India Canada South Africa Australia New Zealand Newfoundland United Kingdom
Belgium German Empire
Commanders and leaders
2 French and 6 British divisions 7 divisions
Casualties and losses
French: 2,000–3,000 to 21,973 British: 59,275 34,933–35,000 +
Ypres, a Belgian municipality in the
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v t e
Second Battle of Ypres 1915
Gravenstafel St. Julien Frezenberg Bellewaarde
During World War I, the Second
Battle of Ypres was fought from 22
April – 25 May 1915 for control of the strategic
1 Background 2 Battle
Battle of Gravenstafel
3.1 Analysis 3.2 Casualties 3.3 Subsequent operations
4.1 Victoria Cross recipients
5 See also 6 Notes 7 Footnotes 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links
Background The battle consisted of six engagements:
Battle of Gravenstafel: Thursday 22 April – Friday 23 April 1915 Battle of St. Julien: Saturday 24 April – 4 May Battle of Frezenberg: 8–13 May Battle of Bellewaarde: 24–25 May Battle of Hooge 30–31 July 1915 (first German use of flamethrowers) Second Attack on Bellewaarde 25 September
Fields at Langemark-Poelkapelle, facing north towards the German trench from which the gas was released on 22 April 1915. The German trenches ran approximately from the farmhouse on the left to the group of willow trees on the right.
In the hamlet of Gravenstafel (50°53′28″N 2°58′44″E /
50.891°N 2.979°E / 50.891; 2.979) at about 5:00 p.m. on 22
April, the German Army released 168 long tons (171 t) of chlorine
gas over a 6.5 km (4.0 mi) front on the line held by French
Territorial and colonial Moroccan and Algerian troops of the French
45th and 87th divisions. Although poison gas had been used before,
Battle of Bolimów
Belgian troops wearing early gas masks, 1915
The French troops in the path of the gas cloud sustained about 6,000
casualties. Many died within ten minutes (primarily from asphyxia and
tissue damage in the lungs), and many more were blinded.
Plainly something terrible was happening. What was it? Officers, and Staff officers too, stood gazing at the scene, awestruck and dumbfounded; for in the northerly breeze there came a pungent nauseating smell that tickled the throat and made our eyes smart. The horses and men were still pouring down the road. two or three men on a horse, I saw, while over the fields streamed mobs of infantry, the dusky warriors of French Africa; away went their rifles, equipment, even their tunics that they might run the faster. One man came stumbling through our lines. An officer of ours held him up with levelled revolver, "What's the matter, you bloody lot of cowards?" says he. The Zouave was frothing at the mouth, his eyes started from their sockets, and he fell writhing at the officer's feet. — A. R. Hossack
A 4-mile (6.4 km) gap was left in the front line. The German High Command had not foreseen the effectiveness of the new weapon and all available troops had been transferred to Russia, leaving few reserves in the west. General von Falkenhayn, Chief of the German General Staff, had ordered the attack as a limited effort by the German 4th Army. German troops advanced at 5:00 p.m., but dusk, apprehension about the effect of the gas and the lack of reserves prevented the Germans from exploiting the gap more significantly. Canadian troops defended the flank of the break-in by urinating into cloth and holding them to their faces to counter the effects of the gas. Casualties were especially heavy for the 13th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), which was enveloped on three sides and over-extended in securing its left flank after the Algerian Division broke. At Kitcheners' Wood, the 10th Battalion of the 2nd Canadian Brigade was ordered to counter-attack in the gap created by the gas attack. They formed up after 11:00 p.m. on 22 April, with the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) of the 3rd Brigade arriving to support the advance. Both battalions attacked with over 800 men, in waves of two companies each, at 11:46 p.m. Without reconnaissance, the battalions ran into obstacles halfway to their objective; engaged in small-arms fire from the wood, they began an impromptu bayonet charge. The attack cleared the former oak plantation of Germans at a 75-percent casualty rate.
