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Title: Over the Canadian Battlefields - Notes of a Little Journey in France, in March, 1919
Author: Dafoe, John W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: A Landmark of the Canadian Battlefields]

These ruined towers of the Church and Monastery of Mont St. Eloi—relics
of the revolutionary wars of France—overlook the Battlefields of Vimy
Ridge and Arras, and were a familiar landmark to tens of thousands of
Canadian soldiers during the war.



                               *Over the
                         Canadian Battlefields*

                 _*Notes of a Little Journey in France,
                            in March, 1919*_


                                   By

                             JOHN W. DAFOE



                              THOMAS ALLEN
                                TORONTO



                        COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1919
                        BY THOMAS ALLEN, TORONTO



                           PRINTED IN CANADA



                                   TO
              GENERAL SIR ARTHUR CURRIE, G.C.M.G., K.C.B.,
                     THE CIVILIAN COMMANDER OF THE
                   CONQUERING CANADIAN CIVILIAN ARMY
                         THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
                             BY THE AUTHOR
                     IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF
                      COURTESIES EXTENDED TO HIM.



                          *AUTHOR’S FOREWORD*

The articles which go to make up this little book were written for
newspaper publication immediately following the journey over the
battlefields, in France in March, 1919, which I had been enabled to
make, through the courtesy and kindness of the Canadian Corps Commander.
They were published in April, 1919, in the Manitoba _Free Press_,
Winnipeg; and are now republished at the request of many friends who
have asked that they be made available in more permanent form.

Though the articles reveal their journalistic origin alike in their form
and in a certain evanescent timeliness, already partly out of date, it
has not been considered advisable, under the circumstances, to re-cast
them into more permanent form.  They are re-published as written save
for some slight textual corrections.

J.W.D.



                               *CONTENTS*


A Landmark of the Canadian Battlefields . . . _Frontispiece_

Dedication

Author’s Foreword

Chapter I.  A Hurried Pilgrimage
Chapter II.  The Battlegrounds of the Souchez
Chapter III.  The Abomination of Desolation
Chapter IV.  The Marks of War
Chapter V.  The Canadian Hammer Strokes
Chapter VI.  The Civilian as Warrior
Chapter VII.  Compensations



                               *OVER THE
                         CANADIAN BATTLEFIELDS*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                         *A HURRIED PILGRIMAGE*


In the first days of March, 1919, I made hurriedly a pilgrimage that
will be made in more leisurely manner by thousands of Canadians in
coming years.  For while the memory of the Great War endures and Canada
retains her national consciousness, Canadians, generation after
generation for centuries to come, will follow the Canadian way of glory
over the battlefields of France and Flanders, with reverent hearts and
shining eyes, learning anew the story of what will doubtless always
remain the most romantic page in our national history.  For lack of time
I had to forego my visit to the bitter battlefields of Flanders: Ypres,
where the Canadians held the line against all odds when German hopes for
the Channel ports appeared for the moment to be on the point of
fulfilment; Festubert, St. Eloi and Sanctuary Wood, the scenes of
desperate encounters where the Canadians learned hard lessons in the art
of beating the Boche; and Passchendaele, where the very doubtful and
questionable Flanders campaign of 1917 had a victorious finale by the
resounding achievement of the Canadian corps in capturing the ridge
which had so long defied assault.  But the other Canadian battle-fronts
I saw, albeit hurriedly and under weather conditions which were far from
propitious; and perhaps some notes of my impressions may not be entirely
lacking in interest to the Canadian public.

But before going on to this something might be said on the general
subject of visits to the Canadian battlefields of the western European
front.  At the moment of course this area is sealed to visitors.  It
constitutes a military zone which can only be entered under the
authority of a "white pass."  Unless one is accompanied by a member of
the military staff he cannot get this pass nor would it be of use to him
because there is in this belt of wilderness which lies athwart one of
the oldest and most populous areas in Europe no means of transportation
and no accommodation for the unattached civilian.  But this of course is
a condition that will speedily pass.

In a year’s time, or less, the tides of travel will pour over these
highways; and among the travellers will be all sorts and conditions of
men; from the idle sightseers seeking a new sensation amidst these mute
memorials of human conflict to the reverent pilgrim following step by
step the road of sacrifice and glory trodden by his countrymen in the
Great Crusade.

It is desirable that for Canadians making this pilgrimage there should
be, so to speak, a beaten path which they can follow with the certainty
that, with a minimum of time, they can bring away with them something
approaching adequate understanding of Canada’s contribution to the great
European campaigns.  There is a proposition, not without strong support
in army circles, that Canada should erect and maintain in perpetuity a
number of battle shrines which would be stations on this pilgrimage. The
suggested sites are Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Bourlon Wood and some point in
the district of Amiens, either in Courcelette or further south, in the
track of the Canadian avalanche of August 8, 1918.  These shrines, it is
proposed, should contain plans of the adjoining battle-fields in
topographical relief, maps, diagrams, detailed histories of the actions,
information as to the Canadian cemeteries in the neighborhood—they
should be the headquarters for all that a Canadian, ten, twenty or fifty
years hence, will want to know.  If this plan is carried out there
should also be available official Canadian guides fully equipped to tell
the story of Canadian achievement.

The project is one well worth careful consideration.  Canada’s
participation in the war is a fountain from which succeeding generations
should drink deep, learning thereby lessons in valor, sacrifice,
patriotism and national pride; and nothing will make this living
inspiration more available than maintaining in perpetuity upon the
European battle-fields authentic records of the deeds done there.  It is
a reasonable expectation that once normal conditions of life are resumed
thousands of Canadians will yearly make the tour of the Canadian
fronts—visiting in turn the Flanders battlefields; the scenes of the
heroic achievements around Vimy and Lens; that portion of the tragic
field of the Somme "which is forever Canada" by virtue of our dead; and
finally following step by step the Canadian advance during the One
Hundred Days, which saw Germany’s military effort pass, by successive
disasters, from the high tide of the July offensive to the hopeless ruin
of the November surrender.  Even a casual inspection will take several
days for, during their 42 months of war, the Canadian troops ranged wide
and shed the glamor of their achievements upon many localities.  The
names of these places, many of them already storied from battles long
ago, make a list full of significance to the Canadians of today and
tomorrow.  Langemarck, St. Julien, Festubert, St. Eloi, Sanctuary Wood,
Courcelette, Regina Trench, Vimy, Hill Seventy, Passchendaele, Amiens,
Arras, Monchy-le-Preux, Bourlon Wood, Cambrai, Valenciennes, Mons.

