Written by Mak Pauzé
Canada’s Role In The Last Hundred Day Offensive
Canada’s Last Hundred Days were a remarkable period in Canadian History, since it not only aided in forming Canada’s identity, but many of Canada’s achievements during World War I were made within those three months. Some of Canada’s accomplishments during The Hundred Day Offensive include battles, such as: The Battle Of Amiens, The Second Battle Of Somme, Battle Of The Scarpe, Battle Of Drocourt Quéant Line, Battle Of The Canal Du Nord, Advance To The Hindenburg Line, Battle Of Cambrai 1918, Battle Of The Selle, The Battle of Valenciennes, and more.
Accomplishments that took place during the Last Hundred Days also include the independence Canada gained from the battles during the Offensive, and how Canada’s image changed. Small towns in Canada like Innisfil and Barrie had soldiers that participated in the First World War including the Last Hundred Days, and unfortunately some did not return home.
The Canadians were fighting the Great War as soon as it began, since the country was a Dominion in the British Empire. There was a time when the Front Line was pushed back by the enemy, The Last Hundred Days was when the Allies bounced back, within three months to armistice, they had advanced past the town of Mons. The Canadians participated in many battles during The Last Hundred Day Offensive, the battle that started it all was the Battle of Amiens. Towards the beginning of August, the Allies used the element of surprise to throw the German Army off, they made their front lines appear weak so the German officers would not expect an assault.
Allied troops progressed to the front lines during the night to trick the enemy. False actions were created during the day, like fake radio communication, noises, etc. Just the presence of The Canadian Corps on the front would warn the rival an attack was approaching, this meant the Canadian troops’ moves would have to be hidden from the enemy. The Allies covertly congregated 200,000 men on the perimeter of Amiens by August 7th. Led by the Canadian and Australian Corps, they had 800 planes, 500 tanks, and beyond 2,000 artillery guns. On August 8th the battle began, Canada led the way to the offensive and they advanced a total of 20 kilometres in the three days.
The Allies were victorious while the Germans suffered an appalling defeat, while fighting in Amiens the Canadian Corps captured 9,311 prisoners, and defeated sections of fourteen German divisions. With a large amount of casualties on both sides, the Canadians lost 9,074 men while fighting the Battle of Amiens. On August 26, Battle of the Scarpe began. At 3:00 am the German army was taken by surprise, by 7:40 am, Canadian troops took the town of Monchy. Soon after the Battle of the Drocourt Quéant line begins, On September 2nd at dawn, The Canadians, Scots, French, and other British forces initiated their attack, backed by 80 tanks.
After fighting for ten hours, with many casualties on each side, The Canadians capture the Drocourt Quéant line. Regardless of the successes the Australians and Canadians have made, the Allies have three kilometres through terror before they get to the intimidating Hindenburg line. Before they reached the Hindenburg line, troops of the Canadian Corps had to run from Arras through a difficult obstacle course made up of trenches, pillboxes, and yards full of barbed wire. One of those obstacles happen to be the Canal Du Nord, it was nearly 100 feet wide in some places and all of the bridges were destroyed.
The Battle of the Canal du Nord
British Commanders order the first Canadian Commander of the Canadian Corps General Arthur Currie, to organize a direct attack on the Canal. The Germans purposely flooded the approaches, Currie thought this plan was suicide, but instead of rejecting the British plan, he recommended a better yet even riskier plan. He detected a narrow section of the Canal Du Nord, that was only 2,500 metres long.
Currie had been recognized before the War as a fine leader of men, he had studied Warfare, and he would carry that into the war. He’s recognized immediately as probably the finest Canadian Commanders, and he was desperate to ration the lives of his soldiers and so he demanded more guns, more materials, more shells, more time to prepare for operations and he was open to new ways of War.
This shows that General Arthur Currie was conceivably liked among his peers, he was the first Canadian Commander of the Canadian Corps and a good one, he looked at battles in a different light and organized them differently as well but better.
