Wednesday 27th of August 2014 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Rearguard Action of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Munster Fusiliers at Etreux during the Retreat from Mons. Members of the Royal Munster Fusiliers Association along with many others including a Tour party from Ireland led by Mr. Mike McLoughlin from Limerick, Ireland had traveled from as far away as Ottawa, Canada to be at the orchard cemetery in Etreux to commemorate this event. Months of meticulous planning had gone into the event and Professor Hedley Malloch who lives in Lille had organised all of the local events in Guise, Iron and Etreux. Without his help, these events would not or could not have gone so well and the RMFA will be eternally grateful for his help.
Many descendants of the men who served in the 2nd Munsters attended the ceremonies on the day. One of those was Mr. Paul Newson whose father 2nd Lt. Harry Newson was captured at Etreux. Paul attended with his wife and 2 teenage sons. Other relatives in attendance were Col. Mike Dudding OBE who is a descendant of Company Serjeant Major and later Captain J.H. Jordeson, Mr. Martin Foley who is a grandson of Sgt William Foley and Mr. Mike Donoghue who is a grandson of Pte Daniel Donoghue. Other relatives who attended were those of Major Paul Charrier and 2nd Lt. C.V.E. Awdry, both who were Killed in Action at Etreux. We were also glad to have in our company, Mr. Martin Staunton. Martin was one of the first to do major research on The Royal Munster Fusiliers for his thesis back in the early 1980′s. He had traveled down from Brussels with friends to be with us on the day.
On the morning of the 27th we all gathered at the Place Lasur in Guise. Our Honorary Secretary, Ms Colette Collins laid a floral tribute at the Monument aux Mort de Guise on behalf of the association. We then moved to Guise Chateau to the site where 11 soldiers, 5 who were Munster Fusiliers and Mr. Vincent Chalandre were executed by the Germans in February 1915. Prof. Hedley Malloch spoke about the soldiers and told some of the details of the morning on which the soldiers were executed. The names of the 12 were read out in both English and French. A number of wreaths were laid at the execution site and a minutes silence was observed.
The tour then moved to Guise communal cemetery to where the soldier’s remains are now resting after being exhumed in 1920. The soldier’s graves are looked after by The CWGC and Mr. Chalandre’s grave which remained unmarked for many years has been rededicated and is looked after by the local Guise community. Mrs. Jean Prendergast of the RMFA laid a poppy wreath at the soldier’s graves. A Piper’s Lament and the Last Post & Reveille were played after which a minutes silence was observed.
Following this ceremony we were invited to Guise Town Hall where finger food was put on by the Mayor of Guise. Our Chairman Mr. Liam Nolan presented a plaque to the people of Guise on behalf of the RMFA.
Our next stop was to Etreux British Cemetery and the site of the Rearguard Action of 1914. His Excellency Mr. Rory Montgomery, the Irish Ambassador to France attended the ceremony. He spoke in length about The RMF and he said that;
“the time for “contestation about the rights and wrongs in Ireland was past, and the time for querying people’s motives is also I hope passed. We should focus on the human losses involved and the effects this would have had on the families. I’m very glad that the State has become so much more open to recognising this strand of our history.”
The Ambassador laid a wreath on behalf of the Irish people. Other wreaths were laid by the Mayor of Etreux, Mr. Joël Noisette, the 10th Essex Regiment Re Enactment Group and Mr. Mike Donoghue of Ottawa Canada laid a wreath on behalf of The Royal Munster Fusiliers Association. We then made our way to Etreux Communal Cemetery where there are other Munster Fusiliers buried. These soldiers had died in the days after the Rearguard Action. Before entering the cemetery Mr. Adrian Foley laid a floral tribute at The Monument aux Mort Etreux on behalf of The RMFA. Once inside the cemetery, tributes were paid to the soldiers and Mr. Paul Newson laid a floral tribute at the soldier’s graves on behalf of the RMFA.
After this ceremony we moved to the town of Iron to commemorate the families of those who had hidden and looked after the soldiers. After the executions, the families were to suffer terribly at the hands of the Germans. Addresses were given by the Mayor, M Andre Gruselle, Mr Liam Nolan and Mr. Adrian Foley. Presentations were made to the families of M. Chalandre and Ms Logez and Mr. Ollie Griffin, President of the RMFA laid a wreath on behalf of the Association.
While refreshments were laid on by the town of Iron, the RMFA Committee traveled the short distance to the cemetery where the remains of The Chalandre and Logez families are buried. Mr. Hedley Malloch laid wreaths on both graves and a minutes silence was observed.
During the next 2 hours we chatted with the locals and were treated to a fine display by The 10th Essex Regiment. We were also present to see the War Horse Ride 2014 which started in Maroilles on 27th of August with 35 riders travelling 100 miles across France. The RMFA also presented Mr. Hedley Malloch with a plaque as a ‘thank you’ for the invaluable work he had put into organising the day’s events.
At about 8.30pm we moved again to Etreux British Cemetery to prepare for our main event of the day. Darkness was closing in and the orchard seemed an eerie place approaching the exact moment of the 9.15pm surrender of the Munsters. A light breeze prevented us from keeping candles alight which we had placed around the cemetery. Our Chairman addressed those present and Mr Adrian Foley, Vice Chairman of the RMFA whose Great Grandfather CQMS William Foley was captured at Etreux laid a wreath on behalf of the Association. A Pipers Lament was played by Mr. Gerald Griffin whose Grandfather was a Munster and this was followed by The Last Post. The end of the Last Post signaled a minute’s silence which was timed to coincide with the exact time of the surrender of the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers at 9.15pm. All fell silent and those present remembered the Munsters who fell on the spot exactly 100 years ago.
The minutes silence was broken by the sounding of Reveille. This in turn was followed by four volleys of shots by the 10th Essex Regiment Group. After a short silence the ceremony at the Graveyard ended what was a memorable day which will not ever be forgotten by those in attendance.
On behalf of our President Mr. Oliver Griffin and our Chairman Mr. Liam Nolan i would like to thank all of those who attended any or all of our remembrance ceremonies in and around the Etreux area on August 27th 2014.
Many photos were taken on the day during all of the events. Some are posted here for you. If you are reposting any of these photographs please respect the copyright of the individual photographers and give credit to their photographs.