On August 23 and 24, 1914, Mons was the site of the first battle fought by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in the First World War. It was a subsidiary action of the Battle of the Frontiers, in which the Allies clashed with Germany on the French borders. At Mons, the British army attempted to hold the line of the Mons-Condé Canal against the advancing German First Army. Although the British fought well and inflicted disproportionate casualties on the numerically superior Germans, they were eventually forced to retreat due both to the greater strength of the Germans and the sudden retreat of the French Fifth Army, which exposed the British right flank. Though initially planned as a simple tactical withdrawal, and executed in good order, the British retreat from Mons ultimately lasted two weeks and took the BEF to the outskirts of Paris before it was finally able to counterattack, in concert with the French, at the Battle of the Marne. The town was occupied by the Germans, until its liberation by the Canadian Corps during the final days of the war. A number of local Lewisham Borough residents took part in this first battle, some of whom sadly died.
Within the front entrance to the City hall, there are several memorial placards related to the WW1 Battles and in particular, one has the inscription:
MONS WAS RECAPTURED BY THE CANADIAN CORPS ON THE 11th NOVEMBER 1918:
AFTER FIFTY MONTHS OF GERMAN OCCUPATION, FREEDOM WAS RESTORED TO THE CITY:
HERE WAS FIRED THE LAST SHOT OF THE GREAT WAR.
Names of Lewisham residents who took part or died at the Battle of Mons:
- Branch, John St Patrick
- Burstow, Albert Edward
- Burtenshaw, Albert Edward
- Day, Robert Hollis
- Forster, John
- Godley, Sidney Frank VC
- Gonella, Joseph William
- Head, Frederick George
- Hiscock, Herbert John
- Knight, John Peake MiD DSO
- Leckie, Malcolm DSO, MiD, RAMC
- Richardson, Albert John
- Roseveare, William Harold
- Sudds, William Childs
- Wooldridge, Alfred William
Do you have more information on people named in this Battle and who are remembered on Lewisham War Memorials? If so click here to contribute information.