First Battle of Ypres
The First Battle of Ypres was a battle of the First World War, fought on the Western Front around Ypres, in West Flanders, during October and November 1914. The battle was part of the First Battle of Flanders, in which German and Belgian armies and the British Expeditionary Force fought from Arras in France to Nieuport on the Belgian coast, from 10 October to mid-November; the battles at Ypres began at the end of the Race to the Sea, reciprocal attempts by the German and Franco-British armies to advance past the northern flank of their opponents. North of Ypres, the fighting continued in the Battle of the Yser, between the German 4th Army, the Belgian army and French marines; the fighting has been divided into five stages, an encounter battle from 19 to 21 October, the Battle of Langemarck from 21 to 24 October, the battles at La Bassée and Armentières to 2 November, coincident with more Allied attacks at Ypres and the Battle of Gheluvelt, a fourth phase with the last big German offensive, which culminated at the Battle of Nonne Bosschen on 11 November local operations which faded out in late November.
Brigadier-General James Edmonds, the British official historian, wrote in the History of the Great War, that the II Corps battle at La Bassée could be taken as separate but that the battles from Armentières to Messines and Ypres, were better understood as one battle in two parts, an offensive by III Corps and the Cavalry Corps from 12 to 18 October against which the Germans retired and an offensive by the German 6th Army and 4th Army from 19 October to 2 November, which from 30 October, took place north of the Lys, when the battles of Armentières and Messines merged with the Battles of Ypres. Attacks by the BEF the Belgians and the French Eighth Army in Belgium made little progress beyond Ypres; the German 4th and 6th Armies took small amounts of ground at great cost to both sides, during the Battle of the Yser and further south at Ypres. General Erich von Falkenhayn, head of the Oberste Heeresleitung tried a limited offensive to capture Ypres and Mont Kemmel, from 19 October to 22 November.
Neither side had moved forces to Flanders fast enough to obtain a decisive victory and by November both sides were exhausted. The armies were short of ammunition, suffering from low morale and some infantry units refused orders; the autumn battles in Flanders had become static, attrition operations, unlike the battles of manoeuvre in the summer. French and Belgian troops in improvised field defences, repulsed German attacks for four weeks. From 21 to 23 October, German reservists had made mass attacks at Langemarck, with losses of up to 70 percent, to little effect. Warfare between mass armies, equipped with the weapons of the Industrial Revolution and its developments, proved to be indecisive, because field fortifications neutralised many classes of offensive weapon; the defensive use of artillery and machine guns, dominated the battlefield and the ability of the armies to supply themselves and replace casualties prolonged battles for weeks. Thirty-four German divisions fought in the Flanders battles, against twelve French, nine British and six Belgian, along with marines and dismounted cavalry.
Falkenhayn reconsidered German strategy over the winter, because Vernichtungsstrategie and a dictated peace against France and Russia had been shown to be beyond German resources. Falkenhayn intended to detach Russia or France from the Allied coalition by diplomatic as well as military action. A strategy of attrition would make the cost of the war too great for the Allies, until one made a separate peace; the remaining belligerents would have to negotiate or face the Germans concentrated on the remaining front, which would be sufficient to obtain a decisive victory. On 9 October, the First German offensive against Warsaw began with the battles of Warsaw and Ivangorod. Four days Przemyśl was relieved by the advancing Austro-Hungarians and the Battle of Chyrow 13 October – 2 November) began in Galicia. Czernowitz in Bukovina was re-occupied by the Austro-Hungarian army on 22 August and lost again to the Russian army on 28 October. On 29 October, the Ottoman Empire commenced hostilities against Russia, when Turkish warships bombarded Odessa and Theodosia.
