' Stockport Soldiers who died 1914 - 1918 - Battle Report
Action at Le Bassee
Date: 12 22 October 1914
Regiment: 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment

The fighting around Le Bassee, in northern France, was one of several engagements caused by the so-called "race to the sea", with the opposing armies trying to outflank each other to cut off the Channel ports. The action had started on 10 October and, by the 12th, the Cheshires were ordered to take up a long front line covering the village of Festubert.

During the night of 12/13th October, two patrols, from "A" Company were sent out to capture a large farmstead in front of the battalion position, prior to an attack at dawn on the village of Rue d'Ouvert. The men took the farm, under fire, and prepared it for defence ready to be used next morning. But the attack did not materialise. After fighting all day, the patrol was surrounded. Very few were unwounded and, during the evening, the Germans set fire to the outbuildings and haystacks. The troops were in danger of being burnt alive and, at midnight the survivors had no choice but to surrender.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Battalion had been subject to infantry and artillery attack all day and casualties had been heavy. Six soldiers were killed, including William Bartlett and Luke Bradley. The regimental history only mentions that the members of the patrol were wounded or captured so it is probable that the fatalities were members of the main force. 

On the 16th, the Battalion captured its original objective and moved on towards its next objective - Violaines - which it captured on the 17th having received some 250 men as re-enforcements.

The Battalion was now subject to regular attacks but managed to hang on to its gains, pressing forward in an attempt to gain La Bassee on the 19th. This attack only managed to gain some 500 yards and nine men were killed including John Mott and Harry Poole. This would be the nearest that Allied troops would get to the town for four years. German attacks would continue to be made and be repulsed on the 20th and 21st.

On the 22 October, the Battalion was still in position at Violaines. "D" Company was engaged in digging trenches in front of the village, when it was rushed by a surprise German attack. The Company fell back, leaving "C" Company exposed. This Company was also forced back. The whole Battalion now found that there were no troops on either flank and was forced to further withdraw to avoid being cut off. Over 220 men became casualties - dead, wounded or captured. Five local men - John Firth, John Flanagan, Robert McDonald, William McVeety and Ernest Richardson - were among the 53 dead.

After this action, the battalion practically ceased to exist. Only two officers were fit for duty, but it remained in the trenches digging and taking casualties.

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