In this second part of the Retreat trilogy, military historians Ed Skelding and Nigel Cave tell the story of what was the most costly engagement fought by the British in the opening months of the war. As I Cops, under the command of Sir Douglas Haig, fell back to the east of the forest of Mormal, it was II Corps on the west, commanded by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, who would be left to face the full force of the German onslaught at Le Cateau.
The battle, fought over a single day by the exhausted, hungry and by now battle weary British units, was enough to dislocate the German advance, leaving them to wonder at the tenacity and courage of the ‘contemptibly little’ army. While the Germans could claim a technical victory in taking control of the battlefield, the British under Smith-Dorrien were able to escape with most of their men and their guns to fight another day.
DVD WALKING THE WESTERN FRONT 1914 The BEF and the Retreat
Following the analysis of the opening British battle of the First World War around the Belgian town of Mons, the Walking the Western Front series now follows the line of the British retreat south, as it reached the French provincial town of Le Cateau. The battle fought on 26 August 1914, just three days after the opening engagement would, like Mons, be a short, costly, yet decisive affair for the British.