History of the 10th Battalion 1914-19

The 10th Battalion, or “Fighting Tenth” as it became known, was created in 1914 as a war-service infantry battalion; it was populated heavily by men from the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles), saw extensive service with the 1st Canadian Division in France and Flanders, and was later perpetuated by The Calgary Highlanders.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force was a separate entity created by Canada’s Minister of Militia in 1914 for service to Britain in the First World War. Technically distinct from the standing land forces of the Militia, soldiers were legally attested into the CEF in order to serve overseas. Hughes refused to mobilize the existing regiments as units, and instead numbered battalions were created into which a combination of Permanent Force (regular) soldiers, Militia (reservists) and civilian volunteers were combined.

The Provisional 10th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was created around cadres of Militiamen from two existing units; the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles) and the 106th Regiment (Winnipeg Light Infantry). The unit was assembled at Valcartier in Quebec, and sailed for the United Kingdom with the first Canadian contingent in late 1914. Their commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Russ L. Boyle, a veteran of the Boer War, and in 1914 the commander of the 15th Light Horse, an Alberta cavalry unit. The unit trained on Salisbury Plain and went into the trenches in France in early 1915 with the rest of the Division. After brief service in the trenches in February and the early spring, the division first saw major combat at the Second Battle of Ypres in April. This the use of poison gas as a weapon of war on the Western Front. A wide scale German attack using chlorine gas routed two entire French Divisions, but the 1st Canadian Division held firm, at a cost of some 6,000 of its 10,000 men. The 10th Battalion, with the 16th, actually executed a counterattack on the night of 21-22 April into the face of the German offensive, at Kitcheners’ Wood during the Battle of St. Julien.

The town of St. Julien was located east of Ypres, in the south-western part of Belgium known as Flanders. The 10th Battalion was called forward on the night of 22-23 April to counterattack the strong German formation advancing through a large gap in the line created by the rout of two French divisions. Forming up in front of the 16th Battalion, the two units mounted a hasty assault on an oak plantation known as Bois de Cuisineres, or Kitcheners’ Wood, so named because the French had located their field kitchens there. The assault cost the life of the 10th’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Boyle, and of the 816 men who crossed the start line on 22 April, only some 193 survived. Nonetheless, the German advance was stopped. This action moved the overall commander of the French Army to describe the attack as the single bravest act of the entire war.

Lieutenant Colonel Boyle was mortally wounded early in the initial counter-attack at Kitcheners’ Wood and many of the originals were killed or seriously wounded. Also featuring prominently in the fighting was the Gravenstafel Ridge, a low rise east of Ypres and one of the key features in the German attacks from 24-26 April. The 10th Battalion by this point, after suffering heavily in its counter-attacks of 22-23 April, mustered only 174 men but still contributed enough to the defence of the position to merit a Battle Honour for their work. The end result of the fighting was that a major German breakthrough was prevented.

The next major action was at Festubert, about twenty kilometres north of Vimy in France. This unsuccessful attempt to capture a small hill known as K5 was stopped short with heavy losses due to wet terrain, strong German defences, and little time to prepare. Major offensive operations did not follow for a full year afterwards, at Mount Sorrel. This was another unsuccessful assault, a counter-attack launched on a small knoll in the Ypres Salient on 3 June 1916. Considerable losses were suffered. Despite the relatively low height of this feature, it provided an excellent viewpoint over the otherwise flat terrain in the area and was of considerable strategic importance.

The Canadians were not involved in the opening phases of the Somme campaign, which began on 1 July 1916, commonly known as the “July Drive.” That first day was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army, with 20,000 men being killed and 40,000 more being wounded. That opening day was only the beginning of several months of major operations by both the British and French armies. By the time the battle wound down to an official conclusion in November, hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides of the lines had been killed, and thousands more maimed and injured. The 10th Battalion was involved in a series of operations from 8 September and 17 October, primarily defensive actions which were successful, north of Albert, France near the town of Boiselle.

The 10th Battalion had success at Thiepval Ridge, near the town of Courcelette, where they fought a successful action on 26 September 1916, at the cost of 241 casualties, followed by a successful defensive action at Ancre Heights near the town of Albert, France. Modest casualties were suffered during the action on 10-11 September 1916.

Early 1917 saw a change in strategic initiative, as the Canadian Corps prepared for its assault on Vimy Ridge in April. Intended as a diversion to draw attention away from French actions farther south, and often serving only as a footnote to the less successful overall Battle of Arras in 1917 waged by the British armies, Vimy was the greatest victory of the war for the Canadian Corps, which by 1917 numbered four divisions. In a dramatic assault on Easter Monday, the 9th of April, and representing the best in Canadian tactical ingenuity, military engineering, and technical innovation, the Canadians seized most of this dominating feature in a few short hours, and finally clearing the entire ridge in three days. The British and French had been unable to clear these heights since the Germans first seized them in 1914, and had lost more men in the process of trying than the Canadians as a whole started out with on 9 April. The 10th Battalion had its own role to play in this great drama, and reached all its objectives on time, at the cost of 374 casualties. The Arleux Loop was a follow up to the Vimy operation, launched on 28 April 1917, aimed at capturing a major German billeting area at Arleux-en-Gohelle. The operation went in over open ground and produced serious casualties.

