Australian soldiers in trenches at the Battle of Polygon Wood, 1917
The Battle of Polygon Wood took place during the second phase of the Third battle of Ypres in World War I and was fought near Ypres in Belgium 26 September – 3 October 1917, in the area from the Menin Road to Polygon Wood and thence north, to the area beyond St. Julien. Much of the woodland had been destroyed by the huge quantity of shellfire from both sides since 16 July and the area had changed hands several times. General Herbert Plumer continued the series of British general attacks with limited objectives. The British attacks were led by lines of skirmishers, followed by small infantry columns organised in depth, (a formation which had been adopted by the Fifth Army in August) with a vastly increased amount of artillery support, the infantry advancing behind five layers of creeping bombardment on the Second Army front.


Top: Australian gunners on a duckboard track in Château Wood near Hooge, 29 October 1917. Photo by Frank Hurley.

Centre: Aerial view of Passchendaele village before and after the battle.

Lower:  A soldier looking at the ruins of Ypres in sunlight.


On this day 31 July 1917:  Began The Third Battle of Ypres also know as The Battle of Passchendaele.

The Third Battle of Ypres, was fort in and around The Ypres Salient on the Western Front, the battle would last until the capture of the village of Passchendaele on 10 November 1917.

British and Allied casualties: 200,000 - 448,000.

German and Allied casualties: 217,000 – 410,000 including 24,065 prisoners.

None of the numbers of killed or wounded can be verified.

Two unidentified Australian Lewis Machine Gunners of the 1st Battalion in a place of vantage formed by a shell splintered tree on the Ramparts at Ypres. During the Third Battle of Ypres, the aerial activity was almost continuous, day and night, and the rattle of machine guns for aerial defence was practically incessant. The gunner on the left has a magazine ready, once the other one on the gun is empty.

Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey, 51st Battalion and later Australian Corps Salvage AIF, tagging battlefield trophies for the Australian War Museum at the Hoograaf Collecting Depot. The battlefield relics were gathered during the Australian advances in the Third Battle of Ypres and almost every item bears a signficance to some historic event in which Australian troops figure. Corporal Bailey was accidentally killed on 17 May 1918 at Ailly sur Somme while handling similar material. Note the German stick grenade, rifle with bayonet and the machine gun that he is holding.