The Second Battle of Arras
A Centenary Action

Second Battle of Arras
26 – 30 August 1918

The Canadian Corps had just finished their victorious battle at Amiens on 14 August when they were charged with participating in the actions to break the German trench systems around Arras. With an estimated 12,000 casualties that needed replacing with fresh troops, the Corps was still feeling the effects of their initial entry into the Allies’ August push, but they had little choice. Currie had to prepare his men for another assault.

Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery in action. Advance East of Arras. September, 1918. Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/ PA-003133.

 

Unlike Amiens, the Corps did not have the element of surprise and with less than a week to plan it was going to be a tough fight that relied on heavy artillery, infantry mastery, and personal courage. Once again, counter battery work was extremely important to the success of the battle, and Canadian gunners worked to ensure that German artillery had been disabled as much as possible on the day of the battle.

Currie compensated for the lack of surprise by planning a night battle, which began under darkness on 26 August at 3 AM, in the pouring rain. The Corps advanced against German machine gun crews, each of which needed to be taken out to ensure forward movement. By the end of the day, the Corps had advanced 5 kilometres and retaken Monchy-le-Preux, however, it was not the end for them. The smaller attacks leading them towards the fearsome Drocourt-Quéant Line cost the Corps at least 6,000 casualties and drained precious man power; experienced soldiers that Currie could not afford to lose. German casualties are thought to be at least 3,000 prisoners, with an unknown number of dead and wounded.

Guns captured by Canadians on Arras Front. Advance East of Arras. September 1918. PA-003219.

Technological advancements

Arras was another opportunity for the Corps to use the techniques that they had been perfecting for the past year. Currie used the Royal Air Force and his counter battery units to devasting effect, knocking out enemy guns before the day of the battle, and the infantry divisions advance quickly and freely behind a creeping barrage. The first day of Arras also made use of a night attack, a tactic that Currie had used before when the element of surprise was missing and would use again in the coming weeks.

Like Amiens, the Canadian portion of the Second Battle of Arras was planned quickly; organisation for Vimy the year before took over a month, for a typical Hundred Days battle, Currie usually had less than a week, and as the Corps advanced further and further intro German-held territory, that time shortened.

Notables

Lt. Charles Smith Rutherford, of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles received a Victoria Cross on 26 August 1918, after attacking two pill-boxes and taking almost 100 prisoners. Rutherford survived the war and was later the Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature. Click the image below to access his full service file from Library and Archives Canada.

RUTHERFORD, CHARLES SMITH.

 

Pte Howard Douglas Graham,was only 20 when he fought with the 21st Battalion at Arras as part of their intelligence section. He survived the war and 21 years later was a Lieutenant General in the Canadian army that returned to Europe to fight the Second World War. Click the image below to access his full service file from Library and Archives Canada.

 

GRAHAM, HOWARD D

 

 

 

The Battle of Amiens
A Centenary Action

8-12 August 1918

Characterised by General Erich Ludendorff as “the black day of the German Army”, the first day of the Battle of Amiens set the tone for the last one hundred days of the First World War. At 4:20 AM on 8 August, the Canadian creeping barrage opened, and all four divisions of the Corps began their advance behind a whirring cloud of shrapnel, poison gas, and smoke.

Amiens had been planned in strict secrecy in the summer of 1918 by Field Marshal Haig, building on a proposal submitted by the Australian commander John Monash, that called for a combined infantry and tank approach to breaking the German lines strung out on the front after the halted Spring Offensive. The attack was planned without an initial bombardment; the first shots would be ranged on German guns to take them out by zero hour, with a creeping barrage for protection.

The Canadian Corps were secretly moved to the Amiens front, to conceal that an attack was about to take place. A diversionary force was sent to Flanders, leading the German Army to think that the offensive would begin there, and the final Canadian units did not arrive in place until 7 August.

The advance on the morning of 8 August was swift and brutal; most of the German artillery pieces were knocked out, but the Canadians still had to deal with dangerous machine gun nests all along the German defensive lines. The Corps had four lines to cross, which they achieved by the end of the day, before the German defense hardened and the battle slowed down. Canadian gains for the day were 13 km deep across a total frontage of over 20 kilometres.

