With the Russians out of the war, Germany had a renewed hope for success. They could now concentrate all their troops along the western front in France in their last attempt to win the war. With the entrance of the Americans into the war, the Germans realized that their last chance at victory was to conquer Paris before the American troops reached France.
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In March, 1918, the Germans used massive attacks at weak points to drive deep into France. Positions that had been won by the Canadians at high costs (Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele) were all lost within weeks. By the summer of 1918, the new front line was only 75km from Paris. At that point, however, shortages of fresh troops and a lack of food stopped the German advance. Additionally, the allies had a plan.
The new allied offensive began when thousands of soldiers and tonnes of artillery were secretly gathered at the French railway city of Amiens. The forces were able to completely surprise the German forces, who were not expecting the attack, and the allies were able to recapture 13kms of lost territory in one day. This was the beginning of the final offensive of the war, or the “Hundred Days” Offensive, which would last from August to November 1918.
The German forces began to retreat, and tried to do whatever they could to establish a last defensive line at the German border by destroying roads, bridges, factories, and towns to slow the Allies’ down. During the initial German offensive in March, the plan was originally to divide the Canadian troops amongst the other regiments, however General Currie fought this plan. Due to his resistance, Canada’s offensives during the “Hundred Days” were among the most successful of all the Allied forces.
Throughout September and October, Canadian soldiers were ahead of the British, French and American troops, breaking through Germany’s Hindenberg Line defences. They won important battles at Arras, Cambrai, and Valenciennes, and captured more territory, prisoners, and equipment than the American forces who where six times as large. Canadian troops defeated one quarter of the entire German army.
Finally, at 11:00am on November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed, and the fighting ended. Just a few minutes before the fighting stopped, the last Canadian soldier, Private George Lawrence, was killed by a sniper’s bullet.
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