[Transcriber: The original document contained a number of errors. Obvious spelling mistakes have been corrected and a notation included for each. There were three places with missing text that have also been annotated. In addition, there were also a number of inconsistencies in spelling (ex. Perceval Gibbon vs. Percival Gibbon; Rennekampf vs. Rennenkampf) which have not been changed or noted given the desire not to introduce unintentional errors.]
THE NEW YORK TIMES
CURRENT HISTORY OF THE EUROPEAN WAR
JANUARY 23, 1915.
Sir John French's Own Story
The Famous Dispatches of the British Commander in Chief to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War.
*First Report from the Front*
7th September, 1914.
My lord: I have the honor to report the proceedings of the field force under my command up to the time of rendering this dispatch.
1. The transport of the troops from England both by sea and by rail was effected in the best order and without a check. Each unit arrived at its destination in this country well within the scheduled time.
The concentration was practically complete on the evening of Friday, the 21st ultimo, and I was able to make dispositions to move the force during Saturday, the 22d, to positions I considered most favorable from which to commence operations which the French Commander in Chief, Gen. Joffre, requested me to undertake in pursuance of his plans in prosecution of the campaign.
The line taken up extended along the line of the canal from Conde on the west, through Mons and Binche on the east. This line was taken up as follows:
From Conde to Mons inclusive was assigned to the Second Corps, and to the right of the Second Corps from Mons the First Corps was posted. The Fifth Cavalry Brigade was placed at Binche.
In the absence of my Third Army Corps I desired to keep the cavalry division as much as possible as a reserve to act on my outer flank, or move in support of any threatened part of the line. The forward reconnoissance was intrusted to Brig. Gen. Sir Philip Chetwode with the Fifth Cavalry Brigade, but I directed Gen. Allenby to send forward a few squadrons to assist in this work.
During the 22d and 23d these advanced squadrons did some excellent work, some of them penetrating as far as Soignies, and several encounters took place in which our troops showed to great advantage.
2. At 6 A.M., on Aug. 23, I assembled the commanders of the First and Second Corps and cavalry division at a point close to the position and explained the general situation of the Allies, and what I understood to be Gen. Joffre's plan. I discussed with them at some length the immediate situation in front of us.
From information I received from French Headquarters I understood that little more than one, or at most two, of the enemy's army corps, with perhaps one cavalry division, were in front of my position; and I was aware of no attempted outflanking movement by the enemy. I was confirmed in this opinion by the fact that my patrols encountered no undue opposition in their reconnoitring operations. The observations of my aeroplanes seemed also to bear out this estimate.
About 3 P.M. on Sunday, the 23d, reports began coming in to the effect that the enemy was commencing an attack on the Mons line, apparently in some strength, but that the right of the position from Mons and Bray was being particularly threatened.
The commander of the First Corps had pushed his flank back to some high ground south of Bray, and the Fifth Cavalry Brigade evacuated Binche, moving slightly south; the enemy thereupon occupied Binche.
The right of the Third Division, under Gen. Hamilton, was at Mons, which formed a somewhat dangerous salient; and I directed the commander of the Second Corps to be careful not to keep the troops on this salient too long, but, if threatened seriously, to draw back the centre behind Mons. This was done before dark. In the meantime, about 5 P.M., I received a most unexpected message from Gen. Joffre by telegraph, telling me that at least three German corps, viz., a reserve corps, the Fourth Corps and the Ninth Corps, were moving on my position in front, and that the Second Corps was engaged in a turning movement from the direction of Tournay. He also informed me that the two reserve French divisions and the Fifth French Army on my right were retiring, the Germans having on the previous day gained possession of the passages of the Sambre between Charleroi and Namur.
3. In view of the possibility of my being driven from the Mons position, I had previously [Transcriber: original 'previouly'] ordered a position in rear to be reconnoitred. This position rested on the fortress of Maubeuge on the right and extended west to Jenlain, southeast of Valenciennes, on the left. The position was reported difficult to hold, because standing crops and buildings made the siting of trenches very difficult and limited the field of fire in many important localities. It nevertheless afforded a few good artillery positions.
When the news of the retirement of the French and the heavy German threatening on my front reached me, I endeavored to confirm it by aeroplane [Transcriber: original 'areoplane'] reconnoissance; and as a result of this I determined to effect a retirement to the Maubeuge position at daybreak on the 24th.
A certain amount of fighting continued along the whole line throughout the night and at daybreak on the 24th the Second Division from the neighborhood of Harmignies made a powerful demonstration as if to retake Binche. This was supported by the artillery of both the First and Second Divisions, while the First Division took up a supporting position in the neighborhood of Peissant. Under cover of this demonstration the Second Corps retired on the line Dour-Quarouble-Frameries. The Third Division on the right of the corps suffered considerable loss in this operation from the enemy, who had retaken Mons.
The Second Corps halted on this line, where they partially intrenched themselves, enabling Sir Douglas Haig with the First Corps gradually to withdraw to the new position; and he effected this without much further loss, reaching the line Bavai-Maubeuge about 7 P.M. Toward midday the enemy appeared to be directing his principal effort against our left.
I had previously ordered Gen. Allenby with the cavalry to act vigorously in advance of my left front and endeavor to take the pressure off.
About 7:30 A.M. Gen. Allenby received a message from Sir Charles Fergusson, commanding the Fifth Division, saying that he was very hard pressed and in urgent need of support. On receipt of this message Gen. Allenby drew in the cavalry and endeavored to bring direct support to the Fifth Division.
During the course of this operation Gen. De Lisle, of the Second Cavalry Brigade, thought he saw a good opportunity to paralyze the further advance of the enemy's infantry by making a mounted attack on his flank. He formed up and advanced for this purpose, but was held up by wire about 500 yards from his objective, and the Ninth Lancers and the Eighteenth Hussars suffered severely in the retirement of the brigade.
The Nineteenth Infantry Brigade, which had been guarding the line of communications, was brought up by rail to Valenciennes on the 22d and 23d. On the morning of the 24th they were moved out to a position south of Quarouble to support the left flank of the Second Corps.
With the assistance of the cavalry Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien was enabled to effect his retreat to a new position; although, having two corps of the enemy on his front and one threatening his flank, he suffered great losses in doing so.
At nightfall the position was occupied by the Second Corps to the west of Bavai, the First Corps to the right. The right was protected by the fortress of Maubeuge, the left by the Nineteenth Brigade in position between Jenlain and Bry, and the cavalry on the outer flank.
4. The French were still retiring, and I had no support except such as was afforded by the Fortress of Maubeuge; and the determined attempts of the enemy to get round my left flank assured me that it was his intention to hem me against that place and surround me. I felt that not a moment must be lost in retiring to another position.
I had every reason to believe that the enemy's forces were somewhat exhausted and I knew that they had suffered heavy losses. I hoped, therefore, that his pursuit would not be too vigorous to prevent me effecting my object.
The operation, however, was full of danger and difficulty, not only owing to the very superior force in my front, but also to the exhaustion of the troops.
The retirement was recommenced in the early morning of the 25th to a position in the neighborhood of Le Cateau, and rearguards were ordered to be clear of the Maubeuge-Bavai-Eth Road by 5:30 A.M.
Two cavalry brigades, with the divisional cavalry of the Second Corps, covered the movement of the Second Corps. The remainder of the cavalry division, with the Nineteenth Brigade, the whole under the command of Gen. Allenby, covered the west flank.
The Fourth Division commenced its detrainment at Le Cateau on Sunday, the 23d, and by the morning of the 25th eleven battalions and a brigade of artillery with divisional staff were available for service.
I ordered Gen. Snow to move out to take up a position with his right south of Solesmes, his left resting on the Cambrai-Le Cateau Road south of La Chaprie. In this position the division rendered great help to the effective retirement of the Second and First Corps to the new position.
Although the troops had been ordered to occupy the Cambrai-Le Cateau-Landrecies position, and the ground had, during the 25th, been partially prepared and intrenched, I had grave doubts—owing to the information I had received as to the accumulating strength of the enemy against me—as to the wisdom of standing there to fight.
Having regard to the continued retirement of the French on my right, my exposed left flank, the tendency of the enemy's western corps (II.) to envelop me, and, more than all, the exhausted condition of the troops, I determined to make a great effort to continue the retreat till I could put some substantial obstacle, such as the Somme or the Oise, between my troops and the enemy, and afford the former some opportunity of rest and reorganization. Orders were, therefore, sent to the corps commanders to continue their retreat as soon as they possibly could toward the general line Vermand-St. Quentin-Ribemont.
The cavalry, under Gen. Allenby, were ordered to cover the retirement.
Throughout the 25th and far into the evening, the First Corps continued its march on Landrecies, following the road along the eastern border of the Foret de Mormal, and arrived at Landrecies about 10 o'clock. I had intended that the corps should come further west so as to fill up the gap between Le Cateau and Landrecies, but the men were exhausted and could not get further in without rest.
The enemy, however, would not allow them this rest, and about 9:30 P.M. a report was received that the Fourth Guards Brigade in Landrecies was heavily attacked by troops of the Ninth German Army Corps, who were coming through the forest on the north of the town. This brigade fought most gallantly, and caused the enemy to suffer tremendous loss in issuing from the forest into the narrow streets of the town. This loss has been estimated from reliable sources at from 700 to 1,000. At the same time information reached me from Sir Douglas Haig that his First Division was also heavily engaged south and east of Maroilles. I sent urgent messages to the commander of the two French reserve divisions on my right to come up to the assistance of the First Corps, which they eventually did. Partly owing to this assistance, but mainly to the skillful manner in which Sir Douglas Haig extricated his corps from an exceptionally difficult position in the darkness of the night, they were able at dawn to resume their march south toward Wassigny on Guise.
