They called it Passchendaele

The notorious British summer might not have been up to much this year but it's positively idyllic compared to the weather in Flanders 100 years ago.

Just ten days after the Passchendaele offensive began, it was brought to a temporary standstill - literally - by the infamous Flanders mud. Within days of the battle starting (on July 31st 1917) some of the heaviest rains known in the region for decades began, and the torrent continued until the shelled landscape was reduced to a thick, green-grey slime described as having 'the consistency of porridge' but which had the strength to suck down men, horses and equipment unfortunate enough to slip into the muddy depths. Gough's Third Army had made reasonable progress since the battle started but could go no further. Haig decided to consolidate the ground won and wait for better weather.

But any improvements were only slight. And the damage done to the field drainage of this low-lying landscape only made conditions worse. Months later, at the end of the offensive, Haig's Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Sir Lancelot Kiggell visited the battle field. He surveyed the scene in silence, before breaking down, crying: 'Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?'

They did.


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