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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Michael Last Name: KONYN
Date of Death: 03/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Spitalfields
Rank: Rifleman Unit: King's Royal Rifle Corps2
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


7, Tenter Street, Spitalfields


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 29th October the 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps battalions of 2 Brigade, 1st Division, were ordered to move from Corps reserve and make their forward to support 3 Brigade which had been driven from Gheluvelt that morning. In the afternoon they joined in a counter attack that pushed the enemy back some 500 yards towards Gheluvelt but did not retake the village.  At 12.30pm on the following day, 30th October, orders were issued that the line from the bend in the canal near Hollebeke to the front at Gheluvelt must be held at all costs. Units were broken up to fill gaps and half of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps were sent into the line held by the 1st Royal West Surrey (Queens) battalion.


The Germans attacked Gheluvelt on 31st October at 6 am with no preliminary shelling and no fog to conceal them. The attack fell on 1st Division and at first was beaten off everywhere except for a small lodgement in an orchard where a platoon of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps were supporting 1st Royal West Surrey. Their attempts to retake this orchard did not succeed. At 10 am the Germans launched a converging attack against Gheluvelt from both south and north of the Menin road.  Thirteen enemy battalions, six of them fresh, attacked what was left of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 1st Royal West Surrey (Queens), 2nd Welsh, 1st South Wales Borderers and 1st Scots Guards, barely 1000 men in all.  They charged the British line cheering and singing, believing the Kaiser to be present, but rapid fire held them up for an hour.  However, weight of numbers told in the end especially when two German batteries moved up close and began firing. The Germans swept aside the troops defending the exits to Gheluvelt and enfiladed the trenches west of it held by 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps and 1st Loyal North Lancashire, most of who had been wiped out already by shell fire. The few survivors retired to the road running south from Veldhoek to join on to the right of 1st Gloucestershire and remained here throughout the next day until relieved late in the evening when they moved back to reserve positions at Hooge. On 2nd November they were sent to fill a gap in the line caused by an enemy breakthrough at Herenthage Chateau and two companies of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps succeeded in reoccupying some trenches in the grounds of the chateau but this line was too thinly held and they were forced to give ground. The battalion remained in trenches in the grounds of Herenthage Chateau until they were relieved on 5th November. Over these three days they came under persistent and heavy shell fire that further reduced their depleted numbers. Michael Konyn, who was killed on 3rd November, was one of their casualties.

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