First World War Timeline | The Canadian Encyclopedia

First World War Timeline

The First World War of 1914–1918 was the bloodiest conflict in Canadian history, taking the lives of more than 60,000 Canadians. It erased romantic notions of war, introducing slaughter on a massive scale, and instilled a fear of foreign military involvement that would last until the Second World War.

WWI-Vimy-troops in wire
  1. June 28, 1914

    First World War Timeline 

    Franz Ferdinand Assassinated

    Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, setting off a chain of events leading to the First World War.

  2. August 04, 1914

    First World War Timeline 

    McBride Purchases Submarines

    Knowing that war was about to break out and fearing attack by German warships, Premier Richard McBride authorized spending $1.1 million for 2 submarines that had been built in Seattle for the Chilean navy.

  3. August 04, 1914

    First Soldiers Leaving

    First World War Timeline 

    Canada and Newfoundland Enter the First World War

    After Britain’s ultimatum to Germany to withdraw its army from Belgium expires at midnight on the third, the British government declares war on Germany the next day. As dominions of the British Empire, Canada and Newfoundland are also at war.

  4. August 18, 1914

    First World War Timeline 

    First Internment Camp for “Enemy Aliens”

    The first internment camp for “enemy aliens,” meaning people residing in Canada who were born in enemy countries, opened in Fort Henry, ON. Those interned were people of Ukrainian descent (forming the majority of internees), as well as people of German, Turkish, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian origin.

  5. October 03, 1914

    First World War Timeline 

    First Canadian Contingent

    The First Canadian Contingent sailed from Québec City for England. The largest convoy ever to cross the Atlantic, it comprised over 31,000 troops aboard 31 ocean liners escorted by Royal Navy warships. Also sailing in this convoy was a contingent from the British Dominion of Newfoundland, which was still separate from Canada at that time.

  6. November 01, 1914

    Royal Naval College of Canada

    First World War Timeline 

    First Canadians Die in Action During First World War

    In the Battle of Coronel, warships of the powerful German East Asiatic Squadron defeated a much weaker Royal Navy squadron. The battle was fought off the coast of Chile near the port city of Coronel on 1 November 1914. Four midshipmen of the Royal Canadian Navy went down with the British flagship. They were the first Canadians to die in battle during the First World War.

  7. January 06, 1915

    First World War Timeline 

    Princess Patricia's in Action

    Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry went into action in France, in World War I.

  8. January 14, 1915

    Sir A.W. Currie, soldier, educator

    First World War Timeline 

    1st Canadian Division Arrives

    The 1st Canadian Division arrived in France from England, and proceeded to Belgium.

  9. February 26, 1915

    Nellie McClung

    First World War Timeline 

    McClung's Petition

    Suffragist Nellie McClung presented the Alberta legislature with a petition demanding that women be given the right to vote. The right was granted in municipal elections 2 months later.

  10. April 22, 1915

    Second Battle of Ypres

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Ypres

    German soldiers release poisonous chlorine gas against the Canadian lines during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium in spite of some opposition to its use from both sides. Soldiers who breathe in the gas have their lungs painfully burned and many choke to death due to a buildup of fluid.

  11. May 03, 1915

    Flanders Fields

    First World War Timeline 

    "In Flanders Fields" Composed

    John McCrae of Guelph, ON, wrote the famous poem "In Flanders Fields." It was composed in 20 minutes at Ypres and first published in December 1915 in the English magazine Punch.

  12. May 08, 1915

    First World War Timeline 

    Frezenberg Ridge

    Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry held the south shoulder of the breach over Frezenberg Ridge.

  13. May 15, 1915

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Festubert

    The Battle of Festubert was the second major engagement fought by Canadian troops in the First World War. The First Canadian Division was part of a wider British offensive against German lines near the village of Festubert, France, from 15–25 May, 1915.

  14. December 19, 1915

    First World War Timeline 

    First Canadian Aerial Victory

    Captain M.M. Bell-Irving, of No.1 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, achieved the first aerial victory by a Canadian when he shot down a German aircraft.

  15. January 01, 1916

    First World War Timeline 

    Turnbull Invents Variable Pitch

    Wallace Turnbull of Saint John built the first working model of the variable pitch propeller, an important development in aviation. A second design was flight tested at Camp Borden in 1927.

  16. January 28, 1916

    McClung, Murphy and Jamieson

    First World War Timeline 

    Manitoba Women Get Vote

    Manitoba was the first province in Canada to grant women the right to vote and to hold political office provincially.

  17. February 10, 1916

    First World War Timeline 

    Anti-German Riot in Calgary

    During the First World War, a rioting mob destroyed several German-owned businesses in Calgary, Alberta. The same day, Calgary City Council decided to fire all employees born in countries at war with Canada.

  18. February 21, 1916

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Verdun

    The Battle of Verdun began. It was the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of WWI. It ended in December 1916 after 328 500 French and 348 000 Germans had died in action.

