The mining village of Peronne-les-Binche, 10 miles/16 kms east of Mons, lay in the path of a sector of the advancing German 1st Army. ‘E’ Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, supporting a troop of The Scots Greys and a troop of The 16th Lancers, was positioned to provide artillery cover to the cavalry units as they patrolled the line of a small stream running from Peronne to the nearby town of Binche, 2 miles/3.5 kms to the south.
The British cavalry gave a good account of itself when contact was made with units of German cavalry along the stream. A cavalry officer commented, “Ours can shoot. Their’s can’t”. However, the R.H.A. battery’s artillery fire was ineffective, the German artillery response was very much more so, the weight of advancing infantry irresistible: the result being that the British units were forced to withdraw.
The German advance through Belgium, a country supposedly guaranteed in neutrality by a treaty that the Germans, amongst the European Powers, had signed, was marked by atrocities. In the case of the German advance through the Peronne-Binche sector, farms and houses were set alight. The private diary of the Battery Captain of ‘E’ Battery noted, “We could see the smoke from the houses as the Germans came on.”
At the village of Peronne the mayor was arrested. He was stood against the wall of the town hall, seen behind the memorial, to be summarily shot. His assistant, a young man of 19 years of age, insisted on standing with his mayor. The German commander told him that he was not condemned but the young man would not leave his mayor’s side. Both were shot.
On the 100th anniversary of this event, a ceremony of remembrance for the mayor and his assistant, and all the civilians killed by the Germans, was held in the village square.