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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 7:51:27 AM
Mons was a bastion of coal mining, whose resources had been used throughout the war to fuel Germany's war effort.

Recapturing Mons now, at the end of the war, was of huge symbolic importance to the Allies.

I am led to believe Lieutenant General Arthur Currie and his Canadian Corps were ordered to take the town.True or False ? and what was the final outcome??

Some criticism was levelled at Canadian Corps commander Arthur Currie by Sam Hughes and others for needlessly wasting lives to capture Mons once it was known that the armistice was imminent.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 687

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 10:23:14 AM
Canadian troops did capture Mons on the last day of the war. Or perhaps, complete the capture, in that it had been ongoing for several days, with most of the town in Canadian hands by the 11th.

The business of continuing to incur casualties once an armistice was imminent, or even after the agreement was signed but before it took effect, was and remains controversial. Attacks continued all along the front, not just by the Canadians. Some commanders ordered their troops to hold in place, others felt obligated to continue to attack until the last minute.

As Joseph Persico points out in his "11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour"; "According to the most conservative estimates, during the last day of the war, principally in the six hours after the armistice was signed, all sides on the western front suffered 10,944 casualties, of which 2,738 were deaths, more than the average daily casualties throughout the war."

Just another Monday on the Western Front...
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 10:40:19 AM
Many sincere thanks Jim for a most interesting post-one learns something every day. Absolutely astonished at the number of casualties in the six hours AFTER the Armistice was signed. Just another Monday on the Western front indeed- in spades !!

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 687

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 10:50:08 AM
Persico's book is well worth having.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 10:58:49 AM
Thanks Jim -I shall look out for it

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 11:31:12 AM

Quote:


As Joseph Persico points out in his "11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour"; "According to the most conservative estimates, during the last day of the war, principally in the six hours after the armistice was signed, all sides on the western front suffered 10,944 casualties, of which 2,738 were deaths, more than the average daily casualties throughout the war."

Just another Monday on the Western Front...
--Jim Cameron


Forgive me being pernickety - I hate to be raining on the parade here - but I really do think that those figures are a bit of a stretch....certainly, I would be reluctant to accept the contention that the total number of deaths that day exceeded the daily average throughout the war.

CWGC gives 317 commemorations for British Empire Army deaths in France and Belgium 11/11/18.

I suspect that US deaths were significant in number.

There would have been hundreds of Frenchmen, too.

Perhaps one thousand Germans .

It looks as if Persico has cited a notional number of total casualties , and then followed the assumption that one quarter were fatal : the 2,738 deaths being one fourth of the 10,944 total casualties.

No complacency about the reality....it's too terrible that so many died that day.

Regards , Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Posts: 5704

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 12:24:04 PM
It seems quite odd to be talking about Mons when we had just begun to discuss the Last 100 Days beginning on Aug. 8.

The Last 100 Days is referred to in Belgium and parts of France as Canada's 100 Days. There were many important and costly battles in that period for the Canadians and the British forces.

One of most audacious and daring battles by the Canadians was at the Canal du Nord.

I know that it rubs some the wrong way when I go on about the Canadian Corps but it worth noting just how much the Dominion forces accomplished in the 100 Days.

After brilliant advances starting on Aug. 8, the casualties mounted for the Australians and by early October, they were relieved.


The Canadian Corps was able to maintain its fighting capability until the end but at great cost.

Since Aug. 8, the Canadians had taken over 40,000 casualties.

The Germans were still fighting hard to prevent an invasion of the homeland even though negotiations for an armistice were in the works.


During the Battle of Valenciennes, on Nov. 1, 2, the Canadian Corps prevailed but it was not an easy fight.


By Nov. 10, the Corps was just outside of Mons and Gen. Currie was ordered to take it.

Was this symbolic for the British as Mons was the place that the Brits staged a fighting retreat? This is where it all began.

So we could argue that it was symbolic but I know that Gen. Currie felt that the pressure on the Germans must be maintained and that rumours of an armistice had to be ignored lest they be false or the deal fell through.

I can tell you that many of the Canadian troops were upset with their commander. They felt that he had been volunteering the Corps for all the major battles in order to garner praise for himself. They did not know that Currie did everything that he could as Corps commander to expend artillery shells to protect the infantry.

