|seinde, and on the right
they pushed up the valley, where runs the Weiltje-Passchendaele road, and
ran their line of connected shell holes up beyond the Gravenstafel cross
roads and Abraham Heights to Berlin Wood. But they were short some 3,000
yards of their original objective, the Village of Passchendaele itself
which hung on the crest of the low ridge to which it gave its sombre name
- a ridge that looked little more than a ripple in the flatness of this
sodden Belgian landscape but yet gave dominance over the plain stretching
away toward Roulers, important railway centre.
At a terrific cost in lives,
under conditions that were always to remain a monument to British courage,
to bulldog tenacity, the line had now been established along the main series
of ridges for 9,000 yards from the starting point at Mount Sorrell.
The operations had first
been launched with a vision of sweeping the Germans off this system of
ridges, sending them pell-mell over the plains approaching Roulers and
thrusting on to clear them out of their Flemish bases and cut their communications
to their submarine bases on the coast.
What had been conceived in
the dry months as a tremendous two week smash had now prolonged itself
into two months of battering against two foes - mud and the Germans. Even
had the weather been normal, the newly-devised system of elastic defence
based on heavily-armored pill-boxes, commandingly placed and which were
impervious to direct hits by 12-inch shells, would have given the Germans
an even chance in the defence of these low, sprawling ridges. With the
clinging, slimy mud as an ally the Germans had slowed the operation down
to a soggy crawl.
But even if two months of
continual rain had shrunken the original conception down to trench raid
proportions, yet there were still presented weighty reasons why the British
should keep the initiative.
Seemingly overwhelming disasters
in Russia and Italy made the grim necessities of the salient, and finally
its climax, Passchendaele, look microscopic by comparison but no less forbidding
for all of that. The weakened morale of the French further fanned the urgency
and a continuation of the "limited operations" were still more necessary
to focus still more German attention while the Cambrai "surprise" of November
20th was still simmering.
On October 9th the British
had continued their push, reaching Houlthulst Forest, the final objective
on the north, but the assault of October 12th, farther south, sent off
after 48 hours more downpour, completely bogged down in impassable swamps
and was abandoned.
To keep the enemy's attention
two more weeks and to shove him ...