Veterans’ Week marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele

Black and white image of two soldiers laying in the mud face to face.
A wounded Canadian and a wounded German in the mud on Passchendaele, light up. November 1917. Photo: Library and Archives Canada

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On a muddy battlefield in northwest Belgium, Canadians overcame almost unimaginable hardships to win an impressive victory in the fall of 1917.

Veterans Affairs Canada

As Canadians mark Veterans’ Week this November 5 to 11, particular attention is being paid to the Battle of Passchendaele, which raged in Belgium during the First World War from July 31 to November 10, 1917.

Passchendaele is one of those names from Canada’s First World War military heritage that stirs emotions to this day. In the fall of 1917, the Canadian Corps—after its great success at Vimy Ridge that April—was sent north to Belgium to relieve the battered Australian and New Zealand forces and take part in the final push to capture Passchendaele.

The Canadian offensive began on October 26. Advancing through the mud and enemy fire was slow and there were heavy losses but our soldiers clawed their way forward. On an exposed battlefield like that one, success was often only made possible due to acts of great individual heroism to get past spots of particularly stiff enemy resistance. Despite the adversity, the Canadians reached the outskirts of Passchendaele by the end of a second attack on October 30 during a driving rainstorm.

On November 6, the Canadians and British launched the assault to capture the ruined village of Passchendaele itself. In heavy fighting, the attack went according to plan. The task of actually capturing the “infamous” village fell to the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion and they took it that day. After weathering fierce enemy counterattacks, the last phase of the battle saw the Canadians attack on November 10 and clear the Germans from the eastern edge of Passchendaele Ridge before the campaign finally ground to a halt. Canadian soldiers had succeeded in the face of almost unbelievable challenges.

Canada’s great victory at Passchendaele came at a high price. More than 4000 Canadian soldiers died and almost 12 000 were wounded.

The some 100 000 members of the Canadian Corps who took part in the battle were among the over 650 000 men and women from Canada who served in uniform during the First World War, a war in which a total of more than 66 000 Canadians lost their lives.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the battle and sacrifices and achievements of those who gave so much will never be forgotten.

A Canadian delegation will be attending commemorative events in the Flanders region of Belgium from November 8-12, to mark the centennial of this major First World War battle.

-With files from Veterans Affairs Canada

Image gallery

  • Black and white image of a tank stuck in a muddy battlefield.
  • Black and white image of a wounded soldier being carried through the mud on a stretcher.
  • Black and white image of a wounded soldier surrounded by other soldiers.
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