All five divisions of the AIF were involved in the Third Battle of Ypres – commonly referred to as the Battle of Passchendale – from July to November 1917, which included the Battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde and Poelcappelle. In this time the AIF incurred 38,000 casualties.
C.E.W. Bean’s map showing the frontline: Third Battle of Ypres, 26th September 1917.
The Battle of Poelcappelle was fought 91 years ago, on 9th October 1917, just north of the town of Ypres. The attack was launched in heavy rain and accounted for 1,250 AIF casualties without gaining ground.
The Australian War Memorial notes that the AIF Battalions which took part in the battle were awarded the following honours: Awarded for participation in the broad-front assault, in the most difficult of waterlogged conditions, on the Passchendaele Ridge, centring on Poelcappelle village. An exhausting and only partly successful operation for British and Dominion forces.
The Battle of Poelcappelle was followed by the First Battle of Passchendaele on the 12 October and the Second Battle of Passchendaele which lasted from 26th October to 10 November. The Australian War Memorial notes that: In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties. The combined total of British and Dominion casualties has been estimated at 310,000 (estimated German losses were slightly lower) and no breakthrough was achieved. The costly offensives, ending with the capture of Passchendaele village, merely widened the Ypres salient by a few kilometres.
The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is compiling a database of those who fought and died in the battles for Passchendaele. For more information on the museum click here and their database click here.
One of the 1,250 casualties suffered by the AIF in the Battle of Poelcapplle was twenty year old Private Allan Marmaduke Crawley (No5319). Private Crawley, known as ‘Duke’ was killed in action on 9th October 1917.
Photo: Pte A.M. ‘Duke’ Crawley [Wellington’s Finest]
Private Crawley had previously been wounded on 27 February when his battalion seized Malt Trench near Le Barque. Details about Private Crawley, his cousin Trooper Francis Crawley and others who volunteered from the Wellington District of NSW can be found in Wellington’s Finest – researched and written by FFFAIF members Trevor Munro and Graeme Hosken.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers – presently buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood – dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and urge those responsible to ensure all necessary scientific and other means are employed to properly identify each soldier.