The Allies and the Germans have been trying to outflank each other, extending their lines ever closer to the coast. The Belgian army, fearing encirclement and annihilation, has retreated to the line of the Yser river, holding just a sliver of their country with their backs to the French border. The Germans prepare to attack them, hoping to advance along the coast and seize the channel ports.
Further inland, British and German cavalry clash near the town of Ypres. Now the race to the sea is over. The two sides have troops positioned all the way from the Channel to the Swiss border. There is no open flank to turn.
Neither side is planning to sit on the defensive just yet. The frontline is not yet continuous and mobile warfare still seems possible. The Allies think there is a gap between the Germans facing the Belgians along the Yser and the main German forces to the south. They hope to push into this gap and recapture Lille before achieving a strategic victory. For his part, Germany’s Falkenhayn is planning not just to assault the Belgians but also to drive on Ypres and then push on to the coast. The stage is set being set for carnage.
image source (Gale Virtual Reference Library)