90 years ago….
The 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres or simply Third Ypres, was one of the major battles of World War I. In this battle, British, ANZAC, Canadian and South African units engaged the Imperial German Army. The battle was fought for control of the village of Passchendaele (now called Passendale) near the town of Ypres (now called Ieper) in West Flanders, Belgium. The plan was to drive a hole in the German lines and advance to the Belgian coast and capture the German submarine bases there. It was intended to create a decisive corridor in a crucial area of the front, and to take pressure off the French forces. After the Nivelle Offensive the French Army was suffering from extremely low morale, resulting in mutinies and misconduct on a scale that threatened the field-worthiness of entire divisions.
The battle was not all fought in mud and rain as there were spells of good weather lasting long enough to dry out the land. Most of the battle took place on largely reclaimed marshland, swampy even without rain. The extremely heavy preparatory bombardment by the British tore up the surface of the land, and heavy rain from August onwards produced an impassable terrain of deep "liquid mud", in which an unknown number of soldiers drowned. Even the newly-developed tanks bogged down.
The Germans were well-entrenched, with mutually-supporting pillboxes which the initial bombardment had not destroyed. After three months of fierce fighting the Canadian Corps took Passchendaele on 6 November 1917, ending the battle, but in the meantime the Allied Powers had sustained almost half a million casualties and the Germans just over a quarter of a million. In the history of World War I, the term ‘Passchendaele’ has become emblematic of the horror of industrialised warfare.
Today the British Queen Elisabeth and her husband Prins Philip visited Passendale to remember 500.000 lives ..