Canada and the Great War: Western Front Association Papers 9780773571082

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Canada and the Great War: Western Front Association Papers
 9780773571082

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c a n a d a a n d t h e g r e a t wa r

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Canada and the Great War Western Front Association Papers edited by briton c. busch

McGill-Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Ithaca

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© McGill-Queen’s University Press 2003 isbn 0-7735-2546-7 (cloth) isbn 0-7735-2570-x (paper) Legal deposit second quarter 2003 Bibliothèque nationale du Québec Printed in Canada on acid-free paper. McGill-Queen’s University Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (bpidp) for our publishing activities.

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Canada and the Great War: Western Front Association papers/ edited by Briton C. Busch. Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 0-7735-2546-7 (cloth) isbn 0-7735-2570-x (pbk) 1. World War, 1914–1918 – Canada–Congresses. I. Busch, Briton Cooper II. Western Front Association d547.c2c344 2003

940.3′71

c2002-906086-9

This book was typeset by Dynagram inc. in 10/13 Palatino.

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Contents

Foreword Introduction Illustrations 1 The Great War Soldier as Nation Builder in Canada and Australia jeff keshen 3 2 Charlie Chaplin and the Canadian Expeditionary Force a n d r e w h o r r a l l 27 3 Immortalizing the Canadian Soldier: Lord Beaverbrook and the Canadian War Records Office in the First World War ti m c o o k 46 4 John McCrae’s Wars j o h n e . h u r s t 66 5 From Amateur to Professional: The Experience of Brigadier General William Antrobus Griesbach pa t r i c k h . b r e n n a n 78 6 Letters from Halifax: Reliving the Halifax Explosion through the Eyes of My Grandfather, a Sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy j o h n g r i f f i t h a r m s t r o n g 93

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7 The Origins of Canada-us Defence Cooperation: The Naval Defence of the Northwest Atlantic, 1914-18 r o g e r s a r t y 122 8 Newfoundland and the Great War w. dav i d pa r s o n s 147 9 asw Pioneer to Bush Pioneer: The hs-2l Canada c h r i s t o p h e r j . t e r r y 161 10 Amiens, August 1918: A Glimpse of the Future? s y d n e y f. w i s e 172 11 Making Memory: Canvas of War and the Vimy Sculptures l au r a b r a n d o n 203 12 Canadian Airmen and Allied Intervention in North Russia, 1918-19 o w e n c o o k e 216 About the Contributors 237

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Illustrations and Maps

i ll u s tr at i o n s 4.1 John McCrae

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5.1 Lieutenant Colonel William Griesbach, Commanding Officer, 49th 79 6.1 Sailors of rncvr enrolled in 1916 at Red Deer, Alberta 6.2 Bert Griffith and daughters Thelma and Marjorie

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6.3 hmsc Niobe the day after the Halifax explosion alongside the wrecked dockyard 104 6.4 Ruins of hmc Dockyard Victualling Stores and ymca Building 107 9.1 Curtiss hs-24 Serial 1876 being launched from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia 164 9.2 hs-24 under reconstruction 164 9.3 Restored hs-24 g-caac at Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, July 1986 165 10.1 General Sir Arthur Currie

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10.2 Canon Frederick George Scott 10.3 Lieutenant Thomas Dinesen, vc

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10.4 Brigadier General Andrew G.L. McNaughton

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11.1 “The Breaking of the Sword” (The Defenders)

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11.2 “Sympathy for the Helpless” (The Defenders) 11.3 “Truth”

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12.1 re 8 of raf Elope Squadron on return to Beresnik 220 12.2 A 1 ½ Strutter taking off from Beresnik 224 12.3 Beresnik aerodrome, April 1919

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maps 10.1 Battle of Amiens, 8 August – 14 August 1918 12.1 Operations in Northern Russia

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Foreword

The concept of a Western Front Association (wfa) seminar devoted to Canadian participation in the Great War was first suggested by wfa – United States branch founder Ken Finland. Ken brought wfa to the United States in 1990. The organization of the September 2001 Ottawa seminar, “Canada in the Great War,” was almost exclusively the work of Dr Briton Busch of Colgate University. Briton Busch edited this volume, recruited the speakers, and convinced our institutional sponsors – the Canada Air Museum and the Canadian War Museum – to play major roles in the event. Since 1990, three more North American branches of the wfa have been set up in Newfoundland, central Ontario, and on the Pacific coast of Canada. The United States branch has also hived off five new chapters. What was originally established in Great Britain in 1980 is now an international association with dozens of branches, affiliates, and chapters in Ireland, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. But our motto remains “Remembering” – remembering the sacrifices and suffering of those on both sides of the fighting line in this, our first industrialized war. Our original focus on Western Europe and the Western Front as the principal and deciding cockpit of the Great War has widened in the years since 1980 to include other arenas of conflict. A recent survey of us members indicates a broad range of interests in other fronts, including the Eastern Front, Gallipoli, Italy, Palestine and Mesopotamia, Africa, and the Pacific. Our nearly 5,000 members internationally are also interested in the diplomatic, political, and economic aspects of the conflict; war fiction and memoirs; the social impact of the war; the

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war at sea and in the air; technological advances; weapons; civilian and military leadership; tactics; and the tortuous peace process following the 11 November 1918 Armistice. Also of importance are post-war international boundary changes, the emergence of newly independent states, the fall of empires, the new international balance of power, colonialism, reparations, and post-war reconstruction. Above all, we study the continuing and lasting impact of the First World War on life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. And, most important, we in the wfa believe in diplomat-historian George Kennan’s adage that the First World War was the seminal tragedy of the twentieth century. Few Americans are well informed with regard to Canadian participation in the Great War of 1914–18. In fact, more than 35,000 us citizens served in the Canadian Armed Services during the war. Canada itself, with a population of fewer than eight million in 1914, raised a force of 620,000 men and women, of which 485,000 served overseas. More than 60,000 Canadians died of war wounds, while 245,000 were wounded. From the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Canadian Forces grew to comprise an army corps of four divisions, consisting of nearly 28,000 men each. This corps was nearly as large as any one of the four armies comprising the British Expeditionary Force, and it boasted an artillery complement equal to that of any single British army. Towards the end of the war a fifth Canadian division was created in the United Kingdom to provide reinforcements to the Canadian Corps in France. Originally commanded by Lieutenant General (later Lord) Julian Byng, by 1917 the Canadian Corps had been taken over by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie, a former militia colonel and land speculator from Victoria, British Columbia. Currie, a field-grade and general officer of the corps, went on to major commands in the Canadian Forces and the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Canada’s contribution towards winning the war is best remembered as the corps’ successful assault on Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and its 130-kilometre advance in the final hundred days of the war (from 1 August to 11 November 1918), during which it captured some 321,500 prisoners, 623 field guns, 2,842 machine guns, and 323 mortars. For these exploits, the Canadian Corps may well be considered the shock troops of the British Empire.

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Other major Canadian contributions to the war effort include its industrial production. In 1917 and 1918, one-third of the British Expeditionary Force’s munitions were manufactured in Canada. In 1915 Canada was spending half a million dollars per day on the war. By 1917 this had risen to one million dollars per day. At this time the American and Canadian dollars were virtually at par. From 1915 to 1919 Canadians subscribed to $2.3 billion in Victory Bonds. In 1920 Canada paid Great Britain more than $252 million for its share of war costs. At a dollar per day, Canadian private soldiers were the best paid British Empire troops on any front. Canada was also a major source of Allied supplies of wheat, oats, beef, and draft animals. Recall that the First World War was powered mainly by animal traction. Each British, Canadian or American infantry division had a complement of from 6,000 to 7,000 horses and mules to haul artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The Canadian Corps’ four divisions required 1,800 remounts per month from the summer of 1916 to the end of the war. In 1916 the cost of a horse in Canada was $200. As you read this book, remember that only a few hundred veterans of the Great War still survive. The memory of their deeds should not die with them. Whatever revisionist historians may assert, this was a war fought for real and important geo-political reasons. Above all, remember … Ambassador Len Shurtleff President The Western Front Association – United States Branch

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Introduction

Several contributions to this volume set out the stark figures on Canada’s participation in the First World War: a country of under ten million people raised an army of 600,000 men, sending 400,000 of them overseas. Of these, 60,000 were killed and another 170,000 wounded – a “bloodletting” indeed. Canada’s contribution cannot be denied any more than the impact of the war upon Canada can be overlooked. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the us branch of the Western Front Association has wanted for some time to devote an entire annual seminar to this subject. It is equally understandable that those of us involved in the organization chose Ottawa – home to such a marvellous assemblage of museums, archives, and historians – as our venue. Planning for this gathering began in 1998; the actual event took place on 21–3 September 2001. Had we selected a date only a week earlier, we would have had to cancel, or at least postpone, the meeting: every participant was strongly affected by the tragic events of 11 September 2001. Our venue was the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Ottawa, a short two blocks from the newly constructed American embassy on Sussex Drive. All of us who had the opportunity to walk the long railing that fronts this building were deeply moved by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of floral and other multilingual tributes that had been placed there – many now no longer legible (it had been raining before we arrived) but no less effective for that. There is no question that the events of “9/11” brought us all closer together, allies in a different war; all of us, Canadians and Americans alike, were aware of the fact that at least two dozen Canadians lost their lives in the World Trade Center towers. A very few members who had planned to attend the meeting did not; others of us encountered new delays at airports and border

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crossings, but we soldiered on with what proved to be a most rewarding experience. The success of this meeting was very much due to the warm hospitality we received from the host institutions. Members enjoyed the rare treat of not one but two fine dinners among the holdings, respectively, of Vimy House (part of the Canadian War Museum) and the Canada Aviation Museum. It is a pleasure to record our warm thanks to Chris Terry and Roger Sarty for making these special evenings possible. wfa American branch president Len Shurtleff took charge of all conference arrangements; John Hurst gave us sage counsel on behalf of the wfa Ontario branch. A glance at the contents will quickly demonstrate that the wfa concerns itself broadly with the First World War era rather than simply with the Western Front alone. At this particular meeting, our subject matter varied from a focus on individuals (John Hurst on John McCrae; Patrick Brennan on Brigadier General Griesbach; John Armstrong on his grandfather in Halifax) to battles of vast scope (Sid Wise on Amiens). We gave considerable attention to the role of propaganda and the media generally (Jeff Keshen on the Great War soldier; Tim Cook on Beaverbrook; Laura Brandon on Canvas of War and the Vimy sculptures). We ignored neither the air war (Chris Terry on the hs-2l; Owen Cooke on airmen in Russia) nor matters at sea (Roger Sarty on the Northwest Atlantic). Nor, finally, did we overlook the unique contribution of Newfoundland, as the paper from David Parsons (representing the wfa Newfoundland branch) demonstrates. It should be recorded that two of these papers have appeared before in slightly different forms. Chris Terry’s study of the Curtiss hs-2l appeared in Aeroplane Monthly in December 1989, and John Armstrong’s “Halifax Letters” appeared in the Northern Mariner in October 1998. The editor wishes to record his thanks for permission to print these papers. Permission to publish the illustrations is listed elsewhere; the two original maps were drawn for the wfa by cartographer William R. Constable of Stittsville, Ontario. Finally, publication of this book depended utterly upon the cooperation of the conference speakers, for whom brief biographical sketches are provided below. Briton C. Busch Colgate University Hamilton, New York, usa

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1 The Great War Soldier as Nation Builder in Canada and Australia jeff keshen In the 1999 Canada Day edition of Maclean’s magazine, two of the country’s most prominent historians, J.L. Granatstein and Norman Hillmer, selected the Battle of Vimy Ridge as first among twenty-five events that contributed to the formation of modern Canada. Although lamenting more than 3,000 dead and 7,000 wounded, and though noting, in contrast to most earlier work, that this victory by the Canadian Corps did not produce a great breakthrough for the Allies, they nonetheless wrote of it as a stupendous triumph that forged a national spirit that “ma[de] Canada into a nation.”1 Writing in the National Post about a half year later, the well known Canadian literary critic Robert Fulford reviewed a book entitled The Pity of War. This book was written by British author Niall Ferguson, who casts the 1914–18 conflict as the “greatest error of modern history.” In his review, Fulford carps: “all my life I have been reading that Canada became a nation on the battlefields of France.” In light of the deep and long-lasting French-English divide over conscription and the loss of so many young and promising lives, Fulford contends that the Great War should be reclassified as “the unmaking of Canada as much as the making.”2 Responding to Fulford, historians David Bercuson and Jonathon Vance argue that Canadian historians have not glossed over the divisiveness caused by the Great War – a plethora of work testifies to that3 – and that the link between this conflict and the flowering of Canadian nationalism is undeniable. “What did happen,” asserts Bercuson, “was that the sacrifices, and the triumphs, of the Canadian Corps gave prime minister Borden the leverage to win constitutional equality for Canada within the empire,”4 a process evident, for example, in Resolution 9 declared by the Imperial War

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Cabinet in 1917, classifying Canada and the other self-governing dominions as autonomous members of the Empire with a right to ongoing consultation. This article does not dispute that link. Canada’s contribution of 600,000 men and its loss of 60,000 young lives out of a population of under ten million did generate national pride and the determination that Britain respect Canadian concerns; and it helps to explain the rapid growth of Canadian autonomy following the war. However, it is also a link constructed upon glorified accounts of Canada’s Great War soldiers – accounts first articulated by wartime propagandists. And, to this day, these accounts are still often couched in romantic imagery and high diction. While trade and migration flows between Canada and Australia have always remained weak, this is not the case with respect to national memories of the Great War. A new nation – only thirteen years old in 1914 – Australia had something to prove both to the mother country and to itself. This was achieved through Australia’s Great War soldiers who, according to the standard story, through stupendous feats of arms, particularly at Gallipoli, generated the type of sentiment that transformed the new federation into a true nation. Both Canada and Australia tended to accept and to advance this pumped-up view. A strong imperialist creed prevailed in each country, as was very much evident, for example, from their eagerness to assist Britain during the Boer War.5 But linkages to Britain, besides being built upon family, cultural and trade ties, and the perceived need for military protection, were also premised upon the notion of demonstrating national qualities, gaining respect, and thus rising in status within the Empire. Both Canada and Australia believed that their populations possessed “the stuff” to make important contributions to imperial campaigns. Canadian imperialists often emphasized the country’s northern qualities, how a rough and demanding climate produced a people characterized by “energy, strength, self-reliance, health and purity.”6 In Australia, the prototype was the bushman or digger (i.e., miner/prospector), “a person whose roots lie in the outback” and who was portrayed as “improvising, tough, taciturn … [and] who will stick to his mates through thick and thin.”7 Such young men, and many considerably less impressive, flocked to recruiting booths in August 1914 to prove their mettle, to seek adventure, to defend the Empire, to preserve democracy, or simply to obtain a job. However, to buoy patriotism and the willingness to sacri-

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fice as the scope of the conflict rapidly expanded, each country created an apparatus for information control. In these lands so distant from the front, the ability of censorship and propaganda to maintain the currency of romantic beliefs had a tremendous impact. It was impossible for Australian and Canadian soldiers to get home on leave, and most wounded men did not return home until the latter stages of (or after) the war. Messages transmitted over censored underwater cables, in censored newspapers, and in censored soldiers’ letters (which were often self-censored since men did not want to worry loved ones), tended to confirm romantic stereotypes. Journalistic dispatches, photographs, and moving pictures from the front destined for Canada and Australia were first perused by military personnel in France attached to General Headquarters (ghq) and often again in London by Press Bureau officials or by the British Board of Film Censors. On 18 August 1914 Britain’s Colonial Office informed dominion governments that they could each send one correspondent to the front. But ten days later this offer was withdrawn after the London Times, in an effort to spur more men into service, reported on a desperate Allied retreat from Mons. To Britain’s war minister, Lord Kitchener, such material demonstrated the necessity of keeping the press on a short leash. Brief journalistic tours were started in December, but correspondents were prohibited from travelling within thirty-two kilometres of the front. Initially, most front-line reports carried throughout the Empire were written by Colonel Ernest Swinton, formally of the London Daily Chronicle, who was given the title of official “eyewitness.” His dispatches, aptly termed “eyewash” by several newspeople, described the war in terms of “plucky cavalry charges.”8 The demand in Canada for front-line press representation intensified after its troops first saw action in March 1915 at Neuve Chapelle. Also that month, ghq accredited six British journalists and appeared ready to accept an official press emissary from Canada. The result was that Ottawa appointed William Maxwell Aitken to perform eyewitness duties. By the time of the Great War, Aitken, a Canadian expatriate, had acquired a substantial piece of the London Daily Express and had run successfully for Parliament in the Manchester suburb of Ashford-Under-Lyne. The immediate stepping stone to his emergence as Canada’s official press representative was his January 1915 appointment as director of the Canadian War Records Office (cwro),

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a job that initially involved gathering documents relating to the country’s war effort but that Aitken saw as recording for posterity how Canadian heroism won Canada a new level of respect and status within the Empire.9 On 27 March 1915 Aitken began issuing a stream of press dispatches that appeared primarily in Canadian, but also in British and American, newspapers. Most of the information for his reports came from unit war diaries that he and a small cwro writing staff moulded into inspiring tales of triumph.10 Aitken provided material not only to raise spirits in Canada but also, being an imperialist, to promote the country’s image in Britain. This aim was evident in the coverage he provided, both in article and book form, of the April 1915 battle of Second Ypres.11 To at least 40,000 Canadians and Britons who bought Volume 1 of Canada in Flanders,12 Aitken juxtaposed French colonial soldiers, who “fled before the German gas attack,” with Canada’s stalwart warriors, who stood firm, “saved the day” for “liberty and civilisation,” and in the process ensured that “the mere written word Canada glow[ed] … with a new meaning before all the civilised world.”13 Canada in Flanders also underlined the powerful “physique and soldierly swing” of these men who came not just from “shops and offices” but, Aitken emphasized, “from the lumber camps … the vast wheat fields … the slopes of the Rocky Mountains … the shores of Hudson Bay … the banks of the Yukon … the reaches of the St. Lawrence.”14 This portrayal contrasted sharply with the fact that, as of 1 March 1916, 18.5 per cent of Canadian volunteers were former office workers, 64.8 per cent were manual labourers, and only 6.5 per cent were farmers and ranchers.15 By 1916 the Canadian Press Association (cpa) was complaining loudly over not having its own representation in France. John Bohn of the Toronto Star charged that Aitken possessed no journalistic qualifications and had likely acquired the eyewitness post through his friendship with Canada’s militia minister Sam Hughes. A principal assistant to Aitken at the cwro, Henry Beckles Willson assured his chief that his eventual replacement by a cpa reporter would change little. Besides being subject to censorship rules, Willson noted that British and Australian correspondents had demonstrated “a keen sense of patriotism.”16 By this juncture, Aitken had likely reached such a conclusion not only from the patriotic conduct of other country’s journalists but also from his role, starting in September 1915, in bringing over small parties of Canadian reporters for brief visits to

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France. In their accounts, these reporters, in one manner or another, described Canadian soldiers “who ha[d] become famous through their prowess and heroism.“17 By March 1917 cpa members, who had long bickered over whom to select as their overseas representative, finally settled upon Stewart Lyon, managing editor of the Toronto Globe.18 After seven months this job was rotated to W.A. Willison, the son of the Toronto News’s editor and proprietor, J.S. Willison, and then in August 1918 to J.F. Livesay, former president of the Western Canadian Press Association. Although the messengers changed, the message did not. Typical was the press coverage given to the bloody encounter at Passchendaele. Unit diaries focused upon “waist-deep” mud in which some of Canada’s 16,000 casualties drowned.19 However, the last thing needed by Ottawa, then in the midst of a conscription crisis, was a faithful recounting of this debacle. Willison did not disappoint. Mud was mentioned in his dispatches but only as a means of reinforcing the idea that nothing could deter Canadian soldiers from their objective. Despite casualty lists running on for several newspaper pages, Willison maintained that only “enemy losses” were “frightful,” describing, for instance, “a veteran machine gun officer … having had as a target for an hour and a quarter [German] reinforcements coming up in columns of four for use in counter-attacks.”20 The vast majority of publishers and editors situated in Canada, from the first shot to the final salvo, proved eager to pitch in patriotically, though undoubtedly they were also motivated by a domestic censorship network and the severe penalties that could be applied under the War Measures Act for breaking its rules.21 Especially acclaimed in newspaper columns was the grit displayed by Canadian lads. “They seem … to have something heroic and almost divine about them,” declared the Toronto News after Second Ypres.22 Reacting to Canada’s 6,000 casualties in this clash, the Manitoba Free Press insisted that, “above the tears … there rose steady and clear the voice of thankfulness to God … that they were permitted in their death to make so splendid a sacrifice.”23 Through several bloody encounters this pattern persisted and was most evident following the April 1917 battle at Vimy Ridge, where the newly formed Canadian Corps captured 54 large guns, 104 trench mortars, 4,000 soldiers, and an objective that some military commanders, following failed French and British assaults, described as unattainable. The Winnipeg Tribune was truthful in describing “citizens [who] thrill[ed]” over the triumph;

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however, given Canada’s 10,000 casualties, it was far less forthright in its depiction of “German troops … scattered like chaff before the vigour of the … attack.”24 Yet, with glowing tributes reprinted from British and American newspapers, thus validating for many Canadians the importance of this victory, those in the dominion held that their country had provided the “finest troops in the world,”25 a view that was strengthened by their use in subsequent and successful attacks, particularly during the final hundred days of the Great War. The number of men Australia contributed to the Great War was remarkable: 400,000 volunteers out of a population of fewer than five million. Consistently, these men were presented to Australians as physically powerful, exceptionally brave, independent-minded, democratically inclined, and as possessing undying loyalty to their mates – attributes said to be derived from the country’s bushman/digger background, which demanded strength and adaptability.26 Yet, by the time of the Great War, the distribution of Australia’s population clearly shows that these were not the backgrounds of most Australian males.27 As K.S. Inglis concludes, the “unromantic fact” was that more Australian soldiers experienced an urban, or even suburban, upbringing than one in any way connected to the outback.28 No matter, the image of rugged, courageous, and highly effective soldiers who harboured the qualities of the bushman or digger prevailed. Such was strikingly evident in reports from Gallipoli where, on 25 April 1915, the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) experienced its baptism of fire and, so goes the story, Australia was psychologically transformed into a nation. As it was Australia’s first major battle, a tremendous amount of emotional investment was placed in this clash. “The men who waded ashore on that April morning carried with them … the hopes and self-doubts of those at home,” wrote D.A. Kent.29 In Australia, then and in the years to follow, Gallipoli was cast as a solely Australian undertaking when, in fact, besides New Zealanders, British and French soldiers were also present. Indeed, following Gallipoli, in Australia the term “Anzac” began to be viewed as referring solely to Australian troops.30 Gallipoli was so celebrated in Australia that what was generally glossed over, or even forgotten, was the fact that it had been a military defeat, with Anzac, which was among the initial invading force of 50,000, suffering 7,600 casualties and then withdrawing after eight months.

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The first reports from Gallipoli were actually filed by a British journalist, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. To an Australia soon bursting with pride, he wrote: “These raw colonial troops in these desperate hours proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Ainse, Ypres and Neuve Chapelle.”31 However, far more influential was Australia’s own official eyewitness, Charles Bean. Possessing strong imperialist sympathies (having attended British private schools and Oxford University) and eager to promote Australia’s status within the Empire, Bean stressed the special qualities of Australian males, which he believed could be traced to the country’s bushman past.32 While at Gallipoli he articulated what became, and to this day still persists, as the “Anzac legend”: the physically powerful, independent-minded, and adaptable product of the outback who never abandoned his mates and who always prevailed in combat no matter what the odds. It was a depiction that often contrasted sharply with Bean’s personal wartime diary, which told of men who sometimes retreated in panic and who hoped for (and on occasion gave themselves) wounds in order to escape the carnage.33 Bean fashioned the Anzac legend not only through press reports but also through his 1916 editing of the Anzac Book, a commemorative album of the Gallipoli landing that was largely comprised of submissions from soldiers. Over 100,000 copies were sold in Australia. Bean permitted some sarcasm at the expense of military authorities and even a little black humour concerning combat for he realized that this was the only way to ensure that the work would retain any legitimacy among soldiers. Overwhelmingly, however, the book celebrated Anzac heroism; in fact, Bean removed enough critical material to create an “alternative” Anzac Book. The only direct reference to Australian soldiers being frightened in battle was found in the story of Icy, “the ‘cold foot,’ who flinche[d] at each shell-burst but ultimately redeem[ed] himself with a solo raid on a machine-gun post.”34 The impact of information control upon Australians, which included an extensive system of domestic censorship created under the 1914 War Precautions Act,35 was evident during the October 1916 conscription referendum, where, according to some historians, it played the ironic role of helping to produce a narrow defeat – fiftyone to forty-nine per cent – for the pro-conscription forces. This is not to dismiss the importance of other factors, including the opposition of organized labour and, especially, Australia’s large Irish-Catholic population to conscription, but censorship did seem to tip the balance.

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After an endless stream of sugar-coated front-line reports, and with authorities unwilling to jolt people towards conscription by offering them alarmist accounts of what was happening overseas, many Australians simply failed to appreciate the need for conscripts. One brigadier general who returned to the country to help the pro-conscription campaign was “so distressed by the rosy picture given in the papers” that he visited the New South Wales premier urging him to use his influence to reverse the tone.36 In Canada and Australia, well entrenched imperialism, geographic isolation, and a patriotic press corps all provided the impetus for, and contributed to the perseverance of, effective information control. Moreover, the ability of censors and propagandists to shape opinion was helped by the fact that their upbeat depictions were usually, at least to some extent, supported by countless soldiers in optimistic and/or sanitized letters home. This is not to cast civilian populations in Australia and Canada as being unaffected by nearly half a decade of unprecedented sacrifice. Hundreds of thousands of people were distraught over the loss of family and friends, while conscription debates and hyper-wartime inflation intensified ethnic- and class-based cleavages. Still, several barometers of public opinion demonstrate that, in 1919, most civilians considered the Great War in general, and the part played by soldiers in particular, to be causes for celebration rather than for sadness. From several quarters in Canada came the declaration that its participation in the war had afforded the dominion worldwide respect. “This country is ‘on the map’ so to speak as never before,” proclaimed the Calgary Herald.37 Deemed as the principal cause of such progress was the magnificent record of Canadians in combat. Typical were the words in the Hamilton Spectator, which, when reporting upon the 19th Battalion’s return, dwelt upon a “path of glory … across the craters of St. Eloi … up the scarred heights of Vimy Ridge and the slopes of Hill 70, through Passchendaele’s slough and mud and blood to the epic days of 1918 … which released the world from the yoke of Prussian militarism.”38 Towns – Vimy, Alberta, being one – ships, mountains, and even children were named for battles in which Canadians participated. Those who did not join the forces were often made to feel shame. Throughout his political career, William Lyon Mackenzie King, though thirty-nine years old in 1914, had to fend off attacks that he had shirked his duty. In 1921 Canada’s Parliament declared Armistice Day, 11 November, as the official day for commemorating

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Canada’s fallen soldiers. In 1931 the determination that the country not “break faith” with its heroes resulted in its renaming Armistice Day as Remembrance Day and moving Thanksgiving further away from 11 November in order to create a separate holiday and, in so doing, to better commemorate those who sacrificed their lives.39 As Jonathon Vance argues in Death So Noble, to accept the notion that the carnage of the Great War prompted Canadians to adopt what Paul Fussell identifies as a sardonic “ironic mode” in place of high diction and romanticism is to miss the essence of post-war discourse, especially with respect to the portrayal of Canadian troops. Civilians and most soldiers were unwilling to accept the view that the war had been fought for false ideals and that, consequently, so much suffering and death had been endured in vain.40 If nothing else, the need for emotional healing required a more upbeat interpretation. During the inter-war years, the interpretations that resonated best with Canadians continued to stress that soldiers had fought for noble causes (such as the maintenance of freedom) and that their stupendous performance in combat had created a new, strong, and internationally respected nation. The presence of such ideas was evident from the reaction of civilians to battle trophies. Tens of thousands flocked to a series of shows during the autumn of 1919 to see those items that, in capturing, many of the country’s courageous “lads” made the supreme sacrifice. At the Canadian National Exhibition, the best attended pavilion – and one that attracted in excess of 200,000 people over ten days – was the one that housed a war trophy display billed by the Toronto Star as “living evidence of Canadian valour in France and Flanders.”41 Many artifacts, particularly large guns, were used to help build war memorials that emerged in practically every hamlet that had lost one of its own. Here, the message remained consistent, namely: a romanticized commemoration of men who had, through their “heroic sacrifice” and “saintly deaths” on behalf of freedom, earned the eternal gratitude of their country. For example, the statue erected in Preston, Ontario, portrays a warrior with arms outstretched in the crucifixion position, suggesting that he too died for the salvation of civilization. In commissioning a national war memorial in 1925, Ottawa wished to promote “the spirit of heroism … exemplified in the lives of those [who] sacrificed.” The result depicts twenty-two figures from all service branches symbolizing the “great response,” while the arch through which they pass represents “peace and freedom.”42 That

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same year, construction started on a monument at Vimy Ridge. On 100 hectares provided by the French government, the structure, designed by Walter Allward, has two pillars signifying Canada’s European founding races and rising sixty-eight metres from a 360,000square-metre platform set upon the ground’s highest point – Hill 145, which was the last German position to fall to the Canadians in April 1917. From this position those for kilometres around are able to see the monument and to appreciate the significance of the Canadian triumph. Between the pillars stands a figure symbolizing the “Spirit of Sacrifice.” The long walls at the base signify Canada’s rigid line of defence, and around that base are “figures representing the Breaking of the Sword, the Sympathy of the Canadians for the Helpless, and Canada mourning her dead.”43 In 1936 6,200 Canadian pilgrims each paid $160 (at a time when annual salaries averaged around $1,200) to the Canadian Legion to attend the monument’s dedication. Before these pilgrims and French spectators, which swelled the crowd to 100,000, King Edward viii proclaimed Vimy “a feat of arms that history will long remember and Canada … [will] never forget.”44 Such themes also characterize much of Canada’s post-war literature. Soon after the conflict ended, H. Napier Moore, a literary critic for Maclean’s, commented that citizens were uninterested in stories of “gloom,” seeking instead “romance and adventure.”45 In Canada’s Sons and Great Britain in the World War (1919), Colonel George G. Nasmith, formerly of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote that, at places like Ypres and Vimy Ridge, Canadian soldiers proved that “some races of humanity are inferior to others.” In the book’s introduction, Canadian Corps commander General Arthur Currie, reflecting the same idea, emphasized the “rugged strength of the Canadian [soldier],” which was an “invaluable gift of our deep forests and lofty mountains, of our rolling plains and our great waterways, and of the clear light of our Northern skies.”46 In 1921, to make up for the lack of a government-financed official history, there came Canada and the Great World War, a compilation of short, largely factual, accounts of different military service branches and campaigns. Yet here, too, the Canadian soldier conjures special praise in some 100 pages that reprint official dispatches describing the heroic exploits of the sixtyfour Canadians who won the Victoria Cross.47 In 1921 the job of writing the planned eight-volume official history of Canada in the Great War was given to a new small historical section of the General Staff. Not until 1929 had it sifted through and ar-

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ranged 123 tonnes of available documents, and not until 1938 did the first, and what turned out to be the only, volume of the series appear – a 550-page account written by the director of the historical section, Colonel A. Fortesque Duguid, that covered the war until September 1915.48 Duguid’s work was exceptionally detailed and without doubt far more balanced than were previous efforts. It noted, for example, battlefield setbacks by Canadians as well as disturbing facts such as high venereal disease rates among the country’s troops. But even here, in a work that was supposed to strive for objectivity, traces of high diction and national chauvinism remain. For example, in describing the aftermath of the German gas attack at Ypres, Duguid wrote: “The Canadians who had been in this battle were convinced in their own minds that they were equal to the best soldiers in the world. Had they not stood when the French went back? … [A]nd the indomitable confidence it engendered was confirmed in every fight – at Mount Sorel and the Somme, at Vimy, Hill 70 and Passchendaele, at Amiens, in the Arras-Cambrai battles, at Valenciennes and in the Pursuit to Mons.”49 Meanwhile, typical of the initial post-war novel was J. Murray Gibbon’s The Conquering Hero, in which the author describes the exploits of Donald Macdonald of the “fighting 42nd” who, in the process of displaying his unswerving “respect to tradition, King and Country,” won the Distinguished Service Medal.50 Heroic redemption on the battlefield was also a popular theme. In Theodore Goodridge Roberts’s The Fighting Starkleys, Jim Hammond, who initially refused military service, overcame his fears, enlisted, and “return[ed] home a hero.”51 Clearly, the Canadian homefront was more disposed to welcome back heroes enhanced by combat rather than ordinary men who were often left physically and mentally scarred. By no means was every veteran stepping off the boat in Halifax in 1919 embittered or maladjusted. Some men recalled their time in uniform fondly; never before had they experienced such comradeship or felt so alive. Countless veterans compartmentalized or suppressed their bitterness and selfdoubts, obtained jobs, and got on with their lives. Yet for thousands it was literally frightening to think about rejoining a society that, they felt, possessed no conception either of the ordeals they had endured or of the torment still often dominating their thoughts. “Friends wanted to hear [glorious] stories of the battlefield,” wrote one soldier, “and you felt like vomiting when the subject was mentioned.”52

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From some disillusioned Canadian veterans there came anti-war novels. Peregrine Acland, who served as a major with the 1st Division, published All Else Is Folly in 1929; Charles Yale Harrison, previously a machine gunner with the Royal Montreal Regiment followed this in 1930 with Generals Die in Bed; and in 1937 Philip Child, formerly a subaltern with a howitzer battery, produced God’s Sparrows.53 Not one, however, was a best-seller. Harrison’s novel, the most shocking, used the literary device of an anonymous narrator to demonstrate the dehumanizing nature of war. The book dwelt upon the gore of combat and made it clear that Canadian soldiers were often terrified in battle, regarded many of their officers with contempt, went on drunken rampages, and sometimes killed German prisoners. The reviews were scathing. In Saturday Night, Nathaniel Benson claimed that most of the disturbing incidents Harrison described “never occurred,” while W.B. Kerr condemned the work as “fiction of the blood-curdling type.”54 Far better received, and published the same year as Generals Die in Bed, was Will Bird’s And We Go On. Formerly with the 42nd Battalion, Bird did not deny the horrors of war or the fact that the stresses of combat prompted some soldiers to act in a shocking manner. Ultimately, however, the message was positive. Men were “not brutalized or dehumanized by war” because they proved capable of psychologically leaving the trenches behind. For instance, Bird described his former comrades as “boys again, horsing around and bathing in streams” after being moved to the rear.55 The use of high diction and romantic imagery to describe the exploits of Canada’s Great War soldiers, and their nationalistic legacy, became something of a fixture. During the 1960s, in a decade supposedly dominated by anti-war attitudes, the unparalleled vigour of these soldiers was acclaimed as having forged a self-assured nation about to mark its 100th anniversary. In his 1965 account, To Seize Victory, John Swettenham wrote that it was impossible to “overstress the quality of the human material making up the [Canadian] Corps.”56 That same year, Kenneth Macksey emphasized the “martial manhood” of those who “saved the day” at Ypres and captured Vimy Ridge.57 H.F. Wood’s narrative, written during Canada’s centennial year, made much of the fact that the clash at Vimy Ridge occurred during the Dominion’s half-century point, thus symbolizing a watershed where heroic men ripped the country from its colonial roots to full national status: Vimy was, he declared, Canada’s “Agincourt, no

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more, and no less.”58 Also revealing was that fact that Pierre Berton, in his 1986 book Vimy, believed it necessary to inform readers that Canadian soldiers did not, in fact, fundamentally turn the tide against Germany in this particular battle. For the British, he wrote, Vimy was considered to be just one episode in the larger and longer Battle of Arras, something that explains why the renowned British historian Liddell Hart, “in his definitive history of the Great War … gave [the encounter] no more than a paragraph.”59 Over the last generation, as those directly connected to, and particularly interested in, protecting the image of Canada’s Great War soldiers have died off, the historical portrayal of these men has shown signs of losing its lustre. This pattern also obtained encouragement from anti-war attitudes growing out of the United States’ unpopular foray into Vietnam as well as from the explosion of graduate-level studies over the past quarter century, which has led to ever more scholars being trained to question long-held assumptions. These factors have produced several critical studies of Canadian tactics and performances upon land, at sea, and in the air during the Great War.60 Yet compensating for such critical inquiries are several popular accounts. Daniel Dancocks, in a best-selling trilogy written during the late 1980s, commented not only upon muddy trenches and costly and ill-conceived battlefield strategies but also upon “noble” sacrifices “not [undertaken] in vain.”61 Through chronicling the experiences of ten Canadians, Sandra Gwyn’s 1992 work, Tapestry of War, reveals much heartache and suffering but also echoes a belief about Canadian soldiers that clearly runs deep in the national psyche: “Thrust for the first time upon the world stage they performed at all times credibly and often brilliantly – holding the line under gas attacks at Second Ypres in 1915, capturing Vimy Ridge in 1917 and … performing in the vanguard in 1918 during the hundred days of the astonishing counter-attack.”62 Also in 1992, to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Vimy Ridge, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation produced a lengthy report for the “Magazine” segment of its national newscast entitled “Courage and Sacrifice.”63 This was followed in 1997 by a four-part National Film Board production entitled Battle of Vimy Ridge which, its promotional advertisement read, “dramatically reveals how innovative tactics combined with iron courage and heroic self-sacrifice … enable[d] Canadian soldiers to transform a field of slaughter into a field of glory.”64

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Australia’s collective memory of the Great War bears a striking similarity to Canada’s in that, like Canada’s, it was bolstered by events during and after the conflict that pointed to growing nationalism and autonomy. Although a perceived military threat from Japan slowed Australia’s move towards complete independence from Britain (it did not adopt the Statute of Westminster until 1942), still Australia emerged from the war more self-assured and ready to manage more of its own affairs than had been the case when it entered it.65 By 1918 Australian soldiers were being commanded by Australians, principally by Major General John Monash, who that year became Australian corps commander, something that reflected not only the nationalism generated by battlefield sacrifices but also the belief that British commanders were less innovative than were Australians, who harboured the spirit of a frontier society. Following the war, Prime Minister W.M. Hughes strongly supported Canada’s suggestion that, in recognition of “blood sacrifices,” Britain provide separate representation to its self-governing dominions at the Versailles peace talks. Following this concession, and upon his return from France, Hughes declared that “Australia became a nation.”66 The ongoing “worship of the digger” (i.e., Australian soldier) also drew strength from the massive number of families who experienced personal loss. For them, and for countless others who knew someone among Australia’s 60,000 war dead and 160,000 wounded, “the Anzac myth,” as Marilyn Lake explained, “turned that terrible loss into a meaningful event.”67 Given the deluge of inspiring wartime information and years of complete separation from an army that endured the highest percentage of field casualties among imperial forces, on Armistice Day many Australians stood prepared to greet “strong, heroic [and] undefeated” veterans who were now ready to thrive in civilian life rather than to “real men who needed … support [from] their society.”68 Notwithstanding what some civilians came to see as selfish demands made by ex-servicemen for better post-war support programs69 and their sometimes violent outbursts,70 the Anzac legend did not diminish. Indeed, during peacetime the word “Anzac” became legally protected from derogatory statements, something initially stipulated under the War Precautions Act and then, after its repeal in 1920, under a piece of legislation appropriately called Protection of the Word Anzac.71

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Remaining prominent in post-war Australia was the picture of warriors whose deeds exceeded “those done on the field of Troy.”72 In 1927, 25 April – the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing – became an official national holiday. Veterans marched before cheering crowds, then afterwards usually imbibed, played rough and “manly” games, and, in the process, reminded the country of the rugged manhood that was often credited with having forged a great nation.73 Australia’s celebration of its soldiers also produced an obsession with war memorials, something built, said Patsy Adams-Smith, “at every crossroads where it was difficult to imagine a squad of men having lived at any time.”74 Romantic themes dominated. The most common figure in local monuments was the Australian soldier, usually depicted in some heroic pose or being offered up in sacrifice by a woman as an expression of the pure, if not saintly, ideals for which he died.75 Starting in the early 1920s, in order to provide the Anzac with a fitting tribute, the tireless and influential Charles Bean initiated a campaign to construct a national, unrivalled testimonial in Canberra. “We planned,” he said in later years, “that just as one had to go to Florence or Dresden to see the finest picture galleries, so people would have to come to Australia to see the finest war memorial.” In 1925 the Australian government allotted a little over £250,000 to this project, then a record for a public building. Financial constraints slowed construction during the 1930s, but, when finally completed in 1941, the dedication ceremony invoked images of brave men in an attempt to raise resolve in the face of a possible Japanese invasion. The monument’s centrepiece, the domed Hall of Memory, reproduced Will Longstaff’s painting, Menin Gate at Midnight, where Australian soldiers rose from graves overseas to make their final journey home. Finishing touches in 1955 included stained glass windows detailing the country’s Great War achievements and a dominating 5.4-metre bronze statue of a soldier symbolizing “young Australia proudly and courageously giving her all in the cause of freedom and honour.”76 Bean also strengthened the Anzac legend through post-war literary endeavours. In 1919 he commenced what became a twenty-three-yearlong undertaking to write and edit a twelve-volume official history of Australia in the Great War. The result was a massively detailed and, compared to previous works, exceptionally careful study that, according to some scholars, discouraged others from writing similar accounts.77 It was well received; the volumes sold some 150,000 copies in

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Australia. One reviewer called it Australia’s “Iliad and Odyssey,” though in England and New Zealand Bean’s work was criticized for its nationalistic chauvinism. This bias was evident in the first volume, which was released in 1921 and focused upon the battle at Gallipoli. Here Bean turned to the bushman theory, which, he believed, explained the superiority of Australian soldiers. For example, juxtaposed against “huge men from Australia” were “little pink-cheeked lads from the Manchester cotton-mills, who had … volunteer[ed] in the East Lancashire Division.”78 Although the Official History notes Australian battlefield defeats and the fact that some men succumbed psychologically to the stress of front-line life, including by self-wounding and deserting, there can be no mistake about the general theme: Anzac men were extraordinarily effective and brave soldiers who, at Gallipoli, for instance, displayed “indifference” to the intensity of enemy fire as they rapidly scaled the cliffs. Moreover, lapses within the Anzac were written off as exceptions – and, as such, were often buried in footnotes – even though, for example, the desertion rate among Australians during the first six months of 1917 was four times that of the British.79 Works of “lost-generation” authors that offered depressing depictions of war, like Martin Boy’s 1939 A Single Flame, barely dented the “literary fortress” protecting the Anzac legend. When it came to the reputation of the Anzac, readers demanded a positive, if not heroic, picture. Such was the approach adopted in Leonard Mann’s Flesh in Armour, which was awarded the 1932 gold medal from the Australian Literature Society. Mann, a veteran of the Great War who was badly injured and who described himself as psychologically traumatized at Passchendaele, did not deny the horrors and high costs of conflict; however, in the final analysis he presented a tale of Anzac triumph over adversity. Not as critically acclaimed, though probably more popular (as it went through six editions in two and a half years following its release in 1932), was Ion Idriess’s The Desert Column. Of the courageous Anzac spirit in Palestine, Idreiss wrote: “It was a grand sight, the thrill, the comradeship, the knowledge that hell would open out.” Also reflecting public attitudes was a twelve-volume set of war memoirs marketed in 1936 by Reveille magazine. In all, some 3,500 pages celebrated the “modern Odysseus” through books such as Jacka’s Mob, which was described as a “vivid and true picture” of the “gallant men” who landed at Gallipoli.80 During the Second World War several writers turned to the Anzac legend to rally the nation. This included Charles Bean who, in The Old

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aif and the New (1940), cast the two armies as “father and son.”81 However, by the late 1960s and early 1970s controversy surrounding Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War appeared to threaten the Anzac legend. A predominately conscript army of 50,000 was viewed by many people, particularly by young Australians, as helping to carry out American imperialism.82 Starting around that time was the appearance of works critically assessing the Anzac legend. No doubt many people believed that the glorification of these soldiers and, hence, Australia’s military past, contributed to its involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1974, in The Broken Years, Bill Gammage, relying largely upon wartime diaries and the post-war oral testimony of Australian Great War veterans, presented men who sometimes cracked in battle, who relished “blighties,” who self-wounded – who, in other words, were not superhuman. In 1980 Suzanne Brugger’s Australia and Egypt, 1914–1919 “unearth[ed] a plethora of misdemeanours, from minor and essentially comical (such as the teaching of unwitting Arab news-boys obscene cries) to various brutalities, including rape, committed on the despised local population.”83 Robin Gerster’s BigNoting: The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing (1987) and Alistair Thomson’s Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend (1994) present the inspirational portrayal of the Anzac as being largely the creation of Great War propaganda. Yet the power of the Anzac legend persisted. Tim Duncan, in a widely reprinted article entitled “History as a Kangaroo Court,” condemned those whom he sneeringly classified as “young, radical historians,” including Gerster and Thomson, for denigrating the country while enjoying the fruits of its freedom, which was won by the Anzac.84 Indeed, despite the unpopularity of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the reputation of the Anzac was never really imperilled. While controversy over the conflict in southeast Asia still saturated the media, the 1972–75 Whitham government told citizens then enduring a recession to face these uncertain times with the same fortitude as had their fathers and grandfathers at Gallipoli. Popular entertainment also paid homage. Peter Weir’s 1981 film, Gallipoli, though showing Anzacs indiscriminately mowed down in battle, made the point that this was the result of failures among British commanders rather than Australian soldiers. Not only did Weir evoke empathy for the Anzac but he also took “pleasure in … Australian characteristics, and pride in their courage and … achievements.” Gallipoli was followed by several other film and television productions: 1915, Anzacs,

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The Lighthorsemen, and The Man from Snowy River. Each portrayed the Great War as “miserable, bloody and terrifying,” but the Australians “endure and emerge with pride in their manhood, their military achievements and their new nationalism.”85 Many popular histories continued to reflect such notions. W.F. Mandle characterized Australian soldiers “as tough and inventive … a bit undisciplined … [but also] chivalrous and gallant,”86 and, in describing those at Gallipoli, Patsy Adams-Smith made comparisons with “the three hundred [Spartans] at Thermopylae” who stemmed the tide against several thousand Persian invaders.87 Finally, on Anzac Day 1990, in a highly publicized media event, fifty-eight Australian veterans of the Great War returned to Gallipoli. Prime Minister R.J. Hawke, speaking before these old warriors but also addressing his remarks to the nation, urged Australians to “follow the Anzac … model of sacrifice, courage and mateship” as a guide as Australia moved towards its centennial celebration and a new century.88 In Canada and Australia the modern memory of the Great War is one not only of muddy trenches and massive death but also of gallant men scaling the heights at Vimy Ridge or the cliffs at Gallipoli and thus producing the emotional/sentimental foundations of nationhood. The fact that both countries entered the Great War as colonies intent upon demonstrating their worthiness within the Empire predetermined that monumental significance would be placed upon their battlefield encounters. However, in addition to pre-war conditions and goals, there also existed a series of factors – ranging from geographic isolation, to press corps patriotism, to the “manly” stoicism often displayed in soldiers’ correspondence home – that made it easy for authorities to mould the perceptions of civilians. Furthermore, following the war, there emerged the determination among most civilians and soldiers not to accept a version of events that would lead to the conclusion that so much suffering had been in vain. Certainly, the monumental human costs of the war discredited many romantic notions. Not long after the conflict, the view of war as a glorious adventure for the manly and chivalrous lost much legitimacy, as is indicated by the fact that, in both countries, few celebrations accompanied the beginning of the Second World War. Still, the rapid growth of autonomy in Australia and Canada following the Great War helped to ensure that popular discourse continued to depict superior, courageous, and noble soldiers who were (and, for the most part, are)

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portrayed as being motivated by the highest of ideals and who were worthy of being esteemed as catalysts for the appearance of freedomloving and truly independent countries. No doubt this was a flattering and, in some respects, deserved image for those who had endured so much. Yet it can be traced to wartime propaganda and, as such, romanticizes events and people and distorts the past. notes 1 Maclean’s, 1 July 1999, 22–3. 2 National Post, 8 February 2000, B1. 3 See, for example, Elizabeth Armstrong, The Crisis of Quebec, 1914–18 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938); H. Blair Neatby, Laurier and a Liberal Quebec: A Study in Political Management (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1973); Robert Craig Brown and Ramsay Cook, Canada 1896–1921: A Nation Transformed (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1974); Robert Craig Brown, Robert Laird Borden: A Biography, vol. 2 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); and J.L. Granatstein and J.M. Hitsman, Broken Promises: A History of Conscription in Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1977). 4 National Post, 11 February 2000, A18. 5 Canada sent more than 7,000, and Australia more than 16,000, men to the Boer War. See Carman Miller, Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 1899–1902 (Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992); Peter Firkins, The Australians in Nine Wars: Waikato to Long Tan (Adelaide: Rigby, 1971), 14; R. Norris, The Emergent Commonwealth: Australian Federation, Expectations and Fulfilment, 1889–1910 (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1975); M. Dunn, Australia and the Empire: 1788 to the Present (Sydney: Fontana, 1984). 6 Carl Berger, The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867–1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 129. 7 Mick Taussig, “An Australian Hero,” History Workshop 24 (1987): 118. 8 Jeffrey A. Keshen, Propaganda and Censorship during Canada’s Great War (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1996), 28; Kevin Fewster, “Expression and Suppression: Aspects of Military Censorship in Australia during World War I,” (PhD diss., University of New South Wales, 1980), 88. 9 A.J.P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 91; Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook: A Life (London: Hutchinson, 1992), 127.

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10 The cwro also hired cameramen and artists to record the “magnificence” of Canadian troops. For details, see Keshen, Propaganda and Censorship, 35–8. 11 Aitken’s zeal to champion Canadian soldiers produced some complaints in Britain, especially from British military leaders, over his creating the impression that Canadian soldiers were the most capable amongst the Allies. On this dispute, see Timothy H.E. Travers, “Allies in Conflict: The British and Canadian Historians and the Real Story of Second Ypres,” Journal of Contemporary History 24 (1989): 301–25. 12 Volume 2 of Canada in Flanders appeared in 1917 under Aitken’s new title of Lord Beaverbrook and carried the story forward to mid-1916. Volume 3 was written in 1918 by Theodore Goodridge Roberts, a cwro staff writer who initially joined Canada’s First Division and was part of the famous New Brunswick literary family. In 1918 Aitken, due in part to his successful propaganda work for Canada, became Britain’s first minister of information. See Jonathon F. Vance, Death So Noble: Meaning, Memory, and the First World War (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1997), 165. Volumes 2 and 3 were much the same as was Volume 1. For instance, when writing about trench raids, such as that which occurred in 1916 at La Petite Douve, Aitken described “a handful of men of the 7th Canadian Battalion … [who] killed at least fifty of the enemy … Fame and decorations had been won, and fresh glory for Canadian arms.” See Lord Beaverbrook, Canada in Flanders, vol. 2 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1917), xii, 116. 13 Saturday Night, 22 May 1916, 8; Ken Ramstead, “The ‘Eye-Witness’: Lord Beaverbrook and Canada in Flanders,” Register 12 (1984): 309–10. 14 Maxwell Aitken, Canada in Flanders, vol. 1 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916), 3–4. 15 Desmond Morton, When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War (Toronto: Random, 1993), 278. 16 Toronto Star, 12 August 1916, 6; House of Lords Records Office, Lord Beaverbrook papers, bbk E/1/16, Beckles Willson to Aitken, 28 June 1916. 17 Ibid., bbk E/2/11, Robinson to Beckles Willson, 29 April 1916. 18 National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac), rg 25, Records of the Department of External Affairs, vol. 262, file P-6/73, C.F. Crandall to Lt-Col Hugh Clark, 7 February 1917. 19 nac, rg 9, Records of the Department of Militia and Defence (md), vol. 4688, file 42–21, Operations Report, 30 November 1917; A.M.J. Hyatt, “Corps Commander: Arthur Currie,” in Marc Milner, ed., Canadian Military History: Selected Readings (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1993), 109. 20 md, vol. 4725, file 186–1, Press Dispatch, 6 December 1917.

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21 The War Measures Act provided a maximum penalty of $5,000, five years incarceration, or both. 22 nac, mg 30 D14, J.S. Willison Papers, Willison to J.M. MacDonald, 21 July 1915. 23 Manitoba Free Press, 3 May 1915, 5. 24 Winnipeg Tribune, 12 April 1917, 9. 25 Pierre Berton, Vimy (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1986), 293. 26 Robin Gerster, Big-Noting: The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1987), 14; K.S. Inglis, “Anzac and the Australian Military Tradition,” Revue internationale d’histoire militaire 72 (1990): 6. 27 Bruce Ryan, “Metropolitan Growth,” in Richard Preston, ed., Contemporary Australia: Studies in History, Politics and Economics (Durham: Duke University Press, 1969), 203–4. 28 K.S. Inglis, “The Anzac Tradition,” Meanjim Quarterly 24 (1965): 33. 29 D.A. Kent, “The Anzac Book and the Anzac Legend: C.E.W. Bean as Editor and Image Maker,” Historical Studies 21, 84 (1985): 376. 30 Marilyn Lake, “Mission Impossible: How Men Gave Birth to the Australian Nation: Nationalism, Gender and Other Seminal Acts,” Gender and History 4, 3 (1992): 308–9. 31 Gerster, Big-Noting, 25; Alistair Thomson, Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994), 53. 32 Annabel Cooper, “Textual Territories: Gendered Cultural Politics and Australian Representations of the War of 1914–1918,” Australian Historical Studies 25, 100 (1993): 416; Taussig, “An Australian Hero,” 126. 33 Thomson, Anzac Memories, 60–1. 34 Ibid., 66–70; Kent, “The Anzac Book,” 378, 380–1. 35 For an analysis of Australian censorship, see Fewster, “Expression and Suppression.” By war’s end, the War Precautions Act, initially passed in August 1914, established theoretically unlimited fines or jail terms against those who “spread false reports … public alarm … or prejudice[d] His Majesty’s relations with foreign powers.” Ibid., 27–8. 36 Ibid., 108. 37 Calgary Herald, 25 March 1919, 8. 38 Hamilton Spectator, 9 May 1919, 1. 39 Vance, Death So Noble, 111–14, 121, 201, 213. 40 Ibid., 5. This argument is made with regard to Australian Great War veterans in Alistair Thomson’s “Memory as Battlefield: Personal and Political Investments in the National Military Past,” Oral History Review 22, 2 (1995): 55–73. 41 Toronto Star, 3 September 1919, 3.

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42 Allan R. Young, ‹We Throw the Torch’: Canadian Memorials of the Great War and the Mythology of Heroic Sacrifice,” Journal of Canadian Studies 26, 4 (1990): 13, 16, 18. 43 Brereton Greenhous and Stephen Harris, Canada and the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9–12 April 1917 (Ottawa: Supply and Services, 1992), 139; Vance, Death So Noble, 66–7; Guide Book of the Pilgrimage to Vimy and the Battlefields (Ottawa: Vimy Pilgrimage Committee, 1936), 71. 44 Berton, Vimy, 304; Norm Christie, For King and Empire: The Canadians at Vimy (Nepean: cef Books, 1996), 8–89. See also John Pierce, “Constructing Memory: The Idea of Vimy Ridge” (ma thesis, Wilfrid Laurier University, 1993); and Dave Inglis, “Vimy Ridge, 1917–1993: A Canadian Myth over Seventy-Five Years” (ma thesis, Simon Fraser University, 1995). 45 John Herd Thompson and Allen Seager, Canada 1922–1939: Decades of Discord (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1985), 166. 46 Vance, Death So Noble, 94–5; Colonel George G. Nasmith, Canada’s Sons and Great Britain in the World War (Toronto: John C. Winston, 1919), iv, 305. 47 Canada in the Great World War (Toronto: United Publishers of Canada, 1921), 274–374. 48 Vance, Death So Noble, 172–3; Colonel A. Fortesque Duguid, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914–1919, vol. 1 (Ottawa: Ministry of National Defence, 1938), ix. Despite positive reviews, the extraordinarily long time it took to complete the first volume, its poor sales, and the diversion of attention in September 1939 to the war against Nazism kept the series to a single volume. 49 Ibid., 421–2. 50 Dagmar Novak, “The Canadian Novel and the Two World Wars” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1988), 22. 51 Vance, Death So Noble, 54. 52 Pierre Van Paasen, Days of Our Years (New York: Hillman-Carl, 1939), 91. 53 Novak, “The Canadian Novel,” 37, 69, 92; Linda Rae Steward, “A Canadian Perspective: The Fictional and Historical Portrayal of World War One” (ma thesis, University of Waterloo, 1983), 80. 54 Vance, Death So Noble, 193. 55 Ibid., 196. 56 John Swettenham, To Seize the Victory: The Canadian Corps in World War I (Toronto: Ryerson, 1965), 247. 57 Kenneth Macksey, The Shadow of Vimy Ridge (Toronto: Ryerson, 1965), 189.

