13a Battle of Mons – 23 to 24 August 1914
A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” as described in Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium.
Summary: In the early morning of 22 August, a patrol of the British 4th Dragoon Guards encountered an advance unit of German Cuirassiers northeast of Mons, who were reconnoitering the approaches to the city. A few shots were fired, and a short chase took place, during which the dragoons caught the retiring Germans after 3 km and inflicted twenty-three casualties.
In the early mists of a drizzly rain the next morning, a short artillery bombardment from guns established on the high ground north of the Canal du Centre, northeast of Mons, fell upon the 4th Middlesex Regiment positioned south of Obourg. At approximately 09:00, they and the adjoining 4th Royal Fusiliers to their left at Nimy were surprised to see waves of German 18th Division infantry advancing across the meadows to the north. Rapid fire rifle slew lines of the German infantry, much like machine guns were to do to British infantry in the Somme battles two years later. The German were forced to withdraw to regroup. A short time later the German infantry, strengthened by regiments from the 17th Division, advanced again, extending the fight to the south. The German losses were again heavy and their massed formations broke into smaller units which started infiltrating the British flanks.
After a morning of steady pressure, the Germans crossed the Haine River and at 14:00, British units in the salient started to withdraw under fire of German IX Corps artillery. The 4th Middlesex Regiment fought a retreat across the eastern reaches of Mons joined by the Royal Fusiliers who evacuated Nimy and withdrew through the city. Finally, German Infantry Regiment Nr 75 struck against the 1st Gordon Highlanders and 2nd Royal Scots, who were defending the eastern slopes of the Bois de Mons along the Harmignies Road. British riflemen again performed admirably, and after suffering heavy losses, the Germans called an end to the assault. By 17:00, the enemy had entered the city center and British artillery units were extracted from the Bois de Mons to a pre-established defense line farther south.
West of Mons, British positions were along both sides of the essentially straight Condé-Mons Canal, clustered near the numerous bridges. Four divisions of German III and IV Corps fell upon British 5th Division like a rolling wave, starting at 11:00. By midnight the German III Corps, having suffered enough casualties, ceased operations without any Germans having crossed the canal between Mons and Condé. 5th Division casualties were light.
With the withdrawal from the canal salient, the positions of 5th Division were unsupportable. The British spent 24 August executing a fighting disengagement, suffering an additional 2600 casualties.