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50th Battalion, CEF
50th Calgary Battalion patch
Active November 7, 1914 – August 30, 1920
Country Canada
Branch Canadian Corps
Type Line infantry
Role Infantry
Size 1 battalion (500–1000 men)
Part of
Nickname(s) Mason's Man-Eaters
Colors Oxford blue over Cambridge blue
March "A Hundred Pipers"

World War I

Battle honours Somme, 1916; Ancre Heights; Ancre, 1916; Arras, 1917, '18; Vimy, 1917; Hill 70; Ypres, 1917; Passchendaele; Amiens; Scarpe, 1918; Drocourt-Quéant Line; Hindenburg Line; Canal du Nord; Valenciennes; France and Flanders, 1916–18
Colonel of
the Regiment
Colonel E.G Mason (1915 – March 1917) Lieutenant-Colonel Page (March 1917 – November 1918)

The 50th Canadian Battalion was a battalion of the First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force. The battalion was commanded by Colonel E.G. Mason at the beginning of the war. Later in the war, he was put with another battalion and Lieutenant-Colonel Page took over the battalion. The battalion recruiting headquarters was in Calgary, Alberta. It was formed to increase the numbers of the newly forming 4th Canadian Division.

History[edit | edit source]

Formation[edit | edit source]

The 50th Canadian Battalion was a battalion of volunteers from Calgary[1] and its local area. They were added into the newly forming 4th Canadian Division because the Canadian Mounted Rifles had taken over the last few spots in the 3rd Canadian Division. They were recruited when the war started, trained in Calgary, sailed for England on October 27, 1915, and sent off to the Western Front with the rest of the 4th Division, disembarking in France on August 11, 1916.

1916[edit | edit source]

Ancre Heights/Somme[edit | edit source]

The battalion was ordered to Ancre Heights[2] in October. Ancre Heights was the first Canadian participation in the Battle of the Somme,[3] which had begun on July 1. Later, they were ordered into the Battle of the Somme, where the Canadians suffered 25,000 casualties. The battle saw the deaths of many non-commissioned officers (NCOs) of the 50th. Since the NCOs were usually in the second wave, they were shot by hidden German machine-gun posts.

1917[edit | edit source]

Vimy Ridge[edit | edit source]

From the Somme, they went northward to Artois in November 1916, where they spent their winter and Christmas preparing for the offensive on Vimy Ridge.[4] From January to March, the division's artillery was part of the pre-battle barrage. In March, the Canadian Corps changed the commander of the battalion. They took Colonel E.G. Mason and put him in charge of another battalion while giving the 50th to Lieutenant-Colonel Page. In April, the Canadians made their three-day offensive, starting the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The 50th Battalion, with the 4th Division was attacking from the north of the ridge and were facing the 16th Bavarian Jäger Division and the 79th Reserve Division

The 50th Battalion and the rest of the 4th Canadian Division were assigned to attack Hill 145. After many attempts to capture the hill, they finally managed to take it from the Bavarian Reserve force. For the next two days, the 4th Canadian Division and 50th Battalion tried to attack the little knoll known as the Pimple. Finally, the Bavarians, low on food and having suffered many casualties, surrendered the Pimple and retreated from Vimy. The 50th, having suffered heavy casualties, were taken out of the line and rested for a while.

Lens and Passchendaele[edit | edit source]

After Vimy the 50th Battalion, with the rest of the Canadian Corps, started preparations for the Battle of Lens.[5] They fought the Germans in the streets of Lens and in the generating plant, which a group of Germans had fortified. After a hard-fought battle there, the Canadians gained a reputation as elite or storm troops. During this battle, they were taken out of the line for a little bit, and put into billets. They stayed with French families in their remaining small houses.

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig ordered them into the heavy fighting at Liévin and Hill 65 in June and July 1917. After suffering low casualty rates, the Canadians were ordered to one of the costliest battles in the war, the Third Battle of Ypres.[6] The Canadians suffered 16,000 dead and many more wounded, while 50th Battalion lost a quarter of their fighting men. The Canadian Corps was successful however, by capturing Passchendaele Village. After the battle at Passchendaele, the Canadians finally got a break and they had Christmas dinner at Château de la Haie. In the German Spring offensive, the 50th Battalion, along with the other Canadian units, were training instead of being on the front lines of the heavy fighting.

