The Manchester Regiment Forum

The Great War => 1914 - 1918 => Topic started by: PhilipG on August 02, 2019, 10:57:17 AM

Title: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 02, 2019, 10:57:17 AM
Some years ago, I joined a study group involved in tracing the routes the BEF took in 1914 from Mons to Cerny, on the Chemin des Dames.      Thus, we visited the site of the Nery Battery episode, Villers-Cotterets and various parts of the rivers Marne and Aisne.      In 1914 the Aisne river was crossed by the BEF between Missy-sur-Aisne and Venizel. 

On the 13th September 1914 at 3 pm, the 2nd Manchesters crossed the Aisne (with their pack animals) at Moulin des Roches, reaching Sainte Marguerite on the opposite bank - just in time to lend support to the hard pressed units of                                                                        the 12th Infantry Brigade (1st King's Own, 2nd L. Fus., 2nd Royal Inniskillings & 2nd Essex).

My 1: 100,000 map does not show the location of Moulin des Roches.  Help needed, please.  PhilipG.
 
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: charlie on August 02, 2019, 12:52:21 PM
Philip,
I imagine that was a very interesting tour. Am I correct in assuming that Moulin des Roches is a road? In which case Rue du Moulin des Roches is the road that leads in a southerly direction from Ste Marguerite towards the river.

Chrlie
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 02, 2019, 04:37:19 PM
Charlie,

Many thanks.   The sketch map indicates that it is a place on the southern banks of the River Aisne roughly SSE of Saint M.     The river at that point was 150 feet wide and 15 feet deep, hence the need for pontoons etc.   I think you are on the right lines, but I sense that the place may be a little south of the area depicted in the photograph.  Thanks again.  PhilipG.

Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: charlie on August 02, 2019, 08:35:42 PM
Philip,
The attached map shows Moulin des Roches to be on the river at the end of what I presume to be a part of the Rue du Moulin des Roches that no longer exists.
Charlie
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 02, 2019, 09:44:40 PM
Charlie,

Again many thanks.  I don't know if you have a current 1 ; 100.000 map for the area, but the river seems to have been filled in at various places, I suspect in connection with hydro-electric power supply, but I do not really know.  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 03, 2019, 04:35:45 PM
I came across an account of a BEF battalion's landing on the northern bank of the River Aisne, an account written by a Captain Bloem of the 12th Brandenburg Grenadiers, as seen from the high ground of the Chivres Spur on the 13th Sept. 1914.     It indicates, I think, the sheer professionalism of the BEF at that time.
He writes that he was looking towards the River Aisne, through field glasses, when he was suddenly aware of what appeared to be a series of dots on the horizon.  Shortly afterwards he realised that the dots he saw were in fact widely extended British troops emerging from the willows along the banks of the Aisne.   Although the front line of the advancing soldiers took cover, the second line continued the forward movement.   In due course, a third and fourth line appeared, each keeping 200 yards distance from the line in front.  A fifth and sixth line also appeared with wide intervals between and the extensions of 10 paces interval.   Throughout their advance, the British force had come under intense German artillery fire, but their formation was such that casualties were few - 1 killed and 2 wounded.  Reforming, the battalion marched on to Ste. Marguerite without incident.

The German officer remarks that it was a magnificent effort with tactical excellence.

The British battalion he described was in fact the 2nd Lancs. Fusiliers on their way to Ste. Marguerite, shortly to be joined by the 2nd Manchesters assembling at Moulin des Roches, readying themselves to join the Fusiliers across the river for future actions at Ste Marguerite and beyond.    PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 04, 2019, 11:08:57 AM
The Royal Engineers similarly come over as military professionals, seen in the way the Field Coy. set about solving the problem of how to enable them to assist the 2nd Manchesters across the deep and wide River Aisne.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           This endeavour involved the rapid construction of a number of pontoon rafts.   It seems, too, that some method of floating bales of hay enabled a platoon of men to cross the river without too much difficulty.

