“SECOND YPRES”

COMPILED BY BEATRIX BRICE 1927

The heroic defence that established the Salient line in October and November 1914 set an aureole around Ypres, and the city assumed a significance in the War beyond any military value. Germany, determined on a spectacular triumph, employed every device to capture the town, but only added to the glory of the name, and by making the Salient the testing-ground of the first asphyxiating gas called out a display of sacrifice and courage that crowned “Ypres “afresh and immortally.

As in 1914, the British in 1915 fought in a position of disadvantage and intense difficulty. In the beginning of February they had taken over five more miles of front from the French at the request of General Joffre, so carrying the line north of the Menin Road and reaching the Ypres—Poelcappelle Road. The front trenches that were taken over required a great deal of work; many were very inadequate and all built rather above than below ground, mere breastworks sited at intervals, not bulletproof and lacking communication trenches. They had been planned with a view to defence by the “Soixante-Quinze “which the French had in numbers and well supplied with ammunition. In places things were made worse by the nauseating smell from numerous long-unburied bodies.

Behind the line lay a second, known to us as “G.H.Q. 2nd Line.” This, built by the French, was a well-prepared system for defence, well sited and protected by a six-yard-wide belt of wire broken only by openings where required for passage. The ground was too waterlogged to allow of deep dugouts, and there were no bomb-proof shelters.

On the 22nd April the British V Corps, commanded by Lieut.-General Sir Herbert Plumer, was holding two-thirds of the Ypres Front, facing east and south: an arc of ten miles curving from Hill 60 out to Polygon Wood, touching Broodseinde Village, and round to a point half a mile south of Poelcappelle on the road from that town to Ypres. The belt of ground south of Polygon Wood was held by the 27th Division, north of it the 28th Division faced due east, and between the 28th Division and the French right lay the Canadian Division. The stalwart Belgian defence commenced at Steenstraate, and the stretch of country between them and the British left was manned by two French divisions of second quality, the 45th (Algerian) and 87th (Territorials), and a detachment of cavalry.

On April 14th a prisoner taken by the French disclosed the preparation of a gas attack, but his story was disbelieved, partly because he was so glib that the French General considered he had been primed, and partly because the use of asphyxiating gas was prohibited by the accepted laws of warfare.

BATTLE OF GRAFENSTAFEL RIDGE

The 22nd April was a day of unusual spring beauty, and drew to a calm evening disturbed by no abnormal enemy attack. At 5 p.m. the calm was shattered by an appalling outburst of heavy howitzer fire. The town and the villages north-east of Ypres—still inhabited by Belgian civilians and hitherto hardly touched—were bombarded furiously by a concentration of heavy shell. Then from the front of the German line beyond Langemarck there emerged an uncanny vision: two strange yellow wraiths of fog crept forward, spread, drew together, took on the blue-white tint of water-mists, and drifted before a gentle wind, down upon the rather puzzled but unsuspecting lines. Presently unofficered coloured men were seen falling back, then French Territorials in hurried retreat; teams and wagons of the French artillery retiring, though the 75’s still fired; men pointing to their throats, coughing, suffocating, terrified; a retreat growing into a rout: then suddenly at 7 p.m. the French guns fell silent. The treacherous attack had very thoroughly succeeded, and as the gas cloud rolled forward a great gap swiftly widened in its wake, into which pressed the German infantry.

Directly the attack started, Brig.-General Turner, V.C. (G.O.C. 3rd Canadian Brigade), whose 15th and 13th Battalions were the last troops of the British left, looked round for means to meet it. He drew up his reserves, the 14th Battalion, and moved two and a half companies out to cover the village of St. Julien. General Alderson, commanding the Canadian Division, at the same time ordered his divisional artillery to help the French. Immediately on the Canadian left the 1/1 Tirailleurs and the 1/2 bis Zouaves in support held their ground, being unaffected by the gas; but beyond them nearly all the Territorials and Algerians had joined the rout, and the Germans, unopposed, were pushing on near to the Poelcappelle Road and to Mousetrap Farm,1 Brig.-General Turner’s H.Q. Two platoons of the 13th Canadian Battalion here blocked their way, fighting till every man was killed, and a company of the 14th held the enemy at Hampshire Farm. Two guns of the 10th Canadian Battery in action north of St. Julien brought the enemy advance to a halt, but there was no one now beyond the flank, and a wide road lay open clear to Ypres.

