The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

Tues 18 Aug. 1914

In train all day, stop for a few minutes at various places to water, the people giving one fruit and post cards all the way up.

Arrive at Hautmont in dark and eventually get to a very wet field with long grass, where we lie down.

Wed 19 Aug. 1914

Lead off to Colleret. A very Belgian-French village. Go into billets. On the whole we are in clover [its atmosphere of chicken, farm straw deleted] etc, attending to horses after their journey.

Rode in afternoon with Johnson, the interpreter, and others over the Belgian frontier, and saw the enemies country.

Thurs 20 Aug. 1914

Take A. Squadron for exercise over the country. Find it hopelessly wired in, it looks as if one could cross it anywhere, but we took one hour to go one mile.

Get back to billets for lunch.

Fri 21 Aug. 1914

Marched into Belgium, and struck the pavé. As we were going to billets a large force of Germans reported.

  1. squadron was behind; we massed in some comotion behind a hill. It all fizzled out. Trecked across roots to Villiers St.Ghislain. Ansell took all the Squadron leaders round all defences.

Sat 22 Aug. 1914

This morning busy entrenching my Section. I had a chill after the cold orchard.

Detaining motor fugitives and questioning same. News suddenly from 3rd Brigade that Germans were coming.

  1. squadron to wood to out flank, occupied wood all day.

Saw Germans in distance, one shell within 300 yards. 4 Hussars shelled. Greys opened battle with machine guns. Bays captured patrol in wood. Hear of 4h D.G., change down pavé.

We made long night march over pavé thro’ Mons, round and round thro’ thousands of shouting people. Eventually drop into a village into a farm billet and get a bed.

Sun 23 Aug. 1914

Made night march at a moments notice to the railway line East of Gr., the cavalry are to sight there trenches by night.

Rested all day. Civilian labour eventually comes.

Mon 24 Aug. 1914

At dawn continue our trenches.

A gap is left on my right flank, report to Briggs, he says it is not in his section.

Sure enough, the Germans appear exactly opposite this point of weakness. I cannot make out if friend or foe till a shot comes close to me. Then 2nd troop fires. After we see them in their grey and spiked helmets, left turn and straight at village which they soon get from the cavalry screen. Soon the village ablaze with shells and fire. We retire, various excited men fall into ditches, and rally up to a big factory; Allenby comes there.

We find shells coming close so follow on with Squadron and join Ansell at Elonges.

About 2.pm suddenly recalled, down a hill thro’ a village, and on far side come into thick of it by a haystack. Bullets on all sides. After some hot fighting, retire to farm, several wounded there.

A squadron rear guard to division while it went through village, but Germans never came on.

Retired to Genlain.

Tues 25 Aug. 1914

Start at 5.am. We were left of Rearguard of army, Bays on our right. I was sent to Artres, get to top of ridge safely, and 2 troops are watering, when Germans, (2 batteries and 1 regt. of Jaegers) appear 100 yards off. We managed to rally to a quarry, opened on heavily, but quarry protects us. Get out by troops, and back to regiment, a lucky get out.

Regain Division, then are left as Rear Guard.

Ansell holds on, with a section of guns, very long to save Red Cross. Shelled all round us. Dropped some Uhlans at a farm.

French troops cut up in Valenciennes, we cover their retreat.

Put in infantry trenches, pulled out by Allenby. Retire at dark to a town by a mill. Had to clear at very short notice, supposed to be surrounded. Eventually dropped on road near Beaumont. Very cold and wet.

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