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Sir Arthur William Currie
General Sir Arthur William Currie
Nickname "Guts and Gaiters"
Born (1875-12-05)5 December 1875
Died 30 November 1933(1933-11-30) (aged 57)
Place of birth Strathroy, Ontario
Place of death Montreal, Quebec
Buried at Mount Royal Cemetery
Montreal, Quebec
Allegiance  Canada
Service/branch Canadian Corps
Years of service 1894–1920
Rank General
Commands held Canadian Corps
1st Canadian Division

World War I

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Other work established Khaki University, President & Vice Chancellor of McGill University

Sir Arthur William Currie GCMG, KCB (5 December 1875 – 30 November 1933), was a Canadian general during World War I. He had the unique distinction of starting his military career on the very bottom rung as a pre-war militia gunner before rising through the ranks to become the first Canadian commander of the four divisions of the unified Canadian Corps of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was the first Canadian to attain the rank of full general. Currie's success was based on his ability to rapidly adapt brigade tactics to the exigencies of trench warfare, using "set piece" operations[1] and "bite-and-hold" tactics. He is generally considered to be among the most capable commanders of the Western Front, and one of the finest commanders in Canadian military history.

Currie was not afraid to voice his disagreement with orders or to suggest strategic changes to a plan of attack, something that his British Army superiors were unused to hearing from a former militia officer from the colonies. Often these disagreements were taken all the way up to BEF Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. Haig sometimes agreed with Currie—allowing a strategic change to the attack on Hill 70 outside Lens,[2] and approving Currie's audacious plan to cross the Canal du Nord[3]—but he also insisted on the Passchendaele attack,[4] to which Currie, who was sceptical that the strategic value justified the expected casualties, agreed with great reluctance. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George claimed to his biographer that had the war continued into 1919, he would have sought to replace Field Marshal Haig with Arthur Currie, with Australian general John Monash as Currie's chief of staff.[5]

Early life

Arthur Currie (his surname at birth was spelled "Curry") was born in the hamlet of Napperton, Ontario, just west of Strathroy, the son of William Garner Curry and Jane Patterson.[6][7] The family home still stands, although privately owned and in a poor state of repair.

He was educated in local common schools and at the Strathroy District Collegiate Institute, and briefly attended the University of Toronto before moving to British Columbia in 1894.

Businessman and gentleman soldier

Gen Sir Arthur William Currie's personal Coat of Arms carved into the Currie Building, Royal Military College of Canada

For five years, he taught at public schools in Sidney and Victoria. It was during this period that he changed the spelling of his surname to "Currie".[6]

On 6 May 1897, he joined the 5th Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery (C.G.A) as a gunner,[7] and by 1900, he had achieved the rank of corporal. At this point, he was offered an officer's commission, which would give him a much higher status in the social circles of Victoria. However, a commission was an expensive proposition, since officers were expected to provide their own set of tailored uniforms and to donate their pay to the officer's mess. In addition, Currie was engaged to be married to Lucy Chaworth-Musters. Clearly a teacher's meagre salary would not suffice, so he entered the lucrative and socially acceptable world of finance, eventually becoming provincial manager of the National Life Assurance Company.[8]

The young businessman also took on his role as militia officer seriously, and showed an intense interest in artillery, and especially in marksmanship. He was promoted to captain in 1902, and then to major in 1906. He continued to be active in business and, with a land speculation boom in full swing, Currie and R. A. Power formed Currie & Power, and Currie invested heavily in the real estate market.[9] By September 1909, he had risen to lieutenant-colonel, commanding the 5th Regiment C.G.A.[10]

In 1913, while he was helping to raise a new militia regiment, the Victoria real estate boom went bust, leaving Currie holding worthless properties and financially over-extended. At the same time, he was offered command of the newly formed 50th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders of Canada) as lieutenant-colonel,[11] and the cost of the new uniforms and mess bills only added to his financial problems. Facing personal bankruptcy and a disgraced retirement from the militia, Currie diverted government funds of $10,833.34 that had been earmarked for regimental uniforms into his personal accounts to pay off his debts.[5] As historian Pierre Berton noted, the Gordon Highlanders' honorary colonel, William Coy had promised to underwrite the regiment to the tune of $35,000, and Currie used the government money to save himself from bankruptcy on the understanding that Coy's money would be forthcoming almost immediately to cover it. Unfortunately for Currie, Coy did not follow through, leaving Currie's accounting sleight-of-hand potentially exposed.[8]

In the midst of this, he attended the Militia Staff Course, and qualified in March 1914.

