Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 1 - Chapter XXIII Alberta in the Great War
The total enlistments in Alberta for the
Canadian Expeditionary Forces during the period of the Great war
(1914-1918) were 45,136 men, comprising twenty battalions of infantry,
four mounted regiments, three batteries of artillery and a field
This number does
not include many hundreds of reservists of the British, French, Belgian,
Serbian and Italian armies who were residing in Alberta when the war
broke out. Neither does it include a large number of men and officers
who enlisted with Canadian and Imperial units recruited in parts of
Canada outside Alberta and in Great Britain.
The infantry battalions raised in Alberta
were the 9th, 31st, 49th, 50th, 51st, 56th, 63rd, 66th, 82nd, 89th,
113th, 137th, 138th, 151st, 187th, 191st, 192nd, 194th, 202nd and 218th.
The mounted regiments were 3rd Canadian
Mounted Rifles, 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles, 13th Canadian Mounted
Rifles, and 19th Alberta Dragoons.
The batteries of artillery were the 20th,
39th and 61st of the Canadian Field Artillery.
No. 2 Tunnelling Company and No. 8 Field
Ambulance completed Alberta's contribution in man-power to the strength
of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
Of the battalions of infantry only three
maintained their identity in France. These were the 31st, 49th and 50th
battalions. The men and officers of the other battalions from Alberta
were sent from the training camps in England to reinforce the Alberta
battalions and other Canadian battalions permitted to maintain their
identity in France. It was the ambition of the officers and men of every
battalion to be sent as an unbroken unit to France, but the heavy
casualties and the length of the war rendered such a policy impossible
to the higher command.
The day war was declared by Germany
against Great Britain every commanding officer in Alberta, as in the
rest of Canada, offered his own services and those of his unit to the
The first unit raised in the Province was
the 19th Alberta Dragoons, under Lt. Col. F. C. Jamieson, and Major W.
A. Griesbach (later Brig.-General). Recruiting was authorized by the
Department of Militia two (lays after war was declared. In a day or two
the regiment was completed and entrained for Valcartier, August 23rd.
Three days after the declaration of war
the 9th battalion was authorized. Over four-fifths of the 101st Edmonton
Fusiliers volunteered and by August 22nd the battalion was up to 1,300
strength, and left immediately for the camp at Valcartier, under the
command of Lt. Col. F. A. Osborne.
Mention is specially made of these units
because they were the first in the Province to respond to the Empire's
call. Other battalions and regiments soon followed. After the Government
of Canada decided to raise a second division, a third and a fourth
division for service in France, fresh units were recruited and mobilized
as quickly as the Militia Department could train, arm and equip them. Of
the 45,000 men from Alberta over 43,000 were volunteers. It was not
until the last few months of the war that the Government was compelled
to invoke the Compulsory Military Service Law to keep up the strength of
the Canadian Divisions at the front.
It is not attempted to treat this chapter
as a study of tactics and strategy respecting the services of the
Alberta units in the various theatres of the war, and the part they
played beside their comrades from Canada in the Allied victories. It is
intended to give only a list of the various units from Alberta, showing
in a summary form the course of their careers, from recruiting to final
disposition in England or France, and to follow the three Alberta
battalions through the various battles in which they participated and
helped to win.
Units raised in Alberta for the Canadian
(1). Nineteenth Alberta Dragoons:
authorized August 6, 1914; recruited in Edmonton; sailed from Canada
October 15, 1914; with seven offices and one hundred and seventy-three
men; arrived in France February 12, 1915; served as 1st Divisional
Cavalry until absorbed as "A" Squadron Canadian Corps Cavalry Regiment;
finally changed to Canadian Light Horse February 21, 1917. Perpetuated
under former 19th Alberta Dragoons.
(2). Third Regiment C. M. R.: authorized
November 5, 1914; C. 0. Lt. Col. L. J. Whitaker; recruited in Edmonton,
Calgary and Medicine Hat; mobilized at Medicine Hat; sailed from Canada
June 12, 1915, with twenty-nine officers and six hundred and
twenty-seven other ranks; arrived in France September 21, 1915; served
in France as Corps Troops until absorbed by 1st and 2nd Battalion C. M.
R. January 1, 1916. Perpetuated as 1st Regiment, Alberta Mounted Rifles.
(3). 12th Regiment C. M. R.: authorized
December 1, 1914; recruited in Calgary and Red Deer; sailed from Canada
October 9, 1915, with twenty-seven officers and five hundred and
twenty-seven other ranks; used as a reinforcing unit until absorbed into
Canadian Cavalry Depot February 3, 1916. Perpetuated in active militia
as 15th Canadian Light Horse.
(4). 13th Regiment C. M. R.: authorized
December 1, 1914; recruited at Pincher Creek, Cardston and Macleod;
sailed from Canada June 29, 1916, with thirty-four officers and nine
hundred and thirty-three other ranks; absorbed into various units.
Perpetuated in active militia as 2nd Regiment Alberta mounted Rifles.
(1). 9th Battalion: authorized August 7,
1914; recruited in Edmonton and mobilized at Valcartier; sailed for
England October 3, 1914, with ten officers and 1,118 other ranks;
reorganized as a reserve battalion April 4, 1915, and sent to reinforce
the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions in France. Perpetuated in active
militia as 2nd Battalion, Edmonton Regiment.
