Join one of our Expert guides on a tour of Mons and the Great Retreat, follow the battle and see how it developed.
Our In The Footsteps® tour of The Battle of Mons and the Great Retreat usually begins where the first shots by a British soldier of the 1914-18 Great War were fired at Casteau and typically takes in the following locations: -
Casteau — The First Shot Memorial commemorating the place where the British cavalry of the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards clashed with the advance guard of General von Kluck's German First Army on 22nd August 1914 that led to the first shot being fired by the British in the First World War. Across the road is the Last Shot Memorial commemorating that it was here that the last shot was fired by the Canadian's who ended the war on the same spot at which for the British it had begun.
Nimy — The Railway Bridge was where the 4th Royal Fusiliers heroically defended the crossing over the Mons-Condé Canal on Sunday, 23rd August 1914. A plaque under the bridge records this action where the first two Victoria Crosses to be awarded in the First World War were awarded to Lieutenant Maurice James Dease and Private Sidney Frank Godley.
Obourg — The Railway Station where the men of the 4th Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment fought on Sunday, 23rd August 1914 defending the hamlet.
Mons — The main square in the centre of Mons was where the BEF had gathered when they initially arrived. There are several memorials in the archway of the entrance to the Town Hall commemorating the events that took place here. A monument commemorating the Battle of Mons stands at the La Bascule Crossroads.
Saint-Symphorien — St Symphorien Military Cemetery was started by the Germans in August 1914, after the Battle of Mons. It remained in their hands until November 1918, and has the distinction of containing the graves of some of the first and last casualties of the First World War. It is popularly believed that the graves of the first (Pte. J. Parr, Middlesex Regt., 21 August 1914) and the last British soldier (Pte. G. E. Ellison, 5th Lancers, 11 November 1918) to be killed in the 1914-18 Great War are in this cemetery. Also in the cemetery is the grave of Private J L PRICE, of the Canadian 3rd Division, who was killed while holding flowers given by the grateful Belgians at 10:58 hrs on 11th November 1918, just 2 minutes before the cease-fire. It was his misfortune to go down in history as the last soldier killed in the 1914-18 Great War.
Mons-Condé Canal — At various sites along the canal the BEF set up defensive positions to hold the canal bank and the men of the Royal Engineers worked heroically to deny the enemy the bridges. It was here that that Captain Theodore Wright and Lance Corporal Charles Alfred Jarvis of the Royal Engineers were both awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery whilst attempting to destroy the bridges over the canal; Private Heron of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Scots Fusiliers was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his efforts in assisting Lance Corporal Jarvis at the Lock No 2 Bridge.
Audregnies and Elouges — It was in the vicinity of Audregnies and Elouges on the morning of Monday, 24th August 1914 the 1st Norfolks and 1st Cheshires were on the left flank of General Smith-Dorrien's British II Corps when it started to withdraw. Against very heavy odds these two Battalions made their stand to hold the left flank as the rest of the II Corps broke clean of the enemy. It was also in this vicinity that the famous first cavalry charge of the First World War was made by the 9th Lancers and 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards took place and was where Major Ernest Wright Alexander RFA and Captain Francis Grenfell 9th Lancers won their Victoria Crosses.
Maroilles and Landrecies — On Tuesday, 25th August 1914, in the heat and glare of a summer's day, the 15th Hussars and 1st Royal Berkshires guarding the bridge and lock near Maroilles were engaged by the forward elements of General von Kluck's German First Army. At Landrecies the 3rd Coldstream Guards deployed in a hasty defensive position. They too were engaged late that evening when a large column of unknown soldiers advanced. They were challenged and answered in French, but as the officer in command of the Guardsmen advanced to question them, the Germans lowered their bayonets and charged. It was at Landrecies that Lance Corporal George Henry Wyatt of the 3rd Battalion, the Coldstream Guards was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the night of the 25/26 August 1914.
Le Cateau — Where General Smith-Dorrien's exhausted men made their desperate stand on Wednesday, 26th August 1914 against Field Marshal Sir John French's orders to withdraw. It was at Le Cateau that Captain Douglas Reynolds and Drivers Job Henry Charles Drain and Frederick Luke were awarded Victoria Crosses for saving one of their guns whilst under heavy artillery and infantry fire from the enemy who were only 100 yards (91 metres) away. Another Victoria Cross was awarded to Lance Corporal Frederick William Holmes of the 2nd Battalion, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who carried a wounded man out of the trenches under heavy fire and later helped to drive a gun out of action by taking the place of a driver who was wounded.
