Over the course of the next several months, I plan to discuss the major World War One battles that affect my characters in Angel of Mercy. These posts will not be broad overviews of military strategy, but instead will focus on what happened during each conflict using the old journalist mainstay of asking “who, what, where, when and why”.
We start with the Second Battle of Ypres.
When: April 22-May 25, 1915
Where: Near Ypres, Belgium
Who: The nations involved were
- French colonial troops (Algeria and Morocco)
- The British Empire including the Dominion of Canada.
What: The major events of the battle were
- The Allies were on the defensive. Ypres was strategic for defense of the English Channel and the French forts in the vicinity.
- The Germans released chlorine gas against the Algerian troops on April 22. Many died quickly, were taken prisoner, or broke ranks and retreated.
- Canadian troops filled the line and managed to keep it from falling into enemy hands.
- On April 24, the Canadians were gassed.
- Canadian medical officer John McCrae was inspired to write his famous poem “In Flanders Fields” after one of his friends was killed in the battle. The poem is the reason poppies are used for remembrance on Memorial Day.
Why: The attack took place because
- Ypres was the final major Belgian city still in Allied hands.
- The attack was meant to divert Allied attention from the Eastern Front.
- The Canadians had nearly 6,000 casualties in their first major engagement of the war.
- Ypres was reduced to rubble.
- Total casualties: 69,000 Allies, 35,000 Germans.
- Other chemical weapons, including mustard gas, were developed as a result of the success of chlorine gas.
What are your thoughts on the first large scale chemical weapon attack in history? Leave a comment below.
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