History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Festubert, 1915

Festubert, 1915 was a Battle Honour granted for participation in this action near the town of Festubert in May 1915, one of the 1st Canadian Division's first offensive actions on the Western Front during the First World War.

Background

In late April and May of 1915, while the 2nd British Army fought to defend Ypres, even while the possession of Frezenberg Ridge remained in doubt, the right wing of the 1st Army began a co-operative venture with the French in Artois, where a German salient seven miles wide and four miles deep had been formed. Of particular concern were the heights of the Vimy Ridge, forming a five-mile wide barrier. An eight-division assault went in on 9 May, leading to an inconclusive struggle that saw the ridge remain in German hands.1 The Germans' initial deployment had been just two divisions. The French fought on until 15 May, losing about 100,000 men in a grinding action that nonetheless secured sixteen square kilometres of "tactical importance" that "confronted the German Army with a major operational problem." However, while troops had been pushed to the lower slopes of the ridge, the heights overlooking the Douai Plain remained in German hands - and would remain so until the famous Canadian assault in April 1917.2

Aubers Ridge

The British contribution to the offensive had been attempts by the 1st Army to breach the German line north and south of Neuve Chapelle, at points 6,000 yards apart, followed by converging attacks at the Aubers Ridge, 3,000 yards beyond, and ultimately seizing the La Bassée-Lille road up to the line of the Haute Deule canal, a distance of 6 miles from the start line. Efforts to find the right tactical solutions were still being made; while the French had changed their philosophy on artillery preparations, shifting from short bombardments to longer concentrations of fire, the British opted for a pre-attack bombardment of only 40 minutes, a decision influenced by shortages of heavy guns and ammunitions (a problem exacerbated by shell usage at Ypres). There was hope that surprise might be maintained as a factor for the attacking infantry.

Additional study on the battle of Neuve Chapelle suggested other tactical improvements; failure by British guns to give rapid and accurate support when strong-points barred the way led to trench mortars and 3-pounder mountain guns being carried in trucks and armoured cars. Work was done in advance by the infantry in preparing assembly trenches and jumping-off points, and ensuring assault equipment and adequate reserves of ammunition, rations and engineer stores were provided. There was confidence among British senior leadership that with proper planning and registration of enemy trenches by friendly artillery, sectors of the enemy line could be captured with relatively few casualties.

However, the Germans opposite had doubled the width of their barbed wire emplacements, strengthened breastworks and carefully sited machine-guns (two per battalion), firing at ground level through steel-rail loopholes. Dug-outs 200 yards behind the main line held platoon-sized groups of men ready to occupy the front line once the Allied shelling stopped, and half a mile behind that were concrete machine-gun nests 1000 yards apart, designed to serve as rallying posts in the event of an Allied breakthrough.

At 5:00 a.m. the opening bombardment, fired by 600 guns, went into action, and at 5:40 a.m. the leading assault troops began to cross the 200 yards of No Man's Land in six lines 50 yards apart, the men spaced three paces apart.

On the right the Indian and the 1st Corps each attacked with one division: the northern assault was made opposite Fromelles by a division of the 4th Corps. Neither succeeded. The short British artillery preparation, its effectiveness impaired by worn out gun-barrels and faulty ammunition, had failed to destroy the German defences, so that many of the garrison had returned to their forward positions before the bombardment ended.

In the southern attack the first three lines of assaulting troops were mown down by rifle and machine-gun fire from front and flank, and the fourth wave was cut to pieces by German field artillery. At the few points where the attackers did penetrate the front breastwork they were quickly killed or captured. A second attempt made after a new bombardment was equally disastrous. When it ended, the casualties of the nine assaulting battalions of the 1st and Indian Corps exceeded 3100 officers and men. The attack on the left by the 4th Corps had fared little better. Three of the five assault battalions gained small lodgements beyond the first breastwork but were then cut off as heavy fire from German positions still intact halted all further movement. From army headquarters General Haig, intent on assisting the progress of the French fifteen miles to the south, ordered the assault renewed in both sectors. Once again German riflemen and machine-gunners, seeing no man's land filled with extended lines of men following closely behind one another, took a terrible toll. An Indian brigade lost a thousand men in a few minutes. Only part of the first wave gained a footing in the enemy trenches, and without support these troops were soon overpowered. Survivors withdrew to their own positions after dark. The battle of Aubers Ridge was not renewed. In twelve hours of fighting the First Army had gained no ground and had suffered more than 11,000 casualties. It was a costly demonstration of the futility of pitting unsupported massed manpower against skilfully applied firepower.3

In the face of French demands that the British meet their commitments, the 1st Army recognized a need to continue operations, a need made more acute by events on the Eastern Front, which had caused German divisions to depart the front opposite the French. Nonetheless, the failure at Aubers Ridge convinced the 1st Army's commander, General Haig, that two attacks could not be maintained simultaneously and therefore resources were concentrated on the three-mile front between Neuve Chapelle and Festubert, a small village one and a half miles north of the La Bassée Canal. The commander of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir John French, agreed at this time to the 1st Army extending its front south of the Canal in order that a French division might be freed for the action at Vimy Ridge. Therefore, the Canadian Division, reorganizing after 2nd Ypres, was selected to relieve the French 58th Division. However, their artillery was still fighting at Ypres and Ploegsteert, and so the 1st British Division made the relief instead.

Again, experience in battle was assessed, and changes to tactics introduced. The disaster that had occurred at Aubers Ridge had demonstrated the strength of German defences on the front, as well as the ability of the German machine-guns to mutually support each other. In recognition of these factors, the British opted now for longer, methodical bombardments by heavy guns and howitzers, with the intention of observing fall of shot.

