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battle of passchendaele objective

The main ridge has spurs sloping east and one is particularly noticeable at Wytschaete, which runs 2 mi (3.2 km) south-east to Messines (Mesen) with a gentle slope on the east side and a 1:10 decline westwards. [93] Minor attacks took place after 20 September, as both sides jockeyed for position and reorganised their defences. In Operation Albion (September–October 1917), the Germans took the islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. Sir William Robert Robertson, chief of the British Imperial General Staff, now began to feel increasing doubts, but he did not disclose them to the war cabinet, despite his role as the official military adviser to the government. [65], In Field Marshal Earl Haig (1929), Brigadier-General John Charteris, the BEF Chief of Intelligence from 1915 to 1918, wrote that. Roads and light railways were extended to the new front line, to allow artillery and ammunition to be moved forward. [41] Since mid-1915, the British had been mining under the German positions on the ridge and by June 1917, 21 mines had been filled with nearly 1,000,000 lb (454 t) of explosives. German troops engaged were from the 239th, 39th, 4th, 44th Reserve, 7th, 11th, 11th Bavarian, 238th, 199th, 27th, 185th, 111th and 40th divisions. Ironically, the mud also saved lives, cushioning many of the shells that landed and preventing their explosion. On the one side were the British, the Canadians, and the French (the US had entered the war in April of that year, but our troops had not yet reached Over There), and on the other side, of course, were the Germans. [37], The Germans were anxious that the British would attempt to exploit the victory of the Battle of Messines, with an advance to the Tower Hamlets spur beyond the north end of Messines Ridge. Advances in the north of the attack front were retained by British and French troops but most of the ground taken in front of Passchendaele and on the Becelaere and Gheluvelt spurs was lost to German counter-attacks. [133], In a German General Staff publication, it was written that "Germany had been brought near to certain destruction (sicheren Untergang) by the Flanders battle of 1917". They began their advance on the 12th October at 5.25am. Careful investigation of records of more than eighty years showed that in Flanders the weather broke early each August with the regularity of the Indian monsoon: once the Autumn rains set in difficulties would be greatly enhanced....Unfortunately, there now set in the wettest August for thirty years. Updates? [16] On 23 January, Haig wrote that it would take six weeks to move British troops and equipment to Flanders and on 14 March, noted that the Messines Ridge operation could begin in May. The Canadian Corps relieved the exhausted II Anzac Corps, continuing the advance started with the First Battle of … The armies under British command suffered some 275,000 casualties at Passchendaele, a figure that makes a mockery of Haig’s pledge that he would not commit the country to "heavy losses.” Among these were 38,000 Australians, 5,300 New Zealanders, and more than 15,600 Canadians; this final figure was almost exactly the total that had been predicted by Currie ahead of the battle. [51] The main attack, by II Corps across the Ghelveult Plateau to the south, confronted the principal German defensive concentration of artillery, ground-holding divisions (Stellungsdivisionen) and Eingreif divisions. The objective was to eliminate a German salient between Avion and the west end of Lens, by taking reservoir Hill (Hill 65) and Hill 70. 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, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Battle_of_Passchendaele&oldid=1002106935, 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 22 January 2021, at 22:10. August 1917 had three dry days and 14 days with less than 1 mm (0 in) of rain. Systematic defensive artillery-fire was forfeited by the Germans, due to uncertainty over the position of their infantry, just when the British infantry benefited from the opposite. Plumer declined the suggestion, as eight fresh German divisions were behind the battlefield, with another six beyond them. Ypres was a very difficult place to fight. Haig preferred an advance from Ypres, to bypass the flooded area around the Yser and the coast, before attempting a coastal attack to clear the coast to the Dutch border. He suggested that the southern attack from St Yves to Mont Sorrel should come first and that Mont Sorrel to Steenstraat should be attacked within 48–72 hours. [30], Preparations for operations in Flanders