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Fontaine-au-Pire Communal Cemetery, France Fontaine-au-Pire Communal Cemetery, France
First Name: Henry William Last Name: BARKER
Date of Death: 26/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Camden Town
Rank: Private Unit: Hampshire1
Memorial Site: South Camden, St Mary Magdalene

Current Information:

 Born-St Pancras

Fontaine-au-Pire 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.

On 26th August detachments of 11Brigade, 4th Division, covered the north and north-eastern approaches of Beauvois a village on the le Cateau-Cambrai road while the main body of the brigade fell back and occupied a line south-west from the ‘Quarry’, with the 1st Hampshire battalion on the left and astride the railway. By 8.45am the German advance towards Wambaix around the British left was well advanced and retirement was imperative.  1st Royal Lancaster were sent to the south side of Warnelle ravine and to give them cover,  two companies of 1st Warwick counter-attacked from Haucourt against the ridge north of Longsart and to cover the right flank of 1st Warwick, 1st Hampshire sent forward two platoons. Spotted by a German battery at the railway station just south of Cattenières, these two platoons opened rapid fire at 1500yds and the battery withdrew. The rearguard of 11Brigade now became somewhat isolated after 12 Brigade withdrew on its left while at the same time a gap developed between them and 7 Brigade on the right. The enemy worked round both flanks and began to attack along the railway from the west and from Fontaine au Pire in the north-east.  With German batteries lined up from Wambaix to the north of Fontaine the plateau was plastered. Machine guns joined in too, but no large scale infantry attack followed.  Small parties of 11Brigade were forced out of the more exposed positions by shrapnel but invariably reoccupied them.  At 3pm 11Brigade withdrew into the low ground of the Warnelle Ravine, under heavy shrapnel fire.  They met this fire again moving up the rear slope of the Ravine in front of Ligny and suffered more losses. On three occasions the enemy advanced against Ligny and three times they were thrown back severely punished and by 4pm, 4th Division had undisputed possession of the town. At 7pm 1st Hampshire were the last to withdraw and moved to Serain, overtaking the rest of the brigade en route. Among their casualties during the course of the day was Henry Barker.


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