The Record of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Oct 1920, p. 324-343


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Seely, The Rt. Honourable J.E.B., Speaker
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Speeches
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The very thrilling story of the Canadian Cavalry. How this brigade was formed; some actions that it did. The speaker’s command of this brigade. A crisis in the war after a period of training. Canada’s knack for being present at almost every crisis. The wicked act by the Germans of the employment of lethal gas against the promise they had given to the whole civilized world. The terrible losses suffered by the Canadians. Duty in the trenches. Remounting for the battle of the Somme. Useful work done in building and strengthening the front lines and in relieving the infantry. Encircling and capturing the village of Joncourt. The heroism of young Gardiner and of Harvey, who got his Victoria Cross. Outstanding accomplishments of each unit of the brigade. The first battle of Cambrai, when tanks were employed in great numbers for the first time. The surprising success of the tanks. The second battle of Cambrai. Details of more battles and attacks. The climax. Finding themselves in the disorganization of retreat under the command of a French General Dublo. Holding Moreau Ridge near Amiens. A reading of General Foch’s letter, with reference to the “heroism of the valiant Canadian Cavalry Brigade.” “Canada first” in valour and self-sacrifice.
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4 Oct 1920
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English
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Full Text
THE RECORD OF THE CANADIAN
CAVALRY BRIGADE
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR-GENERAL, TIM RT. HONOUR
ABLE J. E. B. SEELY, C.B., D.S.O., M.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
October, 4, 1920.

(On behalf of the Club President Hewitt, in a happily worded speech presented to Mr. F. J. Coombs, on the eve of his wedding, a Loving Cup, and Mr. Coombs replied briefly amid hearty applause.)

PRESIDENT HEWITT in introducing the Speaker said, Gentlemen, our guest of today hardly needs any introduction to any of us. For nearly four years he was commander of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, and his name has become, as our notice says, almost a household word. General Seely has represented English constituencies in 'the House of Commons for twenty years and has held important offices in the government of the day. Prior to the date of the declaration of war he was Secretary of State for War, and, strange to say, taken from civil life and the government of the country to go out and help to execute the commands of the country. General Seely was deservedly popular with the men under his command, and perhaps no one thing was more greatly responsible for that fact than his own personal courage and bravery. (Applause) I am told that there was never any 'task given to any man to do but the General was prepared to take as much danger as any man under his command. General Seely had the honor to serve in the South African campaign with very great distinction, so that both in civil and in military life, he is a man of great reputation. Gentlemen, there are times when men who have done so much for their country, if they did nothing more than come and give us an opportunity to look at them, even if they were not forceful speakers, would be welcomed and remembered by way of our appreciation of what 'they had done; but when a man like Gen. Seely comes, who can talk to us and who has eloquence as well as bravery and military strategy, he is doubly welcome to us, because it is a great thing for a man to be able to express clearly his own conviction, and 'tell what he knows. (Applause.) Before calling upon General Seely, to address us I want to read this telegram that came into my hands a minute or two before the meeting:

Regret impossible to be present to honour General Seely, one of my most fearless arid] intelligent soldiers. He proved my theory that citizen soldiers trained are unsurpassed. I would rejoice to be present to honour him. He always fulfilled my highest expectation.

Sam Hughes.

(Applause)

I have much pleasure, Gentlemen, in introducing

MAJOR GENERAL THE RT. HONOURABLE J. E. B. SEELY.

Mr. President and Members of the Empire Club of Canada :-I am indeed highly honoured to be invited to address this great gathering. I am glad that your President was good enough to suggest the title of my address. It is true as he says, that I insisted upon altering its title, because I don't want to talk to you today about anything that I did, but only to tell you very simply what, I think you will agree, is a very thrilling story--the story of your Canadian Cavalry. My part in it is only that of an eye witness of great events culminating in the supreme crisis in which, in the words of the greatest soldier of our age, your cavalry were present and contributed in the highest degree to turning the tide of battle and saving the allied cause. The story is a gradually culminating story, and I do not think I shall weary 'this great audience if I just tell them in a few moments how this brigade was formed, some actions that it did; in fact, it so happened that each unit did something outstanding which I think will enable you to realize how it came about that at the great crisis it did achieve so remarkable and, indeed, miraculous a success.