By about 6 P.M. the Second Corps had got into position with their right on Le Cateau, their left in the neighborhood of Caudry, and the line of defense was continued thence by the Fourth Division toward Seranvillers, the left being thrown back.
During the fighting on the 24th and 25th the cavalry became a good deal scattered, but by the early morning of the 26th Gen, Allenby had succeeded in concentrating two brigades to the south of Cambrai.
The Fourth Division was placed under the orders of the general officer commanding the Second Army Corps.
On the 24th the French cavalry corps, consisting of three divisions under Gen. Sordet, had been in billets north of Avesnes. On my way back from Bavai, which was my "Poste de Commandement" during the fighting of the 23d and 24th, I visited Gen. Sordet, and earnestly requested his co-operation and support. He promised to obtain sanction from his army commander to act on my left flank, but said that his horses were too tired to move before the next day. Although he rendered me valuable assistance later on in the course of the retirement, he was unable for the reasons given to afford me any support on the most critical day of all, viz., the 26th.
At daybreak it became apparent that the enemy was throwing the bulk of his strength against the left of the position occupied by the Second Corps and the Fourth Division.
At this time the guns of four German army corps were in position against them, and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien reported to me that he judged it impossible to continue his retirement at daybreak (as ordered) in face of such an attack.
I sent him orders to use his utmost endeavors to break off the action and retire at the earliest possible moment, as it was impossible for me to send him any support, the First Corps being at the moment incapable of movement.
The French cavalry corps, under Gen. Sordet, was coming up on our left rear early in the morning, and I sent an urgent message to him to do his utmost to come up and support the retirement of my left flank; but owing to the fatigue of his horses he found himself unable to intervene in any way.
There had been no time to intrench the position properly, but the troops showed a magnificent front to the terrible fire which confronted them.
The artillery, although outmatched by at least four to one, made a splendid fight, and inflicted heavy losses on their opponents.
At length it became apparent that, if complete annihilation was to be avoided, a retirement must be attempted; and the order was given to commence it about 3:30 P.M. The movement was covered with the most devoted intrepidity and determination by the artillery, which had itself suffered heavily, and the fine work done by the cavalry in the further retreat from the position assisted materially in the final completion of this most difficult and dangerous operation.
Fortunately the enemy had himself suffered too heavily to engage in an energetic pursuit.
I cannot close the brief account of this glorious stand of the British troops without putting on record my deep appreciation of the valuable services rendered by Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien.
I say without hesitation that the saving of the left wing of the army under my command on the morning of the 26th August could never have been accomplished unless a commander of rare and unusual coolness, intrepidity, and determination had been present to personally conduct the operation.
The retreat was continued far into the night of the 26th and through the 27th and 28th, on which date the troops halted on the line Noyon-Chauny-La Fere, having then thrown off the weight of the enemy's pursuit.
On the 27th and 28th I was much indebted to Gen. Sordet and the French cavalry division which he commands for materially assisting my retirement and successfully driving back some of the enemy on Cambrai.
Gen. D'Amade also, with the Sixty-first and Sixty-second French Reserve Divisions, moved down from the neighborhood of Arras on the enemy's right flank and took much pressure off the rear of the British forces.
This closes the period covering the heavy fighting which commenced at Mons on Sunday afternoon, 23d August, and which really constituted a four days' battle.
At this point, therefore, I propose to close the present dispatch.
I deeply deplore the very serious losses which the British forces have suffered in this great battle; but they were inevitable in view of the fact that the British Army—only two days after a concentration by rail—was called upon to withstand a vigorous attack of five German army corps.
It is impossible for me to speak too highly of the skill evinced by the two general officers commanding army corps; the self-sacrificing and devoted exertions of their staffs; the direction of the troops by divisional, brigade, and regimental leaders; the command of the smaller units by their officers; and the magnificent fighting spirit displayed by non-commissioned officers and men.
I wish particularly to bring to your Lordship's notice the admirable work done by the Royal Flying Corps under Sir David Henderson. Their skill, energy, and perseverance [Transcriber: original 'perseverence'] have been beyond all praise. They have furnished me with the most complete and accurate information, which has been of incalculable value in the conduct of the operations. Fired at constantly both by friend and foe, and not hesitating to fly in every kind of weather, they have remained undaunted throughout.
Further, by actually fighting in the air, they have succeeded in destroying five of the enemy's machines.
I wish to acknowledge with deep gratitude the incalculable assistance I received from the General and Personal Staffs at Headquarters during this trying period.
Lieut. Gen. Sir Archibald Murray, Chief of the General Staff; Major Gen. Wilson, Sub-Chief of the General Staff; and all under them have worked day and night unceasingly with the utmost skill, self-sacrifice, and devotion; and the same acknowledgment is due by me to Brig. Gen. Hon. W. Lambton, my Military Secretary, and the personal Staff.
In such operations as I have described the work of the Quartermaster General is of an extremely onerous nature. Major Gen. Sir William Robertson has met what appeared to be almost insuperable difficulties with his characteristic energy, skill, and determination; and it is largely owing to his exertions that the hardships and sufferings of the troops—inseparable from such operations—were not much greater.
Major Gen. Sir Nevil Macready, the Adjutant General, has also been confronted with most onerous and difficult tasks in connection with disciplinary arrangements and the preparation of casualty lists. He has been indefatigable in his exertions to meet the difficult situations which arose.
I have not yet been able to complete the list of officers whose names I desire to bring to your Lordship's notice for services rendered during the period under review; and, as I understand it is of importance that this dispatch should no longer be delayed, I propose to forward this list, separately, as soon as I can. I have the honor to be,
Your Lordship's most obedient Servant,
(Signed) J.D.P. FRENCH, Field Marshal, Commander in Chief, British Forces in the Field.
*The Battle of the Marne.*
17th September, 1914.
My lord: In continuation of my dispatch of Sept. 7, I have the honor to report the further progress of the operations of the forces under my command from Aug. 28.
On that evening the retirement of the force was followed closely by two of the enemy's cavalry columns, moving southeast from St. Quentin.
The retreat in this part of the field was being covered by the Third and Fifth Cavalry Brigades. South of the Somme Gen. Gough, with the Third Cavalry Brigade, threw back the Uhlans of the Guard with considerable loss.
Gen. Chetwode, with the Fifth Cavalry Brigade, encountered the eastern column near Cerizy, moving south. The brigade attacked and routed the column, the leading German regiment suffering very severe casualties and being almost broken up.
The Seventh French Army Corps was now in course of being railed up from the south to the east of Amiens. On the 29th it nearly completed its detrainment, and the French Sixth Army got into position on my left, its right resting on Roye.
The Fifth French Army was behind the line of the Oise, between La Fere and Guise.
The pursuit of the enemy was very vigorous; some five or six German corps were on the Somme, facing the Fifth Army on the Oise. At least two corps were advancing toward my front, and were crossing the Somme east and west of Ham. Three or four more German corps were [Transcriber: original 'wree'] opposing the Sixth French Army on my left.
This was the situation at 1 o'clock on the 29th, when I received a visit from Gen. Joffre at my headquarters.
I strongly represented my position to the French Commander in Chief, who was most kind, cordial, and sympathetic, as he has always been. He told me that he had directed the Fifth French Army on the Oise to move forward and attack the Germans on the Somme, with a view to checking pursuit. He also told me of the formation of the Sixth French Army on my left flank, composed of the Seventh Army Corps, four reserve divisions, and Sordet's corps of cavalry.
I finally arranged with Gen. Joffre to effect a further short retirement toward the line Compiegne-Soissons, promising him, however, to do my utmost to keep always within a day's march of him.
In pursuance of this arrangement the British forces retired to a position a few miles north of the line Compiegne-Soissons on the 29th.
The right flank of the German Army was now reaching a point which appeared seriously to endanger my line of communications with Havre. I had already evacuated Amiens, into which place a German reserve division was reported to have moved.
Orders were given to change the base to St. Nazaire, and establish an advance base at Le Mans. This operation was well carried out by the Inspector General of Communications.
In spite of a severe defeat inflicted upon the Guard Tenth and Guard Reserve Corps of the German Army by the First and Third French Corps on the right of the Fifth Army, it was not part of Gen. Joffre's plan to pursue this advantage; and a general retirement to the line of the Marne was ordered, to which the French forces in the more eastern theatre were directed to conform.
A new Army (the Ninth) had been formed from three corps in the south by Gen. Joffre, and moved into the space between the right of the Fifth and left of the Fourth Armies.
While closely adhering to his strategic conception to draw the enemy on at all points until a favorable situation was created from which to assume the offensive, Gen. Joffre found it necessary to modify from day to day the methods by which he sought to attain this object, owing to the development of the enemy's plans and changes in the general situation.
In conformity with the movements of the French forces, my retirement continued practically from day to day. Although we were not severely pressed by the enemy, rearguard actions took place continually.
On the 1st September, when retiring from the thickly wooded country to the south of Compiegne, the First Cavalry Brigade was overtaken by some German cavalry. They momentarily lost a horse artillery battery, and several officers and men were killed and wounded. With the help, however, of some detachments from the Third Corps operating on their left, they not only recovered their own guns, but succeeded in capturing twelve of the enemy's.
Similarly, to the eastward, the First Corps, retiring south, also got into some very difficult forest country, and a somewhat severe rearguard action ensued at Villers-Cotterets, in which the Fourth Guards Brigade suffered considerably.
