Canadian Expeditionary Force, history, Canada, Ca, Can, Canadian, World War 1, WWI, WW1, First World War, 1916-1918
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CANADA IN FLANDERS
By SIR MAX AITKEN, M.P.

THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE
CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
VOLUME I.

APPENDIX II

CANADIANS IN DESPATCHES.

         
  THE following are extracts from the official
despatches of Field-Marshal Sir John French,
Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in
France, dealing with the battles and other fighting
in which the Canadian troops have taken part:-

PRINCESS PATRICIA'S REGIMENT.

         
   With regard to these inspections, I may mention
in particular the fine appearance presented by the
27th and 28th Divisions, composed principally of
battalions which had come from India.
  Included in the former Division was the Princess
Patricia's Royal Canadian Regiment. They are a
magnificent set of men, and have since done ex
cellent work in the trenches.

Sir John French's Despatch, February 2nd, 1915.

PRINCESS PATRICIAS' ATTACK AT
ST. ELOI, FEBRUARY 28th, 1915.

         
  On February 28th a successful minor attack ~
made on the enemy's trenches near St. Eloi by small
parties of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light
196
CANADA IN FLANDERS

Index

I
Mobilisation


II
Warfare


III
Neuve Chapelle


IV
Ypres


V
A Wave of Battle


VI
Festubert


VII
Givenchy


VIII
Princess Patricia's Light Infantry


IX
The Prime Minister


X
The Canadian Corps


Appendix I
The King's Message to the Canadians


Appendix II
Canadians in Despatches


Appendix III
The Prime Minister and the War


Appendix IV
Lieut.-General E.A.H. Alderson, C.B., Commanding the Canadian Corps


Appendix V
Honours and Awards Granted


Appendix VI
Statement of Casualties




APPENDIX II. ...............197

 
Infantry.  The attack was divided into three small
groups, the whole under the command of Lieutenant
Crabbe: No. I group under Lieutenant Papineau,
No. 2 group under Sergeant Patterson, and No.3
group under Company Sergeant-Major Lloyd.
   The head of the party got within fifteen or twenty
yards the German trench and charged; it was
dark at the time (about 5.15 a.m.).
   Lieutenant Crabbe, who showed the greatest dash
and élan took his party over everything in the trench
until they had gone down it about eighty yards,
when they were stopped by a barricade of sandbags
and timber. This party, as well as the others, then
pulled down the front face of the German parapet.
A number of Germans were killed and wounded,
and a few prisoners were taken.
   The services performed by this distinguished
corps have  continued to be very valuable since I
had occasion to refer to them in my last despatch.
commanded by Lieut.-Colonel F. D. Farquhar,
D.S.O. who, I deeply regret to say, was killed while
superintending some trench work on March 20th.
His loss will be deeply felt.

Sir John French's Despatch, April 5th, 1915.

PRINCESS PATRICIA'S REGIMENT
-ATTACK ON ST. ELOI,
MARCH 14th, 1915.

         
   It is satisfactory to be able to record that, though
the troops occupying the first line of trenches were
at first overwhelmed, they afterwards behaved very
gallantly in the counter-attack for the recovery of
         
198...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

         
the lost ground, and the following units earned and
received the special commendation of the Army
Commander. The 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, the
2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, the 1st
Leinster Regiment, the 4th Rifle Brigade, and the
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Sir John French's Despatch, April 5th, 1915.

ARRIVAL OF CANADIAN DIVISION-
NEUVE CIIAPELLE.

         
  On February 15th the Canadian Division began
to arrive in this country. I inspected the Division,
which was under the command of Lieut.-General
E. A. H. Alderson, C.B., on February 20th
  They presented a splendid and most soldier-like
appearance on parade.  The men were of good
physique, hard, and fit. I judged by what I saw
of them that they were well trained, and quite able
to take their places in the line of battle.
   Since then the Division has thoroughly justified
the good opinion I formed of it.
   The troops of the Canadian Division were first
attached for a few days by brigades for training
in the 3rd Corps trenches under Lieut.-General Sir
William Pulteney, who gave me such an excellent
report of their efficiency that i was able to employ
them in the trenches early in March.
  During the battle of Neuve Chapelle they held a
part of the line allotted to the 1st Army, and
although they were not actually engaged in the main
attack, they rendered valuable help by keeping the
enemy actively employed in front of their trenches.


APPENDIX II................199


    
   All the soldiers of Canada serving in the army
under my command have so far splendidly upheld
the traditions of the Empire, and will, I feel sure,
prove to be a great source of additional strength to
the forces in this country.

Sir John French's Despatch, April 5th, 1915.

SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES.

