Going Beyond Vimy

04.14.12

Shock Army of the British Empire

national-post

In my column this week for the National Post, I explain some of Canada's outstanding military achievements:

You could learn a lot about Canada’s national psyche from the country’s enduring fascination with the battle of Vimy Ridge, fought 95 years ago this past week.

Canadians fought dozens of major battles during the First World War. Yes, Vimy was the most tactically spectacular: One of the best-planned, best-executed Allied operations of the whole war. Vimy fully deserves the honour it carries in the national memory.

But the exclusive attention to Vimy obscures other Canadian achievements even more deserving of honour.

Who remembers now the Battle of Amiens in August, 1918? Yet it was this battle that broke the spirit of the German Army in the West. German troops broke and ran before a Canadian and Australian-led assault: the first German rout of the war. Between August and November, Canadians spearheaded a sequence of attacks that destroyed the German army’s will to fight.

Those battles — collectively known as the Hundred Days — have been brilliantly summarized in a short book that, if it were up to me, would be assigned to every high school student in Canada: Shane Schreiber’s Shock Army Of The British Empire.

By Schreiber’s tally, the 100,000 Canadians who fought in the Hundred Days met almost one-quarter of the entire remaining German army on the Western Front: Forty-seven German divisions against four Canadians. The Canadian forces fought alongside an Australian/New Zealand contingent. The three Dominions together engaged some 40% of the German army.

Click here to read the full column.