On Sept. 3 the British forces were in position south of the Marne between Lagny and Signy-Signets. Up to this time I had been requested by Gen. Joffre to defend the passages of the river as long as possible, and to blow up the bridges in my front. After I had made the necessary dispositions, and the destruction of the bridges had been effected, I was asked by the French Commander in Chief to continue my retirement to a point some twelve miles in rear of the position I then occupied, with a view to taking up a second position behind the Seine. This retirement was duly carried out. In the meantime the enemy had thrown bridges and crossed the Marne in considerable force, and was threatening the Allies all along the line of the British forces and the Fifth and Ninth French Armies. Consequently several small outpost actions took place.
On Saturday, Sept. 5, I met the French Commander in Chief at his request, and he informed me of his intention to take the offensive forthwith, as he considered conditions very favorable to success.
Gen. Joffre announced to me his intention of wheeling up the left flank of the Sixth Army, pivoting on the Marne and directing it to move on the Ourcq; cross and attack the flank of the First German Army, which was then moving in a southeasterly direction east of that river.
He requested me to effect a change of front to my right—my left resting on the Marne and my right on the Fifth Army—to fill the gap between that army and the Sixth. I was then to advance against the enemy in my front and join in the general offensive movement.
These combined movements practically commenced on Sunday, Sept. 6, at sunrise; and on that day it may be said that a great battle opened on a front extending from Ermenonville, which was just in front of the left flank of the Sixth French Army, through Lizy on the Marne, Mauperthuis, which was about the British centre, Courtecon, which was on the left of the Fifth French Army, to Esternay and Charleville, the left of the Ninth Army under Gen. Foch, and so along the front of the Ninth, Fourth and Third French Armies to a point north of the fortress of Verdun.
This battle, in so far as the Sixth French Army, the British Army, the Fifth French Army, and the Ninth French Army were concerned, may be said to have concluded on the evening of Sept. 10, by which time the Germans had been driven back to the line Soissons-Rheims, with a loss of thousands of prisoners, many guns, and enormous masses of transport.
About Sept. 3 the enemy appears to have changed his plans and to have determined to stop his advance south direct upon Paris, for on Sept. 4 air reconnoissances showed that his main columns were moving in a southeasterly direction generally east of a line drawn through Nanteuil and Lizy on the Ourcq.
On Sept. 5 several of these columns were observed to have crossed the Marne, while German troops, which were observed moving southeast up the left flank of the Ourcq on the 4th, were now reported to be halted and facing that river. Heads of the enemy's columns were seen crossing at Changis, La Ferte, Nogent, Chateau Thierry, and Mezy.
Considerable German columns of all arms were seen to be converging on Montmirail, while before sunset large bivouacs of the enemy were located in the neighborhood of Coulommiers, south of Rebais, La Ferte-Gaucher, and Dagny.
I should conceive it to have been about noon on Sept. 6, after the British forces had changed their front to the right and occupied the line Jouy-Le Chatel-Faremoutiers-Villeneuve Le Comte, and the advance of the Sixth French Army north of the Marne toward the Ourcq became apparent, that the enemy realized the powerful threat that was being made against the flank of his columns moving southeast, and began the great retreat which opened the battle above referred to.
On the evening of Sept. 6, therefore, the fronts and positions of the opposing armies were roughly as follows:
Sixth French Army.—Right on the Marne at Meux, left toward Betz.
British Forces.—On the line Dagny-Coulommiers-Maison.
Fifth French Army.—At Courtagon, right on Esternay.
Conneau's Cavalry Corps.—Between the right of the British and the left of the French Fifth Army.
Fourth Reserve and Second Corps.—East of the Ourcq and facing that river.
Ninth Cavalry Division.—West of Crecy.
Second Cavalry Division.—North of Coulommiers.
Third and Seventh Corps.—Southwest of Montmirail.
All these troops constituted the First German Army, which was directed against the French Sixth Army on the Ourcq, and the British forces, and the left of the Fifth French Army south of the Marne.
The Second German Army (IX., X., X.R., and Guard) was moving against the centre and right of the Fifth French Army and the Ninth French Army.
On Sept. 7 both the Fifth and Sixth French Armies were heavily engaged on our flank. The Second and Fourth Reserve German Corps on the Ourcq vigorously opposed the advance of the French toward that river, but did not prevent the Sixth Army from gaining some headway, the Germans themselves suffering serious losses. The French Fifth Army threw the enemy back to the line of the Petit Morin River after inflicting severe losses upon them, especially about Montceaux, which was carried at the point of the bayonet.
The enemy retreated before our advance, covered by his Second and Ninth and Guard Cavalry Divisions, which suffered severely.
Our cavalry acted with great vigor, especially Gen. De Lisle's brigade, with the Ninth Lancers and Eighteenth Hussars.
On Sept. 8 the enemy continued his retreat northward, and our army was successfully engaged during the day with strong rearguards of all arms on the Petit Morin River, thereby materially assisting the progress of the French armies on our right and left, against whom the enemy was making his greatest efforts. On both sides the enemy was thrown back with very heavy loss. The First Army Corps encountered stubborn resistance at La Tretoire, (north of Rabais.) The enemy occupied a strong position with infantry and guns on the northern bank of the Petit Morin River; they were dislodged with considerable loss. Several machine guns and many prisoners were captured, and upward of 200 German dead were left on the ground.
The forcing of the Petit Morin at this point was much assisted by the cavalry and the First Division, which crossed higher up the stream.
Later in the day a counter-attack by the enemy was well repulsed by the First Army Corps, a great many prisoners and some guns again falling into our hands.
On this day (Sept. 8) the Second Army Corps encountered considerable opposition, but drove back the enemy at all points with great loss, making considerable captures.
The Third Army Corps also drove back considerable bodies of the enemy's infantry and made some captures.
On Sept. 9 the First and Second Army Corps forced the passage of the Marne and advanced some miles to the north of it. The Third Corps encountered considerable opposition, as the bridge at La Ferte was destroyed and the enemy held the town on the opposite bank in some strength, and thence persistently obstructed the construction of a bridge; so the passage was not effected until after nightfall.
During the day's pursuit the enemy suffered heavy loss in killed and wounded, some hundreds of prisoners fell into our hands and a battery of eight machine guns was captured by the Second Division.
On this day the Sixth French Army was heavily engaged west of the River Ourcq. The enemy had largely increased his force opposing them; and very heavy fighting ensued, in which the French were successful throughout.
The left of the Fifth French Army reached the neighborhood of Chateau Thierry after the most severe fighting, having driven the enemy completely north of the river with great loss.
The fighting of this army in the neighborhood of Montmirail was very severe.
The advance was resumed at daybreak on the 10th up to the line of the Ourcq, opposed by strong rearguards of all arms. The First and Second Corps, assisted by the cavalry divisions on the right, the Third and Fifth Cavalry Brigades on the left, drove the enemy northward. Thirteen guns, seven machine guns, about 2,000 prisoners, and quantities of transport fell into our hands. The enemy left many dead on the field. On this day the French Fifth and Sixth Armies had little opposition.
As the First and Second German Armies were now in full retreat, this evening marks the end of the battle which practically commenced on the morning of the 6th inst.; and it is at this point in the operations that I am concluding the present dispatch.
Although I deeply regret [Transcriber: original 'regreat'] to have had to report heavy losses in killed and wounded throughout these operations, I do not think they have been excessive in view of the magnitude of the great fight, the outlines of which I have only been able very briefly to describe, and the demoralization and loss in killed and wounded which are known to have been caused to the enemy by the vigor and severity of the pursuit.
In concluding this dispatch I must call your Lordship's special attention to the fact that from Sunday, Aug. 23, up to the present date, (Sept. 17,) from Mons back almost to the Seine, and from the Seine to the Aisne, the army under my command has been ceaselessly engaged without one single day's halt or rest of any kind.
Since the date to which in this dispatch I have limited my report of the operations, a great battle on the Aisne has been proceeding. A full report of this battle will be made in an early further dispatch.
It will, however, be of interest to say here that, in spite of a very determined resistance on the part of the enemy, who is holding in strength and great tenacity a position peculiarly favorable to defense, the battle which commenced on the evening of the 12th inst. has, so far, forced the enemy back from his first position, secured the passage of the river, and inflicted great loss upon him, including the capture of over 2,000 prisoners and several guns. I have the honor to be your Lordship's most obedient servant,
(Signed.) J.D.P. FRENCH, Field Marshal, Commanding in Chief, the British forces in the field.
*The Battle of the Aisne.*
8th October, 1914.
My Lord: I have the honor to report the operations in which the British forces in France have been engaged since the evening of Sept. 10:
1. In the early morning of the 11th the further pursuit of the enemy was commenced, and the three corps crossed the Ourcq practically unopposed, the cavalry reaching the line of the Aisne River, the Third and Fifth Brigades south of Soissons, the First, Second and the Fourth on the high ground at Couvrelles and Cerseuil.
On the afternoon of the 12th, from the opposition encountered by the Sixth French Army to the west of Soissons, by the Third Corps southeast of that place, by the Second Corps south of Missy and Vailly, and certain indications all along the line, I formed the opinion that the enemy had, for the moment at any rate, arrested his retreat and was preparing to dispute the passage of the Aisne with some vigor.
South of Soissons the Germans were holding Mont de Paris against the attack of the right of the French Sixth Army when the Third Corps reached the neighborhood of Buzancy, southeast of that place. With the assistance of the artillery of the Third Corps the French drove them back across the river at Soissons, where they destroyed the bridges.
The heavy artillery fire which was visible for several miles in a westerly direction in the valley of the Aisne showed that the Sixth French Army was meeting with strong opposition all along the line.