Rising only 15 feet over surrounding terrain, Hill 70, north of Lens, Belgium was the scene of a diversionary attack to relieve pressure on the city of Lens itself. On 15-16 August 1917, a strong German counter-attack was repulsed by the 10th Battalion. Private Harry Brown, who was killed acting as a courier during this battle, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. In addition to the VC, three DSOs, 7 MC, 9 DCMs and 60 (!) Military Medals were awarded to the 10th Battalion, giving the unit the distinction of receiving more medals than any other Canadian combat unit in a single action in the course of the First World War.

Named for a village located on a low rise in the Ypres Salient, the very word Passchendaele has become synonymous with suffering and waste. Strong German defences in this area, developed over the course of more than two years, gave the British extremely hard going. The 10th Battalion were called out of reserve to assist an attack on Hill 52, part of the same low rise Passchendaele itself was situated on. The Battalion was not scheduled to attack, but the CO wisely prepared his soldiers as if they would be making the main assault—a decision that paid dividends when the unit was called out of reserve. On 10 November 1917, the 10th Battalion took the feature with light casualties.

The Canadians were spared the brunt of the German spring offensives of 1918, and participated in the Allied offensives of the autumn. The offensive Allied campaign under the command of Marshall Foch of the French Army cleared the Germans from positions near the important rail centre of Amiens. Consisting of a series of battles fought from August to September of 1918, it signaled the beginning of the end of the war on the Western Front. The 10th’s battle honour for Scarpe recognized a defensive operation which found the 10th Battalion once again in the Somme sector in a successful defence of the Fampoux area on the Anzain-Arras Road, beside the Scarpe River, between 27 April and 4 May 1918. The Drocourt-Quéant (or D-Q) Line was but a part of the famous Hindenberg Line, a large series of German fortifications and defensive positions. During the Amiens campaign above, the 10th Battalion was part of a successful advance along the Arras-Cambrai road towards Viller-lez-Cagnicourt. Acting Sergeant Arthur Knight was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his exemplary courage during this action. The Hindenburg Line was the last line of defence for the German Army in the Amiens campaign, broken when Cambrai fell on 9 October 1918, and the beginning of a German retreat that did not end until the Armistice on 11 November. Canal du Nord was the last major operation of the 10th Battalion, during the Battle of Cambrai. The Fighting 10th mounted a crossing of this obstacle on 27-28 September 1918, suffering heavy losses.

The fight at Mons in August 1914 had been one of the opening acts of the war on the Western Front, and the city had great sentimental significance to the British, who had lost it to the Germans. The 10th Battalion entered the newly captured city during the war’s last days, when it was a prime objective for the British Army seeking revenge, and were there when the Armistice was declared.

During the First World War, more than 1300 soldiers were killed while serving as members of the 10th Battalion.

The unit crossed the Rhine as part of the Canadian occupation force in 1918, and returned to Canada in 1919. The battalion remained in existence on paper into 1920, until the Otter Commission resolved the question of how to perpetuate the CEF in the postwar army. The thorny problem of who would lay claim to the traditions of the 10th Battalion was solved by permitting a dual perpetuation by the Calgary Highlanders and the Winnipeg Light Infantry, whose predecessors had contributed men to the initial drafts that created the 10th in 1914.

1 Canadian Infantry Division Patch

The 1st Canadian Division was established during the First World War in August 1914, as a formation of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The division was initially made up from provisional battalions that were named after their province of origin (i.e. 10th Alberta Bn) but these titles were dropped before the division arrived in Britain on 14 October 1914. Following the war, the division was stood down only to be re-mobilized as a formation on 1 September 1939 as the 1st Canadian Infantry Division for service in the Second World War.

The division consisted originally of a cavalry squadron, cyclist company, four infantry brigades, three artillery brigades (equivalent in terms of numbers to the regiments used in the Second World War and after), and divisional engineers, with supporting troops of the Canadian Army Service Corps and Canadian Army Medical Corps. The strength of the division was placed at 17,873 all ranks, with 4,943 horses. The 4th Brigade was broken up in January 1915, with one battalion (the 10th) going to the 2nd Brigade, and the other three battalions being used to form the Canadian Training Depot, ultimately being re-designated as “Reserve” Battalions. The 10th Battalion replaced the 6th Battalion (Fort Garrys), which left the 2nd Brigade to become a cavalry unit, later serving in the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.  Pioneer units were also added later in the war, including the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion from March 1916 to February 1917, when they became the 9th Canadian Railway Battalion. The 107th Canadian Pioneer Battalion also came under command between March 1917 and May 1918, before being absorbed by the 1st Canadian Engineer Brigade.

