INTRODUCTION HILL 70 15 - 25 August 1917
CONTEXT CURRIE THE BATTLE THE RESULTS NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE THE HILL 70 MEMORIAL PROJECT QUESTIONS HILL 70 HILL 70
HILL 70 CONTEXT
CONTEXT – OPERATIONAL LVL • Between the success of VIMY (Battle of Arras) and the insanity of PASSCHENDAELE (3rd Battle of Ypres). Morale is still high. • New Canadian Corps Commander (Go Canada!). • Field Marshal Haig insists on a breakthrough at Ypres commencing July 1917; needs a diversion at LENS.
CONTEXT - TACTICAL LVL • British had fought and withdrew in Sept 1915. • Germans not inclined to leave…important rail junctions and coal still available. • LENS was a built up area now laying in ruins. Really difficult going through the formerly built up areas…rubble, cellars, sophisticated trench networks.
FIRST BATTLE of LOOS-1915 NOTE: Coal Lift Towers Kipling Loses His Son
HILL 70 LT GEN SIR ARTHUR CURRIE
HIS TRAITS • Meticulous planner • Excellent tactician • Studied results of 1916 misery on the SOMME • Applied lessons learned • Innovative • Not well-loved by troops • Valued the troops • Courage to challenge his superiors
Corps Commander’s Recce • Currie did his own recce. • A frontal assault on LENS was foolish. • Currie regarded control of either Hill 70 or Sallaumines Hill as tactically more important than control of the city of Lens • Currie persuaded General Henry Horne, British First Army Commander, to take Hill 70, not the city of Lens, the main objective of the limited offensive. Currie believed that the advantageous observational position of Hill 70 would permit well directed artillery to effectively deal with the expected counterattacks.
HILL 70 THE BATTLE
THE BATTLE - MISSION • Termed a “small operation” of World War I between the Canadian Corps and five divisions of the German Sixth Army, the mission of First Canadian Corps: • To conduct a diversionary attack on LENS in order to FIX the German Sixth Army so that it cannot participate in the 3rd Battle of YPRES
THE BATTLE – COMMANDER’S INTENT The Canadian Corps will execute a limited operation to quickly occupy the high ground at Hill 70, establish defensive positions, and utilizing combined small arms and artillery fire, repel German counterattacks to inflict as many casualties as possible. The defence against the expected German counter attacks termed “killing by artillery”. Currie – “pay the price of victory with shells not human sacrifice”
THE BATTLE – CONCEPT of OPS • THREE DIVISIONS UP. ONE IN RESERVE. • 4TH DIVISION FEINT IN SOUTH. 1ST AND 2ND ATTACK NORTH AND CENTRE. • FOUR BRIGADES ATTACK. 10 BATTALIONS ASSAULT. • BATTALIONS LEAPFROG TO GREEN LINE. • MACHINE GUN STRONGPOINTS. 1 MG/25 INFANTEERS. • OBSERVATION FORWARD. REDUNDANT COMMS TO THE GUNS. • EVERYONE DIG LIKE HELL. PROTECTED RESUPPLY TRENCHES. • REPEL COUNTER-ATTACKS - KILLING BY ARTILLERY.
Machine Gun Strongpoints • Lewis and Vickers - 240
THE BATTLE – INNOVATIONS • EMPHASIS ON COUNTER BATTERY FIRE EARLY • IMPROVED ROLLING ARTILLERY BARRAGE • GASOLINE SMOKE SCREEN • AIR AND ARTILLERY OBSERVERS CONNECTED TO GUNS BY WIRELESS
THE BATTLE - PREPARATIONS • Roads, Rails and Tramways • Logistics resupply and main armaments repair • Rehearsals - troops were rotated through the reserve area to conduct training and rehearsals in preparation for the assault • Protected tunnels forward – names inscribed • Raids, bombardment and gas attacks • special companies of the artillery and RE augmented the regular level of harassment by firing/releasing a total of 3,500 chlorine gas drums and 900 gas shells into Lens • artillery neutralized 40 out of an estimated 102 enemy batteries in the area
THE BATTLE – JUMPING OFF • 4:25 AM, 15 August. Royal Engineers fired drums of burning oil into the suburb of Cite St. Elisabeth and at other selected targets in order to supplement the rolling artillery barrage and build up a smoke-screen • Right flank, the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division executed the diversionary operation, drawing German retaliatory fire away from the main operation. Fake tanks in deception plan.
