Centenary of Passchendaele planned

Centenary of Passchendaele planned

The Battle of Passchendaele, July to November, 1917. Source: Wikimedia

Major commemorations will take place in Belgium in the summer to mark the centenary of one of the deadliest battles of the First World War, Britain’s culture secretary has announced.

Around 4,000 free tickets will be given to descendants of British soldiers killed in the battle of Passchendaele for the events in Ypres, a century since the operation began.

Poet Siegfried Sassoon described the muddy battlefields as “hell”.

Around 325,000 Allied troops and 260,000 Germans died in the battle, officially known as the third battle of Ypres, in the West Flanders region of northern Belgium.

Among those to fight there was the “Last Tommy” Harry Patch, who died in 2009, at the age of 111.

Culture minister Karen Bradley said: “As we continue to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it is important that we remember the horrors of the battlefields of Ypres and honour the many who lost their lives.

“Some of the First World War’s most defining images of futility, mud, gas attacks and trenches come from these very battlefields.”

It was intended for Passchendaele to provide a major breakthrough for the Allies, a year after the disastrous Somme offensive, 70 miles to the south in northern France.

But the heaviest rain in 30 years and well-established German defences combined to limit the advance to only 8km in three months.

Shelling created a quagmire in which soldiers, horses and mules drowned in deep mud while guns, tanks and other machinery broke down.

Patch, 19 at the time, served as a private in the 7th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry until he was wounded by shrapnel in September 1917.

Patch said in 2005: “War is useless – that’s what my message would be. We lost thousands of men to settle what? Nothing.”

Paul Breyne, who is in charge of Belgium’s First World War commemoration, said: “The Belgian government is deeply committed in bringing support for the commemoration of this historical event of exceptional magnitude.

“It is for the Belgian people and the Belgian government of utmost importance to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and peace.

“We are looking forward to welcoming those British citizens and visitors from other nations who will travel to Belgium to pay tribute to those who fought with dedication and bravery, 100 years ago, in this devastating battle.”

 

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