The Ypres Salient - CWGC

The great Flanders (or 'Northern') offensive was conceived in part as a means of breaking out of the confining and dangerous Ypres Salient in order to drive north and north-eastwards towards the Belgian coast to regain the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend and destroy the German U-boat bases there. The Admiralty's admission in June 1917, that 'the Navy could not keep going unless the Germans were turned out of the Belgian coast' proved a powerful factor in persuading a suspicious British War Cabinet that the Flanders offensive was justifiable. ('History of the First World War', B H Liddell Hart, London, Book Club Associates edition, 1973, p.426). In fact it now appears that the Admiralty's concerns about the specific importance of Zeebrugge and Ostend as important U-boat bases were over-exaggerated: 'Actually the Germans relied much less on these ports than was believed at the time.' ('A History of the Great War 1914-1918', C R M F Cruttwell, Oxford, 1934, footnote p.436).

The important communications centre at Roulers was twelve miles north-east of Ypres; this represented, in the light of the slow progress made on Somme, Arras and Messines, a considerable advance, especially if one takes into account the need for its occupation by 7/8 August in order to conform with the complex (and equally ambitious) plans for British Fourth Army to advance along the Belgian coast. From the very outset the campaign optimistically proposed the swift attainment of extremely difficult goals.

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