GUARDS GRAVE

Villers-Cotterets Forest

Aisne

France

 

General Directions: Villers-Cotterets is a small town 22 kilometres south-west of Soissons in the direction of Meaux. From Soissons take the N2 (signposted to Paris, Meaux, Senlis), passing after 3.5 kilometres the Military Cemetery of Vaubuin and after a further 6 kilometres a French War Memorial on the right. Ignore the sign which takes you towards the town of Villers-Cotterets, but continue along the N2 as the Cemetery is north of the town. Take the next right hand slip road and then turn right along the D81 towards Vivieres. After a further 3 km you will arrive at the Cemetery which is set down in a hollow next to the road to the right. 

Guards’ Grave Cemetery

The Forêt de Retz was the scene of a rearguard action fought by the 4th (Guards) Brigade on 1 September 1914. In the aftermath of the fighting, many of the dead Guardsmen were buried by the people of Villers-Cotterêts. The cemetery was formed by the Irish Guards when the British forces regained this territory two months later and contains 98 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 20 of which are unidentified. Just north of the cemetery on the road to Vivières stands a memorial to the Coldstream, Grenadier and Irish Guardsmen who were killed or mortally wounded during the rearguard action. The memorial, which was unveiled in 1922, was placed there by Lady Edward Cecil, the mother of Captain George Edward Cecil of the Coldstream Guards who fell during the fighting on 1 September and is buried in the cemetery.

The 4th (Guards) Brigade and the Rearguard Action at Villers-Cotterêts

In the aftermath of the Allied defeat at Battle of Mons on August 23 1914, the British and French forces began a long, hard retreat south west toward Paris. On the evening of 31 August, the officers and men of the 4th (Guards) Brigade halted just north of the great forest around Villers-Cotterêts. They had been marching in hot weather for over a week with little sleep and many of them had been involved in fighting at Landrecies and elsewhere. A large detachment of German troops was expected to attack from the north early the following morning and shortly after midnight the entire brigade was ordered to form a rearguard to cover the retreat of the Second Division. The 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards and the 3rd Coldstream Guards entrenched between Soucy and Mont-Gobert, while units of the Coldstream and Irish Guards formed a second line further south along the northern edge of the forest.

When the German attack began at about 10 a.m., the Guardsmen in the forward positions came under heavy rifle and artillery fire and were forced to retire and join their comrades in the forest. The dense undergrowth, along with a heavy morning mist, slowed the German advance through the forest, but also caused much confusion and made it difficult for British officers to communicate with each other and direct their men. By mid-morning all units of the Grenadier, Coldstream, and Irish Guards were engaged in close-quarter fighting among the trees. In some parts of the forest, the opposing forces were no more than seventy yards apart and during the course of the morning two platoons of the Grenadiers were cut off from the rest of the Brigade and overrun by the attackers. The clearing at Rond de la Reine was the scene of some the heaviest fighting as the Guardsmen fought their way back to the village of Villers-Cotterêts under sustained machine-gun fire. The commanding officer of the Irish Guards, Colonel George Morris, was killed early in the action, while Brigadier-General Scott-Kerr, who was in overall command, was badly wounded as the Brigade retired from Ronde de la Reine. The loss of these two very senior officers added to the general confusion, but the Brigade continued to gradually retire through the forest in good order.

Fighting continued until well into the afternoon, but by 6 p.m., with support from units of the Royal Berkshire Regiment and the 5th Infantry Brigade, the surviving Guardsmen finally left the forest and rejoined the general retreat. The Brigade had successfully covered the Second Division but had suffered heavy losses with over 300 officers and men killed.

Casualty Details: UK 98, Total Burials:98

 

Buried within this cemetery:

AYERS, THOMAS FREDERICK Lance Corporal 16358 01/09/1914 17 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 18. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BARKER, WILLIAM Private 7570 01/09/1914 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 36. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BATTLE, PERCY UNSWORTH Private 13463 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 5. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BESANT, WILFRED JOHN Private 16295 11/09/1914 21 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 2. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BOWLEY, HARRY EDWIN Private 9913 01/09/1914 20 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 37. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BRIMSON, THOMAS Private 10716 04/09/1914 28 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 7. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BURGESS, ARTHUR HENRY Private 10317 01/09/1914 23 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 20. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BURNS, P Private 4189 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 28. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
BUTLER, GARNETT HENRY Private 12149 20/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 15. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CAESAR, ALBERT JOHN Lance Serjeant 12472 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 34. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CECIL, GEORGE EDWARD Second Lieutenant 01/09/1914 18 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom II. 4. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CHESTER, FRANK GEORGE Private 16305 02/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 9. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CLARKE, C Private 4581 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 28. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CLARKE, R Private 2297 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 30. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
COLE, J W Private 16350 04/09/1914 20 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 11. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST

COOK, EDWIN ERNEST Lance Corporal 11918 11/09/1914 27 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 14. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CULVERWELL, FREDERICK THOMAS Private 9291 01/09/1914 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 21. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
CUMMINS, REGINALD JOHN Private 15399 19/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 13. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
DANIELLS, DANIEL Private 16397 20/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 12. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
DAVIES, CECIL Lance Corporal 16199 01/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 14. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
DOWDEN, ERNEST LEONARD Private 16306 04/09/1914 20 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 6. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
DURANT, WILFRED LEONARD Private 16464 04/09/1914 19 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 10. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
DURKIN, M Private 7108 04/09/1914 East Lancashire Regiment United Kingdom I. 22. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
ELLIOTT, RICHARD Private 9316 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 32. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
EVANS, VINCENT Private 15735 11/09/1914 21 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 8. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
EVERITT, FREDERICK JAMES Private 16366 11/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 11. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
FELLOWS, GEORGE ARTHUR Serjeant 7609 01/09/1914 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 22. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
FRANCIS, JOHN Private 13581 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 3. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
GREEN, JAMES DAVID Private 16205 11/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 19. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
HAINES, OLIVER PERCY HOLROYD Drummer 12175 20/09/1914 36 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 16. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST

HALL, FREDERICK JAMES Private 16392 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 10. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
HANNIGAN, THOMAS GILBERT Serjeant 2969 04/09/1914 25 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 24. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
HARRIS, J Private 3784 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 29. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
HARRISON, GEORGE Private 10528 04/09/1914 30 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 19. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
HEYDON, PATRICK JOSEPH Private 2206 04/09/1914 30 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 29. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
HILBERT, HORACE ERNEST Lance Serjeant 5881 01/09/1914 30 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 20. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
JACOB, P Private 303 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 31. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
JAMES, JACK Corporal 15558 11/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 9. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
JAMIESON, CHARLES FISHER Private 14671 04/09/1914 22 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 18. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
JOHNSON, FREDERICK CHARLES Private 15140 11/09/1914 23 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 8. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
KEATING, THOMAS Private 1424 04/09/1914 30 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 39. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
KENT, ARTHUR ALFRED Private 6876 01/09/1914 25 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 21. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
LAFFEY, BERNARD Lance Corporal 4304 01/09/1914 20 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 24. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
LAMBTON, GEOFFREY Lieutenant 01/09/1914 26 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom II. 3. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
LANE, JOHN HENRY Private 11344 01/09/1914 24 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 32. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST

LUCITT, EDWARD Private 2225 14/09/1914 30 Irish Guards United Kingdom III. 1. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MAGEE, W J Private 3139 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 27. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MATTHEWS, C F Private 15729 16/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 12. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MEADOWS, W H Private 14508 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 4. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MEAGHER, J Private 3243 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 25. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MILTON, T Private 15010 01/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 16. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MORGAN, G Private 16292 11/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 13. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
MORRIS, The Hon. GEORGE HENRY Lieutenant Colonel 01/09/1914 42 Irish Guards United Kingdom II. 1. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
McDONALD, B Private 4096 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 25. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
McGUIRK, C Private 2873 04/09/1914 25 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 30. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
O'SHEA, CHARLES Private 4440 04/09/1914 20 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 31. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
OLDERSHAW, H Private 13655 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 33. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
PAGE, N Private 16457 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 6. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
PLUMMER, L Private 12443 20/09/1914 27 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 7. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
ROBINS, W Private 14582 20/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 17. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST

RYAN, T Private 3441 04/09/1914 26 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 26. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
SHARP, ARTHUR Serjeant 12002 12/09/1914 30 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 23. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
SLOAN, J Private 1176 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 27. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
SMITH, A Private 14549 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 2. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
SMITH, CHARLES Private 15725 04/09/1914 22 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 5. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
SMITH, SYDNEY Private 14156 01/09/1914 22 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 15. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
SULLIVAN, J Private 6585 01/09/1914 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 36. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
TEANBY, HARRY Private 1046 04/09/1914 27 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 26. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
THORPE, WILLIAM HARRY Private 14270 04/09/1914 23 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 3. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
TISDALL, CHARLES ARTHUR Major 01/09/1914 39 Irish Guards United Kingdom II. 2. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
TURNER, H Serjeant 11946 01/09/1914 32 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 4. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
VINCENT, W Private 6540 01/09/1914 31 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 35. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
WADDINGTON, B C Private 5252 01/09/1914 Coldstream Guards United Kingdom I. 37. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
WALLACE, J Private 1605 04/09/1914 Irish Guards United Kingdom I. 23. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
WASHINGTON, HERBERT JOSEPH Private 14552 04/09/1914 23 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 35. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST

WEBSTER, G J Private 13689 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 17. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
WHITCROFT, C Private 16409 04/09/1914 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 33. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST
WHITE, BENJAMIN CUTHBERT Private 16352 04/09/1914 19 Grenadier Guards United Kingdom I. 34. GUARDS GRAVE, VILLERS COTTERETS FOREST

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