[90] Aircraft were to be used for systematic air observation of German troop movements to avoid the failures of previous battles, where too few aircrews had been burdened with too many duties and had flown in bad weather, which multiplied their difficulties. An occupier also has the advantage that artillery deployments and the movement of reinforcements, supplies and stores can be screened from view. 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. Smoke and gas bombardments on the Gheluvelt and Becelaere spurs on the flanks and the infantry attack began at the same time as the "routine" bombardment. More Victoria Crosses—14 in total—were awarded for actions on the opening day of the Battle of Passchendaele than for actions on any other single day of combat in World War I. The Ypres area of Belgium—where the village of Passchendaele is located—was the scene of several First World War battles, including the first use of poison gas when the Germans unleashed deadly chemical attacks there in April 1915. In the resulting Third Battle of Ypres (July–November 1917), also called the Passchendaele Campaign, the number of casualties shocked the British public, as the Somme death toll had done. 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. The method of attack had come to be questioned even at GHQ itself: a paper on the question led Gen. Henry Rawlinson to submit an appreciation in which he pointed out that “the British command had never yet attempted to conduct a wearing-down battle with planned, logical methods, but had relied too much on its belief that a breakdown of the German Army’s morale was within sight.” Haig was not impressed by these views, but his decision to extend Plumer’s role fulfilled them indirectly. Passchendaele was the final objective The Third Battle of Ypres is often called Passchendaele. [167] In July 2017 a two-day event was organised in Ypres to mark the centenary of the battle. The resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather in August, the beginning of the autumn rains in October and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy enabled the Germans to avoid a general withdrawal which had seemed inevitable in early October. [132], The attack on the Polderhoek Spur on 3 December 1917, was a local operation by the British Fourth Army (renamed from the Second Army on 8 November). The success of the Battle of Messines had the unfortunate effect of inspiring the British high command with too much confidence in the greater effort that was to follow, wherein the methods would be essentially different. Every effort was to be made to induce the British to reinforce their forward positions with infantry for the German artillery to bombard them. The attackers on the southern flank quickly captured Crest Farm and sent patrols beyond the final objective into Passchendaele. Slowly they advanced forward, but their objective of capturing Passchendaele ridge, the only high ground in the region, remained elusive. 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. [104] The attacking infantry from the 45th Reserve and the 4th Guard divisions were commanded by Major Freiherr von Schleinitz in the north and Lieutenant-Colonel Rave in the south. The First Battle of Passchendaele took place on 12 October 1917 during the First World War, in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. On 9 June, Crown Prince Rupprecht proposed a withdrawal to the Flandern line east of Messines. [7] Sir Douglas Haig succeeded Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF on 19 December. [57], The Battle of Langemarck was fought from 16–18 August; the Fifth Army headquarters was influenced by the effect that delay would have on Operation Hush, which needed the high tides due at the end of August or it would have to be postponed for a month. Their main objective was Goudberg Spur. For the next two weeks all four divisions of the Canadian Corps took turns assaulting the Passchendaele ridge, making only meagre gains with heavy losses. The British had planned to capture the ridges south and east of the city of Ypres as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. [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. The Battle of Passchendaele was fought July 31 to November 6, 1917, during World War I (1914-1918). Communication with the rear was lost and the Germans attacked all day but British SOS rockets remained visible and the attacks took no ground; after dark German attacks were repulsed by another three SOS barrages. Currie objected to what he considered a reckless attack, arguing that it would cost about 16,000 Canadian casualties for no great strategic gain. Gough’s plans went against Haig’s preferred approach to the battle. [46] Gough held meetings with his corps commanders on 6 and 16 June, where the third objective, which included the Wilhelmstellung (third line), a second-day objective in earlier plans, was added to the two objectives due to be taken on the first day. The objective of the battle was to clear the Germans from the Belgian coast and force a German retreat from the northern areas of the Western Front. Everything sinks down several feet into mud. [62] Gough laid down a new infantry formation of skirmish lines to be followed by "worms" on 24 August and Cavan noted that pillboxes should be attacked on a