The Battle of Festubert took place in May 1915, as part of the fighting around Artois, France. The German Army was moving reinforcements into the region to mount a large summer offensive, and the Allied attacks were meant to disrupt their plans.
The 1st Canadian Division, along with the 51st Highland Division from Scotland attacked on May 18. The attack on Festubert was the very image of a grim World War One battlefield. The Canadians attacked without proper maps, time to prepare, or artillery support. They charged directly into German guns again and again, taking terrible losses.
Over the next week the battle continued. Though the Canadians kept fighting, their spirit was no match for German steel and explosives. In the final tally the Canadians had traded 2,107 dead and wounded for less than a kilometre of ground. The 1st Canadian Division learned a terrible lesson at Festubert, but unfortunately it would take even greater losses at St. Eloi and Mount Sorel before those lessons translated into a change of strategy and tactics in the Canadian Corps.
Sergeant Herbert William Hives was born in London, England and immigrated to Canada in 1910, settling in Kenora. He enlisted in Winnipeg in September 1914.
Hives arrived in France with the 10th Battalion in January 1915 and was sent to the line after the 2nd Battle of Ypres. He was hit in the leg helping to repel a German attack on May 22, 1915 at the Battle of Festubert. After healing he returned to the 10th in September 1916 in time to fight in the Battle of the Somme. Hives fought with the 10th until he was shot on the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. After recuperating in England Hives spent the rest of the war with reserve battalions, and as a member of the Canadian Army General Staff.
Herbert Hives was discharged in Winnipeg on June 24, 1919. After the war he worked as a train conductor. He died in Winnipeg in 1995.