Ypres During the First World War

There were many battles in Ypres during the First World War, all of which saw an intense amount of fighting. According to some, the town itself was practically a graveyard due to the large number of casualties that occurred there. With death and destruction lingering all around them, those who fought in the bloody battles at Ypres were among those who saw some of the greatest hardships the war had to offer.

The town was the site of thousands of deaths by the time the ordeal was over. The Allies eventually saw victory over the enemy, but it was far from an easy fight. Not only was the fighting itself overwhelming, but even the very elements contributed to the hardships of the Allied troops. All of Ypres was drenched in rainfall for a good portion of the conflict. Due to the chaos of the fighting and of the weather, it was difficult for troops to take time to bury their dead. This is largely what contributed to the town turning into a graveyard, as many soldiers were left to decompose at the very spot on which they had lost their lives.

The battles were fought with strategic aims in mind. German forces had an outpost at the site which allowed them a great view of the surrounding land, as this was lost to them when the Allies took Ypres. Like all WWI battles, however, the view they had in mind made the ordeal sound much easier than it truly was. The British were entrenched for great lengths at a time, only to have their troops torn asunder when they finally dared to breach no-man’s land.

Many have compared the tragic battle to that of the Somme, which is equally well-known for the devastation it caused the British troops. It often appeared a common theme in WWI that the Allies were prone to pyrrhic victories. Ypres was certainly no exception, and even Chief of Staff of Field Marshal Haig came to regret his orders when he saw the aftermath of the destruction. It was a victory, but not one that the British were able to view with much pride, The Sentinel reports.

The fighting at Ypres was tragic, but unfortunately it was just another example of the type of battle that awaited the British at all turns during the First World War. In such circumstances, many of them found the mental strain harder to face than the physical stresses. In the four years that the war lasted, Ypres was but a pin-drop in an ocean of conflict.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE