World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – (Mrs) Louisa Creed-2

Louisa Creed continues her story:

“I got an American passport and set off in a cart with some Belgian peasants. We had gone as far as Ninone when we were stopped by some Germans. They questioned us and examined our passports, and then, to my horror, they let the peasants go on and arrested me. They took me into the chateau, where they were stationed, and I was marched upstairs to a bedroom. There a Red Cross nurse undressed me and took my clothes away, leaving me an old wrapper. She took everything except my hat- and my papers were all ,in the crown lining of my hat.

‘There I was left all night with a soldier guarding my door. They sent me some supper, and some breakfast, but I would not touch their food. Then the nurse brought my clothes back and told me I could go. I managed to get a lift on a car that was going along the road and so I reached Antwerp just as the bombardment had begun. The first thing I saw was the notice that there was no water. That seemed worse than the bombardment.

Two other war correspondents were staying at my hotel, Mr Frank Fox (Morning Post) and Mr Jones (Daily Chronicle), and they were so good to me. When there was no longer any question of Antwerp holding out, they begged me to go with them. It would have been suicide for them to stay, but there was far less risk for me, so I made up my mind to wait and see the Germans come in. Mr Fox and Mr Jones waited till Friday morning, and then they could not wait any longer. One of the last things they did was to push my big wardrobe in front of my window, to keep things from splashing in’. I was glad afterwards that they did, for all the windows of the hotel were smashed by a bomb bursting nearby.

When they had gone I felt very lonely, for I knew I was the only English woman, probably the only English person in town. I stood looking down the road watching for the Germans, and I saw a Belgian peasant woman running by with a figure in a little cart. I said to her, “Is that someone who is ill?’ and she called out, without stopping,”No, he is dead. He is my son. I have just got his body from the fortifications, and I want to bury him before the Germans come”. Then she went on.

Then the Germans came. First two young soldiers walked by and saw the familiar sign ‘Winter Garden’ over the door. I suppose it reminded them of home, for they pointed at it and smiled. It was so pathetic, the Belgians going and the Germans coming in, that I just stood and cried. Then more solsiers came, and one looked up and saw me crying and peered at me. And that was the worst thing I saw in Antwerp.

“I had arranged with the hotel people to stay as their maid, thinking that they would shut their doors and that I could just go in and out. Imagine my horror when they threw open their doors wide and welcomed the Germans with open arms. Then I found that the hotel was full of spies. The head waiter there was, and lots ofg others, waiters and grooms and men that I had thought good Belgian citizens. I don’t think the proprietors were really spies, they were just out to make money, and they didn’t care whose money it was. I saw them all sitting round the table, and the spies giving the soldiers papers and receiving money, and they were all laughing over it. And, worst of all, were two men who were marines, and who had been mixing with us as Englishmen for a week before. They spoke perfect English, and they wore the clothes of our marines, and had been out on the fortifications and when the Germans came they were Germans and spies. It made me furious, and I wanted to tell them to their faces what I thought of them; but instead, I had to keep out of their way for fear they should recognise me. Evidently the hotel people were afraid too, for after a couple of days they locked me in my room, for safety they said. They kept me there for two days. One of the days was my birthday; and I never felt so wild about anything. I could hear the Germans going up and down stairs, laughing and talking, and there was I, shut up in that room and not knowing when people would betray me. However, they were not so bad, and after two days they let me out. I got away from the hotel. I went out as the chauffeur’s wife. Two little girls came with us. I took one by the hand, and Francois (the chauffeur); took the other, and we walked out. Francois called me Louisa, and as we passed the Germans he said, “I have just found my wife; she has arrived this morning from Brussels”. They let us pass and Francois took me to a little inn, where the woman, who was a German from Luxemburg, was very kind. She put her arms around me when we were in the kitchen, and said,”Poor Madame!’I told her not to say Madame, but to call me Louisa. She did, and I stayed with her as servant for a couple of days.

By a bit of good luck, some people I knew gave me the key of their house before they left Antwerp. It was locked up, and the Germans did not touch any of the houses that were shut up. I met a man and his wife, who were homeless, so I took them to this house, and they, in return- the Belgians are the most grateful of people- undertook to get me out of belgium. The wife lent me her passport, and the husband borrowed a motor car, and took me as his wife. And one of my most dreadful moments was in that car. It belonged to a wealthy old man, who drove us himself. My ‘husband’ had told him that I had a most important mission for the good of the country, but the old man seemed a bit suspicious of me. We drove along for a little way, and then suddenly, out on the road, with the Germans all around us, he stopped, and said he would not take me without a security of 500 francs. I really was terrified at the moment; for I was afraid he would denounce me as a spy, and I knew that, if he did, they would shoot me. I didn’t know what to do. I only had 200 francs; so I turned to Francois, and quietly asked him for 300 francs. He gave them to me at once, and I handed them to the old beast. Then he went on. When we arrived at the village at the border. Francois told him I had to send a telegram. This was supposed to be ‘my important business. I went in to write it, and he came and looked over my shoulder. For a minute I could not think of anything to say; then, with a flash of inspiration; I addressed a telegram to Lord Kitchener, and said ,”Guard Ostend”. And signed it. When the old man saw it he grunted with approval, and then as we left him, gave me back the 500 francs.

“Of course, I’ve explained to the War Office since my return, but it was only one of the many thousand messages they get every day.

Louisa published these and other experiences in 1915 under the title – “A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War”. Her husband had died in 1914.

In 1916 she returned to Australia and over the next few years travelled  throughout the country speaking about her war experiences, while raising money for the Australian Red Cross.

After the war she remarried and continued to work as a freelance journalist, and published several more novels before her death in 1935, aged 65 years.