'Wine from a Mountain Cave'
by Frederic Coleman
from his book ‘From Mons to Ypres with General French’ 1917


The Old Contemptibles on the Road to the Aisne

the British army in action on the continent in 1914 - magazine covers
to part 2 - Fighting on the Aisne
previous part - the Battle of the Marne


On the morning of Sunday, the 13th, no less an undertaking than the crossing of the Aisne was to fall to the lot of the cavalry. Orders had come for a general advance. The 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades were to move north. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was to reconnoitre the river crossings from Villers to Pont-Arcy.

The item of the greatest interest to me in the daily orders was the point given as the general objective of the Brigade. No matter how impossible for motor-cars the country which de Lisle would traverse with his troopers, if I knew the objective, I would be there before his arrival, or close after it. The point given as the 2nd Cavalry Brigade objective that 13th of September, was Chamouille, a village some ten kilometres due north from Bourg, on the road to Laon. Night did not find us at Chamouille. True, we were to cross the Aisne on that day, and to do so in unexpectedly good time. Chamouille, however, we were not to see that day, nor the next. Nor have English or French troops set foot in that village yet, though another 13th September has come and gone.

At 4.30 a sergeant came in with the report that the bridge across the Aisne at Villers had been found destroyed, and a pontoon bridge had been constructed within fifty yards of it. A bit later came a report from Bourg. The bridge there also was destroyed, but a nearer bridge over a canal that ran parallel to and south of the river had been left intact. More important, a third bridge in the vicinity, by which an aqueduct was carried over the main stream of the river, was still standing. If that bridge could be rushed, the passage of the Aisne would be secured and a way made for the advance of the troops of the ist Infantry Division behind us.

Daylight struggled through the haze just before five o'clock, and showed us a lowering sky. A sharp burst of heavy rain fell.

The 9th Lancers and the 4th Dragoon Guards were ordered to take the Bourg bridge at five o'clock, and effect a crossing of the river.

Why we were allowed to get over the Aisne with so comparatively little opposition at Bourg will probably never be known. Some German had blundered, and blundered badly. A couple of batteries of our field-guns gave the town a sound shelling, and the dismounted troopers surged across the canal bridge. At the far side the damaged river bridge gaped before them. On their left was the aqueduct bridge. Behind its embankment were German infantry with a machine-gun. Their position rendered them safe from our shells, and gave them opportunity to pour a fire into the flank of our attack, almost into its rear. Nothing remained but to rush the enemy, which was done most gallantly, and with gratifying success. The 4th D.G.'s lost Captain Fitzgerald and four or five men killed at the bridge, and the 9th Lancers suffered some casualties, but, considering the advantage gained and the importance of the crossing, the resistance was absurdly slight. When the aqueduct bridge was finally won, and the Germans who defended it dislodged or killed, great was our amazement at the weakness of the force which had been left to guard it. The German guns from the heights north of the river began shelling Bourg as soon as we had taken it, but for the most part they were busy protecting the broken bridge at Pont-Arcy and the pontoons at Chavonne, both to our left. At these points the 2nd Infantry Division met stubborn resistance, but eventually won their way across the river.

Showers came and went. The roads were deep with mud. I crossed after the guns. The main bridge over the river being impassable, my only alternative was the aqueduct bridge. The half tow-path, half lane beyond was not meant for car traffic. The artillery had ploughed through, however, so on I went. Axle-deep in thick mud, slipping, sliding, skidding slowly forward, I at last came to the point where the guns had made a path up the steep bank to the main roadway beyond. No choice remained but to charge it at such speed as one could muster. Near the top the whirring wheels refused to bite, and back the car slid towards the river. At the edge of the bank the driving wheels luckily encountered some obstacle that gave them a grip, and the straining, striving car slowly crawled upwards, eventually to force its way, back wheels revolving at full speed in the ooze, up to and over the crest of the bank and on to safety beyond.



The 2nd Cavalry Brigade advanced north towards the town of Vendresse, three to four miles distant. The 1st Infantry Division tramped along in their wake.

Towards noon I encountered an orderly who said General de Lisle wanted me to come up front and bring the luncheon basket, to carry which had now become a daily duty. As I passed detachments of cavalry on the Vendresse road I asked if the General had gone on in the direction I was pursuing, and invariably was answered in the affirmative.

