The German Military Cemetery at Langemark, on the battlefields of Ypres

100 Years Ago: First Battle of Ypres starts

Posted on on 19 October 2014
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The historic Belgian town of Ypres became the focus of a protracted battle between the Allied and German armies on the Western Front in the latter half of October 1914.

After weeks of increasing deadlock, both sides made attempts to achieve a breakthrough before the onset of winter at what became known as the First Battle of Ypres.

The medieval cloth town stood between the German Army and the Channel ports.

British and French troops, reinforced by soldiers from the colonial Indian Army, withstood sustained German attacks, at a heavy cost to all involved in the fighting.

Thousands of student volunteers were among the German casualties. The British Expeditionary Force's losses resulted in the professional Army having to draw in future on the mass of volunteers raised by Lord Kitchener's recruiting campaign.

The First Battle of Ypres lasted until mid-November 1914, setting the pattern for deadlock on the Western Front. 

In fighting near the North Sea, the hard-pressed Belgian Army had blocked the last gap in the line by opening sluice gates to flood the coastal plains.

The armies of the British Empire, in the words of the inscription on the Menin Gate memorial, stood at Ypres until 1918, defending the bulge in the front known as the Salient.

More big battles were to be fought at Ypres; a German offensive in 1915, which included the use of poison gas, and the costly British-led assault in 1917, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

Sources: Wikipedia/various

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News