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Remembered Today:

1st Ypres


Amor
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Hi,

Can anybody recommend some good books which cover 1st Ypres? I am particularly interested to research the part the 2nd Gordons, 20th Brigade, 7th Division played.

Rgds,
Alex

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Hi Alex,

I've yet to read it but Ypres: The First Battle 1914 by Ian W.F. Beckett has some good reviews on Amazon. It is one that I am hoping to read soon once my pile of 1914 books waiting to be read has been reduced.

Jamie

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Alex,

Definitely Beckett. Less thought of generally is Farrar-Hoclkley's "Ypres 1914", but you will probably be able to pick it up second-hand for pennies.

If you want to try something different, I would recommend Jack Sheldon's "The German Army at Ypres 1914". All of Jack's books are very thoroughly researched and well laid out.

Phil

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Hi,

Can anybody recommend some good books which cover 1st Ypres? I am particularly interested to research the part the 2nd Gordons, 20th Brigade, 7th Division played.

Rgds,

Alex

Alex

I have a soft spot for Farrar Hockley's book 'Ypres 1914' as I read it at school when it was reissued in 1970 in the Pan British Battles Series. However I'm sure it would be seen as a 'soldiers account' these days and so Beckett's book is a much better bet.

I also enjoyed the 'Salient Points' series by Spagnoly and Smith which feature what they call 'cameos of the Western Front'. A number of these cover individual actions from First Ypres (particularly in 'Salient Points Two')

David

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Hi,

Many thanks for the book hints, I have ordered a couple already. Can anyone help with advice on obtaining a copy of the 7th Divisional History?

Rgds,
Alex

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Hi Alex,

It is on Amazon over here

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SEVENTH-DIVISION-1914-1918-C-T-Atkinson/dp/1843421194/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1383596449&sr=8-2&keywords=7th+division+history

Hope this helps

I also have Farrar Hockley's 'Ypres 1914' which I liked and also Tim Carew's 'Wipers' , which I know isn't everyone's cup-of-tea but I found it an easy read. But, saying that, Beckett's book is on my radar for when I've cleared up some of my 'to read' pile

Good reading

Jim

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No thank you Alex, your post prompted me to pull Carew's 'Wipers' off the shelf again for a look into :thumbsup:

Enjoy your reading and research

Jim

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Hi Alex,

I've yet to read it but Ypres: The First Battle 1914 by Ian W.F. Beckett has some good reviews on Amazon. It is one that I am hoping to read soon once my pile of 1914 books waiting to be read has been reduced.

Jamie

It's probably just me and my English, but I had some trouble following Beckett in his story-telling.

I'm quite used to tactical settings, but found his a bit messy ...

Just me...

MM.

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Having spent the last couple of years on First Ypres for purposes of three Battleground books on the subject, it is clear that this is a very difficult battle of which to give a coherent narrative during , especially as regards the deployment of the various units and sub units and in particular those of the BEF, though it is also tricky with the French.

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Nigel. How very true. In fact there is no definitive account. Carew is deeply untrustworthy for instance. I found a large number of personal accounts about those in 7th Inf Div. few even in the same bn agreed with another . The 7th Inf Div history is broadly accurate - but in detail I believe frequently in error. It is almost impossible to map the battle with accuracy - often cyclists maps were used in lieu of anything better. I have researched the div in detail from its formation to 30 th October. I remain confused. Above all it was the archetypal soldiers battle in which no one knew what was going on feet to the left, right,front or rear. The divisional commander was frequently in the front line, the war diaries in some cases lost and then rewritten. After Oct 30 and the loss of Zandvoorde - potentially more dangerous than events the next day on and around the Menin Rd - Ypres remained in taken only because of German incompetence and defective low level command. I finally decided that, despite the fact I had done much research! I could not achieve a satisfactory story of just one division in the battle.

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Quite, David, especially when you think battalions were sometmes chopped into independent companies. I find it a battle that underlines the competence of the small regular army officer corps of the BEF, already hard hit by the Retreat, the Marne and especially the Aisne; with battalions that had already been significantly rebuilt, themselves mainly of reservists; the number of brigade commenders that changed due to casulaties is notable, even divisional commanders. It was a fine achievement of improvisation and, whatever one might think about Haig, I feel he did a pretty good job at Ypres, aided by a fine body of professionals. The cavalry were an essential element at Ypres/Messines as well. To be fair, the success was aided to a great extent by very co-operative French allies (whose role is invariably underwritten) and often by incompetent German higher command. One of the greatest errors was to delay the attack on the Menin Road/Klein Zillebeke area by a day (or possibly not to delay the attack against the French in the Langemark/Bixscoote area by a day): if both had taken place on the same day as originally envisaged....

Atkinson has a telling footnote when he talks of the confusion, noting that battalions in the same particular action had war diaries that could not agree on time, movements or even day of said action: and this for something that was being written up within a decade or so of the fighting. The fighting in the woods south of the Menin Road in the first fortnight plus of November is almost a question of your guess is as good as mine as to what was actually happening.