World War I

Currie's third-in-command in the "Gay Gordons" was Garnet Hughes, the son of Sam Hughes, the bombastic Canadian Minister of Militia in Robert Borden's government. Observing Garnet Hughes during militia exercises, Currie came to suspect that although Hughes had been an able and even brilliant cadet officer at the Royal Military College of Canada,[12] he was incompetent in the field and would prove to be unfit for a military command.[8]

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Sam Hughes personally gave many plum commands in the 1st Division of the nascent Canadian Expeditionary Force to his cronies and acquaintances. Since Currie was his son's commanding officer, Hughes offered Currie command of the 2nd Brigade. However, Currie considered turning down the offer and staying behind in Victoria so he could attempt to solve his financial woes. He only changed his mind at the urging of Garnet Hughes.[5] It is ironic that both Sam and Garnet Hughes were responsible for Currie's overseas command and subsequent success, since Currie and the Hughes would become implacable enemies by the end of the war. Currie's promotion to brigadier-general was confirmed on 29 September 1914.[13]

Currie's financial predicament was brought to the attention of Prime Minister Borden as the 1st Division reached England, but unwilling to bring Currie home, Borden chose to do nothing about it for the time being.

Second Battle of Ypres

The 1st Division spent the winter of 1914-15 training in England, and were sent to France in February 1915. After a period of indoctrination in the realities of trench warfare, they took control of a section of trench in the Ypres Salient on 17 April 1915. Only five days later, the Germans used poison gas for the first time on the Western Front,[14] sending clouds of chlorine wafting over the Allied trenches. French colonial troops on the Canadians' left flank broke, leaving a 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) long hole in the Allied line.[15] In the chaos that followed, Currie proved his worth as a combat officer, coolly issuing commands from his brigade headquarters even as it was gassed and then destroyed by fire.[5] Faced with a situation not covered by doctrinaire tactics, Currie threw away the tactical rule book and cobbled together a fluid defense and counterattack that bent but did not break. At one point, Currie personally went back to the rear and brought up two regiments of British reinforcements that had been unwilling to move forward. After several days of fierce fighting, Allied counterattacks re-established a stable defensive line, denying the Germans the breakthrough they had sought.

The Second Battle of Ypres proved to be the making of Currie. His superiors noted his natural instinct for tactics and his coolness under fire. He was promoted to major-general, and given command of the entire First Canadian Division. He was also invested as a Companion of the Order of Bath (CB) and as a commander of the Legion d'Honneur.

Garnet Hughes, however, had proved to be unreliable under fire, confirming Currie's suspicions.

The Somme

Although the Canadians did not take part in the infamous Anglo-French offensive on the Somme on 1 July 1916, they did eventually move into the line in the fall to aid the slow crawl forward. Unlike some of his senior commanders, Currie was under no illusion that a full frontal assault would bring about a breakthrough that would end the stalemate of the trenches. Instead, Currie proved himself to be the master of the set piece assault, designed to take limited objectives and then hold on in the face of inevitable German counterattacks. In a battle where every foot of ground was fiercely contested, Currie's talent at these bite and hold tactics became apparent as did his almost obsessive unwillingness to squander men's lives in costly frontal assaults. When the battle finally ground to a halt in the mud of November, the Canadians had taken every objective ordered of them, although at the cost of 24,000 casualties.

It was at this time that Currie lost favour with former friends Sam and Garnet Hughes. Sam Hughes wanted Garnet promoted to command of a division, but Currie, having seen Garnet in action at the Second Battle of Ypres, believed Garnet to be an incompetent officer, and refused. By this time, Currie's reputation was on the rise, and Hughes did not have the necessary leverage to force Currie to comply. From that point until his death in 1921, Hughes began a personal vendetta, using his seat in the House of Commons to verbally attack Currie and his record, although he was careful never to repeat his words outside the House, where he was not protected by parliamentary privilege.

Vimy Ridge

By late 1916, four Canadian divisions were in France, gathered together as the Canadian Corps under the command of Sir Julian Byng. The British High Command informed Byng that the Canadians would have a central role in the upcoming spring offensive at Arras.

