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BEF 1914: Nery

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Guest George14

I've just joined the Forum, with a particular (family) interest in L Battery RHA and, of course, "The Affair at Nery". I thought the "Nery 100" commemoration was beautifully done in the village. I know a few locals, brought up in the village, and they were also very impressed. MG mentions "possibly his favourite illustration of the Great War" - presumably he has seen the more recent painting of "The Last Gun"? All of George Dorrell's immediate family were given a copy of the print - I would attach a copy but I can't reduce it to 245MB!

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stiletto_33853

11th Hussars, little extra

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stiletto_33853

1st Middlesex report by Lieut. Brodie.

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stiletto_33853

L Battery, R.H.A by The Hon. W.D. Selater - Booth, Commanding Officer

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stiletto_33853

I Battery, R.H.A. at Nery

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lostinspace

Excellent information, thanks for posting. Regarding the last paragraph of the last page (I battery account), seems they thought 1 Cavalry Brigade a little lax?

 

Dave

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stiletto_33853

1st Middlesex map (2nd report), there is a lengthy account of some 25 pages on their actions at Nery. Quite willing to put in on the forum but a lot of posts.

 

Andy

 

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Edited by stiletto_33853

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lostinspace

I'm certainly in favor. Ancestry (at least on this side of the pond) doesn't seem to have many of the war diary appendices.

 

Dave 

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stiletto_33853

Dave,

 

These are not on or from Ancestry or war diaries but reports by various officers for The Historical Branch addressed to Edmonds or Becke. Quite often it is just a reply to a series of questions they posed, others are accounts with drawings etc. Sorry one page is a little out of focus.

 

Andy

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Edited by stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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stiletto_33853

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lostinspace

Really great stuff Andy, Thanks again for posting. 
 

Dave

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joe19612

Thank you for posting, absolute fascinating read.

 

Joe

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Steven Broomfield

Thanks for that Andy.

 

Interestingly there was a correspondence in the Press in the 1950's (I can't remember where - Times?) between Norrie, ex-11th Hussars and Rowley of the Middlesex, concerning the capture of the German guns. Norrie was adamant that they had been taken by his Troop but they had ridden on as they were chasing Germans, and the Middlesex then appeared and claimed them. IIRC, Rowley conceded the point!

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stiletto_33853

Steven,

 

This might be of interest to you then.

 

Andy

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Guest

The spat was in the early 1960s and the Middlesex Regt argued then that the 11th Hussars version of events was incorrect. Norrie responded by writing an account in the Soldier Magazine.:

 

Sir,
It was my good fortune to have commanded 3rdTroop, "C" Squadron, 11th Hussars, at Néry. The Squadron had been ordered to cross the steep ravine,1914 move east, capture the German battery and reap the fruits of victory. Mine was the leading troop and I confirm that we did charge the German guns with drawn swords, capturing eight of them and prisoners as well. My troop sergeant with his sword actually wounded one German gunner who was too slow in shouting "Kamerad" and in putting up his hands with the rest of them. There were no other British troops by the guns and the charge was a spectacular one over 300 yards of open country, supported by rifle fire from another Troop. I know that both the Middlesex Regiment and The Queen's Bays have claimed the capture of the guns but this was not the case. Although not so apparent at the time, the capture was a comparatively simple task as the machine-gun fire of the Bays and the 11th Hussars had virtually silenced the battery, and the fire of "l " Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, prevented the guns from being taken out of action . These units, together with "L" Battery, of immortal memory, and the turning movement of the 5th Dragoon Guards, made the capture of the guns possible. The most probable explanation of the other two claims is that the main body of "D" Company, The Middlesex Regiment, did not arrive at the guns until 3 Troop had moved on—having handed over the guns and prisoners to the former's advance guard—and possibly the Middlesex had moved on when a party of the Bays arrived. The Middlesex Regiment had marched to the sound of the guns to support the 1st Cavalry Brigade, and we much appreciated this from old friends. Although nearly fifty years have elapsed, I personally vouch that the facts given in this account are accurate. The whole of my Troop took part in the charge, which was seen by others in "C" Squadron, and last but not least by the German gunners who surrendered.

