2nd Bn The Lancashire Fusiliers
The Battle of Le Cateau
also known as the
(Battle for Ligny)
23-28th August 1914.

Click here to read the War Memoirs of Emmanuel Diggle
2nd Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

At the battle of Le Cateau, 55,000 British troops
opposed 140,000 German troops

".... it is said by some that through the course of the entire war
never were British troops as heavily outnumbered "

This hand written account of the Battle is taken from Frank King's Feature
Clck here to see Frank's feature


George Holland
(one of 'The Old Contemptibles')

George Holland, son of Alfred & Eliza Holland, was born in 1897 in Weston Street
Bermondsey London He enlisted in The Lancashire Fusiliers in 1914

Extracts from the Regimental Journal for 1914/15 vols XXIV and XXV for the
2/20th dated 24th - 26th August 1914 show that George on the:

22nd Aug 1914 sailed from Southhampton with other men of the 2nd Bn Lancashire
Fusiliers on board the SS Saturnia

23rd Aug 1914 am they arrived at Boulogne and entrained from there at 11 pm to
Bertry From there they marched to Ligny and bivouaced there

25th Aug 1914 early am they marched toQuievy NNE of Caudry and entrenched
Tropical rain fell towards evening and the sky was illuminated by burning Mons
A few German shells landed near the 2/20th's trenches No one was hit

This was George's last night of freedom for the next 4 years He was captured next
day the 26th August during The Battle of Le Cateau 4 days after leaving England

The 2/20th casualties at the end of the day on the 26th August 1914 were:
2 Officers killed
3 Officers wounded
10 officers wounded & Missing, 2 of these rejoined later
402 NCOs & men failed to answer the roll call that night 143 of these rejoined later
259 NCOs & men were killed, wounded or missing on 26th August George
although taken prisoner was very lucky to have survived during the Mons retreat

George was captured during the Battle of Le Cateau near Longsart
Farm between Solesmes and the Cambrai to Le Cateau Rd

War Diaries of POWs
2441 Pte George Theobald
Captured Wounded at Harcourt Nr Cambria
26th August 1914
9357 Pte William Price
Captured not wounded Cambrai
26th August 1914

