Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The road to Ploegsteert

Almost exactly 100 years ago the men of the Somerset Light Infantry were involved in intense fighting just north of the town of Ploegsteert, known to most British soldiers as Plug Street, on the Franco-Belgian border - I will post more on that in the next few days, but how did they get there in the first place?

Mobilised on the day war was declared the Battalion spent a few days training and then headed out the France, arriving just in time for the battle of Le Cateau, they suffered heavy casualties and, along with the rest of the BEF embarked on a long retreat through northern France. Food supplies were scarce and they often had to buy food from the locals, although the officers had a pleasant breakfast with Baron de Rothschild on the way. They frequently had to sleep in the open and move at short notice to avoid the pursuing German forces. These events were the focus of this recent episode of Lives of WW1:

You can follow the story day by day on my twitter feed:

In early October the BEF moved north - allowing French units to focus on defending France and leaving the British with shorter supply and communication roots and defending the parts of Belgium not occupied by Germany. The Schlieffen Plan was failing and the race to the sea was about to turn into the First Battle of Ypres.

The Somersets captured the village of Le Gheer on 21st October 1914, they dug in, as shown by the following trench map, drawn by Lt KGG Dennys, the scene was set for the events on 30-31 October in the area that later became known as Prowse Point
Trench map showing the position held by C Company Somerset Light Infantry, October 24 1914

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