A study of the 2nd Manchesters' crossing of the Aisne indicates the difference between open warfare and trench warfare.   The former, seemingly requires the ability to take with the advancing troops, horses, carts and various supplies, whilst in the latter case such items can be left behind.

As regards "floating bales of hay" has anybody info. as to how this was done?     PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 04, 2019, 11:22:42 AM
Sorry about the style of presentation.  Something is adrift with my computer, I fear.   PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: charlie on August 04, 2019, 11:52:22 AM
Philip,
I asked my ex sapper son and the only thing he could think of is the same way as using barrels - always presuming bales of hay float! - „We lashed 4 planks in a square then 3 barrels down each side lashed to the underside of the planks using a square lashing“ Perhaps a cross between this and the Kon Tiki.

It is sometimes said the the BEF of 1914 was the most professional army Britain has ever put in the field. Certainly the German army was impressed by its professionalism, quite a few of the German histories I have read make mention of it.

Charlie
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 04, 2019, 12:16:12 PM
Charlie,

Once again - many thanks.   PhilipG
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: mack on August 04, 2019, 02:45:30 PM
ime only asking guys,is moulin des roche a village,my French aint that good,but moulin des roche means the rock mill,if it was a village it would most probably be still there on todays maps,but if its a mill,it may have been destroyed and no longer exist,dave who goes under the avatar fritz bayer on the great war forum has many maps from WW1,i haven't heard from him for many years,but if hes still around,he may be able to help

mack
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 04, 2019, 04:38:52 PM
Mack,

I have taken it to be just a prominent landmark, which after crossing the river, enabled the Manchesters to take the road to Ste. Marguerite village.  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: charlie on August 05, 2019, 12:55:00 PM
On the attached maps there were buildings at Moulin des Roches. The coloured map is pre war, date unknown, and shows three buildings. The black and white map is from the set of separate maps to Vol 1 of the Official History and shows an old mill. I did find find a third sketch map also showing three buildings, but I can‘t find it again. I think Mack is correct and the buildings were destroyed.

If anyone has the coloured maps to Vol 1 of the Official History, I would be interested in seeing a better quality scan of the area.

Charlie
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 05, 2019, 04:52:12 PM
Charlie,

Thank you.  I take it you are referring to Coloured Map No. 31 d/d 1920.   This records "Ancient Mill" on the northern side of the Aisne river.    On the southern side of the river, between the railway and the river, are the words "Sugar Factory".   What I now realise, because it is coloured in blue, together with the map's key which states "Water Mill", is that the line on the map leading to the mill in fact depicts a stream leading to the mill from Missy sur Aisne and thereafter into the river itself.  But what a strain on the eyesight to discover all that.   Thanks once more.  PhilipG..
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: mack on August 05, 2019, 05:44:44 PM
on 13th September the RE constructed a raft that carried 60 men of the 2nd manchesters to cross the river in the afternoon just above venizel,that evening the raft was used to ferry men of 14th brigade across the river.

I doubt wether this raft was made of straw,its unlikely it would have been in any condition to make more than one or two crossings

mack
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 05, 2019, 08:16:49 PM
Mack,

Re raft & straw.

Thank you.   A friend of mine (Lt.Col. Rtd. RASC - Suez & N.Ireland etc.) ventured the following possibility.

A suitable amount of hay would be totally encased within a waterproof sheet of canvas of the kind seen on military vehicles today.  In WW2 I travelled in the back of many lorries protected from rainfall by canvas sheeting of that type.   If that theory is correct, I presume that the troops crossing the river on such a contraption would just be clinging to the device and getting partially wet in doing so, if only briefly.  What do you think?   PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: mack on August 06, 2019, 01:37:52 AM
that would work,i know because when I was about 10yrs old,me and my pals used to hang around on the old clay pit near my village,it was huge and had plenty of places to float a raft,one of my mates came up with the idea of piling up two bundles of thick cardboard and wrapping them in a old piece of tarp that had all been dumped down the pit,we tried it out and it floated but we didn't have any way of sealing it and it came apart,but it did work,i still remember that piece of tarp,it had UCP tripe works stencilled on it,the UCP was also in my village

mack
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 06, 2019, 08:01:25 AM
Mack,

Many thanks for your helpful contribution.   PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 06, 2019, 11:01:46 AM
Mack,

Re your endeavours at the clay pit.

