From modest beginnings, the Canadian Expeditionary Force grew in skill and strength, eventually taking a major role in the 100 Days Offensive that brought Germany to capitulation in 1918.
But the cost was heavy. Out of approximately 625,000 Canadians who served in the First World War, 60,000 were killed and another 172,000 were wounded.
Members of the Canadian Salvation Army had played their part during the conflict, offering aid and comfort to battle-weary soldiers. As those soldiers returned home, they expressed their appreciation on the pages of the War Cry, the official publication of The Salvation Army (now called Salvationist), for the work the Salvationists had done. Here are just a few of the letters:
While the Canucks have made a name for Canada, there is another unit, which, though not engaged with shrapnel and bayonet, faced the fury of the Huns, and did so much to make things as pleasant as possible for the soldiers, regardless of church or creed, rank or file. That unit is The Salvation Army, better known in France as Tommy’s friend. I could tell you of a good many instances of how they helped the boys, but I am sure that every returned soldier will back me up in saying that next to a fellow’s own mother, The Salvation Army was the best friend he had.
—Private M.L. Cotton, 18th Battalion
On the Job
I came in contact with The Salvation Army on several occasions during the Battle of the Somme, especially when taking up ammunition. One could always look forward to receiving a cup of coffee and cake free of charge. Men on leave could always get a bed and meals at very reasonable prices. The general opinion of all soldiers was that they were true to the boys, and on the job. There is still a great need for their services.
—Sergeant-Major George Parry, D.C.M.
Helping Every Soldier
I arrived in France early in the summer of 1916. Everywhere, The Salvation Army was in evidence. After the battles of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, in which I was engaged, I can personally testify of comforts, hot drinks and lunch willingly served me after coming out of the trench. No charge whatever was made or even hinted at by anyone. It seemed to be the policy of The Salvation Army to help every soldier irrespective of race or creed and they have done a work that should be remembered for all time in the interests of the soldiers.
—Private Michael Dillon
I have much pleasure in paying my tribute of esteem and appreciation to the splendid work done by The Salvation Army in France and Flanders, as well as in England. Their good offices to our boys at the front was most commendable. No other organization was at all so useful in every possible way. Had we not had this valuable organization, our boys would not have been looked after at all to the extent which they were. I know of no other institution that in any way approached the splendid work of The Salvation Army. May their good work go on and prosper.
— Major S.A. McKenzie, officer commanding, 32nd Battery