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The Children's Story of the War Transcription MAA
The Children's Story of the War Transcription

Chapter xv.  The crisis of the first battle of ypres.  


ON Saturday, 31st October, came the crisis of the fierce and long-continued struggle. Day by day the enemy’s attacks had been grow1ng stronger and stronger. Across the lines the British could hear the Germans singing patriotic songs, as though they were working themselves up to a berserk rage.*In olden days Norse warriors, or berserks, worked themselves up before a battle into a fierce madness, known as the “ berserk rage." An order taken from a prisoner showed that the Kaiser had ordered the British line to be smashed at all costs. “ Before the sun was high on that morning," writes an American cor- respondent, “ a British aviator volplaned down to his own lines with a wing damaged by shrapnel. He dropped from his seat pale and shaken. ‘ A close call ’ they asked. ‘ It isn’t that,’ he replied; ‘ it’s what I have seen—three corps, I tell you, against our First ! ’ So he jerked out his story. He had seen the roads and ridges like ant—hills and ant—runs with men ; he had seen new batteries going into position; he had seen, far away, the crawling gray serpents, which were still more German regiments going to their slaughter. ‘ And we’re so thin from up there,’ he said, ‘ and they’re so many.’ ”


The little map on page 131 will show you the British position against which the Germans were now about to hurl themselves in vast strength. You see that the 1st Division held the village of Gheluvelt, and lay to the right and left of the main road from Ypres to Menin. On the left of the 1st Division lay the 2nd Division, extending the line as far north as Zonnebeke. The South Wales Borderers, who were on the extreme left of the 1st Division, were posted in the sunken


* In olden days Norse warriors, or berserks, worked themselves up before a battle into a fierce madness, known as the “ berserk rage."
Quoted from Mr. Will Irwin's account of the battle in the Daily Mail. III.


The French and British Commanders in the Field—General Joffre and General Sir John French.
  First Battle of Ypres.


part of the road between Gheluvelt and Reutel. The 2nd Worcesters, who belonged to the 2nd Division, were stationed in the wood which you will see to the south—west of Zonnebeke. On the right of the 1st Division, continuing the line up to the canal from Ypres to the Lys, lay the 7th Division.


At daybreak on the 31st, Von Beimling, with at least Ioo,ooo Bavarians, attacked the centre of the British line. A heavy fire was directed against Gheluvelt, and when the way was thus prepared, the infantry dashed upon the place, but were repulsed. Again and again the Bavarians advanced, but nowhere could they make headway. The big guns reduced Gheluvelt to a heap of blazing ruins ; but the British could not be shifted from them. The trenches of the Welsh were searched from end to end by German shells; but still they stuck to them. Every spot in front, and even the wood in the rear where the Worcesters were posted, was raked by the murderous German fire. But every time the enemy pushed for- ward they were beaten back.


Having thus failed to pierce the British line at Ghe- luvelt, the, Bavarians were ordered to fling themselves against the British to the south of the Menin-Ypres road—that is, against the 1st Queen’s (Surrey) and the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, the latter unit being the flank regiment of the 7th Division. Advancing in force, they got between the village of Gheluvelt and the Surreys on their left flank, and then, with their great numbers, were able to get round to the right flank of that regiment, which was almost surrounded and cut off: Only some seventy of the Surreys fought their way back into the woods in their rear. he British line was. broken at last.


What the Germans had now to do was to enlarge the breach. The retreat of the Surreys had laid open the flank of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and the Bavarians tried

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