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Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium
First Name: Leonard Thomas Last Name: PYEFINCH
Date of Death: 20/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Lee
Rank: Private Unit: East Kent (Buffs)1
Memorial Site: 1. Lee, St Mildred 2, Grove Park, South Lee Baptist Church 3. Ploegsteert Memorial

Current Information:



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 Armentières  12th October-2nd November 1914

The official History pinpoints the battle of Armentières, fought by 4th and 6th Divisions and 19 Brigade, to a series of battles that took place between the river Douve and a line between Estaires and Foumers. It was part of the Race to the Sea and it determined the line of the Western Front in that sector.

On 20th October all three Brigades of 6th Division were attacked along the line Radinghem-Ennetières-Prèmesques-Epinette on the Lille Ridge.  Between 7 and 8 am their trenches were heavily shelled followed by German infantry attack which came on in bounds and covered by machine guns.  The 1st East Kents (Buffs) battalion of 16 Brigade, held the front east of Radinghem whilst the remainder of 16 Brigade prepared a second line half way between them and Bois-Grenier.  At 1 pm there was a concentrated German shelling and assault against Radinghem but 1st Buffs held on. At  3 pm, artillery observers reported the Germans to be advancing on Radinghem from Le Maisnil.  By this time 1st Buffs had lost touch with the flanking troops of 18 Brigade and some French cavalry, both of which had been driven back and they were in serious danger of being surrounded. The battalion machine guns had been knocked out and the trench on their left had been captured.  At 4.50 pm a message from Brigade HQ ordered them to hold on at all costs and that reinforcements were being sent to assist. This help arrived at 7 pm and half an hour later the Brigadier arrived at the barricade in the village held by the HQ party.  Unaware that both flanks were exposed he ordered the village to be held.  A Staff officer put him right regarding the precarious position the battalion was in and he ordered the retirement of 1st Buffs back to the second line. One of the casualties suffered by the battalion during this day’s action was Leonard Pyefinch who was killed in action.

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