Captain Rose War Diary 26 Aug 1914: The Retreat from Mons

26 Aug

Only two hours sleep, then under arms, (kit in transport) at 3 a.m. Germans in the town, and street fighting. Glad to get out of town. See we are to be reserve for a time, so write up this diary. Take up pos. [position] ¾ m. S.W. of Le C. [Le Cateau Cambrésis] ¾ m N. of Reumont. From now onwards I entered on sort of nightmare; watching the shells bursting and guns firing was at first amusing, but with so little sleep, those that fired near us jarred ones nerves a bit. Watch aeros. move out, about 9-30 we had to move to right flank, but after moving some distance by extended platoons we halted for some time till we were told that the left was hotly pressed, and we must push on and hold it. After quite a long march (see list) we reached Ligny [Ligny de Cambrésis] One saw wounded being carried back at intervals, one man we saw who had a very lucky escape. He had a small gun wound in his jacket, and a slight wound in head, his boot hit, and also his bayonet. (Told about French coming up. Our artillery ever harassed.)

I was leading just as we were about to extend into action, when a motor cyclist dashed up, and we were ordered to halt. Apparently we were now wanted on our right flank more, so another huge long march in front, the time now about 2-30 p.m., about 4-30 apparently the R. [right] flank gave way before we could reach it, and the Cameronians and the Cav. were to join the rear guard. We accordingly started in the orthodox manner, and retired on Maretz. During this movement we saw a battery which had been reduced to two guns firing away, then it retired, and after a while saw some of our Cav. patrols, which I distinguished through my glasses, so warned our men not to fire on them.

[Photograph, © South Lanarkshire Council Museums Service, from first album in Capt Rose collection 2008.142.024 with caption A consultation before Le Cateau farm Darling (Adjutant) Hamilton (D Company) Colonel, Macallan (on his horse)” ]

[Photograph, © South Lanarkshire Council Museums Service, from first album in Capt Rose collection 2008.142.024 with caption A consultation before Le Cateau farm Darling (Adjutant) Hamilton (D Company) Colonel, Macallan (on his horse)” ]

Frequently heard firing, this was some troops on the right firing on our cavalry, they killed about three, and forty horses, their officers, when they got through seemed nervous. Talked to some cavalry officers. One of these had been down to Busigny (in error) where he met some Ulans, he shot two, and then retired. They were sick about being shot at. I borrowed a horse, and rode back through village, now quite dark. I had to be very careful, as my men would have fired for twopence. Saw CO and told him how anxious the Welsh were. Feeling rather full of buck, rather hope for a chance at their Cav. About 9-30 awful march now begins. Numbers of wounded lying out on bank. Germans have burnt one of the hospitals, full of wounded, let us hope an accident. March on, and on. Have to halt parties of our own cavalry occasionally, party with bayonets fixed, and revolvers ready. On – on – always on, men at last can stand no more. Let us hope they will not be killed, as many stragglers have been. On – on – men half asleep, and constantly dropping, exhausted. Regiment now no more than a rabble party, drop down at Estrees.

[Line of march Solesmes to Estrees c 28 miles]

In a letter to his wife Hetty, dated 14.10.14 Captain Rose referred to the Cameronians action at Le Cateau:

“Being now many weeks ago I may tell you a little about the battle of Le Cateau. The day before, we had joined the main army after acting as a flank guard to the main army (I refer to the Brigade to which we belong); it was here I first came under shell fire. I took up a position to cover some retiring cavalry -the shells were short but the noise they make is unpleasant. In this case you saw the flash of the gun, then the flash and bang of the shell bursting, then the whiz of the bullets and the patter when they strike the ground. We got away from this in an orderly retreat, now mixed with the main army. We retired through a large town which was heavily shelled just after we got out. Then came Le Cateau. We were put in a railway shed for the night and moved out at daybreak. As we moved out Ulans were firing round comers of the street and we had to put picquets at each turning. I was glad when we got out of the town. We formed a reserve and had a grand view of the battle.”

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