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The Third Battle of Ypres begins

Smoke rising from a barren Ypres battlefield
AWM E00737


Posted on 18 July 2017

After two weeks of shelling, the third battle of Ypres began on 31 July, 1917.

Everything disappears in one loud, rolling, threatening volume of sound. The air carries it a hundred miles distant, and tremblingly they listen, south and north, west and east, where they cannot see the horror of all this.

Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

The British and French armies started their dawn advance under the protection of artillery towards Pilckem, St Julien, Zonnebeke and the Gheluvelt Plateau. Roughly 120 tanks were committed to battle, with 48 held in reserve. Three lines of objectives were set: the closest around 900 metres away, the second around 1800 metres and the third just over 3200 metres. The early advance began just before 4am, under an artillery barrage. At first, it was only met with light resistance and the attacking divisions managed to cover roughly 1.6 kilometres in three hours.

German reserves were rushed from Passchendaele and began a strong counter attack. They were helped by heavy rains and low visibility that caused allied artillery observers to lose sight of their troops. Eventually, the German counter-attack was blunted by artillery and small arms fire before the pouring rain forced a halt in the fighting.

Pilckem Ridge and areas either side were captured, but fewer gains were made toward the Gheluvelt Plateau.

To hear stories from the soldiers who fought on the Western Front visit the Sir John Monash Centre in Villers-Bretonneux—the newest addition to the Australian Remembrance Trail on the Western Front.

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