Arthur Currie was born December 5, 1875, in Napperton, Ontario.
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 I
Currie’s militia experienced earned him a commission during World War I. He was given command of the 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 the Corps would fight together, not broken up and used to support the British Army.
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.
“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,” Currie told the troops in April 1918. “On many a hard-fought field of battle you have overcome this enemy. With God’s help you shall achieve victory once more.”
Currie was knighted in 1917.
Currie served in an administrative role at McGill University for the majority of his civilian life after the war.
He endured attacks by his political rivals and sued a newspaper for libel, winning the case.
He died November 30, 1933 in Montreal.
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 the British media, despite its successes.
Updated: 21 October 2020