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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Charles Last Name: ROLFE
Date of Death: 03/05/1915 Lived/Born In: Wanstead
Rank: Sergeant Unit: London5
Memorial Site: 1. Wanstead Memorial 2. Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Enlisted-London

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 Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres.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. Late in the evening of 25th April, 11th Brigade was sent forward to fill the gap in the line. In pitch darkness 1st Hampshire made contact with 3rd Royal Fusiliers, the left hand battalion of 85 Brigade, 28th Division and overnight entrenched along the Gravenstafel Ridge. By the morning of 26th April, 1st Hampshire were well dug in which was just as well for when mist lifted there was a fierce German bombardment with shells landing at the rate of 50 a minute. During the day the Germans between Berlin Wood and the cross roads 1500 yards south-west of Gravenstafel, made repeated attempts to break through the gaps between 1st Hampshire and 3rd Royal Fusiliers but the thin and far from complete British line held.  

5th London (London Rifle Brigade), 11 Brigade had arrived on the scene in the early hours of the morning and had taken up positions at Wieltje, under orders from 1st Somerset Light Infantry. At midday the Germans began shelling their positions and at dusk, 5th London moved forward to fill a gap between 1st Hampshire and 1st Somerset Light Infantry.

On 27th April, 5th London remained in the trench they had occupied the day before, facing the full might of the German artillery which killed over 20 of their number and on 28th April they were again shelled all day and had to provide carrying parties for 1st Rifle Brigade in a more forward position..

On 2nd May 1915 at dawn the Germans shelled a cottage, 100 yards in front of the left of the line, from which listening patrols had operated and at midday the shelling became heavy. At 5pm many Germans were seen about 1000 yards away and a ‘Stand-to’ was ordered. 20 minutes later gas was released but it did not last long before the enemy advanced. The right of 5th London brought heavy fire on them but the left had their view obscured by a hedge. Nevertheless the German attack was held up some 100-300 yards off. By 6.30pm the attack was over but sniping and machine gun fire continued and resulted in heavy casualties for No. 4 Company. The night was spent mending the wire. The following day, 3rd May was another day of heavy German shelling but many of 5th London’s casualties for this day may well have been inflicted on the previous day, but recorded late. That evening, 11 Brigade were withdrawn from the line with 5th London being the last to leave.

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