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Canada and the First World War
Transcript of Canada and the First World War
By: Emma Koga, Taylor Harfield-Dahl and Cayla Laturnus
Life in the Trenches
Throughout the war millions of soldiers experienced and endured the horrors of trench warfare. Trenches were cold and damp in the winter and often flooded in the heavy rains. Muddy trenches became stinking cesspools, overrun by rats. Lack of hygiene and sanitation allowed diseases to spread quickly.
No overview of life in the trench would be complete without mentioning the one overriding aspect that instantly struck anyone visiting the lines - the appalling smell. From rotting flesh and overflowing latrines, to the smell of battle, this was the result of numerous conflicting sources.
Soldier’s clothes were infested with lice, and many men developed trench foot, a painful condition that caused their feet to swell and turn black. Mental exhaustion took its toll, and many of the wounded were left to die in no man’s land because rescue attempts were far too dangerous.
Canada and how it got involved in the First World War
When Britain went to war on August 4th, all colonies and dominions of the British Empire, like Canada and Newfoundland, were automatically at war. The British declaration of war brought Canada into the war, because of Canada's legal status as a subservient to Britain.
However, the Canadian government had the freedom to determine the country's level of involvement in the war. On August 5, 1914, the Governor General declared a war between Canada and Germany. The Militia was not mobilized and instead an Independent Canadian Expeditionary Force was raised.
Canadian And British Propaganda Posters-World War 1
The Factors Contributing to Canada's emerging autonomy
Canada's military roles in the First World War
Battle of Ypres
The Battle of Ypres, the first of the series of major battles fought by Canadian troops during the First World War, lasted from April 22nd to May 25th of 1915. A wide gap opened to the attacking Germans, and the 1st Canadian Division. Together with British troops, they rushed in to end the enemy's advance.
In a week of fierce fighting and bitter counterattacks involving further uses of gas, the German thrust was brought to a halt. Although they suffered over 6000 casualties, the Canadians' courage and ability in the face of this new weapon of war won them recognition as first-class troops.
By the time the Canadians entered the battle on the Passchendaele Ridge, British and Australian troops had fought there for more than three months. Their efforts had been unsuccessful: 100,000 casualties for very little ground won. The situation looked hopeless and Canadian Commander Sir Arthur Currie was reluctant to become involved. Although his objections were overruled by British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, his reluctance won the Canadians a delay that allowed them to prepare for the battle.
The Canadian plan in taking Passchendaele was simple: they would attack in a series of battles, each with a limited objective. Step by step, they would take the village, the overall objective being to secure a defensible position on the Passchendaele Ridge. If successful, they would drive a thin wedge into the German positions, leaving them exposed to enemy fire from all directions. The battle slogged on for months with neither side making progress due to the inhospitable conditions. The Canadians captured Passchendaele, but the “victory” resulted in more than 200 000 casualties on each side, including more than 15 000 Canadians. The Allies had gained only 7 or 8 kilometres, and the Germans soon recaptured the town.
Passchendaele Village- Before and After the battle
Battle of Vimy Ridge
The Canadian Corps were ordered to seize Vimy Ridge in April 1917. Situated in northern France, the heavily-fortified seven-kilometre ridge held a commanding view over the Allied lines. The Canadians would be assaulting over an open graveyard since previous French attacks had failed with over 100,000 casualties. Attacking together for the first time, the four Canadian divisions stormed the ridge at 5:30am on 9 April 1917. More than 15,000 Canadian infantry overran the Germans all along the front. Incredible bravery and discipline allowed the infantry to continue moving forward under heavy fire. On April 10th, they captured Hill 145, the highest point on the ridge. The Canadians had gained more ground, taken more prisoners, and captured more artillery than any previous British offensive in the entire war. More than 3500 Canadian men were killed and 7000 were wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge gave Canada a sense of national pride and the reputation of being an elite fighting force.
Battle of the Somme
In 1916, the British and French planned the attack in part to break through the German lines and end a stalemate that existed in the trenches in Europe. Canada entered the Somme offensive at the end of the summer. On September 15 1916, two Canadian regiments including the Quebeckers of the 22nd Regiment received orders to capture Courcelette, a village in the Somme Valley occupied by Germans.
The Canadian soldiers managed to capture Courcelette. The success earned the Quebec 22nd Regiment a reputation as a stellar fighting force and several officers and soldiers were decorated for their courage. But it was at a bloody cost. It was difficult to tell defeater from defeated, The Germans had 660,000 dead or wounded. Britain, France and Canada had 623,907 casualties including 24,000 dead or wounded Canadians, representing a quarter of the Canadian contingent.
The nature of warfare and technology and how it contributed to a war of attrition
All countries involved in the war applied the full force of industrial mass-production to the manufacture of weapons and ammunition, especially artillery shells. Women on the home-front played a vital role in this, by working in munitions factories. This complete deployment of a nation's resources meant that not only the armies, but also the economies of the warring nations were in competition.
In 1914-1915, some hoped that the war could be won through an attrition of materiel-that the enemy's supply of artillery shells could be exhausted in pointless exchanges. But production was ramped up on both sides and hopes proved ineffective.
In the end, the war ended through a combination of attrition (of men and material), advances on the battlefield, and a breakdown of morale and productivity on the German home-front.
