guise. I believe eventually it turned out after he
was brought in that he had bought the stuff from
some Tommy, and, as far as we know, nothing
" I have now had and recovered from my second
inoculation, after about the same procedure as
I should certainly like to apply for a com-
Ol^E MOLE RAMPANT. 35
mission if there is any chance of getting one, as it
looks to me as if the supply of officers will be our
most pressing need in view of all the new troops
being raised. I believe, however, that there are
already thousands of applications in and do not
know how being on active service would affect this.
If Major D. can do anything it would be quite
agreeable to me.
" We have seen some of the London Scottish.
Like ourselves, they are split up into various
parties, doing work in different parts. They seem
to come in for a large amount of writing up, which
we characterise as twaddle or rude words to that
" I forgot to say that I have sent up one
hundred cigarettes to the English in the hospital to
be distributed by our medical orderlies. They
won't go far, but even so will be welcome.'
[letter from major D., D.S.O., TO H. G.]
Grantham, October 19, 1914.
" Before replying to your letter I showed it to
my General, who agreed with the opinion I had
already formed. If your son had not already been
serving my General could have got him a commis-
sion without any difficulty ; but the fact that he is
serving already makes it very difficult, especially as
he is on active service.
" Owing to the fact that he is serving any
36 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
recommendation for a commission must come from
his own Commanding Officer, and, therefore, the
best thing for him to do is to apply to his Com-
manding Officer to forward his name for a
commission in the New Army.
" It is very bad hick that his keenness in serving
as a private should have created a difficulty in his
obtaining a commission, but I am sure you will
understand that when once a man is serving his
name can only be put forward by his own superior
" The news now seems very satisfactory. Lord
Kitchener was here yesterday and he seemed very
Major D.'s Brigade afterwards went to
October 18, 1914.
" I seem to have got out of the typhoid mocu-
lation very well on the whole, as I practically had
recovered after twenty-four hours, while a number
of men were knocked over for the best part of a
week. However, as it is supposed to protect you
for about two years it is worth the temporary rotten
feeling it causes.
" After the process of scattering mentioned in
previous letters we now have here only one
company, headquarters staff and attachments
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 37
(pioneers, signallers, machine-guns, etc.). The
men here have been occupied with drilling, route
marches, bayonet practice and field exercises, pro-
viding guards for the railway, supplies depot,
orderlies for the Base headquarters office, etc.
Through the comparatively prolonged stay in one
place my special work has slackened off, so that I
have been able to get my share of most of this.
" There is no regular schedule for the day as
the programme depends altogether on what there is
in hand, but we are up at six and kept pretty well
occupied until evening. The life in a way is quite
interesting, though some things get very monoton-
ous. The inevitable stew for dinner, while of good
material and ample quantity, becomes tiresome. It
seems to be the only thing that can be cooked in
large quantities on a camp fire.
" Breakfast has been the least satisfactory meal,
as large quantities of bacon issued were unfit for
consumption. For some time we had none at all,
and after that a very short ration. It is only within
the last few days that we have had what we were
entitled to. The official jam ration is a very small
one. Of course, this does not mean that we do not
fare pretty well, as we supplement official dietary
with outside purchases.
" Another feature of daily life that is a par-
ticular nuisance is cleaning one's feeding utensils
after each meal, and some men make a very hasty
38 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
job of it. Probably a good housewife would have
a fit over the results achieved."
About this time the Mole decided that to facili-
tate matters he would purchase an enamelled dish
as being more convenient tJhan the official mess-
tin ; he already had an enamelled mug. This ware
could be readily washed out under a tap, and had
no awkward corners. The bottom of the dish being
brown was suitable for strapping on to the haver-
[the letter continues]
" I am sleeping quite well, but it means turning
over a good deal in the night, the reason being that
on a flat surface like the floor, with nothing under
you but a thin ' wetter ' sheet, most of the weight
of the body comes on the hip-bone, and you cannot
lie for very long on one side. Taking it all round,
we are better off in the building than under canvas,
and I should hope that, whatever our future move
may be, we shall not be camped out again until it
becomes a necessity in the field.
