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"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS", Issue 15706, 21 January 1915
"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS"
" THE MOST GLORIOUS PAGE IN OUR HISTORY." SIR JOHN FRENCH'S ILLUMINATING DESPATCH. . No mors arduous task has over been assigned to British soldiers, and in all their splendid history thsre is no instance of their having answered so magnificentl-v to the desperate calls which of necessity were made upon them.
(Continued from Yesterday's Issue.) —Kaiser and His Guards.--Whilst tho whole of the. lino has continued to be heavily pressed, the enemy s principal efforts since November 1 have been concentrated upon breaking through the lino hold bv the First British and M> French Corps, and thus gaining possession of the town of Ypres. From November A onwards the 27th. the 15th. and parts ot the Bavarian 15th and 2nd German Corps, besides other troops, _ were ail directed against this northern line. About the 10th inst., after several units of these corps had been completely shattered in futile attacks, a division of tho Prussian Guard which hud been operating iu the neighborhood 1 of Arras j • was moved up to this area with great speed and secrecy. Documents found on (lead officers prove that the Guard had received the Emperor's special commands to break through and succeed where their comrades'of the lino had failed. They took a leading part in the vigorous attacks made against tho centre on the. llth and 12th; but, like their ; comrades, were repulsed with enormous loss. * .. ! Throughout this trying period hir Douglas'"Hais, ably assisted by Ins Divisional and Brigado Commanders, held the line with marvellous tenacity and undaunted courage. Word:.; fail me to express the admiration I feel for their conduct, or my sense of the incalculable services they rendered. I venture to predict that their deeds during these days of stress and trial will furnish some of tho most brilliant chapters which will be found in the military history of our time. —Filling the Gaps.— The First Corps was brilliantly supported by the 3rd Cavalry Division under* General Byng. Sir Douglas Haig has constantly brought this officer's eminent .services 'to my notice. His troops were repeatedly called upon to restore the situation at" critical points, and to till gaps in the line caused by the tremendous losses which occurred. Both Corps and Cavalry Division Commanders particularly bring to my notice the name of Brigadier-general Kavanagh. Commanding the 7th Cavalry Brigade, not only for his skill, but his personal bravery and dash. Tins was particularly noticeable when the <th Cavalry Brigade was brought up to support the French troops when the latter were driven back near the village of Klein Zillebeke on tho night of November 7. On this occasion I regret to say Colonel Gordon Wilson, commanding the Royal Horse Guards, and Major the Hon. Hugh Dawuay, Commanding the 2nd Life Guards, were killed. in these two officers the Army has lost valuable cavalry leaders. Another officer whose mime was particularly mentioned to me was that of Brigadier-general FitzClarence, Y.C., Commanding the Ist Guards Brigade. He was. unfortunately, killed in the night attack of November 11. His loss will he severely felt. —-An Earl'? Courage.— The Corps Commander informs ine that on many occasions Brigadier-general the Earl of Cavan. commanding the 4th Guards Brigade, was conspicuous for the skill, coolness, and courage with which he led his troops, and for the successful manner in which lie dealt with many critical situations. I have- isore than once during this campaign brougnt forward the name of Major-general Bulfin to your Lordship's notice. Up to the evening of November 2, when he was somewhat severely wounded, his services continued to be of great value. On November 5 I despatched 11 battalions of the Second Corps, all considerably reduced ia strength, to relieve the infantry of the 7th Division, which was then brought back into general reserve. Three more battalions of the same corps, the London Scottish and Hertfordshire Battalions of Territorials, and the Somersetshire and Leicestershire Regii ments of Yeomanry, were subsequently sent to reinforce the troops fighting to the east of Ypres. General Byng, in the case ! of the Yeomanry Cavalry Regiments, and Sir Douglas in that of tiic Territorial Battalions, speak in higrTterws of their con- | duct in the field am) of the value of their support. Our New Arms.