The Battle of Mons was the first major action of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War. It was a subsidiary action of the Battle of the Frontiers, in which the Allies clashed with Germany on the French borders.

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

Retreat from Mons

The Great Retreat, also known as the retreat from Mons, was the long withdrawal to the River Marne in August and September 1914 by the British Expeditionary Force and the French Fifth Army.

The Honour was awarded to the 4th Hussars.

Le Cateau

The Battle of Le Cateau was fought on the Western Front during the First World War on 26 August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force and the French Fifth Army had retreated after their defeats at the Battle of Charleroi and the Battle of Mons.

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


At 6 am, on the morning of the 22nd, the brigade moved out to the high ground northwest of Bray, ‘A’ Squadron 4th Hussars, under Major J. E. C. Darley, taking over the outpost line at Maurage from a squadron of the 5th Lancers.

During the morning a German aeroplane came over low, the first hostile aeroplane encountered, while an excited Belgian peasant brought news of a German Army advancing from St. Vaast.

Patrols from ‘A’ Squadron soon encountered enemy patrols, which retired on being fired on. At noon ‘A’ Squadron was withdrawn somewhat, and two strong patrols, under Lt Heyman and Lt Sword, were sent to Maurage and Boussoit respectively to watch the crossings of the River Haine.

With orders to remain out till 5 pm they saw several hostile cavalry patrols, Heyman’s patrol knocking over several men, first blood thus being drawn by the regiment. In the afternoon a serious enemy infantry attack developed on our right against the 5th Cavalry Brigade, the village of Peronne being at once set on fire, a sight striking enough at that time, but soon to become too familiar.

At 5.10 pm orders were received from the brigade to march to Elouges as soon as all detachments were in, and the brigade moved off about 6 pm over a country intersected with roads running through iron foundries and coal dumps, making it a very difficult matter to find the way after night fell.

However, the billets were reached at 4 am on the 23rd, and we remained there all that day and till 4 am the next morning, there being several false alarms during the night, all day and night going on for the canal.

On the 24th the brigade moved out to a ridge west of Elouges, whence a fine view was obtainable of the fight for the canal line. At 7.30 am a retirement was ordered through Baisieux to Angle, where the regiment watered and fed. Scarcely had this been completed when the Cavalry Division received a message from the 5th Infantry Division requesting them to attack the enemy who was pressing their west flank.

Within a quarter of an hour, at 12.30 pm, the whole division was launched to the attack. The 4th Hussars were directed to gallop and seize the spur between the Honnelle and St. Pierre rivers running out towards Baisieux.

‘C’ Squadron was ordered to line the north edge of the little wood half a mile north-east of Angre, while ‘A’ and ‘B’ Squadrons galloped across the enemy’s front until reaching a sunken road running from Onnerjies to Baisieux. where they dismounted, sent the horses back up the ridge, and prolonged the right of ‘C’ Squadron as far as the sunken road.

While crossing in front of Baisieux, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Squadrons were under an intense rifle and machine-gun fire from the village, and a good many horses and one or two men were hit. The regiment remained in action here for two hours, keeping up a heavy fire on the Germans, who were trying to work up the St Pierre stream, inflicting considerable losses on them.

At about 2.30 pm they were ordered to break off the action and retire, which was accomplished with great difficulty owing to the very heavy fire. The regiment suffered some 85 casualties and had about 45 horses killed and wounded.

All the wounded who were unable to ride had to be left on the ground, there being no means of conveying them; they fell into the hands of the enemy. Luckily some ten bicycles were found in an estaminet, which helped out the shortage of horses.

Private Taylor, of ‘A’ Squadron, was shot through the head here and declared by the medical officer to be dead, and it was not for several months that he was reported a prisoner.

The retirement was carried out under shell fire through the Bois Caillouquibique to Roisin, where much of the division reformed. The regiment moved on at 5.30 pm to Wargnies le Grand, where it held an outpost line in conjunction with the 19th Infantry Brigade. No supplies were received.

At 4 am on the 25th patrols were sent out to Bry which scattered an Uhlan patrol, and at 5 am the regiment marched to Verchain, the brigade doing flank guard to the Cavalry Division. At that village, it passed a French territorial brigade, which was destroyed by the Germans later in the day.

The Brigade retired through Le Cateau to Catillon, where it billeted, guarding the bridges over the Sambre Canal, as they were not at that time in close touch with any troops on the east.

