5899 Lance Corporal John Allison Caile, 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards was killed in action 21 October 1914 and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial [1] and is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial, the Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley and the Roll of Honour, Newgate Street Methodist Church, Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland.  He was about 30 years old and married to Nellie.

Family Details

John was born c.1884 [2] at Etherley to William and Hannah Caile. [3]  There were at least 7 children:

  • Rachael born c.1867 at Etherley
  • Jane born c.1867 [4]
  • Mary Elizabeth born c.1873
  • Margaret Hannah born c.1876
  • George William born c.1879
  • Eliza Jane born c.1882
  • John Allison born c.1885

In 1891 the family lived at Woodside Road, Escomb.  William was a colliery overman. [5]  By 1901 the family lived at Etherley, William was a coal miner (hewer), as was his oldest son George William and 17-year old John Allison worked as a coal miner (putter). [6]  In 1911, 26 year old John Allison Caile was serving with the 3rd Battalion, the Coldstream Guards at Barracks, Whitechapel, London.[7]  In 1914, he married Nellie [Eleanor Mary] Alderson [8] who later lived at Durham Street, Bishop Auckland.

Service Record

12 December 1904: John Allison Caile enlisted into the regular army.[9]  He undertook his medical examination 13 December 1904.  He stood 5’8½” and weighed 158lbs.  His religion was Church of England.  Private Caile spent 2 years 323 days at home until 30 October 1907.  He was transferred to 3/Coldstream Guards 30 October 1907 and spent the next 2 years 144 days in Egypt until 23 March 1911.  He was home for the next 3 years 150 days until 20 August 1914.  10 October 1911, he was promoted to Lance Corporal.  He served a total of 9 years 314 days.

6 August 1914, he was mobilized with the 3/Coldstream Guards who were stationed at Chelsea Barracks.  The battalion came under the orders of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division.  Other battalions in the Brigade were:

  • 2nd, Grenadier Guards
  • 2nd, Coldstream Guards
  • 1st, Irish Guards
  • 1/1st, Hertfordshire Regiment

Lance Corporal J. Caile entered France 21 August 1914[10] with the battalion which was one of the first to enter France and remained there for the entire war.  The Division took part in most of the major actions in 1914 including:

  • 23 – 24 August 1914: The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat including
  • 25 August: the Affair of Landrecies,
  • 26 August: the Rear-guard Affair of Le Grand Fayt and
  • 1 September: the Rearguard Actions of Villers-Cotterets
  • 7 – 10 September: The Battle of the Marne
  • 12 – 15 September: The Battle of the Aisne including
  • 20 September: Actions of the Aisne Heights
  • 21 – 24 October: the Battle of Langemark, a phase of the First Battle of Ypres [11]

Over by Christmas!

4 August 1914: Germany violated Belgian neutrality and as a result Britain declared war on Germany.

German strategy was simple – a war on 2 fronts, one with Russia and one with France and Britain was to be avoided.  Germany would implement the Schlieffen Plan and exploit the element of surprise by invading neutral Belgium to knock out France within 6 weeks then tackle Russia on her eastern front.  The German military machine assembled seven armies numbering about 1,485,000 men on the western front.  France fielded 5 armies totalling about 1,071,000 men.  The French had only one tactic – attack.  Their plan devised in 1913 envisaged 2 offensives, one in Lorraine and one in the Ardennes.  The Belgian Army comprised 117,000 men plus 90,000 men in the fortress garrisons.  Britain sent the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) about 120,000 strong (check) which by 16 August had disembarked in France and were assembling at Amiens.  But, 15 August the last Belgian fort around Liege had fallen which paved the way for the German advance on Brussels, the capital city of Belgium which fell 20 August.  British troops entered Belgium 21 August, divided into 2 corps, 1st on the right, 2nd on the left.  2nd Corps marched into Mons as the Germans arrived from Namur – each oblivious to the others presence.  Sir John French, the BEF Commander-in-Chief had 2 Corps with 2 divisions each at his disposal.  The Germans committed 3 army corps, 6 divisions to the battle.  The German Corps was made up of about 45,000 men, 160 guns and 48 machine-guns whereas the British Corps had 36,145 men, 152 guns and 48 machine guns – numerical superiority was heavily in favour of the German forces.

23/24 August: The city of Mons was to be the scene of the first encounter of the Great War.  The 4th Brigade, 2nd Division was not involved.  Outnumbered, British losses are estimated at 4,200 and the Germans about 7,500 men, the line was held along the Mons-Conde canal but a general retreat was ordered. [12]

The Affair at Landrecies

25 August: evening: At Landrecies, the 3rd Bn. Coldstream Guards acting as rear-guard to the 4th Guards Brigade, fought its first action since it was formed in 1897.  Throughout the night, the battalion fought off fierce German attacks until ordered to retire.  During this action, a haystack was set on fire, disclosing their positions to the enemy and enabling them to fire at point blank range with a field gun.  Private G.H. Wyatt twice went out to extinguish the blaze under heavy fire and was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry. [13]

An account of the action at Landrecies is provided below:

