Small ceremony commemorates Second Battle of Ypres

The event, held in Abbotsford, marked the 100th anniversary of the battle

A ceremony held Friday at the Abbotsford cenotaph commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Ypres.

A small ceremony was held in Abbotsford on Friday night to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Ypres in the First World War.

The event was held at the cenotaph in Thunderbird Memorial Square and was arranged by John Durham and the Klein family.

Durham’s dad, Private Edwin Durham, was gassed and wounded twice in the battle.

Durham invited members of the Royal Canadian Legion to attend the ceremony, which involved Rev. Art Turnbull saying a prayer, followed by two minutes of silence and the reading of The Act of Remembrance.

Private Durham’s granddaughter, Jennifer Lee, read In Flanders Fields in honour of author Dr. John McCrae, who was present in his medical station on the Yser Canal, attending to soldiers wounded in the battle.

The poem was written after the battle on May 3.

A wreath and candles were placed at the cenotaph by Durham and his family.

Also at the ceremony, a short history of the battle was given by Peter Slade, who laid large file cards on the ground with the names of the Canadian battalions involved in the front line defending the village of St. Julien, outside Ypres, along with the French and British troops who were involved.

The positions of ridges and the direction of the chlorine gas attack on April 22 against the French Algerian troops were shown. The attack caused the Algerians to flee.

Private Edwin Durham’s 2nd Battalion was rushed into the front line to help the 13th Battalion fill the gap caused by the withdrawal of the French Algerian soldiers on April 22, resulting in his exposure to chlorine gas.

The subsequent retrenchment of part of the allied front line and the second chlorine gas attack, which was directed against the Canadian 13th Battalion on April 24, were shown.

The 2nd Battalion, with Edwin Durham, was also alongside the 13th Battalion experiencing the second gas attack.

Under attack from a hitherto unknown weapon, and heavily outnumbered, the British pulled the front line, including the Canadian battalions, back closer to Ypres.

However, the Canadians did not yield under the battle conditions and Arthur Currie’s 5th and 8th Battalions were left isolated but still holding Gravenstafel Ridge, a testimony to the fortitude of the Canadians, which was demonstrated with greater success in later battles of the War.

The Second Battle of Ypres cost the British Empire 59,000 casualties, 6,000 of whom were Canadian, including 2,000 killed.

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