There were not that many deaths in Mons between Nov. 10 and 11 but some of the troops were upset at any at all. They felt them to be unnecessary.

One of the soldiers had seen his brother killed at Mons and he was distraught and said that when Currie arrived, he was going to kill him.

I cannot remember which officer gave the order but he told the men to take the angry soldier whose brother had been killed at Mons, and to get him roaring drunk so that he was incapacitated. They did so.

The last Canadian killed was Private George Price who was killed by a sniper at about 10:58, just NE of Mons.



General Currie's problems did not end here. He had been accused by the former Minister of Defence, Sam Hughes of irresponsible deployment of his troops, resulting in unnecessary casualties.

Sam Hughes is considered now to be a rather unstable and erratic character. He deserves credit for cobbling together a fighting force in Canada at the beginning of the war. Essentially he established a small army out of nothing.

However, Sam became a liability and was fired by PM Robert Borden. That's another story.

Hughes had hoped to lead the army himself. Thank God that saner heads prevailed.


But he had hopes too that his son, Garnet Hughes, would be moved into a command position of a division. One of Arthur Currie's strengths was that he refused to make political appointments to command positions of his divisions.

Currie received the eternal hatred of Sir Sam when Currie refused to promote son Garnet to a command position. Garnet Hughes had been friends with Currie but Currie rated him as incompetent to assume divisional command. He was correct in that assessment.

Sir Sam spread false rumours about Currie, called him a butcher and saying things in Parliament that would have resulted in a libel suit on the street.

When Currie came home victorious, friends of Hughes in the press continued to accuse Currie of irresponsible command.

Finally some editor in a small town newspaper who was a friend of Hughes made some untrue and libellous statements about Currie and Currie had had enough. This was 1928.

He sued and he won though a few soldiers under his command did criticize him but many more praised him.

The cash settlement was tiny but Currie felt that his reputation had been sullied, defended in court, and finally restored.


But fighting a war and as one of the best corps generals of the British forces, (some say, the best), Currie was worn out.

He became the principal of McGill University in Montréal but the rumours of his behaviour as the cause of the high casualty rate of his Corps, dogged him for years.

So he restored his reputation in 1928 and by that time, the reputation of the exploits of his Canadian Corps were well known. Canadians were very proud of their Corps as the instrument that let the world know that Canadians were a nation that could do great things.

Tired and ill, he died in 1937, only 57 years of age.

10,000 people attended his funeral and he was accorded the praise and appreciation that he had not received sufficiently in life.


If anyone is interested in understanding how a great soldier could be under such stress in his home country and his relationship with Sam Hughes, I can recommend a fine book by historian Tim Cook entitled, The Madman and the Butcher.

You can surmise that the Butcher is Currie while the Madman is Sir Sam Hughes.


Cheers,

George







Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 687

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 12:25:14 PM
You may in fact be correct as to Persico's estimates, although if his reflect the "most conservative" estimates, one would have to wonder just how high some others go. I can't pretend to have delved into the numbers myself.

What Persico does point out is that 11/11 may have been a more active day, in terms of combat action, than many might expect. Some commanders did call a halt to offensive action, but by no means all. The impending armistice may in fact have provoked a good deal of tending to "unfinished business", in terms of tidying up lines and securing viable positions in the event the armistice did not hold. And how many men were killed by artillery batteries getting in a last salvo before 11?
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 2:19:22 PM
I wanted to mention that the Canadians had determined that they would try to take Mons without a bombardment.

The hope was that the city, which had been under German occupation since 1914, could be preserved.

The encircling tactic worked but this was urban warfare and the Germans did not surrender the city easily.

Still at 280 casualties, killed, wounded and missing in the last two days of the war, it is nothing to sneeze at.


As well, we should not forget that the last large scale battle involving 3 of 4 Canadian divisions was at the Battle of Valenciennes.

This was a vicious fight. From memory now, it seems to me that the Canadians and British corps were greatly outnumbered at Valenciennes.

With Valenciennes gone, the path to Mons was a little more open.


On a sorry note, the liberation of Valenciennes resulted in a little bit of head butting between Brits and Canadians, again.

