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Remembered Today:

23rd August 1914 - 2nd Bn. Royal Irish Rifles - 2019 visit to their line in Belgium


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I made my way over here to Mons this weekend as I was curious to see exactly where my Grandfather fought on that first day.

Two years ago I knew only my Grandfather's name (or I thought I did!) that he was Irish, and that he served in WWI. Since then, I have been continuously reading and examining maps, building up what has become a 200 page document concerning his early life. This document details his route to Mons, his route from there to Caudry (where he was wounded and captured) and also, with the help of the War Diaries of the 2nd Bn. Royal Irish Rifles and 2nd Bn. Royal Scots, Gerald Lowry's book From Mons to 1933, and numerous other sources, his location on 23rd August 1914. I believe 2 RIR were upon Hill 93 just North of Harmignies and also along the roadside (in a ditch) running from there down towards Spiennes.

Saint-Symphoren Military Cemetery is close by, visible from Hill 93 (now quarried), so I paid my respects there too. The photos that follow are of the road the soldiers lined up along, their view toward the advancing Germans, the vista from Hill 93 and Saint-Symphorien Cemetery.

It was a tad dull and grey when I started out but the sky was blue toward the end of the day, and I was quite content with myself too... returning to a place I doubt my Grandfather remembered the name of (if he knew at all), 105 years later, and also as an Irish Citizen too (my papers came through last week).

Above: Looking NW along the N40 (from Hill 93) toward the N564 crossroads... left for Spiennes, right for St. Symphorien.2033944188_WalkingtoHarmigniesfromSaint-SymphorienBelgium-16thNovember2019(9).JPG.b1fc8c22f82ac66e41f68c54ccd0e2da.JPG

Above: The ditch to the right of the N40 which was occupied by 2nd bn. Royal Scots and 2nd Bn. Royal Irish Rifles. The Germans advanced from the right of the photo.72150762_WalkingtoHarmigniesfromSaint-SymphorienBelgium-16thNovember2019(23).JPG.20cbb4ba3f64c32a82dd5c328a1694f1.JPG

Above: Looking NW along the N40 and almost atop Hill 93, which is no longer exists as it has been quarried away. Mons lies behind the trees to the right, the German advance (in this area) came through the fields in the distance.1093400835_WalkingtoHarmigniesfromSaint-SymphorienBelgium-16thNovember2019(24).JPG.0710e67f391a0015d49635cff0b0effb.JPG

Above: The view from Hill 93 (as close as possible) looking North to St. Symphorien.

Edited by Trav
To provide exact details of the views in the photographs
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Above: Photo taken from the ditch along the N40 (Mons-Givry Road), looking North toward St. Symphorien, and the direction of the German advance.1888691925_WalkingtoHarmigniesfromSaint-SymphorienBelgium-16thNovember2019(19).JPG.6b10e0797f1a49e382468018655284bb.JPG

Above: Photo taken from the ditch along the N40 (Mons-Givry Road), looking North toward St. Symphorien, and the direction of the German advance.357360692_WalkingtoHarmigniesfromSaint-SymphorienBelgium-16thNovember2019(21).JPG.17620e1da59c8df0ed9a3b7cadb6f40c.JPG

Above: Photo taken from the ditch along the N40 (Mons-Givry Road), looking North toward St. Symphorien, and the direction of the German advance.

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Edited by Trav
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Hi Trav,

Just in case you weren't aware that there is a Celtic cross in Mons dedicated to the men of the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles very close to where you were.

The dedication reads:

“To the glory of God and to the memory of the men and officers of the Royal Irish Regiment (18th Foot) who fell during the Great War 1914-1918. Near this spot the 2nd Battalion commenced operations on 23rd August 1914 and finished on 11th November 1918 after being decimated on four occasions.”


Hopefully you saw it, but if not it will be a great excuse to go again ;-)



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Thanks for that. I'll return at some point for sure, actually I plan to hike that retreat route as far as Caudry, having now figured it out as closely as possible, but that'll be in Spring or Summer next year at the earliest.


The monument pictured above though is for the Royal Irish Regiment, not Rifles. Trying to separate the two from each other in some records, and later published books and maps has been a challenge at times! But I'm petty sure I've got the Rifles movements to and from Mons as accurately as possible.

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Oops, my bad, so easy to mix them both up!

Nice idea to recreate the route like that. I have done the same at Le Cateau for my great grandfather following his footsteps and while it's mainly just fields it's a nice feeling to know that a relative walked those steps over 100 years ago.

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No problem, you're not the only one to mix up 2 RIR with 2 RIR 🙃😁 And of course I understand the sentiment behind the things we do, no explanations needed there. Did you hike around Le Cateau following a route or just get to a certain point? I know my Grandfather (B Coy, 2 RIRif) passed through Le Cateau too, before sweeping back towards Caudry where he was captured so that'll be on my route too...




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My great grandfather was KIA advancing at Le Cateau at the opposite end of the war.

Using the 6th Inniskilling war diary I noted on a google map every point mentioned to trace his movements from late September 1918 until Oct 1918. I then printed out the trench map for each location which really helped visualise it all on site.


I drove between these locations from Pierregot - Albert - Nurlu - Epehy - Bony - Gouy - Vendhuile - Le Catlet - Maretz - Escaufort - San Souplet - St Benin - Le Cateau and stopped in each to explore in more detail. On the route I had researched the CWGC cemeteries with fallen 6th Btn RIF soldiers to visit these who were quite possibly friends of his. 


The war diary thankfully had highlighted coordinates they rested, bathed, trained with Lewis Guns, were attacked, attacked etc so I stopped and explored these locations in the most detail.


