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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: John Arthur Last Name: SHIPMAN
Date of Death: 20/09/1917 Lived/Born In: Kensal Green
Rank: Rifleman Unit: London2/8
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-27

65, Linden Avenue, Kensal Green

 

Third Battle of Ypres

This was a campaign fought between July and November 1917 and is often referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele, a village to the north-east of Ypres which was finally captured in November. It was an attempt by the British to break out of the Ypres salient and capture the higher ground to the south and the east from which the enemy had been able to dominate the salient. It began well but two important factors weighed against them. First was the weather. The summer of 1917 turned out to be one of the the wettest on record and soon the battlefield was reduced to a morass of mud which made progress very difficult, if not impossible in places. The second was the defensive arrangements of concrete blockhouses and machine gun posts providing inter-locking fire that the Germans had constructed and which were extremely difficult and costly to counter. For four months this epic struggle continued by the end of which the salient had been greatly expanded in size but the vital break out had not been achieved.

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. 20th-25th September, 1917

After the disappointing opening battles of the last day of July and the middle of August, when very little had been gained but at great cost in casualties, a new approach was adopted for the next offensive against the Gheluvelt plateau which began on 20th September and became known as the Battle of the Menin Road. The task was handed over to General Plumer, commander of the Second Army, a more cautious leader who, rather than try to drive as deep as possible into the German line, was an advocate of 'bite and hold' tactics with limited advances of no more than 1,500 yards, based on overwhelming firepower and exhaustive preparation. These new tactics, which were significantly aided by a period of warm, dry weather, worked well and September and early October saw a decisive phase of Third Ypres in which the British gained the upper hand. At the same time that Plumer’s Second Army were hammering away at the German defences on the Gheluvelt plateau, Fifth Army also attacked in the northern part of the Ypres salient and they too made gains.

On 20th September, 58th Division, made up of 2nd line London territorial battalions, were part of Fifth Army and as such attacked in the northern part of the battle front, with the objective of gaining a footing on the Gravenstafel and Poelcappelle spurs. At 5.40am, 174 Brigade attacked with the 2/8th London, 2/5th London and 2/6th London battalions in series. In front 2/8th London cleared the enemy strong-points at Vancouver Farm and Keerselare after which 2/5th London and 2/6th London went on to outflank Hubner Farm and capture Dimple Trench. 2/8th London had to face strong opposition as they advanced to their objective and suffered nearly 250 casualties as they did so. One of these was John Shipman.

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