Haig has repeatedly launched attacks at Passchendaele Ridge. Australian and British troops have failed to take the ridge. He turns to Currie to salvage his bloody obsessive campaign and his reputation. Currie is irate. When he gets back to his headquarters he rages in front of his astonished staff:
“Why? What’s the good of it? Passchendaele! A name for a lot of mud and grief, for a lot of crack brain fools in London to play with! What do they care? Do they get killed? Or wounded, or choked in the mud? What’s the good of it? Let the Germans have it! Rot in the mud! There’s a mistake somewhere. It must be a mistake. It isn’t worth a drop of blood”
Currie, however complies with orders. He demands sufficient time to prepare, and gets some but not all of what he wants. Battlefield conditions are horrendous.
He assigns intelligence officers to each of the military units that had previously fought at Passchendaele to learn what they had learned through their failures, locations of guns, trenches etc.
He realizes he can’t maneuver across such a sea of mud and will lose both men and artillery pieces if he tries. His engineers again created roads, drainage ditches, gun platforms and even a light railway-- all this under German fire. Wireless communications would ensure that the creeping barrage doesn’t outstrip the infantry. On the 26th of October the Canadians attack and by the 10th of November have the ridge. Currie had predicted the loss of 16,000 Canadians to take the ridge. It took an appalling 15,654, almost exactly what Currie had predicted.
When the battle was over, his men were spent, haggard and decimated. Currie was immeasurably proud of his men
“The Canadians had taken Passchendaele by super human effort. His men had never worked so hard or fought with such grim determination”.
It was not until Currie was attending the Versailles Peace Conference after the war that Haig took him aside in the Hotel Majestic and explained the true proportions of the mutiny in the French Army in 1917. In order to keep the Germans from attacking the French, they had to draw them to Passchendaele. Currie was not completely convinced. When Passchendaele was abandoned without a fight in 1918, of course Currie was angered and frustrated.
As 1917 ends, the British battalions have been bled down to where there is a serious shortage of men. The British want the Canadians to disband battalions, like they have and restructure the Canadian Army down to two Corps. Currie and the Prime Minister are dead set against it. Currie suggests adding 100 men to each battalion from the 5th Division, thus increasing each of the first four division’s strength by 1200 men. This decision came at the expense of a promotion and army command for him as it was done at the expense of promotion for Garnet Hughes, but it is an example of his professionalism and selflessness.
Have a look at Paul Grosse's Movie, part of which occurs during Passchendaele