The military history of Canada during World War I began on August 4, 1914, when Britain entered the First World War (1914–1918) by declaring war on Germany. The British declaration of war automatically brought Canada into the war, because of Canada’s legal status as a British dominion which left foreign policy decisions in the hands of the UK parliament. However, the Canadian government had the freedom to determine the country’s level of involvement in the war. On August 5, 1914, the Governor General declared a war between Canada and Germany. The Militia was not mobilised and instead an independent Canadian Expeditionary Force was raised.
Canada’s sacrifices and contributions to the war changed its history and enabled it to become more independent, while opening a deep rift between the French and English speaking populations. For the first time in its history, Canadian forces fought as a distinct unit, first under a British commander and then under a Canadian-born commander. The high points of Canadian military achievement during the First World War came during the Somme, Vimy, and Passchendaele battles and what later became known as “Canada’s Hundred Days” Canada’s total casualties stood at the end of the war at 67,000 killed and 250,000 wounded, out of an expeditionary force of 620,000 people mobilised (39% of mobilised were casualties).
Canadians of British descent—the majority—gave widespread support arguing that Canadians had a duty to fight on behalf of their Motherland. Indeed, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, although French-Canadian, spoke for the majority of English-Canadians when he proclaimed: “It is our duty to let Great Britain know and to let the friends and foes of Great Britain know that there is in Canada but one mind and one heart and that all Canadians are behind the Mother Country.” Prime Minister Robert Borden offered assistance to Great Britain, which was quickly accepted.
24th BATTALION C.E.F. VICTORIA RIFLES OF CANADA 1914-1919
A formidably detailed and beautifully presented Battalion history of a Canadian unit that went through many of the worst hotspots of the western front from Ypres/St Eloi and the Somme in 1916, to the Armistice and the occupation of the Rhineland at the end of 1918. The 24th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s Victoria Rifles of Canada, arrived in France in 1915 and received its baptism of fire around Mount Kemmel. They then took part in the savage close quarter mine warfare around St Eloi. Moved south to the Somme as the great Allied offensive there opened in 1916, the Battalion fought heroically and doggedly in the latter stages of the battle at the villages of Flers, and especially in the taking of Courcelette. They also participated in the much delayed taking of the Thiepval and Ancre heights. Perhaps their finest hour came in April 1917 with Canada’s dramatic seizure of Vimy Ridge during the Battle of Arras. The Battalion returned to the Ypres Salient in time for the Third Battle there (Passchendaele). The following year, the 24th took part in the Allied counter-offensive before Amiens, and played a gallant role in the 100 Days campaign which saw the breaching of the Hindenburg Line and the crossing of the Canal du Nord which led in turn to Germany asking for an Armistice. This fine unit History is supported by a range of photographs, sketches, many maps, a Roll of Honour and medals and awards.