He purposed using 60-pounder guns in addition to the 15-inch siege howitzers, and accurately observing the result of every shot to ensure that the enemy's strongpoints had been demolished before the infantry attacked. In formally approving "a deliberate and persistent attack" in which the enemy would "be gradually and relentlessly worn down by exhaustion and loss until his defence collapses", Sir John French noted that surprise would be lacking because of the long bombardment and he therefore prescribed only a limited objective, entailing an advance of about 1000 yards - one third the distance contemplated in the battle of Aubers Ridge. The distinction between semi-open warfare and semi-siege warfare had at least been recognized. For the first time in the war British forces were to engage in a battle of "attrition".4

While the war of attrition had begun, few yet recognized it, and British and French leaders still firmly believed that there was still a way to achieve some form of breakthrough, if they could only find the correct method of bombarding the enemy first.5

The Battle of Festubert

The 60-hour bombardment that prefaced the Battle of Festubert began on the morning of 13 May 1915, when 433 howitzers and guns began a systematic working over of German defences on a frontage of 5,000 yards extending north from the village itself. The fire was slow and deliberate (just 50 rounds per gun every 24 hours) in keeping with Haig's desire that effects on the German defences could be observed. The 6-inch guns fired on the German parapet while 4.5-inch guns shelled support and communication trenches. Field guns bombarded wire entanglements and dropped harassing fire in the form of shrapnel shells into communication trenches. The fire was originally to last just 36 hours but extended another 24 at the request of one of the assault divisions. The 1st Corps used just over 100,000 rounds of ammunition in total.

Opening Attacks

The infantry launched their assault on the night of 15-16 May 1915. On the left, the 2nd Division attacked at midnight on a frontage of 1,300 yards with the Meerut Division of the Indian Corps covering their left flank. At daybreak, the 7th Division, new to the sector and unfamiliar with the ground (and thus unable to participate in night operations) was scheduled to join in on the right, attacking on a frontage of half a mile during which time the 2nd Division would again advance to the second objective, the line of la Quinque Rue, a road running northeast out of Festubert.

The German 14th Infantry Division was manning the line south of the La Bassée Canal to the Ferme du Bois, a wood two miles northeast of Festubert. The division comprised three infantry regiments (the 16th, 56th and 57th), while opposite the Indian Corps was the 13th Division.

Festubert marked the first British night attack of the war, and it was partially successful, the right brigade achieving the German breastwork soundlessly, but on the northern flank, the planned demonstration by the Lahore Division (who fired small-arms in an attempt to divert the Germans' attention) only managed to alert the enemy that an operation was underway, and both of the two assault brigades on the left were driven back by heavy fire.

The 7th Division began its attack at 3:15 a.m., a barrage of field artillery preceding it, and the right hand brigade managed to arrive at the final objective on la Quinque Rue. Determined fire elsewhere on the axis of advance halted the assault units, in particular from untouched German positions in the gap between the sectors of the 2nd and 7th Divisions. The divisions tried twice to tie their flanks in during 16 May, but failed. Nonetheless, the Germans discarded any notion of regaining their lost trenches, and the divisional commander of the 14th Infantry Division pulled back on a 3,000 yard frontage. They formed a new line of resistance 500 yards behind la Quinque Rue which for several days the British were unable to identify with accuracy, opposite Festubert. The new line swung west as it wound north of the village, and included strong positions at Ferme du Bois.

The German withdrawal was seen as evidence that resistance was breaking down and at mid-morning on 17 May General Haig gave fresh orders to the 1st Corps to consolidate along la Quinque Rue, with brigade commanders permitted to continue pressing if opportunities presented themselves. Simultaneously, the army commander put the 3rd Canadian Brigade at the disposal of the 1st Corps, who in turn put it into divisional reserve of the 7th Division.

The general direction of advance was to swing to the south-east, Sir John French having changed the First Army's ultimate objective from Aubers Ridge to La Bassée, in order to gain access to the area south of the canal. But efforts to get forward failed, and that evening General Haig ordered a fresh infantry attack, preceded by a deliberate bombardment, to take place on the 18th. The Corps Commander named the 3rd Canadian Brigade to assault on the 7th Division's front; immediately on the left the 2nd Division would attack with the 4th Guards Brigade. Because of early morning fog the artillery preparation was postponed and zero hour for the infantry assault was set at 4:30 p.m. The main attack would be launched at the centre of the 1st Corps front to secure a mile of la Quinque Rue. In a subsidiary effort farther north the Indian Corps was to capture Ferme du Bois. Because the 7th Division's front line was much closer to the road (which angled towards the north-east), the 3rd Brigade was given the additional task of occupying the North Breastwork (a section of the original German line running east and north-east from la Quinque Rue), and at the end of this Breastwork an orchard which was known to be defended. Brig.-Gen. Turner's plan for the Canadian assault called for two companies of the 14th Battalion on the left and one from the 16th Battalion on the right to attack eastward to the road and the orchard beyond. In the meantime another company of the 16th would make a long detour through Festubert village to take the North Breastwork from the south-west and link up with the frontal attack.6


Festubert, 18 May 1915

For the Canadian battalions, the battle promised new challenges:

The Battalions were to attack over a country a country we had never seen before, and depended on guides from the troops in line, rather than on the inaccurate map, which showed the same symbol for hedges, paths and ditches - and was printed with the south at the top and the grid inverted. Points of interest, such as buildings and road junctions, were marked with letters and numerals within a circle - e.g. M10 encircled, pronounced Emma ten.7

