The Fists of Righteous Harmony by Geoffrey Pen

The Fists of Righteous Harmony by Geoffrey Pen

Author:Geoffrey Pen
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781473814288
Publisher: Pen and Sword

As for the commanders of the various national contingents, all were soon to be superseded by more senior, but not necessarily more competent, officers. Dorward sent a somewhat ambiguous apology to Colonel Meade accepting the responsibility for placing the 9th Infantry in a dangerous position but suggesting that they had lost their way through inexperience. The Americans had much the same opinion of Dorward as he had of them. ‘[He] was only an engineer,’ wrote one, ‘and probably didn’t know what he was doing anyway.’ A few days later, he was replaced by a veteran Indian Army officer, Lieutenant-General Alfred Gaselee, and remained for the rest of the campaign as commandant of the Tientsin garrison.

Not a few descriptions have been left of the scenes at Tientsin on the morning of 14 July – ‘a picture of hell’s delight,’ wrote a US Marine officer, ‘men shot, men bayoneted, men wounded, men who played dead as we neared them. Through the streets rushed Chinese, their shoulders bent beneath a burden of loot. Many commanders turned their men loose. Soldiers of all nations joined the orgy.’

Among other treasure, vast quantities of silver nuggets – ‘sycee’ – were found in the Tientsin Salt Commissioner’s Yamen, most of which was ‘liberated’ by the Japanese. The Americans seized several hundred thousand dollars worth of gold from the provincial treasury but were convinced that the Japanese, and perhaps the British, had got there before them and taken the lion’s share. Nor did Colonel Meade who, as senior US officer, had taken charge of this booty on behalf of Uncle Sam, trust the 9th Infantry to search for more gold in the vaults of the treasury, preferring to use his own marines, no doubt models of rectitude, for this tempting task. But for all Meade’s conscientious devotion to its interests, the US Treasury was by no means the only beneficiary of the fall of Tientsin. Probably no single Allied officer or soldier left the city empty-handed. One group of young US Marine officers syndicated their spoils and eventually banked a tidy $8,000 worth of sycee, while some Welsh Fusiliers were so loaded with this weighty metal that later they had to discard much of it on the line of march.

Unfortunately looting, a traditional ‘perk’ for the soldiers after the horror and suffering of battle, was not the only activity in which the conquerors indulged. There seems little doubt that the behaviour of the Allied troops in the immediate aftermath of the battle was atrocious. On the basis of eye-witness recollections it is invidious to pick out individual national contingents for special condemnation as most of the observers directed their criticisms at nationalities other than their own, although there were exceptions. Lieutenant William Harllee of the US Marines declared that the Americans were the most drunken and indisciplined of all but added that the Russians were the most ‘savage’.

Some men claimed to have tried to protect individual civilians. US Marine Private Adriance recorded coming upon a German raping a girl.


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