The Ypres Salient - CWGC

The Passchendaele-Staden Ridge, to the north-east of Ypres represented 'the last high ground before open country towards the railway centre at Roulers and the Belgian coast beyond' and as such exerted a powerful influence on Gough's decisions as to how the battle should be fought. (See John Lee's introduction to 'Passchendaele: the day-by-day account', Chris McCarthy, London, Arms and Armour, 1995, p.10).

Although having been previously warned by Sir Douglas Haig of the importance of securing the southern flanks (and base) of the attack by gaining possession of the Gheluvelt Plateau (immediately to the east of Ypres) Gough can be criticised for establishing vague and too ambitious objectives for his attacking divisions. His plan for a deep advance along the entire front of Fifth Army's attack was qualified by him offering his Divisional commanders the freedom for further discretionary 'exploitation' should the opportunities arise. Commendable in its spirit of thrusting optimism this ill-defined freedom failed to take into account, specifically, the particular problems faced by II Corps on the Gheluvelt Plateau and, more generally, the nature of the in-depth German zonal defences, the battlefield conditions, and the limited range of British artillery support.


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