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La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France
First Name: John Last Name: SAUNDERS
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Twickenham
Rank: Private Unit: Manchester2
Memorial Site: La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:


94, Colne Road, Twickenham


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 6am on 26 August in thick mist, the German artillery opened up on the troops of 14 Brigade, 5th Division immediately west of Le Cateau. Meanwhile, other German batteries from a position two miles north-west of Le Cateau (Rambourlieux Farm) opened up against the troops between Le Cateau and the Roman road leading to Cambrai, enfilading the whole line with destructive effect. One company and a machine gun of the 2nd Manchester battalion were pushed forward to the rear of 2nd Suffolk prolonging the line to the south.  At 11am two more companies of 2nd Manchester were sent up under fierce fire but they managed to reach 2nd Suffolk despite being checked once. However the Germans were steadily gaining ground and it was only the action of a small group of 2nd Manchester with a machine gun that kept them back and allowed the 5th Division artillery to be withdrawn. The battalion then fell back further in the face of overwhelming numbers and the retreat continued. Among the casualties suffered by 2nd Manchester during this action was John Saunders.

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