The latest installment of the Military History Podcast Series features a presentation by Allan Lougheed entitled “45e Division at 2nd Ypres.”
In this paper, Allan Lougheed offers a re-interpretation of the French 45th Division at 2nd Ypres. He argues that because information about the French at Ypres is largely derived from Canadian sources, those troops who retreated during the battle are largely misunderstood and maligned by historians. In fact, the experience of the 45th Division prior to 2nd Ypres indicates that the troops were actually an effective and battle-hardened formation. The defenses at Ypres, Lougheed claims, were in exceptionally poor condition, especially when compared to other areas of the Western Front where the 45th Division had previously seen action, notably in the Arras sector. By analyzing these areas before the battle, Lougheed illustrates how the 45th Division had previously operated in sophisticated trench systems and were familiar with advanced trench tactics such as tunneling, small-scale raids, and the detonation of mines. Once at Ypres, the French division quickly recognized that the defenses were insufficient, but the gas attack occurred before improvements could be completed. Their actions on the day of the gas attack ultimately represents one day in the context of a long war, and historians should not shy away from their prior successes when assessing their track record.