Menin Gate Panel 47
Panel 47 is one of the inscribed panels on the Menin Gate at Ypres bearing the names of those soldiers with no known grave. Panel 47 is important to us because of the number of Sheffield soldiers named upon it. We will explore the early fighting to the east of Ypres that resulted in so much death and destruction. Click here for the known Sheffield Men on Panel 47, and here for Sheffield Men on all the Menin Gate Panels, order by Panel or order by Surname.
Menin Gate Panel 47
Formation of the Ypres
Less than 3 weeks after the British Expeditionary Force crossed the Channel with all its equipment and horses, Britain and Germany locked horns in the first major contact between the two sides. Germany had unleashed a right hook on France, aiming for Paris. They had swept through Belgium from the north-east, squashing any of the Belgian army under foot that got in its way.
The small professional army of Britain, about 100,000 strong, lay in shallow trenches at Mons awaiting the advance of the Germans. This was the army described by the Kaiser in an order to the General commanding the Germans, von Kluck: ‘it is my Royal and Imperial Command that you concentrate your energies for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and that is, you address all your skill and all the valour of my soldiers, to exterminate the treacherous English and walk over General French’s contemptible little army.’
Hence the title ‘The Old Contemptibles’
Field Marshall Sir John French was in overall command of the British Expeditionary Force, which was made up of two Army Corps, the 1st under General Sir Douglas Haig and the 2nd under General Sir Horris Smith-Dorrien.
So, on the morning of the 23rd August 1914, on a 20 mile front, with the French Armies on their right, ‘the contemptible little army’, were waiting for the advance of the Germans in their shallow trenches.
‘Now, let ‘em come’ said the men of the B.E.F. ‘for we don’t give a fuck for old von Kluck … !
And come they did, in their thousands, a wall of field grey.
Thousands of Germans were mown down, but through strength of numbers, what famously became known as the retreat from Mons began. The B.E.F. were harried all the way back to the river Marne. Here they stopped, and the fight back began. A thirty mile gap had appeared between two German armies, into this gap poured allied troops. The Germans were now on the back foot. They retreated to new, strong positions on the River Aisne. Both sides then began to try and out flank each other in a race for control of the Channel ports of Calais, Dunkirk etc. After very hard fighting on the Aisne, Sir Douglas Haig’s 1st Corps detrained at St Omer on the 19th of October. They then advanced towards Bruges and Ghent via Ypres.
The First Ypres, the story continued