broad front, to engage them simultaneously. Gough held meetings with his corps commanders on 6 and 16 June, where the third objective, which included the Wilhelmstellung (third line), a second-day objective in earlier plans, was added to the two objectives due to be taken on the first day… By 18 November, the First Battle of Ypres had also ended in failure, at a cost of 160,000 German casualties. The X Corps commander proposed an attack northward from In de Ster into the southern flank of the Germans opposite I Anzac Corps. The mud gummed up rifle barrels and breeches, making them difficult to fire. [128] The Canadians relieved the II Anzac Corps on 18 October and found that the front line was mostly the same as that occupied by the 1st Canadian Division in April 1915. The effect, however, proved too intoxicating behind the front. [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. Passchendaele was the second largest battle fought by Allied forces during the war and involved Australian, Belgian, British, New Zealand, South African, Indian and Canadian troops. The preparations took several weeks and gave the troops some respite from vain sacrifice. A century later, the Battle of Passchendaele is 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. [88] Between 26 September and 3 October, the Germans attacked at least 24 times and Operation High Storm Unternehmen Hohensturm, a Gegenangriff (methodical counter-attack), to recapture the area around Zonnebeke was planned for 4 October. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Reinforcements moved into the 5th Australian Division area and attacked south-westwards at noon as a silent (without artillery support) frontal attack was made from Black Watch Corner, because British troops were known to be holding out in the area. [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). Sir Douglas Haig, portrait by John Singer Sargent; in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. The artillery of VIII Corps and IX Corps on the southern flank, simulated preparations for attacks on Zandvoorde and Warneton. Haig, determined to carry on despite the depletion of his armies, now turned to the Canadians. If it were not that all the records of previous years had given us fair warning, it would seem as if Providence had declared against us.”. The main French attack took place from 9 April to 9 May and failed to achieve a breakthrough. The attack was delayed, partly due to mutinies in the French army after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive and because of a German attack at Verdun from 28 to 29 June, which captured some of the French jumping-off points. The shorter and quicker advances possible once the ground dried, were intended to be consolidated on tactically advantageous ground, especially on any reverse slopes in the area, with the infantry still in contact with the artillery and aircraft, ready to repulse counter-attacks. [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. Although it may have forestalled a possible German attack on the French, Passchendaele, with enormous loss of life, achieved none of its main objectives. Map of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) from, Naval Operations in the Dardanelles Campaign. 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 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. In order to achieve his aims, Gough set an extremely ambitious objective of a 6,000 yard advance for the first day. [161], On 23 March, Haig ordered Plumer to make contingency plans to shorten the line and release troops for the other armies. Few battles encapsulate World War One better than the Battle of Passchendaele. [155] In 1997, Heinz Hagenlücke gave c. 217,000 German casualties. German attempts to reinforce the attacking troops failed, due to British artillery observers isolating the advanced German troops with artillery barrages. [34] A week after the Battle of Messines Ridge, Haig gave his objectives to his army commanders, the wearing out of the enemy, securing the Belgian coast and connecting with the Dutch frontier by capturing Passchendaele ridge, followed by an advance on Roulers and Operation Hush, an attack along the coast with a combined amphibious landing. Another futile attack was launched on October 22 with the same outcome. Haig discussed with the two army commanders, Plumer and Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough, what objective they should fix for the first day of the forthcoming offensive. [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". By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. [11] General Henry Rawlinson was also ordered to plan an attack from the Ypres Salient on 4 February; planning continued but the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme took up the rest of the year. Dust and smoke thickened the morning mist and the infantry advanced using compass bearings. Under almost continuous rain and shellfire, troops huddled in waterlogged shell holes or became lost on the blasted mudscape, unable to locate the front line that separated Canadian positions from German ones. He told his army commanders that “opportunities for the employment of cavalry in masses are likely to offer.”