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Photo Essay: Battle of the Ypres, Belgium (1917)

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It was one of the defining battles in the latter part of the quagmire that had become the Western Front and yet another desperate attempt to break the stalemate – the Battle of Ypres was a series of subsequent engagements during 1917, which served to galvanise the Australian reputation as a premier fighting force.

It was one of the defining battles in the latter part of the quagmire that had become the Western Front and yet another desperate attempt to break the stalemate – the Battle of Ypres was a series of subsequent engagements during 1917, which served to galvanise the Australian reputation as a premier fighting force.

Straddled between France and Germany, Belgium formed a crossroads between Allied and Axis powers during both World Wars.

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Over the course of the First World War, fighting took place at Ypres on a number of occasions. These include:

  • First Battle of Ypres (19 October – 22 November 1914), during the 'Race to the Sea'.
  • Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 15 May 1915). 
  • Battle of Passchendaele (31 July – 10 November 1917) also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. 
  • Battle of the Lys (9–29 April 1918) also known as the Battle of Estaires or the Fourth Battle of Ypres.
  • Fifth Battle of Ypres (28 September – 2 October 1918)

There were five separate engagements ranging from 1914 to 1918, the most notorious of which was the Battle of Passchendaele. Also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, this was one of the most deadly battles of the First World War.

An offensive launched from Ypres in Belgium by celebrated British strategist Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the Allies hoped to drive the Germans from the surrounding ridges in a bid to push them back to the Belgian coast.

The attack was launched on 31 July, and Australian infantry divisions would join it at Menin Road on 20 September 1917. Joint advances of the 1st and 2nd Australian divisions allowed the Australians to push up to Polygon Wood, before the 4th and 5th divisions took over. 

The photos document the lives and deaths of Australian troops on the front lines of Passchendaele.

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Photo Essay: Battle of the Ypres, Belgium (1917)
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