Canadian Battles WW1

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					World War One
Canada’s Battles
plan aims to
 quickly out
   of war,
 Russia can
• both sides dig in along
the Western Front
• the Canadians arrive
after the stalemate has
been established
The 2nd Battle of Ypres

  • the First Canadian Division had just arrived at the front
    and were moved to Ypres Salient, a bulge in the lines in
    front of the city of Ypres in Belgium
  • the Germans (as always) held the high ground
The 2nd Battle of Ypres              1915
• the Canadian had British divisions
  on their right and French forces to
  their left
• on April 22, after an artillery
  bombardment, the Germans
  released 5000 cylinders of chlorine
  gas (the green gas was heavier
  than air and sank into the trenches
  forcing soldiers out)
• this gas attack, the first use of this
  terrible weapon, was followed by
  strong infantry assaults
 • the French defenses were forced to retreat (6,000 died in ten
 minutes), leaving a hole in the Allied line
 • the Germans however did not have enough reserves- or
 ironically protection against the chlorine gas- for their own
 troops to take immediate advantage of the gap
• The Canadians held their position,
  counter-attacked, fighting through the
  night to close the gap
• two days later, the Germans attacked the
  Canadian line, again using chlorine gas
• A Canadian medical officer discovered
  how to combat chlorine gas
  (handkerchiefs soaked in urine and held
  over the face - The acids in the urine
  helped lessen the damage caused by the
  harmful gasses)
The Second Battle of Ypres
 • the Canadians held on until reinforcements arrived
The Devastation Of Ypres
           Winter 1917 Ypres

                               barely a building left undamaged by
                                       shell bombardment
Canadian Casualties at the Battle of Ypres 1915:

• 6,000 Canadian casualties in 48 hours
• one in five was listed as killed-in-action, gassed, missing or
• more than
2,000 Canadians
John McCrae: “In Flanders Fields”
• fought in Boer War 1899 with Canadian volunteer force
• medical officer attending In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 to Canadian troops at         Between the crosses, row on row,
 Ypres (1915)                   That mark our place; and in the sky
                               The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 • served most of war in        Scarce heard amid the guns below.
 charge of a hospital in
 Boulogne                       We are the Dead. Short days ago
 • died of pneumonia in        We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 1918                           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.
Battle of the Somme 1916
• Allied commanders order a major offensive in the Somme
  River district of northern France lasting five months
• the epic battle begins with a bombardment lasting a week
• the 1st Newfoundland Regiment was there as part of the
  British army (it had elected to serve separately from the
  Canadian contingent)
The Somme
• the bombardment can be heard across the
Channel yet does little harm to the Germans

• on July 1, 1916, British commanders order a
charge forward in broad daylight at the German
machine-gun fire
• the Newfoundlanders, facing the German line at
  Beaumont Hamel, were stopped by un-cut
  barbed wire while crossing No-Man’s land and
  virtually annihilated in roughly 30 minutes,
  largely by machine-gun fire
• the heroic Canadians were nicknamed “Storm
  Troopers” by the Germans (who prepared for
  the worst when they saw advancing Canadians)
• 50,000 Allied troops died in one day!

                 “Storm Troopers”
• by the battle’s end in November, only 11 km of ground is gained

• overall, one million casualties (24,000 Canadians) result

• on the home front, people were horrified at the carnage

• viewed by many as a
campaign of mass
butchery caused by
generals far from the front
• a lesson is learned:
artillery must better protect
advancing troops
• Allied   losses total 700,000
• German losses 500,000

                                  The Somme Ossuary
                                  – burial site for
                                  unknown soldiers
Some notable aspects of Canada’s military contributions
YPRES – 1915 in Belgium
• Canadians arrive in Europe and fight first battle
• Germans introduce poison gas and yet Canadians hold the line
• 2,000 die in battle that prompts McCrae to write poem

SOMME – 1916 in France
• despite bombardment of German positions, 90% of the
Newfoundland Regiment is destroyed in 30 minutes
• 50,000 Allied soldiers die in one day, battle will last months
• on the homefront, people are left aghast at the carnage
                   John McCrae
Vimy Ridge   February 1917
Vimy Ridge               1917
• under the command of British General Byng, the
Canadians were ordered to capture Vimy Ridge
(part of the Hindenburg Line)
• respected strategist, and the first Canadian
promoted to the rank of general, Arthur Currie was
part of the command structure
• two years earlier the French had suffered 150,000
casualties in a failed attempt to seize the ridge
• Currie had gained experience in previous battles,
                                                               General Arthur Currie
and often criticized British headquarters (the
alternative plans he submitted were often utilized)
• remembering the bloodbath at the Somme, the ground assault this time
had been planned meticulously for months
• full-scale replicas of the Vimy terrain were built, maps issued to the
troops, and thorough rehearsals conducted
         “Thorough preparation must lead to success.
                     Neglect nothing.”
Vimy Ridge
• Canadian spotters had identified and
  mapped about 80 per cent of the
  German gun positions

