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First World War

1st Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Account of the Battle of Le Cateau

By Captain Gaston Roland Rigden Beaumont, in August 1914 a 2nd Lieutenant with the ‘B’ Company, 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in to the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on 2nd August 1913. Attached to the 1st Battalion on mobilisation, and arrived in France with the rest of the battalion on 23rd August 1914.

Aerial photograph showing Haucourt and Le Cateau

Le Cateau

“We arrived at dawn by the Ligny Road to a spot where subsequently we suffered so heavily. The Battalion was ordered to form close Column facing the enemy’s direction of defences. Companies were dressed by the right, piled arms, and place equipment at their feet. There was a big stir because some of the arms were out of alignment and the equipment did not in all cases show a true line. A full 7 to 10 minutes was spent in adjusting these errors. The Brigade Commander rode up to the Commanding Officer and shortly afterwards we were told to remain where we were as breakfast would shortly be up. Everyone was very tired and hungry having had nothing to eat since dinner the day before. A remark was passed as regards our safety. My Company Commander replied that French Cavalry were out in front and the enemy could not possibly worry us for at least three hours.

The picture of this period was as follows:-
Three Companies of the Battalion in close Column, the fourth company just about to move up to the left with a view to continuing a line with the 20th who had just commenced to dig in. Just about this time some Cavalry (about a troop) rode within 500 yards of us, looked at us and trotted off again. I saw their uniform quite distinctly and mentioned that they were not Frenchmen. I was told not to talk nonsense and reminded that I was very young. It was early in the morning and nobody felt talkative, least of all my Company Commander? The Cavalry appeared again in the distance and brought up wheeled vehicles; this was all done very peaceably and exposed to full view. We could now hear the road transport on the cobbled road and a shout went up “Here’s the Cooker”. New life came to the men and Mess Tins were hurriedly sought. Then came the fire. The field we were in was a cornfield. The corn had been cut. Bullets were mostly about 4 feet high just hitting the top of the corn stalks. Temporary panic ensued. Some tried to reach the valley behind, others chewed the cud; of those who got up most were hit. The machine gun fire only lasted about two minutes and caused about 400 casualties. The 4th Company moving off to the left was caught in columns of fours. Shell fire now started and did considerable damage to the transport, the cooker being the first vehicle to go. A little Sealyham terrier* that we had collected at Horsham St. Faith’s before embarking, and that the troops had jacketed with the Union Jack was killed whilst standing next to the Driver of a General Service Wagon. I mention this as I saw the same Driver the day after still carrying the dog, he was very upset when he was ordered to bury it.

The Commanding Officer was killed by the first burst and the Second in Command rallied the Battalion; several of us taking up position to the right of the point where we had suffered so heavily.

An attack was organised at once, we re-took our arms and got in most of the wounded. The others were left and taken prisoner later at Haucourt Church that night.”

The above extract from a letter of an officer of the King’s Own. As regards the last sentence of it, 4 Division (it should be remembered) had no Field Ambulance and it therefore had great difficulty in getting any of its wounded away. It was also deficient of signals, Cavalry, Cyclists, Royal Engineers Train and Divisional Ammunition Column.

The 4th Division Headquarters at Haucourt got the ‘overs’ from this firing, the General’s ADC and several men being hit. Stragglers began to come back into the village where the Divisional Staff collected them and led them forward again to the position North of Warnelle Ravine.



Captain Gaston Roland Rigden Beaumont

Gaston Roland Rigden Beaumont was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on 2nd August 1913.  He was attached to 1st King’s Own on mobilisation. He served throughout the Retreat from Mons and Advance, the Battles of the Marne, Aisne, Meteren and 1st Battle of Ypres. He received a Regular Commission as 2nd Lieutenant on 30th October 1914. Promoted to Lieutenant on 18th February 1915. He was with the Signal Service from 12th January 1915 to 9th November 1919.  Promoted Captain on 13th July 1917. After the war he became Adjutant of the 1st Battalion King’s Own, in Palestine and Egypt between 5th February 1930 and 5th February 1933.   He was promoted Major on 21st October 1934.  He was awarded the Military Cross during the First World War.

*  The 1st Battalion, following mobilisation, moved to Cromer and were then billeted at Horsham St Faith, Norfolk, between 12th and 18th August, before moving by rail from Norwich to Wembley where the battalion camped at Neasden until it departed on 21st August to Southampton docks.

Sealyham Terrier - The Sealyham Terrier is a rare Welsh breed of small to medium-sized terrier that originated in Wales as a working dog.

See also the poem about Captain Henry Clutterbuck "Just Like Clutterbuck!"


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 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

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