"BATTLES OF. YPRES AND THE YSER - Under this heading, accounts are given of the main battles in this area of the Western Front: those of 1914, 1915, 1917 and 1918.
I.-Battles Of Oct. 12-Nov. 20 1914 General Situation. - The Belgian army, after its unsuccessful defence of Antwerp, had retired by way of Ghent and Bruges to the line of the Yser, between Dixmude and the sea, where it had established itself by Oct. 12. It consisted of six infantry and two cavalry divisions, in all about 48,000 rifles, with 300 guns; the 2nd, ist and 4th Divs. in that order from the N. held the front from the coast as far as Dixmude, with two brigades of the 3rd Div. and the 2nd Ca y. Div. in reserve behind. A brigade of the 3rd Div., a French Fusilier Marine Brigade, which had been sent up to the N. to assist the Belgian army, and the 5th Div. continued the line from Dixmude to Boesinghe, while the ist Ca y. Div. screened the whole front of the army. Farther to the S. the 87th and 89th French Territorial Divs. were coming into line E. of Ypres, on the left of the British IV. Corps (7th Div. and 3rd Ca y. Div.) which was falling back from Ghent, where it had been posted to cover the right flank of the retiring Belgian army, by way of Thielt and Roulers to the S. and E. of Ypres.
To the right rear of the IV. Corps the remainder of the British army was advancing. The II. Corps, detrained at Abbeville, had pushed forward to the line of the Aire - Bethune canal, and was on the 12th advancing further to the line Givenchy - Merville, meeting with stubborn resistance from the German XIII. Corps. To the left front of the II. Corps the French I. and II. Cay. Corps and the British Ca y. Corps were driving before them the German IV. Ca y. Corps and had reached the area of Vermelles, and Estaires to the S. of the Lys and Merville, Merris, and Cassel to the N. of that river. Behind the British cavalry the III. Corps, detrained at St. Omer, had reached the region of Hazebrouck. The I. Corps was not yet up from the Aisne; in fact its leading units were only entraining on this day and its transport to Flanders was not to be completed till the 19th.
In face of these forces the right wing of the German VI. Army, under Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, consisting of the XIII. and XIX. Corps, and covered on front and flank by the I., II. and IV. Ca y. Corps, were moving into position on both sides of Lille, extending as far N. as the Lys, and beyond. To the N. of this army a new one was moving forward with the object of forcing back the Allied left and securing possession of the Channel ports. This Army, the IV., under the command of Duke Albrecht of Wurttemberg, consisted of the newly formed [[Xxii., Xxiii., Xxvi]]. and XXVII. Reserve Corps together with the III. Reserve Corps, from Antwerp, and the 4th Ersatz Div. These new corps were detraining S. of Brussels on the 12th, covered by the III. Reserve Corps and the 4th Ersatz Div.
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On Oct. 4, when it became clear that the forthcoming operations in Artois and Flanders would of necessity be carried out not only by French but also by British and Belgian forces, Joffre had entrusted Foch with the coordination of the Allied contingents in the N. The French X. Army (Maud'- huy), around Arras, thus came under Foch's command and formed his right wing, while to reinforce the British in the centre and the. Belgians on the left, there was formed an " Army Detachment of Belgium " under d'Urbal, shortly to become the VIII. Army. The instructions given to d'Urbal were that he should assume the offensive as soon as possible from his detraining points in the general direction Roulers - Thorout - Ghistelles, while the British on his right advanced on Courtrai and Menin, and the Belgians on his left along the coast. It was hoped by these means to separate the enemy forces, which were following up the Belgians retiring from Antwerp, from the main body of the German army, and hem them in along the coast, and then to push forward against the right flank and rear of the German VI. Army S. of Lille.
'Unfortunately it was found impossible in the event to carry out this far-reaching scheme. Not only was the Belgian army too weak and exhausted to be able to take part in an offensive without a breathing space for rest and refitment, but the first troops of the French VIII. Army only became available on Oct. 23; and by that time the situation had radically altered. It became evident that, so far from being in a position to drive back the enemy, the Allied forces were outnumbered and would do well if they could even hold their own. Consequently, although the idea of an Allied offensive was never entirely abandoned, the necessity for using the various formations as they arrived prevented it from being effectively put into execution.
The First Stages of the Battle of the Yser. - The detrainment of the German IV. Army was completed on the 13th, and its units, moving forward at once, had reached by the 17th the area Bruges - Thielt - E. of Courtrai. The III. Reserve Corps pushing eastward in front of the army, with its right along the coast and its left on Roulers, screened the advance of the newly arrived Reserve Corps. It was then ordered to clear the front by closing up on its right, which had on the 15th entered Ostend. On Oct. 16 it came into contact with the Belgian cavalry and forward posts E. of the Yser, and after two days of desultory fighting forced them to withdraw to their main position.
On the 18th the first encounters took place between the main bodies of the Belgian 2nd, 1st and 4th Divs., holding the Yser line from Dixmude to the sea, and the German III. Reserve Corps, which had been ordered to reach the neighbourhood of Furnes. The advancing Germans early came into contact with the Belgian outpost positions on the E. bank of the river on the line Lombartzyde - Mannekensveere - Schoor - Keyem. The northern part of this line held fast against repeated attacks but by nightfall the Germans had taken Schoor and Keyem; the latter however was recovered during the night. The attacks were renewed next day; the German XXII. Reserve Corps, coming into line to the S. of the III. Reserve, moved against the French and Belgian positions around Dixmude. Keyem and Beerst fell into its hands early in the day; Beerst was retaken about noon by the Belgian 5th Div. and the French Fusilier Marines, who were however forced to fall back in the evening to their former positions owing to the approach of further strong hostile forces (the XXIII. Reserve Corps) astride the railway from Thourout. On this flank the Allied units were now withdrawn behind the Yser, with the exception of the garrison of Dixmude. The preparatory fighting continued on the 10th on -both flanks; the III. Reserve Corps, reinforced by the 4th Ersatz Div., attacked and carried Lombartzyde in the N. while to the S. a concentric attack of the XXII. and XXIII. Reserve Corps from three sides was repulsed with heavy loss by the Fusilier Marines holding Dixmude.
The German IV. Army was now completely deployed against the Yser line. The 4th Ersatz Div. in front of Nieuport, the III. Reserve Corps thence to Keyem, the XXII. Reserve Corps around Beerst and the XXIII. Reserve Corps E. and S.E. of Dixmude, in all seven divisions with over 400 guns, were aligned in face of the five Belgian divisions with their 350 guns. On the 21st, after a violent bombardment lasting throughout the night, the Germans advanced all along the line, their young troops fighting with the greatest courage but meeting with little success; and the French and Belgians, at the price of serious losses, held their ground at all points. In the night, however, the III. Reserve Corps succeeded in throwing a temporary bridge over the Yser, in the bend N. of Tervaete, and in passing over to the western bank infantry and machine-guns, while their artillery were brought close up to the stream to cover the advance of strong reinforcements. The 1st Belgian Div.'s counterattacks failed to retrieve the situation; the Germans not only held their ground but extended it during the 23rd by seizing Tervaete itself to the S. The Belgian 3rd Div. was thrown into action from general reserve, without effecting more than the temporary checking of the hostile advance; during the day, the French 42nd Div., which had carried out a successful counterattack on the 23rd to the E. of Nieuport, was placed at the disposal of the Belgian Higher Command and transferred near Tervaete, with the object of striking into the southern flank of the German troops who had crossed the Yser.
The French counter-offensive in the centre, supported as it was by all the available units of the Belgian 4th Div., though it failed to throw back over the river the two battalions of the III. Reserve Corps which held the Tervaete bridgehead, was successful in checking any further progress on their part. By the evening of the 24th indeed, both sides were showing signs of exhaustion. The efforts of the 4th Ersatz Div. before Nieuport and those of the XXII. Reserve Corps before Dixmude had met with no success; despite the powerful artillery fire from the heavy German artillery, which had reduced Dixmude to ruins, the Fusilier Marines still held the town, repulsing on the 24th 15 successive attacks. The Belgian army, however, had bought its success at the price of the severest losses; over 25% of its combatant strength had been placed hors de combat, and only 180 guns with only from 160 to 1 9 0 rounds apiece were left fit for service. The situation appeared to the Belgian Higher Command to demand extreme measures; it was doubtful if their troops could withstand another series of assaults such as those which had just been delivered, and on the 25th it was decided (it is said on the suggestion of Foch) to open the sluices of the Yser and inundate the country E. of the Nieuport - Dixmude railway. The sluices of Nieuport were opened at 4 P.M. on that day, under cover of darkness; the line of defence in the centre was withdrawn to the railway embankment, which it was intended to hold during the few days that must elapse before the slowly moving waters, fed by the successive tides, should engulf the country to the E. and form an impassable barrier.
Before recounting the last German assaults on the Yser front, we must return to the British sector, to the south.
The presence of the new German IV. Army in his front, and in particular the approach of the fresh Reserve Corps toward the gap at present open between himself and the Belgians, was at this date (the 15th) unsuspected by Field-Marshal Sir John French, whose attention and energies were concentrated on the offensive which he had arranged to carry out in conjunction with the Allied forces to his right and left in the direction of Courtrai and Menin. His instructions to his corps commanders were that the advance should be continued during the next few days on the whole front, the II. Corps on the right advancing due E., the III. Corps in touch with it securing the Lys crossings from Sailly to Armentieres, and the cavalry passing over the river at Menin and advancing N.E., while Rawlinson with the IV. Corps on the extreme left moved on and to the N. of Courtrai. The lastnamed was warned to watch his left, beyond which hostile detachments were reported near Bruges and Roulers.
These operations, undertaken on the 15th and 16th, had hardly begun before it became evident that their continuance on the original lines was no longer warranted by the situation. The resistance met by the IV. Corps on the line Houthem - Gheluvelt - St. Julien - Westroosebeke convinced French that it was indispensable first to clear the hostile forces from the area N. of his left flank. Foch, however, on being asked to assist in this, could promise no more troops before the 22nd at the earliest, as his forces were still assembling. Accordingly, the IV. Corps was ordered to push on along to Menin on the 18th, the 3rd Ca y. Div. screening its left, in conjunction with de Mitry's French Ca y. Corps, which had come into line on the previous day W. of Houthulst forest. This task Rawlinson felt himself unable to carry out owing to the advance of strong hostile columns, consisting of the XXVI. and XXVII. Reserve Corps, against his left S. of Roulers, and by the evening of the 19th he had fallen back to the line Kruxiseik-Zonnebeke.
On the same day the concentration of the I. British Corps in the N. was completed in the area Poperinghe - St. Omer. French had now given up his ideas as to the possibilities of an Allied offensive and, realizing he was face to face with strong hostile forces which were being rapidly reinforced, began to fear for the weakness of his long and thinly held line, reserves for which were lacking. Although the II. and III. Corps were fighting against powerful positions and had been heavily taxed, French considered that the danger was greatest in the N., where the IV. Corps was holding altogether too extended a front, and that a break through there, while less fatal in its results than a similar disaster in the S., was inevitable unless reinforcements were sent at once. Accordingly. the I. Corps was sent N. with orders to advance on Thourout with the object of capturing Bruges, if possible, before the enemy reinforcements, now believed to be in movement across Belgium, could be brought into line. French, however, was not too confident that this would prove feasible, and his instructions to Haig therefore envisaged not only the further prosecution of an eventual success toward Ghent, but also the possibility of the I. Corps having to go to the help of the IV., if the latter were heavily attacked.
Meanwhile the II. and III. Corps and the cavalry were ordered to confine themselves to the defensive, in view of the hostile superiority in their front.
The I. Corps only came into line to the S. of the IV. Corps on the 21st and by that date the advance of this latter toward Menin had, as we have related, come to an end; the 3rd Cay. Div. and de Mitry's horsemen to the N. had also been forced back, while the British Ca y. Corps had retired to the MessinesWytschaete line. To the S. Conneau's French cavalry were in line between the British II. and III. Corps.
It was only on Oct. 21 that the full extent of the menace to the British front burst on French, to use his own words, " like a veritable bolt from the blue." He at once realized that, in face of this overwhelming hostile superiority, all hope of a successful British offensive must be given up and indeed that he might have serious difficulty in maintaining his present positions. The British situation was certainly no easy one, for at the moment all available troops were in line, and the only reserves and reinforcements that seemed likely to be available for some weeks consisted of the Indian Corps, one division of which had just detrained W. of Hazebrouck, two Territorial battalions, and one cavalry and two yeomanry regiments.
