The Ypres Salient - CWGC

An essential aspect of Plumer's limited objective 'bite and hold' tactics was to draw German counter-attacks on to well consolidated newly-won positions that remained within A wrecked German position near Honnebekeprotective range of British artillery. He saw that in these inevitable actions the most material harm could be inflicted upon the enemy. Between late morning and early evening on 26 September as many as nine major counter-attacks were launched by the German defenders; these were for the most part destroyed by devastatingly accurate British shell-fire, the effectiveness of which reflected not only the efficiency in which observers' reports were communicated to battery positions but also the technical competence in Army staff work (particularly Second Army's efforts) in supplying the gunners with good and accurate maps.

This aspect of the fighting was commended by the Official Historian: 'The assembly places [for German counter-attack formations] and ways of approach to them were roughly as foreseen in the counter-attack maps issued with Second Army Intelligence Summaries shortly before the battle and this early information enabled the areas in question to be heavily shelled and the enemy formations disorganized before they could fully deploy.' ('Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1917' (Volume II), compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E Edmonds, London, HMSO, 1948, p.290).

The heavy German casualties resulting from these actions have also been interpreted as indicating a new direction in overall British strategy; a gradual move to a 'wearing down' battle and away from the straightforward emphasis on dramatic breakthrough. German casualties for the period 11 to 30 September (covering the Menin Road Ridge and Polygon Wood battles) have been estimated at 38,500.


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