The Ypres Salient - CWGC

An essential component of Plumer's previous successes had been the devastating effectiveness of his artillery barrages. The Battle of Poelcappelle saw much more restricted artillery support as the requisite number of guns Men of the 50th Australian Battery clean their 18-pdr guns after a heavy strafecould not be got forward across the deep mire of the battlefield; those pieces which were relocated in the forward areas 'rested' on unstable platforms that made accurate fire difficult and created immense work for the gunners who had to re-lay the guns each time they recoiled off their positions and into the ooze.

The low cloud cover and rain made ground and air observation impossible. The results were predictable and the British Official Historian did not hide the facts: 'Indeed so weak was the barrage that no edge was apparent or visible to guide the infantry; and the high-explosive shells, which formed a high proportion of the total, buried themselves in mud and soft ground, losing most of their effect...No previous attack organized by the Second Army in the War had such an unfavourable start.' ('Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1917' (Volume II), compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E Edmonds, London, HMSO, 1948, p.330).


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