As the road became free of lines of Tommies and ammunition waggons I quickened my pace. At the side of the road the 4th Dragoon Guards stood, dismounted. Someone at the head of the column waved as I sped by, and gave a friendly shout. I waved in return, slowing to pass a squadron of that regiment proceeding in column of twos towards Vendresse. I had lowered the hood, encouraged by a glimpse of the sun, but as I reached a sharp bend in the road not far from the town a sudden shower pattered down, the big drops promising a quick drenching. Mindful of the lunch in the tonneau I stopped the car and jumped out to raise the hood. Before I had done so the squadron overtook me and passed on the trot. First I was tempted to hasten and precede them, but a refractory nut delayed me, so I let them pass, tailing an affable sergeant at the rear, who threw me a cheery word as he jogged by.

A moment later a sharp rattle of fire directly in front, and the whirr of bullets all about, made me pull up in record time, throw in the reverse, and back frantically for the shelter of the bank around the turn. The scattering shots became an angry roar, and a storm of whistling missiles sped overhead. The horsemen left the road at the first volley, and disappeared into the scrub on the left, some of their number falling before they could escape from the path of the fusilade. A bullet tore through the canvas of the hood and gave one of the sticks a nasty smack, but in less time than it takes to tell it I was out of harm's way behind the shoulder of the hill. Backing to the 4th D.G.'s, Colonel Mullins greeted me with a sarcastic question as to whether I was trying to get killed. " Playing at advance guard with a car," he termed it. What I had taken as a friendly wave in passing had been an effort on his part to stop me, as General de Lisle had left the road at that point, and climbed a hill to the left. The fire grew hot again in front, and stray pellets spattered round, so I turned the car in the narrow road and ran further to the rear. Our batteries began the game of dislodging the enemy from Vendresse and the slopes beyond.

An officer from G.H.Q. drove up and chatted for a time. We were not the only part of the Army across the Aisne, he said. The passage of the river had been won by the 3rd Corps to our left and by the 2nd Corps beyond them. All along the seventeen miles allotted to the British front the north bank of the stream was ours save at points of exceptional strength, such as Conde, which was, it proved later, to remain in German hands for many a long month. He told me the sum total of official casualties to that date. Out of 15,800 the number of killed, wounded, and missing, 12,500 were missing, most of the latter being killed or wounded of course. This intimated a sad jumble of reports due to the confusion of the retreat.

By two o'clock I found the Chief and his Staff, who welcomed the luncheon-basket. Before our repast was over the German shells were searching thereabouts, two disquieting visitors coming close over us. Orders came to move back. As I had headed the car forward I was told to turn again and make for a safer position. As I backed to do so two more shells fell in the road not far distant. My consequent effort to rush matters resulted in my back wheels becoming embedded to the hubs in soft earth at the roadside. Whizzy-bang went two more big ugly fellows just beyond. No one was in sight along the way. What to do I did not know. Reckless efforts to jerk the poor car out by its own power drove the rear wheels deeper in their soft bed.


Four shrapnel burst over the trees across from me and rattled and crashed through the branches with a terrifying din. I was at a loss for a solution of my difficulty, and became apprehensive of results.

Down the road from the rear came a two-seated car. The driver pulled up, took in the situation at a glance, dismounted, and producing a stout rope, tied it to my car, and coolly towed it on to the roadway. No sooner had he done so than a very rain of shells fell over the road fifty yards ahead.

Thanking him and admiring his coolness, I explained that the headquarters of which he was in search was further to the rear, and we pulled out without delay to a safer locality. I never learned the name of my benefactor. His pluck saved me. The next day I examined the spot and found two good-sized shell-holes had been made in the road not ten yards from where I had been so ignominiously stuck.

The Brigade went to the high ground between the Bourg-Vendresse road and Verneuil. A battery was shelling the Germans from that position, and soon the German guns replied. The 9th Lancers suffered on the ridge, losing Captain Lucas Tooth, a splendid cavalry officer. Before dark we were relieved by the Rifle Brigade, and our troops went into billets at Oeuilly. A chateau there had been left in a filthy state by the Germans, but piles of clean straw in the ransacked drawing-room made a comfortable resting-place.


on the march in France


On Monday, September 14th, I was called at a quarter-past two in the morning, and asked to be ready to start at 3.30. We were still inclined to wonder by what good fortune we had been allowed to force a way across the Aisne at Bourg, the day previously, with such great success and so few casualties.

Our passage of the Aisne and our pressing forward to Vendresse and up to the Chemin des Dames, a great east-and-west highway beyond, was so important a move, and bore such prospect of result, that it was but natural we should be in ardent expectation of a sight of the Rhine within the near future.

