The Courage of Canada

(In the Second Battle of Ypres)

By: Celine Della-Quercia

National flag of Canada (1915). (1)

May 28th, 1915

To whom it may concern,

I write this in hopes that our future nation of Canada will be able to read this and cherish the legend of The Second Battle of Ypres that has just came to an end only a few days ago on May 25th, 1915. This battle developed a foundation for Canada to prosper and grow as a nation. It was virtually the first battle in the first World War that our Canadian troops participated in. After our inexperienced military battled it out, Canada left the war victorious, and therefore Canada was finally recognized and respected as a nation. (Encyclopedia)

Map of the front line of the Second Battle of Ypres. (2)

We were the only ones that stayed after the Algerians and French fled their own battle to fight, therefore virtually making us the reason why we won this battle.
Our troops were on the less experienced side, yet never the less did they truly show their courage after taking over the exposed space that was left by the fleeing Algerians and French (Encyclopedia). This was their battle, yet once the gas attack came from the German army, they were tripping over their shoe laces whilst trying to flee. However, our troops did not do that. Rather, our soldiers double knotted their shoe laces and marched to fill the gap at the front of the battle. For we may have been inexperienced, but our courage was what got us through the gut wrenching battle.
We not only had the courage to fill the gap, but we also protected our side even when the gas attack came our way. The only thing we could see coming our way was a yellowish cloud. Albeit, our feet did not budge, they only sunk deeper into the mud, as we were there to fight and we were not giving up that easily. As the cloud engulfed our troops, many of our men were taken, yet we were able to hold on.
We didn't only hold up our side of the battle, we then proceeded to counter attack those nasty Germans. After the cloud of gas surpassed us, we came back with ammunition that weakened their side greatly (Wiki). This proves that we were able also weaken their side without the help of our allies whom were too busy in the midst of fleeing. Therefore, further proving that we virtually saved the day in this circumstance showcasing our nation's courage and strength which lead to our victory, making it a truly significant battle.

Canada walked out of the battle as an independent nation no longer relying on Britain. (3)

We also proved everyone wrong and surpassed everyone’s expectations throughout this battle. This helped us grow as a nation as the idea of Canadians drastically changed to a strong and fierce nation.
The Germans were an experienced military, or should I say the "big dogs" in the house. We surely were scared of them, as they were organized and formed to the crisp with great and unique weapons including a gas weapon (Wiki). They sure did intimidate us, however the intimidation did not last long when we had to bring our military to the front line. When we marched over, it was fair game and the Germans became equal to any other military force in our minds.
To the eye of the British, we were also an inexperienced and possibly disorganized military force if you wish to say. However, that only made our this battle and our victory even sweeter. Our military force was made up of lawyers, business men, teachers, and more civilians that were not experienced militants. Our equipment was not of the highest quality either as even I experienced a jammed up rifle frequently. But that was because our factories in Canada were just starting up, and our military forces were new to this war (Encyclopedia). However, after we showed our courage and strength as we covered the front line, we changed the perspectives of the British and of many other countries. We walked out no longer being the inexperienced underdogs, but we walked out as a brave and proud nation.
We also went into this Second Battle of Ypres recently being ruled by Britain, but came out of the battle as an even fiercer nation. We were hiding behind the Britain in this war as we still had ties to Britain. When we marched down through Belgium, countries looked at us as though we were not an independent military force, as if we were relying on Britain to guide us through. But after fighting off the Germans with great independence, we broke many of the strings that tied us to Britain. Our hard fighting even showed that we "passed the test" as quoted the British (World War 1) after the hard fought battle. Even though we were our own country before entering this battle, after the Battle of Ypres, we marched out an independent nation with the newly won respect of many other countries in the world.

The chlorine gas weapon that the Germans used. (4)

We battled through the first gas attack, creating a way to be able to endure the attack and furthermore to counter attack. This truly showcases why we deserve our victory, which further lead to the appreciation of Canada.
Splendid thinking was achieved on our part as our fellow soldiers thought of an innovative way to beat the one of the greatest weapons used by the German troops. I will always remember this day, as I had never seen this weapon before. It was not bullets. It was not arrows. It was a monstrous cloud that killed everything and anything in it's path. I will never forget the ghostly yellowish cloud as it engulfed our front line being blown towards us by the heavy winds. The Germans released 5700 cylinders of chlorine gas leaving a hole 4 miles wide in our front line as over 6000 French soldiers died within minutes (Encyclopedia) .Everyone began to trip over their own shoelaces trying to flee this poisonous gas cloud, except for our Canadian troops. On the contrary, we created something that helped us endure this suffocating attack. We used handkerchiefs to be able to breathe without being suffocated by the deadly chlorine gas. However, it was what Capt. Scrimger ordered that enabled us to be able to breathe through the gas (Wiki). He ordered that we then drench it in urine, which was quite unpleasant, but it was what we had to do in the extreme circumstances that we were in. This showed our great intelligence from our side as we were under extreme pressure in extreme circumstances.
In thanks to our innovative thinking, many of our soldiers survived this awful gas attack. However, many other soldiers of the Allied and French troops were taken by the cloud, or were either fleeing from it. Therefore, since many of our troops were still intact due to our quick thinking, we were able to cover the front line and thus fight off the Germans.
After being able to endure the attack, we were then able to even do more than that. We then counter attacked those Germans with the element of surprise as they didn't even think that we would be able to fight back. We were able to weaken their side, even after being attacked with this treacherous weapon and then our troops, along with British troops were able to push forward (War Museum). This was truly the most significant part of the battle, showing our strength and courage as we surpassed the expectations of many. If we hadn't thought of the "handkerchief mask", a large majority of our soldiers would've died to it and therefore we wouldn't have had the ability to take over the front of the line and definitely not have been able to counter attack the Germans, which was what lead to our victory.  

Painting of the Second Battle of Ypres by artist William Barnes Wollen, 1915. (5)

The impact of the Second Battle of Ypres transformed Canada's identity, and as Canadian journalist Bruce Hutchison quotes, "Canada entered World War I as a colony and came out a nation..." (World War 1). Canada was slowly being influenced in becoming their own country. In the Second Battle of Ypres we, Canadians, may have endured brutal wounds as we lost over 6000 soldiers from German forces on our first battle during World War 1, but our hard earned fight to successfully defeat the Germans rewarded us with a large boost in morality that I would definitely say; lead to the foundation of Canada becoming an independent country and coming out as a stronger nation. This is why we mustn't forget of our role in this battle as it's significance should be engraved forever in the history of Canada. I hope that this letter will eventually reach the eyes of the future generations of Canada, and after reading this, will have pride in our country.


Captain Scrimger

P.S. The odor of urine wasn't as bad as one would think due to the circumstances.

Related Links

More information on the Battle of Ypres from a different perspective (British Soldier) -


Encyclopedia - "The Charge Of The 4th Canadian Battalion At Ypres", From 'The Year 1915: A Record Of Notable Achievements And Events', 1915. Fine Art. Encyclopedia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 18. Feb. 2015

War Museum - "Canadians gassed in a bottle", Canadian War Museum. Web. 19. Feb. 2015.

"Canada A Country by Consent: World War I." Canada A Country by Consent: World War I. Web. 18. Feb. 2015.

"Second Battle of Ypres." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 20. Feb. 2015.


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