(2). 31st Battalion: authorized November
11, 1914; recruited throughout Alberta and mobilized at Calgary; left
Canada May 17, 1915, with thirty-six officers and 1,033 other ranks;
commanding officers, Lt. Col. A. H. Bell (later Brig. Gen. G Infantry
Brigade C. M. C., D. S. O,), Lt. Col. E. S. Doughty, D. S. O., Lt. Col.
Nelson Spencer, D. S. O.; arrived in France September 18, 1915.
Perpetuated in the active militia as 1st and 2nd Battalions, Alberta
(3). 49th Battalion: authorized January
4, 1915; commanding officers, Lt. Col. W. A. Griesbach (later Big. Gen.
1st Infantry Brigade, C. B., C. M. G., D. S. O.), Lt. Col. R. H, Palmer,
D. S. O., Major C. Y,. Weaver, D. S. O.; sailed from Canada June 4,
1915, with thirty-six officers and 996 other ranks; arrived in France
September 9, 1915. Perpetuated as 1st Battalion, Edmonton Regiment.
(4). 50th Battalion: authorized December
15, 1914; recruited and mobilized at Calgary; left Canada October 27,
1915, with forty-one officers and 1,036 other ranks; also sent drafts to
England of five officers and 251 men June 14, 1913, of five officers and
250 men September 11, 1913; arrived in France August 11, 1916;
commanding officers, Lt. Col. E. G. Mason, O. B. E., Lt. Col. C. B.
Worshop, D. S. O., Lt. Col. B. F. Page, D. S. O. Perpetuated as 2nd
Battalion, Calgary Regiment,
(5). 51st Battalion: authorized January
4, 1915; recruited in England under Lt. Col. de Lotbiniere Harwood;
sailed from Canada with thirty-seven officers and 1,055 other ranks,
April 18, 1916; also sent drafts to England of five officers and 253 men
June 14, 1915, of five officers and 250 men September 11, 1915, and of
one officer and 44 men December 18, 1915; used as a reinforcing unit
until it became a Garrison Duty Battalion December 13, 1916. Perpetuated
as 3rd Reserve Battalion, Edmonton Regiment.
(6). 56th Battalion: authorized January
24, 1915; recruited in Calgary; sailed from Canada April 1, 1916, with
forty officers and 1,073 other ranks; also sent drafts of four officers
and 250 men, July 5, 1915, and of five officers and 250 men, September
11, 1915; used as a reinforcing unit until absorbed by 9th Reserve
Battalion. Perpetuated as 3rd Reserve Battalion, Calgary Regiment.
(7). 63rd Battalion: authorized June 28,
1915, O. C. Lt. Col. Geo. B. Macleod; recruited in Edmonton, Calgary and
Medicine Hat; sailed from Canada April 23, 1916; with thirty-six
officers and 1.075 other ranks; also sent drafts to England of five
officers and 250 men, September 9, 1915, of three officers and 100 other
ranks January 22, 1916, of three officers and 100 other ranks March 2,
1916; used as a reinforcing unit until absorbed by the 9th Reserve
Battalion July 7, 1916. Perpetuated as the 4th Reserve Battalion,
(8). 66th Battalion: authorized June 21,
1915; recruited in Edmonton; sailed from Canada May 1, 1916, with
thirty-six officers and 1,013 other ranks; also sent drafts to England
of five officers and 250 other ranks, September 11, 1915, of five
officers and 222 other ranks January 22, 1916; used as a reinforcing
unit until absorbed by 9th Reserve Battalion July 7, 1916. Perpetuated
in active militia as 5th Reserve Battalion, Edmonton Regiment.
(9). 82nd Battalion: authorized September
1, 1915; recruited in Calgary; sailed from Canada May 20, 1916, with
thirty-four officers and 1,006 other ranks; absorbed by 9th Reserve
Battalion in England July 18, 1916. Perpetuated ill militia as 4th
Reserve Battalion, Calgary Regiment.
(10). 89th Battalion: authorized November
1, 1915; recruited in Calgary; sailed from Canada June 6, 1916, with
thirty-three officers and 969 other ranks; used as a reinforcing unit
until absorbed in 9th Reserve Battalion and by 97th Battalion; not
perpetuated in active malitia.
(11). 113th Battalion: authorized
November 17, 1915; recruited in Lethbridge; sailed from Canada with
thirty officers and 883 other ranks; absorbed by the 17th Reserve
Battalion, October 18, 1916. Perpetuated as 3rd Reserve Battalion,
(12). 137th Battalion: authorized
November 11, 1915; recruited in Calgary; sailed from Canada August 24,
1916, with thirty-two officers and 932 other ranks; used as a
reinforcing unit until absorbed by 21st Reserve Battalion. Perpetuated
as 5th Reserve Battalion, Calgary Regiment.
(13). 138th Battalion authorized November
22, 1915; recruited in Edmonton; sailed from Canada August 24, 1916,
with thirty-two officers and 870 other ranks; used as a reinforcing unit
until absorbed by 128th Battalion, December 12, 1916; not perpetuated.
(14). 151st Battalion: authorized
November 26, 1915, under Lt. Col. A. W. Arnett; recruited in federal
ridings of Battle River, Victoria, Strathcona and Red Deer; sailed from
Canada April 10, 1916, with twenty-nine officers and 925 other ranks;
absorbed by 7th and 9th Reserve Battalions October 13, 1916. Perpetuated
as 4th Reserve Battalion, Alberta Regiment.