In the sunken road behind Hardy’s platoon a number of officers and men of all companies had collected. Soon after the shelling started Higgins was painfully wounded in the head, and on reaching this lane to get first aid he found one of his subalterns, D. C. Robinson, already there, so he posted Robinson and some thirty men on the right of the lane to form a defensive flank. From here Captain L. I. Cowper went back to the ridge behind the ravine in search of men; he collected number, but they were mostly Lancashire Fusiliers who returned to their own unit. The King’s Own tried to reform in the lane. Most of the men had recovered their arms and about half had their equipment. Those who had none were given ammunition and carried it slung over them in cotton bandoliers. The whole battalion was now behind the crest of the hill; in front lay only the dead, dying and wounded, still aligned in their ranks.
2/Warwicks were ordered up from Haucourt at about 6.30 a.m., but when they reached the lip of the plateau they were greeted by such withering fire that they were forced to withdraw. The position on the crest was untenable, and at 8.45 a withdrawal was ordered to the main Ligny-Haucourt-Esnes road. Covered by the fire of 14th Brigade, R.F.A., the King’s Own was withdrawn first and entrenched behind the road, the battalion front extending three hundred yards on either side of the village of Haucourt. 11th Brigade held the line to Ligny on the right while the rest of 12th Brigade continued it to the left as far as Esnes. The King’s Own casualties already amounted to some four hundred.
The only transport saved was a water-cart and a machine-gun limber, both of which were drawn by horse trained by the battalion in peace time, and the Medical Officer’s Maltese cart which never crossed the stream. The machine-gun was found to be serviceable and was brought into action by Lieutenant L. S. Woodgate, nephew of the General. Another machine-gun belonging to the Lancashire Fusiliers was posted near the cottage where Major Parker had established his headquarters, and yet another belonging to the Rifle Brigade came up on the right.
The battalion continued to be heavily shelled in its hastily dug trenches, scratched out as they were with any available tool and largely with bayonets. About 10 a.m. the firing died down and the Adjutant, Lieutenant W. A. T. B. Somerville, went forward again to see if he could bring in any men who had been left behind. On the way back he met a party advancing in a an attempt to recover the high ground on the right which the Germans appeared to have abandoned. Captain C. W. Grover was wounded almost immediately after the two parties joined up, and Hardy took charge, continuing as far as the quarry. But as the rest of the battalion did not come up on his left he was forced to withdraw to his original position on the road on the extreme right. By noon the enemy pressure had so far slackened as to allow of a strong party drawn from several units, including the King’s Own, to be made up for the purpose of recovering wounded. This party crossed the Warnelle and succeeded, before it was compelled by enemy fire to withdraw, in collecting a considerable number. Many of them, including Lieutenants Irvine and A. S. D. Baird-Douglas, were taken to the regimental aid post at Haucourt. The old parish curé was there, giving absolution and blessing and doing his job calmly and well. Farm carts and other civilian vehicles were impressed and in this way Nixon and many others were sent back. Higgins recovered sufficiently at about noon from the shot of morphia he had been given to collect up some eight to ten others and persuade a British civilian car driver to evacuate them. Not long afterwards the wounded collected from the battlefield arrived. Some of these also managed to get away, but a large number, including Irvine and Baird-Douglas, were too badly hit to be moved.
In the afternoon another advance was made by all three units involved, the Warwicks, King’s Own and Lancashire Fusiliers. On the right machine guns of 11th Brigade had been posted on the high ground and were constantly in action, engaging and stopping the enemy. But even under cover of these guns no progress was possible. On the extreme left, on the other hand, where Second Lieutenant R. C. Matthews was in command of a mixed collection of Essex Regiment, Lancashire Fusiliers and some of 10th Brigade in addition to his own platoon, there were no signs of the enemy. Matthews was out of touch with battalion headquarters and received his orders direct from brigade; just before he reached the place where the battalion had been in the morning he was ordered to withdraw to his former position, which he reached at about 4.30 p.m. His party picked up no British wounded, only a Uhlan whom they found at the top of the hill.
Shortly after that the withdrawal began and the main body of the King’s Own moved off towards Selvigny, but the message to do so did not reach either of the extreme flanks. It was not until 8 p.m. that Matthews was told to fall back. He joined brigade headquarters just before dark, where he found the Essex Regiment and the Lancashire Fusiliers, neither of which had been heavily engaged and were consequently more or less intact. Then the party went on for another couple of hours before going into billets. No message reached Hardy and Woodgate on the extreme right until about 8.30, when they were told to go to Haucourt where Major Parker was waiting for them. Woodgate’s machine-gun had been knocked out by a shell, so as he had no transport he dumped it into a well in a garden and led the way back to Haucourt. As they approached the village Hardy received a message from Clutterbuck, who wanted him, as he could speak French, to come and tell him what was going on. To his dismay it was German and not French that he heard. At that moment the church door opened and light streamed out to reveal on the other side of the street C.Q.M.S. J. Linton, Sergeant H. Sinker and other men of ‘A’ Company in the hands of the Germans. Sergeant called out to stop the King’s Own party from shooting. A man who was about to fire through the spokes of the wheels of a G.S. wagon near the church door lowered his rifle. The Germans called on Clutterbuck to surrender. He shouted “No” as the whole party jumped for a wall. Clutterbuck and two men were killed, but the rest, who now included Lieutenant R. A. C. Aitcheson, found themselves in a garden. The Germans fired over the wall but with no success and in the darkness they soon moved off. The King’s Own men found another way out, collected a few more wounded and put them in the church, where the old curé was still doing all he could for them. Then they went on to join Major Parker and Woodgate. It was now approaching 11 p.m. Major Parker had collected about fifty King’s Own men and was in danger of being cut off. The senior officers of other regiments in the vicinity were in the same predicament and they decided there was nothing for it but to leave the wounded in the church and hope that any unwounded stragglers would rejoin. Most of the troops moved off in a body, but Major Parker and his party proceeded independently at about midnight. Following a country track they slipped past one village in which there were Germans, skirted round several others, and halted at a farm where the farmer showed them much kindness and gave them food.