Etreux — The 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers, in their very first action in France, achieved a military feat unparalleled in modern warfare. A Brigade may occasionally have the task of trying to delay a whole enemy Division. A Division may perhaps be deployed in an attempt to turn aside or halt an advancing Army Corps - but for a single Battalion to stem the advance of an entire Army by their sole action was unprecedented.
St Quentin — The retreating columns of the BEF continued to flow southwards and during Wednesday 27th August 1914 they had reached St Quentin. Many of the retreating Battalions passed straight thrown flowing out of the southern exits. By the time that the 1st Royal Warwicks commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Elkington and the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mainwaring entered the main square it was getting late and they were among the last of British Battalions. With their officers and men totally exhausted the two Battalion Commanders were persuaded by the Mayor to give a written undertaking not to endanger the city's inhabitants. They undertook that if the Germans entered the city before they left they would not resist and surrender.
Major Tom Bridges, commanding C Squadron 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, had been appointed the commander of the rearguard and when he entered the main square he was astonished by what he found.
Néry — On Tuesday, 1st September 1914 the 1st Cavalry Brigade readied itself in the cool and very misty morning to continue its retreat. With visibility less than 200 yards the order was given to delay the march until 05.00 hrs. As the cavalrymen and their accompanying horse artillerymen waited Second-Lieutenant Tailby of the 11th Hussars, galloped up to the Brigade Headquarters, dismounted and entered to report that his patrol had ridden into a body of German cavalry in the mist and had been chased back to the village. Suddenly, without warning, German artillery shells began raining down on the unsuspecting British.
L Battery RHA were in the thick of the battle and their casualties amounted to 45 officers and men killed and wounded, out of a strength of 170. Captain Edward Kinder Bradbury was among the dead, but he had been in the forefront of the fight. For his actions on 1st September 1914 he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Sergeant David Nelson and Battery-Sergeant Major George Thomas Dorrell were also in the thick of the action were also each awarded the Victoria Cross.
Villers-Côtterets — The Guards' Grave was made originally by the people of Villers-Côtterets. Lord Killanin, the Irish Guards, returned to the site of the battle in November 1914 to locate and exhume all those buried in a pit after the action of 1st September. The CWGC burial report confirms the facts: Lord Killanin's party found 94 men, recorded their details where possible and re-buried them under a cross on this spot. This later became the Guards' Cemetery. The four officers that they found were identified by their clothing and personal effects. Second-Lieutenant Cecil being identified by the initials on his vest. The officers were originally buried in a hastily purchased plot in the cemetery at Villers-Cotterets, but after the War their remains were brought back to join their men. The Guards' Grave contains 98 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 20 of which are unidentified.
On the corner of the bend just above the cemetery is the private monument to Second-Lieutenant George Edward Cecil, Grenadier Guards. This was erected by his mother and it also honours those Guardsmen that fell here on 1st September 1914. George Cecil was just 18 when he died and was one of the four officers brought in from the local Communal Cemetery. In 1916 Lady Edward Cecil gave the 'Cecil Range' to Winchester College in memory of her son and this is still in use. Later she erected this stone memorial to commemorate the action of 1st September 1914.
A further Victoria Cross was awarded for actions during the Great Retreat to Corporal Charles Ernest Garforth of the 15th Hussars. On the 23 August near Harmignies, Corporal Garforth's troop was held up by a wire fence. Despite being under heavy machine-gun fire he volunteered to cut the wire thereby allowing his comrades to escape. On 6th September 1914 near Dammartin, during the retreat from Mons, Corporal Garforth turned back whilst under heavy enemy fire to rescue Sergeant Scarterfield whose horse had been hit whilst jumping a ditch, falling and pinning him to the ground. The next day, Corporal Garforth was on patrol at Meaux, when Sergeant Lewis had his horse shot from under him. This time Garforth drew the German machine gun fire away from Lewis and allowed him to be rescued. He was captured on 13th October 1914 at Laventie and taken prisoner. He spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner of war and was presented his Victoria Cross by the King following his release.
The typical cost for a 3-day /3-night tour covering Mons and the Great Retreat is £980.00 per person.*
Deposit £200.00 per person.
* This price per person is based upon:
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