In my three days flying trip in a motor out from Paris and back again I
covered in some sort the more southern fields of Canadian operations.
We struck into the battle-fronts from the west having gone north from
Paris by the traditional road to England—out St. Denis Gate and north
through Beauvais, crossing the Somme at Abbeville and then turning
eastward towards Arras. At St. Pol, which was the extreme limit of the
range of a high powered German naval gun, the first signs of shell fire
were seen. Thereafter mile by mile, as we sped through a countryside
familiar to Canadian troops as a rest area, the evidences of war damage
increased until we ran into the battlefields of the Souchez and saw the
slope of Vimy rise gently to the sky-line.  From there our course ran
over the Ridge to that huge pile of red-brick rubble that was Lens—once
a city of 50,000 souls; thence on through Douai and Denain to
Valenciennes.  This was the way of the German retreat; at every
crossroads hasty repairs to the paved way bore witness to their scheme
of systematic destruction; over every canal and stream the road was
carried on improvised bridges, the original structures sprawling in
ruined heaps athwart the waterways.  From Valenciennes—relatively
damaged but slightly—we ran into Cambrai, the latter half of the road
through villages that bore ample marks of the rear-guard actions between
the Germans and the onward-pressing Canadians.  From Cambrai—a shell of
a city systematically destroyed by fire by the Germans as they fell
back—the road to Arras took us through the centre of the great
battlefield over which the Canadians drove the Huns in the fighting of
late August and September—to the left a huge blur on the sky-line seen
through the driving rain was Bourlon Wood; to the right the ruins of the
villages where the desperate German counter-attacks at the end of
September were stopped; further on, three huge streaks of blackened wire
stretching across the gaunt countryside marked the once-vaunted
impregnable Hindenburg line; then to the right rose the high ground of
Monchy-le-Preux, wrested out of hand from the Germans by the Third
Division in the early hours of a bloody August day; all about, on both
sides of the road as far as the eye could see stretched the tortured and
scarred countryside over which the tide of carnage flowed and ebbed for
two years; and so to Arras—a ghost city where the shattered houses, no
longer habitable, stand in their empty loneliness.  From Arras we went
to Bapaume by a road which crossed diagonally the old German-British
front line; from Bapaume to Albert, across the waste of the Somme
battlefield; on to Amiens in which the tides of business are again
feebly flowing; along the highway to Roye, with the great Canadian
battlefield of August stretching along the left for ten miles—a road
memorable, too, to Canadians because along every mile of it Canadian
cavalry and motor machine-gun men fought against the German flood in
March 1918; in every copse hereabouts there lie Canadian dead.  From
Roye southward to the Oise we passed through a countryside which was
fought over, foot by foot twice last year—to say nothing of the battles
of earlier campaigns; everywhere there were ruin, desolation and the
marks of death.  After crossing the river the ruins of war diminished,
but not until we passed Senlis—where the marks of the beast left by the
Hun high tide in 1914 are still to be seen—did we leave them behind; and
so came back to Paris by the old Roman road over which the legions
marched to Flanders nearly 2,000 years ago.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                   *THE BATTLEGROUNDS OF THE SOUCHEZ*


The storming of Vimy Ridge on that wintry April morning two years ago
was neither in its actual achievement nor in its military consequences
the greatest feat of the Canadian Expeditionary Force; but it holds, and
it may continue to hold, a unique place in the Canadian consciousness.
It was the first cleancut definite stroke by the Canadian Corps acting
as a recognized unit of the greater British army; and there was in the
achievement something dramatic and climacteric which riveted the
attention of all watchers of the long-continuing duel between the great
armies along the western front.  For Vimy, before it had any Canadian
associations, was a tragic name!  It was the western-most bastion of
German power in Europe.  Against its gently rising slopes the fierce
French valor that had conquered the valley of the Souchez and its
bordering uplands, had dashed itself in vain; the hillside was white
with the unburied bones of the men who won the ridge in October, 1915,
for a day, only to be swept back by a German counter-attack of
overwhelming force.  The Germans proudly boasted the impregnability of a
position which protected their strangle-hold upon the coalfields of Lens
and gave them a jumping-off place for a further adventure westward to
the Channel ports.  When the greater portion of the Ridge was stormed in
a fierce sustained assault by the Canadian troops on the morning of
April 9, 1917, the reverberation of the achievement went round the
world; and its echoes will long persist.

Vimy Ridge—a swell of land five miles in length which rises so gradually
on the southern slopes that one hardly realizes the elevation until he
stands upon the crest and notes how the ground falls sheer away to the
eastward—marks the eastern rim of one of the bloodiest battlegrounds of
the whole war.  Many Canadians have but the haziest knowledge of the
battles that were fought hereabouts in the early summer of 1915; but the
flower of the highly trained armies with which France and Germany
entered the war lie buried here.

When, after the German defeat on the Marne in September, 1914, and the
check to the Allies on the Aisne, the race to the northern sea began
with the Germans keeping a step in advance and thus blocking the
constant French attempt to outflank them from the west, all the high
ground in this region was occupied by the Germans; and when the fronts
became rigid the French found themselves in a dangerously insecure
position with the German possession of the high hill of Notre Dame de
Lorette threatening all the coal fields of northern France and the
southern shore of the Channel. During the winter of 1914-15 the French
organized their attack, and in the early summer they set themselves
doggedly to the task of turning the Germans out of these strong places.
The enemy held the towering hill of Notre Dame and the cluster of houses
known as Ablain St. Nazaire at its foot; across the little Souchez river
the village of Carency on a slight eminence; a mile or so to the south
the hamlet of Neuville St. Vaast, on the crest of a swell in the ground;
southward from the latter point and stretching eastward almost to the
base of Vimy Ridge they had prepared a huge network and maze of trenches
and redoubts which acquired a sinister renown under the name of the
Labyrinth.

For weeks during the summer of 1915 the battle raged here continuously;
and literally the French drove the Germans foot by foot and yard by yard
from these positions; out of Carency and down the Souchez valley; back
step by step from the heights of Notre Dame; trench by trench the
Labyrinth was wrested from them; and by the late summer the Germans had
withdrawn behind the great ridge of Vimy which lay athwart the path of
the advancing French.  There they stood savagely at bay, and when the
French, in unison with the British attack at Loos, north of Lens,
essayed in October to storm the hill, they exacted a bloody revenge for
their earlier defeats.  Afterwards this area became part of the British
front, when the French moved to the south bank of the Somme; and after a
year of inactivity, varied by a single unsuccessful attack upon a
portion of the ridge’s defences by a British brigade, the Canadians, in
the winter of 1916-17, took over this sector and set themselves the task
of taking the Ridge as their initial contribution to the great spring
offensive that was foreshadowed.

I stood almost in the centre of this huge battlefield in the closing
hours of a sombre March day; a light mist was shrouding the crests of
the uplands; in the valleys the darkness of night was already falling;
for fleeting moments the dying sun, through a breach in the cloud
battlements, threw gleams of wintry sunshine over the scene. Nearby were
the abandoned ruins of what was once the hamlet of Carency.  To the
right Vimy Ridge rose slowly to the sky line, flaring up at its northern
end into the steeper slopes of "the Pimple."  Next came a narrow valley;
and then the ridge resumed, turning now almost due west and rising to
the height of Notre Dame de Lorette that dominated the landscape.  At
the base of the sloping terraces that came down from the hill-top the
little river Souchez ran, turning north-easterly through the gorge and
onward towards Lens.  This little stream has known its current dammed by
the wedged bodies of dead men; its banks have brimmed with human blood.
Beyond the stream at the foot of the hill were the ruins of Ablain St.
Nazaire; and nearby all that remained of the sugar factory about which
raged an Homeric struggle, noted in the battle bulletins of those days.
Up those slopes, now so still in the fading daylight, the French pushed
their way day by day and week by week until they planted their flag on
its crest.  To the south and east they fought their way over Neuville
St. Vaast and through the tangled mazes of the Labyrinth.  Within a
radius of three miles from the place upon which we stood, over one
hundred thousand French soldiers who fell in six months’ fighting in
1915 lie buried.  These incredible figures were vouched for by an
officer of high rank.

