ilWlll

11

THE

FIRST SEVEN DIVISIONS

The

First Seven 'Divisions
from Mons
Ypres

Being a detailed account of the fighting
to

By Ernest W. Hamilton
(Late Captain 11th Hussars)

WITH MAPS

TORONTO McClelland, goodchild & stew art.

Ltd

Printed in Great Britain

PREFACE
The
ist

Expeditionary Force to leave England con-

sisted of the ist A.C. (ist

and 2nd Divisions) and the

2nd A.C. (3rd and 5th Divisions).

The 4th Division arrived in time to prolong the Le Cateau, but it missed the terrible stress of the first few days, and can therefore hardly
battle-front at

claim to rank as part of the ist Expeditionary Force
in
till

the strict sense.

the battle of the Aisne.

The 6th Division These two

did

not join

divisions then

formed the 3rd A.C.
In the following pages the doings of the 3rd A.C.
are only very lightly touched upon, not because they are less worthy of record than those of the
1st

and

2nd A.C, but simply because they do not happen to

have come within the

field of vision of

the narrator.

The 7th

Division's

doings are dealt with

because

these were inextricably
of the ist A.C. east of

mixed up with the operations Ypres. The 3rd A.C, on the
Ypres and La Bassee fighting
at
is

other hand, acted throughout as an independent unit,

and had no part

in the

with which these pages are attempting to deal.

The main point aimed
is

accuracy
or

;

no attempt
to

made
It

to

magnify achievements,

minimise

failures.

must, however, be clearly understood that the

mention from time to time of certain battalions as having been driven from their trenches does not in

vi

PREFACE
It is

the smallest degree suggest inefficiency on the part
of such battalions.

probable that every battalion

in the British Force has at some time or another during

the

past twelve months been forced to abandon

its

trenches.

A

battalion

is

driven from

its

trenches as
fire

often

as

not owing to insupportable shell

con-

Such trenches may be afterwards retaken by another battalion under entirely different circumstances, and in any case in the absence That goes without saying. It may, of shell fire.
centrated on a particular area.
therefore, quite easily

happen that
is

lost trenches

may

be retaken by a battalion which
essentials to the battalion

inferior in all military

same trenches the day
day, as the case
I

before, or earlier in the

which was driven out of the same

may

be.

wish to take
obligations

this

opportunity of expressing the
I
lie

great
officers

under which
so

to

the

many
in

who have

kindly

assisted

me

the

compilation of this work.

CONTENTS
PREFACE BEFORE MONS THE BATTLE OF MONS THE RETREAT FROM

MAROILLES) THE LE CATEAU PROBLEM LE CATEAU

THE

CATEAU LE RETREAT FROM COTTERETS AND NERY) THE ADVANCE TO THE AISNE THE PASSAGE OF THE AISNE TROYON (VERNEUIL AND SOUPIR) THE AISNE MANCEUVRING WESTWARD FROM ATTACK TO DEFENCE THE BIRTH OF THE YPRES SALIENT THE STAND OF THE FIFTH DIVISION NEUVE CHAPELLE PILKEM THE SECOND ADVANCE THE FIGHTING AT KRUISEIK THE LAST OF KRUISEIK ZANDVOORDE GHELUVELT MESSINES AND WYTSCHATE
.
.

...... ..... ..... .....
MONS
.

PAGE V
I

12

(lANDRECIES

AND
33

5o
55

(VILLERS

.....
.
.

66 84 96
103

120
141

.... ......

KLEIN ZILLEBEKE THE RELIEF OF THE SEVENTH DIVISION

ZWARTELEN THE PRUSSIAN GUARD ATTACK
EPITAPH

..... ..... .... ..... ......
.

159 162 180 192 203 209 218

230 249 257
265 278 285

294 303 310

The

following abbreviations are used

:

The
A.C.
C.B.

C. in C.

K.O.S.B.
K.O.Y.L.I.

= Field Marshal Sir John French = Army Corps = Cavalry Brigade = King's Own Scottish Borderers = King's Own Yorkshire Light
Infantry

K.R.R.

=

King's Royal Rifles (6oth)

LIST OF MAPS
Showing the
the
retreat
first

seven days of

.

Facing

Title

Page

from

Mons, with
eacb

the

routes

followed by

division.

Showing disposition of troops at the battle of Mons. Showing line occupied by British
troops after the battle of the
Aisne.

.

Facing page
„ „

12

.

102

Ypres and

district

162

THE FIRST SEVEN DIVISIONS
BEFORE MONS
"l "X

THEN

an entire continent has for eighteen

* *

months

been

convulsed

by

military

operations on so vast a scale as almost to baffle

imagination, the individual achievements of this
division or of that division are apt to fade quickly

out
fresh

of

recognition.

Fresh

scenes

peopled by

actors

hold the public eye, and, in the
the lustre of bygone

quick passage of events,

deeds

soon gets blurred.

People forget.

But
but

when the deeds
national pride
;

are such as to bring a thrill of

when they
to, it
is

set

up an

all

unique standard of valour for .future generations to live

up

best not to forget.

On
as to

the outbreak of war with
3rd, 1914, the British
a

Germany on
was
so small

August
be

Army

mere drop

in the

ocean of armed

men

who were hurrying
scribed
as

to confront one another on
It

the plains of Belgium.

was derisively de-

" contemptible."

And

yet,

in
1

the

The
first

First

Seven Divisions
little

three months of the war, this

army,

varying in numbers from 80,000 to 130,000,
justly claim to

may

have in some part moulded the
It

history of Europe.
in
a

was the deciding factor
sides

struggle

where the

at

first

—were
its

none too equally matched.
record
too

For

this

alone

deeds are worthy of record, and they are worthy
of
for

another reason.

They

re-

present

the supreme sacrifice in

the interests
familiarly

of the national

honour

of

what was

known

as

our " regular army."

Since the out-

break of the war, fresh armies have arisen, of

new and unprecedented members of these new armies
old regular
of these

proportions.
are as familiar

The now

to the public eye as the representatives of the

army

are scarce.

With the doings
the expression
so

concern.

new armies They are,

the present pages have no
it
is

true,

of a spirit of patriotism

and duty

remarkable
for

that

their

voluntary
as

growth

must

ever

stand out
in

one of the grandest monuments

the history of Britain.

But they form no
which the old regular

part of the subject matter of these pages, which
deal solely with the

way

in

army, led by the best in the land, saved the
national honour in the acutest
crisis in history,
it.

and

practically ceased to exist in the doing of

Before Moris

3
was, did not

The

regular army, small as

it

lie
it.

under the hands of those who would use

Much
tion,

of

it

was

far

away

across the seas, guarding

the outposts of the Empire.

A

certain propora

however, was at hand, and with

smoothless

ness
it

and expedition which
critics of

silenced,

no

than

amazed, the

our military administraits

tion, 50,000 infantry,

with

artillery

and

five

brigades of cavalry, were shipped off to France

almost before the public had realized that

we

were at war.
case

From Havre
northwards
;

or Boulogne, as the

might

be, these troops either

marched or
themselves

were

trained
;

shook

into shape

gradually assumed the form of two
of

army corps
1st
left

two

divisions each, of

which the

Division was on the right and the 5 th on the
(the 4th Division having not yet arrived),
in this formation faced the Belgian frontier

and
to

meet and check the invaders.

The two advancing
to be

forces

met
in

at

Mons,

or,

more

accurate, the British force took

up

a

defensive position at

Mons

conformity with

the pre-arranged plan of extending the French
line

westwards
this

—and there waited.
time on, the doings of the Ex-

From
and
its

peditionary Force

become
are

historically interesting,

movements

worthy

of study in detail. 1*

4

The
first

First Seven Divisions

In the

instance, however, in order to arrive

at a proper

understanding of the circumstances
of the British troops

which governed the position
on the occasion of their

first

stand,

and which

afterwards dictated the line of retreat and the
roads to be followed
successive points at
in

that retreat, and the

which the retreating army
it
is

faced about and fought,

desirable to get a

general grasp of the geographical side of things.

The Germans were advancing from
east

the north;

on

Paris

;

that was their
it
;

avowed intention
the
soldiers

there was no secret about

the leaders openly ad-

proclaimed their intentions

;

vertised the fact in chalk legends scribbled on

the doors of the houses
is

;

and

as

the fashion

with Germans

in

arms

—they

were taking

the most direct route to their objective, their
artillery

and transport following the great main

roads that shoot out north-eastward from Paris

towards Brussels, with their infantry swarming
in endless thousands along the smaller collateral
roads.

Here and

there,
miles,

at
this

intervals

of

from

twenty to thirty

system of parallel
is

roads running north-east from Paris

crossed
angles

by other main roads running
and forming,
as
it

at

right

were, a skeleton check with

the point of the diamond to the north.

These


Before
main

Mons
in

cross-roads

had,

anticipation,

been

selected for the lines of defence along

which our
for

troops should turn

and

fight

if

necessary,

though

it

is

laid

down
a

in the text-books of the

wise that a line of defence must not run along
a

main road, such

road has obvious value for

purposes of correct alignment.

As the German
it is

advance was from the north-east,
that

self-evident

the line of resistance or defence had

to

extend from north-west to south-east.

When
Mons
business

our troops, by forced marches, reached

on
of

August

22nd,

1914,

the
to

primary
prolong

the British Force was

the French line of resistance in a north-westerlydirection.

The

natural country feature which
this

was geographically indicated for

purpose

was the high road which runs from Charleroi

through Binche to Mons, and
for

this

was the

line

which our troops were

originally

destined.

In effect, however, this line proved to be impracticable, for the simple reason that,

when we

reached

it,

the

Germans were

already in posses-

sion of Charleroi,

and the French on our right
For the British Force
have
occupied
it

had

fallen

back beyond the point of prolongain these

tion of this line.

circumstances

to

the

Mons

Charleroi road would have laid

open to the

6

The
risk

First Seven Divisions

very great
off

if

not certainty
isolated.

of being cut

and completely

In these circum-

stances there

was no alternative but to range

our
in

1st

A.C. along the
of

Mons

—Beaumont

road,

rear

the original position contemplated,

while the

2nd A.C. lined the canal between

Mons and Conde.
the two

The

position was not ideal,

the formation being that of a broad arrow, with

Army Corps
in

practically at right angles
it

to one another.

However,
peculiar

was the best that
of

offered
case.

the
it

circumstances

the

As

turned out in the end, the entire
fell

attack at

Mons

on the 2nd A.C, which lay

back at an angle of forty-five degrees from the
general line of defence.

The

battle

of

Mons
as

may, therefore, in
attempt

a sense

be looked upon
enveloping

an

at a flanking or

movement

on the part of the enemy, which was frustrated

by the interposition
shock with the

of our troops.
first

In view of the fact that the scene of the

enemy was

fixed

by necessity

and not by choice, the Mons canal may be considered as a fortunate feature in the landscape.
It ran sufficiently true

to

the required line to

offer

an obvious line of defence, and an ideal one,

except for the flagrant defect that, after running

from Conde

to

Mons

in a

mathematically straight

Before

Mons
it

line,

on reaching the town
a loop

flings

off to

the

north in
a

some two miles long by one and
This loop,
as

half miles across.

well as the

straight reach to

Conde, was occupied by our
of

troops.

The

formation

the

British

army,

then, was not only that of a broad arrow, but
of a broad
a

arrow with
a
a

a loop

two miles long by
obviously

mile and

half

across

projecting from the

point.

Such

position

could

not

be held for long, and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien,
recognizing
this,

had prepared

in

advance

a

second and more defensible line running through
Frameries, Paturages,
this

Wasmes and

Boussu.
fall

To
as

second line the troops were to
as

back

soon

the salient became untenable.

A

glance
effect

at the

map

will serve to

show that the
at

of swinging back the
this

right of the

2nd A.C. to
frontage

new

position

would be to

once bring the

whole British

Army

into line, with a

facing the advance of the
east.

enemy from the north-

In view, however, of the preparedness of

the

Germans and the comparative unpreparedimportance, and therefore the
if

ness of the Allies, time was a factor in the case
of the very first

passage of the canal had to be opposed,
for purposes of delay.
It
is

only

important, however,
it

to keep in

mind

that the real line which

was

8

The

First Seven Divisions

intended to defend at

Mons was

this

second

line.

The
it

intention was never carried out,

because

was anticipated by an unexpected and most
to retire in conformity with
right,

unwelcome order
plans.

French movements on the
all

which upset

In

the
itself

meanwhile,

the

enemy's
as

entry

into

Mons
it

had to be delayed
be

long

as possible,

which meant that the canal
was,

salient,

bad

as

had perforce to

defended.

This

dangerous but most responsible duty was entrusted to Sir

Hubert Hamilton with

his

3rd

Division, and, as a matter of fact, the battle of

Mons

in the

end proved to be practically con-

fined to the three brigades of this division.

The

disposition of the division was as follows

:

General

Shaw,

with

the

9th

Brigade,

was

posted along the western face of the canal loop,
his

right-hand battalion being the 4th R. Fusiliers,
held the line from the
6,

who
Lock

to the Ghlin bridge.
Fusiliers,

Nimy bridge, To the left

at

of

the R.

were the R. Scots
half the
far
as

Fusiliers,

and beyond them again
Fusiliers

Northumberland
Jemappes.

reaching

as

The

Lincolns and the rest of the Northumberland
Fusiliers

formed the reserve to the brigade and

were

at

Cuesmes

in rear of the canal.

Before

Mons
Brigade was
the

On

the

right

of

the 9th

8th Brigade, occupying the north-east face of the
canal salient.
sex

Of

this

brigade the 4th Middle-

on the

left

took up the line from the R.

Fusiliers east of the

Nimy

bridge, and carried

it

on

as

far

as

the bridge and railway station at
St.

Obourg.
were the
right,
left of

Between Obourg and
1st

Symphorien

Gordon Highlanders, and on their thrown back so as to link up with the
the 1st A.C., were the 2nd Royal Scots.
Irish

The Royal
reserve at

Regiment formed the brigade
divi-

Hyon, and the 7th Brigade the
So
as

sional reserve at Cipley.
salient
itself

much
it

then for the

on

which,

turned out, the

enemy's attack was
left of

mainly

focussed.

On

the

the 3rd Division, along the straight reach

of the canal

which runs to Conde, was

Sir Charles

Fergusson's 5th Division.

Of

this

division

we

need

only

concern

ourselves

with
line

the
of

13th

Brigade,

which continued the
left

defence

on the

of

the 9th Brigade, the R. West

Kents holding the ground from

Mariette to
the

Lock

5

at

St.

Ghislain,
as

with
far

K.O.S.B.
at

extended

beyond them

Les Herbieres.
Wellington's the
left

Lock 4 The K.O.Y.L.I. and Duke
as

of

Regiment
the

were
was

in

reserve.

On

of

K.O.S.B.

the

E.

Surrey

10

The

First

Seven Divisions

Regiment and beyond again the 14th and 15th
Brigades.

Later on the line was

still

further ex-

tended to the west by the 19th Brigade, which
arrived during the afternoon of the 23rd.

Such then was the

disposition of the
as

2nd A.C.

The

1st

A.C. lay back,

has been explained,

almost at right angles to the line of the canal,
along the two roads that branch off from
to

Mons

Beaumont and Maubeuge
far as

respectively.

On

the first-named road was the 1st Division reaching
as as

Grand Reng.
of

This division, however,

events turned out, was merely a spectator of

the

operations

August

23rd.
scattered,

The
the the

2nd
6th
at

Division

was
being

very
at

much
Givry, the 4th

Brigade

and

5th
the

Bougnies, while of

Brigade

two

Coldstream Battalions were at Harveng and the
rest of

the brigade at Quevy.

The gap between
brought about the
British

the

1st

and 2nd A.C. was

patrolled by the 2nd C.B., an operation which
first

actual collision between

and German troops.
Villers
a
St.

This was on the

22nd near
Guards

Ghislain,

when Captain
which

Hornby with
fell

squadron of the 4th Dragoon

in with a

column

of Uhlans,

he promptly charged and very completely routed,
capturing a

number

of prisoners.

Before

Mons

11

The

rest of

our cavalry was spread along the
a

Binche road

as

covering screen for the

1st

A.C., with the exception of the 4th C.B. which

was

at

Haulchin

cross-roads,

guarding

the

approach to that place from the direction of
Binche, and at the same time keeping up a com-

munication between the

1st

and 2nd Divisions.

Such then was, generally speaking, the position
on August 22nd.
all

During that night, however,
of our line,

the cavalry was withdrawn from the Binche
left

road and moved across to the

where they took up
flank

a

position guarding

that

along the two roads running

north and

south through Thulin and Eloges to Andrignies.

The 4th
Quiverain.

C.B., having the shortest journey to

make, went four miles further west again to

This change of position

meant

a

twenty-mile night march for the cavalry on the
top of a hard day's patrol work, and the journey
took

them from

six

o'clock in the evening

till

two o'clock the following morning.

THE BATTLE OF MONS

^HE
-*-

morning

of the 23rd

opened sunny and
set
fair

bright.

The weather was

with

a

breeze from the east, a cloudless sky, and the

promise of great heat at midday.
haze
the

A

pale blue

rounded

off

the
tall,

distance,

and softened
stacks

outlines of the

gaunt chimney
is

with which the entire country

dotted.

With the first streak of dawn came the first German shell. It was evident from the outset
that

the canal loop had
object
of

been singled out
special

as

the
Its

the

enemy's

attentions.

weakness from the defensive point of view
clearly as well

was

known
It
if

to

them

as

it

was

to our

own

Generals.

was

also fairly

obvious
in

to both sides that,

the

enemy succeeded
the

crossing the canal in the
salient,

neighbourhood of the
straight

the line of defence along

reach to

Conde would have to be abandoned.
and
all

The
for

straight reach of the canal was therefore,

the time being, neglected,
to

efforts

confined

the

salient.

The bombardment

12

Map showing
Approximate

disposition of troops at

the battle of Moris.
scale 2 miles to

an inch

The Battle
increased in

of

Mons

13

volume

as

the morning advanced
arrived on the
first

and

as

fresh

German
8

batteries

scene,
attack.

and

at

a.m.

came the
launched

infantry-

This

first

attack

was

against

the

north-west corner of the canal loop, the focuspoint being
bridge, on

as

had been anticipated

—the Nimy
however,

which the two main roads from Lens

and Soignies converge.
soon

The

attack,

became more general and the pressure

quickly extended for a good mile and a half to
either side of the

Nimy

bridge, embracing the

railway bridge and the Ghlin bridge to the left
of
it,

and the long reach to the Obourg bridge
right.

on the

The

northern side of the canal

is

here dotted,

throughout the entire length of the attacked
position, with a

number

of small

fir

plantations

which proved
for the
fire,

of inestimable value to the

enemy

purpose of masking their machine-gun
well as for massing their infantry pre-

as

paratory to an attack.

About
attack,

nine

o'clock

the

German

infantry
for

which had been threatening

some

time past, took definite shape and four battalions

were suddenly launched upon the head of the

Nimy

bridge.

The

bridge was defended by a

14

The
company

First

Seven Divisions
under Captain
in

single

of the R. Fusiliers
a

Ashburner and
Lieut. Dease.

machine gun

charge

of

The Germans

attacked in close column, an
this

experiment which, in

case proved a

con-

spicuous failure, the leading sections going
as

down
sur-

one

man

before the concentrated machine-

gun and
vivors
shelter

rifle fire

from the bridge.

The

retreated
of

with some haste behind the

one of the plantations, where they

remained for half an hour.
was
renewed,
this

Then

the attack
order.

time

in

extended

The
itself

alteration in the formation at once
felt

made
the

on

the

defenders.

This

time

attack was checked but not stopped.

Captain

Ashburner's company on the
to be hard pressed

Nimy
its

bridge began

and 2nd Lieut.

sent

up with
at

a

platoon to

Mead was Mead support.
in

was

once wounded

—badly
and

wounded

the

head.

He had
through

it

dressed in rear and returned

to the firing line, to be again almost immediately

shot

the

head

killed.

Captain

Bowdon-Smith and
up
ten

Lieut.

Smith then

went

to the bridge with another platoon.

Within

minutes both had

fallen

badly wounded.
the machine-gun
times.

Lieut. Dease

who was working
been
hit

had

already

three

Captain

The Battle
Ashburner was

of

Mons
in

15
head,

wounded

the

and

Captain Forster, in the trench to the right of
him, had been shot through the right arm and
stomach.

The

position

on

the

Nimy
it

bridge

was growing very desperate, and

was equally

bad further to the

left,

where Captain Byng's

company on the Ghlin bridge was going through experience. Here again the a very similar
pressure was tremendous and the

Germans made
machine gun

considerable headway, but could not gain the
bridges,

Pte.

Godley

with

his

sticking to his post to the very end,

and doing

tremendous execution. most
effective

The

defenders too had

support

from the 107th Battery
the Artillery

R.F.A. entrenched behind them,
Observer in the
firing line

communicating the
bridge the 4th

enemy's range with great accuracy.

To
a

the right of the

Nimy

Middlesex were in the meanwhile putting up

no

less

stubborn defence, and against equally

desperate odds.

Major Davey, whose company
in

was on the
R.

left,

touch with the right of the

Fusiliers,

had

fallen

wounded
Abell's
its

early

in

the

day, and the position at that point finally
so

became

serious

that

Major
Major

rushed up from reserve to
this

support.
himself,

company was During
Captain

advance

Abell

16

The

First

Seven Divisions
killed,

Knowles and 2nd Lieut. Henstock were
and
a

third of the rank and

file

fell,

but the

balance
trenches

succeeded in reaching the firing-line

and

—with

this

stiffening

added

—the

position was successfully held for the time being.

Captain Oliver's company, in the centre of
the Middlesex line, was also very hard pressed,

and Col. Cox sent up two companies of the
R.
Irish

Regiment (who were
its

in half

reserve

at

Hyon)
of

to

support,

another

company

the same regiment being at the same time

sent to strengthen the right of the Middlesex
line
at

the

Obourg

bridge,

where

Captain

Roy had
wounded.

already been killed and Captain Glass

The Gordons, on
them were

the right of the

Middlesex, also suffered severely, but the Royal
Scots beyond
of pressure,
just outside of the zone

and their

casualties

were few.
reach of the

The

attack along the straight

canal towards

Conde was

less

violent,

and was
Here,

not pressed

till

much

later in

the day.

lining the canal towards the west,

was the 5th

Division (13th,

14th and
division

15th Brigades).

On
the

the right of this

and in touch with

the

Northumberland
Division)

Fusiliers,

who were

left-hand battalion of the 9th Brigade (in the

3rd

were the

1st

R. West

Kents.

The Battle

of

Mons

17

This battalion had on the previous day, in

its

capacity as advance guard to the brigade, been

thrown forward

as a

screen

some distance to the
it

north of the canal, where
fifty

sustained

some
Lister

casualties,

Lieuts.

Anderson

and

being killed and 2nd Lieut. Chitty wounded.
Eventually, as the
lion

enemy advanced, the
side
it

battaof

was withdrawn to the south

the

canal,

and on the 23rd

occupied the reach

from Mariette on the

St.

Pommeroeul Ghislain road on the west, where two
east to the
at

companies held the bridge
position,

the lock.

This

however,

was

not

seriously

pressed,
casualties

and the battalion had few further
during
the
day,

though

Captain
to be

Buchanon-

Dunlop had the misfortune
a shell at the outset of

wounded by
against

the attack.
attack

Towards
straight

midday
of
line

the

the

reach

the

canal

became

general.

The whole

was shelled, and the German

infantry, taking advantage of the cover afforded

by the numerous
as

fir

plantations

—which

here,

Nimy, dotted the north side of the canal worked up to within a few hundred yards
at

of the water,

and from the cover
constant
rifle

of the trees

maintained
fire

a

and machine-gun
2

on the defenders.

18

The
About
3

First

Seven Divisions
in

o'clock

the

afternoon the

19th

Brigade under General

Drummond

arrived from

Valenciennes and took up a position on the ex-

treme

left of

our front, extending the line of the
as far as

5th Division
skirts of

Conde

itself,

on the outCameronians,

which town were the
Fusiliers again

1st

with the 2nd Middlesex on their right, and the

2nd R. Welsh

beyond.

They were

hardly in position before the action
all

became general

along the line of the canal.

The most
on the bridge
K.O.S.B.

serious attack in this quarter
at

was

Les Herbieres, held by the 2nd

This regiment had thrown one com-

pany
lining

forward

on the north

side,

along

the

Pommeroeul

road, with the remaining companies

the south

bank of the canal, and the

machine guns dominating the situation on the
north side of the canal from the top storey of
the
highest

house

on

the

south

side.

The

dispositions for defence

were good, but on the

other hand the K.O.S.B. were throughout the
action
a

good deal harassed by

a

thick

wood

running up close to the north bank, in which
the

Germans were able to concentrate without coming under observation. Several times their
infantry were seen massing on the edge of this

wood with

a

view to a charge, but on each occa-

The Battle
sion the attack died

of

Mons
rifle

19

away under the
from the

fire

from the Pommeroeul road and canal bank, and
the machine-gun
fire
tall

house beyond.
in-

In the meanwhile, though undoubtedly
flicting

very heavy losses on the

enemy, the

K.O.S.B. were losing
Spencer, Captain

men

all

the time, Captain

Leigh

being

early

Kennedy and Major Chandosamong the casualties.
the

Curiously

enough,

machine-gun

position,

though

sufficiently conspicuous,

was not located

by the enemy
eventually
tion.
it

for

some considerable time, but
of

became the object
it

much

atten-

In the end, however,
loss,

was luckily able to

withdraw without
K.O.Y.L.I.

being more fortunate in

this respect than the machine-gun section of the

on the right under Lieut. Pepys,
first

that officer being the
in the battalion,
if

man
of

killed in action

not in the whole division.
spite
all

The Germans,
able

in

efforts,

were

to

make no material headway along the
canal,

straight

nor was the advantage of the

fighting in that quarter
side,

by any means on
the
troops
to

their

but with the abandonment of the
the withdrawal
of

Nimy
the

salient

left of it

became imperative,

for reasons already

explained, and in the evening the 5th Division

received the order to retire.

This was not

till

20

The

First Seven Divisions

long after the 3rd Division had abandoned the

Nimy
latter

salient.

The
after

three

brigades

of
a

this

division,

putting
very
at

up

heroic

defence
got the

and
order

suffering

severe
3

casualties,

to

retire

p.m.,
slowly

whereback
Scots
at

upon
through

the

R.

Fusiliers

fell

Fusiliers,

Mons to Hyon, who had put up
bridge

and
a

the
great

R.

fight

Jemappes, through Flenu.
the

The blowing up
a

of

Jemappes
hours,

gave

lot
it

of

trouble.
a

Corpl. Jarvis, R.E., worked at
half

for
fire,

one and

continuously under

before he

eventually

managed
noses
of

to get

it

destroyed under

the

very

the

Germans.

He

got

a

private of the R. Scots Fusiliers,
to help him,

who

got the

named Heron, D.C.M. Jarvis got
R.
Fusiliers

the Victoria Cross.

The
their

retirement

of

the

from

dangerous

position

along

the

western

boundary

of the salient

was not an easy matter.
very
fire.

Before cover could be got they had to cross

250 yards of
close

flat

open ground swept
times

at

range by shrapnel and machine-gun
five

Dease had now been hit
quite

and was

unable

to

move.
in the

Lieut.

Steele,

who

was the only man
not

whole section who had

been

killed

or

wounded, caught him up

The Battle
in his

of

Mons
fire

21
zone

arms and carried him across the

to a place of safety beyond,
later

where however he
wounds.
Dease

on

succumbed

to

his

was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross,
as

also

was Pte. Godley for

his

machine-gun

work on the Ghlin bridge.

The

9th Brigade after abandoning the salient
in

remained
hospital

the

open

fields

till

two
its

o'clock in the

Mons morning, when it
near
the
Frameries.
hospital.

continued

retirement
left

towards

The wounded were
too
long,

in the

Mons

At Flenu the R. Scots
junction

Fusiliers lingered rather

and were caught near the railway
by some very mobile machine guns,
a

which caused
Rose
being

number
and

of

casualties,

Captain
officers

killed,

several

other

wounded.

By

dusk

the

new

line

running

through

Montreuil,

Boussu,

Wasmes,

Paturages

and

Frameries had been taken up
part of the
i.e.,

by the

greater

2nd A.C., but the two
right,

extremities,
left

the 14th, 15th and 19th Brigades on the

and the 8th Brigade on the
their
original

remained in

positions

till

the middle of the

night.

The

latter brigade

then retired through
Amfroipret,
bivouacked.
just

Nouvelles

and
Bavai,

Quevy
where

to
it

beyond

This

22

The
in

First

Seven Divisions
with the 9th Brigade had
the

brigade
suffered

common

very

severely,

Middlesex

alone

having

and 353 rank and file. By night the Germans had completed their
lost 15 officers

pontoon bridges
the

across the canal,

and

it

became
and
3rd

evident that they were advancing in great force
in

direction
Sir

of

Frameries,
realized

Paturages
that

Wasmes.

Horace

the

Division had

been too severely knocked about

during the day to hold the position unaided
for long against the weight of troops

known

to

be

advancing.

He

accordingly

motored over

to the C. in C. to ask for the loan of the 5th

Brigade which was at Bougnies, four miles

off,

and on the main road to Frameries.
readily

This was
delay

granted

him,

and without
it

the

5th Brigade set out, half of
Frameries,
Paturages.

remaining in

and the other half passing on to
meanwhile,
of

In

the

however,

came

a

most
first

unwelcome change
line

programme.

The

in

the

Mons

salient

had been obviously

untenable for long, and had been recognized
as

such by our commanders, but the line

now
could

held was a different matter altogether, and there

was every reasonable expectation that
be
successfully

it

defended,

at

any rate

for

a

The Battle
very considerable
Sir

of

Mons
2 a.m.,

23
however,
it

time.

At

Horace received the order to abandon
retire

and
to

without delay to the Valenciennes
road, as the French on our right

Maubeuge
highly

were retreating.
order
of

Not only was
to
it

this

unexpected
soldier-spirit

distasteful

the

the corps, but

involved difficulties of a

grave nature with regard to the clearance of the
transport and impedimenta generally, and severe

and costly rear-guard actions seemed inevitable.

At Paturages
duty, and dug

the

Oxfordshire L.I. from the

newly-arrived 5th Brigade was detailed for this
itself

in in rear of the town, while
its

the

3rd Division continued

retirement to

Bermeries.

The Germans, however, contented
with
shelling

themselves

and then occupying
to follow through

the town, and

made no attempt

on the

far side

a

matter for pronounced conof
line

gratulation,

the

position
its

the

5th

Brigade

being very bad and
It
is

of retreat worse.

to be supposed that the attractions of the
for the

town were

moment
also
lost

stronger than the

lust of battle.

There

can be no question
very heavily in their

but that the Germans

advance on Frameries and Paturages, the British
shrapnel being beautifully timed, and knocking

the attacking columns to pieces.

24

The

First

Seven Divisions
to

At noon the 5th Brigade returned
division
at

its

own
the

Bavai,

the

23rd

Brigade

R.F.A.
all

remaining behind at Paturages to give
exits

from the town an hour's bombardment,

in case the

German

pursuit might

become too
a

pressing.

In the cobbled streets of Bavai
fusion was found to reign

fine con-

—companies
anyhow.
full.

without

regiments and
various
officers

officers

without companies, and

units

mixed

up

The

Staff

had
the

their

hands very

In

meantime,

while

Frameries

and

Paturages were being occupied by the

enemy

with
little

little

or no infantry opposition,

and with

attempt on the part of the enemy at further

pursuit, the market square at
a

very

different

scene.

Wasmes presented This town had been
fire

shelled

from daybreak, the enemy's

being

replied to with magnificent

courage and with

the most conspicuous success by a single howitzer
battery standing out by
itself half

a

mile from

the town.

An

officer,

perched on the top of
heaps with which the

one of the huge
country
is

slag

dotted, was able to direct operations

with the highest degree of accuracy, and rendered
services to the retreating force

which are beyond

estimation.

The Battle
At ten
o'clock the

of

Mons

25

German

infantry attacked

the town with the utmost confidence, advancing through the narrow streets in close column.

A

certain surprise, however, awaited them.

In

the

town,

lining

the

market

square

and the

streets to either side,

were the K.O.Y.L.I., the
of

R.

West Kents, the Bedfords and the Duke

Wellington's Regiment, these regiments having

been detailed for rear-guard work and having
successfully withstood the

bombardment.
the

heads

of

the

German columns,
and machine-gun
like

The moment
a

they appeared in sight, were met by
centrated
literally
rifle

con-

fire

and were
losses

mown down
Time

grass.

Their

were enormous.

after

time

they were

driven back, and time after time they advanced
again with splendid but useless courage.

After

two hours'
the

fighting in the streets, during

which

enemy was

able to

make no headway, our
duty
as

troops, having fulfilled their

rear-guard,
St.

were able to withdraw in good order to
Vaast,

which was reached
had
and

at dusk.

The

losses

on our side were heavy.
alone
Philips,
killed,

The

R.

West Kents
Captain

Major
Lieuts.

Pack-Beresford,

Sewell
officers

and

Broadwood

and several other
of Wellington's

wounded.
heavily.

The
Sergt.

Duke

also

lost

26

The

First

Seven Divisions

Spence of that regiment distinguished himself
very
greatly.

During

one

of

the

German
down

advances he was badly wounded, but ignoring
his

wounds he charged with
of the

a

platoon

one

narrow

streets

to the right of the

square, and drove the

enemy

clean out of the

town with great D.C.M. as was also

loss.

He

was

awarded the
our

Sergt.

Hunt

of the Bedfords.
left of

Further west, at the extreme

line,

the retirement was effected with even greater
difficulty

than

at

Wasmes.

The

second

line

of defence

through Montreuil, Boussu, Wasmes,

Paturages and Frameries
constituted a

—which in

effect

merely

change of front with the right

thrown
end
advance.

half back

of necessity left the western

of our line in close proximity to the

enemy's
west

In

other

words,

the

further

the greater the difficulty of retiring on account
of the closer presence of

the enemy.

The

14th,

15th and 19th Brigades, with a view to conforming to the general direction of the second line
of defence,

had remained north

of the Valen-

ciennes

—Mons

road and railway throughout the In the morning,

night of the 23rd.

when

the

order to retire to the Valenciennes road came,

the 15th and 19th Brigades crossed the railway at
Quiverain, and the 14th at Thulin, but by this

The Battle

of

Mons

27

time the enemy was close upon their heels.
ist

The

Cavalry Division was able to help their reto
a

tirement

certain extent

by dismounting

and lining the railway embankment, from which
position

they got

the

advancing Germans in

half flank,

and did considerable execution.

By

11.30,

however, they too had been forced to

retire to Andregnies.

An

urgent message

now
not

arrived from Sir Charles Fergusson,

commanding
prompt
cavalry.
Lisle,

the

5th

Division,
extricate

saying
his

that

he could
unless

possibly

division

and

effective

help was given by the
this

On
to

receiving

message,

General de

who was
the

at Andregnies, sent off the 18th Hussars

high

ground along the Quiverain to
the

Eloges road with orders to there dismount and

make

the

most and

of

ground.

The

119th

Battery R.F.A. was at this time just south-west
of Eloges,

L

Battery R.H.A. just north-east

of Andregnies, both

being on the main road to
apart.

Angre and about three miles

The 4th
were
in

Dragoon Guards
Andregnies
itself.

and

9th

Lancers

No
the

sooner were his dispositions

made than

German columns were
Lisle told the

seen advancing from

the direction of Quiverain towards Andregnies.

De

two regiments

in the village

28

The

First Seven Divisions

that they had got to stop the advance at
costs,

all

even

if

it

entailed a charge.
fails

The

very

suggestion of a charge never

to act as a

tonic to any British cavalry regiment,

and

in

great

elation

of

spirits

the two the

cavalry

regi-

ments

debouched

from

village,

the

4th

Dragoon Guards making
left,

their

exit

from the

and the two squadrons
right.

of the 9th Lancers

from the

The enemy were now
away,
the
intervening
in

some 2,000 yards ground being mainly
seen

stubble fields
still

which the corn stooks were
sooner

standing.

The Germans no

saw

the cavalry advancing with the evident intention
of

charging than they scattered in every direc-

tion, taking shelter

behind the corn stooks and
itself,

any other cover that presented
ing
fire

and opencavalry

from

these

positions.

The
charge

advanced in the most perfect order, and was

on the point

of

making

a final

when

it

became evident that
to a wire fence
fields.

this

was impossible owing
of the stubble

which divided two
coolness

With

great

and presence

of

mind,

the two C.O.'s, Col. Mullens of the 4th Dragoon

Guards, and Col. Campbell of the 9th Lancers,

without pausing, wheeled their troops to the

The Battle of Mons
right,

29

and

took

cover

behind

some big
opened
a

slag

heaps,

where they dismounted under
this

shelter.

From
ling

position the cavalry

gal-

fire

on the advancing Germans, the two on the Angre road joining scheme
of
it

batteries
original

in.

The

charging the enemy having

been frustrated,
fresh

orders

now became necessary to get from Head Quarters, and Col.
across

Campbell accordingly galloped back
open, in
full

the
a

view of the enemy and under

salute of bullets,

to see the Brigadier, leaving
in

Captain

Lucas-Tooth

command

of the

two

squadrons of the 9th Lancers.

For four hours the

fight

was kept up, the
safety,

led horses being gradually

withdrawn into

while the dismounted cavalry with their two

attendant

batteries

held the

enemy

in

check.

During the whole
fence

of this period the

Germans
a

were quite unable to advance beyond the wire

which

had

so

suddenly
a

changed

proposed

charge

into

dismounted

attack.

Captain Lucas-Tooth was awarded the D.S.O.
for the gallantry

with which he conducted
the great
his

this
skill

defence,

and

for

coolness

and
horses.

with which he withdrew
General de
achieved,
Lisle's

men and
men were

object having

now been
gradually

the dismounted

30

The

First Seven Divisions

withdrawn.
withdrawals,

During the course
Captain
Francis

of

one of these
9th

Grenfell,

Lancers, noticed Major Alexander of the 119th

Battery in

difficulties

with regard to the withAll
his

drawal of his guns.
killed,

horses

had been

and almost every man in the detachment
killed or

was either
offered

wounded.

Captain Grenfell

assistance

which was gladly accepted,
officers

and presently he returned with eleven
of
his

regiment

and some forty men.

The
but

ground was very heavy and the guns had to be
run back by hand under
they were
all

a

ceaseless

fire,

saved,

Major Alexander, Captain

Grenfell and the rest of the officers working as

hard

as

the men.

Captain Grenfell was already
arrived,
of

wounded when he
while
declined to retire
this

and was again
the
guns,
all

hit

manhandling one
till

but he

they were

saved.

For

fine

performance,
Grenfell*
Cross,

Major Alexander
each

and
the

Captain
Victoria
*

were

awarded

Sergts.

Turner
twins
killed

and

Davids

Of

this

famous fighting family the
S. Grenfell,

Captain Rivy and
during the present

Captain Francis Grenfell have both been
war.

Their elder brother,

R..

was

killed at

Omdurman

during the Egyptian campaign, and their cousin Claud Grenfell at

Spion Kop, in the Boer war.
J.

Two

other cousins, the Honourable

Grenfell and Honourable G. Grenfell, have also fallen in the present
Lieut.-Col. Cecil Grenfell, a brother of the twins,
of writing fighting in the Dardanelles.
is

war.

at the

moment

The Battle
getting the
it

of

Mons

31

D.C.M.

Others no doubt merited

too,

but where so

many were

deserving

it

was hard to discriminate.

We may now
2nd A.C.
the
to

consider the retirement of the

the

Valenciennes

to

Maubeuge
;

road to have been successfully effected
fall

and

of night

saw

this corps

dotted at inter-

vals along this

road between Jerlain and Bavai.
are
there,

While
hours'

they

enjoying

their

few
it

respite

from marching and

fighting,

may be
had
far

well to cast a retrospective glance at the

doings of the 1st A.C.
little serious fighting,

This corps had so
but
it

far

had been very
it

from

inactive,

and

in point of fact,

had

probably covered more ground in the way of

marching and counter-marching than

its

partner,

owing to repeated

scares of

enemy

attacks

which

did not materialize.

the 2nd Division was ordered to make a
stration in the direction of

At daybreak on the 24th, demonBinche with a view
of

to

diverting attention from the retirement

the 2nd A.C.
of the 4th

The 2nd

Division

now

consisted

and 6th Brigades only, the 5th Brigade

having,

as

we know, gone
to

to

Frameries

and

Paturages

help
then,

the

3rd

Division.
at

These

two

brigades,

advanced

daybreak in

the direction of Binche to the accompaniment


32

The
a

First Seven Divisions

of

tremendous
of

cannonade,
Division

in

which

the

artillery

the

1st

joined

from the
a

neighbourhood of
noise

Pleissant.

There was
and

great

and

a vigorous artillery response
else,

from the
hour

enemy, but not much
or so the

after an

2nd Division returned to the Mons
road,

Maubeuge
to

where
road

it

entrenched.

Here
it

it

remained for some four hours,
the

when

retired

Quevy

and

again

entrenched.

Nothing, however, in the way of

a serious attack
it

occurred, and at five o'clock in the evening
fell

back to

its

appointed place just east of
Division
shortly

Bavai.

The
at

1st

afterwards

arrived

Feignies

and Longueville, and the
once more in
as

whole British
Jerlain

Army was

line

between

and Maubeuge, with Bavai

the dividing

point between the two A.C.'s.

THE RETREAT FROM MONS

IN modern
the

warfare the boundary line between

words
fix.

" victory "
It
is

and

" defeat "

is

not easy to

perhaps particularly

diffi-

cult to fix in relation to the part played
arbitrarily
fact

by any
;

selected

group

of

regiments

the

being that the value of results achieved

can only be truly gauged from the standpoint
of

their

conformity with the general scheme.

So thoroughly is this now understood that the word " victory " or " defeat " is seldom used

by

either

side

in

connection
relation

with individual
the
strategical

actions,

except

in

to

bearing of such actions on the ultimate aims
of the

War Council. The name of Mons
the public
retreat
is

will always

be associated
of
retreat,

in

mind with the
the
traditional
too,

idea

and

companion
is

of

defeat.

Incidentally,

retreat

bitterly

distasteful

both to the soldier and the onlooking

public.

It

must be borne
is

in

mind, however,
operation than
3

that retreat

a

more

difficult

33

34

The

First Seven Divisions

advance, and that

when

a

retreat

is

achieved
of

with

practically

intact

forces,

capable

an

immediate

advance

when

called

upon,

and

capable of making considerable captures of guns

and prisoners
deal
of

in the process of advance, a great
is

hesitation

needed before the word
definitely

" defeat "
such

can

be

associated

with

results.
first

During the
seawards,

three months of the war the

general idea on both sides was to stretch out

and
the

so

overlap the western flank of

the

opposing
of

army.

At the moment
Force

of

the

arrival

British

on

the

Belgian

frontier,

Germany had

outstripped

France in
a

this race to the west,

and there was

very real
;

danger of the French
so

Army

being outflanked

much

so,

in fact, that in order to avoid
a

any

such calamity,
pieces

rearrangement of the French

seemed
of

called for, to the necessary pre-

judice

the

general

scheme.

However,

at

the psychological moment, the
British

much

discussed
a live

Force

materialized

and became

obstacle in the path of the

German

outflanking

movement.

Its

allotted task was to baulk this
in

movement, while the French combination
rear was being smoothly unfolded.
It
is

now

a

matter of history that

this

was

The Retreat from Mons
done.
failed
;

35

The German Von Kluck's
all

outflanking
right

movement
in

wing was held
fell

check

;

and the British Force
south

back

un-

broken and fighting
dispositions

the way, while the French

further

and

west

were

systematically and securely shaping for success.

Was Mons,
hours
forces

then, a defeat

?

For forty-eight

the

British

had held up the German
the

north
the
left

of

Maubeuge
French

—Valenciennes
been
all

road

;

of the

Army had

effectively

protected,

and

—over
of

and above
except

—the
in

British

Force had succeeded in retiring

perfect

order

and

intact,

for
It

the

ordinary

wear
job
;

and
"
it it

tear

battle.

had

" done

its

had accomplished the exact had been put
about
in the field,
miles,

purpose for which

and

it

had

withdrawn
to
face

thirty-five

or

thereabouts,
operation.

and

repeat

the

In attaching the label to such a performance, neither " victory " nor " defeat " is a word that
quite
of
fits.

Such crude
only
generals

classifications

are relics

primordial standards

when

scalps

and loot
victory.

were

the

recognized

marks

of

To-day,

commanding
obeyed.

armies

rather

search for honour in

the field of duty

—duty
simple

accomplished,

orders

These

3*


36

The

First Seven Divisions

formulae have always been

the watchwords of

the soldier-unit, whether that unit be a man,
a platoon, a

company

or a regiment.