General Alderson sent up the 16th (Canadian Scottish) to Brig.-General Turner, and directed the other reserve battalion, the 10th Canadians, to report as a working party; but being held up by the stream of fugitives, this battalion turned into G.H.Q. line east and south-east of Wieltje. The 3rd Canadian Brigade and the 2nd immediately on its right were urged to hold on to their position at the edge of the gap, and the 7th Battalion moved up behind them in reserve. By 8.25 p.m. all these manœuvres had secured the flank east and north of Mouse-trap Farm.

In the meanwhile the news had reached General Smith-Dorrien that a gap of over 3,000 yards—though indeed it proved to be 8,000—had suddenly been forced open on the north of the Second Army, menacing not only the town of Ypres but all the troops and guns in the rear. He immediately sent up the 1st Canadian Brigade and the 2/East Yorkshires to reinforce the line. On the right of the Canadians Generals Snow and Bulfin had grasped the fact that though the Canadians were holding their flank there was nothing beyond them, and without waiting for orders these two Divisional Commanders had already sent some of the reserves of the 27th and 28th Divisions towards St. Jean and Potijze to meet the menace on the British left, the 4/Rifle Brigade, the 2/K.S.L.I., the 2/Buffs, and 3/Middlesex. These four battalions were at midnight put under the command of Colonel A. D. Geddes, of the Buffs, the senior officer, and under the name of “Geddes’ Detachment “fought at the disposal of the Canadian Division. Half of the 3/Middlesex was detached to guard the Brielen Bridge over the Canal. The 2/Cheshire and 1/Monmouths— last battalion of General Bulfin’s Divisional Reserve—took up a position under Frezenberg Ridge as a local reserve.

As the reinforcements arrived, they came upon a situation of extraordinary danger. The left flank of the whole British Expeditionary Force ended abruptly just west of St. Julien and Mouse-trap Farm. Beyond the original Canadian line four and a half miles had been left undefended nearly due west to Brielen: in the whole of this distance only three points were held: a short flank thrown back by the 3rd Canadian Brigade and part of the 1/1 Tirailleurs on the extreme right; two and a half companies in front of St. Julien; four companies of Zouaves and the 3rd Canadian Brigade Reserves at Shell-trap Farm. The French were now west of the Canal, and the Germans, pouring across the country thus cleared for their passage, were driving down upon this gap from north and east. At about 9 o’clock they attacked the Tirailleurs near the Poelcappelle Road, but six companies of the 13th Canadians in the new throwback, with 200 of the Tirailleurs (the rest gave way), brought the enemy to a halt. Brig.-General Turner then called for Colonel Geddes (still so far only in command of the Buffs) for help. He sent up from St. Julien all he could spare—one company under Captain F. W. Tomlinson. This company with two platoons of the 13th Canadians arrived in the nick of time, finding the left company of the Canadians falling back at daybreak towards the St. Julien—Poelcappelle Road. The original line was swiftly reoccupied, the Buffs securing the apex of the salient, before the Germans had seen the temporary withdrawal. The Canadian artillery about this time were compelled by exposure of their position to move from the neighbourhood of St. Julien back to St. Jean and La Brique. The 2nd London Battery was in Kitchener’s Wood, and with only seven rifles among the detachment, withdrew, taking with them the sights and breech-blocks of the guns.

The battle lulled during the night, the Germans apparently halting to dig in, and so the British gained invaluable time to push their few, their very few available troops into the breach.

This then was the situation. The enemy onslaught had rent the allied defence wide open north of the British, had passed behind her guard and attacked her unarmoured side. Troops, rushed up at upmost speed during the night hours, too few in numbers to man more than a series of outposts, were called upon to fight where there was no prepared position whatever, neither trenches nor wire. Moreover, the menace that turned the British defence right back upon itself so narrowed the Salient that the defenders of the northern line had their backs but four miles from their comrades in the south. The Germans employed a method of attack that is the most difficult of any for troops short of artillery and ammunition, and dependent almost entirely on the human factor, to meet. They made use of an enormous concentration of artillery that bombarded a sector until the trenches were shattered and the defenders all killed or wounded. The infantry then advanced in a short rush to occupy the devastated zone; the bombardment moved forward, and the process was repeated. To meet this strategy by attack and counter-attack is hopeless without adequate artillery, yet these were the tactics ordered by General Foch. His troops were not able to carry them out; and the British endured appalling losses in delivering infantry attacks against an enemy in position backed by powerful heavy artillery, in the attempt loyally to support their allies.

