29 July 2017

7 facts about the Battle of Pilckem Ridge

Monday 31 July marked 100 years since the Battle of Pilckem Ridge began in 1917. Here are 7 facts about the battle:

  • The Battle of Pilckem Ridge was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres – which later became known as Passchendaele.

  • The battle began at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when 2,000 Allied guns opened fire on German lines and 14 British and two French divisions attacked along 15 miles of the front.

  • The most significant success was achieved in the north, particularly across Pilckem Ridge. Welsh and Irish troops played an important role, and among their dead were two highly regarded poets: Ellis Evans (better known by his bardic name Hedd Wyn) and Francis Ledwidge. Both are buried at CWGC Artillery Wood Cemetery.

  • French troops fought alongside British forces, regaining Bixschoote from German control.

  • The British Army captured St Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde Ridge, Hooge, and Sanctuary Wood. CWGC cemeteries mark many of these local landmarks, including CWGC Hooge Crater Cemetery, and CWGC Sanctuary Wood Cemetery.

  • On the afternoon of 31 July, rain began to fall on the battlefield. Over the following days the shell-damaged ground became a quagmire, severely hampering the advancing troops, and making the movement of artillery, casualties and supplies very difficult.

  • After three days, the Allied advance was half of what had been planned. The British Army had suffered some 27,000 casualties wounded, killed and missing. Their graves can be found all around Ieper, in cemeteries such as CWGC New Irish Farm. Most of the dead, however, have no known grave. The names of some 4,500 servicemen who died on 31 July 1917 are recorded on the CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.