Canadians in Battles of WW1 Second Battle of Ypres, April 1915 • This was Canada’s first major battle. • Soldiers had Ross rifles. • Soldiers were positioned with French troops. When the Germans started using chlorine gas, the French troops fled leaving a large hole in the defensive lines. • Breathing through handkerchiefs soaked in their own urine to offset the gas effects, the Canadians held. The attacking Germans retreated. • Over 6,000 Canadian troops were killed or wounded Canadians in Battles of WW1 Second Battle of Ypres, April 1915 • In Flanders Field 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… •During the Battle of Ypres, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem “In Flanders Field.” It is recited on Remembrance Day. •McCrae wrote the poem to honour his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer who had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain. In mourning, McCrae wrote the poem in five minutes. Canadians in Battles of WW1 The Somme, 1916 • The Biggest military disaster in British history. In one day, almost 58,000 troops were killed. • Beaumont Hamel was the opening battle. Newfoundlanders fought here (Newfoundland was not part of Canada at this time). Ordered to charge at machine guns, 725 of 800 men were killed or wounded. • The British General used the same battle plan for six months. Over 1 million Allied soldiers were killed or wounded. • The British used tanks for the first time in war. Canadians in Battles of WW1 Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917 – The Birth of a Nation • For three years, the English and French had not been able to capture Vimy Ridge. Over 150,000 soldiers had been killed or wounded. • The ridge was heavily armed with machine guns at three locations, deep trenches and many soldiers. • Canadians employed a number of new attack strategies such as a creeping artillery barrage, platoons, cables for telephone communication, strategic artillery attacks targeting machine guns and reserve troops. • In four days, Canadians captured the ridge • Over 10,500 Canadian troops were killed or wounded. • The Canadian effort was acknowledged by the world. A nation was born. Canadians in Battles of WW1 Passchendaele, November 1917 • The area was a bog, and No Man’s Land had many water-filled holes. These conditions prevented infantry from advancing. • A British General ordered the attack, but in the field, Canadian troops were led by a Canadian General • Canadians won the battle but suffered nearly 16,000 casualties. In total, Allied troops suffered nearly 500,000 casualties. Many soldiers drowned in the water-filled holes. • Many people considered this battle a waste of lives. • Today, a memorial has been erected on the site bearing the names of the 55,000 soldiers killed but whose bodies were never found. Canadians in Battles of WW1 The Hundred Days • Canadians led an offensive attack against German positions. • Over 100 days, the Allied troops fought through enemy defenses and forced the Germans to retreat. •Nearly 25% of the German soldiers surrendered. •By November 1918, the Germans had retreated back toward the German border. •At this point, German military commanders decided to surrender. A ceasefire was arranged for 11:00 a.m. on 11 November 1918. Canadians in Battles of WW1 Summary… • Canadians fought in many more WW1 battles. • These four battles (Ypres, The Somme Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele) are considered Canada’s most important battles. • WWI fighting stopped at 11:00 a.m. on 11 November 1918. NOTE: WWI was not technically over at this time…a Peace Agreement had to be negotiated and signed to officially end the war. • The last Canadian was killed at 10:45. Private George Price was shot by a German sniper as Canadian troops marched into Mons, Belgium. • In WWI, 9,000 Canadian soldiers were killed and another 40,000 wounded. • At Vimy Ridge, the bravery of Canadian soldiers was called “The Birth of a Nation.” • Was the cost of life worth the results?
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