The Ypres Salient - CWGC

56th Division fared badly indeed : ‘...the leading waves of the 2nd Londons (Royal Fusiliers) and 5th Londons (London Rifle Brigade) pressed boldly though Glencorse Wood and on into Polygon Wood and were, quite simply, never seen again. A similar fate befell the leading waves of the 8th Middlesex on their left. A company of men just disappeared. German counter-attacks thrust all other units back to their start line.’ (‘The British Divisions at Third Ypres’, John Lee, in ‘Passchendaele in Perspective. The Third Battle of Ypres’, edited by Peter H Liddle, London, Pen & Sword (Leo Cooper), 1997, p.218).

The British Official Historian offered salutary explanations for the failed attack: ‘The battle reports of the two London brigades of the 56th Division in Polygon Wood and east of Nonne Bosschen emphasize that the lack of preparation and the need for fresh troops close at hand to consolidate ground gained became evident soon after the objective was reached. The protective barrage, too, was weak; much of the shrapnel had the burst-on-graze fuze, effective enough on hard ground, but useless on the muddy patches and water-filled craters ahead of the troops.' ('Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1917' (Volume II), compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E Edmonds, London, HMSO, 1948, pp.192-193).

The author of the history of the 56th Division offers a truly admirable example of controlled restraint in his poignant final verdict regarding this tragic attack: 'Maybe the confusion was inevitable, but it makes a sorry story in which the great gallantry of the London Territorials stands forth like something clean and honest in the midst of slime and mud.' ('The 56th Division (1st London Territorial Division)’, Major C H Dudley Ward, London, John Murray, 1921, p.160).

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