Revised objectives for the German attack
14 April 1915
Seven days after the original operational orders (dated 8th April) the German 4th Army commander issued a complementary order for ‘Instructions for the Attack on Pilckem Ridge’. The order stated that “by capturing the high ground near Pilckem it may be expected that it will be impossible for the enemy to remain longer in the Ypres Salient”. A further objective of securing the line of the Yser canal as far as Ypres was also confirmed. The objective of securing a crossing over the Yser canal was to be the task of the XXIII. Reserve Corps (45. and 46. Reserve Divisions).
With the inclusion of the revised objective of crossing the Yser canal at Steenstraat the first objectives for the attack in combination with the trial gas attack were now:
- XXIII. Reserve Corps (45. and 46. Reserve Divisions): A line northwest from Steenstraat-Lizerne-Het Sas to the southwest of Pilckem.
- XXVI. Reserve Corps (52. and 51. Reserve Divisions): the ridge of high ground along the road from Boesinghe-Pilckem-Langemarck-Poelcappelle.
Arrangements for the attack were provided in the additional orders as follows:
- the infantry was to advance with fixed bayonets and unloaded rifles 15 minutes after the gas was released. It was fully expected that the effect of the gas would completely overwhelm the enemy.(1)
Germans Plan to Attack the Next Day, 15th April
As a result of the visit by the Chief of Staff of the German 4th Army, Major-General Ilse, to Supreme Headquarters on 10 April, and the pressure put on 4th Army to carry out the gas trial attack, the Army commander, Duke Albrecht, ordered the attack for Thursday 15th April.(2)
A German Diversion: A Mine Blown at St. Eloi
Close to midnight on 14th April British attention was drawn to the battlefield south of Ypres.
In the British II. Corps sector at 11.15 pm (British time) the Germans fired a mine at St. Eloi following four days of artillery activity. The British artillery put up a barrage in reply, but no German infantry attack was made.
(1) British Military Operations: France and Belgium 1915, p. 189 (translated extract from 'Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918')
(2) Gas! The Battle for Ypres 1915, p. 27