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First Name: Charles Last Name: RILEY
Date of Death: 23/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Borough
Rank: Private Unit: East Surrey1
Memorial Site:

Current Information:


1, Toulmin Street, Borough

 Hautrage Military Cemetery, Belgium


The Battle of Mons  August 23, 1914

This was the first battle fought by the British Army (BEF) in the war. Since landing in France ten days earlier the four infantry divisions and five cavalry brigades of the BEF had advanced to a position on the left flank of the French Armies only to find themselves directly in the line of the advance of the German First Army as they swept through Belgium and headed for Paris.

With orders to hold the German advance for 24 hours and outnumbered two to one, the BEF dug in along the Mons-Conde canal. The battle commenced at 9 am and lasted all day. By nightfall the BEF had withdrawn to the Valenciennes-Maubeuge road, a position from which the Great Retreat began the next day. British casualties, killed, wounded or missing, amounted to 1600 for the battle. German casualties were higher.

The 1st East Surrey battalion of 14 Brigade5th Division held the railway bridge at Les Herbières.  From a house half a mile away German fire hit the barricade they had erected but a battalion machine gun soon silenced this.  German artillery then hit the houses around the bridge but failed to destroy this machine gun and when they moved forward they were stopped in their tracks.  The area around the bridge was again plastered with shrapnel but with little effect.  At 1.30 pm the enemy attacked in force and presented a splendid target to the two companies of 1st East Surrey dug in along the embankment .The railway bridge was then blown and this was the signal for the battalion to blow the road bridge near La Hamaide and then retire to a position near Thulin. Casualties for 1st East Surrey amounted to nearly 140 on 23rd August, one of whom was Charles Riley who was killed in action.

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