BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE
WARNED early in September
by Gen. Sir Henry Horne, commander of the 1st Army, that they were likely
to be detached and sent to Flanders to take part in the main British thrust
being made there, it came as no surprise to the Canadians when by mid-October
the 3rd and 4th Divisions were already in the van of the movement which
was to take the whole Corps northwards, back to Belgium.
They were headed back to
the very salient where the 1st Division had won imperishable fame and to
an area that had seen the 2nd and then 3rd Division, each in turn, offered
to the holocaust of modern war, out of which they came, maimed but never
broken and tempered as with steel to an added hardness which three years
and a half had shown the gods of war demanded in ever increasing degree.
Even the 4th Division had had its first peek inside the theatre of war
as it was gently initiated into trench tours just to the south of the grim
salient to which all were now pointing.
Started on July 31st after
numerous, unavoidable delays, the Third Battle of Ypres, as this offensive
of 1917 was to be known, had been raging with ever-increasing intensity
for two months, when the movement of the Canadians to the north began.
Even in the midst of their
own immediate and pressing troubles in front of Lens, Canadians had followed
the fortunes of the Imperials, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans
to the north in the salient as daily the toll of comparatively shallow
advances strengthened the claim of Ypres and its surrounding area as the
"Graveyard of an Empire." They had learned to read between the lines of
war dispatches as they perused them in trench or billet. They had no illusions
regarding what lay at the end of this trek north. The most imaginative
and morbid of speculative flights were to fall far, far below the most
comfortable, "cushy" levels of realization.
The fourth British attack
had been started on October 4th. Despite another downpour of the rain that
had been falling almost incessantly since July and had long ago rendered
the whole salient but one vast quagmire, the assault made remarkable headway
and British and Australian troops, at a great cost in lives, wrested another
3,000 yards of muddy desolation from the Germans. They captured Zonnebeke,
they reached Poeleappelle and the higher land at Brood-