   It was at the commencement of the second battle
of Ypres on the evening of April 22nd, referred to
in Paragraph 1 of this report, that the enemy first
made use of asphyxiating gas.
   Some days previously I had complied with
General Joffre's request to take over the trenches
occupied by the French, and on the evening of the
22nd the troops holding the line east of Ypres were
posted as follows:-
         
      From Steenstraate to the east of Langemarck, as
   far as the Poelcappelle road, a French division.
      Thence, in a south-easterly direction towards the
   Passchendaele-Becelaere road, the Canadian Divi-
   sion.
      Thence a division took up the line in a southerly
   direction east of Zonnebeke to a point west of
   Becelaere, whence another division continued the
   line south-east to the northern limit of the corps on
   its right.
      Of the 5th Corps there were four battalions in
   divisional reserve about Ypres; the Canadian Divi-
   sion had one battalion in divisional reserve, and
   the 1st Canadian Brigade in army reserve.  An

 




200............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.
         
infantry brigade, which had just been withdrawn
after suffering heavy losses on Hill 60, was resting
about Vlamertinghe.
  Following a heavy bombardment, the enemy at-
tacked the French Division about 5 p.m., using
asphyxiating gases for the first time. Aircraft re-
ported that at about 5 p.m. thick yellow smoke had
been seen issuing from the German trenches between
Langemarck and Bixschoote. The French reported
tbat two simultaneous attacks had been made east
of the Ypres-Staden railway, in which these
asphyxiating gases had been employed.
  What followed almost defies description.  The
effect of these poisonous gases was so virulent as
to render the whole of the line held by the French
Division mentioned above practically incapable of
any action at all.  It was at first impossible for
anyone to realise what had actually happened.  The
smoke and fumes hid everything from sight, and
hundreds of men were thrown into a comatose or
dying condition, and within an hour the whole posi-
tion had to be abandoned, together with about fifty
guns.
   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 con-
viction that if any troops in the world had been
able to hold their trenches in the face of such a




APPENDIX II. ...............201
 
treacherous and altogether unexpected onslaught,
the French Division would have stood firm.
   The left flank of the Canadian Division was thus
left dangerously exposed to serious attack in flank,
and there appeared to be a prospect of their being
overwhelmed and of a successful attempt by the
Germans to cut off the British troops occupying the
salient to the east.
   In spite of the danger to which they were exposed,
the Canadians held their ground with a magnificent
display of tenacity and courage; and it is not too
much to say that the bearing and conduct of these
splendid troops averted a disaster which might have
been attended with the most serious consequences.
   They were supported with great promptitude by
the reserves of the Divisions holding the salient
and by a Brigade which had been resting in billets.
   Throughout the night the enemy's attacks were
repulsed, effective counter-attacks were delivered,
and at length touch was gained with the French
right, and a new line was formed.
         
              *           *           * 
         
   The 2nd London Heavy Battery, which had been
attached to the Canadian Division, was posted be-
hind the right of the French Division, and, being
involved in their retreat, fell into the enemy's hands.
It was recaptured by the Canadians in their counter-
attack, but the guns could not be withdrawn before
the Canadians were again driven back.
   During the night I directed the Cavalry Corps
and the Northumbrian Division, which was then in
general reserve, to move to the west of Ypres, and
placed these troops at the disposal of the General
         




202 ............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.
Officer Commanding the 2nd Army. I also directed
other reserve troops from the 3rd Corps and the
1st Army to be held in readiness to meet eventuali-
ties.
  In the confusion of the gas and smoke the Ger-
 mans succeeded in capturing the bridge at Steen
straate and some works south of Lizerne, all of
which were in occupation by the French.
   The enemy having thus established himself to
the west of the Ypres Canal, I was somewhat appre-
hensive of this succeeding in driving a wedge be-
tween the French and Belgian troops at this point.
  I directed, therefore, that some of the reinforce-
ments sent north should be used to support and
assist General Putz, should he find difficulty in pre-
venting any further advance of the Germans west
 of the canal.
  At about ten o'clook en the morning of the 23rd
connection was finally ensured between the left of
the Canadian Division and the French right, about
eight hundred yards east of the canal; but as this
entailed the maintenance by the British troops of a
much longer line than that which they had held
before the attack commenced on the previous night,
there were no reserves available for counter-attack
until reinforcements which were ordered up from
the Second Army were able to deploy to the east
of Ypres.
              *           *           *
 Early on the morning of the 23rd I went to see
General Foch, arid from him I received a detailed
account of what had happened, as reported by
General Putz. General Foch informed me that it
was his intention to make good the original line and
  