Next day Stanislau in Galicia was taken by Russian forces and the Serbian army began a retreat from the line of the Drina. On 4 November, the Russian army seized Azap. Britain and France declared war on Turkey on 5 November and next day, Keupri-Keni in Armenia was captured, during the Bergmann Offensive by the Russian army. On 10 October, Przemysl was surrounded again by the Russian army. Keupri-Keni was recaptured by the Ottoman army on 14 November, the Sultan proclaimed Jihad, next day the Battle of Cracow began and the Second Russian Invasion of North Hungary commenced; the Second German Offensive against Warsaw opened with the Battle of Łódź. The Great Retreat was a long withdrawal by the Franco-British armies to the Marne, from 24 August – 28 September 1914, after the success of the German armies in the Battle of the Frontiers. After the defeat of the French Fifth Army at the Battle of Charleroi and the BEF in the Battle of Mons, both armies made a rapid retreat to avoid envelopment. A counter-offensive by the French and the BEF at the First Battle of Guise (29–3
Battle of Halen
The Battle of Halen took place on 12 August 1914 at the beginning of the First World War and was a cavalry encounter between German forces led by Georg von der Marwitz and Belgian troops led by Léon de Witte. In 1914, Halen was a convenient river crossing of the Gete River; the battle was a tactical victory for the Belgians but did little to delay the German invasion of Belgium. On 3 August the Belgian government refused a German ultimatum and the British government guaranteed military support to Belgium if Germany invaded. Germany declared war on France, the British government ordered general mobilisation and Italy declared neutrality. On 4 August, the British government sent an ultimatum to Germany and declared war on Germany at midnight on 4/5 August, Central European time. Belgium severed diplomatic relations with Germany declared war on Belgium. German troops attacked Liège. A week after the German invasion, German cavalry had been operating towards Hasselt and Diest, which threatened the left flank of the army on the Gete.
Belgian general headquarters chose Halen as a place to delay the advance and make time to complete an orderly retreat to the west. The Belgian Cavalry Division was sent from Sint-Truiden to Budingen and Halen, to extend the Belgian left flank; the German II Cavalry Corps under General Georg von der Marwitz was ordered to conduct reconnaissance towards Antwerp and Charleroi and by 7 August, had found that the area to a line from Diest to Huy empty of Belgian and Allied troops. Belgian and French troops were rumoured to be between Huy. On 11 August, large bodies of German cavalry and infantry had been seen by Belgian cavalry scouts in the area from Sint-Truiden to Hasselt and Diest. Belgian headquarters therefore anticipated a German advance towards Diest. To block the German advance the Belgian Cavalry Division, commanded by Lieutenant-General Léon de Witte, was sent to guard the bridge over the River Gete at Halen. During an evening meeting, the Belgian general staff convinced de Witte to fight a dismounted action, to negate the German numerical advantage.
General de Witte had garrisoned the Gete crossings at Diest, Halen and Budingen. The main road from Hasselt to Diest passed through this village, most of, on the left bank. If captured and Waanrode would be outflanked and the left wing of the Belgian army threatened. General de Witte used Halen as an outpost and concentrated a battalion of cyclist infantry and dismounted cavalry behind the village, from Zelk to Velpen and the hamlet of Liebroek, to act as a line of resistance if Halen was captured; the German cavalry did not begin to move until 12 August due to the fatigue of the horses caused by the intense summer heat and a lack of oats. The 2nd Cavalry Division advanced through Hasselt to Spalbeek and the 4th Cavalry Division advanced via Alken to Stevoort; the Belgian Headquarters discovered from intercepted wireless messages that German troops were advancing towards de Witte's position and sent the 4th Infantry Brigade to reinforce the Cavalry Division. Marwitz ordered the 4th Cavalry Division to cross the Gete and at 8:45 a.m. the 7th and 9th Jäger battalions advanced.
A German scouting party advancing from Herk-de-Stad came under fire from Belgian troops and c. 200 Belgian troopers attempted to set up a fortified position in the old brewery in Halen but were driven out when the Germans brought up field artillery. Belgian engineers had blown the bridge over the Gete but the structure only collapsed and the Germans got c. 1,000 troops into the centre of Halen. The main Belgian defence line was west of Halen, in terrain which gave only an obstructed view to the attacker; the 17th and 3rd cavalry brigades assisted the Jäger in and south of Halen, which enabled artillery to be brought to the fringe of the village. Attacks into the cornfields beyond were repulsed with many casualties, with some cavalry becoming trapped by wire fences; the brigade is destroyed.... Rode in against infantry and machine-guns, hung up on the wire, fell into a sunken road, all shot down; the Jäger were repulsed despite support from the 2nd Guards Machine-gun Detachment and dismounted cavalry sharpshooters.
