The Ypres Salient - CWGC

The short amount of time allowed for the next offensive action, combined with the poor weather which made movement of men, guns and ammunition in the battle area increasingly difficult, meant that for the first time Second Army's normally systematic and thorough approach to battle preparations broke down: '...despite the untiring efforts of the engineers British soldiers haul an 18-pdr field gun out of the mud near Zillebekeof the two Anzac Corps, no progress could be made with the plank roads for the forward move of the guns; the planks either sank in the mire or floated away. The field batteries of II Anzac Corps which were to have been near the Zonnebeke-Winnipeg road to support the main attack had to remain west of the Steenbeek on hurriedly constructed and unstable gun-platforms. Until these were made many of the guns were up to the axles in mud, and some even to the muzzles. The morning objective of the 9th would be at their extreme range [6,000 yards]...The ammunition supply to the advance field batteries was a formidable task, made possible only by selecting battery sites within 100-150 yards of the main roadways. Shells and supplies had to be carried by pack animals from the wagon lines to the guns, and this journey, which normally took about an hour, now required any time from six to sixteen hours.' ('Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1917' (Volume II), compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E Edmonds, London, HMSO, 1948, pp.328-329).

Everything and everybody became covered in mud and slime including vital supplies of artillery ammunition which necessarily had to be cleaned (an enormously difficult and time-consuming process) before being used.



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