Lieutenant-General Alderson was selected and appointed in October 1914 to command the new Canadian Division, as it was known at that time, making him the highest-ranking divisional commander in the British Army. He was selected in lieu of Sir Sam Hughes, who was promoted at this time by the prime minister to the rank of Major-General. Alderson, who had commanded Canadian units before, won out over three prospective Canadian appointees, who, while serving with the British Army, were still considered too inexperienced.

Training in the winter of 1914 was rigorous, and conditions on Salisbury Plain were harsh due to cold and rain. Alderson rejected “shoddy” kit that was supplied from Canada including the Ross Rifle which had been adopted due to the slow rate of supply of the Lee–Enfield rifle and which was seen as an example of Canadian nationalism. A royal inspection of the division early in 1915 foretold a move to France.

After being stationed at Salisbury Plain in England, the 1st Canadian Division embarked for France during February 1915. After a period in reserve near Hazebrouck, the division relieved the 7th (British) Division in the Fleurbaix sector during the first three days of March, taking over 6,400 yards of front-line trenches on the left flank of Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig’s British First Army.

2nd Canadian Brigade:

5th Battalion (Western Cavalry), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;

6th Battalion (Fort Garrys), CEF. August 1914 – December 1914 (Became Canadian Cavalry Depot);

7th Canadian Battalion (1st British Columbia), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;

8th Canadian Infantry Battalion (90th Regiment), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;

10th Battalion (Canadians), CEF. January 1915 – November 11, 1918.

Sketch History 1914

The following is a very basic sketch outline of history of the 10th Battalion which will be embellished in greater detail on other pages of this website.

4 August              Britain declares a state of war exists between the Empire and Germany; the Dominion of Canada offers assistance to one of its founding countries.

21 August            Two trains leave Calgary for Valcartier, Quebec, where the Canadian Expeditionary Force will be formed. None of the 226 units of the Canadian Militia will go overseas as formed units; instead, volunteers from across Canada will be grouped into regionally organized numbered units of the CEF.  Large numbers of men on these two trains come from the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles).

22 August            Twelve provisional infantry battalions authorized for the CEF.  The 10th Battalion was listed in Camp Order 28 on this date, to be formed from the 60th Rifles of Canada (Moose Jaw), 95th Saskatchewan Rifles (Regina), 90th Winnipeg Rifles (Winnipeg) and 99th Manitoba Rangers (Brandon).

31 August            10th Battalion given an allocated strength of 53 Officers and 1528 Other Ranks.

Near the headquarters of the Canadian Division in Valcartier, September 1914. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

1 September     Vast numbers of recruits compel a reorganization of the first contingent of the CEF, now expanded to 16 battalions.

2 September     10th Battalion formally organized (taking this date as their official date of formation), to include men from the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles) and the 106th Regiment (Winnipeg Light Infantry).

September         The 10th Battalion is among the last of the battalions to be formed; all “leftover” men not assigned to other units put into the Tenth regardless of their unit of origin.  By early 1915, the provisional strength of almost 1600 men would be pared down to 1124 Officers and Other Ranks.

25 September   CEF reorganized on British lines; only three of the four brigades being formed would be used as line units, the fourth brigade is to be used as a reinforcement depot.  The 10th Battalion, originally part of the 3rd Brigade, is dropped from the list of units to be employed at the front when the entire 3rd Brigade is renumbered as the 4th Brigade.

27 September   Major Russell Lambert Boyle assumes command of the 10th Battalion, replacing Lieutenant Colonel John Grant Rattray.

29 September   The Battalion departs Valcartier for Quebec City and embarks on the Scandinavian, 1094 officers and men strong.

Canadian soldiers in Valcartier in 1914 looking every bit like a 19th Century army, wearing pith helmets and in some cases, the kilt. Nearly all the equipment and clothing that was issued to them would eventually be replaced by hardier British materiel in the war zone, though the controversial Ross Rifle would soldier in the trenches for many months until finally replaced. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

3 October            Scandinavian sets sail as part of the largest armed force to cross the Atlantic Ocean in history to that time.  Thirty-two transports are escorted by four warships.

14 October         Scandinavian arrives at Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

19 October         Battalion departs Plymouth for Salisbury Plain.   This is also the first date for which the Battalion War Diary has an entry.

20 October         The first full day of training on the Plain; of the next 123 days, rain would fall on 89 of them.

24 October         Battalion inspected by Field Marshal Lord Roberts

1 November      Battalion reorganized into four companies rather than eight.  The battalion would change back to eight on orders from the British War Office in December and in January 1915 back to four again.

4 November      Battalion inspected by His Majesty King George V, Her Majesty Queen Mary, and Field Marshal Lord Roberts.

Sketch History 1915

The following is a very basic sketch outline of history of the 10th Battalion which will be embellished in greater detail on other pages of this website.

