Canada’s FWW Battles

From 2014 to 2018, we commemorate the centennial anniversaries of the First World War. The Vimy Foundation is actively working to ensure that these major battles of the First World War involving Canadians are recalled and our losses commemorated.

Read more about some of the lesser-known battles of Canadians:

May 1915 – Festubert and Givenchy

June 1916 – Battle of Mount Sorrel

1 July 1916 – Beaumont Hamel

15-22 September 1916 – Courcelette

26 September 1916 – Thiepval Ridge

1 October – 11 November 1916 – Regina Trench

9-12 April 1917 – Battle of Vimy Ridge

14 April 1917 – Monchy-Le-Preux

28-29 April 1917 – Arleux-en-Gohelle

3-8 May 1917 – Battle of Fresnoy

15-18 August 1917 – Battle of Hill 70

16-18 August 1917 –  Battle of Langemarck

21-25 August 1917 – Attack on Lens

9 October 1917 – Battle of Poelcappelle

26 October – 10 November 1917 – Battle of Passchendaele

20 November – 6 December 1917 – Battle of Cambrai

6 December 1917 – The Halifax Explosion – A Centennial Event

We will remember them.

 

Help us continue our work to highlight Canada’s lesser-known First World War battles, and commemorate these important centennial anniversaries. Please consider making a donation today.

 

Vimy Park

Update: December 1, 2016

The City of Montreal has released a statement about the new Vimy Park. It will be built in two stages in spring of 2017, and the city will contribute $500,000 towards the refurbishment and construction of the park. Read the full details and statements here (in French).

 

Update: August 22, 2016

The Vimy Foundation is encouraged by the statement made by Mayor Coderre that a new Vimy Park will be established in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood. As we approach the 100th Anniversary of this momentous event in April 2017, a moment Prime Minister Trudeau and many others have described as “the birth of our nation”, we are pleased to know that the City of Montreal will again have a Vimy Park to commemorate this important date in our history.

We would have liked to have been part of a consultation on Vimy Park with the City of Montreal and Mayor Coderre, along with other relevant institutions as the local Legion branches and Regimental associations, both on the final selection of the park location as well as the future contents of the park, and would be happy to be so involved in coming weeks. It is essential that the new Vimy Park, honouring the legacy of the many thousands of Quebecois and other Canadians who fought in the First World War, is located where Montrealers and visitors can easily pay their respects and reflect upon the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom.  As the park will be a gathering place for years to come, it is important that its educational opportunities be accessible to all.

Due diligence must be taken to ensure that the future Vimy Park be located in a space that is appropriate and does not replace another park with a historic name nor be reduced to a small corner of an existing park; Confederation Park within the NDG neighbourhood would not be an appropriate choice, especially given that next year will mark the 150th anniversary of this important event. After all, a great city like Montreal, as it marks its own 375th anniversary, should contribute to our nation’s collective memory and not its propensity for historical amnesia.

– Christopher Sweeney , Chair, Vimy Foundation

 

Update: June 22, 2016

On June 21, 2016, Montreal City Council voted to change the name of Vimy Park to Jacques Parizeau Park. The Vimy Foundation is disappointed by this action taken by the City, and surprised that as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge that Montreal would choose now of all times to erase the name of Vimy from the Park. A great historic city like Montreal should contribute to our nation’s collective memory and not its propensity for historical amnesia.

Mayor Coderre, however, has committed to naming another Montreal park “Vimy” in time for the 100th anniversary of this important battle on April 9, 2017. The Vimy Foundation is encouraged by the support shown from the people of Montreal, city councillors, and other organizations for this new initiative, and we look forward to working with the City of Montreal  and Mayor Coderre to ensure that the new Vimy Park, honouring the legacy of the many thousands of Quebecois and other Canadians who fought in the First World War, is located where Montrealers and visitors can easily pay their respects and reflect upon the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom.

