The Effects Of World War One On Canada?s People

When Britain called on Canada to help in World War One, Canadians dutifully volunteered. Many Canadians thought that this would be a glamorous adventure that they could not miss. However, Canadians were in for a rude awakening as this glamorous adventure turned out to be more than they bargained for. This was a new kind of war, one that cost Canadians dearly. Poor organization among troops, appalling war conditions Canadians endured and lack of effective leadership that did not support the best interests of Canadian troops all contributed to the pointless suffering Canadians endured in this supposed glamorous adventure. In the beginning, the poor organization among the troops resulted in some of the mishaps that occurred in battle. In particular, soldiers were all very inexperienced and needed a great deal of training. “Many recruits had only two hours of target practice a day-not nearly enough to prepare them for battle” (Newman 139). These green soldiers went into battle only knowing the basic necessities of combat. Without these vital techniques and lack of practice, the basic Private stood a slim chance of survival in the front lines. Poor organization was also evident when equipment was being outfitted for the Canadian troops. “On one occasion a load of boots arrived, all for the right foot” (Newman 139). As well, when Canadian troops were given equipment, it was often found to be inadequate. A Canadian soldier commented, “We have been given new black boots, magnificent things, huge, heavy ammunition’ boots, and the wonderful thing is they don’t let water in. They are very big and they look like punts, but it’s dry feet now.” (Newman 140). In this, we are given the impression that the Canadian troops were provided with adequate boots; however they did not fit properly. The evident lack of organization caused unnecessary anguish for Canadian troops and their misconception of the war. Canadian soldiers endured much pointless suffering through the appalling conditions they encountered. The worst experience for Canadians was in the trenches. These endless zigzag trails were the soldiers’ home for as long as they were assigned duty to them. The trenches were often infested with “rats and lice There are millions! Some are huge fellows, nearly as big as cats’ The soldiers often went weeks without washing or changing clothes, and most were infested with body lice” (Newman 141). Conditions were so wet and dirty and the men had to live with it. As a result of the wet and dirty conditions, many soldiers got trench foot’. “Their feet swelled up to two or three times their normal size and went numbbut when the swelling went down, the pain was agonizing. If gangrene set in, the soldiers’ feet and legs were amputated” (Newman 141). Soldiers were expected to patrol in sometimes knee-deep trenches with only the large, clumsy boots provided. Their feet were always cold and wet, basically meaning they were in constant discomfort. Many Canadians were committed to battles in which they had no chance of surviving and those who survived, watched others die. “Of 801 men who went into battle only sixty-eight unwounded men answered roll call the next day.” (Giesler 2). Many of these battles were just meat grinders’ in which the soldiers were the meat. These horrendous conditions and experiences provide further evidence to Canadians’ misconception of the war.The lack of effective leadership that did not support Canadian troops also resulted in some of the misery that they endured. The Ross rifle was not ideal for the trench fighting soldier because in some cases soldiers literally had to kick the firing mechanism to get it un-jammed. Sam Hughes, the minister of militia, insisted on using the Ross Rifle because it was his favourite rifle. It was “excellent for sharpshooting but useless in trench warfare. It was long and heavy and easily jammed by dirt. When it was fired rapidly, the firing mechanism overheated and seized up” (Newman 143). Hughes based his decision to use this rifle on his personal preference, not on what would be best for the soldiers. Sam Hughes also incorrectly overestimated the abilities of the troops. He “was suspicious of professional soldiers and their plans. He thought that amateur soldiers could out think and outfight professionals” (Newman 139). Thus, he made the decision not to properly train these amateur soldiers for combat. Subsequently, Canadian generals such as Arthur Currie, began refusing to send men into battle because some conditions could not be overcome. At Passchendaele, “General Currie inspected the muddy battlefield and protested that the operation was impossible without heavy cost. He was overruled (by General Haig), and so began careful and painstaking preparations for the assault” (Giesler 3). Military authorities often knew that they would not gain anything in some battles. General Haig held the final decision and did not consider the welfare of Canadian troops. To conclude, Canadians did great things during World War One. However, these small victories came at considerable costs, solidifying the great misconception of this glamorous adventure called World War One. Canadians enlisted in the war only to face great disorganization that led to many unnecessary deaths. While in battle, these soldiers experienced appalling war conditions. Finally, the best interests of Canadian troops were not evident in leaders’ decisions. The lives of these Canadian soldiers and their families were changed forever. This was the price they paid for this war.


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