Well, Sir, as you said, when the war broke out, I went to the war as everyone of my age naturally would, and for the first four or five months I was a special service officer with the Expeditionary force on the staff of Sir John French, and a very remarkably interesting time, naturally enough, I had. But in the month of January, 1915, I got a telegram from Lord Kitchener summoning me home to take command, as the phrase went, of an important unit. I complied at once, and went to see Lord Kitchener, who was an old friend and was then Secretary of State for War. He said, "A Canadian Division, a splendid force, is just about to leave. They are the remains of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona's Horse, both regiments of the permanent force, and the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. I propose to supplement them with the King Edward's Horse, who are many of them, Canadians, and a very distinguished regiment. I shall add to them engineers from the British and other services, medical and others; the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery will be made into a brigade under the command of Colonel-now General-Panet, and I wish you well."

So the brigade was formed, and I went down to Salisbury Plains and endeavoured to find it. It was rather difficult, because it was sunk so deep in the mud of that place (laughter) but I succeeded in digging it up and ultimately getting it into more favourable billets. Lord Strathcona's Horse was commanded by a man with a very honoured name in Canada-Colonel Macdonell--now Major-General Macdonell--(applause)--who commanded the first division with such great distinction, and is now in chief command of your military college. The Royal Canadian Dragoons were commanded by Colonel Dennis, and later by the gallant Straubenzee, who was killed at the beginning of the war. General Panet commanded the Horse Artillery.

After a period of training came one crisis in the war. Canada seems to have had the knack of being present at almost every crisis. The Germans did many unwise and many wicked things in the war, but I think the most wicked thing without a doubt, was when, against their pledged word, they employed lethal gas, against the promise they had given to the whole civilized world. Of course we knew that 'this was a deadly weapon. It was well-known to me personally, because I had been Secretary of State for War; but it was believed that no nation would be so vile and so base .as to take advantage of the experience that must be created by breaking its pledged word. Had the Canadians not been present I think certainly that section would have fallen, but by their decisive policy they saved the fortunes of the day. The lethal cloud waited for them; many of them knew that, but they stood where they were to meet certain death. As one man said to me, "We figured that we would not all die, and there would be some of us left to shoot." Some were left to shoot, and Europe was saved, but in the process, of course, your losses were terrible. I had again a telegram from Lord Kitchener and again I had him at headquarters. He said, "Those gallant Canadians have suffered terrible losses." He was in a tremendous rage with the Germans; I never saw a man so angry. He said, "The retribution that will fall upon those people will be one that they will richly deserve."

His words were prophetic. But he said, "They have no reinforcements at present but they are coming; will you mount your brigade and take them out to form at the first junction for a special practice?" I said, "Of course I will." He said, "But you must see to it that they volunteer and go readily, because no mounted man likes to leave his horse." I said "I will guarantee it." He said, "Go and find out." I went down and saw my men and officers, and I don't think a fellow turned there, and if I had told them I had refused or hesitated they would almost have torn me to pieces, so anxious were they to go to the help of their comrades. (Applause) So off we went at top speed, leaving all our horses behind except, I think three, including my precious horse, "Warrior" that I bred myself, as many people here know, which is still alive and enjoying the dignity, and occasional lovely rides at my own home at the Isle of Wight. We joined up with the Canadians, and were in time for the battle of Festubert. Our brigade did well there; we were complimented by all those whom we served, and they showed those qualities of real cheerful valour which were to stand them in such good stead later on.

Then, along came duty in the trenches, the longest I ever had. I walked around the same trenches on fifty consecutive days rather a wearisome proceeding-but we did our best, and there was added to my command many most gallant regiments-the Canadian Cavalry, also disbanded. One I remember well, one of 'the C.M.R. with a very gallant officer who did a very gallant act. He was a major, and a bombardment was opened on our trenches, causing very heavy losses. He was badly wounded, had his right leg shattered. He was carried out from the front line bleeding profusely, but when he came too a little and got about to the support line he said, "Put me down, boys; are any more of my men hit?" They said, "Oh yes." He said, "How many?" They replied, "We don't know." He said "Go and see." They came back leaving him on the stretcher and they said, "Twenty-eight." He said, "Now, leave me here and I will go away when I have counted twenty-eight men out." And there that gallant major lay, because he could not sit up, bleeding slowly to death, with the agonizing pain down the fractured leg. He counted one, two, etc., for an hour, and when the twenty-eight men had gone by, he said, "Now, boys, you can carry me home." (Applause)

Well, then it was decided that we should again be required as cavalry. The Canadian reinforcements had come over in great numbers, and you were forming fresh divisions rapidly; and as you know, you ultimately formed four. When we remounted during the Somme battle, it was hoped that the cavalry would get their chance. They did not, but I hope we did useful work in other ways in building and strengthening the front lines, in relieving the infantry at times, and so on.