---The. battalions of the Second Cor})- took a conspicuous part iu repulsing the heavy attacks delivered against this part of the line. I was obliged to despatch them immediately after their trying, experiences in the southern part of the line, and when they had hud a very insufficient period of rest: and although they gallantly maintained the-e northern positions until relieved by the French, they were ieduced to a condition of extreme exhaustion. I The work performed by the Royal I Flying Corps has continued to prove of the utmost value to the success of the operations. f do not consider it advisable in this despatch to go into any detail as regards tho duties assigned to the corps and the nature of their work, but almost every day new methods for employing them, both strategically and tactically, are discovered and put into practice. The development of their use and employment has, indeed, been quite extraordinary, and I feel sure, that no effort should be spared to increase their numbers and perfect their equipment and efficiency. In the period covered by this despatch Territorial troops have been used for the first time in the Army under my command. The conduct and bearing of these units under lire, and the efficient manner iu which they carried out the various duties assigned to them have imbued me with the, highest hope as to the value and help of Territorial troops generally. —Fearless Cyclists.— Regiments and battalions as they arrive come"into a temporary camp of instruction, which is formed at headquarters, where thev are closely inspected, their equipment examined, so far as possible perfected, and such instruction as can be given to them in the brief time available in the use of machine guns, etc., is imparted. Several units have now been sent up to the front besides those I have already named, but have not yet been engaged. 1 am anxious in this despatch to bring to your Lordship's special notice the splendid work which has been done throughout the campaign by the Cyclists of the Signal Corps. Carrying despatches and message* nfc aii hours of the day and night in every kind of weather, and often traversing bad road:, blocked with transport, they h-.ye been conspicuously successful in maintaining an extraordinary degree of efficiency in the service of communications. Many casualties have occurred in their ranks, but no amount of difficulty or danger has ever checked the energy and ardor which has distinguished their corps throughout the. operations. --Last Stages.— As I close this despatch there arc signs in evidence that we are possibly m the. last stages of the battle of Ypres-Armeu-tieres. For several days past ths enemy's artillery fire . ha* considerably slackened, and infantry attack has practically ceased. I deeply regret the heavy casualties which ve'hava suffered, but the nature of the fighting has been very desperate, and we have been assailed by vastly superior numbers. I have every reason to know that throughout the course of the battle we 'have placed at least three times as many of the enemy hors de combat in dead, wounded, and prisoners. • I have" many recommendations to i bring to your" Lordshig's .notice for
gallant and distinguished service' performed by officers and men in the period under report. Those will be submitted shortly, as soon as they can b« collected. —Sir John's Grout Achievement. — 'The TimesV military correspondent, referring to Sir John French's despatch, says : "Wo see very clearly that it was the Field-Marshal commanding the AngloIndian forces in Franus wlis first appreciated the gravity of the German msrrement in the north, and first took decisive measures to arrest it. It was on his initiative that the army under his command was dexterously withdrawn from the Aisne, bodilv transferred to the north, and placed athwart the German line of advance on Calais, tt was he, through his capable Staff, who arranged for the successive arrival of British corps and divisions at the decisive point, not only from the Aisne, but from the coast, and from India as well. It was he who knew how to veil his weakness by intertwining his cavalry divisions with his infantry. It was ho" who remained deaf to clamor and to the doubts of less resolute men, covering with his troops large fronts out of all doctrinal proportion to the number of combatants at his command. It was he who, when his line was heavily engaged against a superior enemy, threw his last reserve, the Ist Corps, in upon the flank at Ypres, thereby allowing it to win immortal fame, and causing the designs of the enemy to be frustrated. Will and character dominate every other quality in war, and it is first and foremost/because Sir John French possesses these qualities in an eminent degree, and is not afraid to ask of his troops the impossible, that our intrepid army in Flanders has added glorious pages to its immortal history."
"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS", Issue 15706, 21 January 1915
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