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Vimy Ridge

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 Vimy Ridge

This essay will describe the events that took place at Vimy Ridge during World

War I. Britain and France both attempted to take control of the Ridge which was

currently occupied by the German Army and both failed. It was left to the Canadian

Army to take the Ridge. This essay will prove that after many struggles, and careful

preparation, Canada was defined as a Nation at Vimy Ridge.

Vimy Ridge was a key to the German defence system. It rose 61 m. above

the Douai Plain which favoured the Germans because there was a gradual incline

on the West. This meant that the Canadians would have to attack over open ground

where they would become prime targets for German artillery, machine guns and rifle


Military mining played a big role in the battle of Vimy Ridge. Engineers built a

network of tunnels under no-mans land. They also dug subways totalling more than

5 km. in length, through which assault troops could move to their jumping-off points.

The subways provided protection from enemy artillery fire, and permitted the

wounded to be brought back from the battlefield. Chambers were cut into the walls

of the subway for brigade and battalion headquarters, ammunitions stores,

communication centres and dressing stations.

The taking of Vimy Ridge fell to the Canadian Corps under the command of

the British General Julian Byng. He appointed the Canadian born Major General

Arthur Currie as the Commander of the 1st Canadian Division. Currie believed

"Thorough preparation must lead to success. Neglect nothing.". He left nothing to

chance, every stage of the attack was planned to the very last detail. General Currie

had a full scale model of Vimy Ridge built to train his soldiers. They got the locations

of every trench, machine gun and other valuable information about the enemy by

using aerial photographs taken by the Royal Flying Corps and information from

intelligence raids across enemy lines. Over 1,400 Canadians lost their lives

retrieving this information. The key positions of the model were marked with flags

and coloured tape. Currie had his soldiers practice and rehearse every step they

would take on the day of the attack, so when the day came, the troops would be fully

informed about their objectives and their routes. Maps were given out to guide even

the smallest units. The soldiers were also trained to use the enemy machine guns

so when the enemy guns were captured, they would know how to use them.

The German defence system was made up of three defensive lines. They

consisted of a maze of trenches, concrete machine gun strong points that had

hedges of barbed wire woven around them, and deep dugouts, all linked by

communication trenches and connecting tunnels. There were also numerous

underground chambers that were capable of sheltering entire German battalions

from Allied shells.

Once the plans were in place and Currie's troops were trained, they were

ready to launch the assault on the 7 km. German front. To reach their final

objectives on the far side of the Ridge, the Canadians would have to capture the

commanding heights of Hill 135 and Hill 145, which formed the crest of Vimy Ridge.

The operation would be conducted in four stages. At planned intervals, fresh troops

from each division would advance into the German defence zones.

On March 20, 1917, a massive artillery barrage was launched. The barrage

involved 245 heavy guns and howitzers, and more than 600 pieces of field artillery.

The British Army added 132 more heavy guns and 102 field pieces. On April 2nd, the

bombardment was stepped up. By the time its infantry set out, a million artillery

shells had battered the Germans.

The infantry attack was launched at 5:30 a.m. on the morning of April 9, 1917.

They used the "creeping artillery barrage", which would lay a curtain of gun fire just

in front of the advancing 20,000 soldiers. They were part of the first wave of the four

Canadian divisions. The other three divisions



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