Then the Germans retired, having devastated the area behind, and it fell to the lot of our brigade to be the leading brigade to follow them up, and we had the great good fortune to conceive a plan of encircling and capturing a village called Joncourt. It was here that brave young Gardiner was killed leading a gallant charge encircling the village. We took prisoners and machine guns, and received the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief. The next day but one, we were 'told to attack -this time, with the assistance of other cavalry. Again the brigade followed out the same tactics of enfilading the position, and it was there that Harvey got his Victoria Cross.

I saw the act, and it was really one of the most remarkably courageous 'things I have ever seen. His function, as leading troop leader, was to gallop around the rear of this great position. When we got around to the rear of it he found a strand of barbed wire, and machine guns behind it. Without hesitating a moment, instead of retiring, he turned more to his right and galloped straight into the middle of the flanking position. I saw him coming about fifty yards in front of his troops, and I suppose he would be about five hundred yards from where I was, and I thought with regret that this most gallant man would fall, because there were forty Germans behind where he was, and they were all busy shooting. But miraculous things sometimes happen to men. He galloped very fast down hill-he was an International Rugby Football player, and very athletic. He saw his horse would not jump the wire, and amidst this tremendous rattle of rifle and machine-gun fire which killed his horse but did not 'touch him, he vaulted off his horse with his rifle in his hand, jumped the wire, ran straight to the trench, shot the machine gunner, turned the machine gun on the forty Germans, all of whom ran away except those whom he killed. (Loud Applause)

When I said that each unit of the brigade did outstanding things, it was our Strathcona's Horse who led on both occasions, and we took that ridge, and again received the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief. The rest of the ridge was taken by other gallant cavalry regiments, who equally received their share of the credit. And so we followed them up, and 'then we went and sat down in the trenches again, I suppose about thirty miles further on from where we had started. There we held the line in a rather novel fashion. It was a wide No Man's land, and the only way 'to keep connection was to make No Man's land the zone, and that your Canadian cavalry successfully did; they made it their own. All over this wide No Man's Land, they roamed in big parties at night until no German dared show his face; and a very successful raid was carried out on a rather novel scale. It was at that time, when carrying out a smaller raid, that my horse got shell-shocked, though not myself, I hope, and fell on me and smashed up five bones in my poor old body. However, I managed to get back all right.

The next episode is the first battle of Cambrai, when for the first time tanks were employed in great numbers. There is an officer here who rendered most distinguished service in the tank brigade-Major Walker Bell (applause) who now swears that cavalry's day is gone. When I have finished my address, I hazard the prediction that he may have changed his mind; for I have a very powerful reinforcement of my arguments that I can adduce.

At the first battle of Cambrai the success of the tanks was surprising. Again we were the leading brigade on the right because I rode forward, still on my horse "Warrior," who always brought me good luck, though I had many others, many of whom were killed. I counted hundreds of dead Germans, and in all that long ride of four or five miles only one dead Englishman-so astonishing is the effect of modern warfare properly designed and properly devised; for in my long experience of the war how often shad I seen the position almost reversed hundreds of dead Englishmen and very few dead Germans--owing, of course, to the terrific nature of the rifle and machine gun fire combined with the smokeless powder that renders it invisible.

