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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: George Erik Last Name: CHAMBERS
Date of Death: 03/05/1915 Lived/Born In: Regent's Park
Rank: Corporal Unit: Rifle Brigade1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-19

Born-Stockholm, Sweden

Battle of St Julien, 24 April – 4 May 1915

Spurred on by the success of their gas attack on 22nd April, the Germans struck again two days later on the northern sector of the Ypres salient at St. Julien.  Once more chlorine gas was used and despite a resolute defence the British and Canadians were pushed back and St Julien was lost. For nearly 2 weeks the fighting continued on this front. The Germans persisted with their attacks, the British fought desperate rear guard actions and launched many counter attacks but gradually they were pushed further and further back. Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres.

4th Division had spent the winter holding the line at Ploegsteert, but on 24th April 1915, they were rushed north to Ypres at short notice, to reinforce the hard pressed defenders facing the German gas attacks there. During the night 28th-29th April 1st Rifle Brigade,  entrenched and occupied a line from the cross roads immediately south-east of Kansas Cross to the bridge over the Hanebeek on the Gravenstafel road. They were now in line with the rest of 11 Brigade. The 1st May was comparatively quiet as was the 2nd May. Until the evening that was when a furious German howitzer bombardment started but this time without a following infantry attack. 1st Rifle Brigade  suffered 30 casualties  and then had to spend all night repairing the trenches.

Then, on 3rd May there was a massive German artillery bombardment which was directed mainly on 85 Brigade, 28th Division and 11 Brigade, 4th Division near Berlin Wood below Gravenstaffel ridge. Starting at dawn the shelling by the German guns grew and grew until it sounded like machine gun fire. It was a critical situation. Parapets were blown in and there were many, many casualties. There were no communication trenches so individual platoons and sections were isolated. This was very much the case for A Company of 1st Rifle Brigade whose trenches, out front and astride a small stream, the Hanebeek, had been obliterated and where flanking fire added to their predicament. The boggy nature of the ground alongside the stream meant that there was a gap of 50 yards in the line here. At noon, because of the weight of shell falling here there was only one man left unwounded in the section north of the Hanebeek and to the south only one officer and three men left capable of firing a rifle. These four raced up and down what was left of the trench, firing their rifles, trying to fool the enemy that the trench was still well manned. It was a desperate situation. To the right of 1st Rifle Brigade, 2nd East Kent had been forced back to their support line and if the line had been broken here, Ypres itself was in grave danger. The strange thing was that the Germans never launched a mass infantry attack but rather sent small units forward which the defenders were just about able to deal with. It was remarkable that they did not lose control of their front line especially given that the British heavy  artillery was five miles back on the western side of the canal and unable to give any support. At dusk, reinforcements arrived and the survivors of 1st Rifle Brigade moved back to Elverdinghe.

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