Second Battle of Ypres

The 14th Battalion entered the trenches for the first time in late February 1915. In mid-April they moved from France to the Ypres Salient where, in less than a week, the Canadian Division would be embroiled in their first great battle of the war.The Second Battle of Ypres, as depicted in this painting by Richard Jack, began late afternoon on April 22, 1915.  I’ve pieced together my great-grandfather’s movements on this day through the war diaries and from information gratefully provided to me by Hlt. Nino Lambertucci, Curator of The Royal Montreal Regiment Museum. An excerpt from the History of the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment) reads:

Soon after taking up position in the G.H.Q. Line, No. 3 Coy. sent out two patrols, who discovered the enemy in strength some four or five hundred yards away. The first of these partols, from No. 9 Platoon, consisted of Privates Boyd Symonds, C.D.B. Whitby, and B.R. Racey; the second, from No. 10 Platoon, was led by Corp. William Kirby, accompanied by Lance-Corp. Clifford and Private C.A. Harley. All of No. 10 Platoon’s party were captured, as was Private Racey, who escaped from a German prison camp in July, 1916. Privates Symonds and Whitby eluded the enemy and returned with information as to the Germans’ whereabouts.

Herbert’s war was over but he would have to endure three and half years of imprisonment in a variety of P.O.W. camps.  Conditions in these camps were brutal and starvation was not uncommon.  Desmond Morton’s Silent Battle: Canadian Prisoners of War in Germany 1914-1919 and John Lewis-Stempel’s The War Behind the War are both excellent accounts of the POW experience. I was also fortunate to find the diary of Private B.R. Racey on the internet, as transcribed by his son Richard Racey in 2002.  It’s a first-hand account of the hours before his capture and of the weeks, months and years as ‘A Guest of the Kaiser’.

Categories: Herbert Clifford

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