Now, with

the limitless increase in the size of armaments,
a unit

may

well be an

Army
Corps,

Corps, or even a

combination of

Army

and the highest

aim of the general
a

officer

commanding such
of duty,

unit must be

as

of old

—fulfilment

obedience to orders.

To

the Briton, then, dwelling in

mind on

the battle of Mons, the reflection will always

come with
British

a

certain

pleasant flavour that the

Army
it

was
a

a unit

which " did

its

job,"

and did
British

in

traditions.

way worthy of the More than this it
military or

highest
is

not

open
to do.

to

man

—whether

civilian

The British Army continued its retreat from Maubeuge road in the early morning of the 25 th. The original intention of the C.
the
in C.

had been

to

make

a stand

along this road.

That, however, was when the numbers opposed
to

him were supposed
ultimately

to be very

much
be.

less

than
it

they

turned

out

to

Now

was known that there were three

Army Corps
an additional

on

his

heels,

to

say nothing

of

flanking corps that was said to be working

up

The Retreat from Moris
from the direction of Tournai.
quite an ugly factor in the case, as
possibility

37
was

This
it

last

opened the
being

of

the

little

British

Force

hemmed in against Maubeuge and surrounded. The road system to the rear, too, was sketchy,
and by no means well adapted to
retreat
a

hurried

especially east of Bavai

;

nor was the

country
crops

itself

suitable for defence, the standing

greatly

limiting
it

the

field

of

fire.

All

things considered,
here,

was decided not to fight
to

but

to

get

back

the

Cambrai

to

Le

Cateau road, and make that the next line

of resistance.

Accordingly, about four o'clock on the morning
of

the

25 th,

the

whole army turned

its

face southward once more.

The
of

5th Division,

which

during

the

process

retirement

had
3rd

geographically

changed

places

with

the

Division, travelled

by the mathematically

straight

Roman
the

road which runs to Le Cateau, along the

western edge of the Foret de Mormal, while
3rd Division took the
still

more western
their retreat
1st

route by

Le Quesnoy and Solesme, Le
Quesnoy
the

being effectively covered by the

and 3rd
thinking

C.B.
that

At
the

cavalry,

enemy's

attentions

were

becoming

too pressing,

dismounted and lined the railway

38

The

First Seven Divisions

embankment, which
and
horses.

offered fine cover for

men
could

From

here

the

Germans
lines,

be plainly seen advancing diagonally across the
fields

in

innumerable

short

which the

cavalry
check.

fire

was able to enfilade and materially

In the meanwhile the

1st

A.C., which had

throughout

formed

the

eastern

wing

of

the

army, had perforce to put up with the eastern
line

of

retreat
a

on the

far

side

of

the Foret
to of

de Mormal,
the
longer

circumstance which

—owing
its

and

more roundabout nature

the route followed

—was
of

not without

effect

on the subsequent battle of Le Cateau.
six

The

brigades
at

belonging to the last-named corps
all

started

hours

the morning between

4 and 8.30, at which latter hour the 2nd Brigade

—the
and

last to leave

—quitted
Marbaix.

its billets at

Fegnies

marched

to

The

1st

Brigade

went

to Taisnieres, the 4th to Landrecies, the

6th to Maroilles, while the 5th got no farther

than Leval, having had

a scare

and

a

consequent

set-back at Pont-sur-Sambre.

Here then we may leave the
separated

1st

A.C. on the

night of the 25 th, considerably scattered, and

by

distances
its

varying

from

ten

to

thirty miles

from

partner,

which was

at the

The Retreat from Mons
time making preparations to put up
the Cambrai
a fight

39
along

Le Cateau road.
scheme
agreed

The

original

between

the

C. in C. and his two

Army Corps commanders,
pass

had been that the 2nd Division should
on westward
link

across the river at Landrecies
at

and

up with the 5th Division
it

Le Cateau,

blowing up behind

the bridges at Landrecies

and

Catillon.

This scheme was upset by the

activity of the

enemy on the

east

side of the

Foret
forced
at

de

Mormal,

rear-guard

actions

being

upon each

of the three divisional brigades

Pont-sur-Sambre, Landrecies and

Maroilles

respectively.

These rear-guard
end

actions, coupled

with the longer and worse roads they had to
follow, in the
so seriously delayed the retireas

ment

of

the

2nd Division

to

entirely

put

out of court any question of their co-operation

with the 2nd A.C. at Le Cateau on the 26th.

The 4th
recies,

Brigade got the nearest at Landit

but

got
all

there

dead beat and then

had to
a

fight

night.
off

The
at
its

1st

Division was

good thirty miles where
its

Marbaix and Taishands
sufficiently

nieres,
full

it

had

with

own
the

affairs.

This division may,
aside as
a

therefore,
negligible

for

moment, be put

quantity in

the very critical

situa-

40
tion

The

First

Seven Divisions

which was developing west of the Sambre.
of the

The movements

2nd Division were not

only more eventful in themselves, but were of
far greater practical

interest to the

commander

of the

2nd A.C.
his

in his

endeavour to successfully

withdraw

harassed
this

Mons army.
division
in

We

may,
closer

therefore, follow
detail during the

rather

day and night of the 25th.

In reckoning the miscarriage of the arrange-

ments

originally

planned,

sight of that the

it must not be lost march from the Bavai road to

the

Le Cateau road was Le Cateau
It
is
is

the

longest

to

be

accomplished during the retreat.
to

From
as

Bavai

twenty-two miles
that

the crow
Division,

flies.

probable
straight

the

5th

following

the

Roman
is

road, did

not

greatly exceed this distance, but to the route
of the 3rd Division
it

certainly necessary to
of the

add another

five miles,

and to that

2nd
the

Division, ten.

In reflecting that the pursuing
to cover the

Germans had

same

distance,

following facts must be borne in mind.

The

training of our military schools has always been

based to
of

a

very great extent on the experience

the previous war.

The equipment
also

of

our
to

military

menage

is

largely
a

designed

meet the exigencies

of

war on

somewhat

;

The Retreat from Mons
similar lines to that of the last.
sixty years past
in
far-off

41

Our wars

for

have been "

little

wars " fought
uncivilized

countries

more
of our

or

less

and the probability

armies fighting on

European
remote.

soil

has

always

been

considered

as

Germany,
little

on

the

other

hand,

has

had few "
hand, for

wars," but has, on the other
years
a

many
of

been preparing for the
sur-

contingency
roundings.

war amidst European

As

a

consequence, her army equip-

ment

at

the outbreak of war was constructed

primarily with a view to rapid

movements on
certainly ours

paved and macadamized roads
was not.
assisted

;

The German advance was
movement

therefore

by every known

device for facilitating

the rapid
of

of troops along the roads

modern

civilization.

Later on, by requisi-

tioning the motor-lorries
firms,

and vans

of

trading

we
the

placed ourselves on more or

less of

an

equal footing in this respect, but that was not

when
most

necessity
felt.

for

rapid

keenly

The

movement was Germans reaped a
also able

double advantage, for not only were they capable
of quicker

movement, but they were
our rear-guards

to

overtake

with troops that

were not jaded with interminable marching.
It

must

also

be borne in mind that

a

pursuing

42

The

First

Seven Divisions
its

force

marches straight to

objective with a

minimum

of exhaustion in relation to the

work
which

accomplished,

an

advantage

which

certainly

cannot be claimed for
has to turn and fight.

a retreating force

We may now
setting out

return

to

the

2nd Division,
its

from La Longueville on

stupendous

undertaking.

At

first

the whole division followed

the one road by the eastern edge of the Foret

de Mormal, the impedimenta in front, the troops

plodding behind.

This road was choked from

end to end with refugees and their belongings,
chiefly

from Maubeuge and

district,

and the

average pace of the procession was about two
miles an hour.

came to hurry up so that the bridges over the Sambre could be blown but it was waste up before the Germans came
order
;

An

of breath.

The

troops were dead beat.

Though
a

they had so far had no fighting, they had done
terrible

amount

of

marching, counter-marching

and digging during the past four days, and they

were dead beat.

The

reservists' boots

were

all

too small, and their feet swelled horribly.
dreds
fell

out from absolute exhaustion.

HunThe

worst cases were taken along in the transport

wagons

;

the rest became stragglers, following

along behind as best they were able.

Some

of

The Retreat from Mons
the cavalry that saw
eyes were fixed
in
like

43

them
a

pass said that their
stare,

ghastly

and

they

stumbled along

blind men.

At Leval the

division split up, the

4th Brigade taking the road

to Landrecies,

and the 6th that to Maroilles.

The
it

5th Brigade, which was doing rear-guard

to the division, got

no farther than Leval, where
a fight

prepared to put up
;

along the railway
the

line

for there

was

a

scare that

Germans

were very close behind.

The

Oxfordshire Light

Infantry were even sent back along the road they

had already travelled to Pont-sur-Sambre, where
they entrenched.
not come.

The Germans, however,

did

The Fight at Landrecies
The
at
1

4th (Guards') Brigade reached Landrecies
p.m.

This brigade had made the furthest
towards
the

progress

contemplated

junction
tired.

with the 2nd A.C., and they were very

They went
racks,

into billets at once,
in the
;

some

in the bar-

some

town.

They had about

four

hours' rest

then there came an alarm that the

Germans were advancing on the town, and the
brigade

got

to

its

feet.

The

four

battalions

were

split

up into companies

—one to each of the

44

The

First

Seven Divisions

exits

from the town.
;

The

Grenadiers were on

the western side

the 2nd Coldstream on the

south and east

;

and the 3rd Coldstream to the

north and north-west.
to the barricading of

The

Irish

Guards saw
also loop-

the streets with transport
obstacles.

wagons and such-like

They

holed the end houses of the streets facing the
country.

As
place

a

matter of fact the attack did not take
8.30 p.m., and then
of the
it

till

was entirely borne

by two companies
stream Guards.

3rd Battalion Cold-

town there
Faubourg

is

a

At the north-west angle of the narrow street, known as the

Soyere.

Two

hundred yards

from

the town this branches out into two roads, each
leading into the Foret de Mormal.

Here, at

the junction of the roads, the Hon. A. Monck's

company had been
overcast,
after

stationed.

The
fell

sky was very

and the darkness

early.

Shortly

8.30 p.m.

infantry was
of

heard advancing
;

from the direction
singing

the forest
a

they were

French songs, and
of the

flashlight

turned

upon the head
uniforms.
It

column showed up French
till

was not

they were practically

at arms' length that a second flashlight detected

German uniforms in rear of the sections. The machine gun had no time
the

leading
to speak

The Retreat from Mons
before the

45

man

in charge

was bayoneted and the

gun
the

itself

captured.
followed,

A
in

hand-to-hand

fight

in

dark

which

revolvers

and

bayonets played the principal part, the Cold-

stream being gradually forced back by weight of

numbers towards the entrance to the town.
Here Captain
reserve in the
a

Longueville's

Faubourg Soyere
his

itself,

company was in and through
to the support

heavy

fire

he rushed up

men

of Captain

Monck.
of

The
things

arrival

the

reserve
as

company made
numbers,
transpired

rather

more
it

level

regards

though

as

afterwards

— the

Germans were throughout in a majority of at least two to one. Col. Feilding and Major Matheson now arrived on the spot, and took over
control.

Inspired by their presence and example,

the

two Coldstream companies now attacked
and drove them
trained a
loss

their assailants with great vigour

back with considerable
the forest.

into the shadows of

From
firing

here the Germans

light field-gun

on to the mouth of the Faubourg
shrapnel

Soyere,

and,

and

star-shell

at

point-blank range,
for the

made

things very unpleasant

defenders.

Flames began to shoot up
at the

from

a

wooden barn

end

of the street, but

were quickly got under, with much promptitude

46

The

First

Seven Divisions
the

and courage, by

a private of

name
a

of

Wyatt,
fire.

who

twice extinguished

them under

heavy

A

blaze of light at this point

would have been
great

fatal to

the safety of the defenders, and Wyatt,
act

whose

was

one

involving

personal

danger, was subsequently awarded the Victoria
Cross for this act, and for the conspicuous bravery

which he displayed
at Villers-Cotteret.

a

week

later

when wounded
off

In the meanwhile Col. Feilding had sent
for a howitzer,

which duly arrived and was aimed

at the flash of the

German

gun.

By an
it full

extraas

ordinary piece of marksmanship, or of luck,

the case

may

be, the third shot got

and the
but

field-gun ceased

from troubling.
renewed

The German
attack,

infantry thereupon
failed to

their

night,
lorries,

make any further headway during the and in the end went off in their motortaking their

wounded with them.

It

turned out that the attacking force, consist-

ing of a battalion of 1,200 men, with one light
field-piece,

had been sent on
and

in these lorries

in

advance of the general pursuit, with the idea
of seizing Landrecies
its

important bridge

before the British could arrive and link

up with
failed

the 2nd A.C.

The

attack

qua

attack

conspicuously, inasmuch as the

enemy was driven

The Retreat from Mons
back with very heavy
it

47

loss

;

but

it is

possible that

accomplished

its

purpose in helping to prevent
This, however,
it is

the junction of the two A.C.'s.
is

in a region of speculation,

which

profitless

to pursue further.

The
a

Landrecies fight lasted
little

six

hours and was

very brilliant
;

victory for the 3rd Cold-

stream

but

it

was expensive.

Lord Hawarden
killed,

and the Hon. A. Windsor-Clive were

and

Captain Whitehead, Lieut. Keppel and Lieut.

Rowley were wounded.
the rank and
file

The

casualties

among
153

amounted
fought

to 170, of

whom

were

left in

the hospital at Landrecies.

The two
and
file

companies

engaged

under

particularly

trying conditions, and

many

of the rank

showed great

gallantry.

Conspicuous amongst
Pte.

these were Sergt.

Fox and

Thomas, each

of

whom
losses

was awarded the D.C.M.

The German

were, of course, unascertainable, but they

were undoubtedly very much higher than ours.

At

3.30 a.m. on the 26th, just as the

2nd A.C.
enemy,

in their trenches ten miles

away to the west were
for

beginning to look northward
the 4th Brigade
its

the

left

Landrecies and continued
the beautiful valley of the

retirement

down

Sambre.

48

The

First Seven Divisions

Maroilles

On
east

the same night the town of Maroilles further

was the scene of another

little fight.

About

10 p.m. a report arrived that the main

German
Petit

column was advancing on the bridge over the
Helpe and that the squadron

of the 15th Hussars

which had been
insufficient

left

to guard

the bridge was

for

the purpose.
a

The

obstruction
first

of this bridge

was

matter of the very

ima

portance,

as its

passage would have opened

up

short cut for the Germans,
easily

by which they might
Berks were ordered

have cut

off

the 4th Brigade south of Lan1st

drecies.
off

Accordingly the

back along the road they had already travelled
all costs.

to hold the position at

The ground

near

the bridge here

is

very swampy, and the only

two approaches
lies at

are

by means
Along

of raised causeways,

one of which faces the bridge, while the other
right angles.
this latter the Berks

crept up, led by Col.

Graham.
a

The

night was intensely dark, and the causeway

very narrow, and bounded on each side by
fosse, into

deep

which many
as
it

of the

men

slipped.

The

Germans,

turned out, had already forced

the bridge, and were in the act of advancing along

The Retreat from Mons
the causeway

49

;

and

in the pitch blackness of the

night the two forces suddenly
the other.

bumped one
in the

into

Neither side had fixed bayonets, for

fear of accidents in the dark,

and

scrimmage

which followed
and
fists.

it

was

chiefly a case of rifle-butts

At

this

game the Germans proved no

match
for the

for our

men, and were gradually forced

back to the bridge-head, where they were held

remainder of the night.

In the small hours of the morning the Germans,

who turned

out not to be the main column, but

only a strong detachment, threw up the sponge

and withdrew westward towards the Sambre,
following the right

bank of the Petit Helpe.

Whereupon the
purpose

1st Berks

—having achieved their

—followed

the rest of the 2nd Division

along the road to Etreux.

THE LE CATEAU PROBLEM
T

T

is

necessary

now

to cast a

momentary eye

upon the general
forces

situation of the British

on the night of August 25th.

The

3rd

and

5 th Divisions, in spite of

the severe fighting

of the 23rd
tion,

and 24th, and in

spite of great exhaus-

had

successfully accomplished the arduous
position.

march to the Le Cateau

The

19th

Brigade and the 4th Division, the latter fresh

from England, were already there, extending the
selected line towards the west.

So

far, so

good.

The

1st

and 2nd Divisions, however, owing to
co-operate

causes

which have already been explained, were
a position to
;

not in
that,

and

it

was clear

if

battle was to be offered at

Le Cateau,

the already battered

2nd A.C. (supplemented

by the newly-arrived troops) would have to stand
the shock singlehanded.

A
a

consideration of these facts induced the C.

in C. to

change

his original intention of

making

stand behind the

Le Cateau
50

road,

and he

decided to continue his retirement to the single

The Le Cateau Problem
line of rail

51

which runs from
force

St.

Quentin to

Roisel,
line.

where

his

would be once more

in

This change of plan he communicated to

his

two Army Corps commanders,
and
in
Sir

Sir

Douglas Haig
fell

Horace Smith-Dorrien.
it

The former

with

gladly

;

the latter, however, was not

to the same extent a free agent, and he returned

word that, in numbers
practically
necessarily

in

view of the immense superiority

of the

German
on
his

forces,

which were
and
his

treading

heels,

of

the
tired

slow

progress

made

by

troops,

it

was impossible to continue

his retire-

ment, and that he had no alternative but to turn

and
give

fight.

To which

the C. in C. replied that

he must do the best he could, but that he could

him no support from the
off

1st

A.C., that corps

being effectively cut
the scene of action.

by natural obstacles from
a

As

matter of fact the

1st

Division was a good thirty miles away to the east
at

Marbaix and Taisnieres.

The 2nd

Division

was nearer, but very
Brigade

much

scattered, the 5th

—owing

to rearguard scares

—being

still

twenty miles behind
the reckoning,

at Leval, and quite out of

as far as

the impending battle was

concerned.

The 4th

Brigade, on the other hand,

in spite of its all-night fight at Landrecies, might,

by superhuman

efforts,

have crossed the Sambre
4*

52

The

First

Seven Divisions
little village of

during the night at the
reached
the flank of

Ors, and

the

Le Cateau

battlefield
;

towards eight on the following morning
the wisdom of such
a

but

move would have been more
in

than

questionable

view

of

the

complete

exhaustion of the troops, and, in point of fact,

no such order reached the brigade. The orders were to fall back on St. Quentin, and by the time
the
first

shot was fired at
its

Le Cateau, the brigade
the order

was well on

way

to Etreux.
east, at Maroilles,

Four miles further
to retire raised

some doubts and

a certain differ-

ence of opinion

among

the various

commanders
be

of the 6th Brigade as to the best route to

followed in order to arrive at the St. Quentin
position.

Local opinion was divided, and, in the

end, the

commanders assembled
was arranged
that

at

midnight in

the cemetery to decide the point, with the result
that
it

each

CO.

should

follow the road that seemed best to him.
It will
ist

be seen then that the disposition of the

A.C. was such that the C. in C. by no means

verstated the case

when he

told Sir

Horace that
very nearly

he could give him no help from that quarter.

The

position of the 2nd A.C. was
it
is

now

desperate, and

to be doubted whether Sir

Horace or the C.

in C. himself

saw the dawn break


The Le Cateau Problem
on August 26th with any
real

53

hope

at heart that

the three divisions west of the Sambre could be

6aved from capture or annihilation.

On

paper the extrication of Sir Horace's force
in truth

seemed

an impossibility.
imperfectly

Three

British

divisions,

very

entrenched,

were

awaiting the onset of seven

German

divisions,

flushed with uninterrupted victory, and backed

up

by an overwhelming preponderance
Both
flanks of the British force

in artillery.

were practically

in the air, the only protection

on the right being

the 1st and 3rd C.B. at
left

Le

Souplet, and on the

Allenby with another two Cavalry Brigades at

Seranvillers.

As

a

buffer

against

the

German

army corps which was threatening the British flank from Tournai, two Cavalry Brigades were
clearly a negligible quantity.
call for

Desperate diseases

desperate remedies, and the C. in C. had
lay
a

recourse to the only expedient in which

hope

of

salvation
it

from
was

the

threatened

flank

attack, should

come.
at

General
divisions of

Sordet

Avesnes with

three

French cavalry, and the C.

in C.

with

all

the persuasion possible

— put the urgency
railways were

of the situation before him.

The
;

no help
save

;

they ran

all
;

wrong

cavalry alone could

the

situation

would

he

go

?

General


54
Sordet
It

The

First Seven Divisions

—with
a forty

the permission of his chief

—went.
but not

was

mile march, and cavalry horses were
Still

none too
in the

fresh in those days.

he went, and
;

end did great and gallant work
of the 26th.

on the morning

On

that fateful day
fateful

or at least

on the morning of that
a standstill,

day

his horses

were ridden to

and he could

do nothing.

LE CATEAU
"

A
I

HE

battle

of
as

August
the

26th

is

loosely

*

spoken of

Cambrai
fact,

—Le

Cateau

battle, but, as a

matter of
a

the British troops

were never within half
nor,
for

dozen miles of Cambrai,

that

matter,

were they actually
5th
point
to

at

Le Cateau
right

itself.

The
a

Division

on the
the

reached from

halfway between
Troisvilles,

Le Cateau and Reumont
15th Brigade, which was
its

left

hand brigade,
the
the

being just east of that place.
three
brigades
of

Then came
the

the

3rd
of

Division,

9th
8th

Brigade

being

north

Troisvilles,

Brigade on the

left of it

north of Audencourt,

with the 7th Brigade curled round the northern
side of Caudry in the form of a horseshoe. Beyond was the 4th Division at Hautcourt.

The whole
and

frontage covered about eight miles,
distance ran along north of

for half that

the Cambrai to St. Quentin railway.

The 4th

Division,

under
55

Gen.

Snow, had

56

The
arrived

First

Seven Divisions
and
these
fresh

just

from England
already
in in
off

;

troops

were

position

when
of

the
the

Mons army
posts

straggled

on the night
to
its

25th and was told

various

allotted allotted

by
did

busy
not

staff

officers.

The
all
is

posts

turn
for.

out

to

be
it

that
true,

had
had
!),

been

hoped

Trenches,

been prepared (dug by French
but

woman

labour
all

many

faced the

wrong way, and

were

too short.

The
others

short ones could be lengthened,

but the

had to be redug.
:

The men
having

were dead beat

the ground baked hard, and

there were no entrenching tools

—these
to

long ago been thrown away.

Picks
set

were got

from the farms and the men
best

work
of

as

they

could,

but

of

shovels

there

were
cases

practically none,

and in the majority
hands.

the

men

scooped up the loosened earth with

mess-tins

and

with

their

The
the

result

was, trenches

by courtesy, but poor things to
tired

stand

between
fire

troops

and

terrific

artillery

to

which they were presently to

be subjected.

The
that.

battle

of

Le Cateau was

in

the main

an artillery duel, and a very unequal one at

The

afternoon infantry attack was

only

sustained

by

certain

devoted

regiments

who


Le Cateau
failed


57

to interpret with sufficient readiness the

order to retire.
the price
of

Some

of

these

regiments

as

their

ignorance of

how
to

to

turn

their backs to the foe

—were
story.

all

but annihilated.

But

this

is

a

later

Up

midday the

battle

was

a

mere

artillery duel.

Our

infantry

lined their inadequate trenches

and were bom-

barded for some half

a

dozen hours on end.

Our
to

artillery replied

with inconceivable heroism,

but they were outnumbered
one.

by

at

least

five

They

also

—perhaps

with

wisdom
than
at

directed their

fire

more

at the infantry

the opposing batteries.

The former

could be

plainly seen massing in great
crest of the ridge

numbers on the
of
lines

some two thousand yards away,
a

and advancing
presented

in

succession

the slope to the hidden ground below.
a

down They
losses

tempting target, and their

from our shrapnel must have been enormous.

By

the

afternoon,

however,
silenced,

many
their

of

our

batteries

had been
it

and the German

gunners had

more
too

or

less

The
then
It

sides

were

unequal.
targets

own way. Our infantry
Futter.

became

mere

Kanonen

was an ordeal of the most trying description

conceivable, and one which can only arise where

the artillery of one side

is

hopelessly

outnumbered

58 by that

The

First

Seven Divisions
and
it is

of the other

;

to be

doubted

whether any other troops in the world would
have stood
it

as

long

as

did the 2nd A.C. at

Le Cateau.
kept up
as
till

The enemy's bombardment was midday. Then it slackened off so
this

to allow of the further advance of their in-

fantry,

who by

time had pushed forward

into the concealment of the low ground, just

north of the main road.
of the 5th Division

By

this

time some

had begun to dribble away.
to

That

awful

gun-fire,

which our

batteries

were no longer able to
insufficient

reply, coupled

with the

trenches, was too
Sir

much

for

human
Divi-

endurance.
sional

Charles

Fergusson,

the

General, with
danger,
shells

an absolute disregard of

personal

galloped

about

among the
his

bursting
fast.

exhorting the division to stand
said

An
a

eye-witness

that

survival

through the day was nothing short
It

of a miracle.

was

day indeed when the entire Staff from
of the line

end to end

worked with an indefatigsurpassed.

able heroism

which could not be

In
1st

the 19th Brigade, for instance, Captain Jack,

Cameronians, was the
Staff at the

sole survivor of the

Brigade

end

of the day,

and

this

was through

no

fault of his.

While supervising the retirement
and Sutherlands, he coolly walked

of the Argyll

Le Cateau
up and down the
not
firing line

59

without

a vestige of

protection, but by some curious law of chances was
hit.

He

was awarded
all,

a

French decoration.

In spite of

however, by 2.30 p.m., the right

flank of the 5th Division

had been turned, the

enemy

pressing forward into the gap between the
Sir Charles sent
its

two Army Corps, and
Division could hold

word that the
Sir

ground no longer.

Horace sent up
viz.,

all

the available reserves he had,

the

1st

Cameronians and 2nd R. Welsh

Fusiliers
a

from the 19th Brigade, together with

battery,

and these helped matters to

some

extent, but the
of the
a

immense numerical
impossible,

superiority

enemy made anything
stand
a

in the nature of

prolonged
ordered

and

at

3

p.m.

he
4th

general

retirement.

This

was

carried out in fairly
Divisions,

good order by the 3rd and

which

had

been

less

heavily

attacked.

The withdrawal
irregular,

of the 5th Division

was more
stuck
it

and the regiments which
practically isolated

to the

end

—becoming
in

by the withdrawal
left

of other units to right

and

—suffered
all

very severely. retirement was notice-

This
able

irregularity

along the battle-front, some battalions

grasping the meaning of the general order to
retire

with more readiness than others.

Among

60
those

The
in

First

Seven Divisions

the

5th Division
signal

who were

slow to

interpret

the

were the

K.O.S.B.

and

the K.O.Y.L.I.

These two 13th Brigade battalions were next
one another just north of Reumont, with the

Manchester
K.O.Y.L.I.

kegiment
It

on

the

right

of

the

was

common
and

talk

among the
French were French
be

men
must

of the 5th Division that the
in support,

coming up
be
question

that, therefore, there

no
were

giving

way.
only

The
could

in

— and
who,

—Gen.

Sordet's cavalry,

at the time,

were plodding
could never

away
left

in
flank

rear
of

on their forty-mile trek to the
our army, and

who

under any circumstances have been of help to
the 5th Division on the right of the
battlefront.

However,

that
of

was

Le Cateau the rumour
their

and they held on.
the
flank
first

Some

the K.O.S.B. in

line

trenches saw some
and,

men on
was
a

retiring,

thinking
Col.

it

general
pertheir

order,
sonally

followed

suit.

Stephenson
back
to

re-conducted

them
a

trenches.

He

was himself almost immediately
shell
;

afterwards

knocked out by

but the

force of example

had
till

its

effect,

and there was

no more
effect

retiring

the general order to that

was unmistakable.

This was about three

Le Cateau
o'clock.
lions

61

The

final

retirement of those battatill

which had held on
top of

the

enemy was on
and very

the

them was very

difficult,

costly in casualties, as they

by shrapnel
they
left

mowed down and machine-gun fire the moment
were
trenches.
It

their

was during

this

retirement that Corpl. Holmes, of the K.O.Y.L.I.,

won

his Victoria Cross

by picking up
a

a

wounded
same

comrade and carrying him over
heavy
fire.

mile under
in the

Another Victoria Cross

battalion was

won

that day by

Major Yate under
His company had

very dramatic circumstances.

been in the second

line of trenches

during the

bombardment, and had
the enemy's
batteries
just
shell-fire

suffered

terribly
at

from

directed

one of our

behind.

When
in

the

German
left

infantry

came swarming up

the afternoon,
in

there

were only nineteen sound men

the
fire

company.
to the last

These nineteen kept up

their

moment and then
one
result.

left

the trench

and charged, headed by Major Yate.
could

There
fell

be

but

Major
gallant
It
exist.

Yate

mortally

wounded,
ceased
of

and
to

his

band
was

of

Yorkshiremen

the

Thermopylae
This battalion
dred

B Company, 2nd K.O.Y.L.I.
twenty
officers

lost

and

six

hun-

men

during the battle, and was probably

62

The

First

Seven Divisions
It

the heaviest sufferer in the 5th Division.
stuck
it till

the

last

moment and
line,

the

enemy got

round

its

right flank.

The
forced

3rd Division

further west, was also
in

about
the

three

o'clock

the

afternoon,

when

enemy

in great

numbers broke through
the
right
of

towards
Brigade,

Troisvilles,

to

the

9th

causing the whole

division

to retire.
case

The
left

actual

order

to

retire

in

this

was

passed

down by word

of

mouth from
officers,

right to

by galloping

Staff

pandemonium
lion.

that was reigning
all

who — in the —were unable

to get in touch with

the units of each batta-

As

a result

the retirement was necessarily the case of the 5th Division
it

irregular,

and

—the

as in

battalions that " stuck
isolated

" longest found
surrounded.

themselves

and

in

time
1st

This was the case with the

Gordon Highthe order

landers, in the 8th Brigade, to

whom

to retire either never penetrated, or to
it

whom

was too

distasteful

to

be acted upon with

promptitude.

The

exact circumstances of the

annihilation of this historic battalion will never

be known

till

the war

is

over, but the nett result
its

was that
killed,

it

lost

80 per cent, of

strength in

wounded and missing. The same fate overtook one company of the 2nd R. Scots

Le Cateau
in the

63

same brigade. This company was practically
as a

wiped out and the battalion
400
casualties
division,

whole had some

in
in

killed
fact,

and

wounded.

The

whole

suffered

very severely

in carrying out the retirement, the ground to

the

rear

being

very

open and exposed,
machine-gun
fire

and
in-

the

enemy's

rifle

and
of

cessant.

The

village
all

Audencourt had been
a

heavily shelled
ruins,

day and was
barring

mass of blazing
retirement

effectually

any

by

the high road, and forcing the retreating troops
to take to the open country.

Once, however,
small

behind the railway, the retreat became more
organized,
fights

and

a

series

of

rear-guard

were put up from behind the shelter of
23rd Brigade R.F.A., under Col. Butler,
efficient

the embankment.

The

put in some most

work

at this period, of

and materially
8th
Brigade.

assisted

the

retirement

the the

With

remarkable

coolness

gunners,

entirely

undisturbed

by the

general

confusion reigning, continued to drop beautifully-

timed

shells

infantry.
all

among the advancing German The work of the artillery, in fact,
and deeds

along the line was magnificent,

of

individual heroism were innumerable.
its

The

37th Battery, for instance, kept up

shrapnel-

;

64
on

The
the

First

Seven Divisions
lines

fire

advancing 300

of
of

Germans
its

till

these

were within

yards

position.

Then Captain
drivers, galloped

Reynolds, with some volunteer

up with two teams, and hitched

them on

to the

two guns which had not been
it

knocked out.
view of the

Incredible as
hail

may

appear, in

of

bullets

directed at them,
safely

one of these guns was got
other was not.

away.

The

Captain Reynolds and Drivers

Luke and Brain were given the Victoria Cross for this exploit. Sergt. Browne, of the same
battery,

got

the

D.C.M.

The

80th Battery

was another that distinguished
tional

itself

by excepretreat,

gallantry
of

at
its

Ligny during the
N.C.O.'s

and three
covered
too

won
135th

the

D.C.M.
it
is

Near the same place the
itself

Battery also

with glory.

In

fact,

not

much
of

to say that the situation

on the

after-

noon
and

August 26th was very largely saved by
our
this

the splendid heroism of
for

Field Artillery

the
alone

exploits

of

branch of the

service

the

battle

of

Le Cateau must

always stand out as a bright spot in the annals
of British arms.

The Germans
beyond the
line

did not pursue the 3rd Division
of

the villages

above named.

In the case of the 5th Division there was no

Le Cateau
pursuit at
all,

65

in the strict sense of the term.

That

is

to say, there

were no rear-guard
its

actions.

The
to

division

made
it

way through Reumont,
of

the

continuation

the

straight

Roman
un-

road by which

had reached Le Cateau, and
it

down

this

road

continued
to

its

retreat

molested.

Rain
of the

began

fall

heavily

and

numbers
of

men,

heedless alike of rain or

pursuing

Germans,

dropped

like

logs

by

the roadside and slept.

The

extrication of the

Le Cateau army from
all

a position

which, on paper, was
a

but hopeless,

was undoubtedly
ship

very fine piece of generalSir

on the part of

Horace Smith-Dorrien.
:

The
wing

C. in C. in his despatch wrote

"

I

say
left

without hesitation that the saving of the
of the

army under
August

my command,
could
a

on the
have
of rare

morning
and

of

26th,

never

been accomplished unless
unusual
coolness,

commander
and

intrepidity

deter-

mination had been present to personally conduct
the operation."

THE RETREAT FROM LE CATEAU
E

CATEAU
accepted
as

may
a

without
defeat.

shame

be
at

*—'
of

There was
the

no time, even
victory.
It

in

anticipation,

possibility

was

an

affair

on

altogether

different lines to that of

Mons.

At Mons the
which
it

British
it

Army had

been

set a definite task,

had cheerfully

faced,

and which

had carried

through with
advantage to

credit
its

to itself and with
Its

much

ally.

ultimate retirement

had only been
ments
to book.

in

conformity with the move-

of that ally.

Everything worked according

But
cut

Le

Cateau

was

quite

another

affair.

Here we
off

find half the British force temporarily

from the other
at

half

by

force

majeure,
it

and turning

bay on

a

pursuer

whom
in

could

no longer escape.
tion
of in

There was never any ques-

victory.

The
left

disparity

numbers
on

and

armament

no room

for illusions

that score.

Searching deep below the surface,

we

might, perhaps find that the
66

main

factor in


The Retreat from Le Cateau
deciding that Briton and

67

German

should cross

swords at

Le Cateau was the
strong
in
crisis

primitive impulse

—always
event
fought,
result

the

Anglo-Saxon
fighting.

breed In the
foe,

to face an ugly

and die

the

British
it

force

faced
die

the

and
;

but

did not

as

an

army

a

due to consummate generalship on the

part of the
a

Army
laxity,

Corps Commander, aided by
or over-caution,
of the
as

strange
be,

the case

may

on the part

enemy.

Why

the Germans did not pursue with more

vigour will never be
this period
side.

known

till

the history of

comes to be written from the German
failure

The

to

pursue

after

Mons

is

intelligible.

While the 2nd A.C. was defendof

ing

the group

manufacturing towns north
1st

of the Valenciennes road, the

A.C. on the
echelon,
left

right

was
a

thrown

forward

in

and

formed
the

standing menace to the

flank of

advancing

enemy.

A

too

eager

pursuit,

in advance of the general line,

might well have
of

resulted

in

the

isolation

and capture

the

German right. At Le Cateau, however, there was no such Here the German attack had been mainly risk.
concentrated against the 5th Division, evidently

with the idea of turning the British right
5*

flank,

68

The
in

First

Seven Divisions
1st

and forcing

a

wedge between the
This was

and and

2nd Army Corps.
all

in effect done,

that remained was for the

Germans

to push

their advantage

home

in

order to separate, at

any

rate,

a

large

percentage of the 2nd A.C.
its

from the main body on
attack from the

left.

This could
a flank

have been effected without any fear of
1st

A.C,
and

that corps being at

the time far too scattered and distant to make

any concerted move
hopelessly cut off

;

in

any case being
carried through
at.

by the Sambre.

Why
to
It
its

this

programme was not
that the
as

consummation can only be guessed
to

may be
or
it

information

enemy had only imperfect the movements of the ist
that they were deterred by

A.C.
the

;

may be

knowledge

that

General

d'Amade

was

hurrying up on their right flank from the direction of Arras with the 6ist

and 62nd Reserve

Divisions

;

or

it

may be

again that the advancing

troops had been too
British at

roughly handled by the

bay to allow of pursuit.
is

This

last

hypothesis
British
possible.

not only the most flattering to

self-esteem,

but
case

it

is

also

eminently
that

In

any

the
Sir

fact

remains

they did not pursue.

Horace, on the other

hand, had no idea

of letting this supineness

on

The Retreat from Le Cateau
the
part
of

69

the

enemy

influence

his

own

policy.

The
noon
to
its

troops were kept moving.

On

the afterto

of the 26th, the 5th Division

managed

get back as far as Estrees, and the 3rd Division

Vermand and
destination

Hargicourt,

each arriving at

The weather was very bad, and the majority of the men were crowded into farm-barns, but many dropped
about dark.

by the roadside where they were and
heedless of the pouring rain.

slept,

On

the far side of the river the 4th and 6th

Brigades,
Maroilles,

whom we
got
to
2

last

saw at Landrecies and

Etreux
p.m.,

and

Hannappes

respectively about

and bivouacked by
could get
still

the roadside

;

but the 5th Brigade, moving by

way

of

Taisnieres

and

Prisclies,

no
far

further than Barzy, and was therefore

behind the
fact, of its

line of the

2nd A.C.

retreat, and, in

own

division.

to Oisy without mishap.

The 2nd The 1st

Brigade got Brigade was
being

not

so

fortunate, the
at

Munster

Fusiliers

overtaken

Bergues

and captured en masse

with the exception of some 150 with the aid of the 15th Hussars.
of

who

escaped

Two

guns

the

1 1

8th Battery, which were with
at the

them

were captured

same time.

A

mile or two

70

The

First

Seven Divisions

further south, on the high ground just beyond

Etreux,

the

brigade

was

again

attacked,

the

Black Watch,

who were then doing
a severe artillery fire.

rear-guard,

coming under
most

This was

effectively replied to

by the 117th Battery

under Major Packard and the pursuit was checked.

The

battery in withdrawing was charged by a

squadron of German cavalry, but the charge
died away under the
fire of

the Black Watch.

The
the

story of the

rescue of the Munsters by

15 th

Hussars

is

one of which the

latter

regiment

may
of

well be proud.

Two
to

troops only

of the 15 th Hussars

were engaged, and yet the
fell

number
able.

honours that

them

is

remark-

Mr. Nicholson got the Cross

of the

Legion

of

Honour, Sergt. Papworth got the Victoria
and Sergt. Blishen, Corpl. Shepherd and

Cross,

Corpl. Aspinall the

D.C.M.
affair
is

The

story

of

this

as

follows

:

It

was reported to the General commanding that
the Munster Fusiliers were in trouble, and the
15 th

Hussars,

who were

acting

as

divisional

cavalry,
in

were sent back to help.

The
is

country
difficult
T

the neighbourhood of Bergues

a

one, being traversed by

numerous narrow byw ays
and the 15th Hussars,

cutting in

all

directions,

not knowing just where the Munster Fusiliers

The Retreat from Le Cateau

71

were, separated into troops and beat the country

northwards.

Just south of Bergues,

where the

road from that place meets the main road to

La
of

Mr. Nicholson's troop found 150 the Munster Fusiliers in great difficulties,
Capelle,

with some Germans in pursuit not 200 yards
distant.

He

at

once

dismounted

the

troop

and, sending the horses off for shelter to a farm-

yard behind, lined the hedges on the side of
the main road and opened
fire

on the Germans.

These retired to

a

farm some 200 yards up

the road, from which they presently brought
a

machine gun to bear on
cover
of
this a

the

hedges,

and

under

they

shortly

afterwards

emerged, driving

herd of cattle before them
Hussars,

down the down both
farm.

road.
cattle

The

however,

shot

and Germans and sent the
back

survivors scuttling

once

more

into

the

In

the

meanwhile the Hon. E. Hardinge's
another

troop, having heard the firing, arrived on the

scene

from

direction

and

mounting

—crept

also

dis-

up

to a position

from which
doing trea

they could
fire

command

the farmyard, and opened
inside,

on the Germans massed

mendous execution
surprise.

at first, as it

was

complete
quickly

The

Germans,

however,

72
recovered

The

First Seven Divisions

themselves

and

returned
at

the
first

fire

with machine guns.
charge

Almost
fell

the

dis-

Mr. Hardinge

mortally wounded,
of the

and Sergt. Papworth took over command
troop.

Bodies of the

enemy were now
it

seen advancing
if

on

all sides,

and

was obvious that,

the

little
it

British force was to escape being surrounded,

was

time

to

move.

There

is

always

a

dis-

position on such occasions for very tired
to

men

throw up the sponge and surrender.
summarily
checked
of

In the

present instance, however, any such inclination

was

by

the

energy

and

determination

Mr.

Nicholson

and

Sergt.

Papworth, who, taking prompt charge of the
situation,

brought the whole party
safely

—Munsters
They
steady
of

and

all

out

of

the

difficulty.

had

to

put

in

twenty-eight
finally

miles

marching before they
their division.

caught

up with

On
the

the

27th the retreat was resumed, the
as

troops starting

usual in the small hours of
1st

morning.

The

Division,

in

place

of

following the route taken by the 2nd Division,
crossed the
to

Sambre and went through Wassigny the 2nd Division went to Mont Hauteville
;

d'Origny, and the 3rd and 5th Divisions joined

The Retreat from Le Cateau
up
at

73

Ham,

the former, which had been greatly

harassed

and

delayed

throughout

by

hostile

cavalry and horse artillery, arriving
after

some hours
destination
side of the

the other.

On

arrival

at

its

the whole division

dropped by the

road and

slept.

Next morning the whole 2nd A.C. followed
the one road
Division,

from

Ham
still

to

Noyon, the 5th
of

which was

some hours ahead

the 3rd, passing on through

Noyon

to

Pommeraye,

where

it

billeted.

On

the other side of the river the two divisions

of the 1st A.C. also joined

up and went through

La Fere
at St.

to the group of villages to the south of

that place, where they billeted, the 1st Brigade

Gobain, the 2nd at Fresancourt, the 4th
the 5th at Servais and the 6th

at Berlancourt,
at Deuillet

and Amigny.
of retreat

The monotony
relieved

was in some part
brushes

by

several

rear-guard

during

the day between the 3rd and 5th C.B. on the

one

hand and some Prussian Uhlans
other, in one

of

the

Guard on the
British cavalry.

and

all

of

which

the honours rested very emphatically with the

The

29th

August,

1914,

will

probably be

imprinted for ever in the minds of those

who

74

The

First Seven Divisions

took part in the famous
this

Mons

retreat,

for

on

day the troops rested.

For eight days they

now been marching practically without ceasing and the feet of many were literally stripped
had
of
skin
;

they had dug trenches innumerable

and had fought various engagements, great and
small, for the

most part
and food.

in the blazing heat of

an exceptionally hot August, and with a mini-

mum

of sleep

But on the 29th they
Force
its

rested.

The whole
La Fere
line,

Expeditionary

was

now

once more in touch, and, with

arrival at the

the acute pressure of the retreat
to

may be

said

have been at an end.
;

The

various divisions were re-organized

mixed up
:

stragglers brigades were once more sorted out and " temporarily attached " restored to their
lost

battalions,

and the whole force put into

ship-shape

working order.
incalculable

Gen. Sordet, who
service

had

rendered

with
relieved

his

cavalry on our left flank, was

now

by

the 6th French Army, which came into position

on our

left in

the neighbourhood of Roye, while

the 5 th French
the east.

Army

continued our line towards

The

British

Army,

in fact, refreshed in perfect trim

by

its rest

on the 29th, was now
fight at

to turn

and

any moment.

But

this

was

The Retreat from Le Cateau
not to be for awhile yet.
called for a
still

75
scheme

Gen.

Joflre's

further retirement.

At
at

i

p.m. on the 29th the French General-

issimo visited the C. in C. at his

Compiegne and explained
his

to

Head Quarters him the outline
Sir

of

plan.

Sir

Douglas

Haig,

Horace
also

Smith-Dorrien
present.

and
result

Gen.
of

Allenby
this

were

As

a

conference,

the

bridges over the Oise were
tion

blown up

(an operalives

which again cost us some good

from

among

the R.E.), and the British force retired
a

another twenty miles to

line

north of the

Aisne, between Soissons and Compiegne.

