27th August 1914

 

Exactly one hundred years ago small numbers of soldiers, ‘rear-guards’, were covering the withdrawal of the British Second Army Corps after the battle of Le Cateau, fought the previous day. One of these was 2nd Battalion the Royal Munster Fusiliers who were stationed at Etreux, Aisne. They were supported by a section of the 118th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, consisting of two guns. The whole force was commanded by Major Charrier, whose conduct was later considered worthy of a posthumous VC although lack of officer evidence meant that the award was not made. The artillery section will have been the responsibility of a senior NCO, a Battery Sergeant-Major, Thomas Henry Parker Strutt would have been this man, and both guns would have NCOs in command. My great uncle, Sergeant Aubrey Perch, had been a horse cab driver in civilian life back in Eastbourne, and now as a regular soldier he probably supervised the horse teams that moved both guns into position. The Royal Munster Fusiliers were ordered to retire but in the confusion those orders never arrived. For 12 hours its 250 men fought several German battalions, at odds of 6 to1, before being overwhelmed. Every man was killed or captured. Accounts of the action state that one gun was destroyed by a single German shell which killed its team of artillerymen. The second gun fired 300 rounds until its ammunition was almost exhausted. It was finally ordered to engage, at very short range, a house occupied by German troops. The artillerymen were all killed by rifle fire. In one of these incidents Aubrey Perch will have died at the age of 37. There are 126 burials at the British Military Cemetery in Etreux where he now lies. He was among the first of over 950,000 British and Commonwealth troops to die in the Great War.

ajhperch (4)

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