Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Morleville diary, 4 August-15 November 1914
Translation of my French diary
Started on the 4th August,1914
War. My God pity Belgium.
I enlisted today in the 3rd cycle corp(dispatch riders.
Being a military cadet I passed the doctors easily. I hope I will soon fighting
because my two eldest brothers are already fighting in Liege.
Volunteers are pouring in. we are training day and night. the news we get from Liege is terrible. Viseis in flames. Most of the population has been murdered by the Germans.
To the front at last. We are send to stop the Uhlans from destroying everything. They are the worst of all. Raiding the villages and towns, murdering destroying everywhere they pass, but they seem to be scared of us. When they see us coming they run for their lives.
s troops are splendid. Liege is holding out despite the heavy german attacks. The Germans won’t break through if the English or French arrive in time. Today we fond an officer of our company hanged by his feet to a tree. He was horribly mutilated Is this the way the Germans treat their prisoners. In the afternoon we caught a german spy. The coutry is full of them. We executed him without waiting for instructions.
News from the front is getting bad. The germans have broen through the line of forts
ar Liege.They have occupied the town Seven forts are still holding out. We are retreating. The roads are congested by refugees fleeing before the invaders. Our allies seem to have forgotten us. And yet it is for them that we are sacrificing our own little country. The germans are advancing rapidly towards Namur and Brussels. We are doing s our best to stop them, but what is one man against twenty
1) August 16th.
The last forts of Leige have fallen. The Germans have captured M.General Leman. I have just received news, that my two brothers have been killed in trying to hold the fort of Lonein against overwhelming odds. The Germans are advancing rapidly. They have reached Namur. The town is ablaze. Thousands of inhabitants are being killed. Will we hold out. My God. Where are our Allies. Are they asleep!
2) August 17th
The Germans, after two days fighting with the French have destroyed Dinant, 12 miles south of Lamur. They killed about two hundred men before the eyes of their wives, or mothers. There is not a house left standing there. All the horizon around us is ablaze with villages burning.
At 2 o’clock in the morning we learned, that a small party of Germans had entered Audenne. It was said that devilry was going on there. Two hundred of us went to investigate. It was five o’clock when we reached the village. In entering the market place, we found the Germans busy driving women naked, in a huge line, with their bayonets. All the men had already been killed and the children were huddled together in a corner watched by soldiers. At that sight we all went mad. We drove our bayonets
witin them Germans killing, without heeding their kamerading. Only two or three escaped. We killed about 227 of them They were
all drunk. Most of the women had gone mad, by the torture. They were screaming, and kissing us, without thinking of dressing themselves. They were all send to Brussels. My God! What a sight!
3/ August 22nd.
Namur has fallen, the way to france is open. We have learn with no little satisfaction that the English and French are rushing troops towards Mons, to stem the tide of invasion. The Belgian Government has left Brussels for Antwerp. All the people is panic stricken. They fly towards France and Holland. It is hardly possible to move the troops. This morning while patrolling we found an English nurse lying on the road near Ottignics. The Bashes had cut her breasts off. She was slowly dying. She was imploring us to kill her – to stop her sufferings, but how could we, we are not woman killers. Happily she died soon afterwards. We buried her as best we could.
Last night we found in the church of the same village, we found a little boy of about 4 years old, crucified to the Christ hanging over the alter. He was still moaning, out of pity one of us send a bullet through his heart.
4/ August 23rd.
The Germans have taken Brussels. Nothing as yet has been destroyed in the city. We have got to thank the American Ambassador for that. We are retreating on Antwerp, and to the line of the Schelde. I have received very bad news from
home. My youngest brother was found nailed with bayonet at the door of the place where he was staying. His stomach had been cut open, and all his interior was hanging out. Poor kid he must have suffered horribly. And he was only 13. My twin sister has dissapeared . Some of my mates say she was burned alive, in the convent where she was staying I believe them, it must be true.
5) August 27th
Yesterday I had a very narrow escape of being taken prisoner. We were patrolling on our
mott bicycles. After an hour we saw ahead of us a huge party of Uhlans, who chased us. Suddenly I heard a hiss and looking backwards saw my back tyre punctured. And the Germans were about 600 metres from us. By the time I had put the new tyre which we carry on our back all the time, they were about 100 yards behind me. I made all the speed I could I think if it had been counted as race, I would have won the championship of the world then. Imagine yourself riding like hell with about 34 Uhlans after you. I had the Good luck in falling in with a Belgian patrol, which the Germans saw too. They turned tail and disappeared. Louvain has been destroyed and Captured by the Germans. Not one building is left. God only knows how many thousands of inhabitants were killed After a terrible battle at Heyst op am berg , we recaptured
Louvain. How splendid is our king, he is with us, all the time, even in the greatest dangers. He is the soul of Belgium and the army.
Qushot has been destroyed, and last night a german Zeppelin bombarded Antwerp, killing two women and one child.
6) August 29th
A terrible battle is raging here at Geromonde, for the possession of the town. We lost and took the town back three times. The Germans are trying to cross the Schelde, to cut our only way of retract of. I was wounded today. A mere scratch on the back. Louvain was retaken by the Germans, and they entered Malines. North of Malines, the forts of Waelhem and Waire St.Catherine are holding them back with great success.
7) September 1st
The battle of Germonde ends in a splendid victory for our troops. There is not much left of the town. My mother and two sisters have gone to Lille. They will be safe there at least for some time. The Germans attack have stopped. But they bombard with fury. Antwerp is practically surrounded by a wall of fire. In the meanwhile we are enjoying a well deserved rest.
