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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5560

Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/9/2017 8:18:10 AM
In Belgium today, they are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele.



We in Canada tend to concentrate on the bold and bloody victory by the Canadian Corps over a 15 day period, ending on Nov. 10, 1917.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that when the Canadians were brought into the line and tasked with taking the ridge that the Battle of Passchendaele had been ongoing for nearly 3 months.

The casualty lists for the British and Commonwealth troops were lengthy. The human cost, was unfathomable with the numbers debated. At least 200,000 had been accumulated.

With the British, Australians and New Zealanders in a bad state after months of combat in some of the worst conditions that this war could produce, Haig called upon the Canadians to do the job.


The Canadian Corps with victories at Vimy and at Hill 70, while some of the fighting at Passchendaele was going on, was considered able and fresh enough to complete the task.

Canadian General Arthur Currie had surveyed the battle field. He was convinced that this fight had no strategic value and told Haig that they should leave it to the Germans and that it wasn't worth any more lives.

Haig told Currie that there were important reasons why the allies needed this victory and so Currie accepted his orders and went about preparing for this battle in the thorough manner for which he was known.

He predicted 16,000 casualties and he was uncannily correct with just under that amount killed or wounded.


Passchendaele has a special place in the minds of Canadians but not in the same way that the Battle of Vimy Ridge does. The Vimy myth grew over time and has come to be be seen as a seminal moment in the development of our country as independent.

Passchendaele has come to represent the folly of sending men into combat situations that were impossibly difficult. It represents all that was wrong about the conduct of this war.

The Canadian Corps, a cocky bunch, were proud that they were able to do what no-one else had been able to do but they regarded Passchendaele as a hell on earth.

But the casualties accrued caused the PM of Canada, Robert Borden to become as angry as he had ever been over the conduct of this war. He told David Lloyd George that should the type of combat at Passchendaele ever be repeated that no Canadian would leave Canada to fight in this war so long as he was entrusted by the people for their welfare.

There was great tension between GB and Canada over this battle. The belief that the British would employ colonials in tasks that they did not want to do themselves was cemented here. It is not true though. We need only count the dead in this battle alone of British soldiers to realize that the anger was misplaced.

The pictures of the mud, the water soaked shell craters and the treeless landscape tell us the tale.





I posted this to commemorate a great victory by the Canadian Corps.

There were nine VC's awarded to Canadians in this battle. Vimy, by comparison, yielded four.

There was courage shown in bulk and we are proud of them

But many of us question whether this battle should have been curtailed long before the Canadians got into it.

This is the Passchendaele Memorial to the Canadians.
It sits at Crest Farm, one of the "on the way" objectives to the final seizure of the ridge.



The monument is a piece of Canadian granite and it sits in a small grove of maple trees.

The inscription is quite simple.


Quote:
THE CANADIAN CORPS IN OCT.- NOV. 1917 ADVANCED ACROSS THIS VALLEY - THEN A TREACHEROUS MORASS - CAPTURED AND HELD THE PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE



Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/9/2017 9:37:03 AM
IMHO-Passchendaele was a complete disgrace in terms of objective--Haigs whim, to reach the Belgian coast,planning -Corps Generals had different modus operandi- only one of which worked ie.Lt Genera; Currie's "Bite and Hold"The conditions soldiers were ordered to fight were beyond description-literally thousands of men were lost in this Slough of Despond.Apart frpm the Dominion troops the Soldiers were "Lions led By Donkeys"

In the long run The Ridge was taken by the Canadian Corps and Haig promptly lost interest in his p;an for a breakout.More than 4,000 Canadians were killed and another 12,000 wounded — almost exactly the casualties predicted by Arthur Currie. These were among the 275,000 casualties (including 70,000 killed) lost overall to the armies under British command at Passchendaele. The Germans suffered another 220,000 killed and wounded.

A Black Mark indeed in the annals of the British Army/

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 452

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/9/2017 11:46:04 AM

Quote:
A Black Mark indeed in the annals of the British Army


Jim,

Consider the strategic situation faced by Haig and the British Government:

France reeling from the impact of Verdun, the Nivelle offensive and the subsequent mutinies.

