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

 

Ypres, 1915

Ypres, 1915 was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian units participating in the first Canadian actions on the Western Front during the First World War.

Background

The battles around Ypres in April 1915 were actually known collectively as the Second Battle of Ypres.

The Second Battle of Ypres was the first time Germany used chemical weapons on a large scale on the Western Front in the First World War. The Second Battle of Ypres actually consisted of four separate battles:

  • The Battle of Gravenstafel - 22 to 23 April 1915

  • The Battle of St. Julien - 24 April to 4 May 1915

  • The Battle of Frezenberg - 8 to 13 May 1915

  • The Battle of Bellewaarde - 24 to 25 May 1915

When the "Race to the Sea" swept through the area around Ypres, the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 had resulted in a salient – a bulge in the line – 8,000 metres deep to the east and north of the town, where the ground rose onto a series of low ridges. Ordinarily insignificant, in the flat countryside, these tiny heights became of supreme importance to the Germans, who gained the advantage of observation out over the countryside, and into the salient, where they could see what occurred between the Allied lines and Ypres itself.

 

On the 1st of April 1915, the Canadian Division (it would not be known as the "1st" until the Second Contingent was formed and arrived overseas later in the year) was posted to the northeast corner of the salient, and given its first real heavy-duty combat assignment: 4,000 yards of front to defend. To the right was the 28th Division of the British Army, which included the newly raised Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (at that time, a battalion under British command, it later transferred to the 3rd Canadian Division), and to the left of the Canadian Division the 45th Algerian Division of the French Army.

The armies were still feeling their way into the concepts of modern war, including trench warfare. The French, who had occupied the trenches the Canadians were moving into, had not felt the need to dig deep, had not connected the trenches into a complete system, had not enclosed the rear of the trenches with a parados, or wall, and in many places piles of German dead had been left unburied. Wire – some of it unbarbed – was scant and one of the 10th Battalion's machine gun sections actually walked across No Man's Land without even realizing it, until halted by a German sentry. The battalion's second in command had a similar experience, walking with another major; they blundered upon the German lines during their first night in the Salient and stumbled on a German sentry without even realizing they had crossed No Man's Land. They made good their escape by dropping to the ground and crawling back without incident.

Map published by the New York Times in 1915. The dark line shows the Ypres Salient as it appeared more or less at the start of the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and the shaded territory shows the major area of fighting. The first gas attacks were launched in the area between Steenstraate and Langemarck, garrisoned by the French 87th (Territorial) and 45th (Algerian) Divisions. The PPCLI, in 1915 part of the British Army, had their baptism of fire south-east of St. Julien at Frezenberg, as part of the 28th Division. When all was said and done, 2nd Ypres cost the Allies 70,000 men, and the Germans 35,000 – but was considered an Allied victory. The desired breakthrough of the Allied lines never came. The British were able to shorten their lines, though with Ypres itself closer to the front, it was eventually shelled into rubble. Kitcheners' Wood suffered the same fate, and photos taken after the war show only a handful of shrapnel-riddled trunks standing on the grounds of the former oak plantation. The Canadians returned to do battle in 1917, in what historians called the 3rd Battle of Ypres, or more popularly, the Battle of Passchendaele.

A secondary trench line, marked on the maps, was nowhere to be found, and a third line – dubbed the GHQ Line – was nothing more than strong points 500 yards apart strung together in a line, with a 6-yard wide belt of barbed wire as protection. The Germans were said to be preparing an attack; rumours of poison gas spread after prisoners leaked the word of their preparations – large tanks of chlorine gas had been brought up well in advance, waiting for a favourable breeze to carry it into the Allied lines. The Germans had already used gas on the Eastern Front, but there was a reluctance among the Allies to believe that the Germans would use it in the west, where the Hague Conventions of 1907 specifically forbade the use of "poison or poisoned weapons."


Ypres Salient on the morning of 21 April 1915

Gas attack at Gravenstafel

See also main article on Gravenstafel

The Second Battle of Ypres opened when 168 tons of chlorine gas were released by the Germans at 5:00p.m. on April 22nd over a four mile front, following a heavy bombardment that had started at 4:00p.m. The gas affected the lungs and the eyes causing respiration problems and blindness. Being denser than air it flowed downwards, forcing French troops of the 45th and 78th Divisions to abandon their positions en masse, leaving a 4,000 yard wide gap in the front line.


Click to enlarge

The Canadians in the line to the right could discern a large yellow-green cloud over the French positions; three German divisions swarmed forward past dead and panicked troops. The Canadians were in disarray as many of their telephone lines had been cut in the shelling, and units now began giving conflicting reports back to their headquarters, far behind the front. What was clear was that their left flank was wide open; what was not known was that the Germans had inexplicably stopped for the night after driving 3,000 yards into the French positions.