On this day the cavalry under Gen. Allenby reached the neighborhood of Braine and did good work in clearing the town and the high ground beyond it of strong hostile detachments. The Queen's Bays are particularly mentioned by the General as having assisted greatly in the success of this operation. They were well supported by the Third Division, which on this night bivouacked at Brenelle, south of the river.
The Fifth Division approached Missy, but were unable to make headway.
The First Army Corps reached the neighborhood of Vauxcere without much opposition.
In this manner the battle of the Aisne commenced.
2. The Aisne Valley runs generally east and west, and consists of a flat-bottomed depression of width varying from half a mile to two miles, down which the river follows a winding course to the west, at some points near the southern slopes of the valley and at others near the northern. The high ground both on the north and south of the river is approximately 400 feet above the bottom of the valley, and is very similar in character, as are both slopes of the valley itself, which are broken into numerous rounded spurs and re-entrants. The most prominent of the former are the Chivre spur on the right bank and Sermoise spur on the left. Near the latter place the general plateau, on the south is divided by a subsidiary valley of much the same character, down which the small River Vesle flows to the main stream near Sermoise. The slopes of the plateau overlooking the Aisne on the north and south are of varying steepness, and are covered with numerous patches of wood, which also stretch upward and backward over the edge on to the top of the high ground. There are several villages and small towns dotted about in the valley itself and along its sides, the chief of which is the town of Soissons.
The Aisne is a sluggish stream of some 170 feet in breadth, but, being 15 feet deep in the centre, it is unfordable. Between Soissons on the west and Villiers on the east (the part of the river attacked and secured by the British forces) there are eleven road bridges across it. On the north bank a narrow-gauge railway runs from Soissons to Vailly, where it crosses the river and continues eastward along the south bank. From Soissons to Sermoise a double line of railway runs along the south bank, turning at the latter place up the Vesle Valley toward Bazoches.
The position held by the enemy is a very strong one, either for delaying action or for a defensive battle. One of its chief military characteristics is that from the high ground on neither side can the top of the plateau on the other side be seen, except for small stretches. This is chiefly due to the woods on the edges of the slopes. Another important point is that all the bridges are under direct or high-angle artillery fire.
The tract of country above described, which lies north of the Aisne, is well adapted to concealment, and was so skillfully turned to account by the enemy as to render it impossible to judge the real nature of his opposition to our passage of the river or accurately to gauge his strength; but I have every reason to conclude that strong rearguards of at least three army corps were holding the passages on the early morning of the 13th.
3. On that morning I ordered the British forces to advance and make good the Aisne.
The First Corps and the cavalry advanced on the river. The First Division was directed on Chamouille via the canal bridge at Bourg, and the Second Division on Courtecon and Presles via Pont-Arcy, and on the canal to the north of Braye via Chavonne. On the right the cavalry and First Division met with slight opposition and found a passage by means of the canal, which crosses the river by an aqueduct. The division was therefore able to press on, supported by the cavalry division on its outer flank, driving back the enemy in front of it.
On the left the leading troops of the Second Division reached the river by 9 o'clock. The Fifth Infantry Brigade were only enabled to cross, in single file and under considerable shell fire, by means of the broken girder of the bridge, which was not entirely submerged in the river. The construction of a pontoon bridge was at once undertaken, and was completed by 5 o'clock in the afternoon.
On the extreme left the Fourth Guards Brigade met with severe opposition at Chavonne, and it was only late in the afternoon that it was able to establish a foothold on the northern bank of the river by ferrying one battalion across in boats.
By nightfall the First Division occupied the area of Moulins-Paissy-Geny, with posts at the village of Vendresse.
The Second Division bivouacked as a whole on the southern bank of the river, leaving only the Fifth Brigade on the north bank to establish a bridge-head.
The Second Corps found all the bridges in front of them destroyed except that of Conde, which was in possession of the enemy, and remained so until the end of the battle.
In the approach to Missy, where the Fifth Division eventually crossed, there is some open ground which was swept by a heavy fire from the opposite bank. The Thirteenth Brigade was therefore unable to advance; but the Fourteenth, which was directed to the east of Venizel at a less exposed point, was rafted across, and by night established itself with its left at St. Marguerite. They were followed by the Fifteenth Brigade; and later on both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth supported the Fourth Division on their left in repelling a heavy counter-attack on the Third Corps.
On the morning of the 13th the Third Corps found the enemy had established himself in strength on the Vregny plateau. The road bridge at Venizel was repaired during the morning, and a reconnoissance was made with a view to throwing a pontoon bridge at Soissons.
The Twelfth Infantry Brigade crossed at Venizel, and was assembled at Bucy le Long by 1 P.M., but the bridge was so far damaged that artillery could only be man-handled across it. Meanwhile the construction of a bridge was commenced close to the road bridge at Venizel.
At 2 P.M. the Twelfth Infantry Brigade attacked in the direction of Chivres and Vregny with the object of securing the high ground east of Chivres, as a necessary preliminary to a further advance northward. This attack made good progress, but at 5:30 P.M. the enemy's artillery and machine gun fire from the direction of Vregny became so severe that no further advance could be made. The positions reached were held till dark.
The pontoon bridge at Venizel was completed at 5:30 P.M., when the Tenth Infantry Brigade crossed the river and moved to Bucy le Long.
The Nineteenth Infantry Brigade moved to Billy-sur-Aisne, and before dark all the artillery of the division had crossed the river, with the exception of the heavy battery and one brigade of field artillery.
During the night the positions gained by the Twelfth Infantry Brigade to the east of the stream running through Chivres were handed over to the Fifth Division.
The section of the bridging train allotted to the Third Corps began to arrive in the neighborhood of Soissons late in the afternoon, when an attempt to throw a heavy pontoon bridge at Soissons had to be abandoned, owing to the fire of the enemy's heavy howitzers.
In the evening the enemy retired at all points and intrenched himself on the high ground about two miles north of the river, along which runs the Chemin-des-Dames. Detachments of infantry, however, strongly intrenched in commanding points down slopes of the various spurs, were left in front of all three corps with powerful artillery in support of them.
During the night of the 13th and on the 14th and following days the field companies were incessantly at work night and day. Eight pontoon bridges and one foot bridge were thrown across the river under generally very heavy artillery fire, which was incessantly kept up on to most of the crossings after completion. Three of the road bridges, i.e., Venizel, Missy, and Vailly, and the railway bridge east of Vailly, were temporarily repaired so as to take foot traffic, and the Villiers Bridge made fit to carry weights up to six tons.
Preparations were also made for the repair of the Missy, Vailly and Bourg bridges so as to take mechanical transport.
The weather was very wet and added to the difficulties by cutting up the already indifferent approaches, entailing a large amount of work to repair and improve.
The operations of the field companies during this most trying time are worthy of the best traditions of the Royal Engineers.
4. On the evening of the 14th it was still impossible to decide whether the enemy was only making a temporary halt, covered by rearguards, or whether he intended to stand and defend the position.
With a view to clearing up the situation I ordered a general advance.
The action of the First Corps on this day under the direction and command of Sir Douglas Haig was of so skillful, bold, and decisive a character that he gained positions which alone have enabled me to maintain my position for more than three weeks of very severe fighting on the north bank of the river.
The corps was directed to cross the line Moulins-Moussy by 7 A.M.
On the right the General Officer commanding the First Division directed the Second Infantry Brigade (which was in billets and bivouacked about Moulins), and the Twenty-fifth Artillery Brigade (less one battery), under Gen. Bulfin, to move forward before daybreak, in order to protect the advance of the division sent up the valley to Vendresse. An officer's patrol sent out by this brigade reported a considerable force of the enemy near the factory north of Troyon, and the Brigadier accordingly directed two regiments (the King's Royal Rifles and the Royal Sussex Regiment) to move at 3 A.M. The Northamptonshire Regiment was ordered to move at 4 A.M. to occupy the spur east of Troyon. The remaining regiment of the brigade (the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment) moved at 5:30 A.M. to the village of Vendresse. The factory was found to be held in considerable strength by the enemy, and the Brigadier ordered the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment to support the King's Royal Rifles and the Sussex Regiment. Even with this support the force was unable to make headway, and on the arrival of the First Brigade the Coldstream Guards were moved up to support the right of the leading brigade (the Second), while the remainder of the First Brigade supported its left.
About noon the situation was, roughly, that the whole of these two brigades were extended along a line running east and west, north of the line Troyon and south of the Chemin-des-Dames. A party of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment had seized and were holding the factory. The enemy had a line of intrenchments north and east of the factory in considerable strength, and every effort to advance against this line was driven back by heavy shell and machine-gun fire. The morning was wet and a heavy mist hung over the hills, so that the Twenty-fifth Artillery Brigade and the divisional artillery were unable to render effective support to the advanced troops until about 9 o'clock.
By 10 o'clock the Third Infantry Brigade had reached a point one mile south of Vendresse, and from there it was ordered to continue the line of the First Brigade and to connect with and help the right of the Second Division. A strong hostile column was found to be advancing, and by a vigorous counterstroke with two of his battalions the Brigadier checked the advance of this column and relieved the pressure on the Second Division. From this period until late in the afternoon the fighting consisted of a series of attacks and counter-attacks. The counter-strokers by the enemy were delivered at first with great vigor, but later on they decreased in strength, and all were driven off with heavy loss.
On the left the Sixth Infantry Brigade had been ordered to cross the river and to pass through the line held during the preceding night by the Fifth Infantry Brigade and occupy the Courtecon Ridge, while a detached force, consisting of the Fourth Guards Brigade and the Thirty-sixth Brigade Royal Field Artillery, under Brig. Gen. Perceval, were ordered to proceed to a point east of the village of Ostel.
