Born: 1886, Ipswich.
Died on or since: 26th August 1914; age 28; KiA – Le Cateau, Marne ‘Battle of Le Cateau’.
Enlistment Location: Ipswich.
Date of Entry Therein: 15th August 1914.
Rank: Private; Service Number: 6275;
Regiment: Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion.
Medals Awarded: Victory, British War & 1914 Star + Clasp.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Fred & Sarah Roper; husband of Ethel Maud Roper, of Regent Court, Regent Street, Ipswich.
1891 32, Wellington Street, Ipswich.
William was 5 years old and living with his parents & siblings.
Frederick Roper, 32, a Fish Monger – own account, born Ipswich.
Sarah Ann Roper (nee Simpson), 28, born Ipswich.
Frederick Leonard Roper, 11, born Ipswich.
Louisa Susannah Roper, 9, born Ipswich.
Alfred Roper, 2, born Ipswich.
1901 21, Wellington Street, Ipswich.
William was 15 years old, a General Labourer – Stay Factory. He was living with his parents, siblings & maternal uncle.
Frederick, 43, a Pork Butcher – Slaughter.
Frederick, 21, a Butcher.
Rose Eleanor Roper, 9, born Ipswich.
Alice Maud Roper, 6, born Ipswich.
Elijah Simpson, 31, a General Labourer.
1911 5, Porter’s Cottages, Grey Friars Road, Ipswich.
William was 25 years old, a General Labourer – Market Gardener. He was married & Head of the Household.
On the 24th May 1908, at Ipswich Register Office, William married Ethel Maud Burch, born 1887, St. Margaret’s, Ipswich.
They had 5 children:
William James Roper Burch, born August 1906, Ipswich.
Frederick Leonard Roper, born June 1908, Ipswich – died April 1909, at 11, Westgate Court, Ipswich. William’s occupation was recorded as Corporation Labourer.
Alfred Charles Roper, born March 1910, Ipswich.
Edward George Roper, born 1911, Ipswich – died 1913, Ipswich.
Florence Elsie Roper, born January 1914, Ipswich.
Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion:
On this date the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk Regiment are called into action at the Battle of La Cateau
The British army was at retreat but at La Cateau it was decided to make a stand. For many troops exhausted from there march from La Harve followed by the battle and retreat from Mons orders were given to dig in, heavy guns brought forward in an almost a Napoleonic stand against the advancing Germans.
The 2nd Battalion left Dublin on the 13th of August landing in La Harve on the 17th being transported by train to La Cateau on the 18th The weather was hot and still and marched 8 miles to Landrecies from there they marched north to Belgium a further 17 miles arriving at Mons on the 23rd of August by the 24th the British army was retiring back to France the 2nd Battalion fell back to Hamin then to St.Waast by the 26th they were back to the outskirts of La Cateau. Extracts of an officers letter posted in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury newspaper published in December painted the scene of the battle.
3rd October, 1914
Well as far as I can give you what I actually saw, etc. I have enclosed a rough plan of the Brigades in position at Le Cateau on the 26th of August. The Battalion (2nd Suffolk) arrived at about 7p.m on the 25th August and bivouacked at the barn, shown at the top of the plan, and made themselves comfortable for the night, although the Germans were following close on the heels. The remainder of the Brigade was fairly close at hand.
On the 26th the Suffolks had breakfast at 3.am, and fell in at 4 a.m to take up their allotted positions, which were about half-mile to their rear. Two of the Battalions (nos.3 and 4) of the Brigade were to occupy the trenches which had already been prepared for them, and the Suffolks (No.1 Battalion) and the 4th Battalion of the Brigade were placed in reserve. Afterwards the Suffolks were moved out in front of the battery and No.4 Battalion to the right to protect the guns. The Suffolks had barely taken up their position and commenced to use the web equipment entrenching tool when the Germans open fire on the battery and dropped a shell right among them. The fight developed and the regiment hung on protecting the guns, but had to put up with a good deal of shelling which was intended for the Battery. They also came in for a good deal of enfilading fire from the German guns. This went on for several hours. It was difficult to feed the firing line with ammunition, especially when the German infantry drew near. Our infantry and maxim guns simply mowed them down, but still they pushed on, and for a time they recoiled and then came on again. The Battery at one time was firing at them at about 800 yards range and I am afraid some of our men, especially of C Company (captain Orford) got hit with his own shells. Nothing could show itself in the open without drawing a terrible and from the enemy. The first line of transport was ordered to retire and get away the best way it could. The Batteries and the Infantry Brigade stuck to their positions and continued the fire, hoping to be reinforced, as General Sir Charles Fergusson had given out that 40,000 French troops were expected. Eventually the order to retire was given but the old Suffolks had little ammunition left and the casualties were enormous; very few men were able to retire. In the early part of the fight 50 wounded Suffolks were carried to the dressing station (but I do not know their names) and to the field hospital. These together with the other wounded were shown as “missing” with the exception of Col. Brett, who was killed early in the fight by a shell.
“I don’t know how the Division got away, we were practically surrounded, waiting for the French troops. Evidently the Germans had a very bad time, or they would have cut off our few guns and our superior rifle fire played havoc with them. I really believe that it was the 108 Heavy Battery that saved the situation and covered our retirement.
In the infantry Brigade two of the battalions lost their first line of transport. The Suffolks just manage to save theirs, thanks to the Transport officer (Lieut. Oakes) and Sergt. Major Burton. I was with the supply and baggage train in the village, when I was not watching the fight. When I mustered the Battalion the following was the strength three officers including Capt. Phelan R.A.M.C (medical officer) Lieut. Oakes (transport Officer) and 217 men. We kept our place in the Brigade, having been re-enforced from home by Special Reserve officers and men. We are now attached to General Headquarters Army Troop (General French) for a short time. Captain Hausberg is in command of us at present, but Leut-Col. Clifford is expected soon. I am glad to say I am in very good health, but have had a very hard time of it. The Suffolks are very fit and keen, but a rest from the trenches the have recently vacated will be good.”
Ipswich men who died from the 2nd Battalion 26th August 1914:
Private. Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion age 20
Jeremiah George Podd
Private Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion age 25
William James Roper
Private Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion age 28
Private Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion age 30
Wallace Michael Bristo
Private Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion age 30
Private Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion age 31
It is believed the Suffolk Regiment the 2nd Battalion recorded 720 casualties killed wounded and missing.40,000 British troop’s fort in the battle 7,812 British casualties 2,600 taken prisoner German losses were estimated 2,900. At this time trench warfare was in its infancy, trenches were shallow scrapes in the ground with little protection from bursting shrapnel shells as the months moved on more time was taken in the preparation of the trenches and this point steel helmets were not issued throughout the British army.