Haig's orders were not issued until mid-afternoon and received by the infantry brigade as Zero Hour approached. The two-hour preliminary bombardment was an hour late in starting, originally scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The Canadian attack did not go forward until 5:25 p.m. by which time the Guards Brigade had already been halted by German machine-guns - scarcely touched by the British artillery due to their positions still not having been precisely located.8

14th Battalion

The 14th Battalion attacked with "A" and "C" Company forward; to their left the Guards Brigade, and to their right the 16th Battalion. Told not to expect serious opposition, they moved into the former German front line, and set off immediately into heavy shell and machine gun fire with an officer from 1/8 Royal Scots as a guide, aiming at a position known as "The Orchard" as their objective. Lieutenant-Colonel Burland, in charge of the assault companies, ordered the line to halt in the face of the devastating German fire and attempt to dig in. They were ordered on the night of 18-19 May to hand over their positions to the Guards and pull "A" and "C" Companies back to the former German line where "B" and "D" Companies had remained in reserve. "Both the attack and the withdrawal were made under trying conditions - in darkness, under constant fire, and across water-logged country seamed with deep ditches and old trenches." Some 65 other ranks were casualties, most of them fatal, including 18 NCOs. The 14th Battalion remained in support trenches until 22 May under constant shellfire, losing 75 other ranks killed and wounded, as well as one officer killed and another wounded while attached to the 13th Battalion.9

16th Battalion

The Montrealers of the 14th Battalion had met fire from the same unlocated machine-guns that had harried the Guards and were diverted south, halted about 400 yards from their jumping-off trenches. The 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) had an adventure just assembling for the attack. In the early hours of 17 May, after the 3rd Brigade had received its orders attaching it to the 7th Division, the battalions had deployed in assembly trenches while the battalion C.O.s assembled for a brigade conference. The Brigadier desired to concentrate the four Canadian battalions at a cluster of houses known as Indian Village, but no roads connected the current billet site, requiring a cross-country march. Reconnaissance parties from each battalion returned after the brigade had been stood down, and at 8:00 p.m. the four battalions marched five miles through steady rain to new billets, a trek of two hours. The last troops were able to turn in by 1:00 a.m. on 18 May, and new orders arrived at 4:00 a.m., with demands that the brigade return to Indian Village. Officers of the 16th noted that the men were "dead tired" when they set out at 6:45 a.m., and the trip, cross-country, took until 4:00 p.m. As if that wasn't bad enough. No. 4 Company was detailed to make an end-around - march back, through Festubert, and up la Quinque Rue to make a flanking attack on The Orchard, a circuitous trip of some 5,000 yards.

It was a complex plan, and a number of other variables threatened to unravel things. In addition to the inaccurate maps, printed upside down and with poor iconography, the frontal attack was to be made over ground laced with deep drainage ditches and abandoned German and Allied breastworks - entrenchments built up above ground because of the shallow water table which had ruled out the digging of trenches. No. 4 Company also had to rendezvous with a British staff officer somewhere in Festubert, as he was the only person who knew where the start line for their attack was going to be.

Not surprisingly, the plan began unravelling from the outset. As the three companies began moving toward the objective in extended formation, the Germans zeroed in on the troops with heavy artillery fire. Most of the shells fell on the left and centre of the Montrealers, which caused them to begin shrinking to the right across the front of (Captain William) Rae's advancing (No. 2 Company). All three companies became hopelessly entangled and lost all cohesion, so that finally the officers just herded the soldiers into hodgepodge clusters and led them onward. Finally the attackers were forced to ground by the withering fire about 500 yards short of the orchard with men scattered on either side of la Quinque rue.10

No. 4 Company was heavily shelled while passing through Festubert, and broke into small parties to run the gauntlet. Their escort, a soldier from The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, assured them of the staff officer's presence, but he never made the rendezvous, and the map was of no use in locating either the objective of the orchard, or a communication trench that the company was to use for cover in its advance. The company commander ordered his men to drop their packs and take a chance on finding the trench, which was soon discovered on setting out. They advanced to link up with the survivors of the frontal assault, to be informed of its failure.11

Situation 19 May - "Alderson's  Force"

Neither the 1st Corps nor the Indian Corps had managed to reach their objectives on 18 May, but the 3rd Canadian Brigade did manage to reduce a gap between the positions of the 2nd and 7th British Divisions. Relief companies of the 16th Battalion worked through the night in driving rain to consolidate the gains and create a continuous line. The Germans, for their part, credited their heavy artillery fire for stopping the Allied attacks cold.

On the night of 18-19 May, the 2nd Canadian Brigade moved up on the 3rd Brigade's right and took over positions as part of a series of reliefs in which the 2nd and 7th Divisions were replaced by the 51st (Highland) and 1st Canadian Divisions. The latter two were grouped tactically under the command of General Alderson, and designated "Alderson's  Force", to which were added the divisional artillery of the 2nd and 7th Divisions. The unusual command arrangement lasted just four days (the Indian Corps took over administration of the Canadian and Highland Divisions) as Alderson lacked a corps staff and had to disrupt the activities of his divisional headquarters by using his chief staff officer to help run the new temporary corps.

The Germans were also busy reorganizing, and all available reserves were being rushed forward to shore up a situation seen as precarious. Company and battalion sized units marched and even came by rail, including the 2nd Guard Reserve Division, veterans of the war's earliest battles, brought up as a reserve for the Vimy battles from Alsace on 14 May. It relieved the 14th Division and left wing of the 13th Division in stages, and its 55th Reserve and 15th Reserve Regiments took over positions opposite the 1st Canadian Division and 2nd British Division.