When the Canadians moved into this area in the winter of 1916-17 they
made their homes amidst the wreckage of these battlefields.  They took
over the trenches along the lower slopes of Vimy Ridge which were
reachable only by communication trenches and sunken roads over open
ground in plain view in daylight of the Germans who held the crest of
the ridge and its western slopes half-way down.  Behind this active
front they built their secondary positions on the battlegrounds of 1915.
Thus the First Division was encamped upon the ground of the Labyrinth;
the divisional headquarters were in a German dug-out thirty-nine steps
downward from the surface.  The reshifting of trenches and dugouts in
this neighborhood was not, the Canadians found, to be lightly attempted;
for the place was one huge—if unmarked—cemetery where French and Germans
by the thousand had been buried where they fell.

Over this area for a distance of miles the Canadian corps had planted
its camps as the line moved forward in front.  Along the roads which
cross in all directions one could read the sign-posts of the regiments
pointing the way to collections of Nissen huts and smaller wooden
structures.  Here, too, were defensive trenches and strong redoubts
prepared for the reception of the enemy in the event of a German
advance. One could easily imagine how busy this scene had been in the
summer and autumn of 1917 when the Canadian corps were encamped
hereabouts.  But on the March evening when I saw it, it was bleak and
cheerless beyond the power of words to express.  The tide of war had
flowed past and left the wrecked countryside vacant—the huts empty and
the camps abandoned save for, here and there, a handful of men engaged
in salvage work; the roadways, once swarming with life, deserted and
silent! Over all desolation and loneliness rested like a pall;
everywhere the wreckage of battle, the debris of destruction; everywhere
the sense of man’s mortality!  A grim and melancholy expanse; yet withal
holy ground, for here men by the tens of thousands died for mankind!



                             *CHAPTER III*

                    *THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION*


Wherever in our flying trip we touched the border line between the
actual battlefields and the secondary districts of the war—as for
instance Amiens and Valenciennes—we saw human life finding its way into
normal channels; but over the areas of continued and desperate fighting
there was still the abomination of desolation.  Here in the very centre
of an ancient populous civilization there stretches for miles in every
direction a wilderness—not the empty loneliness of a new land awaiting
the inflowing of human life, but a man-made desert speaking of the
ruthless savagery of man in the sway of his passions. Here there are
ruined farmsteads, vanished villages, once fair forests shredded into
pulp, huge piles of debris marking the site of storied cities, destroyed
temples—and hardly a sign of human life except the last dribbles of the
great tide of uniformed men that once poured over these highways.  Thus
an afternoon drive from Arras to Cambrai was through a profound silence.
Here was a wide highway running straight between two famous French
cities through the heart of an ancient land.  In the whole distance we
met only two or three military cars engaged in the aftermath of war; and
a few small working parties of "Chinks" thousands of miles from their
native Manchuria.

Standing on the motor’s seat, one looked north and south, east and west
to the skyline.  Everywhere silence, profound, brooding, fateful!  Not a
curling smoke-wreath on the horizon bespoke a human habitation. The
country is open, rolling upland—in its physical conformation it seemed
to me almost the counterpart of southern central Manitoba as it was
30-odd years ago before the industry of man dotted it with thriving
farmsteads.

The acme of destruction is to be witnessed at Lens.  This was the work
of the Canadian artillery.  In October, 1915 campaign the British drove
for Hill Seventy, north of Lens, and the French for Vimy Ridge, both
fruitlessly, despite initial success.  It was assumed in all the
"expert" military writing of that date that the possession by the Allies
of these two hills would force the evacuation of the Lens coalfields by
the Germans.  The Canadians took Vimy Ridge in April, 1917; they pushed
down the reverse side of the ridge and across the level ground to the
outskirts of Lens within the next three months; in August they stormed
Hill Seventy by one of the most brilliant minor operations of the war.
But the Hun, contrary to the forecasts of the strategists, refused to
quit Lens.  It was half ringed by the Canadians, who kept it drowned in
poison gas and buried under a constant rain of artillery projectiles;
but the Germans, hidden in the rabbit warrens with which they
honeycombed the foundations of the city, held on, and to every attempt
to take possession of the ruined town they opposed a desperate and
successful resistance.  The Canadian plans included the storming in
October, 1917, of Salumines Hill to the south-east of the city.  Had
this been done—and no Canadian staff officer had any doubt of the
practicability of the enterprise—the Germans in Lens would have been
trapped like rats; but the demands of the higher strategy intervened and
the Canadians were shifted to the mud of Flanders, where they achieved
the brilliant but fruitless distinction of taking Passchendaele ridge.

So the Germans stayed on in Lens, and the Canadians, when they returned
to their sector, resumed their daily occupation of spraying them with
gas and pounding them with shell—with the result that when the line gave
further south and the Germans had to fall back, the Allied armies
entered Lens to find it the completest expression of the destructive
possibilities of artillery fire that was supplied by any theatre of war.
In this city, which once housed 50,000 people, not a single house
remains—it is one huge red mass of red brick rubble through which
roadways have been painfully excavated by labor battalions.  Yet a few
of the original inhabitants have crept back and can be seen standing in
little disconsolate groups around the dust heaps which were their
homes—living meanwhile in the German dugouts under the town.  As I drove
through the town on a blustering March morning, there still lingered in
the air, four months after the firing of the last shot, the faint smell
of human mortality.  For in these huge rubbish heaps, if they are ever
cleared away, will be found hundreds of Germans buried by the shells
that destroyed them.

One hears controversy amongst the experts as to whether Lens or Arras is
the most affecting illustration of what war does to organized human
society.  There is much to be said for both sides of the argument. In
Lens ruin is so complete as to almost blur the sense of human
association; but Arras is the pitiful spectacle of a huge collection of
uninhabitable houses—domestic shrines from which the fire has gone cold
and can never be revived.  There they stood gaunt, tottering and
cheerless—windows out, doors hanging awry, gaping holes in the walls,
the roofs fallen in, the broken and sagging floors and all the pitiful
and touching relics of destroyed domestic life, pictures still hanging
on the walls, broken furniture, torn and destroyed clothing.  The Grande
Place of Arras—a succession of attractive buildings in the Spanish style
all built to a plan, with a wide colonnaded walk beneath them around the
square—is a dreadful, heart-rending ruin.  An occasional building in
Arras affords shelter to returning refugees; and there is here a
considerable and increasing population.  In one narrow street a number
of shops have reopened and make as brave a showing as is possible among
the ruins.

Lens and Arras are the ruins of war—the by-product of great powers in a
death-grip. But Cambrai is a ruin of another sort.  It is a monument to
the malignant spirit of the Hun in defeat.  As the British and the
Canadians closed in from the south and the north they spared the city
which they knew was fated to fall to them; no shell fell in its borders
save by inadvertence.  But this did not avail to save this ancient
famous town. The Canadians entered it to find it deserted, all the
civilian population having been carried off, and on fire from a hundred
conflagrations systematically set with the aid of inflammable bombs,
petrol and firewood; and while the Germans fell back towards their own
land a pillar of smoke from the burning city bespoke their rage at being
robbed of their prey.  Cambrai is the burned-out shell of a town—a mere
wraith of its former charms.  All these cities—and to them may be added,
St. Quentin, Albert, Ypres, and a hundred smaller places—will have to be
rebuilt from the foundations upward; but first they will have to be
demolished stone by stone and the rubbish carried away—a huge task which
is not yet begun, awaiting perhaps the reparation money which will be of
right the first after-the-war charge against the resources of Germany.