(15). 187th Battalion: authorized January
20, 1916; recruited in Red Deer district; sailed from Canada December
20, 1916, with twenty- four officers and 774 other ranks; absorbed by
the 9th Reserve Battalion, February 20, 1917. Perpetuated as 6th Reserve
Battalion, Alberta Regiment.
(16). 191st Battalion: authorized January
21, 1916; recruited in Macleod and district; sent drafts to England of
six officers and 246 other ranks, of two officers and 60 other ranks;
re-organized in Canada as a draft giving depot battalion; not
(17). 192nd Battalion: authorized January
25, 1916; recruited in Blairmore and district; sailed from Canada
November 3, 1916, with twenty-three officers and 424 other ranks;
absorbed by the 9th Reserve Battalion, November 11, 1916; not
(18). 194th Battalion: authorized January
28, 1916; recruited in Edmonton and district; sailed from Canada
November 14, 1916, with thirty-one officers and 912 other ranks; used as
a reinforcing unit until absorbed by 9th Reserve Battalion May 28, 1917;
(19). 202nd Battalion: authorized
February 4, 1916, under Lt. Col. P. E. Bowen; known as the Sportsmen's
Battalion; recruited in Edmonton and district; sailed from Canada
November 24, 1916, with twenty- seven officers and 746 other ranks; used
as a reinforcing unit until absorbed by 9th Reserve Battalion, May 28,
1917; not perpetuated.
(20). 218th Battalion: authorized
February 23, 1916; recruited in Edmonton under Lt. Col. James K.
Cornwall, D. S. O., sailed from Canada February 17, 1917, with
twenty-four officers and 582 other ranks; amalgamated with 211th
Battalion and organized as the 8th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops;
Having enumerated the principal units
raised in Alberta and their disposition in England as reinforcements,
let us turn our attention to the three battalions that we may say
represented Alberta in the fighting lines in France. Hereafter follows
the particulars of the part the 31st, 49 and 50th battalions took in the
various battles in which they participated throughout their periods of
31ST BATTALION, C. E. F.,
6TH CANADIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE, 2ND CANADIAN DIVISION.
The 31st Battalion arrived in France
September 18, 1915. After six months' duty in the Kemmel Defence the
battalion moved to St. Elol, where fighting was in progress. This battle
lasted from March 27th to April 16th. The 31st moved into the battle
line on the night of April 3-4, with a strength of twenty-four officers
and 703 other ranks, occupying a front of 1,500 yards. On the 6th the
trenches and dugouts were demolished by the German bombardment, but all
attempts to capture the position were repulsed. After two more days of
strenuous fighting the battalion was relieved at 11 P. M. on the 8th.
During the battle the battalion's casualties were 29 killed, 147 wounded
and four missing—total 180.
Battle of Mount Sorrel, June 2nd-13th,
1916—On the night of June 5, 1916, the battalion moved from Divisional
Reserve at Reninghelst and relieved the 42nd, 52nd and 60th battalions
of the 3rd Canadian Division in the Hooge sector at Zouve Wood. Heavy
bombardment from the Germans continued all day of the 6th, but the
battalion stoutly maintained its position and stopped the advance of the
enemy following the blowing of a terrific mine in the 28th battalion
trench at Hooge. The battalion held its position until the night of June
8-9, when it moved out to Ypres. During these (lays in the trenches it
lost 33 in killed, 128 in wounded and 3 missing.
On the night of June 11th the battalion
returned to the same trenches relieving the 27th Battalion. On the 13th
the 1st Canadian Division recaptured Observatory Ridge and Mount Sorrel,
the 31st Battalion protecting the left flank of the attack. After being
subjected to heavy shelling in the captured positions, the battalion
moved out again to Ypres, on the night of the 14th, being relieved by
the 27th battalion. During this part of the fighting the casualties were
Flers-Courcelette, September 15-22,
1916—At 6:20 A. M. September 15th, the 2nd Canadian Division
successfully attacked Candy and Sugar Trenches south of Courcelette. The
31st Battalion operated against Sugar Trench and gained their objective
before 7 A. M. Here they consolidated their new position under heavy
shell fire and maintained it until 6 P. M., when they led units of the
5th and 7th Infantry Brigades to the main attack on Courcelette. In the
afternoon of the 16th, the battalion was withdrawn to Divisional Reserve
at the "Brickfields." In this battle the battalion lost 63 killed, 131
wounded and 53 missing—total 247.
Thiepval, September 26-28, 1916—On
September 26th the 2nd Canadian Division participated with the 1st
Canadian Division on its left in an operation against the German
position on rfhiel)\7al Ridge. At noon the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade
made an assault with the 31st Battalion on the left of the brigade. Due
to wire entanglements, the 31st was held up. A second attack was made by
the 31st at 11 P. M., which was only partially successful, but on the
27th the battalion gained its objective and held in throughout the 28th
and until it was relieved in the early hours of the following morning.
Casualties: killed 60, wounded 209, missing 113—total 382.
At the battle of Ancre Heights (October
1st-November 11th), the 31st Battalion was present but did not engage in
the actual fighting, but a Party of three officers and 170 other ranks
assisted in carrying rations and water to the front line on the 2nd of
Vimy Ridge, April 9-14, 1917—On April 9,
1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked the German
positions on Vimy Ridge. The 6th Infantry Brigade was in Divisional
Reserve at Zero. As the attack proceeded the 6th Brigade passed through
the 4th Infantry Brigade on the "Red Line" and captured the third and
fourth objectives. At 9:35 A. M. it advanced again, gaining its next
objective at 11:30 A. M., when it allowed the 27th Battalion to pass
through on its way to win the next line. On the 10th it remained in
brigade support and withdrew the following day to Divisional Support at
Zivy Cave. Casualties: killed 15, wounded 70, missing 5—total 90.