The winning of Bourg, and the consequent following up by Haig's 1st Division of the advantage thus gained, gave Sir John French an opportunity to quickly develop the situation by a general push along our whole front on that Monday morning. We learned that Maunoury, with his French Sixth Army, had crossed the Aisne between Compiegne and Soissons. We knew the French were across the Aisne on our right and we were expected to advance to a new line from Laon, due north from Bourg, to Fresnes, which lies practically due north from Soissons. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was ordered to move off at once via Troyon and Courtecon. Our route from Oeuilly led to Bourg, then north. Between Bourg and the Chemin des Dames the road lay through beautiful country. Well- wooded heights rose on the left, and the way ran along a deep valley until reaching Vendresse, then wound upward past the little village of Troyon. Just before it reached the Chemin des Dames the road passed a large sugar mill. The town of Courtecon, our objective for that day, lay beyond. Courtecon was at that time, and has always been since, in German hands.


fighting from the Marne to the Aisne


We started full of hope of pressing on to further success, the battle of the Marne fresh in our minds.

In the dark and the rain, without any lights, the road full of cavalry regiments and attendant batteries of artillery, progress was slow. Ahead of the Brigade, I found a detachment of infantry, which challenged in the dark in so truculent a manner that I decided to wait and allow some of our own command to precede me. I brought the car to rest at a point where the road from Bourg forked, one branch leading to Vendresse, the other to Moulins. As I waited in the rain a single shot rang out on the ridge, the dark woods of which towered above. The Brigade advance guard came up, de Lisle and his staff close behind. The General directed me to follow after him, preceding the advance squadron of the 9th Lancers, which was under command of Captain "Rivy" Grenfell. Passing through the dark gorge before the road curved round to the right and left as it entered the first scattered houses of the village of Vendresse, I lost touch with the advance party and the General. Slowing down, I had a chat with Captain Grenfell. I told him that my orders were to push on, but that I thought it would be wiser for me to keep out of the way of his advance squadron and follow behind it. I was not sure of the road, had lost the advance guard, and manoeuvring the car without lights, with no one preceding me in the roadway, might cause some delay and confusion. Grenfell agreed that I should be less in the way if I would follow his squadron. This decision undoubtedly saved my life.


artists rendering ofBritish soldiers in action


We toiled along in the dark, when suddenly from the front came the rattle of machine- gun fire and a storm of bullets. The road was sufficiently wide for me to turn the car. I sped away towards the other squadrons of the 9th Lancers, which were coming up. The leading squadron, behind which I had been crawling, scattered off the road when the machine guns in front opened fire. The first volley shot Captain "Rivy" Grenfell dead, a bullet striking him in the forehead as he was riding up the road.

The Germans were bent on holding the crest of the hill. General Bulfin's 2nd Brigade, the Sussex, the Northamptons, and 60th Rifles, were on our left front. The 4th Guards Brigade were further to the left, but what troops, if any, were on our right I could not discover. The machine-gun and rifle fire grew increasingly heavy in front. The enemy were in greater strength than we had anticipated. For a time I sat in the valley with but little information. Stories were told me of Captain Grenfell's squadron, one being that the Germans had allowed our advance guard to pass through their lines before opening fire. Later we learned that the advance guard had left the road, and Grenfell's squadron was acting as the point.

A motor-cyclist was sent up to get information of the situation on the crest. On his return he reported that our Brigade was well under cover, and we were holding our position but not advancing. Later an orderly from the front, with a moment to spare, told me our troops were no further forward than the point we had reached the day before. A captain who had a scouting party along the crest during the night joined our conversation. He said he saw no Germans above Vendresse, evidence that some of the enemy had advanced at dawn. Some Scots Guards came down the hill wounded, and reported that the fire from the enemy in the vicinity of the sugar-mill was very heavy.