In the track of the war machine there was no sign as we passed of any
attempt to repair the ravages of four campaigns—it will take no trifling
outlay in money, labor and ingenuity, for instance, to turn the
battlefield of the Somme into a habitable countryside; it is now "mere
land desperate and done with," like "the ominous tract" through which
Childe Roland rode to his fate.  But on the borders of the actual
battlefields work was going forward to prepare the ground for the coming
crop.  Between Lens and Douai the Germans had scarred the country with a
series of defensive positions; and gangs of German military prisoners
were busily engaged, under the watchful eye of overseers, in refilling
the deep trenches and smoothing the fields. That was a sight often
repeated as we passed from the battle wilderness to the less damaged
belt about it; and there was about it a touch of satisfying ironic
fitness!  For these trenches were built by forced French labor of old
men, women and children under German taskmasters.  For the first ten or
fifteen miles out of Amiens along the road to Roye—the scene of a sharp
battle in the open which did relatively little damage to the
country—many gangs of German prisoners were at work with their spades;
while the French farmers were busily turning furrows in the fields upon
which armies met in furious conflict last August.  Here and there a
small tractor could be seen at work. Almost invariably as the motor went
by the German prisoners stopped their work and with wistful eyes watched
it pass down the road to the outside world of freedom.  It was not
difficult to read the thoughts in the minds of these men, most of them
young and many of them not unintelligent in looks. This was the end of
their dream of world domination, their reward for their surrender of
life and thought to the homicidal maniac who reigned at Potsdam and now
hides in fear and trembling from the wrath of the world in an obscure
retreat in Holland.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                           *THE MARKS OF WAR*


A British general who fought through the whole war recently observed in
the British House of Commons, of which he is now a member, that "war is
a most disgusting, barbarous and preposterous state of affairs."  One
feels how true this is as he passes through the war area with its
all-too-clear record of death, loss, famine and incalculable human
suffering when he is not under the control of boundless admiration for
the valor, sacrifice, tenacity, endurance and ingenuity evoked by this
war in men who five years ago seemed ordinary men and will tomorrow be
again plain citizens.  One swings between the two emotions as he travels
in the wake of War and takes note of the sign-manuals which it has left
everywhere along the way.

It seems incredible that life should have been at all possible along the
front as one goes over these battlefields and takes note of conditions.
The trenches have partly fallen in; but it takes little imagination to
recreate the scene.  Here are the abominable mud ditches which were
dignified by the name of trenches, the funk-holes in the mud walls, the
dug-outs, the long winding and partly sunken roads of approach, the
slightly more commodious trenches in reserve and the camps behind.
Judged by any accepted standard of living in 1913—or 1923—one would say
that a Hottentot or an Australian bushman, indurated to living under the
most primitive conditions, would find life intolerable here in a
fortnight’s time apart altogether from any question of danger from
external causes.  That gently-nurtured men from homes, where loving
mothers or assiduous wives made the mustard plaster or the hot-water
bottle the sure sequel for an inadvertent wetting, should have "toughed"
it here for months and years under all the variegated brands of European
weather, including that damnable combination of rain, fog, damp and
chill which they call winter in those parts, under the always imminent
possibility of sudden and terrible death without becoming brutalized is
a heartening proof of the greatness of the human soul and its power over
the influences that make for baseness.  It was not incredible to me that
Canadian men should have stormed Vimy Ridge, breaking through the
elaborate German defences as though they were made of pack-thread; what
was incredible was that they had lived under conditions of constant
danger and never-relaxing strain in burrows along the foot of the hill
for months before the attack, with their food and supplies brought in
precariously at night over level fields completely dominated by the
German guns on the top of the hill.  It was the high faith that failed
not by the way even more than the iron valor that prevailed in the hour
of battle that reveals most surely the heroic qualities of our soldiers
in the field.  Some few miles of the original battlefields showing the
opposing fronts, the original trenches, the deep pock-marks of the shell
holes, no man’s lands with its markings of secret, nightly warfare
should be kept intact in order that posterity may appreciate in some
little measure what life in the front line meant in the Great War.

Everywhere as one goes through the battle area, there can be seen one
ever-recurring mark of battle that will endure—the graves of those who
fell.  The war area is in truth one vast cemetery.  Look almost where
one will from the road and he will see, here and there, the white cross,
or clusters of them, showing where soldiers were buried where they fell.
(A stick driven in the ground with a helmet on the top of it—there are
almost forests of these along the Cambrai road—marks the grave of a
German soldier). There was never a war where so much care was taken to
keep a record of the resting place of fallen soldiers; and as time
passes bodies will be taken from their isolated graves on the
battlefields and placed in great military cemeteries where they will
receive in perpetuity the care of a reverent posterity.  In the main the
unplaced dead will be those who fell in territory which, as the result
of the action, passed into enemy hands for the time being.  Everywhere
along the roadways there are small Canadian graveyards, many of which
will doubtless remain undisturbed for all time.  Thus no one will ever
propose to disturb the slumbers of the seventy or eighty Canadians—among
them Lance-Corporal Sifton, V.C.—who rest in a huge mine crater on Vimy
Ridge.  The crater has been rounded and smoothed; a huge cross outlined
on the earth at the bottom of the hole marks the common grave; and at
the rim of the crater, visible from the roadside, is a modest, temporary
memorial bearing the names of the fallen.

As we crossed the battlefields of Courcelette by the Bapaume-Albert
highway Canadian soldiers in numbers appeared by the roadside.  Upon
inquiry we learned that nearly 400 Canadians, representing most branches
of the service, were engaged in collecting the Canadian dead of the
Somme battlefields into one large cemetery which will be maintained by
the Canadian authorities. Further along the road towards Albert we came
to two wayside cemeteries.  One to the right showed a profusion of white
crosses arranged not in orderly rows but in little groups, showing that
the soldiers whose graves were thus marked had been buried where they
fell.  This marked the resting place of the Tyneside-Scottish battalion
which was wiped out in the attack upon La Boisselle on July 1, 1916—the
opening day of the Somme battle.  The other graveyard, on the other side
of the road further on, was in neat and perfect order behind a trim
railing.  Here there are Canadians, British, South African and
Australian graves—the Canadians predominating although the striking
large cross which marks the cemetery is erected to the memory of the
Australian Expeditionary Force.  The place made such an appeal that we
stopped for a closer inspection.  As I stepped through the gate into the
trim enclosure the first name I saw was that of an old personal friend
and fellow-craftsman—brave, gentle, kindly, generous John Lewis, editor
of the _Montreal Star_, who fell in October, 1916. Lewis, American-born
but Canadian by adoption and by the great sacrifice, sleeps between two
young Canadians—to the left the young son of the Bishop of Quebec, to
the right Lieutenant Outerson, of the Winnipeg Grenadiers.  Among the
other graves here is that of Lieutenant H. H. Scott, of Quebec, whose
body was retrieved from the battlefield by his own father, Canon
Frederick George Scott—churchman, poet and hero—and by him buried in
this God’s acre where dust of the British race from the uttermost parts
of the earth and the isles of the sea slumbers in the "rest after
stormie seas," bespoken by the poet as a high measure of human felicity.

