A report on Battle of Mons

British soldiers from the Royal Fusiliers resting in the town square at Mons before entering the line prior to the Battle of Mons. The Royal Fusiliers faced some of the heaviest fighting in the battle and earned the first Victoria Cross of the war.
British soldiers from the Royal Fusiliers resting in the town square at Mons before entering the line prior to the Battle of Mons. The Royal Fusiliers faced some of the heaviest fighting in the battle and earned the first Victoria Cross of the war.
Sidney Godley VC
German advance through Belgium, August 1914

The first major action of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War.

- Battle of Mons
British soldiers from the Royal Fusiliers resting in the town square at Mons before entering the line prior to the Battle of Mons. The Royal Fusiliers faced some of the heaviest fighting in the battle and earned the first Victoria Cross of the war.

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British troops from the 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) resting in the square at Mons 22 August 1914, the day before the Battle of Mons

British Expeditionary Force (World War I)

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The six-divisions the British Army sent to the Western Front during the First World War.

The six-divisions the British Army sent to the Western Front during the First World War.

British troops from the 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) resting in the square at Mons 22 August 1914, the day before the Battle of Mons
left to right, generals French, Joffre and Haig behind the front. Lt-General Henry Wilson is second from right.
A British trench near the Albert-Bapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The men are from A Company, 11th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment
The Race to the Sea, Allied front line and movements are shown in red, German front line and movements are shown in blue
The front line in 1916, British gains during the battle of the Somme are shaded blue.
The French, British, Belgian and American lines of attack, during the Hundred Days Offensive
Men from an Indian Cavalry regiment on the Western front 1914
Canadian soldiers consolidating their positions on Vimy Ridge
Australian 2nd Division marching to the rear after the Battle of Pozières, August 1916. They are being watched by soldiers of the Australian 1st Division
Portuguese troops training with gas masks in the Western Front.
British Vickers gun crew
From Left 1914–1915 Star, Victory Medal, British War Medal

By the end of 1914—after the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Aisne and Ypres—the existent BEF had been almost exhausted, although it helped stop the German advance.

Insignia of the 5th Division

5th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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Regular army infantry division of the British Army.

Regular army infantry division of the British Army.

Insignia of the 5th Division
Black Watch at Quatre Bras
Men of the 12th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment ("Bristol's Own") moving up in support in open order near Ginchy, France, 25 September 1916.
Men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers disembarking at Cherbourg, France, from the steamer 'Royal Sovereign', 16 September 1939.
A 25-pounder of 361 Battery, 91st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, at Oppy near Vimy, France, 7 January 1940.
General Alphonse Georges of the French Army, accompanied by General Lord Gort, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the BEF, inspecting men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Bethune, France, 23 April 1940.
An infantry section of the 6th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, creep forward during exercises at Crum Castle in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, November 1941.
Universal carriers of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment pass through Pedara, Sicily, 9 August 1943.
Men of the 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) climbing a track in mountainous terrain, Italy, 21 November 1943.
Infantrymen of the 1st Battalion, Green Howards trudge down a snow-covered hillside, Italy, on New Year's Day, 1 January 1944.
Infantrymen of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers advance in single file during operations to outflank German resistance in Uelzen, Germany, 16 April 1945.
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5th Division Headquarters, Shrewsbury, in use 1995 to 2012

The 5th Division, as a Regular Army formation (one of the Old Contemptibles) fought in many of the major battles of the Western Front from the Battle of Mons in 1914, the later stages of the Somme offensive, including the first battle using tanks, up to the Battle of the Selle in 1918.

Photograph of John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, Commander-in-Chief

John French, 1st Earl of Ypres

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Senior British Army officer.

Senior British Army officer.

