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

►Ypres, 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

.
►Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Trasimene Line
►Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

►Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

►Gabbiano

1 Jul 44

►Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

►Tuori

5 Jul 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

►Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 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

 

Gravenstafel

Gravenstafel 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. See also the main article on Ypres 1915.

 

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.1

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

There was no warning on the morning or afternoon of 22 April that the Canadians would be in action imminently. It was a bright and sunny day, and while the 2nd and 3rd Brigades were manning the front line, the 1st Brigade was at Vlamertinghe training, though alerted for a possible action at Hill 60. While enemy shelling had been heavy since 19 April, German fire had fallen mainly on roads and bridges to the north and east of Ypres, falling off in the afternoon. Things changed on the afternoon of 22 April when after 4:00 p.m. the French line on the northern part of the salient was violently shelled, and the fire then shifted to the Canadian sector.

The Second Battle of Ypres was opened in earnest at 5:00 p.m. when 168 tons of chlorine gas were released by the Germans, released from 5,730 gas cylinders when the valves were open, a process that took from six to eight minutes in the light north-east wind. The Canadians heard small-arms fire and French 75mm cannons firing to their north flank, and the 3rd Brigade saw the gas cloud - a green-coloured mass several hundred yards long - drift from the enemy trenches towards the French.

The chlorine drifted southward at five or six miles an hour, producing an initial concentration about half a mile in depth. It caught in its deadly embrace the Tirailleurs and African Light Infantry holding the Langemarck sector and the Territorials of the 87th Division farther west. Half suffocated, and with eyes streaming and nose and throat burning, their morale broken by this unexpected terror, many abandoned their positions and fled, leaving behind large numbers of dead.

The Canadian sector had escaped the gas concentration, and at all levels of command steps were taken to deal with the serious situation that was developing on the northern flank. General Alderson and his C.R.A. were at the crossroads 1000 yards north-east of St. Julien when the attack started. They made their way on foot back to their horses at Wieltje and then rode back to Divisional Headquarters, in the Château des Trois Tours, west of Brielen. From here the first order was issued just before six. Shortly before 9:30 p.m. the C.R.E. reported the canal bridges prepared for demolition. Meanwhile in the front line the left company of the 13th Battalion sent two platoons to line the ditch of the Poelcappelle road in support of a small party of Tirailleurs, who from their original trench were exchanging fire with Germans occupying a parallel hedge. Some 600 yards nearer Ypres, covering the culvert over the Lekkerboterbeek, two more platoons of the 13th Battalion manned the ditch, their numbers increased by Algerian riflemen driven back by the gas. The battalion commander, Lt.-Col. F.O.W. Loomis, who was also Commandant, St. Julien, ordered his small garrison there into battle positions, placing one company on each side of the road north of the village, and holding the remaining two platoons in reserve. These dispositions left unguarded a stretch of more than a mile of the road north of St. Julien, except for the 10th Battery C.F.A. south of Keerselaere.2


Click to enlarge

The Canadians had been spared the gas concentration, but the situation was clearly a serious one. General Alderson and the division's Commander, Royal Artillery were located at the crossroad 1,000 yards northeast of St. Julien as the German attack commenced, and returned on foot to their horses at Wieltje, to ride back to Division HQ west of Brielen. Their first orders were not issued until just before 6:00 p.m. Just before 9:30 p.m. the Commander, Royal Engineers reported bridges over the Yser Canal ready for demolition. At the front, the left company of the 13th Battalion had sent two platoons to line the ditch of the Poelcapelle road to support  a small group of French troops who were in a firefight with Germans occupying a hedge parallel to their original trench. Two more platoons of the 13th occupied a ditch 600 yards closer to Ypres, covering the culvert crossing the Lekkerboterbeek. Algerian riflemen scattered by the gas attack augmented their strength. The C.O. of the 13th Battalion, also holding the appointment of Commandant, St. Julien, ordered the garrison out into defensive positions, and two companies held the road north of the village, with two platoons in reserve. Unfortunately, the deployment left a mile of the road north of St. Julien unguarded, save for a battery of Canadian artillery south of Keerselaere.

The rout of French troops of the 45th and 78th Divisions caused a larger gap west of St. Julien, and due to its location near the center of the German attack, posed a great danger. A battery of 4.7-inch guns positioned by the British at Kitcheners' Wood half a mile away was the only position still manned between the former French front line and the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Brigade at Mouse Trap Farm. At 6:00 p.m. the 14th Battalion was ordered out of reserve by Brigadier-General Turner, and moved from St. Jean (one company was in St. Julien itself) to occupy part of the G.H.Q. Line from the Ypres-St. Julien road, to a point beyond Mouse Trap Farm. To their left, a group of 500 Zouaves extended southwest to Hampshire Farm (located 600 yards west of Brigade HQ) and on the right the 3rd Field Company, Canadian Engineers were covering the Wieltje-St. Julien road.

By that time German rifle fire was coming from Mauser Ridge, which ran westward from Kitcheners Wood. Not until 8:00 p.m. did Turner receive a delayed message releasing to him from divisional reserve his fourth battalion, the 16th Battalion, which had meanwhile lined the west bank of the Yser Canal. Elements of the 1st and 2nd Field Companies C.E. were left to guard the vulnerable canal bridges. Brig.-Gen. Currie did not wait for a parallel message releasing the 10th Battalion from reserve. He took control of the battalion and had it moving forward shortly after six o'clock. With telephone lines broken by enemy shelling, information reaching brigade and divisional headquarters was slow and frequently inaccurate. A series of messages dispatched by hand from 3rd Brigade Headquarters between 6:45 and 7:10 p.m. erroneously reported that the left of the Canadian front line had been "forced back towards St. Julien", and then "forced back on G.H.Q. line". The 1st Canadian Division at once relayed this faulty intelligence to the 5th Corps, and ordered the 2nd Brigade "to hang on and take care of your left". Currie, whose headquarters were at Pond Farm, south-east of St. Julien, immediately ordered the 10th Battalion's C.O. to report to the commander of the 3rd Brigade. To secure his own sector he concentrated the whole of the 7th Battalion about Locality "C" on the Gravenstafel Ridge.

