At 5 p.m. on 22nd April 1915 the German Army commenced a very heavy bombardment of the French front line positions north of St. Julien. Very quickly clouds of chlorine gas spread into the French lines closely followed by German infantry behind the yellow mist. It was the first use of poison gas during the Great War. French colonial troops without their officers began to drift down the roads to the rear. Soon French Territorial infantry were seen crossing over the canal bridge north of Ypres (Ieper) clearly in retreat; a serious breach in the Allied lines was obviously taking place.

Fortunately the Canadians, whose flank abutted that of the French colonials, had been unaffected by the gas and, in particular, men of the 13th Canadian battalion were able to slow down the German advance. It was during this German attack that Lance Corporal Fisher won the Victoria Cross. The position was now becoming desperate, since the gap left by the retreating French troops was some 4 miles long and held only intermittently by some French and Canadian troops. The battle went "to and fro" but by 8 p.m. the 10th and 16th Canadian battalions had launched a counter-attack against the Germans near Kitchener’s Wood with some success. Nevertheless, before daylight on the 23rd April although the gap left in the Allied lines was no longer fully open, the position was far from satisfactory. Fighting of some intensity involving Canadian forces continued until the 4th May.

It is as a tribute to the fighting qualities of the Canadian soldiers that this monument (sometimes called the "brooding soldier") has been erected, in particular to their bravery during the fighting between the 23rd April and the 24th April when some 2000 casualties were incurred.

After the war, members of the Battles Nomenclature Committee recorded the April fighting under the title the "Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge". As the fighting took place at Kerselaar where this monument now stands, it has been suggested that the name "Kerselaar" would have been more historically correct in naming this terrible battle.

Copyright, 2002. All Rights Reserved