Page 28 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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LE CATEAU AND THE RETREAT FROM MONS
IS
various parties of the battalion had been assembling under Major
Griffin on the main road leading to Selvigny ; under the orders of the
4th Divisional staff they marched until
10
p.m., when they billeted
in
some farm buildings at Vendhuille. This march was not made
easier by the fact that, whereas officers were well laden with maps
of the area east of Mons, there was only one copy in the brigade of
the map of the country traversed by the Retreat-and that a
hachured, uncontoured and strange French map on a
I: 80,000
scale.
One party of about
100
men of the battalion, including Lieutenant
J.
Smyth and Second-Lieutenant
J.
W. Evatt, lost touch with the
remainder and, with detachments of the King's Own, Royal
Warwickshire Regiment, Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Royal Irish
Fusiliers, all under Major R. G. Parker, of the King's Own, held a
position on the Ligny-Haucourt road to cover the withdrawal of the
troops on the right of the brigade. Some of this party joined the
Royal Warwickshire Regiment in a counter-attack, which was
unsuccessful, delivered from near Haucourt towards the ridge to the
east of the area originally occupied by the King's Own. After a day
of much anxiety and uncertainty, it was found at about
II.30
p.m.
that all other troops had disappeared and that the enemy, after one
repulse, was closing round on both flanks; and Major Parker, after
consulting the senior officer of each detachment, marshalled his little
force and moved off by a country track to CaulIery, just south of
Ligny. At dawn on 27th August, this party marched through
Elincourt, Malincourt, Villers-Outn!aux, Vendhuille, Ronssoy,
Templeux-le-Guerard and Roisel to Hancourt, where they rejoined
the brigade late in the afternoon after a march of about twenty-two
miles. The march had not been uneventful; for strong parties of
Germans were seen on the right flank and it was necessary to hide
from them. Major Parker said after the war that, though his
party had no fighting after leaving Haucourt, the march "was
a great trial of physical endurance," but that "the men stuck
it splendidly. "
The Battle of Le Cateau had been a severe baptism of fire for the
2nd Battalion. Its losses were six officers (Captains
R.
H. M.
Moody, A. C. Ward, D.S.O., and R. Y. Sidebottom; Lieutenants
D. E. Boyle, W.
K.
Humfrey and C. H. Bass) and an uncertain
number of N.C.Os. and men killed; 3 officers (Captains H. B. Roffey
and Lieutenants W.
J.
Rowley and R. P. A. Helps) and 86 other ranks
wounded; and 6 officers and 402 other ranks missing. Of the latter,
3 officers rejoined a few days later and 143 KC.Os. and men on gth
September, having in some cases been taken by lorry to French
barracks at Compiegne and thence by train to Coulommiers; many of
the remainder, it transpired, were killed where they fought. But the
battle had not been in vain. The II Corps was able to break off the
action in daylight and retire practically unmolested, after holding up
and inflicting such heavy casualties on three German Army Corps
that it was many days before the latter came to grips with the