12 January          10th Battalion ordered to join the 2nd Brigade when the 6th Battalion is reorganized as a cavalry reinforcement unit.

20 January          10th Battalion moves from Sling Plantation to the winter quarters of the Second Brigade at Lark Hill.

One of the few dry days during the 10th Battalion’s stay in the United Kingdom; the battalion passes Stonehenge in 1914. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

21 January          Battalion reorganized again into four companies; the unit would keep this organization for the rest of the war.

25 January          Battalion formally comes under command of the 2nd Canadian Brigade

26 January          First field exercise as unit of the 2nd Brigade

January After two months of discussion, the band of the 6th Battalion – originally belonging to the 106th Winnipeg Light Infantry – is transferred to the 10th Battalion.

4 February          Second royal review of the 10th Battalion; entire Division inspected by His Majesty King George V, Her Majesty Queen Mary, and Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War.

7 February          Battalion ordered to move to France

9 February          All Canadian issued infantry equipment replaced with British pattern; battalion still using Canadian uniforms and Ross Rifles.

10 February        Battalion moves by train to Avonmouth, then boards the steamer Kingstonian

11 February        Kingstonian sails for France.

14 February        Kingstonian – after run aground on a sandbar – finally drifts free and arrives in St. Nazaire

15 February        10th Battalion disembarks and begins 43-hour journey to Borre, in French Flanders, by way of Lemans and Hazebrouck

20 February        Inspection by Sir John French, Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.  First Canadian Division assigned to III Corps of Second Army.

21-28 February Second Brigade attached to British 4th Division near Armentieres and Ploegsteert

25 February        First fatal casualty occurs when 39-year old Private Wilson Davis is killed in action; the first of more than 4500 battle casualties to be suffered by the Battalion during the war.

1 March               Move to Armentieres and billets at Bac-Saint-Maur

2 March               Address by General Officer Commanding the Canadian Division, General Alderson, advising the division that it would soon be joining IV Corps in the First Army.  Battalion moved to billets in Fleurbaix.

5-6 March           First tour in front-line trenches, near La Boutillarie.

10 March             Battalion stands to arms as British launch their first major offensive of the war, at Neuve Chapelle.

14 March             10th Battalion relieved by the 8th Battalion.   Move to rest area at Fleurbaix for four days.

18 March             Return to front line positions for another four-day tour.

22 March             Move to billets in Fleurbaix.

24 March             Move to Estaires.

30 March             Intensive training programme begun in entrenching, route marches, physical training, and practice attacks.

5 April                  Battalion leaves Estaires to Abelle, in Belgian Flanders.

10 April                Inspection by both GOC of Canadian Division, and General Smith Dorrien, commander of the British Second Army.  Canadian Division now moving to relived French 11th Corps and move to the left flank of the V Corps.

14 April                Battalion moves into the Ypres Salient, moving by bus into Vlamertinghe then marching through Ypres and into the front lines near St. Julien and Wieltje.

15 April                First full day in the line.

17 April                General Alderson formally takes command of the sector manned by the Canadian Division.

19-20 April          10th Battalion relieved in front line positions by 5th Battalion, marches to Ypres to become brigade reserve.

20 April               Ypres shelled.

21 April                Battalion moves to a farm on northern outskirts of Ypres as shelling of town continues.

22 April                Massive German attack on Ypres Salient; two French Divisions routed.  First Canadian Division called to seal gap; 10th and 16th Battalions launch counter-attack on Kitchener’s Wood in the first Canadian offensive action of the war.

23 April                Lieutenant Colonel Boyle wounded in attack on Kitchener’s Wood.  Heavy fighting and German counter-attacks.

24-27 April          Continuous fighting and German attacks on the Canadian line from St. Julien to Gravenstafel.

25 April                Lieutenant Colonel Boyle dies in hospital.

27 April                Battalion withdraws across the Canal l’Yser.   Some 718 officers and men became casualties, of 816 men to cross the start line on 22 April – 1/6 of the battalion’s total casualties for the entire war.

28 April                Battalion rebuilt with large draft of over 350 officers and men from England, as well as two hundred men originally left out of battle.   Battalion assigned to guard duty on the Canal l’Yser.

5 May                    Battalion leaves the Ypres Salient for billets in Baileul and absorbs another large draft of reinforcements.

7 May                    Some 149 veterans of the battalion, who had armed themselves with British Lee Enfields, are re-equipped once more with the controversial Ross rifle.

9 May                    Inspection by General Alderson. French attack but fail to seize Vimy Ridge.  British attack Festubert.

11 May                   Training resumes.

14 May                  Battalion marches to Robecq.

17 May                  Battalion moves to Locon to crowded billets.

18 May                 Move to Le Touret.  Canadian 3rd Brigade attacks Canadian Orchard as part of Festubert battle.

19 May                 10th Battalion, with rest of 2nd Brigade, moves into the line next to the 3rd Brigade.

20 May                Second Brigade ordered to attack K.5 (German strongpoint) on short notice.  Attack by 10th Battalion costly and ineffective.

