Sapper History




Western Front


Corps of Royal Engineers


Related Events, other areas of the war & notes

28 June 1914




Archduke Franz Ferdinand heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg are assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

20 July 1914



Austria-Hungary sends troops to the Serbian frontier.

25 July 1914



Serbia mobilises its troops.

Russian troops begin move to Russo-Austrian frontier.

28 July 1914



Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.

29 July 1914



Great Britain warns Germany that it cannot remain neutral.

Austrians bombard Belgrade the Serbian capital.

German patrols cross the French border.

1 August 1914



French mobilise their forces.

Germany declares war on Russia.

Belgium & Italy announce their neutrality.

3 August 1914



Germany declares war on France.

Great Britain gives order for troops to mobilise.

4 August 1914



Germany invades neutral Belgium.

Great Britain as a guarantor of neutral Belgium declares war on Germany.

United States declares neutrality.

4 August 1914



Minister for War - Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum issued orders for the expansion of the army on day of his appointment.

6 August 1914



Royal Navy cruiser HMS Amphion is sunk by German mines in the North Sea causing the death of 150 men and the first British casualties of war.

7 August 1914

First members of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) land in France.



7 to 25 August 1914



Battle of the Frontiers. French offensive to recapture Alsace & Lorraine from the Germans repulsed with huge losses.

12 August 1914



Great Britain declares war on Austria-Hungary.

13 August 1914

The first squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps arrive in France.



16 to 19 August 1914



Cer Mountain. Invading Austrian army surprised by Serbian forces and forced into retreat.

20 August  1914

Brussels is evacuated as Germans occupy the city.


Gumbinnen. Russians repulse an attack by two German Corps near East Prussian border.

21 August 1914

At Obourg near Mons Pte John Parr was the first BEF fatality of the war as his cycle reconnaissance team met a German unit.



22 August 1914

First substantial action was between BEF and German cavalry units near Casteau just north of Mons. 4th Dragoons v. German cavalry.



23 to 24

August 1914

Battle of Mons opens along the line of the Mons – Conde canal.



23 August 1914


Mons Conde Canal bridge demolitions.

L. Cpl Charles Alfred Jarvis VC,

with Sapper Neary &

Capt. Theodore ‘Dodo’ Wright VC

(23 Aug & 14 Sept ’14) all of 57 Fd Coy

The canal to the west of Mons has since been diverted although the line of the original canal is visible between the new motorway and railway line.

23 to 31 August 1914



Battle of Tannenberg, Germans encircle and rout Russian army. 92,000 taken prisoner & 400 guns.

25 August  1914

The retreat from Mons begins as the Royal Flying Corps claim their first 'kill'.

Three aircraft from 2nd Squadron force down a German reconnaissance plane.



26 August  1914

The BEF makes a stand at Le Cateau. They suffer 7,812 of all ranks, killed, wounded and missing. The retreat continues.



26 to 30 August 1914



Guila Lipa. Austrian army defeated Russian army leading to capture of fortress of Lemberg in Austrian Galicia.

28 August 1914



Heligoland Bite. Ill-coordinated raid by Royal Navy on German North Sea bases ends with sinking of 3 German light cruisers.

2 September to

7 November 1914



Tsingtao. German 4,000 man garrison in Chinese treaty port surrendered to besieging force of 25,000 Japanese & 1,500 British.

6 to 10 September  1914

The First Battle [Miracle] of the Marne halts the German’s progress and pushes them back to the Aisne. The cost is 13,000 BEF, 250,000 French and 250,000 German casualties.



12 to 15 September 1914

The First Battle of the Aisne commences and ends 3 days later with fighting continuing on and off to the end of the month. The BEF and French gain and maintain a foothold north of the river despite strong counter-attacks. The entrenchment of the Allies here see the opening of trench warfare.



14 September 1914


Capt. Theodore ‘Dodo’ Wright VC

57 Fd Coy

(see above & pontoon bridge at Vailly)

Capt William Henry Johnston VC with

Lt R B Flint DSO both of 59 Fd Coy at

Moulins des Roches (both on the river Aisne)


25 to 29 September 1914

The Battle of Albert sees the French pushing towards Bapaume but eventually be held by the Germans at Thiepval. Fighting continues to move north towards Arras and Lille and into West Flanders.



26 September 1914



First Indian troops land in Marseille.

3 October 1914

The BEF begin a phased withdrawal from the Aisne being replaced by the French army. At this point a defended line exists south to the Swiss border. The ‘Race to the Sea’ begins as the German’s attempt to outflank the Allies. The Belgian army establishes a front from Nieuwpoort linking up BEF at Ypres who hold the line from here down through Armentieres and Bethune in France linking up with the French around Lens.



14 October 1914



First Canadian units arrive in Britain.

16 October 1914



The British Indian Expeditionary Force sails from Bombay to the Persian Gulf to prepare for the defence of Mesopotamia.

19 October  to 22 November 1914

First Battle of Ypres.

BEF suffer heavy losses during this period with 2,298 officers and 51,807 men killed, missing or wounded.



21 to 24 October 1914

1st Ypres: Battle of Langemark



29 to 31 October 1914

1st Ypres: Battle of Gheluvelt



29 October 1914



Turkey enters the war against Great Britain and her allies.

1 November



Coronel. Royal Navy cruisers Monmouth & Good Hope sunk of Chile by German naval squadron of von Spee.

4 November 1914



Tanga. British attack on German East Africa port ends in disaster.

11 November 1914

1st Ypres: Battle of Nonne Bosschen

[also referred to as Polygon Wood]

Distinguished Conduct Medal – 5 men of the 5th Fd. Coy RE win the DCM for events on this day at Polygon Wood and 2 other men are awarded DCMs for events on and about this date. This total of 7 DCMs is a record for a minor Unit in so short a period.


15 to 22 November 1914

BEF 1 Corps withdrawn from Ypres salient and replaced by French troops. BEF holding front south from Wytschaete to the La Bassee Canal at Givenchy.



22 November  1914

Trenches are established along the entire Western Front.



23 November  1914



The British enter Basra securing oil supplies in the Middle East needed to supply much of the Royal Navy.

8 December  1914



The Battle of the Falkland Islands. Royal Navy task force sinks three German cruisers that were victorious at the Battle of Coronel in November. Only the SMS Dresden escapes.

16 December  1914



The German First High Sea fleet bombards Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby killing 137 civilians.

19 December 1914


Lt Philip Neame VC [later Lt Gen KBE CB DSO], 15 Fd Coy, Moated Grange near Neuve Chapelle.



21 December 1914



First German air raid on Britain.


From the outbreak of war to the year end the BEF suffered some 177,000 casualties including 2,000 officers & 41,000 other ranks, dead, missing or prisoners of war. The remaining number [4,000 & 130,000] were either wounded or suffering from illness.