This Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that brought an end to the First World War. The celebrations that followed were spontaneous and wide-spread as people in Canada saw their war efforts bear fruit after years of sacrifice on the battlefield and at home. For our troops the armistice came after three full months of Canadian victories from August 8 to November 11, 1918. That stretch of the war came to be known as ‘Canada’s Hundred Days’ which helped secure our global reputation as fierce combatants who played a key role in bringing the war to an end.
The First World War had been especially difficult and for much of the period from 1914 to 1918 it had been waged between strings of trenches that covered the Western Front from the North Sea to the Swiss border. It was the most costly war any of the countries involved had ever waged and the new phenomenon of trench warfare vexed military leaders who struggled to find a way to break enemy lines.
In the spring of 1918, Germany began an offensive on the Western Front that saw them make gains. The situation looked grim, but time and attrition were making it difficult for the Germans to maintain their pressure. As German resources dwindled, the Allied Forces were being enhanced by America who entered the war in 1917. This allowed them to stop the German advances and make the final push that culminated in the end of the war.
It was during this period that Canadian troops fought some of the most iconic battles in our military history. Canadian victories at Vimy Ridge in France, and Passchendaele in Belgium, impressed the Allied Command so much that they tapped our troops to lead the offensive that brought an end to the war.
Canadian troops were used as a decoy to make the Germans believe they were being deployed to attack the line in Belgium, near Ypres and then doubled back to lead an offensive in France that saw them advance 20 kilometres in three days. Canadians were then moved north to help break the Hindenburg Line near Arras, France. By September 2, after a difficult week of fighting, Canadians broke through which led to a string of successes that eventually ruptured the Line on September 27.
This was followed by heavy fighting that lead to Canadians capturing the town of Cambrai and reaching the Canal de la Sensee by October 11. Although individual Canadian divisions carried on fighting for the remainder of the War, that was the last action taken by the Corps as a whole.
The victory was not without sacrifice. Over 6,800 Canadians and Newfoundlanders were killed during Canada’s Hundred Days with an additional 39,000 wounded. Over the entire war 650,000 Canadian men and women served in uniform and 66,000 of those gave their lives with another 170,000 wounded.
When the Bells of Peace rang out spontaneously across the country on November 11, 1918, those sacrifices were commemorated, just as they are to this day. When we gather in remembrance we pay honour to those brave Canadians and Newfoundlanders along with many others who have served us in times of war, conflict, and in peace keeping. This legacy helps fuel our desire to work towards a world in peace, which is the ultimate testimony to those who have selflessly struggled to defend us and our ideals.