60,000 Canadian troops poured through the Canal, like they did in the Battle of Amiens, General Currie used the element of surprise, he hid his soldiers in the forests until the timing was just right. Within four days of difficult fighting, The Canadians managed to capture only a restricted amount of land and by October 1st, the exhausted troops were finally ordered to rest and reassemble.
…I can assure you it has been no picnic from that date to this. Constantly on the move. Digging gun pits, digging funk pits, digging holes in the ground to sleep in. Just get them finished, then another move. The one redeeming feature about it, is we’re on the advance and not the retreat.
This shows what being a Canadian soldier at the time of the Battle of The Canal Du Nord was like, and that the only good thing Canadian soldiers thought was “at least we are not the ones losing”. While the Canadian troops broke through the Canal Du Nord, the British troops crossed the St. Quentin Canal, and even broke through the head protection of the Hindenburg line.
Canadian, New Zealand, and British forces have made huge accomplishments, the Canadians crossed the Canal Du Nord, and reached the boundaries of the Hindenburg line. The Allies had 75,000 casualties, yet they were still on schedule with 200 Allied divisions, and nearly 2 million men on the Western Front, all ready to attack the Hindenburg line. During the months of September and October, Canada made huge accomplishments like breaking through the Hindenburg line, and winning other major battles at Arras, Valenciennes, and Cambrai. The Canadians captured more equipment, prisoners, and territory than that of an American defence force that was significantly larger than them.
The Battle of Cambrai
In early October of 1918, the Canadians along with the British targeted Cambrai, a city in France.
We hear General Currie has said he will have Cambrai, though he will lose 75 percent of his Corps, if so, he is a fool and a murderer. Cambrai can be taken, but we do not need to be slaughtered to capture it. (Corporal Albert West. Canadian Corps – Diary.)
This shows that many soldiers felt that this mission was too dangerous, they thought that there was a way but this was not it, Currie came up with menacing plans before, but this plan to capture Cambrai seemed too far-fetched at first. On October 8th, the Battle of Cambrai began. During the battle, engineers helped by repairing roads and built bridges for the artillery and infantry, since it is difficult to fight in flooded terrain.
The Allies gained beyond 12,000 casualties in this battle, yet also gained another victory, In early November France had been released. Since August of 1918, 375,000 soldiers of the German army had been held as prisoners. Within nearly three months into the Hundred Day Offensive, Canadians had gained 30,000 casualties, with over 6,000 soldiers in that list being dead. On the last day of World War I, November 11th 1918, the Canadian army took hold of the Belgian town known as Mons, which had been invaded by the Germans since 1914.
General Arthur Currie’s headquarters had been given notice that all fighting would discontinue at 11:00 a.m, November 11th, 1918. The last Canadian soldier to die in World War I was Private George Price, Private Price was unfortunately shot by a sniper at 10:58 am, just 2 minutes before armistice. Though many tragedies struck during the Last Hundred Days, Canada made huge accomplishments during those last three months to armistice. During the Last Hundred Days, Canada’s offensives were among the most triumphant within the Allied forces.
The Canadian army conquered a quarter of the total German army. Within the last three months of The Great War, the Allies left the old methods of war and made new ones. The Canadians assisted greatly in battles like The Battle of Amiens, Battle Of The Scarpe, Battle Of Drocourt Quéant Line, Battle Of The Canal Du Nord, Advance To The Hindenburg Line, Battle Of Cambrai 1918, capturing Mons, and more within the last three months of The Great War. The Allies gained a great amount of wins with Canada’s help during the Last Hundred Day Offensive.
Canada as a country won a plethora of independence, their efforts during the war were seen, appreciated, and respected, the Canadians were thought to be the most preeminent troops of The Great War in 1918. The country was noticed globally for its achievements and even became a member of the New League of Nations and had a seat at and signed The Treaty of Versailles.
