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The Western Front


tonycad

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This week 88 years ago, the Briish Army had slogged for many weeks up the gentle slopes towards the Paschendaele Riodge. The pictures of troops in the 'line' sheltering in joined-up shell holes in a morass of mud are now infamous.

By 5th November the front line was held by the Canadian Corps along a feature known as Crest Ridge.

This where the memorial to the Canadians now stands.

Tony

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The Canadians on 5th November attacked Paschendaele across the shallow, but wet valley, from Crest Ridge to the town.

The attached photograph shows this valley from the Memorial, that is now a short suburban road, just over two hundreds yards or so. They got bogged down for a while, and captured the town on about 8th November. The Ridge itself was taken by 10th October, supported by British Divisions on the flanks.

The third battle of Ypres was then closed down.

Tony

post-4728-1131200530.jpg

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Here's a trenchmap extract (28 NE ed.9A) showing the lines around Passchendaele at the end of the battle (German trenches dated 5th Dec.1917).

Dave.

post-357-1131201817.jpg

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Here is an excerpt from the Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery war diary and a short biographical sketch involving the first wounding of my late Grandfather on 6 November 1917 and during the final stages of the Battle of Passchendaele as we Canadians refer to it. Just another personal story attached to this major battle.

Borden Battery

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tue., Nov 6, 1917 YORK CAMP, BELGIUM (near POPERINGHE) BATTLE - PASSCHENDAELE

Dull with rain.

At zero hour 6a.m. all Guns opened fire for 70 minutes on Targets allotted on MG Organization Order #12 ceasing at 7:10 a.m. We were subject to an intense Enemy bombardment during the firing of the barrage.

All Guns were Stripped and cleaned and laid on S.O.S. Target at 10 a.m..

Guns opened fire on S.O.S. Target in Accordance with message G.36 from Group Commander. Fire ceased at 11a.m.. The Enemy got a direct hit on one Gun position burying one man, 3 OR's were evacuated slightly wounded.

At 6:45 p.m. we answered an S.O.S. call firing for 45 minutes at 9:15 p.m. Orders were received from Group Commander to open harassing fire with two guns on V.30 B.30.00 to V.30.D.99.50 firing was continued until 6 a.m. 7th inst. (Appendix #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

BACKGROUND COMMENTS

Private Richard W. Mercer, (911016) of the "Borden Canadian Auto Machine Gun Brigade/Borden Motor Machine Gun Battery, 2nd Canadian Division, Machine Gun Corps is most likely part of the "one Gun position burying one man, 3 OR's were evacuated slightly wounded." One can assume the shell hit was sometime between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. in the morning based on the chronological summary of War Diary. One piece of shrapnel embedded itself into the sterling cigarette case which was in his left chest tunic pocket, most likely saving him from a mortal wound.

He is one of the "walking wounded" and is able to walk five miles back to an aid post before being admitted to #1 Canadian Field Ambulance Depot on November 6, 1917 for 'concussion '. Mrs. Georgina Mercer, (mother) Theodore, Sask. is noted on card file." He is then transferred to #8 Casualty Clearing Station on the same day.

Also during this period he was also treated for "impetigo" between 13 November and 29 November, 1917 and does not return to duty until 2 December, 1917. He suffers permanent nerve damage in muscles in his neck and has a head tremor for the rest of his life.

More details can be accessed from the following website:

* Pte. Richard William Mercer - 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade

Personal Letters from the Great War: 1915 - 1919

The website publishes the personal letters of an ordinary Canadian soldier with an extensive use of footnotes to explained and/or elaborate on the background and meaning of the comments.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~b...wm_letters.html

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It is impossible to imagine what is now a few minutes pleasant stroll, from the monument to the church, and calling for an ice cream on the way, must have been like when the Canadians advanced across the same ground.

Geoff

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More great pictures Tony, with Croon's map and Borden's piece it's turned into a interesting story complete with weblinks.

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Evening all.

From the 214th Company MGC,War Diary.

6.11.17.Canal Bank Camp.

W section,under 2nd Lt F.H.Baker,to line relieveing Y Section.7000 rounds expended.

9th.11.17.Canal Bank Camp.

