The Battle of the Yser secured part of the coastline of Belgium for the allies in the "Race to the Sea" after the first three months of World War I.
As part of the execution of the Schlieffen Plan, Belgium had been invaded by Germany. Following the Siege of Antwerp, the remnants of the Belgian Army were pushed back to the far south west corner of the country, and decided to make a stand behind a 22 mile long front on the Yser Canal as the Germans tried to reach the French Channel ports of Calais and Dunkerque. Just to the south the First Battle of Ypres took place at the same time as the Battle of the Yser and both battles concluded a series of unsuccessful flanking manoeuvres by the belligerents and established the trench lines of the Western front.
Battle of the Yser
The entire Belgian Army was deployed to defend the front. The troops were exhausted and low on ammunition after two months of retreating throughout almost the entire Belgian territory. France reinforced the Belgians with 6,000 Marines and an infantry division.
The first skirmishes started on 16 October 1914. The town of Diksmuide was attacked but the Germans were repelled by French marines and Belgian artillery. The following day German troops (consisting of trained conscripts, reservists and partially trained students) moved southwards from Bruges and Ostend in the direction of the Yser river. It became clear that the German Fourth Army was to take the line from Nieuwpoort to Ypres.
Admiral Hood of the Royal Navy commanded three monitors, Severn, Humber and Mersey, which bombarded the German army in Lombardsijde from the sea the following day.
On 18 October the German offensive started. It initially overran the frontal defense positions of the Belgian, British and French armies along a line stretching from Nieuwpoort down to Arras in France. The objective was to defeat the Belgian and French armies and to deprive the British of access to the harbours of Calai...