Wednesday, 4 November 2009

St Julien Canadian Memorial, Belgium

for our many Canadian members we have included this beautiful memorial.

The St. Julien Memorial is a Canadian war memorial and small commemorative park located in Saint Julien, Belgium. The memorial commemorates the Canadian First Division's participation in the Second Battle of Ypres of World War I and their defence against the first poison gas attacks along the Western Front. Frederick Chapman Clemesha sculpture Brooding Soldier was selected to serve as the monument following a design competition organized by the Canadian Battlefield Monument Commission in 1920.

The village of Saint Julien and a section of forested land called Saint Julien Wood was at a pronounced bend in the north east sector of the Ypres Salient prior to the Second Battle of Ypres. The area was also the junction between the British and French sectors of responsibility. The Canadians First Division holding the most northern section of the British line and the 45th (Algerian) Division holding the most southern section of the French line. The German Army had 168 tons of chlorine deployed in 5,730 cylinders opposite Langemark-Poelkapelle, north of Ypres. The Canadians were manning the lines for several hundred metres along a front to the southwest of St. Julien when the German Army unleashed the first poison gas attack on the Western Front on 22 April 1915.

The initial gas attack largely drifted to the north of the Canadian lines, into the trenches of the French 45th (Algerian) and 87th (Territorial) Divisions, of 26th Reserve Corps. The gas drifted across positions largely held French colonial troops who broke ranks and abandoned their trenches, creating an 8,000 yard (7 km) gap in the Allied line. The German infantry were also wary of the gas and, lacking reinforcements, failed to exploit the break before the First Canadian Division and assorted French troops reformed the line in scattered, hastily prepared positions 1,000 to 3,000 yards apart. In actions at Kitcheners Wood, Pilkem Ridge and Gravenstafel Ridge the Canadians held the line and prevented a German breakthrough until they were relieved by reinforcements on the 24 April.

In the 48 crucial hours that they held the line, 6,035 Canadians, or one man in every three who went into battle became casualties and of that number approximately 2000 or one man in every nine was killed.

Further information can be read on the Canadian's Veteran's Website.

 All photographs above taken by Shirley Sutherland, Golspie

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