Ypres, lies in a sort of natural basin, formed by a maritime plain and intersected by canals, whilst dominated in the North, North East and South by low wooded hills. The most famous canal being the Yser which follows a direction of S.E to N.W. A number of streams also follow this direction, plus the Zillebeke and Bellawaarde ponds.
The hills forming the basin are low and partly wooded, their crests running roughly North to South through Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Broodseinde, Becalaere, Gheluvelt, Hill 60 and St Eloi. Further South is the Messines/Wytschaete Ridge.
In this region the war assumed a character entirely different from that of the rest of the front. The marshy ground is sodden by constant rain, forming a spongy mass in which it was almost impossible to dig trenches and dugouts. water is found immediately below the surface making the only possible defence works parapets.
Bursting shells made huge craters which promptly filled with water creating death traps for the wounded and unwounded alike!
Defences on both sides centered around woods, villages and the numerous farms which were converted in to redoubts with concrete blockhouses and deep wire entanglements.
Rising ground in this area played a significant part and were fiercely disputed and fought over. Observation posts would dominate the crest of the basin whilst masking the the concentrations of troops for attacks. Fighting in these areas reached its maximum intensity between October 1914 and November 1917. The first powerful German offensive was followed by a Franco-British offensive in the second half of 1916 developing considerably in to 1917 ending in November 1917 with all objectives obtained and the plains of Flanders were opened to the Allies. A final effort was made by the Germans South of Ypres Town in April 1918, but was repulsed by the Allies.
Many battles were fought across the Salient throughout the War...The 1st Messines, 1st Ypres, Battle of Langemarck, Gheluvelt, Nonnebosschen, Hill 60, 2nd Ypres, 2nd Battle of Messines and the 3rd battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)
A famous Battle, it was necessary to capture the village of Passchendaele, which stood on high ground dominating the plains of Flanders. A fresh offensive began at dawn on October 26th 1917. In the French sector, the Troops after wading through streams with water up to their shoulders, stormed the village of Draeibank, Papegoed Wood and many fortified farms. Next day, fresh progress, to a depth of more than a mile, was made on both sides of the Ypres/Dixmude Road, along a front of two and a half miles, with the edge of Houthhulst Forest reached. On the 28th the advance continued with the cooperation of the Belgians.
The British advanced in the direction of Passchendaele, as far as the Southern slopes of the village, capturing positions east of Poelcappelle. On October 30th, both British and Canadians continued their attacks and despite heavy resistance they reached the outskirts of the village. The following days, their positions improved, the struggle at this juncture was very bitter, Hindenburg had issued an order stating "Passchendaele must be held at all costs and retaken if lost". On the morning of November 6th the British resumed the offensive. The Canadians, after bloody engagements to the North and North West of Passchendaele, captured the hamlets of Mosselmarkt and Goudberg and finally carried Passchendaele. On the evening of November 6th, from the top of the Passchendaele Hills the valiant British Troops could see the plan of Flanders which had been hidden from the Allies since October 1914.