Retreat of I Corps 1914
by Jerry Murland
Published: October 2014
On 23 August 1914 it was only the two divisions of General Smith-Dorrien’s II Corps that were directly engaged with the German First Army along the line of the Mons-Conde Canal.
As the British Expeditionary Force withdrew from Mons and bivouacked around Bavay on 25 August, Sir John French and his GHQ advisors – unsure of the condition of the routes through the Forêt de Mormal – ordered the British Expeditionary Force to continue their retirement the next day and to avoid the 35 square miles of forest roads. Consequently II Corps used the roads to the west of the Forêt de Mormal and Sir Douglas Haig’s I Corps those to the east – with the intention that the four divisions should meet again at Le Cateau. It was an intention that was ambushed by circumstance as I Corps encountered units of the German 7th Division at Landrecies on 25/26 August. Unsure of the weight of the German attack at Landrecies, Douglas Haig hurriedly left for Grand Fayt and ordered his two divisions to immediately begin their retirement along a route that would take them west of Le Cateau. It was this decision that kept the by now five divisions of the BEF apart until 1 September and is the subject of this book. I Corps was now coming under attack from the German Second Army and the resulting rearguard actions that Haig’s men were involved in are covered in this volume:
Landrecies 4 Guards Brigade
Grand Fayt 2 Connaught Rangers
Maroilles 1 Royal Berkshires
Etreux 2 Royal Munster Fusiliers
Cerizy 5 Cavalry Brigade
Villers-Cotterêts 4 Guards Brigade
The account concludes on the Marne.