassy, when further subscriptions were received, that brought the total amount obtained by this committee up to eighteen thousand francs.

The executive committee now consists of Mrs. Laurence V. Benet, Mrs. H. Herman Harjes, Mrs. Potter Palmer, Mrs. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Mrs. George Munroe, Mrs. Edith Wharton, Mrs. William Jay, Mrs. Tuck, Mrs. C.C. Cuyler and Mrs. Elbert H. Gary.

~ ~ ~ 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 8 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 8, 2014 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Paris in the early days of the war, August 5, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



(see previous post in this series: August 4 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Wednesday, August 5, 1914. Fourth day of mobilization. Cloudy weather with southwesterly wind, temperature at five P.M. 21 degrees centigrade.

Looking out of the window this morning I noticed British flags waving beside French flags on several balconies and shops. England’s declaration of war against Germany arouses tremendous enthusiasm. The heroic defense made by the Belgians against three German army corps advancing on the almost impregnable fortress of Liège—a second Port Arthur—is a magnificent encouragement for the French. At some of the houses in Paris one now sees occasionally assembled the flags of France, Russia, Great Britain, Belgium, and Servia.

Paris is beginning to settle down more or less to the abnormal state of things prevailing in the city since the departure of the reservists. Those who remain behind are showing an admirable spirit. Nowhere are complaints voiced in regard to the complete disorganization of the public services. M. Hennion, chief of police, has devised an excellent means of clearing the streets of dangerous individuals. He has arranged for half a dozen auto-busses containing a dozen policemen to circulate in the different quarters at night. The auto-busses stop now and then, and the police make a silent search for marauders. Any one found with a revolver or a knife is arrested, put in handcuffs, and placed in the auto-bus and carried to the police station.

Sophie at last got her permis de séjour this evening. The expelled Germans will be sent to a remote station near the Spanish frontier. The undesirable Austro-Hungarians will be relegated to Brittany, where perhaps they may be utilized in harvesting the wheat crop. Germans in the domestic service of French citizens are allowed to remain in Paris.

The French Institute is participating in the campaign reservist mobilization. M. Etienne Lamy, Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy, is a major in the territorial army and is about to take the field. M. Pierre Loti, who is a captain in the navy, will be provided with a suitable command. M. Marcel Prévost, graduate of the Polytechnic School, is a major of artillery, and will command a battery in one of the forts near Paris.

Among American ladies added to the list of those who have volunteered for service with the Red Cross are Mrs. Gary, Mrs. E. Tuck, Mrs. Hickox, Mrs. George Munroe, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Bell, Mrs. French, Mrs. G. Gray, Mrs. Gurnee, Mrs. Burden, Mrs. Harjes, Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Dalliba, Mrs. Burnell, Mrs. Farwell, Mrs. Blumenthal, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Walter Gay, Mrs. Tiffany, Mrs. Allan, Miss Gillett, and Miss Gurnee.

A number of American and English-speaking physicians and surgeons responded to the appeal made by Doctor J.M. Gershberg, of New York, visiting physician to the Hopital Broca, and attended a meeting held at Professor Pozzi’s dispensary to form an organization offering their medical and surgical services to the French Government and the Red Cross Society.

Doctor Gershberg explained that the plan is to form three bodies: a body of English-speaking physicians and surgeons, a body of English-speaking nurses, and a body of English-speaking attendants. The proprietor of the Hotel Chatham, a reserve officer in the artillery, and M. C. Michaut, ex-reserve officer of artillery, have decided to place the establishment at the disposal of the Red Cross Society for the reception of wounded soldiers.

Americans arriving in Paris from Germany and Switzerland continue to bring stories of hardships inflicted on them by the sudden outbreak of war. Mr. T.C. Estee, of New York, who reached Paris with his family, reported that he left behind at Zurich two hundred Americans who apparently had no means of getting away.

He and his family were lucky enough to catch the last train conveying troops westward. They traveled for two days without food or water, one of the ladies fainting from exhaustion, and after the train reached its destination they had to walk several miles across the frontier, where they were taken on board a French troop train. They lost all their baggage.

Eight other Americans reported a similar experience. They had a tramp of ten miles into France, and one of their number, a lady partly paralyzed, had to be carried. They could procure no food until they reached France. Finally they obtained a motor-car which brought them to Paris. This memorable journey began at Dresden.

~ ~ ~ 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 6– Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 5, 2014 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Paris in the early days of the war: August 2, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



(see previous post in this series: August 1 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Sunday, August 2, 1914. —This is the first day of mobilization. I looked out of the dining-room window of my apartment at Number 8 Rue Théodule-Ribot at four this morning. Already the streets resounded with the buzz, whirl, and horns of motor-cars speeding along the Boulevard de Courcelles, and the excited conversation of men and women gathered in groups on the sidewalks. It was warm, rather cloudy weather. Thermometer, 20 degrees centigrade, with light, southwesterly breezes. My servant, Félicien, summoned by the mobilization notices calling out the reservists, was getting ready to join his regiment, the Thirty-second Dragoons. His young wife and child had arrived the day before from Brittany. My housekeeper, Sophie, who was born in Baden-Baden and came to Paris with her mother when a girl of eight, is in great anxiety lest she be expelled, owing to her German nationality.

