On 23 August 1914 it was only the two divisions of General Smith-Dorrien's II Corps that were directly engaged with the German First Army along the line of the Mons-Conde Canal. As the British Expeditionary Force withdrew from Mons and bivouacked around Bavay on 25 August, Sir John French and his GHQ advisors - unsure of the condition of the routes through the Foret de Mormal - ordered the British Expeditionary Force to continue their retirement the next day and to avoid the 35 square miles of forest roads. Consequently II Corps used the roads to the west of the Foret de Mormal and Sir Douglas Haig's I Corps those to the east - with the intention that the four divisions should meet again at Le Cateau. It was an intention that was ambushed by circumstance as I Corps encountered units of the German 7th Division at Landrecies on 25/26 August. Unsure of the weight of the German attack at Landrecies, Douglas Haig hurriedly left for Grand Fayt and ordered his two divisions to immediately begin their retirement along a route that would take them west of Le Cateau. It was this decision that kept the by now five divisions of the BEF apart until 1 September and is the subject of this book.
I Corps was now coming under attack from the German Second Army and the resulting rearguard actions that Haig's men were involved in are covered in this volume: Landrecies 4 Guards Brigade Grand Fayt 2 Connaught Rangers Maroilles 1 Royal Berkshires Etreux 2 Royal Munster Fusiliers Cerizy 5 Cavalry Brigade Villers-Cotterets 4 Guards Brigade The account concludes on the Marne.
Jerry Murland followed a successful career as a teacher and since taking early retirement he has devoted his time to researching and writing about the Great War. His books include Retreat and Rearguard 1914, The Battle on the Aisne 1914 and Aristocrats Go to War: Uncovering the Zillebeke Cemetery, Aisne 1914 and Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918: The Fifth Army Retreat.