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RETREAT FROM MONS, Issue 15633, 26 October 1914
RETREAT FROM MONS
WHY THt BRITISH SHTFERED ; HEAVILY. FRENCH SUPFOBT LACKING. The tight corner in which the British found themselves at Mons was one primarily, according to the London newspaper to the failure of the French to give the British Commander-in-Chief warning of their retreat from |to £""*"• It is also peTsiatently stated that tne failure'of certain French troops to come to the rapport .of the retreating British was the subject of a sharp exchange.of "view*" between the British and trench War Offices. Lord Kitchener was absent from London for three, days, and there is -eason to* believe- that this was caused by a hurried visit to France to discuss the matter with Sir John French and the French War Minister. The clearest statement of the position so far published is that given bv "Scrutator in lrutn. Events succeed one another so rapidly in modern war. he writes, that what is news to-day is ancient history to-morrow, bnt it is impossible to write about the war this week without something more than a passing reference to Sir John French's despatch, which reached London last Wednesday, and was published on Thursday. The despatch contains the record of one of the most brilliant op. |:itions of wnr that it has ever fallen to the lot of a commander to relate. It is hard to know which to admire most, the maaterlv skill of those in command, of whom "Sir .John French was the chiet, or the heroic courage of the officers and men whose splendid services rendered at the Battle of Mons and in the succeeding retreat have carried the name and fame of the British Armv iuto all'parts of the world. The storv has been told in simple, <oldier-like words bv Sir John French, and it will be told'again and again by those who tome after us, and handed down to successive generations of Englishmen as an example of how danger should be faced and glory won. Sir oJhn French reached the neighborhood of Cambrai on August 21 with two irrav corps, comprising- four divisions (Ist, 2nd." 3rd, and sth). and fire cavalry brigades, giving him at most 60,000 fighting men and 370 guns' On the following day he took up a position which General Jt'iffre had allotted to him, some 20 miles from the field of Waterloo, extending from Conde along the canal to Mons, and then on to Binche. In this position ho was attacked on Sunday, the 23rd, by General Von Kltick with a force of not less tjtian 180,000 men and 1,200 guns. The odds were three to one. On the 22nd the French Army, which was hold-, ing the passages over the Sambre River, was defeated, and fell back vn Philippeville, leaving the British Army at Mons en l'air. There was nothing for it but to retire, and how this was done forms the subject of Sir John French's reportMarching and fighting for five days, he covered a distance of 70 miles, averaging 14 miles a day, which would have been good going if the march had been unmolested, out was a marvellous performance when we know that the redoubtable Von Kluck was on the Field-Marshal's heels the whole time, and compelled him to fight a succession of rearguard actions throughout the retreat. It was not till the 28th that Sir John French threw off his pursuers and reached the valley of the Oise, wheTe he halted for 24 hours to rest before being again on the move. Owing to the fact that the British Army only arrived at the front after fighting had begun on the Sambre, there was a want of co-operation between Sir John French and the French commander on his right and left, which nearly led to the envelopment of the British force. and the consequent rolling up of the left flank of the Allies. The French retired from the Sambre on the 22nd, yet Sir John French was not informed of this till 5 p.m. on the 23rd, when he was already heavily engaged with the enemy. Had he been told of the retirement overnight he would have withdrawn his army at daybreak on the 23rd. instead of standing to fight. Then, again, at.Avcsnes, •within 10 miles of the line of retreat of the British force, was General Sordet -with three French cavalry divisions, none of -which gave any help to the retiring force, although Sir John French twice asked for asisstanee, but was refused it Jon the ground that General Sordet's hornes ' were "too tired" to move. Again, on the British left, only 20 miles from Caonbrai. General d'Amade had two reserve divisions of the French Army under his command, but these were not moved down to suppoTt Sir John French till the 27th, although their co-operation would have been invaluable on the 26th, which was the "critical" day of th« retreat. Seeing how magnificently our allies have fought during the past 10"days, it would be invidious to criticise them for any inceptive and local shortcomings duringWie first few days of the campaign, and before they had got into working touch with their British colleagues : but it is only fair to Sir John French to state the above facts, which added so largely to the difficulties ;>f the- situation in "which General Joffre had placed him. Unsupported and misinformed though he was, Sir John French has nothing to regret, but everything to be proud of, For what his troops did during their heroic retreat. ' If they accomplished nothing else, they shattered the prestige of the German army, and proved that man for man the British soldier is a better fighter than the German soldier. This was something worth fighting for, hut it was not all. Owing to the stand made by our men, first of all at Mons, and afterwards during the retreat, Sir John French broke the back of General Von Kluck's advance, and hit his adversary so hard that after ho had thrown him off on the 28th he was not the same man again. The German commander had "hacked" his way down to the Oise only to find he had thrown away thousands of German lives to no purpose; for behind the Marne was the British army, going as strong as ever, recuperated and reinforced, -with its commander waiting to turn the tables on his adversary as soon as the chance offered.
RETREAT FROM MONS, Issue 15633, 26 October 1914
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