Some Surprises in Cologne.
My unexpected freedom in Cologne was
but one of many surprise.
There was the surprise of meeting
an Australian friend in such unexpected quarters.
I ascertained her name was Miss Goche. Her father
was a well-known merchant of Melbourne, but was now
living in Sydney. He had sent his daughter to
the Leipsic Conservatorium to receive the technical
polish every aspiring Australian musician seems to
consider the “hall mark of excellence.”
But the war closed the Conservatorium
as it did most other concerns, by drawing out the
younger professors to the firing line and the older
men to the Landstrum, a body of spectacled elderly
men in uniform, who felt the spirit wake in their
feeble blood and prided themselves as “bloodthirsty
dogs,” as they watched railway lines, reservoirs,
power stations, and did other unexciting small jobs.
Miss Goche was staying with her aunt
and grandfather in Cologne. At their home I was
Little restriction was placed on my
movements, than the twice daily reporting at the Barracks.
I wondered at this freedom.
“It is easily explained,”
said old Goche, who could speak English. “The
Fatherland knows no enmity with Australia. We
have sympathy for the Indians, Canadians and other
races of your Empire, who have been whipped into this
war against their own free will.”
“But,” I interrupted, “there has
been no whipping.”
“Tut, tut,” he continued.
“We of the Fatherland know. Have we not
proof? Our “Berliner Tageblatt” tells
us so. We have no quarrel with the colonial people.
Our hate is for England alone; and when this war is
over and we have England at our feet, we shall be welcomed
by Australia and the colonies, and we shall let them
share with us the freedom and the light and the wisdom
of our great Destiny.”
There was no convincing the old man
to the contrary, and his granddaughter informed me
that the same opinion was universal in Germany.
“The best proof that it is so
is the freedom you enjoy,” she said.
“And yet there are times,”
she continued, “that I feel there is a subtle
reason for this apparent kindliness for the colonies
of the British Empire. You know Germany cannot
successfully develop her own colonies. She has
not that spirit of initiative that the Britisher has
in attacking the various vicissitudes that every pioneer
meets with in the development of a new land.
That is why she let her colonies be snapped up by
Australia without a pang; that is why as you say, she
let her people hand over Rabaul and New Guinea to
your Colonel Holmes without a battle. She fancies
that when she wins this war as she has convinced herself
she will, it will be a simple matter to step into the
occupation of ready made colonies of such wonderful
wealth and development.”
The chief surprise of my freedom,
however, was my changed opinion regarding the way
Germany was taking the war.
I, like the average Britisher, had
believed that in checking the German rush on Paris
and driving it to the Aisne, we had whipped Germany
to a standstill.
We had pictured her checked on the
east with her Austrian ally on the verge of pleading
for peace; her fleet cowering in the Kiel Canal like
a frightened hen beneath a barn.
I, like every other Britisher, had
fancied that Germany was undergoing an awful process
of slow death; that she was faced with economic ruin;
that her trade and manufacture had been smashed, causing
untold ruination and forcing famine into every home;
that the German populace were being crushed under
the terrors of defeat, were cursing “the Kaiser
and his tyrannical militarism,” and waiting for
the inevitable uprising with revolution and general
social smash up.
And I knew such was the belief of
the Allies and the world generally.
Never was a more mistaken notion spread!
Germany, notwithstanding what blunders
and miscalculations she was accused of making, believed
she would win.
This belief obsessed her.
Every movement, whether it achieves
its direct object or not was made to nail that belief
A great philosopher wrote many years
ago the following maxims:
“To the persevering everything is
“They will conquer who believe they can.”
Germany believed she would conquer,
and for forty years she had been building up that