These notes on the mementoes which war has left in its train may be
perhaps closed by one more cheerful and hopeful in character. This was a
scene on the Roye-Amiens highway midway between these towns; not in
itself unique for we saw it repeated elsewhere in what might be called
the sub-area of war.  It had within it the promise of a future that
will, so far as this is now possible, repair the past.  We had just
passed the "front" as it was during the summer of 1916.  First come two
shallow French trenches not strongly guarded by wire entanglements; then
500 yards of no-man’s-land; then the formidable German defences—three
offensive lines of entrenchments heavily wired; and after a short
interval two further lines equally strong.  It must be admitted that the
Germans were watchful and industrious.  The wire, weather-beaten by
exposure, stretched across the countryside like wide black ribands.

As we passed into the relatively unharmed country beyond we saw,
standing by the roadside, a one-horse wagon piled high with simple
household necessities—bedding, furniture and food.  Around it was a
family group, with actually shining, smiling faces—a rarity this, these
days, in the once gay land of France.  There were the middle-aged father
and mother, a young man in war-worn uniform, safely home from the wars,
a fair young girl of perhaps seventeen and a younger girl.  They were
busily engaged in unloading the wagon and carrying their household
goods—where?  No building was anywhere in sight—nothing but the
inevitable pile of rubbish by the roadway.  But on a closer look we saw
that the cellar of the house that had once stood there had been fitted
over with a rude temporary roof and to this refuge this reunited family,
after the hardships and perils of the war, had come home with a joy and
thanksgiving that shone in their eyes.  This was Home!

Thus the human heart, unconquerable by adversity, resolutely sets about
repairing the ravages of time and war!  Man rebuilds his ruined home,
sets up again the family altars, renews the sweet amenities of life,
refills the fields.  The soldier, husbandman once more, turns the brown
furrow—"God-like making provision for mankind"—and sees the cheerful
smoke from his household fires mark the citadel of his happiness, the
shrine of his desires!  Behind lies the wreckage, the pain, the terrors
of those impossible, those unimaginable years of war—ahead stretches the
future of clean and fruitful work, the dear rewards of love and
affection, the blessings of a healing and fruitful Peace, never to be
broken again—else these millions have died in vain—by the trumpets of
the Lords of War!



                              *CHAPTER V*

                     *THE CANADIAN HAMMER STROKES*


The epic of the Canadian achievement in the last hundred days of the
Great War must be written if there is in Canada a man capable of writing
it.  It must be accurate in its technique; but no technical accuracy
will suffice to tell the story.  There must be told not only the record
of the actual achievements, but their relationship to the wider strategy
of the war.  Their impact upon the final issue of this super-human
struggle must be interpreted, that the Canadians of to-day and their
posterity forever may know what contribution Canada made to the freeing
of the world from the menace of Prussianism.  All Canadians know that in
August the Canadian corps made an unexampled advance near Amiens in the
great offensive on the British front; that nearly a month later they
smashed their way through the "impregnable" Drocourt-Queant line; that
by a brilliant tactical stroke they crossed the Canal du Nord and
captured Bourlon Wood; that they outflanked Cambrai from the north
compelling its evacuation; that they wrested Valenciennes from the enemy
by a concentric movement from the north and south; that, assisted at
times by two British divisions, they, four divisions strong, met and
defeated during the three months 47 German divisions with immense
captures of men, guns and supplies.

These, considered by themselves, were great feats worthy of
commemoration but it is only when they are viewed in their relation to
the great struggle that raged from the Alps to the sea that their full
significance and value are revealed.  These achievements were a series
of successive hammerstrokes upon the whole western German position; and
more than any other related series of military operations they
contributed to the collapse, at a date far earlier than the most hopeful
had dared to fix, of that huge fortress which for four years had defied
the genius, the resourcefulness and the valor of the Allied western
powers.  This is the plain, simple truth; and it is the business of
Canada to see that in the final telling of the last phases of the war
this fact—of such immense bearing upon our future national development
and our status in the world—is not allowed to be obscured.

The Canadian corps came into the final campaign with certain very
evident advantages which stood them in good stead.  They had suffered no
losses—apart from the cavalry and machine-gun sections—in the terrible
battles of March and April when the German drives down the valley of the
Somme and through Flanders towards the sea were stopped just before they
culminated in allied disaster.  This does not mean that during this
anxious period the Canadian corps, as some seem to think, enjoyed a
luxurious and reposeful existence removed from the perils and anxieties
of war.  When the German offensive began the Canadians were holding a
front along Vimy Ridge of 9,000 yards; when it ended they were in charge
of 35,000 yards of front line trenches. They did no fighting because the
Germans did not attack them; had they done so they would have got a warm
reception.  During this anxious period the Canadians deepened their
defensive position by five miles—in the rear of Vimy Ridge the new
trenches then dug can be seen on every side; they reorganized their
machine-gun detachments, increasing their fighting power by fifty per
cent.; and they had organized every Canadian in the area down to the
cooks into fighting bodies—all inspired by a common determination to
resist until the death. In those dark days, they served by standing and
waiting!

Nevertheless they profited, of course, by their happy escape at that
time from the fearful sacrifice which other British divisions on the
western front had to make. When the time came to take their place in the
line for the great—and as it developed—the decisive offensive, they were
in splendid condition—divisions over-strength, thoroughly equipped,
hardened by an iron discipline cheerfully borne and uplifted by a
consciousness that the days of inaction were over and that their hour
had struck.

As the Canadian troops moved south from their long-held positions at
Vimy to take their place in the line of battle at Amiens one
phenomenon—which was rightly interpreted as a portent of victory—was
noted. The troops began again spontaneously to sing as they covered the
miles along the straight undeviating French roads which are
heartbreaking to infantry on the march. In the early days the Canadian
was a singing army; but as the iron of war entered its soul it fell
silent and the long marches to the battlefields were made in dogged
silence. But in those bright days in early August serene confidence in
their power to conquer filled the hearts of the Canadian soldiers; and
their cheerful and confident voices filled the air with Canadian songs.
From then to the end the Canadians sang as they fought their way from
victory to victory.

The participation by the Canadian corps in the battle of Amiens was a
well-kept secret until they went over the top.  The Germans were misled
by a calculated manoeuvre into believing that the Canadians had been
moved north into Flanders; the French lining up for their drive forward
south of the Roye road did not know until the eve of the battle that the
troops immediately to their left across the highway, which were to move
forward with them, were the Canadians.  The news was not unwelcome to
them; for the reputation of the Canadians as shock troops of the first
order was already established.  The road runs through the large
semi-open wood where the whole Canadian army remained hidden during
August 7th; with the falling of darkness they moved forward in the
charge of guides to their appointed posts—the ground being quite
unfamiliar to them. The plan of battle called for the advance at zero
hour by the Canadians between the Amiens-Roye road and the Amiens-Ham
railway, an initial front of 7,000 yards; on the left beyond the railway
were the Australians and on the right across the road were the French.
The dividing line of the highway was not rigidly observed.  The 9th
brigade, forming the extreme right of the Canadian force, delivered its
attack from the right of the road and captured Rifle Wood—a daring and
successful stroke well worth the telling which had much to do with the
almost instantaneous success all along the line of the Canadian advance,
and further along the road on the following day the Canadians stormed
across the road in support of the French and taking the Germans on the
flank and in reverse made possible a break through at one of the most
obstinately defended points of the enemy front.