" In some ways I think it has been a good
thing to bring us over here. The stricter disciphne
and feeling of responsibility that must be impressed
on even the youngsters of the company when
actually on service should be beneficial. On the
other hand, field exercises are much interrupted and
rifle practice discontinued. It is in this last re-
spect that some of our men are rather deficient.
0}^E MOLE RAMPANT. 39
Indeed, if it were not for my own previous rifle
shooting, I should feel distinctly uncomfortable
about it, as owing to other work I have had very
"I should judge that the English papers pub-
lish the bulk of the news several days earlier than
the local ones here. We sometimes get hold of
a Paris Daily Mail, and find it fully a day ahead
of the others.
" Judging by one or two fur coats I have seen,
I should say it gets very cold here in the winter.
Our own coats are quite good, but of course only
of cloth. They are grey (like the Guards'), and
we have wondered if we mig*ht not be mistaken for
Germans. We understand that khaki ones are
to be substituted shortly to conform with the
uniform and the rest of the troops.
â€¢' The Hfe of this town seems to be proceeding
much as usual. Of course, it has the ubiquitous
Place de la Republique with surrounding cafes.
One sees about the same number of people sipping
at the little tables outside. There are lots of
soldiers about still, but that might be accounted
for by the supposition that it was a garrison town.
The incongruous note is struck by the khaki
uniforms one sees all over the place. What it is
like after dark I do not know, as our leave (when
we get it) only runs from 4 to 7. The type of local
soldier one sees is not very impressive, but I sup-
pose every efficient man of their own Army has
40 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
long ago gone to the Front. Quite a number of
detachments of our Regulars are located here.
" In view of the colder weather we were
delighted to have a second blanket served out to us.
This is a great improvement, though just what
will happen when we move off I do not know.
It would be a very heavy burden if it has to be
'" We are fortunate in having gas in the build-
ing (only our own candles everywhere else up to
now), so that we can read or write in the evenings,
a good deal of card-playing also going on. We
turn in pretty early â€” ' hghts out ' at 10 p.m. I
think I explained before that going to bed is quite
an elaborate affair. It involves putting on prac-
tically as much fresh clothing as you take off in
order to keep warm (provided you are not expect-
ing marching orders, in which case you simply lie
down as you are). It is simple enough here, where
there is plenty of room, but in a bell tent, wuth,
say, twelve or more occupants, there is so little
room that only one man can mo\'e at a time. The
first time we experienced it it was like a pantomime
rehearsal, and though we were all soaked and
miserable, we ended up with shrieks of laughter.
Taking things as they come, we manage to extract
some fun out of our experiences.
*' I enclose some photographs, the best a local
man could do in a hurry."
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 41
The detachment of the H.A.C. still remaining
at Le Mans was now chiefly engaged at the
ordnance depot called Maroc, i.e. Morocco (pre-
sumably from being situated on a sandy waste a
few miles out of town). It appeared to have been
designed as a huge goods clearing station, only just
nearing completion, and with its long sheds and
railway tracks was well adapted as a storage centre
from which supplies could be forwarded.
The Mole was much impressed with the
systematic way supplies were marked. All boxes,
&c., had a coloured band painted round them
indicating that they were for the advance base
depot, and appeared to have been in ordnance
store in England all ready for sending to an expe-
ditionary force. All cases, &c., were well made
and adapted for shipment, and he felt that, for
its size, the British Expeditionary Force was very
well organised and equipped, everything having
been thought out and prepared beforehand. As
we know, this Army was shipped to the Continent
without a hitch in a way that betokened literally
perfect organisation. As for the Army itself,
though only small by modern standards, it was
the finest weapon of war that has ever been
forged. There has never been anything to compare
October 23, 1914.
" You will in the meantime have seen that
42 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
letters and parcels arc coming through all right,
though sometimes delayed. The air cushion has
proved very useful, though I am putting it to a
different use to what I originally intended. I ,ain
putting it under my hip, as I have got quite used
to a kit-bag as a pillow, in spite of sundry boot-
heels, &c., forming hard lumps in it.
