Pause in the battle
22 April 1915: 20.45
By 8.45pm the reports being received by General Plumer at the British V. Corps headquarters in Poperinghe were giving a very bleak picture of the situation. He had been told that the French had retired from their first and second lines, and had abandoned their artillery. He understood that there were no formed bodies of French troops east of the Yser Canal, except for four battalions of Zouaves on the left of the French line plus one company of Tirailleurs holding the right of the French line with 3rd Canadian Brigade. It was apparent to him that, due to the large gap of about 6.5 kilometres between these two bodies of French troops i.e. between Steenstraat and the left of the 1st Canadian Division, the way to Ypres was indeed open.
However, at about 9pm reports started to come in to V. Corps (probably from the 1st Canadian Division headquarters) that the Germans had halted their advance; reports had been sent to 1st Canadian Division HQ that the enemy rifle fire had been slackening off from about 7.30pm and the Germans appeared to be digging in.(1)
A pause in the battle by the Germans at this point was fortuitous for the Allies because they could use the time to bring up reserves to support the 3rd Canadian Brigade holding onto its exposed left flank.
At 9pm General Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British Second Army, reported to British General Headquarters in St. Omer (northern France) that the situation was grave. An hour later he suggested that General Foch, commander of the French Army in northern France and Belgium, should put in sufficient French troops to fill the gap created by the French retirement earlier in the afternoon.(2)
The French counter-attack already begun at about 8pm, with 6 companies commanded by Colonel Mordacq, was still fighting south of Pilckem but had not achieved any real success in re-establishing a line for the French.
Acknowledgements & Notes
(1) See the page Canadian 3rd Brigade report that enemy rifle fire has slackened