At Cambrai we got to the canal. The tank endeavoured to go over the bridge but fell through. This did not daunt the leading party. Under the command of a very gallant officer who is now in our permanent force, Major Walker, the machine gun squadron built a bridge under practically unceasing fire. They captured four Germans, and against the general usages of war, I believe, they set them to help the men who built that bridge. Everyone was killed or wounded, except Walker himself, and seeing that he is a man just a little bigger than the ex-President, you will see what a charmed life he bore. (Laughter) He received a bar to his previous medals, and in any other circumstances he would have received the Victoria Cross. Over that bridge the Strathcona Horse went. They captured the part of the enemy that passed us, threw them over, and went from three to five miles beyond. Their objective was the battery. Major Stienhouse, who was leading the squadron himself, sabered the commander of the battery, and the men following sabered all the remainder of the crew. Some lay on the ground. Some cried for help, some gallantly stood at attention to their guns and were thrust with the sword, but the battery was silenced, and no doubt the effect of it was the saving of many lives. Lieutenant Strachan received the Victoria Cross, and although it did not have the effect it would have had if the other cavalry had been able to join in the pursuit, it was the act of outstanding valor of which Canada may well be proud. (Applause)

So we come to the second battle of Cambrai. Ludendorff, in his book, says that the effect of Cambrai on the morale of his men was such that he saw that unless they could quickly strike back, if possible in the same region, and take at least as many prisoners and guns as we had, that the morale of the whole Western Front might have been shattered, at least seriously damaged. So he collected a great force, and as you remember, fell upon the exposed salient, and in a few short hours the Germans took as many or more prisoners than we had taken -some 10,000 or 12,000-and as many or more guns, 1,000 or more. Into this melee we were thrown. It was there that again the Strathcona Horse distinguished themselves greatly. No less did the Royal Canadian Dragoons. It so happened that the Bell to whom I have referred was in command of the squadron that took the place called Vosley Farm, where hundreds of men lost their lives subsequently. It just made possible the advance of Strathcona's, .and it was done in such a remarkable movement that in two moments I can recount it to you. I saw that the only thing to do was to expand a little further. We could not possibly stay where we were. I had orders to .attack if possible. I sent for Doherty, who had been my staff Captain and then commanded Strathcona's Horse. I said "The position may appear desperate, but I am ordered to attack, and I believe we can do it. You will go over the railway line and press forward and join up with the guard at Ridge Wood on your left." I also told him that I' had .at that moment received a telegram confirming him in his appointment as Lieutenant-Colonel commanding his regiment.

Now, the position was extraordinary. There was a railway embankment and we were on each side of it. If you wanted to get to Ridge Wood all you had to do was to get up on the railway embankment and hold up your hand and you would certainly get a ball through it. Doherty assembled his men and gave them his orders and sent them to the attack. He told them that the signal for attack 'would be that he, as leader quite rightly in those desperate. times, would jump over the embankment. They all waited for the signal and watched for him. He jumped up. I was near it and saw it all done, and as he stood up he was shot dead with a bullet through the brain. Did those men waver? Not they. They swept forward over the embankment and fought in broad daylight against a number five times their own, and at one time had twice their own number of prisoners behind them and twenty or thirty machine guns. They joined up with the guard in; Ridge Wood, and again we had the great satisfaction of saving the day. (Applause)

Then more duty in the trenches, and we were honoured in what was the climax of the war. I was in command not only of the Canadian cavalry Brigade, but of all the administration of the Fifth Cavalry Division opposite St. Quentin. One day I met General Sir Hubert Gough at a place called Le Fogmiat, which held out for two days and made the most gallant defence against the German attack in the great March of 1915. He said, "I have got some confidential information for you; 'the great German attack, which will be composed probably altogether of at least one hundred divisions"-that is over a million ordered men-"is following, upon this concentration." I asked, "When?" He said, "We don't know, but it may happen any day. There is a battle planned; in any case I think it will be wise for us to withdraw your advance posts." I replied, "That will be most awkward, because we have planned another plan; we have planned to attack the enemy on his whole front by a novel plan." He asked, "When?" and I said, "In three days time, at least I hope so." He asked, "How?" I told him, and he replied, "Well, it is rather a novel way of meeting the greatest attack in the history of the world, but still I know nothing about it officially, but I may say that I wish you well in your novel enterprise."

