One hundred years ago, between July and November 1917, the fields of Flanders witnessed one of the bloodiest episodes of the First World War. What took place was officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, but history recalls the horror in one word: Passchendaele. The name, along with the Somme, has come to symbolise the Great War for many.
The Allied assault was launched in the early hours of 31 July 1917. Because of the torrential rain, the British and Canadian troops found themselves fighting not only the Germans but a quagmire of stinking mud that swallowed up men, horses and tanks. After three months, one week and three days of brutal trench warfare, the Allies finally recaptured the village of Passchendaele – but by then around a third of a million British and Allied soldiers had been killed or wounded in some of the most horrific trench warfare of the conflict. The offensive took place in low-lying land which was home to thick clay soil and, after constant shelling during the war, smashed drainage systems. Days into the attack, Ypres suffered the heaviest rain for 30 years. Tanks were immoblised, rifles were clogged up and the shelter usually created by shells turned to swamps. Many men, horses and pack mules drowned in the quagmire.
German and British forces became locked in a mud-drenched stalemate for a month and a half, with Australian and New Zealand divisions joining the British in September.
The series of battles are known to the British as The Battle of Messines 1917 (7–14 June), The Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August), the Battle of Langemarck (16–18 August), The Battle of Menin Road Ridge (20–25 September), the Battle of Polygon Wood (26 September – 3 October) the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October), the Battle of Poelcappelle (9 October), the First Battle of Passchendaele (12 October) and the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October – 10 November) and referred to in German works as (Kampf um den Wijtschatebogen) (The Battle of the Wijtschate Salient) and the (Flandernschlacht) (Battle of Flanders) in five periods, First Battle of Flanders (31 July – 9 August), Second Battle of Flanders (9–25 August), Third Battle of Flanders (20 September – 8 October) Fourth Battle of Flanders (9–21 October) and Fifth Battle of Flanders (22 October – 5 December)
Wear your Poppy with pride and never forget the sacrifices of all those who fought and died for us in both World Wars and other conflicts.
We Will Remember Them.