La Bassee | Armentieres | 15 Oct 1914

The “Race to the Sea” ends (good, I hate that phrase), more steady advancement at La Bassee and Armentieres, and the clusterfuck at the Vistula deepens.

La Bassee

Having spent all night beating off German counter-attacks, the Allies advance again. Every bridge is guarded, every ditch is garrisoned, every copse has a machine-gun lurking in it. The Germans are going backwards, but they’re still fighting for every yard. Having been pushed back, they’re now intent on holding onto Aubers Ridge long enough for reinforcements to arrive so they can go back on the offensive. The BEF is within sight of Givenchy and Festubert.


The Germans are fighting hard in this sector as well. Did I mention that the weather is still awful? Do I have to? Because it is. It’s bloody awful. It’s Flanders in October. The blokes have crossed the Meterenbecque, taking a steady stream of villages. Steenwerck, Dranoutre, Bailleul, and Le Verrier. Orders are issued to push this advantage and head for the River Lys.


The Belgian army is digging in on the River Yser. The “Race to the Sea” (grr) is over. However, Germany has scrounged up another army to make their play for the Channel ports, a mix of reservists, regulars and barely-trained new recruits. 7th Division advances casually from Ypres in the general direction of a line from Rouleurs to Menin.

Things are starting to turn against Germany on the Vistula. The problems of control and communication that will dog all sides throughout the war are felt particularly badly on the Eastern Front owing to the increased distances involved. The story I’ve seen most often makes it all seem like this four-way blindfold Muay Thai fight, and it naturally makes it rather hard to build a narrative. It seems about nowish that the Russians begin obtaining a number of local advantages that will soon prove very worrying.

Actions in Progress

Battle of the Vistula
Battle of La Bassee
Battle of Armentieres

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: The Belgian Appeal is doubling in size every day (page 9), a walt gets hauled up in court for pretending to be an Army officer (page 2), and a leader makes a truly hilarious effort to pretend that the fall of Antwerp is both irrelevant, and actually a Good Thing (page 8).

We ought to recognise clearly that the retention of Antwerp was not in any respect a vital military interest to the cause of the Allies, and that their strategy has never treated it as such.

(The leader-writer subsequently went on to claim that black is white, and died on the next zebra crossing.)

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