Tag Archives: 3rd Battalion

100th Anniversary of the 2nd Battle of Ypres

Major Adam Saunders is a Queen’s Own Rifles officer currently posted to 32 Brigade Headquarters. His grandfather Thomas Cully, served in D Company, 3rd Toronto Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. This article was written by Adam while in Belgium.

Most of the participants eyes were watering, as the scene at Vancouver Corner was an emotional one. The tears were from being lost in another time while listening to Belgian school children signing songs of peace and remembrance. One hundred years earlier the tears at this place were a result of the effects of the first industrial scale gas attack in history. Here we stood at the Vancouver Corner Memorial at 5 pm on April 22nd, 2015, lost in the nightmarish reflections of 5 pm on the 22nd of April 1915 when the German Army unleashed chlorine gas against the French portion of the Ypres salient. Canadians immediately felt the effects of the ensuing attack by the German ground troops. The French line had broken and the Canadian flank was ripped open.

Today school children, diplomats, history books, photos, the land itself all reflect the scars from 100 years earlier. The Canadian ambassador to Belgium, together side by side with the German ambassador to Belgium, laid a wreath at the foot of the Brooding Soldier monument on the 100th Anniversary. It was a fitting union of remembrance and forgiveness. The children sang songs of forgiveness, but nothing tells the story like the tens of thousands of graves and a few massive memorials in the Ypres salient marking the final resting places of a generation efficiently mowed down by industrialized warfare.

The Canadian 'Brooding Soldier' memorial was unveiled in 1923 to commemorate the Second Battle of Ypres.
The Canadian ‘Brooding Soldier’ memorial was unveiled in 1923 to commemorate the Second Battle of Ypres.

On April 24th 1915 the Canadians would soon have their turn to experience the full-on effects of chlorine gas. The gas was indiscriminate. It routed out mice and rats and rabbits from their homes in the ground and it strangled sheep and cattle. The gas also kills people. Our troops suffered the full effects of the chlorine gas, just as the French had two days previous. We were better prepared and managed to hold some of the challenged ground and many still hold that very ground. They are included on the lists of the missing and are more than likely in the ground in the area.

For a week previous in 1915, the Canadian 2nd and 3rd brigades had been occupying the front lines of the already infamous Ypres salient. They were tucked between the French on the left and the British on the right. Our 1st Brigade under then Brigadier General Malcolm S. Mercer (of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada) was held in reserve near Vlamertinghe. Finally after the Division was subjected to six months of awful weather, it was spring. It was a nice day.

Early on April 22nd it was becoming evident a German attack was imminent. The reserve brigade was put on short-notice-to-move a number of times. As pressure mounted throughout the day and that evening on our two brigades in the front line it became necessary to push the 1st brigade forward into the evolving battle. The battalions of the 1st brigade (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th) were sent forward in pairs. The 1st and the 4th engaged in a heroic action up Mauser Ridge to establish some kind of viable flank to protect against the rapidly advancing Germans. The French army had all but ceased to be an effective force due to the initial gas attack and the Canadians had to re-establish some semblance of a protracted defensive line.

The 2nd and 3rd battalions crossed the Yser canal at pontoon bridge number 4, in the dark moving past Essex Farm where John McCrea’s medical teams were at the ready. They marched cross country past the ongoing flanking attacks of Geddes detachment and the 1st and 4th. As the 3rd advanced towards Mousetrap Farm which was the 3rd Brigade HQ, they suffered their first casualties from German artillery fire. Those who were killed were immediately buried and those wounded were the first guests of the newly established forward medical aide stations, manned by stretchers bearers, medics and battalion Medical Officers.

As the 3rd awaited orders, 400 yards away the 10th and 16th Battalions were ordered forward into the legendary attack of Kitchener’s Wood just before midnight. The battalions formed up in line by company and advanced in the dark towards the woods, using the North Star as navigation reference. They chased the Germans out at bayonet point and recaptured the guns lost by an London Artillery unit days earlier. The 10th and 16th ceased to be effective fighting forces due to the number of casualties they sustained, yet more was expected of them over the next few hours.

