Canadian Army Smashes Forward Through Passchendaele Village
One of the Most Signal Triumphs Won by Them During The War - Possession of Village Big Step toward command of entire Ridge, which will relegate Germans to Lower Levels Eastward - one of the Biggest Achievements of the War
By Philip Gibbs
(Copyright in Canada, 1917, by The New York Times Co. Special Cable to the Globe and the New York Times)
It is with thankfulness one can record today the capture of Passchendaele, the crown and crest of the ridge which made it the great barrier round the salient of Ypres, and has hemmed us in the flats and swamps. After an heroic attack by the Canadians this morning they fought their way over the ruined Passchendaele and into the ground beyond it. If their gains can be held the seal is set upon the most terrific achievement of the war ever attempted and carried through by British arms.
Dominates Wide Plain
Only we out here who have known the full and intimate details of that fighting and the valor and sacrifices which carried our waves of men up those slopes starting at Messines and Wytschaete at the lower end of the range in June last, and crossing Pilkem Ridge in the north, and then storming the central heights from Westhoek to Polygon Wood through Inverness Copse and Glencorse Wood, from Zonnebeke to Broodseinde, from Gavenstafel to Abraham Heights, from Langemarek to l'oelcapelle, can understand the meaning of to-day's battle and the thrill of the heart, which came to all of us to-day because of this victory. For at and around Passchendaele is the highest ground on the ridge, looking down and across the sweep of plains into which the enemy has been thrust, where he has had camps, and has dumps, where from this time hence, if we are able to keep the place, we shall see all his roads winding like tapes below us, and his men marching up them like ants, and the flash and fire of his guns and all the secrets of his life, as for three years he looked down on us and gave us an infernal fire.
Eight Hundred Yards Beyond Passchendaele (Canadian Press Dispatch)
British Front in Belgium, Nov. 6 - The Canadians, in to-day's drive against the German lines, have advanced about eight hundred yards beyond the centre of Passchendaele, having battled their way to their final marks. A considerable number of prisoners have already reached the cages.
Meanwhile the British to the south again moved against Poldethoek Chateau, where the conflict is still proceeding.
Rapid Progress Made
The Canadians started from a line only 400 yards from the heart of ruined Passchendaele. Their progress was rapid despite the immediate of the heavy quick-firers. The German artillery concentrated east of Passchendaele shelled the Canadian field artillery heavily as the attack began, but its fire had diminished greatly by 7:30 o'clock through counter-battery work. Many airplanes were over the German front. Notwithstanding the poor visibility the observers reported a large concentration of German infantry in shell holes between Passchendaele and Moorslede. The Germans also had pulled out their old troops and put in fresh divisions all along the line.
Passchendaele Village was the scene of hard fighting this morning. The Canadian troops, who at dawn attacked this most vital of all the German remaining defences in the Passchendaele Ridge system, were this afternoon, according to the latest reports, resting on the northern tip of the crest, some 800 yards beyond the centre of the hamlet. Meetchele Spur, just northwest of Passchendaele, was also entirely behind the Canadian lines. Contrary to expectations, the overseas men got through to their objectives with comparatively light opposition from the defending infantry, although the enemy machine guns were very active and the artillery poured a heavy fire against the advancing troops. The Germans fled or surrendered at many points when they came face to face with the grimly-determined Canadian riflemen.
Enemy Losses Heavy
Shortly before noon reports were received from the airmen that the enemy was concentrating, apparently for the purpose of attempting to carry out von Hindenburg's order that if Passchendaele were lost it should be retaken at all costs. At the time of the filing of hits dispatch no counter-attacks had actually been launched.
The Canadians moved forward at dawn from a line about 2,000 yards in length. At 7:15 the observers said that the Germans were shelling Passchendaele, indicating that the Canadians had got at least that far. Shortly afterwards flares were sent up from the advanced Canadian line, announcing that they had battled their way to their final marks. If held, this represents a gain of about 1,100 yards at the centre. The new line forms the arc of a circle about Passchendaele and Mosselmarkt.
Again the German losses were heavy, and a considerable number of prisoners have already reached the cages.
Redoubts No Obstacle
The main defences of Passchendaele consisted of a great number of machine guns, and a heavy barrage was thrown against the Canadians as they advanced along the crest of the ridge. Three concrete redoubts on the southern side of the village poured a vicious fire into their ranks, but there was no pause in their steady advance.
In the village itself there were many roofed cellars, among the ruins of which were rapid-fire squads, in what was left of the big church in the central square offered good positions from which to operate machine guns and rifles. The fire from the church was especially heavy as the Canadians entered the town from the south and est.
But the Germans apparently had no spirit for hand-to-hand conflict and fled or surrendered as the Canadians swept up to their covers.