A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 255

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THE END OF THE BATTLE


outlooseverepunishment. Theturntomovehadnowcomefor the 4th division, between Esnes and Caudry, and this was vastly helped by the intervention of General Sordet's cavalry, a diversion which was expected but which was none the less timely^. Beyond this force General D’Amade's troops were in and round Cambrai, and it appeared that this covering by the French army would be sufficient to secure the British left flank. Orders to retire reached the brigades of the 4th division at about 5 p.m. Though no general attack was being launched upon them, the Germans were shelling the line with increasing severity andrenewingtheirattempttoturntheleftflank. Besidesthe French support, divisional artillery was being evacuated early and wouldbeinapositiontocovertheretreat. 6fthebrigadesthe 12th seems to have got away most satisfactorily, and though heavilyshelledwithshrapnelescapedseriouslosses. Thenthwas still in position as late as 6 p.m., and*only escaped in scattered units, some of which remained fighting until a late hour. Whether or not the Germans were deceived as to the general nature or direction of the retirement, they made no concerted effort to harass the 4th division, and they were seen to bombard Hieevacuatedpositionsforsomehoursafterwards. Theofficial comment on the day's fighting reads as follows In fact, the whole of Smith-Dorrien's troops had done what wasthoughttobeimpossible. Withbothflanksmoreorless in the air, they had turned upon an enemy of at least twice their strength, had stnick him hard and had withdrawn, except on the right front of the 5th division, practically without inter- ference, with neither flank enveloped, having suffered losses certainly severe, but, considering the circumstances, by no means extravagant. The men looked upon themselves as victors, some indeed doubted whether they had been in a serious action; yet they had inflicted upon the enemy casualties which are believed to have been out of all proportion to their own, and they had completely foiled the plan of the German commander. The British casualties at the battle of Le Cateau amounted to 7,812 of all ranks killed, wounded and missing, and 38 guns were lost. But, as in the instances already recorded, most of the latter were rendered useless before they were abandoned. The order to hold on to positions aU costs is one that cannot without the gravest risk be revised by the regimental officeronthespot. Thoughhemayseeanimmediateadvantage

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