Marne, 1914

The First Battle of the Marne was a battle of the First World War fought from 6 to 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German armies in the west.

The Honour is borne on the Guidon of the 4th Hussars.

Aisne, 1914

The First Battle of the Aisne was the Allied follow-up offensive against the right-wing of the German First Army and the Second Army as they retreated after the First Battle of the Marne earlier in September 1914. The Advance to the Aisne consisted of the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the Aisne.

The Honour is borne on the Guidon of the 4th Hussars.


The First Battle of the Aisne was the Allied follow-up offensive against the right-wing of the German First Army and the Second Army as they retreated after the First Battle of the Marne earlier in September 1914. The Advance to the Aisne consisted of the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the Aisne.

At 8 am on the 7th of September the brigade concentrated at Paradis, the 16th Lancers shortly becoming engaged near St. Augustin. There was some shooting on the part of German stragglers in the woods. The brigade then advanced, the regiment, with two guns, acting as advanced guard. At Tie, hostile shell fire opened but did no damage, and our
guns silenced the enemy artillery.

North of Montigny there was some skirmishing in the woods, but at 1.15 pm the regiment advanced on the bridges at Aulnoy and Martroy; they were held up at the former, but secured the latter at 2 pm. The enemy was holding all crossings with machine guns at the bottoms of valleys and was very difficult to dislodge as our artillery could very rarely get a shot at them.

After getting across at Le Martroy, they advanced towards Taillis, though the crossings to right and left were still held by the enemy. Lieutenant Cripps was sent forward to reconnoitre Les Marches with his troop and was attacked there by infantry and machine guns from Taillis. He held on to the village and was supported by ‘A’ Squadron until the Germans withdrew from Taillis at dark when he billeted there. the remainder of the regiment going to Chantareme.

There was no food left in the villages, the enemy having eaten everything and looted the houses, some of which were in a state of indescribable filth, resembling pigsties. Quite a number of our men suffered from colic here owing to eating unripe apples.

At 5.40 am on the 8th the brigade concentrated at Les Marches and then marched to Mauroy, where it was halted to let the 5th Infantry Division through to attack the crossings over the Petit Morin. Here the remainder of the brigade was heavily shelled from across the river. They were then moved to Le Plessier to wait until the infantry should have taken the crossings, and remained so until 4 pm when they then went into billets at Grand Glairet.

The Germans then retired over the Marne, blowing up the bridges.

At 5.30 am on the 9th the brigade concentrated at Perreuse Chateau and remained there all day watching the French from the west and the British from the south shelling the retreating German columns north of La Ferte. At 4.30 p.m. the regiment marched through Jouarre and billeted at Feucheres.

On the 10th the advance was resumed at 4.45 am, the regiment forming the advanced guard to the brigade through La Platriere to Dhuisy, where the 15th Infantry Brigade were in action. Up till then ‘B’ Squadron had been in front, but here the direction of march was suddenly changed to Premont, and ‘B’ Squadron was lost and not picked up again till the afternoon. A large German column was sighted moving east, and our guns came into action against them.

Owing to the sudden change of direction, the regiment became somewhat mixed up with the 5th Cavalry Brigade but advanced to Premont. On arriving above Gandelu, we found it held by the Germans, which had caused the 5th Cavalry Brigade to pass to their right, thus clearing our front.

The regiment attacked the village dismounted, and were in possession by 1 pm, the enemy disappearing into the woods. they then mounted and pushed on, finding that the 5th Cavalry Brigade had swung back again across our front, and were engaged mounted and dismounted with the retreating enemy, as a result of which 1,000 prisoners and some guns were captured, our infantry also co-operating on the east.

There was much debris lying about, and we took a pay-wagon containing some £30 in mixed coinage and some good maps with various artillery ranges marked on the former line of the German advance. The regiment joined up here with the remainder of the brigade, and we went into billets at Molloy, which had been very thoroughly looted by the Germans.

At 5.15 am on the 11th the regiment marched to join the brigade at Blangy, and we then advanced rapidly on Vierzy, where inhabitants reported some German infantry. They could not be located, and the advance was resumed to Villemontoire. From here the Germans could be seen entrenching the ridge at Noyon and moving south-west from Soissons.

At 2 pm heavy firing broke out to our north which turned out to be French colonial troops mopping up a body of the enemy near Chaudun. The brigade stopped the enemy’s escape on the east, and the whole appeared to be accounted for. The regiment then billeted in Villemontoire, two whole squadrons finding shelter in a large farm there.

