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Le Touret Memorial, France Le Touret Memorial, France
First Name: John Last Name: HAYES
Date of Death: 28/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Lewisham
Rank: Private Unit: Royal West Kent1
Memorial Site: 1. Lewisham, St Mary 2. Le Touret Memorial

Current Information:

Enlisted-Maidstone

The Race to the Sea. September-October 1914

By the middle of September 1914, the Aisne battlefield had stagnated into trench warfare and in order to break this impasse, both sides tried to outflank each other in a general movement northwards. Moving up through Picardy, Artois and Flanders, the race was over by 19th October when the North Sea was reached. The Western Front, a line of trenches stretching from Belgium to Switzerland, was now a reality. Initially it was the French army that conducted this movement whilst the British Expeditionary Force remained on the Aisne but by 6 October British reinforcements were needed to help beat off German attacks around Lille. They moved north and along with reinforcements from Britain, they took up new positions in Flanders, on the left of the Allied line and much closer to the Channel ports.

The battle of La Bassée,

This was fought by  II Corps (3rd and 5th Divisions) between 10th  October and 2nd November 1914 and as the name suggests it focused on an area around the town of  La Bassée in northern France. It was part of the Race to the Sea and it determined the line of the Western Front in that sector. There were some initial British successes but La Bassée remained firmly in German hands. German reinforcements arrived and  the village of Neuve Chapelle was captured by them. Towards the end of October, the fighting on this front died down as the attention of both armies switched to Ypres.

On 26th October at 4pm, the Germans launched a strong attack after a heavy and accurate artillery bombardment against  the left of 5th Division and the right of 3rd Division near Neuve Chapelle. This sector was held by 1st Royal West Kent, 13 Brigade, 5th Division 1st Wiltshire, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles and some of  4th Royal Fusiliers.  They all suffered severely and some had to vacate their trenches because of the constant fall of heavy shells.  The following day, 27th October, the Germans tried to surround 1st Royal West Kent to the south of where 1st Wiltshire had been.  1st Royal West Kent organised a line at right angles to their front and held on magnificently despite the death of their C.O. Major Buckle, until Indian troops arrived and took the Germans in the flank, driving them back into Neuve Chapelle. On 28th October, Indian troops resumed the attack but their efforts were not successful and as they fell back they exposed the two reserve companies of 1st Royal West Kent which had formed a flank at right angles to the attack.  These companies were overrun and dispersed but the Germans did not follow up this attack. 

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