Blood is spilt

Presumably B Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Brigade of the Blues also bivouacked last night near Lendelede.

Reveille this morning, Tuesday 13 October 1914, was at four, and two hours later the squadron was moving south again, towards Gullegem, where it could turn westwards to approach Ypres. A German Taube reconnaissance plane ‘floated, with the motor off, slowly overhead down the line of the column as we wound by the cart track over the flat willowed fields’. The whole regiment dismounted to fire their rifles at it, ‘but it sailed slowly, gracefully and impertinently on, uninjured.’

The main impression of our work as yet (and it is typical, I think, of all cavalry work in war) is trotting and walking for hours along the soft part of the roads, clattering through towns and villages; dismounting, watering, feeding, riding on again.

This is accurate, since the traditional role of the cavalry was gathering intelligence about the enemy’s location and preventing him acquiring similar intelligence about one’s own. But since the Boer War the British cavalry had become more flexible than any other. It was the only one armed with rifles. It used machine gun and artillery fire to cover its flanks and charges were the exception rather than the rule.

This morning the Blues sent out their mounted patrols, one including George Calderon. There was no sign of the enemy, so they advanced.

In the afternoon, great excitement on the road. Colonels, adjutants, orderlies galloping madly up and down, and across the fields to the right flank German cavalry in sight. [Lord] Anglesey was sent with a patrol to gallop round in a big circle. As he rode forward parallel to our line a half mile away, we could see Uhlans (2 or 3) galloping away before him between the pollard willows. He never saw them, there were trees between. A force of 500 was reported to be coming down the road towards us.

Calderon observed this whilst taking a pee. He was startled to see that his urine had blood in it. Obviously, this can be a symptom of something serious.  For the time being, he did nothing about it.

An ambush was set for the oncoming Germans, for which purpose George ‘borrowed a gun’, but they never materialised. It rained heavily all afternoon and the fields were soaked. That evening the Blues trudged back to Lendelede, or thereabouts, arriving around eleven. ‘Men and horses tired, sick, and discontented.’

Next entry: They enter Ypres


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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