On 24 August 1914, in the aftermath of the Battle of Mons, the land of Audregnies itself experienced a devastating battle for the English army. Posted in the heart of the Borain countryside, the British Expeditionary Force and specifically the 1,000 men of the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment came up against the four regiments of the German army.
The sacrifice of the Cheshire Regiment
The operating troops’ report foreshadowed the outcome of the fighting. In the early morning of 24 August 1914, 4,000 Britons struggled to fight the 12,000 Germans facing them. With no time to dig trenches, men used mishaps on the ground to defend their position and organise the retreat. At 12.30pm, there was heavy fire from the German artillery which exerted its power for many bloody hours. The bravery of the English cavalry was limitless but the power relationship was unbalanced.
The Norfolk Regiment, which was allowed to retreat if necessary, withdrew, while the Cheshire Regiment was ordered to resist at all costs. On the evening of the battle, only 200 men in the Cheshire Regiment had survived of the 1,000 involved. Still today, the conflicting orders received by the British regiments are subject to interpretation. They are no doubt partly responsible for the massacre of the Cheshire Regiment. Nevertheless, history will remember the sacrifice of these men who allowed the British Expeditionary Force to continue its retreat to Le Cateau and prepare the Allied counteroffensive of the Marne. This counter-offensive would save Paris and stop the advance of the enemy!
The Memorial in the heart of the battlefields
At Audregnies, a memorial recalls this tragic day. The monument commands respect; the sites are still charged with a distinct atmosphere, and it’s palpable. In the heart of the countryside, silence prevails. It adds a dimension to this duty to remember, so we don’t forget the tragic moments of the First World War. The ground on which the fighting occurred extends over a mere 15 square kilometres. Bordered to the north by the main road Grand-Route Quiévrain-Boussu and to the south by the road Angre-Audregnies-Elouges, the Memorial is positioned along the road which represents the front line. On site, the two armies are each symbolised opposite each other. Each army has its colours, with a blue element to represent the French officer present at the battle. An information panel lays forth the main points of the battle. In particular, you’ll learn of the heroic episode involving the rescue of the English artillery gun battery. To extend your memory journey, note that at Audregnies a small parcel of land is reserved for the tombs of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. 41 soldiers are buried there: 40 Britons (32 of which are non-identified) and a French soldier. Originally buried on the battlefield, these British soldiers belong to the 1st Cheshire Regiment and the 1st Norfolk Regiment. The French soldier Henri Robert Vauvieux Pottin was the interpreter of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards. All fell on 24 August 1914 in the retreat from Mons to Le Cateau.