First Battle of Ypres

What was the first battle of Ypres?

The First Battle of Ypres refers to a series of battles that took place during the First World War. These battles took place From October, 1914 to December, 1914. The battle was fought as a part of the struggle between the Allied and German forces to take control of the city of Ypres in Belgium. In all, the Battle of Ypres comprised of three battles fought around the city of Ypres.

Before the Battle

Before the battle, the German and Allied forces were involved in the so-called ‘Race to the Sea’. German forces were following the Schlieffen plan according to which they wanted to gain a quick victory over the French by outflanking them through Belgium.

This plan was foiled when the German hopes of a quick victory were dashed. Although Germany was initially successful, it faced a decisive defeat at the Battle of the Marne. Both sides then rushed to the sea northwards in a bid to outflank the other. The race culminated at the city of Ypres in Belgium which was the key to the English Channel.

Who fought in the battle?

The Battle of Ypres was fought between the Allied and German forces. The Allied side comprised of French, British and Belgian forces. A smaller number of French and Belgian defensive positions already existed at Ypres.

When the battle was joined, more Allied troops from the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) and Belgian troops had arrived at the battlefield. When the Germans reached Ypres in October, 1914, the Allied forces put up a stiff resistance. Despite fierce fighting, Germans couldn’t advance and the Allied refused to budge.

The Germans that took part in the battle numbered at around 5,400,000. The French strength stood at around 4,000,000 while the British strength was around 160,000. Belgian forces stood at 247,000.

The Fighting

The fighting continued sporadically from October to November, 1914. A total of 34 German divisions participated in the war against a combined total of 27 divisions on the Allied side. Both sides engaged in trench warfare, using artillery weapons for defensive purposes.

This created a stalemate that continued well through November. By then, both armies were exhausted and the bitter winter weather forced an end to the fighting. The end to fighting established a permanent definition for the positions of both sides. This position came to be known as the Ypres Salient. Over the subsequent years, this region would remain the site of several other battles with little change in the overall strategic positions of both sides.

Result and Aftermath

The Battle of Ypres was largely indecisive after months of fierce fighting. Despite very heavy casualties on both sides, the trench warfare contributed to a stalemate on both sides. The French sustained the heaviest casualties on the French side. In all, the French troops lost above 50,000 men. British forces suffered around 58,000 casualties. The German losses were heavy as well, with the total casualties numbered at around 130,000.