The British Expeditionary Force arrived in France on 14th August, 1914. On the way to meet the French Army at Charleroi, the 70,000 strong BEF met the advancing German Army at Mons. The British Commander Sir John French, deployed the British infantry corps, under the leadership of General Horace Smith-Dorrien, east and west of Mons on a 40km front. General Edmund Allenby and the cavalry division was kept in reserve.
To stop the advancing Germans, orders were given to a group of Royal Fusiliers to destroy the bridges over the Mons-Conde Canal. The men came under heavy German fire and during the operation, five men, including Private Sidney Godley, Captain Theodore Wright and Corporal Charles Jarvis, won the Victoria Cross.
On the morning of 23rd August, General Alexander von Kluck and his 150,000 soldiers attacked the British positions. Although the German First Army suffered heavy losses from British rifle fire, Sir John French was forced to instruct his outnumbered forces to retreat. French favoured a withdrawal to the coast but the British war minister, Lord Kitchener, ordered the British Expeditionary Force to retreat to the River Marne.