Passchendaele centenary commemorations

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Australian war photographer Frank Hurley’s picture of Australian gunners on a duckboard track in the Ypres Salient, 29 October 1917.


The UK Government is holding two commemorative events in Ypres, Belgium, to mark the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres), fought during the First World War.

Raging from 31 July to 10 November 1917, Passchendaele is widely remembered as one of the most hellish battles of the war. While it brought the Allies limited territorial gains, what began as a fight for control of the ridges south and east of Ypres became a drawn-out battle of attrition in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed.

Some 325,000 Allied soldiers and around 260,000 Germans died amid the mud of the Ypres Salient, described by Siegfried Sassoon as a ‘sullen swamp’ in which ‘the world’s worst wound’ was opened. Later,

in his memoirs, then Prime Minister David Lloyd George criticised the way the battle was handled, calling it ‘one of the greatest disasters of the war’. The battle’s pros and cons continue to be debated today.

The first commemorative event is open to the public and will take place on the evening of 20 July. Large screens in the Market Square will broadcast the ‘Last Post’ ceremony from the Menin Gate, and this showing will be followed by a cultural event designed to tell the story of the First World War in the Ypres Salient through a variety of media, including live performance and projection mapping.

The following a ernoon, a ticket-only event will take place at Tyne Cot Cemetery. Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission (GWGC) cemetery in the world: 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen are interred there, 8,300 of whom remain unidentified.

Tickets to the Tyne Cot event will be available through a public ballot at until 24 February. For more information and to enter the ballot visit www.passchendaele100.org

This article was published in issue 78 of Military History Monthly. To subscribe to the magazine click here. To access the digital edition click here.

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