Néry 1914

Out of all the paintings of the heroic action of L Battery at Néry on 1 Sep 1914 this one by Fortunino Matania is, to my mind, the best. It was published in the contemporary account of The Great War edited by H W Wilson (vol 2 p18). The caption reads: BRITISH VALOUR NEAR COMPIEGNE: HOW THREE GUNNERS OF THE R.H.A. WON A PLACE IN HISTORY. In the early hours of the morning of September 1st 1914, L Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery were suddenly subjected to a terrific enfilade fire from a ridge they had supposed to be still occupied by the French. Their positions prevented them from bringing more than three of their guns against the enemy. As the day wore on but one gun remained serviceable. It was then that the three men, all of whom were wounded — Sergeant-Major Darrell, Gunner Darbyshire, and Driver Osborne — won their place in history. They kept up such a deadly fire that all but one of the remaining German guns were silenced, and, as one of the survivors remarked, “We’d both had enough of it.” both sides ceased fire, and the three heroes, all of whom were recommended for the V.C., were rescued by our cavalry and infantry.

This narrative puts a different slant on the legend. The illustration appears to show the severely wounded officer, Capt Bradbury on the extreme left but he is not mentioned. There is also no mention of Sergeant Nelson, and the writer states that Darbyshire and Osborne were recommended for the VC. As it turned out, three men were awarded the medal, Bradbury, Dorrell and Nelson. For some reason Gunner Darbyshire and Driver Osborne were not given the award.

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by Stephen Luscombe