Fresnoy, May 3-4, 1917—At 3:45 A. M., May
3rd, the village of Fresnoy was attacked by the 1st and 2nd Canadian
Division, each employing one brigade. The 6th Infantry Brigade attacked
with the 27th and 31st battalions. Owing to darkness and uncut wire the
objective was not reached. A new trench was made in front of the enemy
wire which the Germans shelled all through the day. The next day the
battalion retired to brigade support. Casualties: killed 45, wounded
140, missing 56—total 241.
At Hill 70 (August 15-25, 1917), the 31st
Battalion "stood to" in divisional support until the 19th, when the 6th
Brigade took over the front, with the 31st in Brigade Reserve,
furnishing carrying parties and evacuating the wounded.
Passchendaele, October 27-November 10,
1917—The 31st Battalion was engaged in this terrible battle from the 4th
to the 8th of November. At 6 A. M., November 6th, the 1st and 2nd
Canadian Divisions attacked Passchendaele Ridge. Meanwhile, the 31st
moved into the forward area via Ypres, Potijze and Abraham Heights.
About midnight November 5th, they took up a position on the outskirts of
Passchendaele. At 6 A.M.
on the 6th the brigade to which they were
attached attacked and captured the town. During the fighting the 31st
suffered heavy casualties. The brigade, however, constructed a line of
defence and outposts during the day. The following day saw the work of
consolidation and evacuation of the wounded completed. That night at 11
P. M. (November 7), the battalion was relieved and moved to Corps
Reserve at Brandhoek. During the period in the line it captured 90
prisoners and 4 machine guns. Casualties, killed 59, wounded 233,
missing 13—total 305.
When the Germans launched their great
offensive in March, 1918, in the direction of Amiens the 2nd Canadian
Division was in Army Reserve and ready to attack if the enemy broke
through. The 31st Battalion was at Pommier "standing to" ready to move
at a moment's notice.
Amiens, August 8-11, 1918—General
Ludendorff has said that the 8th day of August, 1918, was the darkest
and most terrible day in the history of the German people. It was on
that day that the great British counter offensive to the attack of the
Germans of the previous March was launched, and that the Canadians broke
the German line at Amiens.
The 31st Battalion went. through the
entire battle. The Canadian Corps attacked between Villars Bretonneux
and Hourges, 3rd Division on the right, 1st Division in the centre, and
the 2nd Division on the left.
At 5:40 A. M. the 31st Battalion moved
from the assembly area to Marcel Cave. The 5th Infantry Brigade
continued the advance with the 6th Infantry Brigade in support to Gillan
Court. Then the latter brigade assumed the attack with the 31st on right
front, reaching the desired objective near Caix.
At 11 A. M. on the 9th the advance was
resumed, but was temporarily checked by enemy machine gun fire. The 31st
cleared Rosieres by 4:30 P. M. and gained its position east of the
village, where the 28th Battalion passed through and continued the
attack. At night the 31st relieved the 28th in the outpost line at
Meharicourt-Lihons Road. On the 10th, the 4th Canadian Division passed
through and the 31st withdrew to Rosieres in brigade support, and on the
following day moved back to Caix into Divisional Reserve. Casualties:
killed 29, wounded 215, missing 8— total 252.
During the continuation of the offensive,
operations were carried out by the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions along
the Scarpe River. On August 26th the 6th Infantry Brigade made three
successive attacks, but during these attacks the 31st Battalion was in
Brigade Reserve. During this and the following day, the battalion was
ready to be used in the event of a counter attack. During the 27th, the
4th and 5th Brigades continued the advance to the Sensée River, with the
6th Infantry Brigade in close support. Next day the advance was resumed
in the same formation, the 31st in Divisional support until it was
relieved late that night by the 7th Battalion and moved back to the
Neuville-Vitasse area. Casualties for the five days: killed 7, wounded
66, missing 2—total 75.
September opened with smashing of the
Drocourt-Queant section of the Hindenburg line by the British and
Canadian troops. On September 3rd the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions
advanced. The 31st Battalion moved up to Cherisy and relieved the 7th
Battalion in the front line. On September 4th, the Canadians were
established on the west bank of the Canal du Nord and several (lays were
needed to devise plans for its capture. During the battle, September
27-October 1, for the Canal, the 31st were in the battle area in Corps
Reserve, while the attack was being pushed forward by the 1st, 3rd and
Cambrai, October 8-9, 1918—The battle of
Cambrai was the last great battle of the war, and it has been called the
greatest battle waged by the Canadian Corps. There was still a month of
hard work chasing the Hun with a few major operations to maintain
interest and relieve the monotony of the chase.
In conjunction with the general offensive
operations October 9th, the 2nd Canadian Division attacked from north of
Cambrai at 1:30 A. Al. Under cover of darkness the positions at
Morenchies and Ramillies across the Canal de l'Escaut to Escaudoevres.
The 31st Battalion from a position west of Ramillies attacked northeast
through Cuvillers and by 10 P. M. was lying on the western outskirts of
Thun Leveque. In preparation for the pursuit to Mons the battalion sent
forward strong patrols to clear the assembly positions of the enemy. At
4:30 A. M. on the 10th of October. the battalion jumped off and by 6 A.
