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Hundred Days Offensive
Between August 8 and November 11, 1918, the Canadian Corps spearheaded the Hundred Days Offensive, a series of successful Allied attacks in France and Belgium that forced the end to the First World War.
Canadian victories at Amiens, the Drocourt-Quéant Line and the Canal du Nord were among Canada’s most difficult battles of the entire war as they fought through tough operational conditions. In these final hundred days of the war, the Canadians showed great valour on the battlefield, with 30 Canadians earning the Victoria Cross, the highest honour. However, these victories came at an enormous cost, with more than 45,000 men of the Canadian Corps killed, injured, or missing in action during this offensive, representing close to 50 percent of the corps.
By 1918, the Allied armies and the German Empire had been at war for almost four years. Casualties on both sides of the Western Front had been brutal and the end of war seemed far in the distance. In the spring of 1918, the Germans launched a series of attacks, hoping to force an end to the war, but the Allied armies successfully fought them off. Now it was the Allies’ turn to go on the offensive. These last battles of the war are known together as the Hundred Days Offensive.
The Canadian Corps, by this point in the war, was confident and battle-hardened. They had achieved hard-fought victories at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele and were seen by Allied leaders as a prime resource in the war. At the Battle of Amiens (August 8-11), which traditionally marks the opening of the Hundred Days Offensive, the Canadian Corps and Australian Corps led the British Fourth Army to victory, serving as spearheads and taking on the most challenging objectives of the battle.
Over the next hundred days, the Canadians fought their way eastward. Following Amiens, the Canadian Corps became part of the British First Army and took on all of the most difficult and substantial offensive tasks of that army for the remainder of the war. At the Battle of the Scarpe (August 26-30), the Battle of the Drocourt-Quéant Line (September 2-3), the Battle of the Canal du Nord (September 27 - October 1), and the Battle of Valenciennes, the corps achieved major victories against incredible odds: entrenched defenders, swampy land, hidden machine-gun nests, canals and German forces determined to fight tooth-and-nail until the last moments of the war. On November 11, the final day of the war, the Canadians captured Mons, Belgium, where they were treated as liberators by the city’s citizens.
During the Hundred Days Offensive, the Canadian Corps played a significant role in the defeat of the Germans, raising the corps’ reputation to even greater heights. The Canadians continually “punched above their weight,” overall defeating elements of 50 divisions, which constituted a quarter of the German forces on the Western Front. However, over the course of the offensive, the Canadians suffered over 45,000 casualties, primarily from the infantry and gunners. While The Hundred Days Offensive finally led to victory, Canada’s last hundred days of the war were marked by incredible sacrifice and loss.
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Title of the Image: Canadian troops advancing through a German barrage east of Arras
Source of the Image: Collections Canada, Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3194820
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Hon. Catherine McKenna Parks Canada History and Archaeology
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