The Battle of Broodseinde – 4 October 1917

This was the Allies’ most successful victory during the Passchendaele campaign. The torrential rain of August had been replaced by the unsettled weather of September. However heavy rain again started to fall on 4 October. This rain and the resulting mud would have a profound effect on the course of the rest of the campaign.

It was an unfortunate coincidence, but both the Germans and allied troops planned to launch attacks on that very same morning. Australian troops reported suffering casualties of up to a third of their number, as they endured the opening German barrage in trenches overfilled with men ready for the forthcoming assault. Under the cover of their own barrage, the advancing Australian troops then encountered similarly packed trenches on the other side, with the German troops standing so close together that they could not properly defend themselves. The fighting was particularly bloody after the carnage in the Australian trenches a matter of minutes beforehand.

Private Albert E. Howden 2631. Unit: C Company, 6th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, Australian Imperial Force. Death: 4 October 1917, missing in action at Passchendaele Ridge, Western Front. Commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. Copyright: © IWM (HU 115969). 

28 ‘Skipton’ prisoners were captured that day – 5 enlisted men, 22 junior officers and one captain. For once the villages where the prisoners were captured reflected the course of the battle. Zonnebeke (14) , Gravenstafel (2) and Poelcappelle (4). The three villages lay a couple of miles apart across a broad front. The British had now advanced around two thirds of the way from Ypres to Passchendaele.

Shortly ahead of them lay Tyne Cot. This is the largest British and Commonwealth war cemetery where almost 12.000 deceased servicemen are buried.

THE BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE, JULY-NOVEMBER 1917 Battle of Broodseinde 4 October: Men huddled in funk holes with corpses in front of them in a railway cutting at Broodseinde. Copyright: © IWM (E(AUS) 3864) . 

Of the 28 Germans, 22 were wounded, 3 of them seriously. 9 of the captives were sent to the camp at Colsterdale near Masham in the Yorkshire Dales. The others were taken directly to hospital or else shipped to Southampton to await transfer elsewhere.

The captured prisoners included 2nd Lieutenant Kurt Borsikowski of one of the ‘Foot Guards’ regiments. He was 22 years old and had been born in Königsberg in what was then East Prussia. Today the city is known as Kaliningrad and lies in the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania. Borsikowski had since moved to the town of Spandau (which is now part of Berlin). He was suffering from gunshot wounds to his right upper arm, both hands, his face and his left side. His injuries were described as slight.

Joseph Emanuel Pousette was one of a handful of prisoners who were born outside the German Empire. He was born in Spånga near Stockholm in Sweden in 1888, but had later emigrated to live in Berlin. He was not wounded and as a captain was the senior ‘Skipton’ prisoner captured that day.