21 May                 10th Battalion ordered into second attack on K.5.  Half of battalion attack successful in clearing Germans out of defences.

22 May                Germans launch four separate counterattacks.

25 May                After four days in the German trenches, Battalion relieved by dismounted soldiers of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and moves to Le Hamel for six days of rest.

28 May                Major Dan Ormond assumes temporary command of the Battalion.

29 May                Inspection by General Currie

1 June                  Battalion relieves a battalion of the 17th City of London Regiment in front line positions near Givenchy, spends five days in the trenches.

2 June                 Lieutenant Colonel Rattray assumes command of the Battalion.

6 June                 Move to billets in Hinges.  During the week, the battalion traded in the Ross Rifles for British Lee Enfields.

14 June               Inspection by General Alderson.

17 June               Move to La Preol.

19 June               Relieved the 2nd Royal Warwickshires in the vicinity of Givenchy.

24 June              Relieved from trench duty, but instead of resting, the Battalion marched for three days to Ploegsteert, from Bethune to Estaires on the night 24/25 June to Stangy on 25/26 June.  Into reserve trenches at Hill 63.

30 June              Two companies into the front lines; most of July would be spent in these positions.

July                     Most of month spent in trenches.

31 July                Battalion has spent 44 days without rest, either working behind the lines, or occupying front line trenches.  Only 14 casualties for the month but stress from shelling and constant exposure having its toll.

6 August             Battalion finally relieved.

7 August             Battalion numbers only 429 men of all ranks; many losses due to sickness.  A draft of 212 men posted to the battalion the same day.  Three days of rest.

10 August           Battalion back into the trenches for a five-day tour.

15 August            Out of trenches.  During period between tours, units of Second Brigade inspected by the French Minister of War, Etienne Alexandre Millerand, including two companies of the 10th Battalion.

20 August           Back to trenches for five-day tour.

25 August            Out of trenches.

30 August            Return to the trenches.

4 September        Battalion relieved in the trenches; first front-line trench tour since arrival in France in February in which not a single casualty was suffered.  Battalion moved to rest area.

7 September        Inspection by General Sir Herbert Plumer, commander of the Second Army.

10 September      Back to trenches.

13 September      For the first time in history, a Canadian Corps headquarters is activated in the field, with the arrival in France of the 2nd Canadian Division.  Major shakeup in command positions of 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, and the Canadian Corps itself is taken over by General Alderson, former commander of the 1st Division.

14 September      Relieved in front line trenches.

19 September      Return to front line trenches.

24 September      Relief from front line trenches, move to rear for five days for rest and working parties.

29 September      Return to front line trenches.

4 October              Relieved, moved to brigade reserve and both day and night working parties.

9 October              Back to front line trenches.

13 October            Battalion takes part in demonstration mounted along front of entire Second Army, involving use of smoke bombs to simulate an attack to gauge German reaction.

14 October            Relieved, moved to divisional reserve and two days of rest.

16 October            Intensive training period, practice on assaulting trenches.

19 October            Return to front line trenches for five day tour.

24 October           Battalion relieved in heavy mist, moved to Brigade reserve.

27 October           King George V inspects the Canadian Corps; 50 men and 3 officers selected to represent the 10th Battalion.

29 October           Return to front line trenches.

3 November         Relieved, four days of rest.

7 November         Battalion parades to Divisional baths at Bulford Camp for showers and delousing.

8 November         Return to front line trenches.

13 November       Relief by 7th Battalion.

18 November       To front line trenches to relieve 7th Battalion.

23 November       Relieved and moved from front line trenches for almost a month.

24 November       Move from Divisional to Corps Reserve. Depart Bulford Camp and move to Bailleul.

26 November       Training ongoing until 7 December includes PT, section, platoon and company drill, route marches, and practicing company attacks.

11 December        Return to 1st Division’s Bulford Camp.

16 December        Return to front line trenches.  Five-day tours are now extended to six days.

22 December        Relieved by 7th Battalion, moved to brigade reserve.

27 December        Baths, followed by return to trenches.

31 December        Attempts by German soldiers to fraternize on New Year’s Eve rebuffed.

Sketch History 1916

The following is a very basic sketch outline of history of the 10th Battalion which will be embellished in greater detail on other pages of this website.

1 January             Lieutenant Colonel Rattray awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

2 January             10-man patrol loses Private Robert Green captured by the enemy.

3 January             10th Battalion relieved, goes into Divisional reserve at Bulford Camp, begins planning its first raid.

5 January             Belated Christmas dinner for half the Battalion from regimental funds.

6 January             Belated Christmas dinner for remaining half of the Battalion.

9 January             Return to the line.

15 January          End of six-day tour, withdrawn to Brigade reserve near Hill 63.

21 January          Return to the line, relieve 7th Battalion.

27 January          Withdrawn to Divisional reserve at Bulford Camp. Rehearsals for first battalion raid.

2 February          Return to line.

4-5 February      10th Battalion launches first raid; four men are killed and seventeen wounded. Forty-five Germans were estimated killed or injured. The Battalion received its first Military Crosses for the action – to five participants. The first Canadian soldier in the First World War to be awarded the bar to the DCM was also so decorated for his participation in this raid.

