Givenchy | 12 Oct 1914

The Allies open the Battle of La Bassee at Givenchy, Sir John French moves house again, and the Boers are revolting.


The BEF is in action again, and they’re giving Jerry hell. By the end of the day they’ve advanced nearly a mile to Givenchy, and repelled a vicious German counter-attack. The weather is cool and wet, but that’s not dampening Tommy’s fighting spirit. On the other hand, to achieve the planned advance, they need to be going further and quicker. Sadly, nobody appears to have told the Germans this, and they’re making the British troops scrap, fight and claw for every slight incline, every tree and every farmhouse.


Cavalry patrols clash with each other in the vicinity of Messines; the British cavalry scatters the Uhlans.

German troops unexpectedly appear at Lille, and capture the town after a short but vigorous action. This is a major blow; as mentioned before, a major railway line runs through Lille, and it’s an important junction.

The Battle of the Vistula judders onwards. The Russians are in short supply of just about everything, and their fighting strength is significantly depleted. Many of their men are conducting informal resupply exercises in Warsaw.

Martial law is declared in South Africa. While Louis Botha and Jan Smuts both remain loyal, there’s a significant movement of disgruntled Boers who have no desire to fight for the empire that defeated them a decade ago, and who feel they should be casting their lot in with Germany instead of Britain.

A Note on Belgian Place-Names

We’re going to be spending a significant amount of time in Belgium, and in Flanders. Before we do that, a quick note for those of you who are trying to follow along at home.

As any fule kno, Belgium has one major division (and of course they hate each other); Flanders (to the north) and Wallonia (to the south). The Walloons speak French (sort of), and the Flemish speak Dutch (mostly). The story of the Belgian language wars is long and boring. The practical upshot is that in 1914 (and for many years afterwards), many Belgian place names were rendered by English sources in their French forms, even if they were in Flanders. Not all of them were; but the larger or more important a place was, the more likely it was to be referred to by a French name. This is why you’ll see in any English-language treatment of the war place-names such as Dixmude, Roulers and Ypres (all taking French forms), but also Zillebeke, Hooge and Ploegsteert, their names being as French as a faithful marriage.

This can make following the course of events on a modern map difficult, because Dutch names have asserted themselves in the meantime, and only Ypres still takes its French name on an English map (for obvious reasons). Dixmude is now Diksmuide, Roulers is now Roeselare. “Menin” tends to refer exclusively to the Menin Gate memorial; the settlement at the end of that infamous road is now Menen. Even better, some Flemish names now have different spellings. Gheluvelt is now Geluveld, and hopefully it’s still obvious where Passendale is.

Actions in Progress

Battle of the Vistula
Battle of La Bassee

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: the fall of Antwerp, the paper launches a charity appeal to benefit the Belgian people, and an eyewitness report on page 12 claims to have heard gramophones in the German trenches. Just underneath it, there’s an interesting note about frustrated units getting their engineers to go out sapping and mining. This is not the last we’ll hear of such things…

Over on Tumblr, Today in World War I features the events in South Africa.

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