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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Benjamin William Last Name: COCKLE
Date of Death: 29/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Plaistow
Rank: Private Unit: Grenadier Guards1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


40, Braemar Road, Plaistow


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.  7th Division were south of the Menin road with the 1st Grenadier Guards of 20th Brigade and 2nd Gordon Highlanders on their right. What remained of 2nd Scots Guards and 2nd Borders were in support. At 7.30 am there was a very heavy bombardment on the trenches held by 1st Grenadier Guards which was followed by a dense infantry attack. Desperate close quarter fighting followed. Some of the enemy broke through and 1st Grenadier Guards were gradually forced back.  Even then the survivors, supported by some of 2nd Gordon Highlanders made two counter attacks but overwhelming German numbers eventually forced 1st Grenadier Guards to retire to a ditch south of the Menin road, east of Gheluvelt where they joined the 4th company of 1st Gloucestershire. Later 2nd Borders moved up again from Brigade reserve to join them.   Here the German advance was checked and here 1st Grenadier Guards remained for the rest of the day.  Their casualty list for the 29th October was nearly 500 and included Benjamin Cockle.

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