Passchendaele letter from Leonard Hart

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This transcript is from a letter by Private Leonard Hart to his parents on 19 October 1917. You can also download this transcript as a pdf (good for printing).

Hart describes in detail the terrible events of 12 October 1917 when New Zealand troops were asked to take the Bellvue Spur, near Passchendaele. Historian Jock Phillips has described 'this distressing, but accurate, description of the battle' as a 'remarkable piece of writing, particularly given Hart's lack of formal education.'

Here Hart describes the miserable failure of the attack:

Dozens got hung up in the wire and shot down before their surviving comrades’ eyes. It was now broad daylight and what was left of us realised that the day was lost. We accordingly lay down in shell holes or any cover we could get and waited. Any man who showed his head was immediately shot. They were marvellous shots those Huns. We had lost nearly eighty per cent of our strength and gained about 300 yards of ground in the attempt. This 300 yards was useless to us for the Germans still held and dominated the ridge.

He also describes the terrible plight of the 'Tommies' who were abandoned by their British commanders:

These chaps, wounded in the defence of their country, had been callously left to die the most awful of deaths in the half frozen mud while tens of thousands of able bodied men were camped within five miles of them behind the lines.