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Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France
First Name: George Thomas Last Name: WOOLMAN
Date of Death: 15/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Pimlico
Rank: Rifleman Unit: Rifle Brigade3
Memorial Site: 1. Pimlico, St James the Less 2. Westminster, St Stephen

Current Information:


19L, Peabody Buildings, Ebury Bridge, Pimlico

Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France


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 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. It was fought by III Corps. (4th and 6th Divisions + 19Brigade)

On 13th  October, III Corps advanced on the line Armentières-Wytschaete with the  Cavalry Corps on their left. On the right 6th Division advanced but found the Germans entrenched along a small stream, the Meterenbecque, five miles beyond Hazebrouck.  They were on a long ridge running down from the main hills and upon which, Meteren with its dominant church tower, stood.  The Royal Flying Corps spotted German artillery and infantry moving to Meteren from Bailleul, so a stand seemed certain.  To the north, the cavalry met opposition and was unable to turn the position. They found themselves held up in Strazeele to where 17 Brigade was sent in support. A decision was taken to bring up 4th Division and make a combined III Corps attack on a five mile front from La Couronne to Fontaine Houck.  At 1pm, having waited in vain for 4th Division to come up on their left, 17 Brigade attacked the Oultersteene-Meteren ridge with the 1st North Staffordshire and 3rd Rifle Brigade battalions. By now the rain had set in and mist had fallen so the British artillery was largely useless.  German reinforcements had also arrived but the attack was pressed home and by the evening  Outtersteene and Meteren had been captured. However, the Germans had defended their line well and III Corps suffered over 700 casualties whilst most of the Germans were able to slip away to fight another day. Over the next two days 3 Rifle Brigade and other units from 17 Brigade, moved forward and occupied Steenwerck. George Woolman died from wounds on 15th October.

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