Towards the end of the day, Marwitz broke off the engagement. De Witte repulsed the German cavalry attacks by ordering the cavalry, which included a company of cyclists and one of pioneers, to fight dismounted and meet the attack with massed rifle fire. Significant casualties were inflicted upon the Germans; the German cavalry had managed to obscure the operations on the German right flank, established a front parallel with Liège and discovered the positions of the Belgian field army but had not been able to penetrate beyond the Belgian front line and reconnoitre Belgian dispositions beyond. Although a Belgian victory, the battle had little strategic effect and the Germans besieged and captured the fortified areas of Namur, Liège and Antwerp, on which Belgian strategy hinged; the German advance was stopped at the Battle of the Yser at the end of October 1914, by which time the Germans had driven Belgian and Allied troops out of most of Belgium and imposed a military government. The German 4th Cavalry Division lost
Siege of Namur (1914)
The Siege of Namur was a battle between Belgian and German forces around the fortified city of Namur during World War I. Namur was defended by a ring of modern fortresses, known as the Fortified Position of Namur and guarded by the Belgian 4th Division; when the siege began on 20 August, the German forces used experience gained at the Battle of Liège and bombarded the forts using German super-heavy siege artillery and four batteries on loan from Austria-Hungary, before attacking with infantry. The French army was defeated at the Battle of Charleroi and managed to pass only one regiment into Namur as a reinforcement; the forts were destroyed by the bombardment, some being demolished by conventional heavy artillery rather than the siege guns, due to flaws in the concrete protection encasing the forts. The last of the Belgian fortress troops were forced to surrender on 25 August, after the survivors of the Belgian 4th Division had withdrawn to the south through the French Fifth Army and joined the Belgian field army at Antwerp during the siege.
Belgian military planning was based on an assumption that other powers would eject an invader but the likelihood of a German invasion, did not lead to France and Britain being seen as allies or for the Belgian government intending to do more than protect its independence. The Anglo-French Entente had led the Belgians to perceive that the British attitude to Belgium had changed and that it was seen as a British protectorate. A General Staff was formed in 1910 but the Chef d'État-Major Général de l'Armée, Lieutenant-Général Harry Jungbluth was retired on 30 June 1912 and not replaced until May 1914 by Lieutenant-General Chevalier de Selliers de Moranville who began planning for the concentration of the army and met railway officials on 29 July. Belgian troops were to be massed in central Belgium, in front of the National redoubt of Belgium ready to face any border, while the Fortified Position of Liège and Fortified Position of Namur were left to secure the frontiers. On mobilization, the King chose where the army was to concentrate.
Amid the disruption of the new rearmament plan, the disorganised and poorly trained Belgian soldiers would benefit from a central position, to delay contact with an invader but it would need fortifications for defence, which were on the frontier. A school of thought wanted a return to a frontier deployment in line with French theories of the offensive. Belgian plans became a compromise in which the field army concentrated behind the Gete river with two divisions forward at Liège and Namur. German strategy had given priority to offensive operations against France and a defensive posture against Russia since 1891. German planning was determined by numerical inferiority, the speed of mobilisation and concentration and the effect of the vast increase of the power of modern weapons. Frontal attacks were expected to be costly and protracted, leading to limited success after the French and Russians modernised their fortifications on the frontiers with Germany. Alfred von Schlieffen, Chief of the Imperial German General Staff) from 1891–1906, devised a plan to evade the French frontier fortifications with an offensive on the northern flank, which would have a local numerical superiority and obtain a decisive victory.
By 1898–1899, such a manoeuvre was intended to pass swiftly through Belgium, between Antwerp and Namur and threaten Paris from the north. Helmuth von Moltke the Younger succeeded Schlieffen in 1906 and was less certain that the French would conform to German assumptions. Moltke adapted the deployment and concentration plan to accommodate an attack in the centre or an enveloping attack from both flanks as variants, by adding divisions to the left flank opposite the French frontier, from the c. 1,700,000 men which were expected to be mobilised in the Westheer. The main German force would still advance through Belgium to attack southwards into France, the French armies would be enveloped on their left and pressed back over the Meuse, Somme, Oise and Seine rivers, unable to withdraw into central France; the French would either be annihilated by the manoeuvre from the north or it would create conditions for victory in the centre or in Lorraine on the common border. The Meuse valley was a route by which France or Germany could be invaded and after the Franco-Prussian War, General Henri Alexis Brialmont fortified the valley at Liège and Namur, to deter France and Germany from violating Belgian sovereignty.
