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CHAPTER XII
1917 (contd.).-THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES
THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI
"YPRES, 1917," "PILCKEM," "LANGEMARCK," "MEN IN ROAD," "BROODSEINDE,"
"POLYGON WOOD," " POELCAPPELLE," "PASSCHENDAELE," "CAMBRAl, 1917"
(Maps 3, 4
&
9)
1st, 2nd, 1st/5th, 2nd/5th, 3rd/5th, 1st/6th, 2nd/6th, 1st/7th, 2nd/ 7th, 1st/8th,
2nd/8th, 9th, lOth, 11th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 2Qth Battalions
IT
was said of the Battle of the Marne at the beginning of Chapter III
that few battles in history had given rise to such furious controversy
as the events known by that name. The Third Battle of Ypres,
popularly referred to as "Passchendaele" from the final and most
painful stage of it, is one of those few. More bitterness has been
expended between soldiers and civilians and between soldiers them–
selves in the discussion of it than was ever shown between the British
and the Germans in the fighting of it. The business of a regimental
historian is to produce narrative and not controversy ; and the latter
will
be avoided in this chapter as far as possible. But this is not to say
that unpleasant facts will be suppressed or that conditions
~
be
described as they were believed or hoped by some to be instead of as
they were in fact.
Put very briefly, the objects of the Third Battle of Ypres wece
to maintain the pressure on the Germans which had begun on the
Somme in July,
I9I6,
and had been continued at Arras and on the
French front in the spring of
I9I7,
so as to use up their manpower;
and to seize the Passchendaele ridge as a preliminary to an advance
through Roulers in order to join hands with an operation along the
Belgian coast from Nieuport and Ostend designed to sweep the
enemy from that area and to deprive him of his submarine bases in
it.
The Passchendaele ridge, though the highest ground in this part of
Belgium, is no more than about one hundred and sixty feet above
sea-level. The intervening terrain between the British line and the
ridge was for the most part at sea-level, with a few small spurs
rarely rising more than seventy feet above it. Originally reclaimed
from the sea and with a bog a short distance below the surface, it was
kept fit for agriculture by an elaborate system of dykes and drains,
which farmers were compelled to keep clear under pain of heavy
fines . The district has a bad record for rain from the middle of
August onwards.
The Germans had profited by their experience on the Somme
and had adopted new defensive tactics. Their forward positions
2I5