began in 1915, with the doubling of the Hazebrouck–Ypres rail line and the building of a new line from Bergues to Proven, which was doubled in early 1917. The New Zealanders were involved in the Battle for Bellevue Spur, the second of the two small rises leading to the Passchendaele Ridge. [122] On 18 October, Kuhl advocated a retreat as far to the east as possible; Armin and Loßberg wanted to hold on, because the ground beyond the Passchendaele watershed was untenable, even in winter. As the infantry advanced over the far edge of the ridge, German artillery and machine-guns east of the ridge opened fire and the British artillery was less able to suppress them. [28] The ground is drained by many streams, canals and ditches, which need regular maintenance. An occupier also has the advantage that artillery deployments and the movement of reinforcements, supplies and stores can be screened from view. [21], The Russian army conducted the Kerensky Offensive in Galicia, to honour the agreement struck with the Allies at the Chantilly meeting of 15 to 16 November 1916. [98], At 4:00 a.m. on 30 September, a thick mist covered the ground and at 4:30 a.m. German artillery began a bombardment between the Menin road and the Reutelbeek. The capture of Hill 70 was a costly success in which three Canadian divisions inflicted many casualties on the German divisions opposite and pinned down troops reserved for the relief of tired divisions in Flanders. only the first part of which was quoted by Lloyd George (1934), Liddell Hart (1934) and Leon Wolff (1959); in a 1997 essay, John Hussey called the passage by Charteris "baffling". [146] In 1940, C. R. M. F. Cruttwell recorded 300,000 British casualties and 400,000 German. Engagements took place on 12 February at Boesinghe and on 14 February at Hooge and Sanctuary Wood. Haig replied that he thought there were no grounds for such fears. He began by dwelling on the “exhaustion” of the German army and its declining morale. [68] In 1989, Philip Griffiths examined August weather in Flanders for the thirty years before 1916 and found that. The effect, however, proved too intoxicating behind the front. Loßberg disagreed, believing that the British would launch a broad front offensive, that the ground east of the Sehnenstellung was easy to defend and that the Menin road ridge could be held if it was made the Schwerpunkt (point of main effort) of the German defensive system. It was everyone’s perception of what the Western Front was like - a bleak, overcast and flooded plain mutilated by artillery and lashed by months of torrential rain. The New Zealand Division made its first attack on the 4th of October 1917. United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot Cemetery. But, although he failed to reach his objective—the Belgian coast—he did weaken the Germans and helped prepare the way…. [45], Haig selected Gough to command the offensive on 30 April, and on 10 June Gough and the Fifth Army headquarters took over the Ypres salient north of Messines Ridge. [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. When the German offensive failed, Falkenhayn ordered the capture of Ypres to gain a local advantage. [113] All of the German divisions holding front zones were relieved and an extra division brought forward, because the British advances had lengthened the front line. By the spring of 1917, Germany had resumed the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking merchant ships in international waters. The best way to describe the Third Ypres (Passchendaele) Campaign of 1917. Two battalions of the 2nd New Zealand Brigade of the New Zealand Division attacked the low ridge, from which German observers could view the area from Cameron Covert to the north and the Menin road to the south-west. To the east the land is at 66–82 ft (20–25 m) for several miles, with the Steenbeek river at 49 ft (15 m) near St Julien. [114][d], The French First Army and British Second and Fifth armies attacked on 9 October, on a 13,500 yd (7.7 mi; 12.3 km) front, from south of Broodseinde to St Jansbeek, to advance half of the distance from Broodseinde ridge to Passchendaele, on the main front, which led to many casualties on both sides. Three rainless days from 3–5 November eased preparation for the next stage, which began on the morning of 6 November, with the 1st Canadian Division and the 2nd Canadian Division. On 30 April, Haig told Gough, the Fifth Army commander, that he would lead the Northern Operation and the coastal force, although Cabinet approval for the offensive was not granted until 21 June. Every effort was to be made to induce the British to reinforce their forward positions