Luckily untouched by a Scottish accent


28th August 1914

As the Dorsets marched on the morning of the 28th August they passed the Commander of the BEF himself. Sir John French spoke to troops as they past. He roundly praised them, promising them “three days rest”. Of the British solider, he says in his memoirs, “it touched me to the quick to realise how, in the face of all the terrible demand made upon their courage, strength and endurance, these glorious British soldiers listened to the few words I was able to say to them with the spirit of heroes and the confidence of children”.

At lunch the Brigade stopped and had a longer rest, for the day was very hot again. Some joie-de-vivre must have started creeping back into the men as Gleichen narrates, “I remember that Moulton-Barrett went up to St André, who was lying fast asleep, and shouted out, “The Germans are on us!” Poor St André jumped to his feet with a yell and seized his revolver; it was a wicked joke.” Oh, that droll Moutlon-Barrett.

St André was the French interpreter to the 15th Brigade. He was a a Protestant pastor from Tours, son of the Vicomte de Saint André. Gleichen was very fond of him – “his English was very fluent, luckily untouched by a Scottish accent.” Charming.

St André can be seen here on the left, in a photograph of the 15th Brigade HQ staff. I’ve taken this from the online Project Gutenberg version of Gleichen’s book. I haven’t been able to find out anything else about him at this time.

Image of Some of Brigade Headquarters
L. de St A. J. T. W. G. A. L. M.-B. R. E. B.
photo by Lieut. H. M. Cadell, R.E.

The going was slow. French cavalry were heading in the opposite direction, which caused delays, and they were also blocked by a supply train in Noyon. But eventually they reached their destination, an orchard at Pontiose-Lés_Noyon, and, according to Gleichen, were told that they were going to rest there for several days. They’d marched 20 miles.

The fact that French troops were moving north is interesting in that there were obviously other things happening that the Dorsets knew nothing about. I’ve decided to keep quiet about these events so it doesn’t spoil the narrative of this particular story. I will explore them when the 15th Brigade becomes aware of what is happening.

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