Now, the conception was not mine, so I can praise it, though: I carried it out. I gave the task to the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Mind you, the position was a little difficult. We were holding this line with dismounted cavalry very fully, and we knew from the immense accumulation of stores which the airplanes had detected, that this tremendous onslaught was coming. We knew the Prussian Guard were in front of us, but still it seemed the best form of defence was to attack, and that we might get very valuable information, as we did: The plan was this-the German line being here, and you gentlemen being all the Germans (laughter) though, thank God, you don't look very like them (laughter) and the people at the back of 'the room being the extreme end of their position in depth, and that good-looking gentleman standing up at the back being the commanding officer of the sector (laughter) well, they are looking at each other. The plan was-and it may sound fantastic, but it succeeded in most marvellous fashion-to pass the Whole of the Royal Canadian Dragoons through the front line there, and in single file to get right to the rear of the position by night: then to spread out behind it on a front of from half a mile to a mile: and then, with that homing instinct that is so strong in us all, to come back and sweep everything before us.

The difficult part of it, as you all know, is to get through the enemy's wire. And here I must mention one other name-perhaps the bravest man I have ever known. His name was Evan Price. In a previous raid he had volunteered to be the tangle or torpedo man. The tangle, .as my comrades know, is an ingenious engine of war like a long snake, filled with very high explosives, T.N.T., which you put through and screw fresh pieces on so that you might go through as many belts as you please, and then you go back to the line and lay the fuse, and the resultant explosion will make a line through any barbed wire. But to grope your way through the line, put this thing under the wire and lay it with the viligant eyes of the Prussian Guard watching you would seem 'to mean almost certain death, because experience shows it was; but in the previous raid Price did try and brought it off. He came to me and said, "I Want to fire the tangle torpedo again, put it in position." I said, "You have done it once, that is enough." He said, "No, Sir, I must do it." So I allowed him. He did it. The signal for the explosion of that torpedo was the signal for the barrage of machine-gun fire, which I thought was unexampled; we fired 790,000 rounds of ammunition on selected spots in the course of half an hour. Under cover of this tremendous hail of bullets, our men went through; and this is what I want to tell you-the spirit of that regiment was such that they said, "Now, everybody is going, the commanding officer, the second in command, the signallers, the cooks, the mess-waiters"-and every human-being in the Royal Canadian Dragoons went through into the blue, one mile behind the line of the Prussian Guard. (Loud applause) And the whole regiment came back. (Renewed applause) It was the most extraordinary success, I suppose the most successful raid, almost, of the war. Every human being in the whole sector was either killed or captured 'or burned. Many of them refused to come out of their deep dugouts, and so we had to try and get them out with an appropriate bomb, but many of them did not, and there could not have been one single survivor of those German Guardsmen on the line of from half a mile to a mile. The good-looking gentleman in the rear was duly captured (laughter) and at three o'clock in the morning this officer of the Prussian Guard was sitting in my mess, very battered, and we opened a bottle of Burgundy in the hopes that he would give us some information. Well, I believe he did give us some valuable information, and the result was that we secured further information of great value just before the crisis arose. But I tell it to you as showing that not only your own gallant force and Lord Strathcona's Horse, but the Royal Canadian Dragoons were men of a very tough, stout, valorous sort. (Applause)

So the days went by. We expected to attack almost every day, but Ludendorff was waiting for the ideal weather or for the particular day later than our Intelligence Department, perhaps, had supposed. At any rate we were relieved a few days before the attack fell.

Then came this attack--the greatest movement of armed men, I suppose, that there has ever been in the history of the world. The army of Xerxes may have been larger, though that I doubt; but of armed men it was without doubt the greatest movement that has ever taken place. Upon a carefully preconceived plan, this vast host-a really vast host of men with American bayonets -fell upon the St. Quentin front and north and south thereof. Now was the turn of the Royal Canadian Horse; Artillery. We had been withdrawn, as often happened; my artillery was left in the line commanded by Colonel Elkins. I am glad to see one or two of his officers here today who survived that desperate time. (Applause) However, they held out to the right and left of his battery positions; our men were overwhelmed by those immense numbers, but the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery would not stir. They got orders from all sorts of spy sources for that was a great part of the German fakes-ordering their retirement. They paid no attention and for a long time they were actually with their guns firing over the sights at Germans within a few hundred yards of them and driving them back, and they held their position through the whole long day practically surrounded, with the enemy far behind them on each flank; and under cover of darkness, having deluded the Germans on this advance in that sector for twenty-four precious hours, they retired without the loss of a single gun. (Applause)

Well, now to the climax. We found ourselves in the disorganization of retreat under the command of a French General Dublo, and with him we held on to various positions, then we were withdrawn through Noyon and passed on to where Dublo captured a village all by himself, and was afterwards captured by the French, who almost shot him as a spy, but found their mistake and gave him the Legion of Honour instead. We touched the village of Montdidier, where six men came together and gave a shout, and a hundred Germans all ran away. Well, we were withdrawn and with the second cavalry division commanded by General Pittman.

