The Ypres Salient - CWGC

The British artillery barrage at the commencement of 'Third Ypres' has been criticised (like the artillery programme prior to the Somme offensive of the previous year) for spreading its weight of Battle of Pilckem Ridge 31 July-2 August: Stretcher bearers struggling in mud carry a wounded man to safety near Boesinghe on 1 Augustshot too thinly across the entire battle front instead of concentrating on the complete destruction of identified areas of weakness. Nonetheless the barrage was a considerable achievement which effected much destruction of German positions; but in the process it also destroyed the fragile and ancient drainage systems of the land British troops must cross. The ploughing-up of the battlefield by shell fire was compounded by the arrival of heavy rain which added to the considerable quantities of near surface water in the shallow valleys and low lying areas to create swamp-like conditions in which movement became appallingly difficult. Gruelling for the infantry, movement was equally arduous for horses, mules and tanks (170 Mark IVs had been allocated to Gough for the attack). Further, consolidation of gains was inevitably slowed and the forward siting of heavy guns became exhausting enterprises requiring enormous effort; raft-like gun platforms had to be constructed to provide a stable base for firing - all amidst the careful attentions of an undaunted enemy.

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