Fortunately, French reserves were being hurried up from the S. The first of them, the IX. Corps, began to detrain in the Ypres area on the 23rd. During these three days from the 21st to the 23rd, when the British army was left to itself to withstand the shock of the enemy, it succeeded in holding its own without great difficulty. By the evening of the 21st the I. Corps had even commenced an advance, but the withdrawal of the French cavalry and Territorials on its left, which had been forced back by the advance-guard of the XXIII. Reserve Corps, compelled Haig to halt on the line Bixschoote - LangemarckZonnebeke. Here he held his ground against repeated attacks that night and all next day despite the wideness of his front; and, though the positions of the 1st Div. were broken into N.W. of Langemarck late on the 22nd, counter-attacks held up the German advance and finally on the 23rd recovered practically all the lost ground. Meanwhile the rest of the rst Div. line held its positions against the attacks of the XXIII. Reserve Corps until the evening of the 23rd, when the 2nd Div. was relieved by the newly arrived troops of the French IX. Corps; 24 hours later the 1st Div.'s place was taken by French territorials.
The 7th Div. on the front Zandvoorde - Zonnebeke had also had heavy fighting to do from the 10th onward. The German XXVI. and XXVII. Corps, despite some success against the French on Rawlinson's left, which compelled him to retire that flank somewhat, were unable to make any impression on his front until the 24th, when units of the XXVII. Reserve Corps forced their way into Polygon wood and had to be ejected by the reserves of the 7th, assisted by units of the 2nd Division. By this time the French Command considered that the time had come to undertake a general offensive. The French IX. Corps had just come into line and the XVI. Corps was on its way northwards. The British 2nd Div. was also available and was ordered to cooperate, as were also de Mitry's cavalry from Bixschoote and the French 42nd Div. along the coast from Nieuport. As a matter of fact the moment chosen was favourable from factors which the Allied leaders could not be aware of. The Germans were suffering from a local shortage of munitions; their new troops had suffered heavily, thanks to their enthusiasm untempered by training and experience and had everywhere been brought to a halt before the Allied lines. But the odds against the attack proved too great. The French IX. Corps and the 2nd Div. to its right made little progress on the 24th, despite their valiant efforts, and the offensive gradually petered out, not without taking heavy toll of the Germans, on the line N. and E. of Langemarck - W. of Poelkapelle, Passchendaele, and Moorslede. The 7th Div. on its front had only been able to hold its ground, and, in view of its weakness after three weeks of incessant marching and fighting, was on the 27th put under the I. Corps, together with the 3rd Ca y. Div.; at the same time Haig's two other divisions were again put into line. The right of the 7th was now at Zandvoorde, that of the ist on the Menin road, that of the 2nd just in Polygon wood. To the S. of the I. Corps the 2nd Ca y. Div. on the 10th held the front from Hollebeke to Messines; the 1st Ca y. Div. extending thence to St. Yves; the 3rd Ca y. Div. came into line later on the left of the 2nd and three Indian battalions were moved to Wulverghem in support. This part of the front, despite repeated attacks by the German XIX. Corps, remained intact till the 3 oth. On the right of the cavalry the II. and III. Corps also succeeded in maintaining their general line.
By the evening of the 27th the German IV. Army had been brought to a standstill on the whole front. " The XXVI. and XXVII. Reserve Corps were by this time " (Oct. 24), says the German official account, " completely held up in front of strongly entrenched positions on line Langemarck - ZonnebekeGheluvelt.. .. For the time being any further thought of a break-through was out of the question," and the decision which appeared at the moment to be " imminent " on the Belgian front near the coast had not yet been achieved. To assist the efforts of their comrades in this sector, and to cover the bringing up of further reinforcements to drive home the attack against the British line, the XXIII., XXVI. and XXVII. Reserve Corps were urged on to deliver holding attacks on their front. Despite their courage and persistence, the Germans, however, not only failed to make headway but were compelled in places to give back before the Allied counter blows; their only gain was registered at Kruiseik, which was wrested from the 7th Div. on the 28th after to and fro fighting. To the S. also the enemy pressed heavily against the front held by the British II. and III. Corps, assisted from the 23rd onward by a brigade of the Lahore Div. which relieved Conneau's Ca y. Here the XIX. and VII. Corps made some headway and by the 29th had pressed the British front back to the line Givenchy - W. of Neuve Chapelle - S.E. of Armentieres - Messines, where the Cavalry Corps' right rested. The fighting was bitter and bloody, so much so that on the 28th the II. Corps, much reduced, had to be relieved by the Indian Corps, under Willcocks.
Meanwhile the French XVI. Corps, which had detrained its leading division on the 26th, was sent forward to reinforce the French IX. Corps S. of Houthulst forest, in order to participate in a new advance in the direction of Roulers. This attack, carried out on the 28th, failed to make much progress, and in the evening the French VIII. Army's line, which was held from N. to S. by the 4th Ca y. Div., the 89th and 87th Territorial Divs., the 5th and 7th Ca y. Divs., the 31st Div. (XVI. Corps), the IX. Corps, and the 6th Ca y. Div., ran from the Yser just above Dixmude by the W. and S. edges of Houthulst forest - W. of Poelkapelle and Passchendaele - to Becelaere. To the left this line connected with the French Marine Fusiliers at Dixmude; to the right with the British I. Corps. Despite the slight progress made on the 28th, d'Urbal's orders were still for the continuance of the offensive.
Final Stages of the Battle on the Yser, Oct. 26-Nov. 4. - We left the Belgians and French on the evening of the 25th, re-forming their lines behind the embankment of the Nicuport-Dixmude railway, with orders to hold that line at all costs until the full effect of the inundation should make itself felt, and forbid any further German attacks. This could hardly be before the 31st, and meanwhile the III. and XXII. Reserve Corps were bringing up their artillery over the river, pushing forward patrols to occupy the ground up to the new Allied position, and making all preparations for a renewal of the attack. By the evening of the 29th these preparations were completed. Only one brigade of the 4th Ersatz Div. was left facing Nieuport, the Marine Div. being brought forward to fill its place; the rest of the Ersatz Div. thus became available for the decisive attack against the Belgian centre. At 6:30 A.M. on the 30th this assault took place under cover of a violent bombardment. The first rush carried the Germans up to within a few yards of the railway embankment; bombing their way forward they swept over it and, taking the defenders in enfilade, drove a wide gap in the Allied line from Ramscapelle to Pervyse, both of these villages falling into their hands. The Belgian 2nd Div. was broken through and the situation was critical in the extreme. A counter-attack by four French and Belgian battalions was immediately put in by Gen. Grosetti, commanding the French 42nd Div., and succeeded in holding up the enemy flood. A second counter-attack, delivered about 4 P.M., penetrated into Ramscapelle, where fighting continued to rage furiously all night. On the flanks of the attack the Allied line of defence had held fast, and the 4th Ersatz Div. and the XXII. Reserve Corps had been held up.
The crisis was past. The German intention was to renew the attack on the 31st, but at 11:30 P.M., as orders to this effect were being prepared, a staff officer from one of the divisions arrived at the headquarters of the III. Reserve Corps with the report that in view of the rise of the river the attack could not be continued. A belt of water 2,000-3,000 yd. wide and reaching as high as a man's waist covered the country behind the German front-line units and threatened to cut them off from their comrades unless they were hastily withdrawn. Accordingly, on the 31st the III. Reserve Corps was ordered back to the E. bank of the river, only weak rear parties being left to cover the movement. By 9 A.M. the Belgians were once more in possession of Ramscapelle and the railway embankment. Farther to the S. the positions held by the XXII. Corps on the W. bank of the river N. of Dixmude were also menaced by the rising tide of water, and the troops holding them were withdrawn on the night of Nov. 1. By the morning of the 2nd there were left of all the German gains on the left bank of the Yser only the villages of Schoorbakke and St. Georges and two farms N. of Dixmude.
On either flank of the Allied line where bridgeheads existed over the river, the first days of Nov. saw a series of small attacks with the object of improving the local positions. Such operations took place on Nov. 3 and 4 in the Nieuport sector, when Lombartzyde was occupied temporarily but lost again. A French attack also took place on the 3rd E. of Dixmude, and others on the 4th against St. Georges and Schoorbakke, but generally speaking, the Germans maintained their positions. The battle of the Yser, strictly speaking, was over, and the plan of the German Higher Command, to seize the Channel ports and envelop the Allied left flank, had failed thanks to the heroic resistance of the French and Belgian troops. It was estimated that the battle had cost the Belgian army 18,000 casualties, the French some 5,000 (inclusive of the action at Dixmude on Nov. io), and the Germans some 28,000.
Crisis of the Battle of Ypres, Oct. 29-Nov. 8. - In conjunction with the decisive attacks on the Yser line in the N., the German IV. Army was also preparing for a renewal of the assault on the Ypres front. A new army group was formed, under the command of von Fabeck, consisting of the Bavarian II. and the XV. Corps and the Bavarian 6th Reserve and 26th Div., with some heavy artillery from the VI. Army. This new group, assembling behind the junction of the IV. and VI. Armies, was to come into line on the 28th on the front Wervicq-Deulemont, in order to deliver a decisive attack also on the 30th. Both the German armies already in line were to cooperate.
Their preparatory attacks commenced on the 29th with extreme vigour. The Bavarian 6th Reserve Div., which had preceded the remaining troops of the new group into the battle-line, under cover of the early morning mist drove in the 1st and 7th Divs. at their point of junction E. of Gheluvelt. The reserves of the former division threw them back again out of all but the front trenches they had gained; the losses of the assailants were heavy. But this was only the prelude to the drama about to open. During the night of the 29th-30th the Fabeck group relieved part of the VI. Army Ca y. in the line and went forward at 9 A.M. next morning. The XV. Corps on the right, moving with its right on the Menin-Ypres road and with its left on Zandvoorde, fell upon the 7th Div. and pushed them out of Zandvoorde after fierce fighting, but were then checked by the I. Corps reserves. On their left the Bavarian II. Corps advanced, and the French XVI. Corps and the British 3rd and 2nd Cay. Divs., after giving up some ground, made head against the enemy just E. of St. Eloi and Wytschaete. The 26th Inf. Div. failed however to dislodge the 1st Ca y. Div. from Messines; a temporary success by the I. and II. Ca y. Corps E. of Ploegsteert wood was retrieved by the 4th Div., and the XIX. Corps also failed to hold their gains at Bois Grenier, against the 6th Div.
The situation of the British, despite the fact that they had for the moment held their front intact, gave rise naturally to considerable anxiety at French's headquarters and the promise of Foch, who visited French at 2 A.M. on the next morning, to dispatch strong reinforcements to the I. Corps on the morrow, must have been very welcome. It was agreed that a French force of five battalions and three batteries under Moussy should be put in near Hollebeke, and another detachment at Becelaere; while the 3 2nd Div. would be sent to support the cavalry astride the Ypres-Comines canal. Before these forces could be brought up on the 31st, the enemy renewed his assaults. The 4th Div. in the S. was first attacked shortly after dawn; the action soon spread to the N., where the 26th Inf. Div. strove with the British Ca y. Corps for the possession of Messines. The village was lost at 9 A.M., re-entered at 1 P.M., disputed hotly till dark and finally left in British hands. Farther to the N. the Bavarian 6th Reserve Div. vainly assailed the front of the 2nd and 3rd Cay. Divs., whose sector was taken over before long by the French XVI. Corps; but though the latter on their part delivered a series of counter-attacks, they were unable to achieve much. The main crisis of the battle, however, was played out N. of the Ypres-Comines canal. Here the Bavarian II. and the XV. Corps had, as early as 10:30 A.M., forced back the 1st Div. front N. of the Menin road and followed this up by a strong attack along the road itself. Eight battalions employed against Gheluvelt quickly overmastered the two battalions in garrison there, and by 1:30 P.M. had seized the village and driven a gap in the British line. The situation was perilous in the extreme; the left of the 7th Div. was enveloped, and the right of the 1st Div. forced back in disorder down the Menin road. At the same time the commanders and some of the staff of the 1st and 2nd Divs. were knocked out by a shell which struck their headquarters; Haig prepared to retire to a line just in front of Ypres and hold on there at all costs.
But the Germans could not exploit their success; the Worcesters, in local reserve, thrown in at 2 P.M., checked the enemy's progress, and secured a position from which they could flank any further advance beyond Gheluvelt. The left of the XV. Corps had been held up by the 7th Div., assisted by the local reserves, and had been unable to exploit the exposure of its immediate enemy's flank caused by the loss of Gheluvelt. The Bavarian II. Corps indeed forced its way forward somewhat against the right of the 7th Div. and the 3rd Ca y. Div., but its advance also eventually came to a stand, as had that of its comrades on the right and left of it. A gap which opened in the right wing of the 7th Div. late in the afternoon was opportunely filled by the arrival of the 7th Ca y. Bde. which threw back the enemy.
