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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Shrapnel Charlie

He was a carpenter suffering idleness following a severely disabling work accident and looking for some activity to occupy his idle hours. He had to keep his hands busy to keep his mind off on his constant pain. He could also not escape from where he lived. Ivan Sinnaeve lived in the heart of the Ypres battlefield of the First World War.

Ypres was a provincial town whose glory days were in the Middle Ages. It was seldom thought of outside the region until the opening months of the war. The initial German invasion of 1914 had carried across most of tiny Belgium before being stopped at the gates of the city by an Allied Army of French, Belgian and British soldiers. However, the action had left Ypres at the base of a protruding salient into enemy lines under continuous observation from enemy controlled high ground. For the next four years the German Army tried to eliminate the salient and the British Army defended it.

Ypres Menin Gate

Ypres was shelled, bombed, cursed, and died for thousands of times over. In military texts the battles around Ypres are given numerical titles; the 1st Battle of Ypres, the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the 3rd, the 4th. To the survivors, however, the battles have other names; the Gas Attack – the first use of poison gas in warfare in April 1915; Messines Ridge – the simultaneous explosion of nineteen mine shafts under German lines which obliterated 10,000 soldiers; and the ultimate obscenity – the Battle of Passchendaele. Continue reading

Australian Reunion at Lijssenthoek

It was sunny on an early April day when my wife and I left our B&B in Ieper
to tour the ‘rear area’ of the First World War Ieper battlefield. We devoted
most of the day to visiting French, and Belgian military cemeteries and the
various war related sites in Poperinge. Of special interest to us was Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, located southwest of Poperinge. We had been informed that this particular cemetery was one of the largest and most beautiful of the over 1000 Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries in Europe. We also believed that a handful of Americans had ended up buried there and we felt a special obligation to locate our countrymen’s graves. Continue reading