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Bethune Town Cemetery, France Bethune Town Cemetery, France
First Name: Alfred Last Name: GANDE
Date of Death: 27/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Homerton
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Fusiliers4
Memorial Site: Stoke Newington Library

Current Information:

Born-Old Ford

Bethune Town Cemetery


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.

At 4pm on 26th October, after a heavy and accurate artillery bombardment, the enemy launched a strong attack against the left of 5th Division and the right of 3rd Division near Neuve Chapelle. This sector was held by the 1st Wiltshire, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles battalions of 7 Brigade, some of 4th Royal Fusiliers of 9 Brigade and the 1st Royal West Kent battalion of 13 Brigade, 5th Division. They all suffered severely and some had to vacate their trenches because of the constant fall of heavy shells.  2nd Royal Irish Rifles were engaged in their third struggle in 24 hours and the number of those still in their line was reduced to 2 officers and 17 other ranks. Not surprisingly the line broke here and the Germans pressed through into Neuve Chapelle.  4th Royal Fusiliers and 1st Wiltshire on either side hung on while the reserve company of 1st Wiltshire, some 80 men, stopped the enemy at the western exits of Neuve Chappelle and drove them back into the burning village.  During the evening other troops moved up and a counter attack was launched by the rest of 4th Royal Fusiliers plus the remaining companies of 1st Wiltshire and 2nd Royal Irish Rifles.  They entered Neuve Chapelle and drove the Germans out but were unable to regain control of the old British trenches to the east of the village. 


The following day, 27th October, the day on which Alfred Gande died from wounds, there was a renewed attempt to recapture these trenches but German machine guns ensured that little progress was made.  The force consisted of of the remnants of  4th Royal Fusiliers, some of 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, remnants of 2nd South Lancashire and 1st Lincolnshire. They were unable to progress beyond the outskirts of Neuve Chappelle because of German snipers and machine guns in scattered cottages. With the attacking force exhausted and enfiladed from both flanks, the attack was abandoned. 

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