9th Oct 1917: Under-strength 22nd Bn attacks on flank in Battle of Poelcappelle

The French First Army and British Second and Fifth armies attacked in the Battle of Poelcappelle on 9th October 1917, on a 13,500 yards front, from the Broodseinde ridge towards Passchendaele. The AIF 2nd Division would provide the 5th & 6th Brigades for the right flank of the attack. The 5th Brigade made its second objective, but with the failure of the untried British 66th Division within General Godley’s II Anzac Corps on their left, were alone and with numbers too small to eject the Germans who remained between the posts, they themselves were beaten back to the first objective suffering heavy losses. On the right the 6th Brigade attacked with all four under-strength battalions – 23rd, 21st, 24th and 22nd Battalions from north to south – on a frontage of 1,200 yards but with an average strength of just 7 officers and 150 other ranks, and at least half of the men fresh from the nucleus at Caestre. So thin was the barrage that from the start the German machine guns were able to cause havoc for the advancing parties. During the attack the AIF 2nd Division suffered 1,253 casualties. General Birdwood later wrote that the return of heavy rain and mud sloughs was the main cause of the failure to hold captured ground. German General Kuhl concluded that the fighting strained German fighting power to the limit but that the German forces managed to prevent a breakthrough, although it was becoming much harder for them to replace losses.

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