The Final 100 Days - September 10, 1918

60 Days Until Armistice

As the Allied Forces continued progressing along the Western Front, attempts to end the German U-Boat campaign were made daily. As British forces pushed past Neuve Chapelle, elements of the French Army captured the villages of Hinancourt and Travercy. 

Allied forces also bombed U-Boat pens (essentially the docks for submarines) at Bruges, just beyond the Allied front line. A simultaneous attack went towards the docks at Ostend, also in Belgium, and an important dock for German forces. 

Since the onset of war, the German u-boats (submarines) had staged an impressive campaign, aimed at undermining Allied shipping across the Atlantic Ocean. Ships containing food, weapons, ordinance, clothing, and other war materiel were sustaining the Allied Forces on the Western Front, and supplementing the citizenry of their respective nations. However, these ships often travelled alone and without guns, making them vulnerable to German submarine attacks. 

More often than not, these ships would dock first at Halifax, or another port of call in the Maritimes. Though every Canadian city felt the impact of the First World War, Halifax’s position on the Atlantic coast brought it closer to the war than any other Canadian city. 

An example which springs to mind is the Halifax Explosion,  an early morning maritime collision on December 6th, 1917. A Norwegian freight ship, the SS Imo, collided with a French steamship laden with high explosives. A resulting fire on the French ship resulted in the explosion of her cargo, causing 2,000 civilian deaths, 9,000 injuries, and untold civic damage. Even away from the world’s battlefields, the war had far reaching consequences.

The German U-Boat threat in the Atlantic petrified citizens of Allied nations. The possibility of a hidden German submarine fleet attacking Canada, America, and Britain kept citizens on their toes. 

Although the sheer size of the Atlantic dissuaded German Command from a full-fledged assault on North America, a few u-boats made the voyage from 1914-1918. One famous instance arose when U-156 under Kaptainleutnant (Lieutenant-Captain) Richard Feldt hijacked a Canadian ship and sunk 7 others. After terrorizing Canadian waters, Feldt escaped Canadian forces- though U-156 would hit a mine off of the British coast.

While the effectiveness of the U-Boat campaign cannot be denied, defensive measures taken by the Allies had greatly reduced the impact of U-Boat attacks by late 1918. The use of the convoy system, in which cargo ships were escorted by battleships, cruisers, and other Navy ships was extremely effective - with Allied shipping losses falling drastically, while U-Boat losses increased dramatically. However, the fear they induced in Canadians, and the tangible impact they had on Allied life stands as a testament to their effectiveness.