A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 261

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REARGUARD ACTIONS


six regiments of cavalry and two batteries, and had the advantage of position. The single battery of the R.H.A. was man-handled into position, one gun being disabled at once by a direct hit another was put out of action almost immediatel5^ and the task of silencing the German batteries was soon left to a single gun. This battle of odds was most gallantly carried on; officer after officer fell, but still the gun spoke, and of the survivors who con- tinued to the end two earned the Victoria Cross, and amongst those who died on the field one officer (Captain Bradbur^^) was awarded the decoration posthumously. This minor action of Nery (or Compi^gne) was, however, finished off by the cavalry with infantry support, and so hot did they make it for the Ciermans that they were obliged to retirS precipitately, leaving eightgunsbehindthem. TheHussarscaptured78prisoners. Rearguard actions were also fought this day at Crepy en Valois, ivhere the outposts of the 5th divismn were attacked by mounted German troops, who when checked did not pursue, and at Villers CoUerets. Here the cavalry were naturally the first to feel the shock, but the main attack fell on the Guards regiments of foot (.4th Guards brigade) who were covering the 2nd division during anintervalforrest. Theinfantrycontestedeveryfootofground and fell back according to orders, only very gradually. Fight- ing lasted until 6 p.m., but despite heavy casualties the rearguard actionachieveditspurpose. TheGermans,too,sufferedheavily, and it is said that they so lost their direction that they were responsible for many of their own casualties. Meanwhile, the main body trudged on with no final destination yet in sight, for the close proximity of the enemy (some of his cavalry was at this time behind the British line) determined Sir John French on continued and imitiediate retirement. In the past twenty-four hours he had had an interview with Lord Kitchener, who had travelled from England to investigate the situation, when it was agreed that the British commander-in- chief should conform to the movements of the French army, while acting with caution to avoid being in any way unsupported on bis flanks. But this did not mean that he was called upon to make any immediate stand. The last stages of the British retreat took place between September 2 and 5.* The troops responded to an early call on the 2nd, starting on this march in many cases at i a.m. For the ist corps Sir Douglas Haig was able to make use of railway

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