It was clear that the enemy would not desist from his efforts, which had on the 31st brought him so near to success, but that further fierce attacks might be anticipated on the following days. The situation seemed therefore dark enough; the troops of the French VIII. Army, with which it had been intended to assume a large scale counter-offensive against both flanks of the enemy group attacking the British I. Corps, had had to be thrown in piecemeal to support various weak points in the line, and only one division, the 43rd, was left in general reserve W. of Ypres. Certain units even of this division had been sent into line before nightfall on the 31st in the vicinity of St. Eloi.
The fighting on Nov. 1, as was expected, was little if at all less severe than on the two preceding days. The main pressure, however, had shifted from the front of the British I. Corps over the Ypres - Comines canal to that of the cavalry corps. In the N. the enemy's efforts, which were not very vigorous, broke down before the readjusted lines of the ist and 7th Divs., and the 3rd Ca y. Div. The fighting, which had continued all through the night of the 31st-1st around Wytschaete and Messines, had already placed the cavalry corps in a difficult position, their line being broken at several points, and only partly reestablished; however, the main German attack did not take place till noon, when the Bavarian 6th Reserve Div. and the 26th Div. advanced. Wytschaete, lost between 2 and 3 A.M. on the 31st, was still at this time in German hands, despite the efforts of reinforcements from the 3rd Div., sent up from the S. and from the 5th Ca y. Bde. with French units of the 32nd and 43rd Divs., but the village was recovered about 6 P.M. and held firmly by the French. The loss of Wytschaete had been followed by that of Messines; the 1st Ca y. Div. were drawn back to an entrenched line N. of Wulverghem, and later relieved by parts of the French XVI. and XX. Corps and of Conneau's cavalry. The situation, which had at one time seemed critical, was thus saved by the arrival of French and British reinforcements, and by the evening gave rise to less anxiety. The attack was continued next day by the Germans, who had put in a new division, the 3rd, on the left of the Bavarian 6th Reserve, and the fight swayed to and fro all day. By the evening Wytschaete and the crest of the ridge had been lost, but the French line was firmly settled on the rear slopes of the ridge to the west.
Gen. d'Urbal had not yet however abandoned all hope of a successful offensive, but the attempts of the French to advance on the 2nd and following days were neutralized by renewed efforts on the part of the enemy, and only in the MerckemBixschoote area was some slight progress made. On Nov. 5 d'Urbal received instructions from Joffre, which stated that the Flanders theatre of operations had lost some of its importance since neither Allied nor German attacks could hope to gain any further appreciable result, and that it was intended shortly to withdraw troops from the VIII. Army for use elsewhere.
Meanwhile the British dispositions had undergone some changes; the 7th Div. being relieved by two composite brigades from the II. Corps, and the French IX. Corps taking over part of the I. Corps front.
A renewed period of activity on the British front occurred in a few days, when these reliefs had been barely completed. On the 6th and 7th the 7th Ca y. Bde. and units of the 7th and 1 st Divs. recovered some ground lost by the French near Zwartelen; attacks on the 7th and 8th against the 3rd Div. E. of Herenthage wood and the ist Div. and the French farther N. were also successfully dealt with. This was but the muttering before the bursting of the last storm.
The Germans, determined to make one last push for Ypres, formed on the 9th a new army group under von Linsingen, consisting of the XV. Corps and a composite corps, made up of the 4th Div. and a division of the Guard. This was put in on the left of the Fabeck group with orders to drive back and crush the enemy N. of the Ypres - Comines canal. The Fabeck group was to cooperate with infantry and artillery. This attack, timed for the 11th, was to be prefaced by an advance of the whole IV. Army on the previous day from Dixmude S. to Polygon wood. The southern part of this attack however did not get going.
The attack on Dixmude was entrusted to the 4th Ersatz Div. and the XXII. Reserve Corps and took place on Nov. 10. The garrison of Belgian infantry and French Marine. Fusiliers had been reinforced by French colonial troops and the Germans had to pay dearly for their success. The bombardment opened at dawn and the infantry attack at 7:40 A.M. It failed and was renewed after further artillery preparation at 9:30 A.M. By 1 P.M. the garrison had been driven from the eastern suburb and the town was assailed from N.E., E., and S.E. After desperate fighting, lasting till nightfall, the Germans succeeded in securing possession of the ruins of Dixmude. The garrison withdrew to the W. bank of the Yser and broke the bridges, but the enemy made only half-hearted attempts to follow them. They claimed to have taken in the town about 1,400 prisoners and much material. Further to the S., in the Bixschoote - Langemarck area, the German attacks made little headway. The British front was not attacked on the loth.
Its turn was to come on the 11th, when the Fabeck and Linsingen groups attacked on the whole front from the Menin road to S. of Messines, about 9:30 in the morning, after two hours' bombardment. A thick mist veiled and assisted their advance. On the right of the assault the 12 battalions of the Guard struck against the line held by the weakened British ist and 9th Bdes., and some French Zouaves. Their right broke past the S. side of Polygon wood, and swept the defenders out of Nonne Boschen, but their further progress was stayed on the western edge of this copse, and shortly after noon a counterattack by the 2nd Oxon. and Bucks. L.I. forced them out of it again. The centre and left of the Guard, after some initial success in Inverness copse and Herenthage wood, were also held up and compelled to abandon most of their. guns. Further S. also little progress had rewarded the Germans' efforts. The XV. Corps had to content itself with the capture of Hill 60; the Bavarian II. Corps gained some success N. of Wytschaete; elsewhere the attackers had been kept to their trenches.
This day's fighting was the closing act of the Ypres battle. Both sides were entirely exhausted by close on a month of sustained and bitter fighting, which had thinned their ranks, drained their supply of munitions, and left them no available reserves which could be employed in further effort. On Nov. 15 General d'Urbal came to the decision to suspend further offensive activity, consolidate his position and allow his troops a period for rest and refitment. Joffre, however, felt that the operations on the Flanders front had reached their fitting termination with the repulse of the enemy's last desperate effort to bring about a decision in the open field; and accordingly instructed d'Urbal to hold himself henceforward on the defensive.
The Germans on their side had also come to an end of their resources. On the 17th the German IV. Army commander, after the failure of a final effort by the 4th Div. in Herenthage wood, " decided to give up any idea of continuing the offensive - a decision to which he was compelled by the low fighting strength of his troops and the bad autumn weather which was affecting their health;. .. the German General Staff fully concurred in the decision." Meanwhile on the 21st the British were withdrawn from the Ypres salient. French troops took over the front line; the I. Corps and Cavalry Corps remained in reserve; the two brigades of the II. Corps which had been sent up to the N. were also moved back to rest.
The battle of Flanders was at an end, and the armies, their front stabilized along all the line from the sea to Switzerland, settled down with the approach of winter to trench warfare.
(X.) Battles N. Of The Lys, 1915 The five weeks' pause in active operations which had followed the battle of Neuve Chapelle was due mainly to the necessity of accumulating ammunition, of which the supply was still far from adequate, but also to the need of timing the next attack to coincide with General Foch's great attack against the Germans N. of Arras. Meanwhile a minor operation carried out by the II. Corps S.E. of Ypres led to extremely fierce local fighting. Where the Ypres - Comines railway cuts through one of the southern spurs of the Broodseinde ridge there is a mound which was of considerable tactical value especially as an artillery observation post. On April 17 1915 this " Hill 60 " was successfully stormed by the 2nd K.O.S.B. and 1st Royal West Kents of the 5th Div., but its capture provoked prolonged and vigorous counter-attacks. The hill was lost and retaken more than once and not only the whole of the 13th Bde. but the 1st Devons and 1st E. Surreys of the 14th Bde. and the 2nd Camerons of the 27th Div. had to be thrown into the fight. By the end of a week the Germans had apparently acquiesced in the loss of the position for their counter-attacks died away.
But the struggle for Hill 60 was soon to be eclipsed. During April the British had gradually relieved the French in the Ypres salient. First the 27th Div. took over the line from Zwartelen to Polygon Wood, then the 28th came in on the left to and beyond the Broodseinde cross-roads, by April 17 the Canadian Div., now allotted to the V. Corps, occupied the N.E. face of the salient as far as the Ypres - Poelkapelle road. Thence to the Ypres - Yser canal were French troops, chiefly Africans. It was against this last section that on April 22 the Germans delivered the first gas attack. Some suspicions of this new weapon seem to have reached the Allied Headquarters, but there had been no time for preventive measures, and to the unfortunate Africans the gas-clouds came as a complete surprise. Luckily for the Allies the efficacy of their new weapon surprised the Germans themselves: they hastened to fall upon the Canadians whose left flank the rout of the French had completely exposed, but they had not enough troops to exploit their success.
The Canadians stood the strain of their first serious engagement splendidly. Their front line maintained their positions unshaken; a line was hastily improvised along the Poelkapelle road toward St. Julien to cover the exposed flank and rear of the front line, while local reserves manned the second-line trenches near " Shell Trap Farm " N. of Wieltje in time to check the further advance of the Germans. Divisional and corps reserves were hurried up at once and that evening a counterattack by the 10th and 16th Batts. temporarily recovered a wood W. of St. Julien. But the position was critical in the extreme. Between " Shell Trap Farm " and the canal a 2-m. gap lay open, Ypres itself was dangerously exposed and all the troops in the salient might have been cut off by a rapid German advance in force. Moreover, during the night of April 22-23 the Germans succeeded in capturing the bridge at Steenstraate over the Yser canal and established themselves on the western bank.
The first need was therefore to close the gap between the Canadians and the French right. But conditions were all against counter-attacks. There was little time for reconnoitring or for coordinating advances, there was hardly any heavy artillery to support them for over 50 French guns had fallen into the enemy's hands. In the course of April 23 attacks were made by a detachment drawn from the reserves of the 28th Div. by the Canadian 1st and 4th Batts. and by the 13th Bde. (5th Div.) hastily fetched up from the rest camp where it was recuperating after its heavy fighting for Hill 60. These attacks did not dislodge the Germans from the position they had already dug and wired along the ridge running westward past Pilckem, but they prevented further advance and by the evening a continuous line had been established from the canal to St. Julien. Elsewhere the position remained unchanged; though heavily shelled and under reverse and enfilade fire the Canadians stuck stubbornly both to their original trenches and to the new flank thrown back to cover St. Julien, and more than one German advance was beaten off.
But with the Germans on the Pilckem ridge their guns could not only enfilade all the roads leading eastward into the " Salient " but could fire into the backs of the troops S. and E. of Ypres whose situation was therefore rendered most unsatisfactory. However, encouraged by promises of large French reinforcements, Sir John French endeavoured to maintain his original position until the French could reestablish theirs. He had brought up a brigade of the 4th Div. and the newly arrived Northumbrian Territorial Div. (later numbered 50th), while in the course of April 24 the Lahore Div. reached Ouderdom. But before a systematic counter-attack could be launched a successful German attack on the Canadians had changed the position for the worse. On the morning of April 24 an extremely heavy bombardment developed on the original Canadian trenches, followed by the discharge of gas and by infantry attacks in force. The troops N. of St. Julien were overwhelmed and in the course of the morning the Germans, pressing on, made themselves masters of St. Julien and drove its defenders back upon Fortuin. Between Fortuin and the trenches of the Canadian 2nd Bde., which still held out, there was for a time an open gap, but the German efforts to advance were checked by artillery fire at short range and before dark the gap was filled mainly by units of the 28th Div. to whose position, around Broodseinde, the German attacks had now extended though without success. But St. Julien was gone and the next counter-attack had to make the recovery of St. Julien its objective.
This, delivered early on April 25 by the Toth Bde. and various attached units, advanced the line a little, but failed to recover the village. With equal gallantry and equally heavy casualties the Lahore Div. and the French attempted on April 26 to regain the Pilckem ridge, but just as success seemed within reach gas drove the French back and the advanced troops of the Lahore Div., overcome by this new weapon, could not maintain the positions they had reached. The Northumberland Fusilier (T.F.) Bde. attacked St. Julien with the same ill-fortune and meanwhile the Germans had managed despite the stubborn resistance of the Canadian 2nd Bde. to capture most of the Gravenstafel ridge. The 28th Div.'s left, N. of Broodseinde, was thus seriously exposed while simultaneousl y its infantry attacked it in front, but the arrival of the nth Bde. (4th Div.) enabled some sort of line to be established across the N. of " the Salient." Still it was only with great difficulty and heavy losses from shellfire, that the newly arrived units managed to dig themselves in and establish touch with each other. Luckily the German infantry attacks lacked vigour and determination and afforded the defenders welcome opportunities for retaliation.