Near the French villages of Vimy and Petit-Vimy, a high chalk ridge dominated the flat Douai Plain. When the war had bogged down in 1914, the Germans had driven the French from the ridge, and had strongly fortified it. Offensives by both the French and British had failed to dislodge the Germans from the high ground. Now as part of a major British operation in April designed to achieve a breakthrough at Arras, the Canadians were expected to do the impossible—take the ridge in just eight hours.

Both Byng and Currie were firm advocates of analysis and preparation. Byng first ordered Currie to examine the Battle of the Somme and advise what lessons could be taken and applied. Next, Byng sent Currie to Verdun to interview French officers about the grinding battle that had taken place there. Currie not only questioned senior French officers, he then sought out junior officers and asked the same questions, carefully noting the discrepancies between the senior officers' beliefs and the junior officers' experiences.[8] On 20 January 1917, Currie began a series of lectures to the generals of the Canadian Corps based on his research, and he set out what he believed would be the keys to the battle:

  • overwhelming artillery on a narrow front to soften up the German lines and destroy barbed wire;
  • the creeping barrage, a tactic used ineffectively for several years, had to be perfected;
  • every soldier had to be trained in exactly what to do and where to go so that he could take command of his platoon in case his non-commissioned officers were killed;
  • counter-battery operations—the tactic of spotting and silencing enemy artillery—must also be perfected;
  • the soldiers must be allowed to get as close as possible to the enemy lines before the start of the actual assault.

Training of the Canadian soldiers started immediately. As Currie had dictated, every soldier was shown maps of the battlefield, was told his platoon's objectives, and was given a small map of his part of the battlefield. Distances from Allied to German trenches were carefully taped out on practice battlefields, and the soldiers endlessly rehearsed the slow walk that would keep them only paces behind the creeping barrage.

Tunnels were dug into the soft chalk so that Canadian soldiers could move as close to the German lines as possible before the actual assault. In addition, ammonal mines were set under German strongpoints. Canadian engineers laid 45 miles (72 km) of water pipes, 20 miles (32 km) of railway track, 3 miles (4.8 km) of plank road, and they also maintained and repaired 25 miles (40 km) of local roads, which had been shelled heavily by the Germans during previous battles. In addition, the corps signallers buried 21 miles (34 km) of telephone cable and laid another 66 miles (106 km) of surface cable.

The counter-battery operations were going to be essential to the success of the attack. Currie and Byng had their eye upon the youngest brigade commander in France, 29-year-old Andy McNaughton.[8] McNaughton was an unconventional soldier, raised in Canada's western frontier, and not afraid to apply new scientific methods to conventional knowledge about artillery. Placed in charge of counter-battery operations, McNaughton took the opportunity to try new techniques such as flash-spotting and sound-ranging.[8] The results were unprecedented: Allied artillery destroyed 83% of the German guns before the battle started.[16]

At 5:30 a.m. on 9 April (Easter Monday), the largest artillery barrage of the war to date began. Thirty thousand Canadian soldiers climbed out of trenches and tunnels in the middle of a snowstorm to slowly walk behind a curtain of artillery shells that destroyed everything in its path. German soldiers were captured while still in their bomb-proof dugouts. Primary, then secondary and tertiary trenches were rapidly taken. By 12:30 p.m., Canadian soldiers stood on top of Vimy Ridge. By the end of 12 April, the ridge was completely in Canadian hands, at a cost of 10,602 casualties, including 3,598 killed.[17]

Although the overall Battle of Arras was a failure—British regiments on the Canadians' right flank failed to reach their objectives, making a breakthrough impossible—the four Canadian divisions had worked as one unit to score a nation-building victory. Currie was recognized as the architect of this triumph, and was knighted by King George V with his appointment as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in the King's Birthday Honours of 4 June 1917.[18] When Byng was promoted to general in command of the British Third Army in mid-1917, Currie was raised to the temporary rank of lieutenant-general on 9 June,[19] and given command of the entire Canadian Corps.

Just as he was taking command of the Corps, word reached Currie that news of his embezzlement had reached the Canadian cabinet, and in order to avoid news of the scandal from breaking, Currie borrowed money from two wealthy subordinates, David Watson and Victor Odlum, to finally pay back the money he had "borrowed" from the 50th Regiment.

