Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Maps

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p. vii

Abbreviations

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pp. viii-xiv

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Foreword

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pp. xv-xvi

“I just thought they’d always be here!” I remember the words vividly; they were spoken in the early 1990s by LCol Colin MacKay, CD, who had commanded the battalion in the 1960s; his father LCol Ernest MacKay commanded in the 1920s; Ernie MacKay was an original 91st officer, a 19th Battalion officer, and ended the war as a brevet major. Colin had been contemplating the forthcoming publication ...

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Preface

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pp. xvii-xxii

It seems difficult to imagine now, but there was a time when I had not heard of the 19th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). During my youth I could name only a small number of Canadian military units that served overseas between 1914 and 1918. As my interest in the history of the First World War grew, the 19th Battalion became, to me, ...

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1. Recruiting and Mobilization: 1914–15

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pp. 1-30

With a flurry of war declarations, the peace of Europe was shattered in late July and early August 1914. On 28 June the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ignited a diplomatic crisis that brought about war between two opposing international alliances. On one side was the alliance led by Germany and Austria-Hungary ...

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2. Training in England: May–September 1915

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pp. 31-46

On 13 May the two trains carrying the 19th Battalion finally reached Montreal. Upon detraining during a heavy rain, the men were assembled at the berth of the RMS Scandinavian, and by 7:45 am all ranks had settled into their assigned quarters. The ship slipped out into the St. Lawrence at 11 am to the sound of cheering crowds and booming horns from surrounding vessels. The 19th Battalion was on its way at last. ...

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3. Life in the Trenches: September–December 1915

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pp. 47-64

The English Channel was alive with activity during the nights between 13 and 17 September as units of the 2nd Canadian Division were ferried across to France. Hot, humid weather on the night of 14–15 September combined with choppy seas to make the trip an uncomfortable affair for the men of the 19th Battalion aboard the SS Queen. But they did not feel as isolated as they had during their voyage across the Atlantic. ...

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4. Waging Trench Warfare: September 1915–March 1916

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pp. 65-88

The 19th Battalion’s two tours in the D trenches, beginning on 20 September 1915, introduced the men to the basics of trench warfare. Following this prelude, the battalion did thirteen successive tours in the M and N trenches between 14 October 1915 and 27 February 1916. After that it was transferred a short distance northeast, where it was placed in the P trenches near Voormezeele on the evening of 5 March. ...

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5. Trial by Fire: St-Eloi, April 1916

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pp. 89-110

After the opposing Allied and German armies failed to gain a decisive advantage through manoeuvre in late 1914, the battlefront in France and Belgium congealed and both sides set about devising solutions to what has been termed the “riddle of the trenches.”1 The Germans, wisely trading a certain amount of space for tactical superiority, tended to establish their defensive positions on higher ground, ...

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6. “Trying the Nerves”: May–July 1916

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pp. 111-134

The chill, wet weather of April gradually gave way in May to sunnier and warmer conditions. But occasional rain showers and a high water table kept some sectors of the Western Front perpetually damp and muddy.1 The 19th Battalion, weary from its work at St-Eloi, had been stationed in corps reserve at Reninghelst since 27 April and remained there through the first week of May. Pte. John F. Mould, ...

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7. A Daylight Coup and Departing Belgium: 29 July–August 1916

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pp. 135-154

Near the end of the 19th Battalion’s marathon tour in the trenches from 16 to 31 July 1916 came an event often spoken of in subsequent years – the battalion’s trench raid on the morning of 29 July. As noted earlier, by late 1915 aggressive patrols had evolved into highly organized trench raids carried out under cloak of darkness. ...

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8. Preparing for Battle: 28 August–15 September 1916

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pp. 155-174

Having established its billets at Nordausques on 28 August, the 19th Battalion embarked on a seven-day course of intensive training, the first three days of which focused specifically on the familiar skill sets of musketry and bombing while also highlighting various facets of communication. Getting information back and forth between forward platoons and companies and battalion headquarters to the rear ...

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9. Fighting at the Somme: 15 September–3 October 1916

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pp. 175-200

At precisely 6:24 am, the artillery barrage lifted from the German front line. With a blast of the officers’ whistles, the soldiers in the leading waves of the 4th Brigade leapt, crawled, or staggered to their feet and lurched forward over the smoking and pitted ground, adrenaline surging and every nerve firing at fever pitch. Although the instinct for self-preservation would push most men to run to the nearest bit of cover, it was difficult for them to move quickly, ...

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10. A “Most Uneventful Tour”: October 1916–March 1917

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pp. 201-222

The year 1916 had been a severe testing time for the Canadian Corps. The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions received bloody baptisms of fire in their first major operations at St-Eloi and Mont Sorrel. The 4th Canadian Division arrived at the front in August and would cut its operational teeth in the Battle of the Somme. The Somme was the awful proving ground where the Canadians survived their first extended series of large-scale attacks, ...

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11. “An Easter Gift” – Vimy Ridge: 25 March–9 April 1917

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pp. 223-254

In spite of the central place Vimy Ridge occupies in Canadian memory of the First World War, its assault was a subsidiary operation designed to support larger British and French offensives to the south. The new French commander-in-chief, Gen. Robert Nivelle, had orchestrated an ambitious scheme with French and British forces attacking the southern and northern portions of a great German-held salient between Soissons and Arras. ...

