A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 257

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THE FATE OF THE GORDONS


Maurois. The* man was ordered to guide the party through Moiitigny on the road to Bertry, w^hich he did; and at 2 a.m. the head of the column reached the cross roads to the south- westofBertry. Herethreeshotswerefired,andafterafew liiinutes’ delay, during which the advanced guard endeavoured to ascertain the nationality of the post, there was a heavy out- break of rifle fire. The men w'ere extended and answered it. Orders w^ere then given for the column to move back along the road io Montigny. But in the darkness the road south- west to Clary w-^as taken instead and the column came upon a field gun which w^as trained to fire down the highway. This gun was rushed and taken before it could be discharged, and a mounted German officer near it was pulled off his horse, but the rear of the column was now met by rifle fire from the south and south-west. Once again the men* were extended and replied, but the fire from the front and fear showed them prettyclearlythattheyw'eretrapped. Theheadofthecolumn now made an effort to force its way into Bertry, and stormed a house on the outskirts of the village in which were a number of German officers. The enemy, how^ever, was by this time thoroughly alarmed. Firing began on all sides, and, after lighting against hopeless odds for the best part of an hour longer, •Colonel Gordon’s party was overpowered. Of the Gordon Highlanders about 500 were taken, but a few escaped, and a handful of them actually made their way through the German lines to Antw^erp, whence they were sent back to 3£ugland. The fortune of war was hard upon the Gordons. For the lime they practically ceased to exist as a battalion, but by their gallant resistance to all German attacks between 5 p.m. and dark, they had rendered incalculable service to the 3rd division and to the army at large. Other units were similarly stranded and suffered many casualties. Itisestimatedthatof2,000troopsleftbehindabout j ,coo finally escaped and were able later to rejoin the ranks. Though unintended, their stubborn resistance w^as of invaluable service to the main body. It kept the Germans on tenterhooks of anxiety as to what w^as in front, and made them disinclined topresstheiradvantageimmediately. OneGermane37'e-witncss says In front of us there still swarmed a number of scattered British troops, who were easily able to hide in the large woods of the district, and again and again forced us to waste time in deployments, as we could not tell what their strength might be. Meanwhile, the main retreat continued in such order as was possible in roads choked for miles with troops and transport.

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