OTTAWA, ON – April 22nd marked the beginning of the Second Battle of Ypres and the first use of poison gas on the Western Front.
“Its significance has sometimes been lost but today, on the 100th anniversary, we remember the crucial contributions Canadians made during that battle,” says Dominion President of The Royal Canadian Legion, Tom Eagles. “The defence of the Ypres salient by the 1st Canadian Division and men of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was an important milestone that stopped the German advance and ultimately helped pave the way for the Allied Victory in Western Europe,” adds Eagles.
The former Allied Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Ferdinand Foch was asked to choose the two most important contributions to victory by each of the Allied Powers after the Great War had ended. Marshal Foch chose the breakthrough by the Australians and Canadians at Amiens on 8 August 1918 and the stand of the Canadians against the gas attack at Second Battle of Ypres 22-24 April 1915 as the two most important from the British Empire.
During the first 48hours alone of the second battle at Ypres, some 6,035 Canadians were killed, captured or injured, or to put it differently, one man in every three was a casualty.
It was also during the Second Battle of Ypres that LCol John McCrae, working in a field hospital in the area, learned of the death of his close friend and Gunner, Lt Alexis Helmer of Ottawa on May 2nd 1915. The next day, on May 3rd, 1915, he composed the poem “In Flanders Fields” that is known around the world.
“The relationship between LCol McCrae’s poem and Canadians’ support for the Legion’s Poppy Campaign are well known,” says Eagles. “Which is why the 300,000 members of the Legion are proud to support the unveiling of the statue of LCol John McCrae at the National Artillery Memorial on Green Island in Ottawa on May 3rd 2015,” states Eagles.