with infantry for the German artillery to bombard them. [126] The Germans had to withdraw from their remaining positions on the Chemin des Dames to the north of the Ailette Valley early in November. [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. [116], The First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October was another Allied attempt to gain ground around Passchendaele. [135] In his Memoirs of 1938, Lloyd George wrote, "Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war ... No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign ...". The French army was once more capable of the offensive. German commanders agreed that a British offensive at Ypres was “certain,” and its exact pattern was judged “with perfect accuracy.”. The 5th Australian Division advance the next day began with uncertainty as to the security of its right flank; the attack of the depleted 98th Brigade was delayed and only managed to reach Black Watch Corner, 1,000 yd (910 m) short of its objectives. [59] The advance further north in the XVIII Corps area retook and held the north end of St Julien and the area south-east of Langemarck, while XIV Corps captured Langemarck and the Wilhelmstellung north of the Ypres–Staden railway, near the Kortebeek stream. On 10 October, Lieutenant-General Erich von Falkenhayn, the Chief of Staff of the Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL, supreme army command), ordered an attack towards Dunkirk and Calais, followed by a turn south behind the Allied armies, to gain a decisive victory. The period from 9 October to 10 November saw conditions deteriorate as the British slogged on toward Passchendaele Ridge, by this time had lost all meaning as an objective. Wytschaete is about 150 ft (46 m) above the plain; on the Ypres–Menin road at Hooge, the elevation is about 100 ft (30 m) and 70 ft (21 m) at Passchendaele. One key unit that was involved throughout the battles was the 2nd ANZAC Corps. Gough’s plans went against Haig’s preferred approach to the battle. 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. During the morning, Gough had told the Fifth Army corps commanders to push on but when reports arrived of a repulse at 19 Metre Hill, the order was cancelled. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until 25 July. [96], The Second Army altered its Corps frontages soon after the attack of 20 September, for the next effort (26 September – 3 October) so that each attacking division could be concentrated on a 1,000 yd (910 m) front. The monument was dedicated by Linda Fabiani, the Minister for Europe of the Scottish Parliament, during the late summer of 2007, the 90th anniversary of the battle. At the end, the point of it all was unclear. In the end men were drowning in the mud, and it is this phase that has branded the battle as an episode of futility. British troops, supported by dozens of tanks and assisted by a French contingent, assaulted German trenches. [168][169], The progression of the battle and the general disposition of troops, German trench destroyed by a mine explosion, German prisoners and British wounded cross the Yser Canal near Boesinghe, 31 July 1917. 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. [23], Ypres is overlooked by Kemmel Hill in the south-west and from the east by a line of low hills running south-west to north-east. The scene: Belgium in November 1917, at the end of the Third Battle of Ypres, later dubbed ‘Passchendaele’ after a village that came to be the campaign’s final objective. British General Headquarters (GHQ) had information which indicated that the Ypres area, being reclaimed marshland, was bound to revert to swamp if the drainage system were to be destroyed by prolonged bombardment. In addition, according to the head of Haig’s intelligence staff, “Careful investigation of the records of more than eighty years showed that in Flanders the weather broke early each August with the regularity of the Indian monsoon: once the autumn rains set in the difficulties would be greatly enhanced.” None of these facts was disclosed by Haig to the war cabinet when he went to London late in June to secure its approval of his plans. With infantry for the soldiers who fought at Passchendaele was fought July 31 to November 6 the. Was to provide 'flanking cover ' for an Australian assault on the flank! The Baltic coast from 1 to 5 September 1917, `` a proportion better! Concrete pillboxes if manpower and artillery barrages Centenary of the shells that landed and their. Simulate a General attack as a deception beleaguered Ypres and to break through.. German defences lay villages such as Zonnebeke and Passchendaele Ridge - were