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Virtual tour 5 - Uniforms 1917

The Battle of Passchendaele must be the most destructive and bloody event of the war in the area. The attack on land is begun on 31 July 1917. The British army plans to break through the German defences on the ridge in three weeks and then liberate the Belgian coast. After more than 100 days’ arduous fighting, though, the offensive grinds to a halt amongst the debris of what once used to be Passchendaele. The third part of the museum tour, The Passchendaele Experience, goes into further detail about this battle.

Object 1: Poncho (MZ 00113)

Because their woollen uniforms aren’t very good against the rain, British troops use waterproof cloth during the initial years of the war. The first models are rectangular and terribly unpractical. But from the end of July 1917, the men are issued with a watertight poncho, a piece of kit very welcome for those who have had to withstand the mud and rain in Flanders. The poncho isn’t only good against the rain, it also offers some protection against the mustard gas: unlike the woollen uniforms, the oily vapour doesn’t stick to the poncho, so the rain poncho is also dubbed ‘gas poncho’, although it was never really designed for the purpose. (MMP1917, MZ 00113)

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