Canada and the First World War


4 August 1914: Canada at War

When Britain went to war on 4 August, all colonies and dominions of the British Empire, like Canada and Newfoundland, were automatically at war.

22 August 1914: War Measures Act

Canada passed the War Measures Act in order to provide the government with new and intrusive powers to prosecute the war. These powers included censorship, the right to detain and arrest Canadians, and the right to take control over any property.

22 April 1915: Battle of Second Ypres

In Canada’s first major battle, the outnumbered Canadian Division faced the first use of chlorine gas as a battlefield agent. A third of the force, or 6,000 soldiers, were killed, wounded, or captured, but the Canadians kept the Germans from breaking through.

1 July 1916: Beaumont Hamel

The Newfoundland Regiment went into battle at Beaumont Hamel as part of a general British offensive on 1 July 1916. Due to error and miscalculation, the Regiment attacked through uncut barbed wire against heavy machine-gun fire. Within 30 minutes, 324 of its 801 soldiers were dead or missing, and another 386 were wounded.

9 to 12 April 1917: Battle of Vimy Ridge

Canadians successfully attacked the German-held strongpoint of Vimy Ridge. The thoroughly planned and executed victory has become a post-war symbol for Canadian identity and independence.

15 to 25 August 1917: Battle of Hill 70

In an important victory, the Canadians captured the high point of Hill 70 on the outskirts of Lens, France. The battle further secured Sir Arthur Currie’s reputation as an innovative commander of the Canadian Armed Forces. Success came at the high cost of over 9,000 killed and wounded Canadians.

20 September 1917: Wartime Elections Act

In preparation for an election mainly on the issue of conscription (mandatory military service) the government changed the election rules. Some Canadian women were able to vote for the first time, while other Canadians lost their right to vote in sweeping changes to enfranchisement.

26 October to 10 November 1917: Battle of Passchendaele

This battle is remembered for its brutal fighting and horrible weather conditions. Canadian forces, serving under a Canadian commander, captured their objective, but suffered 16,000 killed or wounded.

17 December 1917: Federal Election

The 1917 debate on conscription, mandatory military service for men, was one of the fiercest and most divisive in Canadian political history. French-Canadians, as well as many farmers, unionized workers, non-British immigrants, and other Canadians, generally opposed the measure. English-speaking Canadians, as well as British immigrants, the families of soldiers, and older Canadians generally supported it. The pro-conscription side won the election. Conscription polarized provinces, ethnic and linguistic groups, communities, and families, and had lasting political effects on the country as a whole.

8 August to 11 November 1918: The Hundred Days

Canadians played a key role in the series of battles that formed the Hundred Days campaign. With the infantry and artillery working in a combined arms system, along with tactical airpower, machine-guns, mortars, chemical weapons, and armoured vehicles, the German armies were driven back and defeated.

11 November 1918: Armistice

The war ended at 11 a.m. on this day. More than nine million service personnel and an estimated 20 million civilians were killed in the war.