10 November 2017

CWGC marks the end of Passchendaele

Today marks 100 years since the end of the Third Battle of Ypres – which later became known as Passchendaele. Canadian commemorations marking the centenary of Passchendaele were held at the CWGC’s Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium today. The ceremony was attended by dignitaries including delegates from the Government of Canada and the CWGC Vice Chairman Sir Tim Laurence. Here are photos from the commemorations and everything you need to know about the battle.

 Commemorating the fallen

  • The CWGC commemorates more than 76,000 servicemen and one woman in Belgium who died during Third Ypres
  • More than half have no known grave and are commemorated on memorials to the missing. Almost 43,000 are commemorated on the CWGC’s Tyne Cot and Menin Gate memorials
  • The three cemeteries with the largest number of Third Ypres casualties are:

3,270 in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery

2,920 in Tyne Cot Cemetery

2,550 in Dozinghem Military Cemetery

  • Commonwealth forces suffered heavy losses during Third Ypres:

34,400 of United Kingdom forces

5,000 of Australian forces

2,300 of Canadian forces

1,300 of New Zealand forces

300 of South African forces

  • The three worst days of Third Ypres in terms of the number of casualties were:

6,200 service personnel died on 31 July 1917

4,760 service personnel died on 04 October 1917

4,400 service personnel died on 20 September 1917

  • At no point during the 103 days of the battle were fewer than 100 soldiers killed on any given day

The battle

Servicemen of the Australian Imperial Force who fought at Passchendaele , 26 October 1917. IWM E(AUS) 1071

  • More than 100 days of fighting during the Third Battle of Ypres saw no breakthrough, and the advance of around five miles left the Allies holding an enlarged line which remained a highly vulnerable salient. Although the Passchendaele Ridge had been taken, the railhead at Roulers – as well as the Belgian coast beyond – remained out of reach.
  • The cost had been immense. More than 500,000 servicemen of both sides were wounded, missing or dead. More than 80% of British and Dominion forces and more than half of all German units on the Western Front in 1917 fought at Ypres.

  • What had initially been known as the ‘Flanders Offensive’, became known as ‘The Third Battle of Ypres’ or simply ‘Third Ypres’. By the 1920s, however, it began to be referred to in the press and elsewhere as the ‘Passchendaele’ Offensive.
  • For the Dominion forces, the battle was not so famous, or infamous, as other campaigns, but was nevertheless significant. Along with the victory at Vimy Ridge, the capture of Passchendaele helped to cement the reputation of Canadian soldiers as elite assault troops. For Australian units, which had suffered serious losses throughout 1917, the final months of Third Ypres proved the lowest point in their time on the Western Front. While, for New Zealand, the death toll of 12 October 1917 remains unsurpassed to this day.
  • Across the British Isles the offensive came during the lowest ebb of morale. The period between the spring of 1917 and 1918 was marked by war-weariness and domestic discontent.
  • Passchendaele was the final great battle of trench warfare on the Western Front. Those which came after it were smaller in scale, and often very different in character. Almost every aspect of the Third Battle of Ypres remains surrounded by controversy: its origins, purpose and conduct; the fighting conditions, consequences and casualties. Yet for the Allied and German armies alike, the experience came to epitomise the most horrific aspects of warfare on the Western Front.