The Brooding Soldier is a moving Memorial that honours the memory of the Canadians soldiers who died from the first gas attack on this battlefield on April 22-24, 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres.
The impressive memorial is located along the N313, at a crossroads known as Vancouver Corner in Saint-Juliaan near Langemark-Poelkapelle in the north of Ypres in Belgium.
This corner of the Ypres Salient was point where the British and French sectors met during WWI.
You can’t miss the Brooding Soldier; he is indeed visible from kilometers around and is illuminated at night.
He watches over the memory of all those who died a century ago in this corner of Flanders.
Frederick Chapman Clemesha
The Brooding Soldier is an extremely powerful and moving sculpture!
Its simplicity and understatement alone indeed translate the deep emotion and sorrow that words cannot describe.
The architect Frederick Chapman Clemesha, who was wounded while serving during the Great War, created this stunning memorial.
Clemesha came second in the design competition organized by the Canadian Battlefields Memorials Commission in 1922.
The CBMC indeed decided to erect a series of Memorials to their Dead on the battlefields of Europe.
The winning project, which is massive and equally stunning, was erected on Vimy Ridge.
Brooding Soldier Canadian Memorial
The Brooding Soldier Memorial is an 11m tall monolith square column.
The shaft is plain, but the upper section is sculpted.
This sculpture represents a Canadian soldier from the waist up, his head bowed and protected by a helmet, and his hands resting on his reversed riffle, the traditional stance at a funeral.
The soldier was sculpted in Brussels, but the creamy coloured stone comes from the French department of Vosges.
The base of the shaft bears an inscription translated both in French and English:
“This column marks the battlefield where 18,000 Canadians on the British left withstood the first German gas attacks the 22nd-24th April 1915.
Two thousands fell and lie here buried”.
The Memorial indeed stands on the battlefield where these Canadian soldiers died.
Most were buried in the Ypres Salient cemeteries, however, many are still buried in the surrounding land because their remains were never found.
The memorial stands on a low circular flagstone terrace, where a series of engraved indicators point towards the various areas of the Salient Battlefields.
It marks the centre of a small garden delineated with cedars that are regularly trimmed in order to represent artillery shells and explosions.
Some soil was also brought from all over Canada and dispersed in the garden, in order to symbolize the broad spectrum of Canadian soldiers who were involved in this terrible battle.
The Duke of Connaught unveiled the memorial on July 8, 1923.
Marshal Foch, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces on the Western Front, gave tribute to the Canadian First Division who had to suffer the first gas attack of the Second Battle of Ypres.
First gas attack on April 22-25, 1915
The German gas attack on April 22-25, 1915 was indeed devastating because it was the first of its kind and therefore took the Allies by surprise.
The French Colonial troops, positioned on the left side of the Allied lines, managed to break through the German positions before the gas attack was launched.
The Canadians and some British reinforcement regiments (Buffs, Middlesex, York and Leicesters) became the prime target of the gas attack as they engaged the assault.
They endured both gas attacks, on April 22 and 25, without gas masks and many died in atrocious pain.
Those who managed to survive in the trenches worked out that they could temper the devastating effects of the gas by stuffing their wet handkerchief in their mouth!
Many survivors were permanently injured, and tragically many died in the following months or years.
Belgium – Vancouver Corner – Saint-Juliaan near Langemark-Poelkapelle
Coordinates: Lat 50.899585 – Long 2.940185