8 February          Relieved and moved to Brigade reserve.

14 February        Return to line to relieve 7th Battalion.

19 February        Withdrawn to Divisional reserve.

23 February        Inoculations for typhoid and paratyphoid.

25 February        Inspection by Corps commander, General Alderson.

26 February        Return to line.

2 March               1st Canadian Division participates in diversionary action to assist British V Corps in attack on “the Bluff” north of the Ypres-Comines Canal. 10th Battalion assisted by igniting smoke bombs forward of their listening posts, firing rifle grenades, catapulting bombs, firing machine guns, launching rafts with explosives, and attempting to light petrol fires.

4 March               Relieved, to Brigade reserve.

9 March               Return to line.

15 March             Withdrawn to divisional reserve; losses for the six-day tour had been three dead and seven wounded.

16 March             Inspection by Major-General Arthur Currie, General Officer Commanding, 1st Canadian Division.

19 March             Corps commander General Alderson presents decorations to three officers and five other ranks.

21 March             Return to line.

27 March             Relieved, to Brigade reserve.

29 March             Moved to Corps reserve near Godeswaersvalde.

2 April                   Church parade and address by Corps commander to 8th and 10th Battalions.

4 April                   8th and 10th Battalions march to Poperinghe, where Canadian Corps was taking over new sector. 10th moves to divisional reserve.

8 April                   Return to line, near Hill 60.

9 April                   Relief of 14th Battalion in front line complete.

12 April                 Explosion of camouflet in No Man’s Land to defeat enemy mine. First operation in which the 10th Battalion wore steel helmets into battle.

16 April                 Move to Brigade reserve at Dickebusch.

24 April                 Move to Divisional reserve at Scottish Lines.

28 April                 Inspection by General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief, British Expeditionary Force.

2 May                   Return to line.

10 May                 Move to Brigade reserve at Bedford House.

10th Battalion at morning ablutions in rest camp. May 1916. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

10th Battalion field kitchens. May 1916. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

18 May                 Move to Divisional reserve at Connaught Lines.

21 May                 Inspection by General Currie.

26 May                 Return to line.

31 May                 Relieved by 5th Battalion, moved to Brigade reserve near GHQ Line.

2 June                   Major German attack on the 3rd Canadian Division, newly arrived to the front. 10th Battalion ordered to counter-attack GHQ Line.

3 June                   Counter-attack fails owing to lack of co-ordination and confusion. Casualties for the day run to 149 all ranks, though only one company was actively engaged.

4 June                   10th Battalion withdrawn to Dickebusch Huts.

5 June                   Relieved 5th Battalion in the line.

10 June                 Relieved after further action on Hill 60, holding ground while the remainder of the Division prepared counter-attacks on other ground lost on 2 June. Into reserve.

13 June                 Counter-attacks on Mount Sorrel a success, 10th Battalion sent into line afterwards.

14 June                 Relieved by the 24th and 26th Battalions. Total losses for Mount Sorrel amount to 274 all ranks for the 10th Battalion, who moves to Corps reserve at Camp E.

17 June                 Brigadier Lipsett, promoted to command 3rd Canadian Division, inspects Battalion.

18 June                 Corps command, General Julian Byng, inspects 10th Battalion for first time.

29 June                 Return to line, relieve 13th Battalion north of Mount Sorrel.

Major-General Arthur Currie, GOC 1st Canadian Division, third from left, escorts Canadian senators on an inspection. July 1916. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

4 July                     Relieved by 1st Battalion.

10 July                  Inspection by Brigadier-General Loomis.

18 July                  Inspection by Corps commander.

19 July                  Inspection by Brigadier-General Loomis.

25 July                  Stand-to-arms for two hours when German mine is exploded under “the Bluff.” 7th Battalion fights off German attack with no further need of assistance.

7 August              Return to line.

11 August            Relieved, to Divisional reserve.

Private Fox of the 10th Battalion competes in a 2nd Brigade sports competition. August 1916. (Library and Archives Canada photo)

27 August            After period of intensive training, battalion begins march with rest of Canadian Corps towards the battlefields of the Somme.

4 September     Battalion arrives at Albert.

8 September     Lieutenant Colonel Rattray leaves Battalion, promoted to Brigadier-General and sent to a training brigade in the UK. Replaced temporarily by Major Alexander Thomson.

9 September     Relieves the 8th Battalion in trenches near La Boisselle and the Chalk Pits.

11 September   Relieved by 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles; two days in the trenches cost the Battalion 55 casualties. Moved to billets at Albert.

