Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Battle of Passchendaele

Sunday's post about Malcolm Gifford, Jr., and his death in World War I inspired two readers to share with me stories related to the Battle of Passchendaele. Both have agreed to let me retell their stories. 

It will be recalled that Malcolm Gifford, Jr., died on November 8, 1917, in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. He fought with one of the divisions of the Canadian Army Corps that relieved the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) forces that had fought the First Battle of Passchendaele on October 12, 1917. In that battle, which lasted only a day, there were 13,000 Allied casualties, 2,735 of them New Zealanders. 

One those 2,735 New Zealand casualties was David Perry, Perry Cooney's great uncle and namesake (David is one of Perry Cooney's middle names). David Perry was, as Cooney described it, "blown to bits" in the battle and has no grave. Instead, his is one of the 34,927 names of British and New Zealand soliders inscribed on Memorial to the Missing in Tyn Cot Cemetery in Belgium. David Perry was 27 years old when he died. 

Another reader recalled a visit to the Western Front on November 11, 2005. Outside the village of Passchendaele (now spelled Passendale), they toured the part of the battlefield where the Canadian Army fought the Second Battle of Passchendaele (and where Malcolm Gifford, Jr., died). In Ypres, they witnessed the annual Armistice Day Parade. The parade passed through the triumphal arch called Menin Gate, another Memorial to the Missing. At one point in the ceremony, poppy petals showered down through the oculus at the top of the arch, while a Scottish brigade played the bagpipes.

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