A new thread.
My take on the battle for Passchendaele, July 31st to November 10th 1917
Half a million young men dead, a further half a million traumatised or crippled.
For five miles of man made swamp and a ruined village. All by the orders of a few
We should be reminded of Passchendaele.’s insanity
Where half a million young men were killed needlessly
Through commands of generals and their Chief-of Staff
Whose statues stand so uneasily by the great Cenotaph
Three months of killing for nothing, dare you deny
For today, many millions look down and ask, why?
No purpose was served, no backing from any God
Traumatised boys had to obey or face a firing squad.
How stupid, when ready to attack a whistle is blown,
sends a signal to Germans who will then have known,
that over the top men now charge, in fears mortal grip,
Just lambs to the slaughter as machine guns let rip.
Forward through mud, gas, smoke and barbed wire
Behind; useless tanks, defunct in the mud and fire
Young minds to be extinguished in no-man’s-land
By bullet, shells and gas, no human could withstand.
In stinking mud they advanced many a man crying
Over those who went before them, now dead or dying
Lives shattered and ended, while a bunch of fools
Discuss why frightful Germans had broken the rules.
What reason, what excuse can be ever contrived,
to term such senseless raw slaughter as justified?
We should bow, remember or pray, as it should be,
For boys and men sacrificed, for King and country.
For all those who were killed in that dreadful affray
a place in our thoughts should for our lifetime stay
A hundred years have gone since the end of the tale
We should never forget the folly of Passchendaele.
(Some back-up below).
Why is the battle regarded as controversial?
Many historians have questioned why Haig allowed his soldiers to continue the offensive; throughout the attack the commander was under constant pressure to halt it. Plus, the British and Empire forces advanced only five miles yet suffered at least a quarter of a million casualties.
The Prime Minister David Lloyd George disapproved of the plan, only allowing it to happen as there were no other credible ideas at the time. In his War Memoirs, published in 1938, he wrote: "Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war ... No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign”.
Sassoon's take on the attack
Siegfried Sassoon, whose poetry famously depicted the horrors of trench warfare, mentioned the battle in his poem Memorial Tablet. Penned a month before the war's end in October 1918 and first published in his 1919 collection Picture-Show, the poem is narrated by a dead soldier.
Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.
At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’...that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?