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Battle of Bixschoote (Langemarck), Nov.10, 1914


Gamburd
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I'm trying to find information about a battle which took place between French and German troops at Bixschoote, a few miles directly north of Ypres on November 10, 1914.

I did a quick search on this site, and I found some excellent photos and WWI maps of this area, though they seem to be from a few years later (1917).

What I am looking for though is a (hopefully) detailed description of the battle that took place (as detailed as one can find), as well as unit information and troop strength.

This battle of November 10, 1914 is significant because the battle was the origin of a German legend that grew both during WWI and especially after WWI, and became symbolic to the German public of the thousands of young German college and high school volunteer soldiers, from middle-class backgrounds, who were killed in action in Ypres, and was the origin of the emotive phrase the "Kindermord von Ypres ('the massacre of the innocents at Ypres')." The National Socialists in Germany used the battle for propaganda purposes in between the wars.

It all stems from this German High Command report, which exaggerates a number of facts, issued on November 11, 1914:

"We made good progress yesterday in the Yser sector. West of Langemarck, young regiments charged forward singing "Deutschland, Deutschland, uber alles" against the front line of enemy positions and took them. Approximately 2000 men of the French infantry and six machine guns were captured."

The last sentence about the POWs is referring to the Battle of Dixmunde, on the Yser, which occurred the same day as Bixschoote. Nobody knows for sure whether the Germans sang that song, but, as Winstom Groom mentions in his history: A Storm in Flanders: The Ypres Salient, 1914-1918, German troops during the early stages of the war and in some of the other combat zones of First Ypres were reported as singing patriotic songs like "Wacht Am Der Rheine," and as blowing bugles and playing drums.

Recent historical research has shown, however, that although many of the German troops of the new German 4th Army of Von Falkenhayn were untried and inexperienced recruits from the Reserve Corps, "student volunteers by no means formed the vast majority of these forces." My research, according to various sources, indicates the students made up anywhere from 15% to 30% of the German forces attacking. The truth is probably somewhere in between, so I'll say a speculative 22.5%.

I read H.W. Wilson's account in his The Great War: The Illustrated History of the First World War: Opening Moves (published 1914 & 1915; reprinted by Trident Press International, 1999; Vol. I; printed in Croatia), which was edited based on accounts and interviews from civilian illustrated news correspondents, but it doesn't give the specific above information I am seeking. In this account, it mentions that Bixschoote changed hands over 20 times between the French and Germans. However, because Wilson's information is so old and was written during the war (and therefore, I think he tends to exaggerate certain facts and numbers throughout his account perhaps for propaganda purposes, like saying 12,000 Germans were killed here between November 10-11, 1914). I would like to see more recent historical research about this battle.

More recent research by Harold Marcuse, professor of German History at University of California Santa Barbara, states that 2,000 Germans died at the battle of Bixschoote on November 10, 1914, and that the Germans captured the town permanently (though that doesn't explain those photos of Bixschoote I saw, hmmm).

Wilson's is the only English account I've been able to come across about the fighting between the French and Germans on November 10, 1914 at Bixschoote, which even attempts any kind of detail. Neither Winston Groom's history, nor John Keegan's The First World War (1998) mention this particular battle.

It seems like a lot of English speaking historians pass over this battle in their accounts of First Ypres for whatever reason, or confuse it with the Battle at Langemarck that took place between British and German forces on October 22, 1914, south-east of the town of Langemarck, or the Battle of Nonne Boschen (Nun's Wood) on November 11, 1914, about 7 miles south-east of Bixschoote near Gheluvelt. It can get a little confusing.

In another post, someone has an account of the Battle of First Ypres from October 31 on, and it does mention Dubois's 9th Corps at Bixschoote on or around this day.

This is the following information I've been able to obtain so far from Wilson's account and from a few French sites off the web using Google translation and my 4th grade reading level of French:

(I'm from the U.S.)

10/23/14 9th French Army Corps relieved British forces at Pilkem.

10/24/14 French Territorial (not Colonial, but like U.S. National Guard) troops are north of Ypres.

11/3 to 11/5/14 French 7th Regiment, Hunters with Horse, at Bixschoote; Bixschoote is given up 20 times during this period.

11/5 or 11/6/14 (most likely on November 6) The 156e Regiment D'Infantrie relieves 7th Regiment, Hunters with Horse.

11/10/14 Not on exact point, but a mile east of Bixschoote, and east of Korteker-Cabaret there were three companies of 74e Territorial Regiment and one Battalion of the 73e.

The German drive fails by 11/12/14.

The town is also know as Bikschote (I believe the modern spelling) and less frequently, Bikschootte.

