The Battle of Passchendaele
By Brett and Mackenzie

Allied Soldiers cutting down enemies with a machine gun                    Ref.1
Allied Soldiers cutting down enemies with a machine gun Ref.1



The muddy battle fields at Passchendaele. Ref 7
The muddy battle fields at Passchendaele. Ref 7


The battle of Passchendaele, also known as ‘The Battle of Mud', was a series of operations starting in July 1917 and finally disintegrating in November 1917. It took place at Passchendaele Ridge in Belgium, near the city of Ypres. Sir Douglas Haig wanted to dismantle the German submarine docks, he planned to do this by forcing his way onto the coast of Belgium. The plan didn’t go over well for Britain however. He believed the the Germans were using Belgian ports for U - boats, but was painfully mistaken. They wanted to break through the River Lys and flank the German Fourth Army's defensive system from the North. They would infiltrate the trenches and destroy the German soldiers on the front lines, hoping to entirely cripple the war of attrition that was occuring. Prime Minister David Lloyd George thought the idea was absurd, but since there was no other ideas put forth George was forced to oblige Haig. Arthur Curries victory at Vimy landed him in command of Canadian troops, the first Canadian to command their own people. He was still forced to to take orders from Haig. Haig, believing that the German army was low on confidence and soldiers, thought that forcing his way through Belgium would be an easy feat.He commanded Currie and the CEF to take Passchendaele Ridge, disregarding Currie's prediction of massive casualties. The first shots fired at the German lines were in the form of an artillery barrage lasting ten days, with plenty of support from aerial weaponry, and over 4 million shots were fired. This was the first of several massive attacks. The first infantry combat started on July 31st, 1917. The British were never able to make any strong breakthroughs, for the Germans were so well entrenched. Soon after the start of the battle, the rain started, the heaviest rain seen in thirty years, making the front literally a slough. The terrain was already a marsh and swampy before, and mud was always an issue. Soldiers drowned in shell craters, tanks sent to help infantry soldiers got stuck in the mud, and full-grown horses were consumed by the tiny lakes the plagued the battlefield. Because of the terrible weather, little advancement was made. Haig however didn’t blame the weather, he blamed Currie, and Sir Hurbert Gough, the commander of the army. Gough was soon replaced by Plumer. The two had majorly different war tactics. Gough had wanted to use one advancement, whereas Plumer wanted to make small permanent advancements. Consequently, Plumer was able to take over small areas at a time gaining advantage in the East. The battle consisted of a "bite and hold" tactic, where they would send squads into to capture and hold key points along the battlefield, driving the Germans further and further back, wearing them down, as well as gain decisive ground. This tactic was countered continually by the Germans, and the battle lasted until November 6, when Canada Corps was able to take Passchendaele. Although the battle lasted so long, and the Germans were inflicted irreplaceable casualties, the British only gained a mere 5 miles. The british lost around 140,000 combat deaths, with the total death toll amounting to around 500,000 on both sides. The Germans recaptured the territory with no resistance 5 months later in the Battle of Lys. The battle has always been a very controversial topic for historian. Theres plenty of belief that the Allies suffered heavier loss than the Germans, and only for small territorial gain. The evidence from different documentations on Passchendaele were biased to reflect well on Haig, but reflected poorly on Gough. The massive casualties for small gain have led people to learn from Prime Minister David Lloyd George's mistakes, connecting him as an example of senseless waste, poor judgement, and terrible generalship. This battle is one of the most forward examples of attrition warfare based in muddy conditions. It was commanded with terrible leadership, and is easily a battle that could have been avoided with the same consequences in reference to the rest of World War 1. Ref 2,3 & 5




Ref. 6
Primary Sources
Here are some letters from Sir Douglas Haig during the war;

"Recovering the New Zealand wounded from the battlefield took two and a half days even with 3,000 extra men from the Fourth Brigade, artillery and other units plus a battalion from the British 49th Division. The conditions were horrendous and six men were needed to carry each stretcher because of the mud and water. The Germans suffered the same problems and an informal truce for stretcher-bearers came into force, although anyone without a stretcher was fired on. By the evening of October 14 there simply was no one left alive on the battlefield."

Ref. 8
Ref. 8

"They advanced every time with absolute confidence in their power to overcome the enemy, even though they had sometimes to struggle through mud up to their waists to reach him. So long as they could reach him they did overcome him, but physical exhaustion placed narrow limits on the depth to which each advance could be pushed, and compelled long pauses between the advances.”

Ref. 4
Additional Information
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Passchendaele
2. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWpasschendaele.htm
3. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006132
4. http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/flanders/passchendaele.html
5. http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/ypres3.htm

References
1."Machine Gunners at Passchendaele." z.about.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <z.about.com/d/canadaonline/1/0/m/1/vimymachinegunners.jpg>.
2.Trueman, Chris . "The Battle of Passchendaele." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2010..[[http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_passchendaele.htm |www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_passchendaele.htm ]].
3. "Battle of Passchendaele - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Passchendaele>.
4."WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier: 12th October 1917 - 1st battle of Passchendaele." WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://wwar1.blogspot.com/2007/10/12th-october-1917-1st-battle-of.html
5. Cranny, Moles, Michael, Garvin. Counter Points. Canada: Mark Cobham, 2001. Print.
6. "Battle of Passchendaele YouTube - The Battle of Passchendaele, World War I ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5cQyOC05ZY>.
7."Mud at the Battle of Passchendaele." About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <z.about.com/d/canadaonline/1>
8. "Archive for the 'The Big Wide World' Category ." Embejo Etc. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <embejoetc.files.wordpress.com>