We were bound to go to war

Col Alfred Dykes
Col Alfred Dykes
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The man who led the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment into battle on August 23 100 years ago died just three days later in France.

Colonel Alfred McNair Dykes took command of the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, in 1913 and it was he who led them to France in 1914.

Photograph showing the 2nd Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment crossing the Zand Spruit at low water between Dundee and De Jagers Drift.  Alfred Dykes is standing next to the horse on the river bank.

Photograph showing the 2nd Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment crossing the Zand Spruit at low water between Dundee and De Jagers Drift. Alfred Dykes is standing next to the horse on the river bank.

He was killed at Le Cateau three days later as the German army advanced into France.

His last words were “good-bye, boys.”

As the war started, Alfred Dykes wrote to his mother on August 5 1914.

The letter read: “I was fully convinced that unless we, as a nation, were to sacrifice our honour, we were bound to go to war.

The Times Newspaper, September 1914

The Times Newspaper, September 1914

“First, in accordance with our most solemn obligations to France and Belgium. Secondly, to preserve our existence as a Nation and an Empire. Consequently without waiting for orders, I got to work at once on the great work of mobilisation, last Monday morning.

“I am now thankful; for though we are terribly busy, a great deal was done before the order arrived yesterday at 5 O’clock.

“We are now more than a day ahead of our programme and have saved a great deal of rush...we are awaiting the arrival of reservists, who will be pouring in tomorrow and subsequent days.

“My battalion will then be 31 officers and 1037 other ranks. “One thing only I do ask you and that is to accept the news and whatever comes of it, with the calm strength and bravery which you have always shown in times of stress.

We are all happy and full of confidence and I think that rarely never did war begin in a more thoroughly just cause.

“You used to think me cynical, I think, in our Billiard Room War Councils when I used to air my views on the value of German Treaties, Vows and Protestations. “There is no need to ‘crow’! The truth of all I said stands self evident today.

“On the heads of the German and Austrian Emperors, who have plotted and planned all this, for years, while professing peace...”

He was commissioned into the regiment in 1894 and served with both the 1st and 2nd Battalions, including active service in South Africa 1899-1902 where he was wounded at Spion Kop.

A telegram from Buckingham Palace, dated September 4 1914 to Mrs Dykes, Broomfield Hotel, Malvern, read: “The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army have sustained by the death of your husband in the Service of his Country.

Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow.

Private Secretary