After a large push from the Canadian government looking for troops, Canada joined the second world war with a bang, on April 22nd 1915, during the second battle of Ypres. Just over six months previously, on October 3rd, 1914, Canada sent their first 30 troop ships to England for training, before ultimately going to join world war I. The Second battle of Ypres, in Western Belgium was the first battle the Canadians fought in during world war I, and it was also the first large scale poison gas attack in modern history. The Germans were fighting the British, who brought Canada along with them, but the Germans were the ones who released the poisonous gas, chlorine which led to an extremely painful death if inhaled in large quantities. Poisonous gas was a rather brilliant idea for the Germans, as it immediately cleared the battlegrounds of all opposing soldiers by either killing them, or having them run in fear. Unfortunately (for them) however, the Germans didn’t take advantage of that space they’d created, as they were afraid to enter the space the gas occupied after seeing so many deaths, despite wearing gas masks that would protect them from the fumes. This allowed the few remaining Canadian troops who had entered that battle, to gain back this land once the gas cleared. They stood their ground, and it ultimately led to the outsider view on the Canadian army, as resilient, and not a force to be reckoned with.
In 1914, majority of Canada was made up of citizens with British roots, people who wanted to fight for England. People thought of the war as an adventure, which would benefit their motherland; they also thought the war would be short lived. This made it fairly easy for the Canadian government to find an army who was willing to join forces with England. The government still put alot of time and effort into advertising the war though, as they were still attached to Britain in terms of their foreign affairs, and were thus somewhat obliged to join their fight.
When World War I first started, Canada was in the middle of a sour spot economically. Since the railway was finished, there was a huge number of individuals who were now unemployed. Canada had also been experiencing a drought, so farmers struggled to grow their crops, and sell them for profit. The war was an opportunity for employment for all as they paid troops $1.10 per day, and they hired women as nurses and ambulance drivers. The war was also an opportunity for adventure. After the war, Canada’s economic success raised slightly, but then came the great depression. I am only studying the second battle of Ypres though, not the entirety of World War I. It is just important to note that this first battle involving Canadians had a huge impact on us. We were seen as resilient people after holding our ground at Ypres, and that affected how we fought in numerous battles to come. It was also considered one of Wilfred Laurier’s greatest successes, as he asked for volunteers, which solved the fight erupting between francophones and anglophones, who were on opposing sides regarding joining the war or not.
The Second battle of Ypres was a turning point both for Canadians, and the rest of the world’s view on Canada. We were suddenly more of a country due to our success, which is probably a big reason the united states didn’t keep their promises of taking over. If we had waited even a week longer, Britain may have lost the battle at Ypres, and that may have led to Germany winning the war. Our role even in that first battle, has defined our success ever since.