Ypres, battles of, three major engagements of World War I fought in and around the town of Ypres in SW Belgium. The first battle of Ypres (Oct.–Nov., 1914) was the last of the series of engagements referred to as “the race for the sea.” The German thrust toward the Channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais was stopped by the British at Ypres, but in the process the British Expeditionary Force of 100,000 was reduced to half its original size. The second battle began on Apr. 22, 1915, when the Germans, using poison gas for the first time in the war, launched another massive assault on the salient at Ypres. The attack was unsuccessful and was broken off in May. The third battle of Ypres, popularly known as Passchendaele, began on July 31, 1917, and continued until November. The British sought to break the German line, but, bogged down by mud and rain, they advanced only 5 mi (8 km) at a cost of 300,000 lives.
See A. Farrar-Hockley, Death of an Army (1967); E. N. Gladden, Ypres, 1917 (1967).
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