Thursday 10 August 2017

Eleventh Day of the Third Battle of Ypres

Friday 10th August 1917

Today has seen the first day of major operations in this new offensive since 31st July. Two divisions have been involved in trying to push forward in the one area where the first day of the battle achieved little overall success - the ground on and immediately north of the Menin Road, known as the Westhoek Ridge. The divisions taking part were 18th (Eastern) Division and 25th Division. The weather has been wet recently, uncharacteristically so for August and it has rained again today, the warm air temperature making a debilitating, muggy atmosphere. In places there is reckoned to be a foot of standing water(1)

74th Brigade from 25th Division attacked across a very wide area (a 2,000-yard frontage) from the railway from Ypres to Roulers in the north, down past the western edges of the village of Westhoek to a point just west of the northern edge of Glencorse Wood. The attack was designed to take the village and its two strongpoints and the ground on either flank. This comparatively modest advance was carried out successfully, despite the conditions and our troops are now preparing against any German counter-attack.

18th Division, including our own 7th Battalion, attacked to the south of 74th Brigade, between them and Inverness Copse. 54th Brigade attacked north of the Menin Road and 53rd Brigade astride and south of it. 54th Brigade, the Bedfords well to the fore, stormed into Glencorse Wood from a position some way to the west of it. The west edge of the wood is protected by a major trench known as Jargon Trench and this fell quickly. We understand that the Bedfords took the whole of Glencorse Wood with the 11th Royal Fusiliers getting as far as Fitzclarence Farm. At this point the enemy massed in Polygon Wood and Nonne Bosschen Wood for a counter-attack. They pushed the Fusiliers back nearly to their starting positions. The Bedfords, I have been hearing, were let down by this failure of the Fusiliers, having to defend not only their front but an over-extended right flank where the Fusiliers had withdrawn. As a result they have fallen back to Jargon Trench where they are holding. I hope for a more detailed picture to emerge tonight.

7th Queen’s of 53rd Brigade attacked Inverness Copse from the south. This was only after the enemy spotted them forming up in the pre-dawn half-light and caused many casualties. A strongpoint at the south-western edge of the wood further hampered the attack which has now been called off.

So the attack has had mixed fortunes but I have been able to gauge that the opinion is that the 7th Bedfords, at least, have added to their laurels today.

Source: X550/8/1

(1) The water table was naturally high in such low-lying ground as that around Ypres. The constant shelling had destroyed ditches and drainage systems and the rain had made the soil waterlogged.

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