Brian Pascas


This article tracks the Canadian Corps’ pursuit of the retreating German army in the last weeks of the First World War. As French hamlets, villages and towns were liberated, the war-weary troops—nursing grudges after almost four years of war—encountered civilians who had endured poor and sometimes brutal treatment under the yoke of the cruel invader. During the Battle of Valenciennes hundreds of German soldiers were killed; the vast majority perished under immense artillery barrages. But a number who survived the onslaught of shells and bullets succumbed to Canadians’ rifles while or after surrendering. Motives are identified that drove frontline soldiers to kill surrendering opponents on the battlefield. This article contends that one strong motive for killing surrendering soldiers in the heat of battle was revenge for the untold civilian suffering in previously enemy-occupied territory.