Year
1914

Germans make last stab at Ypres

On November 17, 1914, the German 15th Corps makes a final, desperate attempt to advance against Allied positions in the Ypres Salient, the much-contested region in Flanders, Belgium.

After advancing relatively quickly through Belgium and eastern France during the first weeks of World War I, the Germans were defeated by the Allies in late September 1914 in the Battle of the Marne. The two enemies then began the so-called “Race to the Sea,” moving northwards at a hectic pace in order to establish positions with access to the English Channel and the North Sea beyond. On October 19, the Germans launched an offensive aimed at seizing control of Ypres–the fortress city blocking the ports of the English Channel in Flanders–from the British, French and Belgian forces guarding it. For their part, the Allies held fast in their resistance, knowing a defeat would mean the loss of a crucial advantage.

On the last day of October, German cavalry units began a more concentrated attack, kicking the First Battle of Ypres into high gear. Over the next three weeks, the chaotic nature of the fighting only increased its bloody nature, with casualty figures on both sides mounting as the weather grew colder and more blustery. The attempt by the 15th Corps on November 17–which Allied forces repulsed–marked the last movement of the battle, as the Germans thereafter confined themselves to intermittent cannon blasts against the Allied lines. Five days later, amid high winds and blizzards, fighting was suspended completely, and the First Battle of Ypres came to an end after taking the lives of more than 5,000 British and 5,000 German soldiers.

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