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Webmatters : 19th Bn CEF memorial at Palingbeek

19th Battalion Canadian Infantry

Location

The Golf and Country Club de Palingbeek is situated approximately five kilometres south of Ieper.

The following two routes effectively form a circle. The first is via Oak Dump Cemetery on the Bernikkewallestraat. From Ieper town centre take the Rijselseweg (Lille Road) through the Rijselpoort (Lille Gate) and cross the Ieper ring road, towards Armentières and Lille.

Three kilometres along the Rijselseweg lies the left hand turning onto the Vaartstraat (Sign posted for the Spoilbank and Chester Farm Cemeteries). A kilometre along the Vaartstraat lies the first right hand turning onto the Bernikkewallestraat. You will see Oak Dump Cemetery on your right and the monument is a little further up on your left.

Alternatively from Armentières (or, I think just as easy from Ieper). On arriving at Sint Elooi take the minor road following the signs for Golf. This is Eekhofstraat. As you reach the golf course follow the road around to the left, Palingbeekstraat. You will reach a small memorial to the White Château which was situated off to your right and you turn left into Bernikkewallestraat. The monument is on your right (and Oak Dump Cemetery a few hundred metres further down the road on your left).

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 50.812582 2.912675 Map

19th Bn CEF plaque at Palingbeek

 

Background

The 19th Battalion Canadian Infantry had been working in this area for a few months spending time in the trenches and then heading back towards Reningelst (on the frontier) for their rest periods.

On the 18th July 1916 Major William Turnbull took over command of the battalion from Lt Colonel John McLaren who was returning to Canada.

The newly promoted Turnbull had only been in command a week when the Germans exploded a large mine on the 25th July on the Bluff across the canal. Fortunately the British Engineers had heard the Germans working underground and the area had been evacuated. As soon as the mine exploded, the Canadian troops rushed the crater — much to the surprise of the Germans.

From this side of the Canal the machine gunners of the 19th Battalion assisted in firing into the flanks of the attacking Germans.

As a counter measure the Canadians began an intensive period of raids searching for signs of further tunnelling activity and gathering information about the German regiments opposite.

One of these raids carried out by the 19th Battalion was exceptional in that the decision was taken to enter the German lines in daylight. Raids of this nature (by both sides) were conducted at night when it was easier for a small group of men to approach unseen.

 

Palingbeek Daylight Raid

 

A daylight raid


Master Corporal Conor Cooper playing the lament
MCpl Cooper plays the lament

As part of a commemorative project across the battlefields, the front line has been marked by the planting of saplings. These have a blue hoop for the Allied line and a red one for the German front line.

In the area of the golf course the Allied line is between Oak Dump and the 19th Battalion’s plaque whilst the German line can easily be seen just behind the plaque and off to the right on the opposite side of the road.

The plaque is in No Man’s Land and about a hundred metres into the green was an old trench which ran between the two opposing lines. The Canadians were very fortunate that on the 28th July 1916 as the orders were drawn up that the ground was dry and ideal for a large scale raid of forty-two officers and soldiers. The raid was set for just before nine o’clock the following morning : the 29th July. By that time it would be broad daylight.

All through that night two soldiers worked at cutting the barbed wire in front of the proposed entry point into the German trench. To help the men get through the barbed wire large mats were carried out and thrown over the cut section.

As soon as they had entered the German trench six men went left and six went right looking for anything unusual and hoping to capture some prisoners. Unfortunately the few Germans that they met only wanted to fight rather than surrender.

Another group under Captain Charles Kilmer remained at the entry point ready to offer assistance to either group and also to coordinate the withdrawal.

The remainder of the party lay out along the old trench ready to deal with prisoners or wounded Canadians. They were also ready to assist with machine-gun fire should the defenders put up a determined fight.

On the German front line

On the German front line near where the raid entered it

As this was a raid, there was no intention to remain where they were. They did not have a lot of time to look for signs of gas cylinders or mine shafts. To stop the Germans from coming up the trench the Canadian artillery bombarded it at about seventy-five metres each side of the entry point. On the left of the raid, just to the right of the German tree on the road side behind the plaque.

After about five or six minutes Captain Kilmer signalled for everybody to get back to the Canadian front line. It was none too soon because German reinforcements were rushing up from the rear. Grenades were thrown and a few of the Canadians were injured, including Captain Kilmer. As he was the last man to leave, it was only when the others got back that they realised that he was missing. He had been badly injured in the leg and could not walk.

The rescue mission

Two soldiers (Lance Corporal Wilfred Wilson and Private Joe Newton) offered to go back and look for him if the artillery could fire on the Germans as they did so. A rescue operation was organised and just after eleven o’clock the two men were ready. On giving a signal to the artillery they began their race across the ground as the guns fired over their heads.

They managed to find Captain Kilmer in a shell hole and as he couldn’t walk they were forced to simply pick him up by the arms and drag him back to safety. With the Captain being looked after by the doctor, the raid could be declared a success. However, although everybody had returned Kilmer and Lieutenant Harry Pepler had been seriously enough injured that the had to be struck off strength. Wilson and Newton were awarded the DCM for their rescue of Kilmer.

Daylight raids would become more frequent but remained as always very dangerous requiring excellent planning and leadership.

 

The plaque

19th Bn CEF plaque at Palingbeek

The plaque was inaugurated on the 19th September 2015 in the presence of members of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and officials from the Golf Club.

The Canadian Militia helped sponsor a number of the CEF’s infantry battalions. In the case of the 19th Battalion, one of the parent units was the 91st Regiment Canadian Highlanders (of Hamilton, Ontario). For this reason soldiers of the 19th Battalion wore a kilt.

In May 1920 the 91st regiment were renamed the : Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, who continue to maintain the heritage of the 19th Battalion.

 

Some photos from the inauguration

It was a damp morning but the Club had booked sunshine WW2 Veteran Colin Brown entertains LCol St Denis and MWO Seddon Everybody paying attention to the MC Guy Gruwez replies on behalf of the club Dirk Vermunicht and LCol Peter St Denis unveil the plaque The job is done Padre Major Robert Fead lead the prayers Laying the wreath on behalf of the Golf and Country Club de Palingbeek One of the buglers from the Last Post Association played during ceremony The senior officials Without the active support of Guy Gruwez the project would not have succeeded Almost the group shot And with the important people You don't often get the chance to play the bagpipes on a golf course Approaching the German line having crossed no man's land Back at the 19th Hole, Krist Calmeyn the Greenkeeper with Guy Gruwez Just because I am President doesn't mean you have to bow Colonel Now listen hear young feller Sgt Shodan Shreeram checks the Dutch for : "another one please"

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version

With thanks to Krist Calmeyn for the majority of the photos