C and D companies of the 3rd Battalion under QOR Major Kirkpatrick were ordered to plug a gap in the line between Kitchener’s Wood and St Julien. These men formed up in line by company, and advanced cross-country in short rushes. They came under fire and fought a pitched battle from farm house to farm house. Our men dug in under fire and under cover of darkness. Many officers and men had been killed. From first hand accounts, the officers led from the front and their men bravely followed. In the morning of the 24th it was the Canadians turn to suffer a gas attack. Artillery fire preceded the gas and followed-on after the gas, as did masses of advancing German soldiers. The Germans were flanking the Canadians so the order to retire was given. The men of C and D companies had nowhere to go. Their comrades from A and B companies, just 500 yards away heard the withering fire as they ran out of ammunition and were silenced. Six wounded men had escaped from the two forward companies. The rest were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Ross rifles our men were using weren’t up to the task of such a fight.

Upper Canada College First World War prisoners of war including 3rd Battalion's Major Kirkpatrick.
Upper Canada College First World War prisoners of war including 3rd Battalion’s Major Kirkpatrick.

On our right an equally dramatic and heroic battle was taking place with the 13th and 15th battalions. A Victoria Cross was won that day by Corporal Fred Fisher of the 13th. Both battalions faced the gas attack, full on.

For the historians in the crowd we think deeply about the exploits of this one battle and the losses of so many brave souls. It doesn’t seem to make sense now and it was on an unfathomable scale, but our thoughts return to the Belgian school children finishing songs of peace and forgiveness. I stood today for my grandfather Thomas Cully service number 10014 of D Coy. I remember all his pals and their families from the 3rd on the solemn and historical day. I shared the day at this place with a few new and old friends, many of whom were here for the same reason as I. I was here to feel, to remember, to be sad, to look for meaning and to thank goodness for all that we have as Canadians.

Sadly there remain 4 years of such commemorations. We will tire of hearing about WW1 soon enough, yet imagine how tired a generation became of fighting it 100 years ago.

Private Harold Reginald Peat (3rd Battalion), Lieutenant Colonel Pete Anderson, DSO (3rd Battalion) and Sergeant Arthur Gibbons (1st Battalion) each wrote and published first hand accounts of this battle. They are well worth a read. Peat’s “Private Peat“*, Anderson’s “I, That’s Me” and Gibbons’ “A Guest of the Kaiser” are available online at no cost.

Adam Saunders

*Perhaps also worth noting that in 1918 Peat’s book was made into a silent film in which he starred as himself:

“This propaganda picture was based on a book of the same name by Harold R. Peat, and put together inexpensively by Artcraft/Paramount with the help of newsreel footage. Peat, one of the first North Americans to enlist in World War I, was actually a Canadian, but here they make him a red-blooded American. He is alone in the world, except for his girlfriend Mary (Miriam Fouche), and he is anxious to join up when war breaks out. But the army rejects him because of his small chest. He is despondent until he and his friend, Old Bill, concoct a scheme whereby they are both accepted. After a stint in training camp, Harry bids his sweetheart Mary goodbye and accompanies Bill to France. Following several adventures at the front, Bill is killed and Harold, in trying to save a load of ammunition, is wounded. Harold spends some time in a French hospital, after which Mary comes to France to bring her heroic private home.” [from silenthollywood.com

First World War Symposium

On Sunday September 28, 2014 the Regimental Museum of the Queen’s Own Rifles and the 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project (48th Highlanders of Canada) present a symposium on the First World War featuring acclaimed authors and presenters on the Great War:

  • Andy Robertshaw: Feeding Tommy: Battlefield Recipes from the First World War; Digging the Trenches
  • Robert Konduros and Richard Parrish: WW1: A Monumental History
  • Norm Christie: For King and Empire
  • Jack Granatstein: The Greatest Victory: Canada’s One Hundred Days, 1918
  • The event will be held at Moss Park Armoury, 130 Queen Street East, Toronto, M5A 1R9 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Seating is limited to 100 attendees so make sure you register early!
  • The cost is $65 which includes lunch.
  • There will also be book signings, dealers, and artifacts.

Eventbrite - First World War Symposium

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

There is a municipal parking lot one block west of the Armoury on Queen Street. Parking on side streets near the Armoury is limited and mostly metered. If at all possible we encourage you to use public transit. The Queen St East streetcar passes in front of the armoury a short distance from the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line (Line 1)

2. Is my registration/ticket transferrable?

Yes you can transfer your ticket online up to to another person (see updating your registration info below) by the end of day on September 25th.

3. Can I update my registration information?

You can update the information on your order (like name, email address, or answers to the organizer’s questions) from Current Orders under My Tickets.

4. Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

Please print and bring your ticket to the event. If you do not have your ticket you will be required to provide identification that will support your registration information.

3rd Bn CEF War Diaries Online

Perhaps not surprisingly, as the centenary of the First World War approaches, some of the most popular pages on our website are the transcribed war diaries of the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Libraries and Archives Canada had scanned several hundred pages of these diaries and posted them on to their website as jpeg photos. As valuable as this was, they were impossible to search and the way they were listed on their site made it a challenge to find a particular date quickly.

First entries in the 3rd Battalion, CEF War Diaries
First entries in the 3rd Battalion, CEF War Diaries

So in the Fall of 2012, we undertook to crowd-source the transcriptions of these pages and were very pleasantly surprised by the results! Within just eleven weeks, 27 volunteers all recruited online and some from the far corners of the world, had transcribed 53 months of diaries and they were posted on our website! This has also allowed us to link to other information on our website such as specific soldier profiles and to include photos of relevant artifacts. We continue to add to these pages as we can.

I highly encourage you to check them out if you have not already done so because they give, in concise military way, a chilling perspective on this horrible war.

We’ve received some positive feedback on this resource but I was particularly pleased to see the recent comment reprinted below, from a US Army Lieutenant Colonel whose Scottish grandfather crossed the border from US to join the 255th Battalion, CEF. He eventually see combat with the 3rd Battalion. His story also illustrates how the war continued to impact families long after it had ended.


Thanks for transcribing the 3rd Bn war diaries. In August 1913, my grandfather, John Denning Wallace, immigrated from Paisley, Scotland to Kearny, New Jersey. In April 1918, he crossed the border and joined the Toronto Regiment to fight with the CEF in WWI. He served with the 3rd Bn on the front lines near Arras, France, from November 1917 until July 15, 1918, when he sustained a gunshot wound in the left arm. In February 1919, he was medically discharged for the “GSW left arm” and for “trench exposure.” A few years later, he died from the trench exposure at age 30 [1926].

On review of my grandfather’s CEF discharge certificate and military records, they did not reveal how he sustained his combat wound, and for many years I often wondered. Thankfully, the 3rd Bn war diaries provided me with some background. The 3rd Bn war diaries for July 14-16 1918, and the 3rd Bn end of month casualty report for July 1918, reveal that my grandfather, “Wallace, J.D.”, and three other 3rd Bn soldiers were wounded by machine gun fire whilst “laying wire ” near Post 7 in the Fampough sector near Arras. The next day, one had died from his wounds.

Now I know.

Wayne S. Wallace,
LTC, U.S. Army

April is a significant month for the Queen’s Own Rifles

April is a significant month for the Queen’s Own Rifles for a number of reasons and this week in particular. In this post we’ll take a look at a few.

2nd Battle of Ypres and the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
When the 3rd Battalion was raised for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1914, it consisted mostly of soldiers from the Queen’s Own Rifles including all three of its wartime Commanding Officers, however it also had elements from the 10th Royal Grenadiers and the Governor General’s Bodyguard. Today the 3rd Battalion, CEF is perpetuated by the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the Royal Regiment of Canada (as the successor to the 10th Royal Grenadiers.)

After some training at Valcartier the 3rd Bn embarked for England On October 3rd as part of the 1st Brigade where they would spend four more months equipping, training and reorganizing. They arrived in France in mid February 1915 and were assigned to their first front line trench duties on March 5th. The first combat casualties occurred the next day with two men reported killed by shrapnel from shelling. But it was not until the April that they would see their first and perhaps most significant battle.

“On April 22nd the 2nd and 3rd Brigades were holding the line, the 2nd on the right, the 3rd on the left with the 1st Brigade in reserve about Vlamertinghe. In the afternoon the enemy launched the first gas attack of the war against the French and to a lesser extent against the Canadian left. The attack entirely broke the French, exposing the Canadian left flank which bent but held. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, the latter commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rennie, were rushed up in support, arriving at midnight, and were attached to the Third Brigade at Shell-trap Farm. The former at once went into the line on the exposed left flank. During the following morning “C” and “D” Companies of the 3rd Battalion were placed under command of Major Kirkpatrick and moved forward to fill in a gap on the right of the 2nd Battalion between the famous Kitchener’s Wood and the village of St. Julien. Throughout the day and night this flank held in spite of desperate German attacks, but the following day it was pushed back, “C” and “D” Companies being completely wiped out in a vain attempt to stem the tide. All this was done under heavy artillery fire and without artillery support, for the line had not been expected to hold and most artillery had been withdrawn. Meanwhile, many British battalions were being rushed up and about April 27th, the line was stabilized and the Division relieved, the 3rd Battalion being the last to be withdrawn. After several days in support, the division left the Salient and moved south.. This was the battalion’s first battle. It is known as the Second Battle of Ypres and the Canadian part of it as St. Julien sometimes Langemarck. It cost the battalion 19 officers and 460 men in casualties.”

