23rd August 1914.
The Royal Irish Regiment moved from its reserve position in a gravel pit and
advanced past the Mons Insane Asylum to the Nimy Canal. "The air was heavy with a
clinging mist and charged with the concussions
of exploding shells." Marching ahead of his platoon in "traditional
style", Conrad led his men to almost certain death.
''But what was
one to do? The earth on the
hillside was being mashed by enemy shells while machine-guns raked the ground
we were crossing. Deadly detonations cratered splattering earth in all directions.
The noise was deafening. Within a few minutes not a single officer in my
Company remained. (DM p. 40)
himself was severely wounded and was carried to the Asylum where nuns had set
up a dressing station. The Germans began shelling the building, and soon
terrified inmates ran screaming into the battlefield. The shelling continued
and the Asylum caught fire and burnt to the ground. The conquering hoards swept
over their defeated foes. Things had not gone well for the British
Expeditionary Force that day. Conrad, along with some other wounded, were moved
to an inn and then on to a small hospital on the outskirts of Mons. Here Conrad remained whilst his
wounds healed. As he got his strength back, his thoughts turned to escape. He
had heard that Antwerp was still in
Allied hands, and so
set his mind to escaping there. He soon learned the first rule of escape: say
nothing! He confided in a British doctor, a Major whom the Germans had
appointed to check on the welfare of the
British wounded. The Major saw the plan as a breach or the Geneva Convention
and warned against it. The following day, a troop of German soldiers came for
Conrad. He was taken to the station and his stretcher placed in a cattle truck
full of British walking wounded. Conrad was bound for Germany.