The Third Battle of Ypres

And why it was a disaster for the British

The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, was launched on the 31st of July 1917 by Sir Douglas Haig in an attempt to break through Flanders. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned. It became infamous for the scale of casualties, and for the soldiers that fought there was known as the "Battle of Mud".

From the start, the campaign was controversial and both British Prime Minister Lloyd George and French Chief of General Staff General Foch were against it. But the plan was approved, since Haig argued that the German army was on the verge of collapse and that if they could destroy the submarine bases on the north coast of Belgium, that would be enough to win the war. (Haig was wrong. The German army was not on the verge of collapse.)

The assault was meticulously planned. The intention was to continue to push westwards. as Passchendaele Ridge was strategically important in that it would cut off the German's access to the Belgian ports of Ostende and Zeebrugge.

The attack began on the 31st of July. The left wing of the attack was successful but the right wing failed completely. It was also raining, the heaviest rain in 30years, and soon the soil was saturated with water and it became very muddy, earning the battle its nickname. Some soldiers and horses drowned in the mud. A few days later, there was a stalemate, but Haig insisted that the assault go on until November. After that very little progress was made and it was not the breakthrough that Haig was expecting.

The Allies had gained the town of Passchendaele, but had advanced just 5 miles. There were 325,000 Allied casualties and 260,000 German casualties.

I think Haig was mostly responsible because he insisted the assault go on until November, as he believed the German army could not withstand heavy casualties. Which was true. However, this sacrificed many Allied soldiers which is why this battle remains very controversial today.

Soldiers at the Third Battle of Ypres

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