Hill 70

The British High Command needed a diversion to take German attention away from the Third Battle of Ypres. Currie's first objective upon assuming command of the Canadian Corps was to take the city of Lens, which was strategically important to the Germans due to its nexus of rail lines. After examining the area, Currie instead proposed to take the high ground outside the city (marked on Allied maps as Hill 70). The Germans would be forced to counterattack to retake the high ground or lose operational control of the city. During their counterattacks, the Germans would have to cross killing grounds in front of the Canadian lines, enabling the Canadians to inflict enormous casualties. Sir Douglas Haig finally approved the change in plan, but predicted the Canadian assault on Hill 70 would fail.[20] It was not an idle comment, since Hill 70 was defended by pillboxes with overlapping fields of fire, deep dugouts and trenches fronted by coils of barbed wire.

Currie insisted on the same level of preparations as had been used at Vimy Ridge. Once again, the men studied maps of their objectives, and practiced on fields marked with tape that indicated trench lines, and a complex artillery barrage was planned. At 4:25 a.m. on 15 August 1917, after several hours of precise artillery fire to destroy barbed wire and plaster the German trenches, men of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions went over the top. (The 3rd Division was held in reserve.) Walking slowly behind a creeping barrage, the Canadians took the hill in a mere twenty minutes[20] and immediately began to dig in. As Currie had predicted, the Germans realized that they could not remain in Lens with the Canadians occupying Hill 70, and the first counterattack took place by 9:00 a.m. Over the next three days, the Canadians repulsed 21 German counterattacks, which saw the Germans use both mustard gas and flamethrowers. By 18 August, the Canadians were low on rations, water and ammunition, but the Germans, having suffered thousands of casualties trying to retake the hill, were unwilling to expend more resources. Although the city of Lens itself was not taken, German operations inside the city were compromised as Currie had predicted, and the city lost its strategic importance.


The Third Battle of Ypres, known to history as Passchendaele, was Sir Douglas Haig's attempt in the summer of 1917 to "wear down" the Germans and break through their lines in a series of bite-and-hold attacks. His immediate objective was to take the key railway junction of Roulers, which lay just behind the Passchendaele ridge which overlooked the Ypres Salient - of great tactical importance in the artillery-dominated warfare of the time. From there, Haig envisioned a German withdrawal from western Belgium, enabling the liberation of the Belgian ports in order to stop submarine depredations in the English Channel. However, the preliminary bombardment of the low ground in front of the ridge destroyed canals and ditches that drained the fields, and an unusually heavy rain the night before the first assault (31 July) turned the low ground into a quagmire. Unseasonably hard summer rain fell, turning the battlefield into a vast sea of liquid mud. Wooden duckboards were the only way to traverse the ground, and soldiers who slipped off often drowned. The Germans were by that time using a more flexible defense, including dozens of pillboxes made of reinforced concrete that were set up to enfilade. Able to withstand direct hits from artillery and hard to pick out in the drab brown landscape of mud, these had to be found and attacked at close range by flamethrowers or Mills bombs. Attacking one pillbox inevitably drew deadly machine gun fire from two or three others.

The attack, under Gough (Fifth Army), quickly stalled in August, at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties. Methodical attacks in drier weather in late September, under Plumer (Second Army), were more successful at gaining the high ground of the Gheluveld Plateau, and by early October a breakthrough seemed imminent. At this point the rain returned and Anzac troops were bled white trying to gain the rest of the high ground. Haig turned to the Canadian Corps for the final push. After examining the battlefield, Currie protested, saying that the village could only be taken at a cost of 16,000 Canadian casualties, was not strategically significant[21] "and we have to know if the success would justify the sacrifices”. Haig visited the Canadian Corps and addressed the officers. In his speech he “asked” (not ordered) the Canadian Corps to do the job, admitting that Currie had opposed the plan but that he had agreed after Haig had agreed to provide “unprecedented” artillery support. Currie's Corps was put under the command of Plumer (Second Army) with whom he got on, not Gough who had had a poor reputation with the Canadians since the Somme.[22]

