Irish soldiers involved in fighting at  Mons
Men of the 1st Cameronians halted at a farm during the retreat from the battle at Mons, 24 August 1914. Photo: © IWM (Q 51478)

Irish soldiers involved in fighting at Mons

British upbeat despite their retreat

Published: 25 August 1914

The first battle between the German and British armies has ended with the British inflicting heavy casualties on the Germans before being forced to retreat.

Amongst the Irish soldiers fighting at Mons were members of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, some of whom may be amongst the casualties.

The battle at Mons is part of a series of battles taking place along a long frontier where Allied troops are seeking to resist the advance of the German army.

Despite the retreat the British Army claims success in preventing the French army from being outflanked. This was achieved despite the fact that it was heavily outnumbered.

Irish Command Orders dated 13 August 1914. (Image: National Archives of Ireland, CSO/RP 1914, 13971)

The British Expeditionary Force arrived in France on 14 August and reached Mons on 22 August.

The following day the Official Press Bureau of the British government announced that its army had been engaged night and day with the enemy in the area around Mons and had ‘held their ground.’

The morning began with an artillery bombardment of British positions by the German 1st Army led by General Alexander von Kluck and an attempt to take key bridges.

This was repulsed by the British, with the Germans enduring significant losses.

First hand accounts of the fighting at Mons from Irish Soldiers. Courtesy of RTÉ Archives

The British government initially said that it was too early to comment properly on casualties but that they were not heavy on the British side, while ‘the enemy suffered heavily'.

This was later clarified by Field Marshall Sir John French who said that about 2,000 of his men had been ‘put out of action’, while the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith announced that British soldiers had withdrawn to new positions: ‘In spite of some hard marching and fighting, the British Force is in the best of spirits.’

The Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener sent a message of support to the soldiers engaged at Mons: ‘Congratulate troops on their splendid work. We are all proud of them.’

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