The Battle of Ypres 1915 Cost 6000 Canadian Casualties

Canadians Face Chlorine Gas Attacks in World War I

Ruins at Ypres, Belgium
Ruins at Ypres, Belgium. Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada/

In 1915, the second Battle of Ypres established the reputation of the Canadians as a fighting force. The 1st Canadian Division had just arrived on the Western Front when they won recognition by holding their ground against a new weapon of modern warfare - chlorine gas.

It was also in the trenches at the second Battle of Ypres that John McCrae wrote the poem when a close friend was killed, one of 6000 Canadian casualties in just 48 hours.


Date of Battle of Ypres 1915

April 22 to 24, 1915

Location of Battle of Ypres 1915

Near Ypres, Belgium

Canadian Troops at Ypres 1915

1st Canadian Division

Canadian Casualties at the Battle of Ypres 1915

  • 6035 Canadian casualties in 48 hours
  • More than 2000 Canadians died

Canadian Honours at the Battle of Ypres 1915

Four Canadians won the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Ypres in 1915

Summary of the Battle of Ypres 1915

  • The 1st Canadian Division had just arrived at the front and were moved to Ypres Salient, a bulge in the front of the City of Ypres in Belgium.
  • The Germans held the high ground.
  • The Canadians had two British divisions on their right, and two French army divisions on their left.
  • On April 22, after an artillery bombardment, the Germans released 5700 cylinders of chlorine gas. The green chlorine gas was heavier than air and sank into the trenches forcing soldiers out. The gas attack was followed by strong infantry assaults. The French defenses were forced to retreat, leaving a four-mile wide hole in the Allied line.
  • The Germans did not have enough reserves or protection against the chlorine gas for their own troops to take immediate advantage of the gap.
  • The Canadians fought through the night to close the gap.
  • On the first night, the Canadians launched a counter-attack to drive the Germans out of Kitchener's Wood near St. Julien. The Canadians cleared the woods but had to retire. More attacks that night resulted in disastrous casualties but bought some time to close the gap.
  • Two days later the Germans attacked the Canadian line at St. Julien, again using chlorine gas. The Canadians held on until reinforcements arrived.