. Gun emplacements were improved, and troops and officers were allowed time to prepare for the attack, which opened on October 26, 1917. [4] In December, the British Admiralty began discussions with the War Office, for a combined operation to re-occupy the Belgian coast but were obliged to conform to French strategy and participate in offensives further south. The New Zealanders’ objective was Gravenstafel 'spur', the first of two 'spurs' from the main ridge at Passchendaele … 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. The German submarine bases on the coast had not been captured but the objective of diverting the Germans from the French further south, while they recovered from the Nivelle Offensive in April, had succeeded. ... At the end of July 1917, the Allies launched the Third Battle of Ypres. No ground captured by the British was lost and German counter-attacks managed only to reach ground to which survivors of the front-line divisions had retired. The farthest objective was less than 1 mile (1.6 km) deep on September 20 and was reduced still more on the subsequent strokes. After surveying the German defenses, the Canadian commander, Lieut. [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. Replacement units became mixed up with ones holding the front and reserve regiments had failed to intervene quickly, leaving front battalions unsupported until Eingreif divisions arrived some hours later. ...there is no reason to suggest that the weather broke early in the month with any regularity. Boff wrote that this narrative was facile and that it avoided the problem faced by the Germans in late 1917. 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. [86][c] More tactical changes were ordered on 30 September; operations to increase British infantry losses were to continue and gas bombardments were to be increased, weather permitting. At a conference on September 28, Haig expressed his belief that the enemy was on the point of collapse and that tanks and cavalry could be pushed through. The task of actually capturing the “infamous” village fell to the 27th (City … Gradients vary from negligible, to 1:60 at Hooge and 1:33 at Zonnebeke. Omissions? [17] British determination to clear the Belgian coast took on more urgency, after the Germans resumed unrestricted submarine warfare on 1 February 1917. Construction of defences began but was terminated after Fritz von Loßberg was appointed Chief of Staff of the 4th Army. Could, or should, the battle have been called off earlier rather than fighting on in such atrocious conditions? [109] When the British barrage began on Broodseinde Ridge, the Keiberg Spur and Waterdamhoek, some of the German forward headquarters staffs only realised that they were under attack when British and Australian troops appeared. It's been referred to by this name since the 1920s. Basic Map: Ypres to Passchendaele Menin Road and Polygon Wood [153] In 1959, Cyril Falls estimated 240,000 British, 8,525 French and 260,000 German casualties. Ultimately, however, Currie had little choice. [112], On 7 October, the 4th Army again dispersed its troops in the front defence zone. [102] North of the covert near Polygon Wood, deep mud smothered German shells before they exploded but they still caused many casualties. 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. [44] The attack removed the Germans from the dominating ground on the southern face of the Ypres salient, which the 4th Army had held since the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. 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. 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. 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. [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. Boff also doubted that all of the divisions in Flanders could act on top-down changes. This was executed on June 7, 1917, by the Second Army, under Gen. Sir Herbert Plumer. In 1918 all the ground that had been gained there by the Allies was evacuated in the face of a looming German assault. The British had 575 heavy and medium and 720 field guns and howitzers, more than double the quantity of artillery available at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge. The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought in Belgium between July and November of 1917. Miliary Historian Dr. Reginald R. H. Roy joined the teaching staff at Victoria College as an instructor in the History Department in 1959, and by 1970 he became a full professor with tenure. 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. Four days later, the ground was already swampy. [89], The British plan for the battle fought from 20–25 September, included more emphasis on the use of heavy and medium artillery to destroy German concrete pill-boxes and machine-gun nests, which were more numerous in the battle zones being attacked, than behind the original July front line and to engage in more counter-battery fire. By the spring of 1917, Germany had resumed the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking merchant ships in international waters. The German defence had failed to stop a well-prepared attack made in good weather. The artillery preparation started on 17 October and on 23 October, the German defenders were swiftly defeated and the French advanced up to 3.7 mi (6.0 km), capturing the village and fort of La Malmaison, gaining control of the Chemin des Dames ridge. However, despite this, the Allied advance began on the 12th October. 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. The Germans on the ridge had observation over Ypres and unless it was captured, observed enfilade artillery-fire could be fired against a British attack from the salient further north. With amendments the memorandum became the GHQ 1917 plan. To gain Passchendaele Village and its Ridge was General Haig's main objective. The combination of autumn rain, saturated soil and the destroyed drainage system in the region reshaped the landscape into an immense sea of mud in which men, animals and machines drowned. There was much trench mortaring, mining and raiding by both sides and from January to May, the Second Army had 20,000 casualties. On November 6, however, Canadian troops advanced the few hundred yards necessary to occupy the site of what had been the village of Passchendaele (northeast of Ypres, about 5 miles [8 km] from the nearest front on the salient when the offensive had begun on July 31). The tempo of British attacks and the effect of attrition meant that although six divisions were sent to the 4th Army by 10 October, they were either novice units deficient in training or veteran formations with low morale after earlier defeats; good divisions had been diluted with too many replacements. 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. He hoped to capture Passchendaele Ridge by the fourth. 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. There is a low ridge from Messines, 260 ft (80 m) at its highest point, running north-east past Clapham Junction at the west end of Gheluvelt plateau (​2.mw-parser-output .sr-only{border:0;clip:rect(0,0,0,0);height:1px;margin:-1px;overflow:hidden;padding:0;position:absolute;width:1px;white-space:nowrap} 1⁄2 miles from Ypres at 213 ft (65 m) and Gheluvelt, above 160 ft (50 m) to Passchendaele, (​5 1⁄2 miles from Ypres at 160 ft (50 m) declining from there to a plain further north. Over the next two weeks Currie ordered the building and repair of roads and tramlines to help in the movement of men and armaments and other supplies on the battlefield. The Germans were able to drive the three British brigades back to the black line with 70 percent casualties; the German advance was stopped at the black line by mud, artillery and machine-gun fire. Both sides raided and the British used night machine-gun fire and artillery barrages to great effect. [153] Prior and Wilson, in 1997, gave British losses of 275,000 and German casualties at just under 200,000. [8] A week after his appointment, Haig met Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, who emphasised the importance of obtaining control of the Belgian coast, to end the threat posed by German U-boats. Meeting at Chantilly, France, in November … Only on the left was the full objective reached with the capture of Bixschoote (Bikschote), Pilckem Ridge, and Saint-Julien; on the crucial right wing the attack was a failure. In the moonlight, the Germans had seen the British troops when they were still 200 yd (180 m) away. After a brief period of success from 1 to 19 July, the Russian offensive was contained by the German and Austro-Hungarian armies, which counter-attacked and forced the Russian armies to retreat. 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. Heavy rain and mud again made movement difficult and little artillery could be brought closer to the front. In 1914, the woods usually had undergrowth but by 1917, artillery bombardments had reduced the woods to tree stumps, shattered tree trunks tangled with barbed wire and more wire festooning the ground, which was full of shell-holes; fields in the gaps between the woods, were 800–1,000 yd (730–910 m) wide and devoid of cover. The attack was supported by a regiment of the French 1st Division on the left flank of the 35th Division and was intended to obstruct a possible German counter-attack on the left flank of the Canadian Corps as it attacked Passchendaele and the ridge. [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. One key unit that was involved throughout the battles was the 2nd ANZAC Corps. He began by dwelling on the “exhaustion” of the German army and its declining morale. After discussions with Rawlinson and Plumer and the incorporation of Haig's changes, Macmullen submitted his memorandum on 14 February. On 11 April, Plumer authorised a withdrawal of the southern flank of the Second Army. 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. Even limited success would improve the tactical situation in the Ypres salient, reducing the exceptional wastage, even in quiet periods. A strictly limited attack, made with true siege-war methods and based on preparations begun a year before, it proved an almost complete success within its limits. [75] Haig transferred the main offensive effort to the Second Army on 25 August and moved the northern boundary of the Second Army closer to the Ypres–Roulers railway. 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". [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. The attacking troops fought July 31 to November 6, 1917, Germany had resumed practice... And windless, which much reduced evaporation 400,000 German Baltic coast from 1 to 5 September 1917, `` Chief. 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