In October 1914, over 1,000 men in the new PPCLI have their picture taken by their ship. By May 15, barely 150 are still left in the field.
Of the 18,000 men in the Canadian First Division who arrive in France in February 1915, nearly 10,000 are dead, wounded or captured. The remainder will struggle on alone until the end of 1915 when the Second Division arrives in September.
On May 1st 1915, the Lusitania sailed. Of the 1,960 people on board, 767 survived and 1,193 perished. No one in 1914, had thought that war would involve women and children.
No one signed up for this this kind of war or these losses in August 1914. They signed up for a different kind of war. They signed up for a war that would be over soon. They signed up for a war of glory and of adventure. They signed up for a war of movement. They signed up for a war where women and children would cheer from the sidelines.
By June 1, 1915 it was clear that this was going to be a new kind of war. None of the fantasies of 1914 would be the reality.
This war was a siege. The Germans built a long fortress in the west. So, there is no flank to turn. There is no simple front line to break. They plan to wait the allies out on the western front until they have defeated Russia. The allies will have to batter their way through or fail.
This trench map shows the depth of the German lines. It will be no easy matter to "batter" through these lines. In 1914, the British sent 120,000 men to France. The Canadians sent 32,000 to England. Confronting them is a German force of over 5 million men under arms.
Any chance of victory now requires massive amounts of men. For now in 1915, the Allies just don't have the manpower. The Allies need to field armies in the millions.
No one had anticipated this in 1914. Along with millions of men, the new armies would have to be supplied on an unprecedented scale.
Billions of shells and millions of guns will need to be produced. A global supply system will have to be developed to provide the food to feed millions in the field, to supply enough uniforms to clothe millions of men. A global supply system will have to be created demanding the use of thousands of ships, millions of horses and thousands of vehicles.
To win this kind of war demands that the entire economy has to re-engineered to deal with "Total War".
This includes changing the role of women and making them part of the outside economy. To win this new war, women would have to leave the home where they had lived and worked for millennia and join the world of men.
They will drive ambulances under fire and look after the wounded. They will make the shells and the guns. They will run the buses and the trains. They will join men at work and at war.
And they and their children will also die. For they will be part of the conflict itself.
For this war was not restricted in its risk to the front.
The Germans will attack shipping and the Allies will blockade Germany. The object on both sides was to starve the populations.
No one in Europe was safe.
All of this in turn demanded a social and a cultural revolution. Women would take a decisive step into the world of men. After the war ends, they cannot be put back in the old box again.
This is why Martha Allan leaves her stricken parents and goes to the front. This is why millions of women start munitions work.
Lady Julia Drummond, shakes off the loss of her son and does not miss a beat in driving her support of the troops even harder. Her budget exceeds 10 million dollars as the war advances. That is what it cost to build a battleship then. Alice Yates buries Henry and gets on the boat, with her daughter Alice, and comes to England to help her friends Julia and Marguerite. Aunt Marguerite, buries her grief and joins them in setting up and running large hospitals.
The end of the heroic ideal for men in war demands a new kind of courage and commitment from men.
Older men step up to the challenge. Uncle Montagu and Uncle Jimmie sign up, even in their 50's. What pulls them in is a deeper sense of duty and obligation to those that have already died.
We see a new kind of heroism in the younger men. In Canada, men sign up in droves for the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions. They sign up not for glory but for their sense of duty.
In the front line, younger men, like my grandfather Alec, just put their heads down and get on with it.
It takes two years before the allies are ready to fight this new kind of war from an industrial perspective. It's only then that they have the guns and the shells in the summer of 1916.
But they still have not learned the right lessons of how to conduct the new war. This is the tragedy of the Somme.
Now winning this war demands the hardest task of all. It demands that the winner rethink how war is fought. What could be harder than that?
It is the Canadians that provide this leadership. It takes the Canadians, who cannot afford to take such losses and who have an army lead by amateurs, to learn new ways of fighting.
It is not until April 1917 that the opportunity arrives at Vimy to demonstrate this new knowledge. From that moment onwards, the Canadians are used as the spear point of the British Army on the Western Front. They will take Passchendaele. They will break out in the final offensive and they will cross the Canal du Nord and storm the Hindenburg Line.
But all of this is in the future. We will leave my family for now. My plan now is to put all of this first year into a book. We will pick up their lives in Book 2 which I will begin to post here again at the end of 2015.
In Book 2, that will cover 1916, we will see how even when the men are ready and the shells are here, that the new ideas are needed. We will see that in 1916, trying harder was the plan. A plan that ends in catastrophe at the Somme.
We will see how it is the Canadians that start to find the better way. We will see how this all begins with the appointment of Julian Byng and the firing of Sam Hughes. We will see how the Canadians break free of the grip of Sam Hughes. We will see how the Canadian out learn everyone else. We will also see how just as the Canadian men get their act together, so do the Canadian women who in their own right learn and adjust to create their own first rate organizations of support.
We will do all of this, as we have done for the first year of the war, by looking over the shoulders of a few of the members of my extended family from Montreal. We will also meet a new set of characters too. These men and women gather their strength in 1915 and burst out into the sen in 1916.
So goodbye for now and see you in the fall.