2 RIR, Retreat From Mons.

Tue, 08/25/1914
Typical Cobblestone road encountered in Belgium and France. Marching on such roads had an effect on feet and fatigue.

Having checked the enemy's advance near Mons on 23 August 1914, the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles was ordered to withdraw at 0200 hours on 24 August. The march was along roads congested by transport and fleeing refugees. The Commanding Officer (CO), Lieutenant Colonel Bird, eventually ordered marching packs to be discarded as the Riflemen struggled with fatigue.

Unfortunately, the Battalion was retreating on a different line to that being followed by its parent brigade, 7 Brigade. The CO, on discovering this, cut across the lines of retreat and rejoined the Brigade at Bavai around 1700 hours, from where the Rifles moved to its night position, with hot food and bivouac shelter, at Le Plat de Bois.

The following morning, at 0800 hours on 25 August, 7 Brigade moved off and assumed a rearguard deployment covering 7th Division’s withdrawal to the south west. Unfortunately, when ordered to pause at the Brigade’s rear to cover withdrawing artillery near Le Quesnoy, the Rifles were to find themselves once again separated from 7 Brigade. The enemy was pressing hard and, although the 11th Hussars attempted to delay the enemy at Le Quesnoy, the German artillery was able to shell Romeries close to where the Battalion had halted near Solesmes.

Arriving at Le Cateau, Lt Col Bird received orders by telephone from II Corps to escort a gun battery to Reumont, where the Battalion arrived at 0200 hours on the morning of the 26 August. The day ahead was to be an eventful one for the British Expeditionary Force and II Corps in particular – the Battle of Le Cateau.