St. Julien

First World War

Date

24 April – 4 May 1915

Lieutenant-General Edwin Alfred Hervey Alderson

Lieutenant-General Edwin Alfred Hervey Alderson (1859-1927), commander First Canadian Division (1914-15), commander Canadian Army Corps (1915-16), inspector-general, Canadian forces (1916-18). Location unknown. 1915.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada/C-49485; (MIKAN no. 3212819)

Geographical parameters

The Comines – Ypres Canal as far as Voormezeele: then road to Vlamertinghe Château – Elverdinghe Château – Boesinghe – Langemarck

Context

A battle honour formally entitled the “Battle of St. Julien” and itself being part of “The Battles of Ypres, 1915”Footnote 1.

Description

This Honour “St. Julien” was awarded to Canadian units for their actions defending against the German attack of 24 April 1915. The Battle of St. Julien began with the second gas attack by the Germans at Ypres directed at the “Apex” in the line formed as a result of the attack on 22 April. The front line of Apex was held by the 2nd (Brigadier-General A.W. Currie) and 3rd (Brigadier-General R.E.W. Turner, VC) Canadian Brigades. At four in the morning on 24 April 1915 a German artillery bombardment began and simultaneously they released chlorine gas in the direction of the lines held by 1st Canadian Division (Lieutenant-General E.A.H. Alderson). The gas was centred on the junction of 2nd and 3rd Brigades, falling most heavily on the 8th and 15th Battalions. Even under the strenuous conditions caused by the gas, the Canadian front line battalions were able to momentarily halt the initial waves of Germans. Heroic fighting by those units allowed the Canadian brigades to withdraw to positions along the Gravenstafel Ridge.

The Germans launched a simultaneous attack between Kitcheners Wood and Keerselare. Despite their best efforts, the Canadian front-line units only gave some pause to the German attack. Almost overrun, they withdrew to positions along the Gravenstafel Ridge while several British battalions arrived in the Canadian sector to help reinforce the lines. Despite severe confusion and conflicting messages to and from commanders, new defensive positions were gradually established. Only the 2nd Brigade, on the far right of the Canadian line, still held part of its original front line at the end of the day on the 24th of April.

In the early morning of the 25th, a British brigade launched a counter-attack in the area between Kitcheners Wood and St-Julien. Even if objectives were not reached, it blocked a gap in the line and caused the Germans to commit troops that were supposed to conduct an attack of their own in this area. This German attack at Kitcheners Wood was supposed to be coordinated with an attack on the 2nd Canadian Brigade in the Apex in the line North of Gravenstafel. Canadian units held the line for most of the day but by evening, the German attack forced the Canadians back behind Gravenstafel. The remaining troops of the Brigade were relieved in place by a British unit. The remainder of the Canadian Division was gradually relieved in place by British units with most Canadians out of the line on the 26th of April.

That brought an end to the fighting for the infantry battalions of the 1st Canadian Division in the Battle of St-Julien, although British units continue to fight in the area for several more days. The Headquarters of the 1st Canadian Division remained in command of its area on 2 May and Canadian Artillery batteries continued to support British formations until 19 June 1915.

General Currie

General Currie, Commander of the Canadian troops in France, and A.D.C. Location unknown. June, 1917.
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001370 (MIKAN no. 3191901)

Lieutenant General R.E.W. Turner

Lieutenant General R.E.W. Turner, V.C. Location unknown. 1914-1919.
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-007941 (MIKAN no. 3221894)

Awarded to:

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