Today we are going to look at the Battle of Passchendaele to continue with our World War I and World War II theme for November. Trench warfare has been established during World War I. Passchendaele seemed to elude recapture by the British. It was the site of the worst battle of World War I. This documentary combines photography, archival footage, and a well-told story. It is a good look at what happened that lead up to the Battle of Passchendaele.
When the war started, the Germans took a short cross across Belgium to capture Paris as well as ports in France for the U-Boats. In 1914 the first battle of Ypres began and it was here where the British had their first casualties. The front was known as the Salient because the front had a bulge. The Germans continued to capture cities at an alarming speed.
It was in November when the fighting slowed down. The weather and exhaustion started setting in among the soldiers. The armies dug in and these trenches would last until the war. The British Army stood strong against the Germans. The Kaiser called this little army the contemptible. The British army wore this nickname as a badge of pride. However, the German generals respected this little army. Christmas came, and both armies met in no man's land and celebrated Christmas together. The generals were not happy and made plans for this to never happen again.
In 1915 the first gas attack was launched. 1,000 men would die from the effects of the gas. There was no protection against chlorine gas. Any protection methods were useless. French troops retreated and the British troops had to rush in to plug the line. The battle was never still and wore on the people and the soldiers. Cities were reduced to ruin.
The soldiers could not stand the sounds of battle. So the soldiers were rotated in and out as fast and as soon as possible. Mud was a huge problem for the men and the drainage systems that were developed were destroyed by shelling. Thousands more would die.
Then the Battle of the Somme began. U-boats were starting to be a threat too. The only way the war could be won was on the western front. The French Army morale was low with loss after loss. Adolf Hitler also fought in the trenches. He gained a reputation for being lucky. He would eventually become a runner, running messages between the front of the German army headquarters. He was transferred to the Somme front where he was wounded.
There was a crazy scheme to tunnel under the German lines and plant explosives to blow them up before an attack. It was done in complete secrecy. Civilian miners were drafted into the army to help speed up the mining process. The Germans were also doing their mining, and when the British discovered those mines they were flooded. Unfortunately, French morale was at complete collapse and so their help would be limited when the British wanted to attack. The British launched the attack and blew up the mines. The Germans were in a panic and the British took advantage of them. 10,000 Germans were killed and caused craters. To continue to learn more about the Battle of Passchendaele continue to watch this documentary.
This would be a good documentary to show about World War I in a world history classroom. It goes into details regarding trench warfare and what the men endured. Yes, it is the narration is a slow story, however, the use of primary sources, photographs, and what the sites presently look like more than makeup for it. If you have an independent study student, then you can recommend this documentary for them.
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