A stout peasant


2nd September 1914

It’s the shortest diary entry yet in the war diary. “Retirement continued to MONTGE where Bge billeted. Weather fine & hot. Distance marched.” The writer didn’t even finish the entry. The Dorsets had set off at 4:15am, acting as rearguard to the 5th Division. They arrived at Montgé-en-Goële at 10:45am, after a journey of about 10 miles.

Funnily enough, Gleichen mentions that today “retirement was morally rather bad for our men, and the stragglers increased in numbers”. The men were getting disheartened by the constant marching. Day after day they walked past disappointed or bewildered civilians. The local Maire of Montgé-en-Goële , “a stout peasant”, questions Gleichen on the retirement. Even he struggles to work out why they were still retiring and not standing and fighting. Gleichen suspects that Joffre had a “deep-laid plan”, guessing that the BEF was to garrison Paris.

The BEF was now within spitting distance of Paris. From Montgé-en-Goële you could sometimes apparently see Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower. Their backs were against the wall.