Wednesday, October 08, 2014

October 8th, 1914

- This morning the German I and II Cavalry Corps, under increasing pressure north of Lens, is rescued by the arrival of XIV Corps, which had entrained at Metz on October 4th and had marched from Mons.  As the German XIV Corps and French XXI Corps grapple to a standstill, the two cavalry corps are redeployed between La Bassée and Armentières.

- Further north, the German IV Cavalry Corps sweeps around Lille and passes through Ypres today, but as they advance down the roads towards Hazebrouck, they are pushed back by the newly-arrived French 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions.

- Field Marshal Sir John French meets with General Ferdinand Foch at the latter's headquarters north of Amiens to discuss the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force.  It is agreed that the BEF will come into the Entente line to the north of General Maud'huy's 10th Army, with the road between Béthune and Lille dividing the two commands.  The British II Corps, the first scheduled to arrive in Flanders, will take its position immediately to the north of the French 10th Army, and next in the line will be III Corps to the north of II Corps, followed by I Corps further north.  In each case, the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions will cover the left flank of the most recently-arrived corps until the next arrives.  They also discuss future operations - the conclusion is that the enemy only has a few cavalry divisions in Flanders, and thus the opportunity exists for a general advance through Lille and for the German flank to be enveloped.

- The German bridgehead secured yesterday by 37th Landwehr Brigade over the Schelde River at Schoonaerde is reinforced today by two further brigades, and in spite of Belgian resistance is able to advance nearly to Lokeren, approximately halfway between the Schelde and the Dutch frontier.  The escape corridor for the soldiers at Antwerp is slowly closely.

- At Antwerp, the German heavy artillery is brought over the Nethe River today, and the bombardment intensifies, both of the city itself and the inner forts.  Fires rage uncontrolled in Antwerp, as the destruction of the waterworks means they cannot be contained.  At 5pm reports arrive at the headquarters of the Belgian commander of the garrison that Forts No. 1 and 2 have been abandoned under intensive German fire.  With the inner line of forts breached, all that remained was to withdraw to the city itself.  In such circumstances, only a portion of the Belgian fortress troops would be required, and thus at 530pm orders were issued for the Belgian 2nd Division and the Royal Marine Division to retreat from Antwerp and move westward to the line of the Terneuzen Canal.  By 1130pm the Belgians were across the Schelde and marching west.

The conveyance of the orders for the retreat of the Royal Naval Division, however, were botched.  Officers were sent to the headquarters of the Royal Marine Brigade and the 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades, and in the case of the Royal Marine Brigade and the 2nd Naval Brigade the orders arrived between 630pm and 7pm.  However, the officer dispatched to 1st Naval Brigade headquarters delivered his order to the Drake Battalion, one of the battalions belonging to the Brigade.  Thus while the Drake Battalion marched out of the line as ordered, the remaining three battalions of the 1st Naval Brigade remained in absolute ignorance of the decision to retreat.  The Royal Marine Brigade (less a rearguard battalion), 1st Naval Brigade, and the Drake Battalion have crossed the Schelde by 10pm, and are marching to Beveren Waes where they are told to expect trains waiting to convey them to Ostend.

- The British 3rd Cavalry Division, commanded by Major-General Sir Julian Byng, disembarks at Ostend over the course of the day.  To cover the landing, the British 7th Division has marched from Bruges to form an arc around Ostend.  Further east, the bulk of the Belgian army has reached the line of the Terneuzen Canal between Ghent and the Dutch frontier, while the French marine brigade is at Ghent itself.  At 5pm General Rawlinson receives instructions from Lord Kitchener ordering his force to cover the anticipated retreat of the British brigades at Antwerp.

The fall of Antwerp, October 8th to 10th, 1914.
- Admiral Craddock is at Port Stanley in the Falklands today, pondering an Admiralty signal he had received yesterday.  It had informed him of the wireless intercept of the 4th indicated that the German East Asiatic Squadron is likely en route to the South American coast, and that he must prepare to 'meet' them with Glasgow, Canopus, Otranto, and either Good Hope or Monmouth, the other to remain in the South Atlantic to protect trade.  He sends a reply to the Admiralty today, questioning the assumption that Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are accompanied only by a single light cruiser, and inquiring about the deployment of the armoured cruiser Defence.  The Admiralty's message of the 7th had made no mention of Defence, implying (though not outright saying) that they feel the existing ships under Craddock's command are sufficient to engage the German squadron.

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