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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: William Joseph Last Name: CARPENTER
Date of Death: 30/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Bow
Rank: Private Unit: Yorkshire2
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-19

5, River Street, Devons Road, Bow

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.

On 30th October there was another strong German attack against Gheluvelt and the front immediately to the south of it where three battalions of 7th Division held the line. They were 2nd Yorkshire, 21 Brigade, 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers also of 21 Brigade and on the right, closest to Zandvoorde, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22 Brigade. At 8 am they all came under a heavy German bombardment but things were to get worse. The trenches in front of Zandvoorde fell to a German attack and the Germans were now in possession of Zandvoorde Ridge and a farm to the rear of it. From here they were able to enfilade the trenches of 7th Division and after a hard fight, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers were almost completely overwhelmed.  The pressure now fell on 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers and 2nd Yorkshire. At 12.45 pm they were ordered to retire from their perilous forward position which formed a pronounced salient and move back 1200 yards behind Zandvoorde.  2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers lost 100 men in this withdrawal but 2nd Yorkshire, who received the order later, had established such fire superiority that they were able to withdraw in daylight, with the loss of only 10 men and covered by only 1 platoon. 

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