The Great Lakes Campaign
Part of The Great War
Date 1914-1917
Location Great Lakes
Result Canadian strategic victory
34StarsUnited States CNDblueensignCanada
The Great Lakes Campaign was one of the first major United States offensive operations against Canada during the Great War. Its goal was to steam across the Great Lakes of North America and bombard Canada's coastal cities and support the US Army's advance up the Ontario Peninsula to capture the city of Toronto. The offensive was brought to a halt by the small but highly formidable Royal Canadian Navy, resulting in a bloody land campaign in order to defeat Canada. The Great Lakes Campaign was Canada's only true victory during the Great War.


Ever since the Second Mexican War, many Americans still vividly remembered the Royal Navy sailing from the Canadian port city of Toronto to attack the US Great Lakes cities of Rochester, Cleveland and Buffalo. Promising never to be that helpless again, the US embarked on a ship building program that would result in the Great Lakes Battleships. Should war ever come, the US would be ready and more than willing to return the favor to their northern neighbors, which had been visited upon them during the Second Mexican War.

The Great Lakes CampaignEdit

When war erupted in 1914, each Great Lake had it's own flotilla, headed by Great Lakes Battleships. The Canadians had a few of their own, but nowhere near the numbers fielded by the Americans. After war was declared, each US flotilla steamed out of their ports and towards the Canadian side of the lakes. The intention being that they would bombard enemy towns and positions with their heavy guns.

The Canadians on the other hand sought a more efficient method of fighting back. They'd invested heavily in sea mines and once war was declared, their ships sowed their Lakes as thickly as potato soup with their mines. All US flotillas steamed headlong into the mine fields and quickly lost many ships. Within the opening weeks, at least three Great Lakes Battleships had been sunk.

Having been defeated, the US Great Lakes Flotilla in Lake Ontario tried another tactic, by steaming up the coast, with the intention of offering fire support for the US Army on the peninsular. Again, this operation failed as the Canadian submersibles struck back, sinking a Great Lakes Battleship and a couple of cruisers. This was the last offensive operation launched by the Great Lakes Navy for the duration of the war.

The Great Lakes remained stalemated for the remainder of the war, and while the US Flotillas were unable to assist their own forces, Canadian Great Lakes Battleships were more than able to support their own forces. As the US Army attacked Toronto in 1917, Canadian ships added their fire to the defense of the city. Although these ships came under attack from the air, they were never put out of action and remained in service until the surrender.


The Campaign on the Great Lakes had been a tremendous waste of money and effort for the United States. Many realized even back in 1914, that all the time, money and effort that had been poured into the Great Lakes Flotillas would have been better spend elsewhere. The US failure to secure control of the Great Lakes meant the war in Canada would be decided by land forces; a campaign which dragged on until 1917, due to the doggedness of the Canadian and British forces there. Canada's victory on the Great Lakes made it extremely difficult for the US to conquer the country by land, and helped prolong the campaign in the North and ultimately, the whole war itself.

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