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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: John Gordon Last Name: MELVILLE
Date of Death: 01/08/1917 Lived/Born In: Richmond-upon-Thames
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Fusiliers26
Memorial Site: 1. Richmond-upon-Thames Memorial 2. Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-35

52, Townshend Terrace, Richmond upon Thames

 

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.

Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31st July-2nd August)

 

This was the opening attack of Third Ypres and began at 3.50am on 31st July when British and French troops launched their offensive to break out of the Ypres salient. The day had mixed results. To the north the Pilckem Ridge was captured but there was less success further south along the Gheluvelt Ridge, where a combination of stiff German resistance and low cloud, which hindered observation, meant that only the first objectives were captured. Further attempts to push on were stopped in their tracks by specialist German counter attack divisions and resulted in a 70% casualty rate among the British troops. Then in the afternoon, the rain came and under the weight of shells falling on it, the battlefield soon became a quagmire. Over the next two days, suffering the most appalling conditions in the mud and the rain, the troops had to fight off numerous German counter attacks.

On 31st July, 124 Brigade of 41st Division were in reserve while the other two brigades of the division attacked south of the Ypres-Comines canal from positions near Battle Wood and advanced up to 1000 yards. The 26th Royal Fusiliers battalion of 124 Brigade remained in their assembly positions for most of the day, moving forward in the afternoon to occupy the old front line and other trenches that had been evacuated by the attacking battalions. At 4am the following day, 1st August, two companies from the battalion attacked but after running into a heavy artillery barrage, which caused a number of casualties, they lost direction and ended up in a trench near Klein Zillebeck. That evening, 26th Royal Fusiliers moved into the new front line in the heavy rain. One  of their casualties during this day was John Melville.

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