On March 27th the 3rd Division of the British 5th Corps detonated six mines which had been tunnelled under the German line just south of St. Eloi and attacked. The craters created by the explosions so disrupted the landscape the attacking forces became confused about their objectives which allowed the Germans to reoccupy portions of the line. After a week of confused fighting control of the area had still not been consolidated and the British forces were exhausted. The decision was made for the British to be relieved earlier than planned and on the night of 3-4 April the Canadian Corps replaced the British Corps with orders to hold the area gained by the British assaults.
The Canadian Corps, under the command of General Edwin Alderson, was a force comprised of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions and the newly formed 3rd division. The troops occupying the area of the craters found the line so badly battered from the explosions, constant heavy enemy artillery fire and the weather that it was almost impossible to identify it. There was a complete lack of communication between the front and rear lines. Two days later, before the Canadians could make any progress in consolidating the line, the Germans unleashed a furious counterattack. A desperate battle ensued, and, over the next two weeks, the German troops slowly pushed the Canadians back. By 19 April, the combat-hardened German soldiers had driven the Canadian Corps from its positions, and the hard-won British gains had been lost.
In spite of the many adverse factors contributing to the situation, the British commander-in-chief, General Sir Douglas Haig, chose to blame Alderson for the defeat. On 28 May, Lieutenant-General Julius Byng, a British officer, replaced Alderson as commander of the Canadian Corps.
Last updated Aug 30, 2016