-----The Battle of Passchendaele/Story Line------
-------------I Wayward Day awaken to find myself staring up at a star filled night sky. As I look around all I can see are trees sloping downwards. Nearby is a dirt pathway. As I get to my feet. A soldier comes running up the pathway, shouting,"Major!" He is wearing a uniform, like the British,but not British. Being from Detroit,MI.,USA,I know that Country's flag and uniform. Why, it is good old Canada,and the Maple Leaf. As I look down to see my uniform. It also has such markings of a Canadian uniform.
------"Hi Major, I'm Sgt. Jack Palmer.",he says. I ask him,"What is going on Sgt." "You are wanted back in the War room sir.",he replies. As we walk down the pathway, down a hill, I ask,"Where do you hail from?" "I'm from Windsor,Ontario sir.",he said smiling. "No way,me too",I said laughing. As we talked some more,I was able to make believe I was from Windsor. It was easy, but being from the future Detroit. I had to remember things in Windsor. That would have been around in this time.
------We proceed through camp to an old worn down house. We make our way to the War room. I can see General Douglas Haig going over the Allied positions on the battle map, with his Generals. he is telling his plan to break the German forces led by German General Erich Ludendorff. As Gen. Haig moves Allied forces around the battle map. His plan is to break through near the Belgian village of Passchendaele. Led by a new weapon on the battlefield "THE TANK". He wants to push through all the way to the coast. To capture German submarine pens. To stop the German sea warfare that is starving England. Also he explains that the plan must be launched before German troops from the East in Russia, boost Ludendorff's forces up in the West. Now that Russia has quit the War. Allowing Ludendorff to launch an attack. Haig has set the offensive to begin on the morning of July 31st,1917.
------For over 2 weeks Allied artillery has been pounding the German lines. But more important than that. The Allied position was they only held onto a small part of Belgium. Known as the Ypres Salient, with the Germans in front,above,and below the Salient. The Germans also have been firing shells trying to crush the Allied held Salient for over a year. What use to be a peaceful valley. With a drainage system built by Flemish farmers in the Middle Ages. To make the soil better for their crops. But all has been turned into utter desolation. To make things worse, it has been raining heavily for days on end. A rain fall this bad, hasn't hit these parts for over 70 years. With all the shelling from both sides and all the rain fall. The now flooded ground of craters, has turned into an oozing yellow quagmire of MUD.
------The land has now become impassible for tanks. More so,NO TRENCHES can be dug. The landscape now looks like the surface of the moon. Craters everywhere filled with water and mud. The Germans have found a way to get around digging trenches. They have designed a system of interlocking square rooms of reinforced concrete. The British have come to call them "Pill Boxes",because it reminds them of a pharmacist's pill box.
------As I sit in my tent ,I can hear the bombs falling on the Germans. Who should enter my tent, but head of the Canadian forces,General Sir Arthur Currie. Along with the commander of the British carrier pigeon service,Major Alec Waley. "Good evening Major Day.",says Currie. "I've come hear along with Major Waley,to go over things with you.",the General says as he turns to Waley. Waley begins to speak,"Major Day, do to the battlefield becoming a swamp. Radios are to heavy to carry,not to mention the are bulky. The shelling has cut telephone lines ,and message runners can't get through the mud. The danger of gas,gunfire to pass through. So to keep up and maintain communications at the front. we have been using carrier pigeons. In fact 75% of news coming to Headquarters has come from carrier pigeons. The men at the front have become to depend on these birds to save their lives. We want you to work with the birds,the War room and the artillery up on the hill at the edge of camp. Will you?" "Yes.",I replied. "Good Major,very good.",smiles Gen. Currie. As they leave my tent, rain pours through the flap, all 3 of us get a cold shower of reality. After I dry off ,I head back to the War room. Where Gen. Haig has given command of the attack on the surrounding area of Passchendaele to General Hubert Gough. As Gen. Gough's 5th army would attack head on into the German lines. To his left flank was the French army led by General Francois Anthoine and the Belgian army led by General Louis Ruqouy. On Gough's right flank was the British 2nd army led by the victor of Messines, General Sir Herbert Plumer.
