Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
The Battle of Passchendaele
Belgium, 12 October 1917
Taken from the air in 1915, the bucolic beauty of Passchendaele remains untouched by the scourge of war.
Passchendaele, the last Australian attack during the Third Battle of Ypres, took place on 12 October 1917. Notwithstanding the failure of the operation at Poelcappelle (q.v.) three days earlier, due to the impossible conditions created by heavy rain which was still falling, the commander of' the British Second Army (Sir Herbert Plumer) was not deterred from continuing his step-by-step tactics - instead he hurried forward arrangements for delivering the next blow against Passchendaele. The attempt involved two divisions of 11 Anzac Corps (3rd Australian Division, under Major-General John Monash, and the New Zealand Division) on the right flank, advancing with five British divisions.
The unfolding Passchendaele as told through a map drawn up by the German 464th Infantry Regiment.
The attack, launched at dawn, stood practically no chance of success. The protective artillery barrage was virtually useless, since the troops could not keep up with it in the mud and were lucky if they could even stay on their feet. In the II Anzac's sector, the New Zealanders (fighting on the left) were pinned down by enemy pillboxes while the 3rd Division became bogged down in a valley below Passchendaele itself. A few Australians on the right reached the edge of' the village, supported by a brigade of the 4th Australian Division (of I Anzac Corps) on their right who moved forward against an adjoining ridge called the Keiberg. Being too weak to hold their ground, however, both groups of Australians were eventually forced to give up these gains and fall back.
The iconic image that emerged which described the futility of the whole battle.
This futile effort, often dignified with the title of First Battle of Passchendaele, cost the two divisions of II Anzac about 3,000 casualties each and the 4th Division another 1,000. Due to the heavy losses sustained by the Anzac Corps - 38,000 in the five Australian divisions alone - Plumer was obliged to begin withdrawing them for rest and to bring in the Canadian Corps to complete the job of capturing the Passchendaele heights. Between 26 October and 10 November the Canadians undertook five operations which ultimately resulted in the objective being taken. During the first of these attacks I Anzac Corps provided some support on the Canadians' southern flank, but by 15 November the last of the Australian divisions was following the others to the relative quiet of the Messines front.
Taken from the air in 1917, Passchendaele after the visit from the Allies and German armies.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 133-134.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, (1933), The Australian Imperial Force in France 1917, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
P.A. Pedersen, (1985), Monash as Military Commander, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press.
Citation: The Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium, 12 October 1917, Outline