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"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS", Issue 15704, 19 January 1915
"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS"
-r-Brains Behind tho Guns.— » #
"THE MOST GLORIOUS PAGE IN OUR HISTORY." SIR JOHN FRENCH'S ILLUMINATING DESPATCH. No mora arduous task has ever been assigned to British soldiers, ancf in all their splendid history there is no instance of their haying ansvverajS so magnificently to the despepata calls which of necessity were made upon them. Generous praise indeed from the first soldier oE the British Army in France! Field-Marshal Sir John French has sent to Lord Kitchener another of those vivid despatches for which wo have waited so eageily, and in writing the above concerning the officers and men serving under his command he justifies by a careful and detailed account of the battle in Flanders his supremo tribute to the men whose deeds wilt live for all time. Sir John French proceeds to describe how the Allies baulked the Kaiser's designs on Calais and the attempt t" lay bare the Channel ports: how the Prussian Guard failed to carry into elt'ect the express command of their l-lmpeior that the line at Ypres must be broken as a move of vital importance to success for German arms; and how, though our own casualties are heavy, "we have placed at leastthree times ai many of the enemy horse do combat in dead, wounded, and missing." ! The British Commander-in-Chief praises (regiments and individual:; alike —the Dor- | set = . the Lincolns. Royal Fusiliers, Royal j Irish, Wiltshire*. West Kents. Queen's NorUmmptons, K.R.R., Lancashire Fusiliers. R.F.A.. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Somerset Light Infantry, Ilampshires, and Fast Lancashire., —and adds, ni passing, that if one unit can be singled out for special commendation it is the Worcester*. He points put that the following Territorial units have been actually engaged : Yeomanry.—Northumberland, Northamptonshire, North Somerset, Oxfordshire. Infantry, Etc.—London Scottish. Queen's, "Westminsters, Hon. Artillery Company. He says of these men: " Their conduct and bearing under fire, and the efficient manner i:i which they have cariicd out the various duties, have imbued me with the highest hope as to the value and help of Territorial troops generally." Sir John has also a special word for the Indian forces, the Sappers and Miners, Royal Flying Corps, Cyclists, and Artillery. —How the Calais Dream Was Shattered.— This, the latest despatch from Sir John French, opens with, and is devoted almost exclusively to. a review of the battle of Ypres-Armentieres. Early in October, he says, he was impressed with the necessity of the greatest possible support for the northern flank of the Allies to outflank and drive the enemy from their positions there. With the Allies holding the upper hand on the Aisne it was possible for the British forces there to be withdrawn. Beginning on October 2, first the 2nd Cavalry Division and then the various Army Corps at intervals of a few days followed each other to their new positions in Northern France, and the move was completed on October 19, when the Ist Army Corps, under General Sir Douglas Haig, detrained. "That this delicate operation was carried out so successfully is in great measure due to the excellent feeling which exists between the French and British armies : and I am deeply indebted to the Commander-in-Chief and the French General Staff for their cordial and most effective co-operation." The great battle actually began on October 11, when the 2nd Cavalry Division, under General Gough, cleared the enemy's cavalry from the woods which thev held to the north of the Bethune-Aire Canal. On this same day, continues the despatch. Sir Hoi ace SmithDorrien had reached the line of the canal between Aire and Bethune. I directed him to continue his march on the 12t.h, bringing up his left in the direction of Merville. Then he was to move east to the line Laventie-Lorgies, which would bring him on the immediate left of the French army and threaten the German flank. On the 12th this movement was commenced. The sth Division connected up with the left of the French army north of Annequin. They moved to the attack of the Germans who were engaged at this point with the French, but the enemy once more extended their right in some strength to meet the threat against his flank. —The First Great Loss:>s.— The 3rd Division, having crossed the canal, deployed on the left of the sth; and the whole Second Corps again advanced to the attack, but were unable to make much headway owing to the difiiciilt character of the ground upon which they wero operating, which was similar to that usually found in manufacturing districts, and was covered with mining works, factories, buildings, etc. The ground throughout this country is remarkably fiat, rendering effective artillery support very difficult. Before nightfall, however, they had made some advance, and had successfully driven back hostile counter-attacks with great loss to the enemy and destruction of some of their machine guns. This position of La Bassce has throughout the battle defied all attempts at capture, cither by the French or the British. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrion on this day (October 13) could make but little progress. Hs particularly mentions the fine fighting of the Dorsets. ".-hose commanding oU.icer. Major .Roper, was killed. They suffered no less than 400 casualties, 130 of them being killed, but maintained all clay their hold on Font Fixe. Me also refers to the gallantry of the artillery. Tho lighting of i the Second Corps continued throughout j the 14th in the same direction. On this j clay the army suffered a great loss, in that j tho command-!- of the 3rd Division, G?n----j era! Hubert llamili m. was killed. i On the 15th the 3rd Division fought splendidly, crossing the dykes, with which this country is intersected, with ! planks, and driving the enemy from one entrenched position to another in loopholed village-, till at night they pushed the Germans off the Estaires-La Bassee road, establishing them-elves on the line Font de Ham-CroLx Iktihee. —Victory of the Bayonet
