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Ypres 1917

Battle Honours: Ypres 1917, Langemarck, Poelcappelle


By July, over 500 new recruits from 2nd Battalion arrived to join the Regiment. Allied leaders had given up on the idea of a breakthrough in the Arras area and turned their attention to Flanders again. In June the Newfoundland Regiment was transferred to the Ypres Salient and took to building and repairing trench works. Soon they would be engaged in the Third Battle of Ypres which would go on late-summer and fall and which would be marked by a series of major battles around Passchendaele. The first of these commenced in early August.

(With the kind permission of David Parsons, Pilgrimage)

For the rest of the month of July {1917}, the 29th Division was in various camps around Proven, training for the next attack. What is known as the Battle of Langemark began on July 31, 1917, with the 38th and Guards Divisions attacking along the line that had once been the Ypres-Staden Railway, now obliterated by shelling over the previous three years. They were successful in capturing part of Pilchem Ridge and as far as the Steenbeek, a small stream running across the front.

On Aug. 8, 1917, the 29th Division moved into reserve to take over the line from the Guards Division, north of the Staden railway line. The attack was set for Aug. 13 but was delayed because of heavy rains. On Aug. 15, the 88th Brigade moved into line for the assault the next day. The approach to the start line was dangerous and slow due to the rains turning the mud into a swamp.

The 88th Brigade was to advance along the Ypres – Staden Railway, with the Hampshires next to the railway line and the Essex Regiment in support. The Newfoundlanders were on the left of the Hampshires, with the Worcesters in support. The 87th Brigade was on their left. This battle was to become known to the Newfoundlanders as the Battle of Steenbeek.

The objectives were marks on the map – Blue, Green and Red Lines. The first line, the Blue line, was just beyond the road from Langemark to Bixschote and level with Langemark. The Green or second line was about five hundred yards further on, while the Red line or the final objective of the attack was a couple of hundred yards short of the Broenbeek , another stream running across the battlefield. The advance covered about 1500 yards in all.

The Regiment approached the forward trenches on the night of Aug. 15. They spent a miserable time in water-filled shell holes and trenches, which gave little protection from shelling or weather. During the night, bridges were placed across the stream and the start line was marked with tape on the far side.

At 4:45 A.M., Aug. 16, 1917, the creeping barrage started. B and C Companies crossed the bridges and took their places on the taped lines.

Map of Ypres – Langemarck area in 1917 showing several phases of the battle by the Regiment. (Courtesy David Parsons, Pilgramage)

A and D Companies followed. An enemy counter barrage did little damage. The companies moved steadily forward. The main obstacle was the machine gun fire from concrete emplacements. These were skilfully silenced by the troops. Within the hour, B and C Companies were on the Blue Line and A and D Companies passed through taking the lead in the advance to the Green line. The advance started on time behind the creeping barrage and by 7:45 A.M., the Regiment reached their objective on schedule. This had been a difficult passage due to the bog which was now a morass of mud from the rain and shell fire. The Worcesters now passed through the Newfoundlanders, and behind the timed barrage; they advanced to the Red Line, which was the objective of the day. The Essex and Hampshires on the right, while first troubled by enfilade fire from across the railway embankment, nevertheless, reached their objectives on time.

Early in the afternoon the enemy was seen grouping for a counter attack. They were dispersed by machine gun fire and accurate artillery strikes. The Newfoundlanders dug in and strengthening their line, such as it was, in the muddy battlefield. During the day, they were subjected to artillery fire from the Germans and strafing from enemy aircraft.

On the left, the 87th Brigade were equally successful in capturing all their objectives. The 86th Brigade relieved the 87th and 88th Brigades and were able to exploit the gains made so far, capturing posts toward the Broenbeek. The advance of the 29th Division was the only attack that day that reached and held all its objectives. The centre and the right made little gain against a determined foe and horrible ground conditions.

The Battalion was relieved the morning of Aug. 17, 1917 and moved back behind the Yser Canal to a camp near Elverdinghe.

Gallantry Awards:

M.C.                   Lt. G. Patterson

Bar to M.C.      Capt. R. Bartlett

M.M.                  Pte. A. Murray

Cpl. E. Wiseman

Pte. F. Dawe

Pte. J. Simms

LCpl. J. Rose

Pte. G. Mullett

Members of the Medical Section were also awarded the M.M:

Sgt. A. Hammond

  Pte. T. Meaney

  Pte. H. Spurrell

Pte. P. O’Neill

Casualties: One officer and twenty-six other ranks were killed in action and seventy-six were wounded.


(With the kind permission of David Parsons, Pilgrimage)

The Third Battle ofYpres continued relentlessly in an attempt to capture the high ground of the Passchendaele Ridge. The offensive of Sept. 20, 1917 advanced the British Line to Ghelvulelt Ridge, northeast of Ypres. The overall plan was to gain the high ground at Passchendaele, but the rains came on Oct. 4th, turning the muddy bog into a quagmire – the hell known as Passchendaele.

The Newfoundland Regiment took part in this battle on the left or northern front of Ypres, the battle called the Battle of Langemark, but known to Newfoundlanders as Broembeek.