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58 H.F. Wood, Vimy! (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1967), 170. 59 Berton, Vimy, 295–6. 60 See, for example, Desmond Morton and J.L. Granatstein, Marching to Armageddon: Canadians and the Great War, 1914–1919 (Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1989); Morton, When Your Number’s Up; Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps, 1914–1918 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992); Michael Hadley and Roger Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships: Canadian Naval Forces and German Sea Raiders, 1880–1918 (Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991); Stephen J. Harris, Canadian Brass: The Making of a Professional Army (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); and S.F. Wise, Canadian Airmen and the First World War: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, vol. 1 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980). 61 Daniel Dancocks, Spearhead to Victory: Canada and the Great War (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1987), 240; Legacy of Valour: The Canadians at Passchendaele (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1986); and Welcome to Flanders’ Field: The First Canadian Battle of the War, Ypres, 1915 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990). 62 Sandra Gwyn, Tapestry of War: A Private View of Canadians in the Great War (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1992), xvii. 63 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, News in Review, May 1992. 64 National Film Board, Battle of Vimy Ridge, part 4: The Battle Joined and Won. 65 Donald Horne, The Australian People (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1972), 207–8. 66 Peter Dennis, “Introduction,” Revue internationale d’histoire militaire 72 (1990): xiii. 67 Horne, Australian People, 184; Lake, “Mission Impossible,” 312. 68 Deborah Hull, ‹The Old Lie’: Teaching Children about War, 1914– 1939,” Melbourne Historical Journal 20, 1 (1990): 95. 69 Gavin Souter, Lion and Kangaroo: The Initiation of Australia, 1901–1919 (Sydney: Collins, 1976), 286. 70 Thomson, Anzac Memories, 6; Raymond Evans, “Some Furious Outbreaks of Riot: Returned Soldiers and Queensland’s ‘Red Flag’ Disturbances, 1918–1919,” War and Society 3, 2 (1985): 75–95. 71 Inglis, “Anzac and the Australian Military Tradition,” 6. 72 Hull, “The Old Lie,” 92. 73 K.S. Inglis, “Men, Women and War Memorials: Anzac Australia,” Deadalus 116, 4 (1987): 53–4. 74 Patsy Adams-Smith, The Anzacs (London: Hamish-Hamilton, 1978), 316.

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75 Inglis, “Men, Women and War Memorials,”49. 76 K.S. Inglis, “A Sacred Place: The Making of the Australian War Memorial,” War and Society 3, 2 (1985): 100–1, 109. 77 Dennis, “Introduction,” viii. 78 Alistair Thomson, ‹Steadfast until Death›: C.E.W. Bean and the Representation of Australian Military Manhood,” Australian Historical Studies 23, 93 (1989): 462–4; Inglis, “The Anzac Tradition,” 26. 79 Thomson, “Steadfast until Death,” 470–2. 80 Gerster, Big-Noting, 95, 104, 121, 134–5, 158. 81 Ibid., 173. 82 Inglis, “Anzac and the Australian Military Tradition,” 18. See also Jeff Doyle, “Dismembering the Anzac Legend: Australian Popular Culture and the Vietnam War,” Vietnam Generation 3, 2 (1991): 109–25. 83 Gerster, Big-Noting, 53; Bill Gammage, The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1974). 84 Thomson, Anzac Memories, 261. 85 Ibid., 190–2, 196–7. 86 W.FMandle, Going It Alone: Australia’s National Identity in the Twentieth Century (Victoria: Penguin, 1977), 4. 87 Adams-Smith, The Anzacs, ix. 88 Doyle, “Dismembering the Anzac Legend,” 110.

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2 Charlie Chaplin and the Canadian Expeditionary Force andrew horrall For scholars like Paul Fussell, Samuel Hynes, and Modris Eksteins the First World War was the great climacteric that wrenched Western civilization from its Classical and Enlightenment underpinnings. According to these compelling arguments a bucolic Neo-Georgian idyll had been disrupted by the “call to duty” before vanishing in the squalor of Flanders. It was replaced in 1918 by a lost, hollow generation, “sick as sin,” inhabiting a world that was slouching towards Bethlehem in a syncopated frenzy.1 Other historians have investigated popular culture’s role in morale and recruiting and as a gauge of the fighting men’s esprit.2 While a comprehensive understanding of how the war shaped twentieth-century culture is emerging, we know comparatively little about popular culture’s role in shaping how the men understood the war, despite the fact that the temporary soldiers who fought between 1914 and 1918 revisited their civilian lives constantly through sport, music, theatre, and cinema. By doing this they came to rely upon civilian idioms when conceptualizing and expressing their military lives. Within this wartime culture no personality resonated as clearly as Charlie Chaplin, who, in 1914, was seized upon by men in uniform as a talisman of civilian life. No other performer was invoked more often or more directly. However, despite this adulation, Chaplin’s personal actions between 1914 and 1918 were at times publicly attacked by military and civilian leaders. The conflicts between Chaplin’s screen image, personal actions, and the reactions these provoked make this an important, albeit unexplored, window on the common man’s experience of the First World War, modern celebrity, and twentieth-century popular culture.

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Thanks to the professionalization and expansion of British music hall during the decades before 1914, troops from every corner of the Empire shared a popular culture through which they clearly understood the goals for which they were fighting.3 As a result, from the moment they first donned uniforms, troops mined popular culture to pass the time, communicate with one another, belittle the enemy, and lampoon army life.4 This was a music-hall war during which troops co-opted songs like “Tipperary,” took the nonsense number “Inky Dinky Parlez-Vous” and turned it into “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” and invented new songs like “We Are Fred Karno’s Army.” Music-hall idioms were second nature to the enormous numbers of British-born men in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (cef), while many others had been exposed to it by artistes’ constant pre-war North American tours. Despite this immediate popular cultural response, no official plans had been prepared for entertaining the troops. However, by the end of 1914, London-based performers had begun touring camps and hospitals in Britain and France, often under the aegis of Toronto-born actress Lena Ashwell.5 Meanwhile, civilian theatre owners reduced admissions for men in uniform, and soldiers asked professional stars for props, costumes, makeup, and money with which to equip their own quite professional concert parties.6 By the time the first Canadian troops arrived in Europe, a dynamic, growing, unofficial entertainment circuit already existed. Though Douglas Haig and senior Canadian commanders strongly opposed seconding men permanently to theatrical troupes or allowing these concert parties on the Continent, from the moment they arrived in England, Canadian units were inundated by professional entertainers wanting to perform for the men.7 At the same time Canadian military bands played in English theatres, the ymca established permanent stages at cef camps, while officers throughout the forces began celebrating public holidays by sponsoring concerts.8 Despite this ongoing encouragement, commanders’ unease about a permanent military-wide entertainment system eroded only in the final months of the war, when theatre was recognized as a means of distracting troops while they awaited repatriation. To this end, in August 1918 the cef asked the ymca to establish a school for concert parties, though these were “still to be formed as far as possible from men of low category.”9

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Even if theatrical entertainment abounded from the autumn of 1914, the number of concert parties was dwarfed by cinemas.10 Believing in film’s didactic and propagandistic capabilities, Canadian war leaders experimented with it as a training and recruiting aid, while companies readily supplied shots of troops embarking and other patriotic scenes. The ymca, the War Contingent Association, the Chaplain Corps, and other benevolent bodies played American films for the men, who solicited studios for their latest films, and attended the civilian cinemas that vied with one another for permission to set up shop in cef camps.11 Bowing to pressure from Canadian commanders in England, in the spring of 1916 the government in Ottawa supplied a cinema to each division on condition that the cost of these machines be repaid from ticket revenues. Units that elected to run their cinemas directly searched in their ranks for experienced projectionists, while others turned their equipment over to the ymca, whose “general film circuit” was already distributing movies along the front.12 Consequently, by 1918 units throughout the Canadian Forces boasted about their booming cinemas.13 Throughout the war these concert parties and cinemas consciously recreated Victorian and Edwardian entertainment by mounting endless minstrel shows, pantomimes, and melodramas. Almost the only performer of more recent vintage represented in these venues was Charlie Chaplin, and this directly reflected how he was then transforming the entertainment industry. Therefore, we must abandon Flanders for the moment in favour of London, England, where Charles Spencer Chaplin was born on 16 April 1889. Charlie’s parents were fairly unsuccessful music-hall performers who put him and his older half-brother, Sidney, on the stage. Eventually, the boys joined Fred Karno’s company, the most important and popular British comedy troupe. There was no finer academy than this south London “Fun Factory,” where in 1910 Charlie assumed the lead in The Football Match, Karno’s most popular skit. Chaplin was the star player in the Karno troupe that embarked for the United States that year, where, at the end of 1913, Mack Sennet, the pre-eminent American producer of film comedies, signed Charlie to a one-year contract that paid him $150 per week. The Americanophile Chaplin did not return to England for over a decade. At Keystone Chaplin distilled the characters he had developed under Karno into the “Little Tramp.” The public responded avidly, and by mid-1914

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Chaplin was amongst the most popular cinema stars in North America. British audiences first saw the Little Tramp on screen in June 1914, and their response was similar to that in North America.14 Nevertheless, even though his screen image was popular, Charlie remained virtually anonymous without his makeup because studios did little to promote actors, whom they treated like faceless property. Chaplin changed everything. In November 1914 Sydney arrived in California and became his brother’s business manager. After that, these canny, ambitious men used Chaplin’s popularity to secure unprecedented artistic freedom and financial rewards. In January 1915 Charlie signed a contract (the terms of which were publicly disclosed) that paid him a $10,000 signing bonus and $1,250 per week. The studio then made Chaplin a “celebrity,” denoting a new and all-encompassing type of fame by promoting his off-screen life, in which he was said to embody the American ideal of the sober, humble, and industrious immigrant. This advertising campaign was so successful that, by the end of 1915, Chaplin films completely dominated the North American and British markets. Only the earliest, overwhelming responses to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Madonna, and the Spice Girls can compare to the “Chaplinitis” craze of 1915 and 1916 that was set in motion by this publicity. Apart from attending his films in record numbers, during this period of folly seemingly ordinary men grew Chaplin moustaches and sported Chaplin neckties. Children wearing ten-cent mail-order Little Tramp costumes played with Chaplin toys and squirt rings, while their street games echoed to traditional rhymes that had been updated with references to the screen star. Throughout these years, if one remained at home in a house filled with all manner of Chaplin knick-knacks and gewgaws – like the plaster statuettes advertised in July 1915 by Eaton’s, Canada’s most important department store – then one could dance the “Chaplin Strut,” the “Charlie Chaplin Glide,” or the “Chaplin Waddle.”15 Amateur look-alike contests dominated theatres at which one also saw myriad professional imitators and shows like New York’s Ziegfgeld Follies, whose celebrated chorus line dressed as Little Tramps to perform “Those Charlie Chaplin Feet,” or the London revue, in which Lupino Lane sang “That Charlie Chaplin Walk.”16 All the while, hysterical Americans claimed to feel Chaplin’s psychic impulses and, long before hippies scanned the

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cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for clues about Paul McCartney’s fate, in April 1915 Charlie’s publicity people were forced to deny a rumour that his death had been covered up.17 Through it all, Charlie and Sydney sued anyone who exploited Chaplin’s likeness without permission.18 After intense speculation, in February 1916 the public learned that Charlie’s new contract paid him a $150,000 bonus and $10,000 per week.19 As Chaplin’s salary increased, the story lines in his films began earning him a reputation as something of a socialist.20 Nevertheless, the first six months of 1917 were the most remarkable period of Charlie’s career to date, seeing his masterpieces Easy Street, The Cure, and The Immigrant. His publicity machine was equally fine-tuned. On the day that The Immigrant was released in June 1917 Chaplin signed a new contract that guaranteed him $75,000 immediately and $125,000 per picture. In the press it was said, with some justification, that this so-called “million-dollar contract” guaranteed Chaplin the greatest salary ever earned by anyone, anywhere, in any walk of life.21 Having thus sketched Chaplin’s career we must retreat a bit because one of the most important, but almost completely unexplored, aspects of his sudden and unparalleled fame is that it was a wartime phenomenon. If the Old Contemptibles of August 1914 had only been dimly aware of the Little Tramp, they had nonetheless marched away singing “We Are Fred Karno’s Army,” invoking the ludicrous gags for which Chaplin had first become prominent. Chaplinitis had taken hold in North America and Britain by the following year, and its impact on soldiers was immediate. Canadian men first identified themselves with Chaplin at recruiting offices and training camps. On enlistment, Al Plunkett, who later starred with the Dumbells, the most famous Canadian concert party, was issued a uniform that was far too large, remembering that the mirror told me that a resemblance to Charlie Chaplin’s coat and pants was not coincidental. The only possible remedy for this was alterations by the army tailor, [however,] when I received my hat, I noted that the designer still upheld the tradition of Chaplin. The hat fitted where it touched, chiefly the top of my head, but I accepted it rather than be deprived of my first weekend pass in five weeks.22

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Plunkett’s anecdote distilled Chaplin’s attraction because, like that of soldiers, the Little Tramp’s dignity was “cardboard.”23 But despite his vulnerability, the Little Tramp was the picaresque victor over Ellis Island bureaucrats, officious constables, employers, and love rivals. Indeed, in the final scene of many Chaplin films the Little Tramp literally walked off down the road in search of further adventure. Parallels drawn in the quartermaster’s hut were revisited constantly as men created a new lexicon through which to express their experiences of the war. Throughout the forces, those sharing Chaplin’s surname, of whom there were at least forty-two in the cef, were christened “Charlie” by their mates. Physical traits that recalled Chaplin, such as duck-feet or a lack of coordination, earned men and women (both civilian and military) a variety of comparisons to the screen star.24 In the same vein, French towns evoked alliterative nicknames like “Funky Villas” for Fonquevilliers or “Charlie Chaplin” for Camblain Châtelain. The abbreviation of Shorncliffe’s Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre, or ccac, stood in many a wag’s eye for “Charlie Chaplin’s Army Corps,” while soldiers’ magazines brimmed with jokes and puns confusing Chaplin with the Chaplain.25 Finally, the terrified, scrambling St Vitus dance a man performed when trying to avoid incoming artillery was known in the cef as “a bit of Charlie Chaplin.”26 These evocations of Chaplinitis among men in uniform testify that Charlie dominated wartime cinema; but, as we have seen, for many military leaders cinema was not primarily about entertainment. Soldiers, though, had little truck with anything overly patriotic or jingoistic. They clamoured for American productions and, as they had with their slang, adapted them as a means of expressing the war. Therefore, when that conceited blunderbuss Sam Hughes, Canadian minister of militia, was knighted in 1915, the Dead Horse Corner Gazette, the 4th Battalion’s newspaper, brought him down to size by opining that “next we shall expect to hear of him being ‘filmed.’ Nowadays film fame is real fame. Ask Charlie Chaplin!”27 Chaplin’s real fame was immense by mid-1916, when entire cef concert parties revolved around screenings of his movies, which, as this rhyme from a Canadian trench newspaper shows, were equally dominant in the cinemas.28 At the -th Divisional Cinema They say as Charlie Chaplin ain’t

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A doing of his bit, Yet all the same with all the boys He sure has made a hit; He licks the Western Cowboy and His Broncho-busting trick Of all the reels upon the film Old Charlie is the pick.29

This popularity converted critics like British officer Rowland Fielding who, in November 1917, wrote: last night I went to the Divisional cinema, which is in a restored barn among the ruins of Ervillers. Charlie Chaplin was there, figuratively, and at his best. I confess I am getting to appreciate him; and if you could see how the soldiers love him you would like him too. When his image appears on the screen they welcome it with such shouts of approval that it might be the living Charlie. The men all flock to these shows, and hundreds are turned away nightly.30

As with the more extreme parts of civilian Chaplinitis, photos of the Little Tramp were said to rouse the insensate in military hospitals, and a Lancashire cinema owner swore that, during a Chaplin film, a wounded man had walked the length of the auditorium before realizing that he had forgotten his crutches.31 Nowhere is this insinuation of Chaplin into Canadian soldiers’ minds through exposure to cinema more explicit than in the Lethbridge Highlander, the magazine of the cef ’s 113th Battalion. The unit was raised in southern Alberta in early 1916 and began publishing the Highlander almost immediately. Chaplin was never invoked by the troops during the weeks they spent at Lethbridge, but in late spring 1916 they pitched their tents at Sarcee Camp, which boasted three cinemas of its own in addition to those in nearby Calgary.32 That summer twelve of the myriad advertisements for local movie houses in the Highlander announced specifically that they were screening Chaplin films. These movies changed the way the men articulated their daily experiences. Eight weeks after the first Chaplin advertisement had appeared, Corporal Steeples was lampooned for his supposed ignorance of Charlie.33 Just as in civilian life, by August Chaplin’s screen persona had become inextricably linked to his private life, with a spoof advertisement calling for regimental buglers who would receive “a Charley [sic] Chaplin salary” and a report that

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one of the sergeants had “shaved off his Charley [sic] Chaplin” because the army had refused to pay him a comedian’s wage.34 The identification with the Little Tramp implied by these references was incarnate in the Chaplin impersonators who, from 1915 onwards, dominated troop theatricals, masquerades, and Christmas parties throughout the British and Dominion armies.35 Amongst the Canadian Chaplin impersonators were those who performed at the Ontario Hospital, Orpington, in June 1917 and at the Massey-Harris Convalescent Home, Dulwich, the following month. And in August Will Bryan, billed on posters as the “Regimental Charlie Chaplin,” was one of the stars at a “Grand Naval and Military Carnival” held in London’s biggest stadium. The pace did not abate the following year, with July seeing the premiers of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta entertained near the front by a Little Tramp.36 That same month Driver Quinn, clad as Chaplin, won the mule race during the Canadian Engineers’ Gymkhana at Seaford, while in the autumn a Chaplin impersonator toured Canadian camps and hospitals as part of the Young Soldiers’ Battalion Concert Party.37 As we have seen, Chaplinitis involved invocation and imitation of both Charlie’s private and screen lives. For the most part, where this came within the ambit of military authority it was tolerated; but when, like civilians, men in uniform began growing Chaplin moustaches, commanders reacted severely. The roots of this response lay in pre-war ideals. Fashionable Victorian and Edwardian gentlemen had spent considerable portions of their lives combing, curling, primping, pomading, and waxing their whiskers into many a fashionable conceit, making facial hair a potent sign of masculinity. Given this importance, moustaches were exploited extensively as music-hall props by the likes of the Scottish comedian Harry Tate, whose whiskers had spun like a pin-wheel in a series of immensely popular sketches in the twenty years before the war. But the licence comedians claim to mock social shibboleths does not extend far beyond the theatre. After 1914 young men saw military moustaches just about everywhere, from Lord Kitchener, the bewhiskered embodiment of imperial ideals, to Old Bill, Bruce Bairnsfather’s mythologized Tommy. Furthermore, that Canadian soldiers wore moustaches was articulated in paragraph 1696 of The King’s Regulations and Orders, which stated that “the chin and under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip.”38 This encomium was reinforced by officers like Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Wigle of the 18th Infantry Battalion

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in London, Ontario, who, in November 1914, forbade the men in his command from shaving, citing the scientific principle that it would impede their ability to aim their rifles.39 Like much that was sacrosanct, these edicts made the military and masculine symbolism of moustaches and shaving a target for soldiers’ humour. Men unable to grow moustaches risked being emasculated in print, while those who could were accused of vanity and of imitating Chaplin.40 It is clear that the military regulations were not strictly enforced because men who shaved their moustaches were said to have tired of comparisons to the screen star, and a casualty list might include a man dismissed from the army for “loss of hirsute adornment.”41 Meanwhile, in January 1916 the 67th Battalion’s magazine the Western Scot invoked Chaplin’s litigiousness by claiming that he had written to complain about the size of their pipe major’s moustaches.42 Given military restrictions on dress and personal possessions, Chaplin moustaches were the element of Chaplinitis that could take place most easily at the front. However, Charlie’s personal actions, at a time when his private life was being heavily publicized, made war leaders wary of people who imitated him outside of the relaxed atmosphere of concert parties. This is the context within which we have to view the response to Chaplin moustaches. Whereas Harry Tate had burlesqued fashion, Chaplin waved two fingers at it with a greasepaint smudge that extended very little beyond the nostrils and was unlike traditional moustaches. Furthermore, the Little Tramp was an Untouchable, living by his wits in a cruel society. This subtle screen socialism was reinforced by Chaplin’s reaction to the war. Though just twenty-five when the fighting started, Chaplin did not join up as the United States remained at peace and Britain carried on with “business as usual.” By early 1915 though, performers and athletes were subject to the calls of active service. Nevertheless, Chaplin did not endorse the war and, unlike many of his peers, never alluded to it in his films. Meanwhile, Charlie invoked American neutrality to shield himself from calls to return home and enlist.43 Things brewed until 21 March 1916, when Lord Northcliffe’s London tabloid the Daily Mail reported that a clause entitled “war risks” in the contract Charlie had signed the previous month forbade him from leaving the United States lest he be conscripted under the Derby Scheme. This bow shot was followed the next day by an editorial and two letters that proclaimed going to Chaplin films unpatriotic, immoral, and, because of the size of his salary, akin to enriching a war profiteer.44

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But this opinion was challenged simultaneously in the Daily News and Leader, another London tabloid that reported that because so many officers at the front wore Chaplin moustaches it had become the “red, brown, black or blonde badge of courage,” a popularity that caused the Brazier, the magazine of the Canadian Scottish, to ask a couple of months later: “are moustaches a la Chaplin the regulation style?”45 Further proof of this concourse of civilian and military support for Chaplin’s actions is provided by a cartoon from the 30 March edition of the Bioscope, the principal British cinema journal. Chaplin rests atop bags of money signifying his increasingly Byzantine salary, a common enough image, while the convalescing soldiers who look on are seen to endorse the caption that says that Charlie “does his bit outside the trenches.”46 Nevertheless, British military authorities moved against the moustache craze on 10 October 1916 by publishing General Regulation and Order 1854, which read: “It being now optional whether the upper lip be shaved or not by officers and men, if a moustache is worn no portion of the upper lip shall be shaved.”47 Canadian troops on the Continent were subject to this edict and lamented. In December the Brazier published a front-page narrative entitled “Goodbye Charlie Chaplin,” in which the author described the mountains of gear that he had been issued at enlistment. However, despite believing that facial hair was a fundamental part of a soldier’s uniform and identity, “one thing [he] did not receive from the Army was a moustache.” Unable to obtain moustaches from the quartermaster, he had begun growing them, though the results had been spotty. “Then fortune favoured me. The ‘Charlie Chaplin’ became famous. My previous failure became a success.” Until, that is, the new regulations that were “the official way of saying that ‘Charlie Chaplins’ are taboed [sic].” Chaplin moustaches were, therefore, a tangible sign of the unregulated civilian lives that cef members remembered and to which they aspired. Soldiers’ bemusement about the proscription was embodied in the following Canadian rhyme: Army orders now inform us, In a manner most sublime, If we wear a “Charlie Chaplin,” We commit a serious crime. So bid farewell to dear old “Charlie,” Soldiers both in France and Blighty,

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Lest they should take you out at dawn And shoot you in your “nighty.”48

But other soldiers were more resilient. Advertisements for salves, tonics, lotions, and plasters guaranteed to stimulate even the most reluctant hair follicles had appeared frequently in the Edwardian popular magazines on which trench journalism had been modelled. The Wipers Times, a bef newspaper, mined this seam for humour in December 1916, publishing a spoof advertisement for a patented “moustache trainer” entitled “Why Wear That Charlie Chaplin?”49 Meanwhile, the Brazier’s almanac for 1917 took the opposite view, predicting that Kaiser Wilhelm, whose sculpted whiskers were exactly the sort promised by this advertisement, would shave during the coming August.50 In the end it was not the Kaiser but Canadian soldiers who shaved. So long as they were in Canada or England, and therefore outside of direct British command, members of the cef had continued to wear Charlie Chaplins until 19 October 1917, when the Canadian military published Routine Order 2684, which read: The attention of Officers and other ranks is drawn to the fashion which is becoming prevalent of reducing the moustache to a few hairs on the upper lip. It being now optional whether the upper lip be shaved or not by Officers and men, it must be understood that if a moustache is worn, no portion of the upper lip shall be shaved. This order is to be strictly and literally obeyed.51

Once again Canadian troops responded to the imposition of military authority on a heretofore autonomous part of their lives. In November the cover of the Royal Canadian Artillery magazine, the Barrage, carried a cartoon showing a trooper shaving his Charlie Chaplin beside the text of the order. Soon thereafter, men like private Charlie Donohue of the 160th Battalion lamented their lost moustaches or became the butt of such jokes as, “have you noticed how young the padre looks these days? He’ll never get by the sentry again as Chaplin [sic] until it grows once more.”52 This Canadian action was part of a larger and increasingly negative civilian view of Chaplin. Despite a constituency who believed Charlie’s role was to continue making movies, his confidante Alastair Cooke recalled that Chaplin could not insulate himself from the war’s reach. Whether the Australian troops who sent him a Chaplin song did so as a white feather is unclear. However, so

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Cooke’s account goes, having informed himself about the war, Chaplin began promoting American Bonds.53 But Hollywood is not Damascus, and Chaplin was not Saul. American neutrality had partly shielded Charlie from his critics, while private revelations about the war, like “I’d have gnawed off my fist rather than get into that sort of thing,” were not made public.54 Nevertheless, a segment of opinion was undoubtedly moving against Charlie. In 1917 the United States entered the war, and Chaplin’s foe Lord Northcliffe arrived in New York at the head of the British War Mission, which soon began pressuring ex-patriates to enlist.55 Congress then passed the Espionage Act, which criminalized antiwar activities. Of a naturally fretful disposition, Chaplin, who had only just signed the million-dollar contract, began appearing at private fund-raisers.56 Meanwhile, Chaplin’s publicity managers released a statement in early June saying that he had been rejected for the American draft. But this did not prevent Variety, the most prominent American entertainment journal, from reporting at the end of the month that Chaplin had refused the British Mission’s suggestion that he join up.57 That June, negative views surfaced once again in Britain when the Northcliffe Papers, having been prevented by Chaplin’s solicitors from publishing extracts from an unauthorized biography, began questioning his patriotism. In reply, Chaplin declared his willingness to return home to enlist, even though the British embassy in Washington said that it considered Charlie’s “bit” to be to continue making films. Finally, though their effect on Chaplin is not clear, the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s subsequent peace pact with Germany made socialism all but untenable in the public eye. It was different for men in uniform, who once again saw the humour in this flaring controversy. In October the Sling, the magazine of the Canadian Field Ambulance, published a spoof note from Charlie that read: “I wish I was there boys, but I hear they have Chaplains enough for the present.”58 However, more concrete public signs of support for the war were now necessary, and so, at the insistence of his friends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Chaplin promoted the Third Liberty Bond to huge crowds in New York, Washington, and the southern states in April 1918.59 Though he eventually invested about $350,000 in Bonds himself and sold many millions, Chaplin had no stomach for this work, cut short his tour, and retreated to California.60

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In Hollywood, Chaplin shot his first war comedy, Shoulder Arms, whose equivocal messages about duty and heroism were moot because the film was not released until the end of October.61 When in August it became clear that Shoulder Arms was far from finished, Chaplin made The Bond, a short fundraising slapstick in which the Little Tramp knocked out the Kaiser with an enormous mallet. But even this film was not released until the middle of December. Chaplin’s only other notable attempt at publicly reconciling himself to the war was conducted with the help of Harry Lauder, the sole performer whose popularity with Canadian troops could rival Chaplin’s. Lauder was forty-four years old in 1914 and, thanks to a slew of gramophone recordings and the endless world tours in which his pinch-penny Highland persona had extolled boozing, bairns, and bonny lasses to expatriate Scots from Montreal to Minneapolis and Melbourne, had been one of the most famous singers in the world over the previous two decades. In fact, Lauder had helped create the modern popular image of the Scotsman, causing many a kilted regiment to be nicknamed “the Harry Lauders.”62 Beyond a similar level of fame, the two men had little in common. Put simply, Lauder exulted in the war. Performing in Australia when it began, Harry converted his tour into a patriotic spectacle that crossed Canada and the United States before arriving in London in spring 1915. Thereafter, the inexhaustible Lauder performed patriotic songs in music halls, hospitals, and camps throughout Britain and Canada, and he twice toured the still-neutral United States at the behest of the British War Mission.63 This role as the war’s chief booster became even more personal after Harry’s son John, a lieutenant in the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed by a sniper’s bullet in January 1917. Lauder was overcome by grief. He announced his loss publicly before vowing to carry on and, thereby, earned an unparalleled place in the hearts of the troops. Wanting to witness something of what his son had seen, Harry toured France in June 1917, drawing huge crowds at every stop.64 But even Lauder’s patriotic zeal was not sufficient to overcome the reticence of Canadian commanders about the presence of entertainers near the front. However, in a cablegram of April 1918, Canadian prime minister Sir Robert Borden informed Sir Edward Kemp, the minister of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, that “Canadian soldiers were greatly disappointed that no arrangement

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was made for him [Lauder] to visit them during his last trip” and that all efforts were to be made for Lauder to sing for the troops on his forthcoming French tour.65 Lauder’s wartime endeavours are more than a counterpoint to Chaplin’s reticence. In January 1918 Douglas Fairbanks, still trying to convince his friend to support the war publicly, brought Lauder to Chaplin’s Hollywood studio. Whatever it was that Fairbanks had hoped to achieve, Lauder’s visit became an important early attempt at the modern art of damage control. For two days the war-hating socialist Chaplin and the ardent jingo Lauder swapped costumes and produced a film promoting the latter’s Million Pound Fund for Maimed Men. Though they shot something like eight minutes of film, it has rarely been exhibited publicly. However, photographs of their meeting appeared in magazines and newspapers that spring and helped to counter Chaplin’s increasingly negative image in just the way Fairbanks hoped that personal appearances would.66 In conclusion, Charlie Chaplin’s career between 1914 and 1918 allows one to posit several ideas about the common man’s experience of the First World War. First, the scale of wartime entertainment was astounding. In February 1918 alone, the Canadian ymca hosted over half a million men at some 700 concerts and 400 cinema shows.67 If what we see in the Lethbridge Highlander is correct, then the images presented again and again and again in these films and concerts had an equally dramatic effect on the way men understood and articulated their military service. Moreover, the Little Tramp’s adventures in dozens of films released before November 1918 made him an apposite allegory for the wartime experience. For, though his jumblesale dignity was buffeted and menaced, his triumphs convinced men in uniform that they too would survive. On the whole, officers tacitly encouraged troop theatre and cinema and tolerated the allusions they engendered. Only the physical appearance of the Chaplin moustache contravened military dignity. Furthermore, a common trench popular culture steeped in musichall idioms helped Canadian troops relate to and communicate with their British and Imperial allies. But, while Chaplin embodied this tradition, he also represented a distinctly North American cinema culture – one in which themes like the immigrant, wild west, and settler experiences helped to promote a sense of independence from Europe and Empire.

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Therefore, a popular culture encompassing both Chaplin and Lauder broadcast ambivalent messages about duty and patriotism. At times these mitigated the war’s horrors, while at others they proclaimed martial determination. These sometimes contradictory messages reflected the way that this popular culture centred on, and continuously communicated with, the home front and civilian life. The cef was an army of temporary soldiers who increasingly demanded access to professional entertainment. Once gained, this exposure to popular culture was reflected in the men’s humour, allusions, and speech. In some fairly sophisticated ways, which are not yet completely clear, this wartime trench popular culture reminded men of who they were and what they were fighting for. It is a truism to say that Chaplin’s service was greater in Hollywood than it could ever have been in the ranks. Far more telling was the resilience with which Charlie’s name was invoked and the way in which the men accepted his socialism, pacifism, and wealth. These evocations of Chaplin demonstrate that, until we fully comprehend that the “civilians in uniform” who fought the First World War did so while clinging defiantly to their pre-1914 lives, we will not fully understand what it meant to fight. notes 1 See, for instance, Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1989); Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975); Samuel Hynes, A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture (London: Bodley Head, 1990); and Jonathan Vance, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1997). 2 See, for instance, J.G. Fuller, Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies, 1914–1918 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990); Michael T. Isenberg, War on Film: The American Cinema and World War One (London: Associated University Presses, 1981); Peter Liddle, Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced (London: Leo Cooper, 1996); and Matthew Paris, The First World War and Popular Cinema: 1914 to the Present (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999). 3 Jay Winter, “Popular Culture in Wartime Britain,” in European Culture in the Great War: The Arts, Entertainment and Propaganda, 1914–1918, ed. Aviel Roshwald and Richard Stiles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 333.

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4 “Are We Sorry We Enlisted,” Action Front, May 1917, 4. 5 Lena Ashwell, Myself a Player (London: M. Joseph, 1936); National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac), rg 9 iii, vol. 1, file 1–1–24, passim. See also the invitation for Canadian soldiers to attend George Robey’s celebratory ball in June 1919, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 2792, file 16–1–30. 6 See, for instance, Letter, 18 January 1918, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 2792, file 16– 1–30; “That Same Big Moon,” The Canadian Sapper, March 1919, 208; and Patrick B. O’Neill, “The Canadian Concert Party in France,” Theatre History in Canada 4, 2 (Fall 1983): 192–208. 7 For commanders’ reticence, see, for instance, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 668, file 8–2, “Entertainments – General,” 3 vols., passim; nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 1203, file C-16–5, “Visiting France – ymca Concert Party,” passim; and nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 97, file 10–14–11, “Entertainments,” passim. 8 See, for instance, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 668, file 8–2, “Entertainments – General,” vols. 1–3, passim. 9 For the quote, see “Proposed Entertainment Programme, Canadian Corps 1918–1919,“nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 973, file 103.3, “Organization – Training School for Concert Parties,” n.d. See also nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 942, file 104.3, “Establishment – Training School for Concert Parties.” 10 Isenberg, War on Film, 16 and 205; Arthur Marwick, The Deluge: British Society and the First World War (London: Norton, 1970), 140–3. 11 “Animated Pictures,” The Brazier, 15 February 1916, 1; rg 9 iii-B-1, vol. 668, file 8–2, “Entertainments, General,” letter, 27 December 1914; Military Vaudeville by 144th Overseas Battalion, cef, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 5081; Souvenir Programme: 101st Overseas Battalion, wli, 10 April 1916, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 5081; nac, rg 24, vol. 4585, file 2-R-3, “Recruiting: Moving Picture Slides,” passim. 12 Memoranda dated 22 March 1916 and 24 March 1916, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 3877, fol. 9, file 10; A.H. McGreer to Canadian Corps, 4 October 1917, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 942, file E-102–3; and nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 1479, file C-153–7, “Cinema Operator for Canadian War Records Office,” passim. 13 See, for instance, “The cetc Cinema,” The Canadian Sapper, July 1918, 159. 14 David Robinson, Chaplin: His Life and Art (London: Collins, 1985), 130. 15 Iona and Peter Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (Oxford: Clarendon, 1959) 108; Milton, Tramp, 92–5; Charles Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s Own Story, ed. Harry M. Gould (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 139–40 (quote taken from p. 140). For Eaton’s, see “Eaton’s Daily Store News,” Toronto Daily Star, 20 July 1915, 14; Wes D. Gehring, Charlie Chaplin: A Bio-Bibliography (Westport, ct: Greenwood,

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16 17 18 19

20 21 22 23 24

25 26

27 28 29 30 31 32

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1983) 61–6; Roger Manvell, Chaplin (Toronto: Little Brown, 1974) 95; Robinson, Chaplin, 148 and 152. For Ziegfeld, see Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography (London: Plume, 1964), 172; for Lupino Lane, see Robinson, Chaplin, 152. Milton, Tramp, 93. Ibid., 124–5; Robinson, Chaplin, 216. Robinson, Chaplin, 157–8. As one American commentator pointed out, this was equivalent to the salaries paid to almost the entire Senate (see Milton, Tramp, 102). Milton, Tramp, 108 and 126–7; Robinson, Chaplin, 168. David Robinson, Chaplin: The Mirror of Opinion (London: Secker and Warburg, 1983), 32 and 222. Patrise Earle, Al Plunkett: The Famous Dumbell (New York: Pageant, 1956), 30–1. Ernest G. Black, I Want One Volunteer (Toronto: Ryerson, 1965), 76–7. “Hot Stuff from the Cook House,” Western Scot, 30 October 1915, 8; Guy Chapman, A Passionate Prodigality (London: Mayflower, 1967), 248. Martin Middlebrook, The First Day on the Somme, 1 July 1916 (New York: Norton, 1972), 110; “Baseball,” Convoy Call, 5 August 1916, n.p.; Untitled cartoon, The O’Pip, April 1917, 7. Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 2 vols. (London: Routledge, 1974), 1: 141. Reginald H. Roy, The Journal of Private Fraser, 1914–1918 (Victoria: Sono Nis, 1985), 240. A Second World War instance occurred in December 1940 after Winston Churchill had seen a private screening of Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Later that evening Churchill stumbled to the floor while trying to sit in an armchair. When discovered by his private secretary John Colville, the prime minister commented that he had performed “a real Charlie Chaplin”; John Colville, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries, 1939–1955 (London: Norton, 1985), 319. Untitled, Dead Horse Corner Gazette, October 1915, 3. “Seventh Battalion Concert,” The Listening Post, 21 July 1916, 113. “For the Sun Shines Bright on Charlie Chaplin,” Now and Then, 5 August 1916, n.p. Rowland Fielding, War Letters to a Wife: France and Flanders, 1915–1919 (London: Medici, 1929), 223. Robinson, Chaplin, 187 “Under Canvas at Sarcee Military Camp,” The Lethbridge Highlander, 15 June 1916, 7.

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33 Untitled, The Lethbridge Highlander, 3 August 1916, 5. 34 “Wanted,” The Lethbridge Highlander, 17 August 1916, 7; “?” [sic] The Lethbridge Highlander, 31 August 1916, 6. 35 “Christmas Day 1916 in Macedonia,” The Convoy Call, Christmas 1916, 13; “Dance Notes,” cro Bulletin, 15 February 1919, 2; “Things We Want to Know about the Dance”, cro Bulletin, 26 February 1919, 2. For the civilian popularity of Chaplin costumes, see Robinson, Chaplin, 213. 36 “Western Premiers Meet Charlie Chaplin at the Front,” Canadian Daily Record, 13 July 1918, 1. 37 “cetc Gymkhana,” The Canadian Sapper, July 1918, 163; Undated photograph, nac, pa5775, Letter, 19 August 1918, nac, rg 9, iii, vol., 2792, file E-322–33, “Entertainment of Troops and Recreation Tours.” 38 The King’s Regulations and Orders for the Army (London: hmso, 1914), 325. 39 Barbara M. Wilson, Ontario and the First World War, 1914–1918 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), xxxviii. I am indebted to Barbara Wilson for bringing this to my attention. 40 Untitled, The Western Scot, 1 March 1916, p. 5; “No 3 Company”, The Western Scot, 1 March 1916, 3. 41 “Our Casualty List,” The Dead Horse Corner Gazette, October 1915, 7; “Our Thirst for Knowledge,” The Dead Horse Corner Gazette, December 1915, 17. For an officer who had shaved, see “Our Thirst for Knowledge,” Dead Horse Corner Gazette, December 1915, 18; “What the Sergeants’ Mess Wants to Know,” The Vics Patrol, 3 June 1916, 3. 42 “Pipe Baun Skrachs,” The Western Scot, 19 January 1916, 9. 43 Chaplin, Autobiography, 158. 44 “Charlie Chaplin,” Daily Mail, 21 March 1916, 5; “Charlie Chaplin,” Daily Mail, 22 March 1916, 3; “Charlie Chaplin,” Daily Mail, 23 March 1916, 3. 45 “What the Boys Would Like to Know,” The Brazier, 20 May 1916, 3; “Chaplin Badge of Courage,” The Daily News and Leader, 21 March 1916, 5. 46 “Our Topical Review,” The Bioscope, 30 March 1916, 1371. 47 General Routine Order 1854, 10 October 1916, (London: hmso, 1917). 48 “Farewell ‘Charlie Chaplin,› The Brazier, 20 December 1916, 1. 49 “Why Wear That Charlie Chaplin?” The bef Times, 1.1, 1 December 1916, n.p. 50 “The Brazier Almanac for 1917,“The Brazier, 10 February 1917, 4. 51 Routine Order 2684, 19 October 1917, nac, RG 9 iii, vol. 3780. 52 “Take Down That Camouflage”, The Barrage, November 1917, cover page; “Hut Scrapings,” Bruce in Khaki, 2 November 1917, 56; “Camp

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53 54 55

56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67

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News,” Bruce in Khaki, 2 November 1917, 59; Untitled, The Canadian Sapper, May 1918, 110. Alastair Cooke, Six Men (New York: Knopf, 1976), 29. As quoted in Milton, Tramp, 126. Milton, Tramp, 132; Charles J. Maland, Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image (Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1989), 145–66. Milton, Tramp, 134–5. As reported in Milton, Tramp, 133–4. “Appreciations on Our First Issue by Noted Celebrities, (Imaginary),” Sling, October 1917, 8. Chaplin, Autobiography, 229–30. For figures see Milton, Tramp, 134–5, 143. Roger Manvell, Chaplin (Toronto: Little Brown, 1974), 112–14. “From the Headquarters Staff,” The Brazier, 20 December 1916, 8. The Times History of the War, vol. 21 (London: The Times, 1920), 104. Harry Lauder, A Minstrel in France (Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart, 1918), passim. Untitled Cablegram, 23 April 1918, nac, rg 9 iii-A-1, vol. 97, file 10–14– 11, “Entertainments.” Charles Chaplin, My Life in Pictures (London: Bodley Head, 1974), 167. “Combined English and French Report of the Canadian ymca,” February 1918, nac, rg 9 iii, vol. 96, file 10–13–1, “ymca and ywca.”

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3 Immortalizing the Canadian Soldier: Lord Beaverbrook and the Canadian War Records Office in the First World War ti m c o o k The Canadian Corps was one of the finest fighting formations in the First World War, regarded by both its allies and its enemies as shock troops that were thrown into the bloodiest campaigns to deliver victory.1 With an almost nonexistent professional army before the war, Canada raised 600,000 men, of which 400,000 served overseas from 1914 to 1919. As with other national armies fighting on the Western Front, the casualties were appalling; by the Armistice, 60,000 Canadians were dead, another 170,000 had been maimed and injured, and this for a country of not yet eight million people. Despite this bloodletting, or perhaps as a result of it, the Canadians earned a reputation as determined and efficient soldiers. The Canadians, however, did not spring forth as natural warriors, striding to victory in the wake of hopeless and fruitless attacks by the British Tommies on their flanks. Like the other divisions within the British Expeditionary Force (bef), the Canadian divisions were indeed continually bloodied and forced to adapt. The Canadians learned through the dissemination of doctrinal lessons within the whole bef as well as through their own independent evaluations. But the blood curve was high. In fact, the four Canadian divisions suffered separate trials by fire – Ypres, St Eloi, Mount Sorrel, and the Somme. The 1st Division, which had been raised in September 1914, was nearly annihilated in its first engagement at the 2nd Battle of Ypres in April 1915. Nonetheless, these untried colonial troops proved their mettle by withstanding an overwhelming German onslaught of men, metal, and, for the first time, lethal chlorine gas clouds.2 A year later, at St Eloi, the 2nd Division was given its first major operation: to take over the recently cap-

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tured battlefield from the 3rd British Division, which had, behind the successful detonation of several mines, wrestled a few hundred swampy metres from the German defenders. Fighting through intolerable conditions for useless terrain, the Canadians failed badly, displaying gross inadequacies at the battalion, brigade, and divisional command levels. Holding the wrong part of the front and thus unable properly to use the advantages of their defensive artillery fire, the 2nd Division’s men were driven from the British-captured ground. Looking amateurish and, in some cases, incompetent, several officers, including the division’s commander, General Richard Turner, vc, were seen as definite liabilities by their British superiors.3 Two months later, in June 1916, the newly raised 3rd Division was welcomed to the Western Front by a ferocious German assault that blasted the Canadian troops from Mount Sorrel, one of the remaining British-held high grounds in the Ypres salient. Under a monumental artillery barrage, whole Canadian battalions were wiped out in the front lines, and the division’s senior commander, General M.S. Mercer, was killed. Although the Canadians eventually recaptured the ground, it was another painful introduction to trench warfare.4 At that time, a Canadian in England noted that, among politicians and serving officers, there were allegations of “slackness” in the Canadian forces.5 A British professional officer suggested that the Canadians were fine troops and would result in a capable army if only they shot all of their officers!6 Four months later, as the costly Somme campaign wound down to an inglorious end, the 4th Canadian Division was thrown into the line to capture Regina Trench, a fortified system that, since September, had eluded Canadian stormings. With the trench pounded by thousands of tonnes of high explosives, the 4th Division’s attack on the night of 10–11 November, behind a near perfect barrage, resulted in the capture of what was left. Unfortunately, further assaults against fortified positions over the next week resulted in withering casualties from enfilade German machine gun, defences in depth, and unseen artillery fire. The 4th Division secured its objectives – or what were left of them – but at the cost of 4,000 casualties.7 Inexperience, bad luck, and some genuinely poor performances left the British viewing the Canadians as suspect soldiers. Their tactical and doctrinal evolution was difficult in 1915–16, but the Canadians were fortunate to have open-minded commanders, efficient British staff officers, a steady flow of reinforcements, a nuanced and successful attack doctrine involving close cooperation

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between artillery and infantry, an adept engineering system, and a homogeneous corps structure, which allowed all four Canadian divisions to fight together as a consistent team. These qualities and the ability to learn from their own mistakes eventually evolved into a Canadian “way of war,” which resulted in the capture of the formidable Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and the string of operational victories that followed at Hill 70 in August 1917, Passchendaele in OctoberNovember of that same year, the robust defence of their front during the German March Offensive of 1918, and their eventual spear-heading of several British advances during the Last 100 Days. By the last two years of the war, the Canadians had evolved into elite troops. Despite the very real advantages of the Canadian Corps, these were not the qualities that were emphasized in early publications and communiqués. Instead, the notion of a democratic army was highlighted over and over again – an army that consisted of amateurs and civilians who voluntarily joined to fight for the Empire and drive the militaristic German professionals from the field of battle. The Canadians were described as natural soldiers who, through their northern heritage and innate abilities as hunters and backswoodmen, had qualities that, when combined with their adventurous colonial mindsets and their disdain for discipline, naturally resulted in brilliant battlefield performances. Little, if anything, was mentioned of the good work of the British regulars who guided the Canadians to maturity; little was mentioned of the blood test of battle and the need to learn through failure during the first two years of the war; little was mentioned of the very real organizational advantages afforded the Canadians through their unique formation and dominion status. Both isolated and idolized, Canada was on the frontier of the Empire. With seemingly free land and a country without deep class divisions, those in England’s congested cities could imagine Canada carved out of the wilderness by a “hardy and industrious people.”8 Much of the writing by imperial “mythmakers, enthusiasts and fictionalists” envisioned Canada as a country of hunters and sports enthusiasts, an unspoiled land that was as rich in adventure and resources as it was deficient in culture and history.9 The attributes of those who had settled this harsh land were strength, vigour, and purity. “We are the Northmen of the New World,” proclaimed R.G. Haliburton, a Canadian novelist, providing evidence that it was not only the British who were interested in constructing a hardy image for the new nation.10 These ideas were subsequently transferred to Canadian

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soldiers when they arrived in England. This was a strong race with all the qualities of which any Social Darwinists would approve. The Canadians looked, acted, and spoke differently than did their British cousins. Despite this perceived sense of otherness, more than 70 per cent of the first contingent was British-born, and, by the end of the war, only a little more than 50 per cent of the force was Canadian-born.11 As the war progressed, the Canadians gained confidence, and they, like their Australian counterparts (who were also seen as an elite formation), began to develop a sense of national identity. The creation of a new identity did not occur by chance, however. The Canadian Corps had an active and sustained propaganda campaign that, throughout the war, publicized, highlighted, and emphasized Canadian uniqueness. The organization behind this promotion was the Canadian War Records Office (cwro), headed by Max Aitken, later Sir Max and then Lord Beaverbrook, an expatriate Canadian millionaire with ties to both military and political leaders in Canada and the United Kingdom. With characteristic passion, Aitken employed his considerable skills as a journalist, press baron, and member of Parliament to foster and sustain a relentless campaign to propagate the deeds of the Canadians. Journalistic endeavors that accentuated Canadian exploits; the commissioning of artists, photographers, and cinematographers to craft images and works that reinforced the unique nature of the Canadian soldiers for exhibitions and general circulation; the creation of commemorative journals; and even the publication of the first popular histories all worked together, especially when combined with the very real improvements of the Canadian Corps on the battlefield, to enrich the Canadians’ reputations as elite troops and as unique soldiers within the bef. With the gathering war clouds in August 1914, the Canadian government and people were woefully unprepared for a military campaign. When war was declared, the mad scramble of patriotism and partisanship led to the quick mobilization of a first contingent of 30,000 troops. Although the Canadian government asked for little control over its forces – in the House of Commons, for instance, Sam Hughes, the minister of militia, would admit his department had little idea as to where their soldiers were headed – the government still needed somebody in England to keep them abreast of the ever-changing situation on the Western Front.12 Max Aitken was that man.

