St. Julien Canadian Memorial at Vancouver Corner

St. Julien Canadian Memorial at Vancouver Corner
St. Julien Canadian Memorial at Vancouver Corner, Ypres Salient
Canadian St. Julien Memorial at Vancouver Corner.

The memorial, also known as “The Brooding Soldier”, commemorates the Canadian 1st Division in action on 22nd to 24th April 1915. The Canadian division held its position on the left flank of the British Army after the German Army launched the first ever large-scale gas attack against two French divisions on the left of the Canadians. From the start of the battle at 17.00 hours on 22nd April and for the next few days the Canadians were involved in heavy fighting, losing some 2,000 casualties - killed, wounded or missing - from the division.

Design for the Memorial

Head and shoulders of the sculptured soldier figure with reversed arms.
Head and shoulders view of the sculptured figure with reversed arms.

The design for this memorial was submitted to a competition in 1920, which was looking to find a single design for a national monument to be constructed on eight Canadian battlefield memorial sites granted to Canada by France and Belgium. Five sites were in France and three sites were in Belgium. The Canadian Battlefields Memorials Committee had been set up in 1920 by the Canadian Government. The task of the committee was to carry out the organization and administration for the design competition. 160 ideas were submitted to the competition and 17 were shortlisted. These 17 designs were made up as plaster models by the shortlisted artists, scultors and architects. The winner of the competition, announced in October 1921, was Walter Seymour Allward. His design was for a stone memorial of epic proportions, with twin towers or pylons and 20 sculpted figures. It was decided that Allward's design would be constructed as a national monument on the Vimy Ridge battlefield memorial site.

Frederick Chapman Clemesha, an architect from Regina, had submitted his design for the competition. Clemesha himself had served in the Canadian Corps during the Great War and had been wounded.

Clemesha's design comprised a single tower of stone with the head and shoulders of a soldier at the top of the tower. The soldier had his head bowed and was in the pose of a serviceman standing with “reversed arms”, that is, he was resting his hands on the rifle butt and the rifle was pointing with its barrel to the ground. Chapman's design was the runner-up in the competition, and his design was chosen to be sited at the battlefield site of St. Julien in memory of the Canadians who fought during the Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915.

The memorial is 11 metres high and constructed from a single shaft of granite. The stone was quarried in the Vosges mountains, the scene of bitter fighting in the mountains between the French and the Germans during the early months of the 1914-1918 war. The granite stone block for the shaft was transported directly to St. Julien in Belgium. The stone block for the head and shoulders bust of the soldier was taken to Brussels where it was carved.

The sculpted figure at the top of this tower of granite is the head and shoulders of a Canadian soldier in his steel helmet. His head is bowed and his hands are resting on the butt of his rifle in the position of “reversed arms”, that is, with the rifle barrel pointing down. The ceremonial custom of reversing the order of things occurs at military funerals and is believed to have been done for the first time at the funeral of the Duke of Marlborough in 1722.

Memorial Inscription

The memorial is inscribed with the words:

Inscription on the Canadian St. Julien Memorial at Vancouver Corner.

THIS COLUMN MARKS THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE 18,000 CANADIANS ON THE BRITISH LEFT WITHSTOOD THE FIRST GERMAN GAS ATTACKS THE 22ND-24TH OF APRIL 1915. 2,000 FELL AND HERE LIE BURIED

Many of these 2,000 Canadian soldiers were never recovered and remain as missing in action in the fields or as unidentified graves in the cemeteries around the area of Keerselare near the memorial. The names of the missing Canadians in Flanders, Belgium, are recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres / Ieper. Those whose bodies were found and buried lie in the military cemeteries in the surrounding battlefield area. Those who died of their wounds would have been laid to rest in cemeteries near to where they were being treated behind the Allied lines.

Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing

Dedication Ceremony

The memorial at St. Julien was unveiled by HRH the Duke of Connaught on 8th July 1923. The former Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, was present and paid tribute to the Canadian forces, thanking them for their sacrifice and extending the gratitude of the French nation for their part in the war of 1914-1918.