The 2nd A.C.
3

set

out on this march about
followed

p.m.

;

the

1st

A.C.
in

some twelve
divided

hours

later,

marching

one column through
it

the Foret de St. Gobain, after which

up, the 1st Division going to L'Allemande and

the 2nd Division to Passy.

On
at

the morning of the 31st the march was

once more resumed, the 2nd Division leaving
6.30 a.m.

and marching

via

Pernaut

and

Cutry to Soucy, which was reached
while the
1st

at 4.30 p.m.,

Division retired to Missy-a-Bois.

The
this

3rd A.C. took a wrong turn near Vellerie
a

day and for
joined

time

lost themselves,
line,

but in

the end

up with the new

which

76
reached

The

First Seven Divisions

—broadly

speaking

—from

Crepy

to

Villers-Cotterets.

VlLLERS-CoTTERETS

At
a

the latter place

we were

again forced into
o'clock the

rear-guard action.

At nine

4th

(Guards') Brigade, which was acting rear-guard,

was overtaken at Soucy, where
with
orders

in

accordance
while

it

had

faced
a

about

the

2nd Division was having
rest

two hours'

halt for

and dinner.

It

was no case of surprise, the

brigade being thoroughly prepared and, indeed,

expecting to have to hold the
Dispositions were therefore

enemy in check. made accordingly.
Soucy, with

The 2nd

Grenadiers and 3rd Coldstream held

the ground from Montgobert to

the Coldstream lining the long grass ride that

runs through the woods at Haramont.

They
and
first

were supported by two batteries of the 41st
Brigade
Irish
line

R.F.A.

The

2nd
in

Coldstream
rear
of

Guards were posted

the

along the northern edge of the Foret de

Villers-Cotterets, at the base of the ridge
as

known

Rond de la Reine. The enemy commenced by
the

shelling the front

line,

and

shelling

it

with such accuracy that

The Retreat from Le Cateau
Gen.
Scott-Ker
ordered
fall

77
and

the

Grenadiers

3rd Coldstream to

back through the 2nd line

and take up
but

a position in rear.

This was done,
battalions
Irish

subsequently

these
line

two

were

brought up into

with the

Guards

along the northern edge of

the wood, whilst

the 2nd Coldstream were sent back to take up
a

covering position in rear of the wood, along
east and west of Villers-Cotterets Such was the position without much

the railway
Halte.

change up to midday, when the enemy's attack began to slacken and shortly afterwards
appeared to have had enough
off.

they

of

it

and drew
its

The
as

4th Brigade thereupon resumed
far
as

march

Thury, which

was reached
this action

about 10.30 p.m.

Their casualties in
300.

amounted
killed

to

over

The

Irish

Guards

had Col. the Hon. G. Morris and Lieut. Tisdall
;

Major
In

Crichton
the

and Lord Castlerosse
the

wounded.

Grenadiers

Hon.

J.

Manners
and
killed

and Lieut. McDougall

were

killed,

in the Coldstream, Lieut.

G. Lambton was

and Captain Burton and Captain Tritton

The Brigadier-Gen. Scott-Ker was himself badly wounded in the thigh, and the command of the brigade was taken over by
wounded.
Col. Corry.

78

The

First

Seven Divisions

Nery

The same morning
action
at

witnessed a very heroic

little

Nery.

During the preceding night
little

the 1st C.B. had billeted in this
together with

village,

L

Battery R.H.A., which

was

attached to the brigade.
in a broken
east of
it

The

village

lies

low

and

hilly country.
rises

To

the south and

the ground
a

suddenly and very
out

steeply,

forming
plain

long ridge which juts

into

the

from the north.

Along these
Hussars, was
in a

heights Lieut. Tailby, of the

nth

patrolling in the early morning,

and

very

thick fog,
a

when he suddenly bumped right into column of German cavalry. He had hardly
fly thickly
it

time to gallop back and warn the brigade before
shot and shell began to
into the village.

The German
consisted of

force, as

afterwards turned out,
six

no

less

than
six

cavalry regiments,
;

with two batteries of

guns each attached

and there

is

reason to believe that they were just

as surprised at

the encounter as was the 1st C.B.

However
as well as

that

may

be, the advantage in position,

in numbers, was greatly on the side of

the Germans, who, from the heights they were
on,

completely

dominated the ground below.

The Retreat from Le Cateau
Even the sun favoured them,
through about
the
five o'clock, it
full

79

for

when

that broke

was

at the backs of

enemy and

in

the

faces

of

the

de-

fenders.

The lifting of the fog soon cleared up any doubts in the minds of all concerned as to how matters
stood.

On

the

heights

above, with the sun

behind them, were the
dismounted, with
their

six

German
on

regiments,

twelve

guns.

Down
western
Battery

below

in

an

open

orchard

the

side of the village

were the Bays and
still

L

R.H.A.

They were

in the position in

they had bivouacked the night previous.

which Beyond

them were the 5th Dragoon Guards.
nearest the enemy, but

The nth

Hussars were on the south-east side of the village

more or

less

hidden from
fire

view and protected from the enemy's
lie

by the
which

of the land. of those rare episodes

Then began one

will live for ever in history

and romance.

The
with
a

position of

L

Battery had not been chosen

view to action.

Except for the
;

fog, it

would never have been caught there
been caught there
it

but having
situation.

accepted

the

Owing

to the broken nature of the ground, only
its

three of

guns could be brought to bear on the
at

enemy's position, but these three were quickly

80
work.

The
The

First

Seven Divisions
the regiment chiefly

Bays,

who were
rifle

in the line of fire, got their horses into safety

and
fire,

then joined in with
taking

and machine-gun
;

what
to
of

shelter they could

but

this did

not

amount

much, and the sun was
these

in their eyes.

None
felt in

disadvantages

made themselves
a

the case of the

nth
fire

Hussars, who, from

their sheltered position,
effective

were able to bring

most

machine-gun

to bear on the flank

of

the

Germans.
by.

Their doings, however, we
focus-point
of

may
down
shell,

pass

The

German

attention was the

little

Horse Artillery Battery
This

in the apple-orchard.

now became
shot

the target

for a

perfect tornado of

and
of

and

at a range of only 400 yards.

Two

the three guns were quickly knocked out, and the
fire of batteries, rifles

and maxims became conto serve this one

centrated on the one that remained.

Men
gun.

and

officers

combined

Captain Bradbury, in command, had one

leg taken off

by

a shell,

but he propped himself
fire till

up, and continued to direct the
dead.
also

he

fell

Lieut. Campbell died beside him, as did

Brig.-Major

Cawley,
Quarters.
fell

who came up with
Lieut. Gifford and

orders from

Head

Lieut.

Mundy

both

wounded, and Sergt.-

Major Dorrell took over command.

With the

The Retreat from Le Cateau

81

support of Sergt. Nelson, Gunner Darbyshire and

Driver

Osborne he

cheerfully

continued

this

absurd and unequal duel.
In the meanwhile the 5th Dragoon Guards

had been ordered to work round to the northeast,

in

order to make a diversion from that
a

flank.

This they were able to do to

certain

extent,

though

at

some

cost,

Col. Ansell being

shot through the head and killed at the very outset.

The regiment however, were
;

not strong
a

enough,

single-handed, to

make more than

demonstration, and the whole situation was far

from promising when, by the mercy

of Providence,

the 4th C.B. most unexpectedly arrived on the
scene from the direction of Compiegne.
lost

These

no time

in

dismounting and joining up with
the
fire

the

5th Dragoon Guards,
a

four

combined

regiments pouring
the enemy.

steady

into the flank of

This new development entirely changed the
aspect of
affairs,

and, finding the situation getting

rather too hot for them, the

Germans made

off

hurriedly in the direction of Verrines, abandoning
eight of their guns and a

maxim.
man-handle

They

tried in the first instance to

their guns out of action, but the steady fire of

the cavalry on their flank, supplemented

now by
6

82

The

First Seven Divisions

a frontal fire

from the Bays, who had by
in

this

time installed their machine gun
Factory to the west of the

the Sugar

village,

proved too

much for them, and they abandoned the attempt. The whole affair had so far lasted little over an
hour

word had yet to be said, for the nth Hussars jumped on to their horses,
;

but the

last

galloped off in pursuit and captured fifty horses

and

a

number

of

prisoners.

The

German
also

casualties in killed

and wounded were
very

con-

siderable,

and on our
suffered

side the troops in the

open
Bays

orchard

severely.

The

showed great daring and

activity

throughout,

Mr.

de

Crespigny

particularly

distinguishing

himself.

They

lost

seven

officers,

and out

of

L
it

Battery only three

men emerged unwounded.

To

the survivors of this battery, however,

must
fired

for ever be a source of gratification to reflect

that the last shot in that preposterous duel was

by the battered and bloodstained thirteenin the apple-orchard,

pounder down
was

and that

it

fired at the backs of the

enemy.

Captain Bradbury, Sergt. -Major Dorrell and
Sergt. Nelson

were awarded the Victoria Cross,

the former posthumously.

The

last

two named
Lieut.

were

also

given

their

commissions.

Gifford got the Cross of the Legion of Honour,

The Retreat from Le Cateau
and the entire battery earned
live as
a

83
will

name which
little

long
is

as history.

There
which
ist
is

a

sequel to this gallant

affair

sufficiently satisfactory to record.

The

and 4th C.B.
the

billeted

that night at Borest,

and continued their progress south next day
through
Foret
d'Ermenonville.

Here,

abandoned among the birch

trees of the forest,

they found two of the guns which the Germans

had succeeded
was

in getting

away from Nery.
as

It
a

a small incident,

but very satisfactory

finale.

THE ADVANCE TO THE AISNE
/^\N
^-^
the following
British

day, September 2nd, the

Force

found

itself

facing

the

Marne from the north
across,

bank, and the whole of
in getting the troops
little delicacy, as it

September 3rd was occupied
an operation of some
involved in
to

many
of

cases the exposure of our flank

the enemy.

During the process
the
British

of

transit

the whole
hitherto

cavalry

—which

had

been

distributed

along the length of

our line

—was

concentrated by the river side in

the open ground at Gournay.

By

nightfall the

whole force was on the south

side

and the bridges

had been blown up.

The
retreat.

following day saw the end of the great

There was,

it

was true,

a further retire-

ment of some Lagny to Courtagon, but
the

twelve miles to a line
this last

running from
proved to be

southernmost point of France which our

troops were destined to see.

The
covered

British
a

Army had now distance from Mons
84

in

twelve days 140 miles
as

of

The Advance to the Aisne
the crow
flies,

85
troops

and

of considerably

more

as

march.
battles

During these twelve days two pitched
had been fought,
in

addition to

rear-guard actions and cavalry skirmishes.

many The
to

bulk of the fighting had so far fallen on the

2nd A.C., whose
350
the
officers

casualties already

amounted
last

and

9,200

men.

However,

the

long, demoralizing retreat

had now at

reached

turning-point.

At Rebaix we picked up
of

2,000 fresh troops belonging to the 6th Division.

These had been trained up from the mouth
the Loire, Havre being no longer reckoned

safe,

and were

a

welcome

stiffening to the footsore

veterans from Mons.

The
which

period that follows

is

familiarly

known
is

as

the battle of the Marne, a broad classification

as

such

is

allowable, but
strict sense

which

apt

to mislead.

In the

there was no battle

during the British advance.
took
place

The

fighting that

between September 5th and Sepchiefly in

tember 14th was desultory, and was
the nature of independent and

—to

a great

extent

— disconnected
taries of the

engagements, mostly of the ad-

vance guard and rear-guard type.

The

tribu-

Marne, the Grand Morin and the Petit Morin were each defended, the latter as
as

stubbornly

was the Marne

itself,

and, in point

86

The
some

First

Seven Divisions
which the

of fact,

of the hardest fighting

advancing army met with was on the ioth, after
the

Marne had been left well behind. The advance at first was slow and

cautious.

When

an army has for fourteen days been sys-

tematically falling back before an enemy, the only
casualties within its

ken are

its

own.

It

may
there

be assumed

—and
fill

with every right

—that
;

are also killed
force.

and wounded among the pursuing
are never seen.
field

But they
the

Only khakionly khaki-

clad figures

ambulances

clad figures are left behind in the hospitals, and
in the cemeteries

and road-side trenches.
is all

The
side.

ever-swelling roll of " missing "

on one

There

are

no missing among those who pursue.

In such circumstances, to the tired soldier-mind
the pursuing

enemy becomes
enemy

in

time invested

with

a species of invulnerability.

At the end
it

of

fourteen days that

has assumed an alto;

gether fictitious value for evil
death-dealing
engine,

becomes

a

relentlessly

sweeping up

wounded and
scars
;

stragglers,

and

itself

showing no

it

inspires

an

all

but superstitious dread.

To

such a frame of mind the sight of a few grey-

clad figures stretched

upon the ground and

a

few

groups of grey-clad prisoners marching to the
rear
acts
as

a

very salutary tonic.

The

scales


The Advance to the Aisne
drop from the eyes
fades

87

;

the glamour of the the

unknown
from
its

away,

and

enemy

sinks

apotheosis to the level of
It took

mere mortal

clay.

two days

for this

new

spirit to get

hold

of the British force feeling its

way northward.
;

Then

it

got confidence and began to push
its

and

in exact ratio to the vigour of
tale of prisoners

push was the

and guns captured.

The

turn of the tide came on September 5th.

On

that day General Joffre told the C. in C. that

he was going to take the offensive.
advance had

as

all

the

The German world now knows

swerved

off

from

Paris towards the south-east,
its

thereby half exposing

right flank to the 6th

French Army.

Gen.

Joffre

quickly

made the

exposure complete by wheeling that army towards
the
east, at

the same time throwing forward the

left of his line.

Von Kluck was

quick to realize

that he was in a tight place, and with characteristic

promptitude cleared out northwards.
its

The pursued army spun on
followed, but followed at
first

heels

and

with an excess of

caution which was perhaps excusable in a tired

army to

whom

anything but retreat was a

new

experience.

At the moment

of the

above surprising change

in the tide of war, the 6th

French

Army

line ran

88

The

First

Seven Divisions

due north and
This
line

east

from Ermenonville to Lagny.

was pressing eastward.

The

British

force lay

between Lagny and Courtagon, facing

north, and in a continuation of the same line on

our

right

came

Conneau's

cavalry

and

the

6th French Army.

September 6th, which was
day of the advance, saw

practically the

first

little fighting,

our troops

advancing some ten miles onlv to the line of the

Grand Morin, which was not defended with any great show of vigour. We took a few prisoners
only,

and some maxims.
the 7th there was

On
it

much more
a

doing, but

was chiefly cavalry work.

McCracken's 7th
fairly

Brigade, however,
resistance
at
S.

met with

stubborn
course
of

Coulommiers,

in

the
a

which the
casualties.

Lanes sustained
Lisle's
all

good many
as usual, in

De

2nd C.B. was,

the forefront of

that was doing.

This brigade
after leaving

got in touch with the
Fretoy.

enemy soon

The

9th

Lancers,

who were doing

advance guard to the brigade, pushed on, however,

with great boldness,
of

till

they reached the village

Moncel, which was found to be in occupation

of

German

cavalry.

Without

a

moment's

hesi-

tation,

and without any knowledge
it,

of the strength

opposed to

the leading troop took the village

The Advance to the Aisne
at a gallop

89

and cleared

it

of the

enemy.

They
shortly

were,

however,

themselves

compelled

afterwards to withdraw, as two fresh squadrons

enemy who proved to be the 1st Guard Dragoons came down on the village from the north. At the same time a third squadron appeared to the west of the village. These new
of the

arrivals

were

at

once charged by Col. Campbell
at

and Major Beale-Brown
clean

top

speed with a

troop and half of the 9th Lancers.

They rode
faced

through

the

Germans,
to

who

the

charge,

and then
joined

—wheeling

the right

—the
north
this

Lancers

up with the troop
retreated
to

that had

already entered the village.

The Germans now
side

the
of

of

the
a

village.

In

anticipation

movement
already

squadron of the 18th Hussars had
posted

been

dismounted
side.

among

the

corn
fire

stooks

on that

These now opened
the

on the retiring Germans, some seventy of
turned
line.

whom
and

and

charged
latter

dismounted

Hussars in

The
let

with great nerve
get

steadiness of

the

Dragoons

within

100 yards
hilated

them, and then practically annia

them with
casualties

volley.

Only
2nd

a

dozen

escaped.

The

among

the

C.B.

were

90

The

First

Seven Divisions
Campbell, while leading

not heavy,

but Col.

the charge south of the village, was
in

wounded
in the

the arm by a lance.

Captain Reynolds at

the same time was very badly
shoulder,

wounded
while

and Lieut.

Allfrey,

trying
killed.

to

extract the lance from the

wound, was

The general order was now for the British Army to advance to the north-east in the direction of Chateau Thierry and so try

and reach
thickly-

the Marne.

The country round
difficult,

here, however,

was

very

especially

in

the
Petit

wooded neighbourhood
and the advance was

of

the

Morin,

at first slow

and cautious.

The
Petit

8th Brigade on reaching the valley of the

Morin met with a strong resistance, which gave it some trouble before it managed to cross
at Orly,

where the enemy had
posted
J

left six

machine
slope.

guns

strongly
after

on

the

opposing

However,
displayed
these
for

Battery R.H.A.
gallantry

—which
the

had

the

greatest

throughout
position

operations

—had
only

pounded
colonel
left

some time, the 4th Middlesex under Col.
in

Hull (now the

the

8th

Brigade) and the R. Scots drew up on the edge
of

the

at a

wood topping the narrow given signal dashed down the
and up the
far

valley,

and

slope to the

bridge

side

;

whereupon the

The Advance to the Aisne
Germans made
In
lost
off,

91

abandoning their machine

guns, and the position was won.

the course of this advance the R. Scots

2nd Lieut. Hewat, who was
in

killed,

and

Lieut. Hay, who was badly wounded by two
bullets

the side,
file

but the casualties among

the rank and

were not heavy.
prisoners
in
at

They
the

cap-

tured
of

some

200

village

Orly.

The
a

2nd

Division

La Tretoire
but here

met with
cavalry

very similar resistance,

the 2nd and 3rd Coldstream and some of the

managed

to

get

across

higher
the
at

up
Orly

at

La

Force, and turned the

flank of

resis-

tance.

The enemy's

defence

as

proved to emanate from few

men but many

mobile machine guns, which, by the time the
passage had been forced, were far beyond pursuit or capture,

but which had been

as effective

for

purposes of obstruction as a brigade.

The

Coldstream did not dislodge the enemy without
casualties,

Hon. C.

among those wounded being the Monk, Lieut. Trotter, Sir R. Corbet

and 2nd Lieut. Jackson.

On

the same day on the right of the line
the latter of
to

Watch and the Camerons, whom had now been appointed
the Black

the

1st

Brigade vice the Munster

Fusiliers, did

some

92

The

First

Seven Divisions

very fine work between Bellot and Sabloniere,

and took

a quantity of prisoners

;

but they had
a

to fight hard for them,

and both regiments had
in the Black

number
Hon. M.
killed.

of casualties, Captain Dalgleish

and the

Drummond
1st

Watch being
village

The

C.B. co-operated with the two
attacking

Scotch regiments by
Sabloniere,

the

of

which was
prisoners,

finally captured,

together

with

many
to

by the nth Hussars.
the
this

In 3rd

addition

this little cavalry success,

and 5th C.B. each had an encounter
with

day

German

cavalry,

and

in

both

instances

maintained the unquestioned superiority of the
British in this particular

arm

of the service.

At

five

o'clock on

the morning of the 9th

the 2nd A.C. started out for the Marne.

The
at

whole A.C. had to

cross

by the one bridge
was

Chailly, so the operation

a protracted one,

but by dark they were

all

across

and had pushed

ahead some miles north of the
battery

river.

A German
was

on

the

heights

above

Nanteint

attacked with great determination and captured

by the Lincolns during
sticking with

this

advance, the Germans
till

great gallantry to their guns

every

man
3rd

of

the battery had been killed or

wounded.

The

A.C, on

the

left

of

the 2nd, had

The Advance to the Aisne
considerable

93
Ferte.

trouble

in

crossing

at

La

Here the bridge had been destroyed, and the
north bank was strongly held
(with machine guns as usual).
to the rescue with a

by the enemy

The
and
it

R.E. came

pontoon bridge, but the
was night

German

fire

was

persistent,

before the bridge was completed.

The
at

1st

A.C. in the meanwhile had crossed
Thierry,

Chateau

but

not

without

some

destructive opposition from machine guns.

On

the
a

morning

of

the

ioth

the

advance

became
a.m.

race between

the 5th and the 2nd
set

Divisions.
5

These two

out

northwards
the

at

covered by

Gough with
had

3rd and

5th C.B.
at

The

3rd Division had been stopped

Germigny,

and

consequently

fallen
as

behind, and the 4th and 6th Divisions

we
the
to

have seen

—had
a

to put

up with
effect

a

long wait at

La

Ferte.

The advance was
wedge, the

therefore in
of

shape of

which was

Germans in front of the 6th French Army and cause them to retire with considerable haste. By midday, however, the 3rd Division on our left had all but come up into line, and the formation became more orthodox again. Our aeroplanes, favoured by
threaten the flank of the
beautiful weather,

were now doing

fine

work,

94

The

First Seven Divisions

and,

by the information they gave, made
of

it

possible to
line

push the advance right up to the
Ourcq.

the

There was
line,

little

serious

opposition, but desultory fighting took place here

and there

all

along the

and

at

Montreuil

the Cornwalls suffered some serious

losses.

We
this

captured

a

number
north
the

of

prisoners

during
Brigade

advance to
took

the Ourcq.
of

The 9th
Brigade

alone
at

600

Germigny,

and

Haute Vesnes
as

6th

captured

400 and put
the 1st

K.R.R.,

many more hors de combat, who were well supported by the
result.

50th
butors
2,000

Battery R.F.A., being the main contrito
this

In

all,

prisoners

that

day

we took and many
full

over
guns.

The woods were everywhere
many
of

of stragglers,

whom

were only too glad to surrender.

Others, however, put up a fight and were only

taken after a stubborn resistance.

On

the

nth Gen.

Joffre shifted the

advance

half a point to the east, the effect of

which was

to narrow the front of the British troops and
so cause a

good deal
day
a

of congestion

on the few

roads at our disposal.

On

this

sudden and very abominable

change came over the weather, the wind chopping round to the north-west, and the tempera-

The Advance to the Aisne

95

ture dropping in one day from great heat to
bitter cold.

Rain

fell

continuously, and there

was
coats

wide-spread

lamentation
in

over

the

great-

thrown away

the heat of the

Mons

retreat.

THE PASSAGE OF THE AISNE
/"^N
September
Aisne
12th
the
battle
of

the

^^
first

may be

said to

have begun.

The

and second

stages of the war, the retreat

from Mons, and the advance from the Grand
Morin, were of the
the
passage
past.

The
of

third

stage

and occupation
a

the

Aisne

by

our troops

—covers

period of some four weeks,

the greater part
speaking,
days,

of

which was, comparatively

barren of incident.

The
and

first

three

however,

were

eventful,

the

14th

saw one of the most stubbornly contested battles
of the war.

This

will

be dealt with in

its

place.
fifty-

The

1

2th saw the

first real

check to our

mile advance.

Very

early in the

day

it

became

apparent to our commanders that the retreat
of the
a

Germans had been
pre-arranged
(in

in

accordance with
event of certain

plan

the

happenings) and that the pursued
stood at bay.

now

definitely

The
across,

situation
offensive.

was not one to

encourage

a

reckless

A

wide valley

some two miles

down
96

the centre of which

The Passage
-

of the Aisne

97
and

wound
bluffs

the

sluggish

Aisne,
rains
;

now
steep

swollen

discoloured

by

the

down-like

on either side of the

valley,

furrowed by
to the lower
thickly

deep-cut roads that twisted

down
places

ground

—the
the

bluffs

in

many

and

picturesquely
to the east
slope,

wooded.
;

To

the west

Soissons,

Rheims
great

and

in face,

on the opposite
It

German Army.

was

not

known
of

at the time that, on the Craonne plateau

crowning the slopes opposite, the forethought
the

Germans had prepared

in

advance

a

complete system of very elaborate trenches, of
a

kind then

new

to warfare, but since horribly
in

familiar.
cases

These were supplemented

many

by the old stone quarries and caves which
in

run the length of the heights.

Such was the scene
the Allied
armies
a

which the German and
one
dealing out

were destined to face
year,

another for over
death,
fraction

ceaseless

desolation
of

and

pain,

and gaining

no
side.

military

advantage for either

That

this
1

was
2th,

so
1

is

now
the

history,

but on Sep-

tember
future,

9 1 4,

future
as

was

still

the

and neither

side

had

yet had experience

of the dead-wall

method

of fighting

which has

ever since characterized the Great War.
British

The

commanders

therefore,

and the troops
7

98

The

First Seven Divisions

under them, prepared to push on with
week.

all

the

enthusiasm inspired by the events of the past

The

first

honours in the opening of

act of the

war-drama

fell

to the 1st

new C.B. who
this

in the early hours of the

morning were ordered

to get possession of the village of Braine, a place
of

some importance,

as it

commanded
by

the only

road

down

to

Missy on the southern side of
place was held
a battalion

the valley.
of

The

German

infantry, the houses loop-holed,

and
and,

the street? barricaded.

The

1st

C.B. advanced
valley,

from Cerseuil to the edge of the

leaving their horses on the high ground,

made
place

down

the slope to the river on foot.

The

was stubbornly defended,
without
Captain
a

and was not taken
of loss

certain

amount
in

on our
being
after

side,

Springfield

the

Bays

killed,

and Captain Pinching wounded, but

some
main
the

rather fierce house-to-house fighting in the
street,

the place was eventually captured and
of

cleared

the

enemy by nine

o'clock,

German
Sir

casualties

amounting to some
thereupon

300.

Hubert

Hamilton
on

advanced

the 3rd Division to Brenelle, while Sir Charles

Fergusson

passed

with

the

5 th

Division
to

through

the_ captured

village

of

Braine

The Passage
Sermoise.

of the Aisne

99
and and

Away

on

the

right

the

1st

2nd Divisions advanced
Vauxcere.

as far as Courcelles

The
Gen.
of the

first

infantry

division

to

come
the

into

action in the Aisne valley was the 4th, under

Snow, who

—having
at

unopposed
1

—arrived

Ourcq Buzancy on the morning
crossed

2th and found the right of the 6th
the Germans,

French

Army bombarding
Snow
at

who

were in occupation of the
south of Soissons.
his

Mont de

Paris, just

once chimed in with

own

guns, and a tremendous artillery duel
in

resulted,

which the Germans

after
off

a

time

threw up the sponge and made
Soissons

across the

bridge,

which they destroyed behind

them.

The
at

3rd and 5th C.B. were in the meantime

Chaudun awaiting developments.

The
of the

south side of the Aisne was

now

clear

enemy, and the problem arose
get
as

best

to
still

our
as

troops

across.

as to how The weather

was

bad

could be, with a bitter cold

driving rain from the north-west which

made
It

any

air

reconnaissance an impossibility.

was
the

essential,

however,
so

to

learn

the
to

state

of

bridges,

other

means had

be

devised.

The

Missy bridge was of especial importance,
7*

100

The

First Seven Divisions

and Lieut. Pennycuik, R.E., volunteered to find
out
all

about

this

by
raft.

floating

down

the river

on an improvised
doing, at no

This he succeeded in
to himself,

little risk

and reported

the bridge practically destroyed, the north end

having been blown up.

The
open

bridge at

Conde

was intact but inaccessible, the long, straight approach
to
it

being

to
It

concentrated

machine-gun
been
left

fire

throughout.

had obviously
it

as

a

bait,

and to have attempted

would have been to have played
the enemy's hands.

straight into

The
that,

question was, in fact,

discussed between the C. in C.

and

Sir

Horace,
could

but

they

decided

as

its

capture

only be effected at a great sacrifice of
as
its

life,

and

possession was strategically of very little
it

value to the enemy,

should be

left alone.

On

our extreme right near Bourg there was
crossing, the aqueduct,

no trouble about

which

here carries the canal across the river, having
survived the attempts of the

enemy

to blow

it

up

;

and by

this

the 1st Division and some of

the cavalry and artillery crossed easily enough

during the middle of the day on the

13th,

and

pushed forward some three or four miles along
the

Laon

road.

The

rest of

the cavalry crossed

further

up

the

river

at

Villers.

This

wing

The Passage
of

of the Aisne

101

the

army met with very
was going on
all

little

systematic

opposition, but desultory shell-fire and machine-

gun
1st

fire

the time, and the
casualties,

Scots Guards had
killed

some

Houlds-

worth being
'wounded.

and Monckton and Balfour
Brigade

By
Geny.
bridge
partly

nightfall

the

1st

had

reached
being at
in

Moulins,

the

2nd and 3rd Brigades
5th

The
there

Brigade

had
one

succeeded

reaching Pont d'Arcy by 9 a.m., but found the
destroyed,
solitary

girder
this

submerged alone remaining, and by
file,

they scrambled across in single
shell-fire

with

a blind

playing

all

around.

Single

girders,

however, are not recognized
of

as a military

means

communication,

so the R.E. set to

work to
the
;

build a pontoon bridge alongside.

The 4th
Division,

Brigade,

on

the

left

of

2nd
they
itself,

had the worst time
to cross at

this

day

made an attempt
in

Chavonne

but were vigorously opposed, the enemy being
possession of the village,

and keeping up
cost us

a

ceaseless

machine-gun

fire

which

some

good men.
sufferers,

The

Irish

Guards were the chief
Captain Berners,

especially in officers,

killed.

Lord Guernsey and Lord Arthur Hay being However, late in the afternoon, some

102
of

The

First

Seven Divisions

the 2nd Coldstream got themselves ferried

across in a small boat

which was found
river,

—minus
the

oars

—higher
strong in
of the

up
as

the

whereupon

enemy, who
but
rest

usual were weak in

numbers,
off.

machine guns, made
of the bridge,

The
file

brigade then crossed in single

by the remains
at

which

like

that

Pont d'Arcy

still

offered a

shaky foothold

from shore to shore.

TROYON

HHE
*

14th of September probably saw more
fighting
in

real

the old-fashioned sense

than any other day in which the British troops

had been engaged.
conflict

The whole

line covering a

frontage of twenty miles was involved, but the
fiercest

was always on the right with
is

the 1st A.C.

This day's fighting

sometimes

referred to as the battle of the Aisne, and some-

times as the battle of Troyon.

The former
the latter
is

is

too indefinite, in view of the protracted fighting

on the

river

of that

name

;

too

parochial.

In real truth there were four distinct

but synchronous battles taking place that day
along

our

front,

viz.,

at

Troyon,

Verneuil,

Soupir

and

Chivres.

The most
of these.
It

sanguinary,
as

and undoubtedly the most important
results go,

far as
fairly

was the

first

may

be said that the British victory at Troyon on

September 14th was one
achievements of the War.
played was of
a

of the

most

brilliant

The

generalship dis-

high order, and the troops en-

gaged behaved with the greatest steadiness and
courage.
103

104

The

First Seven Divisions

Proceedings
streak of

commenced
as

at

the

very

first

dawn.

General Baffin's 2nd Brigade,
far
as

which had got
set

Moulins on the 13th,
This road runs
side,

out at four o'clock on the following morning

along the road to Vendresse.

between the wooded downs on either
along

and

the idea was to bring the rest of the 1st Division
it as

soon

as

the heights to right and

left

had been

cleared.

Half

a mile short of Vendresse

the R. Sussex, the 60th and the Northamptons
scaled the

downs to the

right of the road,

and

deployed in the order named, the Sussex on the
left,

the 60th in the middle, and the North-

amptons

on

the

right,

just

east

of

Troy on.

Beyond the Northamptons were the 1st Coldstream, who had been detached from the 1st Brigade. The Loyal N. Lancashire Regiment
remained in reserve down
about
the
six

at

Vendresse,

and

o'clock

the other three battalions of

1st

Brigade came marching through them,

along the road towards Cerny.
mile
further
on,

About

half

a

these
left

three

battalions

scaled

the heights on

the

of the road,

so as

to

continue the line of the 2nd Brigade, which was

on the right of the road.

Here they deployed
later.

and remained
their left

till

the 3rd Brigade came up on

some three hours

Troy on

105

The day was
There was

a

particularly unpleasant

one.

a cold

and persistent rain from the
kind of fog which

north-west right in the faces of the British, and

accompanied by

a

made
a

it

impossible to see clearly for
of

more than

couple

hundred yards ahead, and which was responsible
good deal
of unfortunate confusion

for a

through

the day as to the identity of friend and foe.
It
also,

as

may

be supposed, greatly increased

the difficulty of our Gunners,
possible to locate the

who found
accurately,

it

im-

enemy

or to

get exact information as to the correctness of
their range.

Having

dealt

with

the

disposition

of

the

three brigades of the 1st Division,

turn to the actual fight at
objective
of

we can now Troyon. The main
was
the

our

attack

here

Sugar

Factory which stands near the

five cross roads
itself

on the Chemin des Dames. was
very strongly held

The Factory
machine
of

with

guns,

and was flanked by two batteries
For
a

artillery.
it

quarter

of a

mile

on each side of

were the German trenches,
along the

on the one side

running along the Chivy road, and on the other

Chemin

des

Dames, the two forming

an obtuse angle with the apex at the Factory
itself.

In

addition,

the

enemy had

four

big

106

The

First

Seven Divisions
their
line,

eleven-inch

guns

behind

the

fire
all

from

which
these

greatly

harassed
as

our

troops

through

operations

they

completely
to this

outranged our batteries.

The approach

position was over turnip and beet fields, very

wet and

sticky

with

clay,

and sloping gently As long
as

upwards towards the Factory.

the

2nd Brigade was on
it

the steep sides of the

downs

was comparatively sheltered from the enemy's
but the
a

fire,

moment
rifles,

this
fire

sloping plateau was

reached,

tremendous

burst

upon

it

at

close range

from

machine guns, and from

two

batteries of artillery,

which were
the

in position

behind

the

trenches

along

Chemin

des

Dames.
It
is

difficult to

conceive of conditions more
:

unfavourable for attack
faces

a

driving rain in the

of

the

assailants,

an

entrenched enemy,

and an uphill approach

across clay fields saturated

with wet and two feet deep in beet plants.

However, the order was to advance,

so undeterred

by the gaps ploughed
pressed
steadily

in their ranks, the brigade

on.
left

The

objective

of

the

R. Sussex on the

was the enemy's trenches

along the Chivy road.

Towards

this

they pushed

on

at the slow

plodding tramp which was the

best pace which could be raised in the circum-

Troy on
stances,
till

107

they reached the comparative shelter In this lane the R. Sussex
a position

of a sunken lane.

machine gun section was able to get from which
it

could partially enfilade the Chivyits fire

road trenches, and so effective was
this

from

angle,

that after a time a white flag was

raised,

and several hundred Germans were seen
forward

running

with

their

hands

up.

Col.

Montresor and many other
the Sussex
left

officers

and men of

the lane to accept this surrender,
itself

whereupon the enemy, from the Factory
and from the trenches to right and
poured
a deadly fire into the
left

of

it,

confused mass of
in

Germans and
scores.

British,

mowing them down
massacre
Col.

In

this
lost

indiscriminate

the

R.

Sussex

very heavily,

Montresor,

Maj. Cookson, and Lieuts. Daun and Hughes
being
killed,

and Captain Cameron wounded.
too suffered severely, but about

The Germans

200 of them were got safely into the lane and
sent off to the rear with a platoon as escort.

The
duced

R. Sussex being
in

now

very considerably re-

numbers, the Loyal N. Lancashires were

brought up from reserve, one company being sent
to support the Sussex, while

two and

a half

comi.e.,

panies

came up on the

right of the 6oth,

between the 6oth and the Northamptons.

These

108

The
a half

First

Seven Divisions

two and

companies being fresh troops were

now
has

ordered to attack the Sugar Factory.
lie

The

position of the Factory and the

of the

ground

already

been

described.

The Loyal N.
out
the
attack
a

Lancashires, in order
as

to

carry

ordered, had to advance over a quarter of
fire,

mile of open ground under
their
front,

not only from
as

but from both flanks

well,

on

account of the angle formed by the
trenches to right and left of the Factory.
casualties during this

German
Their

advance were
his

terrible.

The
rush.

CO., Maj. Lloyd, and
Howard-Vyse, were
zone,
Fifty per cent, of the
fire-swept
steadily

Adjutant,
in
fell

Captain

killed

the

first

men
the

in crossing that

but

remainder
of

carried

on and,

at the point

the bayonet,

drove out the enemy and captured the Factory,
an achievement which must undoubtedly rank
as

one of the

finest of the

War.
again,

The
Lieut.
his

R. Sussex

now pushed forward

and

Dashwood, the machine gun officer, got maxims into the Factory, and from there two German
Dames.
batteries

enfiladed the

along the

At the same time some of the R. Sussex and the 6oth crept up along the road leading from Vendresse to the Factory,

Chemin

des

till

they were in

a position to enfilade

the Ger-

Troy on

109
This manoeuvre

man

trenches to the east of

it.

produced an immediate surrender, the Germans
leaving
flag.

their

trenches

and hoisting the white

Warned, however,

by

their

experience

earlier in the day, the British

remained prudently
it

under cover of the road, and
did,
for

was

as

well they
rear of
this

the two
at
at

German

batteries

in

the

trenches
situation

once began bombarding
point-blank

new

range, with the

result that, while the British in the road took

no harm, the unfortunate Germans who had
tried

to

surrender were practically wiped out

by

their

own

people.
act

This
last

patriotic

was

destined
batteries

to

be

the

that

these

particular

performed,

Dashwood with the Sussex machine guns got on to them from the Factory and rendered them incapable of further damage.
for Lieut.

The
as

horses

were

all

killed,

and such gunners

survived

made

off,

abandoning the guns.
was not held, being of no
target

The Factory
for

itself

military value and presenting a first-class

the

German
his

artillery.

Lieut.
a

Dashwood
farm-house
this

withdrew

machine guns to

some 200 yards down the road, and from
the retreating enemy.

point was able to do considerable execution on

He

was soon, however,

110

The

First

Seven Divisions
Pelham,

located, and Lieut.

who was

assisting
ulti-

him, was

killed.

The

section,

however,

mately managed to get away safely and rejoin
its

battalion.

The

vacated

Factory

was

at

once heavily bombarded by the enemy, and our
troops derived no
shell after shell
little satisfaction

from seeing

drop where they were not.
of

The
and
it

victory

Troyon was now complete,
to

was one of which the troops engaged
be proud.

had every reason
too,

The

results,

were very far-reaching, the position thus
being

gained

never

afterwards

wrested

from

the British troops during their stay at the Aisne.

The
fight
shires

casualty
a

list

in

this

sanguinary

little

was

heavy one.
15
officers,

The Loyal N. Lancaincluding
their
file.

lost

CO.
The

and Adjutant, and over 500 rank and

value of their gallant performance was, however,
officially

recognized, and Captain Spread,
great

who
day,

displayed

courage

throughout

the

received
lost

the

Military
file

Cross.

The

R.

Sussex
also

250 rank and

and 9

officers,

in-

cluding their Colonel, while in the 60th, Major

Foljambe, Captain

Cathcart, Lieut.

Bond and

2nd Lieuts. Forster, Thompson and Davison
were
killed.

Whilst the 2nd Brigade plus the

1st

Coldstream

Troyon

111

had been engaged with the Factory and the

German entrenchments along the Chemin des Dames side of it, the Black Watch and Camerons were busy dislodging the other German wing
from their trenches along the Chivy road.
again was a costly
affair.

This

enfiladed at close range

The Camerons were by the German artillery
and had lanes Grant-Duff
Col.

on the other
torn

side of the Factory,

through
killed

their

ranks.

was

while heading a bayonet charge of

the Black Watch, side by side with his Adjutant,

Captain

Guards,

Rowan Hamilton. The 1st Scots who were on the hill between Vendresse
also lost their

and Troyon,

CO.
as

as

well as their

second in command, Col. Lowther being wounded

and Major Gamier

killed,

were
Sir

also Lieuts.

Inigo Jones and Thornhill.

V. Mackenzie
at

and Lieut.
same time.

Stirling Stuart

were wounded

the

The Scotsmen, however,

did

not

mean stopping
losses

that day, and in spite of desperate

the Chivy road trenches were finally carried

at the point of the

bayonet and
it

a

number

of

prisoners taken.
officers

But

cost the 1st Brigade
file.

49

and 1,100 rank and

Much

of the success during this

day was due

to the gallant

behaviour of the 11 6th Battery
1st Brigade.

R.F.A. attached to the

At an

early

112

The

First Seven Divisions

period in the day this battery, for fear of misdirection in the mist, had worked
its

guns up into

a

dangerously exposed position close to the firing
line.

From
to

here they were able to work great the

damage

German

defences,

but,

as

a

natural consequence, themselves suffered severely
in the process. of the battery,

Major Nicholson,
had been wounded
for

in

command

early in the
this position,

morning while reconnoitring

command then Oliver, who took the
the
1,200 rounds were

devolving

upon

Captain

battery into action.

Some
and

fired

during the

day,

replenishment of ammunition had to be done
entirely

by hand,

all

spare

men and
a

drivers

being led up in relays by Lieut. Gardiner.
battery remained exposed to
till

The
fire

very galling

after nightfall,

order

of

Col.

when it was withdrawn by Geddes, commanding the 25th
as
its

Brigade R.F.A.,
the
infantry

position was in front of

line

actually
as a

occupied.

Lieut.

Simson, well known

Rugby

International,

was

killed

during the operation.

Great courage

and devotion to duty was shown by Bombardier
Collins,

the

battery telephonist,
early
in

who, though
proceedings,

painfully

wounded
his post

the

continued at
battery

throughout the day.

The

was

warmly thanked and praised by

Troyon
General Maxse, commanding the
the assistance
it

113
Brigade, for

1st

had given him.
running east and west

By noon

the 1st and 2nd Brigades were exline

tended in a straight

through the Factory.
line

Eventually, however, the

which was actually occupied and entrenched
incessant

and maintained throughout the Aisne period
against

counter-attacks
des

had

its

right

resting on the
east

Chemin
till

Dames

half a mile

of

the

Factory,

and from there inclined
it

gradually
east

backwards

reached

the

river

of

Soissons.

When we

consider that the

position

won

this

day on the Chemin des Dames
river,

was four miles north of the
line thereafter held

the oblique

by the
to

British troops was a

lasting

monument

the remarkable

achieve-

ment of the ist Division on September 14th There can be no shadow of doubt that the Germans were completely taken by surprise by the unexpected rapidity of the ist Division's
advance.
It

was

a

fine

piece

of

generalship,

and had
to bring

Sir

Douglas Haig only had fresh troops
reserve,
it
is

up from

probable that

the

Germans

would

have

been

swept

back

another mile or two.

Fresh reserve troops, however, were too great
a

luxury for our small force.

The Loyal N.
8

114

The

First

Seven Divisions

Lancashires had in the morning been the reserve
battalion to the

2nd Brigade, and

of these fifty

per cent, had fallen.

Some
as

of

the R. Sussex
fact,

and
from
was

1st Coldstream,
as

a

matter of

did

penetrate

far

as

Cerny, following the road
cuts

Troyon

which
in a

through
defile.

the

high

ground beyond
literally

narrow

This road

choked with the enemy's dead.

At

Cerny they found every symptom
and
surprise,

of confusion

abandoned

kits,

baggage and muniresistance.
as
it

tions,

and no sign of organized

The
was

detachment, however, was small, and

unsupported on either flank
to retire.

it

was deemed wise

Verneuil

We

can

now move

across

on to the next range
see

of

heights to the

left,

and

how

it

there fared

with the 3rd and 5th Brigades.

Here matters
on the

were neither

so eventful nor so decisive as
It

Troyon

ridge.

was ten o'clock before the
line,

3rd Brigade came up into

and was ordered
right
in the neighbourthis order

to extend to the left and join
of the

up with the

2nd Division, which was
of Braye.

hood

While carrying out

and when within

a mile or so of Verneuil,

they

Troy on
suddenly came up against two strong

115

German
some

columns

which
object.

were

advancing

with

unknown

ings in this

The rest quarter may be

of the day's proceedbriefly described as a

series of attacks
all

and counter-attacks, which lasted
Brigades.

through the day, between these two German

columns and our 3rd, 5th and 6th

In the fiercely contested combat between these

two

forces

honours were during the
fairly

earlier part

of the

day

easy,

but

towards

dusk

the

Germans
the
[_

sensibly weakened, both in attack

and

defence, and the British troops undoubtedly
last

had

word.
conspicuous episode in this section

The most

of the fighting

was

a really

great performance on

the part of an Edinburgh

man named
That

Wilson, in
battalion

the Highland Light Infantry.

had

just

made

a

most successful and dramatic

charge, led by Sir Archibald Gibson-Craig and

Lieut. Powell (both killed), and
itself in a

had established
on
a small

forward position with
this

its left

wood.

