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«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»

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The system employed in handling War Trophies is briefly as follows:— All Trophies captured are labelled on the Field and turned into the Ordnance Department in the Field, which ships them to the Quartermaster-General's Branch. 97 Ordnance Base in France. The Trophies are then shipped to England to the Imperial Ordnance War Trophies Depot, situated at West Croydon. In addition to labelling the Trophy, the Unit responsible for its capture must put in an application for it to be allocated to them. The claim for the Trophy is investigated at the War Office, and, if it is substantiated, Colonel Folger receives notification that the Trophy in question has been allocated to the Unit concerned.

In accordance with existing regulations, no captured article can be considered a Trophy until after it has been examined by experts at Croydon, who decide whether or not it can be used in action against the enemy or whether it is required for experimental or instructional purposes. If the trophy is considered to be of no further use for War purposes, it may then be disposed of as the representative of the claimant desires. Several Canadian Trophies, such as small Field Guns and Machine Guns, have been taken over for the use of the British Navy for Coast Defence purposes use on Trawlers, etc. Should these vessels be available at the end of the War, the articles claimed as trophies will revert to the Canadian Authorities. A typical illustration of how this method works may be cited in the case of the field guns captured by the Canadians from the Germans at Vimy. In the ordinary course of events these guns might have been regarded as trophies, but military necessity required that they should be turned upon the enemy at the time. and they were consistently used against the enemy up to the date of the Armistice.

Shipments of War Trophies to Canada have been made from time to time during the past 18 months as sufficient quantities became available to justify a shipment, and this transport will be continued until all Canadian Trophies have been transported to the Dominions. Up to February 28, 1919, the War Trophies shipped to Canada were as follows:— Machine Guns

Field Guns

Howitzers

Mortars

Miscellaneous

–  –  –

The following interim report covering the operations of the Canadian Corps during the year 1918 is submitted by Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. W. Currie, G.O.C., Canadian Corps.

For convenience, this report divides the year into arbitrary periods of unequal length extending respectively from

–  –  –

It is intended to supplement this report at the earliest possible moment and to give a detailed narrative of the operations of the Corps during the period extending from July 15, 1918, to November 11, 1918, on which date hostilities terminated.

–  –  –

Organisation.—With the disappearance of the Russian front it was easily foreseen that the Germans would be able to turn the bulk of their forces against the Allies on the Western front, and that their resources in men and material would be such that our power of resistance would be severely tried.

In order to prepare for the coming test, and with the lessons of previous fighting fresh in my mind, it was resolved that every effort should be made to bring the Corps to the highest possible fighting efficiency.

This I undertook to do in consultation with the Divisional Commanders and the heads of the various arms, services and branches, by eliminating, as far as was in my power, everything which was not conducive to efficiency in administration, training or fighting.

Lessons from previous fighting had shown that certain branches of the service should be strengthened and reorganised. The Engineers and Machine Guns in particular were not able to accomplish their tasks in battle without drawing heavily on the Infantry for additional personnelthe more severe the battle, the more severe were the losses suffered by the Infantry, and at the same time the more men required by the Engineers and Machine Guns.

This diversion of the fighting strength of the Infantry to meet the needs of the Engineers and of the Machine Guns, and the interference for the same reason with the training or resting of Infantry Battalions when out of the line, was most unsatisfactory.

I submitted, therefore, proposals which were designed to give sufficient personnel to these services, and which would stop the drain on the Infantry.

At this time the British Army was undergoing far-reaching alterations in its organisation. The situation as regards man-power appeared to be such that, in order to maintain in the field the same number of Divisions, it was necessary to reorganise the Infantry Brigades from a four-battalion basis to a three-battalion basis. Other changes of less importance were also taking place.

Although the situation of the Canadians regarding reinforcements appeared to be satisfactory so long as the number of Divisions in the field was not increased, a proposal was made to adopt an organisation similar to the British, that is, to reduce the number of Battalions in the Canadian Infantry Brigades from four to three.

104 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

Concurrently with this change, it was proposed to increase the number of Canadian Divisions in the field from four to six.





I did not think that this proposal was warranted by our experience in the field, and I was quite certain that, owing too the severity of the losses suffered in modern battles, the manpower of Canada was not sufficient to meet the increased exposure to casualties consequent on the increased number of Canadian Divisions in the field.

I represented very strongly my views to the Minister, Overseas Military Forces of Canada, and, on further consideration, it was decided to drop this project, and to accept instead my counter-proposal, viz., to increase the establishment of the Canadian Infantry Battalion by 100 all ranks, to proceed with the reorganisation of the Engineers and Machine Gun Services, and to grant the various amendments suggested to establishments of other Arms and Branches.

I am glad to be able to say that my proposals regarding the reorganisation of Engineer Services, Machine Guns, etc., as well as the increase in strength of the Infantry Battalions, received the favourable consideration and support of the Commander-in-Chief.

Defences.—It will be recalled that the ground held by the Canadian Corps throughout this period had been captured by the Canadians in the Battle of Vimy and subsequent actions, and held by them practically since its capture, except for a short interval during the Battle of Passchendaele. The area had been considerably improved during this time, and a very complete system of trench railways, roads, and water supply were in operation. Very comprehensive defences had been planned and partially executed.

