Honouring Passchendaele: The Legacy of a Tarragindi Street Named for Battle and Bravery

Passchendaele Street in Tarragindi is named to commemorate the Third Battle of Ypres, often referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele, serving as a reminder of the significant Australian involvement and the devastating losses they suffered in one of the war’s most brutal battles of World War I.

Detailed Battle Accounts

The Battle of Passchendaele, officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, took place in the Ypres Salient area of the Western Front, near the town of Passchendaele (modern Passendale), Belgium. Australian troops faced not only the entrenched German defences but also the horrendous conditions of mud and rain, which turned the battlefield into a marshland, impeding movement and contributing to the high casualty rates. 

Photo Credit: Australian War Memorial

Key dates during this prolonged battle include:

31 July 1917: The battle begins with initial British attacks.

September 1917: Australian forces join the battle, achieving critical gains at Menin Road and Polygon Wood.

4 October 1917: Australians capture Broodseinde Ridge, marking a significant but costly victory.

12 October 1917: The first major attempt to capture Passchendaele village resulted in heavy Australian and New Zealand casualties. About 6,405 Australians were killed in action or dying of wounds in less than a month near Ypres. Additionally, a further 19,194 were wounded.

26 October to 10 November 1917: The battle’s final phase involved further Australian support, but primary efforts transitioned to Canadian forces who captured Passchendaele on 6 November 1917.

This battle was part of a series of battles in this region, characterised by its strategic importance due to the elevated ridge that offered the occupier significant tactical advantages.

Heroism in the Face of Adversity

On the sombre morning of 12 October 1917, Captain Clarence Jeffries demonstrated extraordinary leadership and courage under dire conditions. Before the assault, the battlefield’s transformation into a muddy marsh posed severe challenges. Jeffries, commanding B Company, took proactive steps with Captain T.G. Gilder to locate the battalion’s starting line, ensuring their unit was correctly positioned for the attack despite the obliterated direction tapes.

As the attack commenced under a British artillery barrage, Jeffries and his men faced intense machine gun fire from German strong points, particularly around Hilside Farm. The German defences included fortified pillboxes and entrenched positions, significantly hindering the Australian advance. 

Captain Clarence Jeffries
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Displaying quick thinking and bravery, Jeffries organised a small bombing party to outflank and capture these enemy positions. His group succeeded in taking control of multiple machine guns and capturing several prisoners, briefly reviving the Australian advance.

However, the German resistance was fierce, and as Jeffries attempted to push towards further objectives, he was mortally wounded by machine gun fire during a bold maneuver to neutralise another enemy position. His actions, though costly, marked a significant moment in the battle, showcasing the determination and sacrifice of the Australian forces. 

Jeffries’ leadership paved the way for temporary gains and exemplified the spirit of the Australian soldiers who fought at Passchendaele.

Despite their efforts, the Australian units faced overwhelming odds, and the intense enemy fire forced them to retreat, leaving behind many wounded and fallen soldiers, including Jeffries. 

Photo Credit: Australian War Memorial

His bravery at Passchendaele was later recognised with a posthumous Victoria Cross, commemorating his bravery and leadership in one of the most challenging battles of the First World War.

Cultural and Memorial Impact

The battles at Passchendaele left a profound impact on Australian military history and are memorialised in various forms, including street names like that in Tarragindi. This serves as a perpetual memory of the sacrifices made by the Australians, illustrating the deep connections between local landscapes and global history.

Passchendaele St Tarragindi
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Published 28-April-2024