The Ypres Salient - CWGC


Despite a numerical superiority since mid October of nearly two to one, the repeated German attacks on Ypres were held by French and British troops working together in a true spirit of co-operation. The professionalism and heroic self-sacrifice of the smaller British force proved 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers in trenches running through houses, St Eloi, April-May 1915key in repelling determined German assaults at crucial phases in the prolonged series of battles for the city, but in this process the BEF lost heavily: between 14 October and 30 November 1914, 2,298 officers and 51,807 men were killed, wounded or went missing.

Intense fighting continued around the Ypres salient, but no serious breakthrough attack was attempted by the Germans after the failure of the great offensive of 11 November. The onset of harsh winter weather combined with heavy German artillery barrages (Ypres was near continuously shelled) to make conditions for the exhausted infantry intolerable. Between 15 and 22 November the badly damaged British I Corps was gradually withdrawn from the front line, being replaced by French troops who, for a time, took over the entire defence of the Salient. When the reorganisation was complete the British held a continuous front of approximately 21 miles, from the La Bassée Canal at Givenchy to positions opposite Wytschaete.

The lines to the north, east and south of Ypres then settled, for the period of the winter at least, into 'deadlock' and the recognisable forms of institutionalised trench warfare that acknowledged the strength of defence over attack. A bizarre form of siege warfare existence evolved, with its accepted rituals and specialised equipment, which became routine until one side or the other felt confident enough in its greater strength, better tactics or superior technologies to risk emerging from the safety of deep dugouts and give battle.


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