Preparation for Langemark
Canal bank dugouts - Ypres.
16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.
The Battle of Langemark - Preparation work.
(Part of the Third Battle of Ypres).
The Battle of Messines was only the first part of the British High Command’s plans to bring pressure to bear and clear the Germans from the Belgian coast by threatening Roulens from the Passchendaele Ridge. The Ulster Division spent the whole of July 1917 in a rest and training area and the 16th Pioneers were assigned to work in the Ypres area, initially at the rear and later in the front.
1st July was a Sunday and churches back in Ulster were solemnly but proudly holding services to remember the events at the Somme one year earlier.
For the Pioneers it was a day of moves.
No. 1 Company to Wormhoudt and No. 2 Company to Winezeele.
On the 2nd July No. 1 Company moved on to Boolezeele.
The 3rd July was a rest and sports day for numbers 3 and 4 companies, with mule back wresting providing great amusement.
Work started in earnest on the 4th July sinking wells to provide water for the large number of men and animals that would move through during the planned offensive. This work continued until the 20th July, while the other companies moved to other areas for training in rapid light railway construction.
On the 21st July time had come for moving up into forward areas and tented accommodation for HQ, 1, 2 and 3 Companies near Poperhinge. The 23rd to 25th July was spent in clearing a channel in the moat encircling Ypres and clearing the road from Hellfire Corner to Dragoon Farm. Both tasks were subject to heavy gas shelling.
The next five days 26th to 30th were devoted to Battalion move to Vlamertinghe with a break from engineering work and infantry preparation for the coming battle.
The battle was not as meticulously planned as Messines and the Battalion would be working over ground it had not seen before, nor had they much time for anticipated tasks ahead as they had in the previous battle. With the 36th Division initially held in reserve they were placed under the command of the Chief Engineer XIX Corps – not the most ideal way to start a battle.