It looks like it could have been the 156e Regiment D'Infantrie that was there on November 10, but who knows? They also could have been relieved by another unit. It looks like the French army underwent some reforms and revisions after WWI, and the 156e Regiment D'Infantrie was merged into the 160e Regiment D'Infantrie and ceased to exist as the 156e; so any regimental records or archives probably now are the property of the 160e.

Also, an English historian mentions the German 206th Reserve Infantry Regiment was involved in Bixschoote, but it sort of looks like he was confusing Bixschoote with Nonne Boschen, which was on November 11, the next day.

My question is how was the fighting conducted on this day?? Which French and German units were involved?? Did the French entrench before the village, and the Germans advanced in columns, falling by rifle fire and maching gun?? If so, how deep and elaborate were the trenches?? Or, were the French in the buildings of the village, shooting from the windows and second stories with their rifles and machine guns??

Do you think the Church and its tower was used as a place to fire at the enemy?? There was also a windmill near Bixschoote; would that have been used for observation and to shoot at the enemy (it probably was blown up at this time; the account of First Ypres that someone posted at this Forum does mention the village was in ruins.)?? If the village was in ruins, did the French hide among the rubble in the village and fired at the Germans as they entered the village?? How many French died, and where did the French retreat to if the Germans took Bixschoote permanently???

Would it just have been a mob running around in the streets of the village, fighting hand-to-hand combat??

I would like to know if anyone has any sort of information on this battle, from any source, written or on TV (someone mentioned in the U.K. they had some archeological history show about WWI archeologists and had an episode about Bixschoote; if you can remember anything about it, that would be great).

If anyone has British historian Anthony Clayton's recent book: Paths of Glory: The French Army 1914-1918 (2003), and could see what he has written about First Ypres, and find out if he has anything on this battle at Bixschoote, because I would think he would probably mention it, I would really appreciate it. There is only one public library in my state that has the book, and it would take a little over an hour to travel there, and I have no other reason to go there.

There is also a history book called Van Rousselelaere tot Langemarck 1914, but it is written in Dutch. I forget if Van Rousselaere is part of the title or the author; If Van Rousselaere is part of the title, then Jack Sheldon and Bob Foley are the authors.

If anyone owns that book or can find it at a library, and can read up on the November 10, 1914 Battle of Langemarck, and what happened during the course of the battle, that would be great.

If you know a lot about the First World War, consider yourself a professional or amateur expert, and want to give your speculative opinion as to what you would think the fighting was like, that would be fine, but please label it as only speculation and please, if you'd be so kind, mention what makes you consider yourself an expert (e.g., you've traveled to Ypres and visited WWI battlefields; you've read a lot about WWI military tactics; you wrote your Master's thesis on WWI; you were in the military, etc.) so I know I have an informed opinion.

Thanks. Reconstructing these 93 year old battles can be difficult; I appreciate any information you may have; I've looked on the web about Bixschoote, and couldn't find a whole lot, but I found a few things; I almost gave up, but I found this site, and found those great photographs. I'm finding new information all the time. I'm sure there is an account somewhere, perhaps in a French military report, or a French or German soldier's diary account.

It's tough. Time isn't of the essence, so if you're reading this years from now, add your say. But the sooner I can find this information, the better.

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Hello,

On 10th november the Gemans attacked from Bikschote direction Steenstraat.

Were involved on German side : RIR 211, RIR 212, RIR 214 and 18 th Jäger Bat,

elements of these reg crossed the Ypres-Yzer Canal, and built a bridgehead on the left side North of Steenstraat.( lost after some days) Here the French 94 th I.D. that held the line Bischote-Steenstrate did lesser well than the 87 Div Terr.

RIR 215 attacked Bois Triangulaire, South of Bikschote, held by French 80 Reg Terrt.

76 Reg Terr and 73 Reg Terr lost heavily.

Hope this is a start.

Regards,

Cnock

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Original pic of Bikschote, shortly taken after it's final capture in November 1914.

Cnock

post-7723-1192891541.jpg

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Chris, thanks for the link that tells about the battle between the BEF and the German regiments on October 22 / 23, 1914.

Although that link has no information about the battle dubbed Langemarck (it seems that the Germans preferred to use this name rather than Bixschoote because it sounded German, like Bismarck) that occurred on November 10, it proves that control of Bixschoote did exchange hands during the first days of the Battle of First Ypres (October 19, 1914-November 22, 1914). I hadn't seen this information before, and the story about the German soldier who was awarded the Iron Cross was also interesting.

It is too bad that I can't seem to find, at least in English, any detailed description of this November 10, 1914 Langemarck battle. It became ingrained in the memory of the German public both during and after the First World War.

Cnock, thanks for the photograph and the German and French regimental information.

Are those German soldiers in the photograph?? They seem to be German, because the soldiers are wearing those flat caps on their heads.

