4/5/1915 Ypres: the line shortens

Fighting at Ypres continues. The Germans have continued to deploy gas to devastating effect, killing many Allied soldiers but failing to make a breakthrough. Allied counter-attacks have tried to recapture lost ground but without much success. Many on the British side feel that the French are not pressing attacks in their part of the line with sufficient vigour. There may be some truth to this. Joffre is planning his own offensive in the Artois region and so is committing the bare minimum of forces to the Ypres sector. Foch, the local French commander, does not have the men to strike back hard at the Germans. But the British too are keeping troops back for their own planned offensive, so they should not be too judgemental.

German gains on the 22nd of May have left many of the British and Canadian forces in the Ypres salient in an exposed position. Smith-Dorrien, the British commander at Ypres, fears that a renewed German thrust could leave his men cut off. He proposes a withdrawal to a shorter and more defensible line. French, the senior British commander on the Western Front sees this as indicating a failure of nerve on Smith-Dorrien’s part. He relieves Smith-Dorrien of his command, replacing him with General Herbert Plumer. Plumer promptly orders a withdrawal to a shorter and more defensible line.

image source (Webmatters: Carte de Route)

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