On Oct. 7, 1917, the regiment was at Cardoen Camp, one and one-half miles west of Elverdinghe when they received orders for the operation at Broembeek. The 29th Division would advance astride the Ypres-Staden Railway between Langemark and Poelcapelle on the east and Houthulst Forest on the west. The three successive objectives were lines across the map – the first and second lines were 500 yards apart, the last 700 yards further. The 86th Brigade was to advance on the right flank. On either side of the 29th Division were the 4th Division on the right and the Guards Division on the left.

On the 88th Brigade front, the Worcesters would advance through the first line to the second line; then the Newfoundlanders would pass through to the third, and final, objective. The Hampshires followed in support, mopping up and consolidating the gains made and making preparations for any counterattack.

The Broembeek stream flows just east of the railway line, then changes course at right angles, crossing the front over which the 88th Brigade had to advance. The stream would be the start line. The 86th Brigade on the right would advance along the right bank of the stream.

On the evening of Oct. 7, the Regiment left Cardoen Camp and marched to the Yser Canal bank in the rain, where they spent the night in dugouts, one-half mile south of the railway line.

The officers went forward to reconnoitre the position. Lt. Harvey was wounded at this time. The rain held off during the day, but as the Newfoundlanders moved off to the start line, it came down in torrents. The men had to proceed in the dark over slippery duckboards, wading through the morass of mud, which was churned up by repeated shelling. At 2.00 A.M. they reached the Broembeek.

At 5:30 A.M. the creeping barrage started, and the Worcesters went forward. The Newfoundlanders followed 150 yards behind: D Company on the right, A Company on the left, and in support, C Company and B Company.

The Broembeek was crossed on a few bridges that had been brought forward, no mean task through the quagmire of mud. Some crossed the ruins of the old railway bridge, while others waded through the fifteen foot stream. To some extent, the Worcesters and Newfoundlanders became mixed at the start line so some Newfoundlanders were in the lead and some Worcesters were in support. Nevertheless, with good cooperation between the units, no problems resulted. Concrete pillboxes and fortified ruins of farms were used as strong points by the enemy and had to be dealt with to prevent them holding up the advance. This was done systematically by small parties of brave and skilfully led men.

Langemarck , 1920. The mound in the distance is all that remains of the church. (From Michelin Guide, 1920)

The first objective on the map had no features to distinguish it from the rest of the battlefield. It was reached by 7:30 A.M. The Companies sorted themselves out,as the advance to the second line started. Again, enemy machine gun posts had to be eliminated rather then let them hold up the advance. By 10:00 A.M., the Worcesters were on the second line and the Newfoundlanders passed through.

The road from Poelcapelle to Houthulst Forest ran diagonally across the line of the advance. The farm houses had been turned into strong points by the Germans. The tank support, which was to eliminate these posts, was not able to operate because of the swamp the troops were slogging through. Each of these posts had to be eliminated by the troops. Cairo Farm on the left flank,actually part of the Irish Guards front line, was put out of action by a cooperative assault by the Guards and the Newfoundlanders. About 400 yards beyond the road, the regiment dug in. The Guards Division had reached their objective of Houthurst Forest, but east of the railway, the 86th Brigade had encountered such swampy ground that they were held up. The Newfoundland Regiment had reached their objective on the left but had to conform with the 86th Brigade on the right, which was short of the final line. They consolidated on a front of 450 yards, but it was thinly held. The inevitable counterattack was seen assembling about Taube Farm on the right flank. Accurate fire kept the Germans from advancing until heavy artillery fire was called down on Taube Farm and the threat diminished.

On the left flank, the Guards were forced to withdraw as the attack on their left had not been successful. The Newfoundlanders were left with an open flank. They withdrew to conform with this line, establishing a line fifty yards in front of the Poelcapelle- Houthulst road. Late that night, they were relieved by the Hampshires.

The advances of the 29th and Guards Divisions were the only appreciable gains in the first days of launching the Battle of Passchendaele.

Casualties: Sixty seven killed; one hundred twenty seven wounded, including 4 officers.


Bar to Military CrossCapt K. Keegan
Military CrossCapt A. Tait
 Lt. H.G. Hicks
 Capt. J. Nunns
 Lt. E. Chafe
 Lt. S. Goodyear (killed 9 Oct 1917)
 CSM A. Taylor
Distinguished Conduct MedalSgt. A. Purcell
 Sgt. J. Murphy
 Pte W. Sutton
 Sgt. C. Spurrell
 Cpl L. Hollett
Military MedalPte J. Abbott
 Pte. H. Bowden
 Pte J. Davis
 Pte L. Paddick
 LCpl A. Bulgin
 LCpl W. Moore
 LCpl J. Nichol
 LCpl F. Rees
 Cpl J. Dunn
 Cpl. P. McDonald
 Cpl C. Pafford
 Cpl H. Tansley
 Cpl A. Adams
 Sgt E. Aitken
 Sgt E. Goudie
 Sgt A. Hennebury
 Sgt W. Jewer
 CSM E. Butcher
 CSM H. Butlet
Bar to Military MedalPte T.J. Meaney