The ‘Race to the Sea’, as it became known, was conducted from September to November 1914 and ended after the First Battle of Ypres and the onset of trench warfare in the Western Front. In fact the Race to the Sea was the last mobile phase of the war on the Western Front until the German Spring Offensive of March 1918.
Both sides, most notably the Germans, attempted to gain an advantage by pressing their attacks further north into Flanders which was the only remaining open flank for manoeuvre. Each side constantly strove to outmanoeuvre the other. However, all attempts were thwarted as each side consistently dug in and prepared effective trench defences.
Once the trench lines had reached the coast, focus switched to the opposite direction all the way to the (neutral) Swiss border, some 400 miles in length. During this earlier period control of the Channel coast was regarded as a strategic priority and justified the tag ‘Race to the Sea’; ultimately however both sides did find themselves in possession of given Channel ports.
Regarded as a draw by the close of November, each side settled down to a protracted bout of trench warfare, punctuated at various points by attempts, largely allied, to decisively puncture the enemy line. These notable attempts were at the Somme, the Aisne and Passchendaele.
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