The 1916 Battle of the Somme is one of the best-known battles of World War I, due to its massive scale and the huge losses sustained by both sides. Attacking in the valley of the Somme river in northeastern France, the British army sustained around 450,000 casualties in more than five months of fighting. Serving as part of the British Empire's forces, Canadian troops played an important, if costly, role.
Capture of Courcelette
Canadian involvement in the Battle of the Somme began on August 30, 1916, when the Canadian Corps took over trenches near the village of Courcelette. The first major Canadian attack took place two weeks later, as men of the Canadian Corps moved forward on September 15 alongside several tanks -- the first time these vehicles had been used on a battlefield. The Canadians successfully captured Courcelette and held it against German counterattacks.
Mud and Blood
The heavy rain of Fall 1916 turned the battlefield into a sea of mud. In October and November the Canadians attacked German trenches and took part in the battle’s final act: the capture of Desire trench on November 18. The Canadians gained a reputation for their fighting prowess – British Prime Minister Lloyd George said that they “played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as storm troops” – but it came at great cost. The battle had cost Canada the lives of 24,029 soldiers.
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