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Canada's Hundred Days

August 8 to November 11, 1918, has come to be known as "The Hundred Days," and in effect for the Canadian Corps it was Canada's "Hundred Days," for in this period it was in the vanguard of the successful march to Mons.

When the Allied advance began the Canadian Corps was assigned the task of spearheading an attack on an important salient near Amiens on August 8. Utter secrecy was vital since the Germans had come to regard any movement of Canadian troops as a sign of imminent attack. To deceive the enemy, part of the Corps was sent north to the Ypres section. After making their presence known to the Germans they hurried back to Amiens. Preparations for battle were carried out at night, and there was no preliminary bombardment to warn the enemy of impending action. Surprise was complete. Flanked by Australians and French, and spearheaded by British tanks, the Canadians advanced 20 kilometres in three days. The morale of the German High Command was badly shaken. In Ludendorff's words, August 8 was the "black day of the German Army." The three days of heavy fighting came at a cost—the Corps suffered 9,074 casualties.

The Allied plan was to advance on a broad front with a series of connected attacks in sensitive areas. Only now, in mid-1918, did the British have sufficient rolling stock and guns to be able to carry out offensives on a number of Army fronts without having to stop and regroup. Therefore, after the breakthrough at Amiens, the Canadians were shifted back to Arras and given the task of cracking the Hindenburg Line—Germany's main line of defence—in the Arras area.

Between August 26 and September 2, in hard continuous fighting, the Canadian Corps launched a succession of attacks that broke through the German defences, including breaching the infamous Drocourt-Queant Line, in front of the Canal du Nord, part of the main Hindenburg Line. The rapid movement from the Somme caught the Germans by surprise, but nevertheless the fighting was most intense and the Canadians suffered 11,400 casualties. Currie regarded the breaching of the line as "one of the finest feats in our history."

The Corps was now in front of the main part of the Hindenburg Line, defended by the Canal du Nord, an only partially completed canal. There was a pause while the Corps regrouped and the British armies to the south came up to the Hindenburg Line themselves. The combined offensive to smash the line came on September 27. Currie came up with a breathtaking and audacious plan, so daring that it took Haig to over-rule the Army commander and to give it his blessing. The whole Canadian Corps (with an attached British division) was to be channelled through a 2,600 yard dry section of the Canal du Nord. The attack along the whole front was accompanied by the most massive single day bombardment of the war. The Canadians not only crossed the canal and breached three lines of German defences, they also captured Bourlon Wood, a staggering achievement. Coupled with great successes elsewhere on the British front, the Hindenburg Line was well and truly breached.

Further heavy fighting led to the capture of Cambrai. By October 11 the Corps had reached the Canal de la Sensée. It was the last of the actions of the whole Corps, though individual divisions continued to perform effectively as the Canadian Corps continued to overcome opposition in Valenciennes and Mont Houy before reaching Mons at the time of the armistice.

The Canadian troops remained in Europe to share in the Allied occupation. They crossed the Rhine into Germany at Bonn where Sir Arthur Currie was accorded the distinction of taking the salute in honour of Canadian achievements.

Finally, in 1919, the Canadian troops came home where they were greeted by grateful and enthusiastic crowds in cities and villages across the country.

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