British in France

4-day battle

The following statement has been communicated by the Secretary of State for War: Although the official dispatches from Sir John French on the recent battle have not yet been received, it is possible now to state in general outline what the British share in the recent operations has been.

There has been in effect four days’ battle on the 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th August. During the whole of this period the British troops, in conformity with the general movement of the French armies, were occupied in resisting and checking the German advance and in withdrawing to the new line of defence. The battle began at Mons on Sunday, during which day and part of the night the Germans attack, which was stubbornly pressed and repeated, was completely checked on the British front.

On 24th August the Germans made vigorous efforts in superior numbers to prevent the safe withdrawal of the British army and to drive it into the fortress of Maubeuge. This effort was frustrated by the steadiness and skill with which the British retirement was conducted and, as on the previous day, heavy losses, far in excess of any suffered by us, were inflicted on the enemy, who in dense formation marched forward again and yet again to storm the British lines. The British retirement proceeded on the 25th with continuous fighting, though not on the scale of the previous two days, and by the night of the 26th British army occupied the line Cambrai-Landrecies- Le Cateau.

The battle of this day, the 26th was of the most severe and desperate character. The troops offered a superb and most stubborn resistance to the tremendous odds with which they were confronted and at length extricated themselves in good order, though with serious losses and under the heaviest artillery fire.

Sir John French estimates that during the whole of these operations the losses amount to 5,000 or 6,000 men, but on the other hand the German losses in their attacks across the open and through the dense formations are out of all proportion to those which we have suffered.

Today the news is favourable. The British have not been engaged but the French armies, acting vigorously on their right and left, have for the time being brought the Germans to a standstill.