The enemy had now begun an attack more important than its predecessor, in view of the numbers engaged in it. This attack was intended as a renewal to the south of the effort which had just been shattered in the north. Instead of turning our flank on the coast, it was now sought to drive in the right of our northern army under the shock of powerful masses. This was the Battle of Ypres.
In order to understand this long, desperate, and furious battle, we must hark back a few days in point of time. At the moment when our cavalry reached Roulers and Cortemark (Oct. 28) our territorial divisions from Dunkirk, under General Biden, had occupied and organized a defensive position at Ypres. It was a point d’appui, enabling us to prepare and maintain our connections with the Belgian Army. From Oct. 23 two British and French army corps were in occupation of this position, which was to be the base of their forward march in the direction of Roulers-Menin. The delays already explained and the strength of the forces brought up by the enemy soon brought to a standstill our progress along the line Poelcapelle, Paschendaele, Zandvorde, and Gheluvelt. But in spite of the stoppage here, Ypres was solidly covered, and the connections of all the allied forces were established. Against the line thus formed the German attack was hurled from Oct. 25 to Nov. 13, to the north, the east, and the south of Ypres. From Oct. 26 on the attacks were renewed daily with extraordinary violence, obliging us to employ our reinforcements at the most threatened points as soon as they came up. Thus, on Oct. 31, we were obliged to send supports to the British cavalry, then to the two British corps between which the cavalry formed the connecting link, and finally to intercalate between these two corps a force equivalent to two army corps. Between Oct. 30 and Nov. 6 Ypres was several times in danger. The British lost Zandvorde, Gheluvelt, Messines, and Wytschaete. The front of the Allies, thus contracted, was all the more difficult to defend; but defended it was without a recoil.
The arrival of three French divisions in our line enabled us to resume from the 4th to the 8th a vigorous offensive. On the 10th and 11th this offensive, brought up against fresh and sharper German attacks, was checked. Before it could be renewed the arrival of fresh reinforcements had to be awaited, which were dispatched to the north on Nov. 12. By the 14th our troops had again begun to progress, barring the road to Ypres against the German attacks, and inflicting on the enemy, who advanced in massed formation, losses which were especially terrible in consequence of the fact that the French and British artillery had crowded nearly 300 guns on to these few kilometers of front.
Thus the main mass of the Germans sustained the same defeat as the detachments operating further to the north along the coast. The support which, according to the idea of the German General Staff, the attack on Ypres was to render to the coastal attack, was as futile as that attack itself had been.