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The History of The Great War comprises 28 volumes, with the narrative drawn from official sources.   Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1914 is the first volume, as put together by Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds.  It’s from that one finds the following description of the town and geography:

The ground on which the British Army had taken up its Map position was a narrow belt of coalfield which extends roughly for rather more than twenty miles westwards from Maurage (6 miles east of Mons) along the Mons canal, and has an average breadth, from the canal southward, of two miles. South of this belt the country gradually rises to a great tract of rolling chalk downs, cut into by many streams and with numerous outlying spurs. Every inch of this territory has in bygone days seen the passage of British armies; name after name is found upon British colours, or is familiar in British military history.

On the ground occupied by the I. Corps, that is to say, roughly from Givry northward to Spiennes, thence westward almost to Paturages and thence southward again to Quévy le Petit, the chalk comes to the surface; and there is even a little outcrop of it within the salient or loop of the canal around Mons. This small area is cut up by wire fences, market gardens, and the usual artificial features which form the outskirts of a provincial town ; and it is noteworthy that across this tangle of enclosures no fewer than seven different roads diverge from Mons north-east and north-west to as many bridges. At the base of the salient the ground rises gradually from north to south, for fifteen hundred to two thousand yards, till it culminates in three well-marked features. The first of these is Mount Erebus, a round hill immediately to the south of Mons; the second is a great whale-backed hump, about a thousand yards long from north to south, very steep upon every side except the eastern, and crowned by two summits, Mont Panisel on the north and Bois la Haut on the south, the whole called by the latter name. The third is the height known as Hill 93, which lies south-east of Bois la Haut and is divided from it by a shallow valley. This last hill was of considerable tactical importance, since from it and from Bois la Haut observation and cross-fire could be brought to bear upon the ground eastward about St. Symphorien. But Bois la Haut was in parts thickly wooded, and consequently from its northern end, where there were hospital buildings, there was little field of fire.

West of Mons the line of the canal is straight, and the actual borders are clear; the ground on both sides of it is cut up by a network of artificial water-courses, chequered by osier-beds, for a breadth of a mile or more. But the opening up of the coal-measures has turned much of the country immediately south of this watery land into the hideous confusion of a mining district. The space occupied by the II. Corps in particular, within the quadrangle Mons-Frameries-Dour-Boussu, was practically one huge unsightly village, traversed by a vast number of devious cobbled roads which lead from no particular starting-point to no particular destination, and broken by pit-heads and great slag-heaps, often over a hundred feet high. It is, in fact, a close and blind country, such as no army had yet been called upon to fight in against a civilised enemy in a great campaign.

 

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One Comment

  1. Readers will also enjoy Soldier’s Mail: Letters Home from a New England Soldier 1916-1919 which features the writings of U.S. Sgt. Sam Avery from the front lines of American involvement in the Great War. A compelling eyewitness narrative from the hot sands along the Rio Grande to the cold mud along the Meuse.


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