Struggle in the Mud Langemark Poelkapelle, by Eddy Lambrecht
Book published by G.H. Smith in 2005, 92 pages. Paperback (N6352PE)
Brand New Book
This book was written by a Belgian Policeman, and provides a fascinating account of the ill-fated allied offensives around the Ypres Salient throughout the summer and autumn of 1917. The book is illustrated throughout with lots of black and white photographs and maps.
From the opening page: After the successful Battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917, Field-Marshal Douglas Haig aimed to wear down the shaken and demoralized Germans. Intelligence reports indicated that the German Army was near collapse, and its reserves of manpower were melting away.
Now Haig was ready to strike the decisive blow that should have broken the back of the German Army. He was surprised, therefore, when the French informed him that they couldn't carry out the promised attacks in June and July 1917, owing to the low morale of the French Army which had suffered terrible casualties in the Nivelle offensive of April 1917.
Haig also had to convince the British Government of the importance of his attack in Flanders, as here the Germans could not refuse the battle and a strategic withdrawal was out of the question. The Prime Minister Lloyd George wanted to postpone all attacks on the Western front until the arrival of the Americans. Haig, for his part, wanted to maintain pressure on the German Army to prevent the latter from attacking the depleted French.
Ultimately, he was helped by the statement of the First Sea Lord, Admiral Jellicoe, that the German submarines were taking a heavy toll of merchant ships, and that the war would be lost if no action was taken against the submarine bases on the Belgian coast. In reality, the threat of the Unrestricted Submarine Warfare came from the U-Boats based in Germany. Lloyd Geoege, however, approved Haig's plans, insisting that the attacks must be suspended, should there be little chance of success.
Haig's optimistic opinion was that if a breakthrough was realized in Flanders, the German right flank would be 'rolled up' and this would bring an end to the stalemate of trench warfare. The main attack, between Boezinge and Zillebeke (II,XIX,XVIII, XIV Corps) was entrusted to General Hubert Gough and his Fifth Army. Gough knew little about the Salient and was given six weeks to move his staff from Arras to Ypres; the attack was therefore delayed to the 26th July....
Unfortunately, as in previous years, the objectives of breaking out of the Salient and seizing the Belgian harbours would prove to be beyond the capabilities of the attacking army, Haig's plan was over-ambitious. Never would an army have to fight in worse battlefield conditions. Gough, who was very optimistic, thought that he could even reach the 4th German defence line (Langemarck, Broodseinde) on the first day, and that the Passchendaele Ridge would be taken within three days. Envisaging one main stroke rather than step-by-step operations, he wanted to gain as much ground as possible on the first day of the attack.