Canada Becoming a Nation

What Influence Did World War I Have Over Canada?

After reading about the Canadian accomplishments during World War I, it comes as no surprise the bloodiest war in history is commonly associated with the birth of this nation's independence. The first five battles that had taken place during the First World War contributed to make Canada a nation. The First World War helped encourage most Canadians to embark on the route to autonomy, or self-governance, and lead the fight in getting them recognized as a separate entity.

battles that changed canada's reputation

The map below shows the locations Canadian troops fought at.

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Vimy Ridge

The Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 was the first major step from Canada being just another British colony to becoming an equal member of the British Commonwealth. Although all Canadian troops were under the British Expeditionary Force, they did have their own section; the Canadian Corps. At the Battle of Vimy Ridge a military force composed of mostly the Canadian Corps succeeded in taking the last German stronghold. This showed that Canada had established themselves as a self-sufficient country and not only a part of the British Empire. Also, from this triumph came a first for the Canadian Corps. The victory became a post-war symbol for the identity of Canada.

The video compiles actual footage taken from the Battle of Vimy Ridge to give you perspective on the battle conditions and weaponry the Canadians had to face.

Vimy Ridge Footage

Passchendaele

Launched on 31 July 1917, the British offensive in Flanders had aimed to drive the Germans away from the essential Channel Ports and to eliminate U-Boat bases on the coast. The British lost an estimated 275,000 casualties at Passchendaele to the German’s 220,000, making it one of the war’s most costly battles of attrition. Although there had been considerable losses of life at Passchendaele, the Canadians succeeded where the others had failed. The Canadian troops became known as the Storm Troopers.

Ypres

In 1915, the Second Battle of Ypres established the reputation of the Canadians as a fighting force. The 1st Canadian Division had just arrived on the Western Front when they won recognition by holding their ground against a new weapon of modern warfare - chlorine gas, employed by the Germans.

notable canadians

Canada donated some of the finest combatants and leaders to the stage on which the Great War played out. Previous to the gruelling years that were spent in a state of combat, nobody regarded Canada as a separate entity. However, its victories and brute, unwavered strength are what convinced other nations that Canada was fit enough to govern itself. The following individuals orchestrated the most change that would help Canada gain its own status and finally be distinguished from their overheads, the British Empire.

Sir Robert Borden

Robert Borden served as Canada’s Prime Minister while much of Europe was submerged in the war. He emerged as a notable figure in attaining Canada’s independence at the political level. Borden granted Canada higher autonomy and converted the nation from a British-held colony to a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. His legacy took off in 1914, when he passed down the War Measures Act, which gave Canada the authority to manage security and order during the event of war or an uprising. As the Canadian Expeditionary Force grew from a mere division to a full-fledged army and garnered battle victories, Borden could not help but believe that Canada’s fortitude was solid proof of its progression to nationhood. This is what inspired Borden to author the Resolution IX of the Imperial War Conference, which asserted that Canada deserved the right to have a say in foreign matters such as policy and relations and the acknowledgment as an autonomous nation of a Commonwealth. He also encouraged Canada and the other British-ruled countries to envoy representatives to Paris for the 1919 Peace Conference and sign the Treaty of Versailles under their own names.

William Avery "Billy" Bishop

William Bishop’s illustrious path to becoming one of the best aces of World War I started on March 25th, 1917, when he earned his first kill after immobilizing a German Albatross. He then made name for himself at the global stage, achieving a Victoria Cross, the most prestigious honour that can be awarded to any military personnel. To exemplify Bishop’s skill, take the following occurrence into consideration. In mid-June, 1918, the ace was called to England to serve one last time. He came out of the three-day battle with ten additional victories, adding onto the sixty two kills he previously achieved. It was in that very battle he dropped five German airplanes in just under twelve minutes. These stats terrified the Germans, causing them to realize that the Canadians were the Allied forces’ deadliest weapons. Thus, they dubbed Bishop as Hell’s Handmaiden and had a price on his head. This is how Bishop heightened Canada’s reputation as an able country.

Sir Arthur Currie

Arthur Currie was the man behind all the Canadian victories Europe had witnessed during the First World War. He started off as a commander of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade and sent his men to fight in the Second Battle of Ypres. When most of the Triple Entente's soldiers were compelled to flee in the wake of the poison gas onslaught, Curries brigade maintained their position, refusing to let the enemy claim a victory. Ypres was the first significant assault of the Canadians and truly put the name of Canada on the lips of the entire world, convincing them of its valour and determination. Currie was promoted to be the commander of the Canadian Corps in 1917, leading his troops to several other triumphs over the course of the war. They include Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Passchendaele, and Arras. These performances only helped bring Canada under the spotlight, and the praise from the Allies gradually birthed the treatment as an independent nation and a sense of nationalism.

