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, 25 July 2016

Everything Was Quiet Again by Daybreak



The Inhuman Endurance of Trench Routine, Flanders, July 1916

“At 1.30 a.m. a minor operation was carried out by our bombers
And two Stokes guns….Our bombers threw about 500 Mills bombs
from the saps and the Stokes guns fired 90 rounds.  The enemy retaliated.
Our artillery also joined in the operation. Everything was quiet
again by daybreak.  Our casualties were light.”

War Diary Entry, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry[1]
18 July 1916


“Quiet”, it appears, could be an extraordinarily relative term when used in context of the First World War.  Later on the same day, further along the line from where the PPCLI had demonstrated, the 13th (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalion was clipped in a sudden torrent of shellfire.  “At 1.05 p.m. the enemy sent over seven bombs of some description which burst in the air…with scarcely any warning whistle, these were followed by six 4.1 air bursts.”[2]  This quick barrage killed six and wounded thirteen, on a day aside from a few moments’ of terror which was noted in the battalion’s War Diary as “quiet.”  For the 13th Battalion, this day in mid-July was the fourth of five which they would spend at the Front in this rotation, all of which had been quiet, yet each day added to a grim total of dead and wounded.

I spoke last week about how this period- from the successful counterattack reclaiming lost ground at Mount Sorrel to the Canadian Corps’ transfer to the Somme- gets little historical attention; and honestly, it’s easy to see why.  Notwithstanding events occurring elsewhere on the Western Front, this period of time at this place lacks the panache which attracts many to the history of military campaigns.  Events in the Ypres Salient through July 1916 came as close to “normal” as could be found during the Great War as to be dismissed as mundane.  While 2,291 casualties reported by the Corps in July[3] cannot be compared to the horrendous figures for the British in one day alone in that month, their happenstance would be anything but mundane for those who had been wounded of for the families of those killed.

This was no period of merely “holding the line”; it couldn’t be.  Wars are not won by remaining defensive.  The purpose of the Canadian Corps at this place and time was twofold.  First, it was to prevent the enemy from making a successful attempt to collapse the Salient inwardly to take Ypres while making all necessary preparations for an offensive aimed at pushing the Germans further away from this critical juncture.  Corps Headquarters fully expected such an offensive and had issued warning orders to that effect to its component divisions. “This attack…will be carried out by the 1st Canadian Division supported by the Heavy Artillery of the Canadian Corps….All preparations for the attack will be completed by 31st July.”[4]

Even when not directly engaging the enemy, it must have been terrible ground to defend.  Terrain had long since lost any splendour it had claimed as rolling Belgian countryside.  Two years’ worth of static conflict had, quite literally, reduced it to a perversion of what it had been.  Positional battles in June had further contributed to the degradation of a land already beaten to a pulp.  The Salient had become little more than ragged scars of ditches, given depth by sandbag walls, mounds and craters of clotted earth, shattered limbs of trees and endless tangles of barbed wire.  Artillery had been the chief actor in this destruction of land and men.  Some sixty percent of casualties in the First World War were caused by artillery[5] and most of the daily effort was spent in building up defenses to improve protection only to have them shattered again by shelling.  Ypres isn’t suitable ground for deep defences in any circumstance, a high water table makes any deep excavation prone to collapse and flooding.  Trenches here, such as could be were mostly comprised of shallow scrapes given depth by walls of sandbags piled in running bonds.  This landscape of milled earth and sundered trees seems as though very little difference would be appreciated if viewed in colour as opposed to black and white.

Amongst this confusing devastation, where for the most part infantry seemed inconsequential, preparations to push forward, in accordance with Corps directives still had to be made.  The 7th Brigade undertook such preparations in their sector on the night of 17/18 July.  It was reliably believed that the Germans were withdrawing troop strength from front line positions, and minor operations were proposed to take advantage of this.

The 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade (3rd Canadian Division) was the closest thing to a Regular Force brigade Canada could put in the field.  One of its battalions was the Royal Canadian Regiment, part of Canada’s pre-war Permanent Force, another was the PPCLI, which, although war raised had an initial requirement of regular Army service for its volunteers.  By 1916 this was less the case, the Patricias taking whatever reinforcements it could get.  On the night of 17/18 July, the RCR, PPCLI and a third 7th Brigade unit, the 42nd, a battalion of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) of Canada sent parties forward to establish blocking positions and improve forward trenches for use as assembly areas.  The Patricias were to, along with strong bombing parties “thoroughly scout and assist in pushing saps forward…embodying the German sap in our Front Line System (and) drive in all German Patrols and Bombing Posts.”[6]  This tasking illustrates to the latter day observer how confused, close and, at times, intertwined the trenches could be.  Some of these lines were only yards apart and the pocket battles of the month before had created trench lines between enemies which actually intersected, making it truly difficult to determine where everybody was.  The Black Watch would also push saps forward and conduct a raid on opposing lines “to secure identification” of the enemy units they faced.  Similar orders were given to the RCR- conduct a raid, set up blocking points, work on re-establishing ruined trenches and preparing specific areas for the assembly of attacking troops.

