The New Normal: Gas-Etiquette and the Canadian Expeditionary Force

Two soldiers wearing gas masks examining a Lee Enfield rifle

The face of war changed forever when, on April 22nd, 1915, the Germans threw caution—and roughly 150 tons of chlorine—to the wind, gassing two French Colonial divisions along the Ypres front. Since then, the Great War has become inextricably linked to ominously coloured and suffocating gas clouds. Equally iconic are the ghoulish masks designed to […]

‘A Grand Day’: Dominion Day 1918

men climbing into hanging barrels

Monday, July 1st, 1918 represented a major confluence of minor blessings for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Unable to predict that the war would be over before the closing of the year, military leaders were taking steps to ensure their forces were trained, equipped, and rested for the battles ahead. For the CEF, this meant a […]

Valenciennes and the Pursuit of the German Army

Following the allied victory at Cambrai, the Germans continued their retreat and made their final stand at Valenciennes. With the Canal de l’Escaut to their west and Mount Houy to their south, Valenciennes offered a strong natural defensive landscape where the Germans could slow their enemy’s advance. This would be where the Canadians would fight […]

The Canadians and the Fall of Cambrai

Following their success at the Canal du Nord, the Canadian Corps could now turn their attention to Cambrai. Situated in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, Cambrai was a key logistical centre that was surrounded by an elaborate network of canals. The area was heavily occupied by a retreating German army who showed no signs of […]

Crossing the Canal du Nord: the ‘linchpin’ of the Hindenburg Line

After crashing the Drocourt-Quéant Line on 2 September, the Canadian Corps could take a well-deserved rest and begin preparations for their next obstacle: The Canal du Nord. While allied forces continued their operations throughout September, Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie needed to develop a strategy to cross the heavily fortified canal where enemy positions were […]

Fighting Words: Canadian War Poets

The First World War produced many war poets, particularly those writing in English; Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Edmund Blunden all come to mind. In the Canadian context, there is a clear favourite for most well known – John McCrae, the author of “In Flanders Fields”. However, there were other less well known or less […]

Hill 70: Our Forgotten Battle

August 15th marked the centenary of the Battle of Hill 70, the Canadian Corps’ next large engagement after their success at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, and their second victory of the year. It is also distinct in that it was the first Canadian battle planned exclusively by Arthur Currie, now the commander of the […]

“On Roads Muddy and Gray”: The Passchendaele Centenary

The quote in the title comes from a poem written by Alexander Sinclair, a Driver with the Canadian Field Artillery. Sinclair fought at Passchendaele with the Canadian Corps in November 1917, when the battle was winding down. But Passchendaele, a gigantic battle with hundreds of thousands of casualties, began much earlier than the official Canadian […]