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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Arthur Herbert Last Name: KERSWILL
Date of Death: 30/10/1914 Lived/Born In: St. Giles
Rank: Sergeant Unit: Sussex2
Memorial Site: 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.

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.

Despite the events of the previous day, it was felt that the British could launch a counter-attack on 30th October and 1st Northamptonshire and 2nd Sussex, both 2 Brigade, 1st Division, and both in Corps reserve, were sent to a rendezvous between Veldhoek and Zandvoorde to support this offensive.. However they were soon on the defensive as the Germans launched more of their own attacks. Here they helped 2nd Gordon Highlanders and 1st South Staffordshires to bring the Germans to a standstill. At 12.30 pm, Haig, the commander of I  Corps, issued orders that the line from the bend in the canal near Hollebeke to a point  in front of Gheluvelt must be held at all costs, a line that was so thin that it was impossible to return 1st Northamptonshire and 2nd Sussex to Corps reserve. 

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