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Canada's Sons in the Great War

Canada's Sons in the Great War

by George Callas Nasmith

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The rugged strength of the Canadian is depicted in his broad shoulders, deep chest and strong, clean-cut limbs. His eyes are keen and steady, while behind the calm gravity of his mien lies a tenacious and indomitable will. These are the invaluable gifts of our deep forests and lofty mountains, of our rolling plains and our great waterways, and of the clear light of our Northern skies, gifts which have enabled the Canadian to adapt himself readily and well to the new conditions he found confronting him as a soldier. In the vigour of their bodies and the strength of their character we find the secret of their endurance to the dreadful sufferings and hardships of the earliest days of warfare, when the trenches were most primitive, and the comforts almost nil. I recall that the First Canadian division was in the line continuously for fifteen months from May, 1915, to August, 1916. And a greater demand still was made on these qualities of endurance in the last hundred days of the war when, fighting bitterly every day for every foot of ground against almost fifty German divisions, they penetrated the German defensive organizations to a depth exceeding in the aggregate one hundred and fifty-five thousand yards, captured nearly thirty-two thousand prisoners, more than six hundred and twenty pieces of artillery and thousands of machine guns.

Wide awake, and full of intelligent initiative, we see them engaging early in daring night patrols, models of hunting craft. To them there was no No Man's Land. What is usually called such was ours, and regarded merely as an outpost of our fixed position. Later they initiated the daring cutting-out raids, which were soon to become a feature of trench warfare.

Their thirst for accurate information, for maps, for models, for aeroplane photos and sketches of their front was most striking, and what good use they made of this information! In the preparation of trench-to-trench attacks it was an interesting as well as an inspiring sight to see junior officers, N. C. O.'s and men gathered together about the models and maps of the area to be attacked, studying these and discussing the details of the operation, and often as a result of these discussions suggesting modifications of the original plan, which I on many occasions was only too pleased to accept. All these officers and men were soon to go over the top. Some of them would be killed, many wounded, but they were not giving a thought to this aspect of the situation. They were engrossed in their task, enamoured with the technique of their art, their minds were concentrated on the operation, and in the working out of the details which were to secure them such striking success.

Death had for them no peril. Our men could give lessons of stoicism to Roman soldiers. A little incident well illustrates their attitude in this respect. It was during the battle of the Somme in August, 1916. Many of the readers of this volume will recall the headquarters dug-out in the cemetery near Pozieres. In front of the entrance to this dug-out a runner had been killed early in the morning. He had been buried up to the waist by the shell, the upper part of his body stood up and the head was leaning forward. Runners were constantly arriving from the front line with information. On entering headquarters they had to pass this body, that of their chum they all knew, and whom anybody could see they liked. Each took a good look at him and with the remark: "Hello, poor Jim! Bad luck!" passed on. The shelling was heavy and the machine-gun fire most violent. The same fate might soon overtake any of these runners, for death faced them all, yet that fact left them undisturbed. What mattered at the moment was their job, nothing else; and I pray you, gentle reader, do not believe that these men were callous. There was more tenderness in their hearts than words can tell. One cannot forget that at any time any man would gladly, freely and voluntarily risk his life to bring in a wounded comrade. Our records are full of such deeds, and if Victoria Crosses were given in this war for the saving of human life at the risk of one's own, Canadian soldiers could boast ten times the sixty-four they now so proudly wear.

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940012492395
Publisher: Nimble Books LLC
Publication date: 05/07/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
File size: 5 MB

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