------As reports were coming in, that all of the shelling the British had been doing for the past 2 weeks has fallen short of the German lines. Making for harder attack. As craters of water and mud, now lay in front of the Germans. The British couldn't of helped out the Germans better if they wanted to. With rain, no tanks and added obstacles for the British to break through. Anyone else would have called off the attack. Not Haig, he was a stubborn man. He decided to go ahead with his plan. He was hell bent on smashing through to the coast and capturing the German submarine docks.
------As I look down at the battle map. I can see Passchendaele in big blueletters, and in small green letters. Villages round Passchendaele that must be taken. Which include ,Pickem Ridge, Westnoek, Hill 70, Langemarck, Menin Road Ridge, Polygon wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle. Along with Fort LaMalmaison and farms that the Germans have turned into forts. The Allies have 56 divisions to throw at 80 German divisions.
------Seeing what is in store for the Allies. I leave the War room. I make my way to the hill at the edge f camp. I am soon greeted by Captain Dan Sharp. He tells me that over the past 2 weeks over 3,000 guns have been used and 4.5 million shells have been fired on the enemy. On my right are a few of those heavy guns. Nearby to my left are cages housing pigeons. The birds do not seem scared by artillery fire. But even I'll admit, I get shaken by the sounds of the guns. Those birds must be made of stone. As the shelling stops, I take out my field glasses from my satchel. With my field glasses I can just about see to the other side of the planet. I can see a beaten landscape, with a gloomy look of that of the surface of THE MOON itself. I see the tired and frozen facial expressions from the men on both sides of this battle for a village called Passchendaele. The ones who named it to mean,"CHRIST'S PASSION AND DEATH".
------Gen. Gough's 5th army gets underway, as men from all over the British Empire make up his 5th army. Troops from New Zealand are 1st to hit the German head on. At a spot that had been the biggest man made explosion in human history. Until the USA dropped A-Bombs on Japan in World War II. The explosion was made up of 100,000 pounds of TNT, when it went off,it could be herd across the English channel. It was a set of 21 mines set off underground. In hopes to straighten out the German defensive line. Many Germans herd them digging and had pulled back to form 3 defensive lines instead of 1.
------As the New Zealanders attacked the Germans. They were bombed from 3 sides. The front and to the left and the right flanks. They were soon beaten back. In other places around the battlefield, the outcome for the start of Gen. Haig's offensive looked horrible. The Scottish and Welsh troops were being destroyed at a place called Tyne Cot. As the weeks wore on, Gen. Cough would allow 2 entire Irish divisions to be foolishly slaughtered. For this debacle, Gen. Gough was found at fault and replaced by Gen. Plumer.
------I was fortunate this morning to be in the War room, When Gen. Plumer took charge of the battle. As he headed to the battle map. He began to move the little wooden armies around. For he knew what the Germans were doing. He would show the technique of counter-attacking once attacked. As the Germans were driven out of their positions. They would send in fresh troops, they held in reserve. Specifically for the purpose of counter-attacking and these would be able to assault their exhausted enemy. Who would then be occupying the unfamiliar trenches. Plumer knew that the German artillery was better than the British. The Germans had a secret weapon of Mustard gas. Along with shells full of sneezing gas. When a soldier started sneezing, removed his mask, he would be exposed to the Mustard gas. Plumer came up with a plan to make a slow advance, under a cover of a creeping barrage. Which would prevent German counter-attacking.
------Meanwhile back on the hill I race. A carrier pigeon has just flown in with a message tied to it's leg. It reads,"My men and I have taken the village of St. Julian from the enemy. I am sending our last carrier pigeon. The Germans are assembling for a counter-attack to retake the village. We are asking for an artillery strike to be let lose on the area. Cpt. Binfield, August 3rd,1917." As I look towards the village of St. Julian with my field glasses. Our artillery starts to fire a barrage down on the Germans. As I look through my field glasses, I can see the German's counter-attack has failed. As they don't even reach the shell holes Cpt. Binfield and his men are holding onto. All they have to defend themselves, is revolvers no rifles. Lucky the artillery barrage we just shot off. Kept the Germans from retaking St. Julian. Thanks to the unsung Heros of World War I battlefields,"THE CARRIER PIGEONS."
