Into The Trenches

In September 1914, British and French forces attacked the German army at the River Marne in France. The Germans were forced to retreat North, but stopped the allied advance at the Battle of the River Aisne on 12 September 1914. They dug trenches to defend against further attacks. Both sides realised they could not break through and began to move northwards, trying to manoeuvre round each other in what became known as the ‘Race to the Sea’.

Between October 1914 and May 1915, two key battles at Ypres saw the end of mobile warfare. The Allies tried to move forward while Germany defended land it had won. Now dug into trenches, a stalemate was reached that would last to the end of the war.

Conditions in the primitive trenches during the winter of 1914–15 were described by one K.O.Y.L.I. officer as ‘a period of unmitigated hardship and unremitting toil.’

Between February and April 1915, soldiers from the 1st Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. joined 2nd Battalion in the trenches at Ypres in Belgium. During the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April to 25 May 1915), the Germans used a new weapon: gas.

a greenish-yellowish cloud. Men looked at it in wonderment, such a phenomenon had never before been seen.

Lt. F. K. Lambert, officer with 1st K.O.Y.L.I. describing the gas

In late 1915, soldiers from 1/4th K.O.Y.L.I. were involved in digging trenches in the area around Ypres. They gave these Yorkshire names: Barnsley, Huddersfield and Halifax Road.