Battle of Langemark: 21 to 24 October 1914

The battle of Langemark resulted from Falkenhayn’s directive to the Fourth German Army to break through the Belgian/French forces along the Yser and proceed to capture the Channel ports ofCalais,Boulogne, and Dunkerque. By 20 October, on a curved line from Armentières to the Yser, seven British infantry divisions augmented by five French and British cavalry divisions faced the onslaught of eleven German infantry divisions and eight German Cavalry divisions.

16b Battle of Langemark: 21 to 24 October 1914
Province: West Flanders
Country: Belgium

A ‘Virtual Battlefield Tour’ from Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium

Summary: On 22 October, an attempted assault by the French 87th Territorial Division of général d’Urbal’s Army Detachment of Belgium between Langemark and Steenstraat was easily dismissed in the early afternoon. The German XXIII Reserve Corps aimed its artillery at Langemark, targeting at first the church and its tall steeple, then any shelter in the village. The German batteries maintained a murderous rate of fire; trenches at this time were not the elaborate constructions that they became later in the war and thus offered little in the way of protection, especially from howitzer shells. British artillery was unable to respond adequately, shells of all calibers being in short supply. By the end of the day little remained except rubble, and the few remaining inhabitants were evacuated during the night. At dusk the German 51st Reserve Division charged southwest of Poelkapelle against the line of the 5th Brigade, British 2nd Division. They were cut down by intense rifle fire; the surge stopped only 50 meters in front of the British line. Near Kortekeer some territory was gained by the Germans, only to be reclaimed the next morning by reinforcements from the 2nd Infantry Brigade.

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Battle of the IJzer (Yser): 18 to 31 October 1914

During the First Battle of the Marne, the hastily assembled French Sixth Army threatened Kluck’s German First Army’s exposed right flank. There ensued a steady series of troop movements known as ‘The Race to the Sea’ in which both sides attempted to turn the enemy’s flank. Generalleutnant Erich von Falkenhayn sent the German Fourth Army (Duke Albrecht of Wurttemberg) including Beseler’s Corps against Flanders with the aim of capturing Calais. By 14 October, the Belgians were positioned behind the Yser and its canal, and the British 7th Division and 3rd Cavalry Division, forming the new IV Corps, were around Ypres.

15 Battle of the IJzer (Yser): 18 to 31 October 1914
Province: West Flanders
Region: Flanders
Country: Belgium

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour”

Summary: On 18 October, the Germans opened their attack with a heavy artillery bombardment along the entire Belgian line, and followed it with infantry incursions into the forward outposts at Sint Pieters Kapelle, Keiem, and Beerst. An attempt by the German III Reserve Corps to take Westende was beaten back by shellfire from three British monitors lying off the coast. Belgian reserves were largely committed over the next two days while the assaults continued – some forward positions changing hands several times. On 20 October, attention shifted to Mannekensvere, where General Beseler’s corps sent three divisions against three Belgian regiments. Despite bombardment from German 210-mm howitzers, the Belgians held the city, even recapturing Lombardsijde on 22 October.

Also on 20 October, the German 43rd and 44thReserve Divisions started their assault upon Diksmuide against général Meiser’s brigade. On the roads leading into the city, Colonel Jacques and his 12th Regiment of the Line earned fame – and a statue in the Diksmuide town square – with his spirited defense of the approaches from the northeast, east and south. Ronarc’h’s men held the west bank of the river, north of the city. The German preliminary artillery barrage set Diksmuide on fire, while heavy winds spread the flames from house to house across the narrow streets. The cycle of infantry attack followed by artillery fire continued throughout the day. On 24 October, the Germans launched their most determined effort to take the city, launching fifteen waves of infantry after an exceptionally heavy bombardment. The German effort ultimately failed, but the casualties and diminishing supplies of ammunition were weakening the Belgian resistance.

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