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First Name: Valentine James Last Name: SMITH
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Wanstead
Rank: Gunner Unit: Royal Field Artillery 45Battery
Memorial Site: 1. Wanstead Memorial 2. Leyton Library

Current Information:


22, Nightingale Lane, Wanstead


St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium

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 theGermans 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.

During the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, the British artillery fired air bursting shrapnel shells at the advancing German infantry. In order to do this they were employed out in the open, just behind the infantry and firing over open sights. This meant thet they were in full view of the German guns and as a consequence they suffered many casualties. In contrast, the German artillery were in concealed positions and relied on forward observers to direct their fire. In the afternoon when II Corps fell back, some of the guns were lost.


4th Battery, 42 Brigade were attached to the 3rd Division

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