Classic_FM

In Flanders Fields - read by Tim Lihoreau by Classic_FM

The audio clip above is a recitation of world-renowned war poem "In Flanders Fields." It was written by a Canadian, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, and showed that Canadians serving in World War I not only possessed brawn but also poetic talent.

the treaty of versailles

World War I - Treaty of Versailles

The video above outlines the content of Treaty of Versailles and the reaction it triggered from the other empires. Canada was an active participant in the Paris Peace Conference, thanks to Prime Minister Borden. The country itself played a small role in creating the Treaty but, after much struggle, got an individual commissioner to attend the Conference. This act established the perception of Canada as a nation. Sir Borden thought it was only fair that Canada should regarded as a sovereign state after making such a heavy sacrifice, 60,000 lives, to a war effort the nation had no choice but to participate in. However, things did not go entirely as planned. The British Prime Minister signed the Treaty on behalf of the entire empire, downplaying the value of the signature to Canadian nationalists. On the bright side, the Treaty guided Canada to its own seat in the League of Nations, where it would continue to declare itself as a separate country to the rest of the world.

the Damages of the War

The Great War, although aided greatly in establishing Canada's independence, came with negative side effects; heavy consequences the population was never ready to endure. The war was said to have "torn the country apart" due to the massive death toll and the mental and physical injuries to Canadian soldiers after they arrived home. The damage of the war was not only limited to the soldiers’ lives, however. In fact, the aftermath of the war led to mass deportations among "enemy aliens". German immigrants, among others, were cast out from the country, while more than 8,400 were sent to internment camps. Secondly, British and French Canadians were at a divide, where it had seemed to the French speaking population were second class citizens. This caused massive disagreements within the nation. However, the most destructive aftermath of the war was the spread of disease from returning soldiers, which killed millions of people across the country. Lastly, the war threw Canada in more than 2.5 million dollars of debt.

interesting facts

  • Along with providing the government more control over the land, the War Measures Act permitted new and improved powers to bring action against the war. These powers included being able to arrest Canadians, censorship, and having the right to take control over any property.
  • Canada fought mostly in Belgium and France, and it was there when they did not have to rely on the British. Instead, the British relied on Canada for support, supplies, and arms. Canada had one of the largest military makers by the end of the war. The supplies were made by the women and the wounded.
  • The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, and came precisely 5 years after Franz Ferdinand's assassination.
  • The Canadian war record was what won Canada an individual signature on the Peace Treaty, indicating that the national status had been received.
  • 70 Canadians were bestowed with the Victoria Cross for demonstrating the "most conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy" by the end of the Great War.
  • There were over 650,000 Canadian recruitments in the First World War. Of this, 66,000 died serving their country while another 172,000 were injured.
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This pie graph compares the percentage of Canadian casualties in the war with the fraction of those who came home physically sound.

impacts, contribution, and sacrifice

In conclusion, Canada's contribution and sacrifices to the war helped it become more independent and changed its history. Due to this, Canada also earned the respect, admiral, and recognition from other parts of the world. Canadian soldiers came home proud from the First World War with a new sense of belonging, despite the horrific costs the war came with. From the very beginning of the war to the official ending marked by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, every aspect of the war helped Canada move closer to becoming a liberated nation.

The video below will help put you in the shoes of Canadian soldiers so you can experience the war from their perspective, such as the horrendous battle conditions and advanced weaponry they had to cope with.

World War One (WWI) from a Canadian Perspective

The following links lead to websites where Canada's role in the First World War can be read in depth, complete with interesting videos and graphics.

Below are various tweets that talk about Canada in World War I.

questions!

  1. Who were three heroes that changed the face of this nation?
  2. What event(s) led Canada to become a member of the League of Nations, and continue to declare itself as a separate entity to the rest of the world?
  3. The war had caused a lot of damage to Canada and toppled Canada in massive debt. How much was the debt that Canada owed?
  4. How many Canadian recruitments were there in the First World War?
  5. How many Canadians were bestowed with the Victoria cross?
  6. What was the overall impact the First World War had on Canada?
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