On the morning of the 30th March, General Pittman came to me to my headquarters and said, "The situation is extremely bad; the information I have is that the Germans are advancing straight on Amiens." They were then within two or three miles from Amiens. I said, "Where is the position which we hope to hold?" He said, "Moreau Ridge." I looked on my map and saw where it was. It was about eight;miles away. He said, "I do not think the occasion is one when you can be very deeply involved, for the numbers are too great, but my instructions are to ask you to do what is possible." I said, "Very good," and I sent my orders quickly to my brigade and away I went towards a village called Castile. We extricated ourselves with difficulty from the crowded traffic of every conceivable kind of gun, waggon, Chinese labourers, French soldiers, English soldiersall, as must be the case on those occasions, in great confusion. So into the open country, and away we went at as good a gallop as our horses could muster. I got well ahead on my "Warrior" with my gallant aide-de-camp, Prince Antoine of Orleans, whose presence was invaluable at that time, and I arrived at the village of Castile, which was just on the other side of the river from the Moreau Ridge. There I found a French General cool and collected as they always were after all those years of war. The French army was now a marvellous, valorous fighting machine. (Loud applause) I said to him, "What is the position?" He said. "Well I am just issuing orders to withdraw from Moreau." I asked. "Why?" He said, "Because the 'Germans have captured the ridge and this big Moreau Wood." I said, "Surely not." He said, "Ah, indeed so it is," and at that moment one stray bullet sang over our heads, and I knew it must be true. It was a supreme moment, as the words of Marshall Foch, which I will read to you if I may, will show. Seldom does it happen to a man to have to make so fateful a decision.

I said to this French General, "If we recapture the Moreau Ridge, can you advance and hold Moreau?" He said,"Yes, but you cannot do it." "But," I said, "if we don't the Germans will be in Amiens tonight." He said. "Yes, I fear so, and all will be lost; but can I possibly-I ask you-hold on out here with the enemy in my rear?" I said, "No, but we will recapture it." He said, "You cannot do it with that brigade." "Ah," I said, "I have many more cavalry coming up behind me." He said, "Even so, I doubt it." Then my gallant aidede-camp said to him in French, "You don't seem to understand, General. We are beginning Foch's great push." Well, that was only just true, if at all, but the General smiled and he said, "Very good, I will tell my men to hold on, and will support you in every possible way." So I sent back word to the commanding officers, and I went on to the north-west corner of the wood, which I calculated would not be captured by the enemy, or if so, in very small strength, because our own infantry were only some 500 or 600 yards away. I arrived there and made my headquarters there, and colonels came up and gave the orders.

Now, observe the position was that if we could not get possession of the ridge again, it was clear that the French and British armies would be divided, Amiens would fall, and with it probably--a:; I think all men now agree-the allied cause. But yet we did not know how many Germans .approached in this immediate wood, and it seemed almost a desperate thing to try and take it, Still I gave the orders, and I think any man in my position with such wonderful men, would have done the same; and they carried them out. They were to do just the same against this great post as we had done on a smaller scale at other posts. The Strathcona's were, as to part of them, to encircle the wood right around, a mile away; charge any Germans on the far side and establish themselves there-giving the impression of course, that we must be a great host. The Dragoons were to establish a circle around the right of the wood. The Fort Garrys were for the moment to be in reserve and then with the rest of the Strathconas to go clean through the wood and line up with their comrades on the top of the ridge.

