Orchard Dump
Webmatters : Monument to the 15th Bn CEF at Observatory Ridge
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15th Bn Canadian Infantry


15th Canadian Infantry Monument at Observatory Ridge

The monument is situated close to the junction of Zandvoordsestraat and Schachteweiderstraat a kilometre to the east of Zillebeke.

From Ieper take the Menin Road (Meenseweg N8) or Zuiderring (N37) as far as the major roundabout where these two roads meet. Follow the signs leading to the right to Zillebeke. In the centre of the town turn left and then left again onto Zandvoordseestraat.

Alternatively if coming from Heuvelland, at the Railway Crossing just to the south of Ieper on the N336/N331 follow the CWGC signs for Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (On Komenseweg parallel to the railway).

Having followed the railway you cross over it and then turn left towards Zillebeke. Follow the road round to the right in the centre of the town and then turn left onto Zandvoordsestraat.

Once in Zillebeke look out for the Green CWGC for Maple Copse Cemetery which is in the same direction. The plaque is on your right at the top of the hill. The cemetery immediately left afterwards.

Decimal50.8328102.938811 Map


15th Canadian Infantry Monument at Observatory Ridge

On 2nd June 1916 the Germans executed a powerful attack against key terrain features in the eastern part of the Ieper Salient held by units of the 3rd Canadian Division: Sanctuary Wood, Observatory Ridge, Armagh Wood and Mount Sorrel.

A bombardment of unprecedented violence ravaged the Canadian trenches and destroyed entire companies.

In order to halt the German advance elements of the 1st Canadian Division were ordered to launch a series of counter-attacks between Mount Sorrel and Sanctuary Wood.

That night the 15th Bn Canadian Infantry hurried forward to Zillebeke from its reserve position near Ouderdom (a large base near Reningelst 16 kilometres away). The confusion on the roads in the area of the German offensive would mean that the Highlanders would be unable to launch their counter-attack at dawn on the 3rd June.

Moving up into position they found that the moment they crossed Observatory Ridge they were hit by the German barrage as well as enfilading fire from the German machine-gunners on Hill 60 a short distance away off to their right (from the plaque look slightly to the right of the track).

Forced to retire behind the ridge the Highlanders went to ground and Major Bent (A future commanding officer) messaged Brigade that they were ready at 0327 hours. Instead of a Canadian barrage opening up it seemed that the Germans were increasing theirs. A slight lull occurred about 0500 hours but two hours later the German artillery renewed their effort.

Finally, at 0830 hours the men were told to prepare themselves and eight minutes later they advanced on Mont Sorrel about 500 metres away.

Coming up from Zillebeke towards the plaque, the 15th Bn were on your right and the 14th Bn on its left between the road and Maple Copse Cemetery, the road being the dividing line. On their right the Highlanders found that there was a thick hedge that proved impassable under the fire from the Germans. As they reached the ridge the Germans cut them down.

The 14th Battalion’s advance had stalled even earlier as the Montrealers advanced passed Maple Copse. Out front the soldiers of the 15th sensed they were alone — and they were. Forced back by the violence of the enemy fire the battalion retired once again behind the ridge and rallied around Rudkin House (which would have been behind the house just before reaching the plaque).

Over 250 Highlanders were either killed or wounded in this abortive attack. Very few have a known grave, with most of them being commemorated on the Menin Gate. The majority of those with known burials are in Railway Dugouts Cemetery.

Although these makeshift replies to the German offensive did not in themselves regain ground, they did serve to wrong-foot the enemy’s advance. On the 13th June 1916 the 1st Canadian Division went back into action and recaptured most of the lost terrain.

The Memorial

15th Canadian Infantry Monument at Observatory Ridge

This commemorative plaque was unveiled on the 22nd October 2011 in the presence of Canadian and Belgian dignitaries by members of the 15th Battalion Memorial Project.

The 15th Bn CEF were sponsored by the 48th Highlanders of Canada a militia unit from Toronto.

The regiment has demonstrated its continuing interest in commemorating its First World War combatants by the raising of plaques across the Western Front.

Some photos from the inauguration

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version

The other memorials in the area