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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: George Last Name: GIBBARD
Date of Death: 21/10/1914 Lived/Born In: East Ham
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Welsh Fusiliers1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Born-East Ham

First Battle of Ypres

Between 21st October and 22nd November, 1914 a desperate fight took place around the Belgium city of Ypres, the first of three major battles that were to be fought there during the course of the war. British troops entered Ypres in October. The 1st and 2nd Divisions plus the 3rd Cavalry Division had made their way up from the Aisne as part of the “Race to the Sea”, whilst the 7th Division came west to Ypres after Antwerp had fallen. The Germans knew that Ypres was the gateway to the Channel ports and that these were vital to Britain’s war effort so they poured reinforcements into the area. The fighting fell into three distinct battles; the Battle of Langemarck, 21-24 October, the Battle of Gheluvelt, 29-31 October and the Battle of Nonne Bosschen, 11 November. Ypres did not fall to the Germans but its defence during these two months resulted in the destruction of much of the old regular British Army.

From 21st October to 24th October 7th Division, in their position east of Ypres were repeatedly attacked by the numerically superior Germans, whilst 1st and 2nd Divisions were similarly assaulted to the north-east of Ypres around Langemarck. This was the old regular British army at its fighting best and the German offensive failed to break through, but the cost was high.

On 21st October, 7th Division held a long line with a right angle in it and lack of tools made trench digging difficult. 22 Brigade’s trenches near Zonnebeke were badly enfiladed by artillery and machine gun fire from Passchendaele and by 8 am were seriously threatened.  At 11.30 am 7 Cavalry Brigade was moved up in support.  There followed a very determined German attack. At 3pm, 7 Cavalry Brigade was moved first to Voormezeele and then Hooge.  But this left a gap between the left of 7th Division and the right of I Corps. The G’s attacked this gap with violent enfilade fire from Passchendaele and their infantry got to within 200 yards of  22 Brigade. The left of 22 Brigade was still in an exposed salient and under enfilade fire from the ridge north-west of Zonnebeke.  1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers lost over 250 and were reduced to the size of a company.  Trenches were battered in and houses in Zonnebeke were ablaze with the German infantry within 100 yards in places. At 5.30 pm this endangered left of 22 Brigade was withdrawn from the salient and joined on direct with I Corps through Zonnebeke.  From there the brigade front ran south-east past the front of Polygon Wood to connect with 21 Brigade at Reutel.

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