Sunday 24 August 2014

Rearguard Action at Mons

Monday 24th August 1914: At Paturages the enemy attacked the 1st Bedfords soon after daylight about 4 am. C Company holding houses and bridges on the railway line was the first to be engaged. Eventually the company was driven back slowly as houses were knocked down by German shells. The enemy attacked strongly on the battalion’s right, which rested on a high heap of slag occupied by other units, this being a mining area. The slag heap shut out all view to that flank and about 11 a.m. it was discovered that the battalions on the heap had either withdrawn or retired leaving the Bedfords’ right flank in the air, with the enemy in close proximity.

The Battalion commenced a retirement westward in three columns, covered by a small rear guard. A considerable portion of the battalion was detached in the confusion of the action. It is reckoned that 66 other ranks have been killed[1]. Altogether it is thought that about 1,600 British soldiers have been killed and wounded. The great majority of these seem to have come from two battalions, the 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment  and the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders of 8th Brigade, 3rd Division. We have no ideas how many enemy have been killed but figures such as 3,000 and 5,000 are being mentioned. The Bedfords, though not much engaged on Sunday have, with their fellow members of 15th Brigade (1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment, 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) performed an invaluable service to the army today, acting as rearguard and covering its retirement south-west.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/2/7.

[1] In fact just four – see Roll of Honour

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