The Fortified Position of Namur was built from 1888–1892, about 7 kilometres from the centre of Namur, to a standard design of triangular and quadrilateral shapes, to minimize the number of defensive batteries in the fort ditches, with the point facing outwards. On the left bank of the Meuse lay the modernised forts of Fort de Malonne, Fort de Saint-Héribert and Fort de Suarlée, the unmodernised Fort d'Emines and Fort de Cognelée and the modernized Fort de Marchovelette. On the right bank were Fort de Maizeret, Fort d'Andoy and Fort de Dave, all modernized; the obsolete Citadel of Namur in the town became redundant. The forts were built of non-reinforced concrete but this could only be poured in daylight, which caused weak joints between each pour. A citadel was covered by 3 -- 4 metres of concrete; the entrance had a long access ramp at the rear facing Namur, protected by a tambour with gun embrasures perpendicular to the entry, a rolling drawbridge retracting laterally over a 3.5 metres pit equipped with grenade launchers, an entrance grille and a 57-millimetre gun firing along the axis of the ga
World War I
World War I known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history, it is one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide. On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to the July Crisis. In response, on 23 July Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia's reply failed to satisfy the Austrians, the two moved to a war footing. A network of interlocking alliances enlarged the crisis from a bilateral issue in the Balkans to one involving most of Europe.
By July 1914, the great powers of Europe were divided into two coalitions: the Triple Entente—consisting of France and Britain—and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. Russia felt it necessary to back Serbia and, after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade on the 28th, partial mobilisation was approved. General Russian mobilisation was announced on the evening of 30 July; when Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on 1 August in support of Austria-Hungary, with Austria-Hungary following suit on 6th. German strategy for a war on two fronts against France and Russia was to concentrate the bulk of its army in the West to defeat France within four weeks shift forces to the East before Russia could mobilise. On 2 August, Germany demanded free passage through Belgium, an essential element in achieving a quick victory over France; when this was refused, German forces invaded Belgium on 3 August and declared war on France the same day. On 12 August and France declared war on Austria-Hungary.
In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Alliance, opening fronts in the Caucasus and the Sinai Peninsula. The war was fought in and drew upon each power's colonial empire as well, spreading the conflict to Africa and across the globe; the Entente and its allies would become known as the Allied Powers, while the grouping of Austria-Hungary and their allies would become known as the Central Powers. The German advance into France was halted at the Battle of the Marne and by the end of 1914, the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, marked by a long series of trench lines that changed little until 1917. In 1915, Italy opened a front in the Alps. Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in 1915 and Greece joined the Allies in 1917, expanding the war in the Balkans; the United States remained neutral, although by doing nothing to prevent the Allies from procuring American supplies whilst the Allied blockade prevented the Germans from doing the same the U. S. became an important supplier of war material to the Allies.
After the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the revelation that the Germans were trying to incite Mexico to make war on the United States, the U. S. declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917. Trained American forces would not begin arriving at the front in large numbers until mid-1918, but the American Expeditionary Force would reach some two million troops. Though Serbia was defeated in 1915, Romania joined the Allied Powers in 1916 only to be defeated in 1917, none of the great powers were knocked out of the war until 1918; the 1917 February Revolution in Russia replaced the Tsarist autocracy with the Provisional Government, but continuing discontent at the cost of the war led to the October Revolution, the creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic, the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by the new government in March 1918, ending Russia's involvement in the war. This allowed the transfer of large numbers of German troops from the East to the Western Front, resulting in the German March 1918 Offensive.
This offensive was successful, but the Allies rallied and drove the Germans back in their Hundred Days Offensive. Bulgaria was the first Central Power to sign an armistice—the Armistice of Salonica on 29 September 1918. On 30 October, the Ottoman Empire capitulated. On 4 November, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to the Armistice of Villa Giusti after being decisively defeated by Italy in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. With its allies defeated, revolution at home, the military no longer willing to fight, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on 9 November and Germany signed an armistice on 11 November 1918. World War I was a significant turning point in the political, cultural and social climate of the world; the war and its immediate aftermath sparked numerous uprisings. The Big Four (Britain, the United States, It
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom, having financed the European coalition that defeated France during the Napoleonic Wars, developed a large Royal Navy that enabled the British Empire to become the foremost world power for the next century; the Crimean War with Russia and the Boer wars were small operations in a peaceful century. Rapid industrialisation that began in the decades prior to the state's formation continued up until the mid-19th century; the Great Irish Famine, exacerbated by government inaction in the mid-19th century, led to demographic collapse in much of Ireland and increased calls for Irish land reform. The 19th century was an era of rapid economic modernisation and growth of industry and finance, in which Britain dominated the world economy. Outward migration was heavy to the United States; the empire was expanded into much of South Asia. The Colonial Office and India Office ruled through a small number of administrators who managed the units of the empire locally, while democratic institutions began to develop.