The story that follows is clearer if we bear these conditions in mind.

To return to the opening hours, the enemy lull was broken by an attack on the eastern face of the Salient which, though it failed completely, prevented the diverting of all reserves from this front to the danger zone in the north.

Before midnight General Smith-Dorrien, Commander of the Second Army, informed General Foch of the formation of his protective flank, and in consequence of an agreement by the French to counter-attack in co-operation with the British, a very fine and successful charge was made at 12 o’clock by two battalions of the 10th and 16th Canadians (from Divisional Reserve), who drove valiantly through Kitchener’s Wood and dug in on the north-east border. The French, however, did not move, and under heavy fire the two Canadian battalions were reduced to some 400 men, while a company from the 1st Brigade sent up at dawn was nearly wiped out. It was impossible to hold the dearly gained ground, and the line was withdrawn to the southern edge of the wood and prolonged towards St. Julien by half of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Brigade.

After consultation between General Plumer and General Alderson, Colonel Geddes pushed his detachment up on the Canadian left, and sought to find the right of the French; the remaining two battalions of the 1st Canadian Brigade were sent up to hold the Canal north of Ypres to ensure the safety of the British flank. By dawn of the 23rd the great gap was strung across by isolated posts of the strength of some ten battalions under Brig.-General Turner and Colonel Geddes, with three and a half battalions from the 27th Divisional Reserve in second line, supported by half the artillery of one division. Some of these troops were able to accomplish a little digging and wiring, but some had only had time to reach their positions and lie down. This thinly held line was attacked by forty-two German battalions with a superiority of five to one divisional guns, backed by tremendous weight of heavy artillery.

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St. George’s Day opened with another lovely dawn. At 4 o’clock Colonel Geddes’s detachment (less the company of the 2/Buffs still with the Canadians) advanced across the open, the Buffs under furious fire gaining a position between Hampshire and Mouse-trap Farms. Two companies of the 3rd Middlesex joined the 1st and 4th Canadian Battalions in an effort to link up with the French on the left. Although the French did not start, the British troops under very heavy fire pressed forward over the western end of Hill-top Ridge, and gained a position within 700 yards of the enemy before violent enfilade fire stopped further progress. Here throughout the morning they were assailed by such a stream of gas shells that every man was affected, though in most cases only for the time being. The establishment of this very sketchy and precarious line, and the stubborn resistance of its defenders, stayed the German infantry advance from the north, and throughout the day the Boche was seen strengthening the positions he had gained. But the tremendous bombardment of Ypres continued unabated, sweeping the whole front of the V Corps and especially the apex at the north-east, which was plastered with shell fire and gas, and enfiladed by machine guns from the trenches vacated by the French troops near by. Here the 15th and 13th Canadians, with the parts of those battalions that formed the new flank, held on heroically though short of food, water, and ammunition, as supplies could not be got through to them. The French now again declared themselves ready to act, and called upon the British for co-operation, and a general attack was ordered from between Kitchener’s Wood and the Canal towards Pilckem. The 13th Brigade of the 5th Division, fresh from the devastating ordeal of Hill 60, had by now been sent up. The troops already on the spot waited for its arrival, when, weary from the march, it went straight up into the attack: Brig.-General Wanless O’Gowan being given command of the operation. It was a wonderful effort, but one that had no hope of success. Without any preliminary bombardment, over very open country in broad daylight, Geddes’, O’Gowan’s, and Tuson’s men went up into the face of the devastating fire of a hidden enemy, gained within a distance of between 30 and 200 yards of his position, and could get no farther, an example of sheer courage and discipline of the grandest order. The French offensive was limited to the advance and withdrawal of some 400 Zouaves.

When dark, the British made a new line behind the further point of advance 600 yards from the enemy, from Hampshire Farm westwards. Here the troops dug in, and this remained the forward line for the next five days. General Joffre’s request had been honoured, the German advance stopped, but little ground was gained. The losses had been grievous, and in the 13th Brigade hardly an officer was left who had been through the great II Corps battles of 1914. At the north-eastern apex the 13th Canadians with the company of the Buffs held on till night, though their position, holding an angle of 60°, was fired into from front and rear. At evening it was decided to withdraw from the tip and form a rounded line behind it; this was done without disturbance by the enemy. By night of St. George’s Day the new front facing north and east had been manned; but to patch the rents in the allied line every battalion in Divisional and Corps Reserve, as well as two from the Second Army Reserves, had been pressed into service. The French were now standing, though behind the Canal, and in touch with the Belgians on their left. The enemy had established seven bridges across the Canal, and, being checked in his onrush by the new British flank, attempted a breach between the French and Belgians. In view of this fresh menace at the side of his army, General Smith-Dorrien sent the 1st Cavalry Division to reinforce Sir H. Plumer. The enemy succeeded in capturing Lizerne, but this proved the limit of his advance; the Belgians, bravely extending their flank west of Lizerne, regained touch with the French.

