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[27], Underneath the soil is London clay, sand and silt; according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission categories of sand, sandy soils and well-balanced soils, Messines ridge is well-balanced soil and the ground around Ypres is sandy soil. [58] In the II Corps area, the disappointment of 10 August was repeated, with the infantry managing to advance, then being isolated by German artillery and forced back to their start line by German counter-attacks, except in the 25th Division area near Westhoek. Yet Haig's decision to continue into November remains deeply controversial and the arguments, like the battle, seem destined to go on and on. For Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British commander-in-chief, this provided an opportunity to launch an offensive that he had long wanted. Having prophesied a decisive success, it had taken over three months, 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties to do little more than make the bump of the Ypres salient somewhat larger. The infantry were supported by artillery-observation and ground-attack aircraft; a box-barrage was fired behind the British front-line, which isolated the British infantry from reinforcements and ammunition. The capture of the ridge inflated Haig's confidence and preparations began. The station at Roulers was on the main supply route of the German 4th Army. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since 1917 include the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France. [32] On 14 February 1917, Colonel Norman MacMullen of GHQ proposed that the plateau be taken by a massed tank attack, reducing the need for artillery; in April a reconnaissance by Captain Giffard LeQuesne Martel found that the area was unsuitable for tanks. Poelcappelle was captured but the attack at the junction between the 34th and 35th divisions was repulsed. The infantry advance succeeded but German artillery-fire and infantry counter-attacks isolated the infantry of the 18th (Eastern) Division in Glencorse Wood. The Battle of the Lys (Fourth Battle of Ypres) and the Fifth Battle of Ypres of 1918, were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier. The British lost an estimated 275,000 casualties at Passchendaele to the German’s 220,000, making it one of the war’s most costly battles of attrition. The British front line was cut off and German infantry attacked in three waves at 5:30 a.m.[101] Two determined German attacks were repulsed south of Cameron Covert, then at 7:00 p.m. German troops massed near the Menin road. [145], Various casualty figures have been published for the Third Battle of Ypres, sometimes with acrimony; the highest estimates for British and German casualties appear to be discredited but the British claim to have taken 24,065 prisoners has not been disputed. [159] A German attack on 11 March was repulsed; after that the Germans made no more attacks, keeping up frequent artillery bombardments and machine-gun fire instead. Both sides raided and the British used night machine-gun fire and artillery barrages to great effect. [120] The German 195th Division at Passchendaele suffered 3,325 casualties from 9 to 12 October and had to be relieved by the 238th Division. Haig was sceptical of a coastal operation, believing that a landing from the sea would be far more difficult than anticipated and that an advance along the coast would require so much preparation, that the Germans would have ample warning. The Battle of Passchendaele [Note 1] was one of the major battles of the First World War, taking place between July and November 1917. By coincidence, the Germans sought to recapture their defences around Zonnebeke with a Gegenangriff at the same time. [138] A decade later, Jack Sheldon wrote that relative casualty figures were irrelevant, because the German army could not afford the losses or to lose the initiative by being compelled to fight another defensive battle on ground of the Allies' choosing. On July 31st, they officially launched the Third Battle of Ypres. Passchendaele has become popular with the misery of grinding attrition warfare. Haig had reservations and on 6 January Nivelle agreed to a proviso that if the first two parts of the operation failed to lead to a breakthrough, the operations would be stopped and the British could move their forces north for the Flanders offensive, which was of great importance to the British government. [142] On 24 October, the Austro-German 14th Army (General der Infanterie Otto von Below), attacked the Italian Second Army on the Isonzo at the Battle of Caporetto and in 18 days, inflicted casualties of 650,000 men and 3,000 guns. In Britain, it became synonymous with the horrifying brutality of trench warfare. The Canadian Corps launched a final action on 10 November, to gain control of the remaining high ground north of the village near Hill 52. The Third Battle of Ypres had pinned the German army to Flanders and caused unsustainable casualties. If manpower and artillery were insufficient, only the first part of the plan might be fulfilled. In Haig's defence, the rationale for an offensive was clear and many agreed that the Germans could afford the casualties less than the Allies, who were being reinforced by America's entry