13 September   Moved to Rubrempré via Warloy into army reserve.

16 September   Return to Albert.

22 September   Relieved 52nd Battalion in the line.

23 September   Relieved by 7th and 13th Battalions, withdrew to 2nd Brigade support positions in the Chalk Pits, having suffered 52 casualties in a single day, including two company commanders.

26 September   10th Battalion, under new commanding officer, Major Dan Ormond, supports two attacks behind creeping barrage onto Thiepval Ridge. Battle remains fluid.

27 September   10th Battalion companies and platoons fight scattered actions with 5th, 7th and 8th Battalions.

28 September   2nd Brigade relieved by 1st and 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles. 10th Battalion suffered 241 casualties in 36 hours of fighting at Thiepval Ridge.

1 October            10th Battalion visited by Brigadier-General Loomis and Major-General Currie.

7 October            After staged move to Albert lasting a week, final elements of Battalion arrive.

10 October         Return to line to relieve 1st Battalion.

11 October         Relieved by 44th Battalion of 4th Canadian Division. Returned to Albert.

15 October         Returned to line northeast of Courcelette for last tour of duty on the Somme, relieving 8th Battalion.

16-17 October   Relieved by 47th Battalion, marched to Albert.

22 October         Marched from Mezerolles to Dernier.

28 October         Moved to Estrée Cauchie.

30 October         Guard of Honour provided for former Governor General, the Duke of Connaught, visiting Major-General Currie’s headquarters.

2 November      Move to 2nd Brigade support near Carency in new sector between Arras and Lens.

6 November      Move to front lines in the Vimy sector.

10 November    Out of front line.

14 November    Return to line.

18 November    Relief and move to divisional reserve at Estrée Cauchie. Issue of new small box respirator type gas masks.

26 November    Move to Berthnoval to 2nd Brigade support.

4 December       To trenches for final tour of 1916, relieving 7th Battalion.

12 December     Relieved by 15 Battalion, moved to divisional reserve at Estrée Cauchie.

18 December     Moved to Divion to corps reserve, where the Battalion remained until the second half of January.

Sketch History 1917

The following is a very basic sketch outline of history of the 10th Battalion which will be embellished in greater detail on other pages of this website.

1 January             Major Eric MacDonald’s Distinguished Service Order was gazetted, the first of three he would be awarded during the war.

18 January          Inspection of Lieutenant Colonel Ormond.

20 January          The Battalion leaves Divion for Fosse 10, a group of houses on the Arras-Bethune road, where it remained in 2nd Brigade reserve.

24 January          Return to front line trenches after an absence from the line since early December 1916, relieving the 7th Battalion opposite Angres.

30 January          Relieved by 7th Battalion, moved to Brigade support at Bouilly-Grenay.

5 February          Relieved 7th Battalion in front line trenches.

11 February        Return to billets at Fosse 10.

14 February        Inspection by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Hair, Commander-in-Chief, British Expeditionary Force at Hersin.

17 February        Relieved the 7th Battalion in front line trenches near Angres.

23 February        Relieved by 7th Battalion, moved to Bouilly-Greany and Brigade support.

28 February        Return to front line.

1 March               Took part in simulated attack by releasing smoke along front line behind barrage; provoked violent counter-barrage.

3 March               Relieved by 8th Battalion, East Kents of the British Army. The Canadian Corps consolidated its front line to a four-mile front along the base of the Vimy Ridge and departed the Lens sector until later in the summer. Moved to Fosse 10.

4 March               Moved to Houdain.

8 March               Moved to Ecoivres.

10 March             Moved to 2nd Brigade support positions known as “the Labyrinthe”, a system of tunnels opposite the Vimy Ridge.

14 March             Move into front line trenches and support trenches held by 8th Battalion.

20 March             Relieved by 8th Battalion, moved to Ecoivres.

24 March             Return to front line trenches.

29 March             Relief by 2nd Battalion, move to Ecoivres.

30 March             Move to training ground at Estrée Cauchie for assault training for the upcoming attack on Vimy Ridge.

1 April   Bath parade

2-5 April               Assault training and rehearsals.

6 April                   Return to front line.

8 April                   Trench raid to determine if barbed wire on the 10th Battalion’s assault route on Vimy Ridge had been cut. Despite heavy casualties to the raiding force, valuable information was gained, and a heavy concentration of artillery was unleashed on the uncut German barbed wire that was discovered, reducing the obstacle during the next day’s assault.

9 April                   In the wake of a 983-gun barrage that had been firing for seven days (the “Week of Suffering” as the Germans referred to it), the Canadian Corps launched a four-division assault on Vimy Ridge. The 10th Battalion suffered heavy casualties in its part of the 1st Division’s assault, mainly in the first 15 minutes of its action, and the creeping barrage and section-based infantry attacks perfected after the Battle of the Somme in late 1916 allowed the objectives later in the day to be taken relatively easy. In all, 101 men were killed, 252 wounded and 21 went missing on 9 April, one of the bloodiest battles of the war for the 10th Battalion. At the end of the day, the Battalion moved back to its original start line after being relieved by the 8th Battalion.