Canadians Holding the Front Line in April & May 1915

View looking north-west from the memorial towards Langemarck village.
View looking north-west from the Canadian 1st Division position on the far left of the British Army line in April 1915.

The photograph of the tree-lined road is taken with the memorial behind the camera, looking in a north-westerly direction towards the village of Langemark. Langemark church spire can be seen on the horizon (to the right of the second tree from the left). Langemark was a little way behind the French Front Line on the day of the German gas attack, 22nd April 1915. On this photograph the Front Line ran from just north of (to the right of) Langemark and across the horizon to a position about 1.5 kms further along the tree lined road from where this photograph has been taken. Following the gas attack on 22nd April the British Front Line was pushed south towards Ypres over the next two weeks past this position at Vancouver Corner. By mid May 1915 the line reached by the German Army was about 1.5 kms to the left along this road where the photograph has been taken.

Section of British Army trench map 28 N.W.2. (Edition 6A) 1:10,000

The map section is taken from British Army trench map 28 N.W.2. (Edition 6A) 1:10,000. This 1917 edition of the map is dated July 1917 and at this time Vancouver Corner was behind the German Front Line. The red markings are German trenches or narrow gauge railway lines corrected to 30.6.17. On 22nd April 1915 the British Front Line was about 1.5 kms north of Vancouver Corner, which was, therefore, in the British Army area behind the British Front Line.

The black crosses on the map have been added to indicate Triangle Farm (left) and Vancouver Farm (right). Triangle Farm was named presumably because of the shape created by the surrounding roads. This triangular area was also formally named as “The Triangle” on maps from late 1917. Vancouver Farm was likely named by the Canadian 1st Division when they took over this part of the battle front from the French Army in mid April 1915.

For more information about the German gas attack and the part played by the Canadian defence on 22nd April 1915 go to our Battle Study: The Second Battle of Ypres at:

Battle Study: Second Battle of Ypres

Location of Vancouver Corner

Leave Ypres / Ieper on the N313 in the direction of Sint-Jan and St. Julien. About 1.5 kms after Sint-Jan village you come to a T junction where the N313 meets the N38 from the left. Turn right to continue on the N313. In about 2.5 kms you will arrive in St. Julien village. Continue through the village on the N313 for another 600 metres when you will come to crossroads. Continue straight on past this junction and within another 100 metres you will see a right turn (Zonnebekestraat) and the sign for the Canadian Memorial at Vancouver Corner. You will see the tall memorial to your front right. As you turn right into Zonnebekestraat the car park for the memorial is immediately on your left.

Latitude N 50° 53' 58" ; Longitude E 2° 56' 26"

Access to Canadian Memorial Vancouver Corner

This is a site open to the public at all times.

Parking

There is a parking area next to the memorial with easy parking for cars and coaches.

Further Reading

Book St Julian, Ypres 1915

St.Julian: Ypres (Battleground Europe) (paperback)

by Graham Keech

One of the highly acclaimed Battleground Europe guidebook series. Includes maps, photographs and information about what to see on the battlefield today.

Book Baptism of Fire

Baptism of Fire: The Second Battle of Ypres and the Forging of Canada, April 1915 (paperback)

by Nathan M Greenfield

Account of the Canadian Division in the Ypres Salient during the Second Battle of Ypres.

Book Magnificent but not War

Magnificent But Not War: The Second Battle of Ypres (paperback)

by John Dixon

A detailed, day by day account of the battle, using personal accounts, regimental histories and war diaries. Illustrated with maps and photographs. Includes the British Order of Battle for the Battle for Hill 60 and for Second Ypres, Officer casualties and a list of Victoria Cross winners.

Related Topics

View to Passchendaele church from the Canadian Memorial at Crest Farm.
View to Passchendaele from Canadian Memorial at Crest Farm.

Passchendaele Canadian Memorial (Crest Farm)

Hill 62 (Sanctuary Wood) Canadian Memorial

Battles of the Ypres Salient

Acknowledgements

Veterans Affairs Canada. Website: www.veterans.gc.ca