------On October 9th,1917 Gen. Haig has decided to send in the Australians to attack Passchendaele. Even though not only were the Australians up against the Germans. The wind and rain that now has turned into a gale force storm for the Australians to battle. As the battle for the village raged on. Carrier Pigeons fought their way through the storm. The Australians battled their way all the way through to the site of where the rubble of the Old Passchendaele church once stood. But the British troops on their right flank were not able to support them. The Australians were forced to retreat back all the way to the mud holes they started from. The Australian artillery was running out of ammunition. To make matters worse. The shells they fired, buried themselves in the liquid mud. Making them harmless, as clouds of steam and fountains of water would rise up where ever they landed.
------As October 12th started, Gen. Haig went on with the battle. This day has seen the bitter cold join the rain on the battlefield. This lunatic has ordered another attack. I can see this ending in a miserable failure. As I view the battle, all I see are men struggling up to their knees and waists in the dreadful stinking mud. With their rifles and machine guns clogged with it. Some of the men are using the dead bodies to line up. Then they walk over the mud, anything goes in war.
------The only solid objects I can see in this endless waste of cratered mud. Were German Concrete pill boxes. With their machine guns that were being protected by the mud. Machine guns that operated all to well. As a carrier pigeon message would tell of one Australian, Sgt. Lewis Mcgee, armed with only a revolver. Ran 50 yards across a bullet swept ground, filled with dead bodies to step on. Shot some if the crew and captured a machine gun. I hear talk of him being awarded the Victora Cross. But even as some men do the most Spectacular deeds. The exhausted Australians were finally withdrawn by Haig. But Gen. Haig was hell bent on taking the village of Passchendaele. He ordered the Canadians to take over the battle. In the War room the Generals were at each others throats. For Haig's drive for the tiny already burnt out Belgian village was being told by ,"THE PIGEONS OF PASSCHENDAELE." The battle would offer little in a prize capture. A fight that has already annihilated entire divisions, of exhausted Britons, Australians and New Zealanders. As morale was sinking at troops watched their comrades fall into giant craters in the ground. As they drowned in muddy water.
------Along with many of the drowned dead, were exhausted wounded men who had slipped off the duckboards and were not able to escape the filthy foul smelling MUD. Sinking deeper to their deaths as they struggled. as one soldier Siegfried Sassoon wrote a poem to sum it up:
--------"I died in HELL
--------(they call it Passchendaele)my wound was slight
--------and I was hobbling back,and then a shell
--------burst slick upon the duckboards,so I fell
--------into the bottomless mud,and lost the light.
------Lucky Gen. Sir Arthur Currie was one of Haig's Generals with some sense. Currie refused to move his Canadian troops. Until the weather had eased up and adequate supplies were available.
------As I find myself back atop the hill with my field glasses. As October 26th gets underway. I can see the Canadians beginning their attack on the village of Passchendaele. Advancing through the mud and enemy fire was slow and there were heavy losses but the soldiers clawed their way forward. With an exposed battlefield like this. It would seem success was often made only by the heroic acts of a few. To push past spots of stiff enemy resistance. Overcoming overwhelming odds, the Canadians finally reach the outskirts of Passchendaele. By the end of a second attack on October 30th during a driving rainstorm.
------A week later everyone is in the War room, over looking the battle map. Gen. Haig has decided to launch a Canadian and British attack to capture the village once and for all. The attack begins on November 6th. As the Pigeons fly in from the battle for Passchendaele. All seems to be going according to plan,through heavy fighting. The task of capturing the infamous village. Fell to the 27th Battalion out of Winnipeg. They took Passchendaele that day. As the attack was going on.
------The French General Marshal Petain(of WWII fame) took Fort LaMalmaison, were the German heavy guns had been raining death onto Passchendaele. The Canadians also took the Farm Forts of Vapour to the North and Furst to the South in order to cover their flanks. It also allowed them to gain control of the high ground of Passchendaele. But as the 27th Battalion was in the act of taking Passchendaele. One Farm Fort was at a key point of the German defenses. Earlier the Australians had taken the fort. But fell back, and the Germans reclaimed it. A carrier pigeon has just brought word of one heroic man. Who alone made it possible to take the village of Passchendaele.
