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The date : 15th October to 22nd November of 1914.
It could also be known as the first battle of
The town had been the centre of battles before due to its strategic position. But
the sheer devastation of the town and the surrounding countryside seems to
perfectly summarise how much destruction actually took place.
The land surrounding Ypres to the north is flat and canals and rivers link it to the
coast. The major centre in this part of Flanders was Ypres. Control of the town
therefore meant control of the surrounding countryside and all the major roads
linking to the town. To the south of the town the land rises to about 500 feet (the
Mesen Ridge) which would give a significant height advantage to whichever side
controlled this ridge of high land. The Germans had this advantage when seeing the
British troops entered Ypres in October 1914. The British were unaware of the
size of the German force advancing on the town. However, numbers did not make
up for experience of the British. The Germans used what were effectively
students to attack professional British soldiers based north of the town at a place
named Langemark. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen the German troops, with just 6
weeks training, with arms linked singing patriotic songs as they advanced towards
the British. 1,500 Germans were killed and 600 taken prisoner.
Fierce fighting took place around the town and neither the British nor the
Germans could claim to control the area. At a place called Wytschaete (about 10
miles south of Ypres). Where a German corporal called Adolf Hitler rescued a
wounded comrade and won the highest honour a German soldier could win - the Iron
Cross. Despite fearsome losses on both sides, neither could dominate the other.
THE BATTLE :
The battle began with a nine-day German offensive that was only halted with
the arrival of French reinforcements and the deliberate flooding of the
Belgian front. Belgian troops opened the sluice gates of the dykes holding
back the sea from the low countries.
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The flood encompassed the final ten miles of trenches in the far north, and
which later proved a hindrance to the movement of allied troops and
During the attack British riflemen held their positions, suffering heavy
casualties, as did French forces guarding the north of the town.
The second phase of the battle saw a counter-offensive launched by General
Foch on 20 October, ultimately without success. It was ended on 28 October.…read more