Primary Documents - The First Battle of the Aisne: Sir John French's Special Order of the Day, 11 September 1914

Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) Reproduced below is the special Order of the Day issued by British Army Commander-in-Chief Sir John French in the immediate aftermath of the Allied success at the First Battle of the Marne in early September 1914 and shortly into the follow-up First Battle of the Aisne.  In his special Order French congratulated the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) for their conduct during both battles, and suggested that the German Army would, in spite of being presently well entrenched, shortly be obliged to continue its retreat as "a beaten enemy".

Sir John French's Special Order of the Day, 17 September 1914

September 17, 1914

Once more I have to express my deep appreciation of the splendid behaviour of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the army under my command throughout the great battle of the Aisne, which has been in progress since the evening of the 12th inst., and the battle of the Marne, which lasted from the morning of the 6th to the evening of the 10th, and finally ended in the precipitate flight of the enemy.

When we were brought face to face with a position of extraordinary strength, carefully entrenched and prepared for defence by an army and staff which are thorough adepts in such work, throughout the 13th and 14th, that position was most gallantly attacked by the British forces and the passage of the Aisne effected.

This is the third day the troops have been gallantly holding the position they have gained against most desperate counter-attacks and the hail of heavy artillery.

I am unable to find adequate words in which to express the admiration I feel for their magnificent conduct.

The French armies on our right and left are making good progress, and I feel sure that we have only to hold on with tenacity to the ground we have won for a very short time longer when the Allies will be again in full pursuit of a beaten enemy.

The self-sacrificing devotion and splendid spirit of the British army in France will carry all before it.

J. D. P. FRENCH, Field Marshal, Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Field

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. II, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "British warm" was a heavy issue greatcoat for officers.

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