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First Name: Ralph Francis Last Name: HIGGINS
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Pimlico
Rank: Private Unit: Cornwall Light Infantry1
Memorial Site: 1. Pimlico, St Gabriel Memorial 2. La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:


8, "A" Block, Peabody Buildings, Ebury Bridge, Pimlico

Le Cateau 26th August 1914

By the evening of the 25th August II Corps of the BEF, commanded by  General Smith-Dorrien, had reached Le Cateau, in France. They had been retreating, but still fighting rearguard actions for two long days and they were done in.  The Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French ordered the retreat to continue the next day but Smith-Dorrien chose instead to stand and fight.  He reasoned that with the Germans on their heels a retreat would be disastrous without first halting the German advance. So, on the next day II Corps turned and faced the enemy. A fierce battle ensued when the Germans began an artillery bombardment at dawn. German infantry followed up in the wake of this barrage and became the targets of both the British artillery and infantry. The Germans were held at bay until the afternoon but by then they were threatening the flanks of II Corps. The Brits withdrew, whilst the Germans reorganised. British casualties for the day, killed, wounded or taken prisoner, were nearly 8,000.

At dawn, 1st Cornwall Light Infantry  14th Brigade, 5th Division and half of 1st East Surrey were in bivouacks on the heights east of Le Cateau. They had received no instructions and were ready to move off. They were waiting in column en route in Le Cateau by the railway bridge in the Faubourg de Landrecies, ready to withdraw when at 6.30 am they were fired on from nearby houses.  That the Germans were in Le Cateau came as a surprise.  Several men fell.  The signal section and some of 14 Brigade HQ troops gave covering fire and they all managed to move back to the high ground from whence they had come.  They formed a north-south line astride the cross roads just south of Faubourg de France.  The Germans quickly followed up but a counter attack by the 2 companies of 1st East Surrey allowed them to fall back south-east towards Bazuel, repelling attacks on their front and right flank.  1 mile from Bazuel some cavalry came to their assistance and this allowed them to start to move west at 8 am to rejoin 14 Brigade. They pushed slowly west despite much opposition.  Half of 1st Cornwall became detached and moved south-west towards St Benin.  D Battery and the other half of 1st Cornwall enfiladed the Germans in the Selles valley causing them to withdraw.  They then moved south-west towards Escaufourt where they arrived at noon. 1st Cornwall had suffered 200 casualties but some of the missing turned up later.  In the afternoon they moved Honnechy and later fell back to Maretz.

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