Primary Documents - Sir Arthur Currie on the Lys Offensive, April 1918

Sir Arthur Currie Reproduced below is the text of an appeal issued by Sir Arthur Currie to the Canadian Corps he commanded in April 1918.

In his appeal Currie stated that the fate of the British Empire was currently in the balance on account of the German-launched offensive along the Lys valley; consequently he called upon his men - about to enter the battle - to fight ever harder to defeat German forces presently in the ascendant.

Intended by Erich Ludendorff as a means of weakening and confusing the Allies the German attack along the Lys valley, launched on 9 April 1918, attained such startlingly effective initial results that Ludendorff took the decision to convert the effort into a full-scale offensive against British forces stationed there.

The German offensive very nearly succeeded in breaking through the British lines, opening an artillery path to the Channel Ports; however French reinforcements prevented a German breakthrough, prompting a German return to a defensive posture.

Click here to read British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig's Special Order of the Day, dated 11 April 1918, in which he appealed to the British Army "to fight it out" to the end.  Click here to read Paul von Hindenburg's account of the opening of the offensive.

Sir Arthur Currie's Appeal to the Canadian Corps

Looking back with pride on the unbroken record of your glorious achievements, asking you to realize that today the fate of the British Empire hangs in the balance, I place my trust in the Canadian Corps, knowing that where Canadians are engaged there can be no giving way.

Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle you will advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy.

To those who fall I say, "You will not die, but step into immortality.  Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will have been proud to have borne such sons.  Your names will be revered for ever and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto Himself."

Canadians, in this fateful hour I command you and I trust you to fight as you have ever fought, with all your strength, with all your determination, with all your tranquil courage.  On many a hard-fought field of battle you have overcome this enemy.  With God's help you shall achieve victory once more.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A cartwheel was a particular type of aerial manoeuvre.

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