When Great Britain entered the First World War in August 1914, Canada and Newfoundland were automatically drawn into the conflict as part of the British Empire. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Newfoundlanders served and almost 65,000 did not return.


Canadian forces fought on the Western Front from 1915 to 1918. In April 1915, they faced a major German attack in Belgium during the Second Battle of Ypres and were subjected to chlorine gas. Canadian forces arrived on the Somme in August 1916 and fought at Courcelette and Pozieres.

Perhaps Canada's most famous battle of the conflict came on 9 April 1917 at Vimy in France. The Canadian Corps captured the strong German positions on Vimy Ridge as part of the Battle of Arras. This action has become a central part of Canada's commemoration of the war. Later in 1917, Canadian troops fought in horrific conditions in the mud of Passchendaele, finally capturing the village in November. Canadian assault troops played a key role in the Allied advance which began in August 1918 and ultimately led to victory.

Canadians also served at sea in the newly-formed Royal Canadian Navy as well as the Royal Navy. They also took part in the war in the air with the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service and later the Royal Air Force.


Newfoundland was a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire in 1914, and raised a force of volunteers which would become the 1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment. The formation served at Gallipoli before being sent to France. On 1 July 1916, the Newfoundlanders suffered devastating casualties at Beaumont-Hamel. After a period of rest, they returned to fight at Gueudecourt in October 1916 and continued to serve on the Western Front. In recognition of regiments service it was granted a 'Royal' prefix, becoming the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in January 1918.

More than 8,000 enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment, the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and the Newfoundland Forestry Corps during the course of the war. Many others served at sea or in the air, often with Canadian or British formations. An estimated 35 percent of all men of military age served in the conflict.

Related Cemeteries & Memorials

Vimy Memorial rises up from Vimy Ridge, the site of the Canadian Corps stunning victory in 1917. It lists the names of some 11,160 Canadian servicemen who died in France and who have no known grave.

Passchendaele New British Cemetery stands on Passchendaele ridge, it contains the graves and memorials of more than 2,100 servicemen of the British Empire, including more than 650 of Canadian units.

Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial stands among the preserved trenches of Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Park. It lists the names of 800 servicemen of Newfoundland who have no known graves, including some 220 members of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve and Mercantile Marine lost at sea.