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La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France
First Name: Arthur Last Name: BYRON
Date of Death: 29/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Hackney
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex1
Memorial Site: La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:


161, Victoria Park Road, South Hackney

55, Clinton Road, Mile End


Le Cateau 26th August 1914

By the evening of the 25th August, after their withdrawal south following the Battle of Mons on 23rd 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 them 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 enemy advance. So, on the next day II Corps turned and faced the enemy. The town of Le Cateau saw little of the actual fighting on 26th August, the main actions taking place along the line of the road running between Le Cateau and Cambrai. A fierce battle ensued when the Germans began an artillery bombardment at dawn. Their 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 which withdrew, whilst the enemy reorganised. British casualties for the day, killed, wounded or taken prisoner, were nearly 8,000.


At 6am on 26th August, German artillery opened fire and at 6.30am their infantry penetrated the outskirts of Le Cateau as 19 Brigade retired. At this stage of the war, 19 Brigade were not attached to any particular division and the 1st Middlesex battalion, as rearguard of the brigade, exchanged shots before heading south-west through 5th Division’s lines to take up support positions by a wood north of Reumont.  At 10am, 1st Middlesex and 2nd Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders were sent to strengthen 14 Brigade in a critical position on the high ground between Le Cateau and the Roman road 1000 yards north of Les Essarts Ferme.  They came under heavy shell fire and sorely missed the entrenching tools that had been discarded at the beginning of the Retreat.  1st Middlesex were part of the right flank which rested on Le Cateau and which for six hours withstood heavy attacks and persistent shell-fire.  At 1pm a retirement became necessary especially as their right was open and the enemy were closing in.  Large numbers of Germans swarmed across the Cambrai road just west of Le Cateau overwhelming the 2nd Suffolk battalion and three platoons of 2nd Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders.  Two companies of 1st Middlesex, along with other troops, moved to the valley of the Selle to stem the German advance, which they did, allowing the retirement to get going around 3pm.  At 4pm, they too retired up the Selle valley to Reumont and then on to Estrées where they bivouaced at 10pm, having sustained over one hundred casualties. . According to the records, Arthur Byron died from wounds on 29th August, by which time, 1st Middlesex had reached Pontoise as the British Army retreated south to the Marne. The battalion diary has no record of any fighting, nor of any casualties after Le Cateau so it is likely that he became a casualty during that battle but that his death was not recorded until later. That he is commemorated on the La Ferte Memorial to the Missing is further evidence of this.


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