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The First Battle of Ypres, also called the First Battle of Flanders ( ), was a First World War battle fought for the strategic town of Ypresmarker in western Belgiummarker. The German and Western Allied attempts to secure the town from enemy occupation included a series of further battles in and around the West Flandersmarker Belgian municipality. The strategies of both the Allied and German armies are not entirely clear. The accepted and mainstream reasoning for the Ypres battle was the British desire to secure the English Channelmarker ports and the British Army's supply lines; Ypres was the last major obstacle to the German advance on Boulogne-sur-Mermarker and Calaismarker. The French strategy revolved around a desire to prevent German forces from outflanking the Allied front from the north. This was the last major German option, after their defeats at the First Battle of the Aisne and First Battle of the Marne. The Ypres campaign became the culmination point of the Race to the Sea. The opposing Armies both engaged in offensive operations until the major German offensive occurred in mid-October, which forced the Allies onto the strategic defensive and limited to counter-attacks.The battle highlighted problems in command and control for both sides, with each of the Armies missing opportunities to win a significant decision early on. The Germans in particular overestimated the numbers and strength of the Allied defences at Ypres, and called off their last offensive too early. The Battle was also significant as it witnessed the destruction of the highly experienced and trained British regular army. Having suffered enormous loses for its small size the “The Old Contemptibles” disappeared to be replaced by fresh reserves which eventually turned into a mass conscripted Army to match its Allies and enemies.The result was a victory for the Allies, although losses were particularly heavy on both sides. The Germans called the battle "The Massacre of the Innocents of Ypres" (in German Kindermord bei Ypern) as most of the German casualties were a mixture of young inexperienced and highly trained reserves.

The end of the Battle marked the end of mobile operations until 1918.


The British were building up for a push on Meninmarker, but were unaware of a buildup by the Germans for their own offensive.


The British Expeditionary Force, under the command of Field Marshal Sir John French, was redeployed north from the mobile fighting of the first two months of the war to join two divisions of reinforcements recently landed in Belgiummarker. They advanced east from Saint-Omermarker, met and halted the German Army at the Passchendaele Ridgemarker to the east of the Belgianmarker town of Ypresmarker. The First Battle of Ypres was preceded by the Battle of the Yser which ended when the Belgians opened the sluice gates of the river Ysermarker to let in the sea into the low lying land to prevent further German advances . Both sides dug in for trench warfare. The town of Ypresmarker was rapidly demolished by artillery and air attack.

The Germans called the battle "The Massacre of the Innocents of Ypres" (in German Kindermord bei Ypern). Eight German units consisted of young volunteers, many of them enthusiastic students, suffered huge casualties during a failed attack on a smaller but highly-experienced British force, many of them veterans of the Second Boer War. The BEF was supported for the first time by battalions from the Army of India and the British Territorial Force, whose support was essential in holding the Germans at bay. The BEF was severely weakened at First Ypres, but the battle allowed the Allies time to strengthen their lines.

In 1917, the Mons Star was awarded to those surviving British troops who had served in France or Belgium prior to the end of the First Battle of Ypres; the last surviving holder of this decoration, Alfred Anderson, died in November 2005.

Many of the German student volunteers are buried at the Langemark German war cemeterymarker.

The future leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, claimed to have participated in this battle as a Gefreiter.

See also




  • Beckett, Ian. Ypres The First Battle, 1914. Longman; 2004. ISBN 978-0582506121
  • Lomas, David. First Ypres 1914: The Birth of Trench Warfare. Greenwood Press; 2004. ISBN 978-0275982911
  • Gardner, Nicolas. Trial by Fire: Command and the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. Pearson; London. 2003. ISBN 0582506123
  • Martin Gilbert: The Routledge Atlas of the First World War, second edition, Routledge 2002 ISBN 0-415-28508-9
  • Paul Van Pul : In Flanders Flooded Fields, before Ypres there was Yser, Pen & Sword Military, 2006 ISBN 1-84415-492-0

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