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Aitken was born in 1879 and raised in New Brunswick. Excelling neither at his studies nor at sports, he did exhibit a command of business, running several profitable schemes at an early age. In his early twenties, he began to acquire small companies, to partition off shares, and to purchase more. An exuberant and energetic figure who revelled in deal making, he earned grand profits while others floundered in his wake. After making millions from buying up, amalgamating, and creating monopolistic conglomerates, and then selling out at the right time, Aitken left Canada for England in 1910 under a cloud of suspicion.13 Viewed by some as a market exploiter, perhaps he had simply made too much money too quickly. Nonetheless, Aitken wasted little time in establishing himself in English society. He won a parliamentary seat in 1911 and began to buy up newspapers shortly thereafter. Socially active in some of the best London clubs – certainly more so than he was in the House of Commons – he also contributed journalistic pieces to Canadian newspapers. At the same time, Aitken had kept in contact with the Canadian Conservative Party, especially Borden and Hughes, giving the latter campaign money for the 1911 election. Thus, when war was declared, Aitken was seen not only as the Canadian expert in Britain but also as a political ally. And despite Aitken’s shady reputation, which worried Prime Minister Robert Borden, Sam Hughes, who whole-heartedly distrusted the British military, had Aitken appointed to the position of “eyewitness.” It was an impressive title but carried only a vague mandate. Within the administrative chaos of the first Canadian contingent (which had resulted from Hughes appointing several commanding officers, all with conflicting and overlapping responsibilities, as well as not liking one another), Aitken expanded his eyewitness role to include the collection of war records as well as the self-appointed task of liaising with the British at general headquarters (ghq).14 Equally important, he became the historian and publicist for the Canadian overseas forces. In a report to Prime Minister Borden, Aitken described his vision: “to follow the fortunes of the First Division in France, to share its experiences … and finally to enshrine in a contemporary history those exploits which will make the First Division immortal.”15 This was not just talk, and Aitken embraced his role as archivist-historian for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (cef). With his own enormous wealth and social standing, along with his colonial status and the backing of Hughes, he was able to tour the front, interview officers

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and men, and collect records from combat soldiers. Although Lord Kitchener had tried to control or quash all information, Aitken was able to utilize his unique position to ensure that he was given full access to the front.16 As Canadian eyewitness, Aitken began to send back weekly intelligence reports to Borden and Hughes as well as to produce journalistic accounts of the Canadians that were published both in England and Canada. Widely distributed, these eyewitness reports focused on carefree colonial characteristics, ignoring the fact that more than half of the first contingent was British-born, and began to craft an image of the Canadian soldier as a distinct fighting force. Although Aitken had garnered success with his journalistic coverage, it was not until the valiant but costly stand at 2nd Ypres in April 1915 that he, and the 1st Canadian Division, were projected into the limelight. In three days, the Canadians lost 6,000 men, a third of their fighting force. The Canadians took the brunt of the attack, but they were supported by penny-packets of British and French troops, and eventually much stronger reinforcements. However, in Aitken’s widely published 1 May journalistic account, it appeared that the untried Canadian division had stopped the German advance alone. Canadian troops holding out against impossible odds and the nefarious release of chlorine gas resulted in a gripping tale that stirred its readers in the super-charged atmosphere in England and in Canada. As he recounted, the first contingent, made up of the “Canadian people,” had fought bravely and, although “enormously outnumbered,” had sacrificed all to hold off the German onslaught. Their performance was “amazing” as the division consisted of “men who … at the outbreak of the war were neither disciplined nor trained.”17 Aitken turned the battle into an epic story, in line with the rousing accounts of British army last stands against legions of natives in one of their many nineteenth-century imperial battles. This time, though, it was the Canadian boys who held off overwhelming odds, falling in droves but keeping chins up and eventually stopping the hordes of Huns advancing behind their death clouds. Aitken’s success in carving out a distinguished record for the Canadians as an almost separate fighting force, rather than as Dominion troops fighting within a much larger bef structure, left some British politicians and officers complaining that it appeared to be only the Canadians fighting the Germans, with a little support from the British.18 As the official Canadian record officer, Aitken also began to collect war records. By the beginning of 1916 he had established the cwro –

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an agency that brought together a number of prominent writers to act as both record-keepers and publicity men for the cef. He had a firm belief in building an archives for future generations and leaving a legacy with which to lay “down the bedrock of history.”19 At the same time though, he also realized that he would need the records so that he and his writers would be able to fashion further journalistic and historical accounts. Acting on that desire, Aitken turned towards a full-length monograph on 2nd Ypres in order to “keep popular interest in the army alive, and above all to stimulate that local pride in local regiments which is the foundation of the Canadian Corps.”20 Aitken published Canada in Flanders in January 1916 to public acclaim; it went through four printings in the first month and had been published in twelve editions by March.21 Not only was the book purchased by the public in great numbers but the British press also waxed on about it. The Evening Standard reported as follows: “The heroic deeds of the Canadians at Ypres make me tingle with pride to be a kinsman to such soldiers. Fruit farmers, editors and ranchers all showed themselves to be of the finest fighting stuff of the world.” The Daily Express also picked up on the notion of the volunteer contingent: “Sir Max points out, over and over again, that the Canadian Army is almost entirely an army of amateurs.” Aitken was lauded for his evocative prose and the fact that his work, unlike that of so many of the war journalists, was, as one reviewer noted, based on “a large number of military diaries and official documentation.”22 Here, finally, was history based on official and trusted sources, created by the soldiers themselves. Supremely patriotic, sanitized, and uncritical, Canada in Flanders must be viewed as a product of its time. Ever the newspaper man, Aitken focused on individuals, not just officers, in order to reach out to the millions of families and friends left behind in Canada and England. Following the precedent of his first Ypres communiqué, Aitken included regimental names and even personal accounts of bravery and sacrifice in his “heroic” social history. As a result, the text ran into problems with the British censors. Refusing to be cowed, however, Aitken fought with all his political connections, eventually convincing Hughes to appeal personally to the War Office to have the censors cease and desist.23 Aitken believed in the importance of uniting the nation behind the war effort, and he found it absurd that the inclusion of the names of lieutenants or privates – the very people with whom those on the homefront could identify – would somehow

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endanger military intelligence. As Aitken wryly noted later in the war, while still trying to profile the Canadian actions, “here the spirit was willing but the censorship was by no means weak.”24 Nonetheless, with his considerable influence, Aitken succeeded in passing Canada in Flanders through the censors, and his was one of the first popular histories, along with Ian Hay’s The First Hundred Thousand, to reach the public. Canada in Flanders was indeed, as the reviewers suggested, an important work. It broke the rigorous censorship rules, thereby personalizing the war for those on the homefront. In the process, it emphasized the importance of individuals, creating a new pantheon of heroes. Acknowledging that the account was necessarily “incomplete and partial,” but that this was a work meant to bridge the gap between firing line and homefront, Aitken stayed clear of the controversies surrounding the battle (e.g., the poor control exhibited by the 1st Division’s commander, General Edmund Alderson; Brigadier Richard Turner’s mishandling of the 3rd Brigade’s battalions; and even the confusing retirement of Brigadier Arthur Currie from the front to gather reinforcements in the rear).25 Aitken’s goal was simple: he wrote “to increase the repute of Canada and her soldiers.”26 He seemed to have struck the right chord – even if it was not a critical one – and Canada in Flanders had an enormous impact with regard to shaping the perception of the colonial soldier. Riding the success of his short historical work, Sir Max Aitken (he was knighted in 1916) and his cwro writers continued to promote the deeds of the Canadians in the field. With the wildly successful Australian Anzac Book, which had sold over 100,000 copies and had helped to strengthen the Australian soldiers’ identity, Aitken sent out a general communiqué to all commanding officers stating that the cwro wished to publish stories, poems, photographs, cartoons, and personal accounts of battle from front-line soldiers in a similar commemorative “war book for the masses.”27 Although touted as a work by Canadian soldiers for Canadian soldiers, Volume 1 of this commemorative work, entitled Canada in Khaki, consisted of a large number of journalistic and cwr-authored accounts, not to mention articles by Sir George Perley, the overseas minister at the time, and other Canadians of note. Nonetheless, there were poems and cartoons from soldiers, and these gave the journal a sense of authenticity. Published in January 1917, Canada in Khaki was immensely successful, selling 40,000 copies in the first

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week and completely selling out in England.28 Three more volumes followed, each one selling tens of thousands of copies, helping to further disseminate this manufactured image of the Canadian soldier as thoroughly different from that of the British Tommy. Yet what defined the Canadian soldier? What made him different? The first volume of Canada in Khaki is useful in analyzing the image that Aitken was attempting to construct. Perley opened up the issue by writing that the Canadian forces were “native-born, British-born, and young men from all the varied races that in recent years have been carried by the tide of immigration into the Golden West.” T.G. Roberts, Aitken’s stand-by historian at the cwro, went one step further, musing that, although some of the Canadians may have been British-born, “He is no less a Canadian, either in his own heart or in the hearts of his friends … Whatever a man used to be, he is now what his cap badge proclaims him.” These Canadian soldiers were, according to A.M. De Beck, editor of Canadian News and another contributor to the journal, “men from the prairies, from the wheatfields and the lumber-yards of the West; men accustomed to the saddle and to sport of all kinds; men who can wield an axe more deftly than I can hold a pen; men accustomed to face death twenty times a year or more, and who have waged war with Nature or with wild beasts all their lives – what wonder that they sprang to the call of war as surely never men sprang before. The clash of battle was as music in their ears.” The size of Dominion troops in relation to the stunted “lads” from England’s congested inner cities was emphasized in order to show their warrior nature. One final example must suffice. A cartoon by H.M. Bateman, entitled: “The Canadian in Peace and War, As Imagined by an English artist,” goes to the heart of the image that Aitken was trying to construct. The drawing shows a young man stalking a bear, lumberjacks sitting on a great log, voyageurs exploring the land, gold prospectors striking it rich, and cowboys shooting bottles off a barrel. This “peacetime” iconography led directly to an image of a Canadian infantryman with bayonet herding three German prisoners through the line. With a devil-may-care grin and stonehewn features, it was clear that our English artist equated the rough Canadian land with rough and determined soldiers. From cartoons, photographs, and editorials, a unique image of the Canadian soldier – who seemed to only reside in the west, who was bred to defy nature, and who was a crack shot due to hunting bears all year round – was being constructed in the pages of the cwro-sponsored works.29

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Along with this textual blitzkrieg of journalistic accounts, histories, and commemorative works, Aitken turned his attention to the commissioning of official war photographs and films: “We must see our men climbing out of the trenches to the assault before we can realise the patience, the exhaustion, and the courage which are assets and the trials of modern fighting men.”30 The cwro would be the conduit for allowing the Canadian people and all the world to know what the Canadian soldier was doing in France. The image was simple and was repeated over and over again: the Canadians were contributing and helping to win this war, and fighting as a distinct unit rather than as “colonial cannon-fodder” within the larger bef.31 Following his mandate of documenting the war and then publicizing it for the Empire and its allies, Aitken fought hard with British military censors and eventually succeeded in having official photographers attached to the cwro. From April 1916 onward, these photographers toured the front, shooting some 7,000 photographs. As the photographs filtered back to cwro headquarters, after first passing through the censors, Aitken had his staff send them out to both British and Canadian newspapers to accompany articles and to be used in photographic montages.32 These “official” images of war carried with them the implicit assumption that they were accurately representing events, time, and place.33 As the cwro claimed in one report: “It has been possible to employ them [photographs] in order to obtain a permanent and vivid impression, accessible to everyone, of what our men have achieved.”34 The idea of representing the war for its participants was as important as was leaving a legacy for future generations. Nonetheless, Sir Max and his staff were not above doctoring photographs to create an image of the war that was conducive to how the cwro wanted it portrayed. Darkroom tricks that added shading, outlining, or shell bursts, and even the suppression of images, were all employed to assist in the interpretation of photographs. Aitken, for instance, ordered his official photographers to cover up the Canadian slain when they were photographed but not to “bother about the German dead!”35 The cwro’s most famous series of photographs, entitled, “Over the Top,” show Canadian soldiers, bayonets at the ready, about to go “over the bags” and close with the enemy. It was a stirring image. It was also a fake. These particular photographs were constructed and shot behind the lines; nonetheless they did portray the essence of battle, bringing this stark image of war to all those

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who anxiously waited on the homefront. Some soldiers may have scoffed at the images, but the public readily accepted them as accurate reflections of battle.36 The photographs were shaped and composed to tell a particular story, to capture a specific impression, to create a representation of perhaps not so much the truth as what the photographer (and his employer) wished the public to see. Layered with meaning, the photographs did not simply present the “facts” of war. Volume 2 of the Canadian War Pictorial, a series of four publications lavishly sprinkled with official photographs, can be used as an example. This attractive publication contained nearly a hundred images of Canadian soldiers at work and play, training for battle, and returning from battlefield engagements as though they were simply walking off a football pitch. The photographs were accompanied by short essays pertaining to the 1916 Canadian advance on the Somme, and they contained such preposterous labels as Dominion soldiers advancing behind their artillery barrage “at a walk, laughing and chatting.” Sometimes the images were more subtle. A photograph of a Canadian with a head and arm wound, captioned “Cheerful, though wounded,” was contrasted with a photograph of two emaciated German prisoners in conversation, captioned “Two German prisoners argue over a loan.” Laudatory accounts of General Julian Byng (the second Canadian Corps commander) and the introduction of tanks, when displayed next to photographs of artillery trains and marching soldiers, gave every impression that the Canadians had rolled over the Germans, who were obviously too busy arguing over loans to fight the colonial troops. Suffice to say, war was no cakewalk – not anywhere, and especially not on the hecatombs of the Somme. These official photographs, with their implied notions of truth and authenticity, along with their supporting narrative, functioned as a site where the cwro could portray and manufacture a specific image of the war – one that was conducive to creating the impression that victory would soon be clinched. Furthermore, that victory, as was clear if one studied the cwro publications, was being delivered by the Canadians. Although the cwro commemorative books, like Canada in Khaki and Canadian War Pictorial, sold in the tens of thousands, Aitken also established a series of exhibitions for the public. The first, in December 1916 after the bloodbath of the Somme, was an exhibition of official, oversized war photographs displayed at Grafton Galleries in London. The ultimately successful show brought in thousands of dol-

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lars in profit, which was duly donated to patriotic funds. On 16 July 1917 a second exhibition at Grafton was struck, and over 80,000 flocked to see the subject of the recent victory at Vimy Ridge. One photograph alone measured 6.6 metres by 3.3 metres and was reported on extensively in the British newspapers.37 Here was the image of the Canadian soldier, larger than life and delivering the first tangible and large-scale victory of the year. These symbolic representations of war travelling across the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada were, like all things intimately connected to the war, immensely popular and helped to further distinguish the Canadians from the rest of the bef. Along with the ability of photographs to capture a perceived snap shot of reality, the new popularity of films brought stories and images to the public, transporting the viewer through time and space. Indeed, by the summer of 1916, more than twenty million cinema tickets were being sold each week in England.38 With “going to the pictures” being embraced by all levels of society, film was seen as a unique tool for bringing a message to the masses. The importance of the cinema was not lost on the cwro: one memorandum noted that, with regard to propaganda, film “might indeed almost have been invented for the purpose. There is a limit to the public appetite even for the best of written propaganda.”39 The British had established a film committee in early 1915 but were quick to note Aitken’s competing Canadian organization when it was established in June 1916.40 Acknowledging his success with the Canadians, the British quickly asked Aitken to combine the organizations and to act as chairman. Cameramen were sent out into the field to capture the war on film, and these images were quickly cut, edited, and then distributed throughout the Empire. As he wrote in a private letter to a friend, Aitken, in his position as head of the film committee, would ensure that “Canadian interests [would be] safeguarded.”41 And that they were. Aitken instructed that Canadian footage should be used in every bi-weekly picture that his committee produced and distributed. These short films, when combined with two longer films on the Battle of the Somme and Vimy, were to create the effect of “victory succeeding victory.”42 Beaverbrook and his staff continued with their publicity campaign throughout the war, publishing histories, assisting regimental historians, and supporting Canadian journalists who wrote panegyrics about the cef. The cwro even peddled those same pro-Canadian

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bulletins and articles to British newspapers. Going one step further, in 1917 Aitken began to produce a cwro newspaper called the Canadian Daily Record. More than 750 issues were eventually published, and, at its height, it sold 15,000 issues a day.43 This was not pure propaganda as its purpose was to keep the Canadian soldier apprised of events on the homefront, but it did help to distinguish the Canadians from other troops. Finally, Aitken played an important part in supporting the Canadian War Art Program, which hired British and Canadian war artists to paint the war. Although the work of the war artists was not aimed at publicizing the Canadians per say, it did leave a poignant historical and artistic legacy of the war.44 “There is no event of any importance that ever happens up and down that long line in France,” boasted the cwro, “which is not chronicled, photographed or painted for the benefit of the people who sit at home.”45 Without detailing every publication, exhibition, or film produced by the cwro, it can be said that Lord Beaverbrook (as Sir Max Aitken became in 1917), with his self-appointed mandate of “immortalizing” the Canadian war effort, gave the relatively small number of Canadian divisions and units within the bef much greater status than their numbers warranted.

conclusion As Hughes’s right-hand man in England, Aitken was more than just a dusty archivist looking to gather records for some future official historian: he was the man who manipulated the command of brigadiers and battalion commanders, who had the first Canadian Corps commander removed, and who had a hand in bringing down the Asquith government.46 He was probably the most influential Canadian in England up until Sam Hughes’s removal from office in December 1916. Even after that he was strong enough to ensure that his already established cwro continued to receive full support from Canadian administrators. And, although Lord Beaverbrook had many interests during the war, he remained devoted to the idea of making “the deeds of Canada shine brightly in this War.”47 Yet Aitken not only allowed the Canadians to shine but he also constructed an image of the Canadian soldier as he wished him to be portrayed. The cwro’s primary goal, which was uniform despite the medium, was to issue a never-ending barrage of propaganda in order to distinguish and delineate the role of the Canadians within the

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wider context of the bef. At the same time, Canadians were depicted as a northern race of tough, civilian soldiers, unhindered by discipline and resilient in ways that, due to differences in breeding, their British cousins could not hope to be. Beaverbrook’s emphasis on racial and national attributes was clearly in conflict with reality. In shaping a reputation, the cwro avoided the real structural and tactical reasons for success and ignored the failures of 1915–16. Whatever the operational successes of the Canadian Corps on the Western Front from 1917 onward – and it was an unbroken run – one must at least acknowledge that a portion of the Canadian reputation as shock troops came from the cwro’s publicity campaign. This publicity campaign was, moreover, strongest during the important years of 1915–16, when the Canadians needed support to counter their decidedly average battlefield performances. It is always difficult to estimate the effect of propaganda, but evidence, albeit anecdotal, suggests that the cwro had an impact. Certainly selling hundreds of thousands of books and magazines, combined with holding well attended exhibitions and films, resulted in the Canadians receiving recognition for their battlefield exploits. John Buchan, author and future Canadian governor general, certainly saw the results of years of work while in his capacity as director of Britain’s Department of Information, when he wrote that the wide circulation of cwro products might lead one to believe “that Canada is running the war.”48 Although propaganda campaigns carry with them connotations of dissimulation and cover-up, this article does not suggest that the reputation of the Canadian Corps is undeserved. The Canadians were rightly considered as one of the finest fighting formations on the Western Front. They won this reputation because of battlefield victories from 1917 onward. They also won this reputation because Canadian soldiers were chippy and saw themselves as a different breed of men. Canadian soldiers were quick to disparage the British soldiers on their flanks and, perhaps buying into some of the propaganda that the cwro was producing, saw themselves, for the most part, as superior soldiers. As well, throughout the war, Sir Arthur Currie and his generals demanded full recognition for their accomplishments, and one need only look at the surviving correspondence in the Currie Papers to see his frequent anger over the perception that the British were trying to downplay Canadian victories.49 At the same time, these perceived slights to the Dominion armies were viewed differently within the rest of the bef, with many imperial divisional

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commanders complaining that their units were largely ignored in favour of the more easily identifiable Dominion troops.50 General Henry Horne, the British 1st Army commander, wrote: “The Canadian Corps is perhaps rather apt to take all the credit it can for everything, and to consider that the bef consists of the Canadian Corps and some other troops.”51 Whatever reputations were produced during the war, it can be said that the Canadians were, quite simply, glory-hounds. But that, of course, has been a characteristic of all elite troops throughout the history of warfare. The Canadians were not weak soldiers, hiding behind a veneer of propaganda. Their battlefield victories speak for themselves. However, one must be more critical of the work of Lord Beaverbrook and the cwro. Attempting to unravel his historical legacy is essential if one is to understand not only the operational history of the Canadian Corps but also the equally important, albeit less tangible, domain of reputations and memory that continues to underpin the basis of modern historical inquiry. notes 1 For this tactical and operational evolution, see Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps (University of Toronto Press, 1992); Tim Cook, No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1999); W.F. Stewart, “Attack Doctrine in the Canadian Corps, 1916–1918” (ma thesis, University of New Brunswick, 1980); Ian Brown, “Not Glamourous, But Effective: The Canadian Corps and the Set-Piece Attack, 1917–1918,” Journal of Military History 58 (July 1994): 421–44; Ian McCulloch, “The ‘Fighting Seventh’: The Evolution and the Devolution of Tactical Command and Control in a Canadian Infantry Brigade of the Great War” (ma thesis, Royal Military College of Canada, 1997); A.M.J. Hyatt, General Sir Arthur Currie: A Military Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press and Canadian War Museum, 1987). Despite this start, more work needs to be done in bringing these studies together. 2 See Tim Cook, No Place to Run, chap. 1; and Daniel Dancocks, Welcome to Flanders Fields (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1988). 3 See Tim Cook, “The Blind Leading the Blind: The St. Eloi Battle of the Craters,“Canadian Military History 4 (Fall 1996): 24–36; Thomas Philip Leppard, “Richard Turner and the Battle of St. Eloi” (ma thesis, University of Calgary, 1999).

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4 See D.J. Goodspeed, “Prelude to the Somme: Mount Sorrel, June 1916,” in Policy by Other Means, ed. Michael Cross and Robert Bothwell (Toronto: Clark Irwin, 1972), 145–61. 5 Beckles Willson, From Quebec to Piccadilly and Other Places: Some AngloCanadian Memories (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929), 221. 6 A.J. Trythall, Boney Fuller: The Intellectual General, 1878–1966 (London: Cassell, 1971), 34. 7 There is no detailed study of the Canadians on the Somme. Those interested in tracking the four Canadian divisions from September to November 1916, and the actions that cost 24,000 casualties, can turn to the official history: G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914– 1919 (Queen’s Printer, 1964), chap. 6. The 4th Division’s casualties are listed in National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac), Records of the Department of National Defence, rg24, vol. 1844, file 11–11b. 8 Donald F. Harris, “The Presentation of a British Canada in Shropshire c. 1890–1914,” in Imperial Canada, 1867–1917, ed. Colin M. Coates (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 1997), 196. 9 R.G. Moyles and Doug Owram, Imperial Dreams: British Views of Canada, 1880–1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 7–8. 10 Carl Berger, The Sense of Power (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 53. See Chapter 5 for an analysis of the perceived characteristics of Canadians. 11 Desmond Morton, When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1993) 17, 278. 12 Desmond Morton, A Peculiar Kind of Politics: Canada’s Overseas Ministry in the First World War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982) 5. For the evolution from colonial irregulars to junior allies, see Steve Harris, Canadian Brass: The Making of a Professional Army, 1860–1939 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); and Desmond Morton, “Exerting Control: The Development of Canadian Authority over the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914–1919,“in The Cold War and Defense, ed. Keith Neilson and Ronald Haycock (New York: Praeger, 1990), ......... ............................ 13 For the best account of Aitken during this period, see Gregory P. Marchildon, Profits and Politics: Beaverbrook and the Gilded Age of Canadian Finance (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996). 14 For this administrative confusion, see Morton, A Peculiar Kind of Politics; and Harris, Canadian Brass. 15 nac, Records of the Department of Militia and Defence (hereafter rg9), vol. 4746, fol. 175, file 1 (hereafter 175/1), cwro, Report Submitted to … Sir Robert Borden, 11 January 1917.

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16 One of Aitken’s contacts at British ghq forwarded a secret letter to him by the chief censor. It read: “The trouble about the Eye Witness business is that the Eye Witness is ipso facto more or less official. I could not undertake to vet the writings of the correspondent with regard to the truth.” See Lord Beaverbrook Papers (hereafter bp), reel A-1764, Aitken to Hughes, 13 October 1916. These are microfilmed copies of the Beaverbrook Papers held in the Beaverbrook library. For Aitken’s disobedience of censorship rules, see also Peter Buitenhuis, The Great War of Words: Literature as Propaganda, 1914–1918 and After (London: B.T. Batsford, 1989), 80. 17 Tom Driberg, Beaverbrook: A Study in Power and Frustration (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1956), 84. 18 A.J.P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 88. 19 rg9, vol. 4746, 175/1, cwro, Report, 11 January 1917. Denis Winter has gone so far as to say that the Dominions’ control over their records allowed them to keep more documents than the British, who culled many war records. Although Winter’s arguments are sometimes based on conjecture or negative evidence, as well as coloured by his palpable dislike for British senior commanders, his point on the Canadian control of their own records is important. See Winter, Haig’s Command: A Reassesment (London: Penguin, 1991), 6, and chaps 14 and 15. 20 rg9, vol. 4746, 175/5, Canadian War Records Office (draft history, 21 February 1918). 21 One report claimed 250,000 copies were sold by May 1916. bp, reel A-1765, Report by Sir Max Aitken to the Right Honourable Sir Robert Borden on the Joint Establishment of the Canadian Representative at the Front and the Canadian War Records, n.d. (ca. 19 May 1916). 22 Reviews collected in rg9, vol. 4732, 140/7 – file on Canada in Flanders, Extracts from Press Opinion of Canada in Flanders, n.d. (ca. March 1916). 23 bp, A-1764, Aitken to Hughes, 13 October 1916; Aitken to Hughes, 27 October 1916. 24 rg9, vol. 4746, 175/1, Canadian War Records Office, Report submitted by the Officer in Charge to the Right Honourable Sir Robert L. Borden, 11 January 1917. 25 Quotation taken from rg9, vol. 4746, 175/5, Canadian War Records Office, (draft history, 21 February 1918). 26 Maria Tippett, Art at the Service of War: Canada, Art and the Great War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 20. 27 With regard to basing the Canadian book on the Anzac book, see rg9, vol. 4746, 175/3, Minutes of Meeting, 22 September 1916, which refers to how the cwro was looking for a publisher for the Canadian “Anzac”

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30

31 32

33

34 35 36

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Book. Quote from rg9, vol. 4746, 175/1, cwro Report, 11 January 1917. It is interesting to note, however, that Charles Bean, the Australian reporter, archivist, and official historian, based his Australian War Records Section on Lord Beaverbrook’s cwro. See Ann Millar, “Gallipoli to Melbourne: The Australian War Memorial, 1915–19,” Journal of the Australian War Memorial 10 (April 1987): 34. nac, mg 27, II-D-9, A.E. Kemp Papers (hereafter kp), vol. 52, file 9, Beaverbrook to Kemp, 21 April 1917. The quotations in the above paragraph are taken from Canada in Khaki: A Tribute to the Officers and Men Now Serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (London: cwro, 1917), 1. rg9, vol. 4746, 175/1, Canadian War Records Office, Report submitted by the Officer in Charge to the Right Honourable Sir Robert L. Borden, 11 January 1917. Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook: A Life (London: Hutchinson, 1992), 129. On the sending of photographs to newspapers, see rg9, vol. 4746, 176/3, Memorandum on the War and Organization of the Historical Section, cwro, 1 January 1917; rg9, vol. 4746, 176/7, cwro, The Canadian Daily Record, 31 May 1918. My reading of photographs has been influenced by Joan Schwartz, my colleague at nac. See Joan Schwartz, “Records of Simple Truth and Precision: Photography, Archives, and the Illusion of Control,” Archivaria 50 (Fall 2000): 1–41; and “We Make Our Tools and Our Tools Make Us”: Lessons from Photographs for the Practice, Politics, and Poetics of Diplomatics,” Archivaria 40 (Fall 1995): 40–75. rg9, v. 4746, 175/5, Canadian War Records Office (draft history, 21 February 1918). Peter Robertson, “Canadian Photojournalism during the First World War,” History of Photography 2, 1 (January 1978): 41. This photographic scandal was uncovered by Peter Robertson in his “Canadian Photojournalism during the First World War.” See also Peter Robertson, Relentless Verity: Canadian Military Photographers since 1885 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972). rg9, v. 4746, 175/2, untitled report on the activities of cwro, 22 August 1917; Tippett, Art at the Service of War, 27. Nicholas Reeves, “Through the Eye of the Camera: Contemporary Cinema Audiences and Their ‘Experience’ of War in the Film, Battle of the Somme,” in Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experience, ed. Petter Liddle and Hugh Cecil (London: Leo Cooper, 1996), 781.

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39 rg9, vol. 4746, 175/5, Canadian War Records Office (draft history, 21 February 1918). 40 The British had established a committee in October 1915 in order to collect footage and show pictures throughout the Empire. Upon being posted as minister of information in early 1918, Lord Beaverbrook resigned from the committee and was replaced by Sir William F. Jury. On 13 June 1918 the committee’s work was transferred to the minister of information and was, therefore, once again under Beaverbrook’s control. See kp, vol. 133, file C-27, Second Report of the War Office Cinematograph Committee, September 1918; Nicholas Reeves, Official British Film Propaganda during the First World War (London: Croom Helm, 1986), esp. chap. 2; Peter Morris, Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1895–1939 (Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1978), 58–61. 41 rg9, vol. 4746, 175/2, memo on Lieutenant J.W. Smith (ca. 1917); kp, vol. 133, file C-27, Memo re Hon. Captain J.W. Smith (ca. 1919); bp, A-1766, Cinematograph (draft by Beaverbrook, n.d., ca. July 1919). 42 bp, A-1766, Cinematography, Draft by Beaverbrook (July 1919). 43 rg9, vol. 4746, 176/7, cwro, Canadian Daily Record, 31 May 1918. 44 For information on the Canadian War Memorial Fund and the war artist program, see Maria Tippett, Art at the Service of War; and Laura Brandon, “Shattered Landscape: The Great War and the Art of the Group of Seven,” Canadian Military History 10, 1 (Winter 2001): 58–66. 45 rg9, vol. 4770, 143/7, draft article, Canadian War Records Office in France, n.d. (ca. 1918). 46 For Aitken’s power in Canadian war politics until Hughes was asked to resign in December 1916, see bp, reel A-1764, Aitken to Hughes, 19 September 1915; Aitken to Hughes, 26 September 1915; Hughes to Aitken, 28 September 1915; Aitken to Hughes, 6 October 1915; Hughes to Aitken, 2 November 1915. For Aitken’s role in bringing down the Asquith government, see Driberg, Beaverbrook, 86–109; and, the more recent book by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook: A Life. 47 rg9, iii-D-3, vol. 4676, 4/3, Aitken to Sims, 9 February 1916. 48 bp, Buchan to Sir Reginald Brade, 4 August 1917, as cited in Tippett, Art at the Service of War, 21. 49 See the Currie Papers, nac, mg30, E100. See also rg9 iii-A-2, vol. 353, file 106, Memo re Press Censorship, 31 October 1918; Embury to C.P., ghq, 1 November 1918; Embury to Bristol, 10 November 1918. 50 For Dominion anger regarding coverage, see Martin Farrar, News from the Front: War Correspondents on the Western Front, 1914–18 (Gloucestershire:

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Sutton, 1998), 172–3; See E.M. Andrews, The Anzac Illusion: Anglo-Australian Relations during World War I (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 171–2; and John Williams, Anzacs: The Media and The Great War (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1999), 179, 199–201, 245–6. 51 Desmond Morton, Canada and War: A Military and Political History (Toronto: Butterworths, 1981), 133.

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4 John McCrae’s Wars john e. hurst In this chapter I argue that John McCrae, author of the First World War’s single most famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” participated in three wars, not simply the two for which he is generally known. To make the case, it is necessary first to understand his background. John McCrae was born on 30 November 1872 in a modest stone bungalow on Water Street facing the Speed River, about three blocks from my own house in Guelph, Ontario. He was the second son of Lieutenant Colonel David and Janet McCrae; the first son, Thomas, was two years older, and a younger sister, Geills, followed six years later. John’s grandfather, Thomas McCrae, had emigrated with his family from Scotland in 1849. Recognizing the potential of the lumber business, he acquired a sawmill, which soon was thriving. The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 created a demand for uniform cloth that the American woolen mills were unable to satisfy. Thomas entered a partnership to found the Guelph Woolen Mills, a very successful enterprise, which gained a national reputation for excellence. He also became a very successful livestock breeder and was known across North America. John’s father David was born in 1845, studied in the Ontario Veterinary College, and, upon graduation, helped his father run the family business enterprises (in which, as a stockbreeder, he attained fame beyond that of his father). David had been a military man at heart ever since he had first heard tales of the exploits of the highland regiments and of the clan McCrae. At the age of twenty he attended a threemonth training course for militia officers and subsequently found himself on active service when the Irish-American Fenian Brotherhood engaged in a cross-border raid into Upper Canada, hoping thereby to force the separation of Ireland from Britain. From this experience, David learned that the Canadian militia badly needed artil-

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lery. In 1866 he was one of the founders of Guelph’s first militia artillery units (which, incidentally, is still in existence). David McCrae met and married Janet Eckford in 1870 and set up house in a cottage on Water Street. Both of John’s parents had a profound influence upon him. He had his father’s natural cheerfulness and well developed sense of humour – and some of his temper. His mother understood the sensitive and imaginative “inner self” behind the apparent sociable extrovert. All the children were instilled with the family’s staunch Scottish Presbyterian spiritual values: discipline, honesty, directness, and disdain for injustice and inequality. John’s own love of things military can be attributed to his father’s active role as assistant adjutant at the headquarters of the militia artillery in Ontario; certainly, from an early age, he was accustomed to seeing his father in uniform. No doubt his enthusiasm and imagination were also fired, as were those of most boys in his era, by the late nineteenth-century expansion of the British Empire and the worldwide exploits of “the soldiers of the Queen.” In 1866 John’s father took him along on a business trip to England and Scotland, where he became acquainted with the ancestral homeland of clan McCrae, an experience that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Not surprisingly, John could hardly wait until he was old enough to join the Guelph Highland Cadet Corps, which he did after returning from the United Kingdom. Soon he was an officer, and in 1887 he was awarded the gold medal by the Ministry of Education for being the best-drilled cadet in the Province of Ontario. The next year he became a bugler in his father’s militia artillery unit. Meanwhile, both Tom and John did well at school; at the age of sixteen, John graduated from Guelph Collegiate. In 1888 – just as Kaiser Wilhelm ii came to power in Germany – John became the first Guelph student to win a scholarship to enter the University of Toronto. After attending university for three years, he was forced to take a year’s leave due to severe asthma attacks. This condition was to plague him from time to time for the remainder of his life. There were other misfortunes. In his second year at Toronto, John fell deeply in love with an attractive young woman of his own age named Alice McCrae (same surname but no relation), the sister of a Toronto classmate. Alas, Alice contracted a fatal case of typhoid fever; her death had a profound effect on John, who was a pallbearer at her funeral. He wrote a short sad verse recording the event in his own words:

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Figure 4.1 John McCrae, portrait by Evan Macdonald (William E. Macdonald and Flora Spenser Collection) In the cold moist earth we laid her, When the forest cast a leaf, And we wept that one so lovely Should have a life so brief.1

Clearly, John found an outlet in poetry for the depth of his grief. It is interesting to note that many of the poems he wrote around the end of the century are variations on the theme of achieving peace after death. At the same time, the university student newspaper, the Varsity, sought student contributions, and John began to write short stories for the paper, usually with a military theme and a moral point. In 1898 John graduated with a gold medal from the University of Toronto Medical School. Following a brief residency at Toronto General Hospital, he proceeded to intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where his brother Tom had already been a resident. At Johns Hopkins he had the chance to work closely with Sir

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William Osler, the famous Canadian medical doctor whose advanced ideas and methods influenced John, Tom, and many others in their medical careers in Canada, the United States, and around the world. John McCrae’s first war was the Boer War, which began in October 1899. Initially, the British army was supremely confident of its ability to deal with this challenge in short order, but that, of course, is not how it turned out. The Boers proved determined, tenacious, and wellarmed adversaries who fought hard for their own homeland. Canada was immediately drawn into the conflict, and the government announced that it would send 1,000 men at once; they sailed in late October 1899. At this time, John was working through a fellowship at McGill University in Montreal. Upset with himself for failing to volunteer to go with the first contingent, he obtained a postponement of his fellowship and was able to join the second contingent, which left the following January. John was now in an awkward position: a promising medical doctor, he was also a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery in charge of a section of “D” Battery. This was the real beginning of John’s second war, the internal conflict between the lifesaving medical doctor and the death-dealing artillerist. For the moment, the warrior was winning over the medical practitioner, but the conflict would continue with varying degrees of intensity throughout his life. John’s battery left Guelph for Ottawa on 16 January 1900. Some 30,000 people saw them off, including the governor general and “an unidentified but cheery American who handed out cigars and flasks containing a brown fluid,” (rum, probably) as a rather conservative Guelph newspaper put it.2 The battery sailed from Halifax on 20 January on what proved a long and difficult voyage for men and horses alike: twenty-six of the latter died before they reached Cape Town. Cape Town, however, was an enjoyable experience. John delighted in meeting the regiments whose names had thrilled him as a boy: the Buffs, the Seaforth Highlanders, the Grenadier Guards, and the Black Watch. He even met Rudyard Kipling there. He wrote home that he was “getting used to soldiering and felt that he was born to it.”3 Interestingly, his asthma symptoms disappeared. A visit to the military hospital at De Aar was a different matter. McCrae was shocked by what he saw, commenting: “No ramc for me or any other mc. There is a big breach and the medicals are on the far side of it. For absolute neglect and rotten administration, it is a

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model. I am ashamed of some members of my profession. Every day 15 to 30 Tommies die from fever or dysentery. The soldiers game is not what it is cracked up to be.”4 D Battery was involved in several actions, usually following long and tedious marches through inhospitable terrain. John carried out his duties in a professional manner and won the respect of his men. As one put it, John was “the constant companion and friend of the men, the life of the camp, sang songs and kept the boys cheerful when there was little to cheer about. The boys think he is alright – the most popular officer of the lot.”5 McCrae never talked about his Boer War experience, but certainly he saw his share of that conflict’s tragic cost, most notably the terrible losses from such killers as enteric fever and malaria. (The visitor to small country churches in England cannot help but note the excessive number of Boer War men listed as “died of disease” as opposed to “killed in action.”) As the war wound down, the Canadians returned home in 1901 to enthusiastic welcomes. John now returned to McGill, spending four years there in the study of pathology. He then received the appointment of resident pathologist at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital, where his duties included teaching both bacteriology and pathology to medical students. He appears to have excelled at teaching, especially in demonstrating the human side of medicine, finding no difficulty in moving from imposing professor to friendly adviser. He apparently related well with his students. John found the years between 1905 and 1911 very busy indeed. He was heavily engaged in private practice as well as his hospital work and teaching – the latter responsibilities including a position as parttime adjunct professor at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. His expertise in pathology was demonstrated by his collaboration on two pathology textbooks. He also moved easily in higher society. One dinner that he attended, for example, was at the invitation of Hamilton Gault, a wealthy Montrealer who, upon the outbreak of the First World War, raised a new regiment at his own expense: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry went on to become one of Canada’s best known and most effective infantry fighting forces in both world wars and in the Korean War. John also enjoyed a number of trips to Britain and Europe, in the process passing his membership examination to London’s exclusive Royal College of Physicians, a much-coveted designation in the medical profession.

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In August 1910, as a doctor, McCrae was invited to join an expedition with Earl Grey, governor general of Canada, to canoe from Norway House on Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay, following the river route used by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Following this eleven-day trip, the expedition went by steamer around Labrador and Newfoundland, visiting Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and finally Quebec. Shortly after their return, John received a letter from the governor general testifying to his wit and effervescence: “It was a great pleasure to have you as one of my party,” wrote Lord Grey, “and I am very grateful to you for the very real contribution you made to my own individual and to the general enjoyment of the trip. You were able to beat the record of the Arabian Nights for I believe the 3,000 miles of our travel were illuminated by as many of your stories.”6 John’s expertise was by now recognized on an international scale. He attended a congress in England in 1913 and was once again in Britain when, in August 1914, war was declared. John immediately cabled the director of Artillery Permanent Force in Ottawa, offering his services “as a combatant or medical if they need me.” Thus, it seems, he left the resolution of his long-lived internal conflict to others, though there can be no doubt of his sense of duty, which was widely shared by those of his generation. He now returned to Canada, and by the time he arrived in September he had been appointed as a brigade surgeon with the rank of major. Interestingly, he was also appointed as second in command of an artillery brigade. It would appear that higher authorities were not quite sure which side of his training was most important. But the first call was to artillery; after all, it ran in the family. John’s father David, at age seventy-one, recruited an artillery battery and took it to England; however, to his bitter disappointment, he was not allowed to accompany it to France. John, on the other hand, seems never to have worn the red cross armband; rather, contemporary photos show him with sword and revolver. John was in the first Canadian contingent, which left Canada on 3 October 1914: 1,424 officers, 29,200 other ranks, and over 7,000 horses, one of which, named Bonfire, was John’s – a much valued gift from a friend.7 “A mob of farmers on a bunch of green horses,” said one British staff officer, displaying an unappreciated class prejudice that did not sit well with either McCrae or the troops. The advice of British general Douglas Haig did not help: “Pretend to be English soldiers or the

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Germans will walk all over you.”8 This rather disparaging reception was not enhanced by the worst winter weather in memory, which turned the Salisbury Plain military camp into a muddy morass. In February 1915 the Canadian division moved to France and was sent to Flanders. Canadian artillery participated in the battle of Neuve Chapelle in March and then was pulled out for further training west of Ypres. On 20–1 April they were ordered to relieve a French Territorial division northeast of that town. On the afternoon of 22 April, a light breeze blew from the east; the Germans released chlorine gas from canisters concealed in their front lines. The gas attack was accompanied by a heavy artillery barrage. The French line broke and the troops fled in panic and confusion, many dying of suffocation from the gas. The Second Battle of Ypres was under way. The gap created had left open the western flank of the Canadian lines. McCrae’s battery set up shop close to the west bank of the Yser canal about two miles north of Ypres and began shelling the German troops then located about 1,820 metres east of the canal. John could see the Cloth Hall and the tower of St Martin’s cathedral in Ypres; in a rare quiet moment, he drew a sketch of them, which confirms how close the battery was to the town. Despite the debilitating effects of the chlorine gas, the Canadian soldiers fought relentlessly; continuing to suffer dreadful casualties, they managed to hold this critical sector of the Ypres salient for another sixteen days. Four of the seven Victoria Crosses won in the battle were awarded to Canadians. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, in command of the British 2nd Army, reported that “it was only the gallant actions of the Canadians that saved Ypres; otherwise one of the greatest disasters in the history of the British army might have occurred.”9 My own high school physics teacher in Toronto, Colonel George Cline, a very quiet, gentle soul, won the Distinguished Service Order, which ranks after the Victoria Cross, in that battle (although he never spoke of it). In the trenches and in the advanced dressing station in what became known as the “Essex Farm Bunker,” John tended hundreds of wounded and gassed soldiers every day. He was surrounded by the dead, the dying, and those with dreadful wounds; this went on for more than two weeks. Subsequently, he wrote to his mother: “The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased

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for 60 seconds – and behind it all was the constant sights of the dead and wounded, the maimed and the terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.”10 Sergeant Major Cyril Allinson, whose daughter lives in our neighbourhood and who spent a considerable amount of time with John McCrae, wrote “that McCrae’s orders were to stay in the first aid post but that he frequently left it to aid the wounded outside the post and that he should have received a medal for gallantry.”11 On 2 May 1915 one of John’s closest friends and a student of his at McGill University, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, was killed instantly as a result of a direct hit from an 20.32-centimetre German artillery shell. His remains were carefully gathered into a burlap bag for burial. Next day John recited the service of committal as best he could remember it; the remains were buried with a picture of Helmer’s fiancée wrapped in the burial shroud. That same day, John wrote his famous poem, and most commentators agree that it was inspired by Alexis Helmer’s death. In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved, and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch, be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

There are several contradictory accounts regarding the precise details of when and where John wrote this poem. I am inclined, however, to believe Cyril Allinson, who says he saw McCrae writing it while sitting on the back step of an ambulance during a lull in the shelling. Whatever the truth may be, John was eventually persuaded to submit it to the London Spectator, which rejected it. “Born of fire

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and blood during the hottest phase of the Second Battle of Ypres,” the best known poem of the war – perhaps of any war – finally appeared anonymously in Punch magazine on 8 December 1915. When at last McCrae’s authorship was revealed, his name was misspelled; and, as they say, the rest is history.12 “In Flanders Fields” soon became very popular not only with the public but also with the troops, who saw it as their own poem. It spoke to the soldier of realities he knew in terms he understood. Unable to help Alexis Helmer or any others who had died, John had given them a voice through his poem. Many who know the poem today, however, are unaware of the Canadian connection – even in Flanders. A little over ten kilometres from Ypres, there are 155 Commonwealth War Graves Commission (cwgc) cemeteries, and thirty more within sixteen kilometres of Vimy between Arras and Ypres. Between the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres and the perimeter walls surrounding Tyne Cot Cemetery a few kilometres to the east, are inscribed approximately 85,000 names of soldiers who have no known grave; in the cemetery itself are to be found the graves of 12,000 men who were able to be identified. It is the largest cwgc cemetery on the Western Front. Shortly after Helmer’s death, John was transferred to No. 3 Canadian Hospital as a major and was soon to be lieutenant-colonel in charge of medicine. The hospital was staffed by doctors and medical students from McGill University and had over 1,000 beds. John was not happy with the appointment; once again his personal war came to the fore. As he put it to Cyril Allinson, “all the goddamn doctors in the world will not win this bloody war. What we need is more and more fighting men.”13 The hospital was located on the northern French coast near Boulogne and consisted mainly of tents. The fall gales resulted in many of the tents and marquees periodically being flattened and re-erected. McCrae insisted upon sleeping in a tent “like the boys at the front,” eschewing the wooden huts provided for officers. The weather was so bad that eventually the hospital had to be relocated to an old Jesuit college on the coast road to Calais. Wooden huts were now added to increase capacity. Here McCrae, always fond of animals, acquired a dog named Bonneau, who became a trusted friend of both John and Bonfire. When he could escape from his heavy administrative and medical workload, the three would enjoy long rides through the tranquil French countryside where John would attempt to ease his physical and emotional stress.

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The war ground on, and the hospital beds were filled as a result of further battles in Flanders, Hill 60, Loos, the Somme, Beaumont Hamel, Courcelette, High Wood, Hill 62, Vimy, Messines, and Third Ypres (otherwise known as Passchendaele). “The Last Post” was played as often as fifteen times a day at military funerals, a constant reminder of the cost of it all. John’s own mental health improved somewhat following his terrible experience in the 1915 battle, but his physical health was on the decline. His asthma attacks stayed with him, possibly exacerbated by the effects of the chlorine gas inhaled at Second Ypres. On 24 January 1918 McCrae was appointed consulting physician to the 1st British Army, the first Canadian to be so honoured. Unfortunately, he was never to take up the appointment; he was already bedridden with pneumonia. He was moved to No. 14 British General Hospital for officers, which was located in Wimereux just north of Boulogne on the French coast. On 26 January he developed meningitis and fell into a coma. John McCrae died at 1: 30 am on 28 January 1918 in his forty-sixth year. He was buried two days later in the cwgc section of the Wimereux communal cemetery, honoured by one of the largest military funerals of the war. It was attended by a large number of hospital nurses and staff and several generals. Bonfire led the procession with the traditional white halter and John’s riding boots reversed in the stirrups. The gravestones marking the grave in his section of the cemetery are horizontal as the ground is unstable. “In Flanders Fields” is engraved on a stone monument nearby, and the street adjacent to the cemetery is named after McCrae. In a typical irony of history, it is misspelled as “Rue MacCrae.” There are two interesting postscripts to the story of John McCrae. The first is the discovery, and subsequent acquisition of, John McCrae’s war medals in Winnipeg by Arthur Lee, an immigrant to Canada and now a Canadian citizen. A young American was bidding vigorously for the medals at auction, but Lee managed to outbid him, feeling that the medals should not leave Canada. The cost to Lee, who donated the medals to the McCrae House Museum in Guelph, was about Cdn$509,000. In my view, this was a rather remarkable act of patriotism. The museum itself, located in the McCrae limestone cottage at 108 Water Street, was restored with federal government funds in 1968 and is open to the public. The second postscript concerns poppies. Moina Michael, an American ymca worker who had been briefly trapped in Italy when war

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broke out in 1914, spent most of the war working at the University of Georgia. On 8 November 1918 she was in New York City attending a conference of overseas ymca war secretaries and a young soldier happened to leave a copy of the Ladies Home Journal on her desk. Reading through it, she came across “In Flanders Fields,” and while she had read it before, it was printed next to a striking picture of ghostly soldiers rising over ground covered with poppies and white crosses. She was moved to write her own reply, entitled “We Shall Keep the Faith,” in which the mention of the red poppy is highlighted. She purchased some silk poppies at Wanamakers Department Store and later sold them to conference participants “in memory of our soldiers dead.”14 Thus John’s poem inspired the first sale of the Flanders Fields memorial poppy. Remembrance Day for Britain and the Empire was inaugurated by King George V and was first observed on 11 November 1919, with two minutes of silence at precisely 11: 00 am local time throughout the Empire. Publicity followed across the United States, and by September 1920 the American Legion had made the Flanders Fields memorial poppy its national emblem of remembrance. By 1922 Britain had adopted the poppy as a symbol, and soon afterwards it had become the universal symbol of remembrance in all the Allied countries. One final memorial to John McCrae deserves mention. In Montreal, John’s medical colleagues and friends remembered him and two other teaching staff colleagues who had died during the war with a handsome stained glass window in McGill’s medical school, unveiled by General Sir Arthur Currie in 1922. The centre panel is dedicated to McCrae and shows row upon row of crosses among blood-red poppies. The inscription reads: “Pathologist, Poet, Physician, Soldier, a Man Among Men.”15 notes 1 Dianne Graves, A Crown of Life: The World of John McCrae (Staplehurst, Kent: Spellmount, 1997), 19. 2 John F. Prescott, In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae (Erin, on: Boston Mills, 1985), 12. 3 Graves, Crown of Life, 70. 4 Ibid., 207. 5 Prescott, In Flanders Fields, 41. 6 Graves, Crown of Life, 136.

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Prescott, In Flanders Fields, 78. Ibid., 81. John Swettenham, To Seize the Victory (Toronto: Ryerson, 1965), 89–90. Jennifer Charles, Lt.-Col. John McCrae (Ottawa: Veterans Affairs Canada, 1988), 7. Prescott, In Flanders Fields, 93. Alan Judd and David Crane, First World War Poets (London: National Portrait Gallery, 1999), 60. Prescott, In Flanders Fields, 99. Graves, Crown of Life, 265–6. Ibid., 274–5.

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5 From Amateur to Professional: The Experience of Brigadier General William Antrobus Griesbach pa t r i c k h . b r e n n a n Despite a renaissance in the study of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (cef), understanding of its leadership remains firmly Curriecentric, and there is still little known about the many senior commanders or staff officers who played key supporting roles. The Great War evolved dramatically, both tactically and technically, with the battlefield of the Last Hundred Days bearing little resemblance to the Somme of two years earlier. In practice, by 1917 and 1918 actions were increasingly being fought by battalion and brigade commanders rather than by the higher echelons. Such officers, if they served successfully throughout the war, had to be not only lucky and brave but also intellectually adaptable. Almost all the Canadians who rose to senior command began as amateur warriors, with only a thin pre-war militia training to supplement their 1914 civilian talents and patriotism. Thereafter, they experienced a steep learning curve, honing their military skills in a grim and unforgiving environment. The career of William Griesbach, who first commanded the 49th Battalion and then, from February 1917 onward, the 1st Brigade, aptly illustrates what contributed to the making of a superior infantry commander in the Canadian Corps, how an untried amateur was transformed into a seasoned professional. William Antrobus Griesbach was born in 1878 in the Prairie hamlet of Qu’Appelle in what is now Saskatchewan, the son of a senior North-West Mounted Policeman and ex-British regular officer. The younger Griesbach saw action in South Africa as a trooper with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles and subsequently served in the militia, rising steadily to the senior ranks. In civilian life he practised law in Edmonton, where he served a term as mayor and was active in

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Figure 5.1 Lieutenant Colonel William Griesbach, Commanding Officer, 49th (Edmonton) Battalion, 1916 (City of Edmonton Archives, A98-96)

Conservative Party circles. As was typical of so many Anglo-Canadian males of his generation, Griesbach embraced the sentiments of imperialism, duty, honour, and discipline, along with their strong militarist overtones.1 While he undoubtedly used his involvement in the militia to make useful business, professional, and political contacts, Griesbach also displayed a more serious intent. In 1906, with the encouragement of his future commander, Archibald Macdonell, he began devouring books on military subjects “to prepare myself for the war which I thought was coming,” a passion that, he noted in 1917, “has stood me in good stead.”2 During the frenzied summer of 1914, Major Griesbach, who had just passed the militia staff course, enlisted in the first contingent and was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Division’s cavalry. But he was hardly in England before Minister of Militia Sam Hughes

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asked him to raise a new infantry battalion in northern Alberta. Griesbach was reluctant, accepting the task only after extracting the promise from his old political associate that he and his men would be sent to the front as an intact unit at the earliest opportunity.3 The 49th (Edmonton) Regiment was raised in a mere eight days, entrained a month after bloody Second Ypres, and joined the rest of the new 3rd Division in the Ypres salient in mid-October 1915. Griesbach promptly set about familiarizing himself and his command with defensive arrangements, compiling a report on defending against German trench raids that was subsequently adopted by the corps. This early effort displayed his characteristic approach to studying all military problems – a critical eye to orthodoxy coupled with sound insights drawn from practical observations. As his report concluded, no plan, regardless of how appropriate, achieved anything until it was conveyed successfully to the men: The success of the actions recommended to be taken would depend entirely upon the initiative and intelligence of all ranks. I therefore desire that Company commanders will make it their business to see that all ranks in the Battalion thoroughly understand what is to be done and that there is a clear grasp by all ranks of the principles involved … The men should be encouraged to discuss these principles amongst themselves and officers; and Company commanders should frequently interrogate the men wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself to correct any misapprehensions that may have arisen, and to make sure there is no possibility of misunderstanding.4

The spring of 1916 brought the Ross rifle controversy to a head. Among the senior officer corps, Sir Sam Hughes, the minister of militia, had transformed defending the Ross into a test of personal loyalty. Taking sides on what had become as much a white hot political issue as a military one could not be avoided. Griesbach was a Conservative Party partisan and, at the political level, admired (though not blindly) the “Mad Mullah.” But he was also a military professional and seems to have accepted the fact that Sir Sam’s favoured weapon unnecessarily endangered the lives of Canadian soldiers.5 Trench warfare, even during “quiet” periods, produced endless small-scale combats as both sides probed their opponent’s defences. Griesbach won a dso in one such engagement on 1 May 1916, when he directed his men in beating off a local German attack. But he and

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his troops got their first real taste of battle during the savage German attack at Mount Sorrel in June 1916. Reeling under a shattering barrage, he nonetheless rallied his command to repulse a German assault on 2 June. Put in command of a composite unit, including remnants of his own 49th and two other battalions, he was immediately ordered to launch a night attack to stem the German advance. “Much confusion, things going pretty badly for us,” he calmly noted in his diary.6 Amid heavy shelling and much disorganization, the attack was put off until dawn. But communications breakdowns led the other units to believe that their assault had been delayed again; thus when he finally led the 49th “over the top,” they were alone. In broad daylight and across open ground, with no other attacks to distract the enemy, the attack was hopeless; the Albertans were badly cut up, losing sixteen officers and 345 other ranks for paltry gains.7 In the middle of September Griesbach and his men, their ranks filled with green reinforcements, were thrown into the “grinder” on the Somme. After two days of bitter fighting, many of his wounded had still not been removed by the relieving battalion despite pledges to the contrary by its brigade’s staff. A furious Griesbach penned a stinging letter about the incident. Then, leaving his number two in command, he personally went to the rear to arrange for the badly needed water, ammunition, and stretchers, bringing them forward himself. Although Griesbach refused to withdraw his complaint against the offending battalion and its commanding officer, his superiors took no action.8 A subsequent assault on Kenora Trench on 8 October was a disaster. Under fire, he rallied a scratch force of battalion fragments that barely managed to repulse the ensuing German counterattack. Griesbach’s skill as a trainer, his cool head, and his ability to get the most out of his men in combat had not gone unnoticed. After the bloody Somme, merit, not politics, became the principal determinant of promotion in the Canadian Corps. Both his brigadier, Archie Macdonell, and his divisional commander, Louis Lipsett, recommended him for a brigade.9 Despite initial opposition from Currie, then commanding the 1st Division, General Byng gave Griesbach command of that unit’s 1st Brigade, an all-Ontario unit, in February 1917.10 Griesbach threw himself into preparations for his brigade’s attack on Vimy Ridge. During the few weeks left to him, he visited one or two of his battalions nearly every day to monitor their training in the new platoon tactics adopted for this assault. The role of the 1st

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Brigade was to wait until the 2nd and 3rd Brigades had smashed through the initial German defensive positions, then leapfrog over them and press on to the top of the ridge and down the far side. Despite some stiff resistance in a few places, and the inexplicable failure of the British brigade on his right flank to keep pace and direction, the first battle he directed as a brigadier unfolded almost flawlessly, and casualties were surprisingly light. In his after-battle report, Griesbach seethed over the characterization of the attack in the British press as a “walk-over.” As the corps now required of its commanders from battalion level after each attack, he also contributed some careful observations on what might be improved. Foremost among these was the suggestion that the assaulting troops be relieved more quickly in future operations. While acknowledging the difficulty of carrying out reliefs in the midst of a battle, he concluded that it was imperative to do this so that the men could go into the attack “lighter.” It was one thing to be burdened down with heavy winter clothing – it had, after all, snowed before and during the Vimy attack. But expecting infantry advancing under fire to lug thirty-six kilograms or more of weapons and supplies, much of the latter superfluous to anyone but a quartermaster, had encumbered the men to no gain.11 Little information survives on how Griesbach’s men viewed their commander. He seems to have been respected rather than loved, at least in the way “Batty Mac” Macdonell was loved by his men. Griesbach was sharp and brusque, a strict but fair disciplinarian, and a stickler for detail. Certainly he was as demanding of himself as he was of his men. Despite presenting a rather intimidating demeanor to his subordinates, he went out of his way to listen to them, and he seems to have been an excellent teacher. Manifestly brave, he did not avoid putting himself in harm’s way, something his men must have admired.12 Griesbach believed that if his men experienced success, then they would believe in themselves. Their morale was thus a high priority in his commands. He played in impromptu baseball games with them and encouraged sports and military competitions alike, rejoicing almost as much when his brigade came first at the great Dominion Day athletics competition on 1 July 1918 as when one of his platoons won a corps-wide combat skills competition the previous year.13 When the corps confronted a marked increase in desertion rates before attacks in the fall of 1917, Griesbach’s response revealed a mixture of ruthlessness and understanding of his soldiers’ lot. Although good company commanders should have weeded out weak

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men, he reminded his officers that cowards who failed in combat had to be shot as examples. On the other hand, he recommended checking the records of those feigning illness or expressing “fed-up-with-thewar” sentiments so that men who had performed well in the past could be “helped” (e.g., by being taken out of the line for a short period). “Hard and fast discipline has its unquestionable usefulness,” he emphasized to his battalion commanders, “but with it there ought to be mixed a sympathetic understanding on the part of officers towards their men. In my opinion this can be accomplished in good regiments with a minimum of shooting.”14 At Passchendaele, in early November, the 1st Brigade would find itself assaulting strong German defences over the most appalling terrain yet encountered. Attacking on 6 November and supported by a pulverizing barrage, Griesbach’s brigade swept to their objectives but incurred nearly 1,000 casualties. It had been hard to discern the growing sophistication and flexibility of Canadian attack doctrine in these battles, submerged as it was, like everything else – guns, horses, and men – in Passchendaele’s glutinous mud. “[Our] plan of attack was more or less stereotyped,” his after-battle report acknowledged. “The jump off was extremely hazardous and filled with all kinds of possibilities of disaster. The going was extremely bad. Of cover from fire or from view, there was very little. The attack was delivered frontally and the enemy was very strong in machine guns and was well covered and protected, yet the attack was completely successful and all objectives were gained.” His men, he concluded, had simply proven superior in training and morale.15 Yet even under the difficult conditions of the approaches to Passchendaele Ridge, Griesbach had been prepared to tinker with doctrine. For example, he had encouraged his four battalion commanders to use their individual judgment in choosing whether to attack by the normal sections in line or by section rushes, depending on the success of their barrages in suppressing enemy machine gun fire. As the shattered Canadian brigades withdrew from Passchendaele, they cast their votes in the most bitterly contested federal election in Canadian history. Griesbach, who had experienced almost as many electoral defeats in the pre-war Tory wasteland of northern Alberta as he had military victories in France, handily won a parliamentary seat running as a pro-conscription Unionist candidate. In the fall of 1917, Arthur Currie, now the corps’ commander, initiated an intensive discussion of how the army’s heavy machine guns

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should be organized. The alternatives were to retain the existing system – a heavy machine gun company attached to each brigade – or to consolidate them in machine gun battalions controlled at the divisional level, as was subsequently done, first by the Canadians and then by the whole bef. Griesbach had an especially keen interest in the impact of technology on the battlefield and, even more than most of his peers, was a proponent of dramatically increasing machine gun firepower. For instance, in 1917, while most of his peers were still espousing the merits of accurate massed rifle fire, he was advocating the universal adoption of automatic rifles as soon as the corps could obtain a reliable weapon. His approach to the machine gun question demonstrated a firm grasp of the lessons of the battlefield so far. There had been dramatic changes in the uses of machine guns since the war began and, he noted, “I think that it has already reached a point when it is beyond the average infantry commander.” Indeed, “it is now almost as technical as the artillery [and] no middle aged Brigade Commander can now be expected to learn the technique of machine gun work. He can only be expected to know in a general way how to employ machine guns as he now knows in a general way how to employ artillery, the air service and so forth.” To control the complex and varying uses of machine guns, including in future open warfare conditions, he reasoned, the centralized control made possible by concentrating the companies in machine gun battalions directed by division made sense. This would increase the prestige of the arm, thus improving the morale of the machine gunners, and, it was hoped, would also lead to the development of a coherent machine gun doctrine, which he thought was critically lacking. Finally, he concluded, machine gunners should have the same “equal” relationship with infantry commanders as was enjoyed by artillery commanders.16 In the fall of 1918, however, as his depleted rifle companies launched themselves into the teeth of formidable German machine gun defences, he reversed his earlier position, arguing that the independent arms – including the heavy machine guns – would at least have to be tactically subordinated to the infantry commander. By March 1918 the Canadian Corps had immersed itself in training for semi-open and open warfare. One of Griesbach’s strengths was his commitment to sound training. Another was his appreciation of the adaptations from established (and highly successful) trench warfare tactics that semi-open and open warfare would likely require.

