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La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France
First Name: Edmund David Last Name: ASTELL
Date of Death: 14/09/1914 Lived/Born In: Westminster
Rank: Private Unit: Loyal North Lancashire1
Memorial Site: La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-30

9, Probyn House, Regency Stret, Westminster

 

The Battle of the Aisne 13th September -28 September, 1914

After the Germans were defeated on the Marne they fell back to the River Aisne, closely pursued by both the British and the French. The new German line was a very formidable defensive position. To attack it  meant  having to cross the Aisne and then climb up a 500 foot high ridge on top of which was the Chemin des Dames, a road that gave the Germans an easy way to move troops along the top of the hills. On 13th September the Aisne was crossed by both British and French troops but after that progress became slower, until there was no progress at all. Both sides dug in and the fighting settled down into trench warfare. The fighting on the Aisne continued for two weeks at the end of which both sides realised that frontal attacks on entrenched positions were both costly and non-productive, not that this deterred them from continuing with this tactic throughout the war.

On 13th September, 1914 on the extreme right of the British line, two patrols of cavalry were sent forward to the bridges at Villers and Bourg.  The bridges had been destroyed but the one over the Aisne canal, running south of the river, was intact.  A branch canal ran from the Aisne canal north-west to the River Oise, crossing the Aisne by an aqueduct, which was only slightly damaged.  The cavalry came under fire from Germans sheltered in houses along this branch canal whilst 2nd Cavalry Brigade and some artillery moved up to attack this aqueduct. But they needed assistance from 1st Division so, 2 Brigade, which included the 1st Loyal North Lancashire battalion, moved up behind the cavalry and the crossing was made.  At 3am on the following day, 14th September,  the brigade artillery moved off to capture the top of the Chemin des Dames ridge from Cerny to Courtecon. 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps led, followed by 2nd Sussex.  When the leading company of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps reached the top two hours later, they surprised a German piquet but could not progress further so two more companies were sent up. By now there was heavy rifle fire from both sides, a roar in fact but no artillery fire. There was obviously a strong German presence in front of them. At 6.30am 2nd Sussex moved up and deployed on the left of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Each battalion held about 800 yards of front. 1st Loyal North Lancashire then came up from Brigade reserve to support another attack, this time on a Sugar Factory just beyond the ridge. All three battalions advanced, occupied the buildings and entrenched on the ridge beyond.  They could go no further but German counter attacks were equally fruitless. Fighting surged to and fro all day. There were many casualties for 2 Brigade, one of whom was Edmund Astell of 1st Loyal North Lancashire

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