From

wood

a

German machine gun
it

began playing on the ranks of the battalion with
such disastrous accuracy that
that either the machine
or the position evacuated.

soon became clear
silenced

gun must be

Pte. Wilson thought

the former alternative preferable, and, getting a
8*

116

The

First Seven Divisions

K.R.R. man to go with him, crept out towards
the wood.
once,
but,

The K.R.R. man was
quite

shot almost at

undeterred, Wilson went on
officer

alone, killed the

German

and

six

men, and

single-handed

captured

the machine

gun and
It

two and

a

half cases of

ammunition.

need

scarcely be said that he got the Victoria Cross.

Another Victoria Cross earned
another

this

day by

Scotsman

was

little

less

remarkable,

though of an entirely different order.
Pte. Tollerton, a fine,

powerful
an
officer

man
fall

in

the

Scottish

Rifles,

noticed

badly

wounded in the firing line. Though himself wounded both in the head and hand, Tollerton
carried

the officer to

a

place

of

safety,

after

which he himself returned to the
throughout the day.
the

firing line

and

there remained fighting, in spite of his wounds,

At dusk he returned
In
the

to

wounded
had

officer.

meanwhile the
behind.

firing line

fallen back,

with the result that
left

Tollerton and the officer were
latter

The

was quite incapable

of

moving, and Toller-

ton remained with him for three days and nights,
till

eventually both were rescued.

Troy on

117

SOUPIR

Once more
more

it is

necessary to shift our scene

still

to the left and nearer again to the Aisne,

where the Cour de Soupir farm stands on the
crest of the river bluff.

The
when

capture of this position was the work of

the Guards' Brigade.

At

8

a.m.,

at

the time

the 1st and 2nd Brigades were in the very-

thick of their fight at Troyon, the

2nd Division,
at

which was
began to

still

on the south

side of the river,

cross

by the new pontoon bridge

Pont d'Arcy, the 6th Brigade moving up the
valley to Braye, while the 5th Brigade fought
its

way up the wooded
last

slopes

above Soupir.
seen, linked

These

two

brigades, as

we have

up with

the 3rd Brigade in the neighbourhood of Verneuil.

The
till

4th Brigade went
as far as

down

the right bank of
it

the river

Chavonne, where
it

remained

midday, when

got the order to scale the

heights in support of the 5th Brigade, which was

reported

in

difficulties.

Accordingly

the

3rd

Coldstream and

Irish

Guards forced

their

way up
2nd

through the woods north of Soupir, while the

2nd Grenadiers and two companies

of the

Coldstream made for the hamlet of Les Grouins

118
on the
was

The
left,

First

Seven Divisions

where the idea was that they were to

get in touch with the 1st Cavalry Division, which
also

reported in

difficulties.

The

other two

companies 2nd Coldstream stayed in reserve, in

wood clearing on the bluff, of La Cour de Soupir farm. The track from Chavonne
a

half a mile south

to the farm zig-

zags steeply

up the

bluff

above the river through

thick woods.

Up

this track,

now
in

ankle-deep in
of fours

mud, the Guards scrambled
till

column

they reached the

flatter

ground above, where
lire

they at once came under very heavy

from the

neighbourhood

of the farm.

Col. Feilding,

who

was acting Brigadier, thereupon deployed the

two

battalions to the left, and, as soon as the
left

Grenadiers had come up into line on their
flank,

the three battalions charged through the

mist and rain in the direction of

La Cour de
a

Soupir farm.

As had been the
at

case with the

2nd Brigade, they were met by
machine-gun and
rifle

very severe
range, the

fire

close

moment
able
;

they emerged on to the

flatter

ground

above, and their casualties were very considerbut,

notwithstanding, they kept

going,

captured the farm and trenches and drove out
the

enemy with heavy

loss.

An

unfortunate incident, very similar in

many

"

Troyon
respects to that
at

119

which had befallen the R. Sussex

Troyon, occurred during the capture of these

trenches, and was responsible for the deaths of

many good men.
Just to the left of the farm a

number

of

Ger-

mans were seen advancing with hands up and white flags. Some of the 3rd Coldstream went
out to accept the surrender, whereupon
a

second

line of Germans sprang up, and, firing on friend

and foe

alike,

mowed them down
little

indiscriminately.
this

There can be

doubt that both

and

the Troyon incident on the same day were not
acts of deliberate treachery

on the part
" no

of the

Germans,

but

were

purely

surrender

demonstrations, and were probably aimed more
at their compatriots than at the British.

In this engagement the 3rd Coldstream

lost

Captain Banbury, Lieut.
Lieut P.
Fane, of
rank and

Ives, Lieut.

Bingham,
Lieut.

Wyndham, Captain Vaughan and

whom
file.

the

first

four were killed, and 160

The

position gained, however, was

never afterwards

lost,

but,

from September 14th

on, was held by the Guards' Brigade for twenty-

nine consecutive days, in the face of a rapid succession of counter-attacks of the fiercest description,
this position

being singled out by the Germans
efforts at recapture.

for their

most determined

THE AISNE

^HE
A

meteoric

advance of the

ist

A.C. on

the 14th had left

the western wing of

the British force far behind.

Had

the 2nd A.C.

had the luck to
destruction

find a bridge

which had defied

as was the case at Bourg there is no knowing but that they might have pushed

forward shoulder to shoulder with the

1st

A.C.

and established themselves on the heights beyond.

No

such good fortune, however, was theirs.

At

Venizel, Missy and Vailly the bridges
successfully

had been

demolished and the approaches to
difficult, especially at

the river were everywhere

Missy, where for three-quarters of a mile the

ground on the south
exposed.

side of the river lies flat
as

and

The
left

bridge at Conde,

has already
fact,

been explained, was intact
designedly
so

by the enemy

—had, —and
in
a

been

for that
as

very reason was outside of consideration
as

far

the

problem
It

of

crossing the river was con-

cerned.

became, therefore,
120

matter for the

R.E., and with characteristic promptitude that

The Aisne
indefatigable corps started in on
its

121

work

of repair

and construction.
out under no small

The work had
difficulties,

to be carried

and to the accom-

paniment

of a systematic shelling, the

enemy on

the heights beyond having the exact range of the
river.

There were considerable

casualties

among

the

Engineers.

By midday, however, on the
and the
been

14th the work was practically completed, the road
bridges at Venizel, Missy and Vailly,

railway
repaired,

bridge
in

east

of

Venizel,

having

addition

to

which eight pontoon

bridges had been thrown over the river at vary-

ing intervals.

This was good work on the part

of the R.E., nor did their labours begin

and end

with the work of repair and construction.
tain Johnstone*

Cap-

and Lieut. Flint worked below
this

Missy

all

through

day up to seven o'clock in

the evening, bringing back the

wounded on

rafts

and returning with ammunition
under
fire.
;

all

the time

The former

got the Victoria Cross

for this

the latter the D.S.O.
in
a

Handicapped though they were
with the
1st

comparison
negotiable

A.C. by the lack of

bridge, the three divisions at the Soissons end of

the line were by no means disposed to

sit

still

while the Sappers were working at their pontoons.
*

Killed June 6th, 19 15.

122

The

First

Seven Divisions
itself

The nth
lost

Brigade (in the 4th Division) got

ferried across below Venizel early in the day, and

no time

in getting into its position to the west
it

of Bucy,

where

dug

itself in

near St. Marguerite.

At midday the
at

12 th Brigade were able to cross
at Venizel

by the repaired road-bridge
once linked up with the

and they

nth

Brigade at Bucy,

just in time to take part in an attack

which was
at

made upon
2 p.m.

the

Vregny
a

heights

opposite

Meanwhile

pontoon bridge was being

built close to the Venizel road-bridge,

and by

5.30 this, too, was finished, and the 10th Brigade
crossed and completed the concentration of the

4th Division.

A

mile higher up, at Missy, the 5th Division
difficulty

was in the meantime experiencing great
in getting to the river, the flat

ground approachfire

ing

it

being swept by a murderous

from the

far side.

The

13th Brigade, in fact, was foiled

in

all its

attempts in this direction, and remained
the

throughout

day

at

Sermoise.

The

14th

Brigade, however,

managed

to cross early in the
all

afternoon at Moulins des Roches and with

the speed possible linked up with the 4th Division

on
in

its left,

arriving at
a

its

post just in time to help

repelling

strong

German

counter-attack,
lines

which was launched against our

at

three

The Aisne
o'clock.

123

These two brigades

in retaliation

made

repeated attacks on the Chivres heights during

the afternoon, but without success, and at night

they

fell

back to

St.

Marguerite.

The

3rd Division reached the river at Vaillv.
a single

Here the bridge had been blown up, but
plank bridged the gap

made

at the

north end,

and by
in single

this
file.

the 8th and 9th Brigades got across

The

7th Brigade in the meanwhile
rafts

was getting across on

—three men

at a

time

a

slow and tiresome business, which occupied
It

the whole day.

was midday by the time the
above-mentioned, but they

9th Brigade, which followed the 8th, had crossed

by the

single plank
at

pushed forward

once and secured the heights

opposite, the R. Fusiliers establishing themselves

well forward on the
left,

Maison Rouge spur to the

and the Lincolns on the Ostel spur, within

half a mile of

by the Guards.

La Cour de Soupir farm held Here they remained all night,
back to the

but at seven o'clock next morning the R. Fusiliers

were heavily attacked and driven

Maison Rouge farm, with the
their
officers

loss

from among

of

Captain Byng, Captain Cole,

Captain Attwood and 2nd Lieut. Hobbs.

The

Fusiliers, who had pushed forward along the road up the wooded valley between

Northumberland

;

124

The

First

Seven Divisions

the spurs, also had serious casualties, and had
to withdraw.

The

Lincolns at the same time
I

were driven from the Ostel spur and by

p.m.

had re-crossed the

river to the south side.

Once more,

after another very

wet night, the
back

5th Division on the 15th attacked the Chivres
heights, and, once

more

failing,

had to

fall

to a line from St. Marguerite to the bank of the
river

between Sermoise and Conde.
in

There they
till

dug themselves

and there they remained

the end of the Aisne battle.

The

position was
as it

very bad from a strategic point of view,

was

on the low ground by the
but

river,

with the Germans

only 400 yards away on the heights beyond
it

was the best that could be done.
its

The

5th Division was greatly upset at
to take the Chivres heights.
(as,

second failure
not realize

It did
?)

indeed,

who

did at that time
its

that the Allied

advance had reached

farthest north,

and that

the Chivres heights were to remain untaken by
either

French or English

for very

many months
advance en-

to come.

The
all

failure of the British left to

couraged the Germans to deliver counter-attacks
along the
line, especially against

the advanced

position held
failed just as

by the

1st

A.C.
as

These, however,

completely

had our own attempt

The Aisne
to advance on the
attacks
at the
left.

125

Several very determined

were made against the Guards' Brigade
Soupir farm, but
all

were repulsed with

heavy

loss.
all

The enemy was
our
artillery

this

time steadily outranging

with
as

its

big eleven-inch guns, popu-

larly

known

" Black Marias."

The

difficulty

of properly entrenching against this long-range

cannonade was greatly increased by the scarcity
of proper tools, but,

by means

of a

mixed

assorta

ment
this It

of implements,

borrowed from the farms,

certain

amount

of protection

was secured, and

was steadily improved upon from day to day.
all

began to be realized by now, by

parties

concerned, that these entrenchments were likely
to be rather

more permanent than the emergency
and mess-tins
at

ditches scooped out with hands

Mons and Le
till

Cateau, and in point of fact the line

held at this time remained practically unchanged
the removal of the troops to Flanders.
the right the 1st A.C. held the ground

On
to

from the Chemin des Dames through Chivy

La Cour de

Soupir.
a

On

their left

was the

3rd Division about

mile to the north of Vailly.

Then came
this

the gap caused by the bridge at
in

Conde being
the
5 th

the

Division

German hands. Beyond as we have seen held

126
the

The

First

Seven Divisions
in the river east of
St.

ground from the bend
St.

Missy to
guerite

Marguerite

;

and beyond
joined

Mar-

the 4th Division

up with the
arrived

6th French Army.

The 6th
As
at
a

Division

at this time, thus technically

completing General
fact,

Pulteney's 3rd A.C.
ever,

matter of
first,

howthe

the C. in

C,

the

utilized

greater
1st

part of this division to strengthen the

A.C. on the right, where the greatest German

pressure

was being

felt,

the

remainder being

held in reserve.

About noon on the
the
special

16th,

the line held by

the Guards' Brigade at the Soupir farm, always
object
of

German
fact,

attention,

was

treated

to

an

exceptionally

violent

bombardthat

ment.
the

So accurate, in

was

this fire, a

Brigadier-General

ordered

temporary

retirement to the shelter of the road behind

and below.

Very shortly
it

after this retirement

had taken end
of the

place,

was seen that a barn at one

farm buildings, which had just been
fire.

vacated, was on
as

This barn was being used
in it at the

a

temporary hospital, and

time

were

some

fifty

clearly a case for
risky action,
it.

wounded Germans. It was very prompt action and very
loss

but there was no hesitation about
the
of
a

Without

moment,

Major

The Aisne
Matheson, who
at

127

the time was

commanding

the 3rd Coldstream, called for volunteers, and

accompanied by Major Steele and Drs. Huggan

and Shields and some men of No.
the the
blazing

1

Company
All

under Lord Feilding, he rushed forward through
shell-fire

to

building.

concerned worked with such goodwill that every

wounded man was
and with few

successfully got

into safety

casualties

on our

side,

but

a

few
very

minutes later Dr. Huggan,

who had been
by
which some

active in the rescue work, was killed

a shell

which burst

in a quarry into
carried.

of the
shell

wounded had been
killed

The same

twelve others, including three
Infantry

officers

of

the

52nd Oxford Light
more.

who were
Brigade,

attached at the time to the Guards'

and wounded
was best
ball

fifty

Dr.

Huggan, who

known

as a

Scotch International foot-

player,

had greatly distinguished himself
at

on former occasions, both
Villers-Cotterets,

Landrecies

and

by

his

courage and devotion

to the

wounded.

He

was buried in the garden

of the farm.

The
I

1

6th was otherwise an uneventful day,
a

but on the 17th there was
ing

good deal

of fightfine

here

and

there,

enlivened

by some

individual acts of bravery and devotion.


128

The

First

Seven Divisions

An
the

incident on the right of our line at this

time attracted

much
which

attention

on account of
it

German
with

methods

which

disclosed

methods

we

afterwards
village of

became

much more
a

familiar.

At the

Troyon

captain and two subalterns and 160

men

of

the Northamptons

had entrenched themselves

by the roadside some distance ahead of the

main
to

body.

Two
was

hundred
a

and

fifty

yards
a

their front,
field,

and separated from them by

turnip

German

entrenchment

containing
days
the

from 400 to 500 men. For five Northants men had to remain in
Rain

trenches which were knee deep in water.
fell ceaselessly,

and on the 17th seemed to come
ever.

down harder than
tive

Ague appeared among
15 th

the men, and considerably reduced their effecstrength.

On

the

the

captain

in

command showed
the

himself for a
at

moment above
killed.

trench

and was

once

Shortly

afterwards the senior lieutenant was also killed.

The command then devolved upon the junior lieutenant, who had less than a year's service.

On
field

the

17th

—to

the

surprise

of

all

—the
be

Germans were
holding

seen advancing across the turnip

up

their

hands.

It

was

to

assumed that they too had had enough of their

The Aisne
water-logged
naturally
trenches.
at

129
Northamptons,
left

The
this

gratified

surrender,

the

trench

to

meet

them.

When, however, the
they

German
his

officer

saw

how few men
his

had

to deal with, he

changed

men

to

charge.

mind and ordered The young lieutenant
officer

promptly shot the German
with
his revolver,

and

a

sergeant

but was himself immediately
killed.

shot down,

though, strange to say, not

The
very

affair,

however, would obviously have gone
for

badly

the

Northamptons, who were
or

outnumbered by three
1st

four to one,

if

the

Queen's,

who had been

looking

on from

the right flank, suspecting foul play, had not

promptly brought their machine gun to bear
on
the
situation.

The
spot,
a

ist

Coldstream

were

also quickly

on the

and the German force
Soupir
the

was accounted for to
Further
west,
in

man.
district,

the

Guards' Brigade,
out
at
this

who seemed
for
all

specially singled

period

the enemy's

most

ferocious attacks, were given a particularly

bad

time on
beaten

this

day.

All attacks, however, were
loss

off

with severe
is

to the enemy.

One
posted,

incident

worth recording.
the
a

North

of

Chavonne,

where
was

2nd
barn

Grenadiers

were

there

from

which
9

some

i30

The

First Seven Divisions

snipers

were keeping up
the

a

very irritating

fire

on the battalion.
able
at
its

There was no
for
its
all

artillery avail-

moment
safety

destruction,

and

yet
able

destruction was of

things most desirbattalion.

for

the

of

the

While
Corpl.

the

problem was under consideration,
of

Thomas,

the 2nd Grenadiers, decided on a

line of action.

They were
couple
of

in a wheat-field in
for cart-

which the sheaves were stacked ready
ing.

With

a

comrades
him,

whom
left

he
the

persuaded
trenches,

to

accompany
for the barn.

he

caught up
tilt

a sheaf in

each hand, and

raced

full

There they piled

up the sheaves
to

against the wood-work, set fire
again.

them and raced back
party

Not

a

man

of

the

was touched,

though both coming
a

and going they ran through
It
is

hail of

bullets.

satisfactory to record that the barn

burnt

bravely and that the
rapidity.

Later

on,

enemy retired with some on November 6th, this
a

same

Grenadier,

then

sergeant,

gained the

D.C.M.

for another act of conspicuous gallantry.

The

British

force

had now been
lost

five

days

on the Aisne, and had

an average of 2,000

men
to

per day.
fall

On

the 17th, one of the 2,000

for

his

country was
a

Captain Wright,
out of a host

R.E.

He

was only

unit

—one

The Aisne
that
of
a
fell

131

;

but he stands out, both on account

the manner of his death and because only
short three weeks before he

had gained the
during the
over

Victoria

Cross
of

for

great
of

gallantry

destruction

one

the

bridges

the

Mons

canal.

On

this

occasion

the

5th

C.B.

had to get

across to the south side of the river.

Now

that

further

advance was for the time

being out of the question, the north side of the

Aisne was clearly no place for cavalry.

So the

5th C.B. had to get back across the pontoon
bridge at Vailly.

The

bridge

itself

and both

banks were under

shell-fire,

but Captain Wright,

who was
himself

responsible for the bridge, considered

equally

responsible

for

the

safety

of

those

who

crossed.

cavalry were not

The casualties among the many but there were some
;

;

and

it

was while helping one of these wounded

men

into shelter that Captain

Wright was
there Sappers.

killed.

On
gallant

the night

following,

was another
It

death

among the

was

highly important to establish telephonic

com-

munication

between the 9th Brigade on the
bank.

north bank and Divisional Head Quarters on
the
there
sixty

south

There was

no

bridge

and

was
yards

no

boat.

The
and

river

was

swollen,

across

very

uninviting.
9*

A

132
private

The
in

First

Seven Divisions
volunteered
;

the

R.E.

to
a

try

and

swim

across

with

a line

but he was

married

man, and Lieut. Hutton, R.E., would not allow
it.

He

himself took the line, plunged into the
across,

river,

and very nearly got

but was sucked

under by the eddies and drowned.

Another act
Cross

this

day which gained no Victoria
Captain
Everlegh,
of

was

that

of

the

52nd

Oxford

Light

Infantry,

shelter of his trench to help a

who left the wounded animal,
It

and was

killed

by

a

shell in so doing.

does

not detract from the nobility of the act that
the animal in question was only
a pig.

The German
to the right
ceaselessly,

attack was

still

mainly confined

end of our

line,

where the Germans
to

and

always

unsuccessfully, tried

drive the 1st A.C. from the heights on which

they

had

established

themselves

in

the

first

day's fighting.
in
far
list

these

attacks
light.

The Germans lost very heavily and our own casualties were

from

On

the 20th the Aisne casualty

had mounted up to 561 officers and 13,000 men. In order to make up deficiencies, the
C. in C. decided to send up the 18th Brigade.

out of the 6th Division, just arrived, to support
the 2nd Brigade on the extreme right of our
line.

The Aisne
The
position
1

133
took up a

8th Brigade, on

its

arrival,

between
with the
It

the

2nd
Yorks

Brigade
as its

and

the

French,
battalion.
fighting,

W.
this

right-hand
first

was
its

battalion's

day's

and
for

initiation

was

a

particularly-

cruel one,

the French troops,
its

who

should

have protected

right,

coolly

went away to

their dinner, leaving the flank of the

W.

Yorks
that

absolutely

unprotected,

with

the

result

they found themselves mercilessly enfiladed and
driven
loss.
1

from

their

trenches

with

considerable
also

The

Sherwood

Foresters,

in

the

8th Brigade, were in reserve

down

a steep slope

in rear of the

W.

Yorks trenches.

They were
when the
Withslope.

lying

down

in groups, talking over the prospects

of their

first

day in the fighting

line,

news of the

disaster

above reached them.

out waiting to get into

any formation, they

jumped

to their feet

and charged up the
far

The

officers

were

so

ahead

as

to

be confell,

spicuous, and nearly half of their

number
Guards,

but the survivors charged home, and, supported

by some of the 4th Dragoon
with the

dis-

mounted, led by Major Bridges, they joined up

W.

Yorks and retook the
returning
hurriedly

lost trenches.

The

French,

from

their

dinner, full of apologies for their absence, and

134

The

First

Seven Divisions

anxious to make reparation, put in some useful

work with the bayonet on our
This
little affair cost

flank.

us six

hundred men, the

Sherwood Foresters alone
of the Aisne

losing fourteen officers.

Between September 20th and 25th the battle
seemed on the high road to die
It

of

inanition.

had come

in

like

a

lion

;

it

went out
the
course,

like a

very small lamb.

When we
are,

use
of

term " battle of the Aisne " we
talking
parochially.

The
a

Aisne

battle

has
of

now been
us,

raging for an indefinite
a

number
miles.

months over

front

of

hundred

For

however, the meaning of the term does

not extend beyond the four weeks during which
British

and German troops faced one another
This
is

between Soissons and Bourg.
battle of the Aisne

the only

we

are at present concerned

with, and this battle began to get very quiet

and uneventful.
a

The

weather, however,

took

turn for the better, the wind shifting round

out of the north-west, and sunshine once more
took the place of the bitter rain storms of the
past fortnight.

On
extent

the 25th,
revived

German
by the

activity was
arrival

to

some

of

200,000 re-

inforcements from Brussels and from the neigh-

bourhood

of

Verdun.

These came up by

train

The Aisne
by way
of

135

Liege and Valenciennes, and were

distributed at various points along the enemy's
right.

The Verdun troops were reported very weary. The stimulus afforded by the arrival of these new troops was, however, merely
sporadic,
interest

and from the point of view of public
the Aisne battle
bolt.
Its

may be

said to

have

shot

its

waning days were, however,

illuminated by one individual act of such remarkable courage that the history of the Aisne period

would

scarcely be complete without

it.

On
at

the morning of the 28th, while the 2nd
left of

Coldstream were on the

the 4th Brigade
post, thr

what was known
of
a

as

the

Tunnel

men
was
a

Captain Follett's company were sent
very thick mist to reconnoitre.
for the
It
lines

out in

risky undertaking,
close.

German
lifted,

were very

Suddenly the mist

and

two out

of the three

were instantly shot, the
only a graze.

third getting

home with
lay

As leaving
under
to

them where they

meant fourteen hours'
be got in

exposure before they could
cover of darkness, Pte.
try and get

Dobson volunteered

them
it

in at once.
it

The
a

undertaking

appeared on the face of
sibility,

an absolute impos-

as

involved
in
full

crossing

good deal
enemy.

of

open ground

view of the

136

The

First Seven Divisions

However, Dobson crawled out and managed to
reach the men, one of

whom
in

he found dead,
places.

and the other wounded
applied
back.
first-aid

three

He
out

dressings

and
he

then

crawled

A

few

minutes

later

crawled

company with Corpl. Brown, the two men dragging a stretcher between them on which the wounded man was placed and
again, this time in

dragged back into
hit.

safety,

none

of the three being

It

need scarcely be added that Dobson

got the Victoria Cross for this most remarkable

performance, Corpl. Brown being awarded the

D.C.M. Towards the end of September operations in the Champagne country, as has been said,
were
beginning
to
stagnate.

The

Aisne

had
open
It

ceased to be a battlefield on which contending
forces

strove

for

position,

and met

in

shock on the downs, or in the beet-fields.

had degenerated into
where, in parallel

a

scene of mutual siege,

lines of trenches,
sit

two armies

were content to

down and

block progress.

In view of the steady decrease in the distance

between the

hostile trenches, artillery operations
a

had gradually assumed
restricted

more

or less compli-

mentary character and the game of war became
to

sniping

and

construction

work.

The Aisne

137

With each succeeding day the position became more and more aggravated as trenches were made deeper and more secure, and entanglements
of
all

kinds

reduced
or

still

further

the

possibility

of

surprise

assault.

For

the
little

soldier

on duty such operations have but
;

interest

for

the historian or the student of

war they have none.

We

may, therefore, turn

without reluctance to the more general situation,

which by now was rapidly beginning to

develop in interest.

The end
Armies

of

September and the beginning of
westward.

October found both the Germans and the Allied
extending
their
flanks

As

growing familiarity with the trench system of
warfare began to make
it

clear

to

both

sides

that no further progress was possible by means
of

direct

pressure,

the

German and
more favourable

Allied
outlet

leaders began to scent a
for their energies
tions,

on the western flank of opera-

where

—and

where only
gradual

a

roadway
of

still

lay

open.

The

shifting

German

more accurate, northwestward, could have no meaning but that of
troops westward, or, to be

an attempt to force their
the
flat

way

into France along
;

plains

of

Western Flanders

and no

sooner was such an intention

made

plain than

138
a

The

First

Seven Divisions

corresponding
in

Allies

movement was made by the an endeavour to forestall the enemy
his

and envelop
it.

flank before

he could extend
postuas

It

was clear that the

German move

lated
fall

the speedy capture of Antwerp,

the

of that fortress was a necessary preliminary

to any extended

movement along the
sent
to

Belgian

seaboard.
process
of

A
to

considerable British force was in

being
this

Antwerp,
the

and

in

addition

force,

7th

Division
at

and 3rd Cavalry Division were landed
brugge on

Zeecoor

October 7th, with

a

view

to

operating either with the

Antwerp troops
as

with the
dictated.

main Allied Army
of

circumstances

A

consideration

these

several

important

factors in the situation suggested to the C. in C.

the desirability of entrusting the western extension
British

movement,

in the first instance, to the

Army

at the

moment occupying
increase

the Aisne

trenches.
of

Not only would such an exchange
greatly
supplies

positions

the

facilities

for

bringing

up

and

for

communications
in

generally with England,

but,

the event of

the co-operation of the 7th and
Divisions,
it

3rd Cavalry
of putting

would have the advantage

that detached

body

of troops in touch with the

The Aisne
left

139
so of con-

of the

main

British

Army and

solidating the

command.
at first

General Jofrre

demurred, on account

of the obvious objections attending the transfer

from one

set

of troops

to another of trenches

situated so very close to those of the

enemy

as

were ours on the Aisne, such transfer only being
possible
at

night and under the strictest pre-

cautions.

The

C. in

C, however, was

insistent,

and

in

the end the French General was per-

suaded that the advantages of the plan out-

weighed
question

the

drawbacks.
that

There

can

be

no

now but

the judgment of the

C. in C. was fully endorsed by the event.

The
3rd,

transfer of troops was

begun on October
set

on which day the cavalry

out by road

for Flanders,

and two days
for
St.

later the

2nd A.C.
Pont
Ste.

started

entraining

Omer

at

Maxence and Soissons. Nothing been more auspicious than the
valley.

could
start

have
the

of

cavalry as they turned their backs on the Aisne

The heavy

rains of

mid-September had
magnificent weather,
it

been succeeded by

a spell of

and on the morning of the 3rd

was

at its best.

The

sun shone out of

a clear sky,

and, slanting
fell full

over the backs of the

men

as they rode,

on the wooded

slopes

above Le Moncel and


140

The

First

Seven Divisions
autumn were
the green.
already

Chivres, where the tints of

beginning to show

among

Below,

down
sky.

the valley, the winding Aisne showed up

here and there, reflecting back the blue of the

The

spirits of all ranks

were

in

tune with

the

weather

and the scene.

Trench warfare

offers

no opportunities to cavalry
at

as

cavalry

and the change westward
with
it

any rate carried

the promise of increased action.

MANCEUVRING WESTWARD

/^ENERAL FOCH,
^-^

with

his

Doulens, at this time

Head Quarters at commanded all the
him and
to

French troops north of Noyon, and the Flanders
plan of campaign was arranged between

the C. in C.

as follows

:

The 2nd A.C. was

occupy the canal
northward.
to
Lille

line

from Aire to Bethune, and
running from

the 3rd A.C. on arrival was to extend that line

The

road

Bethune

was to be the dividing line between
British,

French and

and the aim of the British

force was to be to wheel to the right and so

menace the
2 1 st

flank

of

the

Germans

facing

the

French

Army

Corps under General Maistre.

The
from

7th Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division

Belgium

were

to

co-operate
as

in

this

general

wheeling movement

circumstances

permitted.

This scheme,

as things

turned out, was destined
fall

to be entirely upset by the

of

Antwerp on
it

October

9th.

For

the

first

week

worked

admirably, and the cavalry patrols and infantry
141

142

The

First

Seven Divisions
us
fell

outposts opposed
anticipated

to

back

as

had been

—before

our

advance.

Then Ger-

man reinforcements began to come up. Four Army Corps were railed up from the eastern
frontier,

to

which were presently added some
fall

90,000 troops released by the

of

Antwerp.

However, before these things happened, we

had made some progress from our

original line

in an attempt to carry out the formulated scheme.

On
two

October

nth
into

the

detrainment of the 2nd
Sir

A.C. was completed and
divisions

Horace moved
the
at

his

position

between Aire and
3rd
St.

Bethune.

On

October

12th

A.C,

under General Pulteney, arrived

and

moved forward to moment this Army Corps was in position Sir Horace made the first move in the contemplated
sweep

Omer The Hazebrouck.

by pushing forward the
left of

3rd

Division,

which was on the
to cross the

the 2nd

Lawe

Canal, which the

A.C, with orders enemy was

reported to be holding in force.

The advance
serious opposilocks at

was carried out with but
tion, except in the

little

neighbourhood of the

Etroa, where the 2nd R. Scots in the 8th Brigade

met with
Croker

a

stubborn resistance, in the course of

which Lieut. Trotter
(in

was
of

killed

and Captain

command

the

battalion)

and

Manoeuvring Westward
Captain

143

Heathcote

badly

wounded.

The

battalion, however, in

spite of losses,

continued

to advance with great gallantry to the line of

the

canal,

which Captain Tanner and Lieut.
crossing

Cazenove, with the leading company, eventually
succeeded
exploit for
in

by

the

lock-gates,

an

which the former received the D.S.O.

and the

latter the Military Cross.

The

defenders

thereupon at once gave way, suffering heavily
in

their

retirement

from the

rifle-fire

of

the

4th Middlesex on the right.

On

the following morning the 3rd Division

advance was renewed, the brigade chiefly concerned being once again the 8th, in the centre.

This brigade

set

out

at

6.30,

the

Middlesex

being on the right, the R. Scots in the centre,

and
left.

the

1st

Gordon

Highlanders

on

the

The

country was dead

flat,

and the advance

very slow owing to the innumerable water-dykes

with which the country

is

intersected and which

could only be crossed by means of planks or
ladders borrowed from the farms.

About midday the Middlesex captured the
village of

Croix Barbee and the R. Scots peroffice

formed the same

by Pont de Hem, but

shortly afterwards further advance was checked,


144
the

The

First

Seven Divisions
in

enemy being found
of

considerable

force
offer-

and strongly entrenched, and the country
ing no sort
cover.

The

brigade, however,
retire,

though unable to advance, refused to
and very
of
fierce

fighting ensued,

in

the course

which the enemy made two most determined
one
left

counter-attacks,

on

Lieut.

Henderson's

Company on
on Captain
Middlesex

the

of the R. Scots,

and one
the
re-

Passy's
line.

Company on
loss

the

left of

Both these
side

attacks

were

pulsed with heavy
casualties

to the enemy, but the

on our

were

also

severe,

Lieut.

Henderson
he

—who

was awarded the Cross of the

Legion of Honour for the great gallantry which
displayed

throughout

these

operations
Passy's
a

being

badly

wounded,
nightfall

and
R.

Captain

Company
platoon.

being reduced to the dimensions of

By

the

Scots
close

had

lost,

during the day,

9

officers

and

on 400

men.

Second-Lieuts. Hewitt, Kerr and Snead-

Cox had been killed, and of Captain Morrison's Company all the officers and 175 rank and file
had been either
killed or

wounded.
as

The

losses

in

the Middlesex were almost

severe, Lieut.

Coles,

among

others, being killed

and Major Finch and

Captain Passy severely
however,

wounded.

Both

battalions,

main-

Manoeuvring Westward
tained
their

145

ground with the utmost deter-

mination.

On

the 14th some more of the actors in the

approaching
allotted

drama

began

to

fall

into

their

The immortal 7th Division reached Ypres from Dixmude at midday and went into billets. The 3rd Cavalry Division
places.

arrived at
quarter,

the same time and from the same
split

and

up,

the 6th C.B. going to

Wytschate and the 7th C.B. to Kemmel.
original

The
re-

Cavalry

Brigades

had now

been

organized, de Lisle taking over the 1st Division

from

Allenby,

Gough

retaining
a

and both

divisions

forming

the second, " Cavalry Corps "

under General Allenby.
sion,

The

3rd Cavalry Divi-

on the other hand, had no part or parcel
Cavalry
Corps,

in

this

being

a

separate

and
the

independent

organization,

under

General

Hon.

J.

Byng.

During the day the Cavalry Corps captured
the high ground above Bethune after some
fighting,
stiff

while

the

3rd

A.C.

advanced

and
full

occupied Bailleul, which was found to be
of

German wounded.

The 9th
still

Brigade on the

left of

the 3rd Division was

pushing ahead,

but the 8th Brigade was found to have got too
far in

advance of the troops further north,
10

who

146

The

First

Seven Divisions

had the bigger sweep to make, and General
Doran, the Brigadier, ordered the brigade to
entrench where
it

was, the R. Irish

Regiment

under Major Daniell being brought up from
reserve to
in
fill

the gaps
of

made the

previous day

the

ranks

the

4th Middlesex and

2nd

R. Scots.
Sir

Hubert Hamilton, the Divisional General,

shortly afterwards

came along on

foot to inspect
as

the trenches,
great

disregarding

warnings

to

the

danger he was running.

He

proceeded

on foot down the Richebourg Road, which was
swept by
Strutt,
shell fire, in company with Captain commanding the R. Scots, and was
shell,

almost immediately killed by a
Strutt

Captain

being at

the

same time rendered unA.D.C.,
Sir

conscious.

The

General's

Captain
Hubert's

Thorp, ran forward and knelt by
body, trying to screen
it

from the

shells

which

were now
Strutt
ness,

falling thickly

on the road.
recovered

Captain
consciousseverely

shortly

afterwards

but

was

almost

immediately

wounded by another
of the R.

shell,

and the command and over

Scots devolved on Lieut. Cazenove.

This battalion had

now
a

lost 15 officers

500
its

men

in the last three days' operations, but

casualties

were to

certain extent repaired

Manoeuvring Westward
by the timely
several officers
arrival of a draft of 180

147

men and
pushing
diffi-

from home.
3rd
Division

While

the

was

thus

slowly ahead in the face of great natural
culties,

the 5th Division was being heavily enLittle

gaged in the neighbourhood of Givenchy.

forward progress was either asked for or expected from this
division,

the canal south of
first,

Givenchy having been, from the
was
the

the selected
It

pivot of the proposed wheeling movement.
also a

matter of

common knowledge

that

Germans were
the

in far greater strength here

than they were further north, the original idea
of

wheeling

movement having

been,

in

fact,

entirely

based on the knowledge of the

gradually diminishing strength of the
forces as they stretched northwards.

German

The

first

regiment

to

take

a

conspicuous

part in the terrific fighting which for three weeks

raged round Givenchy was the Dorsets.

This

was on the 13th,
the

i.e.,

on the same day on which
to

made its advance Barbee and Pont de Hem.
8th

Brigade

Croix

It

was

a miserable day,

foggy and wet.

The

Dorsets were on the extreme right of our army,
in a line of trenches

on the low ground between

Givenchy and the

canal.

The

attack was pressed
10*

148

The

First Seven Divisions

with great vigour by the enemy, and the
Bedfords, on the
left of

1st

the Dorsets, were driven

out of the village of Givenchy.
of the Dorsets
fire

The

left flank

was

now exposed
was

to enfilading

from the ridge on which Givenchy stands,
their of

and

position

distinctly

precarious.
all

Some
into

the

left-hand

trenches

were

but

surrounded, the enemy having pressed forward
the

gap

at

Givenchy,
the
flank

and from thence
of

bearing

down on

the

Dorsets.

That

regiment,

however,

held

on

with

the
its

utmost tenacity and successfully defended
but the position was distinctly
felt to

position against repeated and most determined
attacks
;

critical,

and
sort

it

was

be

essential that orders of

some

should

be

received

from

Brigade

Head

Quarters.

The

telephonic communication had

unfortunately been cut and there was no means
of getting a message

through except by hand,
all

which, in the circumstances, seemed an
impossible undertaking.
of

but

A

private of the
to try,

name

Coombs, however, volunteered

and on

the outward voyage actually got through un-

touched, but on returning with the

necessary

orders he was shot clean through the chest, but

continued running for another 200 yards

till

he

had delivered

his message.

Manoeuvring Westward

149

The

orders

received

were that the Dorsets
they continued to do,

were to hold on, and

this

and with such good
hands up and

results that

about 10 a.m.

a

long line of Germans was seen advancing with
a

white

flag.

The

Dorsets

left

their trenches to accept this surrender

and were

instantly raked from end to end

by concealed
canal.

machine guns from beyond the machine guns had
the
Dorsets'

These
on
that

evidently
in

been

trained
of

position

anticipation

which actually happened, proving beyond any
question that the whole thing was one carefully

thought-out piece of treachery.
being got
fairly in line,
fire

The

Dorsets

and

fully

exposed to the

concentrated
literally
fell

of

several

machine guns,

in

hundreds.

Major Roper was
in

killed

and Col. Bols was shot through the back
the subse-

and actually taken prisoner, but

quent confusion he managed to crawl away and
rejoin

what was

left of his battalion.

The most
affair

unsatisfactory

part

of

the

whole

was,

that

if

the French Territorials on the south side
i.e.,

of the canal,

on the right of the Dorsets,
but

had been where they ought to have been, that
which happened never could have happened
instead of being
;

up

in line, for
a

some unexplained
mile behind.

reason they were a quarter of

i50

The
loss,

First

Seven Divisions

The
the
gallant

however, was limited
massacre
of

as

a loss

—to
the

treacherous

several
of

hundred
of
usual,

men, and the capture
guns.

two
as

supporting

The Gunners,

behaved with the utmost gallantry, but they
too

came under the same

enfilading fire as the

Dorsets and every

man
fell

of the

detachment except

Captain Boscawen

either killed or

wounded.
this,

Two

of the guns

were captured, but, with

the material

advantage gained by the enemy
for

began and ended,

the

1st

Cheshires were

brought up from reserve and, with their cooperation, the morning's line was re-occupied.

The
CO.,

Cheshires,

however,

themselves

suffered

considerably,
Col.

among

their casualties being their

Vandeleur,

who was

killed

while

leading the attack.*

On
under
fought

the 15 th,

as

though in fury
General

at

the

loss

of their gallant General, the 3rd Division,

now

the

command
a

of

Mackenzie,

with

dash and determination which

were

irresistible.

Their advance was continually

checked by the country dykes, but, in spite of
these

hampering

obstacles,

the

Germans were
Givenchy, was
into the hands

* Col. Vandeleur, while leading the Cheshires at
not killed as originally reported,

but was wounded,

fell

of the

Germans and

finally

escaped to England.

Manoeuvring Westward
everywhere driven back with heavy
loss.

151

The
in

4th Middlesex and the 2nd R. Scots again did
particularly

good work, and, further north,
the R.
Fusiliers

the

9th

Brigade,

and

the

Northumberland
activity with

Fusiliers

gained

high

praise

from the A.C. Commander
face of strong opposition.

for the vigour

and

which they pushed forward

in the

Conneau's cavalry,

filling

the eight-mile gap

between the two

Army

Corps, also

made good
left.

progress, as did the 3rd

A.C, on the

In

the case of the latter

Army Corps the 6th Division

succeeded in reaching Sailly without encountering serious opposition, while the 4th Division

got

as

far

as

Nieppe.

The 2nd A.C,
far

in
its

its

attempt to wheel, had so

advanced

left

flank three miles in the last four days at a cost of

90

officers

and 2,000 men.
heavy
losses

It had,

however,

inflicted very

on the enemy.
opposition

On
it

the 16th the 3rd Division continued the
little
till

wheeling movement with
reached
the
village

of

Aubers,

which was
it

found to be strongly held, and where
brought up
short.
as

was

So much for the present

regards the general

movement forward
fantry

of the four divisions of inof

working

south

Le

Gheir.

The

152

The

First Seven Divisions

attempt to drive the enemy back was destined to
prove abortive, but this was not generally recognized by October 17th, and the idea was
still

to

push our troops forward.
to

This general desire
itself

advance

soon

communicated

to
of
far
left

the
the

15th

Brigade,

on the extreme

right

British line at

Givenchy, which had so

been
was
the

looked upon as the pivot on which the
to sweep

round,

and on the morning
of the 16th the 1st

of

17th the brigade was ordered to push ahead.

During the night
in

Devons had
terrible

taken over the trenches just north of the canal

which the Dorsets had suffered such

casualties three days earlier.

The

1st

Bedfords

were on their

left,

and on their

right, of course,

were the French Territorials south of the

canal.

At 5 a.m. on the morning of the 17th a great bombardment was concentrated upon Givenchy, and the Germans were soon shelled out of that
place,

which had been

in their possession since the

13th.

A general advance
a

was thereupon ordered.

As

precaution against the calamity which

had overtaken the Dorsets, the Devons put one

company on the south side of the canal. This company was in touch with the French Terriso long as these latter kept up in line, torials

which,

as it

proved, was not for long.

The

ad-

Manoeuvring Westward
vance was made under considerable

153

difficulties,

as the country afforded no natural cover, and the

enemy was found
most
continued

to be in far greater force than

had been anticipated.

However,

in spite of
resistance,

a

and stubborn

the

Devons, in obedience to orders, succeeded in
advancing their position 1,000 yards, and held on
there
torials
left
till

dusk, waiting for the French Terri-

on their right and the regiment on their

to

come up
and

into
it

line.

These,

however,

failed to arrive,

soon became clear that for

the Devons to remain isolated at the point to

which they penetrated could only
capture of the entire battalion.

result in the

Their

retire-

ment, however, in
matter of extreme
quite
flat

the

circumstances,

was

a

difficulty,

the country being

and

entirely destitute of cover.

The
was

enemy were favoured by an
field

exceptionally clear
their attention

for

their

fire,

and

all

naturally focussed on the one battalion

which
and

had dared to push
sheltering
as

so far ahead.

The men were
in

best

they could

ditches

behind haystacks, of which there was fortunately
a fair sprinkling.

When

the order came to retire
shelter of the hedges
;

some crept away under
their chance in the open.

others had not even this cover, and had to take

154

The

First Seven Divisions

One detachment
They were
machine-gun
stack,

of

some

forty

men were

sheltering behind a large haystack in the open.

quickly located,
fire

and shrapnel and
hail

was concentrated on the hay-

which soon began to dwindle under the
Lieut. Worrall,

of missiles.

who was one

of the

party, thereupon set fire

to the haystack, and told

the

men

to

make

a bolt for it singly,

under cover

of the smoke.

This they successfully did, and
casualties

with few further

all

but Sergt. Harris

and another man, who were wounded and could
not

move.

The

haystack was

to blaze fiercely

and

it

now beginning was clear the men could
across the

not be

left.

Lieut.

Worrall picked up Sergt.

Harris and carried

him 400 yards

open
left

to the shelter of the canal bank,

where he

him.

Then he went back
making
a

for the other

man.

In the meanwhile the line further north was
still

certain progress.

At Lorgies

a

party of the

K.O.S.B.

Cyclists,

under Corpl.

Wheeler, rode right into the enemy outposts.

They promptly dismounted, and, opening fire, held the enemy for half an hour till the brigade
(the 13th) arrived on the scene and captured the
place.
Still

further

north
as

again

Gen.