*' The men here are all congenial, though I
have not so far become particularly chummy with
any one man in particular.
" I think it was scandalous the way they sent
the untrained and ill-equipped Naval Division to
Antwerp. Judging by what I saw of their unpre-
pared condition at Deal, I can quite believe the
description given in the letter to the Times on
" Our work has been quite varied of late,
mostly out at the base ordnance depot, loading
and unloading trains, sorting supplies, &c.
Amongst other things we have had to strip a lot
of equipment returned from the front, much of
it shot to pieces and some of it in a pretty ghastly
condition. All the serviceable stuff is sorted out
for use again. I forgot to say that some of our
men have been guarding and escorting German
prisoners, convoying supply trains, &c.
" We are still in our schoolhouse, but hear
rimiours of a move from time to time. Quite an
event of the week was an opportunity to get a
hot bath when I was out on leave.
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 43
" I note the correspondence with Major D. (re
commission) with interest. We must see what
comes of it. With regard to the restriction of the
number of letters sent, we are told that the restric-
tion was not so much imposed to lighten the work
of the censoring officer as to reheve the congestion
of mail, and so allow the postal service to expedite
letters from the Front.
" You have probably seen the enclosed cutting
from the dispatch of French (re advance base), but
I send it in case it escaped your attention."
This last was a broad hint as to the locality of
the writer, which was understood.
August had been a month of blazing heat, and
the fine weather extended for the greater part of
September, but by now â€” the latter part of Octo-
ber â€” it began to turn cold, though still mostly
dry. This cold, though not yet by any means
severe, made itself felt, as there was no means of
heating the billets, nor was this ever possible even
later on in the worst winter months, which turned
out to be the wettest on record for many years.
Cooking was done in a primitive fashion over camp
fires of wood in the yard. The supply of wood
was not too plentiful, and there w^as always a
certain amount of squabbling when drawing the
daily ration, each party trying to get a maximum
allotment. In consequence of this the gentle art
44 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
of ** pinching " was exercised when opportunity
In these early days of the war, when men
started their active service and might be rushed to
the firing hne ahiiost immediately,, the polishing
of buttons ceased as soon as they embarked. Men
had to be got over the strip of water at top speed,
and the mobilisation stores were hard put to it to
find boots, ankle, let alone such trifles as brushes,
brass, or any of those little tins which greeted the
1916 citizen soldier the day after his arrival at the
depot. The Mole rejoiced when his buttons took
on a gun-metal hue and the colour of his cap-badge
invited comparison with the bronze of the officers'
Conditions were all rough-and-ready. Ablu-
tions had to be performed with a bucket of water,
one bucket to about twenty men, so the general
scramble can be imagined. One of the standard
jokes of the time was to write home saying : '' For
washing we use a bucket of water ; when the
bugle sounds we fall in ! " As a matter of fact
there were no bugles nor any bands. Orders were
supposed to be given by whistle signals in the field,
but actually commands were always given by word
Like all the troops, the H.A.C. amused them-
selves with singing, particularly on the march.
The prime favourite was a Rabelaisian ballad
detailing the many adventures of " Frolicky Bill
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 45
the Sailor " ; a close second was a much amended
version of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes,
winding up wdth the chorus :
*' Hurrah for little Mary, hurrah for the lamb,
Hurrah for the teacher who did not care a little
And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was
sure to go,
Shouting out the battle-cry of freedom."
In view of what the Mole had now been in-
formed as to obtaining a commission, he decided
to approach the CO., but his application was
curtly rejected. With the recommendation of his
CO. he coaM have obtained a commission through
Friday, October 30. â€” After many rumours of
impending movement, definite orders were at last
issued to pack up and move off. Kit-bags were
handed over to the tender mercies of the trans-
port again, billets were given a final clean up, and
all regimental baggage was loaded. At the last
moment these orders were cancelled. This led to
a funny incident. The "Gorringe'' cart had
been loaded with a miscellaneous collection of stuff
which was quite heavy. One of the transport men
was holding up the shafts so that the horse could
be unharnessed and led away. As soon as the
horse was withdrawn from the shafts the weight
of the cart shot them up in the air, and the trans-
46 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
port man was so astonished that he ekmg to the
shafts and was shot up too !
