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Tekst 43

"Passchendaele Captured", artikel i The Manchester Guardian, november 1917

Passchendale blev erobret af briterne, især de canadiske tropper, i november1917efter måneders kampe, hvor briterne havde lidt et tab på 310,000, de tyske tab var omkring 260,000 mand. Byen – eller ruinerne af den, blev tilbageerobret af tyskerne i april 1918 og var igen i britiske hænder i begyndelsen af november 1918. Landsbyens betydning lå i dens beliggenhed på toppen af et højdedrag, som gav besidderne mulighed for at iagttage fjendens troppebevægelser, placering af artilleri, osv.

Nedenstående er uddrag af en længere artikel i den britiske avis The Manchester Guardian, (i dag blot The Guardian) den 7. november 1917.

Avisen genudgav særudgaver i forbindelse med overgangen til det nye årtusinde i 1999. Denne artikel er fra særudgaven, der dækker årene1914-1919.

 

Correspondents' Headquarters, Tuesday

It is with thankfulness that one can record to-day with what I believe will prove to be the capture of Passchendaele, the northern crown of the ridge which made a great barrier round the salient of Ypres and hemmed us in the flats and swamps. After an heroic attack by the Canadians this morning, they fought their way over the ruins of Passchendaele and into ground beyond it.

[…]

 

A Prize of Blood

For at and around Passchendaele was the highest ground left to the Germans on the ridge looking down across the sweep of the plains into which the enemy had been thrust, where he has had camps and has dumps. From this time hence, if we are able to keep the pace, we shall see all his roads winding like tapes below us and his men marching like ants and the flash and fire of his guns and all the secrets of his lift, as for three years he looked down on us and gave us hell.

What is Passchendaele? As I saw it this morning through the smoke of gunfire and a wet mist it was less than I had seen before a week or two ago, with just one ruin there – the ruin of its church – and a black mass of slaughtered masonry and nothing else, not a house left standing, not a huddle of brick on that shell-swept height.

But because of its position as the crown of the ridge, that crest has seemed to many men like a prize for which all these battles of Flanders have been fought, and to get to this place and the slopes and ridges on the way to it great numbers of our most gallant men have given their blood, and thousands – scores of thousands – of British soldiers of our own home stock and from overseas have gone through fire and water of the swamps, of the "beeks"[1] and shell holes, in which they have plunged and waded and stuck and sometimes drowned.

To defend this ridge and Passchendaele the enemy has massed great numbers of machine-guns and many of his finest divisions. To check our progress he devised new systems of defence, and built his concrete blockhouses in echelon formation, and at every cross-road and in every bit of village or farmhouse; and our man had to attack that chain of forts through its girdles of machine-gun fire, and after a great price of life they have mastered it.

 

Hindenburg's order

The enemy may brush aside our advance as the taking of a mud patch, but to resist it he has at one time or another brought nearly a hundred divisions into the arena of blood, and the defence has cost him a vast sum of loss in dead and wounded. Over all this ground the young manhood of Germany has spent itself. It was not for worthless ground that so many of them died and suffered great agonies and fought desperately and came back again and again in massed counterattacks, swept to pieces by our guns and our rifle fire.

A few days ago orders were issued to his troops. They were given in the name of Hindenburg. Passchendaele must be held at all costs, and if lost must be recaptured at all costs. It seems likely that Passchendaele has been lost to the enemy to-day. If so, and if we have any fortune in war, it will not be retaken.

 

Work Before the Win

The Canadians have had more luck than the English, New Zealand, and Australian troops who fought the battles on the way up with most heroic endeavour, and not a man in the army will begrudge them the honour they have gained, not easily nor without the usual price of victory, which is some men's death and many men's pain.

[…]

 

Up to the Front

When I went up over the old battlefields this glory gradually went out of the sky, and th clouds gathered and darkened in heavy grey masses, and there was a wet smell in the wind which told one that the prophets were not wrong about the coming of rain.

But the duck-boards were still dry, and it made walking easier, though any false step would drop one into the shell crater filled to the brim with water of vivid metallic colours or into broad-stretching bogs churned up by shells that flung up waterspouts after pitch into the mud. The German long-range guns were scattering shells about with blind eyes, doing guesswork at the whereabouts of our batteries, or perhaps firing from aeroplane photographs to wipe out the windings of our duck-board tracks and railway lines.

For miles around and along the same track where I walked single files of men were plodding along, their grey figures silhouetted where they tramped along the skyline with their capes blowing and their steel hats shining. Every few minutes a big shell burst near one of the files. Always when the smoke cleared the line of men seemed unbroken, and they did not halt on their way.

[…]

 

Watching the Fight

It was beyond the line of German "pill-boxes" captured in the fighting on the way to the Steenbeck that I saw Passchendaele this morning. The long ridge to which the village gives its name curved round black and grim below the clouds right round to Polygon Wood and the heights of Broodseinde. Our men were already on the crest, and beyond the fangs of broken trees in the valley I saw the village on the heights. There was not much to see – only the tattered ruin of a church, like the remnant of the Cloth Hall at Ypres, and not so big. Below the ridge all our field guns were firing, and the light of their flashes ran up and down like jack o' lanterns with flaming torches.

 

In the Village

I have no knowledge of any counter attack, but it was reported quite early in the morning that there were masses of Germans packed into shell-holes on the right of the village, and others have been seen assembling on the roads to the north of Passchendaele. The Canadians believe they will hold their gains. If they do, their victory will be a fine climax to these long battles in Flanders, which have given us all of the great ridge but some outlying spurs.

 

Udrag fra artikel i The Manchester Guardian, 7. November 1917.

 

[1] Her henvises til det flamske ord 'beek', der betyder bæk eller lille vandløb.

 

Tekst 42 | Oversigten over kildetekster | Tekst 44

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