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. [39], On 25 June, Erich Ludendorff, the First Quartermaster General, suggested to Crown Prince Rupprecht that Group Ypres should withdraw to the Wilhelmstellung, leaving only outposts in the Albrechtstellung. Meanwhile, the objective of the first phase of the offensive had now become the final objective of the entire campaign: the take of the ruins of Passchendaele. More heavy artillery was sent to Flanders from the armies further south and placed opposite the Gheluvelt Plateau. The battle began on the 31st July 1917. Corrections? After the dry spell in early September, British advances had been much quicker and the final objective was reached a few hours after dawn, which confounded the German counter-attack divisions. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George expressed anxiety over whether so great an operation would cause heavy casualties, which would be difficult to replace given the present state of manpower. A strong west wind ruined the smoke screens and the British artillery failed to suppress the German machine-guns. Some 61 Victoria Crosses, the British Empire’s highest decoration for military valour, were awarded after the fighting. Could, or should, the battle have been called off earlier rather than fighting on in such atrocious conditions? There were actions from 14–15 February and 1–4 March at The Bluff, 27 March – 16 April at the St Eloi Craters and the Battle of Mont Sorrel from 2–13 June. [48] Major-General John Davidson, Director of Operations at GHQ, wrote in a memorandum that there was "ambiguity as to what was meant by a step-by-step attack with limited objectives" and suggested reverting to a 1,750 yd (1,600 m) advance on the first day to increase the concentration of British artillery. The salient had been an active battlefield since 1914. Haig at last called a halt, his honour satisfied. Passchendaele would be remembered as a symbol of the worst horrors of the First World War, the sheer futility of much of the fighting, and the reckless disregard by some of the war’s senior leaders for the lives of the men under their command. [31] Several plans and memoranda for a Flanders offensive were produced between January 1916 and May 1917, in which the writers tried to relate the offensive resources available to the terrain and the likely German defence. The German infantry managed to advance on the flanks, about 100 yd (91 m) near the Menin road and 600 yd (550 m) north of the Reutelbeek. Meeting at Chantilly, France, in November … The French army was once more capable of the offensive. [24], Possession of the higher ground to the south and east of Ypres, gives an army ample scope for ground observation, enfilade fire and converging artillery bombardments. The 98th Brigade was to advance and cover the right flank of the 5th Australian Division and the 100th Brigade was to re-capture the lost ground further south. [40], The first stage in the British plan was a preparatory attack on the German positions south of Ypres at Messines Ridge. A fourth objective, the red line was also given for the first day, to be attempted by fresh troops, at the discretion of divisional and corps commanders, in places where the German defence had collapsed. Passchendaele lies on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from Roulers (now Roeselare) a junction of the Bruges (Brugge) to Kortrijk railway. The 4th Canadian Division captured its objectives but was forced slowly to retire from Decline Copse, against German counter-attacks and communication failures between the Canadian and Australian units to the south. The preparations took several weeks and gave the troops some respite from vain sacrifice. After a modest British advance, German counter-attacks recovered most of the ground lost opposite Passchendaele, except for an area on the right of the Wallemolen spur. 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. Without the divisions necessary for a counter-offensive south of the Gheluvelt Plateau towards Kemmel Hill, Rupprecht began to plan for a slow withdrawal from the Ypres Salient, even at the risk of uncovering German positions further north and on the Belgian coast. [68] In 1989, Philip Griffiths examined August weather in Flanders for the thirty years before 1916 and found that. Sheldon wrote that the German casualties could only be brought up to 399,590 by including the 182,396 soldiers who were sick or treated at regimental aid posts for "minor cuts and wounds" but not struck off unit strength; Sheldon wrote "it is hard to see any merit" in doing so. Because some French armies were temporarily unwilling or unable to fight, the commander of the British armies in Europe, Gen. Douglas Haig, decided that Britain must begin a new offensive of its own. Very little progress was made. In order to achieve his aims, Gough set an extremely ambitious objective of a 6,000 yard advance for the first day. 