BATTLE OF ST. JULIEN

The 24th opened with violent bombardment in the early hours of the morning, and this was followed by a cloud of gas that swept across a thousand yards of front: across the northern side of the Salient on the Canadian line, but behind and parallel with the new north-western front. Four six-battalioned brigades of the enemy followed the gas waves, attacking from near Gravenstafel Road by St. Julien to Kitchener’s Wood, and assaulting our line, now held by the equivalent of eight battalions, with nothing left in reserve but three whole and two half companies. A wall of poison fog 15 feet high rolled down upon the defenders. With no more protection than that afforded by any rag dipped in any obtainable liquid tied across their mouths, the 8th Canadian Battalion and part of the 15th manned the parapets and drove the enemy back. Every officer of the 15th was killed or captured, and softer fighting desperately they gave way and fell back westward; but two platoons stuck fast alongside the Buffs at the extreme apex. On the right the 8th Battalion held on heroically in spite of a hail of bombs from the captured trenches on their flank. The fire of the Canadians and the Buffs checked the Germans, who had expected the gas to clear their way.

The next attack was made upon the north-west front. For a considerable time this attack was held by the fire of the 122nd Heavy Battery and of Canadians and Buffs, but numbers of the enemy pushed through the gap left by the 15th on the right, and threatened the rear of the line. A retirement was deemed necessary to shorten and bridge the gap, and the Canadians withdrew, losing heavily under tremendous fire of every sort.

Unfortunately Captain Tomlinson’s company did not receive the order to retire, and these men of the Buffs, who had so magnificently stiffened the defence at the apex, fought on with the two platoons of the 15th until, with ammunition done, and nearly every man killed or wounded, they were surrounded and taken. The result after these hours was a breach of 1,500 yards in the front of the 3rd Brigade, and to meet this fresh danger the 4/East Yorkshire and 4/Green Howards were sent from the Canal bank to the G.H.Q. line in front of Wieltje and Fortuin. The German infantry had also suffered very severe losses, and there followed a lull in their attack, but before noon another annihilating bombardment opened, and the Germans advanced upon either side of the second Canadian position. A retirement from the exposed forward slope of Gravenstafel Ridge had become necessary, and the Canadians fell back in small parties, fighting for each step of the way, while every yard of ground and approach was smashed by shells of enormous calibre. Still the enemy failed to push through the broken front of the 3rd Canadian Brigade and were held back by the indomitable fire of the artillery, in spite of the paltry allowance of ammunition. The flanks either side of the gaps still held, and two battalions of the 150th (York and Durham) Brigade came up under the heavy shell fire and joined what was left of the 3rd Canadian Brigade in front of St. Julien, while the 1/Royal Irish moved up to stop the enemy at Fortuin. That afternoon the Germans, having advanced on either side of the extreme jut of the Salient and entered trenches covering St. Julien, a retirement had become inevitable, and the Canadians withdrew to man the G.H.Q. line covering Wieltje from Fortuin to Mouse-trap Farm. Two companies of the 3rd Battalion received the order too late, and were annihilated, after successfully holding back the Germans west of St. Julien for some hours. The mixed troops in the village held out till 4 o’clock, when the Germans took St. Julien.

A very gallant defence during these hours was made on the right of the gap within the Canadian Front by the 5th (Western) Cavalry and the 8th (Winnipeg Rifles) Battalion, that still clung to the original front of the 2nd Canadian Brigade.

