The Battle of Cambrai

The victories at the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood cleared the way to Cambrai. Between October 8th and 10th, Canadian, British, and New Zealand troops fought in and around the city. Compared to the resistance they had experienced at the Canal du Nord and on the outskirts of Cambrai in the previous days, taking the city itself proved to be an easy task for the liberators, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions.

Battle of the Canal du Nord

Leading up to the Battle of the Canal du Nord, Canadian Engineers worked tirelessly to construct bridges across the Canal, ready for the assault that would take place on September 27th. On that day, the Corps advanced approximately four kilometres before being held up for a time near Bourlon Wood.

In the following days, Canadian troops cleared enemy trenches and liberated multiple French villages, before encountering extraordinarily harsh fighting on the outskirts of Cambrai. Between September 27th and October 2nd, Canada suffered more than 13,600 casualties – one of the most costly actions of the war.

Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line

The Drocourt-Queant Line was a part of the Hindenburg Line, an extensive German defence system built in the winter of 1916/1917. On September 2, the first day of fighting at the Drocourt-Queant Line, a section more than six kilometres wide was captured. By the following evening, Canadian troops had reached Canal du Nord. This victory cost the Canadian Corps 5,622 casualties in a span of three days.

Battle of the Scarpe

The Battle of the Scarpe lasted from August 26th to August 30th. Bad weather delayed the attack, but despite the rain and heavy resistance from the enemy, nearly ten kilometres of ground were gained in the first three days of the battle. Important strongholds along the German’s Fresnes-Rouvroy line were also seized by Canadian troops.

Actions Around Damery

Between August 14th and 17th, Canadian troops fought their way into Parvillers and Damery (approximately 35 kilometres east of Amiens). Despite heavy shelling and counterattack, they were able to hold both villages and take prisoners.  Vincent Noskey, a South Peace soldier, was killed in action at Parvillers.  You can read his story on YouTube or our Soldiers’ Memorial.

The Battle of Amiens

The opening day of the Battle of Amiens (August 8, 1918) was labelled by General Ludendorff as “the black day of the German Army in the history of the war”. The Canadians pushed his troops back as much as twelve kilometres on the first day of the battle, and on the 11th of August, the battle ended in a decisive victory for the Allied troops. A total of 5,033 prisoners were taken at Amiens by the Canadian Corps.

Norman Johnston was a South Peace soldier who served at Amiens, and was awarded the Military Medal for his brave actions.  His story has been shared on YouTube and on our Soldiers’ Memorial.

Introduction to the Hundred Days Offensive

August 8, 1918 marked the beginning of the end of the First World War. During these crucial final battles, Canadian troops were chosen to be at the forefront of the attacks on the Germans’ main defensive lines.

More than 6,800 Canadians were killed and approximately 39,000 wounded between August 8 and November 11. To commemorate the triumph and sacrifice of our soldiers during the Hundred Days Offensive, the South Peace Regional Archives will be sharing short videos in the coming weeks, featuring the stories of local soldiers who were part of that final big push that led to the Armistice.

Vimy Ridge: National Day of Remembrance

On Monday Grande Prairie celebrated the National Day of Remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, marking 101 years since this Canadian victory.  This battle was fought from 9-12 April 1917 and marked the first time in the war that all four Canadian divisions, or 100 000 men, were in one place.  Many South Peace soldiers, including those listed below, fought at Vimy Ridge.  To read more about their experiences, visit our Soldiers Memorial.

 

John Gibson Anderson

wounded at Vimy Ridge; killed in action at Passchendaele

David Barr

killed in action on 9 April 1917 at Vimy Ridge

George Wesley Bass

worked with the Engineers building tunnels under Vimy Ridge

Edward Carney

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Benjamin Thomas Gray

lost his right arm as a result of wounds received at Vimy Ridge

Edward Joseph Heller

mentions Vimy Ridge in his memoirs, available here

Arne Jensen

went missing at Vimy Ridge, presumed dead

George Elmor Lillico

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Robert Cornwall Louder

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Ernest Wesley McClelland

gassed at Vimy Ridge

Charles Edward Brendon MacDaid

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Wilfred W. Mace

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Kenneth John Murray

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Donald Patterson

mentions in his memoirs that graves were dug in advance for the expected casualties at Vimy Ridge

