If Ye Break Faith

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of educating about the Canadian experience of World War One. To discover who we are as a nation in the 21st Century, we must understand our past.


Monday, 26 January 2015

Deafening Silence

On Wednesday, January 28th, Bell Canada once again is holding their “Let’s Talk” event, encouraging a more open dialogue about and hopefully reducing the stigma of mental illness.  This is an incredibly important effort which involves the entire population generally and the military community specifically.  Not only is the state of mental health amongst veterans a legitimate concern and a recurring issue, the military itself has been a force of positive change in the development of the field of mental health.  Much of that, in fact, has come as a direct result of the experiences within WWI.

I’ve touched on this subject previously in an essay examining the occurrence of “shell shock” during the war.  It can be found at the University of Oxford’s WWI Centenary Project.  It is not my intent to restate the nature of that piece here.  Rather, I aim to take a wider view on the state of our current understanding of mental illness, and how a terrible event in human history helped to get that understanding to where it is now.

Psychiatry and psychology in their modern iterations are relatively new medical practices in comparison to
other disciplines.  In fact, it has been less than two hundred years since it became a realisation that the mentally ill could benefit from any form of treatment.  Prior to this, it was the practice to segregate suffers for the well being of society rather than concern for the patient.  Asylums where people were habitually restrained cut off from human interaction and treated much like animals was the common practice until the introduction of “moral treatment” in the early 19th Century.  The theory of moral treatment was developed by an early pioneer in mental health advocacy, a layman English Quaker named William Tuke.  Tuke established the Retreat at York, a private hospital in which his philosophy of humane treatment began a progression towards the idea that mental illness can be addressed and its symptoms diminished.  This idea, “the superiority of kindness and judicious treatment over chains and stripes…commenced in that marked amelioration of the condition of the insane.”[1]

There was, perhaps, a lot more to be understood of psychological conditions, and moral treatment was a good starting point.  A great increase of occurrences of neurological disorders among a nominally healthy population could only serve to accelerate this progressive development.  World War One would produce such conditions.  Dr. Stepasky illustrates a particular irony of war- “Out of human destructiveness emerge potent new strategies of protection, remediation, and self preservation.”[2] The notion is entirely true of medicine as a whole within the history of conflict, but reflects particularly to WWI in the case of mental health.

One of the main realisations to come about from the war was that of distinguishing between psychosis and neurosis.   “Although there is a minor rise in the psychosis rate during any war, a major increase in the incidence of neurotic disorders was observed, starting with World War I.”[3] A post war assessment by the US Army concluded “Rates of hospitalization for mental disorders in Army personnel…ranged from 11 to 12 per 1,000 men per year….The incidence of psychotic disorders during this period was from 2 to 3 per 1,000 per annum.”[4]  It also became more understood that aspects of character had little to do with susceptibility. In the official War Office report commissioned after the war on shell shock, British Army historian, the Honourable John Fortesque mentions in particular “my brother, Brigadier General Charles Fortesque, had, in his column in South Africa a Canadian officer who was a proverb of daring; but even this officer broke down for the time after every enterprise of any continuance and needed a fortnight’s rest to restore him.”[5] Prevailing wisdom held that it was not the person, but the exposure to extreme situation which caused neuroses “Like clothes increasingly worn threadbare until they finally ripped…soldiers were steadily worn down to the point where the slow descent into breakdown was accelerated by a traumatic event.”[6]

From a military clinical perspective, a man is an asset.  In this light, with sentimentality removed, the practicality is to return a wounded man to useful work as quickly as possible.  If the injury is too severe to permit employment in his former role, then he should be retrained with those limitations in mind for the most productive work to which he is suited.  When the same logic was applied, in synthesis with the progressive ideals of moral treatment, psychiatric medicine as a whole benefitted from the positive results. “Trial and error treatment efforts by French, Italian, and British psychiatrists and neurologists clearly demonstrated as early as 1915 and 1916 that a majority of the so-called war neuroses could be salvaged for duty by providing care near the front.”[7] This practical approach without sentiment in its implication doesn’t disallow for the application of sentiment in treatment.  Crucially, those suffering from a neurological break were generally treated much better than modern perception of the war usually allows.  “In no case,” states historian Gordon Corrigan “was a soldier whom the medical staff certified as suffering from ‘shell shock’ executed.”[8]

