This relatively short book covers two of the 8 battles that make up 3 Ypres in 1917, Broodseinde, 4th October and First Passchendale 12th October and specifically the New Zealand involvement in them.
From the preamble and back of the book, it is obvious that this has been written for a Kiwi readership or rather those that are interested in these two actions from a New Zealand point of view. The author definitely feels that the First World War has been neglected in New Zealand and more specifically the impact of it, perhaps overshadowed by World War 2 and Vietnam.
This book covers the subject in a methodical systematic manner, the chapters being: The Military Background; Success: 4th October; Prelude to Disaster: 9th October; Disaster: 12th October; The Legacy of Passchendale before finishing up with a conclusion.
As you would expect the chapter heading explain what each deals with, the back ground to 3rd Ypres, the successful attack on the 4th of October at Broodseinde, the build up to First Passchendale, including the less successful attack on the 9th at Poelcappelle, the actual events on the 12th and then a rather well written chapter on the Legacy.
The first chapter on the Military background sets out the rationale for 3rd Ypres and outlines the command structure and gives brief pen pictures of each relevant commander from Army level down to Divisional. The makeup of the New Zealand Units involved is explained.
The Success deals with the attack on the 4th October, whereby a mixture of good planning and the nature of the ANZAC troops involved, the objectives were taken, with a relatively light amount of casualties (for a First World War encounter anyway). All chapters are generously supplied with excerpts from letters written at the time. The author leaves you in doubt that the success is due to the good weather, the limited objectives and the artillery plan.
The Prelude to Disaster chapter describes the intervening period after the 4th and before the attack on the 12th. If left in no doubt about the good planning, one is informed that the opposite is now happening, poor weather, over reaching objectives and lack of artillery support doom the attack on the 9th though enough ground is taken to call it a limited success, it does however herald the failure on the 12th.
The 12th sees an attack which is lacking in artillery support over rain drenched ground, the archetypal First World War attack that sees Haig make “one more effort to get his drinks cabinet closer to Berlin
”. It is explained by an over enthusiasm of the Generals who fail to appreciate the task they are setting their troops and are buoyed by recent successes and a belief that the Germans are close to cracking. However as we all know now that was a flawed belief.
The Legacy of Passchendale on New Zealand is perhaps the most interesting chapter for those who are familiar with the First World War and its battles. The Author present various aspects such as this had been the New Zealand’s Division’s first failure and this had a massive impact on the morale of the Division. The casualty figures for admission to the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst make interesting reading, showing the hug spikes for the Somme 1916, Messines and Passchendale. Over 6% of New Zealand casualties for the entire war came on 12th of October 1917.
Of special interest to those with a family member who died at Passchendale and who has no known grave is the appendix on “the Fallen” where the author gives the name, rank, number and regiment of those whose name is recorded on the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot. He also gives age and where possible some family details such as name and address of parents, where the soldier was born etc.
I found the author's style very easily readable and he has made liberal use of quotes from letters of soldiers who were serving at the time. The photographs are a nice mix, mainly from New Zealand archives, so not any I had seen before. There were a few maps but not enough for my taste and definitely not in enough detail.
All in all, for me this book is just a little short. The section on the battles is little more than a summary whilst the part on the effects and consequences on New Zealand life could be expanded further. It did however have the effect of making me more aware of the New Zealand Division’s role in this campaign.
I’d give it 4 Mr Mushroomheads.
Fang-Farrier Massacre at Passchendale, The New Zealand Story
- Glyn Harper published by Tommies Guides Click here to buy from Amazon