Portugal relives day of WWI horror in worst-ever defeat

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By Robert Hackwill
Portugal relives day of WWI horror in worst-ever defeat

It is a lesser-known battle of the first world war, unless you are Portuguese that is, for whom the Battle of the Lys, or fourth battle of Ypres, was a traumatism. It is considered as one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted on Portuguese forces, ever.

Defeat perhaps, but against terrible odds.

"It was here 100 years ago, the second division of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was decimated by 8 divisions of the German army. [...] 7000 of our men were killed, injured or taken prisoner in under eight hours," said Portuguese President Rebelo de Sousa.

France's president assured his nation's thanks would be undying.

"Hundreds of Portuguese soldiers died on this day whilst courageously carrying out an unfair battle that put 20,000 of their own against over 50,000 Germans," he said.

The Portuguese division was at barely half-strength and had been badly mauled. Its men were tired, and due to be relieved the following day. Instead they had to face 22 days of slaughter as they covered retreats and held positions so French and British forces could regroup and counter-attack.