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La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France
First Name: William James Last Name: STURGESS
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Stratford
Rank: Lance Corporal Unit: Essex2
Memorial Site: La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-West Ham


Le Cateau 26th August 1914

By the evening of the 25th August, after their withdrawal south following the Battle of Mons on 23rd August, II Corps of the BEF, commanded by General Smith-Dorrien, had reached Le Cateau, in France. They had been retreating, but still fighting rearguard actions for two long days and they were done in. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French ordered the retreat to continue the next day but Smith-Dorrien chose instead to stand and fight.  He reasoned that with the Germans on their heels a retreat would be disastrous without first halting the German advance. So, on the next day II Corps turned and faced the enemy. A fierce battle ensued when the Germans began an artillery bombardment at dawn. German infantry followed up in the wake of this barrage and became the targets of both the British artillery and infantry. The Germans were held at bay until the afternoon but by then they were threatening the flanks of II Corps. The Brits withdrew, whilst the Germans reorganised. British casualties for the day, killed, wounded or taken prisoner, were nearly 8,000.

On 26th August, 12 Brigade of 4th Division held the left of the British line at Le Cateau with A and B Companies of the 2nd Essex battalion entrenched on the left of Longsart Ridge. C and  D companies were in support in Esnes.  At 6am the Germans advanced in force and heavy fire swept 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers and particularly 1st Royal Lancaster on their right. At 8.45am the decision was taken to vacate the ridge and whilst this was taking place B Company of 2nd Essex were enfiladed by machine gun fire which caused many casualties. C and D companies moved up to cover this retirement and did so successfully. In the afternoon more German guns moved up and their fire swept the positions of 2nd Essex, who, along with the rest of 12Brigade fell back further, first to Selvigny and then to Vendhuille. The battalion suffered 141 casualties on this day, one of whom was William Sturgess.

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