The Patricias threw a tremendous amount of grenades and mortars while working on forward saps.  In the spirit of the gritty, limited fighting in which the Canadians and the Germans knocked each other about in small scraps, the next night “the enemy commenced to bombard our right trenches…with trench mortars and rifle grenades.  The bombardment was intense…being probably in retaliation for our bombing operation in which we probably did considerable damage.”[7] The saps they had improved the night before were demolished.  This sort of retributive action was becoming quite common and was not entirely unlike a fight between two street gangs.

Finding the wire in front of German lines to be “thick and strong and would form a formidable obstacle to advancing infantry,” the patrols of the Black Watch also constructed a sandbag barricade “30 yards long, 2 feet 6 inches thick and 2 feet high” and prepared a detailed “stretcher system” to efficiently deal with expected casualties.  Other groups destroyed German wire at “weak and tactically important points.”  The moon was very bright that evening, and this made any work dangerous, the Black Watch proceeded with these tasks exercising “extreme caution.”  Caution worked, as they came through this night with no casualties taken.[8]

Men of the Royal Canadian Regiment also tested the German wire and after a length of time attempting to cut through it “found in this time that cutting the wire in one night was out of the question.”  Not being able to get through the wire, the men assigned as the bombing raid were sent instead to attack a German working party.  As this could be largely impersonal and anonymous warfare, no chance was missed to visit death upon the enemy, making such times as when the enemy was spotted in the open intensely personal.  “At about 1.00 a.m. Lieut. WOODS party threw 16 bombs at the enemy Working Party and then retired….Much damage was done to enemy as the range of the bombs was so short, being just about 12 yards.  The operation was carried out without loss.”[9]

For the moment, while the expected offensive was being prepared for, the infantry- in their traditional role- were peripheral to the situation, as helpless to circumstance as those aboard a ship in rough seas; largely inconsequential in the development of events, yet disproportionately affected by them.  The 13th Battalion, also of the Royal Highlanders of Canada, to take one example, from the 14-19 July, occupied trenches along the front line.  The War Diary records nothing unusual in these days spent forward, daily notations on the exchange of fire between the two sides and observances of enemy activity.  Also noted was the everyday event of manpower loss. From the advent of one major campaign to another, “the days and weeks in between had borne witness to the slow, insidious and unpredictable phenomenon known as ‘trench wastage.’  Men, one or two at a time being caught by an errant shell, a sniper’s bullet or any number of sickness or circumstance that shaved away at effective strength.”[10]  Relieved on the night of 19-20 July by the 8th Battalion, the 13th went into billets, this tour of nothing much having cost them 16 killed and 41 wounded. For those who made it through, their exhaustion was noted and on the following day “no parades of any kind were held,” and very quickly life returned to as normal as it could be, or as normal as the army could allow it: “An order was issued to the effect, that while the Battalion is in Billets, the Highland uniform will be worn at all times, and no man to be allowed to leave Camp, unless properly dressed.”[11]

This was the reality of a large part of the First World War.  Over-the-top rushes and grand battles might make for more interesting reading in the latter day, but largely fails to account for the terrifying grinding and often deadly monotony of life at the front.





[1] War Diary Entry, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 18 July 1916
[2] War Diary Entry 13th  (RHC) Battalion , 18 July 1916
[3] Appendix III 5, Canadian Corps War Diary, July 1916
[4] Canadian Corps Operations Order 34, June 1916
[5] Mitchell, JT, Maj. & Mrs. GM Smith “History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Medical Services; Casualties and Medical Statistics of the Great War” H.M. Stationary Office, London, 1931 pg.40
[6] 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade, Operations Order No. 33, July 1916
[7] War Diary Entry, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 19 July 1916
[8] War Diary Entry, 42nd (RHC) Battalion, 18 July 1916
[9] War Diary Entry, Royal Canadian Regiment, 18 July 1916
[10] Harvie, Christopher J, “Killing is a Sin” (publication pending) 2016, pg. 15
[11] War Diary Entry, 13th (RHC) Battalion, 21 July 1916