Russia out the war and the Germans making plans to bring nearly a million men to the Western Front.

Italy making no headway against Austria.

The United States was a good way off from being able to meaningfully contribute.

However, a very large British and Commonwealth army was massed in Belgium and France (the largest ever assembled, btw) and was doing little, it would seem, to make serious efforts to bring Germany down.

The only option was to attack. We might argue over the details (and argue we shall), but to leave the armies of the Empire static whilst the rest of the Allies were being shot to pieces would have been a grievous dereliction of duty. There was no alternative to offensive action in 1917.

Regards,

Colin

---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/9/2017 12:12:26 PM

Quote:
The only option was to attack. We might argue over the details (and argue we shall), but to leave the armies of the Empire static whilst the rest of the Allies were being shot to pieces would have been a grievous dereliction of duty. There was no alternative to offensive action in 1917.



Colin---I am not against a huge standing Army attacking; but why,why in the name of all that is sensible-WHY YPRES???? I am aware of course that Haig wanted the Ridge to enter the Plain of Douai and thus fight our way to the Belgian coast which was a non starter anyway' but to continue to wage war in such appalling conditions was a sin IMHO

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5560

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/9/2017 1:42:13 PM
Haig told General Currie of the Canadian Corps, when he questioned the wisdom of the assignment at Passchendaele, that there were important reasons to seize that ridge but he did not explain them to Currie. He told Currie that he would explain later.

Other than desperately needing some sort of British victory, or allied victory at this stage of the war, how important was the seizure of the ridge and the village?

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2549

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/9/2017 2:00:45 PM

Quote:

Quote:
A Black Mark indeed in the annals of the British Army


Jim,

Consider the strategic situation faced by Haig and the British Government:

France reeling from the impact of Verdun, the Nivelle offensive and the subsequent mutinies.

Russia out the war and the Germans making plans to bring nearly a million men to the Western Front.

Italy making no headway against Austria.

The United States was a good way off from being able to meaningfully contribute.

However, a very large British and Commonwealth army was massed in Belgium and France (the largest ever assembled, btw) and was doing little, it would seem, to make serious efforts to bring Germany down.

The only option was to attack. We might argue over the details (and argue we shall), but to leave the armies of the Empire static whilst the rest of the Allies were being shot to pieces would have been a grievous dereliction of duty. There was no alternative to offensive action in 1917.

Regards,

Colin


--Lightning


Colin,

Given the fragility of the Allied strategic situation : Russia down and virtually out; France pretty well committed to rest and recovery ; Italy about to be knocked for six at Caporetto ; Uncle Sam not going to be ready for battlefield deployment for months, and, of course, the imminent arrival of huge numbers of Germans arriving in France and Belgium from the East....wouldn't husbandry and, if necessary, delay, be the more prudent course ?

If attacks were to be made, then surely those with limited objectives and meticulously controlled expenditure of lives and material were more appropriate.

To have insisted on trying conclusions with the German army in an attempt to sweep the enemy out of Flanders looks like folly, given the conditions and the need for prudence.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 452

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/11/2017 3:38:57 PM
Phil,

I will reply to you soon, I promise, but have been caught up with work just now, but this has the makings of a great debate!

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2549

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/12/2017 3:07:10 AM
Colin,

Thanks for your enthusiasm .

When circumstances allow, please pitch in.

In the meantime, I would like to invite consideration of the following....

Survey the big picture of the war in the summer and autumn of 1917, and reflect on what Germany achieved in the field against Russia, Italy and Romania...some pretty startling strategic successes. What impact did the British offensive in Flanders have in this regard ? When the most wretched phase of the fighting was at its height in the approach to Passchendaele , the Italians were blown away at Caporetto and were faced with a truly existential crisis. I hardly need to mention what was happening to the Russians.

