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Thursday, 12 March 2020

Battle Report - Retreat from Mons August 1914

Brigadier AEW Count Gleichen, Commander 15th Infantry Brigade, 5th Division B.E.F. gives orders to the COs of his three remaining infantry battalions; 1 Norfolk, 1 Bedfords and 1Dorsets, along with OC 119 Field Battery and OC of two Sqns of 9th Lancers:

'15 Bde is to delay the advancing enemy, in order that 5 Div may break clean and rejoin 2 Corps BEF. The Brigade will form a blocking position short of the village of Ouevy Le Petit, holding the low ridge'.

' Phase1: The Norfolks will deploy forward and cover the bridge over the small, shallow, fordable river to disrupt the enemy advance and cause delay. 

The Dorsets will hold the left ridge, with the Bedfords on the right'.

'Phase 2: Once the Norfolks have delayed the enemy advance they are to withdraw back into the village and become the brigade reserve:
'119 Bty is to attach a troop of guns to each battalion and 9 Lancers are to remain in reserve near the village. Brigade HQ will deploy forward with 1 Norfolk during Phase1; thereafter will be in the vicinity of the village church'

The Action at Ouevy Le Petit

Around midday  the first German troops are spotted advancing along the road towards 1 Norfolk, they are the 1st Battalion 36th Fusiliers (1/36):
Commander 15 Brigade, standing near to CO 1 Norfolks gives the order to open fire:
The advancing 1/36th comes under artillery and machine gun fire from the vickers on the bridge:
More German troops are spotted moving up behind 1/36, consisting of 2/36 and some artillery:

The German guns unlimber and begin firing on the bridge:

At the same time, German 1/36 rushes forward in an attempt to storm the bridge. They are met with a hail of machine gun and rifle fire and are decimated, losing two companies:
1/36, breaks and retreats back beyond the small wood.
1/36's machine gun is engaged by British artillery and destroyed:
There is a slight lull as more German artillery arrives and troops from 3/36th pour onto the field:
 More intense artillery fire rains down upon the Norfolks position, destroying the Vickers on the bridge and causing other casualties:
At the same time the leading elements of the German 93rd Chasseurs (1/93) can be seen moving up against the Norfolk's right flank, with more batttalions behind them:

Having given 1/36 a bloody nose, and in danger of being outflanked 15 Brigade commander orders CO 1 Norfolks to pull back to the village and for the Brigade to commence Phase 2:
With 2 and 3/36th still some way off the Norfolks successfully break away and rapidly move up the road passing the Dorsets and Bedfords and take up position in the village:
The Germans are now aware that their front is strongly defended and move forwards more cautiously as 2/36th and 3/36th wade through the shallow river towards the cornfields beyond:
However, 2/36th with artillery support soon runs into the Dorsets defending the wooded ridge to their front and come under intense fire, taking heavy casualties:
Even though they have the combined weight of artillery and rifle fire, which cause some casualties amongst the Dorsets, 2/36th's attack is blunted and they are forced to withdraw.

However; 3/36th's approach offers more cover and they are able to close on the Bedfords and bring down heavy fire. Also, 1/93rd, forces a crossing of the river whilst under fire and threatens the Bedfords further:
A major fire fight around 1 Bedfords position begins. Soon B Coy is decimated and the Bedford's position becomes untenable:
CO 1 Bedford orders his remaining troops to pull back off the ridge and they take up positions behind a fence line under intense fire:
With 1 Bedford pulling back this leaves the Dorsets right flank exposed, so they begin to withdraw back into the village alongside the Norfolks:
Despite heavy casualties the Bedfords manage to hold off the German assault:
A pause in activity then occurred, The Germans had exhausted three battalions, and despite causing heavy casualties 15 Brigade was still holding the ground, albeit having pulled back to the village.

While the british consolidated their defence of the village, the Germans brought up fresh troops and commenced an artillery bombardment. 15 Brigade now had all three battalions in and around the village, with the Dorsets on the left, the Norfolks in the village itself and the Bedfords in the fields to the right:
Soon the British could see the Germans advancing once more. Fresh units from 93rd Chasseurs and two battalions from the newly arrived 86th Fusiliers. They deployed into line across the battlefield:
The third German attack began with heavy artillery fire on to the Norfolks position.
As the barrage lifeted 1/86th storm out of the woods and attack the Norfolks, who by now are beginning to suffer serious casualties:
At the same time, over on the right 2/93rd and 3/36th push forwards towards the Bedfords, who have almost lost half their number:
The battle had reached a crucial point. 1 Bedfords could collapse at any time, however, 1 Norfolks supported by the Dorsets rained a hail of bullets into 1/86th, who stalled, losing a quarter of their number:
The stall was turned ino a rout when when the 9th Lancers crashed into their right flank:
Over on the right, three troops of artillery and the remnants of the Bedfords poured fire into 2/93rd. The German casualty toll reaches close to 50% and the German commander decides to call a halt and regroup. Taking advantage of another lull in the fighting 15 Brigade slips away, leaving many casualties behind.  Over half of the Bedfords had been lost, a third of the Norfolks and about a quarter of the Dorsets - it had been a costly operation, but 5th Division had broken clean and 2 Corps was now approaching Le Cateau - for the next great action.

This battle attempts to capture the spirit of the BEF during the retreat from Mons - but the action at Ouevy Le Petit is a figment of my imagination. The figures are from my WW1 collection. They are mostly Airfix, Hat and some odds and ends, including several conversions.



  1. Replies
    1. I think the houses helped - these are by 'Empire at War'. For me getting the game to look right helps very much with the enjoyment.

  2. Hello there Bob the Old Painter,

    What a cracking action! It really captured the essence of the fighting during the retreat and looked really evocative. Desperate last ditch defending and taking advantage of momentary lulls was key and the game demonstrated this very well indeed.

    It is good to see some of those Airfix figures on the table and the buildings are delightful.

    Reading this fair made my morning!

    All the best,


    1. Hi David, it certainly was a very interesting battle that hung in the balance at various points. Some better dice rolls by the Germans could have seen the Bedfords collapse and that would have changed everything.

  3. Lovely photos and nice to see those Airfix figures!

    1. Along with my Airfix ACW these are may favourite figures.

  4. Fantastic pictures Bob! I always liked the Airfix WW1 figures and they look particularly good here.

    1. Thanks, I have always thought it a shame that Airfix did not expand their WW1 sets to include cavalry and guns for the Germans.

  5. Great report. I see a Matchbox German officer has effortlessly changed sides...😉

    1. Hi Jef, with a name like Brig AEW Count Gleichen, I thought he sounded more German than British!

  6. An enjoyable after battle report Bob...
    It’s always nice to see your Airfix toys out on the table...

    All the best. Aly

    1. Thanks Aly, I always seem to go back to Airfix figures, especially my ACW, WW1 and WW2 collection.

  7. Good looking vintage Airfix, hard to beat! A fine looking game ...

    1. I agree Mark, just something about these little fellows.