In the late afternoon of 22 April 1915, German forces attacked Allied lines in the north of the Ypres Salient, an area where Allied lines were surrounded on three sides by German-held territory. The Germans discharged poison gas towards the trenches between Langemarck and the Yser Canal, manned by the two remaining French Divisions in the Ypres sector. They were forced to retreat, leaving a gap of more than four miles on the left flank of the nearest British Army forces – the Canadian Division.

During the night Canadian units improvised a series of scattered outposts across the breach before the Germans renewed their assault on Canadian lines at dawn on 24 April, again using gas. By the afternoon, they had advanced beyond St Julien. Fighting continued during the following days before Allied forces withdrew to a new line, barely three miles from Ypres. Heavy fighting continued in early May on the Frezenberg Ridge before the largest German gas attack yet seen led to the capture of ground at Bellewaarde Lake.

Canal Bank, Ypres, May 1915. Held by 10th Infantry Brigade after the second gas attack
Canal Bank, Ypres, May 1915. Held by 10th Infantry Brigade after the second gas attack. IWM (Q 56693)

After 33 days of fighting, there was no decisive German breakthrough but the Salient was now much smaller and even more vulnerable to German artillery bombardment. Between 22 April and 31 May 1915, British Empire casualties amounted to more than 59,000 men killed, wounded or missing.

For the next two years, trench raids, sniping and artillery fire continued every day as British Empire servicemen fought to hold their ground and German troops strove to drive them from it. By 1917, British Empire forces were suffering thousands of casualties – wounded, missing and killed – every month.

'The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April to May 1915' by Richard Jack
'The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April to May 1915' by Richard Jack, c. 1920. Collections Canada

related Cemeteries & Memorials

Ypres Menin Gate Memorial bears the names of some 54,400 servicemen of the British Empire who died in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. More than 12,000 of those commemorated here died in April and May 1915.

Seaforth Cemetery is the final resting place of 148 servicemen of the British Empire of which more than 20 remain unidentified all of whom are believed to have died during the second battle of Ypres in April 1915. Some 100 servicemen of the 2nd battalion, Seaforth Highlanders regiment are buried in the cemetery.