Currie’s preparations included reconnaissance, by himself and other picked officers, massive artillery (587 guns, up from the Canadian Corps’ 320 normal complement - many of the extra guns were heavy and used for shelling pillboxes to stun the defenders, and despite Haig’s promise were only obtained after a row with the British Artillery General Noel Birch), breech covers to protect rifles and machine guns from mud, combing his ranks for lumberjacks to saw down trees to make extra duckboards, and a massive barrage of heavy machine guns to prevent reinforcements and supplies reaching the German defenders.[23] It was not until 20 October that the Canadian offensive began. Rather than one battle, Currie designed a series of well-prepared, sharp attacks that allowed the Corps to take an objective and then hold it against the inevitable German counterattacks. By 30 October, the Canadians, aided by two British divisions, gained the outskirts of the village in a driving rainstorm, and then held on for five days against intense shelling and counter-attacks, often standing waist deep in mud as they fought.

The Third Ypres Offensive ended on 11 November 1917, but Haig's breakthrough never materialized. The German doctrine of "defence in depth" meant that there was always another set of trenches waiting for them to fall back to. The Canadians' Pyrrhic victory came at the cost of 15,654 casualties, including 4,028 killed. Currie's grim prediction had been accurate. That said, Currie later wrote of Haig “I met him many times, and although he never had much to say, he always impressed me greatly. Leaving on one side his manner, his bearing and his appearance – all of which fitted so well with his high rank, one felt that here you were dealing with a thoroughly honest, decent, manly man”.[22]

Hundred Days Offensive

In the spring of 1918, the Germans launched a major Spring Offensive, but by the summer, it had been contained, and it was the turn of the Allies to counterattack. German intelligence always kept a close watch on the whereabouts of the Canadian Corps since their move to a new sector usually indicated an imminent attack. Therefore, in August 1918, when Currie was ordered to move the Corps 70 miles (110 km) south to Amiens to join the Australians under General John Monash, the Canadians took pains to camouflage their move. This included sending a radio unit and two battalions to Ypres as a diversion.[24] With no preliminary artillery bombardment to warn the Germans, the attack on 8 August was a complete surprise. Currie's usual careful planning paid off as the Canadians and Australians opened up an enormous hole in the German lines and advanced 11 miles (18 km) on the first day, although suffering enormous casualties. After three days of continued Allied advances, the Germans abandoned their lines at Amiens and fell back to their prepared defences on the Hindenburg Line.

The Canadians were withdrawn from the line, and moved to the Somme, where they next attacked the Hindenburg Line at the powerful Drocourt-Quéant Line on 2 September. The Corps smashed a hole in the "invulnerable" line, forcing the Germans to fall back behind the flooded Canal du Nord.

Currie took three weeks to prepare for the next attack. In what was perhaps Currie's most audacious plan, he proposed to have the entire Corps cross a dry part of the canal using bridges that would have to be built by engineers while under fire. Currie's superiors refused to approve the plan, but finally Douglas Haig gave his assent. On 27 September, covered by the most massive artillery bombardment of the war, the entire Corps moved across the canal as planned, and then through the German lines in a series of planned zig-zag maneuvers designed to confuse the Germans as to the Canadians' objectives. The Canadians broke through three German lines and as a bonus, also took Bourlon Woods. Forced out of the Hindenburg Line, the German army now staged a controlled retreat.

Currie was next given the task of taking Cambrai, which the Canadian Corps achieved on 11 October. Further action at Valenciennes and Mont Houy denied the Germans any chance to dig in and reinforce their defences in the face of the determined Canadians.

On 10 November, in what was to be his most controversial decision, Currie, under orders to continue to advance, ordered elements of the Corps to liberate Mons, although there were rumours that an armistice would be signed the next day. On the morning of 11 November, as Currie received orders that confirmed there would be a general armistice at 11:00:00 a.m., the capture of Mons was completed. At 10:58 a.m., George Lawrence Price was killed by sniper fire, the last Canadian, and possibly the last Allied soldier, to die in the Great War. Two minutes later, the war ended. The liberation of Mons on 10–11 November cost the Corps 280 casualties, although Price was the only Canadian to be killed on the last day of the war.[25]

In later years, Currie defended his decision to attack Mons by pointing out that not only was he under orders to continue to advance, but that during the last two weeks of the war, rumours of an imminent armistice had proven to be false several times. In addition, even when the exact hour of the cease-fire was announced early on the morning of 11 November, the terms of the proposed armistice were unknown; many Allied commanders continued to press forward and German commanders continued to defend tenaciously because they believed that post-war boundaries would be drawn where the armies stood when the armistice was declared.


