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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: William Last Name: BROWN
Date of Death: 12/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Haggerston
Rank: Private Unit: Lincolnshire1
Memorial Site: 1. Bethnal Green Library 2. Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


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.

On 6th November, 1914, after having been heavily involved in the Battle of Messines, the 1st Lincolnshire battalion of 9 Brigade, 3rd Division, left their billets in Bailleul and marched to Ypres where the battle was reaching its crescendo. They made their way via Dickebusch and at Ypres passed through the Menin Gate to Hell Fire Corner where the brigade relieved the 6th Cavalry Brigade just south of the Menin road. 1st Lincolnshire were in reserve and went into dug-outs, which in reality were just holes in the ground. At dawn on a cold and misty morning on 7th November there was a heavy enemy bombardment of these positions followed by an infantry attack and at 4pm, 1st Lincolnshire were moved forward after the enemy broke through the line between the 1st Bedfordshire and the !st Northumberland Fusiliers. All three battalions took part in a counter attack but all lost ground could not be recovered and a trench was consolidated 100 yards short of the old position.  1st Lincolnshire took up a position astride a ride in the woods which was constantly swept by machine-gun fire.  Tree roots meant that only shallow trenches could be dug and enemy snipers were able to slip through gaps on both flanks of this new position. Nevertheless 1st Lincolnshire remained here for over a week having to fight off numerous infantry attacks while at the same time coming under, often heavy, shell fire. This was particularly the case on 11th and 12th November, when the enemy launched their final bid to break through to Ypres in the Battle of Nonne Bosschen and when William Brown was killed.

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