The Ypres Salient - CWGC

Polygon Wood

The Battle of Polygon Wood, 26 September - 3 October 1917

Plumer's successful first short 'step' across the Gheluvelt Plateau provoked fierce German reprisals between 21-25 September: near continuous artillery fire and desperate counter-attacks. These failed to Members of 13th Australian Field Ambulance sheltering in funk holes along Anzac ridgedisrupt preparations for the next phase of Second Army's methodical advance up the Plateau planned for 26 September. Arrangements for the new battle, in continuing good weather, repeated the pattern adopted for the Menin Road Ridge: British artillery barrages swept the German positions and sought out German batteries; fresh assault troops entered the frontline.

Plumer's aim to advance his line another 1,200 yards (and keep up the momentum of the general offensive) required I Anzac Corps to secure the key objective: the capture of Polygon Wood. This main assault would be supported (on the right) by 33rd Division and (on the left) with simultaneous attacks by Fifth Army's 3rd and 59th Divisions towards Zonnebeke and Hill 40. The infantry attacked at 5.50am on Wednesday 26 September on a frontage of near five miles amidst the clamour of an immense protective bombardment. Smoke and dust mixed with heavy ground mist made visibility poor, but the leading waves, keeping close to the barrage quickly overran dazed defenders in the forward zones. Though 5th Australian Division's progress was compromised by derangements in 33rd Division's support, I Anzac Corps first objectives were rapidly gained; pillboxes and strongpoints were subdued and the important 'Butte' position captured; the final objective, just beyond the eastern edge of the wood, was secured by 9.45am.

Despite difficulties at the southern and northern extremities of the wider fighting line, by mid-morning most objectives had been gained. Clear weather after midday assisted observation of the predicted German counter-attacks which were repelled by precise British barrages and concentrated rifle and machine-gun fire, causing heavy German casualties.

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