The Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge, 22 - 23 April 1915
Following the discharge of poisonous gas at 5pm on 22 April, a strong German infantry attack was made against the two French divisions defending the north of the Salient on the five mile front between the Ypres-Poelcapelle road and Steenstraat on the Yser canal. The French quickly withdrew and the advancing Germans rapidly occupied Langemarck and Pilckem and, further west, threatened Steenstraat and Het Sas on the canal.
Although not immediately attacked, 1st Canadian Division, to the right of the French, opposed further German forward movements with artillery and smallarms fire and immediately sent for reserves to shore-up their now undefended left flank; by 7.30pm German attackers were digging-in on newly won ground. As night fell Canadian forces, refusing to 'budge' despite gas and shell fire, improvised an outpost defence system across the open land towards the canal while Second Army Commander appealed for a French counter-attack to restore the situation.
An attack promised for early the following morning was assisted (in anticipation, at midnight) by the successful Canadian seizure of Kitchener’s Wood; but the French response never materialised and the Canadians were forced to retire. Throughout the night British reserves were scraped together in anticipation of further German attacks on 23 April. The early morning saw an attempt to dislodge the Germans from Mauser Ridge which failed with many casualties – though a line of sorts was established to within 1,200 yards of the canal. Later, in anticipation and support of the still-promised French counter-thrust, 13th Brigade was ordered to make a general attack towards Pilckem but this assault, when launched at 4.25pm, was a disastrous failure and all forward movement halted by 7pm. By nightfall the commitment of all available reserves helped establish a new front on the exposed flank – but little ground had been regained.
Campaign map Army structure Terminology