Pen and Sword Digital & BHTV, 2014
After the action at Mons and subsequent retreat by the Expeditionary Force, Smith-Dorrien ordered II Corps to stand and fight rather than force the exhausted troops to continue the retreat.They were engaged by the Germans in a rearguard action at Le Cateau on 26th August. This DVD from Battlefield History TV examines the action using a narrative approach of the events that took place.
It is of course impossible to explain the battle without setting out the events of the days leading up to it. The action at Mons and beginning of the subsequent retreat are covered in some detail, setting the scene well.
What becomes apparent from the location shots is just how open the landscape is and how exposed the two sides were. The battle is known for its use of artillery, used to devastating effect with little cover for the soldiers. The Germans kept attacking across open ground, many falling victim to British marksmanship. Yet British casualties were not light either, with some battalions paying dearly. These included the 2nd Suffolks, holding a key piece of high ground (‘Suffolk Hill’) on II Corp’s right flank, who were repeatedly attacked by the Germans throughout the day.
The narrative is broken up by a couple of small segments looking at the British soldier’s equipment, and British artillery. These are nice touches and help to provide a more rounded account of the action. The judicious use of animated maps to show the progress of the battle and highlight the locations on the film that are being discussed also helps to illustrate the course of events.
My only niggle is that I would have liked more of a summary of the outcome of the battle, the casualties, and particularly the longer term implications of Smith-Dorrien’s actions. In addition with no less than five presenters it does sometimes feel like a case of ‘too many cooks…’, nevertheless overall this is an interesting film and I certainly felt like I understood the battle more having watched it.
Buy this DVD from Amazon here:
Le Cateau [DVD] [NTSC]