– Christopher Sweeney , Chair, Vimy Foundation

 

June 16, 2016

The Vimy Foundation strongly urges the City of Montreal, and the district of Outremont, to reverse their decision to remove the name ‘Vimy’ from Vimy Park in Outremont. 60,000 Canadians from coast to coast to coast fought and died in the First World War. Vimy is widely considered as the defining moment in that war and in our nation’s collective history. Vimy remains our bloodiest day with nearly 4,000 killed and another 8,000 injured.

As we approach the 100th Anniversary of this momentous event in April 2017, a moment Prime Minister Trudeau and many others have described as “the birth of our nation”, we are astonished that Montreal would choose now of all times to attempt to erase the name of Vimy from the Park! A great historic city like Montreal should contribute to our nation’s collective memory and not its propensity for historical amnesia.

We do not dispute the importance of Mr Parizeau to Montreal, Quebec and even Canada, but surely the City can find another spot to honour his legacy (may we suggest St. Viateur Park, for one)? We note that this change of name coincides with the dropping of the name Claude-Jutra from another Montreal park. Is the name Vimy now also an embarrassment to be erased from Montreal’s past?

– Christopher Sweeney , Chair, Vimy Foundation

Grand Prize winners of Vimy Classroom Challenge

April 2017 will mark the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. We will have a unique opportunity to remember the legacy of Vimy Ridge, to spread awareness of Canada’s coming-of-age on the global stage, and to celebrate our identity and pride to be Canadian.

The Vimy Classroom Challenge invited teachers and students across Canada to participate in this legacy project – raising funds for the Foundation’s 2017 centennial activities and raising awareness in their schools and communities for this important anniversary.  Over 15 school groups participated in this Challenge, and together raised over $15,000 for the upcoming centennial anniversaries.

We are proud to announce that Central Algoma Secondary School is the winner of the Vimy Classroom Challenge Grand Prize! Six students and their teacher, Marla Adamson-Barber, will join the Vimy Foundation and EF Educational Tours Canada for the centennial celebrations in Vimy, France in April 2017. Travel is generously provided by EF Educational Tours Canada, a leader in providing life-changing travel experiences to students.  The school is planning to continue fundraising in order that an additional 12 students from the school will be able join the trip.

CentralAlgoma_June14-02

 

Vimy Ridge has remained a key part of our national understanding as a country because many of today’s core Canadian values were on display for the first time, collectively, at Vimy and were clearly a contributing factor to the battle’s success: leadership, teamwork and innovation.

The Vimy Foundation is proud that students across Canada have exemplified these traits in the work that they do, demonstrated through their work in the Vimy Classroom Challenge, and in their commendable efforts to take up the torch of remembrance.

Gold Level

Central Algoma Secondary School
Central Algoma Intermediate School
Chemainus Secondary

Bronze Level

Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School

Thank you to all the schools who participated.

Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute – Whitby, Ontario
Cole Harbour District High School – Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Dunnville Secondary School – Dunnville, Ontario
Edenrose P.S. – Mississauga, Ontario
Father Leo J. Austin CSS – Pickering, Ontario
Garrison Road Public School – Fort Erie, Ontario
Menihek High School – Labrador City, Newfoundland and Labrador
Mount Albert Public School – Mount Albert, Alberta
Oakridge Secondary School – London, Ontario
Richmond Regional High School – Richmond, Quebec
Rockyview Schools Community Learning Centre – Cochrane, Alberta
Rutland Middle School – Kelowna, British Columbia
St. Anthony’s School – Drumheller, Alberta

Centennial Anniversary of the Battle at Sanctuary Wood | Battle of Mont Sorrel

Sanctuary Wood  and Mont Sorrel | 2-13 June 1916

The high ground between the villages of Hooge and Zwartelleen was by 1916 the only raised area near Ypres still until Allied control. The ground, comprising of Hill 62, Hill 61, and Mont Sorrel were held by the 3rd Division, Canada’s most newly arrived division and as yet untried in battle. After the disaster at Saint-Eloi in April, Alderson had been removed from command of the Canadian Corps and replaced by a British cavalry officer, Lieutenant General Julian Byng.