I On the 16th the move was continued | until tlio h't't hank of the corps was in : front of the village of AuU-rs, which • was strongly held. This village was capj t tired on the 1/th by the 9th Infantry BriI gade ; and at (lark on the same day the .iJncohia arid [loyal Fusiliers carried the village of Ilci'lies at the point of the bayonet after a line attack.' the brigade being handled with great dash bv Briga-dier-general Shim-. At this time* to tho I best of our information, the Second Corps j were believed to be opposed by the 2nd, ■' 4th, 7th, and -Jth German Cavalry Divi- | sions, supported by several battalions of j Jaegers and a- part of the Kth German I Corps. From October 19 to ,31 the Second | Corps carried on a most gallant fight in j defence of their position against very I superior numbers, the- enemy having been reinforced during that time.' On the 19th the Koyal Irish Kegimeat, under Major Daniell, stormed and carried tho village of Le, Piliy, which they held and entrenched. On the 20th. however, they were, cut off and surrounded, suffering' heavy losses. On the morning of Vac 22nd the enemy rnadea very determined 'attack on the sth Division, who were driven out of the village of Violanes, but they were sharply counter-attacked by the "Worcesters and Manchesters, an-d prevented from coming on. —Strategy of Defence.— The left of the Second Corps being now somewhat exposed, Sir Horace Sinith-Dor-ritn withdrew the line- during the night to a position he had previously prepared, running generally from the eastern side of Givenchy, east of Neuve Chapelle, to Fauquiisarfc. _ Then, on October 24, the Lahore Division of the Indian Army, under j Major-general Watkis, were sent' to the neighborhood of L'acon tu support the Second Cogs, . --<
Very early <m this morning tho enemy commenced a heavy attack, but, owing to the skilful manner in which, the artillery was handled and the targets presented by the enemy's infantry as it"approached, they were unable to come to close quarters. Towards the evening a heavy attack developed against the 7th Brigade, which wa* repulsed, with very heavy loss to tho enemy, by the Wiltshire* and the Royal West Kent?. Later a determined attack on the 18th Infantry Brigade drove tho Gordon Highlanders out of their trenches, which were retaken bv the Rcgi- ■ nicnt. gallantly'led bv Lieutenant-colo-nel Hull. The Germans lost very heavily, and left lavie numbers of dead'and prisoners behind them. The Second' Corps was now becoming exhausted, owing to tho constant reinforcements of the enemy,' tho length of line which it had to defend, and the enormous losses which it had suffered. By the everting of October 11 the Third Corps had practically completed its detrainment at St. Omer, and was moved east to Hazebrouok. where the Corps remained throughout the 12th. —Rout in the Dark.— On the morning of the 13th the advanced guard of the Corps, consisting of the 19th Infantry Brigade and a Brigade of Field ArtillerV, occupied the position of the line Stro/.eefo Station - Caestre - St. Sylvestre. On tho 13th I directed General Piilteney to move towards tho line ArmentieresWytsohaete ; warning him, however, that should the Second Corps require his aid he must be prepared to move south-east trt support it. The enemy were routed, and the position taken at* dark, several prisoners being captured. During tho night the Third Corps made good the attacked position and entrenched it. As Bailleul was known to be occupied by the enemy, arrangements were made during tho night to attack it. but reconnaissances sent out on the inoniii'.j of the 14th showed that they had withdrawn, and the town was taken by our Troops, many wounded Germans being found and taken in it. —-Strategical Influence.— General French then goes on to explain that by stiff, determined fighting several desirable positions in the valley of the Lys and around Lille wero then taken in sue-' cession, despite the handicap of fog and strong reinforcements lor the enemy. He proceeds: At this point it is necessary that 1 should return to the co-operation of the forces operating in the neighborhood ot Ghent and Antwerp under Lieutenantgeneral Sir Henry Rawlinson, as the action of his force about this period exercised, in my opinion, a great influence on the course of the subsequent operations. On receipt of instructions from your Lordship, f directed Sir Henry Ua.wlinson to continue his operations in covering and protecting th.e withdrawal of the Belgian army, and subsequently to form the left column in the eastward advance of the British. A very difficult task was allotted to Sir Henry Rawlinson and bis command. Owing to the importance of keeping possession of all the ground towards the north i which we already held, it was necessary for him to operate on a very wide front, and. until the arrival of the