In British popular memory 1917 is dominated by one word – Passchendaele. This Belgian village with its strangely evocative name was the last objective of the Third Battle of Ypres, captured by Canadian troops on 6 November. The name became shorthand for a period of nightmarish combat. The Germans were pushed to breaking point in the course of the battle, in which almost imperceptible rises of ground formed vital objectives that consumed thousands of lives. But the exhaustion of British troops, forced to struggle forward through miles of deep, sucking mud created by early autumn downpours, allowed the Germans to cling on.
The battle begun on this day in history in 1917, and it took more than three months of bloody combat. Spearheaded by the British commander in chief, Sir Douglas Haig, the fighting saw some 310,000 British and 260,000 German casualties, one of the most costly offensives of World War I. The battle, which failed to create any substantial breakthrough or change momentum on the Western Front, has become an epitome of the wasteful and futile nature of trench warfare which saw so many people killed.
Also on this Day
It Was Literally An Army of Dads
What’s the number one rated sit-com on British television at this moment in time? Check the stats and you will see that week in, week out Dad’s Army still tops the charts, despite the fact that it first appeared on this day way back in 1968. When the idea was first pitched, the BBC were worried about mocking the brave boys who fought ... Read more >
On 31 July 1975, James Riddle Hoffa, one of the most influential American labour leaders of the 20th century, disappears in Detroit, Michigan, never to be heard from again. Though he is popularly believed to have been the victim of a Mafia hit, conclusive evidence was never found, and Hoffa's death remains shrouded in mystery to this day. Born in 1913 to a poor coal miner in Brazil, Indiana, Ji... Read more >