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Bethune Town Cemetery, France Bethune Town Cemetery, France
First Name: James Last Name: COOMBES
Date of Death: 15/10/1914 Lived/Born In: St. Giles
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex4
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Bethune Town 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 La Bassée,

This was fought by  3rd and 5th Divisions of III Corps 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 and when German reinforcements arrived 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.


On 12th October, 1914, the 4th Middlesex battalion of 8 Brigade, 3rd Division came under fire when they took up an outpost line east of the village of Vieille-Chapelle. They were then involved in an action to capture the village of Croix Barbée and after three days of heavy fighting they finally succeeded in doing this on 15th October. Among the many casualties suffered by 4th Middlesex during this operation was James Coombes who died from wounds on 15th October.

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