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The Story of Two Soldiers
Battle of St Julien, 24 April – 4 May 1915 The Story of Two Soldiers Raymond Arthur Saunders of Hebron, Yarmouth County, despite his enlistment papers recording his age as 18, was only 16 went he volunteered on September 24, 1914. He was 5 feet, 8 inches in height, with a dark complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. Ray was with the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, 6th Battery, a Gunner of an artillery piece drawn by four horses. Colin Gernon Palmer Campbell of Weymouth, Nova Scotia, was 20 when he enlisted at Fredericton, New Brunswick on December 4, 1914. He was 5 feet, 9 inches in height, with a blond complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. At the time of the Battle of St. Julien, Colin was a Corporal with the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery and had become a close friend of Ray Saunders. The two spent time together while at the front, Colin describing Ray as his “best and only chum” and not a day passed that the two did not have some time together. As a Corporal, Colin was able to obtain anything, clothing or blankets, that might be needed to make life at the front as comfortable as possible in the horrific battle front conditions. They ate together, talked about their families, and slept side by side near the horses. Ray was popular with his battery and took great pride in the care of his horses and had the reputation of always being ready to do his duty regardless of the danger. On the night of April 25, 1915 the two had just decided they would put down their blankets to sleep near the horses behind a grove of small trees. Ray sat down and Colin started to go off to get the blankets and had just turned away when a terrible crash of shelling came. When Colin turned he saw his friend had been hit by a piece of shell. It had struck Ray on the left side of his head cutting through his cap. Ray was seriously wounded as were four others. The four horses, likely Ray’s team, were killed. Ray was taken to the casualty clearing station and given medical attention; however, he would die twenty hours later in hospital. Colin was shaken and devastated by the death of his friend “it is awful hard to lose someone one loves” he would later write. But for Colin the immediate task was to bury his friend. Together with Gunner McNeil of Hebron, Yarmouth Co., N.S. and Gunner Charles Emin of Yarmouth, N.S. they obtained a shroud and coffin and buried Ray in the cemetery at Poperinghe (now Poperinge). Colin found a wheeler’s shop and made a cross himself, painting on it Ray’s name, date of birth and birth place. The three then said prayers at Ray’s grave site. For Corporal Colin Campbell, the battles would continue, the struggle to survive would go on. He wrote home to Ray’s father, telling him the circumstances of Ray’s death, extending sympathy and a promise, should he survive he would visit when he returned home. But that was not to be. In June, 1915, two months later, Corporal Campbell was wounded at La Bassee in France. Recovered from his wounds, on discharge from hospital he obtained a Commission and as a Lieutenant now with the Imperial Forces was assigned to the British Army, Royal Field Artillery, 94th Brigade. On October 10, 1917, at the age of 22 he was killed in action. Lieutenant Colin Gernon Palmer Campbell is buried in the Godewaersvelde British Cemetery located in northern France along the Belgian border. In 1915 Colin wrote, “It was the will of God that he had to leave all he loved and who loved him in this world to meet them in the next”. Battle of St. Julien In April of 1915, the 1st Canadian Division joined the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry at the Ypres salient, a bulge in the Allied lines, near the Belgian city of Ypres. On April 22, the German Army moved to push the Allied forces from the salient and released chlorine gas against the French 45th (Algerian) Division located to the left the Canadians. As the French retreated there was a 6.5 kilometre hole in the Allied line and throughout the night the Canadian troops fought to close the gap and defend the salient. Counter-attacks to drive the enemy back were made against enemy positions but little ground was gained and casualties were extremely heavy. On the morning of April 24, Germans attacks were renewed. There was a second chlorine gas attack, this time directly against the Canadian lines. Under intense fire and violently ill from the chlorine gas the Canadians held on until reinforcements arrived. The Battalions still fighting around St. Julien were finally overrun when ammunition gave out. At 4:00 pm, two more British battalions arrived and counter-attacked to push the Germans beyond St. Julien. The Canadian Division was ordered that evening to retake the town, and on the 25th moved against the German lines. The fighting would continue into May, 1915; however, the Canadians were withdrawn from the front on the 26th and 27th. Canadian casualties totalled 5,975 men with some 1,000 men killed in action during the four days of fighting. On April 24, alone, 3,058 casualties were suffered during infantry attacks, artillery bombardments and gas discharges on April 24, 1915.
Silks were often included in cigarette packages as product premiums to be collected. This silk refers to the village near Ypres, where the Canadian Expeditionary Force first saw action in the spring of 1915.