Aldershot and Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres, 31 July - 10 November 1917)

Compiled by Paul H Vickers, Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum, April 2017


“Passchendaele” is the popular name for what is more properly called the Third Battle of Ypres. As with the Battle of the Somme the year before, Third Ypres was not a single battle but is a collective name for a series of battles fought in the Ypres salient during the period from 31 July to 10 November 1917. The main actions were:

As this was to be an offensive battle, Haig initially put General Sir Hubert Gough in command as he was known for his aggressive style. The initial attacks made some reasonable progress, but German artillery and counter-attacks by specially trained divisions halted the advance. Exceptionally bad weather turned much of the ground to mud which further hindered British attacks, and the Battle of Langemarck was a significant defeat. Haig now replaced Gough with the more methodical General Sir Herbert Plumer, whose plan was for limited “bite and hold” attacks, for which he instituted a three-week period of intensive training. In the next major offensive, the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, the objectives were limited to what was within the capabilities of the attacking forces, after which they dug in to hold off the inevitable German counter-attacks. This battle and its new tactics were a success which restored much of the Army’s morale. The Battle of Polygon Wood was launched in hot, dry conditions and was another notable success, and it was even believed that a breakthrough may be possible. However, on 4 October the weather broke again, with persistent heavy rain making the ground very difficult and all movement became an ordeal in the mud. As a result the Battle of Poelcappelle was only a partial success, and in the battles for Passchendaele hardly any ground was gained for severe loss of life, and eventually the actions ground to a halt.

Casualties for 31 July - 10 November were:-

(Source: Evans, Martin Marix: “Passchendaele: the hollow victory”, p.158)

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