Passchendaele Canadian Memorial

Passchendaele Canadian Memorial

On the slopes overlooking the peaceful fields that today carpet the valley of the Ravebeek, this Canadian Battlefield Memorial marks the site of Crest Farm, where Canadian soldiers encountered some of the fiercest resistance they were to meet during the war. A large block of Canadian granite set in a grove of maple trees and encircled with a low hedge of holly carries the inscription:

THE CANADIAN CORPS IN OCT.- NOV. 1917 ADVANCED ACROSS THIS VALLEY - THEN A TREACHEROUS MORASS - CAPTURED AND HELD THE PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE

From the centre of the memorial grounds one can see, down a long avenue of trees, the rebuilt spires of Ypres.

Passchendaele, Fall 1917

Following the victory at Vimy, the Canadians continued operations in the Arras area to divert attention from the French front and to conceal from the Germans the planned offensive in Flanders. In the Battle of Hill 70, August 15-25, Canadian forces captured this strategic position on the northern approach to the city of Lens and secured the western part of the city. The fighting here cost the Canadian Corps 9,198 casualties. However, considerable ground was gained and the battle hampered enemy plans to send fresh troops to Flanders.

To the south the French offensive in Lorraine under General Nivelle was an unmitigated disaster. With losses in the neighbourhood of 200,000 men, it precipitated a wave of mutinies that paralyzed the French army for months.

In July, the British commander Sir Douglas Haig launched his disastrous drive in Flanders designed to break through the front and capture the German submarine bases on the Belgian coast. The offensive had had a successful prelude at Messines in June, but this local success was followed by weeks of delay.

The second and main stage of the attack got under way with a tremendous artillery barrage that not only forewarned the Germans, but also ground the battlefield into potholes and dust. Summer rains poured down on the very night that the offensive began and in no time the area became an impassable swamp. As the British soldiers struggled in the morass, the Germans inflicted frightful casualties from lines fortified with machine guns placed in concrete pill boxes.

In the next four months at Ypres only negligible advances were made. Early in October, although the main objectives were still in German hands and the British forces were reaching the point of exhaustion, Haig determined on one more drive. The Canadian Corps was ordered to relieve the decimated Anzac forces in the Ypres sector and prepare for the capture of Passchendaele.

General Currie inspected the muddy battlefield and protested that the operation was impossible without heavy cost. He was overruled and so began careful and painstaking preparations for the assault. In a series of attacks beginning on October 26, 20,000 men under heavy fire inched their way from shell-crater to shell-crater. Then on October 30, with two British divisions, the Canadians began the assault on Passchendale itself. They gained the ruined outskirts of the village during a violent rainstorm and for five days they held on grimly, often waist-deep in mud and exposed to a hail of jagged iron from German shelling. On November 6, when reinforcements arrived, four-fifths of the attackers were dead. Currie's estimate of 16,000 casualties proved frighteningly accurate. Passchendaele had become a Canadian Calvary. The award of no fewer than nine Victoria Crosses testified to the heroic determination and skill with which Canadian soldiers played their part in the bitter struggle for Passchendaele.

Directions

Aerial view of Passchendaele Canadian Memorial

The Passchendaele Canadian Memorial is about 40 kms north of Lille, 16 kms east of Ypres, 25 kms west of Courtrai and 240 kms north of Paris. You can reach Ypres by train or by bus, the stations are side by side in the centre of the town. The Memorial is about 17 kms away from them. You can reach it by bus, direction Roulers (line 64A Roulers) and you should get off in the village of Passchendaele. The Memorial is about 800 metres from the bus stop. By taxi, which you can take from the stations, the cost is approximately €30 return. You can also rent a bike at the train station; which costs approximately €5 per day, €11 per week and €17 per month.

Note: The cost of a taxi is based on return trips without a waiting period. If you want the taxi to wait for you while you visit the site you will be charged €20 per hour. In Belgium, Ypres is Ieper, Roulers is Roeselare, Passchendaele is Passendale, Courtrai is Kortrijk and Lille is Rijsel.

If you are travelling by car, please follow the directions below:

Note: Speed limits in Belgium are 50 km/h in city limits and residential areas, usually 90 km/h on secondary roads (but it may vary in areas) and 120 km/h on the motorway. You should be aware of the priority on the right rule and the presence of cycle lanes (usually unmarked) running alongside the road and generally not separated from it.

From Paris or Charles de Gaulle Airport or Arras take the A1 motorway direction Lille. As you approach Lille you will take the N17 towards Roulers. Drive for about 22 kms and then take the A19 direction Ypres. Drive for about 10 kms and turn north on the N303. Drive for about 8 kms and you will arrive in the village of Passchendaele. Go southwest on Canadalaan (street) from the Church in the town centre; to access the Memorial follow the traditional black and white signs with a maple leaf. It should take you approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours to reach the Memorial.

From Ypres take the N332 towards Zonnebeke. Continue on that road for approximately 8 kms and then turn north on the N303. Drive for another 8 kms and you will arrive in the village of Passchendaele. Go southwest from the church in the town centre; to access the Memorial follow the traditional black and white signs with a maple leaf. It should take you approximately 20 minutes to reach the Memorial.

From Lille you will take the N17 towards Roulers. Drive for about 22 kms and then take the A19 direction Ypres. Drive for about 10 kms and turn north on the N303. Drive for about 8 kms and you will arrive in the village of Passchendaele. Go southwest from the church in the town centre; to access the Memorial follow the traditional black and white signs with a maple leaf. It should take you approximately 50 minutes to reach the Memorial.

From Courtrai take the A19 and continue on this road for approximately 15 kms. Turn north on the N303. Drive for about 8 kms and you will arrive in the village of Passchendaele. Go southwest from the church in the town centre; to access the Memorial follow the traditional black and white signs with a maple leaf. It should take you approximately 40 minutes to reach the Memorial.

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