The Sixth Infantry Brigade crossed the river at Pont-Arcy, moved up the valley toward Braye, and at 9 A.M. had reached the line Tilleul-La-Buvelle. On the line they came under heavy artillery and rifle fire, and were unable to advance until supported by the Thirty-fourth Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and the Forty-fourth Howitzer Brigade and the Heavy Artillery.
The Fourth Guards Brigade crossed the river at 10 A.M. and met with very heavy opposition. It had to pass through dense woods; field artillery support was difficult to obtain; but one section of a field battery pushed up to and within the firing line. At 1 P.M. the left of the brigade was south of the Ostel Ridge.
At this period of the action the enemy obtained a footing between the First and Second Corps, and threatened to cut the communications of the latter.
Sir Douglas Haig was very hardly pressed and had no reserve in hand. I placed the cavalry division at his disposal, part of which he skillfully used to prolong and secure the left flank of the Guards Brigade. Some heavy fighting ensued, which resulted in the enemy being driven back with heavy loss.
About 4 o'clock the weakening of the counter-attacks by the enemy and other indications tended to show that his resistance was decreasing, and a general advance was ordered by the army corps commander. Although meeting with considerable opposition and coming under very heavy artillery and rifle fire, the position of the corps at the end of the day's operations extended from the Chemin-des-Dames on the right, through Chivy, to Le Cour de Soupir, with the First Cavalry Brigade extending to the Chavonne-Soissons road.
On the right the corps was in close touch with the French Moroccan troops of the Eighteenth Corps, which were intrenched in echelon to its right rear. During the night they intrenched this position.
Throughout the battle of the Aisne this advanced and commanding position was maintained, and I cannot speak too highly of the valuable services rendered by Sir Douglas Haig and the army corps under his command. Day after day and night after night the enemy's infantry has been hurled against him in violent counter-attack, which has never on any one occasion succeeded, while the trenches all over his position have been under continuous heavy artillery fire.
The operations of the First Corps on this day resulted in the capture of several hundred prisoners, some field pieces and machine guns.
The casualties were very severe, one brigade alone losing three of its four Colonels.
The Third Division commenced a further advance, and had nearly reached the plateau of Aizy when they were driven back by a powerful counter-attack supported by heavy artillery. The division, however, fell back in the best order, and finally intrenched itself about a mile north of Vailly Bridge, effectively covering the passage.
The Fourth and Fifth Divisions were unable to do more than maintain their ground.
5. On the morning of the 15th, after close examination of the position, it became clear to me that the enemy was making a determined stand; and this view was confirmed by reports which reached me from the French armies fighting on my right and left, which clearly showed that a strongly intrenched line of defense was being taken up from the north of Compiegne, eastward and southeastward, along the whole Valley of the Aisne up to and beyond Rheims.
A few days previously the Fortress of Maubeuge fell, and a considerable quantity of siege artillery was brought down from that place to strengthen the enemy's position in front of us.
During the 15th shells fell in our position which have been judged by experts to be thrown by eight-inch siege guns with a range of 10,000 yards. Throughout the whole course of the battle our troops have suffered very heavily from this fire, although its effect latterly was largely mitigated by more efficient and thorough intrenching, the necessity for which I impressed strongly upon army corps commanders. In order to assist them in this work all villages within the area of our occupation were searched for heavy intrenching tools, a large number of which were collected.
In view of the peculiar formation of the ground on the north side of the river between Missy and Soissons, and its extraordinary adaptability to a force on the defensive, the Fifth Division found it impossible to maintain its position on the southern edge of the Chivres Plateau, as the enemy in possession of the Village of Vregny to the west was able to bring a flank fire to bear upon it. The division had, therefore, to retire to a line the left of which was at the village of Marguerite, and thence ran by the north edge of Missy back to the river to the east of that place.
With great skill and tenacity Sir Charles Fergusson maintained this position throughout the whole battle, although his trenches were necessarily on lower ground than that occupied by the enemy on the southern edge of the plateau, which was only 400 yards away.
Gen. Hamilton with the Third Division vigorously attacked to the north, and regained all the ground he had lost on the 15th, which throughout the battle has formed a most powerful and effective bridge-head.
6. On the 16th the Sixth Division came up into line.
It had been my intention to direct the First Corps to attack and seize the enemy's position on the Chemin-des-Dames, supporting it with this new reinforcement. I hoped, from the position thus gained, to bring effective fire to bear across the front of the Third Division, which, by securing the advance of the latter, would also take the pressure off the Fifth Division and the Third Corps.
But any further advance of the First Corps would have dangerously exposed my right flank. And, further, I learned from the French Commander in Chief that he was strongly reinforcing the Sixth French Army on my left, with the intention of bringing up the allied left to attack the enemy's flank, and thus compel his retirement. I therefore sent the Sixth Division to join the Third Corps, with orders to keep it on the south side of the river, as it might be available in general reserve.
On the 17th, 18th, and 19th the whole of our line was heavily bombarded, and the First Corps was constantly and heavily engaged. On the afternoon of the 17th the right flank of the First Division was seriously threatened. A counter-attack was made by the Northamptonshire Regiment in combination with the Queen's, and one battalion of the Divisional Reserve was moved up in support. The Northamptonshire Regiment, under cover of mist, crept up to within a hundred yards of the enemy's trenches and charged with the bayonet, driving them out of the trenches and up the hill. A very strong force of hostile infantry was then disclosed on the crest line. This new line was enfiladed by part of the Queen's and the King's Royal Rifles, which wheeled to their left on the extreme right of our infantry line, and were supported by a squadron of cavalry on their outer flank. The enemy's attack was ultimately driven back with heavy loss.
On the 18th, during the night, the Gloucestershire Regiment advanced from their position near Chivy, filled in the enemy's trenches, and captured two Maxim guns.
On the extreme right the Queen's were heavily attacked, but the enemy was repulsed with great loss. About midnight the attack was renewed on the First Division, supported by artillery fire, but was again repulsed.
Shortly after midnight an attack was made on the left of the Second Division with considerable force, which was also thrown back.
At about 1 P.M. on the 19th the Second Division drove back a heavy infantry attack strongly supported by artillery fire. At dusk the attack was renewed and again repulsed.
On the 18th I discussed with the General Officer commanding the Second Army Corps and his divisional commanders the possibility of driving the enemy out of Conde, which lay between his two divisions, and seizing the bridge, which has remained throughout in his possession.
As, however, I found that the bridge was closely commanded from all points on the south side, and that satisfactory arrangements were made to prevent any issue from it by the enemy by day or night, I decided that it was not necessary to incur the losses which an attack would entail, as, in view of the position of the Second and Third Corps, the enemy could make no use of Conde, and would be automatically forced out of it by any advance which might become possible for us.
7. On this day information reached me from Gen. Joffre that he had found it necessary to make a new plan and to attack and envelop the German right flank.
It was now evident to me that the battle in which we had been engaged since the 12th inst. must last some days longer, until the effect of this new flank movement could be felt and a way opened to drive the enemy from his positions.
It thus became essential to establish some system of regular relief in the trenches, and I have used the infantry of the Sixth Division for this purpose with good results. The relieved brigades were brought back alternately south of the river and, with the artillery of the Sixth Division, formed a general reserve on which I could rely in case of necessity.
The cavalry has rendered most efficient and ready help in the trenches, and have done all they possibly could to lighten the arduous and trying task which has of necessity fallen to the lot of the infantry.
On the evening of the 19th and throughout the 20th the enemy again commenced to show considerable activity. On the former night a severe counter-attack on the Third Division was repulsed with considerable loss, and from early on Sunday morning various hostile attempts were made on the trenches of the First Division. During the day the enemy suffered another severe repulse in front of the Second Division, losing heavily in the attempt. In the course of the afternoon the enemy made desperate attempts against the trenches all along the front of the First Corps, but with similar results.
After dark the enemy again attacked the Second Division, only to be again driven back.
Our losses on these two days were considerable, but the number, as obtained, of the enemy's killed and wounded vastly exceeded them.
As the troops of the First Army Corps were much exhausted by this continual fighting, I reinforced Sir Douglas Haig with a brigade from the reserve, and called upon the First Cavalry Division to assist them.
On the night of the 21st another violent counter-attack was repulsed by the Third Division, the enemy losing heavily.
On the 23d the four 6-inch howitzer batteries, which I had asked to be sent from home, arrived. Two batteries were handed over to the Second Corps and two to the First Corps. They were brought into action on the 24th with very good results.
Our experiences in this campaign seem to point to the employment of more heavy guns of a larger calibre in great battles which last for several days, during which time powerful intrenching work on both sides can be carried out. These batteries were used with considerable effect on the 24th and the following days.
8. On the 23d the action of Gen. de Castelnau's army on the allied left developed considerably, and apparently withdrew considerable forces of the enemy away from the centre and east. I am not aware whether it was due to this cause or not, but until the 26th it appeared as though the enemy's opposition in our front was weakening. On that day, however, a very marked renewal of activity commenced. A constant and vigorous artillery bombardment was maintained all day, and the Germans in front of the First Division were observed to be "sapping" up to our lines and trying to establish new trenches. Renewed counter-attacks were delivered and beaten off during the course of the day, and in the afternoon a well-timed attack by the First Division stopped the enemy's intrenching work.
During the night of the 27th-28th the enemy again made the most determined attempts to capture the trenches of the First Division, but without the slightest success.
Similar attacks were reported during these three days all along the line of the allied front, and it is certain that the enemy then made one last great effort to establish ascendency. He was, however, unsuccessful everywhere, and is reported to have suffered heavy losses. The same futile attempts were made all along our front up to the evening of the 28th, when they died away, and have not since been renewed.