It was a rainy, dreary morning. By seven o'clock a number of wounded had come to the dressing station at the foot of the hill. Our batteries had begun firing, but so far no enemy shells had disturbed us. Another of our batteries dashed up towards Vendresse, a most inspiring sight. Major Beale Brown, of the 9th Lancers, told me more of Captain Grenfell's death. His squadron had proceeded under the impression that they were following the advance guard, and bumped right into the German picket. Captain Grenfell was the fifteenth officer of the 9th Lancers killed during the campaign. The 18th Hussars and a battery went by. Our field-guns opened with increasing frequency in positions to the right and left. The Welsh Regiment and the Gloucesters passed, the former followed by its handsome white goat. Stout chaps the infantry men, bearded like a pard, except for sundry hairless youths. Their firm step in the muddy road as they swung along at a good four miles an hour was evidence of their fitness and the spirit that was in them. Their faces showed great contrast, and I was struck by the youthful ones among them. In the dull, lowering, apprehensive weather, swinging forward grimly in the drizzle to face the German machine-guns on the crest, one could well be proud to be fighting under the same flag. A short mile away many of them were to meet their death. They were not going towards it carelessly, or thoughtlessly, but were pressing forward with the eagerness of splendid fighting stock, when the battle is within sight and hearing. A heavier roll of rifle fire, or an increase in the staccato of the rapid fire guns, seemed a signal for a quickening of their step. I never saw finer soldiers.

General de Lisle took me down to the headquarters of the 1st Division at the cross- roads outside Vendresse, where we learned that the infantry had definitely captured the ridge, and on the right were through Paissy, which was taken the day before, and had got well beyond it. The numbers of wounded increased every minute. Batteries continued to be sent up the hill and off to the right. The German shells came closer to us. Three shells fell on the roadway not far ahead of a dozen couples of stretcher- bearers, who had started for the front. They trudged on stolidly. Our guns behind us, right and left, were hammering away so pertinaciously that it was likely we would soon come in for a severe return fire. A heavy infantry engagement commenced in front of Paissy. The shots echoed down the glen in an increasing din. The General returned to the 2nd Cavalry Brigade headquarters. We passed the North Lancashires on their way to the firing line.

De Lisle's formula when starting on our little expeditions by car was, " I would like to go on now, President, if you do not mind going under fire again." " President " was my nickname, bestowed to mark my nationality. De Lisle was always cheerful. He had an increasing amount of enjoyment that morning watching my nervous jumps when the "Black Maria" shells exploded in our vicinity. The big howitzer shells caused me an unusual amount of nervousness. Just before ten o'clock a couple of messages were passed by word of mouth down the troops along the roadway. The first one, thrown from detachment to detachment, was, "Pass the word back that no notice is to be taken of the white flag." Sinister message that, telling its own story. Someone had trusted the white flag as a signal of surrender, to his cost.

The next few days were replete with such instances, but the first of such stories that came to our ears made the greatest impression.

The next message said, "Pass the word that German prisoners are going by." Fast on its heels, as we looked up the road in anticipation, came another message, " Pass the word back that no rude remarks are to be made as they go by." How many budding gems of scorn were nipped by that last order.

Prisoners drifted past, half a hundred of them, dejected in appearance, but sturdy and well-fed. They looked little like members of an army that had been pressed so hard in retreat as had Von Kluck's. At ten o'clock we ran up a cross-road, a mere lane, to Moulins, and climbed the steep hill to Paissy, a mountain village. Its cave dwellings and its one roadway nestling in the shelter of the high cliffside were full of picturesque Algerians and Zouaves. Leaving the car we walked to the top of the cliff, and were afforded a wonderful view. English cavalry of another Brigade galloped by on the skyline. We could see but few troops, but the General explained that in front of us some of the ist Corps infantry were getting into touch with our 2d Cavalry Brigade. As we stood at the top of the ridge it was most inspiring to feel that one of the greatest battles of the world's history was in progress in front of us. No one was at so good a point of vantage as we were to witness it. Yet we could see but little of it. If our First Army and d'Esperey's French troops on our right could succeed in forcing a way through the German line, and drive a wedge separating the seven Corps in front of us, a great victory might result. French motor-cars filled with eager officers had been pushing about all morning in search of our Divisional generals. Events seemed to be marching rapidly towards the consummation of our desires.

Once let us break through and pivot the line on our left, swinging our right up the road to Laon, great things might be expected. Our anticipation of success in this huge battle for position between armies of somewhat equal numbers, and our enjoyment of the magnificent view of the high hills and deep valleys, were interrupted by the continual searching in our vicinity of the German high-explosive shells. Their increasing frequency made me wish to cut short our visit to Paissy, in spite of the vantage afforded, for the longer we stayed the closer they came. Running down the hill and to Moulins, I turned up a cross-road, when the engine of the car began to miss fire, and finally stopped. Of all the positions in which I had been during the morning, that was the most awkward in which to repair a balky car. A battery was stationed forty yards distant in a field. It was firing steadily, and the German guns were returning the compliment with equal persistency.

