Four major battles were fought around Ieper (Ypres) between 1914 and
1918, the largest being the third, from 31 July to 10 November 1917. The
allied objective in 1917 was to capture, by a series of attacks, the
main German lines on the high ground overlooking Ieper between
Passendale (Passchendaele) and Mesen (Messines). The offensive opened on
31 July when the British (supported by the Australians) and the French
advanced successfully on a broad front. The Australians then engaged the
enemy in the battle of the Menin (Menen) road on 20 September and six
days later captured Polygon Wood.
On 4 October the allies launched a major attack along a thirteen
kilometre front. Twelve division (eight British, three Australian and
one from New Zealand) successfully stormed the German lines on
Broodseinde Ridge. Incessant rain and shelling turned the battlefield
into a sea of mud.
The weather worsened and the offensive culminated in the allied assault
an Passendale. The initial action, by the Australians, New Zealanders
and British, failed with heavy casualties. The attacking forces,
over-extended by months of fighting and the appalling weather
conditions, were relieved by the Canadians, who eventually captured
Passendale on 30 October. Six months later in April 1918, the Germans
swept back to the gates of Ieper and beyond Kemmel. In this the fourth
battle of Ieper, they regained the ground lost the previous year. Their
forces were exhausted, however, and in September The Belgium Army
secured the Ieper Salient.
The scars of the war vanished beneath tranquil fields around Passendale.
But the Images of the battlefield remain to haunt the imagination, and
to remind us - and those who come after us - of the horrors of war and
the sacrifices made by so many.