Commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of bloodiest episodes in World War I. In 2017 many events have been planned to remember the soldiers who fought for our freedom

The terrible events of the year 1917 are engraved in our collective memory. A series of explosions created a huge man-made earthquake and soldiers fought not only against the enemy but also against the mud. The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, destroyed the landscape and cost countless human lives

History

Battle of Messines 7–14 June 1917
The Mine Battle – known as the Battle of Messines (Ridge) by the British and ‘der Schlacht am Wytschaete Bogen’ by the Germans – was fought as a prelude to the Third Battle of Ypres. The British wanted to break through the front with a major offensive. They hoped to take the German positions at Messines by surprise, using specially created tunnelling companies. The idea was to approach the German trenches unseen through a series of underground tunnels, which would then be filled with high explosives. In the early morning of 7 June 1917, at 4.10 local time (Zero Hour), 19 of the 24 mines planted by the British exploded almost simultaneously between Hill 60 and Ploegsteert. The surprise, the impact and the chaos amongst the Germans were complete. It was the most important British military victory of the war up to that point. The Messines-Wijtschate salient was eliminated. In addition to British troops, units from Ireland (Heuvelland), New Zealand (Mesen) and Australia (Ploegsteert) also took part in the battle.

Use of Mustard Gas 12 July 1917
The Germans used a new gas against the British for the first time: mustard gas, also known as yperiet. This was a bad start for the Allied bombardment that commenced four days later in preparation for a new offensive around Ypres. While the Mine Battle had been a success, the delay before launching this follow-up offensive was too long.

Battle of Passchendaele 31 July – 10 November 1917
At the end of July it began to rain heavily and when the offensive was launched on 31 July, the attacking troops could hardly drag themselves and their equipment forward through the thick mud. A series of major and minor attacks, often with brief intervals in-between, followed in quick succession. Sometimes the Allies achieved local successes, but the campaign as a whole did not go according to plan. The German defences remained largely intact.

The village of Passchendaele – which should have fallen in August – was finally captured by the Canadians on 6 November.

After 100 days, the British had advanced just 8 kilometres while over 500,000 Commonwealth soldiers had been killed, wounded or were missing. The Germans also suffered heavy losses in men and material, losses that they were unable to replace.

Two key places to visit

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
This museum tells the story of the war in the Ypres Salient, with special emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Zonnebeke and its five villages have the biggest concentration of underground constructions. Because these dugouts are generally not accessible to the public, a life-like reconstruction has been built in the Museum.

Tyne Cot Cemetery and Visitor Centre
This is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission military cemetery in continental Europe, with almost 12,000 tombstones. The back wall of the graveyard is inscribed with the names of 34,957 missing soldiers who fell in the Battle of Passchendaele and later.

Memorial Ceremonies and Events 2017

Anzac Day – Dawn Service
Buttes New British Cemetery – Zonnebeke

Annual tribute to all the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in WWI.
25 APR 2017 (6 a.m.)

Anzac Day
New Zealand Memorial in Messines
25 APR 2017

International Remembrance Ceremony Centenary of the Battle of Messines
Messines and Heuvelland
7 JUNE (at dawn)

Crater Front
Heuvelland

Soundscape and light installation
10 JUNE 2017 (after dusk)

Third Battle Of Ypres/ Battle of Passchendaele Remembrance Programme
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, and Menin Gate, Ypres
Menin Gate & Market Square 30 JULY 2017, Tyne Cot 31 July 2017

Scottish Memorial Ceremony
Scottish monument on the Frezenberg (Zonnebeke)
19 AUGUST 2017

Australian Memorial Ceremony
Zonnebeke
20 SEPTEMBER 2017

Carabineers – Grenadiers Ceremony
Zonnebeke
24 SEPTEMBER 2017 (10 a.m.)
99th anniversary of the attack on and taking of Passchendaele by the Belgian Carabineers- Grenadiers.

New Zealand Memorial Service
Zonnebeke
12 OCTOBER 2017
Official memorial service for the fallen soldiers of New Zealand.

Wood of Peace – Tree Planting Day
Polygon Wood

In 2017, a tree will be planted for every fallen soldier with a known grave in the two British cemeteries at Polygon Wood.
12 OCTOBER 2017

Silent City Meets Living City
Tyne Cot Cemetery

12,000 volunteers, as many as the number of gravestones in the cemetery, will contribute to a unique and powerful moment of silence and reflection. Join them.
14 OCTOBER 2017

Canadian Memorial Celebration
Crest Farm Memorial/Passchendaele Church (Zonnebeke)

Memorial event to commemorate the end of the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.
10 NOVEMBER 2017

2017 Alex Decoteau Run
Zonnebeke/Passchendaele
12 NOVEMBER 2017
Run in commemoration of the Canadian Indian Alex Wuttunee Decoteau, who participated in the 5,000 metre race during the 1912 Olympics, and of all those who fell in the Battle of Passchendaele.

Coming World Remember Me Art Project
Nieuwpoort /Ypres
2014 > 2018
At a series of workshops, a sculpture will be made for each of the 600,000 victims who fell in Belgium in WWI, indicating the name of the deceased and the maker of the sculpture. In 2018, all these sculptures will become part of a land art project in No Man’s Land at Ypres under the enthusiastic leadership of the internationally recognised artist Koen Vanmechelen. Visit one of the workshops in Nieuwpoort or Ypres to make a sculpture.

www.comingworldrememberme.be

All ceremonies are accessible to the public.

For detailed information and timetables visit the website

Zonnebeke: www.passchendaele2017.org (from April 2017),

Ypres: www.visitypres.be

Messines: www.messines.be

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