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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Walter Thomas Last Name: KELL
Date of Death: 21/10/1914 Lived/Born In: Twickenham
Rank: Private Unit: Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry2
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


14, Norcutt Road, Twickenham


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.

From 21st October to 24th October 7th Division, in their position east of Ypres were repeatedly attacked by the numerically superior Germans, whilst 1st and 2nd Divisions were similarly assaulted to the north-east of Ypres around Langemarck. This was the old regular British army at its fighting best and the German offensive failed to break through, but the cost was high.

I Corps orders for 21st  October were for an advance in two stages.  First to a line, Passchendaele to Poelcappelle, then to a line 1½ miles further north running through Westroosebeke.  Congestion on the roads meant that 1st Division did not reach the starting line at Langemarck until 8.30am by which time 2nd Division had its leading troops on the Zonnebeke-Langemarck road with Divisional HQ at St Julien.  5 Brigade were on the left  in the Steenbeek depression one mile north of St Julien.  Units of 1st Division came up on the left of 5 Brigade at 9.20am and the advance began.  Steady progress was made at first but heavy German fire was met when the Zonnebeke-Langemarck road was crossed after which the enemy were greatly assisted by the many streams and thick hedges  which obscured the view of the advancing British.  The German fire was not too accurate except near St Julien where the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry battalion of 5 Brigade suffered many casualties from oblique machine gun and rifle fire.  By 2 pm the general line had advanced 1000-2000 yards from the Zonnebeke-Langemarck road and was close to the main German line but were later forced to cede ground. Among the 220 casualties suffered by 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry during this operation was Walter Kell.

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