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Le Touret Memorial, France Le Touret Memorial, France
First Name: Walter Andrew Last Name: SPILLER
Date of Death: 25/10/1914 Lived/Born In: City
Rank: Private Unit: West Riding2
Memorial Site: 1. Fleet Street, St Dunstan 2. Le Touret Memorial, France

Current Information:


4, Ludgate Circus, City


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 La Bassée

This was fought by II Corps (3rd and 5th Divisions) between 10th October and 2nd November 1914 and as the name suggests it focused on an area around the town of  La Bassée in northern France. It was part of the Race to the Sea and it determined the line of the Western Front in that sector. There were some initial British successes but La Bassée remained firmly in German hands. German reinforcements arrived and  the village of Neuve Chapelle was captured by them. Towards the end of October, the fighting on this front died down as the attention of both armies switched to Ypres.

Early in the morning on 22nd October, the 1st Cheshire battalion of 15 Brigade, 5th Division, were attacked at Violaines and driven from the village with the loss of over 200. A large gap had opened up in the front line and the 2nd West Riding battalion of 13 Brigade, in nearby Rue d’Ouvert, were ordered to counter-attack Violaines. They moved off at noon and made good early progress but on meeting a hail of fire when 500 yards from the enemy line, they quickly dug in. Meanwhile their reserve company of had been ordered to Rue de Marais where they supported another attack on Violaines being made by the 2nd Manchester and 1st Bedfordshire battalions. At 8am on 23rd October the enemy appeared between trees and houses 800 yards west of Rue d’Ouvert and with artillery backing moved towards the trenches held by 2nd West Riding. These were not a continual line of trenches but unconnected sections with many men having to lie on the ground behind them with little cover from the rifle and shell fire. Nevertheless the men of 2nd West Riding held their ground and spent the night digging to improve their positions. On 25th October, while still in these positions, the battalion was heavily shelled during the afternoon. Walter Spiller was one of their casualties on this day.

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