The Ypres Salient - CWGC

A rethinking of German defensive organisation took place after the carnage of the fighting on the Somme in 1916, during which the policy of the immediate counter-attack to regain lost ground resulted in extremely A British soldier stands inside a group of iron stakes which were to be the framework for a German pillbox, Waterloo Farm, near Broodseindeheavy casualties. A new system of 'defence in depth' was introduced, to which British and Dominion forces were first exposed during the fighting for the Messines Ridge in June 1917.

At Third Ypres these new defensive dispositions were intended to draw the attackers on, wearing them down in the process as they fought through the first shell-hole lines and concrete machine-gun posts ('pillboxes') of the 'forward battle zone', into the second system (the 'greater battle zone') and deep beyond into the 'rearward battle zone'. Here, out of the range of British artillery, German counter-attack Divisions would be kept in safety in order to allow their deployment against any attackers who had survived the dangerous slog across the battlefield. The distance from the first shell-hole lines to the fringes of the rearward battle zone (Flandern I) was in the region of 10,000 to 12,000 yards; further behind two additional defence lines were completed (Flandern II and Flandern III) by August 1917.


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