Shaw

and

his

9th Brigade was

usual fairly active.

About 4 p.m. the R. Scots Fusiliers and the

Manoeuvring Westward
Northumberland
Fusiliers

155

attacked and carried

the village of Aubers with the bayonet, completely-

routing the occupying troops

;

and

a little later

the R. Fusiliers and Lincolns performed the same
office

by the

village of Herlies.
crest of the ridge

Aubers stand on the
faces

which

Neuve

Chapelle.

Herlies,

on the other hand,
was defended on

lies at

the foot of a long, gradual slope of open,

cultivated land.

The

village

the west side by a semi-circular line of trenches,

protected by barbed wire entanglements.
defenders had also
a

The

Horse Artillery Battery and

as

usual

a

great

number

of

machine guns

posted here and there in any suitable buildings.

The two

attacking battalions, on the other hand,
a

were supported by
of howitzers.

R.F.A. battery and

a section

These did admirable preliminary

work, and at dusk the two regiments

on

right,

R.

Fusiliers

on

left

—Lincolns —charged the

trenches, carried

them hot-handed and pursued the Germans into the village. Here further
great activity of our
tion

pursuit was unfortunately checked by the too

own

artillery,

but the posi-

won was occupied and held for six days. The Lincolns, who were the chief sufferers, lost seventy-five men and two officers during this

attack.

156

The

First

Seven Divisions

Further north, Conneau's cavalry added their
share to the day's
so

work by capturing Fromelles,
all

that

there

was an appreciable advance
still

round, which would have been greater

had

not the 7th Brigade, which was on the right of the
3rd Division, failed to take the village of
lilies.

The

position then at night on the 17th was that

the pivot point remained on the canal, south of

Givenchy.

From

that point the line of the 2nd

A.C. curved round behind La Bassee and through
Violaines, after

which

it

zig-zagged towards the

north-east in an irregular salient, the 3rd A.C.

being thrown back on

its left.

Such was
of the
1

still

the state of things on the morning the

8th,

when
Corps

Germans

—having

been

reinforced during the night by the XIII. Division
of

the

VII.

—made

counter-attacks

all

along the line of the 2nd A.C.
repulsed with

All these were
line
still

loss to the enemy, but our own made no advance, the stumbling-block being
lilies,

which continued to defy capture by the

7th Brigade.

At dusk the undefeated 9th Brigade stormed
and took the trenches one mile north-east
lilies,

of

but

as

they were unsupported on either
fall

flank,

they had to abandon the position and

back.

The

1st

R. Scots Fusiliers did particularly

Manoeuvring Westward
good work on
Brooke,
this occasion,

157

and suffered correLieuts.

spondingly, Captain Burt and

Cozens-

the

Hon.
In
the

J.

Doyle,

and

Fergussonofficers

Barton

being

killed,

and

six

other

wounded.
but

meanwhile

Conneau

had

advanced from Fromelles and attacked Fournes,
this attack failed.
district,

Meanwhile, in the Armentieres

the

3rd A.C. was making great efforts to play up to
its

allotted part in the

wheel to the south, the

4th Division

being

north of Armentieres, the
it.

6th Division south of

The

centre of interest

was

still

to the south of Armentieres, the con-

centration of

German
then,

troops north of that

town
For

being
the

still

only in process of development.

moment,

we can

neglect affairs further

north, and follow the attempted wheeling

moveits

ment

of the troops south of Armentieres to

furthest point east.

On

the afternoon of the 18th the 16th Brigade

captured Radinghem, the two battalions chiefly

concerned being the 2nd Lanes, and Yorks. and
the 1st Buffs.

These two

battalions,

who were
stormed

on the right

of the 6th Division, gallantly
village

and carried the

petuosity of success and

— the imenterprise — followed on
and then
in

beyond

after

the

retreating

Germans.

Here,

158
in

The

First

Seven Divisions
through
an impenetrable

pushing forward

wood, they suddenly found themselves swept

from

all sides

by concealed"*machine guns, which
on them.

literally
ties

rained bullets

The

casual-

here were very high, the Lanes, and Yorks.
losing

alone

n

officers

and 400 men.

Col.
dis-

Cobbold and Major

Bailey, however,

who

played the greatest coolness and courage throughout, succeeded in withdrawing the remains of the

battalion in

good order and getting
battalions,

it

back to

Radinghem.

The two
losses,

in

spite

of

their

heavy

retained possession of this village throughnight,

out

the

though
in

counter-attacked

—had the Germans force— things might have
as

gone badly with them,
ahead of the

they were two miles

rest of the division.

FROM ATTACK TO DEFENCE
["

T

A

now generally recognized that the wheeling movement originally contemplated
was

was an impossibility.

Between Armentieres and
and 6th Divisions, and and IX.

Givenchy the

3rd, 5th,

Conneau's cavalry, which Was acting with them,

had opposed to them the

II.,

IV., VII.

German Cavalry

Divisions, several battalions of
a

Jagers, the XIII. Division of the VII. A.C.,

brigade of the III. A.C., and the whole of the

XIV. A.C., which had
from
in front of the 21st

recently

moved north French Army. They
out-numbered, even

were therefore

sufficiently

at this period, to

put any idea of further advance
It

quite out of the question.
a

now became merely

matter of holding on to that which they had

got

if

possible.

The 2nd A.C.

front,

owing to the

irregularity

of the advance, was of a zig-zag character,

and on

the night of the 19th Sir Horace ordered a slight

retirement so

as

to straighten out the line.
this step

It

was quickly evidenced that
159

was not taken

160
a

The

First

Seven Divisions

moment

too soon, for on the following day the
in

Germans, confident
numbers, attacked
in re-capturing
all

the sufficiency of their
line,

along the

and succeeded
the whole of

Le

Pilly,

and with

it

the R. Irish Regiment.
a disaster,

This was something of

but luckily the attack was not equally

successful elsewhere.

The
this

1st Cheshires,

though

attacked with great vigour, held their ground

unshaken throughout
inflicted

day and the next, and

heavy

loss

on the enemy.

Two
up

platoons

of the R. Fusiliers,

who were
Pilly,

sent

to establish
Irish
flank,

communication between Herlies and the R.

Regiment
suffered

at

Le

were caught

in

owing to the capture
severely,

of the latter place,

and

Captain Carey, in command,

being

killed.

The 9th

Brigade, which had throughout these

operations been on the left of the 3rd Division,

was now temporarily transferred to the 3rd A.C.,

whose

line,

reaching

as it

did from

Radinghem

to

Le Gheir, was considered by the
too thin for safety.

C. in C. to be
of this brigade

The removal

had

the effect of

widening the gap between the
a further four or five miles,

2nd and 3rd A.C.'s by
and the

responsibilities of

Conneau's cavalry were
left of

correspondingly increased, the

the 2nd A.C.

now

stopping short at Riez, which was held by the

From Attack
ist

to Defence

161

Gordons.

The weakening
of one of
its its

of the

2nd A.C.
to

by the borrowing
capture of one of
in

brigades and the

battalions was

made up

it

some measure by the
of

arrival of

the Lahore
Watkis,

Division

Indians,

under

General

which took up
Chapelle.

a position in rear of it at

Neuve

With the
lent him,
cessful in

additional assistance

which had been

Gen. Pulteney was everywhere sucholding his ground.

At one moment
loss of this place

in the

day the enemy succeeded in getting pos-

session of

Le Gheir, but

as

the

would have
St.

laid bare the flank of the cavalry at
it

Yves, Gen. Hunter-Weston decided that
at

must be retaken
Fusiliers.

any

cost,

and the work was
handled

entrusted to the K.O. Regiment and the Lanes.

These two

battalions, finely

by Col. Butler,

of the Lanes. Fusiliers,,
call

proved

themselves quite equal to the

made upon

them, and not only re-captured the

lost trenches,

but took 200 prisoners and released 40 of our men who had been captured.

own

11

THE BIRTH OF THE YPRES
SALIENT
T

T

is

necessary

now

to turn for the

moment
a

!

to the scene further north,

where

mild

interest was beginning to be displayed in England

in the war-clouds

which were gathering round

the picturesque and historical Flemish town of
Ypres.
Sir
It will be remembered that, on the 14th, Henry Rawlinson, with the 7th Division and

the 3rd Cavalry Division, had reached Ypres from

Dixmude.

On

their first arrival, the 3rd Cavalry

Division had been sent south of Ypres, the 6th

C.B. going to Wytschate and the

7th C.B. to

Kemmel

;

but

as

the

Cavalry Corps under

General Allenby gradually drew up from the
direction of Bethune, the 6th and 7th C.B. (3rd

Cavalry Division) were withdrawn to the north
side
of

Ypres, where they worked the ground

between Zonnebeke and the Foret d'Houlthust,
filling,

in

fact

as

well as

might be

—the

gap

between the French Cavalry to the north and the
162

Railways Canals

shown thus.
n n

11

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

n
it

Roads

^===^=
Ypres and
its

Scale'
1

of English Miles
2 3

H

o

t

surroundings.

The Birth
left

of the Ypres Salient

163

of the 7th Division.
its

This latter division,
little

since

arrival,

had pushed forward with
a

or

no opposition to

convex position some

six

miles east of Ypres,
of
of

which embraced the

villages

Zonnebeke, Kruiseik and Zandvoorde.

South

Zandvoorde there was

a considerable hiatus,

Allenby's Cavalry Corps, which
tedly found
itself

had unexpec-

opposed by the XIX. Saxon

Corps and three divisions of German Cavalry,
having not yet got into proper touch with the
right
of the

7th Division.

This, however, in

view of the fact that the 7th Division was on the
outside
of

the wheeling movement, and

had

therefore the bigger sweep to make, was a matter
of
little

moment, and one which would have
itself

speedily righted
original plan

at a later stage,

had the

been successfully carried through.

A
at

matter of more

moment

at the

time was that

the 22nd Brigade, on the

left of

the 7th Division

Zonnebeke, was considerably in arrear of the 20th Brigade at Kruiseik, whereas the converse
Accordingly, in the

should have been the case.
early

22nd Brigade was ordered to advance from Zonnebeke in the direcso as to bring the left shoulder of the

morning

of the 19th, the

tion of the straight road connecting Roulers and

Menin,

7th Division well forward

When

this

had been
11*

164

The

First

Seven Divisions
21st Brigade were to
join

done, the 20th and

in the general advance.

The main
at the

idea on the extreme left of our line,
to seize the bridge over the

moment, was
of the

River Lys at Menin, and so impede the further

advance

German
it

reinforcements which

were being steadily railed up from the direction
of Lille.

In the event

turned out that the

manoeuvre
insufficiency

was
in

impracticable

owing

to

the
force
will

numbers
of

of

the

British
force,
it

operating

east

Ypres.

This

be understood, consisted, at the time, of the 7th Division
brigades on
alone,
its

supported by two cavalry
flank,

left

whereas the Germans
a

had

by the 19th concentrated on the spot
the intention

force of five or six times this magnitude.
ever,
in
lies

Howoriginal

the explanation of

the
idea

subsequent

Ypres

salient.

The
it

was strategically sound, but
to the difficulty

was frus-

trated owing

and consequent
from the Aisne
It

delay in concentration which accompanied the
transfer
of

the
field

British
of

force

to

its

new

operation in Flanders.

was

a race as to

which army could concentrate
the easier task and by far the

with the greatest rapidity, and the Germans

—having

by

far

shorter road to travel

—got

in

first.

The Birth
At
set
5 a.m.,

of the

Ypres Salient

165

then, on the 19th, the 22nd Brigade
its

out from Zonnebeke on

forward moveleft,

ment, the 2nd Queen's on the

the

1st

R. Welsh Fusiliers in the centre, and the 2nd

Warwicks on the
being in reserve.

right,

the

1st

S.

Staffords

This 22nd Brigade,

as it

turned out, was the

only one in the 7th Division which was destined
to do any fighting this day.

The 20th
really

Brigade,
of

which was
in

at

Kruiseik,

some couple

miles

advance of the 22nd, never

came into
t.he

action.

As

a

matter of

fact,

they were in

act

for an attack on Ghelowe when news was brought by an about airman that two fresh German Army Corps had suddenly made their appearance, moving up

of

deploying
a.m.,

11

from the direction of Courtrai.
to advance was cancelled,

As

far as

this

brigade was concerned, then, the original order
it

being clearly im-

practicable for one division to take the offensive
against four.

By

this time,

however, the 22nd
six

Brigade

had
the

advanced

some

miles

from

Zonnebeke
road

to the

neighbourhood of the straight
railway which connect

and

parallel

Roulers

and

Menin.

The news

of

the

un-

expected reinforcement of the enemy in front

was duly communicated to General Lawford,

166

The

First Seven Divisions

commanding

the

brigade,

and

he

at

once

ordered the retirement of his four battalions.

This order reached the Queen's and the Warwicks about 11.30, but did not penetrate through
to

the

R.

Welsh

Fusiliers,

who
of

accordingly

pressed
of

on towards Ledeghem, quite ignorant

the

new development,

or

the fact that

they were unsupported by the battalions
either flank.

on

Ledeghem was found

to be very

strongly

occupied,

and on reaching the high
found
not
only

road from Roulers to Menin, just short of the
railway,

the

battalion

itself

attacked in force from in front, but at the same

time enfiladed from the direction of the main
road on the
left,

and very heavily shelled from

Keselburg on the right front.
fire

To

this artillery

there was no response whatever from our

own
in

gunners, who,
of

it

is

to be presumed, were

ignorance

the single-handed advance of

the R. Welsh Fusiliers, and had withdrawn with
the rest of the brigade.

accordingly had

it

all

The German artillery its own way, and their
had already
fallen

shrapnel played havoc in the ranks of the gallant

Welshmen.
*

Nine

officers*

In

this

engagement Captain Kingston, Captain Lloyd, Captain

Brennan and Lieut. Chance were killed, and Major Gabbett, Captain St. John, Captain Skaife and Lieut?. Jones and Naylor were wounded.

The Birth
when
at

of the

Ypres Salient

167

1.20 the order to retire reached the

CO. The
windmill
at

order

now was
a

that

the battalion

was to withdraw to

ridge in rear, near the

Dadizeele,
rest

and

there

act

rear-

guard to the

of the brigade.

This order
loss,

was carried out without any great further
the

enemy showing no

disposition at the

moment

to advance, and eventually the brigade reached

Zonnebeke

in the dusk of the evening.

Throughout

that

night

a

constant

stream

of refugees passed

through Zonnebeke on their
Roulers, which was burn-

way westward from
ing.

These were

all

subjected

to examination,

but their number was too great to make close
examination possible, and that

many

spies

got

through among them
It

is

unquestionable.

very soon became apparent that the newly-

arrived

German

troops

had

no intention

of

letting the grass

grow under

their feet.

During

the night they had put behind
miles

which separate

them the six Ledeghem from Zonnemorning
the
of

beke, and at eleven o'clock on the

the

20th they started

bombarding the
elected

latter

place.

Once more
Fusiliers

fate

that

R.

Welsh

should

stand

in

the

path of
of the

the attack.

They were now on

the

left

22nd Brigade, and they were attacked not only

168

The

First

Seven Divisions

from the direction of the road, but from their
left

flank,

which was very much exposed, the
cavalrymen north of the road being
of

line of the

more extended than that Division. However, in spite of
even

the

7th

everything,

they held their ground with great determination

throughout
losses,

this

day

and

the

next.

Their

however, were again very severe indeed.
fact,

This was, in
battalions

the

first

of the 7th Division

to

undergo that gradual process of

annihilation

which was
of
at
all.

destined

in

time

to
of

be

the

fate

The extreme
in

tension

the situation
relieved

Zonnebeke was
arrival

some part

by the
the

on

the

scene, during

the

night, of

4th (Guards)

Brigade,

who

took over the ground north of the Zonnebeke

road
part
St.

from the cavalry.
of

This brigade

formed
at

the

1st

A.C. which

had

arrived

Omer from

the Aisne on the 17th and 18th,

and had been billeted outside Ypres on the
night of the 19th.

The
this
1st

question

as

to

how

best

to

dispose

of

A.C. was an extremely delicate one.

The

numerical weakness of the Cavalry Corps,
line,

holding the Wytschate and Messines
gested strongly that
use in that
area.
it

sug-

would be

of the greatest

On

the other hand was the

The Birth

of the

Ypres Salient
left flank

169
being

very grave danger of the Allies'

turned by the sudden advance of fresh
forces

German
sufficient

north
to

and

east

of

Ypres,

of

strength

break through the very thin line

guarding that quarter.
C. in

In

this

dilemma, the

C, with consummate judgment, decided to send Sir Douglas Haig's Army Corps to the northern side of Ypres. The wisdom of this
step

became apparent on the very next day,
is

that

on the day when the 22nd Brigade
back by the unexpected appearance of

advanced to the Roulers-Menin road, and were
forced

two Army Corps whose presence was unknown
to our air-scouts.
as

These

fresh

German

forces
as

we have
as

seen,

pursued the 22nd Brigade

far

Zonnebeke, and there attacked our
the

line

with

utmost

determination
first

on

the

20th

and

2 1 st.

On

the

of these

two

days, the

brigade, as already described,

managed

to hold

its

own man

—though
attacking

at

great sacrifice
force

—but
the

the Ger-

was

all

time
force,

being

augmented,

while

our

defensive

owing
;

to continuous losses, was getting weaker
it is

and

hardly conceivable that the enemy's advance

could have been checked for another twentyfour hours, except for the timely arrival of the
1st

A.C.

170

The
as

First

Seven Divisions

As soon

the destination of this corps had
Sir

been decided on between the C. in C. and

Douglas Haig, the
Guards'
Division,

latter

hurried forward the
assistance of the

Brigade to

the

7th

and these

as

has
line

already

been exof the

plained

came up into

on the

left

R. Welsh Fusiliers on the night of the 20th, and

were unquestionably very largely instrumental
in

preventing

something in
21st.

the

nature

of

a

debacle

on the
that

On
a

morning the enemy renewed the

attack in great force at daybreak, and kept
succession of violent assaults
till

up
in

four in the

afternoon.

The Welsh

Fusiliers

were again

the very path of the attack, but the presence
of the Guards'

Brigade on their

left,

north of

the Zonnebeke road, just

made the

difference.

With

this

backing,
till

they successfully held out

from daybreak
trenches

had

4 p.m., by which time their been wholly annihilated and a

retirement became necessary.

Their

difficulties

were increased by the giving out of their ammunition, but the situation was to some extent
saved

by

the

gallantry

of

Sergt. -Drummer

Chapman, who
a

brought up fresh supplies under
fire.

very

heavy

Another

Welsh

Fusilier

who won

great distinction during the day was

The Birth
Pte.
for

of the Ypres Salient

171

Blacktin,

who was awarded
heroism

the

D.C.M.
he

the

continued

with

which

attended to the wounded throughout the two
days'
fighting.

Of

these

there were now, unFusiliers

fortunately, only too

many, the Welsh

having

in

three successive days' fighting

lost

23 officers and 750 men.

Their retirement in

the evening was assisted by the 2nd Queen's,

who

(with

the

exception

of

one

company,

which was away to the

right,

supporting the

Northumberland Hussars between the 22nd and 2 1 st Brigade) were in the second line. This
battalion too suffered severely during the operations, Lieuts.

Ingram and Ive being
Lieuts.

killed,

and

Major
Williams
tively,

Whinfield,

Heath,

Haigh,
effec-

and

Gabb
By
a

wounded.
the

They

however,

checked

further

advance

of the

enemy.

a piece of

good fortune the
Fusiliers,

S. Staffords,

on the right of the Welsh
very bad time.

were

also

in
a

position to give the advancing

Germans
of

They had

a

body

expert shots posted in the upper windows
St.

of

Joseph's

school,

from which point of
being
shelled

vantage they were able to get the Germans in
flank.

The

school

was

all

the

time, but was not hit.
followed, however

During the night which
night of exceptional dark-

a

172

The

First

Seven Divisions
of

ness

—the

Germans found an opportunity
round the
without
left

pushing forward
S.

flank

of
in

the
dis-

Staffords,

but
till

succeeding

lodging them,
in

an order arrived at four o'clock
for

the

morning

their

retirement,

as

they

were ahead of the

line.

In the meanwhile the Guards' Brigade, north
of the road,

had not been

idle,

and

it

is

not

too

much

to say that, except for the arrival of

this brigade in the

very nick of time, the posi-

tion

would have been very nearly desperate.
was, however, their presence at once
felt.

As

it

made
from
left,

itself

The
the

fire

of

the

S.

Staffords

the

right,

Guards' Brigade from the
in face,

and the 2nd Queen's from
the

was more than
at
it

German advance was prepared
to push forward against,

the

ment
a

and

mocame to

standstill.

The Guards'
tL

casualties

were con-

siderable, especially in the case of the 3rd Cold-

stream,

who had
killed,

Hon. C. Monck and Lieut.
Colonel
Feilding,

Waller
Darrell

and
Lieut.

Lieut.

and
on

Leese

wounded.

Lord

Feilding was given the D.S.O. for conspicuous
gallantry
this

occasion.

The 52nd Oxford

Light Infantry, acting with the Guards' Brigade,

proved in every way worthy of the association,

and

fully lived

up

to

its

great fighting reputa-


The Birth
tion.

of the

Ypres Salient
particularly

173

Amongst
fight

those

who

dis-

tinguished themselves in this

regiment during

the

were Lieut. Spencer, Corpl. Hodges
be

and Pte. Hastings.
In the events of these three days
is

to

found the origin of the singular bulge, or
in military parlance

salient,

which throughout
disposition
of

October

characterized

the

our

forces east of Ypres.

ance to our front of

By the unexpected appear80,000 fresh German troops,
moment,
as

our

contemplated progress eastward had per-

force to be replaced, on the spur of the

by

a

grim determination to hold on
to the

long

as possible

ground we had already won.
a

This was, no doubt,
fruit

natural desire, but

its

was unsound.
the evening of October 21st the position
at Becelaere

On
20th

was that the 21st Brigade
at

and the
still

Kruiseik

and

Zandvoorde were

very considerably ahead of the 22nd, which, as

we have
beke.

seen,

had been driven back to Zonneof
still

North
fell

Zonnebeke the

line of the

1st

Division

further back, facing, in fact,

very nearly due north, while south of Zandvoorde
there was no line at
all,

the 7th Division here

ending in space, for reasons already given.

Later

on the 3rd Cavalry Division

when

released

from

174

The
duties

First

Seven Divisions

its

north of Zonnebeke

—were

detailed

for the

duty of keeping up the communication
far

between Zandvoorde and the Cavalry Corps
even
the line they occupied

back at Hollebeke, Wytschate and Messines, but
so,
fell

back almost

at right-angles

from our true

front,
a

and was

a

constant source of anxiety.
tarily to relinquish

For

General volunis

ground already won

probably

the supreme act of renunciation, at the same time
it
is

obvious that three sides of a square are

longer than the fourth side, and therefore require

more men

for their defence,

and

it is

no exaggeraand 26th

tion to say that between October 20th

the Ypres salient bore
three sides of a square.

a perilous

resemblance to

The
as far as

timely arrival of the

1st

A.C. had un-

doubtedly saved the situation for the moment,
the

German attempt

to break through at

Zonnebeke was concerned, but the position was
still

one

for the very gravest anxiety.

Even with
three

the addition of the 1st A.C.
infantry divisions and

we had only

two cavalry brigades with

which to defend the entire front from Bixschoote,
due north of Ypres, to Hollebeke, nearly due
south of
the crow
it.

From
is

Bixschoote to Hollebeke,

as

flies,

a

matter of some eight miles,

but, as our front at that time jutted out as far

The Birth

of the Ypres Salient

175

Ypres, it may be reckoned that the frontage to be defended was not less than sixteen miles in length. The strength of the enemy that is to say, of the

as Becelaere, six miles east of

force
at

which was immediately pressing forward this moment on the Ypres frontage may be

approximately reckoned at 100,000; and had the German General at this juncture pushed
his forces
it
is

along

all

the main avenues to Ypres,

difficult

to see

how he
indeed

could have been

held back.

The

line of defence

was ridiculously

extended— extended
recognized
there
to
limits

far

beyond

the

of

effective

resistance,

and

were no reserves
any

available

with which
spot.

strengthen

threatened

Every
swept

fighting

man was

in the long, thin line that

round

in

that uncomfortable curve from Bix-

schoote to Hollebeke.
torial Division was, it
is

The 89th French
division was

Terri-

true, in general reserve,

at Poperinghe,

but

this

composed

who could in no sense claim to be comparable to the French regulars. The 87th French Territorial Division, again, had
could do to attend to its own affairs north of Ypres, and was not to be counted on as a source of reinforcement.
as it

entirely of untried troops

as

much

From

this

time on, the whole of our line north

176

The

First

Seven Divisions

of the

Zonnebeke road was gradually taken over
ist

by the
far

A.C., the 6th and 7th C.B.,

who had

so

been responsible for that section of the front,

being thereby released and retiring to Hooge,

from which point,
as a

for the

time being, they acted

kind of mobile reserve
of roads

—the

fan-like arrange-

ment

which branches out eastward from
least

Ypres enabling them to be sent with the
possible delay to any threatened
front.

point

on the

For purposes

of descriptive clearness, it

may
more

perhaps be pardonable, even at the risk of labouring the point a
to
little,

to call attention once

the fact that the British force in Flanders
consisted of

now

two

distinct

and separate armies,

which we may call the North and South Army. The South Army was made up of the 2nd A.C.,
the 3rd A.C., and the 19th Brigade, and was

supported by Conneau's cavalry, which operated

between
extended

these

two Army Corps, and by the
in rear.

Lahore Indians
as far

The

line of this

army
the

north

as

Le Gheir,

or, rather, let
left of

us say, Ploegsteert, to

which place the

3rd A.C. shortly withdrew.

The North Army
Division,

consisted of the ist A.C.

and

the 7th Division, supported by the 3rd Cavalry

and

the

southernmost

point

in

its

.

The Birth
charge at the

of the

Ypres Salient

177

moment was

Hollebeke, or, to be
off

more

precise, the canal

which turns

sharply
eight

towards Ypres just north of Hollebeke.

The

miles gap between the North Army and the South Army was held by the Cavalry Corps under Allenby The terrific fighting, then, of the end of October and beginning of November may be

considered
sections,

as

taking

place

in

three

distinct

viz.

—the

South Army,

the

Cavalry
latter,
it

Corps,

and the North Army.

The

may be
87th

added, had the 89th French Territorial

Division in support, and Gen. Bidon, with the

French Territorial Division, on
fact that the 1st

its

left,

north of Ypres.

The
scene

A.C. had arrived on the

absolutely

at

the psychological

moment

in order to avert disaster,
clear,

was made abundantly

not only by the effective support which

the 2nd Division of that

Army

Corps was able to

lend north of the Zonnebeke road on the 21st,

but

also

by the immediate demand which arose
These two Cavalry Brigades,

further south for the services of the released 3rd

Cavalry Division.
it

will

be remembered, had been replaced on the
20th by the 2nd Division,
their position north of the

night of the

who

had taken over
beke road.

Zonne12


178

The
I

First

Seven Divisions
at

At

p.m. on the following day, that
Fusiliers

is,

the
so

same time that the Welsh
fiercely attacked along the

were being

Zonnebeke road, news

arrived that Gough's

2nd Cavalry Division was
This
gap, or

being very hard pressed, and had been forced
to
fall

back on Messines.

left a

to be

more accurate

—widened
fill it,

the gap on the

right of the 7th Division at Zandvoorde,

and the might

6th C.B. (10th Hussars, Royals, and 3rd Dragoon

Guards) were sent
be,

off to

as

well as

by occupying the two canal

crossings north

of Hollebeke.

This they did with success, and

the 10th Hussars and 4th Hussars (from the 3rd
C.B.) even attacked the Chateau de Hollebeke
itself,
its

but were unable to take
still

it,

on account
was

of

being

under

fire

from our own
it

artillery.
felt

Later on in the evening, however,

that

the line south-west of Zandvoorde was dangerously open, and the 6th C.B. was shifted in that
direction, the 10th Hussars at 3

o'clock in the

morning taking over the Zandvoorde trenches
from the 2nd Scots Guards in the 20th Brigade.

The
it

7th C.B. went into reserve at
for

St. Eloi,

where

remained

the night.

In the meanwhile

the C. in C. had sent up the 7th Indian Brigade
to help support

Gough.

This transfer of the Zandvoorde trenches into

The Birth

of the

Ypres Salient

179

the keeping of the 3rd Cavalry Division was the
first

abridgement

of the

immense frontage (from
time on,
the

Zonnebeke

to south of

Zandvoorde) held by the
till

7th Division.

From

this

moment
it

when they were permanently abandoned,

will

be found that these Zandvoorde trenches were in
the occupation either of the 6th C.B. or the 7th

C.B.
in the
a

They formed
whole

the most dangerous position

line of defence, being in the

form of

promontory which jutted out defiantly into the
country.

enemy's

The

3rd
its

Cavalry

Division

suffered very severely during

nine days' defence

of these deadly trenches, the 10th Hussars,

who

were perhaps the worst
very
first

sufferers, losing

on the

day of occupation Col. Barnes, Major

Mitford and Captain Stewart

.12*

THE STAND OF THE FIFTH DIVISION*
T

N

the

meanwhile,

further

south,

at

and

*

around Givenchy,

a situation

was develop-

ing which in point of dramatic interest, and as
a test of

indomitable resolution, bid

fair

to rival

From Givenchy to the defence of Ypres. Le Gheir the 2nd and 3rd A.C. had now definitely assumed the defensive, and the story of how that
defence was maintained in the face of overwhelming odds, and under conditions of extreme
culty and fatigue,
is

diffi-

one of which Britain may
was, throughout these

ever be justly proud.

The
La

2 1 st

French

Army
of

Bassee operations, responsible for the ground

up to the canal south
point the
5 th

Givenchy.

From
;

that

Division took up the line

then

came the 3rd
with
its left

Division, then the 6th, and finally,

resting

on Le Gheir, the 4th Division.
3rd
Divisions

Behind
Indians.

the 5th and

were the

Between Le Gheir and Zandvoorde, which we
*

13th, 14th

and 15th Brigades.

180

The Stand
may

of the Fifth Division

181

take as the southernmost point of the

arm

of Ypres, was Allenby's Cavalry Corps.

In the case of the South Army,

as

with the
advance

Army

of Ypres, the impetus of the
a line

first

had carried our troops to
face of the masses of troops

which was only

afterwards maintained under great strain, in the

which the enemy were

gradually concentrating in this particular area.

La

Bassee and Ypres became, for the time being,

the two points on which
specially

German

attention was

riveted.

With the avowed

intention

of breaking

through to Calais by one or other of
troops

these
railed

routes,

were being systematically
east

up from the
It

and massed along the
officially

Belgian frontier.

was

computed that

by October 20th there were 250,000
troops

German

north of La

Bassee,

and that by the

middle of November that number had been
increased to 750,000.

The
its

fact that

it

was the British

stood between this vast mass of armed
projected advance was in
a
all

Army which men and

probability not
If

entirely

matter of chance.

the attempt

to break through either at Ypres or

had succeeded, the
either have been

little

British

La Bassee force would
dis-

wiped out, or hopelessly
its

graced in the eyes of

allies.

In either case

182

The

First Seven Divisions

the prestige of England would have received a

rude shock
at
Calais,

;

and, with a

German

base established
in

she

would have been

imminent

danger of losing something more than prestige.

The

fact, then, that

the Kaiser's selected road

to Calais or Paris, as the case might be, lay through

the thirty miles of front held by the British
troops, was in
all

probability part of a carefully-

thought-out

plan.

One

factor

in

the
least

case,

however, had been overlooked, or at
rated,
viz.

underof

—the

indomitable

tenacity

the
this
as

British soldier in the face of difficulties.
essentially

Of

British quality the

Germans had

yet had no practical experience.

At Mons and
before their

Le Cateau we had dropped back
onslaughts
to orders,
plan.

—dropped back,
and
in

it is

true, in obedience
a

conformity with

pre-arranged

Still,

we had dropped
enemy

back.

At

the

Aisne there had been no serious attempt on the
part of the
to break through our lines.
of the

Such had not been part
at

German programme

the

moment.

It

was therefore not wholly

unnatural, that the very thin British line between

Givenchy and Ypres, should have been reckoned
at
at

German Head
any point where

Quarters

as

being penetrable

sufficient pressure

was brought

to bear.

The Stand

of the Fifth Division

183

In the face of beliefs such
wall resistance put

as these,

the stone-

up by our three war-worn
a source of

Army Corps must have been
astonishment
pullers
in

equal
wire-

and

exasperation

to

the
it

Berlin.

To

the

Britisher

must

always bring a thrill of justifiable pride.
of

Many

the regiments engaged were technically " annihilated." their Their officers went ;
senior N.C.O.'s
last stage of

went

;

they were worn to the

mental and physical exhaustion by

sleeplessness,

and by unceasing digging and

fight-

ing.

they held on. There were no " hands uppers " among these men from Britain.
still

And

We

gave ground,

of

course,

both in the La

Bassee area and at Ypres.

In the latter case a

withdrawal of some kind was dictated by every
consideration of military prudence.

The
It

original

bulge was a danger from every point of view, and

with no compensating advantage.
line

thinned our

and

laid us

open

at all times to the risk of

enfilading attacks

from north and south.

At La

Bassee, too,

we had
a

got too far ahead,
of

and from the military point
nothing by
falling

view we

lost

back

few miles.

But from

the three points in the line of vital strategical

importance, Givenchy,
Zillebeke,

Ploegsteert
driven.

and

Klein

we were never

Those points


184

The

First Seven Divisions

were held on to with

a

stubborn determination
;

which nothing could break through
battalions of this
at

and to the

on whose shoulders
is
is

fell

the main weight
of
all

burden
It

due the homage
standard

who

stayed

home.
entirely

not suggested that there was
of

an

uniform
all

excellence

throughout
to

the units engaged.
a representation

Any attempt
a gross

make such
to

would be

injustice

those battalions which stand out,
for ever

and which have

immortalized themselves,

and the honour of British arms, by an indomitable
resistance

which can find few

parallels

in

the

history of war.

But
as

at first

we

got too far ahead at La Bassee

at

Ypres, and this soon became very clear.
a thick fog

During
some
trenches
retake

on the morning of the

21st,

of the 5 th Division
;

were driven out of their

and

in lieu of
so

making any attempt to
lost,

the

trenches

Gen. Morland
promotion had

who on

Sir Charles Fergusson's

taken over

command

of the division

—thought

it

advisable to readjust the entire line.

Further north, just east of Fromelles, the 19th
Brigade had also to give ground.
all

They fought
in spite

through

this

day with great gallantry, but
of
all

their losses
efforts,

were very heavy, and,

by evening they had been forced back


The Stand
over a mile.

of the Fifth Division

185

The

Argyll and Sutherland High-

landers were specially conspicuous on this occasion
it
;

they fought with indomitable valour, and

was only with the greatest reluctance that in

the end they obeyed the order to abandon their
trenches.
cent,

In Sergt.

Ross's

platoon eighty per
gallant

had been
still

killed or

wounded, but the

sergeant

refused to give way.

This succession of small reverses was, of course,
disappointing in view of the anticipations of the

week before, but they brought home to
cerned
outlook.
a

all

con-

thorough realization of the change of
This was
still

further emphasized by
a step

the shifting northwards of the 3rd A.C.,

which was rendered necessary by the obvious
inadequacy of the Cavalry Corps numbers for
the frontage allotted to
it.

By

this

move

that

frontage was appreciably shortened, but the gap

between the 2nd and 3rd A.C. was correspondingly widened, and the difficulty of Conneau's
gallant but highly tried corps of cavalry was pro-

portionately

increased.
at

The
felt,

effect

on

the

Frenchmen was
very heavy
loss.

once

these being driven

out of Fromelles on the following afternoon with

On

the same afternoon the 5th

Division again suffered severely.

The

Cheshires

were driven out of Violaines, and the Dorsets

186

The

First

Seven Divisions

terribly thinned

though they had been by the

fighting of the 13th
left

—seeing

them hard

pressed,

their

trenches and dashed up in support,

but the odds were too heavy and both were
driven back with
loss.

The Germans thereupon
a little village

occupied Rue du Marais,

on the

northern slope of the Givenchy ridge, but their

advantage was short-lived, for they were promptly
counter-attacked by the Manchesters and
cesters

Worbeen

and driven out
the

again.

In

meanwhile

the

Devons

had

forced to

fall

back some two miles from Canteleux,
for three days, to

which they had now occupied
into an untenable salient

Givenchy, the former place having been formed

by the withdrawal

of

the troops on either flank.

In

the

evening

General

Morland told

Sir

Horace that the

5 th Division

was completely

worn out with constant digging and fighting, and that he doubted whether they could withThe 2nd A.C. had stand another attack.
already in
to

the

last

ten

days

lost

5,000

men,
from

which the 5th Division had contributed more
its

than
first

share.
last

This division had, in
a

fact,

to

had

most trying time.
at

It

had

borne the brunt of the fighting

Le Cateau,

and

at the Aisne it

had struck what proved to

The Stand of the Fifth Division
be by far the most
difficult

187
had

crossing.

It

subsequently throughout the Aisne fighting been
forced to occupy trenches in the low ground

by the

river,

which were throughout dominated
artillery

by the German
trenches,

on the heights beyond.
of

Then, within one week
they

leaving

the Aisne
in

were

once

more

engaged

ceaseless battling

day and night against superior
this

numbers, for on the several battalions of
division in of holding the

turn devolved the paramount duty

Givenchy position
Sir

at all costs.

That night
to the C. in

Horace motored twenty-five

miles over to St.

Omer to explain the situation C, who was most sympathetic and
all

promised that he would send

that he could

spare of the Lahore Indians to be at Estaires at
eight o'clock next morning, with a rider to the
effect that

they were not to be used except in
as

emergency,
work.
the
5 th

they

were

destined

for

other

As

a

matter of fact they were not used,

Division proving equal to the occasion

without foreign assistance.

Throughout the 23rd, 24th and 25th the Germans continued to attack Givenchy with
the utmost persistence, but without succeeding
in

dislodging the

Devons.

That

gallant

regiin

ment, however, was

becoming

very

weak

188

The

First Seven Divisions

officers.

During

their three days at Canteleux,

Captain

Chichester

and

Lieut.

Ridgers

had

been

killed,

and Col. Gloster and Lieut. Tillett

wounded.
was
killed,

Then on

the

24th,

Lieut.

Ainslie

and on the following day Captain
the

Besley and Lieut. Quick were killed, the latter

while

running
that the

to

next

regiment

to

tell

them
that

Devons meant holding on and

they

must do the same.
the

On
at

the

20th

they

relieved
latter

Manchesters
its

Festubert.

The

regiment, during

occupation of
position

Festubert,

had held

its

difficult

with

magnificent

determination

and had won

two

Victoria Crosses,

2nd Lieut. Leach and

Sergt.

Hogan being each awarded

the Cross for valour.

On
a

the following day, the whole line in the

neighbourhood of Festubert was subjected to
particularly
infernal
shelling,

every
it.

known

species of missile being hurled against

The

Devons stood firm through

it

all,

but the regi-

ment on
first

their left

—an

Indian regiment for the

time in the firing-line

—found
lost

it

too

much
at

for

them, and after having
they
retired,

most

of their

officers

their

trenches

being

once occupied by the enemy.
position of the
as
little

This made the
precarious.

Devons very
as

delay

possible the reserve

With company

The Stand

of the Fifth Division

189

of the regiment under Lieut.

Hancock and Lieut.

Dunsterville was
gallantry the

brought up, and with great

company attacked and drove the
of the

Germans out
lost

right-hand section of the

trenches, the 58th

Vaughan

Rifles

at

the

same time retaking the left-hand
Lieut.
killed

section. Both Hancock and Lieut. Dunsterville were during the charge, and Lieut. Ditmas

thereupon took over
but he himself was

command

of the

company,
after

subsequently

killed,

displaying conspicuous gallantry.
as a part of

On

the 31st,

the general process of transfer, the
at

Devons were
days
of

length relieved,

after

sixteen

almost

continuous

fighting.

They

received a great ovation from the other troops

on their withdrawal.
given
the

Lieut. -Col.

Gloster was

C.M.G.

and

Lieut.

Worrall

the

Military Cross.

Other

officers

who showed

con-

spicuous ability and
Prior

daring were Lieuts. Lang,
Sergt. -Major

and

Alexander.

Webb,
of re-

who on
as

several occasions

had given proof

markable courage and coolness, got the D.C.M.,
also

did

Lance-Corpl.

Simmons and
messages

Pte.

Worsfold, the latter of
himself

whom greatly distinguished
numerous
at

by

carrying

Festubert after the telegraphic communication

was cut.

190

The
have

First

Seven Divisions
however,
got
considerably

We

now,

ahead of the general situation, from which
digressed
in

we

on October
with
the

22nd
position

in

order to keep

touch

at

and around

Givenchy.

We

must therefore once more take

up the thread at that date.

During the 23rd, 24th and 25th there was
no

movement
still

of

marked importance

in
all

the

southern area, but continuous attacks
the line
further reduced the

along

number and

vitality of the 5 th Division,

and by the evening

of the 25th
all

it

was rapidly becoming evident to

concerned that the condition of that division,
of the entire

and indeed
less

2nd A.C.

in greater or

degree,

was

extremely

serious.
its

The
arrival

casualties

of this

Army

Corps since

in Flanders

now amounted

to 350 officers

and

8,204 men, and those that survived were in a state of extreme exhaustion both mental and
physical.
Sir

Horace summoned General Maude, Col.

Martyn (who had taken over the command of the 13 th Brigade when Col. Hickie had been invalided home on October 13th), and Count
Gleichen, the three Brigadiers of the 5th Division, to

meet General Morland, and

all

agreed

that the situation was very grave indeed, and


The Stand
that

of the Fifth Division

191

human endurance was nearly at the breaking point. General Maude (14th Brigade), however,
reported that Col. Ballard was determined to

hold the canal trenches with the Norfolks to
the
last

gasp,
at

and that the Devons next the
equally
resolute,
All,
spirit

Norfolks

Givenchy were
thinned

though
might
were
strain,

terribly

by

casualties.

however, agreed that however willing the
be, the flesh

was too weak to make any

prolonged resistance.
well-nigh

The
out
of

Generals themselves

worn

with
sleep,

the

ceaseless

and with want

their

nights

being largely occupied in motoring hither and
thither for purposes of consultation with other

commanders.
night

Two

or

three hours' sleep

in

a

was

a

luxury.

Luckily the

Germans

accurate as their information usually was

—seem

to have failed to realize the extreme exhaustion
of the troops facing

them

at this part of the line,

otherwise the history of events might have been
different.

NEUVE CHAPELLE
r
I

A

HE

3rd Division had perhaps,
far less

if

anything,

*

been so

highly tried in the

way

of

ceaseless

fighting

against

odds

than

the

5th

Division, but any deficiency in this respect was
fully

made up

to

them by the

fighting at

Neuve

Chapelle on the 25 th, 26th and 27th.

This very costly three days' fighting opened

on the night

of the 25th, during a

heavy down-

pour of rain which succeeded a beautiful day, by a furious attack, from the neighbourhood of
the Bois de Biez, on the
left of

the 7th Brigade

and the right

of the 8th Brigade.
a

This wood,

which played
of

prominent part in these three
Chapelle, in the centre of the

days' fighting, lies about half a mile to the southeast

Neuve

equilateral

triangle
lilies.

formed

by

that

place,

Aubers and
of

The Germans advanced out
great courage and with every

the wood with

appearance of meaning business,
Brigade and the 15 th Sikhs,

but the 7th
taken over

who had

from Conneau's cavalry the day before, managed
192

Neuve Chapelle
to stand their ground,

193
end drove the

and

in the
loss,

enemy back with very heavy
selves suffering severely, the

though them-

Sikhs,

who

fought

superbly, alone losing 200 in officers and men.

The
R. Irish

8th Brigade was not so fortunate, the
Rifles,

who were

the right hand battalion,

being driven out of their trenches, which lay

north of the La Bassee road on the east side of
the village.
critical,

The

situation for the

moment was

but the

lost trenches

were very gallantly

retaken by the 4th Middlesex, led by Col. Hull,

and the 4th R.
suffered

Fusiliers.

The

latter battalion

considerably in the operation, Lieuts.
killed.
left.

Hope-Johnstone and Waller being
battalion

This

had now only 200 men
the
to

The

whole

of

9th Brigade, in

fact,

had been
brigade
it.*

reduced
(Shaw's)

mere
a

skeletons.

This

had

magnificent

record behind
it

From

the time when, at Mons,

had borne

the brunt of the

German
it

attack and put
it

up

such a magnificent defence,
in

had never
called

failed

any task for which
it
is

had been

upon

;

and
tion

possible that

its

great fighting reputait

and the cheerfulness with which
any duty assigned
it,

under-

took

coupled with the
Northumberland
Fusiliers

* 4th R. Fusiliers, ist R. Scots Fusiliers,

and the Lincolnshire Regiment,

13

a

194

The

First Seven Divisions

undoubted
had earned
of
difficult

military

talents

of

its

Brigadier,

for it rather

more than

its fair

share

and dangerous work.
it

During the

past fortnight

had fought with great gallantry
success,

and with invariable
short period
it

and during that and 1,400 men.

had

lost

54

officers

On
the

the following day the attack was renewed,

Germans suddenly swarming once again
were again driven
in, their

out of the Bois de Biez opposite, and the R.
Irish Rifles

trenches

being at once occupied by the enemy,
of

many

whom

entered the town and remained there

throughout the day.

The 7th
wedged
in

Brigade on the right and the 9th
left

Brigade on the

between them.

now had the Germans The Northumberland
on the right
condition
of

Fusiliers (the old Fighting Fifth)

the 9th Brigade,
tenable
in

now found

the position unto

the

weak numerical

which they had been reduced, and they were
compelled to withdraw to the western side of
the town.

During
extinguish

this

withdrawal, which was

carried out in excellent order, Corpl. Fisk found

time

to

some

flames

which
heavy

were

enveloping the limber of one of our guns
gallant
for


fire

act

performed

under

very

which he was given the D.C.M.

Neuve Chapelle

195

On
were

the

night

of

the

26th the position at

Neuve Chapelle was
in

a curious one.

The enemy

possession

of

all

the trenches on the

north-east side of the town, but on the southeast side the Wiltshire

Regiment, the R. West

Kents,

the

K.O.Y.L.I.

and the East

Surrey

were

still

holding their ground, in advance of

the town.

The

rest

of the 3rd Division

were

thrown back behind the town.

About
attack

11 a.m.

on the 27th the usual morning
was now, of course, quite unin great

was made on the Wiltshire Regiment,
left flank

whose

protected, and by noon they too had been forced to retire, the

Germans

numbers followposition of the

ing closely on their heels.

The

West Kents was now most precarious, as they had the enemy on three sides of them, and
R.

seemed inevitable that they must follow the example of the several regiments on their left,
it

who had been
Such,

successively forced to give way.

however, was

not

their

opinion,

and,
of

undismayed
their

by

the

apparent

hopelessness

position,
a

they promptly set

about pre-

paring

defence which proved to be one of

the most remarkable of the campaign.
Buckle,

who was

Wiltshires forced

Major command, on seeing the back, at once made his way
in

13*

196

The

First

Seven Divisions

to the left of his battalion in order to reorganize

the formation so
ditions,

as

to

meet the altered conkilled,

but he was almost immediately
killed

Captain Legard being

at

the same time

and Lieuts. Williams and Holloway wounded.
All the

company

officers

on the

left flank

were

now down, but
and

the

new movement was
Crossley,

carried

out under the direction of Sergt. -Major Penny
Sergt. -Major

the

reserve
left

comof the

pany wheeling to
firing-line

its

left,
its

while the

threw back

flank, so as to present

a

convex face to the position now occupied by
All this was carried out under a

the enemy.

murderous
held on
of the
success.
till

fire.

In this formation the battalion

the evening,

when our

troops in rear

town counter-attacked with momentary
This success was mainly brought about

by the 47th Sikhs and the 9th Bhopal Regiment,

who made
direction

a fine dash into the

town from the
the
first-named

of

Croix

Barbee,

regiment showing great courage, but they both
suffered

heavy

losses

from
in

the

ubiquitous

German machine guns

the houses.

At the
side.

same time three groups of the French Cyclist
Corps made an attack from the Pont Logis

The impetus
the

of these
for

combined
the

attacks

drove

Germans back

time

being,

and

Neuve Chapelle

197

indeed for the whole of that night, but their
concealed machine guns continued to play havoc
in the ranks of the assailants,

and

in the early

morning
to
fall

of

the 28th the attacking force had

back, the

Germans once more re-occupying
West Kents was now and once more half
its left

the town.

The
as

position of the R.
as

bad again

ever,

the battalion had to face about to

flank

and

rear.

The
its toll

execution

of

this

movement
and
Lieut.

again took

of officers, Captain Battersby

and

Lieut.

Gore

being

killed,

Moulton-Barratt wounded.

The
the

battalion

had

now

lost

twelve
it

out

of

fourteen

officers

with which

had gone into these trenches, 2nd Lieut. White and 2nd Lieut. Russell alone
left,

being

and on these two
position

it

now

devolved

to maintain the spirit of the corps.

The

re-

markable

had by

this

time developed

that practically the whole of

Neuve Chapelle
corner

was in the hands of the enemy, with the exception
of

the

little

south-east
still

by

the

La

Bassee road, which was

stubbornly held

by the undefeated R. West Kents.
other side of the

On
in

the
the

La Bassee

road,

and

angle which that road makes with the Riche-

bourg road, the K.O.Y.L.I. were

still

standing

198

The

First

Seven Divisions
Surrey beyond them, but
so

firm with the East
these
last

two regiments were not

hardly

pressed,

the main attack being always on the

eastern side of the

main La Bassee road.
a

We
of

must now take

glance at the

Neuve
27th

Chapelle position from the larger military point
view.
failed

The
of

counter-attacks

on

the

had

mainly owing to the exhaustion and
the
troops

insufficiency
place,

employed.

The

however, being of considerable strategic
us),
it

importance (to

the Divisional

Head Quarters
the hands

determined that
of the
scale

could not be
a

left in

enemy, and an attack on

more important
at

was therefore organized for the following
Sir

day.

Horace motored

across

night and

saw General Conneau, who told him that in
addition to the six hundred Chasseurs already in

the

line,

he could lend him

a

regiment of

dis-

mounted

cavalry and nine batteries of artillery.

The

C. in C. also sent

Col. Mullens, of

him the 2nd C.B. under which the 4th Dragoon Guards
Hussars

arrived

on the evening of the 27th, the 9th
and
the

Lancers
part
of

18th
night.

during

the

early

The whole were
of

placed

under the

command

General McCracken of
the details of the

the 7th Brigade, to

whom

attack on the following day were^entrusted.

Neuve Chapelle
At
to
8 a.m.

199

on the 28th, some two hours
proceedings

after

the Indians and French cyclists had been forced
retire,

were

started

with

a

general
a

bombardment
still

of the village.

This was

matter of some

little

delicacy on account of

the position

held by the R. West Kents
difficulty

and K.O.Y.L.I., and the
lighter

was not made

by the fog which lay thick on the plain
morning.
In the
cir-

in the early hours of the

cumstances the accuracy of the French

artillery

was remarkable.

The north

side of the village

Was given a great bombardment, and at eleven
o'clock the sun

came through, the fog

cleared,
artillery

and the infantry attack began.

The

had now played
assault,

its

part,

but, to assist in the

one gun of the 41st Battery was pushed
to

forward

the

junction
roads.

of

the

Armentieres
point
of

and

La
it

Bassee

From

this

vantage

was able to work considerable exe-

cution on the
north-east
inevitable

German
of

infantry massed in the
village,
itself

corner

the

but,

as

an
out

consequence,* was

singled

for special attention

on the part of the enemy.

At the same
general,
its

time, as the attack

became more
Lowell,

sphere of usefulness became greatly

circumscribed,

and

finally

Lieut.

who

was in command, resolved to make an attempt

200

The

First Seven Divisions

to report the position to his to

CO.

with

a

view
this,

getting
it

further

instructions.

To

do

however,

was necessary to leave
a

his

shelter

and negotiate
road.
his

hundred yards

of bullet-swept

He

was hit almost
a

at once,

but kept on

way
the

till

second bullet brought him

down

in

road.

A
at

gunner

of the

name

of Spicer

thereupon ran out to get him under cover, but

was himself
quently

once knocked over, and subse-

died.

Bomb.

Bloomfield
officer

then

went

out to the assistance of his

and comrade,

and was fortunate enough to get them both
under cover without himself being wounded.
In
the

meanwhile, the infantry attack was

gallantly pressed

home, the 47th Sikhs and the
foot)

2nd
street

C.B.

(on

fighting

splendidly
all,

from

to street.

In spite of
failed,

however, the
5

attack

once more
still

and

at

p.m.

the

Germans were

in possession of the village,
still

always excepting the one small corner

held

by the R. West Kents and K.O.Y.L.I.

The

anticlimax

of

the whole

thing,

and

a

cause for reflection as to the objects for which

modern armies
by the
fact

fight

one another,

is

furnished

that in the evening the

Germans

quietly vacated the town,

apparently realizing

after

the sacrifice of some 5,000

men

— that

Neuve Chapelle

201

the position was either untenable, or was not

worth the
last

cost

of keeping.

day's

fighting

officers

and

1,466

Our losses alone amounted men. The heroes

in

the

to
of

65
the

three days' fighting were of course the R.

West

who immortalized themselves by a performance which in many ways must be unique. The two surviving officers, 2nd Lieuts.
Kents,

White
some
of

and

Russell,

were

each

awarded

the

D.S.O., and were, in addition, the subjects of
particularly flattering remarks

on the part

Sir

Horace.
to

The two
Stroud

Sergt. -Majors above
as

referred
also

were each given the D.C.M.,

was

Sergt.

and Pte. Alison.
having

At
over

2

a.m.

on the 29th, the battalion was
by
the
Seaforths,
lost

finally

relieved

Neuve Chapelle trenches. This affair of Neuve Chapelle marks the close of the 2nd A.C. operations in the La Bassee
300
in the
district.

men

On

the 31st the British troops began

to be formally relieved
his

by General Willcocks and

Indians.

This corps had
the
arrival

now been
the

aug-

mented
Brigade,

by
to

of

Ferozapore

be

followed

almost

immediately

by the Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade and the
Jodhpur Lancers.

By

10

a.m.

on the

31st

the transfer of positions was complete, and Sir

202
Horace
withdrew
tion
of

The
and
to

First

Seven Divisions
but

his

gallant

war-worn A.C.
certain

Hazebrouck.

A

proporcalled

the

2nd A.C. was afterwards
in

upon

to support General Willcocks, but for the
shall,

most part we

the future, find
1st

them

co-operating with

the

A.C.

and the 7th

Division in the neighbourhood of Ypres.

As

far,

then, as this record of events goes,

we

may

now

bid

farewell

to

the

fighting

area

between Armentieres and La Bassee, and follow
exclusively the events east

and south

of Ypres.
a

These were destined to develop into
cession
of
battles,

sucof

in

which small numbers
details

British troops successfully of

opposed large numbers
of

German

troops,

and the
Sir J.

which

furnish, in the

words of

French, " one of

the most glorious chapters in the annals of the
British

Army."

PILKEM
T T AVING now
J
-

taken

a

permanent

fare-

A

well of

the fighting in the

La Bassee

area,

with

a

view to following uninterruptedly

the more exciting situation which had gradually

been

developing

around

Ypres

it

becomes
of

necessary once

more

to pick
it

up the thread
was dropped.

the northern doings where
It

will

be remembered that on Oct.

19th,

2Cth and 21st there had been very
in

fierce fighting

and around Zonnebeke, where the enemy
persistent
efforts

made
Ypres

to

break

through

to

efforts

which were
1st

frustrated

by the

timely arrival of the
the 20th.

A.C. on the night of

This

Army

Corps during the night

took over the entire line from Bixschoote to

Zonnebeke, and on the 21st the Guards' Brigade,

on the right of

this line,

was able to contribute

largely to the repulse of the

German

attack.

On the 22nd the pressure was shifted to the left of the 1st A.C. line, the 1st Brigade being
attacked in great force at Pilkem from the direction
of

Staden.

The Germans advanced
203

to

204

The
attack
a

First Seven Divisions

their

with

the

utmost

determination

and with

complete disregard of danger, singing

" Die zvacht
over
attack
their

am Rhein " and waving their heads. The focus-point of
the
position

rifles

the the
of

was

occupied

by

Camerons, who eventually, by sheer weight

numbers, were driven back, but not before they

had taken an appalling
of the latter being

toll of

the enemy, 1,500

found dead upon the ground

the following day.

Lomax, commanding the division, had no idea of leaving the enemy in peace to
General
enjoy
o'clock
this

temporary

triumph,

and

at

nine

on the same evening the 2nd Brigade,
billeted

which was
orders
to

some
the

eight or nine miles to

the south at the village of Boesinghe,
retake
lost

received

trenches.

The
1st

R.

Sussex regiment was left at Boesinghe,

but the

remaining three battalions,

viz.,

the

Loyal

N.

Lancashires,

the

2nd K.R.R. (60th) and
all

the 1st Northamptons, set out and marched
night to the
little village of

Pilkem, which was

reached at

5

a.m.

The

brigade,

which had had no food

all

night, was given no time for rest or breakfast,

but was ordered to attack the trenches at once.
In the brigade order of October
28th, dealing

Pilkem
with
this action,

205

General Bulfin, the Brigadier,
1st

singles

out the

Loyal N. Lancashire RegiIt

ment

for special praise.

may, therefore, be
description
of

allowable

to

confine

our

the

action to a brief review of the part played by
this

battalion,

which,

it

will

be remembered,
gallantry

had

behaved

with

such

remarkable

at the battle of

Troyon.

At 6

o'clock, in the

dim
set

light of an

autumn
Pilkem.
to

morning,

the

brigade

out

from
less

The
the

lost

trenches lay
to

more or

parallel
a

Bixschoote

Langemarck road,

mile

to the north of Pilkem.

The

attacking troops
left,

advanced in

line,

the K.R.R. being on the

the Loyal N. the
S.

Lancashires in the centre, with

Northamptons
Staff ords

on

the
ist

right.

The 2nd
(from
the

and the

Queen's

3rd

Brigade)

were in support.
to

In this order
yards
to
of

they

advanced

within

300

the

trenches,
a

where

they
fire.

began

very heavy

rifle

come under Major Carter,* comdecided
to

manding the L.
a

N.

Lancashires,

charge at once with the bayonet, and he sent

message to

this

effect

to the

K.R.R. on

his

• Major Carter, D.S.O., was killed on November ioth, 19 14. Ha was the third O.C. the Loyal N. Lanes, to be killed in action, Col. Lloyd having fallen on September 14th and Col. Knight at th« battle of the

Marne.

206

The
asking

First

Seven Divisions
This,

left,

them

to advance with him.

however, they were unable to do, and Major
Carter
accordingly

decided

to

attack

alone.

Captain
section,

Henderson,

with
to

the
a

machine
very

gun

pushed

forward
left,

advanced

position on the

from which he was able
Captain
Crane's
in

to get a clear field for his guns, and the battalion

formed
first line

up

for

the

attack.

and Captain
;

Prince's

companies were

the

the other two were in support.
fix

The
bugler

order

to

bayonets

was

given

;

a

sounded the " Charge,"
ten

and with loud cheers
less

the battalion dashed forward, and in

than

minutes

had
of

carried

the

trenches
Six

and

cleared
prisoners

them
increased

the
a

enemy.

hundred

were taken,

number which might have
artillery.

been

but that further pursuit was

checked by our

own

During
of the

this

most gallant charge on the part on
at

Loyal N. Lancashires, the Queen's and
the
right

Northamptons
road from

advanced

and

occupied the inn

the cross-roads, where the
joins

Pilkem

the

main

road

to

Langemarck.

The

victory was

now

complete.

Lancashires lost 6 officers and

150

The men

L. N.
killed

and wounded.

They won, however, very high

Pilkem
praise

207

from the Brigadier and from General
the
Divisional

Lomax,

General.

Captain
for

Henderson was awarded the Military Cross
" conspicuous
Oct.
23rd,
gallantry

and
his

ability

on

when, with
he
the

machine gun
and
charge,

detachment,
services
inflicting

performed most valuable
final

in

attack

heavy

losses

on the enemy.
a
flank,

He
and

pushed

his

guns close up to

helped in
trenches."

a great

degree to clear the enemy's

One cannot convey
markable
nature
of

a sense of

the really rebetter

this

performance

than by quoting the words of General Bulfin
in
it

the G.O. already referred
says,

" In spite," to. " of the stubborn resistance offered by
troops, the object of the engage-

the

German

ment was accomplished, but not without many casualties in the brigade. By nightfall the
trenches
previously

captured by the Germans

had
lying

been

re-occupied,

about

600

prisoners

captured,

and
in

fully

1,500
of

out

front

German dead were our trenches. The
the

Brigadier-General
Lancashires, the

congratulates

L.

N.
fine

Northamptons and the K.R.R.
to

but

desires

especially

commend

the

soldierlike spirit of the L.

N. Lancashires, which

208

The

First

Seven Divisions
shell

advancing steadily under heavy
fire,

and

rifle

and aided by

its

machine guns, were enabled
a

to

form up within

comparatively short

dis-

tance of the enemy's trenches.

Fixing bayonets,

the battalion then charged, carried the trenches,

and then occupied them, and to them must be
allotted the majority of the prisoners captured.

The

Brigadier-General congratulates himself on
his

having in

brigade a battalion which, after

marching

the

whole
rest,

of

the

previous

night,
its

without food or

was able to maintain

splendid record in the past by the determination

and

self-sacrifice displayed in this action."

THE SECOND ADVANCE

^HE
it

2nd Brigade remained
had captured
for

in the position

twenty-four hours,
In fact

when

it

was relieved by the French.

during the night of the 23rd and the morning
of the 24th the entire line

from Bixschoote to

Zonnebeke, which the

1st

A.C. had taken over
earlier,

from the 3rd Cavalry Division three days

was in turn taken over from them by the French,
a

Division of the 87th Territorials relieving the Division

1st

between

Bixschoote

and Lange-

marck, and the 18th Corps of the 9th French

Army
The
whilst

taking the place of the 2nd Division from
to Zonnebeke.

Langemarck
1st

Division went into reserve at Ypres,

the

2nd Division moved down
Brigade,
its

to

its

right across the

Zonnebeke road, and took over
which
also

the position of the 22nd

went back into

reserve with

numbers sadly
three days.

thinned by the fighting of the

last

On

the following night the 1st Division came
right
of

up on the

the 2nd Division and took

over the line from west of Reutel to the
209

Menin

14

210
road,

The
thus

First

Seven Divisions
the

relieving

7th Division of any

further responsibility north of that road.
!

This proved to be the
defence
over
force,

final

shuffle

of

the

Ypres
taken

and

the

positions

now
be
a

proved
It

—broadly
be well,

speaking

—to
for

permanent.

will

therefore,

thorough understanding of what followed, that
these
positions

should be clearly fixed in the

reader's mind.
of

They were

as

follows

:

North

the Zonnebeke road

the

French had now
the Zonnebeke the

taken over entire charge.

From

road

to

a

point

near

the race-course in

Polygon wood, west of Reutel, was the 2nd
Division
;

on

its

right, reaching to the

road, was the 1st Division,

Menin and from the Menin
the

road to Zandvoorde the 7th Division, with the
3rd

Cavalry

Division
far, so

in

Zandvoorde
was every-

trenches.

So

good.

Our

line

where strengthened and consolidated.

Between

Zonnebeke and Zandvoorde three
brigades of the 7th Division

divisions

now

occupied the ground hitherto held by the three
;

but, on the other

hand, fresh

German
line

troops were daily arriving

in their thousands at Roulers

and Menin, and

though
stronger,

the the

of

our
of

resistance

might
was

be

pressure

attack

corre-

spondingly increased.

The Second Advance The
moment
its

211

shortening
as

and thickening of our
proved,

line

was not,

events

accomplished

one

too soon, for on the morning of the
all

24th the British position was attacked
length

along

with

a

determination

which could

hardly have been withstood by the attenuated
line of a

week before.
Battalion of the Warwickshire Regi-

The 2nd
morning.

ment accomplished a fine achievement on this At dawn they were marched away from Zonnebeke to retake the trenches south
of Reutel out of

which the Wiltshire Regiment

had been
advance of
stantly

shelled.
a

The

operation entailed

an

mile over ground which was confire.

under
of

rushing
of

the
a

The final act was the German position, the nucleus
small detached farm-house in

which was

which were

several

machine guns.

Col. Loring,

who had
this last

already

been wounded, himself led
fell

charge and

dead in the

act.

The

house,

however, was captured and the whole
position rushed

German

and occupied, the enemy
very considerable
loss.

being driven out with

The Warwicks
Almost
act, in

lost 105

at

the same
respects,

men and several officers. moment a very similar
1st S. StarTords,

many

was performed by Captain

Dunlop's company of the

which

14*


212

The

First Seven Divisions

it

will

be remembered had been detached from

its

battalion on the 2 1st for the support of the

Northumberland Hussars.
house
bristling

Here again

a

farm-

with machine guns had to be

rushed, and here again in the very
victory the leader
fell

moment

of

dead.
a

These
special

single

company engagements were
of

characteristic

the

fighting

at
it

this

period.

Owing

to our scarcity of

men,

wa9

seldom that an entire battalion could be spared
for

purposes of support, and single companies

were consequently sent hither and thither to do
the work of battalions

weak
of

spots,

and

—to gaps, strengthen even — sometimes happened
fill

as

to retake lost positions and

drive back parties

the

enemy which had broken through.
on
this very

A

case in point

morning

of

October

24th was that of No. 4 Company 1st Grenadier Guards. The circumstances here were that
the the

Germans had succeeded
right
flank

in breaking

through
and,
as

of

the

21st

Brigade,
a

serious

consequences

threatened,

counter-

made by Major Colby with No. 4 Company of the Grenadiers, who
attack was ordered to be

were

at the

time on the

left of

the 20th Brigade.

The

undertaking in this case was an extremely

difficult

and

dangerous one, both on account


The Second Advance
of the numerical insufficiency of a single

213

com-

pany

for the task assigned

it,

and

also

because

the attack entailed the negotiation of our

own

barbed wire entanglement.
it

This entanglement,
a

need scarcely be

said,

was under

very con-

stant fire
taking,

from the enemy, making the underof
it,

on the face
it

almost a hopeless one.

However,

was done.

The

Grenadiers crawled

through, over or under the wire, reformed on
the far side, charged and drove the

enemy back
losses
as in

once more to their

own

lines.

The

of

the Grenadiers were very severe, and,
case

the

of

the other two
fell

companies,
at the
also

the leader,
his

Major Colby,
Lieut.

dead

head of

men.

Antrobus was
severely

killed

and Captain
In the mean-

Leatham was
while the

wounded.

5th Brigade had been

brought up
of

from reserve and completed the rout enemy.

the

On
had

the same morning the 6th Brigade, which
taken

over
of

the

position

of

the

22nd

Brigade

south

the

Zonnebeke road, began
the

pushing

forward

with

ambitious

view

of

re-occupying the advance trenches originally held

by the 7th Division along the Paschendael
Becelaere road.

The

1st

Berkshire Regiment,
left

under Col.

Graham, was on the

of

the

;

214

The

First Seven Divisions

brigade next the road, with the King's Regiment

on

its

right, the other

two

battalions being in

support.

In

this

formation the brigade
as

now
comleft.

advanced with such dash and vigour
pletely to outstrip the troops to right

and

The woods

in

front

were

full

of

Germans
for,

every yard gained had to be fought

and

there were considerable casualties, Col. Bannatyne, of the King's, being amongst those killed.

However, the brigade made

its

point and got

into the old trenches, but as the French on the

north side of the road had not succeeded in

making the same

progress,

the position was

a

precarious one, and two companies of the Berkshire Regiment had to be thrown back almost
at right angles, that
is

to say, parallel with the

road,

in

order

to

cover

the

half-mile
of

which
this

separated

them.

The
a

performance

regiment

was

distinctly

meritorious

one,

several guns being captured as well as prisoners,

and

it

was duly recognized

as

such in

high

quarters, Lieut. Nicholson

and Lieut. Hanburyfor their

Sparrow getting the D.S.O.
on
this

conduct
Smith,

occasion,

while

Sergt. -Major

Sergt. Taylor and Pte. Bossom were awarded

the

D.C.M. The push and

enterprise of this regiment

on

The Second Advance

215

the 24th roused the activity and emulation of the

whole

division,

which,

on the following

morning, was ordered to advance against Reutel.

The

attack opened with a furious

bombardment
in the after-

of that place

by our

artillery,

and

noon the 4th Brigade was ordered to

clear the

Polygon wood, the object now being to bring

up the 4th and 5th Brigades

in line

with the 6th.
Irish
line,

The 4th

Brigade

advanced with the
in

Guards and 2nd Grenadiers
Night
made.

the front

the two Coldstream battalions being in support.
fell

before any great advance could be

The

night

was one of torrential
in

rain,

which the troops passed
then resumed,
line

the extremity of

misery waiting for the dawn.
the

The

attack was

2nd

Coldstream
Irish

coming

up into
also

between the

Guards and the

Grenadiers.

Later on the 3rd Coldstream were
line

brought up into

on the right of the

Grenadiers.
of

the
line

4th.

The 5th Brigade was on the right Good progress was made, and
the

the

with

6th

Brigade

having

been

established, the

men dug

themselves in at dusk.

This wearisome but highly necessary step had
hardly been completed before a furious counterattack was

made
loss,

at

10 p.m.

It was,

however,

repulsed with

and the 2nd Division, cold,


216

The

First

Seven Divisions
for

wet and weary, remained unmolested
rest of

the

the night.

This successful advance on the 26th was
as

far

as

this

chronicle

is

concerned

—the

last

act of the 4th (Guards) Brigade as an integral
unit.

From
Irish

this

time on, the 2nd Grenadiers
will

and the

Guards

be found acting quite
field,

independently in another part of the
the

under

command
3rd trenches

of

Lord Cavan, while the 2nd
the

and

Coldstream remained in

Polygon
Later on

wood
these

under Col. Pereira.
battalions
1st

two Coldstream

were joined

by the remnant of the
1st

Battalion from the

Brigade,

so that the regiment was, in fact,
It
is

consolidated.

important in view of subsethis clearly in

quent events to keep

mind.
of

The
1st

—with the exception Battalion — not again appear
Coldstream
will
in
as

the

in these pages

actors

the

great

Ypres

drama.

But

though not directly under the limelight, the
role
as

allotted to

them henceforth was probably

trying as that to which any regiment could

be subjected.

For twenty-two consecutive days
In
the
case
of

from the date of the advance they occupied the
Polygon
3rd

wood

trenches.

the

Battalion

these

trenches

zig-zagged

along

the eastern edge of the wood, while the 2nd

The Second Advance
Battalion trenches ran through the

217

wood
to

itself

and were
lie

straight.

In

each case the general
in

was north

and

south,

contrast
left,

the

trenches of the 6th Brigade on their
faced north-east, making, in fact, the

which

first

bend

back in the Ypres

salient.

These Polygon wood
abounding

trenches proved most abominably wet even for
Flanders,
springs
in

the

neighbourhood

in

which kept them half
for

full of

water even

dry weather.

Here the Coldstreamers stayed
over
three
weeks,

unrelieved
knees
in at

up to
shell-fire,

their

water,

under

ceaseless

and
every

sniped
occasion
to

with

horrible

precision

on

when they

raised their heads.
of

To

add
the

the

unpleasantness

the

position,

woods

in front

were thick with unburied Germans,
the

from which the whole atmosphere was polluted.
Luckily during

whole of their tenure the
quarters,

wind blew from westerly
it

which while

brought abominably wet weather, nevertheless
air in

blew the tainted

the direction of the enemy.

THE FIGHTING AT KRUISEIK
"\1 THILE
* *

four

of

the

Guards'

battalions

were thus pushing their way through the
Reutel,

Polygon wood near
battalions
a

the two Guards'

in

the

20th Brigade were enacting

small

drama

of their

Kruiseik, south of the

own at the village of Menin road. Here two
in in

companies of the Scots Guards, and the King's

Company, 1st Grenadiers, had been posted some advance trenches east of the village
the village of Vieux Chien to Werwick.
8.30
at

the direction of the country road running from

About
were

night

these

advance

trenches

attempted

by

peculiarly

German
torrential

methods.

Through the
night,

intense darkness that reigned that

and
crept

through

the

rain,

the

enemy
of

up

close to our lines

with the aid
century

every

device

known
said

to

twentieth

warfare.
others others

Some
said

they had come to surrender,
the
S.

they were
called

Staffords,
for

and

again

appealingly

Captain

Paynter,

who

was, in actual fact, in
218

command

The Fighting
of

at Kruiseik

219

the

right

hand

of

the

two Scots Guards
response,
fire,

companies.

That

officer's

however,

took the form of a well-directed
friendly
inquirers

and the
haste.

departed

with

some

Lord Claud Hamilton
in charge of the

(ist Grenadiers),

who was
was
also
visitors,

machine gun

section,

undeceived by the friendliness of the

and
their

his

maxims contributed
This
officer

to

the

haste

of

departure.

had now been

seven days and nights, unrelieved, in the machine

gun trenches, and the coolness and resource
which he displayed during that period gained He was relieved early on for him the D.S.O.
the morning following this night attack by an
officer of

the Scots Guards,

who was
of

killed the

same day.

The

inhospitable

reception

the

enemy

above described made the night attack
failure as far as

a distinct

Captain Paynter's company was

concerned.
fortunate.

The left-hand trenches were less It may be that they were more

unsuspecting, or perhaps the British accent of

the figures advancing through the darkness was

purer on the

left

than on the right.

In any

event a report reached the battalion headquarters
in rear about nine o'clock that these trenches

had

been rushed and

all

the occupants killed.

On

220

The

First

Seven Divisions

receipt of this
of the Scots

news the two reserve companies

Guards were sent up under Major
if

the Hon. H. Fraser to investigate, and
sary to retake the lost trenches.

neces-

These two com-

panies filed silently through the main street of
Kruiseik, keeping close under the

shadow

of the

houses on either side.

Not

a light

was burning,

and not

a

sound was to be heard.
far

At the
try

end

of

the village Major Fraser

halted the column, and went forward alone to

and get

in

touch with Captain Paynter

in

the right-hand forward trenches, and find out

from him what the truth of the matter
was.

really

He managed
who
assured
still

after

a

time to find that

officer,

him

that not only were his

own

trenches

uncaptured, but that he had

them so. As to the With trenches on his left he knew nothing. this information Major Fraser made his way back
every intention of keeping
to the east
his

end

of the village,

where he had

left

men.
truth

He
as

decided to investigate for himself
to

the

the

left-hand

trenches, and,

accordingly, accompanied
in the capacity of guide,

by Lieut. Holbeche,

and forty men, he crept

down

the cinder track which led from the road

to the trenches in question.
in absolute silence,

The

trenches were

and he was beginning to doubt

The Fighting

at Kruiseik

221

the story of their occupation,
flashlight

was turned on to

his

when suddenly a party, a word of
still-

command

rang out, and a volley broke the

ness of the night.

Major Fraser gave the word

to

charge, and the

little

party dashed forward with

fixed bayonets, but they

were shot down before

the trenches were reached.
killed

Major Fraser was

and Lieut. Holbeche severely wounded,

and of the whole party only four returned.
In the meanwhile the rest of the two companies

which had been waiting
in the

at the

end

of the village
itself

street noticed a light in a
fields.

house standing by

Lord Dalrymple and Captain Fox
it.

held

a

consultation and decided to surround
this

When
It

was done, Sergt. Mitchell, with great

courage,

went up to the door and knocked.
at

was flung open and he was

once shot dead.

The
all

house, however, was well surrounded, and
it

within

were taken prisoners.

They numofficers,

bered over two hundred, including seven

and they were promptly sent to the rear under
escort.

Further

back,

however,

the

prisoners

were transferred to the custody of some of the

2nd Queen's, and the Scots Guards escort rejoined
the two companies at the end of the village,

whereupon the
recaptured,

lost

trenches were attacked and

and connection once more estab-

222

The

First

Seven Divisions
This was not
loss.

lished

with Captain Paynter.*

effected

without considerable further
to

In

addition

those

already

mentioned,
killed,

Lieuts.

Gladwin

and

Dormer were
the

and

Col.

Bolton, Lord Dalrymple, Captain Fox, Lord G.

Grosvenor,

and

Hon.

J.

Coke were

all

wounded, and,

in the darkness of the night, fell

into the enemy's hands.
in all lost nine officers

The 2nd

Scots Guards

during this night's fighting.

On
to

the following day the battalion was ordered

abandon the Kruiseik trenches, and was taken

back into reserve, mustering only 450.

The withdrawal
them

of the

2nd Scots Guards from
it

the trenches east of Kruiseik, which
so dearly to hold,

had

cost

marks the

first

step in

our retirement from the advanced position

had taken up, following
of in

we the forward movement
first

October 19th, and consequently the

step

the straightening out of the salient
this

bulge.

They were not replaced, and
permanently out of our hands.

ground passed

The
will

King's

Company,

1st

Grenadiers, which,

it

be remembered, were

also posted in the ad-

vance trenches east of Kruiseik, by some means
failed to receive the order to
* Captain Paynter and Captain
in

withdraw, with the
for their share

Fox got the D.S.O.

the night's work.

The Fighting
result that,

at Kruiseik

223

on the afternoon of the 26th, they
isolated,

found themselves absolutely

and cut

off

from

their

army by the better part
on the face
the
of
it,

of half a mile.

The

position,

appeared absolutely
this

hopeless, as the

Germans were by
village

time

in

occupation

of

of

Kruiseik

itself.

However,

as

the Guards, like the Samurai, do not

surrender while yet unwounded, they faced the
situation,

and actually fought
street

their

way back

through the main

of

the

village.

The
of

Germans had machine guns
the houses, but for once in a

in the

windows

way

these weapons

were
the

less effective

than usual, and in the evening
its

company

rejoined

battalion, considerably

thinned in numbers, but triumphant.

Lieut.
this

Somerset was the only
retirement.

officer killed

during

The
way
life

night of the 25 th was a bad one in every

for the 20th Brigade,

and the wastage
rain,

of

owing to the darkness, and the

and the
foe,

impossibility of distinguishing friend
is

from
is

not good to think upon.

Here

another

instance.

The 1st moment to
they

S.

Staffords

were attached

for

the

the 20th Brigade, to which brigade
acting
reserve.

were

Before

the

Scots
is

Guards had recovered the

lost trenches, that

to

224

The

First Seven Divisions

say,

while these and the buildings in rear of
still

them

were

in the occupation of the
a

enemy, Captain
platoon of the
firing
line.
fire

Ransford was ordered up with
S.

Staffords

to

reinforce

the

In

carrying out this order he

came under

both

from the Germans

in front

and from our own

troops in rear, and the whole detachment was
practically
self,

wiped out.

Captain Ransford him-

with great

courage,

went forward alone

through the impenetrable darkness to try and
sift

the position, and discover
fell

who was who, but
probability
that

he

in the
is

attempt and was seen no more.
in

There
losses

consolation

the

owing to mistaken identity were not conStaffords during the confused

fined to our side.

The
say,

1st

S.

and
is

sanguinary fighting of these two days, that

to

the 25 th and 26th, lost 13
file.

rank and

As has so often

and 440 happened in this
officers

war, the battalion in reserve was called upon for

much

of the

most strenuous work, and

in this

particular case the S. Staffords

had

at

one time

or another to support each of the four units of

the 20th Brigade.
particularly difficult
in the darkness

Much

of this

work was

of a

and dangerous nature, and

and confusion that prevailed the

various units were apt at times to get very greatly

— —
The Fighting
mixed up, and
at Kruiseik

225

to lapse into the condition of sheep

without any accredited shepherd.

At one very
flow of battle,

critical
it

moment

in the

ebb and

happened that the CO., Col.
time in an advanced posiS.

Ovens,
tion

who was
a

at the

with two companies of the

StafTords,

noticed

mob

of

some 300 men

of these

mixed

units retiring on his left.

He

sent off Captain

White, the Quarter-Master of the regiment, to
find out the cause.

The

reply was that an order

had been received to
suspecting

retire.

Captain White
or, at

German methods,

any

rate, sus-

pecting that the order originated with someone

who was interested in its fulfilment by superhuman efforts succeeded in rallying the men and leading them back into the firing line, an act
which beyond any question had
on the fortunes
a

marked

effect

of the day, or, rather, of the night.

The

desperate fighting of this period at and
will always

around Kruiseik
20th Brigade. 7th Division

be associated with the

The

other two brigades in the
as

were shifted about,

occasion

required, to various points between

Zonnebeke
at

and Zandvoorde
29th,
alone.

;

but from October 19th to the
Brigade

the

20th

operated

Kruiseik

The

gradual annihilation of this splendid
finest in

brigade

—possibly the

the whole army
15

226
forms
tragic.

The
a story

First

Seven Divisions
no
less stirring

which
tragedy

is

than

it is

The

is

obvious, but

it is

relieved

by the thought
the
battalions

of the superb devotion of each of

that

formed the command of

General Ruggles-Brice.

Each

battalion, in

its

own

allotted sphere, fought to a finish.
lion in its turn furnished an

Each batta-

example of unflinching
itself.

heroism which
fought
till

is

an epic in

They not

only

there were no

more

left to fight,

but

they fought up to the very end with success.
It

must have been

a

consolation to their gallant

Brigadier,
field

when
a

in the

end he was carried

off

the

with

shattered thigh, to feel that he had

survived long enough to share in a glory which
will never

be excelled.

The

worst sufferer in the early days of the

Kruiseik fighting was the 2nd Battalion of the

Border Regiment.

The

experiences of this regi-

ment

are of the highest interest, as being typical

of the hold-on-at-all-costs spirit

which animated

the British force during the period of the

German
enemy

advance, and which was responsible for the miscarriage of
all

the desperate efforts of the

to break through.
lion

On
it

October 22nd the batta-

was posted along the road from Zandvoorde,

at the point

where

cuts the Kruiseik

—Werwick
salient.

road.

Their trenches formed an ugly

The Fighting

at Kruiseik

227 by the

which was commanded on three
enemy's
artillery,

sides

and

at

which

particularly

accurate practice could be, and was,

made by
Their

the

German
about

batteries
a

posted on the America

ridge,

mile to the south-east.

instructions were to hold on to these trenches
at all costs
till

relieved.

They

did hold on, and

on the 27th they were relieved
of

at least, those

them

that were

left.

Their relaxation during

those six days consisted in counting the shells
directed at them, and speculating as to the accu-

racy of the next shot.

The

constant prayer of

every officer and
of

some

sort

man was German or

for an infantry attack
British.

The

prayer

was not answered.
at all costs
till

Their orders were to hold on

relieved.

They were not

relieved,

so they held on.
shells fell in or

On

the 24th, 25th and 26th the
at the rate

around their trenches
till

of

two per minute from dawn
from
this shell-fire

dark.

Their

casualties

averaged 150 a day

and the enemy's guns
unmolested by our own
was overwhelming, and,

fired

unchallenged and
In those days
artillerj

artillery.

the numerical superiority of the
as

German

an inevitable conse-

quence, our infantry afforded them passive but
diminishing targets.
In the case of the Border
rapidly.

Regiment the target diminished

On
15*

the

228

The

First

Seven Divisions

23rd Captain Gordon and 2nd Lieut. Clancy were
killed
;

on the 25th Major Allen and Lieut.
killed,

Warren were

and Lieut. Clegg wounded

;

on the 26th Captain Lees, Captain Cholmondeley, Captain
killed,

Andrews and Lieut. Surtees were

and Major Bosanquet and Lieut. Bevis

were wounded.

On

the 27th the 300

men

that

remained were relieved

for the

moment.
and
their

On

the afternoon of the 26th the pressure

against this battalion
casualties

became
high,

so severe,
at

were

so

that

two
a

o'clock

General Kavanagh was ordered to make

demonsome

stration with the 7th C.B. in the direction of

Zandvoorde,
of

with

a

view
1st

to

diverting

the

pressure.

The

Life

Guards were
the

already in occupation of the

Zandvoorde trenches,
entrusted
to

and the demonstration was
Blues,

who

were, at the time, the reserve regiment

to the brigade.

The

Blues were at Klein Zille-

got

when the order arrived, and they at once mounted and galloped along the road that connects that place with Zandvoorde. Lord
beke

Alastair Ker's squadron,

which was leading, rode

right through the 1st Life

Guards trenches, and,
Their squadron
fire

turning to the right at the top of the ridge,

dismounted and opened
immediately came under

fire.

a

heavy

and

its

The Fighting
casualties

at Kniiseik

229

were considerable.

In the meanwhile

the other two squadrons of the Blues (Captain
Brassey's

and Captain Harrison's), dismounted

behind the Life Guards, and advanced to the top
of the ridge

on

foot, supporting the fire of the

leading squadron.

The
orders

demonstration was kept

up

till

darkness

fell,

when the regiment, having
with complete success,

carried

out

its

retired to a chateau

between Klein Zillebeke and
billeted for the night.

Hollebeke, where
Alastair

it

Lord

Ker and Trooper Nevin were both
continuation of the Zandvoorde trenches
still

decorated for their gallantry on this occasion.

The

further south was

in the occupation of the
all

loth Hussars.

These were heavily shelled

through the day, and the casualties among their
officers

continued to be on a high

scale,

Sir F.

Rose and Lieut. Turnor being
Crichton wounded.

killed,

and Major

THE LAST OF KRUISEIK

^HE
*•

next

two

days

were
lull

days

of

comthe

parative

calm

—the
On

before

desperate storm which was preparing to break

upon the
line,
its

British

force.

the

morning
left

of

the 27th, the 6th Brigade, on the

of our

which had

so

successfully

pushed forward
a
still

position on the

24th,

made

further

advance, the 1st K.R.R. on this occasion being
the left-hand battalion, with the 1st
S. Staff ords

on

its

right.

The
in
a

1st

Berks

and the King's

Regiment
was
again

were

support.

The movement
the

complete
as

success,

brigade

advancing

as far

the Paschendael

—Becelaere

road and occupying the crest of the ridge along

which
under
of

this
a

road runs.

Here the K.R.R. came
and Prince Maurice
killed,

very heavy

shell-fire,

Battenberg and Captain Wells were
Willis,

Captain
Lieuts.

Captain

Llewellyn

and

2nd

the

Hone and Sweeting being wounded at same time. The ground gained was, how230

The Last

of Kruiseik

231

ever, successfully held for the time being.
effect

The

of

this

advance was to give

a

slightly

concave formation to the eastern face of the

Ypres

salient,

the two extremities

now

project-

ing beyond the centre trenches in the Polygon

wood.

This

curious

formation,

however, was

very temporary, both of the horns so formed

having shortly to withdraw.
of the southern

The withdrawal

horn was begun on the night
consider

of the 26th, during the events already narrated.

We may now
which led to
its

the

subsequent events

complete disappearance.

In the very small hours of the same morning

on which

the

6th

Brigade
1st

advanced

—before
marched
place in

daylight, in fact

—the

Scots Guards

down
the

the

1st

Menin road to resume its Brigade. At Gheluvelt the
shell-fire

battalion

deployed to the north of the road, and at once

came under the blind
Hamilton
and
Captain

which ceased
Captain
killed,

not night or day in this particular area.
Balfour

were

Wickham and Roberts wounded. The battalion, however, worked its way up
and Lieuts.
to
its

position

on the

left of

the 1st Coldstream,

and there awaited events.
at the time.

How

dramatic those
little

events were destined to prove was

suspected

232

The
few hours
its

First

Seven Divisions
20th Brigade, returning
in

A
from

later the

one night's

rest

the the

outskirts

of

Ypres,

followed

them

down
till

same on

road,

and
road.

filed into

the shelter-trenches south of the
5

Here they stayed

p.m.

the

28th,

when they continued

their

march down

the high road through Gheluvelt, and took over the trenches just west and south of the Kruiseik
cross-roads.

Here

for the

moment we may
a

leave

them

in

order to
tion.

take

glance

at

the

general

situa-

The

day

which followed,
first

that
of

is

to

say

October 29th, was the
with

the five

days

during which the Kaiser was present in person
his troops opposite Ypres.

He had

arrived

with the avowed intention of stimulating the

army would

to

one supreme,
all

irresistible effort
it,

which
con-

carry

before

and open the coveted

road to Calais to the mass of troops
centrated at Roulers and Menin.

now

The
of

occasion was signalized on the morning

the 29th by a grand assault along and on
side

each

of

the

Menin
most
the
for

road.
direct

This

broad

highroad
route
to
is

was

the

and obvious

Ypres,

and

Germans
the

as

their
cut.

way

—went

straight

shortest

;

The Last
There
it

of Kruiseik

233
enterprise

was

no

secret

about

the
all

was, in fact,

known among

ranks of the
in

British

Army, and even published

some

of

the general orders of the evening before, that
the

XXVII.

German

Reserve

Corps
at

would
a.m.

attack

Kruiseik and

Zandvoorde

5.30

on the 29th.
In the light of
this general

knowledge, sub-

sequent events are not wholly easy to understand.

The

attack

came
at

at

the very hour which had

been announced, and
concerned
a

as

far

as

Kruiseik was
as

the very spot.

Zandvoorde,

matter of
left

fact,

was not implicated, and

so

can be

out of the discussion.
line of

At Kruiseik our
rear
of

defence was just in

the cross-roads, about a quarter of a
it

mile nearer Ypres than

had been on the 26th.
Grenadiers,

The

six

regiments in the front line which came

in the path of the attack

were the

1st

2nd Gordons and 2nd Scots
and

Fusiliers

south of

the road, and the Black Watch, 1st Coldstream
1st

Scots Guards to the north of

it.

In

reserve

were the 2nd Scots Guards and the

Border Regiment, the latter being in Gheluvelt,
the former to the south of
it.

At 5.30 then, with true military punctuality, the Germans made their advance under cover

234

The

First

Seven Divisions

of a thick fog, and, as subsequent events proved,

succeeded in getting past and behind our
line

first

without opposition.
in

It

is

said

that they

marched

column

of fours straight

down

the

main Menin

road, which, for

some reason only
the
line

known
troops.

to staff officers,

does not appear to have
first

been in the charge of any of

However that may the Germans did get
fired

be, the fact remains that
past,

without

a shot

being
their

from

either

side,

and

established

machine guns
in

in the houses along the roadside

rear;

with the result that the regiments

next the road suddenly found themselves, with-

out

any

warning,
fire

assailed

by

a

murderous
and
flank.

machine-gun

from

both

rear

To

add

to the unpleasantness of the situation,

they were at the same

time vigorously shelled

by our own

artillery.

Under

this

combined

attack the 1st Grenadiers next the road on the

south side suffered very severely.

Colonel Earle

was wounded almost

at the first discharge,

and

Major
was

Stucley,

who then
a

took over
interval.

killed

within

short
it

command, Owing to

the thickness of the fog
difficulty to locate the

was

a

matter of great

enemy with any degree
which appeared

of accuracy, or to return a fire

"

The Last
to

of Kruiseik

235

come from the
Rasch,

direction of our

own
in

reserves.

Captain

who was now

command,

accordingly decided to withdraw the battalion

woods to the south, leaving the enemy to continue their fusilade at the empty trenches. With them went the left flank company of
into the

the

Gordons,
of

under Captain

Burnett.

"

C

Company

the Gordons, which was on the

right of Captain Burnett's

company, was com-

paratively clear of the fire from the rear,

and
sub-

did not withdraw with the others.

The

sequent

exploits

of

this

company were most
lifted,

remarkable, and will be described later on.

The
clear to

fog

now suddenly
sides.

the sun came

through, and the situation became comparatively

both

The Germans
at

ceased their
trenches,

fusilade

from behind

the

empty
of

and began to press southwards from the road,

and westward from the direction
great numbers.

Menin, in

To meet

this

new movement,
com-

the 1st Grenadiers and Captain Burnett's

pany

of the

Gordons formed up and charged,

driving the

enemy back

to

the road in conof victory,

siderable disorder.

In the

moment

however, they were heavily enfiladed from the
trenches recently occupied by Captain Burnett's

company, and numbers

fell.

They were

again

236

The

First

Seven Divisions
south,
heels.

forced to withdraw to the
following
close

on

their

enemy Once more
the

and Gordons reformed, and more they drove the enemy back to the once
the

Grenadiers

road, only to be themselves again driven back

by weight

of

numbers.

It

was

at this

moment
with
a

that Lieut. Brooke, of the

Gordon Highlanders,
flank

who had been
overwhelming

sent

from the right

message, arrived on the scene and
superiority
collected
in
a

—seeing
of

the

numbers

the

enemy

—hurriedly

handful of
orderlies,

men
etc.),

from the rear

(servants,

cooks,

and led them forward in

a gallant

attempt to

do something towards equalizing numbers.

He
for

and nearly

all

his

men were
the

killed,

but he was
Cross

subsequently
his action.

awarded

Victoria

In the meanwhile the Grenadiers were fighting to a finish.

Refusing to be beaten or to

give way, they fought

up

to the

moment when

the order arrived for them to retire to Gheluvelt.

This was about 10 a.m.
of the
fallen,

By

that time 500 out
into action

650 men who had gone

had

and out

of the sixteen officers only four

were

No. 4 Company the heroes of the alone lost 20c successful charge on the 24th
left.

men,

or, in

other words, were wiped out.

The Last
Of the Lord R.
addition
officers,

of Kruiseik

237

Major

Stucley, Captain Rennie,

Wellesley, the

Hon. W. Forester and
killed,

the Hon. A.
to

Douglas-Pennant were

in

which Col.

Earle,

the

Hon. C.

Ponsonby, Lieuts. Lambert, Kenyon-Slaney and
Powell were wounded.
officer

Lieut. Butt, the medical

attached, was killed while dressing Col.

Earle's

wounds.

The

causalties of the

Gordons

were between two and three hundred.

While

this

had been going on south

of the road,

an almost identical state of things prevailed on the
north side where were stationed the Black Watch

and

1st

Coldstream.

These

two

battalions

similarly

found themselves, without any warning,
in

mowed down

the fog by
flank.

machine-gun
every yard

fire

from their rear and right
too were forced
back,

Gradually they
of

fighting

the way, but powerless to stem the masses of the

enemy opposed
were

to them.

Both these batta-

lions

practically

annihilated.
in
fact,

The
be

1st

Coldstream

battalion,

may

said

to have ceased to exist, for the time being, after
this

day.

The remnant was
of

shortly afterwards

absorbed into the 2nd and 3rd Battalions.

That
no

remnant consisted
officers

180

rank

and

file;

and no senior N.C.O.
right
flank

The

company

of

the

1st

Scots

238

The

First

Seven Divisions
fate
of

Guards shared the
on
its right.

the two battalions

It

became

isolated,

was surrounded
exist.

by masses

of the

enemy, and ceased to

At

ii a.m. the

2nd Scots

Fusiliers,

who had
had

been on the right of the Gordons, and just
outside of the pressure of the
in their
first

attack,

turn to
of

fall

back,

Col.

Uniacke with

two companies
again to aid

the Gordons going forward
in their retirement.

them

About
serious
;

noon
the

things

were

looking

pretty

Germans were

pressing

on towards

Gheluvelt in great numbers, both on the main
road
itself
it

and to the north and south

of

it,

and

seemed doubtful whether

their impetus

could be checked.

At

this

critical

moment,

a

succession of in-

cidents,

small

in

themselves,

but powerful

as

a combination,
in

brought about a marked change
of

the fortunes

the

day.

It

has

already
of the

been

mentioned that
under

"

C

"

Company
S.
its

Gordons,

Captain

R.

Gordon, had
original

remained throughout the morning in
enough,
another

trenches, the order to retire not having reached
it.

Curiously
to
its

small

detach-

ment
This

right was in a very similar position.

detachment

consisted

of

a

platoon

of of

the 2nd Queen's, and about a hundred

men

The Last
other
units,

of Kruiseik

239
of

under
the

Bottomley

of

command Queen's. The
the

Major
had

party

been sent forward to reinforce the 20th Brigade,
and, at the time of the retirement, was in some

dug-outs in

a

very advanced position on the

high ground near Kruiseik. As in the case of " C " Company of the Gordons, the order to
retire did

not reach them, and they were
distinct

left.

Here then were two
by

and quite indepenthe

dent detachments, completely isolated, and cut
of!

a

good
It

half mile
as

from the

rest

of

brigade.

seemed

though their destruction
In the event, how-

was

a

foregone conclusion.

ever, not only

were they not destroyed, but they
their

were

able,

from

unsuspected positions, to

work
of

very

considerable
It

havoc

in

the

ranks

the

enemy.

so

happened that Major
of

Bottomley's party contained an unusual number
of

marksmen, including Lieut. Wilson

the

2nd Queen's.

These

quite regardless of their

own

perilous position, or of the fire

which they

were sure to draw upon themselves by their
action

—now

laid themselves

out to take advan-

tage of their advanced position to pick off the

Germans
of

to right

and

left.

The
their

very audacity
saving,

the

proceeding
finding
it

proved

the

enemy

very hard to properly locate

240

The

First Seven Divisions

a

fire

which seemed to come from

their very
retaliation,

midst.

There was, however, some

and Lieut. Wilson was eventually shot through
the head and
It
as

killed.

cannot well be claimed that sniping such

this

—however
of

effective

—had

any appreciable

influence on the tide of battle, but this claim

can be justly made in the case of "

C " Comcompany's

pany
and,

the

2nd

Gordons.

This

presence was equally unsuspected by the enemy,

soon after midday,
to

a

German
Such
a

battalion

proceeded

mass
its

in

close

column
five

within

300 yards of
of

position.

target was

course unmissable,

and within

minutes

the

German battalion was annihilated, 850 dead and wounded being afterwards found on
it

the spot where
It
is

had concentrated.
to

satisfactory

be able to record that

both

these

gallant

detachments

successfully
in
his

withdrew.
position
care,
till

Captain
dusk,

Gordon remained
when,
by
exercising
his

great

he succeeded in rejoining

battalion.
in
his

Major
position
i.e.,

Bottomley
till

actually

remained
the

the

night

of

following
in

day,
safely

the

30th,

when he
from

succeeded

extricating his party

their perilous posi-

tion

a

truly

astonishing performance in view


The Last
of

of Kruiseik

241

the fact that the Germans were not only
in

round him, but were
While
was

actual occupation
left.

of

the trenches to right and
this

taking

place

south

of

the

road, the 1st Scots Guards, north of the road,

were gradually bringing about
aspect
of

a

change in the

the

fight.

It

will

be

remembered
Coldstream,
in

that the two battalions between
road, viz., the Black

them and the
the

Watch and
fate

1st

had been engulfed and overwhelmed

German
1st

advance, a

which had

also

overof the

taken Captain de la Pasture's

company
for
it

Scots Guards, which was on the right of
battalion.

that

In

this

crisis

was un-

doubtedly
Captain
the

an

extremely

critical

moment
grasp
of

Stephen,

with

a

quick

situation, of the

brought

up the

reserve

comsome

pany

Scots Guards, together with
1st

stragglers

from the

Coldstream

who had
Facing
to
his

escaped the carnage on the right.

command
pressing

half

right,

he

proceeded

pour

volley after volley into the flank of the

Germans

forward between him and the road.

Some

Germans turned to face this new attack, but the Guardsmen, fighting with superb courage, held them off throughout the afternoon. During this memorable performof the

16

242

The

First

Seven Divisions
Stephen's com-

ance on the part of Captain
pany,
Sir

the

G. Ogilvy were
and
Sir

company commander himself and killed, and the Hon. G.
V.

Macdonald

Mackenzie

wounded.
10 officers

The

1st

Scots Guards had

now

lost

and 370 men since they had marched down the

Menin road two
part
it

days before.*

The

battalion

received great praise in high quarters for the

had played
that

at

this

critical

moment
they

in

the fortunes of the day, and there can be

little

doubt

the

tremendous

losses

had

inflicted

on the enemy had appreciably checked
advance.

the

German

Captain Gordon's attack had taken the enemy

on the
right

left flank,

and Captain Stephen's on the
yet
to

flank.

They were
hill

meet

a

still

more

severe

check from in front.

In partial
stands,

reserve on the

on which Gheluvelt
of

were detachments
landers,

the

2nd Gordon High2nd Queen's,
S.

2nd

Scots

Guards,

Wales Borderers and the Border Regiment.

It

was about midday when the Germans, having
forced
their

way

as

described

through

the

regiments next the

Menin

road, began pushing

forward

towards
end

Gheluvelt,
5,

the

main

body

Up

to the

of January, 191

the total casualties in the two
of all ranks.

battalions Scots

Guards amounted to 2,8S3

The Last
marching
in

of Kruiseik

243

column
the

of

fours

along the road

From Gheluvelt
passes

itself,

where the main road
the

through

village,

head

of

the

advancing column was out of sight, owing to
a

bend
the

in

the

road

at

the

foot of the

hill.

Captain Watson, however,
of

who
a

was in charge
of

machine gun
ploughed

section

the

Border

Regiment, managed to get

couple of maxims

through

a

field into

some turnips on

the north slope of

the

hill.

From
of

here there

was
to

a

clear

view of the road stretching away with
the

Kruiseik,

head

the

German

On to this column about 1,200 yards distant. column both machine guns were now trained.
The
and
position was ideal for working
it

execution

on the enemy, but
fully

was in no way entrenched,
the

exposed

to

enemy's

fire.

The

head

of the

enemy's column was soon knocked

to pieces, and, on the other hand, one of the

Border Regiment machine guns was knocked out,
but the other kept going
till all

the ammunition

was expended.
infantry

In the meanwhile the

German
had
the

advancing

south

of

the

road

become

visible to the several

detachments aforeof

mentioned, of

whom

Major Craufurd

Gordons had assumed temporary command, and
these

now opened

a galling fire

on the advancing
16*

244

The

First

Seven Divisions

ranks,

which they succeeded in throwing into
the

considerable confusion.

This
the

moment proved day's battle. The

turning point in
fire

frontal

from the

Border Regiment's machine guns and the above-

named detachments, coupled with the
fire

enfilading

from the
the

1st

Scots Guards

to

the

north
to

of
a

road, brought

the

advancing
the

force

standstill,

which

—when

reserves

from
to

Gheluvelt
\nto
a

were

advanced

— quickly
fell

developed
back

retreat.

The Germans
in

Kruiseik,
this

which they occupied, and which from
on remained
their

date

hands.
to
1st

The
Cold-

3rd

Brigade

was brought

forward

occupy

the place of the Black

Watch and
1st

stream north of the road, the

Scots Guards
original

and

the

Camerons
position.

retaining

their

morning

This battle of the Kruiseik cross-roads had
cost us very dear,
in

some

of the finest battalions

the British

Army

being practically annihi-

lated,

but there can be no question but that

the losses of the attacking forces were incomparably
that
greater.
It

must be borne

in

mind

the

British

forces

which actually took
at the outside 5,000,

part in this fight

numbered

while the attacking force consisted of an entire

The Last

of Kruiseik

245

Army
It

Corps,

that

is

to

say,

approximately,

24,000 infantry.

may be

interesting at

this

point,

at

the
the

risk of forestalling

matters

a little, to explain

gradual process of retirement by which our line

was straightened, and the bulge eliminated from
our defensive position.
It
is

less

easy to explain

why the

process was so gradual.

We may take our

furthest advance east to have been on the 19th.

On
as

that date the 22nd Brigade pushed forward
far
as

the

Roulers-Menin railway.

There,

however, they encountered very strong opposition,

and withdrew to Zonnebeke

a distance of

six miles

—on the same day.

The

20th Brigade,
retirement,

however, did not take part in

this

and entrenched themselves

at the point to

which
second

they had advanced, east of Kruiseik.

On

the 24th the 6th Brigade

made
;

a

advance south of the Zonnebeke road

and on
its

the following day the Guards' Brigade fought

way up

into line

on the right of the 6th Brigade,
1st

while the 5th and

Brigades

filled

the gap

between the Guards' Brigade and the 20th Brigade
at Kruiseik.

These

several advances resulted in

a line of defence

which jutted out from Zonneafter passing east of
fell

beke to Reutel, and then
Kruiseik and

— Zandvoorde —

back quite sud-

;

246

The

First Seven Divisions

denly, and in an
Zillebeke.

all

but straight

line, to

Klein

Klein Zillebeke, and Zonnebeke, then,

were the starting-points to north and south of
the bulge, and
it
is

significant
;

that these

two
ulti-

points have never been lost

nor has our

mate middle-of-November
been forced.

line,

which ran along

the high ridge connecting these two places, ever

But

till

this

obvious line of defence

was reached, we
the

lost

ground on each occasion that

enemy attacked in force. On the 26th we were driven back from
;

east of

Kruiseik to a position west of Kruiseik

on the

29th we

lost
;

Kruiseik and were driven back to
lost

Gheluvelt

on the 30th we
31st

Zandvoorde

we lost Gheluvelt, and were and on the driven back to a new position nearer Veldhoek. On November 2nd we were driven from this
position,

and our

line

was retired another 300

yards

towards

Hooge.

Here
the

it

remained

till

November
captured
us

nth,

when

Prussian

Guard

this position,

but was unable to drive
ridge.

from the Veldhoek

This ridge has,

from that date to the present
the ne plus ultra of

moment, proved
it
is

German

advance, and

fairly safe to predict that it will so

remain to the

end, unless voluntarily relinquished for sanitary
or strategic reasons.

This in

itself is a

cause for

The Last

of Kruiseik

247

congratulation and even triumph, but not so

is

the thought of the

many good men who

laid

down

their lives

between Kruiseik and Veldhoek

in the defence of the indefensible.

In reckoning up these successive retirements

from the point of view of military
success,

failure

or

or

from

the, perhaps,

more

interesting

point of view of the relative fighting merits of
those

who

retired

and those who advanced,

it is

well to realize, from the start, the tremendous
disparity in
forces.
this

numbers and
British

freshness of the opposing

The

commanders had, throughout
firing line,

defence of Ypres, to ring the changes, as

between reserve and
and
sometimes

with battalions,

even

with

companies.
afford to

The
it

German commanders could

do

with

Army Corps. Day after
jaded,

day,

the same British battalions,
of
officers,

depleted

and

gradually

dwindling into mere skeletons, were called upon
to withstand the attacks of fresh and fresh troops.
It

was not merely that the Germans had the

superiority in

numbers on each occasion when
This, of course, must always be
;

they attacked.

the privilege of the attacking side
also the

but they had

unspeakable advantage of being able at
a

any time to direct

stream of fresh troops again*

248

The

First

Seven Divisions
line.

any given part of our thin, weary, battered

Thus on October 29th the XXVII. Reserve Corps attacked Kruiseik on the 30th the XV. Army
;

Corps attacked Zandvoorde

;

on October 31st

and November
and
the
II.

1st

we had

the XIII.,

XXIV.,

Bavarian Corps attacking the line from
to Messines, to

Menin road

ber 2nd must be added the

By this time, however, the come up, and did something towards
matters.

which on NovemXXVI. Army Corps. 16th French Army had
equalizing

But again on November nth,
battalions of the Prussian

fifteen

fresh

Guard were brought

up, and

all

that Sir Douglas Haig had to put in

their path

were the remnants of the same un-

conquerable battalions that had
ing,

now been
close

fight-

without intermission,

for

on three

months.

ZANDVOORDE

FOLLOWING
A
30th.

the

loss

of

Kruiseik on the

29th came the

loss of

Zandvoorde on the
in

The
first

particular
as

section

the

line

of

defence

known

the Zandvoorde trenches had
death-trap, and had

from

to last been a

proved particularly expensive to the 3rd CavalryDivision,

whose

special privilege

it

had been to
the south-

defend them.

They curved round

east side of the village, following the contours of

the ridge, and, being the most prominent feature
in

the

entire

Ypres

salient,

were particularly
quarters, except

susceptible to shell-fire

from

all

the

north.

Their

chief

attraction,

from

the

purely military point of view, lay in the fact that

they were on the crest of

a ridge

some 120

feet

high, which here juts out into the plain, and

which
a

faces the ridge of

about the same height

mile and a quarter away, on which Kruiseik

stands.

Their weakness lay in the fact that they

were practically surrounded by the enemy, and were even open to attack from the direction of
249

250

The

First Seven Divisions

Hollebeke, which lay due west of their southern
extension.

In these circumstances their

loss

on

the 30th was not wholly a matter for regret.

At the moment

of the final attack, the 7th C.B.

(Household Cavalry) had already been in these
trenches for three days and nights, under a ceaseless shell-fire

from south and

east,

and occasion-

ally

even from west.

In the case of the machine

gun
been

section of the Blues, under

Lord Worsley,
six

that period was doubled, the detachment having
in the

advance trenches for

days and

nights unrelieved.

There
attack

is

reason to

believe that the

supreme
been
simul-

on

Zandvoorde

had

originally

planned for the 29th, so

as to take place

taneously with that on Kruiseik, but a delay in

the arrival of the
resulted in
its

XV. German Army Corps
till

postponement

the following
arrived

day.

The

expected

reinforcements

during the night of the 29th and
according to arrangement
at

all

being

now

—the attack took place

daybreak on the following morning.

The

attack took the form of a storm of shrapnel
of so terrific a nature that

and high explosives

by nine
had

o'clock the
literally

Household Cavalry trenches

been

blown to

pieces,

and the
the
hill,

brigade was forced to retire slowly

down

Zandvoorde
keeping up
a

251

covering

fire as it

went.

The

retire-

ment was

effected in

good order,

but Lord Hugh

Grosvenor's squadron of the 1st Life Guards, " C " Squadron of the 2nd Life Guards, and

Lord

Worsley's

machine gun
and their
is

section

of

the

Blues did not succeed in withdrawing with the
rest of the brigade,

fate

is still

a

matter

of uncertainty".
in

It

probable, however, that,
reigning,

the

pandemonium which was
the

the

order to retire did not reach them, and that those

who

survived

bombardment aw aited the
r

infantry attack which followed,

and fought
officer
left

it

out to an absolute

finish.

An

in

the

R. Welsh Fusiliers' trenches, on the

of the

Zandvoorde trenches, subsequently described the
defence put up that day

by

the

Household
of the war.

Cavalry
It

as

one of the

finest

feats

may

well

be that untold deeds of heroism

remain yet to be recorded in connection with
that morning's work.*

The

R. Welsh Fusiliers were on the right of
left of

the 22nd Brigade and on the

the Household

Cavalry, in trenches which curved back from the

Zandvoorde trenches and faced

in

the
the

main
Hon.

Among

those

missing

on

that

morning

was
to

Francis
killed.

Lambton.

He was

subsequently reported

have been

252

The

First Seven Divisions

north-west,

whereas

the

Zandvoorde trenches
at

faced south-east.

These trenches were
a big

the

best ill-constructed affairs,
in the middle

and were weakened

by

gap where the road from

Zandvoorde
of the

to Becelaere passed through them.

The Zandvoorde

trenches passed into the hands

enemy soon after nine, and the Germans at once swarmed into them and began making their way along towards the north, till they
a position

reached

from which they could get the

Welsh
the
its

Fusiliers in flank.

Then began

the anni-

hilation

of

this

very gallant

regiment.

From
being

moment
position

that the

Zandvoorde trenches went,
its

was hopeless,

right
its

flank

completely unprotected, and
disconnected
tection.

own

trenches

and ill-adapted

for

mutual proas
it

The

regiment, however, fought

bad fought on the 19th and again on the 20th and
21st.
It fought, in the

words of the C.

in

C,
a

"

till

every officer had been killed or

wounded; only
As
matter

ninety

men

rejoined the brigade."

of fact, the exact

number

of survivors out of a

battalion

which

a fortnight earlier

had numbered

1,100 was 86, and these were shortly afterwards

absorbed into the 2nd Queen's, their only remaining officer being the Quartermaster.

Among

those that

fell

on that day were Captain


Zandvoorde
Barker, Col.

253
Adjutant, Lieut.
very gallant

Cadogan and
latter

his

Dooner.

The

was

killed in a

attempt to
trenches,

cross the interval

which divided the
state
fell

and investigate
;

the

of

affairs

on the right
gallant

and the Colonel
his

in an equally

attempt to rescue
fallen.

subordinate after

he had

The

position was

now

as

may be supposed
The 7th
had
fallen

extremely serious, the enemy being in complete
possession
of

the Zandvoorde ridge.
it

C.B.

(Household Cavalry), when

back in the morning, had retired through the 6th C.B. and formed up in
Its

rear.

retreat

had been greatly

assisted

by the
Artillery

magnificent
Batteries

work

of

the

two Horse
"

attached,

viz.,

C

"

Battery,

under

Major White, and "
Lamont.

K

" Battery, under Major

Both displayed the greatest daring and activity, and the latter succeeded in completely knocking out a
just

German
on

battery which was

coming into action

the

Zandvoorde

ridge.
;

In the meanwhile, the only force which stood

in the
is

way

of the

enemy was the 6th
all

C.B., that

to say, three cavalry regiments,
fighting.

considerably

weakened by

The
if

gravity of the situa-

tion lay in the fact that

the Klein Zillebeke

254

The

First

Seven Divisions

position went, there was nothing further to prevent

the

enemy marching

straight

into Ypres, only-

three miles distant, in which case the ist A.C.

and 7th Division would have been irretrievably
cut off from their base and supplies, and the

capture or annihilation of these three divisions

would have inevitably followed.
Accordingly
Sir

Douglas Haig, quick to

realize

that the events of the next few hours

would

decide the making or marring of the campaign,
sent out an
to

ultimatum to the

effect that the line
i.e.,

which we had now been driven,

from

Gheluvelt to the corner of the canal north of
Hollebeke, was to be held at
all

costs.

Con-

currently an urgent appeal was sent to General

Allenby to send up with
all

all

possible speed

any and

regiments available.

Allenby sent the Scots

Greys' and the 3rd and 4th Hussars
different

all

from
3rd

brigades.
first

The

Greys and

the

Hussars arrived

on the scene, and passed

across to the left flank of the 6th C.B., filling up, in fact, the

gap between that brigade and General
Brigade on
its

Bulfm's
Hussars,

(2nd)

left.

The 4th
of the

who had

further to come, arrived in

time to take up
Royals

a position

on the right

(who were the right-hand regiment of

the 6th C.B.), and carry on the line of defence

Zandvoorde
beyond the railway.

255
then

The

position

was

that the line of the three regiments of the 6th

C.B. was extended by the 3rd Hussars and Greys

on the

left,

and by the 4th Hussars on the

right.

The
now
at

7th C.B.,

who

had concentrated at the
of

little village of

Zwartelen in rear of the 6th C.B.,

sent

off

two squadrons

the

Blues

to

support the Royals,
Hollebeke.

who were

holding the chateau
lies

This chateau

on the low
chateau was

ground to the
beke
itself is

east of the canal,
side.

whereas Holle-

on the west

The

considerably in advance of the line which was

ordered to be held, and with Zandvoorde gone

was of no strategic importance.
force held off the

This combined

enemy

for

some hours, during
the
Royals,
acts

which

time

Sergt.

McLellan, of

especially

distinguished himself

by

several

of great gallantry, but

by midday the chateau

had to be abandoned and was occupied by German
infantry.

Except

for this loss, the cavalry line

held

its

ground throughout the day.
attack,

There was
a

no further infantry
severe shelling
its casualties

but

it

had to stand

all

through the afternoon, and
Kinkead, Captain
the

were numerous, among those of the

10th Hussars being Captain
Fielden,

Captain

Stewart

and

Hon.

H.

Baring.

256

The

First

Seven Divisions

The

R. Sussex, too, in General Bulnn's 2nd

Brigade, on the left of the cavalry,
their full share of the

came

in for

bombardment and
killed.

suffered

very severely, Col. Crispin and Lieuts. Croft,
Marillier

and Lousada being

At

five o'clock in

the afternoon the five cavalry

regiments were relieved by Lord Cavan's Brigade,
the 2nd Grenadier Guards under Major Lord

Bernard Lennox* taking over the position on
the canal

later

on to become famous under the

name

of Hill 60, while the Irish
left.

Guards continued
was
still

the line on their

The

line

further

strengthened on the following morning by the
addition
of

the

Oxfordshire

Light

Infantry

from the 5th Brigade, and the 2nd Gordon Highlanders from the 20th Brigade, these
lions

two batta-

being added to General Bulnn's command,
left of

which was on the

Lord Cavan's.
19 14.

• Killed

November,

GHELUVELT
/"^VCTOBER
^—'
to break

31st

may be

said

to

have wit-

nessed the supreme effort of the

enemy

through to Ypres.

The

attack on this

day was pressed simultaneously along the whole
of our front

from Messines to the Menin road,
greater
part

and lasted not only throughout the day but
during
the
of

the

night.

This

tremendous

battle, covering as it did a frontage

of twelve miles, can only be adequately described

by cutting
which
road,

it

up into three
with the with

sections, the first of

deals

fight

along the
struggle
at

Menin
Klein

the

second

the

Zillebeke,

and the third with the attack on the
with the fight on the Menin be remembered, our troops
a line

cavalry corps at Wytschate and Messines.

We
road.

will deal first

Here,

it

will

had been forced back on the 29th from
just west of Kruiseik
velt

cross-roads to the

Ghelu-

trenches, three-quarters of a

mile further

back,

and on the higher ridge on which that
the morning of the 31st the
257

village stands.

On

new

position
17

258
was in

The
its

First

Seven Divisions

turn attacked, and under conditions

which

in

many ways

recalled the fight of

two

days before.

There was, however,

this difference,

that, while the attack of the 29th had been in

the nature of a surprise in the fog, and had been

unheralded
of

by any previous

cannonade,

that

the 31st was preceded by a

bombardment
wit-

which, in point of violence, threw into the shade
everything which the campaign had yet
nessed.

The

expenditure of ammunition must

have been
missiles

colossal.

This

terrific

discharge

of

commenced

at daybreak,

and gradually
o'clock,

increased in
it

volume up to eleven
had

when

ceased and the infantry attack

commenced.

The
hood

shell-fire

been mainly focussed on

the 3rd and 22nd Brigades in the neighbourof Gheluvelt.

By the

association of these

two Brigades, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Queen's (R. West Surrey Regiment) for the first
time in history found themselves fighting side

by
not

side.

The

occasion was an historic one, but
a

without

strong

note of tragedy,

both

battalions being in the direct track of the

bomEach

bardment,

and

suffering
its

very

severely.

battalion, too, lost

CO.

during the morning,

Col. Pell of the 1st Battalion being killed and

Col. Coles of the

2nd Battalion wounded.

Gheluvelt

259
these

The

tactics

of

the

enemy

in

Menin

road attacks almost always took the same form.
All the batteries within the area
trate

would concen-

on the road and on the trenches immediately

to right
tions

and

left of

the road, making these posi-

absolutely

untenable.

Then,

when the
by
the

troops in the track of the shell-fire had fallen

back dazed into
inferno, they

semi-unconsciousness
a

would drive

dense mass of infantry

into the gap, and so enfilade

—and
By

very often

surround
to right

—the trenches which were
and
left of

still

occupied

the gap.

this

method,

companies,

and

sometimes

whole

battalions,

which had stuck out the

shell-fire,

were over-

whelmed and
Such
right
a

annihilated.

fate

on

this

occasion
of

overtook the

flank

company

the

South

Wales
gap

Borderers just north of Gheluvelt.

This comof the

pany formed the northern boundary

caused by the bombardment, and the

German

wedge, spreading out towards the right, bore

in

down on it from three sides. Major Lawrence, command of the company, faced half the men about and kept up the fight to the bitter
it

end, but
lives as

was merely

a question of selling their

dearly as possible.

The

tide swept over

them and they ceased

to exist.
17*

260

The

First

Seven Divisions
of the

The remaining companies
Borderers
till

South Wales
their

managed

to

maintain

ground

the line north of the road was re-established

in the following way.

At

1.30

the
in

2nd Worcestershire

Regiment,
at

who were
rear,

reserve at the six cross-roads

the corner of the Polygon wood, a mile to the

were ordered to retake the
they
did
in

lost

position.

This

the

following

very

gallant

manner, led by Major Hankey.
in the

They deployed
rushes,

woods

just to the rear of Gheluvelt, and,
a

advancing in
right
last

series

of short

charged

up

to the line of the lost trenches.

The

rush had to be

made

across

200 yards of
shrapnel
in
this

open ground
fire.

in the face of a of

terrific
fell

Over 100
rush,

the Worcesters

last

but

the

remainder

charged

home
loss.

and drove out the Germans with heavy

The
fair

old

trenches

were

found

to

have

been

filled in,

but

a

sunken road just in rear provided
this

cover,

and

the Worcesters

now

lined,

joining

up

their left with the right of the

South

Wales Borderers.
still

The Germans, however, were
itself

in

the village

and the position was

at best a precarious one.

They managed, however,
187

to hold on

till

dark.
lost

The

Worcesters

men

in

this

short,

Gheluvelt

261

brilliant charge.

The achievement was
one of the one

alluded

to

by the C.

in C. as

finest in

the
the

whole

campaign,
a

and

which

saved

army from

very awkward predicament.
Scots

The

1st

Guards,

on the
as

left

of

the

South Wales Borderers again,

on the 29th,

stood firm throughout the day, and contributed
in

no small measure to the ultimate repulse of
enemy.
this

the
of

In

the

afternoon

one

company
co-operate

battalion

was

detached to

in the counter-attack

made by
This

the Worcesters,
line

and generally to re-establish the broken
north
of

Gheluvelt.

they succeeded in

doing, with very able support from the 42nd

Battery

R.F.A.,

but in

the

doing of

it

lost

Captain Wickham and Major Vandeweyer, the
former of

whom

was

killed.

Meanwhile another
Fusiliers.

historic resistance

was beine

put up south of the road by the 2nd R. Scots

This battalion formed the southern
of the gap, just as the

boundary

South Wales
;

Borderers formed the northern boundary

and

when the German
in, it

infantry

wedge was forced
where the enemy
guns.

found

its

trenches very badly raked from
chateau,

the gardens of the

had

installed

some

machine

General

Watt, the Brigadier, recognizing that the position

262

The

First Seven Divisions

of

this

regiment had

now become
them
to

untenable,

telephoned
wire,

through

to

retire.

The
were

however, had been cut

by shrapnel and
orderlies

the message did not arrive.

Two

thereupon successively dispatched to order their
retirement.

Both were knocked over and again
did not
reach.

the order

In

the meanwhile,

Col. Baird Smith, having received no order to
retire,

continued to hold
till

his

ground with ever
end the German
gallant

dwindling numbers,

in the

masses swept over them, and another
British battalion ceased to exist.

Only seventy

men, commanded by
Five months
the officers

a

junior officer, escaped

the carnage of that day.
later,

General Watt, addressing
at
Sailly,

and men

after

another
said

great performance

by the same
this

battalion,
:

with reference to

occasion

" Col. Baird

Smith, gallant soldier that he was, decided and
rightly to hold his ground,
Fusiliers

and the R. Scots
till

fought and fought

the Germans
into

absolutely surrounded

them and swarmed
it
'

the trenches.

I

think

was perfectly splendid.
hands up
'

Mind

you,

it

was no case of
;

or any

nonsense of that sort

it

was

a fight to a finish.

You may
ment and

well be proud to belong to such a regiI

am proud

to have

you

in

my brigade."

Gheluvelt

263

To
in

the south of the R. Scots Fusiliers, and

the same brigade, were the

2nd Bedfords.

This regiment, too, had suffered very severely
during the day, both
Traill
its

senior officers,

Major
but the

and Major

Stares, being killed,

brigade order to retire had not failed to reach
it,

as in

the case of the Scotchmen, and
effect its

it

had

been able to

withdrawal in good order.
not
carry
their

The Germans
beyond
gained had only

did

advance

Gheluvelt.

The ground they had been won by a prodigious exand
their
losses

penditure of ammunition, followed by a reckless
sacrifice

of

men,
Their

had been
too,

enormous.

further

progress,

was

barred by the troops which had been shelled

out of the village in the morning.

These

-a

ere

now formed up

half facing

the road between
a successful

Gheluvelt and Veldhoek, and offered

bar to any further advance on the part of the

enemy.

The Germans, however,

did not relin-

quish their attempts to push on to Veldhoek

without further serious fighting, in the course
of

which the 2nd Queen's sustained
their

still

further
Coles,
falling

losses,

three

senior

officers,

Col.

Major

Croft
as

and
well

Major
as

Bottomley

wounded,

Captain
fell

Weeding

and

Lieut. Philpot.

Night

without any further

264

The

First

Seven Divisions
Gheluvelt

advance on the part of the enemy.
itself,

however, in spite of the gallant counter-

attack north of the road, during the afternoon,

may be
day on.

considered

as

having been

lost

from

this

MESSINES AND WYTSCHATE
I

N

order to avoid

trie

confusion inseparable
it

from
best

a constant

change of scene,

will

be
at

to

deal

briefly

now with

the

doings

Messines and Wytschate, after which the Klein
Zillebeke section can monopolize our attention

up

to the close of this little chronicle.

In order
it

to pick
will

up the thread where
General
Allenby

it

was dropped,

be necessary to go back to the 30th.

On
Head

that

day

wired

to

Quarters that his numbers were too weak to hold
his position

from the canal

at Hollebeke to the

La Doune stream, south

of Messines, for long

unaided, and the C. in C. at once responded

by sending up four battalions from the 2nd
A.C.
These,

under

General

Shaw

to

his

assistance.

as will

presently be seen, arrived in the

very nick of time to save the situation.
their
task
arrival,

Pending
colossal

the cavalry had

a

truly

before
;

them.

They were

absurdly

out-

numbered

they had opposed to them, in the
II.

XXIV. and

Bavarian Corps, some of the finest
265

266

The

First Seven Divisions

fighters in the

German Army,

stimulated by the

presence of the Kaiser himself, and they were

engaged in

a

form

of warfare to

which they had
was reckoned

never been trained. being hurried up,

French reinforcements were
true,

it is

but

it

that, at the earliest, they could not arrive in less

than

forty-eight

hours.

During

these

forty-

eight hours, could the cavalry, with the assistance

which had been sent up from the 2nd A.C., successfully

oppose the pressure of two army corps
the
that
this

?

This

was

problem of the moment.
it

We
but

know now
even with
history,

did succeed in doing

so,

fact

behind us

as

a

matter of

we may
disparity

still

in

view of the extra-

ordinary

in

numbers

—wonder

as

to

how

it

was done.
let

First

us

deal

with Messines, which was

almost on the southern boundary of the Cavalry

Corps position.

Here we
or, to

find

posted the

ist

and 2nd C.B.,

be more exact, these two

brigades were in the trenches to the east of that

town, the Bays being on the north

side,

then

the 9th Lancers and 4th Dragoon Guards, with
the

5th

Dragoon Guards

to

the

south.

In

reserve, in the second line,

were the 18th and

nth

Hussars.

The

latter

regiment had suffered

severely

from the bombardment on the previous

Messines and Wytschate

267

day, their trenches being completely blown in

and
the

many men
killed,

buried

and

killed.

Amongst

officers, Lieuts.

Chaytor and Lawson-Smith

had been

and Lieut. -Col Pitman, Major

Anderson and the Hon. C. Mulholland wounded.
Again, on the following day, the regiment
a
lost

very fine athlete,

and

a

champion boxer,
killed

in

Captain Halliday,
the Convent.

who was

by

a shell

near

In spite of an appalling bombardment, the
regiments in the front line held on
all

through

the night of the 30th, and up to midday on the
31st.

Then
by

they began to be gradually driven
2 p.m. they

back, and

were

all

in the

town.

The

retirement was effected in perfect order.

Corpl. Seaton, 9th Lancers, behaved with extra-

ordinary courage during this

recommended

for

the

movement and was Victoria Cross. With
his

the idea of helping the withdrawal of his regi-

ment, he remained absolutely alone in
working
within
his

trench

machine gun
yards.

till

the

twenty

Incredible

enemy were it as may
his

appear, he then managed, thanks to great coolness

and presence

of

mind, to rejoin

regiment

unwounded.

Once
of the

in the town, the cavalry lined the houses

main

street

from end to end, and there

268
awaited

The

First Seven Divisions

developments.

These took the form
and
of
a

of a cessation of the shelling

very deter-

mined attempt on the part
to take the town.

the Bavarians

They

failed,

however, to get
in

across the square, being shot

down

numbers

from the windows
followed later, and

of the houses

opposite.

A

second and more carefully thought out attack
it is

doubtful

how

this

might

have ended but

for

the opportune arrival of

the K.O.S.B. and the K.O.Y.L.I., one at each

end

of

the

town.

This

reinforcement
the

once

more turned the
and
for the second

scale

against

Bavarians,

time they were driven back.
battalions
Sir

Both the

infantry

words of General Allenby to

engaged, in the Horace, " fought
its

magnificently," but the K.O.Y.L.I. lost
Col.

CO.,
the

King,
to

who was
the
short.

killed

while leading that
respite
in

regiment
cavalry

attack.

The

of

was

The enemy was

over-

powering force and they were not to be denied.

They now proceeded
jectile

for five solid hours to shell

the place with every conceivable species of pro-

known

to warfare.

At

2

a.m. on the

31st the infantry attacked for the third time.

In the meanwhile the only available reserve

was being hurried up from Neuve Eglise,
fast
as

as

motor-buses could bring

it.

This was

Messines and Wytschate

269
at the

the

London
for

Scottish,

which had arrived
the

front the day previous, after having been

em-

ployed

some

weeks

at

base.

reached Messines during the preliminary

They bomof
at

bardment on the night
battalion joining

of the 30th, and, before
split

going into action, were

up,

half

the

up with the K.O.S.B.
rest

one

end
at

of the

town, and the

with the K.O.Y.L.I.
a full

the other.

There was
it

moon and
it

a

clear sky,

and

was

as light as

day, and

has

been said that for picturesque
in

effect

no incident
on
to

the war has equalled that night attack

Messines.

An
first

additional

interest

was lent

the scene by the fact that the

London

Scottish

were the
action,

Territorial

battalion

to

be
as

in

and there was some speculation

to

how

their

conduct would compare with that
It
is

of the Regulars.

now

a

matter of history

that they acquitted themselves as well as the

most

tried troops,

and that under exceptionally
If
it

trying

circumstances.

be

true

that

casualties in killed

and wounded are the barometer
intrepidity,

of

a

regiment's

then they indeed

register high in the scale, for they lost 9 officers

and 400 men
in an acute

in that first night's fighting.

In

any event they rendered very valuable service
emergency, and
it is

on record that

270
in a

The
hand
to

First

Seven Divisions

hand bayonet encounter with the
actually

Bavarians,
warriors

they

drove

those

noted

back.

The

odds, however, were altolittle

gether too great against the

British force,
1st

and on the morning

of

November
as

Messines

passed into the hands of the enemy.

A
of

feat

so

remarkable

to

rival

the deeds

Shaw,

the

Lifeguardsman,
of

was
the

performed
Carabineers,

by Sergt. -Major Wright,
message

during this defence of Messines.
while
carrying
his
a

This N.C.O.,
Quarters,

a

to

Head

found

path blocked by

a part of

the enemy.

Without
and cut

moment's hesitation he charged them

his

way through,

killing five.

Another

Carabineer

who behaved with

repeated gallantry

during these operations was Pte. Meston, and

both he and Sergt. -Major Wright were given the

D.C.M.

On
31st,

the same night,

i.e.,

the night of October
fate of Messines.

Wytschate shared the

The 4th
of the

C.B. had succeeded in holding this

place throughout the day, but during the course

night they found themselves very hard

pressed,
this

and were gradually forced back.
the

In

emergency

Northumberland

Fusiliers

and Lincolns were ordered up to the support
of the cavalry.

Messines and Wytschate

271

These two 9th Brigade battalions had arrived
at

Kemmel

during the afternoon, having marched

that day from Estaires, a distance of some twelve
miles.

They were
day's

in billets, resting after their

hard

work,

when

the

message

arrived,
effect

about one o'clock in the morning, to the
that they were required.

Within an hour from
to

the receipt of the message both battalions were

on

the road,

the Lincolns being the
of

first

arrive

on the scene

action.

The country
a

was totally unknown to the newcomers, but
cavalry sergeant was

met who volunteered

to

lead

them to the position occupied by the enemy. Under his guidance they entered the
runs along the edge of the road from
to Wytschate,
passes just before
it

cutting through which the light railway, which

Kemmel
number
called

reaches the
a

town.
of

Here they became aware
in

of

men moving

their

direction,

who

out in excellent English and Hindustani that
they were British cavalry and Indians.
the actual identity of these

Before

men

could, in the

gloom
of

of the night,

be ascertained for certain,
fire,

the newcomers opened

both from the end
;

the cutting and from the sides

and the

Lincolns,
defile,

who were
in

closely

packed in the narrow

fell

numbers before they could be

272

The

First

Seven Divisions
they met the
the

extricated.

After getting clear,
Fusiliers

Northumberland
direction
battalions
of

advancing from

Kemmel, and together the two

formed up, and with great gallantry
numbers, however, was too
literally

once more attacked the entrance to the town.

The
great.
in the

inequality

in

The Germans were
town, and
it

swarming

was clear that General Shaw's
set

two
task.

battalions

had been

to

an impossible

They
fields.

retired to the outskirts of the town,
till

where they held on
open
troops

daylight, lying in the

When dawn
their
left.

broke

the

London
but no
of

Scottish could be seen on their right,

on

The

unpleasantness

the situation was not in
a

any way relieved by
artillery

heavy

fire

which our own
battalions,

now opened

upon the two
impression
that
killed

under the mistaken

they

were

Germans.

Many
In

men were
to

and wounded by
general
road,

this fire.

conformity with the
the

plan of retiring

Wulverghem
went
lest

the

Lincolns

and

Northumberland
and Wytschate

Fusiliers

were now

withdrawn,
Messines.
all

the

way
night

of

The

Lincolns

400

men and

but

4

officers

during

this

short

attack.

Col.

W.

E. Smith was specially

commended

for the

great personal courage which he showed during

Messines and Wytschate
and

273

the

attack,

for

the
his

skill

with which he
Lieut.
for

ultimately

withdrew
continuing

regiment.

