Open main menu

The Rearguard Affair of Étreux was fought at Étreux by the British Expeditionary Force during the Great Retreat on the Western Front in 1914.

Rearguard Affair of Étreux
Part of the Great Retreat on the Western Front of World War I
Date27 August 1914
49°59′42″N 03°39′27″E / 49.99500°N 3.65750°E / 49.99500; 3.65750Coordinates: 49°59′42″N 03°39′27″E / 49.99500°N 3.65750°E / 49.99500; 3.65750
 United Kingdom  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien German Empire Alexander von Kluck
German Empire Karl von Bülow
around 800 with two field guns 4,000–5,000
Casualties and losses
around 600 killed and wounded, 240 men and 4 officers  (POW) as many as 1,500[1]
Étreux is located in France
Étreux, a commune in the Aisne department, Hauts-de-France, northern France



The German 2nd Army commander General Karl von Bülow had ordered a rapid pursuit after the battles of 21–24 August against the French Fifth Army and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The 1st and 2nd Armies were sent to the south-west to gain the left flank of the Allied line. After encountering "especially obstinate" resistance at Marbaix and Le Grand-Fayt, the German Imperial Army's X (Reserve) Corps had been ordered to continue its advance to the south-west.[2] The 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers had been ordered to hold its ground at all costs, in their first action in France.

2nd Munsters stand at EtreuxEdit

Less than a battalion strength, just 3 companies of the 2nd Battalion of "The Munsters" supported by a couple of field guns halted the advance of the German Army for fourteen hours in the area of Oisny and Étreux during the retreat from Mons on August 27.[1]

Under continual pressure from German attacks the Munsters fell back to an orchard near the village of Étreux. As night fell on the evening of the 27 August, they found themselves surrounded by the Germans. Having exhausted their ammunition they surrendered.[1] In their action at Ètreux only four officers and 240 other ranks of the 2nd Munsters survived but the battalion delayed German pursuit of the British I Corps, gaining time for the British Expeditionary Force to escape.[3] The 2nd Munsters were outnumbered at odds of over 6:1 and when finally defeated, the survivors were congratulated on their bravery by the German soldiers they had fought. The German X (Reserve) Corps continued its advance towards Wassigny and Étreux on 27 August 1914, where the its constituent 19th (Reserve) Division reported that it had "scattered a British battalion".[4]



  • Bowman, T. (2003). Irish Regiments in the Great War: Regular Regiments at War. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-6285-3.
  • Humphries, M. O.; Maker, J. (2013). Der Weltkrieg: 1914 The Battle of the Frontiers and Pursuit to the Marne. Germany's Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great War. I. Part 1. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 978-1-55458-373-7.

Further readingEdit

  • Jervis, H. S. (1922). The 2nd Munsters in France. Aldershot: Gale and Polden. OCLC 776753712.
  • Johnstone, T. (1992). Orange, Green and Khaki: The Story of Irish Regiments in the Great War, 1914–18. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. ISBN 0-71711-994-7.
  • McCance, S. (1927). The History of the Royal Munster Fusiliers: From 1861 to 1922. II. Aldershot: Gale and Polden. OCLC 317805052.

External linksEdit