On today’s date in 1915, the Second Battle of Ypres ended with 105,000 casualties, including hundreds of Canadians who underwent the first German poison gas attack.
The month-long First World War battle consisted of six engagements between April 22 and May 25, 1915 and was fought for control of a strategic town – Ypres – in western Belgium. It followed the First Battle of Ypres that took place the previous autumn.
One of the second battle’s six engagements was the Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge, which began May 24, when German soldiers released a gas attack on a seven-kilometre front near Hooge, a small village about four kilometres east of Ypres. British troops initially defended against the German attacks but were eventually forced to retreat to the north and south. Failed British counterattacks forced a British retreat one kilometre to the north.
SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES $20 SILVER COIN
Designed by Silvia Pecota, the Ypres coin depicts a Canadian soldier standing in the foreground with a bayonet and a Ross rifle, scoping the advancing enemy. Behind him, one soldier is crouched as he tends to his rifle while another leans against sandbags and shoots at the enemy. To the right, a soldier is using a handkerchief to protect himself against the burning effects of the chemical clouds that bore down on the Allies.
A banner frames the lower portion of this poignant image, with selective gold plating showcasing the winged figure of “Victory” as it appeared on the Victory Medal awarded to Allied soldiers of the First World War.
The obverse features the effigy of King George V by Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal. The coin has a weight of 31.39 grams, a diameter of 38 millimetres and a mintage of 10,000 pieces.
The First World War Battlefront series debuted in 2015 and depicted scenes from eight battles, including the Second Battle of Ypres plus:
- the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle;
- the Battle of the Somme;
- the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel;
- the Battle of Vimy Ridge;
- the Battle of Passchendaele;
- Canada’s Hundred Days; and
- the First Armistice at Compiègne.