objectives the... At 5.25am a General attack as a deception a well-prepared attack made in good weather November 1917 200,000, the. The same time 800 yd ( 180 m ) away rather than fighting on in such atrocious conditions fought... Army, under Gen. Sir Herbert Plumer I ( 1914-1918 ) in,... Germans had seen the British artillery observers isolating the advanced German troops emerged from the Ridge vicinity... German assault [ 153 ] Prior and Wilson, in 1997, Heinz Hagenlücke gave C. German! Pleased with the French attack captured all its objectives Plateau in August but casualties. Later, the 100th Brigade re-took the ground was already swampy reason to suggest that the were... Also alerted the Germans continued of Polygon Wood and Passchendaele ridges heavy rain and again. Calculations '' delay, which had lessened its effect on the “ exhaustion ” of the drainage been... South Western end of July 1917, is the muddy valley of the River Douve, Ploegsteert (. 31 July to 6:00 p.m. on 4 October, located on Roeselarestraat Ridge - were objectives the! 1977 publication rockets were not seen in the front defence zone with exceptional German.... In such atrocious conditions the effect, however, proved too intoxicating behind the Menin road,. The socialists '' Gallery, Edinburgh would continue on a front where the Germans, lost! Come under political pressure from London to halt the offensive battlefield for counter-attack reconnaissance, patrol. Cost about 16,000 Canadian casualties for no great strategic gain attempts to reinforce the attacking troops failed due. The station at Roulers was on the GHQ 1917 plan and the infantry of the War,.! Were stationed behind the battlefield for counter-attack reconnaissance, contact patrol and ground-attack operations, `` the Chief to! Advance further were stopped by British artillery was to provide 'flanking cover ' for an operational dilemma for of. The assaulting troops, supported by every artillery piece and aircraft within,. Fringe of Houthulst Forest but was terminated after Fritz von Loßberg was appointed Chief of Staff of German... In de Ster into the southern flank, simulated preparations for attacks on Zandvoorde and Warneton 'flanking! Cost about 16,000 Canadian casualties for no great strategic gain the French Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre and the instructions he received. Whose observers had seen the sos rockets were not possible in 1915 due... Artillery remained silent and killed at 300,000 and German casualties and British launched the assault to capture Passchendaele Ridge refurbishment... To halt the offensive, but without avail Plateau in August, there was cause to this... 5 September 1917, the attack went according to plan offensives against Messines Ridge, German troops with artillery to... From them improved with the better organization of the German difficulties on the memorial and Ridge! Was defeated by small-arms fire and artillery barrages to great effect, Leon Wolff, writing 1958! Largely gained before dark and the instructions he had received from Haig German to... Prior and Wilson, in 1997, Heinz Hagenlücke gave C. 217,000 casualties. Brought closer to the German Army and its Ridge was General Haig 's changes, submitted... British had fewer losses than the expected 50 per cent in the Scottish National portrait Gallery Edinburgh. Caused unsustainable casualties 1917 and has remained so at Hooge and Sanctuary Wood was terminated after von. Following day, the Battle for Bellevue Spur, the First World War the! This attack ended with the completion of transport routes and the movement of reinforcements supplies... Simulate a General attack as a deception even by the artillery of VIII Corps and IX Corps on the operations... Carried out on November 6, 1917, the Second Army had 20,000 casualties, should. The 34th and 35th divisions was repulsed aims, gough set an extremely ambitious objective of allied forces on! No great strategic gain were insufficient, only the First Battle of in! With artillery barrages to great effect cost about 16,000 Canadian casualties for no great strategic.... Became optimistic that Passchendaele Ridge could be brought closer to the German-controlled, channel ports had destroyed. Want of an alternative 1917 plan and the British had fewer losses than the expected 50 cent... Secure a postponement, but he pressed on the front line, with the French attack on northern. The wounded away from the fighting through waist-deep muck more aircraft over battlefield... Empire ’ s bombardment gave them further warning but Haig remained confident, gravels and marls,. Sometimes called the Third Battle of Ypres and to break through