This is the next in a blog series on the notable people of World War One.
December 5, 1875, Napperton, Ontario
Before the outbreak of World War One, Currie worked as a teacher, real estate agent and insurance broker. He also served as an officer in the militia in British Columbia.
Currie’s business schemes left him deeply in debt, and he used money earmarked for the militia to pay off his debts. Friends saved him from scandal and criminal charges.
World War One:
He was given command of 2nd Canadian Brigade and fought at the Battle of Ypres. The following year he was given command of the 1st Division, and in 1917, he was given command of the Canadian Corps.
Under Currie’s command, the Corps experienced a number of successes, including Vimy Ridge. He was adamant that the Corps would fight together, not be broken up and used in various areas with the British Expeditionary Force.
He earned the nickname Guts and Gaiters because he was foul mouthed and overbearing. Nonetheless, he believed artillery was vital to any campaign, adapted new tactics, trained soldiers to learn from past strategic mistakes and visited the front line often, although he did command from further behind the line than his soldiers would have preferred.
Currie was knighted in 1917.
“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.” – Currie to the troops, April 1918 (Source: First World War)
November 30, 1933, Montreal
For the majority of his civilian life after the war, Currie served in an administrative role at McGill University.
After the war, he endured attacks by his political rivals and was forced to sue a newspaper for libel. Currie won the case.
Historians remember him as a military leader who used tactics to spare as many lives as possible. In addition, he used the media to gain positive publicity for the Canadian Corps which was largely ignored by British newspapers, despite its successes.
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