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Canadians at Mons

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Year
1918

Running Time
03 min 31 s

Producer
Canadian War Records Office, Ministry of Information

This clip begins with a brief segment shot in Valenciennes, France, probably on November 2, 1918, the day the town was captured by the Allied forces. It shows the French President Raymond Poincaré being received by the officers and men of the 4th Canadian Division, who had assumed a leading role in the operation. We also see images of Poincarré delivering a speech. This is followed by a lengthy sequence documenting the Canadian troops’ victory parade through the Grande Place, the main square in Mons, Belgium, on November 11, 1918, the last day of the war.

The Canadian 4th Division was under the command of Major-General David Watson, who we see briefly in the Valenciennes segment of this clip. He’s the smiling officer with a moustache, one of several officers walking toward the camera while reviewing troops. Watson appears in the line just before the French officers enter the frame. In the celebrations that followed the liberation of Valenciennes, the senior British officers refused the Canadian request to be given pride of place in recognition of their role in recapturing the city. Irritated by what they saw as the Canadian officers’ nationalist pretensions, the British dominated the victory ceremonies and Watson would remember the event in his diary as a “frosty affair.”

It was a different story nine days later in Mons, following the success of the 3rd Canadian Division under the command of Major-General F.O.W. Loomis. Here General Currie ordered a victory parade with representation from every unit in the Canadian Corps. One can only imagine the profound emotion and relief among the Canadian Corps as they marched across the town square, marking the end of the most destructive war the world had ever known. The town had enormous significance, as it was in Mons that British troops had fought their first major battle in August 1914.

A large section of this victory parade is documented here. The reviewing officer is out of sight to the left, his presence made clear by the acknowledgement of passing men. The first troops, cyclists from the Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion, are followed by a detachment of the Canadian Field Artillery. Following the ‘Corps Troops’ — those under the direct authority of the Corps Commander — are soldiers from the Canadian Corps’ subordinate formations, in this case the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Leading this section are the 5th Lancers, a British cavalry regiment that had been attached to the Canadians during the capture of Mons. There was also a sentimental reason for their presence, as they were among the British units that had first fought the Germans in Mons in August 1914. Following them are soldiers of the Canadian Light Horse, some carrying dress parade lances and other rifles, either ‘at the ready’ or in their buckets. Following them are the four infantry battalions of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade with representative detachments. First is the Royal Canadian Regiment, followed by the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Following them, in kilts, are the men of Montreal’s 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada), better known as the Canadian Black Watch. The final infantry detachment is from the 49th Battalion, now known as the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. The final sequences show a motorcyclist and an armoured car from the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, the first armoured unit in the world.

The commander of the 7th Brigade was Brig-General J. A. Clark, who at 32 was one of the youngest Canadian officers. Clark would return to Mons several times in his long life for commemorative reunions.


Pieces of History

Canada's Mounted Troops

The Commanders


Images

42nd Highlanders First in Mons, France Military Parade during World War I, [ca. 1918] Military Parade Float of the “Flying Boat” during World War I, [ca. 1918]

Other Materials

The Capture of Mons