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. [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. [65], In Field Marshal Earl Haig (1929), Brigadier-General John Charteris, the BEF Chief of Intelligence from 1915 to 1918, wrote that. Heavy artillery bombarded the ruins of Polderhoek Château and the pillboxes in the grounds to mislead the defenders and the attack was made in daylight as a ruse to surprise the Germans, who would be under cover sheltering from the routine bombardments. [84], Ludendorff ordered the Stellungsdivisionen (ground holding divisions) to reinforce their front garrisons; all machine-guns, including those of the support and reserve battalions were sent into the forward zone, to form a cordon of four to eight guns every 250 yd (230 m). [91], On 20 September, the Allies attacked on a 14,500 yd (8.2 mi; 13.3 km) front and by mid-morning, had captured most of their objectives, to a depth of about 1,500 yd (1,400 m). The attacks were conducted earlier than planned to use heavy and siege artillery before it was transferred to Ypres, the Souchez operation being cut back and the attack on Hill 70 postponed. [99] The attack was supported by flame-throwers and German infantry throwing smoke- and hand-grenades. 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. OHL had issued orders to change tactics again days before Loßberg was blamed for giving new orders to the 4th Army. [80], After setting objectives 1–2 mi (1.6–3.2 km) distant on 31 July, the British attempted shorter advances of approximately 1,500 yd (1,400 m) in August but were unable to achieve these lesser objectives on the south side of the battlefield, because the rain soaked ground and poor visibility were to the advantage of the defenders. The second of two attacks made by New Zealand troops during the Third Battle of Ypres, it was a disastrous fiasco. [152] Wolff's British figure was refuted by John Terraine in a 1977 publication. The Allies' objective in this battle was to break through the German defences, seize the highlands of Passchendaele Ridge and from there capture the German-occupied Belgian channel ports. [48], The Fifth Army plan was more ambitious than the plans devised by Rawlinson and Plumer, which had involved an advance of 1,000–1,750 yd (910–1,600 m) on the first day, by compressing their first three attacks into one day instead of three. Further south, is the muddy valley of the River Douve, Ploegsteert Wood (Plugstreet to the British) and Hill 63. Attempts by the German infantry to advance further were stopped by British artillery-fire with many casualties. The lowland west of the ridge, was a mixture of meadow and fields, with high hedgerows dotted with trees, cut by streams and a network of drainage ditches emptying into canals. The final objectives were largely gained before dark and the British had fewer losses than the expected 50 per cent in the initial attack. [149] In his 1977 work, Terraine wrote that the German figure ought to be increased because their statistics were incomplete and because their data omitted some lightly wounded men, who would have been included under British casualty criteria, revising the German figure by twenty per cent, which made German casualties 260,400. Divided into two ten-day and an eleven-day period, there were 53.6, 32.4 and 41.3 mm (2, 1 and 2 in) of rain; in the 61 hours before 6:00 p.m. on 31 July, 12.5 mm (0 in) fell. [82] After another defeat on 26 September, the German commanders made more tactical changes to counter the more conservative form of limited attacks adopted by the British. The French First Army conformed, pushing up to the Kortebeek and St Jansbeck stream west of the northern stretch of the Wilhelmstellung, where it crossed to the east side of the Kortebeek. 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. On 12 April, the VIII Corps HQ ordered the infantry retirement to begin that night and the 59th Division was replaced by part of the 41st Division and transferred south. [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 main road to Ypres from Poperinge to Vlamertinge is in a defile, easily observed from the ridge. The British commander was Douglas Haig. Capturing the village. The 3rd Canadian Division captured Vapour Farm on the corps boundary, Furst Farm to the west of Meetcheele and the crossroads at Meetcheele but remained short of its objective. The Passchendaele "duckwalk" was used to facilitate troop movements and communications over muddy and uneven terrain. Gough tried to secure a postponement, but without avail. The Third Battle of Ypres (German: Dritte Flandernschlacht; French: Troisième Bataille des Flandres; Dutch: Derde Slag om Ieper), also known as the Battle of Passchendaele (/ˈpæʃəndeɪl/), was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The German attack was defeated by small-arms fire and the British artillery, whose observers had seen the SOS rockets. [78] The tactical changes ensured that more infantry attacked on narrower fronts, to a shallower depth than on 31 July, like the Fifth Army attacks in August. [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. 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