Tuesday, July 03, 2007


They called it Passendaele. Its not spelled the same nowadays, since Flemish is no longer the official language, and when you google the name, you come up with only WW I references. The name means "the valley in which God died". Seems appropriate, don't know that God really died there, but he musta been asleep to allow 5 thousand Australians, and 14 thousand Canadians to die in the mud of Passendaele.
It is a remarkably peaceful place here. Nothing much happens, though there is is a folk festival which is running every second year. Not the year I was there though...grin!
The only thing special about it is that it is the highest place in the area, and as you can see by the pictures, even that isn't very high! But everywhere else was mud, made really mucky by the overflowing scraventafel creek and since Passendaele was the only place where you could keep your socks dry, the Germans hung onto it. It took 14 thousand Canadian casualties to get that little town, and by the time we got there, it was pretty much mud covered bricks, no two on top of each other. There was a little farm at the highest point, and it was imaginatively called "farmcrest", and that is where we put this monument.

These names. They point towards battle sites which can be seen from up here. The last time I saw these names was on the battle honours (flags) of my old Regiment. St. Juliens deserves a posting in its own right, but then I didnt get there and don't know much about it.

The battle did not really have to be fought, but Sir Douglas Haig, the supreme commander, had had a few failures and was in line to get the boot, so he really really needed a victory if he was to keep his job. He had his eye on being a member of parliament, and you don't get there if you have been sacked from your position. So, it was darned nice of the Canadians to fight this little battle for him, just to make sure his career was saved, and he said so afterwards.

Course, once Haig had his position assured, they gave Passendaele back to the Germans with hardly a fight a couple of months later. We had fought enough. Our commander, Arthur Currie, went on to better things as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So interesting. I am always educated when I come here! J.