The Battle of Menin Road, 1917 – The third Ypres
Part of the Third Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Menin Road was a testing place for the British. They countered a tactic that had been bringing the Germans success and gained a small, costly advance that characterized the fighting of the First World War.
The wreckage of a British tank beside the infamous Menin Road near Ypres, Belgium
The Third Battle of Ypres was the big British push of 1917. Field Marshal Haig set out to make what 1980s TV sitcom Blackadder would mock as “yet another gargantuan effort to move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.”
Haig believed these pushes would eventually bring the Allies into Germany. He thought by wearing down German troops he would eventually create a gap in their lines through which fast-moving troops could pour. For him, it was fundamental to the war.
Local geography encouraged both sides to make attacks around Ypres. The town was surrounded on three sides by ridges in the otherwise flat countryside of Flanders. High ground was well worth fighting over.
General Gough had led the first attacks of the battle, but they had not brought Haig his breakthrough. Now he turned to General Plumer.
The Success of Bite and Hold
The Battle of Menin Road proved the value of bite and hold tactics. The British, Australian, and New Zealand troops made important advances and retained taken ground. German counter-attacks were defeated. The Allies had further successes in the following days.
Menin Road was not a battle of great spectacle. It was not a flawlessly executed operation. It did prove the worth of a methodical commander in a messy war.