Monday, 18 July 2016

Stationary Yet Aggressive

“The attack will be pressed forward with the utmost firmness, and when the German                   Front Line has been gained, its consolidation will be vigorously pressed.”
-Para. 4 Operations Order No. 57
1st Canadian Infantry Brigade
7 July 1916[1]

Just a few days prior, a heavy thunderstorm had broken the steady weather of hot days.  Out of the line, men had been reporting sick at higher numbers than usual.  The day of this breaking storm, the 4th of July 1916, one battalion medical officer recorded fifteen men on sick call, four of whom were bad enough to evacuate to hospital.[2]  Heavy rain had soaked the rich Flanders earth to slick and sticky mud, but after the storm passed, the summer’s heat continued.  What had also remained constant, rain or shine, day and night along the stiches of trench lines winding through ground interrupted by singular hills and shattered woods was the duel between German and Canadian artillery; whose unwitting witness and victim were the infantry clinging to what shelter these much abused defences could provide.

At intervals from 6 pm to midnight on the 8-9th July, the Canadian guns increased their intensity of fire.  “July 8- weather fine and warm….From 6.00 to 7.40 pm a bombardment of the enemy’s trenches on MOUNT SORREL took place and also again at 11.40 pm.  At midnight out fire lifted and the infantry advanced.”[3] This bombardment was concentrated on a particular stretch of the enemy line- one of the few places still in German hands from two weeks’ worth of back and forth battles the month before- meant to cut the wire in front of the German position to clear the way for a party of men from the 4th Canadian Battalion, led by Captain A.G. Scott, each one of them laden with as many grenades as they could carry, so that they could finally take back this ground.


In the four years of a World War, so much can become overlooked, overshadowed and, through that, forgotten.  In most references to Canada and the Western Front, the Battle of Mount Sorrel is well documented.  Between June 2-13 the Canadian Corps and the German forces in the area engaged in a costly struggle.  Just after daybreak on the 2nd, “For four hours a veritable tornado of fire ravaged th Canadian positions from half a mile west of Mount Sorrel to the northern edge of Sanctuary Wood….The trenches vanished and the garrisons in them where annihilated.”[4]  Such was the intensity and ferocity of shelling that by the time German troops advanced they “met with very little resistance (and) in a very short time Mount Sorrel and Hills 61 and 62 were in German hands.”[5]

It was a shocking development.  While Canadian units had been afield since spring the year before, operating at corps strength was only a recent evolution, and in fact, the Canadian Corps had still yet to incorporate all of its divisions.  The 4th Canadian Division was still organising itself in England and would not embark for France until August.  Perhaps, some thought, in light of this loss of ground at Mount Sorrel, these colonial divisions should be kept within British Corps and under closer supervision.  Now, not only was it tactically prudent to counterattack and regain the ground lost, it was becoming a matter of national pride, and perhaps the result would become the basis on which an independent Canadian Corps would be judged.  This hasty attempt failed to gain any ground, and it wasn’t until ten days from the initial assault, after deliberate and meticulous planning that the corps won through.  On the 12-13 June “The determined Canadian push, ably supported by the artillery successfully recaptured most of the ground lost.”[6]
 
The fight at Mount Sorrel in its initial stages had all the attendant elements of a Great War battle.  Artillery and mines devastated the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles to a shadow of its nominal roll and a desperate stand by the PPCLI at Sanctuary Wood against terrible odds kept the line from entire collapse and showed the plucky resolve which captures public imagination.  Continuing to the well organised and brilliantly executed counterattack which presaged how battles were to be won in this war and vindicated the young Canadian Corps, these two weeks of action at Mount Sorrel wrap up quite nicely.  This is where the narrative of history leaves off.  Even Colonel Nicholson’s expansive official volume pauses here, picking up the story of Canada’s war in September, upon the Corps’ movement to the Somme area of operations.  Yet, the 12-13 of June was not quite the end of things at Mount Sorrel- revealed above in Professor Cook’s use of the phrase “recaptured most of the ground lost.” (emphasis mine)

I myself had little notion of this and honestly stumbled upon it while researching something else altogether.  Understandably these ten weeks from mid-June to September are overlooked; indeed overshadowed by the shocking bloodiness of the British offensives in July; but for Captain Scott and his men about to strike out at midnight between 8-9 July, those events further south were of little consequence to them.

