Local experiences at Ypres and Passchendaele

By the summer of 1917 the British had learnt valuable lessons from the disastrous Somme campaign, and were much better prepared:

  • Troops had more shells and ammunition to destroy enemy positions
  • Shells were fired ahead of advancing troops to protect them from enemy fire
  • The target area was smaller and needed fewer troops to capture it
  • Soldiers crawled out at night to cut the German barbed wire barrier

On the first day of the3rd Battle Ypres, 7th June 1917, the British exploded 19 huge mines under the German lines along the Messines Ridge, 10,000 German soldiers died instantly and many more were badly wounded. The explosions could be heard in London.

Gunner Hemmings of Eaton Socon saw the mines exploded and fought in the battle that followed. Private Roberts of Little Paxton wrote to explain how conditions on the battlefield had deteriorated when heavy rain fell and Harry Gilbert of Abbotsley said there was nothing to hear but ‘the din of the guns, enough to send you off your head’.

Letter form Private H. Roberts, St Neots Advertiser, 17th August 1917

Letter from harry Gilbert of Abbotsley, St Neots Advertiser, 17th August 1917

Postcard of Abbotsley village in about 1910

Chateau Wood, Passchendaele, France, 29th October 1917

St Neots Advertiser report, 31st August 1917