End of the First Battle of Ypres
Ypres was a strategically important town in Western Belgium. It was the last obstacle between the German advance and the ports of Boulogne and Calais, which were vital supply lines between Britain and France. It became the focus for fierce fighting throughout the duration of the First World War.
The First Battle of Ypres lasted from 20 October to 24 November 1914 – 35 days. Casualties were heavy both on the side, for the Allies and the Central Powers. The French casualties – those killed and seriously wounded – totalled 50-85,000 and the Belgian casualties over 21,500, reducing the Belgian army to a shadow. British losses were 55,395, and included much of the experienced regular army, the Old Contemptibles.
Despite having the largest and best-trained army of the European powers in 1914, a significant number of the German soldiers fighting in the battle were volunteer reservists, many of them young, inexperienced students. German casualties were totalled at over 134,000. The exact number of young volunteers killed is difficult to calculate, but an estimated 30% of those killed were young reservists. The impact on the German people was huge. To Germans, the battle became known as the ‘kindermord bei Ypern’ – the massacre of the innocents at Ypres, due to the high numbers of young casualties. An account of one such young man can be read here.