From a “A Brief History of the 3rd Canadian Battalion Toronto Regiment”

Included in that total and what hurt the 3rd Battalion the most was the fact that 287 men taken as prisoners of war by the Germans – including Kirkpatrick – the second most of any Canadian unit during the war. Those that were not considered casualties, from the Commander on down, were all suffering from fatigue and irritable nerves.

The war dairies written during this battle are worth a read and you can find them on our website here. Note the 10 am April 24 entry which records instructions to Major Kilpatrick that “You must hang on to your position” and which would lead to his nickname of “Hang On Kirkpatrick”.

Here are two additional accounts of the battle from participants:

Corporal J.W. “Jack” Finnemore #9785 – 3rd Battalion
April 22, 1915 – 2nd Battle of Ypres
“I was wounded on the last jump over between leaving an old trench and building a new one. My brother F.A. Finnimore (Staff Sargeant Frank Finnimore #9781) was wounded there just before I was.I started to take his putee off when Captain Strait (Major John Everett Streight, Prisoner of War)said to me “.Come on Finnimore. Look after your section. Never mind, you’ll have to leave him (my brother).” A newspaper back home reported that we kissed each other goodbye on the front, but I only did his leg up.That was all!.” Jack was captured by the Germans and became a Prisoner of War. Frank survived his wounds.

Private Frank V. Ashbourne #9170 – 3rd Battalion
April 24, 1915 – 2nd Battle of Ypres
“We went into the line with a thousand and only two hundred of us came out of it. Sir John French said that it was our Battalion that stopped the advance of the Germans. “C” and “D” Companies suffered the most and were almost wiped out. I was with my brother Bert (Private Bertram Ashbourne #9171), shortly before we were separated by the gas attack at St. Julien, on April 24-25, 1915. My brother was wounded at Langemarck and taken prisoner of war. During the gas attack at St. Julien we lost the first line of trenches and had to move back to the supports. At the back of those trenches we lay down flat and covered our mouths with wet clothes, waiting for the Germans to come up. They came up slowly thinking we were all dead from their gas, but not so. It drifted slowly over us and showed the Germans about seventy-five yards away. We were suddenly ordered to rapid fire and I don’t think that about more than a dozen Germans got away alive. We advanced again and regained our front trenches with minimum losses”.

As many of you may already know, the QOR itself was formed by General Militia Order on April 26, 1860 under the name Second Battalion Volunteer Rifles of Canada. It consisted of several formerly independent rifles companies that had been raised in 1955 in the County of York and the surrounding communities. Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Durie of the Barrie Company appointed Commanding Officer.

The past 113 years, Queen’s Own Riflemen have seen service in the Battle of Ridgeway (Fenian Raids), the Red River Rebellion, the North West Field Force, the South African War, the First World War, the Second World War, peacekeeping in Korea and Cyprus, NATO service in Germany, various United Nations postings, Bosnia and most recently Afghanistan where 61 soldiers of the regiment saw active service.

Update on our Transcription Project for 3rd Bn War Diaries

You may recall in that on September 3rd we launched an appeal on our website, Facebook Page and Twitter account for volunteers to assist with our project to transcribe scanned versions of the 3rd Battalion, CEF war diaries which were available online at the Library and Archives Canada website. The diaries consisted of 53 months of entries from October 19, 1914 when the battalion landed in England, to February 28th, 1919.

Today I’m pleased to announce that we received the final month’s of transcription which is now posted on our site! You can find them on our timeline or link to them directly: 1914 — 1915 — 1916 — 1917 — 1918 — 1919.

