Menin Road Ridge
The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, 20 - 25 September 1917
Costly and unproductive British attacks between 20-25 August convinced Haig that Gough's tactics were not working. Command for the offensive passed to Plumer who requested a temporary suspension of the fighting to prepare the next forward move. Second Army's ensuing assault, designed to secure the Gheluvelt Plateau, was based on careful planning and overwhelming artillery superiority.
Preparations during the first three weeks of September coincided with good weather; sunshine and wind dried the ground and raised the spirits of the Army. As guns and ammunition were accumulated the infantry rehearsed the new style of fighting required by Plumerís battle plan. The role of artillery was paramount; the preliminary bombardment began on 31 August, intensifying daily to culminate in a colossal two day counter-battery shoot prior to zero-hour.
Wet through by overnight rain the infantry were on their start positions by early morning of 20 September. At 5.40am 65,000 troops advanced on an eight mile front, screened by heavy mist and a stupefying bombardment. Keeping close to the barrage, the initial rush, across slippery ground, quickly overran enemy outposts; retaliatory fire strengthened and skilful fighting was needed to negotiate surviving strongpoints. By midday the four attacking Divisions on the Gheluvelt Plateau were on their final objectives. The simultaneous attack by Fifth Army kept up alongside on the left. The newly won positions were consolidated in anticipation of expected German counter-attacks.
Clear afternoon weather offered reconnaissance flights near perfect visibility; German threats were quickly spotted and between noon and 7.30pm numerous counter-attacks were dispersed by viciously accurate British barrages. By evening the battle-ravaged forward slopes of the Gheluvelt Plateau were in British hands. The following days saw further German counter-attacks and British attempts to secure objectives not gained on 20 September.
Campaign map Army structure Terminology