Unit 2

Follow Canada: The Last 100 Days of the War

A Day in the Life of a Soldier

The war on the Western Front was fought in trenches – long, narrow, deep, and muddy ditches. The Canadian infantry were rotated in and out of the trenches as it was the most dangerous place on earth to be, and it was extraordinarily uncomfortable. The soldiers lived with vermin such as rats, lice, maggots, and flies which created serious health risks. The trenches were also constantly exposed to the weather. Here is what a day in the trenches looked like for soldiers.

Afternoon

Night

Morning

An Overview of the Canadian Uniforms

Each soldier carried a minimum of 60 pounds of equipment. Adding to that, the weight of mud collected on uniforms and equipment typically added another 60 pounds.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force soldiers wore the same uniform which was made from a thick wool and dyed in khaki. Wearing a drab color was a good way to camouflage on the battlefield.

Officers’ uniforms like this one on the left were slightly different from those worn by soldiers. Officers had a button shirt and a tie underneath a opened collar jacket. Their pants were not a straight cut but larger around the thighs and tighter around the calves. Officers were also allowed to carry certain objects with them such as a whistle, a camera and a handgun.

What’s an Officer ?

An officer has a wide range of responsibilities such as coming up with plans and being trusted with the execution of operations and daily activities. Officers are in command so they issue orders and lead soldiers to achieving the plans.

The Last Hundred Days? Well, 96 days.

 

Between August 8th, 1918 and November 11th, 1918, the Allied forces led a series of successful attacks on the Western Front. The Canadian Expeditionary Force contributed greatly to this last push and the event was nicknamed “The Hundred Days”.

German troops were pushed back from Amiens, France to Mons, Belgium in under 100 days by a fast-moving infantry force supported by tanks, aeroplanes and a well-coordinated artillery. The retreating German troops were unable to retaliate and their morale progressively worsened.

On November 11th, at 11:00 am the Armistice was signed and the fighting stopped. It took a further six months to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on June 28th, 1919.

Overview of WWI Medals

Virtually every country has a formal system to bestow honours on their citizens, and most also have specific honours reserved exclusively for members of their armed forces. Canada’s honour system is called the Order of Canada in which specific insignia are given to reward service or a valorous act.

Additional resources

For your research

Government of Canada – Service Files for WWI (personnel records)
https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/search.aspx

Veterans Affairs Canada – Book of Remembrance
http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/books/search

Circumstances of death registers – WWI – Library and Archives Canada
http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/mass-digitized-archives/circumstances-death-registers/pages/circumstances-death-registers.aspx

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
https://www.cwgc.org/

Library and Archives Canada – Military Medals, Awards and Honours
http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/military-medals-1812-1969/pages/military-medals-honours-awards.aspx

Multimedia material

The National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) docu-drama about the life and experiences of famed Canadian fighter pilot Billy Bishop during WWI
https://www.nfb.ca/film/the-kid-who-couldnt-miss/

Encyclopedia Britannica video clip on the end of the War (3:36mins)
https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-I/The-end-of-the-German-war

Claude Cloutier’s NFB short animation, The Trenches, 6:55 mins. No dialogue, only sound (powerfulshelling, fear)
https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/first-world-war-wwi/

NFB short doc (9 mins) Front Lines-The Trenches
https://www.nfb.ca/film/front-lines-the-trenches/

Documentation

Canadian Encyclopedia – Timeline, chronology of events
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timelines/first-world-war-timeline/