This was the first occasion upon which the Canadians met the enemy in
open fighting; and the German expectation that troops experienced only
in trench fighting would be at their mercy in field manoeuvres developed
at once into a catastrophic disappointment. Of all the battlefields of
the war the terrain here shows the least signs of conflict—due to the
rapid retirement of the Germans once their front lines were smashed.
From the highway most of the battlefield can be seen; and the story of
the extraordinary advance of the Canadians by which a huge wedge was
driven into the German front can be easily told by a competent guide—of
which there never should be any lack.  No Canadian making a pious
pilgrimage over the Canadian front should overlook the Amiens
battlefield.  An eminent military authority has made the prediction that
in the ultimate judgment of the historian of the tactical developments
of the 1918 campaign, the complete smashing of the German defence at
this point by the Canadian corps in the early hours of August 8, will be
regarded as one of the decisive turning points of the campaign.  It is
worth noting, in this connection, that Berlin despatches, quoting from
advance proofs of his book on the war, credit Ludendorff with the
statement that the success of the Franco-British offensive at Amiens on
August 8th destroyed the last hope of the Germans for final victory.
The Canadians were the spear-head of that attack and made the deepest
advance, on the opening day of the offensive, into the enemy’s
territory.

Within ten days the Canadian contribution to the Allied offensive in the
Amiens sector was completed.  On August 22, the decision was reached by
the high command to shift the whole Canadian force north to Arras in
preparation for the attack upon the Drocourt-Queant position; in the
early hours of August 26—less than 100 hours later—the Canadians burst
through the early morning mist upon the astonished Germans, who thought
them fifty miles away, and wrested the high ground at Monchy le Preux
and the positions in alignment with it from them.  From this jumping-off
place the Canadians advanced resolutely and steadily towards Cambrai; in
a week’s time the much vaunted Hindenburg line was behind them; towards
the end of September, upon the very morning upon which the Germans
planned the recovery of lost ground the Canadians forestalled them,
pushed across the Canal du Nord and enveloped Bourlon Wood where the
British advance a year earlier had been stayed; then driving forward
across the Arras-Cambrai highway they put in jeopardy the German control
of Cambrai, the pivot upon which the whole western German defence swung.
There followed the desperate attempt by the Germans to save Cambrai by
the recapture of Bourlon Wood; their failure involved the evacuation of
the city and the undermining of the defensive lines to the south.  At
Cambrai the Canadians passed the crest of the hill—thereafter the
"going" was rapid and comparatively easy to a goal already in sight.
The capture of Valenciennes was an interesting incident in a widespread
advance by the whole Allied front from the Meuse to the sea; and the
last day of the war found the Canadians as the advance guard of the
British forces victoriously encamped upon the very ground where in
August, 1914, the Old Contemptibles—that immortal vanished army—first
threw the British sword into the rapidly-rising scale in a
determination, amply vindicated by legions animated by their example and
inspired by their achievements who followed them, to right the balance.
This completion of the full circle of British sacrifice in the last
hours of the war by the troops of an overseas Dominion which, when the
first shots were fired, had no military history and dreamed not of its
aptitude for war is one of those profound historic coincidences which
make an appeal, to be felt rather than expressed, to that sense of
Destiny which in times of Fate takes possession of the human soul.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                       *THE CIVILIAN AS WARRIOR*


Not the least astonishing of the many surprises of the war to the
Germans was the, to them, incredible capacity for swift preparation for
war which was shown by the democratic and unmartial British nations
under the spur of deep national feeling plus driving necessity.  In
their careful preparation for sudden war and overwhelming victory they
had believed with reason, judging by all that the past could teach, that
their margin of advantage, because of their mighty armies and the vast
numbers of their trained officers, could never be overcome by those
nations which in time of peace had failed to educate their people into a
psychological readiness for the mass war and to equip them to wage it.
They remembered how vain had been the rally of the French levies under
Gambetta’s leadership in 1871.  For Kitchener’s army, when Great Britain
set herself to create out of nothing but the valor and willingness of
the people a buckler to stem the German flood, the German chiefs
expressed a contemptuous and pitying scorn; while they did not give even
this measure of regard to the Dominions’ contingents when they rushed
overseas to take their part in the defence of civilization.  These they
regarded as mere mobs of untrained militia men, unkempt, undisciplined
and without competent leaders, who would be scattered, like leaves
before the tempest, by a mere handful of drilled and well-bullied German
soldiers.  At that time no German mind could have conceived the
possibility of such an impossible fact as that within two years it would
be a fixed rule of the German army that Canadian troops in the front
line trenches must always be faced, across No Man’s Land, by Prussian
Guards or Bavarian shock troops.

Nor was the low opinion of the military worth of these volunteer armies
confined to arrogant Germans; there were doubters a-plenty at home.
Thus a Canadian public man held forth despairingly to me at that time
upon the hopelessness of opposing to the highly-trained German armies
these hastily organized battalions of men summoned from civil
occupations.  For one thing was it not a fact, confirmed by all military
experience and accepted as veritable holy writ, that an officer, capable
of commanding men, could not be made in less than seven years?  Unless
the French, who were a military nation, had a sufficient surplusage of
officers partly to equip the British armies it would be nothing but
slaughter to pit these untrained hordes against the Prussian hordes.
Nor was this Jeremiah alone in his gloom!

One can recall that there was a certain nervous trepidation among
Canadians when, the early months of 1915, it became known that the
Canadian troops were in the front line and likely at any moment to be
put to the test of actual fighting.  The men of this first division were
separated from their civilian pursuits by barely half a year of time;
they were, by all the standards of European war as to training, mere
militia. The test came in April, 1915, when the Germans under a rolling
barrage of poison gas—a new and terrifying weapon of war—sought to break
through the allied front in the Ypres salient at a point where it was
held partly by French African troops and partly by the new levies from
Canada.  The story need not be re-told to Canadians. The gas terror
broke the nerve for the moment of the African troops, and they fled in
panic; the Canadians plugged the line and held it against all odds until
reinforcements came up and the danger was past.  It was said at the time
that the reason why the Canadians held on was that they did not know
enough about the rules of the war game to realize that they would be
justified under the conditions in falling back.  Of all the myriad
emotions that filled the hearts of the Canadians during those days of
sheer stark horror fear was the most absent.  An officer, now of high
rank, who talked with me in France about the battle of Ypres said that
the first solid fact that emerged from the confusion of the surprise
attack was the instant resolution by Canadians of all ranks to stand
their ground whatever might betide.  Non-combatants hurried to their
officers to ask what they could do to help. "From that moment," said the
officer, "I had no doubts whatever about the Canadian army; I knew that
not potentially but actually they were troops of the first rank."

