A century ago today one of the signature battles of the Great War was concluded in the Ypres Salient. It was the Canadian Corps, commanded by General Arthur Currie, that was placed at the cutting edge of the final action; they were given the job of securing Passchendaele Ridge.
|Canadians at Passchendaele: The Artist's View
On 6 November, the Canadians launched their third attack on the ridge. They succeeded in capturing it and the ruins of Passchendaele village from the exhausted German defenders. A fourth assault, which secured the remaining areas of high ground east of the Ypres salient, was carried out on 10 November—the final day of the more than four-month battle.
|Canadian Machine Gunners Near Passchendaele: The Real Deal
Nine Victoria Crosses, the British Empire's highest award for military valor, were awarded to Canadians after the fighting. Among the recipients was Winnipeg's Robert Shankland who on 26 October had led his platoon in capturing a series of German gun emplacements—and holding them against repeated enemy counterattacks—on a critical piece of high ground called the Bellevue Spur.
|Canadian Memorial at Crest Farm, Passchendaele Village
More than 4,000 Canadians were killed and another 12,000 wounded—almost exactly the casualties predicted by Arthur Currie. These were among the 275,000 casualties (including 70,000 killed) lost overall to the armies under British command at Passchendaele. The Germans suffered another 220,000 killed and wounded. At the end, the point of it all was unclear. In 1918, all the ground gained there by the Allies was evacuated in the face of a looming German assault.
Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia