In 2018, the Government of Canada recognizes a number of significant events of the First World War (1914-1918) and of the Second World War (1939-1945) which have touched the lives of many Canadians and were defining episodes in the history of our country.

First World War: Centennial of Canada’s Hundred Days

August 8 to November 11, 1918
A small group of Canadian soldiers, walking through debris and rubble and surrounded by buildings damaged by the war. A lone church tower rests standing in the distance.

Canadian soldiers passing through the ruins of Cambrai
Source: Dept. of National Defence / LAC PA-003286

Over the course of the Great War, now raging for four years, the Canadian Corps has earned a reputation as shock troops because of their training, discipline and professionalism. Their final, and arguably most significant, impact in the Allied war effort comes during the Hundred Days Offensive, a series of critical and intense strikes against German forces, ultimately ending the war.

Beginning on August 8, 1918, in France, the Canadians gain a stunning victory at Amiens, described by a German military leader as “the black day of the German Army.” From there, they launch successful offensives breaching the Hindenburg Line – Germany’s last line of defence along the Western Front – cross the Canal du Nord and make their final advance capturing the Belgian city of Mons on November 11, the very day the armistice takes effect.

The entire campaign, which sees the Canadian Corps advance and gain significant ground, is a distinguished accomplishment; 30 Canadians are awarded the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest decoration for exceptional courage. After 100 days of heavy fighting, however, the corps is gravely battered, suffering more than 45,000 killed, wounded or missing in action.

We will remember them…

First World War: Centennial. Armistice: End of the Great War

November 11, 1918
On November 11, 1918, Canadian troops are celebrating in the streets of Mons in Belgium.
They are accompanied by a military band and are surrounded by the local residents.

Canadian troops marching through the streets of Mons, Belgium, on November 11, 1918. Source: Dept. of National Defence / LAC PA-003547

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the Great War, the ‘war to end all wars,’ came to an end. Fighting as two separate Dominions of the British Empire, soldiers from Canada and Newfoundland alike distinguished themselves in the air, at sea and on battlefields in Belgium and France; and specifically for the Newfoundlanders, Gallipoli, Turkey.

Now during the war’s final hours, with enemy forces defeated along the Western Front as a result of the Hundred Days Offensive, 25 year old Nova Scotia native Private George Lawrence Price falls victim to a German sniper just outside the city of Mons, Belgium, minutes before the 11 AM armistice takes effect. He is believed to be the last Allied soldier killed in the war.

Price, along with more than 66,000 Canadians and another 1,300 Newfoundland troops never make it home, while many more continue to die of their wounds long after the fighting ends. Countless other men and women return with physical and mental scars from the war’s unimaginable brutality.

Canadians pause and mark this anniversary each year during Remembrance Day ceremonies, honoring those who served this country.

We will remember them…

Second World War: 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic

In the fore-ground, here are the silhouettes of sailors on the deck of a boat in rough waters. On the horizon, below the clouds, a convoy of ships.

Sailors of HMCS Saguenay watch depth charges explode. Source: Department of National Defence / LAC PA-116840

Within hours of Britain’s declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1939, a Nazi submarine torpedoes SS Athenia, a passenger liner bound for Montreal from London. Among the 112 victims are Canada’s first casualties of the Second World War. The sinking sets the stage for the Battle of the Atlantic, a gruelling six-year struggle for the survival of Britain, the liberation of Europe and to help supply the Soviet Union.

Canada and the colony of Newfoundland play crucial roles in protecting, manning, and supplying Allied convoys. Rapid expansion of Canada’s navy, merchant marine, and air force bolster this lifeline: everything necessary for the war in Europe must arrive by ship. In recognition of Canada’s significant contribution, Rear-Admiral Leonard Murray becomes Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Northwest Atlantic region in 1943, the only Canadian to hold such a command during the war.

Withstanding enemy action from the sea and sky combined with extreme weather, Canadians and Newfoundlanders are relentless in securing Allied victory on the Atlantic, a feat that costs the lives of nearly 1,990 from the Royal Canadian Navy, 752 Canadian airmen and 1,629 Canadian and Newfoundland merchant sailors. Without their sacrifice, determination and courage, the war would have been lost.

We will remember them…

Second World War: 75th anniversary of the Battle of the St. Lawrence

Huge hole at the front of the left  hull of the vessel SS Thomson from a torpedo strike.

Torpedo Damage to the SS Fort Simpson Source: MNaval Museum of Quebec

As part of the larger battle for control of shipping on the Atlantic during the Second World War, Nazi submarines, known as U-boats, begin stabbing deep into Canada’s inland waters. Their aim is to sink Allied merchant ships carrying essential supplies to the frontlines.

Hitler’s regime brings the horrors of war to Canada and the colony of Newfoundland when, in May 1942, a prowling U-boat sinks two merchant ships in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, with the loss of 18 sailors. Sadly, these attacks are just the beginning.

In October that same year, a U-boat sinks the Newfoundland Railway ferry SS Caribou. The pre-dawn assault claims the lives of 135 crew and passengers, including families with children and members of the Canadian and American armed forces. Before being permanently repelled from Canadian waters in 1944, U-boats sink 23 merchant and naval vessels, killing more than 300 men, women and children most in sight of Canadian shores.

Today at Forillon National Park in Quebec’s Gaspé region, the coastal battery of Fort Peninsula, once a sentry over our assaulted eastern borders, now serves as a lasting reminder that freedom, and the values we hold dear, came at a terrible cost.

We will remember them…

Second World War: 75th anniversary of H.M.C.S. Haida

HMCS Haida, war ship at sea.
HMCS Haida, 1999

Immediately after being commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in August 1943, Haida joined the Arctic convoys of the Second World War, escorting merchant ships on the Murmansk Run to Russia. The following year, she saw heavy action patrolling the English Channel as part of preparations for D-Day. After helping to clear the channel of enemy vessels, Haida played an active role in the Allied invasion of Normandy.

After the war, she served two tours of duty in Korea (1950-53) where – on January 29, 1953 – she joined the “Trainbusters Club.” Following her operations in the Korean War, Haida participated in several Cold War anti-submarine operations, as well as a number of training and goodwill missions.

Through the determination of private citizens, Canada’s “Fightingest Ship” was saved from being scrapped and is today the last Tribal-class Destroyer remaining in the world. Moored in Hamilton, Ontario, Haida is now a national historic site, welcoming visitors to learn about this country’s remarkable naval history.