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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: William John Last Name: JOHNSTONE
Date of Death: 28/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Woolwich
Rank: Sergeant Unit: Dragoon Guards4
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-27

70, Fenwick Street, Woolwich Common

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 the 26th October the Germans attacked at the junction of 3rd Division and 5th Division and broke through the British line to capture Neuve Chapelle. Counter attacks later on that day and on the following day failed to regain the lost trenches. They tried again on 28th October but once again the attack failed and as the troops fell back they exposed the flank of 1st Royal West Kent and threatened to once again break the British line. A number of units, including 4th Dragoon Guards, 2nd Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division became involved in the ensuing struggle and they prevented the pursuing Germans from penetrating the gaps. It was however a close run thing. 

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