London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories

The First Seven Divisions - Attack to Defence in 1914

Being a Detailed Account of the Fighting from Mons to Ypres

Author: Ernest W. Hamilton

FROM ATTACK TO DEFENCE

It was now generally recognized that the wheeling movement originally contemplated was an impossibility. Between Armentières and Givenchy the 3rd, 5th, and 6th Divisions, and Conneau's cavalry, which was acting with them, had opposed to them the II., IV., VII. and IX. German Cavalry Divisions, several battalions of Jägers, the XIII. Division of the VII. Army Corp, a brigade of the III. Army Corp, and the whole of the XIV. Army Corp, which had recently moved north from in front of the 21st French Army. They were therefore sufficiently outnumbered, even at this period, to put any idea of further advance quite out of the question. It now became merely a matter of holding on to that which they had got—if possible.

The 2nd Army Corp front, owing to the irregularity of the advance, was of a zig-zag character, and on the night of the 19th Sir Horace ordered a slight retirement so as to straighten out the line. It was quickly evidenced that this step was not taken a moment too soon, for on the following day the Germans, confident in the sufficiency of their numbers, attacked all along the line, and succeeded in re-capturing Le Pilly, and with it the whole of the R. Irish Regiment. This was something of a disaster, but luckily the attack was not equally successful elsewhere. The 1st Cheshires, though attacked with great vigour, held their ground unshaken throughout this day and the next, and inflicted heavy loss on the enemy. Two platoons of the R. Fusiliers, who were sent up to establish communication between Herlies and the R. Irish Regiment at Le Pilly, were caught in flank, owing to the capture of the latter place, and suffered severely, Captain Carey, in command, being killed.

The 9th Brigade, which had throughout these operations been on the left of the 3rd Division, was now temporarily transferred to the 3rd Army Corp, whose line, reaching as it did from Radinghem to Le Gheir, was considered by the Commander in Chief to be too thin for safety. The removal of this brigade had the effect of widening the gap between the 2nd and 3rd Army Corp's by a further four or five miles, and the responsibilities of Conneau's cavalry were correspondingly increased, the left of the 2nd Army Corp now stopping short at Riez, which was held by the 1st Gordons. The weakening of the 2nd Army Corp by the borrowing of one of its brigades and the capture of one of its battalions was made up to it in some measure by the arrival of the Lahore Division of Indians, under General Watkis, which took up a position in rear of it at Neuve Chapelle.

With the additional assistance which had been lent him, Gen. Pulteney was everywhere successful in holding his ground. At one moment in the day the enemy succeeded in getting possession of Le Gheir, but as the loss of this place would have laid bare the flank of the cavalry at St. Yves, Gen. Hunter-Weston decided that it must be retaken at any cost, and the work was entrusted to the K.O. Regiment and the Lancs. Fusiliers. These two battalions, finely handled by Col. Butler, of the Lancs. Fusiliers, proved themselves quite equal to the call made upon them, and not only re-captured the lost trenches, but took 200 prisoners and released 40 of our own men who had been captured.