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Shiny

Second Battle of Ypres - First Gas Attack

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Shiny

Hi All,

 

I've recently become interested in the brooding soldier memorial and what it represents and would like to learn more about it.

 

Can anyone recommend any books or websites I can read to learn more about that first gas attack?

 

I know obviously it was Canadian troops that were hit with it, can anyone tell me the specific units so I can try and read their war diaries (assuming they are available).

 

Thanks a lot, 

 

Michael 

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KernelPanic

The stand out one for me in terms of units, strategies etc. is 'Trial By Gas' by George Cassar (2014). It has a lot of commentary, opinion, and excellent maps.

 

I've just started reading 'Gas! The Battle for Ypres, 1915' by J.L. Williams and R. James Steel (2020). This might be a better book if you're more interested in the first attack on April 22nd, since that's its main focus. Cassar deals with the entire 2nd Ypres.

Edited by KernelPanic

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Shiny

Thanks a lot KernelPanic, that second book sounds like the sort of thing I'm after.

 

Michael 

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Jervis

“Magnificent but not war” by John Dixon, was recommended to me. It is focused on the second battle of Ypres and covers the gas attacks. It is a very methodical book that goes into great detail. While I often reference the book, I did not actually enjoy reading it, I found it quite dry and dull.  

 

Jervis

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KernelPanic
10 minutes ago, Jervis said:

“Magnificent but not war” by John Dixon, was recommended to me. It is focused on the second battle of Ypres and covers the gas attacks. It is a very methodical book that goes into great detail. While I often reference the book, I did not actually enjoy reading it, I found it quite dry and dull.  

 

Jervis

 

Agreed. I thought Cassar's book was superior to Dixon's in terms of content and writing style. 

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Shiny

Thanks Jervis,

 

I've had a quick look on Amazon and "Gas! The Battle for Ypres, 1915" is only £2.99 as a kindle download at the minute so I'll definitely get that one but I'm open to other suggestions as well.

 

Michael 

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Bob Davies

Hi Michael, this may interest you, just one page but it gives an insight from another perspective. Page 29. The whole book is a great read. Regards, Bob. https://archive.org/details/leicestershire00hilluoft/mode/2up

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Shiny

Thanks a lot Bob,

 

From reading that one paragraph it appears that it was known that a gas attack was coming, I assumed it was a surprise and had caught everyone off guard.

 

Learning already. 

 

Thanks a lot, 

 

Michael 

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Bob Davies

I will have a look in the Leicesters war diary (which I have) to see if it gives any more and then the brigade diaries if I can find them. Happy to help, cheers, Bob.

Edited by Bob Davies

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Bob Davies

image.png.42351c6d0a3e9c1f18430b2052b908b8.png

Edited by Bob Davies

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Bob Davies

The page is from the 1/5th Batt Leicesters war diary. Top of page and bottom, so yes I would seem as they knew fine well it was on the way. Warned on the 15th and the 22nd April 1915. Regards, Bob.

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Jervis
2 hours ago, Shiny said:

I know obviously it was Canadian troops that were hit with it, can anyone tell me the specific units so I can try and read their war diaries (assuming they are available).

 

Thanks a lot, 

 

Michael 


The gas attack of the 24th of April was carried out on 1,000 yard front held by the 15th and 8th Canadians immediately north of Gravenstafel. They were aware a gas attack was likely as the French had been attacked nearby on the 22nd of April. 

 

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Jervis
2 hours ago, KernelPanic said:

 

Agreed. I thought Cassar's book was superior to Dixon's in terms of content and writing style. 


Thanks, maybe that was the book I should have read! I’ll add it to the list. 

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Shiny

Thanks again both.

 

Bob the diary is great, thank you very much for looking it up and sharing. I can't imagine what they must have been thinking knowing it was coming but knowing they had no defence / protection.

 

Michael 

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Bob Davies

Hi Michael, the book is written by Captain Hills MC CDG 1/5thLeicesters . He also wrote a lot of the 1/5th war diaries so most of what is in the war diary is cross-referenced in his book. If you see what I mean. It certainly makes one think now, as these were all young men 18 to 25 years old. My Grandad among them with the many thousands of others. Happy to help. Regards, Bob.

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Old Forge

Just to add that the OH is always a good starting point. It confirms that gas was used by the Germans in their counter attacks on Hill 60 after its capture by 1/Royal West Kents (15th Bde) on 17th April 1915. It was thought that the German guns fired gas shells on the 18th April, and German use of gas shells was confirmed during a barrage on 20th April. The OH concludes that the gas experienced on the 18th came from gas cylinders stored on Hill 60 waiting for the start of the German offensive on the 22nd. However, it also notes that gas shells were first trialled by the Germans at Neuve Chapelle in March - the British just didn't notice.

