MONUMENT KITCHENER'S WOOD
22 april 1915

 

In the Middle Ages the major part of this country was full of woods. In the beginning of this century only little of these massive woods were left and spread all over this aerea. In St-Juliaan the only remainder was an oak tree wood located between the "Wijngaardstraat", the "Bruine Broekstraat" and the "Peperstraat", known by the locals as "Wijngaardbos".

During the winter of 1914-1915 French troops had installed their kitchen's in this wood and also used it to stock their food supplies. That's why they called the wood "Bois des Cuisiniers". In April of 1915 the British Forces took over this section and literally translated this into "Kitchener's Wood".

In the spring of 1915 the Germans wanted to force their way through the allied lines by using an invisible but horrible weapon, namely Chlorinegas. On April, 22nd, in the late afternoon the Germans opened abt. 6000 gascontainers which they had dug in their trenches between Steenstrate and "het Halfwegehuis".
This was the very first time ever in world history that chemical weapons were used. To the allies it came as a total surprise and shock, as they had no gas masks or any real protection at all. The French at Langemark and Pilkem were overrun by the enemy. The Germans marched on very quickly towards YPRES but stopped at Kitchener's Wood for the night.

In the meantime, allied reserve troops were alarmed and summoned to stop the German attack. The first reinforcements that reached Mouse Trap Farm were the 10th Batallion Canadians and the 16th Batallion "The Canadian-Scottish".

Close to midnight they tried to get to Kitchener's Wood through the fields. Just before reaching the wood they were under heavily machine gun fire. Despite a huge loss of men they succeeded to reconquer the wood.
The counterattack and determination of the Canadians has safeguarded not only Ypres, but also prevented the Germans to get to the French coast and cut off all supplies and logistics of the allies. Consequently, the battle that took place here was one of the most important of the 1st World War.



The approximately 7ft high memorial is situated very close to the place where Kitchener's Wood used to be, in the Wijngaardstraat near the house of Ignace Bentein.
On the polished pedestal is a board claryfying the historical context.
Waisted stones are rising from the pedstal and symbolize the oak trees short to pieces.
On top, the memorial has a roughly cut stone that represents the crown of the trees and the clouds of gas.
In the stone "KITCHENER'S WOOD 22 APRIL 1915" is carved in a bow around an acorn on oakleaf.
This 'acorn on oakleaf' is the symbol of the 10th and 16th Canadian regiment. They are the only ones in the Canadian army who are allowed to wear this very special shoulder-badge on their uniform to remind the battle of Kitchener's Wood.

 

The inauguration of the memorial took place in the spring of 1997.
                               
     

The "Vrije Basisschool" of St-Juliaan (the local elementary school) is fraternized with the Canadian-Scottisch Regiment and took the initiative to place this memorial.

Jozef Dekeyser designed and created the memorial. Ignace Bentein assisted to realize this project.