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Remembered Today:

5 Signals Coy cable detachment, Le Cateau 26.08.1914

Pat Atkins

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I've been researching my grandfather who served with 5 Signals Company RE, and was taken prisoner at Le Cateau. With the generous help of some Forum experts I've pieced together roughly what happened, and this has led me to wonder about the men he served with. Sometime in the morning of 26th August, probably before 10am, a cable detachment was sent from 5th Div HQ Reumont to try to establish contact with 19th Brigade (I think that would make the detachment part of No1 Section? but maybe not so in the middle of a battle). The WD says,

"Sgt Holmes and his cable det. were detailed to lay a cable line to the 19th Brigade but were evidently captured by the Germans for his party (men, horses & wagon) has not been heard of since. The cable line was last seen running through a line of German infantry across the (word missing from my copy of original)".

By cross-checking Red Cross POW records and the newly-available medal rolls on Ancestry, I've established that that detachment probably comprised:

23194 Sgt Albert Holmes, born 1886 Tonbridge, previously Cpl signaller in RWK, interned Holland 08.01.18, repatriated SS Arbroath 19.11.18

24530 2/Cpl J.C. Atkins, born 1888 London, previously 2/South Lancs, interned Holland 22.01.18, repatriated SS Arbroath 19.11.18

25470 Dvr F.W. (Frederick?) Hayton, Silver War Badge no 03613, discharged B.A.R. para. 392 (xvia) sickness.

16024 Dvr D. Prater

20426 Spr G.R. Green

23458 Spr J. Gilmore

21636 Spr S.J. Martin

24786 Pnr Guy deBretton Smith, from San Francisco(?), died Birkenhead late 1971

26537 Pnr H.E. (Harry?) Tilley

24527 Pnr James Young

Holmes, Atkins, Hayton, Smith, Tilley and Young are all recorded as POWs at Senne in December 1914. Holmes is also recorded in Munster (April 1916) and Minden (July 1916); Hayton in Minden (February 1917).

So - can anyone flesh this out in any way? Happy to entertain corrections to what I've got so far, I appreciate this is all a bit speculative in places. I've got the company WD for August 1914, and am working slowly through Ancestry and Red Cross records; it would be very pleasing to be able to pass on to my father something about his father's comrades, and especially in this centenary year to remember these Old Contemptibles' lives and experiences.

Cheers, Pat

Incidentally, if it helps anyone I found 7800 Pte Horace W. Rush recorded as RE in Senne; turns out he was a signaller in 2/Suffolks. His papers are on Ancestry.

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  • 6 years later...

Hi Pat. I came upon this post when searching for details of Le Cateau and low and behold your post mentions my grandfather! He was Guy de Bretton Smith.

I know about him being a prisoner of war and have had research done on his time in the army. He was actually born in Devon (San Francisco was a cover up due to dodgy parentage!) As you say, he died at his daughter's home in Birkenhead in 1971. Happy to share what the researcher provided for me but it is too big to attach as a file. I can share it on Dropbox if you want. I would love to know anything else you may have found out about their time as POWs.

My Mum (Guy's only remaining child) is 95 and in goood health apart from being deaf and almost blind. She lives independently without carers!


Kind regards Elaine



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Hi Elaine - I'd be very glad to share, though alas I don't think I have more information about your grandfather (how odd that our grandfathers probably knew each other!). My father is 91 now and the last of his generation too, but still going fairly strong. I'll send you a message via the forum.


Regards, Pat

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