British Gains & Losses in 1915

Thursday, June 17, 1915

Rest Billets, Bethune

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for day: “Battn. standing to.”[1]


THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY – BRITISH OFFICIAL REPORT:  “Sir John French’s report says: ‘Last week there was no change in the situation. The enemy exploded five mines on different parts of our front, but none of them caused any damage to our trenches, and only one caused any casualties.

Yesterday evening we captured the German first line trenches east of Festubert on a mile front, but failed to hold them during the night against strong counter-attacks.

Early this morning in the neighbourhood of Ypres we successfully attacked the enemy’s positions north of Hooge (to the east of Ypres). We occupied the whole of his first line trenches on a front of 1,000 yards, and also parts of his second line.

By noon today 157 prisoners had passed to our rear. The German counter-attack has been repulsed with heavy losses.’” [2]

WAR SUMMARY“The British Gain that was subsequently lost was made in the vicinity of Festubert, and it is not improbable that Canadian troops, who hold a part of the trenches in this vicinity, were engaged. Sir John French simply says that his troops captured the front line trenches east of Festubert on a mile front, but failed to hold them during the night against strong counter-attacks. The Berlin statement gives more details: ‘Two attacks made by four English divisions’ (almost 50,000 infantry, besides artillery and non-combatant units) ‘between the Estaires-La Bassée road and the La Bassée Canal failed, our Westphalian troops and divisions of the Guard completely repulsing the assaults after desperate hand-to-hand fighting. The enemy sustained heavy losses, and left several machine guns and bomb-throwers in our hands.’ There is a manifest intention in the report to magnify the importance of the Festubert affair, yet the fact that several divisions were engaged on each side proves it to have been a battle something like that at Neuve Chapelle, and not merely an incident of trench warfare. The losses will be considerable. The curtain of artillery fire with which the French protect their advanced lines after the capture of a trench has not yet been adapted successfully by the British artillery officers.” [3]

[1]    War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 17, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089758.jpg
[2]   “British Advance North of Ypres:  Fail to Hold Gain at Festubert.,” The Globe (1844-1936), Toronto, Ontario, Thursday, June 17, 1915, pg. 1, col. 1.
[3]   “War Summary,” The Globe (1844-1936), Toronto, Ontario, Thursday, June 17, 1915, pg. 1, col. 6, & pg 2. col. 2.

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