The effect the First World War had on Women
The challenges Aboriginal Soldiers faced during the War and upon their return home
Canada's contribution on the
battlefield and how it affected its identity
The impact conscription had on Canadian Unity
The lessons from World War 1
that we must learn, to
understand the 21st century
The effect that Canada's participation in World War 1 had on Canadian Society and it's status as a nation
The aboriginal people of Canada faced many challenges during the war, the army was reluctant to take aboriginal soldiers and if they were only few got promoted. The aboriginal soldiers were good at being snipers and scouts because of their hunting skills. Many aboriginal soldiers who died were unidentified because they we not properly enlisted. When the war was over the aboriginal soldiers where often last to go home due to the place of their colonies.
On return home they became disappointed to realize that the privileges they gained when serving the country were lost, such as the write to vote. The Military Voters Act let men and woman who served overseas the right to vote. Aboriginal soldiers also thought that they would be thanked for their services but prejudice from Canadians still faced them, and they didn't get as much support as the other veterans. The winter 1918-19 Spanish flu killed millions of people in Europe and almost wiped the small aboriginal colonies away when the soldiers brought the disease back with them, and almost closed public schools for months.
In many countries, the need for female participation in the First World War was seen as almost necessary. Thousands of women worked in munitions factories, offices and large hangars used to build aircraft. They were also involved in knitting socks for the soldiers on the Western front. Many women worked as volunteers serving at the Red Cross, encouraged the sale of war bonds or planted "victory gardens".
After the war, women were expected to go back to their old jobs, but that wasn’t the case. Several woman believed they should be rewarded for their contributions and be granted the right to vote. In the 1915 provincial election, a liberal party promised this and in January of 1916 women in Manitoba could vote. Suffragists supporting women and believing that they should vote were evident in the aiding of other provinces following this same decision. In 1916 and 1917, women in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia were given the right to vote. in 1918 women were able to vote in federal elections.
The issue of conscription and the debate between the Anglophones and francophone’s had a very negative effect on Canadian Unity. Although the overall rate of volunteers was high in Canada, recruitment was uneven across the country, with the lowest levels in Quebec.The majority of French Canadians did not feel a patriotic connection to either Britain or France, as their ancestors had come many generations before. They saw the Military Serve Act, a 1917 act that made conscription compulsory for all Canadian men between the ages of 20 and 45, as a means of forcing them to fight in a distant war that had no connection to them. Those who spoke out against conscription were accused of being unpatriotic and labelled as cowards.
Some critics of conscription believed that the country had lost enough men, and spent enough money on a war that had little to do with Canada. They argued that spending more money and sending more troops would only bankrupt the country and put a strain on Canada’s agriculture and industrial production. The weakened economy would eventually threaten the country’s political independency and conscription would divide the nation between Francophone’s and Anglophones. Violent clashes erupted in Quebec between those who supported the war and those protesting conscription.
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The First World War brought profound changes to Canada, and the way we see ourselves as a nation. Canadian troops fought well as a united source, and their victories distinguished them as disciplined and courageous fighters. The need for war supplies stimulated the economy, resulting in major growth in Canadian industry, and women won the right to vote for the first time. The First World War marked Canada’s coming of age as it moved from a collection of desperate communities to a nation united by a sense of pride and identity. Canada gained international status by participating in the Paris Peace Conference and Canadians began to see themselves less as colonies of the British Empire, and more of citizens of an independent country. Some view the impacts of the war as a progressive and constructive event in history, which contributed to the independence and recognized status that our country holds today.
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference marked an important moment in Canada’s emerging autonomy from Britain. Because Canada had contributed so much to the war and its soldiers had fought under Canadian leaders on the battlefields, Prime Minister Borden demanded Canada have its own seat at the conference. Canada won a seat at the conference and Borden insisted that he be included among those leaders who signed the Treaty of Versailles. For the first time, Canada gained international recognition as an independent nation.
Canada's contributions to the war effort in battle, such as holding the line at Ypres during the first poison gas attack, and capturing Vimy Ridge, led to signs of greater autonomy such as signing the Treaty of Versailles, and the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which gave Canada control over its foreign affairs. Canada was no longer automatically at war when Britain was, and we could declare war on our own if we chose to.
The Dominion of Canada sent over 625,000 to the front from the years 1914-1918. This was a massive contribution for a country with a total population of only 8 million. Among the contributions Canadians made, was being among the first to suffer a new weapon used by Germany - the gas attack. Except unlike others, the Canadians didn't run, they held the line.
Canadian infantrymen were on the Western Front in January 1915 and in March, the 1st Canadian Division took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. In April, Canadians fought in the Second Battle of Ypres, where they were subjected to the Germans' first use of gas. From April to August of 1916 the Canadian Corps fought in the defense of Ypres, until it moved to fight in the Battle of the Somme. In April of 1917, it captured Vimy Ridge, which had withstood all attacks for two years. Though this victory cost the Canadian Corps 10,000 casualties, it was certainly a great military success, and ensured that Vimy Ridge would later be chosen as the site of Canada's National Memorial.
World War I was called the war to end all wars. People believed that if the allies won, there would never be war again. The allies were a multinational force made up of France, England and Russia, fighting against the central powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. Because of several alliances, soon most of the world was at war. The lesson learned from World War I is that fighting wars does not solve problems and does not guarantee that new wars won’t start.