At Braisne on the Vesle, however, the Germans for a time made a resolute stand. They held the town in force, and covered the bridge with machine guns. They were strongly supported by artillery. Notwithstanding this, they were ousted out of the place by the 1st British Cavalry Division under General Allenby. While a brigade of British infantry cleared the enemy out of the town, which lies mainly on the south bank, the cavalry rushed the passage of the river under a galling fire and turned the hostile position. So rapidly did the Germans take to flight that they had to throw a large amount of their artillery ammunition into the river. There was no time to reload it into the caissons.[22] This feat of the British horse ranks among the finest bits of "derring do" in the campaign. The Queen's Bays have been mentioned in despatches as rendering distinguished service. Conspicuous gallantry was shown by the whole division. As a result of these operations from Braisne and[Pg 115] ????? Fismes, the British secured the country up to the Aisne.

Left and right, therefore, the advance had been completely successful. In the centre, however, the 2nd army corps had an exceptionally tough piece to negotiate. They advanced up to the Aisne between Soissons and Missy. The latter place lies on the north bank, just below the junction of the Aisne and the Vesle. Here there is a broad stretch of meadow flats, commanded north, east, and south by bluffs. On the south is the Sermoise bluff or spur; across the flats, directly opposite to the north, stands out the Chivre spur. The summit of the latter is crowned by an old defence work, the Fort de Condé. This the Germans held, and they made use of the spur, like a miniature Gibraltar, to sweep the flats of the valley with their guns. On this 12th September the 5th division found themselves unable to make headway. They advanced to the Aisne, which just here sweeps close under the Chivres spur, leaving between the cliff and the bank a narrow strip, occupied by the village of Condé-sur-Aisne. Across the river at Condé there was a road bridge, and the enemy had left the bridge intact, both because they held the houses of the village, which they had loop-holed, and because their guns above commanded the approach road. It may be stated that they held on to the Chivre spur and on to Condé all through the battle.

On the night of September 12 the British had possession of all the south bank of the Aisne[Pg 116] from Soissons up to Maizy, immediately to the south of Craonne.