British India, by far the most important overseas possession, saw a short-lived revolt in 1857. In overseas policy, the central policy was free trade, which enabled British and Irish financiers and merchants to operate in many otherwise independent countries, as in South America. London formed no permanent military alliances until the early 20th century, when it began to cooperate with Japan and Russia, moved closer to the United States. Growing desire for Irish self-governance led to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted in most of Ireland seceding from the Union and forming the Irish Free State in 1922. Northern Ireland remained part of the Union, the state was renamed to the current "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in 1927; the modern-day United Kingdom is the same country as the one from this period—a direct continuation of what remained after the secession—not an new successor state. A brief period of limited independence for Ireland came to an end following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which occurred during the British war with revolutionary France.
The British government's fear of an independent Ireland siding against them with the French resulted in the decision to unite the two countries. This was brought about by legislation in the parliaments of both kingdoms and came into effect on 1 January 1801; the Irish had been led to believe by the British that their loss of legislative independence would be compensated with Catholic emancipation, that is, by the removal of civil disabilities placed upon Roman Catholics in both Great Britain and Ireland. However, King George III was bitterly opposed to any such Emancipation and succeeded in defeating his government's attempts to introduce it. During the War of the Second Coalition, Britain occupied most of the French and Dutch overseas possessions, the Netherlands having become a satellite state of France in 1796, but tropical diseases claimed the lives of over 40,000 troops; when the Treaty of Amiens ended the war, Britain agreed to return most of the territories it had seized. The peace settlement was in effect only a ceasefire, Napoleon continued to provoke the British by attempting a trade embargo on the country and by occupying the city of Hanover, capital of the Electorate, a German-speaking duchy, in a personal union with the United Kingdom.
In May 1803, war was declared again. Napoleon's plans to invade Great Britain failed, chiefly due to the inferiority of his navy, in 1805 a Royal Navy fleet led by Nelson decisively defeated the French and Spanish at Trafalgar, the last significant naval action of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1806, Napoleon issued the series of Berlin Decrees, which brought into effect the Continental System; this policy aimed to eliminate the threat from the British by closing French-controlled territory to foreign trade. The British Army remained a minimal threat to France. Although the Royal Navy disrupted France's extra-continental trade—both by seizing and threatening French shipping and by seizing French colonial possessions—it could do nothing about France's trade with the major continental economies and posed little threat to French territory in Europe. France's population and agricultural capacity far outstripped that of the British Isles, but it was smaller in terms of industry, mercantile marine and naval strength.
Napoleon expected that cutting Britain off from the European mainland would end its economic hegemony. On the contrary Britain possessed the greatest industrial capacity in the world, its mastery of the seas allowed it to build up considerable economic strength through trade to its possessions and the United States; the Spanish uprising in 1808 at last permitted Britain to gain a foothold on the Continent. The Duke of Wellington pushed the French out of Spain, in early 1814, as Napoleon was being driven back in the east by the Prussians and Russians, Wellington invaded southern France. After Napoleon's surrender and exile to the island of Elba, peace appeared to have returned. Napoleon reappeared in 1815; the Allies united and the armies of Wellington and Blücher defeated Napoleon once and for all at Waterloo. To defeat France, Britain put heavy pressure on the Americans
Battle of Messines (1917)
The Battle of Messines was conducted by the British Second Army, on the Western Front near the village of Messines in West Flanders, during the First World War. The Nivelle Offensive in April and May had failed to achieve its more ambitious aims, had led to the demoralisation of French troops and dislocated the Anglo-French strategy for 1917; the offensive at Messines forced the Germans to move reserves to Flanders from the Arras and Aisne fronts, which relieved pressure on the French. The tactical objective of the attack at Messines was to capture the German defences on the ridge, which ran from Ploegsteert Wood in the south, through Messines and Wytschaete to Mt. Sorrel, to deprive the German 4th Army of the high ground south of Ypres; the ridge gave commanding views the British defences and back areas further north, from which the British intended to conduct the Northern Operation, an advance to Passchendaele Ridge and capture the Belgian coast up to the Dutch frontier. The Second Army had five corps, of which three conducted the attack and two remained on the northern flank, not engaged in the main operation.
