The First Battle of Ypres, also called the Battle of Flanders, was the last major battle of the first year of World War I (1914). This battle and the Battle of the Yser marked the end of the so-called Race to the Sea. This battle was the first battle of Ypres. Actually a series of battles, the battle starting on 19 October the battle finishes according to the various histories on 13 November (France), 22 November British and 30 November for the Germans.
Included in the battle are the:
The British Expeditionary Force, under the command of Field Marshal Sir John French, was redeployed north from the mobile fighting of the first two months of the war to join two divisions of reinforcements recently landed in Belgium. They advanced east from Saint-Omer, met and halted the German Army at the Passchendaele Ridge to the east of the Belgian town of Ypres. The First Battle of Ypres was preceded by the Battle of the Yser which ended when the Belgians opened the sluice gates of the river Yser to let in the sea into the low lying land to prevent further German advances . Both sides dug in for trench warfare. The town of Ypres was rapidly demolished by artillery and air attack.
The Germans called the battle "The Massacre of the Innocents of Ypres" (in German Kindermord bei Ypern). Eight German units consisted of young volunteers, many of them enthusiastic students, suffered huge casualties during a failed attack on a smaller but highly-experienced British force, many of them veterans of the Second Boer War. The BEF was supported for the first time by battalions from the Army of India and the British Territorials, whose support was essential in holding the Germans at bay. The BEF was severely weakened at First Ypres, but the battle allowed the Allies time to strengthen their lines.
In 1917, the Mons Star was awarded to those surviving British troops who had served in France or Belgium prior to the end of the First Battle of Ypres; the last surviving holder of this decoration, Alfred Anderson, died in November 2005.
Many of the German student volunteers are buried at the Langemark German war cemetery.