The Battle of Langemarck, 21 - 24 October 1914
On 20 October British IV Corps cautious advance towards Menin was halted by the arrival of superior numbers of German forces; forced to dig-in the situation was improved by the arrival of Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig's I Corps, which, conforming to optimistic Allied plans, advanced north-east of Ypres on the morning of 21 October. Progress being checked in the early afternoon by approaching columns of enemy troops, I Corps hastily improvised defensive positions and by nightfall a discontinous line of shallow trenches merged roughly with those of IV Corps to form an incomplete and irregular arc around the east of the city.
On 22 October two major German breakthrough assaults were made against Ypres: from the south-east against IV Corps; and from the north and north-east against I Corps around Langemarck; British troops repeatedly repulsed mass German infantry attacks in these sectors. A particularly fierce thrust in the north near Bixschoote resulted in a German break-in around Kortekeer but rapid British redeployments stabilised the situation. A successful British counter-attack at dawn next day regained Kortekeer but aggressive German assaults either side the position continued until dusk. French reinforcements, arriving that same day, although failing to make headway, assisted in important defensive readjustments of the Allied line.
24 October witnessed German attacks diminishing to the north and a successful French move forward to regain Zonnebeke. Further south a combination of errors and exhaustion contributed to a German breakthrough in the hard pressed lines of IV Corps around Polygon Wood and a near break in around Gheluvelt. A successful British counter-attack through Polygon Wood, involving brutal close-quarter fighting, completed the earlier defensive work of the Northumberland Hussars and rear-echelon troops, and the line held.
Campaign map Army structure Terminology