 “At about 7 o’clock, while some men of the 4th Guards Brigade were preparing tea at the Landrecies barracks, they were disturbed by a report that thousands of German cavalry were riding through the streets.  A party of Coldstreams at once turned out with fixed bayonets and machine-guns but it was discovered that the enemy’s troopers – a little detachment of reconnoitring Uhlans – had already ridden off.  The incident was significant however and indeed, at about half past eight o’clock the alarm sounded and the 3rd Coldstreams hurried off to the outposts, while some men of the 2nd Battalion and some Irish Guards took up positions on the right and left flanks, a detachment of the Grenadier Guards forming a reserve.  According to Lieutenant the Hon. Aubrey Herbert of the Irish Guards, the town was barricaded by the troops remaining there, in order to prevent any cavalry charges and numerous houses were loopholed.  Several men of the 3rd Coldstreams who had gone out to meet the enemy afterwards related that they took up positions across the roads coming from the north so as to be in readiness for the German onset.  Wire fences were hastily improvised at a distance of some 70 yards in advance of their lines; they had Maxim guns on either side of them and as the roads were of no great width and they desired to direct an effective fire on the enemy they disposed themselves in 3 rows, the first lying down, the second kneeling and the third standing.  The first Germans who appeared wore French uniforms and called to our men in the French language but the deception was speedily detected and a hail of lead at once checked the enemy’s advance.  The fighting soon became very violent.  The Germans were provided with artillery but their shells passed over the Coldstreams and exploded in the town where frightened women and children were fleeing hither and thither.  Again and again did the enemy rush upon the British line and on one occasion they succeeded in capturing a machine gun which the Coldstreams however soon recovered.  At one point the Germans managed to cross abridge and reach some narrow streets but were driven off at the bayonet’s point and then subjected to a fierce fire from some machine guns which the Grenadier Guards trained on the bridge………Eventually when the enemy had been forced back to their original positions our men dug fresh trenches which they defended  vigorously until about half past one o’clock in the morning when the Germans who had suffered very serious losses abstained from further attacks of any violence.” [14]

1 September: Both the 2nd and 3rd battalions were engaged in a rear-guard action at Villers-Cotterets during the retreat from Mons.

8 September: When Allied Armies had retreated to almost within sight of Paris they were given the order to advance to exploit the mistakes made by the German Army.  All 3 battalions [Coldstreams] took part in the Battle of the Marne, without being engaged in heavy fighting.

14 September: In the advance across the River Aisne, all 3 battalions were involved in much bitter fighting.  After this battle both sides settled down to the trench warfare that was to last for 4 years.

21 October: The 4th Guards Brigade, with the 2nd and 3rd battalions [Coldstreams] leading attacked some high ground covering Langemarck.  In spite of fierce German opposition, this feature was taken and held until the battalion was relieved on 23 October.[15]

Lance Corporal John A. Caile was killed in action 21 October 1914.

Between 21 August and 31 October, the Coldstream Guards lost 18 officers and 475 other ranks either killed in action or died of wounds.  In August the toll was 2 officers and 26 other ranks, September 10 officers and 197 other ranks and October 6 officers and 253 other ranks.  2 officers and 29 other ranks were killed 21 October 1914 including L/C J.A. Caile. [16]

5899 Lance Corporal J.A. Caile served 62 days with the BEF in France/Belgium and a total of 9 years 314 days in the colours.[17]  Lance Corporal J. Caile was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [18]


Lance Corporal J.A. Caile has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Ypres is a town in the Province of West Flanders, Belgium.  The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk).  The Menin Gate is one of 4 memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient which stretched from Langemarck in the north to Ploegsteert Wood in the south.  The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields.  It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations (except New Zealand) who died in the Salient and in the case of British casualties, before 16th August 1917.  The memorial was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and was unveiled in July 1927 by Lord Plummer.  The Ypres Menin Gate Memorial bears the names of 54,344 officers and men whose graves are not known. [19]

Lance Corporal J.A. Caile is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial, the Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley and the Roll of Honour, Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland.

Another local man who served with the Coldstream Guards was 3080 Private G.W. Davison from West Auckland who was killed in action 13 February 1915.  He was with the 2/Coldstream Guards and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, France. [20]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales BMD Birth index 1837-1915 Vol10a p.251 Auckland Q4 1884

[3] 1891 census

[4] 1871 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] 1901 census

[7] 1911 census

[8] England & Wales BMD Marriage Index Vol.10a p.389 Auckland Q2 1914 and headstone, St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Etherley

[9] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1921

[10] Army Form Attestation Forms – Description on Enlistment, Statement of the Services and Military History Sheet.

[11] &

[12] “Battlefield Guide August 1914 Mons” le Pays de Mons Maison du Tousisme




[16] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War – information does not detail battalions. The 1/Coldstream Guards were with the 1st Brigade, 1st Division

[17] Attestation Form Military History Sheet

[18] Medal Roll card index

[19] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[20] Commonwealth War Graves Commission



Menin Gate Memorial Ypres

Menin Gate Memorial

CAILE J.A. Inscription Menin Gate Memorial

Menin Gate Memorial

CAILE J.A. St. Cuthbert's Churchyard Headstone Memorial

St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard
Headstone Memorial

CAILE J.A. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

Caille J.A. Newgate Street Methodist Church, Bishop Auckland

Caille J.A.
Newgate Street Methodist Church,
Bishop Auckland

Caille J.A. Roll of Honour

Caille J.A.
Roll of Honour

Etherley War Memorial

Etherley War Memorial

St. Cuthbert's Church Roll of Honour

St. Cuthbert’s Church
Roll of Honour

One thought on “CAILE J.A.

  1. Pingback: ETHERLEY | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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