Owing to the sudden change of plan the ration
supply was again deficient, and in order to help
matters a number of men were granted a few
hours' leave (by lot) so that they could feed them-
selves, the rations to be divided amongst the less
Saturday, October 31.â€” The detachment left
Le Mans at 9.30 a.m., and arrived at Rouen at
midnight ; then proceeded via Boulogne and Calais.
Destination unknown. The other companies re-
joined at various points, so that the H.A.C. again
formed a battalion.
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 4/
THE EARLY MONTHS OF THE WAR
No attempt will be made here to give more than
a sketchy outline of the events during the first
few months of the war. More qualified writers
have dealt fully with this subject, and readers
desirous of more detail should turn to " The First
Seven Divisions," by Hamilton. It is, however,
necessary to mention the salient features in order
to bring the movements of the H.A.C. into the
perspective of the general progress of events.
On Sunday, August 23rd, the first clash of the
British and German Armies took place at Mons.
The enemy attacked in great strength with a
simultaneous concentration of a hitherto unheard
of artillery fire. Equally unprecedented was the
efficient direction of this bombardment by aero-
planes, rendering it exceedingly accurate and
destructive. Nevertheless, out-manned and out-
gunned as they w^re, their ranks shattered and a
large proportion of their batteries put out of
action, the British forces held the line, only with-
drawing slightly from a dangerous salient. On
Sunday night Sir John French was astounded to
hear of the retirement of the French troops on
his right. This rendered the Mons line untenable,
and orders were given to the British troops to fall
back. The Retreat from Mons had begun.
48 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
With regard to the battle itself a silly legend
became current that angels had been seen fighting
in and among the sadly thinned ranks of our men
to stem the tide of the German onrush. As one
survivor aptly commented : "If the angels were
on our side at Mons, I hope the next time they
will help the Germans."
The British Army fell back, making successive
stands at Valenciennes â€” Maubeuge (August
24th) ; Cambrai â€” Le Cateau â€” Ijandrecies (August
25th) ; Le Catelet (August 26th) ; Ham, south of
St. Quentin (August 27th), and Noyon (August
French writes in his dispatch of September 7th
of "the most critical day of all, viz., the 26th:
At daybreak it became apparent that the enemy
w^as throwing the bulk of his strength against the
left of the position occupied by the Second Corps
and the 4th Division.
â€¢' At this time the guns of four German army
corps were in position against them, and Sir
Horace Smith-Dorrien reported to me that he
judged it impossible to continue his retirement at
daybreak (as ordered) in face of such an attack.
I sent him orders to use his utmost endeavours to
break off the action and retire at the earliest
possible moment, as it was impossible for me to
send him any support.
"' The French Cavalry Corps, under General
Sordet, was coming up on our left rear early in
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 49
the morning, and I sent him an urgent message
to do his utmost to come up and support the
retirement of my left flank ; but owing to the
fatigue of his horses he found himself unable to
intervene in any way.
'â€¢ There had been no time to entrench the
position properly, but the troops showed a mag-
nificent front to the terrible fire which confronted
them. The artillery, although outmatched by at
least four to one, made a splendid fight and inflicted
heavy losses on their opponents.
â€¢* At length it became apparent that if com-
plete annihilation were to be avoided a retirement
must be attempted, and the order was given to
commence it at 8.30 p.m.
" Fortunately, the enemy had himself suffered
too heavily to engage in an energetic pursuit."
This retreat was continued far into the night
of the 26th and through the 27th and 28th. The
men were exhausted with constant marching 25
and 30 miles a day, stopping only for a few hours'
rest or a rearguard action. Units became broken
up, snatching what rest they could by the side of
the road. The weather was blazing hot, and men
threw away their coats and packs to lighten the
load, retaining little more than their rifles. The
Germans were always hot on their heels, and there
seems to be reason for believing that they w^ere
brought forward in innumerable motor-lorries.
