Wartime

Wartime

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Canadians Advance Near Cambrai 3

The Film

Year
1918

Running Time
08 min 53 s

Producer
Canadian War Records Office, Ministry of Information

By the end of September 1918 the Canadians were nearing Cambrai, the key to the enemy defensive position in northern France. Blocking their way was the 30-metre-wide Canal du Nord, a defensive obstacle of major proportions. The Canadian Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, was equal to the task, however, and he chose to send his men across an unfinished and dry 1200-metre section of the canal rather than to stage a waterborne assault. In what has been called the finest Canadian action of the Great War, 50,000 soldiers funnelled through this narrow corridor on September 27 and guaranteed the fall of Cambrai. In the weeks since August 8, the Canadian Corps had smashed a substantial portion of the German army, but it had lost 31,000 men killed and wounded. There would be still more casualties in the next six weeks: in all, some 20 percent of the Canadian casualties in the Great War came in the open warfare (as opposed to trench fighting) of The Hundred Days.

The film clips show the devastation of the countryside before Cambrai, villages like Havrincourt ruined and torched. German signs on buildings demonstrate that the enemy had settled in during its four years of occupation, even renaming Peronne’s railway station a Hauptbahnhof. Retreating German troops always destroyed what they could not carry away, and a factory at Ste Emile lay in ruins. There are also some striking shots of the dry section of the Canal du Nord, showing the size of the obstacle Canadian soldiers had to breach.


Pieces of History

Military Logistics of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914–1919


Images

Ruins of the Grand Palace, Cambrai Heavy Shells Exploding in Cambrai Ruined French Village, 1914-1918

Other Materials

The Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood


Teaching Materials

Images of War