In the early hours of the 26th, there was very heavy machine-gun and rifle fire in the direction of Landrecies, but we were not molested. At 6 am the regiment moved off, after handing over the bridges to Scots Greys, who had by this time gained touch with us.

At Basnel the Brigade came into action as right flank and rear guard to the 5th Infantry Division and moved slowly through Baudival Farm and St. Souplet to Busigny, where a halt was made for two hours.

At 5 pm we watered in Busigny and then marched, via Marety-Premont to Montbrehain having some difficulty in keeping clear of a long mixed column, the debris of the battle of Le Cateau. At Montbrehain a halt was called from 10 pm to 1.30 am.

By this time, as may be imagined, men and horses were dead beat, so much so that it was no uncommon thing for men to go to sleep in their saddles, while after a short dismount it took at least ten minutes to get the men awake and on their horses. At Montbrehain an order was issued to lighten the horses as much as possible, and greatcoats and one blanket were discarded.

At 1.30 am they moved on, and on reaching Essigny telephoned through to St. Quentin to ascertain if the Germans had occupied it was then on to Bomblieres expecting to find German cavalry across their line of retreat at any moment. However, nothing was seen of them. A halt took place here for four hours when the brigade concentrated at 10 am and remained concentrated until 2.30 pm, owing to a report of a German column moving on St. Quentin. We finally went into Urvillers to billet.

At 10 am on the 28th the Regiment moved out south-west and halted., forming the rearguard to the brigade. During the course of the morning, heavy firing could be heard to the north, and by 1 pm several hostile patrols were sighted and driven back by rifle fire, after which orders were received to retire to Benay at once.

At 4.30 pm they went into billets at Faillouel. The Regiment then took over rearguard and marched south, reaching, Villequier at 11 am on the 29th Aug.

During the morning the regiment received information from the brigade that, owing to a battle then in progress to the north, an advance might be ordered at any moment, but nothing came of this; while at 1.30 pm it was reported that a regiment of enemy cavalry and 700 infantry were a few miles north, advancing from Ham.

As the Regiment was about to retire, it was suddenly attacked by cavalry and infantry from the wood north of their position, but after a brisk action, the enemy was beaten off, having lost some men and horses, while we lost one man.

‘B’ Squadron remained south of Villequier Aumont watching the village. while the remainder billeted in the northern end of Chauny. The troops which had been missing since the 25th, having been working with the 1st Corps during this time, rejoined here. At 8.30 am the regiment crossed the Oise, bridges being blown up everywhere.

During the 30th it marched via Pierremande and Morhaim to Nouvron, and billeted there, seeing no enemy till the morning of the 31st at about 9 am, when the regiment turned out on receiving information of thirty enemy cavalry. Only one or two were seen and shot.

At 4 am on the 1st September the regiment marched through Mortefontaine to Taillefontaine, where it halted until 9 am, when hostile cavalry, infantry and guns debouching from Roye St. Nicholas opened fire. ‘A’ Squadron being heavily shelled, but only having one man and horse hit. The brigade then retired through the forest to Vex.

At 8.30 am on the 2nd of September, the regiment marched slowly via Acy-Nogeon Farm, Barcy, to Villeroy, which was reached at 8.30 pm, the rearguard being driven in by shell-fire during the afternoon, but without becoming seriously engaged. Orders were issued to march south-east, covering the movement of the British Army, which was moving in that direction to connect up with the French 18th Corps.

In consequence, they moved at 4 am to Penchard, thence to Barey and Vareddes, where they halted sometime. At 11 am they then withdrew to Germigny, and then to Montebise Chateau, where they billeted. The horses were very tired by now and suffered from worn-out shoes, which could not be replaced owing to lack of supplies.

At 6 am on the 4th the regiment marched to Grand Glairet, where patrols reported the enemy crossing the Marne at La Fette. they then continued to Le Fayet and halted there until 4.30 pm, when enemy field guns opened on from Doue Hill.

On the morning of 5th, the march continued at 4.15 am to the concentration point southwest of Coulommiers. The regiment, with four guns, was detailed as rearguard to the 2nd Infantry Division but did not find them till 11.30 am in the Forest de Creey, having previously met one of their battalions which had lost touch with the remainder.

A halt was made at the Chateau de Lumigny until 8 pm, when they carried on to Richebourg Farm, near Vilbert, finding the echelons there for the first time since 25th August. They were very welcome, as they had a certain amount of spare kit and much-needed horse-shoes.

And so ended the retreat, leaving the regiment much below its establishment, but still anxious to take the offensive.

Related topics

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