The Great War Centenary
1917 - Exhibition
Boomtown - From
Front Line to White Lund
King’s Own on the Western Front
The Western Front - 1917
The First World War, which had started in August 1914, had quickly
reached a stalemate and trenches ran along the front line from the
English Channel to the Swiss border.
The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment had been involved in all the
major actions, the Retreat from Mon in 1915, the Battle of Ypres and
Loos in 1915 and of course the Battle of the Somme in 1916. By 1917
seven battalions were deployed to the Western Front in France and
Flanders, and all were involved in actions throughout the year.
Battle of Arras 9-15 April 1917
Both the 1st and 8th Battalions of the King’s Own took part in the
Battle of Arras which was a successful action mainly due to the British
Artillery out-numbering the German guns by four to one. Miles of tunnels
had also been dug in which troops were able to shelter before the
attack. The successful capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps, was
one of the most notable successes of the battle, forcing the Germans to
withdraw from their positions below the slopes.
Third Battle of Ypres (or Passchendaele) 31st July to 6th November
The ambitious plan was to launch an offensive which was to push out of
the Ypres salient and eventually reach the Belgian coast and advance to
the Dutch border. No great breakthrough was achieved, but the salient
was expanded and the battle relieved pressure upon the French armies to
Years of shellfire had destroyed the drainage system of the countryside
over which the battle was fought, so that the exceptionally bad rain of
August and later in the offensive, turned the whole area into a bog in
which men vanished and tanks sank up to their roofs.
Battalions of the King’s Own were involved in various actions of Third
Ypres, including the 1st and 2nd/5th Battalions at Poelcappelle, and the
1st Battalion at Passchendaele in November 1917.
Private Albert Halton, of
the 1st Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the
attack at Poelcappelle on 12th October 1917.
The 8th Battalion was present at Zonnebeke and the two battalions, the
1st/4th and 1st/5th, which were part of the 55th (West Lancashire)
Division, both took part in the Battles of Pilckem Ridge, Wieltje and
the Menin Road Ridge.
Lance Sergeant Tom Fletcher Mayson,
of the 1st/4th Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in
the action at Wieltje on 31st July 1917.
On 6th November the capture of Passchendaele ridge and village, a mere
seven miles from Ypres, concluded the offensive. The British army lost
more than 80,000 men killed and missing and 230,000, wounded and 14,000
captured. German casualties were around 50,000 killed, 113, 000 wounded
and 37,000 captured.
The name Passchendaele has since come to epitomize the misery of
trench warfare on the Western Front.
Battle of Cambrai 20th November to 3rd December 1917
The Battle of Cambrai was to the south of the town, between the Canal du
Nord and the Canal de l’Escaut. It was initially a brilliant tactical
success which tore a wide gap in the German defence line. However, the
British advantage could not be exploited and the Germans were able to
seal off the penetration. A German counter attack on 30th November
allowed them to retake the lost ground.
The 1st/4th, 1st/5th, 7th and 11th Battalions of the King’s Own were
present at some of the actions of the Battle of Cambrai, having had only
a little time to be brought back up to full strength from the part they
played in the Third Ypres.
Battalions on the Western Front, 1917
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