20 May 1915 - Renewed Assaults

On the morning of 20 May, General Alderson gave orders to renew the advance, hoping to gain 600 to 1,000 yards against objectives sited 3,000 yards apart. The 51st (Highland) Division's relief of the 2nd Division was delayed, however, and the 1st Army changed the requirements. At 3:00 p.m. the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Brigades were ordered to make a fresh assault at 7:45 p.m., the 2nd Brigade towards a point on the map labelled K5, which was a junction between the former and the newly established German front lines. The 3rd Brigade was to simultaneously secure half a mile of that new enemy front line and capture The Orchard, now christened "Canadian Orchard" as well as the adjoining building marked M.10. The Indian Corps was to again attempt to secure Ferme du Bois, and a comprehensive artillery program by every gun and howitzer in the 1st Army was to precede the operation.12


Festubert, 20 May 1915

3rd Brigade Attack - 20 May

The attack on the 20th began in broad daylight, the bombardment starting at 4:00 p.m. and the attack launching at 7:45 p.m. The 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) and 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada)  were designated by the 3rd Brigade as the assault battalions. Lieutenant-Colonel Leckie of the 16th protested the order, attacking over open ground, and with only a single company detailed to attack Canadian Orchard. Brigadier-General Turner replied that the British felt, after the experiences at Aubers Ridge, that night operations restricted the ability of commanders to control troop movements and despite the disadvantages of exposure to accurate enemy fire, there was an advantage to be gained by attacking in daylight. The plan was for No. 3 Company to attack the orchard and No. 1 Company to support it; if the orchard was gained, a communication trench leading to the orchard would be used as a covered route to approach M.10.13

No. 3 Company managed to reach the orchard, and despite the enemy being well dug-in, the defenders were surprised and evicted, putting the Canadian Scottish within 100 yards of the main German trenches. The attempts to attack M.10 were turned back by heavy fire and belts of barbed wire.14 The Canadian Scottish had made the deepest penetration of any unit of the British 1st Army during the Battle of Festubert, and Canadian Orchard remained in Allied hands until the German offensives in the spring of 1918.15

The 15th Battalion had as fruitless an attack as No. 1 Company of the Canadian Scottish, and the Highlanders suffered heavy casualties attacking over open ground into the teeth of machine-guns and watchful German artillery observers. Despite using short 20-yard dashes, many men were hit, and though they gained the relative safety of the North Breastwork, they were stopped 100 yards beyond it. Supporting companies came up to consolidate the gains after dark.16

2nd Brigade Attack - 20 May

The 8th and 10th Battalions had moved into the line on the night of 19 May as the 2nd Brigade assumed its position in the battle line, the move being completed by 11:00 p.m. The trenches were found to be in poor condition, and unburied corpses and untended wounded men were found in abundance. Brigadier-General Arthur Currie, like the C.O. of the Canadian Scottish, protested vehemently when the order to attack was received. Originally scheduled for 21 May, then cancelled, the attack order was received from 1st Army with less than five hours notice on 20 May. Currie requested a day's postponement to "make better preparations" but Alderson would only confirm the order. Currie noted it was his first major difference of opinion with a superior, and he was left "angry and bitter" about being forced to take an action he knew to be wrong.

With very little time to prepare, the 10th Battalion was selected for the assault on K.5, two companies to attack from a former German communications trench. The acting commander of the 10th, Major Percy Guthrie, described K.5 as a "fort in the German line constructed of concrete and sandbags and in which numerous machine guns were mounted so as to sweep the ground in every direction."17

As with the 15th Battalion's attack, the attack of the 10th did not go well - "doomed to failure before it started" in the words of the Army's official historian.

In an afternoon reconnaissance Brig.-Gen. Currie had been unable to identify his objective, which was shown as a small circle on the map. (A major disadvantage of this method of designating positions was the use of the same symbol regardless of the nature of the feature to be identified. To confuse matters further, the Festubert trench map was full of inaccuracies, with errors in position amounting to as much as 450 yards. Furthermore, it was printed upside-down, with the north at the bottom of the sheet and the east on the left.) The assembly trenches were badly breached and under fire, as was a shallow communicating ditch which provided the only semblance of a covered approach to his target. Currie therefore asked for the attack to be postponed until next day, but was refused. Even his expected fire support was reduced. The original artillery plan had included a blasting of K.5 by two 9.2-inch howitzers, but this was cancelled lest the necessary withdrawal of Canadians from the danger zone near such a bombardment should alert the Germans, who from Aubers Ridge could look right into the First Army's positions. The 10th Battalion's attacking party cleared the communication trench of enemy for 100 yards, but as the brigade bombers emerged in single file into the open they came under a storm of fire from machine-guns on built-up positions which had been unharmed by our artillery. Seeing the leaders all shot down, the company commander halted the suicidal advance and ordered the gains made good.18

There was no record of the number of casualties in the 10th Battalion attack, but a renewed attack was immediately called for dawn on 21 May, then postponed until after dark to allow for a proper bombardment.19

