Fifth Battle of Ypres

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The Fifth Battle of Ypres, also called the Advance of Flanders and the Battle of the Peaks of Flanders (French: Bataille des Crêtes de Flandres) is an informal name used to identify a series of battles in northern France and southern Belgium from late September through October 1918.[1]

Background[edit]

After the German Spring Offensive of 1918 was stopped, German morale waned and the increasing numbers of American soldiers arriving on the Western Front gave the Allies a growing advantage over the German forces. To take advantage of this Marshal Ferdinand Foch developed a strategy which became known as the Grand Offensive in which attacks were made on the German lines over as wide a front as possible.[2] Belgian, British and French forces around the Ypres Salient were to form the northern pincer of an offensive towards the Belgian city of Liège.[3] The British Second Army had followed up some minor withdrawals and had fought the Action at Outtersteene Ridge on 18 August, after which there was a lull and Allied troops in the area were well rested by late September.[4]

Order of Battle[edit]

Allied Units[edit]

The Allied units were united in Army Group Flanders under the command of King Albert I of Belgium, the main Allied commander in Flanders with the French General Jean Degoutte as Chief of Staff.[5]

German Units[edit]

The German forces opposing them, which totalled less than five divisions, were part of the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern under the command of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria.[8][9]

Battle[edit]

The Groupe d'Armées des Flandres (GAF, Flanders Army Group) attacked at 5:30 a.m. on 28 September, after a 3-hour artillery preparation[9][10], with 12 Belgian divisions, 10 British divisions of the Second Army and 6 French divisions of the Sixth Army. The British attacked on a 4.5 mi (7.2 km) front up to the Ypres–Zonnebeke road, from where the Belgian army attacked on a line north to Dixmude.[11] The Allied attacks quickly penetrated the German defences and advanced up to 6 mi (9.7 km). The Germans were swiftly driven back. Much of the ground west of Passchendaele, which had been abandoned during the withdrawal of early 1918, was recaptured.[8] Rain began to fall but by the evening the British had taken Kortewilde, Zandvoorde, Kruiseecke and Becelaere; Belgian troops had captured Zonnebeke, Poelcappelle, Schaap Baillie and Houthulst Forest.[12] On the southern flank, minor operations by three British divisions advanced to St. Yves, Messines and the ridge from Wytschaete to Hollebeke. The German front line ran from Dixmude, to Houthult, Becelare, Zandvoorde and Hollebeke.[9]

Messines, Terhand and Dadizeele fell on 29 September and by the next day, despite the captured ground becoming another slough of mud, all of the high ground around Ypres had been occupied by the Allies.[13] By 1 October, the left bank of the Lys had been captured up to Comines and the Belgians were beyond a line from Moorslede to Staden and Dixmude. The advance continued until 2 October, when German reinforcements arrived and the offensive outran its supplies. Due to the state of the ground, 15,000 rations were delivered by parachute from 80 Belgian and British aircraft.[14]

Aftermath[edit]

Casualties[edit]

The British suffered 4,695 casualties, the Belgians 4,500 "net" casualties from among 2,000 killed and 10,000 men ill or wounded.[15] The Allies advanced up to 18 mi (29 km), with an average advance of 6 mi (9.7 km) and captured c. 10,000 prisoners, 300 guns and 600 machine-guns.[16]

Subsequent operations[edit]

The offensive was continued with the Battle of Courtrai (14–19 October).[17]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, p. 57.
  2. ^ Sheffield 2011, pp. 315–316.
  3. ^ Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, pp. 2–3.
  4. ^ Harris & Barr 1998, p. 197.
  5. ^ AFGG 1928a, pp. 360–361.
  6. ^ AFGG, 1928a, Carte 36
  7. ^ Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, Appendix I.
  8. ^ a b Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, pp. 65–73.
  9. ^ a b c Reichsarchiv 1944, p. 617.
  10. ^ AFGG 1928b, p. 15.
  11. ^ Boraston 1919, pp. 285–286.
  12. ^ Boraston 1919, p. 286.
  13. ^ Sheffield 2011, p. 322.
  14. ^ Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, pp. 74–94.
  15. ^ Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, p. 92.
  16. ^ Marix Evans 2002, p. 211.
  17. ^ Edmonds & Maxwell-Hyslop 1947, pp. 269–294.

References[edit]

  • Boraston, J. H. (1920) [1919]. Sir Douglas Haig's Despatches (reprint ed.). London: Dent. OCLC 633614212.
  • Die Kriegführung an der Westfront im Jahre 1918 [Warfare on the Western Front in 1918]. Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918: Militärischen Operationen zu Lande [The World War 1914–1918: Military Operations on Land]. I. Part 14 (Die digitale Landesbibliotek Oberösterreich ed.). Berlin: Mittler. 1944.
  • Edmonds, J. E. (1993) [1947]. Military Operations France and Belgium 1918: 8th August – 26th September: The Franco-British Offensive. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. IV (Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 978-0-89839-191-6.
  • Edmonds, J. E.; Maxwell-Hyslop, R. (1993) [1947]. Military Operations France and Belgium 1918: 26th September – 11th November: The Advance to Victory. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. V (Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 978-0-89839-192-3.
  • Harris, J. P.; Barr, N. (1998). Amiens to the Armistice: The BEF in the Hundred Day's Campaign, 8 August – 11 November 1918. London: Brassey's. ISBN 978-1-85753-149-7.
  • Marix Evans, M. (2002). 1918: The Year of Victories. London: Arcturus. ISBN 978-0-572-02838-1.
  • Sheffield, G. (2011). The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1-84513-691-8.
  • La campagne offensive de 1918 et la marche au Rhin (18 juillet 1918 – 28 juin 1919), Premier volume. 18 juillet 1918 – 25 septembre 1918 [The Offensive Campaign of 1918 and the Advance to the Rhine (18 July 1918 – 28 June 1919): 18 July 1918 – 25 September 1918]. Les armées françaises dans la Grande guerre. I. Part VII (online ed.). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. 1928a [1923]. OCLC 772837636.
  • La campagne offensive de 1918 et la marche au Rhin (18 juillet 1918 – 28 juin 1919), Deuxième volume: 26 septembre 1918 – 28 juin 1919 [The Offensive Campaign of 1918 and the Advance to the Rhine (18 July 1918 – 28 June 1919): 26 September 1918 – 28 June 1919]. Les armées françaises dans la Grande guerre. II. Part VII (online ed.). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. 1928b [1923]. OCLC 772837639.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]