© Peter Hodgkinson 2016

Dr Peter E Hodgkinson Chartered Clinical Psychologist - Military Historian

The fighting on Fourth Army front, between Le Cateau and the Andigny Forest, is the subject of Peter’s third book, to be published by Helion in 2017.

The Battle of the Selle

In 1998, J.P. Harris wrote in Amiens to the Armistice: ‘Almost no-one has now heard of the Battle of the Selle … Objectively, however, it must be regarded as one of the greatest military victories in the nation’s history’. This situation remains virtually the same today.

The battle resulted from the German retirement on the night of 8 October after the fall of Cambrai. This led to the so-called Pursuit to the Selle, 9-11 October, carried out by Fourth, Third and First Armies.

The Germans then chose to stand and fight on the line of the River Selle in hastily constructed defensive positions called the Hermann Stellung I. A set-piece battle was fought by Fourth Army 17-19 October, and by Third and First Armies on 20 October whereby the river was crossed and the enemy subsequently forced back towards the Sambre-Oise Canal.

There are a number of interesting questions to ask about this battle.

The first concerns the Pursuit. How did the BEF go about semi-mobile warfare? What were the limitations on such a type of warfare? The second concerns the crossing of the Selle. Was the BEF wielding a near infallible weapons system, or in some battles were some elements more important and did others fail to do their job?

The Battle of the Selle proves a good example of an infantry battle, won by dogged perseverance and skilled infantry work, and good leadership.

River Selle,

Le Cateau

early 19th century

Great War