July 18. A new battle began. Officially it is known as
the Third Battle of Ypres. But it passed into history as Passchendaele,
the name of the tiny Belgian village captured by Canadian soldiers
on November 6 after four nightmarish months. By that time it was
little more than a stain of brickdust among the mud.
The aim, as always, was to smash a hole in the German defences.
It began promisingly enough as British guns laid a barrage of
more than four million shells. But the shells destroyed not only
German trenches; they ripped apart the ancient drainage system.
It began raining on July 31, the day the British infantry advanced.
Soon the low-lying Flanders plain was a sea of mud in which many
wounded or overburdened men simply drowned.
The fighting was dominated by vast concrete emplacements whose
machine guns took a terrible toll on the attacking British. But
by this stage of the war the generals were doing the numbers game.
The Allies had 14 million soldiers, Germany and her allies nine
million. If we merely killed each other at the same rate, we would
This grisly equation may have been true. Although 300,000 Britons
perished at Passchendaele, German losses were equally horrific.
A stunned German parliament talked of making peace. But the Kaiser's
military bosses insisted on one more attack.
November 9. In the Balfour Declaration, Britain declared
that it would play its part in setting up a Jewish homeland in
Palestine. For Jews scattered around the world and often persecuted,
the promise of a new Israel was the fulfilment of a 2,000-year
10. William F Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, died. He
had made his name providing meat for railway workers across the
vast plains of the United States. But when that work was over,
he became the ultimate showman, presenting his wild West Show
across America and Europe, with some dazzling performances in
the Black Country.
April 6. The United States declared war on Germany. Only
a few years previously, American involvement in a European war
would have been unthinkable. But even pro-German Americans were
horrified at the Kaiser's order for German U-boats to sink all
shipping at will, including hospital ships.
November 6. The cruiser Aurora fired a single shell from
her berth on the River Neva and the Bolshevik revolution began
in Petrograd (St Petersburg).
Walsall Rural District Council heard that a manpower shortage
was hitting local farm production.
A report showed that 4-5,000 workers were flooding into
Dudley's booming war-work factories each day, imposing "an
incalculable burden on the Tramway Company."
The newly-reorganised Fourth Battalion (Volunteer)
Stafford Regiment appealed for volunteers.
It was announced that the Victoria Cross had been awarded
to Coseley soldier Private Thomas Barratt, aged 21, who
saved his platoon from an enemy attack before being killed
by a shell. Coseley folk recalled that young Barratt had
been raised in the workhouse where his "unruly behaviour"
Council J F Myatt was elected Mayor of Wolverhampton
and promised to tackle the town's housing crisis.