The Great War, I was there - Part 3

miles outside the town. Why had they not entered the town and mopped up this disorganized mob ?Had they, informed by their aeroplanes of the situation, already encircled the town ?It was nearly half-past twelve before we left St. Quentin. The sultry August day had passed, to leave a thick summer mist. Our small army was at last collected. Every kind of vehicle had been filled with men with blistered feet. In front of them, on foot, were several hundred infantry, mostly of two regi­ments, but containing representatives of nearly every unit in the 4th Division, and behind, to form the rearguard to this extraordinary cavalcade, Tom Bridges’ mounted column—the gallant little band of 4th Dragoon Guards, with driblets of Lancers, Hussars, Irish Horse, Signallers and the rest of the stragglers. In front of all rode a liaison olHcer and a guide sent by the Mayor, and, I think, Tom Bridges. By his side, walking, armed with a walking-stick, was one of the two colonels, a thick-set man, who had surrendered (the other had disappeared). And immediately behind them the miscellaneous “band ”of Jews’ harps and penny whistles. So through the darkness and the thick, shrouding fog of that summer night we marched out, literally feeling our throughway the countryside, so thick was the mist. At about two in the morning we had reached the villages of Savy and Roupy. Just as we started to leave St. Quentin I woke up to the fact that my precious map-case was missing, and I had to return to look for it in the now deserted Grand’ Place. As for a moment I sat on my horse alone there, taking a last look round, I heard an ominous sound—the metallic rattle on the cobbles of cavalry entering the town through one of the darkened side streets that led into the Grand’ Place. The Germans must have entered St. Quentin abut few minutes after the tail of our queer little column disappeared westward through the fog towards Savy. FRIENDS AND ENEMIES OF FRANCE PASSED THIS WAY St. Quentin is a memorable name in the history of the Great War. Through the rue d’Isle, seen above, the British Expeditionary Force passed in August 1914, plodding onwards from north to south towards the railway station which lies at the foot of the hill. Nearly four years later large concentrations took place here before the great German offensive of March 1918. The photograph shows St. Quentin as it is today, a quiet town with all the war-time scars healed. Photo, A .J. Insall, copriglit A .P .Ltd. 98
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