Canada made great contributions and sacrifices in the First World War. Our many achievements on the battlefield were capped by a three-month stretch of victories at the end of the war during what came to be known as “Canada’s Hundred Days.”
On August 8, 1918, Allied forces on the Western Front launched a major offensive against the German lines near the town of Amiens, France. The Battle of Amiens marked the beginning of Canada’s Hundred Days and the last three months of the First World War. During this period a series of impressive Canadian Corps victories on the Western Front solidified their reputation as elite shock troops.
Following the success of the Canadian Corps and their Allies in the Battle of Amiens, the Canadians were moved north back to Arras. Having little rest, they continued to pressure the German forces, breaking the Drocourt-Quéan Line on September 2, breaching the Hindenburg Line with the capture of Bourlon Wood on September 27, and then pressing on through Cambrai,
Mount Houy, Valenciennes and into Mons, Belgium in October and early November 1918.
During the last three months of the First World War, the Canadian Corps advanced roughly 130 kilometres and took some 32,000 German prisoners and captured almost 3,800 enemy artillery pieces, machine guns and mortars.
Canada’s Hundred Days culminated with the end of the First World War and the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.
During “Canada’s Hundred Days,” 30 Canadians and Newfoundlanders earned the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for military valour they could receive. The experiences of two of these men serve as examples of the kind of courage that many showed.
On August 8, during the first day of the Battle of Amiens, Lieutenant Jean Brillant of the 22e Bataillon attacked and took an enemy machine gun post, despite being wounded. He then led another attack that captured 15 German machine guns and captured 150 prisoners. Again wounded, he organized a charge on German artillery. Two days later, he died and would posthumously be awarded the VC.
The last Canadian VC of the war went to Sergeant Hugh Cairns of the 46th Battalion. At Valenciennes, he charged a series of machine gun posts, neutralizing and capturing the positions and their weapons. He was seriously wounded and died of his wounds on November 2, just nine days before the armistice.
The triumphs during “Canada’s Hundred Days” were impressive, but came at a high price. More than 6,800 Canadians and Newfoundlanders were killed and approximately 39,000 wounded during the last three months of fighting. By the end of the First World War, Canada—at the time a country of less than 8 million citizens—would see more than 650,000 men and women serve in uniform. The conflict took a great toll, with more than 66,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders dying and 170,000 being wounded. The sacrifices and achievements of those who gave so much in the effort to restore peace and freedom are not forgotten.
After more than four years of fighting, the war was finally over. Many of Canada’s soldiers would serve as part of an occupation force in Germany, however, before finally being sent home in 1919.
Canada’s accomplishments had earned it a newfound respect and a recognition—both at home and around the world—that it was an independent country in its own right.
This earned Canada a separate signature on the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the First World War. The war also served as an example of the country’s commitment to defend peace and freedom. It would demonstrate this commitment time and again in the years to come.
– Article from Veterans Affairs Canada