The enemy had been observed strengthening position-those still remaining in German hands since th
e attack the month prior- and estimates of troop strength indicated a build-up of manpower.  It was entirely possible the Germans were preparing for another push.  1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, upon the direction of 1st Canadian Division had issued orders to the unit facing this portion of the line.  “The 4th Canadian Battalion…will re-establish out position on MOUNT SORREL on the night of July 8/9 at Zero o’clock.”[7]

Major William Rae DSO, Officer Commanding 4th Battalion had placed himself well forward to observe the attack.  Just after dark, he had sent patrols out to discern the state of the enemy’s wire.  Zero hour was only moments away, and the reports were not promising.  Some small gaps had been cut, but along much of the attack’s front, the wire was mostly intact. Counterbattery fire against the Canadian gun line had reduced their capacity to commit effectively to the bombardment of German trenches. The 5th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, although suffering no casualties or losses of guns had been hit so severely it was forced to move and did not contribute to the entire fire plan.[8]  Major Rae was faced with a difficult decision, certainly not one which is enviable.  Resigned that it was “too late to make any change in the plan,” Major Rae ordered the attack be carried out.

It turned out to be an impossible job.  The wire was strung in thick coils, breast high and several rows deep.  Gaps which the scouts had reported were only apparent in the forward most row, “the succeeding ones being practically intact.”  One of the first field reports taken from Major Rae’s superiors at 1st Brigade to the command at 1st Division relayed “our advance was met by heavy MG and rifle fire and bombs AAA Casualties not definitely ascertained.”[9]  Major Rae’s after-action report corroborates “Most of our casualties were due to the bombs of which the Germans threw a very large number.” Something else had gone terribly wrong, the attacking party lost a great deal of cohesion when “the leaders and most of the leading groups of the parties became casualties almost immediately.”[10]

Captain Scott was killed just moments into the attack; Lieutenant Ansley, only just arrived overseas two days prior, was lost; believed to also have been killed, though by late August was known to be a prisoner of war in German hands.  Lieutenant Greacen was terribly wounded, the second time in two months, hit several times with grenade fragments at the beginning of the attack, but rallied his men to go forward for a second attempt, refusing medical treatment until he could make his report to the CO. Company Sergeant-Major Rusk despite having a foot blown off, stayed with his men and continued to direct them throughout the attack.  Men came back to Canadian lines, in great excitement, to request more bombs in order to press the assault home.  It was of no use.  Within the first hour and a half of the operation, Major Rae “decided to discontinue the attack and consolidate our position.”

Major Rae sums up his report by stating “I consider the behaviour of the men as worthy of the highest praise….even after they discovered the nature of the obstacle confronting them, they continued their efforts to overcome it, notwithstanding their casualties.”[11]  These were: 13 killed, 22 wounded and 6 missing.  It might not seem much in a war that for British and Commonwealth forces cost an average of 1,723 casualties each day, but it illustrates that even at times considered “quiet”, periods glossed over by texts and narratives, men were putting their lives at risk, a risk sometimes forgotten when this occurs in a three month period encapsulated in the Official History by one sentence as “The Canadian Corps remained in the Ypres Salient until the beginning of September, its role ‘stationary yet aggressive.’”[12]





[1] Operations Order No. 57, Appendix B, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade War Diary July 1916
[2] War Diary Entry, 31st Battalion Medical Officer, 4th July 1916
[3] War Diary Entry, 6th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, 8th July 1916
[4] Nicholson Col GWL “Canadian Expeditionary Force: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War” Roger Duhomel, Queen’s Printer Ottawa, 1962 pp 148-9
[5] Marteinson, John “We Stand on Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army” Ovale Publications 1992 pg. 137
[6] Cook, Tim “At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916” Penguin Canada 2008 pg. 373
[7] Operations Order No. 57, Appendix B, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade War Diary July 1916
[8] War Diary Entry, 6th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, 8th July 1916
[9] Message rec’d by 1st Canadian Division, 9th July 1916 from 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, appended to 1st Can Div. War Diary July 1916
[10] After action Report, submitted by Major W. Rae, OC 4th Bn. on actions of 8/9 July 1916, appended to 4th Bn. War Diary July 1916
[11] After action Report, submitted by Major W. Rae, ibid.
[12] Nicholson Col GWL, ibid. pg. 154

