The size of the German Army had taken the British by surprise and Commander Sir John French had no choice but to order a general retreat, which began on 24 August. General De Lisle’s cavalry brigade took over rearguard duties to the retiring infantry and made its way cautiously from Ruesnes to Savy, with many false alarms of advancing German forces along the way. The British troops had suffered 1,600 casualties during the Battle of Mons. Yet, although a British defeat, the conflict had also caused heavy casualties on the German side and bought valuable time for the French and Belgian forces to attempt to form a new defensive line. Back at home, Mrs Armstrong was trying to enjoy her holiday at Cantreyn while scouring the newspapers for updates from France and anxiously awaiting news of casualties. Regrettably, such news was not long in the coming.
Monday 24 August
Wrote letters, & then read. After lunch Captain Welch took Muz in to Bridgnorth, in the car, & Ione & I walked in. It rained nearly all day. We met the others in the town, & did some shopping. After tea Muz & Heppie walked in to get a paper. The British Troops have been fighting since Saturday. I read in the drawingroom. After dinner we cut pictures out of Punch, as Captain Welch is going to make a screen of them.
Moliere. Left at dawn. Germans pressing on hard. Francis Grenfell’s squadron fought very well. Stood about with guns & saw every advancing. Was sent round by John Vaughan to Gn Fergusson command V Div. Found him very agitated & was sent back to tell the Cavalry to hold on & guard his flanks. Found Gen Allenby. The Div was ordered back to ground it held in the morning. 2nd Bde charged & had dreadful casualties. Was sent back by Gen to extricate Bde. Shellfire & bullets were hellish. Bde retired in dreadful disorder found we had only about half a Bde. Returned back to Ruisnes where we arrived at about 10 o’c. Got an hour’s sleep in some store in an inn. General was awfully tired.
The Battle of Mons
Tuesday 25 August
Cantreyn House, Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Duskey & I went & sat down in the Dingle, & read. We found a lovely place in the bracken. The others went in to the town in the car. Mr Galway came for lunch & I talked to him till the others came back. Muz, Ione & Capt. Welch went to tea with the Gilmores, I sewed & then read for a bit, & took Duskey out. After dinner we talked to Janet; went to bed at about 11-30. The British casualties at the Battle near Mons on Friday & Sat. is about 2000, but no lists out yet. They say Namur hasn’t fallen yet. Went to bed at about 11-30.
The British casualties at Mons Friday are about 2000, but no lists out yet. Namur is supposed not to have fallen yet. We’ve had nice days in car etc & taking tea off but all the time our thoughts are in France & waiting the next paper & news. Rumour has it that 8000 Russians have gone through to France, landed in Scotland, some wounded have arrived at Folkestone I hear but no lists out yet. It’s impossible as it’s ghastly work this retreating.
Ruesnes. Started again at 1 am had great difficulty to get men on the move
Thank you so much for your letter written on the 19th which we were all most delighted to get & to hear that you are now A.D.C. to General de Lisle which naturally is much better for you than being attached to another reg. I had a letter from Maurice this morning written on August 6th still at Potch1. but in a great state of excitement as they had been brought back from manoeuvres. It has been in the papers that the “Imperial forces” are to return from S. Af. & I heard that “they” were to leave this week but I have not hard yet for certain & am anxiously expecting definite news every minute – Ld K. made a fine speech yesterday & we all feel very proud of you all but we know very little really & of course that is quite right & no one grumbles at being kept in ignorance for our own good! We are living here very quietly but very busily, just as you left us & I have a lot to do with all my committees & jobs. Your ponies are quite well & safe up to now, & so far no more of our horses have been taken & the hounds are going out to kill as many foxes as they possibly can so as to keep them down – Frankie is very well, he has just gone to London again about a “job” as he hasn’t got anything yet; he tells me that he had a letter saying that the numbers of applications for commissions have now reached many thousand. Blanchie & Diana & Worcester are all very well & send you their love – they are having a very quiet time but are helping me all they can. When you can do send me a line again & tell me if there is anything you would ever like us to send you, we so gladly would do so.
Good luck to you
Yrs. always most sincerely L. E. Beaufort
Thursday 27 August
A family outing
Read some of the morning then walked into Bridgnorth with Duskey to get a paper. Mrs & Miss Welch came up. Capt. Welch went off on business, & didn’t get back for lunch. After lunch, Muz, Heppie, Ione Tom, Janet & I went off in the waggonette to Apley Park, to see the garden, it was awfully pretty. We took our tea with us. Muz Ione & I went with her but Duskey followed the car, so I had to walk back with her. I read for a bit. There is no more news in the paper, no names of casualties, they are keeping every thing so private.
Did rear guard to retiring infantry, who were in a state of dreadful disorder. Leny [?] came up to us & explained roads of retirement & caused alarm & despondency. Bde took up position on the St Quentin road. Hd Qrs were established at a farm. Was up on the roof for some time in observation. Saw crowds of troops advancing in close formation which we thought were Germans. They were French. As soon as it was dark we drew off & went to Savy where we arrived about 7 o’c & had very comfortable night. Bridges went into St Quentin’s & found that Col’s Mainwaring & Elkington had surrendered to the Major.
Friday 28 August
Duskey & I went down to the Dingle. It was awfully hot. I finished reading “The Professor’s Experiment.” After lunch, Muz, Ione, Tom & Capt Welch went off in the car, for some business of his. I sorted papers & things, & wrote letters. Old Capt Acland came to see Capt Welch, & wants us all to go there on Sunday. The others came back for late tea & then went off again afterwards. There is a report tonight, that 8000 Russians have landed in Scotland, & have gone over to France, some of the wounded have arrived in Folkestone, but no lists out yet. The others didn’t get back in the car till ten. After dinner we read for a bit, & went to bed at 12-30.
Savy. Left at 6 am. When we were just outside we heard guns on our right. Gen halted the Bde in a village & rode back himself to reconnoitre. Bridges came with us but his horse was very tired so he went back. We wandered about & saw a lot of shelling going on. Then went off through a wood & came on a German patrol. I went quite close to them & then had to gallop away.
Saturday 29 August
After breakfast, Ione, Tom & I went off with Capt. Welch in the car to Shrewsbury. He had to do some business there, then we had lunch on the road & got back here at about four. It was an awfully pretty road, the whole way. Capt. Welch had two men or tea but we didn’t see them. Read for a bit, & finished “The Heart of Rome”2. Muz & Ione went in to Bridgenorth to get a paper. After dinner we read, & went to bed at about eleven. Two German Destroyers & three cruisers were sunk off Heligoland early this morning, but we didn’t have many losses.
Sunday 30 August
Muz had a bad headache, so sat out in the garden with Tom. Ione & I walked in to Bridgnorth, to church, we went in to the Welches on our way back, & met Captain Welch. Miss Welch walked some of the way back with us. After lunch I wrote letters. Capt. Welch went to tea with the Aclands. After tea I walked in to the town, to try & get a paper, I waited about for ages, but couldn’t get one. Muz & Tom came into meet me, & then Capt W. & Ione came in in the car, to take Muz to church. Tom & I walked back. Went to bed at about 11-30. We heard that Bob Hawarden has been badly wounded. His people got a wire from the W. O.
I hear Bob Hawarden is badly wounded it’s horribly anxious work & I’m feeling horribly strained up but Captain W. & Janet are so nice to be with & we have picnics & sit out & do nice things every day.