15th Bn Cap Badge
MAY 2022: 107th Anniversary of the battle of Festubert

Following the chlorine gas attack and heavy defensive fighting in the Ypres salient in April 1915, the depleted Battalions of the 1stCanadian Division – including the 15th Battalion – were pulled out of the line, reinforced and on May 3rd moved to France south of Armentieres.

On May 9th, as part of the plan to support the French offensive north of Arras, the British First Army launched a series of costly attacks against German positions on Aubers ridge to prevent German reinforcements from moving south against the French.

The battle of Festubert opened on May 15th with British and Indian troops making advances east of the town. On May 18th the Canadian 3rd Brigade moved up from reserve into the line and joined a series of assaults against a German strongpoint known as The Orchard. The 14th Battalion moved the line forward in the north and although the 16th Battalion failed to capture the Orchard, it did secure part of a strongpoint known as the North Breastworks.

On May 20th, the 15th Battalion had moved up into the line and advanced with orders to assault the German line and take two German strongpoints known as L.11 and L.12 while the 16th Battalion renewed its assault on the Orchard. Supported by an artillery barrage the 16th Battalion successfully seized the Orchard but with inadequate artillery support  the assault by No 2 and 4 Company of the 15thBattalion ran into heavy German artillery and machine gun fire. The supporting Battalion machine guns were also put out of action and although the advance continued, it proved impossible to maintain direction. The artillery had not destroyed the barbed wire entanglements in front of the German line and it could not be penetrated. Despite another determined attempt to push forward, the objectives were beyond reach and the two assaulting companies fell back and swung to the left to capture the remaining section of the North Breastworks which they held against several determined German counterattacks. Linking up with the 16th Battalion they had pushed the line forward and this line remained the British front line until 1918.

In its first offensive action of the war, the 1st Division suffered 2468 casualties of which 150 were from the 15th Battalion including 35 All Ranks KIA, MIA or DOW.

May 19-31, 1915: The Fallen of Festubert – Dileas Gu Brath


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