The Battle of Passchendaele

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  • Topic: Arthur Currie, Battle of Passchendaele, Western Front
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  • Published : October 12, 2006
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The Battle of Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele is remembered for its atrocious conditions, high casualty rates and Canadian valor. Canadians, instrumental in securing victory, earned a total of nine Victoria Crosses for their courage.

Located near the town of Ypres where another brutal battle occurred, a small town called Passchendaele sat, unaware of the brutal future that was to come. Although it had very little strategic value, General Douglas Haig of the Royal British Army was determined to retake the ridge from the German defenses. Despite over 16 000 Canadian deaths, and a total of nearly 300 000 deaths over all, the ridge was retaken by the Allies.

By the time the Canadians entered the battle on the Passchendaele Ridge, British and Australian troops had fought there for more than three months. Their efforts had been unsuccessful: 100,000 casualties for very little ground won. The main geographical features included thousands of shell holes almost touching each other at all times. With the most summer and autumn rains in over 30 years, the shell holes filled up, and the soft dirt turned to horribly thick and sticky mud and turned the entire battle field into a mud laden quagmire. It was so bad, that if soldiers weren't careful, they could actually drown into the abyss. Because of the terrain, the soldiers had to use "duck boards" to maneuver around. If someone was to fall off one of these duck boards, they'd be in up to 3-4 feet of mud. To put into perspective, a wool coat soaked in mud weighs on average 50 lbs. NO JOKE!

"Don't sleep under a tank", famous words from General Sir Arthur William Currie (1875 – 1933). He was a capable Canadian army commander who had a consistent string of victories throughout the war. His name was made following his conduct as GOC 2nd (Canadian) brigade during 1914-15, most noticed during the first German gas attack @ second Ypres, he was handed charge of the 1st Canadian Division during 1915-16....
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