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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Oliver Raymond Last Name: BISCO
Date of Death: 02/11/1914 Lived/Born In: West Ham
Rank: Corporal Unit: Border2
Memorial Site: 1. East Ham, Central Park Memorial 2. Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Born-Peckham

 

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.

At 5.30 am on 29th October and concealed by fog, the expected Germans attack began. It fell on the junction of 1st and 7th Divisions where the Menin Road crosses the Kruiseecke-Poezelhoek road.  7th Division were south of the Menin road with 1st Grenadier Guards and 2nd Gordon Highlanders on their right. What remained of 2nd Scots Guards and 2nd Borders were in support. On 30th October, after a day of heavy fighting, 2nd Border moved back from Zonnebeke to the cross roads at Hooge and entrenched facing west. Here they were heavily shelled throughout 31st October and that evening they marched back along Menin Road towards Ypres then moved south-west to Zanvoorde where they lined the hedges and dug in.  In the early morning of 2nd November, enemy movements on the right of 2nd Border’s position were noticed and defensive measures were taken. From 10am to 3pm they were heavily shelled followed by bugles and an attack which was repelled. The Battalion Diary says that they waited until they were almost on top of them before opening fire, killing 200-300 of them, but Battalion Diaries were often prone to exaggeration. Nevertheless, the enemy  retired to the cover of nearby woods. The same tactics were tried again later and this time the troops on the right gave way. Ttwo sections from 2nd Border’s reserve were sent to fill the gap. That night they were relieved and moved back to woods near Ypres, in reserve. Oliver Bisco was killed during the fighting on 2nd November.

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