Your attempted use of a tarpaulin at the pit, indicates that the use of this material, coupled with an ability to seal, must surely have been the type of sheeting used by the sappers to build their raft.  Again many thanks.  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: mack on August 06, 2019, 11:22:04 AM
who needs modern technology Philip,when you have a lump of straw a bit of old tarp and a pot of glue,chuck in a few clever REs and you have full scale river assault,the british army at its best

mack
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 07, 2019, 11:18:48 AM
To continue.     On the 14th September 1914 the 2nd Manchesters were ordered forward to the Chivres Spur.   This area was in enemy hands and held extremely strongly.  Indeed, the German forces had even garrisoned an ancient fortification known as Fort de Conde.  Advancing along the Ste. Marguerite to Chivres road, the 2nd Lancs. Fusiliers came up against heavy fire from the region of Chivres village, together with that from the Spur.   The battalion's advance was halted and the British Army in this region could go no further.   At nightfall the 2nd Manchesters came up to relieve the Fusiliers.

Fate was to decree that it would be several years before the Allies would again reach the position the Lancs. Fusiliers and the 2nd Manchesters had so gallantly fought over that day.    On the 20th September the Manchesters were relieved for a well earned rest, crossing the RiverAisne once again and eventually, around the 1st October, journeying to Abbeville and beyond.    PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 07, 2019, 12:18:16 PM
I don't know how many Victoria Crosses were awarded for the Battle of the Aisne, but I see that one such decoration was given to a soldier - F.W.Dobson - of the Coldstream Guards for a brave deed on the 28th September 1914 at Chavonne, east of Vailly sur Aisne.   Apparently, Haig was not in favour of the award being made, but was overruled by the King and a VC was indeed given to Dobson.

I wonder if any decorations were awarded to soldiers of the 2nd Manchesters who were in action during the Aisne battles?  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: mack on August 07, 2019, 07:15:40 PM
Philip
I posted a list some years ago,search 2nd manchesters awards 1914,that should bring up the list

mack
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 07, 2019, 08:36:40 PM
Mack,

Thank you very much.  Found the thread.  PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 09, 2019, 12:00:58 PM
After leaving Chivres-Val, the group set off for Cerny on the Chemin des Dames.  The first stop was at Vailly British Cemetery to see the grave of Brig.Gen. N.D.Findlay who was KIA on the 10th Sept. 1914 - the first Brigadier- General to be killed during the Great War.  From then on, the battle area of Soupir and beyond was studied.   A visit was also made to the Vendresse British Cemetery where Brig.Gen. R.H.Husey is buried, a casualty of the 2nd Battle of the Marne.  He had been reported missing, but subsequently it was found that he had died as a POW a few days after capture.

The German forces had destroyed all the bridges over the Aisne, but it was discovered that the remains of the bridge at Bourg-et-Comin could be be negotiated by the sappers repairing the adjacent Oise-Aisne aqueduct.  This task was carried out by the 23rd & 26th Field Coys. R.E. on the late afternoon of the 13th September 1914 enabling British cavalry to go forward.  Visiting the location, I again realised the expertise of the Royal Engineers employed on that particular task and similar duties, which enabled the British advance to proceed.

The next stop was at Soissons and its Memorial to the Missing and to list the names of any Manchesters engraved on its panels.     PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 12, 2019, 09:32:40 AM
To properly view the Soissons Memorial a gate key was required.  Fortunately, "the leader" had made appropriate arrangements and access was achieved, enabling the few names of Manchester Regiment men engraved on its panels to be listed.  Clearly, they had been in action in the 2nd Battle of the Marne 1918 and this led to extensive research, ably assisted by members of the forum.  This produced a picture, that although the Manchester Regiment as such did not take part in the battles of the Marne, men of the Manchesters attached to other regiments most certainly did and in some cases died in doing so.