Festubert, 21 May 1915

Canadian Attacks - 21 May

The 1st Army's orders for the renewed attack required "Alderson's Force" to secure both K.5 and M.10, as well as the intervening stretch of 1,500 yards of front-line trench which was barring access to the Rue d'Ouvert which led southeast towards La Bassée. The new front formed a salient with the old front line, and the Germans intended for K.5 to be occupied as long as possible until the new front line could be completed, with reinforcements and counter-attacks allocated to K.5. Since K5 was at the boundary of the 1st Canadian and 47th (London) Divisions, its left forward battalion also came under command of Brigadier-General Currie. The units on the left were given no orders to expand the gains earned at Canadian Orchard, the strength of the positions at M.10 being known, complicated further by a lack of unexposed assembly areas in which troops could prepare for new attacks.20

The 10th Battalion's Major Guthrie made three trips through shell-swept terrain to Brigade Headquarters finalizing details for the renewed attack on K.5. The communication trench would again be utilized as a jump-off point, and he planned to use the same two companies from the night before, splitting them in two, with his left-hand company assaulting the objective and the right-hand company clearing trenches adjacent. Guthrie realized that success would depend on the ability of the artillery to reduce the German position before the assault.21

To that end, a bombardment of three and a half hours was laid on, beginning at 5:00 p.m. Once again, the attack went in while it was still light, and once again, in the words of the Army historian, the bombardment was "woefully ineffective." The field guns had been dispersed across the front, and ammunition shortages required them to fire shrapnel shells, comparatively ineffective against the German strongpoints as opposed to the heavier guns of the siege batteries. Counter-battery artillery fire was still in its infancy and German guns, heavier and with ample supplies of shells, were able to respond by shelling the Canadian infantry heavily.

The 2nd Brigade's assault was made by the same two companies of the 10th Battalion, together with the 1st Brigade's grenade company, carrying 500 bombs. From breaches cut in the sides of the approach trench half the force broke out to the left, half to the right. The former, advancing across 200 yards of open ground towards K.5, was quickly cut to pieces by machine-gun fire. The right-hand party, however, attacking the western face of the salient, met less resistance and drove the enemy out of 400 yards of his front line. During the night the Germans attempted several counter-attacks, which the Canadian garrison, reinforced by a company of the 5th Battalion, drove off. Then, with the coming of daylight on the 22nd, enemy guns began a heavy bombardment of their lost position. Large portions of the breastworks were blown away and the occupants wiped out. Before midday Currie withdrew his men from all but 100 yards of the newly occupied line. The 10th Battalion had by then suffered casualties of 18 officers and 250 other ranks.22

22-24 May - Continued Attacks

On the morning of 22 May, General Haig visited General Alderson to express his dissatisfaction at the failure of the Canadians to achieve their objectives and insist that the Germans be pushed out of their positions. "Alderson's Force" was dissolved, and the 51st (Highland) Division placed under the control of the Indian Corps, who finally abandoned their attacks on Ferme du Bois. The 1st Canadian Division went under the direct command of 1st Army.

At an Army conference next morning he ordered a thorough reconnaissance of the enemy's positions before planning the next attack, which would be a combined effort by the Canadian Division and the 47th Division (of the 1st Corps) on its right to reduce the German salient opposite. From its apex at K.5 this extended 1500 yards north-east to the Orchard and an equal distance south-east to a point opposite Givenchy-lez-la Bassée - a hamlet about half a mile from the La Bassée Canal. The Canadians were to take K.5 and get patrols to the northern part of the Rue d'Ouvert; the British division was to attack towards Chapelle St. Roch, farther south on the same road.23

Preliminary to the main operation, a night assault astride the South Breastwork was made by the inner brigade of the two divisions, and once again, the 2nd Canadian Brigade was selected to take on the work of the Canadian Division. However, careful reconnaissance and detailed planning were carried out this time, and the artillery support managed a slow and continuous fire throughout the night. At 2:30 a.m. on 24 May two companies of the 5th Battalion were led by a party of 30 bomb-throwers. Using the battle-cry "Lusitania" they attacked from the communication trench and front line opposite K.5, crossed a 10-foot wide water-filled ditch over a dozen foot-bridges, and managed to seize both K.5 and 130 yards of trench stretching to the northwest. It was a costly attack, with 13 of the 18 combatant officers being killed or wounded, and 250 casualties in all. The 7th Battalion sent three companies forward to reinforce the the while the 47th Division's attack, which got off 30 minutes later than the 5th Battalion's, reached the near end of the Breastwork without capturing any of the enemy's trench.

The next night, the Canadians changed their efforts to the left flank, and at 11:30 p.m. a company of the 3rd Battalion moved out from the Orchard to attempt to take 300 yards of trench running north from M.10. Despite a 6-hour bombardment, four German machine guns caught the Canadians at close range, leaving only a handful alive to reach the German trench, all of whom were captured.

Final Acts at Festubert

The final Canadian actions at Festubert were fought by "Seely's Detachment", which relieved the 2nd Brigade on 24 May. The detachment consisted of the headquarters and dismounted cavalry units of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. Following the carnage of the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and in response to the desperate need for infantry, the cavalrymen volunteered to serve in France, and moved from their training camps in the United Kingdom on 4 May, numbering about 1,500 men, leaving behind their horses with British Yeomanry units. One squadron of Royal Canadian Dragoons received a day of instruction, otherwise, the 9 squadrons of dismounted troopers had no experience in trench routine or fighting. They went into the line opposite the also newly arrived 91st Reserve Regiment of the 2nd Guard Reserve Division, and on 25 May were ordered to cooperate with the 47th Division's attack that evening.

