WWI: The First Day of Passchendaele
British Army Suffers 70% Losses on 31 July 1917
The British attack began at 3:50 a.m. on 31 July; the attack was to commence at dawn but a layer of unbroken low cloud, meant that it was still dark when the infantry advanced. The main attack, by II Corps across the Ghelveult Plateau to the south, confronted the principal German defensive concentration of artillery, ground-holding (Stellungsdivisionen) and Eingreif divisions.
The attack had most success on the northern flank, in front of XIV Corps and the French First Army. In this section of the front, the Allied forces advanced 2,500–3,000 yd (2,300–2,700 m) to the line of the Steenbeek stream.
In the centre, XVIII Corps and XIX Corps pushed forward to the line of the Steenbeek to consolidate and sent fresh troops towards the Green and Red lines on the XIX Corps front, for an advance of about 4,000 yd (3,700 m). Group Ypres counter-attacked the flanks of the British break-in, supported by all available artillery and aircraft around noon.
The Germans were able to drive the three British brigades back to the black line with 70 percent losses, where the counter-attack was stopped by mud, artillery and machine-gun fire.
Passchendaele Today: WWI Commemoration
British military leaders, senior politicians and members of the Royal family to mark the anniversary of the battle