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Horrendous conditions

by
October 13, 2017

The battle of Poelcappelle, the last successful battle of Third Ypres, began this week in unrelenting rain.

Haig believed that the Germans were near collapse.

In the world of wishful thinking in which he lived, just one last push was needed.

All five Australian divisions and the New Zealand division took part on the southern side of the battle.

Again, they were the spearhead.

The Canadian Corps moved up to join them.

More than ten Allied divisions, eight of them Dominion divisions, took part.

They faced seven German divisions with another six in reserve.

The Allied objective was to advance up Poelcappelle spur, take Poelcappelle village and take the Flandern I Stellung (the first Flanders Line) just beyond Passchendaele Ridge.

Haig readied two cavalry divisions and four tank battalions ready to exploit the breakthrough that he just knew would arrive.

The cavalry divisions must have been Pegasus divisions because the corduroy roads had sunk or floated away in the rain.

The ground had turned to waist-deep porridge.

The Dominion divisions went over the top at 5.20am under a creeping barrage that stirred up the porridge.

Many artillery pieces ceased firing almost immediately because recoil got them bogged.

Conditions were so bad that the troops had taken more than five hours to cover 4km from their assembly points to the start line.

Some Australians advanced well, but were stopped by machine-gun fire and an intact section of barbed wire.

Other Australian units were surrounded and retreated.

Eventually, II Anzac Corps captured the spur and Flandern II Stellung.

The Australians suffered 6953 casualties.

They were unable to take Passchendaele Ridge.

In the battle a company of 10th Battalion crept amid the tree stumps of Celtic Wood to flush out entrenched Germans.

In an event that has been referred to as Australia’s wartime equivalent of Picnic at Hanging Rock, 71 Australians of that company disappeared without trace forever.

At least six books have attempted to explain the mystery.

Meanwhile in Benalla, the advice column of the Weekly Times advised T.G. of Benalla how to make a log cabin and slave costumes like those of the Deep South of America.

The Supreme Court sitting at Benalla acquitted a Molyullah farmer of malicious wounding this week.

The farmer had quarrelled with his brother-in-law and his brother-in-law had been stabbed.

The farmer’s defence was that the stabbing was an accident.

This week in Wangaratta a motor car collided with a railway locomotive on the Rowan St railway crossing (now the underpass).

A former Wangaratta mayor and a Killawarra farmer died instantly.

The body of Herbert Manning, a successful farmer, was found in King River this week.

He had disappeared from his Moyhu home in mid September.

— John Barry, ANZAC Commemorative Working Party, Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI heroes

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