10 guns,under 2nd Lieutenants T.C.Forman,D.A.Davis and A.C.Heggs to line for barrage work.Operation order No 8 issued.

Operation Order No 8,by Captain C.I.Morris,CO,214th(Div)MG Company.

Maps Poelcappelle,Spiret.

1.To support the forthcoming Attack,the 214th Company will have 10 guns in action as follows.

4 guns,near Battalion HQ.Left.

2 guns at Gloster Farm area.Centre.

4 guns at Oxford Houses.Right.

2.The guns will be in position before dusk on the 9th Inst ready to open fire.3.The usual harrassing fire will be maintained up yo ZERO hour by guns of the left and centre sections.Prior to ZERO hour all guns will be laid on the new lines of fire as per time and fire tables.

4.The SOS signal is as notified in Company letter of the 6th amended by letter of the 7th inst,and on the signal being observed the guns will open fire on the SOS lines as per fire table.

Signed.F.H.Barker 2Lt,for OC 214(Div)M.G.Coy.

On November the 12th,a report to the D.M.G.O,of 58th Division,shows that the same 10 guns were in action in the Poelcappelle/Spiret Area on the morning of the 11th,firing 28,000 rounds between them,and coming under heavy shell fire,around the Poelcappelle/St Julien Road,and the Brewery.

They had been at Canal Bank from the 2nd,and each section took its turn in the line during this time,putting down mainly barrage fire,and suffering not many casualties,in comparison to the PBI.

To the right of Passendale,i believe,before and after the taking of the village,but still up to their necks in it all,not to mention the mud and the rain.

How did they all do it?.

All the best.

Simon.

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An interesting Australian personal account can be found at http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-battle...broodseinde.htm

Reginald Westoby was born 26th Jan 1898. When he was 4 his mother died, when he was 5 his father died, and when he was aged 7 he lost his only brother, Edward, followed 11 days later by his surviving grandfather. An orphan, he attended the local school, and played in the football team that clinched the Scunthorpe and district cup. On 4th October, as a 19 yr old Second Lieutenant, he led his men into action, and war claimed the last member of the immediate family.

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Here is an excerpt from the Official Canadian history ...

General Currie's plan called for an attack in two stages (the eighth and ninth phases of the autumn battle) - the former to secure the village of Passchendaele, and the latter, four days later, to seize the crest of the main ridge to the east. The Corps objectives for 6 November lay along the Green Line, a rough semicircle described about Graf House with a radius of 1000 yards. Besides Passchendaele it encompassed the hamlets of Mosselmarkt and Goudberg to the north-west. On the right the 2nd Division would send three battalions of the 6th Brigade (Brig.-Gen. Ketchen) - the 27th, 31st and 28th Infantry Battalions - against Passchendaele, while in the 1st Division's sector the 1st and 2nd Battalions would advance on either side of the Meetcheele-Mosselmarkt road. These 1st Brigade units would have farthest to go - about three-quarters of a mile. Covering the Corps right flank would be the 26th Battalion (5th Brigade), attacking Passchendaele from the south; on the left flank the 3rd Battalion was charged with a subsidiary operation against Vine Cottages, a strongpoint which the Germans were holding 350 yards south-east of Vapour Farm.

The jumping-off line traversed large sections of swampy or flooded areas, especially in Major-General Macdonell's sector, where the only good footing was on the narrow Bellevue-Meetcheele spur. Farther forward, however, the ground was on the whole higher and drier than the Canadians had known in their previous attacks. On the right there were new opponents to be faced. The German 11th Division had arrived from the Champagne area only on 3 November to relieve the 39th Division between the Ypres-Roulers railway and the Mosselmarkt road. Opposite the 1st Canadian Division's left was a battalion of the 4th Division.

At 6:00 a.m. on the sixth a powerful barrage, tremendously satisfying to the assaulting infantry, exploded across the front as the attack was launched under a clear sky that later became cloudy but shed no heavy rain. So quickly did the assaulting companies break out of their starting position that the enemy's retaliatory fire, opening a few minutes later, fell mainly behind the advancing troops. Afterwards prisoners reported that the infantry followed their barrage so closely that in most cases the Germans could not man their machine-guns before the attackers were on top of them. Almost everywhere the attack went well. The 2nd Division encountered its chief opposition from pillboxes at the north end of Passchendaele, but less than three hours after zero the village that had so long been an Allied objective was securely in Canadian hands.

The 28th Battalion on the left had the hardest time. It came under heavy machine-gun fire early in the attack when it was struggling out of the Ravebeek valley, the men, according to a 6th Brigade report, "being knee deep, and in places waist deep in mud and water". Another troublesome if not serious factor was low-flying enemy aircraft. The visibility being too limited for much air fighting, pilots of both sides amused themselves by strafing each other's infantry. One ground target that received particular attention during the attack was the start line of the 31st Battalion, where German airmen mistook a row of greatcoats for troops.

Source: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War - Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, Colonel G. W. L. Nicholson, C.D., Army Historical Section

pp 299-300

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Hopefully this is the correct location for this post.

"Passchendaele", a $16-million (Cdn) war drama to be directed by Calgary-born actor Paul Gross, will be released on Remembrance Day 2006. Gross wrote the script and will both direct and star in the film.

The film will be shot entirely in Alberta using mostly local cast and crew.

Gross has bandied about the idea for "Passchendael" over the past decade having been inspired by his grandfather who fought in the battle.

More than 15,000 Canadian soldiers died or were wounded during their part in the battle. Five thousand did not return home. Nine earned the Victoria Cross.

- from the Edmonton Journal, Wednesday, November 9, 2005.

Bill

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My grandfather Lieut. W.J.A Stewart, 12 CMGC, fought in this battle and survived the war without a scratch. Unfortunately his best friend Lieut. H Rutledge was killed right beside him on Oct 25/26, 1917. From the war diary:

"At 3am. 25th Oct. sections 3 & 4 under Lieut’s. Stewart & Rutledge respectively with 21 OR each proceeded to positions at D16c 8.2. 2 OR were wounded on the way in. Advanced HQ were established at Levi Cottage. Section 2 carried out harassing fire from 5am to 11am.

Owing to heavy shelling during the next 24 hrs Sections 3 & 4 were moved to positions at D16 d2.3. During this move Lieut. Rutledge was killed. Lieut. Stewart was also badly shaken up but insisted on staying in until after the operation. Lieut. Leach & Fleming went in to replace Lieut. Rutledge (Section 4) & Lieut. Stewart (Section 3) respectively."

More can be found at http://www.stothers.com/momex/NavCode/cmgc.html

Discovered this when an old WW1 picture fell out of a photo book from dry paste and had some details on the back...... as did the others. A bit of luck and research plus an old family story put this together...

Scott

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To put a face to it, here are two of the casualties of the 31st Battalion Alberta Regiment.

Both were killed on Nov. 6, 1917. In the newspaper article, the cousin on the far right, Lt. Henry Aylesworth Baker, 31st Battalion, was killed on Nov. 6, 1917 (typo on the paper's part for date of death) -

(Baker picture deleted)

post-3697-1131848844.jpg

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Guest Simon Bull
Hopefully this is the correct location for this post.

"Passchendaele", a $16-million (Cdn) war drama to be directed by Calgary-born actor Paul Gross, will be released on Remembrance Day 2006. Gross wrote the script and will both direct and star in the film.

The film will be shot entirely in Alberta using mostly local cast and crew.

Gross has bandied about the idea for "Passchendael" over the past decade having been inspired by his grandfather who fought in the battle.

More than 15,000 Canadian soldiers died or were wounded during their part in the battle. Five thousand did not return home. Nine earned the Victoria Cross.

- from the Edmonton Journal, Wednesday, November 9, 2005.

Bill

Is this the same Paul Gross who starred in that excellent Canadian television series "Due South"?

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  • 9 years later...

Here's a trenchmap extract (28 NE ed.9A) showing the lines around Passchendaele at the end of the battle (German trenches dated 5th Dec.1917).

Dave.

Hey Dave,

do you have the left trench map of the one you had posted above?

I mean the one with the tyne cot cemetery.

I am looking for the area of wallemolen - broodseinde - passchendaele area and possibly the earliest once from October 1914 if they still exist ?

I need the places and heights to be able to follow a kind of diary.

Thanks :hypocrite:

WOLF

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