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The Battle of Passchendaele

Updated on December 29, 2018

The Battle of Passchendaele Begins

On 18 July a preliminary bombardment that lasted ten days was launched against the German troops which constituted the Third Battle of Ypres in West Belgium, Flanders. It was called the Battle of Passchendaele. The bombardment destroyed the drainage systems making flooding of the area more inevitable especially since there had been the heaviest rain in thirty years in the Summer of 1917. When the Infantry launch came on 31 July at 3:50 the already expended four and a quarter million shells meant that tanks got stuck in the mud and infantry mobility was limited. It became known by the soldiers as, 'The Battle of Mud.'

The intro photo of Stretcher bearers Passchendaele August 1917 is a Public Domain image

200,000 were wounded on the Western Front during the Great War


The Battle

General Douglas Haig had launched the attack believing that the German forces were close to collapse since the Battle of the Somme earlier that year but this was not the case. Since the bombardment the element of suprise was lost and the Germans expected an attack. Sir Hubert Gough's Fifth Army opened the attack with Sir Herbert Plumer's Second Army, (one corps) on the right and a corps of the French First Army led by Antoine on the left, making twelve divisions in all. The attack was launched across an 18km front. However, the French were halted north by the German Fifth Army under Galluritz and the Fourth Army led by Arnim restricted the British advance to limited gains in the left line around Pilckem Ridge. 'Bite and Hold' attacks took place in order to wear down the German Army and gain terrain.

War of Attrition

General Plumer had originally when capturing the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge advised continueing the battle onto the Passchendaele Ridge but Haig had disagreed and he chose not to brign his plans forward from the end of July. David Lloyd George the British Primeminister did not want to approve the plans but did so anyway. He was later to call it an example of 'senseless waste and poor generalship'.

Map of the Battle of Passchendaele

Map of the Battle of Passchendaele
Map of the Battle of Passchendaele

The Battle Ending

Indeed, the battle only ended when the Canadian Corps took Passchendaele, five miles from the start of the offensive on 6 November 1917 ending the battle. 5 km of new territiory was gained for 140,000 combat deaths, approx 5cm per dead soldier. It proved to be a hollow victory as the Germans recaptured the lost ground at the Battle of Lys five months later without resistance, but lost it permanently in September 1918.

325,000 British soldiers died and casualties from both sides exceeded 850,000

Passchendaele Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Battlefield became a Mud BathShells knocked heavy craters into the ground that filled with water.Some soldiers drowned in the water filled holes.Soldiers nicknamed it "The Battle of Mud".
The Battlefield became a Mud Bath
The Battlefield became a Mud Bath
Shells knocked heavy craters into the ground that filled with water.
Shells knocked heavy craters into the ground that filled with water.
Some soldiers drowned in the water filled holes.
Some soldiers drowned in the water filled holes.
Soldiers nicknamed it "The Battle of Mud".
Soldiers nicknamed it "The Battle of Mud".

Your Thoughts on the Battle of Passchendaele

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    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I didn't know much about this battle, but we did visit some World War I sites and museums in France. And the photos of the devastation from WWI was just horrible. Thanks for sharing.

    • EMangl profile image


      8 years ago

      may it never happen again!

    • javr profile image


      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The movie evoked powerful emotions.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      nice lens!

    • delia-delia profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting! war is terrible no matter what side you're on, lives are lost, poor leadership on any-side can be devastating...lensrolled to my 'Gallipoli Star' lens

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      8 years ago

      Whenever I visit WWI sites or read about the horror, I find it extremely moving and saddening. I think the negative energy of this ghastly conflict will be with us for a long time to come.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 

      8 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      I've read a couple of books about World War I, a very deadly war. Thank you for this bit of a history lesson!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done, Lucy Claire.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I thought I did not know anything about it. Actually, we toured through Ypres as well as the other places like Verdun and visited the Canadian museum. It was heart wrenching.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      you must be good at history...keep doing what you know how to do best

    • GardenArbor profile image


      9 years ago

      Can't imagine what they must have gone through day after day. Such a waste of good people.


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