Second Lieutenant H.C. Farnes died at the age of 22 on 6 July 1917, with only two words carved neatly into his grave marker. The inscription was simple, two words only…but the most stirring ones often are – “Au revoir.”
We began the day in Arras, France at the Wellington Quarry (la Carrière Wellington) Museum to those who lived under the city during the First World War, specifically the New Zealand Tunneling Company. Here we received an outstanding guided tour of the quarry 20m underground.
Following this, we made our way to the Dury Memorial, just outside Dury, France. This specific memorial honours the Canadian Corps during the August 1918 breakthrough of the DQ-Line (Drocourt-Quéant Line) around Arras, which led the Canadian Corps to the Canal du Nord, during Canada’s final Hundred Days offensive*. The monument was simple yet powerful, serene in its placement among the fields of France.
While here, we had the pleasure of learning about the evolution of Canada’s Army and its reputation from the beginning of the war (“savages from the north”) to the end of the war (“Vanguards” or “Shock troops of the British Empire”) from our friend and colleague Sébastien Picard. The weather was beautiful for us while Geoff Hayes and David Patterson explained and demonstrated where the 4th Canadian Division was coming from and why, and what other Canadian divisions were doing close to our position. They do a particularly good job at putting us inside their heads and bringing it closer to reality.
The change in how the war is waged is remarkable. Canadians no longer have three months to prepare for an attack. Heck, they are lucky if they get three weeks…but we didn’t need three months, anymore. While success was measured in metres for most of the war, the Canadian divisions are measuring theirs in kilometres now. The final months of the war are a completely different kind of war than what was fought over the past four years – a toned down version of World War II.
From there, we stopped for a bio-break before having lunch at the Canal du Nord, another major site of a Canadian offensive during our Hundred Days. It started late September 1918, where the Canadian soldiers had to make their way across the very narrow canal passage, which was extremely difficult as enemy combatants fired from all angles. The plan was bold, and Canadian General Curry had to run it by multiple officers who thought it was too risky, as explained by fellow CBF historian and traveller Deanna Foster, before he could follow through with it.
Next, we took the very, very, very, very (read: VERY) scenic route to the Toronto CWGC Cemetery outside of Amiens, France. At this cemetery, and the two places mentioned already, Deanna Foster gave the rest of the group a breakdown of Canada’s role in the Hundred Days Offensive, including the Battles for Amiens, the DQ-Line, and the Canal du Nord. She explained the significance of each battle both for Canada and the greater war effort. Being at each individual cemetery or monument where much of the battle took place certainly helped put these histories into perspective.
As a final end note, we stopped by a local cemetery to find a soldier for Katie Beaudette, where she gave a moving presentation on her soldier. She ended the presentation with a well-deserved toast of rum (of the variety he would have had available to him).
*There exists some meaning behind naming this successful offensive, spearheaded by the Canadians, Canada’s Hundred Days – the first “Hundred Day” campaign refers to Napoleon’s journey from France to the Battle of Waterloo, as from his landing to that last fateful battle, it was indeed Napoleon’s Hundred Days.