On former occasions I have brought to your Lordship's notice the valuable services performed during this campaign by the Royal Artillery.
Throughout the battle of the Aisne they have displayed the same skill, endurance, and tenacity, and I deeply appreciate the work they have done.
Sir David Henderson and the Royal Flying Corps under his command have again proved their incalculable value. Great strides have been made in the development of the use of aircraft in the tactical sphere by establishing effective communication between aircraft and units in action.
It is difficult to describe adequately and accurately the great strain to which officers and men were subjected almost every hour of the day and night throughout this battle.
I have described above the severe character of the artillery fire which was directed from morning till night not only upon the trenches, but over the whole surface of the ground occupied by our forces. It was not until a few days before the position was evacuated that the heavy guns were removed and the fire slackened. Attack and counter-attack occurred at all hours of the night and day throughout the whole position, demanding extreme vigilance, and permitting only a minimum of rest.
The fact that between Sept. 12 to the date of this dispatch the total numbers of killed, wounded, and missing reached the figures amounting to 561 officers, 12,980 men, proves the severity of the struggle.
The tax on the endurance of the troops was further increased by the heavy rain and cold which prevailed for some ten or twelve days of this trying time.
The battle of the Aisne has once more demonstrated the splendid spirit, gallantry, and devotion which animates the officers and men of his Majesty's forces.
With reference to the last paragraph of my dispatch of Sept. 7, I append the names of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men brought forward for special mention by army corps commanders and heads of departments for services rendered from the commencement of the campaign up to the present date.
I entirely agree with these recommendations and beg to submit them for your Lordship's consideration.
I further wish to bring forward the names of the following officers who have rendered valuable service: Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien and Lieut. Gen. Sir Douglas Haig (commanding First and Second Corps, respectively) I have already mentioned in the present and former dispatches for particularly marked and distinguished service in critical situations.
Since the commencement of the campaign they have carried out all my orders [Transcriber: original 'orders.'] and instructions with the utmost ability.
Lieut. Gen. W.P. Pulteney took over the command of the Third Corps just before the commencement of the battle of the Marne. Throughout the subsequent operations he showed himself to be a most capable commander in the field, and has rendered very valuable services.
Major Gen. E.H.H. Allenby and Major Gen. H. De La P. Gough have proved themselves to be cavalry leaders of a high order, and I am deeply indebted to them. The undoubted moral superiority which our cavalry has obtained over that of the enemy has been due to the skill with which they have turned to the best account the qualities inherent in the splendid troops they command.
In my dispatch of the 7th September I mentioned the name of Brig. Gen. Sir David Henderson and his valuable work in command of the Royal Flying Corps; and I have once more to express my deep appreciation of the help he has since rendered me.
Lieut. Gen. Sir Archibald Murray has continued to render me invaluable help as Chief of the Staff; and in his arduous and responsible duties he has been ably assisted by Major Gen. Henry Wilson, Sub-Chief.
Lieut. Gen. Sir Nevil Macready and Lieut. Gen. Sir William Robertson have continued to perform excellent service as Adjutant General and Quartermaster General, respectively.
The Director of Army Signals, Lieut. Col. J.S. Fowler, has materially assisted the operations by the skill and energy which he has displayed in the working of the important department over which he presides.
My Military Secretary, Brig. Gen. the Hon. W. Lambton, has performed his arduous and difficult duties with much zeal and great efficiency.
I am anxious also to bring to your Lordship's notice the following names of officers of my personal staff, who throughout these arduous operations have shown untiring zeal and energy in the performance of their duties:
Aides de Camp.
Lieut. Col. Stanley Barry. Lieut. Col. Lord Brooke. Major Fitzgerald Watt.
Extra Aide de Camp.
Capt. the Hon. F.E. Guest.
Lieut. Col. Brindsley Fitzgerald.
Major his Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught, K.G., joined my staff as Aide de Camp on the 14th September.
His Royal Highness's intimate knowledge of languages enabled me to employ him with great advantage on confidential missions of some importance, and his services have proved of considerable value.
I cannot close this dispatch without informing your Lordship of the valuable services rendered by the Chief of the French Military Mission at my headquarters, Col. Victor Huguet of the French Artillery. He has displayed tact and judgment of a high order in many difficult situations, and has rendered conspicuous service to the allied cause. I have the honor to be, your Lordship's most obedient servant,
J.D.P. French, Field Marshal, Commanding in Chief the British Army in the Field.
*The Battle in Flanders.*
[Official Abstract of Report for The Associated Press.]
LONDON, Nov. 29.—A report from Field Marshal Sir John French covering the period of the battle in Flanders and the days immediately preceding it, issued today by the Official Press Bureau, shows that this battle was brought about, first, by the Allies' attempts to outflank the Germans, who countered, and then by the Allies' plans to move to the northeast to Ghent and Bruges, which also failed. After this the German offensive began, with the French coast ports as the objective, but this movement, like those of the Allies, met with failure.
The Field Marshal, doubtless in response to the demands of the British public, tells what the various units of the expeditionary force have been doing—those that failed and were cut off and those who against superior numbers held the trenches for a month. He gives it as his opinion that the German losses have been thrice as great as those of the Allies, and speaks optimistically of the future.
The report covers in a general way the activities of the British troops from Oct. 11 to Nov. 20.
Summing up the situation in concluding his report, the Field Marshal says:
"As I close this dispatch, signs are in evidence that we are possibly in the last stages of the battle from Ypres to Armentieres. For several days past the artillery fire of the enemy has slackened considerably, and his infantry attacks have practically ceased."
Discussing the general military situation of the Allies, as it appears to him at the time of writing, Sir John says:
"It does not seem to be clearly understood that the operations in which we have been engaged embrace nearly all of the central part of the Continent of Europe, from the east to the west. The combined French, Belgian, and British Armies in the west and the Russian Army in the east are opposed to the united forces of Germany and Austria, acting as combined armies between us.
"Our enemies elected at the commencement of the war to throw the weight of their forces against our armies in the west and to detach only a comparatively weak force, composed of very few of the first line troops and several corps of second and third line troops, to stem the Russian advance until the western forces could be defeated and overwhelmed. Their strength enabled them from the outset to throw greatly superior forces against us in the west. This precludes the possibility of our taking vigorous offensive action except when miscalculations and mistakes are made by their commanders, opening up special opportunities for successful attacks and pursuit.
"The battle of the Marne was an example of this, as was also our advance from St. Omer and Hazebrouck to the line of the River Lys at the commencement of this battle. The role which our armies in the west have consequently been called upon to fulfill has been to occupy strong defensive positions, holding ground gained and inviting the enemy's attack, and to throw back these attacks, causing the enemy heavy losses in his retreat and following him up with powerful and successful counter-attacks to complete his discomfiture.
"The value and significance of operations of this nature since the commencement of hostilities by the Allies' forces in the west lie in the fact that at the moment when the eastern provinces of Germany are in imminent danger of being overrun by the numerous and powerful armies of Russia, nearly the whole active army of Germany is tied down to a line of trenches extending from Verdun, on the Alsatian frontier, to the sea at Nieuport, east of Dunkirk, a distance of 260 miles, where they are held, with much reduced numbers and impaired morale, by the successful action of our troops in the west.
"I cannot speak too highly of the services rendered by the Royal Artillery throughout the battle. In spite of the fact that the enemy brought up in support of his attacks guns of great range and shell power, our men have succeeded throughout in preventing the enemy from establishing anything in the nature of superiority in artillery. The skill, courage, and energy displayed by the commanders of the Royal Artillery have been very marked. The Royal Engineers have been indefatigable in their efforts to assist the infantry in field, fortification, and trench work.
"I deeply regret the heavy casualties which we have suffered, but the nature of the fighting has been very desperate, and we have been assailed by vastly superior numbers. I have every reason to know that throughout the course of the battle we have placed at least three times as many of the enemy hors de combat in dead, wounded and prisoners.
"Throughout these operations Gen. Foch has strained his resources to the utmost to afford me all the support he could. An expression of my warm gratitude is also due to Gen. Dubail, commanding the Eighth French Army Corps on my left, and to Gen. de Maud'huy, commanding the Tenth Army Corps on my right."
Discussing the details of the engagement from Ypres to Armentieres, Field Marshal Sir John French explains that he was impressed early in October with the necessity of giving the greatest possible support to the northern flank of the Allies in the effort to outflank the Germans and compel them to evacuate their positions. He says that the situation on the Aisne warranted the withdrawal of British troops from positions they held there, as the enemy had been weakened by continual attacks and the fortifications of the Allies much improved.
The Field Marshal made known his view to Gen. Joffre, who agreed with it. The French General Staff arranged for the withdrawal of the British, which began on Oct. 3 and was completed on Oct. 19, when the First Army Corps, under Gen. Sir Douglas Haig detrained at St. Omer.
The general plan, as arranged by Field Marshal French and Gen. Foch, commanding the French troops to the north of Noyon, was that the English should pivot on the French at Bethune, attacking the Germans on their flank and forcing their way north. In the event that the British forced the Germans out of their positions, making possible a forward movement of the Allies, the French and British were to march east, with Lille as the dividing line between the two armies, the English right being directed on Lille.
The battle which forms the chief feature of Gen. French's report really began on Oct. 11, when Major Gen. Gough of the Second British Cavalry Brigade, first came in contact with German cavalry in the woods along the Bethune-Aire Canal. The English cavalry moved toward Hazebrouck, clearing the way for two army corps, which advanced rapidly in a northeasterly direction. For several days the progress of the British was only slightly interrupted, except at La Bassee, a high position, which Field Marshal French mentions as having stubbornly resisted.
