The Road to Passchendaele Part Eleven – 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Memorial

Up on the Passchendaele Ridge, this memorial to the 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion, the Nova Scotia Highlanders, can be found in the fields where they fought in the last days of October 1917.

We are just half a mile south of Passchendaele village itself, the rebuilt village church on the horizon,…

…and quite frankly, without this grass pathway that leads to the memorial,…

…which must really annoy the farmer,…

…we wouldn’t be getting anywhere near it with conditions underfoot as they are today.

But it once again reminds us what the soldiers faced on a daily basis,…

…our grass pathway making its way across the mud very much like the duckboards you see in so many old photographs,…

…as they snaked their way across the swampy wastelands of Passchendaele.

The memorial looks quite recent, or so I believed when we visited.

But it isn’t; far from it, in fact.  The battalion erected the memorial before the war’s end, to remember 148 officers and men who fell in the four days of fighting around here between 28th & 31st October 1917.

The memorial features just one panel, where the fallen men are remembered by name,…

…and is sited near the limit of the battalion’s advance on 30th October.

The 85th had arrived in the line on the evening of 28th October 1917, just as the Germans launched a counter-attack in the area of Decline Copse.

The Canadians were immediately thrown into the fray, causing confusion among the Germans who began to withdraw, but not before themselves inflicting serious casualties among the Canadians, including ten of their twenty company officers killed (twelve if you include HQ staff and reinforcements), and many wounded,…

…as this document, from the 85th Battalion War Diary, shows in stark black & white.  The names of the officers who were killed are all on the memorial.

The battalion held the line throughout 29th October, the Germans in some places no more than twenty yards away, before attacking up the slope in the early hours of the following morning, an attack that, by the end of the day, had seen the Allies advance of a thousand yards along a mile and a half front,…

…and the capture of the ridges to the immediate south of Passchendaele itself.

View looking south, across the land over which the attacking Canadians advanced, towards, further in the distance, bearing in mind that this is the Salient, land still occupied by the Germans.  For once, and at long last, it was the British who held the high ground.

The trees in this panorama grow alongside the old Ypres-Roulers railway line,…

…the shaded area showing the rough site of Decline Copse in 1917.  Vienna Cottage, also mentioned on the memorial, was somewhere in the vicinity of the railway.

Looking east, the land beyond, sloping down on the eastern side of the ridge, unseen by the British Army for three long years.  There follows the six-page Appendix A from the 85th Battalion War Diary, describing the actions during these last days of October in detail:

Passchendaele itself would finally fall a few days later, on 6th November 1917, and we shall take a brief look at the rebuilt village and its war memorial next post.

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2 Responses to The Road to Passchendaele Part Eleven – 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Memorial

  1. Sid from Down Under says:

    An excellent modern-day depiction of what WW1 soldiers endured daily. Mud and slush. The roadside sign points along the grass pathway to the memorial …. as a matter of interest, there didn’t appear to be a parking area …. where does one park the car before setting off on foot?

    OK – to better enjoy the cold, you were astride a motor bike LoL

    • Magicfingers says:

      Me? I don’t do motorbikes. Or any kind of bikes actually!!

      The parking business is a good question, actually. In Belgium, in my experience, at any rate, you can park your car most places briefly – actually, maybe that’s just me, as a foreigner, not caring (nor knowing) about the rules and urging Baldrick to “leave the car over there for a few minutes – It’ll be okay”. Oops. At the Nova Scotia Memorial you can see where we parked a few photos before the end of the post. But there are many occasions where we are on single track roads with ditches on either side, and that does present a problem. Hence the occasional extrication by tractor (you may remember) – but we always get to see our objective in the end!!

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