The date is August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force is in France and You're in the Royal Field Artillery. You're riding alongside one of the battery's gun limbers on its way to the assigned position on the east side of Mons, Belgium. This begins your journey into the Hell they called World War One. To purchase this historical memoir go to https://createspace.com/3649268

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Battle of Ypres

The full story of the promise and the compelling journal entries that recorded the events as they unfolded are in The Great Promise or on Amazon.com, Amazon.UK

October 17th–18th
We traveled by train through Amiens, Boulogne, Calais, and detrained at Hazebrouck, which was 25 miles from the Belgium border. This is where we bivouacked for the night.

October 19th
After marching to Cassel we had a day’s rest. During the
march my charger had a severe choke. He came down with me on him; but I managed to help him up. When we arrived in Cassel we were greatly elated to be in a town and feasted ourselves on cakes and sweets. After the hardships of the previous weeks, this was a grand change indeed.

During the battle of Anise the French and Germany armies tried to outflank each other and in the process they were leapfrogging west towards the French port cities. Churchill pulled the BEF out of the Battle of Anise in order to stop the Germans before they reached their goal. 

Fred road along with his battery to the Belgian city of Poperinghe where he wrote the following journal entry.

October 20th
The battery marched to the city of Poperinghe and once again we were in Belgium. It was an awful sight to see all of the refugees streaming into Poperinghe from the outlying towns and villages; they were trying to keep ahead of the rapidly advancing enemy. I happened to stop to pat a pretty little child on her head and gave her some biscuits that I had in my pocket. The poor little mite was simply starving. Within a minute I was surrounded by starving children. I emptied my pockets and haversack. Then, with a couple of chums, we collected all the biscuits and Bully Beef in the battery and gave them to the women and children.

It was pitiful to see the children struggling to get at us. It was even a harder job to keep away the hungry Belgian men because we didn’t have anything for them. We had given the women and kiddies everything we had in the food line. That night we bivouacked outside the town.

Early the next morning the Division marched to the villiage of Langemarke and as they approached it they could hear that it was being heavly shelled. In order for the battery to engage, they required a forward observation post so Fred and a couple of other field telephone operators set out to locate a spot. 

October 21st
Before dawn we marched towards the village of Langemarke. As we approached the village it was being heavily shelled. I, and a couple of others, reconnoitered the area for some time, and failed to find a good position for an observation post. 

Finally two gun sections took up positions in the rear of the church while I went with the remaining section through the village. As we passed through a square, we saw lots of wounded French soldiers in the open by the churchyard.

My section dropped into action by the railway, and again, we attempted to find an observation station. I stopped by a deserted powerhouse that I thought could be used. 

Later I, along with the remaining battery staff, were ordered to regain the two sections at the rear of the church. 

As we went towards the railway crossing, a shell burst in the center of the road, about 30 or 40 yards ahead of us. This all occurred as we galloped past the church wall. Fortunately the
shrapnel struck the wall, otherwise it would have been right among us.

I galloped past the spot where I had seen the wounded Frenchmen just two hours before. The whole lot was dead and in pieces. It was a horrible sight.

Initially they Germans struck the Belgian defenses on the Yser River near Nieuport. The Belgian forces were unable to hold their positions against the enemy therefore to prevent the Germans from bypassing Ypres, the Belgians opened the sluice gates and flooded the surrounding land. 

The Germans were compelled to reconsider their plans, opting to launch a series of attacks against the city of Ypres.

The British dug trench defensive positions around Ypres in the shape of a small salient and they held a thirty-five-mile-long line in the center of the bulge, while the French Army protected the British flank south of the city.

The stage was set for what would be one of the most horrific battles of the war, The Battle of Ypres. 

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