THE PLAN: ADMINISTRATION
HAVING determined its broad lines of policy, the American Red Cross created the administrative machinery to carry them out. Its main office was located in Paris, the center of government, and of every considerable agency of relief. At its head stood the Commissioner for France. Under him, military and civilian affairs were sharply divided into two departments. The administrator of the latter was styled the Director of Civilian Relief. So far as the liberated regions were concerned, this department was further subdivided into three bureaus: The Children's Bureau, occupied primarily with matters of public health as affecting the future citizens of France; the Bureau of Reconstruction, dealing with the repair of damaged houses and architectural planning, and the Bureau of Relief and Economic Rehabilitation.
Fortunately for the work of the Department, there were available for its personnel at this time a number of former delegates of the Belgian Relief Commission, who could no longer work in Belgium and France owing to our having become belligerents in the war. They brought to the Department not only valuable training in what might be called wholesale- economic relief, but also in some instances first-hand acquaintance with the area most recently liberated in Northern France. The plan of relief adopted was largely influenced by them, being a modification of that previously worked out by this Commission. It consisted of the controlling office in Paris, quickly amalgamated into the Bureau of Rehabilitation and Relief, and field delegates sent out from it to definitely assigned areas. To make the plan of operation clear, it will be better to consider this method as operative from September 1, 1917, to March 21, 1918. On this latter date occurred the last German offensive which swept again into chaos the "region libérée."
It was evident that material relief was the thing to be sent first into that stricken country. There was need of tons of clothing, of shoes, of furniture, particularly beds and bedding, of household utensils, agricultural implements, stoves, soap and food. Free transportation by rail had been accorded. It remained to divide the four invaded departments (the Oise, the Aisne, the Somme and the Pas-de-Calais) into districts centering about warehouses which should distribute these supplies. Haste was important; summer was turning into autumn, autumn into winter such a winter as the invaded territories had never seen. For it must be borne in mind that even under the German occupation, there had remained to the unfortunate inhabitants their homes, their furniture, their farms. Whereas the autumn of 1917 found them free and reunited to their country, on the other hand, scarcely a family had escaped its quota of members sent into slavery, and only a small proportion retained their roofs above their heads.
Edith the kindly cooperation of préfets, mayors and army officers, the sites of the warehouses in the north were chosen and buildings secured at Amiens, Ham, Nesle (Somme), Noyon (Oise) and Soissons (Aisne). The latter, the nearest point from the great central warehouse at Paris, was distant sixty-five miles; Amiens, eighty-one miles away, was the farthest north, but Ham was thirty-six miles from Amiens, through which owing to the St. Quentin salient, all freight to it had to be shipped. Naturally these sites were selected for two reasons; their accessibility, and their importance to the districts to be served by them. The capacity of these warehouses gives some idea of the amount of freight handled: Amiens (undestroyed) forty carloads, Ham, five carloads, Nesle, five carloads, Noyon, twelve carloads, and Soissons, three carloads. But the speed of operation varied in these warehouses with the difficulties of rail and motor transport. Military maneuvers always took precedence over civilian freight, even to the extent of temporary shortage in civilian food. Despite the danger from bombing, and the always possible German advance, the accumulation of supplies in the warehouses, therefore, seemed advisable. The value of the goods so stored against emergencies in March, 1918, is interesting in this connection: Amiens, Fr. 300,000; Ham, 197,568.10; Nesle, 137,000; Noyon, 208,834, and Soissons, 334,947.94.
Yet the warehouses emptied themselves with astonishing rapidity. Attached to each was a head warehouse man and a transport service of from one to five trucks, with drivers, and a passenger Ford. Under the Red Cross direction worked a force of men usually assigned by the French Army for unloading and reloading goods. The value of this transport service alone in a zone where there were practically no private conveyances, where every automobile had to be militarized, and where gasoline could be obtained only on an army order and then at a cost of six francs a litre, can hardly be overestimated. Next to the relief supplies themselves, transportation was the most essential service rendered by the Red Cross in the régions dévastées.
Yet the duties of the four delegates to whom the warehouses and their staffs were assigned comprised much more than the mere distribution of relief. The instructions from the central office to the` delegate were as follows:
1. To reside in his district.
2. To establish friendly relations with all officials, civil and military, in his district.
3. To study and report upon means of communication and transportation.
4. To study and report upon:
(a) The amount of destruction caused by the war.
(b) The number of civilians who are back and the rapidity with which they are returning.
(c) The condition of those who are back and how they live and what they do.
(d) Organization and range `of all relief machinery in the field, including that of the government.
5. To establish friendly relations with other organizations and through them aid the civil population in such ways as seem desirable and feasible.
6. To have general oversight of the warehouse in his district and cooperate with the warehouse department.
In other words, as the head of the Bureau wrote six months later: "From the start we have tried to impress upon the oeuvres the American Red Cross point-of-view that our effort is not intended as simple charity, but as a direct contribution to the rehabilitation of the invaded departments of France; that we do not intend to assume any part of the normal burden of poor relief in these departments; that our help is intended to set war-sufferers on their feet and to make them self-respecting, independent and productive citizens; that it is important for the future as well as for the present that beneficiaries of American Red Cross aid should know that it is America which is helping them---the same America which is their militant Ally."
It will be seen that a delegate was, in his way, an ambassador from America to his province, and in need of special qualifications of tact, of sympathy, of decision. It is the delegates, not only in the devastated area, but in any department, who have made the living history of the civilian relief of the American Red Cross in France.
THE PLAN: COOPERATION
THE first delegate to reach his field was, naturally, the delegate assigned to the district most accessible, that radiating from Noyon, in the Oise. He established himself there in the first week of September, 1917. There were already many agencies which had preceded him, since this area had been rapidly cleared in March, and was well behind the lines. These agencies were those of the Third
French Army, those of the Government, represented by the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Prefecture of the Department, and private societies. Of these latter, one was American and six were French. Between the private societies and the Government, however, there were connecting links, through the Comité du Secours National, attached to the Ministry of the Interior, which federalized and subsidized French activities of relief, both public and private; and, more directly, for all societies, through a special sous-préfet representing the Ministry, and appointed as liaison officer in each department of the invaded territory between the French Army, the relief organizations and the Government. After all, it was the Army, reaching up through the Ministry of War, which governed this territory by martial law, and it was the Army which assigned to each agency its sector of relief. At the head of this civilian service for the Third Army was Captain Pallain, stationed at Noyon. It will be seen that the stage was well set for the operation of Red Cross policy.
In a book of this scope, it would be both impossible and inappropriate to enter upon a description of the intricate yet fascinating schemes of relief worked out between the various departments of the French Government, the various corps of the French Army, the various prefectures, and the oeuvres, in the devastated area. Yet it would be equally impossible to understand the course of the American Red Cross in any given district without some grasp of the main principles which underlay all the variations, and defined the limits within which it was free to operate. It is only fair testate that the French, masterly in their strategy of war, have been equally masterly in their conception of organized relief. And if we, in our American impatience, have sometimes chafed at the "red tape" of this organization, it is perhaps only because, drained of their resources by the demands of military campaigns, whose thunders often shook the fields reclaimed, the French Army and the French Government were unable to carry out their ideals. Four years of stupendous warfare had tested not only the methods, but the spiritual and material capital of the French nation. The greatest struggle, as all the world knows now, was yet to be made, in the campaigns of 1918. If, therefore, the American Red Cross has made a contribution of value to France in this struggle, it is not so much in the domain of organization as it is in that of resources, both of personnel and of supplies, which enabled existing organizations to perform their work.
The practical scheme of reconstruction put in operation by the Third French Army was in accordance with the principles laid down by General Lyautey for a friendly army of occupation in a ravaged territory. It was placed in charge of a man of large affairs, Captain Pallain being the son of the President of the Bank of France. It comprised (1) food supply, (2) actual rebuilding, (3) plowing, seeding, and supplying of farm animals, (4) sanitation. In short, while in the midst of an active campaign, it set itself to repair what the Germans had destroyed.
Put in another way, it supplied transport, labor, and the functions of local government. Sectors containing each an engineer, a physician, and an agricultural expert were given charge of stated areas. Labor was supplied immediately back of the lines by soldiers en repos, by Moroccans or Annamites whose red turbans or conical hats lent a curious oriental color to the dun landscape, or, further back, by hundreds of German prisoners. By autumn, in the region of Noyon, twelve hundred hectares or three thousand acres, had been plowed and planted. In all, in the region occupied by the Third Army, four thousand five hundred houses were repaired and five hundred built.
The same care of civilians was taken on the British side of the lines. It was a military necessity, an offset to the war which Germany made upon civilians. The German Army had had its sectors also, of destruction and not of construction. To them were attached skilled mechanics who knew the essential parts of agricultural machinery, and removed the same part from each machine in their line of retreat. There were expert foresters who calculated to a nicety the girdling of fruit trees. There were chemists, who gauged the charges of explosives, and poisoned the wells. The field of this economic combat of nations was the richest of wheat lands,---and food would win the war. It followed that the allied armies of occupation must organize their civilian sectors for salvage in this new form of war.
But as the allied armies advanced their trenches, the land behind them became safer for civilians. The departmental government and the Ministry of the Interior took over more and more of its duties from the Army.
For example, a daily stipend was allotted by the Government to any family which had suffered loss of property or of wage earners. This was calculated to cover the bare cost of food, which was distributed by the departmental machinery. Depots were established of the most essential articles of furniture, which were given out through the mayors of communes. Each allotment bore a stated value, and this was to be deducted from a post-war settlement of damages to be paid by the Government. Cooperative grocery stores were also established, and, under the Department of Agriculture, associations of farmers who clubbed together to avail themselves of government tractors and government labor in the plowing of their land. Most important of all, the Government made, transported and allocated temporary shacks for the housing of the civilian population, the labor for the putting up of which was furnished largely by the Army. In all of this period of transition from military to civil government, the special sous-préfet already mentioned was the connecting link between them.
