I've only ever had one thing published before and that was in one of the Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul books published here in Toronto. It was about the liberation of Belgium by Canadian soldiers at the end of WWI.
Here it is:
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WORLD WAR 1 - CANADA LIBERATES BELGIUM
For the citizens of Mons, a small Belgian city south of Brussels on the French border, it appeared that the horrors of World War 1 would never end. Since the German occupation endless years earlier in 1914, their lives had changed forever.
For the youngest, their memories were only of bombs and artillery shells shaking their beds and making their homes fall down around them. They dreamed of tanks and guns, of strange men in strange uniforms, speaking strange languages, walking through their streets. They knew the smell of death better than they knew the smell of baking bread.
For the older Belgians, their memories were of a time long-since passed... a time of peace that seemed a lifetime away... a time they feared they might never see again. Yet they lived in hope.
The first glimmer of hope arrived just after Easter in 1917 when word reached them that the Canadian forces had successfully taken Vimy Ridge. About 80 km west of Mons, running generally north of Arras, France, for 12 km, Vimy Ridge had been occupied by the Germans in September of 1914. Rising over 130 metres above the surrounding land, the Ridge offered an unobscured view of any Allied activity below. The Germans immediately began building many kilometres of trenches and underground tunnels. Impenetrable walls of barbed wire were laid down in the plains below and 3 lines of trenches were dug. Concrete bunkers sheltering machine guns were constructed on top. The Ridge virtually became an impregnable fortress.
Every Allied attempt to take Vimy Ridge had failed, but the Ridge was crucial to the success of the Allied forces if they wished to win the War. The challenge had finally been handed over to the Canadian forces. In every battle with the Germans, the Canadian forces had been victorious, even against impossible odds; and nothing seemed more impossible than conquering Vimy.
Arthur Currie was not a soldier by nature. Born in Napperton, Ontario, in 1875, Currie had moved to British Columbia where he entered the real estate field, but the approach of the war caused real estate to collapse and Currie decided to join the militia. He virtually devoured every book on military strategy he could find and was quickly promoted through the ranks. By 1917, he was Commander of the First Canadian Division, and it was on his shoulders that fell the burden of capturing Vimy Ridge from the German armies.
Currie studied the past attempts at taking Vimy Ridge and was convinced that they all had been doomed to failure even before they had began. Artillery fire on the Ridge had failed to destroy the dreaded machine guns and the infantry that approached was faced with horrendous mud, deep trenches, and miles of barbed wire which could shred the skin off any man unfortunate enough to meet with it. What was needed was something totally new... something totally unexpected. Vimy Ridge was impregnable. Currie would find a way to break it.
Arthur Currie ordered intensive surveillance photos to be taken of the Ridge and of all the surrounding land. The photos were compiled into an over-all image of the entire area and, from these, detailed maps were made and distributed to each and every soldier (the first time in military history). Meanwhile, with the help of the Allies, an exact replica of the Ridge, complete with tunnels, trenches and caves, was constructed behind the Front and Currie trained his men there. After two months of intense, non-stop training, the Canadians knew the Ridge as well as the Germans. Each man knew exactly where to go, and precisely what he would find when he got there.
April 9, 1917, at 5:30 AM, the attack on Vimy Ridge began. The attack was daring and risky, and the Allied commands could only watch in amazement as events unfolded before them. The Vimy offensive left the German soldiers scratching their heads in wonder. Instead of being bombarded by artillery as they had expected, the shells were falling in a solid line far across the valley land below. The Allies appeared either very inept or extremely cunning. At predetermined times, the artillery bombardment advanced 100 metres toward the ridge, and behind it, with carefully-paced steps, advanced the Canadians in what would be named the Vimy Glide. Every three minutes, the army moved steadily forward 100 metres at a time, shielded by the ever- advancing artillery fire.
The advance continued through three lines of collapsed trenches, through barriers of now- destroyed barbed wire, and incessantly up Vimy Ridge. Half-bodies lay where they had fallen, ignored by the advancing soldiers. Cries for help went unheeded. They would have to wait for the stretcher-bearers and medics following behind. The advance must continue, and it did. Vimy Ridge finally belonged to the Allies for the first time since the beginning of the War.
3,598 Canadian soldiers died and 7,004 more were wounded, but the victory marked the 'beginning of the end' for the Germans. For his efforts, General Arthur Currie was knighted by King George V on the Vimy battlefield and was named Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Canadians were no-longer considered colonials nor subordinates. They were now considered Allies.
Following the loss of Vimy Ridge, the Germans regrouped and began a new offensive to retake and hold lost French territory. They carefully, perhaps wisely, avoided any conflict with Canadian soldiers. Meanwhile, the Allies were forming their final offensive to liberate all of France and Belgium.
August 4 to November 11, 1918, became known as Canada's Hundred Days. The Germans had come to expect imminent battle from any Canadian activity, and this was a key element to the success of the Allied advance into Belgium. Under utter secrecy, the plan was carried out, spearheaded by the Canadian forces. The advance would begin at Amiens, north-east of Paris. Part of the corps was conspicuously sent north to Ypres and the Germans reacted as anticipated by moving their major forces north. The Canadians quickly moved back to join the others under cover of night, and on August 8, the advance eastward began. Without advance artillery cover fire, surprise was complete and, flanked by Australian and French troops, the Canadian soldiers advanced eastward 20 kilometres (12 miles) in three days. The German High Command was devastated at the advance and morale fell to an all-time low. They could not hope to recover. Survival was their only hope.
The advance continued incessantly. Losses were heavy on both sides and wide-spread destruction was inevitable, but in the end, Freedom for the beleaguered French and Belgians lay in the wake of the terrible battles and bloodshed. Finally, in the early-morning hours of November 11, Canadian troops marched into Mons. The words of Victor Maistrau, Bourgmestre (Mayor) of Mons, describe that moment:
"At five in the morning of the 11th, I saw the shadow of a man and the gleam of a bayonet advancing stealthily along that farther wall, near the Café des Princes. Then another shadow, and another. They crept across the square, keeping very low, and dashed north toward the German lines.
"I knew this was liberation. Then, above the roar of artillery, I heard music, beautiful music. It was as though the Angels of Mons were playing. And then I recognized the song and the musician. Our carillonneur was playing "O Canada" by candlelight. This was the signal. The whole population rushed into the square, singing and dancing, although the battle still sounded half a mile away.
"In the city hall at six in the morning I met some Canadians and we drank a bottle of champagne together. We did not know that this was the end of the war.
"The dawn revealed a strange sight in the square. The Canadian troops, exhausted from their long offensive, lay sleeping on the cobblestones while all Mons danced around them."
That same morning, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice was signed. World War 1 was over.