APPENDIX II. ...............203


regain the trenches which the French Division had
lost.  He expressed the desire that I should main-
tain my present line, assuring me that the original
position would be re-established in a few days.
General Foch further informed me that he had
ordered up large French reinforcements, which
were now on their way, and that troops from the
north had already arrived to reinforce General Putz.
   I fully concurred in the wisdom of the General's
wish to re-establish our old line, and agreed to co-
operate in the way he desired, stipulating, however,
that it if the position was not~re-established within a
limited time I could not allow the British troops
to remain in so exposed a situation as that which
the action of the previous twenty-four hours had
compelled them to occupy.
   During the whole of the 23rd the enemy's artil-
lery was very active, and his attacks all along the
front were supported by some heavy guns which
had been brought down from the coast in the neigh-
borhood of Ostend.
   The loss of the guns on the night of the 22nd
prevented this fire from being kept down, and much
aggravated the situation. Our positions, however,
were well maintained by the vigorous counter-
attacks made by the 5th Corps.
   During the day I directed two Brigades of the
Corps and the Lahore Division of the Indian
Corps to be moved up to the Ypres area and placed
at the disposal of the 2nd Army.
   In the course of these two or three days many
circumstances combined to render the situation east
of the Ypres Canal very critical and most difficult
to deal with.
         




204 ...............CANADA IN FlANDERS.


  The confusion caused by the sudden retirement
of the French Division, and the necessity for closing
up the gap and checking the enemy's advance at all
costs, led to a mixing-up of units and a sudden
shifting of the areas of command, which was quite
unavoidable. Fresh units, as they came up from the
south, had to be pushed into the firing line in an
area swept by artillery fire, which owing to the
capture of the French guns, we were unable to
keep down.
  All this led to very heavy casualties, and I wish
to place on record the deep admiration which I feel
for the resource and presence of mind evinced by
the leaders actually on the spot.
  The parts taken by Major-General Snow and
Brigadier-General Hull were reported to me as
being particularly marked in this respect.
  An instance of this occurred on the afternoon of
the 24th, when the enemy succeeded in breaking
through the line at St. Julien.
  Brigadier-General Hull, acting under the orders
of Lieut-General Alderson, organised a powerful
counter-attack-on the 24th-with his own Brigade
and some of the nearest available units. He was
called upon to control, with only his Brigade Staff,
parts of battalions from six separate Divisions which
were quite new to the ground. Although the attack
did not succeed in retaking St. Julien, it effectually
checked the enemy's further advance.
  It was only on the morning of the 25th that the
enemy were able to force back the left of the Cana-
dian Division from the point where it had originally
joined the French line.
  During the night and the early morning of the
         




APPENDIX II. ...............205


 
25th the enemy directed a heavy attack against the
Division at Broodseiende cross-roads, which was
supported by a powerful shell fire, but he failed to
make any progress.
   During the whole of this time the town of Ypres
and all the roads to the east and west were un-
interruptedly subjected to a violent artillery fire,
but in spite of this the supply of both food and
ammunition was maintained throughout with order
and efficiency.
   During the afternoon of the 25th many German
prisoners were taken, including some officers. The
hand-to-hand fighting was very severe, and the
enemy suffered heavy loss.
              *           *           * 

BATTLE OF FESTUBERT.

   On May 15th I moved the Canadian Division
into the 1st Corps area and placed them at the dis-
posal of Sir Douglas Haig.
   On May 19th the 7th and 2nd Divisions were
drawn out of the line to rest. The 7th Division was
relieved by the Canadian Division and the 2nd Divi-
sion by the 51st (Highland) Division.
   Sir Douglas Haig placed the Canadian and 51st
Divisions, together with the artillery of the 2nd and
7th Divisions, under the command of Lieut.-General
Alderson, whom he directed to conduct the opera-
tions which had hitherto been carried on by the
General Officer Commanding 1st Corps; and he
directed the 7th Division to remain in Army Reserve.
         




206 ............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.


  During the night of the 19th-2oth a small post of
the enemy in front of La Quinque Rue was captured.
  During the night of the 20th-21st the Canadian
Division brilliantly carried on the excellent progress
made by the 7th Division by seizing several of the
enemy's trenches and pushing forward their whole
line several hundred yards. A number of prisoners
and some machine-guns were captured.
  On the 22nd instant the 51st (Highland) Division
was attached to the Indian Corps, and the General
Officer Commanding the Indian Corps took charge
of the operations at La Quinque Rue, Lieut. -
General Alderson with the Canadians conducting
the operations to the north of that place.
  On this day the Canadian Division extended their
line slightly to the right and repulsed three very
severe hostile counter-attacks.

GIVENCHY.

  After the conclusion of the battle of Festubert
the troops of the 1st Army were engaged in several
minor operations.  By an attack delivered on the
evening of June 15th, after a prolonged bombard-
ment, the 1st Canadian Brigade obtained possession
of the German front-line trenches north-east of
Givenchy, but were unable to retain them owing to
their flanks being too much exposed.

Sir John French's Despatch, October 15th.





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Second Publication: Monday, 12-Mar-2001 21:49:06 MST
First Published: March 1, 2001