One might question the need of private relief in a field so carefully covered by government agencies, were it not that the Government welcomed and made a place for them in its staggering task. It was not the Government, but the Chamber of Commerce of Dunkerque which stored there in anticipation of the allied advance, the first supplies of food rushed to the civilians of the liberated regions. In the eastern zone, it was the Secours d'Urgence that performed a like service. Warerooms were assigned to various societies in Paris, and a transport service placed at their disposal by the Army. The very names of the French oeuvres are indicative of the emergency which created them and of the hold they have on the sympathy of the public which supports them. There are, for instance, the Abri (Shelter), the Bon Gate (Good Lodging), the Armoire Lorraine (Wardrobe of Lorraine), the Renaissance des Foyers (the Rebirth of the Homes), the Village Reconstitué (the Village Rebuilt), the Aisne Dévastée (the Devastated Aisne), the Secours d'Urgence (Emergency Relief). At the head of them all, in point of age and of prestige, are the Secours aux Blessés Militaires, the Union des Femmes de France and the Association des Dames de France, the three societies which make up the French Red Cross. All loosely federated under a liaison officer between the Ministry of War and the Ministry of the Interior, it remained for these societies to work out their individual cooperation in accordance with the kind of help with which the one could supplement the other.
Take, for instance, the history of one of the French societies represented in the district assigned to the Red Cross delegate in the Wise, that known as the Comité de Baboeuf. The village of Baboeuf was destroyed by the Germans, and with it, the Château belonging to its chief councilor. His wife had a friend in Paris, a member of the Secours aux Blessés Militaires of the French Red Cross. She interested her in Baboeuf. This was the beginning of the small oeuvre which was later taken under the patronage of the Secours aux Blesses Militaires. Its plan of operation was simple. The first report reads: " Some nurses of the S. S. B. M. came to Baboeuf in May, 19l7> to be the bond of union between the societies of mercy at a distance and the unfortunate populations." In the beginning, lacking means of transport, the establishment at Baboeuf could act only in a very limited sector. Colonel Barry, of the British Red Cross, then placed at their disposal a small truck and a driver. From this beginning, their dependent villages grew. Their furniture was donated to them for distribution by the Bon Gîte from its central reservoir in Paris. Twelve other societies, representing five nationalities and three religious faiths--- Protestant, Hebrew and Catholic---cooperated with them, some giving clothing, others cloth, and others farm animals. Last, but not least, the Comité hired a gang of workmen and, with the help of the Army, repaired its villages.
With such a spirit of cooperation already abroad, it was easy for the delegate of the American Red Cross to make himself welcome. He represented, in their eyes, one more cooperating agency. But there was this difference between the American Red Cross and all other societies in the field.' It was its purpose to cooperate impartially with all. Not only so, but in an unofficial capacity to influence the methods employed in the giving of relief, by selecting the agencies which should be the distributors of its supplies. In every case, the watchword was passed on from headquarters to avoid giving as a charity, to remember that the ultimate consumer was a self-respecting citizen, rendered temporarily helpless, but only temporarily, by the misfortunes of-war. Even though the inhabitants left in the invaded regions were, for the most part, women, old people and children, they came of a hardy race inured to toil, accustomed for hundreds of years to the wastage of contending armies. In nearly every case they had rescued their savings, those peasant savings which, as all the world knows, are the "long stocking" of the wealth of France.
The economic effort of the French Government was in accord with this Red Cross policy of helping the unfortunates to help themselves. And in the devastated regions the delegates of the Red Cross had also a valuable precedent in their favor. The Belgian Relief Commission, operating in the same territory behind the German lines, had made it a rule to sell for a nominal sum rather than to give outright. The smallest peasant understood and approved a plan which saved him from humiliation. It was recognized as the American way.
COOPERATION IN PRACTICE
COOPERATION is a large word on paper, and looms larger in practice. Applied to the district manned by the American Red Cross delegate, it represented over 2000 square miles of territory and approximately 150,000 souls. The means at his command were (1) a warehouse, yet to be chosen and stocked, (2) a Ford passenger car, and later, a camionette, (3) a warehouse man, and later, together with the camionette, a secretary, and a chauffeur. Noyon, his base of operations; was at the time of his advent, and up to the time of the armistice, the railhead on the main line from Paris to St. Quentin. Fifteen miles back, at Compiègne, were the grand headquarters of the French Army; from fifteen to twenty-five miles away in a sweeping semicircle to the north and to the east extended the front line. Noyon figured in the plan of Germany as the gate on the direct road to Paris, conversely, it was to the French their gateway for troops, supplies and ammunition going up into the Somme. Camions in hundreds and thousands, cavalry, batteries of seventy-fives, steady marching infantry, blue devils, convoys of donkeys used to carry ammunition under fire, flocks of sheep, the whizzing cars of officers,---all passed like a pageant through Noyon. Nor were the sounds of combat absent. German aeroplanes, well aware of the activities centering in their former stronghold, visited it nearly every day. Bombs were dropped, trains were wrecked, and the bullets of air battles, taking place almost out of sight in the blue sky above, came dropping down in the city streets.
