Special service marks centenary of battle - The Worcester Observer

Special service marks centenary of battle

Worcester Editorial 1st Nov, 2017   0

ONE of the bloodiest battles of the First World War will be commemorated in the city to mark 100 years since the end of hostilities.

A special event is being held at St Helen’s Church on Saturday to honour the Worcestershire men who fought and those who died during the 100 day conflict.

Doors are open to the public from 9.30am on Saturday and a short service will begin at 10am and include the Last Post, lowering of standards and a one minute silence.

Following the service the Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Lord Cobham, will welcome guests with a short speech before visitors can browse the various displays available.

These include information on the battle, the Worcestershire Regiment’s involvement and the names of known Worcestershire casualties.

Also attending among others are the Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Sea Cadets, Worcestershire and Herefordshire Army Cadet Force and the Air Training Corps Cadets.

The third battle of Ypres, also known as the battle of Passchendaele, took place on the Western Front in 1917.

At least 500 men from Worcestershire were killed or missing and many more returned home wounded, either dying at a later date or bearing the scars both mental and physical for the rest of their lives.

Following the horrific losses on the Somme the previous year, a decisive breakthrough was needed to break the stalemate of trench warfare and bring about a speedy end to a war which had resulted in millions killed, missing or wounded on both sides.

Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, chose the Ypres salient for his next big offensive.

Event organiser Sandra Taylor said: “His intention being not only to breach the German lines and capture the village of Passchendaele but also to reach the Belgian coast in order to destroy the German submarine bases located there.

“Several days of continuous shelling preceded the main attack, churning up the Flanders mud and warning the Germans that a major attack was imminent.

“On July 31 hundreds of men went over the top. Within days, the weather turned unseasonably wet with weeks of heavy rain, the worst for 40 years.

“The badly scarred earth turned into a sea of mud that had to be crossed with duckboards, and shell holes filled with water. Those men and animals that slipped into the mud more often than not drowned.”

The battle ended on November 10, 1917 when Canadian forces finally captured the village of Passchedaele.

The Allied forces had advanced just five miles at a cost of approximately 250,000 allied casualties either killed, wounded or missing and approximately 260,000 German casualties.

The event is free to attend and closes at 3.30pm with the playing of the Last Post.

E-mail Sandra Taylor on [email protected] for more information or if you have any information relating to a casualty of the battle.

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