It was the Canadians who took the city and they expected to receive the accolades for that. British officers were ticked at the Canadian officers who they felt were being pretentious and nationalistic.

So at the ceremonies in the town, the British dominated the affair with the Canadians placed in a secondary role even though they played a prominent role in the liberation of Valenciennes. David Watson, commander of the Canadian 4th div, called the parade, "a frosty affair".

As a result, upon taking Mons, General Currie ordered every unit in the Canadian Corps to parade through the city. Currie would always ensure that his Corps received praise separate from praise directed generally toward British troops.

I can see how British officers could be miffed at the upstart colonials.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/26/2017 3:34:59 PM
Phil, a question about CWGC if you don't mind.

How do you find the total number of killed on a day? The site seems to be set up to find an individual soldier.

Perhaps I am being a bit dense.

I was trying to find out how many British and Commonwealth died on Nov. 1 and 2, at the Battle of Valenciennes. This battle doesn't get much attention, coming after Cambrai and before Mons.

Cheers,

George

Phil Andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/27/2017 4:01:26 PM

Quote:
Phil, a question about CWGC if you don't mind.

How do you find the total number of killed on a day? The site seems to be set up to find an individual soldier.

Perhaps I am being a bit dense.

I was trying to find out how many British and Commonwealth died on Nov. 1 and 2, at the Battle of Valenciennes. This battle doesn't get much attention, coming after Cambrai and before Mons.

Cheers,

George
--George


Hi George,

Keen to do justice to your question.

Just on my Dorset Dash right now.. please forgive failure to answer properly

Looking forward to enjoying circumstances that will allow for decent reply.

A bientot !

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/27/2017 7:02:10 PM
Thanks Phil. Hope everything is OK. Looking forward to your return.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/28/2017 10:10:20 AM
George,

At long last, I can set up my iPad and post properly.

CWGC has its online site.

Just Google CWGC and click on link FIND WAR DEAD.

There are then several boxes which allow you to pursue your search.

All 1.7 million war dead are named.

You use several criteria : Country ; date of death, which war ( obvious ! ) , which branch of armed services, which commonwealth country.

If you leave the box requesting which commonwealth country, then the default position is that all the dead are enumerated.

When researching the Western Front, it's very important to remember that this includes Belgium as well as France : people still think in terms of " France " when they allude to that front ; some of the biggest killing fields were in Belgium . IIRC, the 317 for November 11th 1918 include 278 in France and 39 in Belgium : I expect that many of the latter were Canadian. I'll look at it and post an edit.

There are caveats : these are deaths from all causes : not all of these were killed in action... the 317 dead for 11th November 1918 might include a few who died from accident or disease ( Spanish flu ), and, of course, some might have died from wounds received days or weeks earlier. Then again, many who were wounded that day might have died later, and not be included in the day's toll. But, as a means of cross checking and assessing the impact of a day of warfare - or a period of weeks or months - it's invaluable as a research tool.

Edit : only one Canadian is commemorated in Belgium for 11th November 1918, and that is George Price. There are, however, 17 Canadian deaths commemorated for that day in France. Valenciennes is cited as the place of burial or commemoration for some of them, which implies that the place must be just inside the French border.

Editing again : George, you mention 280 Canadian killed, wounded and missing in the last two days of the war. Using the methods I cited above, I put in dates 10 -11 November 1918, Canadian, Army, and the search yielded 41 commemorated for Belgium and 31 for France for those two days : that equates to roughly one quarter of total casuaties being fatal.

And here's something else. The Battle of Valenciennes 1-3 November 1918 cost the Canadians 501 casualties, of whom 121 were posted as killed. CWGC commemorates 185 Canadian dead that day in France. The Germans there appear to have been massacred : Canadians claimed to have counted 800 of their dead there ; and also counted 1,379 prisoners.

Regards , Phil


---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: Canadians at Mons in November 1918-a Symbolic Gesture ???
Posted on: 4/28/2017 11:21:02 AM
Many thanks Phil. There were British divisions at Valenciennes as well. I need to refresh my knowledge of the battle.

If memory serves however, the Germans outnumbered the British and Dominion forces and that makes the astounding casualty tally for the Germans most notable.

Cheers,

George

 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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