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Caudry British Cemetery, France Caudry British Cemetery, France
First Name: John Robert Last Name: COLLINS
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Camberwell
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Scots2
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Caudry British 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.

At 6am on 26 August, 1914, the German artillery opened fire followed at 6.30am by infantry attacks which penetrated the outskirts of Le Cateau.  The two flanks of II Corps came under severe pressure but not so 3rd Division in the centre of the line. 8 Brigade were at Audencourt and here the German shells fell with little effect allowing the British troops to continue improving their trenches.   At 1.40pm the artillery fire increased and enemy infantry advanced against the junction of the 2nd Royal Scots and 1st Gordon Highlanders but failed to make ground in the face of accurate fire from these two battalions. Between 3.30 and 4pm, 8 Brigade received orders to retire and 2nd Royal Scots withdrew quite easily except for a detached party who received no orders and stayed put. The Germans were slow to advance however and when they did at 5pm, slowly making their way up through a knee high field of beetroot, they were met by the rapid fire of this detached party at 400 yards distance and for over an hour could gain no ground. By this time the Royal Scots had also withdrawn and the Great Retreat was under way again. Among the casualties suffered by 2nd Royal Scots during this fighting was John Collins.


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