It is difficult to extract any real meaning from a battle as horrifying
and senseless as Passchendaele, but a few elements were significant. Despite
the fact that Currie was strong-armed into waging the battle, he insisted on
time to prepare. Those preparations likely saved thousands of lives. The men
had to devise a creative system of platforms and “duckboards,” or
wooden walkways, to help secure the heavy artillery and move troops and supplies
to the front lines. Currie also devised a system of pauses between battles to
rotate fresh troops up to replace the soldiers who were exhausted from the arduous
task of slogging through marshy, mud-filled fields. Their greatcoats, soaked
with water and caked in mud, weighed as much as fifty pounds – this in
addition to the sixty to eighty pounds of equipment they were carrying to the
front. Burdened by the weight, and walking through almost unimaginable conditions,
men quickly became exhausted.
additional element was the danger from the skies above the mud of Passchendaele.
The Germans controlled the air space, so troops were exposed to the threat of
being strafed by the machine guns of enemy planes.
But nothing was worse than the horrors of the mud. Men who fell from the duckboards
into the mud- and water-filled shell holes were in danger of drowning. Often
soldiers, under fire and rushing to the front, could not pause to help them.
Wounded and dying men, horses and artillery dotted the landscape, half-submerged
in the sucking mud of the battlefields.