When I think of World War I the countries of Belgium and Canada aren’t usually high on my list. After doing some research on the matter, I might have to re-think my position.
In a small village known as Saint Julien in Belgium the Canadian First Division found themselves sandwiched in between British and French forces in order to try and halt the advance of the German troops. Sensing a stalemate in the making, the Germans decided to unleash the first poison gas attack on the Western Front. They did so by releasing 168 tons of chlorine gas they had stashed away in 5,730 cylinders that they had buried along the front lines.
Carried by northerly winds, the gas drifted towards the French positions. They soon broke ranks and headed for cover leaving an 8,000 yard gap. The First Canadian Division rushed in to fill the void before the Germans could exploit the breach.
The next 48 hours saw 6,035 Canadians (one out of every three) suffer some form of casualty as a result of the exposure to the gas or direct enemy fire. Approximately one out of every nine men who were present on the field of battle was killed.
After the war was over the country of Belgium decided to honor their fallen Canadian brothers with a memorial. The statue, known as The Brooding Soldier was unveiled on July 8, 1923 and a speech was delivered by French Marshall Ferdinand Foch. Foch was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers of the Western Front.
The following snippet is a highlight of the speech.
The Canadians paid heavily for their sacrifice and the corner of earth on which this Memorial of gratitude and piety rises has been bathed in their blood. They wrote here the first page in that Book of Glory which is the history of their participation in the war.
Carved out of granite, the memorial itself stand 11 meters tall and can be seen for miles from the flat Belgian countryside. Its inscription reads as follows:
THIS COLUMN MARKS THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE
18000 CANADIANS ON THE BRITISH LEFT
WITHSTOOD THE FIRST GERMAN GAS ATTACKS
THE 22ND-24TH OF APRIL 1915. 2000 FELL AND
LIE BURIED NEARBY.
Clink on the link if you want to see a picture of The Brooding Soldier