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La Bataille de l'Yser...

La Bataille de l'Yser...

Unknown printmaker
La Bataille de l’Yser…
The Battle of the Yser. Admirable resistance of Belgian soldiers
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1914
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 20 from the series La Grande Guerre

During September and October the opposing forces were locked in the last deadly battles of the Western Front of 1914, in what is called the ‘Race to the Sea’ (see no. 19 ). The Belgian army took up position behind the Yser river, which runs through West Flanders and flows out into the North Sea at the town of Nieuwpoort. They were joined there by French reinforcements. The defense of the Yser Canal is known as the Battle of the Yser. The First Battle of Ypres ( Première Bataille des Flandres ) took place at the same time (19 Oct - 22 Nov).

In the caption the conflict is described as one of the biggest of 1914, lasting from 24 to 28 October. In fact, fighting began on 16 October and did not end until 10 November. The conclusion of the conflict established the line of the Western Front.

This image is the most violent and bloody of the series, showing dead soldiers lying in watery mire, a visualization of the ‘bridge of corpses’ mentioned in the caption. In a manner that is typical of the series, the text clings to the positives, claiming that the colossal German force received a lesson in courage from the small Belgian people. In reality losses to French and Belgian troops were also severe.

The French caption with English translation:

Ce fut une des plus grandes bataille de 1914 : elle dura du 24 au 28 octobre. Les Allemands avaient tenté là un coup d’audace pour briser les lignes alliées, ils échouèrent piteusement. Les héroïques soldats belges se défendirent avec une énergie surhumaine, un feu d’enfer accueillit l’armée allemandes à chacune de ses tentatives ; elle attaqua seize fois, seize fois elle fut repoussée avec des pertes énormes, laissent un pont de cadavres sur l’Yser, dont les eaux furent rougies. Ce fut un horrifiant, mais une belle leçon de courage que donna le petit peuple belge au colosse allemand.

The Battle of the Yser. Admirable resistance of Belgian soldiers
It was one of the biggest battles of 1914, lasting from 24 -28 October. The Germans attempted an audacious move to break the allied lines, but they failed miserably. The heroic Belgian soldiers defended themselves with superhuman energy; hellfire welcomed the German army at each of their attempts. She attacked six times, and six times she was repulsed with heavy losses, leaving a bridge of corpses on the Yser, whose waters were reddened. It was horrifying, but the small Belgian people gave the German colossus a lesson in courage.

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