The stretch of ground was the only thing holding back the German army from complete domination of the Ypres sector, so in a rare aggressive move the Germans mounted an attack the morning of 2 June 1916, surprising the 3rd Division with a hail of artillery fire at 8h30 and the detonation of 4 mines under their front lines. Preparations for the attack had been observed by the RFC in the weeks leading up and the intelligence passed on, but the 3rd Division’s commanders had not prepared their lines sufficiently for the coming attack, and had made no arrangements for artillery support.  After the devastation of most of the 3rd Division’s line, the flanks were held by the PPCLI for 24 hours under heavy fire.

Counter attack was arranged for the following morning at 2am, but was repeatedly delayed as the battalions leading the attacks struggled to get to their jumping off points. The counter attack took place under a weak bombardment at 7am, in broad daylight and under clouds of German gas. A failure from the start, those commanding officers left after the first few minutes called off the attack and told their men to dig in. Casualties for 2-4 June were 3 750 for the 3rd Division. Those left alive dug in to hold the lines as best they could until Byng gave the order for another attempt to take back their lost position on 13 June.

Currie’s 1st Division was moved in to take the ground between Hill 60 and Sanctuary Wood, after 4 bombardments the attack began on 13 June, with the artillery working closely with the infantry, a first for the Canadians. Currie’s men went over the top at 1h30am, bayoneting the enemy and pushing to the German second line. By 2h30am, all the ground lost on 2 June had been retaken and the Canadians prepared for the coming German counter attacks. Total casualties for the actions at Mount Sorrel would be about 8 700, many of them prisoners of war.

Technical advancements:

  • The failure of the 3rd Division on 3 June was blamed largely on lack of cooperation with the artillery. Artillery Forward Observation Officers were attached to infantry front line command to better direct fire. For the attack on 13 June, the artillery would also use aerial observers to better pinpoint enemy gun positions to knock them out.
  • The attack on 3 June made use of the PH helmet, a chemically treated cloth hood with goggle eyes and a breathing tube for protection against chlorine gas. The PH helmet was soon replaced by the box respirator but was a significant step up from the urine soaked pads used by the 1st Division at Ypres the year before.

Did you know? 

Pte (Lt. Later) A.Y. Jackson (60th Battalion ) Already gaining renown in Canada as a member of the Group of Seven, Jackson was wounded at Mount Sorrel on 3 June going over the top with the battalion. He later returned to the front as one of Lord Beaverbrook’s official Canadian war artists and would paint haunting canvases of the blasted landscapes on the Western Front.

Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer (3rd Division) Mercer was killed by a British artillery shell fragment during a front-line inspection after his appointment as leader of the 3rd Division during the surprise German bombardment of 2 June. Lieutenant-General Byng was invited to accompany Mercer on his tour and declined. Brigadier-General Victor Williams accompanied him and was captured by the Germans, Canada’s highest ranking prisoner of war.

Capt. Percival Molson (PPCLI) The son of John Thomas Molson, of the Montreal brewing family, Percival was an avid hockey player and part of the team that won the 1897 Stanley Cup. He was wounded in the face near Sanctuary Wood on 2 June as the PPCLI struggled to hold the flank left open by the 3rd Division. Molson later returned to the front and was killed near Avion in July 1917 after a direct hit from a Howitzer shell. He was awarded the Military Cross before his death. In his will, Molson bequeathed 75 000$ for the building of a sports stadium at McGill. It was named in his honour after a decision by the board of governors of McGill in 1919.

Photo: Attacking under smoke. June 1916. Battle of Mont Sorrel
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-000127

 

Centennial anniversary of the Battle of Mt Sorrel