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“With a view to … stimulating [the] interest of other ranks … improving … methods and training … clearing up obscure points in the minds of other ranks, [and] the securing of valuable suggestions,” Griesbach submitted a detailed memorandum to his battalion commanders dealing with virtually every aspect of trench and open warfare platoon tactics, with an emphasis on various methods of advancing under fire, reducing strong points, and weaponry. The platoon commanders were to encourage their men to discuss these matters freely, without restriction. And they would forward sound ideas up the chain of command so that “no man [w]ould be allowed to get back to Canada and say that he had a good idea or suggestion upon any subject connected with the war and that he could not get it considered by a Higher Authority.”17 Griesbach felt the principles laid down in the bef manuals – the manuals upon which the Canadians based their training – were basically sound. Nonetheless, they might require some modification because, while trench warfare attacks had been perfected, “[they had] also given us many false ideas.” The key, he exhorted his subordinates, was for every officer to “read, study, think and talk open warfare from now onwards. Let me have your views and let us have an interchange of views.”18 Even though Griesbach wryly acknowledged that “most officers behave much better in actual warfare than they do in maneuvers,” he monitored his battalion training exercises with a critical eye.19 Mistakes were opportunities for learning – ruthlessly exposed but constructively discussed. He had long believed in allowing his battalion commanders some leeway in planning and executing their attacks. It is worth noting that he was blessed with an able group with an unusual degree of continuity among them.20 Open warfare, he knew, would make still greater demands on their initiative. Consequently, he designed exercises to encourage initiative and adaptability at all levels of his command and, in particular, “the quick and sound appreciation of situations [including the necessary altering of plans when unexpected forces intervened] … [and] the vigorous and independent action of subordinate commanders when favorable opportunities present themselves.”21 After two and a half years of the hardest experience, Griesbach had learned much, and his ideas on how to master the battlefield were crystallizing. Dissecting one disappointing training exercise, he reminded the two participating battalion commanders that

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the essence of success in the attack is to bring a superior number of troops in on a point where the enemy is weak and absolutely assure success at that point. In a task of this sort swiftness and decision is [sic] necessary … Commanders must learn to appreciate situations. They must learn to deliver a real punch based upon a sound conception.22

The real test of the corps’ training began early on the fog-shrouded morning of 8 August east of Amiens and in the rapid succession of great attacks that followed during the next nine weeks. These assaults were so fierce they would cost the corps nearly 45,000 casualties, roughly half its nominal attacking strength, and fully 20 per cent of the casualties Canada suffered in the entire war. It was at Amiens that Griesbach’s 4th Battalion first encountered the nemesis of the Canadian infantry during the Last Hundred Days – machine gun defence in exceptional depth. Griesbach had foreseen that, after an initial breakthrough attack, his infantry would likely encounter German machine gun defence in unprecedented density, though even he had not anticipated just how dense. This would leave the men with little chance to manouevre and little if any of the artillery support they had become accustomed to in trench warfare attacks. With this in mind, he had altered the prescribed training syllabus – which still called for practising attacks on single machine gun emplacements – then insisted his battalion commanders “read this memorandum to their officers and discuss it, and [carry out] tactical schemes based upon an intelligent conception of machine gun defence.”23 Amiens provided Griesbach with his first opportunity to see tanks in action, and he wrote a detailed report drawn from his and his subordinates’ observations. Perhaps for understandable reasons – namely, their mechanical unreliability and limited numbers – most Canadian commanders were not very impressed with tanks. Griesbach, however, was a particularly perceptive observer of the impact of technology on the battlefield and enthusiastically declared that “the tank is the answer to the machine gun.” His embrace of the tank demonstrated the open-mindedness that militia officers, unrestrained by prevailing orthodoxy, were supposed to possess. His report went on to analyze carefully how the tank and infantry should be used in mutual support during various stages of the attack, and how this should be coordinated with mobile field artillery. It concluded, with considerable farsightedness, “This is the object which must be sought.”24

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The formidable defences of the Drocourt-Quéant Line east of Arras would prove a much stiffer test of the Canadian Corps than had the relatively weak, disorganized German positions at Amiens. On 30 August, at 4:40 am, the 1st Brigade launched its attack. The plan was principally Griesbach’s own design:25 he had laboured throughout the previous day to draw up three versions, finally settling on the more risky but promising option and then winning the approval of Macdonell and his staff. His commanding officer was right to call it “bold.”26 In a sort of long left hook, his infantry pushed north behind an ingenious artillery barrage, across the face of the D-Q Line to the east, taking the Vise-en-Artois Switch in the flank, and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, all for the loss of fewer than 700 of his men. What the official history describes as a “skillfully planned operation carried out with daring” almost came unstuck, however.27 Many of his infantry had become disoriented by the odd direction of the attack, parallel to the main enemy defensive position, and by failing to face east, left their flank open to a strong enemy counterattack, which, in due course, arrived. In fact, only the intervention of the 2nd Battalion’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lorne McLaughlin, pistol drawn, rallied panicking troops at one point where the Germans almost broke through.28 Griesbach’s decisive action in sending forward his reserve battalion stabilized the situation, and by evening all ground gained was securely held. Major General Macdonell was effusive in his praise, and he attributed the success to his companies’ and platoons’ mastery of open warfare tactics. The commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Sparling, maintained in his own report that “it was only from previous training and initiative on the part of all ranks that the situation was grasped and the attack pressed forward so successfully,” while Griesbach concluded that “the brigade benefited tremendously by the training in open warfare that it received … during the months of May and June last … and the attack methods there taught were practiced with success.”29 Griesbach had become a successful commander because he criticized everyone’s performance, starting with his own. His post-battle report started with a critique of his plan, then proceeded to highlight specific deficiencies in the corps’ capabilities, starting with the chronic inability of the field artillery and heavy machine guns to keep pace with and provide fire support for the now fast-moving infantry

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attacks. Others included the need to further thin out the attacking ranks (and thus reduce casualties) and the inadequate tactical training of the masses of junior officer reinforcements being rushed forward to fill the gaps in the army’s depleted ranks.30 Griesbach had also become a successful commander because he was never satisfied. He was disturbed by the failure of many of his companies and platoons to reinforce their successes. Instead of passing around units that were being held up, thus keeping up the momentum of the attack, too many stopped to assist the embattled units. Ironically, the numerous recommendations for gallantry awards coming to his attention confirmed that this was an all too frequent occurrence. Furthermore, the need to consolidate captured positions rapidly, reorganize shattered units, and counterattack with whatever force was available needed to be pressed home more vigorously. And, “in view of the fact that during the recent actions, platoons were commanded by privates and companies by sergeants, these instructions must be communicated to all ranks so that everyone will understand the principles involved.”31 In the three-week respite before the attack on the Canal du Nord, Griesbach spent much of his time visiting his battalions, supervising the training of the many new men, reconnoitering the ground over which they would have to assault, and drawing up various attack plans. He bombarded his battalion commanders with memoranda on these forthcoming operations to solicit their opinions. More than ever, flexibility was the byword: they were to prepare for virtually every possible sort of attack and be able to improvise quickly.32 Similar memoranda flooded Macdonell’s headquarters, and, given the latter’s motto – “bold, always be bold” – he can only have approved. The 1st Brigade’s assault on the Marquion Line on 27 September went smoothly, but a second attack on Abancourt Ridge four days later degenerated into a bloody, day-long slogging match. Well prepared and skilled though they might be, even the Canadians did not always have good fortune on their side. In late October, Currie dispatched Griesbach to a British-run tank school to share his recent experiences with the mostly American students. The curriculum astonished him – “poor and out of date,” he wrote in his diary dismissively. As for the students, none of whom had yet seen any combat, the junior men were promising, but their seniors “were all officers of the regular army, graduates of West Point,” he shrugged, “and seem a commonplace and not well informed

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lot.”33 Abancourt Ridge turned out to be the 1st Brigade’s last attack, and Griesbach’s war ended not at the front but in London, on compassionate leave at the bedside of his ailing wife. In terms of Canadian commanders, there was much that was “typical” about Bill Griesbach. He applied the talents demonstrated and self-confidence earned in a successful civilian profession to the profession of war. After a trying learning period, he mastered that profession to the degree he could; or, indeed, to the degree it could be mastered, for the Last Hundred Days revealed to Griesbach as much as to any military historian that some of the problems of open warfare were insurmountable with the technology available in 1918. Thrown into combat command with minimal preparation, Griesbach made his share of mistakes in 1916, but he survived them. Less typically, he had the benefit, which he readily acknowledged, of being mentored by a talented senior – Macdonell – under whose immediate command he served for all but six of his thirty-seven months at the front. We can say with certainty that William Griesbach was a successful battalion commander and brigadier. He could learn: he studied war, carefully recording what he read and experienced in his “book of knowledge,” a compendium of which eventually even Field Marshall Haig had heard.34 He was successful because he developed into a superior battlefield commander. “Courageous, resolute … full of daring and resourcefulness,” in the words of the admiring Macdonell, possessed of a “well-balanced and analytical mind,” and “the quickest officer that I have ever had anything to do with to grasp the tactical advantages or disadvantages of a given situation.”35 He was, finally, a superb trainer of troops. In an army that institutionalized learning, then universalized what it had learned, and furthermore placed a premium on the attack, officers like Griesbach made a valuable contribution and naturally found their way to the top. notes 1 For an excellent study of this phenomenon, see Mark Moss, Manliness and Militarism: Educating Young Boys in Ontario for War (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2001). 2 Archibald Macdonell Papers, National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac), mg 30, E20, vol. 2, Griesbach to Macdonell, 11 February 1917. William Griesbach Papers, nac, mg 30, E15, vol. 1, file 10, biographical memo, 5 September 1924.

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3 Ibid., vol. 1, file 5, diary, 22 December 1914. Upon its arrival in England, army officials intended to designate the 49th a reserve battalion; Hughes swiftly reversed this decision. Quite probably Griesbach’s strong Tory credentials played a role. Ibid., 1 and 3 September 1915; and file 1, Griesbach to Hughes, 21 July 1915. 4 Ibid., vol. 2, file 11, memo to 49th Battalion, “Principles Governing Action To Be Taken Should the Enemy Raid Our Trenches in the Manner in Which Other Canadian Battalions Have Raided the German Trenches,” 13 February 1916. Ibid., file 5, diary, 15 February 1916. 5 Ibid., vol. 1, file 5, diary, 23 and 24 April 1916. It’s not clear what exactly Griesbach’s role in the resolution of the Ross controversy was, but he was questioned by his superior, General Mercer (who strongly opposed the Ross’s retention), and recorded in his diary that he had attended a test at which all ten Ross rifles had jammed by the fifty-fifth round. 6 Ibid., 3 June 1916. 7 Ibid., 2, 3, 4, and 10 June 1916. 8 Ibid., vol. 2, file 11, Griesbach to Macdonell, 18 September 1916. Ibid., vol. 1, file 5, diary, 22 September 1916. 9 Ibid., vol. 1, file 5, dairy, 3 November and 4 December 1916. 10 Ibid., 10 and 26 February 1917. In the immediate pre-war years, Lipsett was a British regular who had been stationed in western Canada, where he would undoubtedly have known Griesbach. The source of Currie’s initial opposition is unknown, though Griesbach’s friendly political association with the now discredited Sam Hughes might have played a role. 11 Ibid., vol. 1, file 12, Griesbach report on Vimy operations to 1st Division, 19 April 1917. Ibid., vol. 1, file 5, diary, 5 May 1917. 12 Griesbach twice narrowly avoided being killed by artillery fire. 13 Griesbach Papers, vol. 1, file 5, diary, 1 July 1918; and vol. 2, file 14, memo to Canadian War Records Office, Historical Section, 7 June 1918. 14 nac, rg 9 iii, C 3, vol. 4030, fol. 24, file 4, memo to battalion commanders, 10 October 1917. In fact, no soldier serving under his command, either in the 49th Battalion or the 1st Brigade, was shot. A.B. Godefroy, For Freedom and Honour (Nepean, on: cef Books, 1998). 15 rg 9 iii, C 3, vol. 4028, fol. 17, file 20, 1st Brigade report on Passchendaele operations, 15 November 1917. 16 Ibid., vol. 4025, fol. 6, file 3, Griesbach memo to 1st Division Headquarters, 27 October 1917. Ibid., vol. 4031, fol. 26, file 7, Griesbach’s report on attending senior officers’ machine gun course at Grantham, 15 July 1917. 17 Ibid., vol. 4113, fol. 45, file 6, Griesbach to battalion commanders, 20 May 1918.

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18 Ibid., Griesbach to battalion commanders, 30 May 1918. 19 Ibid., fol. 44, file 2, Griesbach to battalion commanders, 17 June 1918. 20 Basically, six men commanded the four battalions of his brigade during the last eighteen months of the war. The two replacements were necessitated when one was killed shortly after Passchendaele and another badly wounded during the Drocourt-Quéant (Arras) operation. Griesbach did not directly benefit from the support of experienced British staff officers while commanding the 1st Brigade. His three brigade majors were all young Canadians whom he mentored. The first of these, Major Hugh Urquhart, was promoted to command a battalion in December 1917. Currie’s future biographer, he remained a lifelong admirer of Griesbach. 21 rg 9 iii, C 3, vol. 4022, fol. 51, file 6, Griesbach memo on battalion training exercise, 7 June 1918; Ibid., vol. 4113, fol. 44, file 2, Griesbach to Battalion commanders, 17 June 1918. 22 Ibid., vol. 4027, fol. 12, file 5, Griesbach memo to battalion commanders, 27 October 1917. 23 Ibid., vol. 4025, fol. 6, file 3, Griesbach memo “Attacking Machine Gun Defence in Depth,” 27 June 1918; Ibid., vol. 4028, fol. 17, file 20, “Lessons Learned from the Attacks Carried Out by the 4th Battalion,” 8–9 August 1918. 24 Ibid., Griesbach memo to 1st Division Headquarters, 24 August 1918. Ibid., vol. 4025, fol. 6, file 3, Griesbach memo to 1stDivision Headquarters, 27 October 1917. 25 Griesbach earned a bar to his dso for his input into the planning and subsequent direction of the attacks of the 1stBrigade on 8 August, 30 August, and 27 September. 26 Griesbach Papers, vol. 5, file 34B, Macdonell to Griesbach, 31 August 1918. 27 G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914–1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1964), 433. Griesbach Papers, vol. 5, file 34B, Griesbach to Macdonell, 2 February 1927. 28 Despite suffering a severe thigh wound, McLaughlin carried on, rallying dispirited units and repelling a succession of strong German counterattacks. For his leadership in this action, he was subsequently awarded the second bar to his dso. 29 rg 9 iii, C 3, vol. 4015, fol. 30, file 5, Griesbach, “Report on Fighting,” 12 September 1918; Ibid., vol. 4016, fol. 31, file 5, Sparling to Griesbach, “Report on Recent Operations,” 9 September 1918. Ibid., vol. 4028, fol. 17, file 20, Macdonell memo “Lessons Learned from Recent Fighting,” 12 September 1918.

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30 Ibid., vol. 4016, fol. 31, file 5, Griesbach, “Report on Fighting, 28 Aug – 4 Sep 1918,” 6 September 1918. 31 Ibid., vol. 4028, fol. 17, file 20, Griesbach memo “Manoeuvre Area in the Neighbourhood”, 11 September 1918. 32 Griesbach Papers, vol. 2, file 14, “Future Operations” memoranda to battalion commanders, 18 and 23 September 1918; Ibid., “Future Operations” memoranda to 1st Division Headquarters, 17 and 18 September 1918. 33 Ibid., vol. 1, file 5, diary, 30 October 1918; Ibid., 31 October 1918. 34 Ibid., 16 December 1918. 35 Ibid., file 7, Confidential Report on Officers, William A. Griesbach, 19 January 1919.

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6 Letters from Halifax: Reliving the Halifax Explosion through the Eyes of My Grandfather, a Sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy john griffith armstrong Sat Night 8 Dec 1917 hmcs Niobe Halifax My darling; Just a few lines to let you know that I am alive & have not received a single scratch. I wrote to you on Tues the last day I was ashore. This is Sat & I have not had my clothes off since the awful explosion. I have only had time to get one little wash so you can imagine how I look. I am alive but do not know why.1

There are defining moments in our lives that can forever become linked with our identities. Few of us can claim to have changed history, but for those who have been swept along by its course, our usually unplanned, unremarked, and not particularly significant presence at some extraordinary incident can profoundly change our lives. Red Deer, Alberta, is not a place that springs to mind in terms of the great December 1917 explosion that destroyed much of Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Yet several naval reservists from this small Prairie city (population in 1911: 2,700) were present, including my grandfather, Lambert Barron Griffith (“Bert” for short). He survived the explosion from a distance of a little less than a kilometre while standing on the deck of hmcs Niobe, which was moored in the naval dockyard. The experience defined the rest of his life and left long-lasting hidden scars. This perhaps greatest of Canadian calamities killed some 2,000 souls, wounded five times that number, and

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rendered 20,000 homeless. It flattened much of the north end of Halifax as well as parts of Dartmouth and damaged much of the remainder. And it touched and changed lives even in far-off Red Deer. When I was little, I found three letters that Bert Griffith wrote to his wife in those first numb days after the catastrophe. They were in an envelope postmarked Halifax, Nova Scotia, 10 December 1917, at 6:30 pm. I knew little about my grandfather. Our lifelines had touched only briefly when, upon the death of my grandmother, my parents and their new son moved into his house so that he would not have to be alone. I had been born in late 1942, and he died in early 1945. I have next to no memory of him other than through family pictures (including pictures of him in naval uniform) and reminiscences. There are shared family stories among his four grandchildren and various souvenirs and mementoes, of which one of the more remarkable is a taped reminiscence by one of Bert’s sisters, recorded about 1971, which traced family memories back to her own grandmother. There is a Griffith family Bible in England that records his birth, and there are references to him in Red Deer newspapers. City directories provide an outline of residence and employment. Military records have also been helpful; indeed, his naval service file and his file at the Department of Veterans Affairs proved rich beyond my imagination. These items, together with the long unread letters from Halifax, provide some sense of a man generally unknown to his grandchildren. More particularly, the letters are a rare and literate account from the perspective of the “lower deck” of one individual’s involvement in an important and calamitous event. Lambert Griffith was born in England on 21 November 1882, three years before the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (cpr) linked Canada’s east and west coasts. The second son of a well connected London insurance manager, he was raised and educated in the comfortable if not privileged surroundings of an English middle-class family. Restless in the clerical employment his father had arranged for him when it became time to embark upon a career, however, he had been seduced by the clarion call of the cpr ’s campaign to attract immigrants to the Canadian West. In August 1906, in his twentyfourth year, he emigrated, ending up in the small community of Red Deer, Alberta.2 Although the young arrival more or less fit the contemporary stereotype of the “tenderfoot” Englishman, his sincerity and good humour won the sympathy of a local magistrate who helped him find employment as a clerk in the local land office. Now glad to have such

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employment, Bert settled into the community. In 1909 he married Dorothy Helen Walker (“Dolly”), an Englishwoman born in South Africa, who had come to Red Deer in 1905. Two daughters soon followed, Marjorie, born in 1911, and Thelma, born the following year.3 When Bert’s sister Dorothy visited the family for Christmas in 1912, she found them comfortably ensconced in a newly built house in the village of North Red Deer, with Dolly’s two sisters paying board and living in the upstairs bedroom. Bert was already over thirty by the time the First World War began, a respected member of the community and sole support of his family.4 He was therefore an unlikely candidate for military service in the first two years of the war. But his younger bachelor brother “Willie,” who had followed him to Alberta in 1909, was among the first volunteers from Red Deer to go overseas with the 5th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Twice wounded, he survived a number of the great bloodlettings on the Western Front. By September 1917 he was still in France as a temporary lieutenant and back at the front.5 Bert, of course, followed his brother’s fate from the sidelines, as did an anxious father and family in England By 1916, amidst a growing atmosphere of recrimination and social pressure, there was talk of conscription to meet the army’s growing need for people. The Royal Canadian Navy (rcn) was also looking for people, although not too urgently. Its needs were best filled by older family men, like Bert (now almost thirty-four), who still desired to serve their country. The navy had only been formed in 1910 but had not developed beyond the commissioning of two already obsolete training cruisers that had been provided by the British – hmcs Niobe on the east coast and hmcs Rainbow on the west. At the outset of the Great War the need for people was modest; what was required was enough people for the continued operation of the two ancient cruisers, a few small patrol vessels, and the basic elements necessary for communications, control, and examination of shipping and defence of the major harbours.6 All told, the Canadian naval service numbered little more than 1,000 in all ranks for the first two years of the war. This changed in 1916 when the virtual absence of Canadians visibly participating in the larger task of “watching and guarding the wide sea-front of the Empire” became a matter of public concern. The result was a decision in February 1916 to recruit 5,000 men for the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (rncvr), with the idea that most would serve with the Royal Navy (only 1,100 ultimately did so).7 The waves of public indignation that accompanied the unexpected

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Figure 6.1 Sailors of rncvr enrolled in 1916 at Red Deer, Alberta; Bert Griffith, second row left (John G. Armstrong Collection)

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Figure 6.2 Bert Griffith and daughters Thelma (left) and Marjorie (right), mother of John G. Armstrong (John G. Armstrong Collection)

appearance of submarines off the east coast later in the year, and the fear that more would follow, called for immediate measures to beef up Canadian coastal defences. Most of the new sailors being recruited would therefore remain in Canada, and a significant number of new Canadian-built trawlers and drifters, which the Royal Navy had intended to press into service, would now be diverted to the rcn to help expand local patrols.8

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Bert Griffith appears to have been among the first to be enrolled under the new scheme. A recruiting party from Esquimalt had appeared in Red Deer and other Alberta centres in late September, well before the national recruiting scheme had been organized. They were seeking replacements for more experienced men already released to east coast service. At least six Red Deer men stepped forward, perhaps because the party included William Hadley, the master-at-arms at Esquimalt, who would be responsible for naval training. Hadley was a prominent and popular Red Deer man who had immigrated after service in the Royal Navy.9 As their training proceeded to the end of 1916, Bert and at least one other Red Deer resident, Walter Webb, were eventually joined in Esquimalt by their wives and children. By January 1917 the men were ready to join the ship’s company of the venerable hmcs Rainbow, by now nearly worn out from the strain of west coast shipping patrols.10 Indeed, Rainbow was badly in need of a refit and was proving too expensive given the scarcity of people available for sea service. Men were required immediately on the east coast, and the rcn’s director, Admiral C.E. Kingsmill, decided that the ship would have to be paid off as soon as its men could be sufficiently trained as gun-layers and gunners for the growing east coast patrol fleet.11 Thus it was, in the course of these events, that Bert Griffith and others left their families in Esquimalt and were dispatched to the east coast port of Halifax where, on 9 May 1917, Bert was placed on the books of hmcs Niobe.12 Niobe was the 11,000-ton heavy cruiser that had been obtained from Britain. Although initially placed on a war footing in 1914, and indeed well used in the early part of the war for Royal Navy cruiser patrols in the western Atlantic, by mid-1915 the already much worn and outdated ship was beyond further useful and economic operational employment. Niobe also represented a serious drain on the limited bodies available to the rcn for anti-submarine patrol purposes, for which smaller, more maneuverable vessels were required. Recommissioned as a depot ship at Halifax, however, the cruiser filled a vital need. Naval accommodation and office space was in very short supply, and “Hotel Niobe’s” 450-foot length could house and victual as many as 1,000 sailors while providing additional space for training, classrooms, and communications. As well, and perhaps more important, Niobe now provided a floating headquarters for the rcn in the Port of Halifax and, as such, was moored at

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the extreme north end of the hmc Dockyard opposite the Royal Naval College of Canada, with its bow directly pointing at what would be the site of the destruction of ss Mont Blanc, not quite a kilometre to the north.13 Acting Commander Percy F. Newcombe exercised nominal command over the depot “ship’s company.” Halifax, as Bert Griffith found it in 1917, was something of a grim contrast to the relatively halcyon west coast conditions of service and climate. While still distant from the dangers to be found in the eastern Atlantic, the city (population roughly 50,000) was strategically positioned on the Great Circle route to Europe and was the only major ice-free Canadian east coast port. Wartime shipping from Halifax was limited only by the capacity of the single track rail line that connected it with Canada’s interior. It was also the preferred port of embarkation and debarkation for Canadian soldiers. Now, with the appearance of the first German submarines in the western Atlantic, the German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare, and the United States’ entry into the war, the port’s role as an operational centre had been further expanded. Joint orders issued by the local army and navy commanders to douse all lights ashore and afloat that might be viewed from seaward had first been given in late 1916. The virtual blackout made Halifax unique among Canadian cities.14 Halifax had been a garrison town and a naval base since its inception in 1749 and an element of varying importance in the military security structure of the British Empire. Despite the priorities and demands of the overseas forces the former imperial fortress was garrisoned by nearly 5,000 soldiers, and sea approaches to the harbour were shielded by a considerable network of garrison coastal artillery and searchlights.15 The dockyard facilities, which had been handed over to Canada after the departure of the Royal Navy in 1905 and had been much neglected, had been repaired and refurbished with the onset of the war. On Bert Griffith’s arrival it was a busy if not entirely modern complex of offices, residences, workshops, slipways, wharves, and storehouses. The dockyard’s civilian and military staff were under continuous pressure to meet the constant demands of repair, refit, and maintenance to both the ragtag collection of Canadian vessels and passing units of the rn.16 The privately owned dry dock of Halifax Shipyards Limited, immediately north of the dockyard, was also an important element in fleet upkeep.

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Naval resources for defence of the port and dockyard were less extensive but had been increased somewhat in the face of the submarine threat. However, organization of the convoys and travel clearance of neutral vessels were outside Canadian hands. An efficient and highly visible rn rear admiral, Bertram M. Chambers, had set up shop with a small staff in the port for these purposes in November. This had caused considerable consternation among Canadian naval authorities because he ranked above the Canadians on the spot and potentially undermined the autonomy and credibility of the Canadian service.17 Indeed, unlike the west coast, where the local public had welcomed the birth of the rcn, Halifax society tended to regard the rcn’s “tin-pot navy” as interlopers.18 Still, the unsung Canadians carried on with what they had. Close to 2,000 commercial vessels passed through Halifax in 1917, over and above the normal coastal and fishing traffic. The rcn Examination Service, from offices aboard Niobe and using a number of small boats to meet each arrival, passed them into and out of the harbour and fulfilled the role of harbourmaster in wartime.19 Naval transport, intelligence, and communications staffs also operated from Niobe. While the militia department’s coastal defence guns were the port’s premier insurance against warships operating on the surface, they provided small comfort in the face of potential submarine incursions. Thus, in June 1915 the first anti-submarine net had been ordered to cover the inner harbour from either side of George’s Island. By July 1917 a second net was in place further down the harbour between Ives Point and the breakwater off Point Pleasant.20 There were also mounting fears that submarines might lay mines in the approaches to Halifax and other ports. Thus a flotilla of ten minesweepers, most of them converted menhaden (herring) trawlers armed with twelvepounder guns, was moored in the Northwest Arm, outside the nets.21 Early every morning, whenever weather permitted, the vessels would sortie in pairs more than thirty-two kilometres to sea in order to ensure clear channels into and out of the harbour for warships, convoys, and coastal traffic.22 No major submarine incursions occurred in the western Atlantic in 1917; the growing fleet of German U-boats found better hunting closer to home. Shipping losses had grown astronomically, and in July a reluctant Royal Navy had been forced to adopt a convoy system if shipping routes to Britain were to be kept open at all. By July, transatlantic convoys had begun sailing from Hampton Roads, Vir-

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ginia; New York City; and Sydney, Nova Scotia, where the small rcn patrol service was based. In September, however, fast convoys had begun to depart from Halifax. By December, the freeze-up of the St Lawrence River would halt the movement of ships from the Canadian interior, and ice would usually render Sydney untenable as well. Halifax had become the preferred winter port for the assembly of convoys and as the base of rcn patrol service. The shorter sea-route from Halifax made the challenge facing the rcn’s diminutive coastal anti-submarine patrols somewhat less diffuse and difficult. Nevertheless, there were only eight effective auxiliary patrol ships available to perform this service at this point, most of them drawn from other government departments and the hydrographic survey, and ranging from 700 tons to 1,050 tons displacement.23 These resources were supplemented by a small flotilla of converted yachts and smaller vessels intended to support the Halifax defences. Of these only the fast low-slung hmcs Grilse, with a torpedo tube and two twelve-pounder guns, was of any real value for rapid response to any surface threat.24 More help was on the way, however. Before the freeze-up, the first three trawlers and more than a dozen coastal drifters (of a larger number intended to reinforce patrols against anticipated German submarine inroads) had arrived from shipyards in the St Lawrence and Great Lakes.25 Bert Griffith was doubtless among those earmarked as gunners for the expanded patrol service, probably aboard one of the new trawlers and drifters. By September, not even Niobe was sufficient to house the growing number of men on the books, who were assembling for this service and awaiting delayed deliverance of additional vessels.26 Thus, instead of going to sea, Bert found himself one of the minor cogs in the port’s military defences. Bert’s actual duties during the summer and fall of 1917 cannot be precisely defined, but some information can be gleaned from his letters and his service records. Both he and Walter Webb were employed on the “boom” (either the inner or outer anti-submarine nets), where they might remain for as much as two weeks before being brought back to Niobe. Aboard the depot ship they appear to have been utilized more in those general duties peculiar to the navy, including painting, scraping, and that particularly beloved task of “coaling ship.” Bert was rated able seaman in mid-July, and his records show assignments to Wilfred C. and Nereid, armed tugs that served turns in general utility work or as gate vessels on the nets, opening and

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closing the “gates” for passing ships through in daylight.27 Bert’s records also show that all was not well in Esquimalt. A telegram received at naval headquarters in mid-November advised that Dolly needed a serious operation, and the doctor concerned considered Bert’s presence desirable. Even though the west coast navy offered to provide a suitable replacement for Bert, the request received scant sympathy in wartime Ottawa.28 As Bert’s letters have informed us, as dawn approached on the cold clear morning of Thursday, 6 December 1917, Walter was out on the boom and Bert was aboard Niobe in his hammock in Mess No. 9. The sailors on the depot ship and the various patrol vessels docked to the south would have started their day at 6: 00 am with the calling of hands other than watchkeepers. As another sailor aboard at the time recalled: lash up and stowing of hammocks, hands to the galley for cocoa 6.20 day men fall in the front battery for scrubbing down and brass polishing and cleaning of steel stauntions [sic] which supported top decks … Whilst the activities were in progress two hands were preparing for breakfast. Two men were told off each day to look after their particular mess, get the grub, set the table and draw the stores, these were known as the cooks … 7 a.m. cooks to the galley was piped and the hands would go to breakfast after the scrubbing down and cleaning was completed. The sooner the hands scoffed their bacon and fried tomatoes, bread, butter, and jam, and tea that you could stand a knife up in, the longer they would have to smoke before divisions.29

At 7: 00 am two rcn minesweepers, pv-vii and Baleine, had set off from the Northwest Arm past the Examination Anchorage, where Mont Blanc was still awaiting clearance to proceed up the harbour.30 The port was relatively full. Some thirty to forty ships being gathered for convoys scheduled to depart on 7 and 10 December were anchored in Bedford Basin, as were two armed merchant cruisers, hms Knight Templar and Changuinola. The latter was anchored in the “stream” roughly abreast of Niobe. Below was another rn visitor on convoy duty, the nimble light cruiser Highflyer. Other commercial shipping was berthed along the shore and in the dry dock. As the now infamous Mont Blanc began its fateful passage upward through the anti-submarine gates and into the inner harbour, an outbound neutral freighter assigned to Belgian relief, ss Imo, rounded out of Bedford Basin and into the harbour channel. An inbound freighter (probably ss Clara) had just moved into the basin, and Stella Maris,

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one of the rcn’s chartered tugs, was headed in the same direction with two scows in tow.31 As Bert wrote to Dolly two days later: “We had just finished breakfast at 7 30 am Wed morning [sic] & were having our usual smoke before falling in for carrying on coaling ship. A Belgian relief boat had just come in also a French boat. The French boat was getting ready to dock when the Belgian boat ran in to her stern. Apparently a very slight blow.”32 Bert seems to have been somewhat disoriented in his recollection of the day of the week and the time, possibly due to fatigue, shock, or the rush of events that ensued. Besides, gossip, rumour, and innuendo were rife until accurate information, both about the explosion and the events leading up to it, became available, and this would not be for quite some time. Mont Blanc had set off up the harbour from the examination anchorage just off the western shore of McNabs Island at approximately 7:30 am, and the collision did not take place until 8:45 am.33 In the routine of the busy port, and had Mont Blanc been carrying a less hazardous cargo, the mild collision would have aroused little interest except possibly to the insurance adjustors. But sparks, generated either by the collision itself or as Imo’s bow sluggishly rasped back out of Mont Blanc’s side, ignited either benzol stored on deck or picric acid below or both within just a few moments. “Shortly after this the French boat was seen to be in flames. She put in to shore about 500 yards [sic] from the stern of the Niobe. A lot of us boys went up on deck to see the sight. It did not look very bad. There were three pretty loud explosions & everyone just imagined that it was the oil blowing up.”34 Mont Blanc carried a mix of almost 3,000 tons of wet and dry picric acid, tnt, guncotton, and benzol.35 The time was 9:04:35 ast.36 All at once there was a most hideous noise & I saw the whole boat vanish, a moment after I saw something coming can’t describe it. I was hurled on the deck & there was an awful noise going on. I got to my feet & ran with a whole lot of fellows. My one fixed idea was to get below. We all tried to get down the one ladder without any success. I had presence of mind enough to dig my head in between all kinds of legs & c. After that I ran along the deck & heard all kinds of things falling. It was shrapnel & bits of the side of the ship. I did not know this at the time.37

The blast was followed by a powerful tsunami (tidal wave), which struck Niobe one to two minutes later.38 “I managed to get to the gangway unhurt & found that the ship had broken her big cable & the

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Figure 6.3 hmcs Niobe the day after the Halifax explosion alongside the wrecked dockyard (nac c-147481)

gangway gone. As she crashed in to the jetty I jumped off & got ashore just before she shoved the jetty over.”39 In the general pandemonium and panic of rushing squirming bodies seeking shelter or escape, a number of sailors were either blown overboard or fell. Flying glass and debris also accounted for some deaths and serious injuries, although the majority escaped relatively unscathed or were at least able to carry out their duties in the short term. Others were remarked to be suffering from apparent “shock.” Twenty-five members of the rcn died in the explosion, although not all were from Niobe.40 This is far less than the impression given in a number of contemporary memoirs, one of which claims to have seen nineteen dead men in the litter and shambles of Niobe’s deck alone.41 Indeed, Niobe looked like it had been through a battle. Three of its four funnels were down, there were gaping holes in its superstructure, and stanchions, lines, blast bags, broken glass and other debris were strewn everywhere, though much of the damage proved later to be superficial.42 Bert had been lucky. Sailors who reached the site of the gangway after him had leapt into the water, and more lives would doubtless have been lost had not one of Niobe’s senior ratings, Gunner William O’Reilly, acted promptly to check the panic. Also under his direction,

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Niobe’s cutter arrived in time to fish a number of freezing ratings from the chilly water.43 “Once safe on shore & finding I was unhurt I started in to assist the wounded. I helped first to take a wounded man out of the water. By this time all the houses round the dockyard were on fire.”44 Gunner O’Reilly went on from his rescue efforts to bring a party ashore to rebury Niobe’s port bower anchor, which had been dragged from its concrete bed. Then he turned his attention to clearing ammunition from nearby magazines.45 By this time all the houses round the dockyard were on fire. I joined a party on the run to the ammunition magazines just on shore beside the jetty where the old Nobler was tied up. We worked like slaves, pulling out cases of cordite, & shells of all kinds & dumped them in the water. It was a perfect miracle they did not go off, as the 3 buildings where they were stored had been completely wrecked, but luckily had not caught fire.46

It seems that Bert was among those who, despite the initial panic, remained under naval discipline in the aftermath. Niobe’s first lieutenant, Temporary Lieutenant Commander Allan Baddeley, had sent about seventy ratings ashore, again under the redoubtable Gunner O’Reilly, to control fires in the dockyard. The spreading flames had also raised fears for the safety of the nearby partly demolished structures of the North Ordnance ammunition magazines on the adjacent Wellington Barracks property. Bert was among the sailors detailed to try to empty them while holding off the advancing conflagration.47 From the standpoint of Commander Percy Newcombe’s subsequent report of the disaster, it would appear that the depot ship’s officers and non-commissioned officers were equal to the task of dealing with the immediate crisis. He noted that the head steward even managed to serve dinner on the day of the explosion at the regulation time.48 For men with families in Halifax, however, there were conflicting demands as the gravity of the disaster became apparent. According to one uncorroborated personal memoir, many of these men were about to make a break for it when some officer heavy on tradition, yelled thru a megaphone for all hands to stand fast, keep cool and everything will be alright, there’s no immediate danger and to remember the Birkenhead. So someone yells back at him, to hell with you and the Birkenhead we got wives and kids ashore, so there was a general stampede for the gangplank which was somewhat out of kilter, it was a good thing those ratings took the

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law into their own hands, they did a lot of good saving lives and putting out fires after which they were commended for their bravery and in helping the civic authorities who at the time did not know that they broke ship and had a charge of mass mutiny hanging over their heads but said charge was dropped.49

Bert’s letter to Dolly sheds no light on the incident, which suggests that it occurred after his leap to safety, probably after some sort of temporary gangway had been restored. He does, however, provide some initial perceptions of the magnitude of the disaster: The ship that blew up had about 2000 ton of a more powerful explosive than nitro glycerine. The explosion was felt 10 miles away by ships. It makes it the more wonderful our escape. There is not a single pain of glass in Halifax. The yard is a complete wreck. A train coming on from Montreal was wrecked, also a street car. Our steam cutter along with her crew were lost. Several men here have lost their wives & children. Thank goodness you were not here. I have not seen a paper. I have not been thru’ anything so awful in my life. We have been working so hard that I for one have not had time to realize what I have escaped.50

Niobe’s steam cutter and its volunteer crew of seven had disappeared without a trace after approaching the burning Mont Blanc in a futile effort to render assistance.51 Despite its shattered appearance and damage to nearly every building on the site, the dockyard did not suffer as much as did the shoreline to the north, the residential districts of the North End, and corresponding sectors of Dartmouth. Indeed, only two of the dockyard buildings proved beyond eventual repair, although contemporary photographs belie that impression.52 Bert’s letter ends with more bleak reports tempered by relief at his own survival: The dead are just laid out anywhere. I saw a basket on the jetty this morning & in it was a little baby, quite dead. Next to it was a stoker with his face all crushed in. I need not say any more. I have never seen death in this form before. I am sure that for ten minutes we have all been thru’ worse than in the trenches. The whole town is a wreck even the roof off the station. A German fleet could not have done so much damage. An Imperial cruiser was just on

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Figure 6.4 Ruins of hmc Dockyard Victualling Stores and ymca Building (nac c-147487) the other side of us in the stream & they have lost their Commander & about 45 men. All the wood work on board the Niobe has been shattered & water cut off. The day after the accident it blew a blizzard & made rescue more difficult, but kept down the fire. Lots of ships have been sunk. The Belgian boat that caused the explosion is lying on her side on the opposite shore. The new ymca in the yard of course is a complete wreck like everything else. I don’t suppose I shall go up town till I return from the boom. Well darling, we have lots to be thankful for after all. There will be no Xmas leave now. Unless one went away there would be no where to go. Even the theatres are wrecked. Well love there are lots more details I could go on to but just as well not to. Write soon to your lucky old Lofty. Every minute I thought I was dead. We’ll be working pretty near night & day for a long time yet.53

The sailors on Niobe were indeed worked night and day for a long time. The ship had to be put back into proper state and drafts of seamen were regularly placed at the disposal of the militia authorities, who ultimately coordinated the military’s attempt to find people to deal with the massive relief effort.54 Despite these grim and urgent needs, the navy’s first priority in the immediate aftermath was to maintain the operational readiness and capability of its few ships and,

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perhaps more important, to restore the situation at the dockyard and ship repair facilities. The war continued and ships required repair and supply. Most of the yard’s civilian labour force had lived in the devastated North End, and the survivors were initially preoccupied with rescue and shelter for their families. In the meantime, urgent efforts were necessary to save the more perishable clothing and victualing stores. It was subsequently reported that stores worth $250,000 had been recovered by working parties from Niobe, who “performed the work under most arduous weather conditions and at considerable personal risk to themselves as the buildings are in a very shaky state, the roofs having collapsed in places and their structures being badly shaken throughout.”55 Some of the sailors’ exhaustion is reflected in Bert’s next letter to Dolly, written aboard Niobe on the Sunday ten days following the explosion. It is also interesting that his estimate of his distance from the explosion had narrowed from his previous estimate: I am just writing you … to let you know I am all right … I am very anxious to get a letter from you, letting me know how the news of the great explosion was received in Victoria. You poor old love, you must have had a scare. Never mind a miss is as good as a mile, & by this time you will have got my letter, written a couple of days after. We have been worked half dead ever since & have only had shore leave for the last three days & that only, from five pm. I got special leave to go up town on Thurs the 14 at 2:30 & have only been up once since. What a sight it is. Not a window anywhere. All the theatres closed & used for hospitals. ymca and Union Jack Club the same. There is no place now to write letters, so we are better off on board. I wrote to father & told him that I was safe. We have been on the Niobe now for two weeks. Tomorrow Mon we are going back on the boom & will quite likely be left there for two weeks. I shall be glad to get out of all the work & be able to do some washing & c. We have hardly had time to wash ourselves, let alone clothes. From ships coming in I am told that the explosion was felt 60 miles away. Fancy me on the Niobe only about 300 yds [sic] having such a wonderful escape. The devil looks after his own as they say.56

Bert went on to remark that he was not the only one in the family to narrowly escape death. A letter from his father had arrived to say that younger brother Willie, who was in France, “had come thru a big charge & was the only officer not killed or badly wounded in his battalion.”

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Bert’s stress and exhaustion as well as relief and despair is underscored by the somewhat rambling and disjointed written stream of consciousness that follows: I will write you again from the boom I am trying to write this on the mess deck & it is very hard with all the row & shaking. The terrible accident has quite taken my mind off the great disappointment of getting turned down from Ottawa. Of course the Niobe has been badly smashed, but she saved our lives. Just the greatest luck. Hundreds were killed in their houses miles away. Even poor little children in their schools. No doubt you will read all about it in the papers. Hundreds of coffins in the streets. There is to be a big funeral tomorrow about 400 unidentified bodies to be buried. Thank God a hundred times that you & the dear little girls were not here.

There was a certain humorous aspect to the situation, but it only occupied Bert’s mind briefly. I wrote to the Home Office of the Sun Life in Montreal about the loan on the Policy. I will look after that. I expect that they will be glad to know that I am alive. There will be no Xmas here as it is a city of sorrow. Poor children without parents & c. We will get no leave. Do what you can old love & I will try & send something later on.

After a few details of efforts to deal with the family’s financial troubles Bert concluded his letter. I am tickled to death at being even alive. One of the officers who made my life & others extra hard has been killed. I am glad & wish some others had been with him. A lot of real nice boys have been killed & some of the rotten pigs left. This is rather blood thirsty from me. I have never seen a man killed before. I shall get over the affects in time.

Several of Niobe’s senior petty officers had been killed in the explosion but, as will be seen, Bert almost certainly is talking about Temporary Boatswain Alfred C. Mattison. The remark is not tempered by the fact that Mattison had voluntarily gone off with Niobe’s steam pinnace to aid Mont Blanc and had died as one of the rcn’s few recognized heroes.57 Nevertheless, in his third letter, written four days before what would be a very grim Christmas day in Halifax, Bert recognized that the bo’s’n might unintentionally have played a

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role in saving his own life. He also gives us a clue as to how quickly the “jungle telegraph” passed the news of the disaster to worried families in Esquimalt.58 I was so relieved to get your letter of the 10th & to know that you received the answer to your wire. Now that you have got my letter & know that I am quite safe you will feel easier. Won’t you love? The first news of the disaster must have upset you very much. Fancy Mrs Heal hearing of it at 10 AM on Thurs. It only happened at nine. Don’t some people take a kind of morbid delight in breaking bad news. Well never mind old kid you have still got your hubby so far safe and sound. Hundreds of things might have happened but fortunately did not. One thing certain if we had not taken all the coal from the lighter the night before. At the time of the explosion we would have been coaling & a lot more of us would have been killed. My coaling station was in the lighter attending to the derrick rope. The B’osun [sic] by making us finish up that night did us a good turn unintentional. He got blown to pieces along with all the steam cutters crew.

Given the difference in time zones, Dolly would have received the news about five hours after the explosion. One can only imagine the emotional effects on a young mother with serious medical problems, having trouble coping with two small girls (aged five and six). Although I have only known the two as distinguished and authoritative icons, family lore has it that, at the time, they were demanding little hellions. Bert was not doing very well either. I am afraid that this letter is rather rambling & disjointed. I am quite sure that my nerves have been severely shocked. Now that it is all over I am rather sorry in a way that I have not been wounded so that I could be sent back to Squimalt [sic]. Well this is Xmas week how about it. I last wrote to you in pencil telling you that I was once again coming back on the boom after being on board the Niobe for two weeks. We expected to stay out for two weeks & the other relief go away for Xmas leave & we get New Year. Had word by phone that they were all coming out again to take our places & we are to go on leave first. I have arranged to stay & will get five days at New Year so that [name illegible – probably Walter Webb] and I will be able to be together. Goodness knows what we are going to do. The town is all wrecked & in darkness. If we take our leave tickets we can not be fed on the Niobe. If we do not take them we will have to work in the morning & go ashore in the afternoons. I don’t know what to do. It sure will be a rotten time. The worst Xmas I have ever spent.

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Despite his gloom Bert still showed some capacity to appreciate ironic humour. I got the photos sent from Town yesterday. They are not too bad. I really wanted them taken a bit lower down so that my badges would show. I am afraid I wanted my wife to give me the finishing touches, pull down my collar & c. & c. They came very near being the last photos. I paid for them when I had them taken & no doubt after the accident the photographer thought that he would not hurry in case I would never call for them. You bet I turned up & told him to finish them up. As I want to get this off right away I will close. Lots of love to your dear self & the children.

So ended the last of the letters retained in our family. The Christmas shared by Bert and his mates in unhappy Halifax is not recorded. There was little likelihood out-of-town sailors would have found welcoming accommodation for the holidays. Relief workers and labour brought in from outside the city crammed all available space not already occupied by homeless Haligonians. Nor had the disaster improved the local popular image of the rcn. The search for scapegoats had begun with a public inquiry, which seemed almost daily to reveal some new instance of criminal ineptitude, possible sabotage, or bungling that the local print media, particularly the Halifax Herald, belaboured incessantly.59 The principal target of public venom was the pilotage service, but the rcn, already an object of some local mockery when compared to the British professionals, was responsible for traffic control in the harbour. As one indignant editorialist in Ottawa held, they were not even up to “this simple policeman’s job.” However unfairly (for under maritime law blame for collisions normally rests with one or both ship’s captains), many Canadians, particularly furious Haligonians, felt that their naval service had let them down. Thus the “Tin-Pot” rcn and its leadership were publicly disparaged at a critical point in the war. This perception left a lasting legacy in Halifax, with detrimental effects upon the morale of the rcn.60 The damage the explosion caused to Bert’s subsequent life was also lasting. According to his medical case history, Bert’s health, which had been relatively good until the disaster, was in “steady decline” after the explosion, and this was not simply as a result of the shock and hard duty mentioned in his letters. Family stories that he had actually been wounded by the blast – struck in the chest by broken glass particles aboard Niobe - cannot be confirmed but are credible

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given the amount known to have been thrown around from the structures built upon its upper decks. In January 1918 he developed a “severe cold” and was hospitalized for a time. At what point this developed into what was considered pleurisy is not clear.61 Niobe had become dreadfully overcrowded in the explosion’s aftermath, and the poorly ventilated mess decks presented dangerous breeding grounds for what, as late as June 1918, naval authorities were still calling “consumption,” the euphemism for tuberculosis.62 In March 1918 Bert was granted a one-month leave of absence so that he could be present for the serious operation his wife still needed. Part of his time in Esquimalt also appears to have been spent in hospital. During this time the family’s situation moved Captain E.H. Martin, superintendent of the Esquimalt Dockyard and the senior naval officer on the west coast, to intervene with the director of the Naval Service, Admiral C.E. Kingsmill, who genuinely cared for those under his authority; Kingsmill had Bert reassigned to Esquimalt for the rest of his service.63 On 24 May 1918 Bert was diagnosed as having chronic pleurisy (fibroid phthisis), and his records show a long hospital stay extending into August; his lungs were twice “tapped” but “no fluid found.”64 At the end of August, after a short leave, he was rated as unfit for further service and discharged to the Department of Soldiers Civil Reestablishment for further treatment.65 He remained in the Jubilee Hospital in Victoria until late September, when he was moved to the Mountview Sanatorium in Calgary. Dolly, whose own health remained poor, nonetheless managed to move back to Red Deer with the children in October.66 In February 1919 the Red Deer Advocate noted that “Mr. Bert Griffiths [sic] is back from Naval service at the coast. He has been in hospital for some time.”67 Treatment at the sanatorium and periods of home rest continued until June 1919, when a pension board sat in Calgary to determine his status. The documentation reveals that Bert had suffered the “practically complete loss of function of left lung.” He was “not well nourished-poor appetite-poor sleeper. Left chest fallen in … right side increased action almost emphysematous. Left side flatnote all over, no air movement … pulse 92 irregular.”68 Use of then recent X-Ray technology enabled specialists to state that, “while the findings of this right lung are not typical of tb, still it is very suggestive of a Tubercular infection.”69 By the time of the pension proceeding, Bert’s medical condition had reached a “quiescent” condition, so that it was

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now considered that he could “pass under his own control.” Bert was accordingly discharged into civilian life on 6 June 1919 from the Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment with a 100 per cent disability. As this disability arose from his military service, he was awarded a full (Class 1) pension.70 Bert’s departure from the navy with a full pension for life would be the logical happily-ever-after ending to the account of his letters from Halifax. The family would move to Edmonton, and Bert would renew his employment as a federal (and later provincial) civil servant in the local land office (jurisdiction changed in 1931). There are mostly cheerful family stories as my mother and her sister grew up in the house their parents purchased. Photographs of the time reflect the usual family activities, excursions, and vacations. There was a cottage in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, which enabled the Griffiths to retain ties with the nearby Red Deer community. Brother Willie had also returned safely from the Western Front and married Dolly’s younger sister Gwyneth. The couple also lived in Edmonton. Of course no life is idyllic. My generation of Bert’s grandchildren had known, for instance, that he had lost a leg somewhere along the way: we have pictures of him, taken later in life, on crutches. We had also been told that, after Dolly had suffered a fatal heart attack in 1943, Bert had been grief-stricken and had “lost the will to live,” as the common euphemism goes. Willie also died in 1943 for reasons attributed to wounds received in the war. Bert now lived with my parents and their son (born in 1942). In the more immediate present this grandson had just finished editing Bert’s letters from Halifax when an envelope from the Department of Veterans Affairs (dva) arrived. I had filed an Access to Information request to see if any record of Bert’s medical history or pension deliberations existed. This was considered unlikely. Most of these records had been destroyed in the 1950s, a tragedy in view of Canada’s quite remarkable initiatives in caring for war veterans. The thirty-one pages I received were therefore something of a surprise. The file on Bert had indeed been stripped of most of its contents (104 pages!), but the original pension board documentation and supporting medical history had been retained. Documents produced in 1945, the year of Bert’s death, were probably the reason that the file was not completely destroyed in 1951, however.71 At the beginning of March 1945 Bert had gone out to the garage, shut the doors, and started his car. He changed his mind before the

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effects became fatal, but about three weeks later his daughter found him locked in his room after an overdose of sleeping pills. He was rushed to the dva’s Colonel Mewburn Pavilion, where the staff was able to resuscitate him. The case history sheet prepared by his doctors has been preserved. The initial comments are consistent with what we know or can imagine of Bert after he lost Dolly – severe mental depression, feelings of uselessness, and inability to sleep.72 Dr Hamilton also noted that there was “extensive documentation” of Bert’s case, which he summarized in part. He was in the close vicinity of the Halifax explosion during the last war while in the Navy and ever since has been suffering from a Chronic Anxiety neurosis with many exacerbations down through the years for which he has been taken care of by Dr. Hepburn. On 23–12–25 his right leg was amputated through the middle of the femur and typical tb right knee was found pathologically … He had been hospitalized in the University Hospital on several occasions since the last war, chiefly on the grounds of exacerbations of chest condition, right leg and psychoneurosis. On many occasions he has exhibited panic, fear reactions chiefly over environmental difficulties such as financial, work and also concern over his health, pension and insurance and he has been one to worry excessively and exhibits outbursts of emotional instability all through the years. His wife has tended to spoil him and give in to his every whim and fancy.73

While Dorothy Griffith had clearly had problems of her own, her care and support had been critical to keeping Bert in a functional state. Now the doctors who had brought him back to life were unable to offer any solution for his neurosis, depression, or observed dysfunctional behaviour. This rather dramatically underscores the marked and extensive advances in psychiatry and drug therapy that we take for granted today. In Bert’s case, however, the situation seemed beyond the coping capacity of his family, and the only recourse seemed to be constant care and supervision “for the rest of his life.” The Government House Convalescent Home could be tried, but it was “doubtful whether he would fit in.” If he failed to adjust “the only solution would seem to be admission to Mental Hospital.”74 In the event, the dilemma was problematical. Bert’s case history sheet over the next few days reported more cheerful occasions interspersed with periods of depression and agitation. On the morning of

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Sunday, 1 April (perhaps his capacity for ironic humour served to make him think of All Fools’ Day), Bert Griffith attended morning church service at the hospital, where it was observed that he “seemed quite cheerful.” Then, just before noon, he leapt from a fourth-floor bathroom window and ended his life.75 He was sixty-two. For some time now the letters from Halifax that prompted my journey through the traces of Bert Griffith’s life have taken on a personal dimension as I have tried to view events through his eyes. I have seen enough of myself in what I have found to feel not only an identity with him but also a great relief that my own life has not been directly touched by anything like that great explosion that ruined so much of Halifax and Dartmouth. Bert Griffith survived that calamity but must, nevertheless, rank among its casualties. The bright hopeful life of this once spirited and good-natured Englishman from Red Deer, Alberta, was not merely defined by his presence in Halifax that winter morning in 1917 but it was also darkly and permanently disfigured. notes

John Griffith Armstrong is a retired Canadian Forces officer who taught military history at the Royal Military College of Canada and contributed to Volume 3 of the Official History of the rcaf. He now lives in Ottawa, Ontario. This article owes much to the sage advice of Roger Sarty as well as to the help of my cousin-in-law, Mary Joan Cornett, of the City of Red Deer Archives. It was first published in the Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord 8, 4 (October 1998): 55–74. We are most grateful to the journal’s editor, William Glover, for allowing us to republish this slightly updated version. It might also be noted that this work was a first step in the research and preparation of the author’s The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy: Inquiry and Intrigue (Vancouver: ubc Press, 2001). While not cited in the notes below, it might profitably be consulted for amplification or additional analysis. 1 L.B. Griffith to Mrs L.B. Griffith, 8 December 1917, author’s files (hereafter Letter 1). 2 Red Deer was settled in 1891 when a branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway was built to Edmonton. Incorporated as a town in 1901 and as a city in 1913, the community numbered some 2,700 souls in 1911. See

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Henderson’s Alberta Gazetteer and Directory (Calgary: Henderson Directories, 1911); and Michael J. Dawe, Red Deer: An Illustrated History (Red Deer: City of Red Deer, 1996). Marjorie Armstrong was the author’s mother and lived until 1998. Thelma Foster, who died in 1980, was a mainstay for many years at the Red Deer Archives. Bert had participated in the 1912 debate over annexation of the village by the adjacent city and made an unsuccessful bid for the village council. He was a leading member of St Luke’s Anglican church choir and “one of the prominent actors in minstrel and other performances in connection with the society of the church.” Red Deer Advocate, 13 December 1912; and Red Deer News, 6 May 1914. Thumbnail Service Summaries of Canadian Expeditionary Force (cef) officers, National Defence Headquarters, (ndhq), Directorate of History and Heritage (dhh). Michael L. Hadley and Roger F. Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships: Canadian Naval Forces and German Sea Raiders, 1880–1918 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991), 96–7. Daily Telegraph (London), 12 October 1916, and “The Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve: Its Establishment, Recruiting and Some Notes on Its Work Overseas – 1916–1918,“ndhq, dhh, Naval Historical Series (nhs) 1700–903, (hereafter rncvr, “Some Notes”). Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, 131–80. Red Deer News, 20 and 27 September 1916; Red Deer Advocate, 29 September and 6 October 1916; and rncvr, “Some Notes.” vr 963, L.B. Griffith, rncvr, Personal File, nac, rg 24, Acc. 1992–93/ 169, vol. 84 (hereafter lbgpf). Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, 188; Naval 686 to Navyard, 13 February 1917, nsc 1065–7–2, nac, rg 24, vol. 4031. See also Kingsmill to Coke, 22 March 1917 (same file). lbgpf. “Brief History of hmcs Niobe,” ndhq, dhh, Niobe Permanent Record File (prf); hmcs Niobe 8000 file, ndhq, dhh; and Fred T. Jane, Jane’s Fighting Ships (London: Low, Marston, and Co., 1914). The position of Niobe at the time of the explosion was verified from photographs in Niobe prf. See also A.H. Wickens to E.C. Russell, 16 November 1955, ndhq, dhh, hmcs Niobe 8000, vol. 2, 7. The position of Mont Blanc and its distance is derived from a map in Alan Ruffman and David Simpson, “Realities, Myths, and Misconceptions of the Explosion,” in Ground Zero: A Reassessment of the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbour, ed. Alan Ruffman

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and Colin Howell (Halifax: Nimbus, 1994), 312. Access to the ship was from the Hospital Wharf, positioned close to its stern; the bow was positioned approximately sixty metres short of the Magazine Wharf (on Wellington Barracks property). Roger F. Sarty, “Silent Sentry: A Military and Political History of Canadian Coast Defence, 1860–1945” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1982), 306; and goc md 6 circular letter to editors of Halifax area newspapers, 28 October 1917, hqs 66, vol. 10, nac, rg 24, vol. 2323. hq 71-26-99, vol. 2, nac, rg 24, vol. 6355, ff 78-9. Marilyn Gurney Smith, The King’s Yard: An Illustrated History of the Halifax Dockyard (Halifax: Nimbus, 1985), 36–9; and D.R. Moore, History of hmc Dockyard, Halifax, ns (Halifax: privately printed, 1967), 54–8. Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, 202. For an example of this antipathy, see Kingsmill to Ernest J. Chambers, 14 February 1918, nac, rg 6E, vol. 621, file 350. “Responsibility of the Navy at Halifax in Time of War,” n.d.; and “Port of Halifax, ns, Public Traffic Regulations,” 19 February 1918, both at Naval Service (ns) 1001–13–1, nac, rg 24, vol. 6197. This material was consolidated for the preparation of a report to the minister of the naval service on the rcn’s part in the Halifax Explosion. Sarty, “Silent Sentry,” 304 and 308–9. Captain of Patrols (W. Hose) to Captain E.H. Martin, Superintendent hmc Dockyard, 25 July 1917, nss 58–53–24, nac, rg 24, vol. 5662. Details of these activities are preserved in the logs of pv-v and pv-vii, November-December 1917, nac, rg 24, vols. 7750 and 7761. Roger F. Sarty, “Hard Luck Flotilla: The rcn’s Atlantic Coast Patrol, 1914–18,” in The rcn in Transition, 1910–1985, ed. W.A.B. Douglas (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1988), 103–25. For more detailed treatment, see Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships. At the time of the disaster the fleet of auxiliary patrol ships (aps) comprised the Canada, Lady Evelyn, Hochelaga, Stadacona, Margaret, Cartier, Laurentian, and Acadia. This last is preserved as a museum ship on the Halifax waterfront. Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, 119–22. The progress of trawlers and drifters can be tracked in file nss 29–16–1, nac, rg 24, vol. 5604. See Hazen to McCurdy, 12 September 1917, nss 58–53–24, nac, rg 24, vol. 5662: “at the present time a number of men are in training at Halifax and some who are already trained are awaiting completion of patrol vessels.” lbgpf, also contains supporting references. lbgpf.