The 4th Army divisions of Gruppe Wijtschate held the ridge and were reinforced by a division from Gruppe Ypern. The battle began with the detonation of 19 mines beneath the German front position, which devastated these German defences and left 19 large craters; this was followed by a creeping barrage 700 yd deep, protecting the British troops as they secured the ridge with support from tanks, cavalry patrols and aircraft. The effectiveness of the British mines and bombardments was improved by advances in artillery survey, flash spotting and centralised control of artillery from the Second Army headquarters. British attacks from 8 to 14 June advanced the front line beyond the former German Sehnenstellung line; the Battle of Messines was a prelude to the much larger Third Battle of Ypres, the preliminary bombardment for which began on 11 July 1917. In 1916, the British planned to clear the German army from the Belgian coast to prevent them from using the coastal ports as bases from which to attack merchant ships and troop transports in the North Sea and English Channel.
In January 1916, Plumer recommended to Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig the capture of Messines Ridge before an operation to capture the Gheluvelt plateau further north. The Flanders campaign was postponed because of the Battle of Verdun in 1916 and the demands of the Battle of the Somme; when it became apparent that the Second Battle of the Aisne had failed to achieve its most ambitious objectives, Haig instructed the Second Army to capture the Messines–Wytschaete Ridge as soon as possible. Haig intended to force the Germans to move troops away from the French armies on the Aisne front, where demoralisation amid the failure of the Nivelle Offensive had led to mutinies. British operations in Flanders would relieve pressure on the French Army and the capture of Messines Ridge would give the British control of the tactically important ground on the southern flank of the Ypres Salient, shorten the front and deprive the Germans of observation over British positions further north; the British would gain observation of the southern slope of Menin Ridge at the west end of the Gheluvelt plateau, ready for the Northern Operation.
The front line around Ypres had changed little since the end of the Second Battle of Ypres. The British held the city, while the Germans held the high ground of the Messines–Wytschaete Ridge to the south, the lower ridges to the east and the flat ground to the north. High ground is a relative term; the Gheluvelt plateau is about 100 ft above its neighbourhood. Wytschaete is about 150 ft higher than the plain and control of this ground was vital for artillery observation; the Ypres front was a salient bulging into the German lines and was overlooked by German artillery observers on the higher ground. The British valleys east of the ridges; the ridges ran north and east from Messines, 264 ft above sea-level at its highest point, past Clapham Junction at the west end of the Gheluvelt plateau, 2.5 mi from Ypres at 213 ft and Gheluvelt, above 164 ft to Passchendaele, 5.5 mi from Ypres at 164 ft above sea-level, declining from there to a plain further north. Gradients varied to 1:60 at Hooge and 1:33 at Zonnebeke.
Underneath the soil was London clay and silt. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission categories of "sand", "sandy soils" and "well-balanced soils", Messines Ridge was "well-balanced soil", drained by many streams and ditches, which needed regular maintenance. Since the First Battle of Ypres in 1914, much of the drainage in the area had been destroyed by artillery-fire, although some repairs had been achieved by army Land Drainage Companies brought from England; the area was considered by the British to be drier than Loos and Plugstreet Wood further south. The Second Army devised a centralised artillery plan of great sophistication, following the practice established at the Battle of Arras in April 1917; the use of field survey, gun calibration, weather data and a new and accurate 1:10,000 scale map, much improved artillery accuracy. Target-finding became systematic, with the use of new sound-ranging equipment, better organisation of flash-spotting and the communicat
Battle of Dinant
The Battle of Dinant was an engagement fought by French and German forces in and around the Belgian town of Dinant in the First World War, during the German invasion of Belgium. The French Fifth Army and the British Expeditionary Force advanced into Belgium and fought the Battle of Charleroi and Battle of Mons, from the Meuse crossings in the east, to Mons in the west. On 15 August 1914, German troops captured the Citadel of Dinant. French troops spent the next few days fortifying the Meuse crossings and exchanging fire with German troops on the east bank. A German raiding-party drove into Dinant on the night of 21/22 August but the attack degenerated into a fiasco, in which Germans may have fired at each other. Rather than assume that the small-arms fire had come from the French on the west bank, the Germans blamed Belgian civilians, killing seven and burning down 15 to 20 houses in reprisal; the raiders ran away, with 117 wounded. On 23 August, the Germans attacked Dinant again, under the impression that the town was full of francs-tireurs and massacred 674 unarmed Belgian civilians, while fighting the French, who were dug in along the west bank and on the east end of the bridge.
