The Ypres Salient - CWGC

Fifth Army's nine attacking Divisions, comprising in the region of 100,000 men, advanced behind an intense protective creeping barrage that moved forward at a rate of 100 yards every four minutes. The assaulting troops easily captured the German forward zone to a depth of a mile in the first five hours. In the northern sector XIV Corps (benefiting from the entirely successful advance on their left by the French First Army and the Battle of Pilckem Ridge 31 July-2 August: A pack horse with a gas mask being loaded up with iron staples and other equipment near PilckemGuards Division's initiative in having negotiated the barrier of the Yser canal before the battle proper had started) raced on near 3,000 yards towards the Steenbeek; the enemy defence stiffened nearer this wide stream.

In the centre, XVIII and XIX Corps had early success and quickly achieved their first objectives; but the defensive fire from surviving strongpoints and machine gun posts slowed progress. Co-ordinated infantry attacks (reflecting the training the troops had received in connection with the 'neutralisation', or 'reduction' of pillboxes) and tank support were required to get past these obstacles and with St Julien captured by 8am, British troops in this sector were across the Steenbeek. XIX Corps achieved the greatest advance of the day - attaining, by early afternoon all their objectives - three German defence lines; in the process of which they successfully negotiated Pilckem, St Julien and London ridges.

The least successful area of progress was in II Corps sector (in the south); there the advance across the difficult ground at western edge of the Gheluvelt Plateau was made more precarious by the British artillery's failure effectively to subdue German batteries covering this area. There was some early success: 8th Division captured Chateau Wood and Bellewaarde Ridge and edged on towards Westhoek; but 30th and 24th Divisions, on the right, were hampered by the sodden ground, lost the cover of the creeping barrage and were subjected to heavy German shelling as they struggled through Sanctuary Wood and Shrewsbury Forest.


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