Vimy Ridge April 9 th – 12 th 1917. The History of Canadian Victory. The Ridge. Picture Taken on August 2 nd 2011, by Drayton Walker. .
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The History of Canadian Victory
Picture Taken on August 2nd 2011, by Drayton Walker.
The Ridge itself is fourteen kilometers long, located at 50° 22′ 44.4″ N, 2° 46′ 26.4″ E. At the time of World War I, the area was plains, but due to the bombardment and harsh weather, those plains were transformed into muddy craters and hills. Today you can still see the formations that have occurred, but they have become grass covered.
Vimy Ridge is located outside of a small town called Arras, and the battle for Vimy Ridge was a small portion of the Battle of Arras. At the time of the war, the climate would have been mild to cold, with sleet and snow starting to melt and disappear.
Picture From: http://www.cbc.ca/gfx/images/news/photos/2008/11/10/firstworldwar-cp-860358.jpg
Vimy Ridge was occupied by the German forces for a few years before the final battle took place between them and the Canadians. Before the Canadians, the French Army tried to take the ridge, but were wiped out entirely by the German artillery. Later, British forces tried many times to take the ridge, but none of their attempts were successful. This resulted in a very high fatality and casualty rate for the Allies. Canadian Regiments were banded together for the entirety or World War One, and after the disappointing failures that the French and British forces produced the Allied Forces decided to give Canada a shot at the Ridge.
The Canadian Regiments banned together, to make the Canadian total to be 97, 184 men . Supported by an additional 72, 816 British Soldiers, the Canadians had an adequate number of men to support their assault on the Ridge.
170, 000 men were backed by the Canadian’s 8 Field Artillery Brigades and 2 Heavy Artillery Brigades, along with an additional 14 Heavy Artillery Brigades, 9 Field Artillery Brigades, and 3 Divisional Artillery Brigades all consisting of British Soldiers, the Allied Forces were well equipped against the German’s 3 Line Divisions; each consisting of an Artillery Regiment and 15,000 men.
Picture From : http://cdn.dipity.com/uploads/events/6ce1e4e7a4c7831489953cf1b4e7fa52_1M.png
For two weeks, Canadian Artillery strategically bombarded the German Battery, preventing them from making the first move, and causing a preliminary strike. After the heavy bombardment that started March 20th, 1917, and ended April 2nd, all but three of the German bunkers were destroyed, which was one of the main causes that lead to victory. For one week, Canadian Regiments formulated a battle plan which would take place at 05:00 AM on April 9th, 1917. This plan consisted of having the soldiers rush out of the tunnel, staying behind the “creeping barrage” (a small tank) in order to stay covered.
Picture From : http://fbh.ycdsb.ca/departments/fbh_library/students/ww1-625x450.jpg
At 05:00 AM, when the battle commenced, Canadians ran from the trenches, staying behind the barrage until they reached the next trench. This technique though risky, was very effective. They continued to do so, fighting Germans who were in the trenches that they had breached with hand to hand combat, or sometimes bayonets. This was known as Trench Warfare, and is still commonly known as the most brutal warfare around.
Picture From : http://www.rt66.com/~korteng/SmallArms/images/lemark4.jpg
Trench Warfare consisted of soldiers on one side, sitting in a trench firing at the soldiers on the the other side in their trench, until one trench was ‘empty’ because everyone had been killed, which then the soldiers would assault their way into the ‘empty’ trench in order to gain ground. After that move, anyone in trenches behind the front trench, would move up to the next trench. In many cases the soldiers would arrive in the ‘empty’ trench, to find an ambush, or a few straggling soldiers which would attempt to kill them. This is known as sabotage. It was the reason a lot of soldiers died during the war.
A lot of Trench Warfare occurred in any battle that took place in World War I, and early World War II. This is because Trench Warfare was the most efficient, and intelligent type of warfare at the time. If you look back at wars in the 16th century, entire armies would line up, with no cover, and fire upon the enemy. Trench warfare is the same idea, only using the trenches as cover. In today’s modern warfare, we have technologies that Generals couldn’t have even dreamed about having a hundred years ago.
Trench Warfare was not pure brutality as some would suggest, it was very strategic, in the sense that every trench had to be man made, and each trench had an elaborate tunnel system leading back and forth.
Many of the soldiers fighting in the trenches were constantly exposed to water, mudand bodies of the deceased which rotted their feet entirely. This destroyed their feet, making them immobile, and unable to fight. Commonly known to day as ‘Trench Foot’, this disease was the fate that many soldiers met during the Great War.
Picture From: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWfoot.jpg
Picture From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/Vimy_Ridge_-_captured_machine_gun_fortification.jpg
Because almost all of the German defenses were destroyed from the bombardment, the Canadian regiments mission to capture the Ridge proved to be an easy task. At 05:00 AM, Canadian soldiers ran from the trenches and began their main assault on the Ridge. Quickly moving from trench to trench, using a Barrage tank for cover, they were able to destroy all of the enemy forces, and claim the Ridge for the Allied Forces. Proudly, they captured 4000 German soldiers, and they became prisoners of war. The capture itself went from 05:00AM April 9th, until 18:00PM April 12thwith many casualties being taken on both sides. By 18:00PM April 12th, the Ridge was controlled by Allied Forces, and the German occupants were either captured, dead or lost.
Picture From: http://0.tqn.com/d/canadaonline/1/0/v/1/vimystretchercases.jpg
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill.
In every war, there is the illusion of a victor, but the reality, is that no one actually wins in war. Although the Allied forces won the Great War, there were 22,104,209 casualties within 4 years. At the Battle of Vimy Ridge itself, the Canadians faced 11, 297 casualties within 2 months.
Overall, there were around 35, 000, 000 casualties. 10, 000, 000 were dead, and the remaining 15, 000, 000 were injured or missing. The War was won by Allied forces, but at the cost of many, many lives.
John, "What are the Geographical coordinates of Vimy Ridge?" Yahoo Answers, 2010.
Historica Moments, “Vimy Ridge Synopsis”, 7th Floor Media, retrieved from Nov, 2011.
Stephens, John, “The Canadians at Vimy Ridge”, thegreatwar.ca, August 2011.
Gibbs, Philip, “All of the Ridge Cleared of Germans”, New York Times, page 3, April 11th, 1917.
Humphries, Mark Osborne, “Old Wine in New Bottles”, Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, 2007.
Pictures Cited on corresponding pages.