St. Julien—Fortuin had now become the chief danger-point, and the extreme step was taken of robbing the 28th Division on the Zonnebeke front of its reserves, and the 1/Suffolks and 12/Northumberland Rangers were thrown into the defence at Fortuin. Every available man was called upon to stop the German assault here at all costs. In a grand counter-attack the 4/Green Howards and the 4/East Yorkshires drove the advancing enemy back through St. Julien; so successful was this check that no further attack was made in the area by the enemy that day. Towards evening the Canadians on the west side of the gap called on the 28th Division for help, and such detachments as could be spared—the 28th was hard pressed itself—were sent up between Gravenstafel and Fortuin. Reinforcements from various quarters were hurrying throughout the day to the Canadian Division, among them some fine Territorial troops, the 151st (Durham L.I.). Late in the afternoon orders from G.H.Q. were received that the situation at St. Julien must be restored, the French having now promised to attack in force. General Smith-Dorrien covered the juncture with the Allies by placing General Allenby’s Cavalry Corps under the French command. A collection of fifteen battalions was made into a special force and placed under Brig.-General Hull (10th Brigade), and sent to launch an attack and drive the Germans from St. Julien and Kitchener’s Wood north-eastward. This somewhat unwieldy command of infantry and artillery was without signal company or other details, and had only the staff of a brigade.

It was a wet, dark night, there was no time for reconnaissance, nor to rendezvous the commanders of the different units, and the whole situation was extremely obscure. The Germans were dug in north of St. Julien, our line here was very ragged and a gap of  miles divided the 3rd Canadian Brigade from where the 2nd—cumbered with gassed and wounded men—were still holding on. In this gap were only two detachments: a mixed force of Suffolks, Northumberland Fusiliers, Cheshires, Mon-mouths, and Canadians, holding 800 yards near Boetleer’s Farm, while an isolated 1,200-yards-long section of the Gravenstafel Road was in charge of the London Rangers and Suffolks. North of Wieltje the G.H.Q. line was manned by the survivors of the 3rd Canadian Brigade and its various reinforcements, while Geddes’ detachment lay beyond.

Brig.-General Hull attacked at dawn of the 28th. The 10th Brigade, fresh and at war strength, advanced at once to the attack. Its five battalions were watched going forward in perfect formation till they were within a hundred yards of St. Julien; here they came into so frightful a tempest of machine-gun fire from the houses that they were mown down, leaving their dead in swathes across the field. Advance was impossible—few came back. When the supports came up, a new line was formed, curving right and left from the Vanheule Farm south of St. Julien to the Hannebeek and Mouse-trap Farms. The appalling losses of the 10th Brigade, 73 officers and 2,346 other ranks, trained men of the first quality, were not utterly in vain. The enemy was blocked at St. Julien, and this position was held until the 4th May, when the salient line was deliberately withdrawn.

During the 25th the 3rd Canadian Brigade was relieved, the flank of the 8th, that had been exposed in the gas attack that drove back the 15th Battalion, was by now reinforced, and at evening this battalion, exhausted after forty-eight hours of fighting, lacking food, and with many men wounded and gassed, was taken into reserve.

On this day the eastern face of the Salient was heavily attacked. Opening with bombardment of very high explosive and gas, the enemy charged the front of the 28th Division, but only at one point, where every officer had fallen, did he succeed in occupying a short sixty yards of breastwork.

In the sector to the north the Germans advanced through the gap on the right of Boetleer’s Farm, where reinforcements were unable to come up under the terrific shelling. Brig.-General Currie, learning that the 151st Brigade were occupying a line along the Gravenstafel—Fortuin Road and would not be used to reinforce him, ordered the 2nd Canadian Brigade to retire to the right of this new position. The flank of the 85th Brigade was thus in the air, and throwing back its left it formed a short flank, which it held until the general retirement on 4th May.

That night the gap was strung across by isolated bodies of weary men not even under one command.

The 26th April was distinguished by the attack of the Lahore Division. This division came up from Outerdom and assembled between St. Jean and Wieltje, with the object of an advance in co-operation with the French. The division attacked at 2 o’clock. Two brigades advanced upon the enemy at Mauser Ridge and came under appalling fire. Their ranks were devastated, but they pushed forward, leaving their dead in great heaps, and the two British battalions, 1/Manchester and the Connaught Rangers, actually reached within 120 yards of the German line. Just as they came to the wire a cloud of gas was released, blowing across the advancing troops. The British battalion, with the 40 Pathans and 47/Sikhs, held on, though some of the Indians, all having no protection from gas, fell back. The French did not advance after the release of the poison cloud, and the Lahore Division consolidated the line to touch them at Turco Farm.

On this afternoon the 149th (Northumberland) Brigade received orders to advance and join the attack, but received them after the time set for the advance. Without hesitation the brigade went forward, loading up extra ammunition, and charged into the face of overwhelming machine-gun fire, obeying the call to attempt an impossible task, and in the attempt losing over two-thirds of its strength. These were the first Territorials to go into action as a brigade.

