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Lecture 9

History 1810E - Lecture 9.docx

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History 1810E
Margaret Mc Glynn

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History 1810E Monday February 3 Lecture 9 The Worst Winter Outline: I. Sir Arthur Currie II. Passchendaele III. Conscription IV. Halifax, 6 December 1917 V. The Winter of our Discontent April 1917 (Vimy Ridge) marked the beginning of the worst year of the war (the year that we are looking at today). 1. Sir Arthur Currie • General Bing had successfully lead the Canadians through Vimy Ridge, and was promoted to be one of the most successfully commanders on the Allied side • Arthur Currie became the first Canadian to command the Canadian Corps • He was born in Strathroy • He went to Victoria, British Columbia to begin a life, but he didn’t seem to be able to find anything that he was good at (he tried out many jobs) • At the time that the war began, Currie was accused of skimming off the top of the military fund (he worked for the military in B.C. at this time) • Over the course of 4 years, Currie went from being a part-time soldier in Victoria (with a shady past and uncertain future) to the most successful general Canada had produced • Currie commanded a brigade at the 2 Battle of Ypres in 1915 o His decision-making was questionable, and his conduct was considered good but not exceptional st • Shortly after Ypres, he was brought in to command the 1 Division o He learned on the job, was innovative, open to trying new things o He was concerned with the lives of his men and didn’t want to gamble with their lives with pointless operations  He didn’t develop a relationship with his soldiers (but they respected him)  eg. when he was walking with his seniors, he would walk on the boardwalk while they would walk on the mud beside him (he was a ‘fusspot’) 2. Passchendaele (July 1917) • Passchendaele came in the wake of Vimy Ridge rd • It was also known as the 3 Battle of Ypres • For a long time, it was argued that Passchendaele had no strategic purpose o At this time, there was the possibility that Britain could be starved out of the war before they could do anything or bring American soldiers in o Passchendaele was meant to address this concern • Before the campaign began, the British navy told the government that unless the submarine threat was restricted, Britain couldn’t move on o The government decided to push northeast from Ypres and hopefully capture some ports along the North Sea, taking away German submarine bases (pushing them back would help restrict them) • The campaign went well for the first couple of days, but then it started to rain every day o The British kept attacking through the rain o In the first 3 days, they captured about 3000m worth of enemy ground (it cost them 32,000 casualties) o It was very wet and muddy (many people disappeared from slipping and drowning in the mud)  Even horses disappeared into the mud • The campaign went on through August to October, and the Canadians were brought in in October • The Canadians captured the village of Passchendaele at a cost of 15,000 casualties o Douglas Haig shut down the campaign for the winter • Did it achieve anything? o It didn’t clear the channel coast (no significant impact on German submarine operations) o It turned the village of Passchendaele into a moonscape – anything that existed before the war was wiped out o It cost the Allies 300,000 casualties  The cemetery at Tyne Cot near Passchendaele is the largest cemetery in the world  8000 headstones are unidentified o It used up some of the last resources the Germans had at their disposal, but it cost the Allies an enormous number of casualties to do that • Other war efforts were not going so well: o Russia had fallen into revolution, the new government took them out of the war  This meant that all of the German troops fighting in the Eastern front could move to the Western front o The French army was hit by a series of mutinies, thousands of soldiers refusing to fight because they believed their lives were being wasted o In Canada, the number of volunteers had slowed and eventually stopped altogether  By 1916, there was full employment in Canada (anyone who enlisted at that point was taking a substantial cut in pay, and the government was arguing they needed workers at home)  There were so many people being killed that it didn’t seem like a good idea to join the infantry  There were not enough physically-fit young men to fill the army at this time (far fewer than people thought at the beginning of the war) • There was a very low level of public health in Canada at this time – people were very unfit (this was true in all countries) due to diet, overwork, pollution, etc… • The British government found that out of all the young men, only about 30% were fit enough to work in the military 3. Conscription • They tried to find new ways to get people to enlist o eg. they had posters that tried to convince people that if they fought for this part of the army, they were fighting for French Canada or Irish Canada • The army began to accept people that shouldn’t have been accepted in the first place o eg. The height requirements used to be 5’3” but eventually went down to 4’11” o They took people with venereal disease, tuberculosis, missing fingers and
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