Century-old battle sums up horrors of WWI

Dismembered soldiers sucked into cesspools of mud.


Shattered tree trunks and the waft of poison gas hovering over the wounded who were awaiting their fates on the scarred soil of Flanders Fields.

The Third Battle of Ypres, fought in western Belgium a century ago, was as bad as World War I would get.

Half a million soldiers were estimated to have been killed or wounded during the 100-day battle and one name keeps coming back: Passchendaele, now as grim a symbol as any field of war ever remembered.

Monday marks the centennial of the start of the Allied offensive, which ended up barely moving the front line. Thus it became a metaphor for the folly of war as soldiers from Australia, Canada and New Zealand joined mostly British forces attempting to break Germany’s hold on the Western Front.

“It is the largest massacre ever to have taken place on Belgian soil,” said curator Piet Chielens of the In Flanders Fields Museum, which has recorded over 150,000 dead – and still counting – in the months of fighting.

Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are expected to join Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge over two days of centenary ceremonies, starting with a Last Post at Ypres’ Menin Gate on Sunday.

When the Third Battle of Ypres started on July 31, 1917, World War I was entering its fourth year, bogged down in trench warfare.

Both sides were desperate for a breakthrough following the hundreds of thousands of casualties the year before at Verdun and the Somme in northern France, two other battles that vie with Passchendaele as the most costly of the Great War.

Britain’s Douglas Haig was convinced he could force a breakthrough at Ypres, even though two earlier battles there had failed. The goal was to shut down German submarine operations on the Belgian coast. Haig’s plan to take the village of Passchendaele in a few days and move on to the coast turned out to be wildly ambitious.

With rain turning the swampy terrain to mud and the Germans armed with mustard gas, it would take until November for the Allies to capture the village. They never got close to the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend.

British painter Paul Nash was at Passchendaele in November and used the depth of despair he witnessed as inspiration for his painting The Menin Road.

“The rain drives on, the stinking mud becomes more evilly yellow, the shell holes fill up with green-white water, the roads and tracks are covered in inches of slime, the black dying trees ooze and sweat and the shells never cease,” Nash wrote to his wife.

“Annihilating, maiming, maddening, they plunge into the grave which is this land.”

In the end, the British would argue that even though the advance stalled, the long and costly battle weakened the German enemy. History, however, has highlighted the futility of the exercise, Chielens said, pointing out that Passchendaele could not be held once it was taken.

“Passchendaele was ultimately a small and indefensible salient,” Chielens said.

Josh Jackson backs under-fire Des Hasler

Senior Canterbury forward Josh Jackson has come out in support of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler as conjecture continues to surround his NRL future.


Hasler is set to miss the finals for the first time since his debut coaching year with Manly in 2004 this season, while the Bulldogs’ absence will be their first since 2011.

Canterbury have won seven games this year to sit 13th, while they have scored just 13.7 points per game – on track for their worst attacking year since the Super League war.

But NSW State of Origin second-rower Jackson said the fault could not lay with Hasler.

“We know how important Des is for our team and to the club,” Jackson said.

“He’s a guy who leaves nothing to chance.

“His preparation, the work he puts in for the team and for the club, and the way he looks after us as players, he gives you the motivation to want to go out there and play for him and the club.”

Hasler was re-signed by the club in April, on a deal that secured his future until at least the end of 2019.

However he came under fire from the club’s former captain, Michael Ennis last week, after he accused Hasler of botching the club’s recruitment and retention.

Hasler also attended a Bulldogs’ board meeting on Tuesday night, however chairman Ray Dib has since insisted they are not looking to sack the two-time premiership-winning coach.

Hasler’s future is likely to play a key component of the lead in to next February’s club board election, as speculation mounts of a possible rival ticket led by Paul Dunn.

Crucially, incoming five-eighth Kieran Foran told News Corp Australia on Sunday he’d be disappointed if Hasler wasn’t at the club next season.

Foran does not have a clause in his contract that would allow him to look elsewhere if Hasler wasn’t coach, but said his former Manly mentor was a big reason he was moving to the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs have also signed NSW prop Aaron Woods for next year, as they attempt to rebuild the club.

