Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source4
A report on Canadian troops, with photographs, 1915-17
(a. The National Archives: PRO 30/57/51, b. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum: CO 2196A, c. Imperial War Museum: Q442)
  • Source 4a comes from a report written by Major General Sir Henry Rawlinson to Field Marshal Lord Kitchener in 1915.
  • Kitchener was a personal friend of Rawlinson, as well as being the man in charge of supplying the British forces in France.
  • Rawlinson was a senior officer in the British Army. He was an experienced officer and most military historians regard him as a good commander. However, his reputation was damaged by the terrible losses suffered on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
  • Here Rawlinson comments on the Canadian troops. In general, his comments are very positive, although he has some reservations about the inexperienced Canadian officers.
  • Source 4b is a photograph of Canadian Scots in a reserve trench on the western front in November 1917. They are cleaning a Lewis gun. Canadian Scots were from the Canadian Scottish Regiment (also known as the Princess Mary's).
  • Source 4c shows Canadian infantry of the 1st Canadian Division in the trenches at Ploegsteert on 20 March 1916.
  • Around 30,000 Canadians volunteered to serve in the Canadian Corps when the Great War broke out. By the end of the war, almost 600,000 Canadians had served, suffering around 210,000 casualties.
  • Some military historians believe that the Canadians were the best troops in the trenches. One reason they were so good was that they were paid for by the Canadian government. The government insisted that the Canadian divisions should always fight together and not be spread out among other forces. This meant that communication and morale was usually very good.
  • This was shown in probably their greatest success, the capture of Vimy Ridge. This was a piece of high ground, which the Germans had been fortifying since September 1914. The Canadians stormed it after an accurate bombardment by British artillery in April 1917.
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