The massacre was a systematic attack on assumed civilian resisters and was the largest German atrocity perpetrated during the invasion, which became known as The Rape of Belgium. In 1914, the town had a population of 7,000 people and was an important strategic crossing on the Meuse, where the river flows through a south–north gorge. Three roads and a path converged on the town from the east, over an escarpment and down into the town, along which an attack from the east would come; the wooded ridge on the east bank was topped by the Napoleonic era stone Citadel of Dinant overlooking the town and the Meuse bridge, 100 m below. In 1914 there was a ribbon of streets about 4 km long on a few hundred metres wide. Before the battle, the Mayor of Dinant urged the population to not take part in the fighting and forbade manifestations in support of the Allies; the initial operations in the German invasion of France began with the Occupation of Luxembourg and the invasion of Belgium on 4 August. Five German infantry brigades, three cavalry divisions with horse artillery and machine-gun detachments and ten Jäger battalions crossed the Belgian border.
The 5th Cavalry Division and the Guard Cavalry Division advanced through Luxembourg and entered Belgium on 10 August, with orders to advance 60 km north-west to Dinant and scout the Meuse as far as the French border near Givet. The town of Dinant was close to the French border, between Liège and Mons on the east bank of the Meuse. On 6 August, Belgian engineers dispersed a patrol of German hussars at Anseremme and on 12 August, French infantry at Dinant destroyed a cavalry patrol. By 14 August, the French Fifth Army had occupied Dinant and the west bank of the Meuse with two divisions and next day, the main force of the German 3rd Army arrived. On 15 August, troops of the German 3rd and 4th Cavalry divisions, five battalions of Jäger and three field artillery groups, attempted to take Dinant by coup de main; the French I Corps held the west bank of the Meuse and at Dinant, the 2nd Division had a battalion of the 33rd Infantry Regiment, two companies of the 148th Infantry Regiment and a section of machine-guns in the citadel and in the exits from Dinant, towards the St. Nicolas and Leffe suburbs.
At 6:00 a.m. German cavalry guarded the flanks as the 12th Freyberg Jäger Battalion and the 13th Garde-Jäger Battalion supported by horse artillery and machine-guns, attacked the town and citadel; the Germans got a machine-gun into the citadel around 11:45 a.m. and the French retreated through a small stairway along the cliff, having had 50 percent casualties. Jäger descended the stairway and advanced into the town by 1:30 p.m. The French, with no artillery, were forced out of the citadel and back over the bridge to the west bank. Parties of Jäger crossed the bridge in pursuit, as Germans on the high ground on the east bank and in the citadel, engaged the French at the end of the bridge with machine-gun fire; the French retired to the slopes on the west bank, where there was good cover and towards 2:00 p.m. French artillery were heard, as the 8th and 73rd Infantry regiments counter-attacked down the slope with great determination; the Jäger were forced back across the Meuse and by 5:00 p.m. the French had climbed the 408 stairs to the citadel and retaken it.
The Germans withdrew from the town and the heights with their prisoners, towards the main body of the 3rd Army. During the battle, the French Cavalry Corps, attempted to attack the German flank on the east bank but was held up by German infantry; the French retired to the west bank having lost 1,100 casualties and occupied the bridge and houses nearby. Two battalions of the 148th Infantry Regiment in Leffe and St. Nicolas retired to the west bank. In Dinant a civilian had been killed, one had been wounded and the hospital and houses on the east bank had been hit by shells. On 16 August the French fortified the west bank of the Meuse at Dinant; the bridge was blocked with barbed-wire entanglements and the streets near the river were barricaded. The railway station and the level crossing on the Dinant–Onhaye road were garrisoned and the Hotel de la Poste and houses along the Meuse were loopholed to command the riverbanks and the approach roads. On the east bank the French built barricades and put up barbed-wire in front of the bridge-pier