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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Canadians and the First World War: Discover our Collection

Did you know that there are several places on our website where you can find information about Canadians during the First World War? What pages to visit depends on what kind of information you are looking for. Below is a quick summary of frequently searched information.

Are you looking for:

  • Information about an individual soldier (for example, the soldier’s name, hometown, medical information and medals)?

If so, you will need the soldier’s service file. To locate this information, you may search a solider’s name and/or regimental number in our Soldiers of the First World War (Canadian Expeditionary Force) database . If you would like more information, please visit the Military page on our Genealogy and Family History website.

  • What battles a soldier or unit fought in?

This information is not in the service files of individual soldiers. You will need to look at a published history of the unit or at the unit’s war diary. To find a published history, search for the unit’s name in our Library Search database. To find a war diary, start with our Genealogy and Family History website.

  • Other information that Library and Archives Canada might hold on the First World War?

Start with our online exhibition, entitled Canada At War: A Guide to Library and Archives Canada’s Websites Recalling the Canadian War Experience.

  • A more detailed guide on researching Canadians in the First World War?

Legion Magazine published an article entitled “Researching War Veterans: 6 Steps to Discovery”. It is a step-by-step guide to researching veterans. Also of interest, may be a book entitled Canadians at War 1914–1919, A Research Guide to World War One Service Records, published in 2010 by Global Heritage Press.  Both publications were written by historian Glenn Wright.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

Summary of comments received in French up to September 30th, 2013

  • Additional information about an article written by Glen Wright was provided. This article was published in Legion Magazine, September/October 2011, (vol. 86, no 5, pages 18-22).