into the war. [156], The area to the east and south of the ruins of Passchendaele village was held by posts, those to the east being fairly habitable, unlike the southern ones; from Passchendaele as far back as Potijze, the ground was far worse. [95], Plumer ordered the attack due on 26 September to go ahead but reduced the objectives of the 33rd Division. [56] Hermann von Kuhl, chief of staff of Army Group Crown Prince Rupprecht, wrote later that it was a costly defeat and wrecked the plan for relieving fought-out (exhausted) divisions in Flanders. We start the day in the heart of the ‘Third Battle of Ypres’ or ‘Battle of Passchendaele’ as it is more commonly known. Expanding the salient would make the troops in it less vulnerable to German artillery-fire and provide a better jumping off line for a resumption of the offensive in the spring of 1918. The Canadian Corps' participation in the Second Battle of Passchendaele is commemorated with the Passchendaele Memorial at site of the Crest Farm on the south-west fringe of Passchendaele village. Soldiers during the First World War's battle of Passchendaele. [160] When the German armies further south began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918, "good" divisions in Flanders were sent south; the 29th Division was withdrawn on 9 April and transferred to the Lys. This had not been done in earlier battles and vacant ground, there for the taking, had been re-occupied by the Germans. The battle was fought for control of a village named Passchendaele. Worn-out divisions from the south had been sent to Flanders to recuperate closer to the coast. [119] The Battle of Cambrai began on 20 November and the British breached the first two parts of the Hindenburg Line, in the first successful mass use of tanks in a combined arms operation. [112], On 7 October, the 4th Army again dispersed its troops in the front defence zone. Since 1914 much of the drainage had been destroyed, though some parts were restored by land drainage companies from England. The offensive was to continue, to reach a suitable line for the winter and to keep German attention on Flanders, with a French attack due on 23 October and the Third Army operation south of Arras scheduled for mid-November. A discrepancy of, For British losses, Edmonds used data based on figures submitted by the Adjutant-General's Department to the Allied Supreme War Council on 25 February 1918; Edmonds also showed weekly returns to GHQ, giving a slightly lower total of, Orders of battle for the German attack on Vimy Ridge, German defensive preparations: June – July 1917, The British set-piece attack in late 1917, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, "Duke of Cambridge leads Commemorations on 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele", "Battle of Passchendaele Centenary: Prince Charles Honours 'Courage and Bravery' of British Soldiers", "New Zealand Memorial (Gravenstafel ridge)", "Tribute to Scots Soldiers at Passchendaele", Passchendaele – Canada's Other Vimy Ridge, Norman Leach, Canadian Military Journal, Passchendaele, original reports from The Times, Armistice between Russia and the Central Powers,, Battles of World War I involving Australia, Battles of World War I involving New Zealand, Battles of World War I involving South Africa, Battles of World War I involving the United Kingdom, Battles of the Western Front (World War I), Events of National Historic Significance (Canada), Short description is different from Wikidata, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 12 January 2021, at 20:11. Next day, the German positions near the wood were swept away in the Battle of Polygon Wood. Members of the British Royal family and Prime Minister Theresa May joined the ceremonies, which started in the evening of 30 July with the service at Menin Gate, followed by ceremonies at the Market Square. A campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. Progress on roads, rail lines, railheads and spurs in the Second Army zone was continuous and by mid-1917, gave the area the most efficient supply system of the BEF. Although the 110 was faster than the Hurricane and almost as fast as the Spitfire, its lack of manoeuvrability and acceleration meant that it was a failure as a long-range escort fighter. [153] In 1959, Cyril Falls estimated 240,000 British, 8,525 French and 260,000 German casualties. [140], At a British conference on 13 October, the Third Army (General Julian Byng) scheme for an attack in mid-November was discussed. [164], The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations (except New Zealand) who died in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. The attack succeeded by 2:00 p.m. and later in the afternoon, the 100th Brigade re-took the ground lost north of the Menin road. The term “Battle of Passchendaele” is confusingly used to refer to both a month-long campaign and two battles within it. The British were further encouraged by the success of the attack on Messines Ridge on 7 June 1917. The final objectives were largely gained before dark and the British had fewer losses than the expected 50 per cent in the initial attack. Battle of the Bulge; Part of the Western Front of World War II: American soldiers of the 117th Infantry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard, part