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First Name: Albert Last Name: PEAKE
Date of Death: 28/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Brentford
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Dublin Fusiliers2
Memorial Site: Isleworth Memorial

Current Information:

Born-Isleworth

Enlisted-London

Montigny Communal Cemetery, France

 

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.

As the main body of the British Expeditionary Force retreated from Mons, 4th Division hurried east across France to join up with them. By the 25th August they had reached Solesmes, an important town because roads from the north, north-west and north-east converged on it, roads down which the retreating army would travel and which the pursuing Germans would also use. Overnight they moved further south.

By the following morning 4th Division were in a position around the village of Haucourt from where they could cover the left flank of II Corps. Le Cateau was five miles to the east. At first they were spared the heaviest of the fighting but as the German attack spread west in an attempt to engulf the BEF, they became more involved. Like many of the other battalions, the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers of 10 Brigade found themselves split up into a number of detachments to bolster the defences in different areas and when at  5pm, 4th Division were ordered to retreat with 10 Brigade as rearguard, many of 2nd Dublin were in Haucourt while others were scattered around the countryside. Soon after dark the two of their companies, still in Haucourt, and two companies of 1st Royal Lancaster (Kings Own]), north and east of the village were attacked but managed to beat off their assailants.  This detachment, along with 300-400 of 1st Warwickshire headed south across country heading for Selvigny. By 2am they had reached Ligny where food and sleep was sought. After some time they continued on towards Clary where they were fired upon as they approached this village.  Thinking other British forces to be ahead they advanced only to be swept by machine-gun fire. They retired back to Ligny where they formed a force of 200 men from nearly every battalion of 3rd, 4th & 5th Divisions.  They headed south-east but the enemy were all around so they headed changed tack and headed north-west.  After much wandering and at least one sharp fight, 78 of them reached Boulogne.  Meanwhile other detachments from the battalion joined up with the main body of 4th Division and continued the southerly retreat.  2nd Dublin suffered many casualties over the two days with nearly fifty of their number killed but their actions had helped to prevent the enemy from advancing along the whole front for several hours. Albert Peake died from wounds on 28th August,1914, after he had been taken back to Montigny, near Amiens and it is likely that he was wounded during the Battle of Le Cateau.

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