Battle of Le Cateau: 26 August 1914

Under pressure from Kluck’s German First Army, British II Corps retired from the engagement at Mons along the western side of Bois de Mormal. Progress was slow due to the fleeing refugees and the heat of a French August. On 26 August, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien thought that his men were near exhaustion, but during a 02:00 conference with General Allenby at his headquarters in Bertry, the decision was that the enemy was too close and that II Corps would have to stand and fight, contrary to orders from General Headquarters (GHQ). British forces formed a 16 km-long, broken line along the le Cateau-Cambrai highway from le Cateau to Beauvois. 5th Division, augmented by 19th Brigade, was crowded on a hill southwest of le Cateau between the Selle River and Chaussée Brunehault. The open country around le Cateau was more conducive to the use of artillery than the built-up towns and slag heaps around Mons, and the Germans had a distinct advantage in artillery.

14 Battle of Le Cateau: 26 August 1914
Département: Nord
Country: France 

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour”

Summary: At 06:00 on 26 August, German guns began to roar out of the heavy mist along the entire British line, while German 14th Brigade infantry, entering the gap between Smith-Dorrien’s II Corps and Haig’s I Corps, passed through le Cateau and moved south down the valley of the Selle River. II Corps’ right flank was to have been covered by General Haig’s I Corps, but Haig was delayed due to fighting his own minor action at Landrecies on the previous day.

5th Division artillery had been pushed forward to only 200-400 meters behind the infantry and engaged German artillery east of Le Cateau. Outnumbered and outgunned, the British batteries slowly started to fade. The 11th Battery, Royal Field Artillery was a particularly hard hit target of German gunners. By 10:00, all of its officers were casualties and only one of its six guns remained operational.

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Captivity of Jeanne d’Arc

03c Captivity of Jeanne d’Arc: 18 June 1430 to 25 December 1430
Region: Picardy, Nord Pas-de-Calais, and Haute-Normandy
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary: After her capture at the gates of Compiègne by Count Jean II of Luxembourg, Jeanne d’Arc was held captive at several locations while negotiations for the payment of a ransom took place. Eventually the Duke of Bedford purchased her from Count Jean and she was released into English custody.
This Virtual Battlefields Tour traces Jeanne’s route as she was moved towards English held territory along the Channel coast, then as the English moved her to Rouen, their capital in France.


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Battle of Agincourt

02 Battle of Agincourt: 25 October 1415
Département: Pas-de-Calais
Region: Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour”. This battle is more fully described in Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium published by French Battlefields.

Summary: Henry V became King of England in 1413. A professional soldier, he almost immediately began preparations to invade France, then embroiled in a nasty civil war between Armagnac and Orleanist factions. Henry landed his forces near the port of Harfleur and began a five-week siege. Henry’s army, weaken by the siege, illness, and shortages of supplies, made to escape to the English stronghold at Calais. After days of maneuvering as the English attempted to cross the Somme River, the larger French army, led by the Constable of France, Charles d’Albret, blocked the road to Calais at the town of Agincourt (Azincourt). Outnumbered in men-at-arms by over 10 to 1, Henry established positions on open ground flanked by his archers. Again, as at Crecy, the superior firepower of the longbow and poor tactics by the French resulted in a stunning English victory.

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Battle of Crécy

01 Battle of Crécy-en-Ponthieu: 26 August 1346
Département: Somme
Region: Picardy
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour”. This battle is more fully described in Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium published by French Battlefields.

Summary: King Edward III of England landed an army of 15,000 men at St-Vaast-la-Hougue on the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. His objective was to claim the crown of France as his own. Edward was prevented from attacking Paris by maneuver of the much larger army of the French king, Philip VI. Now trapped and without ability for resupply, Edward attempted to join forces with his Flemish allies to the north. Philip’s vanguard, led by Jean de Luxembourg fought to deny Edward bridges over the Somme River, essentially assuring his destruction. At Crecy, Edward positioned his dismounted men-at-arms and his archers so as to take maximum advantage of the longbow’s superior firepower. The French army, the largest in Europe, fielded thousands of mounted, armored knights. Although greatly outnumbered, Edward’s army, led on the field by his son the Prince of Wales (The Black Prince), produced a stunning victory over the French aristocracy.

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