Naturally, civilian affairs took secondary place in the matter of transport. Yet the army in the midst of its campaign set aside an efficient camion service from Noyon to carry civilian supplies. In this way, Noyon was the center of civilian as well as of military activity for the neighborhood, and all the relief agencies radiated from it. These latter dotted the ruined countryside at irregular intervals, from Golancourt in the Somme, to Senlis, the southernmost point of German devastations in the Oise, taking in, on the east, a section only five miles from the front line trenches at Villequier-Aumont, in the Aisne. At Golancourt was located a Friends' Unit, composed of both British and American workers; at Guiscard, a distributing station of the Renaissance des Foyers, at Baboeuf, twelve miles west of Noyon, the Comity already mentioned, at Ribécourt, Lassigny and Noyon itself advance posts of the Village Reconstititué, at Chiry-Ourscamp the nurses of the Villages Libérés, and at Villequier-Aumont, nearest of all to the lines, an American women's unit, the Philadelphia Committee of the Pennsylvania Emergency Aid. All, it will be noted, had located their main posts of relief in the villages. All were bending their energies to the revival of agriculture in this, the richest agricultural area of France. The colony at Golancourt, twelve strong, was engaged in actual plowing, planting and restocking of farms; the Philadelphia Committee with a personnel averaging the same number, charged itself with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of five villages, including the building, equipping and teaching of two schools; the French societies with a smaller personnel and practically no transportation, worked a larger area, giving rather emergent relief.
This personnel consisted of visiting nurses, settled, two by two, in their districts. In addition, the Villages Libérés had a physician. Yet this does not convey to an American an exact idea of the type of work accomplished. In the first place, France has no trained nurses, in the same sense that we have in America. Most of the nurses, whether belonging to the Secours aux Blessés Militaires, to the Femmes de France, or to the Dames de France, are ladies of social standing, of intelligence and of unselfish devotion, who volunteer in this service. Their role in the devastated area would correspond more to that of Sisters of Charity with us. As in the case of the Baboeuf Comité, they were primarily distributing agents of societies at a distance. Their barracks contained besides dispensaries, dormitories for the shelterless returning refugees. They were oases of moral and social inspiration in their communities. These societies naturally became the largest distributors of American Red Cross supplies.
Take, for instance, the post at Lassigny.
For two years and a half, Lassigny, situated on the heights above Noyon, had been swept by the cross fire of two opposing armies. The gently-rounded slopes about it, originally covered with copses, lie denuded, scarred with intricate, deep-gashed trenches, bristled by occasional trees, skeletons of the once lovely woods, from which even the bark is stripped bare. In Lassigny, so total had been the destruction of its houses that in May 1917 only two of its nine hundred inhabitants were back. Yet the poor remnant of its population continued to increase, existing in cellars, until by December one hundred and seventy had returned. Barracks, given by the Government, were erected by the Army. Conspicuous among them was the blue-painted headquarters of the Village Reconstitué, set at the crossroad. Here two courageous nurses of the Union des Femmes de France distributed the succor provided by their subsidizing agencies. Two cows furnished milk, which was given to undernourished children; a vegetable garden was planted, hens and rabbits for the restocking of farms were raised. With the help of one sewing machine, the revival of industry began. A workroom for all the women within walking distance of Lassigny was established.
The opening of workrooms was one of the functions of the French societies, notably of the Femmes de France, most helpful to the morale of the devastated areas. No one was quicker than the French themselves to see the danger of pauperizing the unfortunate peasants. A regular scale of wages was arranged. Or, did the worker desire, she could have the finished products, up to the estimated value of her work. Before the advent of the American Red Cross at Noyon, the Baron Rothschild had supplied both the material and the market for these wares. His was, in fact, a very interesting experiment in social economics. He supplied material at cost, bought at a fixed price, and sold again at a commercial rate in Paris, the garments made.
In addition, he had established a store, in the old archiepiscopal palace at Noyon, where one could buy household necessities at cost also, and a depot for the setting up of chains of grocery stores. His idea was, not profit, but a business which should support itself and at the same time render an invaluable service to a community absolutely without stores or markets or merchandise.
The American Red Cross was able to augment quickly the amount of material furnished to the workrooms thus established, and to do it without cost. It came at a time when the Baron's experiment was drawing to a close, owing to the resumption of normal trade. In place of one sewing machine, it gave as many as were needed. The circle at Lassigny grew under this stimulus from twenty members to seventy-five. Perhaps with the idea of lessening gossip and bickering, a phonograph was supplied. But, most important of all, the American Red Cross was able to give back to Lassigny its wells. Not only were the waters of Lassigny rendered undrinkable, as were all the wells of the devastated area, by the shoveling in of filth; they were filled to the top and grassed over. One could only guess where the wells had been. German prisoners dug out the wells in time, and the water was analyzed by army chemists and pronounced fit to drink. But there were no pumps in Lassigny until the Red Cross bought them in Paris, transported them. and set them up.
