The Battle of the Frontiers at the commencement of World War I quickly evolved into a series of reversals and retreats for the Allied forces. On 26 August 1914, General Smith-Dorrien of II Corps tried to stem the tide by ordering his troops to deliver a ‘stopping blow’ to the advancing Germans. Digging in near the town of Le Cateau, the British prepared to make a stand, but their defensive positions were poorly selected and their right flank exposed by the delayed arrival on the battlefield of I Corps. Under withering artillery fire, the British were forced once more to retreat with heavy casualties. At the time, the Germans considered this a pivotal victory, demonstrating their superiority over the cream of the British army in open battle, but the vigour of subsequent rear-guard actions and overstretched supply lines soon sapped their forward momentum.
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