William Stopford Sarsfield - his life summary and War Record

Major WillieS Sarsfield 12/08/143 Fismes. By the night of the 12/13th the gap between Von Kluck's First and Von Bulow's second Armies had widened to 18 miles making it difficult for the Germans to man a defensive line along the Aisne. On 13th September the BEF crossed the Aisne despite heavy opposition from the Germans who had brought up reserves to strengthen their line. Major Willie Sarsfield was acting Lieutenant Colonel and leading the 2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers. Max Hastings records in his book ‘Catastrophe 5 that “The Connaught Rangers crossed the Aisne at Pont dArcy during the night of 13 th September and found themselves in the village of Soupir……They had no orders togo further that night but their commander Maj.William Sarsfield in a notable display of initiative decided that since they must seize the high ground sometime the sooner the better. He led his men up a winding track through woods from the village that eventually emerged onto open ground at a big farm named La Cour de Soupir. There they established themselves and waited for dawn. At 9.45 am in the usual torrential rain the 2 nd Grenadiers arrived with no inkling that the Irish soldiers were ahead of them. Simultaneously the Germans launched a powerful attack on the farm obliging both regiments to make the best shift they could to hold them off amid a crackle of musketry with no maps and scant idea of who was where.”On the 14th hampered by a heavy mist the BEF made little progress in their advance fighting was intense and losses heavy with every battalion but one of the BEF engaged. On the 15th GHQ ordered the BEF to entrench the positions they had reached. Determined German counter-attacks were all repulsed. William died on 20 September 1914 of wounds received two days previously aged 46 years. His medals include 1914 Star British and Victory Medals for World War 1. Nationality: British Date of Death: 20/09/1914. His name is recorded on the Memorial in the Chapel of the RMA Sandhurst and also on a plaque inSt. Finbarrs Cathedral Cork where they have the rough wooden cross which had marked his earlier grave and also his ID disc. 1914 Rank: Major Rank (2nd): Acting Lieutenant Colonel. Regiment: Connaught Rangers, 2nd Battalion. The Rangers took their name from Connaught the most westerly of the four Irish provinces and most of its soldiers were recruited from the West of Ireland. The Regiment raised 6 Battalions and received 42 Battle Honours and one Victoria Cross during the course of WW1 losing 2050 men. Burial location in France: Major William Stopford Sarsfield is buried in the British Cemetery in Vailly grave reference II C 11. Vailly is about 15 km east of Soissons on the D925 road. The cemetery is easy to find being near the side of the D925.
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