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Nigel as you know I have spent a great deal of time looking at 30th October - when as you say small attached elements and piecemeal puttying up was the order of the day. Little examined has been Haig's great competence as a corps commander - clearly very ably assissited by J Gough - in first having a sufficient reserve in hand that day when 1 Corps was itself under pressure and the speed with which they were brought forward (some 7 or so bns plus galloping cavalry)was deployed to prevent the Germans exploiting the huge gap they had created in the line at Zandvoorde. German low level incompetence was amazing too. For this day there are records and bits of detail spread all over the place - personal accounts, diaries and letters to the official historian. Yet as you say timings are almost impossible to be quoted with any accuracy. As to the number of resrvists, particularly in the 7th division, they were massive - indeed I have one account of a civilian recruited in Lyndhurst where the Divn was formed who went out with the 'regulars'.

I managed to get as far as October the 30th in considerable detail - after that it was odds and ends of research just g to find out just what, often officer-less groups of men, attached to whatever scrap of a unit they could find, who where left. The OH does a good broad picture job, but the detail is frequently imprecise. The search (kind of) continues

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That's interesting Marilyne, yet to read any Beckett, which book on 1st Ypres do you favour?

Cheers

Jim

Actually, I haven't found a book about 1st Ypres only until now, other than the one from Beckett... but I've woven together general history books, maps, various accounts (I do recommend the war diaries of Sir Morgan Crofton!!) and battlefield guides to get a general idea of the battle.

I've also read Beckett's "The Great War 1914-1918" and came to the same conclusion: "touche à tout" book that holds far too much numbers and statistics, which made the book quite hard to read.

But again, that's a personal opinion !!

MM;

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  • 8 years later...

I've just watched the fascinating WFA lecture by Spencer Jones about Charles FitzClarence and the Battle of Gheluvelt during 1st Ypres. I was wondering if there have been any books published specifically on the Battle of Ypres in the 8 or so years since the last post of this thread? I have (but not yet read) Peter Hart's 'Fire and Movement', which has a couple of substantial chapters on 1st Ypres, and am thinking about some of the more recent battlefield guides. But are there any others?

Thanks

Edited by KernelPanic
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  • 2 months later...
On 12/06/2022 at 20:59, KernelPanic said:

But are there any others?

Hi KP,

From reading the above post I'm not sure if you have read Nigel Cave/Jack Sheldon's "Battleground, Early Battles 1914" books: "Ypres 1914: The Menin Road", "Ypres 1914: Messines", and "Ypres 1914: Langemarck". I recently picked up "The Menin Road" and particularly liked the alternating viewpoint of the authors; Nigel Cave covering the battle from the perspective of the BEF while Jack Sheldon covers the German experience.  I should also mention that the maps complimented the text throughout, even though small (many from the Official History), they have enough detail to determine where individual units were located almost on a daily basis. Maps and photos also enhance the tour section at the end of the book. Considering that the town, roads etc. were obliterated by 1918, knowing where the various actions took place on a modern map is helpful in visualizing the overall picture, I wish the "Menin Road" would have been available in 2011 (the last time I visited Ieper).
I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Dave

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20 hours ago, lostinspace said:

Hi KP,

From reading the above post I'm not sure if you have read Nigel Cave/Jack Sheldon's "Battleground, Early Battles 1914" books: "Ypres 1914: The Menin Road", "Ypres 1914: Messines", and "Ypres 1914: Langemarck". I recently picked up "The Menin Road" and particularly liked the alternating viewpoint of the authors; Nigel Cave covering the battle from the perspective of the BEF while Jack Sheldon covers the German experience.  I should also mention that the maps complimented the text throughout, even though small (many from the Official History), they have enough detail to determine where individual units were located almost on a daily basis. Maps and photos also enhance the tour section at the end of the book. Considering that the town, roads etc. were obliterated by 1918, knowing where the various actions took place on a modern map is helpful in visualizing the overall picture, I wish the "Menin Road" would have been available in 2011 (the last time I visited Ieper).
I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Dave

Hi Dave, I now have the Kindle version of 'Ypres 1914: The Menin Road'.  It was a bargain, $1.99 over here in the US.  As you say, it's a very useful book.  As well as trying to understand 1st Ypres as whole, I'm particularly interested in this part of the battle in an effort to triangulate from various sources where a family member was at this time.  He was a Gunner from Chester-le-Street with the 54th Battery, 39th Brigade RFA (1 Division).  Unfortunately I've not yet had the chance to visit any part of the Western Front.  Hopefully it will happen at some point in the future.

20 hours ago, Michelle Young said:

Thanks Marilyn. The Wolverhampton Military Studies series is excellent.  Unfortunately this title is a bit pricey over here in the US.  I'll have to try inter-library loan. 

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