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A century since the end of world War I

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a member of Young Bosnia.

With his death, The Great War began.

Ferdinand’s death triggered a series of events that led to Austria and Hungary’s allies declaring war on Serbia, which in turn meant that Serbia’s allies declared war on them.

For Austria-Hungary, that meant allies such as the German and Ottoman Empires. For Serbia, it was the British Empire, France, Russia, the United Sates, Canada, and many others.

When Germany chose to ignore Britain’s ultimatum to withdraw from Belgium, the British Empire went to war, including Canada.

Entering the war, Canada had a population of approximately eight million people. In order to support war effort, 425,000 soldiers were sent overseas. Of those soldiers, 60,661 of them were killed in action, and another 172,000 were wounded.

World War I was a war of attrition, as it was very rare that military lines would move in either direction.

Canada participated in many notable battles, the most famous of which was Vimy Ridge. However, the Canadian military also participated in the Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele, the Somme, and many others.

Vimy Ridge is a moment of pride for many Canadians, as the storm troopers, as Canadian soldiers were often called, were the only ones who were able to take the ridge back. It lasted four days in April 1917.

Taking back Vimy Ridge was important because it took away a vantage point from the German military that allowed them to have a commanding view over the Allied Forces.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge is considered by many to be the moment that Canada stepped out from the British Empire’s shadow to become its own nation.

The Canadian Corps of approximately 100,000 soldiers was ordered to Passchedaele in October 1917. While there they experienced the worst of what the war had to offer.

The Battle of Passchedaele is famous because of the conditions in which soldiers were fighting. Gunfire and artillery were not the only threat that these soldiers faced, as many of them lost their lives to the environment itself.

When the Battle of Passchendaele began, so did the rain. While the ground was battered by shellfire, the rain turned it into mud. In this mud, soldiers would often become trapped and suffocate.

At Passchendaele, it is estimated that the British lost 275,000 soldiers, and the Germans lost 220,000. These numbers made it one of the war’s most costly battles of attrition.

Sir Arthur Currie, the Commander of the Canadian Corps, had objected to participating in the battle as he believed that it would have cost too many lives. Currie predicted that 16,000 Canadian soldiers would perish in the battle. He was close as the final number lost was 15,654.

Another battle that Canada participated in was the Battle of the Somme, which took place in July to November 1916. It is considered one of the more controversial battles of the Great War, as many historians considered the British generals to be callous.

Often in this battle, generals would send soldiers forward with inefficient weaponry and with ineffective tactics.

When the British troops first went forward, they expected an easy fight as they had bombarded the German troops with artillery. However, this was not the case and the battle would go on until Nov. 18. By the time the battle was over, both sides had approximately 600,000 casualties.

At the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, which took place the same day the Battle of the Somme started, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment was attached to a British division. The battle, which lasted all of 30 minutes, resulted in 324 Canadian soldiers killed, and 386 of 801 soldiers wounded.

The Canadian military developed a reputation among German soldiers due to their involvement in battles such as Vimy Ridge. This fear resulted in a nickname for the Canadian soldiers, “Storm Troops” or Storm Troopers.

After the Great War ended, a time of relative piece fell on Europe. It was quite tenuous however, as the negotiations at the Treaty of Versailles left the Germans feeling angry. They had their military taken away from them, and many felt they had been stripped of their status as a world power.

Due to this anger, Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, otherwise known as the Nazi’s.

After getting their military back and invading several different European nations, Germany refused to back down, and the Allied forces were left with no choice but to once again go to war.

After World War II ended, Canada participated in several different wars. Some of these are the Korean War, the Afghanistan War, and the fight against ISIS.

However, Canada has developed a reputation as a peacekeeper around the world. What this means is that Canadian troops will be placed by the UN in areas that might be experiencing civil unrest.

One such area was Rwanda in 1994, when Hutu’s began murdering Tutsi’s across the country. While those placed there by the UN were not able to stop the genocide, as it went for 100 days, they were still present.

Currently, the Canadian Peace Corps is participating in missions such as the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, and the African Mission in Darfur.

Canadian veterans can often be found at the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, located at 471 Simcoe Street South in Oshawa.

Although it has its share of problems, Canada is a nation that is well regarded across the world, and always remembers its veterans on Rememberance Day.