11 April                 Move forward to Red Line on Vimy Ridge.

13 April                 Move to Blue Line to relieve 3rd Battalion.

14 April                 Support 8th Battalion in advance past Willerval; two companies move into Farbus Wood.

15 April                 Retire to “the Labyrinthe.”

18 April                 March to billets at Mont Saint-Eloi west of Vimy Ridge.

26 April                 Move to Farbus Wood in preparation for six division operation on the River Scarpe to ease pressure on the battered French armies on the verge of mutiny. Relieves 2nd Battalion after dark.

27 April                 Move to assembly positions near Arleux Loop.

28 April                 Battalion assault on Arleux-en-Gohelle. The attack is successful and no strong counter-attack force is permitted to deploy.

29-30 April          Relief by 13th Battalion. Move to Labyrinthe, then to billets at Mont Saint-Eloi

1 May                   Single long-range shell hits billets at 6:00 a.m., killing 15 and injuring 38. Entire regimental band and entire scout section save one is left dead or wounded.

3 May                   Move to Estrée Cauchie.

5 May                   Move to Maisnil-les-Ruitz.

9 May                   Visit by Brigadier-General Loomis.

11 May                 Inspection by Corps commander, General Byng.

13 May                 Church service; Battalion joined by Major-General Currie and General Sir Henry Horne, General Officer Commanding the British 1st Army.

1 June                   Return to Mont Saint-Eloi.

2 June                   Move to Brigade support at Neuvuille Saint-Vaast, at foot of Vimy Ridge.

9 June                   Move to Mont Saint-Eloi, to billets at Winnipeg Huts.

15 June                 Inspection by Lieutenent Colonel Ormond.

16 June                 Return to Vimy Ridge, relieving 14th Battalion.

18 June                 Move to Brigade reserve along railway line east of ridge.

22 June                 First return to front line positions since Arleux two months previous, relieved 2nd and 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles in trenches between Fresnoy-en-Gohelle and Méricourt.

26 June                 Relieved by 15th Battalion, moved to Brigade support near Thélus.

30 June                 Move to Neuville Saint-Vaast.

1 July                     Dominion Day celebration, the first of the war for the Canadian Corps.

4 July                     Move to divisional reserve at Mont Saint-Eloi and Ottawa Huts.

11 July                  Inspection by King George V as battalion marched past on Lens-Arras road.

13 July                  Canadian Corps departs Vimy sector for new front, shifting north of River Souchez to focus on operations against Lens. 10th Battalion moves to Cauchin Légal.

14 July                  Move into Brigade support near Les Brébis.

15-16 July            Into front line, relieving elements of 2nd and 14th Battalions, Durham Light Infantry and 1st Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) of the British Army.

21 July                  Relieved by 7th Battalion and moved to Les Brébis.

22-23 July            Moved to new billets at Fosse 7 and Barlin as Divisional reserve.

24 July                  Assault rehearsals.

29 July                  Return to Brigade support positions at Les Brébis.

30 July                  Final address by new divisional commander, Major-General Archibald Macdonell.

4 August              Return to trenches east of Loos, relieving 5th Battalion.

7 August              Relieved, marches back to Les Brébis and into tents at Fosse 2.

9 August              Move to Divisional reserve at Hersin.

13 August            Relieved 4th Battalion in front line.

15 August            Assault by 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions on Hill 70. The 10th Battalion is reduced to a strength of 17 officers and 316 other ranks after the first day of fighting. Hill 70 is captured on the first day.

16 August            Fighting continues on Hill 70; 10th Battalion makes renewed assault on the Chalk Quarry, then holds out against counter-attacks. Private Harry Brown is killed delivering a message and is later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. The Battalion captures 26 machine guns and 225 German soldiers. At Hill 70, the 10th Battalion received more decorations for this single battle than any other single Canadian unit for any other battle in any other conflict, with 60 Military Medals being awarded (also a record), three awards of the Distinguished Service Order, seven awards of the Military Cross, and nine of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

19 August            After a day spent at Barlin, 10th Battalion moves to Brunay.

21 August            Inspection by General Macdonell at Caucourt.

27 August            Visit by General Sir Douglas Haig.

3 September     Return to Barlin.

6 September     Relieves the 52nd Battalion at Noulette Huts in Brigade reserve.

13 September   Moved to Brigade support at Liévin, near Lens.

17 September   Relief of 5th Battalion in front line.

20 September   Relieved by 8th Battalion, moved to Noulette Huts in Brigade reserve.

25 September   Relieved 5th Battalion in brigade support at Liévin.

3 October            Relieve 7th Battalion in front lines for last time in this sector.

6-7 October        Relieved by 4th Battalion.

12 October         Move to Houdain.

18 October         Execution of Sergeant William Alexander for desertion.

19 October         March out of Houdain.

Sketch History 1918 – 19

To be added…

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