Luke Pollard

Labour & Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

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100 years on: Remembering Plymouth’s role in the battle of Passchendaele

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To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele Luke has written a short blog. This was first posted on his Facebook page:

100 years ago today in the fields of Flanders in Belgium the third battle of Ypres began. It would see hundreds of thousands of men killed. A century on it is right that we take a moment to remember one of the bloodiest episodes in warfare and the sacrifices made by our armed forces.

Services are being held around the country to remember the start of one of the most horrific battles of the First World War, the Battle of Passchendaele that lasted until November 1917.

I’m very proud to be from Plymouth, a city with a proud military history and home to a great number of military heroes. There are too many to mention and this battle is no exception.

Alongside almost half a million who died, I want to pay special tribute to the men of the Devonshire Regiment, many from Plymouth, who joined up together with their friends and who fought and died in the Third Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele.

One was, Percival Edward Finnemore - a keen rugby and cricket player, he went to school in our city before becoming and a Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment and eventually dying at Passchendaele aged just 20.

Lasting over three months, there is no clear figure for how many died over the course of the battle. However, it’s estimated between 200,000 and 500,000 losses were suffered on both sides with an untold number of casualties. Losses on that scale are incomprehensible today and the sheer horror of that battle is now unimaginable.

Another Plymothian to fight at Passchendaele was Captain Vernon Christopher Russell Caley, who was born in the constituency I now represent. The 1901 Census records his place of birth as 10, Vicarage St Matthias, Argyle Terrace. He was the son of a Reverend, who went to school in Plymouth before moving to Cheltenham and fighting for the 7th Battalion of the Warwickshire Regiment.

Vernon was also killed in action when he was hit by a shell in this battle. He was just 21 and prior to his final battle, he was awarded the Military cross, described in the 1916 London Gazette:

“For conspicuous gallantry. He led a bombing party against an enemy strong post, and personally accounted for some of the enemy with his revolver and grenades. Later, assisted by one man, he brought in a wounded man under fire.”

The horror of trench warfare, with the sea of mud, the constant fear of shelling and the number of those injured and killed is unimaginable. We are now 100 years on from this battle, in a war described as ‘The War to End all Wars’. We must never forget the sheer horror these men and so many others endured.

The sacrifices these two incredible, yet ordinary Plymothians made in that conflict, amongst countless others are the reason we must remember them today. It is our duty to carry their names forward, to never forget the horrors of war and why it is so important to work for a more peaceful future.

 

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@LukePollard tweeted this page. 2017-07-31 17:32:30 +0100

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