Naturally, the Red Cross delegate was the recipient of many requests for aid. All the Red Cross asked was to be of service. Hence, not long after the arrival of the delegate, the sous-préfet stationed at Noyon suggested that a small portable sawmill would be of the greatest help in furthering the repair of houses, so essential to the return of the population. Along the highways which, everywhere in France, are arched with stately trees, the Germans had left behind them thousands of felled trunks. Nor it is interesting to note, were most of these felled across the road to serve as barricades. Like lines of soldiers mowed down by opposing barrages they lie, mile after mile, their hacked bases to the roadside, their once green tops to the fields. The American Red Cross installed a circular steam saw to cut these trees; the American Friends' Unit furnished the man to run it, and the lumber went to make the barracks for the village of Tracy-le-Mont.
The civilian authorities as rapidly as possible took over more and more of the administration of the Oise from the army. Their programme of relief centered in an agricultural association of the farmers into groups known as cooperatives. The purpose was to band together a sufficient number of the small farmers who abound in this region to allow of the plowing of the land by tractor or by teams of horses and plows owned or rented in common. The difficulty of inducing the peasant farmers to enter into any such arrangement was great. Each had been brought up for generations to be tenacious of his own, to be independent of his-fellows. And now, at a time when landmarks were destroyed, and the very title to his property in all probability lost, he was asked to level what was left of his boundaries, to entrust a tithe of his hardly saved money to the keeping of others. At a critical moment, the American Red Cross was able to present thirty-five of these cooperatives with a plow apiece as tangible evidence of some advantage to be derived from the scheme. At Golancourt, again, the plow was in the hands of the cooperative, the horses of the Friends' Unit were ready to plow, but there was lack of oats. It was not only that oats were lacking; it was strictly forbidden to use them for fodder, as the Government was hoarding them for planting. But the Red Cross was able to supply oats.
School furniture and subsidies to replace school equipment were another form of Red Cross aid. For the Germans, in all the country artificially destroyed by them, wreaked a special spite upon churches, town halls and schools.
Interesting as were the indirect methods of aid consistently adhered to by the American Red Cross in the Oise, it is, after all, in direct contact that human interest always lies. The appeals made to the Red Cross delegate were turned over by him to the proper source of help. But in passing through his hands, they left him with a knowledge that he was fulfilling in his way a duty very dear to the hearts of the French. An adjutant in a French Army Corps writes him: "I have the honor to call to your benevolent attention the situation of the family living at C---in the canton of Lassigny. During a tour of the front in the region most recently liberated, I was able to substantiate the following facts: The village, counting about five hundred hearths is, so to speak, entirely demolished, the few habitations still standing are open to the winds, the roofs, in spite of the hasty repairs made by the Army, let in water everywhere. Mme. X lives alone with one little girl of five, and a boy of thirteen. She is seriously wounded and perhaps in agony. Her husband was deported as a civilian hostage into Germany. Her oldest son, married and father of a family, has been at the front since the beginning; her second son is a prisoner in Germany and the third is at the point of death, terribly burned by the explosion of a shell lying in the line of march. Mme. X--- is without a single resource, the Germans having taken everything away; work tools, garden tools, mattresses, linen, and every object of value.
"During the German occupation, Mme. X---having some medical knowledge, succeeded, by a combination of tact and devotion, in nursing and in assisting all the wounded prisoners cared for in the district. She saved at the risk of her life and that of her infants, the big bronze bell of the church presented by the Emperor Napoleon.
"Thinking that this woman, more than being necessitous, was above all a heroine, I have believed it well, and have allowed myself, to call her to your kind attention."
A second letter comes from a lieutenant in the French Army, presenting the case of another family entirely unknown to him. But in his company is a soldier, who has been taken in and given shelter during his repos by a grandmother and her granddaughter somewhere in the Oise. They have treated him like one of the family. Now, as he is about to leave for the front, the grandmother has been taken ill; the granddaughter is young and not strong. He has already written to a married daughter at a distance. The daughter, whose husband is ill in bed, writes in turn to her brother, thinking that some arrangement can be made for her to go to their mother. But in vain. So, all these letters, carefully annotated, the lieutenant encloses with his own, asking the American Red Cross to help.
Not only was it the destitute peasants, but the unfortunates of another class that the American Red Cross was privileged to assist. I refer especially to the heroic chatelaines of ruined chateaux. A book might be written on them in the relief work of France. Like the president of the Villages Libérés, from whom I have before quoted, many considered themselves by their very misfortunes elected to assist their more needy neighbors. In France, there are class distinctions, handed down from feudalism, which we in America do not know. The Parisian lady, of ever so charitable intentions, is as much at sea as an American in dealing with the Picard peasants. "Superstitious, stingy, independent, reserved, yet when they have once given their confidence, absolutely loyal, and brave beyond anything I have even imagined,"---this is the characterization of them given by an American worker among these peasants of France. Two ladies in the Oise rendered invaluable service by staying on their ruined estates and interpreting the needs of their dependents. One is Mme. Menget of the Baboeuf Committee, and the other the Comtesse d'Evry of Nampcel. The story of the latter epitomizes the sort of help that the Red Cross has given in the Oise.
