Left of the Canadian line in danger of envelopment
22 April 1915: 18.30
The continued advance of the German 51. Reserve Division beyond Langemarck towards the objective of St. Julien increased the strength of the German troops to the left of the 1st Canadian Division at the Franco-British Boundary. Having managed to throw back a short defensive flank from the front line southwards along the Poelcapelle-St. Julien road the Canadian and French troops had managed to stop the German advance at this point.
Nevertheless, the situation was very serious. As a result of the German success at Langemarck, the withdrawal of the French troops on the Canadian left and the renewed momentum of the German advance, the Canadian left flank was in danger of envelopment. If the Germans successfully continued the advance past St. Julien they could swing round in a north-easterly direction into the rear of the 1st Canadian Division.
The danger of the situation was expressed in the Field Messages sent by 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade at the time. At 6.25pm the Brigade-Major of 3rd Canadian Brigade headquarters at Mouse Trap Farm (2 kilometres south-west of St. Julien), Lieutenant-Colonel G B Hughes, sent a runner with a message to the 1st Canadian Division commander, General Alderson, at Chateau des Trois Tours, Brielen, stating the following:
“Left of our left subsection is retiring.” (1)
A few minutes later he sent another message by runner to the neighbouring 2nd Canadian Brigade on his right:
“The left of our left section is retiring having been driven in aaa Will you be ready to support us” (2)
Five minutes later, at 6.30pm, the Commandant of St. Julien and commander of 13th Canadian Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Loomis, sent a message to 3rd Canadian Brigade headquarters at Mouse Trap Farm:
“No doubt heavy retirement going on on our left aaa Last report from our firing line by runner they were holding the line aaa ST. JULIEN command in position aaa Left must be supported quickly” (3)
(1) War Diary of 1st Canadian Division, April 1915 Appendices: ref. WO95/3717
(2) Official History of the Canadian Forces in The Great War 1914-1919, Appendices, no. 347, p. 239
(3) Official History of the Canadian Forces in The Great War 1914-1919, Appendices, no. 348, p. 239