Shrewsbury School

The news 100 years ago: The early weeks in the War

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Austria Hungary suffers heavy losses at the hands of Serbian forces driven from Serbia. However the Serbians lack the strength to counter-attack. Austria Hungary invades southern Poland to distract from the blunders against Serbia.

French and German forces clash in Alsace Lorraine in the Battle of the Frontiers. Heavy losses are sustained by the French, forcing them to retreat. Blunders by the Prince Imperial of Germany bring the German armies to a standstill. French forces use the breathing spaces given to them to form a defensive line near Verdun.

The Germans enact the Schliesen Plan: a northern sweep through Belgium before turning south towards Paris. Belgian forces fight hard but are overwhelmed by superior numbers and Brussels falls in days. French and British troops enter Belgium but fall back before the German momentum. An attempt is made at Mons to hold the German advance but it is unsuccessful. The Battle of Mons, 23rd August 1914, sees 1600 British casualties and 5000 German casualties and it leads the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) to name themselves “Old Contemptibles” in defiance of the order of battle given by Kaiser Wilhelm to “sweep aside Britain’s contemptible little army”. The BEF is forced to retreat when its position becomes untenable due to the size of the opposing German forces and the withdrawal of the French 5th Army from Charleroi. Relations between the French and British commanders break down as both forces retreat and communications between both armies also break down and hamper further co-ordination. The retreat lasts until 5th September 1914 before the combined armies of Britain and France throw back the German advance.

On the Eastern Front Russian forces are partly mobilised and launch themselves in a simultaneous attack on Austria Hungaria forces in Poland and the German garrison in east Prussia. Gains are made in both territories but Russian forces fail to meet their objectives.

Old Salopians who fell in the Battle of Mons and the retreat following are:

Captain Thomas Allen Rose DSO, 1st Bn. Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Dayboys, left in 1891. Gazetted from school to 2nd Lieutenancy 1895, promoted 1898 and again to Captain in 1901. Attached to the West African Frontier Force in 1898, he served in 1900 against the Chief of Taweri (mentioned in dispatches), against the Emir of Yola (mentioned in despatches, medal and clasp) and in the Aro expedition (wounded, DSO).
Killed in action in Belgium, 23 August 1914, aged 40.
Buried at Flenu Communal Cemetery, Belgium. Grave II. A. 10/11.

Lieutenant Wilmsdorff George Mansergh, 2nd Bn. Manchester Regiment.
Dayboys, left in 1896. While serving in the South African War (including the action at Wittebergen), he received the Queen’s Medal with 3 clasps. In the battle at Le Cateau, after being wounded, he met his end gallantly giving shelter to another wounded man. Another OS, RT Miller, was also present and writes: “He was hit in the leg… and chanced to fall near an enemy trench and managed to crawl in to it… Shortly after, another man, also in the regiment, crawled up, whereupon Mansergh pulled him in and got the fellow underneath him. It was a shallow trench, for kneeling. Mansergh was now exposed. A shell burst just in front of the trench and Mansergh was killed on the spot.”
Killed in action in France, 26 August 1914, aged 33
La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, France.

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