MOY - A VIEW FROM THE GREYS
The 20th Hussars and the 12th Lancers were nearby. The whole of the 5th Brigade was concentrated. Patrols were out, while a whole Squadron of the Greys commanded the approach of the entire valley in which we were sheltered. The Brigade was thus well safeguarded against any surprise.
Everybody was resting, lying in the hot sun, when at about eleven o’clock the report came in from one of the outlying patrols that it had been withdrawn from its position, having been engaged by enemy scouts. Two German Squadrons had been seen advancing a little way behind them. There was an immediate stir, Major Swetenham (Royal Scots Greys, to which Regiment Major Maze was attached) galloping off with his trumpeter and our squadrons mounting and dispersing with a section of guns. I remained with the limbers, expecting every moment something to happen. After what seemed an age, for we were left on our own, the rest of the battery (J Battery) was ordered up and I jumped on to a limber following. By a high bank, where the led horses of one of our troops had been left, we stopped. At that moment rapid musketry fire opened from the top of the bank and, just as I reached the men, who were firing from behind a hedge at an advance guard, bullets whistled through the leaves, coming from halfway up the distant spur, where a large body of cavalry had dismounted, and over which J Battery’s shells were properly bursting. The next second the enemy’s horses, which were being quickly led to shelter, were stampeding, scampering up the hill, caught in the rapid fire of another of our (The Greys’) squadrons with machine guns. What followed was timed to perfection like an event at a tattoo, when, suddenly, from the corner of the ring, deployed cavalry appears and a charge finishes the tableau. J Battery lifting its fire, the 12th Lancers who had worked round the right of our troops unobserved, sprang on the scene at full gallop, dashing for the flank of the disorganised Germans. The charge went through them like a flash, and the men pulled up their horses, re-formed, and once again rode through the enemy. By the time that the Greys had come on ready to charge, the work was done; only a confusion of dead and wounded was left on the ground.
I ran down into the valley as one does towards the scene of an accident. Remounted squadrons with drawn swords were also hurrying to the scene. As a few Germans were hiding in the corn-stooks lances and swords were thrust through the hay and I heard fearful yells. The horses were very excited, as were the men, who were showing to each other blood dripping off their sword blades. Others were busy picking up souvenirs.
Meanwhile, I had propped up a wounded German Dragoon, who was vomiting quantities of undigested, unripe, gooseberries. He had nasty sword thrust through his chest. In broken English he told me that he had only left the Ritz in London twenty days before, where he had been a waiter, but what I was interested to find out was whether they were the vanguard of a large force of Cavalry. He said that several divisions were in the vicinity. I wrote this down on a piece of paper and had it immediately sent to the Colonel. By then, the regiments had re-formed and were drawing away from the scene, and as I could see myself being left behind again, I hurried towards where I had left the limbers. I was just in time, for they were off, and I was cursed by the sergeant for leaving them, as he said that an officer had instructed him to keep an eye on me. At that moment our guns unexpectedly fired again. It was Captain Dendie who, just as his section was limbering up, saw another advance party of enemy Dragoons on the reverse slope. Taking advantage of a target with open sights, he ordered his guns to re-open fire. This opportune intervention gave the brigade time to withdraw at leisure. As from my limber I looked round, I saw Major Swetenham’s trumpeter coming towards us, leading a horse with an empty saddle. I guessed at once what had happened - Major Swetenham had been killed. I felt his death deeply. He with another officer, who had been shot through the head, and six wounded men were our only casualties in that engagement.
Making three long columns, the three regiments were now trotting across stubble fields in the wake of the brigade staff, who were cantering ahead with their escort, distinguished by a red pennant fluttering from a lance. The shining bamboos of lances and the bright coats of the horses encircled the battery, whose wheels noiselessly crushed the straw. A dog that had suddenly appeared from nowhere, moved in rhythm with the cavalcade, delighted with his new attachment. A feeling of satisfaction ran through the ranks, and the horses stepped out proudly. There was every reason for this elation - the enemy cavalry had been dealt a blow which would make them realise that they still had to reckon with the British Cavalry. They would in future not advance as they had done that morning without taking the rudimentary precautions. It seemed incredible that a large force of cavalry with their reputation should have moved over open country without throwing out strong patrols to reconnoitre the ground.