GAS ATTACKS AT YPRES
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“I have never been in a battle — and I have been in many — where the men were suffering in such numbers that their crying and groaning could be heard all over the battlefield.”
- Canada’s first major battle in the war, near ancient city of Ypres in Belgium 1915
- Canadian troops were send to hold 3.5 km of front line in the face of heavy German attack
- Troops were surprised by a deadly new weapon – GAS ATTACK!!!
- It was the first poison gas attack (gas had been outlawed for military use by international agreement since 1899)
- ..yellow green clouds of gas filled the trenches, burned the eyes and throat and destroyed the lungs
- Canadians were the only troops to hold the line — a Canadian recognized the gas as Chlorine and came up with an antidote — the men soaked their handkerchiefs in urine and held them over their faces – EWWWWW!!! However, the ammonia in the urine neutralized the chlorine gas.
- Canadians stalled the German advance and won high praise for their courage but, at a high cost!
- Over 6000 men died, one in five was listed as killed in action, gassed, missing or wounded.
- Later in the war even more deadly poison gases were used by both sides. MUSTARD GAS burned the respiratory tract and caused blindness
BATTLE OF THE SOMME
- July 1st, 1916 — The battle of the Somme was the most disastrous the British Army had ever faced
- After the first day, there were 57 470 British and Canadian casualties
- Troops from Newfoundland and Labrador:
- Faced a strong part of the German line
- British bombardment was supposed to have taken out the German machine gun posts — UNTRUE
- Soldiers were mowed down as they crossed no mans land
- 90% of the regiment was dead or wounded
- July 1st is till marked for remembrance in Newfoundland and Labrador
- General Haig insisted that the battle continue — 141 days the Battle of the Somme dragged on
- Canadians were particularly recognized here for their dedication and saying power — referred to as storm troopers
- When it finally ended — 2 months after it began — 1.25 casualties on both sides, 24 000 were Canadian
- The British had advanced no more than 11km
- Feb. 1917 Gen. Arthur Currie was given orders to capture Vimy Ridge — the German position seemed invincible
- Currie was certain that poor planning and scouting had caused heave casualties in the past.
- Currie prepared by:
- Troops built a full scale model of the battle area and practiced
- Planes flew reconnaissance missions and plotted the positions of German guns
- Light railway lines were built to move artillery
- Underground tunnels were drug to move troops and supplies safe
- The Plan:
- Troops would follow a massive barrage of artillery fire on German position. Usually troops waited days for the artillery to take out enemy guns.
- By following immediately, Canadians had the element of surprise
- The Canadians won the only big victory for the Allies in 1917 and as a result Canadian nationalism began to grow — at the peace talks after the war, Canada was allowed to represent itself instead of being represented by Britain.
PASSCHENDALE (MUD, MUD AND MORE MUD!)
- “Good God! Did we really send soldiers to fight in that?
- After Vimy, Currie was knighted
- Oct. 1917 General Haigh called on him to come up with a plan to take Passchendale
- This Belgian area had once been under the North Sea, and when shelling destroyed the drainage ditches, the area became waterlogged.
- The mud was horrible:
- Men wept with sheer frustration
- Duckboards were placed as pathways over the mire
- Nevertheless, thousands of soldiers and horses sank and drowned
- Tanks and locomotives also go bogged down
- The troops took the ridge by 16 000 Canadians lost their lives for only 7 km of mud that the Germans soon won back.