The First Battle of Ypres – 10/19/1914

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On October 19, 1914 the French and British troops meet the roving German army at the Belgian town of Ypres, which occupied a strategic position along the route Germany planned to use in conquering Belgium and eventually invading France. Belgium began the war as a neutral nation under protection of the United Kingdom. When Germany invaded on August 4, 1914, the British Empire was forced into the war.

After a stunning allied victory at the Battle of the Marne in late September, the German Army began a race to the sea. Ypres acted as sort of a gateway to the North Sea and the English Channel, thus it was inevitable that it would play a decisive part in the war.

In early October, remnants of the Belgian Army and parts of the British Expeditionary Force were compelled to retreat from Antwerp in the face of German might. They fell back to Ypres, linking up with elements of the French Army. On October 19, the Germans began launched their Flanders Offensive, which sought to capture Ypres and other seaports along the Belgian coast.

The battle proved to be one of the bloodiest of the war thus far. Machine guns and heavy artillery claimed hundreds of lives, while many of the survivors were forced into trenches.

The fighting lasted one month and one day. By early November, the temperature had dropped and it rained for several days, and even snowed once. On the 22nd, German general Albrecht ordered his men to halt the attack, leaving the battle no clear victor.

Over the next several years, two more battles would be fought at Ypres, with a number of skirmishes taking place nearby. Today, the three battles of Ypres are remembered as some of the worst of the war.

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