After the war, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George claimed that he wanted to promote Currie to commander-in-chief of all British and Empire forces on the Western Front in place of Sir Douglas Haig. On other occasions, similar claims have been made about Currie's Australian counterpart, General John Monash. However, this claim is not taken seriously by historians. For example, Robin Neillands praises Currie and Monash highly (subject to the caveat that they commanded nationally-homogenous forces, rather than having units constantly shuffled in and out throughout the war like other corps), but points out that each man had only commanded a handful of divisions, and his ability commanding a force of around 60 divisions "remains untested". Neillands dismisses the claim as "a myth ... without foundation except in Lloyd George's memoirs".[26]

Occupation of Germany

The 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Corps were made part of the Army of Occupation, and in December 1918, Currie took the salute as the Canadians crossed over the Rhine into Germany.


Bust of General Sir Arthur Currie (1969) by Alison MacNeil in Royal Military College of Canada Currie Hall

Portrait of Currie by British war artist William Orpen, 1919

Currie was Mentioned in Despatches nine times. In addition to being named a Companion of the Order of the Bath after the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, and his appointment as KCMG in 1917, Currie was also promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 1918 New Year Honours,[27] Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in the 1919 New Year Honours,[28] and also received the French Légion d'honneur and Croix de Guerre (with Palm),[29] the Belgian Croix de guerre and the Order of the Crown,[30] and the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal.

Upon returning to Canada, Currie was promoted to general, the first Canadian to hold that rank,[31] and was made Inspector-General of the Canadian Army.

Although he only held a high school diploma, Currie was offered the position of Principal and Vice Chancellor of McGill University in Montreal, the most prestigious university in Canada. He held this post with distinction from 1920 until his death in 1933.

Honorary degrees were conferred on Currie by many British and American universities, and he became a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation.


Libel suit

During the war, Currie had continued to deny Garnet Hughes a combat post, believing Hughes would be a danger to the men in his command when under fire. Although Hughes attained the rank of brigadier-general by 1918, he ended the war in an obscure administrative posting in London. Garnet's father, Sir Sam Hughes, was removed from the cabinet in 1916, but he continued to use his seat in the House of Commons to attack Currie's reputation. After Sam Hughes died in 1921, Garnet Hughes did the same through newspapers owned by his family.

In June 1927, the city of Mons erected a plaque commemorating their liberation by the Canadian Corps; as this event was reported in Canadian newspapers, Currie's enemies took the opportunity to again question the final day of fighting. The Hughes-controlled Port Hope Evening Guide, in a front-page editorial, wrote "It is doubtful whether in any case there was a more deliberate and useless waste of human life than in the so-called capture of Mons..." Currie sued the newspaper for libel, seeking $50,000 in damages. At the trial, Currie testified that he had been under orders from Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch to pursue German forces; to do otherwise would have been treason. Many of Currie's senior officers testified that Currie urged them to advance with caution, avoiding unnecessary casualties. At the end of the trial, the jury returned a verdict after four hours,[32] finding the newspaper guilty, and awarding Currie $500 in damages.[33] One member of the jury, a former serviceman, dissented.[34]

After the trial, Currie was invited to a dinner in Port Hope by some of the men who had served under him. With tears in his eyes, Currie read a telegram he had received the day before from the father of George Price: "As father of George Lawrence Price, the only Canadian killed on Armistice Day, I wish to convey to you, Sir, my humble hope that you will succeed in bringing to justice those responsible for bringing this case before the public, because all of this simply renews old wounds that are best forgotten."[35]

Funeral procession of Arthur Currie: horse-drawn caisson moves along Park Avenue in Montreal, Quebec.


The strain of decades of personal attacks took their toll, and General Currie died a few days after the 15th anniversary of the Armistice, at the relatively young age of 58. He was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. The Times wrote of his funeral: "It was, by common consent, the most impressive funeral ever seen at Montreal". Those attending included Lord Bessborough, at the time the Governor-General of Canada; important politicians from both Ottawa and Quebec; foreign diplomats; and representatives of McGill University. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Montreal, and other clergy including the former chaplain of the Canadian Corps. Eight general officers acted as pallbearers, and many other soldiers, both serving and veterans, were in attendance. The funeral procession received a 17-gun salute.[36] Currie had lived in the Golden Square Mile and was interred in the Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec.