M. had captured Thun Leveque and secured possession of the Canal and
bridgeheads, establishing itself during the day. Next clay the
battalion, under orders to advance beyond Hordian, started forward at 9
A. Al., but was held up by heavy barrage of the enemy. Finally the
battalion reached Iwuy at 1 P. M., one thousand yards short of the
objective, which position it held until relieved the following day by
Argyle and Sutherland ]Highlanders, and marched back to Eswars.
Casualties: killed 14, wounded 130, missing 6—total 150.
The final action of the battalion was on
the day of the Armistice (November 11). That morning it marched to the
jumping off position west of St. Symphorien and commenced to attack,
advancing as far as Petit Havre. When at 11 A. M. "cease fire" came, the
battalion moved into billets at Havre.
Honors and Awards—C. M. G. 1; D. S. O. 6;
O. B. E. 3; M. C. 46; D. C. M. 28; M. M. 223.
49TH BATTALION, C. E. F.,
7TH CANADIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE, 3RD CANADIAN DIVISION.
Rattle of Mount Sorrel, June 2-13,
1916—The 49th Battalion arrived in France October 10, 1915, but did not
participate in any engagement until the battle of Mount Sorrel, June,
1916. On June 2nd, the battalion was in Brigade Reserve behind Ypres,
when the enemy attacked at noon and captured the front trenches held by
the 3rd Canadian Division in the Hooge sector. The 49th, with the 52nd,
and 60th battalions, were ordered to counter attack under Colonel W. A.
Griesbach, the officer commanding the 49th battalion. On the 3rd of
June, the 49th moved up under heavy shelling to a point of assembly at
Sanctuary Wood, and were in position at 2:10 A. M. The 52nd and the 60th
battalions did not arrive at the assembly point and the 49th attacked
alone at 7 A. M., retaking the reserve trenches lost on the previous
day, holding the line until relieved on the night of June 4-5, when they
withdrew to Ypres. Casualties: killed 52, wounded 265, missing 69—total
Fiers-Courcelette, September 15-22,
1916—At 6 P. M., September 15th, the 2nd Canadian Division had captured
Courcelette. The 3rd Division held the front from Courcelette to Mouquet
Farm. The 7th Infantry Brigade attacked west of Courcelette with the
Princess Patricia's Light Infantry and the 42nd Battalion. The 49th
Battalion joined the attack at Fabeck Graben Trench which was entered
and consolidated. While still in the front line on the 16th an
unsuccessful attempt was made to occupy Zollern Graben. That night two
companies were relieved, and on the following morning the remaining two
companies were relieved, the whole battalion moving out to Divisional
Reserve at Tara lull and Albert. Casualties: killed 43, wounded 191,
missing 19—total 253.
In this engagement Pte. John Chipman Kerr
was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action on September 16th, when he
led a bombing party against a German garrison, clearing the trench with
grenades and rifles, capturing 62 prisoners and 250 yards of enemy
Ancre Heights, October 1-November 11,
1916—The 49th Battalion took part in this battle on two occasions. On
October 2nd, the 49th moved into the front trenches and relieved some
companies of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, suffering heavy shelling
until relieved October 3rd by the 11th Cheshires, and moved to billets
in the Albert area. On the 7th the battalion returned to the front line
and took over the Zollern Graben Trench from the 42nd Battalion. The
next morning at 4:57 A. M. the battalion attacked Regina Trench, but
heavy fire and wire entanglements held up the assault. Some of the men
of "D" and "C" companies reached the Regina Trench, but were never seen
or heard of again. The remainder of the battalion held on stubbornly in
Kenora Trench and in shell holes until night, when they were relieved by
the 42nd. Casualties in both engagements: killed 54, wounded 157,
missing 63—total 274.
Vimy Ridge, April 9-14, 1917—The battle
of Vimy Ridge was a successful struggle of the Canadian Divisions for
one of the most important strategic positions on the whole Western
Front. The French had lost and the British had failed to take it. For
the first time the four Canadian Divisions attacked side by side. They
moved forward in order of number from the right. Zero hour was 5:30 A.
M., April 9th. The 7th Infantry Brigade attacked with three battalions,
the 49th going forward in close support and mopping u the brigade area,
and also assisting in carrying ammunition, evacuating the wounded and
reinforcing the front line in the final objective. During the 10th the
battalion remained in support, furnishing carrying parties to the front
line, bringing in the wounded and sending out patrols to get in touch
with the enemy. On the 11th, they took over a part of the front held by
the 42nd Battalion and the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry and on the
night of the 12th- 13th, they were relieved in turn by the 43rd
Battalion, and went into brigade reserve. Two days later the battalion
joined the 7th Infantry Brigade in Divisional Reserve. Casualties:
killed 17, wounded 84, missing 11—total 112.
The battalion had a rest from fighting
until August. From the 21st to the 25th of that month, it was in the
battle area at Hill 70. During that period it was in reserve at
Allouagne, while the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions were attacking Hill
70 northwest of Lens, and moved into forward area, taking over the
support line behind the Royal Canadian Regiment, and was relieved by the
42nd on the 27th. Casualties: killed 8, wounded 25—total 33.
Passchendaele, October 26-November 10,
1917—In October, 1917, the Canadian Corps was transferred to the Ypres
salient for the attack on Passchendaele Ridge. The 7th Brigade reached
its destination October 23rd. On the night of the 28th, the 49th
Battalion relieved the 116th Battalion in the front line. Oil 30th the
Canadian Corps attacked with brigades from right to left-12th, 7th, 8th.
