It was getting late by the time I reached the battle area south-east of Arras, which was the scene of the Canadian Corps' greatest achievements -- according to Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, at least. I took a quick look at the Canadian memorial at Dury, which marks the breaking of the Drocourt-Queant Line -- the northern hinge of the Hindenburg Line defences -- at the beginning of September 1918.
The inscription on the stone reads: "The Canadian Corps 100,000 strong attacked at Arras on August 26th 1918, stormed successive German lines and here on Sept. 2nd broke and turned the main German position on the Western Front and reached the Canal du Nord."
Things look quite different from the "German" side of the canal. The steep bank is visible in the middle of the photo. Little cover from German fire was available to the Canadians coming over the canal bank here.
Once over the canal, the next main objective was Bourlon Wood. Seen here at a distance of roughly five kilometres from the eastern side of the Canal du Nord, the importance of the high ground at the wood seems obvious.
The Canadian memorial park at Bourlon Wood. These trees lining the path up to the memorial survived the battle.
This was the last, chronologically, of the eight major Canadian battles that were memorialized in stone. Apart from the unique projects at Vimy Ridge and St. Julien (Ypres), these octagonal granite blocks were placed to commemorate the battles for Courcelette, Hill 62 (Mount Sorrel -- Ypres), Passchendaele, Amiens, Dury (the DQ Line), and, here, Bourlon Wood. The inscription reads: "The Canadian Corps on 27th Sep. 1918 forced the Canal du Nord and captured this hill. They took Cambrai, Denain, Valenciennes & Mons, then marched to the Rhine with the victorious Allies."
The Canadian battles of the Last Hundred Days constituted the highest achievement of Canadian military forces in our history. At a time when the British Army was largely worn out, the Canadian Corps -- bolstered by reinforcements from the disbanded 5th Division in Britain and by conscription -- spearheaded the Allied advance on the northern part of the Western Front. In three months of unrelenting offensive action, the Canadians led the way in breaking the last German defences in France and Belgium, leaving the enemy with little option but to ask for an armistice. The intensity of the operations was revealed by its cost: over the course of the Hundred Days, the Canadian Corps suffered 20 per cent of the casualties it sustained over the entire course of the war dating back to the spring of 1915. It is a real shame that these battles -- overshadowed as they are by the stunning success at Vimy Ridge -- are so little known by Canadians. So too the man who played such an important role in orchestrating the Corps' operations after Vimy, Sir Arthur Currie.