THE BATTLE – RESULTS 15/18 Aug • BLUE Line taken within 20 minutes • GREEN Line taken within 2 hours less Chalk Quarry • Germans began using their immediate reserves to mount local counterattacks • Over the following three days, the Germans executed no less than 21 counterattacks against Canadian positions…all repulsed • The Germans also began to use poison gas in earnest, including the blistering agent sulphur mustard.
THE BATTLE – RESULTS 21-25 Aug • 2nd and 4th Canadian Divisions attack LENS directly on 21 August. Keep 6th Army “fixed”. • The initial attack proved to be a miserable failure with the majority of the attackers being killed, wounded or taken prisoner • Finally took Green Crassier and all other 21 Aug objectives by 25 Aug.
THE BATTLE – THE GLORY • Six Victoria Crosses (“only” 4 at Vimy) • In 10th Battalion (Calgary Highlanders) alone: • 1 x VC (Pte Harry Brown) • 3 x DSOs • 10 x MCs • 60 x MMs (a Canadian record)
Hill 70 Victoria Crosses • Pte Michael James O’Rourke (7thBn) • Pte Harry Brown (10thBn) • Sgt Frederick Hobson (20thBn) • Maj Okill Massey Learmonth (2ndBn) • CSM Robert Hill Hanna (29thBn) • Cpl Filip Konowal (47thBn)
THE BATTLE – THE SACRIFICE • Approximately 9,200 Canadian casualties • 3,150 killed • 6,050 wounded, missing, captured • Compared to Vimy - 11,297 Canadian casualties • Currie – “…a great and wonderful victory”. • Haig – “one of the finest minor operations of the war”.
HILL 70 NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE
JAM – Just Another Memorial? • Hill 70 was: • A Canadian victory top to bottom; • Hard won with 6 VCs; • A step from Colony to Country; • A seat at Versailles. • Currie considered for promotion to Field Marshal. • Respect for Canadian military capability reinforced in spades (pun intended). • Hill 70 Memorial Project Team will provide what the Government missed in 1922.
HILL 70 THE HILL 70 MEMORIAL PROJECT
Project Objective • The objective of this project is to erect a suitable memorial to the soldiers of the Canadian Corps on Hill 70 in time for the 100th anniversary of this historic and significant victory. • Pomp and circumstance – memorial to be dedicated in the presence of 100 man guard and bands. Guests warmly invited.
HILL 70 PROJECT TEAM DIRECTOR – MARK HUTCHINGS ARCHITECTS - TIM MURRAY, SARAH MURRAY PROJECT MANAGERS- DOUG GREEN, WARREN EVERETT MEDIA RELATIONS- BILL NEILL FUNDRAISER- ROB BAXTER HISTORIAN- MIKE MCNORGAN CEREMONIAL – JOHN RODERICK EDUCATORS - JOHN SCOTT COWAN, SUSAN EVERETT ENGINEER - DON KENNEDY ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT – WSP London and Paris LAWYER- ED BRADLEY QC, CROWN ATTORNEY
HILL 70 MORE THAN A MONUMENT A BOOK MINTED COIN SERIES STAMP VC PARK WALL OF PARTICIPATING UNITS AND BRANCHES LEGACY BURSARIES WEBSITE LINK HILL 70 TO THE MAPLE LEAF MEMORIAL TRAIL?
HILL 70 PROJECT SCHEDULE 2014 - OPEN CRA CHARITY, INVESTMENT ACCOUNT, ETC 2013-2014 - GAIN FRENCH GOVERNEMTN SUPPORT (proceeding well) 2013-2014 - GAIN CANADIAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORT (proceeding well) MAY 2014 – SELECT/ACQUIRE EXACT SITE (awaiting MOU from City of LOOS) JUNE 2014 – PROVIDE LANDSCAPE and MONUMENT DESIGN FINAL (proceeding well) 2014 – 2015 - ENGR TESTS ( agreement with WSP proceeding well) 2014 – 2017 - COORD WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES (roger, so far) 2016- BUILD MONUMENT APRIL 2017- OPENING CEREMONIES 2017 - HANDOVER TO CWGC or APPROPRIATE GOVERNMENT MINISTRY