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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Charles William Last Name: LAING
Date of Death: 24/04/1915 Lived/Born In: St. John's Wood
Rank: Second Lieutenant Unit: East Kent (Buffs)2
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


6, St. Mark's Court, Abercorn Place, St. John's Wood

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 rearguard 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 Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres.

When the first gas attack took place on 22nd April, 2nd East Kent (Buffs) 85Brigade, 28th Division, were in bivouacks near St Julien to escape the heavy shelling of Ypres that was taking place. When it became obvious that something serious was afoot,  Col. Geddes, the commanding officer of 2nd East Kent (Buffs)   was placed in command of all troops at St Jean in their important position between the Canadians and the canal and guarding an approach to Ypres. 2nd East Kent (Buffs)  took up a position covering St Jean and facing north.  That night the Canadian left flank was turned and “B” Company was sent to support them.

 Early on 23rd April, the rest of 2nd East Kent (Buffs)  were sent up to Wieltje and from there north to make touch with 3 Canadian Brigade. Reaching some dug-outs and trenches 800yards north of Wieltje, they deployed and were immediately hit by heavy machine gun and rifle fire from two parallel lines of Germans 900 and 1200 yards back on a rising slope across open country. Despite many casualties, they advanced quickly and 2 companies reached a farm where they joined a few Canadians.  The 3rd Company took cover behind a fence some 150 yards back.  To the east were some trenches only lightly held by the French and the Buffs were ordered to advance half right and occupy these.  They advanced by rushes and the trenches were occupied.  This was the last line of defence before Ypres.  Here they withstood heavy German shelling and rifle fire for the rest of the day.  The French (Zouaves) withdrew and 2nd East Kent (Buffs)   completely occupied the gap between the Canadian Companies.

On 24th April  at 4am, after an hours heavy bombardment, gas was again released against the Canadians on a 1000 yard front against the apex of the front. “D” Coy 2nd East Kent (Buffs)  moved, at the urgent request of the Canadians, to a position across the Wieltje-St. Julien road.  The Germans attacked in force behind the gas which came on rapidly like a fog bank, 15ft high. The British and Canadian troops had little in the way of protection. Some collapsed but the majority kept their urine-soaked rags clamped to their mouths for the 10 minutes or so that it took the gas to pass and were then able to man the parapet and temporarily beat off the German attack.  Meanwhile, at 7am, “B” Coy, 2nd East Kent (Buffs), detached on 22nd April, were completely surrounded and after losing heavily, were made prisoners.The Canadians had been impressed and said that “B” Company’s actions were responsible for saving the entire Canadian left. 

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