The Ypres Salient - CWGC

Although German forces were in principle ‘on the defensive’ on the Western Front during 1915 (acknowledging that their major concentration of effort for the year Dugouts, Blaeupoort Farm, Ypres April 1915would be against Russian forces on the Eastern Front) Falkenhayn sanctioned the German Fourth Army’s plans to renew attacks on Ypres in April 1915. The rationale of the German Army commander’s intentions may be summarised: the German occupation of the city would deny the Allies a base for possible offensive operations against Brussels; it would also shorten their own lines, threaten the Allied flank and help deflect attention from German troop withdrawals for the Eastern Front.

Significantly Falkenhayn approved, for experimental purposes, the use of poison gas in the attack and gas cylinders were in place in German front-line trenches as early as 8 April for an assault that was originally planned for noon on 13 April. Unfavourable wind conditions meant that the attack was re-scheduled for the evening of 15/16 April and then further delayed by the weather until Thursday 22 April. This attack had initially strictly limited objectives - the capture of Langemarck, Pilckem Ridge and the line of the Yser canal as far as Ypres. But the success in breaking the Allied line led the Germans, although lacking sufficient reserves for full exploitation, to persist in offensive operations, which at times pressed the Allied defenders to the utmost limits and produced periods of ferocious close-quarter fighting as intense and critical as the days of October and November 1914.

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