Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Sixty Sixth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres

Thursday 4th October 1917

Today is the third day in a row it has been raining and another full-scale attack has been made on the enemy here at Ypres, by twelve divisions. The most southerly of these was 37th Division, which attacked with 63rd and 111th Brigades. 6th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment was lent to these brigades but was not called upon, though I am very sad to report that my friend, the laconic adjutant, Captain H J Cunningham has been killed by a shell. 63rd Brigade went forward and managed to take their first objective but the Germans are always very protective of the ground anywhere in the vicinity of the Menin Road and a series of desperate counter-attacks drove the brigade back to its starting positions. 111th Brigade had more success, capturing Tower Trench but being unable to take all their objectives.

The 5th Division attack was also made without the Bedfords, the 1st Battalion being in reserve. An advance to the grounds of Polderhoek Chȃteau has been made though that attack cannot get any further as the position is very strongly held. Elsewhere Cameron Copse has been taken and the advance has ended just short of Juniper Hill which, again is very strongly held. Despite this the advance has taken a reasonable amount of ground on the Polderhoek Spur which the enemy will be unhappy to lose(1).

21st Division is on the 5th Division’s left flank and on the eastern edge of the southern part of Polygon Wood. Their attack, with 62nd and 64th Brigades, has been slightly more successful. They have taken Joist Farm, Juniper Trench and Judge Trench and a number of enemy strong-points.

7th Division is next in the line going north. They used 20th and 91st Brigades in their attack. They seem to have been completely successful, taking all their objectives including Jetty Wood, Jubilee Croft, Jay Barn, Jay Croft and Jolting House.

The colonials of the two ANZAC Corps form the next four divisions. 1st Australian Division obtained most of their objectives and even managed to capture a battery of four 77mm field guns en-route! Romulus and Remus Woods have fallen and all objectives have been taken

2nd Australian Division had to go round Zonnebeke Lake in making their attack but managed to capture Zonnebeke itself. This division, too, not to be outdone, also captured a battery of four light artillery pieces. Going on they have also managed to capture the village of Broodeseinde, giving two in one attack. We understand they have not quite achieved their final objective but can be proud of what they have achieved.

3rd Australian Division took the strong-points called Seine and Hamburg. The New Zealand Division is the furthest north of the four ANZAC divisions, they have taken Dear House, Dochy Farm, Berlin Farm, Albatross Farm, Aviatik Farm and Otto Farm and the strong-points called Boetleer, Korek, Waterloo, Riverside, Calgary Grange, Winzig and Winchester. Another splendid success for the men from the islands of the long white cloud.

48th (South Midland) Division are the next in line and attacked with one brigade. They have taken Vale Farm and Tweed House but were unable to take all their objectives, ending some way short of their final objective.

11th Division used two brigades, 33rd and 34th, in their attack. The good news is that they have taken the village of Poelcapelle as well as strong-points such as Gloster Farm, Ferdan House and Malta House.

4th Division used 10th and 11th Brigades in its attack and took Kangaroo Trench without difficulty. 11th Brigade went on to take all their objectives, a truly splendid effort worthy of the old regular army. 10th Brigade has been less fortunate, taking 19 Metre Hill but being unable to make further progress. We understand they then were hit by an enemy counter-attack but managed to fight it off.

29th Division formed the northernmost attack of today. 86th and 87th Brigades’ task was to make a defensive flank to protect the units further south from interference. A number of strong-points have been taken including Chinese House and ‘t Goed ter Vesten Farm. When the enemy counter-attacked and drove the 4th Division back it was flanking fire from 29th Division which routed the Germans and enabled 4th Division to regain the ground it had lost.

So today has seen more steady progress. It is true that not all objectives have been reached but some divisions have had great success and none have encountered outright failure. Such attacks, chipping away at the enemy bit by bit must surely begin to make an impact on him. The army is now within sight of the ridge on which stands the village of Passchendaele.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/7/1

(1) They put in no less than eight counter-attacks regaining some of the ground.

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