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  • Christina Drummond

Lieutenant Frederick Ernest Styles, 2nd Battalion The Royal Munster Fusiliers

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Lieutenant Frederick Ernest Styles, 2nd Battalion The Royal Munster Fusiliers, was killed in action at Etreux in France. He had attended Harrow and Sandhurst (in 1903), and was commissioned into the Royal Munster Fusiliers - he landed in France with his battalion on the 13th of August, 1914, saw action in the Battle of Mons, and took part in the retreat. The British Expeditionary Force had marched 300km from Mons after the battle, a long, slow and dangerous journey. They marched in high summer heat, hampered by bulky equipment and the fact that many marched without their new boots which were crippling – they were hungry, thirsty and exhausted. They had made a relatively successful (but with severe losses) stand against the Germans at Le Cateau two days earlier. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was assigned the task of providing a rearguard action against the Germans who were approaching from the north, the plan being that they would hold the Germans up from concealed positions - after heroic resistance in holding out for most of the day, they were eventually overcome by 9 German battalions. Ninety-nine men lost their lives that day, 91 from the Royal Munster Fusiliers, seven from the Royal Field Artillery and one from the King’s Hussars. Lieutenant Styles and his fellow officers were buried by the German troops (from the Reserve Company of the 2nd Army) together in a grave near the railway station at Etreux. These words are taken from a plaque in the Etreux British Cemetery: “The action is likely to become the classical example of the performance of its functions by a rearguard. The battalion not only held up the attack of a strong hostile force in its original postion thereby securing the unmolested withdrawal of its division but in retiring drew onto itself the attack of very superior numbers of the enemy. It was finally cut off at Etreux by five or six times its numbers but held out for several hours, the regiment only surrendering when their ammunition was practically exhausted and only a small number of men remained unhurt. The survivors were warmly congratulated by the Germans on the fine fight they had made. No other claim to a memorial near Etreux is likely to be advanced – certainly nothing which would not take second place to the Munsters.” Frederick, from Steyning in Sussex, was 30 years old.

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