The Final 100 Days - August 23, 1918 - The Second Battle of the Somme

The Second Battle of the Somme

79 Days Until Armistice

Not every day on the Western Front bore witness to a massive offensive. For most of the war, troops on both sides lingered in the lines. Smoking, trying to force the lice out of their clothes, and occasionally taking potshots at the men across the battlefield. Trench life was at one time both boring and nerve-wracking. But this changed with the unorthodox tactics utilized by the Allies during the Hundred Days Campaign. With the British Third and Fourth Armies engaging the Germans at Albert, the Canadian Corps launched a daylight raid to capture a sugar factory just south of Neuville-Vitasse. All the while, Canadian Corps Commander Arthur Currie was planning an assault on Arras, just to the east.

The Final 100 Days - August 20, 1918

82 Days Until Armistice

By August 20th, the Allied Forces under Ferdinand Foch had secured astonishing gains. The Canadian Corps alone had penetrated over 22 kilometres into German territory, recovering ground that had been lost in the Spring Offensives. Though significant progress had been (and continued to be) made in whittling down the German war machine, the blood cost of these victories had been high - 11,822 casualties over the course of 13 days.

Understandably, the 4th Army under Julian Byng advanced with caution, but did not produce the same results. Fresh assaults along the entirety of the Western Front tried to grind down the Germans, if only through a war of attrition. Small victories were celebrated every day, but a total Allied victory rested on an explosive breakthrough.

Julian Byng

Julian Byng

The Final 100 Days - August 19, 1918

89 Days Until Armistice

The plans were in motion. The next strike made by the Allies would be in the Arras region – one that the Canadians were familiar with. The previous years’ offensives in Arras saw the Corps come together as one and capture Vimy Ridge, in a battle considered to have forged a national identity. A year of battle had neither diminished nor dimmed that national identity, only strengthening it, as the Canadians began being driven by bus and taken by train northwards to join the British First Army in the sector.

The Final 100 Days - August 14, 1918

The Amiens campaign, while resoundingly successful, had demanded much from the Allies – and the Canadians were no exception. The Corps took 11,822 casualties through the 6 days of fighting, illustrating the price paid for ground gained. However, an influx of returning (formerly wounded) soldiers and conscripts from Canada soon joined the Corps at the front. The Canadians were quickly back up to full strength and ready to finish the fight.

Although considered small relative to other nations’ armies, the Canadian Corps still numbered over 100,000 strong. Dispersed between 4 divisions, the tall task of supplying the corps logistical needs fell to the Canadian Engineers. For instance, within the 6 day preparation period preceding the Amiens offensive, the engineers moved millions of rounds of ammunition and nearly 300,000 artillery rounds to the front. As the Allies continued their rapid thrust through the last 100 Days of the war, the engineers played a pivotal role in keeping the advance pushing forward.

Over 40,000 Canadians served as engineers during the First World War. As No Stone Left Alone prepares commemorate the centennial year of the Armistice, we also commemorate those who fought and died for Canada during the First World War.

The Final 100 Days - August 9, 1918

After the initial, stunning successes at Amiens on August 8th, the Allied forces moved to continue their push and hopefully pierce the German lines. However, they faced a far more difficult task. Following the substantial gains made by the Canadian Corps (up to 13 kilometers in some sectors) the German Army had reinforced their front line with 5 divisions, digging in opposite to the Canadians. It became clear the Canadians would be fighting a much more prepared enemy within the days to come.

August 9th was characterized by miscommunication, confusion, and unpreparedness on the Allied side. The distance that the Canadian Corps had travelled made it difficult to bring up ammunition, tanks, fresh water, and more men to replenish those who had fallen. Moreover, the Allies no longer had the element of surprise, and the Germans fought tenaciously for every piece of ground. Astonishingly, the Canadians still went on to advance another 6 kilometers.