The Battle of Gheluvelt, 29 - 31 October 1914
At the end of October large concentrations of German assault troops assembled for a further breakthrough attempt on Ypres, putting the most vulnerable point of the Allied line, the sector held by the British between Ploegsteert Wood and Gheluvelt, in grave peril. The morning of 29 October saw repeated mass German infantry attacks astride the Menin Road against the British 1st and 7th Divisions, forcing them back to Gheluvelt. A day of desperately vicious close-quarter fighting ended with British units regaining much lost ground. Intense German attacks towards Gheluvelt were renewed the following day, but made little progress in the face of disciplined British defence. By nightfall, though heavily dented, the British line had not broken.
Saturday 31 October witnessed the main German assault, with Gheluvelt central to momentous events. The first German attacks, falling on 3rd and 2nd Brigades at the eastern edge of the village, were repelled but following intense enemy shelling, a second German onslaught around 10am overwhelmed the defenders. By 11.30am German troops were in Gheluvelt and crucially the British defensive line had been pierced. The way to Ypres, only four miles distant, lay open.
Following a precarious reconnaissance of the situation around midday, Brigadier-General Charles FitzClarence, Commander of 1st (Guards) Brigade, secured permission to commit the last available reserves: 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment was instructed to recapture Gheluvelt and stabilise the line. In a most dramatic counter-attack this remnant force surprised German troops in the grounds of Gheluvelt Chateau and forced their retreat. Contact was established with British outposts to the north-east and the line restored. Again, though at immense human cost, German efforts at breakthrough to Ypres were frustrated.
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