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Welcome to the Okanagan Military Museum

Virtual Classroom

WWI

The "Great War"(1914-18) -The first organized military units in the Okanagan were horse-mounted infantry established in the years leading up to the First World War. In August, 1914 the First World War, also known as the "Great War" and WWI, broke out in Europe after the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand of Austria in the Balkan city of Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarian empire controlled the Balkans at this time and Serbia, the area where Sarajevo was located, was a region in the Balkans seeking independence from the Austro-Hungarians. The war started there with the Austro-Hungarian conflict with Serbia but because of alliances it soon spread to all the major powers of Europe, including Great Britain and her empire which included the Dominion of Canada. With Canada at war thousands of Canadians across the country, many who had been born British, joined the Canadian military.

Canadians fought with such great distinction during the war on land in the Canadian Corps that they became the "shock troops" of the allied forces used for breakthrough attacks against the German lines. The "Glorious Hundred Days" campaign of 1918 attested to the fighting spirit and resolve of the Canadian Corps. Many Canadians were awarded the British Empire's highest award for bravery during the war - the Victoria Cross.

Looking out at the Vimy battlefield

Canadians also served with the Royal Navy and the newly formed Royal Flying Corps. In the air Canadians achieved reknown as aces in the aerial warfighting, or dogfights, over the trenches that characterized this first aerial war. Fighter aces like Billy Bishop, Ray Collishaw and Bill Barker became legends in aviation history.

Major Billy Barker flying his Sopwith Camel from an Italian airfield during WWI

In our region, like communities across the country, young men flocked to join the regiments forming for service overseas. They went off an in the four years of the "Great War" as it was known then fought in many battles, including the taking of Vimy Ridge. In doing so 60,000 were lost and remained in the many cemeteries in the battlefields of France and Belgium that remain today as testaments to that awful struggle. They came back to Canada at the war's end in 1918 with a strong sense of being Canadians and brought about a change in our country that would begin to take us toward a Canadian identity and nationhood.

To find out more about Canada in the First World War got to these excellent webpages on the Canadian War Museum website:

Also visit the War Amps 'Canada's Military Heritage' website WWI webpages at:

 

 

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