GAL­LANT CANA­DI­ANS

The Daily Telegraph - - Court & Social -

TAK­ING OF PASS­CHEN­DAELE

FROM PHILIP GIBBS. WAR COR­RE­SPON­DENTS’ HEAD­QUAR­TERS, FRANCE, SUN­DAY.

There has been heavy fight­ing on the ground to the north of Pass­chen­daele all yes­ter­day. That has not bro­ken out on ac­count of any at­tempt by the en­emy to re­cap­ture Pass­chen­daele it­self – he has made no big ef­fort to do so af­ter his de­feat there – but fol­lowed an at­tack de­liv­ered by our own troops – English, Ir­ish, and Cana­dian – early yes­ter­day morn­ing to widen their de­fen­sive po­si­tions on the ridge and drive the en­emy fur­ther down. The Ger­man troops have re­sisted more des­per­ately this time than they did in the bat­tle for Pass­chen­daele it­self, and all day yes­ter­day there was hard inand-out fight­ing among block­houses be­tween Tourant Farm and Va­por Farm, and north­wards by vin­dic­tive cross roads. It was foul weather again, dark, with a wet en­velop­ing mist, at the hour of at­tack, and with a driv­ing rain storm all day long, last night and again this morn­ing, the en­emy has ap­par­ently been re­group­ing his guns since our cap­ture of the crest, and yes­ter­day his an­swer to our bar­rage lines, which were laid down ahead of our men, was vi­o­lent and tremen­dous. “Big­ger than any­thing we saw be­fore,” say the men who have come out of the fight­ing. They speak of it as a fright­ful spec­ta­cle, and won­der at their es­cape from such a hur­ri­cane of high ex­plo­sives, which rav­aged all the ground about them. It seems clear that the en­emy used all his bat­ter­ies for miles around to con­cen­trate the most deadly fire on these outer lines of the Pass­chen­daele heights. This bom­bard­ment was re­newed last night and early this morn­ing, in spite of the gale and rain, which lashed down upon their gun­ners. The Bri­tish troops reached the en­emy’s pill­boxes af­ter pass­ing through the storm of shells, and round those places and then fought at close quar­ters with the Ger­man ma­chine­gun­ners and ri­fle­men. The Cana­di­ans had bet­ter ground than the English, and were quicker to their ob­jec­tives, which they over­ran, leav­ing par­ties of their com­rades to deal with the small gar­risons of the con­crete houses which still held out.

STUB­BORN GER­MAN DE­FENCE

On the left our at­tack­ing troops had a hard time, but also took some of the block­houses, in­clud­ing Vat and Veal Farms. Ow­ing to the stub­born­ness of the Ger­man de­fence few pris­on­ers were taken, and many of the en­emy were killed. From the di­rec­tion of We­stroose­beke a num­ber of counter-at­tacks were de­liv­ered. Our out­posts were driven back from some of the ground they had gained and re­tired from some of the block­houses for which they had fought suc­cess­fully. Later in the day the heavy shelling and the dif­fi­culty of hold­ing a de­fen­sive flank caused the Cana­di­ans to draw back also from some of the ground they had won in their first as­sault. But Pass­chen­daele and its neigh­bour­hood is held se­curely, and the en­emy’s counter-at­tacks yes­ter­day did not men­ace even this key po­si­tion of the ridge. I had the plea­sure of meet­ing yes­ter­day the Cana­dian gen­eral and his staff, who, when the his­tory of this war is told in de­tail, and as long as it is re­mem­bered, will be fa­mous as the com­man­der of the troops who cap­tured Pass­chen­daele. I saw him be­fore he went up to that at­tack, and he was won­der­fully con­fi­dent, though he knew all the dif­fi­cul­ties of the ground and con­di­tions. He was con­fi­dent of his men, and be­cause of that he said then, “We shall get it.” Yes­ter­day, when I met him, he looked up and smiled and said, “Well, we have got it.” Then he spoke of his men again, and said how splen­did they had been. There were no shirk­ers or scrimshankers among them. Ev­ery man had gone for­ward gal­lantly, fired by a most grim res­o­lu­tion to take that crest at all costs. There had been des­per­ately anx­ious hours for the gen­eral and his lit­tle staff, all crowded into a small shel­ter, with a great fire out­side. It was not for them­selves they were anx­ious, but for the men. The assem­bly was dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous, and the en­emy was search­ing the ground with his shells. But by mid­night be­fore the at­tack, the men were in po­si­tion and the en­emy’s bar­rage was fall­ing be­hind them for the most part. It was very dark when they went away, but from the head­quar­ters, they could be seen later cross­ing the crest – lit­tle blurred fig­ures among the shell craters, like ants on an up­turned heap – and those watch­ing them knew then that all was well, and that Pass­chen­daele was taken. For six days and nights there was only a snatch of sleep for the staff, and it was lack of sleep that wore them most, and not the shell-fire that al­ways men­aced them. One of the staff of­fi­cers who has been long in this war and in many bat­tles had to write his or­ders sit­ting on a duck­board in the open, all wet and cold and cramped, and some­times the de­sire to sleep was a great poignant agony to him, but he had to keep awake be­cause men’s lives de­pended on his vig­i­lance. So it was with the gen­eral, but yes­ter­day, when I saw him, his eyes were bright, and there was no sign of strain upon him, and be­cause his men had taken Pass­chen­daele, the crown of the ridge, he was happy. “The men were fine,” he said, and it was good to hear his praise of them.

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