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La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France
First Name: Alfred Last Name: WHITE
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Streatham
Rank: Private Unit: Lancashire Fusiliers2
Memorial Site: 1. Mitcham Memorial 2. La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:


Bolstead Cottage, Grove Road, Streatham Common


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 them 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 enemy advance. So, on the next day II Corps turned and faced the enemy. The town of Le Cateau saw little of the actual fighting on 26th August, the main actions taking place along the line of the road running between Le Cateau and Cambrai. A fierce battle ensued when the Germans began an artillery bombardment at dawn. Their 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 which withdrew, whilst the enemy reorganised. British casualties for the day, killed, wounded or taken prisoner, were nearly 8,000.

At 3.30 on the morning of the 26th August, two companies of the 2nd Essex battalion, the advance guard of 12 Brigade, 4th Division, reached Longsart. The 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers battalion arrived soon after as 12 Brigade took up a position covering the villages of Longsart and Esnes. As the enemy advanced, the right of 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers came under fire and a large body of German infantry moved into the open between Wambaix and Cattenières. The battalion’s machine-guns took their toll but they were soon outnumbered by the enemy’s machine guns.  Some of these then moved to the left flank and hit 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers from that side as well, causing many casualties. By 8.45am the German advance towards Wambaix, around the British left, was well advanced and retirement was imperative.  2nd Lancashire Fusiliers were the last to withdraw with the Germans 300 yards off as 12 Brigade retired to the line Ligny-Esnes. British artillery fire was unable to prevent the enemy following up and dismounted German cavalry advanced firing from the hip only to fall in swathes when 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers opened up from their new positions.  During a lull the battalion fell back further to a better position, from which the retreat continued that night and the next day. One of their many casualties during this day of heavy fighting was Alfred White.

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