Today marks 100 years since the Second Battle of Ypres, fought during the First World War from April 22 to May 25, 1915 for control of the town of Ypres in west Belgium, after the First Battle of Ypres the previous fall.
There were 10 men from the Okanagan Valley among the fatalities. (See Commonwealth War Grave Commission at: www.cwgc.org.)
This Second Battle stands out for a of couple reasons. One, it was the first time Germany used chlorine gas. Two, it was the first time Canadians, still fresh from being a colonial force, defeated a European power on European soil.
“This was the Canadians’ first major battle,” explains Howard Hisdal, professor and Department of History chair at Okanagan College.
“In fact the poem In Flanders’ Fields comes from this battle, which was the bloodiest in our history to that time. Even so, they prevented a German breakthrough, despite having no gas masks and being equipped with Ross rifles that jammed under rapid fire conditions.” How did they do it? On April 22 and April 24, Canadian troops were bombarded with a cloud of deadly chlorine gas. The second time, the Canadian troops responded in a way that was simultaneously startling, ingenious, and prophetic.
What was it? How did the troops survive? Visitors to the Okanagan Military Museum, inside the Memorial Arena at 1424 Ellis St., can find out by stepping into the nation-building events of 1915 at the WW1 exhibit, The Glory Passes.
The Okanagan Military Museum is a facility of the Kelowna Museums Society, a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to a greater awareness of the agricultural, wine-producing, military, and cultural heritages of the Okanagan. For more information please visit www.kelownamuseums.ca.