50 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
To those in command and cognisant of the situa-
tion it looked almost desperate.
Frederic Coleman writes in his book, " Mons
to Ypres " : " For a time I was to act as usher at
a point a bit north of St. Quentin. Never shall
I forget the staff-officer's parting instructions :
' Cheer them up as you keep them on the move.
No wonder they are tired ! Worn out to begin
with, then fighting all day â€” no rest, no food, no
sleep â€” poor devils. Tell them where to go and
cheer them up.' I had not been long on that road-
side when I realised that many of us had been
labouring under a great delusion. It was not that
someone was needed to cheer up Tommy ; it was
that most of us needed Tommy to cheer us up."
French concludes his dispatch on the battle up
to this point : " I deeply deplore the very serious
losses which the British forces have suffered in this
great battle, but they were inevitable in view of
the fact that the British Army â€” only two days
after a concentration by railâ€” was called upon to
withstand a vigorous attack of five German army
At last, on August 28th, the British had
thrown off the weight of the enemy's pursuit, and
our forces, reduced to nearly half their original
strength, had some opportunity to re-form ; but
further retirement was still necessary, and in con-
formity with the movements of the French forces
.was continued practically from day to day.
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 51
Although not severely pressed by the enemy,
rearguard actions took place continually.
Finally, on Saturday, September 5th, the
'Cnemy had crossed the Marne, and their advanced
troops were only about thirty miles from Paris.
Joffre then announced his intention to take the
offensive forthwith, and there ensued the Battle of
the Marne, probably the most decisive engagement
and the turning-point of the whole war. The
Germans appeared to be within reach of their goal
when Foch in a brilliant action pierced their line
and so forced their retreat.
French reports this battle in his dispatch of
September 17th : " On that day " (September 6th)
'' it may be said that a great battle opened on a
front extending from Ermenonville to a point
north of the fortress of Verdun. This battle may
be said to have concluded on the evening of
September 10th, by which time the Germans had
been driven back to the line Soissons â€” Rheims
with a loss of thousands of prisoners, many guns,
and enormous masses of transport.
â€¢â€¢ In concluding this dispatch I must call your
Lordships' special attention to the fact that from
Sunday, August 23rd, up to the present date
(September 17th), from Mons back almost to the
Seine, my command has been ceaselessly engaged
without one single day's halt or rest of any kind."
By the night of September 1 2th the enemy had
arrested his retreat, and was preparing to dispute
52 ONE MOLE RAMPANT.
the line of the Aisne. On the morning of Sep-
tember 13th French ordered the British forces to
advance and make good the passage of the river.
In this manner the Battle of the Aisne com-
menced. On the left the leading troops reached
the river by 9 o'clock. They were onlj^ enabled
to cross in single file and under considerable shell-
fire by means of a broken girder of a bridge which
was not entirely submerged. A pontoon bridge
was constructed later. Similar crossings were
effected at other points. In the evening the enemy
retired at all points, and entrenched himself on the
high ground along which runs the Chemin-des-
Dames. This position was only captured by the
French in 1917.
Up to this time there was every hope that the
continued retirement of the enemy would be
enforced. By the morning of the 15th it became
clear that the enemy was making a determined
stand, though little our men thought that the
enemy position would be maintained for the best
part of three years ! It is a striking commentary
on the thoroughness of the German Staff that,
although they must have been practically certain
of the success of the coup against Paris, tiiey had
nevertheless prepared these positions against the
almost inconceivable chance of a miscarriage of
The battle lasted until September 28th. Time
and again the British troops attacked, only to be
ONE MOLE RAMPANT. 53
repulsed with great loss by withering artillery fire.
The arrival of the 6th Division was a much needed
and welcome addition to their depleted strength.
The enemy, on his side, launched a number of
counter-attacks, but without success. The severe
tax on the endurance of the troops was increased
by the heavy rain and cold which prevailed for
some ten or twelve days of this trying time, par-
ticularh" as the men were now destitute of adequate
Trench warfare had now begun. Once it was
realised that the Germans were firmly established