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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Edward Last Name: MACKENZIE
Date of Death: 31/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Haggerston
Rank: Private Unit: Loyal North Lancashire1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Enlisted-London

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.

Between 29th and 31st October a massive concentration of German troops tried to break the British line around Gheluvelt at the eastern apex of the Ypres salient. 1st and 7th Divisions stood in their path. On the 29th October, after a day of intense fighting, often hand to hand, the British were pushed back to the Gheluvelt cross roads. The following day the Germans attacked Gheluvelt itself and although the village remained in British hands, German troops had some success further south at Zandvoorde and were now able to enfilade the British line. Then on 31st October came the main German attack and Gheluvelt fell. At one stage the it seemed that all was lost but a dramatic counter attack by 2nd Worcestershire, stabilised the line. However, the loss to the British army had been enormous.

The Germans attacked Gheluvelt on 31st October at 6 am with no preliminary shelling and no fog to conceal them. The attack fell on 1st Division and at first was beaten off everywhere except for a small lodgement in an orchard held by a platoon of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps. To the right of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps were two companies of 1st Loyal North Lancashire, 2 Brigade and they tried to retake the orchard but failed in the face of heavy shell fire. At 10 am the Germans swept aside the troops defending the exits to Gheluvelt and enfiladed the trenches west of it held by 1st Loyal North Lancashire, 2 Brigade and 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps, most of whom had been wiped out already by shell fire.  The few survivors retired to the road running south from Veldhoek to join on to the right of 1st Gloucestershire. The last reserves of 3 Brigade, were sent up to rally the retiring troops and counter attack.  The survivors of 1st Loyal North Lancashire, 2 Brigade and 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps conformed but no headway could be made against the powerful German artillery.  The Germans now turned on the rest of 1st Loyal North Lancashire, 250 strong, and the 120 men of 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers beyond them.  They held ½ mile of front in small rifle pits holding two men each with orders not  to retire.  Up until now they had only faced shell fire but by 1.30 pm this force was surrounded and came under machine gun fire from 100 yards in the rear with flank attacks developing as well.  80 men of these two companies of 1st Loyal North Lancashire remained alive to be captured though half of these were wounded.  Next morning 1st Loyal North Lancashire could muster only 36 officers and men. 

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