09 October 2017

8 facts about the Battle of Poelcappelle

Monday 9 October marks 100 years since the Battle of Poelcappelle began in 1917. Here are 8 facts about the battle.

  • The Battle of Poelcappelle was part of the Third Battle of Ypres – a major Allied offensive in Flanders which later became known as Passchendaele.
  • The battle marked a turning point in the offensive. Dry weather in September had allowed British, Australian and New Zealand units to advance with the support of massive artillery bombardments. In early October, however, bad weather returned and began to turn the ground into a quagmire.
  • After their defeats in September, German commanders were considering a withdrawal from the Ypres Salient, but the coming of the rain gave them respite. Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria would call it ‘our most effective ally’.
  • Despite the worsening conditions, elements of 10 British, Australian and New Zealand divisions were ordered to attack along a 12km front, aiming to advance some 2km into the German defences and capture Passchendaele Ridge.
  • The battle began at 5.20am on 9 October 1917. Assault troops had struggled for hours through miles of mud before even reaching their start lines, and many were exhausted. It proved impossible to bring up sufficient artillery ammunition to support the advance, and the few gains were quickly lost to German counter-attacks.
  • After hours of fighting, most of the attacking units had been pushed back to their starting positions. Only in the north, at the villages of Veldhoek and Poelcappelle, was there any real success.
  • British Empire forces suffered some 12,000 casualties wounded, missing and dead. The CWGC commemorates in Belgium almost 3,400 service personnel who died on 9 October 1917. German losses from the day’s fighting are disputed, but were probably similar to the British. As a consequence of the terrible ground conditions many of the wounded could not be rescued.
  • The British and Commonwealth dead of the Battle of Poelcappelle are commemorated in CWGC cemeteries throughout the Ypres Salient and beyond. Almont 240 service personnel who died in the attack are buried in CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery. The CWGC Tyne Cot Memorial and Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial bear the names of more than 2,500 who have no known grave.