Amiens was an astounding success, the largest one of the war so far for the Allies, and showed that the German Army was beginning to lose morale, as thousands were taken prisoner, some without shots fired. However, the eventual victory came at a very heavy cost; Canadian casualties on 8August alone were 1036 killed, and 2803 wounded. The Amiens battle would cost the Canadian Corps 11,822 casualties, which they could ill-afford. German casualties are recorded at 75,000 killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

 

Battle of Amiens. Tanks advancing. Prisoners bring wounded wearing gas masks. Aug 1918. Library and Archives Canada/PA-002951 (modified from the original). Colourized by the Vimy Foundation and Canadian Colour.

 

Technological advancements

The success at Amiens was partially the result of techniques perfected by the Canadian and Australian forces in 1917 and 1918, which included:

  • coordinated infantry, tank, artillery, and air attacks on the enemy, making use of all the technological advances of the war in high concentration
  • continued use of counter-battery work, including sound ranging and aerial intelligence to knock out located artillery pieces before they could be used
  • an extremely fast creeping barrage, which advanced at 200 metres per minute, allowing the Corps to proceed at a run towards their targets, overwhelming the defensive lines

 

Notables

Corps soldiers received 10 Victoria Crosses and 3000 other bravery decorations for their fighting at Amiens. Victoria Cross winners include:

Jean Brillant, 22 Battalion (Van Doos). Already a recipient of the Military Medal, Brillant led his company against machine gun nests on three separate occasions and was wounded three times. He died of his wounds on 10 August.

Cpl Herman Good, 13thBattalion, who single-handedly captured a German machine gun nest, and later the same day organised the capture of 3 German artillery pieces. Good survived the war and worked as a fish and game warden.

Srgt Robert Spall, PPCLI,who provided cover for his isolated platoon with a Lewis gun, allowing them to retreat, before he was killed on 13 August 1918.

 

 

The 1936 Vimy Pilgrimage Scrapbook

In November 2016, the Vimy Foundation was contacted by a Value Village in Ajax, ON. A large scrapbook of photos and travel souvenirs had been turned into them some months earlier. Staff had recognized its historic value, and held on to it for months in the hope that a family member would come to reclaim it. They reached out to us at the Vimy Foundation for help, as some of the photos were taken at the Vimy Memorial in France.

This photo album is incredible. It is a scrapbook put together from the original Vimy Pilgrimage in 1936, when veterans and their families from all over Canada travelled to France for the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial. This was the largest group of Canadians to have travelled to France since the First World War ended. Even more special, within the scrapbook was the original Vimy Pilgrimage Medal awarded to all those who made the journey overseas, back to the battlefields and cemeteries in Europe.

 

 

 

We believe it was originally created by Miss E. Lancaster, a staff member of Eaton’s at the time with a relative in the war. We have spent months pouring over the images, looking for additional clues that would help us identify her relative from the war, connect with her extended family, and contacting people and organizations that may have been able to help. However, to date all roads of inquiry have led to a dead end – we have not been able to make any current family connections.

If this scrapbook was donated accidentally or was not in the hands of family members, we would love to return it to the rightful owners. There are also photos contained here with many other people – others who travelled on the same ship (HMS Champlain), others within the Eaton’s contingent, and other Vimy Pilgrims. Perhaps you’ll spot a photo of a relative who also made this historic pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge!

Click here to view the full album.

 

Update: 30 July 2018

Thank you to our amazing Facebook follower Debbie Lee Jiang! Through some research she was able to discover some additional family details about our mystery scrapbook of Miss. E. Lancaster. 

Miss E. Lancaster’s relative who served in the Great War: her father, Mr. Hubert B. Lancaster, of Toronto. She was his only child, being 14 when her 35 yr old dad went off to serve in 1915 with the 123rd Battalion. Hubert Bertie Lancaster, a carpenter by trade, was born in Yorkshire, England, son of William Lancaster.  

It appears that Elsie Marion Lancaster, Vimy Pilgrim, never married and was buried with her parents at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto in 1994.

 

From HB Lancaster’s service file. Library and Archives Canada.

 

1921 Census of the Lancaster household

 

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

The Tour de France 2018

The Tour de France has strong connections to the First World War. The 12th Tour in 1914 began the same day Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, setting off a string of events that led to the outbreak of war. Of the 145 cyclists who started the 1914 Tour de France, 15 would die during the First World War, including three previous Tour champions: Lucien Petit-Breton Mazan (winner in 1907 & 1908), François Faber (winner in 1909) and Octave Lapize (winner in 1910). The 13th edition of the Tour de France took place in 1919, and due to the years of war and the poor conditions of roads, the average speed of riders and the number of officially finishing cyclists (ten) were the lowest in history.

