Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

CHAPTER 4: Unending Seige

Canada’s Military Effort: Summing Up (1 page)


Regimental and King's Colours, 38th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-18

Regimental and King's Colours, 38th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-18
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Compared with the total industrial and military effort made by the major belligerents, Canada's contribution might seem paltry. However, considering its population (under eight million) and its military experience (virtually nil in 1914), Canada's effort was substantial. The human cost was also very high: 212,688 casualties as of 11 November 1918, with 53,216 dead and dying in the army alone. These figures speak of the immensity of the effort, but they cannot express the courage and selflessness of the volunteers, whether they were to return home or remain in Europe for all eternity. One small example will suffice. In the alumni magazine of Montreal's Loyola College, Gilbert Drolet recalls that of the slightly under 300 young men from that institution who went off to Europe, 37, or 12 percent, lost their lives. The story was repeated from sea to sea.

Canadian sacrifices on French soil are commemorated in a number of places. There is the melancholy soldier near St Julien, site of the first German gas attack. At Vimy, Canada maintains a magnificent monument fraught with significance. Lastly, at Beaumont-Hamel an impressive bronze caribou dominates the battlefield where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (that dominion was not yet part of the Canadian Confederation) was annihilated on 1 July 1916, in the initial half hour of the first major attack on the Somme.