Ypres Salient map highlighting the area of the gas cloud attack.The Belgian 6th Division Defence

22 April 1915: 19.30

The Belgian 6th Division was commanded by General de Ceuninck. It held a front of about 4 kilometres on the bank of the Ypres-Yser Canal from Steenstraat (exclusive) to Drie Grachten. The regiment on the right wing of the division was the Grenadier Regiment under command of Colonel Lodz.

Map showing the German advance reaches the Ypres-Yser canal at Het Sas.

Colonel Lodz had set up a listening post in the brewery at Steenstraat. From here the men at the post witnessed the launch of the German attack. Owing to the direction of the wind at this location at about 5.00pm, the gas cloud did not blow directly towards the Belgians. Instead it veered to the south, with only the edge of the cloud passing by on the Belgian right wing. It still had a strong smell and hurt the throats of those who were in its path, but it did not have the full force of the cloud that was blowing into the French lines.

When the Germans had launched the gas attack on the French General de Ceuninck had witnessed the French withdrawal and had ordered his artillery to fire at the German advance. Having witnessed French soldiers running from their positions in Steenstraat village shouting that they had been poisoned, the men of the Belgian Grenadier Regiment calmly waited for the Germans to appear. When they did the Belgians opened rapid rifle fire on them. But the Germans kept coming. General de Ceuninck eventually ordered a defensive flank to be formed on his right wing along a communication trench.

When the Germans of 46. Reserve Division crossed the canal at Steenstraat later that evening they also attacked the right wing of the Belgian 6th Division. The Belgians successfully fought them off. The Germans then bombarded the Belgians here with gas shells and made an attempt to cross the canal in front of the Belgian division. They did not succeed in getting one boat or raft into the canal.

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