Second Battle of Ypres

[1] On April 22, 1915, the dreadful battle of Ypres raged on. The unexpected deadly chlorine gas was put into use in a large-scale battle for the first time by the Germans, hitting France's troops head-on and putting everyone else in a state of horror and shock. Known as one of the worst battles in history, the battle of Ypres left its mark on thousands of lives.

From the Eyes of a British Soldier

April 22, 1915

Our leaders had never been as disappointed in us as they were in the Canadian troops today. I understand how they were new to the battlefield, yet they walked around never knowing what to do, barely knowing how to fight, and leading their own troops directly in death’s path. Six thousand of them died yesterday, all due to their own carelessness and unpreparedness. [6] They had no training at all, as if they hadn’t bothered to spend any time preparing for the war at all! All their equipment was constantly failing, none a bigger disappointment than their “Ross Rifle”. Each one was a defect as it wouldn’t shoot more than a couple rounds and be permanently jammed. [6] They were as useless as their weapons, not a single one worth the worry. The Canadians left us all in a terrible state, leaving us wondering, was this going to be the end of all our lives?

Our leaders couldn't handle it any more so they forced us to step in. We were forced to take them under our wing and do what we could to train them, while holding back the battle raging beyond us. I, myself couldn't take in the fact that we were in the middle of a war and were stuck worrying about our lives while training these useless people rather than worrying about dying in battle. We had to make the best use of these soldiers, although they seemed good for nothing. The leaders understood the likelihood of the Canadians excelling in battle as very slim and decided to put them at the front of our battle lines, hoping that something good would come out of it. They told us that it was more of a test than a strategy to see if putting them where they could be most impacted would change the way they fought. We lined them up right next to the French and the Algerians so we had someone to rely on if the Canadians managed to fail us again. [6] With the French to the right of the Canadians, and our British troops to the left, we were ready to begin fighting. [4]

[2] The gas attack was the most unexpected and traumatizing events  of the Second Battle of Ypres. The German troops opened more than 5000 containers of this gas and allowed it to slowly drift towards their enemy. The French and Canadian troops got it the worst, mostly because of it's silent, deadly traits that were never seen before. This is what gave the German troops their opportunity to advance.

But then I heard them; the screams. All around us soldiers were dropping dead and others were fleeing for safety. It was difficult to see through all the havoc, but I managed to get a glimpse of the sickly greenish-yellow cloud rising, advancing through the troops. All the French troops began to retreat, at least what was left of them.[6]They left a huge gap in our defensive lines and we were faced with the horror of the Germans advancing through our territory. Sooner than expected, the Germans began to slow their advance, lately noticing their lack of supplies and soldiers to advance any further.[4] I expected to see the Canadians use this as their opportunity to flee, just as the French did, considering all they had already done to disappoint our leaders. I assumed they were bound to follow the crowd through the mess to safety because many of them were failing to stay up and were dead within seconds. The gas was clearly deadly and it was raging through our territory at great speeds. I had no hope left, along with many of the other soldiers, but that is the moment when the Canadians stepped up and surprised us all. Canadian doctors happened to be among the fighters and ordered everyone to urinate on their socks and put them in front of their faces. [6] The idea was bizarre to all of us and we thought the Canadians were up to something awful once again. None of us understood the reasoning behind this and accepted the fact that we were about to die. Then only did we realize that the point of that was to protect ourselves from the sickly chlorine gas. [6] The effect of the urine eliminated the effect of the chlorine gas, leaving us all completely unaffected, not taking into the gruesome smell of course.

[4] During battle, there was a lot of confusion and havoc due to the unexpected turn of events. The remaining troops were lucky to have medical students in the army, ons who knew how deal with and minimize the deadly effects of the terrible greenish-yellow cloud of thick, sickly gas.

Once I was ready with my make-shift gas mask, I looked over and saw the Canadians charging, altogether, towards the abandoned lines. They spread out and fought hard through the terrible conditions and within minutes, they had completely covered the abandoned lines. They reformed the bulge that had been left by the French and the Algerians and stood their ground. [6] They fought with strength and bravery, leading the rest of us to follow by example.

[3] The Canadians reacted the fastest and worked to re-complete the bulge that was originally meant to blockade German troops and keep them out of the French territory. Although there were hardly as many soldiers left as there were in the beginning, the quick response time helped the Canadian and British troops to gain a bit of an advantage over the German troops.

After all the past disappointment, the Canadians worked really hard to build up not only their reputation, but ours too. They left the Germans in a state of shock due to their quick thinking and used that advantage to advance and gain some ground. They were the only ones who were able to lead a successful counterattack against the Germans [6], helping our troops as well. The next while was a long series of advancing and retreating, gaining ground and losing ground, until the Germans, once again, brought out their secret weapon.[4] This time, we were much faster in reacting and knew what to do. Unfortunately, we were all weakened from the lack of sleep of the urine-soaked cloths did not keep the gas out as well as they did the first time.[6] We lost hundreds of our soldiers, but luckily made it through the day. The bravery that was shown by the Canadians was truly impressive and really gave me a spark of hope and encouragement for the next couple days. By the end of the day, I realized not only how far the British colonies had come as allies, but how lucky we were to have them on our side. They truly saved our entire British Army from what would have otherwise been the biggest disaster known to our country.[6]

[5] The burdens of April 22nd helped to unite the British and The Canadians more than ever before. Although Canada did not receive credit for the work they did on  the battlefield, as a colony of Great Britain, they were highly respected. Even without the direct credit, Canada was officially seen as one of the best troops after their sickening first experience.

April 23, 1915

The past couple sleepless nights have been a huge burden. None of us understand how we’ve gotten to where we are, especially after the disaster yesterday. We managed to pull through the worst battle mankind has ever seen, but just hardly. From the trouble with the Canadians to the attack of the Germans, the few of us that remain are lucky to be alive. The effects of the gas have just started to wear off, but the lack of sleep cannot be compensated for. The Germans had surprised us all by using the “forbidden weapon” we were developing ourselves [6], and truly left us all speechless. After all the hardships endured yesterday, I can tell, the battle of Ypres is not quite over. Hopefully, I can get through this battle alive, and get back to the safety of my home.

The Battle of Ypres was a terrible battle that consisted of five smaller battles. Although the gas attack is the main reason why this battle is so well-known, it was not the only part of the battle. In fact, the battle continued to rage on for weeks until it ended near the end of May 1915. With an introduction of new advancements in the history of war (advanced equipment, trench warfare, etc.), the Battle of Ypres was most definitely one of the most brutal battles of the 20th century.


Works Cited

[1] "Germany Gains Ground Using Forbidden Gas Weapons." First World War. The Guardian, 09 Nov. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <>.

[2] "The Begbie Canadian History Contest, 2006." Begbie Contest Society - 2006 Test Page. Ed. Murray Bowman, Roland Case, Rick Cooper, Ed Harrison, Charles Hou, Cynthia Hou, Fred Lepkin, Cam Murray, Wayne Norton, Rob Sandhu, Ted Slinger, Gordon Smith, and Bill Timmons. Trans. Annie Bourret, Paule Desgroseilliers, and Angélique Bernard. The Begbie Contest Society, 2006. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <>.

[3] "Third-Battle-of-Ypres-05-09-1917." Charley's War. N.p., 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.

[4] Voznyuk, Sasha, and Julie Kim. "The Battle of Ypres 1914." PortMoodyIBHistory11. Port Moody, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <>.

[5] "World War I: 1914 Year. Part II." World War I: 1914 Year. Part II. Avax News, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <>.

[6] Pre-compiled package from Library

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