Published By Ben Hillidge
Passchendaele. Royal Garrison Artillery 234 Siege Battery. 9 November 1917.
Since the 10 October 1917, when 234 Heavy Siege Battery had set up and registered their guns, they had been engaged almost continually. In the last days of the month they had been engaged in bombarding enemy positions in their rear area and on counter barrages aimed at artillery. On the 2 November they were put under command of 59 Heavy Artillery, 2 Corps which relieved 18 Corps in the sector to the north west of Passchendaele ridge and village. The final offensives of Third Ypres had the objective to take the Passchendaele ridge. The offensives would be in 2 phases, the first beginning on 6 November and the second 4 days later. Canadian troops would attack the village and part of the ridge; British forces would attack to the north to capture the higher part of the ridge between Passchendaele and Westroosebeke, On 4 November at 4.40am the bombardment began.
In the appalling conditions of mud they had great difficulty both moving guns and setting them up on stable platforms – unstable guns were inaccurate and often meant that shells fell short landing amongst and causing casualties to friendly troops. They were using Vickers Platforms to stabilise the guns. – these were specially designed gun emplacement platforms which helped hold the recoil and stopped the gun wheels puddling the soft ground.
After 2 days of bombardment, on 6 November at 6.45am, the infantry attacked. The Canadian and British troops would take their objectives but at heavy cost. They consolidated their gains of Passchendaele and Mosselmarkt villages and prepared for the second phase, to begin on 10 November. to capture the ridge. During the next three days, code named – A day, B day and C day – 234 Siege Battery continued with their barrage, firing throughout the day. On B day one of their guns went out of action with an oil leak in the gun recoil piston, caused by wear, the battery had been firing continually for 10 days. On C day, 9 November, they started firing at 4.23am. The enemy replied with counter fire and a shell hit an ammunition lorry. The lorry exploded. Three men were wounded, the first fatally, Corporal Mark Jones and survivors Gunners 85917 J Freedman and 25400 A Skeggs. The second phase went ahead, it was partially successful and by 11 November the attack wound down to end the Third Ypres offensive.
B&O 1917. Third Ypres. Passchendaele. Royal Garrison Artillery 234 Siege Battery. 9 November 1917.