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Webmatters : The First Battle of Ypres: 25th October 1914

Ypres 1914

Calm before the storm.

25th-28th October 1914

The morning of the 25th October found the Allies in a generally hopeful mood. Although they had been hard pressed by the German assaults over the previous few days, the line had, for the most part, held. The arrival of fresh French reinforcements should now tip the balance.

Looking back the question could well be posed as to why they thought that it would be possible to break through entrenched German positions with a numerical equality when the Germans had failed to break through a hastily prepared position, held by inferior numbers, who were certainly not supported by the overwhelming advantage that the Germans had in heavy artillery.

The answer probably lies somewhere in self belief, the military doctrine that suggested that well trained troops with superior morale would always carry the day and the remarkable idea that the Germans had shot their bolt. The opposing troops were now worn out from their assaults and could not possibly assemble fresh troops.

As the French IX Corps was slightly behind the British front line, the next few days would see the same sequence of events. The French would attack and as soon as they had advanced the units on their right would take up the movement and so.

The French were only able to make very slow progress coming under constant flanking fire from Passchendaele and Poelkapelle. This slow progress was evidently reproduced on the British front where some ground was gained towards Broodseinde.

Perhaps the most important event of the week was the decision, following discussions with King Albert, to flood the polders in front of the Belgian army. Following an abortive attempt on the 27th October the engineers had succeeded on the 28th.

This act may have saved the Belgian army and helped secure the Channel ports (for a time, at least) but it also forced the Germans to accept that they would have to turn their full attention to breaking the Ypres salient.

To this end they organised a new Army Group under General von Fabeck. To cover the arrival of this new force orders were issued for an attack against Geluveld on the 29th October. The main offensive would commence the following day.