Sir Max Aitken [Lord Beaverbrook], Canada in Flanders (New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916-17). ©Chinook Multimedia Inc

Standing on the Railway Platform to See the 49th Battalion off to Europe, 1915.


In Canada, enthusiasm for the war remained high and volunteers continued to enlist. A second division was sent from Britain to France in September 1915. By 1916, however, victory was nowhere in sight. Early that year, the Canadian troops fought bravely at St. Eloi and Mount Sorrell in Flanders but suffered almost 10,000 casualties. Critics inside and outside the army attributed the heavy casualties at St. Eloi to the failure of the Canadian-made Ross rifle, which often jammed in the heat of battle. Many Canadian soldiers threw away their own rifles and picked up British Lee Enfield rifles from fallen troops.

D. J. Corrigall, The History of the Twentieth Canadian Battalion (Central Ontario Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War, 1914-1918 (Toronto: Stone and Cox Limited, 1935), p. 61.

St. Eloi and Mount Sorrell.

The grave danger that soldiers faced during the war is reflected in this account of the 20th Canadian Battalion.
Pete Anderson, I, That's Me: Escape from German Prison Camp and Other Adventures (Edmonton: Bradburn Printers Limited, [1920?]), pp. 75-76.

Deficiencies of the Ross Rifle.

First World War soldier Pete Anderson expresses the bitterness that many Canadian soldiers felt toward the Ross Rifle.
City of Edmonton Archives (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Collection, A96-215, Box 12).

Letter from Lieutenant-Colonel W.A. Griesbach to Mrs. R. Waring, 28 October 1916.

The commanding officer of the 49th Battalion offers his condolences to the widow of a soldier who died in combat.

As casualties had increased, the government's first commitment of 25,000 men was seen to be far too low. The authorized troop levels had already risen to 500,000 men by January 1916. Yet this commitment seemed impossible to meet through volunteer enlistment. The gloomy news from Europe dimmed enthusiasm. In July 1916, only 8,000 men enlisted; by the winter, just 5,000 were enlisting monthly. The government faced growing pressure for additional recruitment.


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