Photograph of John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, Commander-in-Chief
Colonel French in full dress uniform, 1892. This is one of the few photographs of French taken before his appearance aged dramatically, and hinting at his success as a womaniser.
French caricatured by GDG for Vanity Fair, July 1900
French in full ceremonial uniform as Aide-de-Camp to King George V in September 1911.
Field Marshal French (left) in Paris
Official notice of "mentioned in dispatches" by French for a soldier in the Motor Machine Gun Service for gallantry at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Signed by Churchill who was Secretary of State for War in 1919 when the citation was issued.
Sir John French, and the British prime minister, H. H. Asquith, at BEF Headquarters in June 1915.
French, photographed in August 1915
French, Joffre and Haig (left to right) visit the front line during 1915. Henry Wilson, responsible at the time for liaison between French and Joffre, is second from the right.
John French, 1st Earl of Ypres c. 1919 by John Singer Sargent
A sergeant pointing out the bullet hole resulting from the IRA ambush, December 1919
Deal Castle at the end of the 19th century; at the rear are the Captain's Quarters, where French died in 1925 and which were destroyed in 1943

After the British suffered heavy casualties at the battles of Mons and Le Cateau (where Smith-Dorrien made a stand contrary to French's wishes), French wanted to withdraw the BEF from the Allied line to refit and only agreed to take part in the First Battle of the Marne after a private meeting with the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, against whom he bore a grudge thereafter.

Formation sign of II Corps during the Second World War. It shows a salmon leaping over a "brook", and was designed in 1939 by the corps' chief of staff, Vyvyan Pope, as a play on the name of Alan Brooke, GOC.

II Corps (United Kingdom)

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Army corps of the British Army formed in both the First World War and the Second World War.

Army corps of the British Army formed in both the First World War and the Second World War.

Formation sign of II Corps during the Second World War. It shows a salmon leaping over a "brook", and was designed in 1939 by the corps' chief of staff, Vyvyan Pope, as a play on the name of Alan Brooke, GOC.

II Corps was first engaged two days later at the Battle of Mons and forced into the Great Retreat with the rest of the BEF.

British retreat, 24 August – 5 September

Great Retreat

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The long withdrawal to the River Marne in August and September 1914 by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Fifth Army.

The long withdrawal to the River Marne in August and September 1914 by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Fifth Army.

British retreat, 24 August – 5 September
British retreat, 24 August – 5 September

The Franco-British forces on the Western Front in the First World War had been defeated by the armies of the German Empire at the Battle of Charleroi (21 August) and the Battle of Mons (23 August).

Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig

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Senior officer of the British Army.

Senior officer of the British Army.

Plaque marking Earl Haig's birthplace, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
Map of the Western Front in 1914.
Haig with Major-General C. C. Monro (commanding 2nd Division), Brigadier-General J. E. Gough (Haig's Chief of Staff), and Major General Sir Edward Perceval (commander of 2nd Division's artillery) in a street in France, 1914.
French, Joffre and Haig (left to right) visit the front line during 1915.
Haig, King George V and General Henry Rawlinson at Querrieu, 1916
The statue of Field Marshal Haig, standing outside the theatre in Montreuil-sur-Mer
Memorandum from Haig to the Adjutant General, Lieutenant General Sir Nevil Macready, asking his opinion on possible dates for launching the Somme offensive, 22 May 1916
Stretcher bearers recovering wounded during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, September 1916. Photo by Ernest Brooks.
Portrait of Haig at General Headquarters, France, by Sir William Orpen, May 1917
King George V, French President Raymond Poincare and Haig at GHQ at Montreuil, 7 August 1918
Haig and Ferdinand Foch inspecting the Gordon Highlanders, 1918
Field Marshal Haig unveiling the National War Memorial in St. John's, Newfoundland. (Memorial Day 1 July 1924)
Haig in Newfoundland
Earl Haig statue, Edinburgh Castle. The statue was commissioned by Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji of Bombay (now Mumbai). It was once in full public view near the Castle entrance, but is now relatively hidden away in a back courtyard at the entrance to the National War Museum.
Haig's death mask, Edinburgh Castle
Earl Haig Memorial, Whitehall, London
Field Marshal Haig unveiling the National War Memorial in St. John's, Newfoundland. (Memorial Day 1 July 1924)

Although II Corps fought off the German attack at Mons on 23 August (the first British encounter with the Germans) the BEF was forced to withdraw after Lanzerac ordered a retreat exposing their right flank as well.

