In mid-September Erich von Falkenhayn, German Chief of the General Staff, considered his options for pursuing the war. Still believing that a successful conclusion was possible on the Western Front more rapidly than against Russia, he planned to threaten Britain by securing Belgian ports for use by German submarines and possibly capturing the British army embarkation cities of Calais and Dunkerque. He therefore moved the Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria’s Sixth Army from its initial positions in Alsace and new Fourth Army, under command of Duke Albrecht of Wurttemberg, into the open German right flank.
Général Joseph Joffre, Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, and Sir John French, commander of British Forces, agreed that the BEF should relocate from the Aisne to Flanders. Two French territorial divisions completed the line between Bikschote and the Belgian Army at Diksmuide.
The Ypres Salient is one of the more heavily commemorated battlefields of the world war due to the enormous sacrifices endured by both sides during four years of the most exhausting trench warfare. From Armentières to Nieuwpoort, opposing forces suffered one million casualties. Over 145 military cemeteries dot the countryside, memorial stones to units and individuals appear everywhere, and even a few permanent fortifications in the form of concrete blockhouses remain. Since the fighting raged back and forth over the same ground, memorials to units and battlefield sites become intermixed.
Ypres – ‘A Virtual Battlefield Tour by French Battlefields
Province: West Flanders
A ‘Virtual Battlefield Tour’ from Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium
Summary: On 7 October 1914, advance parties of German cavalry and cyclists (reconnaissance troops using bicycles) entered the city and levied a large fine on the townspeople. They occupied the city for three days before moving elsewhere. Although threatened during the German Lys Offensive in 1918, German troops would not enter the city ramparts again until 1940.
Major damage occurred in the spring of 1915, when the Germans moved up their super heavy artillery, including the 420-mm gun known as ‘Dicke Bertha’ (Big Bertha) in preparation for the Second Battle of Ypres. By the end of the war most of the city’s buildings had received substantial damage; many were completely destroyed.