Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Third Battle of Ypres

July 31st will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the Third Battle of Ypres. The Third Battle of Ypres was the major British offensive in Flanders in 1917.  The objective of the offensive was to break  through the heavily fortified German defences and advance to the Belgian coast where German submarines were based. There were a number of limited and costly battles which occurred throughout September, October and November 1917 as part of the offensive. Due to the waterlogged conditions a result of persistent heavy rain and destruction to the Flanders drainage system caused by heavy artillery action the offensive proved to be very costly in terms of casualties.  In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties. To put this into perspective this is 12,000 more than the eight moinths of fighting in the Gallipoli campaign. The total of British and other dominion forces casualties have been estimated at 310,000. The German casualties were estimated to be slightly lower than this.

While the opportunity for a breakthrough slowly disappeared Field Marshal Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front still saw value in continuing the offensive hoping to drain German manpower through attrition. While no breakthrough was achieved the offensive merely widened the Ypres Salient by a few kilometres.

As part of the offensive Australian forces saw action at Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poeicapelle, and the first battle of Passchendaele. We will blog about each of these battles in coming posts.

Following is an article in the Ballarat Courier describing the Ypres offensive.

Ballarat Courier 25 October 1917

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