Canadian Corps

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The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September of 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The Corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December of 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August of 1916. In February of 1917 the organization of a 5th Canadian Division began but in February of 1918 before it was fully formed, it was broken up and its men used to reinforce the four divisions fighting at the front.

The soldiers, two-thirds of whom were British-born, were mostly volunteers, as conscription wasn’t implemented until the end of the war. Ultimately, only 24,132 conscripts made it to France before 11 November 1918.

Although the Corps was within and under the command of the British Army, there was considerable pressure among Canadian leaders, especially following the Battle of the Somme, that the Corps fight as a single unit rather than piece mealing the divisions through the whole army. Originally commanded by Lieutenant General Sir E.A.H. Alderson until 1916, command was then passed on to Lieutenant General Sir Julian Byng, later, Lord Byng of Vimy and Governor-General of Canada. When Byng was promoted to a higher command during the summer of 1917, he was succeeded by the commander of the 1st Division, General Sir Arthur Currie, giving the Corps its first Canadian commander.

In the later stages of the war, the Canadian Corps, like the Australian Corps, was among the most effective and respected of the military formations on the Western Front.

The Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge in one of the most successful and daring attacks of the war. Between August 8 and 11 1918, the Corps spearheaded the offensive during the Battle of Amiens. Here a significant defeat was inflicted on the Germans which compelled the German commander-in-chief, General Erich Ludendorff, to call August 8 "the black day of the German army." This battle marked the start of the period of the war referred to as Canada's Hundred Days. After Amiens, the Canadian Corps continued to lead the vanguard of an Allied push that ultimately ended on 11 November 1918 at Mons where the British Empire had first met in conflict with Imperial German forces in 1914.

At the end of war the Canadian 1st and 2nd Divisions took part in the occupation of Germany and the Corps was eventually demobilized in 1919. Upon their return home the veterans were greeted by large and welcoming crowds all across the country.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force lost 60,661 dead during the war. That is 9.28% of the 619,636 who enlisted.


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