General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien

Horace Smith-Dorrien

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British Army General.

British Army General.

General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien
Smith-Dorrien caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1901
Smith-Dorrien House in Aldershot was named in his honour
Horace Smith-Dorrien's grave in Berkhamsted
Close-up of the plate on Smith-Dorrien's gravestone

He commanded II Corps at the Battle of Mons, the first major action fought by the BEF, and the Battle of Le Cateau, where he fought a vigorous and successful defensive action contrary to the wishes of the Commander-in-Chief Sir John French, with whom he had had a personality clash dating back some years.

I Corps formation badge during the Second World War.

I Corps (United Kingdom)

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Army corps in existence as an active formation in the British Army for most of the 80 years from its creation in the First World War until the end of the Cold War, longer than any other corps.

Army corps in existence as an active formation in the British Army for most of the 80 years from its creation in the First World War until the end of the Cold War, longer than any other corps.

I Corps formation badge during the Second World War.
General Sir John Dill, General Officer Commanding I Corps, inspecting soldiers digging trenches at Flines, France.
Lieutenant General John Crocker, pictured here in August 1944.
Structure of the 1 British Corps in 1989.

It had a peripheral part at the Battle of Mons, then saw hard fighting at the Battle of the Aisne and First Battle of Ypres in 1914, at the Battle of Aubers Ridge in the Spring of 1915 and alongside the Canadian Corps at the Battle of Hill 70, as well in many other large battles of the First World War.

The divisional insignia used from 1940, until the division was disbanded in 2012.

2nd Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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Infantry division of the British Army that was formed and disestablished numerous times between 1809 and 2012.

Infantry division of the British Army that was formed and disestablished numerous times between 1809 and 2012.

The divisional insignia used from 1940, until the division was disbanded in 2012.
An illustration by J. Marshman, depicting the division's 1st Battalion, 57th (the West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot during the Battle of Albuera
A portrait of Frederick Adam, commander of the division's light brigade during the Battle of Waterloo, by William Salter.
A depiction of Private John McDermond saving his commanding officer, Colonel William O'Grady Haly, during the Battle of Inkerman by Louis William Desanges. This action resulted in McDermond being awarded the Victoria Cross.
Sidney Paget's Saving the guns at Colenso, which depicts a key event of the battle that resulted in several Victoria Crosses being awarded.
Major-General Charles Munro, the commanding officer of the division during 1914, inspects men of the division as they march through a village.
Snipers from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, on the frontline c.1914/15)
Men from the division's Royal Berkshire Regiment, going into action on 21 August 1918
The strategic situation in France, and the German advance up to 21 May 1940
Men from the division's 7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, display a Japanese flag captured on Mount Popa during the mop-up operations that took place after the capture of Mandalay.
Major-General Cameron Nicholson, 2nd Division GOC, at a surrender ceremony in Johore, Malaya in 1946. Thirty-seven Japanese officers from the Seventh Area Army, the Malayan occupation force, surrendered their swords during the ceremony.
The Chieftain tank, the main battle tank of the division

While II Corps saw the brunt of the fighting during the Battle of Mons, the division entrenched around 5 mi south of the city and contended with shellfire and false reports of German movements.

German soldiers (wearing distinctive pickelhaube helmets with cloth covers) on the front line at the First Battle of the Marne.

First Battle of the Marne

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Battle of the First World War fought from 5 to 12 September 1914.

Battle of the First World War fought from 5 to 12 September 1914.

German soldiers (wearing distinctive pickelhaube helmets with cloth covers) on the front line at the First Battle of the Marne.
German soldiers (wearing distinctive pickelhaube helmets with cloth covers) on the front line at the First Battle of the Marne.
The battle of Meaux September 1914
French soldiers rest in a forest during the battle of the Marne. Autochrome colour photograph.

At the Battle of Mons (23 August), the BEF attempted to hold the line of the Mons–Condé Canal against the advancing German 1st Army.