The Ypres Salient - CWGC

A telling phrase used by the British Official Historian in the prologue to his description of the First Passchendaele battle offers a significant and summary reappraisal of his guarded comments on A derelict tank stuck in the mud at Passchendaeleprogress on 9 October: '... no gain of ground had been made on the 9th...'. (‘Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1917’ (Volume II), compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E Edmonds, London, HMSO, 1948, p.340).

It is clear now that Plumer's hopes for a successful assault on Passchendaele on 12 October were rooted in misleading and over optimistic intelligence, on the 'extent' of recent gains, the state of the German defences and capacity of the attacking troops and supporting artillery. A gulf of misunderstanding and mutual incomprehension existed between local commanders actually occupying positions on the swamp-like battlefield and senior commanders some way behind this chaotic wasteland. The troops on the ground reported that little progress had been made on the 9th and that the enemy, with many of his formidable defences still intact, still offered fierce resistance. But this information appeared not to have been appreciated by the High Command, though in fairness General Gough (GOC Fifth Army), displaying an infrequently acknowledged appreciation of what miseries his front line troops were experiencing, was moved to request a postponement of the offensive on the evening prior to the assault. Plumer, after consulting with his Corps commanders, made the fateful decision to continue.


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