On today’s date in 2009, Paul Gross’ First World War film Passchendaele won six statues, including Best Motion Picture, at the 29th Genie Awards.
The ceremony, which was hosted at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, was the first to be held outside of Toronto or Montreal. Passchendaele won Best Motion Picture; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role; Best Art Direction/Production; Best Costume Design; Best Overall Sound; Best Sound Editing; as well as the Golden Screen Award for biggest box office hit. The film earned $4.5 million at theatres during a wide release.
The film was directed, written and co-produced by Gross, who also played a starring role based loosely on the wartime experiences of his grandfather.
According to the Canadian War Museum website, the Canadian Corps—a 100,000-strong fighting formation—was ordered to the Passchendaele front, east of Ypres, in October 1917.
The Canadian Corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in September 1915 and was expanded again in December 1915 as well as August 1916.
The British offensive in Flanders was launched July 31, 1917, and its goal was to push the Germans away from the Channel Ports and eliminate the various U-Boat bases along the coast.
“But unceasing rain and shellfire reduced the battlefield to a vast bog of bodies, water-filled shell craters, and mud in which the attack ground to a halt,” reads the War Museum website. “After months of fighting, Passchendaele ridge was still stubbornly held by German troops. Sir Douglas Haig, the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, ordered the Canadians to deliver victory.”
There were an estimated 275,000 British casualties and 220,000 German casualties at Passchendaele, which, “often remembered as the low point of the British war effort, remains synonymous with the terrible and costly fighting on the Western Front.”
2014 CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE COINS
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a Fine silver coin from its First World War series in commemoration of the CEF, which fought in the Battle of Ypres in 1915 as well as the Battle of the Somme in 1916 before Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele in 1917.
In the background of the coin’s reverse, a convoy of ships represent Canada’s first delivery to the war in 1914. The First World War was the last conflict to be uniquely defined by the foot soldier, and the lone soldier in the foreground is symbolic of this. The Maple Leaf crest cap badge at the bottom of the image adds motifs linked to the CEF as a tribute to its contributions.
- Mintage: 10,000
- Composition: Fine silver (99.99 per cent pure)
- Finish: Proof
- Weight: 23.17 grams
- Diameter: 36.07 mm
- Edges: Serrated
- Certificate: Serialized
- Face value: $5
- Artists: Scott Waters (reverse) and Susanna Blunt (obverse)