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28 Navy Yard Esquimalt to Naval, 14 November 1917; and Naval to Navy Yard, 15 November 1917, lbgpf. 29 A.H. Wickens to E.C. Russell, 16 November 1955, ndhq, dhh, hmcs Niobe 8000, vol. 2, 6. 30 Log of pv-vii, 6 December 1917, nac, rg 24, vol. 7761. 31 Shipping arrivals for the Port of Halifax can be tracked in file nss 1048– 48–8, nac, rg 24, vol. 3774. There are details of convoy sailings and composition in nss 1048–48–2, vol. 3773. Movement of vessels in the harbour leading up to the explosion was tracked in detail in evidence given at the Dominion Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, Minutes of Evidence (hereafter Inquiry), 13 December 1917 to 31 January 1918, nac, rg 42, vols. 596–7. 32 Letter 1. Strictly speaking, the Imo was on Norwegian register, but its assignment to Belgian relief was prominently emblazoned on its flanks (thus Bert’s description). Had he personally observed the collision Bert might have remarked that the Imo’s bow sliced into the starboard bow (not the stern) of the Mont Blanc, when the latter cut to port to avoid what appeared to be too narrow a passage between the Imo and the Dartmouth shore. Simultaneously the Imo reversed engines, and the transverse thrust to starboard made the collision unavoidable. The manoeuvres are still controversial. See Robert C.P Power, “A Look Back at the Collision of the Imo and the Mont Blanc with Seventy-Five Years of Hindsight,” in Ruffman and Howell, Ground Zero, 377–88. 33 G.N. Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, 2 vols. (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1952), 1: 229–33. Timings were also meticulously assessed in the Inquiry, 13 December 1917 to 31 January 1918, nac, rg 42, vols. 596–7. See also In the Supreme Court of Canada on Appeal from the Exchequer Court of Canada … (Compagnie Generale Transatlantique v. The Ship Imo). The latter leaves out testimony from the original inquiry but adds important new evidence, with the testimony of Mate John Makiny of the tug Nereid. 34 Letter 1. 35 David Simpson and Alan Ruffman, “Explosions, Bombs, and Bumps: Scientific Aspects of the Explosion,” in Ruffman and Howell, Ground Zero, 275–6. 36 Written accounts vary widely as to the exact time of the explosion. hmcs Niobe’s log, for example, records it as 9: 07 (nac, rg 24, vol. 7686). Alan Ruffman and David Simpson found seismographic records from Dalhousie College that established the time given in this account. See Ruffman and Simpson, “Realities, Myths, and Misconceptions,” in Ruffman and Howell, Ground Zero, 301–6. 37 Letter 1.

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38 Alan Ruffman, David Greenberg, and Tad Murty, “The Tsunami from the Explosion in Halifax Harbour,” in Ruffman and Howell, Ground Zero, 327–44. 39 Letter 1. 40 Capt Supt hmc Dockyard to Secretary Naval Service, 24 January 1918, nss 37–25–2, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634; and “Canadian Naval Fatal Casualties Halifax Explosion,” ndhq, dhh, 73/160, 41 Fred Longland, “Memoir of Halifax Disaster,” nac, mg 30E 183/6. 42 “Brief History of hmcs Niobe,” ndhq, dhh, Niobe prf. Details of casualties and damage are in files nss 37–25–1 and nss 37–25–2, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634. 43 co hmcs Niobe to Capt Supt hmc Dockyard, 18 December 1917, nss 37– 25–2, vol. 3, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634. For the account of another member present during the rush to the gangway, see Reuben Hamilton Biographical File, ndhq, dhh, 13–15. 44 Letter 1. 45 co hmcs Niobe to Capt Supt hmc Dockyard, 18 December 1917, nss 37– 25–2, vol. 3, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634. 46 Letter 1. 47 Admiral Superintendent to Secretary Naval Service, 4 March 1918, nss 37–25–2, vol. 3, nac, rg 24, vol. 5635; co hmcs Niobe to Captain Superintendent, 18 December 1917, nss 37–25–2, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634; hmcs Niobe Log, nac, rg 24, vol. 7686. See also “Brief History of hmcs Niobe,” ndhq, dhh, Niobe prf. 48 co Niobe to Capt Supt hmc Dockyard, 18 December 1917, nss 37–25–2, vol. 3, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634; and hmcs Niobe log, nac, rg 24, vol. 7686. 49 A.H. Wickens to E.C. Russell, 16 November 1955, ndhq, dhh, hmcs Niobe 8000, vol. 2. Wickens’s account is repeated in the ship’s unofficial history (“Brief History of hmcs Niobe,” ndhq, dhh, Niobe prf) but no other references to the incident have been found in Naval Service records. Birkenhead was a troopship that sank in 1851 bound for the Cape of Good Hope. While the women and children were taken ashore in the ship’s only cutter, the soldiers and sailors maintained their discipline and went down with the ship; 480 died in the disaster. See William O.S. Gilly, Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy: Between 1793 and 1857 (London: Longman, Green, 1864), 348–57. 50 Letter 1. 51 co Niobe to Secretary Naval Service, 20 January 1918 and co Niobe to Capt Supt hmc Dockyard, 21 January 1918, nac, rg 24, ndhq, dhh, 81/250/1440–1446, vol. 9.

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52 Smith, The King’s Yard, 40–1. Prints of official Naval Service photos of the disaster are in file nss 37–25–2, nac, rg 24, vol. 5635. 53 Letter 1. The Imperial cruiser was hms Highflyer. Only three aboard died, but the number given by Bert approximates the number rated as injured. Like Niobe, Highflyer had sent a boat to render assistance to Mont Blanc, and all but one of those aboard perished, including the warship’s executive officer. See Michael J. Bird, The Town That Died (Toronto: McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1962), 90. 54 “Detail of Work Done by Naval and Military Search Parties in Devastated Area Halifax, from Dec. 8/17 to Jan. 3/18,” at i/c Military Search Parties to daa and qmg Halifax, 12 January 1918, 6 md 86–4–1, vol. 1, nac, rg 24, vol. 4549. 55 J.A. Wilson, Director of Stores, to Deputy Minister Naval Service, 24 December 1917, nss 37–25–1, vol. 1, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634. 56 L.B. Griffith to Mrs L.B. Griffith, 16 December 1917, author’s files (henceforth Letter 2). Bert’s observations and comments in the next few paragraphs are all taken from this letter. Note that 14 December was a Friday, not a Thursday, as Bert stated. 57 co Niobe to Capt Supt hmc Dockyard, 21 January 1918, nss 37–25–2, vol. 3, nac, rg 24, vol. 5634. 58 L.B. Griffith to Mrs L.B. Griffith, 21 December 1917, author’s files (Letter 3). 59 The initial investigation into the disaster was an inquiry conducted on behalf of the Dominion Wreck Commissioner of the Department of Marine, chaired by Justice Arthur Drysdale, which commenced on 13 December 1917. Acting Commander Frederick Wyatt, the rcn’s chief examining officer for the Port of Halifax, performed very suspiciously under testimony and appeared to perjure himself. He was ultimately charged with manslaughter, although the case was eventually dropped. A complete set of inquiry transcripts, together with Justice Drysdale’s report, may be found in nac, rg 42, vols. 596–7. For analysis of the postexplosion litigation, a major undertaking in itself, see Donald A. Kerr, “Another Calamity: The Litigation,” in Ruffman and Howell, Ground Zero, 365–76. 60 J. Castell Hopkins, ed., Canadian Annual Review War Series 1917 (Toronto: Annual Review Publishing, 1918), 469; and Canadian Annual Review War Series 1918 (Toronto: Annual Review Publishing, 1919). See also cumulative coverage in Halifax Herald, 11 December 1917 to 21 March 1918. On rcn morale, see nac, rg 6E, vol. 621.

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61 Department of Veterans Affairs (dva), Pension Records, L.B. Griffith, Program Record vac/mva, Medical History, 6 June 1919 (lbg Pension File). 62 Admiral Superintendent, hmc Dockyard, to Secretary Naval Service, 28 June 1918, nss 18–42–1, vol. 2, nac, rg 24, vol. 3610. 63 co Niobe to Secretary Naval Service, 5 February 1918; and Martin (Navyard Esquimalt) to Director Naval Service, 3 April 1918, lbgpf. 64 Statement of Service, lbgpf; and dva, Pension Records, Medical History of an Invalid, 6 June 1919, lbg Pension File. 65 Capt Supt hmc Dockyard Esquimalt to Secretary Naval Service, 26 July 1918, and Secretary Naval Service to Capt Supt hmc Dockyard Esquimalt, 6 August 1918, lbgpf. 66 Navyard Esquimalt 163 to Naval Ottawa, 20 September 1918; and Dorothy Griffith to Accountant Naval Service, 9 October 1918, lbgpf. 67 Red Deer Advocate, 21 February 1919. 68 Medical History of an Invalid, 6 June 1919, dvs, Pension Records, lbg Pension File. 69 McGuffin to McDonald, 5 June 1919, dva, Pension Records, lbg Pension File. 70 Medical History of an Invalid, 6 June 1919, and Board of Pension Commissioners, Authority for Pension Payments, 6 June 1919, dva, Pension Records, lbg Pension File. 71 dva file 745-L-2, cpc 128738, Annotation as to non-essential documents destroyed, dva, Pension Records, lbg Pension File. 72 Case History Sheet, 22 March 1945, dva, Pension Records, lbg Pension File. 73 Case History Sheet, Consultation Dr Spaner, 27 March 1945, dva, Pension Records, lbg Pension File. 74 Ibid. 75 Case History Sheet, 1 April 1945, dva, Pension Records, lbg Pension File.

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7 The Origins of Canada-us Defence Cooperation: The Naval Defence of the Northwest Atlantic, 1914–18 roger sarty Canada’s naval defence during the First World War saw the transformation of the United States from a potential source of attack to an ally. American neutrality, from August 1914 until April 1917, aroused deeply rooted Canadian fears. Agents of the Central Powers, aided by anti-British elements in the us population, might arm civilian ships with hidden weapons for attacks in Canadian waters or organize clandestine supply facilities that would allow enemy warships to undertake sustained raiding operations along the Canadian seaboard. With the United States’ entry into the war, American ports were soon integrated with Canadian ports in an effective arrangement for the protection of Allied shipping in the north Atlantic. During 1918 us warships and aircraft joined with Canadian Forces, in some instances under Canadian command, for the defence of Canadian waters. This was the first instance of cooperation between the armed forces of the two nations, and, although it quickly ended following the war, the experience set the pattern for the permanent alliance that emerged in the face of renewed German aggression in the north Atlantic in 1940–41. Canadian defence, and the organization of Canada’s armed forces, was in a state of flux on the eve of the First World War. Historically Canadian defence had meant protection against the United States, whose forces had invaded Britain’s North American colonies in 1775–76 and again in 1812–14. Although the heavy economic costs and indecisive results of the War of 1812 convinced both British and American leaders that there would be no benefit from armed conflict, there had been a series of crises from the late 1830s to the 1860s that had featured military buildups on both sides of the border. The most serious of the confrontations resulted from Britain’s recognition of the

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Confederacy during the American Civil War. Thereafter, in 1866–70, Irish-American members of the Fenian brotherhood, many of whom had served in the federal forces during the American Civil War, launched cross-border attacks.1 The confederation of Britain’s colonies into the new Dominion of Canada in 1867 was in no small part an effort to achieve strength through unity to counter the threat from the south. Britain encouraged Confederation so that it could withdraw its regular army garrisons from Canada. These garrisons were manifestly inadequate in the face of the military strength demonstrated by the United States during the Civil War, and they served mainly as a red rag to the large anti-British elements of the us population. Canada’s part-time land militia and a tiny cadre of Canadian regular troops took over border defence, but British-American-Canadian diplomatic settlements of outstanding disputes were the most important guarantee of Canadian security. Nevertheless, Britain maintained a squadron of warships in North American waters and greatly increased the strength of its fortified naval bases at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at Bermuda in the 1870s-90s to ensure that the Royal Navy could sustain its control of the north Atlantic even in the increasingly unlikely event that the United States should prove hostile. Between 1904 and 1906 Britain turned the fortified base at Halifax over to the small Canadian regular army, reduced the garrison at Bermuda, and withdrew the naval squadron that had been permanently assigned to North American waters. Britain’s military forces were stretched paper thin by global commitments, as had most recently been demonstrated by the exhausting war in South Africa (1899– 1902). Now, in order to allow more effective deployment of the armed forces, British military and political leaders wrote off the possibility of war with the United States. Canadian political leaders agreed that the United States was a very unlikely enemy. They were most reluctant, however, to accept the other part of Britain’s effort to consolidate imperial strength: that Canada should prepare forces ready to support Britain in overseas wars. Canada’s contribution of some 8,000 troops during the South African War had raised domestic political controversy. Opposition to possible international military commitments also nearly killed the new Canadian navy, which the government established in 1910 to replace the departed British North American squadron. In 1914 the navy still had only two obsolescent cruisers, one on each coast, that Canada had purchased from the

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Royal Navy as training vessels, and a cadre of 350 personnel. The lack of urgency most Canadians felt about naval defence reflected disbelief that the great Royal Navy could not still guarantee protection against overseas attack as well as confidence that the rapidly expanding us Navy (usn) would help in the defence of Canada in the event of a European or Asian power attempting serious attacks in North American waters.2 The United States’ declaration of neutrality on the outbreak of war brought about something like a reversion to the circumstances of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As many as fifty-four German merchant ships took refuge from the Royal Navy in us ports. These included large, fast liners equipped, as British intelligence knew, to mount armament and to act as raiders against British merchant shipping and ports; the smaller ships could do so as well, or they could supply coal to cruisers to enable them to undertake sustained operations in the western Atlantic. Canadian waters and ports were particularly vulnerable because they lie on the Great Circle route, the shortest passage between Europe and North America, within ready steaming range of Germany and close by clandestine support that might be organized by German agents and sympathizers in the United States. Aside from the substantial trade from Canadian ports, a much larger number of ships from us ports, the Caribbean, and South America funnelled past Nova Scotia and south of Newfoundland en route to Britain; this steamer traffic carried some 40 per cent of Britain’s overseas imports. As war broke out, British cruisers flocked back to the northwest Atlantic; the bulk of them – usually a half-dozen in number – operated from Halifax. Among them was the single Canadian cruiser on the Atlantic coast, hmcs Niobe. At the outbreak of war the ship had been lying alongside at Halifax, in a virtually mothballed state, with only a small portion of the required crew of 700 available. Key British personnel and Canadian volunteers got the vessel ready for sea within four short weeks.3 The principal missions of the squadron based at Halifax were (1) to maintain a standing patrol off New York to guard against breakouts by the enemy vessels that had taken shelter there and (2) to stop and examine all departing neutral ships to determine that they were not carrying war supplies to the enemy states. According to the recollections of Niobe’s executive officer, Commander C.E. Algionby, a former British officer who had transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy (rcn):

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t h e o r i g i n s o f c a n a d a - u s d e fe n c e c o o pe r a t i o n 125 Owing to complaints in the American press by German sympathizers to the effect that we were sitting on Uncle Sam’s doorstep … we had to keep our patrol almost out of sight of land. The American Navy were very friendly to us, and when their ships passed us they used to cheer ship and play British tunes. One day when we had news that the “Vaterland” had raised steam and would probably bolt out at night, we overheard a signal made by wireless “En clair” from one American ship to another “it is the Dutch ‘Vaderland’ not the German ‘Vaterland’ which is going out tonight.”4

Such courtesies reflected sympathy on the part of the president, Woodrow Wilson, and key members of his administration for the Allied cause. The us government went a considerable way towards accepting rights claimed by Britain to virtually close off neutral trade that might benefit the Central Powers, all but abandoning us claims for the rights of neutral shipping that had brought the American declaration of war against Britain in 1812. That, however, by no means resolved tensions between the Unites States and the Allies. The death struggle in Europe, and the fact that starvation of the Central Powers through economic blockade by the Royal Navy was a vital Allied offensive weapon, meant that British demands for us compliance were insatiable and that patience for American consideration of well founded German protests was non-existent. The conviction on the part of Wilson and much of the population that the United States had no interest in getting embroiled in the struggle of the Old World empires, together with anti-British sentiment among the large segment of the us population that was of recent German, Austro-Hungarian, or Irish origin, also set limits to the acceptance of British domination of seaborne trade.5 The Canadian government and senior military officers were naturally sensitive to the tensions with the United States and had their own particular concerns. Although in the nineteenth century the American federal government had done much (except during periods of active hostility with Britain) to discourage filibustering across the border, these efforts had not prevented some substantial crossborder attacks by anti-British elements of the us population. Moreover, the Canadian official classes had a pessimistic view of unbridled American democracy, which, from north of the border, seemed to tend to mob rule. Sir Cecil Spring Rice, the British ambassador in Washington, fed these fears and prejudices through the reports he passed to Ottawa as well as to London concerning widespread plots

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against Canada by German officials and German sympathizers in the United States. Most of these were bar-room fantasies, but the activities of a few zealots gave them credence.6 The Canadian government was especially concerned about the danger of a surprise raid along the coasts or against seaports. British doctrine was that the primary task of the Royal Navy, including the cruisers based at Halifax, was to protect shipping offshore and to prevent a large-scale attack on imperial territory. Defence against hitand-run raids and clandestine attack was Canada’s own responsibility, but the country had very limited means. Because Canada had failed to develop any substantial naval forces, on the outbreak of war Britain urged that the Dominion focus its effort on raising land forces. The first contingent of 30,000 men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (cef) sailed to England in October 1914, and by the end of the war Canada would raise over 600,000 troops for service on the Western Front in Europe. Meanwhile, over 10,000 home service troops guarded vulnerable points close to the us border and garrisoned the principal seaports, with reserves of 30,000 to 50,000 troops among the successive contingents preparing for overseas duty designated to provide support. Troops and coast artillery could protect nothing beyond the immediate approaches to ports, however, and even there they were of limited value at night and in the frequently foggy conditions on the east coast. The only waterborne defence available was a half-dozen small civil government and chartered steamers, which maintained look-out patrols and swept the approaches to Halifax for mines.7 The importance of the latter task was driven home on 27 October 1914, when mines laid in deep water off Northern Ireland by the armed liner Berlin fatally damaged the modern battleship hms Audacious.8 Soon after, the Canadian government received a report that “prominent Germans in New York [are] endeavouring to charter yacht Courant … with object of placing on board consignment of mines, now alleged to be New York … Mines were shipped from Antwerp to New York it is understood early in August … Purpose it is stated to sow mouth of St Lawrence River with mines.”9 Although in this case, as with most reports of plots in the United States, investigation turned up nothing, the dominance of the British surface fleet was in fact causing Germany to emphasize underwater warfare. In February 1915 the German government declared a submarine blockade of the British Isles: any approaching merchant ship,

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neutral or not, would be subject to destruction. Losses were initially moderate, but the potential and horror of this new form of warfare became apparent on 7 May 1915 when the submarine U-20 torpedoed and sank the large liner Lusitania west of Ireland; down with the ship went 1,198 passengers and crew members. The fact that the disaster occurred close by the major Royal Navy base at Queenstown underscored the apparent powerlessness of Britain’s surface forces. The Canadian government and senior naval officers, including the British officers responsible for the cruiser operations from Halifax, were particularly alarmed.10 On 22 October 1914, off the coast of the Netherlands, a single submarine had sunk three cruisers, similar to those based at Halifax, within less than an hour. Now that the German submarine force had demonstrated its ability to reach out into the Atlantic and operate with impunity there, it seemed that the cruisers that were the principal protection of Canadian waters were of no use at all. As always, the immediate and greatest concern was for the Gulf of St Lawrence. This broad seaway, which gives into the vast St Lawrence River and Montreal, the greatest port in eastern Canada, was the main summer route for the heavy summer and fall Canadian shipping traffic. The islands within the gulf, and the land masses around it, however, force seagoing ships to follow fixed routes, along which there are several choke points – ideal areas for the sort of clandestine underwater attack that the Germans were now mastering.11 On 21 May senior officials and officers interviewed a Dr Condie from Montreal, who reported that he had been in contact with German officials in the United States and that they had spoken in some detail about “three submarines” that were headed for “the gulf and district surrounding the gulf.”12 Nothing came of this warning, and the British Admiralty advised that the submarine threat to Canada was very limited. The submarines could carry enough fuel only for a one-way passage across the Atlantic and would therefore have to have some means of refuelling, either from secret caches set up in isolated bays by agents and sympathizers or from a merchant ship. These considerable logistical difficulties made an attack extremely unlikely, and even if the Germans did attempt it, the refuelling arrangements could be countered by modest forces, such as the small civilian steamers the Canadian navy was operating for mine-watching and mine-sweeping purposes on the east coast. At the same time, the Admiralty admitted it could not spare

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any destroyer type vessels, which had the speed and manoeuvrability needed for anti-submarine operations, and could consider sending such help to Canada and Newfoundland only in the event of a serious attack.13 The Canadian navy, urged on by Vice Admiral Sir George Patey, who had recently arrived in North American waters to take overall command of the forces that had been built up since the outbreak of war, set about expanding the mine-watching patrol it had planned to mount in the St Lawrence for the 1915 shipping season. The difficulty was that the British services, needing coastal shipping to supply the fighting forces in the European theatre, had already taken up most of the Canadian vessels suitable for defensive patrols. One possible source for additional craft was the United States, but that market was closed by American neutrality legislation, which prevented the sale of vessels for military employment. J.K.L. Ross, a Montreal financier and yachtsman who was desperate to find some means of contributing to the war effort after he was rejected for service in the cef, had got around the neutrality law by purchasing two fast yachts in the United States. He presented them to the rcn, which had armed the ships and commissioned them as the hmcs Tuna and the hmcs Grilse. Ross had taken a commission in the navy to command first the Tuna and then the Grilse. The navy department turned to another yachtsman, Aemelius Jarvis (who would later become president of the Canadian branch of the Navy League), who purchased two larger yachts in New York and had them delivered to Halifax. They commissioned them in August 1915 as the hmcs Stadacona and the hmcs Hochelaga. Each vessel was nearly sixty metres in length, displaced over 546 tonnes, and could sustain a speed of twenty-two kilometres per hour; they were two of the most seaworthy and capable units of the rcn’s patrol flotilla, which, with their arrival, grew to a strength of ten vessels. The clearest sign of the changing face of naval warfare was that, in the summer of 1915, when it became clear that the hmcs Niobe could not continue seagoing service without an uneconomically large refit, the Canadian navy rejected Britain’s offer of a replacement cruiser so that the Niobe’s crew could operate the anti-submarine flotilla. The Niobe remained at Halifax, moored alongside at the naval dockyard as a floating barracks and communications centre, in part to support the expanded coastal patrol.14 Despite continued warnings from the United States during the summer of 1915 that German agents and sympathizers were organiz-

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ing fuel supplies for transatlantic submarine missions to the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Admiralty’s doubts that the enemy would attempt such a costly and risky enterprise proved correct. In August the German government called off the “sink-on-sight” submarine campaign in the approaches to the British Isles as a result of strong us protests at the loss of American lives in British merchant ships that had been torpedoed. A year later one of the preliminary blows of a fresh all-out German submarine campaign against merchant shipping seemed to foreshadow the Lusitania-like disaster in Canadian waters that Canadian leaders had long feared. On 8 October 1916 U-53 appeared off Providence, Rhode Island, accepted an escort by a us submarine, and entered the port. The visit, which was intended to warn the usn about the power of the German submarine force, created a stir, precisely as German authorities had hoped. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Hans Rose, paid his respects to the senior us naval officer of the port, Rear Admiral Austin C. Knight, and invited him aboard, together with other us naval personnel and civilians who gathered along the waterfront. Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, commander of destroyers in the us fleet, then arrived with his wife and daughter for a tour of the boat. As in the case of the other visitors, Rose and his crew proudly showed off the guns, torpedoes, and machinery of their warship. After only two and one-half hours in port, U-53 put to sea again – having made no request for additional fuel – and headed for Nantucket Shoals Lightship, an area where Rose expected to find Allied merchant shipping. The next day, 9 October, the submarine destroyed four British vessels and one Norwegian ship that was carrying Allied war material. Rose, in the effort to impress the Americans with the confidence and strength of the German navy, calmly and meticulously abided by the strictest interpretation of the international law bearing on trade warfare. He stopped each vessel and examined its papers to establish its identity and contraband cargo beyond doubt, and allowed the passengers and crew ample time to escape in boats before opening fire. These careful operations continued through the whole day, and most were carried out under the watchful eyes of eighteen of Admiral Gleaves’s destroyers, which had rushed to the scene in response to radio signals from the first of the victims. The us warships correctly stood by, not interfering; one quickly moved out of the way when Rose signalled that the ship was blocking his line of fire at one of the merchant vessels.15

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The image of bland confidence that Rose projected masked what had been a harrowing ordeal. The submarine, filled with additional fuel until it was scarcely manoeuvrable, had had a hair-raising twoweek voyage from Germany, during which the crew had nearly abandoned the enterprise in the face of heavy storms through which the overloaded U-boat had barely been able to keep its head. After the operations near Nantucket, the submarine made a direct passage back to Germany, where it arrived on 28 October. The boldness of the enterprise paid rich dividends. There was renewed controversy between Britain and the United States, as the British government protested to the Wilson administration that it had tolerated U-53’s destruction of valuable Allied merchantmen in inshore waters, the very zone from which the American authorities had banished Royal Navy patrols. Nervous ship owners refused to let their vessels sail from Canadian and us ports, hindering the free and timely flow of supplies that was the ultimate object of the Allied maritime effort. Certainly, there were no effective anti-submarine defences available. Vice Admiral Sir Montague Browning, Patey’s successor in command of the British forces in the western Atlantic, pulled his cruisers back to the safety of Halifax and called upon the Canadian service to strengthen its patrols by the little lookout steamers in the harbour approaches. The Canadian government bridled at the Admiralty’s inability to send anti-submarine forces and its advice that the time had come for Canada rapidly to increase its own defences. That rankled deeply, particularly in view of the British government’s incessant pressure for the Dominion to focus on the dispatch of land forces to Europe, and the Admiralty’s failure, on the grounds of the remoteness of the danger of transatlantic submarine operations, to support such small measures as Canada had been able to undertake.16 As these recriminations flew back and forth in the winter of 1916, the Allies faced the gravest naval crisis of the war. After the horrific bloodletting of the battles of the Verdun and Somme campaigns in 1916, the German government was willing to risk us enmity in pursuit of a quick victory. German leaders bargained that the Allies could be forced to sue for peace before the United States could dispatch significant forces to Europe. An essential part of the new German offensive was to sever the transatlantic supply system that was fuelling the Allied war effort with North American foodstuffs, raw materials, and industrial goods. The growing number of German submarines, and

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the improved design and fighting powers of these vessels, inflicted increasing losses on the Allied merchant fleets during the latter part of 1916, even with the limitations of “restricted” warfare – the rules by which the submarines had to surface and establish the identity of merchant ships and allow time for the passengers and crew of those liable for destruction to make for safety – that Germany had accepted in the face of American protests in August 1915. On 31 January 1917 Germany announced a new “unrestricted” submarine campaign, and British losses soared from thirty-five vessels in January to eighty-six in February, increasing to 155 in April as compared to forty-two ships in August 1915, the worst month of the earlier campaign. Losses among other Allied and neutral ships were as great as were those of the British merchant marine, bringing total losses of merchant ships to 354 in April 1917. More seriously still, the heaviest losses were among seagoing ships as they departed from and arrived in British waters. Although the United States entered the war on the Allied side on 6 April 1917 in response to the unrestricted submarine attacks, it seemed that the German objective of severing the transatlantic routes by which American forces could reach the combat theatres was within close reach.17 The Canadian government, for its part, was relieved that American belligerence did not result in massed cross-border assaults by German sympathizers in the United States. Nervous members of Parliament had discussed the threat in the House of Commons on 1 February 1917, and the prime minister, Sir Robert Borden, had admitted he agreed that greatly increased defence measures were needed, much to the consternation of censorship officials who trimmed the published proceedings of all references to the United States.18 At the same time, Canadian hopes that the us entry into the war would bring urgently needed naval assistance to the east coast were soon dashed. After early negotiations with the us Navy Department, Admiral Browning sent the encouraging news that the Americans would assume responsibility for the defence of the southern tip of Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy, allowing the small Canadian service to concentrate its efforts at Halifax and in the Gulf of St Lawrence. When, in early June, Commander R.M.T. Stephens of the headquarters staff in Ottawa travelled to Washington to work out the details, he found a near chaotic situation. The usn had made almost no preparations for anti-submarine warfare and was already dispatching squadrons from its limited destroyer force overseas in response to British appeals for assistance

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in meeting the crisis in European waters. Little had been done to muster smaller vessels for anti-submarine and minesweeping patrols in harbour approaches and coastal waters, the kind of assistance Canada needed, but which the United States was hard-pressed to organize for its own waters. The American commitment Admiral Browning had reported was only for general coverage by cruiser squadrons. One us staff officer explained “that as regards the sea patrol of the Bay of Fundy, United States ships might occasionally be found there, say once in 3 months.”19 This news threw the Canadian service back on Canada’s own limited resources. The us market, because of the demands of American mobilization, yielded only seven wooden trawlers, which the rcn converted into minesweepers. The arming and commissioning of three of the few government steamers suitable for extended patrols, and not yet taken up for naval duty, still left the force woefully short of the minimum number of vessels required. The government therefore ordered the construction of twelve steel trawlers, modest but seaworthy and manoeuvrable craft that measured 130 feet in length, displaced approximately 350 tons, and could make ten knots. The Admiralty, in its desperate search for anti-submarine craft wherever available, placed its own orders in Canada for thirty-six steel trawlers (soon increased to a total of sixty) and 100 wooden drifters. The latter, 84 feet in length and with a displacement of 99 tons, were suited mainly for patrols in the approaches to ports. The Admiralty allowed that the ships being constructed under British contracts might be allocated to the Canadian coast if there was an immediate threat, but it reserved the right to deploy them overseas if they were more urgently needed there. The underdeveloped nature of the Canadian shipbuilding industry, and its dependence for components on us firms now stretched by American mobilization, delayed delivery of most of the anti-submarine craft until 1918.20 Weak and poorly organized as were the local anti-submarine defences in the western Atlantic, the British Admiralty integrated us and Canadian ports into an extremely effective system for the protection of north Atlantic trade. The unsustainable losses in the early months of 1917 persuaded the Admiralty to attempt to sail merchant shipping in defended convoys, an ancient method of trade protection that had seemed impossible with the large number and speed of merchant ships in the steam age and the complexity of trading patterns

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required to sustain industrial societies. After convoys crossed successfully from Hampton Roads, Virginia, in May 1917, without loss either to enemy action or collision by the merchant ships manoeuvring in close order, convoys for ships loaded at northern ports began to sail regularly, at eight-day intervals, from Sydney, Cape Breton, on 10 July and from New York on 14 July. Troopships from Halifax had always sailed in small convoys, under naval escort, and starting on 4 September these were expanded to include fast merchant ships that sailed on an eight-day schedule. In November 1917 the Sydney convoys began to assemble at Halifax for the winter season, when ice closed the St Lawrence route.21 The British Admiralty, with its full intelligence on both merchant ship sailings and areas of enemy activity, controlled the convoy organization through British “port convoy officers” at each port; the senior port convoy officer for North America was located first at Hampton Roads and then at New York. The whole purpose of the convoy system was to have merchant ships arrive in the western approaches to Great Britain, where the U-boats were concentrated, in organized groups. This allowed efficient employment of the limited number of anti-submarine destroyers and other ocean anti-submarine craft available. Anti-submarine escorts met each convoy as it neared the British Isles and then formed a screen around the merchant ships to cover them as they passed through the waters where the submarines were known to be present. Although submarines still hunted mainly in coastal waters, the Germans were operating powerful raiders (disguised as Allied merchant ships) on the high seas, and there was always the danger that major warships of the main German fleet could break out under cover of darkness or bad weather past the British patrols in the North Sea and strike into the central and western Atlantic. Cruisers, which had the gunpower to drive off any but the heaviest enemy warships, therefore sailed as escorts with the convoys as they departed from North American ports and accompanied them to the approaches to the British Isles. The British cruisers based at Halifax and the West Indies, which had carried out blockade patrols since 1914, turned to this duty and were reinforced by us warships. American cruisers now became regular visitors at Halifax and Sydney as they took their place in the convoy sailing schedule. Admiral Browning controlled the escort arrangements for the convoys as they departed North American ports, and he supervised the western end of

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the convoy system on behalf of the Admiralty; he spent an increasing proportion of his time in Washington to coordinate cooperation with the usn. There was a mild element of paradox for, since 1915, the British admiral who commanded the cruiser force in the western Atlantic had been styled the “Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies,” a revival of the command that had been abolished in 1904 because of Anglo-American amity, and whose origins lay in the wars and confrontations between Britain and the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Similarly, the naval facilities and shore defences at Halifax, now a regular port of call for us warships, had been developed to allow the British fleet to strike at the us coast in the event of an Anglo-American war. The convoy system was a brilliant success. During the crisis in the spring of 1917, one in four ocean-going merchant vessels departing from British ports could be expected to fall victim to U-boat attack, a loss rate of some 25 per cent. By contrast, during the whole period between May 1917 and October 1918, the loss rate in ocean convoys was a shade over one-half of 1 per cent – ninety-six ships sunk by U-boats out of the total of 16,070 voyages by ships in these convoys. The main reason for the safety of the convoys, whose size quickly grew from twenty to forty or more merchant vessels, was that they enormously increased the difficulties of U-boats in finding shipping. Submarine crews had only a limited visual horizon from the low hulls of their warships, which is why the U-boats operated mainly in coastal waters, where the funnelling of merchant vessels into port approaches made it easy to sight targets. A convoy at sea, however, is visible from only a slightly greater distance than a single ship, and therefore the sailing of merchant vessels in large groups reduced the nearly constant stream of potential targets presented to U-boats by independently sailed merchant vessels to very occasional opportunities. Even if U-boats succeeded in locating a convoy, the presence of escorts all but eliminated chances for attack. U-boats were very swift on the surface, where they were driven by powerful air-breathing diesel engines, but they were almost immobile once submerged, when they relied on electric motors powered by batteries of limited capacity. Thus they could make fast surface pursuits of single vessels but, in the presence of well-armed escorts, had to submerge. This meant that the U-boat normally had only one chance to fire its torpedoes before the convoy passed out of range.22

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The success of anti-submarine defence measures in the eastern Atlantic, however, raised the danger that the Germans might again attempt transatlantic operations. During the fall of 1917 the Canadian naval staff was preparing plans to meet this threat when the Admiralty announced that most of the new trawlers and drifters building under British contracts in Canadian yards would in fact be ordered to proceed to European waters. These were the very vessels – the first of which were just being completed – that the Canadian staff had counted upon to improve the east coast defences. In late November Naval Service Headquarters dispatched Captain E.H. Martin, superintendent of the Halifax dockyard, to London to find out directly what was the likely threat, the defences required to meet it, and what help Canada might expect. Martin discovered that the Admiralty had intelligence of a German program to build large, long-range submarines that might be expected in Canadian and us waters as early as the spring of 1918. They would likely hunt convoys in the approaches to ports and also push into the Gulf of St Lawrence to attack the heavy, and still unconvoyed, shipping there. The Admiralty now allocated thirty of the trawlers and thirty-six of the drifters building on British account in Canadian yards to the rcn, which, with the Canadian service’s existing flotilla and its twelve new trawlers, would provide the 100 anti-submarine craft estimated to be the minimum needed. The British authorities explained, however, that the small and medium-sized coastal type craft available to the Canadians would have to be supplemented by destroyer-type vessels with the high speed, weapons, and sea-keeping qualities needed to escort convoys the whole way through the danger zone in coastal waters and also to hunt submarines in response to vessels that sighted them or came under attack. A total of twelve such powerful escorts were needed for Canadian waters, and the Admiralty promised to supply them.23 When, in February 1918, Vice Admiral Sir William Lowther Grant, rn, succeeded Browning as commander-in-chief, North America and West Indies, he discovered that delays in the British shipbuilding program and the urgent needs in European waters had ended any possibility that the Royal Navy might dispatch destroyer-type escorts to Canadian waters. The Admiralty, moreover, having convinced the Americans to continue to send the bulk of their antisubmarine craft to European waters and accept some risk of losses to German transatlantic attack off us ports, refused to ask the usn to

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help the Canadians. Their lordships, however, allowed that Grant might make an approach at his level. Grant, who agreed with the Canadians about their paucity of resources and shared their profound worry, asked the usn for five rather than twelve destroyer-type escorts. The reduced number, he hoped, would not be construed as interference with the dispatch of us escorts overseas but, rather, would signal the Canadians’ urgent need for help. Nevertheless, the American staff quickly complained to the Admiralty about the pressure from Grant and the Canadians to undermine the agreed Allied priority for European waters. At this same time, in March 1918, the Air Division of the Admiralty advised the Canadian service to organize air patrols by seaplanes and occupied balloons off the east coast ports. Although there were no aerial weapons that were effective against small surface targets like submarines (these would not be developed until the Second World War), aircraft had proved immensely successful in protecting convoys against U-boat attack. German submarine commanders had little choice but to submerge when sighting an aircraft on the horizon for the good reason that, if the aircrew spotted the submarine, they could call fast surface warships to the position. Once submerged and immobile, the submarine was incapable of pursuing shipping passing in the vicinity. The Royal Navy had no aviation resources to spare and, therefore, urged the Canadians to manufacture their own machines with industrial assistance from the United States, while borrowing American aircraft to serve during the rapidly approaching spring and summer shipping season. G.J. Desbarats, deputy minister of the Department of the Naval Service, rushed off to Washington where he discovered the Americans were having great difficulty meeting their own most urgent requirements. Admiral Grant, when he visited Ottawa in mid-April, received a blast from C.C. Ballantyne, minister of the naval service, about the great navies’ abandonment of Canadian needs. Grant arranged a meeting of his staff and the Canadians with us staff at the Navy Department in Washington on 20 April 1918. The only early help the Americans could offer was six wooden “submarine chasers” and two old torpedo boats. The submarine chasers were modest, thirty-threemetre-long wooden craft that had been hastily constructed in an emergency program. They were in no way the equivalent of destroyers and, in some respects, were less capable than the best ships in the Canadian force (like the steamers hmcs Hochelaga and hmcs Stada-

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cona), but they were faster (eighteen knots) and carried a good armament of depth charges. The three services also agreed on a cooperative scheme for air patrols. Britain would supply experienced officers to help the Canadians develop their own organization, while the Americans would provide aircraft and crews for interim service from bases the Canadians would build. On 22 April the Canadian and British officers met in Boston with Rear Admiral Spencer S. Wood, usn, commandant of the First Naval District, and his staff to make arrangements for the inshore patrols around southern Nova Scotia and in the Bay of Fundy, which the American service had not been able to undertake in 1917. As with the aviation scheme, it would be some months before the arrangements could be completed. The Canadian navy therefore welcomed the arrival at Halifax on 16 May of the eight patrol craft promised by the Americans in the Washington meeting. These vessels were operated by their usn crews but were assigned for duty under the direction of the Canadian east coast command. Although the two old torpedo boats proved to be too slow and undependable for anything other than close-in patrols in the harbour approaches, the six submarine chasers were of enormous assistance. Captain Walter Hose, rcn, who commanded the antisubmarine flotilla, divided the American ships into two divisions, each consisting of three vessels, for “long-range” convoy escort duty (i.e., to accompany the ocean convoys for their first twenty-four hours of passage through the coastal waters, where U-boats were most likely to attack). One division served the troopship-fast merchant ship convoys, and the other served the slow merchant ship convoys that had been transferred to Halifax upon the freeze-up of the St Lawrence. Early in July, when the slow convoys again began to assemble at Sydney, one of the divisions moved to that port. The presence of the American warships allowed the Canadians to allocate the best of their converted civilian steamers and the newly built trawlers to the “Mobile Patrol,” groups of three or four ships that operated together mainly in the St Lawrence, to support any shipping that came under attack and to hunt in areas where U-boats might lurk. The remainder of the trawlers and the little drifters maintained a watch in the approaches to Sydney and Halifax. On convoy sailing days the Canadian patrol craft concentrated to throw a screen around the merchant ships as they emerged from the ports and then accompanied the convoy for a few hours until the merchant vessels picked up speed and the us submarine chasers took over the escort.24

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The first of the German long-range submarines, the “U-cruiser” U151, had arrived off Chesapeake Bay on 16 May and operated successfully between these waters and the approaches to New York for the next six weeks. British naval intelligence, which was able to decode encrypted radio signals between the German shore command and the submarines, gave timely warning to the Americans and Canadians about the U-boat’s arrival and the general patrol areas that had been assigned to it. Nevertheless, because of the thinness of the defences off the us coast as a result of the priority for deployments in European waters, the big submarine was able to attack twenty-two ships with guns and torpedoes and, by minelaying, damage another ship. Most of the victims were sailing vessels, but there also six substantial steamers.25 British intelligence gave early warning of the approach of a second U-cruiser, U-156, during the latter part of June. Initially the submarine laid mines off New York, and on 19 July one of these sank the large cruiser uss San Diego. This news caused a stir in Halifax, where the American warship was well known from the convoy duty it had carried out from the Canadian port during the winter of 1917–18. The bold appearance of the submarine close off Nausett Beach, Cape Cod, on 21 July, where, fully surfaced, it fired its heavy deck guns at a tug and the barges it was towing as bathers watched in horror, created a sensation. This attack confirmed information in decrypted German radio signals that suggested the submarine would hunt in the Gulf of Maine and not head north into Canadian waters. On 2 August the submarine stopped and then burned the four-masted Canadian schooner Dornfontein at the western entrance to the Bay of Fundy, only a day after the vessel had sailed from Saint John, New Brunswick. The position of the sinking was within the patrol area for which the Boston naval district had responsibility, and a hunting force of twelve submarine chasers led by the destroyer uss Jouett rushed to the scene. They anticipated, on the basis of the good intelligence available, that the submarine would work its way back down the coast of Maine and continued the hunt in that direction. In fact the submarine slipped around the southern tip of Nova Scotia and on 5 August sank the tanker Luz Blanca within forty-eight kilometres of the entrance to that port. No warships were available immediately to respond to reports of the attack; the us submarine chasers assigned to Halifax and the Canadian patrol vessels were all well out at sea, completing the escort of a troopship and fast merchant vessel convoy that

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had sailed the day before. This was a shocking demonstration of the utter inadequacy of the anti-submarine defences at Canada’s major Atlantic base, and the grim facts could not be ignored because decrypted German signals indicated that additional submarines headed towards North American waters might hunt in the Halifax approaches and along the main steamer route between Halifax and southeastern Newfoundland.26 Admiral Grant responded to the crisis by drawing on the very capable convoy and shipping control organization that had grown up at Canadian and us ports under the Admiralty’s direction. Immediately, troopships and high-value merchant ships that normally sailed from Halifax began to gather at New York (in the case of those that had loaded at us ports) or at Sydney (in the case of those that had loaded at Canadian ports). On 14 August, only two days later than departure originally scheduled from Halifax, the ships of the next Halifax convoy sailed in escorted groups from New York and Sydney, and joined up at sea south of Newfoundland, clear of the main submarine operating areas in coastal waters. This was only an interim solution. The intelligence that warned of a continuing danger to the Halifax approaches and the waters off eastern Newfoundland showed no German interest in the Gulf of St Lawrence, and the Admiralty therefore redirected ships outbound from Britain to Halifax to instead make for Montreal.27 The Canadian patrol flotilla, meanwhile, responded to the threat of inshore submarine attack with a wide-ranging new effort to escort all high-value shipping in Canadian and Newfoundland waters. These duties, coupled with the need to reinforce Sydney for support of the two convoy series now sailing from that port, trimmed back the already modest force available at Halifax. The redeployments were possible in no small part because the division of three us submarine chasers remained at Halifax; their high speed and good armament meant that they could react quickly to any emergency while carrying out sweeps and local escort in the approaches. The us warships, in other words, became the principal seaward defence of Canada’s main naval base. After the attack off Halifax on 5 August, U-156 had actually returned to northern us waters but came back towards Nova Scotia two weeks later. On 20 August the submarine, in another of the dramatic gestures that became its trademark, captured the Canadian steam trawler Triumph off Canso. For two or three days, until the little ship’s coal

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bunkers were empty, a German crew operated the vessel as a raider. Well known on the fishing banks, it was able closely to approach schooners before the new crew ran up the German naval ensign; they then boarded the victim and placed scuttling charges in the hull.28 uss Jouett and its submarine chasers, now expanded to a force of eighteen craft, rushed north from Cape Cod to screen the Halifax approaches against the threat from U-156. The hunting group put into the port on 24 August and operated in the vicinity until the end of the month. The Canadians also wanted the assistance of at least one vessel with a substantial gun armament, given the fact that most of the rcn and usn vessels available had only six- or twelve-pounders, as compared to the fifteen-centimetre deck guns carried by the U-cruisers. The German guns fired a forty-five-kilogram round to a much greater range than did that of the light armament on the Allied patrol vessels, and the bold actions of the Germans suggested they would not hesitate to remain on the surface to do battle. The usn responded to the Canadian call for help by dispatching the gunboat uss Yorktown, which mounted six thirteen-centimetre guns; it, like the Jouett’s group, reached Halifax on 24 August. The Yorktown operated from Halifax for a full month, joining the Canadian patrol craft in coastal escort duty and sweeps of areas where the submarines might be operating.29 Further us assistance was also at hand. Earlier in August a 250-person naval aviation detachment arrived at Halifax, and a similar detachment reached Sydney towards the end of the month. The bases that the Canadian government was to build at Baker’s Point (on the eastern side of Halifax Harbour) and at Kelly’s Beach (in North Sydney) had been delayed, in part, by the high standard of barracks accommodation demanded by the us government, and the naval aviators had to make do in tent camps. On 25 August the Baker’s Point detachment made its first flights, and the North Sydney detachment did so on 11 September; each detachment operated four, and later six, large hs-2l flying boats. These machines made patrols of up to four hours in length, extending as far as 129 kilometres out to sea; the North Sydney detachment provided air support to the ocean convoys sailing out of Sydney, as did the Baker’s Point unit to the smaller coastal convoys that entered and departed from Halifax.30 U-156 had continued northeast after its initial attacks on the fishing fleet off Canso. The submarine destroyed six schooners and a small steamer in the vicinity of St-Pierre and Miquelon, the French islands off the southeast coast of Newfoundland, on 25–6 August before

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heading out into the Atlantic. With the obvious danger to the large international fishing fleets on the Grand Banks east and south of Newfoundland, several of the largest Canadian patrol vessels made sweeps of the area in late August, as did uss Yorktown, at least two other us patrol vessels, and a half dozen schooners that had been armed and equipped by the Americans and were operated by the French navy. Although U-156 did not strike at any vessels in these waters, U-117, on its homeward run from the us coast, attacked shipping east of Sable Island off Nova Scotia and then destroyed two schooners east of St. John’s on 30 August.31 The attacks by U-156 and U-117 confirmed the wisdom of the scheme to sail convoys of troopships and high-value merchant vessels from the St Lawrence. The first of these convoys, whose ships had loaded at Montreal, sailed from Quebec City on 4 September, along the southern route out the Cabot Strait past Sydney, where it received support from the us submarine chaser division based there. The next Quebec City convoy sailed north, through the Strait of Belle Isle, far removed from waters where submarines were known to be operating and from any area where intelligence indicated they might operate in the future. The best and fastest ships of the Canadian force now concentrated in the gulf to provide constant escort through the whole passage up to the northern tip of Newfoundland. The slower but most seaworthy vessels, including many of the trawlers, carried out coastal escort around Nova Scotia and to Newfoundland, and, together with the Sydney division of us submarine chasers, provided strengthened escort for the slow ocean convoys that still sailed from that port. The Halifax division of submarine chasers kept a constant watch in the approaches to that port, where U-155 operated in September. It was a tribute to the effectiveness of the shipping defence measures, especially the convoying of local traffic, that the U-boat found only one victim, a trawler off Sable Island. The submarine laid fourteen mines in the southern approaches to the port, but Canadian minesweepers discovered and removed them before they did any damage.32 U-155 was the last German submarine to operate in Canadian waters before the Armistice that ended the First World War on 11 November 1918. The Allied high command, however, had been convinced until nearly that moment that the conflict would continue during 1919, and senior naval authorities had no doubt that the Germans would make a larger and more determined offensive into

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Canadian waters with more, and more capable, submarines in the spring of that year. Plans were already under way for larger-scale Canadian-American naval cooperation to meet such an attack. There would be additional aviation stations on the Canadian east coast and in Newfoundland that the new Canadian naval air service would operate with us assistance. In the last weeks of the war, the British government transferred drifters and trawlers that were building on British account in Canada to the usn so that it could more adequately protect the waters off southern Nova Scotia, and the Admiralty was supporting Canadian calls for the dispatch of at least six us destroyers that were expected to be newly constructed and available to send to Canadian waters early in the 1919 season.33 Small in scale as us naval assistance to Canada was in 1918, it was of critical importance given the impoverishment of Canada’s antisubmarine defences. The most vital tasks for the rcn’s small-ship flotilla were to screen the Halifax approaches and provide escort for ocean convoys and high-value ships moving between North American ports. The us patrol craft and seaplanes made a major contribution to all these undertakings. More important still, the United States and Canada had worked together with British authorities to achieve the efficient and flexible control of merchant shipping that made possible the convoy system, which was the key to the defeat of the German submarine assault. In Canadian and Newfoundland waters no convoyed vessel came under attack, and, because of the comprehensiveness of the coastal convoy system, the U-boats were able to find and destroy only three large steamers, two of them well out at sea beyond the patrol areas of the Canadian coastal force. As a result, the U-boats expended most of their energies in attacking the far-flung and nearly indefensible fishing fleets; the destruction of some twenty-five small schooners and trawlers off the coast of Canada and Newfoundland sent shock waves through the fishing communities, and raised severe political criticism of the rcn, but in no way menaced the north Atlantic lifeline to Europe.34 As it happened, the end of the First World War also ended the first experiment in naval cooperation between the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The United States, in its suspicions of the Old World empires, had never fully joined the Alliance but, rather, assumed the status of an “associated power.” During the treaty negotiations of 1918–19 following the Armistice, mutual suspicion between Britain and the United States grew in the debates about the future of

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“freedom of the seas” that echoed wartime controversies arising from the British blockade of neutral shipping. Britain’s alliance with Japan, which the usn in particular regarded as the most likely future enemy, also chilled relations.35 Canada, for its part, built its navy on a firmer, even if still minuscule, basis in response to the experience of the war. The Royal Navy, having rediscovered the importance of the western Atlantic to the security of British trade, re-established the North America and West Indies station (from 1920, the America and West Indies station) and once again permanently based a squadron of cruisers at Bermuda. The Canadian fleet, now established on the basis of the destroyer type partly as a result of wartime experience, developed as essentially the northern division of the America and West Indies station. When, in 1940–41, Canada and Britain once again had to establish close naval cooperation with the United States in the face of a German submarine menace to Atlantic trade, the American fleet was as remote from the Commonwealth navies as it had been in 1917. In the case of the rcn, assistance in North American waters soon moved south rather than north. The usn was ill-prepared when, in January 1942, U-boats swarmed into North American waters following the United States’ entry into the war in the wake of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. This time it was Canadian escorts that shaped course towards Boston and New York to screen merchant ships against attacks that were much more frequent and intense than they were in the 1918 campaign. Already, since the summer of 1941, Canadian and British officers had been assisting the us Navy Department in rebuilding the control of shipping organization that had proved so successful in 1917–18, and which would once again be the essential basis for effective Allied cooperation and victory.36 notes 1 J.M. Hitsman, Safeguarding Canada 1763–1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968). 2 Roger Sarty, “Canada and the Great Rapprochement, 1902–1914,” in The North Atlantic Triangle in a Changing World: Anglo-American-Canadian Relations, 1902–1956, ed. B.J.C. McKercher and Lawrence Aronson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 12–47. 3 Naval staff, Training and Staff Duties Division, Naval Staff Monographs (Historical), vol. 9: The Atlantic Ocean, 1914–1915 (London: Admiralty, 1923), chaps. 1–10, is the most detailed account. See also Gilbert Norman

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6

7

8 9

10 11

12

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Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History, vol. 1: Origins and Early Years (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1952), chaps. 10–11. Tucker, Naval Service of Canada, 1: 243. John W. Coogan, The End of Neutrality: The United States, Britain, and Maritime Rights, 1899–1915 (Ithaca, ny: Cornell University Press, 1981), chaps. 8–10; Nicholas Tracy, Attack on Maritime Trade (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), chaps. 2–3, are two important modern accounts. Martin Kitchen, “The German Invasion of Canada in the First World War,” International History Review 7 (May 1985): 245–60, is an excellent account, but it understates the alarm of the Canadian government. See John Griffith Armstrong, “Canadian Home Defence, 1914–1917: And the Role of Major-General Willoughby Gwatkin” (ma thesis, Royal Military College of Canada, 1982). General staff, “Review of Measures for Local Defence and Internal Security Adopted during the Great War,” 2 November 1937, National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac), rg 24, vol. 2645, file hqs 3498 pt. 8; Michael L. Hadley and Roger Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships: Canadian Naval Forces and German Sea Raiders, 1880–1918 (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991), chap. 4; Brian Tennyson and Roger Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton, and the Atlantic Wars, 1785–1991 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 113–30. Julian S. Corbett, Naval Operations, vol. 1: To the Battle of the Falklands December 1914 (London: Longmans, Green and Col, 1920), 239–43. Governor General to hm Ambassador at Washington, telegram, 7 November 1914, “European War, 1914,” print no. 5, p. 519, Canada, National Defence Headquarters, Directorate of History and Heritage (dhh). The investigation turned up no trace of the yacht Courant: hm Ambassador at Washington to Governor General, telegram, 9 November 1914, “Eruopean War, 1914,” print no. 5, p. 522. Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 101–5. Paul G. Halpern, A Naval History of World War I (Annapolis, md: Naval Institute Press, 1994), 202–303; Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 116–17; Corbett, Naval Operations, 1: 173–7. “Report of Meeting Held on 21st May 15 to Consider Information Supplied by Dr. Condie,” 25 May 1915, file nsc 1058–1–17, nac, rg 24, vol. 4018. Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 119–21, 123–6. Fraser M. McKee, The Armed Yachts of Canada (Erin Mills, on: Boston Mills Press, 1983), chap. 3; Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 121–4. The best

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15

16

17

18

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overviews of ship acquisitions by the rcn are: Naval Historical Section, “Ships and Vessels of the rcn on the Atlantic Coast in the Great War, 1914–1918,” 17 July 1963; and “Notes on the Role of the rcn in the Great War, 1914–1918,” 16 July 1963, dhh. For particulars of ships, see Ken Macpherson and John Burgess, Ships of Canada’s Naval Forces, 1910–1981 (Toronto: Collins, 1981), 15–25, 206–7. On the U-53’s cruise, see: Historical Section, Office of Naval Records and Library, German Submarine Activities on the Atlantic Coast of the United States and Canada (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), 18–23; Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Campaigns for Progressivism and Peace, 1916–1917 (Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1965), 113–16; Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, chap. 7. Governor General to Colonial Secretary, telegram, 30 December 1916, Documents on Canadian External Relations, vol. 1: 1909–1918 (Ottawa: Department of External Affairs, 1967), 15–16. Arthur J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, vol. 4: 1917: Year of Crisis (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 102–3; From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, vol. 2: The War Years to the Eve of Jutland 1914–1916 (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 345. E.J. Chambers, Chief Press Censor to Chief of the General Staff, 1 February 1917, nac, rg 24, vol. 5928, file hqc 95–1–13; Borden to A.E. Kemp, Minister of Militia and Defence, 3 February 1917, nac, Sir Robert L. Borden Papers, mg 26-H, reel C-4402, pp. 122559–60. Stephens to Director of the Naval Service, 15 June 1917, file nsc 1065–7– 3, nac, rg 24, vol. 4031. On the priority of anti-submarine escorts for European waters, which forms the essential context for the events in North American waters, see David F. Trask, Captains and Cabinets: Anglo-American Naval Relations, 1917–1918 (Columbia, mo: University of Missouri Press, 1972); and Michael Simpson, Anglo-American Naval Relations 1917– 1919 (Aldershot, uk: Scolar Press and Naval Records Society, 1991). “Ships and Vessels of the rcn”; Roger Sarty, “Hard Luck Flotilla: The rcn’s Atlantic Coast Patrol, 1914–18,” in rcn in Transition 1910–1985, ed. W.A.B. Douglas (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1988), 106–7; Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 187–8. Technical History Section, The Atlantic Convoy System, 1917–18 (Technical History and Index, vol. 3, part 14) (London: Admiralty, 1919), 123–31. The Atlantic Convoy System, 5; Historical Section, Admiralty, Defeat of the Enemy Attack on Shipping, 1939–1945: A Study of Policy and Operations, vol. 1B: Plans and Tables (Naval Staff History Second World War)(London: Admiralty, 1957), table 1.

