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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: William Last Name: TOOKE
Date of Death: 01/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Charlton
Rank: Private Unit: Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry2
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-24

1, Rathmore Road, Charlton

 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 31 Oct  there was desperate fighting in the morning against the British units, including 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, 5 Brigade, 2nd Division in their defensive positions which lay across the forward slopes of three spurs that converged on Zandvoorde at Klien Zillebeke, the woods later known as Shrewsbury Forest and the group of houses  ¾ mile west of Gheluvelt, called Tower Hamlets.  1st Northamptonshire were ordered to stand firm whilst 2nd Gordon Highlanders and ½ of 2nd Sussex and ½ of 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry moved up to consolidate another position and later were involved in a last ditch counter attack which saved the day.

The following day, 1st November, saw more concerted German attacks on these positions. At 1 pm a determined German effort fell severely on 1st Irish Guards, 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry and 1st Northamptonshire who were all pushed back.  2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry formed a defensive flank towards the vacated ground.  At 1.30 pm, the flank company of 1st Northamptonshire was forced back by heavy shelling and 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, exposed on both flanks, were ordered back to the line of their reserve company.  2nd Grenadier Guards arrived and filled the gap on 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry’s right.  

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