Cyclists themselves made an important contribution to the war effort 100 years ago.  “It was during the last 100 days of the war that the Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion came into its own. Freed from their earlier manual labour, the cyclists began to perform the intelligence work for which they had been trained. Sent in advance of the infantry to keep in touch with the retreating enemy, the cyclists acted as battalion runners, dispatchers and scouts, as well as soldiers who took part in direct combat.” John McKenty, Canadian Cycling Magazine (link)

 

Unable to ride his cycle through the mud caused by the recent storm. A Canadian messenger carries his “horse”. August, 1917.  Library and Archives Canada/ PA-001581 (modified from the original). 

 

Saturday’s Tour de France stage ends in Amiens. Nearly 100 years ago, the  Canadian  Corps  were  secretly  moved  to  the  Amiens  front and the Battle of Amiens began on August 8. Amiens  was  an  astounding  success,  the  largest  one  of  the  war  so  far  for  the  Allies. However,  the  eventual  victory  came  at  a  very  heavy  cost: 11,822 Canadian casualties. 

Stage 8 Route Map – Tour de France

On Sunday, July 15, the Tour de France stage visits many of the sites that Canadians (and Allies of course) fought at during the final 100 days of the First World War, including Arras, Cambrai, and Auberchicourt. 

Stage 9 Route Map – Tour de France

National Indigenous Peoples Day

During the First World War, thousands of Indigenous soldiers served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Like most Canadians, many Indigenous men served in the infantry with the Canadian Corps in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Indigenous peoples’ military roles were influenced by their traditional hunting and military skills combined with the racial stereotypes held by recruiting officers and military officials. Many served as snipers or reconnaissance scouts, some of the most hazardous roles in the military. Others served in support units in the CEF, including railway troops, tunneling companies and forestry units.

Despite close camaraderie with non-Indigenous soldiers, their return home was plagued with unequal treatment and marginalization. In 1919, Lieutenant F.O. Loft, a Six Nations veteran who had served with the Canadian Forestry Corps during the war, founded the League of Indians of Canada. It sought to improve conditions on reserves and believed that a unified stance through a political organization could challenge the Indian Act that governed the lives of First Nations people.

Read through his entire service file here at Library and Archives Canada.

Learn more about the contribution of Indigenous Peoples during the First World War from Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Borden Legacy Park

Camp Borden was founded in 1916, training nearly fifty thousand soldiers for service in The Canadian Expeditionary Force. For many of those soldiers, their first action was during the Battle of Arras, and specifically the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

In 2016 CFB Borden celebrated its centennial year, and through the enduring partnership of the Base, the City of Barrie and the surrounding communities, the Borden Legacy Monument was erected to mark the occasion. Unveiled on June 9th by PM Trudeau, with Mayor Leturque, Mayor of Arras, contributing to our ceremony.

The Borden Legacy Project began in 2014, and in June 2015, sacred soil was removed from the Battlefield at Vimy Ridge and patriated to Canada. This soil symbolically holds the DNA of all those fallen and wounded in the 1917 Battle.

This was one of the important steps that saw the creation of Borden Legacy Park –three distinct pieces that serve to commemorate our past and inspire the future. First, a white and black granite wall, a tribute and inspiration to each and every member of the Canadian Armed Forces that passes through our gates. Etched into the main wall is a powerful tribute to all past and current serving Canadian Armed Forces members: Through these gates the sons a daughters of a grateful nation pass – serving Canada with Honour, Duty, and Courage, so that all may live with Freedom, Democracy, and Justice.

The wall also encases an urn, in which the sacred soil is held. The promise of General Sir Arthur Currie to his troops is etched into the wall that holds the soil, and reads: “To those who fall I say: you will not die, but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be proud to have borne such sons. Your names will be revered forever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto himself.”

The second piece of the park is the restored WWI trenches that were used to train infantry soldiers before their departure to the Western Front. Connected to the Legacy Wall via short wooded trail, these trenches are a reminder of the importance of training, and the conditions of the First World War.

Finally, a Bronze Bugler stands in the park, calling to his companions, calling visitors to the monument, and calling to the now-empty trenches that once trained soldiers before they left for battle overseas.

To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a second bugler was created, and will be donated to the Vimy Foundation, to stand in the shadow of Walter Allward’s magnificent monument. The Twin Bugler currently stands in the Hotel de Ville in the City of Arras.

