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Summary of the War,
Victoria County, Ontario Canada
A Brief Summary, Beginning from 1914
Adequately to describe the course and context of the
conflicts in which these lives were offered up would transcend the
limits of several volumes of history. There are compensations,
however, in the brevity here found necessary. We are still so close
to the World War that it is easy to become confused at the
complexity of the military operations of vast armies on numerous and
extended fronts. In making a rigid summary of the salient events of
the campaigns, especially in so far as they affected the Canadian
troops, we shall introduce a simplicity, which, though somewhat
artificial, will enable us better to comprehend and remember our
country's share in the colossal struggle.
With the outbreak of war Germany deliberately violated Belgian
neutrality in order to pour her armies up the valley of the Meuse
and crush the French from an unexpected quarter. They ravaged
Belgium most foully and drove their way through Northern France to
within fifteen miles of Paris. Then, from Sept. 5th to Sept. 10th,
at the Battle of the Marne, the French shattered the great German
attack and drove the invaders back to the Aisne. There ensued a
struggle for position which by the end of October left the opposing
armies entrenched against east other all the way from Nieuport (on
the North Sea) to Switzerland. In the east Russia was worsted by
Germany but was successful against Austria. Turkey entered the war
on the German side on November 3rd, thus threatening Britain's
position in Egypt and India. Canada had no share in the operations
Canadian Share in War in
In February, 1915, the First Canadian Division
crossed to France. On April 17th they took up their position in the
trenches before Ypres. Five days later, on April 22nd, the Germans
planned a tremendous drive to break through at this point, disrupt
the whole line, and gain the channel ports. The diabolical invention
of poison gas was now first employed by the enemy. French colonial
troops on the Canadian left broke under the torment, leaving a gap
of several miles in the allied line. Only the superhuman audacity,
bravery, and endurance of the Canadians under circumstances
unparalleled in warfare, saved the day. Their casualties were 8,000
or more than half their number.
Four weeks later, on May 18th, the Canadians took part in a British
offensive at Festubert which sought to break through to Lille.
Ground was won to a depth of 600 yards on a front of four miles, but
further progress failed through a lack of munitions. This proven
shortage of munitions precipitated a political crisis in England and
helped to bring in a Coalition Government. The Canadian casualties
at Festubert totaled 2000.
On June 15th the First Division incurred 900 more casualties in a
frontal attack on the German trenches at Givenchy. They took their
objective but were obliged to fall back because the British troops
on the left did not meet with like success.
In September 1915 the Second Canadian Division arrived in France and
a Canadian Corps was formed. This Canadian Corps was supplied with a
Third Division in January, 1916, and a Fourth Division in August
During 1915, while this inconclusive fighting went on on the western
front, Germany inflicted stupendous defeats on the Russian army ,and
over ran 5,000 square miles of Russian territory. The British failed
ignominiously in an attempt to capture Constantinople. Bulgaria
thereupon entered the war and cooperated with Germany and Austria in
the conquest and extinction of Serbia. The only Allied gain in 1915
was the entry of Italy into the war on May 23rd.
Canadian Share in War in
In 1916 the Germans decided to smash the French army
by one terrific, irresistible blow against the stronghold of Verdun.
The storm of battle broke on February 21st, but though it raged till
the following October the French line did not give way.
On July 1st an Anglo-French army opened a great counter campaign
known as the Battle of the Somme. In this the Canadians had no share
until September. Earlier in the year they had incurred heavy
casualties during reverses at St. Eloi in April and at Sanctuary
Wood on June 2nd and during a most successful counter attack at
Hooge on June 13th. Now they were to capture a series of German
positions: Moquet Farm, Courcelette, and Fabek Trench on September
15th; Zollern, Hessian, and Kenora Trenches on September 26th;
Regina Trench on November 11th; and Desire Trench on November 18th.
The Canadian casualties in this share in the Somme offensive
totaled 21,179. The total area won by the Allies was small, about
120 square miles.
Other events in 1916 were: A successful Russian campaign in Galicia;
the belated entry of Roumania into the war and her speedy
subjugation by Germany; and the inconclusive naval battle of Jutland
between British and German fleets in the North Sea.
The War's Progress in
The chief events in 1917 were: the collapse of
Russia through mutiny, revolution, and final ruinous domination by
the Bolsheviki on November 7th; the compensating entry of the United
States into the war on April 6th; the serious reverses in Italy in
October; the British capture of Bagdad and Jerusalem; and the
moderate gains made in the west by the Allies in the battle of Arras
(April-June), the battle of the Aisne (April-November), and the
British offensive in Flanders (July-December).
In the first stage of the battle of Arras the Canadian Corps
captured the almost impregnable fortifications of Vimy Ridge on
April 9th, Hill 145 on April 10th, and "The Pimple" on April 12th.
The casualties totaled 9,966. Later the Canadians captured Arleux on
April 28th and Fresnoy on May 3rd.
In August the Canadian Corps was employed in the sector opposite
Lens, in Northern France. The Fourth Division captured the suburbs
of La Coulotte and Avion on August 1st, and on August 15th the First
and Second Divisions carried Hill 70, a bold hillock northwest of
Lens. On August 21st a bloody but inconclusive struggle raged about
a great, weed infested slag heap, known as the Green Crassier,
southwest of the city. The capture of Lens was not yet completed
when the Canadians were withdrawn and sent to join in an offensive
in the Ypres salient.
On the 26th of October the Canadians launched their attack on the
Passchendaele Ridge, and by November 10th, after one of the
bitterest and costliest struggles they ever knew, obtained their
objective and removed the menace of this commanding position from
the British front. The Canadian casualties in sixteen days totaled
14,867. The total of Canadian casualties during the entire Boer War
had been only 338.
The Closing Campaigns In
In the spring of 1918 Germany exacted a ruinous
peace from Russia and then turned to hurl at the armies in the west
a colossal offensive that would end the war. From March 21st to July
18th they won tremendous successes but not ultimate victory. The
Allies at last achieved unity of command and the new generalissimo,
Marshal Foch, began on July 18th a sweeping counter offensive which
did not halt until the capitulation of the Germans on November 11th.
In this great advance Canada played a glorious though costly part.
In the Battle of Amiens (August 8th-17th) the enemy was driven back
14 miles from before the vital railway center of Amiens, and 25
villages were recaptured. Then the whole Corps was suddenly
transferred to the north to fight the Battle of Arras (August
26-September 4th). Here they broke through the Drocourt Queant
switch, a vast system of concrete fortresses connected by wired
trench lines and huge subterranean tunnels, and advanced to the
Canal du Nord, capturing some 50 square miles of territory. On the
27th of September the Canadians resumed the offensive in the Battle
of Cambrai, which ended on October 9th with the capture of that
In the three great battles of Amiens, Arras and Cambrai, the
Canadian casualty list reached the staggering total of 37,263. The
captures included 490 heavy guns, 230 trench mortars, 3100 machine
guns, and 29,400 prisoners.
In a subsequent march from Douai to Mons, lesser actions were fought
at the capture of Denain on October 20th, of Valenciennes on
November 2nd, and of Mons on November 11th.
Meanwhile Britain had eliminated Turkey in Mesopotamia and Syria,
and an Allied army under d'Esperey had shattered the Bulgarians in
the Balkans. Bulgaria signed a capitulatory armistice on September
29th. Turkey followed her example on October 31st. Austria was badly
shaken by Italian attacks and gave in on November 4th. Revolution
broke out in Germany; the Hohenzollerns fled; and the war closed on
the 11th of November.
Such was the course and the termination of the War of the Nations,
in which 205 sons of Victoria County died heroically in the cause of