Friday, 15 July 2016

Hard and Determined Fighting


“During the next five days our troops followed up their advantage hotly, and in spite of increasing resistance from the German rearguards, realised a further deep advance.  The enemy clung to his positions…with much tenacity….and the progress of our troops was only won by hard and determined fighting.”- Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, Despatches, Describing offensive actions, late August 1918[1]

The fighting was intense, constant and every yard hard won.  Each river crossed, village cleared or trench destroyed in the final three months of the war was wrested from an enemy who would not concede easily to defeat.  Everywhere along the Western Front, the war was moving more quickly than it had in the previous three years.  These last hundred days would be a series of battles, clawing forward, relentlessly pushing the Germans back from and beyond the ground taken during their daring Spring Offensives.  Keeping constant pressure on the enemy meant that commanders no longer had the luxury of months in which to train and rehearse for set-piece battles such as Vimy the year before.  Urgency and haste can be seen in archived operations orders contemporary to the Hundred Days.  Many are hastily handwritten in an expedient script on small leaves of notepaper in the hours before an attack rather than thoughtfully typed out weeks in advance in perfectly edited clerical lines.

On the evening of the 26th of August, 1918, the 18th Canadian Infantry Battalion moved from its support position to jumping off points along the Arras-Cambrai road. “By nightfall, as the forward troops began to approach a trench system known as the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line, German resistance grew more resolute…The Germans brought in fresh divisions and many additional machine guns.”[2]  The 18th Battalion had been adequately reinforced since their last stint on the front, and although while in support on the 26th it had taken some casualties, these were to be considered “light” and would not have been viewed as a diminishment of effective ability. Tomorrow was going to be worse.  Tomorrow they would be at the head of the advance.

My last post, “In the Event of My Death” was very well received, and wanting to do a similar post, I was held up by not having a ready subject.  However, through The Vimy Foundation’s Facebook page, I found out about a community art project being done in Huron County Ontario.  With the Poppy Installation at the Tower of London as inspiration, Huron County plans to make and display ceramic poppies in numbers representing that County’s fallen from WWI. (more on the project here)  The Tower Installation was an awesome, thought inspiring display, the association between the deep red of the poppies and that of spilled blood was quite a powerful and sombre image.  I love the idea of such a thing being done on a much smaller scale; at the level of an individual community; for it was as communities we sent our sons to war, and it was communities who suffered as one when so many failed to return.  Huron County raised a battalion for overseas service, the 161st (Huron) Battalion, CEF, but this unit, like many others raised from 1916 onwards would not be deployed to the front intact but would be used to supplement existing battalions already in the field.  This made the prospect of finding an individual to commemorate a bit tricky. As it happens, the system of appointing regimental numbers (an individual identifier like today’s service or serial numbers) was done in blocks, and the 161st was authorised a block of numerals beginning with “654.”[3]  A search for matching numerals in the CWGCDatabase turned up, as a first result #654805 Graham AJG, L/Cpl. 

Alexander John Goggin Graham, a farmer from Fordwich, Huron County Ontario attested to the 161st Battalion on the 10th of May 1916 and embarked with his battalion for England that November.  Aside from three weeks that following April in hospital with the mumps, Graham spent the fifteen months since arriving in England at a training camp.  His records show he was twice promoted, to Lance and later full Corporal, but such must have been his desire to serve at the front he “reverted to Private at (his) own request in order to proceed overseas” on the 28th of February, 1918.  Graham was assigned to the 18th Battalion (4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division) and joined them in the field on the 15th of March.  Aside from the change in scenery, the day of his arrival must have seemed like the routine he’d left behind in the camp at Kent.  The 18th, out of the line in a rest area reported on that day:  “Company inspections of rifles and equipment.  Serialised training as per syllabus attached. 91 OR’s (Other Ranks, including Graham) arrived from 5th Canadian Division…as reinforcements…..Recreational training i.e. football, baseball etc. during afternoon.”[4]

A few months later, it was a different story altogether.  The Germans had taken a huge series of offensives throughout the spring, pushing the Allies back a great distance, but had failed to definitively break the line before their momentum was lost.  In response, the Allies launched a coordinated counter-offensive which, three months after it had begun in August would conclude with the Armistice.  Throughout the month of August “the Canadian Corps was confronted by a series of formidable defence positions which the enemy was holding in strength.”[5]
 