 

Lt Gen Lord Norrie DSO MC

 

Spears also waded in:

 

Sir,
As an old Cherrypicker I very much appreciate what Major Smith says about my Regiment and I should like to return the compliment by saying that I myself was brought up to respect and admire that most gallant of corps, The Middlesex Regiment. I have made a close study of the battle of Néry and I am convinced that the account I have given is completely accurate. The following is a summary. At about 8 a .m. the 4th Cavalry Brigade appeared, together with "I" Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, which unlimbered and opened fire on the German guns at a range of about 200 yards as "L" Battery fell silent. "I" Battery reduced the German guns and destroyed the teams which galloped up to remove them. The German gunners tried to man-handle their guns away under heavy and accurate rifle and machine-gun fire. Four guns that were extricated were captured next day. Willoughby Norrie's troop supported by fire from the following troops charged the guns and captured or scattered the gunners. Only one stood his ground, who was run through by Sergeant Haily, Norrie's troop sergeant, with his sword. There were eight guns flanked by two machine-guns, the first to be captured in the war. While the rest of the Cavalry squadron was scouring the fields for prisoners, taking a good many, some companies of the Middlesex Regiment appeared. Major Lockett came to a quick understanding with them that they would take over while the Cavalry moved on to attack the next village which was held by the enemy. Later the guns were taken away by the Cavalry who made up teams for that purpose. I think that most people would conclude that the Cavalry which charged the German gunners and disposed of the gun crews were the captors of the guns. I myself have always believed in the old axiom that the infantry was queen of the battlefield but I do not think it adds anything to the glory of The Middlesex Regiment to give the impression that they cantered ahead of the Cavalry to capture the guns at Néry.

 

Major-General Sir Edward L. Spears, M .

 

Norrie's account published in Soldier Magazine triggered a letter from the Middlesex to the 11th Hussars:

 

Dear Colonel Sutton,
Thank you for your letter of 7th November, 1963 and I must answer your last paragraph first. Of course I agree to your springing to the defence of your regiment. Where, or what, would the British Army be without this Regimental loyalty and pride? I then thought I'd wait for the "Soldier" before I replied. Now "Soldier" for January, 1964 has just appeared on my table and what a broadside from the Néry guns! General Lord Norrie's letter is a most courteous and enlightening reply and will help me considerably in putting the record straight. He was there, I wasn't, and only have War Diaries and subsequent correspondence to work on. I will write to you again as soon as I have checked over any details available that I have here or can find elsewhere. The important thing is to have the correct story, come what may. We often have to adjust old claims and although like to broadcast Regimental achievements, I never invent them or let inaccurate stories stand. One thing this correspondence in "Soldier" will do is to attract attention to the exploits of our two Regiments, in addition it may throw more light on the "Affair at Néry" if others write in. In closing, may I wish you a successful New Year and during the whole of 1964.
Yours sincerely,
Major Dick Smith.

Edited by Guest

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Muerrisch

This latter is so refreshingly decent in comparison with much of the squalid bickering that one sees on various forums.

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Steven Broomfield

Indeed - thanks again, everyone.

 

The Nery Affair (or was it an 'Action'? I can't remember) does illustrate very well the 1914 cavalry use of dismounted action in conjunction with mounted action. The work of the 5th DG, in particular, in fixing the German cavalry from the flank while the 11th charged is particularly noteworthy.

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Guest

The Affair at Nery is an excellent illustration of how unreliable accounts can be, if taken in isolation; whether personal recollections, war diaries or published histories. One could drive a coach and horses between the gaps in the various versions of events. Only by cross-referencing all the accounts can we begin to come close to the sequence of events on that day. Interestingly the Affair at Nery barely gets a mention in the History of the Die Hards yet 50 years later was the source of more heat than light. 

 

It also illustrates the limited horizons of the individuals' experiences. For obvious reasons they are all very focused on their immediate surroundings (and survival) and in the chaos of live action can not begin to see the rest of the battlefield. It is interesting to see the lengths that the Historical Section went to in order to piece this episode together. It is interesting that so much focus was placed on Nery when there were other rearguard actions such as Elouges and Etreux that involved similar heroics. The main differences being that at Nery the British were left holding the Field.

 

I would be curious to know how soon Matania's illustration appeared in the press. The Affair provided some heroic 'against the odds' news at a time when the Army was in full retreat. It would also be interesting to explore how this was reported in the press.

 

The press versions of the 9th Lancers' alleged charging of the guns, earlier in August 1914 was rather different from later eyewitness accounts which claimed a single strand of barbed wire rather held things up and no Germans were engaged by the cavalry. Rather than letting barbed wire get in the way of a good story, the press ran with it, drawing parallels with the Charge of the Light Brigade. Some rather imaginative illustrations of the 9th Lancers tearing through the German artillery were produced; something that didn't quite happen according to some eyewitnesses. MG

 

 

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51st Sikhs

A bit late but of interest may be this:

 

1896 Heavy Pattern Cavalry Officer's Sword of Lieutenant Algernon Lamb who as Machine Gun Officer of the Queen's Bays was present at this action and knocked out the guns so eloquently brought to life by the members here. He wore this action on that day and shows that it was sharpened for active service. 

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Edited by 51st Sikhs

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