Lieutenant Colonel BOYLE, RUSSELL LAMBERT
10th Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regt.)
The Commanding Officer of the 10th Canadians, Lieutenant Colonel Russ Boyle, was killed in the unit's first combat action. The Battle of Kitcheners' Wood was part of the overall Second Battle of Ypres; and began on the night of 21-22 April 1915 when the Germans launched the first poison gas attack of the war on the Western Front, routing two divisions of French colonials and territorials and causing the First Canadian Division to be hurriedly thrown into action.
Lieutenant Colonel Boyle was leading the Tenth and Sixteenth Battalions in a hastily organized counterattack when he was struck five times by a German machine gun. He died a few days later, but the Tenth Battalion gained everlasting fame in their successful attack, earning the Calgary Highlanders the right to wear a prized Oak Leaf shoulder badge in commemoration of this attack.
St. Julien's Day is commemorated annually; Kitchener's Wood was located near the town of St. Julien where much fighting occurred after the initial counterattack of the Canadians at the Wood.
Russell Lambert Boyle was born in Port Colbourne, Ontario, on 29 October 1880.
On 7 June 1894, he enlisted in the Canadian Field Artillery and served continuously in the Militia from then until 1914, with the exception of his service in South Africa as a sergeant in the artillery. He returned to Canada with a war wound, and three clasps to the Queen's Medal.
He engaged in ranching near Crossfield, Alberta, emerging as a member of the school board and the municipal council. He also became a major in the local Militia unit, the 15th Light Horse. From May 1910, he commanded the Crossfield squadron of the unit, and passed the militia staff course and also gained a certificate from the School of Signalling.
Tall and mustachioed, Boyle was a fearsome figure. He joined the battalion at Valcartier and took over after Lieutenant Colonel Rattray's humiliation at the hands of Sir Sam Hughes. Upon reaching England, Boyle drew up the battalion, took off his coat, and issued a challenge to his men. Noting that some of the men on ship had said they wanted to "punch the hell" out of him, he told the men that anyone who would like to try was welcome to it, right then and there. No one took him up on the offer.
Boyle led the battalion in their first action at Kitchener's Wood, during the Second Battle of Ypres. "We have been aching for a fight," he told the men, "and now we are going to get it." The men were impressed by his courage. during the initial attack into the wood, Boyle was among the first men hit by automatic weapons fire. Major Ormond later recalled that "The colonel got five bullets from a machine-gun in his left groin - made a wonderful pattern of two and a half inches." He moved eventually to a hospital at Boulogne. Fellow patient Lieutenant William Lowry - also hit at Kitchener's Wood - remembered "We did not dream he would peg out. He was always...talking of getting back to the regiment." Despite his optimism, Boyle died on 25 April 1915.