Originally posted by smilesmcgee
Why was the Canadian military in Belgium?
St Julien Memorial, Belgium
The use of poison gas is so despised today that it helped form the basis of the USA’s decision to invade Iraq. Even in the bloodiest of wars, soldiers have honour. In World War I, Germany pioneered using mustard gas against the Allied forces, resulting in utter devastation and horror. In Belgium’s St Julien sits a park with a memorial to Canadian forces who were instrumental in defending the Western Front against some of the first poison gas attacks in the bloody Battle of Ypres. With the gas unleashed, Allied lines scattered in panic. Before the German infantry could attack, the First Canadian Division assembled into position, frantically holding the line in the wave of repeated attacks. They held the line for 48 hours before reinforcements arrived. Over 6000 casualties, and 2000 dead. Carved in rock, the memorial is a striking 11m high statue called The Brooding Soldier, his head forever lowered in memory of his comrades.
Passchendaele Memorial, Belgium
November, 1917. In 16 days of heavy fighting, the Canadian Corps were hit with 15 654 casualties and over 4 000 dead, all in a quest to occupy the high ground and capture the town of Passchendaele. Heavy rain and poor drainage turned this offence, part of the Third Battle of Ypres, into a muddy, bloody quagmire. 4000 young men with dreams, hopes and families. Men who could have worked the land, started innovative businesses, built homes for future generations. Standing waist high in cold mud, their friends falling around them, they continued to push on, eventually capturing the high ground. When the Italian army were badly beaten elsewhere, British Commanders diverted operations to support them, abandoning the momentum created during two phases of battle, and at a great cost of life. Passchendaele became an international symbol of senseless violence. The Memorial, located on the Crest Farm about 40km from Lille, is a large block of Canadian granite, surrounded by maple trees. Surrounding it are peaceful green fields. Enough blood has been shed here. As Churchill said not long after the horrors of World War I: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And we did.