The First Battle of Ypres, also called the Battle of Flanders, was the last major battle of the first year of World War I (1914); actually a series of battles, starting on 19 October and ending, according to the various histories, on 13 November (French), 22 November (British) or 30 November (German).
This battle and the Battle of the Yser marked the end of the so-called Race to the Sea.
The First Battle of Ypres includes:
* the Battle of Langemarck (1914), 21-24 October;
* the Battle of Gheluvelt, 29-31 October;
* the Battle of Nonne Bosschen, 11 November.
The British were building up for a push on Menin, but were unaware of a buildup by the Germans for their own offensive.
The British Expeditionary Force, under the command of Field Marshal Sir John French, was redeployed north from the mobile fighting of the first two months of the war to join two divisions of reinforcements recently landed in Belgium. They advanced east from Saint-Omer, met and halted the German Army at the Passchendaele Ridge to the east of the Belgian town of Ypres. The First Battle of Ypres was preceded by the Battle of the Yser which ended when the Belgians opened the sluice gates of the river Yser to let in the sea into the low lying land to prevent further German advances . Both sides dug in for trench warfare. The town of Ypres was rapidly demolished by artillery and air attack.
The Germans called the battle "The Massacre of the Innocents of Ypres" (in German Kindermord bei Ypern). Eight German units consisted of young volunteers, many of them enthusiastic students, suffered huge casualties during a failed attack on a smaller but highly-experienced British force, many of them veterans of the Second Boer War. The BEF was supported for the first time by battalions from the Army of India and the British Territorial Force, whose support was essential in holding the Germans at bay. The BEF was severely weakened at First Ypres, but the battle allowed the Allies time to strengthen their lines.
In 1917, the Mons Star was awarded to those surviving British troops who had served in France or Belgium prior to the end of the First Battle of Ypres; the last surviving holder of this decoration, Alfred Anderson, died in November 2005.
Many of the German student volunteers are buried at the Langemark German war cemetery.
The future leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, participated in this battle as a Gefreiter.