8) September the 7th
The Germans tried to take
Antwerp Ghent. But armoured cars
patrols soon drove them out again. Conditions are terrible in Antwerp. And are growing worse. My father is still staying there despite the fact that food is nearly unobtainable. The people is leaving. We are getting ready for our last stand.
9) September 15th
We have just received 50000 tons of wheat from America and 2 millions of pounds from Australia. We thank Australia and America from the bottom of our hearts, for while, the French and English leave us without help those faraway countries at least remember us. There is a growing discontent amongst the people against England. The promised help does not come. The people speak of surrendering. If it was not for the king. I think they would do it
We are attacking today, our objective is Brussels. Will we reach it? Our troups are at Neischot within 20 miles of the capital. The Germans are retreating, although they are fighting well. The king was nearly betrayed to the Germans by his own chauffeur. The king shot the traitor himself and returned to Antwerp alone.
11) September 17th
Orders to retreat were send to the troops. They were 12 miles from the capital, but there were no more munitions. The German attacks were terrible. The ports of Waelhem
and St Catherine have fallen in their hands. They are shelling Antwerp. My God, and the English have not arrived yet. One after another the ports are falling.
11) September 27th
All the ports are in the hands of the enemy. We are fighting in the suburbs, three thousand English marines have arrived. They fight well those English, but they are not numerous enough, we are evacuating the city, ready to retreat at a moment’s notice.
12) October 5th
The main part of the army is over the river and safe we have orders to keep on as long as we can. Twenty thousand Belgians and the remnants of the English marines. The Germans are shelling the town, the petrols tanks are ablaze, all the ships in the port are burning. God knows if we will ever get out of this hole.
13) October 18th
We have reached Bruges. We left Antwerp the 7th a great part of the Belgian rearguard is prisoner in Holland with the English marines. About 5000 of us escaped across the schelde, and we rejoined the main army yesterday here. The Germans did not pursue us. Father stayed in Antwerp.
14) October 19th
We are retreating to Nieuport, evacuated Ostend. I get leave to go and see my sisters and mother in
15) October 25th
Arrived back in Furnes. The 19th I went to Lille to see my mother and sister. After having past the Belgian outposts I was captured by the Germans. They did not treat me too bad. I was taken to the prison camp of Roulers. The Germans told me, that they would send me to Germany on the 21st. On the 20th an American attaché came to visit the prisoners. Being able to speak English I asked, implored him to intercede by the German commander, to send me to Lille to say farewell to my mother. The commander being a kind fellow, gave me that permission. I was send to Lille in motorcar, with few guards. I reached it at 6oc. at night and was not able to go home before morning. At 8 o’clock the guards took me to Warguchal, where my mother was. When I reached the villa, I found everyone weeping. I did not understand what it meant, so I went straight in. One of my sister made me sign to follow her. She opened the door of my mothers room. And there was my mother covered with blood. She had 6 wounds and had been dead for 2 hours. I don’t remember what happened after that until I woke up to find myself in bed. One of my sisters was looking at me and when I saw her I remembered everything that had happened. She told me that two days before the Germans had occupied the town, and the Germans told my mother she would have to lodge two officers
The officers came at night time. They started to make a feast, and obliged my sisters to serve them. While they were serving, one of the officer caught one of my sister and tore the dress from her shoulders, so that she stood with bare breasts before him. He then took her in his arms and kissed her. When my mother saw that, she took a fork, and drove it in the officers arm. He went away without saying a word, and next morning, my mother was arrested, court-martialled, and sentenced to be shot next morning at 6 o’clock, for having assaulted a German officer. Despite the pleading of my sister and of the American consul, the sentence was carried out. The told me too that the American Consul was taking charge of them, and that I had not to worry about them.
Being satisfied on that point, I made my mind up to escape. During the night I slipped through the window. There were no guards. I walked all night, and hid myself during the day. At 3oc. In the morning of the 24th I was picked up by a flemish paysant, who took me to Furnes in his cart. T am having a good rest now, but I hope that the day after tomorrow I will be able to go to the front again.
16) October 27th
I am leaving for the front today. The Germans have massed half a million men and 5oo guns to smash
through us. We are only 45,000 with 75 guns nearly no munitions, scarcely any food, in rags. We have all made the oath, to stand our ground to the last. The world is going to witness a fight of the remnants of a people clinging to its last bit of country, against an enemy hundred times stronger.
these Our allies have promised help before the beginning of November. I hope they shall do it today this time. Six thousand French marines are holding Disemuide
17) November 15th
French help had arrived. The Germans had crossed the Yseu. We are making our last stand on the rail
way connecting Disemuide and Nieuport. The Germans Captured Disemuide and St George. A counter attack, drove them out of the 1st place. There was only one means left to stop them, it was to flood the country. The gates of the river were opened and water spread all over the battlefield. We behind the railway embankment were safe. But the Germans perceived it too late. They climbed in the trees,
where while we were shooting them down. It is said that the Germans have lost fifty thousand men in the floods only, and 330 guns. What victory for Belgium.
Of the forty five thousand men of Belgium only 11,000 were still fit. And they even are so exhausted, that I doubt whether they will be able to stay where they are actually. I just heard that we were going to be send to Southern France to recuperate and that French Troops will take our place.
[Transcribed by Betty Smith and Trish Barrett for the State Library of New South Wales]