The Comtesse d'Evry had, before the war, a chateau on a cliff overlooking the hamlet of Nampcel which clustered about its little church in a narrow gorge. Four farms in the commune belonged to her. She had besides, two other estates, one further south in the Oise, and another in Normandy. The counts of Evry have long been established at Nampcel. Besides the rich farmlands, there had been extensive quarries there. The houses, like most in this region, were solidly built of stone. The first flying wedge of the Germans overwhelmed and destroyed the hamlet. The inhabitants fled, the Comtesse herself among them, with her little boy. The caretakers of the chateau, however, refused to leave. But their devotion was futile; the chateau was looted, soaked in kerosene and burned.
The spring of 1917, however, found the Comtesse back in her ruined village. Like her neighbors, she was homeless, but undaunted. She fitted up a caravan and set it, not on the isolated height, but down in the valley, among her villagers. As they returned, she cared for them and gave them employment on her farms. Her days were full, her villagers happy until in March, 1918, came the second catastrophe. The Germans returned, but the Comtesse was prepared. She had farm wagons and horses. These she divided among her people. On each she placed a store of provisions to last several days,---and that store of provisions came from the American Red Cross. Last of all she loaded the cart which was to take her boy, a lad of twelve. She put him in charge of her overseer and his wife, and started the whole slow procession off to her estate in Normandy. It lends a bright color to the picture of universal desolation to know that here, as elsewhere, the children regarded the exodus as a glorious adventure. Such are the contrasts of war.
Mme. d'Evry herself did not go to Normandy. In the midst of her second flight from Nampcel, she was already laying plans for her return. She had it in mind to plant potatoes on the lawn of her estate to the south, so as to have them ready for winter use. To this estate, therefore, she retired, and there she was able to give a temporary shelter to the personnel of the American Red Cross, when they were at last driven south from Compiègne. Strawberries, sugar and cream I have heard awaited them,---an unbelievable contrast to days of evacuating and feeding refugees, and nights of continuous bombing.
The Comtesse d'Evry's potato crop was planted, and dug, and stored away. But none too soon. By the autumn of 1918, she again went back to Nampcel. The heights about that village have been swept as by a cyclone. One locates neighboring villages by gaunt sign posts alone. Not a tree is standing. The road runs naked along the level clay ridges, except where a stretch of battered camouflage flaps in the wind. In the valley beneath are jagged walls and German dugouts, and not a living soul. But the Comtesse can be found, housed in a quarry which served later as a stable for one of her great farms. She is planning another exodus for her villagers, this time from Normandy to Nampcel. And the American Red Cross, itself back in Compiègne, is helping to make this possible.
THE problems of the Somme were more complex than those of the Oise. In the first place, its liberated territory was divided between two armies of occupation; the western lines being held by the British, and the eastern lines by the French. It was naturally divided also into two broad economic sections, corresponding roughly to the two areas occupied by them; the manufacturing cities and dependencies of the north, and the plain of the Santerre, par excellence, the granary of France. In the autumn of 1917, the latter had been devastated, the former had not. Two delegates were therefore assigned to the Somme, one located in Amiens, the capital of the department, and the other at Ham, the one having charge of the undevastateds and the other of the devastated area. In both places were worked out some of the variations to the Belgian scheme of relief which had been so closely adhered to in the Oise.
These hinged on the direct employment of American Red Cross personnel. In the territory controlled from Ham four experiments of this type were started: (1) Actual repair work by a Red Cross reconstruction unit in five villages near Nesle, (2) Reconstruction and rehabilitation by Friends' Units at Gruny and Ham, to which in point of accessibility rather than to the Oise, belonged also the agricultural group at Golancourt, (3) Rehabilitation by a woman's college unit, that of
Smith College, in the villages centering about Grécourt, and (4) A civilian hospital in charge of an American Red Cross doctor at Nesle. In the Somme, then, came into play the three main bureaus of the Department of Civilian Affairs those concerned with reconstruction, with rehabilitation and with public health.
Yet these experiments were considered at the time not so much a departure as a logical result of cooperation. It was after important conferences with the French Government and in the place selected by it that a modest beginning in reconstruction was made. It was in accordance with a far-reaching agreement with the Friends that they entered the field under Red Cross auspices; it was in an effort to use the enthusiasm of the women's colleges of America that the policy of college units was approved, and it was at the actual request of the French Government and the agent of the French Red Cross there that the civilian hospital was established at Nesle. As a matter of fact, the hospital cannot be considered a new departure, doctors, nurses and medicines having been from the first one of the most important contributions of America to France. The hospital at Nesle was, however, the first civilian hospital opened by the American Red Cross in the devastated area.