Behind Vimy Ridge* " lay the northern collieries of France and certain tactical features which cover our lateral communication. Here...

little or no ground could be given up..." (See Sketch No. 2.) A comparatively shallow advance beyond the Vimy Ridge would have stopped the operation of the collieries, paralysing the production of war material in France, as well a s inflicting very severe hardship on the already sorely tried population. In conjunction with the shortage of shipping which practically forbade an increase in the importation of coal from England, the loss of the northern collieries might have definitely crippled ————————————————————————————— * Extract from C.-in-C.'s Despatch, 8th July, 1918.

Corps Operations. 105 France. On the other hand, a deep penetration at that point, by bringing the Amiens-Bethune railway and main road under fire, would have placed the British Army in a critical position, by threatening to cut it in two and by depriving it of vital lateral communication.

The tactical and strategical results to be gained by a moderate success at that point were so far-reaching in effect that, notwithstanding the natural difficulties confronting an attack on that sector, it was fully expected that the German offensive would be directed against this, the central part of the British Front.

The French knew well the value of the ground here. To recapture it in 1915 they had engaged in the most savage fighting of the war and sacrificed the flower of their regular army.

Although the British Front had later been extended to the south, and Vimy Ridge had become the centre sector of the British Army, the French always manifested the deepest interest in this sector, and it was often visited by their Generals and other officers of high rank.

With the prospect of a German Offensive now confronting us, I ordered that the defences should be revised, to take advantage of the lessons recently learned and to embody the latest methods. Moreover, instructions had been issued by the First Army defining the policy of defence to be adopted and the methods to be followed.

The completion of the revised Corps defences and the execution of the new Army programme resulted in the organisation of a very deep defended area, consisting of successive defensive systems, roughly parallel to the general line of the Front and linked together by switch lines sited to protect both flanks.

Each defensive system was designed to protect definite topographical features, the loss of any one of which would considerably handicap the defence by uncovering our artillery.

As planned, the main framework of the defence in depth was based upon Machine Gun positions, protected by belts of wire entanglement so placed, in relation to the field of fire of the Machine Guns, that they were enfiladed over their entire length. The whole area was compartmented in such a way that the loss of ground at any one point could be localised and would not cause a forced retirement from adjoining areas. (See Photo-Map No. 3.) 106 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

Machine Gun emplacements of the Champagne type were constructed, and dug-out accommodation for the Machine Gun Detachments was provided in the deep tunnels of these emplacements.

This framework was completed as rapidly as possible by trenches and by defended localities organised for all-round defence.

A great many dug-outs were made to accommodate the garrisons of these localities, and for Dressing Stations and Battle Headquarters.

Advantage was taken of the possibility of utilising the subways tunnelled in 1916-17 for the attack on Vimy Ridge, and in addition steps were taken to create an obstacle on the southern flank of Vimy Ridge by the construction of dams to enable the Valley of the Scarpe to be flooded as required. Trial inundations were made to ensure the smooth working of these arrangements.

A great deal of care was given to the distribution of the artillery in relation to the policy of defence. Three systems of Battery positions were built so as to distribute the guns in. depth and sited so as to cover the ground to the north-east, east, and south, in case the flanks of the Corps should be turned. These Batteries were protected with barbed wire entanglements and Machine Gun positions against a sudden penetration of the enemy, and they were designed to become the natural rallying points of our Infantry in this eventuality.

Successive lines of retirement were also prepared, battery positions were selected, organised, and marked, cross-country tracks were opened up, and observation posts, echeloned in depth, were located and wired in.

On Vimy Ridge alone, seventy-two new battery positions were built and stacked with ammunition : these positions could be used either for the distribution of the Corps Artillery in depth, or as positions which reinforcing Artillery could immediately take up in the event of a heavy attack.

The greatest energy, enthusiasm, and skill was employed in the prosecution of the work by all concerned, and I am greatly indebted to Major-General P. de B. Radcliffe, then B.G., G.S., for his untiring and devoted efforts.

–  –  –

progress was made, and the following defensive works were completed

in rear of the main front line defensive system :

250 miles of trench.

300 miles of barbed wire entanglements.

200 tunnelled Machine Gun emplacements.

In addition to the above, existing trench systems, dug-outs, gun positions and Machine Gun emplacements were strengthened and repaired. Each trench system was plentifully marked with signboards and many open Machine Gun positions were sited and marked.

Machine Gun positions, defended localities and certain portions of trenches were stored with several days' supply of ammunition, food, and water for the use of the garrisons.

The importance attached by the French to the Vimy Ridge sector was further emphasised by the visit of General Roques, formerly Minister of War, and at that moment attached to the Cabinet of the Minister of War.

Having thoroughly inspected the defences of the Canadian Corps, he expressed himself as satisfied that every effort had been made to secure the Vimy Ridge against any surprise attack.

Activity.—The Front held remained comparatively quiet during January and, except for minor patrolling encounters and occasional shoots, nothing beyond the usual activity ever prevailing on a Front held by this Corps occurred.

In the months of February and March little or no work was being done by the enemy on his actual defences, but roads and disused trench railways were being repaired. In the rear areas his ammunition and Engineer supply dumps were increasing in number and in size, while fresh Battery positions were appearing almost daily. Furthermore, hostile aircraft and anti-aircraft guns were very active in preventing reconnaissance by our aeroplanes.

Early in March it was considered that the enemy's Front opposite us was ready for offensive operations. No concentration of troops had been observed, but the numerous towns and villages in close proximity to the Front provided extensive accommodation and made it possible for him to conceal such concentrations. Conditions so favourable to the Germans required relentless vigilance on the part of the Corps Intelligence Organisation, as we were dependent on the efficiency of this branch of the service for timely warning against surprise attacks.



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