Was World War I
an avoidable debacle ?
August 23, 1914
Mons, Belgium – Western Front
British Expeditionary Force led by Sir John French and the German troops led by General Alexander von Kluck
The Battle of Mons was one of the Battle of the Frontiers, the earliest battles fought by the British Expeditionary Force. Having landed in France on August 14, 1914, the British troops matched two corps and one cavalry division to the four corps and three cavalry divisions of advancing German forces. The British troops made an attempt to hold off an overwhelming German First Army at the Mons-Conde Canal. The British riflemen wrought havoc amidst the German troops. But later in the day, the French Fifth Army retreated leaving the British troops unsupported. General von Kluck’s men beat back the British troops and causing over 8,000 causalities. This led to a withdrawal of the British troops.
Sir John French had initially meant for the retreat to be strategic. With the evening offensive of the German troops, the British Army further retreated. Though Sir French had recommended a complete withdrawal of the BEF from war lines, Lord Kitchener, the British war minister in 1914, ordered the forces to stay. Ultimately Allied forces withdrew to the Marne where the First Battle of the Marne was fought. Though the British forces at the Battle of Mons did not succeed in repelling the German forces, they did delay the advance of Germany to Marne, allowing time for the Allies to regroup and stop the troops from entering Paris.