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?
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.