Information and photos provided by CFB Borden.

 

‘Vimy to Juno’ Charity Bike Ride

Announcing the 2019 ‘Vimy to Juno’ Charity Bike Ride

The Vimy Foundation is proud to announce a unique opportunity to cycle through Canada’s First and Second World War history, in June 2019. The ‘Vimy to Juno’ Charity Bike Ride combines 500-700km of riding through beautiful countryside and challenging courses with a powerful historical narrative culminating in the 75th anniversary of commemorations.

The tour begins in the battlefields where Canada was active in the First World War, taking riders through Belgium and Northern France, including special visits to Menin Gate (and Last Post Ceremony), Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, and the Canadian National Vimy Memorial – which will incorporate activities inside the new Visitor Education Centre, at the soon to be opened Vimy Foundation Centennial Park, and exclusive access to the nearby underground tunnels of Maison Blanche, not open to the public.

Heading into Normandy, riders will trace the route followed by Canadian soldiers in campaigns of the Second World War, including the Dieppe Raid, culminating in wreath laying and attending a special Gala Dinner with Heads of States and other VIPs, as part of the commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D–Day landings. Along the Vimy to Juno route, riders will participate in a special event with cyclists on the Wounded Warriors Canada Battlefield Bike Ride (BBR19), joining like-minded Canadians exploring Canada’s wartime history on two wheels. You won’t have to be an expert cyclist to go on this trip, but a level of training and bicycle knowledge is required.

Highlights include:

  •    – Ypres Region: Last post ceremony at the Menin Gate
  •    – Vimy Region: Canadian National Vimy Memorial
  •    – Vimy Region: exclusive access to underground tunnels at Maison Blanche
  •    – Normandy Region: Visit Dieppe and Second World War campaign locations
  •    – Normandy Region: Attend D-Day 75 Ceremonies at Juno Beach and Gala Dinner with Heads of State
  •    – Special meal with General (Ret’d) Rick Hillier

Information:

What’s Included in the Cost of Your Trip?

  •    – Services of one or more experienced Great Explorations guides and support vehicle
  •    – 8 nights lodging
  •    – All meals
  •    – Entrance fees for selected historical sites and museums
  •    – Detailed map and route instructions
  •    – All baggage transportation
  •    – All transportation from initial meeting point to final drop-off (see arrive/depart cities)

Terms:

  •    – Each participant should complete an online registration form with a deposit of $1,000 and final payment 90 days prior to travel. At that time, a final itinerary will be provided with additional details.
  •    – Great Explorations will prepare a Trip Planner with additional planning details for participants and handle all confirmations directly with clients.
  •    – Trip operated by Great Explorations, a cycling tour operator with over 20 years experience operating cycling trips in France and throughout the world. President and owner Robbin McKinney will oversee route planning etc. in consultation with the Vimy Foundation. Distance and elevation gains may vary depending on final route selection and hotels. The itinerary may vary depending on final determination of hotel choices, routes and Vimy Foundation events.

 

REGISTER HERE WITH OUR TOUR OPERATOR,
GREAT EXPLORATIONS

(Indicate ‘Custom trip – Vimy’)

Questions about the ‘Vimy to Juno’ Charity Bike Ride?
Please contact Great Explorations: info@great-explorations.com or 1(800) 242-1825.

Announcing our 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Recipients!

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize! 16 students were selected to participate in an immersive educational program in England, Belgium, and France. From August 9-23, 2018, they will learn about the interwoven history of our countries during the First and Second World Wars.

Ghalia Aamer – Edmonton, AB
Laetitia Champenois Pison – Montreal, QC
Cassidy Choquette – Steinbach, MB
John Evans – Victoria, BC
Alix Gravel – Cowansville, QC
Anna Hoimyr – Gladmar, SK
Mayra Alejandra Largo Alvarez – London, ON
Stanford Li – Beaconsfield, QC
Isabella MacKay – Ottawa, ON
Cassandre Onteniente – Region Occitanie, France
Brooke Reid – St. Andrews, NB
Hanna Rogers – Kinkora, PE
Kelsey Ross – Burin, NL
Gordon Simpson – Edinburgh, Scotland
Caroline Tolton – North York, ON
Rachel Woodruff – Chemainus, BC

 

There were so many impressive applications that once again our task was extremely difficult, and we thank all who applied.

This program is made possible due to generous support from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.

