Fifth Battle of Ypres
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 to October 1918.
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. Belgian, British and French forces around the Ypres Salient were to form the northern pincer of an offensive towards the Belgian city of Liège. 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.
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. GAF attacked 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. The Allied attacks quickly penetrated the German defences and advanced up to 6 mi (9.7 km). Much of the ground west of Passchendaele, abandoned during the withdrawal of early 1918, was recaptured. 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. 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.
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. By 1 October, the left bank of the Lys had been captured up to Comines and the Belgians were east of 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.
The British suffered 4,695 casualties, the Belgians 4,500 "net" casualties from among 2,000 killed and 10,000 men ill or wounded. 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.
Order of Battle
Groupe d'Armées des Flandres
- Second Army (General Herbert Plumer)
- XV Corps (Lieutenant General Beauvoir De Lisle)
- X Corps (Lieutenant General Reginald Stephens)
- XIX Corps (Lieutenant General Herbert Watts)
- II Corps (Lieutenant General Claud Jacob)
- Belgian Army (King Albert)
- South Group (Lieutenant General Aloïs Biebuyck)
- Centre Group (Lieutenant General Alphonse Jacques de Dixmude)
- North Group (Lieutenant General Louis Bernheim)
- The remaining Belgian infantry divisions protected the inundated Yser Front from Clercken to the sea
- Belgian Cavalry Division
- French Army - as reserves
- 7th Army Corps (Gen André Joseph Emmanuel Massenet) - under Belgian Command
- 34th Army Corps (Gen Alphonse Nudant) - still under the control of Foch
- 2nd Cavalry Corps (Gen Félix Adolphe Robillot) - bivouacked in the area of Proven-Houtkerque-Herzeele
German 4th Army
- 4th Army (General der Infanterie Sixt von Armin)
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- Marix Evans 2002, p. 211.
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