Passchendaele

October 26 – November 10, 1917
Horror, Despair, and Misery

By the time the Canadian Corps was deployed to Passchendaele in October 1917, the battle had been raging for months. The wet weather had broken by the time the Canadians arrived, but the battlefield was still a mess of water-filled shell holes, mud, and decaying bodies. The Canadians relieved ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps)) troops and were ordered to take Passchendaele Ridge.

Arthur Currie knew that an attack on Passchendaele Ridge would be a bloody mess for little gain. He was a soldier, however, and had his orders. Currie and his staff immediately began planning a set-piece attack consisting of four phases, to be carried out over two weeks.

The Canadian Corps, joined by ANZAC troops in the south and British troops in the north, attacked on October 26, 1917. Following a creeping barrage, and using the lessons learned in the last six months of fighting, Allied troops made good progress to their objectives. Over the next two weeks, Canadian troops and their Commonwealth allies “leapfrogged” past objective after objective, eventually taking Passchendaele Ridge.

The cost was enormous. In the two weeks the Canadians spent taking the ridge they had lost nearly 16,000 men dead, wounded, or sick.  Many of these men were lost in the mud and never seen again. After the fighting wrapped up, the Canadians returned to the lines around Lens for the winter.

The word “Passchendaele” is remembered as the battle that embodies all of the horror, despair, and misery of trench warfare in the First World War.

Photo Gallery

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8_Soldier_Charles-FullerCharles Herbert Fuller
1894 – 1917
Lost in the mud at Passchendaele

Charles Fuller arrived in Canada in 1908 and lived in Wabigoon before moving to Kenora.

Like many in Kenora, he enlisted with the 94th Battalion in November 1915. Fuller’s father enlisted the next April, and they went overseas together. Once in France Charles Fuller was transferred to the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion.

Charles Fuller was with the 52nd Battalion at the time of his death on October 26, 1917. Reported as Killed in Action, Charles “was in action with his company near Passchendaele, and soon after reaching forward position occupied that day, he was so severely wounded by enemy shrapnel that he died almost immediately.” With no known grave, his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial.

Charles’s father C. Robert Fuller returned to Kenora after the war and farmed in Jaffrey Mellick until his death in 1941.

8_Soldier_Andrew-JahnPrivate Andrew Peter Jahn
1895 – 1982
Trapper, fisherman, guide

Born in Denmark, Andrew immigrated to Canada in 1913. Enlisting in Brandon in 1916, he joined the 27th Battalion once overseas and served in England, France, Belgium, and Germany.

Taking part in the third phase of the assault on Passchendaele, Andrew was hit by shrapnel in the hip and lower back on November 7. From the War Diary of the 27th Battalion: “Battalion holding line…cleaning up the battlefield. Great difficulty experienced in carrying out wounded owing to length of distance, nature of ground, and intense hostile shell fire.” Andrew rejoined the unit in January of 1918.

Andrew moved to Kenora in the early 1920s. He settled on Lake of the Woods in the area of Big Island and French Portage, working as a commercial fisherman, trapper and guide.

8_Soldier_Moses-LandPrivate Moses Land
1896 – 1917
Died of wounds at Passchendaele

Born in White Dog, Moses was the son of Andrew Land and mother Nancy. By the time he enlisted in Kenora in 1916, Moses had moved to Grassy Narrows, his occupation given as hunter and trapper.

Going overseas with the 141st Battalion in April 1917, he joined the 44th Battalion in the field that September. Less than two months later, at age 20, he died of his wounds.

From Moses’ Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) Burial Register: “While proceeding to the front line trenches at Passchendaele, he was severely wounded by splinters from an enemy shell. His wounds were dressed and he was taken to the No 44 Casualty Clearing Station where he later died.”

Moses is buried in the Nine Elms British Cemetery in Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. He is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Anishinaabe World War I and II plaque housed at the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre and on the Aboriginal Veterans Tribute Honour List.

8_Soldier_James-MurphyJames Anthony Murphy
1893 – 1917
A crisis of conscience

James Murphy was born in Blackrock, County Louth, Ireland in March 1893. At 18 he immigrated to Canada to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and began working in Kenora in 1912.

In letters home he assured his mother he would not enlist but by late 1915, as a young, healthy, unmarried man, he said his conscience forced him to do his duty. He signed his attestation paper in Winnipeg on January 6, 1916, and embarked for Europe in September 1916.

Murphy was wounded by shrapnel at Hill 70, and returned to his unit just in time to be deployed for the assault on Passchendaele. In the action Jim went missing and is presumed to have died.

James Anthony Murphy is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. His final resting place is unknown.

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