  19. March 14, 1916

    McClung, Murphy and Jamieson

    First World War Timeline 

    Saskatchewan Women Get Vote

    Saskatchewan women won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  20. April 03, 1916

    St-Julien Monument

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of St Eloi

    Troops of the 2nd Canadian Division took part in the Battle of St Eloi, Belgium.

  21. First World War Timeline 

    Alberta Women Get Vote

    Alberta women won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  22. June 02, 1916

    Menin Gate

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Mont Sorrel

    Mont Sorrel on the Ypres Salient was captured by German forces from the 3rd Division of the Canadian Corps. Commander Major-General M.S. Mercer was killed and Brigadier-General V.A.S. Williams was captured.

  23. July 01, 1916

    Battle of the Somme

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Beaumont-Hamel

    Newfoundland troops captured Beaumont-Hamel in France on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

  24. September 15, 1916

    First World War Timeline 

    Canadians Take Courcelette

    The 22nd Battalion from Québec, the 25th from Nova Scotia, and the 26th from New Brunswick captured Courcelette and took over 1,000 prisoners.

  25. November 11, 1916

    First World War Timeline 

    Somme Campaign

    During the Somme campaign the 4th Canadian Division captured the main German defensive position called the Regina Trench.

  26. January 01, 1917

    First World War Timeline 

    Income Tax Introduced

    The Income War Tax Act introduced the first income tax in Canada.

  27. April 01, 1917

    Leon Trotsky

    First World War Timeline 

    Leon Trotsky Held Prisoner in Nova Scotia

    Russian socialist Leon Trotsky was a prisoner at the Amherst internment camp in Nova Scotia in April 1917. Amherst was the largest internment camp in Canada during the First World War, with a maximum capacity of about 850 men. While most camps housed “enemy aliens,” most internees at Amherst were German prisoners of war. (See also Prisoner of War Camps in Canada.)

  28. First World War Timeline 

    BC Women Get Vote

    British Columbia women (except Asian and Indigenous women) won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  29. April 09, 1917

    Vimy Ridge

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Vimy Ridge

    On Easter Monday, four Canadian divisions and one British brigade captured Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France, with a loss of 3578 killed and 7000 wounded. It was a brilliant victory for the Canadians, who sensed a new national awareness.

  30. First World War Timeline 

    Women Get Vote in Ontario

    Women were granted the right to vote and hold public office in Ontario.

  31. April 21, 1917

    Raymond Collishaw

    First World War Timeline 

    Collishaw Receives Croix de Guerre

    After an air engagement,R. Collishaw evaded several German and mistakenly landed at a German base. He quickly took off and managed to land at a French airfield near Verdun. The French were so impressed with his feat that they awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

  32. May 18, 1917

    Borden, Sir Robert Laird

    First World War Timeline 

    Borden Announces Conscription

    Sir Robert Borden announced his decision in Parliament to implement Conscription. The imposition of conscription on reluctant French Canadians was a failure and bitterly divided the country along French-English lines.

  33. June 02, 1917

    Billy Bishop

    First World War Timeline 

    Billy Bishop's Dawn Attack

    Flying ace William Avery ("Billy") Bishop reported single-handedly raiding a German airfield at dawn and shooting down three enemy planes. He would earn a Victoria Cross for his actions, despite significant controversy over the accuracy of his account.

  34. June 07, 1917

    Louise McKinney, women's rights activist, legislator

    First World War Timeline 

    First Elected Women

    Louise McKinney and Roberta MacAdams were the first women in Canada elected to a provincial legislature, in Alberta.

  35. July 09, 1917

    MacGill, Helen Gregory

    First World War Timeline 

    First Woman Judge in BC

    Helen Gregory MacGill was appointed the first woman judge in British Columbia.

  36. August 15, 1917

    Michael James O'Rourke

    First World War Timeline 

    Storming of Hill 70

    The attack on Hill 70 was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie. It was successful and the Canadians withstood a German counterattack.

  37. August 29, 1917

    First World War Timeline 

    Military Service Act

    The Military Service Act was passed, making most male British subjects up to 45 years of age liable for active military service (Conscription).

  38. September 20, 1917

    First World War Timeline 

    Wartime Elections Act and Military Voters Act

    Parliament passes the Wartime Elections ActThe right to vote federally now extends to women in the armed forces and female relatives of military men. However, Citizens considered of “enemy alien” birth and some pacifist communities are disenfranchised. 

  39. October 17, 1917

    Sir Robert Borden

    First World War Timeline 

    Borden Announces Union

    PM Robert Borden announced the formation of a Union government made up of 12 Conservatives, 9 Liberals or independents, and one labour representative.

  40. October 26, 1917

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Passchendaele

    The Canadian Corps attacked over muddy terrain during the bloody Passchendaele offensive in Belgium. On November 7, having suffered over 15 000 dead and wounded, the Canadians seized Passchendaele.

  41. November 06, 1917

    First World War Timeline 

    Passchendaele Victoria Cross Recipients

    Actions by Corporal Colin Barron of the 3rd Battalion, and Private James Robertson of the 27th Battalion, CEF at the Battle of Passchendaele earned them the Victoria Cross.

