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ANZAC Sets Scene For Passchendaele Events ….

  • April 22nd, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

tyne-cot.jpgAnzac Day commemorations this year, the time when Australians and New Zealanders honour their war dead, will put a special focus on the great battlefields of the First World War, in Europe.

That’s because 2007 will see the nintieth anniversary of one of the historic battles of that conflict, fought in the fields of Flanders, in Belgium.

The Australians and New Zealanders were heavily engaged in the battle for the village of Passchendaele. It was part of a general attack to capture sea ports to the north, though that did not succeed.

There was a high cost in life; several of those who died are buried in the cemetery of Tyne Cot, just outside the small town of Zonnebeke.

The cemetery is located at the top of a ridge, which the Australians captured, fighting their way towards Passchendaele as the battle’s first objective.

The Director of Australia’s Office of War Graves, Maj. General Paul Stevens, was there this month (11.4.07), helping with plans being made by local authorities, for special commemorations, to take place in July and October – the time of year when the battle was fought.

Standing at the site, he recounted the action:

“The Australians were put in after the initial attacks around Ieper (Ypres) stalled. We were brought in to push the attack out to this ridge. Two of our divisions set the launching platform. Another two, the 3rd … and the 2nd, which was on its right flank, moved the attack from about a kilometre down the road, right up to the top of this ridge at Broodsinde, so we knew this as the battle of Broodsinde.

“Then a week or so later, the 3rd Division, which was here, was asked to try to capture Passchendaele, which was another kilometre or two down the road; so they moved on with the New Zealanders on their left flank, but unfortunately they couldn’t achieve that task, and were pulled up short. Finally the Canadians were brought in, as the final fling of the battle of Passchendaele. The Canadians in fact captured Passchendaele, but then, that was it.”

He said that despite horrific casualties and strong enemy defences, the Australians who captured the ridge were pleased with the tactics they had employed, with the structuring of artillery and machine gun support to allow the infantry to advance.

Passchendaele had brought together all the Australian and New Zealand divisions, and prepared them for a chain of successful battles in the year that followed, the final stage of the war.

“I think it gave the Australians great confidence to go on into 1918”, he said.

The program for later this year :

Anzac Day 25.4.07.

An international service at Tyne Cot cemetery on 12.7.07.

An “Australian” long weekend starting on 4.10.07, with several events. A walkway is being constructed from Zonnebeke to the Broodsinde ridge and Tyne Cot, with interpretation points along the way. It follows the path of an old rail line that separated two of the Australian divisions as they advanced.

Numbers of visitors to the battlefields in Flanders and France have been growing each year, and all descendants of the Anzacs have been invited to attend this year.

“If anyone can get here it’ll be fantastic,” the General said.

See also: Companion report, Australians On The Western Front, an outline of the main Australian involvements in France and Flanders, EUAustralia (21.4.07).

For information: Contact the Australian Embassy in Brussels, www.eu,mission.gov.au, [email protected]

Picture: Tyne Cot military cemetery in Flanders.

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