War Widens Dramatically; Ypres Crisis Deepens.
Special to The Great War Project
(26-29 October) The fierce struggle on the Western Front to control Ypres continues with no clear victor in these days at the end of October a century ago.
The fighting brings a series of terrible tragedies. The troops Britain transports from India mount their first attacks and see their first two hundred troops killed, according to historian Martin Gilbert.
In a village near Ypres many British troops are buried alive under artillery bombardment by their own units.
The British artillery men are unaware they are firing on their own.
The German side is also using artillery – mercilessly and endlessly – for 56 hours without a break.
After an afternoon tour of the battlefield, commanding General Sir Douglas Haig writes: “I rode out at about 3 pm to see what was going on and was astounded at the terror-stricken men who were coming back.” Haig also voices the mistaken observation that the Germans “were quite incapable of making any strong and sustained attack.”
That same day, Gilbert reports, “German troops drove a gap through the British line” near Ypres.
On October 28 a century ago, the Indian troops at a French village called Neuve Chapelle are thrown into the frontlines. There they meet “machine-gun fire directed by brilliant searchlights.”
Despite this, they break into the village “fighting house-by-house and hand-to-hand,” according to Gilbert.
But the Indians can’t hold the village and soon are driven out. In the battle for this village, more than 500 Indians are killed and 1500 wounded.
This same day, news arrives in London that the British battleship Audacious, one of the newest and most modern in the British fleet, hits a mine off the northern coast of Ireland and is sunk, Gilbert reports.