Set against the cataclysmic scale of those events, Passchendaele seems like farting against the thunder. The Germans weren't being " pinned down "in Flanders if they were able to carry off such triumphs. It was the other way round, I suspect.

I have little patience with the all too fashionable dismissal of Haig as a donkey. I prefer to give him a significant amount of credit.

Passchendaele , however, defies my best intentions.

Haig was, I believe, badly treated by Lloyd George, and his endeavours in Flanders in the summer and autumn of 1917 emanated in part from his determination to uphold his personal esteem. He wanted to show what his British army - and, by extension, he himself - could do. He was also profoundly convinced that the Germans had let slip a chance to win on that very ground in the last days of October 1914 by not pushing on at a moment of crisis for the Allies : he himself had been in the eye of that storm, mounting a desperate and- it must be said - superb defense against great odds. He was determined not to repeat that mistake : perhaps that accounts for his misplaced belief that the enemy was on his last legs and that just one more push would do it.

More to come.....

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/12/2017 4:13:13 AM
Phil-the way I see the whole miserable episode-which is that it was just THE WAR- popularly thought to bear the guilt of Passchendaele, that catastrophic slaughter whose 100th anniversary we mark today.

IMHO it is time to redress this injustice. David Lloyd George, the then prime minister, should at least share the blame. He promised to stop the carnage. Ahould Passchendaele descend into another Somme. It did, and he didn’t. Why?

Part of the answer lies in the poisonous relationship between Lloyd George and Haig. The Field Marshal was a proud man who never forgot or forgave Lloyd George’s secret deal with the French to replace him with a French commander at the Battle of the Aisne in April 1917. Mutual hatred infected everything that followed.

Haig -has to bear the responsibility for the choice of Ypres for its third battle and for what happened once the battle begun .Most of all-he must bear full responsibility for stubbornly continuing to have his soldiers fight after the rains and the ground churned into a quagmire.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2549

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/12/2017 4:40:05 AM
Jim,

Your comments win my endorsement.

Especially in respect of Lloyd George's culpability.

Colin is of course right : the British army had to be seen to shoulder the burden.

If only Haig had adopted the Petain method, and suppressed his more grandiose ambitions !

Petain mounted limited but very successful local offensives in August and October.

The Canadian success at Lens ( Hill 70 ) is another example.

Then there was Cambrai.

Haig argued that the persistence of his Flanders offensive might achieve " great results ".

The presence of a three and a half million strong German army taking the offensive in the West in the following spring must have come as a distinct disappointment to him.

Regards, Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/12/2017 5:16:48 AM
Phil-I have argued times many Why 3rd Ypres--this ghastly hellhole seems to bewitched Haig.--

Battle of Arras
As the French armies still held over two thirds of the Western Front, Field Marshal Haig now had to keep pressure on the German forces and so prevent any attack on the badly shaken French.

Concern for the Russian front were also growing as news of the revolution began to arrive in the West. The relief of the allied armies, however, came at the cost of Haig’s own troops.

Third Army was compelled to fight phase five of the offensive, the Third Battle of the Scarpe, between the 3rd – 4th May, and another major action, the Capture of Roeux, on the 13th – 14th May.

Finally, General Gough’s Fifth Army undertook a flanking operation, the Battle of Bullecourt, on the 3rd –16th May.With the Battle of Bullecourt, the Arras offensive ended. In Canada, the taking of Vimy ridge has come to be mythologised as the heroic battle in which their national conscience was forged.-

However for Haig the call to Ypres was too nuch fot Haig but it was at Arras-given the same determination that good headway could have been made breaching the embryonoic Hindenberg Line.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2549

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/12/2017 6:26:04 PM
Jim,

Arras was a horrifically expensive battle , killing British troops at an even faster rate than Passchendaele .

Haig was not blamed for Arras because it was, in a sense, Lloyd George's baby : the Welsh Wizard enthusiastically endorsed Nivelle, and conspired to have Haig made subordinate to the French.

Haig's culpability for Passchendaele is, to a degree, mitigated by the disgraceful way he had been treated.

