A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 259

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THE WORK OF THE FIRST CORPS


commander of rare and unusual coolness, intrepidity and deter- mination had been present personally to conduct the operation." There remains one ponderable feature of the battle and the subsequent retreat, and that is von Kluck's failure to engage in a vigorous pursuit which would have undoubtedly resulted in disaster to the small British force. That disaster which for the moment must have been irreparable might have changed the wholecourseofthewar. Butwhateverreasonsactuatedhim, the German army commander turned his troops south-west instead of south, leaving the retirement practicall}" unmolested, and missing an opportunity such as is seldom offered to a commander in war. In the foregoing section the narrative has followed only the operations of the British 2nd army corps. It is now necessary to return to the ist corps and Sir^ Douglas Haig, who, it will 1)0 remembered, had accepted Sir John French’s decision to continueanuninterruptedretirement. HereagaintheGermans made no attempt at any general attack, but one or two incidents, marred the complete immunity of his retirement. On the night of the 26th the position of the ist corps was in and around Etreux. The Connaught Rangers, for example, wxre surprised by the enemy in the village of Le Grand Fayt and were fired on from the houses, suffering very severe losses. Th(' Munsters fought a most gallant action by Etreux, holding back the enemy for fully six hours until they were completely hemmed inonthreesidesbyGermantroopsandfinallyoverpowered. It was learnt afterwards that the Irish battalion had been holding its own against at least six battalions of the enemy. On the 28th the retreat of the ist corps was continued to La Fere along roads congested with troops, transport and refugees. A certain amount of cavalry pursuit was encountered but success- fully checked, notably at La Guinguette, w^here a very spirited action succeeded in discouraging further activity on the part of theGermancavalry. Therewasstillagapofiimilesbetween the 1st corps, south of the Oise and of La Fere, and the 2nd corps with the 4th division, north and east of Noyon. This gap was partly covered by cavalry, but to bring the tw^o wings close together was the preoccupation of the next days of retreat. It was Sir John French's intention to make the following day, August 29, a day of rest. Orders were given to this effect, and

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