Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Battle of Menin Road

The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Menin Road will be commemorated on the 20th September.  Menin Road was an offensive operation, part of the Third Battle of Ypres on the Western Front. The action was an attempt to take parts of the curving ridge, east of Ypres, which the Menin Road crossed.  The action was undertaken by the British Second Army, which also saw the first involvement of Australian units (1st and 2nd divisions AIF) in the Third Battle of Ypres campaign.

The battle was a compete success along its entire front  though allied  troops encountered fierce resistance from entrenched German defensive positions as well as German counter attacks. A key feature of the battle was the intensity of the opening artillery support by the British. This was the fiercest  concentration of the war thus far.  The bombardment, which began weeks before the battle itself began on the 20th September, blasted key German strong points and guns.  While the battle was successful the two Australian divisions suffered 5,013 casualties.  Australian War Historian C.E.W. Bean writing in the  official history after the war wrote,  ' the advancing barrage won the ground , the infantry merely occupied it, pouncing on any points at which resistance survived. '

Joan Beaumont in her book Broken Nation quotes Pompey Elliott in a letter home after the battle  saying ' our boys have made a glorious advance and captured a whole lot of Boches and driven them back a long way. That will be another feather in our boys' cap for the British troops have been blocked along the line for about a month'

Below are how the two Ballarat newspapers The Ballarat Star and the Ballarat Courier reported the battle. Following the two articles is a sketch drawing of the battle by H. Septimus.  two biplanes can be seen flying low above the trenches on the front line. It is thought these could be reconnaissance aircraft from 4 Squadron  Royal Flying Corp who were providing contact patrols on the day of the battle.

Ballarat Star 25 September 1917, p.1

Ballarat Courier 24 September 1917, p. 3

Battle of Menin Road courtesy Australian War Memorial      ART03327

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