31st Jul 1917: British attack at Pilckem Ridge marks beginning of Passchendaele campaign

Ypres - 6120443The 3rd Ypres or Passchendaele campaigncontroversial in 1917 and remaining so ever since, began with the attack at Pilckem Ridge. The cautious step-by-step approach by Haig over the 3 & 1/2 month campaign did result in territorial gains but came at a high cost of some 450,000 British and Dominion casualties, comparable to the Somme 1916 offensive, and was nowhere near achieving the initially held objective of driving the German Army from the channel coast. Although preferable to the limited, narrow front, wearing down assaults on the Somme of the previous year, the approach did have one major defect in that the attacks never went deep enough to disrupt the mass of the enemy’s artillery enabling it to retire and fight again. Despite the early successes, once the weather broke and turned the battlefield into an impassable quagmire, any thought of a decisive breakthrough had gone. Passchendaele will forever be remembered as a campaign of ‘wretchedness in the Flanders mud’.

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