A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 227

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A Popular History of The Great War   ·   Volume 1: The First Phase - 1914   ·   Chapter 13: Mons and Charleroi
Mons and Charleroi

THE embarkation of the British Expeditionary Force began, underconditionsofthegreatestsecrecy,onAugust6. By August 16 it had been completed without the smallest hitch or casualty. On Saturday, August 22, two army corps were in position round Mons. On Sunday, the 23rd, fighting began. Such was the rapid sequence of events which followed imme- diately the declaration of war. In* less than four weeks the British forces were ready to meet their immediate task. “ They came, it has been said, "'not to win a victory, but to save an army from disaster." Before following them to the field of battle, it is important to record some of the incidents of their transport abroad, for this landing on French soil of a British force, with all its auxiliary services, must always remain an event of the first importance in military history. Of the French harbours used for the disembarkation of the British army Boulogne was one best fitted for that purpose. Lying well behind the old tidal dock and out of sight of the Quai Chan^^y, where the cross-Channel steamers land their pas- sengers from Folkestone, is the Loubet dock (Bassin Loubet), with a frontage on three sides, equipped with electric cranes and railwaysidings. Hereitwaspossibleforfivetransportstoberth at one time and discharge not only troops, but all the vast impedimenta of a modern army, its guns, transport wagons, horses, ambulances, stores, ammunition, and motor lorries. So admirable were the arrangements to preserve complete silence with regard to their movements that the whole of the first contingent had been landed in Boulogne before the British public was even aware that it had left the shores of England. The regiments comprising it were ordered to leave their home stationswithoutknowingwheretheyweregoing. Theyentered railways trains, the engine drivers of which were ignorant, till the moment of departure, of their final destination, and even when they embarked in transports, while they could guess that

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