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Intro


1917

The Battle of Passchendaele

 

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Intro


1917

The Battle of Passchendaele

 

 

The Great War – ‘the war to end all wars’, ended nothing. Families severed apart, communities broken, a generation lost; the sacrifice of these eleven million in an attempt to preserve peace in Europe was ultimately in vain. A political play, the national powers twisted in a chain of alliances and treaties reaching a boiling point, with explosive consequence. Within this confusion, was New Zealand, fighting for its mother nation – Great Britain – all the while creating its own identity.

 
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How to use this site


How to use this site


How to use this site:

To get started, learn about the background of the Battle of Passchendaele on the home page. After this, explore the lives of five people who fought at Passchendaele starting with Hemi Maaka. At the end of these pages, do the interactive activities for each person. Next, learn about the British commander at Passchendaele and decide his fate, villain or victor?

If you want to learn about the various aircraft that flew the Belgium skies, look through the planes pages. Want to check out the weapons carried into battle by our veterans? The weapons of war page will satisfy your curiosity. Tanks were a major innovation used by the British at Passchendaele, learn about their presence on the Belgian front on the tanks page.

Many people dealt with the trauma of the war through artistic expression-take a look at the pieces they produced. While you're there, enjoy listening to the British and German marching songs that boosted the morale of the men.

How does Gallipoli compare to Passchendaele? Visit the page to find out. Once the Battle was over, what was the fallout? Learn about the consequences of the event on the Consequences page.

Build a connection with the past-Adopt an ANZAC. The Adopt an ANZAC page shows you how to learn about the lives of our Kiwi veterans and explore what they did during the Great War. Send us your stories, what did your ANZAC do before the war? Were they a high or low rank and where were they deployed? While you are researching for your ANZAC, don't forget to find them on the online cenotaph if they are there, and lay a poppy for them. On the cenotaph, you may even find a picture of them.

Visit the Community page to view the contributions of other students to the site, see what ANZACs they've researched and the activities they have completed. The Community page is also the place to visit to find the views of students and teachers on our site and also for viewing our social media dimension.

Enjoy your time exploring the site and engaging with the lives of our ancestors and the world they were thrown into.

Scroll down to learn more about how the Battle of Passchendaele started and what happened during this dark time for our young nation.

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New Zealand Involvement


Eager to prove its place – New Zealand making its father proud.

New Zealand Involvement


Eager to prove its place – New Zealand making its father proud.

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New Zealand Troops


100,000 from the Land of the Long White Cloud; the last time they see this land for its untainted beauty. 18,000 never returned.

New Zealand Troops


100,000 from the Land of the Long White Cloud; the last time they see this land for its untainted beauty. 18,000 never returned.

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Passchendaele Overview


Soldiers from the New Zealand Division posing with a captured German Mauser T-Gewehr.

Passchendaele Overview


Soldiers from the New Zealand Division posing with a captured German Mauser T-Gewehr.

 

Overview

Located in Western Belgium, Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was a defining battle in the push back East. Beginning in the 31st of July, 1917, the objective of the battle being to capture the strategic ridgelines around the Belgian city of Ypres. One key unit that was involved throughout the battles was the 2nd ANZAC Corps. Composed of the New Zealand, the Australian 3rd, and the British 25th Divisions at the time of the Battle of Passchendaele, it played an instrumental role in these skirmishes. 

 
 

Battle plan for the 2nd ANZAC Corps. The town of Messines can be seen above '12th Bde'.

Battle oF Messines Ridge

Before the assault on Passchendaele, was the Battle of Messines Ridge. The ridge provided easy overwatch for German forces on the town of Ypres, allowing for observed artillery fire that would be deadly accurate. British forces through the past few years had been filling mines under Messines with 454 tons of explosives, and to officially start the campaign for Passchendaele, blew them on this day – ‘It was a white incandescent light – we knew that the temperature was about 3000 degrees centigrade. The Germans there went up as gas.’ – Lieutenant Bryan Frayling of the Royal Engineers. ANZAC troops took the ridge within seven days. Ground that the German 4th Army had held since the First Battle of Ypres.


Battle of Gravenstafel Spur

Beginning on the 4th of October, ANZAC forces were instrumental in the first assault on the defences around the village of Passchendaele. The objective for the New Zealand Division was Gravenstafel, made important by the push of their Australian comrades, who were attacking Broodseinde Ridge, to the south of Gravenstafel at the same time. NZ forces were to cover the Australian assault; Broodseinde being a buildup to the main offensive on Passchendaele. Beginning at 06:00, artillery bombardment, combined with a recent change in German tactics – packing frontline trenches rather than spreading the troops – made the October 4th attack extremely effective. NZ troops quickly advanced 1000 metres to secure Gravenstafel, and captured 1000 prisoners. The attack came at some cost, however, with the New Zealand Division suffering 1600 casualties, of which 500 were killed.

The planned five-stage assault on Passchendaele – Gravenstafel and Bellevue are circled in red. The boundaries for the ANZAC Corps can be plainly seen, along with the Division and Brigade boundaries for the New Zealand Division (on the left).


The accompanying barrage plan for the attack on Passchendaele. After the initial lines, the impact of the artillery petered out.

'The Blackest Day'

The Battle of Bellevue Spur was the deadliest in New Zealand military history since 1840. A five-stage plan, the objective was ambitious; the 4th Australian Division given the objective of Passchendaele, and the New Zealand Division again given the role of flank support. Zero hour was at 05:25 on the 12th of October, with a planned creeping barrage leading the infantry push. However, the barrage was greatly disorganised, with several shells even landing on NZ forces. The 3rd Brigade, pushing on the left, became marred in machine-gun fire, while the 2nd Brigade, on its right flank, was blockaded by barbed wire. Both Brigades lost their momentum, resorting to creating defences against German counter-attack. The push was a failure; troops eventually fell back to positions near their starting line. Only on the 18th of October were NZ troops relieved, the Canadian Corps taking their place. New Zealand suffered 3700 casualties on the 12th of October, with 950 men dead.

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Proceed


Explore the People

Interact

Adopt your ANZAC

Proceed


Explore the People

Interact

Adopt your ANZAC

Explore the lives of five who participated in Passchendaele.

Begin here:


Interact on social media.

What do you think could have been done differently at Passchendaele?

#passion4passchendaele

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Contribute to the making of history – adopt an ANZAC now.