Richard Chant – September 1914

2. September 1914

September 1, 1914 can hardly be forgotten. This was at Néry, where the fourth battery, Royal Horse Artillery got smashed up. Our Colonel, Col Ansell was killed with one or two others.[Editor’s Note: Lt-Col George Ansell, OC 5th Dragoon Guards, was killed on 1 September 1914 at Verberie and is buried in the French National cemetery in that village.] We lost several men that had got wounded and captured among them from our troop was Private Holloway and Trumpeter Clifford. It was chaos at the time, we had been surprised by the German attack. I well remember one man that had no horse, his name was Caterer, and he scrounged an officers horse from the French Army. We called this horse “Froggy”, and it was told to me after the war that the horse went through to the end.

Other battles followed. The Marne, the Ainse, the pontoon bridges to gallop over. We were making for a place called Soissons. We seem to be on the retreat for ever. Everyone looked very tired, and I well remember the infantry Regiment with beards, and I am sure would have given all they had for a good bath and change of clothing. The retreat went on until 5 September 1914 and we had retreated 170 miles.

The British offensive started on 6 September 1914 and the German Army was pushed back, as fast as we were driven back. Quite a few Germans were captured, and they all looked as fed up as we did during our retreat. It appeared that the war would soon come to an end, as we were reinforced with Belgian and French troops. As the days passed on it seemed to be getting to a stalemate, the advance of the British appeared to be slowing up. The German Army however had plenty of shells to send over us, and casualties kept occurring. We finally got to a place called Kemmel Woods. We kept in those woods during the days, waiting to continue the advance. At night we retired way back to peg the horses down etc. Each day we went back to the Kemmel area.

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