Featured Photo: Canadian Armoured Cars going into action during the Battle of Amiens (Dept. of National Defence)
Canada’s Hundred Days was a period of time in which the Canadian Corps, considered the shock troops of the British Empire, fought a series of aggressive and decisive engagements against the German Empire and won, with the offensive ending on the November 11th Armistice of 1918. From Amiens to Mons, the Canadian Corps would fight for 96 days in combat, involving all four Canadian Divisions that were present at the time. These four divisions were considered to be ‘heavy’ divisions by the British Empire, as a standard pattern British infantry division by 1918 had roughly 16,000 men under arms. Each of these Canadian Divisions comprised nearly 25,000 men each, making them much bulkier in terms of infantry support. However, defeating 47 German divisions during this time came at a heavy cost, as Canadians incurred enough casualties that one fifth of all casualties from the war occurred during this short period of time.
Canadians manning an observation post in the trenchline, several months before the Hundred Days Offensive. (Courtesy of The Soldier’s Reality)
At Amiens, Canadians shone. They fought South of Australian elements, with the whole operation being supported by over 500 tanks, which proved to assist in cracking the German defenses. In fact, His Majesty’s shock troops were so effective in their breakthrough that Canadian elements had pushed 13 kilometres from where they had begun. Germans would dub the battle’s climax as “the Black Day of the German Army,” due to the severe issues with morale and discipline that were caused by such sheer initiative and aggression, which were so vigorously exploited by the Canadians. Amiens showed that the four Canadian Divisions truly were some of the finest fighting elements of the British Army, as there they broke and force ten German divisions to retreat, as well assisted the Australians and French in harassing the flanks of five additional divisions.
Engagements beyond Amiens existed to Mons, and at the Hindenburg line Canadian ingenuity was again on display. Dedicated battalions of construction engineers used the cover of night at the Battle of the Canal du Nord, and allowed a dawn attack to take the enemy by surprise, as the speed and stealth from which bridges and roads were built took the Germans unawares. Not only this, but the line infantry had been able to rest, rathering than toiling in the dirt, giving them the strength and energy needed to fight the next day – something uncommon in the British Empire at the time.
Canadians would participate in breaking the Hindenburg line a second time with British, Australian, and American forces at Cambrai, which would bear the final blows to the exhausted German Army. All told – the Canadian Corps would suffer 45,835 casualties over those 96 days of constant maneuver and combat, proving the fighting skill of the Canucks, and that His Majesty’s Canadian sons of Empire were a force to be reckoned with on the European continent.