The Battles of Ypres, 1914. – 19th October – 22nd November
(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.
Battle of Gravenstafel 22nd – 23rd April
Battle of St Julien 24th April – 4th May
Battle of Frenzenburg 8th –13th May
Battle of Bellwaarde 24th-25th May
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 November 1917
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 September
Battle of Polygon Wood – 26th September – 3rd October
Battle of Broodseinde – 4th October
(See this page: Battle of Broodseinde)
Battle of Poelcappelle – 9th October
First Battle of Passchendaele – 12th October
Second Battle of Passchendaele – 26th October – 10th November
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 – Why.
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 Battle.
On 11th November 1918 the British troops were close to where they started in August 1914 – at Mons in Belgium.