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Google Earth Plug-in: Aerial photo of Polygon Wood race track on 7 July 1917

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The Battle of Polygon Wood, 25-27 September 1917, was part of the wider Third Battle of Ypres (First World War). It came during the second phase of the battle, in which General Herbert Plumer’s Second Army was given the lead. Plumer replaced the ambitious general assaults that had begun the battle with a series of small attacks with limited objectives – his “Bite and hold” plan. These attacks involved a long artillery bombardment followed by an attack on a narrow front (2,000 yards wide at Polygon Wood). The attacks were led by lines of skirmishers, followed by small infantry groups. German strong points were to be outflanked rather than assaulted. Each advance would stop after it had moved forward 1,000-1,500 yards. Preparations were then made to fight off any German counterattack.

The attack on Polygon Wood was the second of Plumer’s “bite and hold” attacks, after Menin Road and ending with Broodseinde. It was carried out by the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, amongst the best left in the BEF by 1917. Its target was a line just beyond Polygon Wood (a wood in name only by 1917, having lost all of its trees in earlier fighting). The site of Polygon Wood was captured on 26 September, the target line on 27 September. The attack then stopped, and Plumer prepared for the next attack.

The two Australian divisions lost 5,471 men during the Battle of Polygon Wood. The three “bite and hold” attacks brought the front line to the foot of the Passchendaele Ridge, which would be come the target of the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele, and give its name to the entire battle.

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