By the evening of April 26th, however, the situation had not improved. A second attempt by the Lahore Div. (April 27), though gallantly pressed, achieved nothing; the French had made no progress and with the Pilckem ridge firmly held by the Germans the advanced position of the V. Corps was clearly untenable. Accordingly Sir John French decided upon a withdrawal to a new line running N. of St. Jean, N.E. of Wieltje, by Frezenberg, E. of Hooge, through the woods S. of the Ypres - Menin road to join the original line of the V. Corps N. of Hill 60. This line was much less liable to reverse and enfilade fire, but the evacuation of the Broodseinde ridge and Polygon wood meant losing valuable positions only to be recaptured at a heavy cost in the autumn of 1917. The move Ypres And The Yser, Battles Of (1914) Plate Ii.
was, however, postponed to allow the French and the Lahore Div. one more attempt upon the Pilckem ridge but this also achieved nothing substantial and was followed by renewed German attacks and desperate fighting. On May 1 an attempt upon Hill 60 in which gas was effectively used was only just beaten off by the gallantry and steadiness of the 1st Dorsets. Next day a violent attack was launched against the northern face of the salient from St. Julien to the canal, bearing hardest upon the r 2th Bde., who suffered terribly from the gas. Prompt counterattacks by the local reserves, including dismounted troopers of the 3rd Ca y. Bde., restored the situation and drove the Germans back with heavy losses while elsewhere the line was successfully maintained. The actual withdrawal, begun on the night of May 2-3 and completed on May 4, was covered by a stubborn defence of the left of 28th Div.'s line N. of Broodseinde by the 2nd Buffs and the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, thanks to which the final stages of the retirement were unmolested by the Germans, who did not indeed discover what was happening until too late to interfere. Their one substantial success was the recovery of Hill 60, recaptured on May 5 by a renewed gas attack.
The evacuation of the advanced position of the V. Corps may be taken as ending the first stage of the battle. Fighting continued, however, for another three weeks during which the Germans delivered three major attacks, on May 8, May 13 and May 24. The first of these broke through the 28th Div. near Frezenberg and resulted despite several counter-attacks in the loss of most of that division's front line, though on its left the 4th Div., which had replaced the Canadians, maintained its position. Between May 8 and May 13 there was particularly bitter fighting round Hooge where the 27th Div. was posted astride the Menin road. After repeated attacks the Germans contrived to make a few lodgments in the line, but their advances in mass formation had given good targets and they lost heavily, more than one local counter-attack meeting with success. South of the road against the 81st Bde. they gained nothing substantial, though N. of it the front trenches had to be evacuated in favour of a line just W. of the Bellewarde wood. The attack of May 13 extended from Hooge to the left of the British line. The exhausted infantry of the 28th Div. had now been relieved by the 1st and 2nd Ca y. Divs. acting as infantry on whom fell the brunt of the exceedingly heavy bombardment. This was followed up by infantry attacks which had little difficulty in occupying positions which had been almost obliterated. Counterattacks by the 7th and 8th Ca y. Bdes. (1st and 2nd Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards, 10th Hussars and Essex and Leicester Yeomanry) reached the front line only to be forced back again by the violence of the bombardment, and the day resulted in the establishment of a new line some distance in rear of the original position, while the hamlet of Valorenhoek passed into German keeping and the left of the troops in the Bellewarde position had to be flung back to connect up with the cavalry's new line. On the other flank, however, in front of Wieltje the 4th Div. held firm and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, retaking such portions of the line as the Germans had temporarily captured.
After May 13 ten days of intermittent heavy shelling and occasional sharp local fighting followed, during which the French recovered Streenstraate and thrust the Germans back across the canal. But the Germans had not finished. Early on May 24 a tremendous bombardment opened upon the whole front from the Menin road, northward. Gas was discharged in great quantities and at certain places, notably Hooge, " Shell Trap Farm" and the Bellewarde ridge, the defenders were completely overcome by the fumes. The Germans therefore had only to advance against positions practically denuded of defenders. Counter-attacks were launched, but without much success beyond preventing the Germans from penetrating deeper than the front line, while just S. of Hooge the determined resistance of the 1st Ca y. Div. checked the extension of the German success. During the night of May 24-25 some units of the 27th and 28th Divs., hastily recalled from rest camps where they were seeking to assimilate the large drafts with which they had just been replenished, were put in to try another counter-attack. This, however, failed to recover Hooge or the Bellewarde ridge, and similarly, though the 4th Div. maintained most of its front, its centre had to be retired to a new line through Wieltje. This fighting, however, marked the last serious German effort on this front. With all the advantages of surprise derived from their use of gas, they had not succeeded in taking Ypres and if they had made substantial gains of ground and had inflicted heavy casualties on the defenders their own losses whenever they had ventured on an infantry advance had been heavy. When viewed as a whole the defence of the Ypres salient during April and May 1915 stands out as a splendid achievement. Many battalions were in the front trenches for three weeks and more on end, without any relief, constantly shelled, subjected to repeated attacks, at a fearful disadvantage in having to face gas-attacks with only the most inadequate and improvised protection. Ground was lost, but the main position was held and the II. Army's tenacious resistance supplies a good example of " economy of forces." When the German attack on Ypres was launched the Allied offensive further S. was about to be resumed. The II. Army was asked to maintain its ground without depending upon the men and munitions needed elsewhere. Only one division of the I. Army was employed in the defence of Ypres and it was not because of any diversion of resources to the Ypres area that the British offensive of May 1915 proved a bitter disappointment.
(C. T. A.) Continuous fighting of a violent character took place in the Ypres-Yser region during many weeks in the summer and autumn of 1917, but the operations as a whole may be said to have consisted of two distinct phases. The undertaking started with the brilliantly successful combat lasting only a few hours which has come to be known as the Battle of Messines. There followed a period of comparative lull, although progress was made at some points and although counter-attacks had to be beaten off. Then there were launched immediately to the N. of the scene of the Messines combat a series of attacks at short intervals which gained ground as successive waves do on a rising tide and which lasted for more than four months.
The object in view throughout was the occupation of the whole of the belt of high ground which extends from a point about three miles directly N. of Armentieres to near Dixmude, beyond the forest of Houthulst. Its general direction is at first north-eastward to about Gheluvelt, then it turns northward to near Staden, and from that point it veers back westward toward the Yser, N. of the above-named forest. A continuation of somewhat more conspicuous high ground lying N. of Hazebrouck and Bailleul, this belt represents the watershed between the basins of the Lys and of the Yser. It rises generally some roo to r 50 ft. above the great Flanders plain, and it reaches a height of over 200 feet at a few points. Its southern portion in the spring of 1917 inclosed to a great extent the Ypres salient and had been the scene of many desperate encounters during the Ypres-Yser battles of 1914 and 1915; here the Allies' trenches gave them possession of some of the lower slopes on their side of the high ground, although all the upper portion was in German hands. Further to the N. the enemy held the whole of the high ground as well as stretches of plain to the W. of it, as from opposite Gheluvelt the direction of the Allies' front ran northwestward, i.e. diverging from the line of heights. The general plan of operations was to begin at the southern end, where the belt of high ground was almost contiguous with the British front, and to work from thence northward. This procedure was indeed almost dictated by the fact that the Ypres salient would have to be extended outward ere full use could be made in later undertakings of the important communications which diverge from Ypres itself toward Bruges and Ghent and Oudenarde. The capture of the line of high ground - its total length was about 23 m. - only represented the first part of the general strategical plan, which contemplated the initiating of subsequent operations in the coast district by another force.
The line which the Allies had been holding to the N. of Armentieres since the spring of 1915 formed in plan an inverted letter " S," the lower loop turned to the W., the upper loop turned to the E. and creating the Ypres salient. The lower loop on the other hand represented a pronounced enemy salient jutting into the territory in occupation of the Allies and causing them great inconvenience. Its area consisted almost entirely of high ground which had come to be known as the MessinesWytschaete ridge. From this dominating position the Germans effectively enfiladed, and to some extent took in reverse, the Allies' trenches to the S. and to the N. of the salient and also commanded the communications leading up to these from the rear, while they overlooked the town of Ypres from within easy field-gun range. Quite apart from any projects for an offensive on a great scale, the filling in of this enemy salient - the wresting of the Messines - Wytschaete ridge out of hostile hands - was bound to ameliorate the situation in Flanders from the point of view of the Entente and to render the task of barring the invader's way toward the Channel ports so much the easier. In framing his plans for the Flanders offensive Sir. D. Haig had already decided to make the high ground about Messines and Wytschaete his first objective months before the date when the attack upon the position, formidable by nature and rendered infinitely more formidable by the labour that had been expended upon it, actually took place.
General Plumer and his II. Army, who had been acting as the wardens of the Ypres front for more than two years, had been selected to carry this operation out. To enable the II. Army to bring its full force to bear, the V. Army under General Gough had been transferred from the positions which it had been occupying between the III. and IV. Armies in Artois during 1916, to the Ypres salient and it was thus on the left of the II. Preparations for the undertaking had been afoot since the previous summer but they had only been carried on in earnest during the preceding winter. Moreover all the necessary labour and material had not been available until the prior demands of the Arras scheme of offensive operations had been satisfied, and very strenuous work had consequently to be carried on up to the last moment so as to insure that all would be ready. The preparations included an elaborate railway scheme. Much road construction was an indispensable part of the plan. Special provision for securing an ample water supply had been made.
A great force of artillery had been quietly assembled. But the most noteworthy item of all, owing to its virtual novelty, was the carrying into effect of arrangements for a deep mining offensive on a colossal scale. Twenty great mines had been established at the end of galleries running right under the enemy's front line of defence, but one of them had been blown up by the Germans; a total length of 8,000 yards of gallery had, in spite of very active countermining on the part of the enemy, been driven by the tunnelling companies of miners since Jan., and 600 tons of explosives had been distributed between the 19 mines that were effective. The simultaneous explosion of these mines at the moment when the assault was launched was the most remarkable feature in a battle, the exceptionally decisive issue of which was primarily to be attributed to the labour that had been expended in advance, and to the care and forethought of commander and staff which had preceded the opening of the combat. It should be mentioned that the preparations above ground had been carried out under special difficulties owing to most of this area being overlooked from the German lines.
For the defence of this salient which they occupied, and the importance of which they fully realized, the Germans depended upon two separate sets of lines, coinciding in trace with its arc. The more advanced set of lines of the two was close to the trenches that were occupied by General Plumer's troops, and it was at most points pushed down the forward slope of the high ground. The second set of lines on the other hand, which formed an inner curve, followed the crest of the Messines - Wytschaete ridge along most of its extent. The villages of Messines and Wytschaete had been organized as main centres of resistance capable of offering a stout defence, and many farms, hamlets and copses existing along the line had been utilized to form defensive posts. The Germans had moreover also constructed two chord positions stretching along the base of the salient partly on and partly below the reverse slopes of the high ground. The front one of these two positions represented the final objective given to the assaulting columns by General Plumer.
The troops of the II. Army detailed for the enterprise consisted, enumerating them from right to left, of the II. Anzac Corps under Lt.-Gen. Sir A. Godley (Australian 3rd Div., New Zealand Div., 25th Div.), with the Australian 4th Div. in support; the IX. Corps under Lt.-Gen. Hamilton-Gordon (36th Div., 16th Div., 19th Div.), with the izth Div. in support; and the X. Corps under Lt.-Gen. Sir T. Morland (41st Div., 47th Div., 23rd Div.), with the 24th Div. in support. There were thus nine divisions in front line and three in support. As the final objective of the troops along the whole battle-front was the chord of the arc forming the salient, it followed that the divisions in the centre would have a greater distance to cover than the divisions on the flanks; this had been taken into account and had been provided for in the time-table. The moment of assault was fixed for 3:10 A.M. on the morning of June 7, and at that hour the 19 mines were exploded beneath the enemy's front line with devastating effect. At a number of points the hostile trenches were completely obliterated and their garrisons wiped out, so that when the assailants reached the enemy's front line under cover of a tremendous bombardment, very little resistance was offered and the first objective was secured almost at once. The consequence was that, as had been anticipated in the programme, the advancing infantry could proceed without delay to the execution of their next task, that of carrying the second German line. The capture of this proved more difficult than had that of the front defences. In some of the skilfully prepared localities the enemy detachments would not yield for some time, in spite of the storm of shell pouring down upon them; but such localities speedily became isolated as the assailants pushed on between them, and their fall was not then long delayed. The strongly fortified village of Messines was, according to the programme, taken by the New Zealanders. Wytschaete was captured after a determined struggle by portions of the 36th (Ulster) and of the 16th (Irish) Divs. fighting side by side. On the left, where a trough which is followed by the Ypres - Comines canal cuts through the belt of high ground, the 47th (London) Div. had very formidable obstacles to overcome but pressed steadily forward and took many prisoners. The movements of the attacking side had been somewhat hampered at the outset by the dim light and by the air being dust-laden owing to the great explosions; but as the morning wore on this impediment to advance disappeared. An interesting feature in the opening phase of the battle had been that the tanks told off to assist the advancing battalions had in many cases been unable to get up in time to share in the struggles for the German second line of defence, so rapid had been the movements of the infantry. The operations had proceeded in almost exact accordance with the time-table, and by early in the forenoon all the upper part of the Messines - Wytschaete ridge and of its extension northeastward to the limit of the battlefield was in the hands of British and Australasian troops. These moreover had consolidated the ground that they had won, and they were holding a line which, along most of its extent, was on the reverse slope of the high ground and overlooked the German chord lines of trenches; guns had also been pushed forward promptly to assist at closer range the advance which was to be made against these as the final operations of the day.
