Vimy Ridge

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Vimy Ridge ran almost 12km north-east of Arras. The Germans occupied Vimy Ridge in September 1914 and their engineers immediately began to construct a network of artillery-proof trenches and bunkers. These were protected from infantry attack by concrete Machine Gun Posts.

    The French Tenth Army responded by digging its own system of trenches at Arras. Repeated French attempts to take Vimy Ridge cost about 150,000 casualties between May and November 1915. Although the French were able to take the villages of Carency, Neuville St Vaast and Souchez, Vimy Ridge remained under the control of the Germans.

    As part of the general reorganization the British took over the Arras sector in March 1916. British corps commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Wilson, immediately planned a large-scale counter-attack, but this was vetoed by his commanding officer, Sir Douglas Haig. The Canadian Corps, commanded by Lieutenant Sir Julian Byng, replaced the British at Arras in the winter of 1916.

    In December 1916 Robert Nivelle replaced Joseph Joffre as Commander-in-Chief of Allied forces on the Western Front. Nivelle immediately began to plan a major offensive on the German front-line. An essential part of what became known as the Nivelle Offensive, was an attempt to capture Vimy Ridge. As the ridge was 60 metres high, Nivelle argued that if Allied forces could control this area, they would have a commanding view of the German activities behind the front line.

    On the evening of 8th April, 1917, 30,000 members of the Canadian Corps began to move to the front line. At 5.30 the next morning, 2,800 allied guns began pounding the German trenches and soon afterwards the Canadian infantry went over the top into No-Mans-Land. Supported by a creeping-barrage, the 1st Division, led by Major-General A. W. Currie, captured the Zwolfer Graben trench system within 30 minutes. After another hour had passed, the intermediate line south-east of Thelus was also under Canadian control.

    Major-General L. J. Lipsett and the 3rd Division took the huge Schwaben Tunnel. However, several concrete Machine Gun Posts had survived, and these were causing heavy casualties. The Canadian 4th Division was especially badly hit. One battalion, the 87th, incurred losses of over 50% in less than a few minutes.

    In an attempt to stretch German defences, General Hubert Gough and the British Fifth Army launched an attack further south. Even though Gough used tanks in the attack, it was repulsed by the Germans at Bullecourt. The Australians, also took part in this operation and suffered its worst day's losses on the Western Front.

    The Canadians was still making good progress and by 12th April they were firmly in control of Vimy Ridge. Forced to the bottom of the hill, the Germans were unable to launch a successful counterattack. That night, under the cover of darkness, the Germans withdrew from the area.

    By the time the Arras offensive was halted at the end of May, the British had suffered heavy losses: First Army: 46,826; Third Army: 87,226; Fifth Army: 24,608. The Canadian Corps lost a total of 11,297 men killed, missing or wounded.

    Despite British failures at Arras, the Canadians had broken through the most formidable portion of the German line. The capture of Vimy Ridge was a great tactical success. The Canadians had seized ground of great military importance, and inflicted heavy casualties on the German Army.

    Attached Files:

  2. rlaughton


    If you have an interest in Vimy Ridge and need to know more - post your questions and comments here. I think I have most of the books written about this battle, including some very new and very good academic reports from post 2006.

    My grandfather was there, a Canadian, but serving with the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers. For many, many years I just assumed that was a "Canadian Unit". In 1986 that all changed and so here I am today, still reading, still researching, still learning.

    Grandfather Laughton's filed notes and maps of April 9, 1917:
  3. Carl Hoehler

    Carl Hoehler New Member

    Canadian Artillery Memorial

    The Canadian Artillery Memorial north of Vimy also commemorates the South African Heavy Artillery and was constructed in 1917.

    The original memorial was constructed from an old mill at the Verte-Tilleul cross roads but the memorial is now often described as being near the Thelus cross roads.

    Here is a large version

    Attached Files:

  4. Hill 40

    Hill 40 New Member

    Re: Canadian Artillery Memorial

    For a possible future talk, I'm currently researching a man who 'captured Vimy Ridge twice' (first time (for a few hours) with the 2/RMLE and, secondly with the CEF) and was wondering if anyone knows of a listing in existance of all those who transferred to the CEF from the Foreign Legion during la grand libération of October-Dec 1915 and to which battalion they went?

  5. Jeff Simmons

    Jeff Simmons New Member

    Historian/author James Stokesbury goes as far as to say that Canada, as a nation, was born on Vimy Ridge, and that the Canadian Army established itself as one of the finest, elite fighting forces on the Western Front via this victory.
  6. John

    John Active Member

    I sure I saw a show on TV a few years ago about the Canadians at Vimy Ridge. I can't remember what the show was called, but they use go around to various battle grounds and do stories on them
  7. Jeff Simmons

    Jeff Simmons New Member

    I often think that Canada's contribution to the war effort and the sacrifices they made are often overlooked. Canada, at the time, had a population of only 8 million, yet managed to send 600,000 troops to Europe, the majority of whom were volunteers. During the course of the war, two-thirds of Canadian troops were casualties in one form or another, and one in ten died in battle. Their tactics and planning must also be acknowledged; while they took Vimy Ridge in one day as part of the greater Battle of Arras, British efforts in that same sector led only to a high number of casualties and very few gains.
  8. Domoviye

    Domoviye New Member

    This is very true.
    By the end of the war Canadians were considered the elite of the Entente, leading the 100 Days Offensive in 1918. After Vimy Ridge, if Canadians were seen in the trenches, the German army immediately reinforced the areas, as they knew an attack was about to occur.
    They were also the most innovative of the Entente forces. They were the first to use machine guns extensively. General Byng and Currie took as many of the scientists from the British artillery units as they could, to form a Canadian artillery arm that learned to pinpoint the enemy artillery, and perfect the creeping barrage.
    Canadian soldiers were pioneers of trench raids and were generally considered the best, alongside a few British units.
    If Canada had had a larger population it definitely would have been remembered by everyone.
  9. rlaughton


    That would Norm Christie's series "For King & Empire", once of the best produced. Episode 3 is "Storming the Ridge".

    You can still purchase the DVD set here:

    I have almost anything that is available that I could find on Vimy Ridge, so if anyone is looking for specific details, just ask. There are some very good current works out of the Laurier Centre here in Canada. I can also give you the name and location of other VHS or DVD shows.
  10. Alexander

    Alexander Member

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