Blackwood was awarded the D.S.O.
gallantly

very
after

to

lead

the

attack

every officer senior to himself had fallen.
losses

The
were

of

the

Northumberland

Fusiliers

not quite so heavy, but were
especially in officers.

still

very severe,

The dismounted
the

cavalry line

now

retired to

Wulverghem

to

Kemmel

road,

where they

entrenched themselves, but their numbers were
quite inadequate for the frontage to be held.

Pending the

arrival of the

French, Sir

Horace
the

was ordered by the C. in C. to send up to their
assistance

every

available

man from

2nd

A.C., which was recouping at Pradelles.

The

Dorsets
to
a

and Worcesters were accordingly sent
Eglise,

Neuve
half
east

and the remaining seven and

battalions
of

all

skeletons

—were
ist.

sent

up

to

Bailleul

under

General

Morland.

Such was the position on November

On
up
at

this

day the anxiously awaited 16th French
to arrive, the troops being railed

Army began
II

at the rate of eighty train loads a day,

and

a.m.

on

the

2nd,

both

Messines

and

Wytschate were retaken by the French with

some

assistance

from our cavalry.

Some

of the

18

274

The

First Seven Divisions

1

2th Lancers, led by 2nd Lieut. Williams, of

the Scots Greys,

made

a

very brilliant bayonet

charge during the recapture of the latter town.

The
on

above-mentioned

officer

was

officially

reported to have himself killed eleven Germans
this occasion,

and was awarded the D.S.Q.
officially

The French now
on the north. between
It

took over from us

the line from Messines on the south to the canal
is

interesting to note that,

October

27th

and

November
of

nth,

some 200,000 French
of

infantry, pieces

twenty regiments
heavy
artillery

cavalry

and
to

sixty

reached
is

Ypres,

Poperinghe,

and

Bailleul.

It

difficult

conceive of any

more eloquent

tribute

to

the astonishing performance of the
khaki ribbon, which had for a fort-

thin

little

night

wound round
one

Ypres, than the fact that

this great force

was found none too strong to

hold

fourth of the front over which our

handful of
all

men had

so far successfully resisted

the attempts of the

enemy

to break through.
figures,
it
is

In calling attention to these

not

intended in any sense to draw invidious comparisons

between

the

relative

merits

of

the

French and British

soldier,

or even to suggest

that the British troops accomplished a task of

which the French would have been incapable.

Messines and Wytschate
generally admitted by

275

It

is

all

our commanders
as a fighter is

at the front that the

Frenchman
his

unsurpassed,
are

though
as

methods
;

of

fighting

not the same

ours

and,

allowing for

the fact that, in cases where the entire

man-

hood
only
for

of a nation fights, the average of individual

excellence
a

must obviously be lower than when body
of

select

volunteers

is

engaged,
to

explanatory

purposes

with

regard
safely

the

disposition of troops,

one

may
as

reckon a

French and British regiment
fighting value.

being of equal

All that
to the
figures,

is

aimed

at,

then,

is

to try and bring
a

mind

of the reader,

by

comparison of
of

some grasp

of

the

immensity

the

performance of our troops east and south of
Ypres, during the desperate efforts of the
to break through in the last fortnight of

enemy
It
is

October

and

the

first

fortnight
too,

of

November.

worthy

of note,

that in spite of the huge

reinforcements brought up, no material advance

was made on the position taken over from us

on November

1st.

It

is

true that on the day

following, the newly-arrived French troops re-

took Wytschate and Messines, from which

we

had been driven, but they were unable to hold those places, and the line along which they
18*

276

The
us

First

Seven Divisions
the

had found
perceptibly

facing

enemy was never
line
at

advanced.

The new

the

beginning of

November, held
Klein Zillebeke

jointly

by the

French troops and British cavalry, ran
speaking

—roughly
Cavalry

—from

to

Ploegsteert,

with

a

concave face which skirted Hollebeke,

Wytschate,
Division,

and

Messines.

Our
to

1st

supported

by some units from the

2nd A.C., was withdrawn
Bailleul.

Wulverghem, and

the 2nd Cavalry Division went into reserve at

Neuve

Eglise
of

became our advanced
the
line,

base for that part

and was very

quickly packed with British troops.

We
rences

have

now
of

taken

a

permanent

farewell,
all

as far as these

pages are concerned, of
the
canal
at

occur-

south

Hollebeke.

We

have seen the 2nd A.C. relieved by the Indians,

and the Cavalry Corps relieved by the French,
and, with this change of guardianship,

we have

seen two of the most important points in the
line of defence pass out of the keeping of the

original Expeditionary Force.

Of that
7th

force

the 1st A.C. alone (with the
it

Division,

which

had absorbed)
and south-east

still

re-

mained unrelieved

east

of Ypres.

The
the

force,

however, which

now

stood between

enemy and the

possession of Ypres,

had by

Messines and Wytschate

277

this

time

lost

many

of its distinctive character-

istics.

The
cases

actual battalion units

had become
of their

in

most

reduced to

a

mere shadow
Division had

original strength.

part of the 1st

The 7th A.C, and

become

several battalions of

the 2nd A.C. were acting in concert with this
already

mixed

corps.

Many

of

the

brigades

had been broken up from
stituents,

their

original

con-

and the fragments consolidated into

new and temporary brigades. Sir Horace was for the moment an A.C. commander without an A.C, the remnants of his six heroic brigades
being scattered here and there along the whole
front.

The

first,

and perhaps the most interesting,
the war

because the most strenuous, epoch in


to

as far as it

concerned the British Force
;

—was
that

nearly

closed

but
it,

not

quite.

Before

can be written of
be
done,
still

some great deeds had yet and were done. The Germans

were
efforts

making continuous and determined to break through to Ypres by way of
our
attention

Klein Zillebeke, and to that particular zone of
the
fighting

can henceforth

be

confined.

KLEIN ZILLEBEKE
"\

JL

THEN
*

we

last

took

leave
of

of

the Klein

*

Zillebeke

section

the fighting-line,

on the night of October 30th, the cavalry position

from Klein Zillebeke to the canal had

just

been taken over by Lord Cavan with the 2nd
Grenadiers and Irish Guards, the former being

on the
were

canal.

On

the

left

of the Irish

Guards

the

2nd Gordon Highlanders, with the
in
reserve,

Oxford Light Infantry

and beyond
their

them the Sussex and Northamptons, with
left

joining
left

up with the 22nd Brigade.
the

On
21st
its

the

of

22nd

Brigade was the

Brigade, with the 2nd R. Scots Fusiliers on

extreme flank just south
at Gheluvelt.

of

the

Menin road

The

20th Brigade was in reserve.

During the morning the 3rd Cavalry Division
was kept
at

Verbranden Molen ready for emer1

gencies, but about

p.m. orders were received

for
St.

it

to go to the support of the 3rd C.B. at

Eloi.

Contradictory orders were, however,

afterwards received, and in the end the brigade
278

Klein Zillebeke

279

joined up with the 4th Hussars, and together

they held the two bridges over the canal at
the bend just north of Hollebeke
till

nightfall.

In

this action Sergt.

Seddons, of the 4th Hussars,
of

showed great gallantry during the defence
the

the eastern bridge and was deservedly awarded

D.C.M.
co-operate

In the meanwhile the 6th C.B.
as to

was sent along the Menin road so
to
1st

be ready
or
as

with

the

7th

Division

the
will

A.C. in case of need.

That need

presently be seen

—very

quickly arose.

The

original plan for this

day had been to
ridge, together
lost

attack and retake the

Zandvoorde

with the trenches which had been
before,

the day

but the enemy's extreme activity renthis

dered

impracticable,

and we were

in

the

end forced to act purely on the defensive.

We

are

now, be

it

remembered, dealing with

the morning of October 31st, the day on which

the cavalry were driven out of Wytschate and

Messines and the
Gheluvelt.

1st

and 7th Divisions out

of

The

terrific

bombardment

of that
It

morning has already been described.
chiefly

was
but

concentrated on the
line

Menin

road,

the whole

from Gheluvelt to the canal

was involved.

The 2nd

Brigade,

which was between the

280

The

First Seven Divisions

two Guards'
had
It
a

battalions

and the 7th Division,

curious experience during the morning.

survived the bombardment,
to
it

and when
infantry

this

slackened

allow
still

the
in

German
its

to

advance,

was

trenches

and preo'clock,

pared

to

remain there.
General
the
Bulfin

About

eight

however,
C.O.'s
of

summoned

the
a

four

brigade,

and ordered

general

retirement

of the brigade to the cross-roads at

Zillebeke, about a mile in rear.

This was duly
loss

carried out,
of

and without much
through
the

on the part

the
to

Sussex
retire

and Northamptons, who were
Zwartelen

able

woods

without coming under observation.

The 2nd
fortunate.

Gordon Highlanders, however (attached temporarily to the

2nd Brigade), were

less

Their trenches were in the open, running northeastward from Klein Zillebeke farm along the

edge of the country lane known

as

the

Brown
a

Road, and, in

retiring,

they had to cross

con-

siderable tract of exposed ground, during

which

they suffered very severely from
fire,

machine-gun

Captain McLean's company being practically
out.
this

wiped
It

was afterwards freely rumoured that

order to retire had been delivered to General
Bulfin,
as
a

Divisional

Order,

by

a

German

Klein Zillebeke

281

dressed in the uniform of a British Staff officer.

Some
been

colour

is

given to this rumour by the

extreme improbability of such an order having
officially

given
the

after

Sir

Douglas Haig's
that

ultimatum

of

day

before,

the
to

line

which
event,

this

apocryphal

order
all

caused
costs.

be

abandoned
it
is

was to be held at
a

In any

matter of history that those conas

cerned did not accept the retired position
a

permanency, and

a counter-attack

was quickly

organized.

The 6th
reserve
as far as

C.B.,

which

had
road,

been

waiting

in

on the Menin

was

brought up

the Basseville brook, where

they deployed to the south, and, partly mounted

and partly

dismounted,

charged

through the

Zwartelen woods.
Highlanders,
the

Simultaneously the Gordon
to

now reduced
of

300,

and under
Uniacke
in

command

Major Craufurd
a

(Col.

having been knocked out by

shell

earlier

the day), charged on the right of the cavalry,

with the Oxford Light Infantry extending the
line

again

on their

right.

Before this united
in

movement the Bavarian

troops

the woods

turned and ran, but, true to their principles,
continued to cover their retreat with
a

heavy

machine-gun
were

fire.

Two

of these

machine guns
the

successfully

located,

and

6th

C.B.

282

The

First Seven Divisions

menhandled
knocked

a gun into the firing line and them both out in fine style. This

broke the back of the resistance.
started

The

Bavarians

landers took a

and the Gordon Highnumber of prisoners up to the time when Lieut. Grahame was shot dead by an officer who had surrendered to him after
surrendering,
;

that they took fewer.

The enemy

losses

were very heavy.

Eight

hundred and seventy prisoners were taken during
the day, and the
in the

number

of killed

and wounded

woods ran into

several hundreds.

This charge

—successful

though

it

had been
in the

in clearing the

Zwartelen woods of the enemy

—had not yet reinstated the
line
arisen.

2nd Brigade

which they had occupied
General
Bulfin

in the morning,

before the much-discussed order to retire had
therefore
to

decided
the

to

try

during the

night

regain

morning
that

position.
full

Accordingly at midnight, under the
at

moon, and
battle

the

same

time

the

desperate

was

raging

round

Messines

and Wytschate eight miles to the south-west,
the

2nd Brigade made
This, as far as
it

their

second countera

attack.
success.

went, was

complete

The

trenches

were

carried

and

occupied,

and the Germans driven out.

Un-

Klein Zillebeke
22nd

283
Brigade,

fortunately,

however,

the

on

the
line,

left,

found themselves unable to get up into

and, owing to their left being unprotected,

the 2nd Brigade battalions had one after the
other

in succession

from the

left

—to

fall

back

again.

These two

attacks,

i.e.,

the afternoon charge

through the woods and

the

midnight assault

on the trenches, had now reduced the Gordons
to 3 officers

and

no

men, and these were

for the

time being amalgamated with the Oxfordshire
Light Infantry,
Irish

who were on

their right.

The

Guards remained

in their original position,

on the right

of the Oxfordshire

Light Infantry,

but the 2nd Grenadiers were relieved by French
Territorials

and went back into

reserve.

The

nett result of this terrible day's

fighting

was that our line was pushed back everywhere,
except at Klein Zillebeke and Zonnebeke, the

two points which marked
southern limits of the Ypres

the

northern

and
effect

salient.

The
Guards

of the recapture of the Gheluvelt position

by the
was

2nd
place,

Worcesters

and

1st

Scots

neutralized by the cave in the line south of that

which rendered Gheluvelt untenable.

It

had therefore to be abandoned.
place, however, was of

The

loss of

that

no material importance,

284

The
its

First Seven Divisions

as

abandonment

had

long

been

recog-

nized

as a

necessary step in the gradual straightsalient.

ening out of the Ypres
effect of the

The

only serious

new

line

was that Klein Zillebeke,
so

which

for long

had been the re-entering angle,
was pushed forward into

to speak, of the position, now, to right

by the retirements
a

and

left of it,

species of salient,

and

its

vulnerability was thereby

appreciably increased.
ability at

This

increased vulner-

once transformed Klein Zillebeke into
as

the centre of interest

far

as

this

zone was

concerned, this
already given

little

village

being
at

for reasons
all

a spot

which

any and

costs

had to be kept from the enemy.
beke

To

Klein Zille-

and

neighbourhood,

then,

we may not

unreasonably look for early developments.

One
the

of the

many unhappy

incidents of this

day's costly fighting was the landing of a shell in

Divisional

Head Quarters

at

Hooge, by

which General Lomax received wounds from

which he subsequently died, General Munro was
rendered unconscious, and Col.
staff officers

Kerr and

five

were

killed.

THE RELIEF OF THE SEVENTH DIVISION
A LL
-**-

through the 31st and morning following,

the Irish Guards on the right of the Gora

don Highlanders were subjected to
shelling,

relentless

and their

casualties

were considerable.
1st

On

the morning of

November

both their
at 3

machine guns were knocked out, and
news came that they were
sent
retiring.

p.m.

Lord Cavan

word

for

them

to hold

on some 200 yards
French Territorials
Hollebeke to hold

to the rear,

and

also for the

between them and the canal
on to their position

at

at all costs.

This the French

managed
selves, at

to do, with very great credit to

themleft

the same time throwing back their

so as to keep in

touch with the new position.
at

The Germans
position

once occupied

the

Irish

Guards' trenches, but luckily did not realize the
sufficiently

to

pursue their advantage

further, otherwise the consequences

might have

been

serious.

As

it

was, sufficient time was given

for the

2nd Grenadiers and 7th C.B. to come up
285

286

The

First

Seven Divisions
this stiffening

in support,

and with

the

new

line

was held for the
a cave at

rest of the day.

But there was
casualties

Klein Zillebeke.

The
this

Irish

Guards had 400

during

and the previous day's

fighting,

including

11

officers:

Major Stepney, the Hon. A. Mul-

holland and Lieuts. Coke and Mathieson being
killed,

and Col. Lord Ardee (attached from the

Grenadiers), the

Hon. T. Vesey, the Hon. A.
Fergusson,

Alexander,

Lieuts.

Gore-Langton,

Lord Kingston, and Lord Francis Scott (attached
from Grenadiers), wounded.
officer

The

last

named

and Captain Orr-Ewing (attached from
Guards) were each awarded the D.S.O,

Scots

" for gallant and persistent attempts to rally the
battalion."

On
road.

the morning of

November 2nd

there was a

renewal of the regulation attack along the Menin

This time the attack took the form of

a

high-explosive
across

bombardment

of

the

barricade

the

road at Veldhoek.

This was soon
1st

demolished and an infantry attack on the
Brigade ensued,
as a result of

which that skeleton

brigade yielded 300 yards of ground, but held on
to the trenches in rear
till

nightfall.

Further

south,
a

about

11.30
attack

on
was

the

same

morning,

tremendous

delivered

The Relief
against the

of the Seventh Division

287

2nd Brigade,

in the course of

which

Gen. Bulfin was wounded and part
driven
sent to
in.

of the line

An

urgent appeal for support was

Lord Cavan, upon

whom
of

it

now devolved
Bulfin's

to take over

command
all

Gen.

four

battalions, in addition to his
his

own

two.

He made

way with
a

speed to the scene of action,

with

view to discovering the extent of the This proved to be
(so in,

mischief.

far)

that the

Northamptons had been driven

and that the
in

enemy

—following

up

had broken through
on the

numbers into the Hooge woods.
Northamptons, that
is

Beyond the
left of his

to say,

new command,
firm.

the R. Sussex were

still

standing
greatly

This

regiment,
its

how ever,
T

w as
r

reduced in numbers,

casualties during the last

four days having averaged over a hundred per day.

On

the 30th Col. Crispin had been killed

;

on

the following day his successor, Major Green, had

been

killed,

and the regiment was

at the

moment
Lord

under the command of Captain

Villiers.

Cavan found
tion,

it

in an extremely precarious situaits

owing to

weak numerical condition, and
its

the envelopment of

right flank, consequent

upon the Northamptons' retirement.
as far as

He

therereserve

upon hurried up the 2nd Grenadiers from
the

Brown Road, where he ordered them

288

The

First

Seven Divisions

to leave their packs

and go straight through the
the appearance of
is

wood towards the

south-east with the bayonet.
all

These Ypres woods have
formed
ash,

an English copse wood, that
of

to say, they arc
of hazel

some

six years'

growth

and

with standard oaks dotted about here and
Incidentally they were at this time full

there.

of pheasants, destined to

be shot in normal times
of

by the Lords
velt

of the

Chateaux

Hooge, Ghelu-

and Heronhage.

Precisely in the

manner

of

a line of beaters

driving game, the Grenadiers

now pushed through the thick undergrowth, and
while the pheasants rose before the advancing
line,

so

did the

Germans

run.

By

4.30

the

wood was

cleared and the

morning

line restored.

The Northamptons thereupon
there in peace.

reoccupied their

trenches, but they were not destined to be left

About

six

in the evening the

Germans again attacked the same
this

part of the line,
yells,

time advancing with discordant

think-

ing,

no doubt, to repeat
If so,

their performance of the

morning.

the event must have
a surprise, for

come

to

them

as

something of

the Northprevious

—profiting possibly experience — coolly waited
amptons
was within
fifty

by

their

till

the attacking party

yards of the trenches, and then

mowed them down.

Not

a

German reached

the

The
trenches,

Relief of the Seventh Division

289

and over 200 dead were

left

on the

ground.

reserve

At night the R. Sussex were brought back into and the remnant of the Gordons went

back to the 20th Brigade, which brigade was at
the time in the grounds of the In addition to their previous

Hooge Chateau.
the Gordons

losses,

had during the day
furd,

lost their

CO., Major Crau-

who was wounded
position
of
:

in the early morning.

The
in

Lord Cavan's command was
the Northamptons on the
left,

then, as follows

touch with the R. Welsh Fusiliers in the 7th
;

Division

then the Oxfordshire Light Infantry

and the 2nd Grenadiers, who had become very

much mixed
Guards.

up, and on

the right

the

Irish

Beyond were the French
fall

Territorials.

With the

of night

on the 2nd
crisis

of

the acuteness of the five days'
to have passed.

November may be said
enemy
of

The
;

all-highest

War Lord had

come and gone
had
out
failed

the supreme effort of the

to break through to Ypres
;

had been made, and

the British force had

come out

the ordeal reduced to a shadow, and battered
of

recognition,

but
fallen

unconquered.
back sullen and
realizing

The

Kaiser's forces

had

the time being

—disheartened,

for

at

last

the hopelessness of the task they had been set
19

290

The

First Seven Divisions

to accomplish.

Their

losses

had been prodigious,

and though
sacrifice

their repeated attacks

had
of

—forced
last

at great

back

the

face

the

Ypres

salient

some two
in

miles, the only military effect

resulting therefrom

was that the British force
of

was

at

occupation of the true line

defence dictated by military prudence and the
natural
line,

features
is

of

the

country.

From

this

that

to say, the ridge

some 150

feet in

height which runs from the corner of the canal
at

Hollebeke to Zonnebeke,

they were never

afterwards dislodged.

The
ful.

3rd, 4th

and 5th were

in the

main unevent-

November 5th was
year,
as

chiefly

memorable

in

this

not for anti-Popish demonstrations,

but

the day on which the 7th Division

after

three weeks' incessant fighting
relieved.
it

—was

temporarily
in

During the three weeks
356
officers

question
of

had

lost

out of
file

a full

complement

400, and 9,664 rank and
Battalions

out of a total of 12,000.

had been reduced to the dimensions
and had,
in

of platoons,

some

cases,

lost

every

combatant

officer.

The
as

7th Division's

performance,

during

its

three weeks east of Ypres, will go

down

to history

one of the most remarkable achievements in

the records of war.

Many

other units had, by


The Relief
of the Seventh Division

291

the second half of November, lost
officers

as

heavily in
of

and men

as

had the twelve battalions
one or two
cases

the 7th Division
heavily
;

in

even more
dis-

but the

losses

of these
;

had been

tributed over three months

those of the 7th

Division

were concentrated into three weeks.
pitchforked into a posiresponsibility.

They had been suddenly
tion of the

most supreme

They

found themselves more by chance than by design
standing in the road along which the

War Lord
efforts

had elected to make
to reach Calais.
sion of

his

most determined
efforts

These

came

as a succes-

hammer-blows, which gave the defending

force neither rest nor respite, and to cope with

which
Their

their

numbers were ludicrously
and

insufficient.

failure,

however, would have spelt disaster

to the cause of the Allies,

—realizing
by

this

they actually achieved
is

the impossible.
stirring in the

There
thought
step, as
it

something particularly

of this small force beaten back step

fresh

and

fresh troops

were hurled upon
its

day

after day,
foe,

and yet never turning

back to the

never beaten, never despondent, and never

for a

moment

failing in
it.

the trust which had been

imposed upon
spot in

The most

remarkable feature
it

about the 7th Division was that
its

had no weak
of its twelve

composition.

Each one

19*

292

The

First Seven Divisions

battalions lived

up

in every particular to the high

standard of duty and efficiency which the Division
set itself

from the beginning.

The

troops were

mostly veterans

from abroad, who had been
foreign service too late to

summoned back from

take part in the earlier stages of the war, and they

may

therefore in a sense be considered as picked

troops.*

The

7th and 15th Brigades from the 2nd A.C.,
themselves
Brigade,

Avho relieved the 7th Division, were
sadly thinned
in

numbers.

The

7th

which took the place
fact, lost

of the 20th Brigade, had, in
its

seventy-four per cent, of
Bassee,

numbers
in

during the fighting round La
almost
it

and was

as

bad

a plight as

the 20th Brigade, which

relieved.

The

15 th Brigade,

which replaced

the 22nd, was rather stronger, having received
drafts

from home.
20th Brigade went back to Locre, and the
Division (Gen. Capper).
ist

The
*

The 7th

20th Brigade (Gen. Ruggles-Brise),

Grenadiers.

2nd Scots Guards, 2nd Battalion the Border Regiment. 2nd Gordon Highlanders (old 92nd). 2ist Brigade (Gen. Watt), 2nd Yorkshire Regiment. 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment, 2nd R. Scots Fusiliers. 2nd Wiltshire Regiment. 22nd Brigade (Gen. Lawford), 2nd R. Warwickshire Regiment. 2nd Queen's (R. West Surrey Regiment), ist R. Welsh Fusiliers,
ist S. Staffordshire

Regiment.

The
22nd to
for the

Relief of the Seventh Division

293

Bailleul.

The

21st

suffered rather the least of

—which perhaps had the three —remained

time being in the trenches.

At night the 6th C.B. took over the trenches
at

Heronhage Chateau from the 3rd Brigade, who
a

had been having

rough time during the pre-

ceding days, and these went back into reserve.

ZWARTELEN
"\TOVEMBER
6th saw a
certain renewal of

the enemy's activity.

The day opened
a

v ery foggy, but by eleven o'clock there was
bright sun.

In the morning the French once

more
the

re-took

Wytschate

and

Messines,
in fact this
Allies

but

again found
last

them untenable, and
of these

was
to

attempt on the part of the

occupy either

two

places.

The

respite of the poor

22nd Brigade from the

trenches was shortlived, and the evening of the

6th saw them once more hurried up into the
firing line.

This came about

in

the following

way.

The French had now taken over all our trenches as far north as the Brown Road, our own
troops being pushed up to the
left.

North

of

the French were the Irish Guards, and, beyond

them, the 2nd Grenadiers.

The French

troops,

who had
tenacity,

so far held their

ground with splendid

could

now found the position more than they support. The German bombardment, with
as

which they

usual opened the day, was
294

more

Zwartelen

295

than usually severe, and lasted the whole morning,

and about

2

p.m.

it

was followed by an

infantry attack before which the left of the French

and the right
As

of the Irish

Guards was driven
line,

in.

a result of this

cave in the

the

left of

the

Irish

Guards, which remained in the trenches,
considerably,

suffered

Lord

John
Lieut.

Hamilton,

Captain
being

King-Harman and

Woodroffe

killed.

An

urgent message was sent to

Gen. Kavanagh to bring up the 7th C.B., who
were
in

readiness

near

Lord

Cavan's

Head

Quarters behind Zillebeke, and the 22nd Brigade

was

also

wired for to come up from Bailleul.

The

cavalry

came galloping up

to

Zillebeke,

where they dismounted and advanced on foot
along and astride of the road from Zillebeke to

Zwartelen, which runs along the foot of the ridge

ending in Hill 60.
deployed, the
told
off
1st

Just short of Zwartelen they

Life Guards on the left being

to

restore

the Irish Guards' position,

while the 2nd Life Guards attacked the position

from which the French had been driven.
Blues

The
in

were behind the centre of the

line

support.

The

1st

Life

Guards,

under the Hon.

A

Stanley, attacked the lost trenches of the Irish

Guards with the greatest vigour, and within

296
an

The
hour

First Seven Divisions

had

regained,

at

the

point

of

the

bayonet, the whole of the position

lost.

The
Disthis

Hon. A. Stanley received the medal
tinguished
occasion,
as

for

Service

for

his

conduct

on

did also Corpl. Baillie and Corpl.

Fleming.
also

Sergt.

got the

Munn, D.C.M. for

of the
rallying

Irish

Guards,
of

some men

his

battalion and joining in the charge of the

1st Life

Guards.

In the meanwhile the Hon.

Hugh Dawnay,
B "
of the

commanding the 2nd
1st Life

Life Guards, sent off "

Squadron to connect up with the right

Guards and
"

clear the

Zillebeke ridge.

D

wood on the Klein " Squadron was sent off
whole combined
along the edge of the
is

to cover the right flank of the

movement by advancing

Ypres to Armentieres railway, which

separated

from the wood by about 500 yards of open ground while Major Dawnay himself, with
;

"

C

" Troop, attacked the village of Zwartelen,
his left,

with the Blues under Col. Wilson on

and some 300 of the French, who encouraged by the advance of the Household Cavalry had

him and "

reformed, on his right, that is to say, between " Squadron on the railway.

D

The whole scheme worked attark by " B " Squadron on

admirably.
the

The

Klein Zille-

Zwartelen
beke

297
the

ridge

wood was
hundred

entirely

successful,

enemy being driven out with
for

loss

and pursued
attack

several

yards.

The

on

Zwartelen

undertaking

— —was no

though perhaps a more formidable
less successful.

The

village

was very strongly held, the houses in and around
being occupied and defended, and the House-

hold

Cavalry's

advance was met
caused

by

a

heavy

rifle-fire

Col.

many casualties, both Wilson and Major Dawnay being killed
which
leading
of

while
spite

their
losses,

respective

regiments.

In

heavy

however, the cavalrymen,

with great steadiness and determination, pressed

home

their

attack,

and,

at

the point

of

the
a

bayonet,

carried

the

village

and

captured

number

of prisoners,

"

C

" Troop of the 2nd

Life Guards afterwards pushing right through

and occupying the trenches
far side of

in the

wood on

the

the village.

Lieut. Stewart-Menzies,

Corpl. Watt, Corpl. Moulsen and Corpl. Anstice

were

all

decorated for

this brilliant

during " performance on the part of " C
their

gallantry

Troop.
est

The

latter

N.C.O. displayed the greatfight.

courage throughout the
success
of

The
to
all

the counter-attack was

now
At

appearances

complete,

all

the ground

lost in

the morning having been regained.

298

The

First

Seven Divisions

of "

moment, however, the French on the right C " Troop again gave way, leaving a gap into which the enemy at once pressed. The position of " C " Troop was now greatly imthis

perilled,

and
"

General

Kavanagh ordered the
of

Blues,

and

B

"

Squadron

the

2nd Life

Guards, to cross the Verbranden Molen road
to
its

support.

This was done, the Blues moving

to the right
60,

and occupying Zwartelen and Hill

and

in these several positions the
;

combined

force continued to fight out time

but some of

the ground which had been regained had to be

abandoned.

The

situation was saved

by the

arrival

about

6 p.m. of the 22nd Brigade, which had been
hurried up from Bailleul in motor-buses.
brigade
position

This

now
at

took over the Household Cavalry

Zwartelen, while the 2nd

K.R.R.,

from the 2nd Brigade, relieved the squadron of
the

2nd Life Guards which was holding the
Household
praise
for

railway on the right flank.

The
highest

Cavalry
their

earned

the

very
this
skill

performance

on

afternoon.

They were handled with

great

by General Kavanagh, and the daring and dash of their advance undoubtedly averted what
might
have

proved

a

very

serious

calamity.

Zwartelen

299

They

lost

seventeen officers during their advance,
:

as follows

In the

ist

Life Guards the

Hon. R.

Wyndham

(attached from the Lincolnshire Yeomanry) was
killed

and the Hon. H. Denison, the Hon. E.

Fitzroy and Captain

In the 2nd Life

Hardy were wounded. Guards the Hon. H. Dawnay,

the Hon. A. O'Neill and Lieut. Peterson were killed

and the Hon. M. Lyon, Lieut. Jobson, Lieut.
Sandys and 2nd Lieut. Hobson were wounded.
In the Blues, Col. Wilson and Lieut, de Gunzberg were
killed,

and Lord Gerard, Lord North-

ampton and Captain Brassey were wounded. The enemy's bombardment of the morning, and the infantry attack of the afternoon which
followed, had by no means been confined to the
area the loss

and recapture

of

which has

just

been described.
]eft of
as

The 2nd

Grenadiers,
as

on the

the Irish Guards, were

heavily attacked

any, but they succeeded in maintaining their

ground throughout
noon.
Sergt.

both

morning and
as

after-

Thomas, who

Corpl.

Thomas

had

so distinguished himself at

Chavonne, once

again

showed the material
His trench

of

which he was
to
his
a

made.

was

subjected
of

most

appalling

shelling.

Only two
:

platoon

remained unwounded

he himself had twice

300

The

First Seven Divisions

been buried and the flank of he held on, and was

his

trench was

exposed, but even in this apparently impossible
position
still

in

proud

occupation of his trench

when

the arrival of

the 7th C.B. and 22nd Brigade once more drove

back

the

enemy.

Sergt.

Holmes and Corpl.

Harrison in the same battalion also greatly distinguished themselves.

At daybreak on the 7th, in the dull, misty atmosphere of a November morning, the 22nd
Brigade deployed for an attempt to regain the
position of the day before. to
its

This brigade, owing

depleted condition, was

now reduced
Welsh
of

to

two composite
battalion

battalions, the R.

Fusiliers

and 2nd Queen's being amalgamated into one
under
the

command

Captain

Alleyne of the Queen's, and the Warwicks and
S. Staffords into

the other, under the
S.

command
It
is

of

Captain Vallentin of the

Staffords.

worthy
no

of note that the brigade could furnish

officers of

higher rank than

a

Captain
fell

;

also

that both the officers

above-named

on the

second day of their command, Captain Alleyne
being badly wounded and Captain Vallentin
killed.

The latter was posthumously awarded the
the

Victoria

Cross for the great gallantry he had displayed in

command

of his

composite battalion.


Zwartelen
301

The
the

brigade deployed in four

lines, of

which

first

two were formed by the 2nd Queen's,

who
of

now

numbered

about
till

400.

In

this

formation they advanced
the

within 300 yards
the
first

enemy's position,

when
still

two

lines joined

up and charged.
fire,

In spite of a heavy
further

machine-gun

which

reduced

the 400, the Queen's charged right
in rapid succession carried first

home and
a
all

one and then

second line of trenches, the defenders being

bayoneted or put to

flight.

The

second of these

two

positions

—the same,
far

in fact, as

had been capline

tured by the 2nd Life Guards the day before

proved to be too

ahead of the general
as it

and had to be abandoned,
enfiladed by machine-gun

was persistently
a

fire

from

farm-house

on the
till

left

;

but the

first

line

was successfully held

night,

when

the battalion was relieved.

Dur-

ing this charge of the Queen's Lieut. Haigh was
killed

and Captain Alleyne, Captain

Roberts,

Lieuts.

Lang-Browne,

Collis

and

Pascoe

were

wounded.

Three machine-guns were captured.
Brigade was
is

The 22nd
officers,

now reduced
finally

to four

that

to say,

one to each battalion,
relieved,

and

at

night

they were

and

allowed to return to the retirement from which

they had been so rudely summoned.

302
During

The
this

First Seven Divisions

same day there was some severe
wood, the Connaught
Coldstream Brigade
for
a

fighting in the Polygon

Rangers being driven back and their trenches
captured.

The

flank of the

thus

became threatened, and
promised to be

time the

position

serious,

but the 6th

Brigade on the Zonnebeke road came to the
rescue,

the

lost

trenches

were regained,
saw

and

the continuity of the line once more established.

The morning
At the
the
first first

of the 8th

a

renewal of the

attempt to break through along the Menin road.
assault the

French and two com-

panies of the Loyal N. Lancashire
line

Regiment
As

in

were driven back, and the

flank
a

of the 1st Scots
result the

Guards became exposed.

enemy was
were

able to rake the trenches

of the latter regiment

with machine guns and
heavy,
Lieuts.

their

casualties

Cripps,

Stirling-Stuart,
killed.

Monckton

and

Smith
on

being
till

The

battalion, however, held

the

morning position was once more restored by
the

two

reserve

companies

of

the

Loyal N.

Lancashires, who, counter-attacking with great
spirit

and determination, drove back the enemy

from the position they had temporarily won.

THE PRUSSIAN GUARD ATTACK
TI^ROM November
•*-

8th
It

to

nth

there

was

little

fighting.

had been apparently

realized at length

by the German commanders
but

that the troops they were at present employing

Were incapable of breaking the British
at

line,

the back of that admission there was evistill

dently

the belief that the task was possible,

provided the troops employed were sufficiently
good.

Accordingly

the

Prussian

Guard

was

sent for.

Pending the

arrival of that invincible

body there was
of

a lull in

the ceaseless

hammer
the

battle

;

and

in the

meanwhile the weather

changed
Prussian

for

the

worse.

By

the

time

Guard was ready for its enterprise, that is to say by November nth, it was about as bad as it could be. A strong west wind was
accompanied by an icy
rain,

which

fell

all

day

in

torrents.

Luckily the wind and rain were

in the faces of the

enemy,

a factor of

no

little

importance.

The

battle of

November nth may be looked
303


304
upon
to

The
as

First Seven Divisions

the

last

attempt but one of the Germans
1914
actual last serious attempt was

break

through to Calais during the

campaign.

The

on November 17th.

On
it

the

nth

the cannontill

ade began at daybreak and was kept up

9.30.

In violence and volume
31st.

rivalled that of

October

The

entire

front

from Klein Zillebeke
along the

to

Zonnebeke

was involved, the enemy's design

being
front

as

on the 31st

—to
so

attack
as

all

simultaneously

to

hamper

and

cripple

the British commanders in the use of

the very limited reserves at their disposal.

The newly
of

arrived troops were the

1st

and

4th Brigade Prussian Guard, and some battalions
the

Garde

Jager,

in

all

fifteen

battalions,

and to these was entrusted the main attack on
the key of the position, the
i.e.,

along, and north of,

Menin

road.

The

Prussian

Guard attacked through Veld-

hoek, and in their advance displayed the invincible

courage for which they have ever been famed.

Such
cannot
these

courage,

however

—though

sufficiently

sublime from the spectacular point
fail

of

view

to be expensive, and the losses

among
It

gallant

men were
silence

prodigious.

was

afterwards said by a

prisoner that they had been
in

deceived

by the

our trenches into

The Prussian Guard Attack
thinking that the

305

bombardment had
recklessly.

cleared them,
in

and

so

came on

However,

spite

of their losses,

by sheer intrepidity and weight
all

of numbers, they succeeded in capturing

the

front line trenches of the 1st
astride the

Brigade, who were

Hooge.

Menin road between Veldhoek and In three places large bodies of the enemy

succeeded in breaking through, and in each case
their success furnished a subject for reflection as

to the

why and

the wherefore of battles.

For,

having succeeded in doing that which they had
set

out to do, they stood huddled together in
as to

the plainest uncertainty
a point

how

next to act,
arrival

which was speedily

settled

by the

of

our reserves,

who

fell

upon the

successful

invaders and promptly annihilated them.

party of some 700 were accounted for to a

One man
by

by the

Oxfordshire

Light

Infantry,

led

Col. Davies.

Another party which had broken through in
the

Polygon wood

was

similarly

dealt

with

by the Highland Light
Brodie

Infantry

under Col.

Wolfe-Murray, an operation during which Lieut.

won

the Victoria Cross for exceptional

gallantry.

This was the second Victoria Cross

to

fall

to this battalion,*

which had indeed never
20

• Pte. Wilson had gained the honour on September 14th.

306
failed in

The

First

Seven Divisions
it

any situation which

had been

called

upon

to face.

Gen. Willcocks,

in subsequently

addressing the battalion, alluded with pride to

" the magnificent glory " with
fought,

which
the

it

had

and

concluded
is

with

remarkable

words

:

" There

no position which the High-

land Light Infantry cannot capture."

The
the

nett result of the day's fighting was that

enemy gained some 500

yards of ground,

which, from the military point of view, advantaged them nothing, and the gaining of which had
cost

them some thousands

of

their

best

men.

The

barrenness of the advance

made cannot be
it

better illustrated than by the fact that
last step

was the
till

forward of the invading army,

the

asphyxiating gas was brought into play in the
spring of 191 5.

On

the

1

2th the

1st

Brigade, which had borne

the brunt of the Prussian Guard attack, was taken

back into reserve.

It will

be conceded that

it

was about time.
This gallant Brigade, 4,500 strong in August,

was

now
1st

represented
Scots

as follows
:

:

Guards

Captain

Stracey

and

69 men.
Black

Watch

:

Captain Fortune

and

109

men.

The Prussian Guard Attack
Camerons
:

307

Col.

McEwen,

Major Craig-Browne,
Lieut. Dunsterville and 140 men.
1st

Coldstream

:

No

officers

and 150 men.

The

6th C.B. was

now

reinforced

by

the

arrival of the

North Somerset and Leicestershire
This strengthening was

Yeomanry Regiments.
cally

sorely needed, the brigade having been practi-

without

rest

since

its

arrival in

Flanders.

By

the irony of fate the Hon.

W. Cadogan,

the

Colonel of the 10th Hussars, was killed on the
very day

when

these reinforcements arrived.

With
was

this addition to its strength

the brigade
its

now
in

required to find 800
along

rifles

for

line of

trenches

the
to

Klein
a

Zillebeke
reserve
in

ridge,

and

addition

furnish

of

400,

who

—when

not required

—lived
a

burrows in
a

the railway cutting at Hooge.

Within

week,

however, the reserve became
past,

luxury of the

and the brigade was called upon to find
rifles

1,200

for the trenches.

On November
attempt
of the

17th

we come

to the last serious

enemy, during the 1914 campaign, to break through to Calais by way of Ypres.
final effort

This
It

can be dismissed in a few words.
of the

was made south XV. German Army

Menin road by the
it

Corps, and

took the form

308

The

First

Seven Divisions
one
at

of
at

two infantry
;

attacks,

I

p.m. and another

and it failed utterly, the Germans 4 p.m. leaving thousands of dead and wounded on the

ground

just in front of our trenches, to

which

they had been allowed to approach quite

close.
effort,

The
and

signal failure of this last

spasmodic
of

the

subsequent

passivity

the

enemy,

points with

some

significance to the conclusion

that the position to which

we had now been

driven

back

along

the

Zillebeke

—Zonnebeke
as

ridge was impregnable,

and was recognized

such by the enemy.

The

6th C.B. and the 2nd Grenadiers were

the most prominent figures in this victory of

November
allowed the
of

17th.

In the course of the second

attack the loth Hussars and 3rd

enemy

to

Dragoon Guards come within a few yards
fire

their

trenches before they opened
in masses.

and

mowed them down
however,
officers,

The

10th Hussars,
severely
in

again

suffered

somewhat

the Hon. A. Annesley, Captain Peto, and

Lieut. Drake being killed.

The

newly-arrived
Col.

North Somerset Yeomanry, under
rans,

Glyn,

behaved with the coolness and steadiness of vete-

and contributed

in

no small degree to the

repulse of the enemy's second attack.

The 2nd

Grenadiers received the highest praise

The Prussian Guard Attack
from Lord Cavan
fighting.
for

309
day's

their part

in
lost

this

This battalion had

now
it

30

officers

and 1,300 men since the beginning of the campaign, and on the following day

was sent back

into reserve to recoup and reorganize.

EPITAPH
"\7[

7TTH
*

the

German
first

failure

of

November

^

17th the

chapter in the Great

War

may be
all

considered closed.

The

desperate and

but uninterrupted fighting which, for three
followed

months,
canal,

the

defence
a

of

the

Mons

was succeeded by

long

lull,

during which

both
foe.

in

were busily engaged fighting a common The winter of 19 14 proved the wettest the memory of man, and ague, rheumatism,
sides

frost-bite,

gangrene

and

tetanus

filled

the

hospitals with little less regularity than

had the
the

shot and shell of the autumn.
great battle of

Then came

Neuve

Chapelle, and in another

part of the world the grim struggles of the Dardanelles.
this will

These are another
be told
;

story,
as

and some day

but great

and undoubtedly has been
other
fields,

may have been the glory won in
as a story

nothing can ever surpass,

of simple, sublime pluck, the history of the first

three months of England's participation in the

Great War.
intention,
for

The word
it

" pluck "

is

used with

conveys, perhaps, better than
310

Epitaph
any other word
spirit

311

a

sense

of

that

indomitable

which

is

superior to every rub of adverse

fortune.

There were no War Correspondents
with
the
First

present

Expeditionary

Force.

There was no wrapping
the wrappers had

of specially favoured deeds

in tinsel for the eyes of a
if

cheap

gallery.

Even

been present, the general

standard was too high for invidious selection.
mole-hill stands

A

out on a plain, but makes no
V.C.'s,
it
is

show

in
;

the uplands.

true,

were

won

but for every one given

a

hundred were
re-

earned.

Military honours are the fruit of
;

commendation

but when Generals, Colonels,

Company
left

Officers

and Sergeants are no more,
its

the deed must be
to

own

record

;

there

is

none

recommend.
of the doings of those First Seven

The grandeur
Divisions
lies, it

may

well be, in their

immunity
and
so

from the play

of a cheap flashlight

a flashlight

which too often
illuminates the

distorts the perspective,

wrong

spot.

There

is

a gospel

in the very reticence of the records of the regi-

ments concerned

in

the

dignity with which,
tell

without any blare of trumpets, they
daily answer to the call of a

of the

duty which balanced

them
it is

ceaselessly

on the edge of eternity.

But

always told as of a simple response to the call

312
of duty,
faces of

The

First Seven Divisions

and not

as a

thing to be waved in the

an audience.

But,

though unflattered and unsung, those
France and Flanders can boast an
tells
is

early deeds in

epitaph which
simple tragedy,

no

lies,

and which,
a

in

its

more eloquent than

volume

of strained panegyrics.

The register of " missing " is an enigma it may mean many things. But the register of killed and
;

wounded
found

is

no enigma.

It tells, in

the simplest

terms, a tale of death and mutilation faced and
at the call of duty.

Let us leave it

at that.

The First Expeditionary Force is no more. The distinctive names and numbers of the units
that composed
it still
;

face one

from the pages

of

Army List " but of men who sailed in August,
the "

the bronzed, cheery
1914, one third
lie

under the

soil of

France and Flanders.

Of those

that remain, some have been relegated for ever

—and

of
;

a

cruel

necessity

to

more peaceful

pursuits

others

—more

hopefully convalescent

—are looking forward with eagerness to the day
when they
call of

will

once more be

fit

to answer the

duty and of country.

THE END
Printed at The Chapel River Press, Kingston, Surrey.

Hamilton, Lord E.W. The first seven divisions

D

5]^
•H3

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