Notihing but mud water and bodies. The Third Battle of Yrpes ended when Canadians finally cleared the Germans from Passchendaele Ridge Nov 10, 1917.

Notihing but mud water and bodies. The Third Battle of Yrpes ended when Canadians finally cleared the Germans from Passchendaele Ridge Nov 10, 1917.
Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada

Remembrance Week: 100th anniversary ceremonies Passchendaele

Ceremonies in Belgium mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele

Hell. It’s the word most often used to describe the Third Battle of Ypres and Passchendaele, in an already hellish war.

Canadians took Passchendaele ridge on Nov 10th 1917, where the British and ANZACs had been fighting for months.

Today, a variety of Canadian officials were in Belgium to mark the centennial of that horrific battle in which nine Canadians were awarded the Empire’s highest honour for valour, the Victoria Cross.  Some 16,000 Canadians were killed, wounded, or missing. Over half a million other Allied and German soldiers were killed in that months long campaign.

Ceremonies today at Tyne Cot Cemetary, Zonnebeke Belgium to mark the 10tth anniversary of the Canadian victory at Passchendaele in the long and bloody Third Battle of Ypres
Ceremonies today at Tyne Cot Cemetary, Zonnebeke Belgium to mark the 10tth anniversary of the Canadian victory at Passchendaele in the long and bloody Third Battle of Ypres © CBC

By the time the Canadians had been called, the fighting in the sucking morass of the muddy fields of Flanders had been going on for months.

Canadian soldiers carry *trench mats* or *duck boards* across the blasted fields to help movement over the treacherous mud
Canadian soldiers carry *trench mats* or *duck boards* across the blasted fields to help movement over the treacherous mud © National Archives Canada PA-002084

Allied commander, Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haid had thrown wave after wave of British, Australian and New Zealanders to their deaths in the mud for little gain.

In desperation he called in the Canadians.  They began the assault on Passchendaele in late October and by November 10 the Germans had been pushed out completely, but also at horrific cost.

A small portion of Tyne Cot cemetary near Passchendaele village. A great many of the graves are of soldiers who couldn’t be identified.
A small portion of Tyne Cot cemetery near Passchendaele village. The huge cemetery contains 12,000 Empire dead, some 8,000 of the graves are of soldiers who couldn’t be identified. © CBC

This week Canadian dignitaries have been in Belgium to mark the 100th anniversary of that battle and the end of hell, although the war itself and the killing and dying would continue for another year.

Warrant Officer Matt Russell, taking part in Passchendaele commemorations, shows a picture of his great grandfather who fought here. His memory ”makes me feel really proud,” Russell said. “It is a little emotional because it’s hard to imagine what they went through.*
Warrant Officer Matt Russell, taking part in Passchendaele commemorations, shows a picture of his great grandfather who fought here. His memory ”makes me feel really proud,” Russell said. “It is a little emotional because it’s hard to imagine what they went through.* © Pascal Leblond/CBC News

The ceremonies at cenotaphs across Canada to mark the centennial of this bittersweet victory today are a prelude to tomorrow’s major commemoration event on 11am on November 11th, Remembrance Day, being held at the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Ottawa.

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