The 7th had the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry on the right, and the
49th on the left. The 49th operating at Bellevue jumped off under heavy
fire from rifles and machine guns, sustaining heavy casualties and only
partially winning its objective. A new line was constructed and held
against all counterattacks of the Germans until the 42nd Battalion took
their places on the night of the 31st. Oil 1st the battalion was
withdrawn behind Ypres and the following day moved to Watou. Casualties:
killed 126, wounded 288, missing 29—total 443.
In this battle Pte. Cecil John Kinross
was awarded the Victoria Cross for attacking a machine gun located in
Furst Farm, which was holding up the advance. He rushed the position
against point blank fire, alone and in broad daylight, killing the crew
of six men and destroying the gun.
Amiens, August 8-11, 1918—From December,
1917, to August, 1918, the Canadian Corps was kept out of battle and
resolutely trained for the last great offensive of the war. On August
8th the Canadians went into action, the four divisions attacking the
Amiens-Roye Road and Villers Bretonneux. The divisions in line were the
3rd, 1st and 2nd. The 3rd Canadian Division attacked with the 8th and
9th brigades, the 8th on the north bank of the Luce River, while the 9th
captured Dodo Wood and established a line continuous with that of the
8th in the inner defences of Amiens. The 7th Brigade then passed through
the 9th to the second objective, the 49th in the lead, when the brigade
jumped off at 8:20 A. M., and though the battalion met with stiff
resistance in the woods near the Luce River it gained its objective at
11 A. M. At 12:10 P. M. the 5th Division passed through and the 7th
Brigade bivouacked at its final objective and watched the cavalry and
tanks take up the pursuit of the enemy. Oil 9th the battalion moved
forward and by night reached a position in divisional reserve east of Le
Quesnel. Oil 11th it moved up behind the 42nd, which was in the front
line west of Parvillers. Casualties: killed 10, wounded 51—total 61.
For the next two days fighting continued
intermittently, the 49th and the 42nd clearing the Germans out of their
whole defensive system. On the 15th the 49th captured Blucher Wood, and
the next day moved back to Le Quesnel, retiring to Corps Reserve oil
16th. During these operations, known as the battle of Damery, the
battalion captured 215 prisoners, 51 machine guns, 12 guns, 2 trench
Battle of the Scarpe, Avgust 26-30,
1918—The success at Amiens opened the way for the advance on the
Hindenburg line, with Cambrai as the strategic objective. In the interim
between the battles of Damery and of the Scarpe, the Canadian Corps
moved north to the Arras Front. On the 26th of August the 2nd and 3rd
Divisions attacked east of Arras. The 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade was
given an important part to play in the coming operation. The attack was
launched at 3 A. M., by the 8th Brigade, which reached its objective by
7:40 A. Al., capturing Orange Hill and Monchy Le Preux. Early in the
morning, the 7th Brigade was ordered to pass through the 8th Brigade.
Its attacking line consisted of two battalions and a half battalion on
the left to protect its left flank on the bank of the Scarpe River. This
duty was imposed on the 49th Battalion, two companies of which formed a
screen on the left to the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry. The other
half of the battalion was in reserve to the Princess Patricia's, which
was meeting heavy opposition from the direction of Pelves. "B" and "C"
companies were sent to assist the Patricia's and also encountered heavy
machine gun and shell fire all afternoon. "D" company supplied carrying
and stretcher parties for the P. P. C. L. I. (Princess Patricias'
Canadian Light Infantry), which was tenaciously holding a dangerous
position against German counter attacks. Next day (August 27th) the
attack was carried on by the 9th Brigade and by 7:15 A. M. Bois du Surt
was won, where the advance was stopped, but a company of the 49th
Battalion linked up the divisional line by breaking through the position
of the P. P. C. L. I. Another company moved to the support of the 58th
Battalion. During the night these companies rejoined the battalion for
the attack planned on Pelves and Jigsaw Valley the next day. At 2 A. M.
(August 28th), the 49th Battalion moved forward and took the trenches
south of Pelves, and by 5 A. M. had occu- pied Pelves itself. By 10:30
A. 1\i. it had occupied and consolidated a position about Haversack
Lane. During that forenoon the battalion gave effective protection to
the left flank of the P. P. C. L. I. in the assault upon, and capture of
Jigsaw Wood, and assisting in holding the position against the enemy's
bombardment and counter attacks. On the 29th the battalion moved into
billets in Arras, arriving there at 6:20 A. M. Casualties: 13 killed, 65
wounded—total 78. Captures: 84 prisoners, 15 machine guns, 4 trench
mortars, 3 anti-tank rifles.
Canal du Nord. (September 27-October 1,
1918).—On the opening day of the battle, the Canadian Corps attacked
with the object of crossing the Canal du Nord and seizing Bourlon Wood.
The 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions launched the attack at 5:30 a. in.
(September 27th), and quickly reached the objective at Bourlon Wood.
