A Special Service Was Held To Mark The Centenary of The Start of the Battle of Passchendaele

A total of 1,300 men from Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland lost their lives during the course of the battle, officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, which became infamous not only for the scale of casualties, but also for the mud. 

The focus for the City and County’s commemoration of this battle were at the service held at Leicester Cathedral on Monday 31st July at 6.00p.m., attended by the Lord-Lieutenant, the Lord Mayor, the Chairman of the County Council, and other civic dignitaries. 

The service was preceded by a half-muffled quarter peel of the Cathedral’s bells, and the service itself was a poignant tribute featuring music, special prayers, and readings. The Commander of the 7th Infantry Brigade, Brigadier Charlie Collins DSO OBE, was one of the readers. The service ended on a suitably sombre note with a two-minute silent tribute and poppy drop. 

The service was planned jointly by Colonel Murray Colville, who chairs the county’s WW1 Reference Group, and the Dean of Leicester, the Very Reverend David Monteith. 

Murray Colville said: “The Battle of Passchendaele was truly horrific and is remembered for the apparent futility of fighting in such appalling conditions for not much gain. The scale of the loss of life is almost incomprehensible, and we must not forget the sacrifices that were made. This service was to show our collective gratitude one hundred years on, both to those who fought and those who supported them.” 

David Monteith said: “By Passchendaele many British and Irish troops had already died. Therefore this battle saw many from the Commonwealth die - soldiers from ANZAC, India and the Caribbean. People of all races and faiths served. So it is vital that our contemporary diverse community remembers reverently and commits to cherishing the peace we all have inherited which was won at such great cost’ 

The infantry attack began on 31 July. Constant shelling had churned the clay soil and smashed the drainage systems. The left wing of the attack achieved its objectives but the right wing failed completely. Within a few days, the heaviest rain for 30 years had turned the soil into a quagmire, producing thick mud that clogged up rifles and immobilised tanks. It eventually became so deep that men and horses drowned in it. Over the three months of the battle there were 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties to do little more than make the bump of the Ypres salient somewhat larger.