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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Peter Last Name: GUNN
Date of Death: 29/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Stoke Newington
Rank: Private Unit: Coldstream Guards1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-28

Born & Enlisted-Sunderland

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 in man power had been enormous.

At 5.30 am on 29th October and concealed by fog, the expected Germans attack began. It fell on the Gheluvelt cross roads, where the Menin Road crossed between Kruiseecke and Poezelhoek. 1 Brigade, 1st Division held the line here. 1st Coldstream Guards, only 350 strong and holding a 1500 yard front, were on the right flank of 1st Division with the other battalions of 1 Brigade continuing the line. Three German battalions, young troops in action for the first time, attacked and got to within 50 yards of the British position without being seen.  Two of the British machine guns jammed and British rifle fire was reduced because of a number of oversize cartridges.  Others were too thin and could only be extracted by kicking the bolt.  It was also difficult to keep them clean as there was precious little rifle oil.  The Germans were held off for a while but then some broke through and by working north, had, by 6.30 am, rolled up the one company of 1st Black Watch and the two right hand companies of 1st Coldstream Guards and occupied their trenches.  There had been no artillery support for 1 Brigade, the shortage of shells was acute.  Further to the left and after a considerable gap, the other two companies of 1st Coldstream Guards were also attacked at 5.30 am and within half an hour these trenches had been overwhelmed too. The 300 men making up this force were all killed or captured. 

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