The First Battle of Ypres, also called the First Battle of Flanders (French: 1re Bataille des Flandres), was a First World War battle fought for the strategic town of Ypres in western Belgium in October and November 1914. The German and Western Allied attempts to secure the town from enemy occupation included a series of further battles in and around the West Flanders Belgian municipality.
The strategy of both the Allied and German armies is not entirely clear. The accepted and mainstream reasoning for the Ypres battle was the British desire to secure the English Channel ports and the British Army's supply lines; Ypres was the last major obstacle to the German advance on Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais. 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 side 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 losses for its small size, "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 many of the German casualties were young and inexperienced reserves recently recruited from German universities.
The battle completed the entrenchments of the "race to the sea" and inaugurated the static western front. Mobile operations would not resume until 1918.
Famous quotes containing the words battle and/or ypres:
“The easiest period in a crisis situation is actually the battle itself. The most difficult is the period of indecisionwhether to fight or run away. And the most dangerous period is the aftermath. It is then, with all his resources spent and his guard down, that an individual must watch out for dulled reactions and faulty judgment.”
—Richard M. Nixon (19131995)
“A good wif was ther ofbiside bathe,
But she was somde, deef, and that was scathe.
Of clooth makyng the hadde swich an haunt,
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?1400)