The War Diary of Mervyn Crawshay

1 Sep. 1914

Had all my things spread out, mackintosh etc, and we were just going to eat some breakfast when a sergt came to say an 11th Hussar patrol had encountered a large force of enemy close by. I made the men dress, and we stood to horses awaiting Ansells order to saddle up. He was in village at breakfast.

Immediately after heavy firing broke out from the Bays and shells and bullets poured into the camp. We saddled up and gallopped out losing men and houses, and kit. Rally squadron in a hollow with B. Squad. Expect to charge, so cast all kit, which I never saw again.

Made a flank attack in thick fog up steep hill, all saddles slipped back.

B squadron dismounted, A squadron struck for a farm.

Suddenly, only 80+ off, a firing line loomed through the fog.

We rally behind haystack, 2 troops in action, Sgt. Largford gets into their led horses and drops 16 and several men.

I wanted to charge with a troop twice, Ansell would not let me, then he called to come out mounted, to look.

We had not gone 3 horses lengths into a hail of bullets when he was hit, I could see full. Turned his horse round the corner, and he collapsed into a small wood. I had no time to help him, left 2 men, and continued 1 shooting.

We drove them back, killed 1 officer and 9 men close together, others further back. Get into their supports at 1000 a. Order to retire just as shells found the rick. Head lost young Hill and several men in retiring.

We went down into village and re-sorted out killed, wounded horses, etc.

Then had to Néry all my kit looted the place a shambled. L. Battery saved the guns with very heavy loss.

The Bays horses lying in rows, smashed, men, kit, etc.

We got 10 German guns, mostly through Bays machine gun fire.

Gradually we retired to a village.

Wed 2 Sep. 1914

Marched early at dawn through Forest of Ermenonville, a very ticklish affair, dense undergrowth.

The German Division had evidently gone through at great speed.9th Uhlans horses, coats etc. all over the place.

Water in a village in a hollow, then squadron to a windmill to support 11th Hussars against 2 troops Uhlans but it never came off.

  1. Squadron rear guard. Slept in the garden of a chateau on green wooden shutters, get blankets and brandy from the big farm, also fowls.

Thurs 3 Sep. 1914

Fell back South at dawn. Long hot march, A. Squadron doing flank protection to Brigade.

Water at a canal by a wood and on towards Paris, beginning to think this strategic retirement to be a myth.

Actually got beer passing through a village.

I ride Ansells horse, napper Tandy, he is a rough, uncomfortable ride.

Get to a huge field very polluted in sun. The whole Division is there. We hear that everything is to be hurled from the wagons and that we are to trek at once. It proves untrue, and I bathe in the swift running Savonne with Winnie.

Tear own regimental meal, all together in darkness, with our fingers.

All the dismounted servants, mist etc. are lost.

Fri 4 Sep. 1914

A rest day at last, but the camp stinks and is covered with flies. My particular billet is by a plough. Try to wire V. but its impossible.

Sleep and bathe in the Marne.

Sat 5 Sep. 1914

Marched a Peace march by Chennevieres, Boissy St Ledger, Perigny, to Moissy Cramage.

Put down lines at 2pm 2 hours later with rest of Brigade through Verneuil to Aub Pierre where there was no water. A long march of 40 miles, all foot people disappear. Stopped in a chateau for a few hours. Hot weather.

To Luigny which was our farthest point. S. and limit of retirement.

Now begin to advance.

Sun 6 Sep. 1914

Marched 6. 30 N.E with a view to attack.

Germans had passed by Paris and advanced S.E to attack French left, and we are going N.E for Germans right flank.

 Rest in reserve we go forward 1 mile, then halt again for several hours. At 7pm to billets, some confusion, 1st Brigade in village and another Brigade going through to billet further on.

Mon 7 Sep. 1914

Out of billets 5.30.a.m.

Sir John French’s order issued to effect that British Army had had a bad time in retirement, but was now going to advance to co-operate with French Army.

Enemy retreat, pressed by 2 Cavalry Brigades Water in holes in ground.

A 9th Lancer appears with broken lance and tells of their 2 troop change v. 1 ½ squadrons Uhlans and how he had speared 3. Also of the 18th Hussars successful fire action.

We passed wounded Germans, and prisoners and a few dead in the streets. At Choisy the whole place upside down, looted by Germans.

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