The failure of Nivelle‘s offensive on the Chemin des Dames and the following disorders in the French army have meant that Britain has had to take the leading role on the Western Front. Now Haig‘s long-planned offensive in Flanders begins, the Third Battle of Ypres. Officially this is meant to be a battle of limited objectives, designed to seize a modest amount of ground and inflict heavy casualties on the Germans. But Haig is ambitious and remains committed to the idea of a decisive battle. He hopes that his men will be able to achieve a breakthrough, leading to the recapture of the Belgian coast and ultimately the liberation of occupied Belgium.
The attacks today are relatively successful. British troops manage to storm German positions along much of the offensive’s front. French troops, playing a supporting role, also enjoy considerable success, suggesting that Pétain‘s efforts to overcome the mutinies are bearing fruit. A large number of German prisoners are taken and many casualties inflicted on the enemy, though Allied casualties are also high.
However the attack is not as successful as Haig had hoped. No breakthrough has been achieved as of yet. Tanks sent forward to bludgeon through the German lines have found the muddy and cratered ground difficult to traverse. Indeed, the waterlogged soil of Flanders is proving difficult for the infantry as well. Nevertheless, Haig determines that the attacks will continue, hoping that the today’s successes will be a prelude to a great victory.
Stretcher bearers (Wikipedia)