“Although he rendered me valuable assistance later on in the course of the retirement, he was unable for the reasons given to afford me any support on the most critical day of all—namely, the 26th.
GERMANS USE HEAVY GUNS
“At daybreak it became apparent that the enemy was throwing the bulk of his strength against the left of the position occupied by the Second Corps and the fourth division. At this time the guns of four German army corps were in position against them, and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien reported to me that he judged it impossible to continue his retirement at daybreak.
“I sent him orders to use his utmost endeavors to break off the action and retire at the earliest possible moment, as it was impossible for me to send him support.
“The French cavalry corps under General Sordet was coming up on our left rear early in the morning, and I sent him an urgent message to do his utmost to come up and support the retirement of my left flank, but owing to the fatigue of his horses he found himself unable to intervene in any way.
“There had been no time to intrench the position properly, but the troops showed a magnificent front to the terrible fire which confronted them.
ARMY FACED ANNIHILATION
“At length it became apparent that if complete annihilation was to be avoided retirement must be attempted, and the order was given to commence it about 3:30 in the afternoon. The movement was covered with most devoted intrepidity and determination by the artillery, which had itself suffered heavily, and the fine work done by the cavalry in the further retreat from the position assisted materially the final completion of this most difficult and dangerous operation.
“I cannot close the brief account of this glorious stand of the British troops without putting on record my deep appreciation of the valuable services rendered by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. I say without hesitation that the saving of the left wing of the army under my command on the morning of the 26th could never have been accomplished unless a commander of rare and unusual coolness, intrepidity and determination bad been present to personally conduct the operations.
“The retreat was continued far into the night of the 26th and through the 27th and the 28th, on which date the troops halted on the line from Noyon, Chauny and LeFere.
PRAISES SORDET’S HELP
“On the 27th and 28th I was much indebted to General Sordet and the French cavalry division which he commands for materially assisting my retirement and successfully driving back some of the enemy on Cambrai. General d’Amade also, with the Sixty-first and Sixty-second Reserve divisions, moved down from the neighborhood of Arras on the enemy’s right flank and took much pressure off the rear of the British forces.