Sir Robert Borden led a victorious and rememberable fight for “separate Dominion representation at the Peace Conference”, and therefore segregated signatures from Great Britain on The Treaty of Versailles. First, Sir Robert Borden had to get Britain’s consent for different signatures for the Dominions on the Treaty, then Borden had to get that same acknowledgement of Canada’s new position from all the other countries there.
The main antagonism was from the United States of America, The United States’ secretary of state was Robert Lansing at the time, he was said to be:
Somewhat arrogant and offensive and desired to know why Canada should be concerned with the settlement of European affairs … Mr. Lloyd George replied that [they] believed themselves to have the right because … Canada as well as Australia had lost more men than the United States in this war.
This shows that it was a high possibility that it was going to be harder for Canada to get this signature, some felt that Canada did not deserve the signature, that losing more men than others did not mean they got their country alone on this Treaty. Canada was able to sign the Treaty of Versailles, yet the British Prime Minister signed the Treaty for the entire British Empire, including the Dominions, this action reduced the significance of Canada’s discrete signature. Canadian leaders slowly started saying no to Great Britain, this included denying money, soldiers, etc. for Great Britain since Canada has started branching off from the British.
Canada won a sizable degree of independence from British power, though Great Britain still had power over Canada, Canada gained plenty of power within the country, not outside of the country which meant Great Britain still controlled things like Canada’s own Foreign Affairs, etc. The Last Hundred Days were very important for Canada as the country was recognized as a great contributor to the Offensive and because of that, the country gained a fair amount of independence from Great Britain’s control, yet this was only the beginning of Canada’s fight to complete independence.
As the war went on, more and more casualties were accounted for, especially during the Last Hundred Days, more and more soldiers were being killed each day. Over 6,800 soldiers that were from both Newfoundland and Canada were killed during the Last Hundred Day Offensive. From that list there were a handful of soldiers that were from Innisfil and Barrie.
Heroes From Innisfil
643220 Corporal Fred Barden lived in the United Kingdom before he became a farmer in Stroud, he joined the 157th Battalion in 1915. Corporal Fred Barden took part in the Battle of The Canal Du Nord, planned by General Currie on September 2nd 1918, on September 25th, he was unfortunately killed by an enemy bullet during battle and he passed away almost instantly. Corporal Fred Barden was buried in France, at the Bourlon Wood Cemetery, he was only 30 years of age.
237611 Private Samuel Henry Draper was born in Cookstown and also raised there. On August 20th 1918, Private Draper was wounded so terribly in both of his legs that he was not expected to recover, he was buried in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, he was only 21 years of age.
3231128 Private Charles Henry Eaglestone came to Canada and lived in Belle Ewart, he was the foreman of Knickerbocker Ice Company. Private Eaglestone was part of the 3rd Battalion as of August 29th 1918, he unfortunately died on September 2nd, less than a week of fighting. He was reported missing during the approach to Drocourt, then he was found and his status changed from missing to “killed in action” on September 27th 1918. He was buried in France at the Dominion Cemetery, he was only 29 years of age.
643354 Ness Field Wharram was born in Innisfil Township and also raised there, although Ness Wharram was a little old to be an infantry recruit, he was strong from farm work and actually had some experience being a trained soldier (he worked with the “35th Simcoe Foresters before going active with the 157th Battalion” in the year of 1916). Private Roy Brown stated in a letter that:
Ness Wharram, as you know, is in the hospital. I may say that Ness did a very clever piece of work. In about half a second he did a sleight of hand trick, killing a Fritzie who had a drop on three of our fellows and I can tell you there was nothing slow about him that time.
This shows that Ness Wharram was seen as a very fine soldier, he was respected among his fellow soldiers and peers, and his skills were recognized. While fighting north of Cambrai, Ness Wharram’s family was notified that he had gone missing, but on November 15th 1918 his family was notified yet again about Ness’ condition, his status was changed to “killed in action”. Private Ness Field Wharram was buried in France, at the “Canada Cemetery (Tilloy-les-Cambrai)”, he was just 41 years of age.
