The Ypres Salient - CWGC

‘The margins of the overflowing streams were transformed into long stretches of bog, passable only by well-defined tracks which became targets for the enemy’s artillery; and to leave the tracks was to risk death by drowning. The mud-covered roads, practically unrecognisable, though constantly repaired, were pitted with shell holes three to four feet deep. For the moment tank support was impracticable.' ('Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1917' (Volume II), compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E Edmonds, London, HMSO, 1948, p.183).

Movement to and from the front line over the precarious duckboard tracks and mud and slime-slicked plank roads made transportation of supplies and the evacuation of the wounded exceedingly arduous and dangerous operations. In addition to the heavy shell fire (high-explosive and shrapnel) Australian troops wearing box respirators in a trench at Garter Point near Ypresthe fragile communication routes were saturated with gas: 'The Germans had a potent new weapon to hinder…in their new ‘mustard’ gas, an oily fluid diffused from shells, which, with no warning, save the characteristic smell, produced in a few hours terrible burns, loss of sight and voice, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Few died, but thousands were affected, and equally in the battery areas and the cellars of Ypres the ‘area shoots’ of the German light batteries, proved alarmingly effective. The heavy liquid lingered, often undetected, in the soil for many days, making it dangerous to dig in it, lie on it, or dump stores or rations, especially when the sun shone.’ (‘An Outline History of the Great War’, Carey and Scott, Cambridge University Press, 1928, p. 148).

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