GWL 26th April 1915

An extraordinarily noisy day.  I suppose you are reading all about this show in the papers.  How big it is nobody can tell: pretty sizey I should say.  Anyhow there is enough noise.

We have not had mail for two or three days now – I hope this will go all right – Until things quieten down a bit I don’t think we can expect one, which is rather sad.  There is no news.

I am quite well except for a slight cough.  It is a perfectly glorious day, sunny and quite warm.  Give my regards to Mrs Chapman when you see her.  I am afraid she has had a pretty rotten time; so have you.

Good news just now, things seem to be going better.  Alas my poor good billet has fallen down; a victim to a very large shell sent over by Fritz.”

24th April saw the opening of the Battle of St Julien phase of Ypres II.  Again Sir John French’s Despatch describes the events clearly:

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 Lieutenant-General Alderson, organised a powerful counter attack 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 Canadian Division from the point where it had originally joined the French line. During the night, and the early morning of the 25th, the enemy directed a heavy attack against the Division at Broodseinde crossroads 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 uninterruptedly 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.

During the 26th the Lahore Division and a Cavalry Division were pushed up into the fighting line, the former on the right of the French, the latter in support of the 5th Corps. In the afternoon the Lahore Division, in conjunction with the French right, succeeded in pushing the enemy back some little distance toward the North, but their further advance was stopped owing to the continual employment by the enemy of asphyxiating gas. On the right of the Lahore Division the Northumberland Infantry Brigade advanced against St. Julien and actually succeeded in entering, and for a time occupying, the southern portion of that village. They were, however, eventually driven back, largely owing to gas, and finally occupied a line a short way to the South. This, attack was most successfully and gallantly led by Brigadier-General Biddell, who, I regret to say, was killed during the progress of the operation. Although no attack was made on the southeastern side of the salient, the troops operating to the east of Ypres were subjected to heavy artillery fire from this direction which took some of the battalions, which were advancing North to the attack, in reverse.

St Julien

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The Canadian Memorial at St Julien

The 25th also saw the landing of Allied troops at Gallipoli in the ultimately failed Dardanelles campaign.

{next post 28th April}

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