6 November

The Battle of Passchendaele, 1917

Canadian Corps Triumph at Passchendaele

Many Canadians still recall November 6, 1917, as a day of horror. On this day the Allies fought the bloody and disheartening Battle of Passchendacle, a ridge only a few miles from Ypres where Canadians had made their first gallant stand in 1915 (see April 22). They had fought a second Battle of Ypres in 1916, and had clinched their reputation as shock troops at Vimy Ridge and the Somme.

Passchendaele was to be the worst of all. Field-Marshal Haig was determined to attack the Germans with all his strength. He was prepared to keep the attack going for six months, if necessary, although he was strongly opposed by members of the War Cabinet.

British, Australian, and New Zealand troops fought the first part of the battle, and assaults were maintained during August, September, and October. Rain fell heavily most of the time, including one period of four days and nights. A record could not be kept of the casualties, but a British estimate was 500,000 of their own men to 270,000 for the Germans. By the end of October the British, Australians, and New Zealanders were worn out and half destroyed. The Canadian Corps, under its new commander, Sir Arthur Currie, then moved into the battle.

Kim Beattie, historian of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, described conditions: "The mud sea . . . was awful beyond words. Derelict guns, bodies, bloated horses and broken limbers were scattered wherever they looked . . . on the day that the 1st Division attacked, half of the battalion was detailed to the task of stretcher bearing . . . at Passchendaele, where a man could only move a yard or so at a time without sinking to his thighs, and where shells fell always about them and burst in the mud, it was work that defies description."

The Canadians fought in those conditions for nearly a month, and took the village of Passchendaele on November 6, 1917. This was accounted one of the war's great victories, but yielded only 2 square miles of ground.


6 November

-1662    Pierre Boucher returned from France with 100 soldiers and 300 colonists.

              The French also settled Placentia, Newfoundland.

-1867    The first session of Canada's First Parliament opened. Members received $6 per day.