Mons - The Overture

I've just been watching with some interest, a programme on the History Channel, which describes the first action of the First World War; the 23rd August 1914, a cavalry engagement at Soignies in Belgium, between the 4th Royal Dragoon Guards and German lancers. This had me running upstairs to my bookcase and my great uncle's book: 'Unwilling Passenger', because on page 24 and a new chapter 'Mons the Overture', he describes the action in some depth as he was present.

He describes the German cavalry as 'Bavarian ploughboys' who were routed by the professional British cavalry and adds: "Some of our men pursuing them had refrained at first from running them through because their backs were turned. This gallantry was not to last very long!"

He adds: "I asked one of the prisoners for a button, which he cut off, my first souvenir! Rather tearfully he insisted that his brother had been shot at Munich for refusing to join-up and that he himself was very pleased he had been taken prisoner and would not have to take any further part in the war."

I've written before that it's a fascinating book and one that I recently loaned to Ian Hislop to read. It's somewhat ironic that the historian on the television programme was forensically piecing together the facts of this first action of World War I without the benefit of the eyewitness account that exists on my bookshelf.

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