At 5.15 am on the 12th of September the regiment was detailed as a flank guard to the brigade through Burgancy to Ecuiry. The going was very heavy owing to rain, and the advance was delayed owing to the guns having to go through Royieres. There were still small parties of the enemy holding the line of La Crise. and a good many stragglers in the woods.

‘A’ Squadron took the crossing at Ecuiry. Our guns eventually got across at Royieres and joined the regiment, which then advanced to Ciry and found the brigade there. At 2.30 pm the advance began into the Aisne valley, leaving ‘A’ Squadron as left flank guard. A party of the enemy was located in a wood northeast of Chassemy, and the 4th Hussars sent down the road through Chassemy to get round their right.

Chassemy was found to be lightly held but was soon cleared, and the advance continued until half a mile beyond the village when the enemy shelled us in column of route from across the valley. We turned east off the road and attacked the Chateau of Chassemy dismounted, which was taken by Captain Gatacre with ‘C’ Squadron at 2.30 pm, some cavalry being driven off.

At 4.45 pm Major Howell sent the following message to the brigade, giving the situation of the regiment:-

“Gatacre’s squadron (‘C’) comfortably established north end of wood near bridge with two maxims. Bridge appears to be intact and is only about 500 yards from Gatacre. Uhlan patrols attempting to cross have been driven back and, except few men cut off and still wandering about woods, I doubt if any Germans S. of river in this quarter. Section of guns north of river spasmodically shelling Gatacre’s troops and road through woods thence to Chassemy. Have two men (Mr Burrell, the R.S.M., one) wounded in Chassemy, and should be glad of doctor or ambulance if available.”

Have lost the squadron you detached as flank guard (Pragnell).
Do you know where he is?

The action of the regiment in thus preventing the enemy from crossing the Vailly bridge probably accounted for a good many enemy being cut off and captured on that and subsequent days. The regiment, less ‘C’ Squadron, then billeted in Chassemy.

On 13th September a halt was made while the various crossings over the Aisne were reconnoitred. Lieutenant Cripps was sent to reconnoitre it at dawn when he had a man shot; nevertheless, he was sent out twice more, each time losing casualties from machine-gun fire across the bridge. The remainder of the regiment remained in their positions of the night before and rested, the enemy putting in an occasional shell and knocking out a battery of guns nearby.

On the morning of the 14th, at 6.15 am, the brigade assembled at the chateau gates for an advance across the Vailly bridge. The 5th Cavalry Brigade crossed first, and at once came under heavy fire of all sorts, so that the hillside was dotted with the grey horses of Scots Greys. The crossing was impossible, so the 3rd Cavalry Brigade turned into chateau grounds again.

At 12 noon the regiment was ordered to retire to Courcelles and billet there. While our transport was still in Chassemy, the enemy shelled the column and had some casualties. The regiment turned off the road and moved undercover to Brenelles, thus probably avoiding further losses. On arrival at Courcelles, it was found full of First Army Headquarters, so went into billets at Monthussard Farm, getting in very late.

On the 15th ‘B’ Squadron and the machine guns marched at 4.30 am, followed by the remainder of the regiment at 6 am, to Ancienne Wood, south of Chassemy, to demonstrate against the· Conde bridge. The object of this manoeuvre was somewhat obscure, but it was presumably intended to show the Germans we were in some strength there and to prevent them from launching a counter-attack from across the bridge.

At 5.30 pm the regiment was withdrawn, leaving ‘B’ Squadron to watch the Conde bridge their horses being in Chassemy. They were obliged to move their billets owing to shelling but had no casualties.

On the 16th orders were received to turn out at 5 am, but these were cancelled, having been caused by another false report; but ‘A’ Squadron went out to relieve ‘B’ Squadron. On arriving opposite the Conde bridge, they were shelled and obliged to seek the shelter of the trees along the Vesle. They returned to billets at 5.30 pm. The next day was spent in billets in Brame.

On the 18th the regiment marched out at 5.30 am and remained in woods south of Chassemy all day, ‘C’ Squadron being left out at night, the remainder returning to billets at dark, finding the Medical Officer, Captain Wetherell, who had been captured on 1st September, but had been left behind by the Germans when they retreated.

He had many interesting tales to tell of the Germans but had been well treated. R.S.M. Burrell and S.S.M. Dunsby both received commissions at this time for their conduct in the field.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. The Western Front 1914-18 timeline