The British attacked at 6:30 p.m. on 25 May north of the Givenchy-Chapelle St. Roch road and two battalions advanced 400 yards to take the German forward and support trenches on a 1,000 yard front, suffering 980 casualties in the process. Lord Strathcona's Horse contributed a bombing group at 9:00 p.m. which worked north from K.5, bringing with them 200 gas bombs - as it turned out, the first authorized use of gas in the history of the British Expeditionary Force. They were assisted by bayonet parties and the Strathconas reported the South Breastwork clear from K.5 to L.8, a point 300 yards northeast, shortly after midnight. The 2nd Brigade sent work parties forward to consolidate but L.8 was found to be occupied by the enemy. The Strathconas had been as confused by the wretched maps as everyone else, and had occupied ground farther west than they believed. The 3rd Brigade, which relieved Seely's Detachment on 27 May, was given the task of securing L.8 and link the Canadian line with the 47th Division south of K.5

On 31 May, the 1st Canadian Division began a shift to its right in order to take over a new sector at Givenchy, to the immediate north of the canal, as part of a 1st Army reorganization, in the wake of Sir John French's decision on 25 May to stop the Festubert fighting and attempt new missions to assist the French offensive. Major offensives were out of the question due to ammunition shortages and the open country faced by the 1st Army did not permit assembly of infantry attacks nor cover for artillery positions. The best option, recommended by General Haig, was a limited operation north of the canal from Givenchy towards La Bassée, possibly followed up with further operations south towards Haisnes.

In concurring, Sir John French ordered the First Army to take over another divisional sector on the French Tenth Army's left so as to enable Foch to reinforce his renewed offensive against Vimy Ridge. For the 1st Canadian Division, as for the other formations of the First Army taking part in the battle, Festubert had been a frustrating experience. Substantial gains had been looked for but not achieved, and in the lower echelons, where the Army's role of easing pressure on the French was little appreciated, few could readily share the Commander-in-Chief's view of an objective attained. In the course of the battle Canadians had assaulted on five separate days, to advance their line an average distance of 600 yards across a one-mile front. Except for the capture of a bit of German defences at K.5 their attacks had not reached the enemy line. In doing this they had suffered 2468 casualties. The Canadian Division had returned to action a little more than two weeks after losing half its fighting strength at Ypres - far too short a time for units to assimilate their infantry reinforcements (we have noted the inexperience of the dismounted cavalry). Yet no fault can be found with the offensive spirit and the self-sacrifice of the troops, who were called upon to persist in the impossible. Once again the superiority of the German artillery had decided the issue. The enemy's organized shelling of the front line and support trenches prevented the assembly of troops within reasonable assaulting distance of their objective and kept reinforcements from coming forward to exploit initial gains. Our own guns, outclassed in weight and short of high explosive shell, could neither destroy the enemy's field defences nor silence his batteries. In addition the German defenders held the advantage in machine-guns, trench mortars and their very effective "stick grenades". New tactics were needed to offset the lead thus taken by a nation which had well prepared itself for war; yet so far Allied commanders appeared satisfied that success was merely a matter of persistence - and more guns and ammunition.24

The original history of the C.E.F. described the battle at Festubert as "the most unsatisfactory engagement" involving Canadians of the entire war. Half the infantry who fought there had been fresh from reinforcement camps in the U.K. and barely arrived from Canada, thrown into action just three weeks after the horrifying losses of 2nd Ypres. The 1st Division lost 93 officers, 1 in 5 belonging to the 10th Battalion, though that battalion lost less than a tenth of the 2,230 other ranks. Over establishment early in May, the 10th Battalion was at half strength on 30 May.25 The 16th Battalion had lost 277 men, including 6 officers, 3 of them dead. No. 3 Company had been reduced to just 56 effectives.26

The Action at Givenchy, 15 June 1915

As the 1st Army reorganized, the 1st Canadian Division found itself as the right wing of the 4th Corps, then holding the centre of the Army's front from the La Bassée Canal north to Canadian Orchard. On the left flank of the division was the 7th Division, the 51st (Highland) Division next in line beyond, and to the left of the corps was the Indian Corps holding an 8-mile front. To the south, the 1st Corps held six miles of trench in between the canal and the French 10th Army, deploying the 1st, 47th (London) and 2nd Divisions in the line.

The narrow divisional sector afforded by the 4th Corps' frontage of just over two and a half miles permitted two brigades to occupy reserve positions and just one brigade to man the 1,000-yard front line, which extended north from the canal, over the southwest edge of Aubers Ridge and encompassing the eastern outskirts of Givenchy-lez-la-Bassée, a shattered village that had seen a successful defensive stand by British troops in December of 1914. The trenches were dry, and the occupation of high ground permitted communications and support trenches out of observation of the enemy, allowing the concentration of troops in assembly areas in secret.

No man's land in the Canadian sector varied from 500 yards wide on the right down to 75 yards east of Givenchy, where a semi-circular sandbagged parapet, known as the Duck's Bill, protruded towards the enemy's line. On the German side, responsibility for the defence of the La Bassée area still rested with the 14th Division. Next to the canal, opposing the Canadians, was the 134th (Saxon) Infantry Regiment, brought in as reinforcement from the 40th (Saxon) Division north of Armentières.

There was not enough heavy ammunition to proceed with the original plan for attacks on both sides of the canal. The project was therefore reduced to an assault by the 4th Corps on a very narrow front towards Violaines, a village 1500 yards north-west of La Bassée; and after several postponements in order to coordinate with the renewal of the French offensive, the date was set at 15 June. General Rawlinson's orders called for an attack by the 7th and 51st Divisions against the line Chapelle St. Roch-rue d'Ouvert, with the Canadian Division "rendering such assistance as may be possible without actually assaulting the enemy's trench line". But the Canadians could not establish the required protective right flank without breaking through the German front line, and General Alderson's orders of 8 and 12 June provided for an assault by the 1st Brigade on two strongpoints - H.2 opposite the Duck's Bill, and H.3 150 yards to the north.