This closing effort took place in the afternoon and it was completely successful, although the enemy showed some disposition to counter-attack and at some points offered a stubborn resistance. So it came about that by the evening the last objective had been fully attained, and that General Plumer and his army had placed an extraordinarily complete and decisive tactical success to their credit. The extent of the success was not to be measured merely by the importance and extent of the area of ground which had been wrested out of the enemy's hands by masterly soldiership. Great captures in men and material had also been effected. 7,200 prisoners (including 145 officers) had been taken, together with 67 guns, 94 trench mortars and 294 machine-guns. Nor had the victory been purchased at a heavy cost in casualties. The total number of killed and wounded - the latter in many cases representing trifling injuries - only amounted to 16,000 in an army of sixteen divisions assailing a position of exceptional strength and that was strongly held. That the defenders realized how thoroughly vanquished they were, was shown by the feeble nature of such counterattacks as were attempted during the day, as well as by the fact that the conquerors were during the night permitted to consolidate the ground that they had secured, almost unmolested. The battle of Messines was from the point of view of the victors a veritable masterpiece of design and of execution.
Not until the evening of the following day, the 8th, did the Germans adventure a general counter-attack upon the positions which the II. Army had won and which it had by that time prepared satisfactorily for defence. Covered by an intense bombardment, the hostile infantry then advanced to the assault along practically the whole of the new front; but they were beaten off at all points. The enemy drew back somewhat from in front of the southern portion of the ground conquered by the II. Army during the next few days, and on the evening of the 14th General Plumer's troops carried their line forward some distance on either flank. Their front thenceforward for some weeks ran almost in a straight line from where it quitted the line held on June 6, opposite the village of Frelinghien at the southern end, to Observatory ridge, situated a mile E. of Zillebeke, where it joined the line held on the earlier date. This represented a length of about nine miles. In depth, the ground wrested from the Germans opposite the centre of the old enemy salient was nearly three miles.
Some very important re-arrangements in the general distribution of the Allied forces N. of the Lys were being carried into effect about the date of the battle of Messines and during the immediately following weeks, in preparation for the Flanders offensive that was to follow. The actual composition of the different British armies also underwent considerable change. Portions of the old IV. Army were moved N. from Artois, under command of Sir H. Rawlinson, to the extreme left of the Allies' line about Nieuport on the coast; this comparatively small IV. Army was to be expanded at a later date and was to play an important part in the operations, should the earlier stages prove as successful as was hoped. On its right were placed the Belgian forces. On the right of these again, and linking them up with General Gough's British V. Army, was brought in the French I. Army under command of General Antoine, which was to act under the orders of Sir D. Haig. Its right was a little N. of Boesinghe, where it was in contact with the Guards Div. which formed Gough's left; the V. Army front extended from thence to near the Ypres - Comines canal where it joined up with the left of the II. Army.
A pause of some weeks in active operations now took place in Flanders, the time being devoted on the side of the Allies to making the elaborate preparations that were necessary before the contemplated offensive could be launched. The lull was however interrupted by an unfortunate incident on the extreme left of the line. In the coast region, the front between Dixmude and the shore followed a line in rear of the Yser river and canal except quite close to the sea. There it crossed over the enemy's side of the waterway, thereby creating a somewhat isolated patch of territory, occupied by troops whose communications with the rear and with their reserves were dependent upon a few floating bridges. This patch consisted near the sea of sanddunes which from their nature were particularly difficult to entrench. It had been taken over as it stood by the British rst and 32nd Divs. of the IV. Army and the 1st Div. was on the left next the sea. Perplexed by the arrival of British troops on the coast and anticipating serious developments in this quarter, the Germans determined to strike a blow against the extremely vulnerable sector of the Allies' front lying on the right bank of the Yser, and they delivered their attack on July io. The front of the 1st Div. beyond the river was on that day occupied by the 1st Northamptons and the 2nd K.R.R.C. battalions which had been brigaded together since quitting Aldershot in July 1914. Early in the morning the isolated sector was subjected to an intense bombardment by a great number of guns which had been especially concentrated for the purpose. The bridges in rear were destroyed by shell. Dugouts and shelters were flattened out, and the difficulties of the two battalions were much aggravated by the explosions choking their machine-guns and rifles with sand. When the hostile infantry advanced to the attack the small British force was overwhelmed, only a few small parties eventually escaping by swimming the river. But although the enemy by this stroke gained possession of the left of the isolated sector, their effort against its right portion, held by the 32nd Div., failed. No evil result followed to the Allies, apart from the disaster to the Northamptons and Rifles. Although the capture of the Messines - Wytschaete ridge and of most of the high ground on either side of Ypres - Comines canal gap had put an end to the enemy overlooking Ypres from the S., and tended to limit hostile observation of the place from the S.E., the Germans still dominated it, in a measure, from the E., from the N.E. and from the N. This circumstance exercised a very important influence over the arrangements that were being carried out for the offensive about to be undertaken, the first stage of which was to be directed in the main against the invader's defences sited on the high ground lying in a quadrant round the ruined town.
" The various problems inseparable from the mounting of a great offensive," writes Sir D. Haig in his despatch of Dec. 25 1917, " the improvement and construction of roads and railways, the provision of an adequate water supply and of accommodation for troops, the formations of dumps, the digging of dugouts, subways and trenches, and the assembling and registering of guns, had all to be met and overcome in the new theatre of battle under conditions of more than ordinary disadvantage. On no previous occasion, not excepting the attack on the Messines - Wytschaete ridge, had the whole of the ground from which we had to attack been so completely exposed to the enemy's observation.. .. Nothing existed at Ypres to correspond with the vast caves and cellars which proved of such value in the days prior to the Arras battle, and the provision of shelter for troops presented a very serious problem. The work of the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers deserves special mention in this connexion. It was carried on under great difficulties, both from the unreliable nature of the ground and from hostile artillery, which paid particular attention to all indications of mining activity on our part." Preparations for the offensive could not in fact be concealed. The forces with which it was proposed to break out from Ypres and to gain possession of the high ground to the E., further out to the N.E., and still further out to the N., were assembled openly during the latter part of the month of July. The Germans were perfectly well aware that they were going to be subjected to a very formidable attack in this region.
The portions of the coming battle-field that lay nearest to Ypres had already been the scene of fierce combats, which have been dealt with in Parts I. and II. of this article. But certain points in connexion with their topography call for some reference, while the arrangements which the Germans had made for defence must also be described. The little river Steenbeke (or Jansbeke as it is called in its lowest reaches) joining the Yser near Merckem, creates together with its tributary streams, nearly all of which join it on the right bank, a feature that proved of considerable tactical importance during the prolonged operations that followed. The main stream and also the watercourses joining it flow northwestward or westward from their sources on the crest of the high ground between the Ypres - Menin road and the village of Passchendaele, with gentle spurs jutting out between them. The most extensive of these spurs is that between the valley of the Steenbeke itself and the low-lying flats of the Yser immediately N. of Ypres, which had come to be known as the Pilckem. ridge; it was from this spur that the town was overlooked from the N. But the general direction of streams and spurs alike being that they run from S.E. to N.W., it followed that an offensive directed north-eastward had to cross them successively and that they tended to provide the defenders with a succession of minor positions. Seeing also that, from about the point where the V. Army was in contact with the II. Army, the main ridge ran in a generally northerly direction, while the front occupied by the V. Army before the attack was launched ran from S.E. to N.W., General Gough's forces which were to carry the operation out, with the French I. Army cooperating on their left, necessarily pivoted on their right and in throwing their left forward were confronted by this succession of minor positions. The shallow depressions representing the valleys of the Steenbeke and its affluents tended to be marshy and to flood and become almost impassable in wet weather.
Anticipating that the Allies would embark on a great offensive in this quarter sooner or later, and becoming aware during the spring that such an offensive was actually in preparation, the Germans had taken steps to meet the eventuality with characteristic thoroughness and ingenuity. Experiences on the Somme, on the Ancre and at Arras, as well as on battle-fronts in Champagne where they had been attacked by the French, had taught them that a continuous system of trenches did not proffer an altogether satisfactory form of defence against the terrific bombardments which the Allies could bring to bear, unless abundant underground cover could be provided; and the nature of the soil in Flanders, with water always near the surface, militated against the creation of subterranean galleries. A continuous line in any case offered a favourable target for guns and was objectionable on that account. They were therefore holding the ground over which attack was expected by a system of numerous disconnected trenches and strong points which were arranged in depth rather than in breadth and which permitted of the forward defences being held by relatively small forces, with the idea of gradually absorbing attack rather than of giving no ground at all. Scattered about were small concrete blockhouses with walls of great thickness which could not be harmed by shell of less than about 6-in. calibre, and which contained garrisons of about twenty men each, with two or three machine-guns; the British soldiers when they came to make acquaintance with them called them " pill-boxes." A defensive system designed after this fashion was more difficult to map by aerial photography than were continuous lines, and a preliminary bombardment directed against it was in consequence necessarily so much the less effective. As their front line near Ypres had been in existence since 1915 and as much labour had been expended upon it the Germans were, however, trusting to the old system to meet the first shock in the event of attack. It was rather in the later offensive operations that the Allies found themselves confronted with the new devices.
The front which Sir D. Haig had decided to extend his initial advance along stretched from opposite Deulemont on the right, to beyond Steenstraat on the left - a distance of over 15 miles. But the most important blow was to be delivered by the V. Army in the middle on a front of approximately 72 m. between the Zillebeke - Zandvoorde road and the village of Boesinghe (inclusive) on the left. The task of the II. Army to the S. was limited to that of increasing the area threatened, so as to occupy the enemy's attention, only a trifling advance being intended. The French I. Army on the British left was to push forward its right in close touch with the left of the V. Army, with the primary object of securing this against counter-attack from the N. The start of the offensive had originally been fixed for July 25. It was however postponed for various reasons until the 31st. Owing to the enemy having retired out of his foremost trenches along the northern portion of the V. Army front, British and French troops on the 27th crossed the Yser canal (which had hitherto formed an awkward obstacle at this point) about Boesinghe; this enabled bridges to be thrown and it greatly facilitated the attack in the left sector when this took place four days later.
The order of battle of the V. Army (II., XIX., XVIII. and XIV. Corps), enumerating the divisions from right to left, was as follows:-24th, 30th, 8th, 15th, 55th, 39th, 51st, 38th and Guards Div., with two divisions to each corps in support. The French 1st Div. was next to the Guards beyond Boesinghe. Starting at 3:50 A.M. on the 3rst, the Allied infantry generally experienced little resistance at first and only began to meet with serious loss when advancing towards their second objectives. This was particularly the case on the right, where the 24th and 30th Divs. were endeavouring to gain possession of all the commanding ground about and beyond Shrewsbury forest and Sanctuary wood to the S. of the Menin road; they failed to push forward more than a few hundred yards. But further to the left the assailants were successful at almost all points, reaching the line of the Steenbeke and capturing St. Julien. The French stormed Bixschoote, which was beyond the furthest objective given them. Even if the check to Gough's right discounted the completeness of the victory, the third battle of Ypres had opened most encouragingly for the Allies. The Pilckem ridge had been wrested from the enemy so that the town of Ypres was no longer overlooked by hostile forces to the N. and N.E., the front had been pushed forward along its full extent, and over 6,10o prisoners (including 135 officers) and 25 guns had been taken by the British alone.
