- The 1st Canadian Division arrived at the front which was located just outside the city of Ypres, in Belgium. - The German army fired 5,700 rounds of chlorine gas filled rounds on to Canadian and Allied positions - During the gas attack, the allied French Army was forced to retreat leaving a four- mile gap in the Allied line. - The Canadians knew that the gap was a very big disadvantage, so they spent the whole night attempting to fill it.
-The only protection Canadian soldiers had against the gas attack was to wrap their mouths in damp cloth to filter out some of the gas (usually they used urine to dampen the cloth). -The Canadians withdrew from the battle on May 3rd, where they were relieved by British forces. -The number of Canadian casualties accounted for were 5975, and 1000 of these were termed fatal. -Losses during the Second Battle of Ypres are estimated at 69,000 Allied troops (59,000 British, 10,000 French), against 35,000 German. -After the battle of Ypres, Canada sat in a different position in the eyes of Belgium and France. The name Canada was a word symbolizing thankfulness and bravery due to the effort of the 1st division in the battle of Ypres.
“German gas is heavier than air and soon fills the trenches and dugouts, where it has been known to lurk for two or three days, until the air is purified by means of large chemical sprayers. We had to work quickly, as Fritz generally follows the gas with an infantry attack. A company man on our right was too slow in getting on his helmet; he sank to the ground, clutching at his throat, and after a few spasmodic twistings, went West (died). It was horrible to see him die, but we were powerless to help him. In the corner of a traverse, a little, muddy cur dog, one of the company's pets, was lying dead, with his two paws over his nose. It's the animals that suffer the most, the horses, mules, cattle, dogs, cats, and rats, they having no helmets to save them. Tommy does not sympathize with rats in a gas attack.” - Arthur Guy Empey, Over The Top (1917)
-The French Commander in Chief, Joseph Joffre, conceived the idea as a battle of attrition, the aim being to drain the German forces of reserves, although territorial gain was a secondary aim. This was agreed upon by British High Commander Sir Douglas Haig. -The attack was preceded by an eight-day preliminary bombardment of the German lines, beginning on Saturday 24 June. This was meant to destroy the entanglement of barbed wire and destroy much of the German defenses -The artillery bombardment failed to destroy either the German front line barbed wire or the heavily-built concrete bunkers. -Many troops were killed or wounded the moment they stepped out of the front lines into No Man's Land. Despite heavy losses during the first day - 58,000 British troops alone - Haig persisted with the offensive in the following months.
-The first tanks, which totalled 50, reached the Somme in September. While they achieved a large measure of shocked surprise when sprung upon the German opposition, these early tanks proved clumsy and were highly unreliable. -More than 24,000 Canadians and 700 Newfoundlanders were killed, wounded or went missing in the Somme Region in 1916. -During the attack the British and French had gained 12 kilometres of ground, the taking of which resulted in 420,000 estimated British casualties, plus a further 200,000 French casualties. German casualties were estimated to be around 500,000. -Sir Douglas Haig's conduct of the battle caused - and still causes - great controversy. Critics argued that his inflexible approach merely repeated flawed tactics; others argue that Haig's hand was forced in that the Somme offensive was necessary in order to relieve the French at Verdun.
I have a rendezvous with Death At some disputed barricade, When Spring comes back with rustling shade And apple-blossoms fill the air-- I have a rendezvous with Death When Spring brings back blue days and fair. "June 28, 1916. We go up to the attack tomorrow. This will probably be the biggest thing yet. We are to have the honour of marching in the first wave. I will write you soon if I get through all right. If not, my only earthly care is for my poems. I am glad to be going in first wave. If you are in this thing at all it is best to be in to the limit. And this is the supreme experience."
"It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then... that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.“ - Brigadier-General Alexander Ross
-German forces seized control of the ridge in September 1914 and promptly constructed deep defensive positions comprising bunkers, caves, passages and artillery-proof trenches, heavily protected by concrete machine gun emplacements. -French attempts to grab control of the ridge throughout 1915 were bloodily repulsed with the loss of some 150,000 French casualties. The British had also attempted to take the ridge and failed. -As the Canadian Commander of the 1st Division, Major-General Arthur Currie, said, "Take time to train them.” This is exactly what the Canadian Corps did. -A full-scale replica of the battle area was laid out with reels of coloured tape and flags behind the Canadian lines.
-Maps were given out to guide the smallest units. The troops were fully informed about their objectives and their routes. Ariel reconnaissance and night raids helped the Canadians know more about German defenses -A series of tunnels and subways were tunnelled under ground before the battle. -The Canadians used the “Creeping Barrage” perfectly. It was used in the Somme but proved to be disastrous -Behind it advanced 20,000 soldiers of the first attacking wave of the four Canadian divisions. - Within thirty minutes the Canadian 1st Division had succeeded in capturing German front line positions in spite of a snowstorm; within the next half hour, the second line had similarly passed into Canadian hands.
-With the entire ridge wholly under Allied control by 12 April the operation was judged a spectacular success, the single most successful Allied advance on the Western Front to that date. The ridge remained in Allied hands for the remainder of the war. -10,602 Canadians were wounded during the attack, and 3,598 killed. The opposing German force suffered even more heavily: 20,000 casualties. -Vimy Ridge is seen as the battle which unified Canada and gave many Canadians a sense of international pride, at a level which had never been seen in Canadian history.
-The aim of the campaign was to be the destruction of German submarine bases on the Belgian coast. The current level of shipping losses would prevent the British from sustaining the war into 1918, thus requiring clearance of the bases on the Belgian coast. -Canadian commander Arthur Currie inspected the battlefield and was shocked at the conditions. He tried to avoid having his men fight there but was overruled. -In heavy fighting, the attack went according to plan. The task of actually capturing the "infamous" village fell to the "City of Winnipeg" 27th Battalion and they took it that day. -Canadian soldiers succeeded in the face of almost unbelievable challenges. -Unwilling to concede the failure of the breakthrough, Haig pressed on with a further three assaults on the ridge in late October. The eventual capture of Passchendaele village by British and Canadian forces on 6 November finally gave Haig an excuse to call off the offensive claiming success.
-More than 4,000 Canadians died in the Battle of Passchendaele and almost 12,000 were wounded. Canada's success there added to our nation's reputation as the best offensive fighting force on the Western Front. -The British Expeditionary Force suffered some 310,000 casualties, with the number of German casualties at 260,000. -Haig came under intense criticism both in 1917, and since, for persisting with the offensive after it became clear that a breakthrough was unlikely. He declined to modify his plans: evidence, some say, of an inflexible strategy. -Haig himself argued that Passchendaele was regarded as a battle of attrition, the German forces could less afford the loss of men than the Allies, who by this time were being supplemented by the entry into the war of the U.S. This view is shared by a number of German contemporaries.
“The Canadians have had more luck than the English, New Zealand and Australian troops who fought the way up with most heroic endeavour, and not a man in the army will begrudge them the honour which they have gained, not easily, nor without the usual price of victory, which is some men's death and many men's pain. After an heroic attack by the Canadians, they fought their way over the ruins of Passchendaele and into the ground beyond it. Their gains held, the seal is set upon the most terrific achievement of war ever attempted and carried through by British arms.” Sir David Watson