Battle of Passchendaele
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Passchendaele, battle of
Passchendaele, battle of, 1917. The British army tried to advance from the Ypres salient in southern Belgium towards the Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge for several reasons. Haig believed that he could defeat the German army and win the war in 1917. The navy supported him because they wanted to drive the Germans away from the Channel ports where they menaced Britain's communications with the continent. Lloyd George allowed Haig to continue because he feared that, if the British were not seen to be actively fighting, the French might go the way of tsarist Russia and collapse. The battle began on 31 July 1917, but fierce German resistance, heavy rain, and the destruction of the drainage system of the Flanders plain by the artillery meant that the advance literally bogged down in the mud. Haig continued the operation until mid-November, at a cost of some 260,000 British casualties, but failed to reach the coast.