22/8/1917 Ypres: tanks v. mud, the Siege of Fray Bentos

Mud and the resistance of the enemy are frustrating British efforts at Ypres, but Haig still hopes that a determined effort will allow his men to smash through the German lines. More attacks are launched today, this time along the now devastated road that runs from Ypres to Menin. The attack founders in the Flanders quagmire. Small gains are made but some 3,000 men are lost.

The attack’s failure happens despite the deployment of tanks to support the infantry. The muddy ground is unsuitable for heavy armoured vehicles. In one incident 7 of 8 tanks advancing towards a German-held strongpoint become bogged down and have to be destroyed. The last tank, nicknamed Fray Bentos after the tinned meat product, continues on but finds itself stuck in a shell crater after German bullets injure the driver. Under fire from the enemy, the tank’s occupants are unable extricate their vehicle. They are now trapped in No Man’s Land.

As night falls Fray Bentos is besieged. German troops approach the vehicle and try to force their way in. For now the tank’s crew are able to repel the enemy but their future remains uncertain. They are too far ahead of their infantry to expect help from that quarter and any journey back to British lines would be one fraught with danger.

image sources:

Swarming Germans (The Telegraph: The siege of Fray Bentos at the Battle of Passchendaele)

Diorama (Ebob Miniatures Eblog: Siege of Fray Bentos)

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