Graham, still with the 18th Battalion had just been appointed to the rank of Lance Corporal on the 8th of August, to replace a man who had died of his wounds the day before.  On the morning of the 27th, he was present with the men who had made it this far, some of them only recent arrivals; waiting tensely in the trenches captured only hours previously to set off behind a creeping barrage- a sheltering wall of steel- to assault a subsequent defensive line along the Sensée River and the town of Vis-en-Artois.  Historian Tim Cook notes: “The fighting since August 26th had been of the worst kind.  The Canadians had excelled at plunging ahead behind the battle winning artillery barrage and, when that failed, at employing fire and movement infantry tactics.”[6] With Zero hour set for ten that morning, the artillery was planned to be a creeping barrage lifting 100 yards every four minutes, “a pause being made and a protective barrage formed approximately 300 yards beyond the River SENSEE.  This pause will last for thirty minutes; the barrage will then continue at the same rate as before.”[7]

A report received at 2nd Division HQ at 11:05 was positive, the attack was going well.[8]  Later, close to four that afternoon, the Division received conflicting reports.  The first was that the attacking battalions (18th and 19th) had taken Vis-en-Artois and were moving beyond the river.  This was only half true, the latter report corrected: “4.10 p.m. 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade advise- the 18th Battalion was held up at SENSEE RIVER at 3 pm….Hostile opposition very heavy from the East.”[9]  The rapidity of these advances and the fluid nature of battle tore at the ability of the artillery to cooperate and coordinate with infantry units operating well in front of their line of sight.  The 6th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, responsible for covering the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade on the 27th stated: “The attack was resumed on the morning of the 27th with a barrage starting at 10.00 a.m…..The barrage was completed about 1.00 p.m. and the batteries began to push forward.”[10]

At the tip of the spear, though, while the first objectives had been reached by noon, helped by the covering barrage, “At this juncture, a barrage scheduled to continue after half and hour’s curtailment failed to materialise.  Consequently an outpost line had to be formed.”[11]  Meaning that the battalion could not move against the strong enemy positions to their front without artillery support. When “the barrage sputtered…the German machine-gunners were able to emerge.”[12]  The 18th Battalion was pinned by this fire, well short of their main objective at the Sensée, and prepared a hasty position in a captured German trench.  Somewhere in all of this, LCpl Graham was taken from the field with a penetrative GSW (Gun Shot Wound) to the abdomen.  He was brought to Number 42 Casualty Clearing Station, no doubt in great pain.  Nothing could be done for him and later that same day, Alexander Graham, farmer from Huron County, died of his wounds.[13] 
 
Casualties had been heavy, the 18th Battalion recording “Approximate casualties all ranks 15 killed & 150 wounded.”[14]  Altogether, the losses of the 4th Brigade in the five days of fighting at the end of August were the equivalent to the loss of an entire battalion, between 25-30% of effective strength.

Lance Corporal Graham is buried at the Aubigny Cemetery Extension. “From March 1916 to the Armistice, Aubigny was held by Commonwealth troops and burials were made in the Extension until September 1918. The 42nd Casualty Clearing Station buried in it during the whole period.”[15]  He rests among 2,771 of his comrades. 227 French, 64 German war graves and seven burials from the Second World War are also present at Aubigny. Lance Corporal Graham is fittingly remembered by the inscription on his grave stone: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”



[1] Boraston, Lt-Col JH (ed.) “Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches” JM Dent &Sons ltd. 1919 pg. 269
[2] Marteinson, John “We Stand on Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army” Ovale Publications 1992 pp 196-7
[3] http://cefresearch.ca/
[4] War Diary Entry, 18th Canadian Infantry Battalion, 15 March 1918 courtesy Library and Archives Canada
[5] Nicholson Col GWL “Canadian Expeditionary Force: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War” Roger Duhomel, Queen’s Printer Ottawa, 1962 pg. 430
[6] Cook, Tim “Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918” Penguin Canada 2008 pg.475
[7] 2nd Canadian Division Operations Order 248, Appended to 2 Can Div. War Diary, August 1918 Courtesy Library and Archives Canada
[8] War Diary Entry, 2nd Canadian Division dated 27 August 1918, Courtesy Library and Archives Canada
[9] War Diary Entry, 2nd Canadian Division, ibid.
[10] War Diary Entry, 6th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery dated 27 August 1918
[11] War Diary Entry 18th Battalion dated 27 August 1918
[12] Cook, Tim ibid. pg. 469
[13] Service Records 654805 Graham, L/Cpl AJG, Courtesy Library and Archives Canada
[14] War Diary Entry 18th Battalion, ibid.
[15] http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/5300/AUBIGNY%20COMMUNAL%20CEMETERY%20EXTENSION