Photograph of a British tank in the mud, Third Battle of Ypres


A damaged British tank partly submerged in mud and water near St Julien, 12 October 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Battle of Passchendaele

The Third Battle of Ypres is more commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele. The British-led offensive, which took place on the Western Front between 31 July 1917 and 6 November 1917, is infamous for the deep mud and the high number of casualties.

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces on the Western Front, confident after British success at Messines Ridge in June and concerned the German blockade would soon cripple the British war effort and fearful of the possibility of Russian withdrawal from the war increasing German forces on the Western Front, ordered the British Infantry to begin an attack at Ypres on 31 July 1917.

Quickly the drainage systems around Ypres were destroyed and the soil turned to mud by a combination of near constant artillery fire and the heaviest rainfall the region had seen for 30 years. The mud quagmire was so deep that it halted tanks, incapacitated weapons and drowned men and horses.

On 6 November after weeks of battles, stalemate and heavy rain the remains of Passchendaele village was captured by British and Canadian forces barely 5 miles from their initial position. Haig proclaimed the offensive a success and called off the attack.

In a little over three months the Third Battle of Ypres had claimed 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties.

Full title:
12 October 1917
Image / Photograph
John Warwick Brooke (Lieutenant)
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© IWM (Q 6327). This item is available to be shared and re-used under the terms of the IWM Non Commercial Licence.

Held by
Imperial War Museums
Q 6327

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