Fallen Soldiers

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The First World War had a very high casualty rate. By the end of the war, armies from both sides suffered a total of 37 million casualties, representing half of the men who enlisted. About 25 percent of them were killed.

Mr. Turner discusses the fatalism that crept into the soldiers' conversations.

Transcript

You'll get scared alright. You never know. We've had boys in our battery that, well, they got talking about death and one thing or another. Several of them says they ain't gonna come through. They figured though they ain't going to come through, well they didn't. I know two in particular. One was a kind of a carpenter, used to make crosses for those fellas that did die or killed. He made a mistake on one of them there and he had to make another one. Well, that other one he was making was for himself, and he didn't know it though. And the other fella, he was killed, he was a Newfoundlander. He always figured he wasn't going to come through, and I happened to be handy to him when he was killed. Three of us was going up to the top of Vimy Ridge to see what was on the other side. Well the Germans were firing shells at the time but they were all going way back over head we figured it was safe to go. Well, we hadn't gone far when one of those shells was coming right for us. I dropped to the ground and I guess perhaps the other did, I don't know, but the middle fella was killed. So, you never know your luck.

Images

Caption: Tending a wounded German on the battlefield. Vimy Ridge. April, 1917

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001121)

Caption: Wounded Canadian soldiers en route to a dressing station via light railway.

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-000912)

Caption: Remains of French troops buried by 58th Bn. on Vimy Ridge. July, 1917.

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001790)

Caption: Soldiers carrying a wounded comrade.

(Credit: VAC2000.141)

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