Methods of treatment, focused on productive employment were part of the emergence of occupational therapy as a component to a holistic approach to mental health.[9] This and other civil practices were vastly improved through military experiences; “after the first world war more modern approaches such as psychotherapy started to evolve, in response to the effects of thousands of shell shock cases.”[10] A rational and scientific approach to the treatment of mental illness is cited as being a result of WWI in a Senate report on mental health and addictions, when psychological casualties “demonstrated poignantly” the wide vulnerability to psychological breaking points.[11]

From the extreme experience of war, understanding and development in the medical field has advanced further than it would have without it.  Indeed, there are indicators that this remains contemporary.  While a
report on civil health services mentions that “the mental health service system and the addiction treatment system have struggled to provide the most compassionate and responsive treatment possible, but both have been dogged by the problem of stigma which had a negative impact on their development”[12]; a military report indicates “Most CAF members now hold largely forward-thinking attitudes about mental health and mental health care. For example, only 6% of CAF personnel returning from deployment in support of the mission in Afghanistan indicated that they would think less of someone who was receiving mental health care. In contrast, the Canadian Center for Addictions and Mental Health statistics indicate that only 49% of the general population would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. Rates of stigma and barriers to care appear to be lower in CAF personnel than in allied military personnel”[13] As well, there is little actual barrier to care for the Service Personnel suffering from a mental illness-while still serving and thus available to CF Medical Services.  The military report does relate that perceived barriers to care may be indicative of the stigma of requiring help for a psychological difficulty, but continues with the availability of supportive services in the civil sector.

As occurrences of mental illness is not markedly different between military personnel and the general population, the factors behind a reduction of stigma and barriers to care in the civil sector might be able to continue to take an example from the armed forces. Even the Hon. Fortesque was forward thinking on this when he asked “Can emotional or commotional shock, induced by battle, be differentiated from the like shock induced by other forms of catastrophe?”[14]

Admittedly, there is much yet to be accomplished; particularly in civil practice and especially when veterans being discharged still need continuing care which is no longer as available as it was while they were serving.  Above all, the need to make these changes and to best help those who are suffering is to reduce the stigma which is the largest deterrent to positive change in mental health effectiveness.  That can only occur through open, honest discussion.  So, let’s talk.  If you are suffering from an Occupational Stress Injury, please visit the OSI Social Support website.  Are you or your family member a current or discharged member of the Canadian Forces and need resources to find the help you may need? The CAF Member Assistance Program is a great place to start.
#BellLetsTalk.



[1] Bewley, Thomas, “Madness to Mental Illness. A History of the Royal College of Psychiatrists” Online archive 1, pg 3
[2] Stepansky, Dr Paul E, adoseofhistory.com “An Irony of War” February 11 2012
[3] Bernucci, Robert J. Lt Col, MC, USA (Ret.) & Albert J. Glass Col, MC, USA (Ret.), Editors for Neuropsychiatry “Neuropsychiatry in World War II Volume I” Office of Medical History, U.S. Army Medical Department pg 4
[4] Bernucci & Glass, ibid. pg 9
[5] Great Britain War Office “Committee of Enquiry into ‘Shell Shock’” 1922 pg 9
[6] Cook, Tim “Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918” Penguin Canada 2008 pg 242
[7] Bernucci & Glass, ibid. pg 6
[8] Corrigan, Gordon “Mud, Blood and Poppycock” Cassel Military Paperbacks, 2004, pg 235
[10]  Lawton-Smith, Simon & Dr Andrew McCulloch, “Starting Today - Background Paper 1: History of Specialist Mental Health Services” Mental Health Foundation pg 2
[11] The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology Interim Report on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Report 1”Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction: Overview of Policies and Programs in Canada” Nov, 2004 pg 135
[12] The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, ibid. pg 133
[13] Zamorski, Mark A. “Evidence-Based Assessment of Mental Health in the CAF” Surgeon General Report, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of National Defence, 2014 pg 7
[14] Great Britain War Office “Committee of Enquiry into ‘Shell Shock’” 1922 pg 9

Monday, 19 January 2015

Beyond The Front

The Efforts of Winning Canada's "Total War"

As some of you may know, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to give a lecture at a recent meeting of the Canadian Federation of University Women in Mississauga. I'm thrilled to report that the evening was splendid, and my talk was very well received.  In light of that, I'm presenting today an abridged version of the subject I spoke upon, the notion of total war, and how it benefited Canada's social development. 

