Fighting Begins

The 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. suffered heavy losses on 24 August at Mons, Belgium, during the first major battle of the First World War. After one day of fighting, the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.), made up of regular soldiers and reserves, was forced to begin a retreat of almost 200 miles that would take it south to the River Marne, east of Paris.

On 26 August, the II British Corps, which included 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. stopped at Le Cateau. They turned to face advancing German forces to give the rest of the B.E.F. time to retreat. A breakdown in communications meant the 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. did not receive an order to continue the retreat.

They continued to fight, sustaining 600 casualties. 310 men were taken Prisoner of War.


Lance Corporal Frederick Holmes. Credit: Imperial War Museum

Lance Corporal Frederick Holmes and Major Charles Allix Lavington Yate won the Victoria Cross for their actions during the battle of Le Cateau. The VC is the highest military honour, awarded for ‘valour in the face of the enemy’.

The London Gazette of 25 November 1914 reported that Frederick had won his VC and had the following citation:

‘At Le Cateau on 26th August, [he] carried a wounded man out of the trenches under heavy fire and later assisted to drive a gun out of action by taking the place of a driver who had been wounded.’


Autographed postcard ‘to my friend Singleton’ from Maurice Chevalier. Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

Lance Corporal Fred Singleton, a bandsman with 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. was captured during the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August and became a Prisoner of War. He was interred at Altengrabow prison camp in Germany. While there he met famous French entertainer Maurice Chevalier. According to family legend, Singleton helped Chevalier to learn English. Singleton survived the war, and went on to marry his sweetheart in 1923.