More support for suicide prevention in Vic

Reducing stigma and discrimination around suicide is the next step in the Victorian government’s plan to halve the number of people who self harm in the state.


Mental Health minister Martin Foley announced the second phase of the Labor government’s plan to combating suicide by increasing local support services.

“It’s our goal to halve the rates of suicide over the next ten years,” Mr Foley said on Sunday.

“We will do that by having community conversations about seeking to remove stigma, discrimination and bringing the discussions out about what we can do to provide hope,” he said.

He said using case studies would help develop the best strategies to tackle suicide with two organisations chosen to help reduce stigma and seek help.

Advocate Georgia Hocking lost her 22-year-old brother, Benjamin to suicide in 2016 and backed the plans to support people at-risk of suicide and their families.

“If I take anything from what happened with Ben it’s that suicide is 100 per cent preventable and I feel that my brother’s death was preventable,” Ms Hocking said.

She said the “ripple effect” from a suicide for those left behind was “catastrophic” and urged people to speak to their loved ones about the issue.

The organisations to help tackle suicide are the Lived Experience Project which will aim to reduce stigma and promote help-seeking behaviour in the Frankston Mornington Peninsula and Dandenong regions.

Roses in the Ocean directly supports those who have survived suicide or lost a loved one to suicide to help train and mentor people to talk about the issue in their community.

This is the second phase of a government rollout of the Suicide Prevention Framework, which has been provided with $27 million over four years.

The first stage saw hospitals receive funding to help those who attempted suicide in their community after being in the Emergency Department.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

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Typhoon Nesat injures 81 in Taiwan

Taiwan’s first typhoon of the year has left 81 people injured and coastal towns flooded as the island braced for a second tropical storm on Sunday.


There were earlier reprts that two people had been killed. One man, climbing a mountain in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, died while trying to make his way down and a woman planting rice was killed by a planting machine which was blown over in the rice field.

Howling winds toppled motor scooters and hit people with flying glass, the Central Emergency Operations Centre said.

In Yilan county on the northeast coast, one person was blown down, another was struck by a wind-driven object and a third was injured when a utility truck flipped.

Typhoon Nesat made landfall on the northeast coast of Taiwan on Saturday evening with maximum sustained winds of 137km/ph and gusts of up to 173km/h, according to the national weather bureau.

All but two of the injuries were light, an operations centre staff person said.

The typhoon also left shops and streets in agricultural Pingtung county knee deep in muddy water after dumping about 600mm of rain.

More than 10,000 people, largely from Taiwan’s south, were evacuated before the typhoon and 1,612 were still in shelters Sunday morning.

Nesat caused the cancellation of 145 international flights and cut power to nearly half a million households.

The typhoon passed through Taiwan and reached Fujian province in southeastern China by 7am on Sunday as a less severe tropical storm, officials said.

Close to 70,000 people have been evacuated so far and dozens of trains and flights suspended in Fuzhou, the provincial capital, Fujian’s water resources department said.

Taiwan, meanwhile, is on alert again as a second tropical storm was due to make landfall on Sunday night.

Philippine mayor killed in anti-drug raid

Twelve people, including a city mayor, have been killed in a shoot-out with police officers during a series of pre-dawn anti-drug raids in the southern Philippines.


Police officers also arrested the vice mayor of Ozamiz City, about 780km south of Manila, during the raids on Sunday, Chief Superintendent Timoteo Pacleb, a regional police director said.

Police simultaneously served search warrants against the properties of Reynaldo Parojinog Senior, mayor of Ozamiz City, his daughter Vice Mayor Nova Parojinog and three other family members on allegations they were trading in illegal drugs, Pacleb said.

“The police personnel were met with volley of gunfire from their security, prompting the police to retaliate,” he added.

Aside from Parojinog, his wife, a provincial board member who was also a relative and four security aides of the family were among those killed in the shoot-out, Pacleb said.

The identities of the other people slain were still being verified.

Police confiscated high-powered firearms and an undetermined amount of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, from at least four houses of the Parojinog family, the city’s information office said.

Last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed that his aggressive campaign against illegal drugs will not ease despite mounting criticism over the rising death toll.

More than 3000 suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte became president on June 30, 2016, according to police statistics. But human rights groups have warned that the actual death toll could be higher.