A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 253

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A RETIREMENT ORDERED


Horace Smith-Dorrien and Sir Charles Fergusson, the 5th divisional commander. As it appeared that this would need a strong counter-attack to enable the troops to be drawn off, it was decided to hold on to the position for the time being. Thif^ decision, however, had soon to be revised in view of tlie shaken condition of the line and a threatened German enveloping move- ment to the right. A start was made at about 1.20 p.m. to evacuate the guns, a task of extraordinary difficulty owing to their position in the firing line. By the most heroic conduct of the gun teams many were got away under heavy fire, but in a number of cases they had to be abandoned after being rendered useless to the enemy. Losses in this section amounted to*25 field guns and a howitzer. About 2 p.m. general orders for retirement were given by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, to begin witlf the 5th division, followed laterbythe3rdand4thdivisions. WestofLeCateauGerman pressure and machine gun fire was becoming intolerable, and theenemybattalionswererapidlygainingground. Theendwas inevitable,*and after nine hours' persistent fighting this part ^fthelinewasoverw^helmed. ItissaidthattheGermansinthe final attack kept sounding the British "'cease fire," and signalled to the British battalions (the Suffolks and Argylls) to surrender, which they steadfastly refused to do. Orders for retirement filtered through to brigades, but in places it was impossible to get, in touch with the battalions, and a regrettable feature of the general retreat was that numbers of scatteredunitswereperforceleftbehind. Howthusbyaccident ratlier than design these marooned units formed an effective rearguard to the main body will be ^eeii later. One of the battalions which received no order to retire was the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who held their position with the greatest tenacity until they were overwhelmed by the Germans. This dogged defence was of great value to the retiring troops to their left, for it effectively delayed the main German advance. By the end of the battle this battalion numbered only eight officers and 320 other ranks. Fortunately, too, the outflanking movement to the east of Le Cateau was also checked, leaving time for the corps commander’s general scheme of retreat to bo put into operation. The retirement from the right of the line started about 3,30 in the afternoon, and on the whole was effected

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