A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 246

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A Popular History of The Great War   ·   Volume 1: The First Phase - 1914   ·   Chapter 14: The British Retreat and Le Cateau
CHAPTER 14
The British Retreat and Le Cateau


THE night of August 23-24 was quiet, enabling tlie first stage oftheretreattobecarriedoutingoodorder. The5th cavalry brigade was detailed as a rearguard to the ist corps, with orders to concentrate on Bonnet, and to attack at dawn, so as to hold up the German advance while the ist and 2nd divisions retired. In effect they were very little disturbed before reaching the new line Feignies—^La Longueville—^Bavai. This, it has been pointed out, was not altogether a good sign, pointing as it did to a German flanking attack towards the west onthefrontheldbythe2ndcorps. SirH.Smith-Dorrienhad in fact made preparations to meet such an attack, and by dawn of the 24th his line was bombarded during the whole of its lengtli. While the ist corps were practically unmolested, the 2nd corps in many instances were called upon to make a fighting*retreat. A notable encounter took place on the 9th infantry brigade front at Frameries, where at 6 a.m. the Germans attacked in force and were repulsed wdth heavy loss by a rearguard of the SouthLancashireandLincolnshireregiments. Thoughonlya minor action, it deserves to be recorded, for German accounts show that, apart from artillery action, they were thrown back by the excellence of the British rapid fire. One writer says: “Tommy seems to have waited for the moment of assault. He had carefully studied our training manuals, and suddenly when wewerewellintheopenheturnedhismachinegunson." The machine guns were, of course, the rifles of the British infantry. TheGermanslateradvancedtofindtheplaceabandoned. “Up to all the tricks of the trade from their experience of small wars, the English veterans brilliantly understood how to slip off at tlic last moment. One of the chief difficulties at this time was to extricate the 5th division (Sir Charles Fergusson) from the Mons line. Here the left flank was seriously threatened by German forces of con- siderable strength advancing due south between Thulin and Cond^. The cavalry and the 19th infantiy brigade had been prematurely withdrawn, and Sir Charles Fergusson was obliged

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