------Major George Pearkes/ of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles got up. With a leg wound. Rallied a few dozen men together, charged across an open field of ground. Through heavy enemy fire, made it to CREST FARM, and captured it. Then proceeded to hold it from a number of German counter-attacks. Preventing the Germans from destroying the main advancing Canadian force, from their vulnerable flank side.
------After weathering fierce enemy counter-attacks ,the last phase of the battle saw the Canadians attack on November 10th, and clear the Germans from the eastern edge of Passchendaele Ridge. Eventually, on November 12th,1917 the Canadians took Passchendaele, or what was let of it.The battle was over and the campaign ground ton a halt. The BATTLE OF MUD was over. As the Canadian troops cheer along the battlefront of the victory. As they succeeded in a spot where others failed to do the unbelievable. They realize at the same time. It was The Great War's low point, for the Allies it was clouded in controversy and mired in seemingly useless Death.
------Air photographs of Passchendaele here in the War room. They are laid on the battle map. A landscape that now shows, half a million shell made craters, in half a square mile of the picture.This is were Gen. Haig expects his troops to hold up for the winter. Along the battle map itself, shows the British gained their objectives. Although it was very useless to them , in terms of the original plan
--------The attack from sea at Nieuport had been abandoned, and there was no hope of breaking through to the German occupied channel ports. Which were eventually blocked by hulks sunk at Zeebrugge.
-------As I take a seat just past the Battle Map. Gen. Currie leader of the Canadian forces stands in the middle of the War room, and goes on to speak,"I would like to say The fighting at Passchendaele took a great bravery by all involved. The efforts of all these men were truly remarkable. But I would like to read of the names of 9 Canadians, who did acts of some super human nature. That has earned them all the Victoria Cross:
3-Sgt. George Mullin
4 Maj. George Pearkes
5 Pvt. James Peter Roberson
6 Cpl. Collin Barron
7 Pvt. Cecil Kinross
8 Lt. Robert Shankton
9 Lt. Huge Mckenzie
-------"I would like to Honor at this time all THE CARRIER PIGEONS of PASSCHENDAELE. One of whom, wounded badly was able to make it to it's objective in delivering an important message.Died shortly after. Is awarded the Victoria Cross. I would like the world to know ,those birds are the real victoers of the battlefield."
-------As Currie walks away ,the War room goes quiet for along time. As we all remember all the lost souls , animals and men of both sides of THE BATTLE OF MUD.
-------Gen. Haig steps forward and addresses the War room,"I am to blame for the huge loss of life. I had to keep up the fighting thru Autumn. The Russian withdrawal from the war, meant more German troops would becoming are way. Allied shipping is being blasted by enemy submarines,sent from the Belgian coast. Along with weakened French morale which manifested itself in wide spread mutiny, it seemed clear that a decisive strike must be attempted before the Allied war effort collapsed. I would do it all over the same way. As long as we end up winning World War I. I would like to thank all of our men who fought so hard and well. Giving us a victory at such a dark time for our side in this war."
------Gen. Haig leaves walking with his head staring at the floor . As he felt in his heart. What I know to be fact being from the future. That the British shame for Passchendaele was so bad. The Battle of Passchendaele proved to be so contentious. That no official History of it was written until after the Second World War. As both sides suffered over 400,000 casualties each.
------As for Canada's great sacrifices and achievements on the battlefields of Europe made them known as the best offensive fighting force on the Western Front,WWI. Which would put them at the for front of advancing battles. That won the war a year later. Canada would gain great respect on the World Stage. Which earned Canada the right to sign a separate signature ,not included with England, like other members of the British Empire. On the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended THE FIRST WORLD WAR.
------As I leave the War room, I walk back up the hill at the edge of camp. I take out my field glasses ,and look at the landscape of Passchenaele. Then I point my field glasses upward at the night sky. As I view THE MOON, I think of the gray colored land and craters of Passchendaele. How they are both now cold and quiet. But yet both seem at peace. as I go to put my field glasses back in my satchel. It begins to glow. As well as all the stars in the night sky. A flash o light...Then darkness... Where will I end up this time????
Last edited by ConfederateSS
on Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:08 am, edited 10 times in total.