Néry and the Retreat from Mons (DVD)
Following the Battles of Mons and Le Cateau the already near exhausted British Expeditionary Force, who had been marching and fighting for six days without a break , embarked on a nine day epic march across France. They headed back to the safety of the far side River Marne south of Paris rather than to the traditional haven of British Armies – the Channel Ports.
Operating with the fog of war resting heaving on them commanders of both sides struggled to fathom the enemy's intentions and only gradually did the German intent of the Schlieffen Plan dawn on Marshall Joffre, while Sir John French, commander of the BEF had lost confidence in his allies and was advocating 'leaving the line' of battle. The army that the Kaiser had derided as being 'contemptuously small' was in fact far more resilient than anyone had believed and its capacity to continue marching, when underfed, foot sore and increasingly exhausted was nothing short of remarkable.
The BHTV team of historians and battlefield guides take us to the scene of some sharp rear guard actions fought during the Retreat from Mons including the great cavalry actions at Cerizy and Nery, where the mounted British soldier established domination of his German counterpart. As they travel the highways and byways of France they analyze the decisions made by the commanders in that fog of war that together spelt the end of the Schlieffen Plan and set conditions for the 'miracle of the Marne'.
The interpretations by the guides and historians are clear and concise, and the interspersion of maps is cleverly calculated to assist in a visual understanding of events such as Mons and Le CateauWestern Front Association, R. Pursehouse
‘Nery and the Retreat from Mons’ picks up where the previous DVD in this series left off, with the British continuing the retreat from Mons following the stand of II Corps at Le Cateau.WW1 Geek
The same format is followed, utilising a wide variety of maps, pictures, and ‘on the ground’ analysis to provide a well-rounded view of the events of late August and early September 1914.
The presenters follow the route of the retreating BEF via Etreux, where the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers engaged the Germans in a necessary but costly rearguard action, and St. Quentin, where the exhausted British troops were on the brink of surrendering. The action at Cerizy, where Allenby’s 1st Cavalry Division carried out a textbook cavalry attack, particularly benefited from the presenters’ presence at the site of the battle showing how the landscape played a role in the outcome.
Whilst focusing on the chronology of events the film is also interspersed with segments covering salient points such as rations, footwear, the 18lb shrapnel shell, and the ‘Angel of Mons’ myth. Other relevant areas are also covered including the development of the RFC’s role in observation. The failure of the Schlieffen Plan is analysed (the maps helping to show how the situation changed), and the relationship between the French and British scrutinised.
The film then looks at the engagement at Nery which took place on 1st September 1914. Whilst the entirety of the action is well covered, the role of ‘L’ Battery of the RHA is given particular scrutiny. Coming under unexpected German fire five of the battery’s six guns were quickly put out of action. The sixth continued to return fire against all odds. Three Victoria crosses were awarded for the action and the gun is now displayed in the Imperial War Museum. The presenters cover the role of the cavalry in the attack, and in particular the German flaw of launching a cavalry attack across a ravine.
The end of the film covers the final stages of the retreat until 5th September, and sets the scene for the next instalment examining the battles of the Marne and the Aisne.
The Battlefield History TV team have established a format in this series and stick to it. Their knowledge is apparent and showing the ground over which these actions took place really enhances understanding of the events, particularly if you have not visited the areas being discussed.
'Nery and the retreat from Mons' is a Pen & Sword Military DVD following the events of August and September 1914... There are a host of military historians presenting and some good source material that brings the events to life. In particular, I found the maps and diagrams really clear: this is where a DVD has an advantage over a book, with moving graphics showing the chronological developments of each action.Army Rumour Service
As seen on.Firetrench
This is another outstanding DVD in the First World War Series by Pen and Sword... An exceptionally good account of these early battles.Dr Stuart C Blank: Military Archive Research