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Why Was it Difficult for the British Forces to Achieve Victory at Passchendaele

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Why was it Difficult for the British Forces to Achieve Success at Passchendaele? There were many factors contributing to the difficulty of the Battle of Passchendaele. British forces struggled to make any clear headway under the command of General Gough. Subsequently this general was replaced and progress started to be made. Many historians would argue what the main cause of difficulty for the British soldiers was, but weather, German defensive strength and leadership and tactics all played large parts of deciding the eventual outcome. It could be argued that the weather of the summer and autumn of 1917 was some of the worst on record. It could not have happened at a worse time for Allied forces. Heavy rain and melt water from the previous winter flooded the huge shell and mine holes. The spring of 1917 was a late one, and because of this the wintery rain and snow, lives were claimed, not just of men, but of horses, artillery and tanks. Because of the low-lying farmland, nothing that much higher than sea level, no-man's-land was turned into a quagmire, and men literally drowned in the sticky, glutinous mud. ...read more.


These were so, if the British did capture any pillboxes (which was very difficult anyway), the Germans could launch a quick counter attack to expel the British as fast as possible. Although the development of tanks was deemed a success by the British leadership, they were little compared to the Panzers, Tigers and Shermans fielded by both sides in World War II. The tanks were slow and travelled at a mere walking pace. Their lack of mobility and agility made them a target for newly developed anti-tank weapons, artillery small arms fire and explosives. The atmosphere inside the tank was disgusting, with choking fumes floating around the cabin. The tanks were meant to be used in support of the infantry, but often they were so slow, they couldn't keep up. However, the rhomboidal shape of the British Mk I enabled it to climb high obstacles and cross wide trenches. The light and relatively speedy Renault was a favourite amongst American troops, and was armed with either a machine gun or small cannon. ...read more.


The attack was launched over a much smaller, 4000 yard front, and so more troops could be committed to a single place to breakthrough. Another factor contributing to the difficulty at Passchendaele, especially the latter half of campaign, was the lie of the land. The whole time the British were advancing, was up an incline towards the German lines. The Germans also used the deep shell holes to hide bunkers and blockhouses beneath earth and grass. They were strong against shell fire and infantry were cut to pieces by machine guns as they advanced. Although quite a few tactics failed miserably, a few were developed at Passchendaele or just before, such as the 'creeping barrage' and the tank. From the evidence given a conclusion can be drawn that many factors contributed the British having a hard time of it at Passchendaele. Perhaps the main ones were the British tactics and the awful weather at Passchendaele, but it is certain that these were not the only contributions to the 5-month "big-breakthrough" campaign. ?? ?? ?? ?? Fraser Bissett OCR History B The Judd School 61669 ...read more.

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