The first warnings of an imminent gas attack in April came from French interrogation of a PW from 234th Infantry Regiment (XXVI Corps), captured on 14th April near Langemarck. The prisoner actually carried carried a rudimentary cotton waste anti-gas device. He gave detailed information of a planned attack on 15th April (delayed from 13th), including descriptions of the gas apparatus to be used. The interrogation report reached GHQ via Second Army the same day. The French comment (General Putz) was that the prisoners account was so detailed that it was too suspicious to believe. It was only later discovered that the prisoner was spot on throughout his account, but that the attack on the 15th was also postponed due to unfavourable winds. Aerial reconnaissance failed to confirm the prisoners report, and there was insufficient heavy artillery ammunition to carry out a proper bombardment of the German front line in an attempt to disrupt it. In the end, since there was no certainty about what 'gas' might mean in practice, little could be done to prepare other than for some tactical redeployments by Second Army to cover against an attack on the French around Langemarck.

 

The OH coverage of Second Ypres is detailed - but it's also fairly 'dry' in places.

 

Edited to add that I've just bought the recommended £2.99 copy of 'Gas! The Battle for Ypres', which starts with the German PW's capture on the 13th - and of course is in a more readable style than the OH!

Edited by Old Forge

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AOK4

The French were already mocking the Germans in February 1915 near Gheluvelt (as that's where the gas attack was first planned) sticking out signs with "Nix wind" written on it.

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Sjack91

15th Battalion 48th Highlanders we’re involved. I found an interesting map online that might help you.

 

Regards Stuart

 

 

8E08FA8E-81B9-43CC-9031-8FECC48C9388.jpeg

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Shiny

Thanks for the help everyone.

 

Thanks for the detailed and interesting reply @Old Forge and please excuse my ignorance but what is OH?

 

Michael 

Edited by Shiny

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Old Forge
11 minutes ago, Shiny said:

Thanks for the help everyone.

 

Thanks for the detailed and interesting reply @Old Forge and please excuse my ignorance but what is OH?

 

Michael 

Sorry Shiny - that's the Official History (in this case, Military Operations France & Belgium, 1915 Vol I).

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lostinspace

 

On 28/04/2020 at 13:17, Shiny said:

Hi All,

 

I've recently become interested in the brooding soldier memorial and what it represents and would like to learn more about it.

 

Can anyone recommend any books or websites I can read to learn more about that first gas attack?

 

I know obviously it was Canadian troops that were hit with it, can anyone tell me the specific units so I can try and read their war diaries (assuming they are available).

 

Thanks a lot, 

 

Michael 

Here are a few links that might be of interest on the subject: 

As mentioned above, the British Official History online - https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.210675/page/n5/mode/2up

The Canadian Official History online - https://canada-prod.adobecqms.net/content/dam/themes/defence/caf/militaryhistory/dhh/official/book-1938-great-war-1-1-en.pdf
Library & Archives Canada, Canadian war diaries online - https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/collectionsearch/Pages/collectionsearch.aspx?q=war+diaries&start=10&num=10

The war diaries are hit and miss, some are very detailed, others have one line for each day, depended on who was writing them. The Canadian book was the first volume of a projected multi-volume set detailing the entire war and Canada's part in it, unfortunately, never completed due to lack of funds and a second world war.
 

edit: Forgot to include the link to the appendices volume for the Canadian history: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/themes/defence/caf/militaryhistory/dhh/official/book-1938-great-war-1-2-en.pdf

Edited by lostinspace

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Marilyne

Hi, 

 

if you can read French there is also "La Guerre des Gaz" by Yves Buffetaut that is quite well written. 

About the prisonner who spilled the beans, his name was August Jäger... Yours Truly has written his story (in novel form) but hasn't found the guts yet to send it to a publisher... 

 

M.

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Skipman

There's another link to the Canadian Diaries I find this a fantastic website and easy to use. If you can find out which units to look for, this is very useful. Click I was going to say you could use the Long Long Trail page to find the units invloved but the page is being updated at the moment Click

 

The 13th Battalion CEF  were certainly involved Click

 

The diary doesn't give much detail but "The 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, 1914-1919 by Fetherstonhaugh, R. C." gives more. Worth checking the Brigade and Divisional Diaries too.

 

Mike

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Old Forge
33 minutes ago, Marilyne said:

Yours Truly has written his story (in novel form) but hasn't found the guts yet to send it to a publisher... 

 

Hi Marilyne, you've done the hard part (and it is hard work) if you've completed the first draft … I'd say you owe it to yourself to see if you can get it published! There are some very good freelance editors who can help you get it into shape (but you'll have to pay, or 'work in progress' groups who can help edit and refine. 

Edited by Old Forge

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Marilyne

thanks for the vote of confidence... 

I guess I should start somewhere... 

 

M.

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