Although the Great War of 1914-1921 started on August 4, 1914 the first group of Canadian Soldiers did not arrive at the battle front until 21 December 1914. That group was the “Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry” (PPCLI) and it was attached to the British Army. The only group to enter the war before the PPCLI was the “Royal Canadian Regiment” (RCR) which had relieved British 2nd Lincolns at the garrison in Hamilton, Bermuda, on 14 September 1914. The “First Contingent“, components of the 1st Canadian Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force reached the battle zone in France on 17 February 1915. There they were indoctrinated into the battle, first serving alongside British units and then in their own trenches on 10 March 1915 at Bois-Grenier in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
Students of Canadian history will likely be more aware of our role in the First World War as it commenced on 14 April 1915 when the Canadian First Contingent relieved the French Army at Ypres, Belgium. They will remember this as the first time when an all-out attack using poisonous gas (chlorine) was launched against the Algerian, French and Canadian troops on 22 April 1915. In the months prior to the arrival of the Canadians and for periods throughout the rest of the war, the City of Ypres and surrounding areas were pounded by German artillery. The city and the farmlands became wastelands, with hardly a building standing, a tree not shattered, and fields nothing but an array of shell holes.
For further information on the battle, please refer to Chapter 3 of Nicholson’s history of the Canadians in the Great War.
There were eight (8) photographs in the Anderson Fonds depicting the area of Ypres and the devastation of the area, plus the images of the grave of Private Cedric Harrop. The 1st photograph shows a famous image of the remains of the Cloth Hall in central Ypres. The 2nd photograph is of sign posts on the road, one of which directs you to “Hellfire Corner”, an intersection best described by it’s name. Images of what are left of the Asylum in central Ypres are depicted in the 3rd and 4th photographs. The 5th image shows the wasteland of Ypres, with little left to define the location, except the sign pointing left to Langemark (northeast of Ypres). In the calm of the battle, the Army erected a church in the square at Ypres, as illustrated by the 6th photograph. The 7th photograph demonstrates the efforts of the troops to restore some beauty to the area, with the construction of a monument using glace stones – in stark comparison to the battlefield dugouts shown in the 8th photograph. The last image is that of the grave of Private Cedric Harrop from Milton who was buried in Ypres but later in the war during the Battle of Passchendaele .