I detached the pipe leading to the carburettor, and blew out the petrol line with the aid of the tyre pump. To hurry the operation was impossible. A couple of shells dropped in the field at my side, and made me bungle the work. The banging of our guns, the smash of the German high-explosive shells near-by, the rattle of the rapid-firers and the roll of the rifles all round us as the great fight drifted to the left, made the air seem charged with electricity. I steadied myself, made a careful examination of the petrol line, and at last got it cleared. The General had walked on. I lost no time in leaving that unpleasant position. Passing over the same road a few days later, I marvelled to see the holes on either side and on the edge of it, where hundreds of German shells had fallen that morning.

We returned to our wayside headquarters and made a good lunch of bully beef and bread and butter. General Bulfin's 2nd Brigade had been held up at the sugar mill, and the North Lan-cashires had been sent up through Vendresse in support. The 4th Guards Brigade, advancing in front of Chavonne and Soupir, with Ostel as their objective, had experienced wicked fighting, but reached the Ostel ridge. The struggle for the sugar factory and the Chemin des Dames position was still proceeding. Our troops that had passed Paissy had not yet reached the Chemin des Dames on their side. The Moroccan troops, on the right of the British line, had not brought their line far forward.

We received a report that the French had taken Craonne, further to the right. We were destined to receive numerous reports to that effect within the next few days.



That lunch was the first meal I had eaten to the sound of heavy artillery fire in close proximity. I have breakfasted in a boiler factory, and dined to the accompaniment of an equatorial thunderstorm. That luncheon had elements of both. I went with General de Lisle to Major-General Lomax's headquarters and heard our batteries sent up the hill to assist the attack on our left front. I was sent to move back our transport, as the 2nd Cavalry Brigade had been ordered to the left. The counter-attack of the Germans to the west of the 4th Guards Brigade had threatened to drive back the 3rd Division, who were in front of Vailly. A staff officer told me that the 3rd Division had been unable to reach Aizy, and that the enemy counter-attack in that quarter might turn our left flank.

After I had delivered my message to our transport I waited at a fork in the road, watching 300 German prisoners, including four officers. Nearly double this number of prisoners were taken that morning. The 300 gathered at that point had been captured in the trenches above Troyon by the Sussex Battalion, in a direct charge, in which Lieutenant- Colonel Montresor, of that regiment, was killed. By noon the German counter-attack in front of Chivy, north of Verneuil, developed strongly. Half an hour later, the fight still drifting westward, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade left the road to mount the hill toward Verneuil, winding up the steep ascent in column of twos. Squadron after squadron and regiment after regiment disappeared in the undergrowth at the top of the rise. A lame horse left behind refused to be abandoned, and hobbled along in the rear of his regiment in pathetic testimony to his willingness to go with the others, no matter where they were bound. The rain ceased and the sky cleared, a fresh wind springing up to dry the muddy road. I walked up the slope, and, gaining a good point of observation, lay and watched the artillery duel on the far hillside. Clouds of black smoke and white bursts of shrapnel against the varying green of the thick foliage made a fascinating picture. A despatch rider showed me a message from General de Lisle to General Lomax stating that I Battery was in action one mile northwest of Bourg, that the shelled Germans were running from their trenches, and that our 1st Division troops could be seen advancing. Red Cross attendants, doctors and ammunition supply passed frequently. At 3.45 I ran to General Lomax's headquarters to enquire which road I should take to rejoin General de Lisle. I was told to go to Verneuil, and there ask for information.

Returning to Bourg, which I found full of 1st Division wounded, I passed on to Verneuil, the streets of which were littered with dead horses and men. I counted thirty-five dead horses from where I stopped. I was told General de Lisle was further to the right, but the shell-fire was so continuous over the road that I returned to a point near Bourg. High explosive shells fell before me, behind me, and on both sides of me, as I made the return journey. At times I ran through clouds of black smoke from the big howitzer shells. In front of Bourg a battery of our 60-pounders was in action, and I stopped by them some little time. Fifteen empty ambulances passed en route for Verneuil, and shortly afterwards another dozen followed. One of the hospital men told me three hundred of our wounded were in the town.

A German aeroplane hovered over a battery of our guns to the left of Verneuil for a moment. Immediately afterwards a very tornado of the enemy's shells were hurled at the battery. We expected to see it put out of action, but, to our surprise, it continued firing.

Seeing the cavalry moving west across country, I drove to Soupir, and from there to Chavonne. On reaching Chavonne I found that the General had gone up the steep road to the heights north of the town, where the Coldstreams and the Guards had entrenched themselves on the crest. Shells were dropping with monotonous regularity between Chavonne and Soupir.

At lunch we had discussed the desirability of annexing something in the nature of drinkables. Lieutenant Rex Benson, of the 9th Lancers, told me that in the quaint hill town of Pargnan, not far from Oeuilly, I would find a woman at a tiny hotel, from whom I might obtain a bottle or two of wine. I left word that I would return before dark, and drove hurriedly to Oeuilly and up the winding ascent to Pargnan. The proprietress of the hotel was most hospitable. She could let me have two bottles of wine at one franc each, she said. The production of a twenty-franc note and a request for a good supply led to a journey with Madame, an old retainer, an emaciated youth and a pair of infants. Down the cellar stairs we went, moved a pile of large empty casks from a further corner, then down a black hole, stooping low and stumbling against each other in the darkness. At the end of the passage a candle showed we were in a good sized cave in the hillside, with low ceiling of damp rock and floor of soft sand. A walk into the further blackness, and the boy was told to dig. The woman had buried her wine to keep it away from the Germans. Dig the lad did most valiantly for some time, but in vain. One of the toddlers was despatched for a larger shovel. After its arrival, by dint of our combined exertions, we exhumed four bottles of champagne and fourteen of a very passable red wine, which had been buried four feet below the surface. My offer of twenty-five francs for the lot was eagerly accepted.

I arrived at Soupir after dark, finding our headquarters in a small tumbledown barn at the corner of the grounds of a chateau which had belonged to Calmette, the editor of the Figaro, not long before shot by Madame Caillaux. General de Lisle ran to the chateau, where we found General Briggs' headquarters. After a consultation, we returned to our humble quarters and turned in for the night. I was so tired I went to sleep in the car. The firing in front of us began vigorously in the early part of the night. Another message to Briggs became necessary. Captain Barrett wakened me, and asked me to run to General Briggs' headquarters. There was a strict order against any car lights. The road was in a frightfully slippery condition and deeply ditched on either side. So it seemed better policy to walk. As I had been the only one to accompany the General on his previous visit, Barrett asked me to act as guide. Cavalry and artillery filled the beautiful parks. The dull light of the camp fires showed picturesque groups here and there under the trees. We were challenged several times. More than once the challenge was accompanied by the ominous click of a bolt, always disconcerting when the challenging sentry is so close to the line. One never knows just how jumpy sentries may be under the stress of circumstances.

We found General Briggs seated on the steps of the chateau. He explained the situation carefully. The left of the cavalry was to rest on the river, its right to be in touch with the left of the Guards. We returned to our own headquarters by eleven o'clock to find that the mess wagon had come up. A slice of ham and a piece of bread made a good dinner, and I immediately afterwards "turned in" on a blanket spread beside the car. Firing became incessant towards midnight, but I slept soundly until a sharp rainstorm drove me under shelter. I tried the floor of the barn. The General was sleeping in the manger. The staff were spread about here and there on the earthen floor. I chose several positions in turn, all of them being impossible from the standpoint of comfort. Hummocks and hollows of exasperating shapes seemed to protrude themselves upon me wherever I might lie. Withal, I spent one of the most uncomfortable nights of the campaign.

So the day ended, with our hopes of piercing the German line shattered, and with the dawning realisation that we were facing a splendidly prepared and dangerously strong position. It began to filter into our minds that the German retreat was over and that we had best prepare ourselves for fierce counter-attacks to hold the lines we had gained. We were well across the Aisne. We heard that Maunoury at Vic had done well and was not unsuccessful at Soissons. Our 3rd Corps were reported to have a strong position in the direction of Chivres and Vrigny. The 3rd Division was still in Vailly. Our Chavonne- Soupir line leading away north of Verneuil and on to Troyon, thence to a point north of Paissy had been maintained, if not advanced materially. Good news came from the French in front of Craonne, and again we heard they had taken that town, although subsequent reports invariably came after news of Craonne's capture to tell us that the Germans still held it.

Promise of a hard fight to maintain our positions was sure on the morrow. Sleep was of inestimable value, so we slept as best we could.

to part 2 - Fighting on the Aisne


armed French boy scout guiding British cavalry


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