In the War Memorials paintings shown in London in December—to be housed
later in Ottawa in some fitting setting—there was a picture which,
despite its cubist freakishness, put on canvas, for all men to see, the
soul of Canada at war.  Everything about the picture was wrong except
its symbolism which was compelling in its truth.  The canvas, shrieking
with its high hues, was filled with Turcos in panic flight crowding one
another in their terror, while over them billowed the yellow poison pall
of death; but in the midst of the maelstrom the roaring Canadian guns
stood, immovable and unyielding, served by gunners who rose superior
alike to the physical terrors of the battle and the moral contagion of
fear.  The foundations of the world were rocking but the guns stood
firm!

Ypres, indeed, revealed the basic quality upon which the achievements of
the Canadians in the field rested—that fortitude, moral and physical,
which in the day of battle and the hour of trial triumphed over every
human weakness and made them the implacable and irresistible vindicators
of divine justice.  In the early summer of 1918 when there was imminent
danger of the whole western front being crushed under the weight of the
German advance, Sir Arthur Currie, the commander of the Canadian corps,
in a speech at a Canadian dinner in London, made a remark which shocked
and thrilled his hearers.  He said he was the proudest man in the world
because he commanded the Canadian corps; and the saddest because it was
doomed to die.  Thus he gave notice that, if the line were overwhelmed,
the Canadians would die fighting. That was the darkest hour that comes
before the dawn.  No such glorious but tragic fate awaited the
Canadians.  The future held for them not the guerdon of inexpugnable
heroism in disaster but the bright badge of victory.  When they struck
camp and unfurled their banners for the new campaign they marched not to
Thermopylae but to Waterloo.

But much more than the capacity to conquer in the actual clash of the
battlefield went to the making of the victorious Canadian army.  These
civilians, called from the bench, the office, the farm and the forest
showed an aptitude for war—exemplified also in varying degrees by all
the democratic armies—that must have seemed uncanny to the German High
Command, hopelessly committed by training and inclination to the view
that great and conquering armies could only be created in nations as the
result of precedent and long-continuing conditions: among them the
constant familiarizing of the popular mind with the idea of war as a
weapon of national policy, the universal training of men of military
age, the careful cultivation of an officer class, the maintenance of a
general staff of highly equipped experts and strategists who devoted
their lives to the art of war. Considering their environment and
viewpoint it was inevitable that they should regard it as simply
preposterous that a civilian army officered and commanded by men of
their own type and class—farmers, artisans; clerks, bankers, lawyers,
doctors, engineers, journalists, real estate agents—should be able to
dispute the field with the disciplined legions of Germany.  They could
not realize what this war has established beyond all question, that the
general principles upon which war is waged are simple and easily
grasped.

War is a proposition to apply to a very definite and distinguishable
object, all available power.  It thus becomes in its essence a huge
business problem, fundamentally one of engineering and organization.  It
was speedily demonstrated in the war that the qualities which make for
success in civilian life in almost every field of endeavor are also the
qualities which are necessary for successful leadership in war. The
civilian mind with its initiative, its readiness to improvise means to
an end, its disregard for precedent as such, its willingness to
subordinate venerable sacred theories to modern hard facts, did not
suffer in the clash with the stereotyped military mind despite its
larger equipment of technical knowledge.  All the democratic armies were
fertile in inventions and expedients, which were gradually incorporated
in the practice of the armies to their great good. A lengthy article—or
a book—could be filled with a record of Canadian contributions to the
art of war—many of them rapid improvisations when issues turned on
minutes.  One hears much about them as he goes about in France—and not
always from Canadians either.

Thus I was much entertained at Arras by a British officer of artillery
who told me how one of his fellow-officers, a young Canadian, had pitted
his profound knowledge of artillery fire, which he brought from an
insurance office in Winnipeg, against the inherited and assembled wisdom
of the higher-ups to their ultimate conversion after an actual test had
vindicated his theory.  I shall not here recount how the Canadian
soldiers at Ypres were supplied with ready-made gas masks upon the
occasion of the first gas attack though it will doubtless be duly
recorded in some grave history of the war.  The trench raid, which came
to be one of the constant factors of the war, was a Canadian invention.
It was a Canadian doctor, transferred from civil practice to the front,
who first showed the way to cope with trench feet, a war disease which
at one time threatened to destroy the British army.  The Canadian army
led the way in the skilful application of machine-gun power to the
necessities of attack and defence; and its system of massing the
machine-guns in units instead of distributing them through companies,
with their accompanying employment for barrages and indirect fire, would
have been extended to the whole army if the war had continued. These are
noted only as illustrations; the whole question of Canadian
resourcefulness in the field, with its possibilities of infinite
interest, cannot be dealt with here.

One lesson of this war is thus of vast significance to Canada and to all
democracies. It is in brief that a country of free men, engaged and
proficient in the countless occupations of civil life, is always
potentially formidable in war.  When we build our country for peace we
build it for war, too, if the need arises.  Our sure defence is not the
soldier in his uniform but the patriot citizen in his plain civilian
attire.  The vindication of this profound truth has been upon a scale of
such magnitude that it is difficult to think that ever again in the
history of the human race any aspiring kaiser or Napoleon—white or
yellow—will dream that he can, by enslaving his own people, provide
himself with a weapon with which to conquer the world.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                            *COMPENSATIONS*


I rode out to the Canadian battlefields from a city where for seven
weeks there had been going on a determined, though partly hidden,
tug-of-war between conflicting ambitions, some of them far from
high-minded; and, after my pilgrimage over the grounds where men by the
hundreds of thousands died for an idea, which many of them only vaguely
realized though they felt its influence in their hearts, I returned to
the same atmosphere of controversy where the keenest discussions turned
upon the degree of the reward that should be allotted to this or that
country for the services of the men who had made for themselves the
utter and complete sacrifice.  The contrast could not but suggest
reflections upon the relative contributions to the future security of
the world—which was supposed to be their common object—of the soldiers
who won the war and the statesmen who were building a peace upon their
achievements.  There was some satisfaction in recalling that the Prime
Minister of Canada was reported to have said, at a certain meeting, that
not a single Canadian soldier had died in order that any country might
add a mile of land to its territory.

In one of his addresses to the Plenary Conference President Wilson made
a striking reference to the United States soldiers. "As I go about the
streets here," he said, "I see everywhere the American uniform. Those
men came into the war after we had uttered our purpose.  They came as
crusaders, not merely to win a war but to win a cause."  This language
applies still more aptly to the soldiers of Canada.  No participant in
the war has so clear a record of disinterestedness as Canada.  The
United States came in late after repeated and deliberate attacks upon
its national honor really left no alternative to a proud nation; but
Canada, in keeping with a deep and true instinct, drew her sword at the
first blast of the war trumpet.  There was no calculation about Canada’s
entrance into the war; nor was there ambition for territory or trade or
glory.  There was an intuitive recognition that this was Armageddon; and
that if the powers of hell were not to overturn the world there would be
need of us.

There is much idle discussion as to who won the war.  The answer is that
it was won by the allies; and that the help of every one of them was
essential to the final result. During the war we were told, by little
Canadians and would-be-shirkers, that in a conflict of such range and
violence the contribution of Canada, however great it might be in
relation to the country’s resources, could not be a deciding factor; and
that, therefore, our canny course was to turn the war to our advantage
by supplying goods and war materials to the allies at war prices. That
counsel of infamy was spurned by a generous people, and Canada made her
sacrifice of life and treasure to the last ounce of her power.  The war
is over and won, and the cost is known—a huge debt that will long burden
us, a great army of maimed men and sixty thousand Canadian graves in
France and Flanders.  Was the sacrifice worth while?  Are there
compensations for our grief and loss?  There is an answer to these
questions from the battlefields and it is one of consolation.