Do you know at all if the French 156e Regiment D'Infantrie was in Bixschoote on November 10, or was it just the 94th I.D.??

Also, in a thread from about a year ago which had a lot of pictures about Bixschoote, you posted a photo of a chateau type brick house with its roof in ruins, and it had writing enscribed on the photo that said something like "Bixshoote: Englander Pfarrhaus." I don't know any Dutch (does that mean Field House??). Was that the English headquarters or field hospital?? It looked like it was a very nice house.

Do you know what year the photo of the house was taken?? Thanks.

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A.Farrar Hockley's, Ypres : Death of an Army has quite a detailed description of the fighting from the French and British point of view. Ian F W Beckett's Ypres: The first Battle, has a very detailed description of the fighting on these dates. A. Clayton gives very little detail and paints Foch's advances At Ypres an in Artois with a fairly broad brush.

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For Gamburd,

These are indeed Geman soldiers on the pic.

The Pfarrerhaus is the private home of the priest, pic taken in 1915.

Regards,

Cnock

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Ypres-Yser Canal

RIR 215 - January 1915

Survivors of the battles with the French

Cnock

post-7723-1192955144.jpg

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Already on 5/11/1914 the German 46 st R.D, reinforced with elements of 44th R.D.(coming from sector North of Diksmuide) had made an attack towards Steenstraat, where they wanted to cross the Ypres-Yser Canal. The attack failed completely, after fierce fighting with French 45th Division. The Germans only closed in nearer to Bikschote.

On 9/11/1914 a French attack failed, also with heavy losses.

Cnock

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Truthergw, thanks for the book title suggestions.

I do own a copy of General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley's Ypres: Death Of An Army (1967, Cerebus Publishing LTD., reprint, 2004); it is an excellent book on First Ypres and does contain great maps and information on the units and regiments involved. However, it does not describe the November 10, 1914 Battle of Langemarck in any detail and only refers to in a a passing manner, not even mentioning the name "Langemarck." I'll try to see if a library has the other book you mentioned.

There is also another book about the French Army during WWI in English called Pyrrhic Victory; that might have some information about this November 10th battle.

Cnock, thanks for the information.

On that photo of the priest's house, there is an inscription that's in German in the upper right corner; it says something about the English; I don't know German that well. Do you know what that inscription is saying??

Here's a map of the earlier battle of Langermarck on October 20-23, 1914 between the BEF and the German forces I've found, which was the first phase of First Ypres:

th_langemarck_774.jpg

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Hi,

It says 'destroyed by the British' (English)

Cnock

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Cnock, thanks again.

I started to read Hockley's Ypres: Death of An Army which is very informative, and makes use of some memoir and diary entries to recount the events of First Ypres, and gives the names and numbers of the regiments on both sides involved in the various battles.

It contains a lot of detail, but obviously can't contain every answer one is looking for about the battle. The book does give

a detailed diary account from a Private J.S. Barton of a battle which occurred between two platoons of the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment and German troops on October 23, 1914, just outside and north of Langemarck.

But I was more interested about the two previous days when the German troops launched their initial assaults on Langemarck. It looks like the British I Corps, 3rd Brigade was stationed around Langemarck on October 21-23, 1914, or at least some of those Regiments in the Brigade were. I might start a thread on this to see if I can get some more information about this earlier October battle..

Hockley's book also doesn't cover the November 10, 1914 battle which the Germans dubbed "Langemarck." But it covers a lot of fighting elsewhere, like at Kortekeer-Cabaret, in great detail, which I haven't seen covered elsewhere. Unfortunately the book also contains an annoying number of misspelled words and typos, so whoever was the editor who edited the galley proof should be fired; but to me it's the ideas contained in the text that are more important. Rate 10/10. An excellent read and reference source.

Here's a photo of some damaged buildings at Langemarck which Hockley states was heavily shelled on the evening of October 23, 1914. I don't know what year the photo was taken.

th_langemark_ruins.jpg

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  • 8 months later...

Hi,

Just found your query through a search on Bixschoote. My great grandfather was in the 80e RIT and taken prisoner at Bixschoote on the 10th November 1914. He spent the rest of the war in Germany. Unfortunately we know very little about it and he died some years ago as did my grandparents.

I have recently found a French website which reproduces a pamphlet printed n Rennes in 1920 giving the history of the 80e RIT - www.pages14-18.com

This may add something

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This may add something

Thank you, Grosnez.

Yes, it does; this is definitely a very important piece of information.

It has been a while since I have looked at this battle; in fact, it was the first WWI battle I ever researched.

I am a little less familiar with the organization of the French Army.

So, Grosnez, your great grandfather was in a French Territorial regiment (RIT)?

