Wartime

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Canadians Moving to Germany

The Film

Year
1918

Running Time
07 min 56 s

Producer
Canadian War Records Office, Ministry of Information

This footage documents the arrival in Bonn of British cavalry units on December 12, 1918, and the arrival the next day of the 2nd Canadian Division. Events are not depicted in their actual sequence. A segment filmed along a country road showing Currie taking the salute from passing troops — some on horseback and others pushing bicycles — was probably shot in the Bonn area during the same period. This is followed by scenes shot at the Canadian Corps Headquarters, where Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig is paying a formal visit. In a separate segment, a travelling shot shows a line of mounted Canadian staff officers.

December 13 was the date set by the Allies for crossing the Rhine — an event with even greater significance than crossing the German border. In the days leading up to this day, Canadian troops had been concentrating on the riverbanks opposite the cities of Cologne and Bonn. On December 12, the 1st British Cavalry Brigade, which had come under Currie's command on December 1, along with some Canadian artillery units, crossed the Rhine at Bonn, securing the area for the arrival of Canadian troops. The scenes showing Currie mounted on his horse Brock, with the bridge in the distance, were filmed on this day. Currie is backed by his staff and an escort from the Canadian Light Horse, wearing Stetson hats, and he is shown taking the salute from the British cavalry as they come off the bridge. Currie would spend that night in the suite of the Kaiser’s youngest sister at the Palais Schaumberg — although the princess herself was not present!

The following day, under pouring rain, the men of the 2nd Canadian Division, commandeered by Major-General Sir H.E. “Harry” Burstall, entered the city. The parade of troops was 18 km (eleven miles) long and took over five hours to cross the bridge. Some scenes from this momentous event are documented here — in the sections that show Currie standing on a dais to the left of the bridge. Although the clip does not depict the parade in its actual sequence, we know that troops marched in order of seniority. The only Highland unit in the 2nd Division was the 25th Battalion from Nova Scotia, and they can be identified from their kilts. At the same time, about 32 km (20 miles) to the north, a similar event was taking place in Cologne, where citizens lined the streets to witness the arrival of the 1st Canadian Division as they too crossed the river to take control of that city.

Note the presence of a small Canadian Red Ensign on the dais — one of the first instances of its use by the Canadian Army in the field, and a sign of the greater sense of Canadian nationhood that had emerged over the course of the First World War. The Union Jack, the flag normally used by Canadians during the war, can also be seen, to the left of the frame.

In the scene filmed along the country road, Currie is inspecting men from the Corps Artillery. These units of heavy artillery came under the direct control of the Canadian Corps headquarters and were moved wherever the Corps commander determined they were needed most.


Pieces of History

The Commanders

Canada's Mounted Troops


Images

Currie Takes the Salute at Bonn Sir Arthur Currie with Field Marshal Haig

Other Materials

Sir Arthur William Currie

The March to the Rhine

Letter from Sager to his family, Nov. 17, 1918