While the enemy was repulsing, chiefly by artillery fire, British attacks on the left, his efforts on the right were aimed by the most violent attack to drive the 85th and the nth Brigades from Gravenstafel Ridge, even as he had driven the 3rd Canadian Brigade. But failing in his surprise assault, he continued to ravage the shoulder of the ridge with shell. His view-point on higher ground overlooked every yard of the position, and he directed fire from front enfilade and reverse, maintaining this devastating bombardment unceasingly throughout the sixteen hours of daylight during the following eight days. His repeated efforts to break in through the gaps in the line north of Berlin Wood failed, though at terrible cost to the units that held the way.

On the night of the 26th the V Corps were reinforced by the arrival of the 2nd Cavalry Division east of the Canal.

Throughout this phase of the defence, tactics inspired by General Foch had demanded of the troops that continuous attacks should be made though with no artillery support. These attacks were doomed to failure even before their inception; and General Smith-Dorrien was of the opinion that unless the French could restore their front, a retirement to straighten the British line was the only possible course. However, a combined offensive, French and British, was ordered for the 27th. The Lahore Division once again attacked, and coming again under heavy fire pushed on to Canadian Farm and Colne Valley, whence it could get no farther. The French troops, bombarded during their assembly, did not advance. A fresh attack was launched at evening, supported by a composite brigade formed by the only units that could be scraped together, a total of 1,290 men under Colonel Tuson.

This started hopefully, but unfortunately the Turcos were met by gas shell and fled, and only some of the French held on. The Indian brigades were therefore brought back behind Hill-top Ridge covered by outposts from their battalions.

On this afternoon while fighting was in progress, a telegram from G.H.Q. transferred the command of all troops serving in the Salient to General Plumer, with Major-General G. F. Milne as Chief Staff Officer, and this command was known as “Plumer’s Force.” His orders were to prepare a line as had been advised by General Smith-Dorrien, but to continue the offensive if required with the French. This was followed by a reorganisation of troops, battalions being returned to their own brigades.

The Salient had now become almost untenable. The confines of its narrowed shape enclosed a space in which troops must be closely packed if sufficient in numbers to hold the long encircling line. The Canal at the back cramped the passage of transport into an approach that had become a mere target. Artillery west of the Canal was out of effective reach. Yet this impossible line had been forced upon the British, and unless the French could come forward again on the north, it must be held in this deadly shape or else withdrawn.

During the next few days some attacks took place in consonance with some, generally abortive, efforts of the French, and a withdrawal was postponed by General Foch’s reiterated wish, in spite of the hazardous position of our troops, heavily shelled in the narrow space, and unable to reply.

At last on the 1st May General Foch’s views were overridden by General Joffre, and the British command was free to commence a withdrawal from the tip of the Salient. This was carried out by degrees during the following nights. At noon on the 2nd, the 4th Division on the north face was assailed by violent bombardment and gas, but the enemy was met and beaten back, and our artillery immediately opened fire on the area behind the gas cloud, and checked the effort of the enemy infantry to follow it up. Further attacks were broken up, as in 1914, by the wonderful rifle fire of the British.

The new line chosen by General Plumer was planned to run from Hill 60, east of Hooge, round Frezenberg Ridge to Mouse-trap Farm, thence continuing as before westward to the Canal. This entailed giving up a depth of from 2½ miles by Frezenberg to 1 mile near Hooge, on a five-mile-base line, and to this line the forces were withdrawn. On the night of the 3rd-4th May the infantry of the 27th, 28th, and 4th Divisions moved back from the front line, first one half, then another quarter, and finally in small bodies, slipping away unseen by the enemy. The success of this withdrawal was menaced by a concentration of hostile shelling on Berlin Wood on the evening of the 3rd; but the Buffs, fighting till every man in the front line was killed or wounded, and the 1st Rifle Brigade with only one man to every 12 yards of trench, held fast until reinforcements were rushed up. The Germans were stayed; and the 3rd Division, although their line was in places only a few feet from the enemy, drew away unmolested, veiled by the usual Salient ground-mist. The trenches were left in perfect order, that the entering Germans might appreciate that the retirement was a voluntary one; and so little were they aware of what was forward that they continued next morning to shell the abandoned trenches.

On this date ends the phase that is known by the battle name “St. Julien.”

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