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12. A Bloody Setback: 10 April–1 July 1917

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pp. 255-274

After capturing and consolidating its portion of the Black Line at Vimy, the 19th Battalion advanced to positions along the Red Line on 10 April, where it relieved the 21st Battalion and a portion of the 5th Brigade. Lt.-Col. Millen’s men now occupied a stretch of line from the 2nd Canadian Division’s southern boundary north to a position known as Cramer Haus, which lay along Turko Graben. ...

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13. “The Worst Ever”: July–August 1917 and the Battle for Hill 70

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pp. 275-298

On 8 July, Lt.-Col. Millen received orders to move the battalion to Fosse 10, located between Bully and Hersin, where the men would stay in scattered billets, still in divisional reserve.1 Two days later, on 10 July, the 19th Battalion was ordered up to the front lines to relieve the 24th Battalion in the right sub-section of the Lens sector. With his battalion now well up to strength, ...

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14. “A Dirty, Dirty Country”: September–November 1917 and the Battle for Passchendaele

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pp. 299-322

At Villers-au-Bois the 19th Battalion took up the familiar routine of training when out of the lines. Platoon and company drill, along with rifle-range practice, figured highly in the weekly training syllabi. “We have just come out of the line,” Pte. John Gaetz informed his mother on 26 August, “and of course you will know from the papers that to be in the line these days, you are not idle. ...

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15. Days of Uncertainty: November 1917–March 1918

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pp. 323-338

On the battlefields of France and Flanders, the bloodletting of 1916 continued with a vengeance throughout 1917. For the British, initial successes in the battles of Arras and at Messines were overshadowed by tortuous progress and enormous casualties in the grinding struggle to capture Passchendaele. Catastrophic losses in the failed Nivelle offensive, coupled with poor service conditions, had driven elements of the French armies to open mutiny, ...

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16. “It Was Pretty Lively”: 21 March–June 1918

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pp. 339-364

On the morning of 21 March 1918, the long-awaited storm finally broke. On the heels of a ferocious five-hour bombardment, storming parties from among over seventy divisions of the German 2nd, 17th, and 18th Armies surged forward through a thick fog. They smashed into the defences held by twenty-six infantry divisions of the British Third and Fifth Armies positioned between Arras and La Fère. ...

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17. Prelude to Victory: July–7 August 1918

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pp. 365-382

After a gruelling three-month stint of trench warfare in the Third Army, it was a relief for the men of the 19th Battalion and the rest of the 2nd Canadian Division to be out of the lines and back with the Canadian Corps. Little did they know, at the beginning of July 1918, that they were on the threshold of the longest and hardest period of sustained fighting in the entire war. ...

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18. The Battle of Amiens and Its Aftermath: 8–18 August 1918

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pp. 383-418

The Battle of Amiens began, as so many others had before it, with a bang. At zero hour on 8 August, the Allied artillery thundered in unison and rained shells at a merciless rate upon the unsuspecting front-line garrisons of the German 2nd Army. “They had those guns for miles, wheel to wheel and one layer after another,” remembered Joe O’Neill. “They were poked out through bushes, ...

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19. Arras: 19–31 August 1918

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pp. 419-438

In accordance with Lt.-Gen. Currie’s recommendations, the British high command pulled the Canadian Corps out of the Amiens sector, and on 19 August the corps began to move north in order to rejoin Gen. Sir Henry Horne’s British First Army. In securing Marshal Foch’s agreement to wind up the offensive east of Amiens, Field Marshal Haig committed his forces to a renewed effort elsewhere on the front. ...

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20. Cambrai and Iwuy: 1 September–13 October 1918

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pp. 439-464

During the final two days of August, the 2nd Canadian Division remained in corps reserve while the much fresher 1st Canadian and 4th British Divisions, along with Brutinel’s Brigade,1 completed the job of driving through the Fresnes– Rouvroy defences and a portion of the Vis-en-Artois Switch. Then they cleared the approaches to the Drocourt–Quéant Line, ...

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21. Long Road to Mons: 14 October–11 November 1918

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pp. 465-490

Upon exchanging fronts with XXII Corps, the Canadian Corps occupied the central sector of the British First Army, still facing the formations of the German 17th Army. Also still in the Canadians’ path were the Escaut and Sensée canals, both of which were surrounded by occasional stretches of marshy or flooded terrain. Being situated in the corps’ right-hand sector, the 2nd Canadian Division ...

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22. Going Home – Eventually: 12 November 1918–25 May 1919

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pp. 491-520

Like Cpl. Gaetz, countless individuals on both sides of no man’s land could scarcely imagine daily life outside the realities of the conflict that had gripped them in its bloody maw. Yet once the shock of disbelief began to wear off, many Canadian troops would have felt a sense of victorious exultation, a sense that they had prevailed, mingled with elation at the prospect of finally going home. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 521-530

With the demobilization of its personnel, the 19th Battalion effectively ceased to exist as an operational unit in May 1919. However, its official disbandment would not be proclaimed until 15 September 1920, four years to the day after its members went over the top in their first full-scale attack at Courcelette, and exactly five years after they first landed in France. ...

Appendix A – Monthly Casualties

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pp. 531-534

Appendix B – Discipline in France and Flanders

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pp. 535-548

Appendix C – Commanding Officers of the 19th Battalion

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p. 549

Appendix D – Honours and Awards

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pp. 550-554

Notes

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pp. 555-638

Index

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pp. 639-656

Further Series Titles

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