The revival of agriculture, primarily, was made the basis of French government relief. It was in order to produce food that the cultivator was allowed to remain on, or assisted by the Government to return to, his farm. The angle of America on this problem is well put in a Red Cross report already quoted from: "Idle land in France means an extra burden on tonnage from America. Idle Land in France means more soldiers, more foodstuffs, more ammunition from the United States of America.... At least one man in our organization has asked: ' How many ounces of bread is a brick worth?"' There came a new slogan into Red Cross activity: Housing follows the plow."
In that part of Picardy now designated as the Somme, large farms, even in the American sense of the word, were the rule. For instance, in Croix-Molineaus, one of the villages selected for repair, there were farms varying from 500 acres, 300 acres 200 acres, down to twelve acres. As a rule, the farm buildings hereabouts cluster in villages, owing to two causes, first, protection---an idea dating from feudal times---and secondly, the high value of land. The structure of each menage reflects these two principles; economy of space, and security. Despite its one story of height, necessitated by the soft brick, or clay wattling of which it is made, it is compactly built around a central court, this court containing the most coveted possession of the farmer, his piles of manure. Opening directly from the street, and usually through the barn, is the arched gateway, wide enough and high enough to receive the harvest wains. Not only is the barn the first, it is the largest building of the enclosure and serves as both grange and threshing floor. On either wing of it are built the stables, the rabbit hutches, the hen houses---all of brick---without which a farm in Picardy would not be a farm. Opposite the great gate, and forming the back wall of the rectangle, is the farmer's house. From this coign of vantage, he surveys and guards his domain. "When the wheat has entered, when the gate is closed, the house is entirely shut, and the street appears blind. In each direction extends a long line of blank, monotonous walls, giving to the village an aspect silent and dead. One can see that everything is designed for the convenience of farm labor. Nothing is sacrificed to the comfort of the owner, for whom his house, as well as his field, is an implement of toil. It exemplifies a form of life very ancient, since in the enactments of the thirteenth century one finds the Picard farm described as it stands to-day. It is a manner of life adapted for all time to these fertile lands which for twenty centuries the plow has turned without hindrance, and where France, in the critical hours of her history, has been able to count on the greatest of her strength."[Paul Laon: La Renaissance des Rat.]
In villages such as this, at Croix-Molineaus, Matigny and "Y" the American Red Cross began temporary repairs, first of the houses, then of the barns, and finally, of the schools. Their lumber they drew from two sources, the French Government through what was familiarly called the Moroccan Camp at Nesle, and the Red Cross itself through its warehouse at Ham. Their gang of workmen they recruited themselves among civilians, subject, of course, to the limitations imposed by military service. On the advice of the French architect who made the survey and later became an associate head of the bureau, and in accordance with the policy of the French Government, these repairs were made against a future indemnity of war. That is, each farmer whose roof was patched, or whose windows were set in, in case these repairs were of a permanent nature, understood that he would eventually pay for them from the sum allowed him by the government to cover his loss. Naturally, work was hampered by many obstacles; the difficulty of obtaining efficient labor, and the limited supply of material, particularly lumber. The needs of the army came first, always; and the needs of individuals and of private contractors had equal claims with the Red Cross on the lumber turned out by the government at the Moroccan camp. The taking over of the French lines in the Somme by the British in January, 1918, caused other difficulties, owing to different regulations in regard to civilian operations behind the lines. Nevertheless, progress was made, and by the end of January, 1918, forty farms had been repaired, twenty-seven of them completely according to the specifications. At this time, a force of thirty men was being employed. By March, two more villages in the neighborhood were in process of renovation, and one hundred houses in all had been repaired.
Near neighbors to this group of villages were. those of the Friends, whom it will not be out of place to consider here as an integral part of the American Red Cross. At Gruny, near Roye, was located a company of fifteen workers, who undertook repairs of houses for four villages assigned them by the French Government. They were allowed to take materials from uninhabited ruins for rebuilding, and did a very substantial piece of work. Working with them was an agricultural unit which plowed, seeded and restocked the farms. At Ham, another construction unit of six worked up toward the St. Quentin front, in the Aisne, erecting demountable houses for the Government. These houses were made at their own factory in the Jura mountains. Four such houses, of two or three rooms, were constructed there each week, from lumber requisitioned for them by the Government, and the finished product became the property of the Ministry of the Interior. . This unit at Ham, largely augmented, went out later to put up barracks for the nearby villages in the Somme. While engaged in this work, the Friends lived with the families among the ruins, and by their presence did far more service than can be measured by the buildings they put up. In all, they mounted eighty barracks. 4
As the construction unit left Ham, another charged with relief work took over its quarters, working from Ham in an assigned area comprising twelve villages, and in the town itself.
The agricultural group at Golancourt has already been mentioned. Like all private agencies who attempted this line of work, their aim was to assist the small holder, the needs of the grands cultivateurs being met by the Government scheme of tractor plows, manned by soldiers. Four hundred tractors were already at work behind the lines, when the Friends made their first survey of the Somme. By spring, with the aid of the British Army, whose agricultural programme was as fully developed as the French, 28,000 acres had been thus plowed in the department. But, naturally, wholesale plowing could not be done in kitchen gardens, or fields of small acreage. To meet the needs of these petty farmers, whose aggregate holdings were quite as important as those of the landed estates, the Friends had horses, plows and personnel. They were stocking their farms also with chickens and rabbits, to breed them for the countryside.