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23 Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 207–17; Sarty, “Hard Luck Flotilla,” 110–12, for the following paragraphs. 24 Tennyson and Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf, 155–7; Hadley and Sarty, TinPots, 235–6. 25 German Submarine Activities, 9–10, 23–50, 139–41; Simpson, Anglo-American Naval Relations, 464–6. 26 First Naval District War Diary, 3–5 August 1918, United States, National Archives and Records Administration (hereafter nara), rg 45; uss Jouett war diary, 3–5 August 1918, nara, rg 45; uss Jouett log, 3–8 August 1918, nara, rg 24; Sarty, “Hard Luck Flotilla,” 114–17; German Submarine Activities, 54–9, 126–8 27 Tennyson and Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf, 163–6. 28 German Submarine Activities, 65–7. 29 uss Jouett log, 22–31 August 1918, nara, rg 24; uss Jouett war diary, 21–8 August 1918, nara, rg 45; uss Yorktown log, 21 August-25 September 1918, nara, rg 24. 30 Kealy and Russell, Canadian Naval Aviation, 4–5; Tennyson and Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf, 180–3. 31 uss Yorktown log, 28 August-2 September 1918, nara, rg 24; hmcs Stadacona log, 24–30 August 1918, nac, rg 24, vol. 7871; Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 264–5. 32 uss SC 240 log, September 1918, nara, rg 24; Tennyson and Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf, 176–80; Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 283–8. 33 Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots, 278–9, 292–3. 34 German Submarine Activities, 139–41 is a list of ships damaged or sunk in Canadian and us waters. 35 Trask, Captains and Cabinets, 313–65; Simpson, Anglo-American Naval Relations, 477–94. 36 James R. Leutze, Bargaining for Supremacy: Anglo-American Naval Collaboration, 1937–1941 (Chapel Hill, nc: University of North Carolina Press, 1977); Marc Milner, North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoys (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), chaps. 1–3; Roger Sarty, Canada and the Battle of the Atlantic (Montreal: Art Global, 1998), 26–49.

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8 Newfoundland and the Great War w. dav i d pa r s o n s In 1914 Newfoundland was a self-governing dominion, similar in status to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Similar in status but not in size or population, for the total population of Newfoundland and Labrador was about 250,000.1 The only military organization in the Dominion was the Royal Naval Reserve. This had been formed in 1900 as Newfoundland’s contribution to imperial defence. It was firmly established in 1902 with the arrival of the obsolete cruiser hms Calypso as a training facility. From 1902 to 1914 more than 1,400 sailors and fishermen trained with the reserve, many making the “trip down south,” as it was known, on one of the ships of the North Atlantic Squadron. These seamen were well trained and highly regarded by the Royal Navy.2 When war was declared on 4 August 1914, the Royal Proclamation called all reservists to report to hms Calypso. Four hundred answered the call within days, and, by the end of October, nearly 1,000 seamen had enlisted.3 They were the first Newfoundlanders to go to war. On 6 September 1914 hmcs Niobe sailed into St John’s to pick up 106 reservists to fill the complement of 700 needed as crew on the cruiser: 300 Canadian recruits, nearly 300 Royal Navy ratings, and 106 Newfoundland reservists made up the crew. The Newfoundlanders were all trained seamen and were considered on a par with the Royal Navy in terms of how they discharged their duties.4 Other reservists were posted to the wireless station at Mount Pearl (just outside of St John’s), to Cape Race, and to the defences of the harbour of St John’s. While there was no military presence in the form of army units, there were cadet corps affiliated with religious denominations: the Catholic Cadet Corps, the Methodist Guards, the Anglican Church Lads Brigade, and the Newfoundlander Highlanders of the Presbyterian Church. These were composed of men and boys of varying ages and

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were mainly centred in St John’s. There was also a small contingent of the Legion of Frontiersmen in St John’s and St Anthony. On 16 August 1914 Governor Sir Walter Davidson called a public meeting regarding what the war effort of the Dominion should be. A patriotic association was formed, with Sir Walter as chairman, to raise 500 soldiers to send overseas. The colonial secretary in London, Sir Walter Long, accepted this offer. On 22 August enlistment began, and within days the 500 number was reached. This was still the time when “home by Christmas” was the byword: these men wanted to get overseas before it was all over. On 4 October the first 500 sailed on ss Florizel. These men were to be known as the Blue Puttees for the colour of the puttees they wore. Florizel joined the convoy carrying the Canadian First Contingent overseas. When they arrived in England they were encamped on Salisbury Plain. Here they were outfitted in standard British uniforms and lost their distinctive blue puttees. While the Newfoundland Regiment was camped near the 1st Canadian Contingent, it was very important to it that it maintain its separate identity. As Captain Fox said, “In 1914, at Aldershot, there was the fear that our identity would be lost with some Canadian unit. Not that we had developed a ‘superiority complex’ as far as our neighbours were concerned, but we felt, quite properly, that if we were to give our best, we could only do that by preserving our individuality.”5 It may have been for this reason that, in December, the members of the regiment were sent to Fort George at Inverness, Scotland. They remained there training until February when they became the first overseas troops to guard Edinburgh Castle. In May they moved to Stobs Camp, Hawick. By now, two more companies of men had arrived from the Dominion to join the regiment and bring it up to battalion strength. Regimental headquarters and a reserve depot were established at Ayr.6 It was at this time that something occurred that was to dictate the future of the regiment. The incomparable 29th Division, a regular division of the British army, landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The 1st Royal Scots was one of the regiments of the 88th Brigade, which was decimated in the early attacks. The decision was made to replace it with the 7th Battalion, Royal Scots. This battalion was on its way from Scotland to Liverpool to embark for Gallipoli when it was involved in one of the worst railway accidents in the United Kingdom. More than 250 men were killed or injured when the train ploughed into another train at Quintishill near Gretna Green.7

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It was obvious that this battalion could not go to Gallipoli, and I believe that the Scottish Command looked around the training camps for a replacement. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was an unattached regiment, so it was sent out as a stop-gap measure. In August the regiment went to Aldershot, where it was reviewed by King George and Field Marshal Kitchener before leaving for Gallipoli to join the 29th Division. It landed at Suvla Bay on 20 September 1915 and remained there until the evacuation in January 1916. Flies were the main nuisance. As Walter Tobin put it, “Before you could put a spoonful of jam on a biscuit, it was black with flies.” 8 The 29th Division with the Newfoundland regiment formed the rear guard for the evacuation at Suvla Bay and at Cape Helles, and they were amongst the last to leave the peninsula. The regiment lost forty-four officers and men who were killed in action or died of wounds or disease, and it sustained another seventy wounded. The greatest loss came from disease: enteric dysentery and jaundice. By the end of 1915 more than half the strength of the battalion was sick and had to be evacuated.9 The Newfoundlanders suffered when a flood and then a freezing storm hit the peninsula towards the end of November. As one of the survivors told me: “We built a fire and huddled around it, head in towards the fire. The next morning my boots were frozen in the mud. My feet were frozen and it took me more than six months to get back to the Regiment. It would have been better to sleep with our feet towards the fire than our heads, an infantry man doesn’t need to use his head, but his feet are most important.”10 The regiment was sent to Egypt to recuperate. A new draft had been absorbed, many of the sick returned, and the transport section, which had been attached to the Western Frontier Force to fight the Senussi, returned. On 14 March they left Egypt.11 The battalion landed in Marseilles, France, on 22 March 1916. It was transported across France, arriving at Louvencourt, the 29th Division training area, in early April. Here the troops trained and did front-line duty at Beaumont Hamel. Two raids were staged against the German lines, and the regiment reported that the barbed wire had not been flattened by the artillery bombardment. This report was discounted as coming from inexperienced troops.12 The Newfoundlanders were among the roughly 100,000 British troops involved on the tragic first day of the Battle of the Somme. On 1 July the Newfoundland regiment moved into St John’s Road, a

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support trench in front of Beaumont Hamel. The Newfoundlanders were to be in the third wave and were to consolidate the gains made by the first two waves. The South Wales Borderers and Inniskillin Fusiliers went over the top first and were driven back by machine gun fire. The King’s Own Scottish Borderers and the Border Regiment went over next. They too were stopped with heavy loss. The Newfoundland Regiment and the Essex Regiment were to go over the top at 8:40 am, but this was countermanded. Confusion reigned. At 9:15 am, the Newfoundlanders and Essex were ordered to advance. The trenches and communication trenches were so blocked with the wounded and dead of the first waves that they could not get into the front-line trenches. The Newfoundlanders went over the top from St John’s Road, the reserve trench, almost 168 metres from the front line. They were the only ones advancing, and the full force of the German machine guns and rifles was turned on them. It was all over in thirty minutes. Of the 801 who went over the top that morning, 710 officers and men were killed, wounded, or missing.13 Back in Newfoundland, when the casualty lists started to come in, there were few families who were not affected by this terrible loss. July 1 became the national day of remembrance and has remained so to this day, when commemorations are held at the National War Memorial in St John’s and throughout the province. Beaumont Hamel was such a disaster for Newfoundland that after the war a memorial in the form of a caribou was established at this site. The park’s designer, R.H.K. Cochius, said: “Father Nangle (the regimental padre) had conceived that idea at Beaumont Hamel so that the whole area could be regarded as a vast grave yard where so many Newfoundlanders lay side by side with their companions in graves that would most likely never be discovered.” Cochius continued, “I felt too, that the spot should be preserved in its wartime state as a perpetual reminder for future generations – as a sacred ground.”14 The regiment was decimated. The 10 per cent who had not engaged in battle, together with those who had survived, were in the trenches at Beaumont Hamel together with the Essex Regiment for the next weeks awaiting a German attack. Reinforcements arrived and the regimental strength was increased to over 500 officers and men.15 On 27 July the regiment was shifted to the Ypres salient, where, for the next two months, they were employed digging and repairing trenches around Ypres. The Newfoundland Regiment returned to the Somme in October. On 12 October it attacked the German trenches at Gueudecourt. The

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troops held onto the trench they captured even though their flanks were open when the other battalions retired. At the end of the month they were once again in the trenches in front of Gueudecourt. This was the farthest advance of the Somme battle: a mere eight and one-half kilometres from the front-line trenches of 1 July – and 200,000 casualties later.16 A Caribou Memorial, one of five in France and Flanders, was erected at this spot to commemorate the Newfoundland Regiment’s part in this action. The Newfoundlanders were in support for an attack at Lesboeuf, just east of Gueudecourt, during November, before they went into divisional reserve over Christmas. The regiment returned to the Somme and in January was in the front line at Le Transloy, not far from Gueudecourt. In March it held the trenches at Sailly-Saillisel – known to the Newfoundlanders as Silly Sally. Here, for three days, the troops repulsed repeated German attacks. According to Walter Tobin, “[I] spent the worse night in my life in that trench, being cold, hungry and fed up. I was ankle deep in icy mud all night expecting hell to let loose at any moment.”17 When they were relieved they went to divisional reserve and began training for the next battle, which took place in April. On 9 April the Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge as part of the Battle of Arras. The next advance would be towards Cambrai. The regiment proceeded through Arras and to Monchy-le-Preux. On 12 April the 37th Division had captured Monchy. The Newfoundland and Essex Regiments were to advance and capture Infantry Hill on 14 April 1917. At the same time as the attack went in the Germans attacked on both sides, capturing 153 officers and men of the regiment. Now Monchy was open to capture by the enemy. Colonel Forbes-Robertson gathered together as many men as he could and faced the Germans from the trenches, where the regiment had started off in the morning. These men held up the German advance, thus saving Monchy. The ten men he gathered who saved it are commemorated with a plaque below the Caribou Memorial at Monchy. Loss of this strategic elevation would have been a serious blow to the future attacks on Cambrai. For the next three weeks, the regiment was in support of other attacks along the Arras-Cambrai Road, known collectively as the Battle of Les Fosses Farm.18 Following a period of rest and reinforcement, the Newfoundland Regiment was again in the front line along the Yser Canal near Ypres. This was the time of the battle to take Passchendaele Ridge. In August the 29th Division was on the left of the 5th Army along the

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Ypres-Roulers Railway. On 15 August the Newfoundlanders advanced over the Steenbeek, a small stream running across the battlefield. They achieved all their objectives. During September the regiment was in the front line at Cannes Farm and Wijdendrift. The next offensive came on 9 October when, once again, the regiment advanced across a muddy field and across the Broembeek to the Poelcapelle Road. Again, all the objectives were obtained. The Battle Honour of Langemark commemorates this battle. It was not long before the regiment was in the thick of fighting again as part of the Battle of Cambrai. This was the major offensive whose point was to break through the Hindenburg Line, the German defensive system. It was also the first time that soldiers would see the use of large numbers of tanks. On 20 November the 29th Division, with the Newfoundlanders, started from Gouzeaucourt and advanced six kilometres with little opposition. The Germans fell back to the Canal de l’Escaut. The Newfoundland Regiment approached the lock on the canal and, with the help of a tank providing covering fire, crossed it, stormed up the embankment on the other side, then proceeded towards Masnieres. For the next four days the regiment held Masnieres and cleared out any enemy there. On 28 November it went into reserve at Marcoign but not for long. The Germans launched a major counter-offensive, pushing the Allied forces out of Masnieres and along the flank almost to Gouzeaucourt. The Newfoundland Regiment was called on to stem the advance along the canal. It was now fighting at right angles to the advance of the week before. For the next four days the Newfoundlanders and the other regiments in the brigade held the line against determined enemy attacks. If this line were to be broken, there was the possibility that the 3rd Army, which had advanced towards Bourlon Wood, would have been cut off. This heroic defence was critical to the withdrawal of these troops. On 3 December they were relieved by the Hampshire Regiment and went into reserve. The Caribou at Masnieres commemorates this action. The regiment had acquitted itself alongside the regulars of the 29th Division and came out having attained the high respect of all who fought with it. It was in December 1917 that King George approved the granting of the title “Royal” to the Newfoundland Regiment.19 This title had only been granted during wartime three times throughout the history of the British army, and this was the only time it was granted during the First World War.

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Christmas and New Year’s were spent in divisional reserve. In January 1918 the regiment was in the front line at Vindictive Corners near Passchendaele. It spent five days in the front line, five days in support, and five days in reserve. This duty continued until early April, when the division was to go to a rest area behind the lines. Once more events caught up with the regiment. The German offensive of 1918 was in progress. The main thrust was towards Amiens, and, when that slowed down, a second attack pushed the British back by Ypres, passing Mount Kemmel, Neuve Eglise, and further south. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was on the train carrying it to the reserve area when it was told to disembark and was bused to Baillieul to help stem the enemy onslaught. The regiment was rushed to Steenwerk, where it formed up along the railway tracks facing south to stop the German attack that threatened to cut off the 34th Division at Neuve Eglise. There were no trenches here, just the railway embankment. Attached to the 34th Division, it held the line, slowly withdrawing as the Germans pushed forward. While the Newfoundlanders suffered heavy casualties, they also inflicted heavy damage on the attackers. The German offensive gradually petered out, though not without inflicting a great deal of damage on the Allies. It was not until July and August that the British and French took the offensive that continued to the Armistice. On 21 April the Newfoundland Regiment withdrew from the Baillieul battlefield to rest and reserve. The regiment had sustained nearly 200 casualties in the fighting at Baillieul. At this time the personnel shortage was becoming a serious factor for the British forces; battalions were being amalgamated to make one regiment from the men of two battalions. Some battalions were eliminated from the order of battle. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was in a unique situation. There was no other with which it could be amalgamated, and, for obvious political reasons, it could not be eliminated.20 The regiment was far below strength and there were no reinforcements available. The personnel situation in Newfoundland was little different from what it was in other places. There was a shortage of men to carry on the fishery and the forestry work for the paper mills. In 1917 the National Service Act (i.e., conscription) was introduced. This bill became law in March 1918;21 however, in early 1918 there were still not enough men to fill the ranks of the battalion. The decision was made that the Royal Newfoundland Regiment would leave the 29th Division and become Line of Communication

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troops, with the duty of guarding Field Marshal Haig’s headquarters at Montreuil.22 It was with regret that the regiment left the 29th Division, of which it had been a part since 1915 in Gallipoli. On the other hand, for many of the soldiers who were with the regiment at this time, the summer of 1918 was the best time in the army. While there were “spit-and-polish” parades, there was not the continuous fear of being moved up to the trenches the next day. There was some training, but there were also the bathing parades on the nearby “plages.” It was, indeed, a quiet and enjoyable summer, but all good things come to an end. In September the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was posted to the 28th Brigade of the 9th Scottish Division.23 The road to victory took the Newfoundlanders from Westhoek near Ypres to Polygon Wood, to Keiberg Ridge, to Ledeghem, pushing the Germans back all the way. On 14 October 1918 Private Tommy Ricketts was awarded the Victoria Cross for action at De Beurt Farm near Drie Masten. On 19–20 October the regiment crossed the River Lys at Beveren, near Courtrai. It advanced to Ingoyghem, where it was relieved. The Newfoundlanders were in reserve at Harlebeek when the Armistice was declared on 11 November. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment entered Germany as part of the Army of Occupation on 2 December and was withdrawn on 14 February 1919. On 3 May the regiment led the colonial troops in the Victory Parade in London. The majority of the members of the regiment arrived home on 1 June 1919. Of the 12,000 men who offered to serve in the regiment 6,179 were accepted; 4,213 officers and men served in France and Flanders; 1,304 were killed in action and died of wounds or disease. One in five died – 20 per cent of those who served. Furthermore, none of the conscripts served in France, with the result that the whole war effort was carried out by a volunteer regiment.24 While most writing has focused on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, Newfoundlanders were also active in many other facets of the war effort. The manner in which the war effort was conducted was unusual and probably unconstitutional. The governor, Sir Walter Davidson, as chairman of the Patriotic Association, essentially ran the war for the Dominion. From 1914 to 1917 the Patriotic Association conducted the activities of the regiment, including issues related to recruiting, equipment, finances, transport, barracks, and medical services. The leading merchants and men of the Dominion served on the

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committees and carried out their duties unpaid, freely giving their time to the war effort. When Sir Walter Davidson’s term of office was completed in the autumn of 1917, he was appointed governor of New South Wales.25 Sir Charles Harris replaced him as governor, and the government formed a department of militia to take over all these functions. The women of Newfoundland, not only in St John’s but in all the small communities throughout the Dominion, formed the Women’s Patriotic Association, which supplied socks and knitted goods, raised money for the regiment, and supported the war effort in every way.26 The people of Newfoundland supported the regiment. A fund to send tobacco overseas was started, ingredients for the local delicacy (fish and brewis) were bought and sent to the men in France, and funds were raised to buy four airplanes. The regiment was known as “ours,” clearly indicating that it was considered to be part of the people of the Dominion. In April 1917 500 men were recruited to go overseas as forestry workers. They worked in Scotland and were also part of the Newfoundland Regiment.27 The Royal Naval Reserve, as mentioned before, was part of the crew of hmcs Niobe when it was active blockading the ports of the eastern United States to prevent German ships from leaving there to take war-related supplies to Germany. The naval reservists who went overseas in 1914 to England were mostly seamen who had trained on hms Calypso. After arriving in the United Kingdom, they were soon posted to ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, which was blockading the seas between the north of Scotland and Iceland.28 These were Armed Merchant Ships that would intercept any neutral ship going to Norway, Sweden, or Holland and check for contraband. This meant crossing the sea in an open boat to board the ship and check on the cargo. The Newfoundland seamen were “the best small boat sailors in the Navy” and were valued for this skill.29 There were Newfoundland sailors at Gallipoli, minesweeping before the landings as well as manning boats carrying the troops ashore on 25 April 1915. They were there throughout the campaign and they were there when the beaches were evacuated. More than half of the Newfoundland Division of the Royal Naval Reserve served in the Auxiliary Fleet on trawlers and drifters, yachts and motor launches; they engaged in minesweeping, laying protective nets, acting as decoys for enemy submarines, and escorting

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convoys along the coast.30 Many travelled the oceans in defensively armed merchant ships as deckhands and gunners, voyaging to India, South America, the United States, and Canada, carrying supplies to Britain to maintain the food stocks and war material. They were also in the Mediterranean supplying the forces in Salonika and Mesopotamia as well as in East Africa. There were some who served in the battleships and cruisers. A number sailed on the Q ships, the mystery ships used to decoy the German submarines into thinking they were easy prey. It took nerves of steel to sit there waiting for the enemy submarine to come into range, to know that at any minute the enemy might open fire on the decoy. Their success was not measured by the number of submarines that they sank but, rather, by causing the enemy to think twice before attacking what appeared to be an unarmed ship. Due to their efforts countless small ships were saved from attack. Late in 1917 the Royal Canadian Navy was short of people to man the trawlers built to operate out of Halifax and Sydney. Nearly 300 seamen of the Newfoundland Division of the reserve were posted to hmcs Niobe as crew of these trawlers, minesweeping off the ports as well as escorting the convoys. In all, over 2,000 Newfoundlanders served in the Newfoundland Division of the Royal Naval Reserve. One hundred and sixty-seven were killed in action or died of disease.31 There were about twenty-five Newfoundlanders who served in the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service, and the Royal Air Force. This number included two “aces”: Falkenberg with seventeen kills and Watson with six.32 It was decided that it was not feasible for the Newfoundlanders to have their own medical corps; rather, they were to rely upon the Royal Army Medical Corps (ramc). Arrangements were made to ensure that the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth, London, would be the main receiving hospital for the sick and wounded of the Newfoundland Regiment.33 Nevertheless, more than fifty Newfoundland doctors served in the ramc and the Canadian Army Medical Corps (camc) during the war. They served in France, Belgium, Salonika, Mesopotamia, and East Africa. One of these doctors, Cluny Macpherson, was intimately involved with the development of the gas mask and respirators.34 One Newfoundland doctor lost his life serving as a surgeon on hms Hampshire when that vessel was mined en route to Russia, with F.M. Lord Kitchener aboard. About 150 Newfoundland women served as nursing sisters and as members of

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Voluntary Aid Detachments in England, France, and the Mediterranean.35 In all, about 9,000 men and women, from a population of 250,000, availed themselves of war services. Some of those rejected for active service travelled to Canada and enlisted with the Canadian Forces. As well, many Newfoundlanders who were living in Canada joined the regiment closest to where they were living. The Canadian records show that 3,268 men born in Newfoundland served with the Canadians.36 Also, there were at least eight men who served with the Australians, a few who were with the South African forces, and some who joined the British forces. This was a considerable contribution for the small Dominion. The cost: 1,500 men who gave their lives during the First World War fighting in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Naval Reserve. I do not have the numbers who died fighting in the Canadian Forces, but a conservative estimate would be at least 100. But how can one assess the cost of a life lost? These were probably the best and ablest of the men from the communities around the island, probably the ones who would have been the leaders and active participants in the struggle during the depressed years after the war. This was Newfoundland’s “lost generation.” Many left Newfoundland to work in Canada and the United States. The loss of potential workers cannot be quantified. The financial loss also had a profound effect on the history of the Dominion. Newfoundland paid for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, for equipment, for travel, for medical care, and later for pensions for those who suffered losses during the war. Loans were raised in order to cover these costs. For a country with a limited base of revenue, this posed a major problem. In the 1920s the fishery was in decline, with low prices and low markets. The prosperity that other countries experienced during the 1920s did not extend to Newfoundland.37 Then the Great Depression hit, and the markets for fish, pulp and paper, and minerals fell drastically. The Dominion was bankrupt, and neither Britain nor Canada would bail it out. The solution that the British Government suggested, following a review of the Dominion’s financial status, was a form of Commission of Government run by the Dominions Office in London.38 The men who might have saved the Dominion from this ignominious change from self-government to being ruled by the dictate of the Dominions Office in London were gone. The finances that were freely given to support a regiment of the British army were not offered to the Dominion of Newfoundland. Thus, as a result of the

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war, Newfoundland lost its dominion status. From 1933 until 1949 Newfoundland was run by the Commission of Government; in 1949 Newfoundland became a province of the Dominion of Canada. Such were the long-term costs of Newfoundland’s participation in the First World War. notes 1 1911 Newfoundland Census. 2 Bernard Ransome, “A Nursery of Fighting Seamen?” in A Nation’s Navy: In Quest of Canadian Naval Identity, ed. Michael Hadley, Rob Huebert, and Fred W. Crickard (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996), 239–55. See also Lieutenant Commander A. MacDermott, “The Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve,” in The Book of Newfoundland, vol. 2, ed. J.R. Smallwood (St John’s: nfld Book Publishers, 1936), 411. 3 Ibid., 441. 4 Ibid., 436. 5 Captain J.E.J. Fox, “From Pleasantville to Englebelmer,” Veterans Magazine, vol. 1, April 1928, 69. see also A.D. Parsons, “Morale and Cohesion in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 1914–1918“(ma thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1995), 81–2. 6 G.W.L. Nicholson, The Fighting Newfoundlander (St John’s: Government of Newfoundland, 1964), 151. 7 J.M. Cameron, “Gretna/Quintishill Rail Disaster,” Stand To! Journal of the Western Front Association 38 (1994): 27. 8 Walter Tobin, untranscribed interview with W.D. Parsons, 1987 (in the collection of the author). 9 Public Record Office, United Kingdom, pro wo/95/2308 War Diary, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 15 January 1916. 10 9 Private Fred Legrow, untranscribed interview with W.D. Parsons, 1980 (in the collection of the author). 11 Journal House of Assembly (Newfoundland) 1919. Appendix: “Report of Department of Militia, 1918,” 508. 12 Nicholson, Fighting Newfoundlander, 259. 13 pro wo/95/2308 War Diary, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 1 July 1916. 14 R.H.K. Cochius, “Marking the Trail of the Caribou,” Veterans Magazine, April 1924, 17. 15 W.D. Parsons, Pilgrimage: A Guide to the Battlefields of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War (St John’s: Creative, 1994), 35.

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16 M. Middlebrook, The Somme Battlefield (London: Penguin, 1991), 354. 17 Walter Tobin, 1987, interview with W.D. Parsons (in the author’s collection). 18 Parsons, Pilgrimage, 76. 19 pro wo/32/5010 Application for the title “Royal” to be granted to the Newfoundland Regiment. 20 Parsons, Pilgrimage, 115. See also Nicholson, Fighting Newfoundlander, 459; A.D. Parsons, “Morale and Cohesion,” 49–51, 70, 74. 21 Journal of the Legislative Assembly, Newfoundland, 1918, 76. 22 Parsons, Pilgrimage, 119. 23 Ibid., 121. 24 C. Sharpe, “The Race of Honour: An Analysis of Enlistments and Casualties of the Armed Forces of Newfoundland, 1914–1918.” Newfoundland Studies 4 (1988): 1–32. See also Report of the Department of Militia (St John’s: hmso, 1920). 25 P. O’Brien, “The Newfoundland Patriotic Association: the Administration of the War Effort, 1914–1918” (ma thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1982). 26 A.D. Parsons, “Morale and Cohesion,” 97. 27 Nicholson, Fighting Newfoundlander, 470. See also Report of the Department of Militia, 1918, 609. 28 A. Hurd, The Merchant Navy, vol. 11 (London: John Murray, 1924), 109–65. 29 Public Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (hereafter panl) gn 1/ 10/1, Captain Robert Corbett, rn, hmcs Niobe at sea, to H.E., the Governor of Newfoundland, 27 March 1915. 30 E.K. Chatterton, The Auxiliary Patrol (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1923). 31 panl gb 1/3 Register, Royal Naval Reserve, Newfoundland Division. 32 Note: The list of Newfoundlanders who served in the rnas, rfc, and raf during the war has been gathered from newspaper reports, diaries, interviews, and the register of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. 33 Interview with Dr Cluny Macpherson, 1965, transcribed by author. See also A.D. Parsons, “Morale and Cohesion,” 87. 34 Interview with Dr Cluny Macpherson, 1965. See also J. Cave, “The Inventor of the Gas Mask,” Stand To! Journal of the Western Front Association 24 (1993): 7. 35 M. Philpott, St John’s, is currently researching the First World War nurses and vads from Newfoundland. 36 Public Archives of Canada, rg 24/1163/hq-64–1–24 Correspondence re: “Country of Birth of cef Recruits.”

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37 P. Neary, Newfoundland in the North Atlantic World, 1929–1949 ( Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988), 7. See also R.J. Noel, Politics in Newfoundland (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971), 130. 38 United Kingdom, Parliament Command Paper, Cmd.4480 Newfoundland Royal Commission, 1933 (Amulree Report).

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9 asw Pioneer to Bush Pioneer: The hs-2l in Canada c h r i s t o p h e r j . te r r y When the magnificent new building housing the National Aviation Museum of Canada (now renamed the Canada Aviation Museum) opened in Ottawa (Rockcliffe Airport), Ontario, in June 1988, pride of place among the exhibits went to the recently completed reconstruction of La Vigilance, a Curtiss hs-2l flying-boat. It is the only example of its type in the world. This aircraft occupies a special niche in Canada’s aviation history. The original La Vigilance held many firsts. It was the first commercial aircraft in Canada; it flew the first regularly scheduled passenger air service in Canada; and it was used for the first Canadian airmail service. In fact, it broke the ground for the tradition of “bush flying,” which has characterized so much of Canadian aviation from its earliest days. The Curtiss hs-2l made its first appearance in Canada in the summer of 1918. By that time the use of aircraft in anti-submarine operations had been well established in Europe. Faced with a continuing threat from German U-boats operating on the convoy routes across the North Atlantic, the government of the United States was anxious to establish an airborne maritime patrol capability based on the eastern extremities of the North American continent. The Canadian government of the day had set in motion a scheme to create a Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, but it was not in a position to provide an airborne offshore convoy escort as quickly as the Americans required it. The solution adopted was the establishment of two us Naval Air Stations at Dartmouth and North Sydney, Nova Scotia, respectively, from which patrols were to be flown by us Navy (usn)

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crews under the command of Lieutenant Richard E. Byrd. The equipment to be used included blimps, kite balloons, and Curtiss hs-2l flying-boats. The Curtiss hs-2l was an improved version of the earlier hs-1l, which, itself, was a single-engined and scaled-down variant of the well known twin-engined H models. The two versions of the singleengined type were put into production as the standard usn coastal patrol flying-boats. Both were powered by the twelve-cylinder Liberty engine of 350 horsepower. The two variants differed in the insertion of an additional 12 feet of wing on the hs-2l to allow it to carry two 103.5 kilogram depth-bombs. The earlier 230-pound depthbombs carried by the hs-1l had proved ineffective against submerged submarines. In its 2L guise, the type remained in usn service until 1926 as a training and patrol aircraft. In Canada the type soldiered on until the early 1930s. The rcaf struck its last hs-2l off in September 1928, and the certificate of the last Ontario Provincial Air Service machine was withdrawn in 1933, although it is possible that it was retired from active use a year or two earlier. Basic data on the hs-2l include a wing span of 74 feet and 0.5 inches on the upper wing; length of 39 feet; wing area of 803 square feet; empty weight of 4,300 pounds; gross weight of 6,432 pounds; maximum speed at sea level of 82.5 miles per hour; cruising speed of 60 to 65 miles per hour; service ceiling of 5,200 feet; and a range of 517 statute miles. In military use, a crew of two or three was carried. One thousand and thirty-four hs-2l aircraft were produced by various manufacturers and Naval Air Stations. This total probably includes those aircraft converted from 1L standard. The usn began operations with the hs-2l from its Nova Scotia bases in August 1918. No operations were mounted with the blimps, although kite balloons were flown from hmcs Acadia. Although three U-boats operated off the east coast of North America in the last few months of the war, none was sighted by the patrolling crews before the Armistice. The Americans left Nova Scotia by early January 1919, and subsequent negotiations between Canada and the United States resulted in the Canadian purchase of all American ground equipment at the usn stations in Nova Scotia and the us donation to Canada of twelve hs-2ls, twenty-six Liberty engines, and four kite balloons. The flying-boats were to make a significant contribution to the development of Canadian aviation in the first decade after the war.

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The first opportunity to do this came in the summer of 1919 when the Canadian government was requested to loan two of the hs-2ls to the St Maurice Forestry Protective Association in Quebec. This organization was operated by the Laurentide Paper Company, whose chief forester, Elwood Wilson, had recognized the value of aircraft for use in fire patrol duties. The request for two aircraft was granted, and Laurentide hired Captain Stuart Graham to ferry the aircraft from Dartmouth to their new base at Grand-Mère on Lac à la Tortue, Quebec. The first aircraft, formerly us Navy A-1876, left Dartmouth on 5 June 1919. Graham was accompanied on this flight by his wife Madge and his engineer William Kahre. The flight, which covered 645 miles and took nine hours and forty-five minutes’ flying time over four days. It was the longest cross-country flight to that date in Canada, and the first long-distance flight for a woman. The three crew members returned to Halifax by ferry and rail, and took off with the second machine, formerly us Navy A-1878, on 21 June. This delivery flight took twelve hours and twenty minutes’ flying time, spread over three days. The aircraft were quickly put into operation on their forestry patrol duties, and two weeks after completing the delivery flights, Graham and Kahre reported the first forest fire sighted from the air in Canada. These flights represented the start of commercial flying in Canada and the beginning of “bush flying,” which has characterized so much of Canadian aviation. They were the first of a long line of trailblazing accomplishments chalked up by the hs-2l in active civilian use. During the 1919 season, fifty-seven flights were made and some eighty hours of flying time were accumulated. Chief among the accomplishments were the first experiments with aerial photography for forestry purposes. It was shown how topography and ground cover could be plotted with great accuracy. Despite this progress, the Forest Protective Association did not feel its continued support of the aerial patrol activity was warranted. Laurentide felt differently, however, and secured the service of two flying-boats for its exclusive use. Forest surveys and fire protection patrols continued throughout 1920 and 1921. During this time, Canada adopted a set of air regulations governing the operation of civil aircraft and the licensing of all personnel, airports, and air harbours. As a consequence of the adoption of these measures, the former A1876 was registered g-caac in June 1920, and the second aircraft was registered g-caad that September.

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Figure 9.1 Curtiss hs-2l Serial 1876 being launched from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, 2707)

Figure 9.2 10793)

hs-2l under reconstruction (Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa,

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Figure 9.3 Restored hs-2l g-caac at Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, July 1986 (Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, unnumbered photograph)

At the end of 1921 Laurentide decided that it could no longer bear the exclusive cost of running the flying operations. To permit its continued access to the aircraft, however, the company entered into an agreement with one of its pilots, W.R. Maxwell. It was agreed that if he could start a company to operate the aircraft, then Laurentide would provide sufficient work to maintain the firm until other work was found. This led to the formation of Laurentide Air Service Limited. The company was financed largely by Thomas Hall, who had moved to Montreal from Great Britain in 1902. Hall owned a marine engineering and shipbuilding firm and took the role of president in the new company. For its aviation purposes, Laurentide Air Service was given all of the facilities constructed by the lumber company. This permitted the new firm to establish an impressive record from the start, including flying over 688 hours during the season and carrying 659 passengers. At this time, contract work was begun for the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, which wished to conduct a survey of forests in northern Ontario. This involved considerable sketching of forestry resources from the air.

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Because of the limited range of the hs- 2l s within their operating environment, it was necessary to establish fuel dumps to permit operations away from the main bases. On 2 September 1922, while involved in such a mission, the g-caac, which had earlier been named La Vigilance, crashed. The aircraft was being flown by Don Foss, who was accompanied by his air engineer, Jack Caldwell. While returning to their name base on Remi Lake, close to the northern Ontario community of Kapuskasing, the weather closed in and Foss thought it prudent to land on a small unidentified lake. This was accomplished, and the aircraft was lightened to shorten the take-off run. On leaving the water, Foss had to make a turn to clear the shoreline. The port wingtip float struck the water, and the aircraft crashed close to the shore. The crew were uninjured and walked out of the bush, subsequently returning to confirm the damage to the aircraft. The hull was found to have been broken in the cockpit area and just behind the lower wing. In the winter of 1922–23 a salvage crew recovered the Liberty engine, although it was found to be beyond repair and was scrapped. The remains sat on the bottom of the lake in shallow water until 1968. Two years earlier, in 1966, Robert W. Bradford, curator of the National Aviation Museum, had been told by Don Campbell, a Kapuskasing businessman and pilot, that he had heard of an hs-2l that had crashed in the area in the 1920s. In mid-September 1968 he telephoned Bradford to report that Air Cadet Dennis Major, with whom he was sharing a local flight, had seen what appeared to be the wreckage of an aircraft submerged in a small lake. This report resulted in Bradford’s post-haste departure for Kapuskasing to investigate as well as in the Ontario Department of Lands and Forest’s being asked for the loan of a locally based Bell Jet Ranger to conduct an initial reconnaissance. On Friday 20 September 1968 the Jet Ranger, with Campbell and Bradford aboard, located the wreckage. The helicopter pilot landed on the lake over the wreck site, and, with the aid of a pulp hook, Bradford was able to bring to the surface sufficient components to enable the aircraft to be identified as an hs-2l. The next day, Bradford and Campbell returned to the lake in a de Havilland Canada Beaver of White River Air Service. Using a canoe brought in on one of the Beaver’s floats, and grappling hooks supplied by the local police, the two were able to make out that the only fully recognizable part of the aircraft was the rear of the hull and that the forward upper part of the

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hull had disintegrated altogether. The grappling hooks brought up the rudder of the aircraft, and from its condition the preservative qualities of the thick layer of silt on the bottom of the lake became apparent; anything that had sunk into it was well preserved, while parts exposed to the water had deteriorated beyond redemption. All parts that were retrieved were immersed in a Carbowax 1540 mixture to prevent the wooden parts from disintegrating as they dried out. This was the same treatment developed for the preservation of the Vaasa after its recovery from the bottom of Stockholm harbour some years earlier. On the second day the two were joined by Campbell’s son and were assisted by the use of a second canoe, which was lashed to the first to form a catamaran. They also had obtained a glass-bottomed box with which the remains could be observed from the surface. The second day’s catch included the front edge of the cockpit coaming and the engineer’s windscreen as well as many pieces of fabric. It was enough for Bradford to recommend to his superiors that the recovery continue before winter set in. Further efforts were made at the end of September. A base was established and Bradford and two of the museum’s staff were able to raise additional pieces before the weather deteriorated and operations had to be suspended for the year. Over the winter Bradford worked to establish the identity of the aircraft. He learned from Stuart Graham, the original delivery pilot, that Don Foss was still living in Grand-Mère, Quebec. This lead was followed up, and Foss was able to confirm the identity of the aircraft as g-caac and to provide details of its crash. Further correspondence with Stuart Graham also confirmed that g-caac was indeed La Vigilance and that, as such, was of inestimable historical importance as the aircraft that had carried out the first bush-flying operations in Canadian aviation history. The following year the museum initiated a complex recovery operation. It involved several of the permanent staff assisted by four local air cadets; Mac McIntyre of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, who had experience with a similar recovery operation on a Fleet Freighter; the Aquajets scuba club from North Bay, Ontario; equipment donated by the Federal Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources; and air support in the form of a Turbo Beaver (cf-oep) belonging to the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. The operation got under way at the lake on 7 August 1969. The first day was spent ferrying in supplies and constructing a large U-shaped

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raft from forty-five-gallon oil drums and plywood. The divers were also active, bringing up parts of the wing spars and the overhead gravity copper fuel tank. They also detected the existence of major parts of the front hull section. On the second day, in a steady downpour, the divers were able to clear the silt from around the remains of the hull. This was accomplished by sucking the silt away with two high-pressure hoses with screens fixed across their inlets to trap any small items dislodged by the suction. Along with the thirty-four foot length of hull, the divers also brought up numerous artifacts in surprisingly good condition. This included several of the instruments and many of the spare parts and tools normally carried by hs-2l aircrews in the 1920s. Over the weekend the hull was partially raised by lashing fortyfive-gallon oil drums to it and then blowing out the water with the pumps to provide buoyancy. It was then towed (submerged) to the closest shoreline and then to the site of a slipway made out of plywood. Before the divers left, they brought more valuable artifacts to the surface, many of which have been incorporated into the restored airframe. Upon pulling the hull from the water, the expedition was thrilled to discover that one section of planking on the rear hull bore the painted registration g-caac, thereby establishing the aircraft’s identity beyond a doubt. To honour the occasion, Barry MacKeracher, one of the museum staff members, piped the remains ashore with his bagpipes, which he had brought along for just such an eventuality. The next part of the operation involved transporting the remains to Kapuskasing from the lake site. This was accomplished by cutting the hull in two, after which it was subjected to the Carbowax 1540 treatment. As the hull was washed out, many other loose items were recovered. The actual removal of the hull and associated remains was carried out by a Canadian Forces Piasecki H-21 helicopter of 424 Squadron, which had been engaged in a search-and-rescue mission in northern Ontario. The front hull was enclosed in an open crate, which was slung below the helicopter. The rear hull and the other remains were carried in the cabin. On 13 September the remains were airlifted to Kapuskasing, and the following Wednesday they left for Ottawa by road. Following an extensive treatment in Carbowax 1540, the remains were put on display in the museum pending the commencement of the planned restoration program. Among the many visitors to see the

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display were Stuart and Madge Graham, who had flown in the aircraft in 1919, and Don Foss, who had been the last pilot. In recognition of his inadvertent part in the preservation of this priceless piece of Canada’s aviation past, Bradford applied to have the lake in which the g-caac had reposed for forty-seven years named in Don Foss’s honour. As the lake had no official name, the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names granted the application in October 1969. Some four years after the remains had been brought to Ottawa, the job of rebuilding the hs-2l began. At the outset it was decided that it was neither practical nor desirable to restore the original hull. So, in 1973, the museum staff began the long and difficult job of researching how to build a new one from scratch. The process was to take fourteen years because, due to the demands of their other duties, the restoration staff could work on the project for only about one week in four. In addition, during most of the project, funds for such reconstruction activities were almost non-existent. Unlike the 1918 production lines, replete with workers and jigs that had churned out hs-2l machines at a great pace, the museum staff was on a continuing learning curve. One potential problem was overcome when the us Navy provided about 60 per cent of the drawings needed for the job. A keel of ash laid down in September 1975 was the starting point. It was formed in a steamer made from a forty-five-gallon oil drum with heating elements from a local hardware store. The pine hull planking was similarly steamed, shaped, and individually fastened using innumerable clamps and thousands of brass screws. Each plank took about two weeks to install. The coaming for the front gunner’s cockpit was made up from dozens of laminations, and the hole was cut in the hull with great trepidation. Contrary to fears, the hull did not disintegrate when the saw was applied! Like the hull, the two sponsons involved numbers of compound curves. These members were built up of cedar, the same wood as had been called for in the original specifications. Finally, all of the intricate and exacting craftsmanship was covered with fabric. To facilitate the double planking of the planing surface with mahogany, the museum staff built two wheels around the hull so that it could be rolled over as necessary. The tail and wing surfaces, struts, and many other components were obtained from an hs-2l previously stored by the Los Angeles County Museum. Their aircraft,

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nc652 Sunkist Kid, had originally been owned by Pacific Marine Airways and was used to take passengers to Santa Catalina Island off Los Angeles in the 1920s. The remains were stored under the arches of a railway bridge, and it took the Canadian recovery team four days to dig them out. In keeping with the museum’s philosophy that the hs-2l be as much an original aircraft as possible, only the decayed sections of the wings and tail were cut out, and new material was spliced and scarfed into place. Modern, readily available Elmer’s White Glue was used as the bonding agent, along with brass nails, which proved particularly difficult to find. The museum has three-and-a-half Liberty engines from which to make one for hs-2l. The example chosen had probably been installed in an hs-2l as it was configured as a pusher. Parts from all the others were used in the rebuild. Corrosion was removed by hand, and the engine was rebuilt using many of the original tools salvaged from the wreck site of g-caac. In addition, as many original parts were used as possible, such as one-and-a-half fuel gauges, most of a fuel pump, instruments, cockpit floor covers, the camera port, and a radiator from another crashed hs-2l (g-caos of the Ontario Provincial Air Service). Where necessary, new components were made. Examples include the fuel tanks, tip floats, and the missing items from the wind-driven fuel pump. All instruments and equipment were restored to original working condition, even those hidden in the structure. Similarly, while all of the seemingly kilometres of cable used to rig the aircraft were new, original turnbuckles were used. As completed, it is estimated by the museum staff that La Vigilance represents some 60 to 70 per cent of an original aircraft, despite the total reconstruction of the hull. In the final stages, the flying surfaces were covered with aircraft cotton, the entire aircraft painted silver, and the registration letters laid out and then sprayed on the hull and flying surfaces. The Laurentide logo was sketched out by the director of the museum at the time, Robert Bradford, who is one of Canada’s most renowned aviation artists, and then applied. Two windscreens were made and fitted and, after some 50,000 working hours, La Vigilance was finally ready to be shown off. Local enthusiasts were on hand to see the aircraft rolled out into the sunshine of a glorious June day in 1986 for a “photo opportunity.” It glittered in the light like an enormous silver dragonfly as the breeze

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gently rocked it on its dolly. An even prouder moment arrived when the aircraft was dedicated in a ceremony in Canada’s magnificent new National Aviation Museum facility in March 1988, before the building officially opened. The American ambassador represented the government of the United States, the original donor of the aircraft, and the ceremony was attended by many of those who had played a part in the flying-boat’s discovery, recovery, and reconstruction. Three months later, on another sunny June weekend, the hs-2l formed the centrepiece of the new museum building on its official opening day. The remains of the original hull are exhibited alongside the reconstruction, and the display is complemented by detailed models of the crash, the recovery operation, and artifacts from Stuart Graham, the original pilot. Commenting on the hs-2l, the late Fred Shortt, the then curator of the National Aviation Museum, said that, compared to contemporary European designs, the aircraft structure was crude. The cables were round, and the pulleys and other hardware exposed. The hull soaked up water, and the machine suffered from poor performance and aerodynamics. Nevertheless, Shortt noted that the type could operate from Canada’s unlimited bodies of water and that it had initiated the long tradition of bush-flying that has since come to be so closely associated with Canadian aviation. The Museum’s Curtiss hs-2l La Vigilance is a unique and powerful means of seeing into and appreciating Canada’s colourful aviation past. It is also a living testimonial to the dedication of a small group intent on making that window into the past come alive for posterity.