On this occasion the Canadians had time for careful preparation, and the preliminary arrangements which they made were to stand as a model for successful major engagements fought later by the Canadian Corps. The artillery available for the 4th Corps' operation had been divided into five groups. Covering the Canadian front was a group under Brig.-Gen. H.E. Burstall (Commander of the Canadian Divisional Artillery), which included eight 4.5-inch and eight 6-inch howitzers, a group of French 75-mm. guns, and the 2nd and 3rd Brigades C.F.A. (the 1st Brigade C.F.A. was employed in a group supporting the 7th Division's right). The Canadian 18-pounders had the task of destroying the enemy's wire. Determined that there should be no criticism over uncut wire after the battle, General Burstall insisted that the infantry express themselves as satisfied before the assault. The successive postponements prolonged the task, for the enemy was able to repair some of the breaches by night; as a result the artillery was forced to exceed the expenditure of ammunition prescribed by the First Army (six rounds of shrapnel per yard). Afterwards the commander of the 1st Brigade reported that the wire on his front "was found to have been most satisfactorily dealt with".27

The constant influx of "lessons learned" had not ended with Festubert; the need to neutralize enemy forward machine-guns was all too apparent after the costly assaults at Festubert. In an attempt to combat enemy M.G.s directly, three 18-pounders were fitted with gunshields from heavy armour plate and silenced with rubber tires, then dragged ahead at night. Two were emplaced at the Duck's Bill, just 75 yards from the German trenches and a third, from a separate battery, inside a ruined farmhouse inside of 300 yards away from H.3. The 1st Battalion was able to assemble in relative safety in an assembly trench built by engineers and working parties by mid-afternoon on 15 June, and prepared to make its assault in successive company waves.

Two days earlier, the Short Magazine, Lee Enflield (SMLE) had replaced the Ross Rifle throughout the Canadian Division.28 The Ross, a fine weapon for target shooting, had been unpopular for its apparent tendency to jam during rapid firing in battle conditions. The 1st Battalion went into the attack armed completely with British SMLEs. A slow, two-day artillery bombardment was quickened at 6:00 a.m. into just 12 hours of heavy fire, and at 5:45 p.m., 15 minutes before Zero Hour, the three armoured guns were revealed, the two at the Duck's Bill blasting the enemy parapet through open sights and the third holding fire for fear of hitting friendly targets. Machine guns at H.3 were thus not effected, and the program of wire-cutting by the artillery had let the Germans to anticipate the assault. An immediate and heavy concentration of shells fell on Givenchy, including the Canadian assembly trenches, and the 18-pounders at the Duck's Bill were knocked out of action, though they were able beforehand to fire 120 rounds, knock out three German machine-guns, and breach the German parapet.

Two minutes before Zero Hour, an enormous mine laid by British engineers was exploded close to the German line. Plans to explode H.2 were scrubbed by the discovery of water under No Man's Land, and the increased size of the charge, intended to compensate, did not have the desired effect. H.2 was not touched, and a crater over 40 yards wide was created, and bomb reserves in the Canadian front line were either detonated or buried as a result of the massive explosion, causing casualties among the bombing parties of the 1st Battalion. The lead infantry company of the 1st did not wait for the debris to stop raining down before they started their attack, followed by a supporting company with two machine guns, which deployed in the enemy's front line trench. As their covering barrage lifted, both companies advanced to the German second line to begin bombing right and left and establishing block , the third company crossing No Man's Land at 6:10 p.m. to occupy the German front line behind them, the fourth company arriving at 7:00 p.m..

Early reports from the sector of the main attack, where the 7th and 51st Divisions were each assaulting with two battalions, indicated the capture of the German front line across the whole of the 4th Corps front. But later it was established that the enemy still held H.3. Farther north he was also holding the crater of a mine which the 7th Division had exploded twelve days earlier, and from these two positions his machine-gun fire swept no man's land as far south as the Duck's Bill. Thus he was able to play havoc with the Canadian third and fourth waves, and at the same time cover the reoccupation of his lost trenches. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion's attempts to bomb northward towards H.3 had been halted by German counter-bombing and by the attackers' shortage of grenades. The situation for the Canadians in the enemy's second line became critical, for the 7th Division's failure to advance beyond the opposing front line had left an open flank. To meet a German counter-attack the 1st Battalion's machine-gun officer, Lieutenant F. W.Campbell, took one of his guns forward from the enemy's front line. The tripod had been broken, but a the only other surviving member of the detachment, Private H. Vincent, supported the weapon on his back while Campbell kept on firing until he fell, mortally wounded. When the last round had been expended, Vincent, who was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, crawled back to the Canadian lines, dragging his gun behind him. Lieutenant Campbell received the Victoria Cross.29

The action continued as bombers of the 2nd Battalion, reinforced by two platoons of the 3rd Battalion, kept up the fight from the mine crater. A company of the 3rd Battalion sent forward just before 9:00 p.m. was held up at the Canadian front line by enemy fire. The 1st Battalion's advance companies, cut off from reinforcements and supplies, were forced to fall back to the German front line trench earlier in the evening, and between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. the German front line also had to be evacuated. The 1st Battalion had been roughly handled, losing a devastating 20 officers and 366 all ranks in total.

