The Battle of Passchendaele
This blog depicts the great, the gore and the glory behind the war that is Passchendaele.
During passchendaele there was a loss of many men, it was on of the most catastrophic events before World War 2. In this battle the Canadians proved to be quite useful, however, there is ,lots of question on why their line came in so late.
The French Army was semi-parylized from the amount of moralities and the difficulty to move forward to the German line. There was about 200,000 men who did not survive.
Douglas Haig, the British commander had ordered troops into Flanders Fields to seize a German submarine that was in the Belgian coast.
During the time frame of early October, the German lines had strengthened and they were the one's with the advantage. However Haig still had a plan. Even though the British suffered from exhaustion, he felt as though if the Canadians relieved the Anzac we would be able to capture Passchendaele. (veterans.gc.ca 2014/10/23)
At the Memorial Museum -in Zonnebeke, Belgium there is artifacts from the war, which have managed to survived it's brutal effects. This is not only a good source of information and a tangible piece of history, but the soldier's actually attire allows people to picture the difficulty they must have faced in the trenches. Unfortunately, at wars like Passchendaele many soldiers would die from causes that are not related to the artillery being used against them, whether it be Spanish Flu after the war, or drowning in the mud of the trenches, many would say that the Canadians did not have innovation nor weather conditions on their side.
This image, as displayed in the website of the Memorial Museum, depicts a exhibit of the uniforms that some of the head men of the army would wear during battle. As you can see their clothing was not protected with an outer layer of metal like in the medieval era. The Canadian's uniform would be inspired by the British uniform created in 1903, this is no surprised considering the British Rule, however the Canadian's decided to "customize" theirs. There are 9 buttons on a soldiers uniform no matter what ranking they are placed in, the British took nostalgia behind the number 7, so all their uniforms would have 7 buttons. On the right of this image is the uniform of a French soldier. Now this uniform may seem appealing, and show the colours of France, however, it's practicality is little to none. During the war when soldiers were trying to camouflage from the opposing line, the uniforms would make this difficult. Why? Because of the bright and noticeable colour.
For this soul reason of being visible the British decided to enforce a darker khaki serge was adopted in 1902.
The Battle of Passchendaele was also known to be "The Battle of Ypres". This battle started in July of 1917 and commenced to November in 1917. During that time period, that was not known to be a long war, however in the current century, it would have been. The Battle of Passchendaele is the third war after the first- world- war. This battle called the Canadian troops, since they were under British rule and the British commander had specific interest in attacking through Ypres Salient in Belgium so that the channel ports occupied by the Germans could be seized. The ridge on the point of the Passchendaele Village was crescent shaped an 8km east of Ypres. The British attacked with their offensive line at 3:50 in the morning.
This is how the battle begun.
A Soldier's Itinerary
- Night of October 29th, 1917, traveling to the Marsh Bottom (Jump off)
- An attack, Source Farm, October 30th, 1917
- Meetcheele, the same attack, occurring October 30th, 1917
- The attack of November 6th, 1917, at Passchendaele New British Cemetery
- November 10th, 1917 an attack at Vindictive Crossroads
- Crest Farm, October 30th, 1917
- The attack of the 4th division, October 30th, 1917
- The Valley of Ravebeek, the attack of October 26th, 1917
July 31st, 1917
Today our soldiers are traveling 18 kilometers to try and win over the battle front of Pilckem Ridge, I'm fearful that they're are more wounded than dead, is that a horrible thing? I feel as though I won't be able to help all the wounded, since spring there was over 1 million soldiers dead or killed and I don't think I could rush to help so many patients again. Before I could operate, most ended up dead waiting. Surgeries had to be rushed, they were simply us patching up men as quickly as we could then moving to the next. It was like trying to relive earthquake victims with only bandages. They say only soldiers get PTSD, but I beg to differ. The bombardment shook the ground like elephants rampaging towards us, screams of those facing death, they're pain ringing in my ears like the squeal of a new born pig before being taken from mother for slaughter. All of this was occurring, the bombardment, the loss of life, however main focus was the pancreas, the gall bladder, the kidneys... I am a general surgeon, I have to ensure that my own fear does not meddle with my judgment.
According to commander Haig the German bastards have 5,000 guns, being in the British Expeditionary I can tell you, we are out numbered in artillery.
I believe that we cannot withstand this war for much longer, the conditions, this rain and mud combined, it's like walking through quicksand. Thus, I come to this conclusion my dear.
