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St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium
First Name: Charles Last Name: HARLOW
Date of Death: 23/08/1914 Lived/Born In: St. Luke's
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex4
Memorial Site:

Current Information:

Born-St Luke's


St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium


The Battle of Mons  August 23, 1914

This was the first battle fought by the British Army (BEF) in the war. Since landing in France ten days earlier the four infantry divisions and five cavalry brigades of the BEF had advanced to a position on the left flank of the French Armies only to find themselves directly in the line of the advance of the German First Army as they swept through Belgium and headed for Paris.

With orders to hold the German advance for 24 hours and outnumbered two to one, the BEF dug in along the Mons-Conde canal. The battle commenced at 9 am and lasted all day. By nightfall the BEF had withdrawn to a position along the Valenciennes-Maubeuge road, a position from which the Great Retreat began the next day. British casualties, killed, wounded or missing, amounted to 1600 for the battle. German casualties were higher.

The 4th Middlesex battalion of 8 Brigade, 3rd Division along with 4th Royal Fusiliers, held the Mons-Obourg salient on the right of the line, where the main German attack was focused. At  6 am shots were fired at approaching German patrols and between 8 and 9 am both battalions were shelled. This was followed by German infantry attacks supported by heavy artillery fire.  The Germans advanced in close formation, shoulder to shoulder and rapid rifle fire drastically thinned their ranks. After that the Germans attacked more warily but their advance was extended along the whole line west of the salient.  By noon,  4th Middlesex were forced to fall back as the Germans worked round their rear having crossed the canal further west. Despite support from 2nd Royal Irish Rifles they were driven back on Mons.  The machine gun officer and six volunteers covered the withdrawal until they were overcome. The remnants of the battalion managed to get away and they headed west through Hyon to Nouvelles, six miles on, where they bivouacked.  4th Middlesex suffered around 400 casualties, more than any other British battalion at Mons. One of these was Charles away and they headed west through Hyon to Nouvelles, six miles on, where they bivouacked.  


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