In the Arras district the position was fairly good. But between the Oise and Arras we were holding our own only with difficulty. Finally, to the north, on the Lille-Estaires-Merville-Hazebrouck-Cassel front, our cavalry and our territorials had their work cut out against eight divisions of German cavalry, with very strong infantry supports. It was at this moment that the transport of the British Army to the northern theatre of operations began.
[Illustration: VICE ADMIRAL H.R.H. THE DUKE OF THE ABRUZZI
Cousin of the King of Italy, Commander of the dreadnought squadron of the Italian Navy.
(Photo (c) by Pach Bros., N.Y.)]
[Illustration: H.M. FERDINAND I.
Tsar of the Bulgars.
(Photo from P.S. Rogers.)]
Field Marshal French had, as early as the end of September, expressed the wish to see his army resume its initial place on the left of the allied armies. He explained this wish on the ground of the greater facility of which his communications would have the advantage in this new position, and also of the impending arrival of two divisions of infantry from home and of two infantry divisions and a cavalry division from India, which would be able to deploy more easily on that terrain. In spite of the difficulties which such a removal involved, owing to the intensive use of the railways by our own units, General Joffre decided at the beginning of October to meet the Field Marshal’s wishes and to have the British Army removed from the Aisne.
It was clearly specified that on the northern terrain the British Army should co-operate to the same end as ourselves, the stopping of the German right. In other terms, the British Army was to prolong the front of the general disposition without a break, attacking as soon as possible, and at the same time seeking touch with the Belgian Army.
But the detraining took longer than had been expected, and it was not possible to attack the Germans during the time when they had only cavalry in the Lille district and further to the north.
There remained the Belgian Army. On leaving Antwerp on Oct. 9 the Belgian Army, which was covered by 8,000 British bluejackets and 6,000 French bluejackets, at first intended to retire as far as to the north of Calais, but afterwards determined to make a stand in Belgian territory. Unfortunately, the condition of the Belgian troops, exhausted by a struggle of more than three months, did not allow any immediate hopes to be based upon them. This situation weighed on our plans and delayed their execution.
On the 16th we made progress to the east of Ypres. On the 18th our cavalry even reached Roulers and Cortemark. But it was now evident that, in view of the continual reinforcing of the German right, our left was not capable of maintaining the advantages obtained during the previous few days. To attain our end and make our front inviolable a fresh effort was necessary. That effort was immediately made by the dispatch to the north of the Lys of considerable French forces, which formed the French Army of Belgium.