Published By Ben Hillidge
Battle of the Marne. 12 (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers. 5-12 September 1914
GOOGLE MAPS – Centres on Saulchery where the 12 Lancers crossed the River Marne, 9 September 1914.
Extract from The 12th Royal Lancers in France, August 17th, 1914-November 11th, 1918 by H.V.S. Charrington (1921)
“Throughout the following day (7 Sep 1914) when the Brigade captured Rebais, and for the ensuing week, the Germans were steadily pushed back to the Aisne, the Brigade being in action nearly every day, and the Regiment on September 10th playing a very prominent part in a most successful action fought around the villages of Chezy and Gandelu, in which a German convoy was surprised and over 300 prisoners taken, besides a large number of wagons full of stores, the Regiment’s casualties being only 5 men killed and 1 officer and 8 men wounded.”
The 12 Lancers were engaged throughout the first months of the war and, during the Battle of Moy on 28 August 1914 when the Brigade charged with lances against German Dragoons.The unit War Dairy records ‘On getting close the CO observed that the moment was opportune for a charge (on the dismounted German dragoons), killed the lot with the exception of 4 prisoners’. This was one of the last cavalry charges with lances.
During the opening days of the Battle of the Marne the 12 (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers were based around Meaux and Trilport. Between the 5 – 7 September they were patrolling the area to the south of the River Marne. They were on the move each day with overnight stops and bivouacs at around Provins at Le Puits, Bernay and Lumingny. They were frequent encounters with the enemy – especially at the village of Pezarches where they were attacked by enemy artillery and cavalry with 2 ORs KIA and 8 wounded with 12 horses killed or missing. They then began to move northwards as the Germans began retreating. They moved through the area around Rebais and. On 9 September crossed the River Marne at Saulchery and moved through to Charly sur Marne and onwards to the high ground to bivouac at La Haute Baudiere – here they were visited and addressed by CinC General John French – he thanked them for their magnificent work and how they had up held ‘the prestige of the British Cavalry in the highest manner and I thank you from the bottom of my heart’.
The next day, 10 September, they paraded at 4.30am and marched northwards towards Marigny. There had been report reports of large troop movements moving north eastward between the villages of Brumetz and Chezy – there was uncertainty whether they were French troops advancing or German troops retiring, the latter was soon confirmed and artillery set to shelling the columns. 12 Lancers moved forward and advanced to the high ground to the south and above the village of Gandelu. Here they ran into an enemy column, capturing 300 prisoners as wells vehicles and ammunition. The Scots Greys then came up to take the village of Gandelu whilst the 12 Lancers were ordered to advance further and to cross the intervening valley to Brumetz to head off the retreating enemy. Here though the Germans counter attacked from the village of Chezy and the Lancers were forced to withdraw. As they did so they were caught in a bombardment of British Artillery, who thought they were Germans, as well as rifle fire from allied and enemy troops. The War Dairy records ‘this might have had very serious consequences as bullets were coming from every direction, but the officers kept their men well in hand and retired in good order’. They took cover in woods at Brumetz. By 3pm the attack had subsided and they were able to move forward again through Chezy to billets at Passy-en-Valois arriving at 6pm.
Casualties for the engagement, possibly due to ‘friendly fire’. were 5 ORs KIA, 1 officer and 8 ORs wounded and 4 horses killed. The 5 men killed were Private L/399 William N Price, Private L/3280 H Chapman, buried next to each other at Neuilly St Front French National Cemetery; and Sergeant 5562 WH Kempster, Private 5896 E Dudman and Private 3355 WS Reynolds, commemorated on the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial(CWGC). Price and Chapman were buried first at Chezy and later re-interred at Neuilly St Front (CWGC) – the fate or graves of the other three is not known.
References and Sources War Diary 12 (Prince of Wales) Lancers.
B&O 1914. Battle of the Marne. 12 (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers. 5-12 September 1914.