The Battle of Polygon Wood was fought as part of the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as the Battle of Passchendaele). Polygon Wood, four miles east of Ypres, was named after its shape but the battle fought in Polygon Wood has become synonymous with the brutality of warfare in World War One. Polygon Wood was also known as ‘Racecourse Wood’ as a racecourse had once been there.
In the official history of Australian troops in World War One, these men are described as:
“(belonging) to the finest class their nation produced………the self-discipline of these men was as fine as any achievement of Australians in the war."
By September 26th, describing Polygon Wood as a “wood" would have been pushing this description to the limit. As a result of continuous artillery bombardment, trees had been blown to pieces and most had been reduced to mere stumps. The joint Australian and British attack on Polygon Wood was covered by a British artillery barrage. This creeping barrage threw up great swirls of dust which served to disguise their advance.
Aided by precise artillery attacks, Polygon Wood was seemingly taken with ease. However, the artillery attack had not destroyed numerous German pill boxes found within the wood itself. These had to be captured before there could have been any consideration towards moving further forward. It was during these assaults that the Australians suffered large casualties. The 4th Division lost 1,717 men while the 5th Division lost 5,471 men killed, wounded and missing.