The leading commaander of A squadron was Lieut. Flowerdew; he received the Victoria Cross, but alas, it was a posthumous honour; if any man deserved it he did. I rode alongside of him myself as he went forward and explained to him what the idea was. I said, "It is a desperate chance, Flowerdew, but if it succeeds we will save the day." He said, "Yes, Sir; Yes, Sir, we will succeed;" he gave me a glorious smile and swept on with his squadron. After a mile, machinegun fire came from the wood round the corner; there we saw lines of German Infantry in column advancing quietly into the wood as they had been doing for nine long days, marching steadily forward and driving us before them. With a shout the squadron charged down upon those columns. Some of the Germans turned and ran, others turned and shot. As Flowerdew approached the first line he was shot from one side through both thighs, and of course the horse was shot too. As the horse fell, he waved his sword and shouted, "Carry on, boys, carry on," and on they went right through the Germans, sabering many. I, myself, counted shortly afterwards, 75 dead bodies killed by the sword. Back again through them, and then the survivors established themselves on the far side of the wood crowning the ridge, turned on the Werther Flammer with hitch-cock guns on one whole division of German infantry who, believing that this was a great host, withered, retired, and fell back. So the Dragoons made good on the ridge. The rest of the Fort Garrys made their way through the wood. These men were valiants; they would not surrender; some were taken prisoners, a great many were killed, but others were taken after desperate hand-to-hand fighting. I saw more Germans killed that day than in all the week; they would not surrender. As I passed one man near a tree obviously with a wound in his throat, I said, "I will send you a stretcher-bearer."' He reached for his rifle but could not get it, and then he said, "No, no, I will die and not be taken." Well, he did that, because the man behind him killed him. So the ridge was taken, and for twenty precious hours there, we held on, decimated, our men blanched but unbowed. (Loud applause)

Now you may say, "Well, here is a man whose men certainly did a great exploit, but probably he thinks it of more importance than it really was, because all men who care for those under their command naturally think that the greatest consequences flow from the actions of those they love and care for. But it is not so in this case. This morning I found waiting for me a letter from one whom I have described, and you will all agree with me, as the greatest soldier of our age--Marshal Foch. (Loud applause) Before I left England I had written to him and told him I was coming to Canada, reminded him of the splendid deeds of the Canadian Infantry, Artillery, and Engineers in the great crisis at Ypres and Vimy; that they had not received their full meed of praise: that however much they received ,it could not be enough; and that I wanted to tell the Canadian Cavalry what the Generalissimo thought of their actions, and if they had been worthy of their country. To this General Foch replied. I will read his reply first in French, and then I will endeavour to translate it accurately. Here is General Foch's letter:

I have keen regret in having had to be away from Paris for some time and for not having been able to reply to your letter before your departure for Canada. Nevertheless, I hope my answer will reach you still in time so that you will be able to make use of it during your visit to your former comrades.

I do not forget the heroism, of the valiant Canadian Cavalry Brigade. In the month of March, 1918, the war was at the gate of Amiens. It was vital at all, hazards for us to maintain at any price the close between the two armies, British and French.

On March 30 at Moreiul, and on April 1 at Hangarden-Santerre, your brigade succeeded, by its magnificent performance and its unconquerable dash, in first checking the enemy and finally breaking down its spirit of attack.

In the highest degree, thanks to your brigade, the situation, agonizing as it had been at the opening of the battle was restored.

Please be. my interpreter to your valiant old comrades-in-arms of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade in telling them of my admiration for them and expressing to them my pride at having them under my command.

(Loud applause)

Surely, Gentlemen, no body of men ever had so high a testimony from so great a man. He refers to the 1st of April. I could not keep you waiting longer for the letter, but it is the fact that after one day's rest, or rather less, a few hours, we were again asked to capture the other end of the ridge, Hangarden-Santerre--the opposite end, which .had been taken the night before. On this occasion General; Pittman gave me command not only or my own brigade but of all the available cavalry, many gallant regiments whose names are household words to you-the 16th Lancers, Scots Grays, Exeter Yeomanry and many others; therefore the command of the brigade I gave to General Patterson, who commanded it with such distinction to the close of the war. But again it fell to the lot of my gallant brigade (applause) to be the assaulting party. This time we could not gallop up, the river was deep and bordered with swamp. We had to ride to the edge, and get across as best as we could on foot--no horse could get a foothold--and then in broad daylight on again, trying the apparently impossible task of encircling and capturing the Hangard-en-Santerre Wood and establishing ourselves on the summit. Again your Canadian Cavalry led the advance. Again in spite of heavy casualties, they swept through, and every single German in the wood was killed or captured. (Applause)

