History DVD: Lost Battlefields

The battles of Mount Sorrel and Hill 70

As Seen On History Television

Lost Battlefields tells the story of two of Canada’s most significant yet least known battles of the First World War; the battles of Mount Sorrel and Hill 70

These battles marked dramatic turning ponts in the development of the Canadian Corps, from the enthusiastic naive volunteers of 1915 to the most ruthless and efficient fighting force on the Western Front in 1918.

Historian, Norm Christie, examines the old battlefields, visiting the cemeteries and memorials that hold the secrets to the legacy and sacrifices of the Canadians in the Battles of Mount Sorrel and Hill 70.

These two battles (not covered in For King & Empire) cost Canada 5,000 dead, but few remember what their names. They were two vital battles that contributed to the ongoing development of the Canadian Corps.

The first, Mount Sorrel, was fought near the Belgian city of Ypres in June 1916. Initially it was a catastrophic defeat and an embarrassment for the Canadians who were driven from their positions with staggering loses. But under a new General, Julian Byng, and with proper organization and execution the Canadians are able to win back their positions with a stunning night attack, and redeem their tarnished reputation, and learn, if they do it right, they can beat anyone.

The second part of the show covers the Battle of Hill 70, just north of Lens. It is the first battle with the Canadian, Arthur Currie in charge. Really Hill 70 was a diversionary attack, meant to draw German troops down from Ypres, but Currie thought it was an opportunity to inflict terrible losses on the Germans, who he knew would counter-attack to win back Hill 70, which dominated the coal mines of Lens. Currie orchestrated a brilliant set-piece battle that cost the Germans an estimated 30,000 casualties.

It was a brilliant victory for the new General.