But the weather had broken. July had up till the 3rst been an almost consistently fine month, but that morning opened threatening, and rain came on during the course of the day. It fell steadily all that night and continued without cessation for four days; while for several days following the weather remained unsettled. The low-lying clayey soil, pitted with shell-holes, became a succession of muddy pools. The valleys became almost impassable except at a few points. The delay that ensued gave the German troops time to recover from their defeat of the 3rst and also to bring up reinforcements before there could be any question of continuing the offensive; it was not indeed until Aug. 16 that improving weather had sufficiently dried the ground to justify the launching of a fresh general attack. This was again undertaken by the V. Army and by portions of the French I. Army on its left, the Menin road marking about the southern limit of the offensive operations. The four corps of the V. Army (II., XIX., XVIII. and XIV.) were disposed in line in the same order as on the opening day, but on this occasion the divisions in front line were in most cases those that had been in support before. The advance was timed for 4:45 A.M., and the operations were quite successful on the left, but the result on the right was even more disappointing than it had been on the 31st and on this occasion comparative failure extended further along the line toward the left. Except for some trifling local gains of ground the II. and XIX. Corps improved their position very little, suffering repulse at most points; nor was the resistance of the enemy purely of the passive kind, for the Germans delivered some determined counter-attacks, and as a result of several hours of fluctuating fighting the troops in front line in the right half of Gough's Army lost heavily. The XVIII. Corps on the other hand did much better, its left division indeed gaining all its objectives, while the XIV. Corps, still further to the left, was entirely successful. Langemarck was taken, the Steenbeke passed along a front of two or three miles, and a large gap made in the German third line of defence. The French advanced their line all along their front and occupied Drie Drachten on the extreme left, on the borders of the inundation area. Still, if the Allies were entitled, upon the whole, to claim victory in view of what had been accomplished along the left half of the battle-front and of their having secured 2,000 prisoners and 30 guns, their arms had met with reverse in the other half. Nor was there reason to suppose that the enemy losses had been more severe than those of the assailants.
The Flanders offensive, unavoidably started late, had now been in full swing for more than a fortnight, and little improvement in the position had been effected in what represented the really vital sector of the front - the ground about the crest of the ridge stretching away from the uplands won at the battle of Messines toward Passchendaele. Up there the line had only been advanced a few hundred yards as a result of two regularly prepared attacks. Unless progress could be expedited at this critical point, there was little prospect of achieving the object for which the offensive had been undertaken. It was clear that a fresh force was needed to deal with the enemy in this portion of the sphere of operations, and the British commander-in-chief therefore decided to extend the left of the II. Army northward and to .entrust the attacks against the higher ground to General Plumer, who was to work in conjunction with the V. Army farther to the left. Experiences gained on July 31 and Aug. 16 had moreover shown that new methods of attack were called for. The enemy's elastic system of defence - forward trenches weakly held while formidable reserves were kept in hand to counter-attack before assailants could consolidate such ground as they had won - suggested limitation in the depth of objectives, and it called for special artillery concentrations to deal with the hostile counter-strokes when they were delivered. The requisite measures took some time to carry out and the weather moreover continued unfavourable during the latter part of Aug., rendering the ground so waterlogged that a long interval became necessary to permit of its drying to some extent. In Flanders it may be remarked, as in England, humidity of the atmosphere increases rapidly from about the middle of Aug. onward, so that periods of fine weather have less and less effect in absorbing the moisture of the ground as the season advances. The first half of Sept. however, proved bright and dry and the date of the next attack was fixed for the 10th of that month.
The plan of operations for this day was that the II. Army (consisting from right to left of the rpth, 39th, 41st, 23rd, Australian 1st and 2nd Divs.) was to push forward between the Ypres-Comines canal and a point a few hundreds yards S. of the Ypres-Roulers railway, while the V. Army (consisting from right to left of the 9th, 55th, 58th, 51st and 10th Divs.) was to press forward on its left to as far N. as the Ypres-Staden railway. At no point was it proposed to gain more than a mile of ground in depth, and, except about the Ypres-Menin road and immediately to the N. of this, the furthest objectives given to the various divisions were not more than half a mile in advance of the existing line. The weather unfortunately broke during the night of the 19th-20th; but in spite of this the attacks achieved their object all along the front and the efforts of the II. Army were crowned with brilliant success in a sector where previous attempts had to a great extent failed, the crest of the main ridge on either side of the Ypres-Menin road being wrested from the enemy. The V. Army likewise appreciably improved its position. The losses of the attacking side on this day were relatively small, in view of the importance of what had been achieved, and 3,243 prisoners and several guns were taken.
Sir D. Haig followed up the success of the 10th without delay.
A fresh thrust took place along a more restricted length of front on the 26th, from about half a mile S. of the Menin road to a point about a mile and a half N. of the Ypres-Roulers railway. The forces detailed for the enterprise, enumerating them from right to left, were the 39th, 33rd, Australian 5th and 4th Divs. of the II. Army, and the 3rd, J9th and 58th Divs. of the V. Army. The Germans had in the meantime been making desperate attempts to recover some of the ground which they had lost about the Menin road and Polygon wood, but without success; and in spite of their resolute opposition they were unable to prevent the British troops from attaining practically the whole of their objectives on the 26th. The rest of Polygon wood was captured, the British position was improved all along the line, and 1,600 prisoners were taken. That the losses should have been by no means heavy on this day as on the 10th showed how effective an answer the method of the shallow objective provided to the enemy's new plan of defence by depth. The combats of Sept. 20 and 26 having given almost the entire crest of the main ridge into British hands to a depth of a mile and a half in advance of the line taken up on July 31, Sir D. Haig arranged for a very important operation to take place on Oct. 4, the front this time extending from Polygon wood to the Ypres-Staden rail way, although a minor advance was also to take place S. of Polygon wood and S. of the Menin road.
There was a severe gale accompanied by torrents of rain during the night of the 3rd, and the weather conditions on the following morning were so unfavourable that the ground was in most parts of the battle-field little better than a morass. The enemy moreover was in great strength, especially in the centre; two fresh divisions had been brought up into the German line and, as it happened, these together with the troops already on the spot were drawn up ready to deliver an assault which was timed to start ten minutes later than the hour that had been fixed for the British advance. The consequence was that when the British artillery barrage opened it caught hostile forces that were gathered in mass and it did great execution. The order of battle of the II. and V. Armies was as follows:37th Div. of the IX. Corps on the extreme right, athwart the Menin road, then the X. Corps (5th, list, 7th Divs.) covering the front up to in front of Polygon wood, then the I. Anzac Corps (ist and 2nd Australian Divs.) reaching as far as the Ypres-Roulers railway, and, on their left again and forming the left of the II. Army, the II. Anzac Corps (Australian 3rd Div. and New Zealand Div.); the V. Army was represented by the XVIII. Corps (48th and i th Divs.) next to the II. Anzac Corps, with the XIV. Corps (4th and 29th Divs.) on the extreme left. The attacking side gained a signal victory. this day. Nearly all its objectives were secured, and the gains were especially important in the centre where a firm footing was won along the main ridge about the villages of Molenaarelsthoek and Broodesinde for a length of a mile and a half; a gentle spur stretching back north-westward from this and known as the Gravenstafel ridge was also wholly secured. A hold was gained further to the left on the important village of Poelkapelle on the Ypres-Roulers road; and along all the central part of the zone of operations the assailants pushed their line forward several hundred yards, thereby taking possession of ground of great tactical importance. 5,200 prisoners were taken, including 138 officers, and, besides a few guns, a large number of machine-guns and trench mortars were amongst the day's captures. Following as it did rapidly upon the successes of Sept. 20 and 26, the combat of Oct. 4 represented a highly satisfactory achievement, which had moreover been accomplished without very heavy sacrifice. It was not indeed the losses encountered in these well-defined actions that gave grounds for anxiety so much as the casualties which occurred day after day to troops that were clinging to exposed positions, where owing to the condition of the ground it was almost impossible to create effective cover.
A good defensive line had however now been secured. As a result of the offensive operations begun by General Plumer on June 7 and continued intermittently for four months, the crest of the long belt of high ground had been occupied from Messines to within a very few hundred yards of the Ypres-Roulers railway and the situation of the Allies in Flanders had been vastly improved in consequence. Possession of the Gravenstafel ridge would moreover enable Sir D. Haig to establish a strong flanking position, which would render it difficult for the Germans to recover the high ground they had lost by a turning movement from the N. But, regarding the Allied offensive in this part of the theatre of war as a whole, the work was in reality only begun. The Houthulst forest, with the long line of high ground forming the quadrant of a circle beyond it, was still in the enemy's hands. Until the ridge had been secured as far as the vicinity of Staden, it would be premature to embark on the second part of the general scheme of operations - attack on the German positions along the coast between Nieuport and Ostend. Sir D. Haig had now to decide whether he should continue his system of gradual advance N.E. of Ypres, or should call a halt. " The year was far spent," he writes in his despatch. " The weather had been consistently unpropitious, and the state of the ground, in consequence of rain and shelling combined, made movement inconceivably difficult. The resultant delays had given the enemy time to bring up reinforcements and to organize his defence after each defeat. Even so, it was still the difficulty of movement far more than hostile resistance which continued to limit our progress, and which now made it doubtful whether the capture of the remainder of the ridge before winter finally set in was possible. On the other hand there was no reason to anticipate an abnormally wet October. The enemy had suffered severely, as was evidenced by the number of prisoners in our hands, by the costly failure of his repeated counter-attacks, and by the symptoms of confusion and discouragement in his ranks. ... After weighing these considerations, as well as the general situation and various other factors affecting the problem, among them the desirability of assisting our Allies in the operations to be carried out by them on Oct. 23 in the neighbourhood of Malmaison, I decided to continue the offensive further and to renew the advance at the earliest possible moment consistent with adequate preparation." That the British commander-in-chief in arriving at this decision was largely governed by considerations to which expression could not appropriately be given in a despatch sent in so early as Dec. 25 1917, there can be little doubt. However favourable Oct. weather might be, the whole of the ridge together with the Houthulst forest was most unlikely to fall into the Allies' hands before the winter set in. The persistent rains had had too great an effect upon the soil for this to recover from it before the spring, even if the rest of the autumn were to be dry and favourable. For the offensive plan, as originally conceived, to be carried out in its entirety even in an ordinary season, Sir D. Haig's forces ought to have attained the positions which they had only secured by Oct. 4, at least two months earlier. But he was aware that the fighting capacity of the French armies was for the moment diminished by grave internal troubles, the Russian collapse had set free large hostile forces which were being rapidly transferred to the western front, and if the British offensive ceased, the enemy would regain the initiative and would be free to assail the French front wherever this happened to be weakest. It followed that the British, in spite of the difficulties in the way, must continue their offensive until the coming of winter put an end for the time being to the danger of a German counter-attack.
The hopes which had been entertained at G.H.Q. that Oct. might bring dry weather after the heavy rains experienced in Aug. and Sept., were doomed to disappointment. The days immediately following the combat of Oct. 4 proved worse than ever, and the troops suffered great hardships besides losing many men from hostile shell-fire owing to the lack of protection; they had to trust for shelter to shallow trenches hastily scooped out to join together adjacent shell-holes. The enemy however had been so roughly handled on the 4th that any counterattacks which were attempted from the hostile lines had little force in them. In spite of the unfavourable climatic conditions a fresh attack was arranged for Oct. 9, the front on this occasion extending from about the Ypres-Roulers railway to the extreme left near Merckem. The order of battle of the II. and V. Armies was as follows: - Anzac I. Corps (Australian I.), Anzac II. Corps (66th and 49th Divs.), representing the II. Army; XVIII. Corps (46th, 48th and 11th Divs.), XIV. Corps (4th, 29th and Guards Divs.), representing the V. Army. On the left of these again was the French I. Army. The night of the 8th was particularly dark, there was heavy rain, and considerable trouble was met with in mustering the troops for the assault so that this was carried out under conditions of extraordinary difficulty. The advance was on this day, in accordance with the programme, pushed farthest forward on the left and about the left centre. The outskirts of the Houthulst forest were gained by the French in spite of much of the low-lying ground being actually under water, and the British troops on their right made good the ground to a depth of a mile and a half about Langemarck. On the right the assailants were strongly opposed and lost heavily, but they nevertheless gained their objectives along most of their front. 2,100 prisoners in all were taken, with a few guns, and the day's operations could be reckoned as representing a substantial success, if at heavy cost.
A fresh advance was attempted on Oct. 12 in spite of a con tinuance of the bad weather and of the ground being in a terrible state. It should be mentioned that in all this later fighting forming part of the great Flanders offensive, the Allied infantry were seriously handicapped by lack of heavy gun support. In such a sea of mud the larger types of howitzer could not be got forward, and in spite of bold and skilful handling the field artillery did not provide an effective substitute. With the Germans it was different. Their heavy ordnance when it was required to move was generally traversing ground that had not been torn up by months of shell-fire and where roads were still in being. The front of attack covered on the 12th was approximately the same as that covered on the 9th and the objectives given to the various divisions only called for an advance of a comparatively short distance; but many of the lower valleys were found to be absolutely impassable owing to the floods, and the operation eventually was not persisted in at most points. 1,000 prisoners were taken, but the attacking side lost heavily, and, although the unsatisfactory result of the effort from the British point of view was attributable to the elements rather than to the enemy, this day's fighting amounted to an undoubted reverse to the cause of the Allies.