The 3rd Battalion was ordered in to restore the situation at 11:30 p.m. but uncertainty along the front of the entire Corps and the length of time necessary to mount a renewed bombardment cause several postponements. All three divisions renewed the attack at 4:45 p.m. on 16 June following a two-hour bombardment, the maximum that available ammunition permitted. The enemy was prepared for this renewed attack and not a single permanent hold could be gained on the German trenches, the enemy simply manning the parapet in the wake of the barrage opposite the 3rd Battalion and letting loose a hail of small arms and M.G. fire. At 9:00 p.m. the Royal Canadian Dragoons, ordered to try again, were stood down. The 1st Canadian Brigade went into a defensive role and on 19 June Sir John French ordered further attempts to gain ground immediately stopped, noting the French offensive in Artois had come to an end and any further British actions were no longer required.

Aftermath

On 24 June 1915, the 1st Canadian Division began another move, 17 miles north of Givenchy to the Ploegsteert sector, and a return to the 2nd Army, the beginning of 3 months of relative inactivity along the entire British front. Defences were improved, but given the stream of German units to the Eastern Front, and unlikelihood of a major German breakthrough, the building of improved rearward positions was ended. More important were support trenches and well-maintained front line trenches, and 2,000 men were employed in work parties every night by the 1st Division, as mutually supporting localities were transformed into strongpoints, wired and sandbagged, sited for all-round defence and platoon-sized garrisons. The Automobile Machine Gun Brigade No. 1, redesignated 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, arrive from England on 21 June and their heavy machine guns were added to the rearward positions of the division.

From late June to mid-September 1915 a strange tranquillity persisted across the Canadian front. Apart from the activity of snipers on both sides and one small patrol clash in no man's land, the only hostilities were an occasional exchange of light shelling by the opposing artilleries, which in general confined their attention to registering targets. On
three occasions the Royal Engineers exploded mines in front of the Canadian trenches, and detachments of the 13th Battalion (on 9 and 13 July) and the 4th Battalion (on 31 August) occupied the resulting craters without difficulty. Mobile anti-aircraft sections formed from the Motor Machine Gun Brigade occasionally engaged enemy aircraft reconnoitring behind the Canadian lines. July brought a visit from Sir Robert Borden; and in August the Minister of Militia, Major-General Sam Hughes, spent two days with the Canadians, witnessing a shoot by three field batteries and reviewing the P.P.C.L.I. and the R.C.H.A. Before the end of September the arrival of a second division in France had increased Canadian representation in the field into a full army corps.
30

Battle Honours

The following units were granted the Battle Honour "Festubert, 1915" for participation in these actions:

Canadian Cavalry Brigade

  • The Royal Canadian Dragoons

  • Lord Strathcona's Horse

1st Canadian Brigade

  • 1st Battalion, CEF

  • 2nd Battalion, CEF

  • 3rd Battalion, CEF

  • 4th Battalion, CEF

2nd Canadian Brigade

  • 5th Battalion, CEF

  • 7th Battalion, CEF

  • 8th Battalion, CEF

  • 10th Battalion, CEF

3rd Canadian Brigade

  • 13th Battalion, CEF

  • 14th Battalion, CEF

  • 15th Battalion, CEF

  • 16th Battalion, CEF

Notes

  1. Nicholson, Gerald Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 (Duhamel, Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery, Ottawa, 1964) p.82

  2. Sheldon, Jack The German Army on Vimy Ridge 1914-1917 (Pen & Sword Military Books Ltd, Barnsley, UK, 2008) ISBN 978-1-84415-680-1 p.87

  3. Nicholson, Ibid,pp.83-84

  4. Ibid, p.85

  5. Marteinson, John. We Stand on Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army (Ovale Publications, Montreal, PQ, 1992) ISBN 2894290438 p.118

  6. Nicholson, Ibid, p.86

  7. Duguid, A. Forescue History of the Canadian Grenadier Guards (Gazette Printing Company, Montreal, PQ, 1965)  p.84. "Emma" was the phonetic for "M" in the phonetic alphabet of the day. The official history by Nicholson further explains that `"On the trench maps in current use topographical features and other tactical objectives were indicated by e.g., J.1, J.2, etc. The letters distinguished narrow sectors of the front in alphabetical order from right to consecutively from the British front line out into enemy territory." (p.88, footnote)

  8. Nicholson, Ibid

  9. Duguid, Ibid, pp.84-85

  10. Zuehlke, Mark. Brave Battalion: The Remarkable Saga of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) in the First World War (John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd., Mississauga, ON, 2008) ISBN 978-0-470-15416-8 p.71

  11. Ibid, pp.71-73

  12. Nicholson, Ibid, p.88

  13. Zuehlke, Ibid, pp.75-76

  14. Nicholson, Ibid, p.88

  15. Zuehlke, Ibid, p.78

  16. Nicholson, Ibid, p.88

  17. Dancocks, Daniel G. Gallant Canadians: The Story of the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion 1914-1919 (The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Funds Foundation, Calgary, AB, 1990) ISBN 0-9694616-0-7, pp.46-47

  18. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.88-89

  19. Dancocks, Ibid, p.48

  20. Nicholson, Ibid, p.49

  21. Dancocks, Ibid, p.48

  22. Nicholson, Ibid, p.89

  23. Ibid, pp.89-90

  24. Ibid, pp.91-92

  25. Dancocks, Ibid, p.53

  26. Zuehlke, Ibid, p.78

  27. Nicholson, Ibid, p.93

  28. Duguid, A. Forescue A Question of Confidence: The Ross Rifle in the Trenches (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON) ISBN 1-894581-00-8 p.43

  29. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.94-95

  30. Ibid, pp.95-96


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