BeaverbrookCanadianLogo

 

The 2018 Vimy Reception

 

Nearly 200 government officials, business leaders, military personnel, and students attended the eighth annual Vimy Reception at the stunning Embassy of France on May 1. Thank you to our host, Her Excellency Kareen Rispal, Ambassador of France to Canada, and to our guest speakers: Tim Cook, CM, Canadian War Museum; and Damien Pilon, 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award winner.

 

“Thank you to all who joined us for helping to celebrate not only Canada’s legacy of leadership, innovation, and teamwork, but also the cultural heritage of the beautiful monument itself. Let’s continue to share the many stories that make Vimy such an iconic milestone for our country!” 

– Bruce R. Burrows, Chair of the 2018 Vimy Reception Committee

“Today, we are here to remember the Canadians and the French who fought a century ago, and it is our mission to prevent what happened to them from happening again. We will not forget them, and their memory will remind us of our duty to preserve peace.”

– Damien Pilon, 2018 Vimy Pilgrimage Award winner

 

Thank you to our event sponsors:
A special thank you to Sakto Corporation for their ongoing support of the 137 Ashbury Royal Canadian Dragoons Army Cadets who were able to join us again this year.

 

Support the Vimy Legacy Fund
Help us fund our Vimy Pilgrimage Award, which sends 20 outstanding young Canadians, like Damien, to walk through the footsteps of history in Canada’s most notable First World War sites each April.

 

Great War in Colour exhibit featured
Learn more about our First World War in Colour project and browse additional colourized images on our website.

 

Watch ‘Return to Vimy’
During the Vimy Reception, we screened this short film produced by the Vimy Foundation in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. Watch ‘Return to Vimy’

 

Learn more about the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park
The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park is currently being built on a dedicated piece of land adjacent to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. It will feature 100 Centennial Trees, each a descendant of a ‘Vimy Oak’ acorn which fell during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

 

 

Vimy Pilgrimage Award Blog – 10 April 2018

 

 

After seven informative and incredible days, our 2018 VPA students said their goodbyes and departed for home early this morning. For the last blog entry of this program, we asked our new Vimy Pilgrimage Award alumni to describe their experience in one line.

(Please note: participants will blog in their mother tongue.)

 

Amy: Memorable, thought-provoking, emotional, connecting, and life changing are all words that best describe this experience!

Rohan: A beautiful experience that I will forever cherish!

Léa: Ce programme m’a tellement appris.

Sarah: I came into this program expecting to learn more about the First World War, but I emerged with tons of knowledge about the war, and Canada, 19 new friends, and memories that will last my entire life.

Damien: Cette experience m’a permis de vraiment comprendre la guerre et ses consequences, à la fois sur les gens et sur l’environment.

Stephanie: From the museums to the cemeteries and memorials, I learned more about the First World War and learned to think critically, more than I ever could have imagined.

Christophe: C’était une experience qui m’a ouvert les yeux à la puissance de l’histoire sur les victimes du passé, les apprenants du present et les leaders du future.

Thomas: C’est avec le coeur lourd que je quitte le vieu continent, mais sans regret d’avoir participé à ce programme extraordinaire.

Julia: This was a life-changing experience for me- I will carry the stories I’ve learned close to my heart for the rest of my life.

Osose: An amazing program that not many can experience and not all would appreciate; I’m so grateful.

Katie: This has been a jam-packed week that broadened my perspectives in thinking, strengthened my appreciation for history, and for those who it was a reality.

Kiana: I couldn’t have been more honoured to be chosen; I am so proud to be Canadian.

Montaña: I’m sad to go home but happy to have done the program.

Lloyd: I walk away from this program today with a greater appreciation for the Canadian forces, our country, and the blessing that is life itself.

Nupur: This experience has taught me a new dimension of what it means to remember and I will forever carry my experience of honouring those of the First World War.

Laurissa: This program has been an amazing experience for me; thanks to the Vimy Foundation, I had the opportunity to travel to the Vimy Memorial with students who share the same interests as me.

Jeriann: I will never forget the lessons I have learned, the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I have had, and the emotional moments I have shared with all of my new friends from across the country.

Shakil: Partaking in this pilgrimage has been one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.

Markus: Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.

Bethany: I am very sure that I will never be the same or feel the same way as I did before the program, but in an amazing, wonderful, life-changing way.

 

 

Photo credit: Lindsay Fraser-Noel, Vimy Foundation 2018