It was a turning point of the First World War, a short but intense battle in early August 1918 that marked the beginning of the end for the German Empire. Delegates from the warring nations will be marking the 100th anniversary of the battle of Amiens in France beginning on Aug. 8 2018. Among them will be Rob Sutherland, the station leader of the Shuswap Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station.
Sutherland is a veteran of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Regiment and was deployed on peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Croatia and Cyprus. He also has a family connection to the PPCLI’s First World activities. Sutherland’s grandfather, John Stowe, and his great-uncles, Edgar Stowe and William Stowe served with the Princess Patricia’s in the First World War. His great-grandfather Robert Smylie and great-uncles George Stowe and William Sutherland served in other infantry and support units during the First World War as well.
Sutherland will participate in an official anniversary ceremony commemorating the battle where over 1,200 Canadians were killed or wounded in only four days of fighting. He said he doesn’t know how many delegates from Canada will be attending the ceremony but says he assumes the invitation went out to the veterans associations for all the military units involved in the Battle of Amiens.
The battle of Amiens is significant because it was the beginning of a counterattack by the Canadians and their allies which followed significant German victories in the Spring of 1918 and which was not halted until Germany was defeated and the armistice was signed on Nov. 11.
The invitation to the anniversary ceremony provided an opportunity for Sutherland to research his family history more closely. With help from from the veterans affairs webpage, which contains an extensive digitized library of records from the First World War, Sutherland was able to piece together the personal experiences of his grandfather, great-grandfather and great-uncles.
In his research, Sutherland uncovered his great-uncle Edgar Stowe’s daring escape from forced labour as a prisoner of the Germans, and stories of his relatives’ involvement in some of the most pivotal battles of the First World War. His great-uncle William Sutherland was killed in action shortly after the Battle of Amiens, just 43 days before the end of the war.
“I’m going to go over and see all the battle sites that they did, there’s quite a few,” Sutherland said.
Veterans Affairs is paying for the first leg of Sutherland’s trip for the ceremony at Amiens, but he is staying an extra week to immerse himself in Canadian military history in Western Europe. He plans to visit Juno Beach, Dieppe and Caen among other significant sites.