Route to the Past # 100 – The Last 100 Days of WW1                              October 20, 2008

 

Here is a quick march through the last 100 days of World War One.

The war to end all wars; the war that was supposed to have been over by Christmas of 1914 had dragged on and on for four years. Here in Canada the government was imposing a mandatory registration of all able-bodied men and women in the event they would need to be called up for active service at home or on the front. But, on August 8, 1918 the tides of war began to change.

The Battle of Amiens has been called the beginning of the end. The German General Ludendorff described it as “the Black Day of the German Army in the history of the war.” He was justified in this reflection: more than 5,000 German prisoners were taken by the Canadian Corps on August 8th. Four Canadians won the Victoria Cross on this same day; four more the following.

By Day 13, the Canadian Corps had penetrated more than 22 kilometers and liberated 29 villages, capturing another 9,000 prisoners along with 1,000 trench mortars and machine guns....at a cost of 11,822 men killed, wounded or missing in action.

British Prime Minister Lloyd George once said that when the Germans heard that Canadians were about to attack, they prepared for the worst. On September 4, 1918 German High Command sent seven divisions into battle against the Canadian Corps and British 3rd Army. Our Canadians countered by capturing 6,000 unwounded prisoners.

From September 27th to October 2nd members of our nearest British ally, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, set an amazing example of courage. During the Battle of Canal du Nord, they held off four days of stiff German counterattacks and in all that time no German got closer than 45 meters of the Newfoundland forward positions.

Two days later, on October 4th, Germany sent a note by way of neutral Switzerland to American President Woodrow Wilson inviting peace negotiations and a cease-fire.

Day 63 dawned on October 9th with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade seeing its last major action of the war. Made up of the Fort Garry Horse, Lord Strathcona’s Horse, the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, this brigade advanced some 13 kilometers, capturing 400 prisoners at a cost of 168 men and 171 horses killed, wounded or missing.

Between August 26th and October 11th, the Canadian Corps had advanced the front line a total of 37 kilometers against incredibly strong German resistance, including tanks. This remarkable advance came at a high price however. Over the course of those 47 days, more than 1500 Canadian officers and 23,262 other ranks were counted among our casualties. During that time, they had also captured 18,585 prisoners and liberated 54 European towns and villages.

October 12th to November 11th is described as the final advance because Canada and its allies made considerable inroads against the Hun. By the 19th forty more communities had been liberated and by the end of October, the German government had agreed to President Wilson’s peace terms and her Middle East ally Turkey had signed an armistice and withdrawn from the combat.

One of the final battles, the Battle of Valenciennes, began on November 1st. It has been described as a disaster for the German army. More than 1800 were taken prisoners by the Canadian Corps; a further 800 of their comrades were found dead on the battlefield.

Two days later, November 3rd, Austria -- one of the original members of the Axis and the one that had first declared war on Serbia in 1914 -- agreed to end their involvement in the war. Then on November 9th, Kaiser Wilhelm, the German Commander in Chief abdicated and fled to the Netherlands.

The armistice to end all the horror, suffering and bloodshed finally came into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Let us not forget.

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