405394 Lance Corporal James Alfred Ralston was the younger brother of 643321 Private Edgar Clarence Ralston, they were born in Lefroy. James Ralston fought in the Battle of Amiens and on the first day he sadly died, Army casualty records reported:
Whilst acting as a signaller on Battalion Headquarters and when advancing with Battalion Headquarters on August 8, 1918 towards the ‘Green Line’ near ‘CAYEAUX’, the enemy appeared in front. Heavy rifle fire ensued from both sides and Private Ralston was struck by a rifle bullet in the stomach and killed.
Lance Corporal James Alfred Ralston was buried in Somme, France, at Toronto Cemetery, he was just 21 years of age.
Private Edgar Clarence Ralston also fought in the Battle of Amiens, he also took part in the Battle Of Drocourt Quéant Line, Battle Of The Canal Du Nord, Battle of Cambrai, and lastly the Battle of Valenciennes. On November 4th 1918, he was killed by enemy gunfire, along with 39 other casualties in the Battalion. Private Edgar Clarence Ralston was buried in France at the Aulnoy Communal Cemetery, he was just 31 years of age.
Heroes From Barrie
853259 Lance Corporal Percy Bloxham lived in Holly, he was a farmer when he enlisted to the 177th Battalion in 1916. On August 16th 1918, Percy Bloxham was killed, he was shot in the stomach and sadly was never recovered, on the Vimy Memorial he is remembered, he was just 23 years of age.
696766 Private Hadden Maley was from Barrie but he farmed in Alberta at the time of the war, he joined the 175th Battalion in 1915. Private Maley fought and was unfortunately killed during the second day of the Battle of Amiens, “Army Circumstances of Death Cards reported:” “While taking part in the attack south west of Rosieres, and about 200 yards from the “jumping off” trench, was hit in the head and instantly killed by an enemy rifle bullet”. Private Maley was buried in New Caix British Cemetery, he was only 26 years of age.
257208 Private Frederick Harry Kell was from Creemore, he lived in Holly and also Allendale, he was a farmer in Manitoba when he was conscripted in 1917. Private Kell was killed by enemy machine gun fire on October 1st 1918, he was buried in France at Mills Switch British Cemetery, he was just 25 years of age.
The pain that is associated with war does not just end when said war ends, it is remembered as each person learns about what happens during time of war. And though each person will never truly understand how the soldiers felt, and how the family felt when they opened that letter, they have an idea of what they went through, and that concept will never be forgotten. All these local men and men around the world sacrificed their lives for the country they held so dear to their hearts. Their selflessness, bravery, courageousness, loyalty, and integrity will always be remembered and praised by Canadians, since it is because of the heroic soldiers that Canadians can say their country is free.
Their sacrifices will always be remembered and what they brought home to Canada (independence, freedom, victories, etc.) will always be appreciated. The First World War was a bittersweet victory for Canada. Though Canada gained so much independence from Great Britain; a new strong reputation, and many victories from battles, thousands of Canadian soldiers had to pay the price for such a win. Within the Last Hundred Days, Canadian and other Allied troops won many major battles. Canada as a country became more independent from the Mother Country Great Britain, The Last Hundred Day Offensive was an impressive start to the country’s path to full independence.
Canada’s contributions to the Last Hundred Days were recognized, as a result Canada got a seat at and signed the Treaty of Versailles and also joined the New League of Nations. Canada sent thousands upon thousands of soldiers to fight, since Canada was a relatively new and therefore a small country at the time of World War I, the amount of people who were sent willing to fight from and for Canada was outstanding.
The Last Hundred Days of World War I helped shape Canada’s identity to be the country it is today, Canada made so many huge achievements that even some may only know Canada for what it accomplished during the Last Hundred Days. Canada sacrificed plenty during The Last Hundred Day Offensive, but it was not for nothing, Canada gained independence, wins, and respect, respect from all who truly knew what Canada lost and gained. Canada’s role in The Last Hundred Day Offensive was incredibly important, because the Canadians assisted a great amount by ending the First World War with an Allied victory.
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