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D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

The 1944 Battle of Normandy — from the D-Day landings on 6 June through to the encirclement of the German army at Falaise on 21 August — was one of the pivotal events of the Second World War and the scene of some of Canada's greatest feats of arms. Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen played a critical role in the Allied invasion of Normandy, also called Operation Overlord, beginning the bloody campaign to liberate Western Europe from Nazi occupation. Nearly 150,000 Allied troops landed or parachuted into the invasion area on D-Day, including 14,000 Canadians at Juno Beach. The Royal Canadian Navy contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors and the RCAF contributed 15 fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons to the assault. Total Allied casualties on D-Day reached more than 10,000, including 1,074 Canadians, of whom 359 were killed. By the end of the Battle of Normandy, the Allies had suffered 209,000 casualties, including more than 18,700 Canadians. Over 5,000 Canadian soldiers died.

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Canada and the Second Battle of Ypres

The Second Battle of Ypres was fought during the First World War from 22 April to 25 May 1915. It was the first major battle fought by Canadian troops in the Great War. The battle took place on the Ypres salient on the Western Front, in Belgium, outside the city of Ypres (now known by its Flemish name, Ieper). The untested Canadians distinguished themselves as a determined fighting force, resisting the horror of the first large-scale poison gas attack in modern history. Canadian troops held a strategically critical section of the frontline until reinforcements could be brought in. More than 6,500 Canadians were killed, wounded or captured in the Second Battle of Ypres.

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Frezenberg Ridge

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, composed largely of British-born former regular soldiers, had gone to Flanders in December 1914 in advance of 1st Canadian Division as part of the British 27th Division.

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Canada and Gas Warfare

Poison gas was used throughout the First World War by almost all armies. Its widespread use was unique in the history of warfare. The various types of gas, delivered by canisters, projectors, or shell, killed, maimed, and wore down morale. By 1918, soldiers of all armies encountered gas frequently while serving at the Western Front. Canadian soldiers were among the first to face the death clouds, at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. At least 11,572 Canadian soldiers were casualties of poison gas, yet many were denied pensions after the war. During the Second World War, chemical weapons were not used on the battlefield; however, the Suffield Experimental Station in Alberta developed and tested chemical and biological weapons beginning in 1941. From about the middle of the 20th century, Canadian officials worked on the global stage to ban chemical weapons, and in the 1990s, Canada signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (see Arms Control and Disarmament.)

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The Battle of Ogdensburg

 Prescott, located 112 kilometres downriver from Kingston, was an important transhipment point where merchantmen exchanged cargo with the bateaux from Montréal. Ogdensburg, New York, lay on the opposite shore.

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Battle of Courcelette

The Battle of Courcelette, or the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, was part of the Somme offensive during the First World War. The Battle of Courcelette was fought from 15 to 22 September 1916. It resulted in thousands of battlefield casualties, but also signalled the start of new thinking in military tactics that would eventually solve the riddle of the trenches and help turn the tide of the war. Tanks were used in battle for the first time during the Battle of Courcelette as well as the creeping artillery barrage.

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Battle of the Gothic Line

In the Second World War, Canadians began fighting in Italy in July 1943. By the summer of 1944, the Allies had pushed German forces to one of their last defensive positions — a stretch of heavily fortified territory in northern Italy known as the Gothic Line. The main job of breaking the Line fell to the I Canadian Corps, which accomplished the task after a month of difficult combat, at a cost of more than 4,500 casualties. Although overshadowed by the Allied invasion of France, cracking the Gothic Line was among Canada's greatest feats of arms of the war.

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Battle of Châteauguay

From the outset, Hampton's cause was fraught with challenges. Approximately 1000 of the New York militia who were a part of his army refused to cross the border, and during the battle itself, several of his officers were seen abandoning their men and positions for safer ground.

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Battle of Plattsburgh

The Battle of Plattsburgh (also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain) was a joint land and naval invasion of upper New York State and the last major British operation of the War of 1812 (not including the battles after the Treaty of Ghent), and is largely remembered as a debacle.

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Canada and the Battle of Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought during the First World War from 31 July to 10 November 1917. The battle took place on the Ypres salient on the Western Front, in Belgium, where German and Allied armies had been deadlocked for three years. On 31 July, the British began a new offensive, attempting to break through German lines by capturing a ridge near the ruined village of Passchendaele. After British, Australian and New Zealand troops launched failed assaults, the Canadian Corps joined the battle on 26 October. The Canadians captured the ridge on 6 November, despite heavy rain and shelling that turned the battlefield into a quagmire. Nearly 16,000 Canadians were killed or wounded. The Battle of Passchendaele did nothing to help the Allied effort and became a symbol of the senseless slaughter of the First World War.

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Remembering D-Day: The Making of a Heritage Minute

On 6 June 1944, Canadian Forces landed on Juno Beach. D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion of all time and marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War. In 2019, Historica Canada released a Heritage Minute telling the story of 47-year-old Major Archie MacNaughton, a First World War veteran and leader of the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment’s A Company. In this article, Anthony Wilson-Smith, president of Historica Canada, reflects on the making of the D-Day Minute.

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Battle of Mons

​On 11 November 1918, the last day of the First World War, Canadian forces captured the Belgian town of Mons — liberating a place that had been under German occupation since 1914.

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Canada and the Battle of the Scheldt

The Battle of the Scheldt was fought in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands in 1944 during the Second World War. It was part of the Allied campaign to liberate northwestern Europe and defeat Nazi Germany. The First Canadian Army played a crucial role in clearing the Scheldt of German forces, opening crucial supply lines via the port of Antwerp. However, this victory came at a cost. The Allies suffered nearly 13,000 casualties during the battle, including more than 6,300 Canadians.

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Battle of Ridgeway

The Battle of Ridgeway is also known as the Battle of Lime Ridge or Limestone Ridge. It was fought on the morning of 2 June 1866, near the village of Ridgeway and the town of Fort Erie in Canada West (present-day Ontario). Around 850 Canadian soldiers clashed with 750 to 800 Fenians — Irish American insurgents who had crossed the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York. It was the first industrial-era battle to be fought exclusively by Canadian troops and led entirely by Canadian officers. It was the last battle fought in Ontario against a foreign invasion force. The battlefield was designated a National Historic Site in 1921.

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Battle of Lacolle Mill

First Skirmish at Lacolle Mill, 1812 This brief skirmish at Lacolle Mill (now Lacolle, Que) during the War of 1812 marked the end of the American campaign to invade Lower Canada and take Montréal in the fall of 1812.