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.

Today, October 12th,  is the anniversary of the first Battle of Passchendaele, or the Third Battle of Ypres. 
The Battle of Passchendaele was, if not the most deadly, than one of the most horrible battles of the war. It was characterized by its mud, which accounts say was the consistency of cheesecake, and bottomless. Men who fell into pits filled with mud were often left to drown or starve to death, as trying to help would only lead to more casualties.
The poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote of a soldier who died during the battle in a poem entitled Memorial Tablet:

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?

(Image:  Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade on a duckboard track passing through Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, 29 October 1917.)

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.