In order to best understand how the First World War affected people beyond those responsible for fighting
the war, and thus how those people affected change in the post-war era, it is important to be familiar with the type of war it was.  This first major conflict of the 20th Century would become the first large scale “total war.”  Total war describes a conflict in which all factors for victory- the tactical (i.e. the battlefield) and strategic (a nation’s ability to support its overall war effort) are combined, requiring participation of the civil population as well as the military.[1]

It would be the Industrial Revolution which would enable the conditions that define total war.  Increased capacity for production and improvements in transportation not only increase availability and access to consumer goods; these also provide the means to produce in a large capacity for military purposes, and allow for the efficient transportation of mass armies.  The term “total war” itself and as a defined concept were not applied until after the experience of World War One.[2]  This may be due to the notion contemporary at the time that such a war would not be possible.  Ironically, the very things- advances in manufacturing, engineering and transportation- which would facilitate the waging of a total war were initially seen as the advantages necessary to wage a successful “limited war”; the antithesis of total war.  Namely, putting a large, overwhelming military force into the battlefield more quickly than an adversary would be capable of, and therefore bringing any conflict to a quick conclusion, with little collateral loss and thus demand for only minor concession from victor to vanquished.

The one problem with waging the First World War as a quick and limited campaign was that neither side had a clear advantage.  In terms of military strength, the Entente had a 1.28:1 advantage over the Central Powers.  Historian Paul Kennedy took comparative statistics[3] to formulate a “Measure of Industrial Potential.” Using Kennedy’s model it’s found there’s an industrial advantage of 1.5:1 of the Entente over the Central Powers.[4] While these advantages may seem clear, they are by a far margin away from being the military ideal of tactical advantage which is, even today, 3:1.  The closeness of military and industrial strength indicate two things- why the war maintained a sense of stalemate so quickly and for so long; and why, in order to continue the war to a satisfactory conclusion, the elements necessary to define a “total war” are put in place.  Those elements, according to economists Engerman and Gallman, are within three qualifying questions.[5]

1.       What is the magnitude of the nations’ commitment to the war?

On both sides armies in the strength of millions of men are raised, trained and equipped- seeking a numerical advantage on the battlefield.  This in turn requires the economy and industry to increase output to sustain such a large effort, drawing upon a large demand for civil participation.

2.      What are the strategic intentions?

First, it is to break the deadlock of trench warfare.  With resources in men and materiel so evenly matched this proves difficult and costly, with wastages needing to be replaced in order to continue this aim.
Also it’s attempting to gain an advantage beyond the fighting front.  In following the German notion of “Materlialschlacht” (battle of material) “The objective is to defeat the enemy by means of quantitative and/or qualitative superiority,”[6] this means not only out-producing the enemy, but taking direct action against the enemy’s ability to produce.  During the war, the Royal Navy puts a strong blockade in effect against German ports, preventing import of raw materials while Germany directly attacks shipping intended for the UK in a similar purpose.  Neither is entirely effective, but shortages on the homefront, particularly in foodstuffs begin to involve the civil population to the suffering of war.

3.      What are the war aims?

In total war, this includes the right to “reshape dramatically the future of the opponent if victory is won.”[7]  As the war drags on and the cost, particularly the human cost, becomes ever higher, the only resolution envisioned by those effected by the war, (which, due to the fulfillment of the first two questions now involves both the military and civil population) is one in which the justification for the high cost is a complete capitulation of the enemy and to be in such a position to dictate the terms of defeat, especially towards imposing large restitutions.

With these checks in place, it becomes clear that the First World War, while not begun as such but by the nature of having no clear advantage to either side developed into a total war.

Total war is ravenousThis increase in demand for production, balanced against the need for men to participate in the military pursuit of the war created a profound shift in the demographics of the civil workforce.  “Canadian women (formed) the "Suffragists' War Auxiliary", designed to provide women to do the jobs of men to free them up for overseas duty. Over 30,000 women worked in munitions factories, more than 5,000 were employed in the civil service, thousands more worked in banks, offices, factories, and on farms.” [8]

Participation in the war effort for non-combatants, went beyond those on the farm or factory floor. Great numbers volunteered to provide for the soldiers overseas in a more direct way, through the YMCA, or the Salvation Army who established rest camps and ‘canteens’ for soldiers behind the lines on the Western Front.  Additionally, “Over 3000 (women) received training with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Red Cross
, and St. John Ambulance, and served as nursing sisters in the war, 33 losing their lives and 200 receiving medals for their bravery.” [9]

This investment of effort, money and lives would be a large part of what inspired the social changes that became part of the post war world. Within these were the “promises of the Great War for real democracy, fair wages, social justice and change in favour of the majority of people.”[10]  None of this had been predicted as the outcome.  In 1914, the war had been seen as a preservation of society established as it was.  At the beginning of the war, it was understood that “The war would be won…if all Canadians ‘did their bit.’  Men, women and children would, of course, do their best ‘bit’ if they performed in their own spheres.”[11] The scale of the conflict prevented from this status quo from being maintained.

