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First Name: William Steven Last Name: HALEY
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: West Ham
Rank: Private Unit: Essex2
Memorial Site: Stratford, St John Memorial

Current Information:

Born-West Ham

Esnes Communal Cemetery, France

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.

On 26 August  12th Brigade, 4th Division held the left of the British line with A and B Companies of 2nd Essex entrenched on the left of Longsart Ridge. C and  D companies in support in Esnes.  At 6 am the Germans advanced in force and heavy fire swept 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers and particularly 1st Royal Lancaster on their right. At 8.45 am the decision was taken to vacate the ridge and whilst this was taking place B Company of 2nd Essex were enfiladed by machine gun fire which caused many casualties. C and D companies moved up to cover this retirement and did so successfully. In the afternoon more German guns moved up and their fire swept the positions of 2nd Essex, who, along with the rest of 12 Brigade fell back further, first to Selvigny and then to Vendhuille. 2nd Essex suffered 141 casualties on this day.

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