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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:



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 Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres.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, which included the  5th London (London Rifle Brigade) battalion of 11 Brigade  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 evening of 29th April, 5th London relieved the 4th Yorkshires in trenches north of the Fortuin-Gravenstafel road.

At dawn on 2nd May 1915 at dawn the Germans shelled a cottage, 100 yards in front of the left of their 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. Twenty minutes later gas was released but it did not last long before the enemy advanced. The right of 5th London opened up heavy fire on the enemy but the left had their view obscured by a hedge. Nevertheless the German attack was held up some 100-300 yards from their positions. 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 and the following day, 3rd May, was another day of heavy German shelling. However, many of 5th London’s casualties for 3rd May might 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That evening, 11 Brigade were withdrawn from the line with 5th London being the last to leave. Among the casualties sustained by the battalion during this period was Charles Rolfe who was killed in action on 3rd May.

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