Meanwhile the 3rd Division came Ui) ready to throw its weight into the
attack. But owing to the narrow front the brigades followed at greater
distances than usual. At 3:30 p. m. on the 27th, the division was in
position. The 7th brigade lay behind with instructions to leap-frog over
the 4th Division at dawn on the 28th and force the Marcoing line from
Sailly to the South in the angle of the ArrasCambrai and Bapaume-Cambrai
Roads and turn northeast and capture Tilloy, Tilloy Hill and the Valley
of Ramillies. The attack was to be led by the Royal Canadian Regiment
with the P. P. C. L. I. and the 49th in support, and when the Marcoing
line was taken, the two battalions were to leap-frog through the Royal
Canadian Regiment and go forward to the final objective at Ramillies.
But the advance was held up at Marcoing and a second attack was launched
by the 49th with the assistance of heavy barrage, getting through to St.
Olle, suffering heavily from the machine guns of the enemy. On the 29th
the attack was resumed by the 49th and 42nd battalions, finding progress
difficult and casualties heavy, but finally reaching the Cambrai-Donai
Road before Tilloy at noon. The next day the battalion, along with the
R. C. R. (Royal Canadian Regiment) and P. P. C. L. I. pushed through and
occupied Tilloy. The next day at 5 a. rn. the 9th brigade passed through
to the attack and the battalions of the 7th brigade, of which the 49th
was one, returned to Bourlon Wood. Casualties: 51 killed, 260 wounded, 8
missing—total 319. Captures: 50 machine guns, 10 trench mortars, 2 field
guns, 2 anti-tank guns and a large quantity of ammunition.
This was the last battle in which the
49th were engaged in actual fighting. They were present at the Grand
Honnelle, November 5th-7th. On the 7th of November the 7th brigade took
over the line, the 49th in support of the P. P. C. L. I. When peace
came, the 49th was billeted in Mons and took part in the march of the
Canadians into Germany.
Honours and awards: V. C. 2; C. B. 1
(Brig.-General W. A. Griesbach) ; C. M. G. 1 (Brig.-General W. A.
Griesbach); D. S. O 7; O. B. E. 3; M. C. 35; D. C. M. 27; M. M. 184;
mention in despatches 44; French Croix de Guerre, 4; Belgian Croix de
5OTH BATTALION, C. E. F.,
10TH CANADIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE, 4TH CANADIAN DIVISION.
The 50th battalion arrived in France
August 11, 1916. The battalion's first experience was at Ancre Heights,
though it took only a minor part. Its first taste of actual fighting was
in the line North of Courcelette on October 14th, where it relieved the
44th, holding the line until the night of the 17th. Fighting was not
severe, the casualties being 1 killed and 43 wounded. On the 20th the
battalion returned to the line and the next day sent "A" Company to
assist the 87th battalion in holding Regina Trench. It continued
relieving various battalions in the front line until November 9th.
During the period it was in the battle area its casualties were killed
9, wounded 89.
Battle of the Ancre (November 13-18).—On
November 14th the battalion moved from brigade reserve East of Albert in
the front line and remained there until the 16th, returning to the
trenches on the 18th. At 6:10 a. m. that day "A" and "B" companies
jumped-off and attacked enemy trenches 300 yards in advance of Regina
Trench. After inflicting heavy losses and taking one hundred prisoners,
the two companies were forced to return to Regina Trench. Casualties
Vimy Ridge (April 944, 1917).—At Virny
Ridge during the attack on the opening, the 50th battalion was in
reserve. On the 10th at 10:15 a. m. the battalion went into action and
captured Hill 145, with 125 prisoners and two machine guns, but suffered
heavy casualties. On the 12th, it was again in action for an attack on
the Pimple. Zero hour was 5 a. m. A blinding snow storm was raging, but
the men pressed forward bombing and bayonetting the Germans out of their
trenches, winning all objectives by 5:45 a. m. and suffering few
casualties. The next day (April 13th), the battalion moved forward at
5:30 a. m. and reached a distance of 1,100 yards, establishing a new
line north of Givenchy, which was handed over to the 1st battalion at
8:30 p. m. the same day. Casualties: 66 killed, 143 wounded, 62
The Victoria Cross was awarded to Pte. J.
G. Pattison for his action on April 10th, when the attack was held tip
by a machine gun nest. Pte. Pattison advanced alone, and against point
black fire bombed the nest, putting the guns out of action. He then
bayonetted the German crews. The advance then continued and all
objectives were gained. Pte. Pattison was killed June 2nd following.
The Souchez River Affair (June 3-25,
1917).—At midnight on the 2nd- 3rd of June, the 10th brigade attacked
the German positions from La Coulette to the Souchez River. The 50th
battalion on the left, operated against an electric generating station,
taking the station after desperate fighting. On account of the
difficulty of digging trenches in the hard chalk and the severe shelling
of the enemy, the battalion withdrew to its old line. Heavy losses were
inflicted on the enemy and 54 prisoners brought in. On the 4th the
battalion was relieved and moved out to divisional reserve at Chateau de
la Ilaie. It continued in the battle area until the enu of the affair in
divisional support and in the front line. From the 20th to the 25th the
battalion held the front line advancing the same to conform with
advances made by other units. Casualties for the period: 64 killed, 244
wounded, 32 missing—total 340.
Hill 70 (Augu.t 15-25, 1917).—The 50th
battalion moved into the forward area on the 19th on the outskirts of
Lens. On the 21st, while assembling for attack, the battalion was
heavily shelled, suffering over 100 casualties. At 4:30 a. m. the attack
was made, but without success, a few men reaching the objective and
after holding on for several hours were compelled to retire. At 6 p. m.
an attack was made by bombing on Aloof Trench, and the next three days
were spent in improving the position gained, which was handed over to
the 87th. Casualties: killed 57, wounded 280, missing 33—total 370.