I assume that commanders Haig and Plumer have a plan for us to fight as long as we can, then the Belgian and Dutch will come for our relief. If I am not gathered and brought home by the new offensive line I want you to remember this.
Write to the commander and tell him this, tell him I believe we can decrease the number of fatalities if we fashion gas masks for the soldiers so they will not be affected by the German's tear gas.
Please my love, do me this justice, no matter how much you want to assist the army I forbid you from assisting with the bomb making. Please stay away from the factory work. Robert Fairweather's wife was caught in an accident, when during the packaging process one bomb was detonated in her arms, I can not have this cruel war take the lives of the both of us.
As we speak men are screaming in distress and pain, so I must leave, our nurse wing was just bombed. Yet some how, surrounded with blood and people who need me I feel as though I have given up. How selfish of me... but I'd rather be writing to you.
We were just warned artillery is coming this wa
The German's Strategy
Ypres was a very complex battle, this is because at the time technology was not so advanced. Therefore, engineers had to be very innovative and come up with strategies that would be time effective and would do great damage to the opposition. In this case, the Germans were quite innovative. They used a complex system of interlocking pillboxes. These were concrete blocks which would allow them to have an offensive advantage, because they are structured with a hole, that allows weapons to be fired and aligned for good aim. These were crucial at the time because the trenches were muddy from the rain, decreasing the odds of a soldier to have good aim and increasing the odds that a wounded soldier might die before receiving aid, this is because some soldiers would drown in the mud.
From the perspective of the Canadians, this would have been a huge disadvantage, creating a stronger defensive barrier for the Germans. One disadvantage of the trenched was there lack of coverage, if one wanted to shoot, they would often have to stand because of the mud, providing them with little to no protection.
What Happened After The War?
At 6:00 we learned that the battle was not the only reason for so many fatalities. Often, the question "what happened during the war" is asked, when one is interviewing a veteran, however, many fail to address and investigate on what happened in their lives after.
Arthur Halestrap, a survivor of Passchendaele had gotten Spanish Flu. At the time, when the medical centers were full, or unavailable to the soldier's, the only treatment they were given was to drink large amounts of rum.
Since many men died in the battle of Passchendaele many forget about the detrimental after affects of the war and they mainly research the time in which war was active. "However, as we learned in this video 1919 Spanish flu had claimed tens of millions of lives."
While the men were fighting what happened to the women?
During this era, where World War One begun, women did not have the power, and amount of rights they have today. At the time, women were known to be house workers, generally married at a young age and taking care of children. However, this had to change. With the amount of men being sent to war, they're was a need for workers. Since at the time men would be fighting on the line, and being a nurse was associated with women, or known to be a "women's job", traditions and normality's were conformed to meet the demands of battles like Passchendaele.
To convince women to work, head speakers and members of the government told the female population that working in the war was liberating. Liberating it was. Not perhaps in the sense it was enjoyable, but in sense that many people's perspective changed based on gender equality.
The control of the government in the workforce was very shocking at the time but it was the measures that was needed to supply the army with it's artillery and resources.
Since women were not normally a part of the work place and people knew how to persuade them 1,600,000 women joined the workforce. Some of the jobs they obtained were in Government departments such as post offices, so that communication between the front line, generals and government could be made, public transport, clerk offices, however majority of these women worked in factories. A large amount of the production from these factories were ammunition. This job was glamorized by many however, they were extremely dangerous, and unpleasant conditions that these women worked in.
The following section of this video shows a production creation called "Bomb Girls". This is a famous series based on a true story of events, based on real characters. The scene (4:15min- 7:16min) shows some of the discrimination that the women went through when making bombs for battles such as Passchendaele, however something interesting about this episode is how the women at first were hesitant to articulate their feelings about the factory in which they worked, however, afterward they found a voice.
Despite the fact that women workers were known for their hard work, they always received lower wages than men, another example of gender inequality. Many feared that when the surviving men returned from war, they would be hit with unemployment because of the women's ability to work with less pay. However, when the men did return it so happened that women were fired without reason. This was quite the controversy, because, even though women have always faced the stereotype behind the jobs they should be associated with because of their gender, the government had now been responsible for employing the largest amount of women, then allowing them to be unemployed.
This did not end well as you may presume. Women went on strike in 1918, however not all the war was over
The Canadian Encyclopedia on the Battle of Passchendaele: