Friday 22 August 2014

The First Clash is Close at Hand

Alexander von Kluck

Saturday 22nd August 1914: The 1st Bedfords have moved up to camp in a wood called Bois Boussu. This is some six miles south-west of Mons where, we are now given to understand, the leading regiments of the army are now billeted. The Germans are very close. Our cavalry encountered a strong force of them early this morning at a place called Casteau to the north-east of the town. They charged a group of German uhlans[1], and drove them off, killing a number, the first Germans, we believe, killed by British troops in this war.

These Germans are, we believe, their 1st Army commanded by a man named von Kluck. This name has given our lads some ribald amusement and has quickly given rise to a song, to the tune “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, in which the men express the view that they couldn’t give a very vulgar expletive “for old von Kluck”!

It seems very likely that there will be a battle tomorrow. The French army is on our right around the town of Charleroi and our I Corps will take up positions along the road leading from Mons to Beaumont angled rather north-west to south-east. The II Corps, in which 1st Bedfords find themselves, is on the left, lining the Mons-Condé Canal. The army is thus formed nearly at right angles with II corps formed up west to east facing north and I Corps facing north-east or east.

Source: X550/2/5

[1] Uhlans were light cavalry armed with a lance as well as a sabre. They had a fearsome reputation.

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