Battles on the Ypres Salient
The Battles of Ypres, 1914. – 19th October – 22nd
(Referred to as 1st Ypres)
The British Expeditionary Force, which was relatively small, was
operating with Belgian Forces to its north and French to the South.
As they advanced in the Ypres area, they met a very much larger
force of Germans. Whilst many
were crack troops, there were also the Volunteer Reserve Corps of young,
untrained men. The BEF pushed
the Volunteer Reserve Corps back to the Passchendaele Ridge.
Despite counter-attacks particularly in the Polygon Wood area, the
Germans were eventually pushed back and Ypres was saved.
Both sides lost a considerable number of men wounded and killed.
After this Trench Warfare set in and Battles of attrition would be the
order of the day.
The Second Battle of Ypres -
22nd April – 25th May 1915
The Germans used poison gas for the first time in an attack to the north
of the city. Some troops in
the allied lines broke but many stayed put and suffered terrible losses.
The Fresh 1st Canadian Division stood their ground and
resisted. This despite having an inferior rifle and hardly anything to
protect them from gas.
The Allied lines had to be shortened after the attacks.
2nd Ypres –
Battle of Gravenstafel
22nd – 23rd April
Battle of St Julien
24th April – 4th May
Battle of Frenzenburg
8th –13th May
Battle of Bellwaarde
Between this date and June 1917 it was mostly local attacks to gain
small amounts of ground.
A prelude to 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele) was the very
successful – Battle of Messines 7th-14th June
1917. The Germans were
then given a six-week breathing space before Passchendaele.
The British had to divert attention from the French front, which was
weakened by mutiny.
3rd Ypres (Passchendaele) – 31st July – 10th
It was a long and savage struggle and the weather was appalling.
Despite this the British fought their way to the village of
Passchendaele itself. The
cost was huge even by Great War standards. It was to prove a totally pointless exercise as in early
1918; Passchendaele was given up when the Allied lines were shortened.
Battle of Pilckem – 31st
July – 2nd August
Battle of Langemarck
- 16th –18th August
Battle of the Menin Road - 20th - 25th
Battle of Polygon Wood - 26th
September – 3rd October
Battle of Broodseinde - 4th
(See 9th Sherwood Foresters and Broodseinde Battle plans)
Battle of Poelcappelle - 9th
First Battle of Passchendaele -
Second Battle of Passchendaele – 26th October – 10th
In spring 1918 the Germans began their spring offensive.
Passchendaele was given up to shorten the lines.
The 300,000 casualties of 3rd Ypres may have wondered
4th Ypres – During the last 100 days of the Great War the
Allies attacked on all fronts. By
mid-October the last shell had fallen on Ypres and so ended the fourth
On 11th November 1918 the British troops were close to where they started in August 1914 – at Mons in Belgium.
Steve Morse 2004