A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 258

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THE BRITISH RETREAT


The men were overcome with weariness, wet through, and many had been without proper food for hours. The task of sorting them into their allotted positions was one of extreme difficulty, but it was accomplished, tlrough naturally the body was con- tinually being joined by stragglers. At dawn on August 27 troops were pom*ing into St. Quentin, where they were able to snatch a few hours' rest before resuming their march. So far the retreating army had been very little molested by the enemy, though the 4th division was for a timefollowedfairlycloselybytheircavalry. Onthewholethe Germans were quiescent, and the difficulties which confronted the staff were mainly concerned with the continued movement of troops, so weary that they slept as they marched, and when they fell out from sheer exhaustion were too comatose to be moved. Officers, themselves worn out, had the greatest difficulty to kecji their columns moving or even to ensure that the horses were fed and watered. It says much for the discipline of the British regular army that the retreat was everywhere continued, and much for the resilience of the men and their degree of physical fitness that they recovered so rapidly after short spells of rest and adequate food. Between August 23 and August 28 the 2nd corps had fought twogeneralactionsandhadinarched75miles. Atthisstageof the retreat the 5th division went into billets at Pontoise. The 3rd division halted at Crissoles and Genvry, not far from Noyon. The halting places of the 4th division were at Bussy, Farniches and Campagne. By this time Sir Horace Smith'Dorricn may be said to have shaken off von Kluck's pursuit, and to have been relieved of the gravest of his anxiety. On August 27 General Joffre telegraphed his congratulations to Sir John French, He paid tribute to the gallantry of the British army in engaging vastly superior forces, and acknow'- ledged the great help afforded in protecting the left flank of his armies. The French," he said, "will not forget the services rendered." Sir John French, although in later days he criticised Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien's decision to stand at Le Gateau, at the time paid generous tribute to his corps commander. In his clispatcli he wrote : "I say without hesitation that the saving of the left wing of the army tinder my command, on the morning of August 26, could never have been accomplished unless a

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