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.
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.
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.
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.
For the Canadian battalions, the battle promised new challenges:
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
22-24 May - Continued
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
The following units were granted the Battle Honour "Festubert, 1915" for participation in these actions:
Canadian Cavalry Brigade