The Borden Era and the First World War

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The Borden Era and the First World War, 1911-1920
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-WWI fought between empires battling for territory
-60 000 Canadians died in the war
Sir Robert Borden
-Conservative party leader, 1901-1920
-intelligent, successful, lawyer from Nova Scotia
-successful, prosperous citizen; felt it was his duty to become involved in politics; did not
enjoy politics
-prime minister from 1911-1920
-didn't govern by consensus; often threatened to resign at Congressional meetings
-Borden looks like an Egyptian God [regarded as his greatest strength: his good looks]
-Borden was unprepared for the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914
Outbreak of the First World War, July 1914
-triple alliance: Germany, Austria/Hungary, Italy [replaced by another empire]
-triple entente: friendly association comprised of Britain, France, and Russia [governed
by Tsar]
-assassination of Franz Ferdinand triggered WWI; killed by Serbian nationalist while
touring Serbia; Serbia had uneasy relationship with Austria/Hungary
-Serbia had a "big brother" [Russia]; willing to go to war to fight on behalf of the nation;
Russia and France had an alliance-->France would be automatically involved in war;
France had agreement with Britain
-all powers were aware of impending war; Germany looked forward to the war
-Germany's Schlieffen Plan: prepared for Germany for war against France in the west
and Russia in the east; use all forces to crush through France [using vast number of
armed forces] and then meet the Russians [slow in organizing forces]
-if Germany was to be involved in war against Russia, they were first to attack France
-war broke out at end of July 1914
Canada at the start of the war
-Canada was not affected by the assassination of Ferdinand
-because Britain went to war, Canada went to war [committed to fight along with the rest
of the British empire]
-little opposition to war in Canada; exception was Quebec who were opposed to the war
-"over by Christmas": most Canadians thought the war would be short and quick
[majority of wars were before]
-voluntary enlistment: British asked for 25,000 Canadian soldiers; 30 000 signed up
-Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
-Gandhi also supported war [thought Indians would sign up to fight in the war]
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-Laurier [leader of the opposition] surprisingly supported the war 'Ready, Aye, Ready'
-some posters seeking specific ethnicity groups (i.e. Irish Canadian, French Canadian,
The Western Front, 1914-1918
-minimum height requirement 5'3"
-most preferably white
-French Canadians were not welcome either
-age requirement 18-45 years
-signed up for 1+ years of service
-made $1.10 a day
-had to be able to carry a pack involving rifle, shovel, ammunition, etc.
-vast majority of fighting took place in the trenches
-invention of machine gun
-general Douglas Haye thought machine gun was an overrated weapon; not the case as
it could slaughter hundreds of soldiers per minute
-drastic number of casualties on both sides
-both sides eventually settled to defense, built trenches
-Germans built trenches first; got the high grounds, invested more money
-early part of war there were no helmets [helmets came in 1916]
-trenches were always cold and wet, difficult to live in
-customary a field of water when moving in the trenches
-three set of trenches: front-line (most dangerous); reserve trench; third trench
-conditions of trenches were bad; human remains everywhere, urinals, etc.; rats fed on
human remains and grew very large
-trench mouth and trench foot were common diseases
-trenches were not very safe
-no knowing in how to make yourself safer
-many people died by drowning in mud
-Canadian soldiers first major involvement was in the Battle of Ypres [1915]
-experienced first gas attack at Ypres
-chlorine gas used to burn out human beings from the inside
-ammonia was the only way to neutralize chlorine gas; urinated on cloths and used that
to mask themselves
-Canadians managed to avert a disaster; hailed for bravery
-10,000 Canadians involved in battle; 2,000 died; 3,000+ wounded
-Battle of the Somme [1916]; began July 1, 1916; 50,000 British killed or injured on the
first day
-2,500 killed in Somme; hundreds of thousands died in the battle; little ground taken
Passchendaele 1917
-torrential rains and flooding during the battle
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