Now, Sir, my tale is 'told. It was fitting that, at the close when the Germans were finally overwhelmed, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade were the first to enter what had been the British Headquarters in August, 1914, La Coteau. But 'the record that I have put before you is one which I know will thrill your heart. I think Marshal Foch's letter will certainly thrill every Canadian heart throughout the Dominion. (Applause) For my own part _ you can imagine what feelings stirred in my breast when I met again those valiant souls whom I commanded so long, and reflected that by degrees they fitted themselves for the supreme ordeal, and that when the moment came they were not wanting. Indeed you might say to Canada and of all her sons that in valor and self-sacrifice, it has been "Canada first." (Loud and continued applause, the audience rising and cheering)

President Hewitt: After such a thrilling address and such an amazing story so wonderfully told by Gen. Seely, I think we can all feel very grateful indeed to him for his goodness in coming to us. (Applause) Such a message as he has brought to us today has never been told us before. We have been praising our men, we have been glorifying their deeds, but with only half knowledge of what they did, and we are delighted today that Gen. Seely has been good enough to come and recount to us what he saw as an eye-witness, what he knows to be true, and to thrill us with such a message as he has given today. We are now to have a word from Colonel McKendrick.

Colonel McKendrick: It did not fall to my good fortune to have the pleasure of meeting Gen. Seely at the front. The finest spectacle I ever saw was on three occasions when our cavalry came up in the afternoon to go over the top, but they did not have the pleasure of doing so. The only cavalry I ever saw outside of those occasions were those who were running wheelbarrows and doing pick-and-shovel work for me on the road; they formed a regiment in any job they undertook. Those in command of the Canadian Corps in 1916 were given souvenirs from that old historic spot, the Cloth Hall in Ypres. I think that Canadians, next to the Australians, were the greatest thieves in Belgium at 'that time. (Laughter) There was an order that nothing should be taken out of Ypres at that time, but Tommy was burning all the wood of the historic old Cloth Hall, and I succeeded in getting several doors out of it, saving them from burning as fire-wood, and I cut them up for canes. The higher command in the Canadian Corps each received one of those canes, and it affords me great pleasure on this occasion, on behalf of the Empire Club, to present General Seely with this small token of that historic old city. (Applause) In extending to you, Sir, the thanks of this Club. I wish to add to it this very small piece of wood from the front door of the Cloth Hall at Ypres. (Applause)

General Seely: Gentlemen, I cannot sufficiently thank the Colonel who has made me this present, or you for the kind attention you have given me in joining in the gift. It will be a very precious memory to me not only of this occasion, but of the predatory instincts of 'the Colonel. (Laughter) I happen to know his marvellous aptitude for war as well as his aptitude for taking things like this. (Laughter) He was quite as good at the other as he was at this, and therefore the gift is all the more valuable from so gallant a donor. I will try not to beat "Warrior" over the head with it. I would only say that I shall never forget this occasion, when for the first time I have been able to recount to .a Canadian audience the full story of the doings of our cavalry. I hear that you are to have a Safety Week. I have been telling you the story of the Danger Week, and I am glad that in that Danger Week our men did not fail. May I again assure you how deeply grateful I am to you for having given me the opportunity of coming amongst you today. Earnestly I hope that I may have the pleasure of coming to Canada again and meeting you once more.

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The Record of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade


The very thrilling story of the Canadian Cavalry. How this brigade was formed; some actions that it did. The speaker’s command of this brigade. A crisis in the war after a period of training. Canada’s knack for being present at almost every crisis. The wicked act by the Germans of the employment of lethal gas against the promise they had given to the whole civilized world. The terrible losses suffered by the Canadians. Duty in the trenches. Remounting for the battle of the Somme. Useful work done in building and strengthening the front lines and in relieving the infantry. Encircling and capturing the village of Joncourt. The heroism of young Gardiner and of Harvey, who got his Victoria Cross. Outstanding accomplishments of each unit of the brigade. The first battle of Cambrai, when tanks were employed in great numbers for the first time. The surprising success of the tanks. The second battle of Cambrai. Details of more battles and attacks. The climax. Finding themselves in the disorganization of retreat under the command of a French General Dublo. Holding Moreau Ridge near Amiens. A reading of General Foch’s letter, with reference to the “heroism of the valiant Canadian Cavalry Brigade.” “Canada first” in valour and self-sacrifice.