Reports of the German attack began reaching Second Army Headquarters at Hazebrouck at 6:45 p.m., and during the next two hours a disturbing picture enveloped of both French divisions having been driven from their first and second lines of defence with the loss of all their guns, and of virtually no formed bodies of French troops remaining east of the Yser Canal. This meant that except for the hasty dispositions made from within the resources of the 1st Canadian Division the Second Army's left flank lay open for 8000 yards. A successful German attack through this gap would not only threaten Ypres but would take in the rear the three divisions still holding the Salient.3


The release of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade from army reserve at Vlameringhe was one of the first moves General Smith-Dorrien made in response to the German attack, and the 5th Corps was able to provide the 2nd and 3rd Battalions to General Alderson at 8:15 p.m. They moved forward immediately with an escort from the divisional cavalry, across 3,000 yards of open front. The 2nd Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (then the reserve battalion of the 28th Division a mile northwest of Ypres) was also put at the disposal of the 1st Division. During the course of 2nd Ypres, no fewer than 33 British battalions would come under the command of General Alderson's 1st Canadian Division. Throughout the salient, reserves of the British 27th and 28th Divisions were called forward, including the 4th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, the 2nd Buffs (East Keng Regiment) and the 3rd Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, all in and around St. Jean. The situation north of St. Jean was especially dire, as only a single French machine gun had remained to seal a 3,000 yard gap between Hampshire Farm and the Yser Canal.4

The Germans had achieved a clear victory; in the words of one historian, "...one of the few occasions in the entire war that either side achieved a clear-cut breakthrough."5 However, despite the fact that "(f)or a few tantalizing hours, the salient was theirs for the taking, and with it, four British divisions and most of their artillery and support services", the Germans were unable to capitalize.6 The advance on the German right and centre halted as both enemy corps gained their initial objectives. Units on the canal flank were an exception; gas cylinders on the western end of the flank had not discharged for some reason, and Steenstraat held out against the 45th Reserve Division until late evening, and the left wing of the 46th Reserve Division was kept from the eastern bank of the canal. To the east, the 51st Reserve Division was also checked at Langemarck, the Allied garrison escaping the punishing full effect of the gas cloud, though the village was eventually occupied by the Germans by 6:00 p.m. The British guns at Kitcheners' Wood were eventually overrun before nightfall, and the 52nd Reserve Division too Mauser Ridge and positions overlooking the Boesinghe railway bridge. Satisfied with their gains, the Germans dug in.7

In recording the difficulties encountered by the 51st Reserve Division at Langemarck and farther east, the German Official History blames the fact that the gas "had not had a decisive effect, or else the troops had not followed it up immediately. So it was that the extreme right wing of the French and the Canadians adjoining on the east could offer an obstinate resistance." The two isolated platoons of the 13th Battalion's No. 3 Company at the Lekkerboterbeek crossing fought with mounting casualties until overwhelmed by superior numbers. Farther north, at the left of the Canadian front line, the Algerian detachment was forced back to the Poelcappelle road, where the 13th Battalion's detachment, reinforced by two more platoons drawn from other companies, maintained a stalwart defence against the attackers' heavy rifle fire. South of Keerselaere guns of the 10th Field Battery, in action since early evening, halted a body of Germans marching on St. Julien. To cover the battery in its exposed position, within 500 yards of the enemy, the Commandant of the St. Julien garrison sent forward a party of 60 infantrymen of the 14th and 15th Battalions and a machine-gun detachment of the 13th Battalion. This manoeuvre, which contributed to the safe withdrawal of the 10th Battery's guns, owed much of its success to the skill and daring of Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher in working his Colt machine-gun forward under heavy fire and bringing it into effective action against the Germans. Fisher, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, was killed next day.8

Aftermath

 

The German 4th Army, under the command of Duke Albrecht, had not been allocated sufficient reserves to carry out the intended strategic mission asked of it. Originally intended as a limited operation to test the tactical use of gas as a weapon, a secondary objective was to create a diversion for German units departing the west for the Eastern Front. The threat of a German breakthrough of the Allied lines to the Channel ports was exaggerated in both contemporary and post-war histories, but the crisis faced by the BEF was nonetheless real. The collapse of the French divisions had posed a major difficulty for the division of untested Canadians. Albrecht, the German commander, had erred in focusing his own efforts away from the salient, towards Poperinghe, west of the Yser Canal, at a time when victory was within his grasp. The fighting ability and unwillingness to concede displayed by the Canadians, in all phases of the Ypres fighting, proved to be major contributions to Allied victory in the 2nd Battle of Ypres.9
 
Battle Honours

The Battle Honour "Gravenstafel" 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

Notes

  1. Dancocks, Daniel G. Gallant Canadians: The Story of the Tenth Canadian Infantry Battalion 1914-1919 (The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Funds Foundation, Calgary, AB, 1990) ISBN 0-9694616-0-7 p.20

  2. Nicholson, Gerald W.L. Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 (Queen's Printer Ottawa, ON, 1964) pp.57-58

  3. Ibid, pp.58-59

  4. Ibid, p.59

  5. Dancocks, Ibid, p.28

  6. Ibid

  7. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.59-60

  8. Ibid, p.60

  9. Dancocks, Ibid, pp.28-29


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