Arthur Currie statue at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa

The Cross of Sacrifice dedicated to the memory of Arthur Currie at the Last Post Fund National Field of Honour.

Coat of arms of Canada on Currie Hall Mackenzie Building Royal Military College of Canada

Canadian historians, including Pierre Berton and Jack Granatstein, have described Currie as Canada's greatest military commander. Although physically a large man, standing over six feet tall, Currie did not cut a heroic military figure. Nor was he a charismatic speaker. Described as aloof by his troops, who called him "Guts and Gaiters," he nevertheless inspired them. He was a brilliant tactician who used his skills to reduce casualties and is credited with accelerating the end of the war. According to historian Jack Hyatt, "His slogan was, 'Pay the price of victory in shells—not lives,' and if he did anything heroic it was that."[37]

Tributes and remembrances

  • In 1919, General Currie Elementary School was built in Richmond, BC.
  • At the National Field of Honour, a war cemetery in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, the main roundabout is named Currie Circle, and within it stands The Cross of Remembrance. Currie was President of the Last Post Fund from 1924 to 1932, and now Last Post Officials are buried around the cross in Currie Circle.[citation needed]
  • The Currie Barracks in Calgary, which opened in 1933, the year of his death, were named in his honour.
  • In 1934, the year after his death, Currie was designated as a National Historic Person of Canada. A plaque for this was commemorated in 1938.
  • The Currie Building and Currie Hall at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario were subsequently named in his honour. Currie's family coat of arms was carved into the limestone outside the Currie Building.
  • At the University of Victoria, an on-campus housing building is named Sir Arthur Currie.
  • In the Officer's Mess of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, the favourite chair of Sir Arthur Currie is reserved for the Commanding Officer of the Regiment.
  • In his hometown of Strathroy, Ontario the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion bears his name, and a committee has been formed to raise a statue to him.[38]
  • At McGill University, his legacy is the Currie Gymnasium and the Montreal Neurological Institute under Wilder Penfield.
  • A history room at his old high school, Strathroy District Collegiate Institute, has been named in his honour.[37]
  • The street in Victoria where he lived before the Great War was renamed Arthur Currie Lane.[39]
  • Robert A. Heinlein, in his science fiction novel Starship Troopers, named a Mobile Infantry basic training facility "Camp Arthur Currie".[40]
  • In 2006, Canada honoured Currie as one of fourteen Canadian heroes at the Valiants Memorial, and he was one of five people remembered with a life-sized statue.[37]
  • The General Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Project is currently trying to raise enough funds to erect a statue of Currie in his hometown of Strathroy.[41]
  • Cape Currie near Sachs Harbour71°47′N 124°31′W / 71.783°N 124.517°W / 71.783; -124.517
  • Sir Arthur Currie Way NW in the Edmonton, Alberta sub-division of Griesbach, formerly CFB Edmonton Greisbach Barracks.

Arthur Currie donated a statue and war memorial to the city of Saint-Lambert, Quebec.


Sir Arthur Currie Hall plaque Currie Hall @ Royal Military College of Canada

Currie wrote that the "spirit" of the Royal Military College of Canada's graduates, "no less than their military attainments, exercised a potent influence in fashioning a force which, in fighting efficiency, has never been excelled." Currie was a staunch believer in rigorous training, as is evident in the following quote, "Thorough preparation must lead to success. Neglect nothing."[42]

Special orders

Currie utilised special orders to try to get positive publicity for the Canadian Corps, while it was being successful in the Hundred Days' Offensive. This was because the London press had ignored the Canadian contribution in their articles, but they had produced their casualty lists, and the Canadian papers simply republished the London articles, which caused thoughts that the casualties were unnecessarily heavy. In addition, Currie had also issued a special order to console himself when the Canadian Corps was being split up to help defend against the German Spring Offensive. In addition, the special order quoted below also inspired Douglas Haig to write his own order to try to inspire the troops.