All hope of making any appreciable gains of ground except in one particular sector was now abandoned by G.H.Q., although the front was slightly pushed forward in the region of the Houthulst forest by dint of some skilfully carried out minor operations during the next few days. The one sector where it was determined to continue the offensive was the ground between the Ypres-Roulers railway and the neighbourhood of Poelkapelle. The II. Army was in possession of the crest of the ridge about Broodseinde and where the railway traverses this; but further to the left the line ran diagonally across the rearward slope of the heights and was commanded from these at short range. Having once pushed forward beyond the front that had been taken up as a result of the successful combat of Oct. 4, it had become almost imperative to secure possession of the village of Passchendaele as well as some rising ground immediately to the N. and N.W. of that place, and to arrange that the line should run back in a westerly direction from this point, at right angles to, and not diagonally across, the ridge. This would create a sharp salient; but Passchendaele was a commanding point, and the lie of the ground between it and Poelkapelle would favour the establishment of a strong defensive line for the winter. Sir D. Haig therefore decided to continue the offensive immediately to the N. of the Ypres-Roulers railway on a narrow front, and in order to give this a fresh impetus he brought the Canadian Corps round from Lens. A number of readjustments of the order of battle of the II. and V. Armies also took place, for some of the troops about Ypres were required for the offensive secretly prepared in the Cambrai region.
The weather after Oct. 12 showed distinct signs of improvement, although at this late season of the year there could be no hope of the saturated soil recovering very appreciably from the effects of those abnormal autumn rains which had proved the most formidable antagonist of the Allies in Belgian Flanders. But the signs proved delusive, for on the 25th, the very day before a fresh attack had been arranged, heavy rain set in again. This operation only covered the front between the Ypres-Roulers railway and Poelkapelle, the main advance being intended to take place in the right centre and right. The troops detailed for the undertaking were, enumerating them from right to left, the Australian 1st Div., the Canadian 4th and 3rd Divs., the 63rd Div., and part of the 58th Div. But what amounted to an independent operation (except in that it must occupy the enemy's attention on a part of the front only about 2 m. from the main attack) was also undertaken on this day by the 5th and 7th Divs. on either side of the Ypres-Menin road. In spite of unfavourable weather and the deplorable state of the ground important progress was made by the Australian and Canadian troops, the latter getting up close to Passchendaele and successfully withstanding heavy counter-attacks in most portions of the ground which they had won. The 63rd and 58th Divs. also reached their objectives; but they were not called upon to push the line forward more than a short distance, their task rather being to link up the ground won by the Canadians with the old line near Poelkapelle. Some hundreds of prisoners were taken. The operation further to the S., on the other hand, which only had a very limited objective, was unsuccessful. The purpose had been to capture the village of Gheluvelt and to improve the position somewhat a little further to the N.; the possession of Gheluvelt on its well-defined spur running southeastward would create as it were a bastion to flank the forward slopes on either hand. But after very nearly gaining their objectives at the outset, both the 7th and the 5th Divs. were driven back to their starting point, and they suffered heavily in casualties during a furious combat. With the ground in the condition that it was in, rifles were apt to become choked with mud, while percussion shell buried themselves in the swamp doing little harm by their explosion; these conditions however affected both sides equally.
Between the 26th and the 28th Belgian and French troops made an important gain of ground on the extreme left of the line, securing possession of the flats as far forward as the Blankaart lake. And on the 30th a fresh attack was made between the Ypres-Roulers railway and Poelkapelle by the same troops as had fought on the 26th, but on a narrower front this day as most of the high ground in the direction of Passchendaele which Sir D. Haig was anxious to occupy had been captured in the previous combat. Some progress was made; but the Germans offered a very stout resistance at important points, although at others they showed some symptoms of losing heart and some of them even abandoned their posts at the outbreak of the fight. Owing to the front of attack now being restricted and to the object which the assailants had in mind being obvious, the enemy was concentrating a very heavy artillery fire upon the area that formed the battle-field, and in their efforts to get to Passchendaele the Canadians suffered heavy losses on this day. The 63rd and 58th Divs., further to the left and attempting to get forward on lower ground, found this almost impassable and they only advanced their line slightly here and there. But up on the main ridge what had been achieved paved the way for a brilliant success a week later. At dawn on Nov. 6 the Canadian 2nd and 1st Divs. suddenly advanced and captured Passchendaele together with the somewhat higher ground immediately to the N. and N.W. of the village, also taking 400 prisoners. This fine achievement can fairly be set down as the closing incident in what has been called " The Third Battle of Ypres." One or two attempts were made within the next few days to improve the position in the sector where the Canadians had made such substantial gains, and these were partially successful, but they did not appreciably modify the situation.
The prolonged succession of combats, many of them (such as the capture of the Messines-Wytschaete ridge by the II. Army and the very successful operations on July 31 and Oct. 4) reckoning as unqualified victories to the credit of the Allies, had transformed the situation in Flanders. The chain of heights from N. of Armentieres to Passchendaele had changed hands. The Ypres salient, vastly extended, so far from its constituting a weak and barely defensible sector of the Allies' front, had become a serious danger to the enemy. Sir D. Haig had secured an excellent defensive position between the Yser and the Lys. Great hostile forces had been kept fettered to the north-western extremity of the western front, striving to maintain possession of a tract that had been captured by the invaders some three years before. But the main object for which the offensive had been undertaken had been only very partially attained. The German hold upon the coast district remained unshaken. The line of high ground to the N. of Passchendaele and circling round beyond the further outskirts of the Houthulst forest, as also that forest itself, remained in the enemy's hands. The third battle of Ypres, chiefly perhaps because of unfortunate delays in starting the operations and of untoward weather conditions after they had been started, had not prepared the way as had been intended for subsequent advance upon Ostend and the great plains N. of the Lys. (C. E. C.) IV. Battles Of September 1918 At the end of Aug. 1918, when the French counter-offensive, commenced on July 18, and the British counter-offensive, begun on Aug. 8th, had both been crowned with success, the initiative in strategy had been definitely taken out of the hands of the German command. The enemy had been driven from the salients of Château-Thierry and Montdidier, which were his conquests of March and May.
Thanks to British shipping, each month 250,000 American soldiers were being landed on French soil, and this increasing wave of troops, young and fresh, gave the Allies a superiority in numbers and materiel which grew day by day.
Desiring that the enemy should have no opportunity to recover from disorganization and fatigue, Marshal Foch proposed to continue the operations by a triple attack, to which end three actions were to commence about Sept. 25 at 24-hour intervals.
The American I. Army and the French IV. Army were to attack on both sides of the Argonne in the general direction of Mezieres. The British I., III. and IV. Armies and the French I. Army were to push towards Cambrai and St. Quentin, and break through the famous Siegfried position or Hindenburg line. The Belgian army, the British II. Army and certain French divisions, who would presently join them, formed the group of the armies in Flanders under the supreme command of H.M. the King of the Belgians, and would undertake the operations in Flanders. This force in the first place was to secure the Flanders ridge and having conquered this to push on the left wing toward Bruges-Ghent with the object of freeing the Belgian coast, while the right wing would push toward CourtraiRenaix in such a manner as to cause the evacuation without fighting of that vast inhabited region Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing.
At the request of King Albert, General Degoutte of the French army took over the duties of chief-of-staff of the group of armies in Flanders.
The Belgian army and the British II. Army were ordered to seize the Flanders heights, the line which, starting from Hill io toward the S.E. of Dixmude, reaches Hill 43 at Clercken, passes round the forest of Houthulst by the Stadenberg, passes by Westroosebeke, Passchendaele, Zonnebeke, beyond Ypres to Gheluvelt, Hill 60, Wytschaete and Messines. The line continues to the right toward the W. by Mont Kemmel, Mont Rouge, Mont Noir and Mont des Cats, which form the watershed of the rivers Yser and Lys.
At this period nine German divisions held the sector Dixmude-- Armentieres: three or four being at rest behind the front line. The first line of German trenches passed by Dixmude, Woumen, the Chateau Blanckaert, Langemarck, St. Julien, Zillebeke, St. Eloi, Wytschaete, Messines, and the river Lys to the W. of Armentieres. This was a zone of cover behind which the Germans had echeloned four successive positions, the product of four years of stability which had been strengthened with particular care in 1917 to resist the British offensive that year.
These were characterized by the use of concrete groups, very numerous and strong, of the type of the famous " pill-boxes " of Stirling Castle, Inverness Copse and Poelkapelle. Some of these contained sections of artillery with gunners and ammunition: generally they sheltered one or two sections of machineguns, the fire of which covered the intervals and afforded flanking fire to each other. Everywhere were vast stretches of a network of barbed wire in front of dugouts and trenches affording an entire continuity of obstacles.
The terrain of the attacks had been entirely overturned by the bombardments in the British offensives of 1917: every vestige of cover had disappeared; only some mounds of walls marked the position of villages; the soil was riddled by the shellholes adjoining each other; the land drainage system no longer functioned, every ditch was full of water and the field of battle everywhere was a vast and foetid bog (slough) in which progress was arduous. The network of roads was hidden under the mud and any advance would be as difficult for the lines of skirmishers as for the artillery horse-teams and the supply convoys.
The German artillery had the advantage of the commanding positions. Their observation posts on the ridges enabled them to fight effectively over the entire country of the attack. Again, in the centre of the sector assigned to the Belgian offensive stands the forest of Houthulst, a renowned strong-point, and a bastion for artillery which dominated with its fire a great part of the Belgian and British fronts. As Marlborough had said:- " Whoever is Master of the Forest of Houthulst is Master of Flanders." Plan of Attack. - About Sept. 15 the Belgian army, 12 divs. of infantry and one of cavalry, held a front of 35 km. from the sea at Nieuport-Bains to the northern outskirts of Ypres.
The British II. Army, 10 divs. of infantry (General Plumer), occupied the sector Ypres-Armentieres, about 20 km. in length.
The moral of the two armies was excellent: the British troops aspiring to seize from the enemy the fruits of their successes in the spring; the Belgians seeing the day at length dawn, which they had so anxiously awaited, when they should leave the lines on the Yser and hasten to the deliverance of their country.
King Albert, commander-in-chief of the group, decided that the first operation should have as its object the conquest of the following objectives. For the Belgian army: Dixmude, Clercken, Stadenberg, Passchendaele, Broodseinde. For the British army: Molenaershoek, Polygon wood, Hill 60. From these points the armies would advance eventually to the attack on subsequent objectives. The Belgian army placed i i divisions in the line, of which one was a French division; the British army employed six divisions. On the extreme left, two Belgian divisions remained in their sector on the front Nieuport-Dixmude. They were to hold themselves in readiness to push forward on the first order and clean up the left bank of the Yser in the inundated area, and to take the opportunity to release the floodwater. On the extreme right, the British divisions which were furthest S. were to watch for any indication of weakness in the enemy in order to follow up and hasten his retreat. Two divisions of French infantry which were now arriving, and the division of Belgian cavalry, constituted the general reserve.
The Belgian 4th Div. crossing the Yser immediately to the S. of Dixmude was to secure the ruins of the village and seize the former line N. of Dixmude and Zarren and the length of the canal of Houdzaeme. The British 14th Div. formed the flankguard at St. Eloi. The frontage of the principal attack wasClercken-Gheluvelt - a little over 20 km. in length, so that the frontage of attack of each division of the first line was about 2 kilometres. The British 9th and 29th Divs. placed two brigades in the first line and one brigade in the second line; the 35th Div. had all three brigades in the first line. All the Belgian divisions uniformly adopted the carree formation: all of their three regiments were together; in each regiment the battalion in the first line pushed straight ahead, the battalion in the second line advanced taking special care to reduce any strong points of resistance and clearing up any such positions overrun by the first line: the battalion in the third line, held as long as possible in reserve, was employed to pass eventually the first line and thus to undertake the continuation of the advance. In this formation the Belgian army had 24 regiments in the front line placed side by side in three lines of battalions. This offensive disposition is noteworthy. Taking everything into consideration, there is no other example in the whole war of the deployment of an army which shows more audacity, more determination, which promised a greater promptitude in employing all units, and greater rapidity in opening up the battle.
The Belgian army, united to a strong contingent of French and British artillery, formed a mass of artillery of 1,550 guns, of which 280 were trench guns and Soo heavy artillery. The British II. Army had about 1,000 pieces, of which half were heavy. Therefore on the actual frontage of the attack DixmudeSt. Eloi (about 25 km.) the Allies possessed some 1,800 guns both heavy and field, independently of trench artillery. The greater part of the Belgian batteries had been placed E. of the Yser canal at Ypres; a certain number held a position to the E.
of Martjevaart and also in the peninsula of Luyghem, only those batteries of very long range and insufficiently mobile remained on the W. bank of the canal.