Field Marshal French says the Second Corps, under Gen. Smith-Dorrien, was opposed by overpowering forces of Germans, but nevertheless advanced until Oct. 18, when the German opposition compelled a reinforcement. Six days later the Lahore Division of the Indian army was sent to support the Second Corps.
On Oct. 16 Sir Henry Rawlinson, who had covered the retreat of the Belgian army from Antwerp with two divisions of English cavalry and two divisions of French infantry, was stationed on the line east of Ypres under orders to operate over a wide front and to keep possession of all the ground held by the Allies until the First Army Corps could reach Ypres.
Gen. Rawlinson was opposed by superior forces and was unable to prevent the Germans from getting large reinforcements. With four army corps holding a much wider front than their size justified, Field Marshal French says he faced a stubborn situation. The enemy was massed from the Lys, and there was imperative need for a strengthened line.
However, the Field Marshal decided to send the First Corps north of Ypres to stop the reinforcements which might enable the Germans to flank the Allies. The shattered Belgian army and the wearied French troops' endeavors to check the German reinforcements were powerless, so the British commander sent fresh troops to prevent the Germans from executing movements which would have given them access to Channel ports.
Sir Douglas Haig, with the First Army Corps, was sent Oct. 19 to capture Bruges and drive the enemy back toward Ghent, if possible. Meantime the Belgians intrenched themselves along the Ypres Canal. Sir John French commends the valor of the Belgians, who, he says, exhausted by weeks of constant fighting, maintained these positions gallantly.
Because of the overwhelming numbers of the Germans opposing them, he says he enjoined a defensive role upon the three army corps located south of Ypres. While Gen. Haig made a slight advance, Sir John says it was wonderful that he was able to advance at all, owing to the bad roads and the overwhelming number of Germans, which made it impossible to carry out the original plan of moving to Bruges.
The fighting gradually developed into bayonet charges. Field Marshal French says that Oct. 21 brought forth the hardest attack, made on the First Corps at Ypres, in the checking of which the Worcestershire Regiment displayed great gallantry. This day marked the most critical period in the great battle, according to the Commander in Chief, who says the recapture of the village of Gheluvelt through a rally of the Worcestershires was fraught with much consequence to the Allies.
After referring to some of the battles in which the Indian troops took part, Field Marshal French says:
"Since their arrival in this country and their occupation of the line allotted to them I have been much impressed by the initiative and resource displayed by the Indian troops. Some of the ruses they have employed to deceive the enemy have been attended with the best results and have doubtless kept the superior forces in front of them at bay. Our Indian sappers and miners have long enjoyed a high reputation for skill and resource. Without going into detail I can confidently assert that throughout their work in this campaign they have fully justified that reputation.
"The General officer commanding the Indian army describes the conduct and bearing of these troops in strange and new surroundings to have been highly satisfactory, and I am enabled from my own observations to fully corroborate this statement."
Sir John French goes on to say that, while the whole line continued to be heavily pressed, the Germans' efforts from Nov. 1 have been concentrated upon breaking through the line held by the First British and the Ninth French Corps and thus gaining possession of the town of Ypres. Three Bavarian and one German corps, in addition to other troops, were all directed against this northern line.
About Nov. 10, after several units of these corps had been completely shattered in futile attacks, the Field Marshal continues, a division of the Prussian Guard, which had been operating in the vicinity of Arras, was moved up to this area with great speed and secrecy. Documents found on dead officers, the report says, proved that the Guard received the German Emperor's special command to break through and succeed where their comrades of the line had failed. They took the leading part in the vigorous attacks made against the centre on the 11th and 12th, says Field Marshal French, but, like their comrades, were repulsed with enormous casualties.
He pays high tribute to Sir Douglas Haig and his divisional and brigade commanders, who, he says, "held the line with marvelous tenacity and undaunted courage." The Field Marshal predicts that "their deeds during these days of stress and trial will furnish some of the most brilliant chapters which will be found in the military history of our time."
High praise is also given the Third Cavalry Division under Major Gen. Julian Byng, whose troops "were repeatedly called upon to restore situations at critical points and fill gaps in the line caused by the tremendous losses which occurred."
The Commander in Chief makes special mention of Col. Gordon Chesney Wilson of the Royal Horse Guards, Major the Hon. Hugh Dawnay of the Second Life Guards, and Brig. Gen. FitzClarence of the Irish Guards, who were killed, and of Brig. Gen. the Earl of Cavan, who "on many occasions was conspicuous for the skill, coolness, and courage with which he led his troops."
Of the Flying Corps the report says:
"Every day new methods of employing them, both strategically and tactically, are discovered and put into practice."
Concerning the Territorials who have been employed, the Field Marshal says the conduct and bearing of these units under fire and the efficient manner in which they have carried out the duties assigned to them "has imbued me with the highest hope as to the value and the help of the Territorial troops generally."
*Story of the "Eye-Witness"*
*By Col. E.D. Swinton of the Intelligence Department of the British General Staff.*
From the beginning of the war world-wide attention has been attracted to the reports issued from time to time as coming from "an eye-witness at British General Headquarters." At first these reports were erroneously ascribed to Marshal French himself, and resulted in much admiring comment on his vivid and graphic way of reporting. Later it became known that they were the work of Col. Swinton, who was attached to Gen. French's headquarters in the capacity of "official observer."
*The Battle of the Aisne Begins*
[By the "Official Observer," Col. E.D. Swinton.]
General Headquarters, Sept. 18, 1914.
Sept. 14, the Germans were making a determined resistance along the River Aisne. Opposition, which it was at first thought might possibly be of a rear-guard nature, not entailing material delay to our progress, has developed and has proved to be more serious than was anticipated.
The action, now being fought by the Germans along their line, may, it is true, have been undertaken in order to gain time for some strategic operation or move, and may not be their main stand. But, if this is so, the fighting is naturally on a scale which as to extent of ground covered and duration of resistance, makes it undistinguishable in its progress from what is known as a "pitched battle," though the enemy certainly showed signs of considerable disorganization during the earlier days of their retirement phase.
Whether it was originally intended by them to defend the position they took up as strenuously as they have done, or whether the delay, gained for them during the 12th and 13th by their artillery, has enabled them to develop their resistance and force their line to an extent not originally contemplated cannot yet be said.
So far as we are concerned the action still being contested is the battle of the Aisne. The foe we are fighting is just across the river along the whole of our front to the east and west. The struggle is not confined to the valley of that river, though it will probably bear its name.
The progress of our operations and the French armies nearest us for the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th will now be described:
On Monday, the 14th, those of our troops which had on the previous day crossed the Aisne, after driving in the German rear guards on that evening, found portions of the enemy's forces in prepared defensive positions on the right bank and could do little more than secure a footing north of the river. This, however, they maintained in spite of two counter-attacks delivered at dusk and 10 P.M., in which the fighting was severe.
During the 14th, strong reinforcements of our troops were passed to the north bank, the troops crossing by ferry, by pontoon bridges, and by the remains of permanent bridges. Close co-operation with the French forces was maintained and the general progress made was good, although the opposition was vigorous and the state of the roads, after the heavy rains, made movements slow. One division alone failed to secure the ground it expected to.
The First Army Corps, after repulsing repeated attacks, captured 600 prisoners and twelve guns. The cavalry also took a number of prisoners. Many of the Germans taken belong to the reserve and Landwehr formations, which fact appears to indicate that the enemy is compelled to draw on other classes of soldiers to fill the gaps in his ranks.
There was a heavy rain throughout the night of Sept. 14-15, and during the 15th. The situation of the British forces underwent no essential change. But it became more and more evident that the defensive preparations made by the enemy were more extensive than was at first apparent.
In order to counterbalance these measures were taken by us to economize our troops and to secure protection from the hostile artillery fire, which was very fierce, and our men continued to improve their own intrenchments. The Germans bombarded our lines nearly all day, using heavy guns, brought, no doubt, from before Maubeuge, as well as those with the corps.
All their counter attacks, however, failed, although in some places they were repeated six times. One made on the Fourth Guards Brigade was repulsed with heavy slaughter.
An attempt to advance slightly, made by part of our line, was unsuccessful as regards gain of ground, but led to the withdrawal of part of the enemy's infantry and artillery.
Further counter attacks made during the night were beaten off. Rain came on toward evening and continued intermittently until 9 A.M. on the 16th. Besides adding to the discomfort of the soldiers holding the line, the wet weather to some extent hampered the motor transport service, which was also hindered by broken bridges.
On Wednesday, the 16th, there was little change in the situation opposite the British. The efforts made by the enemy were less active than on the previous day, although their bombardment continued throughout the morning and evening. Our artillery fire drove the defenders off one of the salients of their position, but they returned in the evening. Forty prisoners were taken by the Third Division.
On Thursday, the 17th, the situation, still remained unchanged in its essentials. The German heavy artillery fire was more active than on the previous day. The only infantry attacks made by the enemy were on the extreme right of our position, and, as had happened before, were repulsed with heavy loss, chiefly, on this occasion, by our field artillery.
In order to convey some idea of the nature of the fighting it may be said that along the greater part of our front the Germans have been driven back from the forward slopes on the north of the river. Their infantry are holding strong lines of trenches among and along the edge of the numerous woods which crown the slopes. These trenches are elaborately constructed and cleverly concealed. In many places there are wire entanglements and lengths of rabbit fencing.
Both woods and open are carefully aligned, so that they can be swept by rifle fire and machine guns, which are invisible from our side of the valley. The ground in front of the infantry trenches is also, as a rule, under crossfire from the field artillery placed on neighboring features and under high-angle fire from pieces placed well back behind the woods on top of the plateau.