I walked to the chancellery of the American Embassy, Number 5 Rue de Chaillot, where fifty stranded Americans were vainly asking the clerks how they could get away from Paris and how they could have their letters of credit cashed. Three stray Americans drove up in a one-horse cab. I took the cab, after it had been discharged, and went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I expected to find our Ambassador, Mr. Myron T. Herrick. M. Viviani, the President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was there awaiting the arrival of Baron de Schoen, the German Ambassador, who had made an appointment for eleven o’clock. It was now half-past eleven, and his German excellency had not yet come.

I watched the arrival of the St. Cyr cadets at the Gare d’Orsay station on their way to the Gare de l’Est. These young French “West Pointers” are sturdy, active, wiry little chaps, brimful of pluck, intelligence, and determination. They carried their bags and boxes in their hands, and their overcoats were neatly folded bandelière fashion from the right shoulder to the left hip. Then came a couple of hundred requisitioned horses led by cavalrymen. Driving by the Invalides, I noticed about five hundred requisitioned automobiles. I was very much impressed by the earnest, grave determination of the reservists, who were silently rejoining their posts. Some of them were accompanied by wives, sisters, or sweethearts, who concealed their tears with forced smiles. Now and then groups of young men escorted the reservists, singing the “Marseillaise” and waving French, British, and Russian flags. At the Place de la Concorde, near the statue of “Strasbourg,” was a procession of Italians, who had offered their military services to the Minister of War in spite of Italy’s obligation to the Triple Alliance.

In the German quarter, near the Rue d’Hauteville, a couple of German socialists who were so imprudent as to shout “A bas l’armée!” were surrounded by angry Frenchmen, and despite an attempt of the police to protect them, were very roughly handled. A German shoemaker who attempted to charge exaggerated prices for boots had his windows smashed and his stock looted by an infuriated crowd.

The news that the German shops were being attacked soon spread, and youths gathered in bands, going from one shop to the other and wrecking them in the course of a few moments. Further riots occurred near the Gare de l’Est, a district which is inhabited by a large number of Germans. A great deal of damage was done.

Measures were taken at once by the authorities, and several cavalry detachments were called to the aid of the police. The youths were quite docile on the whole, a word from a policeman being sufficient to turn them away.

The cavalry, too, only made a few charges at a sharp trot and were received with hearty cheers. Policemen and municipal guards were, however, stationed before shops known to be owned by Germans.

In spite of this rioting, responsible Parisians may be said to have remained as calm as they have been all through this critical time. Among those taking part in wrecking shops were few people older than seventeen or eighteen.

Already the familiar aspect of the Parisian street crowd has changed. It is now composed almost exclusively of men either too young or too old for military service and of women and children. Most of the younger generation have already left to join corps on the front or elsewhere in France. It is impossible to spend more than a few minutes in the streets without witnessing scenes which speak of war.

There are long processions of vehicles of all sorts, market carts, two-wheeled lorries, furniture vans, all of them stocked with rifles for the reserves and all of them led or driven by soldiers.

Not a motor-omnibus is to be seen. The taxi-cabs and cabs are scarce. Tramway-cars are running, although on some lines the service is reduced considerably. In spite of the disorganization of traffic, the majority of Parisians go about their business quietly.

There is deep confidence in the national cause. “We did not want this war, but as Germany has begun we will fight, and Germany will find that the heart of France is in a war for freedom,” is an expression heard on all sides.

Everywhere there are touching scenes. In the early hours of the morning a chasseur covered with dust, who had come to bid farewell to his family, was seen riding through the city. As he rode down the street, an old woman stopped him and said: “Do your best! They killed my husband in ’70.” The young soldier stooped from his saddle and silently gripped the old woman’s hand.

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

(see next post in this series: August 3)

Published in: on August 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paris in the early days of the war: August 1, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



Saturday, August 1, 1914. After dinner last evening I happened to be near the Café du Croissant near the Bourse and in the heart of the newspaper quarter of Paris. Suddenly an excited crowd collected. “Jaurès has been assassinated!” shouted a waiter. The French deputy and anti-war agitator was sitting with his friends at a table near an open window in the café. A young Frenchman named Raoul Villain, son of a clerk of the Civil Court of Rheims, pushed a revolver through the window and shot Jaurès through the head. He died a few moments later. The murder of the socialist leader would in ordinary times have so aroused party hatred that almost civil war would have broken out in Paris. But to-night, under the tremendous patriotic pressure of the German emperor’s impending onslaught upon France, the whole nation is united as one man. As M. Arthur Meyer, editor of the Gaulois, remarked: “France is now herself again! Not since a hundred years has the world seen ‘France Debout!'”


At four o’clock this afternoon I was standing on the Place de la Bourse when the mobilization notices were posted. Paris seemed electrified. All cabs were immediately taken. I walked to the Place de l’Opéra and Rue de la Paix to note the effect of the mobilization call upon the people. Crowds of young men, with French flags, promenaded the streets, shouting “Vive La France!” Bevies of young sewing-girls, midinettes, collected at the open windows and on the balconies of the Rue de la Paix, cheering, waving their handkerchiefs at the youthful patriots, and throwing down upon them handfuls of flowers and garlands that had decked the fronts of the shops. The crowd was not particularly noisy or boisterous. No cries of “On to Berlin!” or “Down with the Germans!” were heard. The shouts that predominated were simply: “Vive La France!” “Vive l’Armée!” and “Vive l’Angleterre!” One or two British flags were also borne along beside the French tricolor.

~ ~ ~ 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 2– Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment