Road bridge across the Aisne-Oise canal captured by 4th Dragoon Guards.

On 13th September 1914 the British Army was advancing north from the Marne, with the intention of crossing the Aisne. The Aisne was both a river and a canal, and at the village of Bourg, it was intersected by the Oise-Aisne canal as well.

Before Bourg was 4th Dragoon Guards. Here there were three bridges that crossed the two canals and the river, and part of the Oise-Aisne canal ran over the Aisne river on an aqueduct. Advanced patrols had spotted that the two canal bridges were intact, but that the road bridge over the Aisne river had been blown. A plan was made to seize the two canal bridges, and the aqueduct, which would allow a passage into Bourg itself. The area seemed to be held by German infantry, supported by machine-guns at key points on the bridges.

The commanding officer met with his men on the south side of the Aisne canal and ordered a charge on the outposts that guarded the first bridge. His men were already coming under fire from Bourg, which sat on a high point, but the charge went in and took the Aisne canal bridge quickly. A machine gun from a building on the other side of the Aisne-Oise canal was laying down heavy fire, and the 4/DG were also taking enfilade fire from a second gun on the aqueduct. At this point up rode Captain Pat Fitzgerald, the Dragoon's machine gun officer, who dismounted his guns and soon silenced the German fire. This enabled the infantry to move up, cross the bridges and use the aqueduct to cross the river and enter Bourg.

It was at this point a shot ran out from the church tower in Bourg;

Pat got a bullet between the eyes. I was only a few yards from him, trying to do something for Sergeant Langdon... when someone shouted to me. Fitzgerald was unconscious when I got to him. His wound was no bigger than a blue pencil mark in the centre of his forehead. Then in a moment he was gone.

Captain A.Osborn RAMC
Medical Officer - 4/DG
Unwilling Passenger (Faber 1926)

Captain Gerald Hugh 'Pat' Fitzgerald was born at Johnstown Castle, Wexford in April 1886, the only son of the late Lord Maurice Fitzgerald. Educated at Eton, he was commissioned to the 4th Dragoon Guards from the Yeomanry in December 1907, becoming Captain in November 1913. Pat had only married Dorothy Charrington on 6th August 1914, and had left for the front almost at once. He and the other 4/DG casualties were buried in the churchyard at Bourg, following the capture of the village.

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Graves of 4th Dragoon Guards, including Pat Fitzgerald, Bourg Communal Cemetery.

ŠPAUL REED 2002-2006

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