1918[edit | edit source]

Kaiser's Battle[edit | edit source]

During this German offensive,[7] dedicated to the German Kaiser, the Germans managed to penetrate the Allied front lines and push them back. The Allies fell back almost all the way to Paris, which was the German objective, but the Allies took advantage of the barrier of the Marne River situated just outside of Paris, where they subsequently managed to halt the German advance. The Germans, wasted after having to sacrifice a large amount of their troops during the offensive, could not withstand the strong Allied push that followed and which ultimately brought about an end to the war.

Llandovery Castle Operations[edit | edit source]

In 1918, a Canadian medical ship, HMHS Llandovery Castle was sunk by a German U-boat, even though Llandovery Castle had a white flag put up. The Canadians, furious with the Germans, started an offensive dedicated to Llandovery Castle. The 50th fought in Llandovery Castle operations[8] and they managed to liberate a few towns and villages.

Canada's Hundred Days[edit | edit source]

The German advance to Paris was halted by the Second Battle of the Marne. After years of stalemate on the Western Front, the war was finally coming to an end. In the last 100 days, the 50th Battalion fought at the Battle of Amiens on August 8–10; the Second Battle of the Somme (1918), which was also known as the Battle of Arras; the Battle of Cambrai, where they helped recapture Cambrai and hold it against German attacks; the battle of Drocourt-Quéant where the 50th Battalion helped to defeat the German defensive line; the Battle of the Canal du Nord, where the Canadian Corps, with 50th Battalion crossed the canal; and the Battle of Valenciennes, one of the last battles of the war, where Mons was captured. By then, the Germans were retreating from France and Belgium. On November 11, on the eleventh hour, the Germans agreed to an armistice, ending the First World War.

After the war[edit | edit source]

In 1919, the 50th Battalion was sent back to Canada and they were allowed to return to their own homes in Calgary and its surrounding area. The 50th Battalion was subsequently disbanded on August 20, 1920, and was never reformed again.[9] The King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) perpetuates the 50th Battalion, CEF.

Battle honours[edit | edit source]

First World War:

Records[edit | edit source]

The history of the 50th Battalion is recorded in books and in letters that kept by their families, or discovered by historians later in years. A few examples of members whose stories have been told are Richard Playfair[18] and Victor W. Wheeler.[19]

Notable 50th Battalion men[edit | edit source]

Memorials[edit | edit source]

Soldiers of the 50th Battalion that went missing in action are memorialized on the Menin Gate and the Vimy Memorial. Soldiers of the battalion killed in action are commemorated on the Calgary Soldiers' Memorial, dedicated in April 2011. There is also a bridge over the Elbow River in Calgary named after John George Pattison, VC.[20]

Engagements[edit | edit source]

Training, 1914–1916[edit | edit source]

  • Formation to August 1916: training in various places in Canada, Great Britain and France

Somme Front, 1916[edit | edit source]

Vimy Front, 1917[edit | edit source]

Lens Front, 1917[edit | edit source]

Ypres Front, 1917[edit | edit source]

Training, 1917–1918[edit | edit source]

  • December 1917: Christmas at Château de la Haie
  • January–July 1918: training in France

Hundred Days' Offensive, 1918[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Introduction
  2. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, Chapter 5
  3. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land. Chapter 6
  4. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land Victor Wheeler, chapter 10
  5. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, Victor Wheeler, Chapter 13
  6. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, Victor Wheeler, Chapter 15
  7. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 18
  8. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 20
  9. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Author's Notes
  10. 10.0 10.1 The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 2
  11. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 6
  12. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 10
  13. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 11
  14. 14.0 14.1 The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 13
  15. 15.0 15.1 The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 21
  16. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler, Chapter 23
  17. The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land, By Victor Wheeler,
  18. "The Ross Playfair Letters Project". http://www.rcplayfair.ca. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  19. Wheeler, Victor (2000). The 50th Battalion in No Man's Land: 50th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Alberta Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1915–1919. CEF Books. ISBN 978-1-896979-15-1. 
  20. "Soldier led Vimy charge"

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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