Battle of Passchendaele: Controversial in 1917 and Today

Medics carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher at Passchendaele

Battle of Passchendaele: Controversial in 1917 and Today

The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought July 31-November 10, 1917, in Flanders, Belgium.

The goal of the attack was to gain Allied control of the ridges around the city of Ypres and to force the Germans to divert resources from the channel and their U-boat bases.

The nations involved were Canada, Germany, Newfoundland, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, Belgium and France.

“Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war,” British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said in War Memoirs. “No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign.”

Lloyd George did not like the plan in 1917, but there were no other credible plans of attack.

Major Battle Events

  • After months of fighting, the Allies failed to capture their objective.
  • The weather was extremely rainy, turning dirt into mud and shell holes into ponds.
  • Canadian Corps arrived to the battle in mid-October, relieving the Australians and New Zealanders. They were in nearly the same position the 1st Division had been during the Second Battle of Ypres.
  • Canadian Gen. Arthur Currie objected to the battle. The Canadians, however, were ordered to participate by Sir Douglas Haig, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force.
  • With no other choice but to participate, Currie began to prepare, hoping to save as many lives as possible.
  • Under enemy fire, the Corps began repairing roads and tramlines, allowing for reinforcements to easily reach the front. It also prepared gun pits.
  • The Canadian stage of the battle had four phases.
  • The first phase began October 26, and the Corps captured its objectives.
  • The final phase occurred November 10. The battle ended that day when the Canadians secured the heights.

End Result

  • The Battle of Passchendaele was controversial in 1917 and still is today because of the months of futile effort fighting in the mud.
  • The British Empire suffered 275,000 casualties. The Germans suffered 222,000.  For two weeks of fighting, the Canadians lost 15,654.
  • When the battle ended, morale for British Expeditionary Forces was at one of its lowest points in the entire war.

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Updated: 23 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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