Localised successes at Mons

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2014), Volume 22

The focal point of the Battle of Mons (23 August 1914) was a loop in the canal that attracted fierce German assaults. Therein, a machine-gun section commanded by Lt Maurice Dease from Westmeath defended the crucial Nimy Bridge. Within hours, most of Dease’s comrades lay dead or injured. Despite suffering from multiple wounds himself, Dease continued to load and fire the weapon until his eventual evacuation to the battalion aid station, where he subsequently died. For his gallantry, Dease posthumously received the first Victoria Cross of the Great War. Meanwhile, 2/Royal Irish Rifles were entrenched in the suburbs of Mons itself. In the late afternoon a large force of German infantry attacked this battalion. Emerging from outlying woods and crossing open ground in massed formation, the assailants, most of whom hailed from the port cities of Bremen and Hamburg, exposed themselves to deadly enfilading fire. According to Cpl John Lucey, ‘the worst marksman could not miss, as he only had to fire into the “brown” of the masses of the unfortunate enemy … [this] … gave us a great sense of power and pleasure. It was all so easy.’ The élite Irish Guards had a similar experience, only this time against charging German cavalry. Forming a textbook defensive square, the Guards apparently ‘went about their task with much less excitement than if they had been prepared to witness the finish of a St Leger’, with the result that within minutes the unfortunate enemy Uhlans had been scattered and broken.

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