YEP Says: Remembering the horrors of Passcendaele

Sunlight casts a shadow across some of the names of the Passchendaele fallen carved into the Menin Gate in Ypres. PIC: PA
Sunlight casts a shadow across some of the names of the Passchendaele fallen carved into the Menin Gate in Ypres. PIC: PA
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“I died in hell. They called it Passchendaele.” In a single sentence the poet Siegfried Sassoon not only captured the sheer horror of Passchendaele, also known as the Battle of Mud, but of the Great War itself.

More than half a million troops - 325,000 Allied troops and 260,000 Germans - died in the battle, officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, that lasted for more than three months in 1917.

Last night the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined the Prime Minister Theresa May at Menin Gate, in Ypres, to mark the centenary of the start of what was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and the commemorations continue today with a special service held at Tyne Cot cemetery, where thousands of soldiers are buried.

Among those killed during the fighting were Nellie Spindler, a nurse from Wakefield, who died after shellfire hit the army hospital where she was working.

Perhaps the most famous participant in the battle was Tommy Patch. Conscripted at the age of 18 he survived the Passchendaele trenches and as the decades ticked by became known as the Last Fighting Tommy.

Speaking shortly before his death in 2009 at the age of 111, Mr Patch summed up many people’s feelings about the war, saying: “All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?”

Sarah Champion MP

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