Early on, the 13th Battalion had strengthened positions around St. Julien under the initiative of their commanding officer. This small group was one of the few holding the entire left flank. To the southwest, the only unit between the Germans and the 3rd Brigade headquarters at Mouse Trap Farm was a battery of British 4.7-inch guns at Kitcheners' Wood. Another battery 1,000 yards north of St. Julien engaged a large number of Germans over open sights at about 7:00p.m. that night, and with the help of men from the 13th, 14th and 15th Battalions, were able to move their guns back to safety. Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher of the 13th Battalion was instrumental in this action, and killed the next day – he became the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the Great War.

An hour later, the commander of the 3rd Brigade by now fully realized the delicate situation his left flank was in, and requested reinforcement from the 2nd Brigade and from the Division. The 10th Battalion, reserve unit for the 2nd Brigade, and the 16th Battalion, in reserve for the 3rd Brigade, were tasked for an immediate counter-attack on Kitcheners' Wood.

Kitcheners' Wood

The name of this oak plantation derived from the French name, Bois-de-Cuisineres, a reference to the fact that French soldiers housed their field kitchens there. The 10th Battalion was assembled and ready to go at 11:00 pm. The 16th Battalion arrived as they were forming, tasked to support the advance. Both battalions had over 800 men at the start line and formed up in waves of two companies each. Neither unit had spent a single minute on training in night fighting, no reconnaissance had been conducted on the ground, no intelligence was available on where exactly the enemy was located or in what strength, and there was no co-ordination between the two units as to what each would do once they had reached the woods. The order was simply given to advance at quarter to midnight.

The leading waves of the 10th covered half the distance from the start line to the Wood, running into a strong hedge interlaced with wire. No reconnaissance had been done prior and the battalion was forced to break through the obstacle with rifle butts, bringing down fire from alerted German machine-gunners about 200 yards distant. Both battalions charged the last 200 yards to the wood, but the commanding officer of the 10th, Lieutenant Colonel Boyle, was mortally wounded in the opening moments of the firefight, being hit five times in the groin by a German machine gun.

As the battalions crashed into the wood, having lost many senior officers in the charge, soldiers of both battalions thoroughly intermingled, and fell on the Germans with rifles, bayonets, and even rifle butts and bare hands. Algerian troops accompanying the Canadians led the attack towards the right, towards their former positions. The Germans began to surrender, but many were still shooting, and there were relatively few attackers and as a consequence, according to the battalion's second in command "very few prisoners were taken and many lives were lost by the enemy forces." The Canadians had hit the boundary of two regiments, the 2nd Prussian Guards and the 234th Bavarian Infantry, and taken one of their colonels prisoner.

By midnight, it was over, fifteen minutes after it had begun. A German prisoner paid the 10th the ultimate compliment, acknowledging to his guard "You fellows fight like hell" as he was marched to the rear. Inside the wood, the 4.7-inch guns of the 2nd London Heavy Battery were found – with the bodies of some of their crew lying intermingled with German bodies – lying abandoned after a ferocious fight.

The battalions reorganized, but the fighting was only beginning. A German redoubt in the southwest corner of the wood was still holding out. Further attacks on the German hold-outs were brushed off by machine-gun and small-arms fire.

By 2:30a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Leckie of the 16th Battalion realized that there were too few men on the ground to hold the wood, and he ordered a withdrawal to a trench on the south edge. During a roll call in the morning, of the 816 that had set out the previous night, only 193 were left on their feet. The 16th Battalion was down to 268 all ranks.

The 3rd Brigade area, in the meantime, continued to receive reinforcements, and the 2nd, 3rd and part of the 7th Battalions were put into the sector north of St. Julien to shore up the line, along with five British battalions. Another counter-attack, at Mauser Ridge, had been ordered by the French, with the support of two Canadian battalions. The French never launched their attack, but the 4th Battalion went forward anyway on the morning of the 23rd, and along with the 1st Battalion took heavy casualties. Supporting artillery had not been able to bring down sufficiently heavy weights of fire to keep the enemy suppressed. The two battalions made repeated attempts to move forward until ordered to hold fast later in the morning. The original front line was holding firm, and a shaky but intact defensive line had been extemporized on the once-open left flank.

The survivors of the 10th spent the 23rd in their trench on the southern edge of the wood, attempting to improve their position – the parapet had been blown down in places – and even digging communications trenches back to a slight dip further south. Some of their number were engaged in a day-long firefight near the enemy redoubt, only 50 yards from the trench. At dawn on the 24th of April, following a heavy bombardment to the 10th Battalion's right, another yellow-green cloud appeared from the German lines, creeping out over the trenches and seeping into the lines of the Canadian Division. The official history called what happened next “a great and terrible day for Canada.” The Battle of St. Julien had begun.

The Battle of St. Julien

The chlorine gas hit the 15th and 8th Battalions; supporting artillery fire thinned the ranks of the Germans coming for the 8th Battalion, but the S.O.S. flares of the 15th Battalion went unheeded, as their supporting battery had moved out of range.

