Ypres Salient map highlighting the area of the German attack on the French line.German account of the scene behind the advance

22 April 1915: 17.55

A German soldier, moving from the reserve behind the German assaulting troops, gave an account of the scene of misery as he passed through the French enemy positions:

“We reached our German front line trenches, which had already been bridged for us to cross over them easily. Scrambling over about 150 metres of no-mans-land we got to the enemy's front line trench. There we came across the first dead bodies. By now daylight had given way to dusk and we could see the flickering lights carried by the medical teams as they went about their work looking for the wounded.

Officers galloped by... (1)

Then we encountered the first group of French prisoners. We were surprised that they were not the proud young sons of 'La Grande Nation' whom we had expected to see; they were old men with grief-stricken faces. Amongst them were black soldiers wearing colourful clothes. There were also civilians in the column in horsedrawn carts, mainly women and children. Scruffy dogs bounded around the wheels of the carts and the legs of the people on foot. As the sad little procession was being escorted to the rear by our troops it was silhouetted against the light of fires from burning farmhouses. Like images in a kaleidescope these scenes passed us by as we marched on into the darkening night.

Artillery and munitions columns overtook us. Regimental staff officers galloped past on horseback. As we marched on through the remains of enemy positions we witnessed more and more misery. A growing number of military prisoners and frightened civilians passed us on the road. A herd of frightened, bellowing cows was driven by. They were all heading in the direction we had come from. As we marched on the guns of our heavy artillery fired shell after shell over our heads and into the town of Ypres.” (2)

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(1) Sketch from Geschichte des Reserve-Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 209

(2) Der Völkerkrieg, Band V, p. 163