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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Charles Adolph Henry Last Name: SMITH
Date of Death: 31/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Homerton
Rank: Sergeant Unit: Dragoon Guards5
Memorial Site: 1. Hackney, St Luke 2. Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


8, Oriel Road, Homerton


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 Messines 12th October-2nd November 1914

The Battle of Messines was fought in October 1914. It was part of the Race to the Sea and it took place between the Comines-Ypres canal and the River Douve. It involved the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions and elements of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions as well part of the Indian Division.

In the early morning of 31st October, there was a strong German attack at Messines against part of 1st Cavalry Division, including the 5th Dragoon Guards of 1 Cavalry Brigade who were broken up into small units and used to fill gaps when and where they occurred.  At first the attack was repelled but some of the enemy rushed right over the trenches up to the support line held by some troops of 5th Dragoon Guards and jumped into the trench before being bayoneted or shot. Other troops of 5th Dragoon Guards manned a barricade in the village and held off the Germans while reinforcements moved up, including a further squadron of 5th Dragoon Guards. At 8 am the Germans began a heavy bombardment of Messines followed an hour later by an Infantry attack supported by machine guns, firing from nearby brickfields.  It soon became evident that the twelve weak squadrons defending Messines could not hold on against twelve German battalions at odds of 6-1 or more and soon the Germans broke in north of the village and then created a gap to the south-east. At 10 am the Germans renewed their attack and 1 Cavalry Brigade was forced back from house to house. By noon the British line of defence had withdrawn to the main street, well within the western half of the village. The heavy fighting continued all day but the line held, despite the German artillery setting ablaze the British held part of the village.  At 9 pm, 2 Cavalry Brigade relieved 1 Cavalry Brigade successfully despite the closeness of the enemy. There had been many casualties on both sides during a day of heavy fighting and included among them was Charles Smith of 5th Dragoon Guards.

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