Battle of Vimy Ridge – April 9 to 12, 1917

For Canadians, the Battle of Vimy Ridge brings to mind the joint effort of all of the Canadian units that fought together for the first time to achieve victory. In a way, it was our very first national military victory, and, as such, a tremendous source of pride.

In spring 1917, Allied Command tasked Canadians with the difficult mission of taking Vimy Ridge and driving back the Germans, who had controlled it almost continuously since the beginning of the First World War.

Barrage map [cartographic material]: [Vimy Ridge region, France]

Barrage map [cartographic material]: [Vimy Ridge region, France] (source)

The Canadian officers spent weeks developing their tactical attack down to the last detail. The soldiers rehearsed their attack behind the lines using a model to represent the battlefield so they would be familiar with the terrain where they would be fighting. The role of the artillery was also meticulously planned in preparation for its famous “creeping barrage,” an artillery bombardment that pressed forward against the enemy at a timed pace as a curtain of fire ahead of the advancing troops.

29th Infantry Battalion advancing into “No Man’s Land” through German barbed wire and heavy fire during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

29th Infantry Battalion advancing into “No Man’s Land” through German barbed wire and heavy fire during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. (source)

The attack that ignited the Battle of Vimy Ridge was launched on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, at 5:30 a.m. Four Canadian divisions overran the German positions, with three achieving their primary objectives in less than an hour. The highly-trained men were able to advance rapidly, thanks to the formidably effective heavy artillery fire. Nevertheless, the Germans offered fierce resistance: it took four days of heavy combat for the Canadians to finally seize full control of the famed Vimy Ridge.

The battle claimed the lives of 3,598 Canadian soldiers, with over 7,000 more wounded.

(W.W. I – 1914-1918) As the Canadians advanced, parties of Huns left their dug-outs, only too glad to surrender – Vimy Ridge. April 1917.

(W.W. I – 1914-1918) As the Canadians advanced, parties of Huns left their dug-outs, only too glad to surrender – Vimy Ridge. April 1917. (source)

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5 thoughts on “Battle of Vimy Ridge – April 9 to 12, 1917

  1. Please, when talking about this “defining moment” in Canadian history include the efforts of the 85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders who took Hill 145 (where the Vimy Memorial now stands) and basically saved the day for the entire Canadian Corps. Why is this Battalion from Nova Scotia always overlooked in accounts of this battle? It, quite frankly, would not have been a success without them.

  2. Reblogged this on Doc Alexander and commented:
    The Battle of Vimy Ridge began 96 years ago today at 5:30 a.m. To mark the occasion, Library and Archives Canada has posted a remarkable barrage map on its blog. While difficult to read, this map shows on paper the famed creeping barrage that helped our soldiers achieve the impossible: Take Vimy Ridge. Doc Alexander was not at Vimy. He was in England at the time, recovering from “disordered action of the heart,” better known as shell shock or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). My grandfather served first with a mortar unit and then as a stretcher bearer during the First World War. He enlisted in 1916 at the age of 19. He left no record of what he saw or experienced during the Great War but there is no doubt it was horrific. So on this anniversary, and this goes out to all of the men and women who served from 1914-1919, Lest We Forget.

  3. I hope that on July 1 you will mark the Battle of Beaumont Hamel and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. More on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, including the files relating to the soldiers who served with the regiment during the First World War can be found online at http://www.therooms.ca/regiment.

  4. What is largely disregarded in discussing Canada’s achievement at Vimy, in northern France, is that the Canadian Corps was only one corps in the British First Army. Canadian soldiers had the British 24th Corps to their left, and the British 17th Corps to their right. The battle for The Ridge was Canada’s particular assignment in a much larger overall offensive by three British Armies. The Battle of Arras, fought against the Germans, lasted from 9 April to 16 May 1917, and involved British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and Newfoundland troops.

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