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Webmatters : Battle of Festubert May 1915
Rough Map of Area


18th May 1915

The relief of I Corps

The rain which had begun the evening before persisted through the night and rendered all thoughts of continuing the attack at 0900 impractical and the infantry were stood down.

Sir John French visited General Haig at Merville late in the morning as the weather began to clear and announced that he was pleased with the way things were going.

At 1355 hours Haig issued orders for a renewal of the deliberate bombardment at 1430 hours. The infantry would attack at 1600 hours. The Brigade commanders were therefore given no more than two hours notice to prepare for battle.

For the first time on this battle front Canadians of their 3rd Brigade were going to be used (They had been attached to 7th Division) and they were ordered off to attack La Quinque Rue alongside the 4th (Guards) Brigade of 2nd Division.

As things turned out the artillery hadn’t been given the word to commence until 1500 hours. When they did begin the bombardment it was noted to be quite efficient. The problem was of course that the Germans had pulled back and the areas being shelled although close were sufficiently far away to leave the new German positions relatively untouched.

The Germans were obviously alerted and when the Guards closed on the Ferme Cour d’AvouĂ© they were stopped in their tracks by machine gun fire. With half their leading units already casualties and a further 400 metres of open ground to cover, Lord Cavan called his men back. The Irish Guards had suffered 430 casualties in the space of a hundred metres.

By the time that the Canadians had received their orders and marched to the front, the Guards had already been recalled and the battle was as good as over. They attempted to take the Orchard and generally push the line forward as soon as they arrived at the front, but like the Guards suffered high casualties and were recalled.

I Corps was by now exhausted from three solid days of fighting and General Haig issued orders that the 2nd and 7th Divisions should be pulled out of the line and replaced by the 51st (Highland) Division and the 1st Canadian Division. Once in place the offensive would continue.

By the morning of the 20th May the changeover had been completed.