The Third Battle of Ypres by Col. H.C. Wylly, C.B.

Main article: 1st Battalion in the Third Battle of Ypres (1917)

To get a better understanding of the Third Battle of Ypres, the Divisional composites that made up the Corps of the Fifth Army and the Border Regiment battalions involved, Col. H.C. Wylly[1] writes:

The Third Battle of Ypres, which was now about to commence, was the final portion of a scheme of an offensive in Flanders which had been conceived during the previous winter. The preparations needed for its carrying out had been interfered with in various ways, and the actual attack had been postponed until very much later in the year than had been intended when the plan had originally been drawn up. The actual date for the opening of the attack had at least twice been changed; arranged in the first instance for the 25th, it was postponed for three days, but subsequently a succession of days of bad visibility, combined with the difficulties experienced by our Allies in getting their guns into position in their new area, caused a further postponement until the 31 July, though a number of raids and certain preliminary operations in connection with the general attack took place during the week immediately preceeding that date.

The front of the Allied attack extended from the River Lys opposite Deulemont northwards to beyond Steenstraate, a distance of over 15 miles, but the main blow was to be delivered by the Fifth Army on a front of about 7½ miles, from the Zillebeke-Zandvoorde Road to Boesinghe inclusive. Covering the right of the Fifth Army, the task of the Second was to advance a short distance only. Its principle object at this stage was to increase the area threatened by the attack and so force the enemy to distribute the fire of artillery. On the left of the Fifth Army the First French Army was to advance its right in close touch with the British forces and secure them from counter-attack from the N. . . .The plan of attack on the Fifth Army front was to advance in a series of bounds, with which the right of the First French Army front was to keep step. . . .It was hoped that in the first attack our troops would succeed in establishing themselves on the crest of the high ground E. of Ypres, on which a strong flank could be formed for subsequent operations, and would also secure the crossings of the Steenbeek. [2]

Four Army Corps had been placed at the disposal of the G.O.C. Fifth Army, and their composition and order from S. to N. were as follows:

IInd Corps - General Jacob: 24th, 30th, 18th (one brigade of), and 8th Divisions.
XIXth Corps - General Watts: 15th and 55th Divisions.
XVIIIth Corps - General Maxse: 39th and 51st Divisions.
XIVth Corps - General Lord Cavan: 38th and Guard Divisions.

Immediately to the S. of General Jacob's IInd Corps was the Xth, General Morland's, of General Plumer's Second Army, and containing the 21st, 41st and 47th Divisions; but as the battle progressed there were many changes in the above dispositions, as some of the divisions were drawn out of the line to rest and refit while others came up and took their places.

No fewer than six out of seven battalions of The Border Regiment now in France and Flanders appear to have taken part, at different times and to a less or greater extent, in the operations which endured from the 31 July to the 10 November and which are known as the Third Battle of Ypres; these were the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions, and it may on the whole be best to deal with these in order of seniority, for though some may have entered the battle at a somewhat earlier date than did the others, the difference of time is after all not a matter of very great moment.

References / notes

  1. Colonel H.C. Wylly, C.B. (1925). The Border Regiment in the Great War. Gale & Polden Ltd. ISBN 1847342728. p.144-145.
  2. Despatch of 25th December, 1917.
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