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Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium
First Name: Arnold David Last Name: WHITBY
Date of Death: 20/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Wanstead
Rank: Private Unit: East Yorkshire1
Memorial Site: 1. Wanstead Memorial 2. Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium

Current Information:

Born-West Ham


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 Armentières  12th October-2nd November 1914

The official History pinpoints the battle of Armentières to a series of battles that took place between the river Douve and a line between Estaires and Foumers. It was part of the Race to the Sea and it determined the line of the Western Front in that sector. It was fought by III Corps which consisted of 4th and 6th Divisions as well as 19 Brigade.

On 20th October the Germans attacked all three Brigades of 6th Division on the Lille Ridge along a line running from Radinghem through Ennetières and Prèmesques to Epinette.  Between 7 and 8 am their trenches were heavily shelled followed by German infantry attack which came on in bounds covered by machine guns.  18 Brigade took the brunt of this attack in the salient in front on Ennetières where 2nd Sherwood Foresters, 1st West Yorkshire and 1st East Yorkshire were holding a three mile line, largely isolated from each other and very vulnerable. The Brigade was ordered to secure their right flank and later to withdraw to a line, west of La Vallée itself one mile west of Prémesques. .  At 8 am, after 45 minutes of heavy shelling, the Germans stormed Prémesques.  Two companies of the reserve battalion, 2nd Durham Light Infantry were sent to support along with the remaining two companies of 1st East Yorkshire. Despite this support, the line was driven back and eventually 1st East Yorkshire threw back their left to form a defensive flank. Arnold Whitby was one of their casualties during this day of heavy fighting.

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