Every street sign that carries a bright red poppy tells a story. Here, Lisa Terech, Community Engagement with the Oshawa Museum, explores the history of Courcelette Avenue:
Last November, in honour of Remembrance Day, I shared why Oshawa has poppies on certain street signs. If you’re driving in Central Oshawa, streets like Verdun Road, Vimy Avenue, and St. Julien Street are marked with a red poppy on the corner. Similar signs are also predominant in north Oshawa, where many streets have been named after Oshawa soldiers.
Found east off Ritson Road, between Olive Avenue and Eulalie Avenue, is Courcelette. Like Vimy Avenue and Verdun Road, Courcelette Avenue has been named in recognition of a World War I battle, and September 15 marked the 100th anniversary of its start. This week long engagement was a part of the large Battle of the Somme.
While the Battle for Courcelette didn’t have the decisive victory the Allies were hoping for, there were two major outcomes which forever changed warfare.
First, the ‘creeping barrage.’ Trench warfare had caused several stalemates during WWI; soldiers were careful to avoid the aptly-named No Mans Land. With the creeping barrage, the soldiers walked behind the artillary barrage at a pace of 100 yards, or 91 metres, per lift. As explained by the Canadian War Museum:
This barrage was not meant to destroy the enemy trench systems, although this sometimes happened, but to drive defenders into their protective dugouts. The infantry would closely follow the barrage, called ‘leaning on the barrage’, in order to cross No Man’s Land before enemy troops could emerge from cover to fire at them.
The other point of significant about this battle is that saw the use of tanks. Only 1 of 6 of the tanks achieved its objective, and as described by the War Museum, the tanks were “mechanically unreliable and as slow as a walking person,” however, the impact of these machines were profound. The psychological impact of tanks alone forever changed warfare. Large, imposing and, fearsome, many German soldiers reportedly surrendered at the sight of them.
The Battle of Courcelette was the first battle of the Somme that saw Canadian participation, and in the end it saw 29,376 casualties. Courcelette Avenue first appears in Oshawa City Directories in 1923.
This article first appeared on the Oshawa Museum blog and has been reprinted with permission.
About the Author
Lisa Terech started with the Oshawa Museum in 2007 as a volunteer and joined the staff in October 2010. In the role of Community Engagement, Lisa participates with the Museum team in developing and delivering creative, engaging and consistent public programs. A lifelong resident of the Oshawa area, Lisa truly enjoys going out in the community and being a champion for Oshawa’s history and its future.