ARCHIVES INDEX (new window)Memoirs of World War I
Richard Irving Dacre R.A.M.C.
 
Part 9 - A STORY OF THE GREAT RETREAT

I was M.O. to a Unit and I got separated in the going back. I took up my position on the other side of a railway culvert where I was protected from fire.There wasn't much shell fire but machine gun bullets were flying about. I was with my orderly who was a St. John's man, very frightened but stuck to me all the time.

There was a crowd of civilians pouring through the tunnel and passing over a bridge across a small stream. I remember two ladies, elderly, in full evening dress and hats walking along quite happily, who said 'Good-day' to me and then two men on horseback tried to force their way through the crowd, pushing people aside and knocking them over. They were gone before I could do or say anything.

Two young Guardsmen came through and stopped. One of them showed me a bleeding wound in the calf and as I had no dressings whatever, I said to him, "Get along, sonny, try as best you can and as quick as you can." The last I saw of them they were limping back and up over the hill at the back.

There was one large French woman who was mad with hate and was shouting her 'Sales Boches'. I tried to get her out of the way because she was blocking the road. As I could do nothing with her, my orderly pushed her over the bridge into the stream.

Then I came across an R.H.A. driver who had a long black beard. He had lost everybody and his one idea was to get back as quickly as possible. At that moment a crowd of French infantry came tearing back and took up a position along the Railway. I thought I had better get back a bit. I retired over the bridge and helped a few wounded on to a water cart.

At that moment four distracted and dismounted cavalry officers halted just by me in a little bit of dip and I gave them a rifle and bayonet each and they kept on firing until their ammunition had run out. I had a machine gun which they mounted, but they did not know how to use it until I got hold of a wounded private who helped them. One of them said, "Oh for a horse!" - at which, a stray horse came galloping over the open and was caught by one of the junior officers. I don't know what happened to them afterwards because the Boche were coming over in their thousands across the fields the other side of the Railway.

My orderly said it was about time we moved and suggested that I might be better off without my pistol. I can remember an awful mix up of fellows bayoneting and being bayoneted and I went up the hill along the road. We filled our water bottles and the R.A.M.C water bottle from a small spring and caught up the civilian stragglers. These poor people were dead beat and kept falling down from sheer exhaustion and the only thing we could do was to help them to the side of the road so as to keep the road clear. I heard afterwards that we were the last to come up the road as the troops we had left had been annihilated. Getting over the hill we came across a stream and my orderly and I got some buckets from an artillery camp which was deserted, filled them at the stream and gave drinks to the various people who came along. I remember I had to do this at the point of the revolver because people would stay too long. We got away a lot of wounded because there were quite a number of wagons, odd horses and stray drivers.

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