  42. November 20, 1917

    First World War Timeline 

    Strachan Earns Victoria Cross

    Actions by Lieutenant Harcus Strachan of the Fort Garry Horse, C.E.F. at Masnieres, France, earned him the Victoria Cross.

  43. December 06, 1917

    Halifax Explosion

    First World War Timeline 

    Halifax Explosion

    At Halifax, the French munitions ship Mont Blanc collided with the Belgian relief ship Imo. The resulting explosion, the largest before the advent of the atomic bomb, killed more than 1,600 people and injured 9,000 in Canada's worst disaster.

  44. January 24, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    First Woman MLA in BC

    Mary Ellen Smith was the first woman elected to the BC legislature; it was the first election in which women could vote in BC.

  45. February 07, 1918

    F.H. Varley, Self-Portrait

    First World War Timeline 

    War Artists Commissioned

    Canadian artists F.H. Varley, Maurice Cullen and others were shipped off to England to paint for the Department of Canadian War Records.

  46. March 28, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Anti-conscription Riots

    Anti-conscription riots began in Québec City.

  47. March 30, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Canadian Cavalry Brigade Takes Part in one of History’s Last Cavalry Actions

    On 30 March 1918, the Royal Canadian Dragoons and Lord Strathcona’s Horse participated in one of the last great cavalry actions in history. At Moreuil Wood near Amiens, the Cavalry Brigade charged advancing enemy troops during the German spring offensive. Although the regiment suffered heavily, the charge was successful and stopped the German advance.

  48. April 21, 1918

    Arthur Roy Brown, pilot

    First World War Timeline 

    Death of the Red Baron

    Canadian pilot Roy Brown is credited with shooting down the infamous "Red Baron," Manfred von Richthofen, near Amiens. By another account he was brought down by ground fire.

  49. April 26, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Nova Scotia Women Get Vote

    Nova Scotia women won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  50. June 27, 1918

    HMHS Llandovery Castle

    First World War Timeline 

    Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle

    While sailing from HalifaxNova Scotia, to Liverpool, England, the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Only 24 of 258 people survived. The submarine’s officers were later charged with committing a war crime.

  51. August 02, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Schooner Dornfontein Set Ablaze in the Bay of Fundy

    During the First World War, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was tasked with protecting the Canadian coast against German U-boats. However, the RCN comprised only two obsolete cruisers and about 350 regular sailors, with 250 reservists. The RCN was ill-equipped to fight enemy submarines, which sank several vessels in Canadian waters, most notably the schooner Dornfontein.

  52. August 08, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of Amiens

    Canadian troops advanced through German defences at the Battle of Amiens. Though lesser known than the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Amiens was a major victory. Later deemed the Allies’ most successful day of combat on the Western Front, the attack combined several military tactics. The infantry surged behind an artillery barrage and was supported by tanks, cavalry and aircraft. Amiens hastened the war’s end three months later.

  53. August 12, 1918

    CSEF in Russia

    First World War Timeline 

    Canadian Government Approves Formation of the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force

    As part of an Allied intervention to support Russian government forces against Bolshevik revolutionaries, Canada sent troops to Russia. One group of Canadian soldiers was the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force (CSEF), which was based at Vladivostok. Its formation was approved by the Canadian government on 12 August 1918.

  54. September 02, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Peck Awarded Victoria Cross

    Lieutenant-Colonel Cyrus Peck, who was MP for the Prince Rupert area while serving in the army, was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading an assault under intense enemy shelling at the Drocourt-Quéant Line.

  55. September 02, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Battle of the Hindenburg Line

    The Canadian Corps broke open the northern hinge of the Hindenburg Line in France.

  56. October 09, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Canadians Capture Cambrai

    Canadian troops captured Cambrai, France.

  57. November 01, 1918

    First World War Timeline 

    Cairns Earns Victoria Cross

    Actions by Sergeant Hugh Cairns of the 46th Battalion, C. E. F. at Valenciennes earned him the Victoria Cross (posthumous).

  58. November 11, 1918

    First World War Timeline 


    The Armistice with Germany ended First World War. A total of 628,562 Canadians served in the Canadian armed forces, including 424,589 who went overseas; 60,661 were killed.

  59. March 04, 1919

    First World War Timeline 

    Five Canadians Die in Kinmel Park Riot

    Five Canadian soldiers died during the Kinmel Park Riot, which happened at the Canadian Army camp at Kinmel Park near Rhyl in North Wales after the end of the First World War. It was the most serious of 13 demobilization riots or disturbances involving Canadian troops in the UK between November 1918 and June 1919.

  60. June 28, 1919

    First World War Timeline 

    Treaty of Versailles Signed

    The Treaty of Versailles, the peace settlement imposed on Germany after World War I, was signed near the French capital at Versailles. It took effect on January 10.

  61. January 10, 1920

    First World War Timeline 

    Treaty of Versailles in Effect

    The Treaty of Versailles ending the First World War took effect. It established the League of Nations, an organization for international co-operation, with Canada as a founding member.

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