"The men all chilled to the bone, almost too exhausted to move and with the depressing consciousness of defeat weighing heavily upon them. A bad defeat, there can be no gainsaying it... we had been badly beaten, and by the English – by the English we had so laughed at a few hours before."
Infantry Officer Captain Walter Bloem
German 1st Army
HARRY DOUGLAS WOOD
Harry Wood was just 18 when he died. He was the son of Mr and Mrs Francis Henry Wood of 7 London Road Riverhead. Born in Rotherfield, Sussex, he had three sisters, Dorothy Margaret (born 1909), Florence Mary (born 1911) and Phyllis (born 1913). All three sisters were baptised in St Mary's Church, Riverhead.
He must have been a regular soldier as he arrived in France on 19th August - one of the very early BEF arrivals. He was dead one week later. Initially, it appears that it was thought he had been taken prisoner. However, his body must have later been found and his death confirmed. He was awarded the 14 Star.
The British Expeditionary Force had arrived in France in Mid August 1914. It was to see its major first engagement with the German Army at Mons on 22 to 24 August.
At Mons the British Army was outnumbered by about 3:1. This was its first serious engagement on the continent since the Crimean War. In a portent of what was to come it stood up well - holding up the German 1st Army for 48 hours, inflicting more casualties on the Germans than it suffered and retiring in a structured manner. It had prevented the French Fifth Army from being outflanked.
The German 1st Army had received an unexpected blow and the quotation at the top of the page tells its own story.
Nonetheless, the German Army continued its advance and the British and French retreated to set up defensive positions. This set the scene for the Battle of Le Cateau which was to claim the life of Harry Wood - the first of Riverhead's soldiers to die. The link marked "Battle of Le Cateau" tells the story of the battle.
The Battalion diary for 28th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery (123 Battery) records as follows:
"At daybreak the battalion took up a position 1 m. w. of le Cateau & half a mile South of the Cambrai Le-Cateau road and entrenched Battery opened fire on a hostile battery coming into action. Battery came under fire itself and a telephone wire was cut by a shell. Major Bayley then came down from his observing status to the battery.
The Battery remained in action for some hours under heavy shell fire. Casualties:- Major Bayley & Lt Spencer, the B.S.M and 2 serjeants wounded. anr aBombr killed & 15 gunners wounded or missing.
About 2pm B.C. ordered men to retire. The guns were disabled, wounded men were carried to the rear."