The work of the Friends' agricultural and constructive centers dovetailed with that of the Smith College Relief Unit, for they came into the villages of Hombleux and Esmery-Hallon, assigned to the latter, to put up barracks. This Smith College Unit was primarily a rehabilitation unit, the first to be sent out by a woman's college to France. It received its assignment of villages through the American Fund for French Wounded, and worked as a part of the French Service de Santé until transferred to the American Red Cross in February, 1918.
Its personnel of sixteen members covered sixteen villages, or a territory of thirty-six square miles. Its method, in general, was to give outright the larger necessities, such as furniture, bedding and stoves, but to sell at a low cost smaller articles, such as clothing, kitchen utensils, and soap. Live stock also was sold, for the reason that what was paid for was appreciated and cared for by its owner. Milk, too, was sold from a herd of cows, at six cents a quart. And all of these articles were taken by the Unit in their cars through the villages, so that their advent, on stated days, came to be looked forward to. They furnished a neighborhood center of traffic and gossip analogous to the village fair. Like all the relief agencies they gave out sewing.
But the two lines of effort which won the warmest praise from the French authorities for the Unit, were their dispensaries and their activities for children. Two doctors and three nurses' aids made the rounds of the villages weekly, not only holding dispensaries} but visiting the patients in their homes. Conditions needing the attention of the visitors charged with relief, or of those occupied with children, were then noted and acted on. Most of the patients being children, the children's visitors were the doctor's strong allies.
Yet they were careful to identify themselves unmistakably with their special function, which was to bring happiness to the six hundred children in their charge. These children had survived strange and terrible things; bombardments, deportations, wholesale destruction, the billetings of hostile troops, with all the incident restrictions upon them, the no less alien appearance of the British troops who found them in their still smoking ruins, and told them that they were free. They had, most of them, neither fathers nor elder brothers, since these were either at the front or hostages of war. Without schools, without churches, they had run wild for three and a half years.
Such children needed diversion, and for them play centers were established in every village. Schools, behind the front, were bound to function irregularly, however devoted the teachers. Those unable to attend school were taught; sewing classes were held for the girls and carpentry classes for the boys. A traveling library of a thousand volumes rejoiced the hearts of both young and old. For it must never be forgotten that the French peasantry, however close they live to the soil--- possibly because of it---are among the keenest minds in the world. In this respect they are analogous to our own old rural stock which gave us Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, and our host of country boys who have become our self-made men.
The emphasis placed on work for children may be judged by the request for the establishing of a Red Cross hospital at Nesle. It was on behalf of the twelve hundred children in Nesle and the surrounding villages that this request was made. The medical situation was typical of that throughout the devastated area. There was an old hospital, under the care of Sisters of Charity, which had been used by the Germans and stripped of everything before their retreat. There was one civilian doctor who had literally no instruments, no drugs, and no means of conveyance. There was a military surgeon, who, in addition to his army duties, cared for twenty-five villages. There was a midwife, whose services at this time were little needed, so long had families been separated.
A former tuberculosis pavilion, sunny and pleasantly set in a quaint garden, was allotted to the American Red Cross. The staff, consisting of the doctor, a trained nurse, and two nurses' aids, arrived at nightfall, cold and wet. No fire awaited them, but there was promise of future warmth in a white tiled Dutch stove which their predecessor, the Herr Doktor of some German staff, had had built in for his comfort. It was out of repair, as was the plumbing, and the whole place was in need of more than a spring house cleaning. But it was rapidly put in order, and two wards of twelve beds, white and spotless, made ready for the little patients. The Pavillon Foffre, as it was named, was the only civilian hospital within a radius of twenty-five miles. A traveling dispensary was part of the equipment of the hospital, and visited seven outlying villages. At the suggestion of the Mayor of Voyennes, one of the towns served, it carried a shower bath. Fresh milk, supplied by the authorities, and canned milk, by the American Red Cross, was distributed to infants and supplementary feeding given to undernourished children.
In brief, the service of the little hospital at Nesle was a home service. Its staff physicians add their quota of testimony to the character of the people they were privileged to help. Though large families in this section are the rule and though the able-bodied and the bread winners were absent, there was no thought of putting the waifs and strays of war into institutions. Individual families in the communes took the orphans into their already crowded hovels, fed and clothed and cared for them. The war, which had leveled their homes, had leveled them in a common misfortune. And as one wonders how the old farm buildings, those massive, isolated entities of the thirteenth century can be rebuilt, one wonders also if the patriarchal form of life they typify can ever be revived. Has not a new consciousness of solidarity, of neighborliness been born, which will outlast the war? In this consciousness, the American Red Cross, coming from so great a distance, so unknown a country, on an errand of mercy which expresses the solidarity of the whole world, has its share.
Chapter IX. Polishing the Trashed Mirrors
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