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First Name: John Percy Last Name: KNIGHTS
Date of Death: 20/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Leyton
Rank: Private Unit: Sherwood Foresters2
Memorial Site: County Hall Memorial

Current Information:

SDGW-KNIGHT

Born-Bethnal Green 

Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix

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 Armentières  12th October-2nd November 1914

The official History pinpoints the battle of Armentières to a series of battles that took place between the river Douve and a line between Estaires and Foumers. It was part of the Race to the Sea and it determined the line of the Western Front in that sector. It was fought by III Corps. (4th & 6th Divisions + 19Brigade)

On 20th October the Germans attacked British troops on the Lille Ridge. All three Brigades of 6th Division were attacked along the line Radinghem-Ennetières-Prèmesques-Epinette.  Between 7 and 8 am their trenches were heavily shelled followed by German infantry attack which came on in bounds and covered by machine guns.  18 Brigade took the brunt of this attack in the salient in front on Ennetières where the battalions were largely isolated from each other.  18 Brigade had three battalions, 2nd Sherwood Foresters, 1st West Yorkshire and 1st East Yorkshire, in a 3 mile line, only held by platoons dotted along it and all were very vulnerable.  The main German attack came on the right where La Vallée & Ennetières form one long village and held as a salient by 2nd Sherwood Foresters. The first German inantry attack was made across open country and was easily repelled as were their other attacks that morning. However at 1 pmther was a much stronger assault against 2nd Sherwood Foresters which was stopped but their right was now very weak with only 5 platoons covering the 1500 yards to connect with 16 Brigade.  At 3 pm, in drizzling rain, the Germans attacked this right flank but with the help of 2nd Durham Light Infantry the attack was stopped.  This right flank now subject to severe enfilade, almost reverse shelling from the north-east.  After dark, three battalions of Germans in lines advanced quickly and took Ennetières from the west and south-west. The platoons on the right were attacked from the rear and mostly captured. Survivors rallied on the Artillery Brigade near the windmill at the north-west end of La Vallée.  At the same time the Germans made a frontal attack on the two companies of 2nd Sherwood Foresters in trenches east of Ennetière and they fell back to the other side of the village.  Whilst reforming at the crossroads between La Vallée & Ennetière they were surprised, surrounded and captured though some held out in houses to the following morning.  It was not surprising that 2nd Sherwood Foresters had broken.  They had been fighting continuously for 48 hours with three quarters of a German Corps ranged against them.  

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