Published By Ben Hillidge
Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April – 25 May 1915
The Second Battle of Ypres. 22 April – 25 May 1915, was a series of 4 attacks by the German army in attempt to break through the allied lines, to capture Ypres and secure the route to the sea, The attacks were along the northern section of the Ypres Salient at Gravenstafel Ridge, St Julien, Frezenberg Ridge and Bellewaarde.
Gravenstafel Ridge 22 – 23 April 1915. Second Ypres
The front was to the north of Ypres centred on the village of Langemark. The Allied lines were held by French troops many from French North Africa. The Germans, for the first time on the Western Front, used chlorine gas, the effect was devastating. The troops were caught completely unawares and had no gas masks. Hundreds died in the front line and panic ensued as survivors fled back. A huge gap opened up in the line through which the Germans rushed. Within about an hour the Germans had advanced 3-4km and had established a new line along Pilkem Ridge and the Yser Canal. This exposed the left flank of the adjacent British sector and it was only after hard fighting by Canadian forces to organise a defensive flank and hold the German advance that the threat of being overrun was averted (this was the action in which Malcolm Macleod was KIA, friend of Private 17094 Warren A Ash) The Canadians were also ‘gassed’, their only protection was to piss on a cloth and then breath through it – stale urine was best, the ammonia would neutralise the chlorine. However, because of the lingering gas, the German were slow to advance and the German high command had greatly underestimated its effectiveness and did not have the troop reserves ready to exploit the gap to full advantage.
Battle of St Julien 24 April – 4 May 1915, Second Ypres
Following their successes of the last 2 days against French troops the Germans now turned their attention to the British forces. The British front line had now been withdrawn to a line running roughly north to south centred on the hamlet of St Julien about 8kms north west of Ypres. On 24 April the Germans renewed their attack. Canadian troops took the full force of the assault, they held on desperately but were slowly driven back. Over the next days reinforcements were moved up – amongst the reinforcements were 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and 6 Bn Durham Light Infantry.
Battle of Frezenberg Ridge 8 – 13 May 1915, Second Ypres
No Oswestry Casualties
Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge 24-25 May 1915,Second Ypres
On 24 May the Germans launched an assault on a line north from Bellewaarde Ridge to Langemark.. The battle area was about 5 miles east of Ypres – today some of the ground is the Bellewaarde holiday and amusement park. The offensive began at 2.45am with an artillery bombardment along the whole front accompanied by a discharge of chlorine gas. The lines were only about 80 yards distance apart and, with many defenders struggling to don their gas masks, the Germans rushed the British lines. The speed of the assault saw the Germans make early successes. In the northern sector, around Mouse Trap Farm, the defences were soon overrun. To the south, around Bellewaarde Lake, the Germans similarly managed to get into the British lines. In the central section the defence held. The next day the fighting continued and the British had to commit their reserves to hold the line. By the evening, with the heavy casualties and despite reinforcements, it was clear that the positions could not be held and a withdrawal was made to a new defensive line. The Germans however did not press their advantage and by the 26 May the attack had subsided.
B&O Ypres. Second Ypres. 22 Ap-25 May 1915. TOP PAGE.