<– Part 170 – October 21, 1917  | Part 171 – October 28, 1917 |  Part 172 – November 4, 1917 –>

Battle of Malmaison

The Ottoman army, marching to retake the Hedjaz Railway, was ambushed at Wadi Musa, in Jordan, October 23, by 700 Arabs. The Ottomans lost 400, with a further 300 captured, before retreating.

A French attack towards the village and fort of La Malmaison on October 23 was wildly successful, after a four day battle. The Germans elected to defend their far forward trenches, rather than more secure areas farther back – a critical mistake. Although the Germans were aware of the timing of the attack – 5:45 am – the French intercepted a German transmission telling troops to be ready by 5:30, so the French attacked at 5:15 am. The French artillery destroyed the German guns, pinpoint fire spotted by French aircraft destroyed German strongpoints, and French gas hanging over low-lying areas behind the forward German lines prevented reinforcements, medical assistance, or resupply from reaching the German defenders. The village and fort were captured by the French on October 27. The French lost 13,000, while the Germans suffered 38,000 casualties and an additional 12,000 prisoners.

German prisoners carrying wounded Allied soldiers at 2nd Passchendaele, part of 3rd Ypres.

The German High Command has sent assistance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Italy, fearing that a failure to end the Italian theater will eventually remove Austria-Hungary from the war. After surveying the area for a gas attack, the quiet village of Caporetto was chosen. On October 24, at 2 am, poison gas was dropped onto the Italian trenches, killing 600 and causing the rest to flee. German artillery destroyed Italian trenches, and bombs placed by sappers were detonated under the Italian’s strong points. A new infantry force of “storm troopers,” armed with shotguns, machine guns, and flamethrowers, surged forward and found the Italian lines nearly undefended. The Italians have been ordered to regroup and counterattack, but have been unable to gain momentum.

Ottoman and British forces near Gaza

On October 26, at the third battle of Ypres, another attack at Passchendaele has been launched by the Canadian and ANZAC forces. Heavy mud has called for extra preparations, and the rolling barrages are slower, allowing the men to move through the mud. The objectives have been taken, while stronger German pillboxes have been held with defensive flanks. The first stage has been successful, and the Allies are preparing for a second push. Allied casualties are estimated 10-20,000, with the Germans losing 21,000.

A British force south of Gaza, positioned along the Buqqar Ridge to prevent Turkish artillery from stationing there and firing on the critical railroad in the area, repelled a larger Turkish force on October 27, despite odds of 20:1 in places. The British lost 90, with the Turks losing 50.

<– Part 169 – October 14, 1917  | Part 170 – October 21, 1917 |  Part 171 – October 28, 1917 –>


The actual village of Passchendaele. Top photo was taken before last week’s battle, and the bottom just after.

On October 15, German forces under Kurt Wahle came under attack near Nyangao, German East Africa, by a larger British force. Germans under region commander Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck marched to support them but were caught in a pincer movement by British reinforcements. After successfully defending their positions, the Germans withdrew to Mahiwa the next day, defending those positions and counter-attacking on the 17th and 18th. Although ultimately victorious, the 1,500 Germans lost 1/3 of their force, while the British lost 2,700, over half their own force.


Elsewhere on the 15th, the US navy scored their first victory in the Atlantic when destroyer USS Cassin was torpedoed by U-61. An alert gunner’s mate, Osmond Ingram, saw the torpedo coming and warned the crew, who took evasive maneuvers and dropped depth charges. Although damaged by the torpedo, the submarine was severely damaged as well and forced to withdraw. Ingram was killed in the battle but received the Medal of Honor.

At Passchendaele, now also known as the 3rd Battle of Ypres, fighting has paused as both sides assess further winter operations.

<– Part 168 – October 7, 1917  | Part 169 – October 14, 1917 |  Part 170 – October 21, 1917 –>

Map showing flooding near Passchendaele, during the 3rd Battle of Ypres

Photo showing the battlefield the morning after the battle

Another British assault at Ypres, this time near Poelcappelle, floundered October 9, following a long stream of success. This time, bad weather and rain hampered the movement of men, artillery, and ammunition, allowing the Germans to defend in the absence of the British artillery barrages – indeed, the British were only able to drop just over half the shells they’ve used in similar battles. The British lost 10,500 troops, with German losses this month reaching 35,000 (13,000 of them missing). On October 12, at the actual village of Passchendaele, near Ypres, the Germans scored another defensive victory, 13,000 British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers fell, with an additional 10,000 German casualties.

New Zealand artillery in action, October 12

Map of Operation Albion

October 11 saw German forces in Estonia land on islands in the area, continuing their Operation Albion against Russian forces. To the south, naval forces under US command in the Mediterranean attacked the Austro-Hungarian port of Durazzo, in Albania. Following an exchange of fire, in which no American personnel were injured, the Austrian base was destroyed.


<– Part 167 – September 30, 1917  | Part 168 – October 7, 1917 |  Part 168 – October 14, 1917 –>

Battle of Broodseinde planning map

October 4 was a significant day this past week, with events on both sides of the world boding ill for Germany and the other Central Powers.

No-Man’s-Land following the battle, looking towards the German lines

First, the crew of SMS Seeadler, aboard the captured French schooner Lutece, ran aground on Easter Island as was taken into custody by Chile, thus ending the last gasp of Germany’s Pacific campaign.

Near Yypres, at the Broodseinde Ridge, the new British strategy of “bite and hold,” wherein forces take only the ground they can immediately defend against counterattack, has seen another extremely successful application, with more German territory being taken. The British suffered 20,000 casualties, to the German 35,000. Additionally, “the black day of October 4” has brought an enormous hit to German morale.