The Germans set fire to a chemical product of sulphur chloride which they had placed in front of their own trenches, causing a thick yellow cloud to be blown towards the trenches of the French and Belgians. The cloud of smoke advanced like a yellow low wall, overcoming all those who breathed in poisonous fumes. The French were unable to see what they were doing or what was happening. The Germans then charged, driving the bewildered French back past their own trenches. Those who were enveloped by the fumes were not able to see each other half a yard apart. I have seen some of the wounded who were overcome by the sulphur fumes, and they were progressing favourably. The effect of the sulphur appears to be only temporary. The after-effects seem to be a bad swelling of the eyes, but the sight is not damaged. — The Daily Mail (26 April 1915)
Dusk was falling when from the German trenches in front of the French line rose that strange green cloud of death. The light north-easterly breeze wafted it toward them, and in a moment death had them by the throat. One cannot blame them that they broke and fled. In the gathering dark of that awful night they fought with the terror, running blindly in the gas-cloud, and dropping with breasts heaving in agony and the slow poison of suffocation mantling their dark faces. Hundreds of them fell and died; others lay helpless, froth upon their agonized lips and their racked bodies powerfully sick, with tearing nausea at short intervals. They too would die later – a slow and lingering death of agony unspeakable. The whole air was tainted with the acrid smell of chlorine that caught at the back of men's throats and filled their mouths with its metallic taste. — Captain Alfred Oliver Pollard, The Memoirs of a VC (1932)
Battle of St. Julien
The village of St. Julien (now Sint-Juliaan; 50°53′24″N
2°56′13″E / 50.890°N 2.937°E / 50.890; 2.937) was in
the rear of the
1st Canadian Division
Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger, V.C., M.D.
Capt. Francis Scrimger of the 2nd Canadian Field Ambulance may have
passed the order to use urine to counteract the gas, on the advice of
Lt.-Col. G. G. Nasmith (see note 10). Soldiers realised they were
being gassed and many ran as fast as they could. An hour after the
attack began, there was a 1,500 yards (1,400 m) gap in the Allied
line. Fearing the chlorine, few German soldiers moved forward and
the delay enabled Canadian and British troops to retake the position
before the Germans could exploit the gap.
After the first German chlorine-gas attacks, Allied troops were
supplied with masks of cotton pads soaked in urine; it had been
discovered that the ammonia in the pad neutralised the chlorine. The
pads were held over the face until the gas dispersed. Other soldiers
preferred to use a handkerchief, sock or flannel body-belt, dampened
with a sodium-bicarbonate solution and tied across the mouth and nose,
until the gas passed. Soldiers found it difficult to fight like this,
and attempts were made to develop a better means of protection against
gas attacks. By July 1915, soldiers received efficient gas masks
and anti-asphyxiation respirators. Private W. Hay of the Royal Scots
We knew there was something was wrong. We started to march towards
The French soldiers were naturally taken by surprise. Some got away in time, but many, alas! not understanding the new danger, were not so fortunate, and were overcome by the fumes and died poisoned. Among those who escaped nearly all cough and spit blood, the chlorine-attacking the mucous membrane. The dead were turned black at once. About 15 minutes after letting the gas escape the Germans got out of their trenches. Some of them were sent on in advance, with masks over their heads, to ascertain if the air had become breathable. Having discovered that they could advance, they arrived in large numbers in the area on which the gas had spread itself some minutes before, and took possession of the arms of the dead men. They made no prisoners. Whenever they saw a soldier whom the fumes had not quite killed they snatched away his rifle and advised him to lie down "to die better." — The Daily Chronicle (26 April 1915)
Battle of Frezenberg
On May 24 the Germans released a gas attack that hit Shell Trap Farm and to the area around the north west, which was affected the most by the attack. A report of the event by Captain Thomas J Leahy, of the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, shows that their C.O Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Loveband was suspecting a gas attack and had warned all Company officers. Later the Germans threw up red lights over their trench, which would signal a gas release.
We had only just time to get our respirators on before the gas was over us. — Captain Thomas J Leahy
German forces managed to advance and occupy the British line to north and left of the Battalion. The Battalion was now under heavy fire from the German forces. But with shellfire and the aid from the 9th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders they managed to hold their trenches to the end. 