I noted that Brigadier-General C.T.Martin's name was recorded on the memorial's panels.  He died on the 27th May 1918.   This makes a total of three officers of this rank who died during the campaigns mentioned in this thread - 2 KIA & 1 DOW.   PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 13, 2019, 02:44:10 PM
 With regard to the B.E.F. wounded.    The practice was to evacuate the wounded from the battlefield and bring them into a Regimental Aid Post, but one of the problems that faced such soldiers was the difficulty of reaching them.    It seems that the German snipers did not recognise the Red Cross arm bands and in those circumstances, stretcher bearers could not always reach all wounded.  Various types of accommodation were located to use as RAP's.  14th Field Ambulance set up a post in a farm close to Ste. Marguerite, which because of enemy fire could only be reached from one direction.  Perhaps this location was called Julien Farm where Sgt. Rothwell, mentioned in a recent thread, was buried?

In regard to the provision of rations for the wounded, whilst it seems issues for the RAMC personnel came up regularly, rations for their wounded patients were never issued, thus hindering the recovery of the slightly wounded.    The British Army moves in a mysterious way.                 PhilipG.

Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on August 15, 2019, 02:59:44 PM
In conclusion, I understand that B.E.F. casualties numbered over 13,000.    That is a rather dire figure.    PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on October 31, 2019, 11:29:27 AM
Following some further research, I found a description of the state of the battle-scarred wounded as they were carried into a RAP.   These men had come straight from the fighting.  They were very dirty, some were covered in blood from their wounds and as they entered the post it was clear that the simple medical facilities which were available to them were inadequate.   Tragically, it was obvious that some were so badly wounded that they would be disabled for life.   What was to be their future?     They were brave men.     PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: charlie on October 31, 2019, 04:00:11 PM
I‘ve attached a portion of the coloured map contained in the Official History (1914 Vol 1 maps, map 31), which clearly shows the course of the stream leading to the mil. (posts 12 & 13)

Digressing slightly from the Manchesters, I found the introduction to 1914 Vol 2 of the OH very interesting as it deals with the mobilisation of the BEF, the call up of reservists, the expansion of the Army and the difficulties faced. It is hard to imagine in today‘s world that car and motorcycle drivers/riders were classed as specialists and that the Army only had 80 motorised vehicles.

 https://archive.org/details/3edmilitaryopera02edmouoft

Charlie
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: Timberman on October 31, 2019, 09:11:10 PM
Ref to the straw and tarp raft.

This is the only ref I can find.

On 19th Feb. 1915 there was a tragic accident when 7 men of the KOYLI Regiment
were drowned during a training exercise. The men were testing
the buoyancy of a raft made of straw bales and tarpaulin sheet measuring 12ft
x 7ft. Such rafts were intended to be used later when crossing canals in Belgium
and France. It was thought at the inquest that perhaps more than twenty soldiers
stood on the raft, which capsized throwing them into the waters of a large pond at
Morton, Gainsborough.Lincs

Not sure if the Motor Raft picture attached depicts the same type of raft.

Neil
 

Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on November 01, 2019, 09:51:22 AM
Charlie,

Thank you.   A useful summary concerning the B.E.F. is given in the the Official History and I quote:   "In the British battalions which fought at the Marne and Ypres, there scarcely remained with the Colours an average of one officer and thirty men of those who landed in August 1914".   It continues concerning the B.E.F.   "It had created such an impression on the Germans that their leaders turned aside to seek less stubborn foes................".     PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on November 01, 2019, 09:55:26 AM
Timberman,

Magnificent research.  Congratulations.   PhilipG.
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: Timberman on November 02, 2019, 11:25:30 AM
Although I have put this map on the forum before, I think for people visiting
this topic it gives an idea of the movements of the 2nd Bn.

From Le Harve 16th August 1914,
to La Basse'e 20th October 1914

Click on the picture to make it bigger.

Neil
Title: Re: Following the B.E.F. and the Manchesters
Post by: PhilipG on November 02, 2019, 06:01:15 PM
Timberman,

Thank you.   Very appropriate.      PhilipG.