V. E. Goodwin Part 2

Canadians keep watch in the trenches

A close call. . .

"One Canadian fellow sure was lucky, though. Low-flying Fokkers swooped down upon us with machine guns blazing. They hit one man. He tumbled to the ground, flopped around a couple of minutes and lay motionless. After a while, like Lazarus, he commenced to stir, dragged himself to his feet and staggered forward in our direction. His mess kit had been slung over his back and the bullet embedded in his tin plate. He had trouble after that making it hold a dipper of Mulligan's stew, that yellow, tough, old Australian or New Zealand mutton swimming in greasy vegetable ends. The poor fellow had to confine himself to bully beef (corned beef) and hardtack biscuits. To my mind they tasted far better than chunks of tallowy, aged ewe. All the same, that heavy tin plate saved that fellow's life. I saw the plate. The bullet's impact stunned him and knocked his wind out -- the only damage he suffered."

Pack horses moving goods
spacer The role of the packhorses. . .

"We tend to forget the debt owed to the faithful horse and his oft unfairly maligned, though occasionally stubborn relative, the mule. The melodic jingle of horse's harness and clip of horseshoes against cobblestones seldom ranged out of earshot. Frequently duty drew them into the thick of combat where they suffered grievous casualties. It was a pathetic sight to see these animals, innocent victims of a conflict which they neither sought nor understood, cut down, maimed, disemboweled, and feebly waiting for a final merciful shot to deliver them from agony. Forgotten, unsung heroes indeed they were, and several score of them met a cruel end in that morning's bombing."

Lone soldier on the field
spacer Life on the front. . .

It was a short night, and a miserable one. "A steady downpour of rain set in turning the ground to greasy mud and soaking us to the hide. We reloaded our lorries with ammunition and supplies. About 4:00 a.m. we ate an early breakfast, a bacon sandwich and hot coffee spiked with rum, and roared off down the Arras-Cambrai Road to fight in the 2nd Division's sector." The attack began at 4:55 a.m. on August 27th.

Canada's Tank Battalions

Two Canadian tank Battalions went overseas in World War 1. The 1st Canadian Tank Battalion arrived in England in June, 1918, with a strength of 92 officers and 716 other ranks. It was recruited from Canadian universities and a considerable number of both officers and men possessed mechanical qualifications. McGill and University of Toronto each furnished one Company of the Battalion while a third Company was recruited from among other universities. A second Canadian Tank Battalion was raised in August, 1918, and arrived in England on October 18, 1918. Neither Brigade saw action in France. Had the war been prolonged, Canada likely would have had its own Tank Corps in the field.

"Soldiers caught in tanks or armored cars without sufficient artillery cover frequently met death in a fiery inferno. On either side of this war, the most dangerous place to fight was from inside a tank or armored car. Combat in the infantry or machine gun companies rated as a safe occupation compared to tank warfare (doubtless an opinion not shared by infantrymen). They constructed these vehicles with thin armored plate. One well-placed shell could pierce a tank's armor, invariably setting the gasoline tank afire and incinerating the men inside. A man stood no chance of crawling out if the enemy scored a hit. German field artillery blew up quite a few tanks and cars that September 2nd afternoon."

Canadians in a motorcade
spacer The Spirit of Canada's Troops

But the battle should not be forgotten. Canadian officers sent Brutinel's Brigade into a veritable death trap in the Marquion Bridge engagement. They took a costly, calculated risk in ordering them in without artillery support. The attack failed disastrously. Nonetheless, the plucky 1st and 2nd Brigade Motor Machine Gunners, courageous 10th Roy; scores of men in armored cars who threw themselves against enemy lines in a gallant attempt to break through to Canal du Nord should be remembered. The spirit in which they fought should be permanently inscribed on the Canadian World War I memories monument. For that we should remember them.

spacer The text on this page has been taken from Memories of the Forgotten War, by Dr. David P. Beatty.

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