France & Flanders

17 October 1918

Killed in action during the recapture of Le Cateau is 18196 Pte. Gordon Tarbat Wishart of the 4th Regiment, South African Infantry (South African Scottish.) Gordon had returned from hospital suffering from rubella a week before, and in the attack his unit were tasked with crossing the River Selle north of the town, seizing the railway and linking up with the 50th Division north of the railway triangle before establishing themselves on a spur east of Le Cateau itself.

At 8 pm the night before the South Africans moved forwards towards the river, the crossing of which was said to be slow work on account of the slender footbridges and narrow gaps in the wire. Upon reaching the east bank, they found themselves in places not fifty yards from the Germans, who were holding the railway embankment. By 4:30 am the next morning the assembly for the attack was complete. A heavy mist rose from the valley, which shielded the South African’s position from the enemy, and allowed them to advance at close range when zero-hour arrived at 8:05 am.

With visibility at about fifty yards, the first wave of the attack quickly disappeared into the gloom. A hundred yards beyond the South African line the regiment stalled when they came upon a sunken road that had been protected by a palisade. Many men from the 4th were killed by machine-gun fire at this position, while those who eventually made it through encountered another more formidable obstacle near the railway.  A belt of wire-entanglements about sixty yards deep stood between them and their next objective; however, luck was on their side, and a way through was discovered in the form of a shallow trench used by the Germans to access an outpost. Slowly they worked their way through into the railway, where furious close combat fighting took place.

It seems very likely that Gordon was killed at some point during the initial stages of the attack, however, if not he would have almost certainly lost his life in the advance towards the next objective, which was hampered by enemy field guns that had accurately registered the regiment’s position. 

His body was eventually buried in Ors British Cemetery and he is part of tree WIS0010.