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.
2nd CANADIAN MOUNTED RIFLES (British Columbia Horse) In France and Flanders
This is a careful and detailed history of 2 CMR from the time of its formation until his return home for disbandment in 1919. It arrived in England in September 1915 and moved to the Western Front where it fought in all the great Canadian battles in the infantry role. The book has good accounts of Mont Sorrel, Maple Copse, Loos, Passchendale, Arras, Canal du Nord, etc. The narrative is based upon the diary kept throughout that period by Chalmers Johnston, with later checking of facts and figures by three editors. There are not many references to individuals officers and men, but the book gives a detailed picture of movements and actions.