Passchendaele is synonymous with mud. With damned good reason.

What might surprise folks is the fact that some British troops who endured both the Somme and Passchendaele - and survived to tell the tale - were adamant that the mud was even worse in the final stages of the Somme than it was to be in Flanders a year later.

The Somme sector was chalky, and this imparted to the mud a treacherous slippery quality. Flanders was more flat, and thoroughly intersected with drainage ditches and dykes. There were even more shells falling here per square yard than there had been on the Somme, and this, combined with the ground and the relentless rain, converted the clay into a veritable quagmire. And yet, there was a significant emphasis from surviviors that the conditions endured in the last stages of the Somme battle were even more horrendous than those of Passchendaele .

The British Official Historian departed from his usual restraint when he wrote about the November 1916 fighting on the Somme : Our vocabulary is not adapted to describe such an existence , because it is beyond experience for which words are normally necessary .

Passchendaele was not the bloodiest battle fought by the British and Dominion troops in that war ; it might even be that the conditions, notoriety notwithstanding, were not unique in terms of mud and horror. But, coming on top of the Somme and Arras, the business did for British morale and, for the first time, the troops displayed a deadly dejection that alarmed those who beheld it.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/13/2017 4:10:00 AM
By the end of the offensive, the British had suffered more than 150,000 casualties and gained little ground since the first day.

Despite significant early gains, they were unable to effect a breakthrough and the situation reverted to stalemate.

Although many historians generally consider the battle a British victory, in the wider context of the front, it had very little impact on the strategic or tactical situation.

Bullecourt-was badly handled by Cough who had command of the ANZAC Corps-they coined the phrase "Yne Blood Tub.Properly managed -they just might have achieved something.

I do honestly think that a concerted effort at Arras would have been more worthwhile than 3rd Ypres.To assist the Arras operations, an attack was launched on Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 by the 4th Australian and 62nd British Divisions.

The attack was hastily planned and mounted and resulted in disaster. Tanks which were supposed to support the attacking Australian infantry either broke down or were quickly destroyed.
Nevertheless, the infantry managed to break into the German defences.

Due to uncertainty as to how far they had advanced, supporting artillery fire was withheld, and eventually the Australians were hemmed in and forced to retreat.

The two brigades of the 4th Division that carried out the attack, the 4th and 12th, suffered over 3,300 casualties; 1,170 Australians were taken prisoner - the largest number captured in a single[engagement during the war.

A disgraceful state of affairs !!!!!

Ludendorff later commented "no doubt exceedingly important strategic objects lay behind the British attack but I have never been able to discover what were". Ludendorff was also "very depressed; had our principles of defensive tactics proved false and if so, what was to be done?"

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2549

Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/13/2017 6:20:04 PM
Jim,

Arras was designed as a diversion, mounted by the British in support of the French who were to launch the main event as the Nivelle Offensive.

The British attack went in on 9 April, the French one week later....the latter being mounted along the Aisne sector, a good way to the south of the British.

You don't need me to tell you how the French attack fared.

Haig had expressed misgivings about the prospects for Nivelle's offensive, and proved himself correct.

I wonder about the propensity of British intelligence officers to tell Haig what he wanted to hear. I allude here to Charteris, who encouraged Haig by telling him about how badly shaken the Germans were, and how immense were their casualties.

Why was the High Command so susceptible to this ?

The capture of German prisoners amounted to just under 25,000 in the 105 days of battle ending on 12 November. Not a great exchange for a quarter of a million British casualties : ten to one.

We are killing the enemy, not capturing him ! explained Charteris, emphasising how the ground was thick with German dead.

Well, yes...the ground was thick with dead Germans, but it was thicker still with British dead.

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Battle of Passchendaele, 100th anniversary
Posted on: 11/14/2017 4:02:27 AM
OK Phil-I've made my point but you are not buying into the idea
so I will say no more on the subject of Arras and leave history to stand.Re Passchendaele-I have made my point about this debacle and have nothing further to add.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

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