GEN. FRENCH’S DESPATCHES

Dover Express 23 October 1914

GEN. FRENCH’S DESPATCHES

PORTIONS OF LOCAL INTEREST.

LOCAL OFFICERS AND MEN MENTIONED IN DESPATCHES.

On Monday two lengthy despatches from General Sir John French were published. The first despatch deals with the final stages of the retreat of the British Forces on Paris — a retreat that it is clear, from the despatches, was not altogether a forced one, at any rate, during the period under question, as it .was continued for strategetic reasons, at the request of General Joffre. General French goes on to describe how, on September 6th, with the aid of the Sixth French Army, which was suddenly brought up on the British left., the Allies assumed the offensive, and drove the Germans back to the Aisne with great loss to the Germans, both in casualties, prisoners and material. The second despatch, dated October 8th, deals with the Battle of the Aisne, which, when the despatch was written, had come to an end, as the Germans had ceased to make the fierce counter attacks that the British Forces had in every instance re-pulsed. The fallowing references appear in regard to the 12th Infantry Brigade, which hail9 from Dover, and the 10th Infantry Brigade, which was at Shorncliffe. The positions referred to are on the British left, three miles east of Soissons. Chivres is on the plateau on the German side of the Aisne:—

“On the morning of the 13th September the 12th Infantry Brigade crossed at Venizel, and was assembled at Bucy Le Long by 1 p.m.,’but the bridge was so far damaged that artillery could only be man-handled across it. Meanwhile, the construction of a bridge was commenced close to the road bridge at Venizel.

‘At 2 p.m. the 12th Infantry Brigade attacked in the direction of Chivres and Vregny with the object of securing the high ground east of Chivres as a necessary preliminary to a further advance northwards. This attack made good progress, but at 5.30 p.m. the enemy’s artillery and machine-gun fire from the direction of Vregny became so severe that no further advance could be made. The positions reached were held till dark.

“The pontoon bridge at Venizel was completed at 5.30 p.m., when the 10th Infantry Brigade crossed the river and moved to Bucy Le Long.

“The 19th Infantry Brigade moved to Billy sur Aisne, and before dark all the artillery of the Division had crossed the river, with the exception of the Heavy Battery and one Brigade of Field Artillery.

“During the night the positions gained by the 12th. Infantry Brigade to the east of the stream running through Chivres were handed over to the 5th Division.”

On the 18th September General French heard of the new plan of General Joffre to turn the Germans’ right flank. This plan is now approaching realisation. On the 23rd September 6in. howitzers arrived, and were brought into action the next day with good results, and General French points out that the use of such guns is necessary in fights of the character that have taken place in France. These howitzers seem to have had a very good effect, as, following their use and the flank attack, the battle gradually died away. During the operations under the period in review, the casualties amount to 561 officers and 12,980 men—heavy loss it is true, but, considering that they include the losses in the battles of the latter part of the retreat to Paris, the Battle of the Marne, and the fierce pursuit of the Germans to the Aisne, and nearly a month’s battle on the Aisne, one can say that, compared with other losses in this war, they are light, and their lightness is due largely to the splendid field training that our Regular Forces have had. Sir John French gives a list of the officers and men that have been brought to special notice, and amongst those known at Dover we have picked the following:—

There then follows a list of names, one of which is No. 8651 Lance-Corpl. J. Behan. John Joseph Behan was born 6 Aug 1888 at Baltinglass, Wicklow, Ireland and was married to Maria Elizabeth Bowlt on 27 Jun 1912 at Dover, Kent, England who was my 4th cousin 2x removed. He later became a Corporal and was in the Royal Irish Rifles, 2nd Battalion. John and Maria had two daughters.

John Joseph Behan
BEHAN_J.jpg

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