It would be ludicrous to say that Canada won the war; but the view that
if Canada had kept out or had limited her contribution to a mere nominal
participation the war would not have been won, can be held with a clear
mind by every Canadian.  The war was almost lost many times; it was
saved on occasions by the narrowest of margins, both as to time and
force.  It was saved by the defence of Liege by the Belgians; by the
miraculous rally of the allied forces at the Marne; by the holding of
the line by the British in the first battle of Ypres; by the repeating
of this achievement at the second battle of Ypres by the Canadians; by
the glorious resistance by the French at Verdun; by the tenacity with
which the bent line was held a year ago; and by that marvelous rally of
all the allied powers, in which Canada joined, after the narrow escape
from disaster last year, which supplied as though from inexhaustible
reservoirs the resources in men and material that crushed the Germans in
the summer offensive.  Canada has the compensation of knowing that the
first object of her war contribution—the infliction of complete and
overwhelming defeat upon Kaiserism—was fully realized in part by her
exertions. But the soldiers—not only of Canada but of all the democratic
countries—were inspired by something more than a determination to defeat
and punish the Germans. They all had in some measure the feeling that
they were engaged in a crusade for the making of a better world in which
wars of aggression should cease.  They fought, many of them consciously,
for a peace which should endure because it would rest upon justice and
fraternity.  It rests with the statesmen of Paris to keep faith with the
aspiration which turned millions of peace-loving men into militant
crusaders.  If they succeed only in patching up the old order under a
pretentious false front, it will be only too true that much of the
sacrifice will have been in vain.  But though the conditions in Paris
are far from cheerful, it is still possible to hope for a peace that
will achieve the immediate object of the war—the just punishment of
Germany and her allies; and will have in it, as well, the healing
qualities that will safeguard the world against the repetition of these
horrors.  The responsibility that rests upon the world’s elder
statesmen, in session in Paris, is immeasurable; and pitiful will be
their place in history if, in the judgment of posterity, they turn to
base uses the high devotion that strewed the battlefields of Europe with
the bones of the generous youth of their countries.

The national compensations to Canada for her participation in the war
would not in themselves justify the sacrifices; but they are a
substantial reinforcement to the considerations that supply the actual
justifications.  We have won a new status among the nations of the
world; which is the outward sign of that strong national spirit, evoked
by the war, which is to-day vitalizing our common life in all its
manifestations—political, commercial, intellectual, spiritual.  It is
something, too, to have learned in the sternest of tests, that we have
been building our nationhood on sound lines; that our conception of a
democratic people, with equality of opportunity and status, endures
while autocracy, based upon the subjection of man, has crumbled in the
fierce fires of war.  We know now that everything that makes the normal
and happy citizen in peace—good schools in youth, just living
conditions, opportunities for advancement to honest work, wise laws, the
cultivation of the spiritual life—makes also the unconquerable soldier
when he is called upon to defend his home.  Canada derives from the war
the profound satisfaction that she gave essential help in protecting the
world from a political and spiritual reaction that would have set the
clocks of human progress back a thousand years; the hope, still
confident, that she has helped to usher in a new international order
under which democratic institutions can have a peaceful and fruitful
evolution to better things for all; and a knowledge of her own
capacities and possibilities which gives her confidence to go forward to
a great career amongst the nations of the world.

The financial burdens of the war, heavy though they be, need give us
little concern. They can be borne—or better still, largely removed—if
Canadians in grappling with this problem, show, in any degree, the
qualities of patriotism, unity and sacrifice which gave so sharp an edge
to their war effort. We all helped in the war but the actual fighting
was done by the men who could fight.  We shall all help to carry the war
debt but most of the paying will have to be done by those who can pay.
The war debt may be no calamity whatever if we are driven by necessity
to juster methods of taxation, greater co-ordination of national
energies and wise development of the country’s resources.

The hard question is where the recompense is for the men who will never
come back—who rest in the countless cemeteries which dot the
battlefields of France.  The answer—if answer there be—must be given by
fighting men themselves who counted in advance the cost and accepted the
price with proud humility; let them speak!  Julian Grenfell, before
going into battle to his death, put the case of the young man to whom
duty calls in two ever memorable lines:

    "He is dead who will not fight,
    And who dies fighting has increase."


The passion of man for his country which makes death in her defence a
high honor burns in Vernede’s "Petition"—a prayer that was granted:

    "Grant thou one thing more;
    That now when envious foes would spoil thy splendor,
    Unversed in arms, a dreamer such as I
    May in thy ranks be deemed not all unworthy
    England, for thee to die."


It must be a deep instinct, not to be judged by finite tests, that sent
the young men to battle with joyous hearts and shining faces. "Now God
be thanked that has matched us with His hour!" cried Rupert Brooke, now
asleep in Scyros in the far Aegean seas.  And the stoicism with which
the young soldier foresaw death on the battlefield was never expressed
in finer terms than by the British officer in the letter which he wrote
to his parents the night before his death:

"It is impossible to fear death out here when one is no longer an
individual but a member of a regiment and an army.  I have been looking
at the stars and thinking what an immense distance they are away.  What
an insignificant thing the loss of, say, 40 years of life is compared
with them!  It seems hardly worth talking about!"

Here are four voices, all now from the shades!  Do they not, taken
together, tell us something of the high exaltation with which the young
hero makes his sacrifice. He welcomes the hour that makes his arms his
country’s shield, scorning the recreant who shuns the test; and
measuring time by eternity he renounces life as a garment to be laid
aside.  If the poet and the seer can speak for them, the lost do not ask
us for pity or for hopeless grief:

    "They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
      Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun in the morning
      We will remember them."


For those who mourn for the unreturning brave there are secret springs
of consolation! The ending of the full-lived life is not tragic; the
symbol of poignant grief is the broken column that bespeaks the day that
ended in the morning.  But for those who die for their country there is
not this sense of irremediable loss, this feeling of the unlived life,
the unfulfilled dream. There is an instinct deep-hidden in human life
which tells the mourner that for the man who falls upon the field of
honor his life has come full circle whatever the tale of his years; and
that somewhere in the divine scheme of things there is compensation for
the lost experiences and achievements.

If the dead gave their lives without bitterness and the living are
consoled Canada, the common mother of both, is richer for all time for
their sacrifice.  In the life of the race a single generation passes
like a heart-beat; but the chosen few from this generation, whose names
are in the lists of the lost, are secure in their fame and in their
power.  They have set for all time for Canada the standards of service
and of sacrifice; their example will, now and forever, sweeten our civic
life and if the occasion calls will nerve the youth of Canada to emulate
their deeds on the stricken field.  A thousand years from now Canadian
youths will read the story of their deeds with hearts uplifted and with
kindling eyes.  Safe in such an immortality what matters it that they
sleep far from Canada upon the battlefields of France!



                    Warwick Bro’s & Rutter, Limited,
               Printers and Bookbinders, Toronto, Canada





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