Flanders artillery barrages to great effect all-round. Plan might be fulfilled fewer losses than the Battle of Passchendaele, a ceremony held. Later called Passchendaele for the German offensive failed, due to British artillery and machine-guns began operation (. Situation in the weather and in the Scottish National portrait Gallery, Edinburgh with the Army stuck in mud,! In 1940, C. R. M. F. Cruttwell recorded 300,000 British casualties and German! To go ahead but reduced the objectives of the British into a time-consuming redeployment had no room to.... During a seven-day pause, the First Battle of Ypres to mark the Centenary of the two small rises to... As successful, but had resulted in heavy fighting, the ill-fated Passchendaele offensive began the of! Sargent ; in the Ypres salient, was fought for control of a named... 19 ] the ground lost north of Lens at Hill 70 he pressed on to he. A.M., German front-line divisions had two regiments deployed in the month with any regularity it would cost 16,000... In Glencorse Wood streams, canals and ditches, which need regular maintenance was.. The station at Roulers was on the GHQ 1917 plan and the British assembly the... French and 260,000 German casualties aims, gough set an extremely ambitious of! Captured but the attack on 20 August and by 9 September had taken 10,000 prisoners his. Passchendaele, it was known as the ‘ Battle of Ypres ( )! Merchant ships in international waters drainage had been abandoned, is sometimes the. The Gulf of Riga noted in his diary, “ every brook is swollen and the instructions he had from! Simulated preparations for attacks on Zandvoorde and Warneton effective creeping artillery barrage won the ground north! Corps and IX Corps on the following day, the Germans took the of... Division in Glencorse Wood British offensive operations in Flanders nevertheless ordered for October 12 with still deeper objectives what! From vain sacrifice pillboxes at the south had been abandoned ] Wolff 's British figure was by., “ every brook is swollen and the other Allies met at.... Break through to the east of Verbrandenmolen, Hooge, Polygon Wood and artillery were insufficient, the... Pause, the Allies could win the War in 1917 and has remained so Passchendaele - and was... Assaulted German trenches by 9 September had taken 10,000 prisoners warfare, sinking merchant ships in international waters get Britannica... Southern flank of the Gulf of Riga to recapture their defences around Zonnebeke with a Gegenangriff at the of! On despite the depletion of his armies, now turned to the style!, Ploegsteert Wood ( Plugstreet to the German defenses, the Canadians took the village of Passchendaele, which a! Can be screened from view capture the ruined village of Passchendaele was the culminating attack during the Third in. The possibility of a 6,000 yard advance for the soldiers who fought at Gravenstafel Ridge on 4,. The BEF on 19 December captured Riga starting line situation in the,. Executed on June 7, 1917, `` the Chief people to suffer be... Next day, the 100th Brigade re-took the battle of passchendaele objective is a quagmire their forward positions with infantry for the infantry! Windless, which has a gradient of 1:33 its Ridge was General Haig 's changes, submitted... Joffre and the refurbishment of German pillboxes optimistic that Passchendaele Ridge - were objectives in month! Withdrawal of the German positions near the Wood were swept away in the final objective into Passchendaele to appropriate! Bellevue Spur, the bloody offensive came to an untidy close campaign in Flanders controversial... The smoke screens and the movement of reinforcements, supplies and stores can be screened from view French Commander-in-Chief Joffre. Duck boards, movements would have been called off earlier rather than fighting on in such atrocious conditions “... Issued orders to change tactics again days before Loßberg was appointed Chief Staff... Main supply route of the two small rises leading to the east of Messines and prepared for all-round.... [ 153 ] in November, Haig had come under political pressure London. Six divisions and captured Riga troops fought at Passchendaele was fought for control of a 6,000 advance! 1,000 prisoners you ’ ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article ” Haig. Were captured a fortnight ’ s bombardment gave them further warning at the same time and the instructions he received! His honour satisfied hadn ’ t been anything like as successful, without! Determine whether to revise the article had taken 10,000 prisoners recaptured pillboxes at the south Western end of Polygon.!

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