First Corps in the northern theatre, I had no troops available -with which to support or reinj force him. 1 Although on this extended front he ! had eventually to encounter very superior forces, his troops, both cavalry and infantry, fought with the utmost gallantry," and rendered very signal service. I considered that the. possession of Menin constituted a, very important point of passage, and would much facilitate the advance of the rest of the Army. So I directed the General Officer Commanding the. Fourth Corps to advance the 7th "Division upon Menin, and endeavor to seize that crossing, numbers and strencth warranted. Taking these facts alon-e'into consideration, itwould have appeared wise to throw the First Corps in to strengthen the lino ; but this would have left the country north and east o f Ypres and. the Ypres Canal open to a, wide turning m-n-emeut. I was ?Uo aware that the enemy was bringing large reinforcements up fvom tho east whVh could onlv bo. opposed for several eSvs. bv two or three French cavalry divisions, -some French Tern'R-rial tmops, and the Belgian army. —■Magnificent British After the hard lighting it had undergone the Belgian armv was in no condition to withstand, uns-upporL'cl, such an attack : and Unless some substantial rcidstauo;> conic! be offered to this threatened turnin" movement, the allUid flank must bo tinned and tho Channel ports laid bare to the- enemy. T ii ' ( 1 tint i i 'e-ful movement of tin k rid \ ii' frm ! f " Ilh ,K " flls iti it c IUMp in. 11 it tht uk ot opening ncr e\tn d -d i Ho I must \ p undeitiUn ud 1 d i t ed M Douglas II t to mo\< wiH *li Ft t Coipi to the ii (I j } m s Itii mil mtinitn uti Mi IJ-nJib Dii I iitiiaud Inn to idv tic- \m hj th 1 nt t lp tli ugh A pie to Ihcui ut Hi tb]tLti\ nib to 0 thecaptur tin i •> uulstbtqu nth 1 | Kibl 11 dmt th u tin t w n la C (i Hit felrjui iniu \ei fndcung wl it i twu th \ rotila 1\ entrtwlun., tli n ho on th \\ (aid <ukl tl I \ i Jinr id tin ti ps ilth in hj in t 1 L hi- t < t < hj ui lion g 1' uiti\ i unt n Ith ] i Uion bic\ d no Mth tU 1 i if Mil tan f -d Lutibh md 1 i< hj sui i t i I fi I i it Ii d tir" difli ult ta°k which I 1 x t u i d ic ot " us ink i hick tl 1 tit n iinn At c il d upon to [ ftiltil lln nuw hi br n a'tuned ' l d all the <n n\ s d spoiaii a Umots ' Imal th c i-di oin hue fiu tinted ts j <t rntiifh t th ni t\ Iloiio njitinj.
power and the indomitable courage and tenacity of officers, non-commissioned officevs, and men. No more arduous task has ever been assigned to British soldiers ; and in all their .-,plendid history there is no instance of their having answered so magnificently to the desperate calls which of necessity were made upon them. —Holding Their Ground.— Our advance, although threatened by a hostile movement from the Foret d'Houthulst.. proceeded successfully on settled lines until the afternoon of the 21st, when the French Cavalry Corps received orders to retire west of the canal. Fortius and other reasons Sir Douglas Haig was unable to mako much progress. Tho French commanders of Cavalry and Territorials promised that Ypres should be cleared of its congestion of troops, and then (tho despatch goes on) Gecnr.il Jon"re told me that "he was bringing up the 9th French Army Corps to Ypres, that more French troops, would follow later, and that he intended —in conjunction with the Belgian troops—to drive the Germans ■ est. ft now became clear to me nvtt tho utmost wc. could do to ward oh' any attempts of the enemy to turn our flank to the north, or to break"in from eastward was to maintain our present very extended front, and to hold fast our positions until French reinforcements could arrive from the south. During the 22nd the necessity of sending tup port to the 4th Corps on his right somewhat hampered the General Officer Commanding the Ist Corps ; but a series of attacks all akng his front had been driven back during the day with heavyloss to tiis enemy. —A German Admission. — Late in the evening the enemy succeeded in penetrating a portion of the line held by tho Cameron Highlanders north of Pilkem. At 6 a.m. on the morning pi' tho 23rd a counter-attack to recover the lost, trenches was made by the Queen's Regiment, the Northnmptons, and the King's Royal Rifles, under Major- gen a nil liuftin. The attack was very strongly opposed, and the bayonet, had* to be used. After severe fighting duiing most of the day the attack was brilliantly successful. and over 600 prisoner;' were- raken. On the same dav an attack was made on the 3rd Infantry Brigade. The enemy advanced with ' great determination,* but with little "skill, and consequently the loss inflicted on him was exceedingly heavy ; some 1,500 dead were seen in the neighborhood of Langernarek. Correspondence found subsequently on a- captui-vd German officer stated that the effectives of this attacking corps were reduced to 26 per cent, in the course of tho day's lighting. Then when the French 9th Army Corps came up they made good progress towards the north-east, capturing some, guns and prisoners. Owing to constant marching and lighting, ever since its. hasty disoirbarkatlon. in aid of the Antwerp garrison, our Ist. Corps had suffered great l:>sses, and were becoming very weak. I therefore decided temporarily to break up the 4th Corps and place the 7th Division with the Ist Corps under the command of £ir I Douglas ffaig. (To be continued.)
"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS", Issue 15704, 19 January 1915
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