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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Anniversaries Crecy and Le Cateau

phil andrade

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2 hours ago, Pat Atkins said:


I suspect the Old Contemptibles in August 1914 really did belong to a different era than their counterparts of 1918, 

Not dissimilar to the regulars and the National Servicemen of the post WW2 years. Each had a different modus vivendi.

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17 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Ironic to think of your grandfather facing a weapon that we associate with ancient warfare on a battlefield of the Great War, while we read of soldiers at Crecy facing the debut of artillery, which is a hallmark of modern warfare.



Artillery had been used before of course but as a siege weapon. Crecy is said to be the first use on a battlefield facing troops without a solid wall to hide behind. That said, the main killer at Crecy was probably the arrow followed by the sword and dagger.

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9 hours ago, Pat Atkins said:

Also finding this thread informative and enjoyable, many thanks for starting it and to to all who've contributed so far. If we might expand the "connections across the centuries" theme, I've seen Le Cateau described as the last battle of the Napoleonic War era, with all subsequent large scale battles belonging to the industrial age of military activity. A flight of fantasy, but while even I can spot the gigantic holes in this, I still quite like the conceit of linking Crecy to Rourke's Drift to Le Cateau, separated from the nascent sedentary and industrialised warfare of First Ypres and beyond. It won't hold up in court, but hey.

I suspect the Old Contemptibles in August 1914 really did belong to a different era than their counterparts of 1918, though; I've often wondered how men like my grandfather - who enlisted in 1906 and served for 21 years, seven in the infantry and the rest in the Signal Service/RCoS - felt returning to the Army after captivity, it must have felt alien in many ways. Whereas I suspect they'd have been quite at home with the men of the 24th Foot.

You’ve got that spot on, Pat, in my view.

There’s something Quixotic in the way that the British fought at Le Cateau.

” Gentlemen, we will stand and fight! “.  So said Smith Dorrien.  The words have that Shakespearean Henry V attribute to them.


A good episode to weave into our military folklore. No wonder Dad was raised under its spell. His own frontline experience in the Eighth Army had provided him with inspiration enough to spin a yarn, but he was still clearly enthused by the legend of Le Cateau twenty years after “his” war had ended.

Incidentally, the most famous soldier he’d served under- Bernard Law Montgomery- was himself a veteran of Le Cateau, and he gave the battle short shrift. “ A dog’s breakfast !” was his description of it.

The British gunners were galloped up to support the infantry in a manner reminiscent of  the old black powder battles of earlier times, and were correspondingly hammered as a result. The German artillery was brought to bear with lethal effect and the British II Corps was heavily  punished in exposed positions, with a  large number being killed and wounded and  an  even larger number taken prisoner .


Quite a flawed deployment,  entailed by disobedience of orders, but something of an epic quality flavours the perception of it.




Edited by phil andrade
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