"To those who fall I say; you will not die but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be proud to have bourne 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."[43]


  1. "Battle Types". 
  2. "Hill 70". Canadian Great War project. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  3. Berton, Pierre (1992). Marching as to War: Canada's Turbulent Years. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. ISBN 978-0-385-25819-7. 
  4. Brown, R.C.; D. C. MacKenzie (2005). Canada and the First World War. University of Toronto Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-8020-8445-3. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Dancocks, Daniel G. (1988). Welcome to Flanders Fields. Toronto: McLelland and Stewart. p. 245. ISBN 0-7710-2545-9. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hyatt, A. M. J. (2004). "Currie, Sir Arthur William (1875–1933)" (subscription required). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Digital object identifier:10.1093/ref:odnb/32670. Retrieved 16 December 2008. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Obituary of General Sir Arthur Currie, The (London) Times". 1 December 1933. Retrieved 15 September 2008. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Berton, Pierre (1986). Vimy. Toronto: McLelland and Stewart. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-7710-1339-6. 
  9. British Columbia from the earliest times to the present, Vol. 4. Vancouver: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1914. 
  10. "5th Regiment (BC) Museum and Archives". "Sir Arthur W. Currie". 
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  12. Preston, Richard. Canada's RMC: A History of the Royal Military College. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 
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  15. Duffy, Michael. "The Second Battle of Ypres, 1915". Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  16. Sir Arthur Currie: A Biography. Toronto: Methuen Pub. Co. 1985. 
  17. "The Battle of Vimy Ridge". Department of Veterans' Affairs website. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  18. "No. 30111". 4 June 1917. 
  19. "No. 30178". 10 July 1917. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Great Canadian War Project: Battle for Hill 70". Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  21. Veterans Affairs Canada. "The Third Battle of Ypres and Passchendaele". Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Neillands, Robin (1998). The Great War Generals on the Western Front. London: Robinson. p. 401. ISBN 1-84119-063-2. 
  23. Neillands, Robin (1998). The Great War Generals on the Western Front. London: Robinson. p. 402. ISBN 1-84119-063-2. 
  24. Kennedy Hickman. "World War I: Battle of Amiens". Retrieved 17 September 2008. 
  25. "Canada's Hundred Days". Veteran Affairs Canada. Retrieved 18 September 2008. 
  26. Neillands, Robin (1998). The Great War Generals on the Western Front. London: Robinson. p. 519. ISBN 1-84119-063-2. 
  27. "No. 30450". 28 December 1917. 
  28. "No. 31092". 31 December 1918. 
  29. "No. 31615". 21 October 1919. 
  30. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 29 January 1918. 
  31. "Sir Arthur William Currie Bio". 
  32. Howarth, Scott (9 November 2008). "A Picture and a Thousand Words". pp. ID2. 
  33. For a complete study of this trial, see Robert J. Sharpe, The Last Day, The Last Hour: The Currie Libel Trial, Toronto, 2009. See a review of this book by Brock Millman, H-Net Reviews. September, 2011.
  34. "The Currie Libel Trial". Retrieved 200-09-18. 
  35. Sharpe, Robert J. (1988). The Last Day, The Last Hour. Agincourt ON: Carswell for the Osgoode Society. ISBN 978-0-459-32831-3. 
  36. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 6 December 1933. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 CTVGlobemedia (4 April 2007). Remembering Arthur Currie: Canadian War Hero. CTV News, Top Stories. Retrieved on: 2009-03-06. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "CTV" defined multiple times with different content
  38. "The General Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Project". Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  39. "Canada's Historic Places: 1144 Arthur Currie Lane". Retrieved 21 December 2008. 
  40. I did Basic at Camp Arthur Currie on the northern prairies, along with a couple of thousand other victims—and I do mean "Camp," as the only permanent buildings there were to shelter equipment.Heinlein, Robert (1 June 1960). Starship Troopers. Putnam Publishing Group. p. 51. ISBN 0-399-20209-9. 
  41. "The General Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Project". Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  42. "Bio: Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie". 
  43. "Sir Arthur Currie on the Lys Offensive". 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
New Creation
Commander of the Second Canadian Brigade
Succeeded by
Louis Lipsett
Preceded by
Sir Edwin Alderson
Commander of the First Canadian Division
1915 - 1917
Succeeded by
Archie Macdonell
Preceded by
Sir Julian Byng
Commander of the Canadian Corps
Succeeded by
End of World War I

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