Part of that shift was within a large part of the population which would be heard for the first time.  To secure a majority government, and thus the ability to ensure the Military Service Act would remain in place, special voting privileges would be enacted.  Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden had said "Our first duty is to win at any cost the coming election so that we may continue to do our part in winning the war and that Canada be not disgraced." On September 20, 1917, Parliament adopted not one, but two election acts, though Borden had to use closure to push them through.

The Military Voters Act extended the franchise to any member of the Canadian military, regardless of residence prior to the war.  This greatly increased the possible number of votes the Conservatives might receive.  By its broad definitions the MVA also enfranchised the 2,000 Canadian women serving as nurses overseas, making them the first Canadian women eligible to vote in a federal election.  The second act, the War-Time Elections Act “had a dual purpose: to increase the number of electors favourable to the government in power and decrease the number of electors unfavourable to it. The law conferred the right to vote on the spouses, widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of any persons, male or female, living or dead, who were serving or had served in the Canadian forces, provided they met the age, nationality and residency requirements for electors in their respective provinces or Yukon.”  It also restricted the franchise of those who by birth or descent had ties to enemy countries, conscientious objectors and others who were found to have violated the Military Service Act of 1917. [12] 

These Acts were a surprising step forward and were seen as a victory to the suffragist movement.  Once something had been permitted, even as an emergency measure or for an ulterior purpose, it would be hard to argue against full enfranchisement for women in the future. 

This may have reflected well in a large sense, but it does little to give insight to how women were making changes within society.  Professor Susan Grayzel states: “Cultural change may be the hardest to gauge. Certain norms of Western middle-class femininity all but disappeared, and women’s visible appearance before 1914 and after 1918 markedly differed....but expectations about family and domestic life as the main concern of women remained unaltered.”[13]

 What seems to be not often understood is that the war wasn’t entirely futile and the results of the conflict were in some regards to the benefit of advancing society.  If the cultural and historical significance of an event is not fully understood, it makes little sense to place an effort on commemorating it.  We are obliged to take the lessons of these consequences as a clear understanding of cause and effect and apply them as objects in investigating where humanity stands today.



[1] Ferguson, Niall “The Pity of War: Explaining World War I” Basic Books, 1999 pg 253
[2] Black, Jeremy “The Age of Total War, 1860-1945” Rowman & Littlefield, 2010
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_the_Great_Powers
[4] Ferguson, Niall, ibid. pg 248
[5] Förster, Stig, Jorg Nagler (ed) On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871Cambridge University Press 2002 
[6] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialschlacht
[7] Förster, Stig, Jorg Nagler (ed) ibid.
[8] http://archives.queensu.ca/Exhibits/archres/wwi-intro/women.html
[9]  McCrackin, Laura, “Women's Roles in Canada During World War I and the Suffragist Movement” article via http://historyarchive.whitetree.ca/pages/article0027.html
[11] Morton, D & JL Granatstein, ibid. pg 25
[12] A History of the Vote in Canada, Elections Canada Publication, Chapter 2, pp58-60
[13] Grayzel, Susan R, Changing lives: gender expectations and roles during and after World War One,
     www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/changing-lives-gender-expectations

Monday, 12 January 2015

Gone Forward at the Gallop

Circumstances of certain events taking place this year have had me thinking of horses lately.  the event I'm alluding to is the "Communities for Veterans" Cross Canada Ride. CfV founder, Paul Nichols (whom I've had the pleasure to speak with) has come up with the idea of riding across Canada on horseback, engaging volunteer riders from the veterans in the communities along the route.  He has told me "We will raise awareness to the changing face of Canadian Veterans by including 700 veterans on our ride. We will collect their stories and share them with the Canadian people. We believe we will hear a common story of difficulty transitioning."  I've volunteered to take part in this when the ride is scheduled to pass through Toronto in August.  As I've not had much personal experience with horses, I'm engaging with the Upper Canada Cavalry Squadron to teach me.Set up as a living history organisation, UCCS teaches riding as it would be for military riders in the early 1900's.  That these things intersect my love of history and my desire to support veterans, I hope much more will be heard of the story which will develop from this synergy.

