Canadian`s in Battle

Canadian’s in Battle- WW1
Plaque in Currie Hall, RMC
“We were in Witley Camp (in
England) and right alongside us was
a French battalion from Canada. We
didn’t speak much French and they
didn’t speak much English, but they
were the finest sports you ever saw...
I got an entirely different opinion of
French Canadians because of being
with these people. You met people
from Nova Scotia, or from Prince
Edward Island, clean through British
Columbia. Very often you didn’t take
any notice of the fact unless they
happened to mention it”
-Soldier from Ontario, adapted from ‘Canada and the Battle of Vimy Ridge’
• Ypres
(April- May, 1915)
• Somme
(July- Nov 1916)
• Vimy Ridge
(9-12 April, 1917)
• Passchendaele
(July- Nov, 1917)
The Second Battle of Ypres
• Pg.77-78
• Attempt to regain control of
strategic town in Western
• First use of poison gas on a
large scale
• First time that a former
colonial force (the 1st
Canadian Division defeated a
major European power (the
German Empire) on
European soil
“Sometimes I’m not even sure that I
have a country. But I know they stood
there at Ypres the first time the
Germans used gas, that they were
almost the only troops in that section of
the front who did not break and run...
And that’s ridiculous, and nothing on
which to found a country. Still it
makes me feel good, knowing that in
some obscure, conclusive way they were
connected with me and me with them”
Canadian Poet Alden Nowlan
Capt. Scrimger, 2nd
Canadian Field
Credited in some sources
for having passed the
order to use urine to
counteract the gas
Captain Scrimger received
a Vitoria Cross for other
actions on 25 April
Ruins of Ypres Market Square
Gas at Ypres
“Dusk was falling when from the German trenches in front of the
French line rose that strange green cloud of death. The light northeasterly breeze wafted it toward them, and in a moment death had
them by the throat. One cannot blame them that they broke and fled.
In the gathering dark of that awful night they fought with the terror,
running blindly in the gas-cloud, and dropping with breasts heaving
in agony and the slow poison of suffocation mantling their dark
faces. Hundreds of them fell and died; others lay helpless, froth
upon their agonized lips and their racked bodies powerfully sick,
with tearing nausea at short intervals. They too would die later – a
slow and lingering death of agony unspeakable. The whole air was
tainted with the acrid smell of chlorine that caught at the back of
men's throats and filled their mouths with its metallic taste.”
—Captain Hugh Pollard, The Memoirs of a VC (1932)
Lt Col John McCrae wrote the poem
after his friend and fellow soldier
died at Ypres
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The Somme
1 million + casualties.
1st July 1916- British Army suffer the worst day
in its history, with nearly 60,000 casualties
712 / 780 soldiers from the Dominion of
Newfoundland died in the first day of battle
First use of the tank
Commanded by British General Sir Douglas
Entente advanced 6 miles (9.7 km) into German
occupied territory
“I passed the worst fighting here since the war started.
We took all kinds of prisoners but God we lost heavy, all
my comrades killed or wounded... Dear wife it is worse
than hell, the ground is covered for miles with dead
corpses all over and your Frank passed all through
without a scratch. Pray for me dear wife, I need it very
bad... As long as I live I’ll remember it”
-Canadian Solider writing after the battle of the Somme
-When Your Numbers Up (Toronto: Random House, 1993)
German soldiers attacking a stalled tank at the Somme
Casualties in the Somme
United Kingdom 350,000+
Canada 24,029
Australia 23,000
New Zealand 7,408
South Africa 3,000+
Newfoundland 2,000+
Total British Empire 419,654
French 204,253
Total Allied 623,907
Germany 465,000
Taken from the original estimates of casualties on the Somme, made at the Chantilly conference after
the war
Vimy Ridge
• Pg.79-81
• Four divisions of the Canadian
expeditionary Force vs. three
divisions of the German Sixth
• Objective- take the Germanheld high ground
• History- the French had failed
to take the ridge 3x, the British
had been suffering heavy
losses as they prepared
• Canadians relieved British in
October, 1916
General Arthur Currie was in
Command of the C.E.F
Currie was under the command
of British General Byng
“Historians attribute the
success of the Canadian Corps
in capturing the ridge to a
mixture of technical and tactical
innovation, meticulous
planning, powerful artillery
support, and extensive
training… The battle was the
first occasion when all four
divisions of the Canadian
Expeditionary Force
participated in a battle together,
and thus became a Canadian
nationalistic symbol of
achievement and sacrifice”
department of foreign affairs website
“I thought then, and I
think today, that in
those few minutes I
witnessed the birth of
a nation.”
(Brigadier General Alex Ross after Vimy)
July- Nov 1917
The Entente allies fought to gain
control of Passchendaele village
Located near Ypres in Belgium
Led by GBR Field Marshall Sir
Douglas Haig
Haigs plan was to capture the ridge
then move to the Belgian coast
Unusually wet weather, which turned
parts of the battlefield into a sea of
mud churned by shell-fire
Entente Army captured
Passchendaele in 5 months
• In the British Official History, Brigadier-General J.E.
Edmonds put Entente losses at 244,897 but claimed
that German figures were not available. He estimated
German losses at 400,000
• Cyril Falls in The Great War 1914-1918, estimated
240,000 British (& Canadian), 8,525 French and
260,000 German casualties
• Adolf Hitler fought in the Battle of Passchendaele as a
member of the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division and was
injured on the night of 13 October 1917, when he was
caught in a British gas attack.
Was Passchendaele
• German General Staff publication of 1927 Theodor Jochim, first
head of the Reichsarchiv's documents section wrote: "Germany had
been brought near to certain destruction (sicheren untergang) by the
Flanders battle of 1917.“
• German General von Kuhl said after the battle, "The sacrifices that
the British made for the Entente were fully justified."
• 1938 Lloyd George wrote, "Passchendaele was indeed one of the
greatest disasters of the war.... No soldier of any intelligence now
defends this senseless campaign...."
• In 2008 J. P. Harris condemned Haig and the offensive, "For the
troops taking part, however, some phases of Third Ypres had a
quality more nightmarish than anything previously experienced.“