Battle of Le Cateau
|Battle of Le Cateau|
|Part of the Great Retreat on the Western Front (First World War)|
British dead at the Battle of Le Cateau.
| United Kingdom
|Commanders and leaders|
| Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien
| Alexander von Kluck
Karl von Bülow
|Casualties and losses|
|7,812 (700 killed, 2,500–2,600 captured)
The Battle of Le Cateau was fought on 26 August 1914, after the British and French retreated from the Battle of Mons and had set up defensive positions in a fighting withdrawal against the German advance at Le Cateau-Cambrésis.
On the morning of 26 August, the Germans arrived and heavily attacked the British forces commanded by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. Unlike the Battle of Mons, where the majority of casualties inflicted by the British were from rifle fire, Le Cateau was an artilleryman's battle, demonstrating the devastating results which modern quick-firing artillery using airbursting shrapnel shells could have on infantry advancing in the open. The British deployed their artillery in the open, about 50–200 metres (55–219 yd) behind their infantry, while the German artillery used indirect fire from concealed positions.
By mid-day, Sixt von Armin had realised that the British stand was more than a rearguard and imposed organisation on the German attack, which in the morning had occurred piecemeal. Holding their ground tenaciously against superior odds despite taking heavy casualties, by mid-afternoon, the right, then left flanks of the British, began to break under unrelenting pressure from the Germans. The arrival of Sordet's French cavalry acted as a shield for the British left flank, and supported a highly co-ordinated tactical withdrawal despite continued attempts by the Germans to infiltrate and outflank the retreating British forces.
That night, the Allies withdrew to Saint-Quentin. Of the 40,000 British troops fighting at Le Cateau, 7,812 British casualties were incurred, including 2,600 taken prisoner. Thirty-eight artillery pieces (guns) were abandoned to the advancing Germans, the majority having their breech blocks removed and sights disabled by the gunners before retirement.
The engagement at Le Cateau had achieved its objective and enabled the British Expeditionary Force to retreat unmolested by the Germans for a further five days. Smith-Dorrien was later criticised for his decision to stand at Le Cateau by his superior Field Marshal Sir John French.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Le Cateau.|
- The Battle of Le Cateau, 1914
- The Battle of Le Cateau, 26 August 1914
- Battle of Le Cateau, 26 August 1914