Battle of Gheluvelt, 29-31 October 1914

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The battle of Gheluvelt, 29-31 October 1914, was part of the first battle of Ypres. After the failures of earlier attacks by the fourth and sixth armies, Falkenhayn created a new formation, Army Group Fabeck. General Fabeck was given six divisions – the 30th, 39th, 26th divisions, 3rd and 4th Bavarian Divisions and the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division. This new formation was created specifically to launch the big attack on the British line between Ploegsteert Wood and Gheluvelt.

The big attack was due to start on 30 October. On 29 October a preliminary assault was planned, with the aim of capturing the village of Gheluvelt. This attack failed to capture the village, although it did briefly threaten to break the British lines, but the Germans did capture the Gheluvelt crossroads, east of the village.

The first big attack, on 30 October captured the village of Zandvoorde, but did not achieve the expected breakthrough. The crisis came on 31 October. A number of German troops broke into the British lines south of Gheluvelt. For once a potential advantage was turned into a real breakthrough. After a prolonged bombardment the village was captured. The advancing Germans suffered heavy casualties, but were in a position to launch the final attack on Ypres.

The situation was restored by a dramatic counterattack. Brigadier General FitzClarence, command of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, found the last reserves, 364 men of the 2nd Worcesters, and sent to them to retake Gheluvelt château, just east of the village. The British regulars crossed 1,000 yards of open ground, losing a third of their men, and then launched a bayonet charge against some 1,200 German troops outside the château. The German force was made up entirely of reserve units, and after a short but brutal fight fled.  Combined with a second counterattack by the 7th Division, the Worcesters had restored the British line. The French provided reinforcements, taking over part of the newly extended line. The German near-breakthrough at Gheluvelt would remain the clossest they came to breaking the Allied lines around Ypres until 1918,

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 August 2007), Battle of Gheluvelt, 29-31 October 1914 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_gheluvelt.html

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