Do you know what Corps, Division, and which number of the French Army (e.g., 5th, 9th, 10th) he was in?

I looked at the site you recommended; I tried finding the 1920 Rennes pamphlet you described giving the history of the 80e RIT, but I could not locate it (my knowledge of French is very basic).

I would still like to see it; I should be able to read some of it, and I could use maybe a program like babelfish to translate it.

Is there any chance you can provide a direct link or type out the full link to the exact page?

I found a little more information about this battle; I will add it here soon, perhaps this weekend (when I get a chance).

I am not sure where exactly I found this web page; it does not describe Bixschoote, but it talks about the latter part of the Battle of First Ypres:

http://pageperso.aol.fr/marsouin18/Flandres3.html

This is a very rough English translation of that page for the English speakers of the Great War Forum:

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=e...GLF:en%26sa%3DN

Well, it seems like the forum is slowing up this evening, so I will try to post the rest soon.

Alex

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Alex, Your post is a very welcome reminder to us Brits that the fighting in Flanders in the autumn of 1914 was more than the last stand of The Old Contemptibles. Not enough credit is given to the Franco-Belgian troops who helped to contain the German attacks....at least. not in popular British accounts.

Phil.

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Thanks, Phil.

Here are a few photos I found of Bixschoote.

I would assume these are pre-First World War photos, and not post.

Bixschoote, Plaats Street, church spire in distance.

[th_BixschooteIII.jpg

Looking down Plaats street from the opposite side.

th_BixschooteII.jpg

Bixschoote, Pilken Street. Looks like it is probably a school.

th_bixschoote-pilkenstraatv.jpg

I would have to check, but the town did fall into German hands sometime either on November 10, 1914, or a few days shortly thereafter (I will just edit this).

I am not certain if Bixschoote fell back into Allied hands during the Battle of Third Ypres, or later on, or what exactly happened.

I found the history of the French Terrritorial unit (written in French) that Grosnez's great grandfather was in at the website that he referred to:

http://www.pages14-18.com/pagesHistoire/hi...toriques%20.htm

Grosnez, do you know if the 80e RIT was made up of men from a particular geographical area in France, such as a city, town, or province?

Thanks,

Alex

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Here's some more information about that book, Van Rousselaere tot Langemarck 1914, which I mentioned above from a poster here at the Great War Forum; it looks like I got the names of the authors confused with those of other authors.

I'm not sure if it has any information about Bixschoote; the book's title is the Dutch spelling of the town of Roulers, which is some miles east of Ypres, where some fighting took place between French cavalry dragoons and the 234th R.I.R. of the Imperial German 26th Reserve Army Corps on October 19, 1914.

Jul 4 2005, 11:02 AM Post #2

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The book "Van Rousselaere tot Langemarck 1914" (by Robert Baccarne and Jan Steen (1989)) of course pays a lot of attention to what happened in October 1914 in that area. ('Rousselaere' = old spelling for 'Roeselare', in French 'Roulers').

Pages 109-178 are about 'Schuwe Maandag te Roeselare', Monday 19 oct. 1914, focussing on the disastrous events for the civilian population, and the following day.

Right now I can't see what is specifically written about "what happened on the road Roeselare - Westrozebeke on 18 oct." (the day before Schuwe Maandag). But as far as I see in the footnotes no British sources are mentioned...

There are 2 pages (157-158) 'De rol van de Engelsen op 19 oktober' (The part played by the English on 19 Oct).

(All the time I am wondering : were the German troops already on the road from Roeselare to Westrozebeke on Sunday 18 Oct. ? Maybe I should reread these pages.)

And also this : the book only exists in ... Dutch (Flemish)

Aurel

Bixschoote, Belgium:

Great map of the area in front of / area behind Bixschoote.

th_salient0001l6cz.jpg

Alex

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  • 8 years later...

Hello,

 

I only discovered this topic now. On 10 November 1914 it was mainly other units than the first series of Reserve Corps which attacked to the Northeast of Ypres. By that time they were almost bled dry and the Germans sent in other units to force a breakthrough on 10 November: III. Reservekorps, 9. Reserve-Division, and some loose brigades like the 29. Infanterie-Brigade (from 15. Infanterie-Division), 31. Infanterie-Brigade (from 16. Infanterie-Division) etc. One has to read the regimental histories of the units concerned to be aware as their presence is not mentioned in the official German publications about Ypres 1914 (Reichsarchiv).

RIR 209 was near Drie Grachten on 10 November 1914 according to their regimental history, while RIR 210 was in reserve and relieved RIR 212 in the evening of 10-11 November 1914. Both regiments were engaged towards the Canal Ypres-Dixmude more towards Drie Grachten en Steenstrate.

 

Jan

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