The notion of the use of horses in the First World War is often subject to confusion.  Based upon the sheer
difficulty encountered by the infantry in assaulting enemy trenches, surely to continue to use cavalry- a much larger target- against such defenses would be absurd. As in fact it would be if cavalry functioned in such a role, which practically, it does not.   Mounted troops provide reconnaissance, deliver communications and secure the flanks of an advance.  When employed in their fighting role, the cavalry's purpose was to use its advantages of speed and endurance to hit the enemy on his flanks and rear to disrupt fighting cohesion and either set or keep the enemy on the run.  The war would change that, as Gordon Corrigan explains: “the British recognised that the roles of cavalry no longer included shock action against formed bodies of troops.”[1] If there is a disadvantage to cavalry it is this:  Strongly defended static positions that can keep horsemen at a distance.  The standard defence against cavalry in the pre-industrial age had been the "formed square"; infantry organised in four sided groups using either pikes or bayonets to provide an obstacle against close approach and volley-fire to reduce the threat at a distance.

In the early stages of the war, those first six weeks of grand armies on the move, the cavalry provided advanced reconnaissance and were used as a screen to obscure and protect infantry movements.  As the war developed into its static phase, cavalry could no longer act in such a capacity.  In the event, many units were sent into the trenches in the role of ordinary infantry.  Ideally, mounted units would be ready to exploit a break in the deadlock, however, “the cavalry’s great moment, when 12,000 horsemen would erupt through the German defence lines and sweep out into open country and beyond, never came.”[2] Which isn’t to say that at any point during the war was such an action discounted altogether.  Corrigan notes “by 1917 the number of equines in all theatres had peaked at 591,324 horses and 231,149 mules, of which 368,149 and 81,731 respectively were on the Western Front.[3] Notably, only a minority of these animals were used for the cavalry, and it is to be kept to mind that the prime means of transport and transportation in all aspects was by horse.

 A main reason why mounted troops were generally ineffective is because the situation on the Western Front dictated against their use.  When the opportunity existed to bring mounted troops forward, which were few and far between, they usually acquitted themselves well.  One example- a microcosm perhaps in perspective- of how effective cavalry could be occurred on the 20th of November, 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Cambrai.

Of a long and storied history, Cambrai was an ideal target for a limited offensive.  “Cambrai was the location where the Duke of Wellington had his headquarters from 1815 to 1818 during the British occupation in France. Some 100 years later, during the occupation of the town by the Imperial German Army, it was a headquarters for the German Supreme Command, also in occupation in parts of France. Strategically Cambrai occupied an important position as a railhead and junction for supplying the German Armies on the Western Front.”[4] General Sir Julian Byng, the commander of the British 3rd Army had set his objectives to punch through the German defensive line, on a narrow front in between the Canal de L’Escout and Canal du Nord, enabling his forces to capture Cambrai, fortified positions within Bourlon Wood and a vital crossing over the River Sensée.  This move would cut off German units in the area and it was hoped would allow a follow up assault to move towards Valanciennes.[5]

The battle of Cambrai was the first time that tanks were available in sufficient numbers; and where armour, infantry and air units were used in a coordinated and cooperative fashion.  Byng’s ideas behind his plan of attack were new and bold, attempting to capitalise on speed and manoeuvrability of armour and its companioned shock and surprise.  Without a preparatory bombardment, leading tank units broke the German front line, with infantry following up to hold the taken ground with astounding gains.   A lack of available reserves; insufficient levels of coordination and a breakdown in communication created a failure to follow up on what had been an initial success.  The loss of forward momentum and the time taken to remedy the deficiencies meant that by the time the British were prepared to advance again, what had been a “wide gap…between Masnèires and Crèvacoer”[6] was plugged by German reserves having lately arrived from Russia.  From the promise of its first day, Cambrai would wear down into the style of back and forth attritional fighting that the war had made a reputation for.

On that first day, Byng’s cavalry, including the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, had been in position to exploit a breakthrough and push into Cambrai itself.  “Opposite Masnèires the British advance, without tanks, had however, been halted in front of strong German positions, but the Canadian cavalrymen were not aware of that development.”[7] Shortly after noon, the Fort Garry Horse, the advanced guard of the Brigade moved forward into preparatory positions at Masnèires.  There were delays getting into position as Lt Col RW Paterson noted in his after action report “At 2:10 pm…I advanced into Masnèires.  On reaching the bridge in the Main Street I had found that it had either been blown or broken in by the weight of a tank.”[8] At 3pm a substitute crossing had been completed, and Col Paterson advised the Brigade commander by message that he was moving forward.  He assigned Captain Campbell’s B Squadron to lead the way across, intending to “follow with the balance of the Regiment as soon as he had gotten over.”[9]

