Battle Honour 'MONS'

Sunday, 23 August, 1914
Map Battle Mons
The Battle of Mons (Click to enlarge)

MONS BHThe Battle Honour MONS is emblazoned on the Queen's Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

On 22 August 1914, the 3rd Division was occupying positions along the Mons-Condé Canal in Northern France, there to await the advancing Germans. The 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles was in 7 Brigade, the Division’s reserve brigade. On the morning of 23 August 1914, little was known at any battalion level as to where the enemy was or what was happening elsewhere. The forward Brigade engaged the enemy in the area of the canal, but were forced to withdraw by early afternoon when the enemy crossed the canal* further east at Obourg.

By 1430 hours, the Battalion was holding along a feature about four miles south of the canal near Harmigines. The two forward companies were tied in with one company of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Scots. At 1600 hours the Germans began their attack. The German preparatory artillery burst too high and the ineffective shrapnel favoured the Battalion in their trenches. The Battalion's machine guns had excellent fields of fire and there were many casualties amongst the grey waves of attacking German infantry. Unfortunately the forward companies had engagement ranges reduced to 300 yards where dead ground concealed the approaching enemy. However, when they did emerge they were cut down by rapid fire rates of 15 rounds per minute from the accurate Lee Enfield equipped Riflemen. This unprecedented volley of fire stopped the first German attack immediately.

Then reinforcements arrived from 4 Guards Brigade at 1700 hours, just in time to help defeat the next attack at 1800 hours. The enemy then withdrew for the night and their campfires were observed in the distance. The Battalion's casualties were four dead and several wounded. The ‘Retreat from Mons’ had already begun and the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles held the position until 0200 hours the following morning before being ordered to withdraw.

Lieutenant Maurice Dease, born on 28 September 1889 in Gaulstown, Coole, County Westmeath, Ireland became the First World War's first recipient of the Victoria Cross awarded posthumously for his actions defending Nimy Bridge on 23 August. He was an officer in the 4th battalion The Royal Fusiliers. His citation included:

Though two or three times badly wounded he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd Aug., until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.