Twenty-seven people from around the world, volunteered to help with the project – especially after we posted our project on the “micro-volunteering” site Sparked (with many thanks to friend of the museum, Mr. Matthew Cutler for that suggestion!) International volunteers came from Chile, Australia, France and across the USA in Oklahoma, New York City, Pennsylvania, California, District of Columbia, Washington State, Colorado, and North Carolina. Many of Canadian volunteers come through the Museum Management and Curatorship Program at Sir Sanford Fleming College in Peterborough. Only two of the volunteers are involved with the military!

Although there were some challenges in interpreting handwriting or imperfectly scanned documents, many of the participants indicated how interesting (and in many cases sad) this project was and how it gave them a better understanding of day to day life in an allied infantry battalion of the First World War.

There is still a bit of tidying up to do on the pages and more links and a few map images to add but this now searchable transcription will definitely serve as a valuable research tool.

A big thanks to all those who volunteered:

  1. Captain Rita Arendz
  2. Catherine Caughell
  3. Shawn Mingo
  4. Private Michael McLean
  5. Tanya Probert
  6. Kathleen Watt
  7. Meg Dallett
  8. Katy Shaw-Kiso
  9. Meggan Green
  10. Emily White
  11. Elizabeth Harless
  12. Chauncey M. J.
  13. Emily Hamilton
  14. Leah-Ann Logel
  15. Hilary Lister
  16. Briar Sutherland
  17. Sarah McGall
  18. Bethany Kearsley
  19. Megan White
  20. Zoe Reilly-Ansons
  21. Ruth O’Connell
  22. Alison Dingledine
  23. Ruth Marie O’Connell
  24. Caylanne Lyall
  25. Filomena Pingiaro
  26. Ceci Leung
  27. Geraldine R.

3rd Battalion CEF War Diaries Transcription Project

Help Needed!

We’re looking for assistance in transcribing digitized copies of the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces War Diaries for posting on this site. The 3rd Battalion, known as the Toronto Regiment, is perpetuated jointly by the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the Royal Regiment of Canada. Transcribing the diaries allows us to easily search them and link to specific names and events in the battalions history.

How this works:

  1. Review the list of scanned pages on our 3rd Battalion War Diaries Transcription Project Page. Pages in italics indicate that someone has already committed to transcribe them. Pages that have been completed will be removed from the list.
  2. Note that the diaries up until April 30, 1915 have already been transcribed by the Canadian Great War Project and are in the process of being posted onto our site.
  3. It is not necessary for everyone to transcribe chronological order – if there is a time period you are interested in feel free to take that on – however to keep things simple, please complete the transcription for at least a complete month at one time.
  4. We DO want to transcribe all pages entitled WAR DIARY. For this stage of the project we DON’T need to transcribe all appendices. “Messages” generally should be transcribed – Operations Orders should not – however please reference untranscribed appendices so that we can provide links to them.
  5. It is NOT necessary to transcribe index pages – We’ll try to remove them from this list when we have time.
  6. Send an email to museum@qormuseum.org to tell us you are interested in participating. In your email indicated which months/year you will be working on so we update our list and avoid duplication of effort.
  7. Please send you transcription in text format (not tables). You use Word or simply paste them into the text of your email. See the format to be used in this example for November 11, 1918. Please make sure you review or better yet, have someone else review your transcription for accuracy. Typed entries are pretty easy to copy but transcribing handwriting entries can sometimes be tricky!
  8. You do not need to save up all your transcriptions and send in at once. If you finish a month, please send them to us. We’ll try to post as quickly as possible.
  9. If you have any questions, please email us at museum@qormuseum.org and we’ll do our best to respond as quickly as possible with the caveat that we too, are all volunteers!

Thanks in advance for assisting us with this exciting project!!

Major John Stephens, CD (Ret)

3rd Battalion at Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917

“On April 9, 1917, the famous Vimy Ridge attack took place. This had been planned and practised most carefully. The 3rd Battalion was on the extreme right of the Canadian Corps and so had the longest distance to go. Nevertheless it took its first objective on time and captured four guns, the first to be taken by Canadians. The casualties were, for World War I, light – 6 officers and 179 men. During the new few days the gains were extended to the flat country east of the ridge.”

From Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 1860-1960: One Hundred Years of Canada,
by Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Barnard, ED, CD – 1960

Major W. E. Curry of the Queen’s Own Rifles was one of the six officers killed in action on June 9th.

See also the appendices to the April War diaries – 3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion for Orders and reports during the Battle for Vimy Ridge.