Unmentionable crimes


4th October 1914

The Dorsets remained in billets during the day and at 7pm they continued to march westwards, under the cover of darkness. Their progress was severely delayed by a long column of French troops passing them on the road in motor transport.

Image of the Château de Pondron
The stunning Château de Pondron in Fresnoy-la-Rivière

Meanwhile, Gleichen was driven to the Château de Pondron in Fresnoy-la-Rivière by “Henvey (A.P.M. of 5th Division).”*

Gleichen arrived long before the rest of the troops and describes the sad state of the château when he arrived:

It had, of course, been occupied by Germans, and, equally of course, it had been ransacked and partly wrecked by them—though a good deal of furniture had been left. There were even candles and oil-lamps available, and of these we made full use, as well as of the bedrooms. I chose the lady’s (Comtesse de Coupigny, with husband in the 21st Dragoons) bedroom. The counterpane was full of mud and sand, through some beastly German having slept on it without taking his boots off, but there was actually a satin coverlet left, and pillows. All the stud- and jewellery-cases had been opened and their contents stolen, and Madame de C.’s writing-table had also been forced open, and papers and the contents of the drawers scattered on the floor. Other unmentionable crimes had also been committed.

We leave the Dorsets at midnight still waiting by the roadside, watching long columns of French troops pass them by, some distance yet to go on their 15 mile night march.

*The APM of 5th Division was probably named Major Anley; Barnett Dyer Lempriere Gray Anley. Although in Saul David’s 1914: The Outbreak of War to the Christmas Truce: Key Dates and Events from the First Year of the First World War the APM of the 5th Division is called Captain J. Monteath. I cannot find any mention of him anywhere else at the moment.

Incidentally, his chapter on Thomas Highgate makes the (I believe) repeated mistake of assuming that Highgate was executed in the grounds of Château Combreaux in Tournan-en-Brie. As I stated in 8th September’s post he couldn’t have been here, as the 15th Brigade formed the firing party, witnessed the execution and were over twenty miles away at the time.

An APM is an Assistant Provost Marshal, in charge of a Division’s policing, but not necessarily a policeman themselves, usually an experienced combat solider. Apart from the main duties of maintaining law and order, the other responsibilities of an APM was to deal with stragglers, prisoners and traffic on the battlefield. Justice within Divisions was maintained by their own “battle” police forces but this was gradually replaced during the war by official Military Police from the newly formed Corp of Military Police (CMP). The number of Military Police in the BEF was very small at the outbreak of the war (501 increasing to 764 with reservists). This figure rose to over 25,000 by the end of the war.

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