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Major Battles of WWI

YPRES – This battle took place in April 1915. Here, the Germans attacked a Canadian Force that was green and inexperienced in the ways of war. This battle marked the first time either side in the war used poison gas in battle, which had been outlawed. The Canadians had no gas masks and attempted to get by with a wet strip of cotton tied over the nose and mouth. Despite their lack of protection and preparation, the Canadians held their position. This marked one of the first Canadian victories of the Great War.

THE SOMME – The Somme was one of the biggest battles of the war, lasting over 5 months and costing the allies (Canadians, British, etc.) over 600,000 casualties. The battle, which began in September 1916, marked the first time ever that tanks were used in battle. The tanks proved ineffective as they easily became bogged down in the mud, but they would soon change the face of warfare.

VIMY RIDGE – The Battle of Vimy Ridge marked the first time the Canadian Expeditionary Force had attacked as a National unit, not under command of British Forces. The battle, fought in a tremendous sleet storm, was the most important victory on the Western Front at the time. Won over Easter Monday 1917, the Canadians took 4000 German prisoners, but lost 3600 lives.

PASSCHENDAELE – The Battle of Passchendaele took place in the fall of 1917. Although 700 Canadians died and 1500 wounded in this month-long battle, it was all for nothing as the Germans won back the territory soon afterwards. Even British politicians, including Even Prime Minister Lloyd George, thought that the Passchendalele offensive was a waste and insane. The generals who order the attack were relieved of command after the battle.

Most of the fighting was done in a sea of mud, where footing was difficult and cover non-existent. It marked the first time that the Germans used mustard gas, a poisonous subsistence that caused severe burns to the skin.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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