When B Squadron was across, Paterson followed and sent instructions for C Squadron to follow up; but before this he was given countermanding orders.  Brigadier General Seely had initiated the cavalry attack believing that the infantry attack had been more successful than indeed it was.  Only after B Squadron had crossed the canal did Seely get orders to “call off the cavalry advance.”[10] These were passed on to Paterson, who tried to get word to recall B Squadron, but they’ve already gone forward “at the gallop” passing through the infantry in front and out of sight over a ridge forward of friendly positions.

Advancing quickly, but ultimately alone and unaware that no-one would be following them, B Squadron, as Lieutenant Harcus Strachan reported, “entered the enemy’s line through a gap cut in the wire by our own troops.”[11] The Squadron leader, Captain Campbell, is hit, requiring Lt Strachan to take command.  Pressing forward, using a sunken track and under machine gun fire the whole way, the squadron charged a German battery of four guns, killing or capturing the crews.  Riding beyond the guns, “the Squadron then took on the enemy’s Infantry, who were retreating and disorganised.  These either took refuge in shell holes or surrendered or were killed.”[12]

On nearing Rumilly, Strachan’s squadron had about forty casualties, and only five horses that remained unwounded.  Taking position in another sunken road, isolated and still under fire, Lt Strachan decided to fight back to friendly lines dismounted.  Distracting the enemy machine guns by stampeding the horses and using the cover of darkness the men moved back the way they had come.  There were several contacts with enemy working parties and more men became casualties.  “Lt Cowen, who had been previously hit, reached home with 19 Other Ranks and 9 prisoners.  The rest of the Squadron, 2 Officers and 11 Other Ranks entered Masnèires at the Eastern entrance….I would give as a conservative estimate (of casualties) at 40 going out and 60 on the return trip.”[13]

Strachan’s report in the war diary is frank, but reserved.  A citation in the London Gazette in December 1917 reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery and leadership during operations.
He took command of the squadron of his regiment when the squadron leader, approaching the enemy front line at a gallop, was killed. Lt. Strachan led the squadron through the enemy line of machine-gun posts, and then, with the surviving men, led the charge on the enemy battery, killing seven of the gunners with his sword. All the gunners having been killed and the battery silenced, he rallied his men and fought his way back at night through the enemy’s line, bringing all unwounded men safely in, together with 15 prisoners.
The operation – which resulted in the silencing of an enemy battery, the killing of the whole battery personnel and many infantry, and the cutting of three main lines of telephone communication two miles in rear of the enemy’s front line – was only rendered possible by the outstanding gallantry and fearless leading of this officer.” [14]  The citation being for Lt Strachan’s receipt of the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest award for valour in the face of the enemy.
It could only be imagined what may have occurred if the whole regiment of Fort Garry Horse had gone
forward.  Perhaps it’s best not to speculate- but despite heavy casualties, B Squadron was able to engage and reduce a strong enemy position- at sword point.
Overall, Cambrai would be more noted for its failures than successes, but the saving grace of this battle is, as Liddell Hart puts it “If November 20th 1917, is in itself a tragedy of errors, its eventual effect on the fortunes of the Allies was beneficent-pointing and paving the way to the victorious methods of 1918…the dawn of a new epoch.”[15]




[1] Corrigan, Gordon “Mud, Blood and Poppycock” Cassel Military Paperbacks, 2004, pg 145
[2] Corrigan, Gordon, ibid. pg 149
[3] Corrigan, Gordon, ibid. pg 139
[5] Liddell Hart, Basil “History of the First World War” Pan Books, 1972, pp 341-2
[6] Liddell Hart, Basil, ibid. pg 345
[7] Marteinson, John, “We Stand on Guard”: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army, Ovale Publications, 1992 pg 178
[8] Lt Col RW Paterson, report appended to Fort Gary Horse War Diary, 20 November 1917; courtesy Library and Archives Canada
[9] Paterson, RW, Lt Col, ibid.
[10] Marteinson, John, ibid. pg 179
[11] Lt H Strachan, report appended to Fort Garry Horse War Diary, 20 November 1917; courtesy Library and Archives Canada
[12] Strachan, H, Lt, ibid.
[13] Strachan, H, Lt, ibid.
[14] London Gazette, no.30433, 18 December 1917 
[15] Liddell Hart, Basil, ibid. pg 339