• five kilometres of tunnels were dug in
  order to move Canadian troops and
  ammunition up to the front without
  being seen by German observers

                                      a couple of weeks leading
                                  • for
                                  up to the battle, artillery
                                  pounded the Germans with
                                  2,500 tons of ammunition per
The Canadian battle plan was simple:

   • the withering barrage provided a screen to hide the Canadian troops

   • hundreds of landing shells spray plumes of muddy earth skyward
Vimy Ridge
    Every three minutes the 850 Canadian cannons would aim a little higher,
    advancing the row of shellfire forward by 90 metres.

    In some cases artillery units exhausted their ammunition in the creeping
    barrage which effectively destroyed German barbed wire
• the soldiers were expected to
  advance, take and occupy
  German positions, moving
  forward at all times to escape
  German artillery mounted
  higher up the ridge
• but not too fast or too far
  (doing so would put them in
  danger of being blasted by
  their own guns)
• following the barrage and benefiting from the element of
surprise, Canadian infantry (4 Canadian divisions fighting
together for the first time) successfully took the ridge

• Vimy (with 10,000 Canadians casualties) represented the only
significant victory for the Allies in 1917
A Turning Point in the War
 • after Vimy, General Currie was
 knighted and given command of the
 entire Canadian Corps

 • the exploits of Canadian troops here
 helped win the nation a separate seat
 at the peace talks following the war

 • visiting the front after this battle, the
 heavy losses on the ridge made it clear
 to Prime Minister Borden that he would
 not be able to meet his recruitment
The original

               The Vimy Memorial today in France
               • commemorating the nearly 4,000 Canadians who died in this battle
               • nearly 10% of their forces
                 The Battle of Passchendaele

• the Allies were experiencing great difficulties in 1917 (Russia withdrew
from the war; the French army had mutinied; the U-boat blockade was
proving very effective)
• the British high command decides to launch a new offensive in Belgium
Passchendaele 1917
• Passchendaele, or third battle of Ypres, began on July 31, 1917, with a huge
  barrage of Allied artillery
• this artillery offensive backfires: both warning the Germans of the coming
  attack and also turned the battlefield into a mess of craters
• British and ANZAC troops would suffer huge casualties as assault bogs down
• Canadians entered the fray in October
• new commander Currie is ordered to create a plan for the town’s capture
• on learning of the British plans, Currie said he anticipated an 80% casualty
  rate for his troops (he would be right)

• artillery combined with unusually heavy rains, the entire area was
  transformed into a sea of mud that devoured horses, men and artillery
• soldiers slept, crawled, fought and drowned in the mud
• mud also clogged rifles, ruined food, and rendered artillery
• many soldiers would actually drown in the mud (when
wounded, stunned, etc.)
• by the costly battle’s end in
October, almost 16,000
Canadians had lost their lives

• the Allies gained seven
kilometres of muddy land that
the Germans soon won back

• Borden was furious at the
horrific casualties
Canada’s Hundred Days 1918
• after Germany’s spring offensive finally falters, the Allies
• Canadians (and the Australians) spearhead the assault
• in August the German salient at Amiens is targeted
• Canadian forces make significant advances against the
German lines
• the remaining months of the war will be characterized by fast-
moving, open warfare

                                                     • some labelled
                                                     Currie “The
                                                     Butcher” for
                                                     Canadian lives
From a country of only 8 million people, 600,000
  Canadians served overseas and 60,000 died.
The Battlegrounds Today

• Shells and bodies still found in
  Belgium and France
• SIGN: “Danger. No entry.
  Unexploded explosives."
Some notable aspects of Canada’s military contributions include:
VIMY RIDGE – 1917 in France
• Currie devises battle plan for Canadian troops
• troops will advance behind creeping artillery barrage
• 4,000 die in the Allies only major battlefield success in 1917
• battle is a turning point in the conflict: both for the Allies as a
whole (key victory) and Canada in particular (conscription)

PASSCHENDAELE – 1917 in Belgium
• the battle in the mud
• Currie warns British the battle will bring huge casualties
• as predicted 16,000 Canadians die in the battle
• ground gained in battle is quickly lost to German counter-attack

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