Germans advancing under cover of enfilade fire, in small parties, finally occupied Battalion line by 2.30pm. Shelling ceased but rifle and M.G. fire remained accurate and constant, whenever a target presented itself, until dusk. — The War Diary
Although British troops defended against initial German attacks, they
were eventually forced to retreat north and south. Failed British
counter-attacks forced a British retreat 1 kilometre (0.62 mi)
northwards. At the end of the battle, the
By the end of the battle the
... I wish particularly to repudiate any idea of attaching the least blame to the French Division for this unfortunate incident. After all the examples our gallant Allies have shown of dogged and tenacious courage in the many trying situations in which they have been placed throughout the course of this campaign it is quite superfluous for me to dwell on this aspect of the incident, and I would only express my firm conviction that, if any troops in the world had been able to hold their trenches in the face of such a treacherous and altogether unexpected onslaught, the French Division would have stood firm. — French
The Canadian Division mounted an effective defence but had 5,975
casualties by its withdrawal on 3 May. The division was unprepared for
the warfare prevailing on the Western Front, where linear tactics were
ineffective against attackers armed with magazine rifles and machine
guns. The Canadian field artillery had been effective but the
deficiencies of the
It produces a flooding of the lungs – it is an equivalent death to drowning only on dry land. The effects are these – a splitting headache and terrific thirst (to drink water is instant death), a knife edge of pain in the lungs and the coughing up of a greenish froth off the stomach and the lungs, ending finally in insensibility and death. The colour of the skin from white turns a greenish black and yellow, the colour protrudes and the eyes assume a glassy stare. It is a fiendish death to die. — Cotton
The First Attack on Bellewaarde was conducted by the 3rd Division of V
Corps on 16 June 1915 and the Second Attack on Bellewaarde, a larger
operation, was conducted from 25–26 September 1915 by the 3rd
Division and the 14th Division of VI Corps. The Battle of Mont Sorrel
(2–13 June 1916) took place south of
Battle list of Canadian troops on the Western Front plaque in Currie Hall, Royal Military College of Canada
Canadian participation in the
Battle of Gravenstafel
Lance Sergeant D. W. Belcher, London Rifle Brigade (TF), 11th Brigade, 4th Division Captain E. D. Bellew, 7th Battalion, British Columbia Regiment, 2nd Canadian Brigade, 1st Canadian Division Jemadar Mir Dast, 55th Rifles (att. 57th Rifles), Ferozepore Brigade, Lahore Division Lance Corporal F. Fisher, 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, 3rd Canadian Brigade, 1st Canadian Division Company Sergeant-Major F. W. Hall, 8th Battalion, Winnipeg Rifles, 2nd Canadian Brigade Private J. Lynn, 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, 12th Brigade, 4th Division 2nd Lieutenant W. B. Rhodes-Moorhouse, 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps Captain F. A. C. Scrimger, (Canadian Army Medical Service), 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment Corporal I. Smith, 1st Manchesters, Jullundur Brigade, Lahore Division Private E. Warner, 1st Bedfordshires, 15th Brigade, 5th Division
World War I
First Battle of Ypres Use of poison gas in World War I Saint Julien Memorial Third Battle of Ypres List of Canadian battles during World War I Langford Wellman Colley-Priest
^ The order is attributed to a Medical Officer, Capt. F.A.C.
Scrimger. Memoirs of two individuals at the battle do not recount
this episode (see Nasmith, 1917 and Scott, 1922), though Nasmith, a
chemist and bacteriologist who was commissioned in the C.A.M.C. as a
laboratory and sanitation officer, recognised the gas on sight as
chlorine and the following day began work on devising an effective way
to counteract the gas.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 171–358.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 375–376.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 370–374.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 176–178.
^ Croddy 2002, pp. 143–144.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 177–178.
^ Hossack, Anthony R. (22 August 2009). "The First Gas Attack". First
World War.com. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
^ Reichsarchiv 2012, p. 41.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, p. 183.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 178–185.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 185–187.
^ a b c d "2nd Battle of Ypres", Spartacus Educational
^ a b Edmonds & Wynne 1995, p. 178.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, p. 195.
^ "Legion Magazine". legionmagazine.com. Archived from the original on
23 November 2005. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 214–239.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 240–255.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 262–263.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, p. 219.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 220–225.
^ a b Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 217–218.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, p. 310.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 311–326.
^ a b "Jeremy Banning - Military Historian - First World War Research
- School Workshops - Lectures". jeremybanning.co.uk. Retrieved 21
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 340–3353.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 353–359.
^ MacPherson et al. 1923, pp. 271–274.
^ Edmonds 1928, pp. 150, 178.
^ MacPherson et al. 1923, pp. 274–277.
^ French 1915, pp. 6787–6789.
^ Rawling 1992, pp. 29–41.
^ a b Rawling 1992, pp. 35–36.
^ Edmonds & Wynne 1995, pp. 359, 284.
^ Rawling 1992, p. 35.
^ Clayton 2002, p. 68.
^ Humphries & Maker2010, p. 168.
^ Sheldon 2012, p. 116.
^ Greenhalgh 2014, p. 91.
^ Girard 2008, p. 13.
^ James 1990, pp. 8–9.
^ Edmonds 1991, pp. 124–386.
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landesbibliotek Oberösterreich online ed.). Berlin: Mittler. 2012
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and Belgium, 1915: Winter 1915: Battle of Neuve Chapelle: Battles of
Ypres. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by
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"Supplement to the London Gazette: 10 May 1915". Harrison and Sons. 1915. ISSN 0261-8575. OCLC 67823031. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
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