Published By Ben Hillidge
La Brique – 1 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 17 – 20 December 1915.
The 1 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry was still up the Ypres Salient and had been spending their time in tours in the front line with periods back in Poperinghe. On 17 December they began tours in the trenches at la Brique, north of Ypres town. The trenches were in a terrible state due to the continual wet weather as well as neglect. The front line was made up of small posts which were scattered at intervals along the front. Communications between them were difficult, similarly the communication trenches were impassable and the front was cut off during daylight. Over the 17 and 18 December the enemy began a heavy bombardment as a prelude to an impending attack. Intelligence reports had also suggested that gas would be used again. The men were prepared and ready with gas helmets. Sure enough, on at 5.30am on 19 December, the attack came. Phosgene was released, previously the gas used had been chlorine, phosgene was more potent and deadly. The wind direction and speed was perfect for the Germans and the gas drifted north west across the British lines. The men in the front line, being forewarned, were ready with gas masks and most of the casualties were back in the support and reserve lines, the gas cloud drifted as far back as Poperinghe, 8 miles away.
Following the gas release the Germans attacked launching their assault along the 1 Bn KSLI sector. A heavy barrage preceded the attack and would continue into the night. Determined and rapid rifle fire drove the enemy back and the assault was repulsed. The regimental history records that the ‘men behaved very gallantly and coolly… At the end of the day the battalion was full of fight, and the men were singing in the trenches’. The battalion casualties were 6 killed by shells or GSW and 4 killed by gas and 43 seriously effected. The battalion was relieved the next day and went into billets at Poperinghe.
GOOGLE MAPS Centres on location of La Brique, now a hospital site. Also La Brique CWGC Cemeteries
References and Sources WAR DIARY 1 Bn KSLI. Regimental History KSLI.
B&O 1915. Ypres. 1 Bn KSLI. La Brique. 17-20 December 1915.