Howard Elliot Peffer

wounded at Vimy Ridge; suffered from shell shock

Raymond Pellerin

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Rupert Lee Perry

gassed at Vimy Ridge

Delmar Wentworth Pratt

wounded at Vimy Ridge

Oliver Mardon Tulk

killed in action at Vimy Ridge

100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge: The Birth of a Nation

SPRA on Everything GP

Passchendaele – An Eyewitness Account

After great success at Vimy Ridge and Hill 70, the Canadians were called upon to relieve the Australian and New Zealand troops in Flanders, Belgium. Many preparations were made under the careful eye of General Currie, and on October 26th the attack was launched. The Battle of Passchendaele lasted until mid-November, at the expense of 15,654 Canadian lives. Following is an except from the memoir of a South Peace soldier, Lance Corporal Edward Joseph Heller.

It seemed to be the policy then and there to have comparatively few in the front line, for if the enemy counter attacked he would probably overrun it anyway. We did some digging during the night, connecting shell holes, deepening ditches that were supposed to be trenches, etc. to make room for the extra men… The ground, as at Vimy Ridge, was all torn up. I am sure not a square foot being in its original condition or position. We suffered a few casualties during the night, subjected to what was called a harassing fire: the artillery mow and then dropping a shell here, one there. Our artillery did that too. When morning came, we settled down into the ditches… We lay where we were, in the mud of course, all day of the 29th. If one wanted to change position, get a hard tack out of the haversack, or move for any reason at all, one had to move very slowly… Of course we couldn’t move very fast anyway, as we were chilled to the bone.

There was a sort of step at the dead end of this ditch, so I sat upon the step. I probably dozed off (for we hadn’t had much sleep for some time), for the next thing I knew, I was laying in the mud up out of the ditch, in a sort of bewildered way, thinking perhaps something had happened, for it seemed the right half of my head had been shot off (how I thought I could still be alive after that?) and 72 bones (that’s about 1/3 of them, isn’t it?) were broken. Apparently a shell passed just in front of me… and exploded. How deeply I was buried or how long it took to dig me out was not thought of then, so I never found out, which never worried me any… Two fellows helped me start walking… perhaps to some dressing station… there is a flash of a few seconds of memory… there was this railway car, low sides but no top. How and why I and others were there, I didn’t know or care… Next I was lying on a stretcher in a large marquee. By evening I was in a cot, nice white sheets, hospital pyjamas so clean and dry.

Edward Heller had in fact sustained a gunshot wound to his left leg at Passchendaele. Later in the war, his right leg was also wounded. Heller survived the war and returned to his homestead near Beaverlodge.

Photograph: SPRA 194.03, from Edward Heller’s fonds, likely taken at Passchendaele

To get an idea of the devastation they fought through, consider attending the Passchendaele movie screening at the Grande Prairie Regional College on Friday October 27 at 7:00. We will also have a small display honouring our South Peace veterans who played a role in this important battle.  Click here for more information on this event.

10 Slang Words From World War I

Considering the many new developments in weaponry, equipment, and military tactics during World War I, it is certainly not surprising to see how many new words and phrases that were coined during this time.  Some of them were based on words from other languages as men representing various cultures and backgrounds rubbed shoulders on a day to day basis, others were made up and offer a glimpse into the humor that the soldiers employed to face the horror of life in the trenches.  Enjoy this selection of ten slang words from the Great War, and be sure to check out the sources below for more.

 

Napoo
derived from the French term “il n’y a plus”, which the Canadian and British soldiers took to mean ‘finished’, ‘dead’, or ‘completely destroyed’


Pogey-bait
the Canadian and American term for any sweet snack


Spike-bozzled
usually used to describe completely destroyed aircraft


Potato Masher
slang for German hand grenades


Whizz Bang
nickname for a small-calibre shell


Barkers
trench slang for army sausages, which soldiers believed contained dog meat


Thingamajig
a made-up trench word used to refer to the new devices invented during the war


Bumf
originally slang for toilet paper, but later on referred to any communication from headquarters


Blighty
another word for “England”; a ‘blighty wound’ would be wound that got a soldier sent back to England


Strafe
this could mean anything from bombardment to a severe reprimand; it came from the German propaganda slogan “Gott Strafe England”, meaning “God Punish England”

 

Sources:

Mental Floss – 21 Slang Terms

Canadian War Museum – Soldiers’ Slang

War History Online – A to Z of World War I Trench Slang

BBC News – English Expressions Coined in World War I