They enter Ypres

Clearly the Blues were not the vanguard of the 3rd Cavalry Division on the march (this Division, incidentally, possessed only 12 field artillery pieces). That honour seems to have fallen to the Life Guards, who had a far more ‘interesting’ time last night.

Yesterday, according to Dick Sutton’s diary, the whole column had set out to ‘join up with the British Army [i.e. B.E.F.], which was said to be on the other side of Ypres’. Before they reached the turning to Menin, however, they received intelligence that there was a German force there, so they proceeded south towards Menin. When they reached Geluwe they met their own advance guard, who told them that Menin was occupied by about 1000 Germans. Ostensibly it was too dark now to attack, but the real reason the Life Guards were ordered to withdraw to Izegem was that 3rd Cavalry Division H.Q. at Izegem had heard that a German force had arrived at Tielt, seven miles away, and Izegem needed protection. They set out for Izegem the quickest way, across country, which meant they bypassed the Blues, who were still on the Ypres road well short of the Menin turning.

At one o’clock this morning, 14 October 1914, after Sutton had had only two hours sleep, the Life Guards were ordered to ‘march at once [to Ypres] and if possible effect a junction with the British Main Army’. The fear was that if they didn’t do this they would be surrounded. Again they took the quickest route, via Sint-Eloois-Winkel, to meet the Ypres road presumably beyond the Menin turning.

At four o’clock this morning the Blues also set out for Ypres, and George Calderon with them. Assuming they were not taking the same route as the Life Guards, this would be a distance of about twenty miles.

George’s cold had got worse.  He was now run down and uncomfortable:

After a few miles I grew tired of lolloping up and down in the saddle on my diseased urethra and decided (with permission) to ride to battle on the baggage wagon. I waited at the roadside for a long time and saw the whole Cavalry division pass in fours, an immense column it seemed, regiment after regiment on tired but splendid horses […] and guns thundering over the cobbles.  As I looked forward after them and heard the guns booming ahead beyond them in the distance, and still no baggage wagon appeared even in the distance behind, it seemed foolish to miss the great event for a local ailment, so I turned and trotted after them again.

With the help of a drug he had bought at a chemist’s, he ‘kept up pretty gaily all day, now with one troop of our squadron, now with another’. At midday they reached the centre of Ypres. The Life Guards were already there, waiting for the arrival of the 7th Division (the infantry units that together with the 3rd Cavalry Division were to form IV Corps of the B.E.F. under General Sir Henry Rawlinson).

The streets and square were full of a fascinated and delighted populace. It seemed like history. Rows on rows of horses everywhere, all over the square and up the side streets, field and horse artillery too; the whole cavalry division, and fine sunny midday. By the greatest spectacular luck, a Taube floated over the city and the market place, with the same cool cheek as the day before, low and slow. With one accord a fusillade broke forth from every street and all over the Square at once; women shrieked faintly in the shops and shut the doors. I took a gun and had four shots myself. Machine guns in the Square, pointing upwards. And soon a universal shout went up from all the city as its nose fell and it floated slowly down. Detailed rumours of the death of the 2 airmen, with exactitudes as to the method; one with his face ‘clean blown away’ by the machine gun. The truth later; the aeroplane came down in a hedge 3 miles outside the town and the two Germans ran away and hid before anybody came up with them.

The Life Guards were billeted this evening a few miles southwest of Ypres on the road to Kemmel, where they made contact, in Sutton’s words, with ‘the cavalry of the Main Army’ (presumably the Cavalry Corps under Allenby, arriving from the Aisne). One assumes that the Blues were billeted not far away.

When George and his troop approached a farmhouse, they were offered ‘well-cooked chops’ for dinner. The farmer’s wife apologised for their being overdone: ‘They had been cooked for the Germans in the morning; but left on our approach and recooked for us.’

This evening was the first time he had been able to take his jersey off since leaving England:

As cavalry is in the front we have to be ready to start out suddenly at night, and I almost always sleep in my boots, gaiters and and spurs, in fact full panoply, with my belt and pistol by me. I have never changed my clothes, but am wearing the same socks, jersey and drawers as I wore when last I came home [3-4 October].  My drawers have never been off […]

At least, though, he had made it to Ypres on horseback and was sleeping tonight in a bed.

On this day German troops occupied Bruges.

Next entry: 15 October 1914


About Patrick Miles

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