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10 Amiens, August 1918: A Glimpse of the Future? s y d n e y f. w i s e In his Memoirs, General J.F.C. Fuller claimed that “the Battle of Amiens was the strategical end of the war, a second Waterloo; the rest was minor tactics.” General Heinz Guderian, in his memoirs, contended that, had the British employed their masses of tanks much earlier than the Amiens offensive, then they would have won the war much sooner, but “there was not a single occasion on which the huge quantities of tanks available were directed at a common objective, simultaneously and with due coordination.”1 And General Erich Ludendorff, in his memoirs, gave his view of Amiens in a famous passage: August 8th was the black day of the German Army in the history of the war. This was the worst experience I had to go through. Early on August 8th, in a dense fog that had been rendered still thicker by artificial means, the British, mainly with Australian and Canadian divisions, attacked between albert and moreuil with strong squadrons of Tanks, but for the rest with no great superiority. They broke between the Somme and the Luce deep into our front. The Divisions in line allowed themselves to be completely overwhelmed … . August 8th made things clear for both Army Commands, both for the German and for that of the enemy.2

When, two days later, Ludendorff disclosed the extent of the disaster to the Kaiser, Wilhelm ii told him: “We have reached the limits of our capacity. The war must be terminated.”3 These generals’ judgments, and others that one might add, all address the question of the significance of Amiens. Was it, as Fuller thought, the climactic battle of the war? He of course had an axe to

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grind: until the eve of Amiens he was gso1 of the British Tank Corps and had much to do with the tank role in the battle. Guderian was the model of the thrusting tank general in the Second World War and was really interested in tracing the origins of the lightning form of warfare he exemplified. Ludendorff’s judgment is probably the most important since he spoke for the German High Command and was, to all intents and purposes, the High Command. To him Amiens meant that his great offensive gamble, resting on the transfer of divisions from a defeated Russia, had failed and that the strategic initiative had swung to the Allies. We can agree that Fuller’s sweeping statement is hyperbole, even though he stoutly defended his view for the rest of a highly productive publishing career. Amiens did not end hard fighting: the German army, though much weakened, was still formidable on the defensive in the last months of the war. We can agree, too, that though Guderian knew a great deal about tanks, he did not know much about British tank resources in 1918 or about the capabilities of the tanks the British had in hand. Was Amiens as black a day as Ludendorff painted it? My colleague Robin Prior of the Australian Defence Force Academy thinks that he was unduly depressed; it was not so much a black day as a rather greyish one.4 But though we might dismiss or diminish these judgments, round them there still lingers the view that the battle represented something new, that it was not just the curtain-raiser for the Hundred Days and the end of the war but, rather, that it was also the harbinger of the war of the future. And the part played by tanks was an important determinant of its meaning. The origins of the Amiens operation, and especially its inclusion of the Canadian Corps, lie in the period immediately following the onset of the German offensive on 21 March 1918 and the subsequent appointment of Marshal Ferdinand Foch as supreme commander of Allied forces on the Western Front. From his first days in his new command, Foch began to consider counter-blows against the Germans – a preoccupation at first not taken seriously either by Field Marshal Haig or members of his staff at general headquarters (ghq). Foch, however, meant exactly what he said, and almost from the start he thought of using the Canadian Corps in an offensive role.5 Haig, on the other hand, when the German offensive began, decided to use divisions from the corps to shore up the defences of the British Expeditionary Force (bef) by detaching them from their Vimy fortress and dispatching them to those parts of the British army most seriously in

Map 10.1

Battle of Amiens, 8 August - 14 August 1918

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need of help. In the bef there was nothing sacrosanct about an army corps. It was regarded as a framework for lodging divisions and consisted of a headquarters, a rear echelon, and some corps troops. The commander of the Canadian Corps, General Sir Arthur Currie, though Haig was his commander-in-chief, disagreed strongly with the breaking up of what he rightly regarded as Canada’s national army, and he took his objections to the Canadian minister of overseas forces in London and, through him, to the Cabinet in Ottawa. Haig found himself thwarted, being forced by his own secretary of war, Lord Derby, to return Currie’s divisions to him. He was outraged and, in his diary, had this to say about Currie: He wishes to fight only as a “Canadian Corps” and gets his Canadian representative in London to write and urge me to arrange it! As a result the Canadians are together holding a wide front near Arras, but they have not yet been in the battle! The Australians on the other hand have been used by Divisions and are now spread out from Albert to Amiens and one is in front of Hazebrouck.6

At just about this time, in mid-April, Foch suggested that the Canadians be used to make a spoiling attack against German offensive action in Flanders on a sixteen-kilometre front between Festubert and Robecq. As it turned out, Haig had been considering a similar scheme and had also come to realize that, if the Canadians were to be employed in action, then they would have to be used as a corps. British 1st Army (General Horne) was charged with preparing an operation, along the lines suggested by Foch and Haig, called Delta, in which the Canadian Corps and a tank force would be secretly inserted into the line (precisely the device to be used later at Amiens.) Considerable planning for this operation went on for the rest of April and into May, while the corps trained for open warfare and working with tanks behind its Vimy lines. Ultimately, objections to Delta arose both in the corps and at 2nd Army level because of the swampy ground south of the Lys, the many bridges and water obstacles, and the general unsuitability of the sector for tank operations. With Foch’s approval, Haig cancelled Delta and decided on an offensive south and east of Amiens.7 Amiens was a vital rail centre and the linchpin between the French and British armies. Foch’s first conception of an operation here had the limited objective of freeing up the Amiens rail network from

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Figure 10.1 General Sir Arthur Currie (nac pa-001370)

German shelling, but it was not long before his hopes and enthusiasm expanded the size of the proposed operation considerably. The planning was done by the 4th Army, commanded by General Sir Henry Rawlinson, a formation that included four divisions of the Australian Corps. As the plan took shape, Rawlinson became more and more optimistic. As early as 24 May, well before the cancellation of Delta, Rawlinson wrote in his diary: “I understand I am to have Currie and three Canadian Divns for [an] attack unless they are used up in the line somewhere before it comes off. With both the Canadians and Australians we ought to be able to make a good show of it.” But he received no confirmation concerning the composition of his attacking

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force until he submitted his plans to Haig on 16 July. “I proposed an offensive E. of Villers Bretonneux if he could give me the Canadians. To my surprise and delight I found that he had already decided to do this as soon as he could get Alec Godley and his four Divns back from the French.”8 In the event, Rawlinson was to have five Australian divisions, four Canadian divisions (with the British 32nd Division in reserve), and the British 3rd Corps with three divisions. He would cooperate with the French 1st Army under General Debeney, with its 31st Corps of four divisions committed to the battle. In addition, Haig was to give him the British Cavalry Corps under General Kavanagh, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade under General Seeley, and the Royal Tank Corps. From the raf and the French Air Force over 2,000 aircraft were designated for the Amiens operations. The bulk of the tank forces and the cavalry was committed to the support of the offensive blow; that is, to the two Dominion corps. The role of the 3rd British Corps north of the Somme and of the 31st French Corps south of the Amiens-Roye Highway was to provide flank support to the Australians and Canadians on their left and right, respectively, which meant that, as the central forces advanced, both the British and French formations were expected to conform. The key to the success of the operation, in Rawlinson’s opinion, was absolute security. “Camouflage,” he recorded in his diary, “is the secret of success. It is a very big operation to keep secret and certainly wants the greatest care.” The Canadian Corps, given its size and significance, constituted a major security problem. “Wherever the Canadians go they always create suspicion. I must publish several lying orders to deceive our own people who do chatter so.”9 The movement of the corps from its lines round Vimy was therefore to be clandestine – not easy when a force of 105,000 is to be hidden, along with the heavy and field artillery of five divisions,10 corps transport and ammunition columns, a cavalry brigade, and the Canadian Independent Force under Brigadier General Raymond Brutinel (with its armoured cars, flat-bed trucks, and their burdens of heavy Vickers machine guns and trench mortars). When the corps moved out from the Vimy Ridge lines, no one but the highest-ranking officers knew their destination. For those who took part in this odyssey, the roundabout routes followed remained vividly in memory, as did the notices pasted in every man’s pay book: “Keep Your Mouth Shut!”11 Movement began in the last days of July. Some fortunate units were able to make at least part of the journey on one or other of the fifty-six

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trains that carried troops and impedimenta; most of the infantry battalions broke the journey by spending a day or two en route training with tanks; and nearly all units spent at least part of the time marching, chiefly at night, on the roads of rural France. Some units aboard trains found themselves in the familiar surroundings of the Ypres salient; one or two spent some time in Flanders to mislead enemy intelligence. Whatever their route or their mode of transport, the journey left a vivid impression upon all the units taking part as well as being a remarkable logistical accomplishment. For example, the 44th Battalion, a Manitoba unit of the 4th Division, marched from Vimy to a point near Arras, took buses to Tinques, there boarded a train that turned north but, during the night, turned back south again and crossed the Somme near Abbeville, where the men detrained and marched through the night and the rain to Bailleul. Here they lay up for the day, and then came a night march of thirty kilometres to a village in Picardy, where they camped in the fields. That night they marched another twenty kilometres and, at dawn on 7 August, sheltered in Boves Wood for the day, moving in the evening to their assembly position in Gentelles Wood. According to their unit historian: “The march to Amiens has been a great thrill to all.”12 A more personal note is struck by Will Bird, a member of the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) of the 3rd Division, in his splendid recollections of his service entitled Ghosts Have Warm Hands. “We began moving,” he wrote, “without knowing where we were going, and the second day went through areas where no troops had been for a long time. In one little village the people were wildly excited when they saw our kilts and heard the pipe band. They all ran from their cottages or gardens and came alongside, chattering shrilly … The route lay beside waving cornfields, little cottages with red roofs, old peasants driving big white percherons with a single rein, poplar and willow trees along canal banks, and village ponds in which ducks swam.” The battalion passed through part of Amiens, which was empty of people, and halted overnight at St Fuscien, a little village close by. The next day, 6 August, they marched off at dusk. “Our route lay through Boves. It seemed as if every battalion and battery, every branch of the service, had also decided to move that night, and in the same direction … It was early morning before we arrived at Gentelles Wood. Thousands of other soldiers were there, but all the

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wood was laid off in areas and each man stayed in his own battalion square. All around us was a humming, a murmur of voices and mild confusion. In the distance the tanks were clanking and tractors were grinding.” All next day the men lay about under the trees; then that night they moved silently to the tapes that marked their jumping-off point when zero hour came at 4: 20 am. It had turned cold and the men were impatient to get moving, but as we were leaving the wood a great rustle of movement stilled them. It was something we had not heard before. All at once no one was speaking or whispering. Thousands of men were moving by us as quietly as possible, and the only thing audible was the soft sound of men jostling in the dark, the swish of feet in grass … No one complained as we threaded in and out in snaky fashion to avoid other companies and other units and all were too amazed to say anything when we saw field guns being wheeled into positions. There were no pits or camouflage for them, and it showed what the expectations were.13

As the battalions moved into position, a Montreal unit, the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles of Canada) of the 2nd Division, encountered an Australian battalion on its immediate left. It was part of the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade, and an officer from this formation came to the headquarters of the 24th to discuss how liaison between the two battalions could be maintained. The 24th’s history provides an account of the episode: As a railway line formed the inter-battalion boundary, it was arranged that a platoon of each battalion should operate on the side away from its own unit, thus interlocking the two forces securely. The Australian officer favoured the plan, but was uneasy lest the Canadian troops, with whom he had never previously cooperated, should not maintain the speed of advance which the Australians would set. Lt. Col. Clark-Kennedy assured him that the Canadians had no thought of advancing slowly, and suggested that the 24th Battalion would be willing to race to the final objective, and would promise the Australians a stiff competition from the moment of jumping off until the final objective was captured and held. Well pleased with the suggestion, the Australian officer returned to his own unit, which, in the ensuing engagement, raced the 24th Battalion as agreed, and lost a close contest only when heavy German machine-gun fire delayed its forward drive a few minutes more than had been expected.14

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The previous day both the 31st Corps of the French 1st Army and the Australian Corps had made room for the Canadian Corps to take up a position between them, the French side-stepping to the right, leaving the boundary on their left the Amiens-Roye Highway, an ancient Roman road on the south side of the Luce River and straight as a die. For their part, the Australians side-stepped to their left, so that the Amiens-Ham Railway line formed the boundary with the Canadians. In order to ensure that the movement of the Canadians into their segment of the field was not prematurely detected by the enemy, the Australian 13th Infantry Brigade formed a screen across the whole front designated for the Canadians until relieved by them on the night of 8 August. Figures for the frontage allocated the four corps vary from account to account, but, on the flanks, the 3rd British Corps and the 31st French Corps would appear to have been responsible for approximately 5,460 metres of front each, the Australian Corps for 6,370 metres, and the unwieldy Canadian Corps for 6,825 metres, its allocation widening in the course of the operation to 9,100 metres. It should be noted that none of these corps numbered even half the size of the Canadian Corps, and, indeed, the strength of each of the others is likely to have been about 35,000, with divisions numbering from 4,000 to 7,000 infantry. The same holds true for the divisions of the defending German 2nd and 18th Armies, whose total of eleven divisions was considerably outnumbered by the Allied forces at Amiens.15 At precisely 4:20 am, the profound silence, broken only by the sound of aircraft engines flying over the battlefield to drown out the noise of the tanks pulling into position, was shattered by an immense barrage launched at enemy targets, and immediately tanks and columns of infantry shot from their starting blocks and moved off in both the Australian and Canadian sectors. They did so into heavy fog, thickened further by the use of smoke, which compelled officers to use compasses to guide their troops but which also hid the attacking forces from the enemy. The Canadians attacked with three divisions up and the 4th Division in reserve – the 2nd Division on the left, the 3rd on the right, and the 1st (“the Old Red Patch”) in the centre. Immediately behind the 2nd Division came an Ottawa unit, the 6th Field Battalion of Canadian Engineers, who set to work immediately filling trenches; building ramps for tanks; installing pontoon bridges for infantry to cross the swampy, flooded Luce; and carving out tracks for cavalry, supply tanks, and other transport vehicles to follow. An ingenious work crew fashioned a water wheel from empty

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shell cases, rotated by the current of the Luce, and gushing water into troughs for the horses and mules. The 6th Engineers’ report provides a sense of the exhilaration experienced by the troops as they broke into the open and advanced rapidly behind a rolling barrage: At sunrise the fog lifted disclosing to view an entire army on the march, a spectacle unique, probably, in the pageant of war. In front, spread out over an empty plain, golden with unharvested wheat and studded here and there with densely wooded thickets, infantry of the 1st and 5th Brigades accompanied by a few lumbering tanks advanced and deployed. Closer at hand, field guns, striped and spotted, with muzzles lifted for extreme range, yielded to each discharge, recoiled, spat out empties and whiffs of half burned gas with the precision of reciprocating machines. From the rear, as far as the eye was able to reach, came more infantry – the whole 2nd and 6th Brigades with others of the Fourth Division behind. With them moved machine gunners, trench mortar batteries and engineers. Along the roads, half concealed by clouds of amber dust, lorries, ambulances, ammunition limbers, pontoons, tractors, water carts, G.S. wagons and every other type of military vehicle sailed in a disjointed but endless procession. Across country, making for gaps in our wire, the 3rd Cavalry Division, strung out in mile long squadrons, advanced at the trot. Keeping pace alongside parallel columns of whippet tanks raced straight ahead, regardless of trench or wire.16

This scene was duplicated in the Australian sector. We are able to follow in the steps of the inimitable C.E.W. Bean, official historian of the Australian Imperial Force, as, notebook in hand, he pursues his advancing countrymen, just as he had at Gallipoli. From his notes on 8 August, now part of the Bean Papers in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, we learn that he and a couple of companions, shortly after the barrage opened at 4: 20 am and the mist began to clear, began to walk forward: And then, as the mist cleared, we beheld a sight that I shall never forget. The road towards Cerisy sloped aslant the hill slope ahead of it. And down it, through ground which a few hours ago was German, there was coming a string of traffic – field guns, mules with wagons, motor lorries, tanks. It was mostly horse traffic at first. But as we crossed the road and reached the top of the next knuckle beyond the Hamel hill, and looked down into the valley backed by the big knuckle this side of Cerisy, there they all were – artillery wagons and horses parked thick, tucked in under a bank at the foot of the

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slope; tanks crawling down the road from our slope, nosing their way over the knuckletop; a couple like great woodlice moving sluggishly or waiting on the hilltop in the distance half left of us, others – one or two – far up the head of the valley to the right. There were infantry – several long strings of them in single file just going up to that same slope away on our right. [We went up towards them,] through the yellowing wheatfields on top – very wide flat wheatfields which I thought would never end. Far away to our right of the tableland beyond the next valley I could see three or four of the big man-carrying Mark Five Star tanks [a slightly longer and heavier version of the Mark Five heavy tank] and some infantry. They seemed to be stationary – somewhere beyond Warfusee I should say … [Shortly after] down the other side of the gully came about 200 Germans, in charge, as far as I could see, of one Australian. He was leading them, like a shepherd … At the same time, further down the valley, came another string, marching in fours, probably 300 strong.17

Even before Bean and his companions began their battlefield stroll, an equally intrepid and unusual man was doing so in the Canadian zone of advance. This was Canon Frederick George Scott, senior Protestant chaplain of the 1st Canadian Division, who set forth on the right of the Canadian sector well before zero hour. He followed the track made by 1st Division units as they moved to their jumping-off positions and encountered “a man from one of the Imperial Battalions from whom we were taking over the line.” (Canon Scott must have misidentified an Australian; there were no British units within miles of his location.) After the barrage began, he joined the stretcher bearers to follow the advance. As they walked forward, “a strange sound behind us made us look around, and we saw the advancing tanks creeping down the slope like huge great beetles … Our men were just in time to divert the course of one which threatened to cut our telephone wires.” After somewhat bemusedly accepting the personal surrender of three German soldiers, and then turning them over to men of the 2nd (Eastern Ontario) Battalion, Canon Scott took advantage of an opportunity: With the prisoners disposed of and sent back with others under escort, I started forward again and seeing a tank coming down the hill got on it and so went back into the battle. We passed quite easily over some wide trenches, then when the machine came to a stop I got off and made my way to the end of the valley and climbed to the higher ground beyond. There I found myself in a wide expanse of country covered by yellow grain and rolling off in hills

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Figure 10.2 Canon Frederick George Scott (Photo by Y. Karsh, nac pa-149279) to the distance. Here and there I met wounded men walking back and many German prisoners. In the fields in different directions I could see rifles stuck, bayonet downwards, in the ground, which showed that there lay wounded men. I found that these were chiefly Germans, and all of them had received hideous wounds and were clamouring for water … I made my way to each in turn and gave him a drink from some of the water bottles which I carried round my belt.

After ministering, as well as he could in his halting German and French, to the spiritual needs of these men, Scott continued to move forward on the Plain de Sancerre. “It was a delightful feeling,” he recalled, “to be walking through the golden harvest fields with the blue sky overhead, and to know that we were advancing into the enemy’s

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land.” Exhausted by his long walk, he got a lift from an ambulance and stopped for the night in the village of Caix, just a short distance from the large town of Rosières, a major objective the following day.18 Total surprise had been achieved, embracing the Allied command as well as the beleaguered German army. As German troops fled eastward, and hundreds more were captured, the Canadians on that first day advanced eleven kilometres, the Australians ten,19 and virtually all initial objectives had been achieved, including, quite unexpectedly, the old Amiens Defence Line, which most senior officers thought would take at least three days to reach. Lest the adventures of C.E.W. Bean and Canon Scott leave the impression that Amiens was “a walk in the park” against feeble opposition, it should be noted that the Canadians suffered 3,868 casualties on 8 August and a total of 11,822 over the twelve days of the operation. The main strength of German defences lay in their many well-sited machine gun positions, and the German gunners fought their guns with characteristic bravery and tenacity. Eight Canadians and three Australians won Victoria Crosses at Amiens, evidence of the many bitter infantry battles that were fought during this operation; the vcs of four of the Canadians and two of the Australians were posthumous.20 It was at this point that the operation began to flounder somewhat because of lack of High Command agreement on ultimate objectives. The second day’s accomplishments were not so spectacular (for one thing, neither corps got an early start, and it does not appear that 4th Army Headquarters pushed very hard for one); nevertheless an advance of another five kilometres took place. Similar advances were made by the French and British Corps on the flanks. On 10 August both Dominion corps came up against much stiffer resistance from fresh German troops, and the fighting in the maze of old trenches and rusty wire of the old Amiens Defence Line reverted to something resembling the trench warfare that, for two days, they had left behind. Apart from the value of surprise, which was undoubted, what accounts for this remarkable Allied success? Was it the employment of the air weapon (because Amiens, more than any previous battle, had an important air dimension)? The Royal Air Force (raf) committed over 800 aircraft to the support of the offensive, and the Division aérienne, French gqg’s own air component, plus transfers from other French air assets, brought the total under French 1st Army command to 1,025 French aircraft. The Allied total vastly outnumbered the air strength of the German 2nd and 18th Armies, which, on 8 August, to-

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talled only 106 aircraft fit for service, though of course reinforcements were available from neighbouring sectors.21 More than any previous operation, Amiens featured cooperation of the closest kind between ground and air forces. The raf, for example, had as its tasks the hindering of German reconnaissance, contact patrols with advancing forces, collaboration with artillery, the neutralization of enemy aircraft, the attack on enemy elements by bombs and machine guns, and the interdiction of the battlefield. Thus, during the advance, signals exchanged between artillery and aircraft enabled air patrols to transmit messages to artillery commanders, while other aircraft identified fleeting German targets and relayed their positions by wireless to batteries. Low-flying aircraft bombed and machine gunned enemy troops, especially retiring German units highly vulnerable to air attack. As the front moved east on 8 August, a makeshift airfield was established by the engineers at Caix in the Canadian sector, and aircraft landed there to refuel and to restock with bombs and ammunition. A special squadron, No. 8, commanded by Major T.L. Leigh-Mallory of Second World War fame, cooperated directly with the tanks, having trained for that purpose for more than a month prior to Amiens and, indeed, having previously cooperated with tanks at the successful Australian operation at Hamel on 4 July 1918. Visual signals were used between tanks and aircraft, though it is doubtful whether fog, smoke, and the tiny apertures in the tanks permitted much exchange of information. No. 8 Squadron and other low-flying airmen were much more successful in locating and firing upon anti-tank guns and in laying smoke screens to hide advancing tanks. After action a German report noted this function as particularly successful: “British low-flying planes rendered valuable service to their own tank units by laying smoke screens between advancing tank units and strong defending German points of resistance.” Low-flying aircraft attacked enemy infantry, guns, transport, ammunition dumps, and trains from close to ground level.22 As an observer with the advancing 5th (Western Cavalry) Infantry Battalion noted, “Our planes seemed like things possessed … The air was thick with them and never an enemy plane to be seen.”23 The maintenance of air superiority over the battlefield, especially on 8 August, and the support given to the ground forces undoubtedly helped the attackers considerably, but the most that can be said of the air element at Amiens is that it provided an additional and valuable component of the combination of arms employed.

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In one important respect, the air element fell badly short of its mission. The Battle of Amiens is a classic illustration of the First World War problem of converting a significant break-in into a break-out. Twenty-five German reserve divisions were with Army Group Prince Rupprecht, north of Amiens. If those divisions, or any part of them, could be denied access to the battlefield, or, conversely, if the approximately 70,000 defeated German troops could be prevented from leaving it and rounded up, then a far more decisive victory would have been won. The only conceivable way to do that was through the air weapon, and on 9 August, on the supposition that destruction of the bridges would accomplish the aim of sealing off the battlefield, Major General W.H. Salmond, the raf commander, began to shift the targets of his bombing aircraft from German airfields and key rail junctions and highways to the bridges over the Somme. Over 700 sorties were made against the bridges and 46 tonnes of bombs were dropped, but only one bridge, the rail bridge at Peronne, was even damaged. Moreover, defence of the bridges prompted fierce resistance by German air reinforcements, including the Richthofen Jagdgeschwader, now commanded by Hermann Goering but with Lothar Richthofen in command on this occasion. Bomber losses were heavy, though the Richthofen wing limped back to its base having lost threequarters of its strength. The fact is that the destruction of bridges was beyond the capacity of the bomber weapon of 1918; Salmond’s conception turned out to be based upon a faulty appreciation of what was possible. The chief of the Air Staff, Major General F.H. Sykes, in a memorandum of 13 August 1918, unrelated to the Amiens operation, wrote: “Experience has shown that a bridge offers so small a target that even from a low altitude it is exceedingly difficult to hit, even direct hits will not as a rule cause any very prolonged interruption of traffic. To destroy a bridge an attack in considerable strength and carried out from a low height is necessary. Such an operation must inevitably be costly.”24 As for the employment of cavalry, that was hardly a glimpse of the future, nor was the moving forward of field artillery pulled by teams of horses as the infantry advanced beyond the range of the guns. James Pedley, a young lieutenant with the 4th Battalion (Central Ontario Regiment), grasped this when his Toronto unit found itself in the midst of a charge by the Cavalry Corps near Le Quesnel on 9 August. Emerging after many detours and delays from a considerable bit of bush in which we had been hidden, we came in view of Le Quesnel about noon. Fritz

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a m i e n s, a u g u st 1 9 1 8 : a g l i mp s e o f t h e f u t u r e? 187 had by this time been driven out, and there were frequent bands of prisoners returning. Away beyond the town we could see specks in khaki bobbing up and down, the infantry of the Fourth Division advancing. But closer to us were to be seen aspects of battle that none of us, even after months of war service, would have believed possible the day before. The old pageantry of battle, the flash of sabres and the foam-flecked withers of galloping artillery horses – these we would have said belonged to picture books and not to modern war … . We found ourselves in the very centre of mounted action. Cavalry troops led by soldiers with upraised swords swept forward here, there, and everywhere. The pounding of the horses’ hooves was like a lowpitched harmonious thunder. The troopers rode in great clouds of dust, rode hell-for-leather, rode forward; saddles emptied and the unguided horses plunged blindly on with the rest. You saw, too, the eighteen-pounders rushing on from position to position, drivers leaning low above the galloping horses, six to a team, guns jolting madly over uneven ground while the gunners held on as best they could.25

Will Bird, whose 42nd Battalion was in reserve behind the advance of the 3rd Division, to the left of the action Pedley describes, had a “ringside seat, out of the danger zone”: Over the slope came our cavalry, the Royal Canadian Dragoons, the Fort Garry Horse and the Strathconas, riding like mad, sabres flashing and lances glittering, in perfect formation. They swept by us with a thundering of hoofs and drove at [a] wood. Some passed to right and some to left of it. Following them came the “whippets,” small tanks with remarkable speed and with guns mounted on the top. The mounted men dashed into the wood, directly at the waiting gunners. Killing began as if it were a grand movie scene … It was whirlwind fighting, so fast and furious that the machine guns did not take half the toll we expected. One [gun] crew alone survived the cavalry charge. A tank headed straight for them … and on and over gun and crew, so quickly that not a German escaped … More horses came in view, pulling a battery of heavy guns. They thundered by us and over the wide plateau, swinging about and into action with astounding speed. We saw the shells striking in the village.26

These scenes are redolent of the past, of the Crimean War or of the exploits of a Jeb Stuart or Phil Sheridan. They represent Field Marshal Haig’s inflexible belief that it was only by passing cavalry through an opposing enemy that a true breakout could be achieved. Yet the juxtaposition of cavalry and the Whippet tanks (which could achieve a

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speed of 14.5 kilometres per hour) is interesting. The after-action report of the 6th Tank Battalion (Whippets), which operated with the cavalry, termed the collaboration a failure. “As a result of the Amiens battles, it was found that the present Whippet was not suitable to operate with mounted troops. One of two things invariably occurred, either the cavalry wanted to move forward at a gallop, in which case they outdistanced the Whippets, or the Whippets were able to move forward and the cavalry were prevented by machine gun fire or barrage.”27 To what extent was the success won at Amiens a consequence of the use of tanks? A total of 415 fighting tanks were used, together with 120 older tanks employed to carry men, ammunition, and water forward, and twenty-two to carry machine gun crews and guns. The total number employed was therefore more than 500. In both the Canadian and Australian sectors on 8 August, there is strong evidence of the usefulness of tanks in overcoming the chief obstacles to the advance (i.e., German machine gun nests dispersed in depth and operated by resolute gunners) and that the infantry was considerably heartened by tank support. There is also plentiful evidence from both corps that the infantry worked well with the tanks, provided the tanks were able to take the lead and clear the way. For example, Thomas Dinesen, a member of the 42nd Battalion (and a Dane who had come from Denmark to enlist in Canada), probably spoke for a lot of his buddies when he wrote of his unit’s struggle to surmount a rise and get to the Plain de Sancerre: In front of us, up the long slope to the east, a furious battle is raging. Our first-line is attacking for all they are worth; they are already halfway up the hill. They rush forward by sections, flinging themselves down to fire … and jumping up again. The enemy is not to be seen, he is hiding himself in a thicket on the top of the hill, but his machine-guns are sweeping the slope with a torrent of lead, and the advancing sections are thinned … one or two men are left on the ground every time a squad jumps up and leaps forward a few steps. Impossible to break through! But here we have the tanks! The clumsy monsters lumber awkwardly forward up the steep slope, across trenches and shell holes, fire flashing from them, whilst the German rifle bullets and shrapnel fragments hammer in vain against their sides. Good old tanks! The boys up there jump up and force themselves forward against the storm of fire, between the tanks and behind them. A last mad rush … the hill top is one roaring flame and they disappear over the skyline … They have reached their goal.28

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Figure 10.3 Lieutenant Thomas Dinesen, vc (National Archives of Canada pa-006662)

The weakness of the tank was not its moral effect upon the enemy, which was great. In the official Australian history, C.E.W. Bean quotes a passage from a German regimental history to illustrate the fear the tanks aroused in the enemy. “Everything was affected by the fearful impression that the fire-vomiting iron dragons had made on artillery and infantry,” wrote the historian of the 119th Infantry Regiment of the 26th (Reserve) Division. “A true tank-panic had seized on everything, and, where any dark shapes moved, men saw the black monster. ‘Everything is lost’ was the cry that met the incoming battalions.”29 Its tactical utility in company with infantry was demonstrated in good measure in the Australian success at Hamel on 4 July and by both Dominion corps at Amiens. But its vulnerability both to anti-tank fire and to mechanical failure was considerable. The tank, in the stage of development reached in 1918, was constantly breaking

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down from a variety of causes; its armour was also insufficient to withstand fire from the highly effective anti-tank rifle the Germans had developed. Of the 415 tanks employed on 8 August, only 145 were fit for service on 9 August; the rest had been knocked out or were unserviceable. By 10 August only sixty-seven tanks of the total committed by the Tank Corps were available. Moreover, aside from its vulnerability to fire and breakdown, a tank was an unhealthy place to work. It was almost unbearably hot, claustrophobic, and nauseatingly fume-filled; Australian and Canadian machine gun crews who rode into the battle in the new Mark Five Star tanks were too ill to take part in the action when they reached their destinations. The large tanks were extremely slow, and hence their range was severely limited. The tank was not a war-winning weapon but, rather, an ingenious project in process of development, and one that made (while tanks were plentiful) an important tactical and moral contribution to success at Amiens.30 The General Staff pamphlet entitled ss 214: Tanks and Their Employment in Co-operation with the Other Arms, issued in August 1918, concluded that, “as the speed of tanks is developed and their machinery perfected, it is possible that their tactical employment and their role may become more independent.” At the time of issue, however, the staff view was that “it is unwise to place too much reliance upon mechanical contrivances. The machinery of tanks has been much improved and engine trouble will become less and less frequent, but the presence of unexpected obstacles and the effects of the enemy’s artillery fire, may, at any time, deprive the infantry of their support and co-operation.”31 Leaving aside the importance of surprise, which was vital, and the contribution, in varying degrees of importance, of tanks, aircraft, and cavalry, at the heart of the Allied success at Amiens in August was the solid collaboration between infantry and artillery. This is not the place to recount the evolution of infantry tactics in the Australian and Canadian Corps, but the learning curve had been going on since 1915. What evolved, in both cases, was tactically flexible infantry forces that were very good at infiltrating enemy defences and were highly experienced in a variety of forms of attack. Good, even brilliant, small unit tactics and a vast increase in firepower over the years were characteristic of both corps. The Lewis gun, used in effect as an automatic rifle, and the rifle grenade had added greatly to the volume and effect of fire generated by the platoon. Troops of both corps were experienced in working together in small groups on the offensive, had earned a reputation as shock

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troops, and had a strong and distinctive esprit not always palatable to their British comrades.32 In 1918 the Australians perfected smallgroup tactics in their employment of “peaceful penetration” against German infantry from Villlers Bretonneux to Hamel, tactics of stealth, fieldcraft, and skilful aggressiveness that depended to an extraordinary degree upon junior leaders of great individual flair and ingenuity. Australian tactical expertise has nowhere been recorded more faithfully than in Bean’s volumes of official history. Similarly, the evolution of infantry tactics in the Canadian Corps has been analyzed definitively by Bill Rawling in Surviving Trench Warfare. The Canadians tended to be less individualistic than the Australians and rather more organized and professional in their tactical approach, but they were hardly less aggressive. By 1918, Rawling observes, “the Canadians fought a fluid battle, one moving forward under an artillery umbrella and sections advancing with the support of tanks and their own weapons. Each soldier was a specialist with a specific role to play … but also a jack of all trades, ready to use bomb, rifle-grenade, Lewis gun or rifle.” The Canadian Corps, he believed, had, through British tutelage and its own hard won experience, moved away from the concept of the citizen-soldier “to an army of technicians, which, even in the infantry battalions, specialized in particular aspects of fighting battles.”33 The welding together of offensive infantry tactics and artillery support was the second major element in the Amiens success. The following passage from the history of the 4th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, gives a hint of why this combination was so effective. This is an account of the movement of the brigade into place near Gentelles Wood, to the right of the Amiens-Roye Road close to the village of Domart: Our great fighting machine surged silently towards the front: marching men, Battery after Battery of field guns, long lines of supply lorries, heavy trucks and traction engines towing great howitzers … Owing to the short time allowed before the launching of the attack, all units had to get their supplies forward, with the result that the road was jammed with traffic from dusk to dawn … None of the guns had been registered on the enemy lines, but as they had all been calibrated, angles and ranges were worked out from the map and corrected for wind, barometer, temperature, and muzzle velocity.34

This statement, from one formation of the Canadian artillery, contains a wealth of evidence about the transformation that had been wrought

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in the harnessing of field and heavy guns to the offensive capacities of infantry in the bef, a factor that has been almost entirely overlooked in the historiography of the 1918 campaign. Initially, I will select one component: the use of tractors to move heavy guns forward. This technique, developed by the bef in 1917–18, was complemented by training field artillery units to limber up and advance their pieces by horse haulage as infantry advanced. A major barrier to the exploitation of infantry successes under the creeping barrage first employed at the Somme was that infantry outran the barrage line and, stripped of artillery cover, was vulnerable to enemy fire and counter-attacking forces. The German response to this dilemma was to develop storm troops supported by mobile light artillery, flame-throwers, and wheel-mounted heavy machine guns, providing needed firepower for advancing infantry. Experimental development of storm troop tactics, under the direction of Captain Willi Martin Rohr of the Guards Rifle Battalion, took place in the Vosges in 1915. Rohr, given a free hand, designed a unit with a machine gun platoon, a trench mortar platoon, and a platoon of flame-throwers. What Rohr produced was a team of weapons specialists with vastly enhanced firepower, later further enhanced by protective helmets and body armour, and equipped with light artillery. By 1917 Rohr’s innovations had become the cutting edge of the German army’s offensive power.35 At Amiens, both the Australian and Canadian Corps went a significant step further. Their infantry had undergone weapons and tactical developments similar to those that took place in the elite German storm troop units, but the idea of restoring mobility to field and heavy artillery to eliminate the problem of the outrunning of the barrage line was the bef ’s alone. Intensive training of artillery units in both corps in the months before Amiens had taught gunners, signallers, and, it was hoped, infantry commanders to work together as teams as the army advanced. At Amiens, as a result, both Dominion corps enjoyed light and heavy gun support as they advanced; and there was no longer the same need to consolidate intensively along the line of every intermediate objective. In this manner, provided all went well, an attack could keep rolling so long as infantry reinforcements could keep leapfrogging the units they were relieving, gun teams could avert exhaustion, roads and ramps could be provided for tractors hauling the heavies, and adequate liaison between tanks, infantry, and artillery could be maintained. Amiens was the curtainraiser for this form of orchestration of weaponry, and after-action re-

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ports of Australian and Canadian infantry bear testimony to its effectiveness, especially of field artillery firing against targets like machine gun nests and brick-walled villages over open sights. Inevitably, there were breakdowns in communication, but on the whole the barrage line moved forward with the infantry, especially on 8 and 9 August.36 W.B. Kerr, a member of the 11th Battery Canadian Field Artillery, a 4th Division unit, described the activities of newly mobile artillery. After taking part in the barrage launched at 4: 20 am he and his unit, following the 4th Division’s advance, were attached “to act under a colonel of a battalion in our sector.” Then “we saw our drivers and horses with limbers to move the battery forward.” After a considerable march, the battery moved “behind the German artillery zone and clear of trenches, wire and emplacements, in green country marred only by infrequent shell holes. Before us lay intact patches of woodland and upright sign posts at the corner of the roads.” They had reached the environs of the village of Beaucourt, well beyond the initial Allied barrage line. Here the battery witnessed the attack by the Royal Canadian Dragoons: “to our amazement” the cavalry charged, and “the rcd horses went down like nine-pins while some of the men were killed.” The village was protected by brick walls, concrete emplacements housing 5.9s and machine guns, and there was a standoff until “a big tank” arrived, “which moved steadily to the brick wall, crashed through and in a few minutes Beaucourt was ours.” “We and the battery felt we had missed something in this affair. The rcd’s ought not to have charged the machine guns; we should have disposed of them with two or three rounds, but did not get the instructions and did not see them until the rcd were on their way.” Somewhat later the 11th came within sight of the church spire in the village of Le Quesnel, where the Canadian infantry was held up. “To our disappointment, we did nothing. Their was a failure of connection between us and the infantry patrols, but I have no idea whose fault it was … In spite of being prompt on the field of action, we had not fired a shot; we were disappointed and puzzled over the business.”37 The failure at Le Quesnel was important; the Canadian right flank was held up there until the following morning. But the frustration of the 11th Battery was unusual; for the most part, both field and heavy artillery appear to have cooperated well with the infantry in both Canadian and Australian sectors, and this helps to explain the extent of their success.

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Thus the after-action report of the 4th Division artillery took note of the 11th Battery’s disappointment: “The Right Infantry Brigade hardly took … much interest in the other Arms, and the Artillery on this flank was not used to any great extent,” but the left brigade “took the greatest pains to assist in keeping contact, and as a result, very valuable assistance was rendered by the sections attached to this Brigade.” The gunners on this flank of the 4th Division came into action five times, on each occasion disposing of machine gun nests. In most cases, the eighteen pounders “came into action in the open, and laid over the open sights. A few rounds only were required to dislodge a machine gun nest when once it had been definitely located.”38 Scientific gunnery made possible the overwhelming success of the initial barrage at Amiens, although until recently military historiography has overlooked the significant advances made in Allied artillery techniques prior to that battle. Instead, and for sound reasons, attention has focused upon the artillery innovations of Colonel Georg Bruchmüller of the German army.39 Colonel Max Hoffman, chief of staff to Field Marshal Paul Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff on the Eastern Front, held Bruchmüller in the highest regard: I considered him an artillery genius. He had the gift, which I found in no other artilleryman, of instinctively knowing how much of each type of munition to throw at a position in order to soften it up. The troops realized very quickly that under an artilleryman of Bruchmüller’s capability artillery preparations for the attack were more reliable, and they went forward with a fuller sense of confidence.40

Colonel Bruchmüller’s talents were first demonstrated on the Eastern Front, particularly in General Oskar von Hutier’s success at Riga in 1917. When Hutier was shifted to the Western Front and given the newly formed 18th German Army, his artillery chief accompanied him. During the great German offensives of 1918 Bruchmüller was responsible for the artillery planning and operations. His innovations included the massive concentration of large numbers of batteries, the heavy use of gas to saturate the enemy’s front-line forces, intense counter-battery fire, and use of the Pultkowski method of indirect fire without advanced registration. The latter innovation was dependent upon more exact cartography; the determination of variations in fire from temperature, humidity, and other atmospheric conditions; and exact location of batteries through topographic survey. Registration of

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guns upon targets obviously disclosed intentions, hence surprise barrages without advance registration featured the German offensive beginning on 21 March 1918.41 There is no question that “Breakthrough” Bruchmüller, as he was known in the German army, was a remarkable innovator whose tactical improvements in German artillery procedures had much to do with German victories on the Eastern Front, in Italy, and in the West in 1917–18. But it is in fact the case that German artillery innovations were preceded by similar innovations in both the British and French armies, yet so pronounced is the predilection among many historians to believe in the superiority of German methods that these innovations have been largely ignored. As Shelford Bidwell and Dominick Graham point out in their excellent book on artillery development in the bef, from inauspicious beginnings in 1914 there had been, by 1917, a revolution in artillery methods and tactics in the bef and, therefore, of necessity, in the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand forces that formed part of it.42 This transformation was made possible initially by the cartographic survey of 31,080 square kilometres of northern France and Belgium by five British field survey battalions during 1915. The regions surveyed were chiefly those contiguous to the stretches of front line held by the bef. Ultimately, from the survey came the production of thirty-two million maps, mainly of 1/20,000 or 1/10,000 scale, so that for the first time in history accurate maps of large parts of France and Belgium existed. On them could now be plotted enemy targets (either from direct ground observation or by air photographs) and, quite as important, the exact position on the earth’s surface of the battery seeking to engage the target. By the time of the Somme offensive in 1916, firing was taking place “by the map,” using the bearings measured from battery to target. This stage, however, was only the beginning. The aim was deadly accuracy, and that could only be achieved by the application of scientific measure to artillery itself. The factors that affected the performance of a gun included wind speed and direction, humidity, barometric pressure, air temperature, temperature of the ammunition and charge used, and tube wear, to name the most important.43 A War Office pamphlet issued in 1915 enjoined bef gunners that “when shooting by the map it was imperative to take into consideration the variable conditions of the barometric pressure and temperature of the atmosphere, the temperature of the charge, and the current wind velocity.”44 Measurement of tube wear allowed the calculation of

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muzzle velocity and hence of range, and also the determination of the degree to which tube wear had affected the stability of a round in flight. Linked to these advances in scientific gunnery were innovations in the technique of locating enemy targets, the most important of which were enemy guns. To air and ground observation and photography were now added the techniques of sound ranging and flash spotting, methods that became so precise by 1917 that the location of an enemy battery could be established to within fourteen metres.45 The impact of these developments upon artillery tactics and infantry support was enormous, and nowhere was it greater than in the emergence of devastating counter-battery fire. In the seizure of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps in April 1917, counter-battery fire was overwhelmingly important. A huge buildup of artillery meant a heavy artillery piece every eighteen metres of front. “The field artillery was sited in a long line at an average of 3,000 yards behind the front trenches. The heavy and siege batteries stretched in a great arc extending 22,000 yards northward from the valley of the Scarpe behind Arras to Bully Grenay, opposite Lens.” From this array came the counter-battery fire that knocked out 83 per cent of German guns before the infantry attacked, and from it also came the destructive barrage that escorted the Canadians to the ridge’s rim overlooking the Douai Plain.46 Canada’s Bruchmüller was Colonel A.G.L. McNaughton, a soldierscientist from McGill University, who was the corps’ counter-battery staff officer. He was one of the gunners who innovated the use of sound-ranging and flash spotting in the location of enemy batteries; he was a strong supporter of aircraft observation of the fall of shot as well as of forward observation officers (foos); and, under his direction, gunners were taught the importance of calibration, calculation of muzzle velocity and range, and the influence of temperature and barometric pressure upon range and accuracy. It was the influence and example of men like McNaughton that led Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson, historian of Canadian artillery and a person not given to hyperbole in any form, to write that “by the end of 1917 the organization of the Canadian Corps Artillery and its ancillary intelligence and other services had reached an advanced stage, gaining a lead over other artilleries of the Allied armies until the end of the war.” 47 In the few days before 8 August, Australian and Canadian gunners exchanged data about targets. Most of the information was provided by the Australians since only a few Canadian units had served previ-

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Figure 10.4 Brigadier General Andrew G.L. McNaughton in the 1920s (National Library of Canada B-75379)

ously in the Amiens region, and of course, for several months, the Australians had occupied the ground over which the Canadians were to attack. They also exchanged fire plans, and both are elaborate and highly sophisticated. At 4:20 am not only were the nearly 800 guns of the Canadian Corps providing a rolling barrage for the advancing infantry and tanks but most of them, including all the heavies, were also targeting known German battery positions. Within less than an hour of 4:20 am most German batteries had been neutralized in the Canadian sector, and the same was the case in the Australian sector. In the combat reports of the infantry units of both corps, the most common note struck was the wonderment of the troops at the lack of German artillery fire. It was the virtual silencing of the German guns that permitted the advance to take place so rapidly and for so deep a penetration to be made.

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In the unprecedented employment of airpower, and in the brief but substantial impact made by tanks, Amiens indeed affords a glimpse of what warfare was to be like when these weapons were perfected. But the explanation of the victory is no mystery: it lay chiefly with the harnessing of experienced and skilful infantry (with its own resources of firepower) and a formidable assemblage of artillery employing methods tested in the fierce battles of 1917. This was a dynamic combination, and it was enhanced by strong logistic support and the usually decisive advantage of surprise. notes 1 J.F.C. Fuller, Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier (London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1936), 317; Heinz Guderian, Panzer Leader (London: Michael Joseph, 1952), 126. 2 Erich Ludendorf, My War Memories, 2 vols. (London: Hutchinson, 1929), 2: 679, 684. Accounts of the Battle of Amiens are found in the following official histories: C.E.W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Allied Offensive, 1918 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1942), 526–717; J.E. Edmonds, History of the Great War, vol. 4: Military Operations, France and Belgium, 1918 (London: hmso, 1947), 12–158; G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914–1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962), 386– 424; Historical Division, German General Staff, Der Weltkrieg, vol. 14: Die Kriegführung an der Westfront im Jahre 1918 (Berlin: Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, 1944), 549–67. There is also a full account by the gso1 of General Sir Henry Rawlinson’s 4h Army, Major General Sir Archibald Montgomery, The Story of the Fourth Army in the Battles of the Hundred Days, August 8th to November 11th 1918 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931), 1–66. 3 Ludendorff, My War Memories, 2: 684. 4 See Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, “Winning the War,” in 1918: Defining Victory, ed. Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Grey (Canberra: Australian Department of Defence, 1999), 33–42; and S.F. Wise, “The Black Day of the German Army: Australians and Canadians at Amiens, August 1918,” in Dennis and Grey, 1918, 1–32. Drs Prior and Wilson have also published an excellent short account of Amiens in their Command on the Western Front: The Military Career of Sir Henry Rawlinson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 301–36. 5 The Amiens project had its origins in correspondence between Foch and Haig in April-May 1918 and can be followed in War Office (hereafter wo)

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158/25, wo 158/28, and wo 158/29, Public Record Office (hereafter pro), Kew. These files cover the period March-July 1918. ghq staff members, including Field Marshal Haig, were not initially inclined to take seriously Marshal Foch’s strong desire to strike a counter-blow against the German offensives; the only senior British officer who seems to have realized that Foch meant precisely what he said was Lieutenant General John Du Cane, British liaison officer at gqg, French General Headquarters. See pro wo 158/92, Lieutenant General Du Cane to Chief of the Imperial General Staff, May-September 1918. See also Ferdinand Foch, Memoirs (London: Heinemann, n.d.). pro, wo 256/29, Haig Diary, vol. 18, 18 April 1918. By 28 April Haig had put his irritation with Currie behind him and was discussing the possibility of a counter-attack, using the Canadians, with General Horne, in preparation for what was to become the Delta plan. He therefore arranged to take three Canadian divisions out of the line. “Whether the actual attack will go in must depend on the situation when the attack is ready. I am glad to get the Canadians out of the front line. Their divisions are very strong, with good reserves behind (some 10,000 in the depot).” National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac), rg 9, vol. 3854 deals with Delta planning in the period from April to June 1918. See also John Swettenham, McNaugton, 2 vols. (Toronto: Ryerson, 1968), 1: 133; G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914–1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962), 382. Archives of Churchill College, Cambridge University, Rawlinson Diaries, 16 July 1918. General Godley’s force had been lent to the French to help stem the German offensive in Champagne. Rawlinson Diaries, 24 July 1918. The 5th Canadian Division, which had been forming in Britain, was broken up and its trained troops used to reinforce the four existing divisions, while its artillery was amalgamated with the Canadian artillery in the field. Despite the hopes of some Canadian politicians, and the ambitions of soldiers, General Currie opposed the formation of a Canadian army because of the administrative “overhead” two corps headquarters would create. See A.J.M. Hyatt, General Sir Arthur Currie: A Military Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 101–2. Or, for francophones, “Taisez-vous, méfiez-vous; les oreilles ennemies vous écouter.” The French version is given in A.F. Duguid, History of the Canadian Grenadier Guards, 1760–1964 (Montreal, Gazette Printing, 1965), 190.

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12 E.S. Russenholt, Six Thousand Canadian Men: Being the History of the 44th Battalion Canadian Infantry, 1914–1919 (Winnipeg: 44th Battalion Association, 1932), 158–9. 13 Will R. Bird, Ghosts Have Warm Hands (Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1968), 132–3, 139–4. 14 R.C. Fetherstonhaugh, The 24th Battalion cef, Victoria Rifles of Canada (Montreal, Gazette Printing, 1930), 223–4. Unfortunately, the records of 15th aib, held at the Australian War Memorial, are silent on the “race.” While it may have been a post-Amiens invention, the war diaries and after-action reports of Australian and Canadian units that operated side by side during the battle were acutely conscious of the presence of their neighbours. 15 See S.F. Wise, “Australians and Canadians at Amiens,” in Dennis and Grey, 1918, 29–30; Prior and Wilson, Command on the Western Front, 316; Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 419. In my article in Defining Victory I stated that Canadian strength at Amiens had not been augmented by conscripts called up under the Military Service Act, 1917, as they were still in the training stream. The research of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Holt, recently retired from the Royal Canadian Regiment and now a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario, has shown that this statement is in error, and I am grateful to him for enabling me to correct it. It is not yet possible to state exactly how many conscripted soldiers were in the ranks at the time of Amiens. 16 K. Wetherbe, From the Rideau to the Rhine and Back: The 6th Field Company and Battalion in the Great War (Toronto: Hunter-Rose, 1928), 368–9. 17 Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Bean Papers, 3 drl 606, Item 116, Diary 14 June-26 September 1918, 54–5, 58. 18 F.G. Scott, The Great War as I Saw It (Toronto: F.D. Goodchild, 1922), 274–5, 277–80. 19 Or thirteen and eleven kilometres, respectively, according to many sources. 20 Nicholson, cef, 419. Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia (Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 109, does not provide casualty figures for Amiens, but he notes that, in the series of operations lasting from 8 August until early October, when the Australian Corps was withdrawn for a rest, it suffered 21,243 casualties. Victoria Cross recipients, together with their photographs, units, and a description of their exploits, are most easily found on the Internet at http: //www.chapter-one.com/vc/ award/asp?vc’122.

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a m i e n s, a u g u st 1 9 1 8 : a g l i mp s e o f t h e f u t u r e? 201 21 S.F. Wise, Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, vol. 1: Canadian Airmen and the First World War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), 523. 22 Directorate of History, Department of National Defence, Ottawa, Steiger Notes on German Sources, Set 70D, quoted in Wise, Canadian Airmen, 527. 23 nac, rg 9, vol. 4916, fol. 364, 5th cib War Diary, 8 August 1918. 24 Quoted in Wise, Canadian Airmen, 540. 25 James H. Pedley, Only This: A War Retrospect (Toronto: Graphic Publishing, 1927), 22 (republished in 1999 by cef Books, Ottawa). 26 Bird, Ghosts Have Warm Hands, 146–7. 27 Quoted in David J. Childs, A Peripheral Weapon? The Production and Employment of British Tanks in the First World War (Westport, ct: Greenwood, 1999), 161. 28 Thomas Dinesen, Merry Hell! A Dane with the Canadians (London: Jarrolds, 1929), 221–2. 29 Quoted in Bean, Australian Imperial Force in France … in 1918, 614. 30 Childs, British Tanks, 161–2; B.H. Liddell Hart, The Tanks: The History of the Royal Tank Regiment and Its Predecessors, 1914–1945, 2 vols. (London: Cassell, 1959), 1: 177–80, 184. General E.L.M. Burns, who was a staff captain in the Canadian Corps at the time of Amiens, probably reflected general opinion among his fellows on the utility of the tanks. “It was considered then – quite rightly – that accompanying tanks were a great morale booster for the attacking infantry, apart from their effective destruction of wire obstacles and enemy machine gun nests.” However, at the same time, he noted that “of the 42 tanks that started out with the Third Canadian Division on August 8, only 8 remained when the intermediate objective had been gained, some 3 miles from the start line.” See E.L.M. Burns, General Mud: Memoirs of Two World Wars (Toronto: Clark Irwin, 1970), 71. 31 Quoted in Childs, British Tanks, 161. 32 Wise, “Australians and Canadians at Amiens,” 11–12, 28–9. 33 Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps, 1914–1918 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 217. 34 J.A. MacDonald, ed., Gunfire: An Historical Narrative of the 4th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in the Great War, 1914–1918 (Toronto: cfa Association, 1929), 134–5. 35 By far the best account of this development is Bruce Gudmundsson, Storm Troop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914–1918 (New York: Praeger, 1989), 44–51 and passim.

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36 See nac, rg 9 iii C 1, vol. 3911, fol. 38, 4th Army and Canadian Corps Artillery and Trench Mortar orders, August 1918. 37 Wilfred Brenton Kerr, Arms and the Maple Leaf: Memories of Canada’s Corps (Seaforth, on: Huron Expositor, 1943), 51–5. 38 nac, rg 9, iii C 1, vol. 3911, fol. 13, goc ra 4th Canadian Divisional Artillery Report on Operations, 8 August 1918, 15 August 1918. 39 Notably in David T. Zabecki, Steel Wind: Colonel Georg Bruchmüller and the Birth of Modern Artillery (Westport, ct: Praeger, 1994). 40 Quoted in Zabecki, Steel Wind, 29. 41 Ibid., 67–85. 42 See Shelford Bidwell and Dominick Graham, Firepower: British Army Weapons and Theories of War, 1904–1945 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1982), esp. chaps. 1–8. Jonathan Bailey’s “British Artillery in the Great War,” in British Fighting Methods in the Great War, ed. Paddy Griffith (London: Frank Cass, 1996), 23–49, is an admirably compressed and authoritative account. 43 Bidwell and Graham, Firepower, 106–8. 44 G.W.L. Nicholson, The Gunners of Canada: The History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, 2 vols.(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967), 1: 262. 45 Shelford and Graham, Firepower, 110. 46 Nicholson, Gunners of Canada, 281, 282. 47 Ibid., 312. It is a certainty that the late Colonel Nicholson’s judgment would be disputed by British and Australian gunners. It is likely, however, that he was thinking of the Canadian lead in the massed employment of heavy machine guns in indirect fire, unexampled elsewhere in the bef, and also of the mobility given to heavy machine guns by Brigadier General Raymond Brutinel’s Canadian Independent Force, whose armoured cars and trucks ranged several kilometres behind German lines on 8 August. As Bidwell and Graham note in Firepower, 136, “the Canadian Independent Force of armoured cars, machine guns in trucks and mortars penetrated at least six miles beyond the corps objectives ands maintained communications to Corps Headquarters with Mark iii continuous wave wireless sets … listened to by the French divisions on the Canadian right flank and by the Australians on the left.”