However from  San Souplet, for his final attack, I supplemented with with an excellent book 'Fourth Army at the Battle of the Selle 9-24 October 1918 - A Battlefield Guide' by Peter Hodgkinson. In this he provides 9 walking routes here which cover the advances of all the various Btns involved from the Pursuit to the Selle to a walking tour of Le Cateau itself. I walked these locations to get a better feel.


My focus any time I'm there has been 1918 so these routes in Le Cateau probably don't overlap with 1914 apart from maybe generally just passing by them. I'm going back again in February so I think you have inspired me to start a proper look into 1914 in that area around Le Cateau to Caudry and stop driving past these interesting locations!


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It sounds like you've already had a good look around then. My Grandfather had served for 3 years before WWI broke out and his war was short; 3 days and two battles. My notes came from the War Diary, letters added into that afterwards, and 'There's a Devil in the Drum' by Lucy. Discovering that this book existed was wonderful, Lucy was a Cpl in A company 2 RIR and my Grandfather a Cpl in B Company 2 RIR (though he was made up to Sgt. a few days before they left for France), I don't think it's beyond the realms of possibility that they knew each other, or of each other.

As far as I can make out this was their route to Caudry:


·         Harmignies – 02:00 hrs departure. Hill 93 & Givry-Mons Road.

·         Nouvelles – Crossroads east of Nouvelles.

·         Maladrie – 04:30 hrs. An area South of Nouvelles, approximately where the R5 and N6 intersect today.

·         Quevy-le-Petit – via a field track from Maladrie.

·         Blaregnies – via a lane from Quevy-le-Petit.

·         Taisnieres – 15:00 hrs.

·         Bavay – 17:00 hrs.

·         St. Waast

·         Le Plat de Bois – via Valenciennes road from Bavay. Night was spent here until 08:00 hrs.

·         La Boiscrete

·         Gommegnies

·         Le Quesnoy – Paused here, moved off at 15:30 hrs.

·         Pont a Pierres

·         Romeries – Via Solesmes road from Le Quesnoy. ‘Shelled with shrapnel’. 17:30 – 18:00 hrs.

·         Vertigneul – Following 41st Battery, R.F.A. (42nd Brigade: 3rd Divisional Artillery).

·         Solesmes – ‘In flames’. Battalion moved to a crossroads East of Solesmes. “400 yards east of the 2nd or 3rd S in [the word] Solesmes.” – W.D. Bird. Exact map unidentified.

·         Le Beart (a river) – Bird rides alone to the Cavalry Brigade meeting “…on the high ground near the L of [the word] Le Beart.” – W.D. Bird. Exact map unidentified.

·         Beaurain – According to W.D. Bird's post war notes.

·         Ovillers – According to W.D. Bird's post war notes.


                 Amerval – Battalion moves via Amerval at nightfall, General Briggs's Cavalry Brigade following. (Amerval was reached via “Beaurain and Ovillers” or    “the shortest possible route” which was a field track running ½ mile West of Beaurain and ¾ mile West of Ovillers).

·         Montay – 22:00 hrs. Arrival at the Montay Halte’ (a railway halt) North of Montay.

·         Le Cateau

·         Reumont – between 02:00 – 04:00 hrs.

·         Maurois - 03:45 – 04:00 hrs. Obtained 3.5 hours rest. Moved off at 07:30 hrs.

·         Bertry

·         Le Tronquoy Stud Farm – North of Le Montigny.

·         Caudry – Two Companies moved to Caudry 12:00 hrs. Orders to retire from Caudry received at 15:00 hrs.


Using these notes (compiled from various sources), Google Earth, and an assumption that the troops would have moved along the shortest, most direct lines possible, I managed to plot the route below. I think it would be an interesting walk for me to take, the same route (AFAIK).









Edited by Trav
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That would be an interesting tour alright to see all those spots you know he was in. 
Don't know if I'd fancy walking it all tbh! There should be locations slightly off route that you may wish to visit and that could turn into a massive walk! 

Maybe a cycle but I'd personally prefer the car! Especially as many of these areas and villages will be empty and hard to find food etc. 

I know from my trips I found the highlights were finding things of interest near my route such as other local soldiers in nearby cemeteries. And my own Great Grandfather was bussed parts of his route so I definitely wasn't walking that.  Also exploring the route of the Battalions to either side was interesting and made reading the diary and history easier knowing where each was. 

But if walking is your thing then I certainly see how it would be nice to trace each step and I'm sure you will love it. 


BTW Looking at the 2nd RIRif Casualties from this time I note that most are missing and commemorated on La Ferte Sous Jouarre Memorial near Paris. 

One near your route is Cpl A Doran, 7451, KIA 27/8/14 is buried in Caudry Old Communal Cemetery (A.7)


Thinking about it now many of them men named on that Memorial to the missing are likely undiscovered yet in the fields all around you on that walking route which would make it extra poignant...




Screenshot 2019-11-21 at 12.45.17.png

Edited by JasonMc
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Thanks for sharing.


I really enjoyed reading ‘there’s a devil in the drum’ - one of my favourite Great War books. Nice to see some photos.

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  • 4 weeks later...

What was his name as I might be able to add to what you have?

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Sorry, just remembered we have already been in touch

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On 16/12/2019 at 22:46, Jimmy Taylor said:

Sorry, just remembered we have already been in touch

Thanks Jimmy,


We have indeed been in touch and thanks again for your help. I've not added that much to his record since then, but I have become Irish (aswell) since then 😁


All the best...

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