of the 30th Infantry Division, move past a destroyed American M5A1 "Stuart" tank on their march to recapture the town of St. Vith during the Battle … Group Dixmude held 12 mi (19 km) with four front divisions and two Eingreif divisions, Group Ypres held 6 mi (9.7 km) from Pilckem to Menin Road with three front divisions and two Eingreif divisions and Group Wijtschate held a similar length of front south of the Menin road, with three front divisions and three Eingreif divisions. [97] Each of the three German ground-holding divisions attacked on 26 September, had an Eingreif division in support, twice the ratio of 20 September. Other answers will cover the military details, this is more about the “feel” or “sense” of the battle and how it’s remembered today. The area was quiet apart from artillery-fire and in December the weather turned cold and snowy, which entailed a great effort to prevent trench foot. The attack had most success on the northern flank, on the fronts of XIV Corps and the French First Army, both of which advanced 2,500–3,000 yd (1.4–1.7 mi; 2.3–2.7 km) to the line of the Steenbeek river. On 2 October, Rupprecht had ordered the 4th Army HQ to avoid over-centralising command, only to find that Loßberg had issued an artillery plan detailing the deployment of individual batteries. In fewer than three hours, many units reached their final objectives and Passchendaele was captured. [14] The plan for a year of attrition offensives on the Western Front, with the main effort to be made in the summer by the BEF, was scrapped by the new French Commander-in-Chief Robert Nivelle in favour of a return to a strategy of decisive battle. During a seven-day pause, the Second Army took over another section of the Fifth Army front adjoining the Canadian Corps. It had quickly overcome its depression. An occupier also has the advantage that artillery deployments and the movement of reinforcements, supplies and stores can be screened from view. The British and French commanders on the Western Front had to reckon on the German western army (Westheer) being strengthened by reinforcements from the Ostheer on the Eastern Front by late 1917. German strongpoints and pillboxes along the St Julien–Poelcappelle road in front of the Wilhelmstellung were captured. The main road to Ypres from Poperinge to Vlamertinge is in a defile, easily observed from the ridge. Meeting at Chantilly, France, in November 1916, Allied leaders discussed plans for the upcoming year. Originally planned to break out of the Ypres Salient and roll up the Belgian coast, by the time it came to an end in November 1917, the British Expeditionary Force had advanced just five miles and sustained more than 200,000 casualties. By blaming an individual, the rest of the German commanders were exculpated, which gave a false impression that OHL operated in a rational manner, when Ludendorff imposed another defensive scheme on 7 October. [77] The Second Army attacks were to remain limited and infantry brigade tactics were changed to attack the first objective with a battalion each and the final one with two battalions, the opposite of the Fifth Army practice on 31 July, to adapt to the dispersed defences being encountered between the Albrechtstellung and the Wilhelmstellung. [167] In July 2017 a two-day event was organised in Ypres to mark the centenary of the battle. On the Baltic coast from 1 to 5 September 1917, the Germans attacked with their strategic reserve of six divisions and captured Riga. The Battle of Passchendaele started on July 31, 1917 and lasted for three months and six days. After mutinies had begun in the French armies, the British cabinet felt compelled to endorse the Flanders offensive, in the hope that more refusals to fight could be "averted by a great [military] success". The Allied victory was achieved at enormous cost for … This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Monday marks 100 years since the Battle of Passchendaele, ... Those who fought there included Harry Patch, the "Last Tommy" who died aged 111 in 2009. [163] The 4th Army diary recorded that the withdrawal was discovered at 4:40 a.m. Next day, at the Battle of Merckem, the Germans attacked from Houthulst Forest, north-east of Ypres and captured Kippe but were forced out by Belgian counter-attacks, supported by the II Corps artillery. [60], On the higher ground, the Germans continued to inflict many losses on the British divisions beyond Langemarck but on 19 August, after two fine dry days, XVIII Corps conducted a novel infantry, tank, aircraft and artillery operation. [153] Prior and Wilson, in 1997, gave British losses of 275,000 and German casualties at just under 200,000. Hussey wrote that the wet weather in August 1917 was exceptional, Haig had been justified in expecting little rain, swiftly dried by sunshine and breezes. Pause, the 7th Division charged the Ottoman lines Allies repeatedly assaulted it ( September–October 1917 ), World I. The Battle of Passchendaele regular maintenance Plumer and the instructions he had received Haig... Sinking Allied merchant ships in international waters, five layers of barrage fired by British failed... At Gravenstafel Ridge on 4 October, were at an equal disadvantage and were costly failures Zealand who... 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