The attack was to be preceded by a violent preparatory bombardment of one duration of three hours. The movement of the artillery during the advance was made the subject of special orders, and it was arranged that in each division of the first line a group of 7.5 would be allotted to accnpany it and distributed at the strength of one battery for each regiment of infantry.
All the preparations for the attack had been carried out with the greatest secrecy. Artillery action had been very feeble for many days. Batteries and ammunition had been pushed forward and installed in the first lines under cover of careful camouflage; divisions had been concentrated in the sectors of attack and had been deployed for the battle entirely by night marches. On Sept. 28 at 02: oo (morning) the 17 divisions were in their battle positions; a vast body of men ready to march against the enemy with enthusiasm and in perfect order. At 02 :30 hours there commenced on the whole front of the two armies a powerful bombardment of preparation which was to last for three hours. At 05: 3 o hours the infantry left their advance positions preceded by a creeping barrage.
The rain almost at once commenced to fall heavily, making every movement yet more laborious. Overcoming every obstacle they encountered, the Belgians secured in one magnificent sweep the Francken, Preussen and Bayern Stellung.
At 07:30 the last obstacle was passed, except for the northern group, and the field artillery proceeded on their way to accompany immediately the subsequent attacks. The enemy only feebly counter-attacked. The northern group had at the outset encountered a stubborn resistance at the Château Blanckaert which the defenders held to the death, as well as an adjoining farm. These strong-points were not secured until about midday. Beyond the Bayern Stellung the Germans counter-attacked and put up a vigorous defence.
In the northern group the centre of the attack was the conquest of the forest of Houthulst, filled with obstacles and ambushes, and in addition the burnt trunks of trees and torn branches - the result of four years of bombardment - proved an impenetrable entanglement where advance was only possible along the straight drives set at right angles, and these were barred by wire and enfiladed by machine-guns.
On the left, while the Belgian 4th Div. seized Rille and St. Pieters, the Belgian 1st Div. secured the Château Blanckaert, Hoog Kwartier, while with a gallant rush the 22nd Regt., having conquered at the point of the bayonet many batteries which the gunners fired until the last moment, arrived at the crossroads of Houthulst at i r :oo hours and occupied it.
On the right, the Belgian 7th Div. drove right through the forest and arrived at the end of the day on the eastern boundary, having conquered it entirely with many dozen of cannon and important material.
In the centre group the Belgian 3rd Div. reached without difficulty the heights by the station of Poelkapelle, where they held up some violent counter-attacks which debouched from the S.E. corner of the forest; these attacks were strongly thrown back as far as Schaap-Ballie, which the division occupied at the same time as the 9th Div. arrived at the outskirts of Westroosebeke.
In the southern group the 6th and 12th Divs., held up by the terrible condition of the ground, reached halfway to the crestline Westroosebeke-Passchendaele and found the enemy occupying in force this strong position. Further bombardments by the artillery and many assaults left the situation unchanged. Toward the end of the afternoon a strong German counterattack forced itself into line after line of the 6th Div. However, the Sth Div., which had seized Broodseinde, advanced on Moorslede and at 20: 00 hours the 4th Carabineers took Passchendaele by assault. To summarize, the nine Belgian divisions of infantry which had been engaged, accomplished under heavy rain an advance of about 8 km. across the most appalling country, bristling with every defensive accessory and abundantly fur nished with machine-guns; they had conquered the famous bastion of the forest of Houthulst and captured over 4,000 prisoners besides considerable material.
As for the British II. and XIX. Army Corps, they had reached all their objectives: Becelaere by the 9th Div., Krviseecke by the 29th Div., Zandvoorde by the 35th Div. Thus on the first day over the whole frontage of the Belgo-British attack there had been greatly exceeded the extreme limits of the victories of the third battle of Ypres (July - Nov. 1917) - that battle of giants wherein 51 divisions of British and 78 divisions of the Germans had disputed the same country foot by foot for four months with a vigour unknown in history.
Action of Sept. 29. - It was of importance that this brilliant success should be followed up with the greatest vigour. The following day the battle recommenced at 06:oo hours after artillery preparation of half an hour. It was intended to force the Flandern II. Stellung. In the northern group, after the 1st Div. had secured Clercken and Ternst, the 10th Div. conquered Ruvter Hoeck and Zarren. At 09 :oo hours the 4th Div. had taken Woumen and Eessen and proceeded to encircle Dixmude. Toward noon the division proceeded to clear up the town. With the central group, the battle was particularly vigorous: the 3rd Div. occupied in the first place Vyewege and in the afternoon made an assault on Stadenberg, which was secured at 16:45 hours after an obstinate fight.
The 9th Div. threw six attacks against Westroosebeke without gaining a foothold.
In the southern group the 8th Div., followed by the rlth Div. and fighting side by side with the British 9th Div., prepared to attack Moorslede when the latter division was carrying Keiberg.
About 13: oo hours the 8th Div. found itself 500 metres W. of Moorslede. The attack was made at 14: oo and secured the position after a severe fight, and completely forcing the enemy line, advanced the 7th Regt. toward St. Pieter, on the road MeninRoulers, which was occupied at nightfall. On the left, the 12th Div. was taking the woods of Kalve and Calliemolenhoeck; to the right the British 9th Div. secured Keiberg and penetrated into Danizeele. During the day's action four fresh German divisions were encountered.
On Sept. 30 the 3rd Div. occupied Staden; the Belgian 9th Div. entered the evacuated Westroosebeke and occupied the outskirts of Oostnieuwkerke.
The other divisions undertook by certain local engagements to rectify a frontage which was based on the first line of the Flandern I. Stellung. This position, established by the Germans in 1917, was strongly held, abundantly furnished with machine-guns and barbed wire, and supported by the artillery disposed on the whole front from Handzaeme to St. Pieter.
The first days of Oct. marked a halt in the operations. Only on the outskirts of Oostnieuwkerke and of Moorslede were there any lively combats. In front of the British the Germans menaced by the salient of Moorslede were withdrawing progressively their front line to the line of Wedlghem - Comines - Warneton, in front of which the troops of Gen. Sir H. Plumer installed themselves at i 7: oo hours.
To sum up, the Belgo-British offensive which was delivered on Sept. 28 gave the most highly satisfactory results.
The progress realized had carried the Allied front about 15 km. from their starting point. The whole of the heights of Flanders was conquered. More than 8,000 prisoners, of which 6,000 were taken by the Belgians, were captured. 50o guns, machine-guns and material in proportion were the spoil of the victors. Thirteen German divisions had been engaged.
This rapid advance carried the Allied divisions beyond the zone of country so deeply cut up during the battles of Ypres. It was not possible to continue the advance before having built up across this historic stretch of mud sufficient communications for food and supplies for the troops. The reestablishment of a network of communications in this country, so completely cut up and full of water, constituted a delicate and most arduous task, which in spite of all efforts ought to have stopped the operations for a considerable time.
The crisis was most acute for two or three days, and certain divisions existed altogether on food supplies thrown from aeroplanes. Thanks to the most vigilant activity the troops found themselves ready to take up the offensive on Oct. 14. The success took them this time to Bruges and Courtrai, and assured the freeing of the coast and evacuation of the region round Lille.
The battle of Sept. 282 9 had put the Belgo-British in possession of the heights of Flanders, and had taken the Allied armies in one bound beyond the country of the Ypres battles. The reestablishment of communications across this zone absorbed the first days of Oct. On Oct. 6 the King of the Belgians sent out instructions for the continuance of operations.
The intention of King Albert was that, taking as a base of departure the positions conquered at the end of Sept., the Belgian right flank and the British on the left flank should push vigorously toward the last and seize the knot of communications at Thourout, Thielt and Courtrai.
These points conquered, an advance should be made from Thourout in the direction of Bruges, which would inevitably insure the deliverance of Ostend and of all the coast. Proceeding from Courtrai and combining their movements with the British I. Army which was marching on Valenciennes, the British II. Army would undoubtedly cause, probably without fighting, the liberation of the populous and industrial region Lille - RoubaixTourcoing. In consequence the Belgian army, reinforced by the French VII. and XXXIV. Corps, would seize the plateau of Hooglede - Gits and the centres of Thourout, Thielt and Oostroosebeke, and then be prepared to follow the enemy towards Bruges and Ghent. The British II. Army would carry on the front on the Lys from Harlebeke to Menin. It would proceed to follow the enemy as far as the Scheldt. The II. Cavalry Corps and two divisions of French infantry would remain under the immediate orders of the King as a mobile reserve.
From Oct. 7 the corps commanders had caused the necessary cannonade to effect breaches in the wire entanglements and for the destruction of the most important enemy defences. On Oct. 14 the general attack was launched at 05:30 hours without any further artillery preparation.
The German order of battle was as follows from N. to S.:- 38 Div. L.; 3 Div. R.; 36 Div. R.; Div. Guards Reserve; I Div.
R.B.; 6 Div. R. B.; II Div. R.; 56 Div.; 12 Div. These divisions had all their three regiments side by side and in each regiment two battalions were placed in the first line. They were on the alert, and the three battalions occupied their battle positions.
However, the first lines of the enemy were quickly captured. The German defence was chiefly based on the employment of machine-guns. The Allied smoke-shells created a dense cloud which in the majority of cases prevented the enemy from making effective use of his weapons. The reply of the German guns was very serious, and very many heavy pieces on rails were employed. In the course of the day, six support divisions were brought into the line: they were used less for counter-attacking than to strengthen the front where broken.
In the evening the northern Belgian group had conquered Handzaeme as well as Cortemarck: the French, assisted by many sections of tanks, had secured Hooglede and Roulers. The southern Belgian group, led by the valiant 3rd Div., had completely defeated the Guards Reserve Div. and the Bavarian ist Reserve Div.: they had taken Rumbeke, Ouckene, pushed almost to the gates of Iseghem and captured 1,300 prisoners and many batteries, of which some had both teams and personnel. Further S., the British forces had thrown back the enemy on the Lys in the neighbourhood of Menin, and had taken Wynberg, the western outskirts of Gulleghem and Wimkel St. Eloi. 20 enemy aeroplanes had been brought down.
' On Oct. 15, while the Belgians in the N. gained ground to within 2 km. of Thourout and the British in the S. captured Gulleghem and then Heule, the indefatigable 3rd Div. (Belgian) passed through Lemdelede at I I: oo hours and Cappel]e Ste. Catherine, and the 9th Regt. of the line pushed on irresistibly almost to Bavichove near the Lys.
On Oct. r6, after half an hour of artillery preparation, the attack recommenced on the whole front. The northern Belgian group captured the wood of Wymedaele and of Thourout, the French pushing on beyond Lichtervelde and Ardoye; the southern Belgian group occupied Iseghem and Ingelmonster, the 3rd Div. touching the canal at Roulers and the Lys at Oyghem and Bavichove. Thus were gathered the fruits of victory. The enemy front, everywhere completely shaken, beat a retreat. The German Marine Divs. evacuated the coast sector which they had guarded for four years.
Explosions and fires announced that the enemy was destroying his installations and his depots at Middlekerke, Smaeskerke, at Ostend and Guistelles. In the evening the coast-guns, levelled for so many months toward the sea, fired in haste some rounds at the Belgian bivouacs before being rendered useless.
On Oct. 18, in the evening, the Belgian front reached Zeebrugge and Bruges. The British bordered all the Lys from Menin to Harkebeke and penetrated into Courtrai.
On Oct. zo the Germans were thrown back on the canal of the Lys behind which they momentarily held a position from Eccloo to Deynze. The British II. Army crossed the Lys at Courtrai, occupied on the right Rolleghem and Leers, and made certain the evacuation of Roubaix, while the left was pushed toward Anseghem. By Oct. 31 the British had reached the Scheldt from Kerkhove to Pecq, joining the British V. Army.
The battle of Thourout-Thielt-Courtrai was finished. Under protection of their rear-guards the broken German front turned itself to the E., followed by the Allies as quickly as the restoration of the network of roads permitted.
From Oct. 14 to 31 the group of the armies of Flanders had taken 19,000 prisoners and advanced 50 km. It had gloriously achieved the double mission entrusted to it by King Albert: the region of Lille was entered and set free; the coast and an important portion of Belgian territory had been reconquered.
Belgians, British and French had rivalled each other in their ardour and bravery. The submarine base of Bruges, the famous batteries of Tirpitz, Hindenburg and Deutschland, and more than loo coast-defence guns of very great calibre remained as trophies taken from the enemy, - marking the downfall of the ambitions of the Germans. (R. VAN 0.)
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