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11 Making Memory: Canvas of War and the Vimy Sculptures l au r a b r a n d o n The little-known official war art collections housed at the Canadian War Museum (cwm) have recently achieved national exposure as a result of an exhibition entitled Canvas of War: Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum.1 In conjunction with this exhibition, Canadian sculptor Walter Allward’s working plaster models for the sculptures on the Vimy Memorial in France were restored and displayed. With the inclusion of the sculptures associated with the Vimy Memorial, Canvas of War was able to become a site of memory as well as an art exhibition. Similarly, sculptures previously regarded as working models associated with memorialization could be viewed as art. A combination of factors has driven this process, not the least of which has been the Canadian public’s revived need to remember and acknowledge its wartime history. Canvas of War was drawn from an art collection consisting of the products of three official programs and independent works of art completed by service personnel and civilian artists. The First World War official collection of some 1,000 paintings is known as the Canadian War Memorials; the Second World War collection of some 5,000 works is known as the Canadian War Records. The post-Second World War collection consisting of just less than 400 items is called the Canadian Armed Services Civilian Artists Program. The First World War collection was the brainchild of the Canadian businessman and entrepreneur Sir Max Aitken, who was created Lord Beaverbrook in December 1916.2 Beaverbrook’s genuine nationalist fervour contributed to his decision in 1916 to initiate and take personal responsibility for a project to record the war from Canada’s point of view through the Canadian War Records Office (cwro).3 In

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1918 he released the designs for a monumental war memorial art gallery to be built in Ottawa to display the paintings and sculptures the cwro had commissioned. Despite this priceless collection, the gallery was never built and the art was put in storage.4 Beaverbrook subsequently lost interest in the project, feeling that his wartime work for Canada had been under-appreciated. The National Gallery assumed the increasingly onerous burden of the art’s custody. In 1946 the Second World War art was added to its responsibilities.5 The gallery’s 1951 submission to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences confirmed the problems it had in housing the war art collections. The submission stated that “by no possibility can the Canadian war memorial paintings and sculpture of either the First or Second World Wars be exhibited or made accessible to the public even in reference or storage galleries.”6 This was not helped when, in 1971, the gallery transferred responsibility for the war art collections, which it viewed as a documentary record of war, to the cwm, which had no gallery at all.7 Inadequate storage and limited exhibition ensured that the war art collections became relatively unknown to the Canadian public.8 The exhibition, Canvas of War, which opened in February 2000 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, was critical to the widespread renewal of interest in war art and, in its design, directly referenced the First World War art’s original memorial function. This exhibition would never have materialized if the then director of the cwm, historian J.L. Granatstein, had not been an avowed and active nationalist who wanted to restore pride in and knowledge of Canadian military achievements. Granatstein recognized that the war art was the most accessible and acceptable means of doing this for a public that has an almost inbred distaste for all things military or that even hints at a martial past. Previous attempts to mount a significant exhibition of the war art had made little progress prior to his appointment.9 Hot on the heels of his enormously successful book, Who Killed Canadian History? came Canvas of War, dovetailing into the new patriotic fervour that developed in Canada in the wake of the 1995 commemorations marking the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War.10 At its first showing, at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, the exhibition was centred in a lobby that was surrounded on all four sides by a series of galleries. In the central gallery the size and quality of the artwork made visitors aware of the depth, size, and

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richness of Canada’s war art. Canada’s significant role in the First and Second World Wars was narrated and illustrated in the encircling galleries. Within these chronological galleries were two smaller exhibition spaces that told the story of the war art programs. Seventy-two works of art were displayed: sixty-nine paintings, two works on paper, and Allward’s three sculptures. The three original plaster models for the figures on the Vimy Ridge memorial in France were placed as they would have been configured on the monument. These, along with the matching positioning of three of the large paintings commissioned for the war memorial art gallery that was never built, provided the memorial element to the exhibition.11 Unlike the Canadian War Memorials art, the plaster sculptures had never been intended for a memorial function. However, a study of their history sheds light on how the manner in which they were viewed changed over time. Their history also illuminates how and why the war art collections as a whole have been variously evaluated over time. One clear conclusion is that war art increases in public value and interest when it performs a publicly accessible memorial function. At the end of the Great War, an Imperial War Graves Commission committee awarded Canada eight battle sites – three in France and five in Belgium – on which to construct memorials. In 1920 the newly established Canadian Battlefields Memorial Commission organized a competition for a Canadian memorial to be erected on each site. The competition guidelines stated that the monument could incorporate figurative sculpture.12 A year later, in October 1921, the commission announced the winner, Walter Allward, whose design included twenty symbolic figures of virtues associated with war, including faith, justice, peace, and hope.13 These figures formed an integral part of a massive stone platform surmounted by two soaring pylons representing Canada and France. The intent was for the winning entry to be erected on the most significant Canadian site only. Allward was an experienced sculptor and a well known designer of memorials at the time he won the competition. Born in Toronto in 1875, he had trained as a draughtsman and had attended sculpture classes. He worked on the figure of “peace” for the Toronto monument honouring the 1885 Northwest Rebellion and, in 1910, completed another Toronto memorial, this one commemorating Canada’s participation in the South African War, or Boer War, 1899–1902. These commissions secured his reputation and ensured that Allward was fully employed as a sculptor. In the summer of 1922 the Canadian

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Battlefields Memorial Commission selected Vimy Ridge as the preferred site for Allward’s winning design. Certainly Vimy Ridge’s impressive location and vantage point, as much as the battle’s military significance, contributed to its selection. Allward almost immediately began to sculpt the figurative elements in clay in a newly acquired studio in London. Because unfired clay quickly dries out and cracks, Allward made plaster moulds from the original clay figures very soon after their creation, and these were shipped to the Vimy site. Italian carvers at the Vimy site copied the plaster figures, employing a technique that enabled them to double the dimensions in stone. Scattered over the plaster figures are pencil marks and, on occasion, partially buried metal markers. These were the stone carvers’ points of depth measurement. The memorial took ten years to complete. It was not, however, entirely Allward’s vision by then. For the general public the site had become sacred to the overall memory of all those lost in war, not just in France, and also as a place where a sense of nation had been forged – a significance that Allward’s figurative design did not necessarily convey. In response, Allward made ongoing adjustments to the monument as construction continued. As historian John Pierce notes in his 1992 article “Constructing Memory: the Vimy Memorial,” “the historical reality of the battle [was] re-worked and reinterpreted with the aid of the sculptor in a conscious attempt to give purpose and meaning to an event which was to symbolize Canada’s coming-ofage as a nation.”14 The memorial was unveiled in 1936. In 1937 the plaster figures were packed in crates and shipped to Canada. In a letter written in March 1937 to J.B. Hunter, the deputy minister of public works, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King seemed to support the idea that bronze statues might be cast from them and placed at suitable sites in Ottawa and the provinces.15 This never happened, however, and the plaster figures disappeared into Department of Public Works storage.16 While the memorial itself survived the Second World War, it did not remain a place of remembrance for many, the exigencies of old age increasingly reducing the numbers available to honour its purpose. The lack of interest in the memorial itself – it was allowed to fall into disrepair – was reflected in the sad history of the plaster details that formed the relief elements of its design, which had remained there. As late as 1994 it was still possible to see the disintegrating remains of the discarded plaster models for the remaining decorative elements of the memorial in the monument’s basement.17 They no longer exist.18

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The fate of the plaster figures in Canada was little different and could have been equally tragic. By 1960 the twenty statues were housed in a warehouse that also contained a portion of the collection of the cwm, which requested that they be moved elsewhere in order to accommodate an impending large shipment of artifacts.19 On 3 May 1960 the Department of Veterans Affairs (dva), which had custody of the models, informed the museum that “the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs had agreed that the models may be destroyed” so long as photographs were taken of them first.20 At the time, this seemed to be an acceptable action because the sculptures were regarded as working models rather than as original works of art.21 The proposal was “that the Army authorities could assist by accepting delivery of the crates, at the Proving Grounds or some other location where the attention of the public would not be attracted, and where the models could be photographed and then destroyed.”22 However, the minister of national defence, George Pearkes, did not agree to the plan;23 instead, in September 1960 the sculptures were shipped to Vimy Barracks at Barriefield (near Kingston), Ontario, for storage.24 Many years later, in 1977, seventeen of the plaster figures had returned to Public Works storage in Ottawa.25 The remaining three stayed on display in the Military Communications and Electronics Museum that had opened in 1961. Here, they were given a memorial function. The figure of Canada Mourning Her Fallen Sons was displayed under a blue light surrounded by a carpet of red poppies and was central to their exhibition space and message. Staff recalled that on special occasions all three sculptures used to be put outside as backdrops to memorial events.26 In 1977 the sculptures received some small recognition as art when a small new museum in Elgin, Ontario, which specialized in Canadian sculpture, requested permission from the dva to acquire and display the other Allward sculptures.27 Sadly lacking in proper facilities for storage and display, the Elgin gallery was unable either to acquire or to exhibit them. Their request, however, revived interest in the works at the cwm.28 As a result, the dva transferred them to the museum’s custody.29 Less than two decades after rejecting them, the cwm had them back. The museum did not exhibit them, however. It was not until 1994, when a planned exhibition on the work of Allward to be curated by Christine Boyanoski of the ago was planned, that they were uncrated for the first time since 1937. Although this second interest in the plaster sculptures as artworks ultimately did not develop, the figures

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were not recrated;30 instead, in 1999 the delicate, time-consuming, and expensive process of restoration began to prepare them for display in Canvas of War. The growing acknowledgment of their worth as art and memorial, in combination with the more recent events surrounding 1995, had made them relevant to the messages the organizers wished to convey in this exhibition.31 The three main figure groups exhibited in the show were Sacrifice and The Spirit of Sacrifice, and the two groups comprising The Defenders, which were Sympathy for the Helpless and The Breaking of the Sword. The text panels provided were minimal and focused on the overarching symbolism inherent in the sculptures rather than on their significance as art. The main text read: “The Vimy Memorial commemorates Canada’s role in the First World War with stone figures that symbolize the values defended and the sacrifices made.”32 References were also made in other text panels to the dots scattered across the surface of the figures. As well, a brief biographical sketch on Allward and information on the sources of his inspiration were provided. The overall focus of the display was in keeping with the memorial nature of Canvas of War as a whole and thus centred on the memorial function of Allward’s sculptural program. The cwm’s careful conservation and subsequent exhibition of the Allward plaster sculptures in 1999–2000 ensured the sculptures’ short-term survival. However, it was as signifiers of the memory of war and sacrifice that the sculptures found a role to play in the public and collective imagination. In response to the success of the exhibition and the consequent interest in the sculptures, the cwm’s remaining eight plaster figures designed for the pylons were also restored during the course of 2000.33 In the same time period, two federal government departments, Public Works Canada in association with the dva, announced a multi-million-dollar restoration project on the actual memorial at Vimy, France.34 Acknowledging the need to keep a high profile for the cwm during a period in which construction of a new building would be undertaken, the museum decided that all the restored figures would be displayed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization beginning in the spring of 2001.35 The 2001 publication of the noted Canadian author Jane Urquhart’s Booker-prize nominated novel The Stone Carvers, featuring the memorial and Allward, was icing on the cake.36 To its credit, perhaps, the Military Communications and Electronics Museum had already pre-empted them all and had used its three plaster models as a selling point to obtain for itself a new museum building, which opened in 1996.37

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Figure 11.1 “The Breaking of the Sword (The Defenders)”: plaster figure created by Canadian sculptor Walter Allward (1875-1955) between 1925 and 1930 for the Vimy Memorial in France (Canadian War Museum)

A curious recent footnote to these events is the fact that Walter Allward is, at the time of writing, to be redesignated a person of national historic significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Ironically, he had been designated once before for his work on the Vimy Memorial but was dropped from the list.38 None of these developments has been led by any art historical imperative. They have emerged from a mélange that includes a renewed public interest in commemoration and a government desire to recognize its fallen heroes while acknowledging that the sacrifices of war now loom large in the public imagination. Extensive newspaper coverage for the exhibition Canvas of War and impressive visitor statistics made it clear that the public appreciated learning about the nation’s wartime experiences.39 As the thousands of written comments made

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Figure 11.2 “Sympathy for the Helpless (The Defenders)”: half-sized working model (Canadian War Museum)

by visitors in Canvas of War confirmed, they also welcomed the opportunity of remembering and, in some cases, mourning those who had died.40 For many, the exhibition functioned as a memorial site – a place to remember. Vimy, of course, is in France, far from most Canadians. This was a chance to mourn at home. As a review of the exhibition in the Canadian Museum Association’s journal, Muse, states: “On viewing these works, any sense of pride provokes the tenderest admonishment. No pride here. This is the land of last resort; never pride, but a sublime, quiet respect and a yearning to forgive, to heal the sacrifice.”41 The last page of this edition of Muse features a photograph of Sympathy for the Helpless being carved on-site at Vimy. Beside the stone figure in the photograph is the plaster model.42 This new life for these sculptures, beginning at the end of the twentieth century, is yet another cycle in a history that has seen them utilized, discarded, and utilized again not as works of art but as a means

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Figure 11.3 “Truth”: the stone version of this winged figure is found on the upper rear of one of the pylons of the Vimy Memorial (Canadian War Museum)

to acknowledge, formulate, and recreate memories of the past. While this history has taken place in the public arena with public input it has also been part of a politically driven process. The Vimy Memorial was commissioned in 1921 – a time when such memorials were a national obligation. Nonetheless, the process that resulted in their

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creation was political: it was a course of action that recognized and was responding to public need. More recently, similar factors have driven Parks Canada’s restoration work at the monument itself and the cwm’s restoration of the plaster models. Canvas of War was part of the same process. The First World War paintings were intended as a memorial, but this intent was largely lost when they became a part of the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, which had a very different mandate. While their memorial function was perhaps clearer at the cwm, due to the lack of a gallery space it was also limited in what it could achieve with either the war art or the Allward sculptures. Canvas of War proved to be a significant breakthrough. It combined Beaverbrook’s vision for a war memorial art gallery with sculptures designed for a memorial, and it created a new site of memory for Canadians. The next stage in the story will be to see if it is possible to reconfigure the art and its meaning into yet another site of memory, the new Canadian War Museum that opens in 2005. notes 1 Canvas of War: Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum was shown at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, from 11 February 2000–7 January 2001. Its tour includes major galleries and museums in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Regina, Winnipeg, Fredericton, Halifax, and St John’s. 2 For further information on the career of Lord Beaverbrook consult, for example, A.J.P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972). 3 The fullest account of the founding of the cwro is in Maria Tippett, Art at the Service of War: Canada, Art, and the Great War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984). This was based on her PhD dissertation, “The History of the Canadian War Memorial Scheme as a Study of Patronage and Visual Record of the Great War” (London: University of London, 1982). 4 The story of this commission is told in Laura Brandon, “The Canadian War Memorial That Never Was,” Canadian Military History 7, 4 (1998): 45–54. 5 The fullest account of the Second World War art program is found in Fiona Valverde, “The Canadian War Artists’ Programme, 1942–1946” (M. Litt. thesis, Cambridge University, 1997). This is largely based on primary research completed in the National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac) (see Appendix A), the war art files of the National Gallery of Canada, and

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the Canadian War Museum’s art archive. These are the main repositories for the records of this program. More material is also to be found in the nac manuscript archives; the artists involved are listed in Valverde. The National Gallery of Canada, Submission to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, ca. 1949, file 2, National Gallery of Canada Archives (hereafter ngca), National Gallery of Canada (hereafter ngc) fonds, Outside Activities/Organizations, 7 – R. Laura Brandon, “A Unique and Important Asset? The Transfer of the War Art Collections from the National Gallery of Canada to the Canadian War Museum,” Material History Review 7 (1995): 67–74. Valverde’s “Canadian War Artists’ Programme” documents this. The initial discussions in 1994–5 were to co-host an exhibition with the ngc at the ngc. cwm Art Department Exhibition File, Canvas of War. J.L. Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History? (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1998). To date the phenomenon of the 1995 commemorations does not appear to have been written about. It manifested itself in Canada in special exhibitions at a number of institutions across the country along with very well attended memorial events. The press and television coverage was extensive. Charles Sims, Sacrifice, ca. 1918, oil on canvas, 415.2 x 409 cm, cwm 8802; Richard Jack, The Taking of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday 1917, 1919, oil on canvas, 366.1 x 604.5 cm, cwm 8178; Richard Jack, The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April to 25 May 1915, 1917, oil on canvas, 371.5 x 589 cm, cwm 8179. Unsuccessful attempts were made to repatriate the unfinished Augustus John painting The Canadians Opposite Lens from London or to show its cartoon from the ngc collection. cwm Artist File, Augustus John and cwm Exhibition File, Canvas of War. Ibid. Jacqueline Hucker, “Lest We Forget: National Memorials to Canada’s First World War Dead,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada 23, 3 (1998): 90. John Pierce, “Constructing Memory: The Vimy Memorial,” Canadian Military History 1, 1 and 2 (1992): 5. Mackenzie King to J.B. Hunter, 12 March 1937, transcribed extract from a letter, source unknown, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. A copy of a note dated 29 May 1959 from W.M. Dicks, Superintendent, Maintenance, Ottawa Public Buildings, Department of Public Works, Ottawa, cwm Acquisition File 19770315, refers to Acquisition no. 59–15 as being the Allward plaster statues.

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17 Viewed by the author on a visit to the monument in March 1994. 18 Author’s conversation with Parks Canada site researcher, 2000. 19 L.F. Murray, Secretary and Curator, cwm, to Dicks, 10 March 1960, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 20 R. Bonner, Assistant Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs (hereafter dva), to Murray, 3 May 1960, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 21 C.F. Black, Departmental Secretary, dva, to Murray, 24 August 1960, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. This letter stated that the proposed photographs would be useful if “the monument itself is defaced or damaged in order that suitable reconstruction could be made.” 22 Bonner to Murray, 3 May 1960, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 23 Ibid. 24 Black to Murray, 24 August 1960, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 25 L. Hayward to R. Welch, Minister for Cultural and Recreational Affairs, 28 June 1977, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 26 Author’s conversation with museum staff, 1993. 27 Hayward to J.M. Ruttan, dva, 26 June 1977, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 28 Ruttan to Murray, 15 July 1977, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 29 Tom Cossitt, mp, Leeds, to B. Ostry, Secretary-General, National Museums of Canada, 4 August 1977, cwm Acquisition File 19770315. 30 Dennis Reid, Art Gallery of Ontario (ago), to the author, 12 December 1996, cwm Art Department Exhibition File, Allward. 31 The story of how the Allward sculptures became part of Canvas of War is documented in the cwm Art Department Files, Allward and Canvas of War. 32 cwm Art Department Exhibition File, Allward, Exhibition Text. 33 Media response to the restoration of the sculptures was positive. cwm Art Department Exhibition File, Allward; and cwm War Artist File, Walter Allward. 34 Dennis Duffy, “Monumental Efforts,” National Post, 16 November 2000, A17. 35 The exhibition of five of the sculptures opened at the cmc on 3 May 2001. The sculptures were the two groups collectively known as The Defenders (figs. 21 and 22, pp. 339, 340) and Truth (cwm 19770315–011) and Knowledge (cwm 19770315–010). 36 Jane Urquhart, The Stone Carvers (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2001). 37 G.E. Hales, “The Military Communications and Electronics Museum Expected to Draw 60,000 Visitors This Summer,” Ottawa Citizen, 27 June 1996 (advertisement).

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38 Alexandra Mosquin, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Board of Canada, in conversation with the author, summer 2001. See also e-mail dated 19 July 2001 in cwm War Artist File, Walter Allward. 39 The official visitor count for Canvas of War was 280,000. cwm Art Department Exhibition File, Canvas of War. 40 Visitors were able to record their responses to the exhibition in comment books provided at the exit to the exhibition. The originals are all on file as part of the cwm Exhibition File, Canvas of War. A selection has been published in a booklet entitled Reflections on the Canadian Experience published by the friends of the cwm in 2001. 41 J.N. Redpath, “Canvas of War: Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum,” Muse 18, 3 (2000): 19. 42 Ibid., 68.

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12 Canadian Airmen and Allied Intervention in North Russia, 1918–19 owen cooke In 1914 Russia was one of the great powers of Europe. Although the Russian Empire was much less industrialized than were western European countries, many in the West believed that the vast Russian army, once mobilized, would be a steamroller that would overwhelm the German army in the war that then seemed inevitable. However, the disastrous Russian defeat at Tannenburg at the outset of the war in August 1914 demonstrated that the Russians could not overcome the more modern German army. Nevertheless, over the next three years on the vast Eastern Front the under-equipped, ill-officered, often hungry Russian army managed to tie down scores of German and Austro-Hungarian divisions that otherwise would have been employed in the west. The Russian army’s horrendous losses throughout these years, however, coupled with the discontent of the workers and peasants that fed and supported that army, led to increasing unwillingness to continue the war. A left-wing revolution in February 1917 forced the tsar to abdicate. Alexander Kerensky, minister of war in the subsequent provisional government, vowed to continue the war. The concerned Western Allies sought any measures that could restore the discipline and fighting power of the Russian army in order to prevent the collapse of the Eastern Front. Allied military missions attempted to shore up the sagging Russian military might, and considerable quantities of munitions and strategic raw materials were sent to Russia. On 8 November 1917 Bolshevik Red Guards stormed the Winter Palace where the provisional government was meeting.1 Although the Allies initially sent some aid to the Bolsheviks, by 20 November a new Bolshevik government had entered into negotiations with the

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Germans aimed at bringing peace to an exhausted Russia. The talks culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which ended hostilities between Russia and the Central Powers but confirmed German and Austro-Hungarian domination of vast areas of European Russia. These months coincided with a low ebb in Allied fortunes on the Western Front. The British had failed to achieve a breakthrough in the third battle of Ypres, while the French had faced large-scale army mutinies. The spring of 1918 brought the Ludendorff offensives: some forty divisions and vast amounts of supplies and materials transferred from the Eastern Front by March 1918 permitted the German armies to undertake their last great offensive in the west. Initially, under pressures of this serious strategic situation; later, when the Allies had prevailed on the Western Front, when the Germans had sought an armistice, and when Allied forces were being demobilized at the end of the war; and still later, at the Paris Peace Conference, which began in January 1919, British, French, and American statesmen and general staffs made a series of piecemeal decisions to involve their armed forces in the internal struggle in Russia, where a Bolshevik government was attempting to assert its will. The Bolsheviks clearly did not have the support either of the majority of the population of Russia or of the nationalities that made up the Russian Empire, and this intervention, initially conceived of in order to aid the war in the west, was, after the Armistice of 11 November 1918, increasingly directed against the Bolsheviks. In the Russian Civil War, which raged from 1917 to 1921, the British government committed more than sixty Canadian airmen, members of the Royal Air Force (raf), to fly in widely separated parts of Russia. Two-thirds of these aviators operated in northwestern Russia in 1918–19 in a bitter but now largely forgotten struggle. They merit our attention not only because of their numbers but also because they made the greatest contribution to the overall operations and did so in a manner reminiscent of the war on the Western Front.2 Initially the Canadian Cabinet’s response to intervention in Russia was to follow the advice of the British High Command. When artillery was requested for north Russia, Canada formed the 16th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery (cfa), which was dispatched to Archangel in September 1918. However, until 20 November, after the European Armistice, wartime censorship prevented the Canadian public from finding out that its soldiers were fighting in this new theatre of war.3

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As British personnel shortages and demobilization made it difficult for the British to fulfill their commitments to the Allied Supreme War Council for multinational intervention in Siberia, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden met a further British request for troops by authorizing recruitment of a Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force of brigade strength with supporting arms and services. However, because Canadian airmen, as on the Western Front, were individual members of the raf rather than members of a purely Canadian air service, their operations in Russia were governed by the whims of British policy.4 Canadian aviators in north Russia, as in the other parts of Russia, served where few other Canadians ever reached and after most other Canadians had been withdrawn from the country. In 1918 avenues for the Western Allies to bring any real pressure on Germany from the east were very limited. Throughout the war the Central Powers controlled access to Russia through either the Baltic Sea or the Black Sea. All that remained was the port of Vladivostok, the immense distances of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the shorter, but limited, access through the northern ports of Archangel and Murmansk. Archangel, established as a Dutch trading post in the sixteenth century, grew to new importance during the First World War as the Western Allies shipped in vast quantities of munitions and supplies. Some were transported along the single-track railway to Moscow and Petrograd. More, estimated at over 160,000 tonnes of supplies and some 300,000 tonnes of coal, were backlogged at Archangel. When a Bolshevik commissar took charge of the problem of moving these stores to the south, the possibility that they might fall into German hands was another factor influencing a decision in favour of intervention in the north. Archangel is an Arctic port, closed by ice to shipping during the winter and spring months. As another entry for supplies, with British prompting, in 1915 the Russians began construction of a port at icefree Murmansk.5 A single-track rail line was laid across 1,300 kilometres of taiga and tundra, with the help of 500 Canadian railwaymen, to join the Archangel-Petrograd line. The port opened for limited operations in the spring of 1917. From 1915 the British Royal Navy maintained the White Sea Squadron to protect convoys bound for Murmansk and Archangel and also took responsibility for the seaward defences of Murmansk.

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German landings in Finland, and German aid to the White Finns in their civil war, alarmed the Supreme War Council, which feared Germany might try to gain a foothold on the White Sea and there establish a submarine base. This, coupled with a concern for Murmansk itself falling into hands unfriendly to the Allied cause, convinced the British to attempt a landing on Russian soil. The immediate pretext for the landing, by a company of Royal Marines from hms Glory on 6 March 1918, was an invitation from the Murmansk Soviet to protect it from advancing White Finns. Meanwhile, far to the east, the 50,000-strong Czech Legion, a force recruited under French auspices primarily from Czech and Slovak prisoners of war held in Russia, had been in the process of being transported to the Western Front via the Trans-Siberian Railway and Vladivostok when the October Revolution occurred. Faced with Bolshevik attempts to disarm, divert, and seduce the force as it slowly moved east in small parties, some Czech commanders ordered active opposition to the Bolsheviks, and soon great stretches of the railway were under their control, with fighting occurring at many points. In London some officers in the War Office believed that a party of Czechs was making for Archangel rather than for Vladivostok and that part of the legion could be diverted through the north. This provided further justification for some form of intervention deep into north Russia. Together the War Office and the Admiralty determined on an expedition to Archangel, which was to be led by Major General F.C. Poole, who landed at Murmansk on 23 June 1918. The forces sent out included the seaplane carrier hms Nairana with five Fairey Campania and two Sopwith Baby seaplanes. The carrier, which arrived at Murmansk on 10 July, numbered among its pilots Captain G.H. Simpson of Toronto and Lieutenant Dugald MacDougall from Lockport, Manitoba. A combination of the late breakup of the White Sea ice in 1918 and the local political situation prevented any move on Archangel until the end of July. When Poole learned of a projected coup d’état in Archangel, he mounted an amphibious expedition. hms Nairana, the light cruiser hms Attentive, and the French heavy cruiser Amiral Aube set out bearing a small landing force of French infantry, Royal Marines, and American sailors. Amiral Aube, with the largest proportion of the troops, was delayed when it struck a sunken wreck, but the

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Figure 12.1 re 8 of raf Elope Squadron on return to Beresnik on River Dvina, 27 December 1918, after bombing raid on Bolshevik positions at Tulgas (Department of National Defence re 68-1888)

remainder of the little force stood off fortified Mudyugski Island, alongside the channel leading up the Dvina River to Archangel, at 3:00 am, 1 August, in broad daylight, at 65 degrees latitude. Three Russian batteries opened fire, answered by the lighter guns of Attentive. Nairana promptly hoisted out three seaplanes. Two, led by Captain Simpson, bombed and machine-gunned the batteries while the third flew upriver to reconnoitre Archangel for any evidence of the hoped-for coup. After ten minutes’ attention from the seaplanes and Attentive’s guns, the batteries surrendered. The coup had occurred in the city, and the actual occupation of Archangel was a procession. Transports bearing Poole’s main multinational force, code-named “Elope,” followed into Archangel. With this group was the raf contingent. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A.C. Maund, dso, of Cando, Saskatchewan, the initial Elope Squadron consisted of four pilots and four observers for the eight De Havilland dh 4 bombers that had been sent with it.6 Acting Captain F.V. Robinson of Winnipeg was a flight commander with this initial squadron. Only on 10 August did Poole receive any clear instructions. “Your main object,” stated the War Office, “is to co-operate in restoring Russia with the object of resisting German influence and penetration, and enabling the Russians again to take the field side by side with their

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Allies for the recovery of Russia.” He was to establish communications with the Czech Legion, to organize armed forces to resist the Germans, to support any administration friendly to the Allies, to bring relief to the civil population, and to undertake “judicious propaganda.”7 These orders necessarily brought his forces into direct opposition to the Bolsheviks rather than the Germans. Poole began vigorously to expand the area controlled from Archangel from the moment he arrived. The fighting in the heavily forested, sparsely populated area centred on five miniature “fronts” along major transportation axes where the “lines” were only a few thousand metres long with open flanks in the forest. The most important of these fronts was astride the Dvina River, which led up (south) towards the main Bolshevik base at Kotlas. After the French infantry, aided by an improvised river flotilla, had pushed upriver beyond Beresnik, this became two fronts as the Allies moved separately up the Dvina and its tributary the Vaga. The next most important was the “railway front” across the Archangel-Vologda Railway, where early fighting centred on Obozerskaya, which was captured by Allied troops on 6 September 1918. Less important fronts were at Onega on the trail leading to the Murmansk Railway and on the Pinega River east of Archangel. Captain Robinson’s dh4s supported operations on the railway front. Until the arrival of the 16th Brigade, cfa, in early October, this flight flew tactical bombing missions as a substitute for gun support for infantry attacks. The first formation raid in this role took place on 2 September on Obozerskaya, which flew nearly 250 kilometres round trip from Archangel. Such raids could have only limited success as the distances to be covered, both by the aircraft and by the inexperienced infantry working through thick bush, made any tight timetables for support impossible.8 As well, there were no bombsights. Following the capture of Obozerskaya, American engineers cut a small aerodrome out of the bush, which, for the next year, was to be the home of the “Railway Flight.” Initial air support for the Dvina column consisted only of the two Sopwith Babys from Nairana, which rested on a barge with the river flotilla and were flown by “one indefatigable pilot,” Dugald MacDougall. MacDougall volunteered to remain in Russia with his seaplanes after Nairana left Archangel on 13 August.9 After the capture of Beresnik, Russian aviators who had made their way to north Russia were organized into a squadron, which was commanded by the outstanding pilot A.A. Kazakov. They flew

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French-built Sopwith 1½ -Strutters and two Nieuports that had been found among the war material on the Archangel docks. These also supported the Dvina operations. ss Stephen left Dundee for Russia on 21 September 1918 carrying the future commander of the Archangel force; the 16th Brigade, cfa, with its eighteen-pounder field guns; as well as twenty-four aircrew and six re8s. Over half the aircrew were Canadians.10 Most of these aviators had just completed training, and few had had any operational flying experience. Stephen also brought Brigadier General Edmund Ironside of the British army to be Poole’s chief of staff.11 Shortly afterwards, Poole was recalled to Britain, and Ironside became commander at Archangel and a temporary major general. On 13 November 1918, with the war in the west over, authorities in London decided that the force should stay in north Russia for the winter – an inevitable decision as the troops were already all but frozen in. But with the German threat gone, so was the reason for the expedition. Union with the Czechs had never really been a possibility, and local Russians had not rallied to the cause with the hoped-for enthusiasm. Morale among the multinational force was low. Most of the troops did not have the training required for the Western Front, and every contingent suffered a mutiny or refusal of duty before spring. The kinds of problems to be expected in such a polyglot force were already evident.12 For these reasons Ironside turned to the defensive, constructing frontier-style log blockhouses and digging and wiring on all five fronts. It was into this situation that the new Elope Squadron was inserted. “A” Flight, made up from personnel trained in army squadron duties, took over the dh4s at Obozerskaya, while the corps squadron trained aircrews and the new re8s joined the Russians at Beresnik as “B” Flight. Despite the different training the work of both flights was the same: tactical bombing, air photography, reconnaissance, some contact patrols to determine the positions of advancing infantry, very occasional spotting for artillery shoots, and – a common duty for fliers on both sides in Russia – dropping propaganda leaflets. Although Red Air Fleet squadrons were based at Emsta and Kotlas, encounters with their aircraft were extremely rare, given the large spaces and the small numbers of airplanes available to either side.13 Ground fire, however, was a considerable hazard. Second Lieutenant N.D. Nunan, an Irishman who had joined the cef in Portage la Prairie as observer, was shot down with his Russian pilot over the Onega front on

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27 February 1919. The pilot was killed and Nunan died of wounds following a skirmish on the ground with Bolshevik troops. Even a forced landing in the wilderness of northern Russia meant great hazard for the aircrew. Second Lieutenant R.E. Gordon, observer, along with a British pilot, was forced down some fifty kilometres behind Bolshevik lines on the Dvina in early November. After crash-landing their re8 in the trees, the two evaded patrols for five days before reaching Allied lines. Both were badly frostbitten.14 The insecure nature of the lines on the narrow fronts in the face of Bolshevik deep flanking penetrations and aggressive patrolling meant that not all hazards were to be found in the air. On 31 March 1919 a patrol ambushed 2nd Lieutenant Francis F. Tattam of Winnipeg and two raf wireless operators. In the ensuing fight both operators were killed and Tattam taken prisoner.15 The onset of the winter of 1918–19 curtailed flying operations considerably. As early as December, when the thermometer went down to -19 degrees c (it was to dip to a frigid -47 degrees c before the end of winter), the raf found the dh4s with their water-cooled engines completely unsuitable, even when using an alcohol-mixture coolant. The Royal Aircraft Factory air-cooled engine of the re8 proved better adapted to the cold, but only one of this type survived the winter intact. Consequently, much of Elope Squadron’s winter flying was done in the rotary-engined 1½ -Strutters found at Archangel, and Russian and British aircrews became quite intermixed. Electrically heated flying suits made open-cockpit flying bearable, and locally made skis permitted the aircraft to operate from the snow-packed runways; but cold weather and short daylight hours made for few flights. In the depths of winter the Allied troops found themselves engaged by the more determined soldiers of the newly formed 6th Red Army, its efficiency improving daily as Leon Trotsky’s military reforms began to show results. The Bolsheviks sought to destroy the Allied Vaga front, then, when it was pushed back to the Dvina, to pinch off the Dvina front by attacks at Kurgoman and Tulgas. The first part of their offensive was successful, and the Allies were forced to retire down the Vaga from Shenkursk, the largest town in the area, on 24–25 January 1919. In this operation a 1½ -Strutter flown by Kazakov, with 2nd Lieutenant Frank Shrive of Hamilton as observer, did valuable service in locating a snow-covered trail as a withdrawal route from Shenkursk and bombing the attacking Bolshevik troops before being hit by ground fire and forced down, with Kazakov badly wounded.16

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Figure 12.2 A 1½ -Strutter taking off from Beresnik, 24 January 1919, for reconnaissance on the Vaga River (dnd re 98-1897)

In spite of the successful withdrawal from Shenkursk, by late winter Ironside’s position was precarious. As success raised the morale of the Red Army, so withdrawal, the harsh weather, and uncertainty about the future now that the European war was over depressed that of the Allies. Minor mutinies in units of every Allied contingent made the position even more insecure. The raf, with its heterogenous collection of worn-out machines and low morale, was not going to redress the balance with the arrival of spring.17 In London, on 4 March 1919, Sir Henry Wilson, chief of the Imperial General Staff, reached a decision to evacuate the troops from north Russia. However, reports reached London that General Gaida, a commander of the Czech Legion then fighting alongside the White Russians in Siberia, had pushed west beyond Perm. Winston Churchill, secretary of state for war since January 1919 and always a confirmed anti-Bolshevik, delayed evacuation plans in hopes of effecting a union between the north Russian and Siberian forces.18 However, two fresh volunteer brigades of infantry would be sent to Archangel to aid withdrawal operations. raf planning for spring operations began in the depths of winter. Some means was needed of preventing the situation that prevailed in the autumn, by which Bolshevik gunboats could shell the Dvina column with impunity while ice further north at the mouth of the river

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Figure 12.3 Beresnik aerodrome, April 1919: Lieutenant Mills, a British pilot, with 2nd Lieutenant Percy Dobby of Montreal, flew this re 8 during their time in north Russia (dnd re 68-1879)

prevented the Royal Navy from replying. The planners hoped that before spring breakup De Havilland dh9a bombers could destroy the gunboats where they lay icebound at Kotlas. ss Wargrange, strengthened against the Arctic ice, set out on 22 March for Archangel with twelve dh9as, six Sopwith 1½ -Strutters (in case the dh9as’ water-cooled Liberty engines should prove troublesome in the cold), and six Short 184 seaplanes (in case Beresnik aerodrome should prove unusable from spring flooding). However, ice prevented Wargrange from getting into Archangel until late April, and the new machines gradually reached Beresnik in May. The raf had missed an opportunity to make a decisive contribution to the expedition by destroying the gunboats, which were long since out and in action.19 The new machines, however, plus twelve Avro 504s and twelve Sopwith Snipe fighters that were subsequently shipped, more than replaced the raf ’s worn-out inventory. With the creation of an expanded Dvina naval flotilla in the spring of 1919, there was a clear need for more seaplanes. In addition to the Shorts sent out in Wargrange, a flight of the new Fairey 3C seaplanes and another of Short 184s arrived with all the lighters and barges necessary for operations away from their mother ship, hms Pegasus. The

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seaplanes and their crews, and No. 51 Kite Balloon Section, formed the raf Naval Dvina Unit, which began to arrive at Beresnik on 7 June 1919. Captain Norman Fraser, afc, of Toronto, commanded “B” Flight, and that “indefatigable pilot,” Dugald MacDougall, now a captain after having spent part of the winter as a flight commander, took over “S” Flight.20 Most original Elope Squadron aircrew returned to Britain for demobilization. The replacements included a smaller proportion of Canadians, but all were volunteers and most were vastly more experienced than were the originals.21 Ironside’s plans called for a sharp offensive up the Dvina in order to put the Bolsheviks on the defensive, to leave the White Russian forces in an advantageous position, and to allow an Allied withdrawal to proceed without interference. A series of mutinies among the White Russian troops delayed the final offensive until 10 August, but 3,000 prisoners were captured as the troops advanced upstream to a point that the 339th United States Infantry had initially reached during Poole’s original advance in September 1918. In these operations the Elope Squadron, really a small wing by June 1919 (when it was divided into four small squadrons), acted less in close support of the ground troops than did the seaplane unit because flights from the aerodrome back at Beresnik did not allow the short reaction times of the seaplanes, which were based near Troitsa.22 Work for the airplanes, after the aerodromes had dried enough to allow normal operations, included more emphasis on spotting in counter-battery work for the artillery, particularly along the railway, as well as some contact patrols. Second Lieutenant “Pop” Heeney of Calgary, one of the original aircrew, was severely wounded on 20 June while flying low on contact patrol.23 raf ground wireless stations moved with the infantry columns to aid communications with the patrolling machines. At this time, as more cameras became available, air photography began to provide better results. When photographs were much needed by the railway column, Lieutenant John S. Griffith, an American who had joined the rfc Canada training scheme, succeeded in taking some good photos with a camera experimentally mounted on the wing of his Camel.24 As there were no good maps of northern Russia, air photo mosaics and maps drawn from photographs were much in demand.

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Map 12.1 Operations in Northern Russia

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Close support, both for the infantry and for the naval river flotilla, could be provided by the raf Naval Dvina Unit. Living and working from barges, the unit could operate its seaplanes from any available sand beach and thus give forward support where needed. Much of the unit’s work was in spotting the fire of the anchored monitors and gunboats, and bombing Bolshevik gunboats and shore positions. Although air spotting was essential along the forested river banks, the initial inexperience both of the aircrews and the seamen in the gunboats resulted in the flotilla fire not being as successful as that of the field guns.25 Air photography of the river regions and propaganda dropping were also common missions for the seaplanes. The Dvina Unit did outstanding service on two occasions. On 7 July the Dyer Battalion of White Russian troops mutinied and went over to the Bolsheviks.26 Bolshevik agents had planned this, and a coordinated Red Army attack pushed to within 1,200 metres of the seaplane base. The seaplanes spotted for the monitors bombarding the attacking troops and also dropped one and one-quarter tonnes of bombs themselves. Again on 10 August the seaplanes operated in the final Allied offensive, flying thirty spotting flights for the monitors and dropping two and one-half tonnes of bombs over two days. On 25 August 1919 the gunboat hms Glowworm spotted a burning barge near Beresnik and went alongside to fight the fire. The barge, which was loaded with ammunition, blew up, killing twenty-eight men. Among them was Captain Dugald MacDougall, one of the first Canadians to come to north Russia. The announcement of the award of the dfc for his service on flying operations over the year was made after his death. The British withdrawal began in early September 1919. Elope Squadron personnel left first, turning over much of their equipment to the Russians. The seaplanes and kite balloon left the forward positions on 8 September and by 21 September were all safely back with Pegasus. On 27 September 1919 Ironside and the last Allied forces left Archangel. As long as interventionist forces were at Archangel, the Allies continued to occupy the Murmansk area to guard the lines of communication to Britain. After the western Armistice, threats of Germans advancing through Finland ceased to be a factor, but Major General C.M. Maynard pushed south along the Murmansk-Petrograd railway to find a stable defence line against Bolshevik attacks and to gain pos-

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session of populated areas with potential recruits for a Russian antiBolshevik force. The spring of 1919 found the Allies on the railway at Urosozero and intending to advance to the shores of Lake Onega, nearly 900 kilometres from Murmansk, to gain a defensive line for the Arctic port. The raf effort in the Murmansk region was on a smaller scale than was its effort at Archangel. Six re8s arrived in December 1918, but lack of essential parts and of a suitable aerodrome amidst the tundra and boreal forest meant that only a few reconnaissance flights were made before June 1919.27 Maynard was not impressed by what he saw as feeble efforts by his first aviators.28 With the capture of Medvyejya Gora on Lake Onega on 21 May, suitable sites for both an aerodrome and a seaplane base became available. Lake ice temporarily prevented a Bolshevik lake flotilla at Petrozavodsk from disputing the Allied foothold on the lake, so giving time for air support to be organized. hms Nairana, designated to be mother ship for seaplane operations in this region for the summer of 1919, arrived in Murmansk with a flight of Fairey 3Cs and a flight of Short 184 seaplanes. Six machines were immediately rushed, fully rigged, down the railway and were flying within two hours of their arrival on 6 June. Two days later they were in action against four attacking Bolshevik vessels, which by then were free of the ice. Although their bombs did not hit the vessels, the surprise appearance of the seaplanes put the little naval squadron to flight. “Long-delayed help from the Air Force had come just, and only just, in time to turn a possible reverse into a victory, the moral effect of which alone had a value almost immeasurable,” wrote General Maynard.29 During June 1919 Maynard became embroiled in a purely internal struggle of the Russian Civil War when he supported an anti-Bolshevik peasant uprising in the Shunga Peninsula, well forward of the defence line he had initially envisaged. Until the withdrawal, all his subsequent operations were aimed at first opening a safe land route to the peninsula and then removing a Bolshevik threat from the railway to the flank of this land route. The raf’s tasks in these operations were: the destruction of the Bolsheviks’ lake flotilla and its base facilities at Petrozavodsk, and the destruction of the railway bridge over the Suna River, across which all supplies to the Bolshevik forces facing Maynard had to pass. Although the flotilla suffered from the bombing, success at the Suna

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Bridge eluded the airmen. The raf reported the bridge destroyed twice during July and again in August, but it was an intrepid army foot patrol that finally burned it down. At the beginning of August, “Duck” Flight, as the seaplane force was called, was reinforced by five seaplanes picked up from hms Argus at Archangel. The infant Canadian Air Force in England had been canvassed for volunteers for this flight, and Lieutenants L.C. Hooton, mc, of Victoria, British Columbia; H.A. Marshall of Vancouver, British Columbia; R.W. Ryan of Goderich, Ontario; and F.J. Stevenson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, were its pilots. At the same time the “Pigeon” Flight of airplanes, reinforced by six Sopwith Camels and two Avro 504s, was operational at Medvyejya Gora. Maynard launched his final assault on the Bolshevik forces prior to withdrawal on 14 September 1919.30 In this operation the raf supported the ground troops, bombing, machine-gunning, and flying reconnaissance and communication missions. The aircraft dropped a large number of a new, apparently non-fatal, type of gas bomb on the Bolshevik soldiers; evidence is conflicting as to just how effective this was.31 Both Hooton and Stevenson were commended for attacks made at this time. Contact patrols were flown, and the ground forces used Popham panels, signal lamps, and wireless sets operated by raf personnel. Some artillery spotting was tried; however, owing to the small burst of the 4.5-inch howitzer shell used by the Royal Artillery and the blanketing effect of the forest (which severely reduced visibility from the air), results were poor: more successful spotting was done for the monitor hms Erebus in its bombardment of Onega from the White Sea on 28–29 August.32 As well, air photography and propaganda dropping remained a constant duty. The last forward flight was carried out on 25 September, and all raf personnel were withdrawn two days later, just ahead of the last ground troops. Some of the machines were turned over to Russian student pilots trained at Medvyejya Gora. The north Russian intervention was over by October 1919. Early the following year the White Russian governments at Archangel and Murmansk, supported by the Allies, collapsed before the advance of the Red Army. These governments smacked too much of tsarist autocracy, bureaucracy, and corruption to command the loyalty of peasants or workers. Socialism, whether Bolshevik, Menshevik, or SocialRevolutionary, was more acceptable to Russians, and unwilling armies led by tsarist officers could not resist these forces.

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Intervention in Russian affairs was never driven by a single coherent policy. The aim of confounding German intentions unified Allied efforts until 11 November 1918. Thereafter, no policy embracing the whole Russian problem was ever formulated. Even within the British Cabinet there was dissension. While Prime Minister David Lloyd George was willing to come to some agreement with the Bolsheviks, Churchill strongly favoured the restoration of a united Russia. Lord Curzon, foreign secretary, always concerned with the defence of India, would have been quite happy to see a number of independent buffer states surrounding a weak Bolshevik Russia.33 The official Canadian attitude, as reflected by Sir Robert Borden, was always one of following the British lead, at least until growing public opposition forced him to curtail Canada’s Siberian intervention.34 In any case, the over-arching problems of the upcoming Paris Peace Conference put Russian questions in a subordinate position for all the Western political leaders. The raf in north Russia had a limited effect on operations. Like the Red Air Fleet, its resources were spread so thinly over enormous distances that it could exercise no decisive effect in any single operation. Its operations demonstrated little tactical or technical innovation and, indeed, returned almost to a 1914 concept, with the emphasis on reconnaissance and tactical bombing by single machines or small groups. Aerial fighting was restricted by the reluctance of the Red Air Fleet to accept combat. Until the last stages of the campaign, all bombing was done without bombsights. Operations in any role by large formations were practically unknown. On a small scale, the use of Captain Simpson and Nairana’s seaplanes in an air/sea/land assault against the Mudyugski Island batteries demonstrated the effectiveness of aerial bombing when combined with other forms of attack. Experience in Russia seems to have had little impact on the raf itself. In the demobilization period in which the campaign took place, many of those who served in Russia, particularly those actually flying on operations, left the service at the end of their Russian tour, taking away their valuable experience. One thing that the north Russian campaign demonstrated was that the raf was unprepared for cold weather operations. Flying hours dropped drastically as short daylight hours, poor flying weather, and technical difficulties (due to the cold) were combined. Some success was achieved by local expedients (such as the manufacture and fitting of aircraft skis).

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The Canadian role in raf operations in north Russia was that of relatively junior participants. With the exception of Maund, the Canadians were aircrew rather than commanders or administrators. In contrast to their numbers within the raf during the final years of the First World War, Canadian airmen were not numerous in north Russia. Only in the original Elope Squadron did they make up a majority of the aircrew. When this force was sent to Archangel, the European war was still in a critical stage. Therefore the numbers sent were more proportional to the total number of Canadian aircrew in the raf at that time.35 These were not experienced aircrews: more experienced pilots were urgently needed on the Western Front. As one might expect, therefore, when the opportunity came for demobilization, almost all quickly returned to civilian life. Those who volunteered for the 1919 campaign were motivated by different criteria. Some were professional airmen, some were military adventurers, and it is not easy to distinguish between the two. Many had joined the armed forces straight from school or university and had no trade or profession to which to return. Service in Russia represented one opportunity to earn an raf permanent commission and the security and respect accorded a peacetime career officer. For others it was the only way to continue a love affair with the airplane. Few, apparently, volunteered because they were dedicated anti-Bolsheviks. Some of those who served in north Russia remained in raf service, and some subsequently served with the Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force (rcaf). Maund, already entering the ranks of higher command in the raf, retired as an air vice marshal in 1937. A.J. Rankin retired as an air commodore in 1951 after a full raf career. R.W. Ryan became a medical doctor and chief medical officer of the raf in Canada during the Second World War. A.B. Shearer continued his aviation career in the rcaf, reaching the rank of air vice marshal in 1945. Others entered the expanding world of civil aviation. F.J. Stevenson became an outstanding bush pilot before his death in a crash at The Pas in 1928. Stevenson Field, now Winnipeg International Airport, was subsequently named for him. It is now generally conceded that intervention in Russia was a misguided effort that poisoned relations between the Soviet Union and the Western powers for many years. On the whole, however, throughout the course of the intervention in north Russia the raf performed well under difficult conditions. Canadians, among them Canada’s first professional airmen, fulfilled their roles faithfully in trying operations that placed a severe strain on all involved.

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notes 1 Because of the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, in Russia this became known as the October Revolution. 2 The framework of the story of the participation of Canadian airmen in the raf ’s intervention in north Russia is contained chiefly in air 1 and air 2 files at the Public Record Office, Kew, England. Photocopies of parts of the files dealing specifically with the Canadian aspect are found in mg 40 D 1 at the National Archives of Canada (hereafter nac). 3 The Globe (Toronto), 20 November 1918, 7. 4 The Canadian government could, to a limited extent, follow officers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (cef) who had opted for a flying career because they were seconded to the raf. However, other ranks of the cef who joined the raf were released from Canadian service and given imperial commissions; also, the British flying services operated several direct recruiting schemes in Canada during the war. The Canadian military authorities had no control over, and limited information about, the activities of these Canadians. 5 Although Murmansk is well north of Archangel, the warm ocean current permits the harbour to be used throughout the winter. 6 Born in Britain, Maund joined the cef as a private soldier in Winnipeg in February 1915. He was commissioned and served with the 8th Battalion on the Western Front before being attached to the Royal Flying Corps (rfc) as an observer in March 1916. He was part of the rfc Mission sent to Russia at the time of the February Revolution. In the summer of 1917 the mission mobilized as a squadron and, along with two squadrons from the French mission, flew in support of the Kornilov offensive in Galicia. Maund took command of the mission about the time of the October Revolution and, after destroying all its aircraft, brought it back to Britain via Siberia and the Pacific in May 1918. His Distinguished Service Order (dso) and a French Croix de guerre avec palme were awarded for his service in Russia. 7 War Office to Major General F.C. Poole, 10 August 1918, nac, rg 24, file hqc 2514. 8 J.I. Starbuck, “The raf in Russia,” see n.14 bclw Aeroplane 17, 2 (1919): 84. 9 E. Altham, “The Dvina Campaign,” Canadian Defence Quarterly 1, 1 (1923): 30; Roy MacLaren, Canadians in Russia, 1918–1919 (Toronto: Macmillan, 1976), 45n., 65n. 10 Those identified include Lieutenants A.H. Bill of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; J.W. Grant of Lacombe, Alberta; A.E. White of Vancouver,

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British Columbia; 2nd Lieutenants G.W. Ashbrook of Winnipeg, Manitoba; F.A. Bradley of Calgary, Alberta; P.V. Dobby and R.E. Gordon of Montreal, Quebec; B.A. “Pop” Heeney of Calgary; M.B. Henselwood of Winnipeg; G.W. Jones of Moncton, New Brunswick; James McDonnell of Alexandria, Ontario; T.F. Naylor of Watrous, Saskatchewan; Frank J. Shrive of Hamilton, Ontario; and Francis F. Tattam of Winnipeg. As well, Captain H.A. Miller, the American commander of “A” Flight who had joined the rfc Canada training scheme, and 2nd Lieutenant N.D. Nunn of County Cork, Ireland, who had joined the cef in Portage la Prairie, arrived about this time. All except Miller were veterans of the cef: a number had served in France and several had been wounded, but, for almost all, this was their first operational flying posting. Later Field Marshal 1st Baron Ironside of Archangel and Ironside, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1939–40. Ironside had previous experience with Canadians as he had been a senior staff officer with the Canadian Corps on the Western Front. Interservice and international relations were not helped when, on 6 December 1918, an airplane of “A” Flight, apparently flown by one of the Canadians, dropped two bombs on the headquarters of the railway column. Not content with that, the crew then machine-gunned the ground troops. One American soldier was killed and two wounded. “All the Americans are very much worked up about it and are making many threats,” wrote a Canadian artillery officer. A similar incident had happened earlier to the Canadian gunners with the Dvina column, but without fatal result. See 16th Brigade, cfa, Railway Detachment War Diary, 6 December 1918; 67th Battery, cfa, War Diary, 26 October 1918, nac, rg 9 reel T-10,801. Red Air Fleet squadrons, following the Tsarist practice, were only about the strength of a British flight. Theoretically, one squadron supported a ground division, but arrangements were improvised in the chaotic conditions of 1918–19. Gordon received the Distinguished Flying Cross (dfc) for this exploit. Tattam was awarded a French Croix de guerre avec palme while still a prisoner. Kazakov received a dfc, and Shrive received the Russian Order of St Anne for their parts in this operation. On 16 April 1919, before any reinforcements arrived, Elope Squadron had on charge four re8s, four dh4s, two Sopwith Babys, seven Sopwith 1½ -Strutters, a Sopwith Camel, and a captured Russian fba flying boat. Of these, only nine machines were serviceable.

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18 Richard H. Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1917–1921, vol 2: Britain and the Russian Civil War (Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1968), 178–86. 19 Real assistance to the Dvina column in these critical weeks came first from the personnel of the 16th Brigade, cfa, who brought two heavy sixty-pounder guns forward from Archangel in pieces over the frozen trails, and then from a Royal Navy monitor that forced its way through the river ice to Kurgomen by 6 May. 20 Other Canadians with the Dvina Unit were Lieutenants L.St.E.S. Punnett of Victoria, British Columbia; A.J. Rankin of Montreal (injured in a crash on 20 July 1919); 2nd Lieutenants W.G. Boyd of Hamilton; and Claude M. Lemoine of Toronto, who was killed in a crash on 20 August 1919. Captain A.A. Leitch, mc, dfc, of High River, Alberta, who was sent out to Archangel to join the unit with reinforcements in hms Argus on 30 July 1919, crashed a seaplane while testing the next day and had to be invalided back to Britain. Punnett and Boyd were both experienced seaplane pilots, while Rankin and Leitch were veteran fighter pilots from the Italian and Western Fronts, respectively. Both Punnett and Rankin had previously served in France in the cef and had both been wounded. 21 Acting Major A.B. Shearer of Neepawa, Manitoba; Captain F.O. “Mongoose” Soden, dfc and bar, from New Brunswick; Lieutenant L.A.A. Bernard of Montreal (injured 14 July 1919); Lieutenant David Neil of Margaree Harbour, Nova Scotia (wounded 14 July 1919); and 2nd Lieutenant L.W. Kidd of Listowel, Ontario, all came out in the spring. So did Acting Captain William R.S. Humphreys, an Englishman who had joined the 1st Canadian Contingent at Valcartier in 1914, and Captain Frederick I. Lord, dfc; Acting Captain Oren J. Rose, dfc and bar; and Lieutenant John S. Griffith, dfc, all Americans who had joined the rfc in Canada. This was a very experienced group of airmen. Soden, Bernard, Lord, Rose, and Griffith were all capable fighter pilots with an impressive record of victories in France and Italy. Shearer had flown bombers in France. Neil, a Canadian Forestry Corps officer, had been an observer with the Independent Force in France. 22 Captain E. Altham, Senior Naval Officer, Archangel River Expedition, to (?), 29 August 1919, air 1/10/15/1/35, Public Record Office, Kew, England. 23 For his work on this and other occasions Heeney was awarded the dfc. 24 For this and for shooting down a Bolshevik balloon at Emsta, Griffith received a bar to his dfc. 25 Altham, 29 August 1919, air 1/10/15/1/35; 16th Brigade, cfa, War Diary, 2 April 1919, rg 9, reel T-10,801.

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26 The battalion was named after Captain Royce Dyer, its Canadian founder, who had recruited a number of its soldiers from convicts held in the Archangel jail. Captain Dyer died of pneumonia before the time of the mutiny. 27 Lieutenant R.A. Adams of Toronto and 2nd Lieutenant C.S. Booth of Winnipeg served in this original flight. 28 Sir C. Maynard, The Murmansk Venture (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1928), 226. 29 Ibid., 235. 30 Major General Maynard himself suffered a heart attack and was evacuated to Britain in late September 1919. 31 These gas bombs may also have been used at Archangel. Again, the evidence is contradictory. See Lieutenant Colonel R.J. Bone, Officer Commanding (raf), North Russian Expeditionary Force (nref), to General Officer Commanding in Chief, nref, September 1919, air 1/472/15/ 312/167; Ullman, Britain and the Russian Civil War, 182n. 32 Bone to General Officer Commanding, Kem, 20 August 1919, air 1/9/ 15/1/34; Commander H.R.G. Moore, Officer Commanding hms Nairana, “Operation – Bombardment of Onega,” 28 August 1919, air 1/473/ 15/312/171. 33 Ullman, Britain and the Russian Civil War, 96–102. 34 B.D. Hunt, “Canada and Armed Intervention in Russia, 1918–1919” (ma thesis, Royal Military College of Canada, 1967), 186–92. 35 This has been estimated by some to be as high as one-quarter or more of the flying personnel in front-line squadrons. See S.F. Wise, Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, vol. 1: Canadian Airmen and the First World War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press in conjunction with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Government Publication Centre, 1980), 590, 590n.

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About the Contributors

j o h n a r m s t r o n g is a native of Calgary and a graduate of the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He served for thirty-two years as an administrative specialist in the Canadian forces, including stints as instructor in history at the Royal Military College and at the Canadian Forces Directorate of History. Since retiring, Major Armstrong has written a number of articles on military history. l au r a b r a n d o n took her ba with honours from Bristol University and her ma from Queens University in Bristol. After teaching at the University of Prince Edward Island, she joined the Canadian War Museum, becoming curator of war art in 1997. In addition to a number of articles and catalogues, Ms. Brandon co-authored the impressive Canvas of War: Painting and the Canadian Experience, 1914–1918. pa t r i c k b r e n n a n earned his bsc from the University of Saskatchewan, his ma from the University of Regina, and his doctorate from York University in Toronto. He has taught since 1989 at the University of Calgary, where he is associate professor of history. Dr Brennan’s specialty is twentieth-century Canadian politics and military history, with an emphasis on the First World War era. He is currently working on a study of senior combat officers in the Canadian corps, provisionally entitled Currie’s Commanders. ti m c o o k is a graduate of Trent University and the Masters in War Studies Program at the Royal Military College of Canada. He has published articles in Canadian and international journals. His book No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World

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War (ubc Press, 1999) won the 2000 c.p. Stacey award for the best book in Canadian military history. Formerly an archivist at the National Archives of Canada, Tim is the First World War historian at the Canadian War Museum. o w e n c o o k e is an independent researcher living in Ottawa, Ontario. For many years he was chief archivist at the Directorate of History, Department of National Defence. He first became interested in the Canadians in north Russia as a member of the team working on the official history of the Royal Canadian Air Force. a n d r e w h o r r a l l attended Bishop’s and McGill Universities and holds a doctorate from Cambridge. He has worked as an editor with the Royal Historical Society and as a historian with the Canadian Postal Museum. Dr Horrall is presently the archivist in charge of military records at the National Archives of Canada. His current interest in First World War-era popular culture is reflected in his new book, which is entitled Capital Entertainment: The Transformation of Popular Culture in London, 1890–1918. j o h n h u r s t , a long-time wfa member, lives about three blocks from John McCrae’s birthplace in Guelph, Ontario. John is a graduate of the University of Toronto and studied labour relations at Cornell University. After many years in the private sector, working in supply, transportation, marketing, and personnel, he became the first director of personnel at the University of Guelph. He retired as assistant to the president in 1987 and has since pursued his interest in the First World War, regularly visiting the Western Front. j e f f k e s h e n is associate professor of history at the University of Ottawa. He received his doctorate from York University in 1992. His special interests include Canadian social history, particularly family life during the Second World War. Dr Keshen’s many publications include Propaganda and Censorship during Canada’s Great War and Age of Contention: Readings in Canadian Social History, 1900–1945. dav i d pa r s o n s is chairman of the Newfoundland Branch of the wfa. With science and medical degrees from McGill, he spent many years in general and hospital practice and as clinical assistant profes-

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sor of medicine and the history of medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Dr Parsons served with the Canadian forces in the Second World War and Korea (in the latter conflict as Lieutenant Colonel, rcamc). He is the author of a guide to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War. r o g e r s a r t y is director of historical research and exhibit development at the Canadian War Museum. He has degrees from Duke University and the University of Toronto, and he worked at the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa as senior historian. Dr Sarty, with Michael L. Hadley, is the author of Tin Pots and Pirate Ships, a prizewinning study of the Canadian navy. c h r i s t o p h e r j . t e r r y is director and ceo of the Canada Science and Technology Museums. He earned his ba from Guelph and his msc in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He joined the Canada Aviation Museum in 1989 and served as its director general until 2001. Mr Terry chairs the Aviation Museum Group of the International Association of Transportation Museums. s i d n e y f. w i s e took his degrees at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University. He taught at the Royal Military College, at Queen’s, and at Carleton University, where for ten years he was dean of graduate studies and research. His military experience includes service as an rca pilot in 1943–45 and as director for history at the Department of National Defence. Dr Wise’s numerous publications include a dozen books and numerous chapters and articles. He holds many honorary doctorates and similar distinctions from around the world.

s e m i na r o r g a ni z e r s : b r i t o n c . b u s c h is William R. Kenan Professor of History at Colgate University, New York; book review editor of the American Neptune; and the author of ten books on military, maritime, and European and Middle Eastern diplomatic history. A past president of the North American Society for Oceanic History, Dr Busch’s most recent book is “Whaling Will Never Do for Me”: The American Whaleman in the 19th Century.

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l e o n a r d g . s h u r t l e f f is president of the wfa’s American branch. During thirty-two years in the us Foreign Service, Ambassador Shurtleff specialized in African affairs and foreign affairs management issues. A frequent visitor to the Western Front, he writes and lectures on us-African relations and on the Great War, meanwhile attending and supervising wfa meetings on both sides of the Atlantic.