Ypres Battles

The Battles of Ypres, 1914. – 19th October – 22nd November
(Referred to as 1st Ypres)

1st Ypres Order of Battle

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

2nd Ypres Order of Battle

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          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

3rd Ypres Order of Battle

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. 

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 Battle. 

On 11th November 1918 the British troops were close to where they started in August 1914 – at Mons in Belgium.