A feature of this action, as of the previous fighting, is the use by the enemy of their numerous heavy howitzers, with which they are able to direct long-range fire all over the valley and right across it. Upon these they evidently place great reliance.
Where our men are holding the forked edges of the high ground on the north side they are now strongly intrenched. They are well fed, and in spite of the wet weather of the last week are cheerful and confident.
The bombardment by both sides has been very heavy, and on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday was practically continuous. Nevertheless, in spite of the general din caused by the reports of the immense number of heavy guns in action along our front on Wednesday, the arrival of the French force acting against the German right flank was at once announced on the east of our front, some miles away, by the continuous roar of their quick-firing artillery, with which their attack was opened.
So far as the British are concerned, the greater part of this week has been passed in bombardment, in gaining ground by degrees, and in beating back severe counter-attacks with heavy slaughter. Our casualties have been severe, but it is probable that those of the enemy are heavier.
The rain has caused a great drop in the temperature, and there is more than a distinct feeling of Autumn in the air, especially in the early mornings.
On our right and left the French have been fighting fiercely and have also been gradually gaining ground [Transcriber: original 'gronud']. One village has already during this battle been captured and re-captured twice by each side, and at the time of writing remains in the hands of the Germans.
The fighting has been at close quarters and of the most desperate nature, and the streets of the village are filled with dead on both sides.
As an example of the spirit which is inspiring our allies, the following translation of an ordre du jour, published on Sept. 9 after the battle of Montmirail by the commander of the French Fifth Army, is given:
Soldiers: Upon the memorable fields of Montmirail, of Vauchamps, of Champaubert, which a century ago witnessed the victories of our ancestors over Blucher's Prussians, your vigorous offensive has triumphed over the resistance of the Germans. Held on his flanks, his centre broken, the enemy is now retreating toward the east and north by forced marches. The most renowned army corps of old Prussia, the contingents of Westphalia, of Hanover, of Brandenburg, have retired in haste before you.
This first success is no more than the prelude. The enemy is shaken, but not yet decisively beaten. You have still to undergo severe hardships, to make long marches, to fight hard battles.
May the image of our country, soiled by barbarians, always remain before your eyes. Never was it more necessary to sacrifice all for her.
Saluting the heroes who have fallen in the fighting of the last few days, my thoughts turn toward you, the victors in the next battle. Forward, soldiers, for France!
FRANCHET D'ESPEREY, General Commanding the Fifth Army. Montmirail, Sept. 9, 1914.
The Germans are a formidable enemy, well trained, long prepared, and brave. Their soldiers are carrying on the contest with skill and valor. Nevertheless they are fighting to win anyhow, regardless of all the rules of fair play, and there is evidence that they do not hesitate at anything in order to gain victory.
A large number of the tales of their misbehaviors are exaggeration and some of the stringent precautions they have taken to guard themselves against the inhabitants of the areas traversed are possibly justifiable measures of war. But, at the same time, it has been definitely established that they have committed atrocities on many occasions and they have been guilty of brutal conduct.
So many letters and statements of our wounded soldiers have been published in our newspapers that the following epistle from a German soldier of the Seventy-fourth Infantry Regiment, Tenth Corps, to his wife may also be of interest:
"My Dear Wife: I have just been living through days that defy imagination. I should never have thought that men could stand it. Not a second has passed but my life has been in danger, and yet not a hair of my head has been hurt.
"It was horrible! It was ghastly! but I have been saved for you and for our happiness, and I take heart again, although I am still terribly unnerved. God grant that I may see you again soon, and that this horror may soon be over.
"None of us can do any more; human strength is at an end. I will try to tell you about it. On the 5th of September the enemy were reported to be taking up a position near St. Prix, southeast of Paris.
"The Tenth Corps, which had made an astonishingly rapid advance, of course, was attacked on Sunday. Steep slopes led up to the heights, which were held in considerable force.
"With our weak detachments of the Seventy-fourth and Ninety-first regiments we reached the crest and came under a terrible artillery fire that mowed us down. However, we entered St. Prix. Hardly had we done so than we were met with shell fire and a violent fusillade from the enemy's infantry.
"Our Colonel was badly wounded—he is the third we have had. Fourteen men were killed around me. We got away in a lull without being hit.
"The 7th, 8th, and 9th of September we were constantly under shell and shrapnel fire and suffered terrible losses. I was in a house which was hit several times. The fear of death, of agony, which is in every man's heart, and naturally so, is a terrible feeling.
"How often I have thought of you, my darling, and what I suffered in that terrifying battle, which extended along a front of many miles near Montmirail, you cannot possibly imagine.
"Our heavy artillery was being used for the siege of Maubeuge. We wanted it badly, as the enemy had theirs in force and kept up a furious bombardment. For four days I was under artillery fire. It was like hell, but a thousand times worse.
"On the night of the 9th the order was given to retreat, as it would have been madness to attempt to hold our position with our few men, and we should have risked a terrible defeat the next day. The First and Third Armies had not been able to attack with us, as we had advanced too rapidly. Our morale was absolutely broken. In spite of unheard-of sacrifices we had achieved nothing.
"I cannot understand how our army, after fighting three great battles and being terribly weakened, was sent against a position which the enemy had prepared for three weeks, but naturally I know nothing of the intentions of our Chiefs; they say nothing has been lost.
"In a word, we retired toward Cormontreuil and Rheims by forced marches by day and night. We hear that three armies are going to get into line, intrench and rest, and then start afresh our victorious march on Paris. It was not a defeat, only a strategic retreat. I have confidence in our Chiefs that everything will be successful.
"Our First Battalion, which has fought with unparalleled bravery, is reduced from 1,200 to 194 men. These numbers speak for themselves."
Among the minor happenings of interest is the following:
During a counter-attack by the German Fifty-third Regiment on positions of the Northampton and Queen's Regiments on Thursday, the 17th, a force of some 400 of the enemy were allowed to approach right up to the trench occupied by a platoon of the former regiment, owing to the fact that they had held up their hands and made gestures that were interpreted as signs that they wished to surrender. When they were actually on the parapet of the trench held, by the Northamptons they opened fire on our men at point-blank range.
Unluckily for the enemy, however, flanking them and only some 400 yards away, there happened to be a machine gun manned by a detachment of the Queen's. This at once opened fire, cutting a lane through their mass, and they fell back to their own trench with great loss. Shortly afterward they were driven further back, with additional loss, by a battalion of Guards which came up in support.
An incident, which occurred some little time ago during our retirement, is also worthy of record. On Aug. 28, during the battle fought by the French along the Oise between La Fere and Guise, one of the French commanders desired to make an air reconnoissance. It was found, however, that no observers were available.
Wishing to help our allies as much as possible a British officer attached to this particular French army volunteered to go up with the pilot to observe. He had never been in an aeroplane, but he made the ascent and produced a valuable reconnoissance report.
Incidentally he had a duel in the air at an altitude of 6,000 feet with the observer of a German Taube monoplane which approached. He fired several shots and drove off the hostile aeroplane. His action was much appreciated by the French.
In view of the many statements made in the press as to the use of Zeppelins against us, it is interesting to note that the Royal Flying Corps, who had been out on reconnoissance every day since their arrival in France, have never seen a Zeppelin, though airships of a non-rigid type have been seen on two occasions near Marne.
Late one evening two such were observed over the German forces. An aeroplane was dispatched against them, but in the darkness our pilots were uncertain of the airship's nationality and did not attack. It was afterward made clear that they could not have been French.
A week later an officer, reconnoitring to the flank, saw an airship over the German forces and opposite the French. It had no distinguishing mark and was assumed to belong to the latter, though it is now known that it also must have been a German craft.
The orders of the Royal Flying Corps are to attack Zeppelins at once, and there is some disappointment at the absence of those targets.
The following special order has been issued today to the troops:
"Special Order of the Day, By Field Marshal Sir John French, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Field.
"September 17, 1914.
"Once more I have to express my deep appreciation of the splendid behavior of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the army under my command throughout the great battle of the Aisne, which has been in progress since the evening of the 12th inst., and the battle of the Marne, which lasted from the morning of the 6th to the evening of the 10th and finally ended in the precipitate flight of the enemy.
"When we were brought face to face with a position of extraordinary strength, carefully intrenched and prepared for defense by an army and staff which are thorough adepts in such work, throughout the 13th and 14th, that position was most gallantly attacked by the British forces and the passage of the Aisne effected. This is the third day the troops have been gallantly holding the position they have gained against most desperate counter-attacks and the hail of heavy artillery.
"I am unable to find adequately words in which to express the admiration I feel for their magnificent conduct.
"The French armies on our right and left are making good progress, and I feel sure that we have only to hold on with tenacity to the ground we have won for a very short time longer when the Allies will be again in full pursuit of a beaten enemy.
"The self-sacrificing devotion and splendid spirit of the British army in France will carry all before it.
"J.D.P. FRENCH, Field Marshall,
"Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Field."
*The Slow Fight on the Aisne.*
[Made Public Sept. 24.]
The enemy is still maintaining himself along the whole front, and, in order to do so, is throwing into the fight detachments composed of units from different formations, the active army, reserve, and Landwehr, as is shown by the uniforms of the prisoners recently captured.
Our progress, although slow on account of the strength of the defensive positions against which we are pressing, has in certain directions been continuous; but the present battle may well last for some days more before a decision is reached, since it now approximates somewhat to siege warfare.
The Germans are making use of searchlights. This fact, coupled with their great strength in heavy artillery, leads to the supposition that they are employing material which may have been collected for the siege of Paris.