Anti-gas equipment had by now been distributed, in the form of damp cotton-gauze masks. Someone – it is not clear today who – advised that urine soked handkerchiefs would also neutralize chlorine, and many soldiers attempted that as a solution. The gas cloud was strongest at the boundary of the two battalions, and the protective equipment did nothing to shield the eyes. Many troops suffered seared eyes and lungs, particularly in the innermost companies along the inter-unit boundary. One company of the 8th Battalion, however, was missed entirely by the gas cloud and brought heavy fire on the advancing Germans. Unfortunately, as was common throughout the 2nd Battle of Ypres, they found that their Ross rifles were prone to jamming, especially during rapid fire, to the point that in some cases it took several men to keep one weapon operating. It was during the fighting on the 8th Battalion front that the second Canadian Victoria Cross of the war was earned, when Company Sergeant Major Frederick Hall attempted to rescue a wounded man lying forward of his trench; he was killed in the attempt.

The 15th Battalion was eventually pushed back 700 yards to the base of the Gravenstafel Ridge. They suffered 647 casualties in the greatest single-battle loss of any Canadian battalion for the entire war. The 13th Battalion, having held back the initial attack, was also forced to withdraw from its positions in the northwest sector of the Canadian line. Units not yet engaged were thrown into the fight – what was left of the 10th Battalion was withdrawn from Kitcheners' Wood, having been relieved by the 2nd Battalion, was sent to help, numbering now just 3 officers and 171 men. “Battalions” by now were, in the words of historian John Marteinson, “simply ad hoc groups of men in the same general location.” The 16th Battalion went to reinforce a new line being formed by the 3rd Brigade, while the 8th Battalion received companies of the 5th and 7th Battalions. The Germans had managed to capture the apex of the Ypres Salient, but the Canadians were able to limit their gains to a maximum penetration of 1,000 yards. The day was far from over, however, and fresh battalions continued to attack.

At mid-morning, renewed assaults hit the line north-east of St. Julien, particularly the positions of the 7th Battalion. Machine Gun officer Lieutenant Edward Bellew received Canada's third Victoria Cross of the war, single-handedly holding off an overwhelming force until his automatic weapon ran out of ammunition, then resorting to his pistol and a bayonet until he was taken prisoner. The 7th Battalion was all but wiped out when they, along with the 14th and 15th Battalions, decided independent of brigade orders to attempt a withdrawal.

By early afternoon, the Canadians had lost another 1,000 yards of territory beyond St. Julien, with the remnants of fourteen companies belonging to five different battalions all that was left in the defences. While the 2nd Brigade was still holding firm in its original positions, its left flank was now completely “in the air.”

The 3rd Brigade added to the confusion by beginning a further withdrawal without communicating with other units, to the GHQ Line, 1500 yards southwest of St. Julien, and 3500 yards to the rear of Gravenstafel Ridge. As they were preparing to move, however, British battalions arrived to reinforce the position, sent by the commander of the British 27th Division. The German commanders seemed equally disoriented, pausing in their advance rather than capitalizing on the open flanks and rolling up the 2nd Brigade. The remnants of the 2nd, 3rd and 13th Battalions still fighting around St. Julien were finally overrun when ammunition gave out, the last troops succumbing at 3:00p.m.; an hour later two more British battalions arrived and counterattacked to push the Germans beyond St. Julien. The Canadian Division was ordered that evening to retake the town, and went forward on the 25th with entirely British units into the face of massed machine gun fire.

Fighting in the Ypres Salient continued into May, but the Canadians' part in the great drama came to an end on the 25th. The 1st and 3rd Brigades left the front lines for the rear on the 26th, and the 2nd Brigade the next day. Divisional headquarters nominally maintained a sector, but with British battalions under command.

Third Phase

See also articles on Frezenberg and Bellewaarde

The third phase of 2nd Ypres opened on May 8th, with a German attack on the Frezenberg Ridge. P.P.C.L.I., having suffered a violent bombardment which wounded or killed most of its officers, fought off several determined German attacks over the course of nine hours. When they were relieved at midnight, they numbered just 150 men. Their 80th Brigade did not relent, while their neighbours in the 84th broke, creating a two mile gap. A counter-attack by the 10th Brigade was mounted, and on the 9th another attack was made by the Germans against the 27th Division. On the 10th, poison gas was again used, but made little difference; all told, after six days of fighting, the Germans managed to advance their lines 2,000 yards into the salient.

The final phase of the 2nd Ypres fighting occurred with a last gas attack on the 24th of May during the Battle of Bellewaarde. The two-day battle forced another British retreat of 1,000 yards.

Aftermath

Twenty-eight 10th Battalion men had been captured by the Germans in the confused fighting of 22-23 April; a significant statistic, as measured against the total of captured men for the entire war, which was 35.

It was during 2nd Ypres that John McCrae was inspired to write the poem In Flanders Fields.

After Second Ypres, both sides developed more sophisticated gas weapons, and countermeasures, and never again was the use of gas especially effective. All four phases of the Second Battle of Ypres were Allied victories, though they had been costly; the Canadian Division suffered 60% casualties in total.

Battle Honours

The Battle Honour "Ypres, 1915" was awarded to the following units for participation in these actions:

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


© canadiansoldiers.com 1999-present