Western Front 1918: The German Offensives

Ypres

The Battle of Ypres, 28 September - 2 October 1918

The third in Foch’s series of co-ordinated Allied offensives began on 28 September, to the north, in Flanders. There, within the infamous Ypres battleground, British Second Army co-operated with Belgian and French forces to strike at a numerically weaker enemy and achieve spectacular success.

Railway trucks loaded with British Army soldiers about to disembark to take part in the Battle of Flanders. Australian War Memorial, H09260.Maintaining the relentless offensive momentum, the attack in Flanders aimed initially at expelling the enemy from the Houthulst Forest and regaining the vital high ground of the Passchendaele and Ypres Ridges. To the right of Belgian forces, British Second Army occupied a 16 mile front running from just north of Ypres to the River Lys, west of Armentières in the south; Plumer allocated his two most northerly Corps, the II and XIX, for the principal roles in the assault, south of the Ypres-Zonnebeke road. Second Army staff displayed their usual efficiency in planning and preparations.

British infantry assembled in heavy rain on 27 September and attacked behind a fierce protective artillery barrage before light at 5.20am, the following morning. Despite the difficult ground much rapid progress was made: 9th (Scottish) Division advanced past Westhoek and on to Anzac Ridge; the 29th Division pushed towards Gheluvelt and 14th Division overran ‘The Bluff’. Meanwhile the right of Second Army (X and XV Corps) offered flank protection (artillery support and aggressive patrols) before moving against Wytschaete and Messines. By evening a     6 mile advance had been made. Belgian attacks met with similar success.

Allied assaults continued on 29 September but torrential rainstorms slowed forward movement. Continuing poor weather and the arrival of German reserves brought the first phase of the Flanders operation to a close on 2 October. By then the Germans were much occupied with stemming the British tide further south, following the breaking of the St Quentin Canal defences of the Hindenburg Line by Fourth Army’s attack on 29 September.

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