The disappearance of the

History 18/01/20 the disappearance of the “formidable battalion”: the mysterious case of the First world

a Mysterious incident that occurred in 1917 in Belgium and is called “the mystery of the Celtic forest”, is still hotly debated among historians and other researchers. But no one can substantiate his version and explain how during the largest battle of Paschendale during the First world war, went missing more than 70 soldiers of the First Australian division! In various documents contained inconsistent data about the number of soldiers. However, their was not among the prisoners nor in the lists of the dead, in connection with the disappearance of the soldiers began to associate even with mystical reasons.

the Failure of Pashendale

In early October 1917, field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander during the First world war, the British forces on the Western front, after a series of successful battles of the army were inspired, and felt that the German fourth army came to an end. Then he decided to capture the mountain ridge Pashendale. Haig’s plans were not unfounded: the British army prepared for battle, having 200 tanks and 700 aircraft, while the enemy had few planes and tanks and does not exist. Confidence was strengthened and the number of soldiers Britain — Pashendale went 16 divisions.

Under different circumstances prevented the plans of field Marshal. He intended to move troops to 6 km, in connection with the German soldiers moved closer to the top of the ridge and fired on the attackers from above. In addition, the British army was in the area of the marshes, and constant rain made the dirt on the ground is almost impassable, because of what the tanks often got stuck in it. Rainy weather prevented the use of airplanes. A quick and crushing victory, which he had expected to Haig turned into about five months of grueling battles. During the entire operation allyand lost more than 300 thousand people.

Rescue plan

to save the situation, commander of the British expeditionary force decided to use a red herring. At that time on the Western front, the 10th battalion 1st Australian division has outstanding combat training and courage. Two soldiers of its men received the highest military award of UK is Victoria Cross. For the many merits and high morale of the battalion was nicknamed “the terrible tenth.”

these Australian soldiers, on the idea of Haig, was at sunrise to enter the Celtic forest and blow up the German trenches, that the enemy thought it was part of the main offensive. It was planned that the second division will carry out the attack, protecting the flank of the advancing main forces of Britain. So 7 officers and 78 soldiers of the legendary “terrible battalion” was included in the Celtic woods to never come out.

it is still unclear what happened there really. It is known that the maneuver failed and the German troops retreated only a week later, although the British media coverage of this attack as a victory. The battalion commander, the report wrote the following: “Then ensued a desperate encounter, during which the enemy suffered heavy losses”. He further noted: “I can only account for about 14 wounded team members.” Apparently, based on this report and it was concluded that missing 71 people. While official documents often found the number “37”.


Charles Bean, the Australian correspondent, commented on the incident as follows: “the Operation ended disastrously. Of the missing were never heard. Their names were not mentioned in any list of prisoners obtained during the war. After that, the graves Commission found no trace of their bodies.”

it is Noteworthy that in the records of the Germans did not contain any information about the attack, in connection with which some historians have put forward the version that the soldiers had been killed and buried VraGOM in a mass grave. It was also assumed that when the commander of the battalion of Australians have divided it into 2 groups, one of which he took in flank, while the second attacked the Germans, killed in close combat with them. The first group of 37 people are unable to step back and get out from under the enemy’s fire.

Later it was also considered assumptions about the incorrect reporting and clerical errors. It was believed that someone surviving fighters could pass on incorrect information.

Lilit Sargsyan

© Russian Seven

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