The Second Battle of Ypres began in the northern sector of the Ypres Salient. It started on 22 April 1915 when the German Fourth Army carried out a surprise attack against two French divisions holding the Allied Front Line. On that day the warm, sunny spring afternoon was suddenly shattered at 5 pm with a devastating and frightening new development in modern warfare: a cloud of poisonous gas. The Battle of St Julien was the second phase of the Second Battle of Ypres.
The Honour is borne on the Guidon of the 4th Hussars.
The Second Battle of Ypres began in the northern sector of the Ypres Salient. It started on 22 April 1915 when the German Fourth Army carried out a surprise attack against two French divisions holding the Allied Front Line. On that day the warm, sunny spring afternoon was suddenly shattered at 5 pm with a devastating and frightening new development in modern warfare: a cloud of poisonous gas. The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge was the fourth phase of the Second Battle of Ypres.
The Honour was awarded to the 4th Hussars.
At 9.30 am on the 23rd April news was received of the first German gas attack, and at 12 noon the brigade concentrated at Vieux Berquin and marched north via the Mont des Cats to a point two miles south-south-east of Poperinghe, where it bivouacked at 10.30 pm.
At 4 am on the 24th orders were received to concentrate immediately at the crossroads south of R in Reninghelst. Thence they marched to concentrate south-south-west of Elverdinghe. There the horses were left, and at 9.30 am they advanced dismounted to the west bank of the canal, one and a half miles north of Ypres. Here they remained in position, in support of the Canadians, until 2 pm.
At 2 pm we returned to the horses at Elverdinghe and bivouacked. with orders to be ready to turn out at 5 am the next day. On the 25th of April, the regiment remained here until 10 pm, and they marched to the huts near Vlamertinghe, dropping the horses en route.
On April the 26th, at 5 pm, they moved off to the GHQ reserve line, near Hell Fire Corner, the level-crossing outside Ypres on the Menin road. They marched dismounted, leading pack-horses. On arriving at Hell Fire Corner they filed into the trenches north of it and found them in poor condition. They got settled in by 11 pm, having had five men wounded, and spent the night improving the trenches. The regiment remained here for the next three days.
They remained in trenches on the 29th of April until 10 pm and then marched to Wieltje to relieve part of the Northumbrian Territorial Division. Much time, was spent in getting into touch with local commanders in the front line and in support, and altogether no one got very much sleep that night. The next two days were spent in the same field. while at night we built a series of strong posts behind the G.H.Q. the line for machine guns to occupy in case of attack.
On the 2nd May, the day was quite quiet until 5.30 pm, when the shelling began to our front. On looking out from our shelters we saw a greenish-yellow cloud, about 20 feet high by half a mile broad, sweeping down from the northeast with a favouring breeze from St.Julien. It should be pointed out that they had as yet no gas masks, and the only protection against gas was 4-inch by 2-inch flannelette, which they were told to dampen and hold over the nose and mouth.
After seeing the infantry come pouring back the regiment was now ordered forward and advanced at the double through the gas and a heavy howitzer barrage to take the place of the infantry who had come back. They then remained in the support line. The casualties were one man killed, two officers and twenty-two other ranks wounded.
At 1 am on the 3rd May, much to everyone’s surprise, they were relieved, and marched on foot to Ouderdom, past the Zillebeke dam. The horses were picked up at Ouderdom and the march resumed to Wonnhoudt, where they billeted. spending the next two days cleaning up and resting.
At 1 pm on the 6th of May, they marched via Cassel and Caestre to billets in La Rue du Bois, where they remained on short notice to the 13th of May. At 11.30 pm on that date, a very terse message was received. It read: “Embus at once for Ypres.” It turned out later that the 3rd Cavalry Division had been heavily attacked, and in spite of a fine counter-attack, the line had been driven in.
At 2 am the buses arrived. and 14 officers and 296 other ranks moved to the Vlamertinghe Huts. At 7.30 pm on the 14th, they marched via Ypres, which was being shelled and was littered with dead men and horses, to support the 5th Cavalry Brigade, who was in the front line about Verlorenhoek. They were in the G.H.Q. line in front of Potijze and remained here until the 22nd, having a fairly quiet time on the whole. One man was killed and two wounded.
At midnight on the 22nd, the regiment was relieved and marched to Vlamertinghe, where they remained the next day also.
At 4.30 am on the 24th of May the regiment concentrated at the T-roads south-east of Vlamertinghe, while the enemy shelled the Ypres road with lachrymatory shells, very irritable to the eyes, nose and throat. At 10.30 am they marched across the country through Ypres. which was being fairly heavily shelled, to the Ecole de Bienfaisance. From here they moved to the railway cutting south-east of Ypres, which was found to be full of troops. One squadron was put here, and the others and the remained in the open in its vicinity. The cutting was very heavily shelled. At dark, the shelling pretty well ceased, and the regiment moved up to relieve the troops holding Hooge.
As soon as it grew light on the 25th they were able to get some grasp of the situation. The position seemed to be as follows:-Enemy holding Bellewaarde Ridge strongly, with trenches facing west and north on the west end of the ridge and in the small wood on the end of the spur, with communication trenches running back past Bellewaarde Farm. There was a hostile machine-gun post on the northern bank of the Menin road, some 100 yards from our own road post.
On our east front were snipers’ trenches from 50 to 800 yards away, with their main trenches (judging from rifle fire at our aeroplanes) 500 to 600 yards distant. Most of the village north of the road was, therefore, a No Man’s Land, with many corpses, British and German, in the buildings, gardens, and tangled undergrowth.
On their immediate left, there was a gap of 1,000 yards down the Menin road to the Birr crossroads, which was held by our infantry. The Germans showed no inclination to push through here, and they may not have been aware that the gap existed. Our right, 250 yards from the road, ended at Sanctuary Wood, and after a short gap, the 5th Lancers held the line. Our right trenches were full of springs, which were continually causing the sides to fall in, exposing our men-a a circumstance of which the German snipers were not slow in availing themselves. On our left. under the western house of Hooge, was a vast dugout.
Orders at this time were to remain strictly on the defensive. Half an hour after midnight on the 29th of May the regiment was relieved by the 3rd Dragoon Guards. This tour of the trenches had cost five killed, twenty-eight wounded and twelve sick.