Page 30 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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direction, bivouacking at 7 p.m. at Verberie on the main Paris–
Compiegne road at the south-western corner of the forest. This
day, too, was most trying on account of the heat; the forest gave but
little help as the wide ride down which the battalion marched was
dusty, there was no breeze and the long avenue between the trees
served only to keep the air still and stifling; while the hard ruts made
in wet weather by timber wagons played havoc with feet, of which
some had not yet acclimatized themselves again to Army boots,
and few had been removed from the boots at all for nearly
a week.
The opening day of September, a month which was to witness
one of the decisive crises of the world's history, the Battle of the
Marne, and (a week later) a tragic instance of lost chances at the
Battle of the Aisne, saw several minor but notable incidents in
which the fog of war was a major element. In the Forest of Villers
Cotterets the 4th (Guards) Brigade fought a gallant rear-guard
action in thick woods. At Nery, "L" Battery earned immortal fame
and three Victoria Crosses in its efforts to stave off a surprise attack
on the 1st Cavalry Brigade. Nery is only three miles from Verberie
and two battalions of the 4th Division were involved in the fighting.
The 2nd Battalion took up a position about 9 a.m. to support the
2nd Dragoon Guards near Mont Cornon, but did not come into
action, and at 3 p.m. continued its march in a south-south-easterly
direction to Baron, where it arrived at 6 p.m. It was not, however,
to enjoy a complete night's rest; for at 2.30 a.m. on 2nd
September it marched again through Montagny and Eve to bivouacs
a short distance south of Dammartin which was reached at about
p.m. A German aeroplane flew over the bivouacs, but at a height
which put it out of range of small-arms fire. Once again the night was
to be disturbed, the battalion marching at 10.15 p.m. as escort to the
Divisional Train and Ammunition Column. Its route lay through
St. Mard, Messy, Claye Souilly and Annet to Lagny, which is on the
River Marne only thirteen and a half miles due east of the fortifica–
tions of the city of Paris and within five miles of the outer defences of
the capital. Reaching Lagny at 8.30 a.m., the battalion continued
its march to J.ossigny, four miles to the south-east of it. Here all
units, having lost much of their stores, collected tools of all kinds
from neighbouring farms. At Jossigny, the battalion enjoyed a quiet
day, interrupted only by a march from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. to
bivouacs in Baron de Rothschild's grounds at Ferrieres, about five
miles to the south-west. And at 3.45 a.m. on 5th September began
the last stage of the Retreat from Mons: the battalion marched
through Pont Carre to Brie-Comte-Robert, within fourteen miles of
the city of Paris on the main road leading south-east from it to the
scenes of Napoleon's last battles in r814 and to Fontainebleau, where
he signed his first abdication on 6th April of that year.
So ended the historic Retreat from Mons, a battle honour borne
on the King's Colours of the Regiment. The Official Historian, Sir
J ames Edmonds, said of it :