Second Passchendaele (October 26-November
10, 1917) .—The battle opened with an attack by the 3rd and 4th Canadian
Divisions southwest of Passchendaele, the 10th brigade crossing the
divisional front with the 46th battalion. At 5 :40 a. m. the 46th
attacked with the 50th in support, "D" Company moving forward with the
attacking troops. All objectives were reached and "C" and "D" Companies
of the 50th under the officer commanding the 46th assisted in holding
the position. In the afternoon strong enemy counter-attacks forced the
50th and 46th back to the jumping-off line. That night the battalion
moved out to brigade reserve. The next night (October 27th) the
battalion "stood to" ready to assist the 44th and 47th, remaining so
until relieved by the 72nd battalion on the night of the 28th, when it
moved to Divisional Reserve at Brandhoek. Casualties: 27 killed, 78
Amiens (August 8-11, 1918).—As pointed
out in dealing with the 49th battalion, the 3rd, 1st and 2nd Divisions
attacked the enemy line south of Villers-Bretonneux. The 4th division
was in Corps reserve. At 12:40 p. in. this division passed through the
3rd division on the intermediate objective and carried the attack to the
final objective. During this operation, the 50th battalion was in
divisional reserve, and following the advance passed Bois de Gentilles
and crossed the Luce River at noon, and reached F eronne Wood at night.
At 2 p. m. the 1st and 3rd divisions passed through and occupied
Bobchoir, Folies, Beaufort and Rouvry. At 8 p. rn. the 50th relieved the
85th in the line. The next day at 10:15 a. m. the 10th and 12th Canadian
infantry brigades attacked in the direction of Hattencourt, and Hallu,
the 50th battalion in support of the 46th, which captured Mancourt and
reached its objective. Here the 50th was to leapfrog through the 46th.
The advance was held up at Fouquecourt. At 7:20 p. m. the 50th assaulted
and lighting their way forward, took prisoners and machine guns and
reached Hallu. A strong enemy counterattack developed next forenoon. It
was successfully checked, but the line was withdrawn to a position one
thousand yards from the railway in front of Hallu. That night the 50th
retired from the line, giving place to the 46th battalion. Casualties:
39 killed, 184 wounded, 22 missing—total 245.
On the 28th of August, the 50th moved
from Amiens to the area east of Arras, resting and training for the
battle of Drocourt-Queant Line.
Drocouit-Qucant Line (September 2-3,
1918) .—The Drocourt-Queant line was the last stronghold of the Bosche
in Northern France, and the Germans exerted their supremest effort to
hold it. The attack against this formidable system of trenches began on
September 2nd, the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions advancing astride the
Arras-Cambrai Road. At 5 a. m. that morning the 50th battalion assaulted
behind an intense and devastating barrage, covering 500 yards to the
enemy front line, clearing the trenches with bombs and bayonets. In this
assault 1,000 prisoners, 90 machine guns, 2 anti-tank guns and a large
quantity of other war material were taken. After the rapture of the
first four lines of the DrocourtQueant trench system had been completed
by the 50th, the 46th passed through and captured Dury. On September
3rd, the advance was continued, the 50th covering the 44th and driving
the enemy back on the Canal du Nord. Casualties: 33 killed, 210
Canal du Nord (September 27-October 1,
1918).—On September 27th the 1st and 4th Divisions launched the attack
for the Canadians across the Canal du Nord on the way to Cambrai. The
3rd Division was to pass through the 4th Division on the following day
and continue the attack. At 5:30 a. in. on the 27th, the 10th infantry
brigade, operating towards BourIon Wood, attacked the first objective
led by the 46th battalion, the 50th being in support. The objective—the
Marquion Line—was carried. Here the 11th and 12th brigades continued the
advance. On the following day (September 28th), at 5:20 a. m. the 50th
battalion jumped-off from its position northeast of Bourlon Wood and
advanced across the Arras-Cambrai Road, passing Raillencourt and Sailly
to the Marcoing Line, where the 46th battalion passed through to the
Cambrai-Douai Road. Next day (September 29th) the line was taken over by
the 12th Infantry Brigade and the 50th battalion moved back to Bourlon
Wood in divisional reserve. Casualties: 32 killed, 214 wounded—total
Valenciennes (November 1-2, 1918).—The
50th battalion terminated its arduous service in France at the battle of
Valenciennes, or the capture of Mont Houy. On the 1st day of November,
the 10th Infantry Brigade attacked Mount buy at 5:15 a. m. and captured
the position of the enemy and advancing northeast to the edge of
Valenciennes. The 50th battalion, closely supporting the 47th battalion,
mopped up the area taken and formed a defensive flank along the west
bank of La Rhonelle River. At 12:30 a. m. the following morning the 50th
relieved the 47th in the front line. The 11th and 12th infantry then
took up the advance and occupied Valenciennes and the 50th moved back
into divisional reserve at Trith St. Leger. Casualties: 5 killed, 39
wounded, 85 gassed—total 129.
Honours and awards: V. C. 1; D. S. O. 6;
M. C. 34; D. C. M. 23; M. M. 227; M. S. M. 10; mention in despatches 27;
Belgian Croix de Guerre 3; Russian Cross of St. George 6.
Note:—The details of the various battles
given in the above chapter were furnished by the Department of National
Defence, Ottawa, through the kindness of G. J. Desbarats, Esq., C. M. G.
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