The German Army in the Ypres Salient 1914-1918
A fresh perspective
The aim of this tour is to change the common view and perception of the battles of Ypres and to approach the war in the salient from a new and different angle: the experience of the “Feldgrauen”, the German soldiers of the First World War. The tour will explore and explain the years 1914 to 1918 in the Ypres salient from a German perspective and embed this in the bigger picture of the German war machine of the First World War and the legacy of the veterans’ experiences of the “Flandernschlachten”, the battles of Flanders.
Led by Dr Matthias Strohn, a leading German military historian and soldier presently on secondment to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, we will physically, psychologically and historically re-orientate your views of the salient and the Western Front in general.
We will be based in the historic town of Ypres with its wealth of wonderful architecture and restaurants.
The Ypres Salient and the battles that raged there continue to fascinate everybody with an interest in the First World War. In most sectors of the Western Front, long periods of nearly peaceful co-existence occurred between the opposing forces, but not so in the Ypres Salient. From 1914 to 1918 there was continuous fighting and nearly every year saw a major offensive. And yet we normally only explore one side of the story and the history and the stories of the German Army and the German men who fought in the salient are very often forgotten. By taking this German experience we at last see “the other side of the hill”, and get a fresh perspective on this well-known theme.
- Tour with leading German Military Historian, Dr Matthias Strohn
- Exploring both sides of the story
- Visit the newly renovated In Flanders Fields Museum
- Particular focus on Passchendaele
Day 1 – Ypres. Travel to Lille by Eurostar and thence to Ypres by road and check-in to our hotel for 3 nights. We will visit Gheluvelt which, in October 1914, saw heavy fighting between the British defenders and the advancing German troops. We will analyse the German advance and we will in particular look at the actions of the Bavarian Reserve Infanterie Regiment 16 which received its baptism of fire at Gheluvelt. One particular member of the regiment, a war volunteer called Adolf Hitler, was also present during the battle. We will re-trace his footsteps and analyse how he used this battle for his propaganda in the later stages of his life.
Day 2 – Langemarck. We spend the first half of the day analysing the German offensives of 1914. This includes a visit to the Langemarck cemetery where we will be exploring the “Langemarck myth” and the role this battle played in the national German (and Hitler’s!) mind. The afternoon is devoted to the German offensives of 1915 and the first use of gas on the Western Front. We learn about the military context of the gas attack and explore the unhappy fate of the father of the German gas warfare programme.
Day 3 – Passchendaele. The first part of the day is spent exploring German trench positions and learning about the development of German tactics in trench warfare during the war. The “emptiness of the battlefield” and “defence in depth” are concepts that are explained and related to the situation in the Ypres sector of the Western Front. In the afternoon we look at the most famous battle in the Ypres sector: 3rd Ypres and the battle for Passchendaele. We follow a German officer through his personal experience of the early phase of the battle and we visit the locations that he served and suffered in during these days.
Day 4 – Mount Kemmel. In the morning we visit the locations of the German offensive in 1918 in the Mount Kemmel area and we analyse this last and desperate gamble of the German army to win the war. Late afternoon return to London from Lille with Eurostar.
Recommended Reading List
To be confirmed