Ireland's Divisions Prepare for Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)

Thu, 08/02/1917

Following the Battle of Messines, that had reduced the southern half of the Ypres Salient, the British began the major offensive in Flanders, known as the Third Battle of Ypres, to reduce the northern half of the Ypres Salient. The battle had begun on 31 July.

Both the 16th (Irish) and the 36th (Ulster) Division were held in reserve when they joined XIX Corps in Passchendaele*. They were destined to assault at Langemarck on 16 August. Both Divisions went into the line on the night of 3 August with the 36th (Ulster) Division to the left of the 16th (Irish) Division. None of the Divisions’s troops would be fresh into the attack on 16 August, as they struggled through the mud, enemy artillery and aircraft attacks. The ground had been churned by bombardment to a powder and, as earlier shelling had destroyed the drainage canals, it took very little rain to turn the Flemish plain into an impassable roadless swamp. After the heavy rain on 31 July, men floundered in the porridge-like mud with some being swallowed up and drowned.

The struggle at Ypres is often referred to as 'Passchendaele'; that was the name of the village that marked the limit of advance reached on 10 November 1917.