The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand did not stir Canada, and when Britain warned of the possibility of war Canada was caught off guard. With only 3,000 permanent soldiers Canada scrambled to assemble its forces. Within three weeks 20,000 soldiers were on their way to a state of the art training camp at Valcartier.
Valcartier was a designated training center that only had the ability to house 500 troops prior to the warning. In the three weeks of assembly, housing was built for 22,000 troops, a mile long firing range was constructed, electricity, telephone, water was all installed. The last night of construction saw storehouses, offices, and officers quarters built in record time. Quotas were set for militia forces to recruit. It was planned for 20,000 troops, but over 30,000 came. In some cases, entire battalions were sent. For nearly a month and a half the camp was chaos. Battalions were formed and dispersed, but in the end the camp built itself into a finely tuned machine.
Originally only one division was to be sent, but when time came for departure the largest military force to ever cross the Atlantic was prepared. 83,000 men boarded 31 transports and left for war. Departing was a site like none other; guarded by British warships were three lines of nearly a dozen ships each.
In April of 1915, after surviving one of the coldest British winters to date, Canadian forces took over a sector to the north of Ypres in Belgian Flanders. Trench warfare had encumbered the western front to a deadlock. Germany however, had devised a new type of weaponry, poisonous gas. In a massive attack they unleashed a hell of yellow smoke that choked French forces. When the Germans came across they found an empty segment of trench and filled it with three German divisions.
Canadian troops were to the south of the onslaught, and put in a critical situation. Comparatively amateurs compared to the Germans, and outnumbered five fold they had only one option to prevent the Germans from making a sweep deep into France. The Canadians stood strong, and gave the appearance of being much larger. After three days of non-stop fighting and undergoing several gas attacks the Canadians were reinforced. Less than 10% of the troops survived the battle, but it secured Canada a Title for the war.
Canada's forces were not just an Army; they also contained some of the best pilots of the war. Four of the top twelve Aces of the war were Canadian. William Avery Bishop trailed the Red Baron by only eight kills.
Billy Bishop was born in Owen Sound, Ontario and attended the Royal Military College. When WWI broke out, Billy was set to be expelled. Instead he joined the Mississauga Horse, went overseas with the Unit then transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. He did not go to France as a pilot until 1917, when his skill as a fighter pilot began to rise. He won the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and bar, the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. By June 1918 Bishop had been credited with 72 kills.
Two months later he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and sent to England.
The National Film Board production "the Kid Who Couldn't Miss" shown in 1982, claimed that Bishop had faked the raid that won him his Victoria Cross. Veteran's Groups protested and the matter was not resolved. However the weight of evidence is in Bishop's favor.
Alongside the Canadian Expedition Force on the ground and the...